Part 1, #61: Fantasy

"Where the hell am I?"

Those were Christine's first words in she didn't know how long. All she knew was she felt groggy, disorientated and like someone had rubbed the inside of her brain and mouth with cotton. She tried to open her eyes, but they informed her that they weren't up to the task yet. So she settled for carefully checking herself over by feel and touch.

Nothing seemed broken, cracked: she had no pain or any other negative symptoms. Except for the muzzy feeling. Even that was beginning to recede. As her long fingers ran over her prone form, she became aware that there was delicious warmth caressing her entire body. It felt like… sunlight. But it couldn't be! The last thing she remembered was being in sickbay, getting ready to give the captain and Mr. Spock a vaccination for Larl's Disease. And last time she checked, there were no sunny spots in sickbay.

As she became more alert, she grew aware of other things: the sound of water, the cries of birds. It sounded wonderful and relaxing… and therefore it scared the shit out of her. She sat up, slowly and carefully, and equally slowly coaxed her bleary eyes to open. What she saw made her close them again so fast she winced. She drew a deep breath, then opened them again to look around her in confusion, staring numbly at the sight that met her incredulous eyes.

"You have GOT to be kidding me."

Christine shook her head. I must be hallucinating, she thought. But it was real: if the sun warming her body was any indication. She knew a hallucination couldn't also cause that soothing heat. So… it was real. And bad. And beautiful.

She was, for all intents and purposes, sitting alone on a beach: watching purple waves tinged with silver pulse against lilac sand. The sun overhead spread fiery yellow-blue light across the sky, and the few clouds she could see were a shimmering, pale green. It was a view that took her breath away, for more than one reason.

She stood up, shading her eyes as she looked around further. About fifteen meters to her right was a cluster of coppery rocks: some about a meter high, some three. A feathered, winged animal vaguely resembling a gull swooped down just over her head, causing her to give a startled cry. As it soared back into the sky she heard a moan coming from the rocks.

Christine tensed reflexively. She had no weapon, no medikit: nothing. She knew some basic self-defense, but was no expert. As she cast her eyes around, frantically searching for something to use to defend herself, the moan came again. This time it was louder, more alert,, and biting her lip, she slowly approached the cropping of stones. Whoever it was could be hurt. And maybe they'd know what happened. Or, it could be a trap. Either way, she had to do something.

She moved for the highest part of the rocks, where she could be hidden from view, and slowly peeked around. On the sand lay a prone male figure, dressed in Starfleet uniform as she was. And even though the head was down, covered by the arms, she knew who it was as surely as she knew her name. And the knowledge filled her with both relief and apprehension.

Fuck, she swore silently, barely managing not to say the word aloud.

It was Mr. Spock.

Gingerly, she crouched beside him, probing for injuries. Like her, he seemed unharmed, and she carefully turned him onto his back. As she touched him, he moaned once more and his eyes opened, staring straight at her, confusion evident in his otherwise placid expression.

"Are you all right, Mr. Spock?" Christine asked softly.

He glanced down, then back up, as though assessing himself internally. "I am undamaged, Miss Chapel," he replied, turning his head to look around. "I am, however, at a loss to explain our situation."

"You and me both," she replied with a faint, worried smile.

He raised an eyebrow in acknowledgement, then slowly sat up, dark eyes searching the sky. "I do not recognize this sun," he said quietly, and Christine's heart sank. If Spock didn't recognize something, they were in trouble. She shoved the feeling away as she told him: "I woke up pretty much the same way you did. We're on a beach. I haven't seen anything—or anyone—else."

He nodded, standing up and walking around the side of the rocks. She followed him, closing her eyes for a moment as the reality of their situation hit her. She was alone on a beautiful beach with Spock. No one around. Just her and him. If not for the fact that it wasn't their choice, it would have been a fantasy come true…

"Miss Chapel?"

Christine opened her eyes to see him studying her quizzically. "Are you all right?"

She nodded. "I'm fine, Mr. Spock. Well, as fine as I can be under the circumstances," she added.

He inclined his head in agreement. "Indeed. This is an unfortunate predicament." He looked up at the sky again, then swept his eyes along the shore, the sunlight gleaming off his sleek black hair. She wrapped her arms around herself, shivering despite the warmth of the sun. He looked back at her. "What do you remember, Miss Chapel?"

She shrugged. "Not much. I was in sickbay, getting ready to give you and the captain your shots. Then everything is a blank until I woke up here."

He nodded. "I had a similar experience," he said. He copied her gesture of crossing his arms over his chest, a slight frown marring his features. "Our first order to business will be to—"

He broke off, both of them hearing the noise at the same time. It was a metallic whine, but not like a transporter. A form blinked and solidified within a few seconds about ten meters in front of them.

The closest analogy Christine could think of was that it looked like a ghost. It was bipedal, almost humanoid in form, so pale it was almost translucent. It didn't seem to stand so much as hover, and appeared to be about two and a half meters tall. It wore nothing except a bracelet set with jewels, and it had no discernable sexual features. Burning blue eyes studied them, eyes that contained no discernable sclera or iris but looked to be a solid, teardrop shaped organ. Large, milk colored lips twisted and opened, but no sound came out.

Spock stepped forward, but before he could get even one word out it touched a jewel, waved a hand at him and he found himself immobile and mute. It repeated the gesture, and he suspected it had done the same thing to Miss Chapel. He struggled, stopped, used Vulcan disciplines to block all his emotions on the off chance it was that type of power source. Nothing helped. He was stuck.

As they watched, their captor pressed a jewel on the silvery bracelet. They heard the sound again, and just as quickly a large metallic box appeared beside it. It nodded, as if satisfied, then walked over to Spock and Christine, looking back and forth from one to the other as if searching for something. It nodded again, pressed another jewel, and spoke in a whispery, hollow voice:

"Not yet."

If Spock could have moved, his brows would have shot up at this. As it was, he could only watch as the creature moved back to its original location and pressed another jewel. They found themselves free. Spock wasted no time: he charged towards the being, but he had only crossed half the distance to it before it disappeared.

Christine drew a shaky breath. "I don't suppose you know what that was, do you?" she asked Spock.

He shook his head. "No. I have never encountered such a being before, nor have I read of it."

She sighed. "Neither have I."

He raised an eyebrow. "I surmised as much: since I did not recognize it, it was exceedingly unlikely that you would have."

"You don't know everything, Mr. Spock," she retorted without thinking.

"No," he agreed, "not everything." The look he gave her was almost smug as he added: "but many things."

She rolled her eyes. "I won't argue with you."

"Since it is a statement of fact, arguing about it would be illogical, Miss Chapel."

She resisted the sudden urge to stick her tongue out at him as he turned to the box. "However pleasant a discussion of my knowledge may be, it would behoove us to see what is inside the box our captor left."

The urge got about five degrees stronger, but she knew he was just being Spock. She moved closer to him as he studied the container for a moment before depressing a button on the lid. When he opened it and pulled the lid back, they looked inside.

The box was full of survival gear and equipment. As they knelt down and began removing things, she realized there was more stuff within it than a box that size should have been able to hold. "What is this, Mr. Spock?" Christine asked. "It's defying the laws of physics!"

"Indeed," he said, his voice almost reverent. "It appears to be some sort of extradimensional box. Fascinating!"

She had to agree with him on that one. It seemed to take half an hour to get everything out and onto the beach. Once they did, they stood up and assessed their newly acquired belongings.

There were two backpacks, four pouches of a light but strong silvery material, something that appeared to be a cookstove. Several pots and pans, utensils, bottles with lids and dishes went with it. There were fishing poles, nets, and various traps. There was the equivalent of a large Starfleet medikit with what seemed to be a scanner. There was a second scanner, journals of blank paper, stylus pens, a bag of food items, utility tools, something that resembled flamesticks, two lanterns, another bag containing clothing, toiletries and towels, a large metal pot, a metallic cylindrical object about half a meter high, and a smaller metallic box.

Christine looked through the medikit while Spock examined the cylinder and box. "I'm impressed," she told him. "Everything from analgesics to anti-venom and antitoxin in here, with a side dose of things for cuts, burns and GI ailments. Plus tablets for the water. All the basics are covered. Most everything you'd need if you were…" her voice trailed off.

He looked over at her. "If you were what?"

"If you were going to be living in the outdoors," she said quietly.

He nodded. "I believe this cylinder is intended as a refuse system," he said. At her quizzical expression, he lifted the top and turned it to the side, showing her it was hollow.

"Oh." She blushed slightly, but said: "I know when I was a child, we'd go camping. My father wouldn't use the camp toilets: said he wanted to do it more like the old days. So he cut the bottom out of a bucket, cut a hole in the top, and dug a hole to set it in."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Indeed. It seems to be of similar intent."

She nodded. "And the box?"

"I am about to open it."

When he did, they got the next surprise: it was a smaller extradimensional box that held a portable shelter. Made of the sturdy silver material with a lightweight but strong metal frame, it was easily the size of a small room and had a floor and a zippered door. Beneath that, neatly folded, were two sleep mats and blankets.

"Excellent," Spock said. "Our first priority should be to set up this shelter, before nightfall arrives."

"I bet it's waterproof," Christine said, running her hands over the cool material. "Seems to resist heat, too. We'll need that for the part of the day when the sun is at its peak."

He looked at her. "You will need it. I will not. Vulcans are adapted to heat, and the sun's rays will not affect me."

"The Vulcan sun and the Earth sun might not, but you've already told me you've never seen a sun like this," Christine countered. "It could contain rays that will have a different effect."

He tilted his head. "A logical concern. I will be careful, and, if needed, take shelter."

She nodded. "Good. I didn't want to argue about it."

"There would have been no argument. I simply would have done as I saw fit."

Christine's eyes narrowed. "Not on my watch, Mr. Spock."

He nearly frowned. "I do not understand."

"You're the commanding officer here, but due to a shortage of personnel, I just got promoted to Chief Medical Officer on this little piece of paradise," she answered. "If I make a medical call with good reasoning, I expect you to follow it just as you would for Dr. McCoy."

He stared at her as though he had never seen her before: and perhaps, in a sense, he had not. Then he nodded. "Agreed."

"Thank you," she said with a smile. Before he could tell her one did not thank logic, she said: "now, I believe, Mr. Spock, that you wanted us to put up our shelter?"

