DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and is copyright (c) 2000 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.

Never Leave

by Djinn

In the midst of my darkest hour you see my tear-stained face
This broken form that no longer feels power with no apparent place
But even when this world has turned her back on me
When it's cold where it once had burned
When my thoughts are frightening
You will never leave me.

- Kendall Payne

Spock stood at the door, gathering his thoughts, invoking every mental discipline he knew. He had no idea what to expect from this meeting, but he had been warned that the psi barrage could be intense. As soon as he stepped into the room he realized there was no need to shield. There was nothing at all coming from the woman lying on the bed. She was curled into a tight ball and her mental shields were up just as tightly. Or else there was nothing left to send out a call. He shuddered at the thought.

He had been notified of her condition two days ago. Dr. M'Benga had been CMO on the ship that had rescued her and when nothing else had helped with her condition he had called Spock.

It had been a routine medical mission. Dr. Chapel had just stepped down as head of emergency operations in order to participate in relief work. She and her team had been called out two weeks ago to assist on Rantica, a colony world battling both a worldwide plague and the constant attacks of Amingeran pirates. The relief team had been treating the wounded and distributing treatments for the epidemic. Christine had taken several members of the team to some of the outlying villages when the pirates struck again.

The woman on the bed moaned. A low hopeless sound. Spock stood watching her. She was shattered. The Amingerans were known for their means of extracting information. They had been at odds with the Federation for decades. Christine must have seemed a prize to them, a Starfleet officer of high rank with years of headquarters experience. They had killed the two nurses with her, but she was not so lucky. They had kept her for seven days before the Socrates had tracked them down. By the time they beamed her back and destroyed the Amingeran ship, it was too late. The brilliant doctor was gone. And in her place, was this revenant.

"We'll never know what she told them," the nurse on duty whispered, appearing at Spock's shoulder.

Spock felt anger, "Do you have a purpose here, Nurse?"

"Umm, yes sir, I just need to check her vitals." She walked to the biobed and watched the monitors for a while, noting the levels. She never once looked at the woman on the bed. As she turned back to the door she saw Spock looking at her with cold eyes. She bristled under his disdain. "You can stand there all day. It isn't going to make her any better. Nobody can help her. She's a vegetable now, Captain."

"Keep your voice down or I will put you on report." Spock fought anger at the woman's words. "And I doubt that you are qualified to assess Dr. Chapel's prognosis."

"And you are?" She shrugged her shoulders and left the room.

Spock had seen the patients this ward held. They were generally beyond all help. He understood that a nurse working here would develop a hard shell but he still found himself resenting the attitude of the one that had just left. However, no matter how much she irritated him, she might be right. Christine might be truly beyond his help.

And even if she wasn't, was he willing to do what was necessary to help her heal? This would not be a simple meld. In fact he speculated that a meld at this point would do more harm than good. Her mind and body had been ravaged repeatedly. His mind forcing its way into hers would seem just another violation.

He took the step that carried him past the doorway, then another, till he was at the bed. He moved silently to the other side so that he could see her. And found himself suddenly sitting, landing hard on the chair as he took in the enormous damage the pirates had inflicted on her. That she still lived was amazing. The main cuts had been covered with dermoplast, but bruises covered every inch of visible skin. He assumed the rest of her flesh was similarly abused. He reached for the chart and read down the list of internal injuries that had been repaired. She would surely have died if left to the pirates. He could not imagine the agony she had gone through.

He wanted to help her, but if he took her away from this place, to a place where she could heal, he would be making a choice that he had until this point been unwilling to make. He would be choosing to love her. To open himself up to her. Because he knew that nothing short of love would save her. And even that might not be enough. But he would never know until he tried.

He had resisted her, run from her, ignored her for so long. But he had never been immune to her. She had represented a road he did not want to follow. She was human when he rejected that part of himself. She was emotional when he sought only to embrace logic. She was a reminder of the part of himself he could never quite conquer or even control. For years he had put her from his mind. They had not seen each other since the hearing that had followed the whale probe. He had been through so much since then. The work with the Klingons, Valeris' betrayal, leaving the Enterprise, then the death of his best friend. He had entered the diplomatic service full time. And he had not looked back, becoming more and more immersed in the work he did and less and less involved in his own life.

Now this. Could he choose her? Could he choose to love her after all this time? He did not even know how he felt about her anymore.

She groaned again. He reached out his hand and gently touched her on the forehead. He felt a strange sensation as she whimpered. It was hard to swallow and his chest felt tight.

"Christine?" He leaned in close and spoke very softly, very soothingly. "Christine can you hear me?"

No response. Nothing at all. He closed his eyes in defeat, took a deep breath. There was nothing he could do here. He was about to pull away from her when he felt her forehead move almost imperceptibly against his hand.

"Christine." He felt relief at this tiny evidence that she was still in there, somewhere, locked away. "I will help you. I will take you away from here. I will keep you safe."

There was no more response from her. But he had the most illogical impression that her breathing, the tight way she held herself, was just slightly more relaxed.

"I will help you," he whispered fiercely to her.

***************************

Getting Christine signed over to his care proved more difficult than Spock had imagined. She had no next of kin so she was essentially a ward of the Federation. And the Federation was not eager to give her over to a private citizen, even one so well known and trusted as Captain/Ambassador Spock. Finally he found himself in the office of Starfleet's administrator for long-term care programs.

"Captain Spock. I admit I am at somewhat of a loss. Doctor Chapel is in a known irreparable state. To take her away from the hospital, from the care that we can give her, well it would be madness." Commander Royer tapped the pad he was holding incessantly as he spoke.

Spock kept his voice even, relying on his Vulcan side to keep from leaping over the desk and shoving the instrument down the man's throat. What was wrong with these people? They didn't care about Christine, yet they were unwilling to let her go where someone could actually try to help her, not just keep her alive. "I believe I can help her."

"Help her? She is in a vegetative state, Captain. All of the standard tests for brain activity have come back negative. There is nothing there, sir. Nobody can help her."

Spock could see he was going to get nowhere with the truth. This was a drastic situation. He had learned over the years that such situations sometimes called for extraordinary measures. So he lied. "I may be the only one that can help her. I am her mate."

The pad dropped. "Excuse me?"

"Doctor Chapel and I had a relationship. We were bonded in the Vulcan way. Our minds are one. If anyone can find her I can."

Royer picked up the pad again. He tapped as he thought. Finally he programmed some commands into it and looked up at Spock. "What you are proposing is completely irregular. But I'll release her to you. You can pick her up tomorrow morning."

"Thank you, Commander." He rose to leave.

"Captain?"

Spock turned back to the administrator.

"If you weren't a Vulcan I wouldn't believe you. But everyone knows Vulcans can't lie."

Not *can't* lie, Spock corrected silently. *Don't* lie. A subtle distinction but an important one.

*************************

Blackness. Cold. Burning cold. Nothing but pain. Everywhere, nowhere. All around.

She whimpered as a memory assailed her. The men, and women. Hurting her. Her body tearing. Her mind shredding. Help me! No one to help. No one to care.

Trapped. Locked in. So far away. So very cold. All alone. Never touched. Never touching.

Don't leave me here.

***************************

Spock looked around the small house he had rented. It was somewhat isolated from its neighbors so he and Christine would have plenty of privacy. It sat right on the beach with a porch that extended out over the sand. A double chaise took up a good portion of the deck. The weather was perfect, low 70's and would stay that way or so the rental agent had claimed. They were close enough to Tampa and St. Petersburg that if he needed medical assistance for Christine it would be within easy reach.

He walked back into the house, through the main room and into the single bedroom. He had debated over this for some time and had decided that one bed would serve them better than two. It was a large one so they would have plenty of room, and he could always sleep on the couch if he found that Christine did not respond to his presence next to her.

