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. Rated G.

The Man That Got Away...


There was nowhere to go. Christine had been given three days off to get some central focus in her life, and it was all just spinning around her in a swirl of pain and confusion. She really wasn't here. She was still at home waiting to get on board and this time, when Exo III rolled around, she'd find her fiance happy, whole, and alive.

Closing her eyes and resting her forehead on the railing of the gallery of the recreation decks, she watched the others below almost as if she were a goddess on Olympus. They were so tiny from her height. Not really, but she felt enormous, like the whole universe were her responsibility. She had a decision to make. Kirk had known when she'd come aboard why she was there and agreed to let her play Starfleet officer for awhile. The lieutenant's commission was one she had not earned but been given as appreciation of her volunteer status. She noticed that a few people resented that. Uhura had at first. She'd gone through the ranks to get where she was and was damned proud of it. Christine pulled strings and whammo got a commission right off the bat. But the two had become fast friends and without her these last two days, she would have been at the end of a very short taut rope. She had even called in late for bridge duty to listen to the incoherent babblings of the nurse when she'd returned to the ship. Spock had not seemed surprised. He even felt as if he had some sympathy for her. Great -- sympathy from a Vulcan ... way to go girl, she had thought, but still it was comforting.

Christine was so lost in thought and the interplay between the racquetball courts that she hadn't heard the other person in the gallery approach. "Miss Chapel."

Her high pitched squeak amused him just slightly. She smiled wanly. The last four days had taken its toll heavily on the nurse. She looked older, much older than her 28 years. "Mr. Spock, goodness you gave me a start."

"I did not wish to do so. I apologize. May I sit?" he asked indicating the rest of the bench she occupied. His calm Vulcan demeanor unnerved a lot of people. She found it a little pretentious. She had been truthful about knowing about the emotional undertow he was always afraid of falling into. She hadn't lied about that.

"Of course, I was just watching the fracas down there," she said looking back at the warring engineering ensigns who were known for their use of colorful remarks while trying to pummel the little rubber ball into the wall as hard as they could.

"Yes, racquetball is an excellent exercise in agility, reflexes and timing. It also ... works up a good sweat," he replied quoting as much of Leonard McCoy as he could and tried adding the accent. It hadn't worked, but it did get a laugh out of Christine.

"My, my, aren't we comical tonight. So, what brings you to the gallery, Spock? Surely not these two."

Spock nodded quietly. He wanted to talk to her, tell her he was sorry. He had no right to be sorry, none of it was his doing, but he was remorseful that she had lost the thing in life she'd held most precious to her. "I wished to offer my condolences on your loss."

Christine would not have been more surprised if he had hauled of and kissed her. She felt hot tears, more hot tears, shoot into her eyes. "Thank you."

Turning so that she could avoid his gaze, she stared straight ahead and down at the melee. Words were gone. There wasn't even any feeling left to them, just raw searing pain. Leaning forward to place her face in her hands, she sighed, "I'm sorry. I really should get hold of myself."

"I asked no apology. Your grief must be borne out. If it is not, you will not heal," he answered softly.

Strange that this Vulcan, this man who pretended to know nothing of humans and their ways would be the most tender with her. But, she smiled inwardly, she knew better didn't she. She had always known better. Facing him with unafraid tear stains, she sighed. "You are a comfort."

Spock absorbed that statement. Most humans found his attempts at orderly emotional displays to be cold or at best faltering. She had not. They sat that way for several minutes and with a sniff Christine chuckled, "Brother, if you'd have told me last year ... ten years ago that I'd be in the position I am in ... I'd have punched you out."

Spock hoped she would not attempt such a thing and inched a little further down the bench. She noticed and started in a peal of true, honest laughter. She laughed so hard she fell off the end of the bench she was closest to and had to have Spock pull her to her feet. But as quickly as she was laughing, the simple polite act turned her into a crying fool. Swaying for a moment, she found her tears drenching the Vulcan's tunic as he supported her. There was no passion in the gesture, no affection, just the support of a friend, a fellow being who needed help. Spock allowed her to stay that way as long as she wished. If this was the way he could help then so be it. His discomfort was of no consequence. She remained this way for nearly five minutes until the tears and the horrible sobs that were wrenched from her body wore out. She'd cried so much, so much. Pulling away she was miserable. "I think I'd better sit down. I got you wet ... "

"I will dry," came the soft reply.

Again there was silence, but this time Spock broke it. "Regarding your earlier decision, do you still wish to leave the ship?"

Christine thought a moment and then remembered her evaluation, "Oh, you know I guess I have been so busy that I always assumed that I was. There is no reason to go home now. Home was Roger and research ... well the research is practically moot."

"I do not understand?"

"I was Roger's lab assistant. Without his work to use as a springboard, I am basically no better off than a new intern," she explained.

Spock considered for a moment. "You are in a far better position here. You are an excellent nurse, and your research here is appreciated. You do not have to leave."

Startled blue eyes met sincere brown ones. He was right. Here she was valuable. He continued, "If you will allow me a moment to say this. I wish no detriment to your late fiance's memory. But he too wasted your talents. Remain aboard as head nurse as you are now, or if you wish, I can transfer you to the biochemistry labs."

She shook her head. "Spock, that's generous, but I think I've angered enough people here on the merit that I am to risk any more ill will. Being head nurse is a position that I find most intriguing. It gets tedious, but all jobs do. With the extra research time you've allotted for me, I get to make it more interesting." As she said this, she realized she would have missed it terribly if she left. She really was at peace here career wise. She could work without fear of others stealing her work or undermining it. That in a private facility would be a constant problem. Leonard McCoy was a dear man, and she learned something new almost daily. Her friends on Earth were scattered to the four winds so they would not be there for her. Here, this ship, this Enterprise, was home. Her mind knew the answer to Kirk's question, and at least that part of her heart could sleep peacefully now. "In fact, Mr. Spock, thank you again. I'll stay. It'll make Uhura happy at least. She hadn't wanted me to leave."

"As do others no doubt," was as close he would ever get to saying he was pleased as well. "If you will not accept a posting in the chemistry lab, may I make another suggestion?"

She nodded. "Sure."

"An interim position, only when your duties are not effected, as a personal assistant. It would not be a permanent position, nor a titled one, but if I require assistance on any projects I could feel free to call on your talents," he offered.

"Of course, just ask. I'll be happy to do it. You know, you've really helped." She tried to make her voice as sincere as she would have if she'd have given him a hug or placed a hand on his arm. She was beginning to see that he had a regard for her ability, something that had been missing with Roger no matter how brilliant her work had been. Here was a man who saw her not as a woman but as a scientist. She liked it, a lot.

Spock's mission was finished. He had hoped to persuade her to stay aboard. She was valuable. Now, he could leave her with her thoughts again. He knew the captain had asked her for her decision before they reached their next stop in case she wanted to be dropped off at Starbase 4. "If you will excuse me, I do need to return to my duties."

"Of course, Mr. Spock," she said and smiled. It lit her eyes and crinkled her cheeks. She was going to be all right.