DISCLAIMER: The characters and events in this story are based on Star Trek. I do not own them or Star Trek, they belong to the estate and heirs of Gene Roddenberry. Also, references to Prince Edward Island are based on the book Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery. I do not own that either. No profit has been made. This story is rated PG.



Brotherly Love

Trish



Spock made his way almost tentatively down the familiar corridor of the officer's deck. On the edge of his awareness there were happy smiling crew members swarming around each other, some laughing, some almost crying. He noticed several groups trading embraces, and many people carrying suitcases and boxes down to the cargo transporter. Today the Enterprise had ended its five year mission and returned to Earth. Moored in space dock, the ship was slowing powering down, being readied for evaluation and possible refitting. The crew was sharing the last few moments with friends who had become like family. Even Spock knew that there were those he would miss. He respected the crew a great deal and could offer them nothing but praise. Only last night he had finished the last of his final evaluations on many of them and sent them to Star Fleet Command. Most had been glowing. He thought that it would seem strange for a while not to be on the bridge in the heat of action. He had become accustomed to the long and in-depth conversations with Jim and considered him not only his captain, but his best friend. It would be hard to leave him behind. Even Dr. McCoy, the thorn in his side for so long, would have a fond place in his memories, for he did genuinely like and respect the old doctor.

It would take a while to get used to being a civilian again. That is exactly what Spock would be. Along with the completed assessments and recommendations, he had sent his resignation to Star Fleet. He had been aware for some time that his path lay elsewhere. Although he would not have trades his time on the Enterprise for anything, life moves on and people change. He was ready for that change. He had begun his journey this morning in hopes of speaking to the one person on board who had never judged him, never tried to make him into something he was not, only wished to be there in any purpose she was needed. He did not go directly to Christine Chapel's cabin, as were his intentions. For some reason he was procrastinating, which was completely against his nature. He assisted in supervising the docking of the ship, even though he was not on duty. He stopped into the science lab to check on a few personal experiments he was completing. He even got sidetracked to Engineering to look over a new warp coil that had been installed, an intrusion which left Mr. Scott completely baffled. It was when he entered the ship's botanical lab that he realized why his path to one door had been so unintentionally long. She was the one person to which he could not bear to say goodbye. He had recently began to hope that perhaps his new path might include her.

Spock walked over the where the indigenous Earth plants were kept housed. It had been discovered that Terran agricultural specimens were better by far than any other planet's flora at being utilized for genetic experimentation, especially roses. A wide variety of the flowers were kept on hand. Studying them carefully, he quickly bypassed a few wilted buds, and some whose colors were just not quite right. At first he felt that his inexperience at such an endeavor was making the selection difficult, but ultimately he decided that he was taking such great care because the one he selected had to be perfect. Finally in the back, almost hidden, as if it had been waiting there for years was a single flawless long stem red rose. He lifted it from its container as if it would break. There was only one thing on board more beautiful, her.

Walking through the passageway he almost tried to hide his gift as his thoughts raced. He had been a fool. She had known all along. Over the years he had come to not only respect her, but also to care for her deeply. It had begun years before as simply a feeling of protectiveness. He had watched her grief over the loss of her fiance. He had wanted to do something, anything, then to comfort her, but did not know what course of action to take, so he did nothing. He wanted to tell her many times how very grateful he was for the care and thoughfulness she had showed him. He had tried on several occasion, but knew that his words were not adequate. At times on their travels he had found himself with other women and had enjoyed the company of a few. However, those encounters were always base and physical, at times even crude. He would never have done that to her, turn her into only a sheer bodily enjoyment, she was pure, and fine. Had even protected her from himself on occasion. During the time they had shared consciousness, he saw how truly wonderful a person she was. It had not been by chance that Sargon had chosen her to be the keeper of his mind. He was grateful to the being for allowing him the chance to be with her. Then when they were both entrapped in Parmen's insanity, he thought of nothing but her safety.

He closed his eyes trying to block out the painful memory of her pleading and his inability to help her. He knew she was mortified and afraid, yet still he could do nothing to ease her fear. He felt her guilt at knowing that it had been because of her feelings for him that Parmen had beamed her down to the planet's surface. What Spock did not tell Christine was that his feelings for her were as much to blame. It was by that time that he had been certain that he loved her.

How would she react to his sudden appearance and confession of affection? He slowed his step a little, almost in dread. Would she welcome him, as he wished, with open arms? Would they declare their love and begin the first step on their mutual path? He wanted to hope for just that, but knew it would be far more complicated. She had every right to throw the flower and his feelings back in his face. She could very well declare that it had taken him too long and the feelings she once had for him were dead. She might very well tell him that she loved someone else. No, he told himself. He had seen her mind. The feelings she held for him were strong and true, just as he now realized his were for her. He hoped that his actions had not tarnished her affections, or worse killed any chance they may have had.

* * *

Spock stood outside Christine's quarters with a strange mixture of hope of and anxiety racing through him. He wanted to believe that she would accept him with open arms, tell him that there was every chance still to explore a relationship together. Tell him she still loved him. She had never spoken outright of her feelings for him since that day over Psi 2000, she had never actually said 'I love you' again. He knew her feelings had not faded and she had alluded to them often. However, he wanted to hear her say those magical words to him again. How wonderful they be now, he wanted to savor the sound of her declaration. What surprised him most was that he wanted desperately to say them to her. He hoped he would still have the chance.

Again he pressed the button to signal his arrival. She would certainly not know it was him who waited on the other side of the door. She probably would not even expect it to be him. He wanted to see the look of surprise on her face as he stood there with the rose. After several more minutes he tried again. After four attempts he began to worry. Perhaps something was wrong, it was not like Christine to keep people waiting.

"She's gone, Mr. Spock," a soft familiar voice said from behind him. He turned to find Lt. Uhura looking a little confused and carrying several small packing boxes.

"Gone?" Spock questioned.

"Yes, sir. She said goodbye to everybody and left on the early shuttle." Her smile changed when she suddenly realized that Christine had apparently not bid farewell to everyone. "She said she had some things to do and wanted to get and early start." She would have liked to have said more, but it was obvious that whatever her friend's reasons for departing so quickly, it was between her and Spock.

"Thank you, Lieutenant," Spock said, expertly hiding his hurt and confusion. He then turned back to the door.

"Computer," he said, depressing the button again. "This is Commander Spock," he said and listed off the numbers and letter for his emergency code. "Open door."

"Opening door," the computer answered in its familiar digital female tone.

Mere moments later Christine's cabin door slid aside, revealing the sight Spock had not expected and not wanted. Her cabin was completely bare. Its contents had long since been packed away and shipped to some unknown place. There were no more personal mementos, no clothes hung in the closet which had been left open, and the bed was stiffly made. He surveyed the rooms quickly. The bathroom was spotless, there was nothing in the drawers, and even her computer console had been purged of all personal files, only the ships common files remained. There was nothing in the cabin to even hint at the fact that Christine Chapel had ever been there at all.

Spock felt a heaviness creep over him and his heart seemed to sink. She was gone. There was nothing he could do. An early transport had left for the surface of the planet only minutes before. The announcement had come over the ship's intercom as he stood in the corridor waiting for the door to open. She must have been on it. As he looked around numbly, wanting to find any evidence that she might still be coming back, or a clue to where she went, his eyes fell on a small old-style envelope lying on the beside table. He crossed the room and retrieved it almost as if in a dream. Picking up the paper he read the name of its intended recipient on the front. It said simply, "Mr. Spock."

He opened it, trying to calm the shuddering that had invaded his breathing. He wanted to know what she had written to him, but at the same time he was afraid to find out. He unfolded the delicate letter and read...

"Dear Spock,

"I don't know if you will ever see this letter. I will leave it in my quarters in hopes that someone will forward it to you. Truthfully, I don't even know why I am writing it, except maybe to apologize, and because there are things I wanted to say but I feel like too much of a coward to face you. I've said my farewells to everyone else, but I can't say goodbye to you. You must think I am the biggest fool in the universe. For years I've followed you around like some lovesick pathetic puppy, and you hardly even gave me the time of day. I don't know what I expected, or maybe I was just hoping for something impossible.

"In my heart I do love you, I can't help that. However, my mind has realized now that I have to move on. For so many years I wanted you to return the feelings I had for you. I should have known that in itself was wrong. I've been waiting for so long for so many things. I waited for Roger, I waited for you, I'm waiting for my life. I don't want to wait anymore. I need to find something for me now. I don't really know what I'm going to do. Leonard thinks I should become a medical doctor and I think maybe he's right. Just not right now. I don't even really feel like staying on Earth. Maybe too much time in space and too many adventures have spoiled me. Perhaps I will go have some new adventures on my own. Maybe I deserve that, something for myself for a change. I feel like I'm moving toward a different path now.

"I wanted to tell you that somewhere deep in myself I think I will always love you. However, I will not hold that hope in my heart any longer. I wish for you the best of everything you desire, and hope that you would do the same for me. I may never see you again, and I just needed you to know how I felt. I never meant to hurt you or make you uncomfortable. I guess when I do something it can't be halfway. My family always did say I was overly passionate, and I suppose they're right. I hope that someday, somewhere you can find what you're looking for. I will always cherish this time that we served together, and will admire and respect you forever.

"Yours, Christine"

Spock sank down on the bed that had been Christine's. He clutched the letter in his hand like some link to her, his last link. What had he expected? He knew the answer to that question before his thought was complete. He had expected her to be there waiting for him whenever he finally got around to realizing how special she was. In some ancient way he had liked how she had fawned over him. It had stroked his ego. He thought with self contempt that it had been his vanity that had found enjoyment in the fact that a beautiful woman desired him. He was ashamed of how he had pushed her away, had nearly been cruel to her. It frightened him when he realized that slowly, day by day, his attraction and affection for Christine was increasing until finally it had developed fully into love. Yes, he loved her, more than he ever dreamed possible. She wished him his heart's desire, but that was her and through his own selfishness she had just walked out of his life. She worried over how her attentions had hurt him. He now cringed at how his rejection must have hurt her. He should have gone to her years before, told her of his growing fondness for her and that they might have a chance together. Something always stopped him, had it been his Vulcan side, or the human in him that simultaneously wanted and rejected her. He was not sure.

All he knew was that she was gone. He might never see her again. He had lost her and all she had ever wanted from him was only kindness and a little love. She would have been satisfied with even that. He knew she was right. She waited so long, too long, and she had every right to want to find and make a life for herself. However, he had wanted it to be with him. He had never felt such overwhelming sorrow and despair wash over him, and he knew the only person he had to blame was himself.

He was still holding the rose he had planned to surprise her with. He studied it. Turned it over in his hand. The brilliant red would have been paled by the spectacular blue of her eyes. How different he had expected this morning to go. He thought about her traveling the galaxy in search of adventure. Suddenly he was fearful that something would happen to her, someone would hurt her ... again. He wanted to be with her to protect her, but he knew he had given up that right, thrown it away with both hands. "Be safe, my love," he whispered to the air, and laid the rose on the pillow that had cradled her head.

He stood, but could not move. His every thought forming her face, her shape, her name. "Christine..." was all he could whisper.

* * *

Christine stood by the window of the small shuttlecraft watching the Enterprise, her home for five years, fade slowly in the distance. Earth loomed ahead of her. For some reason she dreaded coming back. When she left she had been holding onto the desperate hope that she would be returning with her fiancé. However, that like so many things in her life had fallen through her hands. Now she was coming home alone, more alone than she had ever felt in her life. On board the Enterprise she had been busy and useful. There was nearly nothing left for her on Earth. Her research job at the university had been long since filled, her friends had moved on, and she had not had a real family in so many years she had nearly forgotten what was what like to be loved. Her parents and her younger brother had been killed in a ground car accident in Edmonton when she was twelve, the same accident had left her nearly paralyzed for months. It was during that time that she had vowed to go into medicine. After her rehabilitation she had gone to live with a widowed great aunt on Prince Edward Island.

At first she had not been overly fond of her Aunt Gweneth. Christine had found the woman strict and overbearing. She had at times preferred to spend hours alone in the attic, filled with family heirlooms writing fanciful stories of distant places, rather than be forced into the company of her aunt. Her existence there at first was stark and lonely. There were not even any cousins for her to play with. Few other children lived near the old farm in the country which had been built by one of her ancestors in the eighteenth century, and she was often afraid of displeasing her aunt. Over the years however, a closeness had grown between Christine and Gweneth, not love, but a familiar understanding. She grew also quite comfortable in the family home on the shore. It gave her a peace to watch the breakers from the bluff and smell the thick pine scent from the forest. She took great pride in knowing that generations of her mother's family had inhabited the house. It grounded her in a way, but the lack of affection left her longing for more. Although she still had some resentment toward the woman who had raised her, Christine decided she would at least pay her a visit as long as she was on Earth.

The only place she had ever felt complete was on the ship and that was tinged by the bitter heartache of loving someone whom she was certain would never love her back. Why had she held on for so long? She knew it could not end the way she wanted. She supposed she just kept hoping that somehow, someday Spock would see what they could have had together. It broke her heart to leave without saying goodbye to him, but she just could not face him. Christine knew that she would have dissolved into tears, and she wanted to spare them both that spectacle.

There were also the friends she had made on the Enterprise, the best she had ever known. Leaving them behind had been so difficult. She smiled a bit as she remember how Leonard could barely say anything to her for fear he would start sobbing. Of course he had not admitted that to her but she could tell, just as he could tell that she was feeling the exact same way. After a few moments of awkwardness he finally took her in his fatherly arms and held her for a while.

"If you ever, and mean ever, need anything in this world, you just call. Promise?" he said.

She nodded and echoed. "Promise. Same here," was all she could mutter. He could only mirror her nod of agreement.

They stood facing each other and he tried to lighten the mood. "Sure don't know what I'm going to do without the best head nurse a doctor ever had."

"Oh, you'll find somebody else," she laughed.

He looked at her seriously. "No, never," McCoy said.

"Look, you think about what we talked about," he reminded her. "You going to medical school." He was certain she would make an excellent physician.

"I will," Christine agreed. "I'm starting to think rather highly of the idea."

"Good," he smiled. "You'll be fantastic."

"Well, I had a good teacher." She smiled warmly at her friend and mentor. They looked at each other for a long moment, each wanting to say more, but not knowing where to start. Finally they shared a long hug again, and both of their eyes were moist. It was McCoy who broke away.

"Go on, get outta here," he said playfully. "You don't wanna see a grown man cry."

She laughed heartily. The sound always made him smile. "See ya," she whispered unable to actually say the word goodbye, as she turned to leave. Then she was gone.

On the small shuttlecraft speeding toward her home planet Christine thought about her other friends as well. She and Nyota had cried and hugged each other for a long time before she had left. They been each the other's closest female friend on the ship, and it was difficult to think of not being able to call her over the com at all hours just to talk. They had promised to keep in touch, but somehow she knew that there would come a time when they would not. The captain had been so kind to her over the years and that continued. He promised to recommend her for Star Fleet Medical School should she ever decide to further her education. It was obvious Leonard had been discussing the issue with him. She was extremely grateful and agreed to contact him when and if she made up her mind. The tearful goodbyes had continued with all of her closest friends. Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov all gave her big hugs and they all promised also to keep in touch. The fact was she was not even certain where she would be in a week. She had requested that her service classification be deactivated and Star Fleet had approved the change. She was still a member of the fleet, which would help greatly. If she did indeed decide to go back to medical school, it would be through the Fleet Academy. However, with her commission on hold, she had no real plans other then to bounce around for a while and see what life held, if anything.

In a strange way Christine felt like she was leaving part of herself back on the Enterprise. Something in her made her want to run back to the ship, back to him. She shook off the impulse. He'd laugh in your face, she thought to herself, knowing the reaction would be nearly impossible for a Vulcan, but that was the only cliche she could think of to describe how humiliating it would be to return. No, her life or at least her journey lay elsewhere, and she wanted to get on with things.

The shuttlecraft docked in San Francisco with a small bump. The passengers lurched forward a bit, but were able to easily keep their balance. As the door slid open, the soft cool touch of wind off the Pacific brushed against Christine's cheek and played with her hair. She had worn it loose today. She was no longer an active member of the fleet, so today jeans and a white blouse, with a black leather jacket did just fine instead of the short uniform she was used to. It was good to fill her lungs with Earth's atmosphere again. It seemed to invigorate her and fill her with hope.

The shuttle docking level at Star Fleet Command faced the bay and she stared at it for a while before going to retrieve her bags. It would be good for her. She had always regimented her life, leaving little room for spontaneity or sometimes even fun. Perhaps it was a left over from her aunt's strict upbringing, or the effects of always trying to win her love, or someone else's. Roger's love had come so easily, but even he had not love her enough to stay.

