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) 2002 by T'Kuht. The estate of Lucy Maud Montgomery owns the novel Anne of Green Gables and all of its characters. Rated PG.
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...
Thunder and pitch black clouds came roiling in from the west. Christine had dozed off while lying on the chaise lounge and was actually thankful that the storm had awakened her. If she stayed out much longer she'd have a nasty sunburn. As it was she was a nice rosy pink and had enough color to turn into a nice tan in a couple of days. Grabbing the book she had brought out and promptly forgot to read, she headed for the walk and up to the cabin she'd rented before the first big splatters of raindrops came crashing onto the hot pavement. There hadn't been any forecast of this storm front, but considering that Vega 3 was not a dome-controlled environment, it was not surprising. She had chosen to stay alone on this shore leave instead of heading to the more populated haunts with her friends. She had some thinking to do and decided that would best be done in private. Here there were no disruptions or emergencies, only the soft sound of water lapping against the private dock and the crackle and hiss of the wood in the fireplace as it blazed up. She had been there two days now and was beginning to wish she'd at least brought along some form of communication device. She wasn't used to being alone even if she had sought it out.
Going through the tiny two room cabin making certain everything was closed, she stood at the French doors looking out on the main area of deck and watched the deluge. A crack of thunder deafened her and, squeezing her eyes shut, she slammed her hands over her ears. When she opened them again, she noted that the lights she had turned on were now out and probably the rest of the electricity too. The house had not been converted to solar panels and was run on a supply of electricity and propane. Luckily, the stove in the kitchen was run on gas. She'd be able to cook and at that time of year she didn't have to worry about freezing to death. She might suffocate, though, if she couldn't open the windows or run the large Key Largo fans that occupied the main room.
Well, she mused, guess I'd better find the emergency stock before it gets too dark.
* * *
Commander Spock had not noticed the change in the weather until the sudden burst of cold air hit him, and he became aware that angry skies threatened to unleash all its fury. Picking up the experimental vials, he secured them in his pack and began making his way back to the camp he had made three miles away. He had not wanted to take shore leave, but when the ship was ordered to stand all hands down he had no choice. So, he decided that it would be an excellent opportunity to study the local freshwater phenomena at Lake Carlyle. Even though this was not an environmentally protected planet, it had a freshwater supply that was as pure and free of pollutants as any that had been sterilized and treated.
The Vulcan began the rocky trek back to his camp when the first drops of rain hit. They hit hard and he could actually feel the sting of small hail pelting him. If he ran through the trees along the banks, he would find some protection. The wind picked up and threatened to dump him unceremoniously into the lake. It began to pour so hard he could no longer see to navigate, and he was not well enough acquainted with the area to go on autopilot. Stopping in his tracks, he recalled that there was a cabin that was occupied, or had been that morning when he went out to the site he had chosen. He also remembered that it was approximately half way between.
Going to the depths of the wooded area, he tried to make out the scenery. He could see a light, an artificial light, that must be it ... and he headed for it. The blinding flash of lightning and the subsequent boom nearly knocked him onto his knees. It was so close. The smell of scorched wood and the twang of ozone only confirmed that the lightning strike was nearly on top of him. The sound of a tree falling nearby made him scurry toward the light faster.
The light, it was gone ... but he clearly remembered the light. The lightning strike must have knocked out the power lines. Still, he only had that light to go by and continued in that direction. It was perhaps only two hundred feet away, but the driving rain and wind pushed him to the point that he thought he'd never get there. Making it finally to the beach area and following it to the dock, he could see the bright white and grass green cabin not more than fifty feet. Even if no one was home, wraparound porches made it the only port in the storm, and he gladly hurried to find shelter there.
* * *
Christine shivered at the sound of the howling wind raging outside and decided to check on the wood supply. A hatch in the middle of the kitchen opened to a set of stairs leading to the boat dock under the cabin. Here was stored the emergency supplies, wood, the utilities, and a garage with room for a fair sized boat. She was rummaging around in the dark with only a hurricane lantern when she could hear sounds of movement upstairs.
Tensing, she took a deep breath. "Don't panic ... probably a window you left open or the doors flew open ... it's nothing." But still, the large ball bat that was part of the complimentary recreation equipment felt safe and comfortable in her hand as she started back up the stairs.
* * *
Spock surveyed the cabin. It was basically a large high vaulted main room with a cubby hole to sleep in, hall leading to the bath, he assumed, a large central chimney and another area for dining and the kitchen furnishings. Conscious of the fact that he was dripping all over the floor, he started back through the hall to the front door and a side door that, when opened, revealed a spacious antiseptic bathroom. Stepping inside, he grabbed a towel and began absorbing the water that was still dripping down his neck. He was soaked to the skin and it would be impossible to try to sponge up enough water to be comfortable. So, looking around he found a blue terry bathrobe and hoped he could be excused for borrowing it.
* * *
Christine crept up the stairs wordlessly and as still as a cat. Actually she was so tense she almost couldn't move. Still, someone else was in the house with her, she knew it. She had heard the footsteps. She hadn't seen a soul anywhere near the cabin the two days she'd been there. Hefting the lantern and the ball bat, she had a hard time keeping her balance since the stairs were steep. Finally she was at the top and softly she lowered the hatch. It would be perfect for someone to push her down there if she didn't close the entry off. Slipping to make herself as small as possible against the wall, she tried listening for breathing and only heard her own heart racing so hard she could've outrun a stallion at full gallop.
She began to relax thinking it had been an immense joke on herself when the doorknob to the bathroom creaked. Quickly she remembered that if she couldn't see them then they couldn't see her either and blew the lantern out. There was still enough natural light to see forms and shadows. The person stepped out and, after some decision, started back toward the main room. Christine swung around into the hall via the kitchen entry and concluded that hitting was best done first and the asking later. With ball bat primed, she swung down hatchet style crack ...
* * *
Spock thought he'd been hit by lightning. Trying not to make any sudden movements, he just sank to his knees and held up his hands in defeat. "Please, I mean no harm. I simply needed out of the storm..."
Christine was shaking so hard she thought that she heard Spock's voice. "Who are you?"
"Commander Spock, USS Enterprise," he managed and winced at the pain in his head. Whoever it was had hit him hard, good and hard.
