"Chanton, no!"  Her voice rings in a strange echo to her own ears like falling down, down, down a rabbit hole, but she fights through it because she must.  His life depends upon her, and the captain has entrusted her, and so she fights her way back up to him.

The captain trusts her; she will not let him down (down, down, down....)

Her feet move across the tidy floor as if through quicksand.  She reaches Chanton, wrenches the phaser from him, and flings it across the room.  Now he is attempting to snap his neck with his own hands.   How much must a man want to die to do such a terrible thing?  She's not strong enough to stop him, but she must be.  The captain is counting on her, and she will not let him down. 

The room is changing colors, shapes and sizes.  Where are the aliens?  They're everywhere! 

Will this rabbit hole never end?

I'm gro

The captain!  Her communicator is calling.  Her communicator!  It must be somewhere in the room.  The room is made of green cheese.  No that's the moon.  

It beeps again.  The communicator, not the moon, that is.  She giggles like she hasn't done since she was a little girl.  She reaches for it (the communicator, not the moon, that is) and discovers her phaser instead.  She whaps Chanton across the head with it—the phaser, not the communicator, that is.  He slides to the floor, his hands useless and limp but his neck and life and breath intact.  Yes!  One down and none to go.  What was she doing again?  She was doing something.  Everyone has to be doing something, so she must necessarily have been....

Her communicator beeps again.  This time she opens it.

"Number One, what's going on in there?"

"Number one two three four!" she giggles. "I can count too three four five.  Look at all the green cheese!" 

"Number One!   I'm coming!"  Pike's voice sounds as alarmed as she as ever heard it.  Damned if she knows why.  Something to do with her?  He's counting on her. The mission.  The aliens!

"No!" she shouts.  "No, Captain, don't come in!  Something very bad and green!  They're everywhere!"

His voice crackles  in her palm.  "Pike to Spock!  Emergency beam out of landing party!  Get the two inside the structure first, then us.  Number One, hang on; I'm coming." 

He's just outside the door!

"No!"  He can't come in; it's all green!  He can't!  He mustn't!  The officer in her battles part way back up the rabbit hole.  Frantic, she looks around and spies what could be a security lock.  She phasers it, and it explodes, a blast of conjugated quantum radiation hitting her fully in the face.

Pike and Tyler hit the dirt—but it's dirt outside where they can't see the green.  When the tremors cease, they try the portal, but can't make it in.   They discuss trying  to phaser their way in, but aren't sure it would be safe.

A few seconds later, before all the debris has even settled, the Enterprise beams her crew members home.

"Receiving linguacode at a quite advanced level, Captain. Aside from a standard friendship message, the inhabitants wish us to know that they were not hurt by the explosion and express sorrow that members of our party appeared to be adversely affected by the interaction. They express eagerness to cement good relations, and offer to submit to any physical isolation precautions deemed prudent for our safety."

Spock turns from the console and hands the paper printout to his captain.  "Interesting.  From what I can deduce from telemetry, they exist in an extracorporeal state, but have a highly sophisticated culture.  They should make fascinating allies and have much to teach us." 

"And they want to get to know us.  So the mission is officially a success. Oh, joy."  Without reading it, Pike passes the printout back.  "Transmit this report on to Starfleet Command.  Have them send...someone who isn't us.  

"Number—  Mr. Spock."  Correcting himself, Pike turns to his side.  It strains his neck.  He's used to the easy way his gaze fell on his first in front and just where he expected and needed her to be. "Take us out of orbit.  Set course for the Makus system timewarp, factor 4.   You have the Bridge.  I'll be in Sickbay."  Pike spins out of the center seat, leaving it for the turbolift.

"A race of geniuses so ugly that the sight of them drives men mad.  Is it possible?"  Tyler muses from navigation.

"I would prefer not to use such a subjective term as ugly, but at this juncture, it does appear that the sight of the aliens is in someway toxic to the Human nervous system.  It may be a neuroelectrical phenomenon of their unusual photoelectronic manifestation."  Spock continues his report on the first contact.  It was a fascinating species.  He wishes he had been the one to beam down. 

