DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of J. M. Lane and is copyright (c) 1999 by J. M. Lane. This story is Rated PG-13.


JM Lane

Christine Chapel looked at her calendar/chrono and couldn't help shuddering. It was stardate 6802.14. February 14 -- Valentine's Day -- was today. The one day in the year she most dreaded. Not for the reason one might think, however ... not getting any valentines.

She got her share, usually from friends like Leonard and Nyota, approximately a dozen or so altogether. That wasn't the problem. The problem was constantly getting her hopes dashed by a certain pig-headed Vulcan, as she had for the past two years ... ever since first coming aboard.

It would have meant the world to her to even get a smile from him, but even that seemed too much to ask. She wished he could have some idea of how much his indifference hurt her, how her heart ached when she heard Nyota and others talk of the beautiful valentines they had received ... not to mention a kiss and dinner to boot.

Roger had done those things. She had always looked forward to Valentine's Day when they were together. He was so romantic that day. Even more than usual -- and that was saying something! He would come to her apartment that morning and let himself in, then wake her with a kiss. After that, it was breakfast in bed with a single red rose. Then a card as sentimental as old lace ... and finally, a moonlight walk on the beach after a romantic dinner at their favorite restaurant.

Those days were all in the past now. She had best content herself with the dozen or so valentines from her Human friends and not expect anything from Spock. It would hurt, but would also come as no surprise. To think otherwise was setting herself up for heartache.

*It's a cinch they don't have any such thing as Valentine's Day on Vulcan,* Christine thought wryly. *And I seriously doubt that Sarek would countenance Amanda telling Spock anything about it. After all, it's a holiday devoted to romance -- and romance is illogical!*

She picked up the pile of cards sitting on her desk, planning to distribute them as she ran into the people they were for. Otherwise she would drop them off at the person's quarters or give them to a mutual friend who planned to see them later in the day. With that, she left her quarters and walked briskly down the Deck Five corridor to the turbolift which would take her to Deck Seven and Sickbay, determined to have as pleasant a day as possible.

Upon walking into Sickbay, Christine found herself enveloped in a bear hug and soundly kissed before she could open her mouth. "Happy Valentine's Day, Christine!" Leonard McCoy's grin split his craggy face once he had released her and she could breathe again.

"S-same to you," she answered somewhat breathlessly.

"How about dinner once we're off-shift, Chris? I don't feel like spending Valentine's Day alone."

"That'd be very nice," she found herself saying, even though she doubted she would have much of an appetite. "And just out of curiosity, do you treat all your female subordinates like this?"

The doctor winked slyly. "Only my favorite Head Nurse. Now let's get to work. By the way, your card's on your desk. Let me know what you think of it."

Christine made a mental note to put her card for Leonard on his desk when she had a free moment and he wasn't around ... or failing that, had his back turned for a few minutes.

Other than this, the shift was uneventful -- almost routine. Shortly before 1400, Christine's stomach began growling, so she headed for the Officers' Mess on Deck Three as soon as the beta shift people arrived. After punching up her favorite lunch, she was debating where to sit when she heard Uhura call to her.

"Chris! Over here!" Christine turned around to find the Bantu Communications Officer halfway across the room and behind her. The nurse wove her way to where Uhura sat and situated herself across from her friend. The dark woman greeted Christine with a smile and another Valentine's Day card in hand, which made three Christine had received so far.

She had found not one but two cards on her desk when she reached it. The other was from the Head Orderly, whom Christine was sure had a crush on her ... or was fast developing one. What was his name? Oh, yes -- Jason. Jason Robinson. Tall and good-looking with sandy-blond, curly hair, mischievous blue eyes like McCoy's and a smile whenever she was in his vicinity.

He was also three years her junior, in his mid-twenties or thereabouts, but that didn't bother her. Or at least it wouldn't have if she hadn't already been in love. *Yes. In love -- and a prize idiot!* Christine berated herself.

"How many valentines have you gotten so far?" Uhura asked between bites of food and swallows of coffee.

"Three, including yours," Christine replied after following suit. "One from Dr. McCoy and one from Jason, the head orderly in Sickbay. I think you know who I mean." Even so, the nurse knew that even if she'd gotten valentines from every man aboard ship, all of them put together wouldn't mean as much as one (or at least some attention) from Spock.

"Isn't he the one with curly brown hair and blue eyes who always smiles at you whenever you get near him?"

"The same," Christine confirmed.

"Sounds like he's got, or is getting, a crush on you. Why don't you go out with him, give Spock some competition? Jolt him out of his complacency?" Uhura teased.

Christine closed her eyes in pain and bit her lip at the mention of the Vulcan's name. Uhura immediately apologized.

"Sorry, Chris. Forgot myself. Guess what happened when I stepped onto the Bridge this morning, though. It nearly floored me!"

"What happened?"

"All the guys on the Bridge crew, starting with the Captain, hugged and kissed me while wishing me a happy Valentine's Day. I got three cards out of it and two dinner invitations."

"Who from?"

"The Captain and Sulu."

"Did you also get cards from them?"

"Of course."

"Who was the other card from?"

"Let me think... Oh, yes. It was Lt. Farrell, Chekov's relief navigator."

"What was he doing there during alpha shift?" Christine sounded surprised. "He's part of the beta shift crew."

"I asked him that myself. He said he made a special trip just to give me a hug, kiss and the card."

Christine smiled knowingly. "Sounds like he might be developing a crush on *you*. Which reminds me -- what did Spock think of the little incident you mentioned?"

"He just got a look of long-suffering tolerance on his face and turned back to his science console."

"Sounds normal." Christine returned to her lunch. "So what are your plans for tonight? I'm having dinner with Dr. McCoy."

"I'm with the Captain tonight," was the reply. "I promised Sulu tomorrow night. Hey, maybe we can all sit together. Sound all right to you?"

"Fine. Leonard and I are going to dinner around 1900."

"The Captain suggested 1800, but I think I can talk him into waiting another hour if you like."

Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott came by before Christine could answer. He leaned down to kiss both ladies on the cheek and wished each a happy Valentine's Day.

"You, too, Scotty," the women said almost simultaneously.

"Not as 'appy as I'd like, I'm afraid ... unless one o' you pretty lasses would care t' brighten my evenin'." He gave each of them a meaningful look.

"I'm afraid I'm busy tonight and tomorrow," Uhura apologized before looking pointedly at Christine. "And Chris is busy tonight, but tomorrow looks clear for her as far as I can tell."

Christine didn't really want to go, but decided it was better to have something to look forward to -- a reason to get dressed up and go out, have some male companionship instead of sitting in her quarters alone, feeling sorry for herself.

"I'd love to, Scotty," she said with a smile. "What did you have in mind?"

Scott's face lit up like a Christmas tree. "Dinner and a show," he said happily. "Okay by you, lass?"

"Sounds great. When may I expect you?"

"Th' show starts abou' 1730, so I'll be by aroun' 1715 or so -- then we'll 'ave a bite afterward."

"See you then."

Scotty smiled, nodded and moved off to get himself something to eat. "Now there goes a happy man," Uhura observed as the women watched the engineer leave. "I think you just made his day."

"I got the impression that he would have preferred you," Christine dismissed. "Not that I mind being second choice, mind you. One could do worse than date a Chief Engineer -- or a Chief Surgeon, for that matter."

"Even if they *are* a little old for us," Uhura chuckled. "Well, we'd better start getting ready for our respective dates. It's almost 1500."

With that, the two stood up and disposed of the remains of their meals before heading out into the Deck Three corridor and toward the turbolift which would take them to their respective quarters, only separating when Uhura reached hers. Christine's was further down the corridor, near another turbolift which took people to both the ship's upper and lower decks ... an ideal location, as far as she was concerned.

En route, both received three more cards. Christine distributed hers accordingly while Uhura received another invitation -- this one to lunch in three days, which was one of her off-duty days, fortunately. In the end Christine decided to act on Nyota's suggestion and make Robinson's day by accepting a date with him. He was always asking her out, anyway.

She knew whose company she would prefer to be in, but he didn't seem to want hers, so she intended to spend her time with those who *did* want to be with her. Spock deserved to be alone, him and his stubborn insistence on keeping her at a distance. He was missing so much. She knew how lonely he must be; why did he so consistently refuse female companionship?

*Well, I'm tired of sitting home on his account,* Christine told herself firmly as she stepped into her sonic shower and turned it on. *If Spock doesn't want to be with me, I'll find someone who does. I deserve to have some fun once in a while.*

The only trouble with that line of reasoning was that Spock's was the only male companionship she wanted, regardless of what he thought of her. Of course, if he wanted to be alone, that was his choice -- and his loss. She refused to suffer any more because of him. Easier said than done, of course, but she intended to give it her best shot.

* * *

McCoy called for Christine at 1845, dressed in a leisure suit a shade darker than his eyes with a cream-colored, open-necked shirt. Christine's nose wrinkled in appreciation at the smell of Old Spice aftershave in the air.

She had her hair up in ringlets with a band of white silk roses, her dress a blue V-necked number festooned with lace and long, sheer sleeves. She wore her fanciest gold and diamond earrings and white slippers, "Moon Over Antares" perfume and carried her small beaded evening purse.

McCoy smiled at his pretty companion before tucking her arm through his, feeling like the luckiest man in the Galaxy to know that she was his -- at least for one night. After halfway to the turbolift, they ran into Kirk and Uhura. The Captain wore an off-white, long-sleeved shirt with multi-colored embroidery and black pants. Uhura wore a bold African-print dress which set off her dusky skin to perfection.

