DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2017 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.

How to Fall in Love

 

By Djinn

 

 

 

Hi.

 

Hi.

 

Bad day?

 

You could say so.

 

Sorry.

 

Why? It's not your fault, is it?

 

Not that I know of. I'm Jim, by the way.

 

Chris. Christine.

 

Which is it? I'm James, but I never go by that.

 

My fiancˇ likes me to go by Christine. I grew up being called Chris. Pick one.

 

Well, since you have a fiancˇ, I guess I should go with what he calls you.

 

He left me behind. Went out on an expedition and got himself lost. Call me Chris.

 

Chris it is. I've never seen you in here.

 

I don't normally frequent San Francisco. I live in Cambridge.

 

Ah. MIT or Harvard?

 

Please. The former.

 

Scientist, then?

 

Guilty as charged. Biochem. Postdoc.

 

Barkeep, my friend, get Dr. Chris here another drink on me.

 

It's Chapel. Dr. Chapel. And you're something important if I read all those stripes on your sleeve right.

 

Captain. Kirk. James T. Jim, to my friends.

 

I wish I could say it was nice to meet you, but I'm a little pissed at Starfleet right now. My application was shot down.

 

Why? We need scientists.

 

Well, I need to look for said shithead fiancˇ. I need to look right now. Not after I spend umpteen months at Starfleet Academy learning to be an officer with people half my age.

 

Why the rush?

 

Because I want to start my life back up again. Finding my missing fiancˇ will go a long way toward doing that. Also, he sort of was backing me for tenure and with him gone...

 

Ah, understood. You know, there's a critical shortage of nurses.

 

I'm a biochemist.

 

How fast do you think you could get a nursing degree? They do an abbreviated four-week Starfleet orientation course for nurses.

 

Four weeks?

 

Four weeks. I happen to have some of those vacancies on my ship. I have a lot of leeway in how I staff it. Sort of a golden boy right now.

 

Well, that can end. Milk it while you can.

 

I plan to.

 

Why would you make a spot for me? I told you I have a fiancˇ. I'm not going to sleep with you.

 

I don't sleep with my crew, so no problem there. It's just...no one's ever cared enough to come find me once I left. I guess I find your story compelling because of that.

 

I have a hard time believing no one would come looking for you.

 

That's a very nice thing to say.

 

It's just the truth, Captain Jim the golden boy. I'm sure you know how pretty you are. I probably can't call you "Captain Jim" onboard your ship, can I?

 

Best not to. Give me your communicator. This is my personal number. Messages get to me wherever I happen to be. Once you're officially a nurse and have taken the Starfleet orientation, I'll get you on my ship. We may not be headed in the right direction, though.

 

Doesn't matter. At least I'll be headed somewhere—I'll never find him if I don't leave Earth.

 

Good point. Okay then, you're all set.

 

Thank you.

 

Don't thank me. Just be the best nurse you can possibly be. Because if you aren't, I'm going to catch holy hell from my new CMO. He's...not shy about speaking his mind.

 

Should he be?

 

Well, no. But I'm just preparing you. He's that way with everyone.

 

Well, we should introduce him to my fiancˇ if we find him, and we can see who's the bluntest. I'm sort of used to it.

 

Perfect. Wait, where are you going? You didn't finish your drink.

 

I have some nursing finals to test out of. And some to actually take after I learn what I'll need to know. I'm arrogant, but not so much I think I can just do the job without any instruction. But the biochem parts—I'll be golden.  And I guess I should put a call in to Starfleet Medical about that special orientation class?

 

I guess you should. I look forward to seeing you on my ship, Chris.

 

Me, too.

 

##

 

Wow, you look like you lost your best friend. Ensign, bring Nurse Chapel a refill.

 

Thanks. Not lost a friend. Never had. Never will have.

 

I'm not following. This have something to do with the virus that made us all act like fools?

 

Oh, yes.

 

I got really morose. What did you do? That's right, laugh at your captain.

 

I'm laughing, Captain Jim, because I'd give a year's worth of credits to have only gotten morose. Just, let me drink this—and thanks.

 

What are friends for?

 

Is that what we are?

 

Well, no one else calls me "Captain Jim," Doctor Chris.

 

Touchˇ. Okay so I may have told Spock that I loved him. Stop it. It's not funny.

 

I want to bottle whatever he has and sell it. I'd be rich. What did he say?

