DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of T'Kuht and is copyright (c) 2001 by T'Kuht. This story is Rated PG.
Christine Chapel woke with a sick headache. She'd cried so much in the last three days she'd not been able to sleep well, and she thought she had a fever. She had to go to work today. She couldn't call in for bereavement leave because Spock had not been any relation or even a friend for that matter. But, she had nearly collapsed from shock at the news of his death aboard the training ship. The admiral in command of HQ had seen her distress and allowed her to leave her station and take a long weekend. Now, it was Monday morning and she was due back in two hours.
Shuffling through the apartment in the old bathrobe that had traveled across the galaxy at least four times with her, she programmed the computer to put on strong black coffee. She had drunk so much wine that she didn't want to even look at grape juice for breakfast. The alcohol had done nothing to help her. Now, she had word that Leonard McCoy was suffering from some sort of shock and was going to be incarcerated in a psychological facility when he got into port later that day. When would it end...
Burying her face in her hands, she began to cry and then stopped. She had to get hold of herself. After all, Spock had felt nothing for her as he insisted all along. She was crying over nothing, no one. Getting up, she pulled on her duty uniform and decided not to wait for the coffee to finish before going to work early. Work was always her safety zone.
* * *
She was exhausted hours later when she dragged herself back to her apartment on the fifteenth floor. There had been nothing but news people and chaos around HQ all day waiting for the Enterprise to come limping in. She had gone down to eat with Rand in the observatory and was in line for dessert when the entire commissary went dead silent. She followed the silence to the windows and gasped at the scar-riddled ship as it sailed past. Both Janice and Christine were transfixed to the window. They were the only ones in the room who had actually served aboard that vessel and it was as if watching a funeral procession.
She left the dessert line and stepped closer to Janice. They held each other's hands for a time, their appetites gone and the need to go somewhere else nearly suffocating them.
"I'm gonna go back to work," Christine whispered.
"Me, too. I'll see you later tonight, okay?" Janice said, the pain evident in her voice.
Christine nodded. She wanted to check on McCoy as well, but would have to wait until he was in the psych ward and she could get security clearance.
Now, her apartment was cold and lonely. She was going crazy waiting for Janice to arrive. The chime sounded and a little loudly she answered, "Come."
The door slid open to reveal two burly delivery men laden down with a large crate and an anti-grav unit. "We have a delivery."
Christine was lost. "What? I didn't order anything."
"It is addressed to you. Here are the confirmation orders. Whatever it is, it's yours." They brought it into the room and set it in the middle of the floor. Turning the anti-grav off, they had her sign for it and left. Christine was trying to figure out what the hell it was when the door chimed again. "Come in."
This time it was Janice Rand in off duty clothes but not looking to well. "What's that?"
"I don't know. It just got delivered. Help me open it."
"Nyota is coming in about half an hour," Janice informed as she made her way to the kitchenette. They hadn't been able to get hold of Christine since she'd been busy trying to learn all she could about McCoy's condition.
"I guess it can wait. Want a drink?" Christine asked as she maneuvered around the large crate. They were trying to talk about the daily events and other things until Uhura arrived.
It was apparent when their old chum arrived that things were dismal. Uhura had spent more time than any with Spock and couldn't help but cry when she spoke of how empty the bridge was. "You know what it was like when we shipped out the second time and he wasn't there. It's worse now. At least before, Spock was still alive and just not with us. Now, I don't know if I want to go back aboard for a while. I've asked to be transferred to a nice planet side job for a little bit."
The two other women looked at each other a little worried. Uhura was one of the most dedicated fleet officers they knew. If Spock's death had effected her that much, they were in for a lousy time. Christine thought of the mystery box. "Hey, let's see what's in here."
Going to retrieve a hammer and a screwdriver to use as a pry bar, she was smiling as she pounded away at it. The tension of the day was getting relieved in the action. The other women were just as curious and they found themselves anxious to see what it was. It was like Christmas. Christine wasn't making much headway. "Damn, whoever packed this didn't want to just let me get it the easy way."
Uhura took the hammer. "Here let me have a whack at it."
Using all her strength and all the emotions she'd held tightly in check, she practically shattered the crate in one blow. A note addressed to Christine Chapel was taped to another box, this one cardboard. She set it aside and began pulling the box apart. The three crowded to see the contents. A mahogany chest with rosettes and vines carved with the words "Forever and Always" was revealed. Christine couldn't breathe. She stammered, "Where's the letter?"
Uhura retrieved it for her and she opened it. With shaking hands and blurred vision, she couldn't see past the first line. "Dear Christine..."
