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-13. This is a work of my own fiction. I based her corporation on the one mentioned by Barbara Hambly in Crossroads. I also base the neuro-transtator on that particular implant as described in that book. The songs are not mine, the movies aren't mine, the characters aren't mine, I hope you like it anyway....T'Kuht.

Lover's Return


Christine Chapel was deeply engrossed in her work. Since starting Starfield Corporation, she had worked around the clock nearly 7 days a week. She loved it. It wasn't really work. It was her passion, her life. It was the solace she took to bed at night and the first thing she thought of when she woke in the morning. Her retirement from Starfleet two years earlier had been a nice parting from a long and illustrious tour. Funny, she had gone into the Fleet with this part time attitude and ended up being one of its most decorated medical officers. Life throws curve balls everyday and you have to learn to hit them before they hit back. That was her motto now, strike first or don't even bother. She sighed happily. She was hard at work on a new neuro transtator that would give relief to millions who suffered from neurological disorders either from birth or by an incident later on in life. It was extremely promising. Leaning back in her antique style leather desk chair, she reveled in the feel. It was so comfortable. She closed her eyes and allowed her heart to slow down along with her breathing for a few moments. She was almost relaxed enough to go to sleep when a knock at her doorframe brought her up out of the depths. "Yes?"

Ken Donaldson stood in the door smiling. He didn't see his boss like that much. She looked younger, more carefree when she was almost asleep. "Hey, chief, why don't you take a break?"

"Sounds good, actually. I think that's the first time you've been right this week," she teased. Ken was twenty years her junior and she rather thought of him as her protégé. His boyish smile didn't let on a bit that he was already 40.

"Well, then I've got just what you need. I have two all expense paid tickets to Delmonico's. You interested?" he asked waving the flimsiplast at her.

She was impressed. Delmonico's was galaxy famous for being the most expensive restaurant in the area. It was an ancient establishment with its roots dating back to the 1800s. It had an incomparable menu. "I do believe I'll take you up on that. When do you want to go?"

"Oh, I can't make it. I have a date with Anne. But, she has a friend in town and is going to give the other ticket to them."

The blue eyes narrowed. "What is this, a set up?"

"Honest, Chris, I have no clue who the person is. Besides, it's just dinner, and it's paid for. What are you complaining about?"

"Wait a minute, why don't you and Anne use them?" she asked curiously.

"Let's just say, we'll be engaged in other activities by the time the first course is served..." he alluded. She laughed and took the ticket.

* * *

Dressing in a soft velour pants set, she started walking to Delmonico's. It was only three blocks from her suite at the Monterey Arms, but she'd never been there for supper. She'd only eaten at their al fresco dining area during lunch. The evening was perfect for a nice walk. She didn't do this often enough. She forgot to allow herself time to just enjoy being alive. Tonight would be different. No shop talk. She'd have a nice dinner with a stranger, whether it was male or female it didn't matter. She got along with nearly everyone she'd ever met. Walking up to the grand entrance, she presented her reservation ticket to the maitre d'. He smiled at her and led to a cozy corner table. She was the first to arrive. He presented her with a menu. "Does madame wish to order an aperitif?"

"I believe I'll wait until the other person arrives," she smiled and waited a little expectantly. She had no clue who would arrive. It was rather exciting. She drank in the atmosphere. Low lights, soothing music, and the quiet tinkle of china mingled with the soft hum of people talking. It was so inviting here. There was a rule about children not being allowed under the age of 10 so there would be no fussy babies or temper tantrums. It was an elegant dining experience. She could hear the maitre d' speak as he led the other ticket holder. "The lady has already arrived. Here is your table, monsieur."

"Thank you," came the only voice that still haunted her dreams. She gasped aloud and almost leapt to her feet. Spock, now a junior ambassador, stood at the opening of the booth for two and with one eyebrow said everything he had to say. He hadn't seen her or heard of her for almost eight years now. Had the whale probe incident been that long ago> he wondered. The situation was very awkward for the two of them. His memories had returned of her and her feelings for him shortly after he had met her at the trial. He found them troubling, but other than that there was no evidence that she even thought of him anymore. He nodded, "Dr. Chapel."

"Ambassador, I didn't know Anne knew you," she said.

"I have worked with her via my father's office," he replied. In fact that was how he came to be given the ticket. He was the last one to leave the conference room when she suddenly remembered. "Ambassador, could you do me a favor? My husband and I have plans this evening already, and we were given these expense paid tickets to Delmonico's. He's supposed to give his to someone, but I forgot to give mine to Joah before she left. Would you care to have it?" he remembered. He had accepted it and went without thought that he might be paired with a woman, let alone Christine. Realizing that he was still standing at the entrance, he slid into the other side of the wrap around booth, at a loss. He spent a few moments regarding the carefully placed cutlery and napkins. The water glasses were precisely 15 cm from the tip of the knife and the various forks and spoons were in line with ruler precision. Strange how humans considered proper etiquette to be precisely placed and maneuvered china and utensils but would talk incessantly during the meal. On Vulcan food was to be eaten, not talked over. The waiter reappeared. "An aperitif?"

The two old acquaintances looked at each other in indecision. Finally, it was Christine who spoke with a sigh. "Might as well. After all, it's free... Do you have a vegetarian appetizer platter?"

"Yes, madame, will there be wine with that?" he asked.

"None for me. I would prefer a seltzer if you have it," she answered.

Spock replied, "Yes, please. A dry sherry."

Christine was a little surprised. He had not been a drinker while aboard ship, not even wine. Perhaps he had finally learned to relax after almost 70 years. There was a dreaded silence between the two. Spock finally broke it. "How have you been?"

She smiled, fingered the napkin in front of her. "Just fine. I have my own company now, Starfield Corporation." There; if she kept the meal about work she could talk. He inquired further. She answered with pride, "When I retired from Starfleet I wasn't ready to go to pasture yet. I decided that I missed my intense research work that I had been doing before I joined. With my pension and my savings, I bought a place and now am doing very well."

Spock nodded. She was settled and apparently happy. She had a soft lazy expression on her face like one contented. He wondered if he would ever feel that way. He was not stimulated in the same manner as junior ambassador that he was as a science officer aboard a starship. She returned the question, "And you?"

"I am finding my work with my father to be ... interesting."

She noted the lack of enthusiasm in his even tone. "Rather dull and drab, is it?"

He looked into the cool blue depths. She always could see right through him. He nodded, "My father is excellently suited for such work. I however, am still too ... he says restless. I wish more to do. However, I have not been allowed to negotiate any major treaties or even work first hand with the parties involved. I have been doing grunt work."

She smiled at that. He wasn't used to being second fiddle that way. "Well, you have to start somewhere, and your father probably wants to make certain you learn properly."

The appetizer arrived and their order for the meal taken. Christine chose a simple steak and baked potato with lobster tail. Spock chose the grilled vegetable kabobs and rice pilaf. They spoke between the courses. "May I ask what your corporation is doing research on?"

She thought a moment before answering. They were technically trade secrets, but he was a man of impeccable trust. "I am about this close to a breakthrough in neuro-transtator technology."

Spock was impressed. He had always known that she had a genius for her work. He wished he could have related his confidence to her with words that she could appreciate.

"So, how is the captain, and Leonard? I haven't seen either of them in so long," she added softly.

"They are well. The doctor is busy with his new great-grandchild," Spock said, remembering the last time they'd visited and been completely overrun by an uncontrollable two year old named Leonard.

"I simply can't see him with great-grandchildren. My goodness. I guess, well, he is much older than I. I always equate him with my age. Makes me feel rather old, actually. Not that I am young," she amended.

Spock calculated instantly, "You are 55 years and five months old. That is considered roughly middle aged in normal Terran lifespans."

That did not make her feel younger. In fact it did the opposite. "Well, let's not dwell on my age. Ah, soup and the salad."

The seven course meal was delicious. They lingered after waiting for dessert. It was paid for, they kept reminding each other. Finally, after several glasses of wine and much food, they were both calm and relaxed with each other. They didn't realize that everyone else in the restaurant had left ages earlier. They also didn't realize they were the only things keeping the staff. Finally, the maitre d' approached. "Excuse, we must close for the evening."

Christine laughed, Spock appeared nonplused. He had lost track of all time. As they left, the brisk cool air flowing off the bay caressed them.

"Oh, my. I have never been tossed out for loitering before. I feel so decadent," she laughed lightly. She had only had two glasses of wine with the main meal but was bubbly all over. She resisted the sudden urge to link her arm with his. They walked for a time in the direction of her apartment. They were halfway there when she realized that he must be parked somewhere else. "Oh, aren't you going the wrong way?"

"No, I assumed you were parked somewhere along here," he answered. It was nice to walk with her side by side. He had forgotten how tall and regal she was in her bearing.

"No, in fact I live just on the next block, at the Monterey Arms," she supplied. She walked with her hands clasped behind her back, drinking in the air and the moment. It would be a nice one to remember. They didn't speak as they walked the rest of the distance. It was an easy silence as if they'd been friends all their lives. Christine turned at the entrance to the high rise apartment complex. "Thank you, Ambassador. That was a lovely evening even if it was a blind date."

"Blind date?" Spock asked, completely confused. He had thought it was a chance meeting.

"Well, that's what it is usually called when two people who aren't supposed to know each other have a dinner engagement or go to the movies or something. I had a really nice time," she admitted, trying to emphasize the words to make him know she meant them. He interpreted her meaning correctly.

"Indeed, I too found it a pleasurable experience. I shall say good evening to you then. It is quite late and I imagine you wish to rest before your day starts later," he said honestly. It was nearly one in the morning. She smiled and looked at the tops of her feet.

"Yes, it is difficult to come up with accurate readings with only five hours of sleep. I'll just have to call in late. Won't that be a scandal..." She laughed despite herself.

"I do not understand."

"It's just that I am quite prim and proper. At least that's the reputation that I have around here. I'm afraid that throwing myself into my work has led people to erroneous conclusions regarding me," she answered as scientifically as she could. He nodded and raised one elegantly beautiful brow. Bowing his head slightly, he merely answered, "Good night, Dr. Chapel."

"Good night, Spock." He waited till she was safely inside and started for his skimmer that was parked just across the way. On impulse, he turned to see if he could tell which apartment was hers. With the late hour it was not difficult to see her lights come on 2. 6 minutes later. She was in a penthouse apartment and had a large balcony by what he could see from his view. With an eyebrow slightly upraised, he turned back to his skimmer and hurried home.

* * *

The next morning dawned bright and beautiful as a spring day. Christine had left word the night before that she would be late and not to worry about her. She was certain that Ken would be just dying to know why. No, she thought, he wouldn't be there; he was taking a vacation. She might get in unscathed. She thought of the evening with Spock. It had been so ... nice. It was a trite little adjective, but so right. They had not gotten off well, but had loosened and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Dressed in the flowing purple caftan that Uhura had given her years earlier, she took her tea and went to sit on her balcony. Her view was of the parking lot below and beyond that the bay. It was a very nice view. Technically it was not a waterfront property, but it might as well have been. She was sipping the tea luxuriously when her commpanel buzzed. "Yes?"

"Christine? Are you okay? You're not sick are you?" came her secretary's concerned voice. Apparently Jenna's mother hen mode was on full steam this morning.

She answered without going in. "No, I am not sick. I had a late dinner engagement last evening and just knew I wouldn't be in on time. I'll be in say at noon, all right? I'll work late I promise."

"Don't you dare!" Jenna answered, obviously pleased that Christine had a possible male companion for dinner and maybe perhaps... "I'll see you later."

Christine didn't even get to say bye before the connection was severed. She laughed. Now she was in for it. With a happy little moan, she shoved herself out of the chair and decided to get ready for work.

* * *

Sarek waited fifteen minutes for his son to come to the meeting they were to have. He was late. Spock was never late. Sarek resisted the urge to contact his apartment. Perhaps he was stuck in traffic or something that he had yet to explain. With a small intake of breath, he was about to leave when the heavy oak door glided open to allow Spock to stride in the room a little contrite. "I apologize for my tardiness, Father."

"It is of no consequence. Do you have the information I requested on the mining rights agreements on Capella IV?"

"Yes, they are all in order. There is no basis for the High Teer's demands for restitution."

Sarek nodded. He knew as much. He had given Spock the rather daunting task of the legalese as a way to rein him in. He seemed to want to go full steam ahead too quickly. He also knew that Spock had been instrumental in the negotiations for Capellan IV's topaline. The High Teer was named for both Leonard McCoy and James Kirk. He accepted the data tapes and set them down to review later. Spock appeared to be distracted. "Is something troubling you?"

His son replied calmly, "No."

Sarek let the subject drop. "Are you to be expected for dinner this evening? Your mother would wish to know."

Spock thought a moment. He might be occupied. "I cannot say for certain, so I will answer no."

Sarek accepted this. "I will convey the message. I have a new set of negotiations that I need you to research. The details are here."

Spock took the slim cassette and nodding once, left. Before he would do that, he would make a call.

* * *

"You certainly are chipper today," Jenna noted as her boss went about humming to herself as she focused the microscope on new slides.

Christine looked up, totally innocent. "Hmm, I had an excellent supper, got a good night's sleep..."

"Oh, I was hoping you hadn't slept at all," the younger woman teased.

Chris knew where she was headed. "That's enough. Don't you have some typing to do or something?"

"There you go, back to the old crab I know and love."

"I am not an old ... crab," she said and tossed a tape through the door to land plunk against the wall beyond.

"Hey! Is this a missile launch site or what?" Ken said as he popped his head in.

"I thought you were going to be 'occupied'?" Christine frowned as he stuck his head in.

"I was, until about an hour ago. Anne was called in on a 'situation'. So," he said and sat down in the chair opposite her desk.


"Dinner, how did it go, what did you eat?"

"I had lobster and steak and the next time you pull that trick, mister, I'll let you have it," she answered without a trace of a smile.

"Huh, did Joah do something wrong? She's new and Anne thought you'd be the perfect person to kind of show her around."

"Joah?" Christine asked, completely perplexed. She hadn't heard anything about a Joah.

"Who did you eat with?" Ken asked just as confused.

"Ambassador Spock. You mean I wasn't supposed to eat with him?"

"No, Joah. I get it, he was a total bore, and you are mad."

Christine considered her answer a moment. "No, in fact I had a very ... nice evening with Spock."

Ken smirked, "Spock ... first name basis, aren't we hoity toity?"

"For your information, I have been on a 'last' name basis with Spock since you were in kindergarten. His first name is almost unpronounceable even by his mother. We served together aboard the Enterprise," she supplied.

His eyes twinkled as he leaned forward. "And?"

"And, we had a lovely evening. It was actually the first one I've ever had with him in such a relaxed atmosphere," she replied suddenly remembering the last time they'd spent the evening together, he in meditation and she asleep.

Ken's grin was a little devilish, just like McCoy's, she thought. That was one reason she put up with his shenanigans. He reminded her so of that southern charmed snake of a gentleman. "Well, maybe it was fate, you know fate likes to do things like that."

She instantly frowned. Oh no, not again. "Well, and fate likes to hand people their pink slips in their next pay packets."

At that reprimand he relented, "Okay, okay. I give. So, you want to come to dinner tomorrow night?"

"Casual or elegant?"

"Just a few people. Anne is wanting to show something off," he said and flittered his left hand as if there was a big rock on it.

She grinned, "YOU! You proposed, and she was stupid enough to accept."

"Right on one and a half counts, I proposed and she was smart enough to answer fast before I changed my mind."

"Then I shall be there in my best engagement clothes," she smiled as Ken walked out the door. He and Anne had been living together for five years and now had decided to make it official. Life works in odd ways sometimes.

* * *

Spock returned to his office with the data tape. He was intent on calling Starfield Corporation, but was sidetracked by the sight of Anne O'Brien coming around the corner. He wished to thank her for the ticket. "Miss O'Brien."

She turned a little flustered. The auburn hair was a match to the hazel eyes. She smiled, "Ambassador, how was dinner?"

"I wished to thank you for the ticket. But are you not supposed to be out today?"

"Oh, the agricultural treaty on Ber-Agi II is in complete chaos, and I had to come in to try to re-translate it. I had it completely done yesterday, and someone screwed up the encryption when it was sent out."

Spock nodded. He had had that occur as well. "I will work on the problem of the encryption. That is too large a document to have misinterpreted or lost to computer error."

"Thank you. I am certain I'm not the only who will appreciate it. So, did you enjoy dinner with Dr. Chapel?"

"You knew? She insisted it was a 'blind date'?" Spock asked, a little mystified.

"No, I told you the ticket was to be given to Joah. Didn't you get on well?"

"On the contrary, my partner turned out to be an old acquaintance from the Enterprise. It was very ... nice."

Anne smiled. So, this Vulcan/Human ambassador had a weakness. "So you and Chris have known each other a long time?"

Spock noted that she fished for information, decided to give it to her. "Yes, for 26 years now."

She thought a second. "Ambassador, how would you like to come to a little dinner party tomorrow night. Ken and I are announcing our engagement."

Spock nodded with pleasure. She was a hard worker, an excellent linguist, and had a swift legal mind. He had worked with her several times since coming to New York. "I shall be there."

"Good, I'll tell Ken."

* * *

Christine arrived home to find a single silver rose, the tips dipped in pink, waiting for her in a florist's box. A simple note of thanks from Spock for a lovely dinner was attached. She breathed deep the perfume and thought how pretty. The silver variety was new and had taken years to develop. Placing it in a long stemmed vase for single flowers, she placed it on her breakfast table where she could enjoy it from any angle. It was already nearly ten o'clock and she was tired. She'd have a little snack and then off to bed. She couldn't stay late tomorrow, she had an engagement party to go to.

* * *

Summer weather was in abundance at the little cottage that Anne and Ken had owned for several years. The deck was lit with Japanese lanterns and the BBQ grill was firing up. Christine was right on time. She didn't like coming early or late to these things. Ken grabbed her joyfully, "Hello, boss."

"Hello, schnockered," she replied playfully noting the half full old fashioned glass.

"Purely on an emotional high this evening. This is to marinade the ribs in," he replied.

"Okay, if you say so," she maneuvered her way to the kitchen that was abuzz with people and food still being prepared. "Anne, can I help?"

"Silly, no. But if you want to, you can help with that wonderful vegetable dip you make. I never can get the texture right," she replied. Her eyes danced with glee. Christine took over with the sour cream and herbs. She was so busy with the ingredients that she had completely missed Ambassador Spock who had been standing in the corner speaking to another member of the legal staff from the embassy. He approached her. "Twice in one week."

"Huh? Oh, Spock, where did you come from?" she asked a little flustered.

"From the corner. I did not realize you would be here," he stated, pleased that she was.

"I am Ken's boss. He feels sorry for me and let's me come to his house for home cooked meals," she answered and winked at him.

A joke, yes, a joke. He raised his eyebrow in reply.

"As I recall, you were quite expert in the culinary arts," Spock complimented softly coming to stand on her side of the island and watched as she chopped chives. She was a fast worker. Within a few deft moves, they were in bits and pieces and piled into the sour cream mixture.

Christine did not know how to reply. After the encounter with Kahn that left him dead and then reborn, she had been assured that he had lost several memories. Most notably, those of her. He knew who she was by prompt and a reference to her records. But those times they had shared, even in the most innocent of circumstance was lost. She had mourned them gone, but then realized that to him they were excess baggage and tried to think of them in that light as well. She had made her decision when she left the Enterprise after the first five year mission that she was going to have a life without a man. When she had rejoined the ship, his absence had been keenly felt, but his reappearance was almost a slap in the face to her. He had tried to remain amenable toward her while they served on her brief return to deep space duty. But, then she was called to Starfleet HQ to work with the emergency medical details, and she was gone. She thought of someone she hadn't heard of in decades. "Spock, I was curious. I haven't heard anything about Saavik of late. She was your protégé, wasn't she?"

Spock seemed a little uncomfortable with this line of questions. If she was prying into his so-called 'past love life', she wasted little time. "She is a student of the Kohlinar. I have not been allowed to see or speak to her in fifteen years."

"Kohlinar," Christine repeated. She bit the baby carrot in two, chewed it a moment. "That's what you underwent?" At his nod, she continued, "Can you hand me that shaker? Thanks."

Spock watched in silence as she poured salt into a cupped hand and dumped it into the bowl. "Why did you do that?"

Christine smiled. "Because, the little indent in the palm of your hand when it is held in that manner equals approximately a teaspoon. I don't measure stuff like this with tools. I just pinch and plop, as my grandmother used to call it."

Spock imitated her action with his own hand and indeed, by his superior visual ability, it was approximately a teaspoon. Fascinating. He kept beside her even as she stirred. "Is there something I could help with?"

She thought a second. "Nope don't think so. Hey, Anne, Spock wants to help. I'm sure he can put ice cubes in glasses for you."

Spock stiffened at the slight insult. Once again, she winked at him. A joke, yes, a joke. He was being teased, something she had done only one time aboard the ship now that he recalled. He had regained his memories over a long period of time. Sometimes they came all in a rush like when he smelled roses and nearly fell over with the intensity of his mother's garden. Other things came in dreams and he would quickly catalogue them in a book to try to sort later. There were some that had come and were so jumbled. Her blonde hair... "You were a blonde once," he said.

Christine's blue eyes met his a little dumbstruck. "Yes, when I served aboard the ship the first time. I bleached it relentlessly when I was young. Never again. It about destroyed my hair. If it hadn't been for that mission where we had to go undercover..."

Spock turned to her. "Undercover?"

"Well, it's nothing really. We went on a mission to Bereel III, a tropical world in the Omega sector. We were trying to find out if the people there were natives or offshoots of the Vulcan group that splintered off to form the Romulan race."

Spock was immediately intrigued. "And did we?"

She laughed an uneasy laugh . "Spock, this is ancient history. Surely you have read it in the files."

Spock shook his head. There had been no mention of this mission in his personal records or his ship's logs. He did not understand why. "Could you tell me why they were not available to me?"

Picking up the large bowl of dip, she shrugged. "I really couldn't say. It was so long ago."

"Do you remember the events?"


Spock followed her to the patio with the plate of vegetables. "Do you have files on the trip?"

"No, they were all in your charge," she answered and smiled at some of the other guests as they oohed the arrival of the dip. Spock chewed on his bottom lip, something he had not done in ages. "Dr. Chapel, I find this extremely distressing. You inform me that there was a mission in which I was the commanding officer yet I have no recollection of it nor do I have any records of it."

Christine sighed. "Really Spock, you surely don't expect to know all the records of all the missions you've been on."

"That is not the point. I wonder if there are any others that are missing?" he mused and allowed his question to trail off. Christine headed back to the house. She needed a drink. Stopping at the wet bar, she poured a jigger of rum, added a palm full of sugar and went over to the coffee pot. Pouring half a cup into a tall tea glass over ice, she stirred. Spock looked at her. "What are you drinking?"

"A Black Rose, want one?" she asked, a little perturbed. He apparently intended on following her around all evening. It was not that she didn't want to talk to him, or even admire him from afar, but he had never paid her this much attention in all the combined years she had served with him. He watched her take a sip, it went down smoothly, he went and duplicated her movements. While he was gone, Anne came over. "I see you have an ardent admirer."

Christine turned to hide her face and shield her voice. "Tell me about it. Say, when is supper going to be served?"

"In about ten minutes," Anne said and grinned as Spock headed their way again. "Ambassador, how are you coming with those encryption codes?"

Christine was relieved that there was someone else to occupy Spock's time. She nodded slightly and smoothly stepped away from the twosome to breathe in the late summer air outside. The flowers were in bloom and it wafted in with the breezes off the water. "Ken, you do have a lovely little place here," she said and perched one leg up on the half wall that separated the patio from the steep drop to the rocks below. She was admiring the view. "You know you could have a little slice of this yourself," Ken began. "It's not too late you know."

Christine regarded the drink in her hand with some distaste. She looked up at Ken over it, a smile did not play either on her lips or in her eyes. "I'm too old. End of discussion."

He held up his skewers in defeat. "Okay, I'll drop the topic. What's the matter? You don't look like you're enjoying yourself."

She put the empty glass on the wall. "On the contrary, I am enjoying myself so much, I'll have another."

She walked back to the wet bar and smiled a little as she poured another helping. Black Rose, yes, that was a good name for it. Spock did not seem to bother her for the rest of the evening. She relaxed and had a good time. Spock kept mostly to himself, but he did watch her as she interacted with the others. She was confidant, smiling, the life of the party. She got along easily with these people. She blended well where he did not. A few times he caught her glance and simply nodded at her in acknowledgment. By the time the party wound down, she'd had four of her Black Roses and although she was not what anyone would consider drunk, she was definitely a little worse for wear to drive. Spock approached. "Dr. Chapel, if you would allow me to drive you home..."

She started to protest, something about how would she get her skimmer back. Ken answered, "Don't worry, I'll drive to work and pick you up in it. Anne can take mine for a change."

She shot him a go to hell glance and went off, led by the aristocratic Vulcan. Ken and Anne watched the two walk off into the night. Anne smirked, "You know those two are as matched..."

"As a pair of buggy mules, I know. Just don't let Chris hear you say that, she'll fire me."

