DISCLAIMER: The original idea was not mine, but T'Khut's. Star Trek is also not mine, neither are the characters, etc., and no profit was made.

A Dream In My Hand


"There you are!" Christine Chapel beamed with happiness and relief. She had searched all over the house and had finally found her daughter seated amidst a pile of packed away treasures in the attic. It never ceased to amaze her how her youngest child found so much pleasure in the things of her past.

"I've been looking all over for you..." Christine began with a loving smile. Her voice faltered as her eyes grew accustomed to the dark and dusty environment at the top of her San Francisco row house, and the object in which her six year old was so engrossed came into her view.

Her own crystal blue eyes stared up at the Starfleet doctor and innocently questioned. "Mommy, what's this?"

Christine knelt beside her little girl and fingered the old wooden trunk the child had dragged out from under an antique table. Her eyes grew soft with memories and she willed the tears away lest the youngster think she had done something wrong. For a moment she could only run her hands over the delicate carvings and aged mahogany. The words that adorned the top were now slightly obscured but still readable through the years of dust.

"A-l... All-ways ... and ... for-ev-er," the first grader sounded, proud of her advancing reading ability. "What does it mean?" She looked at her mother with wide and happy eyes.

Christine settled down onto the floor beside her daughter and pulled the petite child onto her lap. "It means that this old chest holds all your mother's hopes and dreams." She sighed, knowing the little girl would not understand.

"You mean you can put your dreams in a box?" the small voice asked in wonderment.

"In a way," Christine nodded. "Not the kind you see at night when you sleep, but the things that mean a great deal to you. Things you want to be important in you life. Things you love the most."

"Am I in there, Mommy?" her child asked.

"Oh, yes, you certainly are," Christine answered, kissing her daughter's dark curls. "And your brothers, and your father too."

"Can I see?" The child's curiosity was insatiable.

Christine slowly fingered the keyless latch. It had been years since the old box had been locked. There had been no need. The old hinges creaked with want of use as she opened the lid. Her little girl could barely contain her excitement as she peered inside trying to glimpse the secret contents. One by one Christine took out the items she had so lovingly packed away years before.

She carefully brought out the damask table linens, pewter candlesticks, and delicate crystal champagne glasses. They had been used only once, years ago when Christine and her husband had celebrated their first wedding anniversary. The child was mesmerized as her mother allowed her to touch the fragile fabric and glass. Next came a silver tea service, tarnished but still elegant. Nearly twelve years before she had polished it so carefully and put it to use the afternoon her inlaws were informed they were soon to be grandparents for the first time. Happy memories from the box that once had held so much sadness for her came flooding into her mind as she shared her dreams with her daughter.

The little girl was next wrapped in a thick ecru colored quilt. "I made this with my mother when I was just about your age. I think it would be lovely on your bed," Christine told the happy girl.

The child's laughter rang out as she traced the appliqued butterflies with her fingers. The matching pillow shams added to her delight, and the peach satin bedding which were next retrieved felt soft and good against her face. Her head tilted with interest as she heard the rustling of paper. Christine then drew from the box a large folded sheet of plans and a small legal looking document.

Her child studied the drawings on the larger sheet with great interest as her mother unfolded it. "That's our Summer house!" The little girl was happy to see something she recognized.

"Yes, it is," Christine smiled. "Do you remember these?" she teased.

The girl looked curiously at the little lace gown, and matching bonnet and booties. "No," she reported.

"I didn't think you would. You were very small when you wore them," Christine said lovingly lost for a moment in another memory. She took out the hand crocheted pink and blue afghan. "We brought you and both of your brothers home in this when you were born," she told the little girl as she laid her cheek on the child's silken hair.

The little girl watched her mother's expression change as she perused the remaining layers of the hope chest. She almost seemed as though she would cry and the tiny onlooker was frightened for a moment. "What is it? Aren't these happy too?" she asked.

"Yes, little one. They are happy. They just make me sad to look at," Christine answered honestly.

"Why?" came the innocent question.

"Oh, because they are from a long time ago. When Mommy lost someone she cared about very much." No answer came this time, and Christine began to remove from the chest the trousseau she would have worn had her wedding to her first love, Roger Korby, actually taken place. A delicate silk wedding gown enhanced here and there with pearls had been painstakingly folded and put away. A matching lace veil, and satin slippers complete the bridal ensemble.

