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) 2013 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.
Chapel walked the halls of the luxury hotel hosting the annual Federation medical conference, also known as an exercise in mind-numbing boredom if you went to the wrong panel. And most of the panels this year seemed to be the wrong panels. Why were all the presenters so damn boring? Was that the only way they’d finagled permission to go to the thing? By presenting some asinine topic that their captain or superior didn’t understand?
“I told you we’d meet up at one of these.” By the smile Len was sporting as he turned her to face him, he’d found the bar. “So how is life on the Shalimar, Christine?”
“Not as exciting in the personal arena as life aboard the Enterprise, but I like the job very much.” She took his arm. “I don’t think there’s a single session I want to go to right now.”
He seemed to be moving them in the general direction of the lobby. “No kidding. Why aren’t you presenting? You can’t tell me you aren’t doing some interesting stuff.”
“I came here to relax, not to worry about talking to a bored crowd.” She smiled at him, suddenly very glad to see him. “You know, I’ve actually missed you.”
“Well, you don’t need to sound so goddamn surprised about it, Christine. Criminy.”
“So I take it you haven’t shacked up with Kelting and—who is First Officer on your new ship?”
“Thulin? My taste doesn’t run to Andorian females, sorry.”
“So you and Kelting...?”
“Are you fishing for a reason? Jesus, Len, let it go. I’m not involved with anyone on the ship. I learned my lesson. Shore leave is for sex.”
“Words to live by, darlin’. I believe conferences might be, also.”
“How many drinks have you had? I know you did not just proposition me.”
“You know nothing. And I’ve had three.” He found them a table in the corner of the bar and motioned a server over.
“Is there a reason we’re not joining our colleagues?” There were several groups of doctors and scientists scattered around the room.
“Yes. I’ve missed you, too.” He gave her an intense look. “If you would rather join those colleagues, then get up and I’ll follow you. And I won’t say another word about it.”
“I think you know.” He leaned back. “What’ll it be, Christine? Me alone or me with a bunch of fun people?” He made a face. “I don’t think that came out the right way.”
“Given my history, especially not.” She smiled at him but stood up. “You’ve had three drinks, and you’re probably lonely because Spock and Jim are leaving you out. Just like they did when I was on the ship.”
He looked down.
“I say we join our colleagues, have a raucous good time, and if you really feel strongly about this, we can revisit it tomorrow when—or should I say if you stay sober.”
“I’m not drunk. And I have antitox.” He started to reach into his pocket.
“Save it. Keep the buzz. I’ve given you my answer for tonight.” She took his hand and tugged him over to a group who made room for them. The server followed them and took their orders.
They had a raucous good time with a bunch of drunk doctors. But Len shot her the occasional surprised look, as if he’d thought this was going to go down the way he’d planned it—had he planned this?
When did he decide they were going to have sex? Hell, when did he decide he was attracted to her? News to her.
She wasn’t going to worry about it. There was a blonde who seemed very interested in cozying up to him, and he had put his arm around her.
But Chapel noticed he did not leave with the pretty blonde, let her say goodnight with a simple smile and lift of his glass.
“She was young and attractive. And interested in you. You off your game?”
“Got other quarry in mind.”
She laughed. Nervously.
He gave her the smile that always used to annoy her. The knowing and arrogant one. She had to admit, tonight she found it kind of sexy.
Breakfast was the best part of these conferences. The buffets were delicious, especially when compared to the rubber chicken and limp salads that tended to be the lunch or dinner fare. She loaded up on bacon, sausage, eggs scrambled just right, and home fries, added a strawberry to make it look like she was at least aware there were healthy options as well, and saw Len at a table alone.
“Want company?” It was the safe thing to ask: he wasn’t always a morning person.
“You, yes. Anyone else, no.” He looked at her plate and started to laugh. “They starving you on the Shalimar?”
“Shut up.” She saw that he had oatmeal, a lot of fruit, and some yogurt. “Borrrrrrring.”
He nodded as if to say “Story of my life” and she smiled.
As she sat, he murmured, “Do I have to apologize for last night?”
“Nope. I was just...surprised, I guess.”
“Gotta work on your self esteem, woman. Or did those two do a number on it?”
“Little of both maybe.” She didn’t meet his eyes.
“You never told me which one of them it was you didn’t want to share.”
“I sure didn’t, did I?”
“When I try to figure it out, I can make a case for either.”
“Are they happy?”
“Without you, you mean?”
“Seem to be. But who can tell with them? They seemed pretty much the same before you as with you. I mean before Jim broke up with him.”
