The box was big, embarrassingly big, taking up most of the entrance to her quarters. For the past 3 days she had been removing all books and items collected in relation to Vulcan, the planet, the people.
Christine knew that she was a rational "most days" she groaned, reasonably calm and educated person, however on sitting back onto her bed to view the collection before her – she started to dispute this assessment.
"What was I thinking?"
She ran her fingers through her hair, resting her palms on the sides of her cheeks.
"Damn it Christine, you're being an idiot, just let it go"
A single deep breath encouraged her to return to sorting out the pile in front of her. It was another two hours before she could finally seal the box. All the days, months spent in hopeless plans for an impossible reality, neatly arranged in alphabetical order. She leant across the box, sealing it. forever. In larger than necessary letters the word "Rubbish" was scrawled across the lid.
"Well, what doesn't kill us…" smiling sadly to herself she straightened her uniform and headed to the door to begin her shift.
"Wondered when you were going to make an appearance"
Leonard's words greeted her on entry to Sickbay
"I'm sorry", she mumbled, moving her head to meet his eyes. "I had some matters that I needed to deal with, but its fine now "
McCoy considered asking her more, however thought better of it. Christine was an excellent Nurse, the occasional aberration in her behaviour was usually due to a good reason. The matter of her lateness to shift was soon dropped from the conversation.
"It's been a quiet one", Leonard sighed reaching for the now cooled coffee sitting on his desk, "a minor strain, an easily managed communicable disease and a mildly interesting insertion, the notes of which you can read at your leisure"
He sipped the coffee, not enjoying the now tepid temperature.
"I really must stop getting sidetracked, I hate cold coffee"
She smiled and took the notes from his desk.
"Well let's hope the Captain can keep this level of activity until we dock at Vulcan, I fancy a slow few weeks before shore leave"
"Interesting", he tapped the rim of his cup; "you're not usually a big shore leave fan, any particular reason that your interest has been peaked this time around?" McCoy leaned forward slightly, one corner of his mouth rising slightly.
"Leonard, I know what you are thinking, and your wrong – yes we dock at Vulcan, but that's not my reason for wanting shore leave – in fact far from it"
McCoy had now been the overseer of Nurse Chapel's feelings for First Officer Spock for a number of years. He was sure in his assumption that Christine's wish for shore leave was due to wanting to obtain more information in relation to the home planet of the object of her affection. As if reading his mind, she answered his unstated belief:
"I have just spent the past few days clearing my room of all that is Vulcan – some of which, I might add, is quite collectable. I plan to offer it to the Vulcan museum"
"Hmm…. Clearing out your quarters – you trying to tell me something Christine"
"Not really … well", she paused for a moment. Leonard was more than her boss, for a long time now he had fallen into the role of father figure. She felt she could confide in him in relation to most matters, however in relation to Spock she was concerned that he would be placed in an awkward position, given his friendship with the First Officer.
"Oh Damn it …. Ok – in the spirit of moving on.. I'm getting rid of the …stuff…cause in a sense I'm getting rid of Spock"
McCoy frowned "you're not going to kill him are you, I mean I understand the frustration but that might be a bit extreme", his frown held a playful hint in its expression.
Christine shrugged, with a small smile forming on her lips.
"Tempting" she laughed "and I have the medical knowledge to make it look like an accident, but no – I have no wish to hurt him. I woke up a few days ago and realised that I am a stupid fool". She thought for a moment and then continued on:
"I came on board looking for Roger, found him, lost him, fell into 'loving' Spock – like I needed a safety net for my emotions. I think most of my adult life I have avoided dealing with 'me' by placing all my wishes and plans in the hands of another, even if they didn't want them. I think it was sort of an avoidance tactic –whilst 'being in love' with someone, I didn't have to deal with what was going on for me"
She took a deep breath "sorry, all a bit heavy for the first 10 minutes of shift"
McCoy grinned again "heavy but honest" he paused "Is it honest?"
She shifted in her seat:
"He doesn't love me, and he shouldn't – I've done nothing to deserve that sort of devotion. I do my role; I care for people when they need to be cared for. Hell I don't even really know if it is love that I feel, or I've just convinced myself that it is "
"It's been a few years though Christine, do you think you can just turn this off, whatever this is?"