"Spock, what are you doing here?" came Christine's voice, so low it was almost a whisper. He turned to look at her in the dim light. Absolute panic overtook her entire body. And he did note that he could see her entire body. She'd been sunbathing in a very small bathing suit.
"Miss Chapel, was it necessary that you hit me?"
"Oh, my God, are you hurt, did I hurt you, please tell me I didn't hurt you," she stammered and tried to reach out to him and stopped halfway there.
"You have indeed injured me, but not seriously. You can put the ball bat down now," he suggested eyeing it suspiciously.
She dropped it immediately, and it landed on her bare foot. "Ow, damn ... "
It wasn't until she was hopping around that she realized she had practically no clothes on. Her robe was in the bath ... no, it was on Spock. "Why do you have my bathrobe on?"
"I came in out of the rain. I had no idea it was your bathrobe or that you were occupying this cabin. Are you alone here?" he asked still holding a hand to the back of his head. The throbbing had started.
"Yes, please let me help you to the couch or something," she answered. She never felt so helpless and hopeless at the same time before. Here was the man she loved, and she had nearly done him in.
"I can make it to the couch. Are you accustomed to entertaining in the nude?"
She swallowed. "I'm not nude, just in a very small bikini. And no, I don't normally have people over to tea in this type of outfit. If you could give me my robe..."
Spock shook his head, which was a mistake. "Then I would be in the nude. My clothes are dripping in your bathroom."
Christine nodded. "Just a second."
The little bed alcove was only large enough for a queen-sized bed and had a curtained entry to the bath beyond. A closet with access from both the bath and the hall held her clothing. Picking out a pair of standard issue Star Fleet exercise sweats, she took them out to Spock. "Here, these will fit better and will be warmer and then you can give me my robe," she said handing them to him. Luckily she was tall enough that she would basically wear the same size that he did. Spock nodded and went back slowly to the bathroom. The sweats were indeed warmer and greatly appreciated.
By the time he returned she had at least put on a t-shirt that she had slept in the night before and had left under her pillow. The lantern was lit as well as several decorative candles placed around the room. She didn't know if they were supposed to be lit, but it was an emergency. The fireplace provided warmth and the sound of the rain went from an angry pounding to a steady drum roll. The winds had died down, but from the look of both the skies and the lake it wasn't over yet. She was standing looking out the windows when he reappeared.
"Is the storm dying down?" he asked.
Christine didn't dare turn to look at him. She had started crying at the idea that she had hit him. If she had hit him just right, she could have killed him. Clearing her throat, she answered plainly, "Yes but it looks as if it could start up again at any moment."
He walked up to her robe in hand. "Your robe. I regret that I did not make my entry known. But I did knock."
She took the robe but didn't turn to face him. "Thank you. I was in the boat garage trying to find wood."
Spock nodded gingerly. He did not let on that she had injured him thoroughly. He would survive, there was no doubt, but he was going to feel it for a while. She pulled the robe on, thereby allowing her to wipe the tears that were flowing down her cheeks. "Are you hungry or thirsty, I can cook something?" she asked.
Spock was indeed hungry. He had not eaten since early that morning and had neglected to drink as well. Still he did not wish to intrude on her shore leave.
"Only if you are going to have something," he answered thereby tossing it back into her domain.
Christine nodded and turned the opposite direction to stride quickly into the kitchen area. She didn't realize that Spock had followed her. She turned quickly from the small under counter refrigerator to the stove and smacked right into him, backing up she nearly burst into tears again. "Mr. Spock, if you could please go somewhere else."
Spock nodded and stepped over to the picnic table that was used for the dining area. Sitting down on the edge of the bench seat he watched as she attempted to think up something to cook. She really hadn't brought anything suitable for a vegetarian only meal. She did have eggs, bread and milk. "Do you eat eggs, Mr. Spock, or is that taboo?"
"No, we consume eggs," he stated flatly. He did know that some vegetarians considered all milk and egg products to be meat, but Vulcans recognized the difference between a bi-product of an animals natural processes and the killing of sentient creatures.
Sighing, she decided to fix French toast. That was simple enough. But she had no syrup to drench it with. Oh, well, she'd just fix it dry this time. "Well, Spock I hope you don't mind breakfast for supper, but it's the only thing I can come up with on short notice."
Spock didn't care. He was hungry enough to eat boiled cactus needles. The smell of propane filled the room as she had to hand light the burners, and the glow of the orange and blue flame accompanied with the yellow of the lantern created a strange glow to the nurse's figure. She cracked the eggs deftly using only one hand and deposited the unbroken yolks into the bowl. Before adding the sugar, she remembered. "You aren't partial to sweets, are you?"
"I will eat naturally sweetened things like fruit. However, added sugars I do not enjoy."
"Hmm, well, I don't have syrup for these anyway. I'll add a little salt. That way they aren't so bland. You do salt?"
"Yes," came the voice in the now dark corner. The sun hadn't even tried to peer out from under the dark blanket of clouds. It was not really even technically dark by now.
Christine didn't know if she liked this much scrutiny. She was used to people watching her, but not a certain Vulcan, not alone in a cabin, and not in the bikini she only wore in private to sunbathe in. Even though now she had a full-length robe and a t-shirt over it she still felt nude. The butter began to sputter and spark from the heat, and she dipped the pieces of bread into the frothy egg mixture. Making certain every side was drenched and soaked in egg batter, she dropped them into the hot pan. It would only take them moments to cook. That was the good thing about French toast. "If you want tea, I can put a kettle on," she suggested.
The cooler air from the storm made the cabin clammy and cold. Spock shivered in spite of the warm sweats. "Yes, if it would not be any trouble."
"No, I think I'll make some for myself as well. It got cold all of a sudden. Do you think you could go get one of the candles out of the main room?" she asked trying to think of some way to get him to stop staring at her.
Spock busied himself locating the larger candle out of the main room. He noticed another hurricane lamp sitting on the shelves filled with books and took it instead. It was filled with oil and ready to be used. "I found this," he said and set the glass lamp on the table.
Christine picked the crisp fried bread out of the pan and portioned them onto plates. The tea would take a few minutes to boil. "Well, I hope these are okay," she excused and set the plates down. The kerosene added yet another strange smell into the room. Spock sniffed. Christine took it that he didn't like the toast. "I'm sorry if you don't like the toast, I'll eat it."
