DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Sharron Powell and is copyright (c) 1999 by Sharron Powell. This story is rated PG..
Reflections and Goodbyes
She was leaving. And as she took one last tour around sickbay, eyeing its familiar angles and planes, she found that she was glad of it. Reaching out to touch a familiar console in fond goodbye as she walked toward McCoy's office, travel case in hand, she twirled the last three years over in her mind.
It had been a long road which had led her to the Enterprise; and an even longer one that she had trod as a member of her crew. It was time to move on. Way past time, if she was to be honest with herself.
She'd signed on for the five year mission because of Roger. She'd stayed because of Spock. Well, at least partially because of him ... the work had been compelling ... was still compelling ... but she could have fulfilled her passion to care for patients, to make them well, on any vessel. It was no use pretending that Spock hadn't been an important part of her decision to continue serving on the Enterprise after she'd known definitively of Roger's death...
She sighed as she rounded the corner of McCoy's office, sinking gratefully into his chair, travel case by her side.
The sad thing was that she couldn't even pretend that she'd made those decisions based on a selfless love for either man. She'd made those decisions to assuage her fear, her habit of denial. Oh, she had loved them; still loved them both in different ways. But that love had always been heightened by her overwhelming need to be needed, her unwillingness to be alone, at least in her own mind. It sounded silly ... no, pathetic ... the more she analysed her actions in an objective manner.
And if her training, her former life as a researcher, had taught her nothing, it had taught her the value of objective thinking. How quickly she'd pushed that part of her aside when Roger died. Oh, not completely, she applied it to her work. She had no false modesty about her abilities as a nurse. She was a damn fine nurse. And she hoped to become a doctor deserving of the title. But she'd lost that objectiveness in her personal life. Until recently...
She didn't know whether it was the psych tests she'd had to take as part of her entrance requirements for medical school or the fact that she was older and more sure of herself and her abilities, but she'd been thinking a lot about her motives over the last months.
At least, with Roger, her love had been true and reciprocated. Roger had loved her. Truly loved her. She'd always been surprised that with all of his research, he'd always sparkled at her presence ... had never been obsessive about his experiments as other scientists stereotypically were...
She snorted divisively at her naivete in that horrible mess with Roger's android. That should have been her first clue... No, she was being unfair to herself ... that innate awareness of Roger's true nature had clued her in in the end.
But she couldn't escape from the fact that her unwillingness to admit Roger dead in the first place had a strong tinge of stubborn fear to it. She wasn't sure that not letting him go had been noble or selfless. She'd needed to believe that he was alive, loving her as she'd loved him. The idea that she was alone again had been too much to bear and her mind had denied it; denied the facts. And despite the way it had looked when the Enterprise had found Roger's lab, Roger had died long before they'd gotten there. Her wishing otherwise hadn't helped him or her...
And Spock ... nothing she'd ever said or done in regards to him could be relied upon as real. Did she love him for himself, for his kindness of spirit ... or did she love him because he was beautiful and alien ... everything that Roger hadn't been.
Roger had been a plain man; she'd been attracted by his passion. That so mirrored her own passionate soul. And he'd been as familiar to her as her own hand, as her own face. She'd known his every mood. He was comfortable.
Spock could never be called plain. And while she was sure that Spock hid a passionate soul (there were other handsome men ... he'd drawn her interest with more than the angular beauty of his face or the graceful power in his frame... Not that those things hurt, she smiled to herself...), the fact that she had to work to see even the tiniest glint of his true thoughts or feelings certainly hadn't lessened her interest.
No, her stubborn will had asserted itself again. The fact that her interest made him uncomfortable had not deterred her in the end; though to stick up for herself, she still harboured the idea that he could have loved her if he'd let himself ... more self conceit perhaps, but there it was...
Suddenly she shook her head. Enough woolgathering. Turning to the chronometer, she was not surprised to discover how long she'd been sitting there, waiting in Sickbay in her travel clothes. For that other man in her life.
Now looking at his desk she was struck by one thing ... his desk was a mess. She smiled. A girl takes a few days off to pack and say her good-byes and the place unravels. M'Benga was no help. That man was chronically messy. Brilliant, but messy. Leonard was fairly neat, but when he was doing the universally hated crew evals, he tended to throw things around. She probably should have stayed on duty to help him file the darn things, but she'd needed the time to cut the cord mentally, to close this chapter in her life. It was a hard thing to leave the Enterprise. She couldn't do that mental separating and still be working in Sickbay as if she wasn't leaving.