“How much do you know about that?”
“Not much. Enough to know Spock went to Gol and Jim gave up the ship. Idiots.”
“Is that why you were always looking out for me? You liked me?”
He shook his head, his expression very gentle. “I mean, yes I liked you, of course. As a friend, as a colleague, as my right hand. But I only started thinking about more once I saw you were on the attendee list for this conference.”
He nodded, and she couldn’t see any of the signs that meant he was lying or trying to bullshit her. “I missed you, too, Christine. So sue me.” He grinned but the expression missed the mark a little bit. “You weren’t wrong last night. They do leave me out. The blissful reunion phase is a little exclusionary.”
“You left me out, too, when you were part of that. I understand discretion but why does everyone have to disappear into the person they’re with?”
“Oh, like you and Tonya didn’t do that? Give me a break, Len. You hardly heard a word I said to you back then.”
“Did you care?”
“On a professional level, yeah. Your right hand was more like your left foot.”
He smiled. “Good one.” Then his smile died. “Okay, I guess I’m just cranky.”
“It’s morning, ergo...”
“Am I not a morning person? I’m fine in the morning.”
“Uh huh.” She went back to eating, enjoying the greasy, salty, wonderful badness of her meal. “What panel you going to first?”
“I’m not. Going to the trauma center here. Supposed to be first rate and I know the head of it. You want to come?”
“Yes, I want to come.” The trauma center was one of the best in the sector. They were doing work that no one else did. “I want to see the Barqolin procedure. It’s saved a lot of lives, but it doesn’t translate well on vid.”
“I know. I’ve tried to follow it, too. Well, maybe they can walk us through one of the vids if they don’t have any procedures scheduled.”
She smiled happily. Learn something new and not have to sit in hard, too-close-together chairs to do it? Win, win.
Chapel was exhausted when they got back from the trauma center. They’d not only seen a procedure, they’d been allowed to assist with a second. She was relatively sure if the need arose, she could perform one on her own.
“Our esteemed keynote speaker tonight,” Len muttered as they passed someone with “Doctor Michel Dandridge” on his nametag. “I can’t stand the guy. I’m going to skip the big banquet.”
“Did you plan to attend any of this conference?”
“I learned enough today to justify being here, and you can say the same. There is a steakhouse I’m dying to try. You in or do you fancy hanging on Dandridge the Droner’s every monotone word?”
“Wow, did he steal your woman once or something?” She sighed. “Steak sounds so much better than whatever is on the menu for dinner tonight.”
“I think it was some kind of fish.”
She could picture it. White, bland, probably steamed. Tasteless if they were lucky. Really funky tasting if they weren’t. “You sold me. I’m gonna shower first, all right?”
“Me, too. I was sweating like a pig during that last procedure. So sure I was going to screw something up.”
“You?” She smiled. “Meet down here in half an hour? Or did you expect me to linger over my toilette?” She laughed at the idea.
“I’ve seen you in every state imaginable. Not that I wouldn’t like to get a taste of what Christine all gussied up just for me looks like, but I’m fine with low-key you. Unless you brought that green dress?”
“I did not.” The green dress was officially retired. Or maybe she was just sentimental. Maybe some part of her hoped she’d be wearing it for Jim—and just Jim—again some day.
Stupid romantic that she was.
“Well, whatever you want to wear is fine. This steakhouse isn’t fancy.” He headed off to the bank of elevators in the west end of the hotel. She was in the east wing.
A shower, some simple makeup, and a quick change to a comfortable but sleek blouse and pants, and she was ready to go. He smiled when he saw her, put his arm around her as they left the hotel.
“It’s just down the street. We can walk.”
“Good.” She relaxed as he held her loosely, was surprised at how comfortable it was to be close to him like this. But then they’d worked together for how long? It was natural to be around him, even if she’d never considered being around him quite like this.
“You’re thinking too hard.” He laughed softly. “When you get that quiet, I know you’re overthinking. Do I need to ask what it’s about?”
“Probably not.” She reached up, touched his hand where it rested on her shoulder. “This is nice.”
“Well, of course, it’s nice, darlin’. Did you expect me to be a slouch?” He waited a moment and when she didn’t answer, he said, with what she hoped was mock offense, “You did. You thought I was bad at romance. Christine, I am crushed.”
“I didn’t think you were bad at it. I just didn’t think you and I would be any good.”
“Did you ever give it real consideration?”
“No. But then neither did you, Len. You said so last night.”