It was calf-length, the same as Christine's, with the same kind of sheer sleeves but no decoration. The bold print was all the decoration Uhura needed. Red shoes and gold-and-red spiral earrings completed her ensemble.

McCoy noted that Jim seemed to take the same pride in his beautiful date as he himself did in Christine. He couldn't help thinking what a handsome couple they made -- but was unable to picture himself with Christine in the same way. She was too much in love with Spock.

No doubt she had accepted his invitation because she was tired of sitting home alone every night. The doctor mentally cursed the Vulcan's stubbornness, knowing only too well how much Spock's courteous but consistent rebuffs hurt the gentle and loving Head Nurse.

Kirk looked Christine over with his connoisseur's eye for beautiful women. Too bad Spock couldn't have seen her right now. He hated the idea of his Vulcan friend being alone on the day for lovers when he didn't have to be, even if it was Spock's own choice. No one should be alone on Valentine's Day.

Not that he was unappreciative or unaware of the Bantu beauty standing next to him, her left hand with its impeccably groomed nails resting lightly on his right arm. Far from it! Uhura was one of the loveliest women James Kirk had ever seen, yet he kept a respectful distance from her (from all his female officers, for that matter) because starship captains were not allowed to romance the women serving with them.

But there was nothing wrong in spending one evening with her -- especially since they were to be 'chaperoned,' as it were, by Bones and Christine. Even so, Uhura's exotic perfume brought back bittersweet memories of the young Indian wife he had loved and lost whose long, silky black hair had smelled of honeysuckle. It had only been three months since they had been together and expecting their first child...

*Miramanee,* his mind whispered as tears burned his eyelids. McCoy's voice brought Kirk back to reality.

"Well, we'd best get cracking if we're going to have dinner." The doctor patted Christine's hand as it rested on his arm before turning on his heel and leading the way to the Rec Room. Kirk and Uhura followed in their wake.

Each couple called up their own meals upon arrival, though the men carried them on extra-large trays provided for that purpose. The women went on ahead to search for an appropriate spot to sit down and eat.

They finally chose a booth near a large viewport, the scent of the nearby flowers in an artificial oasis wafting over to them as they ate. Kirk and Uhura sat on the right side, McCoy and Christine facing them on the left. The two couples chatted amiably as they ate, Uhura recalling at one point what had happened on the bridge that morning -- including Spock's reaction to it -- over which everyone had a good laugh.

"Can't say I'm surprised to hear that," McCoy said after taking a bite of grits and a swallow of strong coffee. "I don't think Spock has any romance in his soul ... provided he even knows what it is."

"Now, Bones, that's not really true," Kirk gently scolded. "Remember what happened on Omicron Ceti Three with him and Leila? How often do you see Spock climbing trees, laughing and smiling -- or openly showing affection? Does that sound like someone who has no romance in his soul?"

McCoy scowled across the table. "That was because of the spores, Jim, and you know it as well as I do. As I recall, it was the only way Leila was able to get Spock to pay any attention to her. Without them, he treated her the same way he treats Christine now."

"Leonard, please..." The tone of Christine's voice effectively, if temporarily, silenced McCoy.

"Sorry, Chris. I'll change the subject."

"Thank you." Her voice was quiet as she returned to her meal, sweet-and-sour pork with stir-fried veggies and a small baked Alaska for dessert. Altair water was the beverage of choice.

McCoy's was classic Southern -- fried chicken, grits, mashed potatoes and gravy, collard greens, a hot buttered bun and a dessert with nuts and three types of chocolate -- which the doctor called a "mud pie". After finishing his meal, he had each of his companions take a taste of it ... which was enough, especially for Uhura, who said that too much chocolate gave her an upset stomach. The others said it was good, but too chocolatey for their taste ... though it didn't upset their stomachs.

"Sorry, Uhura. I forgot," McCoy apologized, then sighed. "All the better for me. I need to put on a few kilos anyway, and a two-inch piece of mud pie with dinner does it every time."

Kirk made a face which communicated his opinion of that comment better than any words. His meal also consisted of chicken, but with french fries and apple pie *a la mode* for dessert, hot buttered corn on the cob and strong coffee like McCoy's to wash it all down.

Uhura's was her favorite African dish with an all-but-unpronounceable name but delicious taste ... at least as far as she was concerned. It was spicy, so she also had iced Altair water like Christine.

"I guess you have to be from the South to appreciate it," the latter said, keeping her eyes lowered as she ate. McCoy's offhand comment about Spock, Leila Kalomi and Omicron Ceti Three had cut her to the heart, even though she knew that he could not have meant to hurt her.

"I suppose so," the Doctor conceded as he dug into the thick chocolate dessert with a vengeance.

Uhura looked at her friend worriedly, unable to help noticing how quiet Chris had become as well as unable to meet anyone's eyes because she didn't want them to see the pain she tried so hard to hide. But this wasn't the time to ask her about it -- not with the Doctor and Captain in hearing. There were some things about women that men didn't need to know ... and this was one of them.

The four finished eating shortly thereafter, around 2015 hours (8:15 p.m.); early enough for Uhura to have a private talk with Christine about what was bothering her. The dark woman knew it was a lead-pipe cinch that whatever was eating Chris involved Spock. No surprise there, considering what day it was.

Uhura decided then and there to have the aforementioned talk as soon as possible. Of course, it would facilitate matters if Chris was willing, but considering the way she was probably feeling right now, there was no guarantee of that. Even so, it would not do to make the Captain and Doctor suspicious, so she held her peace until she was sure they had gone into heir own respective quarters -- then made her way back to Christine's.

Christine had been having a good time until Leonard brought up the subject of Spock, Leila Kalomi and Omicron Ceti Three. After that, white-hot pain coursed through her and she had to fight not to break down in front of everyone, even though she was sure that Nyota saw through her cheerful facade.

Damn Spock for making her love him! It wasn't fair that he treated her as he did, consistently keeping her at a distance and acting like she was nothing more than a piece of Sickbay furniture -- then to add insult to injury, romancing Leila. What did Leila have that she, Christine, didn't? Could it be that Spock preferred small women like Leila to tall ones like herself? Even his mother Amanda was small (5'5") compared to her. Maybe the preference was hereditary, since the six-foot Sarek had chosen her. Either that or Spock liked short women because they reminded him of his mother.

Tall men usually preferred short women, and Sarek and Spock seemed to confirm this ... but that wasn't always the case. Her own father had been tall and her mother just an inch shorter than herself -- 5'7". Even at that, it didn't mean that small women were better lovers, able to love a man more deeply, tenderly or passionately than tall ones ... but it seemed to Christine that the small ones got all the breaks, had all the fun -- and consequently the best-looking, most desirable men.

It wasn't her fault that she had taken after her 6'1" father ... though her height hadn't mattered to Roger. She was tall for a woman (5'8") and weighed between 130-135 lbs. (65-68 kilos), while he, at six feet and 175 lbs., was more than a match for her.

Spock, on the other hand, was an inch taller even than Roger, though his weight fluctuated between 170-180 lbs. (85-90 kilos), depending on his mood or how involved he became in a given project. Roger had been fairly even-tempered, so his weight had stayed pretty much the same.

If something bothered Spock, he went without eating (and sometimes sleeping) until the matter was resolved. Even when things were going fairly well, he ate lightly since Vulcans were vegetarians. It was hard to gain weight on that kind of diet. However, she doubted he had lost either his appetite or any appreciable amount of sleep over his recent conduct where she was concerned.

It was tough enough to live with as it was, but doubly so today. Of course, if her feelings didn't matter any other day, why should they be of any concern to him today?

She recalled when she and Spock had crossed paths in Sickbay while she was on-shift. He had come in for a physical. Under duress, perhaps, but he had still come. She had managed to maintain a professional facade during the physical, but after the Vulcan had dressed and McCoy had gone about entering the data from the physical into his Medical Log and Spock's medicomp file, she had dredged up all her nerve and spoken to him as he was about to step out of the room.

"Mr. Spock?" she had asked timidly.

He had turned around, one upswept eyebrow raised. "Yes, Miss Chapel? Is there something I can do for you?" His voice was a mixture of annoyance and impatience with only a thin veneer of politeness.

"I'd like to ask you something. Do you know what today is?"

He had given her a funny look. "Of course. It is stardate 6802.14 ... or in your Human vernacular, February 14th -- the Terran holiday known as Valentine's Day. It is intended as a celebration of the emotion of love."

He had sounded like a student reciting memorized facts. She had also detected distaste in his tone at the reference.

"That's right. Men and women who are friends or romantically involved usually exchange cards and/or gifts between themselves, though it is observed in different ways by different people."

His face had hardened and he had frowned at her. "What are you trying to say?" The frown had deepened at her silence. "That you expect *me* to honor it?"

It was unfortunate that the nurse hadn't known what Spock was thinking at the moment she brought up the subject of Valentine's Day. If she had known, she would have understood his outburst. She would have been hurt, but she would have understood. As it was, she was devastated.

The Vulcan had been inundated with a flood of emotion from the moment he had awakened. If he hadn't overheard, he had inadvertently witnessed romantic assignations with actions ranging from a hand-squeezing to passionate kisses and promises to meet for a private rendezvous ... and now he himself had been approached.

