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 copyright (c) 2001 by Trish. This story is rated PG.



A World Apart

Trish



Still laughing from the joke Nyota had just told her, Christine keyed in the lock code on the panel next to the door of her quarters. Sometimes it seemed strange to her to have such luxuries. She was certain she would never get used to them. She smiled nostalgically as she remembered the old key that used to dangle around her neck on her way home from school when she was a child. There were other things she remember as well, some not so fondly. Brooklyn was very different from the Enterprise.

As she entered her now familiar and comfortable dwelling, Christine forced the images of the past from her mind and concentrated on changing into her off duty attire. She was planning on meeting Uhura and Scotty for dinner and she did not want to be late. She sighed as she finally freed her feet from the hot, constrictive boots. They were one thing about the Enterprise she would never get used to. She wondered how long it would be before Star Fleet tried another one of its uniform redesigns. She had already decided that she was going to stay in the service and hoped that at least the uniform would prove a little less daring on her next tour.

After a warm shower and a fresh coat of make-up Christine decided to pull her hair back loosely allowing the length to fall around her shoulders. As she finished the look with her favorite blue jeans, and Keds, and her faded old NYU sweatshirt, Christine bopped her head in time to the tunes of Motown, a vice she had picked up in childhood from her father. Satisfied with her casual look, she happily strode through the door and into the corridor. Christine stopped only for a moment to key in her door lock. There really was no need, she trusted just about everyone on board. Nyota sometimes forgot to lock her door for weeks. However, it was an action that had been drummed into Christine's head since she was youngster. She never again wanted to feel that strange frightening emptiness of returning home to find everything she owned, what little there was, gone.

Dinners with Scotty were always such fun. They usually started with some exotic Scottish dish that only he seemed able to tolerate. Tonight it was a hearty salmon fare, which Christine loved, so it was surprisingly tasty. Usually this was followed by a rich dessert, something Nyota insisted upon, and several shots of a fine whiskey at least for the Chief Engineer. Christine usually did not partake in the liquid part of the meal.

"Ah, lass. Ya don't know what yer missin'," Scotty would tease.

"It's what I would be missing that I'm afraid of," Christine laughed. She never could hold her liquor well. The last time she had gotten close to what anyone could even consider inebriated was after she had discovered Roger, or what she thought had been Roger, on Exo III. When her bender was over she only found the pain still there, as bitter as it was before. She saw no use in drinking.

"Ya've got ta build up a tolerance," Scotty continued as he toasted her.

"Or grow a cast iron liver," Uhura beamed, poking Scotty in the side. The friends talked and laughed into the late hours, oblivious to another group of three across the room.

"I tell you, Spock," McCoy prodded, holding up a piece of replicated steak that was as close to a living cow as it could get and not label the doctor as a vampire. "You just don't know what you're missing." He was eager for any chance to rib his favorite sparring partner.

"I have to agree with you there, Bones," Jim Kirk chimed between chews. "There's nothing like a good steak. Even if it is only a protein compound."

When no answer came from the stoic Vulcan seated across the table, the pair continued, "Although a nice greasy cheeseburger would do too. Anything'd be better than that rabbit food you call gourmet."

"Hmmm," Was the only noise that escaped Spock's mouth. He had barely eaten anything all night and was busy staring somewhere over the captain's shoulder. Kirk and McCoy finally picked up on the fact that he most probably had not heard a word they had said all evening. Both turned to see what so interested their friend only to find, of all people, their very own Nurse Chapel on the other end of the dark gaze. The captain and the doctor winked at each other. McCoy's face turned impish. He was happy to find another avenue of torture.

"Looks like our girl Chris is over you," he grinned. "I don't even think she's noticed you're in the room."

A disdainful look crossed Spock's face before he could hide it. "It appears that Miss Chapel, Miss Uhura, and Mr. Scott are having a pleasant evening," the Vulcan commented. He tried to sound disinterested.

It did not work. McCoy was feeling good and going for broke. A thick piece of prime rib, a good glass of beer, and teasing Spock until he could no longer take it. It just did not get better than this. "She's been laughing so hard I'm surprised she hasn't thrown up," he began. "Hmmm, I wonder if she and Scotty..." His eyes rolled in feigned evaluation.

"Naaa," Kirk joined in, then pretended to think for a moment. "But, then again. She is a very attractive woman and he can be quite the charmer when he wants to be."

"May I remind both of you that as the commander of this vessel, and CMO, rumor and innuendo are far beneath you." Spock stood as he spoke. If one had not known better, they might have sworn that his reprimand had been tinged with anger, even jealousy.

"Oh come on, Spock," Kirk apologized. "We're just kidding."

It was not good enough. "If you will both excuse me, I have reports to finish," the Vulcan announced before he turned to leave. Kirk and McCoy noticed that he stole one more glance at Christine as he did so.

"Mm, mm, mm. The boy's got it bad." McCoy held up his glass in toast.

Kirk returned the gesture with his beer. "It's about time."

Spock was lost in thought as he returned to his cabin. His thoughts were lost on Christine. The doctor and the captain had been correct. He could no longer deny it. He was strongly attracted to her. He regarded her in the way that one thought of a potential mate, which is as close to saying to himself that he loved her as Spock was willing to get.

He was uncertain when it had begun, but he knew that it had been even before she had declared herself to him. He remembered that strange twinge in his chest the day they had found her fiance and the way her face had been so filled with hope and joy. He had never before felt that strange sensation of breathless dread. Fear that she would leave and he would never see her again.

He had realized from the moment he had met her that she was extremely aesthetically pleasing to him. He found her bright blue eyes mystically alluring, her lovely face was to him the essence of perfection, and her form the epitome of grace. Her caring selflessness endeared her to him only further. It was her mind, however, which most intrigued him. Her genius was disarmingly captivating. He had made up his own mind that he would become better acquainted with her somehow, if she would be willing, but how? This evening he had watched her laugh with such carefree pleasure that he was certain if she got to know him better, that all of the love she may still hold for him would fade. Still, he knew that risk could not outweigh the regret that would haunt him for never taking the chance. Tomorrow, he would ask.

* * *

He had put it off all day. Spock had seen Christine at least four different times during the course of their separate duties. He could have made his inquiry of her on any of those occasions, but always had seemed to lose his nerve. Now there was no turning back. He waited for her to answer the chime he had just sent through her door lock.

Her voice began inside before the door opened. Obviously she was expecting it to be someone else. "Nyota. You better not have cake in your hand..." She stopped short as she came face to face with a perplexed first officer.

"I regret to disappoint you, but I am not Miss Uhura, and I do not come baring pastries," Spock said, trying to joke.

"Oh, Mr. Spock." Christine blushed. "I'm sorry. I though you were ... I just talked with ... it's just that Nyota has made her personal mission to fatten me up. She says I'm too skinny..." She realized she was rambling.

"I see nothing wrong with your figure," he complimented, which only darkened the shade of red she was turning.

"I ... um ... that is ... I ... uh ... Can I help you?" She finally managed a coherent sentence.

"There is a matter I wish to discuss with you. Might I ... come in?" Spock said forcing his face not to match her blush with a bright shade of green.

"Certainly." She moved aside. If one was decent, one did not refuse the first officer, if one could at all avoid it.

Spock entered Christine's quarters slowly. It seemed almost a reverent place. The light was dim and he could see that she had been working on some correspondence at her comm link. There was a faint aroma of something floral in the air. He was unsure if it was her perfume, or if her living space always smelled so pleasing. It was gardenia, if he was not mistaken. It reminded him of the night blooming flowers in his mother's garden at home. It was clear that the rooms were kept neat and orderly and that Christine did not seem to be a fan of hoarding things. There was a place for everything and everything in its place, as his grandmother used to say. It reminded him of his own quarters with it minimal simplicity, yet it was most decidedly and intriguingly feminine with light colors and blossoms being the predominant theme. Immediately, he was overcome with a sense of peace and a wish to spend much time here.

In her nervousness Christine interrupted his reflection, as she crossed to the table and switched off the comm unit. "Is there an emergency in the labs?" she questioned. "I can be ready in two minutes. Please forgive my dress."

It was then that Spock realized that Christine was standing in front of him, wearing only a thin silk robe that emphasized the graceful form he found so fascinating. This time he could not control the blush that found his cheeks as he marveled in her beauty. Her hair flowed unhampered down her back. Her face wore not an ounce of cosmetics, and if it was possible Spock found her even more beautiful without them. She shuffled nervously on the most delicate bare feet he had ever seen.

"No. Nothing is wrong. Forgive me for alarming you," Spock told her.

"What is it then?" Christine was completely confused.

For a moment, he could not find his voice. Clearing his throat uncharacteristically, he was hoarse as he began. "It is a matter ... of personal importance," he stated.

Again bewilderment shone in Christine's eyes. "Oh..." she began, her mind racing. She wondered what it could be. Then she remembered the last time they had stood alone together in a cabin. Last time it had been his quarters. "OH..." she nearly shouted believing she had solved the riddle. "I'll get Dr. McCoy," she offered, turning toward the intercom on the wall.

He took her wrist lightly as she turned. "No. It is not that." He halted her.

Christine's momentum stopped and she turned to face him. "What then?"

Spock did not realize that he still held her wrist gently as he spoke. "Miss Chapel..." He started. No, that sounded so impersonal. "Christine..." There that was better. It almost physically hurt to open up to her. However, he reminded himself that she had done the same to him once, and he owed her nothing less. "It has come to my attention..." No that was wrong. "I can no longer..." No, do not say that. "You are a very..." No, you imbecile. Finally he fell back on the tried and true. "It is logical...." He wanted to wince. He was not good at this.

After watching him struggle so valiantly, Christine took the initiative. "Spock," she said, drawing his attention back to her and from the pit in which he was spirally downward at a rapid rate. "What is it?"

Her smile was so warm, so genuine, so exquisite that his nervousness melted away. Suddenly he felt inexplicably calm and accepted. He could tell her. Of course, she would not turn away. "Christine," he whispered, bringing his fingers us to caress her cheek. "You once declared your love for me." He almost looked as if he were in pain, but he went on. "Please, I need to know. Do you still feel the same?"

Christine looked up at him, speechless for a moment. He was terrified she would send him away. He knew he could expect nothing from her, but dared to hope anyway. He could not read her face. Slowly, silently, she brought her hand up cover his atop her cheek. He reveled in her touch, she in his.

Christine closed her eyes, savoring his nearness. When she opened them again, she could see something akin to fear in his. Eagerly she dispelled his anxiety. "Oh, Spock," she sighed. "Of course I do."

It was done. They knew. They both knew. There was only one thing they could do. Slowly, and tenderly he bent his lips to her waiting smile. Passionately he kissed her, with all the love he had for her in his heart.

* * *

Although both had declared themselves to each other, Spock courted Christine as if they were school children. He was so afraid he would do something wrong, say something inappropriate, or simply not live up to her expectations. For her part, Christine walked on eggshells trying to be perfect. She did not seem to realize that to him she already was. He adored just being near her, listening to her talk, and watching her smile. Nor did Spock understand that he need not have been in such dread of offending her. To Christine that thought had never occurred. Simply being in his presence sent shivers down her spine, and when he touched her she had to hold her breath for fear she would faint. Never had she known someone so wonderful. Their happiness almost made her believe it was possible.

The newness and insecurity wore off after a short time and was replaced by a belonging and familiarity so strong that it was difficult to tell where he stopped and she began. The couple was always together, when duty permitted, and sometimes even when it did not. They would find ways to steal precious moments in obscure and out of the way places, parting with regret as well as excitement anticipating their next meeting. Their love was undeniable, and perfect. Christine was afraid it was too perfect. How long would she remain desirable to him, once he knew the truth?