Mentally making amends to Leonard for 'abandoning' him, she took up the first haphazardly placed data disk from his desk and slid it into the viewer to properly catalog it. Her pensive mood fading, she worked with quiet efficiency, smiling as McCoy's weathered face snuck into the back of her consciousness.
Her relationship with Leonard had been true at least. He had been her teasing big brother, professional mentor and friend, almost since the first, it seemed, as well as the best superior she'd ever worked for. He was why she was still waiting, long after she should have reported in at Starbase 7 where the Enterprise was now docked. She needed to say goodbye to him in this place. This familiar place where they'd patched up countless crewmen, Ambassadors, and new life forms. Besides, Leonard hated transporter rooms.
Their partnership, his fierce devotion of his crew (and they were certainly as much McCoy's crew as Jim's) had been one of the most positive forces in her life. She basked in his knowledge; she admitted it ... in his passion for life. Funny how she always used that emotion as the great decider of things and of people. She shrugged. A person without a passion for something did not interest her.
And the Enterprise crew was nothing if not passionate. From Jim (she always thought of him and McCoy by their given names in her mind, though she'd never called them by their first names. At least not that she could remember... ) to Leonard, to Spock (hide it though he might), to Nyota and Scotty, Hikaru and Pavel. They all were devoted to the Enterprise, the mission, and to Jim. She'd felt a part of a powerful community here. And despite the complicated reasons why she'd come on board, she didn't regret her time here. Not in the slightest.
Because of the Enterprise, and Leonard, her friends and even her love for Spock; she was ready to take on a new challenge. A new name swam in her consciousness more and more these days. Christine Chapel, M.D. And that stubborn Chapel will was being primed for use once again ... this time at Starfleet Medical.
Engrossed in the task of clearing McCoy's desk of the crew's evals, Christine barely heard the sardonic voice of her boss and friend call to her from behind her.
"Just couldn't stay away, could you?"
Christine turned from the desk viewer to look up into his face, noting that Captain Kirk and Spock stood behind him. Odd. They rarely followed Leonard back to his lair after their customary lunch together. Both men had an innate antipathy for Sickbay. Nodding to the two and smiling slightly at Leonard as he held out his hand to help her to her feet, she couldn't help being overwhelmed by the feelings of love that she felt for these three men. She took his hand gracefully.
"Of course not. The sight of crew evals overflowing on your desk just made me weak. I couldn't resist."
McCoy laughed, pulling her into a bear hug. "I am going to miss you, Chris." His jovial grin turned serious for a moment. "I mean that. I couldn't have survived without you these last few years."
Her eyes welled up with tears. "I'll miss you too," she said softly. Not trusting herself to speak louder, she hugged him tighter, closing her eyes to hide her tears.
In response to her teary expression, McCoy's serious mood ended as quickly as it had come upon him as he pulled away from her to cock his head back at Spock, "Especially whenever this dammed Vulcan got sick. Just about the worst patient I've ever had. You are the only one that has any patience with the stubborn fool." Christine looked at him sideways in slight reproof even as her eyes lit up in amusement. Some things never changed. McCoy was McCoy. A steady rock in her changing world.
"I thought that I held that honor, Bones," interjected Kirk, who had been uncharacteristically silent through their exchange.
Christine looked at Kirk's wicked grin before her eyes settled on Spock who had his left eyebrow up in indignation. She smiled briefly at them both as she shifted in McCoy's arms to lean into his shoulder as he made his expected rejoinder.
"I said 'just about'... You both are as bad as a couple of kids who don't want to take their medicine."
Spock's eyebrow rose higher as his voice grew cool as his expression. "I beg your pardon, Doctor. I would think that an expeditious recovery from Sickbay would be a sign of a willing patient."
"Or a desperate one." At Kirk's barb, Christine laughed openly. Flinging an apology to McCoy with her eyes, she settled into a quiet laughing fit, wiping tears away from her eyes at their antics. How she'd miss them. McCoy dropped his arm from around her shoulder as if scalded by her betrayal.
"Hmmf, just wait until your next physicals. I'll show you desperation..."
"Gentlemen, gentlemen, please. This is not why we are here. We're here to say goodbye to Miss Chapel." Kirk said as he folded his arms over his chest in mock rebuke. Christine looked up from her laughter in surprise. She'd already had her presents from the Bridge gang, as she called them, last night. A memory of Uhura's bawdy gift filtered over her mind for a second before she pushed it away, blushing slightly.
