DISCLAIMER: This story is rated NC-17 and contains graphic sexual content. If you are under the age of 18, back out of here right now. Otherwise, please note that the Star Trek characters are copyright by Paramount Studios. The rest of the story is copyright (c) 1999 by T'Eros. A single copy may be downloaded for personal enjoyment of the reader.



Survival and Promises

T'Eros



Christine screamed and grabbed at the arms of her flight seat as the shuttlecraft was slammed once again by turbulence from the stormy atmosphere. In the pilot's seat, Spock was grimly fighting to control their plunge toward the planet's surface.

"Warning!" announced the ship's unemotional computer voice over an alarm klaxon. "Structural integrity failing. Hull breach in 40 seconds."

"Get your crash webbing on!" Spock ordered tightly, not daring to take his attention away from the instruments before him.

Christine started to comply, then leaped out of her chair and lunged at the pilot's seat. Spock flicked a startled, incredulous glance her way, but had no time to argue. Then he realized what she was doing. Struggling to stay on her feet for a few more minutes, she got his webbing fastened about him then fell back into her own chair, pulling the safety web securely about herself.

"Warning!" the computer said again. "Hull breach in 20 seconds."

Over the howl of the atmosphere screaming past, they both heard the ominous creaking of metal and fibroplas being stressed past its limits of tolerance.

"Ten seconds," the computer stated placidly.

Something snapped with a loud crack and the shuttlecraft lurched and began to tumble. Somehow, between his piloting skills and the attitude control computer, Spock managed to regain command of the instruments. "Starboard nacelle pylon!" he shouted. "Hang on! Read me the altimeter!"

"Three thousand!" she yelled back, trying to be heard over the deafening sounds of breakup and their shrieking descent. "Two eight! Two six! Two four!"

"The guidance computer is out! I can't tell how low this cloud ceiling is!"

"Two thousand! Eighteen! Seventeen!"

At fifteen hundred feet, they abruptly plunged out of the cloud base and into falling snow nearly as thick as the storm they'd just traversed. The wind continued to buffet them with its power and Spock seemed to guide the shuttlecraft in by sheer force of will.

"There! The level area at the base of that cliff! That looks like our best chance!" He somehow got their nose up a bit and in the right direction. Braking thrusters fired fitfully, then sputtered and died. "Brace yourself! This is going to be--"

He didn't get a chance to finish his warning for they impacted at that moment. The shuttlecraft skidded and bounced, leaving a trail of ruptured earth, flying snow and fire in its wake. The damaged nacelle ripped away with a screech of parting metal and the shuttlecraft tumbled, spun and slammed broadside into the cliff face, miraculously coming to rest upright.

Inside, both passengers were knocked unconscious by the impact and, for several long minutes, the only sounds were the sizzling and popping of the instrument panel shorting out. Finally, Spock managed to get his eyes open and focused. Groggily, he fumbled at his safety harness until he got the latch opened, then got shakily to his feet, going over to check on Christine.

She was beginning to come around, too, and he worked at her webbing with fingers that didn't seem to want to obey him. She began to cough and it dawned on him that the cabin was filling with acrid smoke. He turned back to her, working faster. The latch parted.

"Christine!" he said urgently. "Wake up! We've got to get out!" She was still blinking stuporously around her and he seized her arms and pulled her up. "I'm sorry, Miss Chapel. I have no time for politeness!" He threw her bodily over his shoulder and stumbled toward the airlock. The smoke was getting thicker and now he could hear the sound of crackling and snapping from the rear compartment. Fire! They had maybe two minutes to get out before flashover occurred, engulfing the entire cabin in flame.

He slammed the exit switch with his fist but nothing happened. Frantically, he hit it again then realized that the circuits were dead. He'd have to do it manually. Dumping Christine unceremoniously on the deck, he ripped off the access panel by the bulkhead and tried to see the circuits inside. His eyes were burning from the smoke and fumes, and beside him, Christine coughed and gasped, unable to breathe.

He was beginning to wonder if they were going to make it when abruptly the airlock door popped opened and the entry platform slid out onto the port nacelle. Cold, wet air and blowing snow surged in as Spock grabbed Christine and threw them both out of the burning shuttlecraft. They landed in a blanket of snow and gulped down great lungsful of fresh air, coughing and retching as they tried to breathe again. Smoke was pouring out of the cabin as the shuttlecraft filled with flames.

Abruptly, Spock scrambled to his feet and started back toward the ship. Christine made a grab at his leg and shouted, "What are you doing?! You can't go back in there!"

"I've got to get the survival gear!" he answered. "We don't stand a chance without it!"

She was helpless to stop him and he plunged back into the inferno. Frantically, she waited for him to come back out and was nearly at the point of screaming when he leaped through the hatchway and landed in an ungraceful heap in the snow. He was clutching a silver packet the size of a backpack and hugged it fiercely to his chest as he lay panting and coughing.

She hurried to him and knelt beside him. "Spock! Are you all right? Are you burned anywhere?!"

"No ... no, I am unhurt," he gasped and got to his knees. "I could only get to one pack. It will have to suffice." He coughed again and managed to stand. "Come -- we have to find a sheltered place out of this storm!"