She looked away:
"I don't know Leonard, but I know if I don't try then neither of us will get any peace, and that's not fair to him but particularly to me. I have the control here – God damn it I'm a scientist, a skilled articulate professional not some 16 year old doe eyed adolescent, I'm sick of being irritating particularly to myself".
"Well bravo Christine", McCoy reached across and took her hand, "Don't get me wrong, between you and me I love the stupid Vulcan lug – but I also don't want to see you hurt. Do what you have to do to feel ok and know I'll be here to support you no matter what".
Without thinking she reached across the table to hug McCoy, placing a deep kiss of affection upon his cheek.
"Excuse me Doctor McCoy, Nurse Chapel?" Both turned to see Spock standing at the door, "I apologise if I have interrupted anything"
McCoy started to respond, when he was cut short by Christine "Its fine Mr Spock, I was just thanking Dr McCoy for his support in a matter of … " she thought momentarily for the words …"cardiac health". They both grinned at each other before she headed out of the door.
"I will read over your shift notes Doctor, I am intrigued as to how a communicator can become placed in what appears to be a less than convenient access position"
She then turned, politely acknowledged Spock and left the room.
"Nurse Chapel appears to be in a positive mood", Spock noted as he handed McCoy a PADD to be signed.
"She's working hard on a personal project at the moment, if the results are what she is hoping for, I think we can see a much more content Christine, now Spock what can I do for you?"
Sweaty and in some level of aching pain Christine left the gym to meet Uhura for lunch.
"Perhaps a shower first next time Chris?" Nyota grimaced slightly as Christine placed her food tray on the table next to her.
"I was running late, and I thought you would miss my charming company if I didn't make it here on time" Christine grinned at her friend, in a surprisingly wicked way.
"Ha, well company aside – you look like hell, what have you been up to?"
"Boxing!" Christine exclaimed "and am really enjoying it, and you should see my arms", with that she rolled up the sleeve of her jacket to show off her newly forming biceps.
"Indeedy – I am shaping up mighty fine, if I do say so myself"
"Well you and perhaps Ensign Carter sitting about four tables down"
Christine turned to catch the Ensign watching her, he quickly moved to continue his conversation. Christine whispered to Nyota "I could do worse..", both women giggled and resumed their lunch.
Uhura was discussing the latest updates from on the Bridge, Christine updated her in some of the more interesting medical cases that had appeared in sickbay. The topic of shore leave came up, Uhura stating her intention of heading to the surface, Christine was about to share her plans when they were joined by McCoy, Kirk and Spock.
"Sorry ladies to intrude, mind if we join you – seems the rec room is very popular at the moment" Kirk's voice was warm, yet authoritative
"No problem" replied Uhura,"though I apologise for my companion who appears to have given up on showering"
Christine blushed briefly then composed herself, "I have spent the last two hours in the gym perfecting the greatest right hook known in this century "
"Indeed" noted the Captain, "Only yesterday Ensign Carter made mention on the Bridge of your boxing prowess", Kirk leant a little closer " he seemed quite impressed"
"Well I do float like a butterfly and sting like a bee" – four faces turned to her in confusion "it's a quote from the 20th C , by a famous boxer – doesn't matter". She reached across the table for the water jug, grimacing slightly. Spock, sitting opposite her noted her action "Miss Chapel are you injured?", his voice was low so as not to interrupt the conversation of the Captain with the others.
"Injured, no – I just fell the wrong way today in the gym. Its minor, more irritating than anything else" Spock made no more comment of it, however lifted the jug to her glass and filled it.
"Thanks" she smiled at him, remembering briefly how previously she would have always considered her responses to him – how he would read interpret them. The new Christine in her new incantation had decided to respond as she would with anyone, naturally / openly.
Conversation flowed with a comfortable ease, Christine did not seek out Spock in the group, nor did she ignore him. At one stage she unconsciously raised her hands to her hair to remove the band tying it back, the still wet locks fell loosely around her shoulders, short strands clung to her face as her skin continued to show signs of her previous exertions. She thought, briefly, that she had seen Spock from the corner of her eye, watching her rearrange her hair, and perhaps linger a little longer than normal on her features. She shook her head slightly and quickly removed such thoughts from her mind.
