DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Kathy Schoggins and is copyright (c) 2000 by Kathy Schoggins. This story is Rated PG. The name "Shayla Ross" is the creation and property of DebbieB.



Reflections and Revelations

By Kathy Schoggins



Christine stood looking in her mirror, lost in memories. She was due on shift in seven minutes thirty two point five seconds. A wry smile, on an attractive woman with long brown hair and soft blue eyes, looked back at her. Her own hair once again. It felt so strange. She had finally changed it back six months ago. The first of many changes. Just like being called doctor. She thought back to Leonard's face when she had asked him to contact Star Fleet in regards to her degree. When he found out that she had walked away with only two months to go he was livid. As she remembered, it was, "Girl, what in the hell were you thinking about? The good lord gives you a gift you use it!" The smile hitched up a bit more on one side. If Leonard only knew what he was saying. How could she ever explain what she had spent her whole life trying to hide? Not that she ever could, but how?

How?…Her whole life had been a waste. Hiding behind the lies. Thinking it would make a difference to "Him." Him, it was always about Him. He was gone now, and all she had done, all of it, was to try and make him love her. Her eyebrow quirked up in a manner much like a certain Vulcan she knew. Maybe that was why she had been drawn to the Spock in the beginning. Could it have been because of "Him?" Yeah, maybe, or maybe it was the rest too. Maybe it was because of "Her" too.

Christine was eight years old when her seventeen-year-old sister Leigh had told her about "Her." Leigh, named for their father Leighton, was everything Christine wasn't. The top of her class. Cool and calculating. Leigh would go far in Star Fleet. Maybe as far as Admiral Leighton Chapel himself. She was a true chip off the old block. But Leigh was angry, angry for as long as Christine could remember. Leigh would have no part of father.

Hell, she wasn't even Leigh anymore. After she left home, she changed her name to Shayla Ross. Shayla from some old action vid. The Ross her mother's madien name. Yep, she had wiped out dear old dad in every way she could. She never knew what Leigh was angry about, but it included her as well. At least, with Leigh, she had some interaction, even if it almost always wound up with her black and blue. At least it wasn't like it was with Him! Father. How she wished he would look at her. Christine couldn't remember the last time he had even looked at her.

The last night, the night Leigh left for good, she made her feelings clear to Christine. She could still remember the words. "You killed my mother. You disgusting half breed. You and that Thalrarian whore. When I'm gone, ask that bastard downstairs for the truth. Then you'll know. You'll know why he can't stand the sight of you. When you find out what you are, sister dear, use the gifts your 'mother' gave you. Give in to your nature, Christine. It would be the greatest gift you could give my mother and me. It will kill him." She left then, and Christine had not seen or spoken to her in the nearly twenty four years since.

Christine shook off the memories, and made a rush for the door. If she hurried she just might make it in under the wire. Not that Leonard would mind. If anything he would probably be glad, thinking for once his Chris had gone out and gotten herself a little something to make her late. If only "He" could have been more like Leonard. In the years she had been assigned to the Enterprise, Leonard had become, if not a father, as close to one as Christine had ever come. She knew how much he worried about her. And, even though they never talked about it, he knew of her feelings for Spock. Near as they ever got to discussing it, was a sad look on his face, with a comment about how she ought to get out more. Get out more! If Leonard only knew how hard getting out was. After all these years of constant control, it was easier now. But still, even now, to be in a crowded room, with all those emotions and feelings running wild, was still so hard.

Christine couldn't help a little chuckle at that last thought. Whatever would Spock make of that?

Christine slowed down as she neared sick bay. She took a few deep breaths to calm herself, and then palmed open the door. Christine sighed in relief. The main ward seemed deserted. She had managed to make it to her small office, and pulled up her current research project when Dr. Leonard McCoy popped into the doorway.

"Morning, Chris. Get in late last night?"

McCoy leaned against the doorway, cup of coffee in hand, and an evil looking grin on his face. Christine heaved a deep sigh. "Leonard!"

"Ah, come on, Chris. Tell your old friend all about it."

"Leonard, there's nothing to tell. Actually I got in fairly early. Nyota asked me to the rec room. Everyone had asked her for a performance last week. She knows how much I like her singing. End of story."

McCoy's grin faded. His eyes took on that sad look he gave her way too often.

"Now you know, Chris, it wouldn't hurt you to get home a little late sometimes."

Christine rolled her eyes, and blew out an exasperated breath.

"Now don't get all huffy with me, little girl. I just can't help it. A pretty little thing like you wasting you youth dreaming about…"

Exasperated Christine put up her hands as if to ward off the lecture.

"Enough, Leonard. I'm quite happy with my life. Okay?!"

McCoy shrugged his shoulders.

"Okay, Chris. Anyhow, don't go getting to settled in there. We have a meeting in the briefing room at 09:00."

"We, Leonard?"

McCoy's grin was back, and twice as evil looking.

"Yeah, well, Jim said it's some sort of 'diplomatic' thing. He told me to bring someone who would have 'poise' in a diplomatic atmosphere. You know, someone who could make up for an old country boy like me. Honey, if there's one thing you got, it's poise. I suppose it doesn't hurt that you're pretty as hell and look great in a dress uniform to boot!"

Christine gave him her iciest glare and said with as much sarcasm as possible "Thank you, doctor!"

McCoy laughed as he retreated back to his own office. "You're welcome, darling. See you in an hour."

Christine tried to get back into her research, but she just couldn't concentrate. This was just what she needed. A "diplomatic thing!" Knowing McCoy, whatever it was, he would probably try and push it off on her. He just couldn't stand all that pomp and circumstance kind of thing. Well, neither could she. All she wanted to do was stay here and do her work in peace. He was always trying to push her into things. Like last night. Why couldn't he leave well enough alone?

She had a good life. She was happy. Well, for the most part. And she did love to hear Nyota sing. Nyota was one of the only people she called friend on the Enterprise. Sure, people had made overtures, and she would have liked to accept. It was just too hard. The wall she had built inside herself was a shield against the worst of it. Still, all those emotions running wild! Nyota was different. Her emotions were like a song. All was harmonious inside Nyota.

Once again Christine drifted back into her past.

The eight-year-old Christine thought about asking her father. In her short life she had learned things went easier if she didn't bother him. Besides he had left a day after Leigh. He wasn't due back for at least a year's time. Thalra? She had looked Thalra up on her computer. Thalra 4 was a class M inhabited planet that had first been contacted by the Federation over sixty years ago. They had turned down offers of membership to the Federation three times, and eventually cut off all contact with them. It was a number one hands off world, and it seems that's how they wanted to stay. It mentioned that their reclusive nature had something to do with them being a telempathic race. Telempathic? Thalrarian whore? What did Leigh mean? And what did she mean "you killed my Mother?"

In the end she had asked the only person she could. Anna MacPhee had been the Chapel housekeeper since Leighton and Veronica Chapel had first married. She had been Christine's only friend in an otherwise bleak household. Anna had refused to speak of it at first, but eventually she came to realize it was the only way to help Christine. The story was heartbreaking at best, but mostly it was dark and sordid.

She told her of Leighton and Veronica's new love. Of her father's desires to rise to high "office." Of her sister's birth, and Leighton's return to space duty. She told her of the day he returned. The day he brought Istiana home. Istiana, pretty as a picture, no more than 15 or 16, dark haired, dark eyed. Istiana, who had a strange way of making you feel uncomfortable, like she was crawling around inside your skin. He told them he had bought her freedom from a Harkin trader. The girl had looked at him with pleading eyes, and he felt he just had to help her. The trader had told him she was from Thalra 4. He bought her for a good price. It seemed he was having trouble getting her off his hands.

At this point Anna almost couldn't go on, but she knew she had to. Christine's whole future would depend on it. She told her of a growing obsession. Of lies told. Of lusty throaty cries of pleasure late in the deep of night. She told her of her birth and of Veronica's suicide shortly afterward. Of Leigh finding her mother afterwards, and her anger and subsequent withdrawal afterwards. About her father's turn against Istiana, and her new child. She told her of how Istiana had tried to run away with her, and how her father had brought her back alone. She had never seen Istiana again. Anna had named her Christine herself, and had raised her almost as her own.

Despite it all, Christine had flourished. She tried , with no success, at every opportunity to win her father's affection. And Leigh, she slavishly adored. For this she usually wound up black and blue. Anna told her of the time when she first knew Christine was different. Anna had, while preparing dinner, sliced her finger badly. Christine had run to her, telling her "not to hurt." Anna had felt it then. Almost the same feeling she had around Istiana. All she knew was that the pain was reduced to a dull throb almost immediately and the cut had all but healed in just two days. From that day on, she feared for Christine. Leighton would never accept her and neither would anyone else. She did her best to teach Christine to hide and fear her "gift."

The older Christine looked back on her life since that time. There was so much she understood now. The things she had done trying to win her father's affection. Her hair for one. She was fourteen years old when she came home a blond. Anna had nearly skinned her alive. Her father never seemed to notice. Going against nature. Applying to Federation Officers training academy. Getting kicked out after just three months. Every time she knocked someone down during combat exercises, she just couldn't stop herself from flopping down next to them to make sure they were okay. Needless to say her instructors eventually suggested that maybe she ought to apply to the medical department. And always the control. By the time she was enrolled in medical school her "gift" was so far behind that large wall she had built that even she sometimes had trouble feeling it. All she had done, she did in hopes of winning his love. In the end none of it had mattered. Leighton Chapel had died on away duty when Christine was just eighteen.

The com sounded, startling Christine out of her memories. Spock's deep resonant voice brought her squarely up to the present.

"Dr. Chapel, your presence is requested in briefing room 3 in 15 point 4 minutes. Please be on time. Spock out."

Christine stared down at the com unit.

"And good morning to you, Spock! 15 point 4 minutes? Why thank you for pointing that out to me. So thoughtful of you!" She brought her fist sharply down on top of the com unit. Damn his Vulcan hide anyhow. Even now all this time later, he still freaked out around her. Well, as near as a Vulcan can freak out. It wasn't like she had decided to fall for him. In fact when she came on board it was with one purpose and only one purpose to find Roger Corby. Dear Roger. She now understood why she had chose a man so much older. As horrible as his death had been, she couldn't help but be thankful he hadn't lived to learn the truth. And then had come Spock. How was she to know she would run smack dab into "him?"

And run into him she did. Right from the very first day.

She was lost, utterly and hopelessly lost. This was her first assignment off world, and also the first time aboard a Federation ship. Constitution class? Why didn't they just tell her it was the size of Wyoming for God's sake? Not only did she have to find her way to her quarters; she had to do it with a fifty-pound plus duffel slung over her shoulder, and assorted books and papers in both hands. She had got it right at the turbo lift. Deck four. That much she knew. Now if she could just find 4144. Christine stopped in her tracks. That one said 4136. Turning around she peered at the last door. Didn't that one say 4138? She could have sworn the numbers were getting higher.

Christine shrugged her shoulders thinking she must just be too stressed. She wheeled around and smacked right into a big blue velour wall. The duffel, books and papers landed at a heap at their feet. Christine looked quickly up to the man's face a heartfelt apology at her lips. The face. She couldn't believe the face. He had to be one of the handsomest men she had ever seen. Well, maybe not the handsomest, but he sure had something. It was him! That Mr. Spock. She had seen his face so many times on the vid screen. Heard about him all through the Academy. He was fascinating to almost everyone, but no one knew the special fascination he held for her. There were so many things she would like to ask him. She wondered if it was as hard for him?

The apology died on her lips. Her mouth suddenly felt like cotton. "Ahh ahh I I'm so sorry, sir!" Her usually soft voice had turned into a kind of rusty squeak. She dropped to her knees to gather up her belongings. She could just feel that damn short skirt riding up her butt. So much for dignity.

Spock knelt down and helped her with the clean up. "That's quite all right, Lt. Chapel, I believe?"

"How do you know who I am?" Christine had stopped her gathering and was looking curiously up into Spock's face. As she looked at him, she realized he didn't feel like a Vulcan. She had been around Vulcans before and they just didn't feel like this. He felt like…Felt like?! What was happening to her? He was a telepath, for heaven sakes, and she picks now to start losing her control! Using every ounce of will she possessed, Christine slammed the wall back in place.

Spock cocked an elegant eyebrow up. "I have been over the crew roaster with Captain Kirk several times. I recognized you." As he looked at her his brow began to knit.

Christine hurried to her feet.

Spock rose up, the intent look still on his face. "Lieutenant?

"Yes, sir?"

Spock's brow slowly unfurled. "Never mind. You'll find your quarters just down the corridor to your right." With that Spock moved off down the hall.

That was the first time. And as professional as she tried to be, it just kept happening. Whenever she was near him, she could feel her control start to drop. It was like her "gift" had a mind all of its own. Each time she had to fight to hold the wall up. She could see that he could feel something, but since he didn't know what it was, he just felt vaguely uneasy around her. He probably just chalked it up to her being an over emotional human. But then came that damned virus. She still couldn't believe how she acted or what came out of her mouth even if she had been starting to feel that way. So, on it went through the years and after nearly three and half years later, he was more reserved with her than ever.

Christine noticed the chronometer. Eight point three minutes to go. Better get a move on. Wouldn't want to be late now would we?

Christine made it to the briefing room with forty-five seconds to spare. She took the only seat left, and, of course, it had to be directly across from Spock. She sheepishly looked up right into a Vulcan glare complete with raised eyebrow. She gave him an eyebrow right back then turned her attention to Captain Kirk

Jim Kirk had, as usual, noticed the subtle exchange. Silently he gave Chris an "atta girl". After all these years, he couldn't understand why the two of them just couldn't get over it. Sure, Chris had a big thing for Spock years ago, but it wasn't like she was chasing around after him. In fact she seemed the very model of professionalism. It just wasn't like Spock to hold a grudge. But Jim swore he could see Spock's hackles rise the minute she got around him. Oh, well.

He cleared his throat and began, "Okay, people, as I'm sure you know by now, headquarters has decided to send us on a little 'diplomatic' mission. The Federation has invited Thalra 4 to join the Federation three times in the past. Each time it was 'thanks, but no thanks.' And the thing is we never really were quite sure why. They just said we weren't ready for each other yet. That was up until a month ago. It seems that the Thalrarians have been working on some 'enhancements' that would make 'dealing with us' easier, and a month ago HQ got a message from Thalra. They have proposed a cultural exchange meeting before they make any commitment to the Federation. As 'luck' would have it, we're the closest to Thalra, and since we've done a lot of these things before, HQ wants us to be their representatives."

Spock glanced about the room as Kirk talked. He had been fully informed on their mission when the HQ transmission had come in. He was gratified to see the captain had chosen less colorful language for this meeting. The away team would consist of Captain Kirk and himself, Doctors McCoy and Chapel, Uhura, Sulu and a few yet to chosen. All were present, and at this moment showed varying amounts of interest. Dr. McCoy seemed annoyed as usual. Uhura and Sulu both seemed very interested. Dr. Chapel? Dr. Chapel looked tense. Once again an elegant eyebrow swept upwards. He hoped that this tenseness had nothing to do with their impending landing party detail together. He did not want to have to deal with another emotional outburst. Of course, to be fair, it had been years since she had reacted that way around him. Why, even 8.3 months ago during their experience on Platonius, she had showed remarkable restraint. True, she had spoken of her feelings, but they had been in extreme circumstances. Once back aboard the Enterprise, she had immediately checked upon the well being of the landing party, and had never mentioned the incident since. He himself had considered discussing the events with her. He had a rather odd "feeling" during their forced time together, and he was interested to find out if she had had a similar experience. That, of course, would have presented another problem. He would have to spend some time with her to discuss the matter. Spending any length of time with "Christine" left him with a vague uneasiness that he did not understand. The opportunity, for discussion, had never presented itself. Dr. Chapel never seemed to be the same room with him for more than a few minutes.

Jim's voice broke into his musing. "Mr. Spock, please fill us in on all the details on Thalra 4."

As the Captain and Spock had talked Christine had struggled to compose herself. Thalra 4? How could she go there? There had to be a way to get out of this. She would just have to think of something Leonard would believe. And she tried. She had attempted to stress the importance of her research. He had countered that she was at a point where a junior member could "babysit" the project for her. Back and forth they went. She finally tried the "I'm not feeling so well" route. He had her up on that diagnostic bed so fast she wasn't even sure how she got there. After pronouncing her healthy as a horse, he started to give her one of his intense stares.

"Christine, is there any reason you don't want to go on landing detail???"

She knew where this was going. Knowing it was her last option, she swallowed her pride. "Well doctor it's just that (big sigh) well I…"

"Chris, is this because of something personal? Maybe someone?"

Christine willed her eyes to start to tear. "Oh, Leonard, I ... please don't make me. It's just too hard." She looked beseechingly up at him. Maybe just maybe it was working.

"Chris, honey, you know I would do anything for you. But this mission is just too important, and besides it's past time you started dealing with this. No, honey, I think this may be just the thing you need. You've come a lot farther than you think. I know, I've watched you for years. You're downright professional with him now. You can't let something like this set you back."

Fuming inwardly Christine was sorry she had ever tried it in the first place. She willed herself to look helpless and sad and said meekly "if you insist, doctor."

That was three days ago.

* * *

Spock had arisen, just as on his days on Vulcan, in the quiet hour before dawn. The living space he had been provided with opened out onto a private terrace. It was here that he had spent a quiet hour in meditation. The harmony of kali and katra restored, he inhaled deeply and slowly opened his eyes. The Thalra sun was just beginning to make its presence known. He watched in fascination as the sky slowly turned a breathtaking cerulean blue. Unbidden, the word Paradise entered his thoughts. A barely perceivable smile touched the corners on his mouth as he reflected on how Paradise had come to mind.

Three days ago as he had sat, in the briefing room, contemplating the Dr. Chapel issue he had almost started when Jim Kirk had asked him for the details. He made a mental note to meditate on his lack of discipline. Why was it that his thoughts would not stay on the matter at hand, and why was he thinking about her again? Refocusing his attention, he began to list the facts known about Thalra 4.