"I made no comment on your toast. I don't like the smell of kerosene."
"Oh, yes, it does take getting used to." She bit into hers and realized it was sizzling hot. Smiling bravely as she burnt the roof and sides off the inside of her mouth, she wasn't going to let him see her spit it out. She managed to swallow it. "It's hot."
"Apparently. It is good, however, thank you," he replied sincerely. Christine was a renowned cook onboard and he had been privy to some of her delicacies before. Most notably the plomeek soup that he so plainly allowed to slide down the bulkhead opposite his door. He had apologized and requested more soup later that day. After tasting the second helping, he was sorry he had been so upset that he destroyed the first. He waited a few moments for it to cool and was done devouring it when the tea finally sounded. The shrill whistle cut into the quiet atmosphere of the cabin like an alarm. Christine excused herself and turned the flame off. "I only have Earl Grey. I do have lemon if you'd like."
"No, just the tea. However, if you have cinnamon," he suggested.
"Yes, I think so. Let me find it." The pantry beside the stove had been well stocked, and she had brought her own personal supplies as well. She wouldn't stay anywhere that didn't have a well-stocked larder. "Oh, the only cinnamon I have has sugar mixed with it."
"That will do. My mother served it to me in that fashion when I was a child," he explained although she had asked for no explanations.
Tea was good, strong, and comforting. Christine preferred hers with milk as well and after placing the dishes in the sink to do later, she wondered what the hell she was gonna do with the Vulcan all night. Rain still beat a tattoo on the roof and she wasn't about to toss him out. They'd just have to stand each other's company till the morning or the storm broke, whichever came first.
"Well," she began," it's too early to turn in and there isn't any way to watch a movie or listen to the music stations, so I guess ... "
"Perhaps conversation. I realize that humans are uncomfortable sitting in silence for long periods of time."
"Okay, so what are you doing out here? I mean just meandering around when the storm broke."
Spock couldn't help but remain focused on her. The light only illuminated a certain radius, and she was in one sphere sitting on the couch and he in the other sitting next to the fire. "I was gathering specimens to support a freshwater analysis that I am doing. My camp is on the other side of the cabin, and, when I went to the site I chose to gather samples from, I was on the far side of the bay here. When I tried to make it back I only got this far."
"Oh," she replied. "Well, you're not leaving till the storm is over. Oh, how is your head? I am terribly sorry, truly."
"It is much better. There has been no permanent damage, and you were warranted in the action. It is not safe for a single person to remain in such seclusion," Spock pointed out.
Christine nearly laughed. He had not said a woman, but she knew what he meant. She was perfectly capable to hold her own. "I am a trained Star Fleet officer even if I didn't go through all the rigamarole. But thank you for your warning."
"And you, why are you here alone?"
She sighed, "I had some thinking to do. I thought I could do it here better than in a hotel or watching Uhura perform in another amateur night contest."
Nyota Uhura was famous or infamous for her singing and would perform for anyone or anything. She liked to frequent taverns and grottos that held contests. She had a whole wall full of trophies. Spock realized that she had meant to get away from everyone and here he was sitting in her cabin. "I regret that circumstances necessitated me to take cover here."
Christine thought a second. "Oh, please, I was beginning to realize that it might not have been the wisest decision. You aren't intruding really."
Spock took the statement at face value. She really couldn't throw him out, well she could, but he knew she wouldn't. "If I am not probing too deeply into your personal problems, have you been able to achieve your goal?"
"Well, yes and no. I know what I should do, but things aren't black and white, and all the colors are beginning to drive me crazy," she replied cryptically.
"If you require an impartial opinion, I am certain I can offer one."
Christine snorted and laughed. "You, oh yeah, just what I'd need. Sorry, it's just that all my life people have suggested, cajoled, or pushed me into doing things. I get tired. But perhaps you are correct. At least you'd have a more logical suggestion."
At the mention of his favorite word, Spock's eyebrow went up. She continued, "Well, here goes. As you know the end of our five-year mission is in four months. You are regular Star Fleet. You'll be reassigned or sent somewhere else, or something. Me, I'm a volunteer and well, the gig will be over. So, do I re-enlist for another however long, do I drop the pretense of the good and dutiful officer and go into private work, or do I go back to school and finish the degree I had started before coming aboard?"
Spock considered her dilemma for a moment. He too had wondered what he would do when the mission ended. He might be a valued Star Fleet officer and the best first officer in the fleet, but life does go on. He had been in Star Fleet now over twenty years both man and boy. Now the man was beginning to think it would be better to leave and explore other options while he was still young. He did wish clarification. "To which degree do you refer?"
"I have a doctorate in bio-research and bio-chemistry, but I was only two semesters away from my medical doctorate. I know you're going to tell me it was foolish..." She began as if preparing for the barrage that she had always gotten when it was revealed she was much more qualified than her job required.
"I would not have used the word foolish, ill-timed perhaps. However, I do believe I can see why you did so," the unspoken comment allowed the topic to be closed.
"You can see ... that's rich. I've tried to explain to at least ... God everyone, and you a Vulcan can see. I don't even see anymore. Maybe it's time I just forget everything and go back to doing what I had set out to do before Roger ever came into my life," she said shaking her head. Still after four years she was sensitive enough to barely be able to mention his name.
"Perhaps it is. Do you find your work as a nurse satisfactory?"
That question was a bit of a turnabout. "Well, if you mean the dirty part of the work, no, I loathe it. But I have been allowed to work closely with wonderful physicians. I think I've learned a lot from the experience that I wouldn't have if I ..." Her voice began to trail off. He was right, she had learned and become richer and more able to be the doctor she was meant to be. The road was beginning to clear.
"Then your time has not been wasted nor has it been foolish. You have become someone more able to handle the routine of a physician with success. Can you say you would have done as well if you had gone through with the plans originally?"
"I don't know, never will, will I? But you are right. I guess I've allowed everyone else's expectations of me destroy the self-esteem I had before everything went haywire. You'd never know it but I used to be quite determined and forceful. I used to be able to make up my mind and just do it. Now I can't do anything for fear of screwing up and looking foolish again."