Handing it to Janice to read, she just shook her head and allowed tears to drip off her lashes. Janice began, "Dear Christine, if you have received this, I am dead. You told me to do whatever I wished to do with the chest those years ago when I purchased it and now I have returned it to you. I could not think of just handing away your dreams and hopes. I may be Vulcan, but I am also human... You have known that all along. I have removed only one item from this box as a token, if you will. If you are angry, I am sorry. You will find the wedding portrait of you gone. I had never known you as that happy bride to be. My memories of you only include that sad but proud woman I served with. You deserve the happiness that is packed in this trunk. Please, do not destroy the things here. Do not lock them away either. Live with the joy that you had when photographed in your wedding dress. You cannot keep your heart in a grave for the rest of your life. Love again, it is not logical, but it is your nature. Know that I cared enough for you to want only the best and to give you back your hope chest... Yours, Spock."
The three women were crying so hard, they didn't hear the clock chime midnight. Christine was heartbroken and draped herself over the box in agony. Uhura tried to comfort her. Janice carefully folded the letter back up and placed in the envelope. They were so shocked that Spock had her hope chest in the first place that they had to know the story. Christine composed herself long enough to tell them the tale. At the end Uhura shook her head. "That logical Vulcan... He really did care for you, Christine. I don't know if that's love, but he did care."
"I know that. Now I am in more pain than ever, but in a way I'm at peace too. I guess the box has brought me full circle through the death of one man to the death of another. God, why me?" she pleaded ad wiped the tears away on her sleeve.
"You heard him, he wants you to find someone to love you. I think Spock meant it as a symbol of his caring now instead of the pain of your loss. Try to think of the chest like that. I didn't know he had it in him," Janice said referring to the letter. It wasn't the emotion that she was amazed at but the tender words and the sentiment. Christine sat on the floor amidst the remains of th crate and the box and caressed the top of the chest. She had no key, but Spock had changed the lock and a new key dangled on a gold cord from the handle. With trembling fingers, she put the key in the lock and turned it.
The smell of cedar pervaded the room as well as the lilac scent she'd packed with it. Another scent ... an alien one. Spock had kept it in his room and the smell of Vulcan sandalwood and that fire pot he always had burning had also ingrained into the wood. She smiled a little. She could unpack the things without the pain of Roger Korby attached to them. That ache had finally disappeared. Now she had good memories to go with the items that had never been used.
Pulling out the items, she let the other ladies ooh and aah over them. She decided to put the quilt on the bed. It would almost be like sleeping with a part of Spock. The sensuousness of that statement made her nearly laugh. She felt years younger, lighter. Spock had cherished these things enough to keep them for her. Pulling out the box with the dress and veil, she laughed about the time she went for fittings.
"The poor seamstress. I picked out the gown, it needed taken out. I got so nervous I couldn't eat for two weeks and lost weight. She had to take it in. I got my appetite back and went two weeks later and it was too tight again. We had almost decided to leave the seams open till the day of the wedding. Then I couldn't find shoes to be comfortable in so I picked ballet slippers and that wrecked havoc with the hem..." Now she smiling and tears of joy washed down her cheeks. Spock's words from the grave had allowed her heart to escape and fly again. The two women watched transformation with awe. Spock would never know how many lives he had saved.
The baby ensemble brought a melancholy little smile to her face. She explained, "I was baptized in this gown as were about fifty other people before me. My mother would unwrap it on my birthday and let me touch it when I was little. I used to dream about this dress. Funny how something like that is so influential."
Uhura reached in and picked out the house plans. "What are these?"
"Oh, a cottage we were going to build. You know, I still own that property... I think I just might build the little house after all. It would be nice to have a get away when the world goes crazy," Christine mused. She could have her friends there and create a haven she never got in an apartment or on board ship. The envelope of pictures was next and Christine poured them out, telling about each one. She remembered something in the letter. "Spock said he kept one of them..."
Janice nodded. "Yeah, one taken in the dress. All these years..."
Uhura picked up, "Spock's had a picture..."
And Christine met their incredulous eyes, "Of me ... but where? It was never displayed. Maybe in a box."
"Maybe in the safe," Janice suggested.
"Well, there's one way to find out," Uhura said. It wasn't too late. They could still get aboard.
"I can get us to the ship if you can get into Spock's quarters," she assured Christine.
She was numb. Her medical clearance could get her in anywhere. It was almost like grave robbing. But if she waited any longer, she'd never know, "Let's do it."
"The three musketeers," Janice grinned.