Thalra 4 was a class M planet near the Romulan border. Slightly smaller than the planet Earth it had a 7.6 percent lesser gravitational pull, 8.2 percent higher oxygen content. It would give most humans, and Vulcans for the matter, a slightly elevated sense of well being, or as Dr. McCoy had put it "an extra spring in your step." 79.3 percent of the planet's surface was covered in water. The major landmasses consisted of 7 continental islands. Year round average temperatures of 85.7 degrees. Rains fell between the hours of midnight and four am on an almost daily basis in summer months, every few days in winter. There was abundant flora and fauna. The seat of government was located on the largest island called Lareona. The government system consisted of a council of elders and had been in effect for thousands of years. There was a small space fleet, and these used for local trade purposes only. There was no military force of any kind. Instead a planetary shielding system, one that rivaled any in the known universe, was utilized to deter any unprovoked attacks. Little else was known about the Thalrarians as a people. They were known to be a telemphatic race, and until this time had been reclusive in nature. Nothing was known about the recent enhancements that had been made that would make communications with off worlders easier.

As he had finished his report Lt. Uhura sighed audibly. He turned with a curious look in her direction. "Lt. Uhura?"

"It sounds like Paradise, Mr. Spock."

"Explain, Lieutenant."

Nyota's face took on a dreamy exprssion. "Summer year round. Endless beaches, lush tropical flora. No military, no worries about attacks, peaceful people. Paradise!"

At this point Jim felt he ought to interject. "Be that as it may, Nyota, keep in mind we don't know much about the Thalrarian's as a people. They have been so reclusive in the past the most detailed reports we have come from traders. We're here to learn about their culture. We have two weeks to learn as much as we can. We're also here as official representatives for the Federation. We will all be under the microscope, folks. They have looked down their noses three times in the past so I want us all on our best behaviors."

Dr. Chapel spoke. "Captain Kirk I've….. I've heard stories….. about Thalrarians."

Spock took note of her rigid posture and slightly furrowed brow.

"Yes, well, Christine, I sure you're not the only one in this room to have heard the stories. Not much is really known about telempaths. I myself have heard everything from miracle healers of the soul to ruthless plunderers of mind and feelings. I will tell you this much. These people have been around for thousands and thousands of years. Their recorded history alone goes back over three thousand years. They are known to be a highly intelligent race. With their telempathic powers they could probably have conquered a major portion of the universe if they had wanted to. There's nothing to worry about here, people. Remember they've come to us this time. With that said I suggest we wrap this up. We have a lot to do before reaching Thalra tomorrow afternoon."

Spock remained in his seat knowing Jim would want his "thoughts" on the meeting. Dr. McCoy also chose to remain seated, and at the moment was peering intently at Dr. Chapel. Dr. Chapel was almost to the door when Lt. Uhura reached out and put a hand on her arm. She leaned in close and whispered to Christine, but Spock with his superior sense of hearing heard every word.

"Chris, what's up with you? I've never seen you this tense."

Christine sighed and shook her head at her friend. "I'm not tense, Ny. It's just you know how I feel about meeting people I don't know."

"Honey, if you were any tenser, you'd snap in half. If I didn't know better I would say you were frightened about going. You know if you don't start loosening up some around people you'll make yourself sick. You get along fine with me. What are you afraid of? That you'll make some new friends?"

At this Christine smiled and tilted her head slightly downwards. "Ny, I can't explain. It's different with you. Sometimes other people…well, I make them uncomfortable. It's difficult for me to be around that kind of feeling. Forget it. Come on, let's get out of here. I'll buy you a cup of coffee."

Spock lowered his gaze to the table his brow furrowed in concentration. He had not meant to overhear such a personal conversation. He could not help but wonder if he was "the people" that she referred to. He did not want to be the cause of anyone's discomfort. It was odd indeed to hear this out of Christine's mouth. He had often recognized his presence had the same effect on others. His brow drew tighter. He had never thought about the two of them having similar life experiences.

The two women left had left. Only the captain, Dr. McCoy and himself remained. Jim leaned back in his chair an exhaled a huge breath. "Bones, what the hell was that all about? Is she gonna be all right with this? I can't have anyone falling apart down there!"

Spock turned his gaze to the doctor. "Indeed, Doctor. Dr. Chapel did seem rather tense. Perhaps she should be replaced."

McCoy shot out of his chair, placed both hands palm down on the table, and leaned in towards Spock. "Listen here, you. That's just what you want, isn't it? So what if Chris was a little tense? She's the best that I got!" He turned his glance to the other end of the table. "Jim, you know Chris. She's a true professional. Hell, she's having a rough day or something. Most times you'd almost swear she's a damn Vulcan or something. She's even more tight-lipped than he is. She can handle this, and she'll do it with dignity too. It's just the way she is. If you're really worried about it I'll talk to her, but I don't think it's necessary. She'll be fine."

Kirk looked at his old friend. He had to admit to himself that everything Bones had said was true. "Okay, Bones, you're right, but if I hear one peep about this by the day after tomorrow!!"

"You won't, Jim!" And Jim didn't. But he sure enough did. Christine tried every trick in the book to get out of going. In the end his first hunch was right. It was all about that "pointy eared" Vulcan again. Things would go a lot easier if… Ah well, he got Chris straightened out anyhow.

Spock rose from the bench, and stretched the morning stiffness from his limbs. He approached the low terrace wall and looked out. The building they sheltered in last night was, on this side, a series of graceful terraces. Which in turn led onto a series of gardens, also gracefully terraced, that led to the edge of the sea. As he watched he noticed a Thalrarian woman enjoying one of the lower gardens. She seemed so at peace with herself. He could understand. Everything he had seen or experienced since arriving did lend itself to a peaceful experience. He thought back to their arrival yesterday.

As they assembled in the transporter, Spock had took advantage of the confusion to regard Dr. Chapel. To someone who hadn't observed her as much, she would appear calm and relaxed. Under Spock's knowing observation she still appeared to be under a considerable amount of stress. As she listened to their last minute instructions, her left hand had crept up to run anxious fingertips at the hairline under her left ear. She smiled a small tight smile at something Lt. Uhura had said. Normally she would have smiled her appealing wide smile and probably would have ended it with her musical laugh. Both Spock's eyebrows rose up towards his hairline. He wondered when he had noticed the appeal of her smile and the sound of her laugh? Something to meditate on at another time. At the moment he had made up his mind. He would have to talk to her. It seemed obvious that he was the cause of her discomfort. Although it would be difficult to spend time with her, he would try and set her at ease. He would simply let her know that although he was aware of her feelings, and could not return them, he took no insult from them. That should work. After all, for a long time now, she had been very professional in her dealings with him. She would be relieved. She stood to one side by herself for the moment. Spock approached. "Dr. Chapel, may I speak with you?"

Christine swung around and looked up into his face. "Oh, Spock, you startled me. I guess it would be all right. We seem to be almost ready here. What is it you want to speak to me about?"

"Dr. Chapel, I…." Spock hesitated. An odd feeling of disquiet came over him. "I…"

"Yes? What can I do for you, Spock."

He had the sense, although a vague sense, that someone was looking at him. No, not looking at him but something. He lifted his head his gaze looking about him. He could not adequately describe the sensation. It made him feel, as illogical as it was, decidedly uncomfortable. Before he could speak Kirk called for them to take their places. "Doctor, perhaps we could talk at a later time?"

Christine looked at him slightly perplexed. "Ah okay. If you want?" She did not look as if she was speaking the truth. Directly after beam down the party found themselves facing out towards the sea. They were standing on a large tiled circular platform that seemed to be in the middle of a cove. Further out in the cove a large multi tiered fountain splashed in a magnificent display. At their sides the land circled out to almost but not quite meet at the mouth of the cove.



They turned and saw that the platform was joined to the mainland by a wide walkway. From this view they could see they were in front of a large white building. At most four stories tall, it made up for its lack of height with its width. It mirrored the curve of the cove almost halfway around. The building sloped back away from the water in wide terraces. It was composed of some sort of white stone that glistened in the afternoon sun. In fact all the buildings in the distance seemed to be made of this same white stone. Directly in front of them, half way down the walkway stood a greeting party. There were seven Thalrarians in all. They were slightly taller and thinner than the humans before them were and it gave them an almost graceful quality. Like the buildings and walkways around them they were attired in white. The gowns were simple in design, somewhat fitted robes with a tie at the waist. On closer inspection, although they all appeared to be made of the same type of cloth, there were subtle distinctions in the designs. The only adornment that they wore was a thin bejeweled diadem about their foreheads. All the white would seem stark if not for the nature around them. The sky was a deep blue, the water crystal clear, the beaches covered with sand of the palest shell pink. The land that they could see was covered with lush vegetation and flowers. The building itself was fairly covered with flowers of every description and hue. In large stone containers, trailing down over the terraces, flowers of every color could be seen. Truly it was a beautiful place.

The two parties approached each other. The leader of the Thalrarain party stepped forward. She appeared, in Earth years, to be in her mid seventies. She brought her hands together in front of her waist her fingertips arranged in a steeple. She bowed her head slowly and raised her gaze to them again. She spoke.

"Welcome to Thalra. We are the council of elders and I am the Set, the head elder. I am known as Keltieri. May our souls join in harmony. And you are Captain James Kirk, I believe?"

And so the introductions started. Spock stood at Jim's side. "Keltieri, may I present Commander Spock of Vulcan."

She looked deeply into his eyes. "Spock, you are Vulcan? Is there more? Human perhaps?"

Spock stood a little straighter one eyebrow raised slowly. "I am half Vulcan, Keltieri. Tell me, how did you know?" He believed he already knew. It was a subtle touch but it had been there none the less.

"I have met Vulcans before. Traders. You have a feel different than them. Forgive me if I have offended you."

"I take no offense, Set Keltieri. I was merely curious as to how you knew. I hope to learn more of your peoples 'sense' in our time here."

Keltieri smiled and nodded her head in acceptance. Spock had the sense he had been patted on the head by the elder. It was a most "uncomfortable feeling." The party moved on to his right. Lt. Uhura stood next to him and Dr. Chapel after her. He noticed that Dr. Chapel still seemed tense. He doubted anyone else would notice. She stood straight and tall with a bland smile on her face, but he could see the tension in posture. The captain was introducing Keltieri to Lt. Uhura.

"May I present Lt. Nyota Uhura, our chief communications officer."

"Greetings Lt. Uhura." Keltieri's mouth turned up in wide smile. She turned to the members of the council. "She's like music." The council members smiled and laughed softly in response. "Forgive us, Lieutenant. It's just a delightful feeling we sense from you."

Lt. Uhura smiled in return. "Why, thank you, Set Keltieri. I don't think anyone has ever paid me a nicer compliment."

Spock watched Christine during the exchange. At Keltieri's comment, a fleeting smile had passed her lips. As the party moved towards her, her shoulders tensed even more. Her forced smile returned.

"Set Keltieri, may I present Dr. Christine Chapel, head assistant to our CMO."

Keltieri started to bow her head in greeting. She gave an almost inaudible gasp. She took a step towards Christine, and raised her hand, palm facing the doctor. "Istiania?!" The word came out as a whisper. Christine took a small step backwards the smile gone from her face. Keltieri dropped her hand immediately. "Forgive me, Doctor. I did not mean to startle you. It's just that you're a lovely woman. You all will find we appreciate beauty here." At that she smiled and moved on. Spock noticed though she glanced back at Dr. Chapel more than once as they moved down the line. Istiana? The universal translater had no translation for this word. Spock had not seen it anywhere in his language research. He would ask for a translation later.

Introductions finished they were informed of a banquet to be held in their honor that evening. Set Keltieri had explained that it would be a formal affair and she knew that they probably had dress uniforms. She told them that Thalrarian robes had been provided for their use but only if they wanted to use them. She suggested they wear whatever was most comfortable for them. She showed them to their quarters, explaining as they went that the afternoon was their free time of day. Thalrarians worked from early morning till mid-day, that being the warmest time of day. They returned to work from late afternoon till early evening. They would have the afternoons free to go where they pleased and intermingle with the people of Thalra.

Spock found his quarters to be most luxurious, the whole back wall glassed in and bare to its own private terrace. It afforded a fine view of lovely gardens and the beach farther down. He rested for a time, and then arose to dress for the banquet. He considered his dress uniform, but reached for his Vulcan robe instead. He took Keltieri at her word. His robe would be extremely comfortable in this climate and would blend well with their own style of dress. Thus attired he made his way slowly to the banquet hall.

Upon entering he notice the captain and Dr. McCoy had opted to wear their dress uniforms. Lt. Uhura, Dr. Chapel and Lt. Sulu were all in Thalrarian robes. They were quite becoming to all three. While commenting on this to Jim and McCoy, the doctor said something to the affect that he would rather strangle to death than be caught wearing a dress. While Spock had thought that this was insulting to their hosts, the captain had merely laughed.

Much of their culture was learned over dinner. The Thalrarians believed, like Vulcans, that their world had been seeded by an ancient race. Their earliest history, recorded nearly three thousand years ago, made mention of this. Also like Vulcans they had had their dark period, a time when they had used telepathic and emphatic powers with wild abandon. Through the centuries they had learned they had to curb their wild natures in order to survive. But until now they still had not trusted themselves to deal fairly with off-worlders.

The evening was a pleasant success but, afterwards, two incidents stood out in his thoughts. The first was when he found himself alone and standing beside a server. He had turned and asked the server if he could ask a question. The young man had stood up a little taller, obviously pleased that one of the dignitaries would value his opinion, and said he would be pleased to be of service. Spock asked him if he could translate the word istiana. The young man look perplexed for a moment, and then told him "I'm most sorry, sir, I can not. Istiana is not a word. Istiana would be a person's name." Spock had thanked the young man, and let him return to his duties. Spock though about this, and then thought back to Keltieri's reaction upon meeting Dr. Chapel. He found it most curious.

The second incident had come after dinner. Many of the Thalrarians and members of the different landing parties were dancing. Set Keltieri was making rounds and had just stopped to ask Spock how he was enjoying the evening. He had returned her pleasantries and then asked if he make an inquiry.

"Why, yes, of course, Commander Spock. What is your question?"

"I was wondering about your diadem. Is it a sign of your family clan or of some other significance?"

Dr. Chapel had been standing close by. Upon hearing his question, she approached. "Excuse me for intruding, but I too would like to know about them. They are so beautiful." Indeed they were beautiful. They were small, maybe a half inch in with. They were encrusted with small opalescent stones. Each diadem seemed to be set with a different pattern, and the stones all glowed with a different light.

Keltieri smiled. "No, Spock, the diadem has no clan significance other than our families share a variation of the same pattern. The diadem is actually the enhancement we have spoken about. These stones possess energy that is a natural damper for our telemphatic sense. For centuries our people avoided the area where these stones are in abundance. In such quantity they had a profound effect on our natural abilities. Our ancestors actually believed the ancients cursed this place. One brave soul finally chanced everything and brought some stones back for study. That was hundreds of years ago, and we have worn these diadems since. The earliest diadems were not strong enough. They helped block our senses to each other, but not strongly enough to block the senses from off-worlders. About fifty years ago our research started to pay off. You are here today because we have finally found a way to increase the individual stones' properties."

Spock peered closely at Keltieri's diadem. He slowly moved one hand up. "May I?"

Keltieri smiled and shook her head. "Yes, you may, Commander, but with another diadem. We would be glad to provide you with one. We rarely remove our diadems. It is an intensely personal thing. There are few times when they are removed. At joining a couple removes each other's diadem so they might complete the merging of, not just the bodies, but their thoughts, feelings, and their souls. Once joined, it is for life. Parents remove them at birth so they may join with their children and at the death of a loved one so the spirit can go free. Without them we feel naked to the world."

Spock had long since dropped his hand. Dr. Chapel continued to look at the diadem as she spoke.

"I am truly amazed that something can be so beautiful and have so much meaning. Thank you for telling us about them, Set Keltieri."

Keltieri called a server to her. She stepped away to quietly speak to him. When she was done he left quickly. She turned back to Christine and Spock. "Christine Chapel, it is the custom of my people to please those around us. You so seem to admire our diadems. I would like to make a gift to you."

The server had returned. In his hand he carried a box. At Keltieri's nod, he opened the lid. Inside was an exquisite diadem, its jeweled pattern somewhat resembling Keltieri's own. "This diadem belonged to my youngest sister. She was lost to us at a very young age. It would give me great pleasure if you would accept my gift. Have no fear of wearing it. The diadem only effects a Thalrarian's senses to those around them. It will not harm you."

Christine appeared somewhat awed. "Set Keltieri, I am deeply honored, but I can't accept. This has been in your family for generations. It is too generous of you."

"To reject this gift would be an insult to me, and my family. Please understand it is our way."

Christine quickly looked at Spock in a wordless exchange. There was a lifted eyebrow and a quick nod of the head. She looked back at Keltieri. "Set Keltieri, I would be honored to accept."

"Good. Now let me help you with it." She reached down and picked up the diadem. She looked at it for a moment a small smile on her lips. She slowly reached up and placed it on Christine's forehead. When she was finished, she took Christine's chin in her hand and brought it up slightly to gaze deeply in her eyes. Moments passed. Spock noticed as Keltieri looked at her, Dr. Chapel seemed to lose all her earlier tension. The first real smile he had seen in days played on her lips. Keltieri finally released her. "There, like it was made for you. You are truly beautiful, my child. Now I must attend to the rest of our guests." With that she turned and continued to circle the room.

Spock looked at her closely. "Indeed, Christine, its beauty and yours complement each other." He wondered at the choice of her first name. Christine looked down, her gaze resting somewhere in the vicinity of his chest. A soft blush began to color her cheek.

"Thank you, Spock. I…."

"There is no need to thank me, Christine. I speak only the truth."

She looked up at him then, her blush deepening. He realized that he still wanted to speak with her, but not about the subject he had wanted to this morning. He could see now that her tension had not been related to him. He could also see that it seemed to be gone now. There were questions forming in his mind. Questions that only she could answer. He also realized, and questioned, that for the first time he did not feel uncomfortable in her presence. "Christine, do you remember our conversation from this morning? I would still very much like to speak with you. If we could."

At this point Dr. McCoy interrupted.

"Chris, well, I see you've been making friends." He had taken her by the arm and was looking pointedly at her diadem. He started tugging her in the direction he had arrived from. "Ah, excuse us, Spock. Chris, you just have to come and talk to this healer I've met. He has some interesting theories you gotta hear."

Christine shrugged at Spock as the doctor started to drag her away. "I'm sorry, Spock."

