DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2002 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG.
Crossing the Desert
They had been walking for hours and Christine had come to the decision that the sand was never-ending. "How much farther?" she gasped as she forced her legs to keep moving.
Spock didn't answer. She supposed he viewed it as illogical to waste precious breath on a question that ultimately made no difference. The shelter he had seen from the shuttle was either just on the other side of this dune, or it wasn't. She closed her eyes and took the last few steps to the top of the sand heap. Please, let it be there, she pleaded as she opened her eyes. It wasn't.
Disappointment flooded her. And something worse...defeat. She sank to her knees. "I can't do it, Spock. I'm sorry." Her words came out a croak.
Spock had gone several steps before he realized she was no longer walking behind him. He walked back to her and hauled her to her feet. "It is not far. You must keep going."
"You must. That is an order, Nurse." He turned away, already moving ahead toward the shelter that she no longer believed existed.
"I'm dead," she whispered. "And this is hell." She forced her legs to move, trying desperately not to fall as she slid down the dune. Spock didn't turn to check her progress. "And you're the devil," she muttered at her tormenter.
He appeared to be much more at ease in this environment than she was. Vulcan was rocky high desert, not sand plains like this, but the heat and the dust were similar. She remembered how uncomfortable she had been when she had visited Vulcan during her Academy training. At least this hellworld they were on now had gravity comparable to Earth.
Christine amused herself for the next few dunes coming up with names for the planet that now held them captive. She didn't notice that Spock had stopped and nearly bumped into him. "Are we there?"
He shook his head, and she sighed and let her head drop.
"Drink some water," he suggested, his voice devoid of any emotion.
"I ran out."
"Hours ago. I thought we'd come to an oasis or something."
"This is not a Terran adventure vid, Nurse Chapel. There are no oases on this planet. I have water left. As you need the water more than I do, you should have asked for it."
She was too tired to protest. "Yes, sir."
He held out his water carrier. "Drink."
She was going to argue but then she saw his expression. He was irritated with her. It figured that the only emotion she would ever get out of him would be annoyance. She took the carrier and sipped at his water, trying not to cough as the warm liquid hit her dusty throat.
He took the carrier back and pointed in the direction they'd been walking. "It should not be far now."
She sighed and nodded, adjusting the roll of fabric she had torn from the bottom of her uniform shirt and wrapped around her head to prevent sunburn. Spock waited until she was done, then started to move toward the shelter again.
She followed, determined not to hold him up, but soon she could feel her strength waning and a dangerous feeling of nausea coming over her. Dehydration, her mind automatically diagnosed. Heat stroke. She didn't have much time if they stayed out in the sun like this.
She realized Spock was at her side, staring at her with concern. Wow, she thought. That's a new emotion. She tried to smile at him, but her lips cracked at the movement. "I'm okay," she said trying not to move her mouth.
"No. You are not." Reaching around her back, he said, "I will help you." He waited till she was ready, then moved off slowly, supporting her as they navigated through the sand.
This is my fantasy, she thought numbly. And I'm too exhausted to enjoy it. She felt him stiffen next to her and realized that while it might be her fantasy, it was probably his nightmare. "I'm sorry," she whispered.
"There is nothing to be sorry for." He pointed with his free hand at something far in the distance. "They are shelling."
She saw the tracers; they had been so bright at night. Now they were barely noticeable in the brilliant sky. But they were hitting too close for comfort, and getting closer. At the pace they were going, they wouldn't make it to shelter. "Leave me. You can make it alone."
"I would not wish to explain to Doctor McCoy that I left you in order to save myself."
"Just tell him I died."
"That would be a lie." He nudged her into motion. "We go together, Christine."
She didn't realize for some time that he had called her by her first name. She was almost too tired to care.
The dune they were climbing seemed to go on forever. "I can't," she said, but no sound came out. She tried to clear her throat but she couldn't. Nausea again threatened. Totally immersed in trying to not throw up, Christine didn't notice that they had topped the dune.
"We are there," Spock said gently as they climbed down. She made some strange gasping noises and he looked at her with concern, finally realizing that she was laughing. "This is amusing?"
She shook her head and the noises turned to sobs as she tried to catch her breath. He led her into the shelter and eased her onto the floor in the shade. Opening his water carrier, he held it against her lips, barely letting the water touch her.
"Take only a little," he warned.
She swallowed and began to cough--great racking gasps that made her bend over in pain. When they stopped, he held the water out to her again and she drank, this time keeping the water down. She tried to take another swallow, but no liquid came out. She looked at the carrier stupidly, "More?"
He inspected the container. "There is no more." Rising, he began to inspect the shelter. A barrel stood to the side and he raised the ladle that was attached and sniffed it. "It is bad."
Christine closed her eyes. She shivered. "I'm so cold," she complained. "Why is it so cold?"
He looked at her with concern. "You are ill."
He was right. It was another symptom. "Heatstroke," she whispered. "I need water, Spock." It wasn't a request, merely a statement of fact. He seemed to understand. Rummaging around the shelter again, he found enough wood to start a small fire. It took her a moment to realize that he was boiling the water. "Good idea," she said as she curled up on the ground and closed her eyes.