Within a few months their relationship had developed into a strong and deep commitment. They could almost tell what the other was thinking. There was the beginnings of a bond between them. It was then that Spock was certain. He sent a secret message to his mother. A week had not passed before he knelt before Christine and pledged his endless devotion to her. In his hand he offered the token he so longed to give her.

"It was my grandmother's," Spock told her. "On my mother's side, of course." He had been close with the woman he had, as a child, affectionately called Nana. Next to his mother's, hers had been the only unconditional love he had ever known. That was until now. He knew his grandmother would not only want Christine to wear her engagement ring, he felt she would be honored.

"Oh, Spock," Christine declared, staring down at the flawless three carat diamond. "It's breathtaking." She had never in her entire life seen anything to rival it, and she certainly would have never dreamed that someone would be giving it to her. Even the ring Roger had given her had been on the small side as the brilliant scientist had been known for his understated tastes. Her very own mother had never even had an engagement ring and still did not possess a diamond to her name.

"It is eclipsed by your beauty, T'hy'la," Spock told her taking the ring from its soft velvet enclosure. "Please," he nearly begged. "Please say that you will make everything I dream come true. Please say that you will bond with me and be my wife. My soulmate." He kissed her hand as it trembled.

Tears filled Christine's eyes as she stroked his face. Oh, how she loved him. She would let him have his dream it was hers as well, even if it could only last for a moment. She knew it could not last. "Of course I will," she answered him lovingly. "There is nothing else I ever wanted."

Spock slipped the clear stone in its brilliant gold setting on Christine's finger. It felt heavy on her hand. She could feel the generations of love and belonging which emanated from it and was awed to be a part of that. She prayed against hope that it would always last.

Slowly, Spock rose and took Christine gently in his arms. He enfolded her in his protective embrace. She wanted to stay like that with him forever. Perhaps that way they would not have to face what was to come. Her mind told her it would come. Not tomorrow, not next month, perhaps not for years, however it was what she now feared most.

"I cherish thee, my beloved," Spock told her.

Christine sighed at the words, saving them in her memory. She tried not to think of the day she feared those words would not be bestowed upon her, the day his love would turn to regret and contempt. She would put that from her mind, now. She had been given a gift, even if it was fleeting. She would keep it safe as long as she could. Melting against him she answered him. "I love you with all of my heart. Never forget that, please."

* * *

Christine had never been to Vulcan. Before she had signed aboard the Enterprise, she had never even set foot off of Earth, barely even out of New York. Now here she was being welcomed by the Vulcan ambassador and his wife, not only to the planet but into their family. She had met them before, but was surprised that they even remembered her. Things like that just did not happen to people like her. She instantly felt a kinship with them.

"Christine, my dear. I'm so glad that Spock has finally brought you for a visit." Amanda smiled and hugged her as if she were her very own daughter. "We had so little time to really get to know each other when we talked aboard the Enterprise." She smiled as she winked at her son. She had realized the attraction between the two and knew that it was only a matter of time before she would welcome Christine into her home. "We have so much to discuss. Oh, and the planning for the ceremony..." she went on happily.

"Mother," Spock interrupted her. "Christine is tired from the journey. I am sure there will be plenty of time for your planning later," he reminded her.

Amanda smiled at her eagerness and took Christine's arm. "Of course. Forgive me. I'm just so excited," she grinned.

"So am I." Christine forgave her. "I do hope we have lots of time to talk, and I'll need all the help planning the wedding that I can get."

"See?" Amanda teasingly snapped back at Spock.

With that Sarek saw his opening and maneuvered his way between his wife and future daughter in law. At this close distance, he did not seem as imposing to Christine as he had been aboard ship, and there was a kindness in his eyes that she sensed immediately.

"I too would like to welcome you to our family," he said and almost seemed that he wanted to take her by the shoulders and hug her just as Amanda had done, but did not. "I have no doubt you will bring us much honor."

"I am the one who is honored. I will do my best to live up to your expectations of me." Christine smiled through her fear that she could never make them proud. "Thank you."

When the greetings were complete Amanda took Christine by the arm as the family made their way through the lavish quarters they called home. Richly appointed rooms stretched out on either side of a main hall, which was tiled in the finest of Earth's marbles. Antiques and treasures graced every corner, and Christine was almost afraid to touch anything. She was overwhelmed. She felt so small and unworthy. This was Spock's home. Her mind went back to the tiny one bedroom Benson Hurst walk-up in which she had grown. There had scarcely been enough room to turn around, and what few furnishings they had were courtesy of the local second hand store. She remembered how her father had worked overtime at his construction job to buy her mother a coffee table and how proud they had all been. She swore she would never show Spock that place.

The group passed a crossway in the hall that branched off into the private and guest sleeping quarters. Those rooms, she was sure were larger than the old apartment in which her parents still resided. As a child she had slept in a small utility room just off the kitchen and considered herself lucky. Her older brother had called the pull out sleep sofa his bedroom. They both had so few clothes that the little closet by the front door had held all of their belongings plus the families winter wear. She shivered remembering the years she had to wait until her mother got the Christmas bonus from the diner to get her much prized coat. The snow had been deep by then. It was little wonder she was always ill. Christine also remembered the way her mother would cry over that fact. She shoved the images from her mind, afraid that her recollections and comparisons would be evident on her face. Spock, of course, could already tell something was not right with his fiance.

The four settled down to tea in the smaller parlor next to the solarium. It was cozy and afforded a lovely view of the gardens which were stocked with just about every variety of heat hardy plant that could be imported from Earth. The china on which the refreshments were served was obviously seventeenth century and French. Christine was so afraid she would break it that she could hardly eat.

Amanda could barely eat for a different reason, her mind was already jumping ahead to the celebration that would take place at the joining of her son and new daughter. "So. Tell me, Christine. When can we expect your parents to arrive?" she asked innocently.

Christine nearly choked on cool liquid from her cup. Her face drained. "Uh ... They... They're..." Her brain raced for a plausible excuse that would not also be a lie. "They can't make it," she reported, her eyes lowered in shame.

"They cannot come to their only daughter's wedding?" Sarek asked in shock.

"They want to ... it ... it just isn't a good time for them." Christine wanted to cry. It would never be a good time. She could not tell Spock and his parents that her mother and father could not come because they could not afford the trip.

"Surely. There must be some way they could rearrange their schedule."

Amanda was heartsick.

"Yes. I'm certain an embassy craft could be made available to them from where ever they may be at the time," Sarek offered. Christine knew her parents would never accept charity, not even from her.

"I'm afraid it wouldn't do any good, but thank you. It is a very generous offer." Christine smiled and tried to choke back sob with a sip of tea. She squirmed as Spock eyed her in alarm. She knew he would ask about it later.

"Well then," Amanda began trying to hide her anger at the lack regard Christine's parents seemed to show their daughter. "We'll just have to make you so much at home here and keep you so busy that you won't even notice they're not here."

Christine laughed and thanked her and did not tell her how desperately she wanted her mother and father at her wedding. If only they could have the wedding on Earth. If only her parents could be there. If only a world of society did not separate her from the life Spock had known. Christine forced that thought from her mind and chided herself in guilt. She was not ashamed of her parents. They loved her and had done the very best they could, even going without to make sure she had the few things they could afford to give her. It was that life of poverty of which she was mortified.

It was strange that even in the Federation there were still the have's and the have not's. She had never truly considered herself poor or disadvantaged. It was simply all she had ever known and she had been happy and loved. However, since she had managed to put herself through college working two jobs and winning scholarships things had changed. She had found herself keeping that part of her life secret from her new friends. Roger had known. He had pulled himself up from a similar background in Boston. That was something they shared. Now, though, when she was preparing to marry the man she had always dreamed of. It was that very secret past that haunted Christine. How could she be the kind of wife to Spock that he deserved. She would only end up embarrassing him, and she feared he would despise her. That would be an even harder burden to bear.

* * *

Christine lay awake at her familiar place in Spock's arms. Although her body was relaxed and dreamlike near the man she loved, her mind was racing. She felt overwhelmed and terrified. All she had seen during only her first day visiting with his parents had only strengthened the feeling that she was not good enough for him. She had felt so uncomfortable being waited upon by their numerous servants that once she had even asked if she could help them. The house girls' look of utter shock had made her feel silly and self conscious. They did not realize that if not for the blessing of her education, on Earth, she might have been one of their peers. There were other things with which Christine was unfamiliar. There were so many gleaming silver utensils on the dinner table that she almost choked before she had even taken a bite. Luckily she was not expected to eat first, and she could take her cues silently from Spock. Even though the food was vegetarian, it was rich and fresh. She had never eaten anything like it. Christine remembered the nights when the diner at which her mother slaved had nothing left over and she had gone to bed hungry, and the days at school when she had told friends she was dieting when the truth was there was no money for groceries until the end of the week. Still, she was thankful that her fiance had never known such want. She felt ashamed, and he noticed.

Christine thought of how beautiful Amanda looked in her silk and jewels, and wished her own mother could know such luxuries. She deserved them. It was this thought that brought tears to her throat which threatened to grow to full sobs. Quietly, moving stealthily, Christine slipped from beneath Spock's arm and stood beside the bed. She looked down on the face she loved so much. He deserved so much better. She lightly tied her robe around her and moved toward the door. She needed a place to cry.

As the light from the hallway quickly filled the corner of the room and disappeared, Spock roused. He had not been sleeping. He could feel Christine's distress even without a full marriage bond. It was obvious to him that she was uncomfortable, and it worried him that she would not confide in him. There had been no secrets between them. Was she having second thoughts about becoming his wife? Was it that the true realization of marrying a Vulcan had finally hit her? Perhaps bringing her there had been too imposing. Or could it be that, like so many others before, she was now beginning to find that his two halves did not make one whole individual capable of providing the kind of life or love she needed and deserved. He lay back against her pillow and breathed the fragrance of her, still sweet against the sheets. How could he live without her if she no longer wanted him? Now that he had tasted true completeness and total selfless love, how could he give that up? She amazed him. Every moment they were together he found something else to adore about her. Never had he imagined it possible. She was the greatest person he had known. He knew he did not deserve her.

* * *

A dim glow lit Christine's way along the hallway. She wanted to be somewhere far from the family's sleeping quarters before she allowed her tears to flow. She was fighting them as best she could, but losing the battle. Perhaps the garden would afford her some privacy. Every turn she made deepened the turmoil she felt. The luxuries in the house were tremendous. She could never have dreamed of the rich tapestries which hung from the walls, the antiques that graced the corners, or the crystal and wooden surface that gleamed with the luster of importance. The entire house seemed to cry out that she was intruder, playing in some kind of fairytale waiting for her prince charming to carry Cinderella away to the castle. She knew there was no happily ever after.

It was that thought which froze Christine in her tracks. How could she tell him? How could she look into those deep eyes and give back his ring? How could she form the words which would tell him that she could not marry him, and how could she make him believe it was for his own good? He would hate her. She should never have tried to love him. Just as when she had loved Roger, it would end in disaster. This time it would be because of her.

Christine forced the thought from her mind as she nearly ran down the hallway. If she dwelled on it anymore now they would find her sobbing in a heap on the ground. She focused on finding her way to the garden. She did not know the maze-like passageways of what now seemed to her a castle. She turned one corner, only to find herself in a sitting room, or a study, or a even a small art gallery. Once she backed into a stand which was home to an obviously priceless sculpture. She caught it just in time. The breath did not return to her lungs for nearly a full minute.