He nodded his head in acceptance. "With your permission at a later time, Dr. Chapel?"

"Of course."

There had not come a time for the rest of the evening. Spock again became aware of his surroundings. The Thalrarian woman was in the garden just below his terrace. Just as she passed onto the next level, and her own private terrace, he realized that she was not a Thalrarian at all but Dr. Chapel. It was very odd that he had not noticed her resemblance to these people before this. He once again felt questions form in his head. Both eyebrows slowly raised nearly to his hairline. One word escaped from his lips.

"Fascinating!"

* * *

Christine had arisen in the pre dawn to meditate. She had practiced the simple Vulcan meditation technique known as Wh'ltri since her years at the Academy. Between trying to win her father's love and trying to control the terrible power within her, the young Christine had never had time for the things other young people did. No time, and no desire. As she grew her interactions with other young people had just grown harder. No matter how big she built the wall, some part of it just seemed to seep out around the edges. It was always the same. She would meet someone new and start to make friends. Shortly afterwards would come the fidgeting and then the funny looks. Eventually they'd find some reason to pick a fight with her. They usually ended with them calling her a freak or some other name. They didn't come back. By the time she was ready for the Starfleet Medical Academy, she was virtually a recluse.

The Academy. Nothing could have prepared her. Suddenly she had found herself surrounded by scores of young people. Yes, young people and in particular young male people. As a youngster, she had been rather tall and gawky, but by the time she had turned eighteen she was like a young swan. Although still taller than most young women, she had developed curves in all the right places. She carried herself with a graceful bearing. This combined with her shy aloofness seemed to make young men wild to meet her. She was polite but firm with all of them. She had even stooped to lying outright, telling some of the more persistent ones that she was engaged to a Starfleet officer. It got her through.

Until Matt. He was in her Astrobiophysics 101 course. She had noticed him. She couldn't have helped it if she wanted to. He was tall. Almost a full head taller than her. He had beautiful wavy auburn hair. His eyes were gray. He had a cleft in his chin and when he smiled he had the most amazing dimples. He seemed friendly enough chatting with people before and after class, but she noticed he didn't talk much to any of the girls. He was smart too. Smarter than her even and she was nearly straight A. One day Christine was running late for class. She had barely gotten to her seat before Professor Sekre had started the lesson. Upon reaching her desk, she had dropped her belongings all over the floor. As she had knelt to pick them up, she had heard his pleasant voice.

"Christine, here let me help you. By the way, my name's Matt. I'm kinda glad this happened. I've been looking for a chance to talk to you."

She had tried. Oh tonight? I just can't, there's that test in Vulcan lit. tomorrow. But he was persistent, and in the end she said yes. She could have kicked herself as she said it, but he was, well, wonderful. He had taken her out for dinner and a concert. She had had a wonderful time. At the door he had given her a quick kiss. She thought that she would never see him again, but the next day after class he had asked her out again.

After their date she had asked him in to her small apartment for coffee. Soon they were on her couch discussing the vid they had seen that night. As he had talked to her his hand, which had been resting on top of the sofa behind her, had slowly moved to her shoulders. Ever so slowly he had begun to run his fingertips up and down the column of her neck. It tickled, and it also had started an odd pulsing deep in her loins. He had told her she was beautiful and had slowly moved to place his mouth where his fingertips had been. Christine knew she should have stopped him, but the pulsing was getting so intense. She felt her control start to slip. She just couldn't concentrate. He had tensed then. He had pulled back. He had stared at her, his brow tensed. She tried harder to push the wall back up, but she could feel it reaching out of her towards him.

His face had changed at that moment. His sweet smile turning into a leer. Before she had known what was happening, he was all over her. He tore at her clothes, his hands rough and punishing. It had hurt so much as he plunged himself into her. It hadn't taken long. Afterwards he had started to cry. He kept saying how sorry he was. She had lain there, not moving. Her lip was split, and she could already feel the skin of her wrists and soft inner thighs bruising. It wasn't until he moved to touch her that she had started to scream. And she had kept screaming until he had left.

She had called in sick that week. Until then she had had perfect attendance. She returned the second week, all the while dreading her afternoon astrobiophysics class. After taking her seat she couldn't help but notice Matt's empty one.

As she had stared at his chair, the girl behind her had leaned up excitedly. "You've been out. You probably haven't heard. Three days ago, they found Matt in his apartment. Can you believe it? He hung himself."

Christine hadn't heard a word after that. By the time class was over, she just barely made it to the restroom before she threw up. She threw up until there was nothing but dry heaves. No matter what he had done to her, she didn't know how she could live with what she had done to him. Sweet gentle Matt, and all because of this horrible thing inside of her.

Three days later she had approached Professor Sekre after class. He was a Vulcan. From all that she had read, and from those she had come into contact with, she knew of their remarkable control over their emotions. She told him that she had been having trouble studying, and asked if he could teach her a meditation technique that would help her focus. She hoped he would not feel anything from her and suspect that she had other motives.

Sekre, as he had looked at the young gumi woman, had suspected that there was something more to her request. There was something that pressed against him, something that barely touched his thoughts. He had been concerned about her recently. Until a few weeks ago she had never missed a class. She was keenly intelligent and kept to herself. He had noticed her interactions with the young man called Matt. Perhaps it was his suicide that was affecting her. Like most Vulcans he had an intense curiosity, but as he had looked at her face he had made up his mind. And so Christine had learned Wh'ltri.

From that time on she had practiced it daily. She never dated again. During her first year of postgraduate studies she had won the spot as Dr. Roger Corby's research assistant. It was considered a high honor, and she worked long and hard to be the best. Dr. Corby had been a soft-spoken man more than twenty years her senior. He had taught her with great patience and gentleness. She felt completely relaxed around him. He never seemed to sense anything strange from her. She felt completely in control. Sometime well in their second year together they had worked later than usual. He had asked her to dinner and she had accepted. They had a relaxing evening together, and she was glad for the company. When two weeks later he asked her again she had agreed but had felt anxious as they had made their way to the restaurant. Dinner had been relaxing and when he had dropped her at her door he had placed a gentle kiss on her lips. She felt nothing.

In the weeks that followed, nights out happened on a regular basis. At the end of each night he had not pressed, he merely had kissed her gently sometimes with a soft caress or two. Slowly he had started to speak of his growing love for her, and then one night he presented her with a ring. She had said yes immediately, and that night he took her to his bed. He was extremely gentle with her, and she never felt the wall slip at all. He did not rouse her to any heights of passion, but it was comfortable. Wanting to be pleasing to him she supplied all the right sounds and told him how wonderful it was afterwards. He was not a very demanding lover, coming to her only once or twice a month. She didn't care. She would make do without passion. He was a good man and she loved him.

She hadn't realized at the time the reasons she had come to love him. Yes, he had been older, but she had never thought of him as a replacement father. She had never thought of him that way in all the time she had searched for him. It wasn't until afterwards. It wasn't until she had recognized her growing interest in Spock that she had questioned her love for Roger. Yes, he had filled that void in her life. Her father! Poor Roger had deserved so much more. And so had she. She wanted to feel the passions everyone else did. She supposed she was doomed to a lonely existence.

She had even questioned her growing desire for Spock in the beginning. She thought she wanted him because being Vulcan he was almost unattainable. Even if she had managed to "obtain" him, he was a Vulcan after all. She imagined her sex life would be next to nil. It wasn't until after that damned virus that she had accepted her feelings. Mortified as she had been, she had spoken the truth. She had begun to know him. She knew of the war inside him. She had felt it from the first moment they had met. As she had come to know him, she knew he was as she was in so many ways.

And of course there was more. After she had started to know him, she had started to see him as a man, a big tall sexy good-looking very desirable man. Desires she thought were gone for life came alive when she looked at him. Because of these desires, more than for any other reason, she tried to avoid him. It would be just like it was with Matt. Never again.

Christine sighed deeply and rose from her bench, and started walking in the gardens. Try as had as she might she hadn't been able to achieve the first level of meditation. She suddenly found it extraordinarily funny that she couldn't meditate. For the first time in her life she felt totally at peace within herself. After last night… Last night after the banquet.

Christine had retired to her quarters early. She was so relieved the Keltieri hadn't said anything. All night long she had waited for "the other shoe" to drop. She kept expecting her to yell out imposter or something. Ever since beam down when she had whispered Istiana Christine knew that she knew. And then the diadem. *The way she had looked at me I was so sure she would say something. The way it felt as if suddenly I was free. That I didn't have to block for a change. It was wonderful. The way "he" looked at me. That was wonderful. Just for once to not see that "I smell something bad look" on his face. To hear him say my name, to call me Christine, was more than I had ever hoped for.*

Later that night she had come. Christine was just about to change into her nightgown when there was a knock on the door. It was Keltieri. She never said a word. She had just stepped into the room closing the door softly behind her. *I can't believe I just stood there like a deer in the headlights.* Slowly Keltieri had reached out to Christine and removed her diadem. Christine remembered trembling, and how she had thought of running when she had watched Keltieri's next move. As she had gazed deeply into Christine's eyes, she had slowly raised her hands to her own diadem. As she removed it, Christine had started to feel the panic and confusion. She was stripping her bare. Her wall torn asunder. The last thing she remembered was hearing a high keening wail, and then realizing that the sound was coming from her.

Afterwards Keltieri had apologized. She had told her it was necessary to see all that had been before she could "heal" her. As traumatic as the experience had been, Christine now felt right for the first time in her life. As Keltieri had left, she had told Christine to come to her when she was ready so she could tell her of her family and her people, and to begin to teach her the way of her gift.

As she walked through the gardens she was struck with the humor of her present situation. For the first time in her life, she felt totally free to be herself. With her diadem she no longer had to hide, but if she was to come "clean", she would be facing a whole new set of problems. Her years of lying to everyone about almost everything could present problems with her chosen life. A life she found she did not want to give up.

Christine turned and stepped up to the next level of the gardens. As she looked up, she recognized Spock standing on his terrace. He did not seem to see her. Now more than ever she wanted to go to him. She wanted to tell him everything. It broke her heart to realize that she could never go to him. He was the only one, in probably the whole universe, who could ever understand, and he was the last one who ever would. He would never be able to accept her because he never had accepted himself. A single tear had worked its way down her cheek. With a sigh she had continued her journey back to her own terrace. She would have to keep very busy these next two weeks. He kept saying he wanted to talk to her about something. She couldn't let that happen. If it did she was afraid of what she might say.

* * *

Christine's prayer to keep busy was answered. Her first two days on Thalra were filled with meetings with various members of the healer's guild. The medical field was odd to say the least, a strange combination of empathic touch and modern surgical techniques. In the distant past all healing had been done through the empath's touch, but in the most serious of cases the patient lived while often the healer died. Through the years they had acquired the medical knowledge needed for survival.

As they lunched, their first free afternoon, Leonard, at his cantankerous best, had made references to witchcraft and poppycock. As the day wore on she was pleased to see his interest growing. For her the whole day was a confirmation of what she had suspected about herself all along. Ever since that first touch with Anna so long ago, she had been afraid to see if she could effect someone in the same way. It wasn't natural. But there had been times on the Enterprise when a patient was gravely ill when she had touched them on the hand or arm in a sympathetic gesture. She had felt some sort of energy flow. Oddly in a few hours there usually had been a marked improvement in their condition. She had tried to tell herself it was coincidence, but she hadn't truly believed it was.

During this time staying out of Spock's way hadn't been a problem. From what she had heard, he was deeply involved in a study of the stones used in the diadems. Knowing Spock's exacting thoroughness, she could relax for a time. The only person making her uncomfortable right now was Keltieri. She had not tried to speak to Christine since the other night, but every time they were in the same meetings Christine would find Keltieri's eyes upon her. It had been traumatic having her wall torn asunder by this woman, but she had to admit that she felt freed now. As long as she wore the diadem she didn't have to practice the control she had lived with for so long.

Free of her wall, but not her fears. Keltieri had experienced all the pain of Christine's past. She had much to share with Christine but she had not forced her. She had simply said she would be waiting for Christine to come to her when she was ready.

Christine wasn't ready. Istiana, her "mother" had been her monster under the bed for so long. Even though her "other people" were proving to be caring and gentle, that woman had to have been different. She had torn her family apart and Christine had grown up with the aftermath. Still she knew she would go to Keltieri. She wouldn't live the rest of her life fearing shadows of the past. No matter how awful the truth she wanted to know. Just not yet. Right now she just wanted to be away from the prying eyes, Keltieri's and Spock's.

It was early evening on the second day when Christine finished her duties. She had spent the afternoon rest with Nyota and Hikaru wandering the city's streets. They had a good time going through the shops and sampling the local cuisine. They had run into Captain Kirk and Spock outside of the restaurant. Thankfully they had not yet eaten and they parted company quickly. She had only glanced briefly at Spock but when she did she saw he was openly appraising her. If it had been any other man, she would have been flattered. Instead what she felt was the first stirrings of fear. He had looked at her as if he knew.

It would be sunset within the hour, and she decided to watch from the beach. She left her terrace and started down through the gardens. She never suspected she was being observed. Spock waited until she was in the lower gardens before he slowly started to follow her. He was ready to ask his questions. Even if she evaded them, there were still things he would check. One of those things was the ship's personal and medical file. If what he suspected were true, there would have to be some evidence in them. In the meantime, he would speak with her. He would start by bringing up the name Istiana to judge her reaction. He had finally brought that very subject up with Keltieri that afternoon as they had worked together.

"Set Keltieri, may I ask you a question?"

"Of course, Spock. What is your question?"

"When we first arrived here, you were introduced to Dr. Chapel. You seemed to have been startled by her. You whispered a name. Who is Istiana?"

Keltieri had sighed deeply and gazed down at the worktable before her. When she looked up, there was sadness in her eyes. "Istiana was my sister. She died a long time ago. Do you know we can feel a loved one's death even if we are far apart? I had not thought about her in a very long time."

"I grieve with thee, Keltieri, but tell me why would you say her name to Dr. Chapel?"

"Because, Commander, Dr. Chapel resembles her. She brought her memory back to me."

"Tell me, Keltieri, what happened to your sister?"

"My sister thought she had found her Ree'alsha, her soul mate. She left home with him and sometime later I felt her die. I never knew anything more. Please, Spock, let us continue our work. Thinking of the past is just making me sad."

And so they had gone back to their studies. Spock wondered where Istiana had left home for, and for whom.

Christine had sat down on a bench at the edge of the sea. As Spock approached her, he noticed she appeared to be deep in thought. He stood quietly next to the bench waiting for her to notice him. When she didn't, he softly cleared his throat. Christine started and made a small gasp.

"Spock. I'm sorry I didn't see you. Please sit down if you'd like."

Spock settled himself on the bench. "Dr. Chapel, perhaps it is time for our discussion."

Christine felt butterflies start in her stomach. She thought quickly on how to postpone the inevitable. "Yes, I suppose, but first tell me how you study of the diadem stones is progressing."

Spock proceeded to tell her of his research. She asked a number of intelligent questions and he found himself enjoying the conversation. When he had finished, out of politeness, he asked about her work. As she spoke of the healer's guild, he found himself fascinated. He found himself enjoying her company as well. When they had exhausted the topic, he knew it was time to speak. When he did, he surprised himself with what came from his lips.

"Christine, may I ask you a personal question?"

Her stomach tightened anew. "Ah, well, yes, Spock, if you want to."

"When I first came upon you here, you seemed deep in thought. May I ask what you were thinking about?"

"Yes, I'm sorry I was pretty preoccupied. It's just whenever I sit by the sea I tend to think of personal things. When you walked up, I was just thinking about my life. The choices I have made, and how my past may have affected those choices."

"And did you come to any conclusions?"

"I believe I did. I think that sometimes we might have to face the past, and any old fears we find there, before we can make our choices for the future." As she said this her gaze returned to the sea. "Oh, look -- the sun's setting. Some things are just so beautiful, aren't they?"

She was unaware that it was her and not the sea that Spock looked at when he gave his reply. "Yes, indeed." He turned to watch the setting sun, but oddly all he could think about was the blueness of her eyes.

"Spock, I suppose we should get back. It will be another long day tomorrow. I'd like to turn in early."

And so they made their way slowly back to their quarters. As they said their good nights, he found himself thanking her for the evening, and suggesting that they might talk again. She smiled then and told him that she would enjoy it also.

It wasn't until he was in his own quarters that he realized his questions were still unspoken. As he pondered this, he came to the conclusion that logically he had decided the time wasn't right. After all he had not yet looked into the files, and his other evidence was merely supposition. Yes, he concluded, that must be the reason. There could be no other. But even as he thought it, one very eloquent eyebrow raised in disagreement.

* * *

Christine awoke to the cry of sea birds overhead. The sun spilled across the comfortable bed. She stretched out like a cat then rolled to her stomach and propped her head on her upraised hand. As much as she preferred ignore everything and linger here in comfort, she had decided last night that today was the day. She was to tour Thalra's largest healing center with Keltieri today. To do this they would have to leave Lanconia and travel to Nevra another of the islands. They would not be alone. Dr. McCoy, Dr. Jacobs, Dr. Nefar and various other medical personal would also be a part of the tour. When she had the chance she would ask Keltieri if they might speak. As she thought of it she could feel tension begin to creep into her neck and shoulders.

She sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed rolling her head from side to side at the same time. "Calm down, Christine. At least this is the only problem you have to deal with today."

Immediately her thoughts turned to Spock. She was so certain yesterday that he had come to tell her he knew about her. Her delaying tactics had been a desperate attempt, but in her heart she was sure if he knew he wouldn't be put off. One thing she knew for certain. If Spock were investigating some problem or mystery, he was just like a dog with a bone. She had never known any man; Human or Vulcan, with such an intense need to know. As she had come to know him, it was one of the many things she admired about him, but in this instance she prayed he would not start to question. Last night, just when she was sure he was about to ask about her, he had instead asked her what she was thinking about. He had never been so personal with her before, and Christine had found herself on the verge of telling him everything. She had long ago accepted her attraction for him. She was better able to handle it now. So much better Leonard often teasingly called the Enterprise's other Vulcan. But last night she had almost given in to her feelings. Luckily the need for self-preservation had kicked in at the last minute. She shook off her thoughts. Now was not the time.

