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) 2004 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.
Christine looks up from her desk as a nurse comes in. "Excuse me, Doctor Chapel. I know you're off duty, but there is an admiral here, and you know how they hate waiting."
Christine smiles. She can almost guarantee which admiral it is by the star struck look in the young woman's eyes. "Which room?"
"I put him in five."
She gets up; her research can wait. It always does. She could have gone into the quiet research life full-time but she's chosen to specialize in emergency medicine. She's invested too much time on a ship's sickbay--on _the_ ship's sickbay--to give it up now.
She grabs the padd from the shelf outside room five, knocks as is customary, hears the soft, "Come." She pushes for entry, the door sliding open soundlessly. The techs must have been by. It was squeaking earlier in the week.
She can feel her smile grow as she sees Jim sitting on the exam table. "My favorite patient." She looks at the padd, shakes her head. "What is this? Your fourth dislocated shoulder in as many weeks?" She moves closer, tries to ignore the way her heart rate speeds up.
He always has this effect on her. She believes he always will. She knows that if she took his pulse, it would be faster than normal.
They both want each other. Some things don't change. No matter how much fate says it just won't happen.
"Rock climbing again?" she asks softly as she begins to scan his back and chest. He has bruised a rib this time too.
"I'm working up to El Capitan."
"Jim." She shakes her head. "I'll never understand the mentality of a thrill seeker."
He just grins, the recalcitrant, slightly wicked grin that he is famous for.
She studies his face, sees the grin fade. There is a darker emotion at work here. "Everything okay other than falling off mountains?"
He shrugs, then grimaces as the movement causes pain. "Sure. Why wouldn't it be?"
"Because I know how you look when things are good. And it's not like this." She smiles up at him. It's slightly unfair to trade on the attraction between them to pull confessions from him. But she does it all the time and he seems to expect it.
Besides, she learned a long time ago from watching McCoy that it was fair to use whatever approach works to get a captain to open up. It was for the good of the ship--and of the man. She's already trying to figure out what approach will work best with Decker.
She doesn't anticipate it being pure lust and love denied for years now. Not the way she uses it with Jim. At least she hopes to hell it won't be that.
And if it is, Joe might have something to say about it. He didn't finagle a spot in Engineering on the Enterprise just to watch her flirt with the captain.
"You still with Joe?" Jim asks as if he can read her mind.
But she knows that he is just trying to divert her from his own situation.
"Yep." She smiles softly, trying to show him that things are good with her beau, but that she won't be put off from her own exploratory voyage. "So about you? How's Lori?"
"That good?" She moves around, admires his back as she works on the injury. Getting older isn't hurting his looks in any way. If anything, he's more attractive to her. "I thought you two were doing all right?"
"You and me both." His laugh is bitter.
She lets her hand rest on his uninjured arm, squeezes gently. "I'm sorry."
"I know." He sighs. "Term marriages are for the birds."
She laughs. "Why's that, oh wise one?" She moves around to the front, figures it's important to see his face for this part.
"I think I'd almost prefer getting a divorce. At least, I'd know there was some effort on her part to end it. But this...the year's up and she just slides away. I looked up last month and poof it was over and she was gone and I still don't know why." He shakes his head. "The hell of it is that I was happy." His face is confused and hurt. Like a little boy who has had his favorite toy pulled away and doesn't understand what he did to deserve such punishment.
She isn't sure what to say, so she settles for stroking his cheek. It's not the recommended doctor-patient interaction, but their relationship isn't really covered in the manuals.
"I love her." He uses his good arm to pull her in close, for a hug. He's in need of closeness, and she doesn't mind obliging.
She is heartily glad that this man won't be her captain. Joe would never understand their relationship. "I'm so sorry, Jim."
They stay like that for a long moment. She feels his lips on her hair, hears him whisper, "I love you, Chris," and knows it covers so much more than the physical. She seems to be the one who hears his heartache, who knows his secrets. Ever since Spock and Len went away, she is the only one left for him.
"I love you too, Jim." She kisses his cheek, then pulls away, goes back to her job. Healing him. His body anyway.
His heart is up to him.
The pre-launch party is in full swing. The brass have even descended en masse. Christine looks around the room, feels Joe's hand on her shoulder tighten. She looks up at him--glad that she can do that with him. He's so tall, so strong. And so good to her.
She loves him. She is happy with him. She is glad that he will be with her on the Enterprise.
She does not dwell on the fact that she loved someone else first. That she still does. It is not important. Life is complicated and the heart is able to hold many people--and many loves. There are those who touch your life fleetingly, popping in and out and making your heart race each time they do. And then there are those who actually land. Who take up residence. Joe has done that.
Jim might have done that. But it wasn't their time. They walked away from each other for all the right reasons. She suspects they always will.
"Lots of people," Joe says quietly. He doesn't like crowds. Prefers to stay in with her than have to fight his way through this many people.
But she knows he is proud of her, loves to be seen with her. He tells her so, every time they go out. How much he loves her, how much he values her.
He is the opposite of Roger. Roger let her swim in his wake. He held her in tight orbit with charisma and sex and the heady feeling of belonging to a man who was larger than life. Joe lets her swim any way she wants. Sometimes he follows her, sometimes she follows him. He doesn't have the kind of ego that needs an acolyte. He just wants a lover he can trust and devote himself to.
She's never had anyone who wanted to devote himself to her. It's a little scary. But in a good way. She can be sure of him. For the first time in her life, she can be sure of the man who loves her.
She suspects she is doing a disservice to Jim by including him in those who can't be trusted. She remembers Len's words, has seen enough on her own to know that Jim Kirk is anything but a prowling tomcat. It shocks her more than a little that he doesn't have better luck in love.
It tells her that he's more like her than like Roger. But she shies away from that revelation. It makes it too hard to justify why she stays away.
Except that she doesn't have to justify it. She's with Joe now. Has been for a year. She's not looking, and Jim knows that.
She is very glad Joe is not telepathic. Her mental thought processes are crazy enough for her to deal with, let alone someone who just wants to be sure of her too.
She sees Jim standing by the bar and looks out of habit for Lori. She is not there. She is gone.
They seemed happy to Christine. She wonders what went wrong. Or maybe nothing did. Maybe there just wasn't enough right for Lori to want to continue it. Not a slap at Jim, just not a glowing endorsement either.
But why does it have to be his fault? Lori might be a raving lunatic for all Christine knows. She only ever saw her at these kinds of functions, and Lori always seemed to bristle whenever Christine came near Jim.
What if Lori didn't want to renew the marriage because she knew her husband was in love with someone else? Christine glances up at Joe. He smiles down at her, his expression open and happy. He loves her. He doesn't need to know that Jim loves her too.
He's happier not knowing. It's how Christine justifies the lie of omission. Why wake up that sleeping dog when it will probably just wake up angry and bite the person stupid enough to rouse it?
For now, her biggest problem is how to navigate past the mob near the bar so she can get a glass of wine.
Eventually, they work the room enough to end up in Jim's orbit. Joe's never served with him but he is a fan. He smiles, his approval clear in the way he nods as Jim talks.
Jim only knows about Joe because Christine has told him. She has told her non-lover far more about her lover than she probably should. But they confide in each other. Secrets are all they have left to give.
She drains her drink; Joe notices and goes to the bar for a refill. He does not appear to see how obvious the ploy is, but she knows Jim does.
He smiles slightly. "Wanted some alone time with me, Chris?"
She shrugs. "Maybe. You'll be out of reach soon enough."
"Or you will be." His smile is half sad for him--for them--and half happy for her. He's proud of her. He's proud of how far she's come. He's told her so again and again.
She loves him for it.
She loves him for so many things.
"He's coming back now." He grins. "If I drain mine, do you think he'll leave again?"
She shakes her head.
"Didn't think so." The twinkle in his eyes, tells her that he is kidding. Mostly.
Joe hands her a fresh drink. "Decker's here," he says, pointing with his chin to the door, where their new captain stands. "We should say hi."
She nods. They should say hi.
But she would rather stand here saying goodbye.
Jim takes pity on them. "I'll let you get to that." He wanders away, and she feels half her heart go with him.
She reels it back in sternly.
Loving Jim is fine. Being a fool about it is not.
Joe is ranting. Pacing her quarters, which are bigger than his. Nearly pacing up the walls as he raves about the injustice of Jim's maneuver.
He's stolen the ship from Decker.
She wants to laugh; it's such a typical move on Jim's part. She also wants to tell Joe that their chances for surviving the mission have just risen astronomically. She knows Nyota told the bridge crew the same thing.
She says nothing. Just lets Joe rant on. She wonders though how her lover can be such a Kirk fan and not expect exactly this kind of behavior. Jim never gives up, never accepts defeat. And his ship is everything to him. Why does that seem to be such a surprise to Joe?
Finally, she's had enough of words that are becoming more vitriolic. "This thing we're running out to meet, Joe. It's lethal. I'd rather be with a tested captain."
"Tested? Try old. Try out of practice. You know how long it's been since he was in space."
"And Decker's been on this ship, supervising refits. How is that any different?"
She and Joe never fight. They are fighting now.
"He replaced you with McCoy."
"He needed his own CMO back. I'm fine with the demotion."
"I'd expect you to take his side."
"I'm not taking sides. I'm just saying that the brass may have had a reason for doing this. A good reason."
Joe moves closer; there is some strange hurt showing on his face. "I thought you liked Decker."
"I do. But he's not James T. Kirk."
"But then who is?" He stares down at her.
She realizes she is on very shaky ground. "No one. That's why he's a legend."
"Is that what he is to you?"
"What else would he be?" Jim once told her she was clever answering a question with a question. She hopes it works here.
It doesn't. Joe just stares down at her, and as she looks up at him she sees something in his expression shift, move away, run screaming out of the room. She has a sneaking suspicion it is his trust.
He no longer trusts her. And the thought hurts more than she ever expected.
"Joe." She takes his hand, afraid that if she doesn't contain him physically, he'll run. "What are you saying?" Her voice breaks, and it isn't on purpose. Pain wells up as she watches him shutting down on her.
"I've seen the way you light up when you talk to him. I don't know if that's worse or knowing he lights up just as much when he talks to you."
"I like the man. I can't help that." She smiles, tries to make it into a silly thing to be shared. Not a problem. This is not a problem.
"It was okay before. Because I knew we were going to be here, and he was going to be on Earth. But now?"
"Joe. This is a temporary assignment for him. My demotion was flagged as temporary."
"We both know that temporary can turn into permanent real fast." He laughs. It is bitter, a sound she rarely hears from him. "And possession is at least nine-tenths of the law."
"Well, if that's the case, don't you have the upper hand, fella?" She grins at him, moves closer. "If you're so worried about me, maybe you should look at who I spend my time with. Because that would be you. You possess me."
"No, I don't." His words are sad. But something in his tone seems mollified.
She hugs him, kisses his neck. She loves him. She does. He has to accept that.
"Do you love him?" he asks.
"Everybody who's served with him loves him, Joe. I'm with you. I'm in love with you."
It's not a lie. She's worded it carefully enough that it's not a lie.
She's not a bad person for that. She's just trying to hold onto something good, something real.
And Jim's presence on the ship is temporary. She knows it. Joe would know it if he let himself calm down enough to think straight. And Jim knows it.
The only future she sees is one with Joe, and she'll almost lie--or probably even outright lie--if it means saving that.
The landing party is a large one. Joe looks at her, then over at Jim and Spock. She thought his jealousy was bad when he was just worried about Jim. Now that Spock has decided to stay on the ship too, the suspicion is getting out of hand.
Which is ludicrous. Spock is more open, yes--with Jim, with Len, hell, even with the bridge crew. But he is in no way inviting Christine in. And that's fine with her. She's over him. Has been over him for a long time.
Quite possibly since she fell even harder for his captain.
She decides to ignore everything but her tricorder. She wanders off from Joe and the others. The planet is beautiful. She will enjoy it. She does enjoy it.
Until Spock decides to make like a housecat that seeks out the one person who isn't calling him or making eye contact. "Doctor Chapel."
She doesn't turn. Maybe he will go away. She has no doubt that Joe is watching the interaction carefully. She wonders if Jim is too.
She turns. If she doesn't respond, he'll probably make her go in for hearing tests. "Yes?" She adjusts her tricorder as she answers. Hopefully he will see she is engrossed and wander back off.
"I have not had a chance to congratulate you on your M.D."
Which is not true. He has had ample opportunities. Just probably no desire.
"Are you enjoying being a doctor?"
She cannot believe Spock has wandered over just to shoot the shit. "Yes, I am. Did you need something, Commander?"
He looks puzzled. "I do. But I assumed small talk would be appreciated. It is customary, is it not?"
"Not from you." She loops the tricorder strap over her wrist, lets the machine dangle. "What do you need?"
"Would you scan the density and types of insect life on this planet? The colonists will be primarily farmers. It will be helpful for them to know which of the insects are beneficial and which are not, especially when designing response systems."
"Sure. That's it?"
He nods. "I am occupied with the soil samples. And the other members of my team are working on the geology and fauna catalogs."
She waves him away. "Say no more. I'll be entomologist girl for the day."
"Thank you, Doctor." He wanders off.
She begins the scans, glad to have something to do. As the Medical rep, her real duty is to be on call for a medical emergency. But she almost always ends up helping with the research. It's just her way.
Just as it's Len's way to hang out with Jim and enjoy a walk on a nice new planet. It bugs her more than she will admit, even to Joe. But it's been Len's way for as long as she has known him. It just bothered her less when she was a nurse than now, when she is one of the ones picking up the slack for him.
She looks down. He's a famous doctor. And her boss again. CMO of the flagship. Is she just envious or resentful that she isn't CMO? Or is she right in thinking that Len sure finds a whole lot of creative ways to not be in sickbay?
And does it matter? It's the way it is. Bitching about it won't change things. Besides, who would she bitch to? She's the deputy. No one else in medical to complain to. And she'd never take it to Jim or Spock.
Probably, if she weren't so on edge because of Joe, Len's behavior wouldn't bother her.
She notices Joe is working his way closer. She sighs. Feels like walking in any other direction but has to finish the scan she just started.
Jim, at least, leaves her alone on the landing parties. He's smart that way. Plus she warned him that Joe isn't as kindly disposed toward their friendship as she once thought.
They still share secrets, she and Jim. It's still the only thing they can share.
"You're going to be fine," she says as she pats the child's arm.
The boy smiles up at her. His face is now mercifully free of red welts, and his fever has fallen.
Christine looks out over the makeshift quarantine ward, at the cots full of people even now recovering from the deadly virus. So many people who might have died if the Enterprise hadn't been in the area.