"They say one look at the Gorgons would turn men into stone," says Harper.  He's been assigned the helm this shift.  The helm was Number One's station whenever she was on the Bridge.  He always liked the helm before, but today it won't handle right.

"The crewmen are not petrified, Mr. Tyler, merely incapacitated for now.  Your analogy is inappropriate," Spock says in a tone that puts an end to that conversation.

Innercraft communications crackles.  "Pike to Bridge. Mr. Spock, report to Sickbay, please.  We have a casualty."

"On my way." 

Now all conversation stops.  The Bridge is eerily silent but for the normal beeping of instruments that right now is wearing on everyone's last nerve.

Harper turns to Tyler.    "What was the name of that Gorgon queen?"


God knows how Tyler knows this stuff.  It's probably what he was off reading when he was busy failing Klingon 101 at the academy.  "Yeah, that's the one.  Not a bad name for this race."

"They beheaded her."  Tyler makes a slashing gesture across his throat. 

"Good." Harper stabs a blinking button on the helm unnecessarily hard.  The button stops flashing, and there is one less beeping noise.

"What happened, Phil?"  Pike paces when he doesn't know what else to do. 

April did the same thing.  Boyce thinks it must be a trait of men with too much testosterone—too much drive to be cooped up on a vessel this size for this long.  He thinks it might make an interesting study sometime when he runs out of critically ill crewmen to treat.

The study will have to wait.  "I don't know; he just died.  I think it stems from the madness itself.  The radiation burns were bad but not critical.   I can't find anything else to explain it.  The brain is a powerful thing." Boyce doubts that he can make Pike comprehend how much of an understatement that is.  After two thousand years of medical knowledge, they haven't even scratched the surface of the brain. 

With a reverence he has never lost in as many times he has done the same to others, he covers Chanton's body with a sheet.

"And Number One?"  Pike glances to her bed.

"At risk.  She has the worse burns.  She'll need extensive treatment and surgery.  And yes, since I can't explain this madness, I can't treat it.  No known Federation medicine can.  She could die from it.  Like Chanton."


"Transfer to tertiary medical facilities. Starbase III.  At maximum warp."  Boyce sounds like he doesn't even have to think hard about it.

"There is another option: Talos."  Pike spits out the name like a dart. He looks to his most senior officers remaining to see how it landed.

"And that option comes with the death penalty, or have you forgotten that?  Not only for you and her, but for everyone on this ship,"  Boyce blusters at the words.  He doesn't bluster often, but like most medical men, the topic of needless death tends to get under his skin.

"I'd take a shuttle.  Go alone. "  Pike paces faster.  April used to do that as well when he felt the most trapped.

"You could not."  Spock interrupts. "The Talosians kept you once before and might well again.  If the decision is to deliver her to Talos IV, I will do so and accept any sequellae of that act."

Pike gives Spock an odd look.  "You're reading too much into your current role as second in command.  This is not an official act.  You don't need to volunteer in my stead."

Spock remains impassive.  "Any choice I make in this would not be for you."

Pike regards him harder.  There have been rumors, of course.  There are rumors on every ship about everyone.  But two of his most senior officers? And Number One!... so...  

He would know...wouldn't he?

Spock looks at the wall.

Boyce shakes his head.  "You're forgetting the radiation.  That needs real treatment, not illusion—maybe not this second, but within a week or two or it will be fatal.  And who knows if the Talosians can work with a mind damaged to this kind of insanity?  It's as foreign to them as our so called primitive emotions were.  No, while I respect your commitment to her, Talos is not the first best option."

"It's not commitment; it's just a soldier's pact of sorts.  She'd have done the same for me.  Any officer would."

"You don't know that."  Boyce looks at him strangely.

"You're a doctor—and a good one—and therefore not a soldier, Phil.  I do know that.  I don't expect you to understand."  Pike looks to Spock and sees that he does understand, but the moment doesn't last long.