Finally, she recognized the main parlor through which she had crossed that afternoon. She jumped as she saw someone in front of her, then rolled her eyes in relief after realizing it was her own reflection in a pane of glass. It was the door of a large curio cabinet. Christine was drawn to the shining treasures within. They were breathtaking. At least thirty delicate Faberge eggs were at home on the lit shelves. She had only seen a small collection of them once before. As a child the one extravagance her parents had allowed, had even insisted upon was the yearly price of twenty-five cents for the subway ride into Manhattan for the Thanksgiving Day parade. They called it their vacation. It was not until years later that she realized her parents had done this so that she and her brother would not realize that their holiday lacked the usual turkey and trimmings, and that they would be returning home to a cold apartment and a cold supper. Somehow there was always something to be thankful for. The day had still been glorious, even without what others took for granted. Christine had been mesmerized by the glittering floats, the dancers and singers, and the cartoon balloons. It was magical, a wonderland. On that day she was not poor, she was not hungry, she was not even cold standing on the snowy street corner with the rest of New York. On her father's shoulders she was a princess, and the whole of the world her kingdom.

It had been during one of those parade days that Christine had first seen the prized ceramic eggs. Santa Claus had been coming right toward them, and Christine had looked excitedly over her shoulder to her mother. She had found, however, that her mother was not standing where she expected her to be, but a few feet away staring in a store window. It was Tiffany's. Moving closer to her mother, Christine could see she was crying. The innocent little girl took the woman's hand.

"What's wrong, Mommy?" she had asked.

Christine had not understood when her mother had bent and wrapped her in her arms. "Nothing, honey," she had answered. "I have everything I need."

Now millions of miles away from the woman who could make even an empty Thanksgiving seem like the greatest day on Earth, Christine wished she could give something like this to her mother. Sandra Chapel deserved a castle too.

She had not realized that her face was almost pressed against the glass when a bright light came on around her. She gasped and turned in surprise. Her mind suddenly flashed to the time she had been a college freshman and worked up the nerve to walk through Saks Fifth Avenue, just to look at the pretty things they had. It did not take long before she realized that her worn clothes and expression of wonder were far from the upperclass look of the other patrons, and that she was being followed throughout the store by someone she assumed was a security guard. Now, just as then, she felt though she should plead that she was not trying to take anything, only looking. However, this time it was Amanda's smiling face that greeted her.

"I'm sorry dear. I didn't mean to startle you." She smiled as she moved to stand beside her.

"I was just looking. They're so beautiful." Christine turned once again toward the glass. She had not realized she had been crying and did not want Amanda to see her tears.

"Well, I tell people they're just a hobby of mine, but actually they're a passion." Amanda smiled. "Sarek thinks I'm obsessed."

"I've never seen so many," Christine complimented.

"I inherited some, but the others ... I've chased some of the rarer ones halfway around the galaxy," Amanda joked. "They're simply amazing." Christine was beguiled. "I always thought so. My mother used to keep that one on her dresser." The elder woman said pointing to a light lavender piece decorated with plain silver webbing. "She told me a story once about it being a gift to one of our great, great, great something relatives from the King of France," she said nonchalantly.

"King of France?" Christine's eyes grew large.

"Oh. Yes..." Amanda began, disinterested in her lineage. "I don't know, there's something about some of my ancestors were some kind of noblemen or something in England."

Christine felt her heart sink, not only was Spock royalty on Vulcan, he was royalty on Earth as well. Who was she to even dream she could fit into his world? Maybe she was just playing Cinderella. She did not reply, but turned her attention back to the collection. After a few moments she managed a few words. "My mother would love them." She thought of the five tiny resin cats that sat atop her mother's dresser, forming the only collection the woman had.

"Does she collect Faberge?" Amanda asked innocently.

"No..." Christine whispered. "She really doesn't collect anything much. She's too busy."

"A workaholic?" Amanda questioned, smiling.

"Uh, yes. I guess you could say that." Christine answered. That was a good excuse. Just because her mother's duty was imposed by necessity did not make her any less driven by her work than those who found pleasure in it.

"I know how those are." Amanda grinned. "Tell me why are you up?"

"Oh, I couldn't sleep," Christine said, her eyes finding the ground. It really was not a lie.

"Exactly the same reason I'm pacing the floors. Never let anyone tell you that Vulcans don't snore." The older woman laughed.

Christine laughed in spite of herself but the action brought fresh tears to her eyes. She tried to turn away but this time Amanda noticed. Taking her future daughter in law gently by the shoulders she turned the young woman to face her. "What's wrong?" she asked concerned. "You two didn't have words, did you?"

"Oh, no. I've never been happier. It's just that..." How Christine wanted to tell her but could not.

"Nerves?" Amanda guessed. She took Christine's silence as an affirmative.

"Come on," Amanda suggested. "Let's have some tea." Christine nodded.

* * *

A half an hour later the two Earth women were sitting in the kitchen deep in conversation. Christine felt relaxed and at ease. It was nice, getting to know Spock's mother this way. There was a true friendship between them, and she enjoyed that. When their cups were empty, and their eyes were heavy, Christine somehow found enough courage to ask one thing.

"Amanda," she began. "Would you tell me something, truthfully?"

"I'll try my best," Amanda answered.

Christine summoned all her bravery and took a deep breath. "By Vulcan standards, Spock is marrying far beneath him, isn't he?"

Amanda smiled, and took Christine's hand. "Dear, by Vulcan standards, so did Sarek," she answered.

Christine looked down at the table, unsure how to answer. Amanda did that for her. "Now, don't you worry about that. Nothing can change either of their minds once they are made up." Christine was not as sure but nodded anyway.

"Now, you go on." Amanda smiled. "We don't want that big strong son of mine getting cold in that bed alone."

"You must be the only woman alive asking someone to sleep with their son," Christine grinned.

"I doubt I'll have to beg you," Amanda joked. "Besides most other women don't have sons who are their own worst enemies."

"Well, no, you don't have to beg." Christine laughed. "But let me help you clean up." She offered.

"No, now scoot before he comes looking for you. He'll never forgive me for monopolizing you." She gave Christine a quick hug and turned her around softly by the shoulders. "Besides, you need you rest. Tomorrow, wedding shopping."

Christine bid her goodnight and made her way up the long hall to the bedroom she shared with Spock. It was nice to feel apart of all of this for a while. It was nice to have someone believe that she belonged. In her heart, however, Christine knew who she was. She would always be that poor little girl from the slum whom everyone looked down upon. She could never cast that shame upon Spock.

* * *

Christine and Spock had been on Vulcan nearly a week when a reception was held in their honor. Amanda and Sarek were eager to introduce their future daughter to society. Spock too, relished the thought of presenting the beautiful and brilliant woman who had agreed to become his wife to the whole of his clan and acquaintances. Some of those who would be in attendance had been his tormentors in childhood. Spock also knew that as the daughter of another powerful clan, T'Pring would most probably be there as well. He could think of no better revenge than acquainting her with the woman he had chosen. Still he was sorry that Christine would have to be anywhere near the likes of T'Pring, she was far too good for that. He chided himself that it was his human male pride which made him fantasize about entering the room with Christine on his arm. Still he could not help it, to him no less than a goddess had chosen him for her own. His heart wanted to burst with the depth and scope of his love for her. Still he could not help but notice how apprehensive Christine was at the thought of being the center of attention at the gala. He told himself that it was only her nature which made her so shy, and that most people would be nervous about such an event. He hoped that was all it was.

"Each time I see you, my love, you become more beautiful than the last," Spock said to Christine as he entered their bedroom.

She sat at an antique vanity arranging the tendrils of blonde hair which floated ethereally around her face. The rest of her locks were pulled up into a sophisticated style and caught with delicate pearl hairpins. She wore a gown the color of blue midnight, which accented her brilliant eyes and creamy skin. The gown she had chosen was strapless silk with a long flowing skirt. A whispy fold of matching taffeta at the top of the bodice was the only adornment to the elegant dress. She had chosen to wear no opera gloves, which the saleswoman thought scandalous, in order to proudly show the engagement ring which now sat comfortably on her hand. Her only other decoration was a pair of simple pearl earrings. She needed no other ornament. She was perfect. Spock was certain that she was angel as he bent to kiss the back of her bare neck.

The touch of his lips sent a shiver of delight through Christine, and she melted against him bringing her hand up to caress his face. Almost as if he were afraid she would fly away, Spock took her wrists gently and sat down on the vanity bench beside her. She marveled at his handsomeness. He wore a simple black ceremonial tunic with elaborate gold scroll around the neck and wrists. To Christine he was the epitome of perfection.

She looked over at him lovingly and brought her fingers up tenderly to hold his face. "I can hardly believe that you love me," she told him, looking deep into his very soul.

"It is I who can scarcely imagine this is real," he whispered to her as he kissed her palms. "You are everything to me."

Christine was silent as she watched him. She knew she should tell him, now before he declared her as his publicly. He would still have time to change his mind. However, she could not. The thought of losing him was more than she could bare. Still the fear of it weighed heavily upon her heart.

"Something is wrong," he ventured. "Tell me what it is, T'hy'la," Spock asked her.

Christine's eyes brimmed with tears. "Just, please, always know that I love you. Never forget that," she begged. He opened his mouth to respond. He needed her to elaborate. What could ever make him forget that? The soft knocking at the door stopped him.

"Come," he answered, a bit annoyed at the interruption. His mood changed when he saw who it was on the other side.

Amanda opened the door and peaked inside. Finding the couple still sitting on the bench, their arms wrapped around each other, she smiled. "Come on, you two love birds. Everyone's waiting." She held the door open and gestured for them to follow.

"Are you ready?" Spock asked Christine.

She took a deep breath and swallowed against her dry throat. "As I'll ever be," Christine answered.

Spock took Christine's hand and noticed that it was shaking. He helped her stand and put his arm around her waist for support. She smiled at him. "I'll be alright," she assured him.

"Yes. You will. Remember, everyone is here to meet you and I will be by your side." He smiled and kissed her. "Remember, how much I love you." He echoed her words of a few moments earlier. With that they followed his mother into the hall.

The three made their way down the corridor toward the large room that was used for such gatherings. The only comparison Christine could think of was a ballroom. The sounds of talking and soft music filled the air as they approached. She gritted her teeth to try to keep from shaking. It worked a little, but she still afraid she might faint. Through the touch of their hands, Spock sent her soothing comfort. It helped and she was able to calm her body. Her mind was a different matter. She hoped he could not sense her turmoil. What was she doing? What was she thinking? Little Chrissy Chapel from Benson Hurst Brooklyn, the guest of honor at a party thrown by the Vulcan ambassador and his wife. She was certain she would embarrass herself and them. There was no way they would want her as a daughter in law after tonight, and Spock would no longer want her as his wife. She looked over at him and could read the anxiety on his face. Normally his nerves would not show, but she knew him too well. She had been so focused on her fears that she had forgotten who would be in attendance. In only a few seconds, he would be coming face to face with the woman who had spurned and humiliated him. She could not let him down. Taking a deep breath she told herself to pull herself together, for him. She would hold her head up, and no one would know that she did not really belong.

Sarek stood at the entrance to the parlor. As Amanda, Spock, and Christine approached he nodded approvingly. "You are a vision, my daughter," he told Christine. It was the first time he had addressed her as such. The importance of the event did not go unnoticed by anyone.

"Thank you ... Father." She answered. "You have honored me more than I can ever say. I will do my best to do the same for you."

"I have no doubt that you will. You have already made up exceedingly proud," Sarek answered her. Amanda watched him with loving amusement. She knew how much he cared for and approved of their son's choice. Spock eyed his father with wordless thanks, and Christine was afraid she would start to cry before they even entered the room.

"Shall we begin?" Sarek questioned, holding out two fingers to Amanda.

Amanda accepted him with and exaggerated courtesy. "By all means." She was excited to get the celebration underway.

"T'hy'la?" Spock held out two fingers to Christine. She knew the symbolic nature of the gesture. It proclaimed them as each other's. It was as good as declaring that they were already joined, and it meant that Spock accepted her without reservation or hesitation and that he wanted everyone to know. Pride was evident on his face when Christine smiled at him, and took his fingers with her own. She took a deep breath and nodded to them that she way ready.