 

He was very polite about not being able to love me back...and now every time I see him, he turns and walks the other way. Really fast. That day the virus hit, I was sitting in sickbay thinking how fun it would be to talk science with him. That I'd learn so much, the same way I did from Roger. And then the virus hit and he came in and well learning science turned into playing doctor. Or wanting to, anyway. Now he won't come near me.

 

I'd say that's significant.

 

Yes, that he views me as Typhoid Christine. I infected him, Jim.

 

Yeah, I got that part. But he's a Vulcan. He can "my logic is better than yours" his way through anything. To include the women who have crushes on him. I've never seen him back away; in fact, I think he believes meeting the infatuated party head on with no interest is the best way to turn unwanted advances off. So if he's walking away, maybe you're different. Maybe he's been wanting to talk science with you, too.

 

You think?

 

I really do. I have a question though. What about Roger?

 

What about him? I'm looking for him. I've given up my career for him. I've been faithful to him. So I have a little crush on a scientist who happens to remind me a lot of Roger—so what? I would never have said anything if the virus hadn't hit.

 

So I guess you'd have rather run into me. You could just make up more silly names for me.

 

Don't sell yourself short. I'd have probably given you the same shtick, minus that part about loving both your human and Vulcan sides.

 

You would have?

 

I'm not blind. You're handsome and smart and fun. But I'm looking for the man I plan to marry, so it wouldn't have meant anything. And you don't shit in your nest.

 

I hate that saying.

 

Nevertheless, it applies.

 

Would you have told Bones you love him?

 

No.

 

Just no? No reason?

 

Well, it's not because he's my boss. I think you've figured out Roger was my professor and later graduate advisor, so clearly I don't have any filters there. He's just...not my type.

 

Too acerbic?

 

I can hold my own.

 

Of that I have no doubt.

 

But yeah. He's not over being mad at his ex-wife. Anyone that gets together with him is probably going to have to deal with that. But he's smart and funny, I don't mean he's not. Just...not for me. And that's better. For sickbay, anyway.

 

Yes, it is.

 

Oh look, there's Spock. And there's the back of him.

 

He looked panicked. For a Vulcan, I mean.

 

That's what I'm saying.

 

And I'm saying that's not normal. Just for what it's worth. Now, you want another of those or are you done for the night?

 

##

 

Are you all right?

 

Should you be down here?  The lower decks and all that?

 

No. Now answer my question.

 

No, I'm not all right. Here, come in.

 

I like what you've done with the place, Chris. Jeez. A few pictures maybe? Some art?

 

Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot this was a temporary trip, and I left all the things I care about in the storage unit with Roger's stuff. I guess now I can get it and just do this place up right.

 

I'm sorry. Shhhh, come here. It's going to be okay.

 

And you know this how? Did a woman you love become an android and you were too dumb to know it?

 

You had sex with it?

 

Yes. And thank you for not saying "made love."

 

But that's what it was, because you thought it was him. You gave up everything for him, Chris, and there he was. The happy ending was in your grasp. Why wouldn't you make love to him?

 

He was an it.

 

Some part of him was still Korby. I think...I think if you hadn't been there, he would have been worse.

 

I wasn't exactly at my best.

 

It wasn't the best circumstances.

 

Don't. Don't give me an out because I let emotions run rampant over the mission—over my loyalty to you. Don't do that to me. I want...

 

You want to be punished?

 

Yeah. I do. For being stupid and leaving a great job that maybe I would have gotten tenure in. Would that have been so bad? Risking not getting it but knowing that if I did, it was me they were keeping on, not just the woman that came with Roger?

 

What are you going to do now?

 

I haven't decided. I mean I have to serve two years—that's what the agreement I signed said. I figured once I found Roger, he'd figure a way to get me out of it.

 

I can get you out of it. If you really want to leave. Do you?

 

I don't know what I want to do, Jim. Just tell me, okay? Just tell me what to do.

 

This isn't a mission. I'm not the C.O. of your heart. Or your aspirations for your career. You let me know what you decide. I'll support you either way.

 

You haven't said...

 

Said what?

 

That you want me to stay.

 

Well, I do. Who else is going to call me Captain Jim?

 

I only do that in private.

 

And that's okay, too. Let me know what you want to do.

 

You give really good hugs.