Part 2, #20: Night

Spock carefully poked at the small driftwood fire with a thick piece of wood, settling the sections into a more even configuration before adding the last one to the flame. Night had fallen three point two hours ago, and while not exactly cold, the air was cloaked with both a light fog and a definite chill. Miss Chapel was fine with it, being better suited for the night temperature than he was, but she, too, had drawn close to the fire after he lit it.

His eyes went to her, as she sat with her long legs folded under her, eating a small amount of some type of dried meat and fruits. The red glow of the flame swept across her blonde hair and pale skin and added an almost exotic sheen to her features. She was lost in her own thoughts and didn't notice his gaze, so he continued studying her.

He was disquieted at the circumstances they found themselves in: only the two of them. She was, of course, conducting herself with professionalism and dignity, but that could not erase the memories born of their strained, unusual history.

He was attempting to analyze their current situation further when Christine, as though she could read his mind, asked: "Mr. Spock, do you have any theories as to why we're here?"

He jerked slightly: he had been so lost in thought he hadn't realized she was looking at him. He shook his head. "I have several theories, but do not have any way of testing them."

"Ok, what are they?"

He folded his hands in his lap. "The entity responsible for bringing us here is obviously performing some sort of experiment, or test, if you will."

She nodded, looking uncomfortable. "That crossed my mind, too. But what? Why?"

"Those are unknown variables," he answered. "Perhaps it wishes to see how our species cooperate together in isolated circumstances. Perhaps it is testing our endurance, our adaptation skills."

"But it gave us all that stuff to help us."

He nodded. "The point is well made; however, without water, food and shelter, we would not last long as test subjects. It is obviously intelligent enough to understand that."

"It said: 'not yet,' " Christine mused. "Not yet for what?" She held up a hand to forestall Spock's next comment. "I know: it's an unknown variable. But it was a strange thing to say."

Spock gazed at her. "This entire situation is odd, Miss Chapel."

Christine nodded, then picked up a journal, opening it, smoothing the crisp, clean pages with her fingers. "And these… I wonder if it wants us to keep a diary, or if it's just in case we want to."

"Again, there is no way to be certain."

She sighed, looking up from the book to meet his eyes. "Are you going to?"

He seemed taken aback. "I had not considered it."

"I am," she told him.

"Indeed," he said: his tone faintly suggesting surprise at the certainty in her voice. "Might I ask why?"

Christine shrugged. "Well, if it wants us to, at least one of us should do it. And since we don't know as of yet, it seems the logical thing to do."

He frowned slightly. "That had not occurred to me, but you are correct. It would be logical. Yet, I had not thought of it."

She grinned at him. "Well, you aren't the only one capable of it, Mr. Spock."

He met her eyes, a hint of approval in his. "So it would seem."

"You sound surprised," she chided.

An eyebrow rose. "Perhaps. I am not accustomed to speaking with you often in non-duty related circumstances. It occurs to me that I know little about you other than in a professional capacity."

"I can say the same," she replied, and he nodded. "Well, it's going to be an interesting experiment for our scientist."

"That much is certain, Miss Chapel."

She yawned and stretched, then rose to her feet. "But, I'll start tomorrow. Right now I'm pretty tired. I think I'll get some sleep."

He nodded. "I will see you in the morning."

"You aren't going to sleep?" she asked. "Even a Vulcan needs some sleep, Mr. Spock."

"That is correct; however, we do not know if there are any predators here, or if anything unexpected happens late at night. Therefore, I intend to keep watch until morning."

She nodded, not liking him going without any sleep but agreeing it was a good idea for one of them to stay up. And he was the better choice. "But you'll sleep for a while in the morning," she said, making it a statement rather than a question.

"If I am unduly tired and in need of it, yes," he told her.

She put her hands on her hips, glaring down at him. "You're going to be just as difficult here as you are on the Enterprise, aren't you?"

"Undoubtedly," he said smoothly, and she nearly smiled.

"All right, Mr. Spock. We'll see how you are in the morning. Good night."

"Good night, Miss Chapel."

She went into their shelter, leaving him alone with the fire, his thoughts, and some new things to consider about the woman that was Chief Nurse Christine Chapel.

He began by ticking off the facts he knew about her. She was born and raised on Earth. She had a doctorate in bioresearch, and another in exobiology. She had been engaged to Dr. Roger Korby, a brilliant scientist even by Vulcan standards. When he went missing, she used her background to get on the Enterprise. He was gone: lost to his madness long before he died in android form. She had decided to stay on the ship.

It was here that most all of his knowledge of her became more personal. She was a good—no, excellent—nurse. She made appetizing plomeek soup. She was an ethical, honorable person.

Her name was Christine. She was in love with him. Her lips were soft and cool and she smelled like orchids. She was beautiful, though he could not ever tell her that. He could barely admit it to himself. But he had noted it. He was a Vulcan, but he was not made of stone.

She was empathetic, emotional: but she also comported herself well, was practical and sarcastic. These things were new to him about her. He knew Jim, and he knew McCoy. Miss Chapel was largely an unknown to him. He did not like unknowns.

Fortunate for him, then, he reflected grimly, that he now had ample opportunity to change that.

Christine lay on a mat in the shelter, one arm curled under her head, absently listening to the faint cries of birds and the gentle rhythm of the ocean lapping against the shore. She could see the outline of the campfire, and the sturdy, motionless shadow of Spock as he sat lost in whatever thoughts he was thinking at the moment. Probably cursing whatever deities Vulcans followed that he was stuck there with her.

Well, she wasn't exactly thrilled with it, either. As much as a part of her wanted to be near him, the rational part knew it wasn't good for her. She almost groaned into her pillow, but stopped herself: she knew Spock would think something was wrong with her and come rushing in. What had Shakespeare said? "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread?" Except that Spock was not a fool. She was. The something wrong with her was being in love with a hybrid that lived the Vulcan life. Therefore, he would not let himself experience emotion enough to love.

But you couldn't choose who you fell in love with. She knew that, too. And for however long they were there, she'd just have to suck it up as best she could. Maybe whatever the being wanted to learn wouldn't take long. She could be Pretty Mary Sunlight if that's what it took. Didn't she already do that every day on the ship? Yeah, she did.

So she would keep being the caring, helpful nurse she always was in front of him, and the other things he didn't get to see as often. The scientist, the quick thinker, and the excellent cook. And whatever else she needed to be to get them out of this situation and back on the Enterprise. Maybe then, after this was over, he would even see her in a different light. He'd already given her a look of approval tonight: maybe this would be the chance she'd never thought she would have to show him there was more to her than a virus-driven confession and a telekinetic sadist's puppet.

She heard the crackle and snap of another piece of driftwood being added to the fire and closed her eyes, forcing herself not to get up and let her body wander out to join her heart.

Part 3, #3: Light

Christine awoke to sun, salty air and the scent of cooking. She sat up, stretching carefully, then stepped out of the shelter. Her eyes rested on Spock, who was busy stirring something in the pot on the portable stove. He was still in uniform, and there was no sign that he had entered the shelter for anything during the night. "Miss Chapel," he greeted her. "I was beginning to wonder when you would awaken."

She blushed a bit. "Sorry, Mr. Spock. I guess I was pretty tired."

He titled his head. "No apologies are necessary: we are hardly on a schedule here. I was simply… concerned as to whether you were all right."

She tipped her head back to look up at the sky. "As crazy as it seems, I am. I feel so refreshed now. I guess you don't realize how much you miss while you're on a ship until you're off of it."

"Indeed," he replied. "I must admit that despite the lack of sleep, I am somewhat invigorated." He turned his attention back to the pot. "I have procured the equivalent of seaweed along with several other plants compatible with our physiology. I believe it is nearly ready to eat."

"Yum, sea soup," she commented, and his eyebrow rose. "I'm sure it will be good, Mr. Spock," she said with a smile.

"Then that makes one of us, Miss Chapel. However, we shall soon determine whether it is so."

She nodded, busying herself with bowls, spoons and cups. He had filled a jug with water and added a treatment tablet, and she poured each of them a cup. She handed him the bowls, and he added some to both, handing one to her before turning off the cookstove and taking his to sit closer to her.

Christine lifted her spoon and tasted the soup… and reflexively spit it out with a gagging noise. Spock froze, his own spoon halfway to his mouth. "Miss Chapel?" he asked, alarmed by her actions and the ill look on her face.

She snatched up her cup and took several long swallows of water before she could answer. "Bitter!" she gasped. "Damn, it's bitter!"

He stared at her in surprise. He had never heard her swear before.

"Sorry, sir," she said hastily. "It caught me off guard."

"That is obvious," he answered.

"I don't know how Vulcans are with bitter, but Humans don't handle it well. It tends to make us nauseous, or vomit. It's a physiological reflex to help stop us from eating or digesting anything poisonous."

"I am aware of that, Miss Chapel. Vulcans have the same reflex. I assure you, however, that I scanned everything I cooked."

"Sometimes things that are safe can be bitter," she told him. "I'm going to have a look at our foodstuffs and see if there's anything I can do to salvage it. If you don't mind, that is?"

Spock took a mouthful of the soup while she was speaking… and though he didn't spit it out and gag, he turned a bit pale. He forced himself to swallow, then hastily drank some water. "That is an excellent suggestion."

Christine grinned. "I thought you'd agree."

He watched her as she began looking through the bag. "I'm surprised at you though, Mr. Spock," she told him. "Don't you know good cooks always taste as they go?"

The eyebrow went up again. "I am familiar with the Human custom, but did not deem it necessary. On Vulcan, we prepare food according to directions. There is no need to 'taste as you go,' one simply cooks and eats."

"Then how can you be sure it'll taste right?"

"If the recipe is followed exactly, that is all that is required."

She stopped rummaging in the bag and looked at him. "Ok, and did you have a recipe for sea soup that I'm not aware of?" she asked sweetly.

"I did not."

"So you had no way of knowing whether it would be good or bad without tasting it, right?" she continued.

Now he looked contrite. And uncomfortable. "That is… accurate," he answered.

"Hmm," she said noncommittally, and continued looking.

"It did not occur to me," he said.

She nodded.

"I did not intend to serve inedible food."

"Of course you didn't," she answered.

"That would have been illogical," he persisted.

"Of course it would have," she agreed.

He startled her with a sigh. "It seems I do have some things to learn."