"You must not sleep." He was there immediately, pulling her back up to a sitting position. "Stay awake."
Her eyes were already closing. "I can't."
His voice was unexpectedly sharp, "You will."
She opened her eyes and realized he was holding her by her shoulders, his face so close she could lean in and kiss him if she only had the energy. She'd never been this close to him before...except for that time in his cabin, when he had been going through Pon Farr. She had tried to forget everything about that night, how she'd gone to his quarters to tell him they were headed for Vulcan, how he had stood so close and said those strange things to her.
He moved slightly and she let go of the memory, preferring to study his face. "You have pretty eyes."
"You are delirious."
"No, I think that they're pretty when I'm not about to die too," she said as she closed her eyes again.
"Stay awake," he said firmly. "That is an order."
She didn't even try to obey this time; it was just too hard to stay awake.
"Nurse. You are insubordinate."
"Oh, shut up," she muttered as she tried to lie down again. "I need to rest."
She felt him pull her up again and move her closer to the fire. He had found some kind of support for her to lean against and it felt good against her back. They made nice furniture on this planet, if nothing else, she thought. It wasn't until Spock reached around her to take the water container off the fire that she realized she was leaning against him. Suddenly embarrassed, she tried to sit up.
"Stay where you are," he ordered. "You must stay awake. I am going to ask you questions and you will answer them."
"Don't want to answer any stupid questions. I want to sleep."
"Nevertheless, you will do as I say."
She realized he wasn't going to give up. "Not fair. I get to ask some."
"And we have to answer the question no matter how personal," she said, sure that he'd give up and let her rest.
"I cannot promise that."
"Good, then I'm going to go to sleep." She closed her eyes.
"I will try to answer them," he amended as he shook her slightly.
She groaned. "Either we answer or we have to kiss." There, that should shut him up, she thought tiredly.
There was a long silence and she was just about asleep when she heard him say softly, "The terms are acceptable." He moved her into a less comfortable position. "What is your full name?"
"We're not really going to do this, are we?" she asked in a bitter voice. All she wanted to do was close her eyes.
"Answer the question, Christine."
"Christine Ann Chapel." She tried to find a position that didn't put a strain on her back but he held her in place.
"If you are comfortable, you will sleep."
She didn't reply.
"It is your turn," he said evenly.
"Fine. Do you have another name? A more personal one?"
"You couldn't pronounce it."
"What kind of answer is that?"
"A truthful one." He tested the temperature of the container and then held it to her lips. "It will not taste good. But it should be clean. You will drink it."
She took a swallow and nearly gagged but forced it down. He didn't move the dish away until she had taken several more small gulps. Then, to her surprise, his arms settled around her. Allowing herself to relax slowly against him, she waited for him to pull away. He didn't.
"Why did you join Starfleet?" he asked.
"To find my fiancé."
"But you stayed after he died."
She shrugged. "I guess it grew on me. And that was two questions. My turn." She thought. "The woman who you said was your wife. Did you love her?"
There was a long silence. Then she felt Spock pull away slightly.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked that."
She waited through another long pause, then he said softly, "We did not rule out any questions."
"Some questions are just too personal. Forget I asked it."
He waited a few moments, then said, "Our betrothal was accomplished when we were children. I knew T'Pring only slightly when it happened. Initially, she was welcoming and seemed to be in favor of our union. But when I left Vulcan, she closed her mind to me. We have not been close since."
"There is nothing to be sorry for." He held the water container to her lips again.
Drinking quickly, she said, "You need water too."
"Fortunately, I am not that thirsty. I come from an arid planet. This environment does not strain my system the way it does yours."
"What was it like?"
"Dry. Hot. Beautiful. But it is not your turn to ask a question."
"Where did you learn to make Plomeek soup?"
She chuckled. "I asked M'Benga. My turn. Was it good?"
He didn't hesitate. "It was."
She smiled. "You never said."
"I know. I was remiss."
"It's okay. I know now." She could tell that the unsaid 'before it's too late' was hanging between them. She prompted him, "Your turn."
"I know that you were training to be a doctor. Do you have plans to pursue that again?"
She realized he was refusing to accept that she wouldn't make it back to the ship. "I might. When this mission is over. Why does it matter?"
"Is that your question?"
"Just answer it."
He held up the water container again. "A waste of talent is illogical."
"Spoken like a true Vulcan." She sipped at the putrid water. "It would also get me off the ship. That's got to be a plus."
"I would not view your absence as a positive thing."
"Oh come on, Spock. I've made a complete ass of myself several times now. It must be embarrassing for you. God knows I'm pretty sick of being teased about it."
"The crew is unkind to you because of this?"
"Most of them don't mean to be unkind."
He didn't answer right away.
"Whose turn is it?" she asked, trying to turn the subject back to something less painful.
"Mine." He shifted slightly against her. "Do you stay on this ship for me?"
She froze. "That's not a fair question."
"Given the nature of the conversation so far, it is no less fair than any other question."
"Ok. Then. Maybe."
