Epilogue - The Debt

The shakedown cruise was shorter than any had expected. Starfleet received the news of Capt. Decker and Lt. Ilia's disappearance with typical military acceptance. A brief but thorough investigation was held and by the time Enterprise returned to Earth it was over.

Of course there was still the matter of Admiral Kirk's command of Enterprise. Nogura had given him the ship only when he believed it was necessary and only for the limited mission. Now that V'ger was no more there was the sticky matter of how to sign the entire tour over to him.

Naturally there was much discussion in the popular media about it but Nogura was not generally swayed by that sort of thing.

Jim did have all the skills needed to command the newly outfitted ship, but the technicalities required his presence on Earth for an official change of command and a new send off.

For the crew of Enterprise it was a relief to actually have an official send off.

For Scotty it was a blessing as there were numerous systems that needed complete outfitting or re calibration. He estimated 6 days so Jim was counting on 3.

After a long and grueling day in Starfleet HQ the newly official captain of the Enterprise was roaming the station for a place to unwind.

Nogura had run him through his paces, but in the end they had hashed out all the details and Jim was given the full 5 year mission.

Head aching, he decided to stop by the Officer's club for a burger and beer before heading back to the ship.

It was after 2200 on a duty weekday and the place was deserted. He took up a barstool and tossed his credit chit on the counter and ordered from the tall Andorian barkeep, "Beer. I don't care what kind."

From somewhere in a dark corner he heard a voice, "The Heineken's on tap, Jim and it's not bad." Christine moved up to his left and took up a chair.

McCoy took a chair to his right.

"How long have you two been here?" he asked wearily.

"Oh 'bout 10 minutes." Leonard answered. His beer was barely touched.

The bartender brought a pint glass and scanned Jim's chit.

Jim took a long sip and savored the sensation of the cold bubbly liquid as it moved down to his empty stomach. "What did George say about your arrangement?"

Christine snorted slightly and swallowed her sip of beer, "He about fell out of his chair, but it was ok. We convinced him it was the right thing to do."

"Did you now?" Jim asked skeptically.

The doors opened and in walked a few Enterprise crewmembers, including Sulu and Checkov. Many of the crew had elected to take leave time, but Checkov and Sulu had been working at Starfleet coordinating the final refit of equipment.

McCoy held his beer at eye level watching the bubbles rise, "Actually we're piloting a new staffing structure for Starfleet Medical."

Jim smiled and looked from one to the other, "Whose idea was that?"

"CMO of Starfleet Medical thought it would be the best way to handle the situation." Christine answered diplomatically.

"You ganged up on him." Jim laughed.

Sulu and Checkov ordered drinks and some food from the table padd. Jim wondered if he should eat too. The beer was making him feel lightheaded.

The doors opened again. It was a regular late-night rush.

Uhura and Rand entered dressed in civilian clothes and flanking an exhausted looking Spock. Oddly enough Spock had elected to take leave time with the two women.

"Just one small drink and then we'll go back to the ship." Rand was saying, apparently to Spock because Uhura looked genuinely pleased to be there.

They moved to the bar where the doctors flanked the captain.

"Mr. Spock?" Jim smiled to his friend. "What have you been up to today, my friend."

He felt suddenly warm and good, being able to say that to Spock again. It was good to be here.

Spock stopped within arms reach of his friend, clasped his hands behind his back comfortably and answered, "Commanders Uhura and Rand have been showing me the highlights of the Bay area."

Uhura fished something out of her pocket, a credit chit. "We've been playing tourist. Alcatraz, Golden Gate, The Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory." She turned to the jukebox on the wall and slid her chit into it selecting a few songs at random.

Rand continued, "Can you believe that Spock has never been to any of those places!"

"I can believe it." McCoy ribbed easily. He too looked happy to be here with all of his friends.

Spock raised a ubiquitous eyebrow and defended himself good-naturedly. "I was otherwise occupied when I was at Starfleet Academy."

Christine only smiled into her beer and remembered how she too had not ventured outside the campus except when heartily nagged by her friends.

A lively tune suddenly filled the bar and Uhura returned to the bar placing an arm around Jim and Leonard's necks. "Now Gentlemen, I have served for more than five years with you and you have never ever danced with me. Tonight, my friends, we will end this dreadful faux pas."

Before either could protest she pulled them up from their stools, grasping their hands and fairly dragged them to the small area set aside for dancing. Rand laughed heartily and sat in the captain's now empty seat.

She ordered a pitcher of ale and a large platter of nachos. She had barely finished ordering when Sulu and Checkov appeared and pulled her to the dance floor as well.

Christine looked down at her beer and up at Spock awkwardly. He too seemed ill at ease. They watched in silence as their friends bounced and bobbed to an old rock and roll tune.

It seemed so right and yet so very wrong at once. To be here with all their friends enjoying food and company and yet to hear the unspoken thought that no one would ask either of them to dance. As if somehow it were some sort of taboo that none of them would speak of lest they raise the specter of the carnage of that night so long ago.

Spock turned to the bar and leaned forward on it in a very relaxed manner that surprised Christine. The stiffness of the Kolinahr had melted away. What was left was a much more relaxed Vulcan than she had ever seen.

Or perhaps, she thought, it was her perspective.

On the first tour after she had been branded the 'lovesick' nurse she had done everything she could to avoid him. She had never really had the occasion to socialize with him.

