The lab was quiet at ship's-night. Being Assistant CMO had its perks. McCoy had seniority and she made sure he exercised the privilege. Her experimental research had been carried out in tandem with her scheduled duties while most of the ship slept, including McCoy.
The premise had taken root long ago, during the first five year mission. The preliminary research had been done before the second five year mission began. Now, after nearly two years of actual laboratory testing and retesting, the theoretical probability framework was complete to the extent that was possible without empirical application to the patient. That was the legacy she hoped to leave him. She would not be there to know the results first hand. She would only know the aftermath.
One: He could live a life that offered him unlimited choice. Two: He could die in the attempt at One. Three: He could end up married to a Vulcan female with whom he had little in common but cultural history.
The choice would be his to take or leave. He would, as always, weigh the risk against reward. She had a strong sense that he would take the risk for a chance to be free of the one Vulcan ritual, steeped in antiquity and hidden from outsiders, that he considered a curse.
How to present the treatment regimen she had developed, experimentally, and maintain the anonymity of the source was a different matter altogether. Whether knowing the author of his choice would make a difference in his decision, she would not have been able to say. There were things she knew for certain and things about which she had less foundation for certainty.
She knew he was aware of her feelings for him and yet managed to show her the respect he showed any other competent officer. She was less certain if that was in spite of, or because of, her feelings for him. He often went out of his way to avoid being the source of any suffering she might experience because of it.
She was certain that he spared her any intrusion into her privacy or wounds to her dignity as much as was in his power to do so. Ironically, even that did not go unnoticed. It was a conundrum they seemed not to be able to escape as long as they served on the same ship.
Neither of them could un-ring the bells that had tolled their lives for nine years.
After much discussion, argument, demands, pleading and finally persuasion, McCoy, who refused at the same time to take credit, had agreed to keep her authorship of both the concept and the hormone therapy from his patient when the time came for the theory to be tested. Neither was sure how he might accomplish that but he had agreed, nonetheless.
Specifically targeted and unique to its intended recipient, her study and experimental evidence would never be published or shared, as it would never be relevant to any other sentient being in the known galaxy. The treatment, if successful, would be recorded in the patient medical log along with any and all other one-of-a-kind solutions found over the years specific to Spock's unique physiology and needs. Any record of it would pass into obscurity among the thousands of innovations recorded every day.
There was also a strong possibility that, risk taken, the treatment might fail. He might die. That would be her burden to bear and she would assume full responsibility for it.
McCoy's current surly mood had less to do with the promise he had made to her and more to do with the fact that she was leaving the Enterprise. The massive hospital ship, Ruby G. Bradley, would be leaving port in four hours and she would be aboard as her new Chief of Endocrinology when it departed Starbase Twelve. As much as he complained that she argued every point of medical treatment with him she could, he had wanted her to take over for him when he finally decided to step down. No. He had expected it of her.
Her bags were packed and she was ready to go.
Ready was not the appropriate word. She was prepared to leave. Her goodbyes had been said. In her luggage she would carry a very old, and coveted, bottle of Scotch whisky from Scotty, a necklace with a St. Jude pendant Nyota had picked up at some bazaar for her birthday, a set of blank journals for recording her adventures on the frontier from Allie, and an ancient sculptured caduceus from Leonard McCoy.
When the door chimed, her expectation was that a crewman had arrived to transfer her belongings.
"Enter," she said and heard the familiar swoosh of the door opening and closing. Without turning around she shoved one more item into her carry bag, and added, "All the items at the door are ready to go to my quarters on the Ruby G."
"I am not here to collect your baggage, Christine."
She whirled around to find Spock standing inside the door, not for the first time, but likely for the last. The only other time he had set foot in her cabin was to apologize. Even their closest friends would be astounded at the number of times he had been compelled, whether because directly at fault or simply the conduit of the offense, to apologize to her over the years.
"I see that. There was no need for you to…"
He held up a hand to silence her. With the other hand, he held out a package for her to take.
"I don't understand." She did, but was stunned by the gesture.
"It is customary to give a departing friend a gift."
"I don't know what to say. And if you say 'that's a first, I'll deck you, rank or no rank."
"I am certain you would make an attempt. However, I believe 'thank you' will suffice."
"Thank you." She smiled. The repertoire had become familiar.
"You are most welcome."
"And thank you for expediting my transfer. I know Leonard put some pressure on you to delay it so that he could have more time to talk me out of it."
"He will find a way to make me responsible for your leaving whether I expedited your transfer or not."
"He will get over it."
"Perhaps. But will I?"
Christine would not discover the alternate meaning in those words for another nine years.
Aboard the Ruby. G., Christine Chapel, M.D., Chief of Endocrinology, had unpacked her bags, set up her quarters and was ready to report for duty.
Before that, though, she extracted from her carry bag, the gift from Spock. She unwrapped it to find a very old, red enameled trinket box with brass trim.
A/N: Colonel Ruby Bradley was one of the most decorated women in United States military history. She was a native of Spencer, West Virginia but lived in Falls Church, Virginia, for over 50 years. Her military record included 34 decorations, medals and other awards, including The Legion of Merit and Bronze Star, both with oak leaf cluster. Wikipedia