Stumbling through the blowing snow away from the burning hulk of the shuttlecraft, they found a small cave in the cliff face. It was scarcely more than an indentation, but it blocked the wind and it went back far enough into the hillside to give them protection from the weather. As they came out of the storm, both slapped snow from their clothing and took a quick look around.

"We must get the survival gear set up," Spock said. "The temperature is rapidly dropping!"

Christine was shivering so hard that she couldn't answer, but bent to help him unfold the little tent and thermal sleeping bag. He popped the activation device on the tent and it began to swell as compressed air pumped into the struts, inflating it into a low compact structure that resembled a transparent turtle shell, the floor of which was an attached sleeping pouch. It was designed for one person to occupy but would hold two in an emergency. This was an emergency.

But when it came right down to climbing in together, both stood gazing at the other in hesitation, then Spock said, "Miss Chapel, I'm afraid we are forced by circumstances to share this survival tent. I know you must feel as uncomfortable as I do, but we have little choice. You will take the sleeping bag and I will make do with the thermal blanket. It should be adequate."

She stared at him in disbelief. "Mr. Spock, you can't stay warm with just a blanket! It will require our combined body heat to survive the night here."

"That is my decision, Miss Chapel," he answered in his command voice. "Please get into the sleeping bag at once." His firm gaze told her plainly that he'd made up his mind and was about to be stubborn about it.

Sighing, she crawled into the tent and squirmed down into the silver foil bedroll. He took a flat little packet that was lying atop the sleeping bag and shook it out. It unfolded into a thin, silvery piece of material about six feet by six feet square. Despite its lightness, the material was designed to trap and hold body heat. Spock wrapped himself up in the survival blanket and settled down cross-legged beside her, huddled against the cold. The blanket could withstand temperatures of about zero degrees Fahrenheit but as the blizzard raged and darkness began to come on, the ambient temperature in the cave dropped below that point. It didn't take long before Christine noticed that Spock was hunched over and shivering, the blanket hugged tightly around him.

"Spock, for God's sake, get in here with me!" He didn't answer her and she demanded again, "Get in here, I said! You are going to die otherwise!"

"There is no need," he answered, shaking so hard he could barely speak. "This protection is adequate."

She stared at him in exasperation. "Like hell it is! What's the problem, Spock? Why are you being so resistant to this?"

He hesitated and she could tell he was uncomfortable about answering. Finally, however, he responded, refusing to look at her. "It would be ... improper ... for us to ... lie together," he said.

She gaped at him. Then she understood. "Oh, for the love of... Spock, this is no time for Vulcan prudery. Do you think you'll have to marry me or something if we're both in a horizontal position? We can discuss any alleged relationship you think we have at a later date. Right now, the logical thing to do is bow to the seriousness of this situation and get in this sleeping bag with me."

He shivered again so violently that his teeth chattered and realized that his feet were going numb from the cold. That seemed to finally make him surrender. Throwing off the blanket, he crawled over to the zippered opening and squirmed in beside her. The space inside was adequate, but non-too-roomy. The sleeping bag was designed for only one person and, for two adults, it was a snug fit.

Chilled to the bone, he wanted to curl into a fetal position to conserve body warmth but couldn't manage it, so he brought his clenched hands up to his mouth, breathing on them. Christine instinctively set to work getting him warmed. She took his icy hands between her own and gently chafed them, exhaling her hot breath onto them and rubbing them again. When his hands felt like the circulation was returning, she vigorously rubbed his arms, his back, his thighs to get his blood pumping there again. "I wish I could get your boots off," she commented. "I'd do your feet, too."

"My feet are fine," he answered with teeth clenched to keep them from chattering.

"I'll just bet they are," she retorted, still rubbing him down. "Spock, you can be so stupid sometimes!" He cocked an eyebrow at her in surprise that she would address him in that manner. "Oh, don't start pulling rank on me, Commander! That was a medical comment!"

"Your log should prove extremely interesting then! Do you speak to the Captain in that manner?"

"When necessary," she informed him drily. "There, how are you feeling now?"

He did a quick appraisal of himself and sighed. "Better. Thank you, nurse. I am quite warm now."

He wasn't, really, but he would be soon. The sleeping bag trapped and reflected back a maximum of body heat and retained it. Now they turned to finding a position that would be both warm and comfortable. They found that they could not lie on their backs, side by side. There wasn't enough room.

With experimentation, they ended up with Spock on his back and Christine curled up beside him on her side, facing him, pressed against the length of his body. She slid her hand up to rest on his upper arm and rested her cheek against his shoulder.

Both found their intimate position embarrassing and for a while both lay stiff and unmoving, intensely aware of the other. Gradually, their body heat warmed the sleeping bag and also gradually they began to relax a little. They didn't speak but simply lay listening to the wind howl and to each other's heartbeat. To Christine's medical ear, Spock's heart seemed to beat too fast and had a strange rhythm to it, although she knew that this was perfectly normal for a Vulcan.

After a time, she asked softly, "How long do you think it will take them to find us?"