The music and conversation stopped when Sarek and Amanda appeared in the doorway. Spock and Christine still could not be seen from the where they waited. The older couple moved regally, a few paces into the room and silently greeted their guests with a formal nod. The crowd parted to give them audience.

"My guests," Sarek began. "You have honored us by attending this evening. My wife and I would like to extend our sincerest, and most humble appreciation. The occasion for his gathering is a momentous one for this house..." he continued.

As they waited, listening to his father's words, Spock could sense Christine's fear and moved his other hand along her face to calm her. He kissed her temple and breathed in the scented bouquet of her hair. "I cherish thee," he whispered into her ear.

"We have been honored beyond measure," Sarek continued from the parlor. "Our son has chosen, and chosen well. He has truly brought a rare treasure to us."

With that, Spock motioned for Christine to walk with him. They entered the parlor and stood beside but slightly behind his parents. He spoke with pride and resonance. "Esteemed guests. Allow me to present, Christine, she who is to become my wife."

It was difficult for Christine to read the reaction of the crowd. This was a private occasion and the guests list was comprised of Spock's clan members, and a few important members of other families. She and Amanda were the only non-Vulcans in attendance. A few seemed delighted and almost smiled. They were mostly younger. She thought she saw some roll their eyes as if to say, "Oh great. More humans." Others stood quietly, gracefully acknowledging the news. Among these was T'Pau. The eldest of Spock's clan, and the head of the family, she seemed quite pleased. One person in particular glowered with contempt. T'Pring had not wanted to come this evening, but had been given to understand in no uncertain terms that she would not show disrespect to T'Pau's clan by snubbing the invitation. She stood in front of her husband, Stonn, not bothering to hide the cloud of disgust that had settled over her face.

The first item of business for the evening was the receiving line. Everyone was eager to meet and get a close up view of the new human who would soon be entering their clan. Some realizing that she would even have a position greater than there own would try to use the opportunity to ingratiate themselves into Christine's good graces. Spock would tell her later whom she could trust, and whom were better stayed away from.

T'Pau was the first to welcome Christine. Her tone was surprisingly gentle. For some reason Christine had expected a voice that could split the heavens apart. "I welcome thee, daughter of this house." She said. "I am truly honored." Christine answered. T'Pau nodded as satisfied with the answer. "I am told that not only are you aesthetically pleasing, you are an accomplished researcher."

"I do hope that my work in the medical field is the quality for which I will be most remembered." Christine said humbly.

T'Pau nodded again, this time toward Spock. "I approve, Spock," she said. Turning back to Christine, she held up her hand with fingers spread in the traditional salute. "Live long and prosper, Christine," the old woman said.

Again Christine surprised T'Pau with a flawless Vulcan salute. No one needed to know that she and Spock had spent weeks practicing, or that when she first started her hand had cramped so badly it had to be iced down. Her answer to T'Pau was flattering and gracious. "If my life will be half as enduring and prosperous as yours has been, I will be extremely lucky." She smiled. "May you continue along those paths." The clan's leader walked away nodding. A very good choice, indeed. Christine could feel Spock squeeze her fingers in triumph.

The rest of the guests, Christine found to be quite pleasant and accepting. Even the ones who disapproved had the good sense not to voice their objections, especially after the lovely Earth woman had been given T'Pau's stamp of approval. Never in her life had she received so many compliments, or felt so welcomed. It almost made her forget that she was not worthy ... almost.

The last members of the party to take their places in line were Stonn and T'Pring. They had tried their best to avoid the greetings, but a few stern glances had forced them into line. Stonn nodded politely at Christine who did the same, then congratulated herself for hiding her utter repulsion. He then congratulated Spock on his choice, and moved wisely away. As T'Pring approached, Christine wanted to shrink away. The Vulcan woman wore a look so hard and hate-filled that Christine had never even seen it on a human before. Spock's former betrothed bent her head slightly toward Christine in a condescending hello. She said nothing, and Christine never let the gracious smile leave her face, although she wanted to subject the woman to tortured unimaginable. It was Spock whom T'Pring addressed.

"She is a lovely ... little human, Spock," T'Pring said mockingly. "It seems you have made a fitting choice."

"Yes, I have made a most fitting choice," Spock answered proudly. "More so than any that could have been made for me. I have chosen, she whom I want. She will bring honor to my house."

The insult stung as badly as if he had reached out and slapped her in the face. As did the way Spock ended the conversation as if it were nothing more to him than idle talk with a stranger. He turned to Christine, and raised their hands. It was obvious that to him she was the only person in the room, as he was to her. The look of pure selfless love on Christine's face was easy for even a Vulcan to discern, as was the mirrored expression of Spock's. T'Pring moved away, in defeat. No one noticed when she and Stonn left early.

The evening was a whirlwind for Christine. She met so many of Spock's relatives, she was sure she could never remember all of their names. There was conversation and she felt as though she had recounted the story of herself at least a hundred times. She was careful to choose her words diligently, always steering the conversation away from her family's background. She openly told of her loving mother and father, and the older brother she adored. Christine did not lie, however, admonitions of her underprivileged upbringing were quietly left out of the conversation. For a while she could almost believe it herself. It was so easy with Spock standing next to her for Christine to feel as though she belonged. Always in the back of her mind, though, she was waiting for the proverbial clock to strike midnight. Then she would turn her back into a pauper again, an embarrassment to the very family who was accepting her so readily. How much honor would she bring to them then?

* * *

Christine lay awake in Spock's arms. The evening had been magical, the passion they had shared after the celebration ended had eclipsed any they had ever known. Christine was unsure whether it was the excitement of the night or the fact that the claimed each other publically, but their love had soared to heights so magical neither wanted to ever return. They very nearly bonded then and there and had to force themselves to part from one another. Their joy and completeness overwhelmed them. It was that very happiness over which Christine now agonized.

Now, in the darkness, she watched Spock sleeping beside her. She had never before seen him exhausted, but tonight was different. His sleep was deep, his breathing regular and relaxed. When they were together, he was so different from the stone-faced officer he presented the rest of the world. He was himself, fully accepted and cherished. At the thought of this, Christine's guilt overwhelmed her. There was a part of herself she had never let him see, could never allow him to know. Her eyes stung as they filled with tears. She studied his familiar and beloved form. How could she do this to him? Softly and silently she slipped from their bed and made her way into the bathroom.

Spock was dreaming. He saw Christine's cherished face. She was standing before him like an angel bathed in brilliant white light. She was trying to tell him something. She needed to tell him something. She opened her mouth to speak and formed words he could not understand. Like before, he could not hear her. Something in her face was urgent and frightened. Something told him she needed him. She turned to go and fled into a darkness in which he could not follow.

Spock jolted awake. He never had nightmares, but this one had been centered on his greatest fear, losing Christine. It had seemed so real. He reached for her in the darkness and terror seized his soul when he found she was not there. Frantically he looked around the empty room.

"Christine?" he called.

Listening with his sensitive ears there was no reply. There was only a small noise from the bathroom. He focused his attentions with all his effort in the strange unreal calm that came after such dreams. It was Christine, she sounded ill. Hurriedly he rushed from the bed to the doorway of the lavatory.

The door slid open and he could see nothing. There were no lights on to guide his way. It took only seconds for his keen vision to adjust. It was then that he saw Christine. She was slumped against the tile side of the tub. Her back was to him. He could not see her face. The worst fears filled Spock's mind as he rushed her. As he reached her, he could tell she was crying.

"Christine? T'hy'la?" he questioned near panic as he fell to the floor beside her. She was sobbing hysterically.

Slowly she raised her face from the towel she had used to muffle her anguished weeping. She could not bring her eyes to face him, and tried to turn away. He caught her face gently in his fingers and brought her around to him once more.

"Please tell me what is wrong," he begged.

"I can't." Christine shook her head, trying to pull away.

"There is nothing you need to hide from me," Spock assured her. "Please, tell me what it is."

With that she looked at him, his eyes terrified with worry, his hands trembling around hers. This wonderful man who loved her, whom she loved, and whom she had deceived wanted nothing more than to take from her anything that would cause her the slightest distress. If only he could.

"I can't do this," Christine said to herself.

Dread filled Spock's heart at those words. What was it that she could not do, marry him?

"I can't do this to you," Christine continued. She took his face in her shaking hands. "I love you so much. Please, please don't hate me."

"For what would I ever hate you, beloved?" Spock questioned. If she had not been so upset, the thought would have been laughable.

When she did not answer, he took her in his arms and helped her to stand. He carried her back into the bedroom. Sitting her on their bed, his arms never left her as he sat down beside her. He took from her the towel she still held in her hands and dried her wetted cheeks.

"There," he said. "Now tell me what has you in such distress."

She took a deep breath not wanting to say, but knowing she must. She looked deep into his eyes, imploring him to understand. "I never meant to hurt you. I never meant to lie to you."

"Lie to me about what?" he asked confused. "You have not hurt me. I do not understand."

Gasping, Christine began, "I told you I was from New York."

"Yes," Spock nodded trying to help her along.

"What I didn't tell you," Christine admitted, "was what part of New York." She steadied herself against him, perhaps she feared, for the last time. "I grew up in Benson Hurst, in Brooklyn. My father is a construction worker. Well, when I was little he drove a taxi. My mother is a waitress. I was poor, Spock. I was very, very poor."

Spock listened to her explain. He let her speak. It was as if years of hidden torment were spilling from her. "We had nothing. I slept in a storage closet. There was even a time when we lived in a car because we got evicted," she recounted. "I wore second hand clothes and I was sick all the time because I didn't have a coat. I used to lie to my friends so they wouldn't find out how bad off we really were."

Christine could not look at him as she spoke, could not dare to stop for fear she would not be able to finish. "Somehow, by the grace of God I managed to get a scholarship to New York University, but that still wasn't enough to cover the cost of books and subway fare and things. I worked two jobs to make ends meet. I clerked at the bookstore, and then in the evenings I waitressed at the diner with my mom." Her sobbing abated as she spoke. In a strange way it was good to have it out in the open. "So you see. I don't come from a privileged background. I'm not rich or well bred, and I don't have any connections at all."

Spock looked at her with compassion and wonder. "I had no idea," he said, stroking her cheek. "Why did you never tell me?"

"I couldn't," Christine said softly. "I wanted to be your wife so much, I just couldn't tell you that I wasn't worthy of you."

"What do you mean not worthy of me?" He was astonished.

"You know luxury and sophistication. You've never gone to bed hungry. You've never had people look down at you because of what you're wearing or where you come from. You were born for greatness. You know nothing but the finest of everything. There was never any doubt about your future. There were times I wasn't even sure I would have one. My parents lived paycheck to paycheck. I know poverty and fear. You're the son of one of the most powerful clans of Vulcan. I'm just a girl from the slums." Christine looked at him with adoration and longing. "You're everything, and I'm ... nothing."

Spock turned her to face him. For an instant she was unsure if he was angry or in shock. "Don't ever say that," he demanded. "Do not even think it," he told her. "You are greater than anyone I have every known. You are my everything. Do you think it matters to me what neighborhood you come from, or what your father does?" he questioned.

"It will matter to others," Christine reminded him.

"Damn them," Spock told her. "I do not care about them. I only care about you." He held her gently but firmly, afraid she would slip away. "You say that I do not know what it is like to be looked down upon. I know that better than anyone. That is what I knew from the time I was very young. You say that I am somehow better than you because of the history of my house. I have spent a lifetime rebelling against it. I care nothing for it, if it costs me you." He did not realize he was almost trembling. "Is this why you have been acting so distant?" he questioned.

Christine nodded silently. "I can never be the kind of wife you deserve."

"It is I who will never be the husband you deserve," he lamented. "You are the finest, rarest treasure that heavenly hands have ever created. I can never be worthy of you, my love." He let his lips play across her cheek.