She looks back at the boy. He's her favorite patient but then she's always been a sucker for brave children. There's something so noble--and unbearably tragic--in a kid who knows how to suck up pain.
She runs her hand down his cheek, smiles tenderly. "Go to sleep. You need to rest."
He closes his eyes. She waits until his breathing changes before she leaves him. Walking to the opening of the enclosure, she goes through the first biofield and peels off her gown, mask, and gloves, throwing them into the disintegrator. She walks through the second biofield, feels the snap-zap as it kills any remaining germs on her shoes and clothes.
A nurse passes her, heading back in after sleeping for a while. Another one comes out of the showers and goes into the sleeping tent.
Jim looks up from where he is sitting with Len at the break table and smiles at her. She grabs a cup of coffee and joins them.
Len pushes himself wearily out of his chair as she sits. He dumps out his coffee and goes back into the enclosure. They've been taking turns on the ward. The rest of the doctors and nurses from the ship are working at other hotspots across the southern continent. They were lucky; they managed to contain the virus before it spread to the other landmasses. That would have been catastrophic, beyond their means to help.
Jim hands her a nutrition bar. "Eat."
She pushes it away. "I'm not hungry."
He pushes it back at her. "Eat it anyway."
She gives up arguing, tears into the bag and takes a bite of the synthesized protein and carbs. As ever, it tastes like shit. She frowns, looks for the recycling bucket.
"Take another bite," he says, watching her.
"Do you always know what I'm thinking?"
He just smiles.
She takes another bite.
"He's going to be okay?" Jim was in the ward as soon as they realized the epidemic was cooling down and that he wasn't needed to argue anymore with the local politicos. He went against Len's and her advice and visited the patients, spending the most time with the children. It had been a risky thing to do, but so like him. And he was careful. He followed all the precautions. Except the one that said that the captain of the flagship probably shouldn't be reading bedtime stories in a biohazard area.
She nods. "He's a great kid."
"He reminds me of my son. Or at least what I think my son might have been like."
He told her the story of his son while they were both on Earth. It was one of the secrets they traded. She shared with him that she had known all along who Andrea was modeled on. He was angry with Roger for her. She was angry with Carol Marcus for him. It was a fair trade.
"Do you ever wish you'd made a different decision?" she asks.
He thinks about that. She loves that he does that--thinks about things before answering. "I do. Or maybe I just wish I could have. Because I'm not sure it's in my nature to choose a different path." He smiles at her. "But then you know what that's like, don't you, Doctor?" He puts emphasis on her title, but in a nice way.
They both know what she gave up to earn that title. What they both gave up.
"Do you regret it?" he asks.
"No." Their eyes meet. "And yes."
He smiles, a bittersweet smile. He knows what she is saying. "Do you ever think about having kids?"
She nods. She's been thinking about it more since dealing with that one adorable sick boy in particular.
"You'd be a good mom."
"You'd be a good dad."
The smile they share is sad. Then the smile fades from his face and he is looking at her hungrily. She can feel that she is wearing the same look.
It doesn't help that Joe hasn't come down the entire time. He's not afraid of much, but deadly diseases appear to scare him silly.
Jim hasn't missed a day.
Then again, Jim knows Joe won't set foot on the planet. He knows he can have her if he just shows up. Have being a relative term. Although she's so tired right now and so relieved that the worst of the epidemic appears to be over, that she's almost in the mood to grab his hand and drag him off to the nearest group of thick bushes.
"What are you thinking?" He looks amused.
"A very bad thing." She looks down.
"I like bad things." He reaches over, touches her hand, squeezes her fingers. Then he stands up. "I better get back to the ship."
She looks up at him. "You're a good man. Even if you do like bad things."
He grins, but it doesn't really reach his eyes. "You're not mine."
"No. I know." She looks down then. "If I ever do anything that makes it too hard, you'll tell me?"
"I will. It's a fine line. Being friends...not being more. I care for you as a friend too."
She looks up, smiles at the tender look he's giving her. "I know. Same here."
"Get some rest."
"I will," she says.
"And finish that bar." He laughs at her expression. "I know you plan to drop it in the nearest recycler as soon as I'm gone. Promise me you'll eat before you sleep."
"Technically, that's not the healthiest thing to do."
She smiles. As always, arguing with him is a futile process. "I promise."
He accepts her promise with a smile, turns and walks to the beam-out spot.
She doesn't head for the sleeping tent until he is out of sight.
"Hold him down," she yells at the nurse, trying desperately to keep Jim on the biobed. Len runs back with the hypo full of antiseizure meds.
She has never been more afraid. Not even when she and Jim were dying on the shuttle. She wasn't afraid at all then. Because she was going with him.
And because she wasn't in love with him then. Now she feels as if half of her world is lying on the biobed, bleeding to death from the strange weapon that the rebels on Cadmius IV bought from the Klingons. The weapon that the rebels decided to test fire on the man she loves.
Len shoots him with the hypo, and Jim finally relaxes.
"Let's get him into surgery," Len says gently.
She meets his eyes, realizes he knows exactly what she feels for their captain. She helps him transfer Jim to the surgical gurney. They wheel him into the operating area together and they operate together, not needing words except to tell the scrub nurse what instruments they want next.
As Len closes, she goes out and makes sure the biobed has been set up the way they need. She resets the antibacterial fields. The nurse shoots her a glance, but Christine ignores her. This isn't a normal patient, for either Len or her.
This is Jim. Nothing can go wrong.
She sits by his bed as he sleeps. Len brings her a cup of coffee, and she drinks it slowly.
He stands by the bed, looking down at Jim. "We almost lost him, Christine."
She nods, unwilling to give the words reality by speaking them out loud. She is more superstitious than McCoy.
Len looks over at her. "Do you love Joe?"
She nods. Unwilling to give those words voice either. But for a totally different reason.
"More than you do Jim?"
She looks away. This is not fair. Not now. Not when they almost lost him. Not when she'd give everything she has just to make sure he is not in pain, that he will wake up again. That he will know them when he does.
She shrugs. What does he want her to say? That she is with one man when she loves another? How many people can't say that to some extent?
It is a cop out, but it is her cop out. She's perfected it during many late nights when Joe sleeps happily next to her and she is staring at the viewport and wondering if Jim is staring at the stars too.
She loves Joe. She does.
She just loves Jim more.
Len gives up and walks back to his office. She sits by Jim's bed, watches as nurses come and change fluids and check the readings. She could do it for them, knows their job probably better than they do. But she hated it when doctors did that to her. So she just sits, watching Jim sleep.
The nurses don't ask her why she's there. She thinks they must know why she's there; nurses miss nothing. And the one looking at her with such compassion saw how often Jim came down to see her during the quarantine.
Besides, even McCoy isn't sitting by Jim's bed without moving. Even Spock only comes in and checks on his friend, then goes away again. She is the only one who won't be moved. That level of devotion usually only means one thing.
"Christine?" Joe is at the door. He hates coming into sickbay--that germ thing. She wonders why he was interested in a doctor if he dislikes sick people so much.
"Christine," he says again. He never calls her Chris. He tried shortening her name once; she told him she didn't like it.
It wasn't a lie. She doesn't like it--not from him. Only Jim calls her Chris. She wonders if he'll ever call her that again.
Joe moves a few feet into sickbay, which is a huge concession for him. He doesn't even like to come in for his physicals. He motions for her to come to him.
She doesn't want to leave Jim.
If she doesn't leave Jim, she'll lose her lover.
She's almost too tired to care.
Len comes out, moves to her chair, hauls her out of it. "I'll call you if he comes to. You can use my office."
She looks at him. There is no censure in his eyes.
"Do it fast," he says. As if whatever he expects her to do is a surgical procedure.
Or a mercy killing.
She nods. Maybe it is a mercy killing. She walks to Len's office, motions for Joe to join her.
"I waited up," he says.
"Jim's been hurt."
"And there's a lot of other people in sickbay who could take care of him. Including one of his best friends."
She is angry but it is a remote anger. She is too tired to expend energy on a fight. Not when she may need it later for Jim. "I'm one of his best friends too."
This seems to be a revelation to Joe. "Since when?"
She can feel her face shutting down, her eyes are probably cold. Certainly her voice is. "For a long time. Longer than us, Joe."
"Really?" Now his voice is cold.
She nods. "Why did you come down here?"
"To bring you home."
She looks out at the biobed, smiles sadly. "I am home." Then she looks up at him.
He is angry and she doesn't blame him. "You and him? How long?"
"It's not like that. I never cheated on you." Is that true, though? She loves another man and didn't tell him. She let him think that he was the most important person in her life. She let him think he could trust her. She looks up at him, tries to put some warmth back in her expression. "I'm sorry."
"So am I." He looks like he hates her.
She feels regret, even guilt. But at the same time she only wants to be in that chair by that bed by the man who she is not sure will ever open his eyes again.
She is throwing away love to sit by a bed and hope. And there is no other choice she can make.
"I'm sorry, Joe." And then she does the kindest thing. She makes it quick. "Goodbye."
Len knew all along what she would do. Len knows her too well.
Joe never knew her at all. Not the real her.
She doesn't wait to hear his goodbye.
Christine is dozing when she hears Jim cough and mutter something. She jerks awake, is on her feet instantly, searching his eyes for any recognition at all. He seizured for so long. Brain damage is possible--even likely.
She refuses to believe it though. This is James T. Kirk. He will beat any odds. He will be fine.
She nearly weeps in relief as she touches his cheek. "I'm here, Jim."
He is in pain, and she motions for the nurse to bring her a hypo. Something that will relieve the suffering without sending him into slumber prematurely. Although she expects him to be asleep again soon. His body needs it.
"Are you thirsty?" she asks.
A nurse brings him an ice stick to suck on. He licks it greedily, and Christine finds herself evaluating the movement for anything that looks off. But his actions are just those of a hurt and exhausted man.
Her hurt and exhausted man.
It is a dangerous thought. They are not together. They may not be. She should just be happy he is alive and awake and that he knows who she is. That he is looking at her again, that he needs her.
"What is it?" she asks.
"How long have I been out?" His voice is weakening.
"Five days." She strokes his hair back. It's dirty but she doesn't care. Nothing matters except that he is alive.
"Have you slept?"
She starts to answer--starts to lie--and he looks over at the nurse. The nurse slowly shakes her head then flees.
"Chris." He points to the biobed next to his. "Sleep. I know you won't go to your quarters but lie down over there."
"You're not." He yawns. "Please, Chris. Please sleep."
She can't help it, she leans down, kisses his cheek. Lets her lips linger on his skin. Cooler now. Not so hot. "I'll sleep when Len comes back, all right?"
He nods, his eyes already closing. "I love you," he says, the sound barely a whisper.
"I love you too." She can feel the tears starting, tears of relief, of sheer exhaustion.
Len comes in, smiles as one of the nurses stops him, points over to Jim's bed. He walks over, studies her and Jim. "He's all right?"
She nods, wipes at the tears. "He wanted me to sleep."
Len points to the biobed. "He is the captain. Do what he says."
She lies down. Is asleep in moments.
When she wakes up, Jim is watching her. She moves to the chair, pulls it closer to the bed. "Hey."
He smiles. His eyes close but he forces them open.
"Don't fight sleep." She takes his hand.
His grasp on hers is weak. Weak like in the shuttle when they died and she feels a moment of panic, then forces it back. He is not dying. He is just tired. Hurt and in shock maybe. But not dying.
He forces his eyes open again. "Doesn't Joe wonder where you are?"
She shakes her head. "Not anymore."
He looks more troubled than happy. "You and he--"
"--Have gone our separate ways."
He searches her face, and she isn't sure what he wants to find.
She feels a strange pain begin in her chest, looks away. There are some men who only want what they can't have. She knows this. She just never pegged Jim for being one of them. "I thought you'd be happy."
She isn't sure how to answer that, feels tears begin. Why isn't he happy? Why can't he just answer the question?
She pulls her hand away from his. "You need to sleep."
She closes her eyes. The name hurts if he doesn't want her.
"Chris. Yes, I'm happy. But if you're not..."
She looks at him. He is happy? "It came down to a choice. You or him."
"And you chose me."
She nods. She still feels off balance. This isn't going where she thought it would. Her voice is almost the Christine of old when she asks, "Do you wish I hadn't?"
"No. Chris, no." He sighs. "It's just..."
"It's just what?" She wipes at her eyes. She is dirty and tired and hungry and feels like a lovesick fool. What is he trying to say?
"I'm your captain."
"Oh, god. Not this again." She pushes the chair back, stands up.
"Chris." He reaches for her, but she backs up.
"I need to take a shower." She moves away from him.
"Lieutenant Chapel, get back over here." His voice is that of her captain, not the man she loves, and it stops her dead in her tracks.
She sees two of the nurses turn around and stare at them.
"Sit down," he says, his voice shaking. He is exhausted and he is wasting energy yelling at her.
She doesn't look at him as she pulls the chair back toward the bed and sits down.
"This is a problem."
She feels as if she might throw up. Would that be a problem?
He grabs her hand, his grasp weak but determined. "Look at me, damn it."
She is crying and hates herself for it. But she looks at him.
"I love you and I'm your captain and that's a huge problem. But we'll figure it out."
He smiles. "If you'd let me finish, I might be able to get to the good part." He squeezes her hand. "We'll figure it out." He sighs again, closes his eyes. "Don't leave me," he says and she knows he means more than just while he sleeps.
He is smart enough to know she was about to run. Fast and very far away.
"Don't leave me, Chris."
"I won't," she says.
It's a problem. But they'll figure it out. It's all she needs to know.
Her days compress into a simple routine. Sleep for a few hours, eat, shower, and go back to sickbay. Do her job and be with Jim. Watch him as he gets well. Slowly. More slowly than she or Len would like.
The weapon took so much out of him. More than just blood. He has so little energy. It is like the virus again, only they can find no cause. What kind of fiend would make a weapon like this?
She knows what kind. A Klingon kind.
She is walking to the mess when she realizes that someone is watching her. She stops, turns around.
Joe is standing at the turbolift. The doors open, then shut. He still stands there, staring at her. Then he walks over.
"I'm transferring off."
She nods, unsure what he wants her to say.
"Do you care?"
She is not sure she does. She knows admitting this would be stupid. "Of course, I care. I do have feelings for you."
She is rapidly beginning to hate the way he says that word.
"I know it's hard to believe, Joe. And I'm sorry. I wish I could be what you want."
"You can be, Christine. You just don't want to be. You'd rather be what he wants."
She decides not to tell him that what Jim wants may be far more real than the Christine who was with Joe.
He steps closer, and she is suddenly aware that someone else has stepped closer too.
Spock's voice is pitched low, the words only for the three of them. "Is everything all right?"
She wonders if he thinks Joe will hurt her, then wonders how he knows anything is wrong at all.