"This is a wedding dress?" the little girl questioned, her eyes wide with confusion.

"Yes, sweetheart, it is," Christine confirmed.

"But you and Daddy didn't have that kind of a wedding," the little girl said as she ran her small hands over the white material, and opened the box that contained two simple platinum rings.

"No. We didn't. Our wedding was very very special, but I didn't wear a dress like that," Christine confirmed.

"Then why do you have this? Did you want to wear this? Why didn't you?" Christine could see this was going to be difficult and almost regretted opening the box. She scolded herself that she should have waited until her little girl was older and could understand what had happened in her past. However, there was no turning back now, and the child had asked.

"This was from another time," Christine said.

"Were you going to marry somebody who wasn't Daddy?" her daughter asked almost in horror. Her parents were not supposed to have had lives before herself and her brothers came along.

Christine took a deep breath. She had to be very sensitive with this subject. "Yes. I was. It was a long time before I met your father."

"Who was he?" the little girl asked.

"His name was Roger Korby," Christine reported. "I met him when I was still in school, before I joined Starfleet."

"Did you love him?" The fear was evident in the child's voice.

"Yes. I did," Christine answered sadly.

"Did you love him more than you love Daddy?" her daughter asked almost in tears.

Christine looked thoughtfully at her precious child, so innocent and trusting, so unaware of the struggles and pain that life could assign to some. She prayed that the little soul she loved so much would never know the kind of sorrow she had faced, and also hoped that each of her children would experience as much joy as she had finally found. She then answered her daughter with all the truth in her heart. "No. I didn't love him as much as I love your Daddy."

With that the little child on her mother's lap relaxed, and seemed to sense the grief filled memories her mother was experiencing. "What happened to him?"

"He died," Christine said softly. "He went out into space and got lost. I joined Star Fleet to find him, but it was too late," Christine told her.

"That's when you met my Daddy?" the girl smiled brightly.

Christine laughed. "Yes. That's when I met him."

"Were you very sad, when Mr. Korby died?" the child asked.

"Yes," she whispered. "I even sold this hope chest. I just didn't want to remember him."

"Then how did you get it back?" the small blue eyes questioned.

Christine pulled her little girl closer to her, and held her for a long time. "Well, it's kind of long story. Would you like to hear about the time your father gave me back all my hopes and dreams?" The child nodded and nestled her head against her mother's shoulders.

"It all started one day a couple of weeks after I sold the hope chest on the Enterprise's open shipwide channel. The person who bought it didn't want me to know who they were. So we made a secret exchange of the box and the money and I thought that was it, until the day I came back to my cabin and it was sitting right there in front of my door..."

* * *

Christine stepped off the turbolift, rubbing her aching shoulders. Her shift in sickbay had been long and stressful. She was looking forward to a nice hot shower, and a soft cozy pillow. It was only a short walk to her cabin and she made her way toward her own nameplate bidding good night to the friends she passed along the way.

"We still on for lunch tomorrow?" Nyota called to her from her own doorway.

"Sure thing," Christine smiled. "I can't wait, I just got the new Spiegel catalog and I need some opinions."

"You can count on me," Uhura smiled. "Night!" she yelled as her door slid shut.

A few paces down the corridor Mr. Scott's fatigued face came into view. Apparently the day in engineering had been as eventful as in sickbay. "Ah, bonnie lass, can I interest yee in a wee nip before turnin' in?" the Scotsman smiled.

"Oooo. Not tonight, Scotty. The strongest thing I want to see has marshmallows floating in it. Rain check, though, okay?" Christine grinned.

"Of course. Sleep tight." Scotty laughed and then disappeared into his cabin.

"Good night, Christine," Sulu called to her as she turned the corner leading to her quarters.

"Good night, Hikaru!" she answered back over her shoulder.

Christine was a very popular crew member, although she failed to realize it. There were times that it seemed everyone was captivated by her charm, her wit, and her beauty. Everyone that is except for one person, and he was the one she most wanted to enthrall. She was nearly at her door when he came around a corner. There was no way to avoid it, someone had to say something. To Christine's great surprise, Spock spoke first.