The monitor clangs.  Number One rolls and moans.  It's a pitiful sound. Boyce jumps to give her a hypospray, and the monitors stabilize but at a lower level.  A level noticeably lower even to non-medical eyes.


Boyce slumps against a vacant bed.  "I've never seen a condition like this before.  I just don't know.  I can keep her partially sedated, but the problem is in her mind, and the brain controls the entire body. I can't fix the brain, so I can't fix that."  Boyce looks to him for absolution, or at least for understanding.

"No, you can't.  No one can." 

Pike squares his shoulders.  He opens a communicator and calls the Bridge.  "Set course for Starbase III.  Make your timewarp factor seven."  He returns to the bedside and gently brushes her hand.  "Do what you can for her, Phil."  The gesture is so unlike his usual brusque mannerisms, it serves as a reminder how easy it is to forget that the captain is also just a man.

"Captain," Spock sounds hesitant.  "Despite greater than seventeen years immersed in Human culture, the subtleties of romantic interplay often evade me."

Pike looks up.  Despite everything going on around them, he seems amused.  And he still holds her hand.  "I wouldn't jump to blame the Vulcan factors, Mr. Spock. Despite forty-two years amongst Humans, I have the same problem."  Adam and Eve.  The Talosians as much told him that she wanted him, and if he had stopped for half a second and paid attention to something other than his reports....

Yes, she was different all right.  Like no other woman he had ever met.  And here he is figuring it out just now.

"Do you love her?"  Spock presses.

"Does it matter?" Pike asks it with no bitterness, only pragmatism.

"It might.  I cannot save her career, but I might well be able save her life.  To save a life for her.  It has risks, and it would require your authorization.  You must ask yourself whether you want her back, or whether you want what is best for her."

"That's an insulting suggestion!"  Pike's eyes flash at his acting second in command.  The officer who is currently taking her place.  "What risks?  What can you do that Phil can't?  Can you cure her?"

"I don't believe so; the Human mind is not strong enough to withstand such an onslaught intact."

"So why are we having this discussion?"

"I can strip her mind." 

Pike sucks in his breath.

"The Vulcan mind meld?"  Boyce asks.  "I've heard of it. I didn't know it could be used on Humans"

"No. The mind meld is a sharing.   This would be a taking.  It would strip her mind of everything the madness as well as everything she was before, but she would be alive and could be retrained...reeducated."

"And you?" Pike asks. 

"Unknown.  Exposing ones mind to insanity does present certain risks."  Spock's eyes grow distant.

"They aren't your risks to take.  They're mine. You are all under my command, and I won't lose another officer to this mission."  It is his command voice.

The monitor alarms again in a sickeningly discordant tone.

Boyce looks to Pike.  "We won't make it to Starbase III.  I can't save her, Chris."

Spock stands by the bed with his hands locked behind his back. "I believe I can wipe her mind and remain functional."

Pike looks one last time amongst the three of them.  "Do it."  Now it is the voice of a mere man, but since he is the captain, it is also the last word.

Spock flexes his fingers. 

Boyce steps in front of him.  "Mr. Spock.  I need to speak to you for a moment."

"Phil?" Pike jerks his glance from the bed.  He is not used to things going on behind his back on his ship.

Boyce doesn't exactly lie.  "Vulcan mind techniques of this intensity are strenuous, and I don't want a second patient.  Let me do a quick check first.  Stay with her, Chris.  The alarms will call me if something changes.  We'll be back in a minute."  With a steely gaze, Boyce leads Spock into the dispensary.

Pike takes her hand and holds it tight.  When he is certain that no one can see, he bows his head and drops it to her breast.

Boyce comes directly to the issue.  During his time on Vulcan he learned that that is best.  "I've been told that on Vulcan, women are often considered property—chattel.  Is that so?"

"We are wasting time."