* * *

"Thank you for the lift, Spock, it was not necessary. I could have driven," she was saying as he maneuvered easily through the dark streets. He did not take his attention from the road.

"Nevertheless, I feel better knowing you will arrive safe," Spock mentioned as they turned the corner to her street.

Christine blushed a little in the dark. Closing her eyes, she remembered the rose. "Oh ... thank you for the rose."

Spock nodded. "It was only fitting. The evening was quite memorable."

She agreed. It had been. So why was she so wary now? She hadn't been escorted home for several years. The last time had been... She shoved that thought in the back of her mind. He made no amorous moves toward her as the skimmer came to a halt. He also did not attempt to ask himself into her apartment. He stepped out to hold the skimmer door open for her. "I trust you will be well," he stated.

"Just fine, thank you," she said and lightly brushed his lapel with her fingertips before realizing what she was doing and to whom. "Forgive me. Good night, Ambassador Spock."

Spock nodded. "Good night, Dr. Chapel."

* * *

After a hot shower and a good night's sleep and the aid of a detox pill, Christine was ready to face the day. She walked through the doors of the renovated school building and smiled cheerfully at Jenna. "Hey, missed you last night."

"Well, Brandon was not being co-operative. He kept throwing tantrums. So, I decided it would be impossible for a sitter to stay with him. Was it a nice party?"

"It had its moments. Any messages?"

The fresh young mother nodded with a little twinkle in her eyes. "Yes, one."

Christine took the paper note with a sigh and kept her attention on a new data cassette that was sitting in the mail in slot. "Is this the data I requested from Bio-Tech International?"

"Sure is. Aren't you gonna read your message?" Jenna asked as her boss fairly ran down the hall calling as she went, "Ken, it's here!"

After six hours of intensive review of the data on the tapes, she finally remembered the note that she had sitting on her desk. Chiding herself for neglecting something that could have been potentially important, she unfolded the paper.

"Re: Stopping by

Date: Later today

Time: 0750

Message: Ambassador Spock wishes a tour of the facility. He will be here at 1400..."

Christine growled; she was too busy for this. Looking up at the chrono on her wall, she sighed. It was 1355 now. With a sigh, she leaned back in her desk chair for a few moments and tried to get a grip on her swirling head. Why in heaven's name was he doing this? With an angry shove, she pushed herself out of the chair and went to the window in her second floor office. Looking down, she could see the parking lot. There he was, turning in the drive in that navy blue embassy skimmer. Suddenly, she remembered something that had occurred to him three years ago. She had heard it from Uhura and McCoy as well as seen the proceedings on the news nets. Valeris, the woman he had so carefully groomed and nurtured through Starfleet had betrayed not only the Federation, but him as well. Something in her heart softened and she smiled wistfully as he approached, the flowing dark green robes creating an elegant stir in the afternoon breezes. Stepping over to the mirror, she fluffed the no nonsense chin length curly hair and took a deep breath. She would let Jenna announce his entrance. It came not two minutes later. "Dr. Chapel, you have a guest."

Instead of returning the call, she stepped into the hall and over to the railing that looked down to the foyer below. From this vantage point it was a perfect shot right on the head for a water balloon. "Ambassador, welcome."

Spock craned his head up to see her standing above him. She was not an imposing woman, but it struck him that she did this purposely, perhaps to prove that she did not require anyone in her life. She stood alone and elevated above that. He smiled, just a little, the way his father did at his mother. "Dr. Chapel."

The sunlight streamed through a skylight and lit her face like a beacon,"I'll be down in a second."

She disappeared and he could hear her descending a set of stairs. She reappeared in the foyer. "May I formally introduce you? Ambassador Spock, this is Jenna McNamara, my receptionist, secretary, and general busybody."

The young woman smiled slyly. "Someone has to watch over her. She works herself to death."

Spock nodded. Things did not change with this woman. She still worked more than anyone else. There was no sign of fatigue with her, however. It was as if the night before had been an evening in. He allowed her to lead him through the hall back to the laboratories. She had several small labs that were in use that he could not go in so that they couldn't contaminate the experiments. Her pride and joy was sitting in a triple security safe room in the back. She opened the door. Before allowing him to enter, she turned. "You do realize that this is highly classified."

It was odd; she did not trust him. He nodded. "No information will be gained through me."

She grinned, "I knew that. I just wanted to make certain I made myself clear. You and Leonard are the only ones who have even been in here."

He was more than impressed. He was awed at the work she had accomplished. He had always known she was brilliant, but this was beyond his comprehension. The innovations that she was working on would relieve suffering for potentially millions of people afflicted with neurological damage. He wondered if his own accomplishments would do as much.

"And finally, we are back to the beginning. Oh, hello, Ken," she said as the younger scientist bustled past her.

Spock acknowledged him. Ken grinned a little evil grin. "Well, so nice to see you again, Ambassador."

Christine changed the subject. "Ken, do you have the results from that scan?"

It was a front. Whenever there was even the hint of a romantic entanglement, she switched the topic to her work. It was so easy to her she didn't even realize she did it anymore. He smirked; he knew all right. "Yes, they are on your desk."

"Well, Ambassador, I fear I must return to my work."

Spock noted the professional tone. He countered it. "Thank you for the tour. If I may invite you to a reception my mother is holding... She has inquired about you over the course of the years. She holds you in high esteem."

Christine honestly smiled at the mention of his incomparable mother. "Amanda, how is she? And your father?"

"Mother is well, but frail. Father is ... none the worse for wear after McCoy's surgery," he teased. She laughed easily. Yes, was that really so long ago that she was a head nurse in a starship sickbay? She couldn't resist the invitation. "All right, for your mother."

Spock digested that. If it had just been him, she might not have accepted. "Tomorrow evening. We sup at 1900."

"I'll be there. Casual, elegant?" she asked referring to the dress arrangements.

"Informal, something like the outfit you wore at Delmonico's will be perfect."

She blushed self-consciously. He'd noticed her outfit. She walked him to the door and watched him go. Turning to find two pairs of very bemused eyes looking at her she pulled her face into a business like state. "If you two don't have anything to do, I'm sure I can find something." And with that she was beyond them to the stairs to her office.

* * *

The Vulcan embassy was an old mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. The megalopolis of New York/Boston/Philadelphia/Washington D. C. was so large that it was often just referred to as the "City". Skimmers and shuttles made it an easy commute for the once long distance. Christine's apartment in Long Island was easily only half an hour's drive from the embassy. She left in time to get there early and look around a bit. The manicured lawns and lack of over ornamentation reflected the logic of the Vulcan lifestyle. The statuary had been there since the mansion had been built in the late Victorian era. It was an imposing Italianate design in thick marble and stone. Brick walks, meticulously laid in a design incorporating Vulcan symbols blended well with the architecture. Standing at the top of the terraced entrance, she couldn't resist enjoying the view until she finally turned to make her presence known.

Amanda greeted her. She preferred to greet people that she knew instead of the Vulcan aide that acted as butler. "Christine, welcome. Come in."

Christine smiled at her. Those eyes and features were classic still. She did seem so much smaller than she had when they had first met. Amanda led her through a grand entrance hall to a high ceilinged room where Spock and Sarek were engaged in a game of chess. They did not acknowledged the two's presence until they were up to them. "Sarek, Spock, our guest has arrived."

Christine was a bit confused. "Spock said a reception. I had assumed there would be more people here."

Sarek glanced at his son. "Spock regards all of his mother's dinner parties as receptions. I assure you that the term is not applicable. It is not a reception, it is dinner."

Spock looked a little sheepish. He had not lied to Christine, but he had misled her in order to get her there. She seemed to know that instantly. Her eyes flashed with a little anger, but Amanda's soothing tones calmed her. "Christine, come, I want to hear everything you've been doing these last few years. It has been how long now since we last met?"

"Seven, the Vulcan/Andorian conference on Andor," she supplied.

Spock did not know that his parents had actually met her at any other times ... but that part of his memory was a little fuzzy still. Amanda knew this and informed him, "Dr. Chapel headed the relief efforts that were being discussed for the Carells. She did a superb job. I am told that many of the wards that you established are still in operating order and have made vast improvements."

She nodded. "Yes, I get reports from Dr. Kalomi at Christmas."

The name, Kalomi ... it sounded familiar. Amanda watched Spock carefully with her next comment. "Dr. Leila Kalomi. You worked with her once, Spock."

"Yes, forty years ago, Mother," Spock replied.

Sarek saw at least a path where this conversation might lead. "This is the present, we need not dwell in the things we cannot alter."

Grateful for that respite, Christine allowed the three to give her a tour of the main areas of the house. Spock tagged along, allowing his mother to be the hostess and main speaker. The two women got along easily. Christine had dressed in a long white silk pant suit, almost clerestory in nature. It suited her well. The hem of the over jacket came to below her knees where matching pants flowed to the sandals below. Long sleeves and a high collar were decorated with a gold braiding. She was the epitome of dignity. The clothes were suitable for the heat that was maintained in the house at all times. Dinner was served in a small saloon area. Amanda had chosen the informal family dining room. She didn't want this to appear as an inquisition or even anything more than just friends taking time together. She had missed the company of human females over the years and Christine had played an enormous role in all three of their lives. Spock alone probably owed his life and well being to her at least five times. She also knew that out of all the women she'd heard about in Spock's life, this one was worthy of his devotion. If she could only convince the two of them of this. Trying not to give an imitation of a prospective mother-in-law, she treated Christine with the respect she so richly deserved.

Sarek watched as his wife reveled in showing the home to Christine. She had spent a great amount of time creating a combined atmosphere of luxury and casual elegance that was lived in. She had studied the home from inception to completion. Her pride was always evident when she mentioned the furniture and the way that things were placed in the common areas. He also noted a change in Amanda's tone from the other times they'd had visitors. They had entertained several of Spock's old Starfleet comrades, Jim, McCoy, Nyota Uhura, Scott, but none were treated so... affectionately as this one. He wondered what his wife had up her sleeve.

The meal was delicious. She had never seen such uses for traditional human vegetables in Vulcan dishes. Amanda explained, "There is simply no way to produce some of the more delicate species here. It's not hot and arid enough even in the Sahara. So, we make do with what we have and improvise. I hope it is to your liking?"

Christine smiled at the formal words and toyed with her empty kava glass. The Vulcan wine was heady, but not intoxicating. "Believe me, I do. With food like this, I'd have no trouble being a vegetarian. But, I fear I do enjoy my steak and seafood."

She had meant it as an apology for her human nature. She learned that such an apology was not only silly, but illogical. Sarek admonished her lightly, "Never apologize for what and who you are. If I have learned anything as a husband to a most human wife, I have learned this."

He held out the traditional two fingers to his wife who returned the loving gesture with that almost constant tug of a smile on her face. Christine wondered how she'd remained so content after all these years. Spock seemed to look at her with the same tender expression as Sarek had with Amanda. Tucking the napkin under the rim of the plate, she chuckled, "So, what do you three do on a cold evening around here?"

"They play chess, I watch them play chess," Amanda replied with a bit of a sigh. It did get dull, but they were together as a unit and she could not be more pleased. Sarek cocked his head at his wife. "We do other things Amanda. Perhaps a small concert."

They rose and went into a music alcove that had been tucked under the main stairs. It was cozy, intimate, perfect for a small family gathering. Christine found herself being completely swept away with the completely informal air of the house. She would never have imagined Vulcans being so homey. She'd been in the rec room countless times while Spock and or Uhura performed, had even taken part at times, but had never thought Sarek approved of such things. Vulcans were not so different from humans, after all. Spock retrieved his own lyre; luckily it had not been destroyed when the original Enterprise was blown up. Sarek chose a similar but slightly different instrument. It was well worn and old. Christine couldn't tell they were tuning up until they stopped suddenly and Sarek announced the song. The tuning had been so delightful, she laughed, "Gee, I thought that was the song. Shows how much I know."

Amanda patted her arm. "Believe me, I make the same mistake all the time. Even in disharmony, there is harmony." Christine tucked that statement away in her mind ... even in disharmony ... so prophetic.

The evening passed smoothly, more smoothly than Christine would have ever imagined actually. She was glad to see Spock get along with his father, even if it was just for Amanda's sake. Both father and son were so alike. She did notice that Sarek seemed to smile more often than she'd seen any other Vulcan do. And, as she drove home she realized that Spock was really the only Vulcan she'd met who pretended not to have a sense of humor or to smile. There were others that she had worked with, known, who would allow themselves to smile, even chuckle slightly, and they were full Vulcan. Only Spock kept that mask on all the time.

* * *

Days passed with no word from anyone at the Vulcan embassy. She'd sent a small note thanking them for the evening but had not really made it too promising for more visits. She'd added that her work kept her very busy and that it was a nice change of pace to get to spend the evening with people instead of data tapes.

* * *

Spock sat in his office that overlooked Newport Bay. He had been given little more than an old linen closet, but it served his purpose. It was intimate and allowed him to hole himself in the room against more prying eyes. The data that his father had requested was once again on tape and waiting to be discussed, but he was concerned with another matter. All his life, he had been a single train of thought type. He allowed one matter to subjugate all other things out of his mind until it was resolved or no longer needed so much concentration. He was experiencing some of that now. His mind was focused on one thing, Christine Chapel. He found it difficult to concentrate on anything else. He was thinking of her when the page button reminded him that he was due for a meeting with his father 2.6 minutes ago. Scooping the data tape in hand, he prepared for more questions and more boredom.

* * *

Sarek mentally tried to remain as calm as he showed. This was the fourth time in two weeks he had to remind Spock that he was needed somewhere when he did not show up. His son was usually the epitome of the punctual Vulcan and he could not understand why. Just before Spock arrived, he realized what it was. Christine Chapel's note sat where Amanda had left it on his desk. He calculated the days Spock had been absentminded and the time that he knew that Spock had seen her first; they corresponded. With a slightly raised eyebrow, he greeted the unsuspecting Spock as he stepped in. "Father," he didn't even try to ask forgiveness. It was becoming trite and he really didn't mean it.

"Spock, your data?" Sarek asked completely businesslike.

Spock presented his father with the information. He expected to be dismissed with new instructions. He was not. Sarek set the tape aside. "Spock, this is the fourth time you've been late for a meeting. I wish to know why."

Spock took a deep breath. How could he tell his father that he was thinking of a certain former Starfleet physician? He could not lie, it would only backfire in the end. After a moment's hesitation, Sarek answered, "If you wish to pursue her, I am certain that you have your mother's blessing."

Spock's surprised look amused Sarek; he allowed the corners of his mouth to turn upward, just a little. "As well as mine. I made a mistake when I insisted that you be bonded, Spock. At the time, I can only state that T'Pau guided my reasoning regarding the matter. Your mother, as she has stated, totally opposed the idea. Not for the first time should I have taken her advice. Spock, I fear that the scrutiny that you underwent by T'Pring and her family has kept you from choosing elsewhere."

Spock kept quiet. His father rarely spoke of matters like this and it would be best to let the time pass. He could hear the regret in his father's tone, though. He was not saying these things to humor him. Finally, he was done. Spock looked at his father with all the dignity a son could muster during a potential mate talk with a parent. It wasn't much. "I fear I have little to offer her. She is a successful woman, accomplished, brilliant. I..."

Sarek saw something he did not like, self-doubt. Spock had always had trouble with this. He wished to bolster his courage. "May I ask you a question?"

That startled Spock's head into popping up. Sarek never asked permission, he simply spoke. He nodded. Sarek's eyes bored into him. "Do you love her?"

"Love..." Spock countered with a shake of his head.

"Is the logical thing to do when it is with a human. You have not answered my question."

"I find her attractive. I find her stimulating intellectually. She is like no other woman I have known," he said.

Sarek observed, "Yet you have had that woman in the palm of your hand for almost thirty years. Why now?"

Spock considered. His father was correct. Christine Chapel had been there for decades, why now. "I do not know. Perhaps it is that I realize who she really is."

Sarek nodded. "She is not Valeris. She is not Saavik. She is flawed, human, but she is strong and does not break. She is so much like your mother."

He met his son's eyes. They were both alike in color and hue, but behind one's was the pain at the mention of those women. Sarek continued, "Spock, I know that Valeris' betrayal hardened a part of your heart. It was the part that had just begun to blossom. I too felt betrayed by T'Rea, Sybok ... can you perhaps understand that now?"

Spock realized that he could. He saw his father with new understanding dawning in his mind. He whispered, "Yes."

They dropped that subject deftly. Sarek returned to the other one. "Dr. Chapel is a strong, highly intellectual woman, but she has been betrayed in the past. Betrayal as deep and strong as yours, am I correct?"

Spock nodded. He could remember the sight of her sobbing when they finally reached the main chamber on Exo III. The slights that he had made toward her aboard ship. Spock's breathing slowed. He was so dense. His father felt that. "You will have to give her time as well as win her trust. It may take a very long time. Will you wait that long?"

Spock thought a moment. "I must. I love her."

Sarek was satisfied. "Your new instructions. I believe they are self explanatory."

Spock accepted the cassette calmly and rose to leave. He met his father's approving eyes. For the first time in his life, Spock felt completely in harmony with his father. And he could say the word love without shame. It was a moment, he would remember.

* * *

For days Spock heard nothing else from Christine. He had hoped perhaps that she was interested in him still. He had wanted her to reciprocate his feelings. But, as his father had pointed out, she had been hurt deeply in the past. He would have to appear the aggressor if he was to succeed in his quest. There were also other nagging questions. Ones that if he pursued them, would bring them together as well. After some consideration, he requested Starfield Corporation's comm number. Once again, he had to leave a message with the secretary. "Could you have her call when she gets in?"

Jenna looked a little suspicious. "Is it important?"

"It is not life threatening, but, yes, it is important," he answered. The reception had seemed a bit odd. Perhaps Christine had no feelings left for him and had instructed her people to react coldly toward him. His only other link with her was Anne O'Brien. He sought her out.

"Yes, Spock?"

"I wished to consult you on a matter," he began.

"Oh, about the encryption, it's doing wonders as far as I can tell."

"No, a personal matter. Are you free for lunch?"

"In fact I am," she said brightly and finished the last of her typing before closing down her desk.

* * *

Spock allowed the food to be ordered before pursuing the reason he had asked her to lunch. "Do you know Dr. Chapel well?"

"Christine? I've known her as long as Ken has, why?"

"I have known Dr. Chapel for 28 years, but I do not know her. Do you understand?" Spock asked. He looked a little like a teenager trying to ask a big brother for a date with his sister.

"I think so. You served with her aboard the Enterprise. She doesn't talk much about her past. She doesn't talk much about herself at all in fact. What we've found out has been through a little ... ahem ... meddling." Anne looked a trifle guilty. Spock urged her forward.

"We know about Roger, of course. She told us about him. Just that she was a student of his, mind you. We found out the truth from Nyota Uhura. It's nice having mutual friends. Uhura said something about another love, one that didn't go well either ... a..." She paused realizing what she was about to say. "...Vulcan."

Spock nodded. "Yes, I am he. And it is true. However, I should clarify, the feelings were not returned by me. The situation was impossible."

Anne pounced, "But now it's not? I mean, that's why you're here, right? You want to be with her, and she is a little uptight."

He questioned that supposition. "Uptight?"

"Look, whatever it is that happened to her and Roger or between you and her really freaked her out. She has, and she will tell you this, been alone since then. All her time, energy, and devotion is in her work. She doesn't really fraternize with people much. She has so much inside to let out, and she keeps it locked up like a precious gem. She's really the kindest person I've ever met. But then you know that, don't you?"

Spock nodded. He had not met anyone who equaled her calm sweet personality except perhaps his mother. But with his mother he was biased.

Anne then asked him something he hadn't expected. "What was she like?"

"Excuse me?"

"Christine, what was she before she became so imprisoned?"

Spock considered his past recollections a moment. They were still a little static. He brought the first memory of her to mind. "I first met her as a Lieutenant Commander. She came aboard to find Dr. Korby. The moment she stepped off the transporter platform I found myself transfixed. It was not her beauty. She is a lovely woman, but I have met many incredibly beautiful women. Her eyes, her smile, they were so ... at odds. Her eyes were the windows to her soul, and it was in torment. Her smile hid what she would not reveal. We shared a common bond then." And he paused. He had never revealed this to anyone. "For I too held the same expression, only mine was hidden behind a mask of Vulcan calm. I found myself attracted to the part that she would not show. Later, I learned through a shipwide epidemic that she could see through my facade. Throughout our tour, she presented herself as someone who would accept me. I kept believing that I could not be a suitable mate for anyone but a full Vulcan woman. I have been running from her since. I now wish to stop running, but she has passed me in the race."

Anne was absolutely awed by the depth this man showed her. She would never again think of Vulcans as cold and impersonal. If anything, they held more emotions than humans would ever know and had to keep them severely limited or they would be subject to nervous collapse. "You know, I think she really still does love you. She might not sigh and swoon as she once did, but, it's there in those exasperated little sighs she gives when anyone mentions her love life or that special someone. She also gets very defensive regarding you. That is one sure sign that there are unresolved issues with her. As Shakespeare wrote ... the lady doth protest too much."

Spock nodded. "Yet, she does protest and I cannot get close to her. However, if you would remain in my confidence on this matter. Perhaps if you were to ask Ken about the situation on his side. That way I could monitor things without pushing her too hard."

Anne's green eyes glittered with excitement. Just what she joined the diplomatic corps for ... subterfuge. Reaching out a hand to shake on it, he grasped it hesitantly. It was a bargain.

* * *

"What in heaven's name does he want now!?" Christine Chapel groaned as she opened the message and read the brief request for communication. She poked the page button. "Jenna, get me the Vulcan Embassy."

"Yes ma'am," she answered a little more cheerfully than she'd wanted to.

"Vulcan Embassy Reception, may I help you?"

She faced the youthful Vulcan female with a rather fixed, not pleased expression. "I wish to speak with Ambassador Spock."

"Is this a matter of importance?"

"I was sent a message from him and, yes, he says it is important. Now, do I get to speak to him or not?"

Obviously used to dealing with irate people before, the receptionist simply nodded, "I shall page him."

After two attempts and failure, she replied, "I regret to say the Ambassador is not in his office."

"Is he in conference with his father ... Sarek?" Christine asked, a little more than perturbed.

She tried again. "I have Ambassador Sarek for you."

The transmission switched to the elder statesman. He nodded, "Dr. Chapel, how pleasant to see you."

She wasn't pleased. "Do you know where your son is?"

He thought a moment. "I do not know at this time. Is there a problem I can help with?"

She sighed, her frustration was growing. "Spock sent me a message. Just said it was important. I am returning his call and find that he is gone. It apparently was not important."

Sarek immediately recognized the put out expression on her face and the no-nonsense tone in her voice. He lied to help his son's cause. "I believe he is working on a sudden assignment for me. I regret that I did not know he had sent you a message."

That at least assuaged her anger for a time. She took a breath. "I'm sorry. If you could relay that I returned his call and will be in the labs for the rest of the evening for me. I will not be available by comm link. What I am getting ready to work on is extremely touchy. If he wishes to leave a message at my apartment, please have him do so. In fact, I believe I would prefer him to do that instead of here."

Sarek bowed his head in acknowledgment. "I shall relay your message. And thank you for the thank you card."

She laughed at that. "Well thank you for the thank you yourself. Tell Amanda I said hello and send my love."

"I shall."

The communication ended and Sarek sat back in his chair. Spock had his work cut out for him indeed. He would probably be useless in any negotiation plans until this was resolved. It would be best to keep him doing the legal work that he had been.

* * *

Ambassador Spock could have kicked himself. He had knowingly gone out of the Embassy when he had left Christine a message to return his call urgently. His father had relayed the message as soon as he returned as well as informed him that he had misled her. Spock was indeed blessed. He had at least three people on his side regarding Christine. But he had also 'blown' his chance to ask her to dine that evening. Remembering what his father had said she had told him, he closed down his desk for the night and left.

* * *

There was only one light on at Starfield. All the others had gone home for the night and hard at work was Christine. She was so close she could almost taste the success in her hands. Just as she was to start with the decode signatures, she started to see double. That was always her cue to leave. If she botched these up due to sheer stupidity, she'd be pissed off at herself but good. So, she turned out the light and stretched. The clock in Ken's office chimed 8 o'clock. She was plenty hungry too. She'd skipped lunch and had a sandwich about 3. If that was the secret to how to keep a trim lean figure, she surely had mastered it. Just forget to eat all the time. Gathering her things and making certain all the doors, windows, and security locks were battened down, she headed for her skimmer.

There were two skimmers in the lot. She was instantly suspicious. With her best bravado, she began running through the Starfleet personal safety training she'd been given over 30 years ago. She didn't even think she could get her leg up that high anymore. Moving closer, she could feel the beat of her heart getting stronger, and the sound of footsteps coming swiftly behind her made her breathing ragged. Just as she was about to come around screaming at the top of her lungs, he spoke, "Dr. Chapel."

Sighing loudly and holding her hands up like he was a robber, she didn't turn immediately. "Spock."

"I did not mean to frighten you. I sat on the bench waiting till you came out."

Shaking her head, she turned. "Why?"

He stepped forward. "To see you."