She smiled in spite of herself. "You say that now. But what about when people find out? When my background embarrasses you and your family?"

"You could never embarrass us," he assured her.

"Someday, someone would find out and..." Christine began.

"Why would I hide it? That is part of you. I cherish everything about you," Spock told her.

"Then ... you still want me to be your wife?" Christine asked hopefully.

"It is the only thing I want," Spock said.

"I need to tell your parents. They have a right to know," she affirmed.

"If that makes you feel better, however, I can tell you now that it will make no difference," he comforted. "You are their daughter now and they will fight anyone who tried to hurt you."

"How is it possible, that you can make ... me feel so special?" Christine marveled.

"Because you are ... special, my love." He held her close for a long moment and then continued. "It pains me to think of you having to live under such conditions. I cannot help but wonder why you were allowed to remain in such a home." He could feel his anger flaring at the way she had grown.

"Oh, no, no. It wasn't like that," Christine corrected. "My parents did the best they could. It killed them to see my brother and me go without. They gave us what they were able, love and laughter. When we had nothing else, we had that."

Spock held Christine close and she melted into his embrace. It was the only place she had ever truly wanted to be, safe in his arms. Now nothing would separate them again. He enfolded her in his protective embrace.

"Believe me, T'hy'la. I will allow nothing to hurt you ever again. You are safe, my beloved." They held each other long into the morning hours when a peaceful sleep finally found them. They awoke to a day that was bright and new and full of promise. Certainly nothing now could ever threaten their future.

* * *

"I'm glad you're both here," Christine said as she entered the family dining room the next morning on Spock's arm. A light breakfast of breads and fruits had been laid out on the table and Amanda and Sarek were already beginning.

"Good morning, you two," Amanda smiled.

"I trust you slept well after last evening's festivities," Sarek offered, not realizing the fodder he was providing for private jokes. The others let the opportunity pass.

"Yes, we are quite rested. Thank you, Father," Spock answered as he held out Christine's chair and seated her.

Christine smiled up at her fiance, gathering his support along with the courage she would need to face his parents. Timidly her eyes sunk to the table top. "If you have a little time," she said to the older couple. "There is something I really need to tell you."

"Of course dear, we're never too busy for you," Amanda invited. "What is it?"

"Well, you see ... I ..." Christine began, unsure of how to continue now that she had started. She felt Spock squeeze her hand reassuringly under the table. His words that her past would make no difference to his parents guided her on. "It just that..." She tried again. "I guess I'm not really who you think I am, and I don't want there to be any secrets anymore."

"Of what secrets do you speak?" Sarek asked, concerned. Amanda only sat confused and stared at Christine.

Christine took a deep breath and went on to recount the story of her impoverished upbringing. She could not force her eyes from her still empty plate and a tear found its path down her face as she spoke. Spock longed to brush it away. She did not realize that her voice was growing more faint by the moment. It was as if she were trying to disappear.

Finally she was through. "So, you see, I just felt that you should know..." Christine hesitated. "...what you're letting into your family." Spock hated to hear her referring to herself in those terms.

With her mouth empty of words to go on, Christine looked up. To her surprise she did not find the disdain or disappointment she had expected. Tears glistened on Amanda's cheeks as she looked at the brave young woman who would soon be her daughter.

"Oh, Christine," the elder lady lamented. "If I've said or done anything to make you feel like you don't belong..." She choked, then remembered something. "I went on and on about those stupid eggs. I'm so sorry," she gushed closing her eyes in embarrassment.

"Oh, no. No. You haven't done anything," Christine assured her. "You and Sarek have been so kind and wonderful. I don't deserve it."

"Do not discount yourself as unworthy, Daughter," Sarek spoke up. "Overcoming the obstacles you have faced only proves your merit all the more. It is your character and bravery which defines you, not where you may have come from. We are honored to have you in our family."

"Thank you," Christine smiled through happy tears.

"I couldn't agree more. I can't imagine what you must have gone through. Most people would have given up, but you got yourself out of there and have achieved so much. How could you ever think we wouldn't want you?" Amanda took her free hand. "Besides, the only thing that matters to me is that you love and care for our son very much." She smiled.

"I do," Christine agreed and turned toward Spock. She was met with an I told you so grin playing secretively at the corners of his mouth. She blushed, a little embarrassed for thinking she would be turned out into the street. He moved his fingers over hers, as if telling her that she need not be ashamed of anything.

"Then that settles it," Amanda laughed. "That is, if you still want us." Christine could not contain her mirthful laughter. The joy that found her face was a welcome relief to all especially to Spock, who only a few hours before had feared that she had changed her mind about their marriage.

* * *

"Thank you, Mother," Spock began. "For easing Christine's mind."

"There are no thanks necessary, except on my part. I can tell that she makes you very happy," Amanda teased.

"Mother..." Spock interrupted.

"Now, don't you try to tell me that happiness is an emotion and blah blah blah." She grinned. "I know you, and I know it's true. Unless you want to say that Christine doesn't make you happy." She enjoyed goading him.

"My wife," Sarek interjected. "You should not taunt our son in such a manner."

"Oh, he likes it." Amanda smiled wickedly at her husband. "Now back to my original question..." She stared at Spock as she stifled her giggles. Christine also turned a little impish smile toward her future husband immensely interested in what his answer would be.

"It would appear, Mother, that you have me at an impasse," Spock conceded. "I cannot deny what you have said as the truth. There is a favorably joyful response when I am around Christine. I find my greatest pleasure is being with her." He would not let his mother win so easily and could not let Christine think he did not find the sweetest delight in her very existence. However, he could not bring himself to admit the experiencing of an emotion, especially not in the presence of his father.

Amanda rolled her eyes and gave an exasperated sigh. He had won again. "That's close enough, I guess." Christine laughed in merry contentment.

* * *

"Is this the way it should look?" Christine questioned stepping out from behind the bathroom door. She was wearing the traditional ceremonial gown of a maiden of Spock's house. As they were not married, she could not wear the matron's robe. However, she had been publicly accepted as a member of the family and would assume her rightful place.

Spock caught his breath as he stared at Christine. Every time he thought she could not become more lovely she surprised him. She stood wanting his approval, but it was hers that he sought. She wore the garment of his house and his ancestors. Her light delicate features contrasting sharply to the straight angular lines of the dress. The soft color suited her, however. She looked like a goddess of old. He felt that he should bow in her presence. Instead, he stood and walked over to take her hands in his.

"You are a vision, my beloved," he whispered to her.

She looked deep into his eyes and found the love and awe that he held for her. "I want to make you proud," she said.

"You already have," he told her before he kissed her.

This evening they would be celebrating the feast of Cral'hul, a seasonal event. In times past it signaled the end of the harvest time in the valleys where the few grains, vegetables, and fruits that thrived on Vulcan would grow. Now, Amanda had told Christine, it was something akin to Thanksgiving on Earth.

"I have much to be thankful for," Spock said softly to Christine.

"As do I," she told him, stroking his face.

This evening they would dine, along with his parents, among the other high houses of the planet. It would be another chance for Spock to show off Christine, this time as a member of their house. However, it also meant that they would once again be thrown into the company of T'Pring.

As they prepared to leave the house for the feasting hall, Amanda could not help but notice that both Spock and Christine seemed apprehensive about attending. She knew the reason and would not stand for it. "Alright. That's enough. I absolutely forbid you both from thinking one moment longer about that viper. So what if she'll be there? Who cares? She means nothing to either you, now. She had no consequence whatsoever on your lives."

Spock sighed and visibly relaxed. "Of course you are correct, Mother," he acknowledged. Christine followed his lead and smiled.

"I find that to be the case in most matters." Sarek attempted a bit of comedy. "Your mother is correct in this as well. It is illogical for either of you to concern yourselves with T'Pring. She is of little consequence to anyone any longer." With that, the family left their home and prepared to enjoy the evening.

The feast was to be held in the banquet hall of the government building in Shi'kar. Christine had never seen such a lavish display of wealth and importance. She swore to herself that she would not feel out of place again. She would have to get used to this way of life, it would be hers soon. She decided to revel in it. She enjoyed learning as much about Spock's home world as she could. She considered it her home now, as well.

Dinner had been greatly enjoyable. As was tradition Christine was still considered a maiden in Vulcan society and as such was seated between two older women. It was a remnant of some ancient time when young women had to be protected from the men. They still kept that much of their custom alive, at least on ceremonial occasions. She had hoped that Amanda would have been nearby for moral support, but soon found her future mother-in-law seated halfway down the other side of the table and well out of saving distance. Spock and Sarek were likewise inaccessible. Christine decided to make the best of it. As it was, she found herself in between two exceedingly mature and amenable Vulcan ladies, both completely fascinated by her. She could barely eat for answering their questions. Christine found them utterly charming and liked them immediately.

From time to time Christine managed to steal a glance at Spock, whom she always found was totally intent on watching her. She also noticed that his expression as he followed her conversation from a distance was something between adoration and amusement. She promised herself to get even with him somehow.

When dinner concluded Christine bid her farewells to the elderly ladies who had been her companions and searched for Spock in the milling crowd. The face she found was the last she had wanted to see.

"Christine. How agreeable to see you again," T'Pring hissed in feigned regard.

Uncertain what to do Christine smiled hesitantly and answered swiftly. "Thank you." She did not want to be in this woman's presence any longer than necessary. "Please excuse me. I must find my fiance." There was a bit of sweet triumph in her words.

"Yes, your ... fiance," T'Pring smirked contemptuously at the Earth term. "How is Spock?"

Something in the other woman's eyes threw fear into Christine's heart and she stepped back, wanting desperately to get away from her. "Excuse me, I really have to go."

"I cannot help but wonder if he knows...?" the Vulcan woman continued, stepping closer to Christine and denying her opportunity to leave.

Across the room Spock, who had been joined by his parents, saw Christine shrink away from T'Pring. It seemed that his was the past which had come back to haunt her. He wanted to dive over the table and throw T'Pring away from the woman he loved. However, decorum prevented that action. The three hurried around the table to where they feared Christine might need them.

Unaware of her rescuers advance, Christine faced T'Pring with all the courage she could find. "If he knows what?" she demanded.

"Oh, never mind," T'Pring played. "It really is none of my business."

"You're right," Christine shot back. "It isn't. Whatever ... it ... is. Excuse me." She tried to move around her tormentor.

T'Pring continued her torment and blocked Christine's path. "Still, I simply cannot help but wonder if Spock knows that the woman he is about to be joined with is... Oh, what is that Earth term?" She rolled her eyes as if searching for a word that was on the tip of her tongue. "Oh yes... trash."

Spock reached the two women in time to hear T'Pring's last comment. "Get away from her," he ordered, stepping in between them to shield Christine from any more distress. Sarek and Amanda stood beside him, ready to do battle.

"Come now. We were only having a conversation," T'Pring quipped. "Really, such common behavior Spock. It seems she's rubbing of on you."

"I will stand for no more of your insults against my betrothed," Spock said victoriously.

"Your betrothed," T'Pring almost laughed. "Your betrothed does not deserve her place in this society. Nor does she belong." Her voice rose, as did the eyebrows of the other guests. Stonn could only stand across the room in mortification. He did not dare interrupt her.

"What concern is this of yours?" Sarek asked her, ready to argue logic. "Would it be now that you want what you cannot have?"

"It is not. Nor do I care about either of them. What I do care about is that this ... this..." She motioned toward Christine but trailed off when she saw Spock bristle. "What I care about is that she, a human and one who comes from the lowest background imaginable, will have a higher place in this society than I, a full Vulcan. I live in disgrace for something I had every right to do, and she will live like a queen."

"You chose your path," Spock reminded. "One for which I am ever thankful."

