DISCLAIMER: The characters and events in this story are based on Star Trek. I do not own them or Star Trek, they belong to the estate and heirs of Gene Roddenberry. This story is rated PG.

Ways to Take Care of These Things


Jack Remington was the biggest thing to hit the Enterprise since James T. Kirk himself. A fair haired golden boy who had breezed through the Academy, he even reminded the captain of himself in his not so distant younger days. Jack lived to take risks, and often improvised his way around regulations and rules. As a Starfleet officer he would have made a perfect smuggler. He was charming and confident almost to the point of being cocky. A lieutenant when he boarded, he was hoping for the fast track to his own command. Jim Kirk intended to have some influence in that matter. He instantly saw a protégé in the rising young star.

From the time Lieutenant Remington took his first step off of the transporter platform, the female population of the ship was abuzz with excitement. Those ladies who were not rendered speechless by his very presence were busy trying to outdo each other to gain his attentions. The other men on board found the display quite appalling. It mostly offended their egos more than their sense of decorum.

"Vat des he have dat we doon't?" Chekov asked Sulu one day while witnessing a group of ladies fall all over themselves to impress Jack.

"Hmmph. Every girl on the ship it would seem." Hikaru shook his head.

For all the effort put forth by those of the fairer gender, it soon became apparent that Lieutenant Jack Remington only had eyes for one person, the head nurse aboard the Enterprise, Christine Chapel.

For her part, Christine appreciated the attention, but tried her best to politely brush off the brash new crewmember. It was well known, although never spoken of, around the ship that her heart belonged steadfastly to the stoic and aloof first officer, Mister Spock. The Vulcan had never given her the slightest indication that there would ever be anything between them, but she was not ready to give up hope just yet. Christine was a beautiful woman and very used to the having men attracted to her. She was also a brilliant researcher and self assured officer. Although she regretted disappointing Jack, for she knew very much how that felt, she tried to remain distantly friendly at best. She quite simply could not afford a relationship with him. She had her career to think of. Besides, she was hoping for something and someone else.

* * *

"Aw, come on Christine," Jack groveled. It did not suit him, and she was not in the mood. He continued anyway, ignoring the annoyance that crossed her face. He was trying his best to get her to accept his invitation as she cleaned up from her shift in sickbay, and he was getting in her way at every turn. "Can't a guy take a pretty girl out to dinner, and maybe show her a few out of the way places he just discovered?" His smile was far too self serving.

"I've probably already seen them," she reminded him never taking her eyes from the hypos she was gathering and counting before discarding them. "I have been on this ship a lot longer than you."

"Then maybe you could show me some things I haven't seen." He grinned at his own innuendo. She only rolled her eyes.

"Look," she said, turning on him but still trying to remain civil. "I appreciate your offer, but I'm really tired. My plans for tonight involve a hot shower, a nail file, and good book. So if you'll excuse me, I'm sure you can find someone else to experience those out of the way places with you." She ignored his piqued interest at the thought of her bathing, and pushed past him into the doorway. Doctor McCoy was just exiting his office as the door slid open.

"'Night, Chris," he said. "Hot date tonight?" he joked, noticing her eager but dejected follower.

She threw him a hateful look and he was certain he would be in for some form of retaliation the next day. Her pace quickened as she left both her friend and her suitor in her wake. McCoy laughed and turned to Jack.

"Give it up, Jack m'boy." He clapped the younger gold-shirted officer on the shoulder. "The only way she'll ever think about you is if you grow pointed ears." He shook his head.

Jack looked as though he'd just been given a challenge. "Oh, we'll see about that, Doctor, we'll see about that." He gave McCoy a wink and left sickbay to see if he could catch up with his quarry.

The officers' deck was quiet and nearly deserted as Christine made her way back to her quarters. Usually everyone's first stop after going off duty was the rec room. This made for a short time when solitude reigned on the habitation decks. She liked this time, there was a strange comfort in the hum of the engines that could be heard through the walls, and the walk from sickbay had relaxed her. She had almost managed to forget about Jack's incessant pleas for her attention, almost. Something nagged at her though. Was she that way? Did Spock find her annoying and intolerable? No, certainly not. She had rarely done anything to provoke him. There had only been the incident over Psi 2000, the time Sargon had put his essence into the mind, and their forced kiss on Platonius. Those, however were not her fault. She had not gone looking for him and refused to leave him alone. He was aware of her feelings for him that was true, but she did not think her affection could be cause for irritation. In fact over the years they had settled into an unspoken agreement of avoidance. He shied away from her because the very thought of her feelings for him was a source of discomfort. She shied away from him because knowing he would never return her love was more than she could stand. It was a reasonable solution.

Lost in thought, Christine had nearly reached her door when Spock came around a corner. She had come to dread the rush of excitement she felt whenever she saw him. Somehow she had learned to stifle her outward reaction. Inwardly however, she still became as flustered as a school girl. She hoped he could not sense it, but his tension around her told her that maybe he could. Luckily, they were still able to exchange civilities.

"Good evening, Miss Chapel. I trust you are well," Spock greeted her.

"Good evening, Mr. Spock. Thank you, I am quite well," she answered and they went along their separate ways.

Christine reached the door of her quarters and keyed in her security code. All the while she fought herself not to look back. She did not see Spock turn and regard her.

* * *

It took four long months, but Jack's constant pursuance finally wore Christine down. At last she decided to go out with him. Just a dinner in the mass hall, nothing fancy. She realized that there was no reason not to. He was nice, and it was obvious he liked her a great deal. Why should she not have some fun? It would never amount to anything, but they could have a few laughs.

They arrived to the envious stares of most of the women and several of the men who had always thought Christine somehow off limits. They chose a quiet table in the corner and, after seating her, Jack went off toward the meal service area to get their food. Christine was surprised at how gentlemanly he was behaving. He had thankfully abandoned his smug attitude, at least for tonight and she was finding the beginnings of the evening rather pleasant. It had been a long time since she had enjoyed the attentions of a man and it felt good. She lost herself in thought for a while and then turned to watch Jack struggling with two trays. She snickered to herself at the scene. Then, from the corner of her eye, she noticed something. Rather, it was someone.

Spock's attention was riveted to her. He sat across the room at a table by himself. He did not take his eyes from her even when she looked him directly in the face. Their gazes locked, but neither turned away. After so long being ignored by him, this close scrutiny made her uncomfortable. All the reasons he could possibly be staring at her ran through her mind. Did he think her shallow accepting the admiration of someone else after having been fixated on him for so long? Was he relieved that she may be moving on? Certainly he was not jealous. Before Christine could contemplate Spock's actions further, Jack returned to the table. Her attention was diverted. She did not see that Spock continued to study her for a few moments more, before rising stiffly and leaving the room.

The evening passed almost too quickly and Christine was surprised when she realized that fact. She had thought it would drag on endlessly. However, Jack had been genuinely likable. Perhaps he had been trying too hard before. He even seemed a bit nervous. I'm certainly not used to this, Christine thought to herself as he walked her to the door of her cabin. Jack lagged a little behind her. He fumbled with his fingers, unsure if he should put his arm around her, sweep her off her feet, or shake her hand. He was glad she was smiling. Christine paused and fumbled with the lock panel. It took her much longer than usual to key in the first two numbers. In the middle of the sequence she turned to her date.

"I had a very nice time," she smiled.