He hadn't even been able to escape it on the bridge. Even Jim had joined in the kissing and sweet talk directed at Uhura. When Spock had been called for a physical, he had hoped he could escape sickbay without being further subjected to it -- but was not to be granted his wish.

Christine Chapel had approached him and spoken of the Valentine's Day holiday. Spock had had as much as he could take *before* coming here, and now this. Her suggestion had been the fuel which had ignited the fuse of the emotional time-bomb he had become. A short time later, he had exploded and she had caught the debris. He only hoped she could find it in her heart to forgive him ... but wouldn't blame her if she didn't, for he had spoken before he could stop himself.

Christine had swallowed hard as his voice had become colder with every passing moment.

"I am a Vulcan, Miss Chapel." His tone could have frozen the very air. "Vulcans do not honor such illogical, emotional Human holidays -- and even if we did, your infatuation with me does not obligate me to give you a gift or anything else of that nature ... or vice versa.

"Furthermore, we are not romantically involved, nor are we friends -- or ever likely to be. Please refrain from approaching me in this manner again, or else I shall be forced to take action against you for conduct unbecoming an officer. Now if you would excuse me, I am on duty on the bridge in 5.32 minutes. Good day."

Christine could not have been more stunned if he'd slapped her. In fact, it might have been kinder if he had. She had winced at the frigid obsidian eyes which had stabbed through her before the Vulcan had turned on his heel and taken his leave of her, having forced back unbidden tears even though she had expected it. She had asked an emotional thing of a logical Vulcan and he had reacted predictably. Even so, she had thought perhaps...

But why kid herself? *You got everything you deserved, you lovesick fool,* she has chastised herself. *He was well justified in telling you off.* But even that knowledge hadn't made this latest rejection hurt any less. In fact, it hurt all the more because it had come on Valentine's Day -- from the one man she loved most in all the Galaxy.

He had, in essence, said he didn't want her and never would, not even as a friend ... and had warned her to leave him alone or else he would take steps to see that she was punished for conduct unbecoming an officer -- at the very least.

At least she now knew that Spock was indeed aware of today's significance in Terran culture, even if he wasn't interested in honoring it. No surprise there, though he could have at least been polite, which would have softened the blow. As it was, he had almost literally cut her off at the knees! And then to have had Leonard bring up Omicron Ceti Three and what had happened there...

She could take (and *had* taken) a lot of pain on Spock's account, but this was something else again. *You won't have to arrange a transfer, Spock,* she thought bitterly. *I know when I'm not wanted. In fact, I'll leave on my own. That should please you immensely!*

Just then Christine's buzzer sounded, bringing her back to reality. It was still early; could it possibly be...? Her heart leaped hopefully. *Get real, Christine. Spock would never do such a thing, especially not after the way he cut you to pieces earlier!* Even so, she pressed the button to unlock her door with that hope in mind. "Come," she said to her unexpected visitor.

"Chris?" Uhura's voice. The nurse's heart dropped so fast that it bounced when it hit bottom, but she concealed her disappointment even as she inwardly resented being unable to lock her door and cry in peace.

"In here, Nyota," she called from her bedroom, where she was lying on her bed, still in her fancy dress but having removed her headband, earrings, hose and shoes so that her feet and legs were bare.

"Are you all right?" The dark woman's voice was laced with concern as she came into the sleeping alcove and seated herself next to her friend on the latter's bed.

"Oh, I'm just fine and dandy, considering that I just had my heart torn in two!"

Uhura detected intense pain behind Christine's deadpan delivery and did her best to ease it. "You know how Dr. McCoy is, Chris. He always speaks his mind. Even so, I don't think he meant to hurt you."

Christine sighed sadly and sat up, blinking back tears. "It wasn't that so much as what happened with Spock in sickbay during my shift. He came in for a physical and I stopped him as he was about to leave. When I mentioned Valentine's Day, he all but cut me off at the knees!"

She recited the aforementioned conversation verbatim; Uhura winced in sympathetic pain. "Oh, Chris, he *couldn't* have! Spock's not a cruel person."

"But he did." The other woman's voice was dull and lifeless.

"Chris, I'm so sorry. It must have hurt like hell."

"Not that I blame him, though," Christine continued as if Uhura hadn't spoken. "I had it coming for asking a Vulcan such a thing."

"But Spock's not just a Vulcan, he's the man you love. Not even being Vulcan gives him the right to be cruel to you -- especially not on Valentine's Day. He knows what it's like to be rejected; he should have been gentler with you!"

"It's over and done with, Ny. Neither of us can do anything about it now. Besides, I deserved it."

Uhura's eyes blazed. "Chris, that's the stupidest thing I ever heard in my life! Don't penalize yourself for being Human enough to fall in love and expecting some attention from the man you love. That's natural. It's also not your fault that Spock reacted as he did. He'd probably have said the same thing to anyone who asked him the same question."

Christine gave Uhura a look that went right through her, but didn't deny it. "Maybe so -- but the timing stinks. If it had been any other day but today, I could have stood it. As it is, he might as well have stuck a knife in my heart and twisted it." Her voice was scarcely audible, but her heartbreak came through loud and clear.

"Would you like me to talk to Spock on your behalf? He and I get along pretty well. Maybe I can make him realize how wrong he was to talk to you like that. As far as I can tell, all you did was ask a simple question -- but he jumped down your throat and skidded around your heart."

Christine shook her head even as she gave her friend a sad smile. "I appreciate the offer, but things are bad enough as it is. Your chastising him would probably only make them worse."

"Okay, suit yourself," Uhura said after gently embracing Christine. "But the offer remains open." She turned for the door. "See you later, Chris. Take care."

"You, too."

Uhura smiled, nodded and departed. After Uhura left, Christine took off her nice dress and donned a pretty but casual pale blue caftan-like, ankle-length outfit which some backless sandals with two strips criss-crossing twice over her insteps and between her big and second toes complemented perfectly.

She left her hair up and donned a long gold necklace, doubling it so it hung a third of the way down her chest before departing her quarters for the Rec Room, pointedly avoiding where she, Nyota, Leonard and the Captain had sat an hour earlier. Instead, she made her way to a padded bench situated in front of yet another large viewport window.

She sat there alone, arms hugging her knees against her chest and chin resting on her knees for several hours, just gazing at the twinkling stars. She lost all track of time after her arrival at approximately 9 p.m. (2100 hours) as she quietly sobbed her heart out.

It was dark, empty and desolate in the large room -- as black, empty and desolate as she felt inside. At that thought, Spock's image flashed in her head, prompting further tears as she recalled his frigid voice and cold black eyes.

*Oh, Spock, what did I ever do to deserve your treating me so? Since when has loving someone become a crime? That's all I ever wanted to do. It would have meant the world to me to have even gotten a smile from you, but all I've ever gotten is tears and heartbreak. I could make you so happy if you'd only let me -- but I'm not going to beg you or even ask for anything. I want only what you're willing to give.*

At this point she thought she heard a noise, so she quickly straightened up and wiped her tears away with one sleeve -- but no one approached or spoke to her, so she relaxed. After about ten minutes her tears resumed and she didn't try to stop them. She no longer had the strength.

*It wouldn't have been so bad if you'd lectured me any other day -- but today ... why did you have to do it today? It's Valentine's Day, the day for lovers -- and for that reason I wanted us to be together, share it with you ... but you never said a civil word to me. In fact, you never even said hello to me, much less gave me the time of day. Oh God, when will this heartache end?*

She buried her face in her knees as her slender shoulders shook with the force of her sorrow.

*Will I ever be able to look at you, think of you or hear your voice without crying? I hurt so much inside...*

After a time the nurse abandoned herself to her sorrow, unable to think any more. All she knew or felt was pain. She threw herself face down on the pillow-like pad and soaked it with tears stemming from two years of rejections and the heartbreak she could no longer bear.

* * *

Spock had just turned off his computer when an intense wave of sorrow struck him -- so much that it nearly brought him to his knees. As it was, he found inexplicable tears filling his eyes, having no idea what had caused them. He had no idea who on board was feeling such sorrow ... or what could have been so traumatic as to prompt such a reaction. At any rate, he would be unable to sleep until he found out the answer.

It was just past midnight when the Vulcan found himself standing in front of the doors of the Rec Room, unable to say why he had come -- only that he would find the answer he sought here. He entered the large room a moment later; it was pitch-black except for the starlight from the various viewport windows ... and began to search, not knowing what he was looking for, only that he would know when he found it. Which he did -- sooner than he ever expected.

He was sure his eyes were deceiving him at first. How could anyone possibly be here at this hour? But as he got closer, he realized that there *was* someone here ... and a female someone at that, if the curves outlined in the starlight were any indication.

The woman seemed to be in a reclining or prone position, her face buried in one of the soft bench pads, so he had no idea who he had discovered -- only that he had to help her in order to help himself. He could not rouse her verbally, so he checked to make sure she was still alive ... which she was, merely deeply asleep.

Even so, his fingers came away wet when they brushed across one soft cheek. All at once he decided that it would be more comfortable for the mysterious woman in his arms than lying on a bench ... even a padded one. That is, once she awakened and he found out who she was. He sat patiently until she stirred, then touched her shoulder gently to let her know of his presence. Recognition came at the moment of contact. He knew the feel of her mind. Christine! But what was she doing here at this hour?