She stopped again, looked up and smiled at him. "Nobody's perfect, Mr. Spock."

Christine found what seemed to be spices and herbs, and after carefully smelling and tasting them all, she decided on a combination that greatly improved the soup. She reheated it and they ate, then washed the dishes in a basin of heated, soapy water.

"That was quite an improvement, Miss Chapel," he commented as they washed.

"Thank you, Mr. Spock," she replied. She congratulated herself for not being smug about it. After all, soon she'd be the one doing something stupid. Not that what Spock had done was stupid, exactly. Just… well, ok, it kind of was. No big deal, though.

After the dishes were cleaned, Christine said: "I'd like to put on some different clothes, maybe go for a swim if that's all right, sir."

He nodded. "I see no reason why we cannot do so. Do you wish to bathe?"

Christine didn't blush, but almost. "That would be nice, yes."

"Then I shall stand guard while you bathe."

She gulped. "Well, um…"

"From a short distance, turned away from you, Miss Chapel,' he said evenly.

Now she did blush. "Of course, Mr. Spock. I didn't mean—"

"Of course not," he replied smoothly. "I shall wait out here while you change."

She hurried into the shelter, wishing she could wash the blush off along with the dirt. She found a bright blue bikini in with the clothes and smiled, wondering if it would have any effect on Spock. Probably not, she sighed: but she would feel good in it, and that's all that mattered. She removed her uniform and slipped it on, wishing for a second that she could see herself in a mirror. Don't be vain, Christine, she scolded herself. But it would have been nice.

She emerged from the shelter and said: "I'm ready, Mr. Spock."

He had been staring at the water, but when she spoke he turned to look at her. For a split second there was something in his gaze she couldn't define: then it was gone. She grabbed a towel and some soap.

"I shall be back shortly," he said, and took his turn disappearing. She turned and walked closer to the water, staring into the dark purple depths, until she heard him say: "we may proceed now."

She turned around again to find him in a set of long, dark blue swim trunks and no shirt. The sight made her heart flip in a crazy rhythm for a few seconds. She'd seen him shirtless: hell, she'd seen him naked, for goodness sake. But those had been under medical conditions. And this was definitely not a medical condition. She forced her eyes away from the outlines of his muscles and the curly black hair on his chest to meet his, smiling. "Then let's go."

Part 4, #57: Puzzle

"Dear Diary:

According to Mr. Spock's internal clock, it's been one month, three days and seven hours since we woke up here in… wherever we are. And to say that it has been an interesting one month, three days and seven hours is an understatement."

Christine paused here, a smile coming to her lips as she tapped the pen against them in thought. She could recall all the details in perfect clarity: their first swim, their first walk along the beach, the first time she caught a fish. Not to mention the time Spock fought a crablike creature over some fresh seaweed! That had been on the third day, and the first time she'd had to do something as a nurse. After all these weeks, she still wanted to giggle at the memory of Spock getting his big right toe pinched!

She stifled a laugh, and resumed writing. "Being here has had its share of ups and downs, that's for sure! But overall, it's been an oddly positive experience. Well, other than missing the ship and my friends. And not knowing when we'll get to go back. And having some tension at times with Spock…. ok, not always so positive. But not always bad, either."

She stopped again, this time absently chewing on the pen. There had been moments with Spock when she'd almost felt close to him: a shared look of accomplishment over a catch, a comment she'd made that he appreciated, a time when she'd fallen and twisted her ankle a bit and he'd carried her back to camp and tended to her. Each time they shared one of these moments she felt happy: too happy. She quickly covered it up, retreated into herself a bit for protection. But the next one would come and she felt the elation all over again.

It was exciting, glorious…. and it sucked.

She pulled the stylus from her mouth with a sigh, turning her attention once more to the journal. "The truth of it is, it's as painful as it is pleasurable. If I was here with Nyota, or Len, it would be different. I mean, Kevin Riley or Scotty would probably be a blast! But, no. It's Spock. Spock that I'm stupidly in love with. Spock that thinks love is a dirty word. I wish I could talk to our little friend who dumped us here for an experiment, thank it for dealing me this terrible hand."

"Speaking of that, we've seen it once a week so far. It's always basically a repeat performance of the first time: the being appears, we get immobilized, it drops off some stuff, then says: "not yet" again, and poof! It vanishes."

"I wish we understood what it wants. What does it mean, "Not yet?" Not yet for what? Not yet time to tell us anything? Not yet time for us to go? Not yet time to write Santa Claus a letter? Damn, it's frustrating!"

"And why me? Why Spock? Why me and Spock and no one else? Did it just happen to peer into sickbay at that moment and we were the first ones it saw? Did we win some lottery nobody told us about? Two grand prize winners will receive an abduction and compulsory vacation on an island? Well, somebody else is welcome to it. I just want to go home to the Enterprise!"

Christine slammed the pen down, glad that Spock was gathering edibles from the sea at the moment. It wasn't fair: it wasn't fair that she was stuck in paradise with him. Or him with her. He'd probably rather be trapped with anyone on the ship than her. Although they had shared those moments…

She shook her head. None of it mattered. All the speculation in the universe wouldn't change the facts. They were there for however long it took. With any luck, that wouldn't be long. She closed the diary with a sigh and put it aside, then went out to see if Spock could use her help.

First Officer's Personal Log, Stardate 2317.4:

"Miss Chapel and I have been on this planet for approximately one month, seventeen days, and nine hours. We are no closer to returning to the Enterprise than we were upon our arrival. There seems to be no way to communicate with our captor: the being obviously does not yet wish to speak with us. It appears every week, apparently to assess our condition and bring more supplies, and then departs. The only communication each time is a repetition of the words: "not yet."

"Neither Miss Chapel nor I can ascertain the meaning of the words. Speculation is an option, but not an option that can yield conclusive results. However, it does seem likely that it is waiting for something to occur that has not occurred yet. What this something is, we do not know: therefore, we cannot expedite the process. And if we cannot create the circumstances it desires, we will likely not be allowed to leave."

Spock paused here, struggling with a fleeting feeling of frustration. It was illogical. Nevertheless, he was experiencing frustration more and more often. He was unused to not having answers, or at least the tools to try and obtain them. And now he was marooned here, with only the Chief Nurse for company, with no means of getting them out of their current predicament.

Not that he was finding fault with Miss Chapel, he reminded himself. Although his awareness of her feelings for him made him uncomfortable at times, she had comported herself with admirable control, respecting his needs for solitude and asking nothing of him that he could not give. Indeed, their time together was allowing him to know her better, and he enjoyed their discussions. She was highly intelligent, with impressive medical and scientific knowledge as well as interests in subjects he never would have suspected.

No, his frustration had little to do with Miss Chapel herself. It was their situation. He did not like being ineffectual. The ship was missing two valuable crewmembers. He missed his duties. He missed Jim and McCoy. They were doubtless missing him and Miss Chapel and trying to find them if they could. But Spock knew that every day they were on this planet, the odds of being found decreased slightly. Unless they found some evidence, some clue, it was unlikely that the Enterprise would locate them.

He shook his head, forcing the negative, unproductive thoughts away. He had to stay focused on their present circumstances and try to figure out how to get their captor to release them. Perhaps there was something they were overlooking. He closed his journal and left the shelter to go speak with Miss Chapel.

Part 5, #36: No Way Out

Christine glanced up from her journal to gaze at the sky and said, rather loudly: "anytime we could leave would be just fine with me…"

"Miss Chapel?"

She jumped as Spock moved to stand in front of her, right eyebrow raised.

"Mister Spock, you said you would stop sneaking up on me like that!" she exclaimed, hand lowering from where she'd reflexively covered her heart.

He titled his head. "It was unintentional, I assure you."

"So were all the other times," she retorted, trying to get comfortable again against the rock she was leaned back on.

He sighed. "How do you function so well on the Enterprise if you are so easily startled?"

She gazed at him levelly. "No one startles me on the Enterprise."

The eyebrow rose and fell again. "The point is taken, Miss Chapel. I will attempt to be more conscientious in the future."

"You said that last time, too."

"Obviously I need to make more of an effort, then," he replied.

"Please do," she said, and almost giggled.

"Something amuses you?"

"Yes, Mr. Spock. You."

He almost looked alarmed. "I am not attempting to be a source of amusement."

"Are you saying it comes naturally, Mr. Spock?" she couldn't resist asking.

He opened his mouth, then thought better of it and closed it. Christine grinned.

"At any rate, to whom were you addressing your remark?" Spock asked.

Her grin faded, replaced by a look of irritation. "Whoever is keeping us here. I thought the direct approach couldn't hurt."

"You are assuming that it can hear us from wherever it is," he said.

"And you're assuming that it can't? No offense, Mr. Spock, but how would it know if "not yet" had changed to "now" unless it was keeping an eye on us from somewhere?"

Spock wore the expression that he usually reserved for a complex scientific problem. "Miss Chapel, your reasoning is once again sound."

"When has it not been?" she asked, then hastily held up a hand. "Don't answer that, please."

"I had no intention to," he assured her.

She sighed, putting the journal down, running her fingers through the warm sand. "How long have we been here now?" she asked softly.

"Three months, eleven days and eight hours," he replied, equally quietly.

She sighed again. "A long time."

"Yes," he agreed.

Christine plopped down on the sand, resting her chin on her entwined fingers. "What are we missing, Mr. Spock?" she asked. "What are we doing wrong? Are we not being nice enough to each other? Are we being too nice? Should we be arguing all day? Finding buried treasure? Spotting Moby Dick? What?"

"Moby Dick, Miss Chapel," Spock began.

"Was a fictional creature from another planet, yes, I'm aware of that, sir," she said tartly. "My point is: what's it going to take? How do we jump through the hoop and get our reward?"

He shook his head. "I do not know," he said, and for the first time she heard a hint of the irritation she felt. "It is impossible to give an answer when we do not know the question."

"Truer words were never spoken," Christine quipped.

"We can only hope that we will be given an indication at some point."

She squinted up at him. "Hope? That's awfully… non-Vulcan," she said, unsure of how else to put it.

"Yes. It is. However, there is no other word for it."

"No, I suppose not," Christine agreed. She stretched and moved again. As she did, her eyes caught a glimpse of red and blue stripes shifting in the sand, heading straight for Spock's left foot…

"Mister Spock! Behind you in the sand!"

Christine's warning, as fast as it was, still came too late.