Then there was Spock. His stoic rejection of even the smallest affection from her had cut her deeply. However, she understood why he could not return her love, and for some strange reason she loved him even more for it. Christine was unsure what was driving her need to flee. She was certain, though, that she could think no longer about Spock, and was trying to bury him in the back of her mind, and the back of her heart. She wanted to find someone, some to love her and to give all the passion she kept inside. It would not be easy to forget, but somewhere perhaps someone would love her. All she knew was that for the first time in her life, anything was possible.

* * *

The red clay soil on which Spock stood was nearly as dark as that of Vulcan. However, there was no brilliant blue ocean the vivid color of sapphire on his planet. This time of year, early spring on Prince Edward Island, was crisp and clear, and one could see for miles out to sea. The shallow waves lapped at the shore, as he watched a gull mavuever in the wind currents overhead. How different were the sights by which Christine had grown than those so familiar to him. It was an extremely pleasing and peaceful place, and he wondered how he might have been different had he come from this almost untamed wilderness off the coast of Nova Scotia. Christine's aging aunt had enlightened him with the details of her life. He was saddened to think that Christine had not found this place so enchanting as a young girl. She had come to her new home at the age of twelve, an orphan from very far away. She had lost her entire family and very nearly the use of her legs. It must have been terrifying for her.

He was heartsick at the thought of what she had endured in her lifetime. She had persevered through trials he had never realized, nor could have fathomed. This knowledge only made her seem stronger and more resilient to him. He could not have known that they were the very things which she felt made her weak, and afraid.

Spock had missed Christine by only a matter of days. After leaving the Enterprise he began making preparations to return to Vulcan. However, as he read her letter again and again, something in her words worried him. She had been so focused and driven in Star Fleet. Now, it almost seemed as if she had lost something, some spark or passion. He was frightened for her and could not bare the thought of her wandering aimlessly around the galaxy in search of something she could not even name. He hoped that whatever she sought, perhaps it could still be him. It was that fear and hope that had brought him to her island home and it was his love for her that would take him to the ends of Federation space in search of her. He had to find her, at the very least to know that she was alright.

* * *

Spectra Naros 4 was about as far away from Earth as a person could get and still be within Federation space. It was a pleasure planet on the edge of the Klingon Neutral Zone, a cross-roads for any and all sorts of travelers with any and all sorts of motives, legitimate or otherwise. It was class M although very different from Earth. Silver grass, golden soil, and an intense fuschia sky created a psychedelic wonderland for visitors weary of either the monotony of deep space or the more mundane aspects of their home planets. With its bustling, almost decedent cities and secluded hideaways, Spectra was a place a person could get lost, either from someone else or from themselves, and that suited Christine Chapel just fine.

It had been nearly six months since Christine had left Star Fleet. The visit to her aunt's home on Prince Edward Island had been uneventful. She and the older woman had treated each other kindly, but cooly. Their relationship had regressed during Christine's time away and neither could have stood a longer visit. Christine had found no rest on the island, it was so quiet there she felt like she was beginning to suffocate. She wanted excitement, noise, something to pervade her senses. She needed anything she could find to keep herself from thinking, mostly about him. She had more than once during her travels caught herself in a momentary lapse in which she fondly wondered what Spock might be doing, where he must be, or how he was. She admonished herself with a harsh, "He's undoubtedly not thinking about you," and forced herself to do something else until the feeling passed.

After leaving Canada she traveled the face of the globe. New York, Paris, Bangkok, even Hollywood had not seemed to satisfy her wanderlust. Her last day on Earth she chose her next destination by closing her eyes and pointing at the departure schedule in the Aspen spaceport. That was how she had found herself on Rigel. She had been there several times aboard the Enterprise and had found nothing spectacular about the planet but decided to follow where her finger led. She had been right. She had arrived to mostly rain and boring scenery. Although the shopping was some of the best in the galaxy she found little use for it, preferring instead to travel light. Within a week she had set out again for parts unknown, going anywhere that sounded interesting, associating with anyone who took her fancy. She had even had a brief romance with tall, muscular bar tender from Alpha Centari. They enjoyed a few weeks of fun, until she ultimately got bored and they both decided to part as friends.

The truth was that Christine was enjoying her footloose and fancy free lifestyle. She liked reinventing herself, being her own boss, and going anywhere the wind blew. She had never felt so free. There had even been times when she nearly managed to pass an entire day without thinking about Spock, almost.

Today she sat by the window in a small pub by the ocean on Spectra watching the lime and tangerine sunset over the turquoise waves. She had chosen to forego the tequilla shooters she had enjoyed on Pentallus, for a more sedate creation from California. She ran her hand, cool from fondling the wine glass, over her neck and slightly burned shoulders which were exposed by the thin staps of her sundress. The sensation sent a little chill down her back. She had spent far too much time out on the sandbar hunting for seashells that afternoon and knew that tomorrow she would be as red as Leonard McCoy's cheeks when he drank scotch. She smiled at her memory of her friend and promised herself to give him a vid call as soon as she got a chance. She knew he was probably worried about her.

Suddenly she was aware that her absent smile had attracted the interest of someone across the room. As she came back to reality she was struck by a pair of dark eyes scanning her. She felt like one of her science experiments, although it was pleasing to be the object of someone's attentions. She thought that perhaps this man could at least offer an evening of fun, if nothing more. Then she noticed that above those oddly stunning eyes were a pair arched brows that directed her attention to the pointed ears on either side of the stranger's head. She nearly choked on the sip of wine she had just taken.

Are you crazy? Christine scolded herself aloud. Another Vulcan. That's all I need.

She gave the stranger a polite but disinterested half grin, and turned her face toward the setting sun. It had sunk lower in the sky and was nearly extinguished by the watery horizon. She tried to lose herself in thoughts, plans for the next day, her next destination, anything to keep from thinking about a certain Vulcan and the one who now held her in his gaze. Turning her head slightly to see if the stranger still seemed to find her fascinating, she winced at the thought of that particular word. Christine was relieved to find that the Vulcan was no longer perusing her form, infact he was gone. Ah, good, got the message, she sighed.

It was then that a deep but jovial voice startled her from behind. She looked up into the face that had peered at her from across the bar. "Forgive my reliance on cliche..." he began. "...But, what is beautiful woman like you doing alone in a place like this?" The Vulcan peered down at her almost expecting an answer. For a moment she was so shocked that thoughts would not form. Then he did something she would have never believed. He broke into wide grin and laughed.

"May I sit?" he asked her, his voice warm and pleasant.

He took her total inability to speak as an affirmative and modestly sat in the chair opposite her, although she expected that he would have liked to sat a bit closer.

" Uh, excuse me?" Christine questioned, a bit taken aback by his presumption.

"I could not help but notice you from my vantage point on the other side of the bar. If I may say you are magnificently beautiful," he smiled.

Against her better judgement, the flattery had its desired affect. She returned his smile demurely and sweetly replied. "Thank you." His compliment did feel good. It had been so long since she had heard one.

"I felt that if I did not meet you, I would spend the rest of my life dreaming of those incredible blue eyes of yours," he smiled again.

It was working. She was taking the bait, over her mind's cries of foreboding. "Incredible? I wouldn't say that." She felt like a school girl fumbling for something to say.

"Where I come from we don't even have a word for that color," he teased.

"Oh, come on," Christine smiled. "I may be a little tipsy, but I'm not that gullible. Great pick up line though."

"I'm serious," he pleaded his case, laughing. "I honestly have never met anyone with such a feature."

"...And I've never seen a Vulcan laugh before." Her voice held a tone of suspicion.

"Then you have experience with those of my race," he questioned.

She did her best to hold in her grimace as she thought about the one of his race she had wished to know so much better. "One, or two," she answered trying to sound distant.

"Well, you will find that I am quite different," the dashing stranger assured her.

"Oh, I can tell that already," she eyed him.

"I do not subscribe to their ridiculous traditions of emotional denial. I always found it very distasteful," he said.

"Really? How remarkable. I wasn't aware that Vulcan had any rebels." She looked away coyly and played with the rim of her glass.

"You would be surprised my dear," he smiled, watching her finger, enjoying the way she caressed the crystal and wishing to feel her do the same to him.

He raised his hand to summon the waiter, all the while studying her intently. There seemed to be a look of sadness in her eyes and something in her attitude gave the impression of careful guardedness. He was certain that she had been hurt before. Suddenly he wanted more than anything to know her better.

The Andorian waiter came quickly over to the table, almost too quickly, as if the Vulcan was of some importance. "May I get something for you?" he asked.

"Another drink for the lady, and one for me ... the same thing," the stranger said, smiling almost seductively at Christine. He had a ruggedly handsome face, tanned with a masculine hardness. His hairline was receding a tiny bit, but accompanied by a long growth in the back it gave him a rather carefree appearance, as did the slight stubble on his cheeks. His eyes were what held Christine. They seemed oddly familiar, but she could not quite place them. There seemed to be something about him that she recognized, and for some unknown reason she felt oddly at ease in his company. She tried to take that to mean perhaps she should spend some time with this mesmerizing new acquaintance.

As the waiter hurried away to fill the order the Vulcan took a deep breath, appreciating the beauty before him. "Please, tell me you name, lovely lady," he asked.

"My name is Christine, Christine Chapel," she said softly.

"Mmm..." He tilted his head back enjoying the sound. "Like music," he said. Then he looked deep into her eyes. She felt something stir in her, something that had not come alive for so long. It was almost as if he was peering directly into her soul. After a moment he offered his name. "I am Sybok."

* * *

Spock found Spectra Naros 4 an assault on his senses. The colorful tones of landscape seemed garish to him. Its inhabitants and visitors were far too boisterous for his tastes, and the fast excitement of its overlit and crowded cities pounded in his brain like a hammer. Somehow, he could not picture Christine in a place like this. At least, his mind refused to believe that the Christine he knew would find much to her liking here. It had been nearly eight months since he had last seen her and, from what scarce information he could glean about her travels, she was either changing for reasons he could not fathom or trying to change for motives he was afraid he knew all too well. He ached to see her, to speak with her. Christine's beautiful face would not leave him and her presence seemed with him always. Perhaps somewhere deep inside herself was calling for him too, even if she did not realize it. He could not shake the overwhelming fear that he was very close to losing her forever. If only she would stop running long enough for him to catch her. He breathed in sharply at that thought. How close it must have been to her wishes for him over the years.

He sat in a small bar overlooking the turquoise ocean of the planet. The table by the window afforded a nice view, but Spock was not interested in sightseeing. Over the tea he had ordered from the Andorian waiter, he reviewed his path in search of Christine and contemplated his next move. What was he thinking following her around the galaxy like some kind of stalker? He wondered how it had ever gotten this far, but already knew the answer to the question. He loved her with all the fire and passion in his soul. The time and distance had only intensified it. There were instances he thought he would go insane with longing for her, and then there were times when he was sure he would let her go if that was what she desired. Never had he been so confused, nor his path been so uncertain.

He had thought about hiring a private investigator to search for Christine, but decided against it. It would most probably frighten or anger her. It was best that this quest be undertaken alone. Spock had used his old Star Fleet contacts to track her movements. Although he felt deceptive and covert at the means he employed, Spock found that with his computer skills it was nothing to secretly determine information about where her credit cards had last been used, or what ships she had booked passage on. However, he could not move ahead and predict her next move since she was apparently coming and going on whims. To make matters worse there had been no logic to her travel schedule, no straight course. She was crisscrossing the galaxy, going anywhere that suited her fancy at the moment. He had come so close so many times, arriving within a matter of days to the planets she had visited, and on one occasion within only hours of her departure. Again, on Spectra his search was futile. He discovered that she had left a week before his arrival. Surely this had to end soon.

Spock finished the last sip of the now cold tea, paid the waiter, and walked resentfully out on the wide boardwalk. Unfortunately he would not be able to continue his undertaking directly from Spectra. Family business was calling him home to Vulcan. He had heard from his parents only the evening before. It seemed his half brother, Sybok, from whom no one had heard a word in years was to be married, to an Earth woman. The message was relayed to him in no uncertain terms that he was expected to be there to greet his future family member. For as strained as his own relationship with his father had been over the years, Sybok's dealings with Sarek had been even worse. Although no words had ever been spoken of it, his brother's complete rejection of the traditions of his people had hurt their father very deeply. It was now hoped that with a marriage in the offing, relations could perhaps begin to mend. Spock did hope that would be true for both their sakes, however he was anxious to continue his search for Christine. What little he could do on Vulcan in that regard would have to be enough, until he could fully devote himself to finding her again. At the spaceport he boarded the liner that would speed him home with a confusing sense of dread.

* * *

Christine sighed and sat back in the chair. She stared for moment out of the window of the small star cruiser Sybok had rented for them, into the blackness of space.

"Is everything alright, darling?" he asked, turning a concerned eye in her direction.

"Yes, of course," she lied a little. "I'm just a little tired. Long trips always do that to me."

Sybok reached over from the pilot's seat and took her hand. He kissed it tenderly. "We have a little time before we reach Vulcan. Why don't you nap for a while? It will do you good." He smiled.

"I think I will," she nodded and adjusted the back on her chair into a more comfortable position.

She felt him squeeze her hand as her eyes closed and then take his touch from her to let her sleep. It felt good to rest her eyes and feel her breathing start to take on the steady regular rhythm of waiting sleep. The upholstery of the cruiser was soft, the chair was heated which made it easy for her body to relax. It was her mind that would not settle down.

Everything had moved so fast. The past two months has seemed like a whirlwind. After their first meeting that evening in the bar on Spectra Naros 4, Sybok had pursued her with a zeal she could scarcely have imagined. He had been a true gentleman, always caring and considerate. He had met her for breakfast the next morning. A date which had turned into dinner and a vid that evening and stroll along the beach in the moonlight. He was so easy to talk to and they opened up to each other in such casual and comfortable ways. He made her feel special. It was obvious from the beginning that he was very interested in her, and she was surprised to realize that it went beyond just wanting a one night stand with a tall blonde human. He genuinely wanted a relationship with her. It had been so long since someone had desired her. Christine was flattered and was soon swept off her feet by the dashing rebellious Vulcan, so different than others she had known. Her jaw went a little rigid at the thought and she pushed it away from her.

They had left Spectra together, bound for New Brazil. There they played in the lush jungles like children. There she saw a man only interested in her, only wanting to please her and be pleased by her. Someone who wanted to make a life with her. In a way it was like awakening from a long bad dream. Christine would not allow any thoughts of the past, or of Spock to come between herself and this wonderful new man who had entered her life so unexpectedly. Somehow, amidst the steam, and ferns, and waterfalls she found herself falling in love with Sybok and began also to think of a future with him. It was then that she allowed him closer to her. He told her of the family from which he was estranged on Vulcan, but nothing more than that. He did not tell her names or places. She assumed that the subject was so painful to this extremely emotional person that he could not even bare to think about it himself. She did not pry and her heart filled with pain for him. He sensed her pity and assured her there was no need, for he was now very happy.

Christine too allowed him into places she had long hidden. She told him of her family's death and her aunt's ambivalence toward her. She told him too of the painful loss of her fiancé. His eyes filled with tears and he held her close. Then, deciding that she wanted total honesty between them, she told him of another man she had served with in Star Fleet with whom she had been deeply in love, and of how this man's rejection of her had hurt her beyond words. Of course she did not tell him the man's name, or the fact that he was also a Vulcan, she owed Spock that much privacy. She opened herself to him, and he accepted.

Sybok was a warm and gentle lover. He filled her needs so sweetly and pleasurably that their nights together were every bit as wonderful as they had been between she and Roger, even more so thanks to the Vulcan's telepathic abilities. He would tickle her mind, invite her into the first layers of his, and together the experience was heightened. It confused her when she realized that there always seemed to be something he was hiding from her, but she dismissed it as him not wanting to burden her with the pain of his past. She told herself that the passion would come later. She was certain that they would find it once they were bonded, and she looked forward to that day. Of course there were also things she hid from him. Christine also told herself that she would find a way stop letting the images of Spock invade her fantasies and her dreams. There would come a day, soon, when she would not be able to hide them from Sybok, and she wanted nothing to ruin what they were creating. Even while she knew she loved Sybok, Christine swore she would stop loving Spock.

Just a few weeks after their arrival, with the sun rising behind them, overlooking a waterfall that descended into a cavernous rock formation, Sybok asked her to marry him and be his bond mate. She accepted without hesitation, although something in her seemed to ache. She did not know where it came from, but she could guess and thrust as far down into her soul as she could. She was happy with Sybok. Yes, there were things they still needed to learn about each other, but Christine was positive that they would only strengthen their relationship. She wanted to be his wife, to bear his children, and to build a life with him. She just knew that was also his deepest wish.

A soft hand shook her shoulder. "My darling. We have arrived," Sybok announced smiling down at her.

"What? Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sleep so long. Do I have time to refresh myself before we go?" she answered stretching.

"Take all the time you need," Sybok said. "I will gather our things." He went about retrieving their luggage from around the cabin as she brushed her hair and fixed her make up.