* * *

Christine came awake with a start to find herself lying on a padded bench in the Rec Room, vaguely remembering a hand touching her -- but not just any hand. "Spock!" she exclaimed, lifting her head from where it had rested on the bench.

Spock couldn't see her face clearly, but had felt her lift her head and recognized her voice immediately. "Christine?" His voice was full of question. "Why are you here at this hour? It is nearly 0200."

"I might ask you the same question," she countered.

"I sensed someone's ... sorrow -- and it led me here ... to you. What has happened to cause you such sorrow?"

"You," she blurted before she could stop herself, both unnerved at and grateful for Spock's strong telepathy.

"Me?" He sounded incredulous. "What have I done?"

"You really want to know?" Her tone was a warning.

"I do," he found himself saying -- so she told him.

When she finished, Spock was both awed at the depth of her devotion to him and appalled by his own actions. How could he have said such cruel, thoughtless things? No wonder her sorrow had been so intense. Upon reflecting back, he had to admit that she had only been giving information; she had not asked him for anything -- and yet he had...

His cheeks burned with shame. How could he ever make amends? "I am ... so sorry, Christine. I do not know -- how I could have said such things to you. And the fact that it occurred on your holiday which honors the emotion of love and its expression compounds my shame." His penitence was so real that she had to believe him.

"Do you ... remember my giving out cards to different people?" She felt him nod in response. "Well, I had one for you too, but didn't dare give it to you -- not after what you said in Sickbay. I figured there was no sense trying to give it to you if you truly felt the way you said you did toward me. I'd like to think you know me well enough by now to know that I would never force you into anything. I want only what you are willing -- and able -- to give."

By this time Spock was close to tears himself at the tenderness in her voice, but had to be strong for her sake. He had caused her enough pain; it was time for him to do something which would make her happy.

"Like ... this?" He lifted her chin, then bent his head and found her lips with his.

The kiss was long, deep and sweet; the couple found themselves unable to stop. Christine held the man she loved tightly, gripping him as though it meant her life. Tears of happiness streamed down her cheeks even as Spock continued to kiss her.

*Spock... Oh, my love! Thank you, thank you, thank you. You've made this a wonderful, if belated, Valentine's Day for me. I couldn't ask for anything more ... well, maybe one thing.*

*And what is that one thing?* His voice echoed inside her head.

*Please kiss me again.* Her mind-voice was laced with equal parts love and desire. *And hold me, beloved. Hold me tight -- and never let me go!*

"Yes ... like that," she murmured breathlessly once he had released her, her lips still savoring the warm sweetness of his.

"I -- hope my kiss has shown you how deeply sorry I am for the pain I have caused you ... and how even more deeply that I cherish you -- how much I will always cherish you."

Fresh tears welled up in Christine's eyes; the Vulcan's own were large and soft as they looked deeply into hers before planting gentle kisses on each of them. "Please do not cry any more. It is ... most distressing to me." His hand was warm on her cheek; she reached up and held it a moment before moving it to her lips and kissing it.

"I'm not hurt, Spock. I'm happy -- so very happy. The happiest woman in the universe!"

"Would you like to return to your quarters now?" He smiled in spite of himself.

"If you come with me."

"Of course."

He had her on her feet within seconds and they made their way to the Rec Room doors, arms around each other. Fortunately it was late enough so they didn't run into anyone -- at least not anyone they knew. A short time later they reached her quarters; within an even shorter time, they were inside ... and she presented her valentine to him. Spock opened the envelope and withdrew the card, reading and perusing it in silence for such a long time that Christine began to wonder if he was ever going to speak again.

Suddenly he looked up at her and their eyes met; his eyes seemed as misty as hers. "You can still -- feel like this toward me after the way I have ... treated you?" Her smile confirmed the fact. "I do not -- deserve this, but it is ... beautiful, Christine. The most -- beautiful thing I have ever received. I will ... treasure it always." His voice lowered, sounding sad. "But I have nothing to give you."

She smiled and raised her hand to his cheek. "On the contrary. You've given me the most valuable gift anyone could give -- yourself. That's all I've ever wanted ... and all I'll *ever* want."

He drew her gently into his arms again and cradled her head on his shoulder; one hand stroked her hair while the other rested on the small of her back. Her own arms were locked gently but securely around him. "Vulcan knows that I am -- unworthy of you, but I ... promise that I will do all in my power to make you happy and never again cause you pain. In conclusion, I would like to ask if you would do me the honor of bonding with me -- and eventually becoming my wife. I ... cannot allow you to get away."

Her smile would have been sufficient answer had he not required a verbal response. "Oh yes, Spock. *Yes*." Her voice held all the love in her heart.

"Then for the time being, may we ... see one another socially? Tonight, perhaps?" His voice was soft and warm, holding exciting promise.

Christine hated to have to turn him down. "Spock, I'm sorry, but I can't tonight. I promised Scotty I would go with him to dinner and a show. This was done yesterday morning before I had any idea that we would be together now. I can't disappoint him at this late date. Please forgive me."

Warm lips kissed her temple. "There is nothing to forgive *you* for, Christine. It is I who should be asking -- indeed, begging -- *your* forgiveness for the way I have treated you."

"You have it." Her voice was tender. "As long as I know that I can count on you and your love, I can handle anything life throws at me."

Christine saw no sense in pushing the issue by accepting a date with Jason Robinson. A previously arranged engagement was one thing; it was quite another when no actual date had been made. What the Head Orderly didn't know wouldn't hurt him. Most importantly, she didn't want to wait any longer to be with Spock than absolutely necessary. Waiting 24 more hours would be difficult enough.

"Finally, I want to say this: Happy Valentine's Day, beloved. Please be my valentine, for now and all time."

"As long as you are mine," came the soft, husky reply just before his embrace tightened ... then she was kissed as she had never been kissed before in her life -- or would ever be kissed again.

* * *

It was all that either of them could do to conceal their feelings, much less what had happened -- though it came easier for Spock because of his years of practice and discipline. However, Christine was so happy that she couldn't have hidden it even if she had been Vulcan. In fact all she wanted to do was shout it to everyone on the ship, if not everyone in the Federation.

Even so, it was only a matter of time until everyone knew ... but Spock and Christine intended to make sure that that was as far in the future as possible. For the moment, the only ones who needed to know were their closest friends Kirk, Uhura, and (with the proper precautions) McCoy.

The foremost thing on the nurse's mind for the present was what she would wear and how the date with Scotty might go. She had learned that the show was a holovid version of the mid-20th century classic musical "The Sound of Music." The melodies, singing and romance had always enchanted her -- and now that she and Spock had come to an "understanding", she found it even more so. She decided on a Scottish-print suit with a white blouse, her gold necklace and a long skirt.

She even planned to wear a headband which matched the suit, along with her white slippers. The least she could do was give Scotty a memorable date, although it had been akin to being operated on without anesthetic to have turned Spock down ... to have *had* to turn him down.

She vowed to enjoy herself as much as possible, though she would have preferred to see the film with Spock. That way they could have held hands while watching it under cover of darkness. Perhaps he would have even put his arms around her while she put her head on his shoulder. It was the only way he would feel relatively safe in letting go, even a little. As it was, she would have to make the best of an awkward situation.

As for the meal, she planned an Italian dinner since she had never developed a taste for Scottish cuisine. Spaghetti with meatballs, garlic bread, a small salad and an ice-cold goblet of Italian wine.

Christine hoped she wouldn't run into Nyota and Sulu when with Scotty. Even if the men didn't see through her, Uhura would. Her Bantu friend found her as transparent as glass at times like this, particularly where Spock was concerned ... and especially since there had been no opportunity to tell Uhura what had transpired between herself and Spock.

And what if she saw Spock in the course of the evening? What if their eyes met and they smiled at each other? How would the others react if they saw it? Spock had a talent for explaining his way out of things -- or so he believed -- but she knew her happiness would be written all over her face should the two of them get in proximity to each other.

There was no way in the universe she could hide it ... and liked to think that Spock would be as transparent as she. She could only hope that she was sufficiently prepared to answer the inevitable questions. Meanwhile, she had best start getting ready if she was to finish before Scotty arrived.

* * *

The engineer came at precisely 1715, eyes lighting up when he saw her. "Och, lass, are ye ever a sight f'r these eyes t' behold!"

Christine couldn't help smiling. "Thank you. I hoped you'd like it."

"Mr. Spock 'ad better grab ye soon, or else I will," Scott declared. "Y're too bonnie a lass t' be footloose an' fancy-free!"

It was all Christine could do not to blurt out the news that Spock had done just that ... but this wasn't the time. She sensed that Spock wanted their new relationship kept secret until he sprung it -- though only their friends would be privy to the information at first.

In addition, unless Kirk, McCoy and Uhura were sworn to secrecy, the rest of the ship would know in less than a week. A happening of such magnitude would be too exciting to sit on for very long. She found herself preferring that the process be gradual in order that she and Spock have time to get used to being romantically involved.

For the time being, she planned to have as much fun as possible. The show was being held on the Rec Deck; tables were folded up and moved against the walls while rows of chairs were set up facing the large viewscreen. She and Scott seated themselves about halfway back, in the middle of a row. A short time later, the show began; within moments the couple became lost in it.