Spock jumped, but not before the planet's equivalent of a snake shot out of the sand, clamping three jagged fangs into the side of his foot. It released and prepared to strike again, but Christine pinned it and pounded it repeatedly with a nearby rock until it was dead. When it slid limply from her hand she looked at Spock.

His skin was turning pale: he took one step before collapsing. Poisoned. And neither of them had the medkit with them. Damn!

"I have to go get the anti-venom," she said, quickly propping him up against the rocks to keep the bite below his heart. "Be as still as you can until I get back!"

If he responded, she didn't hear it. She was already running. Her mind raced. Neither of them had been bitten by one of the stripers before, though they had seen them a few times. They creatures usually always moved away from them. This one must have felt threatened, invaded. Or maybe it was a rogue striper. Whatever the reason, Spock was bitten. And she had no idea if it would be fatal. And she wasn't about to find out.

It seemed to take forever to get to camp, Christine berating herself the entire time for not having the pack with her. But almost nothing had happened to them since their arrival, and she'd gotten used to the place being like a paradise with few predators. It was a mistake she wouldn't make again.

She grabbed the medkit and raced back towards where she'd left Spock, barely conscious that her shoes had slipped off, of the sand burning the soles of her feet or the blazing of the sun. Her feet didn't matter: her short hard gasps and the dizziness didn't matter. All that mattered was saving Spock.

She didn't so much run as fly across the sand those last few feet, falling beside him, breathing almost as heavily as he was. His eyes were slightly glassy and he was beginning to twitch. As she loaded the hypo the twitching progressed to shaking. She quickly emptied it into his arm. He continued shaking, and she reflexively pulled him into her arms, holding him tightly against her to still his tremors, fighting tears and praying she had reached him in time.

After a few minutes, his spasms stopped and she could feel his breathing returning to normal. She closed her eyes tightly, still holding him, using all her willpower not to cry in happiness. He was all right, she hadn't failed, he was all right…

"Miss Chapel?"

She startled, looking down at him. He was gazing up at her with his usual calm expression, except there was a gleam of gratitude in its depths. "I believe I am recovered now. Thank you."

Now that the crisis was over, all the emotions and thoughts that had taken a back seat earlier came rushing to the surface. "Thank me?" she echoed bitterly. "You should have me court-martialed for not having the medkit with me!"

His brows knitted together. "You had no way of knowing I would be attacked."

"It doesn't matter! I'm a nurse, a doctor; I shouldn't have been so complacent as to think nothing would ever hurt us!"

"Miss Chapel, both of us have been remiss to an extent. I have not always carried a scanner with me. I cannot fault you for being unprepared when I am guilty as well."

She sighed. There was, as always, logic to what he said. She still felt responsible. But, it was done. There was no purpose to be served berating herself. They had both just learned an important lesson. She should accept that.

"Why do you always have to be right?" she asked wryly, smiling.

An eyebrow flew up. "I do not. It simply works out that way in most cases."

Her smile widened. Then reality hit her again. She was still holding him… and he had made no effort to move during their conversation. Uh-oh. I better end this in a casual way before he starts to think about it, too, she thought.

She opened her mouth to say that now that he was ok he could get up, when the air nearby them shimmered and their captor appeared. Christine's eyes widened, as did Spock's. This was not the routine visit they received each week. What was going on?

As usual, they were immobilized and helpless as it approached. There was an odd light in its eyes as it looked them over: Spock resting against her, her arms around him. It gazed at the medkit, the discarded hypo and the body of the dead snake creature, and the light seemed to fade. It made a sound like a metallic whispery sigh, then released them and disappeared.

Christine began to tremble. Her hands on Spock's body curled into fists.

"Miss Chapel?" he asked, alarmed at the sudden violent change in her.

She carefully released him, then stood up and ran down the beach.

"Miss Chapel!" Spock rose, assessed himself and determined that he was sufficiently recovered, and took off after her.

She stopped after about half a minute, raising a fist to the air and screaming: "What! What do you want?"

Spock reached her, raising one arm to bring hers down before pulling her to him and grasping her upper arms in his hands. "Miss Chapel!"

She ignored him. "What the hell do you want from us!" she screamed again. "Tell us!"

"Christine!"

The sound of her given name snapped her out of her anger, and she subsided, slumping against him. He peered down at her, trying to ascertain what exactly had caused her sudden outburst. "Christine, this behavior is illogical."

She jerked away from him. "Thank you, Captain Obvious!"

Spock frowned. "I am merely pointing out-"

"What? That I'm being irrational? I know that! But being cool and collected isn't getting us anywhere, in case your all-mighty logic hadn't noticed!"

"Miss Chapel-"

"Oh, back to 'Miss Chapel' now, is it? Is it that horrible for you to use someone's name, Spock? Are there special police on Vulcan who come and arrest Vulcans when they do it?"

"Christine!"

She stopped again. There was fear in his voice. Fear for her. That she was losing it. Well, maybe she was. The whole situation was making her feel crazy. She knew hysteria wasn't going to help it, but it made her feel better to let it out.

She sighed. "Should I skip the apology and go straight to the court-martial now, Spock?"

"I do not see enough officers present to convene a hearing, Christine."

Her startled eyes met his. Had he just made the Vulcan equivalent of a joke?

He studied her. "You once had cause to press charges against me, yet you chose not to do so. Perhaps, to use a Human phrase, we can 'call it even,' don't you think?"

She managed a smile, knowing he was referring to a certain bowl of soup and some shouting in a corridor. "That would seem… logical."

Spock nodded. His mind turned to the curious event of the unexpected visit from their captor. There was no way it was a random occurrence. But what exactly had been the cause? His injury?

His thoughts were interrupted by a sigh from Christine. "I didn't mean to snap," she said wryly. "I just… Spock, with every passing day it feels more and more like there's no way out. That we're going to be here forever."

His eyes met hers, then flicked down. "That thought has on occasion crossed my mind as well," he admitted. "However, the fact that it keeps repeating the words: "not yet" implies that there is something it is waiting for. Whether or not it ever will get that something, however…" his voice trailed off.

She drew a shaky breath. "Yeah."

He shook his head slightly. "But its arrival today had a purpose. If we can ascertain what it was, it may provide the answer we need."

She nodded. "Ok, I'll go knit us some thinking caps," she said mischievously.

He sighed deeply.

"Joke, Spock."

He gave her what she had come to think of as "the look." "I am aware of that, Christine."

"Just making sure," she grinned.

He refrained from sighing again. Barely. "I am going to mediate. When I return we can discuss our respective ideas."

"Ok. But just a minute..." She ran back to where he had been bitten, then returned and handed him the medkit. "Take this with you."

He started to protest, until he looked into her eyes. She still felt guilty over what had happened. It was as obvious as it was illogical. However, this was not the time to argue.

"Thank you," he said instead. "I will return shortly. If you need me, I will be in the usual place."

She nodded. "I'll be in camp. Please come back before dark?"

"I shall."

She watched him go, realizing that the road that had begun with him being poisoned and her screaming sarcasm at him had ended with him freely calling her Christine.

"What a long, strange trip it's been," she quoted in wonder, and headed back to camp.

Parts 6/7: #31, Deep in Thought/ #7, Can You Hear Me?

Spock sat on the long, flat rock he'd discovered months ago during their exploration of the nearby area, fingers steepled, mind deep in thought. He had been analyzing the latest development in their situation for the past forty-seven point four minutes. Ten point eight of those minutes had been spent reviewing the facts, formulating a hypothesis, and mentally testing its plausibility. The rest of the time had been spent in trying to figure out what to do about it.

It had not taken long to develop a theory: he had, in fact, halfway accomplished this before he even started meditating. His first thought was that their captor had seen him get bitten and had come to make sure he was all right. But upon further analysis, that had not seemed entirely accurate. When it arrived, it seemed to have initially been unaware of his condition, judging by its reaction to seeing the medkit, hypo and the body of the creature that bit him. Also, if it was concerned for his well-being, it should have arrived sooner if it had seen the events. And if it had not, it would likely not have even known to check on them, as he was fine within five minutes or so of receiving the anti-venom. So what had prompted its arrival?

It could not escape Spock's notice that the arrival had occurred while he had been recovering from the incident… in Christine's embrace. When their keeper arrived, there was a new gleam in its eyes until it looked around them and concluded an emergency had taken place. The resulting sigh, the immediate departure… it had been misled by what it saw when they were monitored. Had it been visual only? Or had it witnessed the in-between time when she was simply holding him? That was an unknown variable.

What he did know was that it had appeared during a time that would have given the impression of intimacy. There had been no intimacy between them. There had been little physical contact. And every week, the same look, the same phrase from their captor as they were left alone again. Until today, when a random series of events had given the appearance of something that did not exist.

He was fairly certain that this was the key. And along with that certainty came dismay, frustration and doubt. Because if he was correct, their captor was waiting for a level of interaction it had not yet seen. It was waiting for attraction. Desire. Romance. Perhaps even love. Spock now realized the purpose of the location it had chosen. For a Human, few things were as romantic as an island paradise. The sun, the sand, the ocean… more than once he'd heard Jim talk about a beach to walk on with a woman by his side. He'd seen crewmembers giddy with excitement when presented with the opportunity for shore leave in such a place.

It would have been the perfect setup… if he was Human. But… but… he frowned. Perhaps the being knew that. Perhaps that was precisely why it had chosen him and not a Human male. It knew that he was different… and it wanted to see if changing the circumstances could change the behavior. He felt cold despite the heat. How much did it know? How long had they been observed, and how had it taken place?

Then there was the question of Christine. Did it know of her feelings for him? Or was it just a matter of her being in sickbay with him at the time? Was it trying to determine if he could have emotions at all, or if he could have emotions for her? Spock concluded that these particular questions were unsolvable for now. There was enough information known to conjecture what the being wanted. And if he was correct, what it wanted was to see if closeness developed between them.

Now all he had to do was figure out how to achieve it.

Spock did not deceive himself: he was somewhat inexperienced with this. Most of his romantic encounters had taken place while he was under external influences. And there had not exactly been an abundance of them. This had to be done carefully, for a number of reasons.

He did not want to do it at all. With a woman that had no attachment to him it would have been difficult. The fact that Christine loved him made it tenfold so. It was extremely unfair, to both of them. And he could not, in good conscience, order her to do it. But it was possibly their only means of release. And knowing that, she would likely agree to the plan. Even though it would cause her a great deal of pain.