"Do not get me wrong. I am not apologizing for my actions," T'Pring corrected. "I simply cannot stand by and watch while our society, our very blood is defiled even further. What is this strange attraction your clan seems to have with Humans?" She gestured toward Sarek. "At least yours had some culture and breeding. Spock brings this ... this ... street urchin into our midst." T'Pring's words were now loud enough for all to hear. Christine wanted to run, but the barrage continued.

"What part of New York are you from, Christine?" T'Pring did not wait for an answer. "Oh, yes, that's right Benson Hurst. That's in Brooklyn, is it not? It is not also a slum?" She sneered. "I have done some checking on who Spock has brought into our way of life." She then stared directly at Christine. "Did you really live in a car?"

"Enough!" Spock demanded. It took all his efforts not to strike her. He turned to reassure Christine and found more anguish in her eyes than his soul could bare. She fought valiantly to hold back the tears.

"Yes, quite enough," T'Pau's voice boomed from behind them. T"Pring's face went white as she realized who it was.

It was Christine who spoke next, to Spock. "I'm sorry," she wept in a quiet whisper. "I told you this would happen." Suddenly she had to get out of the hall and away from prying eyes. She tried not to run, but could not help herself. Humiliated, she fled.

"Christine!" Spock called after her as he followed on her heels.

Amanda's rage could hold no longer and she spun around to face her son's, and now daughter's tormentor. "You viscous bitch," She swore as her open palm contacted T'Pring's jaw, sending the younger woman reeling back. Amanda was perhaps the only woman in the room who could get away with what every other wanted to do, even the girl's own mother. Through their bond, Amanda could feel Sarek's pride in her action.

Stunned, T'Pring turned to face the rocky eyes of T'Pau. "Do you never know when to stop? You brought shame upon your house once before. Now you do it again. You should get on your knees and beg the forgiveness of those in this hall. Your small character shows in your every action. I am ashamed to call you Vulcan. Christine brings more honor to our race than you ever could. Take your husband and leave here at once."

Defeated and dejected, her pride wounded along with her reputation once again, T'Pring gathered up her haughtiness and disguised it as dignity. Stonn sighed as he followed her from the hall. How he envied Spock, for more than one reason.

Outside the streets were quiet. The other families of the city were celebrating privately. Christine was glad for the solitude. Her worst nightmare had come true. No matter what Spock, or Amanda, or Sarek had told her, no one in that hall would ever forget that shameful display. Her sobs choked her as her pace quickened.

"Christine, please," Spock protested as he reached her. Taking her arm, he stopped her forward momentum and turned her gently to face him. She could not, however, bring her eyes to meet his.

"Please, let me go," she uttered through her tears.

"That I will never do," Spock swore. "You have done nothing wrong. T'Pring's insult tarnishes only her."

"They all know, Spock," Christine cried.

"Perhaps it is better that way," he told her. "There is no reason to hide anything. They will not fault you for you past. If anything they will hold you in higher esteem because of your courage."

"You can't be sure. How do you know they don't all feel the same way?" She searched his face.

"We cannot live our life on what if's," Spock declared.

"That's all I've ever had. What if they find out? What if they laugh? What if they don't want me?" Christine sobbed. "That's easy for you to say, you've never lived like I did. No one can escape it, not really."

"You can." He wanted to make her see what she refused to acknowledge. "You already have."

"And look who it has hurt. Not me, I'm used to it." Christine reminded him. "You and your parents don't deserve this stigma."

"You bring us no shame," Spock assured her.

"I know what you've gone through. I know how hard it has been for you to belong here." Christine cradled his face in her hand. "I jeopardize that. I could cost you everything."

"You are everything," he swore.

"Oh, don't say that," Christine begged.

"It is the truth," Spock affirmed. "I did not exist before I loved you."

"I love you more than anything in this entire universe." She stared deep into his eyes. "That's why this is killing me. How can I do this to you?"

"Do what?" he questioned. "Love me? Let me love you? Bring joy into my life? And yes..." He grinned. "Make me happy."

"How long will it last?" She sagged against him exhausted.

"Forever, and longer," he vowed, catching her in his arms.

"I want to believe that," Christine whispered. "I want to believe nothing will ever tear us apart. I'm so afraid that someday you will realize that you made a mistake."

"I told you before. My only mistake was not realizing my love for you sooner," he said, pleading with her to believe him. "I know of your past and now so does everyone and it has not changed my desire for you." Christine could not respond.

"Come, let us return home. You will be more comfortable there and you can rest." Christine nodded.

Guiding her gently, Spock led Christine to the waiting car and sent word to his parents that they were leaving. Once in the safety of their own room, he attended to Christine and saw to it that she rested. He watched over her for hours before finding sleep himself. With the woman he loved securely in his arms he let the events of the evening slip from him, thinking only of the future, and of the comfort Christine would need in the morning.

The shafts of daylight were streaking across Spock's face when he awoke. He shielded his eyes to them, becoming accustomed to morning again after the long night. Stretching absently, he moved to his comfortable place beside Christine. He found however, that she was not there. The Vulcan bolted from his rest and peered at the empty place where his love had slept. It was in the glinting of a ray of sunlight that he saw it. Upon the night table lay the ancient ring he had given Christine, a small piece of paper beneath. With trembling hands he lifted their token into his hand and squeezed into his palm. Upon the note was written, in Christine's hand, the words he dreaded.

"I'm sorry," qas all it said.

She was gone.

Giving no thought to appearance or decorum, Spock leapt from the bed.

Still in his nightclothes he ran through the empty rooms of the house, searching for any sign of his beloved Christine. There were none. He stopped as he reached the garden realizing his efforts were in vain. Still clutching her ring, he lifted his face to the orange sky and loosed a primeval wail to the heavens.

"CHRISTINE!" Spock's voice echoed.

In her seat aboard the star cruiser a beautiful blonde traveler jumped in shock. She had heard her name screamed by the voice she loved so dearly. She had heard it as if he were sitting beside her. Christine believed that she would always hear it, pained and anguished and searching for her. Silently she buried her face against the window and did not try to hide her tears.

* * *

The door remained as it had for two days, closed and bolted from the inside. From the very moment he realized Christine was gone, when he had gone running into the garden and had screamed her name to the heavens, Spock had wished no contact with anyone. Sarek and Amanda had paced just beyond the confines of their son's self imposed prison, both unsure how to help him or even if they could. He refused food, he refused water, and they were certain he was denying himself rest. Their hearts broke for both of their children, for they understood what had driven Christine from the safety of their home. It had been her desperate concern for Spock and his well being that had forced her to give him the freedom she thought he would someday prefer. It was his desperate longing for her, which now tore him apart.

Finally, Amanda could stand it no longer. He had always confided in her when no one else could know the battles that raged within him. She hoped it would still be so. Softly she knocked on the door.

"Spock," his mother called, in a loving voice.

There was no answer.

"Please, I only want to see that you are well," she tried again, appealing to his logic. "Please, let me come in."

Again, she was met with heart wrenching silence.

"Please," she begged in a whisper, knowing he would hear her. Inside, unable to hear the pain in her voice more than he was unable to bare that in his own heart, Spock complied. In a hoarse mumble, he bade the computer to open the door. Slowly, Amanda entered, unable for a time to see in the dim almost nonexistent light. Even the fire pot had not been tended and had spent itself hours before. She closed the door tightly and ordered the computer to lock it. Walking a few more steps, she finally saw him. She fought her tears at the sight.

Spock sat in the middle of the floor, apparently where his legs had given out the day before and he had fallen. He ankles were crossed, and his shoulders slumped so that his form, for a moment, did not seem sentient. His hands rested lifelessly in his lap. His hair was disheveled and he need a shave.

Slowly Amanda came to where her son sat and sank to her knees beside him. It was then that he allowed her an action she had not been able to perform since he was a child. She pulled him tightly to her and rested his head on her chest.

They sat for a many moments, Amanda sure that Spock was using every ounce energy he had left to fight his tears and certain a few were escaping. She stroked his dark hair and simply stayed there quiet with him, as he needed her to.

How long it was before he spoke, she did not know. "Why, Mother?" he asked plaintively. "Why did she leave?" He brought his face up to meet hers and the pain she saw in his eyes hurt her to the core of her soul. She saw in them questions, which she could not answer. She could only try to give him some hope.

"It was not you she left," she said understandingly, still holding him. "Christine is running away from herself."

"I do not understand," he mumbled, trying to find reason somewhere. Amanda noticed that in his hand, Spock was still clutching the ring he had given Christine.

She searched for the right words to explain. "No matter how much you tell her that you love her, no matter how much acceptance she gains from us, no matter how many professional goals Christine achieves there is one person she will never be good enough for ... herself," she told him.

"Growing up as she did," Amanda continued, "has caused Christine to believe that she will never be deserving of anything. She would rather live without you than see her past hurt you."

"And this does not hurt me?" he questioned.

"She thinks that the scandal of her past being uncovered in our society will hurt you more," she answered.

"She is wrong," he choked. "I thought she of all people, would never do something like this. It is just like..."

"No." Amanda stopped him. "Don't compare Christine's mistake to what T'Pring did. What T'Pring did was born of selfish greed. What Christine has chosen is rooted only in selfless love for you. She loves you, indeed this entire family more than her own happiness."

Spock was silent for a moment, pondering. "I do not wish to spend my life without her."

"Then tell her," Amanda challenged, sure that if Christine could see the pain and love in Spock's eyes, that she would understand.

"I do not know where she has gone," he conceded.

"Where do you go when everything seems hopeless?" She smiled a little.

He understood. "Home," he said.

"Yes, home," she nodded with a smile. "Come, I will help you prepare for the trip."

* * *

It was cold in New York when Spock arrived, mid-December. The Brooklyn landscape through which he walked on his route to Christine's parents' apartment was bleak and desolate. He had always liked the colors of gray and brown, they had been calming. However, he never realized how many shades of those hues there could be, or how they seemed to close in around you when they alone were the scenery. Everywhere, drab buildings, more covered with dirt than paint stifled the air and seemed to suffocate him. Most were abandoned, but many housed small unsuccessful establishments, the majority of which seemed to be taverns. The entire cityscape was depressing. He thought of the beautiful rich and varied shades that colored his home of Shi'kahr, and his heart broke that Christine should have known such a palette as the backdrop for her childhood.

Deep in thought, he trudged on. A stray dog and a prostitute impeded his way on one corner, while a inebriated elderly man stopped him on another. Finding a few credits in his pocket, Spock was able to comply with the man's request. This was why Christine had left. She could never overcome the deep shame she felt at having come from this place. This knowledge only made Spock love her more, and strengthen his determination to find her.

Turning a corner he was nearly knocked down by the careless gait of a small child. In her play she had not seen him and in his contemplation he had not noticed her. Now she stood looking up at him in wonder as he stared down at her. A bright blonde mane tossled in the cold wind and brilliant blue eyes contrasted sharply to her dismal surroundings. She lacked a coat to ward off the chill and the threadbare shirt and pants she wore, obviously the property of many previous owners, were far too thin for the current weather. Her nose was running as she sniffed against the flow, and her lips were chapped. He peered down at her unable to move. This had been Christine as a child. He could not bare to think of the woman he loved having to live like this. His thoughts were disturbed by a seemingly happy voice.

"'Scuse me." The little girl smiled angelically at him.

Roused from the his thoughts he answered, "Pardon me, my dear." With that the child turned and continued her play, running through the garbage strewn street with a group of motley ragamuffins picking up whatever they could from the gutter for their toys. Now he understood.

The building in which Christine's parents lived was a dilapidated five story brownstone. Spock stopped a moment in front of the tenement and hoped that she would be there. Climbing the front steps he tentatively entered the front hallway. The only light came from a broken fixture in the ceiling which threatened to either extinguish itself or to start a fire. Checking the mailboxes, he saw that the Chapels lived on the fifth floor. He did not know that the rent was cheaper that way.