"Quite right, Jim." McCoy sauntered over to the desk where Christine had just been sitting and pulled a wrapped box out from a deep bottom drawer. Holding it out to her with a grin, he laughed at her surprise. "Good thing you were never the overly curious sort."
"I've always been afraid of what was in there, Doctor," Christine replied as took the present from his hand, her eyes misting over again. Unwrapping the box carefully, the wrapping being a rare Rigellian oiled paper, she set aside the top and gasped in appreciation. A delicate glass oval lay there, etched with the ancient symbol of the medial arts.
"We elected for Spock to make it," Kirk added mischievously, "Lord knows Bones and I couldn't make a piece of paper, even with a replicator, if we tried."
"You got that right."
Stunned by this proof of their regard, by the fact that Spock had made the gift, as well by the simple beauty of the gift itself, Christine could only stare at it, her hand cupped over her mouth, too afraid to look up, lest her emotion overwhelm her and embarrass the maker of her beautiful gift.
With a tact that belied his usual teasing, McCoy diverted attention from her by offering them all Romulan ale, which Spock with his usual coolness gracefully declined. As did Christine, who begged off for fear that the Starbase crew would have to pick up a drunken nurse/medical student which wouldn't help the Enterprise's reputation any.
"Where'd you get this bottle? I thought we drank the last of your stash after that damned Klingon incident," Kirk asked as he raised his glass in tribute to Christine, his eyes widening slightly at the fiery brew.
"Never ask for a man's sources, Jim." McCoy knocked back his shot with nary a blink.
Christine held up her hand, forestalling another round of playful banter that was threatening to break forth. She looked each man in the eye, even Spock who had maintained an indulgent silence throughout the gift-giving and toasting process, his hands behind his back in repose.
"I want to thank you for this... It means more to me than I can say. It's nice to know that you believe that one day I'll have earned the right to hang this on my wall." She smiled faintly at them all.
"Of course you will, Chris. You've had the best teacher there is." McCoy rocked on his heels in obvious pride.
"The good doctor is as usual overestimating his impact," Spock interjected smoothly as McCoy choked on a half swallowed second glass of ale. "You will succeed in your task because of your own merit and dedication." He looked down at her, a calm commendation in his face as well as his voice.
Christine stared at Spock openly for a second before schooling her features, affecting a false calm. This was why she loved him. His quiet thoughtfulness. The beauty within him made his outward appearance pale in comparison. She could never be sorry for loving Spock. It was a part of her. She's been a fool to think otherwise. No matter that she'd initially latched onto him to fill the void of Roger's death. Every day that she knew him, she found another reason to love him. But it no longer filled her with painful longing anymore. She was filled with peace at his words.
She thought too of how easily he had said his praise, something that she couldn't have imagined him doing just a few years ago. They'd sort of come to a better understanding of each other after that humiliating incident with the mind-control-using aliens who had subjected her and Spock (and the Captain and Nyota) to scenes of false romance and real torture.
An emotional truce had developed. She'd became more at ease with him, less likely to stare at him surreptitiously, and Spock had come to treat her as the valued professional she was instead of someone to be avoided.
That made this moment that much sweeter. Knowing that he hadn't said what he'd said out of relief at her leaving or because it was expected of him as First Officer of the ship to acknowledge any good work.
The spell that had been cast over them as Spock continued to look at her, and she him, was broken by the slightly embarrassed voice of James Kirk who felt a little superfluous at the moment, definitely not his usual role. He brought the proceedings back to a more staid goodbye as he set his now empty glass on the desk.
Taking her hand in his, he pronounced his captainly words. "I thank you too. You've been a valuable member of this crew." Jerking his other hand at his first officer, he continued. "As Spock said, you've taken care of us all when we were at our worst. I wish you the best of luck. Starfleet can always use good doctors." He smiled slyly at McCoy as he released her hand and turned to go. "I should return to the bridge."
Christine stopped Kirk's leaving with a quick hand motion. "It's been an honor serving with you, Captain. I owe you a lot," referring to that first incident with Roger.
"No need, Nurse Chapel." He smiled benevolently at her as a king might look on a favored subject. "Be well."
"I will." Christine watched in silence as the captain of the Enterprise left to return to his domain, the bridge. She looked back into McCoy's office, surprised that Spock had taken no steps to join his captain in the afternoon watch.