"Don't sound so surprised," Jack laughed.

She echoed his merriment. "Well, I have to admit, I wasn't sure it would be as pleasant as it was."

"I'm glad you enjoyed our evening." He looked down at his feet a moment, but moved a little closer.

"I really did." Christine mirrored his nervousness, but found herself drawing closer to him as well.

The awkward new couple did not realize that they were the focus of a private viewing. With his level one security clearance, Commander Spock had visual access to all public areas of the ship from the com screen in his cabin. He knew it wrong, he knew it was voyeuristic, he knew was a reprehensible invasion of privacy. However, it was the only way he could be close to her. He had begun to watch Christine's movements about the ship around the time she had confessed her love for him. At first, he told himself it was to be sure of her distance from him. Then, when it was clear she had no intention of declaring herself again or of approaching him, he continued to monitor her actions. For some reason he was drawn to her, and over his own objections, he could not help himself. He knew though that one day he would answer to his ancestors for the extremely illogical act. It was when she had come to him in his quarters while he was nearly insane, and he had opened his eyes to the face of an angel that he realized his attraction to her had grown to something much more. He was in love with her. He reproached himself for such feelings, but could not bring himself to part from her in the only way he could be near her, watching, almost guarding her.

Tonight, he watched Lieutenant Remington make her smile, make her laugh, make her feel wanted and special and cursed emotion that swirled within him. Jealousy. Spock wished he could be the one courting Christine, taking her to dinner, walking her back to her cabin, and now awaiting the infamous kiss. For a moment hope swelled within him, perhaps she would not favor Jack Remington with that gift. He watched, his hands clenched in tight fists trying to fight down the anger, disappointment, and bitterness that rose up in his throat. Then it happened. On the screen, the two moved closer, she let the young officer put his arm around her shoulders and she lifted her face to him. He saw the young man face turn intensely serious and bring his lips down to her. They kissed.

"Christine." Spock whispered stricken, and switched off the view screen.

* * *

The landing party beamed back up to the Enterprise, battered and bloody. Captain Kirk, Spock, Jack, and Chekov have barely made it off the planet's surface with their skins. They had been the victims of a Klingon ambush. Even as they materialized on the transporter pads, the ship was warping away from the diverted disaster and Uhura was sending subspace messages fast and furious warning any Star Fleet ships in the area of the new enemy stronghold. Dr. McCoy and Christine waited along with a group of medics in the transporter room. Overcome with relief Christine rushed to Jack who wrapped her in his arms and held her tightly. The relationship that she and Jack shared was now several weeks old and their infatuation was still overwhelming.

"I was so worried," she said, her voice faltering.

"It's alright. I'm okay. Everybody's fine," he reassured her, setting her feet once more on the ground. Lost in their embrace, neither noticed the way Spock steeled his jaw and turned away.

"Well, now let's just get y'all checked out so we're absolutely certain of that," McCoy said. "Everybody to sickbay," he ordered.

"Bones, we're fine. I've got to get to the bridge," Kirk protested. Sometimes it was harder for McCoy to get him to hold still for an examination than Spock.

"They're takin' care of everything up there and you know the regulations. You too, Spock." McCoy pointed.

Spock as usual did not feel he needed any medical assessment. He also did not feel like being witness to anymore of the display that Christine and Lieutenant Remington were involved in. "I assure you, Doctor, I am quite well. There is no need ... "

"Zip it!" McCoy bellowed. "All of you, march."

Kirk and Spock exchanged raised eyebrows and reluctantly complied, as Chekov followed. Jack and Christine were so embroiled in their own whispered conversation that they did not hear the order and stayed behind as the others began to exit.

"Oh, lovebirds," McCoy mocked. "Would you care to join us?" He bowed exaggeratedly and motioned for them to follow. Christine and Jack smiled and complied, arm in arm. Spock stood behind them in the turbo lift, gritting his teeth.

In sickbay, Kirk had quickly been declared fit and bid everyone farewell to return to the bridge, as did Chekov. "Why is it everyone's so happy to leave here?" McCoy acted hurt.

"Perhaps it is your unique bedside manner, Doctor," Spock chided. McCoy ignored him.

"Okay, Jack you're next," the doctor announced. "Hop up on the table."

Jack smiled and did as he was told. As the examination progressed he mostly ignored Dr. McCoy and studied Christine who hovered over him. A few times he winked at her or whispered some private joke which made her stifle a laugh. Once he even caught her hand and kissed it as she checked his vital signs. "Jack," she had scolded, becoming flush with embarrassment.

"Tell me, Dr. McCoy," Jack began. "Have you ever in your years of practice seen a more beautiful, more delightful angel of mercy?" He winked up at Christine.

McCoy did not look up from his diagnostic computer. "No, but I have seen a few who can keep their minds on their work a whole lot better."

Christine straightened up and looked him with a scornful glance. "Vitals, Doctor," she said proudly as she handed him a disk, "and analysis," she added letting him know that she most definitely did have her job in the forefront of her thoughts.

"Point taken," McCoy relented.

Spock stood waiting his turn, watching the scene with distaste. It was a most awkward display. For some reason he was not fond of the young Lieutenant. It was completely illogical. Jack Remington was a highly skilled officer, and was proving himself an asset to the crew. He was pleasant, most of the time, and well liked by everyone. Spock could not understand why he could barely manage to be around him. In fact he went to great lengths to avoid him. He could not stand to watch Christine fall all over him. Just a short time ago, it would have been Spock himself to whom she would have been so attentive. He wanted to turn and leave sickbay more so today than usual. If he had not known it to be impossible, he would have sworn he was jealous. He had seen humans act in such ways over women before. The thought struck him like a brick, and pulled him back to his control. Impossible, a Vulcan could never be jealous.

"Oh, now I suppose you think ignoring me will get you out of this." McCoy's drawl brought Spock back to reality.

"Excuse me Doctor?" he questioned.

"Well, I've said your name three times. Jack's done and I've got an opening. Get up there," McCoy ordered.

"Really, I see no need ... " Spock began.

"That's a medical order." McCoy glared.

Spock let out what could be considered as close to a sigh of defeat as any Vulcan would admit, and sat down on the examination table. Straightening out to his full height, he filled the mattress. As McCoy busied himself with dials and readings Spock watched Christine say her goodbyes to Jack, who Spock noted should be well on his way back to the bridge by now. He wondered if he should put the tardiness in his record.

Jack and Christine were huddled in the doorway exchanging soft low regards. Spock's sensitive hearing picked up every word.

"Tonight, then?" Jack confirmed.

Christine smiled. "Yes, I'll be waiting. I think dinner in would be nice," she cooed.

"Hmmm, but we might not get around to the food." Jack nudged her temple with his lips as she blushed. He went to kiss her.

"Not here." She playfully pushed him away.

"Alright, but you owe me." He smiled and raised her hand to his lips. "Until later," he said and slipped through the doorway into the corridor.

Christine had barely managed to turn around and cover half of the distance back to the exam table when Jack came rushing back through the door. "Oh, what the hell?" he exclaimed, as he grabbed her arm gently and spun her around. He bent her back and kissed her deeply and passionately. After a few moments, he lifted her body back to a standing position, and flashing his bright eyes at her. He then retreated through the door once more.

"Whoa!" they heard him shriek outside.

