Here Be Dragons by Djinn

Spock sat in his command chair and mused that the huge image of Vulcan on the viewscreen was getting old even for him. The refits were taking longer than expected--caused in no small part by the emergency on the Caledonia that had called away all the techs. The later Psi 2000 outbreak-- deliberately set loose on the Carter--and the murder that had followed shortly on its heels did not help, nor did the ensuing investigation that was including a great deal of the refit crews in the list of possible suspects.

So far, Kerr was making no progress in the investigation. Not that Spock had expected him to. The story put out for the crew was that the murder was the work of an enemy of the Federation striking randomly, but Spock, working with Kerr and Christine, suspected that Lieutenant Commander Farrell had been killed by the shadowy Starfleet section she had refused to specifically name, the one she had said had been behind her orders to let the Psi 2000 virus loose on the ship.

Spock glanced over at Christine. She sat quietly, staring intently, if somewhat blankly, at the viewscreen. He checked to make sure the view had not changed. It had not.

Sensing his look, she turned to meet his eyes. "What?" she asked quietly.

He shook his head and watched her turn her gaze back to the viewscreen. She'd been sitting next to him like this for at least an hour. He did a quick calculation and realized that was easily a personal record on her part. Sitting and doing nothing was not her strong suit. But it seemed to be the activity she preferred since Farrell had been killed.

"May I speak to you in private?" he asked softly.

She didn't look at him as she nodded and rose quickly, already on the way to his ready room. He stood and followed her. "Lieutenant Kimble, you have the bridge."

"Aye, sir," the helmsman replied.

Christine waited at the door to his office. He gestured for her to enter and she walked to the view port and stood tensely, staring out at the stars and Vulcan below them. He watched her for several long moments before asking, "Christine, are you all right?"

She didn't answer.

He joined her, shoulder near enough to touch hers if either of them moved. Turning slightly so he could see her face, he asked, "T'hy'la, what is it?"

She just shook her head, not even reacting to the endearment.

"I know that Commander Farrell's death was a shock to you, Christine. That it has left you in a dark place."

She sighed. "Plenty of light here."

"You know what I mean."

She turned to him then, her expression harsh. "You wallowed in grief. Why can't I?"

He tried to keep his expression even, to not show her that her blow had hit home. "I am not sure my method is the way I would recommend."

"Little late now," she said, her tone only slightly less bitter than it had been.

"Perhaps. Do you wish to talk about this?"

She laughed. It was a brittle, hollow sound to his ears. "God, you're as bad as Randall. That's all he wants to do. Talk about this. Can't I just be sad?"

"I think you have gone beyond sad, Christine."

She turned to face him. "If you think I'm pathological, then refer me to Carpenter. Otherwise, leave me the hell alone."

He could feel his face tighten. "As you wish."

She started to walk to the bridge door.

"You will report to Doctor Carpenter at once." He saw her stiffen. "I am sorry, Commander. It is for your own good."

Without a word, she turned and headed for the rear door. Once she had left, Spock hit his comm channel. "Spock to Carpenter."

"Carpenter here."

"This call needs to be private."

"It is. I'm in my office."

"Doctor Chapel is on her way down. She has exhibited an alarming lethargy since Commander Farrell's death. I am...worried about her."

"I'll talk to her, Captain, but I'm not an expert in this field. I may have to refer her to one of our counselors."

"Whatever you think best, Doctor. You are her friend and an excellent physician. I trust you to do the right thing for her."

"And here she is now. I'll keep you posted. Carpenter out."

Spock took a deep breath before walking back out to the bridge. Christine had been through so much. Not just the death of her friend and fighting a virus she considered her personal nemesis, but also helping him through the death of his mother. And that was only days after Christine had been forced by circumstances to get him through the Pon Farr. And even earlier than that she had been staunchly by his side as they had selected the crew and readied the ship.

He remembered how happy she was when it was just the two of them. They had both thought they had known where the relationship they were slowly creating was headed. But then Jim had died, and Spock, consumed with his own pain, had shut her out. And she had turned to another man. A man who could be there for her in the way that Spock had refused. A man that loved her. But who couldn't reach her now either from what she'd said.

Spock reached for the channel again. "Spock to Kerr."

"Kerr here, sir."

"I need to speak with you."

"I'll be right up."

Spock realized this was a conversation he didn't want to have in his office. "No, Colonel. I'll come to you."

"Very well, sir."

Spock cut the connection and left the ready room by the front entrance so that Kimble would know he was off the bridge altogether. Taking the lift down to deck nine he walked slowly to Kerr's office, nodding to the marines who greeted him as he passed. There had been a time, before Christine had chosen Kerr, that Spock had spent much more time in this area. He realized that he'd been avoiding it since then, perhaps because he was unwilling to see the two of them together.

Images of holding Christine in his arms distracted him. He tried to push them away but could not. He had been left with no choice after the Pon Farr but to let go of her and watch her go back to Kerr. It was what she had wanted, what she had chosen. But he could not completely get those days and nights they had spent together out of his mind. And he had tried. Meditation, normally a comfort at the worst times, did not stop the images from reminding him what he had let get away.

He arrived at Kerr's door and ordered the inappropriate thoughts out of his mind. Christine was not his. She belonged with this man. And both he and Kerr needed to try to help her now. He rang the chime.

"Come in." Kerr rose as Spock walked in.

"At ease, Colonel." Spock sat down, watched as Kerr followed suit. "I wish to speak of Commander Chapel. I am concerned about her."

Kerr's response was wary. "In what way, sir?"

Spock approved of Kerr's reticence. "She seems to be detached, lethargic, and highly depressed. I did not notice this immediately following Commander Farrell's death, but it has become increasingly more apparent."

"I've seen it too, sir." Kerr leaned back. "She isn't in the mood to talk about it to me."

"Nor to me." Spock could not tell Kerr he had ordered Christine to sickbay. She would have to share that with him if she chose. Spock was suddenly at a loss for what more to say.

"I'm worried about her too," Kerr said, filling the silence.

Spock let a small sigh escape. "The bridge is not the same place it was. I imagine your private time with her is also impacted?"

Kerr nodded. "She's been hurting and I don't know how to help her...how to reach her."

Spock rose. "I don't either. But we must not give up. I will do what I can. You must too."

"The best I can do is love her," Kerr replied, then gave Spock an odd look of understanding. "Maybe that's the best either of us can do."

"Perhaps. I must get back to the bridge."

Kerr nodded. "Right, sir. I appreciate the visit."

Spock wondered what they had really accomplished. As he met Kerr's eyes, he could see the colonel wondered the same thing. Fighting a small smile, Spock said, "I believe there are no lengths we wouldn't go for her."

Kerr looked wary. "To help her...or to get her?"

Spock chose not to answer. "Good day, Colonel."

"Sir," Kerr replied as the door closed behind Spock.

As Spock walked back to the bridge, he refused to dwell on the answer to the colonel's question. What was the point? Both he and Kerr knew it anyway. And, for now, it was irrelevant. They needed to get Christine back. Then they could continue whatever was going on between the three of them.

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Christine walked listlessly to sickbay. She couldn't even muster up much indignation that Spock had just ordered her off the bridge. She knew she was in a dark place, wasn't sure exactly how she had arrived there.

She passed crewmembers and greeted them, trying to feign some measure of cheer. She had the feeling her act wasn't very convincing. She was almost grateful to turn into sickbay and walk to Carpenter's office. The other doctor was talking to someone on her comm. Spock, most likely, Christine reasoned. He would have to explain to Carpenter why he was sending her boss down for an evaluation. He had placed Carpenter in a very uncomfortable position. Christine found she didn't have the energy to care.

Carpenter saw her, and waved her in, cutting off the comm as she did it. "Sit down, Commander."

"I'd really rather not," Christine tried to joke, even as she took the chair in front of Carpenter's desk.

"I imagine not." Carpenter studied her closely. "You look terrible."

"Is that your medical diagnosis?"

"No. That's my remark as a friend. Are you sleeping?"

Christine didn't want to admit that she'd been having trouble sleeping since the wake.

"Christine. You have to talk to me or I won't be able to tell what is wrong. We both know what I'll have to do if I can't get to the bottom of it myself."

"Counselor," Christine said softly. "Time off. Mandatory bed rest. And a few nice drugs so I don't freak."

Carpenter shook her head with a wry grin. "You're not freaking out, Commander. Just perhaps mired in an unhealthy stage of grief." Carpenter got up. "Come on, I want a full set of scans first. You've been burning the candle at both ends for a while now. A good deal of this may be accumulated stress."

Christine followed her out to one of the biobeds and watched as Carpenter took the readings and sent the results to her office. Even from her vantage point, Christine could see that some of her neurotransmitters were completely out of whack. "Stress," she whispered.

"Stress," Carpenter replied softly, her voice returning to normal once they were back in her office. "You've been through quite a bit. That experience on the cave and...uh later, may have taxed you a lot more than you knew. Did you ever really rest up after that?"

Christine shook her head. "We got the news of the death of Spock's mother and I had to mind the store here, and then Randall..."