After more than an hour Christine excused herself, though proud of her work out even she had to admit that a shower would be in everyone's best interest.
She headed for the door, surprised by a voice behind her. "Miss Chapel" it was Spock "you are heading to sick bay I assume?"
Christine turned to face him, slightly shorter than him in her sneakers she had to look up to meet his eyes. "It hadn't been my intention, is there a reason I am required there – my shift is not for another few hours"
"Your….irritaton may require treatment, I noted that more than once you appeared to favour one side of your body, indicating possible damage"
"My? … oh, the muscle strain – goodness Mr Spock, it really is minor, it will go away on its own accord. A hot shower and bed will sort it out quickly enough". She turned and headed down to the corridor, slightly surprised to have the First Officer fall into step with her.
"Am I to get an escort to my quarters?" she queried, continuing on her way
"I have duties to complete in areas that are in this direction, unless you find my company disagreeable I will walk with you"
"Disagreeable….Nooo…whatever", the last comment was mumbled under her breath.
The next few steps were in silence, slightly awkward silence. Though Christine could quote nearly every Vulcan statistic known, she knew very little about this particular Vulcan – a fact she had been coming to realise more and more over recent weeks.
"Are you planning to go on shore leave when we reach Vulcan?", her voice echoed slightly, inconveniently the corridors were particularly empty making their walk together more pronounced.
"It had not been my intention Miss Chapel, do you intend to make use of your allocated leave time?"
"Ummm, yes – but not for recreation, well sort of but not really"
Spock stopped walking and turned to Christine, "your comment does not appear to make sense Nurse"
"Its … I just have some things that I wish to donate to the Vulcan museum... Uummm some old books I've collected awhile ago for which I have no more use"
"Books?', Spock queried
Christine inwardly groaned. Things had been going so well – the first few days after her discussion with McCoy her actions with Spock had still been quite considered, however she had found in the most recent weeks that she had been thinking of him less, responding more naturally. Why did she have to mention the books, they were – in a way, the symbol of her now shown to be hopeless infatuation with the unattainable. Unfortunately that unattainable object was now demonstrating an interest about the very things that she wished to discard.
"Damn damn damn" she muttered
"What oh yes the books – old tatty things, had them for ages…picked them up at various places – thought they might be of interest. I'm sure most of them are now available in a more convenient form, anyway it was just an idea"
"It would seem an ill advised use of your time if, as you say, the books are 'tatty' and of little interest – may I see them, I might be able to ascertain their worth to a museum"
"Of course, I can have them brought over to your quarters to look at when you are free"
"Alternatively I could collect them now, as we are on the way to your quarters" He responded.
"Now…?" she could only think of the large word RUBBISH written over the box. She had written it as a statement, however on deciding on donating the books she had held every intention of rewording the box to something more appropriate.
"I really need a shower Mr Spock, if you are free in an hour and you still wish to collect them – you could come by then, I will feel a bit more human by then"
"I am sure you feel quite human at all times Miss Chapel"
Christine could of sworn there was an emphasis in the wording that made the comment seem more personal than just a throw away comment. Again she chided herself for her foolishness.
"I will attend your quarters in an hour Miss Chapel"
"Fine … ummm Mr Spock – probably not the time or place, but can you ease off on the 'Miss'Chapel"
Spock opened his mouth to respond – Christine quickly stopped him " this isn't a request to call me Christine, that's not my call as to when/ if you use my first name", she paused" it never has been" – "rather if you must address me, can you show the respect of my station that is call me Nurse Chapel, I feel noting my relationship status in a greeting is a bit ummm….outdated"
Spock was silent for a moment, then leant forward slightly "I agree Nurse Chapel, though I believe that at some stage your title would be more appropriate as Doctor Chapel"
"Funny you should say that I've been recently thinking that very thought myself" She smiled comfortably for the first time during the conversation.