The interior of the building was worse than the outside had been. Paint peeled from every imaginable corner of the wall, revealing several different colors. The concrete floor, once tile had taken on the appearance of plywood and the feeling of sandpaper under his feet. Several times, he stopped his progress to allow several types of insects and one rodent to pass. How did she ever survive this?

Finally, on the top floor, Spock found his destination. Apartment 5D was down the hall to his left. What he would say, he did not know. How he would be received by her family, he was uncertain. He had no intention, however, of leaving this building without Christine. Taking a deep breath, he centered himself and knocked authoritatively on the door.

Sandy Chapel had spent the better part of morning scrubbing the small space she called her own, determined that not a single one of the vermin that tended to inhabit the building take up residence in her apartment. She had to start her shift at the diner in an hour and interruptions were the last thing she wanted. It had been a trying week, and she was not in the mood to listen to some salesman's speech. She began yelling before she reached the door.

"Look, whatever you're selling..." She trailed off at the sight of the tall, dark Vulcan that awaited her.

"I assure you, Mrs. Chapel," Spock answered, "I have not come to sell anything."

Sandy studied him for a moment, unsure what her reaction should be. Then the glimmer of recognition shown behind her brilliant blue eyes, and she smiled warmly. "You must be Spock?" she asked.

"Yes. I am," he answered her.

"I'm so glad you're here," Sandy said with relief. "Please, come in."

She moved aside to allow her daughter's fiance entrance into her modest home. She could not help but notice his involuntary surprise at the appearance of the apartment. It was obviously not what he was used to, nor was it what he felt Christine should inhabit. She was glad, he was right.

The living room, dining room area, and kitchen were all contained within one room. The furnishings were well kept, but very old and very sparse. There were no modern conveniences to be seen, not even a replicator or a dish washing unit. Spock studied every aspect of the home, committing it to memory, while at the same time ruing the fact that his Christine should have known such poverty.

"Please excuse the mess. I've been cleaning," Sandy yanked her apron off, threw it in the small closet near the door, and patted down a few stray hairs all in one motion.

"Not at all," Spock answered. "It is I who must ask your forgiveness for my unannounced intrusion. I was hoping that Christine would be here." He was disappointed and hoped that he not misjudged her likely whereabouts.

"Oh that's alright. You couldn't have called anyway," Sandy answered as if it were commonplace. "We don't have a comlink." Spock hid his surprise. "Anyway, Chrissy's just stepped out for a minute. She'll be back in a little while. Please have a seat, make yourself at home." Spock was certain that the relief he felt at finding Christine must have shown on his face as her mother smiled understandingly at him.

"How is she?" he asked as he sat on the lone sofa, whose appearance was enhanced by being completely hidden by an old quilt.

Christine's mother looked at him with deep worry in her eyes. "I've never seen her hurting so much, not even when ... Roger died." She did not mean to bring up the comparison. "She won't sleep, she won't eat. All she does is mope around and cry." She hesitated a moment and then added sheepishly. "She told me what happened."

"It distresses me greatly that my past has caused her such pain," Spock said quietly.

"That's not how she see's it," Mrs. Chapel informed him. "She thinks it's her past that distressed you, or at least it will." She shook her head. "That's the thing about my Chrissy. She never thinks she's good enough."

"I assure you, ma'am," he said reverently. "It is quite the opposite."

Sandy seemed to like his reply and was just about to answer when the door swung open. A large, burly blonde man strode in wearing a blue uniform with the letters NYPD across the front shoulder. "Hey, Ma, what's for lunch?" he bellowed.

Christine's mother jumped up and swatted at her son with the dishtowel she had forgotten was in her hands. "What's the matter with you? Don't you have any manners?" The man stopped in his tracks when he caught site of Spock. The glare that the Vulcan received was no less than a threat. It was Sandy who tried to restore order. "Spock, this is my son Robert. Christine's brother." To her son she offered, "This is Christine's fiance."

The glare did not leave Robert's face as he studied the man who he felt had caused his little sister so much pain. He knew what had happened and that it was not Spock's fault. Still it had been someone from his past who had hurt Christine, and Robert Chapel was extremely protective of his little sister.

"Sit down, Bobby. I'll put on some tomato soup and hot dogs," Sandy told her son.

The police officer did as he was told and took a seat at the dining table which was only a few feet from the sofa. Turning to stare down Spock he watched his sister's love for a long while before speaking.

"So," Bobby began. "You think you're good enough for my sister?" he probed.

"No, I do not," Spock answered truthfully.

After a moment's deliberation Bobby nodded to himself. "Good answer," he muttered as he turned to the steaming bowl and sausages his mother had laid in front of him.

"Can I offer you something? Some tea?" Sandra asked Spock.

"No, thank you. I am..." Before the last word could leave his mouth, the door once more swung open.

Christine had set the heavy laundry basket down in the hallway to unlock the door, and entered bent over pulling it behind her. "Sorry it took so long, Mom," she called, still unaware of Spock's presence. "The laundromat across the street was full so I had to take the subway up to..."

Christine saw him stand as she turned. With startled gasp her voice caught in her throat. "Spock?" was all she could say.

A thousand things unspoken passed between them. Christine and Spock stared at each other across the livingroom of her parent's apartment. Neither knew what to say to the other. It was as if they were complete strangers somehow. The pain that both were enduring was too great to voice, or even attempt to name. Their two different worlds were separated now by only a few feet, however it may as well have been light years.

Christine wanted to cringe in embarrassment, not only for having left in the middle of the night, but for the fact that now he saw for himself why she had done it. Surely he could not want her now. The only thing Spock wanted was to rush to Christine and gather her in his arms. Would she accept him, or turn away? The pain and longing in both their hearts were obvious.

It was Sandy who spoke first as she went over to take the laundry basket from Christine's feet. "Well, I have to get to work, so we'll just save these things for later."

Ever vigilant and helpful to their mother, it was enough to divert Christine's attention from Spock for a moment. "No, Mom. That's alright, I'll fold them..."

Her mother was already halfway to the apartment's only bedroom. Opening the door, she set the basket inside. "I wouldn't dream of it," she announced returning to her daughter and her guest. "I imagine you two have quite a lot to talk about." She smiled warmly.

Sandy quickly retrieved an old thermos from the cupboard in the kitchen and a piece of aluminum foil. She wasted no time grabbing the bowl of tomato soup from her son in mid-spoonful.

"Hey!" Robert protested.

"Consider it take out," Sandy said as she poured the soup into the thermos, wrapped the hotdogs in the foil, and hustled her grown son toward the door with his now packed lunch. Stopping next to Christine, still shooing at Robert, Sandy turned toward Spock. "I'm glad I finally got the chance to meet you," she smiled.

"It is I who am honored," he replied graciously and truthfully.

To Christine, she gave a kiss on the cheek and a look that told her daughter to hear him out. "I'll be home at the usual time, you don't have to start dinner. It's beef stew day at the diner, no one ever orders that. I'm sure there'll be plenty for us."

"Okay, Mom," Christine answered, wilting a little inside at the mention of how most of their meals were obtained. "Be careful coming home." Sandy nodded her acknowledgment, well used to the self preservation that living in their neighborhood required. It was second nature. With a comforting smile to her daughter, she disappeared through the door.

Robert strode exaggeratedly over to his sister. "You want I should stay?" he asked in his toughest Brooklyn accent.

Christine gave him a little smile to show she was alright and that he had no need to worry. "No, Bobby. That's OK."

"You know where I am if you need me," he reminded her. She nodded to humor him.

As he left, Bobby turned a scathing eye in Spock's direction as if tosay. 'You hurt my sister, and there won't be universe big enough for you to hide in.'

"Come on, Bobby!" Sandy yelled from down the hall. Like a dejected ten year old, he reluctantly complied.

The silence left in the apartment after the door closed was deafening. The parted lovers stared at each other, unable to find the words to begin. Hours could have passed, or mere seconds. The only things that counted the march of time were pounding hearts and breathing too erratic to be of any use.

Finally, her throat swelling with tears, her hands numb, and her legs threatening to fail her, Christine swallowed hard and spoke her fear aloud. "How you must hate me," she breathed hoarsely without looking Spock in the eye.

Unable to stand the distance between himself and she whom he cherished any longer, Spock crossed the room in a heartbeat and enfolded Christine in his arms. Her sobbing broke free of its weak binding in her throat as tears escaped her closed eyelids. Time disappeared entirely.

"If I hated you, would I have traveled this far to find you?" Spock questioned her lovingly. "If I hated you, would I be holding you now?" he continued. "If I hated you, would I do this?" Gently, he took Christine's chin in his hand and lifted her face to his. He wanted to weep with her. They stared at each other for long moment, and then he bent his neck downward and kissed her tenderly with all the love in his soul that he had held for her.

"I shouldn't have left like I did," Christine apologized. "I never wanted to hurt you."

"You were the one who was hurting," Spock told her. "I see now, more than I realized, or understood."

"It is clear to me that the reasons that forced your departure, run deeper and stronger than I comprehended," he explained. "Mere words of assurance from me could not have healed what you have suffered, nor could they truly have assuaged your fears. I had hoped they would be enough. Forgive me. I underestimated the depths of your burden, and I did not understand."

"You? Forgive you?" Christine looked at him with surprise. "You were wonderful. The only thing you did was try to hearten and reassure me. It is I who must ask your forgiveness."

"There is no need." Spock assured her. Christine smiled a bit. "Yes, there is. I ran away like a coward in the night." Tears filled with bitterness toward herself found tracks down her face only to be kissed away. "I should have had more faith in you. You wouldn't do that to me, would you?"

"Do what, my beloved?" Spock questioned, a bit confused.

"What I just did to you." Christine shrank against him. "Turn from me when I need you most."

"You did not turn from me," he said.

"I left you," she answered in shame.

"You were confused. You needed time to think," he answered.

Christine nodded. "I ... I've never felt so ashamed. Everyone in that room was staring at me. I can just guess what they were thinking."

"Everyone in the room was staring at T'Pring," Spock corrected, "with contempt."

"They won't want me there, not after that," Christine predicted.

"They most certainly will," Spock assured.

"Oh, they'll say that to you and your family. They'll even put on a good show of accepting me, but they won't, not really." Christine allowed her self doubt to cloud her thoughts once more.

"Stop it." Spock took her by the shoulders. "Stop belittling yourself," he told Christine.

She looked at him and stepped free of his loving embrace. "It won't work," she told him. "No matter how hard we try, it won't work." Sobbing, she turned from him and fled through the door before he could react.

"Christine!" he called after her as he followed on her heels.

* * *

Christine did not take the path he had assumed she would choose, the stairs down to the street. Instead, he saw that a small doorway at the end of the hall was her intended destination. Christine reached it a few moments before he did and was out the door at the top of narrow hidden staircase in a blast of cold air and orange haze just as his foot sounded on the bottom step. Spock ascended the rickety old egress without delay.

At the top he found the city spread out before him, like some geometric landscape. The sky above was a strange mixture of orange, yellow, and purple. It was comfortingly familiar. Thick white plumes of steam hung heavy in the air in every direction. The air smelled sweeter than it had on the street, crisper and more clear. Suddenly his dulled senses came alive, and he felt invigorated and renewed.

At that moment, he found Christine. Her back toward the door she stared out over the same view of the city as she leaned against the rooftop's waist high ledge. Her body was shaking violently with her crying and fear. The image burned itself into Spock's mind and broke his heart. In only moments he was at Christine's shoulder. The December air was frigid and he could tell she did not only shiver from weeping. Quickly, he removed his over tunic and wrapped it around her shoulders. As foreign as this weather was to his nerves, at least he could regulate and control his reaction to it. She could not, and he could not stand the thought of her becoming ill.

Christine did not look at him, but rested her head against his chest. "I wish I were good enough for you," she cried.