Spock found genuine regret for this, but did not know a better idea. It would be even more heinous not to tell her what he was doing. He could not bring himself to deceive her, and would not. He had grown to appreciate her as a person and not just a nurse over the past few months. He respected her, and her company was now not something unwelcome. What could he do? How should he proceed?

He sighed. With honesty and respect. There was no other way. They would have to deal with the consequences later, and he wasn't certain if their newfound friendship would survive. But for now, they had to convince the tester that they were falling in love.

He considered what he knew of courting, relationships, love. He had witnessed the events in many other people, read about them in literature. He had a basic understanding of the progression, the emotions surrounding them. Could he emulate this behavior well enough to pull off the ruse? Could Christine? While she loved him, she, too, would be pretending. Could they both seem happy while neither truly was?

Spock shook his head. There was no choice. They had to try. He glanced at the sky. Nightfall was approaching. He completed his analysis, made a decision how to proceed, and headed back to camp.

Christine sat pensively in front of the shelter, absently drawing figures in the sand with a piece of driftwood. While Spock was gone she'd been thinking too, and she didn't like what she was coming up with. Namely that their captor had seemed all excited to see them together. Because if was waiting on her and Spock to fall in love, it was going to have a hell of a long wait.

Could they fake it somehow? The mere thought of that made her want to run away as fast as her sandals would carry her. She loved him already. But to have to pretend, for him to have to pretend… Christine thought she'd rather get bitten by a dozen stripers than have to do that. But if she was right, what choice did they have? To stay on this beach for the rest of their lives?

It was going to hurt. A lot. And how was she going to talk to Spock about it when they had no clue when, and how well, they were being watched? Maybe she could give him a hint somehow…

She was about to gather wood to start a fire when she saw Spock approaching. As she tried to think of something clever and slightly suggestive to say to him, she noticed his expression. It was… different somehow. Not in any way she could explain, but there was something… maybe he was hurt?

She started to get up to meet him, but he held up a hand. As she watched, puzzled, he dropped to his knees beside her, eyes fixed on hers. Christine suddenly felt warm and uneasy.

"Spock?" she said, almost in a whisper.

Before she could say anything else, he pulled her against him with one arm, one hand moving to her face, and kissed her while gently pressing her beneath him in the sand.

She was in shock. She couldn't move, couldn't do anything but feel his heat against her, the firm softness of his lips. She felt his fingertips press gently on her psi points, and suddenly she heard him in her mind: Christine? Can you hear me?

Parts 8/9: #77, Gamble/#35, Sacrifice

I'm dreaming, she thought. Or hallucinating. How did I get bitten without feeling anything? Or was it too much sun? Or…

Christine, Spock's voice repeated. You are not dreaming, nor are you hallucinating.

Oooookay, then why are we making out? Vulcans don't make out, she countered, shivering from the sensations of their bodies pressed against each other. She felt delirious and confused and…

We are 'making out,' as you phrased it, because I needed a way to communicate with you that did not involve physical speech.

Then why didn't you just ask me to meld with you? she asked, confused further.

He sighed. It also needed to be in a manner that seemed… unobvious.

She breathed unsteadily against his mouth. I see. And this, of course, is quite unobvious. Spock, have you lost your mind? No offense, but usually people who are kissing are not having a mental discussion at the time.

He hesitated. I am aware of that. However, circumstances warrant an explanation and a discussion of why we are… making out.

Christine went cold. So you came to the same conclusion I did. That our inquisitor is waiting to see if we get feelings for each other.

Yes. I am sorry for utilizing this method, but I saw no better solution that to convey this while kissing you.

She felt a surge of anger and pain. Irrational emotions, but knowing that didn't make them go away. Did he even understand how he came across? Just because you have to be covert doesn't mean you have to make me feel like shit over it. She tried to pull away from him, but he held her firmly against him.

It was not my intention to hurt or insult you, he said quietly in her thoughts. I'm sorry. Do not pull away from me.

Why? So we can be good little puppets and pretend to have warm fuzzy feelings for each other? She asked bitterly. You have no idea what you're asking me to do, Spock.

I am not asking you to do anything, Christine, except hear me out.

And get my heart broken more, she retorted.

Christine… this is not easy for me, either—

It was the wrong thing to say to her. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that, Spock. It's awful that you'd rather get stricken with Rigellian Plague than kiss me. Maybe I don't want to be kissing you either, did you ever think of that? Or are you so arrogant you figured I'd be thrilled for any opportunity I was given to kiss you? If that was the case, I'd have sent Parmen a Christmas card!

She jerked with all her strength against him: he was unprepared, and she managed to break free and pull away. They were left staring at each other, Christine trembling, Spock shocked by the savage anger of her words.

"I can't," she said brokenly, turning away from him, struggling not to cry.

He slowly moved behind her, sliding his arms around her waist, waiting to see if she resisted. But she didn't. She leaned back against him, and he didn't need to be in contact with her meld points to know her agitation and despair.

One hand moved to her face, brushing her hair away, reestablishing the meld. I'm sorry, he thought to her. I am sorry, Christine. I know this is not the way you would choose it. Nor would I, if I could make such a choice. And despite what you may think, I do not intend to force you. It must be your decision.

My decision, she echoed bitterly. It's a decision that's no decision, Spock. If we don't, we'll be stuck here forever. I don't want that, no matter what you might think. It's a gamble. We're going on a theory. But it's the best one we've got…

Agreed. And I have never thought you would wish such a fate on us, no matter what your feelings for me are.

No matter what they are, she sighed. I love you. You don't love me. I don't even know if you like me! And this is going to be hell on us both.

I respect and admire you. I have grown to enjoy your company.

She managed to laugh. That's more than most people can say, so I guess I'll take it. She grew somber. But I have a request to make of you.

If it is within my power to grant, I will do so, Spock replied.

When this is over, when we're back on the Enterprise… I want you to meld with me. I want you to remove every trace of my love for you from my mind. Wipe it out like it never existed. Can you do that?

Of all the things she could have asked of him, he was not prepared for this. Yes, he answered. But are you certain you want me to do that?

She laughed, but it was a tired, bitter sound. Am I certain that I want to put an end to my suffering? That I don't want the feelings of pain? After we get out of here, it's going to be the worst thing I could have experienced, Spock. To act like we're in love, when we're not. All that would do is haunt me. Every time I saw you, I'd feel nothing but misery. I don't want to live like that. I want to have a clean slate and start over.

He swallowed. I see. And he did see: he completely understood the logic of her request. This much he could do for her, and so he would. I will do as you ask, he thought to her.

She sighed in relief. Thank you. She took a deep breath. It would be ok now. She only had to endure this part, and they would both be free. Their sacrifice would save them both. She could get on with her life, become a doctor, find someone who would let himself love her. And he wouldn't have to feel uneasy around her and try to avoid her anymore. She should have thought of this years ago. It was a perfect solution.

There is no such thing as a perfect solution.

She blinked. You don't think so?

Time will tell, he replied cryptically. Now, as I am unused to matters such as these, perhaps you have some suggestions on how we should proceed?

Part 10: #56, Last Hope

Christine no longer tensed reflexively when Spock put his arms around her. But that had taken a few days of getting used to. He hadn't done it often: she knew he'd rather not do it at all. But they wanted to get off the planet and out of the experiment they'd been unwilling participants of for the past four months. It was amazing what a strong motivator that was, she thought dourly.

She made herself sigh in feigned pleasure and leaned back against him. His body heat was welcome in the cool night air, even if the circumstances were not. She felt one of his hands sliding upward, stroking her hair, and knew what was coming. She closed her eyes as he touched her temple, his other arm wrapped around her waist.

Is this correct?

It's fine, Spock, she said with another sigh: this time from sadness.

She felt a twinge of guilt from him. I realize this distresses you. I regret that I cannot change that at present.

I know you do. And she did: she felt it in his mind as surely as she felt the wind off the ocean. Eyes on the prize, she reminded herself as tears threatened to slide down her cheeks. Maybe she should've asked him to take her love for him away before they had started their circus act. It would've made things so much easier in a way.

Would you prefer that?

She jumped: she'd forgotten that while they were linked, he could pick up on not just her projected thoughts, but all of them. She debated for a moment, then shook her head slightly. No. No, if I'm going to lose it later, I might as well enjoy this now.

She could feel him frown in her thoughts, though his physical features remained unchanged. You are not enjoying this, he pointed out.

She smiled. On one level I am. The fact that it also makes me sad doesn't change that.

That is illogical.

Wow, Spock. A human being illogical. Did it take you all day to figure that one out?

There is no need for sarcasm, Christine.

There is also no need to state the obvious, wouldn't you agree, Spock?

I see your point.

He lowered his hand, wrapping that arm around her waist as well, and she smiled: this time a genuine smile. She had grown to enjoy their banter over the past four months. That was something she would miss when they were back on the ship. But for now, she would try to make the most of their fake romance.

"I used to love going to the beach when I was young,' she said. "All I wanted to do was stand in the water and feel the waves washing over my feet. My parents would get so irritated: they thought I should be building castles or gathering shells or something, not just standing for hours at a time staring out at the ocean."

"It is quite pleasant," he agreed. "I often did the same when we visited a beach on Earth in my own childhood. To have lived in a desert world, and suddenly be confronted with this…" he was lost for a moment in memories. "It was… peaceful. And beautiful."

She covered his arms with her own. "I bet you didn't have a merfolk complex, though." She sensed his puzzlement and turned to look up at him. "I wanted to turn into a mermaid so bad it wasn't funny. I'd sit in the water with my legs extended, watching to see if they'd change into a tail." She smiled again. "No wonder my parents got annoyed."

He gave her a faint smile of his own. "I did not. I did, however, watch the ships. I wanted to sail on one, to know what the ocean would be like as I walked across a deck."

"And did you ever sail on one?"

"Yes."

She studied him. "Was it everything you'd hoped it would be?"

"Yes."

"You're an odd duck, Spock."

The eyebrow flew up. "I am not—"

She turned in his arms and stopped him with a kiss, startling him for a few seconds before he remembered and relaxed against her, his lips parting against hers, tasting her tongue with his. Her hands slid up to his shoulders, one moving to stroke the back of his head, enjoying the feel of his silky black hair gliding through her fingers. He felt so good against her. Maybe if she closed her eyes tightly enough, she could blot out the reality. .. it was wrong, so very damn wrong…

It is unfortunate.