"Our shuttlecraft will be overdue for rendezvous in two point three hours. I reported our position to Lt. Uhura as we left Vega Colony 12. Dr. McCoy had requested confirmation that the anti-toxins were delivered on time there. I estimate that the Enterprise will begin searching for us within an hour after we fail to arrive at rendezvous. However, I do not believe that we can expect rescue for at least twelve to fourteen hours." He said it matter-of-factly, as if crashing on a frozen planet was something he did every day.

She sighed. "That's a long time to wait when you're trying to stay alive."

"As long as we remain in the tent, we should be adequately protected."

"Do we have any food or water?"

"There are emergency rations in the survival kit."

They were silent once more and lay watching the wan light fade. Night was coming on and the temperature would be dropping even farther. Without thinking, Christine moved her hand across his chest in a loose embrace and snuggled her head into his shoulder. Instantly, she felt him stiffen.

She snatched her hand back to herself. "I'm sorry, Mr. Spock." He didn't answer her and after a moment she raised up a little so that she could see his face better. "Spock, we've got a long night ahead of us, so we'd better talk about this before we go any farther."

He looked up at her quizzically. "I don't understand."

"Yes, you do. Our relationship. Or lack thereof. It's time to get it all out in the open." He looked uncomfortable but she persisted. "You know very well how I feel about you. I'm not going to apologize for it. But I have done my very best to be professional in all my dealings with you and not embarrass either one of us. I think I've done pretty well."

"Indeed, but--"

"But that doesn't seem have made any impression on you," she went on. "It's insulting that you're acting this way. How dare you think what you're thinking about me! I just wish you would give me a little credit -- I'm an adult and a professional and I can act in an appropriate manner, as circumstances demand."

"Miss Chapel, I assure you--"

"I give you my word that I'm not going to tear my clothes off and jump on you in a fit of lust or get hysterical or anything like that. I should think you know me better than that. So, don't lie there acting like you'll get some dread disease if I touch you. I can't help touching you. It's too tight in here." She sighed and looked down self-consciously. "I'm not any happier than you are about this."

He peered at her quizzically for a moment then asked, "Are you quite through?"

"Yes," she answered sheepishly.

"Very well." He paused and then sighed. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I know you are as uncomfortable as I. But I do not know what I can do to make the situation more pleasant for you."

"You don't have to do anything," she answered softly. "I'm sorry, Mr. Spock. That was uncalled for. I guess I'm just rattled by all this."

"Quite all right, Miss Chapel. I understand this has been unsettling."

She looked back up at him, her blue eyes searching his face for a long moment in the pale light. "Spock ... let's drop the formality while we're here. Just accept the fact that we're friends and have to depend on each other to get through this night."

His expression had softened and finally he gave a little nod and replied in a near whisper, "Agreed. We must indeed depend on each other to survive and it will make the hours pass more pleasantly if we are comfortable with each other's presence."

"One other thing. Would you please call me Christine?"

He was silent and then nodded. "Very well ... Christine. Now, please. It's getting very cold and we cannot afford to lose any heat from this shelter. We must seal this sleeping bag up."

She lay back down and together they managed to get the survival bedroll sealed up so that a minimum of heat would be lost. It was designed to be zipped up into a cocoon with only a small opening for air flow and they sealed themselves into it in this manner. It made their close proximity feel even more intimate.

Darkness fell rapidly and the blizzard howled unabated outside their shelter. It seemed like half the night must have passed and Christine hadn't been able to fall asleep. Somehow, she sensed that Spock was awake, too, and she finally whispered, "How long has it been?"

"Two hours, eighteen minutes."

"Is that all?" she groaned.

"Time does seem to pass slowly," he agreed, then asked, "Christine, would you mind shifting your position? I need to move my arm. It is going numb."

"Oh, of course. Wait. This is going to be awkward." She scooted back somewhat and he flexed his arm to restore feeling in it. Then they tried to find a new position.

"This isn't working very well either," he finally commented. "Let's try something else. Can you turn over onto your other side? Perhaps lying spoon fashion would be better." They moved around some more and finally she was lying with her back to him, his body cupped around her.

For a moment, he experimented with the best position to place his arm then she finally said, "Just drape it over my waist, Spock."

With a little hesitation, he complied, still being careful not to seem to be hugging her. Although she knew he meant no offense, she still felt a tiny degree of hurt deep inside her. "I'm not poisonous, you know. You don't have to be afraid to touch me."

"I ... I did not wish you to think I was acting ... improperly toward you," his soft voice answered from behind her.

She smiled at the sweet and gentle nature behind that statement. Reaching up, she patted his hand where it lay against her waist. He started to jerk it away, but she deliberately held it in place and then released her grip, making her point. "Spock, with one or two exceptions when you weren't yourself, you have never behaved improperly toward me."

"What exceptions were those?"

He was teasing her. She was certain of it and she wished it weren't so dark, so that she could see his face. "Well, the time you threw a bowl of soup at me, for one. And ... uh ... actually, I can't think of anything else."

"I see. Perhaps I could be excused that single time, considering my state of mind."

