Chapter 9: Further Developments

Uhura's hands flew up to rub her face. Her day had been a long one, and she was craving about a gallon coffee at the near-end of her shift. It was nearing ship's night on the Enterprise, and she'd been hard at work all day. Planning the tennis match had turned out to be harder than expected, and she hadn't been able to talk to Christine for even a moment all day; the poor girl had been working double-time with McCoy to put together their toxin report to Starfleet.

Exhausted, she turned back to her console and tried to catch up on some paperwork; at least there weren't any serious transmissions to be monitored. She groaned at the pain in her head as Pavel and Hikaru jabbered away, trying to talk their way through their own fatigue.

"So Pavel, what exactly happened with the toxin? I heard about it, of course, but not any details. How come you figured out the solution and not McCoy?"

Pavel thought for a minute, composing his reply, before responding. "Well, it's a complicated story. First off, the toxin was not a normal one by any means. The soil sample actually contained particles of a new substance-we don't have a name for it yet-that acts a lot like dilithium; it can store and transfer energy remarkably well. Mr. Spock had already told me of this discovery, but when I went in to do my own research after he'd left, I noticed the energy readings were fluctuating off the charts. It was then that I realized the energy transferrence capibilities in the soil were triggered by Vulcan physiology, strangely enough, and that the energy flux had actually transferred the soil's already-present toxin to Mr. Spock's bloodstream through a sort of energy osmosis. From my findings, I was able to analyze the energy readings of the still-reacting soil, calculate the original energy output and consistent average output it would give, and find the appropriate antidote for the energy flux. It was not so much the biological toxin, which was a moderate one that would have on its own merely made Mr. Spock nauseous, but the energy readings of it that made the poison so deadly. Dr. McCoy knew intuitively and from the tricorder readings to use the sedative; however, he did not know the advanced physics and science of the energy readings that I did, nor the math to fit the curves together. The energy readings would have settled back down to normal within minutes of my arrival in the labs; if I had gotten there just a little later, we would have never noticed the origin of the toxin. I had no time to waste; I could not even explain it to Mr. Scott, so he had to infer from watching me what was going on. He figured it out very quickly, but I had the head start. He very easily could have solved it as well as me, had he started earlier. So that is why, Hikaru, things happened as they did."

Chekov beamed, clearly believing that he had made everything much simpler for his helmsman buddy. The look on Sulu's face obviously showed that this was not the case.

Uhura blinked in total confusion. She'd tried listening once she realized what the young Russian was talking about, but she'd been completely lost as well. A quick glance at Kirk revealed that he was pretending to grasp more than he really had.

"That is fascinating, Mr. Chekov," Spock interjected, unknowingly saving Sulu from the task of replying to Pavel's rant. "I must commend you on your quick thinking."

"Thank you, sir!" Chekov beamed.

"Uh, yeah Pavel, that was really great," Sulu got out lamely.

At that, the delighted Russian launched into a tangent lecture about the merits of a certain astrophysicist's notions about the transference of energy, and both Uhura and Sulu completely tuned him out.

That was before Uhura got a certain doctor's call.

oooooOOOOOOOooooo

"I don't know what happened; that's what I've been trying to tell you!" McCoy insisted to Uhura, swirling his sweet ice tea around in its glass. "All I know is that Christine got an urgent, private call from someone on Earth and that she had to rush out to take it; she didn't look happy about it, either. I gave her the rest of the shift off; we'd just finished writing up the report to Starfleet, anyway."

"You don't know any details? Anything at all?" Uhura demanded, chugging the rest of her coffee in one gulp.

McCoy shook his head and had a sip of his own drink. "Nothing besides that," he replied, "but I'm worried. You know Christine's folks hardly ever call; the only one who ever did was her grandfather, and we both know certifiably that he's passed on." His weary eyes grew misty for a second as he added, "I entertained the thought for a moment that it was him calling, that he'd somehow come back. But he hasn't, and I know that. I ought t'have learned that by now."