* * *

Two hours later there was an intermission; Christine excused herself to go replenish her makeup, use the bathroom and get herself a cold drink. In this case, it was "Fresca," a beverage reminiscent of Seven-Up. Very enjoyable and refreshing. Even so, she was glad they would have dinner after the show. Her stomach was beginning to use her backbone for support. However, she had a tendency to have her eyes bigger than her stomach, so she vowed to be careful in assembling her food portions.

If she had room, she intended to have pumpkin pie, but failing that would settle for butterscotch pudding with a big glob of whipped cream. She noted that her escort had chosen Bavarian bratwurst casserole with German potato salad, a small portion of haggis and his beloved Scotch to wash it all down.

The couple chatted amiably about their duty shifts and how they had gone while eating an hour later; about a third of the way through the meal Christine noticed that Nyota and Sulu had walked in. The latter couple sat within sight of but not speaking or hearing distance of herself and Scotty. Uhura's knowing eyes met hers, but Christine shook her head.

The Bantu frowned but returned to her own meal. Christine was pleased with herself for controlling so well -- but reminded herself that it was mainly because Spock wasn't around. If he was, that would have been the real test ... and one she could not have passed. In that event, all their shipmates would know -- particularly the ones who knew them best.

Nyota was here, so Christine suspected that the Captain and Leonard weren't far behind, particularly with Spock in tow since she had put him off until tomorrow night. He couldn't be any more pleased about that than she was, but would conceal it because he knew that she wouldn't turn him down without a good reason. Even at that, it didn't mean he had to like it.

Right now it was better that he be with his friends than alone in his quarters brooding while playing chess with his computer. His game might even be thrown off because of it and the computer would win, although she knew that Spock would probably never admit to any such feeling.

Both would have to stick it out tonight and make tentative plans for tomorrow night. Hopefully neither would have a late shift. She made a mental note to ask McCoy if she had late duty tomorrow night -- and possibly contact Spock to find out if *he* had a late shift ... provided he didn't contact her first.

"Lass?... Lass, are ye all right?" Scott's concerned voice brought her back to reality.

Christine looked up with a start and smiled reassuringly. "I'm fine, Scotty. Just woolgathering."

"Thank Heaven. Ah was beginnin' t' wonder. Y' seemed a million light-years away."

She smiled again and returned to her meal. When she was about three-quarters of the way through, the mess hall doors opened to admit Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The Captain and Chief Surgeon were talking animatedly; the First Officer only spoke when spoken to.

The three men chose their meals and seated themselves at another table within sight and earshot of her and Scotty. The latter hadn't noticed that the three other senior officers had come in, but the nurse was uncomfortably aware of their presence -- particularly Spock's proximity. She busied herself as best she could with the remainder of her meal, but knew she could only stall so long.

Moments later she felt eyes on her and raised her head to meet Spock's. His brown velvet eyes were so deep that they seemed like dark, quiet pools beckoning her to dive inside them. She could have gotten lost in that warm gaze without trying -- or caring.

However, she couldn't speak to him with the others in hearing, so she merely smiled and tried to project her love and regret out to him. He seemed to pick it up because his austere but beautiful face softened and his lips curved in a soft half-smile.

*We'll make up for it tomorrow, my love,* she told him mentally. *Just hang in there, as I am.* His eyes held hers another long moment before he turned back to his friends and resumed speaking and eating with them.

Vulcans didn't ordinarily speak during meals, but Spock made an exception when with his two friends. Even so, he found himself wishing he was in Scott's place, feeling an unaccustomed and unnerving flash of envy and strong pangs of jealousy. He hoped neither of his friends had seen his lingering looks in Christine's direction and was sure that she was hoping the same because neither was ready for any questions regarding their actions at this point ... and wouldn't be for some time to come.

But even if he managed to conceal it from Scott, Sulu and McCoy, Jim would see through him as easily as though he was transparent aluminum. Fortunately the Vulcan also knew that his Human friend wouldn't pressure him and could wait until he was ready to talk.

The problem was, it wasn't that he was concerned about. He'd had no idea he was capable of such feelings as he felt now -- wanting to be with Christine, to touch her, hold her and kiss her. So much he could almost taste it. These feelings would test his control as nothing else in his life ever had. He closed his eyes and asked for strength to continue.

"Spock, are you all right?" Kirk's concerned voice brought the Vulcan back to reality.

Spock looked up, opened his eyes and raised one upswept eyebrow. "Of course, Captain. Do not be concerned. I was ... simply preoccupied."

Kirk frowned skeptically but made no further comment. McCoy gave them a strange look, but both of his friends' faces were unreadable. The doctor finally decided that Jim was hanging around Spock too much. He was even starting to act like him! He also vowed to find out what was going on, if he could. If it was what he thought it was, he should be able to get something out of Christine about it eventually.

Meanwhile, it wouldn't do any good to ask questions; he wouldn't get any straight answers. Not from any of them -- least of all Christine.

Shortly after this the nurse and engineer left, bidding their friends and shipmates farewell as they passed them. They either smiled, nodded or spoke as Christine stood next to Scott, one hand lightly resting on his right arm. Kirk and McCoy studied their alien friend when the aforementioned couple reached their table. Spock acted accordingly, although it took all his control to hide how he was feeling. The doctor also shot Christine a penetrating look, but she stiffened her back and stood her ground. Her cool demeanor didn't change as she and Scott passed Uhura and Sulu.

Nyota gave her the same penetrating look as McCoy, but again Christine shook her head and frowned. However, both knew that Uhura wouldn't be put off for very long. The nurse was sure that her Bantu friend would be coming by very soon to ask for (if not demand) an explanation of her actions. If not tonight, sometime in the next three days.

That was about as long as either Uhura or McCoy could keep their mouths shut. Spock would probably tell Kirk what had happened at some point during that time, because three days was also about as long as the Vulcan could keep something like this to himself now that he had Kirk to confide in.

Christine turned her head as she and Scott neared the doors of the Officers' Mess, her eyes meeting Spock's once again as he disposed of his half-eaten meal. The look there was such that she was sure he would also "drop by." The question was, who would arrive first?

* * *

A short time later Christine and Scott reached her door. She turned to thank him and looked up to find her escort looking nervous. She sensed it was because he wanted to ask her something, but was afraid she would refuse him. That would depend on what it was.

"Is something wrong?" she finally asked.

Scott colored slightly and shook his head. "Nae, lass...but ah was jus' thinkin'--"

Her eyes cut him off in mid-sentence. "What were you thinking?"

"Could ah -- well -- kiss ye good night?"

Christine almost laughed. "Is that all? Of course."

"In that case..." He moved close to her and gently held her arms in his strong hands as he leaned forward to brush her lips with his. "Thank ye f'r a lovely evenin', lass. Ah've nae had a better one." Christine assured him that she had also enjoyed herself. "Then that's all ah could 'ope for. Good night, lass." With that, the engineer turned on his heel and walked off in the general direction of his quarters.

Christine unlocked her cabin door and went in, changing out of her Scottish outfit and into a long, filmy nightgown with lace and spaghetti straps. A silk robe one shade darker accompanied it. Slippers similar to those worn by a ballerina were on her feet. She took her hair down and brushed it out while sitting on her bed before reaching for her "Moon over Antares" perfume and spritzed some on strategic places.

She returned the bottle to its original place before standing up to head for her bathroom to brush her teeth. Not that she seriously believed Spock would actually come by, but it didn't hurt to be prepared.

The buzzer sounding a few minutes later came as no surprise, but it was more realistic to assume it was Uhura rather than Spock. Therefore, when she called "Come," in answer to the buzzer she expected to hear Uhura's voice in reply.


The nurse's heart began pounding hard and fast at the sound of the Vulcan's rich baritone; her cheeks flushed and her knees went weak in spite of her best efforts. It took all her strength to reply normally.

"In here, Spock," she called from her bathroom. A moment later his tall, slender form stood framed in her bathroom doorway. "What a pleasant surprise. It's not every day that you do me such an honor." Her voice held no sarcasm and she smiled as she answered, unaware of the impact she was having on her companion.

As far as Spock was concerned, it had never been as difficult as it was now to keep from stepping forward and sweeping Christine off her feet and into his arms to kiss her as he had the previous night. He could smell the musky-rose fragrance emanating from her and felt his heartrate accelerate at even the thought of having her in his arms, feeling her body close to him and her lips yielding to his.

"I ... merely wished to ask you how your -- date with Mr. Scott was."

Christine smiled inwardly, knowing that if that was all Spock wanted to know, he could have used the intercom. "It was fun," she replied. "We watched the movie 'Sound of Music' and had dinner."

He gave her a half-smile. "Indeed. That musical is one of Mother's favorites."

She raised an eyebrow at him this time. "I noticed you had dinner with the Captain and Dr. McCoy."

"Only because my ... intended partner had a previous engagement," the Vulcan remarked evenly.

"Again, I'm sorry about that, Spock. I would -- rather have been with you, but had already promised Scotty I would be with him this evening. After all, how could I have known yesterday morning that we would be together now?"

He reluctantly conceded to her logic. "I suppose you are right. It is probably also logical that we do *not* see one another socially -- at least not in public -- until we are ready for the others to know."

Christine suspected that their friends already did know, but did not voice this.

He went on. "Be that as it may, it did not make it any easier for me to endure seeing you with another man when I -- wanted so much to be with you myself."

Both her eyebrows shot up. "Spock, are you telling me that you were actually *jealous*?" She was unable to believe her ears.