Spock realized that this woman that he had admired, trusted, and yet feared because of her feelings was greatly different than the person she had been. She had the voices, the demons that he had but while he could convince the Vulcan half of him to lock them away, she had no such ability and just had to cope with them. She wasn't coping well.
"I do not believe any of the options you have described would be considered foolish."
She laughed bitterly and was thankful for the darkness. "Even if I chucked all the ideas and went home to raise fruit trees?"
Spock nodded. "Miss ... Christine, you said you were tired. If raising fruit trees would bring strength back to you, then you must do it. Do not care what others think or push you to do."
He was surprised at his own ease in saying these things to her. They were the very things he was trying to come to terms with. Christine's blue eyes, barely visible in the dim light met his dark brown sincere ones. He was the answer she'd sought out. This Vulcan who she had loved and chased and desired, he presented her the problem at hand in a concise form. It was simple. Just do what you have to do and worry only about yourself. "Thank you, I think that has made more sense than any of the berating McCoy's given me these last four and a half years."
"Dr. McCoy has been pushing you ... ?"
"He found out about my degrees the day he got here and reviewed my files before taking over from Piper. He nearly beat me over the head with the data padd. He's been much more congenial about it since then, but that initial reaction always gets me. You are, I think, the first one to not stand there open mouthed and begin, 'Why the hell are you working here?' Thank you." The relief and the gratitude was enough to make Spock nearly sorrowful.
The silence fell between the two of them and the sound of the still falling rain became louder. "I suppose it's going to rain all night," she said with a sigh. She was tired, but not so tired that she needed to drop into bed. Besides, with Spock there ... but he might be exhausted and needing to sleep. The couch was long enough to be comfortable. She had fallen asleep on it the first afternoon she was there. There was a clock that had chimed on the hour and it struck nine. She hadn't realized it was so late. Well, actually it was early for her, but she thought it might be considered late. "If you are tired I can make up the couch here. I slept on it the other day, and it was quite comfortable."
"I am not tired, Miss Chapel. However, if you are I can meditate."
"No, I just thought you might be. So, about your experiments, did you find anything conclusive?"
"I had not yet taken enough samples to gain any usable data. In fact, the vials ... " he said and suddenly remembered the vials of water in his pack. But he did not recall the pack making it with him to the cabin. "I dropped them, when the lightning struck, they are useless now."
"Well, surely it won't rain the rest of the time, you'll have a chance to recover your samples, but your camp is probably worse for wear ... if it's even still there," she pointed out. Without realizing it, she had relaxed enough to prop one elbow up on the back of the couch and held her right cheek in her palm.
Spock nodded. "I highly doubt if it is still intact. I will have to search tomorrow if the weather breaks."
"Well, you can stay here if you like. I mean on the couch. It really is quite lonely here and I do believe my thinking has been thought out now. Of course, if you can find your camp and all, well you'll stay there."
Spock saw no reason to logically refuse. He would have no access to the Enterprise until two days from now and without supplies, he would be no better than homeless on the beach. At least here he could have shelter, food, and company. He was finding that Miss Chapel was not unpleasant company after all. He had always assumed she would waste no time throwing herself at him if given such an opportunity. She not only had not done that but had even acted as if she did not relish his presence there. The firelight filled the high ceilinged room and added unusual shadows. He was reminded of the strange fascination that humans had with ghost stories and this was the perfect place for such a tale. Still, he really didn't know any. There were shelves of books that lined the wall that ran back to the hall and parted for the bed alcove. Standing, he stretched and taking a candle went to the selections. Christine's eyes followed him. "What are you doing?"
"Merely perusing their selection of books," he answered not even really knowing what he was looking for. There, this was something, and he removed a chunky copy. Tales of Edgar Allen Poe.... "Have you read any of his works?" he asked holding the book out to her to read the binding.
"Poe, of course, every one, why?"
"The night is appropriate to the telling ... do you read?" he suggested.
"You mean, do I read as in can I or do I as in recitations?" she asked teasingly.
"Recitations. My mother would read from her books when I was small to help ease me to sleep. I thought it might pass the time since we cannot do anything else."
"Hmm, not a bad idea and on a stormy one like this it would be ideal. Might scare myself silly, though. You might not know this, Mr. Spock, but I used to be quite a hand at interpretations and recitations. I liked to act out the story as I was reading it and would have the scout camp in frights all night. We'd sit up and oh have the best time. Oh, I forgot ... just a minute ... do you want more tea? I can put water on ..."
"Yes, what did you forget?" Spock inquired but did not follow her into the kitchen. Her voice, muffled as she bent over trying to go through cabinets, answered, "Marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate ... .s'mores. I haven't made any of these for years. I know you don't like sweets, but really you'll have to try just a little. That way you can say you've had them. We'll need to use that milk out of the refrigerator too. It's already warming up in the refrigerator. Nothing else should spoil, though."
Hurrying back in with a box of crackers, bag of large white marshmallows, and a bar of milk chocolate, she began assembling them. "I need something for the fire, though. There are a couple of shish-ka-bob skewers in the drawer, here, you break the chocolate into the blocks while I rummage for them."
Spock did as he was asked and could hear her shifting utensils and cutlery around in the drawer. After a moment, he heard, "Oh, damn..."
"Are you injured?"
"I stuck myself with the dumb corn cob sticks. Ow, that smarts ... Anyway, here they are," she called happily and kneeled down beside the hearth. Spock could see the shining blue eyes and the melancholy she'd felt earlier was gone for now. Shoving marshmallows onto the long thin rods, she held them over the coals. "You have to get the marshmallows warm enough to melt so that when you put it between the chocolate and the graham crackers, the chocolate melts and sticks it all to the cracker. It's messy, but it's good."
The look on his face as he sat cross-legged next to her was priceless. The taste was almost sickeningly sweet, but it was good. Still, it was so rich he decided he would have a sick stomach if he ate many of them. Christine was so busy with hers she forgot about the storm outside. The lightning had been subdued since the first large blast that had knocked out the power, but it was back with a vengeance. The sound was so loud it almost rocked the cabin and for a split second she was on board during an emergency and the torpedoes had hit hard.