"Yeah, I imagined he needed some hand holding after what happened. I'll be right back." She walked out to the cabinets and filled a hypospray with a mixture of compounds. When she came back in, she held it up to Christine's neck and released it.

She sat back down and studied Christine. "You aren't even going to ask me what that was?"

"A mix of vitamins and minerals, I imagine. With perhaps a dose of reuptake inhibitors."

Carpenter shook her head. "The Christine Chapel I know would never just imagine what was in a hypo. She'd damn well want to know exactly what I was injecting her with." She smiled gently.

Christine rose, "So I can go back to work now."

Carpenter shot her a look that clearly meant 'sit back down' so Christine did. "I think there's more to this than just being tired. Talk to me."

"Delynn, what do you want me to say?"

"Tell me how you feel."

"Why does everyone want to know that?"

"Maybe because nobody is really sure." Carpenter leaned forward. "I know you're hurting, Christine. Farrell was a good friend of yours. And she was horribly murdered. And none of us know why."

Christine looked down. She knew why.

"And that is preying on your mind. You need to talk about it."

"I will. When I'm ready."

"I think you're ready now." She gestured to the readouts. "Or maybe you're just ready for some serious sleep. The hypo should make you feel better and a little sleepy."

"So I can go now?" Christine asked, rising quickly

Carpenter nodded. "But not back to the bridge. You're relieved from duty for the day." She looked up and met Christine's eyes, resolution clear. "Tomorrow you can talk to me or you can talk to the Captain. If you don't, then you'll spend another day off. Your choice."

"That's not fair."

"Neither is what you're doing to yourself." Carpenter got up and walked around her desk, stopping to touch Christine on the arm. "I'm sorry. I know you're in pain, and this isn't going to feel like it's helping much."

Christine sighed. "It's so black. I try to see the future, try to tell myself that it won't be like this forever. But it's so hard to see anything but being sad."

Carpenter seemed to consider something. Then she took a deep breath. "Do you remember what the virus made me do?"

Christine thought back. "You were trying to get something off your hands."

"It happened on the Reynaldi colony, near Vega V." Her eyes were watching something very far away...or long ago. "There was an attack by pirates and they were using a new weapon. It was awful. I've never seen so many body parts just lying around." She closed her eyes. "People that weren't injured were covered in gore. Literally dripping with it."

"God, Delynn."

"I had to help. I was a doctor. I couldn't take the time to clean up other than to have another medic hose me off. When it was over, I had blood everywhere. I tried to get it off but I couldn't. I just lost it, Christine." Her eyes when they met Christine's were haunted. "They had to sedate me. It took two days before I'd even speak." She shook her head. "I'd been fine up to that moment. And eventually I was fine again."

"How?"

"It just took time. And talking to people I trusted about what I was feeling. And rest. It's why I'm giving you some time off. You need to rest. Sometimes sleep is the best thing."

Christine nodded.

"And don't go back to the bridge. Not even to your office. You got that?"

"Yes, doctor." Christine walked out of Carpenter's office and, nodding to the nurse on duty, left sickbay. She saw the door to Redmoon's lab open and walked in. A lab tech saw her and said, "Doctor Redmoon's not here, sir. Can I help you?"

Christine shook her head. "Never mind, it isn't important." She had thought that Redmoon's calming presence might help. He'd been such a support when she and Farrell were fighting the virus. But maybe she just wanted to talk to him because he was some kind of link to Farrell.

Christine left the lab, taking the lift down to deck seven and Farrell's office. There were cartons piled outside the door. Renata's things hadn't been packed up yet. Christine took a deep breath and picked up the cartons. Opening the door, she walked into the space and slowly exhaled. No ghosts. "I'm sorry, Ren," she whispered as she slowly began to pack up her friend's things.

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Kerr heard the alarm go off on his console and checked the readings. Someone was in Farrell's office. He got up, opening up one of the drawers in his desk, then reached under to take out the phaser he'd concealed there after the Psi 2000 outbreak. Hiding the weapon in one of the special pockets in his uniform, he hurried up to deck seven.

The corridor was full of medical staff. He nodded to those he knew as he worked his way to Farrell's office. The door was closed. Checking the hall and finding it empty, he reached for his phaser. Standing well to the side, he hit the door control and waited.

"Who's there?" he heard Christine call out, then he heard footsteps.

"Shit," he muttered as he stuffed the phaser back in his pocket. "Christine?"

"Randall?" She backed up as he walked in. "What are you doing here?"

"Finding out what you're doing here. Only I didn't know it was you. I put a watch on the door to this office and to Farrell's quarters just in case."

She looked only mildly interested. "You think that the killer is still on the ship?"

He frowned at her indifference. "Probably not, but I decided it couldn't hurt to be prepared in case they were." He saw the cartons she had brought. "You're packing up her office?"

She nodded, her tone oddly flat. "Spock made me go see Carpenter and she relieved me of duty for the rest of the day. Besides, someone has to."

He turned and locked the door. "Doesn't have to be you," he replied as he took one of the cartons and began to put Farrell's personal files inside. He'd already been through the office once. But he didn't want Christine finding something that he'd overlooked.

"She was my friend. Who else should do this?" She sounded irritated.

"I didn't mean--"

She cut him off, "I know what you meant, Randall. You don't have to help," she gave him a look he couldn't decipher.

He left the carton and walked over to her. "What's wrong?"

Her eyes flashed as she said, "I'm packing up my murdered friend's things, Randall. What the hell do you think is wrong?"

He grabbed her arm as she turned away, pulling her close despite the glare she gave him. Her body was rigid as he closed his arms around her. She pushed on him for a moment. If she asked, he'd let her go. But he hoped she'd relax and tell him what was wrong. He'd just about given up hope that she was going to give up, when he felt her body go slack and her arms slipped around him. "Her service was today," she whispered.

He finally understood. "You should have gone."

She didn't say anything.

He sighed and held her closer. "She loved you, sweetheart. She wouldn't want you beating yourself up this way for doing your duty."

"You didn't know her," Christine said as she pulled away.

He chose not to argue, just went back to packing things up. Glancing back at her occasionally, he made short work of the files and closed the carton. "What are you going to do with these?"

She shook her head. "Put them in storage for now."

He just nodded. Watching her as she worked, he wondered what she was thinking. Usually he could read her, but shut down and in pain, he was finding it impossible to reach her.

"The crew's scared," she finally said.

"I know."

"They think that the 'random enemy of the Federation' you and Spock created is going to strike again." She closed the last carton and gave him a hard stare.

"I know that too."

"Do you care?"

He nodded. "I do. But they're in no danger. We know who really did this."

She shook her head. "We don't know anything, Randall. And it's driving me crazy."

"You've got to let that part of it go. You couldn't have stopped her death."

Her face fell. "I know that. I just want to believe that I could have."

As she picked up the carton, he eased her arm back down. "Leave it. The quartermaster can take care of it."

"But--"

"You've done your part." He pulled her into his arms again. "You're a good friend, Christine."

She leaned against him hard. "I miss her, Randall."

"I know." He gave her a quick kiss then pulled away. "It's shift change. Let's have dinner in your quarters."

She nodded. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I know you're hurting."

They took the lift to deck two and walked to her quarters. He was just ordering dinner from the replicator when her comm unit chimed. She answered and a face he didn't recognize came on.

"Chris?"

"Len?" There was such joy in her voice, Kerr felt a moment's jealousy. Then he realized that this had to be the McCoy she'd told him so much about and he smiled. Maybe this was just what she needed.

"Hon, I've got some bad news. For you and Spock. I wanted to talk to you first because...because I know that he had a hard time after Jim's death."

"What?" Her voice was dangerously flat again.

"It's Scotty."

"He's retired on Norpin V," she said, as if she were willing it to be so.

"He would have been retired on Norpin V, Chris. If the ship had made it. It didn't." McCoy watched her carefully.

"I see," was all she said.

"Chris?"

"Yes. Thank you. I see."

"Hon, I know this is a shock, especially after what happened. I heard about your friend."

"I see."

Kerr wished she'd stop saying that.

"Chris--" McCoy's voice was cut off as she closed the channel.

"Christine," Kerr said.

She turned slowly, looked at him as if trying to figure out who he was.

"Sweetheart--"

She sat down on the couch calmly. Her look was completely composed as she said in an icy voice. "Get out."

"Christine."

"Get out, Randall. I want to be alone."

"I don't think that's a good idea."

"I do." She took a deep breath and sat collected and very still. When he didn't move, she looked up again. "Please? Let me be."

"If you want me, I'm here for you. You know that."

"Nobody's here for me. Not when everybody's dying." As he started to argue, she held up a hand. "Just go, Randall."

He wanted to argue but something in her expression stopped him. "I love you."

"Please?" He'd never seen her look so tired.

Finally, nodding in defeat, he left her alone.

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Working far later into beta shift than he had meant to, Spock was just about to leave the bridge when the comm chimed.

"Incoming transmission from Earth, sir," Ensign Tompkins said. "Marked personal for you."

He rose. "From whom?"

"A Doctor Leonard McCoy."