"Everything's fine, sir." Joe's voice is calm. But his eyes as they stare back at Spock and her are angry.
"I have approved your request for transfer."
She looks down, knows it is because of her Joe is leaving.
Is glad he is leaving.
Maybe the Klingons aren't the only fiends in the quadrant?
"The Captain was a little busy, I guess?" He looks at Christine. The unsaid "stealing my woman" is so clear to her she can almost see the words hanging in the air.
And apparently to Spock. "He is gravely injured." His voice invites Joe to debate that.
She glances at Spock. His eyes are hard, firm. Why is he sticking up for her? She expected him to resent her.
"Fortunately, he will recover." This time there is much unsaid in Spock's words. Christine's role in that recovery, for example.
Joe takes a step back. He looks at Christine and shakes his head.
"I'm sorry, Joe." The words are meaningless, she can see that.
He is hurt. He is angry. He has every right to be outraged.
And she just wishes he would go away and leave her alone.
Joe turns, walks back to the turbolift and finally disappears inside.
"Thank you. He wouldn't have hurt me."
"I am aware of that. I thought, however, it would be prudent to avoid a scene in the corridor."
She suddenly understands. He is protecting Jim, not her. She smiles. This she can accept.
"Do you disapprove?" she asks.
"It is not my business." He indicates she should precede him into the mess.
"Seems like you just made it your business."
He gives her a noncommittal nod.
"How did you know there might have been trouble?"
He almost smiles. "Jim told me. He asked me to look out for you."
She does smile. "He did?"
"But you're also concerned for his reputation, aren't you?"
"I am." He hands her a tray. "It is my job."
"As first officer."
He shoots her a look. "And as his friend."
"What are people saying about this?" She's been in sickbay full-time. She doesn't know what her friends think, much less what Joe's friends think.
Spock considers her question. "Do you know the tale of David and Bathsheba?"
She has to think. Some dim memory comes to mind. "Didn't he send her husband off to die?"
"That's hardly what happened here." She frowns. "Are they calling me Bathsheba?"
"Among other things." He helps himself to fruit and cereal. "Does that bother you?"
She wonders if he is enjoying the idea of her being called that.
"It does bother me. But I can't make them stop." She sighs.
"The 'they' in question is not a large group, Christine." Her name sounds odd coming from him. It rattles her a bit that he is calling her that.
She doesn't reply, just busies herself getting food.
As he walks her out of the mess and toward sickbay, she asks softly, "Do you approve of this?"
"You already asked me that."
"No. I asked if you disapproved. This is different, and you know it."
He turns to look at her as they wait for the lift. "Jim wants you. If you will make him happy, then I approve."
"If?" She smiles. He is being very careful. Not that he's normally mister flip.
"We do not know how this will turn out."
She sighs. He is right.
No one knows how this will turn out. Least of all her.
Jim is fidgeting; she can see him from her office. He is clearly tired of being stuck in the biobed. Even the padds Spock brings him to look over aren't diverting him anymore.
She gets up, moves to the door and looks out at the main ward. Jim checks both ways then pulls back the covers. He slowly starts to move his leg.
She clears her throat. Loudly.
He doesn't turn. Just eases his leg back under the sheet and pulls the covers up. His every action is grumpy.
She walks over, sits on the side of the bed. "Going somewhere?"
"Anywhere but here."
She smiles. "Should I take that personally?"
"Yes. You're the one keeping me here."
Her smile gets bigger. "No, that would be Len. I thought you should be able to start moving around a bit."
She nods. "See what you get for demoting me?"
She laughs and gets up, but he reaches out and pulls her back. He is smiling. He is so much better--is finally healing the way they are used to him doing. She cannot begin to tell him how relieved she is. Doesn't want to scare him with how dark the prognosis seemed to be when they first brought him in covered with blood and crying out in pain.
He pulls her close. It is late and the nurses are on break or in the other room working. She leans in, kisses him.
It is a great kiss. Even weak as a kitten, this man can sweep her off her feet.
"That was fun," he says. "If I could do more of that here, I might not want to leave."
She shrugs. "He's your CMO. You talk him into letting you go."
"You do it. He'll listen to you. You're the objective one."
She laughs. "Hardly. He thinks I just want you released so I can take extreme advantage of you."
"Ooh. That sounds nice." He pulls her close again. It is a very long time before they pull away.
"I love kissing you," she says softly.
"Yes, I am nice to kiss," he says, grinning as she pretends to punch him.
"Are you bored?"
"Well, not right this second. But the minute you walk away and go back to work I will be."
She reaches for the instruments, scans him. His injuries are nearly healed. He needs to start getting around. Len is being an old woman on this one.
Even if he's right that she does want to take advantage of their patient. And as soon as possible.
She pulls back the covers. "You can walk around." She looks at him sternly. "Slowly, and just in here. Got that?"
"Yes, ma'am." He mock salutes her. Then he carefully swings his legs over, eases himself down.
She pretends that she isn't watching him as vigilantly as she really is. Knows that he will hate her hovering over him. She pushes herself up on the biobed, swinging her legs as if this is the most normal thing in the word. As if she doesn't want to hurry to him and take his arm.
"So do you really?" He is concentrating on walking and the words come out rushed.
"Do I really what?"
"Want to take extreme advantage of me?" He turns, one length of sickbay completed successfully. She hopes if he walks enough, he'll tire himself out and sleep.
He grins. "Can you define extreme?"
"Better not. Don't want to get you too excited." She looks down suddenly. She is not sure that she is actually in his league when it comes to sex. This might be false advertising on her part.
He traverses the room and stops next to her. He pushes her chin up, forcing her to look at him. "Nervous?"
"I thought we covered this. A long time ago." She smiles. "I'm always nervous around you."
"Don't be." He moves his hand, touches her jaw, slides up to her ear, then her hair.
She moans and he smiles at the sound.
"I haven't had much experience. I mean Joe and Roger and there were a few others when I was in school. Nothing serious." She stops talking. What she's saying might not be considered good P.R. Is six too many? Or not enough?
"It'll be good." His eyes are calm, all-knowing. He smiles tenderly at her.
"How do you know? What if it's not?"
"I just know." He moves his hand behind her head, pulls her to him. He kisses her and this time it is different.
Everything he does seems designed to arouse her. His lips moving softly against hers, his tongue tracing her upper lip, then pushing into her mouth, meeting her own tongue, tasting it. She shivers, moans again.
"I rest my case," he says as he pulls away. "You can tell a lot from a kiss, you know." He winks at her as he turns and sets off across the ward again.
She exhales in what she is afraid is a very dreamy way. He is capable of turning her into a total sap.
He reaches the end of the room, starts the return walk. As he sees her touch her lips, he grins. "I told you I was nice to kiss." He waggles his eyebrows at her. "Just imagine what the rest will be like."
She's been imagining it. For years now.
He sighs. "I'm sorry about Joe though. I didn't want him to get hurt."
She almost shrugs then thinks better of it. It might not be nice. And Jim seems to want to be nice about her former lover.
"I don't think I was the right woman for him."
"Well, obviously not, because witness this conversation." He smiles, then his expression becomes more somber. "He hates us, I imagine."
"Oh, yes." She looks down. "But I think he's hated the idea of us for some time. Apparently we light up when we're around each other."
He nods. "Not something we can help, I'm afraid. It's been my experience that chemistry isn't something you can turn off."
He yawns and she hops off the bed. "That's enough for you, mister."
He lets her help him onto the biobed even though he doesn't really need the help. She covers him up, and he pulls her down to him again.
"Your turn," he says.
"My turn for what?"
He grins. The mischievous grin she hasn't seen since he was shot, another milestone that brings relief. She grins back.
"Your turn to kiss me," he says.
She leans into him, gives him the best kiss she knows how. Her hands come up to run through his hair.
He groans, clutches at her arms.
Maybe she's not so bad at this after all.
When she pulls away he smiles, a self-satisfied, cat-who-ate-the-canary smile. "Like I said. A lot you can tell from a kiss."
She smiles too.
"I can't wait," he says, then promptly falls asleep, exhausted from his two laps across sickbay.
She sits at Jim's table, working on a report. Len has relented and allowed Jim to return to his quarters. It will still be a few days before he can begin very limited duty.
He lies on his bed and watches her. "Come here."
She shakes her head slowly and continues working.
"Chris." His voice alone sends shivers down her spine.
"You're recuperating. And I'm working."
"Well, work over here."
She laughs. She should have known he would be as relentless at this as he is at everything else. "No."
His voice changes. "Chris. Oh--"
She turns, sees he is clutching his stomach. She is by his side in an instant. "Did you sit up too fast?"
He looks up, and she realizes too late that he is faking. He pulls her down hard, making her land in an ungraceful heap on the bed. He laughs.
She glares at him. "If I'd fallen on you, you wouldn't think this was so funny."
"I knew where you'd land." He smiles, a smile that would leave her weak in the knees if she was standing.
"And now you can watch me get up."
He grabs her, and she's glad to see that he has much of his strength back as he pulls her back to the bed.
"You're better," she murmurs as he pulls her close.
"Yes. I am." He kisses her.
She relaxes, enjoying the sensation of being this close to him. They are lying on their sides, lips pressed together, his hand on her arm. As he pulls away, she whispers, "Just like the shuttle."
"Only we're not dying." He touches her face. "Not by a long shot." He begins to push her to her back.
She gently pushes him back. "I haven't cleared you for that activity, Captain."
He pouts and she laughs. She kisses the pout off his face, kisses him until he starts chuckling.
"And when will I be cleared for that particular duty, Doctor?"
"A few more days."
"I'm sure I can do it now."
"I'm sure you can too. But that doesn't mean we're going to." She runs her hand through his hair. "That doesn't mean it's good for you yet."
"Oh, I'm sure you'd make it good for me."
She laughs. She used to think sparring with him was fun. This is so much better.
He is studying her; his hand comes up and gently touches the skin under her eyes. "You look tired."
If Roger said that, it would be a criticism. A roundabout way of telling her to go fix her face, conceal the flaws. But Jim seems only to be making an observation. And showing that he notices, that he cares. So she is free to just lie there and say, "I am."
"Sleep here. Stay with me."
He nods, pulls her closer. His lips rest on her cheek. "I love you."
"I love you too," she says. It's such a luxury to have him all to herself.
He pulls away, then gently pushes her to her back.
"Jim. I said--"
He lays his finger on her lips. "You said I wasn't cleared. You didn't say anything about you."
She can feel herself blushing, tries to get up.
He holds her down with one hand. He is definitely getting stronger. "Chris. Just lie still. You don't want me to hurt myself holding you down, do you?"
She slowly shakes her head.
"Now, if I don't move much, will you object to this?"
She blushes again and he smiles.
"You, on the other hand, can move around as much as you like." He kisses her gently. "As much...as you like."
He slowly pulls up her uniform top. She swallows hard. He smiles, and she closes her eyes in relief. She has never been this nervous.
And he seems to know it. His hands are running over her, his fingers making her moan. "Relax, Chris." He settles in next to her, his head on her shoulder, his lips on her cheek, then near her ear. His voice is so soft, so sensual. "Just relax."
She shivers again, turns to him and kisses him. He lets her do most of the work, and she indulges herself. His lips are soft, his tongue is not. It is a heady combination.
He pulls away gently. "Lie back."
She relaxes against the pillow. His hand slides down under her pants, warm against her skin. Down and down and then--there.
She throws her head back, breathes in through her mouth, moaning.
"I think you like that." His fingers are pushing, prodding, touching places. "I think you like this too." He is deep, moving in and out. "Soon," he says, drawing the sound out. "Soon, this will be more than just my fingers."
She turns to look at him. She knows her eyes are half-closed, her mouth is open. He controls her; his fingers are the only thing in her world.
"You are so beautiful," he whispers.
Then his lips come down on hers and she wonders if it is possible to overload from the feelings he is causing. She moans, loudly.
He is moving so slowly, his fingers torturing her. In and out, over and around. She wants to make him go faster but he just smiles as if he can read her mind. "Not yet."
"Please?" She lifts herself against him. "Please?"
"Please what?" He grins.
She stares at him. This is different. So different. Joe was a good lover but he was silent when they made love. Much tender staring and soulful kisses.
Jim is giving her a look she can only call mischievous. "Please what?" he says again.
Roger would never have done this. He would have rested. Waited till they could both partake.
Jim is doing this just for her. Only not. Somehow, this is as much for him.
"Please finish it," she says.
He smiles. "You want that?"
She nods, feels his fingers speed up just enough. He knows exactly what he's doing. And it's wonderful.
"Like this?" he asks as he pushes her closer and closer.
She can't talk, just opens her legs to give him more access. She feels herself falling.
"Let go," he says, as he pushes her off the cliff.
She is not quiet as she falls. He seems to like that a great deal.
As she lies, breathing heavily, he brushes the hair off her forehead. His lips touch gently down on her face. Over and over again. So tender. So sweet.
She smiles, knows it is a goofy smile. "I owe you."
"Don't think of it that way." He kisses her again. "Mutual pleasure is just that. Mutual." He smiles, lays his head down on her shoulder again and closes his eyes. "I love you. I'm glad you chose me."
She can feel her eyes closing. Gods, she is sleepy. Her mouth is dry and she wants to get some water but it is so comfortable lying like this. His head resting on her, his hand still under her pants.
"Go to sleep, Chris." He relaxes, his head becomes heavier on her shoulder.
She does what he says. She goes to sleep. And doesn't wake up till morning.
He's still curled up against her.
Her chime sounds and she says, "Come," not looking up to see who it is.
"Captain Kirk reporting for duty."
She turns, sees that he has his uniform on. It's wonderful to see him back in it. Wonderful to see him looking tall and strong. Not so weak. Not so close to broken.
She stands up, moves over to him. "I think you're supposed to report to the bridge, sir."
He pulls her into his arms. "You think so, do you?"
They kiss for a very long time. When they pull away, she says, "Weren't we just doing this in your quarters?"
He nods. "But you left before I was ready." He tried to get her to take a shower with him, but she decided to take one in her own quarters. She still hasn't cleared him for naughty activities.
Except, of course, the ones he does to her, for her. She smiles. She's not being selfish. Really. He's just not ready.
He pulls her closer, lets her feel that he is, indeed, ready for her. "Tonight?"
She smiles. "Let's see how you feel after half a shift?"
He isn't amused anymore, pulls away. "I'm fine."
She doesn't let him bully her, or move her with his irritation. For this to work, she has to be able to be his lover and his doctor.
"I'm sorry. I know it's not what you want to hear. But let's see how it goes." She doesn't try to cuddle up to him, doesn't try to cajole.
He stares at her, eventually nods. "Fine."