"That is my thought everyday about you," Spock told her. "If I live to be a thousand years old, my greatest efforts will pail in comparison to your heart's simplest endeavors.

Christine allowed herself to rest with him a moment, her thoughts and breathing calming. Then she chuckled a bit to herself. "I used to come up here all the time when I was little. Just to think. See..." She pointed. "You can see Manhattan from here. I always thought it was so magical. Especially at this time of year."

Spock looked across the river that trailed the small island like a string of glass to the mist shadowed skyscrapers beyond.

"I used to pretend the city was a castle," Christine continued. "I was the fair princess held captive in a horrid prison, and that someday my prince would come and rescue me." She smiled up at him. "Silly, wasn't I?"

"I do not believe so." Spock looked down at her thoughtfully. "Although I do not believe you need to rely on anyone for your rescue, I ask that you consider me that prince who has come for you."

Christine gazed deeply into his eyes. She studied him with adoration, and sighed. "I already do." She smiled. "But those little girl dreams, don't really come true. Now, the castle is Vulcan, and I will forever be held captive by what I am." She lowered her face from his. "I won't do that to you."

Spock breathed in the winter air deeply and tightened his arms around Christine. "Well, Cinderella," he jested. "I'm afraid you have no choice. Either you live with me in my castle, or I live with you in your prison."

"Then it wouldn't be a prison," Christine giggled.

"Then can I take that to mean that wherever I am is your home?" Spock reasoned.

"Don't try to use logic against me." Christine grinned.

"Against you?" Spock feigned shock. "I am simply trying to support your argument. If I understood you correctly, I can paraphrase that where ever I am is your home," he repeated.

"Does one belong in, and feel at the utmost level of comfort in one's home?" he continued, enjoying his slight cerebral torture.

"Yes. I suppose they do." Christine played along.

"Then my home is on Vulcan," Spock retorted. "Hence that is also where your home will be, since I will be there. Therefore, you will belong and feel comfortable there."

"I think you're enjoying this." She smirked at his teases.

"Not at all," Spock said. It was not really a lie since he did not enjoy the prospect of losing Christine.

She shook her head in frustration. "I don't think I'm ever going to be able to win an argument with you."

"You foresee many disagreements?" He acted concerned.

She sighed in defeat. "Alright. Let's say I do go back to Vulcan with you..."

"Ah-hah." Spock was ready to claim victory.

"Not so fast." Christine stopped him, enjoying her turn in the jibbing match. "Let's say I do return with you, what if they don't want me? What if they ridicule me, or worse. What if they turn against you?"

"I am beginning to grow attached to your ... Brooklyn." Spock tried again for the check in their verbal chess match.

Christine frowned. "I'm serious. What if they don't really accept me?"

Spock appeared to think for a moment. "Oh, did I not show you this?" He fumbled in his pocket and produced a small comm padd. Handing it to Christine, she saw that it was bore the official seal of the Vulcan High Council and was addressed to her. "I received this by messenger shortly before I left Vulcan," Spock reported.

"Oh? What is it?" Christine questioned.

"It is from Setac," Spock told her.

"The head of the High Council." Christine's eyes widened in wonder and a bit of fear.

"Yes, that Setac," Spock acknowledged.

Christine fingered the parcel lightly as if even touching it would bring dire consequences. She looked at Spock nervously. He nodded, and she pressed the button beneath the small screen.

Suddenly the aged and regal face of the highest regarded Vulcan on the planet appeared. Setac was seated in the council chambers, and it seemed that the rest of the governing body was there as well. He spoke slowly and importantly. "Christine." He began with a nod. "I regret that my duties have not allowed me sufficient time to properly welcome you into our society. Unfortunately I was off world when Spock introduced you to us. Please forgive my hectic schedule." His face turned dour and at the same time understanding. "I would also ask your forgiveness for the abominable way in which you were treated by one of our own. I assure you that T'Pring has been more than adequately censured for her insult. It is our hope that you will not consider this the view of all on Vulcan. We welcome you, and desire that you consider our planet now to be you home if that is your wish. I look forward to meeting you personally in the near future, and wish you a successful and contented marriage as well as health, long life, and prosperity." After a few moments the screen went dark. Christine stood dumbfounded.

"Did I not tell you that would be their reaction?" Spock asked her.

Christine's mind was racing. "I guess they do..." she stuttered. "Wait a minute. This was addressed to me, did you watch it?"

"Of course not. That would be an inexcusable invasion of your privacy." Spock looked, for a moment, hurt at the accusation.

"How did you know that Setac wouldn't have condemned me. I doubt you would have given this to me right now without knowing what was on it," Christine deduced suspiciously.

Spock's eyebrow shot toward the cloudless sky. "Christine. I received the finished copy before I left, however, I did not say that I was not there when Setac recorded the message."

Christine broke down in uncontrollable laughter. "I can see I'm going to have to get up pretty early in the morning to argue logic with you."

"Yes," Spock nodded. Christine face lit up with relief. "Does this mean that you will return with me? That you will be my wife after all?" Spock questioned.

"How can I refuse?" Christine swung her arms around his neck.

"It does appear that you cannot," Spock chided her. Reaching into his pocket, he produced the heirloom engagement ring he had given to her. Taking her hand in his, he placed it once more in its rightful place, on her finger. It would never be removed again.

Their lips met in the cold air. Their kiss was warm and sweet and filled with passion. They knew now that nothing would ever come between them again.

December in Brooklyn had never been so warm for Christine as she stood on the rooftop overlooking the city her arms intertwined with Spock's. One kiss melted into another, and another until neither was certain of place or time. For awhile it felt that they could stay that way forever.

"Oh my gosh!" Christine suddenly gasped, her eyes widening as she pulled from their embrace. "Did you lock the door?" she asked him.

"I was intent on another matter at the time," Spock answered her.

"Come on," she ordered, taking his hand and beginning a sprint for the stairway. "They're gonna kill me."

Christine took the rickety staircase two steps at a time, pulling Spock behind her. Breathless when she reached the apartment in which she had grown up, she found the door was ajar. Neither Christine, nor Spock could remember in what fashion they had left it. Spock instinctively stepped in front of Christine, and held her behind him with his outstretched arm. He was not about to allow her to enter a potentially dangerous situation without his protection. Slowly, he stepped through the threshold.

Inside, only a few paces from the open door, a large burly man built like solid steel surveyed the interior. His back was to them and he appeared to moving suspiciously. Spock reached out from behind him, his fingers ready to apply pressure to the base of the huge neck. Suddenly, Christine forced his arm down with her own. Spock noticed that his fiance visibly relaxed.

"Daddy!" she smiled, stepping from behind her Vulcan shield. She rushed over to the give the man a hug.

"Hello, Princess," Mr. Chapel greeted his daughter warmly. "What have I told you about locking that door?" His stern tone held more concern than warning.

"I know, Daddy." She acquiesced. "It's just that I had something much more important on my mind." With that Spock's future father-in-law noticed him standing awkwardly in his living room.

"Oh, I can see that, Pumpkin," Christine's father said to her as he squeezed her waist protectively. His eyes never left the man he blamed for causing his little girl a week of misery. "You must be Spock," he said bluntly.

"Yes, Mr. Chapel. I am," the Vulcan replied. He could tell that winning over Christine's father was not going to be as easy as the task had been with her mother.

"Spock." Christine swallowed nervously. "This is my father, Gordon Chapel," she introduced.

"I am please and honored to meet you, sir," Spock answered with a polite formality that would have made his mother proud.

"Uh-huh," Gordon nodded, his face not hinting at the anger he felt.

Christine could tell her father was near the boiling point and did her best to calm the situation. "Daddy," she began. "Spock came all this way to find me. We've worked everything out. We're getting married after all." She was beaming as she held up her hand for her father to inspect the ring that had been restored to its rightful place on her finger.

"Uh-huh," her father repeated. He did not seemed pleased.

Spock could not tell what prospect worried Christine's father more, the reaction she would receive on his planet, or the fact that she was marrying a Vulcan in the first place. Christine also noticed the hostility in her father's stance as he regarded his future son-in-law.

"Isn't that wonderful?" she asked her father, trying to lighten his mood by showing him her own.

"So you're going back there?" he answered with a question. "Back there, to where those people did that to you." He did not wait for a reply. "I thought I raised you to have more self respect than that."

Christine stood as if she had been hit. The hurt on her face found its way quickly to her eyes which clouded with tears of disappointment. Spock had seen her expression only once before, on Vulcan when T'Pring had berated her in front of the guests at the feast. It was more than he could stand. "I can assure you, sir," Spock began stepping closer to Christine. "I will never let anything like that happen again."

Gordon stared at him with contempt. "It happened once, and that's one time too many." He filled with rage at the thought of anyone or anything hurting his daughter and dread at the idea of her being taken so far away.

"Yes. That should never have happened. Please believe that Christine's aggressor in that matter has been severely dealt with."

Gordon face registered surprise. He wondered what the Vulcan meant by severely, and had not known that such punishment existed on the planet. "That doesn't mean that someone else won't look down at their nose at my little girl just because she doesn't some old name, or old money, or comes from ... this place." For a moment he seemed ashamed and Spock realized that the older man had wanted to provide better for his family.

Christine stood by her father, hating the self loathing in his tone. Suddenly she remember that she still held the comm padd that Setac had recorded for her. "Daddy," she said softly, holding out the device to her father.

"What's this?" Gordon questioned.

"Listen to it," she pleaded.

Gordon took the thin screen from his daughter and pressed the play feature. The message that had brought Christine so much happiness only a few minutes earlier seemed to calm his fears and his expression. When it was done, Gordon fingered the padd for without looking up. Christine could tell he was fighting back tears. Finally, he cleared his throat and looked up.

"Well, it seems like you've come a long way, baby," he laughed to Christine.

She smiled and took his hand. "Only in some ways," she answered as she hugged him tightly.

After awhile Gordon released Christine and noticed how she took her place easily and comfortably beside Spock. "Alright, you two have my blessing," he nodded.

"Thank you, Daddy," Christine grinned.

"Thank you, sir." Spock acknowledged humbly.

"I suppose the wedding, or ceremony, or whatever you're going to call it will be on Vulcan?" Gordon asked regretfully.

"Yes," Christine said with equal regret. They both understood.

It was then that Spock cleared his throat and interrupted. "If I may, sir," he said. "It is a..." Christine could tell he was searching for just the right words. "...a tradition on Vulcan for the groom to present the bride's family with a gift on the announcement of the betrothal. It is always a meaningful token and is symbolic of the family giving the true gift of their daughter to the groom's family. I would ask that you and Mrs. Chapel accept these as only a small representation of what your daughter means to me and to my family."

Spock reached into his pocket and retrieved a small paper envelope. He handed the parcel to Christine's father. Gordon took with a bewildered look.

"Well, I..." he began. The proud Brooklynite was not used to accepting too many things.

"Please," Spock asked.

Gordon nodded and pulled from the envelope three small plastic cards.

They were ticket cards, passage to Vulcan. He smiled and looked up Christine. "How can I refuse?" he laughed.

"Oh, Daddy!" Christine again embraced her father who enfolded her in his arms as if she were a child once more.

"We haven't much, but I just hope that you'll both be as happy as your mother and I have been," he wished.

"I know we will," Christine assured him.

"Come on." Gordon patted Christine on the back, and pulled from their hug. "Let's go tell your mother."

As the three walked down the steps of the apartment building, Christine looked at Spock with a sly smile. "There is no such tradition is there?" she whispered.

"Christine?" He looked at her with wonder. "Have you not heard that there is a first time for everything?"

She stifled her laughter and had to hang to Spock for fear of tripping down the stairs. "I love you," she smiled.

Spock slipped his arm unseen around her waist. "And I you, my T'hy'la," he answered, just before he kissed her.

Gordon pretended not to see.



The End.

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