Spock's eyebrow rose. "I'll take it in my ready room. Lieutenant Crawford, you have the conn."

"Aye, sir."

Walking quickly to his office, Spock activated the channel. "Doctor McCoy. An unexpected pleasure."

McCoy frowned. "Doubt you'll think so when I get done talking."

"Something is wrong?"

"It's Scotty. He was on his way to retirement. And the ship. The ship..." He rubbed his eyes roughly, "Damn it. He's dead, Spock."

"Dead." Spock had a hard time reconciling his mental image of the vital and energetic Scott with the word. "How?"

"The Jenolen was lost with all hands." McCoy leaned forward, his image growing bigger. "I called Chris first, Spock, because I wasn't sure how you were going to take this news. But she's on the one that didn't take it well."

Spock frowned slightly. "She recently lost a friend."

"Farrell. Yeah, I heard. Murdered. What the hell kind of diplomatic ship are you running, Spock?" McCoy looked worried and somewhat angry. "Story is that a terrorist did it. Who the hell is running your security?"

"It was not a security lapse."

"Well, I'm still worried about you out there. You're a big target whether you realize it or not. And so is Chris if she's with you."

Spock nodded thoughtfully. "You said she did not take the news well. What did she do?"

McCoy sighed. "She shut down on me. Wouldn't talk about it, didn't cry. Just kept saying, 'I see,' over and over again. Is she okay?"

"She has been through a lot lately."

"Well, it must have been a hell of a lot, Spock. She looked damn near catatonic when she signed off." He peered at Spock. "You two close enough these days you can find out what's going on?"

Spock let his eyebrow rise slowly at the barb in the question. The doctor's tendency to not mince words certainly had not changed. "We are."

"Well, good. Go do it." McCoy suddenly looked wistful. "I don't suppose you're coming back for Scotty's memorial, are you? It's in three days. Hate to admit it, Spock, but I miss you."

"I believe I may attend the ceremony. The ship is being refitted here. There is no reason not to go."

"Well, bring Christine with you. She looks like she could use a trip home."

"I will see what she says," Spock replied. "Spock out." He cut the connection and walked out to the bridge. He needed to check on Christine, but he had several things he should do first. "I'll be in engineering," he told Lieutenant Crawford.

"Yes, sir."

The ride to deck ten seemed to take longer than normal. When he emerged, he headed directly for Kettering's office.

His friend looked up as Spock appeared at the door. His eyes glimmering, Kettering blinked hard several times and rubbed his forehead before saying, "I just heard."

Spock sat down across from the chief engineer. "I know you looked up to him."

"I did, Spock. This is so damn unfair. He was on his way to retire."

"I know."

Kettering slammed his fist on his desk, an unusual gesture.

Spock studied him. "Will you be going back for the memorial?"

Kettering shook his head. "Not my place to. He was my mentor and my teacher, but I wasn't his friend the way you were. Besides, I want to remember him like he was. Out here." He pointed at the image of space outside of the viewscreen. "And in here," he said in a softer voice, indicating engineering.

"I think that is how he would wish you to remember him."

Kettering nodded, his eyes turned down to the desk. Then he looked up and met Spock's eyes. "Thanks for coming down here. You're a good friend, Spock."

"I value your well being, Ron."

"I pretty much value yours too," the engineer said with a smile. "Are you going back?"

Spock nodded.

"That's good. He'd be pleased. Always spoke about you with a certain tone in his voice."

Spock rose. "I have always held him in the highest regard. This will be a sad occasion."

As he walked back to the lift, Spock considered Kettering's words. Had he been Captain Scott's friend? They had worked together for years. He had relied on the engineer's ability to get them out of the deepest danger. He had helped him on many projects. But friends? Spock was not sure that they had been. Nevertheless, that didn't change his resolve to go.

When he arrived on the bridge, he instructed Tompkins to connect him with his father's residence and went into his ready room.

"My son," Sarek stared at Spock with the slightly lost look he had worn since Amanda had died. "What is it?"

"A friend of mine has died. You remember Captain Scott?"

"I do. A fine man."

"Yes. I plan to attend the funeral."

"And you would like to borrow the ship?" Sarek nodded. "Of course, Spock. I will have it prepared and provisioned. It will be just you?"

"Christine will probably travel with me. Possibly a third person as well."

"I will see to it, my son. When do you leave?"

"As soon as I have packed. Thank you, father."

"Do not thank me. It pleases me to do this for you," Sarek said with a stern but fond look as he cut the connection.

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Christine ignored the chime on the first ring. And on the second. When she did not answer the third, her door opened and Spock walked in.

"Command codes, Spock?" She glared at him.

"You are not the only one the can do that, Christine." He looked around.

"He's not here. I told him to go away. Why don't you join him?" Her words were bitter, but her tone was flat.

"Doctor McCoy called me," he said as he joined her on the couch.

She wondered how he knew to sit just close enough for her to reach out and touch him if she wanted, but not so near that she felt crowded. She looked away, saying nothing.

He waited.

She sat silently, willing him to go away, to just leave her alone.

He didn't move.

Finally, she said, "They're all dying."

"Not all. Doctor McCoy and Commander Uhura are fine. Captain Sulu and Commander Rand are thriving on the Excelsior. Commander Chekov is doing well. You and I are still here."

She looked over at him, frowning slightly. "It feels like we're losing them."

He nodded. "We did not go home when Jim died. That may have been, in retrospect, an unfortunate choice."

"We had a launch to contend with. And a plague after that."

"You are being logical again."

She could feel her mood lighten, the awful blackness that had filled her when McCoy had called finally lifting somewhat. "Annoying, isn't it?"

His voice was tender as he gave her one of his rare half smiles. "Annoyance is an emotion."

Scooting over slowly, she felt his arm drop around her shoulders to pull her closer. She laid her head on his chest. "And we both know you don't have those."

"Yes, we both know that," he agreed, as he rested his chin on her hair for a few moments.

"You think we should go back for Scotty's memorial?" she finally asked.

"I do." He waited. When she did not comment, he said. "My father has offered us the use of his private yacht. It is a very fast vessel."

"That's a good idea," she finally said.

"Are you all right, Christine?"

"Why wouldn't I be?" she said, but a sob caught in her voice, giving lie to the words.

"McCoy was worried about you."

"I know."

"I'm worried about you," he said.

"I'm all right."

"T'hy'la, you don't need to lie to me."

This time the endearment was her undoing. The tears she'd been holding back began to fall and she quit trying to stop them. He didn't say anything as he let her cry. Finally, pulling away, she looked down at his wet uniform. "I'm making a mess of you," she said.

His hold on her tightened. "I will survive."

She wrapped her arms around him and relaxed. A strange peace settled over her despite her sadness. "I want to see our friends, Spock."

"As do I, Christine." There was a long silence as he held her. Finally he said, "I assumed it would just be you and I traveling." His voice was barely more than a murmur.

Christine waited.

"But the yacht can hold up to six."

Still she said nothing.

"The choice is yours."

Her peace was gone; she felt instantly guilty, as she answered, "They weren't his family."

"No, they were not," he agreed quietly.

"And he'll be needed here. His marines..." she trailed off, unable to continue in what both of them knew was a lie.

"Then it will be just the two of us."

"I feel guilty," she whispered, pulling away from him.

He let go of her instantly. "Then ask him to join us." Getting up, he walked to the door slowly.

Before it could open she said, "No, I...I feel guilty that I don't want him to come."

He turned to face her and their eyes locked for a long instant. Then Spock nodded. "I will contact Starfleet and make the arrangements for our lodging. We can leave as soon as you are ready." His look grew more thoughtful. "Are you sure you want to go alone, Christine?"

"I'm sure." She tried to look resolved as he turned and left the room. She tried not to think about it as she packed her bags.

She was forced to think about it when Kerr commed her. "I'm worried about you." The concern on his face touched her.

"I'm okay." He studied her, and she gave him a tentative smile. "I'm sorry."

He nodded. "Can I see you?"

She looked down. "I have to pack. I'm going back to Earth for the memorial. I need to see my friends...the ones that are left. They're like family and I have this terrible feeling that I'm losing them all and if I don't see them soon, I never will."

"I understand. Do you want company? I have leave."

She swallowed. "I'm not going alone, Randall."

Kerr didn't speak, just stared at her from the comm panel.

"Randall?"

"When does Spock want you to leave?"

"Soon."

He looked away. When he finally turned back he said softly, "You made me a promise a little while ago. I trust you remember it?"

She nodded solemnly.

He cleared his throat before he said. "If you want to take that promise back, just say so."

"I don't."

"You're sure?" His voice was deadly serious.

"We're going to a funeral, not an orgy." She knew her reply sounded overly defensive.

"Funerals bring out some weird emotions."

She tried to smile. "Well then I guess it's fortunate I'm traveling with a Vulcan."

A rare anger lit his eyes. "Don't bullshit me, Chapel."

"Randall, I--"

"Don't lie to me and don't humor me. If you want to go to a memorial and pay your respects, I'm fine with that. If you don't want me to go with you, I can live with it. I don't like it, but I can live with it. But if you think I'm going to buy some cock-and-bull story about you not wanting him and him not wanting you, then you must think I'm some kind of moron. I was in that damn greenhouse too, remember?"