Since Royer had given his grudging permission to release her to his care, Spock had been scouring the databanks for information on treatment of victims of the Amingerans. There was little data available. Most of those that had undergone such torture had died. Christine was one of the few that had survived.

So it was going to be up to him to decide how to reach her. He read as much as he could on trauma therapies, on psychophysical treatments. In the end he had decided to go with something much simpler. Touch. Talking. Love. Presence. She had been abused. She needed first to learn that touch need not hurt. That it could heal.

The house's comm unit beeped. It was the nurse he had hired. She was local and would check on Christine daily to monitor her liquid and food intakes and make sure her outflow was at healthy levels. If...no, he corrected...until Christine came out of this catatonic state she would need assistance just to survive.

He gave the go ahead for her to bring Christine in and walked out to the driveway where Nurse Kingman and the portable bed holding Christine's unresponsive body materialized. They worked together to get the gurney inside the house and get Christine comfortable. The nurse hooked up the various drips and monitors and then left.

Spock stood looking at this woman he had just taken responsibility for. For the next weeks and months she would be his only priority. He had requested an extended leave of absence and would not report back until she was well, or until he gave up on her, which he did not intend to do easily.

But how to start? How to reach her? Maybe if he just talked to her. Let her hear his voice. He moved to the far side of the bed and lay down next to her curled form. He lay on his back for a moment. Not right. He rolled over and moved till he was lying against her back. She was cold. He realized that he was too. Reaching down he pulled the comforter over them both.

He lay still for a moment, feeling the slow rise and fall of her torso as she breathed. Memorizing the pattern for future reference. Without conscious thought his arm wrapped around her waist and he tucked his head into her neck. He began to speak, low and soft.

"We are in Florida, Christine." He felt slightly stupid but shrugged off the thought. She could hear him. He knew that she could. "My mother recommended this place. She and my father spent several vacations here." He was no good at this but forced himself to continue. "It is an extremely pleasing setting, Christine. We are on an outer island in a small house that sits right on the beach. In the time I have been here I have seen wildlife of all description."

He suddenly wondered if she cared at all about animals then decided it didn't matter what he talked about just that he talked to her. He moved slightly closer. His breath as he began to speak moved her dark hair. "I have seen many species of waterfowl. There is a particularly beautiful white bird that resembles the ibis from Egyptian paintings. I have also seen dolphins in the water. They appear to play. I appreciate their intelligence far more since I spoke with Gracie."

He realized that she might not know who Gracie was. "She was the female of the pair of humpbacks that we brought back to Earth. Do you remember that time, Christine? It was the last time we saw each other. I have had occasion to wonder how you were during the years in between. I wonder if you thought of me? I would not blame you if you hadn't."

He decided this was not a good tack to take. "As I was saying, there are many creatures here. My mother warned me of the stingrays that frequent the sand here. They are quite shy creatures and will try to escape if you let them, but will retaliate if stepped upon. And there are tortoises around but they are increasingly rare."

He tried to sense if there was any change in her breathing. Nothing. He must not be impatient. "I was here last night arranging for the rental of this house. I saw a most astounding sight. The sun disappeared right into the sea. Logically I know that Sol is too far away to set into a body of water and that this was an optical illusion, but I almost expected to see steam from the sizzle as it disappeared into the Gulf."

He wondered at the whimsical turn his thoughts had taken. His arm tightened around her. He began to describe the color of the sky as the sun disappeared, then progressed to how he hypothesized the sand would feel under his bare feet. He fell asleep, utterly exhausted, before he could describe the salinity of the water.

***************************

Shaking. Motion. Where? Stop. Don't hurt me.

Darkness. More motion. Help. Please stop. Leave me alone.

Hands on her. Moving her. Cold. Colder. Freezing.

Warmth! So close. Around. On top. Settling gently. Hands again. No hurt.

A sound. Voice. Calm. Familiar. Can't understand. Not afraid.

Warm voice. Warm hands. Touching. Don't leave me.

***************************

Spock woke with a start. He did not remember falling asleep. He was cuddled tightly against Christine, his arm holding her firmly against his body. It was warm under the covers with her, comfortable and soft. Her body was no longer as cold as it had been when he had first touched her. He wondered if she had been freezing the entire time she had been in the hospital.

"Christine? I'm going to get up for a while. I'm not leaving you; I'll be close by. And I'll be back soon."

He paid a quick visit to the bathroom then made himself some dinner and ate it standing on the deck watching the sunset. Once it was completely dark he went back into the bedroom and lay down next to her again.

"The sun is down now. In comparison to the colors of last night, this was not as spectacular a show. And clouds interfered with my view. Now it is dark out. Almost the darkness of space. I saw some meteorites. Shooting stars my mother used to call them. Most imprecise." He trailed off and discovered that he had been stroking her hair. Curious.

"Have I ever told you how much you remind me of my mother, Christine? You have her same warmth. Her humor. And I think her wisdom too, although I never really allowed myself to know you as well as I probably should have. You met my mother once. I do not know how much time you had to get to know her. So I will tell you about her."

He wondered at his choice of subjects but decided to go with his first instinct.

"When I was very young, I used to pretend that my mother was a princess from Earth, forced to marry my father to prevent interstellar war. I could come up with no other reason for her to have chosen him. For he was so distant to me, so cold. But I suppose I was a constant disappointment. I was a very emotional child and often paid the price for it from both him and the other children. If I were honest, and I might as well be with you, I would have to admit that I hated my home planet when I was a child. I wanted nothing more than to be on Earth. The irony of that is that once I actually made it to Terra, I didn't fit in here either." He stopped and pondered this.

"I have never really fit in anywhere. Except on the Enterprise. Because of one man. James Kirk." He felt the sadness he had buried deep inside himself the day he had heard that Kirk was dead start to come up. He pushed it ruthlessly away.

"But we were discussing my mother. I often wondered why she chose Sarek. I could never see the warmth between them, only his disapproval of her emotions. Only now do I understand that much of what I witnessed between them was teasing. But at the time I hated my father for dismissing my mother. I hated him so much that I began to resent everything he suggested for me. If he had told me the square root of four was two; I would have found a way to prove that it was three. So contrary, the space between my father and me."

He moved closer to Christine's still form. Wrapped his arm around her again. "My mother was my sanctuary. I ran to her for everything. But that changed as I grew older. Finally, I realized that to be accepted on this planet I seemed doomed to inhabit, I would have to become more Vulcan. And that meant rejecting her. And so I did. I pushed her away. Never let her in. Never let her hold me the way I yearned for her to do." He fell silent for a moment.

"I rejected her." Spock felt something tighten his throat, making it hard to swallow. His eyes felt hot. "Christine, I've told no one this." He stopped, fought for control, failed. "My mother is dying."

The room was silent except for the steady in and out of Christine's breaths, and the ragged intake of air as Spock tried to hold back the pain he felt. "Christine, she is dying. And there is nothing I can do for her. I wish I could tell her all the things she has meant to me. I wish I could tell her how much I love her. But I find I am unable."

He wondered at this. I can tell you, he thought as he looked at the woman lying next to him. Perhaps? His mind only half understanding what he planned to do he moved away from Christine and quickly went to the comm unit. Dialing in a priority call to Vulcan, he waited for his mother to come on the line.

**********************

Warm. Safe.

Leaving? Alone. Frightened. Please?

Ah, warmer. Presence again. Secure.

Sadness. Sorrow. Not mine. Whose? Mother? Dying. Love her. Who? Can't tell her. Tell her. Leave me.

Come back. Talk more. Safe.

***************************

An hour later, Spock returned to the bed. His eyes were a little puffy and his nose was running a bit but his heart was at peace. He settled back down next to Christine. Felt her warmth against his stomach and relaxed for a few minutes just holding her.

His voice was a whisper. "My mother sends you her love. She approves of what we are doing here. Said she always thought you were the one for me." He stopped. Thought. "I had an interesting talk with her just now, Christine. We really talked. For the first time ever possibly. I told her the things that I should have said long ago. Let her know how I feel about her. And she told me things I didn't know."