Uhura rubbed her temples, wishing her headache would just go away already. She'd been more than grateful for the end of her shift, but having a headache like this wasn't much better. "I can't believe this is happening," she groaned. "Whatever it is. I don't need an upset Christine Chapel, and right after the whole Spock incident? Too many ups and downs for me."

McCoy nodded, exhaustion evident in his eyes as well as half the crew's. The day had been long, slow, and dreadfully tedious; it was enough to make any Starfleet member with nothing better to do go mad. "I hate that it happened," he commented, taking a seat at the desk in his office. "I wish I could've done more, but it was something about energy whos-a-ma-whatsits and a whole bunch of stuff I'd never learned before. I couldn't do anything; thank God Chekov was there, because without him..."

Uhura nodded, part of her not wanting to think further on that common sentiment that had been expressed by most of the crew already. "And with M'Benga on that research trip..." she muttered under her breath, looking forlornly down at her empty coffee cup.

McCoy shook his head and punched in a quick response to a message on his computer screen. "That was Jim," he explained quickly, gesturing at the IM feature he was currently using. "Anyway, I don't blame M'Benga; the research opportunity on that tropical planet was incredible, and at the time we didn't need him aboard here. Poor man's a specialist in a restricted field working aboard a ship that has only one, albeit very important, Vulcan aboard her; how can you deny him the chance to get his name out there and focus a bit on his career, when everything behind him is at peace anyway?"

"Still," Uhura muttered.

McCoy rolled his eyes and fired up his ancient coffee-maker. "Want some home-brewed?" he asked.

Her eyes lit up instantly. "You mean, you have actual coffee in here? Real coffee? Not the replicator kind?"

He grinned. "I don't usually make it myself," he replied, "except for on rare occasions. But I think I can make an exception this time around."

"Dr. McCoy, I think this is the start of a wonderful friendship."

McCoy laughed, his eyes sparkling in their usual gentle way. "Don't go expecting it every two seconds now, ya hear?" he replied as he took her coffee cup from her, holding it ransom until she agreed.

"Alright, alright," she laughed, seeing what he was doing.

"Good. Now, I suppose you'll stay till Christine comes back?"

"Oh, I think so," she replied, sitting down on the comfy chair opposite him and cradling her new cup of real coffee like the treasure it was. Christine always came to Leonard McCoy when she had to sort through a problem, despite her own characteristic stubbornness, and both Uhura and McCoy suspected that there was indeed a problem. Call it intuition, call it instinct, but both officers had known Christine too long to know otherwise.

"Well then, what shall we do until then?" McCoy asked as he shot off another quick IM to Jim.

"If you want to talk to the captain, that's totally fine," Uhura started, noticing McCoy's brief distraction.

"No, no, he's not upset by anything major; we're just chatting for the most part," McCoy interrupted. "No need to worry about that, Nyota, and anyway I'd only kick you out if it was something serious." He gave her a quick wink to let her know he meant no harm by the statement.

"Well, alright then," she replied, taking a sip of her coffee and rolling her eyes skyward at the taste. "Dr. McCoy, I think...no, I know...that this is the best coffee I have ever tasted in my entire life."

McCoy laughed and took a sip of his own, moving from tea to coffee since he knew the night would be one long wait for Christine to show up. "Glad you like it," he replied. "Learned it from the family, you know."

"Your family is wonderful," Uhura murmured as she took another sip of the heavenly brew.

McCoy chuckled more and shook his head at her words, replying to one more quick IM before looking up at her again. "So, how's the planning going?" he asked, a twinkle in his eye.

Uhura grinned at the thought of it. "It's been a bit tricky," she admitted, "but I think it'll be worth it. Still," she added with a sly edge to her voice as her eyes lit up mischievously, "it'd be nice to know more details about Spock. You know, so I could set it up right..."

McCoy quickly took the hint and smiled wider. "Oh, I'll tell you every embarrassing secret and every funny story about him," he replied eagerly, rubbing his hands together with new energy, "but it might take more than one night to do it in!"

Uhura grinned and settled back in her chair, holding her mug to herself. "I always did love story time."

oooooOOOOOOOooooo

Christine slammed her fist down on her desk, wincing as the picture frame of her grandfather shuffled a little from the action. "This can't be happening."