She didn't know what to say.

The anger in his eyes died, and he looked away for a moment. When he turned back his expression was carefully composed. "Ok, I'll make this easy on you. God knows why, but I will. You go to the memorial, and you say goodbye to your friend. And see your crewmates and reconnect, Christine. And do it at Spock's side.

"And if you find that the promise you made to me is easy to keep, then when you get back, you come to my room and I'll make sure you don't regret that decision. But if it turns out to be something you can't keep, then when you get back, you just send me a message that says "It's over," and that'll be it."

"That's not what this is about."

"This has been coming ever since that damn cave, Christine. Hell, maybe even before. It's your choice. You have to make it. I'm just trying to help you not lie about it, okay." He sighed. "I love you. I wish I were going with you. I'll see you when you get back. Hopefully." He hit the switch and the channel went dead.

"I love you too," she whispered to the blank screen.

-------------------

Spock checked over the settings he'd programmed for their voyage. Christine sat in the co-pilot chair, her head back and eyes partially closed.

"Are you all right?"

She nodded sleepily. "S'all your fault. Delynn gave me a shot of something. Now I wish I had asked her what was in it. She said it would help me rest."

"Then rest you shall," he said as he got up and headed for the back of the small ship. He realized she was not following. "Christine. You can rest more comfortably in here."

She swiveled her chair slowly. "Too much work to move."

"Come." He held out his hand to her.

With a groan, she pushed herself out of the chair and followed him into the small bedroom.

"Lie down."

"I'm not a damn dog, Spock," she groused irritably. "What'll it be next? Roll over?"

As she made herself comfortable, still muttering to herself, he took a blanket from a small closet and covered her up with it.

She made a happy sound as she cuddled into it. "Soft."

"My mother made it." He felt the jolt of sadness that since his mother's death seemed to always accompany any thought of her. He tried to push it away.

"I'm sorry," Christine said, as she reached for his hand.

He felt a shock of connection as their hands touched. He could sense her emotions clearly: sympathy for him, her own sadness, and a terrible weariness.

She looked up at him, her eyes going wide. "You're so sad."

"Yes." He gently disengaged his hand and said, "Rest now."

"Just for a little while." She was asleep in seconds.

He watched her for a few moments, then dimmed the lights and let the door close behind him as he returned to his seat.

He was cleared for departure as soon as he requested permission. Easing the small vessel into the air, Spock didn't accelerate until they were well out of Vulcan's atmosphere. He set the controls to the course he had entered and sat back in the chair, prepared to take the helm if he needed to.

He studied his hand, where it had touched Christine's. He could still feel her touch. Strange that he was feeling her emotions so clearly. He had not been particularly open to her at that moment, yet her feelings had come through and she had been able to read his. In his experience, only Jim had been able to do that.

Jim. Spock felt a tight sensation in his chest as the nightmare of Jim that the Pesadii had enhanced took hold of him again. That Jim was somewhere lost--not dead--was more than Spock could stand to think about. Which is why it was a nightmare, his rational mind told him. It is the last thing you could stand, so therefore it is the first thing you would dream.

Spock was grateful he did not dream very often.

He checked the readouts. The course was true, the monitors all where they should be. He could meditate. It would help the time go more quickly.

Hours passed and Spock slowly became aware of his surroundings. He looked at the empty chair next to him. She was still sleeping. Even in his meditative state, he had not been able to dull his awareness of her, of how close she was, how they were alone together. It had been this way since the Pon Farr, this hyperawareness of her. But she was not his; she had chosen another, and he must honor that. His own feelings were of no concern here.

But what of hers? some more emotional part of him asked. What does she want?

Ignoring the voice, Spock went to the carryall he had brought and pulled out a padd. There was plenty of work to catch up on. This was not, after all, a pleasure cruise. And even if it had been, he admitted ruefully, he would still find an excuse to do work.

Unless Christine wanted to do other things.

Spock closed his eyes for a moment and tried to concentrate on pushing her from his mind. His hand burned again and he sighed in frustration. Definitely time for a colorful metaphor, he decided, the phrase bringing Jim instantly to mind. He raised an eyebrow at his own emotional turbulence and turned back to the padd, determined to get some work done in between thoughts of the two people he loved so much.

----------------------------

Christine woke slowly, groggily becoming aware of a different hum than the one she was used to on the Carter. She opened her eyes slowly and took in the dimly lit cabin. Then she remembered. She was in Sarek's little ship, bound for Earth...bound for Scotty's memorial. The soft blanket on top of her was suddenly too warm and she pushed it off and sat up.

She remembered Delynn giving her a hypo. It had made her sleepy. Putting her feet on the floor, she stood gingerly, afraid she might still be unsteady. But she stood easily, feeling no lingering wooziness. She tried to straighten her uniform, tugging at it to get the wrinkles out, finally giving up when it was clear she'd been asleep for quite a long time. Walking out of the bedroom she saw Spock working at a padd in the pilot's chair. He looked up as she approached.

"How long was I out," she asked as she took the seat next to him.

"Fifteen hours." He put down the padd. "How do you feel?"

She had a crick in her neck and reached up to massage it. "Like I slept funny. But overall? Better, I guess."

"That is good." He met her eyes. "You were in a very dark place."

She nodded. "I packed up Ren's office."

"You did not have to do that."

"Same thing Randall said," she replied, with a sardonic grin. "You two really have to stop using synchronized scripts." He gave her an odd look that she chose to ignore. "So where are we?"

He pulled up the star charts and pointed to their location. "Approximately 30 hours away from Earth."

"Hmmm." She wasn't sure what else to say.

He fell silent too. A few minutes passed as they sat in silence, then he said, "I was going to help my father pack up my mother's things but he did not want me to move them."

She turned to look at him.

"I do not know if that is healthy. It is as if she never died."

Christine shrugged. "We all deal with grief in our own way. My mother was just the opposite. She got rid of everything of my father's really fast. Said seeing it just made her feel worse."

He nodded thoughtfully. "That would be my thought. That the constant reminder would hurt more than the empty space."

"But you're not Sarek."

"That much is certain."

Another long silence fell. "I believed he loved her more than I ever really knew."

She glanced at him. His face was set in a hard, sad expression. "I believe he did, Spock." He did not reply so she asked, "How did they meet?"

"At an embassy function. He was new in the diplomatic corps. She was a linguistics professor on exchange to a Federation project. They met at the ambassador's residence in San Francisco."

"Is that when they fell in love?"

He looked away. "I do not know that part of the story."

She frowned. "You never asked her?"

"I asked him once. Why he married her. He said it seemed the logical thing to do at the time."

She laughed. "I remember. Not very romantic."

"No. But eminently Sarek." Spock leaned back in the chair. "I have had time to ponder the sentiment. I think that he meant, but would not say to me, that because he loved her and could not live without her, there was no logical road but the one he took. To marry her."

"Sounds reasonable."

He glanced over at her. "You do not sound convinced."

She grinned. "It lacks poetry."

"Indeed." Spock frowned slightly. "It is typical of my relationship with my father that I did not ask for clarification. I believe that he would see the need for more information as evidence of undue emotionalism. Yet another flaw." He sighed softy. "All my life I have tried to make him proud of me."

"He is proud of you, Spock. He loves you. Can't you feel that when you're with him?"

"I cannot." He looked over at her and his eyes were profoundly weary before he looked away. "But I can feel him making the attempt to reach out. Perhaps that is enough."

"Sometimes that's all we can ask." She reached out her hand to him, saw him take it without hesitation. The rush of emotion she felt when he closed his fingers around hers made her gasp.

He looked over. "The sensation is quite profound."

"It is." She stared down at their hands. "Does this always happen after the Pon Farr."

He shook his head.

"Well, of course it would happen to us. Nothing about this mission is going as I thought it would." Her tone was more sour than she intended.

He dropped her hand.

She turned to him. "I didn't mean that the way it must have sounded."

"It is all right. The sentiment was certainly apt. Let me show you what you need to know to pilot." He demonstrated the panels that controlled helm and navigation, assuring her that the autopilot would most likely take care of everything. "I believe rest would be of benefit. Wake me if you need me."

She nodded. As she watched him walk away from her, she called out softly, "Sleep well."

He did not reply as the bedroom door closed behind him.

--------------------------------

Spock slept fitfully in the small cabin. He could smell Christine's scent on the blanket; a reminder of a time when he'd held her as close as he was holding the soft fabric. He pushed it away from him and immediately regretted it. Must gain control, he thought somewhat desperately. His emotions had been chaotic since the Pon Farr. It had never taken this long to regain mastery of them. But then his mother had never died before.

Spock looked around the cabin. His mother had decorated it. Using the spare lines to create an intimate space for his father and her. Spock wished now that he had asked her how she came to wed Sarek. There were so many things he wished he had said to her. Regret filled him. A profound emotion and one he was not unfamiliar with.

He felt it every time he saw Christine and Kerr together. The closeness they shared could have been his. If only.