* * *

Spock also had slept well and deeply, but sleep had been long in coming. Now as he attempted to meditate, his thoughts kept drifting back to last night. He did not understand this sudden attraction to Christine. For years he had been well aware of her feelings for him and had avoided any close personal contact with her. He could not return her feelings and had wished to avoid hurting her human sensitivities. But in the rare occasions they had personal dealings with one another, he had felt something. It was not logical but he had felt a vague uneasiness when in close proximity to her. He had come to believe it must be his human half's response to her unwanted attentions. But last night, and as it had been at the reception the other day, he no longer felt this uneasiness. In fact he had found her company quite stimulating. She had proved herself intellectual and well spoken, a fascinating companion. While this in itself did not disturb him, his reaction to her physical appearance did. He had let the chance to question her slip by as he had been gazing at her amazingly blue eyes.

He shook off his wandering thoughts. There was research to be done. He would meditate on his reactions to Dr. Chapel at a later time. He rose and dressed in his standard Star Fleet uniform. After contacting the ship he went to pick up his sample diadem and the loose stones, he had been studying. The Enterprise's labs were better equipped for further study, and he would have ample time for his "other" research. He did not have to be back until the late afternoon session. As he waited for the transporter, he found himself hoping that he would not find evidence to support his theory about Dr. Chapel. Delving into the personal lives of his shipmates was not something he was comfortable with although in this case duty made it necessary.

* * *

Christine's day had been both enlightening and exciting. Throughout her life she had feared the power she carried inside. For the first time she was beginning to realize that it was not the horror she had always believed it to be. Keltieri had introduced the party to Healer Valenra. She was a pleasant and well-spoken woman. She explained the history of Thalra's Healers Guild. From the distant past when all healing had been through empathic touch to the current science that combined both the touch and established medical procedures. Not all Thalrarians possessed the same degree of emphatic power. Some were more telepathic. Some lesser in both senses. Only those with the strongest of emphatic powers entered the Healer's Guild. At one point in the day, Valenra and Christine had fallen back behind the rest of the group.

"Forgive me if I am being impolite, Dr. Chapel, but I know of your relation to Set Keltieri. It has occurred to me that you have probably chosen your profession because the emphatic sense is strong in you. I would like a chance to test your strength. It would be of great benefit to both our worlds."

"Healer Valenra I was not aware that Keltieri had spoken with you. I would prefer that we did not discuss this further. Please understand neither my shipmates or Star Fleet is aware of my background. I would like it kept that way at this time. It might cause problems if they were made aware of it."

"I understand completely. You need not fear for your secret, but if in the future you should change your mind I would be most pleased to be the one to test you. There has never been a Thalrarian/Human before. It would be interesting to find out just what this blending has produced. I do sense that the empath in you is strong. I only ask that you remember me in the future."

They had continued with the rest of the tour then. In a quiet moment, she asked Keltieri if they could speak. She had simply nodded her head and said she would let her know when the time was right.

The time had come at the mid-day rest. They had enjoyed a pleasant lunch. The doctors of the Enterprise were deeply engrossed in a conversation with the Thalrarian healers. Keltieri arose. She stated a need to discuss government business and asked that the others should continue to enjoy their conversation. As she moved to leave she caught Christine's eye and nodded to her. Christine sat for a few moments longer then excused herself stating a need for a breath of fresh air. She slowly followed Keltieri's path. She found her waiting on a sheltered bench deep inside the garden. She motioned for Christine to sit. Once Christine was settled, Keltieri moved to take off her own diadem.

"Please, no, Keltieri. Not this time. I might have Thalrarian blood but I've was born and bred on Earth. This time the Human in me needs words. Perhaps after we have spoken, you can show me what you will, but for now please let us talk."

"As you wish child. What do you wish to ask?"

"Tell me about her. About Istiana. I know she is my mother by blood, but all my life I have hated her for what she did to my family. Since I have been here, and have begun to know you and your people, I have started to have questions. I am no longer sure she was the demon I though she was. Please, you knew her so well, tell me about her."

Keltieri looked away from Christine towards the flowers that covered the arbor around them. They looked somewhat like Terran roses. She plucked a bud and turned back to face Christine. "She was much like this. So beautiful, but still so small. She was so full of promise. I was nearly twenty years old when she was born. Of course, we Thalrarians live somewhat longer lives than Humans do so I was little more than a child myself. Even so my parents had almost given up hope for another child. Istiana's birth was like a miracle to them. We knew, almost from the start, that she was a strong empath. Our parents were overjoyed. They were both Healers themselves and I had not the same strength in this gift. I was always more balanced between empath and telepath. I could never follow their path, but with Istiana they had a child who could."

Keltieri paused and seemed to study Christine. After a few moments a small bittersweet smile touched her mouth. "You don't resemble her, not at all, except for your beautiful hair. I recognized you, though, from the first moment I met you. You feel so much like her. It's no wonder you chose to be a healer. The empathic sense is almost as strong in you." She reached out and softly touched Christine's face.

Christine reached up and took Keltieri's hand in her own. She smiled softly back at her. "Please go on. Tell me more."

"My parents never expected Istiani to want any thing else. She was a natural healer. She was always fixing every stray animal, other children's scrapes. But as she grew she came to have a romantic nature. In our culture we are taught that when looking for our mate we should hope to find our Ree'shala. The Ree'shala is the other half of our soul, our other part of ourselves. It sounds very much like a myth, but it is not. Anyone who has witnessed the joining of two who are Ree'shala to one another can attest to this. Others can feel their joy at becoming one as an almost physical thing. The sad thing is that it is so rare. Most of us accept this and are quite happy with who we choose to join with. Not Istiana! Istiania would accept nothing less than her Ree'shala. She studied for the Healer's Guild, and worked hard once accepted. Many men sought her company, and more than one asked her to join with him. She would have none of them. She truly believed her Ree'shala would come. So to my parents delight she devoted herself completely to learning the Healer's ways. That was until the day he came."

At this point Keltieri reached out and took Christine's other hand. She looked intensely into Christine's eyes, the smile gone from her lips. "Child, what I tell you now will be hard to accept, but try to understand. They were Ree'shala to each other. The Harkin trader you were told of did come here, but he did not come alone. Your father was sent here, by the Federation, for a secret meeting between our world and yours. We had been working on improvements to the diadem, and we needed to test them. The problem was another rejection would cause further embarrassment to the Federation. We had turned down all their former offers. We were fairly certain the diadems were not yet perfected, but they needed to be tested. So a secret meeting was decided upon."

Keltieri had let go of Christine's hands. Her gaze turned to the gardens, but she what she saw were reflections from long ago. "He was a handsome man. Tall like us but so much wider and fuller, and he had that wonderful pale hair and blue eyes. I don't ever recall seeing a Thalrarian with blue eyes. There was a reception that first night, and it was there that they first met. When they were introduced, he had swayed slightly and held his hand to his temple as if he were dizzy. I'm sure everyone thought it was because of the imperfections in the diadems. No one could have guessed. After they had passed, Istiana leaned close to me and whispered, 'Oh, can you feel it, Keltieri? It's him ... my Ree'shala!' I remember laughing at her. I told her she was a fool. That it was just because he was so different. After all he wasn't Thalrarian. How could he be her Ree'shala?"

Keltieri paused in her recollections. She looked over at Christine with a deep sadness in her eyes. After a few moments she looked once more into the distance and shook her head sadly.

"If only we had paid more attention. But all of us were too busy with 'important' events. Istiana never spoke to me about him again. They must have been meeting each other secretly in the nights. You shouldn't think badly of him. I'm sure that once they met he lost all awareness of anyone but her. On the night before the day he was to leave another banquet was planned. Sometime during the night I became aware that they both were missing. I slipped away and quietly entered the gardens. I found them there hidden away from view of the terrace. I never said a word. Unseen I watched as Istiana reached up and removed her diadem. She raised her hand palm out to him, and he touched her palm with his own. It is the way of the joining of our people. I was shocked, but my curiosity has always been strong. I had to know. I took off my own diadem. I have never, before or since, felt anything so strong. What passed between them was indescribable. It was mesmerizing. I could feel myself sway with the power of it, but somewhere deep inside I remembered who and what they were. I put my diadem back on and it helped to clear my thoughts further. May the Gods forgive me for what I did next. I returned to the banquet and told my parents what I had seen."

Christine watched as tears slipped slowly down Keltieri's cheeks. With a start Christine realized how much older the other woman suddenly looked. She reached out a gentle hand to her arm. "Keltieri, you mustn't blame yourself. You did what any caring sister would have done. He was a stranger and she was so young."

"Yes, she was young. That's how my parents approached the situation. They were very polite to Leighton. They explained that she was young and foolish, and he should realize that she was using her powers to affect his reaction to her. They carefully explained that it would be better for them both if they never saw one another again. When he started to object, they quickly apologized again for the trouble she had caused. As they led her away, Istiana looked back with longing. One word fell from her lips ... 'remember.' I thought that there would a scene at home, but Istiana was strangely quiet. She even told my parents that she was sorry, and that they were right when they said she was being foolish. She excused herself and went to her room to sleep. Even after what I had told them I saw and felt I think they couldn't believe it was true. To find your Ree'shala is so rare it would be hard to believe. But for him to be Leighton, a Human, had to be impossible! If only they had believed.

"The next morning they were gone. We never heard from them again. Her loss aged my parents almost overnight. Little over a year later we felt her death. At the time I couldn't understand what I felt from her. It was a feeling of unbearable sadness and shame, a resolve never to hurt anyone again. She had hurt us it was true, but not in a way that would cause her to take her own life. After I touched your mind, I realized the extent of the damage done, the lives ruined. You must understand Istiana was truly a good caring person. She would never have chosen to harm anyone. Her pull towards Leighton was so strong, as was his towards her, that they were both blinded to everyone but each other. Perhaps if she had been older and wiser, or he more prepared for the Thalrarian's senses, things may have been different. I only know that you shouldn't hate them for what was beyond their control. Sometimes life has a plan all its own. Out of all the sadness, a thing of joy occurred. You were born. You must accept and forgive the past Christine. Please let me show you who Istiana was."

Although Christine did not feel the same fear she had when she had first arrived, she still had some misgivings about letting Keltieri enter her mind once again. It was to her credit that she hesitated only a moment before she removed her diadem. As she looked at the older woman a slow smile formed on her face. "Show me."

And so it was done. When they were finished Keltieri arose graceful once more. "Come, let us go back before afternoon session starts. We wouldn't want to be missed."

"Knowing Dr. McCoy and the others, I sincerely believe they haven't even noticed our absence yet," Christine replied with a laugh. She stood and followed Keltieri up the path.

Keltieri linked her arm companionably with Christine's as they walked. "So you now have many decisions to make. I would love for you to choose to stay here with us, but I have seen that your life in the stars is what you think most of as home. I can understand. Since I was young I dreamed of the stars. It makes me wish I could go with you, but my duties to Thalra lie here. To go home, you will have to decide. If you don't tell them, you will have to build your wall strong again. If you do, you must prepare yourself for their reactions. I am glad I do not have to make this choice. Whatever happens, Christine, please know that you can always come home to us."

"Thank you, Keltieri. Whatever my decisions, I will wait until I return to the Enterprise before I make them known. What is happening here, between our two worlds, is too important to be interfered with. Besides I think I need all the time I have to adjust to who and what I am."

"Child, you are very wise for one so young. Almost as wise as I was at your age." She chuckled softly. "Think hard, little one. I fear that like your mother, you live by the heart. It is not always an easy path."

It was as close as she would come to the Vulcan. Even though she had never known what it was, Christine had always believed in the one. Now that she knew of Ree'shala, Keltieri wondered if she would reach out to him. And if she did how would he react? From her short contact with him Keltieri sensed the war within him. If he could not know and accept himself, how could there be any hope for anything between them? She said a silent prayer to the Gods that the past would not repeat itself.

* * *

Spock snapped off his desk viewscreen and rose slowly to light the firepots and dim the lights. He sat on the edge of his bed a long sign escaped his lips. He leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees his fingertips steepled before him. With this new information he had gleaned from Dr. Chapel's medical and personal records he was no closer to making a decision than he had been before. Her medical records had proved interesting but had not offered conclusive evidence. Many of her readings fell outside of the Human and Thalrarian standard, but the differences were so slight they put her at the fringes of normalcy. Some of the readings, admittedly not many, also bordered on the Vulcan norm. This fact seemed to substantiate his theory that Dr. Chapel was of mixed parentage. Thalrarian ancient history mentioned wise ones who had visited their planet. Thalra's close proximity to the Romulan border and it's relation to the pathway to Vulcan would suggest that they too had been seeded by the same race. Then there had been her Psi test scores, substandard even by Human standards. So low they appeared questionable in themselves.

He next had reviewed her personal records. Her service record was exemplary, but offered little more than he already knew. At this point he had almost concluded his investigations. Spock with his Vulcan upbringing considered it a breach of etiquette to delve so deeply in another's personal affairs. He forged on telling himself that it was his duty, the cause sufficient. It had nothing to do with any "personal" need to know! One creeping eyebrow begged to differ.

Once started he found himself fascinated. He was surprised on learning her father was Admiral Leighton Chapel. Such connections usually proved useful in furthering a career. No mention had been made in her Starfleet records. Her sister Leigh proved none other than his former superior Shayla Ross. He wondered at the name change until he dug deeper into her past. The Chapel family had seemed a well-adjusted one until two events took place -- Christine's birth and her mother's suicide shortly afterward. All official records surrounding these events had been sealed. Spock looked into news vids at this time and found a reference to a neighbor of the Chapels who suggested it all had something to do with that strange dark haired girl the Admiral had brought home about a year earlier. The neighbor, when reporters thought to question her further, could not be located.

Everything that had happened since these events seemed to speak of family discord. Her sister had left home at a young age, changed her name, and never returned. The Admiral had, shortly afterwards returned to deep space duty. The young Christine had been an excellent scholar, but from all personal notes from teachers and counselors appeared to be a loner. This last seemed to be the case throughout the rest of her education and Starfleet training.

He had gone as far as he could. His only avenues for further information would be Shayla Ross or Dr. Chapel herself. Since his former commanding officer had always claimed to have no living relatives, he doubted she would be cooperative. Dr. Chapel, of course, was out of the question. Spock found that he had a burning curiosity that had nothing to do with duty. Illogical as it was he found he also had a growing anger towards Christine that he did not yet understand. He was about to turn off his viewer when a piece of information came back to him. He quickly scanned her scholastic records at age seven. Her Psi test scores were remarkably high. In fact the highest her school had ever recorded. At age eight her scores were rock bottom. She was tested twice more and both times her scores were substandard. It was noted in her records that her score at age seven was probably the result of flawed testing. Her eighth year was also the year her sister and father both had left home. Fascinating!

There was one hour forty two point eight minutes remaining until late afternoon session started. He needed to gather his research and eat a quick meal before he left. He stood and made himself ready. As he went about his business, he came to his conclusions. The anger he felt towards Christine was of a personal nature, which he did not understand at this point, and should not enter into his decisions concerning duty. His duty was to Starfleet and his Captain and any subterfuge on the part of an officer under his command should be brought to light. He thought of Dr. Chapel's spotless record. He thought of Christine's words, just last night, about facing the past and choices for the future. He thought about the delicate standing between the Federation and this world. Timing would be everything. He would not jeopardize the negotiations with this information. It would wait until they were once more aboard the Enterprise. He tried not to think about his illogical wish for Christine to come to him personally with the truth before that time.

* * *

The next three days were an endless round of meetings and travels to other continents for various experiments and cultural exchanges. Even though he had decided upon a wait and see attitude towards the Dr. Chapel issue, Spock's patience was wearing thin. He had hoped to engage her in conversation, at the earliest opportunity, in hopes of opening a line of communication along this subject of interest. Given the other day and the companionship they had shared, he thought she might attempt to speak truthfully with him. Now three days later he was growing tired of the wait. He was finding it hard to be his usual efficient self. A stranger would never have noticed any change, but Jim Kirk and Dr. Leonard McCoy were more attuned than the average. Over their lunch the third day Spock had, even for him, been unusually subdued. He excused himself early, claiming a need to rest before the afternoon sessions started.

Leonard had turned to watch Spock's exit. He looked back to Jim, back at the door, then back at Jim. "I don't know, Jim, but something tells me he's got something stuck in his craw."

"Spock?" Jim looked thoughtful for a minute then slowly nodded in agreement. "You're right, Bones. You know if he weren't a Vulcan I'd almost swear he's been brooding about something. You think Christine's the reason?"

"Nah, Jim. They haven't even been anywhere near each other in days. But you know, now that you've mentioned her, she's been acting kinda odd too. Real quiet. I mean moreso than usual. And that thing, that headpiece they gave her, she's wearing it all the time. I know she doesn't want to insult them, but with clothes and all it's like she's gone native or something. It's giving me the creeps."

Jim chuckled softly. "Well, it does look good on her, but I know what you mean. Maybe we're reading too much into things. It's been a long week and we still have another to go. I just hope one thing has nothing to do with the other. It's hard enough walking around smiling and making nice all the time. I can't deal with any personal issues right now."

"Speaking of which, it's about time for that meeting with the elders. Shall we, Captain?"

* * *

If either of the two had been present in the gardens that evening, they might have realized their suspicions were well founded. Spock had been brooding. Not that he would ever admit to it, least of all to himself. His annoyance with Dr. Chapel had grown the last three days. Vulcans prided themselves on their honesty. While it was a myth that they could not lie, they chose to live with the truth. While Humans did not live by the same code of honor, Spock found it hard to accept that a supposedly loyal officer under his command willingly chose to lie to her superior officers and Starfleet as a whole. He also realized that this anger stemmed from the very nature of Dr. Chapel's lie. Though he claimed to be Vulcan, he had never denied his dual heritage. He claimed to be Vulcan because he had chosen the Vulcan way but he freely admitted to his Human genes. He realized that her dual heritage would have caused her problems during her life, as his had, but he found it distasteful for her to be so deceitful that she would choose to dishonor her ancestors. As much as he did not want to admit it, there was another cause for his anger. Christine had lied to him. He had just recently found himself coming to admire her and was anticipating a growing companionable relationship with her. She had been and still was dishonest with him. He found this thought disturbing.