When he turns, she moves closer. "I want this too. But rushing it...what's a few days, if it means you don't re-injure yourself?"
He scowls, but it is a playful one. "Easy for you to say."
She laughs. "I thought it was mutual pleasure." She reaches down, begins to rub him. "Maybe I could make it more mutual?"
"I thought you said--"
She puts her fingers on his lips the way he did to her that first night. She pushes him back to her desk, till he is leaning, half-sitting on it. Sitting down in her desk chair, she pulls his pants down, then lets them fall to the floor.
He groans. "Chris. You don't have to."
She looks up at him. "Of course, I don't have to. I want to. Now, try to limit your movements...if you can." She is not really worried about injuring him, not when she is doing all the work. And she can see how much he needs it. Needs her to touch him. The way he's been touching her. For one purpose only. Pleasure. Shared, mutual pleasure.
She grasps him, her hand tightening and she hears him mutter, "God, yes." She has strong fingers, a nurse's strength in her hand. She slides her hand and he throws his head back, groans again.
She bends down, kissing around his thighs, his belly, finally taking him, tasting him.
He is saying something. It sounds like a prayer. She decides to keep going.
Her hand is still gripping and his own comes down to cover hers, squeezing her hand so that she tightens her own grip.
"Yesssssssss." It is a hiss. She didn't know he could make that sound. She loves that she can make him make that sound.
He is thrusting against her and she pushes deeper onto him, her tongue never still. There is only the sound of his groans and his whispered urgings not to stop, please god don't stop, and the sound of suction and moistness and then he is crying out. She feels him start to pull away but she holds him to her, lets him know it's all right. She loves him for trying to be a gentleman. Even if it's unnecessary.
She finally pulls away, releases her grip and he slumps.
"Oh. My god." He pulls her up, kisses her.
She loves him for that too. Roger never would. Roger would have insisted she rinse her mouth out first.
Roger, she is rapidly learning, was a toad.
Jim pulls her in, hugs her close. "Thank you."
"My pleasure," she whispers as she kisses his cheek, reaching down to do up his uniform. "Now promise me you'll take it easy. And you'll be back in your room resting in four hours. Less if you get too tired."
She pulls back to be sure he's not mocking her. He's not. He's smiling at her. Her lover smiling at his lover. And her captain smiling at his deputy CMO. She reaches up, strokes his face.
"What?" he asks softly.
"I'm just happy." She sees his expression soften.
"I am too. And you know what? It feels nice." He grins at her, then walks out.
He's right. This happiness does feel nice.
And long overdue.
The party is in the rec lounge and this time Jim is the guest of honor. The whole crew--or all that could get off shift--are there to welcome him back to full duty. It's a sign of how beloved he is that they do this, and he blushes slightly at the applause as he blows out the candles on the cake they've made him. One candle for every day he was out. Far too many candles. A scary number of candles.
But he's back now. Finally back to normal. Back to duty.
And tonight, he can get back to other things too. She bites back the grin that thought brings.
He turns to look at her, smiles. She kept the party a secret, kept him busy in sickbay with a final examination while the others finished setting up.
He shakes his head. "Diagnostic table not working right?"
She shrugs. So she lied. It was for a good cause. She feels a hand on her shoulder, sees Nyota smiling at her. She grins back.
She was worried that her friends might react badly to Jim and her being together. Might react the way Joe's friends are, with glares and barely contained hostility.
She should have given them more credit. They are happy for her, happy for their captain. He's been alone too long. They do not seem to mind at all that one of their own makes him less alone. May even prefer that one of their own is the one to do it. Her friends aren't calling her Bathsheba or Jezebel of whatever other nasty names they can think of.
She hates running into Joe's friends in the corridors. His Academy roommate called her a slut. She hasn't told Jim. She doesn't want to put that on him, having to defend her--or having to choose not to. Things will die down. They all just need time to forget.
Jan comes up. There's something a little wistful in her expression, and Christine knows this is hardest for her. She's been in love with Jim for so long. Long before Christine even knew he was alive. She looks at Janice's face, and she knows it hurts her.
"He's all better?" Janice shoots Jim a look, smiles. The expression is bittersweet. "You're taking good care of him?"
"I am." She is careful to keep the happiness toned down a bit. To not be too obviously in love. It's hard. She'd rather share this with Jan. But she can't. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
She wanders off to the bar with Jan and Ny. They catch up on what's been going on while she's been sequestered with Jim in sickbay, and later in his quarters. Nothing much is going on. Spock runs the ship more than capably. She looks over to see him standing near Jim. He looks pleased that his friend is back, looks happy when Jim laughs. Spock loves him. She sometimes wonders if that should bother her, but his love seems to be the kind that can share. He certainly isn't being mean to her. He's actually nicer to her now that she's with his best friend than he ever was when she wanted him for herself.
"So Joe transferred off?" Ny is looking a bit torn. She likes Joe. They get along famously.
"He did." Christine attempts to put some sort of regret in her voice. She almost wishes she could feel more regret. It should be a crime to be this happy, to care so little that she hurt someone else to get this happiness.
Jim comes over, smiles as he takes in the three of them. He reaches for her glass, sips at her wine, and she rolls her eyes at him--the move is so territorial.
But she loves that he is not going to hide this. His hand rests on her back, up high, then drops lower, dangerously close to no longer being on her back at all. She laughs softly.
He leans in. "Dance later?"
She nods and he goes back to working the room. Jan follows his movement with her eyes, and it is clear she would give anything to hear him ask her to dance later. Christine doesn't think he will.
She feels sorry for Jan. Sorry that she will never get him because Jim doesn't want to be adored the way she wants to adore him. But not that sorry. Christine doesn't intend to let go of him now that she's got him.
A lieutenant from geology comes up and asks Ny to dance. Jan watches her go off with him, then smiles as another lieutenant, this time from engineering, asks her to dance.
Christine sips her drink. No one will ask her now. Not until they know how this works. Not until they figure out if Jim will let her dance with other people.
She smiles. Jim doesn't _let_ her do anything. He'd die if he heard her even think that. She's a free agent and she suspects that's why he loves her and how he wants to keep her. At his side by choice. Never by force. She can dance with whomever she pleases, so long as she ends up with him at the end of the night.
Tonight though, she's not interested in dancing with anyone else. She can barely get her mind off what will come later. She didn't tell Jim he was cleared for takeoff as far as sex was concerned. Didn't think he would have agreed to go to the rec lounge if she had. So she told him probably a few more days. He was disappointed. Very disappointed.
She'll make it up to him later.
"Jim's looking great. You must have one hell of a bedside manner." The smell of bourbon accompanies Len's words. She knows he is drinking out of relief. He's been as worried about Jim as she has.
"You've seen my bedside manner. It's fairly standard."
He grins. "Somehow, I think he might see a different side of you."
She laughs. "Somehow you might be right."
"You want to dance?"
She decides it would be good for the crew to see her do it. "Yes."
He puts down his drink, takes hers and sets it on the bar, and leads her to the dance floor. She glances over at Jim. He grins at her, then turns back to Scotty.
Len is a good dancer, and she relaxes as he leads. He irritates the hell out of her at times, but she trusts him. She'd trust him with her life...or Jim's, which seems to mean far more to her these days anyway.
"Are you happy, darlin'?"
"I am." She sighs. She has never been this happy.
"He's happy too. You're good for him."
"We're good for each other." She smiles. In so many ways, they are good for each other.
The music winds down and Jim is behind Len, cutting in. Len gives her up with easy grace.
The song is romantic, slow and sensual. She has to remind herself that they aren't alone, not to move against him the way she'd like to.
He pulls her closer. She can feel he is aroused. Knows she is too.
She whispers in his ear. "I lied when I said you had to wait."
He nearly stops dancing.
"Tonight, if you want it."
"If?" His voice actually squeaks.
"I know I want it." She laughs softly, the air escaping more from her nose than her mouth.
"You bitch." His voice is low, in her ear, so only she can hear him. "You tell me this now? When we've got hours to go?"
She laughs again. This time it is closer to a snicker. He brings out the devil in her.
The song ends and he holds her close. "We go again."
"I thought you might say that."
As soon as the next song begins, he is moving them. "So we can finally do it?"
"Yes." She runs her fingers up his back. "After...the...party."
"Bitch," he says again, his hand tightening on hers.
She knows it will be a long night. For both of them.
They are walking back to his quarters, the party has finally wound down enough for them to leave, and Jim is dragging. He seems out of energy and she worries that the party was too much for him. Too much, too soon.
He yawns, his feet seem to be shuffling not hitting the floor with his normal stride.
She takes his arm. "Are you all right?"
When he looks at her, there is no life in his eyes. He just seems empty. "I'm tired, Chris." His voice is off.
She feels something catch in her throat. "We're almost home." Home. His quarters are home. She's moved in, isn't really sure how it happened. A few things here, a few there, and suddenly she has enough stuff in his quarters to get ready in the morning and never have to set foot in her own rooms unless she wants to.
He doesn't appear to mind at all that she's fighting him for room in his closet. He seems to like having her that close by.
He yawns again, palms the door open with none of his normal energy.
"Maybe we should go to sickbay?"
He shakes his head, walks to the bed. "I'm just tired, Chris." He lies down, his arm thrown over his eyes.
She stares down at him. Is a little ashamed at how disappointed she is. She wants him so, but if he's this tired, then he has to rest. She won't have her libido be the cause of a relapse.
He seems to be shaking. Is he convulsing? Then she realizes his mouth is trembling. He's trying not to laugh.
"You son of a bitch." She reaches for him, but he is too fast, grabs her wrists, yanks her down to him.
"Payback hurts, eh?" He kisses her fiercely. "You think you can tell me what you did and then make me wait through that entire party without me getting revenge?"
He is pulling off her clothes, nothing tender or gentle in his motions.
"Will I like your revenge?" She rubs against him, sees him shudder.
"Oh, yes." He kisses her again, lets go of her wrists and pulls her close, as close as she can get to him.
She is trying to pull off his clothing, but he is not helping her at all. His tongue forces its way into her mouth, and she forgets about liberating his shirt.
His hands are everywhere, on her breasts, at her groin, touching her, prodding and teasing relentlessly until she comes as he kisses her, the sound muffled by his lips covering hers.
He pulls away, yanks off his shirt. She runs her hands down his chest, touching where the Klingon weapon tore a hole through him. There is no scar. Nothing to remind her of how close she came to losing him. Nothing but her memories.
"I love you," she says softly.
"I love you." He kisses her hard then kicks his boots and pants off with a minimum of fuss. Undergarments follow.
They are naked, skin against skin. Warmth to warmth. She shudders at the feeling as he slips into her, firm and large and filling her.
She moans. So good. So unbelievably good.
"Chris." His mouth finds hers, lips suddenly soft again, gentle and tender even as he moves against her in a much less tender way. He closes his eyes, suddenly stops moving.
"Don't move." He leans down, whispers to her, "Want you so bad. Have to slow this down."
She moves her hips, pushing up against him.
He thrusts into her hard, and she groans in pleasure. His hands capture her wrists again; he pulls them over her head. "I said, don't move."
"I must have misunderstood." She knows better than to do it again.
He kisses her then. Deep, hungry kisses. His hands grip her wrists tightly, and she fights against him, surprised when he doesn't let go.
He is smiling. "Try harder."
She does. He is too strong for her. She can't get away. She stops struggling.
"I'm all better, Doctor."
"So I see." When he shakes his head, she says, "So I feel."
"Feel this." He pulls her hands up a bit more. "You're mine." His tone is fierce, and he kisses her again, taking his time before letting go of her wrists so she can wrap her arms around him.
"Jim." There is so much more she wants to say, but words are deserting her.
He is moving inside her again. Slower this time, more deliberately. Firm, long strokes that send her reeling. He reaches down, touches her and she shudders. He begins to move harder and faster and she is already so sensitive and the feeling of him moving in and out of her sends her over the edge again.
He follows her, hands clutching her shoulders, head thrown back. She hopes to god his walls are soundproofed. They are both making a great deal of noise.
She looks up at him, sees that he is grinning. "Welcome back to duty, Jim."
"This is hardly duty, love." He kisses her as he rolls off her, pulling her so she ends up curled up next to him. He lays his head back on the pillow, exhales loudly. "My god that felt good."
She chuckles as she moves her leg over his, getting closer to him. He rubs her back, kisses her. He closes his eyes, then sneaks one open to look at her. She laughs again.
"You're all right?" he asks.
"Of course, I'm all right. Why wouldn't I be?" She kisses him, loves that he cares if she is all right.
He sighs, moans a little. She runs her hand over his chest then down to his abdomen, checking to make sure the skin is not too warm.
"Always the doctor," he murmurs. "I'm fine, Chris."
She nods. "I know. Just checking though. Indulge me."
"Any way you want." He eases her to her back. "In fact, I've got something in mind." He pushes her knees up, until her feet lie flat on the bed. Then he moves her legs gently apart and stares down at her.
She has never felt more exposed. She feels as if she is blushing with her entire body.
"You don't mind if I do this?" he asks as he leans in, begins to lick and kiss and suck.
She answers in something that she thinks will be coherent, but the words come out as just random sounds.
"I'll take that as a no." He is gripping her thighs, low, where they join her buttocks. His fingers press almost painfully into her skin, and she begins to writhe as sensation buffets her.
Just like the first time he pleasured her, he controls her. Knows exactly where she is, how close to the edge. He pulls back just enough to keep her going, not enough to draw her out of the moment. She cannot relax, just keeps rising up a notch, tension whipping across her body.
"Jim, please?" She touches his head, plays with his hair, trying to encourage him to finish it please, please, please.
He eases back, and she cries out in frustration.
"Payback, Chris. It's a bitch," he says before bending down again. He takes her back up, leads her to the abyss and then pulls back again.
"Jim?" She is trying to move her body closer to his mouth, his lips, his wonderful tongue.
He digs into her thighs again, and it does hurt. She cries out just as his tongue finds her again. This time he takes her quickly, pushes her over, and she cries out loudly.
She has never made this much noise during sex.
He smiles. She pulls him up, her arms barely cooperating as he slowly slides over her. They kiss and he pushes inside her and the pleasure begins again.
"I'll never get enough of you," he says, his hand stroking damp hair off her forehead.
She has a feeling neither of them will get any sleep.
She finds she doesn't care.
She is staring into the microscope when Len nudges her.
"Someone's here to see you."
She looks over, sees Jim standing in the doorway. He gestures with a tilt of his head for her to join him.
"Time for lunch?" Len asks.
She puts the sample back in the stasis unit, turns the microscope off. "Yep."
"Sure have been taking lunch a lot."
"I always take lunch." She shoots him a look. "Is my taking lunch a problem, Doctor McCoy?"