Her heart beat faster and louder. Her ears were beginning to buzz. "Spock, if this is about the mix up with the messages, I'm sorry. I was just busy and didn't have time to call back."

"My message is unimportant now. I merely wished to ask you to dinner this evening," he said softly, the parking lot lights playing off his seal grey hair.

"Well, it's a little late now. I was getting ready to go home and get to bed," she said. The look in his eyes, that strange look of longing pulled at her. She smiled. "I suppose if you'd like to get some take out, we could eat at my apartment. If that's okay?"

He nodded. "It is ... fine."

* * *

Spock spent the time that she was refreshing herself meandering around her apartment. He touched nothing. He preferred to think of it as a museum that was completely devoted to her personality. There were few pictures of people and those he knew. Uhura and Janice soaking wet after a white water raft expedition, McCoy with his great grandson, that one had just arrived. A framed photograph of the original Enterprise. He picked that one up. He was looking at it when she came out. "I'm just sentimental, that's all."

He turned to look at her. She'd showered and put on lounging clothes. She looked as elegant in a pair of pink satin pajamas as she was in a ball gown. She swept across the room, the hair wet but towel dried, the scent of the bath soap she used hit him like heady perfume. She took the picture from him and replaced it on the mantel piece. "I've had that picture for longer than I've known you."

Spock was still holding his hands as if he had the picture when she sat on the couch. "So, did you get supper ordered?"

"Yes, Chinese as you requested. It should be any time now."

"No 5.24 minutes? You are improving. Sorry, that was uncalled for," she said and looked down at her folded up legs. It was not his fault he preferred precision. He took the overstuffed chair opposite the couch closest to the fireplace. He watched her pick at a raveling.

"I wished to discuss something that you mentioned that troubled me."

"What is that?" she asked not meeting his eyes.

"About the mission to Bereel II."

"Bereel III," she corrected. That was something else that was new to him, being corrected. "What did you want to know?"

"The details of the mission. I have had no success finding any information regarding it."

She shook her head and stood up to go stare out her balcony windows arms crossed to hug her against the sudden chill. "There's really nothing to report. You discovered that the people of Bereel III were Vulcanoid in both appearance and temperament. They did smile, however. We went on an undercover mission to uncover whatever we could."

Just as Spock was going to prompt her for more, the buzzer rang. Their supper had arrived. Sitting cross legged on the floor around the coffee table, they at least looked the part as they maneuvered the chopsticks instead of forks. Christine found herself relaxing in his presence and the butterflies were beginning to leave. She began to smile at him. They waded through the mounds of rice and vegetables. Christine groaned at the crab rangoons. "I love these things. It's too bad you don't eat meat. I wonder if they make another kind, with vegetables, that is. I'll have to see about that. Do you like cream cheese?"

Her tone was decidedly friendly, even slightly suggestive. Spock took this as a good sign and edged a little closer to her. "I find it quite rich, but, yes, I do like cream cheese."

"Good, then you'd like these. Now, about Bareel III," she began. Spock listened to her in apt admiration. She was not one to bandy a lot of adjectives around. "Basically, that was it."

"And our findings?"

Christine shrugged."You had all that information, Spock. We rejoined the ship and you completed your work. I left the Enterprise shortly after for Starfleet HQ. I never really thought to ask about it. I'm sorry," she said sincerely. It was clear that this was a troubling subject for him. He was not accustomed to such sketchy details about his life. Some he could discount as trivial, but this apparently had been a great interest to him. Enough interest to warrant going not only undercover but incognito on a non-interference world. She tore a rangoon in half. "Would there be any reason to delete it from your memory?"

Spock looked at her. It was the nagging thought that he'd kept away from his mind. "I do not know. It is indeed possible. The Fal-tor-pan ceremony was effective in replacing my katra, but the subsequent training I underwent to center my memories and thoughts... If it occurred, it would have been then."

Christine thought a moment. "So, if there were certain memories that you possessed that say someone did not wish you to remember for whatever reason, they could in essence ... erase them?"

Spock nodded. She was correct. For some unknown reason, he had been manipulated to forget parts of his past. How many other things were there that he could not remember? It disturbed him greatly. He had only one way to regain them. He licked his lips a moment. "Dr. Chapel, Christine, would it be possible... May I have your thoughts on this one matter? I must know what it was that occurred if I am to solve this problem. I will go nowhere you do not allow me to."

Christine let her breath escape then held it. She was afraid he was going to ask this of her. The clock was chiming 10. "Spock, this might take a great deal of time. Could we postpone it? It would give me time to prepare, I could try to recall as much as I could, and you could make inquiries yourself before we proceed."

Spock realized that she was afraid, but she was also correct. It would take a great deal of time. He nodded. "It would probably be wise to do so. I have stayed too late. I apologize. The company," he said softly and caught her gaze, "has been most distracting."

She laughed a second. That was strange. Spock had never spoken to her in such a manner. But he made no other gestures or statements along that line. "Then shall we meet again," he said. "Tomorrow?"

"Could we make it Saturday? I don't want to miss any scheduled lab time. Ken has an experiment he wants to run in that room on Saturday. We could start early. Say noon."

"That is acceptable. Noon Saturday, here then?"

"Might as well. Just come on up, I'll make certain to let security know you're coming," she smiled.

Spock gathered himself together and bowed his head before leaving for the evening. "Dr. Chapel, thank you for an enlightening evening."

* * *

Spock thought time was standing still. He went about his duties without reprimand or reproach, efficient as always. Still his father sensed there was a problem. Dinner with his parents was always a mixed bag. Some nights were good, some bad. Spock knew this wasn't going to be a good night. "Spock, how is Dr. Chapel?" his mother asked as he finished the meal.

Spock cleared his throat slightly. "She is well, I meet with her Saturday at noon."

Sarek nodded. "So, things are proceeding?"

Amanda was instantly all smiles. "Proceeding?"

Spock regarded the almost overjoyed look on his mother's face and the approving manner of his father's posture. He tread softly, not wishing to give any of them false hope. "Dr. Chapel has information about a mission that I do not recall, nor can find any data on. I am going in regards to that."

Amanda flopped her napkin at the plate. "Oh. Spock, that's no way to woo a lady."

"Woo, Mother? I believe you have been reading your Victorian literature again," he lightly chastised. Amanda was a closet Harlequin romance reader. For all the calm demeanor she possessed, she really enjoyed a soapy love tale.

"You know what I mean, Spock. Your father has taken me into his confidence. You know how much I like her," the blue eyes smiled.

"You have a great respect and admiration for her. It is well deserved. But, as Father has probably also told you, she is quite distant."

"To be expected. Spock, human females, I'll try to remember what it was like, are sometimes reluctant to do what is best for themselves. In that way they are just like certain members of the Vulcan species. If I read my Christine correctly, she has remained completely out of the romance line for so long she doesn't even remember what she's missing. You'll have to sweep her off her feet and into your arms."

Spock shook his head. "I do not believe I am up to all the tasks you seem to insist I am to do. I am to give her time, romance, sweep her off her feet... I do not even know how to sweep her off her feet except literally."

Amanda and Sarek looked at each other. There was only one recourse. "Spock, come with me," she said and led to the personal library off their quarters.

After a moment, she chose the volume she wished him to read and handed it to him. He looked at it. "The Collected Letters of John and Abigail? Mother, these letters are hundred of years old."

"And romance is thousands. John and Abigail Adams were passionately in love with each other. There are many that are little more than records of what was going on in Congress or at meetings, but others, those others are so tender, beautiful. They are timeless. Those will help you. And when you finish with those, we can move to more sensual literature," she suggested with a twinkle. He straightened in objection to the suggestion. He turned to go with the book under one arm. Her voice stopped him. "And, Spock, remember something, she's human, but she won't break and might not know what is best for her. It might be necessary to be forceful to get anywhere." With that advice, he left for his own apartment closer to Newport proper.

* * *

He rarely spent time in his 'home.' He ate with his parents or out. He worked at the Embassy or out on assignment for his father. He slept in the bed, bathed, and collected his mail. But, he rarely sat and did nothing. It was an empty shell of an apartment. His things from the Enterprise had been brought. His Chagall, the ceremonial fire pots, the tea set. His weapon collection hung above the mantel, the books he had collected sat untouched in the case. His lyre was kept in his father's safe. It was climate controlled for the delicate instrument. Now, in the clothes he wore to bed, he sat facing the fireplace and began reading. The letters were soft, tender, the two had been perfectly matched, and loved each other dearly. She endured much to love this man who would help start a Revolution and then become President of the United States. Apparently, by accounts, he was not an easy man to live with. Pig headed, obnoxious, disliked, he got things done because he pushed. She gave him a soft edge. She was devoted, unswerving, loyal, believed in him and what he stood for completely. She went for months, years without seeing him but wrote everyday. Every letter was more and more yearning. They were dearest friends, lovers, soulmates. Spock began to see what his mother meant. Christine had the same basic personality as Abigail Adams. He was much like John, though he had to admit that he was liked by people ... at least a few of them. He was not so obnoxious that he completely alienated people. And, he did not push in the same manner, but he did push. It was early in the morning when he finally pushed the book aside and went to bed, a churning, lonely man.

* * *

Saturday, high noon, was bleak and rainy. It had poured for the entire morning and threatened to do so all afternoon and into the night. Still, in late August they needed the rain. It cooled the hot concrete walks and allowed an almost chilly reminder of fall to come in. Spock arrived precisely on time. The guards didn't have to look twice at their pads for confirmation. Now, as he stood waiting outside her door, he was almost hesitant to press the buzzer. What if she turned him down again? What if he found that she no longer really cared for him and was simply being kind? What if...

"Are you going to ring the buzzer or stand there with your eyes closed?" she asked. Spock opened them. She had apparently been told he was on his way up and anticipated him. He felt rather foolish, he pushed it aside. He also did not explain why he was standing in such a fashion at her door.

By day the room was not much different. He could see her rather large terrace and that it was being pounded by the weather. She smiled as he entered. "I made some sandwiches. I know you don't eat lunch, but I do. I thought you might get hungry. I don't know how long this will take."

Spock replied, "Neither do I. It will depend on how far I have to delve."

"Hmm, well, I want to delve into lunch first. I had thought we might spend some of the afternoon on the terrace, but unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas. Tea?" she asked, completely comfortable offering him amenities. She was accustomed to functioning in unfamiliar situations, and this was definitely one of them. She hadn't been more nervous when the whale probe had completely knocked out everything in that section of the galaxy. He accepted and went to sit in the dining area. The apartment's public rooms were open to each other. A hall led back to the bedrooms and baths. She had not chosen to put on makeup or jewelry. She also wore no perfume or scents. Her shampoo was the only thing he could discern. It was a lilac scent, clean, pure. He resisted the urge to breathe deeply.

"I got a letter from Nyota this morning. She's coming in for Anne and Ken's wedding. She's going to sing."

Spock met her eyes calmly. "Miss Uhura never changes."

"Nope, it will be nice to see her. I don't get to as often as I wish. But, she's in San Francisco. I am rather surprised that you didn't stay in San Francisco yourself. The main Embassy is there, is it not?"

"Yes, but Father chose to live here. He wished to be closest to Washington and New York. Mother also prefers the East Coast."

She grinned and chuckled softly, "All right. So, what exciting new things are you doing this week?"

"None. This has been the highlight," he added with a touch of humor. It started her laughing, and she choked on the tea.

He reveled in her laugh. He realized that he hadn't really been privy to that while serving with her. Her eyes had always been so sad ... so controlled. Now, they were actually younger than when she had been head nurse. "Are you all right?"

"Yes. That was just too funny. I suppose we should get started. How do you want to do this?"

Spock took in the layout. Moving a dining chair to sit beside the sofa, he said, "Madame, your couch."

Another fit of laughter, she never knew he was so comical. "Gosh, I feel like the proverbial patient on the psychiatric couch. You're certain I won't go to sleep on you?"

"No, I believe I can keep you stimulated enough to warrant against that." She started to laugh again, but his face told her he didn't understand. She stopped herself. Lying down, she became totally relaxed and allowed herself to drift in her thoughts. She knew the routine. Spock's hot fingertips rested gently to her pulse points. She could hear his voice, soft, slightly elevated, "Your mind to mine, your thoughts..."

After what seemed like an interminable trip through fog, she arrived on a hot, steam plagued planet. She was hot, tired, and the tattoos itched like crazy. Spock was ahead of her on the trail. He could hear his own voice. "We will travel two more kilometers before we rest for the night."

"Swell," she said under her breath.

Spock got the feeling she was not pleased. "Dr. Chapel?"

"Nothing, I think my ankle's swelling. Don't worry about it."

The memories shifted a little. They had to be tattooed to fit into Bereelian society. Spock's had been little more than a few bands of vines and leaves. Christine's had been so extensive as to stretch from her left ankle to her right shoulder blade. While they were aesthetically pleasing, neither enjoyed having them. She had also had to undergo eartip construction. A flash scene in sickbay with McCoy letting her see the ears for the first time. "My, my, don't you look pretty?"

"Oh, shut up," she retorted but admired them a little longer. Spock had never really allowed them to register with him. Until now. In the present, Spock allowed that memory to become one of his own. He could picture her as a Vulcan maiden.

Bereel culture was agriculturally based. Towns held rarely more than a few dozen families all intermarried and entwined genetically. But, no matter where they traveled they found base Vulcan DNA. The same basic structures that Spock had in his cells were in these distant peoples. Her memories honed in on that information, instead of the other details she remembered. She didn't seem very comfortable with that. He did not attempt to push for any information. Finally, they reached the end and the scene shifted to aboard ship at the briefing. Spock's manner was decidedly professional. Christine was not comfortable at all. She handed him a transfer request after he dismissed her. He signed it without reason.

The clock was chiming five when they emerged to the room around them. Spock was confused. "Something happened on Bereel III to make you leave?"

"There were lots of reasons I left, Spock," Christine excused and stood up. She was a little stiff and needed to stretch and go to the bathroom. Spock waited till she returned, her face composed, but she'd washed it before returning. She was afraid he'd find out. With a sniff, she smiled, "Allergies."

Spock nodded. He'd heard enough lies to know one when he heard it. But, he would deal with that later. "Are you hungry?"

"I'm always hungry, Spock. I thought you wanted to get to work on these findings."

"It would be best to let them formulate in my mind for a time. Melds are quite exhausting. May I suggest going to dinner?"

Christine ran a hand through rather tousled hair, "Uh ... like you said, melds are exhausting. I don't know if I'm up to it, actually."

The look of disappointment in his shoulders changed her mind, he still had control of her feelings. "All right, but could we go somewhere a little informal? I don't really feel like getting too dressed for this."

"You may choose the restaurant."

"There's this little hot dog stand that I love. They have vegetarian hot dogs. Have you ever tried them?"

Spock shook his head. He knew what they were, but he had not indulged in them. He waited till she brushed her hair and changed. She appeared in a pair of well worn jeans and white peasant blouse that was tucked in. Her figure was still very good, and he admired it as they headed out the apartment and down the hall.

* * *

The little hot dog stand was actually a stand in the middle of an indoor amusement area. The sounds of people bowling, playing pool, and generally having a good time played in the background. Spock was a little disconcerted. Still, this was where Christine had wanted to go. He was finishing his third hot dog with the works and Christine was watching him with a bit of a smile, when a lady stopped by their table. "Dr. Chapel?"

Christine looked up. She recognized her immediately and a wide grin spread across her face. "Madeline, hello ... how is everyone?"

"We're perfect. In fact, we're having a birthday party in the next room. Please say you'll come? Oh, I'm sorry, you have a guest," the eager youngish woman apologized.

Christine nodded toward Spock. "If you'll wait until he finishes that last hot dog, I'll be glad to stop in."

Spock regarded the two women and popped the last of the bun and hot dog in his mouth. Chewing and swallowing, he nodded, "I am done."

The two ladies led through the maze of game tables, to come to a private room. Inside there were at least a dozen small children under the age of 5 and several adults. When they entered the woman introduced as Madeline beamed, "Darryl, guess who I found out in the dining area."

The man turned and instantly rushed to her. "Dr. Chapel, you are so welcome here. How have you been?"

"I'm fine, but where's little Kara?" she asked looking for a particular child.

"Kara, come here," Madeline called.

A child perhaps 5 but tall for her age came over. "Yes, Mama?"

"Do you remember Dr. Chapel, Kara?"

She shook her head. It would have been a long shot if she had. She'd been a year old when her parents begged Dr. Chapel to help with their plight. Christine bent down to her level. She began singing, "Three little fishies in the itty bitty pool..."

The child brightened and joined her. "...swam three little fishies and the momma fishy too."

Together they finished the verse, "Swim said the momma fishy, swim if you can, and they swam swam swam all over the dam... You remember."

"Uh-huh," the girl smiled shyly and hugged her hard.

Madeline was in tears. "If it weren't for you, we wouldn't be here today. She turned five."

Spock remained in the background and watched. Apparently Christine had been instrumental in helping this child in some fashion. Darryl looked at him. "The doctors all said she'd be dead before she reached two. Dr. Chapel found the treatment she needed to survive and grow up. We send prayers in her name every morning when we wake up and at night when we go to sleep."

Christine had remained down with Kara. She was so much a miracle child. Giving her a big hug, she whispered, "Happy Birthday, honey."

"Thank you."

Those small words from such a child humbled her. She felt her eyes mist over. "No, thank you." She straightened and looked around. "She's got a lot of friends."

"Yes, and they've been clamoring for cake," Madeline said looking at the throng of rather wild children.

Christine could see the discomfort in Spock's stance. "We need to go. I promise I'll come by sometime. She starts school this year, doesn't she?"

"Yes, another feat we never thought would get here."

"I'll wait till she's been in school a while. Kara, you be very good."

The towhead nodded and went eagerly back to playing. Spock and Christine walked out into the crowded park area. She chuckled a little. "I needed that."

"I do not understand."

She turned to look at him, the blue eyes bright with tears. "Spock, I work nearly all day on my own or with Ken. I sometimes lose the reason why I'm working. Kara is the reason I work till I can't see anymore. If I hadn't spent my entire energies in finding the treatment to the polyleumona that she was dying from, they would be grieving today instead of having a party."

Spock of Vulcan found himself humbled in her presence. She was capable of such brilliance. He wondered what he would have achieved if he had continued with research instead of joining with his father. Stepping toward her in the crowded park, he whispered, "Thank you."

"For what?" she asked confused.

"Being alive and here to do what you must do," he replied. It was sentimental, not logical, but it was everything that he wished to convey.

Blue eyes smiled at him. "Well, right now, I don't have to do anything. In fact, it will be nice to just sit and relax for the evening." An odd thought occurred to her. "Would you like to come back with me, just sit and watch a movie or talk?"

"About Bereel III?"

"No," she added quickly. "No, about life and death. I never really got to ask you about that."

Spock hesitated a moment. Still if he was to pursue this woman as a mate, she would need to know everything. He agreed, and they stopped long enough to pick up a to go order of nachos and popcorn. Nothing like unadulterated snack foods to help the evening along. When they had set out, the rain had ended and left the sun still in the sky as they walked the block and a half back. They must have presented an odd couple. A rather distinguished, formally dressed former Starfleet officer and a completely casually dressed human female. Christine decided not to wait to begin the questions,"So, what was it like to die?"

"Painful. My mind was not effected, but the body was in great pain. Then, there was no feeling, no body to be encumbered in. My mind rested in McCoy's body. That was most distressing," he said attempting a little levity.

She smiled, "Worse than when it was in mine?"

Spock stopped walking. He had forgotten ... how ... just too many things to remember and not enough prompts to bring them back. But that too flooded into his thoughts. She had held his katra for him, his essence, once while aboard the Enterprise. She had given him safe haven and had not rejected him as McCoy had begun to do. But, he had been trying to get McCoy to understand and relate what had happened. Christine stopped and turned, "Did I say something wrong?"

"No, you did not. From what I recall of the experience, it was not distressing. You gave me comfort and assurance. I do not know if you remember any of the sensations."

"Not really, I was pretty much a zombie between Henoch and you. I just thought that you might have found it distasteful. So many emotions. I know I'm not precisely the most controlled person you've ever met." There was pain in her tone as if she were apologizing for her existence in his life.

"And who told you that?" he asked trying to remain light and bemused.

She waited for him to reappear beside her. They started up the lift to her apartment. When they reached her door, he once again asked, "And who told you that?"

She turned, completely unreadable. "You."

The door swung open and they stepped inside. Spock was a little sick at heart. "When?"

Dropping the keycard in the basket by the entrance to the kitchen section, she didn't meet his eyes. "On Bareel III. Maybe we should talk about that. Get it all out in the open. I feel like I'm taking advantage of you by keeping it secret."

Spock was instantly curious. The areas he had not been allowed to go, those that he did not press for, something had happened. Between them? He recalled the tense atmosphere in the room and the fact that he had signed her transfer papers without even mild protest.

"You wish another meld?"

She jerked her head up, stared him straight in the eye. "No. That won't be necessary. I'll spill everything to keep from that."

Going to stand in the same spot she had nights earlier, she began. "As you have seen, Bereel III was an almost primitive agricultural society. They were not starving, nor were they affluent, but there were ruling classes. While we were there, we were taken by the head of one of the houses but not as prisoners. My tattoos marked me as a healer, you a tradesman/musician. We were escorted to the ... for lack of a better term ... castle, and I was asked to assist in healing the children who had come down with a virus that was going around. You were asked to entertain. It was perfect to gather the information that we needed. There was nothing that gave our identities away."

She hesitated, went over to pull a pitcher out of the cooler. "There was a member of the court, she professed to be a soothsayer. She insisted on reading my future. It was supposed to be a lark. You advised against it, but I went ahead anyway. After all, I wasn't even Bereelian, this would be funny. She was a psi-reader. She knew that we were not who we said we were. She knew that you were not a trader and that we were not from there. In order to keep from getting our heads chopped off, you incapacitated her, we fled and could not finish the research that you had intended to complete. I destroyed your chance to gather enough information to prove to the Vulcan council that your theories of the connection to Romulan species were at least viable to be considered."

Spock allowed the information to sink in. Still, that was not so horrible as to prefer her sent away to remaining on the ship. There had to be more. "That is not sufficient cause..."

"Oh, but yes it was," she said facing him, her eyes ablaze with pain. "You see, I went to the soothsayer to ... I wanted ... my feelings regarding you got in the way. I allowed them to guide me. I wanted to hear her tell me that one day, soon, you'd take me in your arms and love me, and I wouldn't be lonely anymore. Do you understand? I jeopardized our lives, your mission, the entire sanctity of the Prime Directive to be able to live in that little fantasy world I had created in my head. You were, shall we say, furious. I chose to leave immediately after we returned to the ship."

Now Spock stood as a fool. He wanted her, after he'd practically thrown her off the only place she'd known as home for nearly eight years. But, if he recalled, what he could recall, he demanded better than she was. He wanted pure Vulcan, not some human who could no more understand him than he them. He didn't want the emotions to grate him, tear at him. He wanted the sterile logic that would not impose itself. But, when he had found that, he had been repulsed. With Valeris he thought he had found a compromise. She had seemed to embrace his differences, she was not so cold and sterile that he could not be attracted to her. Yet, she was devious, treacherous, murderous, and was not worthy to be trusted. She finished, "I stopped thinking about you in that fashion the moment I left that ship."

Pouring a glass of tea, she nodded toward it, "Tea?"

He shook his head. His mouth was dry, but it was not a liquid beverage he needed. Placing the bags of popcorn and nachos on the island, he started to back away. She noticed. "So, what movie do you want to watch?"

"I fear I must be going. I ... have..." he tried and found nothing to come next.

Christine nodded, just as usual. She tells him the truth and he runs like a rabbit. Why would things be different now. "Thank you for dinner."

She watched him leave. He did not mention whether he would call her again and she did not intend to contact him. She was through chasing him. If he wanted to speak to her, he'd have to do it himself.

* * *



Finally, a hand on his shoulder,"Spock."

"Yes, Mother," he answered not turning to face her. He did not want her to see the pain in his face. Attempting to compose himself, he did not quite succeed.

She was wise enough to know he'd not face her. So, she went to stand in front of him. "What is the matter?"

"Mother. I ... am a bungling fool," he whispered. He did not meet her gaze, did not want to look into those blue eyes that were so like hers.

She laughed a little, wanted to take his head and cradle it like she'd always wanted when he was distressed. "I don't think so."

"I am a fool. For almost thirty years I have known that woman. For thirty years, and I have injured her, the one thing she asked me never to do," he realized he was practically rambling.

Amanda came to sit on the edge of the seat that faced him. "Spock, Christine isn't going anywhere, is she? Is she leaving?" He shook his head swiftly. "Then you have the time to make things right. That's what life is all about, Spock. You make mistakes and you fix them. You learn from your mistakes. Hopefully, they are all fixed before you die."

"This is more than mere mistakes. I caused the distress that has led her life to the way she is now."

"And is it that bad?"

Spock thought a second, remembered the little girl he'd seen and the joy on her parents' faces. If he'd made overtures to her, done what she'd wanted, she probably would not have had the drive that found cures for incurable diseases. He met his mother's eyes. "How did you become so wise?"