He pulled the covers over them again. "She opposed my bonding to T'Pring. I never realized that. She felt it a poor match from the start. Did not like T'Pring or her family. Sarek and T'Pau convinced her it would be all right. It was not."

His mind soared back to the time of his first Pon Farr. What should have been his joining. "Do you remember when you made me plomeek soup? I was so violent with you. It was because I was afraid that I would lose control around you. Take you. Yes, I mean that. I desired you. As I had never desired T'Pring. But she was my betrothed. I had no choice in the matter."

He was silent. Again the room was filled with only the sound of their breaths. "That is not strictly true. By the time that I was on the Enterprise, I was adept at rejecting my human side. I would never have chosen you." He closed his eyes for a moment, tried to remember what T'Pring looked like, failed utterly. "I never desired my wife, but I wanted her. She represented acceptance, place, security, belonging. She was all those things solely because she came from a good Vulcan family. But I was attracted to you."

"Yes, attracted to you. A human. And other humans too. Leila at the academy. Zarabeth. Droxine. Even a Romulan, for I was fascinated with that commander. But never a Vulcan. At least not till Valeris."

He grew silent. For a long time he did not speak. He fought the mixed anger and shame he still felt whenever he recalled his protégé. Christine whimpered as if she could sense his emotions.

"Shhh. It is alright." He soothed her. She was quiet again.

"Valeris. She who is my greatest shame. I do not know how much you know of this time of my life." He gathered his thoughts. "She was astonishingly bright. Had an uncanny ability to fit in with humans. Very attractive. I was her sponsor." His fists clenched. "I wished to be more to her."

He wanted to pull away from Christine as the guilt overcame him. He resisted the urge. "Christine. I did something unimaginable. Valeris was part of the conspiracy to stop the Khitomer Peace Conference. She betrayed the Federation. She betrayed me." His voice dropped even lower. "I was enraged. I was scorned. I had been played unmercifully by someone I cared deeply for. It didn't matter that she bore me any real affection, all I could feel was humiliation. I sought vengeance, Christine. I raped her mind in a meld that was so angry, so terrible...she was lucky to survive it. I did not care. I was little better than your own captors."

Again she whimpered. And again he soothed her into stillness.

"I look back now and wonder how I could do it. It is the greatest shame of my life, the blackest moment my soul has ever known. I hurt her for the sole pleasure of hurting her. What does that make me?"

"I have never seen her since. Part of me hopes to never see her; another part wants to find out why...how she could do this to me. And still another part wants to beg her forgiveness." He sighed. "I guess this will be one of those circumstances that for me stays unresolved. And probably best that way."

He hugged her close. "And the worse part of it, Christine. The worst part of it is that I don't know if it was the Vulcan or the Human in me that did it."

********************

Voice. Sad. Not sad. Safe.

Warm on me. Good.

Wife. Who? T'Pring? Dark. Wife. Bonded. Remember. Don't like her.

Warm. Me. Human? Others.

Shame. Anger. Stop! No! Hurt. Don't hurt. Shhhh. Safe now.

Sad. Shhhh. Won't leave.

***************************

And so began a strange existence for Spock. He rose early everyday and waited for the nurse to arrive to attend to Christine's medical needs. While she was there he often jogged along the beach. He was finding that long hours lying motionless in bed were playing havoc with his muscles so he exercised as often as he could. His runs allowed him some precious time to himself as well. Time he recognized was important.

As soon as the nurse was gone he would climb back into bed with Christine and talk to her. He told her whatever came into his mind. Things about his growing up, or his father, or his days at the academy. He would tell her what he had seen on his run, or how the waves felt crashing on his feet as he ran in the surf. He always ate dinner on the deck so he could watch the sunset and report back on it.

Week after week went by but there was little change in Christine's condition. He was rapidly giving up hope that he was making any difference at all.

He came in from the deck. The sky had been completely overcast so he had been unable to see any of the sunset. The colors had seemed as washed out as his hopes. He lay down next to Christine but said nothing. For a few minutes they lay there in the silence. Then he felt something tighten in her posture. As if she were waiting for him to do something. And the longer he didn't do it, the more tense she became.

"Christine? It is all right."

There was no change; her body was rigid against his. Suddenly hope flared inside him.

"The sunset was disappointing tonight." He felt her body relax. She knows! He put his arm around her in a tight embrace. "The clouds covered everything. I had to go on faith that there was even a sun there at all." He buried his face in her hair. She knows.

They lay that way until he fell asleep.

************************

Voice. Good voice. Tells me things.

Warm now. Never cold. Always safe.

Sunset? No sunset? Something wrong. Tell me? Won't tell me. Not right.

Ahhhh. Sunset. Nothing wrong. Warm again. Hold tight.

Don't leave me.

***************************

The next day, Spock woke renewed. Christine was still there. Somewhere. He debated using the mind meld to find her. If it worked it could save much time. If it didn't though, it could ruin everything. He decided not to risk it.

So for the next few weeks he continued as he had been doing. And he began to notice some things that were different about the woman lying next to him. She was gradually uncurling from the fetal position. At first he hadn't noticed but over the last few days he had not had to lean in so much to rest his head near her ear. And her arms and legs were moving more. As if they were slowly coming back to life.

It was a good thing too, he thought. For he was running out of subjects to talk about. He had pretty much covered everything. Everything except for the two most important men in his life. His father. And Kirk.

"Christine. I know you can hear me. Now would be an excellent time to wake up. I have run out of things to talk about."

Nothing. He sighed heavily.

"Well if you won't wake up then I guess I will talk about Sarek. I don't like to do that. I'd really rather you just woke up."

Again nothing.

"Sarek. Ambassador. Prominent son of the ruling house of Vulcan. My father. My nemesis. My enemy. My ideal. How do I start to tell you about all the contradictory things I feel for the man?"

She was no help.

"Very well. I will start at the beginning. I remember as a child only ever wanting his love, his approval. I felt that I had neither. And in time I felt as if I had been cheated. But then I learned something horrible from the other children in school. I had been an experiment. Only that. No wonder my father couldn't love me. No wonder I was such a disappointment." He realized he was clenching his fingers and let them relax.

"It was not true. I was not an experiment. I understand now that my parents do love each other, and that they did then and still do love me. But at the time, I was heartbroken by the news. That was when I decided to become as Vulcan as I could. That was when I rejected my mother. All to get this man to notice me. To love me."

"I know you've met him, Christine. And he's always been quite gentle with you at those times. But imagine how it would be to have this ideal Vulcan, the most famous and most revered living Vulcan, as your father. And then to know that you would only ever be half as good. I had to leave. I had to reject his plans for me. But it killed me to leave him. It destroyed a part of me to lose him. It wasn't till that time on the Enterprise when he needed me that I felt whole again."

He stopped gathered his thoughts. "I think that Sarek and I will always have a strained relationship. He will never understand me and I will never feel that I have his approval. But at least we are once again father and son. For that I am grateful."

He was silent for a long moment. Christine's breathing seemed slightly faster to him. But perhaps he was just projecting his own emotion to her. He knew that when it came to his father his logic was imperfect.

But not as imperfect as when it came to his friend. No, I cannot talk of this, part of him pleaded. I have to, the other half reasoned.

"I must speak now of something I have not yet addressed." He took a deep unsteady breath. "Something that I have not even allowed myself to think about, much less examine in words."

"I'm sure you know that James T. Kirk is dead? Did you know that I was nowhere near him when he died. That I didn't know for ten days. I missed his death. I missed his funeral. I missed saying goodbye." His voice cracked slightly and he paused to regain control.

"He died a hero. Saving the Enterprise and everyone on board. Just as I did so many years ago. Only he won't come back through some fluke. He is truly dead." Again his voice betrayed him. Again he sought for mastery.