He grins, ignoring the starch in her tone. "I just never see you in the mess hall. Jim either. It's the oddest thing." He winks.
She smiles as she shrugs. "You must be just missing us."
"Must be." He turns and goes back to his office.
She can hear him chuckling as she hurries to join Jim.
"Why no, Captain."
Their formality is fooling no one. But it makes them feel better. A little less like teenagers as they hurry down the corridor to the lift. They stand very far away from each other, know from experience that the doors can open awfully damn fast if you aren't paying attention.
Fortunately, it was Spock who caught them kissing. Christine isn't sure she's ever heard anyone clear their throat quite so emphatically as Spock did that day.
The doors open and they walk out, managing some sense of decorum as he palms the door to his quarters open and then waits for it to close.
But as soon as the door locks the outside world away from them, they abandon any attempt to act mature. Boots go flying, clothes land on chairs, the table, the end of the bed. She is very glad she no longer wears her hair in the elaborate styles she once favored. She would never be able to recreate them. A plain bun is much easier. She makes a point of complaining about it during her shift, redoing it during the day so that her colleagues are used to it looking different. It may fool no one, but like their formality, it makes her feel better.
She pushes him down onto the bed, climbs onto him. He's ready for her, and she sinks onto him and sighs. This completeness, it is overwhelming. And addictive. She is addicted to Jim. He is addicted to her. Sex is a drug, love is one too.
They can barely keep their hands off each other.
She keeps waiting for this feeling to go away, for the lust and urgency to wane. But it shows no sign of cooling down. The chemistry between them has been growing, not dying, since they first made love. The more she falls in love with him, the more she wants him. The better he gets to know her, the more he seems to desire her.
It is not her usual paradigm. She knows it is not his either. They both had one reality prior to this. Love ends.
Which isn't fair to poor Joe. She knows he wouldn't have left her. On the other hand, she's not sure if she really loved him or if she was just content to let him love her. Certainly, he was good for her pride, made her feel warm and wanted again. But he never touched her the way Jim does with just a glance.
The way Jim is touching her now, body and soul, as he watches her move sensuously. His eyes are intense, a tiny smile on his face as he thrusts up, meeting her own movements. His fingers are busy, and she arches her back, crying out.
He soon follows.
They have timed themselves. They can find pleasure in as little as ten minutes. They did it once, as a dare, tried to see how fast they could do it and still have fun. They can also make it last all night and into the morning. They haven't been late for shift, but they have cut it close.
She thinks they should buy stock in whoever makes the godawful nutrition bars they routinely wolf down before heading back after lunch or first thing in the morning.
She collapses on his chest, feels his hands rubbing along her back in feather-light touches that make her shiver. She raises her head, props her chin lightly on his breastbone.
"What?" He smiles, runs his finger down her forehead and nose till he gently taps on the tip. "What are you thinking about?"
"You . Me. Sex. Why we aren't over each other yet."
He laughs. His hand is gentle on her cheek. "I'm sorry. Did you want to be over me?"
"No. But it's been months."
"I know." He grins. Pure satisfaction in the expression.
She laughs. "And it just gets better."
He pulls her up so he can kiss her. "Isn't that what it's supposed to do?"
"Come to think of it..." She kisses him back, their lips soft and languorous now that their libidos have been momentarily appeased.
She rolls off of him and he cuddles her close.
"Does it bother you?" He is staring down at her the way she loves. Serious, tender. So at ease with her, his defenses completely down.
"That it's getting better?" She ruffles his hair. "I think I'm just not used to it."
He nods. "Maybe you should get used to it." He pulls her closer, loops his leg over her. The move is possessive and she absolutely loves it. "Maybe I should too?"
"I think you should." She closes her eyes for a moment, knows that he won't let them fall asleep. "So are you playing chess with Spock tonight?"
"Yep." He kisses her forehead. "Come sit with us for a while."
"I don't like to horn in on his time with you."
"I'd like you to get to know him better." He suddenly laughs. "Which given your past feelings for him is probably incredibly stupid on my part."
"Nyah. I'm over him--when does he get off shift?"
He laughs and she does too. She kisses the underside of his chin, then moves her lips toward his ear. He's very ticklish there, but only if she does it just so.
He moves away, laughing. "Would you stop that?" His fingers play along the small of her back, where he knows she is ticklish if he comes at it from just the right angle.
She jumps. "Stop that."
They kiss. It's a very long, very sweet kiss. His tongue moves carelessly in her mouth, and she moans as his easy movements begin to arouse her again.
He pulls away, grins as his fingers find her. His other hand is holding her tightly, and he pushes her up so he can kiss her chest. Soon he is doing more than just kissing. Competing sensations rocket through her as his sucking mouth and questing fingers nearly overwhelm her. He doesn't stop, and she can feel herself losing control. Soon she is crying out, and he lets her come down a bit before moving on top of her.
It always turns him on when he's brought her pleasure. She loves that.
She also loves what he is doing now, his motion sure, in and out and so damn good. He scoots her legs up, around his waist, then higher. She gasps at the feeling as he goes deeper, harder.
He is so unbelievably good at this.
He has told her the same thing.
She wonders if it is that they are both good, or if they just want each other so much that anything would feel like heaven.
She would not doubt it.
He finishes and lies still against her.
"I love you," she whispers.
He murmurs it back as he kisses along her collarbone.
She glances at the chrono. It is nearly time to go back but she doesn't move, just enjoys the feel of him on top of her, still inside her. She can't imagine not loving him, not feeling exactly this way. Not wanting to be with him always.
He touches her lips. "What?"
She will not think sad things. Not when everything between them is so good.
Don't borrow trouble, her mother used to tell her. It's damned good advice.
She is sitting alone in the mess. It is an off hour, but she has finally pulled herself away from the research she started when Jim left the ship. She pushes food around her plate, stalling. She feels funny sleeping in his quarters without him there, but her own quarters are not welcoming. She's spent so little time in them over the last few months.
She looks up. Spock holds a tray. She smiles at him, a bit of a question probably showing in the smile. She is not sure what he wants.
He may not want anything. This may be his idea of small talk. Her title, maybe a nod, then see ya.
"May I join you?"
She stares at him, realizes what he has asked and nods too quickly, trying to make up for any rudeness.
"You feeling okay, Spock?"
He almost smiles. "I imagine you are missing Jim."
"I am." She wonders if he is perceptive for figuring that out, or if she is just obvious.
"The ship is different when he is not onboard."
The whimsy of the statement makes her smile. "Yes, it is different."
Jim would correct her. "She," he would say. "She is different." But Jim is not here. He is on Starbase 571, meeting with some admirals and other Federation brass. Two days out of her reach for the first time since he was wounded. She's used to him being nearby, if not on the ship then just down on some planet they are orbiting. But he is gone, off on a shuttle and far from her. The ache she feels surprises her, worries her a little.
She stops pushing her food around, begins to really eat it. Spock digs in to his own meal. She ponders the irony. Once she would have given anything to sit with him in the mess. Would have been falling all over herself to provide lively conversation, not sitting in this strange, easy silence.
"Life is strange," she murmurs.
He of course hears her. Nothing like Vulcan hearing. "How so, Christine?"
She smiles. "Once upon a time, you would never have been caught dead in this situation."
"Once upon a time you were not involved with my friend." He goes back to eating.
His world is a very simple place at times.
"You must be relieved." She grins, tries to show she is teasing him. "No more running in terror away from me."
"Terror would be an overstatement." His eyes almost seem to twinkle.
She laughs. "Mild horror?"
He lifts an eyebrow.
"That might be accurate."
His words would have hurt her once upon a time. Now they just make her laugh again.
"Jim is very happy," he says quietly.
She looks up at him.
"You make him very happy."
She smiles, trying to let him know that she appreciates what he is saying. That she understands the gift he is giving her. "He makes me very happy. I guess we're even."
"I would not have picked you for him."
She bursts out laughing. "And you were doing so well."
He waits for her to stop chuckling. "You know what I mean, even if the words came out harsher than I intended." He gives her a stern look. "Moreover, I do not think that you would have chosen him for yourself either."
She nods slowly. He's right. She wouldn't have. Practically ran screaming when Jim decided he was interested in her. "Well, it is what is."
"Very Vulcan of you, Doctor."
She laughs. He no doubt means that as a compliment of the highest order.
"Do you like me, Spock?"
He thinks overly hard about the question and she makes a ticking sound, like the second hand on a chrono. He glares at her. Mildly of course.
"I do not know you well enough to say, Christine."
"Honest answer, anyway." She grins. "Aren't you going to ask me if I like you?"
"No." He continues to eat.
"Doesn't matter in the least whether I do or don't, huh?"
"It does not." The look he turns on her is amused, cutting the sharpness of the words.
"I'm so glad we're having this little talk." She leans back, sips her coffee.
If Jim were here, she wouldn't be sitting in the mess hall this late, trading gentle insults with Spock. She and Jim would probably be in bed by now--doing anything but sleeping. "I miss him, Spock."
"He will be home soon." His look is gentle.
"Did he ask you to look out for me again?"
"No. He did not." He pushes his plate away slightly, leans back and looks at her. "You seemed very alone."
She looks around the empty mess hall. "Spock, it's twenty-two hundred. Who eats at twenty-two hundred?" She leans forward. "Except people who want to eat alone."
He nods, a visual equivalent of touche.
She sighs. "I didn't feel like being with anyone. I think I'm wallowing in how much I miss him."
Jim's only been gone for four days. She can survive without him, she just doesn't like trying.
"Wallowing is often counter-productive. Jim would not be pleased."
"You're right, Spock. He wouldn't."
"Do you play chess?"
She shakes her head. "Sorry. Poker. Blackjack. Cribbage. Backgammon."
He looks interested. "There is a Vulcan game similar to backgammon. I could teach you."
"You don't have to."
"I am aware of that." He gets up. "Tomorrow, after our shift ends?"
She studies him, sees something shift in his face. "You miss him too?"
"I do." He takes her tray along with his own to the recycler, meets her at the door. "I will see you in the rec lounge tomorrow, Christine."
"Okay." She rides the lift up with him, walks with him partway down the corridor until he turns in to where his quarters are. "Goodnight, Spock."
"Goodnight." His voice is cut off by the door closing behind him.
She smiles, then walks to her own, very empty quarters.
The comm unit shrills in Jim's quarters. "Medical emergency, casualties arriving in sickbay."
She pushes herself up, reaching for her uniform as she rolls out of Jim's bed. Uhura has programmed the computer to page her in his quarters as well as her own.
Jim's already up, pulling on his pants. The crew is on shore leave. There should be no casualties.
They hurry to the lift, meet Len as he rushes from the other end of the corridor. "What the hell, Jim? That planet's as peaceful as they come."
They have to take Len's word for it. They haven't been down yet, planned to beam down in the morning.
The scene in sickbay is pure pandemonium. The group of crewmen look like they've gone ten rounds with a bunch of Tellarites. Two crewmen are trying to get to each other. One of them pulls away from the nurse holding him and leaps onto the other man. They punch each other brutally, seemingly uncaring that doctors and nurses are trying to pull them away.
Len reaches for a hypo of tranquilizer, hands her another one. They wade in after Jim who is already trying to separate the two men.
Christine reaches the nearest of the two fighters and jams the hypospray against his arm. He jerks, then falls to the floor.
Someone grabs her by the hair, yanks her away from the man. She falls back, feels something connect hard with her side, taking her breath away as several of her ribs crack under the vicious kick.
She looks up, sees a man bearing down on her. "Leave us alone." His face is savage as he kicks her again in the same place.
Jim is on him, knocking him off his feet. As the man goes down, a nurse slams a hypo against his neck and he collapses.
Christine forces herself up, reaches for the hypo another nurse holds out and pushes her way back next to where McCoy is trying to hold off two men. She shoots one with the hypo. He collapses, grabbing her sleeve as he falls, nearly pulling her off her feet. Her ribs protest as she pries his fingers off her sleeve and rights herself.
McCoy sedates the other. Four crewmen remain awake.
Jim looks ready to knock them out just on general principle. "Report," he practically yells, and the firm--and very pissed off--tone in his voice seems to reach them.
They straighten to attention. One of them looks confused, the rest just look surly.
Holding her side, she grabs a tricorder and scans the man who kicked her, then the others. They are all flying high on some kind of psychotropic compound. "Did you buy any recreational drugs?" she asks.
"Sir, no sir."
McCoy has grabbed another scanner. He runs it over one of the men. "Well, you ingested a hell of a lot of some very nasty stuff. I'd like to know how that happened." He moves over to her, scans her side. "You've got two broken ribs, Christine."
Jim looks over at her and she waves them both off.
"Fix them later." She adjusts her tricorder, moves closer to the crewman who seems the least violent. "What did you eat tonight?"
He thinks about it. "Something native. They said it was fermented meat."
She scans him again. "Fermented. Rotted. Whichever, I guess." She looks at Len. "It tests out much like ergot." She looks at Jim. "We'll want to get a sample when we're down there. See what effect it has on the local population. For humans, I think it's safe to say it acts like a hallucinogenic." She looks at the young man who seems calmer with each passing moment. "You're not just human, are you?"
He shakes his head. "My grandmother was Betazoid." He looks very tired suddenly. "Can I go?"
Len gestures to one of the nurses. "Go with Nurse Crandell. She'll get you cleaned up."
The other three seem to be getting more agitated as they sit. She moves to one. "Lie back."
"And if I don't want to?" He is eyeing her hypo suspiciously.
"You can spend the night in the brig," Jim says as he steps closer.
The man lies back; she shoots the hypo into him and he is snoring in no time. She reaches for the restraints, winces as her ribs complain.
"I can do it, Doctor." A nurse pushes her aside gently and secures the man.
Christine feels another hypo being pressed into her hand by Len. She goes to one of the other man, who glares at her as he lays back. "I don't like doctors."
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, we don't think much of you at the moment either." She pats him on the shoulder as his eyes close. "I'm sure we'll all feel better about each other in the morning."
She feels Jim's hand on her arm. "Let's look at those ribs."
"I think I'd rather have a doctor do it, love," she says quietly.
"I'm a highly competent field medic." He moves her out of the way as Len and the nurses move the first men they knocked out over to the biobeds.
Len hands her the regenerator. "I know you can do this yourself."
She laughs, then regrets it as the movement strains her ribs. "Damn."
Jim takes the regenerator from her. "Let me?"
She nods. She'd let him do anything he wants. Anything.
"This better not ruin our shore leave," she mutters. Beautiful planets she can enjoy with him are a luxury.
He smiles. "Do you plan to work the whole time?" His touch is gentle as he moves the regenerator under her shirt.