Sad words. Jim had told him once that he thought those were the saddest words of all. So full of missed opportunity and disappointment.

He could almost hear his voice. "If only I had...what, Spock? What is it any of us would do over in a minute if we could?"

Spock had refused to answer.

Jim had sighed and turned away. Waiting, as always, for Spock to get it.

"I did get it," he whispered, the sound carrying barely past his lips. "But if only I had gotten it sooner, t'hy'la."

He was not sure which one of them he was talking to.

He could hear Christine moving around the main compartment. Heard the replicator buzz as whatever she had ordered was delivered. He waited for the smell to reach the cabin. Coffee. Dark and strong but then completely tamed with milk and sugar. A contradiction.

How long had he known how she liked her coffee? Kerr probably knew more. He knew what she ate for breakfast and how she acted when she woke up. Was she happy in the morning as his mother had been? Or grumpy like Jim until that first cup of coffee hit home?

Jim. Spock mentally calculated their ship's position. "You died near here," he said softly.

He sighed, slightly alarmed at his own sentimentality and inability to stop it. He rose from the bed and settled into the mediation pose on the floor. If sleep would not come, there were others way to calm his mind. It took much longer than normal, but Spock finally reached a level of meditation that allowed him to forget, if only for a while, the things he longed for.

When he finally returned to full awareness, he was satisfied to see that many hours had passed. He walked out of the room.

Christine was at the replicator again. "Hey, sleepyhead."

He let his eyebrow rise and was rewarded by the sound of her rich laughter.

"You want something?"

He nodded. "Tea would be agreeable. Selection seven is the one I prefer."

"Seven it is," she said as she punched in the request. "Nothing exciting happened."

"That is good."

"Maybe for you. I was bored stiff." She grinned at him.

The expression fell short of the smile he was used to, but it was better than the blank look she had worn earlier. He was gratified to see the woman he knew reemerging. "You are feeling better."

She nodded. "I think it's going home. I really needed this." She walked over and handed him a mug. "Maybe it'll be good for us both?"

He nodded and sipped his tea. "It is hard to believe Mr. Scott is gone."

She went back to the replicator for more coffee, then took her seat. "I know." She considered something. "I think this is the way he would have wanted to go. I can't see him being happy just getting old on some planet."

"I agree with you. Mr. Scott was a man that was used to being in the thick of things."

She laughed softly. "Remember how he used to totally inflate his repair estimates?"

"I do. He used to maintain that it was the only way to keep his title of 'miracle worker' intact."

"He was a miracle worker. He could make those engines sing."

"The engines did not sing, Christine."

She grinned. "You know what I mean."

He nodded.

"I wonder what he would have thought of the Carter," she mused.

Spock did not hesitate to answer. "He would have admired the ship, although it would never have measured up to the Enterprise."

"Probably not. But the mission? What do you think he'd think of that?"

"He once said that the best diplomat he knew was a fully-loaded phaser bank."

Christine laughed, nearly spitting coffee. "He never!"

"Indeed he did. It was during our mission to Eminiar VII."

"Yeah. I can see that." She sank down into her seat. "I served with him all that time, but I never got to know him very well. Did you?"

Spock could tell she was looking at him. He shook his head.

"I wonder why?"

"You and I barely knew each other then either, Christine. One can serve with someone a long time and never really know them."

She nodded. "I know. But he was so open."

"I believe that was an act. At heart, I think he was a deeply private man."

"Maybe you're right." She put her coffee down and yawned. "I can't believe I'm tired again."

"Go lay down if you need more sleep."

"I will. In a while." She smiled at him when he glanced over at her. "I like this."

He didn't have to ask what she meant. "As do I."

"It's like the old days. When it was just you and I on the Carter. Before..."

"Yes. Before." Before Jim. Before Kerr. Before many things. "I was not sure we would get this ease back, Christine. I am relieved that we have."

He heard her small laugh and glanced over.

She met his eyes solemnly. "It was touch and go there for a while."

He nodded.

She turned back to the viewscreen and watched the stars for a moment, then reached for her carryall to pull out some padds. They both worked in companionable silence for several hours. Then she yawned loudly. A few minutes later she did it again.

"Go get some sleep, Christine."

She got up and headed for the back. "Wake me before we get there? I want to see Earth get bigger."

"An illogical need," he said gently. "But I will wake you."

"Must be hell to indulge such a capricious human whim," she teased him.

He did not bother to say that he would have indulged far more, if she had asked.

----------------------

Christine awoke to the sound of Spock's voice calling her from the main cabin. She forced herself to leave the warmth of the blanket and shuffled out to the main viewscreen.

"We will be in view of Earth in approximately five minutes. I thought you might want time to make coffee."

She smiled. "Thanks," she said as she walked over to the replicator, pulling her boots on as she went. "Coffee, French roast, with milk and sugar," she ordered, then turned to him. "Do you want something?"

"I have tea still."

She took the mug of steaming hot coffee out of the replicator and carried it to the copilot's chair. Sipping carefully, she sighed in contentment. "Your replicator does better coffee than the Carter's."

"My mother programmed in her favorite recipes. She also preferred dark roast."

"More robust," Christine agreed.

"Yes, that is the word she used. I never developed much of a taste for it." He looked over at her. "I drank it, of course, at the Academy."

She nodded. "Everybody did, didn't they?"

"Yes. It was almost a rite of passage."

"My aunt taught me to drink it when I was little. Then I went a lot of years not liking it. Funny how some things taste good only when you are an adult." She leaned back. "Like squash and artichoke hearts."

He raised an eyebrow at her.

"Oh come on, don't tell me there isn't some food that you didn't like as a child?"

He considered the question. "I did not like applesauce."

"There you see."

"I still do not like it."

"You were supposed to pick something you didn't like then but you do now," she said in mock exasperation.

"Very complex rules," he said, as he took the little craft off of autopilot. "You should watch now."

She looked in time to see the Earth rising up behind Jupiter. It looked wonderfully familiar as it hung there all blue and white. "Terra mater," she said softly.

He ignored her whimsy and continued to steer them toward the planet. He slowed their speed as the space around them became more congested. The comm channel beeped and she reached over to engage the connection.

"Private craft, this is Starfleet flight operations. Please identify and state destination."

"This is Captain Spock en route with one passenger in personal spacecraft to the Altamira spaceport."

There was a moment while the logged flight plans were checked and the ship was scanned. "Roger, Captain Spock. You are cleared for descent using a S- 6-8 pattern. Please proceed, and welcome to Earth."

"Thank you," Spock said, as Christine cut the connection. He moved the ship into the designated flight path and slowed even more. "How does it feel to be home?" he asked her quietly.

"Good," she said as she watched the Earth swallow up the viewscreen. "It feels good."

She watched as the craft glowed slightly with the friction from reentry, but didn't worry as the shields compensated, keeping the inside temperature comfortable. They were in clouds for a moment, the white fluffiness hiding everything from her. Then they dropped out of them and she saw North America come up beneath them. She smiled, looking for San Francisco first, and then Seattle. "Home," she said. She glanced at Spock. "Does it feel like home to you at all?"

He shook his head. "Not particularly. I have some pleasant memories of Earth, but my home has in truth been the ships I have served on."

"Or Vulcan?"

"Less so." He adjusted their descent slightly. "I have never felt completely at ease on either of my home planets."

"But the Enterprise?"

"That was home." He seemed to sigh slightly. "And her crew was my family."

"Mine too," she said.

"But you left us."

"I had a good reason. Couldn't finish med school if I stayed on board." She frowned. "And what about you? You went off to Gol."

His face tightened and she immediately regretted the words.

"We've never talked about that." She watched his expression become even tenser. "We don't have to now, either. But maybe, someday, you'll tell me why you went there?"

He nodded slowly. "Perhaps. Someday."

She turned back to watch San Francisco get bigger as they approached. She could make out the bridge and Golden Gate Park. "Such a beautiful city," she said, trying to take his mind off of Gol.

"It is that," he agreed.

"Not as pretty as Seattle though."

"Someday I hope to see it," he said, as he steered them away from the city center and toward a private landing pad on the other side of the bridge.

"I guess it's different. Here, it's the buildings and the way the city is constructed to sit on the water that give it beauty. There it's the scenery, the mountains all around especially, that make it unique."

"Perhaps someday you will show me your home?" There was a note of pensiveness in Spock's voice that she had never heard before.

"Maybe. Someday," she said, echoing his earlier statement.

He glanced at her and gave her a half smile. Then he turned his attention back to the ship and brought it down for a smooth landing. He followed a series of lights to the small space designated for them and powered down the systems.

Christine put her padds back in her carry all and fastened it securely. Spock did the same and was already opening the door when she joined him. She went down the ramp quickly, feeling her spirits lift as she touched ground. "Home," she said again.

He gestured for her to go into the main building where they found a transporter pad and an attendant waiting for them. "Welcome, Captain Spock."

He nodded. "We will be staying at the Crown Academy."

"Academy stop then for you," the attendant said as she set the coordinates.

Christine followed Spock up the stairs to the transporter pad. "A hotel?"

