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 is copyright (c) 2003 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.
Excavating for a Mine
The air was dryer than normal, something Christine Chapel would have bet was not possible. This part of Temeris IV would give a dustbowl a run for its latinum. She slipped her eye shield on, was as glad for the anonymity the dark lenses gave her as she was for the relief they brought from the stinging grit. Fortunately, the walk from her office to the bar was a short one. Not short enough, however, to keep her from passing one of the town's more important citizens, apparently out for an afternoon constitutional, dust be damned.
Livingston cooed. As the author of the
deceiving little 'doctor needed' ad, she no doubt felt that she deserved the
credit for luring a former Fleeter out to this fleabag of a planet. Although the forests she had featured did
exist, and parts of the planet were quite pretty, the town where Chapel lived
was a desiccated, dust-ridden place. She
ended up working in the more scenic spots though, for the latinum mines that
spread like bad Verulian pox scars across the planet
were only found in the higher elevations, among the pretty trees that
But the ad hadn't been what
brought Chapel out, and if
the older woman repeated, this time with much less coo and more annoyed 'first
lady of the town of
"Mariah," Chapel said, putting as little emotion as she could into the name. As the other woman started to reply, Chapel held up her hand and shook her head emphatically. "Got an emergency. Can't talk."
"I know. Go figure." Chapel ducked through the doors of the bar,
was relieved when
"Which one's bothering you now?" Ed was watching her from the bar, his face contorting into what passed for a smile. He was at his nicest when he was talking to Chapel, and he wasn't all that pleasant to her. It was another reason she liked Temeris IV. You could be yourself on this planet, be who you really were, or be something else if you were tired of who you really were. Hell, you could be no one if you wanted. Ed fell in that camp, resolutely refusing to give out his last name. As long as he kept the liquor coming, none of his customers were going to complain.
"Mariah," she said, rolling her eyes as she leaned into the bar.
"Damned biddy. I remember when she worked off a mattress at the Lucky Strike, she sure seems to have forgotten that. Hope her husband loses the election this year. That would knock her down a peg." He slapped an empty glass in front of her. "The usual?"
She nodded and watched him pour out a finger of whiskey. She raised an eyebrow. "We having an alcohol shortage?"
"Not last time I checked."
"Then how about being a little less stingy."
He smiled tightly and poured out some more. "Sorry, didn't realize it was that kind of day."
"Shows what you know." She saw Ed's expression change, knew by the warning look he threw that someone was approaching her. She didn't turn as a man sidled up to where she stood, his bulk pushing her against the bar and the stool to her left. It, like all the other barstools, was fastened to the floor--courtesy of a day Ed got tired of his patrons using the barstools to brain each other--and between its unyielding metal and the man's overly large body, she was trapped. "You want something?"
"You the doc?"
"Depends who's asking." She slowly reached into her left pocket, drawing out the thin metal rod she made it a point to carry. She had its twin in the other pocket. You never knew which hand might be free. Turning to look at the stranger, she favored him with her best 'don't crowd me' look. "So who the hell is asking?"
"My name's not important. Are you the doctor or aren't you?" He leaned on her harder, then his eyes widened as he felt the metal rod against his throat.
Chapel could feel her heart beating faster, could feel the anger inside her trying to take hold. Control, she had to keep control. She leaned into the man, the movement might have been seductive if her tone hadn't been so deadly serious. "This is a laser scalpel. If I hit this little button here, it will cut away your windpipe in about half a second, making it pretty difficult to talk, much less breathe. I know that because as you guessed, I'm the doctor." She smiled then, knew it was a smile that effectively broadcast how little she cared about anything. "Now, you want to back the hell up or shall I hit this red button and watch you make a mess all over Ed's bar?"
He started to shake his head then seemed to think better of it. "Lady, I just need a doctor. My partner's been hurt out at the mine. I think his leg's broken." He eased away from her.
"Which mine?" Ed asked.
"The Happy Fortune." The burly man looked sheepish. "Not my idea. It was LaTral's idea. Dumb name."
"LaTral's the one that's hurt?" Chapel put the laser scalpel away, and pushed the whiskey back to Ed. "I'll be back for it."
"Right, Doc." He slapped a piece of plastic on the glass. It fitted itself to the top, forming a good seal. "It'll keep."
"Always does." She looked at the miner. "What's your name?"
She didn't ask if that was a first name or a last. It didn't matter to her. Nothing mattered to her anymore. "Well, Matson, we need to go get my gear. Then we can fix up this partner of yours. And in the future, when you need a doctor, you ask me with a little more courtesy and a lot less threat, you got that?"
"You make sure the others know that too. I don't like to be crowded," she said as she pushed on her eye shield. She saw him nod again as she led him out into the dust and across the street to her office. Grabbing her gear from inside, she turned and asked, "You have a hover?"
"My name's Doctor Chapel. If I like you, you can call me 'Doc.' And just for the record, I don't know if I like you yet."
"Right, Doctor Chapel." He led her to one of the hovers parked off the main square, held the door for her as she got in, then climbed over her, stepping heavily on her feet in the process. So much for chivalry.
She leaned back, closed her eyes as they lifted off. Judging by the state of the hover, Matson was fairly new to these parts. No doubt came out to Temeris IV to make his fortune like a thousand before him. Odds were against him being all that successful. Few struck it rich, although the ones that did tended to strike it so rich that they could get out of mining and make a life being bigwigs in Clementine or other towns on the planet. It was what Rotell Livingston and the other town council members had done--they were all former miners who had hit it fast and rich enough to leave that life forever. You could never tell by the way they acted now that they'd once been as rough as Matson here. Just like you couldn't tell that their spouses used to be far less respectable--prostitution in varying degrees being almost as popular a profession as mining on Temeris IV.
Matson glanced over at her, gave her a shaky smile. "You been here long, Doc...tor Chapel?"
"Long enough to know not to ask nosy questions."
"Oh. Okay." He busied himself with the hover's controls. "Didn't mean to intrude."
He sounded so uncomfortable that Chapel almost took pity on him. Almost. Instead she ignored him, staring out the window. She'd been on the planet for a year now; Ken had left her a little before that. She could still hear his words. "I need to find myself." Back then, she didn't ask sarcastic questions like "Don't you have to lose yourself first for that to work?" Back then she was still nice. Still sweet. Fat lot of good that did her. Her husband had needed to find himself. The next day, when she'd gone back to the apartment they had shared to pick up some things, she'd discovered the woman that he was finding himself with. Delara Nihiar had been an associate of his. One he'd traveled with extensively. One whose company he'd always made it seem like he didn't really enjoy much. He'd sure seemed to be enjoying her company when Chapel had walked in on them in bed.
She'd grown up quick that day. Pain did that for a person. Pain and humiliation. Didn't help that all her friends had known what had happened but hadn't seemed to know what to say. Some had just ignored it. Others--ones that had been their friends rather than just hers--had chosen sides. And a lot of them hadn't chosen her. She'd grown sick of the pitying looks. Tired of the carefully couched questions. And utterly frustrated with the looks she'd gotten every time she'd become the least bit angry. She hadn't been due to retire for several more years, so she'd cashed out as they used to say and searched for a world where no one would know her, or her story. Where no one would pity her. And she'd found it. No one gave a damn about her here, and that was just fine. She could be as angry as she wanted to and no one told her it was out of character, or just a phase. No one suggested she see a counselor or take some meds or maybe have a little nap. It had boggled her mind that nearly all her friends had seemed to view the anger and pain inside her as something illegitimate, something that should go away as quickly as possible. They hadn't wanted to hear about how Chapel had felt suffocated by the emotions inside her, how she had wanted to strike out at anyone and anything. Fine, they didn't have to hear about it. She'd deal with her pain her own way, far from anything or anyone she'd known before.
The hover slowed and she saw the flags that marked Matson's claim. It was in an area that had not been extensively mined. Maybe he would get lucky after all, strike it rich one day and come striding into town with latinum dust trailing from his boots. The planet was loaded with it, even if the latinum itself was elusive, the triciclimene deposits that were found in the latinum veins threw ghosts at the sensors, making the latinum impossible to find through normal 23rd century methods. So they took their laser pick-axes and started digging, hunting for the mineral the way their 19th century counterparts would have.
She looked down, saw the trees part in a clearing and realized that Matson was going to land there. He was good with the little hover, touching down gently on the forest floor. As he turned off the engine, she reached over and opened the door before he could crawl over her to do it. She grabbed her gear and strode off in the direction he indicated. As she walked, a flicker of lights through the trees caught her attention. "What's that?"
"Mountain lake," Matson said. "Nice big one. Lots of fish."
"You go swimming in there?"
"Hell, no. It's too cold. Fed by streams coming straight down from the snows."
It sounded wonderful to Chapel. She loved swimming, hadn't done it for a long time, especially not in water that cold.
"You're welcome to swim in it," Matson said.
She shot him a look, trying to figure out his motivation. "Didn't come here to swim."
He held up a hand. "You were the one that asked about swimming."
She could tell he was confused by her attitude. Again she felt bad for him. "You're right, I did. Sorry. And thanks. Maybe I will someday." She knew she wouldn't.
The mine came into sight and she saw all the signs of newcomers in the equipment that wasn't locked up, the food that was sitting out no doubt attracting hungry wild animals, and the gold pans stacked in a pile in the back. "Bought the stories did you?"
He blushed. "They said the latinum was everywhere. Panning in a creek sounded a hell of a lot easier than digging."
She laughed. "Did you happen to notice those images were left over from the Klondike Gold Rush?" The seller of the gold pans had never actually come out and said that they could be used for Temeris IV, or that they were good for panning for latinum. But he had implied it and there were plenty of new and even some old-time miners who had a stack of useless gold pans in their inventory. She pointed to the laser axes lying out in the open. "You should lock your equipment up."
"No one's going to steal it," he muttered.
"You really want to chance that? Believe me, I've seen it happen."
He didn't answer except to say, "Watch your head," as they came to the mine entrance. But she had already ducked under the low beam. "Guess you're used to getting around the mines?"
She nodded. "I'm in and out of them all the time. You'd be amazed how many ways a person can get hurt in one of these." As she rounded a corner she saw a man sitting on the floor. He was leaning back against the wall, and she could tell by the set of his jaw that he was in a great deal of pain. "You LaTral?" she asked without preamble.
"That's me," he looked her over. "You really ex-Fleet?"
"Who told you that?" She ran her scanner over his leg. Matson had been right. Nasty break.
"Stories get around. Ex-fleet docs usually don't end up somewhere like Temeris IV." He leaned forward. "Am I going to walk again?"
She shot him a look, even as she loaded a hypospray full of painkiller. "Of course you're going to walk. This may be the armpit of the galaxy, but last I checked, it's still the 23rd century."
"Barely," he said with a grin. It made him look very young, despite the dirt and dust streaked on his face. "Besides, a few more years and we'll be in the 24th. I just hope I see it." He looked down at his leg worriedly.
She relented a bit, smiled at him reassuringly. "This leg won't keep you from seeing it. Just be more careful in the future. Did you have a collapse?"
He nodded. It was an old story. If the latinum deposits had been easier to find, then the Federation mining units would have been in with their ultrasounds, and tunneling equipment, and huge laser drilling machines, and people like Chapel and Matson would never be needed. But with the triciclimene making it impossible to get a decent sensor reading on the latinum, the Federation had little interest in dedicating a unit here. Which left Temeris IV open to anyone willing to use the old-time methods-- trial and error, dig with handheld laser picks and maybe find a big vein. Even a small vein was worth something. So the miners kept looking until they found the latinum, then they cleared the area, and shored up the tunnels they created with whatever supports they could find--logs were preferred but sometimes they used junk metal or leftovers from the prefab housing units. A lot of what they put up was barely strong enough to support all that pressure bearing down and once they began digging and the vibrations started up, it could be a disaster just waiting to happen. She was surprised more people hadn't been seriously hurt over the years. She was thankful though, that they hadn't been. Crush injuries were tricky to treat, if the victims didn't suffocate first.
"Better look away," she said gently, as she numbed his leg with a local. One of the bones had snapped and slipped out of place; she needed to move it before she could begin healing his leg. It wasn't a pretty procedure to watch or to listen to. The sound of bone grating on bone didn't bother her, but she couldn't say the same for most of her patients. "This isn't going to sound nice. But it'll be over quick." She didn't wait for him to answer. With sure and careful movements, she moved the bone back to where it should have been resting. She didn't let go until she heard it snap loudly into place.
"Oh god," Matson sounded queasy behind her.
She didn't turn around. "If you're going to throw up, do it outside. If you're going to faint, sit down now." All she needed was that tree of a man toppling over on her. Why were the big ones always such babies? She heard him sit and stifled a grin, but LaTral had seen her.
"Big sissy," he mouthed. The look he shot his partner was full of affection, and Chapel briefly wondered what their relationship was. Then she remembered she didn't care. She ran the scanner over LaTral's leg again, confirmed that the bone was indeed back where it should be. Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a regenerator and began to work on the break, slowly repairing the bone, then the torn tissue around it. Finally, she went to work on the swelling. When she was satisfied with her work, she wrapped some paris-tape around his leg and watched as it set up into a hard cast. "Keep this on for a week to let the bone finish healing. I don't want any strain on it. That means no mining, you understand?"
She looked over at
Matson. "I trust you can keep him
off his feet?" When he nodded, she
put her equipment back into her bag and stood up, brushing the dust off her pants. "Okay then, I'm done here, and there's a
whiskey screaming my name back in Clementine." She grimaced as she always did when she had
to say the name of the town. Trust
Mariah to name the place after the doomed heroine in an old song about the 19th
She helped LaTral up, watched as he gingerly tried walking. Satisfied that he was going to be okay, she led them to the surface. To her irritation, that damn song was still running through her mind. Dreadful sorry, indeed. Her mood was blacker than normal, but it was nothing that a good stiff whiskey couldn't fix.
Spock sat at the extradition hearing, waiting for the decision to be handed down. He saw Kirk glance at him worriedly, then his friend looked down at Spock's hands.
"You okay?" Kirk asked softly.
Spock slowly unclenched his fingers, realized he had been grinding down with his teeth and let his jaw relax too. "Of course, Jim."
It was a lie. He knew it, and he knew that Kirk knew it too. He was not okay, had not been okay since that day he had discovered that Valeris, first his protege and later his lover, had betrayed them all. She had been responsible for the assassination of Gorkon, had worked with others to bring down everything Spock had held dear. She had tried to ruin his great plan for future peace with the Klingons, and Spock had been too wrapped up in his own dreams to notice.