"Good grief," she complained. The teakettle's shrill whistle added to the noise and she went in to tend to it. Her own s'more having been consumed before it even cooled, she thought about bringing out the hotdogs, but well, considering they were kosher and Spock wasn't, she decided they'd have to wait till she was alone. Remembering Spock liked cinnamon, she was about to tote the mugs back into the main room when he relieved her of his.
"Thank you," she smiled in the dim light. "So, you want to read ghost stories? Really, Spock, I did not think you the type," she said amused after remembering the book on the floor.
"If there is something else you prefer I am willing to listen and read anything."
"Better than sitting here talking about nothing, eh? Okay, I'll go first." Picking up the book, they had to sit nearly in the fireplace to read the words. "No wonder Milton went blind," she complained straining to make out the faded print.
"It was not from over self-gratification?" Spock asked innocently. Christine's tea nearly put the fire out as she spit it out.
"I don't believe you said that. Of course not, Milton went blind from improper lighting and overwork of the retina. Sorry, did I spit on you?"
"No, I stand corrected."
Leafing through the large volume she knew precisely which one she wanted to begin with. Smiling mischievously, she began, "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore ..."
Spock found himself almost mesmerized by her voice. She was able to convey the classic poem in such a manner that he could actually see the raven sitting on the bust of Pallas. When she ended, he was still in that literary world until another loud clap of thunder tossed him out. He was impressed. "You read very well."
"Told you I was good. Your turn," she said and handed him the book. Spock chose the short story "The Black Cat". He was a fast reader, a literate man, but no poet or raconteur. His voice was velvety, but the emotion that Christine could convey in her poem was not as powerful in his baritone. He realized this and apologized, "I regret I am not as captivating as you."
"Well, it's just that you read the words and you understand the meanings but you don't put any weight into them. I bet that each word and syllable to you is as important as the rest, no less no more. In order to be a captivating speaker, you have to be able to put import to the words, their meanings, their hidden meanings. Perhaps Poe is a little too emotional for you. Maybe you should try Alexander Pope or something more humorous like Bret Harte."
He turned the book back to her. "Perhaps you should do the readings."
The blonde nurse let out her breath in exaggeration. "Really, it's not that difficult. Can't you pretend you're in the situation at hand? I mean when you were a boy, didn't you pretend you were on grand adventures and had secret invisible friends and your parents were really royalty on some far off planet and you really weren't who you were being told you were?"
Spock shook his head. "Any show of that type of imagination would have been stringently disapproved of. However, my mother did encourage it to a certain extent. She considered a normal and healthy function of a child's life."
Christine added, "A human child's life. Well, I hate to tell you this but adults, we lose that ability to create that world. Even if I could get you to begin thinking that way, you'd never get to be as adept as a kid. I used to be able to scare myself silly thinking about vampires under the bed just by the mere mention of the name Vlad. I'm not so gullible anymore."
"Is that why you needed the ball bat?" he reminded and touched the still aching part of the back of his head.
"Okay, you got me. Will you at least let me look at that? I never have and you might have a concussion or something. Good grief, if you died in your sleep from a blood clot and they found the wood splinters in your scalp I'd be hanged for sure," she exaggerated.
Spock turned and tried holding the lantern so that she could see, but it was no use. "I'll just have to wait till morning. I can get you some aspirin though if you have a headache. I know where they are without digging."
Heading over to the bed alcove, she retrieved the tiny bottle she carried with her full of assorted minor painkillers. Vulcans were not affected by either ibuprofen or acetaminophen, but they were able to ingest aspirin for the same effect humans had. He swallowed the pills. Christine went over to the bookcase again. "If you're going to make me read, I'll pick the material. Not that I don't like Poe, I love Poe, but with my imagination I'd better pick something a little more happy and sunny."
Choosing three large books, she flopped back on the cushions that she'd removed from the couch. It was so odd to be sitting here cross-legged with Spock enjoying an evening's entertainment reading to each other. On the Enterprise it would have been a laughable thought. She had stopped being nervous around him several hours ago, but the giddy feeling of being in his presence threatened to make her a little too familiar so she tried to stay calm.
She chose readings from other poets, he found she preferred the English Romance poets especially Wordsworth and chose several of his passages. She was glad she had made tea because her throat got dry and scratchy after so much reading and the lukewarm drink soothed it. "Well, I'll see how far I can get in this book if you are still wanting me to read?" she asked almost hoping that he would not.
His eyes fairly glinted with delight in the fire's glow. He was having a very nice time, even he had to admit it, and he enjoyed watching her animate the tales. On board she was so suppressed that at times she could out Vulcan a Vulcan, or that was how McCoy put it. He did not recall seeing her so alive in his entire association with her. "Yes, if you still wish to read."
"You are very good at that, you know, answering a question in such a way as to let someone take the responsibility. Okay, here goes. I doubt if I get through it very far though, it's almost one in the morning."
She began the tale, a classic children's book about a talkative and precocious red haired orphan on Prince Edward Island. She became the dream lost Anne Shirley, she could convey the sound of the surf as it hit the Maritime Province, she felt the pangs of anguish the twelve year old did when her bosom companion was kept from her by a silly mistake. Halfway through the book she stopped, no longer able to read, her eyes so tired and dry and the tea wasn't working anymore. "I have to quit," she lamented. "Perhaps tomorrow if you're still here ..."
"Of course, I have been selfish. I have enjoyed the evening so much so that I allowed your health and comfort to suffer," he answered chastising himself.
"It's okay, I enjoyed it. I just haven't talked so much in a long time. Besides, it's starting to get light out. I guess we should try to get some sleep," she suggested.
Nodding, he helped her up. She was stiff as a board and her legs didn't want to cooperate. "Oh, never sit cross-legged for five hours. I had a friend in college who did that studying. She pulled all the muscles on the inside of her legs, and she couldn't walk without crutches for a week. Poor Pamela ..."
Christine looked over at the bed. "You can sleep either on the couch or the bed, your choice."
"Couch," he replied not wishing to take her spot. She rummaged around till she found a blanket and an extra pillow. Handing it to him, she headed for the bathroom before going to bed. "Good night, Mr. Spock," she said and was asleep before he corrected her, "Morning, Miss Chapel."
* * *
Noon was sunny and bright. The two slept soundly until a hard knock woke Christine and she fell off the bed. She'd been sleeping so close to the edge of the bed that one good twitch, and she was over. "Ow!"