After leaving the Captain and Dr. McCoy that afternoon, he had retired to his quarters to meditate. He found he could not concentrate. He realized that until he spoke with Christine about this situation he would not be able to. He also realized that given the current circumstances, he would have to wait until she told him the truth. He decided he would approach her that evening in hopes that their growing friendship would encourage her to speak the truth. So in the darkness he waited on his terrace. He knew she had a fondness for the gardens and often walked among them in the evenings. Thirty-seven point two minutes into his "stake out", his efforts were rewarded.

Christine had spent an enjoyable evening with Nyota and Sulu. There had been an impromptu music session at the restaurant they had chosen for dinner. With very little effort Nyota had been persuaded to sing. It had been a lovely night. She felt restless, though, and after returning to her quarters chose to roam in the gardens. After speaking with Keltieri yesterday, she had found herself thinking back over her life. She realized how much of it she had wasted trying to be something she wasn't to win the love of someone who would never be able to give it. How sad all their lives must have been. If this concept of the Ree'shala was real, they would have been helpless to deny their feelings. If only Father could have been truthful with Istiana from the beginning, perhaps none of this would have happened. Perhaps the feeling was so strong right from the beginning, he hadn't had a chance. This she could understand. After all hadn't it been that way with Spock right from the start? She had claimed to be fascinated with him because of his dual heritage, their similar life experiences, but wasn't that just part of it? Hadn't she felt, despite her wall inside, some part of her soul reach out to him from the first day?

She settled herself on a low bench deep in the garden. And now what? She knew that once she was back on the Enterprise, she would have to tell them the truth. Before she had kept quiet because of her fear. Now that she had come to accept her other half, she knew she could no longer be silent. It was in part because she was a loyal officer in the fleet, but mostly it was because of the people on the Enterprise itself. The Enterprise felt like home and those on it family. But what would her family think of her? Could they make her leave the Fleet because of her deception? And even if they didn't what would they think? The Captain, Leonard, Nyota … Spock? Spock? Spock finally seemed to be noticing her as a person. Actually he seemed to be enjoying her company. What would he think when he heard? Would he give her the chance to explain? Would she be able to if he did? Or would he just withdraw his attentions because of her deception? She didn't know how she could live with it if he did. Ree'shala or not, he was the one and the thought of never speaking to him left an emptiness inside.

She was so absorbed in her thoughts she did not notice Spock's arrival. Spock took these moments to gather his thoughts, but as he tried, he instead found himself noticing how truly lovely she looked tonight. The days on Thalra had given her light tan, which made her eyes seem even bluer. She wore her long dark hair loose about her shoulders and he found in himself a strange desire to touch it. He again appreciated how the soft Thalrarian robe accented her tall slender body. At this moment Christine startled him by suddenly noticing his presence.

"Spock," Christine gasped softly. "You startled me."

"Forgive me, Christine. You seemed to be in deep thought. I did not wish to disturb you. Since I seem to have done so I wonder if we might talk?"

"Talk … Ahh… that would be nice, Spock." She arose from the bench and looked up into his eyes, a soft smile on her lips. "Would you mind if we walked though? The gardens are lovely in the moonlight. And I've been feeling somewhat restless this evening."

He stepped back slightly to allow her access to the pathway. They slowly made their way deeper into the garden. "Restless, Christine? Would this restlessness have anything to do with your thoughts the other day? The choices you have made and how your past affected them?"

Christine stopped walking and looked up into his deep brown eyes. They seemed to be looking directly into her heart. A heart that at this moment was choosing to beat at an alarming rate. "Why, yes, Spock, I believe it does. I would like to…"

At that moment a man Spock recognized to be Healer Wronan approached. He was, even by Vulcan standard, a handsome man. Even taller than the average Thalrarian, he was more aesthetically pleasing because of his fuller figure, the broadness of his shoulders.

"Christine, I am most pleased to find you here."

Christine's mouth broke into a delighted smile. "Wronan, how good to see you. Whatever are you doing here?"

"I had hoped to run into you, Christine." At this point he paused and looked slightly down, catching Spock's eye. He slowly looked back to Christine. "I had hoped we could continue our discussion on Federation surgical techniques. I found it most interesting and have several questions I would like you're input on. But if this is an inconvenient time…"

Christine looked quickly back to Spock. "Oh, Spock, would you mind terribly if I spoke with Wronan? I'm sure our conversation would be of no interest to you. Perhaps we could speak tomorrow?"

Spock felt his spine slowly stretch out his head and shoulders rise and stiffen. "Certainly, Doctor." He turned and much to his dismay had to look up to speak to Wronan. "Good evening, Healer Wronan." With this he turned and stiffly walked away.

When he was out of their direct line of sight he stopped and found a vantage point where he could watch unseen. He told himself that he was watching to see if their interaction would further substantiate his theory about the Doctor. As he saw watched, they stopped on the pathway. Wronan leaned in close to Christine and spoke to her. As she looked up to answer him, a glowing smile broke across her face. He could hear her delighted laugh. As they moved away Christine linked her arm through the Healer's. Spock turned and made his way back to his quarters. He felt his annoyance return. Nothing had been accomplished tonight, and nothing he had witnessed gave him any further proof. It was perfectly logical to be annoyed. What wasn't perfectly logical was the strange twisting sensation he felt low in his abdomen. He did not try to meditate. It would be senseless. He did try and sleep but spent the night tossing and turning. By morning he was, as Dr. McCoy would be apt to call it, fit to be tied!

* * *

Christine's morning had seemed to fly by. Her conversation last night with Wronan had prompted this morning's session with various doctors and healers today. The experience was providing both sides with new ideas that could be applied to established techniques.

There was also an excitement of another kind at work on everyone. The official invitation had been waiting on her viewer this morning. There was to be a wedding, or as the Thalrarians called it a joining, tonight after the late afternoon sessions had ended. The Thalrarians that were present today all seemed to be more lively than usual. Many wide smiles were passed between them, and comments rang out about tonight's festivities.

The members of the Enterprise's crew were somewhat more subdued in their reaction. Along with the official invitation had been a warning of sorts. It had stated that all though all members of Federation would be more than welcome at the ceremony each member should take into consideration what the ceremony entailed. During the joining ceremony the pair would remove each other's diadems so that their emotions and thoughts would be permanently entwined. It was an established fact that many humans found contact with Thalrarians, who did not have their senses damped by the diadem, too intense an experience. No offense would be taken if anyone chose not to attend. Those who did should be prepared for what might be for some an uncomfortable experience.

Christine had known about the joining for days. While still on Lanconia Keltieri had introduced Christine to Wronan. He was Keltieri's second cousin which meant they were also cousins though once more removed. He had proved a complete delight to Christine. Keltieri was an extremely kind and gentle woman, but she was somewhat formal at all times. She had started to believe most Thalrarians were of this nature. Upon meeting Wronan she was taught otherwise. Wronan was extremely tall and robust for a Thalrarian. He was intensely curious, outgoing and had quick sense of humor. He immediately wanted to know all about her and her life on Earth. He had soon told her of his upcoming joining and insisted on her presence at the event. His exact words had been, "Little cousin, you have lived in the shadows for too long. You will come to our joining and feel what it is to have your heart soar. It is your nature; you must not deny yourself." He had then gone on to tell her of his dreams for the future, his plans to take to the stars as soon as the diadems were proven completely trustworthy. His exuberant nature soon had Christine looking at the future with rose colored glasses.

She had been so happy to run into him last night. He had, from the moment they met, made her feel like family. She couldn't wait to talk with him again. Of course, it had meant that she would have to leave Spock's company. She hadn't wanted to but what choice had she had? So with a carefree smile she had dismissed him. It had been the only "logical" thing to do. If Spock had stayed Wronan and she would not have been able to speak freely. If she had remained alone with Spock, she would have by now broken her promise about disrupting this mission. She was sure he had found her desire to speak with Wronan perfectly logical. They were both medical people and they had so little time to exchange ideas before the Enterprise left. She was certain he would not be offended.

Wronan had not shared her certainty. As soon as they were out of Spock's sight he had leaned into her and spoken. "Cousin, it seems certain I made an enemy here tonight."

Christine had looked up into his playful brown eyes. "What do you mean?"

"Your Spock was not happy with my presence, or that you chose to stay with me. He was more than a little jealous."

Christine's mouth broke into a wide smile. Laughter bubbled up and escaped. "Oh, Wronan, that's just ridiculous. You don't know Spock as well as I do. If you did, you'd realize just how funny that is. Spock is Vulcan. Vulcans don't do jealousy. Vulcans don't do emotions, period!"

"Christine, I know of your years on Earth. How you had to hide yourself. But tell me did you grow up blind as well as sense deprived? I tell you that man is jealous."

"And how do you know that? Are you telling me you used your senses told you?"

"No, I'm not. I have eyes. I am a man. I know when I see a man that is jealous."

Christine linked her arm through his and they continued down the path. "I don't think you're right but I won't argue anymore with you about it. So tell me about your betrothed. Is she your Ree'shala?"

"Ah, Ree'shala. I know it is real but it so rarely happens. I gave up dreaming of my Ree'shala many years ago. No, I don't think she is but she is as close as I'll ever get. That is more than enough for me. We are well suited and our joining will be a thing of beauty. I'm glad you will be there to share in it with us." They had talked long into the night. Now as she made her way to the communal dining room she wondered which of her fellow crewmembers would attend the joining. Nyota noticed her as she entered and waved her over. She made her way to the table she would share with Nyota, Captain Kirk, Spock, Leonard and Hikuru. As dinner progressed conversation turned to this evening's ceremony.

Jim had just finished telling them he would be unable to attend. He had a subspace meeting with Starfleet HG at 20:00 hours. He glanced over at Spock. "I would appreciate it if you were in attendance, Spock.

"Indeed, Captain. With you not being able to attend, it is only logical that I should."

Nyota sighed deeply. "It's such a shame that you can't be there, Captain. It should be beautiful. I don't know what it is about the Thalrarians but I feel so comfortable around them. I wouldn't miss this for anything."

Sulu turned and gave Nyota a wide grin. "Yeah, I noticed you've been having a good time here. I'm with you, though. I'm not nervous about tonight, and I know what you mean about being comfortable. It's almost like I knew them before we came here."

Kirk turned to look at Leonard. He was looking down at his water glass where he was slowly sliding it in little circles. "How about you, Bones?" McCoy slowly raised his eyes to meet Jim's. "Well, I've kinda been thinking I might have something urgent on the ship right about that time."

Across the table Christine looked up sharply at the doctor. "Leonard, why ever would you want to do that?"

Leonard shifted his gaze to Christine. He gave a slight shrug of his shoulders. "Chris, the whole thing just makes me uncomfortable. I mean telepathy is bad enough, but these people are empaths as well. I just don't like the idea of somebody crawling around inside me that way. I mean we don't even know what they could do to us."

"Leonard! I know you joke sometimes but you can't…"

"I'm not joking, Chris. It's not like I don't like these people. Most of them seem pretty decent, but I just get the creeps when I think of them poking around inside me."

"I just can't believe you feel this way."

Spock who had been quietly eating during their conversation slowly put down his utensils. He took a small sip from his water glass. Once done he turned to glance at Christine. "Dr. Chapel, I see no reason for your anger with Dr. McCoy. The invitation stated we should use our best judgment about attending the ceremony. Dr. McCoy, given his feelings, has logically decided not to attend. He is within his rights."

If Jim hadn't glanced at McCoy, he would almost believe he had just had an auditory hallucination. McCoy was looking at Spock with wonder in his eyes, and the widest grin Jim had ever seen. Across the table Christine looked somewhat shocked. Her cheeks had taken on a pinkish hue.

"Why, Spock, I would think you of all people would agree with me!"

"Indeed. And why would you think that?"

"Well, you're a telepath, a Vulcan. Surely you should find Leonard's attitude somewhat insulting."

"I am a telepath. I have chosen the Vulcan way, but I am of dual heritage. I fact I have never tried to hide. In any case, I am not Thalrarian and therefore find no insult in Dr. McCoy's statement. I too had to give the matter some thought before coming to my decision to attend."

"But surely you see how wrong it is to fear a whole planet of people just because they have a sense that you don't. They're not savages."

"I never said they were Doctor. I simply said that the Doctor has every right to choose as he does. As I said before, I do not understand your agitation over this. Perhaps there is something more you would like to tell us, some hidden thing that we might have overlooked?"

"I ... ah ... no. Of course not. I…"

During the conversation each of their voices had risen a few notches. They weren't shouting but anyone within hearing range could tell they were agitated with each other. Jim noted that both Nyota and Hikuru had wisely found their dinner plates suddenly fascinating. Bones was still looking loopy at Spock. But as his glance took in the next table, he found himself looking into Keltieri's direct gaze. He was fairly certain she couldn't hear what was said, but she did seem to be aware of the discord between his two officers. "Okay, people, that's enough. In case you haven't noticed, we're becoming a sideshow attraction here." He leaned slightly forward and hissed quietly, "I don't know what's gotten into the two of you, but as of now it's finished. This is a diplomatic mission as in diplomacy. I want nothing but nice smiles, good behavior got it?!"

"Of course, Captain. Leonard, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you that way."

Leonard noticed she had, under the bright pink spots, gone quite pale. "Chris, it's okay. Besides I kinda liked having Spock agree with me for a change." Christine had gone pale. At first she was just angry with Spock. Normally he would have disagreed with Leonard. It seemed he was agreeing with him now just to get under her skin. But when he had made the reference to not hiding his dual heritage and then asked if there was something she was hiding, sheer terror had set in. All she wanted to do now was get away. If she looked in his direction right now, she was afraid she would burst into tears. Instead she looked at Jim. "Captain, I am sorry. I think I might be a little overtired."

Spock's quiet voice broke in. "You are most probably correct, Doctor. I believe you had a late night meeting with one of the Healers yesterday."

As Jim continued to look at Christine, the spots of color in her cheeks darkened. He turned his head to glare at Spock. His voice came out a murderous whisper. "Spock!" Spock merely gazed at him, a look of total innocence on his face. One eyebrow lifted as if in shock.

Christine rose stiffly and waited for the Captain's attention. When he looked up, she said as calmly as she could, "With your permission, Captain, I will retire to my quarters to rest." At his nod she quickly withdrew from the dining hall. Nyota and Hikaru soon followed. As Spock sat quietly at his place, his thoughts were anything but logical. He had every intention of following Christine to her quarters to continue their "discussion".

Jim waited until the others had left before he spoke. "All right, you want to tell me what this is all about?"

Spock continued to look innocent. "Jim, I do not understand why Dr. Chapel was so agitated. I merely pointed out Dr. McCoy's right to his opinion in this matter. I did not mean to agitate her further. Now if you will excuse me, I will return to my quarters." He rose smoothly and made his way gracefully out of the dining room.

Jim looked after him as he retreated. A suspicious looked played across his features. "In a pig's eye!" He looked over at his friend. "Bones, can you tell me what the hell just went on here?"

Leonard had been looking down at the table deep in thought. At Jim's comment he looked up the wide grin returning. "I don't know, Jim. But you know I never thought I'd see a day when Spock agreed with me about anything! Maybe it's something in the water."

As Bones continued to look at him, he couldn't help but start to smile. "Yeah, maybe. But if things don't change soon, I know two people who are going to have a lot of explaining to do once we're back on board. What did he say., 'Dr. McCoy's logical decision'? Amazing."* * *

Christine all but ran back to her quarters. Once inside she activated the lock. Safe at last she rested her back against the door. The adrenaline pumping through her system had her heart pounding in her ears. How could this have happened?

Over the last week she had felt a change in him. He was enjoying her company, actively seeking her out. Last night, as she had stood looking in his eyes, she had become aware of a warmth she had not seen there before. At that moment she had lost all ability to deny him anything, even the truth. Thank God for Wronan. Had it not been for him, Spock would probably have her in the brig by now. But Wronan had insisted Spock was jealous. It would explain his attitude today. Since she was almost certain, from his comments today, Spock knew her secret. Why hadn't he told the Captain? Could Wronan be right? Or was he just gathering more evidence before he pounced?

The door buzzer suddenly sounded. Her heart went into triple time. "Oh, please just go away!"

"Chris, it's me Nyota. Please let me in."

* * *

Spock stepped up his pace after leaving the dining hall. Since seeing Christine with the Healer last night, he had been angry. He was aware it was illogical but hard as he tried his thoughts were tinged with a deep green seething.

In the last few years he had come to respect Christine. Although he was aware of her feelings, she had for a long time been strictly professional. They were slowly becoming friends now that he felt more comfortable in her presence. He had also become aware of his growing attraction for her. In the last few days it had proven an annoying distraction keeping him from fulfilling his duty to Starfleet.

When he became aware that she was of dual heritage, he had not understood why she had chosen to hide that fact. Although he wanted to believe otherwise, he still felt it was an act of cowardice on her part. Rather than deal with the hardships that he endured as a child, she had denied her own family, her heritage! He found it a repulsive act, but he had been willing to give her credit for her behavior while under his command. She had a spotless record on board the Enterprise. He believed her to be truthful in all areas but this one. Perhaps she could explain her actions to his satisfaction.

Then last night as he had watched her with Wronan, he found himself wondering if she was as truthful as he had believed. She had admitted to loving him. Although she did not pursue the matter once he had discouraged her, he was aware that through the years she had not chosen another. And although the times had been few, there were moments when he was reminded of her feelings. Last night as she leaned close to healer, she had been smiling radiantly. She had been laughing when she took his arm and moved away into the night with him. Had she been lying all these years? Knowing he could not return her affections, he had avoided close contact with her. Had it been through the years a planned move on her part to keep him from discovering her secret? Was she afraid that he would feel the truth if he had gotten close?

The thought sent another rush of anger coursing through him. It was time. He would not compromise this mission. He would speak with her privately and have his answers before returning to the Enterprise. He would inform her that once on board she would have to speak the truth. If not, it was his duty to inform the Captain himself.

As he turned into the corridor where her quarters were located, he stopped in his tracks. Lt. Uhura was already at her door trying to gain admittance. At his sides his arms had started to tighten and his fingers to curl into clenched fists. He forced himself to calmness and moved his arms behind his back, hands clasped. He turned and slowly made his way to his own quarters. It would be tonight then after the joining ceremony. He would use any means necessary to insure a private conversation with her.

* * *

Uhura leaned on the buzzer for a second time. She knew how much Christine would be hurting.