Spock frowned and bit his lip, nodding but remaining silent. It was almost frightening that Christine could read him so well -- almost as well as Jim and the Doctor. He bowed his head as he felt his cheeks burn. She raised his head again, hands cradling his face as she had that day over Psi 2000 ... but this time they weren't being affected by the virus.

For Christine, it meant that she could finally hold, touch and kiss her beloved as she had always longed to do. It was all she could have hoped for, and she had no intention of questioning her good fortune lest she lose it as soon as she had gained it.

"Spock, there's no need for you to be embarrassed. I'd never tell anyone. They couldn't even torture it out of me." She chuckled, trying to lighten the mood. "As I said earlier, my love, all I want is to love you and make you happy -- if you'll let me." One slender finger stroked the Vulcan's lips; he caught her hand and brought it to his lips.

"I ... will let you." He looked into her eyes and saw her whole heart in their blue depths -- quiet pools which seemed to glow with an inner warmth. This inspired a corresponding emotion inside of him, an emotion which came unbidden but now grew geometrically inside his well-guarded but all-too-tender heart with every passing moment ... an emotion which soon overwhelmed him.

His eyes once again lingered on her lips as he moved to pull her close and hold her. "I -- would very much like to kiss you again, Christine. Please ... do not put me off any longer. I -- want ... I *need* -- to be with you tonight. I cannot wait until tomorrow."

"Oh yes, my love. *Yes*." However, the buzzer sounded just as their lips touched. Christine muttered unsavory epithets under her breath as Spock abruptly released her. Whoever had interrupted them had better have a damn good reason for being here, or else she would kick them from here to Orion first and ask questions later.

"Yes, what is it?" She tried to keep anger and impatience out of her voice.

"Chris, are you all right? May I talk to you?" Uhura's voice. She exchanged glances with Spock; he shook his head.

"I'm fine, Nyota -- but was just getting into bed. Could I take a raincheck?"

The tremor in her friend's voice was not lost on Uhura. Despite her claim, she must have another visitor of the male persuasion to sound as she did. The Bantu had used that excuse herself often enough to know that Chris was hiding something. Could it be that Spock was with her? A distinct possibility, though not a certainty. At any rate, Uhura decided that it was best not to press the issue and disturb her friend. She would let her off the hook -- this time. However, she would expect a full report tomorrow and Chris knew it.

"In that case, could I see you tomorrow this time?"

Spock and Christine looked at each other again; he nodded. "Sure, that's fine. See you then."

"Good night, Chris." Uhura hoped that everything worked out for her friend, turning to leave even as Christine breathed a sigh of relief on the other side of the door.

"Good night, Nyota." Christine closed the intercom again, thankful that Spock had arrived first. By this time both had reached the bedroom doorway. "Well, she knows," the nurse remarked.

Spock frowned in puzzlement. "How can she possibly know? You did not tell her I was here."

"You forget, I'm as close to her as you are to the Captain. She knows me, all my idiosyncrasies -- including when I'm trying to hide something."

"Even so, I am sure she will not tell anyone." Spock's eyes once again lingered on his companion's lips. "Now, if we may get back to what we were doing..." His voice held both question and deep feeling as Christine moved back into his arms.

"I thought you'd never ask."

* * *

However, this night was to be very different from the previous night. It was all the couple could do to stop kissing long enough to bond, but a voice at the back of Spock's mind (possibly the last remnants of his sanity) told him it would be logical to bond before anything else happened ... and at this rate, something would, very soon. Something very intimate. Neither would be able to do anything about it, but then neither would want to -- and once again, two worlds would become one.

It only took fifteen minutes for the bonding ritual ... and neither had needed any outside help. Instead, they had helped each other. Christine smiled as she thought of Spock saying that neither would fail at anything they did together. Love and determination would see them through both the good and bad times in their shared lives.

However, once they had been mentally joined, the newly bonded mates knew what each wanted simply by looking at each other. The one's kisses and caresses inflamed the other's passion to fever pitch, second only to the pon farr. A short time later the lovers lowered themselves onto Christine's bed and positioned themselves accordingly.

Both lost track of everything but the nearness of the other, the touch and kiss of the other, wanting only to love and be loved as both had dreamed of doing all their lives ... two people who had received the rare gift of being allowed to have their dreams come true.

* * *

At 1900 hours the following evening, Christine had promised to talk privately with Uhura, although Spock had made her promise to call him afterward if it wasn't too late so they could be together again. She couldn't help but thrill to the memory of the evening she had shared with Spock. Even now, the thought brought a smile to her lips. Spock and his love, the reality of it, had surpassed every fantasy she had ever had and was worth every moment she'd waited.

Of course, Nyota would want to know the details and Christine would give them, albeit reluctantly. She would have preferred to keep them to herself a while longer, even though part of her wanted to tell Ny everything in order to relive that magical night.

The buzzer brought her back to reality. Christine checked her chrono, knowing who it was right off. She unlocked her door and said, "Come," turning on her heel to head into her bedroom.

A moment later the casually dressed comm officer stepped in, clad in an exotic-print dress with her black hair down around her shoulders. "Chris?" she called out, looking around but not seeing her friend.

"In here, Ny," Christine called from her bedroom, where she was sitting on her bed cross-legged. A book was lying on the bedside table with a red ribbon as a bookmark, marking her place about halfway through.

Uhura's eyebrows raised in a most Vulcan manner and her lips spread in a wicked smile upon reading the title of the book printed in gold on the spine: "Lady Chatterley''s Lover."

Christine wasn't one to read such things without a good reason, which indicated to Uhura that her suspicions had been right on the money. Chris had indeed had a gentleman caller last night -- and not just any "gentleman" either, but a certain Vulcan who shall be nameless, but whose initials spelled S-P-O-C-K. She knew as well as anyone how much of an artist the Vulcan was at hiding his feelings behind logic, but also knew that there were times he was as transparent as glass, fooling no one but himself as he claimed logical motivations despite the fact that all around him knew otherwise.

But that was unimportant at the moment; her main concern was finding out how the evening had gone. If the book on the nightstand was any barometer, it must have been very stimulating, indeed! Moments later Uhura reached the bed and assumed an identical position facing the other woman, an expectant look on her face.

"Okay, Chris, I'm here and I'm ready. What happened last night?" The look she gave Christine told her that she would do well not to say "Nothing," because the Bantu knew better and would not hesitate to say so.

Christine bowed her head as she felt color stain her cheeks, attempting to hide her blush but not succeeding. "Come on, honey, you can tell me. Was Spock here? Did he spend the night with you?"

Christine's color deepened even as she nodded, keeping her head bowed, unable to meet her friend's eyes. "How did it go? Was he all you expected?"

"Much more." Christine forced herself to lift her head and look her friend straight in the eye, the glow on her face telling the whole story. Uhura had never seen a woman's face so radiant ... and radiant with not only love and happiness, but total fulfillment.

"Any idea what prompted his change of heart? After all, I remember what you told me about his nearly cutting you off at the knees in Sickbay yesterday."

The nurse related how she had gone to the Rec Room and sat there alone for hours, staring at the stars through her tears -- then threw herself down on the padded bench and cried herself to sleep, where Spock found her at approximately 0200 hours and they had had a heart-to-heart talk. Next, she told of how they had left the Rec Room for her quarters, where she had at last been able to give him a valentine and note his reaction to it.

He had even asked to see her that evening, yet she'd had to turn him down because she had already accepted the date with Scotty -- but said that they could get together the following day.

Finally, she discussed how she'd felt during the dinner with Scotty, where she'd seen Spock with Kirk and McCoy after Sulu had come in with Uhura.

"I can imagine how you must have felt, especially when Spock scarcely took his eyes off you for close to half an hour. He can usually sense when someone is watching him, but never noticed me at all. Very unusual ... and I would have liked to be a fly on the wall when the Captain and Dr. McCoy questioned him about it."

"What makes you think they did any such thing?" Christine sounded skeptical.

"The funny looks they gave him, for one thing," came the reply. "Especially the Captain. I think you know by now that he can read Spock pretty well. By the way, how long had Spock been with you before I came?"

""About fifteen minutes. Not long," Christine said. "Even so, he'd been all ready to kiss me when you interrupted." The nurse''s voice held a touch of annoyance despite her efforts to conceal it.

"Sorry, Chris. I hope I didn't spoil the moment."

"No, luckily for you. Even so, after you'd gone, I'd told him that you knew what was going on because you and I were as close as him and the Captain. Naturally he couldn't understand how that could be, but I managed to -- divert his thoughts, as it were, so he didn't concern himself further with it."

"In other words, one thing led to another," the Bantu finished with a knowing smile. Christine smiled and nodded. "Do you intend to see him again?"

The nurse's smile widened. "Of course. At every opportunity."

"Do you think you''ll eventually -- bond with him?"

"Eventually," Christine said cryptically ... and her face was such that even Uhura couldn't read it -- and that was saying something.

"Anything else to tell?"

"Not at the moment," was the reply. "Now if you don't mind, I'd like to get back to my book. Good night, Nyota."

Uhura knew when she was being dismissed, so she didn't argue. "See you later then, Chris. Keep me posted on how you're doing with Spock."

Christine nodded and smiled again, then Uhura left. After checking the chrono, the former was pleased to note that it was only 2130. Plenty of time for another rendezvous with Spock. She reached for her intercom and called him as promised. He arrived within moments, the Captain having returned to his own quarters only a short time before after a similar talk. But even as he had left his quarters for Christine's, the Vulcan couldn't help thinking that now was the perfect opportunity to employ the advice Jim had given him and see if it had worked as well as his friend claimed. At the proper time, that is. Meanwhile, he and Christine had bigger and better things to do.