Boyce holds his eyes dead on Spock's.   "I'll take that as a 'yes'.  You know most things about your shipmates that are public record, so maybe you already know that I did a rotation on Vulcan.  Then maybe you won't be surprised to hear that I am also aware that you will doubtless have a...dilemma in some indefinite amount of time.

"I'm here to let you know that I won't let you take advantage of that poor girl.  I know you have...feelings for her and that she doesn't return them for you.  I will not let you use this situation to implant anything in her head anything that will make her return those feelings or draw her to you at any...time.

"I'd prefer to leave the captain out of this.  He has enough to deal with already.  But if I need to make him aware of this complication to alter his decision, I will." 

Spock's voice is distant and impassive.  "I was unaware you thought so poorly of me, Dr. Boyce, to believe I could take such action as you propose.  My ethics prohibit me taking such action against anyone, much less a friend and a fellow officer whom I hold in the highest esteem and regard.  One for whom I prepared to offer my life and sanity if need be." 

Boyce's voice softens.  "No, it's not that.  I don't believe you would do anything you thought was wrong.  It's just that I'm not clear on what's considered 'wrong' on your planet.  This might not be, and in that case I have to protect my patient.  I didn't mean to offend you."

"You did not. I respect your dedication to your patients.  If my personal ethics are not enough for you, will you accept my oath as a Starfleet officer that I intend to do nothing to her but what I have proposed: wipe her mind of all of its contents?"

Now it's Boyce who sounds like he is trying not to concede hurt.  "Of course I will.  That's all I wanted to know."  Boyce heads back for the main ward.

"Dr.  Boyce."  Spock stops him with his tone.  "Since you studied on Vulcan, you may be aware that the Vulcan mating...cycle requires mental coupling as well as physical.  In that case it may be of some interest to you to realize that if successful, I must never contact her mind with mine—particularly in that uncontrolled state—lest she discover the mindwipe and the insane persona be rekindled.  That is: what I am about to do will put her forever out of reach as a potential mate for me despite any future...dilemmas of my own—as you put it—or any desires on her part, implanted or otherwise.   Do you have any other questions?"

Boyce's throat feels very full. He shakes his head to stall for time until he can find the words.  "Mr. Spock, if I have been unfair to you, I sincerely apologize."

"To my knowledge, you have never been less than fair and gracious to me or any of your charges, Doctor.  In the interest of fairness to her, shall we now proceed?"

When they step through the door, Pike is standing straight up again watching the monitors slowly drop.

Spock puts his hands to her temples.  His eyes roll back and his breathing synchronizes with hers.  The monitors jump and freeze at the top of the display.  Spock draws in a ragged breath and his body stiffens.

Number One opens her eyes wide, throws back her head and screams.

It's been two days, and Phil still says he doesn't know.   Pike thinks he could take hearing one way or the other, but this uncertainty might kill him or drive him crazy.

No it won't.  He's fine.  She's the only one in danger. He should learn to choose his  words and thoughts better than that.

He blames himself of course.  Captains always do, but this time not for doing what he had to, but for breaking his routine. It was not something he usually did, sending her down to unknown planets.    If the contact was to be risky  his protocol was to leave her manning his ship—not to protect her, but because she was the only other one her really trusted with his warp-powered girl.

He tells himself he's being stupid.  If it wasn't her making first contact, it would have been some one else.  Another life just as valuable if not as close to his.  If not for her quick thinking, it might have been all four of them in Sickbay.  He probably should be grateful it had been her level head.

Or maybe, had he done things differently, it would have been no one but him who bore the brunt.

What was that the Talosians had said about making him feel protective being necessary to propagate the species?  Perhaps those big brains weren't only for show.

Pike activates innercraft and calls Sickbay.  "How is she?"  Spock listens from his station, Pike notes.  Of course he's listening;  the whole Bridge is listening.

"Why don't you come down here, Chris?"  Boyce's voice sounds tired, as an old man's might.

Pike bounds for the turbolift.  Without asking leave, Spock goes with him.