"Good evening, Miss Chapel," he said formally.

Normally, Christine would have wanted to swoon if the Vulcan so much as looked at her, tonight however she was far too tired. "Mr. Spock," she acknowledged politely and continued on her way. She did not see him turn to regard her as she passed.

Christine walked on a few more steps and looked up. It was then that she noticed a familiar looking box sitting in front of her door. Upon reaching it her heart nearly failed. It was her hope chest, the one that held so many painful memories, and her shattered dreams. After the tragedy on Exo III, where she learned what had become of her fiance Roger Korby, Christine had buried the wooden box far back in her closet, not even wanting to look at it. As the passing years softened some of the hurt, she had been able to bring herself to open it once again. Upon doing so she found that there was nothing left of use to her. All her dreams and hopes were gone. She could not even find new ones since the only other man she had ever allowed herself to love, wanted nothing to do with her.

Unable to simply jettison the memories of her life to the vacuum of space, where so much had already been lost, she had sold the chest on the ship's open computer channel. Perhaps someone would get the good out of what she could not use. An anonymous buyer had purchased it and set up a secret exchange of money for goods transaction. Christine was told to leave the hope chest in a secluded area of the cargo bay and had found an envelope of credits neatly laid upon her desk in sickbay the next morning. Her name had been printed digitally on the outside using a computer port, so there would be no way of tracing the buyer. Christine did not care, she was simply glad it was gone. She did not even really want the money, and had sent it as a small donation to the Roger Korby Memorial Fund, where it would be used to further the research her late fiance had begun. She was strangely happy to be rid of anything having to do with the hope chest.

Now here it was, lying once more at her feet, a mocking reminder of her pain. She could not stand to look at it. Without hesitation she grabbed the brass handle on the side of the box and dragged it down the hall toward the refuse portal at the end of the passageway. She was in tears by the time she reached the divider that separated the waiting items from the corridor. With all her might Christine practically flung the mahogany chest behind the vision and vapor screen. She then turned angrily almost running down the hall back toward her cabin. The Enterprise's Head Nurse, was far too preoccupied in her own indignation to notice that the ship's First Officer was still in the corridor, his pace unusually slow. She walked right past him, and did not look up.

"Miss Chapel? Is something wrong?" Spock asked, uncharacteristically concerned.

Christine turned and the pain he saw in her tear streaked face stole his words. She had an equally difficult time answering. For a moment she wanted to ask why he cared, but decided against it.

"No. Just someone's idea of a cruel joke," she answered, her lips trembling beneath her resolute jaw. She did not wait for his reply, but turned and stormed off to her cabin. Once she was safely inside and away from prying eyes, Christine buried he face in her hands and sobbed.

The following evening Christine made her way once again back to her quarters after her shift. She had met Uhura for lunch as promised, and the two of them had laughed and talked as always. They had even decided upon brand new wardrobes from the catalog, each knowing there was no way they could afford it. Afterward, Christine had worked on several research projects she had underway and was quite pleased with the results that were beginning to take shape. She and Doctor McCoy had enjoyed a very nice dinner in the rec room, and she'd even played a round of cards with Chekov and Sulu. Christine had nearly managed to forget all about the insult she had suffered the previous night, and about the hope chest. That is until she turned the corner to her cabin and found it once more sitting outside her door.

She stopped in her tracks and looked around, hoping to find whoever was tormenting her. There was no one near, and no trace of the person responsible for her current distress. Christine's anger hurt worse than the tears welling up in her eyes, and she swallowed urge to scream. Who on the ship could hate her so much? She searched her memory and could not recall any actions on her part that would warrant such treatment. She wanted to turn and walk away, not go near her cabin. Maybe when she returned it would be gone.

Christine stood in the silence of the corridor for a moment hearing only the steady drone of the ship and her heart beating in her ears. Then, as if from nowhere, there were footsteps behind her. She whirled around and came face to face once more with only person on the ship she did not want to see. Surely he would not understand nor care. Again, just as had happened the night before, Spock broke the silence.

"Miss Chapel," he said plainly, noting the tears in her eyes. "You are unwell? Is there anything with which I may be of assistance?"