After a few moments, taking a quick look out the window at the hot Vulcan afternoon, Christine arose and took her fiance's hands. "I'm ready," she smiled after taking a deep breath.

He looked at her proudly. "I know they will be very pleased with you."

"I'm so nervous," she grinned sheepishly.

"You have no reason to be. I've lived without them for a long time. It is your approval I want," he said enwrapping her in his arms.

"You already have that." She touched his face and kissed him.

Together they disembarked from the cruiser's hatch, arm in arm and smiling. As they walked across the causeway their chatter and laughter was so absorbing that at first Christine did not see those who waited. Then Sybok turned and she felt a rigidness in his stance upon seeing his father, that she was unused to. At first she tried to ease his mood by running her hand along his back. Then she saw who his father was. She recognized him immediately. Ambassador Sarek stood regally on the pavement, flanked by his smiling human wife, and his second son.

Christine stopped motionless in her tracks. Her breath threatened to stop and she could not think. She simply stared at Spock, who returned the gaze with stoic impassiveness. She thought she saw a glimmer of something for a moment, but it faded or had been trapped again behind that shielding that never let in the smallest bit of anything. For a fleeting second she wanted to run to him, then to slap him, then to turn and run away with Sybok, then simply to disappear. Her control amazed her then. She told herself that she was not in love with him anymore and that she was going to be Sybok's wife. Whatever Spock thought of that was irrelevant. It was not his place to comment on her life or his brother's, and if he tried she just might tell him so. She straightened, but still they continued to stare at each other. After greeting his father and second mother, Sybok introduced Christine to them. It was apparent that they already knew her and he stood in shocked confusion.

"Miss Chapel, it has been a long time since we have had the pleasure of your company," Sarek said.

"Thank you, Ambassador," she answered. "I am honored you remember me. I would not have expected you to."

"Not remember someone who helped save my husband's life?" Amanda grinned. "I'm happy to see you and I welcome you to the family." She smiled although she looked a bit uncomfortable and it was obvious she was trying not to look over at Spock to gauge his reaction.

"I welcome thee also. We are honored," Sarek agreed, his face hiding a wariness as he watched Sybok lead her over for an unnecessary introduction to Spock.

It was then Sybok felt Christine almost jump in his arms and noticed their recognition. "Do you two know each other?" he asked pleasantly.

"Yes," Spock said unemotionally. "We served together on the Enterprise."

"Yes," Christine echoed. "How are you, Mister Spock?" She asked hoping her words would not stick in her throat.

"I am quite well, Miss Chapel," he said, although his eyes looked dead. "I trust you are likewise."

She tried to smile. "Yes, I am very well." She looked lovingly at Sybok, wanting it to sting.

The newly discovered information traced a path in Sybok's mind to what Christine had said about a man she had been in love with in Starfleet. He watched his brother and fiancee in a conversation far too strained for even mere casual acquaintances, let alone former colleagues. The seeds of suspicion took root in his mind, and he sent an unintentional glare between them.

* * *

Spock stood alone by the window in his father's study nearly motionless. He barely noticed the unforgiving Vulcan sun that glared almost directly in his eyes. It was setting, turning the landscape an ominous shade of deep burnt orange. The world around him looked as though it were on fire, a metaphor for his inner turmoil. His gaze was fixed on the two figures embracing in his mother's garden. Sybok and Christine were clinging to each other so tightly that, in the aura of the sun, it was difficult to tell where one being stopped and other started. How long had he watched them? He was unsure. Even his inner sense of time failed him as he saw how happy Christine was with his brother. From time to time Sybok would whisper something secret in her ear, and she would throw back her head in joyful laughter. How rare a sight it was, and he cherished it, even if it was not directed at him.

She looked so truly happy. For the first time Spock had seen her hopeful and exuberant. On board the Enterprise, Christine had always been professional and disciplined, but there had been an air of sadness about her. He understood that it was sadness for what she had lost. The death of her fiancé had crushed her. He also realized that it was a longing for what she could not have -- him. He had cheated her, cheated himself. Now, he had lost her before he ever truly had her. There was a time, not long ago when she was his for the asking. All he needed to do was go to her and let her into his lonely life. It was all she had wanted of him, and it would have been so easy. Now, she belonged to someone else. How could he blame her for wanting love and happiness? Her soul was so passionate and she had been denied it for so long. She deserved it, he wanted it for her. The thought that tore at him was how deeply he had hoped she would find it with him. His mind went back to that last day on the Enterprise when he found she had gone. He had never known such a feeling of remorse and regret. Yet there had been hope that he would find her, that she would still want him. This losing her was far worse than searching. Christine was so close, he could almost reach out and touch her. Still she would never be his. She belonged to his brother. She would be a part his family and so apart from him. He would watch their life together, watch their children grow, see her give herself to her husband in every way, and it would not be him. Spock's hand touched the warm pane of glass for a moment, imaging he could feel Christine on the other side.

"Spock." A soft, gentle voice brought him from his thoughts. It did not startle him. It never could.

"Yes, Mother?" he asked in a hushed tone without turning.

"Why don't you tell her?" Amanda questioned, moving closer.

"Tell her what?" Spock replied numbly.

"That you love her," his mother stated plainly.

"Love is an illogical emotion, Mother," Spock corrected her.

"Is it?" she scoffed. "I love you." She stood behind him. He was not going to be able to extract himself from the conversation.

"Mother, please," he said, trying to make her stop.

"If you believed it to be so, you would discount it," Amanda continued. "How can something so illogical be upsetting you so much?"

"I do not recall stating that I was upset." He phrased his words to avoid lying to her.

"You don't have to. I know you better than anyone," she smiled warmly. He still could not face her or take his eyes from Christine.

"You love her, don't you?" she asked again.

There were things he could only say to his mother. Things only she would understand. These private conversations would never be mentioned to another living soul, not even his father. She was the only person in his life he truly trusted. "What if I said I did?" he asked her. "It makes no difference now."

"Doesn't it?" she prodded. "Why?"

"Christine is his," he answered plainly.

"She is? Are they bonded? Is she a piece of property?" Amanda was beginning to get angry at her son's self defeating manner.

"They are promised. It is as good as a bond," Spock reminded her then paused before continuing. "She loves him."

"Does she?" Amanda continued her interrogation. It was the only way to make him see the things that were right in front of him.

"It is obvious. Can you not see how happy she is?" he asked, finally turning to face her. The look of pain in his eyes was nearly more than she could bare.

"What I see is a young woman, trying desperately to make herself believe that she's happy and in love," Amanda informed him.

"Or is that what you want to see?" Spock lowered his eyes. He was unsure how she would take the comment.

"What I saw was her face when she looked at you at the space port, and yours when you realized she was your brother's fiancé," Amanda said. "You both looked like you wanted the ground to open up and swallow you whole."

"We were simply surprised at the coincidence," Spock said, again choosing his words so he could not be accused of lying.

"Oh really. It looked more like you both wanted to run into each other's arms and never let go." She was trying to draw him out.

"Really, Mother. You do paint a vivid picture, but an inaccurate one," he corrected.

"Then there is you," she continued ignoring his denial. "You've barely spoken a word since they arrived yesterday. You been mooning around here like a child whose pet sehlat has just died, avoiding everyone and everything, especially Christine."

"I have been preoccupied with other matters," he said. Inwardly he winced at his mother's unfortunate allegory.

"Yes. Your broken heart," she blurted.

"I assure you there are no defects in my circulatory system," he said as though he did not know what she meant.

"Oh, knock it off," she shot back, harshly. "Stop trying to skirt the issue."

"The issue is welcoming my brother and his future bride home," he said dimly, still watching the figures strolling in the garden. Sybok had placed his arm protectively around Christine almost as if he knew they were the topic of someone's discussion.

"And what about Sybok?" Amanda demanded.

"What do you mean?" Spock questioned.

"You know why he left this house. He hasn't mentioned one word about his quest. Do you suppose he's given it up so easily?" she reminded him.

"Perhaps he has found something greater with Christine," Spock said. For him there would have been nothing greater.

"I hope that is so, for her sake. However, I doubt it," Amanda feared.

"He loves her, that is evident to see," Spock said, watching his brother kiss Christine's temple.

"You know what he loves," Amanda said a bit contemptuously, thinking of what Sybok had cost her family.

"Sha-ka-ri," Spock said, understanding.

"I truly doubt that he would have given that up so easily, for anything," She hypothesized. "I wonder if she knows."

"It is none of our business, nor is it our place to inform her," Spock said sharply.

"You are right, of course," Amanda agreed. Then she paused a moment. "Is that what you really want for her?" she asked.

"What?" he questioned confused.

"Marriage to a man who loves a legend, a quest, more than he loves her," Amanda described. "She won't be happy with him, nor he with her. They will try, probably until that effort eats them up inside. In the end it will drive a wedge between them. At best she will end up bitter and alone, at worst he will destroy her." She hated the thought. Christine was a truly wonderful person and she deserved better, but Amanda was certain that she would not get it with Sybok.

Spock let his mother's words sink in for a moment. The thought of anything hurting Christine was more than he could bare. It was all he could do not to run out into the garden and challenge Sybok for her, to grab her up and take her away. He wanted to confess all to her. However, what could he really do? If he did declare his attachment to her, she was liable to tell him what he did not want to hear, that she did truly loved his brother. Any declaration might be met with contempt and anger which he knew he could not withstand. He might even open a deeper chasm in his family and ruin any progress his father and brother might make. Amanda saw him wavering and would not give up. She hated badgering him, but it was the only way. He was so stubborn, a trait she which she readily confessed he got from her.

"I saw the two of you when we were on the Enterprise." She began, hoping to bring a pleasant memory to his mind. "It was plain to see that she loved you very deeply, the way she fawned all over you in sickbay. It was also plain to see, my son, that you could not take your eyes off of her."

"I was simply impressed with her skills as a member of the medical staff," Spock denied.

"Yes," Amanda smiled. "It is quite easy to admire those we love."

He now knew that she would not let the topic drop. She was correct, but he could not take the course of action she wished, even though he wished it as well. He turned from the window to face her, his eyelids heavy with regret and pain. "Mother," he began, not knowing what words to use. His heavy sigh told her she was correct. "I have no right."

She touched his arm nuturingly. "Look, I raised Sybok as if he were my own for most of his life. You know I care very deeply for him, even after what he put this family through," Amanda said. "But you are my flesh and blood. I would rather die than see you go without the smallest desire of your heart."

"Mother..." He tried to stop her, preferring not to dwell on the image she had just placed in his head.

She hushed him with her hand, and continued. "Right, now you are in pain and I can't do anything about it. I beg you for once in your life, do what your heart tells you, not what your culture demands. You deserve this happiness you seek ... Christine deserves it as well."

He hung his head contemplating her words and turned back to the garden. Sybok held Christine in his arms. Their backs were to the house and they were enjoying the final moments of the sunset. How he wished it were him feeling her next to his chest, hearing the rhythm of her breathing, and the music of her voice, feeling the soft whispers of her kisses. Perhaps his mother was right, but how could he put himself above so many.

"I will leave you to your thoughts," Amanda said turning to go.

"Mother." Spock stopped her. "Thank you," he said quietly.

She smiled at him with all the love in her heart. The look always astonished him, and made everything seem alright. "There is no need, my dear," she assured him before taking her leave.

When Spock looked back to the garden his brother and Christine were strolling toward the house. Sybok had whispered another private joke into her ear and she was laughing in delight. Spock studies her for a long moment. Although her face seemed lit with glee, he could have sworn there was a sadness in her eyes, just at the corners. He had seen it on the ship and it still seemed to be haunting her. Or perhaps, he thought to himself, that was just what he wanted to see.

* * *

Christine lightly blew the heat from her coffee before taking a sip. The Vulcan evening air was just beginning to feel chilly as she stood on the small stone balcony of the home in which her fiance had been raised. Sybok had gone into Shi'Kahr a while ago announcing nonchalantly that he had an errand to see to. Over the whirlwind course of their relationship he had often disappeared on one sort of business or another. Upon his return he would always tell Christine that it had gone well and he did not wish to bore her with the details. He then changed the subject, usually with a kiss. This would generally lead to something more which preoccupy her until his absence seemed unimportant, although afterward she still wondered where he had gone. Usually he would return bearing one sort of surprise or another, jewelry, chocolates, flowers, tiny curiosities, or just a simple note to say how much he loved her. Christine believed that he did love her, and she chose to ignore that when Sybok went off on his business outings he was usually gone far too long just to pick up a simple token. Spock, however, had not let that information go unnoticed.

In the two weeks since Christine and Sybok had come to stay in his parent's home Spock had noticed many things about the couple's relationship. Several of his observations were giving him cause for alarm. He had seen his half brother seemingly abandon the woman he proclaimed to love for hours. It was only out of the utmost self control that Spock had not followed Sybok on one of these trips. He knew of his brother's past, even if Christine apparently did not, and he felt it somehow his duty to see to it that one of his Sybok's former dalliances did not come back to haunt her. Sybok had already put a large and nearly flawless diamond on the ring finger of Christine's left hand. As his mother had told him this was an age old Human tradition signally the claiming of a woman before marriage. The ornament was gaudy and ostentatious by Vulcan standards, but Christine seemed quite pleased with it. Not only was Spock more than a little irritated at the thought of Christine, the woman he loved, being claimed in such a way by his own brother; he also wondered where Sybok had gotten the money for the extravagance. He had not know his brother to hold down a job for long, and there had been no talk of his current employment. Deep down Spock wished it could be him that was making Christine so happy. He knew that if not for his stubbornness and even his cowardice, it would be. His heart was breaking.

There were other issues that caused Spock to worry about Christine. She seemed to have no knowledge of Sybok's quest. Of course, he told himself, that would be a private matter and hardly something one would openly discuss. However, he would have thought she would have mentioned something in an unguarded moment. They had not stated plans to take up permanent residence on either Vulcan or Earth. There had not even been discussion of their travel itinerary. Just where would they be going after they left Vulcan, he wondered. The thought sent a chill through him. Sybok would think nothing of traversing any hazard to seek Sha-Ka-Ri. Spock feared that he might endanger Christine in the process.

There was something different about Christine now. She was not the same person he had known on the Enterprise. She had been strong and self confident on the ship. Recently Spock had seen her bending more and more to Sybok's will. For all his emotionalism, Sybok was still a Vulcan male, and that meant expecting women to behave in certain ways. Spock had usually found this part of his Vulcan heritage to be reprehensible. Thanks to his mother he had been raised to view females with respect, and as equals, nearly. He feared Sybok did not take this same view. Christine was a human female with mind of her own, and several times when she had attempted to merely state her own thoughts she had been sternly silenced by his brother. Once he had even grabbed her wrist forcibly and ordered her into their bedroom for what Spock could only imagine was a severe lecture, at best. What surprised him most was that Christine did not protest against the harsh treatment, but had bowed to Sybok's wishes. After giving the matter much consideration, Spock realized that perhaps Christine wanted so much to belong to someone, and be loved by him that she was willing to put up with Sybok's fierce behavior, even if it meant losing a part of herself in the process. Spock wondered with regret just how much of this change in her had been the result of his rejection.

This day Christine had spent a long and delightful afternoon talking with Amanda. She truly liked Sybok's stepmother, which is how she now saw the woman. She did not even realize when she had stopped focusing on her as Spock's mother and began referring to Amanda from her fiance's point of view. Christine got the impression that her respect and regard were returned whole heartedly. However, during all their conversations it seemed to Christine that Amanda was sweetly examining her, and somehow the talk always seemed to come around to Spock. This evening, Amanda had received a vid call from a friend on Earth. She had offered to have one of the servants take a message so she and Christine could continue their conversation, but the younger woman had insisted she take the call. Christine entertained herself by watching the sunset over the deep red mountains that surrounded the region. She was mesmerized and did not hear the rhythmic footsteps that stopped directly behind her.

"The view is quite spectacular, is it not?" Sarek's calm but authoritative voice interrupted her contemplation.

Christine turned to meet his look and noticed that he was studying her intently. "Yes, it's breathtaking," she answered with a smile.

She had grown to like the ambassador a great deal. At first she was greatly intimidated by him, and unsure of what to say. Christine had felt as though her every word and movement were being studied, and somehow got the impression that he was displeased with her. However, she soon realized that it was his polite, but somewhat unnerving habit of focusing completely on other people during meetings and conversations. She guessed that it was his years of diplomatic experience that had created the tendency. It was a means not only of avoiding insult, but also sizing up a situation. She soon realized that he had come to regard her with a high level of caring.

"Are you enjoying your time with us?" he asked.

"Oh, yes. Very much. You and Amanda have made me feel so welcome." She smiled, now without self-consciousness at the unexpressive face that was his answer.

"That is most gratifying to know," he said sincerely. "I hope that you will regard this place as your home as well," he offered.

"That is most kind. Thank you," she said, setting her coffee cup down on a nearby table. "There are so many things about Vulcan I have come to appreciate."