“I did say that. So let’s just enjoy this unexpected gift, huh?” He leaned in and kissed her cheek. “I could have picked the blonde who appeared to think about very little other than getting laid, but no. I had to set my cap on you.”
She chuckled. “Stupid man.”
“Don’t I know it?” He turned her into a restaurant, done in rich burgundies and dark leather. They had to wait for a table in the bar, but she didn’t think either of them found that a hardship as they sat and caught up over red wine for her and bourbon for him.
The dinner, once they were seated, was great. The server solicitous but not hovering, and Chapel leaned back when they were done with their entrees and let Len order whatever he wanted for dessert.
“Oh, sure, you say you don’t want anything, but I know you. You’ll be asking for two forks.”
“Or spoons, if you go for ice cream.”
“Or chocolate mousse. That looks good.” He handed over the dessert menu. “Tell me what doesn’t look good to you.”
“Bread pudding.” She made a face that got him laughing. “What? I hate the stuff. It’s soggy bread. By design.”
“Yes. Yes it is. I’m not a fan, either.” He smiled at the server as he came over. “We’ll share a chocolate mousse.”
It was light and heavenly, and he let her have the last bit. As they left the restaurant, she expected him to try to get her to his room, but instead he took her hand and led her down along the main street, and they looked in windows and talked about whatever came to mind.
“So which one of them was it?” he asked very softly as they walked back to the hotel.
“Yeah. That’s what I thought.” He shook his head. “Not sure I’m up to competing with him. Spock, I could probably manage.”
“It’s not a competition.” But she didn’t meet his eyes and she knew he didn’t miss that fact.
“Do you miss him?”
“Yes. But I expect I always will. He’ll be that person you want but can’t really have.” She shook her head and laughed a little too bitterly. “Spock knew exactly what he was doing.”
“So, it’s Spock’s fault you were in bed with both of them?”
She shrugged. “It’s no one’s fault. But it’s annoying how well he played it.”
“So, you didn’t like being with him?”
“With Spock? Oh, no, it was good. It’s just...I fell for Jim on Earth, when Spock was at Gol and you were in Georgia. And it was not my smartest moment thinking two would be more fun than one.”
He laughed, but not in a mean way, and squeezed her hand. “Look, I came on really strong last night. I probably shouldn’t have.”
“You’d had a lot to drink. Liquid courage.” She smiled gently. “So, I guess that means you’re trying to find a way to back out gracefully?”
“Back out? Oh, hell, no. I’m trying to give you a way to wriggle off the hook.”
“So you want to do it?” She sounded very tentative—she hated how uncertain.
“Yes. Yes, I do.” He stopped her at the entrance to the hotel, pulled her close, and kissed her.
It was a very, very good kiss.
Then he eased away. “I’m not sure you want to though, Christine, so let’s call it a night. Thank you for making this a wonderful day.” He touched her cheek for a moment, then turned and walked away.
She watched him go, some part of her saying to stop him.
Another part said to let him go. Was that the smart part or the scared part?
She hurried after him, stopped him at the elevators. “What do you want? Just a night or love?”
“I’m not sure.”
“And that’s why I’m going up to my room alone, Christine. You’re in love already. It’s going to stick in my craw that I’ll never be the one for you.”
She nodded and let him go. “It was a hell of a kiss.”
“Yes. Yes it was.” He pushed the up button and got into the elevator, the doors very final as they closed him off from her.
She went back to her room alone.
As soon as she got to her room, she commed him on the inter-hotel system. He picked up on the first buzz.
“Do you really think there’s just one for someone?” She sat down on the bed and kicked off her shoes.
“No. But I think a person has to be ready to move on.”
“What gets them to that point, though? Waiting forever, or getting—”
“If you say getting back on the horse, I’ll hang up on you, Christine.” He was laughing.
She lay back, cradling the receiver against her ear and the pillow. “You’re my friend, Len.”
“Yes, I am.”
“How much more do you want to be?”
“Well, right now, I’d like to be in your bed. But I know myself, darlin’. I’m a foolish old romantic and I’ll go and fall in love with you, I just know it.”
“Like you did with Tonya. And Natira. And Nancy. And your ex wife. And...”
“Is that you’re an all-or-nothing kind of guy. But you get over it. Sure, you’re all in when you’re involved, but you can move on. You’ve proven it.”
“I ask again: your point?”
“I guess that I can’t hurt you too badly.” She sighed. “And that I’m lonely and I want you to come to my room.”
“I like the last part. The other part...well, I think you underestimate your ability to wound, hon’.”
