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

Negotiations by Djinn

The reception was in full swing by the time Spock beamed down to the planet. Making his way through Buraskii merrymakers, he searched the crowd for the members of his delegation. Among the colorful and elaborate robes worn by the Buraskii he could pick out the more sedate dress uniforms of the Federation contingent. He made his way to those nearest him.

"Mr. Spock, thank goodness you've arrived." McCoy motioned him closer. "The Buraskii chief healer has been asking for you. She has some additional questions for you about whatever it was she cornered you on the last time."

Spock ignored the doctor's ribbing. He knew McCoy enjoyed seeing him interact with the smitten alien. He treated Dotura with courtesy but avoided being alone with her whenever possible. He had to play this delicately, though. He could not afford to offend her, not when she was a key player in getting approval for the trade agreement. An agreement that could be the first step toward Federation membership. Fortunately, Dotura, who made no attempt to hide her interest in him, was easily distracted by the opportunity to interact with her Federation counterparts. A fact he used frequently to effect graceful escapes.

The Buraskii were a highly advanced race. They had been aware of the Federation for some time, and medical representatives traveled offworld frequently. The culture valued healers highly, and there were a vast number of them on Burask. The Buraskii healers had studied other species as well as their own and were often found offworld, working on plague worlds, investigating epidemics. They could always be found wherever there was suffering. And, as healers, they enjoyed a neutrality that allowed them to move freely through most of the worlds in the quadrant.

In the weeks that Spock's delegation had been working with the Buraskii, he had learned much of the planet and its people. They valued logic as much as empathy. It was a fascinating dichotomy to him. To a person, every Buraskii he had interacted with was highly analytical, extremely precise in speech, and at first glance reserved in manner. Yet at the same time, he could sense an undercurrent of high emotion, an energy that emanated from each of them. When speaking of medical matters, the conversations, though highly technical, were also marked by a certain passion. The speakers often became animated as the conversation went on and used touch to emphasize their points. Spock found himself envying those he interacted with for the ease with which they blended the different aspects of their personality. It was something he continued to struggle with, even after many years.

Spock had insisted that the delegation consist of senior medical personnel. Starfleet had agreed, sending twenty of their best researchers and specialists from a variety of Federation medical schools. He was gratified to observe frequent interaction between the Buraskii and his people. Interactions characterized by a high level of professional excitement as the healers exchanged ideas, theories, and favorite treatments and cures. There was little of the awkwardness generally present at diplomatic exchanges. When this mission was over, he would have to send a memo commending Starfleet on its selections.

He looked out over the crowds again, trying to pinpoint Dotura's location. She was off near where the orchestra would eventually play, engaged in an intense conversation with one of his researchers. He turned back to McCoy. "The Chief Healer seems quite fascinated by Dr. Zarthakh. I believe I am safe for now, Doctor."

A quietly amused voice joined the conversation, "Safe from what?"

Spock felt an illogical pang of emotion as he turned to look at the newcomer. "Dr. Chapel, how is the evening progressing?"

"You didn't answer the question, and fine." Christine smiled back at Spock.

He had not expected her to be included in the delegation, had not seen her for some time. He had even felt some trepidation when he saw her name on the list. But since she arrived he had realized he had underestimated both her professional knowledge and her interpersonal skills. Her medical knowledge, both research and applied, made her a welcome addition to any exchange. And she had won the Buraskii over with her charm and quiet manner.

Christine had been invited for private dinners to many of her counterpart's homes. Spock had accompanied her on several of these visits and was impressed with how easily she fit into the new environment. Despite being one of the junior members of the team, she had become Spock's de facto deputy, often bringing him vital pieces of information that she had garnered through her personal contacts.

"The general mood is excellent. The healers are very excited about having a permanent cultural exchange with us once the agreement is signed. And they do expect the agreement to be signed. Dotura has been championing it to the High Council, and no glitches are expected." She scanned the crowd for a moment. "I see the Chief Healer has abandoned you for Dr. Zarthakh."

"So it would seem." Spock ignored McCoy's snort. "Have you eaten yet, Doctor?"

McCoy started to answer and Spock stopped him with a look. "Since you are holding a plate of remnants, Doctor, it is obvious you have eaten. I was addressing Dr. Chapel."

McCoy just laughed, "Didn't want to eat with you anyway, Spock. I've got a date with a certain touch therapist. Don't wait up for me."