She jumped again: she'd been so busy trying to pretend they were falling for each other she hadn't realized he had initiated mental contact. Dammit, Spock, stop that!

My apologies. I did not realize I was catching you unawares.

You are one sneaky devil, you know that?

I am not a devil.

I will be the judge of that! she retorted. Why did you do it?

I wished to ascertain your mental state.

To see if I was about to have a meltdown?

I would not use that term…

But that's a yes.

Effectively, yes.

Well I was doing fine until you decided to have a little tête-à-tête with no warning.

You were not "doing fine," as you put it. You were becoming distressed again.

Well that's gonna happen, Spock. I can't do much about it. I'm sorry it's causing you discomfort. But look on the bright side: soon I'll never cause you discomfort again. You won't mean anything to me. She couldn't stop the brief surge of bitter mental laughter. I know that must please you to no end.

He was silent for a long moment. When he spoke his mental voice sounded surprised, even to him. It does not.

She would have jumped back from him if he had not been holding her tightly against him. As it was she froze, physically and mentally. What the hell do you mean, it does not?

It does not, he repeated. I have come to value your friendship. I will regret the loss of that when we return.

She couldn't move. Christine, you must relax, he reminded her.

I can't. You just screwed up all my circuits.

He pulled her down to lie on the sand on top of him, still holding her firmly, his mouth finding hers again, kissing her with an ease he had not exhibited earlier in the week. Christine, you are not acting in a manner consistent with what we are doing. Please focus.

She managed to snap out of the shock his words had produced enough to return his kiss, but her lips were moving over his in anger. Why did you tell me that?

You asked. Indirectly, but you asked nonetheless.

Great. From now on I'll keep my mouth shut.

Why does this knowledge disturb you so? Do you not value our friendship?

Of course I do! Don't you understand that's why I'm so upset? I don't want you to value it, Spock! I don't want you to think or feel anything that will do me any more harm or give me second thoughts! All I want is to get out of here and forget you ever existed!

I see. He pulled his mind away, but not before she felt his shock and hurt.

Oh, for the love of all that's holy, Spock: what am I supposed to say? You know how much all this is hurting me! You can feel it! How does it feel to you?

He was silent again, then he answered: painful, Christine. It feels very painful. I could never understand that before. I do now. I have never wanted that for you.

I know, Spock. I don't want that for me, either. That's why I asked to you wipe it away for me. I can't seem to stop loving you on my own. As strange as it may seem, you're my last hope.

I... still regret that we cannot maintain what we have shared here.

So do I. Well, I think we've been going at it for long enough for now. Let's go get some sleep, ok?

Yes.

Part 11, #88: What If

Christine stared at her diary. She did not, not want to write in it. Because she couldn't write the truth. Couldn't pour out all her feelings of anger and pain at the travesty of her life there. Instead she had to fill it with lies about her and Spock: had to make the charade seem real in every sense. And every time she wrote about her excitement and happiness, she wanted to weep. She wanted to take a red pen and slash through every line: draw a huge red X through each page, scrawl "never, never, never" over and over until the book was nothing but a mass of angry red lines, bleeding like she was…

She realized she was trembling and put the journal down, drawing her knees up to her chest, trying to stop shivering. It had been a month since they had started faking a courtship: a month that had been pure heaven and pure hell for her. Long walks, long talks, long bouts of kissing during which Spock frequently touched her mind to check on her… on the outside it was perfect. Inside she was dying a little more every day.

The worst part was, although their captor seemed pleased, they were still there. They hadn't crossed the line yet, whatever it was. She had cautioned Spock that romance took time, that it could even be a few months, but she'd secretly hoped they'd get sent back after a few smiles and kisses.

Wrong again, Chris, she thought wryly.

She sighed, steeled herself, and picked the diary up again.

One month turned into two, and Christine forced herself to face facts. She and Spock were going to have to step it up. She waited until that night after they had eaten and were taking their usual walk to stop and kiss him abruptly; touching his face in the manner they had mentally agreed upon two months earlier as the signal that she needed to talk to him. His lips and mind opened to her at the same time. Christine?

Spock, what we've been doing isn't working.

Indeed. I have reached the same conclusion.

So we're going to have to take it further.

His mind flinched, though his body stayed in her embrace. Then he sighed. I have been contemplating that as well. I was… reluctant to bring it up.

She understood, knowing that it was as much for her sake as his. So was I. But it doesn't look like kisses are gonna cut it. And the next step in a relationship is a progression of sexual contact.

I am aware of that, Christine.

Well excuse me, Casanova.

Christine, is this really the time for us to have an argument?

She sighed. No. I'm sorry. I'm stressed and nervous as hell here, Spock.

I understand. I am…. apprehensive as well.

He was? She felt a flicker of confusion. He couldn't just treat it like some equation? If kissing does not work, then advance to more overt sexual relations? Surely Mr. Logic Incarnate could do that like a walk in the park…

No, Mr. Logic Incarnate cannot. Emotional and sexual connections are not an equation even for a Vulcan, Christine. I would not pretend to treat them as such.

Damn, she swore silently. I keep forgetting you can do that.

So it would seem.

Well excuse me for not being used to having all my thoughts under a mental microscope!

We have been speaking telepathically to each other for two months and one point six hours, Christine. I do not understand how you cannot be used to it by now.

Because I was alive for thirty-seven years before it ever happened, Spock! Oh, shit…she moaned aloud in frustration. Not that it mattered: moaning was a part of physical interactionand their captor wouldn't think anything remiss of it.

Christine? Are you unwell?

No, Spock. Well, yes, but not in the sense you mean. I just realized we keep getting sidetracked… because we don't really want to discuss what we need to discuss.

She knew without looking at him that he had raised an eyebrow. Logical. And accurate.

But we have to. As much as I enjoy bantering with you, we can't keep postponing the inevitable. Or we'll never get out of this.

True. I am open to suggestions.

Christine sighed. I don't know any more than you do, Spock. What if we try taking it to second base; see if that will be enough?

Second base? You want to engage in a game of baseball?

Despite it all, she giggled into his mouth. No. Sorry. Sometimes I forget you really don't know everything.

Thank you for the reminder. Will you please explain your comment?

With Humans, it's an analogy for sex. Each base means a different progression. First base is kissing, like what we've been doing. Second base involves touching, with and without clothes. Third base is oral/genital contact.

I see. Using this analogy, then, I would presume that a 'home run' is intercourse?

You win the prize, Spock.

I do not require a prize.

It was a joke.

I see. Perhaps it is time to return to camp and… go to second base?

You silver-tongued devil.

Christine, I have told you before—

Hush, Spock. Let's go.

Part 12, # 38: Fairy Tale

One month later…

Christine sighed.

"You are about to use profanity again, are you not?" Spock asked.

"Am not," she muttered, although she really was.

"You are not a good liar, Christine."

She shot him a look that clearly said: I disagree.

He raised an eyebrow at her, and she sighed again, cuddling closer to him, resting her head on his chest as she looked up at the stars. They had touched minds so much that a link had formed between them: they now only needed to be in physical contact to be able to speak telepathically. I think I'm losing my mind, Spock.

I see no evidence of that, Christine.

OK, I was being figurative. But you know what I meant.

Yes.

Seven months, Spock. We've been here seven months. And nothing we've tried so far has worked.

I know.

We're running out of options. No, correction: we are out of options. Except one.

You believe it is time we… had a home run?

How romantic. I've never wanted you more.

Sarcasm is not exactly a turn on either.

She rose up and stared at him, shocked and strangely delighted. Spock! Did you just make a joke?

Perhaps. The strain of our situation may be affecting me more than I realized.

She smiled at him and settled back down. I'm sorry. I don't know why I keep being a smart-ass.

A defense mechanism, perhaps.

Like you and logic?

Logic is not a defense mechanism for me.

Whatever you say, honey.

You are being sarcastic again.

OK, OK, sorry. But to answer your question… I don't know what else to try except to... take it all the way.

Humans are odd.

I'll bite my tongue and take the bait just this once: how so?

You are obsessed with sex: yet you cannot call it sex. You make up analogies, metaphors, euphemisms… you speak of it constantly, but rarely by name. It is as though you are ashamed or afraid to.

I guess you're right. And don't bother telling me how illogical that is. I know it.

Yet you do it as well.

Defense mechanisms, remember?

Do you need to be defensive with me, Christine?

Yes. And no.

That makes no sense either.

Look in my mind and say that again, Spock.

Silence for a moment. I understand.

I seriously doubt it.

I can feel what you feel, do you forget that?

No. But I doubt you can feel it the same way I do.

Believe me. I do.

Then you know why I said it.

I would like for there to be no need for that.

Yeah. I'd like a lot of things. Like not having to have sex with someone who wants me about as much as a piece of seaweed.

She felt him flinch, both mentally and physically. Christine…

What? It's the truth. You don't. You never have, never will. I'm not blaming you, but it's the way it is.

You do blame me.

Now it was her turn to be silent. I guess I do. But I know it's not logical. You are what you are. I couldn't ask you to be something else. I'm sorry.

Your hurt runs deep. I am sorry for that.

Not your fault. You didn't ask me to love you.

That does not change the fact that I am sorry you have felt pain all these years.

I wish you'd stop needing to apologize to me. Just once. Just once I wish you could do something with me and not feel ashamed or regretful. She stopped, horrified. Where had that come from? She was being unfair. She had no right…

More silence. She felt something from him: something she couldn't identify. Then he said softly: I have fulfilled that request.

She went blank. What?

I have fulfilled that request.

How?

I do not feel shame or regret for being your friend, or for coming to care for you.

She struggled not to cry. Thank you, Spock. Thank you for that gift, even if I might not have it for very long.

You will always have it, Christine.

She blinked back the tears with effort. Damn you, Spock. Why did you have to go and care about being my friend? I can't. I can't just be your friend and love you. Now I'm the one who's sorry.

Do not be. You have misunderstood me.

How? Don't you understand that I can't just be your friend and be in love with you too?

Yes. I do. Therefore it is fortuitous that you do not have to.

Time stopped. It simply ceased to exist for her. She stared at him, no longer trying to control her tears, exhaustion, pain. What?

