DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Karen Fleming and is copyright (c) 1978 by Karen Fleming. This story was originally published in Sol Plus 5, July 1978. This story is Rated R for mature situations. You must be 18 years of age to read it.

Bridge Between Souls

Karen Fleming

Nurse Chapel ran from the turbolift and around the curved corridor to Spock's quarters. She rushed through the doors and on into the dimly lit bedchamber, enshrouded in heavy, burgundy drapery. Her breath catching in her throat, she sank down beside McCoy as he bent over Spock's nude figure huddled in death-like stillness in the corner.

"Cordrazine, one drop," McCoy barked at her without looking up from his patient. Chapel quickly pulled the proper hypo from the already opened medikit she carried, set it, and administered the injection as McCoy recorded its effect on the mediscanner. Spock heaved a shuddering sigh, but couldn't be roused from his deep, trance-like state.

Behind them, the doors snapped open and Kirk hurried in to stand anxiously watching over McCoy's shoulder. "How is he, Bones?"

McCoy rose and led Kirk over to the outer room before answering. "He's losing..." Shaking his head, McCoy appeared almost shrunken, as if the life that ebbed from his alien friend only a few meters away was stripping away layers of himself with it. He clasped his arms across his chest, holding onto what was left of 'McCoy.' "This morning when I gave him the injection, he was ... surly, hostile, irrational ... in agony. A minute ago, I found him like that."

"Can't you do something?"

"Do *what*?" McCoy snapped. "Jim, my hands are tied! I've got the labs working around the clock on Vulcan hormones, sedatives, their derivatives, synthetics..." He waved his hands in a gesture of futility. "You get those blasted Vulcans to tell me something besides 'Pon farr is incurable.' Either that... or get him to Vulcan, *fast*!"

"We're traveling at maximum warp now," Kirk's voice was almost a moan. "If I thought it would get this ship there faster, I'd get out and push..."

"This is no time for jokes!"

"Dammit, Bones!" Kirk almost spat the words out. "Do you think I'd joke about..." He bit his lip to stem the flow of words. Pausing to look back across Spock's bed, he could just see the top of Spock's head and part of Nurse Chapel as she was performing multi-function scans with the medicorder. Turning back to McCoy, he took a deep breath and let it out again. "I'm sorry, Bones. We're two weeks away from Vulcan. Can you hang onto him that long?"

"He's only got a matter of days..." McCoy glanced around the room helplessly. "Blasted Vulcan," he growled. "...should have stayed where he belonged!"

"He belongs here," Kirk said and, as McCoy shot him an icy glare, continued. "He knew his chances when he chose life in Starfleet."

"And that choice is killing him!"

His mouth a thin, hard line of determination, Kirk answered, "He's not dead yet."

"You mean, 'Where there's life, there's hope,'" McCoy said quietly, a hint of sarcasm in his voice. "Well, Jim-boy, unless you've got a miracle stuffed up your sleeve, there's very little to be hopeful about."

"Bones..." Kirk reached out to him, squeezing his friend's shoulder, but there was nothing to say. "Bones... let's... just get back to work." He crossed through the bedchamber, took one last look at his friend huddled in the corner. And left.

As if rooted to the spot, McCoy just stood there a moment, feeling empty, like a hollow log. *Back to work!* Well, it wouldn't do any good to stand around moping. He dragged himself back over to Chapel and their living skeleton of a patient.

She stood up, handing the medicorder to him. "He's stabilized, Doctor, but at too low a level to maintain."

Finding it hard to concentrate on the useless instrument, he stared at it a second without even seeing the distinct worsening of readings from the last recording. Instead, his mind insisted on dwelling on the tension lines in Chapel -- rigidly straight back, immobile face, crisp enunciation. She was in hiding again, behind a mask of professionalism.

He took the readings on the medicorder in at a glance and handed the instrument back to Chapel. "I'm going to assign around-the-clock nursing to him. You'll have the first watch. If he loses any more ground, we'll have to put him in intensive care."

"Do you want any specific treatments performed?"

He shook his head. "There's nothin' to do." In Chapel's eyes was the same dogged determination he'd seen in Kirk. *God, it's like swimmin' against a tide!*

"...what about a thermal kit?" she was asking. "Lowering his temperature might slow the progression of the disease."

*Umm, hypothermia -- well, it hasn't been tried yet. At least it might buy Jim some of the time he needs. Yes, by God...* Aloud, he said, "Try it!" And turned and left the quarters, his mental processes now humming over new possibilities. The labs were in for a whole new series of tests.