Sarek pondered Christine's words for a moment wondering how to begin. He decided his usual blunt approach would be the best. " It appears that one of those things is my son. You love him a great deal." He spoke the words as a statement. In his mind there was no need to question.

Christine smiled thoughtfully and let her gaze travel once more over the dark red soil toward the horizon. Somehow she could not meet his eyes. She paused a moment. During their visit her fiance and his father had spent many hours talking, and their relationship seemed to be improving. She was glad, for them both. "Sybok is a such an extraordinary person."

Sarek noticed that Christine had neither actually confirmed nor denied his original statement. He decided to press on, this was far too important to abandon. "Yes, he is quite a ... unique individual," Sarek nodded. "However, it was not to Sybok that I was referring."

Christine's breath caught in her throat. Her head whirled almost involuntarily in Sarek's direction. She readied herself for a battle, but saw nothing malicious in his manner. He was simply reporting information as he perceived it, without judgment or blame. Her shock must have been evident on her face.

"Forgive me," he apologized. "I realize that is a private matter, and I did not intend to speak unguardedly. However, I feel this is an issue which could cause both you and Spock great distress, if it has not already."

Christine was able to speak again after a few moments but did not know what to say. She had not allowed herself to think of her feelings for Spock in so long she had hoped they had disappeared. However, being so close to him was beginning to wear down her resolve. He had been what she was contemplating as she watched the dark orange sunset only a few moments before.

"Not at all," she stammered a bit. "I suppose you do have a right to know." She hoped her voice and strength would not fail her as she formulated an impassioned but not so heartfelt declaration of her love for Sybok. "It is true, I once had feelings for Spock," Christine said, choosing to describe her love in the lowest degree possible. "He made it quite clear that he would never return those feelings."

"I realized that you were, as humans say, in love with him during my short stay aboard the Enterprise," Sarek admitted. "You were extremely attentive to him."

"I'm a nurse, my job is to see to the needs of all my patients. I don't think my attentions toward your son were anymore than that." She hoped he could recognize her small lie.

"Is it customary for nurses to stare longingly at all their patients when said patients are not looking?" he countered.

Christine could feel her face flash red. It was true she done that, and not only in sickbay. She could also feel her anger growing, and was afraid the evening would end in an argument. Perhaps one she could not win. She looked away quickly.

"It is not my intention to embarrass or anger you. I only bring up this observation because I am certain you were unaware of Spock's reciprocal actions in that case," Sarek said.

"His what?" Christine questioned in disbelief.

"He too was watching you during moments in which you did not notice his attentions," Sarek informed her. "It is my strong belief that Spock also returned your feelings in this matter, although he would never have voiced them.

Hmm, tell me about it, Christine wanted to say, but only shook her head in denial. "I can assure you that the only thing Spock may have ever felt for me was extreme annoyance and the intense desire that I would go away," she said almost ruefully.

"I fear you are wrong in your interpretation of his actions toward you. It is most probable that any avoidance on his part was more a consequence of his nature and upbringing than of disregard for you," Sarek said. "I am sure that dealing with a growing attachment to you could not have been easy for him."

Christine shook her head lightly. "There was no attachment," she protested again.

"You did not perceive one. He would not have allowed that," Sarek assured her. "I know where of I speak." He paused a moment in reflection. "It is obvious to me that he has deep feelings for you, his behavior during this visit has proven that."

"I've noticed nothing different in his behavior. He acts the same as he did on board the Enterprise," Christine said. "He can hardly stand to be near me."

"It may be true that he is intensifying his control around you, as he did on board the ship. However, his actions in his home these weeks have not been normal. His avoidance of others, of conversations, and of activities is far from his usual behavior with his family."

"Perhaps he's just uncomfortable about his brother and my being here," Christine offered.

"Doubtful," he opposed. "He and Sybok generally had an amiable relationship, and I see no reason why he should be ill at ease around you. If..." He looked at her intensely, "you are just a former colleague to him."

Christine let the Vulcan's words sink in. Could it be true? Could Spock really have feelings for her. If he did, why had he never said so, or even hinted at the fact? She would have given almost anything just to know that he even thought of her at all. She had watched him for so long, knew his every expression, at least from a distance. Had she missed something? Should she have said something? Might there have been an chance? For a moment her heart wanted to sore at the possibility. Then she remembered the man whose ring she wore, the one who offered his love freely and openly. It was true Sybok could be a very demanding man, and there was still so much he kept from her, but she felt that it was a small price to pay for totally belonging to someone. The thought occurred to Christine that Spock would never treat her the way Sybok sometimes did in moments of anger. That he would open his entire to soul to her and there would be no secrets. If what Sarek had told her was true, and Spock did love her she would never feel alone, or mistreated or, frightened. She took a deep breath for what might have been, for what did it matter now.

"I am engaged to your other son," she reminded Sarek. "I will be his wife."

Sarek was quiet for a moment, choosing his words carefully. "I fear that a life with him, may not actually be the one you are imaginingm" he voiced. What he was thinking was that he feared for her safety.

They looked at each other for a moment, Christine unsure how or whether she should answer, Sarek unsure how much more he had the right to say. Suddenly they were interrupted by a loud and laughing voice from the doorway of the house. "What's so serious?" Sybok grinned, a large bouquet of Terran tropical flowers in his hand.

Christine felt like a child who had been caught over the remains of a broken heirloom. "We, uh...." she began.

"We were discussing Christine's appreciation of things Vulcan," Sarek finished for her.

Sybok crossed the terrace and wrapped his arms around Christine from behind. He kissed her on the cheek and presented her with flowers. She smiled, however her face showed a veil of uncertainty which did not go unnoticed by Sarek.

"One Vulcan thing in particular I hope," Sybok laughed.

"Yes," his father said. "That was the tone of the conversation." He did not elaborate. Nor did he show his disgust at his son's open display of affection. He did give a knowing glance to Christine before turning to depart.

"I will leave you now," Sarek said. Before entering the house his eyes rested on Christine for a moment, imploring her to consider what they had discussed.

Sybock turned Christine around in his arms, nearly crushing the flowers. "Did you miss me?" he smiled.

She quickly brought herself back to the present and sent the thoughts of his brother to the back of her mind. "Of course I did," she answered, doing her best to return his enthusiasm.

"Hmmm, perhaps later you can show me just how much," Sybok whispered playfully.

"I think that can be arranged," Christine grinned.

Sybok brought his face to hers and kissed her long and slow. She shivered. Not even she knew if it was really from the cold air beginning to blow over the mountains or something else. "You're freezing," Sybok commented, wrapping his arms tighter around her. "Come. We had better go inside." Arm in arm they retreated to the warmth of the house, their minds wrestling with very different confusions.

Later that evening Christine had procured a vase for the showy bouquet Sybok had brought her and was returning to her room with the flora when Spock stepped out of a doorway just in front of her. They held each other's stare for a long interval.

"I see my brother had brought you another gift," he commented. He wanted to ask how long the man had been gone this time, but did not.

"Yes," she said uncharacteristically nervous. "Aren't they beautiful?"

They are no match for your beauty, my love, he heard his mind say. His mouth only uttered a guttural sound of acknowledgment. To even his surprise he suddenly found himself adding, "It is regretful they are not red roses. Those are your favorites are they not?"

She was amazed for a moment. "How did you know roses are my favorites?"

His looked thoughtful, as if he was lost in a pleasant memory. He saw a moment of shared work in the Enterprise's biology lab, the two of them bent over a pharmacological sample. "You mentioned it ... once," he said softly. Then he moved to go. "I shall not detain you longer. Enjoy your evening." He slipped past her and continued down the hall.

Christine was unable to move for a moment. Spock remembered a passing comment she had made years ago. Sometimes Sybok could barely remember she had even been in Star Fleet. She felt her legs moving toward the door to the bedroom she shared with Sybok. Her mind was still reeling. As she put her hand on the doorknob, Christine stopped to look wistfully back along the path she had just come. There at the end of the hallway, Spock stood returning her gaze. She could have sworn she saw a sadness in his eyes, before he turned and disappeared into the blackness of another room. Her heart aching, she entered her bedroom knowing her fiance was waiting for her.

* * *

Christine took a deep breath and forced a smile as she entered the dim light of the bedroom. Her mind was haunted by the sight of Spock's pained eyes. More than anything she just wanted to be alone tonight. There were so many things she needed to sort out. She found Sybok sitting in bed reading something on a stylus pad. He seemed intent on his perusal until he saw her. Quickly secreting the small box under the bed, he held out his arms for her to come to him. His smile was wide and warm, his arms inviting. It was easy to love him when he was like this.

"My dear, there you are," he smiled.

"I'm sorry. It was thoughtless of me to keep you waiting," Christine said, quickly taking the blame to appease any anger he may have at the delay.

"Do not concern yourself, my love," Sybok said. "I have no doubt that you will be well worth the wait." Christine was relieved to see that he was in a peaceful and seductive mood this evening and she would most likely not need to worry about upsetting him. Still she guarded her actions with the utmost care.

Standing in front of the bed she began to undress slowly, pulling at the buttons of the silk blouse she had worn that day. She knew it gave her fiance pleasure to watch her remove her clothing. "Here, allow me," Sybok said rising to his knees on the mattress. He was already unclothed.

He carefully unfastened the few remaining closures. He slid the liquidy material down over her soft arms, his lips following. He pulled her close to him and tasted the skin at the nape of her neck. She could tell from the way his breathing was hastening that he was enjoying the preparation immensely. She tried to let herself become lost in the action as well, but her mind was still laden with the evenings events.

Having removed her brassiere, Sybok turned his attentions to the button and zipper on the back of her short skirt. All the while he explored her creamy skin with his mouth. Unable to fight the urges beginning to swell within her own body, Christine began to lose herself in the sensations. She closed his eyes and caressed his shoulders. Her hands then found their way down his muscular back, massaging and needing in time to the pulses beginning to flow through both of their bodies.

She presented her naked body to him, and it was accepted without hesitation. He brought her gently to the mattress, forming himself around her. Their kisses grew deeper, searching. Their bodies pressed against each other unable to be satiated. Christine had never felt this intensity with him before. She let him pull her to the edge of yearning.

She felt as though her body were somewhere else, a million tingles of pleasure ran up and down her spine. Passion like she had never known appeared in front of her, and she reached for it with zeal. Lost in the torrent of love and physicality her mind called out in the darkness. Her heart soared, and her soul felt as if it would fly away. Somewhere between longing and reality Christine heard her own voice thrill with excitement. Her mind flashed with images of warm brown eyes, thick black hair, and rippling muscles.

"S...pock!" she cried.

It took only a moment for her mind to register what had happened. Her body returned to itself and she sat up, opening her eyes in terror. Sybok pulled her arms from their embrace. He stared coldly at her. His eyes were like black steel. Never had she seen such hurt and anger on anyone's face. It terrified her. Rage flashed deep in his heart. Almost reflexively the back of his clenched fist lashed out against Christine's cheekbone. It found its mark with a sickening dull resonance. Helpless and in shock she fell back hard against the pillow.

Christine lay there gasping in terror for what seemed like an eternity. Her jaw felt as if it were broken and pain stabbed through her skull. She had never been hit before. Now she stared at the man who was to become her husband, the person who was supposed to love her more than anything else, the person who had done this to her. Thoughts would not come and actions seemed useless. All she knew was to run.

Realizing what he had done, Sybok's face drained of all color as he watched Christine helplessly. Uncertain what to do and eaten with guilt he reached for her. "Christine," his anguished voice pleaded.

She jumped back as if his hands were poison. Bounding from the bed, still coughing in desperate fear, she barely managed to fix a robe around herself before fleeing through the door which led out to the garden. Sybok was left alone. Christine escaped, taking dread and fright with her.

* * *

The night air had grown almost unbearably cold in the late hour. Spock had long ago given up on his attempts at meditation. His mind would not calm. Images of Christine and his brother plagued him. Unable to find sleep or solace he had escaped the suffocating silence of the darkened house. He sat in the garden welcoming the chill that now bore its way through his bones. He needed the distraction, to keep his mind from the pictures he did not want it to conjure. Spock soon found that it was of no use. He knew what was happening in the hushed darkness. She was with Sybok, letting him touch her and love her, allowing him to savor the gift of her body. Spock had lain still in the quiet of his room as regret, jealousy and envy ate away at his soul. Finally he had could no longer stand to be within those walls and had fled to the garden, the closest thing to respite he could find. He sat motionless among the leaves, the starlight turning the familiar paths into a jungle. Still there would be no rest for him, even the vines woven together in an impenetrable embrace reminded him of them.

Then he saw her, ghostly and pale against the blacked night. She was elegant and graceful even as she ran in a terrified sprint, and his heart leapt at the sight of her. Before he could think he realized her fear, almost felt it himself. There was something wrong. Christine threw herself against the small stone wall that divided the upper and lower gardens, her shoulders shaking violently. She clasped her arms around herself. Spock was unsure if her actions were due to the cold or the struggle which seemed to be raging within her. She was crying. She needed him.

Without thought he rose and walked slowly toward her. She did not hear his approach. Her tortured sobbed echoed through his heart like a scream. The only thing he wanted was to wrap his arms around her and ward off whatever it was that had upset her. Standing, still unseen, only a few feet from her all he could do was whisper her name. "Christine," Spock said softly.

She jumped in reflex at his intrusion, but hid her face. "Spock," she confirmed trying valiantly to wipe the still falling tears from her eyes. "I'm sorry I didn't mean to intrude." She understood he must have been in private time.

She started to leave but he caught her lightly by the arm. The force of her emotional turmoil jolted him through the contact. Her pain was now his. He wanted to take it all from her, but did not know where to begin. "You are troubled. Please, let me help you," he said with a soft barely audible voice, concern in his every note.

"I..." she began but did not know where to finish.

Gently he led her to a low bench shielded by the sweeping fronds of a rare native shrub. He set her down with care and kneeled in front of her. Still she hid her face, even turned away. Tears slid down her cheeks, and she tried without success to hide them. Without thinking he reached for her face, placing his hand lightly on her chin he began to turn her eyes to meet his. Suddenly she pulled away, her shoulders following the movement of her head.

"No, please," she begged. "I don't want you to see me like this."

"Please let me help you," he repeated, his voice unable to hide the quake of worry. He reached for her soft skin again, and this time she did not pull away. He guided her eyes to his, and was shaken by the pain and shame he found there. Then in the white starlight he saw the bruise that was beginning to form around her temple, the small cut that threatened to bleed once more. For a moment Spock could not find words, struggling with the meaning behind Christine's wounds.

"He hit you?" Spock questioned, already knowing the answer.

Her deepest desire at that moment was to throw herself into his arms. Find comfort in his warmth and retreat into the protection she now saw in his eyes. She wanted to tell him that it was him she loved, him she had always loved. Christine wanted to hear him say the same. She ached to tell him of her conversation with his father only a few hours before and beg him to say it was true. Her mind and her eyes conveyed all these things.

All she could manage to say was, "It ... it was my fault."

Spock looked at her with such compassion she nearly turned away again, unable to bare her pain and his also. Rage burst in his soul, never had he felt such fury. If Sybok had been there, he surely would have attacked him. Hate seethed within him at the thought of anyone or anything harming Christine. He moved his fingers from their resting place on her chin to wipe a tear from her cheek. He remembered once before when she had comforted him in a desperate time, he had done the same thing. He could not understand why the action was so strangely rewarding and painful all at once. "What could you ever do?" he said in disbelief.

Her gentle fingers touched his and pressed them to her soft flesh. She closed her eyes relishing the feel of his warmth. After a time she brought them from her face to rest entwined with hers in her lap. In a brief and glorious moment, through the touch he felt all she could not say. She still loved him and only him. He also realized that it was his rejection and refusal to admit what he felt that had driven her away. Something had to be done to show her the love he had kept secret even from her. He clasped her hands and guided them to his mouth. At the feel of his soft lips across her finger tips, Christine lost herself for a moment. All she wanted was to feel him close to her. Never let this moment end, she thought to herself.

"Christine," Spock whispered and drew closer to her face.

In a horrible instant she remembered, stopping him with a soft touch she sighed heavily. "Spock, don't. It's too l.." She could not bear to finish.

He completed her thought for her. "Too late," he sat back in shock, his heart breaking.

"I'm sorry." She wept. She was sorry, for not waiting, for agreeing to marry his brother, for not recognizing his love. However, it was not she that he blamed but himself.

Finding his voice once more, Spock whispered hoarsely. "No, my T'hy'la. It is I who am so profoundly sorry." This has all been his fault and his soul was being ripped to shreds inside him. How could he let her go back to Sybok?

Suddenly sharp footsteps echoed on the cobblestones. Spock felt Christine's pulse quicken in fear. Her entire body became stiff as the sound came closer. Surely it was Sybok. She knew what he was capable of now. What would he do if he found them together. She cared nothing for her fate, it was Spock she was thinking of.