Christine fairly stumbled back to where Dr. McCoy was just finishing Spock's examination. Her face had drained of color and she was speechless. McCoy grinned at her. Spock, however, wore a look of disdain as he stared at her.

"That was a most unprofessional display, don't you think, nurse?" he reprimanded, a bit too harshly.

Christine looked at him, only half seeing him. "I wouldn't expect you to understand, Mr. Spock," she stated cooly and went on about her business. He noticed how she smiled to herself and twisted the tendril of hair around her neck absently.

"Ouch," McCoy said flatly, watching Spock.

Spock said nothing, but left sickbay as quickly as he could.

* * *

Christine swallowed hard and checked the tricorder readings again. There must be an error, there had to be. They had been so careful. There had just been that one time when things had gone so quickly that they had not found the necessary time, but she was certain everything would be alright. She closed her eyes for a moment, willing the reading to change, then checked it nervously. It was exactly the same as the last four times. There was no doubt. Suddenly sickbay was stifling, she had to get out. She had to find Jack. She had to tell him.

Several hours after Christine left sickbay, McCoy walked with Spock into the darkened cargo hold of the ship. "I certainly have better things to do than to go hunting for bio cultures with you." He shook his head.

"May I remind you, Doctor, that those particular cultures are rare, were sent directly from Starfleet Headquarters, and are essential for the studies on Kembra 4. We will reach the planet within six days and they must be found," Spock droned on.

"I know, and Jim wanted his most trusted senior officers to look for them," McCoy grumbled.

"That is correct. We have seen them and we know exactly what we are looking for," Spock reminded him.

"Dammit, I'm a doctor not a detective," McCoy shouted, annoyed.

The two blue clad colleagues had barely began their search through the tall shelves when they were distracted by a noise from nearby. "Is someone there?" Spock called out. There was no answer. He motioned for McCoy to follow him quietly and the two began to move stealthily across the hold.

Rounding the corner created by a stack of uniform boxes, Spock stopped short at the sight before him. Doctor McCoy came up next him and mirrored his shock. Huddled in the corner, knees clenched tightly in front of her, dim light bathing her frantic face, Christine sat on the floor shaking with fear, her hands trying desperately to cover her sobs.

Worry and concern overcoming him, McCoy pushed past Spock who stood uncertain of what to do. "Chris. What's wrong?" Bones asked gently, kneeling beside her, and taking her by the elbows. He pulled her around to face him and was shocked at the terror in her eyes.

"Oh, Leonard," was all she could say.

"Why are you down here?" he questioned.

"I didn't want anyone to find me," she sobbed.

"What's the matter?" he repeated, his fear for her growing. Spock stood at the end of the aisle watching the pair, nearly in shock. He had never seen Christine like this before.

"Miss Chapel, please allow us to assist you," Spock offered, his heart desperate to relieve whatever was causing her such pain. He wanted to wince at how cold his words sounded.

Christine looked up but barely saw him. She brought her frightened eyes back to McCoy. "Please," he said.

She took a deep breath and spoke. "I'm pregnant."

McCoy sat back for a moment. This was obviously unplanned and something had upset her far worse than the expected surprise. "Did you tell Jack?" he innocently questioned. The look in her eyes told him the news had not been met joyously.

Christine's mind went back to the horrible scene between herself and the father of the baby she just realized she was carrying. She had told him hoping he would be excited. He was not. Jack had paced for awhile, hand over his mouth, looking like he wanted nothing more than to escape. He had finally turned to her and coldly said. "Christine, I'm sure you of all people know that there are ways to take care of these things." Their meeting had ended with a slap in the face as she screamed at him that she could never do anything like that and stormed out.

To McCoy, Christine sadly shook her head. "He knows," she choked.

"He wants you to have an abortion?" he confirmed. She nodded wordlessly.

Christine stared at his face that had turned to stone fury. "I could never ... kill ... my..." She could not get the words out.

Her closest friend in the world took her in his arms and stroked her hair. "Of course not. That bastard." He wanted to get his hands around Jack Remington's neck. He simply rocked her for a moment and tried to comfort her. "It's okay, everything's going to be alright, Chris. Everything's going to be alright."

Spock stood unnoticed, seething with an anger he had never known. He wanted to put his arms around Christine and soothe her hurt. He wanted to turn back time. Her pain tore through him like a knife. Most surprisingly, he wanted to hurt Jack Remington, very badly.

McCoy broke the silence. "Do you know what you're going to do yet?" he wondered.

Christine nodded her head. "I'm keeping her," she said.

"Her?" McCoy began to smile hoping Christine would as well. It worked.

"I ran the test five times. It's a girl." She started to chuckle through her tears.

"Well, you always are thorough," he said. "Come on, let's get you back to your quarters. It's cold in here and you need some rest." He took hold of Christine's shoulders and gently helped her stand.

"I'll have to leave, won't I?" she questioned.

"We'll think about all that later. The only thing that matters now is taking care of you and that little one." McCoy smiled.

He led her past Spock and she did not even look up. Her existence had suddenly shrunk to one tiny unheard heartbeat. McCoy glanced at the Vulcan as they went by and was surprised to see a rage behind the confused brown eyes that may have even rivaled his own. Spock stood alone in the quiet for a moment after the others had left. His thoughts focused on Christine. Suddenly he knew exactly what he was going to do, there were no doubts.

* * *

Christine and Jack sat across from each other in the ship's conference room. He did his best not to look at her while she stared holes in him. The past week had been a trying time for both of them, and the next eight months certainly would be no different at least for Christine. Jack had mostly avoided her, and she had spent most of the time in her cabin, Dr. McCoy had prescribed rest for her and she took full advantage of the orders. She needed to get her head straight. Today was the day she would find out about her future.

Captain Kirk took his place at the head of the table, Dr. McCoy sat next to Christine ready to support her, and Mr. Spock manned the computer as usual. As first officer it was Spock's duty to take part in matters that concerned the crew, however if it were not for the fact that Christine was involved he would have preferred to be just about anyplace else at the moment. He felt awkward and out of place, feeling certain that Christine did not wish for him to hear all the details of her personal life. His heart went out to her, she looked sick and it was a bit too early in her pregnancy for such symptoms. He was certain it was nerves.

The captain began. "Well, I'm glad you could both make it," he said to Jack and Christine. Bones had told him about Remington's actions toward Christine and the old doctor was not the only one angry with the young lieutenant. The news the captain had to share that day would most definitely not endear Jack any further to those present.

"Thank you Captain." Christine tried to smile.

"How are you feeling?" Jim asked concerned.

"Physically, fine," she answered cryptically. He understood and nodded.

Kirk looked around. "Shall we begin."

"Computer. Commence recording," Spock ordered into the box in front of him.

"RECORDING," the mechanized voice responded.

The captain ran through all the necessary formalities such as the stardate, the names of those present, and the circumstances for the meeting. Christine sat in silence, feeling a bit guilty that all of this was over her, and a bit annoyed at how robotic and soulless the formality made her baby seem. McCoy squeezed her hand reassuringly.

"First of all, let me congratulate you both on the impending birth of your child," Kirk said to Christine and Jack. He smiled warmly at her and barely acknowledged him.

"Thank you, Captain." She grinned.

"Uh, yeah. Thank you Sir." Jack squirmed, obviously uncomfortable.

"I have been in contact with Star Fleet Command and have informed them of your condition, Miss Chapel," Kirk continued.