"Oh, Ny, please I just want--"

"Christine Chapel, you open this door. I'm not leaving till we talk so you just may as well give in now." Uhura impatiently drummed her fingertips against the com unit. As the minutes drew on, she shifted to lean against the locked door. She nearly fell as the door slid open at her body's touch. Christine stood at the glass wall, her back to Uhura. "Well you could have warned me you unlocked it. I nearly broke my butt! All right, so you just turn around and tell me what's going on! Why is Spock acting like an idiot? And why are you letting it get to you? You haven't talked about him for so long I thought you were over him."

Christine spun around and gave her friend a sharp look. "He's not acting like an idiot! Well… yes, he is! He's got a reason to; at least he thinks he does. And maybe he does. I don't know anymore."

"Oh, this is making a lot of sense! Let's start with something easier. Are you over him?"

Christine held her friend's look some moments more. Slowly her gaze shifted to the general vicinity of the floor. Her shoulders sagged in defeat. "From the day I met him, it's never been a question of being over him. I just found my pride. I was tired of people giving me sad looks. I was tired of Spock avoiding me. Tired of being the butt of bad jokes." She raised her eyes once more to Nyota. "No, I'm not over him. Satisfied?"

"So what happened? Did you do something? I mean like corner him and try to talk to him about it? He really acted strange today. You didn't touch him or anything did you?"

Christine lifted her gaze to the ceiling and shook her head from side to side. She looked back to her friend with a deep sigh. "No, Ny, I didn't do anything. In fact it's been Spock who's been doing the talking. We've been getting closer lately. Friends, I guess. But he's upset with me because he thinks I've lied to him. He's right, but it wasn't just him. It was everyone. But I never meant for it to hurt anyone. Please believe me."

"Chris, what are you talking about? I don't understand."

Christine looked deeply into Nyota's eyes. There was a profound sadness in the look. She reached up to the diadem and slowly removed it. "Please, Ny, don't hate me." She continued to hold Nyota's gaze.

Nyota returned Christine's gaze with a puzzled look. She was more than a little concerned for her friend's mental state. Suddenly she felt a pain in her head. No, not really a pain. More like a rush of sensation so strong it was almost painful. She moved to hold her palm against her temple. The rush slowed and sensation began to feel like a warm embrace. For some reason she felt like smiling. She looked up at Christine, dropping her hand as she did so. As she continued looking at her, the smile slowly disappeared. Her mouth fell open in astonishment. "Oh, God, Chris! Why didn't you tell me? All these years! No wonder why these people felt so familiar. Why, Chris?"

Christine replaced the diadem on her forehead. She turned and gazed out at the gardens. "It's a long story."

As she stood there, Nyota's feelings ran the full spectrum. Yes, she was angry. Christine had been lying to her for years. She wasn't who she thought she was. She wasn't…yes, she was. It didn't matter what she was; she was still her friend. She crossed the room to stand next to Christine. She lifted her hand to Christine's shoulder and gave it a small squeeze. "So did I say I was in a rush to go somewhere?" Christine turned with tears in her eyes.

* * *

Spock had chosen to return to his research early rather than retire to his quarters. He would immerse himself in his studies and benefit from its calming influence. Within the hour he realized that this time it would not be that simple. Although he worked with his usual thoroughness, he was still very much aware of the disruptive emotions that played with his control.

And so it was here Keltieri found him at the start of the late afternoon session. She wasn't surprised after what she had witnessed in the dining hall. A Vulcan would choose to avoid an emotional problem in such a way. A Vulcan would also be helped by it tremendously, but Spock wasn't Vulcan. Even before he had told her of his dual heritage, she had been aware of a difference in him. He didn't feel Human either. Actually he made her feel incredibly sad and somewhat uncomfortable. It wasn't his fault. It was just like feeling two people at once. She wondered if he was aware of just how much emotion he was projecting?

After exchanging hellos, they settled down to their research. As the afternoon wore on Keltieri found it harder and harder to focus on her tasks. If only he would be willing to let her use her touch, she might be able to help him as she had Christine. She wouldn't ask. She knew what the answer would be. She stood and went to gaze out the window towards the sea.

Keltieri felt old. Very old and very tired. It was ridiculous of course since she was just reaching midlife and just over a week ago she had actually been feeling much younger. She had waited her whole life for this. While other young Thalrarians had grown up dreaming of finding their Ree'shala, she had been dreamed of the stars. Lt. Uhura had called Thalra Paradise. Beautiful as it was, Paradise can also be prison when you can never leave.

Eight days ago, as she stood with the council, she felt her dreams were coming true. She had not counted on Christine or this Vulcan either. She did not want this burden. This was to have been her time, and now, now she had this problem to deal with. It was hard enough Christine had brought memories of Istiana. But Christine had brought her own pain as well. That first night Keltieri had pushed past the worst of it. Her touch had started a healing there. But of the life she had chosen, and the hard choices ahead, Keltieri could do nothing. Perhaps she could try to help with one problem. She couldn't use her touch, but perhaps she could lead his thoughts and emotions in the right direction. He would have to heal himself. Then and only then would there be the slightest chance. She sighed deeply.

"Set Keltieri perhaps we had done enough for one day? You seen to be somewhat distracted." Spock had heard her sigh. She had been gazing out the window for some time, and she hadn't appeared to hear his last question.

"I suppose I have been distracted, Commander. Pay it no attention. It was just the musings of an old woman. I'm fine now. Shall we continue?"

Spock tilted his head in curiosity. "I fail to see why you would consider yourself old, Keltieri. From what I have learned of your race, you are at best middle aged. In our time here I have found you to be full of energy, or as Humans would say in the prime of life."

"Spock, have you ever questioned the choices you have made in your life? Wondered if they were the right choices? What your life would be like if you had made others?"

"I do not know to which choices you refer. Please specify."

"Well, for one your choice to be Vulcan. From what you have told me you are half-human but you call yourself Vulcan. Have you ever questioned this choice? Vulcans live by logic, but is it logical to deny what you are?"

"My genetic makeup is half human, but many years ago I chose the Vulcan way. I do not question it. I am what I am."

"But what if you had be born on Earth instead of Vulcan? Do you think you still would have chosen as you did? Or perhaps chosen to be Human so to fit into your world better? What would you have done if you had been taught to hate and fear what you were, or if you weren't even sure what you were? It seems so hard that one must choose one side or the other when what they really are is a blend of the two. Had you ever considered being what you truly are -- Vulcan and Human?"

"Set Keltieri, is there some reason you are interested in this aspect of my life? Is there something specific you would like to ask?"

"No, Spock. I'm sorry if I have been over curious. I just found myself thinking how hard it must be for someone to come from a dual heritage such as yours. The choices they are forced to make that others live in ignorance of. You seem well adjusted to what you are, but I'm sure there were and still are times when it is hard. Things are so often not what they seem.

"Keltieri…Have I been…broadcasting?"

"No, Spock, but I can't help but be aware of a conflict in your… emotions. I do not mean to be rude but perhaps if you could accept the emotional part of yourself, you would be able to end the conflict."

Spock raised an eyebrow ever so slowly. "I will take your advice under consideration. It goes against all I was taught to believe, but it does have merit. I have been recently been experiencing a number of emotions. I have had trouble silencing them. I hope I have not offended your senses."

"Of course not, Spock. In any case I did not mean to pry. Please feel free to ignore the musings of this 'middle aged' woman. Now what were you going to show me about that stone?"

As Spock bent his head to his work area, and started to explain his latest finding, Keltieri continued to regard his countenance. So this is the one this more Vulcan than Vulcan. This is the one Christine thinks of as her Ree'shala. Something she had touched in Christine came to mind. A very old story about a bird of the air and a fish of the sea that had fallen in love. Where indeed would they find a place to live? He was a smart man; hopefully the seeds she had planted would take root and grow. Grow before it was too late for either of them. Unobserved she slowly shook her head from side to side.

* * *

As Christine was dressing for the night's festivities, she thought back on her conversation with Nyota. She couldn't help being ashamed of herself. She should have trusted Nyota to be the friend she had always been. She supposed it was an old habit born out of the fears of her childhood.

Nyota, once the shock wore off, had been full of questions. As hard as it was, Christine felt better than she had in years. Just telling her all about it did more for Christine than even Keltieri's emphatic touch. And afterwards they had spoken about the scene in the dining room today.

"So you think Spock knows and is angry with you for hiding it?"

"I'm almost certain he knows. And of course he's angry if he does. I mean his childhood and days at the Academy must have been awful. He's never fit in anywhere, and still he held his head up high through all of it. He never once thought of trying to hide what he is. Now all of a sudden he starts reaching out to me in friendship, and he finds out I'm nothing but a liar. I must look like a complete coward!"

"Do you really think he would judge you that way? I mean Spock usually gets all the facts before he comes to any conclusions. Why would this be any different?"

"Because, Ny. He can't even admit how much his past has hurt him. You know as well as I do he has emotions. He won't admit to them but that doesn't mean they're not there. Yes, he does get his facts first, but this is different. This is emotional. He knows nothing about my past. He just thinks I took the easy way out. To make matters worse I claimed to have feelings for him, and then he finds out I've been lying to him for years. I'd be angry too!"

"Well, what about that other thing today? When he said you were tired because you'd been out late with that healer. What was that all about?"

"We were talking in the garden last night when Wronan, my cousin, approached us. Spock seemed okay when I said good night."

"Tell me, did you ask Spock to join in your conversation with Wronan?"

"Well, no, I knew we wouldn't be able to talk freely so I--"

"So you ditched Spock without a thought. I suppose Spock has absolutely no idea it's Wronan getting joined today."

"No, he doesn't but--"

"And tell me just what does Wronan look like?"

"Oh, Ny, he can't be jealous."

"Oh, he can't, huh? Something tells me our dear Vulcan is just a little greener than usual!"

"You know, Wronan said the same thing, but I just can't see it. I know Spock has been spending more time with me, but he's never so much as put one finger on me! Why, he's never even said anything that would make me think."

"Nothing, Christine? Remember we're talking about Spock here. I know one thing--I'll be checking out his reaction when he finds out just who's joining is happening tonight."

Christine shook her head and started to work on her makeup. She couldn't help but laugh at the irony of the situation. She was in the midst of the worst crises of her life and here she sat wondering if Spock could be jealous! She'd never change. She just couldn't help it as far as he was concerned. She gave in to a soft chuckle. So she hadn't been raised here; maybe it was genetic. Maybe he was her Ree'shala. Yeah, and maybe pigs could fly!

* * *

Spock was also distracted as he prepared for the joining ceremony. He had been ever since the conversation with Keltieri that afternoon. He had of late been questioning the very things she had that afternoon.

Even before this disturbing anger had surfaced had he not been experiencing emotions? He thought back to the reception the night of their arrival. How he had suddenly been aware of just how attractive Christine was. Then as they sat by the sea, when he should have been questioning her, her beautiful eyes had mesmerized him. How he had wanted to run his fingers through her hair. His heart had increased its tempo and he had found it hard to swallow.

Then there was the anger. A Vulcan should not feel anger. Yet it was there, and it was because of hurt feelings that it was. Totally illogical, but there nonetheless. If it had been someone other that Christine, he would have not become so emotional. But her lie caused a hurt deep down inside of him. He understood now that it was because of his own past and the hardships that he had faced he felt betrayed. This anger was illogical. He did not even know all the facts about Christine's past. How could he judge her without knowing? But because of his growing feelings for her he had. And then there was the matter of the healer. He had no right to feel jealousy. But even as he thought it, he felt a familiar twisting in his stomach.

So you are not the Vulcan you thought you were. Does this mean that I am a failure? Many years ago my mother had spoken of this time. She told me that one day I would be forced to realize my human side. That all the Vulcan training in the world could not stay the inevitable. I thought she was simply being foolishly Human. Even then wasn't I responding with emotion? I had thought myself superior to her. I was prideful. Mother was right. So is Keltieri. I must accept this about myself. It is the only logical thing to do.

And what of Christine? What hardships did she experience? It is my duty to expose her, but my heart bids me to wait. What would you tell me now, Mother? With all these emotions, how do you decide which ones to listen to? There should be a logical solution, but for the first time in his life Spock knew he wouldn't find one.

As he made his way slowly the joining ceremony, Spock remained deep in thought. He was totally confused. Something he had no experience with.

* * *

The sun had dipped below the horizon by the time Spock had reached the area where the joining was to occur. Not far from the main complex that they were quartered in, he had been told it was a public park often used for joining ceremonies.

A large open-air pavilion, made of the usual white stone, had been set up for the festivities. A table set off to one side held various gifts for the couple. At the other side there was a musicians' platform that was in service at the moment. Between these areas were tables set up with every conceivable Thalrarian delicacy. In the center were tables for dining circled around what appeared to be a dance floor. Across from the entrance point a wide walkway led from the pavilion to a large paved circular area. At the center of this area a platform arose in two steps. The view past all was of gardens slowly flowing towards the sea. Although the sun had set, its lingering light painted the high thin clouds in tones of pink, gold and lilac.

Many were in attendance already although he did not see anyone who appeared to be the bride or groom. He noted that all eight members of the council were present. They all were wearing long flowing vests in addition to their usual robes. Each had a length of a white silk-like material draped over one arm.

He had chosen to wear his dress uniform as a show of the Federation's respect for the ceremonial gathering. He was pleased to see that many of the Starfleet members had followed suit. Lt. Sulu, he noted, had chosen Thalrarian garb. At the moment he was engaged in a lively conversation with a native group. Spock found it somewhat curious at how well he had adapted to these people. He found it curious until he thought about how well Sulu had always seemed to get along with Christine.

At the thought of Christine, he slowly scanned the crowd till his eyes found her. She stood talking with Set Keltieri and Lt. Uhura. She had worn, as he had expected, a Thalrarian robe. Except for her luminous blue eyes, she could have passed as a native. She was smiling, at the moment, at something Uhura had said. He felt his breath catch and hold as a wave of desire suddenly swept through him. Almost as if she had sensed it, Christine's gaze shifted to meet his. Even from this distance he caught her startled expression and the blush that crept to her cheeks. He held the eye contact for a moment more than slowly bowed his head to her. When he looked up a hesitant smile touched her lips and she nodded in return. He turned away and slowly started to circulate among the guests.

He had done about half the circle when he ran across Council member Dantra. Thin and somewhat frail looking he was, by far, the oldest council member. Only his strong deep voice spoke of continued vitality. At Spock's approach he raised his hand palm outward and bowed his head in greeting. Spock raised his hand in the Vulcan salute.

"Live long and prosper, Dantra of Thalra."

"That I have, Spock of Vulcan. I am pleased you are in attendance tonight. You will find the ceremony interesting I am sure."

"Indeed, Dantra, but I would like to know more about the ceremony. I see that all the council members are present tonight. Is this usual?"

"The council members will have a part in the joining tonight, but it is not usual. Normally at a joining, any eight adults can assume this role. It is in honor of the Federation's presence, and also that one of those joined is cousin to a council member, that we are participating."

"Would the cloth you carry have something to do with the joining?"

"Yes, it does. The ceremony is mostly silent in nature. No oaths are verbalized. There is no need for it among our people. With our senses our vows are spoken through our thoughts and emotions. These coverings are symbolic of the darkness we walk in as we search for our mate. It is only with our senses we find our other half. I believe you will understand as you watch. Will you excuse me for a moment, Spock? I see that Wronan has arrived and I would like to greet him."

"Of course, Dantra. Thank you for the explanation." As Dantra made his way across the floor Spock's eyes followed him to his destination. Wronan now stood with Christine and Keltieri. He felt the familiar pang of envy, but he had to admit that he could understand Christine's attraction for the man. Not only was he a handsome man, he appeared to be a popular one as well. Many of the attendees stopped to say hello to him. He noticed how he kept Christine's arm linked through his as they talked. His eyebrow rose to alarming degree. He almost jumped as a voice spoke closely to his right ear.

"He's a very good looking man, isn't he?"

It was Lt. Uhura who had spoken. He was so absorbed in watching Christine that he had been unaware of her approach. His apparent lack of awareness startled him. "He, Lieutenant?"

"The Healer Wronan standing with Christine. And he's just as nice as he is good looking. I see Christine seems to be of the same opinion. You know, they look good standing there together."

"Yes, Lieutenant. I can not say I have spent much time with the Healer. He is an attractive as is Dr. Chapel. You are correct they do look good together." He laced his hands behind his back as they were slowly forming fists at his sides. He schooled his features to be impassive as possible.

It was lost on Nyota. She had seen how distracted he had been, and exactly what had been distracting him. His reaction to her statements had spoken volumes. Satisfied that she had been correct in her assessment, she decided not to push the issue further. After years of working beside him, she had learned it was wisest not to test his limits. "It's almost full dark now. I'm told the ceremony will start as soon as it is."

He turned his full attention to Nyota now. "I believe the darkness symbolizes the Thalrarin's search for their mate."

"Yes, that's what I've been told. It's also a new moon, which is very rare since Thalra has four of them. To be joined at new moon is considered lucky. Keltieri told me many joinings will take place tonight. It's so romantic." She sighed dreamily.

Spock raised both eyebrows nearly to his hairline. "I fail to understand why Humans, particularly Human females, tend to be so obsessed with romantic notions."

"Why, yes, Spock, I'm sure you don't understand!" She sighed heavily as she shook her head from side to side. Still it was with a smile when she said, "It's a pity. It really is. I don't think I've ever known anybody who needed romance in their life more than you."

"Lieutenant..."

"Oh, Spock, not now. Look, the guests are starting to move outside. Come on, I don't want to miss anything."

The guests had reassembled around the outdoor platform. Still Spock saw no evidence of bride or groom. The council members made no effort to start the ceremony. Perhaps the couple had been detained. As he scanned the crowd again, he noticed Christine stood with Wronan about a quarter of the way around the circle. The way the two of them hovered near each other one could almost mistake them for the couple to be joined. Spock felt a cold fear at the thought. Perhaps he should join them for the ceremony.

As he was about to start over, all the lights suddenly went out. It took him a few moments to adjust to the near total darkness. Keltieri stated to speak from her place within the group. "I wish to welcome our guests from the Federation. The joining ceremony that you are about to witness has been a part of our society for thousands of years. I caution you once again. Our senses will be in use tonight. If you relax and prepare yourselves, you might experience the joy that we ourselves do. If you wish to withdraw now, we will understand completely." She waited some moments to give them time to decide. Satisfied that all wished to stay she raised her voice once more into the night. "In darkness it begins."