That gently teasing tone was still in his voice and she smiled again. "Perhaps." They were silent again for a few minutes, listening to the wind, and Christine's thoughts turned to what had engendered the soup incident and the things that had followed. Serious again, she said softly, "Spock? May I ask you a question?"

"Of course."

"What did you mean when you said that we shouldn't protest against our natures?"

She felt him tense and she knew she'd caught him off-guard. "Why do you ask that?"

"Because I felt there was a great deal behind those words that didn't get said and I wondered if I was hearing correctly."

His voice was husky, almost hesitant. "What were you hearing?"

She drew a deep breath and took the plunge. "That it was all right for me to care about you. That you didn't want to go back to Vulcan, especially under those circumstances. And that you wished we were able to explore what was beginning to happen between us. I ... I don't know how to explain it, but I ... I almost felt like I had to be with you. Almost like you were calling to me. Like ... like you needed me there." He didn't comment and she finally asked, apprehensively, "Was I right, Spock?"

He was silent for so long that she had decided he wasn't going to answer her, then he finally said in a barely audible whisper, "Yes."

"And you're afraid of compromising your emotional control if you follow your feelings."

"Christine ... it is very difficult for me to speak of this," he said in an uncomfortable tone.

She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment as tears threatened. "I understand, Spock. I really do. I think I understand you better than even you realize. Just knowing that you care is enough."

Gently, he moved his hand up her arm to rest on her shoulder. It was almost a caress as he answered, "I'm sorry, Christine. I also meant that it would be illogical for me to protest against my nature. I simply cannot give you what you ask of me. At least not the way you ask it of me. I cannot love you as a human would."

She wiped a tear off her cheek, knowing that he was being honest with her. She reached up to press her hand over his where it still lay on her shoulder. Somehow, without either realizing how it happened, their fingers laced together and stayed that way for a long while.

Then, surprisingly, he pulled his hand away slightly and began to shape her fingers purposefully, index and middle fingers up and the rest folded under. His hand formed the same configuration and he began a light stroking of the back of her hand with his fingertips.

She drew her breath sharply in surprise, for the most incredible sensation she'd ever felt swept over her. "Spock..." she whispered.

"Shhh..." He silenced her and continued his caress of her hand. A tingling sensation began in her fingertips and within minutes had enveloped her entire body. All of her senses were heightened and she became unbelievably aware of him, of his every move. She could feel his breath tickling the hairs on the back of her neck as he exhaled. She could hear the soft whisper of fabric moving against fabric. She could smell the scent of his skin and even identify the brand of soap he used. And, wherever he touched her -- stroking her fingers, pressing into her back, nudging his boots against hers -- she felt as if she were on fire.

When she was nearly gasping from the emotions engulfing her, he said quietly, "Turn over and face me." She did so, a little clumsily in the tight confines of the sleeping bag, but never losing the euphoric feelings that possessed her.

He softly touched his fingertips to certain areas of her face, pressing gently to establish contact points, moving a finger slightly here and there until he had exactly the right spots. And then he reached out with his mind to meld his thoughts into hers. For what seemed like a long time, he explored her emotions and intellect, sharing his own with her, warding off the chaotic psyche that was so typical of a human. She saw parts of his soul that she'd never dreamed existed, emotions she'd never known he possessed, things so utterly alien ... so Vulcan ... that she could not begin to comprehend them. But there were human emotions there as well, tempering the other worldly ones, and with these he caressed her, excited her, soothed her, and finally delicately brought her back to the conscious world.

Gently, he withdrew the meld, making sure that all the tendrils of his own thoughts were removed from hers, and that each was a separate individual once more. Taking his fingertips from her face, he whispered to her, "That is how a Vulcan makes love, Christine. Could you be content with that? Without the physical aspects that humans find so necessary?"

She couldn't speak for a moment, so moved was she by the experience. "You make me want that physical aspect even more. I want to make love to you now in a very human way."

He smiled. "I believe it would be more precise to say that you wish me to become physically aroused and to initiate sexual intercourse," he answered in a slightly amused tone.

"That's a very clinical way of putting it, but ... oh, yes, I would love for that to happen."

He reached up to stroke her cheek. "And that is precisely what I cannot do. Unlike human males, who seem to stay in a perpetual state of sexual arousal, Vulcans are not so consumed by a sexual relationship with their mates. We are much more intellectual creatures. It is not unusual for a couple to remain celibate until pon farr occurs." He peered at her closely. "Would you be content to wait seven years between each mating?"

She dropped her gaze, smiling a little. "No." Then she looked back up at him, barely able to make out his features in the darkness and only because she was nearly nose-to-nose with him. "I don't think I'd be willing to wait seven weeks. I'd want you all the time. You can, can't you? I mean, if you wanted to. The medical literature says that the seven year cycle isn't unbreakable."

He answered softly, almost reluctantly, as if a secret were being found out. "With sufficient ... motivation, a state of sexual arousal is possible."

She smiled coyly at him. "I would love to motivate you."

She could almost see one eyebrow going up. "It would be an interesting experiment to undertake..." he answered. "But not one I would advise attempting here or now. Such a feat would be impractical in our present situation, considering that we have barely enough room for the two of us to lie here in a quiescent state. I suggest that you try to sleep now. It is still many hours until morning."