He felt his jaw tightening again, forced himself to stop clenching his teeth. He saw Valeris turn around from where she sat in the accused box. She searched the crowd, her eyes finally settling on him. He thought a shudder went through her as their eyes met and she turned away. He knew why she shivered, remembered with perfect clarity that moment on the bridge when he had taken her mind, ripping through it and hurting her badly in the process. He had ignored her low mindvoice, so familiar at that point from months of melding, as she had said over and over, *Spock, no. Don't do this. I did this for you, for us. To secure our future.*
At the end she had not tried to appeal to his logic or his sentimentality. At the end her mindvoice had been screaming, even if the most her other voice had ever betrayed was a tortured groan.
He had not just hurt her, he had ravaged her, ripping and tearing in his haste and anger. She was fortunate--or not, depending on how this hearing went--to have survived with her sanity intact.
"Spock." Jim's voice cut into his memories.
Spock realized he was gripping the arm of the chair between them so hard that his fingers had turned white. He let go, tried to seek peace in an old Vulcan discipline, one for children. But the rage inside him made it difficult to still his thoughts.
The rage...and the guilt. Spock saw Valeris turn again, her eyes seeking him out as if she could not turn away. He had loved her. He had believed she had loved him. He did not doubt that even now. But she had betrayed him. His love had meant nothing to her when it came time to make a choice. Her choice had not been him. His mind went back further in time, to hot Vulcan sands and T'Pring stopping him from finalizing their marriage, calling for the challenge. Another betrayal. At least, T'Pring had never loved him. Her crime was less egregious somehow.
The panel came back into the room and Spock forced his thoughts to still, listened as the head of the group, Admiral Komax, said in a firm voice, "It is the resolved opinion of this panel that the accused, Lieutenant Valeris, shall be extradited to representatives of the Klingon Empire, to face justice for her crimes there." The admiral shook his head sadly. Spock knew this had not been an easy decision; the panel had been deliberating for hours.
"Do you have anything to say, Valeris?" The admiral waited for her answer. When she shook her head, he nodded curtly to the Klingon guards waiting, "You may take the prisoner away."
As they approached her, Valeris looked up at Spock one last time; she seemed to be pleading with him to save her. From somewhere deep inside him, fury erupted. *May you rot in that Klingon hell,* he tried to send her. He stood up and saw her eyes widen. Did she really think he would help her? Then he looked down at Kirk. "It is time to go."
Kirk nodded tightly, followed Spock out of the room and down the corridors. "Spock." He hurried to catch up. "Spock, dammit, wait."
Spock stopped but did not turn around. Must fight this anger, must gain control. His hands were clenched into tight fists again and he tried to relax, but he kept seeing Valeris's pleading eyes.
He had just let the woman he loved be led off to her death. He was not sure if that bothered him more because he did not want her to die or because he wanted to kill her himself. Anger seemed to swirl inside him, and he looked over at Kirk. "She will die in there."
Kirk pursed his lips. "Probably. Although she's resourceful. If they sentence her to Rura Pente, she might find a way to survive. Even thrive." He shrugged, in what seemed less a callous gesture than a helpless one. "They may well execute her outright, Spock."
Spock nodded. His friend had offered testimony against extradition. Kirk knew first-hand the horrors of Rura Pente, of the Klingon system of justice. He was an honorable man. Despite what he had suffered at Valeris's hands, he would not condemn her to that hell. Spock wished he could be as noble, that he could find a way to put aside the anger and hurt long enough to feel sympathy for her. But he could not. And these too-strong emotions were eating him up inside.
He saw McCoy coming down the hall. "I just heard. Is it Rura Pente then?"
Kirk looked at Spock, clearly waiting for him to answer. When he did not, Kirk nodded. "That or execution."
McCoy grimaced. "After our short stay in that garden spot, I think I'd prefer execution." He shot a look at Spock. "What do you think of all this?"
Spock gave him the most even look he could muster. "Justice has been done."
McCoy shot him a knowing smile. "Maybe I should rephrase my original question. How do you feel about all this?"
"Emotions are a human failing, Doctor." Spock raised an eyebrow. "I am fortunate to be free of such things." Even as he said it, he could feel anger and pain and guilt warring for control of him. He had a sudden urge to strike out. To hit something, perhaps to knock the tropical plant off of its stand behind Kirk, or to wipe the smirk off McCoy's face with a firm punch. He forced such thoughts away.
"No feelings, huh? Seems to be an epidemic of that going around. First Christine leaves everything she cares about and runs off to the back of beyond, and now you're acting like this doesn't bother you any more than an irregularity in one of your experiments might. I don't buy it."
"Where is Chris?" Kirk asked with a glance at Spock. He seemed to want to turn the conversation to a less volatile topic.
McCoy shrugged. "Last I heard she'd shipped out to some remote mining planet. Real primitive. Lots of trees though, looks like the forest your cabin is in." He looked over at Spock. "You don't care about any of this, I know."
"I did not realize Doctor Chapel had left."
"Why does that not surprise me?" McCoy turned back to Kirk. "I'll tell you what, Jim. I'm damn worried about her. She was so hurt, so angry when Ken left her. I've never seen her like that. Almost out of control. And then it was like she just shut down. Didn't care about anything."
"It was a shock. It's never easy to lose someone you love."
Spock could agree with that. His body still wanted Valeris, even if his heart and mind were united in hatred against her. They had very nearly bonded, were waiting until the Klingon mission was over to formalize their relationship. And all that time that she was linked with him in body or melded with him mind to mind, she had lied to him. How had she lied to him in the meld? He had loved her and she had betrayed him. Mind to mind, she had betrayed him. Spock would have thought it was impossible, realized that he understood nothing. He had thought the meld was sacrosanct. He was a fool. An ignorant fool. He could feel his teeth clenching.
Spock saw that both Kirk and McCoy were staring at him, twin expressions of worry and concern on their faces.
"Spock. Do you think maybe a leave of absence might be in order?" McCoy moved closer, his voice low and only for the three of them. "You've been working so long on this peace plan, and now this. I think it might be good for you to get away."
"I am fine."
Kirk reached down, took his hand, lifting it up and turning the palm so that Spock could see it. "If you're so damn fine, why are you bleeding?"
Spock saw the wounds on his palm, looked down and noticed green stains on his robe. He had not realized that he had torn into his own skin. How had he not noticed that?
McCoy shook his head, began to input something on the padd he carried. "That's it, Spock. Six months leave. Go back to Vulcan, or stay here on Earth. Hell go to Risa if you want, just get away for a while."
"A while is quite different than six months, Doctor. It sounds as if you are suspending me from duty."
"I could make it a year." When Spock did not respond, McCoy shook his head. "Blast it, Spock. You don't have to take the full six months. But I don't want to see you back here in less then two, is that understood?"
Spock looked at Jim, ready to argue, but the captain was wearing the expression that brooked no argument. "He's right, Spock. You need some time away. This has been harder on you than on any of us." When Spock opened his mouth to argue, Kirk leaned in and said, "Dammit, for once, just give in. We're not ganging up on you, although it might feel like it. God knows, the two of you have kicked my butt enough times in the past when I needed a break and didn't want to admit it." He shook his head. "You need to get away, to find peace, with no reminders of Valeris or Klingons. Go home, Spock. Rest." He leaned back, gave Spock a firm look. "That's an order."
"--Can wait," McCoy finished for him. "They haven't assigned you a new mission have they?"
"They have not but that does not mean that one is not waiting for me."
Kirk put his hand on Spock's shoulder, let it sit longer than anyone else would have dared. "Get some rest, some perspective. You won't be of use to anyone until you do, old friend." He sighed, and let his hand drop. "I'll see you when you get back."
Spock watched them walk away. He did not want to get some rest. He did not need perspective. What he needed was a new mission, something he could lose himself in. Something that would take his mind off Valeris and how he would like to put his hands around her throat and squeeze until her lovely eyes went dead. He looked down at his hands, saw that blood was still seeping out from beneath his tight fingers.
Sighing in defeat, he headed for his quarters. Very well, if rest was deemed necessary, if perspective was what he needed, he would gain some. But not on Earth and not on Vulcan either. He searched the federation databases, looking for the perfect planet. It was only after he made his reservations and was on the shuttle heading for the far reaches of the Alpha Quadrant that he wondered why he had started his search with the term 'mining.'
Chapel was hunkered down in her favorite booth in the back of Ed's bar. She had a cowboy hat she had liberated from the lost and found pile in the general store pulled down over her face, and was slouching, feet resting on the seat across from her. She was on her second whiskey and by her estimation needed about two more before she'd reach even mildly relaxed much less content. It had not been a good day.
She heard the door open, didn't look up to see who had come in. Then she heard Ed ask in the voice he reserved for newcomers, "Something I can help you with?"
"I am looking for someone." The voice sounded eerily familiar. But there was no way the owner of that voice was here on Temeris IV. No way. She frowned slightly, was about to turn around when she heard him say, "Is that Doctor Chapel?"
"Who wants to know?" Matson asked from his barstool. He had appointed himself her unofficial protector since their first encounter. She wasn't sure why she rated such interest from him, but it amused her and did cut down on the number of folks that harassed her in the bar for stupid reasons. Nobody wanted to try to get through her goon squad of one for just a splinter or a hangnail.
She peeked over at the bar keeping her hat low so that her face wouldn't be seen. Yep. It was Spock. And he was staring right at her. She reached for her drink.
"I served with her. We are old friends."
She snorted the whiskey she had just swallowed, felt a burning in her throat and nose and tried not to choke. Friends? Them? Yeah, right.
"Well, just don't crowd her," Matson said in his helpful voice. "She really hates that."
Some bodyguard. She waited for Spock to get to her. His booted steps sounded no different than anybody else's, boots being the footwear of choice in Clementine. He wasn't in uniform though. Why wasn't he in uniform? He was wearing casual clothes, no funky Vulcan robe, just pants and shirt like anyone else would wear. Anyone else who wasn't the great Captain Spock, savior of the universe--well co-savior, Kirk would have something to say about his place in all that--and architect of the Klingon-Federation peace treaty.
"I'm off the clock," she mumbled. Go away, Spock. I really can't deal with you.
"It is Doctor Chapel, is it not?"
"No, Spock. It's the goddamn tooth fairy." She pushed her hat up and glared at him. "What the hell do you want?"
"Your bedside manner has degenerated somewhat since we last met," he said as he sat down, deliberately knocking her feet off the seat as he did so.
She pushed herself up. "An insult, Spock?"
He did not answer, just studied her.
"Take a damn holo. It might last longer." She pulled her hat back down. Something in his expression was off, and it made her uncomfortable. Without thinking, she reached into her pocket, fingering the little laser scalpel.
"And you are the doctor here?"
"That's right. I'm the doctor. The only one in Clementine,
in fact, the only doc for this continent. Now over on the eastern side there's a Doctor
He did not move.
She leaned forward. "Show's over, Spock. I don't know why you're here, and what's more, I don't care. I just want you to go away and leave me alone."
He nodded agreeably. "Very well."
She watched as he got up slowly, bowed slightly in what she could only describe as a mocking way, and headed for the bar. Taking a seat a few stools down from Matson, he asked Ed for some water. He sipped at his water glass delicately, showing every sign of having settled in for a while. A good long while.
She pushed herself out of the booth, strode up to him and leaned in. "This is not what I meant."
"I did not think merely moving chairs was in the spirit of your words, although it does adhere to the actual language of your request."
She saw Matson frown, as if he were trying to puzzle out what Spock had just said, and figure out if there was any threat to her included in the thought. He looked over at her. "You don't like this guy, Doc?" When she glared at him, he said hurriedly, "I mean Doctor Chapel?"
"Fascinating. He is intimidated by you," Spock said under his breath. He was still looking at her, studiously ignoring Matson, who she knew he could lay down in less time than it would take her to throw back a shot of whiskey.
"Stand down, Matson." She looked at Spock, saw that he was watching her with something akin to humor. A bitter, black humor though. She didn't think she'd ever seen his eyes quite so cold. "What are you doing here?" she asked.
"I am vacationing." He took a sip of his water. The look on his face became even more sardonic. "I was told I needed a vacation, so here I am."
"You had to come here for your little holiday? To my planet?"
"Strangely enough, Doctor Chapel, that is not how it was indicated on the Federation star charts. Had it been, I might have endeavored to pass it by."
She stared at him, unsure if she was imagining the note of venom she heard in his voice. "Next time, I'll be sure to post a warning sign so you won't make that mistake twice. And now that you know I'm here, you can drink your water and go."
He turned to look at her. The dark amusement was back in his expression. She had the strangest feeling that something inside him was feeding off their interaction. Was disconcerted to realize something deep within her was also responding to it. "Get out." She walked back to her seat, pushed her hat back down and took a huge gulp of her whiskey.
She heard boots hit the floor then Ed asking, "Oh buddy, can't you just leave well enough alone?"
Six long strides later, Spock loomed over her. "You cannot tell me what to do."
"What? Are we nine years old now? She looked up at Spock, knew her expression was the mocking one she had perfected lately. "Can too." She snickered, thinking that response put them down to the range of six year olds.
He set his glass on the table and sat down.
"God, Spock. What is it about this that you don't get? I don't want to talk. Go away. Leave me the hell alone."
"I have not finished my water."
She leaned in and grabbed his water glass, downing the remaining liquid in one gulp. She slammed the empty glass back on the table. "There, you're done. Now go."
He moved like a cat, his hand capturing her wrist and pinning it firmly to the table before she could even react. "Do not do that again, Christine."
She had never heard so much menace in his voice. His skin where it touched hers felt hot, and she tried to pull away but he would not let her. She reached into her pocket with her free hand, pulled out the scalpel and held it up, igniting the laser as she did so. "You like that hand, Spock? You want to keep it?"
His eyes met hers and she nearly shivered at the emotion she saw in them. He was angry? He looked down at the scalpel and his lips curled up slightly. "You have changed, Christine. McCoy indicated you had, but I did not understand how much." He let go of her and turned his hand so it lay palm up. There were wounds, four of them, quite deep, still in the early stages of healing.
Self-inflicted, she realized. And he wanted her to know that. Why?
As she looked up at him, he said softly, "I am here for a rest, Doctor. I do not need your permission to stay." He moved his hand, she thought to get away from her but instead he pulled her hand back toward him, let his fingers linger over her skin for a moment. It was clearly a caress. But a dark one. "In fact, it would be in your best interest to stay away from me. I am not quite myself, you see." He let go of her and eased out of the booth.
"The Pon Farr," she guessed.
His expression tightened. "No. Not that. And you will not speak of that again, do you understand?"
Anger ran through her. This was her planet. She'd found it first. And how dare he try to dictate what she would and would not say. "I'm not afraid of you. And I do what I please, Spock."
He glanced down at her, his look now completely controlled. "You must, of course, behave in the manner you believe is correct, Christine."