Alone with her patient, Chapel punched the code into the servo-comp and brought the neat, orange-and-red webbed bundle back to Spock. As she unrolled it, she studied the problem of wrapping him in it most efficiently. Designed for a patient lying flat in a Sickbay bed, it might not be adequate for the Vulcan curled up in the corner. The torso wrap would be both the most important and most difficult to apply, so she decided to put that on first. Arm and leg wraps could wait.

Now face-to-face with the pitiful object of her love -- no longer having abstract "readings" to barricade herself behind -- she found it growing harder and harder to maintain the frame of mind that this was just an intelligent organism whose life struggle she was to support. This was Spock. Her hard-won defenses crumbled to dust. She felt herself being torn into two personalities -- one sick with grief at the sight of the once-proud creature reduced to a sack of bones, its flesh drawn tightly over the clearly visible skeleton. The other part of her was ice, efficient as it performed the task assigned her... almost ignoring the keening soul.

Laying the wrap beside him, within easy reach, she placed her arms around his shoulders. She moved in very close to him and balanced herself to get leverage. She pulled with her whole body, straining to get his rigid form away from the corner. He came, slowly, and she managed to rest him, his cheek against hers, in a precarious balance as she began to bring the wrap around and behind him.

The touch of her was a flare against the darkness and emptiness that surrounded him. She reeked of "female," the very hint of it setting his blood aflame. Her aura surrounded him, love and worry seeping down through the layers of his consciousness, washing over him where he hid in the depths of his mind. *She is mine!* It stirred him and he began to struggle, reaching out through searing pain, out through his mind for her.

Chapel only knew that suddenly he moved. He twisted and lunged at her, knocking her off balance. She let out a surprised squeak as she fell backward, sprawling across the floor.

He wriggled onto her, his hands reaching toward her head, the searching fingers stopping at her temples. She could feel the weight of him on her and a blurring of senses, now smothering the more distant sights and sounds of the room. Her mind -- or was it his? -- blazed white-hot as the alien presence seemed to writhe within her brain.

Two heartbeats mingled, two drums pounding in disparate rhythms. Two minds -- now only one. *We burn as one.* The Vulcan birthright. Was there a scream? Torn from whose throat? There was no separating one from the other, nor mind from body. Riding the wave of instinct, he seized her consciousness, as he had her body, and smothered it, locking her away in a gentle cocoon, safe from the demons ravaging his mind.

* * *

A dull ache throbbed in the distance, prodding Christine Chapel toward sounds that were sifting through her consciousness. Faint light filtered through her closed eyelids until they fluttered open to shapes that blurred, then solidified into the form of Dr. McCoy. The ache now felt more generalized, but focused on the throbbing between her legs and the back of her head.

"What...?" She started to get up, ignoring protesting muscles.

"Take it easy." McCoy gently pushed her back to the deck. "How do you feel?"

"...I ache..." she whispered, finding her throat and mouth strangely dry. "...but what...?"

"You've had a rough time," he mumbled, avoiding her eyes for the moment. "... but it's all right." When McCoy allowed himself to look at her, he was frowning. "We'll get you to your quarters as soon as the porta-bed gets here."

*Porta-bed?* Her eyes widening in confusion, she glanced around, noticing first that her ripped uniform no longer covered her adequately, and that the thermal wrap she'd tried to put on Spock was now draped over her. About a meter away, Spock sat on the deck, leaning against the bulkhead. His eyes closed, he looked gaunt and exhausted, but the unnatural rigidity was replaced by the appearance of peaceful sleep.

"He's fine," McCoy said quietly.

*Fine?* She searched his face for some sign of deceit, then felt her own flush hot as she realized the cause of Spock's mysterious "illness" and Vulcan's lack of treatment for it. *Stupid!* It was so obvious now. Why hadn't she guessed it before? *Because he's already married?* Her usefulness now at an end, she pushed herself up.

"Now, you just lie where you are, young lady." McCoy caught her before she could get to her feet.

From Spock came a muttering in Vulcan. McCoy hurried to him, scanner already activated and moving near the patient. His eyes opened slightly and fixed themselves on Chapel. Clutching the inadequate wrap to her, she suddenly felt transparent sitting there in front of him. She knew she would melt and dribble out under the door if he continued to look at her that way. What had he said about a woman who did not belong to a man...?

But he was speaking. "...my wife, attend." The voice was a mere whisper, weak and low.

*Wife?!* "You want to marry me?" she gasped.

His expressionless face seemed drawn tighter for an instant as he almost visibly marshaled his strength for a reply. "You *are* my wife... by Vulcan tradition."