In Sickbay she is sedated.  The burns are bad, but she looks much better than she did—calm and serene.   Pike is tempted to touch her face.  You're permitted to do that with sick people right?    A captain never can touch his crew, except maybe here. 

Except still he doesn't. Even sedated, she has certain...barriers that way. 

And Boyce has an enormous cerebro-stimulator on her forehead.  That's a bit imposing, too.

"What's the verdict, Phil?"  Pike asks.

"It worked.  She's medically stable for now, and the engrams are all flat.  She still needs radiation treatment and microstructural repair, but that can wait for a full treatment team."

"So why the long face?"

"I have her under audiovisual psychostim.  She thinks she's on the Martian Colonies.  I had to disconnect her audiovisual input from the current situation.  Apparently that's what distressed her when she awoke."

"Why?"  Pike shoots a look to Spock.

"I don't know."  It's Boyce who continues to speak.  "My best guess is some kind of mnemonic resonance causing dissonance.  She isn't supposed to recognize this—us—but she does."  He pauses.

"She can't be rehabbed here, Chris.  She's going to have to leave the ship."

Pike takes it well.  "Where?  I want her to have the best."

"Sol system would be best, but not her home city or the Academy hospital.  But it should be started within a week.  If we can't get there in time, then any—"

Pike gives a terse nod.  "We will.  I'll make the arrangements."  He strides off.

Spock also turns to go.  "Thank you, Doctor."

"Mr. Spock."  Boyce lays a hand upon his wrist.

Spock stops and stiffens.  He pulls his hand away.

"Spock, she's my patient, yes, but you are too.  In a bed or not.  And like you say, I have an obligation—a regard for all my patients.  I know this is difficult for you, but one thing I learned on Vulcan is you aren't going to tell me anything you don't think I need to know, so I'll keep this short and sweet: can I help?" 

Spock studies him so carefully as if he had never seen him before.  "I don't think so."

Boyce nods.  "Okay."

"There are Vulcan methods of dealing with such stresses."

Vulcan methods.  Yes. He has been so dispassionate—so Vulcan—since the mindwipe.  Spock's never been exactly graceful with balancing the Vulcan and the Human aspects of his personality, but since the wipe Boyce can't remember seeing him smile even once, or shout, or do much of anything besides his job.  Not that that's a problem for a deep space crew.  But Boyce finds the change of the past few days...worthy of further investigation.

"I see.  Well, you're under orders to come to me if you think there is any possibility I can help."

"Noted," says Spock hands jammed stiffly behind his back. 

Spock walks off, and Boyce watches him go, thoughtfully.

"Chris, talk to you a minute?"

Pike stops in mid-stride.  If it were ship's business, Phil wouldn't have put it that way.  "What?" 

"Why don't you step inside?"

"What."  Louder now and not to be mistaken for a request.

"I received information from a friend at Luna Station. I asked him to keep me in the loop.  She's picked up an infection—they think a reactivation of a deep space microbe exposure from the radiation or from the radiation treatment which is sometimes just as bad as the disease—"

Pike draws in a breath and pinches his lips.  "Bad?"  It's a stupid question; hey wouldn't be having this discussion otherwise.


"What can I do?"

"I've made some comm calls, but your influence would help.  There's a Doctor Roger Korby –a specialist in exotic medicine–he usually sticks to academics and research, but he's brilliant and on the cutting edge of this sort of immunology.  He might have an idea."

"I'll get him in," Pike says.


"What!"  It comes out as a snap.  "What?"  Pike tries again, softer now.

"Is Spock all right?" asks Boyce.

"Spock?  Why?"  Pike's words are clipped.

"He was...fond of her too, you know. "

"Of course.  We all were.  Are."

There is a long pause.  Boyce doesn't see any point to elaborating.

"He's all right.  I'll tell him."

"I will if you'd rather."  It's the offer of a doctor giving terminal news to a family.

"No need.  I'm heading there now."  He wasn't, but now he is.  Pike takes a sharp right at the next fork in the corridor and takes the turbolift back up to the deck he just left.