 

You're easy to hug. Sleep well, Chris. And I'm really sorry. I wanted you to have the happy ending.

 

I know you did. Thank you, sir.

 

You don't have to sir me in private.

 

I do when I want to show how much I respect you. I'll let you know what I decide.

 

##

 

How's Lenore?

 

Sleeping, sir. Mainly because I got sick of her quoting Shakespeare in her batshit crazy way.

 

You knocked her out?

 

Her chems were all out of whack. Sleep will do her good.

 

Can I see her?

 

Sure, come on. She's in isolation. I don't recommend going in and waking her up. For my sake and hers—and also yours. She was saying some pretty interesting things about what she'd like to do to you. Both sexy and not so fun.

 

She's one more thing Kodos ruined.

 

I'm sorry. I know you liked her. She's beautiful, lying there. When she's ranting at you though a force field, she's much less so.

 

I can imagine. Do you know about Tarsus IV.

 

McCoy told me. Some of it, anyway.

 

When you're just a kid, and everyone is starving, and this man who you've seen as a model leader suddenly turns into a monster—I changed on that planet. In ways I don't even completely understand. I never wanted to be in charge before then. Never had felt so helpless that I vowed I'd never be that way again.

 

We all have changing moments.

 

Yours was when you lost Roger.

 

That was one of them. The other was when this man who I admire didn't tell me to get off his ship because I'm not really Starfleet.

 

You are really Starfleet. You've more than proved it. And no one starts that way—not even the legacies. You never know what you're made of until you're tested. I want you on my crew because I trust you—and I know you'll do whatever needs to be done to keep my crew healthy.

 

Including making you eat a salad every once in a while?

 

Yeah, I hate that, but you do it anyway. That's you being Starfleet. The mission trumps my crankiness.

 

Or it will until you throw me in the brig one day for not letting you have dessert.

 

It would be a short stay. I'd have to manufacture a reg and I'm sure Spock would figure it out right away. Spock...

 

What? You have a funny look.

 

I didn't trust Spock with this. I should have.

 

We're all learning our way.

 

Still. He and Bones had to confront me.

 

Maybe part of you was still running from Tarsus IV?

 

Or hiding. We did a lot of that, too, when the executions started.

 

I wonder how she found out, about her father, I mean? What makes someone decide that she would do anything—even murder innocent people—to protect someone she loves?

 

I don't know. I had a friend—before you were on the ship—and he went crazy. I had to kill him.

 

That's not the same thing.

 

I know. But I would have bet my life that Gary could fight off any influence. He was the more resilient of us. The one who kept my course true.

 

Well, now you have Spock and McCoy.

 

And you.

 

And me. And Ms. Crazy if you want to wake her up.

 

Walking me back from the wallowing ledge with humor?

 

Maybe. Is it working?

 

It is. Thank you.

 

Just doing my job, Jim.

 

I think this might be a little bit more than just your job.

 

I think it might be too. Good night, sir.

 

Good night, Chris.

 

##

 

You want company?

 

Chris, I would love some company. Pull up a barstool.

 

So...your prosecutor was your ex. Interesting.

 

Would be even more interesting if it hadn't been a friendly break-up.

 

Really? I never managed those.

 

I usually don't either. There are some scientists that would probably love to tell you what a jerk I am.

 

You like scientists?

 

I never thought about it, but yeah, I guess I do.

 

So Areel broke the pattern.

 

She broke my heart a little, too. Even though she said all the right things when she saw me this time. Implying her heart was busted up, too.

 

But it wasn't?

 

Areel is...ambitious. She plans to be a judge someday.

 

You don't seem the type to mind a woman who has her own life—her own path.

 

Oh, I don't. She just ruled out kids, and I wanted them. And she wouldn't even consider it...

 

Wow. Hmmm.

 

Do you want kids?

 

Someday, yeah. Not right this minute.

 

I wasn't offering.

 

I know. Jeez.

 

Slugging your captain is a court-martial offense, Chris.

 

Well, if it helps you get Areel back on the ship for a while, I'll do it again.

 

No, she's gone.

 

So you must really want kids if you broke up with her for that.

 

I didn't break up with her. She broke up with me. Because she said that ultimately it would be a problem.

 

Was she right?

 

I guess.

 

Hey, where'd you go? What are you thinking about?

 

I have a kid—a son. David.

 

You never talk about him.