He turned away, leaving her to wonder what the hell was wrong with him. And when he had become so comfortable with calling her by her first name. Even if each time he did it, it sounded like a threat.
Spock looked around the small housing unit. His new landlady, Mrs. Livingston, wrinkled her nose. "My, it is a little rank in here, isn't it? You give me a few hours and I'll have it smelling fresh and clean. Just needs a good airing out. It's been vacant since Ben Stillwell went back to Mars."
From the staleness of the air, Spock put that departure about five years ago. "If you can get rid of this smell, I will take it." He wasn't sure what he thought would stand as an alternative; this appeared to be the only vacant housing unit in Clementine and he couldn't stay at the hotel the entire time--the rooms might be cheap but the walls were too thin. He had heard everything that happened in town last night. And a lot happened in Clementine at night. A lot of noisy things.
Not that he had to stay in the small graceless town. He didn't _have_ to do anything. But he found he wanted to stay. The reasons for that were illogical and if he were honest with himself somewhat unsettling. But he knew that his recent interaction with Christine had awakened something, had called to all the pain and anger inside him. And they had responded.
"You know there's another fleet person here. Although I believe she resigned, not just on leave like you, Captain." Mrs. Livingston beamed up at him, clearly both in awe of his reputation and also delighted to have scored another high-ranking person for her small town.
He reminded himself that she was the council chairman's wife and no doubt a political animal herself. There were similar men and women on Vulcan as well, holding no rank of their own, but more than content to wield the power of their mate's position. "Yes, Doctor Chapel and I served together." He wondered if the story of their first encounter had reached Mrs. Livingston yet, judged by the approval she was beaming that it had not. He doubted she would be amused that her two dignitaries had behaved in such a volatile manner not five minutes after reuniting. She would be appalled, just as he should be. In fact, if he were thinking rationally, he would catch the next shuttle out of here. Aside from the Pon Farr, he had never behaved with such blatant disregard for logic. Had never pandered so to the emotions that raged inside him. He should leave.
"How long will you be staying, Captain Spock?"
He turned to her, gave her the thoughtfully composed face of a Vulcan who does not know the answer to a question. "I am unsure." Inside, confusion reigned. Why did he want to stay? This was dangerous.
This was dangerous and he found that he did not care.
He picked up his small carryall, did not want it picking up the sour odor of the habitat. "I will be back in a few hours."
In a few hours. Even such lack of specificity was unheard of. Would he back in two hours? Two point five? Three point two five? What did a few hours mean? He walked back to the main street of the town, saw Christine getting into a hover with a miner. No doubt answering a call. The bar would be a safe place to wait.
Safe? Did he feel unsafe around her? Or did he feel that he was not safe to be around. He was unsure. Just as he was unsure when he had begun to think of her as Christine and not as Doctor Chapel.
He should leave. Leave now before it was too late.
He walked into the bar. The bartender looked up and shook his head. "Well, you're a glutton for punishment, aren't you? She's not here."
"I am aware of that." Spock sat down. "My quarters are not ready for habitation."
"You taking Ben Stillwell's place?"
Spock nodded, accepting the water that the bartender set in front of him.
"Well, welcome to Clementine. The water's free here," the bartender said with a smile. "You don't even have to ask. But it would make my day if you'd order something else."
"I require nothing else."
"Yeah, I pretty much figured that." The bartender looked over at the big man that had seemed so interested in Christine earlier. "You need a refill, Matson?"
"I'm waiting for LaTral."
"Suit yourself." The bartender looked back at Spock. "You're that famous Vulcan, aren't you? Captain Spock? So you and the doc go way back?"
"Yes." Spock sipped at his water, noticed Matson had turned in their direction, was clearly listening in. He gave the man a disapproving look.
"Hey, you want to have a private conversation, get a booth. The bar is open territory." Matson moved over a stool. "I gotta say, it sure doesn't seem like you're on Doctor Chapel's list of favorite people."
The bartender laughed. "Do you think she has a list like that?"
"She likes you, Ed."
"Doesn't count. I pour her liquor."
"She likes LaTral, I think. And me."
Ed laughed harder. "She doesn't like you, Matson, she tolerates you. There's a difference."
"Okay, so it's a short list. Really short. But"--he stabbed out at Spock with a meaty forefinger--"you are definitely not on it."
"I believe you are correct in that assessment." Spock took another sip of his water. There was a time when he had been on the top of that list. When Christine Chapel's regard for him had seemed like the surest thing in his universe. He had not wanted her, but she had loved him and that had often been a balm, even if he had never taken advantage of any of the things she had offered him over the years. She was clearly not offering him anything now. Did that matter? The change in her was surprising, but was it also, in some way he did not fully understand, a disappointment? Had he needed that balm after Valeris had so completely shredded his pride? Had he thought to find healing with a woman to whom he had never even wanted to give a chance? He accepted that it might indeed be why he had come here; he knew his subconscious worked in odd ways. But now? What did he want now? That sweet, giving woman who he had rebuffed was no longer in sight. What could he possibly want from this new Christine Chapel?
"Well, she may not like you, but from where I was standing, things were getting pretty hot back there." Ed shook his head. "Guess some folks just like it a little dangerous. Didn't expect that from a Vulcan though."
Spock did not dignify the remark with a reply. He had never been one of those people. He did not engage in intimacy with a woman unless he cared deeply for her. And in his experience, other than the Pon Farr, sex was a logical way of increasing the intimacy between two partners. A way to merge passion and deep respect, and one he enjoyed immensely. He had certainly never considered it dangerous.
But he had to admit that the feelings his short encounter with Christine had dredged up were unquestionably in that category. There was an anger buried in her, an anger caused he presumed by her divorce, an anger that called to his own.
He should leave.
"I am staying here for an extended period. Do you know of any opportunities for work?" he asked.
Matson stared hard at him. 'You want to work? Aren't you on vacation?"
Spock nodded. "I believe physical labor would be a useful activity." And an excellent outlet for some of his anger. "I am very strong."
Matson looked at Spock's lean frame with disbelief. "Sure you are, buddy."
"You do not believe me?"
Matson thumped his right elbow on the bar, his fingers spread. "Prove it."
Spock resisted a sigh. How many times at the Academy had he had to arm wrestle a bigger cadet to prove he was capable of some task that required strength? He put his right arm on the bar next to Matson's, took his hand. "You realize you are at a disadvantage. Your leverage will be compromised by your seating position."
"I'll risk it." Matson tightened his fingers, waited for Spock to do the same. His eyes widened slightly at Spock's grip. "Ed, you want to do the honors?"
Ed didn't even look up as he said quickly, "One. Two. Three. Go."
Spock barely had to exert pressure to get Matson's arm down; it hit the bar with a resounding thud.
"Two out of three?" Matson asked in a stunned voice.
Ed's head shot up. He took in the tableau. "He beat you?" He laughed. "Damn. I owe you a drink. You just broke the longest winning streak in Clementine arm wrestling history. You sure you don't want something stronger?"
When Spock indicated he was sure, Matson said, "Hey, maybe you could use it to buy the doc a drink? She likes whiskey."
"So I noticed."
"Used to drink it on the rocks, but she gets called away a lot and the ice melts. She hates watered-down whiskey. Drinks it neat now." Ed seemed to realize he was passing on a little too much information and busied himself with wiping some glasses down.
"She is a good doctor?"
"The best," Ed said with a nod.
Spock suspected he would not lie about that. "She was always a fine healer," he agreed.
"Surly as hell," Ed went on. "But a great doctor. I'm sure she'll warm up to you if you buy her some expensive whiskey."
"It has worked for others?" Spock felt an odd emotional surge at the idea that she might be close to someone else on the planet.
"Well, no." Ed laughed. "But there's a first time for everything."
"So you really want a job? Because me and my partner could use some help, if you don't mind hard work?"
He looked at Matson. "When shall I start?"
"Well, how about tomorrow? We're getting close to a big vein. I can feel it in my bones."
Spock let an eyebrow rise, saw Matson grin.
"You'll see, Captain. It'll be the biggest one yet."
"You may call me Spock. And since you seem so certain, I will not doubt your word."
Another man walked into the bar, he saw Matson and smiled. "What are you doing, Johnny? Talking up our mine again?"
"This is my partner LaTral." He pointed at Spock with his drink, splashing some of it on Spock's shirt. "Spock's gonna work in the mine."
LaTral studied him. "_The_ Spock? The Spock who brought us peace so we don't have to worry about angry Klingons taking our latinum away?" He frowned. "You're going to dig with us?"
"I am on vacation," Spock said, tired of trying to explain why he wanted to work on his vacation. They had no need to know about his volatile emotional state. Or that hard work would be a very good way to make it less volatile.
LaTral seemed to accept the weak answer. "Well, okay then. I have to say, I don't really get the attraction of a dusty, airless mine shaft if you don't own the place. But suit yourself."
"Then it is settled. I shall report tomorrow?"
Matson nodded. "Be here at sharp. You can ride with us."
Spock nodded, feeling unaccountably pleased with himself at having defined how his time would be spent. Or some of it in any case.
The door opened and Christine walked in. She had dust on her pants, from treating someone in the depths of a mine, he supposed. "You're still here." She shot him a resigned look. "No shuttle till tomorrow, I guess?"
"He's not leaving, Doctor Chapel. He's gonna stay a while and mine for fun while he's on vacation," Matson said, with a grin at his partner.
Christine's eyebrow went up;
Spock found himself wondering if that was a natural gesture or if she had
perfected it for him all those years ago on the
"You have no comment?" he asked her.
"Yippee?" she said, turning to Ed. "Where's my damn whiskey?"
The bartender grabbed a plastic sealed glass and peeled the plastic off. "Here you go."
She took the drink and glared at Spock. "Stay the hell away from me." She punctuated each word with a stab of her glass at Spock, but unlike Matson did not spill a drop. Then she drained it and handed it back to Ed. "Another." As soon as he handed it back, she walked away from them, and settled into her usual booth.
"Definitely hot," Ed muttered so low that Spock wouldn't have heard it if he hadn't had Vulcan hearing.
Chapel patted Ezra Livingston on the knee. "Okay, kiddo. You're good to go."
The ten-year-old looked over at his mom. "See, I told you she was nice."
Mariah Livingston looked distinctly uncomfortable. "I never said she wasn't, Ezra."
"Yes, you did. At dinner the other night when you told Dad that--ow!"
"That will be quite enough." She simpered. It was not a pretty expression. "Children repeat everything out of context, don't they?"
Chapel shrugged. "They tell it like it is, that's for sure." She rather enjoyed seeing Mariah squirm. "He's good for his inoculations. And this should help his cough." She handed the woman a bottle of cough syrup. "Try to keep him out of the mines when he's got a cold. All that dust isn't helpful when he's sick."
"Oh, that's easier said
than done, Doctor."
Way ahead of you on that one, sweetie. Chapel kept working on the padd, so that Mariah wouldn't see her smirking as she said. "Yes, I heard that."
"You two know each other?"
"Well, I was thinking that maybe you could encourage him to stay...you know, permanently."
Chapel gave her a sour look. "Why would I want to do that?"
"You don't like him?"
Chapel sighed. She was trapped. Either way
She prepped the room, which consisted of spraying down the exam table, and called for her last patient of the day.
It was LaTral. "Hey, Doctor Chapel. It's been a week, and I wasn't sure how to get this thing off."
"How's the leg feel?"
"Great. Good as new. Maybe better." He grinned as he hopped up on the exam table. "I can't wait to get back to the mine. I mean, Spock's working out well and all, so no worries there. But I miss the work, the excitement."
She took in his black pants and white shirt. "The dust?"
He laughed. "Well, maybe not that. It's been kind of fun to wear regular clothes again." He pulled up the leg of his pants. "So how are you?"
"I'm fine." She bent down and carefully cut the cast with a small laser saw. It stopped as soon as it sensed flesh instead of manmade material. She gently moved his leg and worked on the other side.
"Johnny said you were admiring the lake."
"Johnny?" She pulled the cast pieces away from his skin, working them carefully so she wouldn't tear any skin.
She laughed as she ran a scanner over his leg. "Oh, my faithful bodyguard. Didn't know Matson had a first name."
"Sure he does. Don't you?"
She smiled. "Yes."
"But you aren't going to tell me." He shook his head. "I could just ask Spock."
She looked up at him, struck again by how young he seemed. "What do you want, LaTral?"
He smiled. "I have a first name too. It's Rene." His smile grew; he had to be aware of how disarming it was. "I just wanted to say you should come up and swim. It's a good lake. Or you could have lunch with us sometime."
"I'll think about it." She pulled his pant leg down. "You can get down now. You're all fixed."
"You won't think about it. But that's okay." He took a few tentative steps, then smiled. "You're good, Doc."
She didn't correct him on her title. "Any first year medical student could have done what I did."
"Not with your finesse." He smiled again. "I'm a fan, Doc. You're not going to get rid of me or Matson very easily."
"Lucky me," she said as she rolled her eyes. "Now, git. I have things to do."
"Okay." He stopped at the door. "See you at the bar later?"
"Is there anything else to do here?"
He grinned wickedly.
"Forget I asked." She watched him leave, realized after he was gone that she was grinning. Shaking her head, she cleaned up the exam room and headed for her office. She had about an hour's worth of work if she wanted to do it tonight. She glanced across the street to the bar. It looked so inviting, bright lights shining into the early evening gloom. Ed had upgraded his lighting again, she realized. Before too long he'd be rivaling the Vegas strip or the pleasure sector on New Bangkok.
She decided to call it a day. The wind had died down and for once no dust blew into her eyes as she crossed the street. The bar was only moderately crowded, Spock standing with Matson and LaTral. He and Matson were both covered with dust. She ignored them, saw LaTral wink at her even as he moved closer to his partner. She shook her head and took her drink over to her favorite booth, which was currently occupied by a group of teenagers.
"You're in my booth."
Three of the boys slid out and hurried off to another table. But the last one, a new kid she didn't recognize looked around the booth with a sulky arrogance and said, "I don't see your name on it."
"It's there, if you know where to look. Now get out."
"Maybe you should come in here and show me."
"Perhaps we both should?" Spock answered for her.
"I don't need your help," she said, trying not to sound shrill. She turned to face Spock and realized he was standing too close, much too close. "You're covered with dust, get away from me." She took a step back, toward the booth.
"I doubt that bothers you, Christine. You are in and out of the mines all day. I think something else is bothering you." Spock took a step toward her, forcing her back. Another step and he had her pinned against the table. "LaTral said to bring you this." He held up a general store package.
She took it from him, looked inside. A bathing suit. Of course. And it looked like her size too. She closed her eyes, tried to keep her voice controlled. "Fine, you've brought it to me. Now get away from me."