“Maybe so. I guess I shouldn’t judge by the fact that Jim and Spock didn’t miss a beat.”
“I think they missed you when you left. Don’t sell yourself short.” He sighed, then asked, “What room are you in?”
“Four eighteen. I’m in the east wing.”
“I’m coming over. With booze. I don’t know that we’re going to sleep together, though.”
“If all you want to do is drink and talk, we can do it over this comm channel. Don’t come over unless you intend for something to happen.”
There was a long silence. Then he said, “Fine, I’m coming over.”
She cut the comm link and swallowed hard.
He was coming over. She was going to sleep with her friend.
Was she fucking nuts? How many things did she need to screw up in her life before she wised up?
She had herself pretty worked up by the time he buzzed at her door. She let him in and started to pace.
He ignored her and poured them both bourbons. “Here. Drink up. Jesus, Christine, you set the terms—why are you acting like a blushing virgin?”
“Is this a dumb idea?” She took a frantic sip of the drink. “Because my track record isn’t the best.”
“Yeah, and me settling down with someone I just met and having an implant put in me was my finest moment?”
She started to laugh. “But still, ‘Roger was an android’ trumps everything.”
“Oh, sure, fall back on that old play.” He moved closer, stroked her hair back. “Do you want to do this?”
He laughed and moved away, going to the other side of the bed, plumping the pillows up, kicking his shoes off, and leaning back. He crossed his feet and sipped his drink while he watched her.
“Come sit here with me. Christ on a stick, Chapel.”
She handed him her drink, then cuddled in next to him.
He gave her back the glass and put his arm around her. “There. Panic attack averted. This is doing great stuff for my ego, let me tell you.”
She laughed. “I’m sorry. I’m a mess.”
“You are. No argument there. Blondie’s looking better and better.” He tightened his hold on her as he said the last bit, as if to let her know he was kidding.
She leaned over him and put her glass on the nightstand, then snaked her arm around him and put her head on his chest. “I just ran, you know? From the two of them. And things have been hectic on the Shalimar, and I am busier than shit, and I didn’t have to think about anything or anyone but doing my job.”
“Yep. You didn’t deal with what happened: you buried it.”
She pushed her cheek into the soft fabric of his shirt. “Right.”
“And now you’re having to deal with it. And here I am. Good ol’ Len.” He put his now empty glass down and sighed.
“I don’t think of you that way. Like some sort of standby or stand in.” She sat up and kissed him the way he’d kissed her earlier.
He pushed her over and followed her down, deepening the kiss, running his hand down her side. Then he shook his head and let her go. “I’m probably going to kick myself in the morning, but I don’t think this is the right thing to do.” He eased away and got off the bed. “Breakfast? Same time, same place?”
She nodded, and watched him walk out without calling him back.
After a breakfast that both of them tried too hard to be normal at, she left him to go to a session that actually looked interesting, then ditched the rest of the conference and walked down to a dress shop they’d passed the night before during their stroll.
There was a dress hanging on the wall that had caught her eye. Red and cut in a daring way. She looked at the size and realized it would never fit her.
“I have that in your size only in dark blue,” the woman working in the shop said. “Let me get it for you.”
Chapel took it from her and went into the dressing room. If anything, this was sexier than the green dress. She smiled and when the clerk asked, “How does it fit?” she told her she’d take it.
“And I need some shoes that are as sexy as this dress.”
The clerk had just the thing.
Chapel walked back to the hotel and went up to her room, spending a lot of time on her make-up—trying primarily to look like she didn’t have any on—and on her hair, before slipping on the dress and shoes.
She walked down to the lobby, noticed more than a few heads turning as she went by. Len was sitting at the bar with several other people, including the blonde. He didn’t have his arm around her though, so Chapel walked over.
He took in the dress and said, “Wow.”
“Can I borrow him?”
The blonde didn’t look thrilled, but the others waved them off with a smile.
“I can see why you left the green dress at home.”
“I just bought this today.” She smiled at him. Waited to see if he’d get the significance of that statement.
“For me?” No flies on him. “Aww, I’m touched.”
“I can’t promise anything, Len. I can’t even promise that I’m not doing this to finally move on. But I saw this and thought of you. Only you. Is that enough?”
He smiled. “Yep.” Taking her hand he led her to the east wing elevators. “And I’m going to enjoy taking that dress off you. One promise only, all right?”
“You don’t wear this dress for anyone else.”