Your words were that you could not be 'just my friend and in love with me too.' You do not have to. It is not a matter of you having to choose.

Why? Then she thought she understood. You can take away my love while letting me want to be your friend?

I could, yes. But I do not wish to do so.

Cold fury and fear filled her. What are you saying? Are you going back on your word?

No. If you wish for me to erase your love for me, I will. What I am trying to say, and not doing a good job of it, is that there is no longer a need for that.

She rose up to look at him again, afraid, too afraid to believe she thought she knew what he was saying. Why? Why is there no longer a need for that?

Do you not know? Do you not realize what I have just realized?

She shook her head. I'm not about to second guess you, Spock. Spell it out for me.

He sighed and drew her closer to him. Do you think that I have spent the past seven months with you and remained unaffected by you?

Crazy, the frantic thudding of her heart. She realized she was shaking. You tell me.

Very well, since Humans deem words of such value. He gazed into her eyes. Christine… I cannot say I love you, because I have never been in love while in my right frame of mind to know for certain that I do at this juncture. But I care for you, deeply. And I now understand that it is not simply as a friend.

You… you…. what?!

She felt his amusement. Do you need me to repeat what I said?

Yes! No. I mean… damn, I don't know what I mean… Spock, you're saying you have feelings for me? Real feelings and not pretend ones?

How astute of you.

Sarcasm, too? I think I must have passed out at some point and this is all a dream…

It is not.

When? She demanded. When did you know this?

He contemplated her question. I am not certain. I do not think I fully knew until tonight when we began this discussion. But when you said that you wished that for once I could do something with you and not feel ashamed or regretful… I realized that I already had. You have become my friend. And someone I care for.

She stared at him, wanting to believe, too afraid to. Are you sure you're not just saying this because we have to have sex?

No. I am not. As often as you have been in my mind, how could you think I would try to deceive you in such a manner?

Oh, Spock… people do all kinds of things to make other people feel better. Maybe you're trying to be kind to me, grant my wish before you scramble my brain…

He grasped her arms and stared into her eyes. Does this feel like I am simply trying to be kind, Christine?

He kissed her: hard, hungrily, mind completely open to hers. She reeled from the intensity of it: the crystalline precision of his thoughts, ordered, logical… and running through them like jeweled ribbons the explosive colors of emotion. Contained, kept in place, but undeniably present. And they were for her, these emotions: respect, appreciation… and yes, desire and a tender caring so strong she almost cried out from the feel of it. He had been carrying all this around for who knew how long and had only now been able to put it together?

You would have me believe that Humans instantly understand every emotion they have?

No…

Then why would you expect that I, a Vulcan unused to emotions, would either?

You picked a fine time to get logical on me, Spock. But also a good time to get emotional on me, so wrap it up and I'll take it.

Meaning?

She laughed aloud, caressed his face with the first fully joyful smile she'd experienced in the past three months. Meaning… let's go play ball.

The walk back to their camp was the longest of her life. At least it felt that way. Christine was still in a daze from Spock's disclosure. Part of her kept waiting to wake up, even though she knew she wasn't really dreaming. It just seemed so impossible. And yet they were walking hand in hand, out of desire, not obligation, back to the spot they had found themselves at seven months earlier. To have sex. Sex they needed to have, but also wanted to have.

Or at least she did. Kind of.

Kind of? That is not encouraging.

Oh, Spock. You know how much I want you. But knowing that we're gonna have an audience… I'm pretty open minded but an unwanted watcher doesn't flip my switches.

Nor mine, if I understand your euphemism. However, there is nothing we can do about it.

So it's not logical to worry about it: yes, I know. I'll try not to think about it and focus on… other things. She projected an image to him and his lips twitched in a hint of a smile.

An excellent suggestion.

Back at their campsite, Spock began lying wood for a fire. Christine watched him, lost in thought. As he worked she made a decision and went inside their shelter. Spock glanced at her in curiosity, but she was silent. He continued making the fire, and a moment later she returned, carrying one of their sleeping mats and a blanket with her.

"Christine?"

She smiled. "Call me a hopeless romantic, but I thought… it would be nicer by the ocean and under the stars."

An eyebrow went up. "You wish to consummate our relationship outdoors, yet you wish to make a bed?"

Her smile turned into a smirk. "Have you ever made love on sand before, Spock?"

He looked uncomfortable, but answered her: "no."

"Then trust me. There are some places you do not want to get sand in."

The eyebrow lowered, and a faint hint of green flushed his cheeks. "I see."

Christine resisted an urge to ruffle his hair. She didn't want to turn him into anymore of a shy Vulcan than he suddenly seemed to be. Her smile faded. Wait a minute… was he having second thoughts?

He looked pointedly at the bedding in her hands. "Do you require assistance to expedite the process, Christine?"

His voice was teasing, husky: she looked into his eyes and saw desire burning in their depths. Ok, no second thoughts there…

She dumped the mat and covered it with the blanket in about twenty seconds. "I admire your efficiency," Spock said, moving from the fire to stand beside her.

"I'm eager," she said, feeling a blush stain her own cheeks. "Sorry. That wasn't so romantic either, was it?"

"It was honest, and straightforward," he replied, taking her into his arms. "And your honesty is one of the things I value most in you."

"It is?"

"Yes. There is no artifice about you: nothing cold, calculating or deceitful. You have always given that to those you care for. You try to ease their pain, as you have eased mine in the past."

Her startled eyes met his. "Me... I've eased your pain? How?"

"When my fever came upon me. Even though I had shouted at you, embarrassed you in front of others, thrown a bowl of soup out the door after you… you still came back to tell me we were going to Vulcan. You cared enough about me to risk further angering me, and made more soup for me when I asked. I could not tell you before now how much that touched me."

His words made her so happy… but so angry. "Why not?"

He titled his head. "I do not understand."

"Why couldn't you?" The words rushed out of her mouth before she could stop them. "Why couldn't you give me a chance on the ship? If you saw all these wonderful, admirable things about me, why did you never give me a second glance until we got in this situation?" She pulled away from him and turned her back to him, struggling to control her sudden anger and pain.

Spock sighed. It was a fair question: one she deserved an honest answer for. He moved behind her, not touching her but letting her feel his warmth. He considered, debated, analyzed… but in the end there was really only one answer he could give.

"I was afraid."

"Afraid?" she echoed. "Of me?"

"Of any woman. Even you. Afraid of letting myself have feelings for a woman after everything I have experienced."

She shook her head. "That doesn't tell me much, Spock."

He sighed again. "I know. He rested his hands on her shoulders. "Will you allow me to show you?"

She turned towards him, blue eyes searching his brown ones, and nodded. He drew her closer, slowly opened his memories to her.

Leila Kalomi. Scientist. Brilliant, beautiful… deceitful. Deliberately exposing him to the spores to strip his control from him, manipulate him into feeling emotions. Into loving her. Her crying after the spores had worn off him. "I can't lose you now, Mr. Spock! I can't!" she'd cried. And she had truly been hurting: had truly loved him. But if he had allowed it, she would have chosen to be selfish rather than respect his wishes. You would never have done that, Christine.

T'Pring. Wife by arrangement as children. Challenging the marriage to win her freedom. Her right, but with a terrible price: choosing the captain as her champion to protect who she wanted to marry. Logical: flawlessly logical. But it had left him sickened and mistrustful, even after he had known the captain was alive. She had forced him to fight his best friend without knowing he would not die: without caring that she was destroying not one but two lives.

Bitch, Christine thought. I'm sorry, Spock. I shouldn't have called her that.

You are entitled to your opinion, Christine.

Good, because I really don't want to take it back. But I'm interrupting you. I ask forgiveness. Is there more?

Yes.

Zarabeth. A savage Vulcan falling in love with an exiled Sarpeidonian. She was strong, kind… and so relieved not to be alone anymore that she deceived them, let them think they could not go back, to keep Spock with her. Her ruse, although easier to understand, still hurt. Even so, he would have stayed with her, so strong were his emotions at the time. Upon returning to the present, and the Enterprise, it had taken much meditation to come to terms with all of it.

Oh, that's horrible! Christine exclaimed. To have exiled her like that, all alone in an ice age… no wonder she didn't want you to leave…

Spock blinked. You understand?

Of course I do. She was living in a frozen hell! It's a wonder she hadn't lost her mind!

Had I stayed, we would not be here now, he reminded her.

I know. But speaking for myself, I can't hate her for it. No one wants to be alone. She smiled gently in their shared thoughts. Not even a Vulcan, apparently.

He smiled slightly in return. I said you were honest, Christine. I should also have said you are compassionate and forgiving… fortunately for me.

And don't you forget it, she grinned.

Do you understand now, Christine?

Yes, Spock. I do. I had no idea you'd gone through all that. I'm so sorry.

You are hardly responsible for any of it, Christine. But I thank you for your understanding. And…

Spock?

I grieve with thee for your own pain and loss.

She drew a sharp breath, feeling the memories, the emotions, of Roger come full force into their shared thoughts. She hadn't even realized she was doing it…

Spock, you don't have to do this.

Nor did you have to do it for me, he countered. I wish to share your pain as you shared mine.

And so he did: from the first moment she knew Roger was lost to the moment of his "death." He shook his head in amazement. To have known such grief, such betrayal… yet you carried on, and fell in love with me, and had nothing but grief once more…

It was my own choice. You didn't ask for it, I told you that.

It was not your choice, though: to be hurt again. Was it.

She sighed. You can't choose who you love. No. But I've never regretted loving you, Spock. Even when I thought it was stupid and useless.

I am glad for that. He leaned down, kissed her gently. I would like to, what is the phrase: 'make it up to you?' for all the time I could not let myself be close to you.

She smiled against his mouth. I'd like that, too.

The kiss deepened, her arms going around him, pressing as tightly against him as she could: not for warmth but from desire. All her anger from before had faded, quieted: in its place was a relief and profound joy she could not begin to put into words. Fortunately, since Spock was telepathic, she didn't have to. He knew her happiness as his own, as she knew his.

Spock pulled Christine closer to him: enjoying the feel of the length of her body pressed to his. It had been a long time since he had held a woman in his arms, and never one who gave him such a genuine feeling of peace and comfort. With her the past was burned away: the deceptions and betrayals reduced to ashes. She rose from them like a phoenix: a constant, eternal force that lifted him from his loneliness and carried him to a place of safety and love.