"I know what people speculated about us. It wasn't true though. We were never lovers. He was my friend. He was my first real friend and my best friend. He gave me a place; he gave me a home when I had none. He accepted me for what I was. He put his life and his career on the line to save me. He did all that for me, Christine. He did all that, and I didn't even make his funeral. I didn't even get to say goodbye." Suddenly all the pain he had been holding inside came rushing up, obliterating any semblance of control. He shook as the raw emotion claimed him. Great heaving shudders took over his limbs. He tried to speak but all that came out was gulping sobs. He released Christine, afraid that his dreadful pain would be too much for her. Rolling over on his other side he let go and surrendered to his grief.

And in the middle of his pain he felt something touch him. A hand reached for his shoulder. A voice, scratchy from disuse whispered, "Shhhhh."

He turned back to Christine, tears making it difficult to see. She lay on her back. One hand stretched to him. Eyes already closing in exhaustion. Her voice cracked again.

"Spock. It's alright."

He felt something new batter at his heart. The pain had an enemy and it was hope, it was love, it was joy. He gathered her to him and she curled into his arms.

"Christine." His breath caught in a sob as he stroked her face. "Don't leave me."

"Won't leave you, " she murmured as her eyes closed completely.

For a moment he felt panic, then he realized he could feel the hum of her mind, of her personality. She had simply fallen asleep. She was weak, and still so hurt. But she had come back. She had come back to him.

***************************

She woke again slowly. The first thing she was conscious of was the pain that attacked every part of her body. The second thing was fear, overwhelming, mind-numbing fear. But then she felt arms tighten around her, in a way that did not cause further panic but rather brought soothing calm. She heard a voice murmuring to her.

Spock? She was lying in bed next to Spock. She dimly remembered waking up for the first time, called back to consciousness by his pain. He had been crying. But what about? She tried to remember, could not.

She concentrated on his voice. It was familiar in a way it hadn't been before. As if it were the only sound she had heard. For a very long time. She didn't understand.

She moved slowly and fire erupted in her body. Why did it hurt so? Slowly she turned over, felt his arms loosen to allow her to shift then tighten again as she buried her face in his neck.

So tired. Sleep. She heard his voice again as she drifted back into unconsciousness.

**************************

Spock watched her as she surrendered again to sleep. He had sensed her initial panic, had used his voice to soothe her. He had also projected every calming thought he could at her but had stopped short of a meld. She needed to heal at her own pace, not his.

He wrapped her deeper in his arms. She was definitely *there* in a way she hadn't been before. He could feel the spark of her mind, still so blurred but on its way to clarity. This would not be an easy road when she remembered what had happened.

He surprised himself with a huge yawn. He had not relaxed since she first woke, had spent hours watching over her. Now that she had opened her eyes again, even if only for a minute, he felt his tense muscles finally let go. He was exhausted. Closing his eyes, he allowed sleep to claim him too.

*************************

"Tell us what we want to know and it will all stop."

The pain was unimaginable. She had tried to be brave, tried to hold out, but there was no way to fight such far-reaching agony. She didn't know if it was fortunate or not that she did not hold the information they seemed to especially desire. She screamed again. And again.

"Christine!"

The voice. The good voice. She searched the blackness. Help?

"Christine wake up!"

Suddenly it was day and she was no longer in that room with her tormenters. Spock was there and he was holding her and she was safe.

"Shhhhh." His voice was everything good. "It's all right. They can't hurt you now."

"I couldn't fight them, Spock. I tried. But I couldn't." She rushed to explain, shame deepening her already hoarse voice. "I told them whatever they wanted. But I didn't know very much. I was glad. And god help me I was sorry too." She buried her face in his chest.

"Shhhh." He pulled her face up gently, wiped the tears from her eyes. "You couldn't fight them, Christine. Very few could. Perhaps no one. You did nothing wrong."

Her tears only increased. "They hurt me."

"I know. I can't change that. I wish I could."

"You made them stop this time."

He felt a small tender smile tug at his mouth. "I did, didn't I?"

She snuggled into him, "Safe. I'm safe with you."

As he watched her again abandon him for sleep his expression became fierce. "Yes. You are safe with me."

***************************

Christine could no longer count the number of times she had awakened in Spock's arms. At first she would have to spend the first few minutes fighting the disorientation, the fear. Now she no longer had to struggle to recall where she was. Or why.

The memories of the Amingerans haunted her. They shadowed her during her waking moments and followed her into sleep, turning into full-blown nightmares at some point each night. Even as her body healed, the mental impact seemed to grow till she felt filthy with it.

Spock was always there. Comforting her in his quiet way, holding her. He said very little, but his presence was solid and warm. His arms were very strong. She found this curious. How did she come to be with him? How did this happen? But she was too busy fighting off the memories of her torture to do more than wonder.

**************************

Spock watched Christine's face as she woke. He held her as the last remnant of nightmare fell off her. It was the middle of the night. She had been tossing and moaning and he had used his voice and subtle mental pressure to wake her up. He still had not melded with her, but this constant closeness had seemed to open up some other door between them. He could sense her overall emotional state easily and she seemed able to receive his reassurances.

"It is all right, Christine." He loosened his grip on her as she struggled for a moment.

Her voice, stronger now than it had been, caught as she sobbed. "Feel so dirty. I want to be clean. Please, Spock?"

He was not sure what she was asking. "Christine you have nothing to be ashamed of. In time you will see that too."

"No," she was becoming agitated. "Need to get clean. Scrub. Water." She pressed against him for a moment. "I can't do it alone, Spock. Please?"

Spock fought a sudden nervousness at her request. She was right. She could not handle the shower alone. And there had been only so much the nurse, who still came in to check on her, could do with sponge baths. She probably would feel much better with a shower. But he would have to go in with her.

This is ridiculous, he berated himself. I have spent the last month and a half holding this woman against me. It is illogical to refuse this further intimacy.

He rose and walked around the bed to her side. He helped her pull off the nightgown. She wrinkled her nose at the smell.

"I will wash it," he assured her.

"Burn it." She ordered. "And the sheets, Spock. Change them when we are done?"

He nodded as he picked her up for the short walk to the bathroom. "If you wish."

"And take the plastic cover off too, I hate the sound of it."

Spock lifted an eyebrow. He had not been aware there was a special mattress cover, although he had noticed a crackling sound he could never quite place. "Of course," he agreed.

He set her down on the commode, finding himself more than slightly embarrassed as he tried not to look at her bare form. He fiddled with the shower switches getting the water just the right temperature before stripping his own clothes off quickly. He helped her in, following closely behind.

She sighed in pleasure as the warm water hit her body, leaned back against him and closed her eyes. He fought a surge of arousal. Most inappropriate, he berated himself. Yet her body next to him, the silky feel of her wet skin, was having a definite effect on him. Do not turn around, he mentally ordered her. Do not back up any further either.

She reached for the soap. Began to move it along the front of her body.

Hoping to distract himself, Spock reached for the shampoo, squeezed some out and began to rub it through her hair. She stopped her own actions to let him finish, moaning a little in pleasure as his fingers rubbed into her scalp. Spock realized belatedly that this was not the distraction he had hoped. He stopped his massage and gently moved her head into the water stream. As soon as her hair was free of the shampoo, she returned to soaping her body.

Watching her hands move around her body was also affecting him. Spock began to silently recite the square root table, then moved on to figuring PI to as many decimal places as he could remember. Her voice interrupted him at about the 25th.

"Could you do my back?" She handed the soap over her shoulder.

He swallowed hard and tried to keep his thoughts businesslike as he rubbed the bar over her skin. She had lost a great deal of weight during the time she was in a coma. Her skin hung slightly on her tall frame and her bones jutted in a few places. This should have been cause for concern, not arousal. Again he chided himself as he found his body responding to her nearness.