Sarek's voice answered. "She's spent the better part of her life with me obviously."

Amanda laughed loudly at that. "Ha! I've had to put up with you all this time. I was born wise, Spock."

The light teasing that his parents engaged in had been confusing to the child Spock. He had thought they were arguing or at least disagreeing. Now, he wished to use them as a blueprint for his own attempt at joining with a human. He returned to his mother's precious statement. "If what I have seen of the life Dr. Chapel has, she has far more than I could have presented her with fifteen years ago. In fact, she may have more than I can give her now."

"And to that I answer bullshit," Amanda answered. Spock and Sarek were surprised. She never swore. It must be important indeed. "I'll tell you what I saw when she came for dinner. I saw a woman, a remarkable woman who has accomplished everything she'd ever wanted but was so lost and lonely that she has nothing. And when I see my son, I see the same thing. You're restless, you can't concentrate, and you're in turmoil. You need her, and she needs you."

Spock nodded. He would never think to go against his mother's judgment, especially since he knew she was correct. She kept going. "But, I will tell you something else. I believe that if you'd have tried to be together earlier, it would have ended miserably. You would have demanded things that she could not give and vice versa. You would not have been able to survive the struggle. Now, you have a chance. I think because you know precisely what it is to be where she has been."

Valeris again, he knew that she would always be an albatross about his neck. The pain of her betrayal was still quite fresh even after four years.

"It's been a week since you saw her. Don't you think it's time to say hello?" his mother nudged.

"Perhaps, if I could have a private moment in my life, I might do that," he offered back and the two parents left him.

* * *

Jenna McNamara tried very hard to keep her face completely still. "I'll try to get her, but she's in a conference. May I give her a message if I cannot reach her?"

Spock thought a moment, the last message had not done well. "Make absolutely certain that she receives and reads this. I will be at her apartment at 2100 tonight to take her to dinner."

"I think she's planning on staying late."

"In that case, I will still be at her apartment at 2100 to pick her up." His tone was no nonsense. He would stop playing cat and mouse with her and pounce while he could.

Jenna smiled. "I'll make certain she understands that. You have my word."

There, it was done. He was going to have to be forceful after all.

* * *

2045 and Christine Chapel was exhausted. She'd literally walked herself into new callouses on her feet. She'd spent two days trying to get the neuro-transtators up and running, had a group of possible backers to deal with, and now this demand from Spock. Even though it did give her the excuse to go home, it was still something she found most distasteful. Stepping inside, she was glad that it was not yet 2100. She could get into something quite unattractive and meet with Spock. He'd not said a word to her for a week and she'd spent the time trying not to think of him. After all the years, it still hurt to mention his name. She started for her bedroom when the buzzer rang from security. "Dr. Chapel, Ambassador Spock is here."

She sighed, he was early. "Go ahead, send him up."

Quickly taking the jacket and matching slacks off and flinging them into the corner, she pulled on her favorite pair of sweats and a T-shirt. When he arrived she was smugly standing in that outfit. He got the message. He did not sigh. "I take it you do not wish to go to dinner?"

"Not really. I am quite literally put out. I planned on staying in."

She provided him with an impasse. He either did as she wished or forgot this line of thought entirely. He chose to stay. Removing the over cloak that he normally wore, he placed it on a rack she had for coats. "'In' sounds perfect."

Christine sighed. "Really, I am not in the humor for company. My feet are killing me."

"I do not hear you screaming," he answered completely serious. It brought a smile to her face. She laughed a little. "I guess we could order out again."

Spock shook his head. "No. I shall cook for you."

This little revelation caught her by surprise. "You can cook?"

"I can boil water. I can also add pasta and marinara sauce to create spaghetti marinara. Past that I am stretching my abilities."

He caught her eyes. They were bemused, happy, even a little teasing. She gestured to take in the whole kitchen. "My kitchen is at your disposal."

Hiking herself up on a barstool, she intended to watch this. Spock located the water spout, found a pot that was entirely too small for the task, and then started to rummage through her cabinets. He turned. "You would not wish to assist in this?"

"Huh-uh. It's all yours. I will give you a hint ... I make my own pasta. And I don't have any made up. So, now what?"

He took a breath, chewed on his bottom lip, and narrowed his eyes. "We order take out."

She laughed delightedly. "Okay, I'll give. I admit that spaghetti in marinara sauce sounded pretty good. If I get the pasta going, will you do the rest?"

He nodded. She hopped off the stool with a little groan of discomfort and touched a button panel. A large machine slid out of the wall. "It's really rather easy. You put in flour, a little salt, eggs, oil and sometimes some other seasonings depending on if you want say spinach flavored or tomato flavored. How does a little garlic sound?"

He leaned back against the counter and watched her work. Why it should amaze him to watch such a simple act confounded him. Cooking was little more than basic chemistry after all. But she made it appear so easy, so fluid. He was as clumsy as a pig on ice as McCoy had been want to say at times. She put all the ingredients in and set the machine to mix and then mold into alfredo noodles. "Sorry, I had it set for alfredo. Is that all right?"


Spock waited expectantly for the pasta. It was quite a fascinating thing to watch, and he had his nose almost stuck to the side trying to see what was going on. Christine had to keep from laughing several times. She kept pinching herself. At this rate she'd be black and blue. He had water boiling in the pot. Thinking suddenly that if he made a mess she'd have to clean it up, she suggested, "You might want a larger pot. That one isn't nearly big enough."

He chose a stew pot this time and she rolled her eyes. "No, no... the three quart... that one. That's what you use for pasta. Didn't your mother let you help her cook when you were little?"

"We had servants who did most of the cooking. My mother does cook, but she was usually too busy with her work to be concerned with such a mundane task on a daily basis."

"I didn't realize your mother worked. What did she do?"

"She taught English grammar and customs to embassy children. That is how she met Father," he answered rather proudly. She had known that his mother had been a teacher, but she had not known how Amanda and Sarek met. She also had simply assumed that she had stayed at home to raise Spock.

The meal was probably the best Christine had ever had. It wasn't the quality of food. His cooking was little more than her own. He provided delightful company. She found herself laughing harder than she had in ages. She didn't know which surprised her more, his humor or her ease at being with him. "I'll clean," she sighed and started to get up. But she'd sat so long that her legs were stiff and her feet really did hurt. "Oh, I shouldn't have done that."

Spock waved her into the living room. "I will clean. I made the mess."

"True. We never did get to watch a movie. Would you care to watch one now?" she asked.

Spock answered yes. He was pleased that she was at least allowing him to be near her. She picked a particular favorite of hers that she hoped wouldn't be too far over his head to enjoy. "This one is a little silly, but I like it. That is unless you have one you'd rather watch."

"Whatever you chose is fine," he replied as he rinsed out the dishes.

"All right, don't say I didn't warn you. I hope you like Abbott and Costello," she said and hobbled back over to the couch. Her feet really hurt. It was the last time she'd wear those pinch toed shoes.

"You are injured?"

"Oh, those stupid shoes. I didn't realize I'd be on my feet all day." She rubbed the soles to try to relieve some of the pain for a few minutes. She moaned a little from the relief. Spock finished with the dishes and joined her on the couch. It was really the only way to view the screen fully. Christine turned the houselights down so that it would be easier to see the black and white movie. She had a large screen that made it almost like theater viewing.

Spock sat rather stiffly on one end of the couch, Christine preferred to stretch out as if it were a chaise lounge. She made sure that her feet were kept close. As the opening scenes of "Hold That Ghost" started, she snuggled deeper in the couch. Her feet inched further toward Spock. He looked over and after a moment's thought took them in his lap. She shot up so fast, she fell off the couch and ended up in a heap by the coffee table. "What are you doing?"

"I did not mean to frighten you. It occurred to me that massaging your feet would help relieve the pain. I merely wished to help," he answered as he helped sit her back in the couch.

"Oh, I thought you were going to tickle ... that's silly ... sorry. I just am really skittish about people touching my feet. My father used to get me down and tickle them until I was screaming. I hate being tickled. It's torture for me," she replied shaking the memory off as if it were the cold.

"I assure you, I would never do such a thing." In the dim light his eyes were serious, completely sincere.

She smiled. "I know that. I'm sorry. If you'd like to massage them that's fine with me. In fact, go in my bathroom and there is a foot rub. Janice sent it and I never have gotten to use it. I always forget."

Spock did as she asked and realized after he'd stepped into her bedroom that he was in her bedroom. He nearly froze but her voice prompted him. "It's in the cabinet below the sink. I think it's a blue bottle."

With efficiency of movement and not looking around, he found the bottle she spoke of. It smelled of mint. Retrieving a hand towel as well, he returned. She had put the movie on pause while he had been gone. "Janice is always getting me lotions and rubs to try, but I keep telling her it's hard to rub your own back."

Spock sat down at the end of the couch, but this time inched a little closer to her side. Spreading the towel across his lap, he took her feet again. As far as he could tell, they were perfectly shaped. "I'll turn the movie back on now."

"Please, do," he said not really concentrating on the film. He had never done this. He wasn't sure what to do, but was versed in the pulse points of the basic Homo sapiens and would be extremely careful not to massage too hard. "Why are your toes blue?"

"They aren't blue, they're purple, nail polish. Really, I'd have thought you'd have known about nail polish. That's a basic in the female cache of beauty secrets," she answered and spent a few moments watch him watch her feet. After he didn't touch them for at least a minute, she shrugged and started watching the movie. As far as she was concerned this was one of the best and her favorite Abbott and Costello movies. She loved watching Joan Davis as the screaming radio star who couldn't scream when it really counted.

Spock poured a little of the goo into his palm. It was quite cold. He didn't want to frighten her again so he warmed it in his palms and began to work. The sensations that he received the second he allowed his hands to rest upon her ankles and arches was almost enough to make him shoot off the couch himself. Composing himself, he began to manipulate the toes and metatarsal area. That brought an instant groan and he stopped. "I hurt you?"

"No, you have wonderful hands," she replied not taking her eyes away from the screen. He did not, could not know what effect he was having on her by just touching her feet. She'd never been particularly turned on when she'd had pedicures or other foot massages. So why did this have her nearly out of breath with desire? Clamping down on her feelings, she uttered only one word in her mind. "No."

Spock deftly kneaded and massaged, allowed his hands to practically run amok around her feet and ankles. He had read of the erotic nature of such acts but had dismissed them. They were feet after all. But, now he was beginning to understand the fetish. He longed deep inside to allow his hands to travel further up her leg, to her calves and perhaps... The thoughts had to be ceased. It was not right, the time was not yet here. He had to remain on task and calm in his attempt to win this woman's trust and heart. Finishing with the feet, he removed them to put them once again curled up on the couch. She finally looked at him. "Thank you. That made them feel much better."

He nodded. It was time to turn his attention to the movie. He was lost. There was something about money in someone named Moose's head and orange juice losing potency after half an hour. He watched in silence and tried to catch up as much as possible. Throughout the film, Christine couldn't help but giggle and chuckle. Spock drank it in like alcohol. He wanted her to be completely natural with him. It would not do to have her stiff and formal. His mother was not with his father. She laughed, smiled, teased, and at times even kissed him when they were in private. However, in public she was completely proper and polite.

Finally, the movie ended and Christine stretched with a satisfied little growl. She turned the lights up a few notches, but didn't make it so bright as to hurt her eyes. Spock barely managed to stifle a yawn himself. It was getting late and the movie had basically lulled him into a drowsy state. "I must go. I fear I have kept you too late now."

"That's okay. It's what's nice about having your own company. Thank you for supper, and the dishes, and the massage. You know I think you could go into business as a masseur if you decide to give up diplomacy."

Spock retrieved his coat and considered her idea. "I shall remember that. If my father keeps assigning such mundane tasks to me, it might be a possibility."

Once again he got Christine to laugh. She stood up and wiggled her toes in the deep pile carpet. It felt wonderful. She gave another murmur of contentment. Spock was glad he was not facing her. Such suggestive sounds were ... suggestive. Composing himself, he turned. "I shall be in touch with you. Perhaps in a few days."

"Oh, I guess you can go ahead and leave messages at work for me, considering you did so anyway," she answered and walked him to her door. The last image he had of her was standing silhouetted against the light in the hall and wearing those ridiculously beautiful sweatpants and that luxurious t-shirt. She could have been an angel for all he knew. He practically stammered goodnight and quickly left to his skimmer. He was nearly halfway home when he finally got his heartbeat to slow down.

* * *

The tickets practically gleamed in his hands. He had been able to use his ambassadorial influence to obtain sold out seats to the hottest show on Broadway. It was a revival of "The Music Man." One of the few things Spock could plainly remember about Dr. Chapel when they served together was her love for musical theater. With these tickets he hoped to persuade her for another night together. He would not trust this message to Jenna however, he would deliver them personally.

Christine Chapel groaned from the ache in her back. She was hunched over specimens and slides to the point that she was almost arthritic. Resisting the urge to stretch her arms over her head, she felt strong fingers begin kneading her shoulders. An unadulterated moan of pleasure escaped her. "Ken, I'll pay you extra if you keep that up."

"I am afraid I am not on your payroll," answered that baritone that filled her dreams again. With a smile tugging at her lips, she didn't disturb his ministrations.

"Well, I'll pay you whatever your father is to be on call," she teased.

"It is a bargain," he replied and sent her into laughter. Craning her head to peer up at him, she allowed devilish sparks to shine in her eyes. "I can see the headlines now. Junior Ambassador to Vulcan resorts to massages for pocket money. Hey, how did you get by Jenna anyway?"

Spock removed his hands slowly, wishing to allow them to linger but daring not to. Standing with his back resting against the lab table, he playfully gazed into those blue eyes. So like his mother's... "I made a bargain with her. If she did not announce my arrival, I would not report that she was eating chocolate at her desk."

"Oh, like that's taboo... Really, I'm not Simon LeGree. What are you doing here though?"

With a moment's hesitation he produced the tickets. "To give you these."

She took them, read the information and instantly lit up like the crystal ball at New Years Eve. He wanted to remember that expression on her face. "How did you get these?"

"Influence. Being an ambassador has its uses. Can you come?"

"Just try and stop me. I have every version of this musical either on holodisc or old phonograph. I have never been able to see it in person." She was practically bouncing.

"Then, I shall accompany you, I have never seen it at all."

"Spock, this is... I don't know." She tried finding the words, found them either lost or a little too emotional for him.

He supplied the word. "Sweet. I believe that is what Mother would say."

"Well, we won't dispute your mother. But these must have been expensive. I'll pay for mine gladly."

Spock shook his head. "No. I would be insulted if you did so."

She gave in, took one of the tickets and relented. "Okay, deal. I'll make certain to be available Friday night ... a Friday show, I'm really impressed."

"I will pick you up at 1700," Spock informed formally.

At that her eyebrows crinkled together. "But, the show isn't until 8, why so early?"

"My parents are meeting us for dinner." There was no, can you make it, it was you will be there. She didn't mind, they were Broadway tickets.

"Delightful. And, dinner will be where?"

"A surprise," he answered. At her rather startled, questioning look, he restated, "I do not know. Mother will be choosing the restaurant."

"Oh, okay. I'll just dress for the play then," she answered. Spock allowed his eyes to travel the length of her form quickly. She noticed. "Oh don't worry, I'll make sure I'm decently clothed. You won't be embarrassed to be seen with me."

Spock took the comment seriously and straightened to give her a glaring look. "I have never been embarrassed by your presence. Never say that again."

He had moved so close that she could feel the heat he radiated from his body. It confused her somewhat. He was so adamant and she'd just been joking. "I promise. I won't. I was only kidding anyway."

He relaxed and almost guiltily stepped back. "I regret my tone. I simply do not wish you to feel you need to apologize for your behavior with me. You are human. I do not wish you to be anything else. That is very important to me."

She nodded almost as if she'd been reprimanded. There was a bit of strained silence between them before she continued, "Well, I'll be sure to be ready when you arrive. Would it be more convenient to meet you here or at my apartment?"

Spock thought a moment, calculated where he had to travel versus where they would be going. "Your apartment."

"I'll make sure to leave early. But, I can't do that and have you distract me. So, I am sorry, but I need to get back to my work," she said a smile playing around both her eyes and her mouth. She wanted to make certain he understood about her work. He bowed his head slightly, a little disappointed that she preferred to be alone than have him with her. He could assist after all. As he moved to go, she sensed his hurt and allowed her hand to brush the sleeve of his cloak. He met her eyes, found sincerity there. "I will see you on Friday. I promise."

That lightened the expression in the dark eyes. He understood, but he was still a little distressed. She continued, "Remember the joy on Kara's parent's faces. I work toward something that will bring that much relief and joy to many more."

He nodded. Yes, it was illogical to keep her from her work when so much was at stake. He was reacting in a more human manner than he preferred. "Friday."

"Friday," she replied with a large smile and watched him leave before returning to her work.

* * *

"...so the three of us were like drowned rats and had no dry clothes to change into," Christine related to Amanda as the four waited for the dessert course to be served. Sarek and Spock had spent the evening watching the women.

Amanda was chuckling at the thought and caught her husband's approving eye. He had a small smile, that one that she knew so well, playing around his lips. He switched his gaze to Christine, and Amanda nodded surreptitiously. Spock remained focused entirely on Christine. She had chosen a black cocktail dress with no frills no fuss, her hair was swept up and pinned and diamond earrings dropped to swing freely from her ears. She was exquisite.

Christine finished her tale of white water rafting woe and turned the tables on Sarek. "So, just how did you two meet?"

"Amanda taught at the Vulcan embassy here. I was sent to one of her classes," Sarek related succinctly.

Spock did not know this. Amanda chuckled and filled in more details. "He was sent to learn to dance. It was well known that the Vulcan delegates were rather hesitant to fulfill the custom of dancing with the hostesses and there was one particular embassy function that the rigorous dancing customs were almost religiously upheld. It would have been considered a major breach of etiquette to be called in front of the Queen of England and not dance with her if she chose. So Sarek, Sotel, Sonlen, and T'Urete were sent to me to learn to dance. I have never witnessed so many clumsy people in one room. No, not clumsy, just unwilling to move. I practically had to stomp on Sarek's feet to get him to pick them up."

Christine was enjoying the thought and began laughing so hard she started coughing. "Oh, my, that is a picture I wish I could have seen."

"I believe I still have the bruises from her high heels to prove it," Sarek teased.

Dessert arrived and the four fell into an easy silence while they finished the last of the meal. Spock and Christine had an hour to get to the theater. Amanda promised to tell of the more unusual moments of their lives before they married at another time when they could spend a whole day together. "Why don't you come Sunday?" she asked.

Christine thought a moment. "No, I can't. I'm being interviewed on... oh ... I can't remember the name of the program. You know the one on Sunday mornings..."

"Meet the Press?" Amanda asked.

"No, it's on the local affiliate here. I don't know if you'd get it in Newport or not. Anyway, they've asked me to speak about the results from the last tests I've done with the neuro-transtator I'm working on. So far I at least have something to tell them."

Spock was intrigued. She'd worked for a long time without results with this project. "And?"

"You'll find out on the show," she answered with a tease. Spock raised one eyebrow and allowed her own to echo his.

He noted the time. "Perhaps we should leave. We do not want to miss the orchestra."

"I warn you, I know every word of this musical by heart including the barbershop quartet songs," she supplied. Sarek and Amanda walked them out to the lobby area. They exchanged goodbyes and parted.

"Say, isn't that the Vulcan ambassador ... Sarek?" a man asked the maitre d'.

"Yes, as well as his wife and son."

"And the woman?"

"A Dr. Christine Chapel," he answered without comment. If Joe Pensky's nose for news was any indication, there was something going on with this group, and he would find out what. Moving in closer to the group he overheard the younger ambassador's destination and that he was taking the Doctor.

* * *

* * *

Christine did indeed know all the words to not only every song, but most of the running dialogue in between. Spock was so amused by her outright joy that he found himself lowering his control while in the dark theater and smiling at her. She caught that smile out of the corner of her eye and looked at him. "What?"

He shook his head, composing himself. "I said nothing."

"You were smiling at me. I suppose you think I'm funny," she replied a little seriously. She was careful to keep her voice down.

"No, not funny. It is simply that I don't believe I have seen you so happy. I cherish that sight, that is all." His eyes kept hers occupied. She didn't answer and the next song got her attention back to the stage.

Marian Peru sang, "There were bells on the hill but I never heard them ringing, no, I never heard them at all ... till there was you."

Spock registered the words to the song, registered the meaning and import of the words. He had never seen anything till he had seen her that night at Delmonico's. He whispered, "...till there was you."

She leaned toward him. "Huh?"

He rested a hand on her forearm to quiet her. It felt so natural. Being with her this way felt the way he had always envisioned what married people did. Those little moments that meant everything to a relationship. The sexual aspects of marriage was really a very small part. While he did not belittle sexual intercourse itself, this closeness that he felt with her was much more satisfying to him. He had never known even this oneness with someone. Valeris had been the closest thing he'd ever come to being accepted as himself, and she had been his undoing. Her mental shields were up to the point that he had completely been unable to read the treachery in her mind. Christine had no such shields to bar him from her thoughts. He had allowed his mind to touch hers briefly while he had massaged her feet. While they had melded weeks before, she had kept him at bay through simple reflex action. With the massage, she was completely at his will. There were no reflex actions to keep him from testing the waters. He had met no intent to deceive him, no mistrust, no hidden agendas. He had found love, peace for his restless soul, his Eden. For the rest of the play, he kept his hand so close to her forearm as to allow them to touch on the armrest. It was the closest he could get to declaring himself to her without using words or more illicit actions.

"Bravo!" she was shouting in his ear, and Spock gave a guilty start. He had missed the ending and hadn't a clue really what had taken place the entire time. They cheered the cast and orchestra, waited till their row was ready to be emptied and headed for the lobby. It was a crowd so thick, they were certain it would be fifteen minutes before they could get to the door.

Christine suddenly stopped. "Oh."

"Something wrong?"

"Oh, I have something in my eye. Do you think you can find it?"

Spock pulled her over to a light so that he could see better. From his vantage he didn't have to bend over to look into the eye that didn't want to open. One of her eyelashes had gotten trapped and was causing her eyelid to scrape it along the eyeball. It was nothing. Still, from behind, it looked quite provocative. Joe Pensky thought it the perfect picture to put in the social column the next day with the headline Vulcan Ambassador Woos Terran Doctor...

* * *

As the group filed out of the theater, Christine couldn't help but be light hearted. She hadn't been so light and breezy for years. It felt so nice to just enjoy something with a friend. That thought struck her as odd. She stopped abruptly as they walked toward where they were parked and he turned. "Another eyelash?"

"No, I just realized something. I was thinking how it was just so nice to just enjoy the evening with a friend. I've never really thought of you as a friend before. You've always been a superior officer, a shipmate, a captain, but never ... a friend," she explained and in the oncoming lights of the skimmers that were criss crossing Broadway, her eyes glittered with tears of joy at the precious gift she'd found. As if among shells at the beach, she'd found pirate's gold.

Spock surged back toward her. She was coming closer and closer to where he wanted her in his life. Patience and timing was the key. He would have to be with her as much as possible. Taking her hand firmly but gently, he led her down the street. "Come, we'll be trampled soon if we don't hurry."

She looked back behind her. Yes, the swarms of people were turning into tidal waves of bodies. She followed him gleefully.

"Would you care for coffee?" Spock asked as they found the skimmer and pulled out into the heavy stream of traffic.

"Hmm, that sounds nice, but it'll be packed around here. It's only 2300, we could go back to ... say where do you live?"

"Newport proper. If you wish we can go there. I have coffee."

"I don't know ... going to a strange man's apartment so late at night. Might be a little scandalous."

Spock did not turn his attention from the road. "I am not a stranger ... I am a friend."

"You got me. Onward to Newport."

* * *

Spock's apartment was spare, sparse, Spartan, she wasn't quite sure of the word. It was bare actually. She had thought she was lacking in decor with her artless walls, but he beat her by a great deal. There were no pictures, Vulcans could recall images at will in their minds in perfect order, photos were not needed. A large fireplace glowed constantly, he had the temperature set at a warm 95 for his own comfort. Her instant discharge of her breath reminded him to turn it down to 80 for a while. He could put on a sweater or robe. The black agate gleamed in the firelight. Spock brought her a mug. It was fresh brewed and hot. She wished she'd have requested cold coffee after a few moments. Her legs were curled under her Japanese style as she sat on a large pillow that actually reminded her of a dog bed. It was an elegant, exorbitant dog bed, but that is what it reminded her of. The fire pot that had burnt so steadily in his quarters still glowed in the darkened room casting red and orange shadows about. Spock excused himself to change into more suitable robes. It never occurred to him that he would have to take her home and return. It never occurred to Christine either. She was still going through the play when he returned. "I thought that the fellow who played Professor Hill was just as good as Robert Preston."

He shook his head. "I will have to take your word. I have not seen his version."

"Well, we'll have to watch it sometime. Maybe the next time when you come over."

Spock held his breath ... the next time. She actually alluded to a future with him in it. "The next time?"

"Certainly. You can cook for me again," she teased. Her manner was enticing, her posture almost overwhelming. He hung back in the dining room for safety. He nodded in amicable agreement.