"The Visiting Officer's Quarters were full. We could have stayed at the Vulcan Embassy, but I thought you would find this more comfortable."

She considered what staying at the Embassy would have entailed and was thankful that he had chosen the less protocol-rich hotel. "Good thinking."

They beamed to the main academy transport station and walked the few blocks to the hotel. Checking in quickly, they were soon riding the elevator to their floor.

"Adjoining rooms?" she asked in surprise.

"I do not believe so," he said evenly. "Just on the same floor."

As they exited the lift, she saw from the signs that her room lay in one direction, his in another. She stopped and asked, "So what's the plan from here?"

He motioned her to walk toward her room and followed her inside. "We should have some messages. I sent Doctor McCoy a comm from the ship."

Her message light was indeed blinking. She pulled up the comm channel and selected the message that was waiting from McCoy.

"Glad you're coming home, Christine. Think it'll be good for you. Ny and I are hosting a dinner at my place tonight. All the old crew. You two have to come. See you at five. I've attached a map."

They looked at the map. "Won't take very long to get there. We have the day to kill then," she said. "I think I'll shower and grab some breakfast. Did you have anything you need to do?"

"I will meet you downstairs when I have read my messages."

She nodded and waited till he had closed the doors before heading to the bathroom. A short time later, she felt clean again and more human. Ready to face the world, or at least the coffee shop downstairs, she took the elevator down and was just being seated when she heard someone call out, "Chris?" She turned and felt herself enveloped in a firm hug. "Oh my god, it is you. I didn't know if you were going to make it or not."

"Janice?" Christine laughed in delight and let her friend lead her to her booth. "Or should I say Commander Rand?"

"I don't know Commander Chapel, what do you think?"

They stared at each other seriously for a moment before dissolving into identical peals of laughter.

"God, can you stand it, Chris. Us...Commanders?"

"It's not where I would have thought we were going back on that first year on Enterprise, that's for sure." Christine looked around. "Isn't Sulu with you?"

Janice smiled. "He had a meeting. I'll catch up with him later. Or at McCoy's. You're going, right?"

"You bet." Christine leaned back. "Spock too."

"So you two are together?" Janice waggled her eyebrows at her.

"Well not like that." Christine tried to ignore her memories of the Pon Farr. "It's, you know, professional." At Janice's knowing nod, she laughed. "Besides, I'm with someone."

"Get out." Janice leaned forward. "Okay, spill. I want to know everything."

"Well, you first. Did you ever come to your senses and give Sulu a chance?"

"Maybe."

Christine gave her a stern look.

"Okay, yes...yes, I did. Yes, it's great. Yes, you were right all those years. Yes, I was a fool not to trust him." Janice laughed happily. "Now tell me about this someone that you're with."

Christine felt herself grinning foolishly. "Well, he's really handsome."

"What does he look like?"

Christine thought of the best way to describe him. "Sandy hair, hazel eyes, nice muscles, great smile."

Janice gave her a funny look.

"What?"

"Chris, you're describing Jim.'

Christine frowned as she considered that. "I guess he does sort of look like him. I never really thought about it."

"What's his name?"

"Lt. Colonel Randall Kerr, head of the Carter's security section and special forces detachment."

"Kerr? That name sounds familiar."

"It's a fairly common name," Christine said.

"I guess. So you love him?"

She nodded, was about to say more when a new voice interrupted their conversation. "Commander Rand, it is good to see you."

Janice jumped out of the booth. "Captain Spock. A pleasure to see you, sir."

"At ease, Commander. You're at breakfast, if I'm not mistaken."

She sat down gratefully and grinned. "Well, not until they bring the food, but I take your point. You're welcome to eat with us?"

"Most kind. But I have an unexpected meeting at Starfleet diplomatic."

"Me too?" Christine said in dismay as she began to get up.

He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "You do not have to come, Christine. Enjoy your breakfast. I will see you when my meeting is over." He turned to Janice. "You will be at Doctor McCoy's tonight?"

"Sulu too."

"Excellent. I look forward to catching up." He nodded slightly then left them.

Christine watched him walk away, his long legs carrying him quickly out the door.

"Earth to Christine," Janice whispered. She was grinning evilly. "So, you want to tell me when he started calling you by your first name?"

She willed herself not to blush. "I'm his first officer, Jan."

"Uh huh."

"That's all."

Janice laughed. "Okay, fine. So tell me more about this Kerr guy. What's he like?"

Christine thought about that. "He's warm. And he's bright. Being with him is like walking in bright sunshine."

"So, pretty much the opposite of the brood king that just left us?"

Christine chuckled. "I guess so."

Janice gave her a sad look. "He still sounds a lot like Jim Kirk. I have to confess I'm jealous."

"I was so sorry to hear about his death, Jan. I can't imagine how hard that was for you." She shook her head. "Well, actually I can, since Spock did die once. But he came back."

"Yeah. Guess that isn't going to happen with Jim, eh?" Janice looked down. "It's stupid really. I mean there was nothing between us. I'd see him every now and then in the halls of Starfleet Command and he'd always ask me how I was. We'd catch up. He was an incredible supporter...kind of a mentor. But that's as far as it went."

Christine nodded sympathetically. "Maybe he had feelings for you that you never really knew?"

"Maybe." Janice leaned back as the waitress came with their food. "I miss him though. I mean, Sulu is wonderful...I really do love him. But Jim still has a hold on part of my heart and death hasn't made him let go."

"I do understand," Christine said, glad to have someone she could confide in. "Part of me will always love Spock. But that part is in the past. Randall's my future. And I'm really happy about that." She didn't have to force the silly grin that covered her face when she thought about Kerr.

"Why isn't he here?"

The grin faded. "I was pretty out of it. After Renata died."

"Yeah I heard about that. Weird."

"Weird doesn't begin to cover it," Christine said. "And still unsolved. But I sort of..."

"Freaked out?" Janice prompted.

"Shut down is more like it." Christine sighed. "I'm a doctor. I know the warning signs. I should never have let myself spiral down that way."

"Physician heal thyself," Janice quoted softly. "Easier said than done."

"That's for damn sure. Anyway, I pushed him away. And then the news of Scotty just really did me in. It wasn't until Spock suggested coming back for this that I began to perk up."

"So you wanted to come alone. I mean with Spock."

Christine nodded. "You're our family. Randall wasn't a part of that. But now that I'm feeling better, I think that leaving him behind may have been a mistake."

"Don't second-guess yourself, Chris. If you didn't want him here, you may have had a good reason."

"Like more time to catch up with you?"

Janice smiled. "There you go."

Christine laughed at her friend's enthusiasm. As she ate her breakfast and traded gossip with Janice, she felt the last remnant of the cold detachment that had plagued her since Farrell's death melt and fall away. I was right to come home, she thought happily. She tried to ignore the voice that kept insisting that she should have brought Kerr with her too.

----------------------------

Spock walked back to the hotel from what had turned out to be, as he expected, a bit of a grilling over Farrell's murder. Starfleet Command was not happy to have an unexplained murder on any ship, but especially not the vessel with the most benign mission in all the Fleet. He had decided on the way that he would not mention the information Farrell had provided to them other than to hint at it. None of the Admirals had taken the bait and he had let it drop.

The lobby was full of people having drinks or relaxing. As he walked through, he recognized several engineers from the early days on the Enterprise. He nodded to them, and they seemed surprised at the gesture. Spock nearly sighed. Had he been so unreachable then?

As he took the elevator up to his floor, he realized that perhaps he had. But it was who he was. It colored both what he had become, and the paths he had not followed.

The message light was flashing when he got to his room. There was a response from McCoy to Spock's confirmation that both he and Christine would attend the dinner that night. And a quick comm from Christine. "I'm down at the pool," was all it said.

He changed out of his uniform and decided to go see her before he began his meditations. The ride down to the pool level was quick and he could feel the warm humidity of the area long before he reached it. San Francisco weather being what it was, the hotel had built the pool so that part of it was indoors and a smaller portion continued outside, reached by a side door or by swimming under the glass partition. It was still cool out, so Christine had chosen a lounge chair that was well inside.

She looked half asleep and he stood and watched her. As if she could sense him, she slowly lifted her head and looked right at him. A small smile played at the corner of her mouth. He walked over to her.

"What? No swimming for you?"

He pulled a regular chair over next to her. "We have a pool on the Carter, Christine. Have you ever seen me use it?"

"Sure haven't," she said as she shifted slightly in the lounge chair.

He looked away.

"Either you don't like the suit, or you're embarrassed." She laughed. It sounded unusually throaty to him. "You've seen me in less than this, Spock."

"Indeed," he said, trying not to look at her.

"You are embarrassed." She laughed again.

He forced himself to turn back to her. As he admired the view, he decided not to say that there were other emotions that would fit the situation better.

"And you went swimming with the whales. I remember Nyota telling me about it."

"In the first instance, I had to communicate with them. As they could not come to me on land, I had to be the one to find accommodation. The second time, we all went swimming in the bay. The ship was sinking. We had no choice."

"Ah, yes. You're lucky you weren't taken by a shark."