"Good news and bad news, my friend," says Boyce.  He sets down the case and opens the vermouth.  "She's being discharged, and therefore we're being cut off from reports."

"I'd call it all good news," says Pike.  He throws himself down on the bed and imagines her in pastel crinoline skipping and dancing free down the sunny streets of the Luna biosphere. Not that she ever seemed like the skipping and dancing in crinoline type, but it pleases him to think that in her new life she might have the chance. 

"You'll be interested to hear that she's going by the name 'Christine.'"  Boyce plops in the olives and waits for a reaction.

Pike slugs down half his drink.  Chris—tine.  "Coincidence.  It was probably randomly assigned to her in pyschorehab."

"Mmm.  Maybe."  Boyce swishes the liquid around in his glass and studies his patient over the rim.

"Christine what?" 

Boyce nails him with a glare.

"Okay.  I get the message."  But he can't help himself.  Christine Pike.  Chris and Christine Pike...  Captain and Mrs. Christine Pike...

"None of us can contact her.  If this is going to work, the new life has to be allowed to take firm hold without interruption.

"I know."  His voice is full of more irritation than it should by rights hold for his friend.  "I wasn't going to.  I was just...curious."

He wouldn't risk damaging her future for the galaxy...but he had contacts.  He'll find out.  Just out of curiosity.

When the message comes through, Pike is not prepared.  It's like his first time in zero G sim.  He thinks he's ready for it, but he's not.  He reads the news, and things he never knew he wanted all fall away.  The little brick ranch in Mojave with the picket fence and the pair of quarter-horses that they ride out across the miles; the bright-eyed children with his insane ambitions and their mother's solid good sense who drive their teacher's crazy doing nothing but talking about space all day; the nights wherein he blocks out the ship, the crew, his troubles, and the whole rest of the galaxy and buries himself in her as she kneads her fingers unabashedly against his backside and barks harsh whispers into his ear to do her deeper still.

In a flash all of that is gone.

He crumples the printout in a fist and drops it to the deck.  Mrs.  Christine Korby: what a stupid name.

"I've received a message from Earth.  I thought you might be interested."  Pike stands at Spock's cabin door.   Spock's been different since all this happened—much more distant, almost cold at times.  If he didn't know his first officer was half-Human, he'd swear he was all Vulcan.

Still, he doesn't doubt he'll be let in.   Whichever race Spock wants to model for the time being, the man is still a top-job first officer and one of his best friends.

Right now he needs a friend.

"Come in."  Spock says, and steps to the side.

"She's engaged to be married." Pike notices that Spock doesn't ask what they are talking about.  Who they are talking about.  There was only ever one 'she' for Spock.  For him as well, he might as well admit, since it doesn't matter anymore.

"It is gratifying to hear that her new life is taking an agreeable course."  Spock sounds about as gratified as Pike feels.


"Are you off duty, Captain?"

"I could be.  Why?"

"Although I am inexpert with the emotional nuances manifest in interpersonal situations, I do have a bottle of Tarkelian liqueur, and I wonder if it would be appropriate to offer to open it—in her honor."

"What does it taste like?"

"I have no idea.  But it is 63.28 percent ethanol."

"You've got those emotional nuances down all right." Pike makes a face. It's not a smile, but under the circumstances, it would pass for a try.  He flips his communicator up.  "Mr. Tyler you have the Bridge."  He closes his eyes and tries to be a bigger man than he wants to be at the moment.

Like it or not, he is the captain.


When Spock came aboard Enterprise, he researched Captain Pike.  Upon finding he was from Mojave—a verdant city reclaimed from blowing sand—he had hoped he and the captain might find much in common. For Spock had turned his back on the desert too, in search of greener lands.   It turned out he was right and wrong—they did have much in common—but not that,  for Pike had never known the desert, never been of it.  To him Mojave had always been a treasure of rich parklands and pastures ready for the ripe for the any time one chose. 