“Deal.” She dragged him onto the elevator and they rode up with several others, holding hands in the back of the car, grinning at each other like two teenagers about to do it for the first time.
They were the only ones getting off at four, and they maintained decorum until the elevator doors shut, and then he had her pushed up against the hallway wall and was kissing her.
“Room,” she said. “Now.”
He grabbed her hand and pulled her down to her room, and she was laughing as they nearly ran, as he pushed her palm up to the door to let them in, and stood behind her, pushing on her in other ways.
The door unlocked and they were inside, and he had her against the wall again, was kissing her fiercely. Then he pushed her into the bathroom, pulled her panties off, and urged her onto the counter. She unfastened his pants, and he lifted her legs so she could wrap them around him, and...there.
Oh, God, there. She sighed as he moved, happy to be feeling this again, happy to feel connected to someone again.
It had been too long. Why the hell had she waited?
“I’ll take my dress off you later, I guess,” he said with a laugh as he held her tightly and thrust, moving his hand down to lift the skirt and play.
She cried out as she came. He kept moving, a big grin on his face, until the grin turned into a grimace and he collapsed against her.
She held him and kissed his neck. “So I guess you like the dress, huh?”
He laughed and nodded, then eased away and met her eyes, taking hold of her face with both of his hands before kissing her, gently this time. “Now, let’s get it off you.”
Chapel closed her eyes as she lay cuddled against Len. “Why in God’s name didn’t we ever think to do this before?”
“Could have saved us both a world of trouble.” He ran his hand lazily up and down her arm, making her shiver. “Honestly, I think we didn’t think of it because it wasn’t time to think of it.”
“And now it is?” She moved so she could see his face. “You don’t think we would have worked back then, on the first voyage?”
“All you could see was Spock. I don’t think I was ever in danger of being a player in that game.” He kissed her softly. “And on the second time around, there was Jim. And Spock. Double whammy. Now I have you all to myself.” He smiled. “Don’t worry, I don’t think there’s an us. I’m under no illusions here.”
“Is that your way of saying you don’t want there to be an us?”
“Don’t, Christine. I know you’re not ready, and I accept that. But don’t ask me to say I am. That’s just mean.”
She sighed. “That’s what I was, though, at the end, before I left. Mean.”
“I remember.” He pulled her closer. “So cut it out. You’re not in that situation anymore, and I have to catch a shuttle at oh six hundred.”
“Really? Shit.” She pulled him down, kissed him gently. “I do love you, Len.”
“I know you do, darlin’.” He pushed her to her back, began to kiss his way from her lips to her collarbone to points much farther south.
She writhed under his mouth, cried out loudly as she came. “You’re super good at that, just so you know.”
“Yes, I’ve insured this tongue.” He laughed when she did, kissed her playfully and then moaned as she returned the favor and conducted a tour of his erogenous zones, ending with one in particular. “Holy shit, woman. You better have that mouth insured.”
She giggled, such a silly, carefree sound it made her smile wider. “You’re good for me.”
“Kiss of death, in my experience.” He sighed. “I could miss my shuttle. Tell Jim you hijacked me.”
She tensed in his arms.
“Oh, shit, Christine, I wasn’t thinking when I said that. I’m sorry.” He sighed. “I really am sorry. I joke. You know that. I just didn’t think before I opened my mouth.”
She nodded and tried to relax.
“He’ll always be there, won’t he? Standing right between us.”
“He shouldn’t be. He chose Spock. I’ve accepted that, but hope rears its ugly head, Len, because you’re not the only stupid romantic in this room.”
He began to scratch her back gently, and she closed her eyes and sighed in happiness. Just being close to someone again felt so good. And she knew him. She liked him and loved him.
Would it be so hard to fall in love?
Would it be so hard to imagine blue eyes instead of hazel ones?
“You’re tensing, not relaxing. Whatever you’re thinking about, cut it out.” He got up and straddled her back, giving her a real massage. “Don’t worry about this, Christine. It is what it is. Maybe we’ll do it again someday, maybe we won’t.”
“You’re a wise man.”
“Or I’m just saying the right thing because you’re my friend and I’ll cry in my beer later.”
“Don’t be sorry, darlin’. We’re here. We’re naked. And parts of me are ecstatic.”
She smiled. “Parts of me are, too.”
She remembered what it felt like when all of her was, though. That was the problem.
Even if Jim had never been really hers. She’d gotten a taste.
Len continued to make her muscles feel like jelly, and she closed her eyes and just drifted. This was nice. This was uncomplicated.
She liked it a lot.
That counted for something. Right?