He needed to rinse her back but did not want her to turn around. More than anything at this moment he did not want her to know how this affected him. So he simply turned them both around till the stream of water was hitting his back then he moved away, giving the shower head easy access to her.

As soon as she was completely clean he turned the water off and helped her out of the shower. He wrapped her in a towel, and with his back to her dried himself off quickly before pulling his clothes on. Then, feeling somewhat more camouflaged he toweled her off. He went into the closet and found a fresh nightgown and the robe the hospital had given her, and redressed her. He left her sitting in the main room staring out at the moonlit water.

He stripped the bed and removed the offending plastic cover. Deciding to take her advice, he put these and the worn nightgown into the incinerator slot. Then he found fresh sheets and a clean blanket and made up the bed again.

When he went back out to get her she was already asleep. He picked her up and carried her into the bedroom, set her gently on the bed and wrapped them both up in the fresh covers. As his arms automatically closed around her, he wondered at the effect she had on him.

After some considerable mental study he determined several things. He was reacting to her as he had not reacted to any woman previously. Not even Valeris had affected him in this way. The intensity of his response to her made him nervous. On top of that, it was completely the wrong time in her recovery for any of this to be acknowledged. She was in no shape to deal with anything but getting better. This, whatever this was, would have to wait.

***************************

Christine's strength came back slowly. At first Spock carried her everywhere and even that tired her out. But gradually she tried walking with his assistance and though her muscles screamed at her she found satisfaction in the effort.

When she got a little stronger, Spock called a physical therapist that came in twice a week to work with her--work her over she joked to Spock. When Kelly left she invariably felt exhausted and battered. But the next day her muscles would be that much stronger. She had been encouraged to walk so she did, eventually making it out to the deck where she found the double chaise. Mesmerized by the view from their deck she sat for long hours, sometimes dozing, sometimes just staring out to sea. She watched for dolphins and smiled as the tour boats went by.

Spock left her alone more now, working on some project at the computer when she dozed. But he always helped her with her exercises and, she blushed slightly to think of it, with her showers. That she could be so comfortable naked with him amazed her. Of course that could be because he never let her see much of him.

It was nearing sunset and she made her way slowly out to the deck. It was their ritual to eat dinner and watch the sun go down. That was another thing she couldn't believe, the ease that he displayed as they sat in the chaise together. Many times after they were done eating he would pull her close and she would rest her head on his chest as they watched the sun dip lower and lower until it finally disappeared into the sea.

Tonight was particularly clear. The show would be amazing. She heard Spock puttering around in the kitchen, putting together some food. Nurse Kingman had taken her off the IV foods and fluids several weeks ago. The nurse still came by several times a week to check on her but basically Christine knew she was out of danger.

"Tonight will be especially lovely, I think." Spock was carrying a tray of food for them. He placed it on the table by the chaise and settled down next to her.

"Yes." She accepted a plate of grilled vegetables. Spock handed her some bread to dip in the savory sauce. He was really quite a good cook, she thought. Good thing too because if it were left to me we'd both starve, she laughed to herself.

They ate in their usual silence. The only interruption was when she pointed out three dolphins that were racing a boat. They watched in fascination as the graceful creatures played with the human toy. Soon they were done eating and Christine handed Spock her plate and settled back against the cushions. He placed everything on the tray then settled next to her. Without conscious thought he pulled her up and against him so that his arm was around her. Absently he played with her hair as they watched the sun go down.

"Ssssssss," she whispered as it finally was swallowed by the ocean. She looked up at his face. He was trying to hide a small grin.

"I remember the first time I watched the sunset here. I thought the very same thing. How it should sizzle." He looked down at her. "Do you remember me telling you that?"

"I remember your voice. I don't remember anything that you said. I was so far away and your voice was the only constant I had, other than the pain and the fear. I remember impressions though. That you were sad. That you were angry but not at me. That you were shamed. But I don't know why."

"Interesting."

They sat in silence as the night darkened around them.

"Spock, why do Nurse Kingman and Kelly think we're married?" Christine asked.

He sighed. "I was having difficulty getting you released to my care. I'm afraid I let them believe we were bonded."

"A lie?" she asked in a teasing way. The minute the words left her mouth she felt him stiffen underneath her. The air of tension was unmistakable. "Spock? What did I say?"

His voice was as tight as his body. "Nothing."

"No. I just said something that upset you. I can feel it. What was it?"

"Someone else used to ask me that. Often."

She pushed away from him. "I can feel it again. The anger. And the shame. Who the hell was this person?"

"Someone I hurt. Someone that hurt me."

She thought back. Remembered Uhura telling her of an ugly incident on the bridge. "Valeris?" she guessed.

He nodded. "Valeris." He made to get up but she grabbed his arm.

"No. Don't. You hurt her. You feel awful about it. You feel more than awful. Do you think you are some kind of monster?"

"I was that day. I was nothing but a monster."

"Fine. That day you were. But a monster wouldn't be haunted by his actions. An evil person wouldn't care what he had done." She laid her hand on the back of his neck, gently tried to rub the tension away. "You are a good man, Spock. You are a good man that did a bad thing. Forgive yourself. Move on."

He surprised her by turning to her and brushing his hand along her cheek. "So trusting. How can you still trust me after all that has happened to you?"

She laid her hand over his. "Because you brought me back, Spock. *You* saved me. How can I not trust you?"

He pulled her back down against him and they sat for a long while in comfortable silence watching the stars and the sea before they finally went in to bed.

***************************

Spock watched as Christine walked through the surf. She moved slowly but her stride was sure. Her improvement was rapid now. She no longer needed him to help her get around. He could shower alone again. He watched as she bent down to look at something in the sand. Shells probably, they were all over the beach.

He saw her turn toward the house. She was looking for him. He stayed in the shadows, away from the door. She eventually turned back to the water. Kept walking.

He sighed and returned to his computer. To the project that took up so much of his time now.

*********************

Christine felt something stick in her throat. She recognized it. It was sadness. The deep sadness she had felt during those years on the Enterprise when she had loved Spock and he had not loved her back. She felt it again. She had seen him in the house just now, watching her but not coming out as he used to.

What did I do? What has happened?

She felt tears start and blinked them away angrily. No! I won't cry. I don't know what is going on but I won't cry over this.

She kept walking. Her mind worked at what had changed. She didn't know, couldn't pin it down. He had saved her and now he was pulling away. Why? What did she do?

I thought he loved me, she realized. I thought he loved me and I don't know why he suddenly did or why he doesn't love me anymore. Maybe he never did? Maybe I imagined it all.

********************

Spock brought their dinner out to the deck as usual. He handed her a plate and sat next to her on the chaise. They ate in silence. When she leaned back he followed suit. They sat companionably, shoulders touching but nothing else. She seemed unusually quiet. Then she spoke and her words took him by surprise.

"Spock, why did you bring me here?"

He glanced at her. "To heal."

"No, I mean why did *you* bring me here?"

"I don't understand the question."

"Yes you do." She stubbornly refused to elaborate.

"I thought I could help you."

"Why?"

He sighed. "Christine, where are you going with this line of questioning?"

"Why did you think that *you* could help me? I really need to know."

She was upset. He could see it on her face and feel it coming off her in waves. He thought about her question.

"I believed that I could. It was something I felt deeply."

"But why? After all these years, Spock? You didn't care what happened to me before. You barely spoke to me. Suddenly I'm hurt and you are going to be the knight in shining armor and then by god you do it, you bring me back from hell."

He felt deep confusion and the beginning of irritation. "Yes. You are getting better. Your progress is excellent."

"Yes and each way I get better you pull away a little bit more."

He could think of nothing to say.

"Damn you!" Her shrill curse shocked him. "You bring me back from hell. Then you throw me right back into it. What has happened?"

He just looked at her in confusion.

"Spock. You haven't touched me in days. Why?"

He looked down in dismay but did not answer.