"Of course, Sir." She understood the necessity, but could not help thinking of it as an invasion of privacy.

"As you know, it is policy for women to be placed on planetside duties during their gestation periods," he said.

"Yes." She did not look up.

"However, I have requested, due to your high level of skill and invaluable contribution to this crew, that you be allowed to remain on board the Enterprise and serve in your duties as Head Nurse during your pregnancy and that you be allowed to have your daughter with you after she is born. If that is agreeable to you." Kirk wanted to smile, knowing she would be pleased.

She sat up, eager for him to continue. Her eyes sparkled. "What did they say?"

"They agreed," he smiled.

Christine looked at McCoy who cupped her hand triumphantly. "I told you," he said.

"There are a few conditions," Kirk interrupted, reading from a prepared list he had received form Headquarters. "You are to take every precaution. During alert status you will return to your quarters unless otherwise ordered. If the ship has advanced warning of danger, you are to leave for the nearest star base or other safe location. You will not be placed on landing details, or exposed to threatening laboratory situations. Once the baby is born, she will be allowed only in certain areas of the ship. You may at anytime rescind your consent of this agreement and request immediate transfer to a suitable duty."

"Agreed," she said enthusiastically.

"Can she hand out cough drops?" McCoy asked a little vexed. The restrictions seemed a bit stringent, but Christine did seemed pleased.

"Wonderful," Kirk agreed, ignoring the doctor. "I'll have the quartermaster requisition a fresh supply of maternity uniforms."

Christine laughed.

Next Kirk turned to Jack, who sat nervously tapping on the table. Jim did not know where to begin. He doubted Christine knew anything about the news he was about to give the lieutenant, and he hated to break it to her this way. He took a deep breathe and began. "Lieutenant Remington. I have received confirmation from Star Fleet Headquarters that your request for transfer has been approved."

"What?" Christine turned to Jack in shock, her eyes questioning. He only looked away.

"You are to report to your new assignment with in four days," Kirk continued.

"Wait a minute. I don't understand," Christine interrupted. "You requested a transfer?" She glared at Jack in anger.

McCoy jumped up from his seat ready to dive across the table. "You son of a ... ." However, Christine stopped him before he landed himself in the brig. He perched tensely back in his seat.

Remington was unable to face her. "Look, Chris. This is all just too much for me," he admitted. "I never bargained for any of this," he tried to explain.

"Too much for you?" Christine yelled. "Your part's over. This isn't exactly a cake walk for me, nor will it be." McCoy put his hand on her shoulder to steady the shaking that was beginning.

"I have my career to think about. This is not what I planned," Jack explained.

"No!" Christine stopped him. "You have our baby to think about."

"You can do much better on your own." He tried to find an excuse. "I'd make a lousy father. She deserves better, so do you."

Christine stared at him, then she nodded her head. "Yeah. I think you're right."

"Oh, come on. It's not like we were going to get married or anything," Jack protested.

"No. But I would think you would at least want to stick around and meet your daughter." She was fighting to hold back tears. "Of course, after what you wanted me to do to her, why am I surprised at this?" she said rhetorically.

"Please understand, Chris," Jack pleaded.

"No. It's fine. You go on, go," she answered brushing the air with her hand in a nonchalant send off. "We don't need you. You're right, we'll be better off without you." She paused a moment, and then glared at him fiercely. "I want you to understand that if you leave her now, don't you ever expect to have a place in her life. I don't want you anywhere near her." A single tear traced the outline of her cheek.

"I understand. I won't bother either of you," he agreed.

Kirk looked disdainfully at his one time protégé. "Your new orders will be relayed to the comm link in your quarters for your review." The captain was silent for a moment. "I am certain that I do not have to tell how disappointed I am in your conduct. This is most definitely not the way a Star Fleet officer faces his responsibilities. I also do not have to tell you that you need not expect either a recommendation or any commissions under my command in the future. You are dismissed, Lieutenant," Kirk said through a steeled jaw.

"Sir." Jack nodded and rose, his pride hurt.

"I am sorry, Christine," he said to her before he left. She sat staring in front of her without acknowledging him. Her mind went back to another time she had heard those words, she was uncertain which was worse.

The door swished closed behind Jack Remington and he walked out of Christine Chapel's life forever. Across the table watching her with worry unseen on his changeless face sat the man who truly loved her, the person who would go through any torture just to know she was well. Spock wanted to take all the hurt in Christine's eyes and gather it to himself. He knew that anxiety and fright played upon her mind along with a myriad of other emotions he could not begin to understand. This should be a wonderful joyous time for her, instead a thoughtless and self centered rake had stolen that from her. How he wished he could make things different for her. Spock had remained silent throughout the proceedings, not wanting to intrude. He was also afraid of what might burst forth from him if he opened his mouth. In his present mood he might have either condemned and challenged Jack Remington for Christine's honor, or declared his eternal love for her. Either of which would have been inexcusable.

Spock had more than a little influence upon where Enterprise personnel were transferred and soon Remington would find himself opening orders to the most distant and desolate star base in the quadrant. Hardly the place for an up and coming officer. Perhaps the young man would find time he needed to grow up. Spock would wait as well, biding his time. Christine was far too emotionally distraught to hear him now. He hoped that when the time was right, she would understand.

* * *

It had been two weeks since Jack Remington left the Enterprise for his new assignment. Spock stood outside of Christine's quarters uncertain if he should ring the signal. He doubted that she had allowed herself sufficient time to come to terms with being abandoned by the father of her child, and he did not wish to upset her. In the preceding days she had looked so unhappy that he was unable to bear it one moment longer. What he had to tell her needed to be said. He took a deep breathe and pressed the button.

"Come in," he heard her call from the other side of the wall.

The door slid open and he entered her quarters. He brought himself up short upon surveying the interior. He had never been in here before. The pleasing aroma of flowers and vanilla teased his senses. There were pictures on the counter ledge. Her family. He recognized a dark haired woman in one of them. She was wearing a Star Fleet uniform and had her arms around a young Christine. They were both smiling brightly. He had served with her briefly, under Captain Pike, before she had transferred off the ship. She was obviously Christine's older sister, they shared the same brilliant eyes. Why had he never noticed before?

There were other parts of the nurse's personality strewn about the room, of which he took quick note. An embroidery hoop lay in a chair covered with a stretched canvas. He could not see the design but it was created in pink thread. She had apparently begun a gift for the baby while under her ordered bed rest a few weeks prior. A stack of old style leather bound books were at home in the corner of the shelf. They appeared to have been read several times. He quickly took stock of the titles. Jane Eyre, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Gone With The Wind, to name a few. The collection would have made his mother envious. He was surprised to find several very nice pieces of Vulcan sculpture among her treasures. There was much he did not know about her. He hoped to rectify that situation.

Spock took another step and was immediately alarmed as he viewed into the sleeping area of the cabin. Christine, dressed in her uniform, was doubled over on the corner of her bed, with a wet cloth pressed to her mouth. She was pale and looked weak. Fear gripped him and he nearly ran to her.

"Christine," he called, forgetting his composure. "Are you ill?"

She looked up surprised. She never expected he would visit her or use her first name. "Mr. Spock?" she questioned, bewildered.

"I shall call Dr. McCoy." He was steadying her with his hands on hers, ignoring the emotions of the contact. She was grateful but confused.