"Nurse Chapel !" a voice from down the corridor broke the sense of ease between the two of them. Both turned to see a young Ensign running to catch up.
Though Christine had seen the officer on board she had had limited contact with him, and never a conversation. Uhura's comments in the rec room and been the first time she had taken any real notice. She waited until he had caught his breath then queried his call.
"Can I help you?"
"Yes, at least I hope so. I noticed in the rec room that … well you noticed me"
Christine's brow furrowed, she started to develop a feeling of illness in her stomach "please do not let this turn into some High School prom date scenario, not in front of Spock" she thought.
"I thought I saw you looking over my way Ensign, but I'm not sure…..", she was unable to finish as the enthusiastic officer kept talking – seemingly oblivious to the company he was in.
"I trained as a boxer on Earth, during my time studying in Starfleet. I've noticed you in the gym and well, you are doing great but you could be better. I was wondering if you are interested in taking up to another level. That is training together – you will get a lot more out of it, and it would help me as well. I've been a bit slack since coming on board in regards to keeping up my fitness – it would help focus, are you interested?"
His offer appeared to have been made from a genuine wish to assist, she took a brief moment to consider. He sounded sincere, seemed to know what he was talking about, and she did love this new form of exercise – if she could improve it surely could only assist her in focussing her mind away from any errant thoughts that distracted her from her current path.
"Ok Ensign, you have a training partner"
"However" a voice, belonging to someone almost forgotten in the situation, interjected in a manner that demanded attention. Both turned immediately to the source. "Nurse Chapel has currently sustained some injuries, as such training would not be advisable in the immediate future"
Christine momentarily held her breath whilst she considered her response to Spock's statement. She was, in all honesty, a little taken aback. Not only was he giving medical advice on a condition she had already explained as being minor, he was also seemed to be directing her exercise activities. She could not remember a time when he had shown any interest in her recreational pursuits, or her general health.
"As First Officer of the Enterprise the health and wellbeing of the crew is one of my primary responsibilities". Spock explained.
The Ensign looked from Christine to Spock and back again, unsure if he was being reprimanded.
"Carter", Christine began, then paused, " Matt", she decided using his first name was more appropriate to indicate that she was not in any way angry with him.
"I appreciate that someone has noticed my interest in this sport, and if you have any ideas for techniques or training styles that might improve what I'm currently doing than that would be great. Mr Spock is correct that I have a slight injury at the moment, however MY MEDICAL opinion is that I will be able to train in a couple of days. I'm not sure of your roster, but if you want to drop around to Sickbay later on I'll be on shift and we can talk more about a time to catch up –is that ok?"
Ensign Carter was grinning broadly "Of course, that's great. I'll see you later" He turned quickly to Spock "Mr Spock" he stated, then turned and left.
"The officer is very young and impressionable", noted Spock, turning again to face Christine "I would recommend that you reconsider his offer as he may interpret matters in a manner that may not be productive to a positive work environment. Also I am unsure that Boxing can be considered an appropriate sport to train in, particularly for someone who is in the medical profession"
Christine stood, silent, mouth slightly open with shock. In all the times she had been in contact with Spock the emotions that she had felt had all been warm, there was care / concern / loyalty even maybe love – but right at this moment, in this time and space she had only one feeling for him and that was anger, swelling up inside her to where she thought she might burst. She took a deep breath and calmly, yet clearly made her thoughts known.
"MR Spock, I appreciate your concern for the crew – though as stated I am able to assess my own medical condition, perhaps better than non medical personnel. Also I am unsure as to how YOU interpret the Lieutenant's offer, but I saw it as one crewmember offering to assist another in an area of interest to the benefit of both. I cannot see how that could do anything BUT contribute to a positive working environment" She took another breath. "And I am not even going to have a discussion with you in relation to how I intend to keep fit. Now I really must get ready for my next shift, as for coming to my quarters to assess the items that I have, I do not believe that that is currently necessary. I will forward them to your quarters at a more convenient time. Now SIR, if you don't mind I must excuse myself"
With that Christine turned and finished the short walk to her quarters without looking back. One thing she knew for sure, when she met Carter in the gym it would be Spock's face she imagined on the punching bag.