"As you wish." He waited a second too long before turning and heading back to the bar. She could tell he had known he was making her uncomfortable and that he was enjoying it. What the hell was wrong with him?
"That was weird," the kid in her booth said.
"Get the hell out. Now." She felt the anger rise, the anger she hadn't been able to conjure the first time she'd told him to clear out.
The kid turned white, slid out of the booth quickly. "Get a grip, lady, it's just a booth."
She sat down, took a deep gulp of the whiskey. "It's my booth," she muttered to herself. "My booth, my planet." She glared over at Spock, wished she could scare him off as easy as she had the teen squatter. So far it did not look like much of a prospect. Like it or not, Spock was here. She just prayed it wasn't for very long.
She finished her drink and gestured to Ed to bring her another--a triple this time. It was going to take a hell of a lot of whiskey to turn this into a good night.
"Time to call it a day, Spock," LaTral yelled down the passageway to him. "You're putting us all to shame, buddy. Even Johnny can't keep up with you."
Spock turned back, saw that he had indeed cleared a great deal of property. He put the laser axe down and wiped his face. To his surprise, he was enjoying himself. There was something soothing about landing the solid blows, keeping a rhythm as he swung then rested. And there was no reason to hold back. He could strike hard. As hard as he wanted. For once, his emotions worked for him, urging him on.
"We're going to the bar. You coming?" Matson picked up Spock's laser axe to put it away for the night.
Spock nodded. He knew his former shipmates would be shocked that he would spend any time in a bar, much less as many hours as he had been spending at Ed's. He liked the company, the way they expected nothing from him, letting him be if he did not want to talk, welcoming him into the conversation if he had something to say. And he liked to watch Christine. She was part of the group, yet apart. Like he was. It fascinated him. When had she become such a loner? He remembered her as being close to other women in the crew, but here she appeared to have no close friends.
And when had she become someone that could scare burly miners. Not just out of her booth, he'd seen them give way to her in other matters. Spock wondered what she said. Or did something show in her eyes? The same thing he saw when she was angry with him? It was anger. Pure, unadulterated rage. He recognized it as the same thing he was fighting inside himself. He wished he had asked McCoy about her. What had happened to her marriage? He knew divorce was difficult but this seemed like more.
His interaction with her the night he had given her LaTral's present had left him feeling deeply satisfied, much as he used to feel when he won a point in the eternal round of insults that he and McCoy engaged in. He had put her off balance, and he had enjoyed it.
And she had smelled so pleasant. A mix of medical soap and perfume and her own natural scent. Spock had noticed that her scent grew stronger the angrier she had become. It had been what made him move closer to her, made him push her back against the table. He had enjoyed that moment, her scent growing, her eyes dilating as her emotions grew, gathered strength. A small part of him had said to move back, to give her room. But he had ignored that more rational part. He did not know if it was the primitive Vulcan buried deep within him or the Human that wanted to push her, wanted to see what other emotions he could provoke. And he was not sure he cared.
But he knew that there was a point after which this would no longer be harmless. There was a line he should not cross, no matter how much he might enjoy pushing her. So tonight he would leave her alone just as he had left her alone the night before and the night before that and the night before that. She would sit in her booth, and he would stay at the bar, and they would ignore each other as if there was a galaxy between them and not just a hard wood floor.
The hover ride to town was short and he followed Matson and LaTral into the bar. He saw Christine at the bar instead of her booth, which sat empty. Curious. She was smiling at him in an odd way. It was not a welcoming expression. Indeed, it struck him as more predatory than anything else. He turned away, took the water that Ed offered him, tried to ignore her as she moved close to him.
"I understand now," her voice was low, husky. As if she was trying to seduce him. "I made some calls. Got the scoop on what's been going on in your life." She drank from her glass deeply, then put it down. "What was her name? Valerie?"
He could feel his mouth tighten. Do not go there, Christine.
"No...Valeris. Yes, that was it." She had been looking down, now she looked up slowly, staring at him forcefully, her expression taunting. "The biggest traitor Star Fleet has ever known was in your bed, Spock? That is too rich." She grinned. "You were screwing her and you didn't even know."
"Leave it alone, Christine."
She leaned in close, moved her face languidly along his until she was whispering in his ear. "Don't like to hear about her, do you? But you're going to. Every damn day until you go away. This is my planet. I don't want you here."
She took the water glass and put it down on the bar. "Spock was just leaving." She smiled as she turned him to face the door. "Forever," she said so low that only he could hear.
He gripped her hand hard. "We are both going. Good night."
A chorus of good nights followed as he pulled her out into the street. Her shock wore off as soon as the door slammed behind them. She tried to pry his hand off her. "Let go of me," she said as she gave up on moving his hand and reached toward her pocket.
"Not twice, Christine. What was that saying of Mister Scott's?" He pushed her up against the wall of the bar, pinning her hand before she could reach her little scalpel. "Shame on you, shame on me? Is that not how it went?"
She squirmed and the movement was like an electric shock against his body. He leaned against her harder. "What will you do now? You cannot use your laser scalpel. And your bodyguard appears to have abandoned you."
"I don't need Matson." She twisted one way then another. Her knee came up and he moved quickly to avoid it. She had the opening she needed, pulled out the scalpel and said, "Give me a reason, Spock."
He stared at her, putting every inch of Vulcan disdain in his expression as he said, "It is understandable that your husband left you." Then he let go of her, turned around, and headed to his house.
He heard her coming up behind him as he rounded the corner and headed the two blocks to his small house. "Go to bed, Doctor Chapel, you have nothing that I want." He heard her stop, thought he heard her sob. Why did it feel good to hurt her? Why did it make him feel alive, aroused? Why did he want to pull her to him and touch her and insult her until there was nothing left to say, or to touch...or to kiss?
To kiss. He wanted her.
He opened his door, turned as he heard her coming up fast behind him. There were tears in her eyes, but she was not crying. He knew the difference between angry tears and tears of sadness. She was definitely in a rage.
"You bastard," she said softly, the scalpel activated and shining in the low light of the front room as it came flashing down at him. He knocked it away as easily as he had knocked the phaser out of Valeris's hand in sickbay that night when they had finally trapped her, finally found unequivocal proof of her involvement. The night his world had blown apart.
Christine looked at the scalpel, as if assessing whether she could get it before he could get her.
"Go home, Christine. You cannot hurt me." He knew she would take it as a dare.
"Did she love you, Spock?" Christine was breathing hard, her eyes were wild.
He had never seen her look more alluring. "She did."
"She didn't love you. She was just using you." She stepped closer to him. "After all, no Vulcan woman wants you for very long." Her smile was a slow, evil thing. He could tell that she knew she had drawn blood with that one.
He reached behind her and slammed the door shut. "What about human women, Christine? Do they want me for years? Or do they forget that they once would have given anything to be touched like this?" He grabbed her, pulled her close.
She didn't answer, just stared at him, tears in her eyes, breathing hard, her body pressing hard against him.
Let her go, the small voice inside him said. Let her go.
He ignored it. Kept seeing Valeris's scornful face as she'd faced him down on the bridge, so sure he would never hurt her.
She had been wrong. He had hurt her.
"You can have me now, Christine. Do you not want me? Want this?" He pushed her against the door and kissed her hard. Then he pulled away, let her go. "Get out."
Her eyes were like obsidian sapphires, the pupils so dilated that he could not see any blue at all. "Screw you," she hissed, as she walked up to him.
He took a step toward her, meeting her. "As you wish."
"Bastard," she said, as she pulled his face to hers.
"Inaccurate," he replied just before their lips met.
The kiss was like touching an unshielded power cable. Electrical current seemed to sizzle and snap between them. He could taste her anger as she opened her mouth to him, feel her rage as she pushed her body against his, grinding in a frenetic motion as he bent her backwards. He heard a groan, realized he had made the sound. He turned her and pushed her into the bedroom, tearing her clothes off even as he maneuvered her to the bed. She undid his pants then looked up at him. "I hate you."
He nodded. "I accept that."
She yanked his pants off with one firm movement, tore the rest of his clothes off and pulled him down to her as she fell backward to the bed. Her legs came up, wrapping around him as he kissed her, bit at her neck, her lip. The feel of her skin against his, the taste of her mouth, her scent coming up and surrounding him, it was all too much. He moved slightly, found his way into her, nearly lost control at the sensation she was provoking as she tightened around him. He fought to maintain some mastery of his own will; he did not want to hurt her, not that way. She was human, not Vulcan. Not that he had ever been this way with Valeris. Theirs had been a logical mating filled with regard. Not this hot, turgid, completely mindless lust that was threatening to strangle him as he moved faster and harder inside Christine. She was clawing his back and he looked down at her, forced himself to make sure she was all right.
Her head was thrown back and she was flushed. She suddenly clenched around him and cried out. As he watched her, spasms shaking her body, he increased his movements. She held on to him, her arms thrown around his neck, her short fingernails again digging into his back. He cried out loudly as he reached completion, his thrusts coming harder than ever. When it was over, he rolled off of her, laid next to her on the bed. Close but not touching.
She looked over at him. Her eyes were languid but he thought he saw confusion and some deep sadness there as well. She seemed to be considering something, and he could not tell what it was. Then she closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, he saw the Christine from the bar.
"Better than Valeris?" she asked scornfully. Her eyes darkened, as she rolled over and stared down at him. "You were certainly better than I expected." She started to rise.
He reached out and stopped her, his hand in her hair causing her to grimace. "We are not finished here."
"That's not your decision to make." She tried to pull away but winced again when he did not release her hair.
Pulling her close to him, he leaned over so he was covering her body with his own. He let go of her hair, reached down and began to stroke her.
"I hate you," she whispered.
"You have already indicated that." He kissed her deeply, hungrily, as if he could not get enough of her. "I am not overly fond of you either, Christine. But your talent in bed seems to offset your rather unpredictable personality." She bucked under his touch and he felt his own body responding. He wanted her again. Wanted her so much. Too much? that little voice inside of him whispered. Let her go, it seemed to say. But it was drowned out by the feeling of Christine reaching for him, her hand encircling him, bringing him pleasure, so much pleasure.
Pleasure that was supplanted by a greater one as she took him into her mouth. The sensations overwhelmed him, warm and firm, moist and tight, so tight. He threw his head back, his hand again finding her hair, this time to caress and stroke, not restrain. "Yessss," he hissed, the sound not something he knew he was even capable of making.
She slid up his body, her flesh cool as she rubbed along his own hot skin. Climbing on top of him, she impaled him inside her. "Spock," she moaned, and he was not sure if she knew that she had cried out his name.
He reached up, let his hands roam her body, touching and stroking and pinching lightly. She began to buck again, and he felt himself stiffen and explode as she clenched around him. She collapsed on top of him. A moment later she pushed herself off him and crawled to the top of the bed.
He felt cold after having her warmth surrounding him. Looking over at her, he saw that she was staring at him, her expression unreadable. Her skin was flushed, her hair slightly damp. He reached out, saw her flinch. "Christine?"
He had the sudden thought that this was a moment that could change everything, and Christine seemed to realize that. She pushed herself off the bed, and grabbed her clothes.
He sat up. "I will not try to stop you. There is no cause for panic." He could hear scorn settling back into his voice.
"I'm not panicking. I'm disgusted. I want out of here." She hurried out to the other room and he heard her rustling around behind the chair for her scalpel. Then the door opened and slammed behind her.
He lay where he was for a long time, not moving, trying not to think about what had just happened. But he kept replaying it in his mind. He swallowed, realized his mouth was unbearably dry. Going into the bathroom, he splashed water on his face, then drank deeply, filling the cup over and over. As he stared at himself in the mirror, he wondered where the Spock he had thought he was had gone. He had just had sex with a woman who hated him, who he did not even know if he wanted other than in the way he'd just had her. Who was he that he could do this? And why wasn't he more concerned? Why was he still thinking of how he would like to pull her to him and--
He turned off the light, cutting access to a reflection that gave him no answers. Walking into the bedroom, he crawled onto the bed, breathing deeply as he tried to find her scent on the bedspread. Once he found it, he pulled the rest of the spread over himself and let the warmth of the covers and the smell of Christine lull him into an uneasy sleep.
Chapel looked away as Spock walked past her office. It had been nine days since that night...that awful-- She couldn't finish the thought. It hadn't been exactly awful. If she weren't feeling so downright dirty, she'd be more willing to admit that it had been the best sex of her life. Not the warmest sex of her life though, it had stung when he had rolled off her, so clearly not wanting to touch her. As if he couldn't get away from her fast enough. But then he had reached out for her? What was that all about? Had he been offering comfort?
Because comfort sure didn't seem to go with the sex--sex that had pure anger as the fuel. She'd never expected to see Spock lose control that way...only, he hadn't really lost control, it was as if he were in control at a different level. When he had been on top of her, thrusting hard, she'd had a moment's fear that he would hurt her. But he had not, he had eased off just enough that the pain she had been starting to feel disappeared. There had only been sensation then, sensation that had rocketed through her and turned into pure erotic bliss.
She could feel her cheeks heating up as she thought about him, knew she was blushing.
Have to forget what happened. It won't happen again. Not ever. I hate him.
And, as he'd said, he wasn't overly fond of her. End of story. Time to forget and move on. Or try to forget and move on. Or forget about forgetting, just get with the moving on. She should not be thinking about this nine days later. Nine days that he'd avoided her as studiously as she'd avoided him. It should not be on her mind as she lay in her bed at night. Should not be something remembered when she was alone and touching herself. She needed to focus on what was real, not this lurid moment that had been nothing but pure fantasy driven by unadulterated one hundred percent lust. That's all it had been. Lust. Because she had been missing sex; she hadn't been with a man for over a year, and that was a long time to go without.
Spock hadn't really been that good. Had he?
She heard the front door open and the sound of boot steps approaching. "I'll be right out."
"No need," Spock said as he stepped into the office.
"He appears, like Adonis fresh from the morning dew." She rolled her eyes to show him how much she didn't mean that.
"I wanted to make sure you were unharmed by our..."
"Screwing fest the other night?" Would two times qualify for a fest? She looked away, back at her padd. "I'm fine. And nice of you to wait over a week before you asked me." She looked up.
"You appeared to be fine when you ran out into the night." He sat down, stared at her hard.
She felt something flutter in her abdomen. It was unfair that all it took to make her respond was for him to look at her that way. The way he had that night. That night that must never happen again.
She stood up abruptly, walked into the other room. "Do you need a doctor? Because unless you do, you have to go now. I need to lock up."
"I am not ill."
"Then get out," she said, her voice loaded with everything caustic and mean. "I do not want to see you in here unless you have a medical emergency."
He walked over to where she stood, seemed to think about that for a long moment, then he gave a strange little sigh, and walked out.