"I shall endeavor to learn how to do more than boil water."

"Ask your mother, she can show you how to cook," Christine suggested playfully. He would do that, Sunday would be perfect for the task.

Shifting position so that she was more comfortable, she patted the large pillow. "Come sit in here. I'll get a stiff neck trying to talk to you way in there."

Spock entered the room with a slight hesitation. Thinking that perhaps she would consider it an affront to sit on the couch while she remained on the floor, he assumed the position he normally meditated in. He remembered something else about her. Turning to her, he said quietly, "Did you learn anything?"

"Huh?" she asked confounded and the statement hit her. She laughed, "Of all the things to remember it would be that. You know, if it hadn't been for that little 'joke' that McCoy pulled and the subsequent publicity, I don't know if I'd be where I am now."

Spock listened to her; so his mother was correct. He had been indirectly responsible for this woman who sat before him. Perhaps he had always had a hand in what fate and destiny would do to her. Maybe that's why he could never quite lose her in his mind's eye. She'd always been there from the moment he'd met her. Perhaps he had unconsciously shaped her so that he could have her at that moment as she was now. The question begged for meditation.

"I was content to be aboard ship. Still, the end was near, and I hadn't been able to figure out what I'd wanted to do when we got back. I wasn't regular Starfleet. I could have just left. But, I found a place there. Just as you did if I'm not mistaken," she observed and sipped the cooling coffee.

"Yes, my father contested my decision to enter the service. We have remained in a state of mutual disagreement since. When my parents were aboard ship en route to Babel, it was the first time he had spoken to me as a son for 18 years. It was not until we were on trial for destroying Federation property that he finally relented and saw the wisdom of my decision or the worthiness of my friends," Spock revealed. He would have no secrets, nothing between him and this woman to hide. She would have to know the dynamics of the Vulcan's family life if she would become part of it.

"You seem to get along quite well now. Or do you do that for your mother?"

"Mother is part of it. However, we have come to an understanding. He does not rule my life as he had wanted to do. Vulcan family hierarchy determines what the life's paths will be. I chose to throw out tradition by going where I pleased and when. That did not ... sit well ... with him or the rest of my family."

"Except your mother. After all, she's human and humans believe in self- determination. I mean my parents wanted me to be someone I didn't become, but they lived with the choices I made without having too many fits."

What could possibly have been wrong with her choices that her own family disliked them? He prodded, "You displeased them?"

"Well, not really displeased. I didn't fill the usual role for them. They had two daughters. One was in Starfleet, she was making a career out of duty and service. The other was ready to have a career, family, home, nice little white picket fence. It didn't turn out that way. So, my parents died without one thing all parents really want."

Spock looked at her. "That is?"

"Grandchildren. Little ones to spoil, bounce on their knees, the assurance that they would continue in some small way through the generations." She became quiet and almost melancholy, "I couldn't give them that."

Spock had not thought of this. Children. While she had a successful promising career, had friends that were loyal unto death to her, had money and influence and beauty, she had no children. He had given no thought to how she felt about them. He was in no need of children. They were not necessary to his happiness or desires. His parents however probably did expect him to produce heirs to the House of Surak. He calculated her age and the average of human females to produce children, found her to be either at the far edge of her productive life or completely out of the running. Still, he did not have to have children. He did have to have her. It would be of little consequence. His parents obviously did not give the idea of grandchildren much credence because they had urged him to seek her out. He allowed the weight of indecision to pass from him completely.

Between the heat, the lateness of the hour, and the low lights, Christine started to get quite sleepy. She murmured something about going home and Spock shook his head.

"It is too late to travel. You are tired. I have a guest room."

With a smile, she reached out and placed her hand on his cheek in the same manner she had years earlier when she first professed her love for him. He had to fight to keep from grasping it and kissing the palm of her hand. "You are a charmer and, yes, I am tired. But I have nothing to sleep in, and I cannot sleep in a cocktail dress."

Spock placed his index finger to the tip of his nose in a rather human gesture and went to the bedchambers. Returning, he found her stretched lazily on the large pillow. He held up a pair of men's pajamas. "There are these."

"Aren't those a trifle ... gay for you?"

He arched an eyebrow at the term. "Miss Uhura sent me these. But yes, they are a bit much. Still, you are not unlike myself in size."

She coughed. "If that's a polite way to say I'm built like a boy ... well, I'm not."

"No, you're not. However, I believe you could wear these."

"Okay, I give. You obviously do not want to have to take me home, so I'll just make a nuisance of myself and stay. If you show me to the bath, I will get ready for bed."

"This way," he said and gestured back down the hall.

She moaned, "Oh, I have to get up?"

"If you wish to go to the bathroom, yes."

"Okay, let me get up." With a rather clumsy effort, she rolled onto her knees and stood. Bare stockinged, she followed him to the small bed area. It was basically a big white box with twin beds. A semi-private bath connected it with the hallway as well. Taking the rather gaudy pair of silk pajamas, she entered the bath, removed her dress, undergarments and earrings. The hair came out of the clip, the makeup washed down the sink. Thinking she ought to rinse the underwear out at least, she did so and allowed them to dry hanging over the heat vent. It wouldn't take long for them to dry at that temperature. Sliding into the outfit, she giggled as she saw her reflection. The bright reds and magentas swirled with black streaks and gold flecks intermingled. She could never see Spock in such an outfit. Still, if they were meant as pajamas, they were very comfortable. Heading down the hall to the living area once again, she presented herself with a flourish, "Ta-da."

Spock's stunned look was enough to send her into more fits of laughter. The evening was long and she was so goofy when she got tired. He nodded in agreement when she stepped forward, "I can see what you mean about gay. Miss Uhura's taste is rather ... eccentric."

"Well, they are comfortable. She probably meant for them to be valued for the comfort instead of the beauty. Besides, you know she favors those caftans and bright colors off duty. She looks wonderful in them. I look like a reject from the street corners in Chinatown. I am much more suited for the blue spectrum."

"Matches your eyes," he commented without realizing it. He hurriedly explained, "Your pale complexion and light eyes make it more appropriate to wear the cooler tones. Mother is the same way. She says that purple makes her look washed out."

"Thank you, Merle Norman. I didn't know you paid so much attention to the details of human complexion so closely."

"Simply noting the similarities and restating facts that were presented previously to me." There, he'd covered his blunder adequately. He had to keep her believing that he did not dwell on her features, had not dreamt of them day and night for the last month. It was not yet time.

"Okay, funny, I'm not so tired now. I guess washing my face helped. My eyes get so tired."

"It is cooling in here as well. I can set the heat lower to sleep in more comfort," he offered.

"Thank you, that will be nice. I have a hard time sleeping if it's too hot," she commented idly.

Spock bustled, or his version of bustle, around the apartment trying to make her feel comfortable. He turned the temperature down even lower, put the ceiling fans on a higher speed, and contemplated opening the freezer to put even more cool air in the room. Christine watched this odd little show he was putting on for her. She thought of requesting grapes and champagne to see how fast he'd go fetch them. With a little smile, she leaned back against the back of the couch.

"Would you care for tea?"

"I just had coffee, if I drink much more I'll be up all night in the bathroom. I'm fine."

Spock nodded, she was fine, he was being too insistent. He came back to sit across from her. The contented little look she had made him feel as though his purpose had always been to simply be there to see it. "Would you care to view a film?"

"You have movies? I guess that's a silly question. I mean, it's not like it's taboo or anything. What do you have?"

"A number of documentaries, technical information films, and one that McCoy sent to me. I do not feel it is appropriate for mixed company, however," he admitted rather sheepishly.

Christine started laughing, found herself covering her mouth with the hilarity of it all. She could just imagine what the film was. It made her laugh harder. Spock watched her rock back and forth, her face turning nearly as pink as his nightwear. She finally regained her composure enough to ask, "So, is it any good?"

Spock took that as dignified as he could. "I believe it is a little unrealistic in normal human relations."

"I'll bet," she chuckled again which led to a yawn. "Oh, my, I am sleepy again. I think it's time for me to go to bed. Thank you for the riotous evening."

He bowed his head diffidently. "I am pleased to have been able to entertain."

She so wanted to lean forward, to plant a kiss on that noble face. But, those thoughts were not allowed to come to fruition any longer. With a grace that she didn't really feel, she rose to her feet and headed back for the bedroom. Spock deemed it only appropriate that he too retire for the evening, even if it was to meditate in the privacy of his room, and turned out the lights as he went. He could plainly hear her giggles as she tried stifling them into a pillow. It was 23.8 minutes before they stopped, and she finally fell asleep. Spock's meditations began 2.4 minutes later.

* * *

Saturday morning was bright, clear, and perfect weather. Spock rose shortly before dawn to watch the sunrise. He had peeked in to see that Christine still slept soundly. He had no wish to disturb her, but he had to use every ounce of his Vulcan control to keep from going in and standing over her bed. He focused on the task of breakfast instead. He was still unfamiliar in the kitchen, but he intended to remedy that. Ordering up a special breakfast coffee, a selection of breads and jams, and even eggs, he could hear her stir. With a cough, she was out of bed and stopped by the bath before coming out. Shuffling about, she appeared a little discombobulated as she came out in the hall. She wasn't in Kansas anymore... Seeing the Vulcan's apartment, she nodded, "Morning."

"Good morning. Are you rested?"

"Well, I'm awake, that's about as good as it gets for me. I'm not a morning person, sorry," she apologized and took a deep breath. "Gosh, that smells good. What is it?"

"Coffee ... it does not smell familiar?"

"Well, yeah, but there is something different about it."

"Dr. McCoy programmed the selection, perhaps it is something that he did."

Christine shook her head. "You don't drink coffee, do you? He programmed it to add bourbon to the coffee. I don't think I'm up to spiked coffee quite yet. Do you have some tea?"

"English breakfast, Earl Grey, darjeeling, lemon zinger, Vulcan 'ta, green, orange pekoe, and chamomile," he listed. Spock was a tea person.

"I think English breakfast will be fine, extra sugar and cream if you please, no lemon," she instructed and looked over the selection of breads he had laid out. Choosing a blueberry bagel, she looked around for a knife. "You know that more kitchen accidents occur trying to slice bagels than any other?"

Spock considered that for a second. Removing a slicer from the sparsely appointed cabinet, he presented it to her. "My mother sent this when she furnished house warming presents. I have never used it."

"Well, it's a bagel and English muffin slicer. I feel so privileged getting to use it for the first time."

"I did not wish you to injure yourself. In fact, Dr. McCoy sliced himself trying to split one the last time. He muttered something about not having any lox and cream cheese anyway so it wasn't worth the effort."

Christine chuckled. "At least he didn't make you do grits. Have you ever eaten those things? They're nasty? He swears by them to put meat on your bones, but if you notice he's about the skinniest thing I've seen outside a skeleton."

"He does seem to dwindle in size the older he gets. I have not been so fortuitous," he indicated noting once again that he had gained fifteen kilos since he began his Starfleet career.

The female physician allowed her eye to gaze up and down his form. "Looks fine to me. You were always a bit too thin. Your mother said so."

"Mother is under the mistaken impression that my weight is directly responsible for my health and well-being. On Vulcan, there are no overweight people. It would be a waste of resources and the body naturally keeps a high metabolism. My weight has been added by the years off Vulcan and a combination of my human genes," he explained and waited for the teakettle to come to a boil. He had the loose tea already in the strainer when the timer went off.

"No screech? I always liked a whistling teakettle myself. Kind of brings back memories of a happy childhood on frosty mornings," she mused.

Spock filed that away for the time. He presented her with the mug, cream, and sugar. He couldn't help but watch her as she made her tea, the disheveled hair that looked nice anyway, the blue eyes that were a little red from the night's rest, and the little lines that marked her as a mature woman. While human females, and indeed most women, disliked the onset of wrinkles and tried to hide or eliminate them, Christine had done neither. She'd kept the smile lines, the laugh lines, as well as the worry lines. She took care of herself and it did show. She was still as firm muscled and toned as she had been aboard the Enterprise. Her youth was gone and had ushered in a fully rounded perfect figure that Spock found alluring. Her hard angles and almost bone thin figure of twenty five years ago had given way to padding and supple beauty.

She found him watching her. With a bit of a shy smile, she said, "What?"

"Excuse me?" he asked caught in his gazing again.

"You were staring at me. I know I put too much sugar in my tea. My mother always said I drank tea with my sugar."

Spock shook his head. That's not what he stared at. He didn't mention it though. "Your mother, what was she like? Do you resemble her?"

"No, more my father. I get the height from his side. Mom was only 5'4", and she had two daughters who were both 5'10". Leigh looked like dad as well. Everyone said we were nearly identical although we're uh ... 10 years and 9 months apart."

Leigh Chapel ... where had he heard the name before? Then he recalled the picture of the Enterprise she had at her apartment. It was not the same as the ship she had served on. It was the earlier model that he had been on under Pike. "Your sister ... was she a commander?"

"Yes, you served with her. Chris Pike liked to call her Number One."

"You are... I do not understand why I did not make the connection before. Yes, you are nearly identical."

"Well, that's one reason I dyed my hair. It was getting annoying being mistaken for her especially when I joined Starfleet. So, I gave myself an identity as the blonde one until after she died."

"Her death, was it difficult for you?" he asked remembering his own pain at the news that she had died in the service of Starfleet while out on Neutral Zone duty. She had tried to save the ship she was in command of, but it was blown out of existence before she could get out of the Cardassians raiding party. He shuddered a little of the thought. She would have suffered the fate that Pike had with the Delta Rays if she'd lived. In a way, he was glad she had died the way she had.

"Leigh and I weren't close. It was almost like being an only child, but I felt so alone when she died. It took me a while to get over it. I still dream about her every once in a while. It's partly due to her and Pike that I'm working on the transtators that I am."

Spock moved to sit next to beside her at the table. "How so?"

She took a long drink of the tea, set the mug aside. "The neuro-transtator is meant to circumvent those nerve endings that are no longer functioning or functioning improperly. With it, you can take someone who has had extensive tissue damage, so extensive that it has become atrophied, and with certain impulses from this transtator it makes the muscles work. It's sort of like using electricity, but with this, it can eventually create new pathways for the nerves to grow along. Christopher Pike was a mind trapped inside a lifeless, dead body. If this works, and he'd still be alive, I could have re-animated his body. I'm not saying that he would be back to fully functional, but it would have given him the opportunity to get out of that damnable chair. He would have been able to live a life instead of a living death. Leigh was also exposed to those rays before she ultimately died. If she'd come home, she'd be in no better shape, and I couldn't have stood that. I began formulating my plan after working with patients on Vulcan and Delta."

Spock nearly sat with his mouth open. She was amazing in her brilliance. He was about to ask her more questions when his door buzzer rang. Striding across the room to unlock the door and open it, he was surprised to see Ken Donaldson and Anne O'Brien at his threshold. "Hi, oh, we caught you still in bed?"

"No, we are awake," Spock began and ushered them in.

"We?" Anne asked quietly.

Ken saw her. His boss was wearing a pair of the gaudiest pajamas he'd ever seen. "Well, I'll be..."

"Fired if you say anything else. The show ran a little late and Spock didn't want to drive me home so I stayed over," she explained quickly. There was nothing immoral about this behavior, nothing she needed to explain in the first place.

"Hey, no problem. Who am I to judge about someone's sleeping habits?" he conceded.

"What brings you to Newport on Saturday?" Spock asked. It was a little out of the way for the two to be traveling so early.

"Well, we're looking for a church for the wedding. Anne's Catholic and wants the prettiest one she can find. I keep telling her we'd be just as married by a justice of the peace," Ken grumbled.

Christine smiled. "Oh, but a church wedding is something every woman dreams of. You can't ask her to just go to a courthouse and stand in front of a judge with a bunch of strangers looking on."

Anne beamed. "See, told ya she'd agree with me."

The couple was invited to sit, but they declined. Ken remembered before they left, "Oh, Chris, that new test data you wanted arrived last night after you left. It's sitting on your desk."

"Mmmm, thank you. Spock, if you would please drive me home, I've got a lot of work to do on that transtator before I go before the world and tell them what I'm doing."

She hurried back to the bedroom to dress in the cocktail gown she'd worn. Spock regretted he would not have the day with her, but he realized the work she was to complete was more important than his needs at the time. His mind began thinking over her project as he dressed himself. To all the other people in the galaxy, Christopher Pike had died twenty-five years earlier. There were only a handful of people, himself included, that knew the truth that he was on Talos IV. If what she said was true, he could give Pike the chance to have his real life back instead of just a fantasy world all the time.

* * *

Spock spent the night at the embassy since he intended on getting an early start with his cooking lessons. He had surprised Amanda thoroughly with his request, and she was anxious to teach him. He also wished to view the show that on which Christine was going to be interviewed with his parents. He wanted them to hear about her work from her own lips not his.

"Spock, what did she say the name of the show was?" Amanda asked as she finished her breakfast grapefruit.

"I don't believe she said. However, I checked the listings. It is the Technology News Today program. It comes on in twenty three minutes," he said rather anxiously. He had spent the day before in an almost meditative trance after he'd taken her home. He finally wound up going to his parents' residence at the embassy for company. His apartment suddenly seemed cold, uninviting, very empty without her presence, and she had only spent one night there. His parents had been a tad surprised to see him appear at their doorstep the way he had. He seemed a little lost. He had informed them of the musical, the evening with her as well as breakfast.

"You can help with the dishes while we wait," Amanda decided. Sarek was already in his office, but had promised to come out to watch the program with them. Spock gathered what he could with both hands, followed his mother to the kitchen.

"I wished to learn to cook, not clean," he stated.

Amanda handed him a towel. "Spock, any good cook or a bad one for that matter will tell you that they go hand in hand."

The twenty three minutes took an eternity. Finally, a few minutes before it was to begin he turned the vid comm on and tuned it the appropriate station. Sarek appeared at the door. He was never late.

With a blare of music, the commercial ended and faded into the opening credits for the T.N.T. program as it was called. The camera focused on the commentator and panned out to include Christine sitting next to him. She seemed a little uncomfortable although she had spent a little time in front of the camera while she'd been a CEMO.

"Good morning, Today we have Dr. Christine Chapel, former Chief Emergency Medical Officer for Starfleet. You're the owner and chief researchist at Starfield Corporation, is that correct?"

"Yes, I decided I wasn't ready for retirement and started Starfield almost four years ago now," she answered.

"Your current project is quite a controversial one, wouldn't you say?" the commentator said.

She thought a second. "No, I really wouldn't consider it controversial. It is a little far reaching, but that's what research is about -- to test new theories and ideas."

"You stated in our pre-camera interview that your neuro-transtator's purpose is to re-animate dead tissue," he prompted.

"Well, that's a simplification of what I said. I had pointed to that as an example, but it has much greater possibilities. It is still in the development stage, however, and far from being complete. When it is finally working as I wish it to, it will offer relief to those suffering from neurological disorders either by accident, illness, or birth. For example, those afflicted with Bar-Chorii syndrome will be able to live without pain in their lower extremities. It would allow them to walk and lead a much more normal life."

The commentator continued his tactic of demolition. "Indeed, it does sound however a little like what Mary Shelley described in her book Frankenstein. You are familiar with the work."

Christine was exasperated to say the least. Her work was being compared to a work of fiction almost 500 years old. "Frankenstein is not precisely a scientific work. Besides, what she described was the reanimation of dead tissue in order to create a new being. I am not doing anything even remotely like that. My work is to reanimate tissue on already living people that has been atrophied for long periods of time. I hardly consider it related. I am not attempting to create a new entity."

The commentator smiled. "Just trying to get you to describe your work. It sounds promising. I'm certain that there are many people who would benefit from your work. However, now that you are otherwise engaged will it take longer than you expected?"

"Otherwise engaged? I have no idea what you are talking about," she answered completely mystified.

A picture appeared on the screen. The social column of the New York Times boasted a headline... "Vulcan Junior Ambassador Woos Terran Doctor" and a very telling photograph was plastered under it. A synopsis of the evening spent at the highly popular revival of The Music Man was the caption. Christine wasn't certain whether she'd turned paper white or blood red. Remaining calm and coherent she replied icily, "That is a bold faced lie."

"You are not being escorted around town by the Vulcan Junior Ambassador?"

"No, I mean, yes, he took me to the musical. We have known each other longer than you have probably been alive. We're good friends. And that picture. It looks like he's kissing me, I can tell you for a fact that he did not. He is a complete gentleman, unlike some members of the press," she intimated and hoped she never got a hold of this yahoo who stuck her picture in the middle of the gossip section. Just what she didn't need, gossip, innuendo, and falsehood. Her head began swimming.

"Can you explain the photograph? It is not retouched, is it?"

"No, as a matter of fact, I had an eyelash in my eye. That photo was snapped while he was attempting to remove it. And to answer your original question, no, this will not effect my research. In fact, it has shown me that I need to work harder on this project," her voice dripped venom.

At the Vulcan Embassy, Spock was in shock. His parents were as well. They did not read the social column, it was nothing more than loose talk, but it put a blight on the entire situation. From Christine's expression, she was not going to want to do anything with Spock for a long time. Mercifully, the show ended and Spock flipped it off. Going out to the terrace that joined the room, he looked out onto the glassy bay. It was a calm, breezeless day and it belied the chaos that was churning within. Heading for the concrete rail that created a barrier to falling off the terrace, he gripped the small decorative finials that were scattered in a pattern along the top. His father approached, followed by his mother. Just as he was about to speak, the finial snapped and crumbled to the floor. Spock was so angry he could not speak.

"Spock, your control," his father reprimanded.

"Is in full force. It is ruined," Spock said hopelessly.

Amanda stepped forward. "Nonsense, it's simply a set back, that's all. Christine isn't angry with you. She has no reason to keep you from seeing her."

Spock turned to look at his mother. "Hasn't she? You yourself told me that she has been alone so long she does not know what she has missed. She just now stated that nothing will interfere with her research. I am included as nothing. If that is not ruination, I do not know what is."

Amanda shook her head. "You give up so easily."

Sarek broke in, "I warned you it would take time, patience, and persistence. You have been presented with obstacles twice now and nearly given up, but your mother is correct. She is not angry with you. This may be a setback, but it is not a bottomless pit."

Spock could see no daylight from this pit. How his parents could was beyond him. Still, he had his own agenda he had come for today. He would not waste the opportunity.

"Mother, you wished to teach me to cook. If I must persuade her through food to see me, I will do it."

"That's my boy. Give her some time. She'll be okay. Come into the kitchen. We'll start with something she's bound to like, cookies..."

Spock followed his mother to the kitchen, Sarek remained behind a moment and regarded the demolished finial with concern. Spock was entirely too overcome with this woman. If she refused his attentions, what would he do?

* * *

Spock pulled into Starfield Corporation's parking lot with trepidation. Beside him in the seat sat a tin of the cookies he'd made with his mother's supervision. She had declared them to be delicious and just the thing a busy research scientist needed to keep her going. Considering all the things that she might say, he was prepared for the worst. He knew for a fact that she would not choose the best and leap into his arms professing her devotion and a need to escape the insanity of it all. Taking the tin in hand, he made certain he was confident and completely unreadable.

Jenna was relieved to see him. Christine had returned as soon as the interview debacle and had holed herself in her lab for the rest of the time. Everytime she approached her, Christine told her to just go away and leave her alone. "The door is open, but don't be surprised if she throws something at you. She's not in a good mood."

Spock nodded and passed Ken on his way to the special security lab. Ken just shook his head. "Man ... I don't want to be you right now."

Spock stopped. "She is angry with me?"

"No, I mean she's not in the best disposition. I don't envy anyone going in there."

Spock swallowed his courage and headed forward. The door was not barred, but he knocked just to make certain he would be announced. "Christine."

He could hear the loud sigh, saw the instant change in her posture, and could almost feel the tension. "Spock, I have no time to chat, go eat, or spend anytime outside this lab. Do you understand?"

Spock hesitated, stepped forward and remembered the cookies. He placed the tin on the lab table next to her. "I brought these."

She looked at them, looked up to meet his eyes, and frowned. "What?"

"Cookies, you instructed me to take cooking lessons for the next time I visited," he answered hopeful that that was still possible.

She shook her head. "Thank you for the cookies, I'm sure they're delicious, but right now I don't think interaction between the two of us would be advisable."

Doomsday. He interjected, "Why?"

"Didn't you watch that hellacious excuse for an interview? Our picture was smeared all through the New York Times. Doesn't it bother you that your reputation as an ambassador is in some amount of question?"

"No and yes. I am not bothered by the exposure and, yes, I did see the show. I agree, they pillaried you in the press. The statements regarding your work was completely unfounded."

She stood, so angered she couldn't contain herself. "You mean that little tidbit about me being right up their with Frankenstein? I can't believe anyone even... They might as well have linked me with Hitler. I don't know how much damage this will do to my backing."

Spock hadn't thought of the financial implications of such a smear tactic. It still had nothing to do with them. He kept on, "But, it should not matter to our friendship..."

"Yes, it does. I cannot afford to be distracted, literally. I have to finish this, as quickly as possible. Until you arrived on the scene I was going at a good clip, but these last weeks have really slowed the process up. Don't you see, you ... we interfere in my work," she answered, a bit of regret in her tone. She had begun to look forward to being with him. They were able to get along as friends far better than that worship she had for him from afar.