"Ride again, let's get going before we lose our nerve. Give me a drink," Uhura said and got a shot of the bourbon she had brought.
* * *
It was not as easy as they had thought to get aboard the ship. Uhura could, but Christine and Janice were another story. "Ma'am, security does not recognize them as crew..."
"Well, they were crew. Besides, I need some personal items from my cabin, and they are here to help me move them," she said, her tone no nonsense. The security ensign was being difficult. But, they were all fleet commanders and one a headquarters CO. He let them pass. Corridors were eery and dark, lights were at a maneuvering level only. They made their way to Uhura's quarters first just to make sure the security cameras caught them going in. Luckily, Spock's cabin was on the same deck and if they were fortunate, they could get there without much more trouble.
Standing before the sealed door, they held their breaths. Christine whispered, "Do we really want to do this?"
"You want to find out about the picture, don't you?"
After a moment she nodded and gave the command to open the door. It slid aside and they stepped into the room. "Lights, full power," Uhura said and the air of desertion that was so palpable fled. It was as if Spock were just gone for a while and would be back. He was an immaculate housekeeper. Careful not to disturb anything without putting it back precisely as they found it, they searched...
Nothing in books or under the desk, in drawers or in the cubby holes. His clothes were picked through, nothing except he had a penchant for dark green socks. The bath was spotless. The only place left was the safe, and they couldn't access that without his codes which could take till doomsday to break. "Maybe he left it on Vulcan or in his apartment in San Francisco," Janice sighed. That was an idea. They hadn't thought of that. Christine started to leave when she thought of one more place, but it was impossible. With a chuckle she stopped them. "Hey, we haven't checked the bed yet."
"Well, you know when you're in high school and you had a crush on someone you put their picture or their name under your pillow? We can at least say we checked there," she suggested knowing how ludicrous the statement was.
The girls all grinned and giggling, stripped the cover off the bunk. Nothing. Lifting the pillow, nothing. Removing the mattress ... there it was. A picture in a plasti-shield case. It was placed approximately where his head would have rested on the pillow above. Christine uttered, "My God, all these years..."
"He's slept with your picture under his mattress. That's the most romantic thing..." Janice was crying now. Christine retrieved the item.. Starfleet security would never look here for an item and she didn't want the new occupant to stumble upon it. Clutching it tightly to her, she would keep it always under her mattress just as he had done. Now the loss hit her hard and she felt like screaming at the room, "WHY!?!"
Uhura hesitated to say it, but she had to, "Christine, I think Spock loved you. As much as it must hurt to hear it now, I think he did."
"But why, why couldn't he tell me? Why did he do nothing? I would have..." She stopped. Maybe that's what had been the problem. What would she have done all these years, flung herself at him? She was so emotional. Maybe he couldn't have handled that anymore than he could stand to handle his own. At least now she could go on. She could do what he wanted with the things in the chest. She vowed never to lock them away again.
* * *
Getting some heavy items from Uhura's cabin to get away from the guards, they got back to Christine's apartment to see a light flashing on her comm panel. It was a message from Kirk to the three of them about a get together in his apartment tomorrow. The three sat in silence for a while. Janice was on duty at the time, so she couldn't go. Christine didn't want to attend a wake, she wanted to check on Leonard. Uhura would go. It was a comfort to know that McCoy had someone to check on him that she trusted.
"Just what is wrong with him?" Christine asked as they settled back in the living room of her apartment. They would probably all end up sleeping over, but it was okay.
Uhura shook her head in bewilderment. "He broke into Spock's cabin and was sitting there in the dark like Spock did when he meditated. Chekov said when they got to him, he spoke to the Captain in Spock's tone of voice and asked him to take him to Mt. Seleya."
"Seleya? That's on Vulcan. Why would he want to go there?" the physician mused and drank deep from her mug of herbal tea.
"That's why Kirk had to have him committed. It has just about killed him. He finds his son..."
"What?" Janice Rand said instantly intrigued in the conversation.
"Let's just start at the beginning," Uhura said and the three stayed up all night listening and trying to figure out what was going on.
Three days later, hell had broken loose, and Rand and Chapel were left behind to wonder what else would go wrong. Kirk was a fugitive as well as McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov. The Enterprise had been stolen and was headed for deep space. Sarek was trying to arrange some out of the question ceremony on Vulcan. Spock's body was found still living on the Genesis planet, and Uhura had run off to Vulcan to hide from the authorities. As known comrades, Christine and Janice had been held for questioning and listed as possible witnesses in the investigation of six stellar officers. The picture under mattress had been completely forgotten, months would pass...