"Are you injured?"
"No, just stuck. Can you see who is at the door while I get out of this cubby hole," she moaned. There was only two feet of space between the bed and the wall.
Spock shuffled to the door not to eagerly until the knock sounded again. Opening it a crack he could see a man in a uniform of some type standing with a notepad. "May I help you?"
"Utilities. Is the power out here? Lightning hit the main transformer last night and we're trying to check all the houses."
"Yes, the power has been off since last evening," Spock replied and swung the door open.
"We just need to check to make sure none of the in house circuits are damaged before we reconnect the power here. Wouldn't want the place to go up in smoke," he laughed and stepped inside.
The sight of a human female and a Vulcan male, apparently still asleep at lunch and in the state of dress they were was a little unusual. Christine paid no heed though. "I think all the utilities are downstairs in the boat garage. I'll show you the way."
Spock stopped her with a quiet whisper. "Perhaps I should, your attire ..."
Christine looked at him a moment then remembered that she just had on a t-shirt and a very brief bikini. "Oh, yeah. Can you show him downstairs?"
Spock nodded and went over to the hatch in the floor. He had not been down here the night before but how hard could it be to find utility switches?
Christine took the opportunity to pick out the attire she was going to wear. With just her there, she hadn't packed anything more formal than a pair of shorts and a halter-top. After all, she hadn't expected visitors. Still, she wanted to shower before dressing. Spock's clothes still hung over the shower rod and she tested them. Still wet, but damp not soaked. She had a few things that could be laundered if the power came on so she placed his things in with hers. She was sure he wouldn't mind.
Lights and the fans overhead began working, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Deciding to wait till Spock came back up in case there were other things to locate, she went to the kitchen and started digging out things for brunch. The milk was still lukewarm, so she wouldn't have to toss it and the rest of the things just needed cooling down.
Spock ascended the steep steps into the kitchen followed by the utility worker. "Sorry for the delay, folks, but we had a hell of a night last night," he was apologizing.
"I do not believe any attempts to correct the problem would have been possible during the storm in any case," Spock replied. Obviously, the man was not used to Vulcans because he hesitated a moment trying to decide if that was an insult or a compliment.
"Yes, thank you," provided Christine. Her smile was enough to make the man blush a little. After he exited, Christine informed him of her plans. "Your uniform is still a little wet, and I have a few things to wash anyway, so if you don't object I'll go ahead and throw them in with mine. I don't think you would have wanted to wear them any way. They were a little dirty. Also, I'd like to take a shower first. So, do you know how to run a washing unit?"
Spock appeared as if he had just been called an idiot. "Yes, Miss Chapel, I can operate a washing unit."
"Didn't mean to insult you or anything, just making sure. The bundle is over by the dining table. The washer is..."
"It is by the utility switches. I shall complete the task," he assured and the tall blonde started for the bath. "Oh, if you can think of anything for lunch ... either fix it or tell me and I can fix something."
Spock nodded, watched her leave, and regarded this odd situation he was in. As much as he would have thought such a situation would have been considered distasteful to him, he was discovering that he was indeed enjoying himself. The times that he had spent with the Captain and Dr. McCoy on their leaves had been time consuming at best. But they preferred entertainment that he did not care for. This was an intellectually stimulating situation. Gathering the bundle of clothing, he descended into the boat garage and tossed them in the machine. In one unit was combined a washer and dryer so he could just program it and within twenty minutes the cycle would be completed, and he would have clean clothes.
Before heading up, he went to inspect the boat that had come along with the cottage. It was built for speed but not too much. It might be useful to take a tour of the lake to try to find his camp instead of trekking through the muck and wet grasses. He would have to suggest it when Christine got out of the shower.
The contents of the kitchen held few items of selection for Spock. He discovered she liked cheese. There were at least two kilos of assorted types. A basket of white grapes was tucked in the back of the refrigerator, cheese, and bread. Well, it was at least varied if not particularly Vulcan. He was not completely useless in the kitchen and while she showered and changed he arranged the items on a platter as well as started a kettle for tea. The heat of Vega 3 had returned as well as the humidity and he really was not in the mood for hot tea. However, iced tea was just as delicious. By the time she emerged, freshly scrubbed and ready to face both the day and the love of her heart, he had the table set and the tea nearly finished.
"My, my, you are a wonder," she smiled and surveyed all he had done. Spock took a moment to appreciate both the job he had done as well as the nurse. He had never seen her with her hair out of the upswept dos she wore on board.
Now it was wet and the waves she hated so naturally took over. When they dried she would have banana curls cascading down her shoulders. She must have noticed his stare because she questioned him, "Is something wrong?"
"No, I have rarely seen you out of uniform. You are quite different."
"Well, I try not to wear makeup off duty. I really prefer not to wear it at all," she explained assuming that's what he meant.
Spock creased his eyebrows together. He had not noticed the lack of facial paint. Actually, now that she mentioned it, he preferred it natural. "I have laid the table, madam."
She corrected, "Madamoiselle.excuse s'il vous plais. J'ai faim, et vous?"
Spock translated the precisely pronounced French and answered, "Oui, je voudrais manger."
She smiled. "All right. I see you've laid out the traditional French lunch, well except the wine. Iced tea, that sounds nice. Don't you want to shower first?"
"I shall wait for my uniform to dry," he replied and chose the bench opposite her to sit on.
* * *
Midday on Vega 3 was hot and intense. The boat easily made its way around the now swollen banks of the lake. Spock pointed toward the small inlet that he had made his camp in. It was gone. Not just his camp but everything else that had been there. The inlet had become completely flooded. Spock sighed. Christine looked out at the area for any signs of his gear floating or washed up. "I'm afraid we're not going to find anything."
"Unfortunately, I must agree with you. There was nothing of any value except the standard Star Fleet equipment, so there is no loss in that area. However, I find that I must take you up on your offer," he said over the dull roar of the boat engines.
Christine smiled. "No problem. We might want to check on getting more food, though. I don't think that you'd appreciate the steaks that I brought to grill."