Christine bit her lip. She wanted to run to him and beg him to put his arms around her, just to comfort her for a short while. She wanted to plead with him to find whoever was doing this to her. She wanted do so many things, but could only cast her eyes to the floor, too embarrassed to speak her mind.

"It's ... it's just this stupid old chest. I keep trying to get rid of it, but it keeps finding its way back to me, somehow." She turned from him, realizing how silly she must sound.

"I see," Spock answered, looking over at the wooden box near her door. "Perhaps someone feels as though you may want it back at sometime and they are merely trying to be helpful."

"I don't want it. I never want to see it again," she blurted, unable to look at him or the hope chest.

"It apparently holds bad memories for you." His tone was quiet and calm.

"Well, yes ... I mean no ... I mean... There are just lots of old things in it. Things I don't need anymore..." Christine could not begin to explain what the contents were or what they meant to her, not to him.

"Forgive me. I did not mean to pry," Spock apologized.

She gave him a weak and pained smile. "It's alright. I'm sure you must think I'm acting foolish."

"Not at all," he assured her.

"Would you ... would you help me take it to the trash?" she asked. "It's a little heavy."

"Certainly," he agreed without hesitation. He walked over and picked up the large wooden chest effortlessly and returned to her side. "After you," he offered kindly.

They walked without talking to the portal at the end of the corridor. Spock set the chest behind the barrier while Christine's eyes remained downcast. "Is there anything else I can do for you?" he asked.

Even through her discomfort Christine could not help notice the way he treated her. He was kind and compassionate. He saw the pain she was feeling but did not meddle. He wanted only to help her. She realized that he had never offered to do anything for her before. She could have chosen this opportunity to once more declare her love for him, or try to show him that her attraction to him was still strong. However, all she could do was smile at him, a gesture that did not quite reach her eyes.

"No. Thank you. I didn't mean to be such a bother. You've been a great help," she said softly.

"Shall I walk you back to your cabin?" Again his offer startled her.

"No. I've taken too much of you time already." She turned sadly and he watched her graceful steps retreat down the passageway.

* * *

Christine tried everything she could think of to delay her return to her quarters on the third night. She stayed in sickbay so long that Doctor McCoy had to chase her out with threats of having to listen to his singing all the next day. She sat for hours in the rec room, long after everyone else had called it a night. Uhura had noticed Christine's apprehension and tried to sit up with her friend, but had grown too weary. Christine ordered her go to straight to bed, and with a hug Nyota gratefully complied. Finally after her fifth losing hand of poker with one of her nocturnal crew mates, she decided that there was no sense in prolonging the inevitable, and ventured slowly to the turbo lift.

The floors seemed to pass more quickly than usual, and the doors swooshed open before she was ready. Taking a deep breath she stepped outside. The route, so familiar she could walk it in her sleep, was foreboding as she journeyed to her door. She stopped on the other side of the hall, closed her eyes and willed... "Don't be there. Don't be there."

Gathering all the courage she had left she opened her eyes and stepped around the corner. All her resolve vanished when the sight she dreaded came into view. The lovely wooden chest with carved rosettes sat innocently by her door. Christine's anger welled up in her so furiously that she forgot her fear and wounded pride. She would tear up everything in that box and burn it if need be, but this was the last night it would haunt her.

It was not until she was standing directly over the container that she noticed a small envelope propped upon its lid. The mere fact that someone had taken the time to hand write a note on actual paper was enough novelty on a starship. However, that coupled with the reappearance of the chest for the third time left Christine completely shocked. She bent down and picked up the little note. It said simply, "Please Read This".

There was little else she could do but to open the seal and read the note inside. It was equally shocking.

"Miss Chapel,

Please believe that it was never my intention to cause you to suffer in any way by returning your hope chest to you. I regret deeply that my actions in this matter have caused you pain. I wished only to revive some of the meaning that this heirloom holds for you. Please take the box inside and open it."

The note was not signed, but the wording sounded somehow familiar to Christine. She could almost picture someone speaking in that exact way, but could quite see that person's face. She also thought she knew the handwriting, but from where? Looking down she, for the first time, saw that new carvings had been added to the lid. They were some kind of intricate symbols that she could not place, and had obviously been done by hand. This alone was intriguing enough to make her comply with the note's instructions. Unlocking her door, she dragged the chest inside, and disappeared into her cabin.

