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Neither Kirk nor Spock spoke as they climbed the steep passages. Christine followed them wrapped in the cocoon of unreality that had gripped her since Roger... no, not Roger, remember, not Roger, had trapped his arm. Maybe when she was alone she could weep for the man she once knew... maybe. She had suppressed tears for so long now, her faith in his life sustaining her against all probability. She had been justified - or hadn't she? Roger... not Roger? She wasn't sure whether she wanted to feel she had just said goodbye, or whether it had all been over five years ago. Roger... not Roger? The words swirled in her brain.
Kirk heard her footsteps falter and slowed down, his eyes gentle. He took her hand, gripping it firmly. The tiny pain helped her back to reality and she returned the pressure, grateful for Human contact. The warmth of his hand enfolded hers like a caress, and they materialised in the bright light of the transporter room fingers still entwined.
McCoy met them, worry lines creasing his face. "Jim! Christine! Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Doctor." Christine took her hand away, loneliness flooding her soul as she did so. Behind Kirk, the Vulcan half-turned towards her, checking the movement at its birth.
"Go and take a rest, Nurse," Kirk said.
McCoy watched the doors close behind her. "Work may be a better therapy, Jim."
Kirk nodded. "Keep an eye on her, Bones."
Christine sat among her friends in the rec room, untouched coffee cooling beside her. The terrible, cold loneliness still enclosed her, the irreconcilable memories tangling coherent thought. Across the room McCoy, Kirk and Spock watched her.
"Surely a sedative, Bones...?"
"Who's the doctor around here?" McCoy said sourly. "Tranquillisers don't resolve problems. Christine's adult enough and sane enough to know that."
Their conversation only half reached the Vulcan, her terrible loneliness flooding his mind again as it had when they beamed aboard. Such profound emotion reached through his barriers, touching the well of his own loneliness, searching for a response he could not give.
He rose with a murmured excuse and crossed the room. McCoy watched him with baffled eyes.
"What's got into him?" he demanded. Kirk had no answer to give him.
Christine felt a feather-light touch on her shoulder. The long, black tunnel surrounding her lightened imperceptibly and she looked up.
"Nurse, I have some cultures I would like your opinion on. Do you have a moment?"
The dark eyes held hers, the touch grew firmer. Life suddenly flowed around her again.
"I'm excused duties at the moment, Mr Spock," she said. "I'd be glad to help."
His quiet company was pleasant, the intellectual challenge stimulating. He offered no words of sympathy, and yet his very presence seemed to provide support. At the end of the evening, when she left him to go to her cabin, the old rhythm returned to her mind.
Roger... not Roger? Now it no longer seemed to matter. Roger was dead. She could mourn his memory with pride.
Three days later she was able to give the Captain her decision - to stay.