As he watched the council members began to make their way through the crowd towards the platform. The silken material now covered their heads and draped nearly to the elbow. They walked slowly with their arms bent at the elbow hands palms out. They could not see yet not one missed a step.

Spock became aware of a sound like a soft chorus of voices. As it grew louder he realized that it was not sound at all, but the resonance of their emotions that touched him. The now blind council members were using their emphatic sense to find their way towards each other. As he grew used to the sensation, he found it quite pleasant. His body and mind seemed to thrum with sensation. It did not feel invasive as he thought it might have. He noticed the Thalrarians around him were holding their palms outward as they did in greeting. He realized that this was a way for them to better experience the sensation.

He turned to look again at Christine. She was watching with an intense look upon her face and a small smile on her lips. He watched as Wronan leaned in to whisper something in her ear. She shook her head no in reply. He whispered once more. Then reached down to grasp her hand. He lifted her hand into the palm outwards gesture and held securely to her wrist as if to keep it there.

As Spock watched a variety of emotions played across her features. A hesitant smile became wide. She laughed softly. She turned her head to gaze up at Wronan in wonder. As Wronan looked into her eyes with an answering smile, Spock experienced envy so great it pained him. More than he had ever wanted anything, he wanted to be the one with her now. To be with her as she experienced the thrill of contact for the first time. If he could just touch her now, he would share in her awakening. He remembered his amazement he had felt at his first meld. What would it be like to share this with Christine who not only had telepathic sense but emphatic as well?

He tore his glance away before anyone might notice his interest was not on the ceremony. The elders were now approaching the platform. They climbed the steps and came to stop perfectly spaced around the circle. It was as if they had rehearsed for years. They extended their arms out to their sides till their palms touched those of the person next to them. The "chorus" grew louder until it seemed to glow within him. The lights slowly came back on. The eight lowered their hands and took off their head coverings.

Keltieri's voice rose up into the dark night. "Into darkness we are born searching. Searching for the one who will join with us and live in light. Tonight two more have found each other. Come forward now and join with each other so we also may share in your joy." A beautiful young woman approached from across the circle. She wore no fancy adornments other than her diadem. She stepped gracefully up onto the platform. As she did Spock turned to watch the man approach. It was Wronan! He turned to look at Christine. She was totally absorbed in the couple that stood before them. He would not find an answer there.

The couple stood facing each other aware of no one but themselves. They smiled joyously at each other as their eyes met and held. Slowly they reached to remove each other's diadems. They handed them off to two of the council then turned back to each other. They raised their palms to touch each other's. An expectant hush fell over the onlookers. Almost as one the attendees raised their palms towards the couple. Spock felt the strength of their emotions as they reached out to each other. It filled him in a way that nothing had ever had. All his life he had been taught to reject the violent emotions of his ancestors. With a shock he realized that he was powerless to stop this feeling which flooded his system now. But even as it overwhelmed him, he felt nothing but goodness within it. This was love. It is as it should be.

His eyes sought out Christine, and as if she had heard him call, she turned her eyes toward his. Their eyes met and held. A new touch flowed into him. He felt himself join with it. He felt her. It was as if they breathed together. Their hearts beat as one. Their blood flowed through each other. All that she was, all her thoughts and feelings, danced through him and became him. So lost were they in each other that neither was aware that the ceremony had ended till the guests started to convey their blessings to the couple.

As she became aware of those around them Christine broke eye contact with him. She looked startled for a moment. As she looked at him again a fleeting emotion played across her features. In the next instant Wronan and his mate approached her. She turned away from him and joined with them in conversation. Frustrated Spock thought about the emotion he had glimpsed on her face. He was sure it had been fear!

He flinched as a musical laugh bubbled up next to him. He turned and came face to face with a middle aged Thalrarian woman. She smiled up at him then turned to gaze over at Christine. As she turned back to Spock her smile grew. "All my life I have hoped to feel this!"

Spock raised an elegant upswept brow. "Madam?"

She laughed again softly. A few of the other Thalrarians around them joined in her laughter. She nodded her head towards Christine, looked back up at Spock and said "You don't even know it, do you? She's your Ree'shala!" She patted him softly on the arm while she shook her head in wonder. "You must go to her, you know. Don't worry, you'll get used to the idea."

"Yes. Ah, excuse me please." He disengaged her hand and started off in the direction he had last seen Christine. But as he approached he realized she was no longer there. He turned his head. His eyes circled the crowd but she had vanished. He made his way towards Wronan and his bride. He offered his congratulations, which they accepted with glowing smiles, but he couldn't help notice a twinkle in Wronan's eye. He slowly wandered away from the crowd and made his way towards the gardens. He needed to think.

* * *

Spock made his way slowly through level after level of gardens, eventually winding up on the beach. He chose a direction at random and didn't stop until he came across a rocky outcropping. Here he chose to rest and think about the evening's events. When he had settled upon a large boulder, he noticed a pair of sandals on a nearby rock. So she too had needed time to think. His eyes scanned the beach further on but she was nowhere in sight.

What had passed between them tonight had shaken him to the core. How had he never felt this before? Was it possible for her to have blocked him so successfully all these years? He had always felt slightly uncomfortable in her presence. Was it because some small part of her reached out to him despite her best efforts to contain it? On Vulcan, to establish a contact with another without their consent was considered almost a crime. Yet tonight as she had reached out he had felt himself answer her call. He had had no choice. It was as if his very essence had been formed to blend with hers.

There was still so much he did not understand. Had she meant to reach out? Had she been as helpless to resist? Had she felt the same rush of physical desire that had rocked him? And what of the look that had come over her face? What was she afraid of? Was it because he had found out her secret? Or was there something more to be learned? Ree'shala! Was it a real thing? Could it effect him, a Vulcan, if it was?

* * *

Christine had walked much farther than she had intended. She turned knowing that she had to return soon. Wronan would be upset if she missed all of the festivities. He was a good man. From the moment they met he had treated her as family. It didn't matter to him if she was half-Human. He accepted her just as she was. Something she had never had in her youth, or ever since. If they made her quit, God forbid, she would speak with him about his ideas for the future. He wanted to be out among the stars learning about other cultures. Perhaps they could set up a practice on a colony somewhere.

What if they didn't make her leave? How would she face Spock every day? What had passed between them tonight could not be denied. He didn't have to question her now -- he already knew! He had not gone to the Captain yet. Perhaps she could persuade him to wait. She could be truthful with him now that her secret was out in the open.

She hadn't meant for it to happen. In fact all she had done was turn to look at him. She could swear she'd heard him call to her. She had never before felt so helpless to control herself. It hadn't been so much telepathic as empathic. Though their thoughts had touched, it had been the emotions and the feelings behind them that had flowed so strongly between them. Had she made him feel those emotions? Had she violated him because she wanted him? And she had wanted him. Wanted him with a physical desire so strong it had frightened her.

In the rush of burning desire a memory had surfaced. It was Matt. At that moment she had broken the contact with him. Fear had surged up in her. She thought of how she had turned the sweet gentle Matt into a violent rapist. How he had taken his own life in guilt over what he had done. After Matt she had locked that part of her away.

By the time she had met Roger she had become almost sexless. She had grown to love and respect Roger and knew to be with him that sex would be part of the package. Thankfully he was not a demanding man and their sexual encounters had been few and far between. It had taken a little acting on her part but she had convinced him that she was happy with him. And aside from the sex she had been.

Part of her still longed to feel desire once again but fear, and she supposed her lack of physical attraction to Roger, kept those feelings at bay. But from the moment she had met Spock she had known intense longing and had fought it all this time. After what happened tonight she couldn't trust herself. What would happen if she affected Spock in the same way that she had affected Matt? Knowing how much stronger he was, would she even survive the attack? Even if she did, what would happen to Spock?

In the darkness she didn't see him until she was too close to turn back. In the moments before he noticed her she took the time to study the face she loved so well. She only hoped, if they allowed her to stay that she could find the strength to hide behind her wall once again.

Spock felt her presence and turned to look at her. He felt desire awaken as it had earlier this evening, but the guarded expression on her face warned him to move slowly. He returned to gazing out at the sea.

Christine moved slowly towards the rocks and chose a seat some feet away from him. She too turned her gaze towards the water. After some moments she gathered her courage around her. "Spock, we need to talk."

He did not move but merely replied "Indeed, the necessity has become apparent to me as well. Perhaps you would like to start?"

He still had not turned back to face her. She found herself wondering just what he was thinking as he so seriously studied the ocean. The things she had meant to say suddenly disappeared as she watched him. Just as suddenly she found herself asking "Spock, what were you thinking about when I found you here?"

A gracefully arched brow lifted and held. "Duty."

"As in now that you know about me, you feel you must report the matter to the Captain as soon as possible?"

He stood slowly and walked to the water's edge. After a few moments he turned and came to stand before Christine. She felt disappointment mount as she grew certain of his answer. She dropped her head waiting for the blow to come. Instead she found herself once more looking up at Spock since he had now knelt down in front of her. As they looked at each other the breeze caused a long lock of Christine's hair to catch and tangle on her diadem.

A soft small smile played across Spock's face as he reached up to free the errant lock. As he tucked it behind her ear he said, "As in how it often is in direct conflict with one's personal desires." After tucking the lock securely behind her ear, he slowly drew the back of his index and middle finger down the line of her jaw. A line of electric fire followed in the wake. She felt him reach and herself start to answer. Even without her sense the look of intensity in his deep brown eyes left no doubt of his intention. A traitorous moan escaped the back of her throat as she leaned into his touch. He trailed his fingertips up to trace the outline of her lips. He slid his hand under her jaw tilting her head back with the tips of his fingers.

As he leaned in to kiss her, Christine pulled abruptly out of his grasp. "No, Spock, please."

Shocked by her action, Spock sat back on his heels. His movement left her just enough space to stand and move to a safe distance. Spock recovered quickly and caught up with her. He reached out and grasped her arm, effectively stopping her from retreating further. "Christine, I do not understand. You have more than once told me of your feelings towards me. I felt them in you tonight. Why did you pull away from me?"

Her shoulders slowly sagged. A small sigh escaped her. She turned to face him. "I never thought… I do feel for you, but I never thought this would happen. Please, this just can't happen. You can't understand."

His heart he had so recently started to become aware of felt as if it were turning to stone. Unbidden, an image of T'Pring came to mind. Along with the image came her coldly logical speech of rejection. This would not happen. Not with this woman! He had felt her fire for him.

He reached out and grasped her by the upper arms. He drew her within inches. So close he could almost feel the soft warmness of her. "Christine, look at me." When she did he continued. "Explain. What is it you're afraid of?"

The touch of his hands and his nearness pushed at her control. She was lost in his soft brown eyes. She felt herself opening to him. His eyes grew darker as he became aware of her. His hands moved to encircle her waist and shoulders. Somewhere deep within her, she found a control learned so long ago. She brought her hands up to his chest and pushed with all her strength. She raised the wall and slammed it into place. "No! I'm not afraid of anything. It's just not going to happen. Now let me go."

The uneasy feeling had returned. The uncomfortable feeling he had had around her for years. It was her doing. She was blocking her senses from him. "Why?"

"Because I don't want it. Why do you think I told you how I felt about you? I knew it would keep you away, you see. I didn't want you to find out about me. Everything you've been thinking about me was true. I was just afraid you'd find out and tell the Captain. And now I'm just afraid you'll tell him before we leave here. I don't want to be responsible for the ruination of this mission. It's too important. I just thought if I …I honestly didn't mean to hurt you. I just can't." She turned and fled towards the safety of the gathering.

As she had spoken Spock had felt rage build slowly inside him. But it had died quickly. She was lying, but her reasons for it were a total mystery to him. Though she had closed her senses off from him once again, he knew of her true feelings. How long would he have to wait? He could not force the truth from her. Would she ever come to him?

One thing he did agree with. He would wait to speak with Jim until they were done here. He would not jeopardize the negotiations with Thalra even if it were not for personal reasons. He only hoped she would go to the Captain first. He had no wish to do so himself. Perhaps when the matter had been settled she would seek him out.

He started slowly back towards the gathering. As usual it was a warm night, but as he looked up at the myriad stars in the deep velvety night, Spock had never felt so cold or so alone.

* * *

Christine did her best to calm herself on the walk back, but by the time she had reached the party she was still shaken. Wronan, who had been conversing with another healer on the sidelines, noticed her arrival. He also took note of her distress. When he saw Spock return some moments later, he made a calculated guess as to the reason for her discomposure. He looked on in some amazement. Although he had been deeply involved in his joining with Denevra, he to had become aware of the flare of emotion between these two. Ree'Shala! He had thought it almost a myth, but the power of it overshadowed anything he had ever experienced. What could have gone wrong in their time away from the joining? How could two so seemingly intelligent people be so blind? He made his way slowly towards Christine.

"Cousin you're as white as a Thalrarian robe. What troubles you?"

"Wronan, it's nothing really. I'm just a little tired. Please don't let me keep you from Denevra."

Wronan let is gaze travel to his new wife. As usual Denevra's lively nature drew her to the heart of the festivities. If anything Denevra was even more adventuresome than he was. It pleased him greatly to know if his proposal was accepted she would be as excited as he was at the prospect. "It seems that my bride is happily occupied dancing with half the population of Thalra. I fear I might grow lonely without you to talk to." He reached out and raised Christine's chin with a fingertip. Her lovely blue eyes swam with unshed tears. "What is this? Tears on my joining day. I won't have it. Come let us walk in the garden." He tucked her arm through hers and led her away from the crowd.

* * *

Nyota too had noticed Spock and Christine's absence. She took careful note of their expressions when they returned. Christine had seemed upset, but before Nyota could approach her Wronan had whisked her away. Spock on the other hand seemed his usual composed self. That was before she saw him accept a drink, an alcoholic one. She could count, with less than the fingers of one hand, the number of times she had seen Spock accept a drink. Those few times had been at diplomatic functions where a refusal might be construed as an insult. Tonight Spock had called the server to him. After taking his drink, he removed himself to a table far from the parties action. Feeling a bit like Daniel approaching the lion's den, she made her way slowly towards his table.

All through the years of her friendship with Christine, she had known of her friend's love for Spock. She had watched it mature from infatuation to a quiet acceptance of his inability to love her in return. For over a year now Christine never mentioned him except in relation to duty. It had seemed she was over him, but in her heart Nyota knew that for Christine Spock was the one. And although Christine had seemed to accept her situation Nyota had continued to watch the two of them.

She would never say that Spock loved Christine, but she knew his feelings for her ran deeper than most would have guessed. Whenever their paths crossed, he was careful with her feelings. He was always formal with her, but with a gentle touch that he showed no other. And in the times when she was unaware of his presence, he watched her. There had been times in the rec room where Nyota had wished she could will Christine to turn her head so to catch him observing her. But it had never happened.

She was so sure after witnessing the scene in the dining room and then learning about the meeting with Wronan that Spock had had a change of heart. She had watched the two of them tonight during the ceremony. She could not rely on what she had felt. The whole gathering was so full of charged emotions it had been hard to tell who was generating them, but the look that had passed between Spock and Christine was more telling than any declaration of feeling could have been.

So what had happened? The two of them were so obviously in love with each other. They met on a long stroll down a dark empty beach. They come back separately, both of them shaken. So which one was it this time? Spock once again fearing the emotions he so plainly felt? Or was it Christine whose past made her terrified of the passion that went hand in hand with the love she felt?

How could she draw him out? They had worked side by side for years, and their friendship had grown out of it. But their friendship was limited to their current mission, their appreciation for music, and general day to day business. They never entered into the personal side of their lives. It was just the way it was with Spock. It was past time for this discussion. She cared too much for both of them not to try, but she would give anything to not be the one that had to. She took a deep breath.

"You're just the man I want to talk to. Mind if I sit down?"

* * *

"So because of what happened to this boy, all those years ago, you thought you'd sentence yourself to a life without passion for the rest of your life. Given what you've learned in your time here with us, do you know how impossible this would be?

"Oh, Wronan, you don't understand!"

"Don't understand? And just what is it that I don't understand? That you're a creature of feelings and emotions and to continue to deny them is impossible for you. That you were little more than a child when you met this Matt? A child who spent her whole life in lonely darkness. A child who didn't even know who or what she was, who was raised to believe she was a monster who had to hide herself away. You were totally unprepared for this first passion you felt for him. And he was just as unprepared. What happened was terribly sad but it was no one's fault. And now you're afraid of what you feel for Spock, and what he is feeling for you. Christine, Spock is not some untried boy. He's a grown man and has spent his whole life learning to control his emotions. Certainly his reaction to you will be strong. After all he is your Ree'Shala! But no matter how strong he will not allow these feelings to cause either of you harm. Even if he did have trouble controlling himself you know enough now to keep things from getting out of hand. Surely cousin you can see this."

A sad smile played about Christine's mouth. She looked up into Wronan's eyes as a small sigh escaped her. "I do see it, Wronan, but I'm so scared. If anything were to go wrong I…and I know I have to talk with him. It was a cowardly thing I did tonight. He finally is willing to open himself to me and I turned him away with no explanation. I don't know if he can ever forgive me but I have to try. I still will wait until we leave here. We came here for a purpose and that's more important than my life and its problems. Besides I can't go to him before I come clean with the Fleet. Depending on what they decide, I might have nothing to offer."

"I know you're nervous about facing your Captain. I don't blame you. I would be nervous too. Tomorrow at the delegation meeting the council of elders will make a proposition to the Federation's representatives. If it is accepted, Denevra and I will be there for you whatever the outcome of your meeting with your Captain."

"What are you telling me?"

"Just that the council will propose that Denevra and I have volunteered to be the first Thalrarians to officially visit with your home world. They are in agreement that the diadems are ready for this next step. They are also agreed the Denevra and I are the natural choice for a mission of this kind. Denevera is a part of, primitive as it is, of our engineering guild, and I a member of the Healers guild. We would have much to learn and offer the Federation." A wide grin broke across his face. A familiar twinkle danced in his eyes. "Besides being the extroverts we both are seemed to qualify us as the best for ambassadorial duties!"

Christine's face lit in a radiant smile. "Oh, Wronan, that would be wonderful! I've been so sad thinking I was going to leave you all behind! It's the first time I've felt I've had real family. I only hope everything works out."