"I assure you, it is. I'm shocked by it myself..."

"No." Christine's face rose, wet from tears but determined and fiery, to look at the image on the screen. Her eyes blazed and anger broiled in her chest. "No. This can't be. You're just spiting me, that's what you're doing!"

The elderly lady on the screen shook her head slowly. "Christine, no matter our differences of opinion in the past, I would never spite your grandfather."

Christine froze at that, flashbacks of loving smiles and sunny days flashing through her mind at warp speed. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, forcing her fist to relax. "If that's true," she replied slowly and deliberately, "then you must have actually loved him."

She glanced up when the person on the other end was subdued into shocked silence. The elderly lady's hair was graying and frazzled, and the wrinkles on her face were from shock and sorrow as much as from old age. "Christine, I loved your grandfather dearly. I always have..." her voice broke, "and I always will. He was a shining star in my life. He was always my guide; I was such a stubborn woman that I needed his gentle guidance, and the few times I ignored it..." she trailed off, looking at the strong young woman in front of her, "I lost something very dear to me."

Christine's shocked eyes widened at the significance behind the words.

"I admit, when I found out that he left most of his possessions to you in his will, I...was shocked. Angry. Jealous. Oh, a million emotions ran through my mind, Christine; you know how it is. They left it up to me to inform you, because your grandfather had requested it. You know he always wanted us to be friends more than we are. And when I finally was...stable enough to call you, I just..." The lady buried her head in her weary hands. "I'm so sorry, Christine," a choked whisper came out. "I'm so sorry for resenting you all these years, and trying to push you into the career I wanted for you, and even hating you a little when you galloped off to space to become a nurse. I see now how utterly wrong and awful that was of me, and I could never be more sorry. I wanted to help, but I was doing it all wrong, and I was prideful besides. I thought I knew what was best, not you. I needed your grandfather's advice, but I wouldn't listen to him. All he ever wanted for you was the best for you, my dear. And I never gave you what you deserved. And I'm so, so sorry."

Two women that mirrored each other from different ends of the spectrum, one just starting her bright young life and one nearing its gray end, broke down together and cried.

oooooOOOOOOOooooo

Uhura's heart leapt as Christine walked into the room; the nurse looked more at peace than she had for a long time, so much so that Uhura could practically feel it in the air.

McCoy turned to glance at her, a gentle smile evident on his own face. "Feeling better?" he asked as he grabbed a coffee cup for her.

Christine glanced at Uhura but made no protest as she sat down and accepted the cup of coffee McCoy offered. "Yes, much," she replied softly as she took a sip. "This is real coffee!" she explained, the pleasant surprise painting her face in a beautiful light.

McCoy chuckled. "Sure is," he replied, taking another sip of his. "Made it myself."

"Thank you, Leonard," Christine practically breathed. "You have no idea how much this means to me right now."

The smile on McCoy's face faded slightly, but no one except his closet friends would ever have been able to tell. He struggled to clear his voice, unsure whether to say the next sentence or not, before responding. "I believe it was your grandfather's favorite brew."

Christine's still-wet eyes flashed at him with sorrowful, loving gratitude. She could never have put her feelings into words.

Uhura gently placed a hand on Christine's shoulder. "I knew too," she whispered, glancing with hesitation into her eyes. "I'm so sorry."

The two best friends embraced, and Uhura could feel two quick teardrops hit her shirt.

"He...he was a good man," Christine said brokenly as they separated. "He helped me get into nursing." She didn't know why she always expressed that detail about him, but she always did. Maybe it was because they both had known that was the right path for her, or maybe it was because her job was an important part of who she was. Maybe it was because it was out here, in the middle of space, where she in some way belonged.

She took a deep breath, knowing full well her two closest friends had been waiting half the night for her to come into McCoy's office; they wanted the story. "That call was from my grandmother, Rosemary," she said quietly. "She...she said that my grandfather left a lot of things to me in his will, even more than he did for her. Oh, he left her plenty, but he gave me a lot of his more personal possessions-things he built in his shop and spare time, oil paintings he did of their land, even bits of jewelry that he fashioned. He was into those sorts of crafts...Anyway, she and I have been, well, estranged for a long time now. When she called I was so angry to even hear her voice that I could hardly listen, regardless of what she was saying. But then she and I talked and," she broke off for a second, clearly wanting to keep the conversation private even from McCoy and Uhura, "we're better now. We're actually...okay."