"You're right," she responded, feeling a bit embarrassed. She settled herself into a more comfortable position, slipping one hand underneath her face as a makeshift pillow and folding the other up between their bodies. He did the same and she was surprised when he let his hand rest atop hers and kept it there protectively. After a while, they drifted into sleep.

Sometime in the early morning hours, the storm built to a climax and the wind found its way into their small shelter and roared around the tent, buffeting it so hard that it threatened to collapse. Christine came awake, her heart pounding, and leapt into Spock's arms, clutching at him in fear. He held her tightly, listening to the howling blizzard that rocked their fragile shelter, and began to make plans on what they should do if the wind did destroy it.

Gradually, though, the storm peaked and began to die down and finally the night was quiet as the worst of the weather passed them. Christine trembled against him for quite sometime before she was finally able to go back to sleep. But she didn't move out of his embrace and he didn't ask her to. Holding her brought a strange sense of peace and completeness to him, something he had never expected to feel because he had never known it was missing.

Now, however, lying in the darkness with her warm body pressed against his, listening to her quiet, even breathing, he began to think about how right it felt for her to be there. He had always been alone, solitary. He'd never felt an embrace or a caress in the night, never known what a true bonding with a soulmate was like, never experienced the little joys of life ... awakening in the morning light to find another face close to his, seeing a smile and knowing it was meant only for him, hearing his name spoken as a gasp of ecstasy... There was someplace deep inside him that longed for those things and suddenly he realized that, on the occasions when he had allowed himself such thoughts, it was Christine's face he awoke to, her smile that warmed him, her voice sighing against his cheek.

The wind blustered up and, as she stirred in her sleep, he instinctively pulled her a little closer against him and settled down, closing his eyes. Morning found him still holding her close, her head snuggled underneath his chin, and Spock sleeping better than he should have been able to.

He roused and stretched a bit, trying not to disturb her, spending several moments simply watching her, realizing the fulfillment of a small part of his secret longings. She moved and sighed deeply, then slowly opened her eyes. He was a little startled to see how blue they were in the morning light, like ocean pools, deep and quiet.

"Is the storm over?" she asked sleepily, smiling gently at him.

He forced himself to break his scrutiny of her. "I believe so. I will check." He unsealed the sleeping bag a bit and raised his head to peer out. Beyond the tent's opening, outside of the shelter entrance, the world was a dazzling, sparkling white, overtopped by a brilliant blue sky. It was intensely cold and his breath formed a plume of condensation in the frigid air.

"It has ceased," he confirmed, then he looked down at her. "Christine, I must get up for a short period. I would advise you to stay here in the shelter."

"Where are you going?"

"Um ... I believe you would say to ... take care of business," he answered, looking a bit contrite. "Also, I must set the locator beacon. Hopefully, the Enterprise will be in orbit soon, searching for us."

"Oh. Well, I might as well get up, too. Then let's see what's in the survival kit to eat. I'm starved."

"Agreed."

Leaving the warmth of the sleeping bag made the cold seem twice as intense, but they ventured out of the shelter and made their way in opposite directions around the rock overhang. When Christine came back, she found Spock hunkered down over a small device on a short tripod, adjusting it into position, and then twisting a ring on the object's top. Immediately, it began to emit a low beep and he arose and stepped back from it.

"There. Now, let's get back inside before we freeze."

As they went back into the overhang and started to crawl back into the tent, Christine stopped him. "There's snow all over our boots. I don't want to get back in there with cold, wet shoes on."

"Excellent point. The sleeping bag should provide enough reflected warmth that we will not need footwear to keep our feet warm." Without further ado, he leaned up against the wall of the overhang and proceeded to pull his boots off. She did likewise and they stood them in the sun, hoping to keep them from freezing solid. Then they quickly reentered the tent and squirmed back into the sleeping bag. For a while, they sat upright, dining on protein rations from the survival kit and washing them down with flat, recycled-tasting water from a pack. It wasn't very appetizing but it would keep them alive.

Finally, the cold drove them to lie back down and seal the bag again. It took an hour or so before their bodies generated enough heat to restore the lost warmth of the bag and they huddled together, trying to conserve as much heat as they could. Without their boots on, their stocking-clad feet seemed to gravitate together and ended up intertwined loosely.

After a while, Christine began to feel restless. As pleasant as it was to be lying here with Spock curled up against her, she was wide awake and not used to such inactivity. To draw him into conversation, she said, "Spock, tell me about yourself. Where are you from?"

"ShiKahr, the capital of Llangon Province."

"Were you born there?"

"I was actually born on the family estate outside the city, but my birth is registered there. And you? What is your home?"

"Ohio, North America. A little town called Prentiss. It's not far from Cincinnati."

"Do you have any siblings?"

"Two sisters. Madelyn and Jessalyn. Maddy is a biologist at an agricultural station on Niobrara 4. Jessie teaches intermediate education in Prentiss. She still lives in the family home. You're an only child, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"What was it like for you, growing up?" she asked softly.