McCoy came up beside her and gave her half hug. "I better be getting back to work myself, Chris. A departing nurse has left poor me drowning in paperwork."
Christine smiled. "Not drowning, Doctor. Just wading. I'll be heading to transporter room 5 then. Goodness knows that I should have beamed down ages ago."
Letting her go, McCoy gave Spock a sly grin. She wondered what was going on inside that devious mind of his.
"Uh, Spock," McCoy scratched the bridge of his nose, "I need to stay here; I don't have a shift replacement at the moment. Could you escort Chris to the transporter room?"
"Of course, Doctor." Spock said with perfect aplomb as he picked up Christine's travel bag from the side of McCoy's desk where she had left it. Turning to leave the office, he spoke again. "I will be in the main area when you are ready, Miss Chapel."
Christine nodded absently. "Thank you, Mr. Spock." He was continuing to surprise her. Turning back into the room to hide her thoughts, she glanced around McCoy's office before resting her gaze on her as-of-ten-minutes-from-now former superior officer.
"Thank you for everything, Doctor ... Leonard." Tears welled up in her eyes again, this time a few escaping and running down her cheeks.
McCoy gently wiped her cheeks dry. "Hey, you take care of yourself, you hear. And send your old colleague a message from time to time."
"I will," she said softly. "I really must get going... Goodbye, Len."
"Goodbye, Chris. I know you'll make us proud."
She smiled one final time as she walked backward towards the office partition. Turning at the opening, she nodded to Spock her readiness to leave and then left Sickbay briskly, not looking back.
* * *
Walking down the grey corridors with Spock to her left, Christine had to laugh to herself. In all of the times she'd thought about her leaving in the past week, the scenario of Spock escorting her to the transporter room, her bag in his hand, an air of solicitousness about him, had never crossed her mind.
Oh, sure, in her fantasies, he declared his undying love and swept her away from the transport pad up into his arms like some modern day Gothic hero. To keep her from leaving. To claim her as his own.
But fantasies were like chocolate; satisfying but ephemeral. They left you with nothing but a craving for something that wasn't altogether good for you.
Not that fantasising about Spock wasn't fun, but the reality was much better. Companionable silence ... and not having to carry that dammed travel case all the way to the transporter room, of course. She laughed inwardly again. She should have let them beam the bag to her room like all of the others, but her sentimental nature had reared its head again.
That bag was one of her oldest possessions. Her mother had given it to her before she'd left for college and she had always carried items too precious to risk to others in its depths. She supposed that the lovely gift that her three dear men had given her would be in the bag next time she moved. She could have stuffed it in there over top of everything else, but she'd wanted it closer to her, clutched to her side.
She looked over at one of those men as he walked beside her. Spock had grown over the years, just as she had. The Enterprise left no one untouched. That was as it should be. As her eyes lingered over the planes of his face, she didn't notice that he was watching her out of the corner of his eye as well.
"May I ask what you are thinking, Miss Chapel? You seem ... distracted."
Christine smiled a private smile. "Mr. Spock ... I do believe that is the first time that you have ever asked me what I was thinking." She smiled more broadly as Spock's features coalesced into mild consternation.
"If I have offended..."
She hurried to reassure him. She suddenly felt freer that she ever had around him. What could he do? Send her away? "No, no. You haven't offended. I was just thinking of the Enterprise and how she has changed us all ... even you."
"Indeed." He said it with a questioning inflection. He didn't seem angry or insulted. In fact, he'd slowed his pace slightly to hear her reply. A good sign.
"Yes. In days gone by, you wouldn't be here escorting me to the transporter room. You would be on the bridge." She gave him a sly smile. "Unless of course, you are escorting me in relief at my leaving..."
He stopped abruptly in the corridor, his look of consternation returning, this time overlaid with an embarrassed indignation. Or at least as embarrassed as a Vulcan ever looked. If she hadn't known him for so long, she wouldn't have noticed the difference in his facial expression.
Christine turned to fully meet the eyes of the slightly affronted object of her fantasies. "Spock. We shared consciousness once, remember? I know that you've felt uncomfortable around me. And I apologise for any part I've played in that." She couldn't believe how great this felt. Maybe she should have left years ago...
"Miss Chapel, you are mistaken. I am not uncomfortable around you." When Christine looked at him in disbelief, about to interject another comment, he held up his hand to forestall her words. Noticing their nearness to the object of their walk, he motioned an invitation to step inside the transporter room, briskly relieving the surprised ensign who manned the control console.