"Then, there will be no continuation of our friendship," he replied softly. He held himself stiffly as if at attention.

"That's not what I said. At this time, I cannot afford to spend free time with anyone. When things settle down, we can enjoy an evening every once in a while," she answered. She hesitated before adding it, "I will miss that time, but it will give me even more impetus to complete the work quickly."

"You will miss our time together," he said to make certain he heard her correctly.

"Yes, did you think I hadn't enjoyed myself? I've found that being friends with you has been more rewarding than that silly romantic notion I had. You are very special to me." The tone was sincere, soft, but the words were not what he wanted to hear.

"Then, I will leave you to your work. May I check on your progress?"

She smiled, "Please, I'll call the second I have any concrete developments."

He had hope, there was hope. Allowing his eyes to close and open in relief, he nodded toward the tin. "You may wish to try the cookies."

She laughed. "All right, one cookie and then I have to go back to work."

Opening the tin, she found four layers of assorted cookies. There were date pinwheels, chocolate chip, macaroons, macadamia, and pecan sandies. She shook her head. Cookies ... he had to start with her downfall. Choosing a date pinwheel, she bit into it. It was excellent. Picturing him with an apron full of flour and rolling pin, she chuckled. He took that as a problem with the cookies, "I followed the recipe precisely."

"They are perfect. I just can't see you in a little chef's hat..." she grinned and for the first time in two days she allowed herself to relax. Spock memorized that scene. He would have to hold onto it until she finished her work.

* * *

He refrained from checking on her daily, but he did make a standing appointment to call and inquire on her general health, the project, and if she had finished the cookies. They, he had been informed, had been inhaled within the day he left them, and he was to blame for her gaining at least five pounds. He frequently sent food. He would not see her starve and would order different dishes to be sent to her business. He would test the theory that the way to a person's heart was through her stomach.

"Spock, don't you think that twelve cooking lessons is enough," his mother said.

"No, as long as I cannot see her, I can at least be prepared when I do," Spock answered and put the apron on over the diplomatic robes. Tonight's meal would be lasagna made with spinach and mushrooms. One of the only good things about Spock's new interest in cooking was Amanda not having to cook, and they got to see him almost every night. It had been a month since Christine had cut herself off from the world. Her last talk with him had been promising. She'd had a breakthrough with the last batch of samples. He did know that she would be attending Ken and Anne's wedding in late October, so he kept reminding himself of that date. It was only two weeks away. He had been invited to attend as well as his parents and most of the other embassy staff. Spock also had the visit with Nyota Uhura to look forward to. Perhaps if he took her into his confidence, she could help as well.

* * *

Anne O'Brien was going to throw up. It was not that she was a blushing virginal bride, in fact, they'd made love the night before as a last single fling. But, she was just jittery. She had chosen a plain gown. It was a traditional ivory but had peach and yellow details.

Christine hurried in from the anteroom. "The place is packed. You didn't tell me you'd invited the entire embassy."

"Well, I couldn't invite one without the others, could I? Besides, Spock will be here."

"He's here already as well as his parents. What do you mean by that statement anyway?"

The redhead quickly covered up her smile. "Oh, just that I know you haven't seen him in a long time. He asks me to ask Ken about you every once in a while. He wants to make sure you're not wearing yourself out."

Christine allowed herself to smile but didn't show Anne that. "I'm fine."

"Oh, sure, you work 16 hours a day if not more, and you don't eat..."

"Do so, Spock keeps sending take out to me," she answered.

Anne hadn't heard about that. Impressive, Spock was definitely not letting her off his hook. A knock at the door alerted them. It was time to take their places at the back of the chapel. Christine was acting as Maid of Honor since Anne's sister who was supposed to have that duty couldn't come because she was in her last trimester. In fact, she was probably in the delivery room as they waited.

The voice of Christine's best friend filtered through the large cathedral. The sun poured through the stained glass skylights and large panels that lined the main room. It created a spectacular effect combined with the candles and over abundance of flowers. They lined up and Ken's two nephews pulled the length of ceremonial white paper down the aisle followed by their five-year-old niece to begin her way with the rose petals. Christine was acting as both Maid of Honor and ring bearer for this event and held a simple bouquet that also dangled two rings from a ribbon.

At the pre-practiced cue, she stepped out to the music. "When did she get to be a beauty? When did he get to be so tall?" Strains of "Sunrise, Sunset" accompanied her down the aisle to be met at the end by the best man. She beamed with pride at her employee waiting at the end. She passed the pew that Spock and his parents sat in three fourths of the way up the path. She made certain to keep focused on the altar.

Spock's gaze was glued to her. She looked thinner, pale, exhausted to him even though she was glowing. The dark cranberry gown was plain taffeta, had a velvet empire bodice and was sleeveless. It caressed every curve she had. Carefully timed so that the music would come to an end as she stepped in front of the priest, she flashed Uhura a wide smile. The gorgeous Bantu grinned back. Genuflecting as she'd been instructed to do when she reached the altar, she was blessed by the priest and moved to stand at the left of the altar to wait for Anne.

The pipe organ roared to life and she could feel the goose bumps coming up on her skin. It was an eery but joyful sound that filled the chapel. Anne made her way down the aisle alone. Her parents had died years before and she wanted no one to take the place of her father so she carried a handkerchief he'd often worn and her mother's wedding garter graced her leg for later. She had tears in her eyes as she approached the altar, but they were happy tears as well as tears of regret that her parents weren't here, and they mixed joyously with the effervescent smile.

Ken did his best not to cry. Anne was the essence of all he'd wanted in a wife. And now she was more beautiful than he could have imagined. Heart beating so loudly he thought he'd burst, he met her. Clasping hands they faced the priest, genuflected and was blessed three fold before approaching the upper tier of steps.

The ceremony was not vastly different than any other Judeo-Christian wedding, but Anne had insisted on a high mass so it was quite a bit longer than Spock had expected. There was a lot of rising prayers, kneeling prayers, a call to communion, lighting of ceremonial candles, Uhura sang another selection in Latin, and there were addresses from another priest as well as two nuns. Finally after nearly two hours, the entire ceremony ended, and the participants filed out to stand in a receiving line before going to the reception.

Spock watched his mother as she wiped stray tears from her eyes. "Mother, is something wrong?"

She shook her head and smiled. Sarek answered,"She always cries at weddings." Spock nodded and waited to be ushered out. Beside them in the pews had been some of the younger members of the embassy. They had never seen a human ceremony of this sort, and he could overhear them comparing it to the staunch Vulcan rituals. With an internal grimace he remembered his own failed marital rites and tried to remain hopeful that this time, this time, he would have a wife to be his joy and mate.

It seemed an eternity before they were allowed to go. Out of the entire assembly, they were the ones that garnered the most murmurs as they passed. It wasn't every day that a whole gaggle of Vulcans appeared as one unit in such a place. It was still daylight as they exited, but the setting sun cast gold and amber shadows and highlights on the nearly bare trees. A small breeze was blowing and a flurry of the last of the autumn leaves showered the assembly creating such a wonderful effect it couldn't have been more poignant if it had been planned. Spock nodded past the groom's parents, the nephews, the niece who had been extraordinarily patient as she fulfilled her part of the duties until finally, at last he had Christine's eye. Her wide smile crinkled her azure eyes and the breeze tossled the brunette hair tinged with just a little more silver than when he'd seen her last.


"Christine. May I compliment your performance," he stated succinctly.

"Well, I just followed directions. Doesn't Anne look beautiful?" she asked and leaned forward a little to indicate the bride, resting her hand on Spock's forearm for support. He tingled. She felt electricity shoot through her and lifted the hand and tucked it away from him. Spock swallowed, began to speak and was prompted to move ahead in line. His mother had watched the entire proceedings with eyes twinkling. Sarek had also witnessed the exchange and allowed a nod and an eyebrow to indicate to Amanda that he had seen.

Anne Donaldson greeted Spock with a hug, "I'm so happy you came."

He was nonplused, the hug was inconsequential. "Congratulations, Mrs. Donaldson."

"Always Anne to you ... but it sounds so good."

Ken was busy pumping the hand of the man in front of Spock. Turning his attention to the Vulcan he smiled, "She's beautiful isn't she?"

"Yes, I believe I can state that your wife is beautiful."

Ken leaned forward a little. "I wasn't talking about Anne."

Spock allowed a hint of a smile only along the left side of his face, away from the other's prying eyes. "As I said, I believe I can state that she is indeed exceptionally beautiful today."

* * *

The reception was to be a full meal, a dance, and enough alcohol to inebriate a small starship. The head table included the married couple, the groomsman, maid of honor, and the parents as well as the priest who performed the ceremony. Uhura had requested to be seated with Spock and his parents so they could catch up. Before the reception was formally underway, Spock spent his time watching out the window instead of socializing. Additional portraits were being taken for the wedding album and Christine was included in nearly every picture until the end. She returned with Ken's brother in tow, laughing as she came in the door.

Meeting her friend's eyes, she introduced the man. "Spock, this is Ken's brother Keith. This is one of Anne's superiors." Spock murmured something about it being a pleasure on such an occasion, and the three maneuvered back into the main dining hall. Children scampered everywhere dressed in their best new clothes. The bar had been opened before the people had even arrived so it was fully packed with people wishing to begin the festivities early.

Spock wished to remain close to Christine, but she was swept away by the rest of the wedding party to go to the head table. Nyota Uhura took Spock's arm. "My my, you do look diplomatic today."

Spock regarded his dear friend affectionately. "Miss Uhura, your singing was lovely as usual."

"Thank you, I do try to keep in practice. I don't get to like I did aboard ship. No captive audiences for me to chase around," she teased and led him to the table they'd been assigned close to the front.

His parents were already seated. "I see you have found our son," Sarek noted also noting that he had come in with Christine as well as the best man. Allowing a moment's indiscretion, he lowered his mental shields to be sensitive to those around him. From Spock he could feel overwhelming anxiety and a hint of jealousy. His son's outer appearance gave no indication of this, however. Uhura sat down next to Spock. The tables were arranged so that there were four to a table, and they were all facing the head table. It created a half moon effect that was easy for conversation.

Amanda showered Uhura with accolades. "Your dress is stunning. You always look so regal with that dark skin and metallic prints."

Uhura favored a gold lame gown that accentuated everything she had. Years of Starfleet service made her an attractively seductive woman at the age of 51. She planned on dancing the night away.

"Spock, you must dance with me. You have never danced with me."

Spock nodded. "I fear I am woefully backward in that area."

Amanda corrected him. "You mean you've forgotten all those steps I taught you as a boy?"

Sarek cleared his throat meaningfully. She stopped the intimations of her son's childhood. Spock caught the interruption. "I have not forgotten, I am simply out of practice."

Uhura waved a hand at him, the elegant long nails tapping the table top. "Pish posh ... it's like riding a bike. I'm not going to ask you to mambo or rhumba, just a slow dance."

That was a relief. Before the meal was served, toasts were made to the newlyweds. They wished them happiness, health, security, and joy. Christine's turn arrived. Standing, she announced, "I am actually a poor substitute for the true Matron of Honor ... Anne's sister who we have just heard is at this time in the delivery room." Delighted murmurs ran through the room. "So, I am going to read the toast that she was going to give. Anne and Ken, finally you've wised up and married. Now you will find out what it truly is to live with the man of your dreams who turns into a nightmare during football season. He'll find out the face you've always presented so lovingly in the morning is in a jar, and your hair is not naturally curly. But, through it all you'll discover that you love each other more every day. And, if you aren't in the exact same position I am in right now before the end of the year, you're gonna be in trouble ... Love Jennifer."

Christine folded up the letter and, raising her glass of champagne, she offered her own toast, "To Anne and Ken, may a happier couple you never meet."

Spock ate, he didn't know what it was, didn't care. He kept his eye on the woman he wished to marry and call his own. Several times he had to be prodded to answer a question. Uhura kept count to be used later in interrogation. She'd get him on the dance floor and make him talk.

* * *

Earth customs were odd. Spock saw no purpose in the removal of a piece of intimate apparel to be tossed, but he was squarely in line when it landed at his feet. With a glance upward, he knew better than to go against tradition and picked it up. Ken was winking. It had been purposely launched his direction. Next a bouquet, not the one actually carried, but a smaller one for the specific purpose of this moment sailed through the air to the waiting crowd of women. Christine had gone under protest, but Uhura had dragged her anyway. When the researchist ended up with it, she laughed at Anne, poked a finger at Uhura, and handed the bouquet to a little girl who had her heart set on getting it. After all she had her own bouquet to keep from the event.

Spock read this sign, wondered if she had meant to go against what he'd been told was an ages old custom. He felt a little sick.

The dance came next and he could feel a jealous bone acting up. She had chatted quite gaily with Keith Donaldson, and he too was a research scientist. In fact, Christine had seemed to be quite happy in his company all evening. The first dance was the bride and groom's. The second was for the rest of the wedding party, and the third for the crowd. Sarek had gathered an impromptu embassy session with the rest of the Vulcan delegates and was having Amanda explain the significance of the different events.

Uhura pulled Spock to the floor. "Come on, I want to talk to you." Spock tensed. She was not blind and he was not acting very well he conceded. "So, out with it. Tell Auntie Ny all about it."

He met his favorite communications expert's mischievous eyes with calm. "Explain?"

"You and Chris. You've not kept your mind on this side of the head table all evening. Don't even try to deny it. I've not worked with you for almost 30 years to not notice."

Spock shook his head. "No, I am not adequate for this task of subterfuge. It is that apparent?"

"To one who knows you. To others, you're as blank as a new diary. Does Christine know?"

"No, I have been trying to give her time to adjust to my being around."

"And she's been holed up for how long now?" she asked testing the waters.

"Six weeks, four days, and thirteen hours," he replied calmly.

"You are a patient man. How is her work coming? I haven't been able to talk to her yet. I arrived just on time, but I'm staying over with her."

"I do not know. She has proceeded, but not to the point that she is comfortable with the results. I believe she is fine tuning the transtator at this point."

Nyota noticed Christine was not occupied at the end of the dance and nodded toward her. "You'd better get going before she's taken."

The song ended and Spock did as Uhura suggested. Uhura wanted to see her reaction to being asked to dance. The look on Christine's face confirmed everything she needed to know. Christine was still in love with Spock no matter what she denied or confirmed.

As the two unlikely pair traveled around the room, they talked animatedly. Christine was absolutely overjoyed. "I have a surprise."

Spock held his breath. "Yes?" "It works. I finally got the codes and now all I need is a guinea pig to test it with. But it works," she breathed. No wonder she'd had that smile from ear to ear all night. She'd been successful with the project of her life.

Spock smiled. He didn't care who saw or how it looked. He smiled at her in earnest pleasure. "Congratulations."

She was so stunned by that handsome face. "Uh ... thank you."

"May I also escort you to dinner tomorrow?"

"Not so fast, Nyota's going to be here a week. But, how about we come over to your apartment and cook for you? We could pop in that movie McCoy sent," she giggled delightedly just to see the look on his face.

The smile abruptly disappeared to become a stern visage. "While all of it sounded appropriate, I believe that the movie of your former superior is not a good idea."

Christine almost asked if it was a menage a troi, but it might present ideas. She just laughed again and without thinking rested her head on his shoulder for a moment. She was tired from all the events even if she'd had a good night's sleep. It would take a while before she could get all the rest she'd missed caught up. Now it was up to finding someone to assist in testing the device. Spock did not jostle her, wanted to keep her that way.

She lifted her head and smiled, "Sorry, just tired. It's been so hectic this week."

"Then you need rest. Perhaps you should leave early?" he suggested hoping somehow that he could escort her home.

"Nope, I'm going to dance till I drop. I think I deserve it. Besides, Uhura is such a party girl I won't get out of here till dawn at the earliest. What do you want to bet that she's singing with the band before the night's over?"

Spock shook his head, realized that the music had changed tempo, and they parted. He was dismal at faster numbers. They stepped off the floor to the table occupied by his parents. Amanda and Sarek greeted her warmly.

Amanda began,"So, how are your transtators coming."

With fingers crossed she smiled, "They work, now if I can just get someone to be my guinea pig."

Sarek answered, "With the relief you are offering, it should not be difficult to find suitable candidates."

The research scientist sat on one of the chairs, Spock remained standing and just behind her. She sighed, "Well, if that interview hadn't occurred I would have been hopeful. But since then I have been bombarded with negative press."

Spock had not been made aware of this. Placing a hand on the back of her chair, he allowed his fingertip to brush her gown ever so lightly. "You did not tell me."

"And what could you have done? For some reason I've got religious fanatics telling me I'm going against God's will and creating everything from robots to zombies. I just need one positive case to at least present my findings to the board of research and certification. With one good sample, I can build a case for further research and funding. Without it, I've spent the last four years doing nothing but wasting time and money," she answered without turning to look at him.

She was suddenly very tired. Shaking her head, she smiled, "But this is not a day about work. This is a wedding reception and I will not talk about work anymore tonight. Amanda, your son would make a good cookie chef."

Spock had nearly forgotten the batches of cookies he had sent her. "Yes, he tells me he is the blame for your gaining weight. You certainly cannot tell it, you look marvelous in that gown."

She accepted the compliment graciously and saw Ken's sister Debbie hurrying toward her. "Christine can you do me a favor?"

"Sure, what?"

"I have to load the presents and some of the other things in my car to be left at the cottage, could you please watch Nicole for me?" she asked. Nicole had taken to Christine immediately when they had met years ago and the little girl was very fussy with other people.

"Certainly. Where is she?" the doctor looked and found the little girl merrily whirling around in a circle on the dance floor. "Never mind. I'll watch her."

Debbie went over and told Nicole she would be gone only a little while and that Christine would be watching her. She puckered up a bit; mama couldn't go anywhere without her. She finally got her to perk up when she said she would get to stay and dance while mommy had to work. Nicole watched her mother leave and skipped over to the ambassador's table.

"Mama said you're gonna watch me."

"Mmm-hmm, you look so pretty in that dress," Christine beamed and the little girl rewarded her by climbing up on her lap. Wrapping herself around the child, Christine rocked her back and forth. "Have you had fun?"

The little head nodded back and forth. She wasn't too sure about these Vulcans. Sarek held her gaze for a moment. Curiosity was a noble trait in a child. Nicole started to pucker in consternation and a little whine came out of her mouth, "I want Mama."

Amanda tried her most winning smile. "She'll be right back, honey."

Christine clucked softly in Nicole's ear, but it wasn't doing any good. The little girl was getting ready to just let loose. She was tired, cranky, and had been unwilling to take a nap earlier that day. Spock feared the child would resort to a loud display of emotion, but she was a weeper not a howler.

Christine whispered in her ear. "Do you wanna dance?" She nodded and slid off her lap to the floor while Christine stood. Picking her up easily, she led to the dance floor and held her close while the music played. If she was lucky, Nicole would start to drift off and fall asleep before Debbie returned.

Heading over to where Nyota Uhura was standing at a punch bowl, she indicated the little sleepy child. "How about a song from my favorite singer?"

"Gotcha..." Nyota easily took over the music and requested an easy rhythm to sing to. "I can't give you anything but love, baby. Love's the only thing I've plenty of, baby. Dream a while, scheme a while, you're sure to find happiness and I guess, all those things you've always pined for. Gee, I'd like to see you looking swell, baby... Diamond bracelets Woolworth's never sells, baby. Till that lucky day, you know darned well, baby. I can't give you anything but love...."

By the time she finished, with the low lights, the swaying back and forth, and the day finally hitting full force on the five-year-old, she was sound asleep completely draped over Christine. With a wink she thanked Uhura and headed back to the table.

"Sound asleep. She's got to be worn out."

Spock was concerned the child might become a burden to Christine. "Should you not lay her down somewhere?"

"She's fine. She doesn't weigh much, really. Besides, she's likely to wake up if I set her down." Christine remained standing, rocking from side to side a little to keep her in the same rhythm as on the dance floor and pointed to Uhura who had essentially taken over the band. "Told you."

"I had no doubt about your appraisal of Miss Uhura's actions. If there is anything I have learned from her through the years, it is that she is a ham."

The interchange between Spock and Christine was easy, informal, comfortable. Without allowing anyone else to see, Amanda reached under the table and rested a hand on her husband's knee. She had always done that if they could be unobserved. It was a way to signal her pleasure or displeasure at something depending on how much pressure she used.

Sarek allowed himself a contented smile and placed his own hand over hers to clasp it gently. Spock was finally finding someone who could love him the way Amanda had him. He reflected on the massive difference between Amanda and his first wife T'Rea. There was no comparison. While T'Rea had been intellectually gifted and nearly perfect in her order of thoughts, she had been devoid of that devotion and deep running stream of affection that Amanda had given him. He feared he would never be able to be satisfied with a Vulcan woman's affections.

That thought, as it always did, froze him in his tracks. Amanda was aging rapidly every day. he could do nothing to keep her with him any longer than would be allowed. In all the universe the one constant was death and that ultimate separation. His hand clasped hers harder making her turn to him in question. He shook his head and whispered, "Nothing. They are well suited."

Amanda smiled with a loving mother's expression. "Perfectly."

"You are tired," they heard Spock's voice say.

"I am getting tired. I've been on my feet nearly all day," she complained but tried not to shift Nicole for fear of waking her.

Spock reached out to take the child. Hugging the nearly weightless object close, he copied the position she'd had with Christine. She never noticed the difference. On stage Nyota Uhura almost choked before coming in on the song she was singing. She had never seen Spock voluntarily take a child into his arms in such a manner unless it was extreme duress.

Oh yes, she thought. My Vulcan friend you have a lot to tell me about while I'm here.

* * *

It was well past noon when Christine finally dragged herself out of bed the next morning. By the looks of the apartment, Uhura had also slept like a log. Getting the coffee started and ordering up a brunch style meal, she headed for a shower. Allowing the warm water to drench her, she turned her face into the stream of water while she lathered soap.

The hair was still in the braided state it had been the night before. The stylist had lacquered it solid to make certain the strands didn't escape. She could taste the foul stuff as it drained out of her hair and scrubbed liberally with shampoo. For the first time in over a month she was not completely absorbed with the transtators. She allowed her mind to dwell on other problems at hand.

Spock was acting rather oddly. Still, she chalked it up to being separated from Jim and Leonard, being bored to tears with his work, and not having anyone else close to be with. He was almost obsessively persistent in wanting to be around her.

Chuckling to herself, she turned the water off and grabbed a towel from the vanity to dry with before padding into the bed area. They'd not really made plans for the day. Uhura would be there for five days so they didn't have to do the town all at once. It would be nice to just relax with a girlfriend for a change. Janice was the other close female friend she had from her past, and she was still out on the Excelsior. The last time Janice had visited, Christine had gone out to California to meet them.

She could hear movement out in the living room and said, "Coffee is on, just help yourself."

A rather muffled voice answered and she couldn't make out what had been said. Towel still wrapped around her, she was rubbing the water out of her hair when she stepped into the hall and met Uhura as she came out of the guest bath. "What did you say?"

"I said coffee is on. Weren't you in the living room?"

"I regret my arrival was not announced," came an embarrassingly familiar voice.

Both women turned and looked at him. Uhura's state of dress was even less than Christine's towel and she nearly ripped it off her friend to cover herself up with. She preferred sleeping in the nude.


"I shall wait on the...terrace," he replied and turned from the sight.

Christine pushed her Bantu friend back into the bath and retreated to her own room. Pulling on the first thing she could find, she appeared within moments. She wanted a few answers. Being friends was one thing, but this just walking into a locked apartment was another one entirely.

Stepping out to meet him on the terrace, she forgot it was only 45 degrees out and the wet hair was not a good idea. "Do you mind telling me how you got in?"

"Not at all. I had the security guard page you. It was answered with an affirmative signal to come up and I did. The door was not locked and the keycard was in the lock. That is very dangerous Christine," he replied succinctly.

"I don't remember any signal... Oh, when I put the coffee on, I was programming brunch and I bet I thought the buzzer was the coffee. It does that every once in a while if it's low on coffee. I am sorry for thinking you would break in, and thank you for retrieving my card. It was so late this morning when we got in, we just dropped into bed and didn't even turn on the lights. I don't know if Uhura will be as pleased to see you, though."

Spock allowed that devilish eyebrow of his to raise skyward. "It is nothing I have not seen before."

Christine Chapel started to ask about that when Nyota appeared in the living room, her dark complexion hiding the deep red flush she felt. "Morning, Spock ... or afternoon."

"I believe afternoon would be more appropriate. Good afternoon, Miss Uhura, may I apologize for my disturbance."

"Well, let's just drop it and go on, okay? So, what's for eats?" she asked and draped herself across the sofa. The atmosphere was one of old friends and good times. She never thought she'd see the day that Spock was standing in the middle of Christine's apartment, though. She noted that he had dressed in extremely aesthetically pleasing clothes. If she didn't know better, she'd swear he had added after shave to his already packed arsenal of attractive qualities.

"We have bread, bread, and bread ... I'm out of groceries apparently," she laughed as she read the readout of what was available. "Well, what say we eat cake ... ha ha. You know, I believe in two kinds of groceries, take out and delivery."

