It had been a week full of Mondays. The conference on exo-biology had been deadly dull, crowded and ponderous. And then to top it off, the travel agency the Association of Exo-biologists had hired, had been terrible. Christine only discovered as she got to the spaceport that the shuttle to Starbase 6, where she was to rendezvous with the Enterprise, was overbooked.
And she thought she was getting a headache.
The representative from the agency apologized profusely and found her the next best thing – a compartment in a public shuttle that would get her to Risa where a shuttle would then take her to Starbase 6 where she would meet with the Enterprise. She would only be a day late.
Now she knew she had a headache.
She entered the crowded transport and made her way to a “cozy” little compartment that seriously needed better lighting and a decorator. The lone hooded occupant didn’t even acknowledge that she had entered. Christine silently stowed her gear, sat down on the padded couch opposite her travel companion and sent a message to the Enterprise alerting them to the travel difficulties. And when all was said and done, she pulled out her personal PADD and started reading the latest book she’d picked up.
Within about 20 minutes after takeoff a steward came to the compartment.
“Dr. Chapel? Christine Chapel?”
After a second Christine raised her head from reading and smiled. “Yes.” While she was Nurse Chapel on the Enterprise, she was still Dr. Chapel in the scientific community.
“Ma’am, we received a message from the Enterprise. Mr. Williams from the travel agency had contacted them and explained the overbooking. They’re going to send a shuttle to meet you in Risa so you don’t have to make two jumps.”
“Great, thanks for letting me know.” She tipped the porter and went back to her reading. She then began to get the feeling that she was having a hole stared through her.
“Kryztine? Kryztine from the Enterprise?”
The hooded figure had spoken with a thick accent. And had spoken her name.
“Yes, I’m Christine Chapel from the Enterprise.”
From underneath the cloak, she could feel two dark eyes staring at her.
“Yes, yes, it is you. All those years ago, your face, your pale hair I saw, your name I heard whispered through his mind.”
“Excuse me? Do we know each other?”
“No, we have never met but we do have a connection.” The hood was pushed back by dainty hand. “My name is T’Pring.”
Christine looked at a face she had only seen once, many years ago. She remembered hearing Uhura ask what should have been an innocent question, “She’s beautiful, Mr. Spock, who is she?” The answer had been like a dagger to Christine’s heart. “She is T’Pring, my wife.”
She was still severely beautiful but it was obvious that the years hadn’t always been kind.
T’Pring’s eyes bore down on her accusingly like brown ice.
It suddenly occurred to her that she had, due to shock, not responded to T’Pring. That didn’t seem to matter as T’Pring continued.
“I was once bonded to Spock cha Sarek.”
“Ye – yes, yes, I know.”
T’Pring appeared to be surprised by her response.
“Spock spoke to you, of me?”
Christine shook her head slightly. “No, I happened to be on the bridge when we brought him to Vulcan and, you, ah, welcomed him home. He mentioned at the time to the crew who you were.”
For a moment there was silence. Silence which gave Christine the chance to realize what T’Pring had initially said.
All those years ago, your face, your pale hair I saw, your name I heard.
“I still don’t understand how you knew who I was or what I looked like or that I was serving on the Enterprise.”
“From Spock, of course.”
Now it was Christine’s turn to be surprised.
“Spock told you…about me?” She said it with the same tone that she might suggest that the first officer of the Enterprise had just given birth to a horta.
T’Pring almost seemed to give a sharp, bitter laugh, something completely unexpected in a Vulcan.
“Prior to the day of the Kuhn-a-Kal-i-fee, I had not heard Spock’s voice since we were seven years old. I also had not had reason to listen to his mind for many years until the Time was nearly upon us. It was only in the year prior to the joining that I started receiving brief glimpses from Spock. It was then I saw your face in his mind and heard your name.”
“There were many situations where he was ill or injured and, as head nurse, I occasionally was responsible for his medical care.”
“You carried food to him.”
Damn, is there anyone in the universe that HASN’T heard about that!
“Yes, as I did with many patients on the Enterprise. Nutrition is a part of medicine, and is especially important when one is injured or ill. And cooking is a hobby of mine.” She was secretly proud that her voice was calm and neutral.
“You told him you loved him.”
Well, there went the calm. Christine almost wished she’d go back to discussing the soup, but knowing that wouldn’t happen, she took a large breath.
“The entire crew had been infected by a virus which affected us emotionally. I was infected by a crewman who was in sickbay.”
“So your statement was untrue?”
Christine looked T’Pring in the eye for what felt like forever, questioning how she should respond. She decided that, just as her mother had always said, the truth never fails.
“No, the statement was not untrue. At first, I believed it was solely the virus since I was engaged to someone else, but after we discovered, we discovered that he had died, I came to realize that the feelings I had for Spock were real and not just caused by the illness. He is a fine, decent man and I care for him very much.”
Christine studied her companion as she finished and then asked quietly, “T’Pring, I’ve answered your questions, which were of a personal nature, now I have a question for you – why? What did he ever do that you would be willing to risk his life and the life of our Captain?”
T’Pring gazed out the window of the compartment at the stars, her expression seeming to never change.
“My planet’s culture is very old and forged in tradition. Because of the violence in our past, loyalty to our clan was everything. And in an effort to prevent that same violence that once dominated our world, we put away our emotions and learned to live using logic. All must be logical. It is logical that, in order for the male of the species to survive the pon farr, he must be bonded to a female. And yet, when would such a thing not be logical, Krystine Chapel?”