"That would have ended the mission on a somber note," he agreed as he glanced over at her again. "You are in a better mood."

She grinned. "It just feels so good to be here. And doing nothing feels great too."

"You would not say that if we did not have a party to go to tonight. I cannot see you being happy with a continual state of nothing to do."

"You're probably right." Her grin faded. "How was your meeting? Was it about Ren?"

He nodded.

"I figured. Was it bad?"

"Nothing I couldn't handle. They are not pleased."

"Well no, I expect not." Her voice held some of the bitterness that had marked it before they left.

"We may never find out what really happened, Christine," he said softly.

"I know." She looked at him angrily, then her ire faded. "I'm shooting the messenger. I hate it when people do that to me. Sorry."

"It's all right." He rose. "I am going to meditate for a while. Comm me when you are ready to leave for McCoy's."

"Okay." She pushed herself out of the lounge and walked to the edge of the pool. "Sure you don't want to come in?"

For you I just might, he thought as she laughed playfully then turned back to the pool and dove in, setting out with a sure stroke for the partition. As she disappeared underneath, he forced himself to turn around and return to his room.

It took him some time to sink to the level he wanted in his meditations. But finally he achieved it and lost himself to the world. Coming out of it slowly, he saw that he had just enough time to change into a more formal robe.

He was ready when Christine commed him. "You all set?"

"I will meet you at the elevators," he replied.

"Aye, aye, sir," she said with a grin.

She was waiting for him. When she turned to him he took a second to appreciate her appearance. Her clothes were simple but fit her stark features. Her hair was down and she had put on more makeup than she normally wore. When he continued to stare, she gave him an odd look. "What?"

"You look beautiful," he said as he urged her into the elevator, his hand at the small of her back. Even in a contact so brief he could feel her excitement at seeing their friends again, the underlying sadness that it had taken another death to bring them all together, and a strange surge of satisfaction that seemed to be connected with him. He considered the emotion as they rode down to the lobby and got into a waiting cab. As the small flitter took off, he studied her.

"What?" she asked again.

"You are happy we are together?"

She raised an eyebrow at him and he found himself returning the gesture.

"You are happy that we will be together in front of all of our friends."

Her expression changed from questioning to one of alarm. He reached out and took her hand, trying to read the onslaught of emotions he sensed from her. "Or if not together, it pleases you that I am obviously interested in you and that they will see it."

"That makes me sound so petty," she said, pulling her hand away.

He touched her shoulder, "Do I appear to mind?"

She took a startled breath and stared at where his hand lay on her shoulder. "You don't. You...you like it," she finally said.

He drew his hand back. "Did it not occur to you that I am pleased to be with you too?"

She tried to fight the smile that was sneaking across her face. "It really didn't."

"Things have changed, t'hy'la. You must get used to that."

She shook her head as if in dismay but could not quite wipe the smile from her face. "You are bad."

"Not at all," he said as he turned back to watch the city pass underneath them. "Just honest."

"Sometimes they are one and the same," she replied as she too turned to a study of the scenery.

McCoy's house came into view quickly and the flitter set down on the street. Spock gave the man his account number then followed Christine to the front door, waiting as she rang the chime.

The door flew open and Uhura launched herself at Christine. "It's been forever."

"Ny," Christine said, laughing at her friend's exuberance. When Uhura let go of her, she moved aside to let her get to Spock. "Have at it," she said with a laugh.

"Come here, you big lug," the other woman said softly, pulling him into a gentler embrace.

Spock held her for a moment and whispered, "It is good to see you, Commander."

She pulled away. "It's Nyota, Spock."

"Nyota," he said, trying it out.

"It'll take him a while," Christine said as she followed Uhura into the house. "I thought Len was living in Georgia?"

Uhura nodded. "He was. But he got through about three weeks of his first summer there and remembered why he preferred San Francisco. He'll go back to Savannah for the winter."

McCoy turned as they walked in. "Well look what the cat dragged in." He pulled Christine into a huge bear hug. "If you aren't a site for sore eyes, darlin', I don't know what is." He looked over at Spock and grinned. "Certainly not that dour mug."

Spock tried to hide the small smile that was threatening and knew he was failing. "It is pleasant to see you again as well, Doctor."

McCoy let go of Christine and walked over to him. "Oh to hell with it," he said as he pulled Spock to him and clasped his arms around him briefly. "Heck of a reason to come home, Spock. But I'll take it." He pulled away and turned back to Christine. "So, you're looking a whole lot better than the last time I saw you. Don't tell me hanging around with that one--" he cocked a thumb back at Spock "--actually agrees with you?"

She nodded. "I'm afraid it does."

"Well, there's no accounting for taste." He drew her into the kitchen. "Come tell Uncle Len what's been going on in your life."

Spock watched them leave then turned to say hello again to Janice. As they stood talking, Sulu came up the stairs. "Hello, Captain."

He nodded. Sulu looked older than he remembered. The rigors of command, especially of a ship like Excelsior, could play havoc with a man's youth. It had never seemed to strip Jim of his, though.

"It's old home week," Sulu said. "If only Chekov weren't stuck out on the Jamestown."

"He did secure that assignment?"

"First officer and on a real ship this time," Sulu grinned at the old rub. For him it was a starship or nothing. Spock doubted that even a modern marvel like the Carter would satisfy him.

"You're such a snob," Janice said, bumping against him slightly.

He took her hand. "And you aren't?" He laughed. "You should have heard what she had to say about some of the ships in spacedock."

Janice rolled her eyes as Uhura came out and handed Spock a tall glass. "Christine said you like this?"

Spock took a sip of the stout. "It is quite good. Thank you."

Uhura's eyebrow rose in a perfect imitation of her own. "Fascinating." Suddenly her good mood evaporated and she looked down. "It seems wrong. That they aren't here with us."

No one had to ask her who she meant.

"To absent friends," Sulu said, lifting his glass in the air.

Spock joined the rest in the toast. He heard Christine and McCoy come up behind him. When he looked over at her, she smiled gently and joined her glass to the rest.

Only McCoy didn't join them. "I have something to say first. I just want you all to know that even if I live to be a hundred, I'll never have better friends or richer memories than I do right now. You all mean the world to me."

"Hear, hear," Uhura said, as she smiled through eyes suddenly bright with tears. "To the best of times."

"The best of times," they all echoed.

Spock glanced at Christine. She had put her arm around McCoy and was whispering something in his ear. As the doctor laughed, she seemed to sense Spock's eyes on her. Looking over at him, she smiled brilliantly. A surge of regret filled Spock and he had to turn back to the conversation for fear of what he might betray if he kept looking at her.

The talk before dinner alternated between catching up on everyone's career and stories of Scotty and later on of Jim. Spock saw Christine glance up at him in concern when the conversation first turned to Kirk. He nodded reassuringly at her and she turned back to her food.

The evening passed quickly, Spock was surprised to see how late it was when Sulu got up to call for a cab.

"You want to share?" Janice asked him.

He looked at Christine to see if she was ready. She nodded tiredly and got up to join him. Her fingers brushed his arm as she came to stand next to him and he realized that he could no longer sense the lost feeling she had been giving off since Farrell died.

"What?" she said quietly.

He shook his head.

She smiled and followed Sulu and Janice out to the waiting cab. He turned to McCoy. "We will see you tomorrow."

Uhura gave him another hug. "I'm so glad you're here," she said as she let him go.

McCoy nodded. "Thanks for coming home, Spock. It means a lot."

Spock didn't look away from the emotion in the other man's eyes. "To me as well, Leonard."

McCoy's eyes brightened even more and he just nodded. "Better go catch up, Spock. Wouldn't want them to leave without you."

"They will wait. I have faith in them," he said with a wry look before hurrying to join the others.

---------------------

Sulu stood silently in the back of the Starfleet auditorium, marveling at the number of people that filled the hall. He'd always thought of Scotty as a private man, one that had a few, very close friends, of which Sulu counted himself as one. He had underestimated the man's popularity and the impact he'd had during his stints at the Academy as a trainer.

Sulu wondered how many people would show up at his memorial.

"That's a dark look," Janice said as she walked up to him. "What are you thinking about?"

He smiled gently at her. "Just pondering death."

She shivered. "Yeah, me too. I didn't expect this many people."

He nodded, not surprised that they were on the same wavelength. It was what made them such an effective command team. And what made their other, more personal relationship so vital to him. He wanted to reach out for her, but they had long ago agreed to maintain physical distance while in public. It hurt sometimes, not to be able to touch her, but it was for the best and he knew it.

She looked over at him and grinned. "Sometimes, I wish..."

"Just one touch?"

She nodded. Then she slipped into her more professional expression. "But I like my position by your side on that fancy bridge too much to risk it."

He nodded, then his attention was diverted by Spock and Christine walking toward them. "Funny how things worked out. Us together as a team, them together too."

"Life, she is funny," Janice agreed as she smiled at her friend.

Christine took her hand in greeting then turned to look at the crowd. "Wow."

"That's what I said," Sulu replied. "It's inspiring, isn't it?"