He had never given a thought to the arid sands that once lay beneath.

Unlike Spock who found the contrary was true: that having been reared on ascetic values, one cannot simply choose to turn away—not even to find oneself.    Oddly enough, oneself, is typically right where one is. 

Spock takes down the two glasses and pours.  In a way it is illogical to keep the two glasses out.  In his eight years, three months and fourteen days aboard Enterprise, this is the first time he has had occasion to use more than one at a time. He tells himself he keeps the second in case the first breaks, but logic dictates in that event he should keep it wrapped and stowed away. 

The truth is one ritual glass seems lonely.  Two seems...right.  And so although he needs only one, he left both sitting by the decanter. Sitting and waiting—the glasses already cheerfully paired and patiently waiting—for some indefinite future time that their owner might not be lonely anymore.

The liquor looks pleasing as it swirls in the glass.  It has an interesting iridescent blend.  The aroma is sweet to the nose, but it burns the throat.

"That's terrible," says Pike. 

Spock moves to put the bottle up. 

"No," says Pike.  "Fill 'er up again.  Terrible is good.  That's sort of the point.  And don't tell me it's illogical."

"I had not planned on it," says Spock. He takes a second sip from his own glass.

"It's one of the doctors who brought her through the infection.  She's going into nursing, too.  Might even work under him, I guess."  He makes crude laughing noises into his glass and wonders if Vulcans get jokes like that.  He figures that they are probably too smart not to, but are probably too snooty to admit to it. 

"A not uncommon phenomenon," says Spock.

"Huh?"  Pike wonders if they are on the same page. 

"She would have very few attachments in this new life of hers. To form a strong bond—to fall in love with—one who has saved her life is not uncommon, as I understand it.  For Humans, that is."

"You saved her life—risked yours to do so."

"And she saved your risking hers, Captain"

"Not for the first time.  We're all a team.  Were a team.  It's what we do.  Did."


"So what's your point?"  Pike is beginning to sound angry now. This subject hurts and he doesn't like having it dragged out.  He's tough enough when he has to be, be he is no willing masochist.

"I have none, except that I am not surprised to hear she would fall in love with someone who has saved her life."  They stare at each other for long seconds. 

Pike gets up and fills the glasses.  "Sometimes a man can tell his drinking buddy things he can never tell his captain.  Anything you want to tell me, Spock?"

"This liquor is upsetting my stomach."

Pike glares at him.  "Funny, that line worked real well for Boyce."  He drains his glass.

"Dr. Boyce is a skilled and professional analyst."

"I'm a professional too!"  Pike slams down his glass.  "I'm a professional, and a person.  And I could have loved her.   I have loved her.   I'd like to think I'm not the only one who knows what we lost."

"You are not."  Spock's voice is very soft.  "She was a valued member of the crew is missed by everyone."

"That's not what I mean."

Spock studies the firepot on the wall.  "Captain, I am not a free man.  I was not when I came aboard Enterprise, and I continue not to be."

"Neither am I."  Pike reaches out and strokes a bulkhead.  "But that didn't stop me from falling anyway."

"Vulcan ways are different.  We do not couple as you do."

Pike grunts.  "Don't tell me. Storks?"

Spock questions with an eyebrow.

Pike lets it go.  It was an elementary school joke at best.  "Never mind. The point is, you very neatly evaded my point:  if you were free?"

Spock swallows.  "If I were free, she was precisely the sort of woman I would hope to share myself and my life with.   Our minds and our intellects were compatible in ways I had all but despaired of ever finding in a Human female and I should daily mourn her loss in manner too deep for words."

Pike stares at him over his glass.

"If I were free."  Spock finishes. 

They toast and swallow hard as the burn makes its way down their throats.

"I should go," says Pike.  He stands.  His cheeks are flushed, but his stance is steady.    "That stuff's not bad though.  Thanks."

Spock puts the stopper on the bottle.  "I will not be consuming any more.  You may keep the bottle."