"That is imprecise."
She tried to move away from him. His arm was like iron, preventing her from getting away. "It's the best I can do." She was too weary to struggle against him and suddenly very tired of playing Spock's game. She closed her eyes and felt him move his head to watch her.
"You must stay awake."
"It is your turn." He shook her slightly.
She opened her eyes a bit. His face was resolute, determined to keep her from sleeping. She looked away.
Fine, she thought. Let's get this over with. "Have you ever been in love?"
His expression, which had been almost relaxed, tightened and he looked away.
"Fine, if you won't answer, then let me sleep."
He was turning her to face him as he said, "That is not the action you stipulated when we started."
Before she could react, his mouth was on hers. She expected a perfunctory touching of skin and then a quick retreat, but he lingered, touching her cracked lips very gently with his own and curling one hand behind her neck. She allowed her own arm to wrap around his neck. Her hand touched his skin and he flinched. He hates this, she realized. She pulled back abruptly and scooted away from him.
"I'm sorry," she said brokenly as she backed up even more. "I didn't mean to make you--"
Her words were cut off by the sudden boom of laser artillery hitting just outside. Spock was there immediately, holding her, sheltering her as the next shot took out the side of the building. A cloud of dust erupted. He pulled her head against his chest and buried his face in her neck. Despite the buffer, she started to cough.
Another hit took out the other side of the shelter. Spock pulled her up. "We cannot stay here."
She was too tired to move. "Spock--"
He silenced her with a fierce kiss before saying, "Do not tell me you cannot," and dragging her back out into the desert.
She forced her feet to move, to run. Pain erupted down her side and she realized that she'd been hit by a piece of flying rubble. "Spock..." she gasped, as she lost her balance.
He put his hand on her waist to pull her back up, making her gasp in pain. When he pulled away, his hand was covered in blood.
She couldn't breathe. Sucking in air desperately, she looked at him and shook her head. "Go."
"I will not leave you."
"Either you make it to safety without me, or we both die here. Where is the logic in that, Spock?"
He knelt beside her, reaching out to touch her cheek. "I find that logic has deserted me."
She could barely see him. "You mean too much to me to die. Please go."
His voice was gentle as he said, "I will not."
She couldn't speak anymore, could barely feel him take her hand in his. "I'm sorry," she tried to say. No words came out. There was only blackness.
She was nothing, and nowhere. Then there was light and she could see Spock. He was leaning over her. She was dead? A searchlight lit up the sand and as Spock glared at the descending ship she could tell by his expression that he was angry. Did he feel that for her? Then his expression changed at the same moment that she realized that the ship was one of their own shuttles. McCoy ran out and took her readings.
It's too late, she thought, even as she felt something tugging at her. Then there was only blackness again.
She awoke in sickbay. "How do you feel?" McCoy sounded relieved.
She tried a small smile, was relieved when her lips didn't split. "Like a ton of bricks fell on me."
"Not a ton, from what Spock told us, but enough." He touched her side and made a satisfied noise when she didn't react to his probing. "It's healing nicely."
"You get some rest now, young lady."
She smiled. "Yes, doctor."
He leaned down. "You had us worried." He gave her a strange look.
He smiled. "You had some people _really_ worried." When she looked at him in confusion, he patted her hand. "Get some sleep, Christine."
The next time she woke up, Sickbay was quiet, the lights dimmed to allow her to rest. She rolled over and realized that Spock was sitting next to her bed.
"You are well?"
"I am..."--he seemed to search for the right word--"relieved."
She smiled gently. "All that work saving me would have been for nothing if I'd gone and died on you."
He leaned forward. "You did die on me."
"I remember some of that."
"Fortunately, Mister Sulu is an excellent pilot. The rescue party made it just in time."
He nodded seriously. "Indeed."
He sat watching her and she felt unnerved, unsure what to say to him. Finally he rose. She reached out and touched his arm. "I appreciate what you did for me down there, Spock. And what we talked about...I know you were just trying to keep me awake. We can forget it ever happened."
He seemed to consider that. "I find that an unacceptable suggestion."
It was not the answer she had expected.
He leaned down, his lips mere inches from her ear. "I would like to continue that talk when you are recovered. I believe it was my turn to ask a question."
She just nodded.
"Excellent. I look forward to it." She felt the lightest touch of something--his lips?--on her cheek, then he stood up. She could have sworn his eyes sparkled as he said, "I shall endeavor to think of questions you will not want to answer. The alternative was quite stimulating."
She was too shocked to do more than nod again.
He began to walk away, then said over his shoulder. "Perhaps you should also begin to compile a list of questions that I would prefer not to answer."
"I'll get right on that," she said with a laugh.
McCoy came out of his office. "Are you disturbing my patient, Mister Spock?"
"I do not know. Am I disturbing you, Nurse?"
She somehow managed to keep a straight face as she said, "Not at all. Mister Spock was just telling me of a project he may need help with."
"Indeed. Nurse Chapel's assistance will be highly appreciated."
McCoy gave him a disappointed look and muttered as he walked away, "I bring this woman back from the dead and all you can think about is work?"