* * *

Spock's private discussion with Kirk was similar to the one Christine had had with Uhura, yet different in the sense that the latter had been instigated by Uhura, while the former was at Spock's own request. Even as well as his first time with Christine had gone, the Vulcan knew that he would need advice if he were to continue the relationship. While he knew he had emotions as strong as (if not stronger than) a Human's, he had had little experience in expressing them because of his Vulcan training.

He would have to "unlearn" at least some of that training in order to express himself toward Christine in a manner which would please her. He had no plans to ever hurt her again, even unintentionally, if he could help it. The last time had cured him of speaking out of turn -- at least to her -- once and for all.

Of course, there were some feelings which could not be expressed in words, but only with physical contact like kisses and embraces, caressing and stroking. At one point during their night together, Spock could have sworn that Christine had been purring like a contented cat after he had done these things ... and with a blush, he privately admitted that her touch had made him feel like doing the same thing. Being her "valentine" was proving to be a most pleasurable experience, but he had to return the favor if he expected the relationship to last, which was why he had called Jim and asked for a private discussion.

He showered and donned his favorite robe with socks and sandals, wanting to be as comfortable as possible -- at least physically -- since the subject he would soon be discussing would make him very *un*comfortable emotionally.

When his buzzer sounded, he was sitting on his bed playing his Vulcan harp, having completed the beginnings of a song for Christine by the time Kirk arrived. When it was finished, he would surprise her with it ... and if his suppositions proved true, the outcome would be comparable to what had happened after she had retuned from her date with Scott and he, Spock, had come by.

In the meantime, however...

"Come," he called in answer to the buzzer.

James Kirk stepped in and looked around for his Vulcan friend, smiling when he spotted Spock sitting on his bed with his harp in his lap and wearing a cream-colored monk's-type robe. Spock looked more relaxed than Kirk had ever seen him; perhaps his new romance with Christine had loosened him up, enabled him to release at least some of the emotions he usually kept leashed. Even so, Kirk knew the Vulcan well enough to know that he had never been sure of himself in personal relationships, especially when those relationships involved a member of the opposite sex. He, Kirk, had had considerable experience on that score, so Spock had figured that he would be the most "logical" person to ask for advice on how to treat Christine.

"I'm here, Spock. What's on your mind?" Kirk stood in the doorway of Spock's sleeping alcove, always hesitant to enter the Vulcan's most private chamber until he gave permission, even as close as they were. It was best not to take anyone or anything for granted.

For a time the Captain wasn't sure if Spock had heard him, then Spock said, "Come in, Jim. Sit on the bed next to me." Kirk smiled and entered, following his friend's directions upon reaching the bed.

Once Kirk had made himself comfortable, he again asked Spock what was on his mind. The latter could not control a blush but made himself speak, even though it was only one word ... but that one word -- a woman's name -- spoke volumes to Kirk.

"Christine," he said quietly.

"Then I assume that the night of February 15th went well." Kirk did his best to phrase his statement as a request, not a demand, for further information.

"Quite well," came the reply ... so softly that Kirk barely heard it.

"In which case, why do you need me? As far as I can tell, you did just fine on your own."

"It was just one night," Spock reminded him.


"I am very -- inexperienced as far as expressing emotions is concerned, particularly romantic ones, over an extended period. I ... request advice on how to continue doing so in a manner which will please Christine."

"I'd say you pleased her very well without my help," Kirk remarked. "In fact, Bones tells me that he's never seen her so radiant -- and that it didn't take a genius to guess who was responsible. After all, her feelings for you aren't exactly a secret."

"Jim, please. I am serious." The Vulcan's tone was one of long-suffering exasperation.

Kirk chuckled. "Of course, you are. No more teasing, I promise. Now what would you like to know?"

"First off, are words always necessary to express one's feelings, or would physical contact suffice?"

Kirk frowned thoughtfully. "It depends on the situation. If someone asks you point-blank how you feel on a given subject, it's best to reply verbally. On the other hand, there are times when no amount of words can express how you feel.

"That's where physical contact comes in. A touch on your partner's cheek, stroking her hair or a kiss on her temple can convey a lot of feeling without your having to say a word. But since matters between you and Christine have gotten to the point where the two of you are intimately involved, it's nice for her if you can stroke her back, then kiss her neck or throat while you caress her.

"Anything more is up to the two of you -- but I *will* say that anything which brings mutual pleasure is acceptable. Which reminds me ... have you bonded with her?" The Vulcan was too embarrassed to speak, but did nod. "Then perhaps you could send your feelings to her that way -- tell her mentally what you'd like to do. Oh, and just out of curiosity, do you intend to see her tonight?"

"If it is not too late after her shift," he confessed, still green in the face and ears but able to speak even though he kept his head bowed.

"That shouldn't be a problem. As far as I know, neither of you has a late shift ... at least not tomorrow -- but you won't always be that lucky. For instance, Christine could have a late shift and you don't or vice versa, if not both. It might be a bit ... inconvenient, but what should matter is that you're able to be together. And finally, I want you both to know that neither Bones nor I will give either of you any static regarding your relationship as long as it doesn't interfere with your duties."

"We will do our utmost to -- ensure that it doesn't," came the sincere, if too quiet, reply.

"That's good enough for me. Now, if you don't have anything else to discuss, I'd like to..."

The beep of the intercom broke the moment. "Spock?" Christine's voice came through it, quiet and hesitant, as if she expected to be overheard. Technically, she had been, since Kirk was listening, but Spock would not distress her by telling her. In addition, Kirk always kept everything his Vulcan friend told him strictly confidential.

"Yes, Christine?" he replied.

"I'm back from my shift and have changed into 'something more comfortable', so you can come by if you want to. That is, if you don't have a late shift."

"I do not -- and will be there shortly, Christine. Spock out."

The Vulcan turned back to face his Human friend, who by now was smiling knowingly.

"Sounds like you just made a ''rendezvous', my friend," the Captain said. "In which case, I'll leave now and let you get to it. Good luck ... and remember what I told you."

"I will, Jim. Thank you."

Kirk smiled again and left. Spock waited five minutes before leaving himself.

* * *

In Sickbay the next day, the staff was making preparations for the upcoming inoculations which would protect the crew from illnesses such as colds and the flu, choriocytosis, Rigellian fever, and Vegan choriomeningitis. However, Christine's mind was about as far from her work as it was possible to get, although one would have had to know her well to have detected it. To the casual eye, she seemed engrossed in the information on the small viewer at her desk, trying to determine which crewmembers needed which inoculations. Jason Robinson was one of the ones who could see through Christine, although she was unaware of it.

"Boring, isn't it?" he asked quietly, but loudly enough to penetrate her reverie.

Christine visibly jumped before lifting her head and smiling at him. "Huh? What? Oh, hi, Jace. Yeah, it's boring. You'd think that this 'blankety-blank' computer would keep the lists of who needs what straight. Instead, I have to compile them all over again each time we give the shots!"

"Maybe you should have Mr. Spock look into the problem. It's part of his job to keep the computer systems aboard ship in top shape," the Head Orderly suggested blandly.

"Yes, I'll do that. Thanks, Jace." She was determined not to let anyone trip her up by attempting to get a rise out of her by mentioning Spock. It wasn't easy -- in fact, it took all her control to hide her uneasiness at his uncanny perceptiveness -- but she managed it. She knew that Jason had a crush on her, but had no idea that he'd paid such close attention to her mannerisms and idiosyncrasies ... such as her reaction to Spock. In which case, she'd have to be more careful in the future. The last thing she needed was for him to guess at the new relationship between her and the Vulcan.

Even as nice as he was, Jason could be a merciless tease ... and she could just imagine what he would do and say if he ever discovered that she and Spock were romantically involved. It was enough that the Captain, Leonard and Nyota knew. As it was, Uhura would expect her to give a full report on her last rendezvous with Spock when they saw each other again.

To Nyota's credit, she never pressured her, but sometimes Christine wished she could keep at least some of her private thoughts and actions to herself -- even if only for a few days. Hopefully when she and Nyota got together again, she could keep her busy talking about Lt. Farrell and away from the subject of herself and Spock. She wasn't holding her breath, but there was a good possibility she would be able to keep her latest tryst a secret, at least for a little while.

Meanwhile, she put on her most professional mask and said, "Well, we'd better get in gear and have the hypos ready before Dr. McCoy reads us the riot act. Thank Heaven, I finally got all the lists done. Now all I need to do is print them out."

Less than five minutes later, Christine held the five lists in her hands. After she had examined them, she handed Jason three of them. "Jase, I'd appreciate it if you would do these shots for me. Leonard and I'll do these other two lists." Her smile was all that was necessary to ensure his cooperation.

"Sure, Chris...tine. No problem." He barely caught himself in time before saying the more familiar version of her name. Only the ones closest to the Head Nurse were allowed to call her "Chris," like McCoy and Uhura. "Christine" was as informal as Spock could get ... and that was only when they were alone.

Otherwise she was addressed as "Nurse Chapel" or "Ms. Chapel." Christine was fair enough to allow an occasional slip-up, but if she thought someone was trying to become too familiar with her, her normally warm blue eyes would turn as cold as ice and the offender would be effectively frozen.