She made sure her medicines were secure, turned off the lights, and walked out, nearly colliding with Spock. "What the hell?"
"You did not say that I could not wait for you out here." He turned away so he would not see the code she pressed into the alarm pad.
"Why can't you just go away?"
"I am uncertain of that myself." He moved aside as she turned to walk across the street. "The bar? We did not do so well there the last time."
She glared and slipped around him, heading off toward the residential area. He was following her even though he lived on the other side of town. "Stop it, Spock."
"Stop what?" He stayed just behind her, following on her heels as she tried to think of somewhere else to go but her house.
She saw the general store, thought about going in there to shop, to bore him so much he would wander away. But her feet wouldn't turn in and she realized she didn't really want to lose him. She also realized she was breathing hard, that her face was flushed and her body felt as if it was burning up inside. No, this is bad. Wrong. I shouldn't do this.
She turned to look at him and he stared back, his look implacable and totally focused on her, her face, her body as he raked his eyes up and down her. "Keep walking, Christine," he said softly, and she turned and moved more quickly to her house. She paused at the doorway, felt him come up behind her, his breath hot on her neck.
"Do you still hate me?" he asked, his voice barely more than a murmur.
"It is irrelevant," he replied.
She turned to face him. He was standing so close, his lips nearly touching hers. "Why?" she asked, unsure if she was talking to him or to himself. "Do you love me?"
"I do not." His tone was completely dispassionate.
"Do you even know what love is?" She could tell by the look in his eyes that he did know. She tried not to react, tried to keep from showing him that it hurt, but she could tell that she wasn't fooling either of them.
He shook his head slightly, as if chiding a slow-witted child. "Why do you ask questions when you already know the answers?"
"Why do you want to screw someone who hates you?"
He smiled then, it was only a small upward tilt of his lips, but it was a smile. "I have had little luck with those who I believed cared for me. How can this be any worse?" He took the half-step forward that brought their bodies together.
She moaned as he leaned against her.
"Are we going to do this in the doorway, Christine?"
She shook her head, felt a strange despair fill her as she backed away. He shut the door behind him and reached for her. As his hands touched her, despair gave way to throbbing desire, desire that had never quite gone away since their first night.
He pulled her in close, drawing her against him and running his hands roughly down her body. "I wanted it to be here, do you know why?" He kissed her hard.
She found it impossible to think while he was kissing her, closed her eyes and clung to him, matching his passion, his ferocity.
He pulled away, tilted her chin so she was looking into this eyes. "I wanted it to be here, so that I could be the one to leave when I have had enough. That should not be solely your right." He kissed her again, and again. "I do not think that it will be after only two times however. Tonight, I am very hungry." He pushed her against the doorway, pulled down her pants. "Very hungry," he said again as he knelt, his head pressed against her, his tongue lapping fiercely at her.
Her legs nearly give out as he began to suck at her. "Spock," she moaned, then was immediately embarrassed that she had called out his name. Her legs began to shake and he pulled her down to the ground, drawing her hips closer to him and resuming his licking, then he began to touch her with his hand as the other caressed her breasts through her shirt. She felt as if she was going to explode, but each time she was almost there, he stopped, raising his head to watch her, his fingers moving in lazy motions that kept the heat on but did not send her over the edge. How did he know how close she was, and when to stop? They had not melded.
"Vulcans are touch telepaths," he said softly, as he bent down to taste her again. "And you are an excellent broadcaster." Over and over he brought her to the brink, then pulled back, waiting as she settled enough to begin again. He didn't let her come until she asked him, practically begged him to. Then he took her to the edge and right over. It was a long, lovely fall down.
Before she hit bottom, he was inside her, pumping hard against her. She closed her eyes and lifted her hips, trying to match his passion. She thought she heard him call her name and opened her eyes. He was glaring down at her, his hands on either side of her head as he thrust harder and harder until he came. This time she was sure he called her name.
He rolled off of her as he had the other time. Lay just out of reach of her touch as he recovered. She turned to look at him, realized that even though he was little more than an arm's length away, his emotions were much farther than that.
"Was she so good? Your Valeris?" She didn't know why she asked it, had given up trying to control anything that her body or mind might do when he was around.
"I loved her," he said simply.
Chapel had never felt so cold.
"But the sex was never like this. This is better."
"Hooray for me, I screw
better." She turned to him, saw his
features fall into the frozen mask he had worn so many times on the
"You asked, Christine. I merely gave you the truth. If you do not wish to hear the answer, then you should not have asked the question."
"I'll remember that, Spock. Trust me. I won't ask again." She closed her eyes, squeezed back tears.
She could sense him moving closer to her. His breath was warm on her face, then his lips touched her cheek. "Am I better than your husband?" he asked, and she wondered if he was doing it because he was truly curious, or if he wanted to give her a chance to even the score. For all that he surprised her with his capacity for cutting cruelty, he did seem to retain some basic fairness at his core.
She turned so that they were kissing, long deep kisses full of passion and very little tenderness. "Ex-husband. And yes, you are," she whispered. She watched his face as she said it, saw his pleasure at the answer. "But I never felt dirty after sleeping with him." She felt a frisson of triumph when his jaw tightened.
He pushed away from her, lay on his back and stared up at the ceiling. "Do you want me to go?" He turned his head, looked over at her. "I will go if you ask me to." His expression was even, but his eyes burned. She could tell he still wanted her, that this night would be even better than the first one. Unless she told him to go. She knew somehow that if she told him to go, he'd never come back, might even leave Temeris IV for good finally. And wasn't that what she wanted? Him gone, for good?
He stretched and his hand fell between them as he arched up. She slowly crawled over to him. He watched her through half-lidded eyes as she moved closer. Finally she was lying next to him and she rolled to her side. He moved so that he was on his side, facing her. "Do you want me to go?" he asked again.
She scooted in, lifting her leg so that it was over his, opening herself to him. He smiled again, that barely there smile that only she could see. Smiled and moved to find entry.
"Enough talking," she said as she wrapped her arm around him. "Can we get back to the sex?" She kissed him, hard, passionately, angrily. She'd make him pay for what he'd said, just as he would make her pay for what she'd said. It was ugly and dark and bad and it was the best sex she'd ever had. She wasn't going to be the one to call it off. She wasn't going to be the one to blink first. "So how hungry are you?"
When he started to answer, she laid her finger on his lips. "No words, stupid. Show me."
His eyes narrowed for a moment at the name she had called him. Then he pulled her to him and kissed her. Kisses so deep and hot that she thought she would drown in them if he didn't let her up soon. She heard him moan and smiled.
It was going to be a hell of a long night. She only hoped they eventually made it to the bed.
Spock hacked at a large stone blocking their progress, the laser on his axe engaging as it made contact with the stone, cutting deeper than he could have done on his own.
"You're a machine, my friend," LaTral said, as he hit the counterstrike. "Trying to keep up with you is a whole new concept in exercise."
"Shall I slow down?"
"Hell, no. I'm going to have muscles that rival a Tarkellian weightlifter in no time." LaTral grinned. "Been slight all my life. It'll be fun to have some brawn of my own. I won't have to rely on Johnny to do my fighting." Then he laughed. "Not that I've made any enemies on this planet. Or none that I know of anyway. The only one that seems to dislike me is the doc. But then, I'm not sure she likes anyone."
Spock chose not to comment.
LaTral's smile grew bigger. "But you like her, don't you?" When Spock did not answer, he shook his head. "Oh, I know. It's complicated. Isn't it always?"
"I do not know. Is it always?" Spock hit the rock harder, determined to move the stone before he finished for the evening.
"In my experience, romance usually is."
Spock thought about the nights he had been spending with Christine. He would not call their interactions romantic. "I believe you have misread the relationship between Doctor Chapel and myself."
LaTral made a disparaging sound. "Right." He lowered his axe. "You're not going to crack that tonight, Spock. Let's knock off for the evening. Christine's probably waiting for you."
"She does not wait for me."
"Uh huh. And you don't look for her first thing we walk in the bar either." LaTral shook his head. "Come on, time to go back."
Spock gave the rock several more solid hits then headed up the tunnel. Matson had already packed up his and LaTral's axes. He took Spock's and locked it up with the others, then they made their way to the hovercraft, riding in a companionable silence back to town. As they walked into the bar, Spock looked over to see if Christine was in her booth. She was.
"I rest my case," LaTral murmured.
Spock turned to him, his eyebrow slowly rising. LaTral looked as self-satisfied as McCoy always did when he won an argument.
Knowing there was no point in trying to argue, Spock settled for saying quietly, "If you will excuse me?"
LaTral waved him off, turning away to join Matson at the bar. Spock walked slowly to the booth, trying to judge Christine's mood before he got to her. She was covered in dust and sitting rather stiffly in the booth. She appeared to be very tired.
"May I join you?"
"No," she said, not even looking up at him.
He slid into the seat opposite her.
"Your hearing gone bad?" She drained her whiskey. As she put the glass back down, Spock noticed a long scratch on her arm.
"You are injured?"
She saw what he was looking at and shook her head. "It's nothing."
"You are unusually dirty as well."
She brushed at some of the dust that clung to her dark shirt. "There was a collapse. It was...it was worse than I expected. We were digging out the miners and the supports kept giving out, dirt was trickling down the walls and from the supports, and it was hard to breathe because of all the dust." She played with her glass, took a deep breath as if she was still having trouble getting enough air. "Part of the mine fell in on us. We had to dig our way back out." She was speaking in a tone completely devoid of emotion, staring sightlessly at her empty glass. "We didn't know how much of it had collapsed at first. We just had to dig. It didn't take long to dig out. It just seemed like longer when we were doing it. Nobody got hurt. Not really." She turned to signal for another whiskey and Spock saw a long scrape on her neck. It was bleeding slightly where it disappeared into her shirt, and he realized the material was slightly darker where the blood had soaked in.
"Why have you not treated your injuries?"
"We just got back, Spock. I wanted a drink." She took the whiskey Ed brought over to her. "And now I'm having another."
Ed put a glass of water down in front of Spock. "You missed all the excitement, Spock."
"Yes, so it would seem."
Ed nodded toward the bar. "Calhoun just came in, Doc. He says the mine collapsed completely about fifteen minutes after you left. Nobody was inside, fortunately."
Spock thought he saw Christine shudder.
Ed did not seem to notice her reaction. "Calhoun's packing it in. Tired of digging for nothing. There'll be someone to take his place in a week." Ed shrugged. "Can't get too attached to anyone here, that's for sure." He seemed to realize that Christine was not paying attention to him. "You okay, Doc?"
She nodded, her face expressionless. Frowning slightly, Ed left them alone. Christine sat silently for several seconds then she drained her whiskey and slid out of the booth. As she started to stand, she grimaced and reached for her back, then dropped her hand when she saw Spock watching her. "Good night." She turned and walked away.
He eased out of the booth and followed her. Her shirt seemed to be stuck to her back, and he noticed darker stains on the fabric there too. As she walked out the door, she turned around and said, "Leave me alone." But she seemed to lack her usual vitriol, and was breathing hard, sucking in large gasps of the night air.
As she started to turn away, he steered her toward his house. "I am closer."
"I don't want to fight tonight."
"Nevertheless, we no doubt shall." When she still resisted, he said, "You cannot treat the wound on your back by yourself."
"I don't need your help." She shrugged off his hand.
"On the contrary, you do need my help, unless there is someone else who can assist you?"
She turned to glare at him. "I'm dirty and I smell bad."
He had to agree with her assessment. "I have a shower."
She did not answer, just turned and walked to his house. He eased around her, opening the door and taking her med bag from her as she walked past him. Leading her to the bathroom, he located the regenerator in the satchel.
She unbuttoned her shirt, tried to draw it off and hissed in pain as it tore away from her back. When she turned, he saw a long gash running from her shoulder blade to the small of her back. A much larger bruise was already forming around the torn skin. "A support hit you?" he asked as he began to work on the wound.
She nodded. Again she seemed to shudder, and he did not think it was at his touch.
"Are you claustrophobic?" he asked softly.
"Not until today." She did not seem inclined to say more, so he worked in silence. When he finished, she took the regenerator from him. "I can do the rest myself."
He nodded, turning away from her and stepping into the shower to wash off the day's dirt and sweat. A few minutes later, she stepped into the shower. "I'm in here. Is that what you wanted?"
He nodded, moved to the side so she could squeeze past him. Standing under the cascading water, she stood staring at him, the blood running off her now undamaged skin, changing the water to pale red.
Her expression tightened. "Aren't you going to get out?"
"Fine, then I will." She tried to get past him, but he blocked her escape.
"Wash your hair," he ordered softly.
She stared at him angrily, tears coming to her eyes.
"Wash your hair," he said again, his voice implacable even as he wondered why he could not just move aside and let her go.
She backed up, so that she was under the water again and squeezed out shampoo, spreading it through her hair quickly. Once she had rinsed off, he held out the soap, waited for her to take it from him before saying, "Slowly this time."
For a moment, he thought she was going to throw the soap at him. Then she closed her eyes, her breath again coming in a long shuddering gasp, and began to run the bar over her body. She opened her eyes, staring hard at him. He did not look away. When she set down the soap, he drew her to him, his body sliding against her slick one as he pulled her closer to him, kissing her hard. He felt her arms slip around his neck, her mouth opening beneath his. He pulled up one of her legs and pushed inside her, moving against her with a slow, easy rhythm.
She moaned and kissed him again, her hands running through his hair. He held her more securely, as he kissed the place on her neck where she had been hurt, his free hand stealing down to slip between them, touching her until she cried out. A moment later, he did too. He pulled away from her, pushing her back into the warm stream of water to rinse off what was left of the soap, rinsing himself off too once she was done.
She followed him out of the shower silently, and he noticed that her eyes were drooping.
She frowned at his scrutiny. Asked sharply, "Are we done for the night?" It had become a matter of honor that whoever was the visitor could not call time.
He decided he was not ready for her to go. "No."
She nodded, looked down.
He took the towel from her, led her to the bedroom. Sitting on the bed, he told her to lie down near him.
She did not argue as she stretched out on her back.
"Close your eyes. Do not speak."
She stared at him for long time before she did as he said. He watched her in silence; she seemed to be waiting for him to say more. When he did not, she appeared to relax. A few moments later, she dropped into a light sleep.
He watched her as she slept, knew that she would not have closed her eyes if she had realized how tired she was. This was a weakness, to lie naked like this in front of him.
As the hours passed, he resisted the urge to run his hand over her body, settled for remembering what it felt like to touch her. He had committed the map of her body to memory, knew the contours for every gentle curve, the degree of each sharp angle. He knew where to touch her to give her great pleasure; he also knew where to touch if he wanted to inflict a little pain. It was wrong to want to inflict pain, even if it was small and insignificant pain. But she responded to it, and he enjoyed it when she responded. He did not think she would respond to pain tonight though. She seemed unusually vulnerable, moaning in her sleep, moving restlessly on the bed. He wondered if she was dreaming about dark, airless caves.