"Oh, no. I'm alright." Christine smiled. "It's only morning sickness. It kind of goes with the territory."

"Regardless," Spock said. "You are unwell. You should be checked."

"That's really very kind of you, but ... Oh, no." She stopped and pressed her hand against her mouth as her face fell. "Get out of the way," she mumbled. Christine nearly pushed Spock over as she ran to the lavatory. The door swished shut behind her and the sounds of retching were unmistakable.

A little while later, Christine reappeared in the bedroom. She seemed to have washed her face and gave the appearance of feeling a little better although she was shaky on her feet.

"Let me help you." Spock led her out into the living area and helped her sit in chair. Christine was shocked when he pulled another up and sat beside her.

"Are you certain I cannot take you to sickbay?" he offered.

"Thank you. Leonard would laugh his head off. It's nothing every mother-to-be for thousands of years hasn't dealt with. I'll be fine." She paused a moment. "Is there something you wanted to see me about." She was a little worried.

Christine could have sworn that he actually looked nervous. She had never seen Spock at a loss for words before. He even squirmed a bit. It was plain to see that he was choosing his words very carefully. Finally he decided on the direct approach.

She sat astonished as he gently took her hand in his and looked deep into her eyes. She did not know that he was reveling in the feeling of her through the contact of their skin and that sensation gave him the courage to continue. He cleared his throat and began.

"I would be honored if you would consent to become my wife," he said, plainly.

With that Christine found an instant cure for morning sickness, complete and utter shock. She stared at Spock for what seemed like an eternity, not noticing her mouth was hanging open. "W...What?" she sputtered.

"It is my desire to be bonded with you," he tried to explain again.

She had heard him right the first time. Feeling like she could breath again she questioned. "You..want ... to ... marry ... me?"

"I believe I have stated that twice," he confirmed.

"Why?" she asked, only able to produce monosyllables at that point.

Spock cleared his throat again. He had not expected to have explain. It was not in his nature and he has little practice at it. "I have come to realize a great affinity for you and wish to share my life with you and your child," he said earnestly.

"Why now? After all these years? Especially now?" She looked at him warily.

"I have known of my attraction to you for some time. It has only been recently that I have come to see that it would be fortuitous for us both to enter into a union." He sounded like a computer.

"Fortuitous?" she asked.

"Yes. I desire you to be my wife, and I do not think that your feelings for me have failed, although you have entertained another relationship in the meantime. There is also the matter of the baby you carry. She needs a father," he clarified.

Suddenly realization dawned on Christine's face. She threw her head back in mocking laughter. "Oh. I see. Now let me get this straight. The poor little human who had a crush on you goes out and gets herself knocked up, and now the great big Vulcan thinks he can come in save the day. Is that it?"

"Christine. Please. You are putting words in my mouth. That was not my intention at all," he begged.

"Then what pray tell is behind this sudden shift?" Christine was beginning to cry with hurt and shame.

"As I said. I desire you to ... " Spock began.

"You desire me?" she nearly screamed. "Is that what you think I am now, a little toy to be passed around from man to man?"

The anger and pain behind her voice tore through him. He could see now that he had to deal with her on an emotional level, to make her understand how much he loved her and wanted her to join her life to his. He tightened his grip on her hand so she could not pull it away. "I could never think of you like that. You are the brightest treasure I have ever known. I have watched you from a distance for years. Since you declared yourself to me. I could not act upon the emotions you stirred within me, I could not even admit them to myself and certainly not to you. Watching you with Ja... with another man was more than I can stand. I will not take the chance of losing you again."

Christine sat quietly, unable to look him in the face. He continued.

"Let me show you?" he asked. She nodded, and he placed his fingers at her temples. He showed her all the feelings he could not express. When he was done she cried for a different reason than before. She still loved him as well.

"But ... It's different now," she whispered.

"How is it different?" he questioned.

She touched his face the way she had so long ago when she told him she loved him. "I can't ask you to raising another man's child."

"You are not asking. I am asking you to take me," he corrected.

"It would be unfair to you." She shook her head and looked away.

He continued. "As you know I am a hybrid and as such am most probably unable to procreate. You would be giving me the most precious gift. One I will most probably never know otherwise."

"You say that now. But what about the tradition of familial bonds to your people?" Christine said.

"She will have a full and rightful place in my clan, as will you," he assured her. He brought her face around to him. He then moved his hand and laid it gently on her abdomen.

"I do think of this being only as your child. A part of you. I cherish her as your child. I will cherish her as mine, if you will let me. She would never feel anything less," he said, fighting emotions that were bringing tears to his eyes. "Please ... let me be her father, and your husband."

Christine faced Spock, finally seeing the love he could never express. She matched it with her own. There was only one logical thing for her to do. "Oh, Spock," she whispered. "Yes."

"You will never be sorry, my love. My T'hy'la." He reached up and brought her lips to his. The kiss was the most passionate either had ever known.

* * *

A strong phaser burst jolted the ship. The alert siren sounded its piercing cry. The Enterprise had intercepted a band of Orion pirates who had been raiding Federation settlements along the Neutral Zone. The tense stand off had lasted for hours. Finally, Captain Kirk had issued his last ultimatum. It was met with hostility. The bridge crew struggled to maintain their balance, Scotty and Sulu had already hit the floor, and Uhura was gripping the sides of her chair with white knuckles. Spock who was bracing himself against the railing, suddenly went pale.

"Christine," he called, unaware and unconcerned about those around him. His only focus was on the sensations he was receiving from her. She was now seven months pregnant and they had been joyously bonded for the last six. He reeled at the feelings he was receiving from her through their connection. Almost as instantly as the phaser had struck the ship there had been jarring, then bewilderment, then horror, now pain and fear. Something was wrong.

Before he could move the comm sounded. It was Dr. McCoy. "Spock, get down here," he ordered. The Vulcan did not need to ask for leave, Kirk pointed toward the door, and nodded as Chekov's photon topedo found its mark across kilometers of empty space. With a look of wordless thanks, Spock ran to the turbolift.

The routine trip to sickbay was interminably long. His concentration was so fixed on Christine and her trauma that he did not see the chaos around him. He cursed himself. He should have demanded she stay behind on Vulcan when they bonded, or at least return to her family on Earth. She was stubborn, however, and would hear none of it. He hoped the decision had not been a grievous one.

The door to sickbay slid open. Spock rushed into the brightly lit room nearly breathless. His heart wrenched at what he saw. Christine was lying on an examination table, tears flowing uncontrollably from her pained eyes. Her shaking hands clutched her protruding stomach and he could hear her plead without voice for the baby to be alright.

He rushed to her and took her hand, again giving no care to the audience of nurses and medical personnel that surrounded them. She looked up at him. Her terror seized his own heart.

"I fell," was all she could say.

He stroked her hair, wanting desperately to comfort her, but unsure how. " T'hy'la," Spock said to Christine. It was all he could manage. He tried to hide his worry from her, but she could see it in his eyes.

She winced in pain. "I thought I would be alright. I was so stupid. I didn't have time to get someplace safe. I couldn't hold on." Her words poured out in a disorganized stream, her thoughts were even worse. "I can't lose her, I just can't," she cried.

McCoy was beside her seemingly from nowhere, his mediscanner working furiously. "I know it's hard but you have to try to calm down, Christine. I can't give you an injection of sedative, you have to be brave, for the baby," he pleaded.