He was quiet for a time, then said reflectively, "I had no close friends. I was frequently the target of aggression from the other boys. My human blood made me something of a pariah among my schoolmates."

Inside, she hurt for him, could imagine the cruelty to which he was subjected. "I'm sorry, Spock. I didn't know."

"It is of no concern now," he answered, dismissing the subject. "My schoolwork kept me occupied. In addition, until I was seven, I cared for a sehlat that my family had owned for a number of years. He had been my father's."

"Oh, yes, I've seen sehlats. But, my gosh, those things are huge! Do you mean you actually had one as a pet?"

"He was quite elderly and very gentle. He would not have harmed me. His name was i-Chaya."

"What happened to him?"

Again Spock hesitated. "He died," he answered finally and Christine could tell by his tone that he didn't wish to probe such a painful subject. She shifted the topic away.

"I had a horse when I was a girl. He was a palomino quarter horse and I called him Candy because he had such a sweet nature." She smiled at the memory. She hadn't thought of Candy in years. For a while, she lay reminiscing about the animal, the memorable rides she'd taken on him, the summer fun she and her sisters had had with him, the high school barrel racing team she'd been on. Then she had to stop and explain barrel racing to Spock, who had never heard of the sport.

"Do Vulcans have anything like that?" she asked.

"Not precisely, but I understand the concept. Racing is a popular sport on Vulcan. We have riding animals similar to horses and testing the animals' and riders' endurance and skill has been a long-respected pastime. What became of Candy?"

"When he was about 20, he developed laminitis in his hooves. It's nearly incurable, even today, and we finally had to put him to sleep. I swore I'd never own another horse and I haven't. But, then, by that time I was already in college and in pre-med, so there wasn't time to care for a horse in any case. And then I went into space and that was that."

She fell silent and he reached up to rub his hand gently over her shoulder, understanding. "It is difficult to lose someone you care for," he said softly. "I too was forced to choose euthanasia for i-Chaya. He was injured in a fight with a le'matya. That's a large predator a bit like a lion or tiger on Earth, except that it is poisonous. He was dying from his injuries and I made the decision to have a healer end his pain."

She sank back against him and clasped his hand in hers for a moment, squeezing it. Then he slid his arm around her waist again and held her lightly. It felt so natural that she never thought of his reluctance to do so just the day before.

"Do you think they're looking for us yet?" she asked.

"I would assume so. It has been approximately fourteen hours since our missed rendezvous. Our beacon does not have a very strong signal, but they should be able to pinpoint us once they are in orbit."

She sighed and rested her hand over his, loosely intertwining her fingers through his. He had large hands, she thought, idly studying the one she held, with its long, strong fingers and neatly manicured nails. Her hand looked small next to his. She'd never noticed that before. Slowly, she rubbed her thumb over the back of his hand, moving it in lazy circles against his skin, remembering the sensations he had evoked last night in her. Soon, without realizing what she was doing, she had begun to gently massage and rub her fingers against his.

Unexpectedly, she felt a twinge of urgency pulse throughout her whole being and she knew that the source of that sudden hunger was Spock. She didn't know how she knew it, but it was as if -- for an eyeblink -- he had been inside her skin and melded with her soul.

She heard him draw a faint, sharp inhalation, then he shifted a bit closer against her. "Do you wish to mind meld once again?" he inquired softly behind her.

"Hmm? Why do you ask?"

"Because you are stroking my hand in a very ... provocative manner."

"Oh!" She started to pull her hand away, but he tightened his grip slightly and held her.

"I did not say I wished you to stop," he told her in a near whisper and there was a subtle but definite suggestion of sexual intent in his deep voice that sent chills over her. "Do you wish to mind meld?"

"You know what I wish," she ventured, "but you tell me that's not possible."

"Perhaps I can enhance the experience for you," he suggested and there was something in the way he said it that made her heart leap.

"What do you mean?" she asked a little hesitantly.

"I am familiar with techniques that you may find pleasurable."

Her heart was pounding wildly at what he was implying. "I think that might prove very dangerous, Spock," she answered.

"Dangerous? In what way?" He was genuinely puzzled.

"Dangerous in that we might find out exactly what it takes to ... motivate you, after all!"

He was silent for a second then answered huskily, "Perhaps. Shall I proceed?"

She didn't answer him directly but leaned back against him, trembling slightly, her eyes closed in anticipation. He took this for acquiescence and moved his fingertips up to her face. At first, his touch was so light that she scarcely felt it, then she began to feel the tingling sensation start to spread over her. It moved like a gentle warmth over her face and scalp, then down her neck and over her shoulders. It flowed down her arms to her fingertips and across her breasts and torso. When it reached her hips and lower abdomen, then found its way between her legs, she gasped and arched back against him. It continued to move, down her legs to her feet and her toes. Her whole skin seemed on the verge of bursting into flame and she lay panting as he began to deepen the meld between them.

She twisted around so that she was facing him and they shifted position slightly until she was on her back and he was half-lying atop her, half-leaning over her. Almost without thinking, he slipped his right knee between her legs as he changed his position, nudging her thighs apart, and she responded by sliding her leg up the length of his, moving against him. He didn't seem to notice, so engrossed was he in the meld.