She jerked awake and sat up, her eyes bleary. "What time is it?"
"It is early."
"You mean late." Her tone was sharp; she seemed to realize how vulnerable she had been, sleeping near him.
He nodded. "Late in the night, early in the morning. Which is less offensive?"
She looked away. "Neither. They both offend." Suddenly modest, she pulled the bedspread over her, wrapping it around her as she sat and stared at him. "Can I ask you something?"
He moved closer to her, pulled the material away and began to kiss her. "Do not hide from me."
"Fine. Can I ask you something?"
He stopped kissing her neck, said softly, "It has not been my experience that you need permission to interrogate me." When she did not respond, he said, "Yes, you can ask me something."
He pushed her down, traced a bruise that he had caused the last time they had been together. He had sucked too hard on the skin above her hipbone; she had given him a matching mark on his thigh. Visible signs that this was not a hallucination, a hazy, torrid illusion. He turned to her, "Are you going to ask your question tonight?"
"Yes." She pulled him down to her, kissed him hard. He could feel her take a deep breath, heard and felt her words as she pressed her lips into his neck and asked, "Why no meld?"
He pushed her away, answered without thought, "I have no desire to experience that level of intimacy with you."
She scooted farther away. "Well, I didn't say I wanted it either, you arrogant bastard. I'm just asking why. I thought...with Vulcans...that there'd be a meld eventually. And it's been a while now...not every night, I know but...awhile...and you were kind...sort of, tonight..." She trailed off, turned away. "You make everything so damned complicated, Spock."
He took a deep breath before answering. "It is difficult to hold back in the meld. I assumed that you wished to avoid any undue sharing."
She turned to look at him, her eyes narrowing. "Difficult to hold back? Difficult to have secrets then?"
He nodded then, realizing where she might go with that information, tried to change what he had said. "Not impossible, however."
She frowned. "So you knew? About Valeris? You knew and didn't say anything?"
He pushed himself away from her, backed up until he felt the headboard against his back. He resisted the irrational urge to grab the spread and wrap it around himself as she had just done. "I did not know. I would not have let her proceed with her plans had I known."
Her expression changed again, became mocking. "Then she hid it from you? Your great love lied to you...in a meld?" Short, poisonous laughter erupted softly from her. "How does that happen, Spock?" A coldly brilliant smile grew as she stared at him, waited for him to answer.
He took another deep breath. There was no way to answer her. Standing up, he walked into the bathroom. "We are finished for tonight. Get out."
"You're kidding, right? You don't really want me to go just when it's getting good?" She rolled off the bed, walked over to him and ran her hands down his arms. "Don't you want to tell me how she tricked you, how she played you like a lovesick boy? Don't you want to regale me with the tale of how a perfect Vulcan lady played the greatest trick ever on her devoted mongrel?" She saw his hand rising. "That's right, Spock. Hurt me the way you hurt her on the bridge. You don't think they left that out, do you? The people I talked to, the ones that filled me in. Hurt me. I dare you."
He clenched his fingers, did not want to give in to the voice that urged him to do exactly what she had said. Stop the mocking, it said, hurt her, hurt her badly. "No," he said out loud, although he did not mean for her to hear it.
She pressed against him, kissed his neck seductively. "Come on, lover, tell me all about it. Or better yet, show me." She lifted his hand to her face, tried to position his fingers on the meld points.
"Christine, no!" the words exploded from him as he wrenched away from her. "Get out. Go home. While I am still able to let you go. You do not know what forces you could unleash, what emotions you toy with in this foolish game of yours."
He saw her face register fear for the first time since they had started having sex. She pulled away from him, hurrying into the bathroom for her clothes and bag. She left without saying another word.
He turned away, sinking onto the floor, trying to invoke one of the centering meditations. It was a long time before he felt any effect from it at all.
Chapel set the hover she had borrowed from Ed down in the clearing near Matson's claim. She thought she heard yelling, and hurried through the trees to the mine.
LaTral was jumping up and down outside the mine entrance. He saw Chapel as she came up and grabbed her, spinning her into an impromptu reel.
When she caught her breath, she said, "I take it something good happened?"
He laughed. "Something good, no. Something great, yes. We did it. We hit the biggest, thickest vein of latinum you've ever seen. It's huge, Doc. Huge!"
Matson peeked out of the cave opening. "Doc..tor Chapel." He grinned at her as he pointed to his arms. They were covered with latinum dust.
"You're going to be rich, Matson. I guess you can call me 'Doc.'"
He grinned and yelled back into the tunnel. "Hey, Spock. The doc is here. Come say hello."
She looked down, suddenly very embarrassed. She hadn't talked to Spock since she'd run out of his house a week ago. She didn't want to make amends...exactly. What she wanted, and hated to admit it, even to herself, was to get back into his bed.
But the things she'd said...they were bad. Bad and wrong.
And that pretty much summed up their entire relationship. She was suddenly a huge fan of bad and wrong.
She realized Spock was watching her from the cave entrance.
He nodded, his expression wary.
"Can we walk by the lake? I've been meaning to, never seem to get around to it, always too busy..." She realized she was babbling and shut up, settled for smiling guiltily.
He stepped out of the mine, started off toward the lake.
Matson yelled out, "Don't get lost, you two. We're heading down to the bar just like always. Don't want anyone realizing we've hit the big one. You don't want to miss the hover, Spock."
Spock looked back at him. "Doctor Chapel can take me."
She nodded. "We'll see you back in town."
LaTral shot her a knowing look. "You two behave now."
Chapel didn't speak as she followed Spock through the trees. The lake was prettier than she'd expected, pristine and glistening. It lapped gently at the shoreline and she sat down, pulled off her boots and socks and sank her feet into the clear water. "Cold," she said, wondering if she could stand this on her whole body. She did love to swim. She looked over at Spock. "I don't bite."
"It has been my experience that you do."
She smiled. "I won't bite. How's that?"
He walked over slowly, sat down on the bank next to her. He dipped a finger into the water, pulled it back out quickly.
He nodded, staring out over the lake as if searching for something.
"I went too far the other night. I'm sorry." She looked down. "I didn't mean to push things that far, to where you got frightened."
"I was not frightened."
"Worried then. Or concerned. Jesus, Spock, whatever. Pick an adjective that doesn't offend your Vulcan sensibilities and let's move on." She took a deep breath, struggled for composure. "I'm trying to apologize."
She looked over at him. "You mean do I feel bad about what I said?"
She could lie to him and say yes. But she didn't think he'd believe it anyway. "I feel bad about not seeing you since then. I miss our nights."
He looked away.
"Would you rather I lied? Okay, god, yes, Spock. I feel just terrible about--"
His hand on hers stopped her. "I do not want lies." He lay back, stretched his legs out and stared up at the sky. "I miss our nights too."
She slowly stretched out next to him, not touching him but far closer than a mere acquaintance would lie. "I didn't mean what I said, about you being a mongrel."
One eyebrow rose, as he turned to look at her. "Yes, you did. You meant it all, Christine. That is the horrible thing about what is happening between us. It is true despite the fact that it is dark..."
"Yes, and sordid."
"And tawdry. And foul. And heinous."
"That will be sufficient, Doctor Thesaurus. Thank you."
She laughed, mostly in relief that he was insulting her again. "Sorry."
"Why did your husband leave you, Christine?"
She didn't answer right away. There was the reason Ken had given, or the real reason. And not surprisingly she was not eager to hand the real reason over to Spock. But maybe she owed it to him, after what she'd said about Valeris and him.
The lie was easier. "He needed to find himself."
"He was lost?"
She laughed. "That's what I should have said. But I didn't. He had...other reasons for wanting out." She saw him shoot her a confused look. He wasn't real good with vague hints. That was okay with her. "He didn't want to be married to me anymore, Spock. What more is there to say?"
He did not comment, just stared up at the sky. "We should keep one person at the mine until we successfully extricate this vein of latinum. I will stay here tonight."
She frowned, unsure where he was going.
He looked over at her. "Have you ever had sex in a mine, Christine?"
She shook her head.
"Nor have I."
"Seize the day."
"Indeed," he agreed as he stared up at the sky.
She watched him for a moment. "I have to take the hover back to town. It's Ed's, and he'll need it. So I can't stay all night. But I could tell Matson and LaTral you're staying here. Once we're done, I mean."
Spock looked over at her. His eyes burned as they always did, but she thought she saw something sweeter, something calmer in them too. He stood up, pulled her up after him. "Have you ever used ropes, Christine?" His question was mixture of pure innocence and dangerous passion.
She shook her head.
"Have you ever wanted to?" he asked.
"I will take that as a maybe." As he hurried to the cave, he reached back, grabbing her hand and holding it fast.
It was a surprisingly tender thing to do and Chapel felt something inside her do a strange little flip. Relentlessly she ignored the feeling, focused instead on the sex she had been doing without for a week.
And a week was far too long, she realized as Spock pulled her into his arms, pushing her back against the cave wall and kissing her frantically. Too long for both of them apparently. She smiled against his mouth, nipped at his lip before saying, "So. Tell me about these ropes."
Spock saw Mariah Livingston coming and tried to duck into the general store, which was unfortunately closed for an emergency. He turned to go back the way he came, but it was too late, she was standing right in front of him, blocking his exit unless he wanted to be rude and push past her.
"Oh, Captain Spock. What a pleasant surprise to run into you like this. I hope the house is working out all right?"
"It is fine, thank you."
"I've been meaning to drop by and ask you and Doctor Chapel over for dinner."
He could not imagine a better recipe for disaster. He wondered if that was what Mrs. Livingston had in mind. "I am afraid that I am busy."
"But you don't know what night." She eyed him oddly. "You know, I think Star Fleet makes a person kind of strange."
"Why is that, madam?"
"Well that's exactly what Doctor Chapel does every time I try to get her to come to dinner--she says she's busy without ever knowing when it is first."
He found himself in complete agreement with Christine for once. "A doctor's work is rarely done. And I am helping her. So if you will excuse me..."
"I thought you were working with Mr. Matson and Mr. LaTral on their very lucrative claim?" News of the strike had traveled fast. Or maybe it was just the sight of a hover filled to bursting with latinum. Mrs. Livingston leaned in, smiled in a way that made her look like she had pinched a nerve. "Helping them, helping her, aren't you just the helpful little beaver."
"A small animal, builds dams?"
"I am aware of what a beaver is, but there are none on this planet."
"It's just a figure of speech, Spock. God." Christine's voice sounded from behind Mrs. Livingston. "Hello, Mariah. Spock's needed. Please move aside." Christine turned away quickly.
"Well, I was just inviting the captain and you over for dinner on--"
Mrs. Livingston turned to him and shook her head knowingly. "You see what I mean?" With a sad smile, she turned away.
He hurried to catch up with Christine. "I am needed?"
"Not really. Just felt bad for you being cornered by that biddy." She raised an eyebrow at him. "Shows you how much I dislike her if I'll come to your rescue."
"Indeed." He debated whether he should follow her or not. Knew it was not a good idea, she appeared to be in a bad mood, and mixing that with alcohol could lead them to only one place. Well one of two--his place or hers. He watched her as she walked away, her hips swaying more than usual--did she do that on purpose when she was around him? He thought back to the previous night, how she had walked away from him like that, said she was going to get dressed and leave. It had been counter to the rules they had made and he had not liked it. He had caught her before she could get to her clothes, bent her over the table, taken her that way, his hand tangled in her hair, his hips pounding her as he had reached around and--
"Earth to Spock." Christine was glaring at him.
"We are not on Earth," he said, mustering his dignity back around him. "What is it you want?"
"I'm low on credits and you're the one rolling in latinum since Matson's big strike. Buy me a drink?"
He nodded, even as some more rational part of his brain warned that he knew what would happen if he did. Truth be told, he was rather counting on it.
"That's a good Spock." Christine beamed at him in what looked like a deliberately insincere way.
The bar was crowded and noisy. Christine leaned in, shouted in his ear above the conversations and music, "How about you just buy me my drink and then go home. I'll be fine here. I see a single barstool that's just calling my name." She smiled nastily at him.
He leaned back in. "You do not mean that." She seemed on edge, more so than usual. It had been weeks since she had come to him at the mine, wanting to put what had happened behind them. They had seen each other often since then. Not that anything had changed between them exactly. It was just that after that day, she didn't bring up Valeris anymore. And she seemed less sharp, somehow.
"Trust me when I say I do mean it." But she seemed to give up the idea of him leaving her alone, allowed him to find them a quieter spot near the end of the bar.
"The usual for you two?" Ed asked, giving Spock a despairing glance. "You sure you couldn't learn to like something a bit more lucrative for me than tap water?"
"I do not enjoy alcohol."
"Well, it doesn't enjoy you either, Spock. So you're even." Christine laughed at her own joke.
He let his eyebrow rise as a sign that he did not appreciate her attempt at humor.
She rolled her eyes and turned back to the bartender. "If I pay you, will you take that damn song off the playlist?"
"You know I can't do that," Ed said. "It's the town anthem. You're the only one that doesn't like it."
"It is an odd song," Spock said, feeling as if he should back Christine up on this one. "Some of the words would seem to express great sadness on the part of the narrator that the woman he loves has been taken from him. But other verses show a sardonic wit that seems intent on putting down Clementine."
Christine was staring at him. "Are you for real?"
Spock did not stop. "And the end is most surprising, that he would find happiness with someone else and forget all about Clementine seems an illogical conclusion."
"Yeah, that would never happen." Christine glared at him. "Because the other woman never ends up stealing your man."
"I hardly think it fair to blame the heroine's younger sister," Spock said, realizing that Ed was watching them both with a fascinated look on his face. "You wish to comment?"
Ed shook his head. "Not on your life." He went away, muttering something that Spock's Vulcan hearing identified as having to do with foreplay.
Spock frowned slightly, then looked at Christine. She was still glaring at him. "I have said something to offend you. Again." He sipped his water. "Not that I am unduly disturbed by this development, but perhaps you should tell me what I said this time that was so wrong?"
She shook her head and turned away. He moved so that she had to look at him.
She smiled meanly at him. "You're still in love with Valeris, Spock. That's very noble, if not really sick given how much anger she provokes inside you. But just because you're still carrying a torch, doesn't mean that other men don't forget all about the women they said they'd love forever when something younger and prettier comes along."
The missing piece at last. It had not occurred to him that her husband had been unfaithful. He had asked her outright and she had not told him the truth. Why had she not?