 

That's a fact.  Ensign, fill this up again.  Make it a double.

 

No, he's kidding. No more booze for us, thanks. Talk to me, don't drink this away.

 

It's easier to bury it.

 

Why?

 

Because I'm not allowed to see him. His mother wanted me to leave Starfleet. When I didn't, she took him and told me to stay away.

 

But weren't you in Starfleet when you met her?

 

Yep. But try getting Carol Marcus to soften her stance once her mind's made up.

 

Carol Marcus? Oh my God. You have my extreme condolences.

 

You know her?

 

I met her. Once. Roger knew her. She didn't seem to like that I was his fiancˇe and his student. I felt...invisible.

 

Yeah, I felt invisible, too, at the end, and I was living with her.

 

Have you ever seen him?

 

When he was a baby. It's been years now. God knows what she tells him about me. My...my son.

 

I'm so sorry, Jim.

 

Can I call the bartender back over?

 

Sure. Drinks are on me.

 

##

 

This seat taken, Chris?

 

Is it ever?

 

Yes, actually it is. More often than not. Do you say no to all of them?

 

How is this your business?

 

It's not. I just want to make sure you're moving on from Spock.

 

You used to think he might have felt something for me.

 

Yeah, well after seeing him beam someone he loves off the ship with very little show of regret, I don't really wish that for you anymore.

 

I saw them. Down in Sporeland. I was surprisingly not that upset. Probably because if I were suddenly able to drop my control and do whatever I wanted, it would not be hanging from trees.

 

Ditto.

 

We're a lot alike.

 

Maybe so.

 

So, um, who did you...?

 

Her name's the Enterprise.

 

I guess I should have guessed that. No power in this universe is going to pry you away from your one true love.

 

I am faithful to her. No other ships before her. Women on the side she's fine with. So what did you end up doing when you were all spored up?

 

Skinnydipping. With a bunch of people that I really hope I don't see right away in the corridor. There may have been kissing.

 

And groping?

 

And that.

 

Shut that down fast if you're not interested.

 

I do know how this works, sir.

 

Well, good.

 

What? You look pensive.

 

Just thinking about what life might have been—being that content.

 

All the goddamn time? A prison. Hell.

 

That's what I think too. Pain...defines us.

 

That it does. And we grow. Whether we want to or not.

 

Exactly.

 

But for a while...it might have been nice.

 

Yeah. It might have been.

 

 

##

 

I said no visitors. Can you not read the privacy sign?

 

I can. I did. Please, sir—Jim. Let me in.

 

You're already in. You used your goddamn medical override to get in here. Why? Who said you could?

 

Jim, you're hurting. And I understand. I really do. Loss—it's horrible. Please let me help.

 

You don't know. You don't know what I did.

 

I do. I do know. Spock was concerned about you. He knows we...talk sometimes.

 

Spock sent you?

 

He did. He and Len, they're so worried.

 

And you?

 

I know who you are. I know how strong you are. I know that no matter how much you're hurting you'll find a way to get up and go on. But it would help if you could get some sleep.

 

I lie down, I do—I'm trying. But my mind is going and I keep hearing that sound, that truck, that....

 

Shhhhh. Just hold on to me. It's okay. You did what you had to do. You will always do what you have to do. It's what I love about you.

 

You love me?

 

That's not exactly what I said. Here, just come with me to the bed, cuddle in, I'll cover you up and hold you.

 

I don't want you here.

 

I know. You want her—your Edith. But she's not here, Jim. She's never going to be. You lost her. You had to lose her.

 

Do you have a hypo stashed, sedatives you're going to inject me with, make me sleep? Because that's not going to fly and I'm—

 

Jim, you're hurting me.

 

I'm sorry. I don't want to. I...Chris, I want to forget.  Help me forget.

 

Jim.

 

I want you.

 

You want her. But I'll do. Let's just be clear on that.

 

That's so cold, though. And you're trying to help.

 

I'd rather we have cold truth than warm lies.

 

I can make it good for you. I can forget.  But...you're my crew and I can't—I can't.  I should not be doing...  Chris, oh...oh fuck.

 

Just let go. It's happening. There are all kinds of ways to care for someone. This is just a very...creative interpretation of nursing.

 

Very. Creative. Way.

 

Let go. I won't break.

 

Edith did. She broke.