"I think the Federation will be happy with the council's proposal. We both will benefit from it. And if your meeting with your Captain doesn't go well, perhaps we'll just run off together and start our own world. Now wouldn't that just shock them all!"

* * *

Nyota was in the middle of downing her fourth Thalrarian cocktail and her pleasant buzz was rapidly turning into a room spinning blur. "Like I sa... said I'm glad you've finally decided to ex... explore your other heritage. But I think that should be your last cocktail."

Spock quirked a curious eyebrow at Nyota. "I fail to see your logic in that suggestion. I don't seem to be experiencing any ill effects."

"You do seem to be holding up well, but you might just feel differently tomorrow morning. So you'll think about what I said? You know I have the deepest respect for you. Normally I wouldn't dream of speaking about such a personal thing with you, but Chris is my best friend. And although I might never talk about it, I care for you too. I just don't want to see two people I care about make the biggest mistake of their lives."

"I take no offense in your speaking honestly with me. In fact for some reason I feel remarkably relaxed this evening. It seems strange since I did not earlier. I only wish you could tell me more."

"I can't go into the details of Christine's life. I could never betray our friendship that way. I can only ask that you have patience with her. She did not grow up as you did. She did not have the luxury of knowing that she was of dual parentage or the acceptance of it as well. I'm sure you had difficulties, but think how much harder it could have been if you had been kept in fear and ignorance. Give her time Spock. I know her. She'll come around. And when she does, please try and be understanding of just how much telling you the truth is costing her."

"I will endeavor to do as you ask. I too do not wish to make a mistake. I find this matter has become of great importance to me."

"Good! That's settled. Now do me a favor. Walk me back to my quarters. I seem to be having a problem with my balance."

"Indeed, I had noticed you did seem to be moving rather awkwardly. Perhaps if I assisted you?"

If anyone noticed the Vulcan lurching slowly up the road with the stumbling Lieutenant on his arm, it would never be mentioned. The wedding party was in full swing and besides Thalrarians were by nature a discreet people. In fact the only reprimand the Vulcan faced the following day was an uncommon headache and a tongue that felt as if it were growing a coat of fur.

* * *

Christine stood with Leonard and Hikaru at the rear of the conference room. The Captain, at the front of the room, was already deep in conversation with the council of elders. The meeting was due to convene in ten minutes and there was still no sign of Spock or Nyota for that matter. The were in full dress today since this was to be their last official meeting before the negotiations were concluded. Christine once again tugged at the hem of her skirt in the vain hope of covering a little more of herself. All the action did was to cause the itchy material to chafe at her neckline and shoulder seams. She almost laughed out loud when she noticed Leonard pulling at his neckline. No matter what their differences, there was one thing everyone in the fleet agreed upon. Their dress uniforms were designed to be devices of torture. The scuttlebutt was that prototype uniforms were being tested on some of the newer ships, and that they even included slacks as part of the women's dress code. She only hoped it was true. Through the years her better than average height and shorter than average skirt had left her feeling exposed on more than one occasion.

Although excited over today's proposal Christine was sure her day would overlong. It hadn't been too late when she returned to her quarters last night, but her sleep had been restless. She knew she had had vivid dreams brought on by her meeting with Spock and her conversation with Wronan afterwards. She couldn't remember anything in particular except for one small thing. She seemed to have dreamt about someone, possibly Spock, standing outside her door singing softly to her in Vulcan. She wished her command of the Vulcan language was stronger so she could have interpreted the song. Thinking about the very proper, very contained Spock singing outside her door sent a ripple of silent laughter through her. Never in her wildest dreams, that was until last night!

McCoy noticed her smile. "Well, Chris you seem in a particularly good mood this morning. Had a good time at the joining last night?"

"Why, yes, Leonard I did. It was a very…."

Sulu noticing her hesitation came to her rescue. "I would say it was a very emotionally revealing experience. Wouldn't you agree, Chris?"

"Yes, I would have to agree with you there."

A small smile quirked one corner of Hikaru's mouth. "In fact I would say most of us were made more aware of ourselves and the others around us. It was a definite learning experience for me. I even think Spock would have to agree."

McCoy looked from one to the other. He had caught Sulu's smirk and Christine's warning look. "Now, why don't you tell me just what--"

"Oh, look here comes Nyota. I was worried she was going to be late." Christine had never felt happier to see her friend. Although she was happy to learn Hikaru was not only aware of, but also apparently approved of her secret she was not ready to deal with Leonard's reaction. "Morning, Ny. Sorry I missed your leaving last night. I got to talking with Wronan and lost track of time." She noticed Nyota's wince at her hearty greeting. "You feeling okay?"

Nyota gave a small smile in return. "I'm fine, Chris. I just had a little too much Thalrarian wine at the ceremony last night."

Sulu's smirk turned into a broad grin. "I'd say. But the thing that got me was the way Spock was throwing them back. I don't know how you two got back to quarters without doing damage to yourselves."

Nyota looking from Christine's shocked expression to McCoy's look of delighted amazement thought quickly. She raised her hands to her hips and glared at Sulu in what she hoped looked like mock anger. "Hikaru, stop teasing them right now. Honestly, you'll have Leonard believing you in a minute. You never stop!" She dropped her hands from her hips then linked her arm through his. "Now come on. There's something I need to discuss with you before the meeting starts." She looked from Christine to Leonard while she shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Excuse us, will you?"

Years later Hikaru would still remember the dressing down he received as soon as they were out of earshot. He couldn't help but think it was worth it just to see the look on McCoy's face!

As they moved off McCoy turned to Christine. "What do you think, Chris? You think Sulu could have been telling the truth?"

"Oh, Leonard, come on. Spock drunk!"

"Yeah, you're right. It's just too good to be true. Still I'm going to keep my eye on him today. That is, if he ever shows up. I can't believe he's this late. Come on, let's get a seat before it starts."

As they made their way towards the front of the room Christine couldn't help but think of Hikaru's words. It was inconceivable. Yet there was that strange dream. Could he really have been singing at her door? No, he was just teasing them. She was sure of it, but she wouldn't mind a few words with Nyota later. At least she could find out what really happened while she was away with Wronan.

* * *

Even though he had only 7.2 minutes to spare, Spock paused before entering the meeting chamber. He pulled once again at his dress tunic. He had often heard his fellow crewman complain about the uncomfortable uniform but he had never problem with it. It was simply clothing duty made it necessary wear therefore it was to be accepted. This morning, however, he was finding it extremely ill fitting. In fact he was having trouble with a number of things today. He had awoken late to find himself still half-dressed. He wore his trousers and one boot and it had taken him precious minutes to locate the other. His mouth was dry and had an extremely unpleasant taste. There was a throbbing behind his left eye. He had tried meditating to control the pain but he had not been able to concentrate sufficiently. Although he was running late, he opted for a hot water shower. While it had made him feel physically better, it did nothing for his state of mind.

He remembered, in amazement, the moment during the joining ceremony when their emotions had become one. He remembered how she had felt in his arms, her body pressed close to his. And he remembered the brief white rage at her rejection. He had meant to have one drink. Dr. McCoy claimed one could calm and relax you. He had been in unknown waters venturing deep into his human half. He had thought to try a human remedy to his emotional problem. Then Uhura had been there. His Vulcan half had been shocked at the personal nature of their conversation. But there had been another drink and then another and somewhere along the way he began to relax. He couldn't remember much after that.

As he made ready to enter the room, a fragment of memory returned to him. It was a memory of standing outside Christine's quarters singing an ancient Vulcan love song. As the horror that he might actually have done such a thing settled in his thoughts, he began to raise a shocked eyebrow. The movement caused the pain behind his eye to flare up and he visibly winced.

Wronan had never cared for council meetings. Their stuffy formality always left him feeling edgy. Today his very future was in their hands and he had been pacing the corridor intending to enter at the last possible minute. He had noticed Spock's approach and had been watching him for some moments. He took in Spock's slightly disheveled appearance and noticed the painful flinch at the slight movement. He found himself starting to smile. By all the ancients he never thought he would see such a thing. All the symptoms were in evidence. Impossible as it seemed what stood before him was a cool, logical, supposedly emotionless Vulcan with a major hangover! After his conversation with Christine last night, he found his opinion about Spock had changed. After learning that he had reached out to her, Wronan began to think the relationship had merit. Generous as he was feeling towards Spock, this moment was too good to be passed up! He quickly moved to Spock's side and gave him a hearty clap on the back.

"Spock. Good morning, my Vulcan friend. It's a good day for the future. don't you think?"

Try as he might Spock couldn't stop the small groan that escaped at Wronan's slap on the back. "Healer Wronan, I believe your observation might have great potential if what the council proposes today is accepted."

Wronan worked hard to contain the grin he felt about to appear. Though he suppressed it, he couldn't stop the twinkle in his eyes. "Spock, Wronan, just Wronan please! After all you've been to my joining. With all that we've learned of each other, there it makes us almost like family, wouldn't you say?"

Painful or not Spock couldn't stop his eyebrow from rising. "Indeed. Might I also congratulate you again on your joining? I must admit I was surprised to find it was your joining I was attending. From your earlier actions I was led to believe your interests might lie elsewhere."

"Earlier actions? Ahh, Christine. An exceptional woman. I will admit that if the situation were different, I might give a man a run for his money there. But I am quite happy with my chosen mate. Denevra is quite remarkable in her own way. Hopefully one day soon you will be as happy as I. Now I must admit something to you. I have been teasing you shamefully."

"How so?"

Wronan let loose the smile he had been hiding. "I trust you enjoyed your Jorga last night?"

Spock's brow creased in uncertainty. "Forgive me but ... Jorga? I am not aquatinted with this term."

"Jorga is the wine you indulged, or shall I say overindulged, in last night."

"I must apologize if I made a spectacle of myself. I had not intended to consume so much wine."

"I did not see you touch so much as a drop. The moment I saw you this morning I knew. You see I recognize the symptoms. I have suffered them myself on more than on occasion. Tell me which eye pains you?"

"The left."

"Ahh, with me it is the right. Don't worry, it will pass soon enough. I only wish we had time enough to feed you some flat cakes. They take the edge off. Oh, well, straighten yourself up now; we don't want to be late. Remember, no sudden movements and you'll be fine." He gave Spock a conspiratorial wink and a smile. "It's a shame what a woman can make us do. You should have seen me when Denevra led me on a chase. I wasn't fit company for months! Come, let's go in, shall we?"

He gave Spock no chance to reply. And so they entered the conference chamber, the one in front robust and fairly bursting with energy, the one behind walking slowly stiff-backed with shocked eyebrows almost covered by his hairline.

* * *

It was hard to believe it was over. It had all gone so fast, and here she was sorting out her belongings wondering if she should have unpacked them at all. She thought back over the last few days. The council meeting had gone well as they had all hoped. The council of elders had accepted membership in the Federation and in a few months a delegation would be arriving on Thalra for further cultural and scientific exchange. Wronan, Denevra and their party were settled comfortably on the Enterprise and were happily trying to find out everything about everyone and everything as fast as they could. Wronan had never seemed happier. Christine wished she could feel the same.

She had stayed resolved in her decision to come clean with Star Fleet. Keltieri had held her tightly at their leave-taking. Her whispered words, even if Christine had not the faith to believe them, were a comfort.

"Be careful, child. I know it is the way you must walk, but living by the heart can be dangerous. I believe in you, Christine, child of Istiana. I feel all will be well with you. Remember you will always have a home here. I will miss you till we meet again."

Christine could only hope her words were true, but as time wore on she only grew more nervous. After arriving back on the Enterprise the landing party had been scheduled for immediate debriefing. Once they had been excused she had made her way to the Captain's side. She had requested a meeting with him and Leonard at their earliest convenience. He had looked slightly confused but set the meeting at the beginning of the next shift. As she had talked to the Captain she had felt Spock's eyes upon her. When she requested only the Captain's and Leonard's presence at the meeting, he had turned and left the briefing room. She had not set eyes on him since.

She knew he had expected to be there, and she did owe him an explanation as much as she did the rest of them. But she would seek him out privately afterwards. As much as she wanted to believe in the concept of Ree'Shala, she couldn't quite. Even though he had finally reached out to her, it had been right after an emotion packed experience. He, being a Vulcan and telepathic, had been flooded with the tumult of thoughts and emotions that night. He hadn't been "in his right mind." She was sure now that he was back on board, it would be business as usual. And even if wasn't, she was sure he would never be able to accept the cowardly way she had hidden who she was for all these years. Spock was nothing if but completely truthful, even when it was painful, and he expected the same from others. She could only hope he would accept her apology.

Leonard had. It had taken two days but he finally was talking to her again. He had been all smiles at the start of their meeting.

"So what's this about, Chris? You're still wearing that thing on your head. Don't tell me you're going native. I won't let him sign transfer papers. I'm not gonna loose the best head nurse I ever had cause she's thinking she's found paradise or something."

One corner of Jim's mouth had twitched up at his friend's ramblings. "Bones, let the woman talk. We haven't got all day and I'm sure whatever it is it doesn't concern going native. So, Christine, what's on your mind?"

It was to Christine's credit that even with her legs feeling like jelly she calmly replied "Well, sir, it's not about going native. It's more about being native."

As their confused gazes fell on her she had taken on deep breath. "It's a long story."

And it had been. She told them everything with the exception of her past love life. Some things even Star Fleet didn't have a right to know, and the telling was painful enough as it was. In the end the Captain had been understanding and caring with her. He explained that if it were up to him, she could go back to work right that minute. If it was, but the decision had to go through headquarters and should take about three Earth standard days. She was relieved of duty until their answer arrived.

Leonard had not been as understanding. As she had talked, he had gone from staring intently at her to finally lowering his gaze to the table in front of him. When the Captain dismissed her, she slowly turned and started to the door. She had turned and looked back at the man she all but thought of as her father.

"Leonard, I don't know what to say. I wish I could have told you this sooner. I…"

He had raised his head quickly to give her one cold ice blue stare. "You heard the Captain. You'll be informed of Starfleet's decision. Till then stay out of my sickbay."

He couldn't have hurt her more if he had slapped her. Even Jim felt the sting of his words.

"Bones, I don't think…"

Leonard stood. "Captain, if we're through here I have a sickbay to run." At Jim's nod he quickly brushed by Christine on his way out the door. Jim turned a sympathetic eye at Christine's grief stricken expression.

"I know him, Christine. He'll come around. You just have to give him time."

So she waited. It was two of the longest days of her life. Nyota had tried to get her out to the rec room. Sulu had brought her beautiful flowers from the garden. Wronan and Denevra had come with dinner and a bottle of wine. They all gave her words of encouragement, and she loved them dearly for it. But the look on Leonard's face stayed with her, and her heart was heavy. She also knew that she should seek Spock out, but she couldn't bring herself to approach him just yet. She also was aware that he was not looking for her either. Not a good sign at all.

Late the second day, her door buzzer sounded. Too down in the dumps to move, she had simply remained sitting at her desk. "Come."

"Well, don't get up on my account!"

She was on her feet in an instant. "Leonard!"

"Now that I got your attention, there's some things I gotta say, missy. First of all, I don't like anyone crawling around inside my head or my heart, and if I catch you at it, you're fired. Two, you got a hell of a nerve not telling me this sooner. Damnit, Chris, you're like my other daughter. There shouldn't be anything you don't trust me enough to tell me! I might not be happy with it, but I'll listen. And, third, as soon as you get the okay, you get your butt back to sickbay. You're my best, Chris, and if I can put up with Spock, and his mind melds, I can put up with this thing you got. After all, you're a hell of a lot more fun to be around! So that's settled." After that he pulled her into a rough hug. He slowly pulled back. "You got at least another day off. Go out and have some fun. I gotta get back."

With that he had gone. Christine stood where he left her, tears falling freely down her face. All she could think was this was the reason she called the Enterprise home. These people really were her family! She fervently hoped Star Fleet felt the same about it.

* * *

It took a while for the buzzing sound to register. Christine had been sleeping fitfully for a few hours and the noise just seemed a part of the latest nightmare. One bleary eye finally opened and she snaked a hand out to the com unit. "Chapel here."

"Christine, I'm sorry to disturb you at such a late hour. Normally I would have asked you to report to me tomorrow but I knew you'd want to know as soon as possible."

"Oh, Captain, it's all right. I was having trouble sleeping anyway."

"Well, I think you can sleep better now. They've decided you can stay. There's one condition though. You have to wear your diadem at all times. Will that be a problem, Lieutenant?"

"Oh, no, sir, no problem at all."

"Good. That's what I told them you'd say. Now get some sleep. That's an order, Christine. If I know Bones, he'll have you running double time tomorrow."

"Aye aye, sir! And, sir, thank you, sir!"

"Goodnight, Christine."

She knew she should try and sleep, but she was too keyed up for it. Her friends would want to know, but it was late. Besides she needed some time to herself. She dressed quickly and made her way to the one place that always seemed to bring her peace. The observatory was deserted at this late hour. She left the lights off. She hoped she could stay here undisturbed among the stars.

It was almost an hour later when she heard the door whoosh open behind her. She hoped whomever it was would realize she wanted to be alone and would leave her in peace. The room stayed dark, but she sensed a presence directly behind her. The soft rich baritone almost made her jump.

"I believe congratulations are in order."

So he had come. She did not relish the conversation to come. She drew a breath that ended in a long sigh. "Yes, thank you, Spock. I wasn't aware the Captain had told anyone but me. I should have known you, being his first officer."

"The Captain did not tell me. But I am aware. If it is a problem…"

She turned and soft blue eyes met warm brown ones. "Oh, no, it's no problem. I just thought I had some time before I…Spock, I'm sorry. I should have come to you sooner. I just…" She dropped her gaze. Her eyes stared at the blue velour expanse of chest.

"Yes, you have owed me a conversation for some time. There is no need to apologize. I believe the cause was sufficient. You were under extreme emotional distress. Now that it is over, I have come to collect on your offer."

"All right. I just don't know where to begin. How can I make you understand? I…"

A long slender finger placed across her lips stopped her words. Startled she looked up at him. His eyes were warm and a small smile played at the corner of his mouth. He slowly removed his finger. "There is only one place to start this conversation. Shall we begin, Ree'Shala?" His eyes never left hers as he reached up and slowly removed her diadem.



THE END

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