Spock took Christine's face in his hands and found the strategic points. She was far to desperate to relax. He would do that for her, while McCoy worked. Overcoming his own fear, he took her to a protective place where he and the baby waited. They would keep her safe until all was well. He prayed to his ancestors that all would be well.

Several hours later Christine awoke in sickbay. Spock sat beside her clutching her hand tightly. Disoriented for a moment, her mind would not focus. Then she remembered. She looked down. Her abdomen was still large, but that did not mean anything. She was afraid to ask, but she had to know. Turning to her husband, Christine whispered. "Is she still there?"

Spock looked at her for a long moment. There were so many things he wanted to say. She had been so brave and he was so proud. A smile nearly passed over his face. "Yes, T'hy'la. She is perfectly fine. You are both going to be alright."

Christine could not decide whether to laugh or cry from joy and relief. Instead she gave up a prayer. "Thank God."

"You must rest. Dr. McCoy has ordered that you remain in bed until he says otherwise," Spock informed her.

"I understand. I'm not going to do anything this time to risk the baby," Christine smiled.

"I know." He squeezed her hand. "It is my place to see that nothing happens to either of you again. I will not be so careless with your safety this time." He touched her cheek. The love in his touch he could not express. She understood and felt it.

He moved his hand to cover the top of her stomach. The other he placed on her temple. She felt a stirring in her mind. A tiny happiness. A feeling of security, and love. "You see, my T'hy'la. She already knows that she belongs," he said.

Christine looked at him astonished. It was her baby's consciousness she was feeling in her mind, through him. The smile returned to her face. It was wider and brighter than ever Spock had seen it. She reveled in the bond that he was uncovering for her. The connection to her unborn child had been there all along, but as a human she had not yet sensed it so close. Now she could feel the love and wonderment in her little girl's mind. She overflowed with her own love, pride, and joy. The moment was made even more special by the presence of the wonderful man who also filled the baby's mind with this love and acceptance, unconditional and unfaltering.

"Oh, my sweet precious baby. I love you so much," Christine sent to the tiny being in her womb. She was rewarded with a little flutter and a feeling of overwhelming joy. The little family was complete.

Several nights later, in the privacy of their darkened quarters, Christine and Spock lay entwined together. She rested her arm over his as he traced soothing circles across her skin. "Have you given any more thought to names, T'hy'la?" he asked in a hushed murmur.

"I've had a few ideas, but nothing perfect yet." She smiled lazily.

"Your father's name was Nathaniel, correct?" he asked. She nodded sighing deeply and keeping her eyes closed.

"Would Natalie be acceptable?" he questioned.

Christine thought for a moment, and then a wide smile brightened her face. "Natalie Amanda Chapel. I like it," she agreed.

He met her enthusiasm with a upswept brow and a loving kiss.

* * *

"Atta girl, Chris. Push! Push!" McCoy urged from the foot of the bed.

Christine clenched her eyes and her teeth, bent her chin to her chest with force and did as she was told. She did not realize she was nearly screaming. She had been two weeks overdue and Dr. McCoy had induced her early that morning. It had been tediously slow going. She had even managed to take a shower, take several walks around sickbay, and had played a few games of cards before the full brunt of her labor hit her.

"Well, Little Miss Natalie is taking her own sweet time making an appearance," the baby's self appointed Uncle Leonard had joked with a twinkle in his eye. However, that been several hours ago. Now, those same deep blue eyes were deadly serious as he watched Christine's fading struggle to bring her infant into the world. He eyed her life signs with concern and tried hide his worry over the discrepancies that were beginning to appear on the baby's monitor. He knew that she knew.

Through every bit of it Spock had never left Christine's side. The normally impassive Vulcan had been so caring and tender with her that McCoy was nearly in shock. It was astonishing to watch him stroke her hair, hold her hand, and rub her back. Even now his steel arm provided a welcomed resistance to his wife's trembling, desperate, vice-like grip. Spock had managed to block Christine's pain, but her fear and desperation were evident on his face.

Gasping wildly Christine fell back against the crumpled pillow. McCoy had converted one of the private intensive care rooms into a birthing suite for her. The walls were closing in around her, images and sensation swirled in her panic and pain. McCoy patiently coaxed her in between barking orders at the two nurses also in attendance. Uhura, the only other friend she had wanted with her, bathed her face and arms with cool water. The lights, although dimmed, were still too bright and hurt her eyes. The air was stuffy and she could not catch her breath. The sheets on which she lay were soaked with sweat. The only things that kept her sane, that held her to her task were her determination and Spock. He had strengthened her, encouraged her. Christine focused on him as her life line. Nearly in shock from the pain, she fixed all of her failing will on him.

Christine writhed in agony as another contraction racked her body. Again McCoy ordered her to push.

"I can't." She broke down. "Oh, my poor baby."

"T'hy'la, you must," Spock said.

Through her tears, Christine saw his worry-lined face. "I can't," she repeated. Her energies were spent.

It was then that Spock gathered her in his arms and brought his fingers to her face. He would give her his strength. As he entered her mind, the pain and terror there struck him like a lightening bolt. He sent her soothing thoughts and felt her relax slightly.

Taking a deep breath Christine bore down again, and this time felt her daughter's head begin to emerge. McCoy beamed with happiness.

Again and again she forced. Over and over she endured pain greater than any she could have ever imagined. She would have suffered anything for the tiny baby within her who was now fighting for life.

"She's almost here, Chris. It's almost over. Just a few more," he called.

Another push and Christine waited for McCoy's familiar prompt. It did not come. As the urge grew and overwhelmed her, she could not fight it anymore and tried again.

"No. Stop!" McCoy yelled.

"What?" Christine cried. "No!"

"Don't push," he said urgently.

"I have to," Christine screamed.

"What is the matter, Doctor?" Spock asked, alarmed. There was no answer as McCoy and the nurses worked feverishly.

After what felt like an eternity. Christine screamed through gritted teeth. "Dammit! What's wrong!"

McCoy didn't even look up, his hands never ceasing from their task. "The cord's wrapped around her neck." He hated to give Christine that news, but she had a right to know.

"No! My baby," Christine screamed in horror and buried her tear stained face in her husband's chest.

"It's not over yet," McCoy promised. "We just have to get it off. Hold on, Chris."

Her sobs were uncontrollable, her pain unbearable, her urge to push overwhelming. Christine had never felt so helpless, so useless. Her child's life was hanging in the balance and there was nothing she could do. She fought against it as hard and as long as she could.

Finally, after a few seconds that seemed like a century, McCoy grinned. "Got it!" he shouted. "Whenever you're ready. Big push."

Christine immediately sat up and forced again. She braced herself as the shoulders tore through. She could not stop. Again, she braced herself. Again more movement.

"That's it. One more," she heard McCoy order.

She complied and gave it all she had left. Her effort was met with a sharp, shrill cry. Looking down Christine saw her daughter's beautiful face for the first time. Tears and laughter fill her throat at once. Her ordeal completely forgotten, Christine reached for her tiny new infant.

"Oh," was all she could say, as Dr. McCoy placed the naked screaming baby in her arms. She kissed the little girl's bloody cheek and nuzzled her face, completely lost in her child. After a few moments she looked over at Spock who watched them lovingly.

"Look at her. She's so perfect," Christine gushed still laughing and crying at the same time, still wrapped in her husband's arms.