It was well known that Uhura preferred her meals prepared while Christine preferred hers homemade. "Perhaps, we should go out to eat."

"That means getting dressed and motivated. Let's order in. Have you got pizza around here?" the Bantu suggested. Pizza was always a favorite.

"Spock, do you like pizza?" Christine asked.

"Yes, if there are mushrooms, no anchovies."

"Yuck, who wants dead fish on their pizza."

"Dr. McCoy," he replied with a sigh.

"Well, here, sift through this stack of coupons and find something and I'll get this hair organized," Christine said, indicating a pile of flimsiplast sheets that were always coming in the mail or being attached to her skimmer.

As soon as she was out of ear shot, Uhura drew close enough to Spock to nearly touch him nose to nose. "You are a scamp."

He was taken aback. "A scamp?"

"A scoundrel, scalawag ... but I love you anyway. I have never seen her so happy as she was last night."

Spock took that as a good sign. "Then you believe that my interest in her is the reason for her humor?"

"That and her project but definitely you. She's loved you all these years, even if she has protested. Janice said when you were killed, it just about killed her too. She really threw herself into her work after that just to get through the days," Uhura confided.

"I have not seen her in over 6 weeks, as I said last night. I had almost thought that she was simply..." the door opened.

"Okay, what did you pick?" she asked, immediately wary when she saw the two so closely together.

"We thought we'd wait till you got back. You know the pizzarias, after all. Deep dish, stuffed crust, thin, cracker, which is best?"

"Well, the best one for vegetarian selections is Giamo's. It has spinach, broccoli, all the regulars, and I think three or four selections of cheeses and crusts. It doesn't matter to me, I've tried them all. And thanks to Spock, I've discovered I like broccoli on pizza. Never thought I would."

Uhura looked at him curiously. Spock answered, "I would send her dinner on occasion while she was working."

"To keep me from starving to death he said. Just order and don't worry about the cost."

* * *

They haggled over the tab for a long moment. Finally it was Spock's meal ticket. The rest of the day was spent watching movies and consuming mass quantities of pizza. It was Spock's first experience at a hen party. There were times through the evening when he was forgotten entirely and the conversation turned to matters of gossip and innuendo.

"So, Janice said that Sulu has been sitting on pins and needles about Demora's first appointment," Uhura was saying as she raided the refrigerator for more flavored seltzer. Christine was curled up on the corner of the couch that she had been on when Spock had come to visit so long ago.

"Why? What did she get?"

"Helm on the new Enterprise-B that's being readied for duty as we speak."

The two other old Enterprise officers exchanged glances. It was almost as if someone had said that they were going to be on board again, even if it was through a surrogate niece. Christine smiled, "Well, it looks as if the future of the ship is in good hands."

"Indeed, Demora's capabilities as helmsman appear to equal her father's," Spock replied from his spot on the floor he had occupied since the movie had started. Uhura had tried to let him sit on the couch beside Christine, but he had chosen the floor instead. It was closer to the fireplace.

Content in the knowledge that there were heirs to the throne so to speak, they spoke of other things. "So, what are we going to do tomorrow?" Uhura asked and decided the floor wasn't such a bad place after all.

"Well, I have to go to work," Christine said. "But I promise to spend only half a day at the old grind. Jenna won't be there so it'll be an incommunicado day."

Spock suddenly remembered something. "Why was Miss McNamara not at the wedding?"

Shaking her head, the corporate executive answered, "Her ex-husband is causing a problem with Brandon. He ignores the boy completely until it would appear beneficial to his career goals, then he is this oh so loving father figure until things don't work out and he is once again out of the picture. It's not a good situation for her at all."

Spock remained silent as the two women spoke of the unfairness of it. They were correct, the child would be the one to suffer in the end, but it would be the father's loss of his son's trust and affection. He thought of his own childhood. His father had been there through the whole thing, still they were as far apart as the Federation and Romulan Empire. At least now they could speak as equals and not as enemies.

The evening passed all too quickly and Spock excused himself before midnight. It would not do to keep them up any later than he already had. After he left, Uhura decided to pounce on the problem at hand. "Okay, spill..." Christine regarded her friend. She knew precisely what it was she meant but feigned innocence. "You know what I mean. Spock, he moons over you like a..."

"That's ridiculous," Christine answered a little harsher than she had meant to.

"Is it?"

The former head nurse turned slowly, deliberately. "Yes, he's a Vulcan, remember?"

"Then why has he suddenly become your best pal?"

Christine thought, tried not to think, gave her the answer she kept telling herself. "Spock is lonely. All the people he served with are spread out through the galaxy, and his job bores him senseless. We met by chance a couple of months ago and he is concerned about my work. He also found out that some of his memories aren't restored like he thought." Uhura was curious at that one. Since his fal-tor-pan, he'd made steady progress, and she'd not noticed any lapses in memory for a long time.

"What memories?"

"Remember the side trip we took to Bereel III while the ship docked for repairs? We were gone a month? He had no recollection of that incident, and he said his log entries made no mention of it either. We've been working toward getting his memory intact." That was a lie there but only a partial one.

"You mean he's melded with you?" the Bantu asked a slight smile curving one side of her mouth.

"Oh, please ... Spock and I have been in mental contact before. He was completely businesslike. You and that malicious little mind of yours need to stop whirring," she said icily.

Uhura backed off for now. "Okay, okay. I guess we should get to bed. After all you've got to work tomorrow."

Christine nodded, glad to get off the subject of Spock and his sudden interest in her. Uhura settled in the guest room while Christine went around locking up. She didn't want to meet Spock the next morning when she got up. Lying in bed, she tossed, turned, and basically got no sleep. Spock had been attentive to her more than he ever had been at any other time. But, he was changed now since his experiences between V'Ger, death, and treachery. Perhaps he was just trying to fit in.

No, you silly goose...he loves you... she heard in the back of her mind. With an angry punch into her pillow she moaned the word, "No". Tears of anguish for her heart's pain and agony flowed from her eyes, and in the dark night she wept till she fell into an uneasy sleep.

* * *

Uhura had been asked to spend an evening with Sarek and Amanda at the embassy and Christine had been invited as well. The latter refused saying she had work she needed to do on other projects while Ken and Anne were off on their honeymoon. It was a lie. She did have other projects, but that was not the reason she did not go. She didn't want to spend a lot of time with Spock or his parents.

The rather hurt look in his eyes came back to her as she tried concentrating on the readings from the micrometer. It was the third time she tried to assimilate what they said. She was miserable. It wasn't so much that she didn't trust Spock, it was herself she could not trust. She felt empty and lonely. She had come to enjoy Spock's company in their new friendship but feared it could not continue or she would keep this stupid notion about Spock constantly in her thoughts. They tainted anything she thought of wanting to do with him just as they had aboard ship. Those memories of constantly trying to be near him and not be near him at the same time came back.

No more, she had to stop. Cradling her head in her hands, she was weary with the mere pressure of the thoughts. She had to get back to the apartment. Uhura would return from the embassy soon, and she had to be there to open the door. Spock would probably be with her. She'd be polite but uninviting this time. He was a friend, but one she'd try to avoid.

* * *

The drive from Newport to Long Island was a short one normally, but Uhura wanted to talk to Spock so she asked him if he'd mind taking the long way round. He too wished to speak to her, and they headed for New Jersey. It was a long way to go, but there was no real reason to hurry.

"Spock, why don't we stop at this little ice cream place? I haven't had a sundae in ages," she suggested and Spock did as she requested. As he recalled, she was an ice cream addict and aboard ship was known to indulge nearly every day with some type of frozen delight.

He ordered a lime freeze. It had a bit of a sour kick to it and took him by surprise at how strong the cold was. He grimaced. Uhura looked at him. "Oh, man, brain freeze. You've got to be careful with those. They'll really do your sinuses a mischief."

"A mischief?"

"I'm sorry, I've been reviewing tapes of British comedy and drama works for my course work at Berkeley in the diversification of the English language. If you don't sip those slowly, they can cause a lot of pain in your sinus passages," she rephrased.

"As I have discovered. Miss Uhura, I find myself at a loss. My mother has been helpful to a point, but you know Christine in a way that I do not. You are close confidantes. You have known her as long as I and can probably tell me whether the chances of what I desire will take place. Do you truly believe that she still has affections for me?"

"If her tears last night were any indication. I know she thought I was asleep, but I could hear her tossing and turning most of the night. She's warring with herself. You do have a formidable battle ahead of you. May I ask, what are your intentions?" The dark eyes met his over her hot fudge sundae with whipped cream, nuts, chocolate sprinkles, a cherry and chunks of banana.

He was visibly surprised. It was a rather silly question. What else would he wish from her. "Marriage."

"So this is the real thing, not some play around and experiment and then move on down the road?" she clarified.

"No, I wish to marry and bond with her."

The Bantu smiled, "Then I shall gladly help you on your course. If it were the other way, you'd have had to go through me to get to her again. I won't see her destroyed. I think you know I'm not the only one who would be very unhappy if it occurred," she warned seriously.

This was no idle threat. Spock knew that at least three of his close friends would give him no end of grief if this did not go well. "I understand, and I wish to do her no harm. But if she will not submit to the logic of the situation..." He trailed off.

"Well, that's different. If she can't see what she has in front of her nose, that's her fault. You know it's funny," the dark eyed woman chuckled as she scraped the bottom of the bowl. "We used to say the same things about you."

So, Spock had been right about his friends' conspiring against him for years to connect him with Christine. He held no ill will toward them. He could only offer a paltry excuse. "It takes time to get through this thick Vulcan skull."

"Apparently so. Why did you wait so long?"

The question that had plagued him for two months. His mother's explanation came to mind. It was the only one that fit. "Mother says that we have always been fated to be together but that time was our enemy. She also said we would not have been suited for each other if we'd come together earlier. I could not think of settling into a regular routine as a proper husband, and she was too busy with her career as well."

This made sense. Uhura bought it. "Okay, sounds good. I can attest to your part at least. You could no more stay off a starship when Jim was in command than I could keep from singing. Now that he's retired, you are free to explore the other avenues available. One of those is a stable, steady relationship with a mature, stable woman."

That last was a jab, he was certain. She had seen the affair with Valeris first hand, knew that he had intended to bond with her. She also knew that it was his decision to destroy that tenuous bond he had made with her in a most distasteful fashion. If he were to find that Christine's mind was ... no, it was not, could not be as treacherous as Valeris'.

With the sundaes finished, he drove her back to the Monterey Arms. It was almost two in the morning and Christine was already abed.

* * *

"You certainly came in late last night," Christine said as she poured the milk into the bowl of cereal. Uhura could hear the metal in the tone. Christine was jealous or hurt or both.

"Spock and I went for ice cream. I wasn't sleepy and it was nice getting to talk to him after all this time."

"Oh. Well, if you want we can do something today. There is a matinee at the Pally, and they are showing a reissue of Oklahoma!"

"Sounds good. Oh, Spock asked if we could attend supper with him at his apartment. He says we are cooking?"

Christine sighed, "That's right, I did say. I suppose it will be all right. What time did he say?"

"1800 or so. He's already got the groceries stocked so we don't have to worry."

"All right, we'll go," she said with a depressed tone. This wasn't going to be easy.

* * *

Supper passed easily enough. She remained steadily working in the kitchen while Uhura kept Spock entertained. He noticed the change in her manner toward him. It was cold, abrupt, decidedly unfriendly. Perhaps he had been too forward with her. Uhura had said she had been crying. He would take care to keep a distance if he could possibly do it.

* * *

Uhura's stay ended, and they all parted with her at the tram station. As they watched the transport maneuver into free space and sail off, Spock found himself at a loss at what to say to her. He had felt completely set apart from her for days now and he kept grasping in the dark to try to find something to hold onto. They walked in a dreadful silence off the tarmac and into the parking lot. Due to the distance between the tram station and both apartments, they had come in separate skimmers.

Spock began, "It was enjoyable to see Miss Uhura again."

"Yes, she's such a friend," Christine answered. Nothing else came out of either of their mouths until they reached the skmmers. "Well, I have an early day," she said hoping he'd take the hint.

He took it. Downcast but still hopeful he replied, "Perhaps later in the week, we could take in another show?"

Shaking her head, she tried to smile but couldn't. "It's really not a good idea right now. I want to make absolutely certain my transtator works perfectly before I implant it. I have spent a week dilly dallying and need to concentrate completely on that."

There it was, the death knell. She gave no hope of seeing him later. He said, "I shall keep in touch, to make certain you are eating."

"I'll eat, don't fuss. I really need to go..." she answered with a slight shake of the head. Tears were beginning to form, and if she stayed, he'd see her cry. Blinking to keep them back, she opened the door, sat down and powered the engine up.

"Good night, Christine," Spock said.

"Night, Spock."

* * *

"Mother, is failure a common occurrence in affairs of the heart?" he asked at supper the next evening. His father was gone to San Francisco for a week so he had no outside objections to the conversation.

"Unfortunately, yes. Christine is not getting any closer?"

"No, in fact she is slipping further away. She does not seem to want to be friends. I offered to call on her to make certain she was all right, and she told me not to bother."

Spock did not realize that he had his chin nearly all the way down to his chest as he spoke. He felt a weight so heavy along his side and chest it was almost suffocating in its intensity. Amanda hated to see him this way, had hoped somewhere that his Vulcan heritage would serve him well here. It appeared to have left him completely.

"Spock, as much as I hate to say this, have you considered that you will not be successful with her?"

Spock's pained expression was enough to melt her reserve of learned calm. She stepped forward and for the first time since Spock had turned 7 years old, she pulled his head into her abdomen and caressed the sleek seal grey hair. He stayed that way a moment, and if she didn't know better, she swore she could feel a tear escape. He had been so hurt in the past that he was putting everything he had on this one woman. She had to want him.

Pulling away from her, he felt like he did when he was a little boy and looked up at that creature that he knew as his mother. Her blue eyes were so inviting. He always knew comfort with her. He suddenly realized that he probably viewed Christine in much the same manner. She had never done anything to cause him pain on purpose. And he had tried to hurt her in such a fashion that she would leave him alone.

Amanda asked him another question. "Does she know what you want of her?" He shook his head. She laughed, "Spock, how do you expect her to provide the correct answer when you've never presented the question?"

"I want her to be comfortable with me. I don't want her to think that I am choosing her because of need or some odd sense of duty. I also wanted to get to know her."

"In case you decide you don't wish to be with her," Amanda provided.

"No, that is not ... yes, perhaps that is part of it."

"You cannot do her that way. You must make your mind up completely, or she'll sense it. Humans aren't stupid when it comes to these things. If she has even a hint that you might suddenly disappear into the night, she'll never have anything to do with you. Remember, sometimes force is necessary."

"Force? Are you suggesting that I forcefully manhandle her?"

"No, of course not. I mean, make a nuisance of yourself. If you tell her you're going to do something, do it. Don't give her any reason to doubt what you tell her. Be absolutely honest, no matter how much it hurts or what private areas it touches. You can't afford to brood and expect her to just understand. Open everything up, allow your emotions to be felt. You don't have to display them, but tell her what you are feeling. She has an incredible amount of control if you've noticed. In humans that means she's bottled her emotions up so much that she doesn't allow herself to feel them. She smiles, but is not happy, she cries but keeps herself from feeling sad. It is her defensive posture."

Spock agreed with this supposition. His mother was far wiser in these matters than he could hope to be. "Then if she is as defensive as you say, how do I hope to get into her mind and heart?"

"You're already there, she's waging the war right now. You just have to keep the battering ram at her door. Also, you know it wouldn't hurt if you actually came out and told her your intent. She'll probably balk at that too. Think of her as a wild animal. It takes time, security, and trust before it will allow you to get near it."

Time, that word again. He had already spent over two months in waiting. How much time could he possibly spend? "It has been 10 weeks since we began our relationship."

"Relationship! What relationship? You just said that you've not told her that you want to marry her. She's been your acquaintance for how long now?"

Spock sighed, decided to not calculate down to the day. "Twenty five years."

"When did she tell you she loved you?" his mother probed.

"Twenty four years ago."

"Good grief, Spock, can't you even see what is the problem? She has loved you for twenty four hopeless, empty years. You suddenly two months ago decide you want to be in her life. You are impatient with her, and she has been nothing but long-suffering and patient toward you. Now, I suggest that you either get on with it or drop it entirely." His mother's tone was no nonsense. She didn't mince words. At the bobbing of her son's head, she decided it was time to turn her attentions elsewhere. "I'm going to read. Would you like to come with me?"

He shook his head. "No, I have plans to make."

She nodded. "Good night and good luck."

Returning to his apartment, Spock kept calling Starfield and Christine's apartment with no success. She either was not there or would not answer. So, he left message after message for her.

* * *

Christine keyed the door open with a heavy sigh. She'd been out all day trying to find someone to volunteer to go through the neuro-implant. Success was not looking imminent. Her message log was blinking rather wildly. As she put her things wearily on the island, she ordered it to run messages while she stripped her things off to get ready for bed. The first two were advertisements for a sale, the third a message from McCoy that rambled on a pace. She was laughing out loud by the end of it.

The fourth one chimed in, "Christine, call me no matter how late it is."

The fifth, "You have not called."

The sixth, "Call."

She was getting a tad annoyed with this behavior. She stopped the message log. "How many messages are listed?"


"Forty-two! How many are from Spock?" she asked.


"I don't believe he's called 39 times. Well, he can call 39 more, I'm not answering..." she said to herself and promptly shut communications off for the night. He wouldn't be able to disturb her for the night at least.

* * *

Spock's embassy skimmer could probably have navigated its way to Starfield by itself. As early as he thought it suitable, he appeared at the door. Christine was standing talking to Jenna when he stepped inside.

"Dr. Chapel." He swore he could hear her murmur, "shit."

"Spock, I really am busy today."

"As am I. But you did not return my call. If you had, this trip would not have been necessary," he replied with a little vehemence. That tone got her to turn and stare at him.

She rose up, her full height nearly matching his own. "All right, it's my fault you're here. Perhaps we should go to my office to continue this discussion." Spock agreed and swept up the stairs. Jenna just stayed silent and solemn. Christine glared at her. "Do not interrupt me until he leaves, which won't be long."

Christine appeared at her office with less than friendly intent in her manner and gait. Spock was looking out the window to the parking lot. He heard her enter, could almost feel the heat. Perhaps it was not the best of times to do this. Turning to meet her gaze, he said, "The weather has turned cold."

"Spock, I will not go on about the weather with you. Now, what was so important that you left 39 messages for me?"

"I ... was concerned. You are well-known to neglect your health while you are doing research."

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one...

"I don't need a mother telling me when to eat and sleep. I am perfectly capable of doing so on my own."

"Then allow me to cook for you tonight," he offered a little more forward than he had intended.

Again she began counting. "Will you let me alone if you cook for me?"

That seemed amiable. "Yes."

"Fine, I'll see you at 2000," she relented and with a forced smile tried to sound friendly.

"Then I shall go," he replied with a sense of pride at having gotten her to agree to an evening alone.

* * *

By the time 1900 arrived, she had a massive headache, a slight fever, and a sick stomach. She was certain it was a dose of the migraines she got when she'd been under so much stress and kept erratic hours. She just wanted to go to bed and sleep, but no, she had Spock to mess with for the evening.

When she met him at the door, he could tell she was not well. "You are ill?"

"Spock, it's probably not a good idea for you to visit this evening. I really just need to go to bed and get some sleep. I get these migraines every once in a while. It's nothing to be concerned with believe me."

But something about the dark circles and the pale complexion bothered him. He pushed, "I will stay long enough to prepare your meal. You'll need to have something to eat."

The headache was getting worse. "Spock, I don't want anything to eat. Please, go home..." She couldn't stand the light anymore and stumbled away from him. If it hadn't been for his grabbing her wrist, she would have fallen.

"I shall assist you to bed." She heard it through a tunnel of pain. She just needed to go to bed...

Allowing him to lead her back to her bedroom, she did not protest when he scooped her up and laid her prone on the mattress. She did protest at the bright overhead light and flung an arm over her eyes. "Shut it off..."

He did so. He was tempted to check her temperature, but it would be cold to him whatever it was. "Are there any medications for your headache?"

"No, I haven't had one in years. I don't have strong enough analgesics for this."

Her moan of pain sent shivers through him. He was desperate to help and could do nothing. "If I were to send for something?"

"It has to be prescribed. If I can just go to sleep, I'm so cold..."

Searching through the bedroom with the light from the hall as the only source of illumination, he found a throw and brought it to her. She wrapped up in a ball and kept her eyes tightly shut. She thought she was going to throw up. Shivers wracked her body and he sought out more blankets.

Pulling a large thermal insulated quilt out of the hall closet, he added that to her contorted form. She'd been in the lounging pajamas she'd worn the first night he'd spent time there so there was no question about undressing her.

Spock retreated into the hall leaving the light turned off and the door open so that he could hear if she needed more assistance. He would not leave even if she had asked him. Finding his way around her kitchen, he prepared something much simpler than he had planned for his own repast. Her apartment was more comfortable than his own. He felt ... not alone here. He felt alone in his.

Deciding that he would stay until she woke again, he went through the selections of the videos she had. There were a vast number to chose from. They seemed to be catalogued by type and then by common actors or actresses. She had mentioned that he should see the film version of The Music Man and, since he could not recall any of the live performance save the last song, he picked it. Through the film, he kept an ear tuned to listen to her breathing, whether she moved about, moaned, or called. He did find it unusual that he was not uncomfortable here. He should have been. He was in a woman's apartment while she slept. He had not been asked to stay nor was he expected to be there when she woke up. He recalled the look on her face when he had surprised both her and Uhura a week earlier. It had not been one of joy at seeing him there.

He was lost in thought when a sudden overwhelming urge to check on her propelled him out of his seat and into the hall. There had been no sound to alert him, but there was something wrong. Turning on the bathroom light to see better, he approached. She was still curled up, still shivering, and sweat had broken out across her forehead. Taking her wrist to check her pulse, he found it incredibly fast and her wrist felt hot. For him to feel heat radiating from her higher than his own, she would have to be very feverish. It was a given that she had no tricorder here. That was standard military issue only. She should have a temp-scanner however somewhere.

Starting in the bathroom, he searched through every drawer and the assortment of baskets that lined a shelving unit before finding it. Setting it for human norms, Spock ran it across her. Her temperature was 104 and climbing. Without thinking, he gathered her up in the blanket, hurried through the apartment and grabbed the keycard before leaving. The ride down in the elevator was interminable.

As soon as he stepped into the lobby, the security guard was in front of him blocking the way. "Where are you going?"

"The nearest hospital. Dr. Chapel is ill. Where is it?"

"Uh, there's one on 8th and Barnett. Do you want me to call an ambulance?"

"No, I can make it there faster. If you can help me out the door," he asked and the security guard accompanied him across to the parking lot with the skimmer. It was while he was pulling away that he realized that he had forgotten his own coat, and it was beginning to snow. An almost inaudible moan escaped from Christine, and he sped faster careful to mind the slightly slick conditions. He wouldn't get both of them killed trying to get her to the emergency room.

* * *

"Ambassador Spock," a duty nurse said four hours later. He had stood patiently, calmly on the outside, chaotic and panic-stricken on the inside watching the mounting snow. It threatened to pile at least six inches before the storm would pass. He turned his head, but not the rest of him. "You may see her now. They have her temperature down."

By the time Spock had gotten her there, Christine had begun babbling incoherently and her temperature had spiked to 106. She'd immediately been given massive doses of antibiotics and submerged in a tub of cold gel to begin bringing the fever down. He was led to a private emergency room cubicle. She would be kept there until being moved to a regular room when one became available.

The bio-bed glowed satisfactorily in the dark. She was stable and back to a more normal temperature. Her face had color in it again even though the dark circles were still under her eyes. He knew she was asleep, but he couldn't help himself.

He whispered, "Christine." He thought, he hoped, he imagined he heard her softly murmur back. Her head did make an almost imperceptible movement toward his side of the bed. Remembering the dozens of times that she had stood as he was, watching, he took the hand at her side and held it. With a slight smile, he said, "A good nurse always holds her patient's hand. It shows she's interested."

"Excuse me?" came a voice from behind him. It was the emergency room doctor who had tended to her.

With dignity he replied, "Something she said to me once. Have you discovered what happened?"

"You said she complained of a terrible headache. Did she also complain of a back ache or her neck?"

"No, but I only got to speak to her a moment before she went to bed."

"Well, it's a good thing you stayed and happened to check on her. If her temperature had gone higher, she'd be dead now. We've got it pinpointed to one of three things. We'll need to speak to her before we can narrow it down further. She is not contagious, however, and can be moved to a private room as soon as one is available. You look like you could use some rest yourself. She'll still be here in the morning," the man suggested. He'd never met a Vulcan who looked so careworn before.

Spock shook his head. "I am perfectly rested. I will stay with her."

"Suit yourself. You can trust our staff, though."

"I meant no disrespect of your staff or your facilities. I simply prefer to stay," he explained. That statement clamped the lid down on further conversation on this topic. The doctor smiled and left the curtained area to check on other patients. With the sudden snow outside it would be a good night for accidents.