Jason vowed that he would never be one of them as he turned and headed for the nearby Pharmacology Lab to fill the needed hypos. Once that was accomplished, he would call the first of the patients on his lists to sickbay for their shots. He smiled knowingly as he scanned the lists and noted that Spock's name wasn't on any of the ones he had. Christine obviously intended to make sure that she (and only she) was the one who injected Spock. [He needed a semiannual inoculation against choriocytosis, a disease fatal to Vulcans because of their copper-based blood.]

Jason also noted the Captain and even Dr. McCoy on his lists, but didn't see Christine's name or his own on them ... which usually meant that both she and he would be inoculated by McCoy himself. It took some time to fill the first set of 86 hypos (Jason found that the work was easier if he broke it down into segments). He was slated to do 258 of the crew, while McCoy and Christine would do the other 170. Not really fair, but he had never been able to say "No" to her.

It took him nearly three hours to complete his task, so he took a short break before going out to open the shipwide intercom and speak into it, reading names from the first, second and third lists respectively: "Will the following crewmen please report to sickbay for inoculations: Lieutenants Hansen, Leslie and Sulu; Ensign Chekov and Lieutenants DePaul and DiFalco; also Lieutenants Brent, Johnson and Palmer..."

* * *

Later that afternoon, Christine left Sickbay at the stroke of shift change (in this case, it was 1600), and headed for a turbolift which would take her to the Officers' Mess on Deck Three. Nyota would meet her there. This time Christine arrived first and was the one who called to Uhura upon noting her arrival shortly after she herself sat down with her meal in front of her.

"Over here, Nyota!"

Uhura weaved her way to where her friend was seated after punching up her own meal, sitting directly in front of her. "How was your day, Chris?" she asked with a smile before taking a drink of coffee.

"So-so. We began inoculations today."

The face Uhura made told Christine her opinion of shots better than any words.

"Don't worry, Ny. I won't get to you for at least another couple of days. Speaking of days, how was yours?"

"Could be better, could be worse," Uhura said, which told Christine that both something good and something bad happened during Uhura's shift ... and that if she was patient, Ny would tell her about both incidents as well as about her date with Lt. Farrell last night.

"What happened?" the nurse asked.

Uhura's lips twisted wryly. "You want the good news or bad news first?"

"It's up to you," Christine dismissed.

"Okay, the bad news," the Communications Officer said, taking a deep breath before beginning. "I just sent the list of the officers up for promotion -- the latest one, that is -- to Starfleet Command before the end of my shift."

"Why is that bad news?" the other woman wondered.

"Because my name wasn't on it," Uhura explained, trying hard to mask her disappointment but not succeeding. "The Captain all but promised me it would be."

"Did you tell him about it?"

"No; I didn't get the chance."

"Can't you tell him tomorrow, then correct the oversight by sending another communique or something to Fleet Command adding your name to the list?"

"Sure, but it would take at least a day to reach them from our present position, and only heaven knows where we'll be by this time tomorrow." Only Christine had had any idea how much Nyota had been counting on the promotion, which meant an increase in pay as well as an elevation in rank, although she doubted Uhura would leave the Enterprise even if she was given the option.

"Then all you can do is make sure your name is on the *next* list. When is that due to go out?"

"Three months from now," came the reply. "Just before the end of the mission."

"You'll make it then, I'm sure," Christine tried to reassure her Bantu friend.

"I hope so," was the reply.

"What about the good news?"

"I'm going to be able to record an album of my songs professionally." Uhura visibly brightened. "I just heard from a friend of my father's who's in the music business. Dad sent me his address and I sent him a tape of my work. He loved it and wants to meet with me during my next leave before the recording session."

Christine reached to squeeze her friend's hands. "Oh, Ny, that's great! I know that's always been a dream of yours ... and now it's coming true. Also, before I forget, you must give me a copy of your recording once it's made."

Just then a masculine voice cut in. "I would like one as well, Ms. Uhura," came the First Officer's rich baritone. "I would also like to congratulate you on your good fortune."

Uhura smiled. "Thank you, Mr. Spock. It would be an honor. This has always been a dream of mine. I'll be doing the recording on my next leave."

Spock gave her a half-smile and nodded. "Now if you would both excuse me, I wish to obtain some nourishment." He gave Christine a lingering look before departing, although he had not spoken to her ... but she was glowing as if he had.

Once he was out of earshot, Uhura gave her friend a meaningful look. "There's no mistaking what that man has on *his* mind," she remarked with a knowing smile. At Christine's involuntary blush, the Bantu continued, "You ... and only you. He probably isn't even aware of other women except in a professional capacity."

"And to think I once thought I'd never have him," the nurse mused happily. "Which reminds me -- how did your date with Lt. Farrell go last night?"

Uhura noticed her friend's obvious attempt to divert her from asking about Spock, but allowed it for the moment and began to speak of her *tete-a-tete* with the beta shift navigator. "It was nice. We had dinner, then saw 'Porgy and Bess' on holovid. After that, we took a walk in the Botanical Gardens. You know how beautiful it looks at ship's night -- like a moonlit flower garden. Very romantic." Uhura gave her friend a wicked smile. "Maybe you should take Spock there one of these days."

"I'll think about it," Christine returned, noncommittal. "Did he try to kiss you while you were there?"

"No, although he did have his arm around me," Uhura confessed, smiling in such a way that Christine was sure the other woman had enjoyed it more than she let on. "Then we sat down on a bench and I put my head on his shoulder. He held me like that for some time, then took me back to my quarters." The dark woman's eyes grew soft. "*That* was when he kissed me -- and asked me out again."

"When do you plan on seeing him again?" the nurse wondered.

The Bantu made herself speak. "The next time both of us have an off-duty day ... next Tuesday, I think he said." Uhura took a breath before speaking again. "Maybe we could double-date then. That is, if you think Spock would go for it .. .and if you're both off-duty, too."

"I doubt it -- but I could ask if you want."

Then Uhura laughed. "Chris, you're slipping when you can't tell when I'm teasing you! I know how much you want to be alone with him. The last thing I want to do is intrude on your privacy."

Christine was relieved in spite of herself. "I must admit it did sound a little strange coming from you."

"So how are things with you and Spock? Do you intend to see him tonight?"

Christine gave the other woman a hard look, but said, "That's up to him. I haven't heard one way or the other."

"But you're hoping you do," Uhura finished, giving her friend a sly wink.

"Of course." Christine returned the wink even as she got up to leave.

"Let me know how it goes," Uhura said.

The nurse nodded and stood up, tray in hand. "See you later, Ny. Good luck with Lt. Farrell."

"Same to you with Spock," the Bantu said so only Christine could hear, watching as the other woman disposed of her tray and left before returning to her own tray to finish her meal.

* * *

Christine returned to her quarters and took a leisurely sonic shower before changing into her favorite fluffy robe, picking up another favorite book of hers, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and beginning to read. She was halfway through the second chapter when her door buzzer sounded.

"Come," she called, smiling when she saw Spock step in, as much out of uniform as she was ... in fact, he wore an ankle-length robe with a ropelike belt, matching socks and brown sandals. It was the same one he had worn when talking with Kirk the previous night, after it had been freshly laundered.

"Christine?" he called, looking around for her.

"In here, Spock," she said. "I'm catching up on some reading."

His face softened as he approached her. "Is that what you have planned for this evening?" His voice was laced with disappointment.

"I hadn't heard from you, so I figured I might as well..." Her voice trailed off.

"I am here now," he said softly -- so softly that it was almost a purr. "You may read when I am not with you, but when we are together, I expect to have your undivided attention."

She sat up and set the book aside. "Oh, you *do*, my love, I assure you!"

"I do not believe you. Convince me," he returned gently but firmly, a mischievous glint in his dark eyes.

Christine gave him a wicked smile. "Okay, Mister, you asked for it." She started toward him, reaching for the sash-tie of her robe. He pulled her into his arms from behind before she could undo it, however, holding her close from behind as his warm lips traveled over her exposed skin until they reached her right shoulder -- then up her throat before he nibbled her ear.

She couldn't help a shiver at the touch of his lips on her bare skin ... and it was his hands that loosened her robe's belt and lowered it off her shoulders. Her head fell forward as he kissed his way across her left shoulder, then kissed the nape of her neck and her throat after doing the same with her right. Her heart was pounding even as another shiver shot through her. The pleasure was almost unbearable...

"Spock," she murmured softly; he turned her around in his arms. "Oh, my love, kiss me... kiss me..."

He did so, effectively and thoroughly. So much so that she had no idea when they had reached her bed and lain down upon it. All she knew -- all she cared to know -- was the warm sweetness of his lips, the gentle strength of his arms and the feel of his hands playing over her body before he once again possessed her both mentally and physically. He swept her away into a maelstrom of passion and tenderness, both of which were stronger and deeper than any either had ever known before -- or ever *would* know. The only words she could think of to describe it (that is, if there *were* words to describe such an incredible experience) was as follows: Ecstasy gone nova.

Even as he began to drift off into a contented sleep with his bondmate in his arms, the Vulcan couldn't help wondering why it had taken him so long to realize how extraordinary Christine was ... and as he had told her before their bonding, he couldn't let her get away. Not now, not ever. They would marry in twin ceremonies at the proper time -- then she would be totally his and he completely hers ... "valentines" from this day forward and for as long as they both should live.