* * *
The shopkeeper had never seen a Vulcan. They didn't come out Vega 3 way and they certainly did not accompany a hot little human number in a short outfit and driving one of the lake's fishing boats. Spock wandered around the small dry goods trying to find the particular items that he needed. He did not wish to spend the entire time that was left in Miss Chapel's borrowed clothing and would invest in some native costumes. He was not particular. Finding a set of pajamas in his size that had been reduced due to sun fading, he placed those in the basket as well as new underwear. He could always use underwear. Finding the last of the items on his mental list, he took them to the counter.
Christine had gone to the grocers while Spock had gone in here. "Will that be cash or charge?" the shopkeeper asked.
Spock thought a second. He did not have his Fleet authorization card. Perhaps Chapel. "Charge it to the cottage on Lake Carlyle. Dock 12, I believe."
"Okay, you and the missus staying there?" he asked trying to find out more about the odd couple.
"We are not married, but, yes, we are staying there. I was camped four miles from the cabin when the storm hit yesterday. I happened to stumble upon Miss Chapel while seeking shelter."
"Oh, so you don't know each other?"
"We serve together aboard the Enterprise," he supplied. He would rather not answer this man's boorish questions, but he also wished to have the facts kept straight regarding this excursion.
"Ohhh, okay. Well, I'll have the items attached to her bill then."
"Could you please give me a copy of the receipt so that I may repay her?" Spock insisted and received the paper receipt to place in his bag.
Outside, the humidity hadn't calmed down any. Spock started to go into the grocers but movement over at the small town square caught his eye instead. There were stands and displays set up under a canopy. She was maneuvering around with a basket that already had items in it. She was speaking to one of the dealers when Spock approached. "Miss Chapel?"
"Mr. Spock, did you get what you needed? I found this marvelous little farmer's market. They have some fresh produce. I thought you might like some kabobs when I do the steak for supper," she suggested. Spock nodded. They did sound quite pleasing. He looked among the vegetables that she had chosen, noted somewhere in the back of his mind that they were all ones that he preferred. She did have access to his files, after all.
"Have you been into the grocers' yet?" he asked noting that she didn't have any other packages with her.
"They're in the boat."
"I had to place these items on your bill," Spock remembered and indicated the bag.
"Oh, okay, we'll work it out later. Help with these."
* * *
"So, what did you get?"
Spock removed the slip from the sack as they brought the items they purchased into the cabin, handed it to her. "This is an itemization."
"Good grief, I trust you. You could have just tallied the total and paid me back. You don't need to justify what you spent," she teased. Truth was, she felt a little embarrassed having access to a seemingly unimportant document as a bill of goods from the Vulcan.
It was still bright outside, but nightfall on Vega 3 was around 2030 this time of year. By the time they finished with the grilling, it would be twilight. Vegan fireflies began blinking and buzzing around them. As the sun started to go down and the water began cooling off, they could see small ripples of water as the fish started rousing for food. Spock sat in the Adirondack style chair as Christine made sure to cook her steak down wind from him. He rarely just sat. He found this type of lifestyle a little challenging to his intellect, but he also found it refreshing. There were no hurries or cares here. While he could not see doing this for an entire lifetime, he was beginning to see why humans enjoyed this particular type of relaxation. Christine was busy grilling his kabobs on the top rack of the grill while she fixed her steaks on the lower one. "These look really good. I should have fixed some for myself," she said absently.
"You may have some of the ones I prepared," Spock offered.
"No, that's okay. That is unless you want some of my steak in return," she offered with a laugh. The look on his face was a convincing 'NO'.
Supper was eaten al fresco. Christine hadn't particularly enjoyed the humidity of the afternoon, but once the heat broke and the humidity disappeared, it was extremely pleasant. The Vegan fireflies were getting quite thick. Christine took a deep breath as she finished the T-bone. She was full of good food, had a very nice looking companion sitting beside her, and it was a delightful evening. "So, you haven't told me what you plan on doing after this mission is over," she asked absently.
Spock rose from the chair, went to the end of the dock to stare out at the water. "I have not decided. I have also not been given all the choices. There may be offers that I have not considered yet." He had not spoken of this question that had been nagging him to anyone. Now would be as good a time as any. Chapel struck him as being trustworthy, and if he told her it was in confidence, she would no doubt not mention the conversation to anyone else. "However, with what I have to pick from at this time, I may find that the best option does not remain within the service."
"Really," she said a little amazed. "I guess you have always been such a loyal Fleet member that it's a foregone conclusion that you'd just naturally get promoted."
"Promotions do not rule my use in the service. I have achieved much, but not because I am a Commander. I am now facing a decision that would alter the path of the rest of my life."
That simple three-letter question was a big one. He turned to look at her in the soft glow of the anti-insect torches. She was receptive to the conversation. "I find that I am becoming almost stagnant and repetitive in my duties. While I find my work fulfilling, it has become..." he searched for the word.
"Humdrum?" she supplied with a knowing smile. "You could always try for command. You are certain to get one when we are done. Your record is impeccable."
"On the contrary," he answered his lips in a tight line. "I have been privy to more than a few instances where my logic has not only failed to help but my actions have caused harm, the latest being the incident on Sarpeidon."
"Sarpeidon? Oh, that planet that blew up a few months back. McCoy just said you two were stuck together and it could have been permanent," she said. McCoy had apparently deleted the section with Zarabeth. Spock chose not to include it.
"My behavior was not acceptable even if it was excusable. I have become ... out of balance. I need to put the perspective back into my existence. I have allowed the human half of myself to dominate for far too long," he dropped. Christine sat trying to piece together what he was saying. It sounded as if he wanted to leave and join a monastery, but the idea was absurd.
"To paraphrase what you told me last night, you have to do what you have to do. If you don't want to give me more specific details, that's okay. Just weigh all your options carefully. Some of them aren't offered twice, and it's harder to go back than you think," she answered pragmatically.
Spock nodded. She was right. His interest in the Kohlinar was one that had to be taken very seriously. It was not something you enrolled in and after finding the course work more difficult than originally considered just dropped out of. Once most Kohlinaru took the oaths and began their mental deletion of all emotional bonds, they usually did not go back. Besides, he also did not have all the options before him. There might be something in the future that he had not expected. This, however, was still shore leave, and he was still at a lake cabin with a woman. "I suggest that we leave the future to the future. After all, it may be a moot point if we are engaged in battle."