 

Well, I won't. Just let go. Let it out. That's it. That's it, Jim. Oh, God, yes, there. Wait, just stay there, let me hold you. I know I'm not her, but you can pretend if you want.

 

I can?

 

Close your eyes. Pull me close. Pretend. And fall asleep.

 

I'm sorry, Chris.

 

I'm not. Now close your eyes.

 

 

##

 

You're looking better than the last time I saw you.

 

I was pretty close to dead the last time you saw me.

 

As I said.

 

What? You're thinking something, so say it.

 

I didn't appreciate being kicked out of sickbay just when things were starting to make sense. I mean first Spock has a wife, then he's on the planet with you and Len, and then you're being beamed up...as a body. Spock clearly thought he'd killed you. And then "Nurse, would you mind"? Really?

 

I would have let you stay but Bones was looking out for Spock. It was a private issue, is what I mean to say.

 

Yeah, well, I got a taste of Spock's issues in private.

 

You did? How big a taste?

 

Why? Are you jealous?

 

I don't know. Maybe? We haven't talked about what happened—after Edith.

 

Because I know it won't happen again. And it wasn't romance or seduction. It was solace.

 

It was above and beyond what I'd expect from you for solace.

 

No it wasn't. You told me about the nurse shortage, which got me on a ship. You gave me your personal comm number, which got me on this ship. You were with me when we found Roger. You covered up what really happened to him. Way I see it, I more than owed you.

 

Okay.

 

Okay.

 

For what it's worth—and it's stupid to even tell you this—when I saw you taking soup to Spock, I was...jealous.

 

I take food to a lot of people. It's part of my job. I just don't usually end up nearly wearing it.

 

Do you do what you did for me for a lot of other people? Ow. What did I tell you about slugging your captain? But I'll take that as a no. An answer I really like, by the way.

 

You shouldn't. Not if there's nowhere to go with it.

 

And there's not. Is that...is that unfair to you?

 

Jim, please. I'm not Rand. I'm not going to flee the ship because I can't have you. We're friends, right? Any latent attraction we might feel, well, it'll just season the friendship.

 

That's one way of looking at it.

 

It's the only way of looking at it if I understand your rules.

 

And you do understand them. It's why...it's why I let you help me that night. Of all the women on this ship, you're the one I trust to take a step back without reproach. That's not stupid, is it?

 

No. Not if you buy lots of drinks to make it up to me.

 

Thank you. Thank you for making this easy.

 

You're welcome.

 

And, um, Spock's free now. He may want to pursue something. If he is, you should do it.

 

Should I?

 

I think maybe you should. I won't enjoy watching it. Although I should be happy, right? Two friends together?

 

It's a hypothetical at best at this point. Quit working yourself up about it and get me a refill.

 

Yes, ma'am.

 

 

##

 

Well, howdy. You've been scarce. Have to be on shore leave to have a drink with you.

 

I was staying clear. I thought maybe Spock, now that he's free, would want to...

 

Nope. No sign of him. Truthfully, I wasn't waiting.

 

Okay.

 

Jim, please, sit down. If he shows up looking like he's decided he's desperately in love with me, you can skedaddle, but I'm telling you that the chances are slim to none.

 

And Slim just left town?

 

Exactly. So what's new with you? Other than being transported into another dimension?

 

I didn't see you there. Wish I had. Their uniforms were very interesting. Daggers were regulation.

 

Wow.

 

Bare midriffs.

 

I can see why you liked it there.

 

I didn't, actually. I mean...there were nice people there, well one of them anyway. Well, not so nice but...nothing happened.

 

Oh, for God's sake, Jim, you met a girl. When don't you? Look at this face: this is my "I am not jealous for real" face.

 

It's just... I like you.

 

And I like you, too. And I wish sometimes that we could fall into bed again so I could know what it would be like to be with you as me and not as a form of comfort. But I know that's not going to happen.

 

Thank you. For not making this ugly.

 

Is that the real reason you stay away? You're afraid it will be?

 

No, it really is because I keep thinking Spock will stop being an idiot and see what's right in front of him.

 

Generally you're right in front of him. Ow. I think that hitting officers rule works both ways, Captain.

 

There are just a lot of rumors. I've...done a lot for him.

 

You'd do a lot for any of us.

 

God, I've missed you.

 

I've missed you, too. So don't be a moron and stay away. Spock is a big boy. If he wants me, I'm not hard to find.