"I will tell him," Spock announced.

Christine's fear deepened. "No, he'll kill you," she pleaded.

"You cannot go back to him," he protested.

"I have to. I have no choice. Please, don't let him see you," she begged.

"Christine..," he began, but she interrupted him.

"Please." Her tone was so filled with terror, and despair. "I could not bear it if anything happened to you ... not when I can prevent it." Her fear became panic.

She was right. She was promised to another. By Vulcan law, that was as good as a marriage, and interference was most sternly prohibited. Again he had to bow to the customs of his culture, no matter how much they tore him apart. This time was much worse, Christine was also being hurt by them.

Spock closed his eyes and rested his face against Christine's forehead. "My T'hy'la. My soul. We will be together. I vow it," he said, then he pulled himself from her and slipped into the shadows to guard her. He would not depart until he was certain she was safe. His heart was so heavy with anguish he could barely breathe. She love him. He loved her, but still they were kept so far from each other.

* * *

Christine sat shivering in the cold of the night. The warmth of Spock's hands still caressed her skin. She wanted to run into the shadows with him, to hide there so close to him until he could take her away. She tried to stay calm as Sybok approached, but the chill and her fear made the battle useless. She steeled herself as the footsteps stopped directly behind her. For a moment there was only silence. Then he spoke.

"Christine." His voice was quiet and anguished. She did not answer.

"I am sorry I hit you," Sybok whispered. The pain he felt was obvious, even to Spock who had secreted himself nearby.

Again Christine said nothing. She was so afraid she could barely think. Sybok drew closer to her, his steps tentative and halting.

"May ... May I sit beside you?" he asked, his head hung.

She said nothing, but nodded her head slightly at the request. She doubted he would let her refuse. He calmly found his place next to her on the bench, but did not attempt to put his arms around her although it was what he desired most. He had allowed his passions to be unleashed in the most reprehensible way. In his rejection of control, he had also accepted the tempers and torments of his ancestors. Those violences were even worse than the emotions of humans, and much more forceful. His heart ached to know that he had vented his anger and frustration on the woman he loved, no matter what the cause.

"My soul grieves for what I have done," he told her, unable to look her in the eye. They sat in silence for a moment, then he took her hands and kneeled before her in the place Spock had been only minutes before. That thought made Christine glare ruefully at Sybok. He held her hands tenderly.

"Please talk to me," he implored, tears beginning to flow down his face. Still he could not raise his eyes for shame. Against her will Christine felt her anger softening and felt sorry for him. He had not meant to strike her, and if she had not called out he would not have.

"What do you want me to say?" she asked coldly.

"Say you still love me. Say we will put this horrible act behind us, like it never happened," he pleaded.

"It did happen, Sybok," Christine took his head in her hands and raised his face to look at her. It was then he saw the swelling and blood around her beautiful eye. His tears turned to sobs and he buried his face in her lap. "Please, forgive me," he begged. "The thought of you hurt tears me apart, and the fact that I hurt you..." he stammered unable to grasp onto a coherent thought. "...but when you called his name ... I was so blinded with jealousy." Sybok did not notice that Christine's gaze traveled longingly into the nearby shadows. She knew Spock had heard the reason behind her current torment.

Sybok looked deep into her eyes. "Why did you never tell me he was the man with whom you were in love during your time in Star Fleet?" he questioned. "I would have understood."

"Would you?" Christine's voice was devoid of either fear or love.

"It would have been difficult, but yes. As long as I knew you loved me now, I could have accepted the knowledge," he assured her. "I am now not certain it is me you love. Is it me?"

"I wear your ring, don't I?" she answered evasively.

"That is not an answer," Sybok said, holding her hands tightly, almost too much so.

"It's the best one I can give you right now," she admitted.

"Then there is my answer. You do still love him," Sybok confirmed. She was silent.

"I won't let you go. I love you so," he vowed, his eyes turning frighteningly chilling once again. Suddenly Christine feared for Spock's safety, for his very life.

Everything she wanted was so close, all she had to do was admit it. All she needed was to call Spock's name and he would be at her side, ready to do battle for her. Christine's mind went to a time when he had been forced to fight over another woman. McCoy had told her all about it, before he swore her to secrecy. What kind of challenge would Sybok invoke for his threatened rights? She now knew Spock would fight to the death to win her. What kind of life would she have knowing she was responsible. What would the knowledge of having killed his own brother do to either of the men who wanted her? She would rather live without Spock, and spare him that agony, than be the cause of such a disaster, she loved him too much. Her decision, however heart wrenching, was made.

"It's alright, Sybok." She spoke softly. "I am yours. You have already claimed me. We will be married as we planned." Her heart broke as she spoke the words. She knew Spock's was crumbling as well.

"You will never be sorry. I will treat you like a queen," Sybok smiled timidly kissing her wrists.

"I don't want that." Her tone was that of defeat. He knew what she meant.

"I swear," he said, his eyes flashing a solemn promise. "I will never hurt you again." He rose to his feet and pulled her to meet him.

Sybok pressed his lips against hers. His face was very different from the monster who had struck her. She could feel his happiness. Christine hoped he could not sense her apprehension, or her heart breaking. Her dream had come true, but for so short a time. As Sybok held her close, Christine's eyes followed the path along which Spock had disappeared into the brush. The familiar longing and emptiness she had felt so often returned. She knew that it would now be permanent.

Spock watched numbly as Christine was led back into house by his brother. He had heard what was said, why Christine had come crying into the night. She had called his name at the height of her passions. For that knowledge alone he was grateful, for it meant that her heart truly belonged to him. He had also heard the agreement to continue her relationship with Sybok, and it was that which twisted his heart to the breaking point. He knew why she had made this choice. She was so afraid of harm befalling him that she would do anything to stop it, even becoming trapped in marriage with a violent man whom she did not love. Knowing this only made him love her more, and more determined to save her. How long he remained in the shadows he did not know. He was trying to form some kind of plan to get her away from Sybok, but in his grief he was unsure where to begin. Fear gripped him like a vice. Would she ever be his? Again she had been so close, again he had been too afraid, again he had lost her. Somehow, he could not let this happen.

* * *

In the days following Christine's admission of her feelings for Spock, Sybok barely let her out of his sight. All the while he kept a wary and suspicious eye on his brother. He slowly became aware of Spock's attentions toward Christine, the way he watched her, how he always attempted to be near her, and the hungry look in his eyes. Although, Sybok did not want to admit it, he saw that longing returned by Christine. It was obvious there was more to their relationship than either were telling him. This time was torture for Spock and Christine. Each longed to be with the other, both knowing they could not. There was no fairness, nor justice in the path being forced upon them now.

Finally, one afternoon Sybok reluctantly tore himself away to attend to one of his dealings. He made certain that Spock was also out of the house and away from Christine, gone tending to a minor family issue with their father. Sybok was not absent long. When he returned he seemed flustered and excitable.

"Christine!" he called barely getting the door closed behind him. He found her in the sun room with Amanda. "Gather your things. We are leaving."

"What?" Christine asked in disbelief and fear, rising to her feet.

"Why?" Amanda requested, the same dread gripping her.

Sybok entered the room hastily. "Forgive my abruptness," he said to the ladies. "Urgent business calls us away," he informed them turning to Christine.

"I ... I don't understand. Where?" she asked in confusion.

"Please, it is imperative that we leave immediately," he evaded her question. "Come, pack your things quickly." He took her by the arm and began to lead her toward the bedroom hallway. She looked back at Amanda in bewilderment. Amanda reached as if trying to grab for the younger woman's arm, but it would have done no good.

Sybok and Christine were packed with half an hour. He escorted her nervously to the waiting groundcar he had procured. She could not think, she could not act. All she wished was that Spock were there. The thought of leaving him sent terror and aching through her so intense she wanted to scream. Amanda could only watch in distress as the woman her son loved, whom she was sure loved him, was practically being stolen from her very home. She wished Sarek were there to stop it.

Somehow in the midst of the chaos, Christine managed to hide a small handwritten note in Amanda's hand as they parted. "Give this to Spock," she whispered. Then she was gone.

Learning of the news upon his return home Spock could hardly maintain his control. Terror and despair seized him. Christine was gone, not of her own will. She had been taken by Sybok, and he did not know where. Confusion wrestled reason from him as he sped toward the space port in Sarek's groundcar. He had not even told his parents where he was going as he ran from the house. They of course knew. His race was to no avail, however. He searched every inch of the building, but they had long since departed. His dread was only intensified when he could find no record of either of them on any of the passenger lists for vehicles which had departed that day. His Star Fleet credentials were serving him well, allowing him access to lists and manifests. Apparently Sybok and Christine were traveling under assumed identified, a fact of which Spock was certain she was unaware.

Rage and sorrow consumed him. He returned home to find his parents pacing with worry. His look told them he had failed to catch up to his brother and Christine. Amanda wanted to take him in her arms, but he pulled from her attempt. Nothing would be his comfort. The only thing that ever could have been right, and real, and good in his life had been taken away. His cries welled up in his throat, only to be shoved down with a control so frayed and weak he wondered how long even it would last him.

Within a few minutes there came a tone from the front hall. Someone was at the door. It was answered by one of the servants and the visitors swiftly shown to where the family was holding a silent vigil. Two federation security agents waited to be acknowledged.

"What is your business with this family?" Sarek asked slightly annoyed at the intrusion.

"Ambassador, please forgive this interruption," a tall thick set Terran male answered. It was obvious they had walked in on a very serious moment. They were not surprised. He continued, "We are looking for you son, Sybok."

"For what purpose, may I ask?" Sarek refrained from saying that he too would like to know where Sybok had gone.

The agent cleared his throat. "We have a warrant for his arrest, on the grounds of assault and grand theft."

Amanda and Spock drew closer in concern. "What?" Amanda asked.

"Assault and theft, Ma'am," he repeated.

"Exactly what has he done?" Spock questioned, as his mind cried out in fear for Christine.

"There was a robbery this afternoon," the other man, a Vulcan said. "The Federation Treasury building in Shi'Kahr was burglarized. It seems to have been a team of suspects, a very professional job. They got away with over a million credits in Federation currency. Three security personal were injured severely."

"You think my son had something to do with this crime?" Sarek asked, somehow not surprised.

"Yes, sir. He seems to have the behind the entire operation," the Terran informed them. "We of course do not think that your family knew of the plan."

"Most certainly we did not," Sarek assured them.

"An investigation is underway, and we would appreciate you contacting us if you should hear anything," the agent said.

"Of course," Sarek agreed.

The men thanked the ambassador and were shown to the door. The family stood speechless. That had explained Sybok's rush to leave, his almost manic state. Spock, Amanda, and Sarek stared at each other trying to come to terms with the situation. All were focussed on one thing. Christine was with him. Spock knew he had to find her. She was in grave danger. Not only could she be mistaken for an accomplice, but there was no telling what Sybok would do if he were desperate enough. His world closed in around him. The only thing that mattered was finding her. He would kill Sybok if he had to.

Before Spock knew it, a soft and gentle hand took his. It was his mother. "I had wanted to give this to you later, I guess save it until the shock wore off." She had read the folded piece of paper, she could not help it. She knew now was the time he needed it most. "Christine gave this to me to give to you." She handed Spock the small note.

Spock held it for a moment, almost afraid to look. His last link with Christine. Slowly he opened it, willing his hand not to shake. His breath failed him when he saw what Christine had printed neatly inside. "My S'Hy'la, My soul. I will always love you."

* * *

Christine sat by the tiny window in the cabin she shared with Sybok. Although it was part of the structural frame of the converted trawler, the small ledge beneath the transparent metal portal provided the only seat in tiny cramped room. She tried desperately to control her shaking, knowing that it could not be from cold. Sybok was paying little attention to her comfort and kept the cabin suffocatingly hot. Her trembling was the result of the terror that was slowly creeping over her. She did not know where they were, where they were going, or what would happen once they arrived. Who were those strange men that operated the ship, and why did they all seem to know her future husband so well?

The thought forced a tear to her eyes. Christine knew that it would not be long before Sybok demanded to bond with her. She would be unable to stop it. How could she have misjudged him so? When she first met him on Spectra, he was charming, even captivating. There had been something about him she could not resist, it almost drew her to him. She had been excited about the new chapter of her life which was opening up before her. Now she wondered if she even had a future. The man she thought she loved had proven to be cruel, self centered, and opportunistic. The man she truly loved, whom she just discovered loved her too, was lost to her forever. It was that thought that made Christine wonder if she even really cared what happened to her. She had no time to ponder her situation further. Christine tensed as Sybok entered the room. He was exceedingly jubilant today.

"Hello, my beauty." He beamed in self satisfaction.

Christine smiled back a bit aloof, but did not answer.

He crossed the room and kissed her animatedly on the temple, the same one that was now fully healed from his burst of anger on Vulcan. "You seem troubled." He looked disappointed.

"No. I guess I'm just... a little frightened. That's all." She hoped her admission would not make him angry.

He sat down next to her and pulled her into his arms. She now detested his nearness. "I know we left abruptly, and this is all new to you, but you have nothing to worry about," he assured her.

Except for you, she thought to herself. Christine simply smiled. She had learned that it was best to go along with him and not argue. "It's just all these people. They scare me a little. Who are they?" Sybok's crew seemed to be from every form of species in the galaxy, and more than a few of them looked as though they could do serious damage to just about anything or anyone. More than a few of them also looked at her with what she could only describe as lust in their cold eyes. She was horrified to discover that there were times it seemed Sybok might not be adverse to sharing his treasure if it would get him what he wanted.

"They won't hurt you my love. They know better than that," he reassured. It made her feel no better. They were not yet connected through a bond and did not hear the un-Vulcan thought that echoed through Sybok's mind. I would kill anyone who tried to take you from me. She would have known exactly who he meant.

"Where are we going?" she asked quietly, again hoping not to raise his temper. She would not press the issue if he evaded her question.

"I told you before. Someplace all of our dreams can come true." He pulled her close to him.

What do you know of my dreams? she thought vehemently. "But where is that? Is it safe? Are we in danger?" She had not meant to interrogate him, and feared his reaction.

He laughed at her as if she was a child. "My darling. I think you've been cooped up in this cabin too long," he chided. "We are just about to pull into orbit for a small stop over. We need some supplies. Why don't I have Koron accompany you for a little shopping? It will do you good." He hoped it would be enough to appease her, underestimating her greatly. Sybok did not mention that they were so far from Federation space that it would do her no good to run, or even attempt to send a message.

Christine pretended to think for a moment. Koron was a Klingon. At first she had been surprised to discover his true background. He was unusually small in stature, and quite easily manipulated. She was certain he was an outcast on his own world, and had fallen in with Sybok out of the necessity of protection. Sybok treated him more like a slave than a compatriot. Still there was a gentleness in Koron's manner and he was usually kind to her. If circumstances were different, Christine would almost consider him a friend. Her mind raced quickly. Perhaps there would be an opportunity.

"Alright. That sounds lovely. I would like that. Even just to stretch my legs a bit." Christine put on her best helpless female act, which pleased Sybok immensely.

"Wonderful. You get yourself ready, and I will call for you when we are near the planet. Here..." Sybok handed her a large stack of credit markers. He and his accomplices had spent an entire night decoding the inscriptions to render them untraceable.

Christine smiled and took the credits as Sybok left. She hid them in a small purse and began to dress. Her mind struggled to latch onto some sort of plan. Should she try to run, disappear in the crowd, or should she try to talk Koron into helping her escape. Surely he would understand that he was as much a prisoner as she was. Strategy failed her, and it seemed that courage did as well. All she knew was that she had get a message to the only person who could save. The person she knew would travel the ends of the universe to find her. Somehow she had to reach him. She walked over to the window once more and stared mournfully into the blackness of the unknown parsecs which separated them. Resting her head against the metal, Christine began to cry.

" Oh, Spock," she whispered.

* * *

The afternoon was pleasantly warm on the small but bustling planet to which Christine and Koron had beamed down from the converted ore troller that had become her prison of sorts. Christine was relieved to discover, from the appearance of most of the beings in the main shopping square, that they were probably neither near the Klingon nor the Romulan borders. She tried not think about the fact that there were other places just as hostile, and even less accommodating to Federation citizens. Places that had no treaties or agreements for fair treatment. From the way they studied her, it was clear that the inhabitants of the planet had little experience with humans. She tried to stay close to Koron. It would probably mean his life if he allowed anything to happen to her, and for as small as he was by Klingon standards, he would quite easily give any assailant from this place a great deal of trouble.

Christine had purchased a few items, more for appearance than desire. She bought Sybok some volumes she thought he would like hoping they would please him enough to earn her some time alone while he read them. The clothing she had purchased most probably did not fit, for her time in the changing rooms was spent either in tears or in desperate searching for an escape route. It was late in the day when her only chance presented itself.