He studied her as she drank. She was not beautiful, not the way Valeris had been. But she was in good shape, and very attractive, with a quick wit and a sharp mind. Why had her husband left her? Had they never had sex? Or was this new woman better in bed than Christine? Spock marveled at that concept for a moment, then realized that Christine had turned away in irritation. He felt an unaccustomed emotion, recognized it as regret. "Christine, I--"
She whirled, turned on him in anger. "Don't you dare say a damn thing. Just keep whatever Vulcan platitude you're about to spring on me to yourself."
He felt stung and ruthlessly pushed his sympathy for her away, as she had just done. "I was not planning on using a Vulcan platitude. Indeed, I do not think there is one appropriate to this situation." He could feel his own anger starting to rise, feeding as it had at the beginning on her raging emotions. "In fact, I was merely going to observe that, given your often caustic nature, I can sympathize with his need to escape."
He saw by the look on her face that his comment had hurt her. A lot. He felt a surge of triumph. Then it was supplanted with shame that he could take pleasure in hurting her. He pushed the more noble emotion out of the way.
She practically spat at him, "Screw you."
"Perhaps later." He watched her face again register the hit. "Are you sure you would not like to return to an analysis of the lyrics of Clementine?"
Her hand was up and out for what would have been a resounding slap if he hadn't caught it before she could make contact. They stared at each other. She was clearly livid. He felt an answering surge of emotion.
He moved in next to her, his mouth nearly on her ear. As he caressed the inside of her wrist with his hand, he asked quietly, "Perhaps we should adjourn?"
Her glare was still poisonous but she followed him out. Spock glanced back at the bar, saw Ed shaking his head at them again. Spock could guess what the bartender was probably thinking and knew he was right. What they were doing made no sense, and probably would end up hurting one or both of them in the long run. But he found that he did not care. He could not fight the anger that was locked inside him, and he knew that he needed a way to burn some of it off. Was that not why McCoy and Kirk had told him to get away? And Christine's willing body was as good a place as any to plant his anger. Probably better than most since she was, in her own way, as angry as he. They might be engaged in incredibly destructive behavior but it at least it was by mutual consent.
Chapel looked up, saw Spock standing in the doorway. How long had he been there? Didn't he know how creepy it was to sneak up on people like that? "What do you want?" She loaded as much scorn as she could in her voice, waited for the cutting response to come, the insult.
It did not come. Spock stood mute, staring at her with an odd look on his face. She tried to identify his state of mind, could only come up with helpless, and that just didn't fit the Spock she was getting to know. The Spock who helped himself to her body any way he could imagine...and he had a better imagination than she would ever have given him credit for. "What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?" She waited for the lecture on how there were no cats on Temeris IV.
Again she was disappointed. Spock did not answer her, just stared at her from where he stood in the doorway.
"You know, you are one creepy-ass son of a bitch. Come in if you want to lurk, you're letting in the flies." She knew her words were overly harsh given his behavior, but she still burned from his remark the night before about Ken needing to escape her. It seemed like every time their relationship appeared to be getting calmer, showing the least bit of tenderness, one of them had to escalate the tension back up. The sex got hotter along with it, maybe that was why they did it? She wasn't sure anymore, had never expected to be in a situation like this, or to see Spock in one either. The idea of the uber-controlled Vulcan throwing her up against the wall of a cave would never have crossed her mind. Throw in the ropes he'd used to restrain her and his behavior was truly unimaginable. As was her own. She had never gone in for the kinky stuff, had always been somewhat reserved in bed. But not anymore. Long ago, when she had imagined sex with Spock, it had been pretty, pastel-colored sex. Respectful and gentle. Not this mindless rutting the two of them were engaged in. That was something that was reserved for the Pon Farr. And she knew this wasn't that.
Spock's expression had tightened while she was lost in thought; he stared at her accusingly now.
"What the hell did I do?" She glared back at him. "Look, either talk or get out. I've got things to do and it's still a bit early for screwing, if that's what you're here for."
He took a deep breath. The doctor in Chapel assessed it as ragged. What was wrong with him?
Without a word, he spun on his heel and left.
"Thank god. Big perv." She went back to her work, tried to shut off a nagging feeling that something was very wrong. That was just stupid. Besides, why should she care? The only thing between her and Spock was nasty mind-blowing sex. He'd made that clear last night. If he'd wanted anything else from her just now, he should have said so.
A few hours later, she finished up her work and locked the office. It was early enough that the bar wouldn't be crowded, so she headed over. As she walked in, she gave the room a quick once over and sighed in relief. No Spock. She really couldn't deal with his silent lurking twice in one day.
"He's not here, Doc." Matson was watching her from the bar.
She nodded to Ed and watched him pour out her usual. "Who's not here?" she asked casually, as she slid onto a stool several down from Matson's.
"Spock." The big man slid over so he was sitting next to her. He leaned in conspiratorially. "He hurried out. I think he was upset."
"When was this?" Not that she cared, of course.
Matson shrugged. "I don't know. About an hour ago. Maybe two." Matson looked confused. "He headed over to your place. I was worried about him so I sort of followed him. But then I saw where he was going and I figured he'd be okay if he was with you." He frowned. "You didn't see him?"
Matson's simple logic touched her, even if he didn't have the least idea how wrong he was that being with her would be good for Spock. "I must have been out."
So something in the bar had upset Spock? Upset him enough that he actually came to her for comfort? She found that hard to believe, couldn't think of a single thing that would make him act that illogically.
Matson nudged her, then pointed up to the trivid screen. "This was playing then too."
She looked up at the screen, saw an image of Kirk on the screen, the caption, 'Launch Tragedy' pasted above his face. Heart sinking, she told Ed to turn the sound up.
"The Federation and Star Fleet mourn the loss of one of Earth's greatest sons today."
Chapel shook her head. "No," she moaned, unaware until Matson turned to her that she had said it out loud. She felt a sick feeling in her stomach, and her head began to spin.
"Kirk died a hero. They've replayed this a million times. I know the story by heart." Matson looked down. "Spock served with him, didn't he? And they were close?"
"Close? You might say that." It was a shock to realize that Matson really did not understand the connection. She took it for granted that every Federation citizen knew of the great friendship, understood what the two men meant to each other. Obviously this one didn't.
"I have to go." She rose, leaving her untouched whiskey on the bar as she rushed out into the night.
Spock tried for the fourth time to fold the formal robe he'd had no occasion to wear on this planet into a bundle that would not wrinkle when he put it in the carryall. He would need to wear this at the memorial. But no...that was not right. He would wear his uniform, of course. But he did not have one with him. Because his uniforms were back on Earth. Yes, he had several of them there. Were they clean? He was sure that he had cleaned them. It would be out of character to leave them dirty.
As out of character as the violent sex he had enjoyed with Christine last night and all the nights before that? As out of character as the insults he used to get her in the mood for that sex?
He pushed thoughts of her out of his mind. Picked up the robe and shook it out then tried again to fold it. The silky fabric slipped, causing the robe to wrinkle as he pushed it into the carryall. Jerking it back out, Spock closed his eyes, felt anger rise in him again. He fought it, letting go of the robe and turning his back on the carryall, searching frantically for some measure of peace, of control. But peace was more elusive than ever.
I should not have come here. The thought was rapidly becoming a mantra for him. No, he should not have come here. He should have stayed on Earth, should have been there when Jim needed him. If he had been there, on the Enterprise B, maybe.... He could at least have died at Jim's side--died a hero trying to save that ship with his best friend rather than playing this vicious sexual game that he and Christine had become entangled in. Their last interaction had only reinforced the darkness that they were embracing. He had not been able to ask for her help, even though he had wanted it...no, needed it more than anything. She had been unable to see that he was even hurting...or perhaps she did see and just did not care.
The knock on his door jolted him out of his reverie and he slowly unclenched his fingers as he walked toward it. He opened the door, saw Christine standing there, her hand raised as if she was about to knock again. "Doctor Chapel," he murmured, retreating to their public formality for the sense of order...the pretense of control it gave him. "You have come at a bad time." He waited for her first insult the way he had waited for a return of serve in his academy days, when his instructors had insisted he participate in a sport and he had chosen tennis.
She chose not to hit back. Just pushed past him as if he were not blocking the door. Too much time dealing with burly miners. Spock had seen her get her way with men more than twice her mass. She was like Jim in that regard.
He almost groaned as the thought of Jim sent him reeling back to the dark place he'd been trying to avoid. He did not look at Christine as he walked around her to take a seat on the sofa. He tried to appear composed. She must not know how badly he was hurting. He could not afford to give her that much ammunition, that much control. He could imagine what route her mocking would take. What might he do this time if she taunted him and pushed him too far? "Go away," he said firmly, as if she were some apparition that was haunting him, rather than the living woman he'd been having angry sex with for months now.
"Spock." Her voice was unexpectedly gentle.
He knew it was a trick, did not look up. "Go away," he repeated as he tried to shift his thoughts to less volatile ground by inventorying the remaining items he must pack before tomorrow. It was a small list, too small to fully remove his awareness of her, of how close she was standing. Had she moved?
Must she repeat his name? Did she think he had not heard her the first time? He ignored how the softness of her voice made him feel, reminded himself that she was deceiving him as the others had. She was here to hurt him, not help him. It was the way of things, was it not?
He did not like the bitterness in that last thought. Tried to purge it and failed because Christine chose that moment to move closer to him again, her leg bumping lightly against his knee. Spock remembered the story of Perseus and Medusa. If he did not look at her, he would not be turned to stone. Only in his case, he wanted to be turned to stone. Stone did not feel, did not hurt, did not wrestle with this anger that threatened to tear him apart. Stone was a preferable state. He would look at her then. He would look at her and turn to stone.
He slowly lifted his head, saw to his surprise that tears were streaming down her cheeks. She was crying. Did Gorgons cry?
"Spock." This time his name was broken by a sob.
"Go away," he said again, only this time, even to him, his voice seemed to plead for her to do the exact opposite. He looked at her, shook his head. "Stone."
He looked down then. "I want to be stone."
She said nothing, but he heard her sob even harder. He studied his hands, held so tightly together so he would not reach out for her, would not hurt her either. He was capable of that. Capable of anything if he was angry enough, lost enough in these black emotions. Look at what he had done to Jim when T'Pring had called for challenge, look at how he had brutalized Valeris when she had tried to hide what she knew from him. Look at what Christine and he had done in this very room just last night. How he had treated her, how she had acted toward him, even as their bodies had joined frantically. He clenched his fingers more tightly, felt pain course through his hands.
"Go away." It was the last time he would say it. If she was too foolish to see the danger she was in, then let her deal with what they had wrought.
She did not go away. Slowly, as if she was taking excruciating care not to touch him, she crouched down. Her eyes were luminous, full of tears and starting to turn red from the crying. The redness made the blue of her irises nearly fluorescent. He found himself fascinated by them, as if there were an answer in them somewhere for him.
"Help me." The words were out, floating between them for several seconds, before he realized what he had just said.
He wanted to take them back. But his mouth refused to form the words. He found himself reaching for her, pulling her to him in a way that lacked their usual savagery. Her arms locked around him as she settled in his lap. She pressed her face against his, the wetness from her cheeks felt cool to his heated skin and he slowly rubbed his face against hers, wanting to feel more.
"I'm sorry," she murmured, her voice finally that of the woman he remembered. No mocking rise at the end, no harsh laughter that poked fun at him even as it urged him toward her.
She sounded like the gentle nurse he had come to the planet to find. The gentle nurse who he realized now he would have either destroyed or been forced to leave alone after a single look. Only this damaged Christine could have taken him into herself without breaking. And now he was somehow certain that she was the only one that could help him.
"I'm so sorry," she said again.
He did not answer, for there were no words that he could let escape, no words that were safe, that would not lead to collapse, to an explosion of pain and grief that he could not afford, that she might not be able to bear. He buried his face in her neck, burrowing against her as if solely by touch she could offer him some form of succor.
She wrapped her arms around him, holding him as tightly as she ever had during sex but now there was a difference, a gentleness, a love--his thoughts shied away from that word. He would be a fool to think that there was any love between them. But there could be kindness. There could be gentleness. A possibility for tenderness he had never imagined given the rough nights they had spent tearing at each others bodies.
He felt her lips on his cheek, on his neck, then back on his face, soft, cool, tender kisses that soothed him. She did not kiss him on the lips, instead let her caresses fall on less volatile areas. He felt some of his anger recede, felt grief rise up to take its place.
She murmured, "I'm so sorry," repeatedly, as if it was a mantra of her own. He finally eased away from her, turned his head so that when her lips touched down they did so on his lips. The electric shock of the kisses they had shared during sex was replaced with something else, something comforting and full of gentleness. He opened his mouth, tasted her tenderness. When he felt her start to pull away, he held her face against his, his other arm pulling her body more firmly against him. She did not resist, only opened her mouth wider to give him more access, and he found such intimate action a comforting relief.
He let her go and she pulled away, her eyes widening as if in surprise at his tenderness. She didn't say anything, just ran her hands over his face, through his hair, her fingers glancing across the tips of his ears with a touch that soothed rather than enflamed him. She leaned in, painting his cheek with little kisses. He heard her sob again and sighed. How much had they hurt each other and for what purpose? Why had they been so cruel when there was this pain waiting? Pain he wanted to share.
He heard her gasp, realized he had placed his hands on the meld points. What was he thinking? Surely he was not considering letting her feel his pain? He started to pull away, but she reached up, pinning his fingers to the meld points with her own strong grip.
She seemed to be reading his mind when she whispered, "Share." One word. One word that meant so much. Did she have any idea how much?
"You do not know what you ask." She would not be able to withstand this. Pain and anger layered on more of the same, all the emotions he had not allowed himself to feel, not even in the rough darkness that the sex between them seemed to unleash. Even then, he had held back, kept up some measure of control. Had not wanted to hurt her.
He had not wanted to hurt her. It hit him hard that he cared about her. Even as she had insulted him, even as he had mockingly replied, he had cared about her enough that he had not hurt her then, and now, when he could have made her truly feel his pain, he did not want to.
He cared for her.
Her fingers pressed down, digging his fingers into her own skin more relentlessly. Her eyes were so determined, and he found himself drowning in them. "Share," she said.
"It will be too much." But he was already initiating the meld, the feel of her skin and the faint pulse of her mind under his fingers too alluring, too intoxicating after all this time of denial. He wanted her mind, he needed her mind. He needed her to feel for him, to take this pain and shape it and make it something he could bear, even if he knew there was no way she could do that. Knew that she would flee after just a taste. He wished that he had kissed her again before he did this.
Her gasp of surprise as the meld fired into being was soon overcome with a long moan. "Oh, god, Spock. So much pain." She writhed, as if she would escape.
He tried to let go of her face, was shocked to feel her fingers still holding his to her cheekbones, her forehead. "No, it is too much, Christine. Stop. It is enough that you tried."