 

 

##

 

Buy a no-longer-old man a drink?

 

I thought you had Doctor Wallace for that?

 

She's gone. But then you know that. You think I didn't see you two bonding over the biochem?

 

She was smart and quick witted. And super easy on the eyes. I can see why you liked her. And with her husband gone she's free now.

 

Yeah, she is.

 

You don't sound very excited.

 

She's not interested in being with someone she'll never see. Shades of Carol all over again.

 

I'm sorry. I thought maybe you and she...

 

Would you want that for me?

 

Would you want me with Spock?

 

No.

 

Well, okay, no for me, too. But I know I can't be with you because you won't let me. So she seemed like a nice second choice.

 

Don't make that face. Like I wouldn't choose you if I could.

 

I'm nowhere near as pretty as she is.

 

Actually, you are. And your legs are better.

 

Yeah, all the boys love these. What? I can't stretch my legs?

 

Vixen.

 

And you like it.

 

I do. I...

 

And there it is. The moment where you realize you just almost kicked past the James T. Kirk line in the sand.

 

Don't mock. It's important to me.

 

I'm not mocking. I'm just not going to let you get us to less...flirtatious ground without me calling you out on being chicken shit.

 

It's pragmatism, not cowardice.

 

Label it however lets you sleep at night, Jim. Alone. Well, unless you meet some new alien you like the look of.

 

Miaow. Could you sound any bitchier?

 

Oh, believe me. I could. How did we get here? We're supposed to be celebrating your adorable lack of senility.

 

That sounds really good. Forget what I said.

 

Forgotten.

 

 

##

 

Darkening my door? What's the occasion?

 

I wanted to make sure you were all right. After your...

 

Consciousness-sex with Spock?

 

Yeah. That.

 

Once I got over the initial rush of having him inside me. Wait, let me rephrase.

 

Please.

 

Yeah, once I was over that, then I realized he was keeping himself well contained, you know? Like, while he was grateful, my head was really the last place he wanted to be.

 

Are you sure you were reading it right?

 

I am. What about you and Mulhall? Feeling any urges?

 

She's a lovely women, but she's not the person I came to see after all this.

 

No?

 

No. Chris, what is it? You don't look right. Did sharing consciousness with Spock hurt you?

 

No. No, but...

 

Hey, you're shaking. Come here.

 

One of the things having Spock in my mind did for me was give me back what Henoch had taken—he wanted me to kill you. I would die if I did anything to hurt—

 

Shhh, it didn't happen.

 

And....and though Spock may not have wanted me, Henoch did.

 

Did he hurt you?

 

I don't think he wanted to hurt me—but he wanted to take me, yeah. But there wasn't time for him to do much. He...touched me more than he should have.

 

I'd kill him if you and Spock and Sargon hadn't already.

 

I know. He got off way too easily. Just...poof, and he's gone and can't be held accountable. I know he didn't rape me—he copped a few feels, stole a few kisses. It could have been so much worse, but still I feel...

 

Violated?

 

Yeah. I really do.

 

Chris, what can I do?

 

It's selfish.

 

What can I do?

 

Would you stay with me tonight. You don't have to do anything. I know your rule. But just...I don't want his hands to be the last ones that held me. But you don't have to have sex with me.

 

If I did, it wouldn't be just having sex with you. I'd be making love to you.

 

That's nice.

 

It's the truth. It's why...it's why I stay away from you sometimes. Especially when I'm feeling lonely. I start thinking of how medical is independent and maybe since it's my rule, I could bend it for you.

 

Would you hate me for that?

 

I don't know. I really don't.

 

I don't want to make you break it.

 

Okay. Here, lie back. Let me help you.

 

Thank you.

 

I wish I could always be here, never let you hurt again.

 

I know. But you can't.

 

No, I can't.

 

 

##

 

Is this stool for me?

 

If you want it. How are you doing, Jim?

 

Fine. Not fine. Miramanee and my life with her...it feels like a dream. Yet she was there, you saw her. I held her as she died.

 

You loved her, but it wasn't you, exactly. I get that.

 

But shouldn't I feel...worse?

 

I'm not sure. What you went through was pretty extraordinary.

 

She deserved better than a husband who can't figure out how to mourn her.

 

She's not forgotten to you or you wouldn't be beating yourself up over this. And I think she'd understand. Clearly, she loved you. I could tell. So much—so much love.