"Spock, why? It's not fair. To give me that and then just stop?"

"You don't need me in that way."

"Need you?"

He felt the world spin for a moment. He did not understand his reactions to her. "You will leave soon."

"Leave?"

"Leave. Leave me." He felt a strange feeling in his stomach and chest, they felt tight and he was finding it difficult to breathe.

Her hand touched him and he flinched. "Spock, I don't understand."

His voice was controlled but barely more than a whisper, "Everyone I love leaves me."

***************************

Christine sat flabbergasted. "Valeris? Did you love her that much?"

He looked at her fiercely. "Not Valeris. Her betrayal cut deeply but not her."

Christine thought furiously. Oh god, she berated herself, it was so obvious. "Kirk."

Spock nodded, his mouth set grimly. "Yes, he really left me behind didn't he?"

She was surprised at the sarcasm in his voice. "And the rest of your friends. You've gotten no calls while we've been here, Spock."

"They are apparently busy."

Suddenly she remembered something from her time in the coma. Something about his mother. "Spock, why hasn't your mother called?"

He looked away.

She wracked her memories. She didn't realize she was speaking out loud as she finally accessed the information. "Sick. Mother. Dying."

"Yes."

"How long does she have?"

"Weeks, according to my father."

Christine got up slowly and walked through the main room into the bedroom. She could feel Spock following behind her. She reached into the closet and brought out his bag.

"What are you doing?"

She turned to him, laid her palms on his chest. "I am going to get you packed while you get on that computer you like so much and make reservations to Vulcan. And if you don't pull strings to get on the fast shuttle, I'll do it for you."

"I can't leave you."

She gave him a sad smile. "Oh yes you can. You need to be with your mother now. If you don't go you'll never forgive yourself."

"Come with me." He sounded slightly desperate.

"I can't, Spock. I don't think I would tolerate Vulcan very well right now. I'm still weak."

"You will still be here when I return?"

She was startled at the tenderness that welled up inside of her at his words. "Well, I think we need to get one thing straight before I answer that."

He looked suspicious.

"You said that everyone you love leaves. And you were afraid that I would leave. Does that mean that you love me?" She forced herself to stand calmly, as if this were not the most important question she had ever asked him.

**********************

Spock did not even need to think about his answer to her question. "Yes. I love you."

He felt her relief, then her hands moved up to his shoulders. "Hold me, Spock, please?"

His arms pulled her in, more roughly than he intended. He buried his face in her hair. "I'm sorry, Christine. I am not good at this."

"Shhhh. It's all right now. We're all right."

He held her for a long time. Finally he pulled away from her and she released him. He watched as she began to pack his bags. She turned around and gave him a hard look.

"Aren't you supposed to be making reservations?"

He nodded and called up Starfleet travel. He was able to pull some strings and get out on a fast frigate going directly past Vulcan. It left just past midnight.

She handed him the bag. He took it in one hand then reached for her with his other hand. He led her out to the deck. The sun was just about to disappear. Spock set down his bag and wrapped his arms around Christine. As it disappeared he pressed himself against her back and whispered into her ear, "Ssssssss."

She laughed in response, but he could tell she was also crying. She turned in his arms and hugged him savagely. "I'm so sorry, Spock. This is going to be so hard for you."

"Yes," he whispered, "I do not know that I am brave enough for this."

She touched his cheek. "You will be. When the time comes. You will be. I know you will." A tear spilled down her cheek.

He wiped it off gently. "You will be here when I come back?"

"Count on it, Mister." She smiled at him.

"I *shall* count on it." He leaned in and very gently kissed her lips. He stood staring at her for a few moments more, memorizing her face, then turned and picking up his suitcase walked away from the house on the first step of the long journey home.

***************************

The small little house suddenly seemed enormous to Christine. Spock had only been gone a few hours but she was finding it impossible to settle down. Her nerves were on edge. Every noise sounded like an intruder, every creak of the house was the front door being forced open. She closed her eyes but could not sleep. The bed seemed cold and far too big without Spock in it. She tossed and turned for several hours before finally falling into a fitful sleep.

"Just tell us what we want, dear, and the pain will be over." They leaned over her, their instruments causing agony wherever they touched, their voices terrifying in their clinical calm. "Why must you be so stubborn?" A larger instrument came into view, it touched her and the world dissolved into molten fire.

She woke screaming. She had been asleep less than an hour. She rose quickly, turning on the lights as she went. All the lights. She sat in the living room, shaking from the dream, from the memories that caused the nightmare. She did not try to sleep again but waited instead for the dawn. She tried to think of happier things. But every happy thought seemed to have a dark side. Eventually she gave up and listlessly thumbed through a holo-zine hoping the latest fashions would numb her enough to at least relax. Finally, the sky showed signs of lightening and as the sun rose she moved out to the deck, and settled down on the chaise. She was asleep within minutes.

********************

Spock stayed in his cabin through most of the voyage. He was meditating. Preparing in the Vulcan way. Trying to gather all his strength for the upcoming vigil. For that is what it would be. His mother was dying. He was going to take part in her passing. He would arrive on Vulcan to find her there and not leave the planet till she was gone.

Thoughts of Christine often intruded. At first he felt guilty but then he realized that she might well be the only lifeline he would have during this ordeal. He wished again that she had come with him but realized she was right about Vulcan being too harsh for her condition. Yet he was worried about her being alone in the house. She had not spent any time without him since waking up. He wondered how she was doing on her own.

***************************

Christine looked in the mirror. Her skin was grayish under the tan she had acquired. There were dark circles under her eyes. She had not slept, other than to nap when she was exhausted, for days now. She had started a research project to keep her busy during the night for she found that the dreams seemed to be worse after the sun went down. She immersed herself in biochemistry and stumbled out to the deck in the early mornings when she had to finally acknowledge sleep's call.

She missed Spock terribly. He had been a constant in her life since the coma. Even when he had been emotionally pulling away from her he had still been physically present. She was finding it difficult to go on without him. But she had to. There was no alternative.

******************************

The frigate beamed him directly to his neighborhood. He saw the back wall of the house, the intricate carvings that marked his bloodline on the sandstone. Palming the door he made his way into the back garden. It was showing signs of neglect. It was the first indication he had of the state of his mother's condition. She had lavished care on this garden. He took a deep breath as he opened the door to the house.

The house seemed empty. No sounds of life could be heard. For a moment Spock was afraid he was too late. But then he heard a low murmuring. He followed the noise to his parent's bedroom. And saw a sight that he knew he would carry with him forever.

His father sat next to the bed, leaning over his mother. Stroking her forehead with one hand, holding her hand with the other. His face was very near to hers. And he was singing, low and deep. His voice would occasionally break. His mother had her eyes closed. Her breathing was harsh, the rise and fall of her chest painfully slow. Sarek occasionally rested his hand on the meld point, at that instant his song would cease and there would be silence, then he would resume his caresses and take up the melody again.

Spock backed away silently, unwilling to intrude or to embarrass his father. He honestly never had understood his parent's relationship. Now it seemed painfully simple. Why had he been unable to recognize love?

He walked back to the door and opened it, letting it close loudly behind him. He called out, "Father? Mother?"

"Spock?" Sarek's voice held surprise. He came out immediately. "Spock." He enfolded his son in a strong hug, then took hold of himself, pulling away sharply. "I beg forgiveness. I am emotional these days."

"There is no need to apologize. I found the embrace appropriate to the situation. How is mother?"

Sarek's face fell. "She is holding on, but barely. It will not be long now." He reached out, lay his hand on his son's arm. "She will be so glad you are here."

They walked together to the sick room. Sarek moved to the other side of the bed. "Amanda. My wife. Our son has come home for a visit."

Amanda slowly opened her eyes and looked at Spock in disbelief. As she realized he was really there, her whole being was suffused with joy. "Spock." She held out her hand and he took it without hesitation. "Oh Spock. I didn't think I would get to see you again."