"She is the very essence of beauty. Just like her mother, my T'hy'la," he said. "You have blessed us both."

Christine's heart was so filled with love for her little family she could not speak. Luckily McCoy knew just what to say. "OK." He said. "We've got a few medical things to take care of and then you can have her forever."

"Hurry," Christine laughed over the new urge to push.

One of the nurses took the baby from her mother and McCoy carefully cut the umbilical cord. He then helped Christine finish her delivery, and stabilized her, as the nurses and Nyota bathed and examined the little girl. A few minutes later, Uhura presented the new mother with her sparkling new daughter. Dressed in pink and sleeping happily, the baby rested in Christine's arms as she nestled back onto the pillows. She would think of the residual pain later.

"She's absolutely precious, Christine. What are you two planning to call her?" Uhura smiled widely.

"Her full name Natalie Amanda Chapel," Spock said proudly, as he played with hands of the girl who was now his daughter.

"That's a beauty for her birth certificate," McCoy said, beginning to write information on an electronic stylus pad. "Now. Let's all get out of here and leave them alone," he said to the others. They cooed one last time over the newborn and did as they were ordered. Spock, Christine, and Natalie were left blissfully alone.

"I am in awe of you, my beloved," he said to her, taking her again into his arms and kissing her forehead.

"I could never have gotten through this without you." She drew closer to him.

"Although you are stronger than you know, you shall never need to go through anything without me," Spock promised her.

He brought her close to his face and kissed her deeply and passionately. Two, once separated by fear and repression were now a family. Both lost themselves for a moment, only to be brought back to reality by a small wriggling sound. They both looked down at the baby.

"Oh. Sorry, sweety," Christine smiled at her child. "We didn't mean to ignore you."

"T'hy'la. I do not think she understands you," Spock corrected his wife.

"Oh, she knows," Christine grinned. "She knows how much we love her."

"Of that I am most positive." He touched the child's face and spoke her name into her mind. He told her in both standard and Vulcan that she belonged to something far larger than herself, and that she would always be cherished. Christine listened joyfully, feeling both of them through her bond with Spock. Everything was perfect.

Finally the fatigue she knew would come began to envelope her. Spock sensed Christine's weariness and laid her gently back onto the mattress. "Don't you want to hold our daughter?" she smiled.

"I thought you would never ask," he almost smiled back. Gently and carefully he lifted the fragile doll from her mother's arms with an unpracticed hand. Nervous for a moment that he would hurt her, he soon fell into comfort and ease with his little girl. There was a connection that told them both how special they would be to each other. She may not have come from him, but she was in every way that mattered, his. He burned with paternal pride. Christine slipped peacefully off to sleep secure in her perfect little family.

Several hours later Christine opened her eyes to see Spock still holding Natalie by the bedside. "Now there's a sight I'll never forget. Have you been holding her all this time?" she asked amused.

"It seemed to cause her distress when I tried to put her into the bassinet. Each time I tried she would begin to cry. I did not wish for her wake you," he explained.

"Spoiling her already." Christine grinned as Spock handed the baby over to her. "I think Daddy's little girl has already got her father wrapped around her little finger."

"I think it only logical to see to the needs of one's child," Spock said indignantly. "Do you not agree?"

Christine nodded with a slightly mocking expression. "Oh, of course, and don't you ever tell me I spoil her." She laughed, nuzzling her newborn.

Spock had not time to reply when Dr. McCoy came charging into the room. "So how was her first night?" he smiled.

"Natalie slept well and seemed to acclimate instantly," Spock reported clinically.

"Glad to hear it. I'll check her in a few minutes. How 'bout Mom?" He looked at Christine, concerned. They had come close to losing her yesterday.

She grimaced a little. "Sore. But actually, I've never been better." She glanced proudly down at Natalie.

"That's what I thought," McCoy smiled. "I'll prescribe something for the pain."

"Nothing too strong," Christine reminded him. "I'm going to try to start nursing today."

"I know. Who's the doctor here?" He acted annoyed.

"Who's the mother?" She beamed exaggeratedly.

"Alright. I'll allow insubordination this once." They laughed.

McCoy stood uncomfortably for a moment after that. He cleared his throat and fingered the stylus pad he was carrying. "Look. I didn't want to bring this up yesterday ... but I've filled out everything on her birth certificate, except..."

"Except who her father is," Spock interrupted.

The old doctor nodded, unable to look his friend in the eye.

"List her race as human, and her father as Spock, son of Sarek," Christine said matter of factly.

Spock looked at her and raised his eyebrow. "Most logical." She answered him with a loving smile.

"That's what I thought." McCoy grinned, satisfied, and followed the new mother's wishes, nodding as he finished inputting the data.

* * *

Spock stood at the window of his study watching the shallow waves roll and change in San Francisco Bay. The events of the night before played over and over again in his head, as a fire in the hearth across the room blazed the chill away from the morning. He and Christine had attended one of the many requisite Star Fleet functions that both of their positions demanded. It was the kind that the couple detested, however as head instructor at Star Fleet Academy and Chief of Emergency Operation one or both of their presences were usually required. Most often they would spend the first hour or so making polite small talk with the rest of the guests and then find a secluded corner in which to delight in their own conversations, many times unspoken. Last night had been different.

As usual they had arrived promptly and were happy to see most of their friends in attendance. Admiral Kirk, Leonard, Uhura, Chekov, Sulu, and Scotty were all there. Spock, of course, had much to discuss with Jim and Dr. McCoy; while Christine was busy bragging to Uhura about Natalie's latest accomplishments. Their daughter had recently been named valedictorian of her high school graduating class and that same week had received the Wil Decker Memorial Scholarship for an independent project she had completed. It was not only Christine, but Spock as well who had beamed with pride on that day. As the group of old friends talked, a late comer to the party arrived. He was tall and well built although a little fuller than when anyone had seen him last. His honey colored hair was tinged with just a hint of gray giving him an air of distinction. On his arm was a tall civilian female with platinum hair and dark blue eyes, wearing a dress cut low enough to show off her ample endowments. The man was Commander Jack Remington, First officer of the U.S.S Virginia.

Those who had served on board the Enterprise during the former Lieutenant Remington's tenure there held their breath. They knew that Christine had not seen or heard from him since he had left her, and that he had never even written to inquire about the baby. He was unaware if he had a son or a daughter, and he had never seemed to care. Spock could feel Christine tense as the man approached. Old anger flared up within them both. It was accompanied by the new dread of what could be to come. Spock was uncertain what he might do if Remington confronted his wife.

As Jack moved across the floor, laughing and talking to acquaintances, Spock edged closer to Christine. Every instinct told him to protect her and their daughter. He drew up beside her just as Remington was nearly face to face with her. Then the human male did something no one expected. He walked right past Christine without acknowledging her at all.

Spock was confused as he sensed the emotions in Christine's reaction. They were not bitter, they were not hurt, they were not even angry. From her he felt relief, absolution, even happiness. He stared at her as she broke up in laughter.

"I fail to see any amusement in this situation." Spock looked at her.

"Well, I guess it's not really funny." Christine smiled. "Just typical, and very telling."

"What does his ignoring you tell you?" Spock was still quite perplexed.

"Oh, Spock," Christine said warmly touching the sleeve of his uniform. "He didn't ignore me. He didn't even remember me."