*TRADITION!* A thousand light-years separated them ... a drifting, spinning void, yet she could almost reach out and touch... But the cold, emotionless gaze numbed her, chilled her to the marrow. In a voice that belonged to someone else, she heard herself say, "No. I'm not your wife... not by... Terran custom. You're free."

She scrambled up and out into the desk area, followed by McCoy. She ignored him as she punched in the servo-comp code to retrieve a fresh uniform.

"Christine," he was saying. "Blast it..." She kept her back to him. "This doesn't make sense... Here's your chance to get..."

She turned on him, her eyes snapping. A tear began to trickle down her cheek. "To get what!" She snatched off the old, useless rag of a uniform and slipped hurriedly into the complete, fresh one. "To *trap* him! He doesn't want me... never will! I *don't* want him *that* way!" She flung the ragged uniform down the recycling chute and was gone before McCoy could think of a reason to stop her.

The Doctor walked slowly back to Spock. He leaned against the bed, arms folded across his chest, and squinted down at the Vulcan. "All right, Spock," he said. "Just how badly do you want her?"

* * *

With the news that Spock was no longer critical, the Enterprise was put back on course to her former destination. Hearing the news in Engineering, Kirk cracked an atrocious pun -- over which there were a lot of groans and not a few chuckles. When the Captain was happy, the crew knew they could breathe easier.

It didn't take long for the grapevine to get hold of the news of just who had come out of the First Officer's quarters at the end of the little more than two days "no admittance" rule -- a rule which had included the Captain, but not the Chief Medical Officer, who had fussed about like an expectant father. The news spread like wildfire through the ship. Chapel's subsequent total retreat into the sanctuary of her quarters, under McCoy's orders to "rest"... only fanned the flames of gossip. The news that he was also doing "medical tests" on Chapel, the type of which were only guessed at by the crew -- all forms of cajoling, browbeating, and bribery to pry specifics from the technicians involved having already failed -- raised excitement among the ship's gossips to fever pitch.

The next day, when McCoy came to Chapel's quarters with the test results, he found her on edge. Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap as she sat devouring his face with her big, blue eyes. He wondered if the news he brought would be good or bad. "It'll be a boy, but you won't be able to carry him."

She was standing now, leaning toward him. "We expected that. What ... what are the chances?" The words fairly tripped over her tongue in the rush to get out. "What about irregularities...and the transplant...?"

McCoy was nodding his head at her questions, a slow smile beginning to spread across his face. It was good to see he had definitely brought good news. He placed his hands on her shoulders in a loose, affectionate embrace. "Simmer down. It's gonna work out. The scan shows more Human than Vulcan characteristics, but there are a lot of irregularities, some of which may require genetic surgery. We'll have to wait for the detailed helixograph to be sure."

"You'll take him tomorrow... the next day?"

He nodded. "The next. You and Miriam will draw up the plans for any necessary restructurin' tomorrow after she's finished the helixograph studies, then the technicians can adjust the hydro-support unit."

He watched her a moment, pleased to see the worry seep out of her. "An' suppose you go visit Spock..." He had to tighten his grip on her shoulders to keep her from pulling away. "He still claims you're his wife, and in his own way..."

"No." She wrenched herself free and stepped back.

"...in his own Vulcan way, Spock *wants* you."

"He *wants* that Vulcan woman... his wife..."

"T'Pring divorced him!"

Chapel's eyes flew to his face, then seemed to withdraw, considering what she'd said. She appeared to shrink before his eyes, the energy washing out of her pale face. "So that's why he even considered me." She lifted dry eyes to him. "But I won't be trapped into a paper marriage. *If* I ever marry, it'll be because I'm wanted. As for Mr. Spock... there are plenty of women who would have him on any terms."

"Christine!"

She handed him a tape from the stack on her desk. "My resignation. I request permission to resume my duties until it's time for me to leave."

McCoy bit back a retort. *Stubborn woman!* Then he shrugged. It was her life, after all. "All right, Miss Chapel, take your regular watch tomorrow." He turned away, but paused just inside the door. "Christine, if you need anything..."

"I'm fine," she cut him off, then softened a bit, reaching out to briefly touch his arm. "But, thank you..."

Not knowing what else to do or say, McCoy merely nodded and turned away. But she increased the pressure on his arm.

"Doctor, when you report to Mr. Spock..." A bittersweet smile touched the corners of her mouth. "... tell him I wish him well in... everything. And... tell him I will have a child he will be proud of... and who will be proud of him." She released him and retreated.

"Christine..." He almost whispered it.

But she just shook her head. In a moment, he was gone. She was alone with the familiar solitude of her life.