As McCoy left them, Spock inclined his head. "Shall we?" When Christine smiled in assent, he felt a surge of satisfaction as well as another emotion, harder to categorize. He analyzed the feeling for a moment and identified it as anticipation.

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

Spock led the way to the buffet table that had been set out near the gardens. As he and Christine maneuvered through the crowd, he caught the eye of McCoy, who was sitting quite close to an attractive Buraskii. Spock ignored the wink McCoy threw at him but he heard Christine chuckle behind him. A few steps later they passed Dotura and Zarthakh also sitting very close. As he continued on, he turned to speak to Christine and caught the end of Dotura's wink to her. Turning back around he resisted the impulse to comment and heard Christine chuckle again.

At the buffet they filled their plates with Buraskii and Federation delicacies. It was apparent that their hosts were trying to make all feel welcome. Christine stopped at the beverage table to get a glass of the local specialty. "Do you want some latha, Spock," she asked innocently. Spock surprised her and himself by saying yes. They had served the drink at several dinners, and while it was delicious it was also quite potent. He had limited himself to just a few sips but now decided to take one of the very large formal glasses. He glanced at the tables nearest to them; most were filled with people obviously having a very good and loud time. Out in the gardens there were other tables set up in a way to encourage quieter-- Spock avoided thinking the word intimate--discussion. He could tell Christine was surprised when he led her to one of these tables.

"Spock, you're the head of our delegation, shouldn't you be mingling? Out there, I mean. With the rest of the people?"

"Would you prefer that arrangement to this?" he asked quite seriously. He had picked a table near a small fountain under one of the many Buraskii trees. Small white flowers fragranced the whole area. Spock tasted his latha. "I do not believe we have really talked in some time."

Christine laughed and then cut it short when he looked offended. "I'm sorry, Spock, but I don't believe we've ever really talked at all." She gave him a gentle smile to soften the words.

"No, I suppose we have not. That, I have come to see, is my great loss." Spock could see her react to his words, surprise written on her face. Then she smiled again, the serene and confident smile she seemed to wear so often now. A smile he realized that he had come to treasure. "You have changed since we last served together."

"You mean other than the hair color," she joked.

"Yes," he agreed. Then he looked at her with some concern, "Is it required to comment on your hair? Human females appear to value such discussion?"

"We don't have to discuss my hair color, Spock. And you're right, I have changed, I think."

"You appear to have found peace?"

"I have, ever since I returned to Earth, got back into medical research. It was always what I wanted to do. From the time I was little, I dreamed of being in medicine. When the kids all played doctor, well I really was...playing doctor." She laughed at his puzzled look. "Trust me when I say that explaining that would be a long story."

"We appear to have plenty of time," Spock offered.

"Ask McCoy sometime how he *played doctor* when he was young. I'm sure you will find it fascinating. What I was getting at was that I had always had this goal to be a doctor, and in school I discovered how much I loved research. I was exactly where I wanted to be. I was practically finished when Roger was lost. I didn't stop to think. I went over to Starfleet, qualified for a nursing position, and set out to find him. And I nearly lost myself in the process. I can't regret the time I spent on the Enterprise, because I learned so much in the way of practical experience. But nursing didn't challenge me, and I was bored. I couldn't find the satisfaction I needed in my work so I threw myself at you. I've never actually told you how much I regret making you uncomfortable all those years. I'm sorry that I tried to press my feeling on you."

"So you no longer have those feelings?" The words were out before he could call them back. They stared at each other for a moment, lost in the uncomfortable sensation of arriving somewhere that neither had intended to go. A familiar laugh jolted them both back to reality. Spock looked around nervously for Dotura, but though he could hear her, she was not in view.

"You can relax about her, you know," Christine assured him. At his confused look, she continued. "Spock, she's been having a torrid affair with Zarthakh practically since we arrived. She only pretended to be interested in you." She saw that she was not convincing him. "She was afraid that you would send him away. That you would disapprove. So she diverted your attention by pretending to be interested in you. And I think she enjoyed seeing you squirm. She is quite devious in case you didn't realize."

"Why would she think I would disapprove? And how do you know all of this?"

"Dotura and I have become quite good friends. She told me about her relationship with Zarthakh many weeks ago. But she wanted me to keep it from you. To those who don't know you, you are rather...well...stiff. Forbidding. Disapproving."

He was surprised to find himself irritated with this assessment. "And you, do you find me disapproving?"