With shaking hands Christine lifted the lid of her own hope chest, now missing its lock. She half expected it to explode in her face. However, she only saw her things, obviously handled but meticulously replaced. She could not help but feel a bit violated thinking of how someone else had pawed through her possessions. Then she reminded herself that she had sold it and it was the new owner's right to do with those items as they wished. She wished, however, that it had not included tormenting her. Christine wondered who on the ship would have taken such in interest in her, her past, or her hopes for the future.

It was then that she noticed a new item in the chest. A small velvet packet, in a shade of purple so dark it nearly looked black, had been tucked along the side. The position was just secret enough to be unobtrusive, but obvious enough to be noticed. Christine carefully picked up the small bag which had been closed tightly with a drawstring. She worked the string until a small, silver necklace fell out into her palm. The piece was old and had seen many previous wearers. She studied it intently. More intricate carvings formed a base around a stone that cast rainbow reflections on the metal. It was a beautiful antique. She held it up to the light and was lost for a moment in the way it shimmered. The realization of the piece's origin jolted her mind and she brought it closer to her eyes. She had been in space long enough to be able to at least recognize the writing of a half a dozen cultures and she knew where the writing on pendant came from. It was Vulcan.

Christine let out a slow and deliberate sigh, trying to will her mind to focus. Could it be from...? Certainly not. He would never give her anything surely, especially not something so precious. But who else on the ship would have knowledge of such a perfect little piece? Maybe it was from someone who did not even know its origins. Oh, it would not have come from him. He undoubtedly thought she had gone crazy going on about some old box. Anyway, if it was from him, why would he torment her with her own memories? Had he finally had enough of her and decided to play some game to teach her a lesson. Christine seriously doubted he would ever do a thing like that. Perhaps, though he could help her. He had been so kind with her the past few days when she had returned to find the chest back in her life. Maybe he could help her find out who on board was doing this. Christine decided to swallow her pride. She had gone to him before and with things a lot more embarrassing than a piece of antique jewelry. She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, heading for the door.

The familiar swoosh of her cabin entry could not hide her gasp of surprise at the figure who waited outside. Spock stood in the doorway almost as if he had been expecting her come rushing out. Christine jumped back a little with surprise unsure what would come next. They stared at each other for a moment and then his gaze traveled downward to the tiny charm dangling in her hand. He almost smiled, and his face was thoughtful. "You have found it then," he said quietly.

Christine looked down at the silver metal and faceted stone. The confusion she felt was unable to be hidden. For a moment she fought anger, disappointment, and fear. "You did this?" she questioned.

The look with which Spock answered her was one of sincere apology. "I did not mean to frighten you or to hurt you. It was a gift I wanted to share with you." Christine stood, suddenly struck mute in front of him. "May I come in, please. I would like to talk to you. In private."

The nurse stepped aside to allow the Vulcan to pass unheeded into her quarters. His gait was slow and deliberate. He had never been here before and felt almost as if he was intruding on a secret place. Christine watched him, her suspicion growing.

"A gift?" she questioned.

"Yes. One that I had not wished to present to you in such a disturbing way. My only excuse is that I am inexperienced with matters of this nature."

"Matters of what nature?" Christine questioned. "I don't understand. Why would you give me a gift?"

Spock decided to answer her question with an explanation. "Last night, you said that I must think you foolish for being so upset. It is I who have been a fool, and for far too long."

"You? A fool. What are you talking about, Mr. Spock?" Christine asked, trying to grasp something onto which she could hold. Her head was spinning just from the mere fact that he was in her cabin.

"I have thought and meditated about this for sometime. I have been unable to put you from my thoughts since our experience on Platonius," he confessed.

"Platonius?" Christine whispered. So that was what this was all about, some form of elaborate punishment for his embarrassment on the planet.

"Actually, I believe it has been much longer," he continued, unable to look her in the face.

"I understand," Christine ventured. "I have not had the chance to tell you how deeply sorry I am for the way you suffered at the hands of Parmen."