She looked down at herself. *Not quite alone...* Soon there would be another life to share hers. *But never the loneliness...* Her pulse quickened as her mind leapt to new possibilities. She would choose his early environment carefully... probably a multi-racial society where he would be less likely to stand out as an oddity. A research colony, maybe. At any rate, she felt certain her credentials in research biology and medicine would enable her to choose just the right situation.

Biting her lip, she sat down at her desk and pushed an empty tape into the computer outlet/recorder slot and began making notes. He should have full knowledge of both his cultures, his language and traditions on both sides. Never a good linguist, she frowned at that. How would she teach him Vulcan language? She would have to struggle through as best she could, she decided, relying heavily upon language tapes and -- she almost crossed her fingers in superstitious longing -- if she were extremely lucky, there would be a Vulcan or someone conversant in the language where she settled. And...

Her mind now skipped lightly from one topic to be considered to the next, and on again. She abruptly pulled herself up short, willing her racing heart to slow down. The first thing she had to do would be to get her baby "born" -- at least to make sure the embryo was healthy and safely transferred to the hydro-support.

She suddenly realized she knew nothing about Vulcan genetic traits. Although the ship's chief geneticist, Miriam Bar-Adon, would have the necessary knowledge, by law it was the parent who made the actual decisions in these cases on the advice of qualified medical personnel. Chapel shuddered at the idea of being an ignorant signer of orders which would set her child's characteristics for life.

She swept the stack of tapes on her desk into a basket and set them aside. Now on the viewer was the computer list of readings available on Vulcan genetics. She sucked in her breath at the length of the list. *Well, there's nothing left to do but to start.* With a flick of the control, she had the first piece printed out on the screen. As an afterthought, she ordered a standard dinner from the servo-comp and set her intercom and door on "do not disturb." She had a lot of studying to do.

* * *

McCoy had greatly understated the case when he had said only that there were "irregularities" in the embryo's genetic structure. Study of the helixograph showed that considerable genetic manipulation would be necessary just to make it a viable individual.

The combination of Terran and Vulcan characteristics was disastrous. In the end, it came down to choosing between predominantly Vulcan and Terran physiology. Authorizing the minimum number of changes to make the individual healthy, Chapel made her decisions. But he was still a classic sterile hybrid. Now, as the Vulcans must have done with Spock, she authorized the geneticist to remove that one last "flaw" from her child.

With the changes made and final authorization given, the hydro-life-support unit was programmed to its occupant's requirements and the transplant performed without a problem.

As Chapel lay on the bed in Sickbay waiting for the local anesthesia to wear off, Spock walked quietly in. He still looked too thin, but had regained most of the strength and presence he had had before the onset of pon farr.

"You are well, my wife?" He held two fingers out to her in the traditional Vulcan caress.

"I'm not your wife," she said quietly, then added, "I'm fine."

Spock's eyebrow arched upward in surprise, and he withdrew. "You made our son more Vulcan. I assumed you had accepted..."

She shook her head, no. Unwelcome emotion was stirring within her at the sight of him. She gritted her teeth and decided to wait out the storm to come.

He studied her, then said, "Explain."

"Why I gave him more Vulcan traits?" At his nod, she said, "It just turned out that way. I felt that making the fewest necessary changes would keep him closest to what he would have been if we could have had him naturally."

"Did you also want him to please me?" he prompted.

She looked him right in the eye, determined not to let him see any weakness of her resolve. "It's more important for him to please himself."

There was hardly a flicker in the Vulcan's eyes.

McCoy's prediction had been accurate, after all. Thus, perhaps the concept of "breaking the ice" would be as effective.

"I understand that it is necessary on Earth for the man to give his... betrothed... a token." He placed a small object wrapped in silvery cloth in her hand and held her hand in both of his for several seconds as he tried to sort through the jumble of conflicting emotions in her. Finally, feeling a bit embarrassed, she tugged her hand free.

"I can't take this."

"You do not know what it is."

"I don't need to know."

Spock paused, searching for words that would make her at least look at his gift. Perhaps McCoy's idea of bringing her flowers would have been more effective, but he had preferred giving her something a bit closer to himself; now it appeared she might not even look at it. "It would please me for you to accept this."

She blinked at him in surprise. It was as close as he had ever come to making an emotional appeal to her, but his face remained maddeningly impassive, as unreadable in pursuit as in rejection. He had made a concession, and now expected one from her -- but she was reluctant to give up any of her position of stubborn independence. With a sigh, she decided it would be better to at least look at the gift than to continue arguing about it.

As she unwrapped it, he said, "My mother gave this to me when I left Vulcan to enroll in Starfleet Academy. I never fully understood why she gave it to me nor the significance it should have for me. I think you will be better able to appreciate it."