Her fingers did not release him and he found that he was unwilling to force her away from him, even though he knew he could do it easily. He wanted her, wanted this. Needed to share this pain with her. Needed her to want him to share it with her.
She moaned again, and even as he expected her to shy away from the pain and anger he was slowly letting go of, she opened herself up to him, let it pour into her, become her. The sensation of merging with her was overwhelming, and he let her in completely, far deeper than he had ever allowed Valeris to go. He savored the feel of another soul touching the darkness that he had carried by himself for so long.
His mind called up all the darkest memories. Read them off to her one by one.
*You loved her.* Christine's mindvoice was powerful, her resolve to help him stronger than her unfamiliarity with the meld.
*What I did to her on the bridge. The meld I forced.*
*You were hurt, you hurt her back.* There was no censure, but also no illusion in Christine's tone. She understood that he had made Valeris pay; he had hurt her...because he had wanted to hurt her. Christine let him see some of the things she had considered doing to her husband and his mistress, things that were cruel and sadistic. *We are the same,* she said.
*You did not do it. I did. We are not the same.*
*The only difference between us is that you had the opportunity to hurt her for an honorable cause. I did not. We are the same.*
He could feel impatience coming from her. She was right; this was old pain, time to move on. He had exorcised much of his love for Valeris in Christine's body. His guilt would take longer, but what was done, was done. There was no logic in obsessing over it.
*Yes. Let it go.* She seemed to be holding on to her own pain, keeping it from him other than the brief bit she had just shown him.
*Share with me.*
She would not.
*Share with me, or it is not right.* Frustrated, he deepened the meld, began to seek her memories. Then he stopped, remorse coming over him. He had been about to take them. As if she were--
*--No. You stopped yourself just now. You are not the monster that raped her mind. It was a moment. An awful moment, but only a moment.*
He was trembling but did not fight her as he let her certainty settle over him. Then he felt her opening up to him, felt more pain, more anger as she let her own emotions join his. They were both so hurt. They were lucky they had not destroyed each other.
*I'm so sorry,* she said again, the words causing the last wall, the most recently erected one, to come crashing down.
Jim. Dead. Gone. Forever. Grief such as he'd never felt overwhelmed him and he frantically tried to push it down.
*No. Let it out. Let me have it.* She took it on, the pain, the sadness, the guilt. All of it. He felt her fall away from the weight of it, worried that she would not be able to bear it. But then she fought her way back to him and held it for a moment. But he could feel how hard she was struggling. It was too heavy for her to carry. He took it back from her, but felt as if it had lightened just from that simple act of sharing.
He could feel exhaustion coming up in waves from her. She was not used to any meld, much less such an intense one. Even he, trained in the disciplines since childhood, felt weary, was ready to pull away. He slowly eased up on her temples and cheekbones. Felt his mind slip out of hers, her regret at losing the intimate communion overcome by relief that it was over.
She opened her eyes, looked at him with perfect clarity. The last traces of reserve were gone. "You have to go back. For the memorial." Her voice was so soft. He could tell she was exhausted. But she was also ready to argue with him if he disagreed.
"Yes. I leave tomorrow morning. On the first shuttle." He urged her to her feet, followed her up. "Stay with me until then?" At her nod, he led her to the bedroom. They took off their clothes quickly, any self-consciousness at baring their bodies to each other long gone. He pulled her into the bed beside him, tucking the covers around them as he pulled her close to him. "Sleep. We will sleep."
She nodded, whispering, "I should have known you were hurting when you came to my office. I'm sorry for what I said. All the things I've said. All the anger."
"It is all in the past." He felt a jolt from her, some strong emotion making itself known through the not quite disintegrated meld. It felt like regret, loss, and a new kind of hurt bundling over some old pain. He did not have the will to explore it, settled for pulling her closer, kissing her forehead gently. "Sleep."
She kissed his cheek then settled in against him more closely. She was asleep in minutes. He lay awake until it was time to go, holding her to him and finding comfort in the unaccustomed feeling of her sleeping body pressed against his own.
Chapel gently set the hovercraft down at the landing area near Matson's claim. She had broken down and bought the hover the day after Spock had gone. She was tired of being dependent on Ed's good will to get around. She needed to get out. It would help her forget Spock.
She missed him. She didn't want to, wished she didn't, but she did. Not that she had expected him to stay. He'd needed to go back to Earth for the memorial, had to have that closure. And then once he got there, she had known that duty would beckon and he would be gone, out of her reach. And soon she would be nothing but a distant memory to him, lost to time. It was the way it was.
But their last night together had been such a breakthrough, she'd almost allowed herself to hope--
Stop it. Not healthy to think that way, not good at all. Best to just move on. Realize that in the end they had been able to help each other. That all the anger and hurt they'd inflicted on one another had led to something good.
"Hi, Doc." As she walked into the forest, Matson looked up from where he was fixing one of the mine supports. "Came up for a swim finally?"
"Still no word from Spock, huh?"
"He's not coming back, Johnny." Her tone was a thousand times gentler than it would have been before Spock arrived.
He smiled when he realized that she had at last called him by his first name. "Aw, I don't know about that. It's only been a few weeks."
Chapel wondered if the big man wanted Spock back for her or for the help he'd been around the mine. Matson and LaTral certainly weren't going to make the same kind of progress as they had when Spock was helping them dig. "Trust me, he's not coming back."
Matson threw her a curious look, but she wasn't about to let him in on her less than illustrious relationship history. Not that it would have taken all that long to relay to him. She could sum it up in two words: 'Men leave.'
He seemed willing to let it go. "You want to come by later for lunch? It's LaTral's week to do the cooking." He grinned at her. "I wouldn't have asked you if it were mine."
"I'll be by after my swim."
He nodded and turned his attention back to the support. Chapel watched him for a second, feeling a fondness for him she would never have admitted before, even to herself. Yes, Spock's visit, as warped as much of their interaction had been, had proven good for her.
She walked through the trees, watching for the moment when the lake would come into view. It gleamed in the bright sunshine, the light reflecting a hundred flickering shades of blue and green back to her. She stripped down to her bathing suit, prepared herself for the bracing cold that would greet her as she stepped in. Shivering she forced herself to walk until it was deep enough for her to shallow dive completely into the icy water. She came up gasping and rolled onto her back, staring at the sky as she floated. The sun beating down on her warmed the bits of skin that weren't in the water, while the rest of her got used to the cold. She rolled onto her stomach and began to swim, long powerful strokes and sharp kicks carrying her effortlessly across the water. She loved this feeling, power mixed with a grace that only the water could give her. It was the best feeling. She thought of the wild sex she'd had with Spock and demoted swimming to the second best feeling. Which wasn't very smart, because given Spock's departure it was going to have to fill in as the best feeling for the foreseeable future.
She floated on her back again, letting the sun lull her into a state of total relaxation. She was trying to decide if it was time to go back in or not when she heard someone call out, "Christine."
I'm dreaming. I'm dreaming and in my dreams Spock has come back for me. He didn't leave me behind. She smiled at the whimsical thought.
"Christine," the voice sounded again. Generally daydreams didn't sound quite so annoyed. She looked over to the shore, saw Spock standing at the water's edge.
She was hallucinating--maybe the berries she'd bought from that eastern miner the other day had been toxic? "If you're really there, then come in and get me," she yelled to the apparition.
"You know it is too cold for me. Get out of the water."
No mistaking that tone. Harsh, annoyed, irritated. The Spock of the past few months, but not the Spock of that last night. Perhaps that had been the hallucination. Perhaps she'd only imagined any breakthrough. She swam until she reached a point she could stand, then she walked toward him, stopping just shy of the shoreline, the icy water lapping gently around her ankles.
"You are wet." His expression gave nothing away.
"You like me that way," she said, the old mocking tone taking over without conscious thought from her.
"I do," he surprised her by saying, a slight smile playing at his mouth. He took a step toward her. "You are cold. I should warm you."
She could feel her eyebrow lifting as she dropped the sarcastic retort she had ready and just stared at him. Finally, she said, "I'm late for lunch."
He indicated a basket sitting on a blanket he must have spread out for them. It was near the trees, out of the direct sunlight. "I ran into LaTral on the way here. He packed us some food." He looked down at where she still stood in the water. "Are you going to come out?"
"Maybe I want you to come in and get me?" The old mocking tone was back in her voice.
"Do you think that I will not?" Spock's voice was calmer, more at peace than she'd heard it in a long time. The question was only a question, not an exercise in scorn.
"I don't know anymore." It was an honest answer finally and she could tell by his expression that he recognized that.
He held out his hand. "Come out, Christine." When she still did not move, he took another step toward her. "I said"--he grabbed her arm, yanked her to him--"get out of the water." Then he kissed her. Not the angry almost painful kisses of those wild nights. But not the tender touches of their last night either. This was something else, something new.
She found herself responding, kissing him back as the hunger she had been resolutely pushing into the recesses of her mind came to the fore. She wanted him. She wanted him more than she'd ever wanted anything.
And he seemed to want her too because he was pushing her backwards to the blanket, was peeling off the wet swimming suit and running his hands over her as if he was a dying man in the desert and she was the water that would save him. She sank to the ground, felt the smooth fabric of the blanket slip against her skin as she lay back. He followed her down, his lips never leaving hers as he began to touch her, making her move against him with ever-increasing ferocity. His kisses became wilder, more savage and her body responded to him as it had been doing for months. She cried out loudly until his mouth came down on hers, muffling any further sound. She lay panting for a moment, lost in the place he'd sent her and in the gentle kisses he was giving her. She realized he was still dressed and began to tear at his clothes. He helped her pull them off, then he was kissing her again, his body pressing against hers until they were joined, as close as they could get. She gasped at the feel of him inside her again, a sensation that she'd thought was out of reach forever. "Spock," she murmured. "I missed this."
"As did I." He moved more firmly and she reached up, letting her hands fasten on his back, then digging in as he thrust harder and harder inside her. He finished with a loud cry, collapsing on top of her, then rolling to his side as he had done all the other times. Only this time, he pulled her with him, bringing her to lie next to him, his arms tightening around her almost possessively.
She looked up at him and he kissed her on the forehead, then on her cheek, then on each eye. The whimsy of his movements brought unexpected tears; they slid down her cheeks as he kissed her on the lips. She could feel his fingers on her face, wiping away the tears, even as his tongue explored her mouth lazily. Then he pulled away, studied her face for a long time. "I take it that my return is not unwelcome."
She answered him with a kiss of her own. When she finally pulled away, he nodded as if in satisfaction.
"Came back for the hot sex, eh?" She didn't like her cavalier tone, then realized that she was afraid of his answer.
"Among other things," was all he said.
They lay quietly for a few moments, until she couldn't stand it and asked, "What about Star Fleet? Aren't they going to start wondering where you are?"
"I have extended my leave of absence to the full year allowed." He rolled to his back, tugged at her arm so that she had to roll onto her stomach, half of her weight on his body. When she tried to move, he held her more tightly. "I can stay here another seven months, one week, and two days."
"Is that how long you give us?"
His expression lightened, she could tell he was amused when he replied, "No, that is merely how long I can stay away from Star Fleet without giving up my commission." He kissed her. "I thought that by then you would perhaps tire of this planet and wish to explore other options."
"Other options?" She tried to push down the hope that was rising, didn't want to be disappointed again.
"Yes. With me. As a civilian, you would be free to accompany me on my diplomatic missions."
He was right, she could. "You'd want me to?" She hated how needy she sounded. Hated that she needed him to be more explicit about what he was feeling.
He nodded, watched as her reaction must have played across her face. "I do care for you, Christine, but I may never be able to put that into words, not the way you will want me to."
She started to protest and he shushed her with a gentle finger on her lips. "You are human." When she looked away, he said softly. "But that does not mean that I cannot share my feelings another way. If you want me to?" As he waited for her answer, his fingers hovered over the meld points.
She looked back at him, staring for a long time before she nodded. His hands sank down, initiating the meld, and she pulled back slightly, remembering how hard the other meld had been, how the pain and anger had nearly overcome her.
*It is safe,* he assured her, his mindvoice exquisitely gentle.
She slowly let him in, waiting for pain that did not come. Not that his darkness was gone, she could still feel it inside him. His grief for Kirk was especially vivid, the pain from his friend's death still new and sharp. But the darkness was not in charge any longer. He was in control of his emotions again. She relaxed and felt him open himself up. A feeling of warmth, of admiration and affection, desire and gratitude rolled over her and she sighed. For her part, she didn't try to hide what she was feeling for him, how much she wanted him or how happy she was to see him back.
He was very serious when he said, *I believe these emotions will grow into something stronger. If we let them. If we want them to?*
She relished the way he was making her feel. Safe. Protected. Desirable.
*Do we want them to?* he asked.
Chapel was about to say yes, when other memories began to invade. She had felt this way before. With Ken. Ken had made her feel safe. And protected. And desirable. She started to pull away.
He switched to words. "I am not going to leave you. And he was a fool to have done so. But I cannot regret that he did, for how else would I have found you?" His hands rubbed her back, his lips touched hers in a gentle kiss as if asking forgiveness for the time he had not been so kind about Ken's choices. He made her look at him, before he said, "Do you not want this? Because I find that I do very much."
She smiled, a small laugh erupting from her at his words. Spock being romantic. Who knew? She kissed him with more passion. "We can give it a try, see how it goes?"
"That is acceptable," he said, relief obvious in his voice.
"Can we get back to the sex soon?" The words were from their hurtful days, but her tone was different now. No longer mocking and vicious.
"Would now be appropriate?" He did not seem to need an answer, was already pulling her up to sit astride him.
She moved to the rhythm they had perfected over all those angry nights. A rhythm that wasn't dependent on their dynamic being hateful, and that was a relief to her--she had worried that the sex had been great because they were so destructive, not in spite of that fact. She leaned down, kissed him deeply then nipped at his lip.
He responded by forcing her over onto her back, his body still joined with hers as he followed. He kissed her as he began to rock inside her.
"Yes," she said, feeling that her first answer had not been sufficient.
He frowned slightly. "Yes?"
"Yes, I want whatever this is that we're feeling to grow into something stronger."
She read his look to mean that he was deeply satisfied with her answer. "I concur."
She laughed, couldn't help it, just gave up and laughed at his matter-of-fact tone. "Well, I'm glad we got that out of the way." She let herself go and kissed him like she'd always wanted to, not holding anything back, not worrying about protecting herself. She was willing to go as deep as he'd let her, and judging from the way he was kissing her back, that would be mighty deep indeed. Hell, maybe they'd strike it rich and find the mother lode. If nothing else, the digging itself was going to be fun. Loads and loads of fun.
And they were both past due on that.