 

Yes. I was happy, Chris. I forgot the ship and everything.

 

You were immersed. With a lovely life and a lovely woman. And she was carrying your child.

 

Yes.

 

I'm sorry.

 

Me, too.

 

Don't go—stay and have a drink.

 

I can't be in here. I spent two months outside, living the way people used to. Come walk with me.

 

Okay. Wait up. Better?

 

Yes. Sitting in my chair a whole shift is hell. I keep getting up, pacing. I know Spock is assessing.

 

You're fine. You're just antsy. It'll come back. Tell Spock to come see me if he gives you any grief and I'll set him straight. Len never would have cleared you for duty if he thought something was wrong with you.

 

You make everything better. I missed you.

 

No, you didn't.

 

No, I guess I didn't. But I should have.

 

 

##

 

I know you're in there. I'll use my override.

 

Fine, come in. Don't scan me, Chris.

 

Your hormones are all over the place. So are your neurotransmitters.

 

Your diagnosis?

 

Kironide may have let you beat Parmen and his band of perverts, but it also left you massively horny.

 

Oh, fuck, Chris. I feel like I'm going to explode.

 

Have you tried to...take care of it yourself?

 

Oh my God. No. That never fucking occurred to me. Stop goddamn laughing—it's the first thing I tried. It...it's not enough. Don't you have some counteragent?

 

Let me think...uh, no. Or maybe I do.

 

What are you doing?

 

Taking off my clothes. Could you lock the door?

 

No. I'm not going to use you again.

 

Are you mourning a lost love?

 

No.

 

Do you want me?

 

You know I do. I stayed with you after Henoch. You could feel how much I wanted you.

 

I could, too. And I liked it. Jim, I have no idea what will happen if you white-knuckle your way through this, but I don't think it'll be good for your performance on the job. So...let me help.

 

Do you have any idea what I want to do to you? How many times? How many ways?

 

I don't. I look forward to finding out.

 

I was actually jealous of Spock, getting to kiss you.

 

Getting to burn me, but for your handy psychic powers putting in an appearance.

 

It was good timing. Now, come here.

 

Mmm, now I'm naked and you're fully clothed.

 

Remedy that.

 

Aye aye, sir.

 

Chris?

 

Yes?

 

Thank you.

 

Give me lots of pleasure and I'll be the one thanking you.

 

I love you.

 

I'm going to pretend you didn't say that.

 

You don't want to hear it?

 

Now when tonight's all we have. Let's just enjoy the night. I don't want to know how much I mean to you if I can't be with you.

 

Do you love me?

 

That's an awfully needy question.

 

It is. I blame the kironide.

 

Good dodge. And yes, I do. But so what, right?

 

No, not so what. Never so what. Come to bed, Chris.

 

Gladly.

 

 

##

 

Chris. Now you're the one being scarce. I have to come to you. Are you going to let me in?

 

Yes, come in. And it's just...easier. And you haven't exactly been alone.

 

On purpose. Knowing you're just a few decks below me...

 

That's a charming reason, but it doesn't make it any easier.

 

You're mad. But you came to me that night.

 

You expect logic?

 

I don't know. I don't know what I expect. I don't want you to be mad.

 

It's just...I was talking to a friend from the abbreviated Starfleet course I had to take. She's on the Dakota. Their captain is involved with a doctor on the staff. And it's not a problem.

 

It is for me.

 

Why? It's just your rule. Change it.

 

I can't.

 

You won't.

 

Fine, I won't.

 

I'm sorry, Jim. I knew the score when I— I shouldn't be such a bitch. But I think it's going to get worse. I wanted you to be the first to know that I'm going to put my application in for med school.

 

Oh.

 

I think it's for the best. Because, I don't just love you: I'm in love with you.

 

I'm in love with you, too.

 

All the more reason to go. It'd be easier if you weren't. I could get over you in a totally adult way.

 

Don't get over me. Once you're at med school...

 

Maybe. Yeah.

 

You don't sound terribly enthused.

 

Because I've watched you with one woman after another. If you say it's to forget me, well, that doesn't make it any better. How do I know you won't—

 

You don't trust me?

 

I didn't say that.

 

You did say that. "How do you know I won't" is saying that.