She smiles. "One sample. That's all I want."
He nods, clearly unconvinced. He works for a long time, finally pulls the machine away from her skin, runs his hand down her side.
There is no pain. She smiles. "Thank you."
He nods. Then his expression becomes grim. "I was ready to kill him."
"I know." She takes the regenerator from him, moves to the comm unit. "Sickbay to bridge."
"Bridge here." It is Sulu. Sitting whatever extra shifts will let him put his backside in the captain's chair.
"Sulu, we have a dangerous food interaction. Tell those on shore leave to avoid a fermented meat dish."
"I'll take care of it, Christine. I'll have the transporter chiefs brief anyone going out on the next shift."
"Good idea. Thanks. Chapel out."
Jim is at her arm, urging her out of sickbay. "Let's get some rest."
She knows he means that she should get some. "Who would have figured you for such a mother hen?"
He smiles. "I know. Scary, isn't it?"
"Not really. I kind of like it." As they get in the lift and the doors close, she kisses him quickly.
"Well, I kind of like you, so that works out well." He grins at her.
They both know his feelings are way beyond kind of liking her.
And vice versa.
She is finishing up her study of the ergot-like compound from their shore leave. She's been playing with it for the last month, knows that her colleagues at Starfleet Medical will love having a shiny new example of unexpected chemical-endocrine interactions. Like ergot, this compound seems to leech serotonin while it increases adrenaline. Some advanced class will soon be having fun with her new bio toy.
She looks up, sees Jan standing at the door to her office. "Hi." She smiles, but her smile dies as she sees the look on her friend's face. "Jan?"
Janice moves in quickly, sits in the chair next to Christine's desk. She takes a deep breath, seems to be trying to calm down.
"Jan, what's wrong?"
Jan looks up, she smiles deliberately, bravely. But her eyes are lost. "I'm leaving."
"Leaving the ship?"
Jan nods quickly. "You know I could have gone to OCS the last time I left? But I chose to specialize?"
Christine nods. She was surprised and a little disappointed at Janice's decision. But it had been Janice's choice whether or not to become an officer. It was her right to choose not to pursue it, even if Christine knew it was well within her friend's grasp. "So you're going now?"
She nods. "The captain is sponsoring me. Again. Only this time I'll really do it." She smiles, a half-twisted grimace that is part hopeful and part trying not to cry.
"Is it because of us?" Christine takes Jan's hand.
Her friend nods. "I'm sorry. I tried. But it just hurts." She straightens her shoulders. "And this will be good for me. I need to do this."
Christine nods. She squeezes Jan's hand. "I'll miss you so much."
Jan shoots her a disbelieving glance. "Would that be during the five minutes a day you aren't with him?"
Christine smiles, but it is a tight smile. The words sting a bit. "More like ten." Her answer isn't very nice and she shakes her head, unwilling to have this be how she and Jan say goodbye. "It's just new and--"
"--I know. I'm sorry I said that. If I had him, I probably wouldn't let him up to breathe, much less spend any time away." She sighs. She seems about to ask something, then appears to think better of it.
Janice looks up. There is something terribly sad and sort of steely in her gaze. "What's he like? What's it like to be loved by him?"
She can tell Janice doesn't want some flip answer. She takes a deep breath. "Like being swallowed alive. In the best way possible. It's everything I ever dreamed of, only it's nothing like I dreamed because I'm not sure I ever imagined that anything could feel this good."
Jan looks down.
Maybe that was too much information? Flip might have been better. "Other than that it sucks."
Jan laughs, but it is a weak sound. "Yeah. Right." She slowly pulls her hand free from Christine's grasp. "I have to go pack. I wanted you to hear that I was leaving from me."
Christine nods. "I will miss you, Jan."
"I'll miss you too." Janice closes her eyes, then seems to draw herself up with some unseen strength. "I'll miss all of you. Take good care of him, all right?"
Jan nods, leans down and gives her a quick hug, then rushes out.
Christine stands, wanders out to sickbay, feeling strangely adrift. She can't decide if she feels guilty. But she couldn't make Jim love Janice anymore than she could make herself love Joe enough to stay with him. Love is funny, and doesn't march to anyone's drum but its own.
Len walks out. "You okay?"
She nods. "Jan's leaving."
He leans up against the counter, studies her. "It's not your fault."
"I know." She smiles at him. "Joe's abrupt departure was, but hers isn't." She sighs, then she frowns. "Do you think I spend too much time with Jim?"
He shrugs. "Define too much."
"I can't. I'm not exactly objective when it comes to him. That's why I'm asking you."
"It's been close to a year now, hasn't it?"
He sighs. "Christine, you're in love with him and he's in love with you. Neither of you have had a lot of happiness in your life. If you want to enjoy the hell out of it now that it's finally found you, I say bully for you."
She touches his hand. "That's so sweet."
"I thought so."
"You must be sleeping with someone or you'd mind not seeing your friend more."
He laughs. "It's possible."
"Who is she?"
"I'll never tell. I'm a gentleman, remember?"
If they weren't in the middle of sickbay, she'd kiss his cheek. "I never forget it, Len. Never."
It is late and she is lying on her stomach while Jim scratches her back. He uses just the right amount of pressure, his short nails teasing her skin the way no one has done for her since she was a child.
A hedonist, that's what she feels like. Being with him is turning her into a pleasure addict.
"Today's his birthday," Jim says softly.
She frowns, is unsure who he is referring to. She's pretty sure it isn't Spock.
"I've never sent him a present. I see things that I'd like to buy him, but I never do."
David, she realizes. He is talking about his son.
"Would she really object?"
His hand stops moving. "Yes. She really would." His voice is tight.
She decides not to answer, is afraid she will only irritate him. She has a pretty good idea that whatever she says will be wrong.
His hand starts moving again. "I'm sorry. You don't deserve me snapping at you."
"It's okay." She waits for him to say more.
"I used to imagine what it would be like to bring him on board when he was just a little boy. I could practically see how excited he would be, running from station to station. Talking to everyone." He falls silent. Then in a strangled voice, he says, "My son."
She turns slowly, pulls him down. "I'm sorry." She brushes his hair back. "I don't understand how she can keep him from you."
"You don't know her."
She thinks maybe he will say more but he doesn't badmouth Carol. She thinks he must hate Carol to some extent, but he doesn't rip into her. Just takes his pain and swallows it whole.
"Do you blame yourself, Jim?"
He looks away.
"It's not your fault."
"I was the one who had to be out wandering the stars. I was the one who couldn't commit enough to her, to my son, to stay on Earth."
"Why should you have?" She kisses his cheek, trying to somehow make this sadness go away. "You were in Starfleet. She had to know that when she met you."
"Then why isn't it her fault?"
He looks at her and there is a strange emotion in his eyes. It takes her a moment to realize it is a banked rage. "Because if I let myself think it is her fault, I can't stand it. I'd want to..."
"Well, not literally."
"I understand." She rubs his back, is glad when he finally relaxes against her. "You would have made a great dad."
"An absentee dad."
She pushes him away so he has to look at her. "My father was in Starfleet, Jim. He was a scientist and an officer and he was gone more than he was on Earth. But that doesn't mean I didn't love him. Or that he didn't play a huge role in my life. It would have been the same for David. If Carol had just let you in."
He kisses her. "Thank you." He hugs her close. "I didn't have anyone to share this with last year."
"You can share anything with me, Jim. You know that."
He curls around her. "I do know that, Chris. I trust you."
She smiles, runs her hand through his hair. It is slightly damp from their lovemaking earlier. "Just like I trust you."
The look he turns on her is so tender it takes her breath away. "Stay with me forever?"
"Right here? In this bed?"
He grins. "Yes."
"Okay. Forever." She kisses him, their lips touching quietly. There is so much love in the touch that she wishes she could freeze the moment and live in it forever.
"I'm serious, Chris. We can't marry now, not if we want to stay together while we're on the ship. But later...I want to do this right. I want to marry you."
She studies him, feels a smile beginning. "Fortunately for you, I'm used to long engagements. Just don't disappear on me, all right?"
He kisses her. She touches his face, smiles at the idea that this man will be hers. That she'll be his. They lie quietly; his hand tightens on her, and she wonders what he is thinking. She glances at his face; his eyes are very far away, as if they are looking into some distant past or future that only he can see.
"I love you," she murmurs, low enough that the words won't bring him back unless he wants them to.
He turns to her. "I love you too. More than you'll ever know, I think." He sighs.
"Go to sleep, Jim. I'll watch over you." She kisses him again, not sure she will be able to get enough of the sweet way he is kissing her.
"We'll watch over each other," he says as he closes his eyes.
A short while later he is asleep.
She is surprised to realize she is crying. She wants to protect him, she wants to go to Earth and bring his son back for him.
She wants to give him everything. But all she has to give him is her love.
Fortunately, that seems to be enough for him.
She studies the Ka'Vareth board, frowning slightly as she tries to determine the least dangerous move. Comparing it to backgammon is a bit like comparing Chinese checkers to chess, but she's managing to hold her own.
Spock sits back and there is an expression of satisfaction on his face that she only sees when he has set her up. She studies the board harder, sure she is missing something. "What did you do?"
When she looks at him, he merely lifts an eyebrow.
"Yeah, that's helpful." She moves several pieces in a combination move that makes his eyebrow go even higher.
The satisfied look is gone.
She grins. "I've been reading up. T'Lur's and Stavol's works have been especially helpful."
He shoots her a glance. She can only call it annoyed. She chuckles.
"Most unexpected," he murmurs as he studies the board carefully. Before this turn, he's been moving his pieces quickly, almost carelessly.
She's pretty sure she has just risen in his estimation.
"Having fun?" Jim asks as he leans over her, his hands trailing down from her shoulders to her chest. He stops short of her breasts. His affection is public but never in bad taste.
"I think Spock was until my last move." She looks up at him, smiles. "I've been studying."
"It is most disconcerting," Spock says quietly.
"He doesn't sound disconcerted," Jim says, pretending to whisper. "He sounds damned pleased with you. Should I be worried?"
"Yes. We're thinking of running off together. It'll be a romantic life. Logic. Ka'Vareth. We'll talk about you a lot, probably. Until the guilt at having abandoned you eats into us and we fall apart." She looks over at Spock.
"Yes. What she just said." He moves a piece finally.
She smiles, moves her piece to counter then sees that he has set another trap for her. She pushes the piece back where it was, studies the board.
"Was your meeting with the Falkus delegation productive?" Spock asks Jim.
Jim sits down between them, shaking his head. "Depends upon how you define productive. If you mean listening to four very stubborn people argue for five hours until you have a splitting headache, then yes, it was highly productive."
She reaches out, pats him on the knee. "Poor Jim."
"Next time you can talk to them," he says to Spock, laying his hand over hers.
She looks over at him. Smiles. They no longer count how long they've been together in months. It is hard for her to believe that more than two years have gone by; the time has passed so quickly.
But it also feels like she's been with Jim forever. Like she'll always be with him. His hand tightens on hers and she realizes she is staring at him, with a no doubt sappy look on her face.
"You're not helping my game, love." She turns back to the board.
"Please continue to distract her, Jim." Spock gives them both one of his almost smiles.
"The Falkus were saying that the Klingons have been busy on the border areas again. We'll no doubt get the report from Starfleet tomorrow."
"No doubt." Spock frowns slightly. "I do not understand why they have increased these incursions into our space."
"Because they can? Because we let them?" Her voice is more bitter than she means it to be. Her eyes stray to Jim's abdomen, where the Klingon weapon ripped him open.
"Would you rather we had war, Chris?" Jim's look is patient though--he's no great fan of Klingons either.
Spock shakes his head. "I believe that soon we will begin to see signs of stress in the Klingon Empire. It may crack under its own weight."
"Well, let's just hope it doesn't take us all with it." She meets his placid gaze with a stubbornness that she knows is highly emotional.
"She's right. Watching the Empire fall and not getting sucked in will be difficult." Jim sighs. "What's that old saying? Why can't we all just get along?"
"Because over history, very few cultures have ever been able to 'just get along.'" Spock looks at the board. It is within his rights to call time on her.
She finally sees what he has done. It is intricate, and clever. But not inescapable. She moves one of her pieces backwards, is glad to see him frown.
"Which works did you say you had read?" he asks softly.
She laughs. "I forget." She looks over at Jim.
He's watching her, a gentle smile on his face. He loves her, and the thought of that sends a shiver down her spine. She loves him just as much.
She never knew it was possible to be this happy. If anyone had told her she'd find it with him, she would have laughed in their face.
But here she is. Happy. Serene even. With James T. Kirk.
And joking around with Spock.
The universe has one hell of a sense of humor.
The rec lounge is packed. The promotion ceremony is always a popular event, and Starfleet appears to have been particularly generous this year in the upward mobility department. Christine looks down, touches the full lieutenant insignia she thought she was lucky to get when Starfleet medical upgraded her two ranks for earning her M.D. She wasn't expecting to get another promotion this soon.
She shuffles forward, waits her turn. Each person earning promotion can choose who will pin on their new insignia. She doesn't suppose it will surprise anyone that she has chosen Jim. They've been together for over three years; everyone knows they are a couple. And the crew seems to approve. Certainly their captain is usually in a good mood, which everyone appreciates--and probably unfairly gives her credit for. Not that she's complaining.
She hears her name called, walks forward. He's grinning at her, a grin she still finds heart stopping after all this time. She can never be happy they caught that awful virus when five other people lost their lives to it. But still, if not for being stuck together on that planet, in that shuttle, they would never have fallen in love. She feels a perverse sense of gratitude to the malicious little life form that infected them.
He removes her old insignia, pins on her new. His hands are so gentle. She knows they can be firmer, not so gentle. She looks up at him, surprised to find herself aroused. His own expression is the one he gets when he is trying to not look aroused.
She can't wait until they get back to their quarters. Someday, maybe when they are very old, she will stop feeling her heart skip at the thought of going back to their quarters with him. He is like a drug she cannot stop wanting. And that's fine with her.
Fine with him too, she thinks. He loves that she still wants him. He loves to show her how much he wants her.
She walks off the makeshift stage, takes her place with the others in the back. There will be a receiving line, then a big loud party. It's the Enterprise tradition. Protocol, then rowdiness liberally facilitated with much alcohol.
They'll be handing out a lot of antitox in the morning.
She is surprised to see Len get up from his seat and follow her back. He hands her a padd. "I've been saving this as a surprise."
She looks at it. A request from Starfleet Medical to speak at the annual conference. She's continued to send in research after finding the ergot-like substance. Apparently, the various compounds she's found are enough to base a presentation on. And they want her to sit on a panel. She looks at Len. "They want me to speak?"