He was able to use both hands now to touch her face, intensifying the mindlink, reaching out with his mind to engulf her, mesh with her, become one with her. Her human emotions surged up to meet him, nearly overwhelming him with their strength. He'd had no idea how intensely she felt about him sexually and it both startled and delighted him, to his surprise. Her emotions wound themselves mentally around him, wrapping around him like a blanket, pulling him down to her, and he responded by probing into them, stroking, teasing until his needs and desires were thoroughly interwoven with hers.

As her sexual excitement towered up, she gasped with the extent of the experience, clutching at him, and she began to move rhythmically against him, pressing her hips into his again and again. Abruptly, he found that the primitive cadence of her body was loosening an answering beat within him and the jolt of his physical response caught him by surprise. Before he knew what was happening, he had come solidly and determinedly erect, his body straining to reach hers. Startled, he began to pull away from the mind meld and Christine's overpowering passions.

"No!" she gasped. "Don't stop now!" She groaned. "For god's sake, finish what you've started!"

The intense erotic euphoria of the meld and the accompanying physical arousal pulled him back into her mind's depths. He began to lose himself in the waves of sensation washing over him, in the honeyed sweetness of her body and soul. And he began to find that his body was responding with a voracious hunger for her that he found difficult to keep from exploding into direct action. Suddenly he wanted her physically, wanted-- needed to join their bodies in as strong and fiery a meld as they had joined their minds. The need was almost as strong as when he'd experienced pon farr, and he clenched his teeth together in a desperate effort to maintain control of the situation. But she could feel it too, was drowning in it, smothering in it, and she clutched him hard against her, whispering urgently, "Oh, Spock! I don't care what you have to do, but make love to me! Now! Before I go mad!"

He swallowed, trying to wet a throat gone dry, fighting the instinctive urge to rip away the barrier of her clothing and plunge into her with all the fire and fury that was consuming him. With a supreme effort, he controlled the urge but could not stop his hand from moving down her torso to the skirt of her uniform. Underneath she wore the very short pants that were part of the outfit and he fumbled awkwardly, frantically, with them. "Can you get these off?" he asked finally in a hoarse, desperate whisper.

"I'll try. Yes!" She squirmed about in the tight confines of the sleeping bag and finally, after a few minutes, succeeded in divesting herself of the confining garments. He was maintaining the mind meld between them, and the building emotional climax was beginning to show in the strained expression on his face. It was almost as if the plak tow had taken him again and he was panting, trembling in his effort to control himself.

As soon as she had kicked off the confining clothing, he moved firmly atop her, between her eagerly spread legs, using one hand to open his pants and quickly do some rearranging with his own clothing. She was wet and ready, hungry for him, her rich feminine scent intoxicating him beyond all control. He positioned himself without further preamble, then, with a sharp, purposeful lunge, he was suddenly inside her, hard and feverish, aflame with his need of her, still holding her mind firmly entwined with his. Both gasped as the physical contact and the torrent of human and Vulcan emotions forged themselves together into a frantic dance of passionate completion.

If she had thought her skin was on fire before, it was nothing to what he led her through now. Enhanced by the force of the mind meld, magnifying their emotions to an incredible extent, she underwent the most intense physical experience she'd ever known. She felt his sexual excitement echo and blend with her own, each reinforcing and increasing the other's arousal. He took his hands away from her face and slipped them beneath her shoulders, holding her steady beneath him as he pumped into her with increasing power, still locked indelibly together with her mentally and emotionally.

It seemed to go on forever, such a glorious, delirious, blazing joining that she was beginning to wonder if her heart would survive. But he kept pushing her higher and higher, farther than she'd ever gone, and as she clung to him and rode the crashing waves of orgasmic fulfillment, he reached culmination, and she with him, arching up against his straining body, her head thrown back as her throat gave voice to a primal cry. And as she did, she felt herself spiraling backwards into a black hole of sensation, being swallowed by the sheer force of emotion, and she clutched at him frantically to stop herself from falling--

The next thing she knew, Spock was bending over her with a frightened expression on his face, stroking her forehead and calling her name. She blinked and felt dizzy, immediately closing her eyes again to block out the spinning world.

"Christine -- wake up! Are you all right?"

"What happened?" she murmured.

"You lost consciousness," he answered, still looking concerned. "I barely broke the mind meld in time to avoid being pulled down with you. I am terribly sorry! I never imagined that you would have this reaction! It did not occur to me that you would be unprepared for the depth of emotion experienced during a joining."

"Oh, gods..." She covered her face with both hands and willed her head to stay still. "I've never passed out during sex before! Except once in college when I was dead drunk!" She began to laugh. "Spock -- that was the most incredible thing I've ever experienced! Does that happen all the time?"

He looked surprised. "No. Never. At least not with Vulcans it doesn't. I mean -- I don't know from personal experience -- but I believe that it does not--"

She took her hands down from her face and peered up at him, her blue eyes twinkling. "And you led me to believe that Vulcans couldn't get physically aroused except during pon farr. I'd say that very nearly qualified!"

"I was overwhelmed by your human emotions," he answered, as if he needed to rationalize the experience. "I did not realize how it would affect me."