Pike waves it away.  "No, you keep it.  I'll come back here."

"That is illogical."

"Nuances, Spock."  Pike winks at him.

Raising an eyebrow, Spock puts the bottle back on a shelf.



Captain's Log Stardate 1317.3 Leaving Starbase 11 with the new medical staff.  The transition will be difficult, no doubt.  Dr.  Piper and all of the others we have come to depend upon will be sorely missed—especially coming so close after the tragic loss of Dr. Dehner—but I have full confidence in the adaptability of the best crew in Starfleet.   We trust each other with our lives as a given; as soon as we get to know each other as individuals, it'll be fine.

"Do I know you?"  Chapel studies his face intently.

"I have heard it said that we all look alike." Spock offers his best stone wall impersonation.

In the background, someone snickers.

Chapel's face wrinkles in consternation.  If one looks just right—and knows to look—one can make out the microsurgery scars in the strong Sickbay light.   The surgery took years off her appearance.  Other than the hair, she looks not much different than she did eleven years ago.  Spock now comprehends enough about women to believe that she would be pleased to know how much younger she seems than her actual age.  How ironic that the very process that has led to this happy fact requires that it be kept concealed.

"It may have been said, but not by me."  Now her voice has an edge.  "I'm not bigoted.  In fact, if anything, I have a soft spot for Vulcans.  They tell me that a Vulcan was kind to me once." She smiles. 

"Besides, I'm a xenonurse, remember?"  She gestures to her uniform badge.  "I can even see that you aren't really Vulcan.  The cant of your lips, the line of the supraorbital ridge, the zygomatic arch—"  She reaches a finger out to illustrate her last point and strokes it over his cheek.  The touch is diagnostic and professional, but not impersonal.  She lets it linger, and traces it around the curve of his jaw as well.

To the surprise of those watching, Spock makes no move to pull away.

"My mother is Human," he offers.

"Mmm."  She nods as if that explains it all.   She studies his face some more, then smiles. "Then I need to read up on your file in case of emergency.  Most of the standard Vulcan treatments will make you pretty nauseous, if nothing worse.  And I guess you're right: if I'd met a Vulcan/Human hybrid before, I'd definitely remember.  I'm Christine."  She extends a hand.

"I am usually right."  Spock says coolly.  He pointedly ignores the hand and leaves.

In the process of recovering from the acidic snub, she fails to notice that he never actually denied having met her before.

McCoy whispers in her ear.  "Two hundred forty seven single men on board and you have to go for the Vulcan?  Now that's what I call a hopeless case."  He rolls his eyes "Wait 'til you meet Dr. M'Benga.  Now there's a hottie for you!"

Chapel shakes her head in annoyance.  "I'm not 'going' for him.  I'm engaged and I'm onboard for one reason.  I just thought—"  She shakes her head again, but this time it's not annoyance.  She rubs her forehead.  The headaches seem to be coming back.  She'd thought they were gone, but she's been under so much stress since Roger disappeared—"

Chapel is still watching Spock.   Her gaze is clinical; she's studying him, not admiring him, that's certain.   McCoy relaxes a little.  Still, this is going to be a doozy of a cruise.

"I don't know.   I'm probably imagining things. "Chapel turns back to McCoy as Spock leaves the Hangar Deck.  "Maybe it's déjà vu from a textbook or something.  I've been so lonely since Roger left.  With him missing now—" 

McCoy lays a sympathetic hand upon her shoulder. 

"Sometimes I think I'm losing it completely.  You don't know what loneliness can do." 

McCoy gives her a quick hug. He does know.  One day he'd tell her about the divorce, but now is not the time. "Come on; let's go get set up."

Spock is still in the passageway.  Chapel watches him walk away.  She'll read his file as soon as she gets a chance.  Vulcan/Human, eh?  That should be fascinating.    Her head hurts just a little, but it's the good kind of pain like just a mild sunburn that tells you that you've had a good day at the beach.

She doesn't know why. 

Spock does, but he will never tell.