She and Koron were making their way back to the transporter station when she spied a large silver box near a wall toward which they were walking. Luckily no one was nearby and a few benches offered the chance for a feigned rest. Her heart leaped as finally the plans began to form in her mind.

"Koron," she smiled sweetly. "Why don't we sit down for a moment, before we head back? The sun is just going down and the breeze is so nice. Let's enjoy for a bit."

"Very well, My Lady." Koron smiled. Sybok had demanded the crew address her regally. She hated it. "I am glad you are enjoying your outing. Sybok will be pleased."

"Thank you," she said. "I do hope we get to our final destination soon," she prodded hoping the Klingon would offer more details. He did not.

"It should not be too long," was all he said.

She looked around, trying to calm her nerves. Again, a stroke of luck found her. A small establishment offered refreshments for sale not too far down the street. "Koron, look." She pointed. "I'm as dry as a bone. Why don't you go and get us something to drink?"

"Well..." He hesitated.

"I promise. I won't run away." She smiled at him. "Besides, where would I go?"

Koron smiled. "Very well, if it would please you. I would hate for you to report badly about me to Sybok."

"Thank you. Anything diet." She laughed as Koron walked away.

Her heart thumping in her ears, Christine waited. It took forever for the Klingon to make his way down the street. All the while she watched the box possessively, hoping no one would decide they needed any extra credits on hand. Koron took a moment to look back, checking his charge. She smiled innocently and waved. Finally he disappeared inside.

Christine sprang from the bench on which she was sitting, and ran at full speed over to the machine. It was an old automated financial unit. It was in working order. However, no one in the Federation still used devices such as this one. The developing little planet must have picked it up cheap on the open market, the best they could afford. It was not an antique like the ones from the twentieth century she had seen museums, but it was obsolete. She prayed it would work.

She was breathless when she reached the large shining rectangle, more from fear than exertion. Frantically she searched the insides of her purse. She knew it was in there,it had to be. Sybok had not gone near her handbag. He either felt it was too frivolous for him to concern himself with, or he had simply forgotten about it all together. Finally, her fingers touched a small square piece of thin plastic. Christine tugged at it, hoping it was the item she sought. Her fingers trembled as she held it up. A huge relieved smiled crossed her face. Success!

She shoved the thin card into what she assumed was the slot. Nothing happened. "Come on, Come on." She urged the buttons and dials, nervously looking behind her.

After a few seconds the screen came to life. It was not a vid connection, and the link was crude, but it worked. The writing prompted her to enter her code, she was used to speaking to an animated figure, but her trembling hands punched in the letter and number sequence that identified her. Hastily she selected her intended business. Pressing the screen as she was prompted, Christine selected CHECK BALANCE. She knew that if Spock was trying to find her, he would be monitoring all forms of communication throughout the galaxy. The screen lit up with the amount still left in her account. Strangely there did not seem to be as much as she remembered. Perhaps Sybok had found her purse after all. Tracking financial records was one of the oldest forms of locating a person's whereabouts. He would know this was a signal, that her card had not been stolen and used by some thief. Who would go to the trouble of stealing a person's credit card only to check their balance? No, he would know. She was certain of that. It would not be much, but it was all she could do, and it was a start. It gave Spock a place to begin, and if he could get that far, certainly he could trace them somehow to their next destination. She would watch for other openings in other places. Christine closed her eyes for a moment, praying that Spock would get the information.

Suddenly a thick dark hand grabbed her tiny wrist. She gasped and turned with a start. Koron was standing behind her, nearly pressing her against the machine. His eyes were so filled with anger that for a moment she feared for her life. He pressed the End Transmission button on the keyboard and pulled the card hastily from the slot. Then with as much brute force as he could muster, still enough to easily break a human's skeleton, he wrenched Christine nearly off her feet. He pushed her so hard that she almost fell to the ground, but his steel claw still held her firm. Without saying a word he dragged her back to the transporter station, back to the ship, and back to Sybok.

* * *

Christine sat not daring to say a word, or even to look up. The only motion she could risk was the nervous rising and falling of her chest as her breath came in heaves, and the racing of her heart which thankfully Sybok could not see. She had never seen him this angry, not even the night he had hit her. Her fiancé had managed to control his temper since then, but was unleashing fury upon her now with full force. He had not struck her yet, but she was bracing herself for the impact to come at any moment. They were alone in their cabin, and she was terrified.

"I have done nothing to make you fear me throughout the course of this entire journey," he bellowed. "Why would you betray me this way?" His voice shook with anger. "Of course they will be checking transmissions." He spoke more to himself, than to her. His tone was almost frantic. He knew exactly why she had chosen that moment to inquire about her financial situation.

"They?" Christine questioned timidly. She realized she was treading on dangerous ground, but her curiosity got the better of her. This concerned her as well, and she wanted to know what was happening.

"Yes! They!" Sybok turned on her. For a moment he seemed at a loss for words. He ran his fingers through his hair, breathing wildly. Christine was uncertain if he would strike her or storm out of the room. Then his face changed. It turned to the placating manner that she could not stand. She hated when he treated her like a child.

Sybok knelt down in front of her and took her hands. "Please try to understand, there are things I can't tell you now."

"Shouldn't you be able to tell me anything?" Christine pressed dangerously.

He breathed deeply, obviously trying to control his rage and frustration. "It is better that you not know at present. We have an opportunity to have everything we could ever want. I just need a bit more time." He kissed her fingers.

Christine fought the urge to pull away. She was now sure she had made a terrible mistake. Not only had she lost the chance for happiness with Spock before she even knew it existed, she had promised herself to a man she hardly knew. She had realized that too late and could only dread the fear and danger her life with him would hold. Sybok did not value her as a person, he did not appreciate her mind. He wanted her pretty face and shapely body. He wanted her to be seen and not heard. She sighed, unable to control her thoughts. How different it all could have been.

"What was that for?" Sybok threw her an accusing look.

"What?" Christine asked on the verge of tears.

"That sad little sigh?" he answered suspiciously, rising to his feet. "You're thinking of him."

Christine said nothing. Over the last few days she had tried diligently to keep Spock from her mind. It would do no good to dwell on him now. He surely was far away, and even though he was probably looking for her, it would be too late when and if he ever found her. No, she was pledged to his brother, and sooner or later she would become one with Sybok. It was that time she feared most of all. There would be nothing hidden between them. He would know of her feelings for Spock. What would he do then?

Sybok walked a few paces backward and turned from her. She could tell he was losing the battle with his anger. His sides and shoulders stretched in and out in large rhythmic intervals, and his fists were clenched. Christine's heart leaped into her throat and she waited. Across the room he stopped and studied himself in the mirror that hung on the wall. Christine could him watching her image which reflected in the corner of the glass. He shook his head in what seemed like defeat and disgust.

Without warning his fist rose and slammed against the mirror, shattering the reflective surface into tiny pieces which sliced into his knuckles. "No!" he yelled, and then raced back toward Christine.

She jumped in shock, but had no time to run. He grabbed her and held her so hard she wanted scream. Fear tore her thoughts from her, and she could not escape his outrage. Green blood trickled from his cut and down his wrist as he seized her face.

"You still love him, don't you?" he demanded. She said nothing, she could not even stand to look at Sybok. That was answer enough.

Sybok moved his fingers over her skin. She struggled to pull away, but he held her tight, finding the strategic points. "Do not fight it my love, it will not hurt. I promise," he said softly.

Christine felt sick, her mind wanted to pull her into the protective darkness, but his was much stronger. She reeled at his presence invading her thoughts. He had no right. Behind the facade of compassion he showed her, the torment in his soul terrified her. Her screams caught in her throat as she felt him ripping parts of herself away, changing her against her will. Her mind cried out for Spock and then he was gone.

When it was over Christine sat numbly, a vacant stare on her face. Sybok moved to sit beside her and took her in his arms. "There, now all your troubles are over," he quieted her.

He had not formed a full bond with her. He was far to preoccupied with other matters to attend to that at the present time. "Soon we will be one," he promised her. He was certain, now, that she was truly his.

Christine took a deep breath and relaxed. She nestled against him and held his hands. The smile on her face was oddly emotionless. "Yes, my love. I hope we don't have to wait long. I cannot wait to become your wife," she whispered in a flat, unchanging voice.

* * *

At that moment, on Vulcan, Spock's meditation was being interrupted by one of the members of his father's staff. While the planetary government and Federation law enforcement had focused their search efforts on the renegade Sybok and his crew, Spock had only one purpose and that was finding Christine. Sarek had offered all the resources at his disposal to aid in the investigation, a fact for which Spock was unutterably grateful. Their efforts however were proving futile as no information on either could be uncovered. Spock found himself spending more time in private than usual. He not only needed to calm fraying nerves, he was also hoping that somehow his mind could reach Christine and gain some bearing on where she might be. While they were not bonded, there was at least a connection between them. They had both felt it for years. Although he had been the one to deny it, she had always known. They had shared so many things, even consciousness. He thought of the kiss which Parmen had forced upon them. How he wished he had not fought it. He should have gathered her in his arms and declared himself them, or at least gone to her afterward. He detested himself for the fool he had been.

The aid cleared his throat as he entered the room. "Pardon my interruption, Sai," the young Vulcan said a bit nervously.

"Yes, what is it?" Spock asked in a low voice without opening his eyes or turning around.

"We have received information regarding Miss Chapel," the subordinate informed him.

Spock bolted from his platform in the corner of the room. "What news has been discovered?"

"It appears that her credit card has been used on the planet Tilvun 9," he said holding up a personal information pad for Spock to inspect.

Spock studied the information as though his life depended on it. He was positive Christine's did. "Tilvun 9 is in the Nimbus system. That quadrant is largely uncharted," he thought aloud. He had seen many border worlds in his travels. They tended to be lawless and filled with all sorts unscrupulous individuals who would think nothing of praying on a beautiful human female. He bristled to think that his brother had taken Christine to one of those places. It was apparent that Sybok was most unconcerned for her safety or well being.

At first he was afraid to hope. Someone could have stolen her card or gained access to it any number of ways which Spock did not want to contemplate. While noting the date and nature of the financial record something occurred to him. Good girl, he thought to himself, using a phrase which if spoken would have been more suited to Dr. McCoy than himself. However, he was proud of her creative thinking and initiative. He prayed to his ancestors that Sybok had not discovered her covert signal.

Aloud he spoke calmly to the under member of his father's staff. "This transaction was only a balance inquiry, no funds were requested," he said.

"Yes. One could assume that Miss Chapel was perhaps trying to send a message as to her whereabouts," the younger Vulcan agreed.

"That is most likely," Spock commented. His heart soared. She was alive and well, or at least she had been short time ago. He would not allow himself to think otherwise. Sybok would most certainly move on before he would be able to get to the planet, but least now he had someplace to start. He strode toward the door, and without looking back called over his shoulder. "Inform my parents of the situation, and give them my regards. I will be departing for Tilvun within the hour."

* * *

Nimbus 12, like all other planets in its system, was desolate and dry. It could have almost reminded Sybok of his home planet of Vulcan, save for the fact that there was absolutely nothing of beauty to be found there. Sybok had hastily journey there when he had discovered Christine's attempted signal. He wondered if anyone had received it, but felt fairly sure he was safe although not certain enought to let down his guard. He tried to disappear into the shadows of dusk as he made his way slowly toward the little cantina on the outskirts of the encampment that passed as a capital city. It was nothing more than a few stone buildings surrounded by even fewer temporary structures made of anything that could be scrounged. It was dirty, dusty, and could be detected by odor before it could be seen. From the safety of the cape which covered his face, Sybok looked in disgust at the inhabitants around him. An assortment of outlaws, criminals, and mercenaries. Just like me. He thought to himself with a dry suppressed chuckle. The sooner they would be gone from there the better he would like it.

The bar was even worse than the street. The crowd, the noise, and the stench made him wonder if meeting his contact there had been a good idea. He pulled his hood tighter around him and found a seat in a dark corner. He ordered two tankards of Romulan ale from the haughty Orion waitress who seemed to be peddling more than just drinks. The alcohol was illegal in the Federation but plentiful here. Peering around him, he waited nervously. He had attracted some attention, but not to a great extent, so he congratulated himself on his stealthy approach.

"You are taking quite a risk, my friend," came a raspy hiss from behind.

Sybok turned around, careful not to reveal too much of himself. He let out a sigh of relief as he recognized the owner of the voice which had interrupted his thoughts.

"Some chances are well worth taking, my friend." He motioned for the Andorian to sit.

"And some are better not taken at all," the blue skinned figure smirked. "Yes, from what I understand you are to be congratulated on your impending marriage," he said with a menacing grin.

"Thank you. Christine is resting on the ship tonight." Sybok neglected to add that she was under lock and key. The being across the table only laughed slightly and thought nothing of it. He had heard the rumors of Vulcan prowess.

"Her name suits her beauty if my memory does not fail me. I was only privileged to serve her the one time in the bar on Spectra," the Andorian recalled.

"Yes, she is ... extremely beautiful. I thank you," Sybok agreed proudly.

"One could turn a tidy profit with the likes of her," his old acquaintance mused.

Sybok's hand was at the Andorian's throat almost before the words left his mouth. "Don't you ever speak of her like that," he warned, his eyes burning with fury.

"Relax, my friend," the Andorian placated, gasping for breath. Sybok released him, and he rubbed away the finger marks on his neck. "Forgive my vulgarity. My lack of a respectable upbringing shows in my social graces I am afraid. My humblest apologies." He bowed low, and it seemed to suffice.

"It had been a long time since Spectra. What is the news?" he changed the subject.

"Tavor is quite pleased with the funds you have procured. He has managed to secure a number of new followers for your cause." The Andorian smiled, in these parts it was easy to find converts, for the right price.

"Excellent," Sybok grinned, his mind far away.

"Our benefactor will join you within a few days. Until then perhaps it would be best to lay in extra supplies. It will be a very long journey," the other being said.

Sybok sighed a bit. They had already been long in traveling. He had followed his quest to this far corner of space, and Shak-a-Ri seemed so close. However, he knew that the Nimbus system was very large, and it could take years to see his plans through to fruition. "Perhaps that is a wise idea."

The Andorian nodded, and swirled what remained of his refreshment around in its metal cup. "There is also the delicate matter of you lovely bride-to-be," he broached. "Tavor is a very powerful man and a formidable one." Sybok glared at him and bristled, but he continued. "It is very possible that he will take a liking to her and desire her for one of his wives. He seems to like to collect them."

Sybok lowered his head, contemplating his associate's words. He did love Christine. The thought of her with another man had driven him nearly out of his mind. However, he had waited so long to be this certain of his quest. How could he give that up? He prayed to his ancestors that he would not have to make that choice. To the Andorian he simply said. "As my Terran stepmother was so fond of saying, that is a bridge we shall have to cross when we come to it."

* * *

"Christine! Get on the ship!" Sybok bellowed frantically, control of his temper fast failing him.

They were standing in the desert, only a few meters from the small shuttle that had brought them to the surface of Nimbus 12. The traveling party had landed near the so-called city a few days before and had spent their time acquiring needed supplies for the long journey ahead of them. The black star lit night had long since closed in around them and time was waning quickly. They needed to depart soon, Sybok and the others were still wanted men. He was fearful that they had stayed too long unconcealed as it was. A few of his compatriots stood by the hatch of the shuttle laughing to themselves. Among them was a tall, dark being who looked to be an amalgamation of any number of races.

"Please don't make me go with Tavor," Christine pleaded glancing wildly back at the shuttle. "He frightens me. He leers at me as though he would like to ... as though he will... Please, Sybok."

"I will not let him hurt you," Sybok lied. He was unwilling to admit even to himself that there was nothing he would not allow to advance his quest. He reached for Christine, but she backed away in fright.

"Where are we going?" she cried. "You can trust me, please tell me." The tears spilled from her eyes and ran down her face.

The laughter and sneers of the crew chided Sybok. How could they follow him if he could not control his own woman? His anger flared and he grabbed Christine's wrist forcefully. "You will not humiliate me in this manner. You will do as I say," he demanded.

Christine looked over at the laughing men. Tavor's smile was sadistic and humorless, perhaps imagining what he would do to her if she were his. She feared that soon she would be. "No, please. I don't want to. I can stay here and wait for you," she begged.

His grip tightened until she could no longer stand his strength. She bent to her knees in terror and pain, his hand still clamping her small bones like a vice. "We will not be coming back. Get aboard or I will leave you here in the desert," Sybok screamed at her.

He had stolen her memories, but he could not take her will. As she looked up at his monstrous eyes, her face tear stained in the dim light, Christine made on final plea. "Please," she cried, her arm nearly twisted all the way around.