He nods. "Guess I'll be staying here this year." He doesn't look terribly upset. He's been enjoying the company of Lieutenant Commander Parkins ever since she transferred onto the Enterprise. Christine never knew Len to frequent the security section much, but he's nearly as creative at making it down to see his favorite redhead as he used to be in getting up to the bridge. Which means not at all creative and totally ballsy when it comes to leaving sickbay. He doesn't make up an excuse, he just goes.
He gives her a hug. "Congratulations, Doctor. You get to speak in front of all those people." He laughs as he sees her go white, and pats her on the arm. "You'll do great. Just remember not to lock your knees. And imagine the audience naked."
"Go away now," she mutters. She stares at the padd. They really want her to speak? She didn't realize what she'd been collecting was going to be _that_ interesting.
The ceremony ends, and people begin to go through the line, before heading to the bar. A few rebels skip the line altogether and make a beeline for the booze.
Uhura is near the front of the line. She pulls Christine close. "Welcome to the ranks of the exalted."
Christine rolls her eyes. "You mean the ranks of more responsibility, more headaches, and still being junior to most everyone that matters."
"Yeah, that too." Uhura winks at her. "You know Jan graduated OCS as a Lieutenant JG?"
Christine nods. "Top of her class. I'm so proud of her." It doesn't surprise her that Jan grabbed the coveted number one spot and earned two ranks. She certainly had enough experience to make it.
It was funny really. Christine never figured that she and Jan would ever be anything approaching hard chargers and yet they seem to be exactly that. It is probably for the best that Jan left the ship, that she finally decided to run after her future, not lust after Christine's present. Which doesn't sound very charitable and Christine regrets it. Even if she knows it is more true than not.
Uhura moves on, and Christine is busy accepting well wishes, trying desperately to remember names. Fortunately, Jim knows everyone and being with him has made her better at learning people's names. Being with him has been an invaluable lesson in command.
"Christine," Spock's voice is soft. "Congratulations."
She grins. "Thanks. Who'da thunk it?"
His eyebrow goes up, which was exactly the reaction she wanted. "I mean, it's an honor and a thrill, sir."
"Indeed." He graces her with the small lift of his mouth that could almost be a smile.
She touches his hand, smiles. "I _am_ honored, Spock."
"You deserve the promotion, Commander."
It really is thrilling to be addressed that way. "Thank you, Commander."
He nods and moves down the line. Spock knows everyone's name too but she expects that from him. He is a Vulcan after all.
Jim is standing before her. His grin is warm and full of pride. He loves her to excel. "Commander?"
"Captain?" She grins back at him, lets him knows that she is pretty darn proud too.
"I'll catch up with you," he murmurs as he continues down the line.
She can finally escape the protocol and get to the bar. She orders a wine and a scotch for Jim. When she feels his hand on the small of her back, she slips the glass into his hand.
"Bless you, my child," he winks at her. His hand is pressing firmly and as he sips at his drink, his eyes are dark.
He wants her. Right now. If he weren't captain, if she weren't a guest of honor, they'd be hightailing it to his quarters.
A few hours later, they are doing just that. Only they are hightailing with decorum. Although she suspects that Jim would like to throw the other riders off the lift as they turn what could have been a speeding turbo into the starship equivalent of the local flitterbus.
They finally arrive at their deck, hurry off the lift. He takes her hand, pulls her after him.
She laughs. "What's the rush?" She winks at him. She knows what the rush is. Is tempted to beat him to the door and palm it open herself.
"I want to be the first to make love to you now that you're a lieutenant commander."
"I think that's a given, Jim." She laughs as he pushes her through his doorway, as he locks the door. "You know, I may not be in the mood tonight."
"No?" He is peeling her uniform off.
"No." She makes short work of his uniform. "In fact, I'm sure I'm not in the mood."
"Is that so?" he asks as he pushes her up against the wall and enters her.
She gasps, lifts one leg to circle his hips and pull him closer, deeper. "I'm afraid so. In fact, I don't think I like sex anymore."
"Really?" He is touching her and she begins to moan. "That's too bad."
She is clutching him, and he has his eyes closed as he moves against her. His lips find hers, and the kiss is fierce and sweet. They know each other so well. Know how to make each other crazy, how to make love quickly, know how to draw the sex out. Know what is good all the time, what should be saved for special occasions. There isn't much they haven't tried, very few pleasures they haven't shared. And yet...they still have days like this where they can't keep their hands off each other. He made love to her right before the ceremony too. Wanted to be the last to make love to her as a lieutenant.
She shudders and cries out and hopes no one is near the door. He follows her a moment later, muffling his own cries in her hair, just above her ear. His breath on her tickles and she jumps, causing him to jump too in reaction, both of them so sensitive.
"I'm so sorry you don't like sex anymore." He kisses her, slipping out of her and pulling her to the bed. He sees that she is still holding the padd, takes it from her. "What's this?"
As they cuddle on the bed, he reads it through. "This is great." He kisses her.
He is her biggest supporter. She loves that.
"You're going to go?"
She nods. Gulps. "I hate speaking in public."
He kisses her. "Everyone does at first. You just have to get used to it. I'll help you."
He nods. "When I was a cadet, my eyes would glaze over, and my knees would shake, and all I could hear was my heartbeat in my ears. But you give enough briefings and you get over it." He kisses her. "You'll be great." He makes a face. "Besides, weren't you the one who had to give the 'don't get caught with your pants down' lecture?"
She rolls her eyes. She hated being in charge of the alien sex talk for new crewmen and women.
He laughs. "If you can lecture on sex with someone who sports tentacles, then you can lecture on anything. Especially something you know well."
She giggles as he tickles her, then moans as his movements become less playful, more deliberate. "Are you saying I don't know tentacley sex well?"
"No. I'm just saying you know the stuff you research a lot better." He kisses her, his fingers moving relentlessly against her.
She arches, tries to move closer, but he is teasing her. He'll want her to say please before he lets her come. And she'll do it. She'll beg if she has to. And it won't bother either of them in the least. Because some other time--or maybe just later--she'll make him beg.
"What do you want?" he asks her.
She pulls his face down to hers. "You. Forever."
"That's not the stock answer, Commander." He looks at her sternly. "Improvising now that you're a higher grade?"
She nods. "I love you."
His eyes soften. "I love you too, Chris." He kisses her, the tender kisses she is not sure she will ever get enough of. Then he pulls away, and his eyes sparkle, and his fingers begin their lovely dance again.
"What do you want?" he asks.
"Com-pletion." She grins; she has not yet begun to improvise.
He laughs and his fingers speed up.
"How do you ask?" He nuzzles her neck.
"Please?" She sighs as he sucks on the skin underneath her ear. "Please, please, please."
"Since you ask so nicely," he murmurs as he goes back to marking her neck up.
She closes her eyes and lets him push her over into pleasure. It is a very long fall down.
She lands, feels him pulls her closer, his leg looped over hers. He is aroused again and she reaches down for him.
He moans. It is one of the loveliest sounds she knows.
This will never get old. Never.
The conference room is full and Christine gulps as she looks out at the group. Then she tries to remember all the things Jim told her. He has worked with her for months, even pulled others in. She thinks there isn't one of her friends who couldn't give this lecture.
She wonders if any of them will speak to her when she gets back.
She feels a moment of panic as the moderator introduces her, another one as she begins her talk. But then the practice--and the fact that she does know her material backwards and forwards--kicks in, and she begins to enjoy herself.
Then the presentation is over, and hands go up in the room. She sighs in relief; she was afraid no one would ask anything, except maybe when she was going to stop yammering and sit down.
She realizes as she answers the questions that she is having fun. One question from a young man in the back row is more complicated than the rest, making her dig past her recent research into her biochem background to answer it. He follows it up with an even more complex question.
She sees the moderator giving her the five minute warning, says, "We'll have to take that one offline."
He nods, stands up and goes to stand by the door, clearly not caring that he is being rude to the speaker who will follow her. She walks over to him, pushes him into the nearest row with empty seats.
"I want to talk to you."
"And I want to hear Doctor Adams speak."
He gives her a pout that looks startlingly familiar. She glances at his name tag. Swallows hard.
"What?" He asks, narrowing his eyes.
His eyes aren't anything like Jim's. A strange blue-green, not hazel. And he doesn't really favor Jim in any way. Until he grins. It is Jim's grin.
Which makes sense. Since he is Jim's son.
"Nothing. Just be quiet so I can listen."
He rolls his eyes, but shuts up. As soon as the lecture is over, he grabs her hand and draws her out of the conference room and down the hall. He pulls her into a small meeting room that stands empty and shuts the door.
She almost laughs. If Jim did that, it would be for one reason only. But she sees David's impatience as he sits at the table and pulls out his padd. He hands it to her, and she looks down and sees an equation and a bunch of notes. Frowning, she studies it, then she looks up at him.
"You can't be serious?"
"I've read your dissertation. Yours is one of the only ones to speculate on the potential uses of protomatter."
She stares again at the equation. "That was only a small portion of my dissertation. And I never said it would be smart to use it. Any reputable scientist knows it is highly unstable."
"Yeah, yeah, and damn near unethical to even discuss it." He leans forward, brings up another screen. "But what if it did this?"
She stares at the screen as it shows a strange effect. "Acceleration. Regeneration."
He shakes his head. "No. Gen-eration. New. This is new growth, new life."
She bites her lip as she watches the numbers growing. "You're involved in terra-forming?"
He smiles. "Something like that." He hands her another padd.
She frowns. It is a standard Starfleet non-disclosure agreement. He's Starfleet? "How old are you?"
"Old enough. Just sign and I can show you the rest of this, Doctor Chapel." He smiles at her, this time the expression is a little shy. "Or can I call you Christine?"
"Sure," she says absently as she reads the agreement then presses her finger against the padd. It accepts her agreement, beeps and shows that her clearances have just been upgraded.
He presses the other padd into her hand. "We're eighteen months away from start-up. That's when we're going to need you."
He smiles. "Isn't it time you put those great ideas you had when you were my age to the test?" He leans in. "We both know protomatter can be harnessed. And safely. I feel it in my guts and I know you do too." He laughs. "I read your supporting research too. There was a lot more in that about protomatter than in the actual dissertation."
"I was warned to tone it down." She looks down. She's never told anyone her advisor made it clear that if she wanted to graduate, she would redo her dissertation, or at least the part on protomatter.
"I'm not advertising my interest in it widely either." He smiles--a smile that seems to include her in a very small, very select, and very smart group. "My dissertation won't even mention it. But I'm not ruling it out for the project--if other methods don't show fruit. You can help me with those too. The other methods." He smiles again. "For now, it's just hypothetical. Even others on the project don't need to know. Especially not my mother. Got that?"
She nods, is still trying to catch up with what he has said. "You're still working on your dissertation?"
He grins, this time the expression reminds her less of Jim because there is something calculated in his expression. "That's one of the things we're waiting for. Me graduating." He laughs and takes the padds from her. "I have to go. There's someone else I want to catch up with on a different matter." He stands. "You know you can't discuss this conversation with anyone?"
"I did read the agreement."
"Yeah, well, I like to remind people of that. Especially people who serve with overzealous Starfleet captains."
She looks up at him. Does he know that Jim is his father after all? "You mean Captain Kirk?"
He nods. "Rumor is he's your lover." He shakes his head. "What is it with you brainy types and that overgrown boy scout?"
She laughs. The title may fit Jim--he is always prepared. But she still doesn't know if David thinks that he's insulting his father or just some ex-lover of his mother. And of his new-found kindred spirit.
"Not a word, Christine. I'll be in touch." And he hurries out the door.
He certainly leaves her as breathless as Jim does, if for completely different reasons.
She wanders out of the meeting room, sees that the break is winding down. She attends the last session but has a hard time concentrating. It's been a long time since she thought about protomatter. But David was right. Back in her youth, she was sure that it could be used--and used safely.
She sighs. It's utter folly to think of that now. If she were to mention her old ideas to anyone in the audience they would look at her like she'd lost her mind. And rightly so.
But still. What if it could be harnessed?
She sighs. Protomatter is unstable. Possibly as unstable as that handsome young man's enthusiasm for it. She should forget all about this meeting.
The audience claps and she does too. But she has heard none of the lecture. She looks around, sees that David has come in, is standing at the back. He smiles at her as if he knows exactly what she is thinking about so hard. He makes a zipping motion across his lips. She turns around.
When the session is finally over, she hurries out and up to her room and comms the Enterprise.
"Chris." Jim is in his quarters, has his robe on.
She feels herself relaxing. Just seeing him is good for her psyche. "Hi."
"How'd the talk go? I was thinking of you a few hours ago."
She smiles. "It went great. And I had questions and everything."
He grins. "See. I told you that you'd be wonderful. Anything else exciting happen?"
She sees a blonde head, blue-green eyes sparkling at her. "One of the people asking questions was this really bright kid. Name of Marcus. Think he said his first name was David." She smiles at Jim, teasing him.
He has a look of wonder in his eyes. "My David."
She nods. "Yep. He obviously takes after you. Very smart."
"His mother was no lightweight in the brains department either." He grins. "What are the odds?"
"You'd have to ask Spock." She smiles, and feels a twinge of guilt at the evasion. But she can't tell him that David wanted to meet her, that there was nothing coincidental about his being in that room to listen to her.
"Did you talk to him much?"
She hesitates and he frowns. She hurries to say. "Just a little. It was sort of strange." That at least wasn't a lie.
"I bet." He smiles. "He's a good kid?"
She remembers David's calculated smile, and the way he held protomatter out to her as if he were the serpent and it the apple. "Seems like it." Her tone doesn't support the words, but Jim doesn't seem to notice.
"My son. The scientist."
"Yep." She is afraid of what else he might ask so she changes the subject. "Other than that, it's just been boring old conference stuff. Presentations that don't work, speakers who don't show up, or worse, who do."
He laughs. "Sorry to hear that. Anyone mention what kind of assignment they're thinking of for you next?"
She wants to say, "Yes, I'm apparently going to help your son use protomatter to destroy the fabric of the universe." But she can still see David zipping his lips, can still hear the padd's beep as she agreed to not talk about this. She opens her mouth, but no words come out.
"Chris?" He frowns.
"Just some research stuff. Nothing too exciting. I guess I'm a little disappointed." She rubs at her temples, as if she has a headache, desperate for an evasion. "Or maybe the excitement just caught up with me."
"If I were there, I'd make you feel much better."
She laughs. This is much safer ground. "I know you would."
"Lie back and I'll do it right now." He grins, mischief clear in his face. "Or I'll tell you how to do it."
She does what he says. And sincerely hopes that Starfleet doesn't decide to randomly audit the comm channel they're using.
"God." Len throws down his tricorder in anger. "What the hell are we supposed to do here? There's nothing but parts."
