Spock was keeping vigil beside Christine Chapel's bed, in Shi' Kahr's hospital complex, when Leonard McCoy appeared in the doorway. He paused, taking in the scene before him.

Spock was sitting in a chair at Christine's bedside, his eyes closed. Christine's face still held lingering traces of bruising and other injuries, but her bio-readings looked strong.

McCoy had come as fast as possible, which in this case was pretty damn quick considering the distance. When Sarek of Vulcan sends a ship for you, personally, to transport you across the galaxy, red tape is not an issue.

As if sensing his presence, and he probably did, Spock raised his head to look at McCoy. Leonard was surprised at the age and worn demeanor exhibited by his old friend and crewmate. Spock appeared to have aged faster than he and Christine. Before the doctor had a chance to move, Spock rose and moved to him.

"Thank you for coming," Spock said quietly. "She needs you." His words were not passionate or beseeching, simply truthful.

Leonard McCoy grabbed Spock by the upper arm and said, "I'm here, my old friend."

***********************************************************ST**********

Leonard had finished going through Christine's medical records for the past three days, so he asked to speak to Spock somewhere privately, away from her.

After guiding him to a secluded corner where a small waterfall in black stone trickled nearby, Spock sat down heavily.

Leonard sat across from him and leaned his elbows on his knees to look at Spock, who sat with his legs spread and head slightly bent. Though he would never admit it, the Vulcan was tired, and emotionally battered.

"Well, obviously, she is still in a coma. She—and you—have been through terrible physical and emotional trauma. Tell me about the last few days, here at the hospital," McCoy asked.

"Restless nights, crying, begging for me to come home, although I am there holding her hand." Spock looked at the fountain, unable to look McCoy full in the face yet. "I am concerned for her current and future mental well-being. What she did—I would never have imagined that Christine was ever capable of doing."

McCoy wasn't going to let him off so easy. "The Christine you knew. You don't know everything she's been through, Spock, after you left when Jim died. If I were you, I wouldn't worry about her sanity. She suffered a tremendous loss, and I'm not sure she's dealt with it, still yet. Believe it or not, Spock, humans don't face their emotions either—especially when they're brutally painful and seem overwhelming."

"I have some idea, Leonard. I….experienced it through her mind, rather unexpectedly. Our child died. I was gone and our child died. She blames me for this, rightly so." Spock's sad countenance finally looked into McCoy's eyes. "She will never forgive me."

McCoy twisted his mouth, unsure of what to say, and rubbed a hand across his tired blue eyes. "I don't know, Spock. Christine has loved you for years. When the baby died…..well, afterward, I told her that even if you had returned, we probably couldn't have saved her; the baby had so many problems.

"Honestly, it was a surprise that she lived as long as she did and a mercy for them both when she died, though God knows I didn't—and wouldn't-say that to Christine. I know that's brutal, but it's true. You could not have saved her by being there, Spock. I told her that. She knows that."

Getting to his feet, McCoy placed his hand on Spock's shoulder. "I need to eat something. Would you like to join me? Get out of here for a while?"

"No. I will go back to Christine's room." Before McCoy could walk away, Spock's voice stopped him, "Our child, what was her name?"

In an instant, a thousand heart-breaking images flashed across the doctor's mind of the dead baby: tiny pointed ears; congenital heart problems; Christine's gut wrenching sobs.

He said, "The baby's name was Lena," then walked away to eat a meal for which he had just lost his appetite.

CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCC CCCCSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS SSSXX

Christine's eyelids opened slowly, and she fought for consciousness. She recognized the hospital. Turning her head, she saw Spock sitting in the partial darkness of the room; his eyes closed. Leonard McCoy was across the room, asleep on a small cot that had been brought in for him. Through the windows, she could see it was dark outside, and the thought of the heat of Vulcan made her glad to be in the coolness of her room.

She studied Spock. He seemed to be uninjured, thank God. He looked tired and, surprisingly, a bit older than he should for a Vulcan. As if he knew that he was being observed, he opened his dark eyes and raised his head. Christine searched his face, as he did hers, and an eternity seemed to pass in one long moment.

Her face relaxed, and she didn't smile but there was a trace of something about her that subtly altered, Spock thought. He rose and went to her bedside to sit down in the chair.

"How do you feel?"

She shrugged, "I'm not dead. You?"

Spock said, "I am not dead either."

Christine smiled in spite of herself, "That's a good thing."

Spock reached tentatively for her hand. She didn't pull it away. They sat, not saying anything.

Finally, he said softly, "I am sorry about Lena. I did not know. I would have returned. Please believe me."

"Would you," Christine asked. "Could you have? You were so devastated; I don't know how you would have handled it."

"I would have returned." He held her cool hand in his warm large one and leaned toward her. "I meant what I said. I have been a fool. I tried to tell you that I loved you when we were home, on Earth, before Jim died. I could not form the words; I could accept feeling what I did as a Vulcan, but saying it aloud seemed impossible. You have been the most constant, loving person in my life. I ran away because the loss of Jim caused an acute loss of my emotional coping skills, and then I realized that you, too, would one day leave me, and I could not bear it. Acute loss became chronic loss."

It was impossible to doubt his veracity; his eyes were dark pools that filled that void that his absence had carved.

"Do you still….have feelings for me," he asked, already knowing the answer, but not knowing if she would act on them.

"I still love you, if that's what you're asking. I have always loved you, probably since the first time I laid eyes on you, much to my chagrin," she gave him a shy smile.

"To your 'chagrin'? You do have reason to be regretful, Christine, but I ask you to reconsider me."

"Why should I?"

"Because you love me." Spock leaned so close she could feel the heat radiate from his body. "Because I love you. Because I came for you. Because I will never leave you again due to fear of loving you or losing you. I will be with you as long as you want me." He was close enough to almost touch his lips to hers, "If you will consider having me back in your life."

Christine placed her hand softly on the side of his face, "I'm happy you're here. Now."

Taking her hand from his face, he softly kissed her palm, her fingers, one by one, and then placing it back into her lap. "Soon," he said, "I am taking you home, to Corfu, if that is acceptable to you."

Her eyes filled with tears, and she whispered, "Yes, I find that acceptable, but it will not be easy. I don't know when or if it will be easy again."

********************************************************************ST*****

The next day at lunch, Spock asked McCoy, "Why has Christine not asked about the mission, Riley, or her ship?"

"I don't think she cares right now, Spock," the doctor answered. "In my medical opinion, she's still in 'crisis mode' and is more concerned with maneuvering the ship of "Christine" without hitting the shoals. That's a good thing, self-preservation; it shows she understands her vulnerabilities right now. She will want to be briefed eventually. At some point she will want to know everything, including about Valeris' death, which right now, she might not remember. That's not a bad thing. Don't push her. Let her heal. Just be with her. You ARE going to be with her? You're not planning on leaving her again because if you are—"

"I am not."

"Good. I am not sure she could stand it. If you're back in her life, be here for good, or leave now and leave her alone. She doesn't need to be yanked around like she's expendable anymore." Leonard was surprised at the anger in his own voice, but he meant it, every word.

"I will not."

"You'd better not or I'll hunt you down and skin your damn Vulcan hide." McCoy rose abruptly, angrily threw his food into a receptacle, and walked out of the cafeteria.