"Or succumb to a plague or hit a life form we have never met, just like every other day that has been spent aboard the USS Enterprise since I've arrived. You can't say that it isn't an exciting life," she smiled. Spock seemed a little more relaxed now that he'd talked about his problem, even if it had been in a roundabout way.
"You were reading from Anne of Green Gables last evening," Spock reminded.
"So I was. If you help me out of this chair, I'll go in, and we can go back to chapter 5."
Spock held out a hand without hesitation. Her touch sent sparks through him. It was something that he had learned to anticipate from her. Not all women did that to him. Some emanated no shock to him at all. Some were not as strong. But she had always been the strongest. He had always chalked it up to her feelings for him, but her demeanor was not suggestive or anything more than casually friendly.
Inside the cabin, lanterns lit the high ceilinged room as the fans stirred the warm night air. It was stuffy nevertheless. Christine carried what dishes she could and Spock followed. "Just leave them till tomorrow. I'm not in the mood to wash dishes tonight. So, you want to hear me read again?"
"Only if you wish to. It is not necessary for my entertainment. I fear that the atmosphere will not be as cooperative as it was last evening however."
"We can fix that. Just turn out all the lights and light the kerosene lamps again," she decided and turned out the one closest to her. Spock did as she suggested and once again created the feeling of a storyteller on a stormy evening. The lack of lights also helped cool the room down. She began and once again became the precocious redhead from Prince Edward Island. Spock lost all track of time while he listened to her. When her voice finally gave out, Spock realized that once again it was deep into the night.
The ship's nurse squeaked, "That's as far as I can go ... sorry. I guess I won't finish the story this leave. Guess you'll just have to read the rest of it yourself."
"It does seem to be the only way to find out how the book ends."
"I have some bad news though. This is the first in a series of 8 books. But if you don't read past this one, it is sort of self-containing," she said and tried to stifle the yawn that couldn't stop from coming out of her mouth.
"It is time for bed," Spock concluded with a tone that brooked no argument. Christine nodded wearily and toddled toward the bed area. Finding the T-shirt that she'd worn the night before, she went into the bath to get ready for bed. Spock prepared the couch as he had the night before.
Chapel stumbled back out of the bath, rather angelic like in her sloppy T-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts that she'd pulled on too. She was unadorned, unprofessional, undone. She looked more pulled together to Spock than she ever had. With a nod, he wished her good night. She was asleep before Spock had all the lamps doused. He was not that sleepy however. He'd rested well enough the day before to remain completely awake. He could use the time to meditate, however. He needed to dwell long and hard on the decision that he needed to make.
Finding that the couch was not conducive to meditation, he left quietly and headed out to the dock. If he did not get eaten by mosquitoes before he finished, it would be a miracle. So he lit two of the tiki torches that were the closest to where he was going to meditate and settled on his knees on a cushion he borrowed from one of the benches.
* * *
Dr. Leonard McCoy waited in the transporter room. Chris was due up from her leave and he wanted to see what she'd decided. The signal from the base on Vega 3 came and the sparkle effect solidified into his head nurse and the first officer. Spock picked up one of the nurse's bags as well as his own as they stepped down.
"Leonard, what are you doing here?" Christine smiled and took the rest of her gear.
"Waiting on you. I thought I'd help you get your stuff back to your room, but I see you don't need my assistance. Doing a good turn for the lady, are you, Spock?" he said curiosity dripping out of his mouth like honey.
"Simply assisting Miss Chapel with her baggage. Do you wish me to accompany you to your cabin?" he asked.
She shook her head. "Nyah, I think Dr. McCoy just volunteered the job. Give him my stuff."
Spock did as she requested and handed the flustered doctor the heavy bags. Chapel had packed enough stuff for months instead of a week. "I didn't mean to cramp your style. You can carry them," Bones tried and started to hand them back.
Spock did not take them. "I believe she wishes you to help her. I do have things I must attend to before I resume duties. Miss Chapel, thank you for your hospitality."
"Anytime," she smiled and watched the first officer leave with a rather bemused expression on his face.
McCoy turned to look at her. "What does he mean?"
"Are you going to bring my bags or not?" the nurse said and started out the door. She didn't want to say anything in front of a transporter technician. They were worse at spreading shipboard gossip than the janitorial department. Communications officers took an oath to treat all information as sacrosanct and confidential.
McCoy trudged behind her dragging the bags. When they got to her cabin he hauled the bags in. "Okay, what did Spock mean?"
"Very simply this, Spock's camp got flooded out. He ended up at that cabin out of sheer coincidence. We spent the last two days together," Chapel boiled down.
"Well, old Spock saw the light of day, huh?" McCoy grinned.
"No, he did not see the 'light of day'. We spent the time reading and talking. That is all that happened. But, he did help me with the decision I went to make," she added.
"You'll find my application to Star Fleet as a doctoral candidate in that duffel you just tossed on my bed."
"Attagirl!" McCoy cheered. Her future was bound for success.
* * *
Spock unpacked the few possessions he had brought. He was allowed little and after the first month he would be allowed even less. Putting away the shirts and the light trousers, he came to the small toiletry bag. There were few items he would need. Vanity was not a thing appreciated here. In one small side pocket, he found a data tape. He'd packed the bag while still on the Enterprise two months earlier and had not gone through it when he returned to Vulcan to begin his training on Gol. There were no markings, nothing to indicate what it could be. He had not packed it. Perhaps his mother had placed it there before he had left the estate. She had been stalwart but had also been extremely distraught at his decision. As a human she would not understand. None of them would. That's why he hadn't related his decision to them while he still could. They would be informed after it was too late to speak to him. Empty answers would be all they received.
Curiosity was still one emotion he was allowed for now. He slipped the cassette in the slot on the desk. A voice he'd never hear again came to life.
"I never got to finish this for you. I thought I'd do it this way in case I never get to see you again. Thank you for listening.
Chapter Ten: Anne's Apology.
Marilla said nothing to Matthew about the affair that evening; but when Anne proved still refractory the next morning, an explanation had to be made to account for her absence from the breakfast table. Marilla told Matthew the whole story."
Spock listened to the tape as he settled into the small room. It would be the last human voice he would hear. He'd already decided that. At least it was hers, and with a slight smile, he went for one last time to the shores of Prince Edward Island as a child and her endless prattle and to a life with wild adventure.