Sybok was unable to hold in his fury any longer. He would show her what was expected of her. His clenched fist shot upward toward the sky, ready to be unleashed against her. Shock and surprise overtook his expression as the force of his blow was caught by an unmovable restraint. Unable to bring down his hand he spun around and stared into eyes as dark and intimidating as his own. A hatred that he had never seen in those eyes before burned with all the intensity of the white hot sun which both men knew so well. In one fluid motion Sybok found himself on the ground, Spock's steel-like punch sending him down. The younger Vulcan knew there were other more effective ways of handling the situation, but they were so much less satisfying.

"If you touch her again, I will kill you," Spock threatened coldly.

The laugh that escaped Sybok's throat was almost ghoulish as he rose to his feet. He was a bit shaky and a steady stream of green blood fell from his exploded lip. "You know as well as I that you could never do that," he spat at his brother. He had lost his grip on Christine who stared shocked at the scene from where she had knelt on the sand.

"Do not test me," Spock answered stiffly.

"You have no right to her," Sybok said, motioning at Christine.

"No, you are right. I do not deserve her," Spock admitted. "However, neither do you and she most certainly does not deserve your cruelty. I will not allow you to leave with her."

"Are you willing to fight every man on board my ship?" Sybok questioned. His crew was fast moving toward their master, ready to assist.

Spock stood his ground, unafraid. He would die for Christine. "I am."

Sybok thought hastily. He pondered his options. Which could he bear to give up, his life's journey or the woman he loved? He also wondered if he could actually defeat his younger, fitter, and better trained brother. As he watched his men move closer and closer he looked at Christine. She was so beautiful, but loving her would cost him so much. He bent sharply and tore the expensive ring from her finger, nearly throwing her back in the sand in the process. Without turning back, for he could not bear to look into her deep blue eyes, he motioned for his men to follow him to the ship. He was unsure if he was leaving because he wanted Sha-Ka-Ri, or because he loved her too much to hurt any more. It was best that she hate him, best that she love Spock. Sybok would always love her, in his own way. "Take her, then. Who needs her?" he shouted over his shoulder.

He did not hear Spock's whispered answer. "I do."

"Sybok. No!" Christine screamed rising her knees. "Don't leave me. I love you. Please." Horror and confusion overwhelmed her.

Spock stared at her in shock and disbelief.

Her cries were answered only by the quick burst of vented hydraulics as the shuttle rose from the ground and disappeared into the sky.

"Sybok!" she screamed unheard into the night.

Sobbing hysterically Christine crumpled to the ground. After a few long moments she looked up at the stranger who stood before her. His eyes, so like those of the man who had just left her stranded and heartbroken, were filled with concern and bewilderment. It seemed as though everything she thought she knew had just disappeared into the stratosphere. Who was this tall, dark man? Why did he gaze at her as if he knew her? She did not know him, she was certain of it. Whatever it was he was going to do to her, why did he not get it over with? Suddenly she heard his soft and weary voice.

"Christine?" Spock whispered unsure if she even really saw him.

She gasped in surprise. "How do you know my name?" she questioned through her choking.

Spock came closer and knelt beside her. He wanted to touch her. To reassure her that everything was going to be alright. He wanted to hold her face in his hands and kiss her, wrap his arms around her and protect her from everything that had ever hurt her. He tried only to reach out to her, but she pulled away in fear.

"Who are you?" Christine asked plaintively. She did not hear his answer. Alarm, suspicion, dread, and terror closed in on her. She felt a deep blackness overtake her. It was far stronger than that which covered the ground in shadows. Her mind could no longer take the ordeal, and it sought rest. Slowly she lost consciousness. She swayed, her body beginning to fall toward the ground. Spock caught her up in his strong arms, and stood alone with her in the deep emptiness that surrounded them. He watched her still features, felt the breathing that still raced in her chest. He covered her in his cape against the cold desert darkness, and drew her close.

"What has he done to you, my T'hy'la?" he whispered.

* * *

Spock sat motionless on the small wooden stool he had positioned beside the stone outcropping that served as a bed, his elbows leaning on his knees, his chin resting on his steepled fingers. Christine had not yet awakened. She lay there in her clothes, covered by a thin blanket. He had brought her back to the room he had obtained upon his arrival on Nimbus 12 after she had collapsed the night before. It was now nearly evening. He was nervously worried as he watched her fitful sleep. Several times she had called out for Sybok, only to be lost in unconsciousness shortly after. Although he desired to help her, he dared not invade her thoughts. Spock was now fairly certain of what his brother had done to her, and he was afraid that anymore intrusion at this point could cause irreparable damage. It was best to allow her to rest and give her mind the time it needed to heal. He wondered as he watched her pained sleep, just how long that would take and what would be her reaction to him.

The modest lodging they now occupied was more like an alcove cut away in the face of a rocky mountain. It had been fronted with a wooden facade and outfitted with only the barest of essentials. There a small bathroom, and a bed made of linens laid upon a rock shelf formed the room's only furniture save for the stool upon which Spock sat. It was hard, but big enough almost for two people. A small window allowed a bit of light to enter during the day. The room was cramped, crude, and sparse, but it had a lock on the door and Spock felt that Christine would be safe there. He would not even allow himself the luxury of meditating while she slept, all his focus was upon her. As the night sounds began to filter in from the alley in which the space was located, and from the street beyond, he kept his silent vigil over her.

The first gray light of dawn was just beginning to paint the room when Christine finally awoke. At first she did not see the anxious Vulcan who had guarded her through the night. She peered around the shadowed room, her eyes growing accustomed to the dim light. She became aware of Spock sitting by her bedside with a gasp of fright. In one motion she gathered the blanket around her, sat up, and flattened herself as close the wall on the other side of the bed as she could.

For a long moment she stared at him. The terror in her eyes was more than he could bear. Finally with her voice hushed and halting, she found the courage to speak. "Who ... who are you?" Christine asked.

"Please, do not be alarmed. I am a friend," Spock answered.

"But, I don't know you," she said.

"You did ... once," he replied with sad eyes.

"I don't understand." Christine's breath was beginning to come to her in gasps of panic.

"When you are well, I will tell you everything. You must rest now," he comforted her.

"I don't want to rest. Who are you? Where is my fiancé?" she implored. Then she remembered the chaos of the previous night. "Do you know where he went?"

"I am sorry. I do not," Spock answered painfully.

"He'll come back for me. I shouldn't have argued." She spoke more to reassure herself. "I ... I was being difficult, again. He'll be back ... "

"Sybok is not coming back, Christine," Spock interrupted her, unable to stand the fear and useless hope in her voice.

She stared at him for a moment, trying to understand what he was telling her. Then a terrible realization struck her. A look of remorse and disgust found her face. "He ... he gave me to you. Didn't he? Or did he ... sell me?" she entreated.

The words broke Spock's heart. Just what had Sybok put Christine through? What would make her even ask such a thing. "No. He did not. I only want to help you. If you will let me." She said nothing, only stared at him still not trusting. It was obvious to Spock that he would have to earn her confidence. "I promise," he vowed. "I will not hurt you."

"You said that I knew you once," Christine recounted. "I don't think I would forget someone like you, but I have no memory of you."

"No, I am not surprised," Spock nodded. "Sybok wished it that way."

"What?" She was puzzled and shocked.

"He has, in effect, erased any knowledge of me from your mind," Spock told her.

"Why would he do a thing like that?" Christine looked at him in disbelief.

Spock wanted to tell her the reason Sybok had taken that part of her away. He wanted to tell her it was because they loved each other so much that his brother was nearly eaten alive with jealousy. He knew, however, that it would be too much for her and simply changed the subject. "Are you hungry? I will bring you something to eat," he offered.

"I ... I suppose I could eat a bit," she nodded, relaxing only slightly.

"It will only take a few minutes, there is a small restaurant nearby. I will bring something back," he informed her, concerned for her health and well being. He did not want her strength to fail her anymore than it already had.

"How do you know I won't be gone the minute you're out the door?" she asked, testing him.

The thought had not occurred to him. He was so focused on her well being, he had forgotten to what lengths fear can drive someone. He was suddenly alarmed. He told himself to remember that this was not the Christine he knew. "I do not, but I ask you please to remain here. It is too dangerous for you to travel in this environment unaccompanied."

Christine thought a moment. Sybok would have simply locked her in, but this man only asked her please, and for her own sake. He seemed kind enough, and there was a look over worry in his eyes. Something told her that he would not do her any harm. "Don't worry," she said. "I don't have anyplace to go."

The forlorn solitude in her eye tore at his soul. "I shall return presently," he assured her opening the door to leave.

"Wait." Christine stopped him. "Please tell me your name."

"I am Spock," he told her, and disappeared into the noisy evening.

Christine lay in bed contemplating the sound of his name. There was a kind of music in it, she thought. There was something else that held her attention to the string of letters. Why did it seem so familiar?

* * *

The dial on his chronometer had not turned one complete revolution when Spock returned to the tiny room in which Christine waited. He found her seated next to the window, studying the darkening night. From the humidity still present in the air he could tell that she had showered, her hair was freshly styled, and she made the bed. As he entered, carrying a few small boxes of food, Christine turned her head slightly from where it had been resting upon her hand. She looked a bit better, although still fatigued.

"I am pleased to see that you are up. I take this to mean that you are feeling better?" he said softly, a bit unsure of how to approach her.

She watched him warily. "Yes. I'm still a little tired, but I just couldn't stand to stay in bed any longer." Her eyes looked sad and lost and he wanted to rush to her, but did not.

"I have brought your dinner. Would you have some?" he offered.

"Thank you." Christine said, her eyes returning to the night sky.

Spock set a few steaming cartons on the window sill in front of her, along with the necessary utensils. "I believe that you like soup," he said as he opened one of the bowls for her, remembering her culinary skills. "It is not Plomeek, but it seems appetizing."

"I used to make that for Sybok," Christine said fondly.

He wanted to correct her. You made it for me, first, he thought to himself. Instead, he only gave a polite acknowledgment and continued preparing her meal.

"I did not know exactly what you liked," he admitted, ashamed at how little he knew about her. "I hope these vegetable dishes will be appropriate."

"I'm sure they will be fine." She gave him polite grin that seemed a little stiff. He realized her was hovering over her and moved away. He pulled the blankets off of one corner of the bed ledge and set up his own meal there.

They ate in guarded silence, each watching the other. Several times Christine seemed to drift away in her thoughts. Spock left her to them. She needed to come to terms with what had happened, what was happening. A few times he shifted his weight, and saw her countenance grow rigid as if she feared he would approach her. He thought miserably of how many times in the past he had done the same at her approach, and that she knew the sting of unwelcomed attentions. He hated himself for that.

He decided to try to make what was known as small talk with her, a skill which for him was woefully underdeveloped. He cleared his throat and began. "I see that you have bathed." He admonished himself for the tactless and obvious comment, as well as the uneasiness in his tone.

"I hope you don't mind." Christine looked a bit apprehensive.

"Not at all," Spock assured her. "Think of this habitation as your own. I will endeavor to keep my presence to a minimum."

"That is very kind of you." She nodded. "It's just that ... well. Sybok expected me to be prepared for him at this time of day." Christine looked down at the last remains of her meal, afraid she had said too much.

"Is that what you think I want?" Spock asked her.

"Well, you brought me to a ... a bedroom. I can only assume that there was something behind it," she admitted.

"I assure that was not at all my intention. I brought you here only so that you might rest and regain your strength. I will not take advantage of you." He wished suddenly that he could have gotten in more than one blow to his brother's face.

"You ... said we were friends," Christine changed the subject uncomfortably.

Spock thought for a moment. In actuality that term could not be applied to what they shared. "I was in error in using that term. Ours was an ... unusual relationship."

"Were we lovers?" Christine questioned.

"We were not," he answered honestly. "Circumstance, and cowardice had regrettably prevented that." He was choosing his words carefully.

"I don't understand." She looked at him quizzically.

He did not want to tell her too much, too soon, but he owed her at least honesty. "You once declared your feelings for me. Being a Vulcan, I was unable to return or even to understand those sentiments. I therefore avoided them and you. I treated you in a manner which can only be described as cruel. They are action I deeply regret," he confided in her.

"I was in love with you?" Christine asked.

"That is correct," Spock answered.

"But, you didn't love me?" She tried to understand.

"I could not act upon the feelings you expressed," he corrected, and hoped she would understand.

"Then you did love me, but couldn't show it?" she asked.

He wanted to say yes. He wanted to open all of himself to her and make her understand why it had been so hard for him, but only remained silent.

"You didn't answer my question?" she pressed.

"Please. It is quite disconcerting for me to speak of these things," he acknowledged.

"Sybok is a Vulcan and he loved me, or so I thought." Christine brought herself back from trying to understand her lost memories.

"He does not believe in our way of life," Spock said.

"You said he had erased you from my memory. Why should he do that?" She was not going to give up. Spock was pleased to see her old spark still there behind her grieving eyes.

"Because he saw me in your thoughts and became very jealous. Jealous enough to take advantage of you in the most serious of ways," Spock said, guiltily.

"What did he do to me?" She needed to know.

Spock was silent for a moment. It was not easy for him to talk of such matters, but she was directly affected and so he would attempt to help her understand. "It is an ancient technique of removing one's thoughts. It is usually used only in extremely rare instances to protect one from memories which cause far too much discomfort. He used it on you for his own purposes, to erase an aspect of your life which threatened him," he told her. "Because, in his own way, a very selfish way, he must have loved you very much." Spock understood that very well. It was his love for Christine that had driven him to the corners of the galaxy in search of her, and that kept him by her side now.

Christine was silent for a long time, thinking, confused, uncertain. Nothing made sense. She felt abandoned and frightened. Perhaps if she could somehow find what was taken from her, this would all begin to take on some meaning. Suddenly she had one burning question. "Can you help me retrieve what was taken?" She looked at him with such intensity and courage that he could not look away.

"It is possible. I may be able to find them in your subconscious," Spock admitted.

"What would that entail?" she asked clinically.

"It would require the initiation of a mind meld. I would enter you thoughts and help you search for your memories. I would have access to areas of your mind that perhaps you prefer kept private," he told her.

Christine thought for a moment. She was grateful for his truthfulness, something Sybok had not even considered. "How soon, and are you willing to do that?" she asked, her voice unshakingly serious and unafraid.

"Whenever you wish it, and yes, I will do anything I can for you." His voice was soft and caring, and Christine got the impression that there was far more behind it than just friendship.

"Very well. Whenever you are ready," she announced.

Spock stood and cleared the empty cartons of his dinner from the rock ledge. He crossed the small room and motioned for Christine to stand. "It will be much more comfortable for you to sit on the bed. In the event that it is too much for you I can easily lay you down," he said.

"Is it dangerous?" she asked a bit afraid.

"There are risks, but I foresee no problems. You are much stronger than you realize." He helped her stand and led her over to the bed.

Sitting down gently beside her, he brought his fingers to her face. His dark eyes were deep and intense and held hers almost in a trance. "Relax, my T'hy'la," he told her as he entered her mind. "Remember," he uttered.

* * *

At first there was a dark gripping fear that flooded Spock's awareness as he entered Christine's mind. For a dreadful moment it became the very center of their shared existence. It was the terror that Sybok had placed into her being. It was the terror she felt at having lost him, and of being left alone on a strange and dangerous planet. It was the terror of not even knowing herself. It was also the terror of Spock. He was stranger to her now, and she was allowing him to enter her most private self. She did not know what would emerge.

More recent memories, from the past two days, lay like pebbles in the sand waiting to be snatched up. They were easy to find and they matched his own. He saw the time from her point of view. Their conversation of only a few moments before still rung in her brain, the dinner they had eaten quietly and how Christine had been surprised to find the food quite good, a discovery which she had not voiced. He heard her thoughts about him and how she warily decided she could trust him. Spock modestly left her to her recollection of bathing in the tiny outcropping that formed a shower in the bathroom and then felt her fear at awakening to find him watching her. Finally, in that level, he watched her watching Sybok flee, being forsaken to an alien world and a man she did not realize she knew. Her anguish and heartbreak was overwhelming. He tried to send waves of comfort to her, but at this point it was too soon and she would not accept them. He realized that she was crying.

Further on they traveled. He saw their separate journeys to Nimbus 12 and Tilvun before. He saw Sybok's angry outbursts at her and bristled at his brother's treatment on her. He saw exactly what Christine had been through. Having been forced to serve Sybok like a slave, being the only woman on a ship crewed by outlaws, being locked away when she was not convenient, or her temperament did not suit. He watched her being nearly abducted from his parents' home and saw her all too short visit with them. He did not see himself there, however, and there was no trace of the tender moment they had shared in garden when he had admitted his true feelings to her. It seemed he was completely gone from her.

His search subsided for a moment as he checked on Christine. His hands still on her face, Spock asked, "Do you wish to continue?"

"Yes. I'm fine," she whispered, holding back tears. She was shaking a bit.

Having been given permission, he persisted. She was playing in jungles with Sybok, he was asking her to be his bondmate. She was loving him and enjoying his love in return. She was sitting in a bar on Spectra, the very same one he had visited, being courted by a strange Vulcan. He saw her on Earth and the cold reunion with her aunt on Prince Edward Island. He watched her leave the ship and say goodbye to the friends he also knew well.