"Spock, I saw you right after you dropped out of the Kolinahr school, remember? You're like a teddy bear compared to that."

"That is an evasive answer. Do you think me cold?"

Christine was saved from answering by the breathless arrival of Dotura. She was laughing as she ran up to her friend and whispered something in her ear that made Christine grin. Dotura looked over at Spock's unamused look and said coyly, "Ah, the delegation head is annoyed with me? Will you not forgive me my little deception?"

"I doubt that I have much choice, chief healer. I do need your assistance to get the trade agreement signed."

Dotura pouted and leaned over to Christine, "The dancing is just starting and I expect to see you out there! If *he* won't dance, find someone else. I happen to know there are several nice Buraskii doctors that would love to spend more time with you." Gathering up her dignity and with a final "hmmppff" of faux disdain, Dotura went back to the party.

"She is quite dramatic," Spock observed.

Christine laughed in agreement. "She means no harm, Spock. She's had a lot of latha and she is drowning in her own happiness. Ignore her."

"I believe that would be the prudent thing to do. But something she said is I think you would say bothering me." Spock leaned forward, capturing Christine's gaze with his.

She tried to look away and failed. "What would that be," she asked quietly.

Spock leaned in, "She said that there were many men waiting to dance with you. I disapprove of that."

Christine couldn't hide her surprise, "Why?"

Spock slid out of his chair and stood over her. "Because I intended to dance with you."

She sat stunned until he reached out to her to help her up. "You want to dance with me?"

His eyebrow rose quizzically. "I believe that is what I said, Doctor."

"Call me Christine."

He nodded. "Christine, will you dance with me?"

She suddenly smiled at him, a smile he felt in every part of his body. "Yes, Spock, I'll dance with you."

He pressed on, "All night?"

She swallowed, "Every dance?"

He found himself intensely interested in her answer. "Unless you wish to sit some out?"

"Oh," she was stunned. "Well, yes, that would be an acceptable arrangement."

"Excellent," he said, as he led her off to join the rest of the dancers.

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

Spock and Christine had barely started dancing, when the music stopped. A man made his way up to the orchestra dais and they recognized the head of the High Council. "Esteemed ones, honored guests, I have an announcement to make." A hush fell over the crowd. "It is with great pleasure that I can say that the council unanimously approved the trade agreement with the Federation. If it is agreeable to the head of the Federation delegation, I would like to sign the agreement now, before too much more latha has been enjoyed."

The crowd laughed at this, and Spock went to join him on stage. "Today is a historic day," the councilman said as he approved the agreement on the pad.

Spock added his approval and said, "Indeed a great day for both our people." The crowd erupted into applause.

Making his way back to Christine, Spock passed by Dotura. She stopped him with a gentle touch. "Thank you for all that you have done for us, Spock." He bowed his head in reply. Dotura smiled back, "I won't keep you, someone is waiting."

"Wait a cotton-pickin' minute, Spock." McCoy came from the crowd to stand in front of Spock. "I think you could spend a little bit of time showing just one iota of appreciation for the work that we've done, especially Christine. Not every one is an unemotional, green-blooded, what?" he trailed off as Dotura frantically tried to stop his diatribe.

"Spock was just leaving, he was dancing..." she looked at him meaningfully.

"Spock. Was dancing. With someone? Spock?"

"Yes," Dotura replied with a menacing glance, "and I'm sure he wants to get back to his partner." She practically pulled McCoy off his feet in her haste to get him away from Spock. He turned around a moment later and saw Spock make his way to Christine. They started dancing.

"Well, I'll be damned," he smiled broadly. Seeing his date watching him fondly, he walked over to her. "My dear, I have just seen something that I've been hoping to see for some time. I think this calls for a drink, preferably a couple, and preferably in private. Do you have any ideas?" He laughed as she snagged a bottle of latha from a passing waiter and dragged him off to her quarters.

Spock was feeling ambivalent about the finalization of the trade agreement. He was gratified that they had arrived at a mutually satisfying resolution, but found himself sorry that the negotiations were over. As he danced with Christine, he realized that he might not see her again for some time. And he realized that this thought made him unhappy. "Christine, I want to express my gratitude for all you have done. You were instrumental in the success of this mission."

"I enjoyed it here, Spock. Everything about this mission has been satisfying."