When the ensign had departed, looking back at them in both puzzlement and curiosity, Christine moved to stand in front of the console, not yet moving to climb the pad and unwilling to let this go. "Well, Spock ... please tell me your logical reasoning as to why you've always taken steps to avoid me."
She smiled to take the sting out her words. She wasn't angry at him, by any means. She must have been around Leonard too long, baiting Spock with ruthless abandon...
She certainly didn't blame him for his long held stand-offishness now; although in the past it had caused her considerable pain. Unwanted attention was always unsettling. She wondered why she couldn't have controlled herself more in those early days, for his sake. That dammed virus on Psi 2000 hadn't been her fault, but afterwards it was as if the floodgates of her heart had been opened. She couldn't stop herself. Or rarely had then. Of course, it wasn't her fault that he was one of the most 'fascinating' men she'd ever known. Jim Kirk, that renowned ladies man, held nothing on this tall, lithe man who was currently shifting in place, looking disconcerted at her sudden directness. The poor man probably thought that she was suffering from another virus that loosened tongues.
She laughed in his face quietly, as his eyebrows moved higher along his brow. "I'm sorry, Spock. Truly I am. I've always wanted to have this discussion but never had the nerve." Spock's face responded to her statement, as if to say 'We are having a discussion?' She laughed again, even more quietly, as she schooled her features into something less threatening.
"My name is Christine," she interjected softly, tilting her head slightly and smiling somewhat wistfully as she remembered that remarkable conversation all those many years ago. His eyes told her that he remembered that time as well. And she was surprised to see gratitude warring with his continued shame at the emotionality of his reactions at the time.
"Christine..." he acknowledged, pausing as he measured his words, clearly not wanting to hurt or offend. "While it is true that we have had many ... disturbing ... encounters ... over the years, we have also worked well together on many occasions. And any discomfort," and here he wrinkled his nose at the word, "you may have felt from me was not intended. I have often been ... uneasy ... with the emotions of humans..."
"Spock," Christine couldn't stay silent at his solemn pronouncement any longer. "I wasn't trying to make you apologise for some slight, real or imagined. Just the opposite in fact. I'm trying to apologise to you." You beautiful man, she added to herself. "I won't apologise for the feelings," and here she blushed slightly, lowering her eyes. "I could never help them," and she emphasised the word them as she raised her eyes again to meet his in resolve, "but, I've been thinking lately of how unfair I've been to you over the years. I could have been more circumspect with my feelings..."
"Christine, you forget your gift," he interrupted, motioning to the box ensconced in her left arm. "I was not forced to create the piece. Nor coerced."
"Then why?" She looked at him, truly puzzled. He could have just as easily chipped in on some standard going away present and signed his name to it. He hadn't needed to personally see to her gift.
"Because you have always treated me with honor. Because to do otherwise would be to refute the gracious ministrations you have always bestowed on the crew, myself in particular. To diminish your value as a healer. That would be wrong, as well as ungrateful."
Christine had never felt more like kissing him than at that moment. She struggled to control her tears as Spock watched her, seemingly undisturbed by her effort to contain herself, a hint of gentle indulgence in his eyes.
"Oh, Spock..." She shuddered past a sigh, reining in her feelings with difficulty. "That has to be the most beautiful thing that anyone has ever said to me...Thank you." She clutched her gift tighter to her body.
His eyes crinkled in subtle humor. "One does not thank logic, Christine."
She laughed gratefully, the sound half a sob, half a sigh as she shook her head at him in reciprocating humor, recognizing his attempt to redirect her emotions away from their heightened state. She thought about his mother, Amanda, that warm and loving woman, and blessed her for producing such a son. She straightened her slim frame to its full stature as she moved backwards from the console and him.
"You are correct as always, Mr. Spock." She did sigh at that point as she turned to step onto the dais at last. "And logic dictates that I should have been away from here hours ago. You'd better transport me down before I change my mind." She sighed again in mock resignation.
"Indeed." He settled his face into one of farewell as he raised his hand in the traditional Vulcan salute. "Peace and long life, Miss Chapel. May you find success in your endeavors." She raised her hand in the reciprocal gesture.
"Live long and prosper, Mr. Spock. Take care of them," and she didn't know if she meant the whole ship or just McCoy and Jim. "And yourself too," she added in a softer tone. I love you. I always will.
And with that she felt the beam catch her as she was transported away from the only home she'd known for the past three years and from the man she'd come to love with the best part of her heart. The best part of her soul.