Christine relaxed a bit as he finally found her memories of the Enterprise. Spock was sure that if he were anywhere in her mind, it would be here. He traveled with her along familiar corridors, followed her daily routines, laughed and learn and cried with her. He saw her playful teasing of Dr. McCoy, her respect for Captain Kirk, and her dedication to the crew. Spock watched her grieve for Roger Korby, lost to her twice. He felt her nervousness and apprehension upon first setting foot on the starship and saw her skill and self assurance blossom. His heart sank as he watched the images, nowhere in her memory of being in Star Fleet were there any remembrances of him. Sybok had stolen them all.

"I shall have to look deeper into your mind." Spock broke off again, again she nodded her consent.

He moved effortlessly into the memories of her life before the ship. She was a bright and beautiful young woman bidding a tearful farewell to a fiancé she feared she would never see again. Than Spock saw a smitten young college student falling in love with a brilliant and famous researcher and felt her surprise at realizing those feelings were returned. He followed her academic triumphs and personal calamities. There were always friends around her, filling her life with laughter. Still he felt an emptiness from her even in that, a longing for something she thought she would never find. A timid high school student with dark hair assisted friends with long satin gowns and elaborate hair styles, bid them a happy farewell with a painted-on smile, and then sat by a window crying alone. The same young girl worked hours after school to earn money for college. A girl of not quite fourteen sat in a dusty attic writing stories furiously in longhand, surrounded by treasures that were not hers. She skipped down the beach with a best friend and had a first kiss from a slightly older boy, whom he had not seen in her later recollections. Her life was spreading out before him and she was allowing it.

Then he felt fear and apprehension. Christine, at about twelve, with braces on her legs stood on the porch of the home he recognized from his time searching for her in Canada. She was being examined by a stern looking old woman whom he knew as her aunt. The woman was not happy and the little girl, clutching a book and a stuffed animals and wrapped in a worn man's sweater that was far too big for her, swore to herself she would not cry. Fear encircled her then too, as did deep grief.

Further on he saw the months of painful physical therapy that had gone before, as the Christine tried to walk again. Hospitals and doctors formed her life then too, as did the resolve that someday she would help those just like she was then. After that Spock watched a bruised and bloody little girl waking up in the emergency room of a different hospital. She was in pain and could not feel or move her legs. His heart wrenched as he watched this much younger Christine scream frantically for her mother, father, and brother, who would never again come for her.

Outside his awareness Spock heard Christine cry. "We can stop if you would like. I do not wish to upset you," he offered.

"No. I want to find it," she assured him. "I just haven't let myself think about that in so long."She paused a moment, gathering what little strength she had left. "Please go on."

Again he moved further into her mind. Happier, more welcome images encircled him. That same lovely little girl he had seen before wandered through adventures, only now she was filled with joy and love. He saw her in ballet classes, hiking in the mountains near her home, riding on the shoulders of a tall strong man who obviously adored her, baking with a smiling doting woman who possessed her same bright blue eyes. He watched her playing with a little boy younger than she was, but very much loved by her. He saw her holding that same little boy with shaky and supported arms when he was tiny. She planted flowers with a much older woman who told her stories and then shared ice cream with her. The young Christine went fishing with an old man who sat her in his lap and called her Kitten. She went off to school and made wonderful friend with whom she spent hours creating magical fantasies. She ran down stairs to mountains of gifts beneath a lavishly decorated pine tree. She walked a puppy around a shaded yard in a doll carriage. Through everything it was her smile that caught his heart. He thought with remorse that if she now smiled in that way, he had never seen it. Her early childhood enveloped him in warmth and love, and he mourned the loss of it for her.

"Thank you," Spock heard Christine whisper.

"For what?" he asked in her mind.

"For letting me relive that," she smiled.

He reveled in her happiness and gratitude for a short while, and then answered. "They may be deeper than I has expected. If I continue I could be exposing things which may be intensely personal to you. I do not wish to do so without your understanding and permission."

Christine thought a moment, not sure of what he was referring. "If they are personal then I should see them, and you seem to be the only way I have of getting them back," she said, not realizing she did not actually need to speak. "I understand and I ask you to proceed." For some reason she felt more comfortable with seeming stranger than with anyone she had yet remembered. "Go ahead."

"As you wish," he agreed and moved his hand to different points on her face.

Again, Spock entered Christine's mind. He was determined to find the remnants of what Sybok had stolen. He traveled far into her subconscious. He hoped to find shadows of the stolen memories, wanted to bring them to surface, wanted her to know. The pathways on which he found himself were dark, and at times frightening. He shielded her from the things that were so painful her mind had locked them away as protection. He did not wish to traumatize her. He was beginning to know more about her than she even knew about herself, and found his love for her growing stronger with every turn. Surely that alone would be enough to make her remember him.

Her barriers were strong and he marveled at her mental abilities. He would have never have expected such proficiency from her. Yet another aspect of her to discover. It seemed to take a long time before he reached a workable area of her mind. The subconscious was at times so strong that parts of it were impenetrable. He knew that this meant the images found behind the walls were usually far to upsetting to be part of their self awareness. He cringed knowing that he was one of these things to her.

Onward he trudged until finally, somewhere in the recesses he thought he saw something. No, he heard it. A voice, joltingly familiar brought him up short. "I am sorry ... Christine." He heard himself say. Did it come from him or from her? No, he recognized it. He traveled toward it. It was the mental equivalent of traveling in slow motion and walking in mud. Something tried to keep him from the memory, he fought to reach it. With a immense effort he managed to break through. This place was different than the vistas he had seen before. There he had traveled backward through the time line of her life. Now he saw things all at once, spread out before him like an ocean. Although he felt love here it was different. There was pain, regret, humiliation, and self doubt buried deep within it. He knew he was the cause.

Spock saw himself and Christine in sickbay orbiting Psi 2000, however this time he saw everything through her eyes. He heard her mind voice crying for her to stop as she declared her love for him. Felt red hot embarrassment flush her face when she later realized what she had done. He also sensed the depth of her feelings for him and they startled him. He never before realized that anyone could be capable of such intense emotions, or that anyone could ever feel them for him.

Slowly and steadily he brought parts of herself back. He watched the stage of her life which centered solely on him. He felt that he was intruding, but she beckoned him on. He found himself pervading her thoughts, and wondered how she had managed to be as detached as she had been. He watched the overwhelming concern that had driven her to risk her life to care for him during his pon farr. He witnessed in horror as he sent bowl flying past her face and heard himself yelling visciousness at her. Her fear and confusion wrestled with longing to help. Spock felt her love so strong that she would again risk herself simply to bring him a message and her torment at not understanding his words to her when they were alone together and not being able to help.

Her previous thoughts sounded in his head like taunting thunder. I would never do what she did to you, Christine had envisioned, thinking of the woman of his own race who had betrayed him. He saw her selfish, hopeful, and guilty joy at knowing he would not be taken away from her. His mind clung painfully to another unspoken sentence. Maybe you could love me now, she had wondered.

He examined their history playing out in her mind, much of it with regret. He saw her too often dashed hopes and her unseen caring. All the moments they had shared, as familiar to him as they were now becoming again to her, unfolding before them. He recognized people and places, some almost forgotten by him as well, other never to be driven from his own memories. The re were other times as well, times he had not witnessed. These were what cut his soul like a knife.

He saw Christine sitting upon her bed on the Enterprise. She was attired in only a robe and her hair fell loosely around her shoulders. He noticed that he liked it that way. He heard her forlorn thoughts as she wept into her cupped hands. What's wrong with me? He can barely stand to look at me. Maybe if I cut my hair. Maybe if I dyed my hair. Maybe if I lost some weight. I'm not horrible. He's barely even civil to me. Her stream of self doubt and confusion was interrupted only when her silent crying turned to sobs and she lay back on her coverlet staring at the ceiling while tears flowed down her temples.

Having barely revived himself from the torture of her last memory, another struck Spock head on. Christine was walking down a passageway. He recognized it, the one just outside sickbay. Suddenly she stopped in her tracks and steeled herself as she heard his voice. He realized it was not in wondrous anticipation, but in dread. He felt her worry at whether he would throw an unconcerned cold look in her direction, or ignore her all together. She hoped for the latter, but received the former. He had never noticed before the glimmer of slight of hope behind her eyes upon their meeting, or the hurt that replaced it at his wordless rebuffs. He sensed Christine berate herself and try to force herself not to care, not to love him, not even to look at him, but it did no good. Her mind echoed, I'm sorry. I can't help it.

He watched her pack slowly to leave the ship, felt the rush of her memories over everything she handled. He saw her carefully word the letter she had left for him. She was almost certain that he would never get it, or if he did, he would never read it. She had struggled that day with whether or not to say goodbye to him, had struggled for weeks. Then with all of her things sent to the cargo transporter, she took a moment to look around the rooms that had been her home for years. There a slight hopefulness for the future that had not been there before, and a determination to forget the past. As the door slipped open she almost went to find him but thought better of it. He wouldn't care anyway.

The knowledge of the anguish he had inflicted upon her was more than he could stand. In his own way he felt he had been just as horrible to her as Sybok. His actions toward her had not been flashes of injurious anger, he had never struck her, indeed never willingly touched her. He had never stolen the very things that made her Christine. He realized in shame that what he had done was, over time, lay the ground work for intense pain and self doubt. Each day he had built up the wall that would eventually separate them. All she had ever wanted was simply to love him. She never wanted to change him, or ask anything of him that he could not give. Christine had only wanted to give her love to him anyway he would let her, and he had shunned her, cruelly rejected her. Now it was he who fought bitter tears. Lost in his own thoughts for time he begged her forgiveness, knowing that he would never forgive himself.

Somewhere on the edges of them, he felt her coming back. He watched her soul fill with everything she had been. She was becoming whole along with him. He reveled in a joy he had never known before. It was still there, the love she had kept alive all those years. He felt her deep and consuming love wash over him like cool water. She had loved him all along, had only accepted his brother because she thought he was lost to her. Christine deserved happiness and she had tried to find it with someone who, when she first met him, reminded her in some unknown ways of Spock. He could never blame her. He blamed himself.

As he watched her mind becoming whole again, he opened up a part of himself to her. He gave her the times he had stood outside her door, hoping it would open but not knowing what he would do if it did. He let her have the occasions when the sound of her voice was so wonderful to him that he had to fight tears. He yielded his struggle to keep her apart from him and to stay away from her. He showed how each time they saw each other he would try to stare through her or look away so she could not see his inner torment. She watched his fight to deny what he felt for her, until finally he could no longer be that strong. He gave her his love.

In the quiet dark little room, unknowingly, her hands had found his face and caressed his skin as she watched how he had tried in vain not to love her. Why did you never say anything? she asked.

I could not, he visioned to her. Forgive me.

My love. There is nothing to forgive, she sent him.

Then showed her his last day on the Enterprise, how he had nervously traversed the entire ship trying to find the courage to declare himself to her. How he had chosen the perfect rose and made his way finally to her cabin only to be stricken at her absence and loss. She watched him travel the galaxy in search of her, felt his pain at her betrothal to Sybok, and saw his fierce determination to find her again, and to save her. She saw his seething anger at his brother, and the overwhelming fear that she would never be his again.

His mind took her to the moment they had shared in the garden on Vulcan. When she had trembled with fright in his hands, and he had felt as though all the universe was finally right as long as they were together. She saw his soul ripped apart at the circumstances that forced her return to Sybok. She too allowed him to see the joy and pain that had encompassed that night for her, as well as her longing for him as she sped through the stars on an unknown course. All she wanted was him, and all he could dream of was her.

Reluctantly he brought both back to themselves. They had found each other's arms in the darkness and their bodies huddled together in a long delayed embrace.

"Oh, Spock," Christine uttered.

He kissed away her tears. "My T'hy'la. You've come back to me," he whispered.

* * *

For the remainder of the night and into the early hours of the morning Spock held Christine as she slept. He treasured every sigh, every breath, every movement of her unconscious body. The glorious closeness that once he had resisted was now sweet and right. He could feel her contentment through the contact, and kissed away her restlessness when it appeared. He had never felt so complete. Spock vowed he would never lose her again.

Slowly awareness trickled back to her mind. Christine found herself lying in the strong arms she had dreamed of for so long. Comfort and peace surrounded her, as did love. She opened her eyes to those she held so dear and found adoration behind their once steely glare.

Before she could even realize how at home she felt next to Spock, Christine pulled from him and turned away, hiding her face in shame.

"What is it T'hy'la?" he questioned, concern blocking everything else. "Have I done something?"

"Oh, no. It isn't you," she sobbed.

"Then what? Please tell me," he begged.

Christine was silent for a long moment, then as her voice trembled she spoke her fears. "How can you ever look at me knowing..."

"Knowing what?" he implored.

"That I... that I've ... been with your brother," she whispered as though the sound of the words hurt her ears.

Spock rested his hand on Christine's shoulder for a moment, and then gently turned her face back to him. "That never occurred to me," he said. She stared at him, unspoken questions playing in her eyes.

He held her tighter and soothed her worry. "For what are you to blame? It is not your fault you were taken advantage of by a person with no moral character. It is not your fault you were abducted. It is not your fault your mind was ravaged. It is not your fault that this all happened to you because of a fool who could not see the jewel handed to him for the taking if only he had opened his blind eyes. None of this was your fault, Christine." He buried his face in her hair.

He felt her relax a bit in his arms. "Don't say that. I was the fool. I should have waited a few more minutes or gone to you. I wouldn't have missed you and this would never have happened."

"I gave you no reason to do so," he said. "I can never express how deeply I regret my actions."

"You were only being what you are," she noted, touching his arm. "What was it you said once about our natures?"

She could have sworn she saw a smile pass over his lips. "When we are bonded I will show you then what I truly am. Desperately in love with you," he acknowledged, kissing her forehead.

"Bonded?" She looked at him in surprise. "You want to ..."

"Of course. Based on the current circumstances, and the admission of our mutual attraction to each other, it would only be the logical thing to do," he said, having clinically evaluated the situation. "Besides ... I love you," he added.

"I agree. It would be expedient," she teased. "When?"

"As soon as you are well," he assured her.

"But I'm fine. I feel better than I have in a long time," she smiled.

"Physically perhaps, but your mind must still heal." He looked away.

"What do you mean?" Christine looked puzzled.

Spock took a deep breath and tried to begin. "You are still quite vulnerable." He paused, unable to bring himself to say the words. "What Sybok did to you constitutes no less than rape. That, coupled with our explorations of last night have undoubtedly left your mental pathways quite exposed and weakened. To initiate a bond at this time could put you in great danger. I will not take any chances with you and will not risk our bonding until you are fully healed."

"How long will that take?" She looked disappointed.

"A few days to a week, approximately. I will watch your progress. However, I am sure that you will completely recover," he told her. "In the interim I will take you home to Vulcan if that is agreeable to you."

"Home?" Christine echoed.

"Yes, I would like for you to consider it your home as much as it is mine, if that is what you wish." He hoped he had not overstepped any boundaries.

Christine's eyes again began to fill with tears. "I would like that very much. I ... haven't had a real home for a long time." She rested her head against his chest.

He saw again in his mind the terrible moment that Christine's young world had been torn apart, felt her horror at learning that her family had been killed. "You will never be alone again, T'hy'la," he promised her.

She looked up into his deep dark eyes and touched his face. "Neither will you, my love," she promised. With that they lost themselves in a long and passionate kiss.

Within the week Spock had taken Christine back to Vulcan to complete her recovery. He wished her to be evaluated by the healers of his clan and they had declared her well much earlier than he expected, another testament to her strength and her will. Amanda and Sarek had eagerly welcomed Christine as an honored daughter of their house. Finally, she had found a family with that of the man she loved. Soon she and Spock knelt together in the sacred place of their ancestors, their hands, faces, and minds linked gently together. There they bonded fully and freely. Their minds and souls became one, and the assurance of their love surrounded them like a warm and safe cocoon. Never had anything been so certain for either of them.

Somewhere speeding toward a far distance star, Sybok somehow felt Christine leave him. A bittersweet joy flooded him. It was the only unselfish thing he had ever felt, knowing that she was safe and finally happy. Years later while en route to another mysterious planet, he would admit to Spock that he still loved Christine, had always loved her. He had left her in that desert certain that she would be safe and that she belonged with Spock. Sybok had known all along that she loved his brother and that Spock loved her in turn. He had wanted to keep her only for him, but in the end had given her up so that she might be happy. Over the years Spock cherished Christine, as she did him. She was the treasure of his soul and he hers. Their life together was one of bliss and peace. They would watch their children and grandchildren grow and thrive, advance in their careers, and bask in the company of good friends. Throughout everything their love, once nearly lost, would grow and strengthen. Theirs were souls destined to be joined for all time.

The End.



TBC

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