Uhura smiled through her threatening tears, remembering all the times Christine had ranted about her grandmother's actions and all the times she had hoped for resolution. Christine was a woman of detail and closure, and Rosemary's vague, unexplained resentment had always driven her crazy. Finally, the girl had a reason, secret as it was, for why.

"Do you think you're going to be okay?" McCoy asked, looking at her carefully and with the attitude of the grandfather she loved so much.

Christine smiled in a pure, beautiful sense of relief as she stared down at her swirling coffee. "I think so," she whispered, her voice growing stronger with each sentence. "I've finally gotten closure, I've finally figured out why he loved her so much and why he wanted me to find that same love. Rosemary talked about him being her guide and light; I think he wanted me to find someone who could guide me, too, but also someone I could help as well. He always talked about how Rosemary made him feel like life really was worth living. You know what I mean? I think...I think he wanted my heart to be guarded and protected while at the same time being lit up to show the whole world. All the stars...He always did love the stars." She glanced up at her friends, surprised herself by the words rapidly pouring out of her soul and into their laps. "He wanted me to have a beautiful life."

oooooOOOOOOOooooo

Dr. Leonard McCoy leaned back in his swivel chair, rubbing his face and grabbing what remained of his cup of coffee. He glanced at Uhura across his desk and rose one of his eyebrows in his best impersonation of Spock, just for kicks.

She laughed and shook her head. "I just can't believe it," she said, the smile on her face refusing to dull. "I'm so glad she's finally happy again, finally over it-as much as she can be, of course. I really think she just had a breakthrough."

McCoy nodded. "She did," he responded simply. He knew Christine quite well, and he could read people pretty well, too. He finally felt like his head nurse was going to be alright. He smiled a little at the thought of it, his exhaustion catching up with him, and jumped when the next IM from Jim came in. His smile grew wider as he quickly typed a response.

"What did he say?" Uhura asked politely.

McCoy glanced back at her. "I'm sorry," he immediately found himself apologizing, "I really shouldn't have been IMing him while you were here. I can't believe I didn't think of that earlier; I wasn't trying to be rude..."

"Doctor, really, don't worry about it," she laughed in response. "I take no offense. I know you and Jim need to talk, and if I didn't like it, I would've said something. Besides, I don't mind people multitasking around me. I do it all the time!"

"Well, I'm relieved," Dr. McCoy replied, glancing at the screen again. "So is Jim."

"Hmm?"

He flashed her an almost apologetic glance. "I didn't tell you, did I? I was IMing Jim about the whole Christine situation. He's glad about it, too."

"You told him about her grandfather? I thought that was supposed to be a secret!" she exclaimed.

McCoy shook his head. "I can tell we're both exhausted," he commented, "when you forget the details. Nyota, Jim's the captain of the starship we're aboard. Don't you think he makes it his business to know about his crewmembers' lives, especially his head nurse's? The communique about her grandfather may have been private, but Jim's notified of important familial issues like that. He's just good at hiding it. Comes from practice, I suppose," he added, his eyes misty for just a second at all the families he had had to call about the deaths of loved ones.

Uhura's eyes grew wide. "I didn't know," she whispered. "I mean, I knew that, but this time it completely flew out of my head. I just assumed that it was a watertight secret. He never said a word about Christine's grandfather passing on."

"Just like you never told him," McCoy replied with a wave of his hand. "It was supposed to be a secret, and it still is. As far as I know, only we three know about it besides Christine."

Spock stood alone outside the closed door to McCoy's office, a lump in his throat and shock in his heart.

Quietly, softly, he walked away.

oooooOOOOOOOooooo

He stood alone and stared at the stars.