"Yes, satisfying." He could not ignore how it felt to hold Christine in his arms. How it would feel not to have her near. "You will return to Starbase 14 with the others tomorrow?" He felt her nod. Holding her, he could sense her emotions. She was sad. "And then back to Earth?"

Christine said. "Back to work. I'll miss this place. And you. I've enjoyed getting to know you, Spock. All those years on the Enterprise, I never really knew you."

"Nor I, you." He felt the rush of her emotion and pulled her closer.

"Maybe we'll get another mission together? Who knows?" Christine decided to change the subject before she betrayed her own emotions, "Spock, you dance really well. I guess I'm surprised."

"My mother insisted I learn. She and my father had many discussions over this. She finally emerged victorious by convincing him that ballroom dancing was a lost cultural art. A thing practically sacred to her people."

"A lie."

"An exaggeration. In any event, she taught me to dance. Although I must admit, I have never really put her lessons to use until now. I felt some uncertainty as to my skill level."

"You don't have to worry about that, Spock. You're doing fine."

Feeling unaccountably pleased by her comment, Spock dared, "Perhaps it is because I am dancing with you." She didn't respond, but he felt her hand tighten around his neck.

They danced in silence for a while. Spock pulled her closer and Christine tucked her head into his shoulder. "You smell like the white flowers we sat by tonight," he said.

"They make a perfume from them. Dotura gave me a bottle. It is intoxicating, I think."

He moved his head till he was whispering in her ear. "As a Vulcan I can only give an honest assessment. The perfume is pleasing. You are intoxicating."

He felt her stiffen in his arms. He could suddenly sense very real distress coming from her.

"Christine, you think that I could not be serious about such a thing. I can sense your confusion. And I can sense your attraction. Can you not sense mine as well? Why have my words upset you?"

She tried to pull away but he held her. "Spock, is it the latha? This does not seem like you. It is sudden and unexpected. Not unwelcome but ... you see I wanted this for so long ... and I had to give it up and now you are saying this and..."

She trailed off. He could feel her conflicting emotion.

"I did not mean to distress you. I have said what I wanted to say. I will not rush you into anything."

"So this is not a matter of some urgency?" She looked down, then back up at him. Quietly, almost inaudibly, she continued, "If this is the Pon Farr you should know I would do anything in my power to help you. I would only ask that you not pretend to feel something you don't."

He realized he should have expected this reaction. He was only slightly less surprised than she was at his overtures to her. "It is not the Pon Farr nor will it be for some time. I say the things I do probably because the latha has gone to my head and it is giving me the freedom to speak, to say what I have been thinking...and feeling...for weeks. Perhaps I have not made clear how this time on Burask has made me appreciate you, made me realize that I should have taken more time to get to know you when we were both on the Enterprise."

Realizing that they had stopped dancing, he pulled her back into the movement. He still felt her hesitation. "Christine, do you trust me?"

She was silent for a moment, then whispered back, "Yes."

"I can let you feel what I am feeling. Not as in a bond. But we are touching and if I lower my mental shields, you will be able to judge for yourself what I feel. Do you want to do this?"

"We can do it right here?" He could feel her hope, the longer they were dancing the more of her emotions he could feel. They were strong but curiously they did not repel him.

"It will take but a second. Just keep dancing." And he dropped his shields and purposefully projected his thoughts and feelings along the same conduit that was feeding him hers. For a few seconds she was helpless in the emotions that bombarded her. His respect for her medical skills, his admiration of the way she had handled this assignment, his gratitude for all the help she had provided to him. And finally his affection for her, a new thing, fragile in its way. She could destroy it if she wanted, he was offering that to her. He felt the moment that she quit doubting, when she allowed joy to emerge. Just before he raised his barriers he sent her one last thought, "I prefer your hair this color."

Christine, despite the overwhelming emotions that were battering her, laughed. Spock's hand tightened on hers as he felt her delight. He could also feel some lingering uncertainty. He sensed that she could not bring herself to ask him what the next step would be.

"I am coming to Earth next month. I have a meeting with Starfleet command to discuss a teaching position at the academy. I have some leave saved. If you would like to spend some time together, I can arrange my schedule to accommodate it."

She pulled away long enough to look at him. His eyes were tender and she suddenly had to fight back tears. He sensed her emotion and pulled her tightly back into his arms.

"That would be acceptable," she replied.

"Excellent," Spock replied with much satisfaction.

FIN

The story continues. Read Transitions.