"Of course."

He began to relax as she recovered and gazed at her with a quizzical expression. "I shall be more careful next time."

She blinked and looked up at him questioningly. "Next time? Will there be a next time?" She searched the warm brown eyes for answers to questions she hadn't voiced.

"So I would assume," he answered softly, returning the probing scrutiny. "If you wish it."

She reached up to caress his face. "I wish it very much," she smiled.

Then he did a surprising thing. He leaned down and kissed her gently on the lips, not passionately, but as if to seal a promise between them. He gazed at her for a long moment, then said, "You should get dressed now. I'm going to check the beacon and make sure it's still transmitting. Then perhaps we can see if we can salvage anything at all from the shuttle."

"All right." She smiled up at him then he unzipped the sleeping bag and got out quickly before too much heat could be lost. Even those few seconds chilled her. He crawled out of the tent and got his boots on as fast as possible. They were stiff with cold and she saw him grimace as he stamped his feet vigorously for a few minutes to ward off the immediate iciness they brought. Then he was gone out into the bright white afternoon.

Christine rummaged around and found the clothes she had doffed and somehow managed to get them back on while confined to the sleeping bag. She was sure she was a comical sight, trying to wriggle back into her dark uniform tights. But finally the deed was accomplished and she decided she needed to stretch her legs as well.

She yelped as she slipped her foot into her frosty boots but persevered. Outside, Spock was standing in shin-deep snow, his eyes shaded with his hands, peering up into the brilliant blue sky, as if attempting to locate the ship visually. His breath formed a cloud around him in the still air and she noted that the tips of his ears and his nose were beginning to look drained of blood. Her own face and legs were already going numb. She wondered just how cold it really was.

He twisted around to look at her. "Christine -- you shouldn't be out here."

"Neither should you. Let's go check the shuttle quickly. The sooner we get that over with, the sooner we can get back in the shelter."

"Logical," he conceded. "Come." He held out his hand to her and together they started through the snow toward the burned hulk of the little spacecraft lying about a quarter mile away.

They hadn't covered much distance, however, when behind them came a familiar sound, the distinctive hum of a transporter beam. Startled, they whirled to find six men in heavy parkas had materialized near the beacon. It was Kirk, McCoy, and four security men, all prepared to search for the two missing crew members.

Spock and Christine hurried back toward them as fast as the snow would permit, and the search party met them halfway. They had brought warm, heavy blankets and immediately enveloped the two freezing crash survivors in them. In general celebration and greeting, the friends embraced briefly.

"How long have you been down here?" Kirk asked.

"Sixteen hours, twenty-two minutes," Spock responded immediately.

"We've been searching for the past three hours," McCoy spoke up. "Thank God we pinpointed your beacon. How did you manage to survive this cold? It's a balmy four degrees down here! And that's not counting the wind chill factor! It must have been twenty below last night!"

"We managed to rescue a survival tent from the shuttle before it burned," Spock answered. "Our body heat was sufficient to keep us from freezing."

"Did I hear you right?" Kirk asked. "Did you say 'a survival tent'? One?" He and McCoy exchanged delighted glances. "You two spent the night in a single sleeping bag? Well, well... That's very interesting, Mr. Spock."

Spock stared at him implacably but Christine launched into battle. "That's as far as you go, Captain! You, too, Dr. McCoy! I'll have you know that Mr. Spock was a perfect gentleman and, if it weren't for his quick thinking, both of us would have frozen to death last night! So, you just keep any lascivious notions you might have to yourself!"

"Yes, ma'am," the captain answered, thoroughly amused. "Mr. Spock, I apologize. The lady has spoken in your defense!"

"No apology required, Captain," the first officer acknowledged. "Now, perhaps you would not mind if we beamed up. Miss Chapel and I are quite cold enough and I imagine she would enjoy a long hot shower and some hot food as much I would!"

"Of course, Spock, of course." Kirk flipped open his communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise. Prepare to beam up Dr. McCoy, Mr. Spock and Nurse Chapel. The rest of us will check out the shuttle before coming back up."

"Acknowledged, Captain. Ready to transport."

As the three indicated people moved aside and into transporter position, McCoy noticed Spock and Christine exchanging a glance that set his internal sensors clanging. "I'll want you two in sick bay for a checkup as soon as you get warmed up," the doctor said, watching them appraisingly.

"Of course, Doctor," Spock agreed without looking at him.

"Certainly," Christine agreed.

McCoy's eyes narrowed just a bit and he leaned over toward his nurse. "Just what did you two do to keep from freezing?" he murmured skeptically.

Christine favored him with an inscrutable, icy look. "Well, what do you think? We engaged in hours of wild Vulcan sex so intense I passed out at one point." She stared at him challengingly.

McCoy glanced at Spock and found him staring dumbstruck at Christine, mouth hanging open and eyebrows nearly to his hairline in astonishment. The doctor turned back and sighed. "You're absolutely right, Christine. It's none of my damn business. Forgive me for asking."

Christine faced forward as the transporter beam caught them. Her only answer was the enigmatic little smile that graced her lips.



THE END

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