He watched her closely as she uncovered a miniature carving in a diamond-hard stone, black with brilliant veins of rust-red color running through it. It was intricately and lovingly carved, a fat, bear-like creature with fangs and a mock-grumpy expression.

Chapel turned it over several times in her hands, smiling in spite of herself. "It's adorable."

Spock cocked his head slightly to one side. "It is a fair likeness," he said. "But too emotional in approach." Then, as if in explanation, he added, "My mother made it."

Chapel laid the carving back in the cloth and began to re-wrap it. "I can't take this from you..."

"Someday you will give it to our son."

She hesitated and glanced up at Spock standing there casually, hands clasped behind his back. She felt a tingling run through her, as well as a warmth and pressure -- as if a dam were about to burst within her and let all the unwanted feelings pour out. She turned back to the carving in her lap and took refuge in the act of slowly and deliberately re-wrapping it.

"Christine," Spock said as she laid the carving on the table beside her. She lay still, her face turned away from him. "My wife, I must speak with you. I will not leave until we have finished."

"Why now?" Her voice was barely audible. "You never wanted me before... so, why *now?*"

"I could ask the same of you -- after loving me for so long, it is illogical for you to refuse me now, when I accept you. Do you no longer want me? Was the chase more exciting than the capture?"

She whirled back to him, her eyes struggling with suppressed rage and tears. "Chase...?!" At the look in his eyes, she choked back her retort. He had baited her! "You... know that isn't true." Her hands lay tightly clasped in her lap, as if on release they would take off in agitated flight. In almost a whisper, she continued, "It's just -- that sometimes it's wiser to let go. Sometimes... what we want isn't what we should have."

"A decision made in haste and ignorance is frequently wrong."

She looked at him calmly, feeling as if it were the first time she'd really been allowed to look at him.

"My wife, you do not know me; you have a false image of me. You reject me out of hand... and your decision to raise our son out of Vulcan's influence is most unwise."

Spock waited for a reply of some kind, but she only lay silently watching his face, her eyes almost as unread able as any Vulcan's. "You have made our son almost as Vulcan as I. He will not react as you wish him to, because he cannot. When you touch him, your emotions will wash over him, almost smothering him... because as yet, he has no defense against them. He is Vulcan. From birth to bonding, he is solitary. The Family provides sustenance, support, and the training necessary to become a fully productive adult..."

"You want to take him from me!"

"That is not..."

"That's what it sounds like!" She was sitting up now, hands resting firmly on the edge of the bed as she leaned toward him, eyes aflame. "But I *will* take care of my baby!"

"That is your choice to make." He was frowning, his arms folded across his chest as he stood rock-solid in front of her. He waited patiently as she calmed down. "As recipient of such care by a Human, however, I suggest you reconsider your plans to raise him alone."

Chapel winced, as though from a physical blow. "Is it really that bad?" Her eyes were misting over, dangerously close to spilling down her cheeks. "Your mother..."

"My mother was eager... With time, she learned how to care for a Vulcan child. I think it must have been painful to have to curb her natural instincts -- to learn control."

Her eyes were locked on his face. Tension coiled within her, taut as a steel spring. There was no turning back; he could feel control of the situation slowly passing to him.

"My wife," he whispered, voice a soft purr, almost hypnotic. "You are part of me, now. Do not ask me to talk about 'love.' My need of you is beyond emotion. When I entered you..." He lightly brushed her forehead with his fingertips and was pleased that she didn't pull away, "...our minds... our beings became one. It was a meld, forged to protect you from the violence and pain of mating... a link which leaves a permanent bond. As ancient as the Vulcan race, it is preserved for our survival, for its value in creating the total union necessary to sanity..."

Her eyes flashed surprise. *Sanity?*

"I do not expect you to understand it when I did not for a long time. The Bond creates harmony, serenity. It is the end of solitude. It..." Pausing, he searched his mind for Human equivalents of Vulcan concepts. "It does not translate. It can only be experienced."

When he offered his two fingers, this time she hesitantly accepted. Across the bridge of their touching fingers, Spock entered her telepathically blind consciousness.

He had more obstacles to pass, and decided it wouldn't be good strategy to put it to her as a decree. *My wife, I propose that we retain our commissions in Starfleet and send our son home to Vulcan. We have obligations to fulfill here, and the Family will provide for the child. *

*Spock, give me time, please. I can't promise anything. Too much has happened... *

*But in the meantime, you will not exclude me from your life? *

*No.* The reply was weary.

His expressionless face became totally relaxed and open -- the true Vulcan smile. Time she had asked for; time she would have. But time, he knew, was on his side.

THE END

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