At first Christine was annoyed that the Vulcan was speaking in riddles, but then she thought about the puzzle. When would it be illogical for a Vulcan male to be bonded to a female? Suddenly, she thought she understood.
“When one of them if incapable of performing?”
T’Pring nodded. “Correct.” She said crisply.
“So you are not able to bear children?”
T’Pring looked down. “No, that is not the issue.”
Christine paused and then suddenly understood.
“I realized that I preferred my own sex only after Spock and I were bonded. Such things were not spoken of on Vulcan as it was considered illogical for one to physically bond where there was no expectation of procreation. Such designations would be seen as a stain on the clan.”
Christine listened quietly perceiving that the Vulcan woman was unloading a lifetime’s worth of stress.
“Once I became older, I became aware that there were others like me who dealt with their urges quietly and in secret. This worked sufficiently until stories of Spock’s heroics started to become more and more known. It became more difficult to move about in private when it became known that I was the bondmate of Spock cha Sarek.”
“I still don’t understand why you couldn’t break off the bonding prior to the wedding, I mean, the koon-ut-kal-i-fee?”
“Questions would be raised that I had no means of answering, that is, until I met Stonn.”
“How did he play into this?”
“As I mentioned before, in the urban areas others who preferred their own sex found each other, both men and women. I met Stonn my second year at the Academy. Stonn’s bondmate had died as a child and his family was pressuring him to find another before his time. Stonn’s family was not aware that he already had a potential bondmate, named Stessik. As the time of my koon-ut-kal-i-fee was fast approaching, we decided upon the plan. By Stonn acting as my paramour there would be no questions asked about me or Stonn and any shame would be placed on me and not upon my clan. Stonn was willing to risk dying in battle as either way, no shame would come to his clan.”
Christine took the information in quietly and then asked her original question again. “But what about Spock, you were willing to risk his life and our Captain’s life?” Prior to the beginning of the conversation, the question would have been filled with anger; now the question was merely that, a need to understand an element of the story.
“At the age of seven I was told that in order to further my clan politically I was to be bonded with someone my clan privately considered to be inferior even though his clan was extremely powerful and well respected. Consider that and ponder what effect that had on how I perceived my family, my clan, myself, and Spock. Until the time of the calling, he was little more than a stranger, someone whose name I learned to dread. He was a reminder that I was nothing more than chattel to be handed to someone considered little more than an outworlder, then as I matured he was a constant reminder to me that I was different and I feared that he would discover my flaw and embarrass my clan. Then later, his fame seemed to block my every path. He was not a bondmate but an adversary. When I arrived at the time of calling and I saw that he had brought Earthers to the bonding, I saw my chance to free not only myself, but Stonn. The logic, as I was told at the time, was flawless.”
T’Pring was silent for several minutes. Christine waited, feeling more than knowing, that there was more to the tale and then asked.
“What happened to you and Stonn after the challenge?”
“Because of the seriousness of the challenge, when a Vulcan woman demands the challenge, she understands that she becomes chattel. Whoever wins a challenge owns the woman. He can choose to marry her and elevate her status or he can choose to keep her as a servant. Upon consideration, we decided it was logical that I would continue in the role of servant, thus, both Stonn and I would have the freedom to continue as we had in relative anonymity.”
Christine leaned forward and asked gently.
“All these years you did things to make others happy. Were you ever able to find a bondmate, T’Pring?”
There was suddenly a gentle sparkle in the Vulcan woman’s eyes that made her look much younger.
“T’May. Stonn has arranged for us to be a part of a new colony on Y’firik V. The colony will be far enough away from Vulcan that none of us will feel the need to hide. We will finally be able to live as we see fit.”
Christine beamed. “T’Pring, that’s wonderful! I’m happy for you.”
T’Pring studied the blonde human for several minutes as though making a decision.
“Krystine, I wish to ask a favor, though I have no right. I mentioned before that I had been told that my logic was flawless but over the years since I have been with T’May, I have had a chance to re-evaluate my behavior and my decisions. I have come to realize that my reactions concerning Spock didn’t take into consideration that Spock was facing many of the same dilemmas as I. He was considered an outsider, he was forced to bond with someone not of his choosing, his emotional reactions were considered outside the Vulcan norm and he was not free to express love to the person of his choosing because of responsibilities to his clan and culture. In other circumstances, we could have had a more positive, productive relationship. We, as you say, could have been friends. While I do not grieve the road I placed myself on, I regret the pain I caused Spock, who was innocent of any wrong-doing. Would you speak to him of our discussion?”
Even knowing that most Vulcans shied away from touch, Christine felt the need to gently pat T’Pring’s hand.
“As soon as I can speak to him in private, I promise. But I do have another question – you mentioned that Spock wasn’t free at the time to love who he wished..”
Before she could finish the question, a masculine voice came over T’Pring’s personal communicator. “T’Pring, our connecting shuttle is here. Are you prepared to disembark? It is ready to leave immediately.”
“Understood, Stonn. I will be there momentarily.”
She rose and made her way to the door, but before leaving she turned and said, “He told you himself the night you entered his chamber when he told you that neither of you could fight your natures. I assumed you understood. Peace and long life, Krystine Chapel.”
“Live long and prosper, T’Pring.”
And long after the Vulcan woman had left the small compartment, Christine found herself considering both the past and the future.