Christine was now sure that they would never have anything to worry about from Jack Remington. Spock however, could not help thinking that there was another person affected by the situation and his considerations turned to her. He brought his concerns to Christine later that night as they prepared for bed. The conversation turned heated.

"No," Christine nearly shouted at him. "Jack Remington had never been part of her life and he never will be. He means nothing to us."

"T'hy'la. He is her..." Spock began.

"He is nothing more than a specimen donor. The same as if I had gone to a lab and chosen a number from a data base," Christine argued.

"She has a right to know," he continued.

"Know what? Know the worm who got her mother pregnant and then crawled off like some dog in heat to find another conquest and never gave either of us a second thought?" Christine pressed on. She was not willing to lose. "How do you think that would make her feel?"

"You have a point," Spock agreed. "However, there may come a time when she will want to know."

"She never has before," Christine countered. "It may never have occurred to her. We've done our best to give her a happy life, not just with things, but with all the love and support and acceptance we could. I think we've done a pretty darn good job."

"I agree, but I do not wish to keep anything from her," Spock said.

"We're not, really. She's never asked, so why bring it up and heap all of that on her? She doesn't deserve that." Christine's logic never failed to amaze him.

Spock wrapped his arms around his wife and kissed her temple. "Very well," he agreed. "If she asks we will tell her. If she doesn't, we will not bring up the issue of her ... "

"You are her father," Christine reminded him with a kiss and twinkle in her eyes.

A flash of sunlight off the dark burgundy roof of Christine's ground car brought Spock back to reality as she pulled out of the drive way. Today was Natalie's eighteenth birthday and his wife was leaving to run some last minute errands for the surprise party they had planned for their daughter that evening. Christine had been excited about it for weeks, that is when she was not in tears over the fact that her little girl was now officially an adult. To Spock's subdued tastes the event promised to be a bit too lavish, but Christine had sworn that nothing but the best would do. His parents and Christine's mother had arrived for the celebration and were already plying the birthday girl with the customary money and gifts expected of grandparents. Amanda had taken Natalie shopping just the day before and had purchased her nearly an entire new wardrobe, much to Spock's dismay. As he protested that he did not wish his daughter to be spoiled, his mother politely told him that his opinion not required. For some reason the ladies in the room had found that extremely amusing.

The party guests would also include all of Natalie's adopted aunts and uncles from the Enterprise. Jim promised to keep his gift tasteful, but Spock shuddered to think what Dr. McCoy would bring her. He lost himself in thought once more. Had really been eighteen years since Natalie was born? He remembered like yesterday the night it happened, Christine's complicated delivery that had ended in such joy. Was it not just last week that the tiny infant was being passed around the rec room or taking her first steps down the corridor to sickbay? Where had the time gone? It was now time for Natalie to begin a new chapter of her life. In the fall she would begin her studies at the Vulcan Science Academy. She planned to double major in computer technology and bioresearch with a concentration in deep space sciences. She would be under the expert tutelage of her grandfather and would also be staying in his parents' home. It relieved both Spock and Christine to know that their daughter would be well looked after. He doubted Christine could have stood the worry and anxiety otherwise. Their little girl was growing up. Spock looked down and fingered the nondescript computer disk in his hand. Christine would never forgive him.

"Father!" Natalie's sweet voice interrupted his thoughts. Spock turned and was once again shocked at how much she looked like her mother. The same golden hair and intense blue eyes that belonged to his wife, were also his daughter's.

"What is it, Little One?" he asked using his customary reference for her.

"I'm going hyper blading with Isabel, Mike, and T'Karn," she said.

Spock nodded. Natalie did not realize that these friends had been secretly enlisted days ago by her mother in order to get her out of the house while her party was being organized. The family had even gone out for breakfast, and he and Christine had given Natalie a few small gifts so she would not become suspicious. The new hyper blades now slung over her shoulder were one of those presents.

"Where will you be going?" he asked.

"Golden Gate Park. Then we might go to Fisherman's Wharf for lunch or something," she reported. He nodded his consent.

There was something about him today that did not seem right to the young woman. She could read her father so well, just the way Christine could. He could never hide anything from either one of them. "Is there something wrong, Father?" Natalie asked.

"I am simply pondering a dilemma," Spock said quietly.

"Can I help?" Natalie asked concerned, setting her gear on a chair and crossing the room to him.

Spock looked at her earnest, thoughtful eyes. "No, my dear. The dilemma is about you," he answered honestly.

Natalie seemed shocked for a moment. "Did I do something wrong?" She was eager to make amends.

Spock stroked her hair. "No, sweet one. You could never do anything wrong."

"What then?" she pleaded.

Spock took a deep breath. There was no stopping now. "As you are aware, I am not your biological father."

Natalie only looked at him and offered a quizzically raised eyebrow, as if the idea had never occurred to her. Spock continued.

He handed her the computer disk. "I have compiled a file of information on him in case you should want to know more about him."

Natalie took it with a trembling hand and looked at it for a moment. She gave no sign of a reaction and Spock could not stand the silence.

"If you would like to study it alone. I will leave," he offered.

"No," she said. "I don't wish to study it at all," she said in a quiet tone.

"Then you can save it. Later if you decide you would like to know who your father is, you will have it." He echoed her somber spirit.

With wide and innocent eyes Natalie looked up into the kind and gentle face she had known since the day she was born. "I know who my father is," she said matter-of-factly.

"You understand my meaning," Spock said.

"Yes. I understand, but I don't want to know anything about this person." She held up the disk. "He is not my father."

With tears in her eyes, Natalie began. " My father is the man who loved my mother and me so much that he was willing to take her as his own and become my father. He is the man who held me all night when I was born and watched over my mother. He the person who took care of me when I was sick and dries my tears when I'm upset. He the patient man who did my homework with me and helped me understand fractions. He's the person who knows that I like salad dressing on spaghetti and which old sweatshirt I like to wear when it's cold outside. He knows what it means when I say I'm alright but I don't really mean it, and he's the person I can talk to about anything. My father is the person who knows more about me than I know about myself ... and loves me anyway."

Natalie fumbled with the computer disk in her hands. She felt nothing as she thought of the contents it may contain. It was not part of her world and it meant nothing to you. She walked across the room and turned toward Spock. "You and Mom have made my life so wonderful and happy. I could not have asked for two more loving and better people to be my parents." She held up the disk toward him. "I don't know the person on this. I have no need to know." With that declaration Natalie tossed the piece of polymer into the fire and did not give it a second thought.

Spock looked at his and Christine's daughter. She had become so wise without him even realizing it. He now saw that he and Christine had given her the greatest gift of all, self assurance. It was a trait he had often lacked and it would take her far. "You'd better hurry. It would not be respectful to keep your friends waiting." He was starting to worry that he would not be able to control his reaction to her gesture.

"Okay," Natalie said, smiling at him. She walked over to the chair to picked up her helmet, pads, and skates. "Don't worry, Father. I won't tell Mom." She grinned as once again her marveled at her intuitiveness.

The little baby who was now a woman started to turn and walk through the doorway but hesitated. She was not ready to grow up just yet. In an instant Natalie rushed into Spock's arms and buried her face in his chest. He instinctively enfolded her in a protective embrace. They held each other for a long time and then she looked up into his deep familiar eyes.

"I love you, Daddy," Natalie said.

"I cherish thee, my child," Spock answered.

The End