Sarek swallowed hard. "I will leave you two alone to talk."

"You do not have to, Father."

Their eyes met and held. Father and son, both facing the loss of something crucial to their happiness. A look of complete understanding passed between them.

"Appreciated, my son. Nevertheless, I will give you some time alone."

As his father left, Spock turned to his mother. "Are you in pain?"

"No. The medicine they give me is quite effective. Although I am given to understand it is shortening my life. One of life's little ironies." She looked at him in concern. "I thought you would be with Christine. Did she not make it?"

"Christine will be fine. She woke up and is going to recover. It was she that insisted I leave her and come to you."

Amanda smiled. "I always liked that one, Spock. Have you fallen in love with her yet?"

Spock looked slightly scandalized. "Mother."

"Ohhhh. I see by your expression that you have." She smiled at him again. "If you two know as much love as your father and I have, Spock, you will indeed be fortunate." Her smile faded as a sudden pain took her.

"Mother?"

"Oh don't look so afraid, Spock. I'm not going to die the minute you get here. Call your father, though. I think I need some more pain medication."

He rose dutifully and was about to get Sarek but then changed his mind and turned back to the bed. He leaned over her and gently kissed her cheek.

She smiled at him tenderly. "What was that for?"

He gave her a real smile. "Because I love you. Very, very much."

***************************

The comm unit rang and Christine rushed to get it. It was Spock. He looked haggard.

"Spock?"

His look was bleak. "She is gone, Christine." He sat down heavily. "My father has taken her to the place of preparation."

"I'm so sorry, Spock." She felt helpless to be of any comfort. She was in bad shape herself. Her sleepless nights had continued in the week he had been gone. She knew that she looked terrible and hoped the connection would not convey this. She did not want him to worry about her. "But you had the chance to be there for her. I'm sure that meant so much to her."

He nodded. "And to me too. I thank you for making me come. It was the right thing to do. For her, for me, and for my father."

"Things are going ok with him?"

"Yes. We have been united in our care for her. It is as if, given the enormity of what we are going through, the other things that drove us apart no longer matter. We only have each other now."

She felt a sting. "And me."

He looked instantly contrite. "Yes, of course. My words are not accurate. It is the grief."

She felt guilty now. "I know, Spock. I wish there was something I could do for you."

"Just be there when I return. That is the greatest gift you can give me."

She smiled at him. "I'll be here."

He turned to look off screen. "My father has returned. I must go assist him. I will be home in a week."

She felt relief; soon she would not be alone. "I'll be waiting for you."

*************************

Spock sat in the shuttle, exhausted to the very core. The first few days after his mother's death had been nothing but planning and rituals. There had been no time to think, to grieve even. Then he had stayed on, to make sure his father would start a new routine.

As the days had passed he had found that his newfound accord with Sarek was starting to melt away. The old patterns were beginning to reestablish themselves, only in new ways, as there was no Amanda to fill the space between them. Nature abhors a vacuum, he mused.

He did not feel anger. This was perhaps the way it would always be between his father and him. And he knew that those days they had spent together watching over his mother would always be with them. Hopefully strong enough to prevent them from ever being pulled completely apart again.

"Spacedock in five minutes," the computer announced. Spock gathered his things and headed for the exit. He felt the gentle bump of docking then was caught up in the flow of people streaming out of the shuttle and toward the transporter pads.

Christine was not expecting him. He had decided to surprise her. He found that he could barely wait to see her. At first he had felt guilty for feeling excited about beginning a relationship with one woman while still mourning the loss of another. The emotions seemed too contradictory. But during the shuttle ride he had managed to forge a peace between his warring emotions and decided he could be both sad and happy. Illogical as it sounded at first.

The first pad sent him to Tampa, then he took another to Clearwater and caught a beach transit for the ride out to the house. It was slow and he fought the urge to tap his foot impatiently. Finally his stop came into view and he was up and off the car quickly. He hurried to their house and then walked quietly onto the deck.

She was in the chaise lounge, sleeping. His breath caught at the sight of her. She looked ill again.

He set down his bags and walked over to her slowly. "Christine?" he whispered.

She jerked awake, "Spock?"

He just stared at her for a moment, taking in the dark circles, the haunted expression. I should not have left her, he thought guiltily. He reached out for her and she threw herself into his arms. He could feel her trembling.

"Christine. I am home."

It was her turn to stare at him. "You look as tired as I feel. Come here." She moved over and he settled down beside her. "Oh, Spock. I've missed you so."

He pulled her to him, tightened his arms around her. "As I have missed you, love."

They lay quietly together, fully intending to say more, but in minutes they were both fast asleep.

***************************

The first few drops of a gathering rainstorm woke them. Christine hurried off the deck. She saw Spock stop to grab his bags. He made it in just as the deluge began. They watched out of the window as the gulf turned gray and choppy and the sky lit up. She could feel him behind her, then his arms came around her again.

His voice was low and deep. "It is how I feel. The storm. I feel wounded and I feel renewed. Such violence inside me with the warring of my emotions."

She leaned back into him. "Did you have to hide some of yourself there? On Vulcan I mean. Did you have to grieve in a manner other than what came naturally?"

"I am not sure. Certainly I was aware that the eyes of the planet were upon me at the services. That I was being judged. But I do not know that I would have behaved in any other manner than what I showed to them."

"That must have been frustrating. And distracting. Worrying more about how you were showing the grief than the grief itself."

They both jumped at a loud boom of thunder. "It was distracting. And annoying. Why should they watch me so closely? I was not going to betray the Vulcan way."

She turned in his arms. Gave him a searching look. "Aren't *I* a betrayal of the Vulcan way?"

He stared at her. "Yes."

"Does that bother you?"

There was no hesitation. "No."

She felt a great weight lift. His face was so close to hers. Giving in to her urges she gently kissed him on the cheek. She was surprised when he turned his face so that her next kiss landed on his lips. She felt his arms tighten around her and suddenly she was no longer in control of the situation. His lips on hers were relentless, passionate and a little desperate. His body hard against hers. She suddenly felt trapped in his arms.

A memory came rushing back. Then another. And another. Panic overwhelmed her. "No!" She tried to flee. "Let me go. Stop!"

She felt Spock's arms release her. "Christine? It's all right. I won't hurt you."

She had backed into the corner by the window. There were tears in her eyes. She jumped as another crack of thunder sounded. The memory receded. This was Spock. This was not an Amingeran. He would not hurt her.

He moved toward her slowly. "Christine?" His hand was outstretched. She grabbed it and held tight. He stopped suddenly. He looked very far away. Then he refocused his gaze on hers. She expected to see distaste or pity. She saw only compassion and love. "I did not realize. Please forgive me."

She broke down then. "I had forgotten. They hurt me so bad, Spock. In the torture chair. And then later, too. They were always at me. I couldn't get away. How could I have forgotten?"

She felt his arms come around her gingerly, and her heart broke at his hesitation. "If they keep us apart like this, Spock, then they win. They will always win."

His voice was gentle but his words were fierce. "They will not win, Christine. Now that we know, we will beat them. Together. You are my love." His hands gently moved down her back. "I will not let them haunt you. We will fight them together."

"How?"

He pulled her down to the couch with him. Held her tight as they watched the storm. "Slowly. We will fight them slowly. And we will fight them with love."

She relaxed in the familiar feel of his arms around her. She was safe. "I love you, Spock."

She felt his lips on her forehead. "As I love you, Christine."

***************************

They sat together for some time, neither saying a word. Spock was content just to hold her. Feeling her fighting him, afraid of him, when he had expected her to respond to their shared passion had been one of the worst moments of his life. He had felt the fear pouring off of her. Had understood as soon as she took his hand. The bond that had grown between them allowed him to experience her fear and its cause although he could not see into her memories.

As if she were reading his mind, Christine asked, "How could I have forgotten something so awful?"

