Chosen for its ambience and privacy more than proximal location to Starfleet Headquarters, Christine Chapel's bungalow was situated on the shoreline of the Corte Madera Channel just north of San Francisco Bay. To say the bungalow was remote would be stretching it. However, the location did offer a modicum of privacy and a ubiquitous pier which was constantly in need of repair. Christine had spent her childhood and much of her youth in a historically registered house that fit the same general repair requirements.
Add to that a view from her kitchen window of the pier pointing like an arrow to Mount Tam across the bay, and her living quarters were just about perfect. The only place she would rather be tonight would be the cramped, metal box quarters on the Ruby G., but if not her, any other ship of the fleet going back to the frontier.
Since the incident in the lab eight months ago, which required complete reconstruction of both her lungs and much of her supporting respiratory system, she was chained to terra firma for the at least the next sixteen months. Exile on earth, to assure a full recovery, came with a two year assignment to Starfleet Medical as Director of Emergency Operations; and most recently, a stint as instructor at the academy in Field Triage, a subject near and dear to her heart. Serving on the Ruby G. had provided her not only with a wealth of experience, but a sense of what needed to be updated in cadet training. New challenges were presenting themselves on a monthly basis on the frontier.
It had become her habit, since she moved into the bungalow, to have a cup of tea before settling in to read medical journals or some obscure nineteenth century mystery novel she had located. She preferred sassafras tea and noted that her stores were running low. Her next trip to Vacherie, in southern Louisiana, to visit her parents would have to include a trip to the New Orleans market. Since a blight in the last century had rendered the sassafras trees extinct in other regions, the sapling roots were protected and distributed on a marginal basis in the areas where it could still be cultivated.
She was filling the tea kettle when she saw him standing at the end of the pier. The stream of water from the tap had overflowed the kettle before she realized she had been staring at a familiar silhouette. She turned the water off and set the pot on the pad. Taking as deep a breath as she could manage, she let it out slowly. She watched him for at least five more minutes. He was still rooted to the same spot, watching the twilight slowly fade across the channel. Unless he had made a hundred and eighty degree change in his habits, he would not have chosen a spot like this to meditate.
Christine surveyed her attire and found it lacking for receiving a guest. But he had seen her in less dignified garments than the nightgown she was wearing tonight. She was comfortable and had not planned to get uncomfortable. Still, she grabbed a shawl off the arm chair in the reading nook and threw it around her shoulders.
He must have heard her approach because he turned to her and immediately raised his left eyebrow. Her feet were bare and the shawl had dropped off one shoulder. She drew the corners of the shawl across her chest against the chill in the air.
"It must be very cold out here for you. I was about to prepare some tea if you would like to join me."
When he nodded and took a step forward, she smiled at him and turned toward the soft light coming from the cottage.