"Mr. Scott touched the lives of many of my students. And he continued to teach long after I had stopped. Our own chief engineer considers him a mentor." Spock studied the auditorium with a slight frown.

"We have seats in front," Janice said, guessing what he was thinking.

He turned to her, "I was wondering." He glanced at Sulu, "Mind reading is a useful skill in a first officer."

Sulu laughed. "Yeah but when it's counterbalanced with sheer stubbornness..."

"My condolences," Spock said.

Sulu and Christine laughed but Janice pretended to glare at the Vulcan. "Like you aren't the epitome of stubborn, Captain Spock."

"I?" he asked innocently.

"You," Christine jumped in. "Very, very stubborn."

"You have never complained."

She laughed. "To you. I've never complained to you."

"Ah."

"Nice to see everybody's here," McCoy's voice sounded behind them. The group turned to welcome him. Sulu could see Uhura out in the foyer. He smiled at her and she gave him a sad grin.

"Everyone okay after last night?" McCoy asked, his drawl seeming even more pronounced than Sulu remembered it.

"Nothing like antitox," Janice replied. "One of the world's great inventions."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Abstinence is also an effective countermeasure."

Janice smiled. "Effective, yes. Fun, no."

"Besides," Christine interjected. "It's therapeutic to let go."

"And I saw you drinking stout all night. So don't lecture me on abstaining," Janice teased.

Before he could comment, Uhura joined them and said, "It's time to go down. They're ready to begin."

Sulu allowed the others to go ahead and ended up walking next to Spock.

"You prosper?" the other captain asked him.

Sulu thought about that. "I do. I love Excelsior."

Spock graced him with a half smile. "Jim would be proud of you, Captain."

"I think he'd be proud of you too, Captain. Or do you prefer Ambassador."

"I answer to either."

Any other comment Spock was going to make was cut off as they arrived at their seats. Sulu saw Janice waiting for him and he slid in next to her as soon as Spock had taken a seat next to Christine.

Admiral Richter, the head of Starfleet engineering, climbed the short stairs to the podium. "We come together to celebrate the life of Captain Montgomery Scott."

Sulu let himself be drawn into the man's words. Even as he listened, memories of his years on the Enterprise with Mr. Scott played in the back of his mind. Good-bye, Scotty, he said, trying to send his good wishes to wherever the dying went. I'll miss you.

He felt Janice's hand touch his for the briefest of moments. He looked at her and saw she was crying. As she smiled at him, he realized that he was too.

He took a ragged breath and turned back to the speaker. A strange feeling of being cut off, totally lost, filled him as the sound of a lone bagpipe filled the room. His throat tightened, and he had to blink to clear his eyes as he listened to the plaintive strains of 'Amazing Grace.'

Nobody in the room made a sound until the song was over. Sulu knew that Scotty would have approved.

----------------------

Spock stood as the memorial ended, following as the crowd filed out of the auditorium and over to the officer's club across the quad.

Christine walked by his side. "It was a beautiful ceremony."

He nodded, wondering what Jim's had been like. How many people had crowded the hall for his service?

"I imagine Jim's drew an even bigger crowd," she said as if reading his mind. When he shot her a startled look, she frowned. "Why did I say that?"

"I was thinking it," he said softly.

"We weren't even touching this time." She shrugged. "I guess it's not that unusual for us to both be thinking of him right now. Neither of us were here for his ceremony."

He nodded, wanting to support her attempt to find a logical reason for the strange accord between their thoughts but privately wondering if something more was happening between them. Something he truly didn't understand.

"Uhura's got a table for us," Christine said, spotting their friend at the side of the room.

They joined the rest of the Enterprise crew. Talk was subdued at first. Everyone seemed to be dealing with private memories and emotions. But as other crewman who had served with them started coming up to talk, the conversation got louder. Everyone seemed to have a funny story about Scotty. Even Spock found himself trying not to smile on several occasions.

McCoy caught him at one occasion and beamed at him. He gestured toward the hall and got up. Spock followed suit. "Let's take a walk," McCoy said as he headed out the door.

Spock hurried to catch up. "You wish to talk to me in private?"

McCoy grinned. "No flies on you, my friend." He took a few more steps then said irritably. "So what the hell's going on, Spock?"

"I do not follow--"

"Between you and Christine, you great green twit." McCoy stopped and glared at him. "Any fool can see how you feel about each other. But she's with someone else. What's that all about?"

"I do not think it is my place to discuss her love life," Spock said as he turned to go back into the building.

"Then discuss your own, damn it." McCoy reached out and touched his arm. "I know Jim's death left you reeling, Spock. I wouldn't expect anything else. But you have another chance for happiness here. Why are you letting it go?"

Spock sighed as he turned back to McCoy. "It is not that simple."

"Then explain it to me."

"She chose another. That is all there is to explain."

"Well she can damn well unchoose him."

Spock shook his head and smiled slightly. "You would not say that if you knew him. He is a good man, and he is good for her. You would like him, Doctor. Far more than you do me."

McCoy didn't have a retort.

Spock sighed. "I have her friendship, Doctor. It is more than I could have hoped for a few months ago. It will have to do."

McCoy looked down. "I'm sorry, Spock. But that's just a shame." He shook his head sadly as he walked toward the building. "Come on, let's go back in then. Your 'friend' is probably wondering where we've gotten to."

Spock followed McCoy in and saw that Christine was indeed looking for them. "Is everything okay?" she asked.

"Everything is fine," he said, pushing her gently back into the main room.

She looked over at McCoy and the doctor gave her a bland look. "Can't two old friends catch up, Christine?"

She gave them both a searching look, then went back into the reception.

"A crying shame," McCoy repeated as he went back to the table.

Spock didn't want to tell him that he completely concurred in the assessment. Giving himself a mental shake, he went back in, determined not to let the doctor's words prey on him.

When the reception wound down, their group headed out to a nearby restaurant as if unwilling to separate too soon. Once they finished their meals they moved into the adjoining lounge.

Uhura finally yawned and said, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm exhausted." She stood up and put her jacket on. "Seeing you all...it's like I don't ever want to walk away, but I know I have to."

There was a chorus of "I know" and "You're right." She laughed. "But I guess we have to bite the bullet. So let's say goodbye now." She turned to give Christine a hug. "Have a good trip back, Christine."

"I will. We have one more day here," Christine said as she let go of Uhura and turned to embrace Janice tightly. "You're here tomorrow?"

Janice nodded. "Hikaru and I get to enjoy a day together. It doesn't happen very often."

Christine met Spock's eyes. "No, it doesn't."

Spock embraced his friends, having long ago given up the idea that he would be exempt from this particular ritual. Uhura laughed as she hugged him tightly. "Take care of each other," she said, and he nodded solemnly.

As they went their separate ways, Christine looked back and waved. "It's hard to say goodbye," she said as she turned to face Spock. "I feel like we'll never have this again. That we'll never see each other like this again."

He didn't want to tell her that he had the same feeling.

She went on softly. "Or that the next time we do, it will be because another one of us is dead."

He wanted to tell her she was being overly dramatic, but he had did not think she was far wrong. Finding himself eager to change the subject, Spock asked, "Do you want to go to dinner tomorrow night?" When she shot him a look, he said, "I realize you plan to eat."

She laughed at their old joke. "When don't I?"

"I meant to somewhere..." he searched for the appropriate word.

"Fancy?"

"Yes," he said, deciding fancy was a better word than the only one he was coming up with.

"Romantic," she said it for him.

He sighed, almost resigned that she was going to know what he was thinking. "Perhaps," he said.

She laughed. "You know what would be perfect?"

He raised an eyebrow.

"Gerard's. A window seat." She made a face. "Like that's going to happen. I've never managed to get a window seat there, and I used to eat there all the time."

"Perhaps our luck will be better," he said softly.

"You never know," she agreed. "What are you going to do tomorrow?"

"I plan to see Saavik." He looked at her. "And you?"

"There's someone I need to see." At his raised eyebrow, she shook her head. "Not like that. Ren's father."

"That will not be an easy visit."

"No, it won't. But I owe it to him." She looked over at him. "Will your visit to Saavik be easy?"

"I do not know. She and I never regained the closeness we once had."

"I remember Uhura telling me she and Jim became quite friendly."

He nodded slowly. "They seemed to find some solace in each other." He looked away. "I pulled away from her, from him too, after I died. Jim and I found a way to recreate our...friendship. Saavik and I never did. I regret that."

"Regret is a useless emotion, Spock."

"But a powerful one. So much done that cannot now be undone." He hoped that she didn't realize that he was not only referring to his relationship with Saavik.

"Build some bridges, Spock. It's never too late."

"Isn't it?"

She met his eyes and he knew that she realized that he was talking about them too. She looked away quickly. "For some things, maybe. But not for friendship. Just try."

"I will try," he said, as he followed her into the hotel. They rode up to their floor in silence.

"I'm glad we came," she said as she turned to walk down the other hall to her room.

"It is easier with you here," he replied.

She turned, walking slowly backward as she looked at him. "It is easier. Good night."

"Good night, Christine. Sleep well."

"You too," she said as she turned and walked quickly away.

End Part 1 of 2