It wasn't as if Spock never relaxed.

She had heard of the times when he would play his harp in the rec room, accepting the teasing of Uhura and the others. She remembered how Leonard had carried on about Spock being 'One' and not 'Herbert', that he was probably a closet Hippie and not the stuffy Vulcan they all thought he was.

No, she concluded, it wasn't that he was more relaxed than before. She was simply part of the command crew now.

A second bouncing tune began and Christine noticed that Spock had turned to watch the dancers again. He still stood at arm's length from the Captain's chair, now holding a tall glass of sparkling water. She had been so lost in thought she hadn't noticed the bartender bring it to him.

Their friends laughed and bounced in time with the music. A plate of sizzling chips and cheese magically appeared beside her along with a tall clear pitcher of golden ale.

She shook her head amusedly at the thought of Leonard's eternal nagging about high fat, low nutrition foods.

The second song began to wind down and a new slower tune struck up. One she didn't recognize.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Spock move to the bar, but she focused her attention to the dance floor. Leonard was coming toward them, but Jim had taken Janice in hand to dance to the slow music. Checkov had paired off with a pretty little red head with freckles that Christine had not noticed before. Sulu and Ny had teamed up and were quickly circling the floor in grand ballroom style.

"Christine?" A baritone voice sounded at her elbow.

She turned to see Spock there.

She paused a moment musing at how easily he spoke her name these days. It had been a long time since Psi2000.

"Yes Spock?" She said turning slightly on the stool to face him.

He extended a hand and her heart jumped into her throat. Surely he didn't mean..

"May I have the honor of this dance?" His eyes were intense on hers. It was the same look he had given her in sickbay when he awoke from his mind meld with V'ger. It was unnerving, piercing and unyielding.

"I-" She began to protest. It wasn't necessary. She was quite content to sit and watch. She had no illusions.

"Please." He asked quickly cutting her off. "I would be most grateful if you would allow me to finally pay my debt to Dr. McCoy."

She paused a moment. She remembered the conversation overheard a lifetime ago. The bet, the poker bet that had cost Spock a promise to dance.

It was hanging out there in everyone's memory, the unpaid debt that cost each of them all this lost time.

She nodded hesitantly and on unsteady legs rose from her chair to move to the dance floor.

It should not be so very hard, she thought. It's just a dance. Just a silly little dance.

She felt Spock at her side, silent and warm.

He took the half empty glass from her hand.

She raised her eyes to meet his and was surprised at what she found understanding, compassion and patience.

He extended his elbow as he had at the ball.

She swallowed hard.

Then without another thought took his arm and was amazed to feel his opposite hand close over hers reassuringly.

Her heart calmed a bit as they neared the tiny floor of swirling lights.

She turned to face him expecting a typical waltz stance but he pulled her in close for a modern styled slow dance. He slid an arm easily around her waist, took her hand in his and began to move slowly confidently around the floor.

Neither of them dared look to their friends, they knew all eyes were on them, they could feel them like hot lights on a stage.

Spock could not only dance, but he danced very well. His subtle cues and light easy rhythm made it easy for Christine to follow him.

She tried not to think of how easy it was to dance with him.

They turned a corner with a slight spin and she leaned back slightly to meet his eyes. There was something she wanted to say. Something she had wondered about for a long time.

He looked as relaxed as he had all night.

He raised an eyebrow inquisitively, sensing that she wanted to ask him something, inviting her to speak.

"Spock, I know it doesn't really matter, but I've always been curious. Why did you ask me to dance with you that night?" the question came out far more easily than she had imagined it would. Still, her heart pounded in her ears and her hands began to sweat.

Spock inclined his head slightly and answered simply, "I believed you would say yes."

It was just that simple.

Christine smiled.

Yes, it had never been very complicated. It was exactly as she had always known in her heart. Just a bad situation, a bad set of circumstances. They had unfortunately been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The song ended and they paused in their place on the dance floor as dancers so often do, gazing at one another as if unwilling to let go of the moment of togetherness.

Then they parted, just as smoothly as they had come together.

"Thank you, Mr. Spock." She smiled comfortably.

And he surprised her with his easy response "It was my pleasure, Christine."

They moved back to where their friends now occupied the bulk of the bar and found that the unspoken tension had lifted.

Now their family of friends was laughing and joking.

It took two more pitchers of beer and numerous platters and bowls of food before the crew tired of their late night and leaving together found their way home.

End

One Part Be My Lover
- B. Raitt/M. O'keefe
When he looks in her eyes he sees only the truth telling him he's been living a lie
Over and over like a line in a song about all the love he let pass him by.
To her he might be the man of her dreams to find where she's been hiding inside
Broken or battered, it really don't matter her heart's like a wave and he's the tide.
They're not forever, just for today
One part be my lover One part go away.
He's like a boxer who had to retire after winning but killing a man.
He's got all of the moves and none of the courage afraid to throw a punch that might land.
Not too much later she can't meet his glance you see her start pulling away.
Over and over like fire and ice, one is color one is gray.
They're not forever, they're just for today
One part be my lover, one part go away.
So if you know how why don't you say 'em a prayer they're gonna need all the help they can get.
They remember too much about what went wrong, it might be they should learn to forget.
Forget themselves in each other and leave what belongs in the past.
Carry their hearts like a newborn child cause it's only the moment that lasts.
They're not forever, they're just for today.
One part be my lover, one part go away.