"The way I suffered?" He looked as though his own shame had not occurred to him. "You were hurt far worse than anything I was forced to endure. When I think of what could have happened..." He trailed off. They both knew to what he was referring and there was no need to relive the incident.

"I assure you. I'm fine now. There is no need to try to make amends." Christine tried to smile. "It was certainly not your fault."

"I believe that it was. It is also my belief that it was not solely your emotions that caused you to be brought down to the planet," Spock said.

"What do you mean?" Christine was still unable to follow his train of thought.

"You had been much on my mind for quite some time before our experience there. It was not until that day that I realized how deep my regard is for you. You have stated your feelings very clearly in the past. I can only hope that they have not changed." He nearly squirmed with discomfort.

"What are you saying?" Christine could hardly believe her ears.

Unsure of how to continue, Spock motioned toward the necklace she held in her hand. "Do you know what that is?" he asked. She could only move her head back and forth to indicate she did not.

"It is a Vulcan pledge token," he said. "It is given by a male to the female with whom he wishes to form a bond in the future. I wish that woman to be you."

Tears came to Christine's eyes. She was actually hearing the words for which she had so longed so desperately. He was standing in front of her, heart in his hand, declaring himself to her just as she had done to him years ago. She marveled at the struggle he had undertaken.

"Why did you give it to me like this? Why did you put in the chest?" she asked.

"I was uncertain that your feelings remained the same. Even if they did, I have done nothing to earn your trust or..." He swallowed. "...your love. The carvings which I placed on the box are the symbols for your name and mine and for eternity. It is a hope chest and I hope that you will wear this emblem freely someday when I have proven myself to you. Until then I wish it stay in your possession. Please allow me to save my dreams with yours, for you are my greatest dream."

Christine could not contain her happy tears. "You have already earned my love, just by being. I will wear this, proudly, and whenever you deem fit to place it around my neck."

With that Spock stepped toward her and took her trembling hand in his. She gave up the token and he gently loosed the old clasp. Placing it around her neck, he was awe struck by her beauty. Slowly, he brought her lips to his and sealed the pledge passionately.

"Our dreams our one, now. Always and Forever," he whispered.

* * *

"...And that, T'Kel, is the story of how your father told me that he loved me for the very first time," Christine said thoughtfully and rolled her eyes a little. "In his own way." She grinned.

The little girl nestled closer to her mother, safe and secure in the knowledge that her parents shared a wonderful and unique kind of love, and that they both cherished her and her brothers. Christine reveled in the nearness of her child, and her mind relived all the times she had shared with her family.

"You know..." Christine began. "Your getting to be a big girl now and I think you can handle to responsibility of this hope chest. What do think about putting this in your room?"

"Can we?" T'Kel's bright eyes begged her mother for the dreams she had told her of.

"I don't see why not. These things will all be yours someday. I could pack up the gown I wore when your father and I were bonded on Mount Soleil, and add it to all these things. Your Grandma Manda has sent me some things to put away for you and I think they would fit just right inside the hope chest until you are old enough to use them." Her eyes sparkled at her daughter's glee.

"Oh, Mommy. Please!" T'Kel practically squealed with delight.

"Your Daddy will be home with boys from practice any minute now. He could take it down to your room and you and I could clean and polish it up really nice," her mother promised.

"Can we put it at the end of my bed?" the child asked.

"I don't see why not. That would be a fine place for it," Christine said.

T'Kel was quiet for a moment, fingering the silver pledge token around Christine's neck. The little girl had never known a time her mother had been without it.

"Mommy. I'm not happy Mr. Roger had to die, but I'm glad Daddy gave you back your dreams."

The innocence in her little girl's heart brought tears to Christine's eyes. She kissed T'Kel's temple and smoothed a wayward curl behind the child's pointed ear. "So am I, Precious. So am I."

At that the silence of the house was broken by the slamming of a door downstairs and the sound of two growing boys racing toward their respective bedrooms and whatever pressing matter awaited them there. Christine and T'Kel traded a knowing glance.

"Christine, T'Kel?" she heard he husband call. "We are home."

"We're in the attic, Spock," Christine answered happily. "Could you come up here for a minute? We need your help with something."

The End