Christine closes her eyes; the scene is horrible. Body parts lay all over, separated from the dead by those terrible Klingon axe things.
A few Klingons lie dead, still holding onto their weapons, killed by the settlers. But so few compared to how many of the settlers lie dead.
She opens her eyes. The smell is horrible. The Enterprise was nowhere near the planet when it was attacked. The settlers didn't stand a chance.
If only they hadn't settled in this no-man's land on the border between Federation and Klingon space. But that's where the empty hospitable words are. The ones closer to the heart of the Federation are already settled or uninhabitable.
Her mind wanders back to what David shared with her at the conference. Terraforming: it was the answer. But it was so slow. If they could speed it up--the way he showed her. It would be a miracle. They could make a huge difference in the lives of future settlers. Settlers who wouldn't have to die because the world they chose was too far away from the Federation to be adequately protected.
"Doctor McCoy," a security man calls. "Over here."
Len rushes over, helps him pull two children out from under the porch of one of the dwellings. This is what they are finding. Entire towns slaughtered but for a handful of survivors.
Why? Why did the Klingons have to do this? They are animals.
She hears Jim echo her thought. "Animals."
She moves closer to him. "How could they do this?"
He just shakes his head.
"There is no honor in this, Jim. Isn't that what they are supposed to care about? Honor? Where is the honor in slaughtering unarmed farmers and miners?"
"I don't know, Chris."
"They weren't doing anything to the Klingons."
"The border's in dispute." He holds up a hand at her look. "I'm not saying that makes it right."
Len motions her over and she hurries to him. "This little guy's going to be fine. And I've scanned his sister. She seems to be fine, but doesn't appear to want to talk to me. Thought maybe you might want to give it a try?" He leads the little boy off.
Christine kneels down by the girl; she holds her arms open, not expecting the girl to respond. But the child launches herself into them, nearly knocking her over.
"It's okay. I've got you." She runs her hand down the girl's hair, gently feeling for bumps--the tricorder is fine, but she likes to use her hands too, feel for injuries not just scan for them.
The child seems to respond to her touch. She presses more firmly against her as Christine continues to stroke her hair. She is dirty but does not appear to be hurt. "Do you want to talk about what happened?"
The girl only sobs.
"What's your name?"
"Karla T'ovrala." She pushes against Christine again, as if she would like to crawl inside her.
Christine looks around at the carnage. Maybe the child would like to crawl somewhere safe and anywhere but here.
"It's all right, Karla. They're not going to hurt you."
The girl pulls away from her, begins to talk and now that she is finally talking the words come out in a rush. "They didn't see us under there. But I could see out. I pushed Jemm away. I didn't want him to see what they did to our father..."
"They're dead. My father. My mother. My older sister. She was the one who shot that Klingon over there." She walks over to the downed warrior and kicks him. Over and over and over until Christine finally pulls her away.
"Don't. Honey, don't."
"Why not? They hurt us; I want to hurt him!"
"I know. But it won't make it even. It won't make things any better." Christine wonders if that is true. If it makes Karla feel better, maybe she should let her do it.
"I hate Klingons," Karla says, then she sees two other children being led out of one of the houses and runs to them.
Her brother slips away from Len and joins the other children too. Len watches him, then walks over to her.
"How many have we found?" she asks.
"Six including these four. That's all the life signs we picked up in this town from orbit."
Six people. Out of forty-six.
"Animals," she says again.
She's with Karla. She hates Klingons.
She turns to look at Jim. He's lying in bed and looks uncomfortable. He's been hurt--again. She sighs. After four years, she should be used to this.
But she never is. Every time he shows up wounded in sickbay, her heart rushes to her throat and she is sure she will lose him. It's silly and melodramatic and she knows better than to share her fears with him. Especially, since half the time he walks in under his own power and it is nothing more than a scrape or a break that brought him to see them.
She checks the sling around his arm. The bones in his shattered arm are nearly regenerated, but Len wants to avoid putting any undue strain on the arm. The sling doesn't really do that, but it annoys Jim enough to remind him he was wounded and he should take it easy on his arm while it's healing.
But it makes him damn cranky to sleep with.
He begins to pulls the sling off, and she makes a disapproving sound. He glares at her. "You wear it for a day and tell me it's not hard to sleep in."
She suspects Len may have given Jim the scratchy fabric on purpose. He hates repairing something he's already fixed once. And with Jim, he's always having to do that. The man is a menace when it comes to taking it easy on himself.
She smiles. At least he isn't climbing rocks or trying out for the ship's gymnastic team. He's not thrill seeking out of boredom--his injuries are just part of being captain of the Enterprise, as he defines it, of course. Hands-on, devil-may-care, first into the breach, etcetera.
"What are you smiling about?"
"You." She snuggles up against his good arm. This isn't her normal side of the bed to sleep on, but it seemed better to not be bumping up against his hurt arm all night. And she does tend to sleep close.
When she slept with Roger, he slept close to her or very far away--nothing in between and all according to his mood and level of desire. If she woke up and he was curled around her, it nearly always meant he wanted sex.
Joe slept like a little kid. Dead to the world with arms and legs akimbo. They would start out curled together but always ended up apart.
Jim and she are always touching even if they are on opposite sides of the bed. She often wakes up to find that he has reached out during the night to touch her arm, or that she has put her foot on his leg. There is always some contact between them, and usually she wakes up to find them crushed together, front to front, or spooned, the one in back holding on firmly.
She loves waking up with him. She loves sleeping with him.
She loves doing just about anything with him.
Except trying to make him mind when he is injured.
"You're just going to ignore my complaining and hope I fall asleep, aren't you?"
He kisses her forehead. "I'm not going to."
"Oh." She runs her hand down his stomach, down and down and he starts to laugh.
"You think you can distract me with that old trick?" He looks over at her, smiling. His expression changes as she begins to distract him in earnest. "On the other hand, I do admire a doctor who takes matters into her own hands."
She laughs. He does not talk for some time, and she moves down, avoiding the sling as she kisses her way to where her hand is causing all sorts of trouble.
His good hand follows her, rubbing her back, her head, then settling lightly on her neck, scratching gently across her skin. His fingers tighten on her shoulder as he cries out softly and she moves back up and cuddles in again.
"What were you saying?"
He kisses her. "I have no idea."
She slowly strokes his hair and he moans happily and closes his eyes. In minutes, he is asleep and she sighs in relief. It's been a long day and she is exhausted. She follows him into slumber.
The Ka'Vareth board mocks her. She contemplates sacrificing one of her pieces for a better move three rolls down but knows that Spock will see through her ploy. She sighs, studying the board some more.
"But for your sighing, your level of play is almost Vulcan."
"I'm sure that's supposed to be a compliment," she says, the smile she flashes showing that her grumbling is fake.
He nods. "I believe you could hold your own at the annual tournament." He leans in. "That too is a compliment."
She laughs. "You're just trying to get me to tell you the titles of my latest reference books, aren't you? Well, I'm not going to. I need some advantage." She finally advances one of her pieces to a temporary safe spot. It is a boring move, but a careful one at least.
And when did a Vulcan ever worry about being boring if prudence was served?
"So what are you going to do once this mission is completed?" She looks over at Spock. It is hard for her to believe that five years is nearly over.
"I believe I will accept Starfleet's offer of a billet at the Academy."
"Shaping young minds appeals to you?" She smiles.
He is already shaping a few. His ward Saavik is about to start at the Academy, clearly following in Spock's footsteps. And, during their last stop at Vulcan, Christine and Jim met another young Vulcan who seemed to adore Spock. Valeris was the quintessential girl next door who has a crush on the older, handsome neighbor boy, but she was still a Vulcan girl next door. Without a doubt, one of the brightest young women Christine has ever met--and personable to boot. In fact, she seemed to seek Christine out. Seemed to actually enjoy spending time with humans.
Or maybe it is just that Spock enjoys spending time with humans and Valeris wants Spock. Christine isn't sure it matters. The girl charmed her, whatever her motives.
And she's not one to lecture someone for their crush on Spock. Lord knows she suffered long enough.
Although in Valeris's case it might not stay one-sided. Christine had the impression that Spock was surprised at how his little neighbor was growing up.
"You are thinking about something amusing?" Spock shoots her a wary glance. He knows most of her looks by now. Probably realizes she is thinking about something that affects him--and not necessarily in the most dignified way.
"I was thinking about Valeris. She impressed me." She pauses, waits for the kill. "And you too, I think?"
He gives her a long-suffering glance. Since she gave up on him, she occasionally plays matchmaker. He resists all her attempts to fix him up.
"Valeris is a most gifted young woman."
"Uh huh." She says, watching as he moves his piece strangely. Has she rattled him, or has he just set another trap for her? "So, you'd never notice that she is also very attractive."
"She is also very young."
"Well, young women have a way of growing up, Spock." She looks up from the board and grins at him. She has rattled him. A combo move puts her four slots away from the win.
He almost frowns.
"If I am, it is because you insist on prattling about irrelevant things."
"Ooh. Testy." She rubs her hands together. "You only get testy when you know you've lost." She leans back, sips at the Vulcan tea he's gotten her hooked on.
"I have not yet lost." He moves some pieces around in a daring, if futile, arrangement.
She quickly counters. This game is hers, but if he wants to prolong the agony, she won't stop him. "So you don't think she's attractive?"
"I did not say that."
"So you do?"
He sighs. "Christine, there are times I preferred our interaction when you were in pursuit of me. You were far less aggressive."
She laughs. Several new crewman sitting nearby look over, as is if in shock that she could find anything a Vulcan says amusing. She winks at one of them. Maybe someday he'll get to know a Vulcan up close and personal, and realize how wrong he is.
"See, you are trying to distract me, but I won't fall for it. Why don't you just answer the question?"
"There were too many questions. I have lost track." He makes his move, a slightly desperate, almost reckless attempt to get the advantage back.
It is futile. She blocks easily. "Bull. You never lose track." She watches him as he studies the board. "But you may be partly right. I'm happy with Jim; I'd like to see you happy with someone. And I really like Valeris."
He gives her the eyebrow.
"Would it be so wrong to double date?"
The look he gives her answers that question.
"It was just an idea. Maybe by the time she is old enough for you to date, you'll think better of the concept?"
"There are always possibilities."
She laughs. It is a stock phrase of his that, when he says it to her, means, "There's not a snowball's chance in hell of that happening, but dream on."
He moves again, a last-ditch effort to throw her off. "What do you intend to do when we return to Earth?"
She pretends to study the board. David has been in touch several times. He is definitely wooing her away from the other offers she's received. She hates to admit how much his ideas excite her.
Or how guilty she feels that she isn't telling Jim about the comms.
"Research probably." She moves several of her pieces off the board. There is no way he can win now. Even he has to see that. She is in the last stage while he is still protecting himself.
"You wish to remain with Jim?" He sees her look and says, "I mean of course, located with him. I did not intend to imply anything about the endurance of the relationship."
She laughs. A bit nervously. Her own guilt is coloring her reactions to his innocent comments. "Yes. I want to be with him. I've had him for most of five years. I can't imagine being split up now."
"Nor do I think he will allow it. You know that the Academy has offered him a position? Under Admiral Cartwright, I believe?"
She nods. She can't believe he is considering it, not after how much he hated being on Earth the last time. But he is considering it. And she knows it is for them.
"What do you think?" She looks at him.
"I believe his first, best destiny is on a ship."
"I'm with you there, my friend. This ship in particular. But what if they won't give her to him?"
Spock steeples his fingers. He has abandoned the game, a silent statement of defeat. "They will not give him this one. She will be used as a training vessel."
"Really?" She wonders if Jim knows that. Thinks that he must, if Spock already knows. He probably didn't tell her because the thought hurts too much. Or because the Enterprise truly is out of reach now and there is no reason to even address the possibility of keeping her. He can be practical.
Jim and Len wander in and Spock puts the board away, but not before tipping one of his pieces over so she knows he is acknowledging the loss, and is not just making more room at the table.
Jim and Len sit down. The four of them will talk for a while; the sessions get longer each night. As if they know they should enjoy each other's company while they still can.
She is packing the last of her things. There is nothing left to go in the trunk so she closes it up and pulls it outside the door next to Jim's. She sees others in the corridor. The quartermaster's shop will be along soon to collect and forward them to wherever their owners end up.
She sighs. There is a trunk outside the quarters that used to be hers. She gave the rooms up last year. There was no point in holding onto them anymore. She and Jim seemed destined for the long haul, and it was a waste of resources to keep the space when she was never in it.
She goes in the bathroom, stares at her face. Five years older. But she looks happy. And maybe even younger because of that happiness.
She hears the door open, hears Jim call softly, "Chris?"
She walks out, sighs. "Stem to stern?"
He nods. He has been saying goodbye to his ship--to his other lady. No deck will have been neglected. He has been gone for some time.
She realizes with a start that she is crying, and he opens his arms to her. She rushes to him, sobbing as he holds her tightly.
"I don't want to leave."
"I know, Chris." His arms tighten around her. "We've been so happy here."
She closes her eyes. His words are what she would have said. They have been so happy here. Neither of them knows what the future will bring. Or how well they will do in it.
She thinks they are both more than a little scared.
"I love you," she says fiercely. "I will love you forever." She dares the universe to argue with that.
"I love you," he is pushing her back, onto the bed with the sheets and blankets that ships services will pick up once the crew has gone, just as they delivered them at the start of every week.
She kisses him, pulling her onto him.
Their lovemaking is frantic, almost desperate. As if with each kiss and thrust and touch they can pull some of the Enterprise inside them.
As if she can keep them safe and together.
When they finally lie quietly, he looks over at her. "I don't know what the future will bring."
"I want to say that we'll be together forever, but I don't know that. I do know I'll fight for you."
She kisses him fiercely. "I'll fight for you too."
He brushes her hair from her face, then gently strokes her cheek. "And I also know this. I will never, ever love anyone as much as I love you."
She nods. "I know. I'm not sure I could ever love anyone else after this. I think you've ruined me."
He kisses her and she feels him against her and opens her legs and this time the sex is slow and easy and full of love.
They've talked about it finally, the specter between them has a name and it's called the future.
It's scary, and it brings things they cannot see.
But they'll face it together.
She won't think of bad things. She loves Jim. He loves her. Why shouldn't that last?
They dress slowly. He grabs his bag, hefts hers onto his other shoulder. He holds out his hand and she takes it. He looks back--one last glance at the room that holds so much love. She wonders if the next occupant, whoever that might be, will feel their love still resonating in the walls and carpet and furniture.
"Let's go," Jim says as he leads her out of his quarters and to the transporter room.
And she follows him. To their future.
Whatever it may bring.