* * *

Sarek did not tap the desk, he did not sigh, he did not check the chronometer. Spock was not only three hours late, he had not called to say why he was late, nor did he answer at his apartment or at Christine's. The fact that they had a meeting that morning was not of consequence. The fact that he had no idea where Spock could be was. As much as Spock was an adult, he was over 60 years old, he was an independent person, he was still Sarek's only living child and he did worry about him. No, he reminded himself, not worry, concern for his safety.

Paging the front desk he asked, "Has there been any messages from Spock?"


"Connect me with ... Starfield Corporation," he decided. Perhaps Christine knew where he was.

"Waiting, online..."

Jenna McNamara smiled, "Good Morning, Ambassador ... oh, you aren't Spock."

"I am his father. Is Dr. Chapel there?"

She shook her head. "No, I haven't seen her since she left last night to go home. The last time I saw Spock was yesterday morning. He left rather hurriedly."

That did not bode well. Sarek nodded, "If Dr. Chapel returns or you hear from her or Spock, tell them to contact me or the embassy. Thank you."

The connection was cut. He had several scenarios playing out in his mind, none of them were particularly happy ones. Realizing he was wasting time and energy speculating on nothing, he returned to the task at hand.

* * *

It was noon before Christine stirred. She'd been asleep over fifteen hours. Now, her readings were back to normal and her headache was going away. With a groan, she opened her eyes to be blinded by the lights. They were instantly doused.

"Thanks," she muttered. "Where am I?"

"You are in a hospital," that baritone answered.

She looked over at him. Oh, yes, she had been sick when he'd arrived. "Why?"

"After you fell asleep, your temperature became deathly high. I brought you here and you are now recovering," Spock said evenly.

"Fever, I had a migraine..."

She started to sit up and he gently pushed her down to the bed. "No, you will lie down."

They were twenty years younger, only they were in opposite positions. She smiled despite the fact that it hurt. Her whole head hurt and she had trouble swallowing. "All right, I'll lie down. Why did you bring me here? I told you to go home."

Spock hesitated. She would rather he had left and allowed her to die than to have him with her. "I sensed that you were too ill to be left alone. I stayed, prepared my supper, watched The Music Man and then brought you here."

"Oh ... well, thank you. I'm pleased you did." There, they were all right again. She wasn't angry with him, in fact seemed pleased with it, and her blue eyes sparkled as she watched him standing vigil. "So, you watched The Music Man. Did you like it or the stage version better?"

Clearing his throat, he tried to find a non-embarrassing way to say this. "I fear I did not remember enough of the stage version to compare it with the film. However, I did enjoy the film."

"Why don't you remember the stage version?"

Again, a cleared throat. "I was distracted all evening."

If Christine hadn't already been in bed, she'd have fallen into one. Above her the bio-bed readings began to fluctuate and she could hear her heart rate monitor rising even though outwardly she appeared completely calm. Spock noted it as well. Inside, a part of him cheered, if that was not a good sign, he didn't know what would be.

A nurse interrupted whatever else might have been said. "How are we feeling Dr. Chapel?"

"Christine, please ... better than when I went to bed. My throat hurts. May I have something to drink?"

"Liquid diet for a few days. I'm afraid you've gotten a swollen trachea. Dr. Bahrain will be in to check on you in an hour or so. We're still trying to get results from the lab."

She nodded, found that hurt as well. Keeping still on the pillow, she could feel the constant presence of Spock. With eyes closed, she said, "You should go, you are probably tired."

"Vulcans can..."

"...go without food water or sleep for long periods of time. I know that very well. I'm fine. Go on and get some rest. I know from vast experience that sitting and watching people sleep is not that mentally stimulating." Her blue eyes opened and regarded him almost affectionately. "Does Jenna know I am in the hospital?"

He started. He had been there over fourteen hours and had not notified anyone regarding the situation. He mentally grimaced at the forgotten meeting with his father that morning. "I shall do so immediately."

"You'd better. Jenna will cream you," she teased a little and sighed. "I'm going to try to go back to sleep for awhile. You go on and don't worry. I have a feeling I'll be here a couple days at least."

Spock nodded. It was logical to make certain everyone knew about her condition. Hesitating long enough to see that she was drifting off, he turned and left. He called Starfield before leaving the hospital. Jenna immediately contacted Ken who would have Anne contact Uhura in San Francisco. Spock would place another call before heading to work himself. He began running through the excuses he would use this time. No excuses were necessary, he thought to himself. His father would accept the truth because it was the truth.

Apparently though, they had been made aware of the situation by the time he got to the embassy. His father simply asked, "How is Dr. Chapel?"

"She is recuperating, although they are not certain as to why she became so ill. I regret not calling to let you know of my whereabouts," he stated solemnly as he stood before both his parents. His mother had been summoned from the residence side of the embassy when Spock was considered missing. She had been the last to see him. Sarek had just arrived early that morning from San Francisco and gone directly to work.

"It was a good thing that you were there then," Amanda smiled from her seat next to the window. She had been watching it snow from that spot all day.

"The physician that treated her said she would have died if I had not gotten her help when I did." He said it so that his father would know how grave her condition had been to keep him. It worked.

Sarek sighed, "Yes, fortunate."

"Do you wish to reschedule the appointment from this morning?"

"It is nothing that cannot be discussed over dinner this evening." The venerable Vulcan watched his son's face. It changed only enough to let him know he'd made other plans. "Or breakfast in the morning."

"Indeed. I shall attend to my duties then," Spock answered and went to his office. He did have to make one more call before he resumed his work however. "Computer, connect me to Dr. Leonard McCoy, Atlanta, Georgia."

It took perhaps half a minute for the line to open. "Hello Spock, long time no see." Dr. McCoy's face was older, a little more worn, but still exuberant in expression. From the sound in the background, Spock could tell he was once again babysitting his great grandson.

"I called to inform you that Chris... Dr. Chapel has been hospitalized. I don't believe it is anything serious, but she did have to be taken to the emergency room last evening."

The physician's face immediately grew wary. Spock wouldn't lie. "Okay what happened?"

"She complained of a terrible headache and her fever reached 106 before she was stabilized. She is stiff, achy, has a swollen trachea, but is over the headache and fever."

"That's good. Hey, how do you know all this?" McCoy asked a little confused. Apparently Uhura had not told him of their conversations together.

"I was with her at her apartment when she fell ill. I took her to the emergency room."

It took a moment of dawn to spread across the doctor's face. But as soon as it did, Spock knew he was in for the ribbing of his life. "I'll be, looks like you two finally got together."

"Doctor, I may remind you that while one-sided affairs are unfair, they are just that... one-sided."

"Oh, sorry, jumped to conclusions. Anyway, I was going to call today and ask if you want to join Jim and me for Thanksgiving. We're having it here and he wants to see you."

Spock's eyes crinkled a little at that. From his statement, McCoy didn't want to see him. He did not challenge it. "I shall give it consideration. My parents may have plans."...or Christine...

"Well, you let us know and keep me posted on Christine. In fact, you tell her to call me as soon as she gets ... nope, she won't do it. Give me the name of the hospital and her room number."

Spock was at a loss, he couldn't remember what either was. He only knew how to get there. "I do not know. I will have to get back with you with that information."

The conversation was cut short by a crash in the background and McCoy grumbled, "Now what... Spock see you."

Somewhere in Atlanta, Georgia, a certain doctor was shaking his head in wonderment as he picked up the potted plant that had tumbled when 'Little' Leonard pulled it down

* * *

There were so many flowers in the hospital room, Christine thought she would be sick. The smell of mums reminded her of a funeral parlor and the roses as well. Still, they were nice and reminded her that she had friends in some far away places. As soon as Uhura had found out, she'd sent an order for a freezer of ice cream to be delivered. With Christine's swollen throat, it would be welcome and tastier than Jell-o.

McCoy sent her a tape with strict instructions as well as new pictures of Leonard and two dozen of the finest peach roses New York City had. He had always jokingly referred to her as his little Yankee peach. Anne and Ken were planning on cutting their honeymoon short, but she would have none of it. The mums were from the Vulcan Embassy. Amanda had selected them as a token of their wishes. And then, tucked in a single vase closest to her bed was another silver rose, this time dipped in red. It was from Spock, she didn't even need to read the card.

Evening approached and from the hospital bed, she could watch the sun set and twilight take over. It was still early though and she wasn't used to the time change. Her prognosis from the doctor was good. She'd contracted a newer form of meningitis that was quickly becoming a problem. It reacted far faster than the older version and killed at a faster rate. She knew if it hadn't been for Spock she'd be dead. Her attempt to get him to leave her alone had not worked and she was thankful. No matter how much it hurt her, she could not just tell him to go away and leave her alone. And she was finding she really didn't want him to go away. Even if they were only friends, it would be far greater than she'd had before.

The nurse brought in her supper, all liquids. The chicken broth was at least tasty -- she craved salt -- and the Jell-o did slide down fairly easily. However, she did wish she could get some of the ice cream that Uhura had sent brought up to her. She was halfway through the orange Jell-o when a knock at her door caught her attention.

Spock stood, bag in hand. With an evil little grin spreading across her face, she said, "What's that?"

"Dinner, but I see that has been arranged already. I suppose I will have to throw it out."

"Not on your life ... get inside and shut the door before they get you. What did you bring?" She sat up more on the bed, careful not to disturb the IV lines that ran into her body to administer massive antibiotics. She wasn't even going to try to hide her delight at seeing him anymore.

Doing as she asked, he removed a pint of the ice cream that Uhura had sent. He had chosen one of the more unusually titled flavors. "Caribbean Rum Raisin Chocolate."

"Mmmm, you are a godsend," she said a little too strongly, and it hurt her throat. Patting the bed, she smiled, "Sit down."

Inside something smiled, delighted that he had pleased her. Choosing a spot far away from the tubes that ran in and out of her body, he watched as she dug into the chocolate swirled with dark purple. "This is sooo good. Do you want some?"

"No, I shall leave you to the ice cream. Did you receive any further data on why you became ill?"

"Mmm-hmm, I had a brush with a new meningial strain. I have been assured that I am on the mend and can be remanded to my own custody tomorrow afternoon providing that I stay on the soft diet till my throat gets better. Believe me, with the way it feels I'm not going to be ordering steak anytime soon."

It was amazing how quickly the pint disappeared. She had another eleven flavors to go through. He disposed of the carton. "Do you still have a headache?"

"It's disappearing. More like the memory of a headache now. I wanted to thank you. And, to apologize for my behavior the last week or so. It's not right for me to be so..."

"Distant?" he finished with a coy look as if she might hit him.

"That's a good term. I realize that you wish a friendship and I am so ill-mannered as to be rude. Forgive me."

"There is nothing to forgive," he said shaking his head. If anything, he needed to be forgiven. If he could only make her see what he wanted.

"So, you called Leonard," she smiled indicating the peach roses on her bedside table. "And thank your mother for the flowers. As well as yourself."

"Dr. McCoy was quite concerned. He said he would call you. Has he?"

"Not yet. Probably wanting to make certain ... I guess I'll call him," picking up the comm badge that came in every room, she indicated she wished an outside call.

Spock had wanted to spend the evening alone with her. But, if indications were correct, he would have many other opportunities to do so. He could bide his time for a little while. He watched quietly as she laughed delightedly at McCoy's conversation. She had laughed with Spock, not at him, but along with him at some of his comments. But it was a quiet laugh, not this side splitting laugh that she had for her human friends.

Before she ended the conversation, the signal for all visitors to leave the wards sounded. She put the communication on pause. "Oh, Spock, I'm sorry, I've talked all evening to Leonard."

"I shall take you home from the hospital tomorrow. I have to retrieve my coat," he offered as an excuse to take her.

"All right. I'll see you then, thank you for the ice cream." She watched Spock turn and just as he reached the door, she stopped him, "Spock..."

He turned, saw the light in her eyes. It shined for him, "Yes?"

"Thank you."

"It was ... my pleasure."

* * *

While the prospect of getting out of the hospital was a good one, Christine was still weak and easily tired. Since she had no clothes but the lounging pajamas to go home in, she'd requested things from the hospital gift shop. She was all smiles for Spock when he arrived. "Finally, I thought you would never get here."

"You said 1700, did you not?"

"Oh, come on, before they decide to keep me any longer. I hate hospitals..." she was saying as they walked down the hall to the lift. She didn't need to be wheeled out.

"That is not logical," Spock was saying as he wheeled the assortment of flowers. The ice cream was all at his apartment.

"I don't really know too many doctors or nurses who love hospitals. They mean sickness and death most of the time. The work is the reward, not the place it's done in," she answered and allowed him to open the skimmer door while he piled the flowers in.

"So, are you going to Leonard's for Thanksgiving?" she asked as they stepped into her apartment. It was as he had left it when he had swept out of there. His coat hung on the peg by the door.

"I am uncertain at this time. I have two weeks to decide. While it would be agreeable to see them, there are things here that demand my attention," he said as diplomatically as possible.

She caught his eye just then, held it, looked deep into those brown eyes and thought... No, he meant his parents or his job. "Well, I'm sure that whatever it is can be held off for a few days. You really need to keep in touch with friends. After all, except for relatives, they are all we have in this life."

* * *

Christine made a steady recovery. Spock checked on her every evening as well as every morning when he got to work. She went back to Starfield on the third day back from the hospital. She couldn't stand lounging around home any longer. Amanda requested that she be brought for dinner and stay the evening so that they could finally get to have a day together like she'd asked for months before. Christine arrived on Friday, would stay until Saturday evening. Both Sarek and Amanda seemed to fawn over her. Spock remained in the background watching, studying, reveling. They retired late, rose late, remained talking over tea and cakes about the past, the present, and the future.

"Spock, Christine tells me that you might be going to Georgia for Thanksgiving," Amanda said completely taking him by surprise. He had not told Christine not to mention it. In fact by the look on her face, she had not said anything of the sort. Amanda caught the looks, "Let me rephrase that. Christine said that Leonard and Jim are spending the holiday together. I assumed that you would be joining them."

"Ah, I am still deciding. I have things to attend to here," he said hoping to lead his mother away from this subject. She took the hint.

His father on the other hand was not as quick to understand the meaning behind his tone. "What things? There are no..."

"Sarek, help me with these dishes please," Amanda interrupted. She never interrupted. He chose to do so to keep from causing an incident over nothing. She would explain to Sarek about his faux pas when they were in the kitchen.

"I can help," Christine offered.

"No, no that's all right..." The two disappeared into the skullery area of the kitchen leaving Spock alone with her for the first time really since she'd arrived. She was recovering from her brush with death and he was pleased. He turned the conversation toward her work.

"When you do find someone to volunteer to help with your transtator, how long do expect to see results?"

"When, not if ... the best case scenario is within days. The worst case is of course utter failure, but it depends on the person and the affliction. With minor neurological problems, I can be relatively certain it would be simply a matter of days. I am hoping that the signs of progress will be easily marked but am not banking on it. I'm not banking on anything but a pipe dream right now," she bemoaned a little. Spock could not help her plight. He knew no one except one who was impossible to reach that could possibly be willing to go through this risky surgery.

The afternoon wore on, the four enjoyed spending the time together. Amanda asked for tales of her son while they were shipmates. Christine tried to think of one that would not damage his reputation too much.

"Well, there was the incident with the gangsters and the Captain having to drive a car, but I wasn't there to witness it, you'll have to ask Spock about it."

With a sigh, Spock began the story of Sigma Iotia II and its odd inhabitants. Amanda was fairly crying with laughter at the idea of her son in an old fashioned suit and tie as well as the hat and a firearm.

Sarek, however, became a little alarmed when he mentioned the fact that McCoy had left his communicator in Bela Okmyx's office. "Is this not a violation of the Prime Directive?"

"Yes, it would be considered a violation, but under the circumstances, I do not see how it could have been avoided. We have had contact since then with the planetary officials."

"Perhaps you should head the diplomatic corps that will be assigned to go there," Sarek said challengingly.

"A diplomatic corps?"

"Yes, I have received word that they wish to discuss diplomatic agendas regarding their planet and its 'cut'... You would be perfect for the job since you already have a working knowledge of their culture."

Christine laughed in her tea. "Better get the old zoot suit out again..." Once again she and Amanda were in fits of hilarity at the mere thought.

The two Vulcans regarded the human females in the room. Sarek said softly, "So alike..."

Spock was dictating a log when the message arrived. It was from Christine. She had rarely initiated the contact between them, but this time, it was a rather urgent sounding, even though it was in T'Van's calm unblemished hand. It merely read

"Attn: Spock Re: Dinner Be at my apartment at 2000. Don't ask just be there... Christine"

Spock kept looking at the short note. It sounded ... hopeful, hopeless. He was not sure. He just knew that he dare not miss the opportunity to spend the evening with her. He hoped to spend Thanksgiving with her as well; it was only five days away. He had also had a message from Jim. He had spoken of how well things were going with Carol, but they were not completely mended so he would be spending the time with Leonard and wanted, no needed Spock to be there. Kirk needed his friends as a man needs air.

Anne's calm voice interrupted his thoughts. "So, how are things going?"

"Mrs. Donaldson," he said, noting her smile. She'd told him to call her Anne, but was secretly very pleased at him giving her that title. She was enjoying being married even though it was no different than living together. "Things are proceeding smoothly. And you?"

"Well," she said allowing her eyes to gaze toward the ceiling but could not hold the joy inside. "Actually, things could never be better. I'd like you to be the..." She counted on her fingers. "...fifth to know. I'm not going to get in trouble from my sister."

Spock was perplexed and then remembered her wedding reception. "You are a fast worker."

"And efficient, it looks like twins, but I'm only a few weeks along. So, there is nothing absolutely definite yet. Ken is trying to keep from telling people until the last minute, but I'm about to burst. Don't tell Christine, though, unless she asks. She's rather perceptive."

"Yes, about many things," Spock agreed. She was incredibly perceptive regarding everything but the one thing that mattered most.

* * *

Christine was almost ready to explode. She was so nervous she almost burnt the apartment down and had to take deep breathing exercises to keep calm. Spock was due any minute. An elegant dinner was already waiting. She'd made a favorite of both of theirs and hoped that he wouldn't mind the candles. They were a touch romantic, but she just had to do something...

The door chime sounded and she barely kept from running to the door. Spock was there, dressed quite handsomely in a rich brown suede cloak and matching set of robes. She swore he became more handsome as he aged. With a flushed smile, she allowed him in.

He presented her with a bottle of wine. "For dinner. Is it not appropriate that I bring something?"

"Yes, but you didn't have to. I do like white wine however. Take your coat off, dinner is ready if you want to go ahead and eat."

That was odd, Spock was used to helping her or small talk before the meal, but she seemed anxious to get things over with. He noted the tapered candles and the gold rimmed place settings that she kept for only special occasions. He was a little confused. He was the one who wished to propose to her....

Now it appeared that she wished to do the same. His heart began beating so loudly he wondered how she didn't hear it. "Is there anything I can help with?" he asked almost breathless.

"You can open the wine if you want," she decided, and he did so before sitting down.

Pouring a glass for each of them, he placed the bottle on the edge of the table. Her eyes were practically gleaming in the light. Unable to control her excitement any longer, she raised her glass. "I propose..."

"I accept," he answered.

Her stunned expression told him that this was not what she had planned for the evening. She stammered to a stop. Apparently she heard wrong or interpreted it wrong. "Uh ... a toast, to Vita Meyerson."

Spock frowned,"Who is Vita Meyerson?"

"The first recipient of the Starfield neuro-transtator," she replied. All the wind was taken completely out of her sail. She was sure the blood had drained completely from her face and into her feet.

Spock suddenly realized his mistake. Quickly, he saluted, "Indeed, congratulations are in order then." He sipped the wine and began with the food. He made no attempt to explain his comment.

Christine simply stared at her glass and at the plate. Finally, she picked up her fork and began eating. Her mind was in shock and her heart was as well. The food stuck halfway between. "Spock, would you mind..."

"I have news from Anne Donaldson today," he stalled. He had to put her in a more agreeable mood.

"Yes?" Christine asked eager to get out of the turn that her topic was going to take.

"She is expecting ... twins."

Christine smiled a little, then wider. She giggled a little. "Ken didn't say anything to me. That little..."

"I believe he wished to wait to tell the news. However, she was unable to keep the suspense any longer. She is extremely happy in her marriage," he said with a hint of suggestion.

"Well, some people are just cut out for marriage. They take to it like ducks to water. Others, well, like me for instance, we are better off alone," she answered trying to fend off the onslaught of feelings as best she could.

"I do not agree with that statement," he pressed. He would have to go forward now or stand a chance of never seeing it through. As his mother had said she could not answer the question if he did not pose it first. "Christine, it has come to my ... attention ... that we are compatible in many ways."

Here it came, and with it the fear that Christine had held back for months, years. Her eyes dilated, her heart rate quickened, her breathing picked up to near hyper-ventilating speed, and her throat constricted. She watched as Spock continued, "We both have a long friendship, a history that makes us suitable to being together. We share common companions and an interest in the same passions. We are both scientists, we are both accomplished, mature, settled..."

She was getting dizzy. Closing her eyes against the onslaught of the pain that was ripping through her she begged him to stop, "Spock, please..."

He froze. It hadn't worked. None of it had worked. He had only one thing left. "I love you."

Her eyes flew open, she moaned, shook her head. "No, you cannot love..."

Those words, spoken twenty four years ago not to her or to him but to an android in a cave haunted her. They penetrated the room and slammed into Spock's being as a dagger to the heart. He found her hand at the table, took it, held it even though it was ice cold, and she tried to move away from him. "I can love. It has taken me over 60 years to realize it. I do love ... you." He gave her back her hand.

"Spock, I think, it might be wise for you to go."

Spock shook his head. "No, I do not wish to go. I wish to explain."

"Uh, look, I am going to be very, very busy for a long time. That's the reason I wanted to have this little dinner sort of as a last meal type thing. I'm not going to have time to..."

"I wish to explain," he repeated. He would be forceful.

She was nearly in tears. Why now? Why her? Why? Still, she didn't want to hear the answers, she wanted him to go away and leave her to her out of order heart. Laying her napkin across the now uneaten meal, she scooted away from the table. Standing, she hesitated and then stepped out to the terrace that was frigid with the snow and blowing cold.

Spock followed her. She had only a light blouse on since she had set the heat to a more Vulcan norm. He retrieved a throw from the couch that he'd seen her use as a shawl and approached her. Placing it on her shoulders, he left his hands there trying to assure her of his sincerity. She did not pull away but did not lean into him either.

Tears flowed down the cheeks and threatened to freeze in the night air. Her heart was screaming at her to say yes, her mind to say no. She'd sworn off men fifteen years ago. She had contented herself to being alone and concentrated every ounce of her energy on her work. Now, the reason she had given it all up was standing here telling her he loved her and wished to marry her.

"I was saying," his voice caressed, "since our meeting at Delmonico's I have been enthralled by you. You are the strongest person I believe I have ever met. It has been a privilege to be in your presence."

She choked on the tears. "But, you're a Vulcan, you can't love."

"My father would dispute you," Spock said with a slight smile.

At that Christine turned, and he could see the dismay in her face as well as the tears. He had never wanted to hurt her or cause her to cry. They did not appear to be happy tears either. As gently as another time he took her tears with his hand, he brushed these away with his lips. They were salty, cold, delicious. She did not retreat, did not come forward.

"Spock ... please don't."

"I do not understand."

"Spock, it has been so long.... I don't know if I can even love anyone anymore. I don't want to tell you things will be the way you want them and then find they can't. I just ... I don't know."

That was a good thing. She was not definitely on the negative side. But, she was not leaning toward yes either. "You wish time?" he asked.

"Yes, time."

Spock stepped away from her. "I shall give you time then. How much time?"

"Spock, it's not just a matter of time, it's space and freedom to think and no pressure. I don't know when I'd be able to answer you. It might be a day, it might be a year. Are you willing to wait that long?"

Spock nodded,"Yes, I am willing. I will be going to visit with Jim and Dr. McCoy for the holiday. Will this help with your decision?"

Christine was at a loss. But, if it would get him to go away for now. "Yes, yes, it will help. But don't expect miracles."

Spock quickly exited the terrace, retrieved his coat, and before he left turned back to her. "Remember that I love you."

She nodded, stricken and completely unable to fathom how the evening went from being one of celebration to one of devastation so quickly. Without regard to the food still sitting on the table, she retrieved her glass of wine and began to drink. If anything, she'd dispose of this much of the evening anyway. She couldn't stand the silence any longer but did not wish to watch anything. Requesting the stereo to shuffle a selection of songs that she particularly favored when she was blue or down, the first one was fittingly appropriate...

Lover's Return

And so you have come back to me

And say the old love's growing yet

You've tried through all these weary years

You've tried so vainly to forget

Come close and let me see your face

Your raven hair is tinged with snow

Oh, yes, it is the same dear face

I loved so many years ago

Oh no, I cannot take your hand

God never gives us back our youth

The loving heart you slighted then

Was yours, my friend, in perfect truth

Farewell, I think I love you yet

As friend to friend, God bless you dear

And guide you through these weary years

To where the skies are always clear.