The observation window showed a panoramic view of those stars, those pinpricks of light that somehow penetrated space's cold layer of emptiness. Sometimes it was hard to imagine how they did it. How could those flames of warmth and hope shine through space's immense distances and reach the hearts of creatures on every planet who dreamed of a better world? Oh, Spock knew the scientific reasons.

But for some reason, tonight, he was sick of science.

The thought jarred him, and he shook his head to try to clear the thought. Still it remained. "Illogical," he whispered under his breath, brows knit tightly in the faint starlight. "Science is logical. Science is..." he trailed off. He couldn't go on. His thoughts whirled him away, and he couldn't stop them. Maybe he didn't want to.

He was a human in a Vulcan's body. He was both natures at once, and both were ingrained within his mind and his heart. He couldn't give up one to join the other; he had to be both. And he wasn't sure there was a way to do that. He couldn't let himself be very emotional, or he'd risk the aspects of being Vulcan that he did like and choose. But he couldn't be purely Vulcan, either; he knew he'd explode eventually if he did. He practically was now, anyway.

He was sick of Surak. Sick of "logical" teachings that denied him not only his human half, but his Vulcan half. Surak's teachings had saved his race from self-destruction, but it might not again. There was an old adage Jim always said...pull the reins too tight on a horse, and it'll buck. Vulcans would explode eventually; it was only a matter of time. Oh, they pretended they didn't have emotions, but that was a flat-out lie; they had emotions even stronger than humans did and even deeper. You could get a Vulcan to admit to some of that, but not all of it; they tended to insist they had less emotions than the questioner might demand, even if they admitted to having some. They lied, but they truly believed they were using logic and not lies.

Lying is illogical.

So why should he, Spock, lie about his very nature? He was half human and always would be; it was something he could never change. And despite all the mockery and pain that came from his dual nature, part of him insisted that even if he could change it, he wouldn't. He had seen what such things could do to the time stream. For all that Vulcans knew, his very nature could be a saving grace to them and not a curse! There could be an infinite amount of different reasons his nature was beneficial; they might be invisible to them, but a trip through the Guardian of Forever could always prove otherwise. Not that he wanted to go on such a trip. He'd gone on one too many the first time; he had keenly felt the loss of Edith Keeler, albeit in a different way than Jim, and the thought of her righteous face still struck a heavy chord in his heart. She had been so right...just at the wrong time.

And what about Christine? He felt his thoughts pull to her, and he couldn't stop the flood of emotions that swamped along with them. Not that he really wanted to. She had always been noble and just; she had always fought to save the lives of others and comfort them instead of herself. How could she be so self-sacrificial, so others-oriented, so giving of herself? He couldn't imagine it. She didn't just give away her time or her talents; she gave away her very heart, her very light, to comfort others. He could never be that open. Not with anyone, not even Leonard or Jim. And they were his best friends! Yes, friends, whether Sarek or Surak allowed it or not. He didn't care what they thought anymore. But if he couldn't be open with his best friends, how could he ever be open with Christine? How could he ever open his heart to her, even a crack, to admit the love that he had for her? And he did love her; he knew that now. He loved her very much, very deeply, very purely. And there was no way he would ever be able to let her know.

No. That couldn't be possible. He had to overcome this. This wasn't the time for him to back down, retreat into his little corner and hide away like he always did. He had to tell her how he honestly felt, and had to face both sides of himself to do it. The strength and courage it would take would be beyond words.

But Christine? She was worth it.

Okay, so! I promise, the fluff is returning! Next chapter there should be a whole lot more fluff-happy, sweet, silliness. I just had to tie up some loose ends in this chapter, and I think that's all been done in a nice, neat little bow. I'm trying to get the balance right between fluff and drama, and so far the rough plan is the middle is dramatic with the endcaps being more fluffy. And if you need some extra fluff, I highly recommend you check out my story Mustache. ;) I really appreciate all your follows, favorites, and reviews: you guys are so awesome! You help keep me going and are patient too, so thank you very much for that! If you have any suggestions for this story or ideas for others, please review, too! Kind, constructive criticism is appreciated as I learn the ropes. In short, thanks for being awesome, hang in there, and please leave a review! :)