He could not get enough of her. He was consumed by the need to touch her, to taste her, to make her a part of him. He pulled back from her long enough to whisper her name, then pulled her towards the makeshift bed.

When they reached it, Christine ran her hands up his arms and peeled off his shirt, her dark blue eyes drinking in the sight of his exposed skin. She ran the palms of her hands down his muscles to the flat plane of his stomach and back up again, watching the expressions that crossed his face. It was obvious that he wasn't used to being touched: every inch her fingers slid along his flesh caused him to twitch. She smiled.

She gently pressed him down on the bed until he was stretched out on his back with her straddling him. She continued to caress his bare chest with her fingertips a bit longer before she leaned over him and licked his left nipple. His eyes closed and a low sigh escaped him. She flicked her tongue over the sensitive nub again, then took it into her mouth and very gently sucked on it. He jerked slightly and moaned.

She continued her assault on the other side, then brushed each thumb over a nipple as she trailed her mouth in damp circles from his collarbone to the waistband of his pants. He was twisting beneath her, breathing harder with each stroke of a thumb. She pressed them firmly down while she kissed him, feeling her own arousal soar as he gasped her name into her mouth.

Her fingers slipped into the waist of his pants, slowly pulling them down along with his underwear. He lifted his hips to assist her, eyes never leaving hers, as she removed the final barriers and bared his body to her eager eyes.

For a long moment she just looked at him, all of him: eyes travelling over him in appreciation and possession. He was just as beautiful as she'd imagined he would be. No, she corrected herself: he was more beautiful. From his head to his toes, from the faint green sheen of his skin to the flat planes of his muscles, he was absolutely breathtaking to her. She could have spent an hour just looking at him. But she had an even better agenda to follow.

She straddled him and guided his hands to her own clothes. He needed no further encouragement, and a few minutes later she was just as bare as he was. She sat very still, letting him take his time to see her: his dark eyes traveling down from her lush breasts to the soft curves of her hips and beyond. When his gaze met hers again she was overjoyed to see the same appreciation and desire she felt for him mirrored there.

She traveled down his body and back up again, caressing him, getting to know the textures and tastes and sight of him. Her hands and lips and teeth and tongue explored the angles of his arms, the clean lines of his legs, the dark curls of hair on his chest and stomach. She stroked his elbows, his eyebrows, his feet.

"Christine."

His voice was so dark, so deep it made her shiver. Her hands skimmed up him until they came to rest at the junction of his thighs. She felt him tremble again as she settled her hands on his hips. There seemed to be a questioning in his eyes, something he wanted to say, or to hear her say…

She had almost managed to forget they were probably being watched. It came rushing back to her. But although it made her angry, that anger had nothing to do with her desire for Spock."I want you," she murmured, bending to kiss him again. "So much."

He pulled her down further and kissed her breasts, causing her to gasp and sigh. He raised his head, a pleased look on his face. "Indeed."

"Like you had any doubts," she teased. Then his mouth went back to what it had been doing.

The more she sighed, whimpered, and moved against him, the bolder he became. He moved from her breasts to her arms, then her hands and fingers, kissing them, taking the digits into his mouth one by one to suck on them. She turned her head and pressed his face to her neck. He planted kisses and gentle bites along the soft skin there and was rewarded by her soft cry of pleasure. He moved her to lie beneath him, his lips and hands teased and trailed their way down to her stomach.

When his fingers found her, wet and hot and aching, she arched against him, moaning his name into his mouth. He teased her, tormented her in ecstasy, as his mouth replaced his fingers. The heat of his tongue was incredible: like being licked by a flame that didn't burn. She arched against him again, gasping with each long, steady stroke of his tongue, until she thought she would explode.

"Spock… please…"

He needed no urging. He kissed her, twining his tongue with hers, gasping as he felt her hand slide down to encircle and caress his organ, making him ache again. She wrapped her legs loosely around his waist, using her hand to guide him to her, waiting and eager for him. Their eyes met and locked as he slid inside her.

He moaned. She felt so good, warm and wet and soft against him. She tightened the grip of her legs a bit, holding him to her as she took his face in her hands. He pushed himself fully into her, still taking care to be certain he wasn't hurting her, and felt another surge of desire as she cried out in pleasure. She tilted her hips upward and the added friction made him gasp.

He began to move against her, a slow, easy rhythm. She rocked in time with him, caressing his back, his shoulders, running her fingers through his soft black hair. All the time she watched him. It seemed more important than anything in the universe at that moment to know how he felt, to see that he was feeling the same pleasure that she was. And he gazed steadily into her face, as though he was doing the same thing. That, too, was new to her. She'd always kept her eyes closed during sex. But he made her want to look at him, to bore her way into his very essence, to join with him on every possible level.

You are, Christine.

She smiled. Good. You feel… I can't explain…

You do not have to.

She smiled again, remembering he felt what she felt. And she felt what he felt. And they both felt amazing. He kissed her, and she stopped thinking, just let herself experience the pleasure and happiness.

Christine felt something gather speed inside her, something powerful and all consuming. Her fingers clenched the smoothness of his back, her hips moved harder, as the pleasure came crashing down upon her in waves, radiating outward. She was spilling over, exploding into infinity, a release too strong to be restrained. She clutched him as she came, burying her face in his neck, then flinging her head back and crying out his name, the only name that mattered to her here in this moment.

When he felt his, felt her explode against him, he thrust into her with a hard, fast movement, once, twice… and that was all that was needed to send him over his own edge. Everything that he'd kept back and denied for so long demanded he yield, and he obeyed gladly, holding her close as he moaned, feeling his body ignite in an endless stream of ecstasy that washed over him so strongly he drowned in the rapture only to resurface and go under again and again, until finally his flesh quieted and he became aware of them trembling against each other. He carefully slipped out of her and gathered her to him, pressing a long, tender kiss to her lips.

She laughed, a breathless, exhilarated sound, grabbed his chin, and planted a kiss of her own on his mouth. She embraced him, and for an endless moment they simply held each other, saying nothing because nothing needed to be said. Spock gently pulled her down beside him, and Christine pulled the blanket up over them. He fitted her into the curve of his body and tucked her head onto his chest. He stretched against her, as relaxed and content as she was.

Sleep came to them, and together they fell over the edge into it.

They had been asleep for a few hours when the familiar sounds and lights that signaled a visit from their keeper awakened them. They sat up, Christine groggily pulling the cover over her breasts, as they blinked and stared at the being.

It looked at them and its lips twitched in what almost seemed like a smile. It sighed, pressed on a jewel on the bracelet they hadn't seen it touch before. It stared for a moment, an almost wistful expression in its pale face. Then it simply said "goodbye." It pressed another button, and the world as they had known it for the past seven months vanished.

"I'm telling you, Jim, I have no idea—" McCoy stopped in mid-grumble as a whine and bright light caused him to shield his face with his arms. It went away as quickly as it arrived… and in its place sat Christine and Spock, on some kind of camping mat with what for all the universe looked like a diary beside each of them.

Naked.

The three of them stared at each other, frozen in shock: Christine so stunned the blanket slipped from her nerveless fingers to fall to her waist.

"Bones?" Kirk's voice came over the intercom. "What's going on?"

After a few seconds, Spock recovered and calmly reached down and pulled the blanket up over her. He turned back to McCoy and said the only thing he could think of under the circumstances to the astonished CMO:

"Doctor McCoy. Nurse Chapel and Commander Spock, reporting for duty."

Epilogue

Christine glanced up at Spock, who was finishing up some reports on his computer. They had spent the last several days being poked, prodded and interviewed regarding their captivity, and were now officially of sound mind and body and fit for duty. Tomorrow would be their first official day back. As much as she was looking forward to it, she had enjoyed the past few days as well.

She and Spock had had a long discussion after their initial exams and reports. Christine had been afraid he would now change his mind about them, and Spock had asked her why she was being so illogical now. The subsequent verbal teasing had led to other, more pleasurable things which left no doubts in her mind as to what he felt: and a promise from her to try and stop being illogical quite so much.

They had decided to alternate staying in each other's quarters, and tonight it was his. As he worked on his reports, Christine picked up her journal/diary, flipping through the pages with a faint smile. She could smile about it now: now that the ache she had felt for the past four years had ended.

"Christine?"

He had turned away and was studying her instead of his monitor.

"I was just thinking: who would've thought something good would come from being kidnapped and forced to live in a reality-show paradise?" she said.

He raised an eyebrow. "I would estimate the odds—"

"Don't," she said, grinning. "It's enough for me to know we beat them."

"I suppose that is one way of putting it,' he replied. He gave her a faint smile of his own. "I shall be finished shortly. Are you ready for dinner?"

"I will be. I just want to write one last entry in my diary."

"Indeed." He studied her curiously. "What would that be?"

Christine raised an eyebrow of her own. "The ending, of course."

He sighed. "As you wish," he said indulgently, turning back to his work.

She smiled and opened the book.

A FAIRY TALE

Once upon a time, there was a woman named Christine, who fell in love with a Half-Vulcan, Half-Human named Spock.

Spock was afraid of women, because he was not supposed to let himself have emotions, and when he had they had hurt and betrayed him. So he had built up a wall around himself, and even though he knew Christine loved him, he would not let himself give her a chance.

One day, after many, many long days, they were kidnapped and exiled by an experimenter. They were put alone together on a beautiful warm island to see what would happen between them.

Months went by, and Spock and Christine became friends. But that was not enough for their captor. It wanted to see if they would go beyond friendship. One day, they realized this, and decided they should pretend to be falling in love, so they would be released and be able to go back to their ship.

And so they walked together, and talked, and kissed and touched. But it was not working. Finally, they decided they should have sex to see if that would be enough. And Christine was very sad, because she did not want to be with Spock when he did not care for her.

But what Christine had not known, and Spock had not realized, was that during all the time they were pretending to have feelings… they had. Spock had truly come to care for her. And it was then, during her saddest hour, that he told her.

And that night, under the stars, two became one. Not out of deceit, but desire. They did not have sex: they made love. And it was genuine, and everything Christine could ever have hoped it would be.

A few hours later, they were sent home. And though at first she was afraid Spock would change his mind, he quickly showed her that he would not. Whatever their future would bring, they would face it together.

And they lived happily ever after (except when they argued, but they would still love each other. And when they were in danger, but that was normal in their professions).

THE END