"The mind works in strange ways. You may have done that to protect yourself. Or perhaps they did it through some aspect of the torture. I do not know."

"It was awful, Spock. I don't know if I can ever make you understand."

He thought long and hard about his next words. "There is a way."

She tensed in his arms. "A meld?"

"Yes."

"You would do that?"

"To understand, yes I would. I think I could also help you. Move the memories away from you a bit. Help you with the fear. If you'll trust me."

She looked up at him. "You know I trust you."

He kissed her gently again on the forehead. "There are many levels of trust, Christine. I will be asking you to trust me completely." He could feel her uncertainty.

"Will it hurt you if I ask for time to think about it?"

"No. Take all the time you need." He watched as she yawned. "Now you need to sleep. Come let's go to bed."

"Are you tired?"

"Not really. But I will be happy to hold you as you sleep. It is something that I thought about often when I was on Vulcan. When I became overwhelmed with sadness or with grief I would pull out the memory of our time together and try to experience the feel of you in my arms, the slow beating of your heart, the sound of your breathing, the smell of your hair, of your skin. It was my sanity."

She gave him a tender smile, her eyes brimming with tears. Her hand reached up to stroke his cheek and he leaned into her gentle touch. "You are so sweet, Spock. I never knew that."

He rose, pulled her off the couch and led her into the bedroom. "There is much for us to discover about the other." Moments after they lay down together she was asleep.

Spock stared into the night, holding Christine, thinking of the last moments with his mother. He felt his eyes tear up and did not try to fight the sadness that overcame him. It was acceptable to grieve. He was human as well as Vulcan. Here, with this woman, he was safe to be both.

Hours later he was just drifting off when he felt Christine tense in his arms. She began to moan, then to cry out. "No, please. Please don't hurt me. Don't touch me." She fought against his arms and he let her go immediately. Trying to wake her he had to duck to avoid her thrashing limbs.

He called for lights then lightly shook her. "Christine! Wake up. You are safe."

She woke almost instantly. For a moment she stared about her wildly then she recognized him. "Oh god, Spock. They won't stop. The nightmares won't stop. Help me?"

He reached for her face and she startled back. "Trust me, Christine." He recalled that the last meld he had experienced had been with Valeris. Perhaps this would be his atonement then for the viciousness of that act. His fingers found the correct points and gently started the meld. "Our minds are one."

"Help me," she whispered just before calming.

He hovered just at the entrance to her mind. Fear assailed him. From every direction there came pain, hurt, guilt, shame, and stark terror. *Christine. I am here.* He waited for her response before he moved on.

*Spock. Help me.*

He pushed forward and as he did the memories fought him. As if they were fighting an invader. He understood then. This too was part of the torture. These memories were meant to haunt her, to eventually drive her mad. There was a reason no one survived the aftermath and he had just found it. That she had gone on this far was testament to her own strength.

*Christine. I will fight them. Move back. Find a safe place. Stay there.*

He could sense she did not understand completely but she took refuge in happy childhood memories and left him standing alone among the fragments of emotion that faced him. *Show me,* he ordered them.

Suddenly he was overwhelmed as they threw themselves at him. Agony, physical pain such as he had never known, mental terror as the mind slipped further into madness, violation at the deepest levels, never a moment's peace. He imagined a phaser in his hand and began to fire at the images. At first there was no effect but he kept shooting, letting his anger and his love for the woman that suffered become the energy that fired the gun.

And eventually the memories began to move back. He forced them on. Away from her conscious mind. Into her subconscious. To the place they should have been all along. He fired until they began to lose form. Became just memories, not active tormentors.

*Christine, come here.* He sensed her presence near him. *Look.*

*I can't.*

*You can. Look closely at them.*

She moved next to him and gazed at her past. *It hurts. Too sharp. Always there.*

*Which ones are too sharp?* He imagined a filing tool and handed it to her. *Take care of the sharp edges.*

She walked to the nearest memory, began to file down edges only she saw. Tears fell as she did so. She moved on to the next, then the next. She stopped suddenly, dropped the file and wrapped her arms around herself. *So cold.*

He imagined a flame-thrower. Moved to stand next to her. *Show me where.*

She pointed and he burned the memory in his path. She screamed but pointed somewhere else and he fired there too. She groaned and indicated a last memory and he set that too ablaze. She only moaned slightly.

He dropped the weapon, turned to her. *More?*

She looked around, walked among the memories. Tears ran down her face as she let the truth of each take her over for a moment. *Will they ever go away?*

*Eventually. But they are just memories now. We have destroyed the demons that the Amingerans left. You can move on now. Slowly perhaps, but you are free.*

She walked back to him. *I was dying inside wasn't I?*

*Yes. I should have realized. But you are so strong. You hid it from me.* He took her in his arms. *I would have died if you had left me.*

She pulled him into consciousness and he opened his eyes to find her gazing at him with love. "I'm not leaving you, Spock. Someday. But not yet."

"That is a good thing, t'hy'la." He felt a rush of emotion as he called her the endearment for the first time.

She smiled at him. "Now finish helping me, Spock."

He looked at her in confusion.

She reached for him. "If we take it slow, if we watch out for the memories, I think we can do this. Make love to me, Spock."

He felt concern fill him. But it was warring with passion. And fear that she would reject him again. "Are you sure. We should not rush into this."

She pulled him down to her. Found his lips.

The feel of her flesh on his was amazing. He returned her kiss. Then was startled to feel her in his mind. The meld was still active and she had found a way back in. How strong was this woman he loved? *T'hy'la.*

*Love me, Spock. After all this time. Finally. Love me.*

***************************

Christine felt him hesitate. He was still unsure. So she pushed him over onto his back, crawled on top of him. *Love me,* she pleaded.

He pulled her face down to his. She sensed him through the meld. He wanted her. His passion ignited her own. She felt fear too, but his love had burned a path through that. He was hers. *Love me, forever, Spock. Please?*

She felt his fingers tighten on the meld points, then relax. *You do not know what you ask, Christine.*

She felt him pulling away both physically and mentally. *No!! Don't leave me. Do it, Spock. Do it now. Make us one. Make it impossible for anyone to ever separate us.*

She grabbed his face, kissed him desperately. *I love you. Only you. Make me yours.*

And then she felt a fire in her mind. A fire that burned but did not harm. His mind was ablaze as he gave up fighting her. She felt the bond starting and cried out in triumph. *Yes.*

*Parted from me and never parting. Always and never touching and touched.* His words in her mind left a trail of fire, of lightning, then, as it cooled somewhat, one of starlight. .

*My husband.* She began to rip off his clothes.

*My wife,* he acknowledged as he helped her disrobe him. Then they turned their attention to her clothing.

When they both lay naked he rolled her over and covered her body with his own. She felt the fear threaten, could sense him pulling back to see if she wished to continue. *Go away,* she told the hated emotion. *Go away and leave me alone.*

Spock's lips were on hers again as he slowly joined their bodies for the first time. The passion rushing through the bond nearly sent her into unconsciousness. Such depth of feeling inside him. She had never realized. She quit holding back her own emotions, sent them back down the bond to collide with his own. The moment of impact left them both reeling. Their bodies were moving of their own accord now. Pleasure suffusing them both as each sensed what the other needed. Her body succumbed first to the onslaught. Her cries were loud as she came in his arms.

*My love,* he sent to her as her body spasmed under his. The backlash of pleasure from her sent him over the edge too. *Christine!* His mental cry was matched by a loud shout. He relaxed against her, then began to move away.

Her arms held him prisoner as she urged, "Stay with me." She kissed him gently, brushing back his sweat-damp hair. She practiced speaking through the new mental link. *Don't leave me.*

He kissed her back, tenderly at first, then more passionately. As he began to move inside of her again, she heard his mind voice, rich with love, *Never leave you, Christine. Never ever leave.*

FIN