 

I didn't mean it that way. This just...it hurts. I'm lonely. You're the only person I've been with since Roger. Other men ask me out all the time and I tell them no. And I can't even tell them it's because there's someone else, that it's because I love you. Because I want you. Our goddamned secret—I did that with Roger; I swore never to do it again. And now at night I'm alone in my bed, thinking of you.

 

I'm sorry.

 

Yeah, me too. So I need to go. And I'd like your blessing.

 

And a recommendation?

 

You don't have to.

 

Chris, I want to. I'm not going to stand in your way. And you'll make a fabulous doctor.

 

Thank you.

 

As Spock is so fond of saying: "One does not thank truth."

 

 

##

 

So this is goodbye.

 

Yep. I feel special, getting the captain to see me off personally. And telling the techs to give us the room—careful, you don't want to start rumors.

 

Why are you being this way?

 

Jim, you were locked in your ex-girlfriend's body and didn't see fit to use any inside info to get me to help you. It's as if you'd forgotten what's happened.

 

I was disoriented. You try having your essence jammed into another body and tell me how on the ball you are.

 

You knew Spock. Maybe you should be pursuing him.

 

Can't. He's leaving, too.

 

Oh. I didn't know.

 

No one does. Not yet. He told me...well, because he had to. I need to find a new first officer.

 

Where is he going?

 

Ask him yourself.

 

Wow. Okay, I guess I deserved that.

 

I'm sorry, Chris. He just...he asked me not to say anything.

 

Right, no. Absolutely. It's none of my business anyway.

 

I didn't come here to fight. I came to say goodbye to my friend. Are we not that anymore?

 

No, we are. We are, Jim. Give me a hug and then beam me out of here before I lose my nerve.

 

You're nervous?

 

Yeah, go figure, huh? My parents once called me a professional student and now I'm skittish about going back to it.

 

You'll do great.

 

Thanks.

 

Are you going to... You're not going to wait for me, right?

 

No, I'm not waiting. If I meet a nice guy, then I'll enjoy the nice guy.

 

Right. Got it. Nice indictment of me.

 

It's that you're not a nice guy, Jim. Jesus, stop twisting what I say. It's just...I want a guy that doesn't come complete with a rule that makes no goddamn sense. A guy that's in the same time zone, preferably the same city.

 

Well, I hope you find that.

 

Thanks.

 

You're welcome.

 

Now we're fighting again. Just beam me off, Jim. Before we say things we'll really regret.

 

Good idea. Godspeed, Chris.

 

Same to you. I hope...I hope you find whatever will make you happy.

 

The ship makes me happy.

 

You don't look like it does.

 

It does. Now stand still—I'm energizing. Goodbye, Chris.

 

 

##

 

Oh, God, I'm sorry. I'm always rushing and never look—Jim?

 

In the sorry flesh.

 

Not that it's not great to see you but—you're an admiral?

 

And you say you're not really Starfleet. Nothing slips by you.

 

Are you still on the ship?

 

The ship is being refitted. Modernized. Her captain, too. But then you know that, don't you?

 

What are you talking about?

 

Will Decker. I assume he's your lover as well as your next captain.

 

Well, you assume wrong.

 

Oh, really?

 

Yes. Really. And are you implying Will is getting the Enterprise?

 

Implying? Hell, no. I'm outright stating. I even recommended him. Didn't realize he'd take my best girl away, too, until I saw his crew complement. What else could I think but that you were with him—it's pretty irregular putting a lieutenant up for CMO?

 

I graduated first in my class at med school.

 

I'm sure you did. Decker would want the best. Matt would have taught him that.

 

He told me he needed a CMO for a ship. But he never said it would be for the Enterprise. Don't—don't shrug this off.

 

It's none of my business anymore. You can do whatever you want.

 

I'm not with him, Jim. So if you want to get together...? Wait—how long have you been on Earth. You could have commed me.

 

My wife might have an issue with that. Pretty woman, admiral, too. Won't leave me like you did.

 

Leave you? Are you kidding me? You make it sound like I abandoned a relationship. You wouldn't let us have one, remember?

 

And Decker will. Handy.

 

I'm going to leave now, sir. Congratulations on your promotion. I hope it and your wife make you very happy.

 

Wait, Chris. Wait.

 

For what? More abuse? Thanks but I'll pass.

 

 

##

 

So...the demotion's permanent.

 

I got the memo.

 

There wasn't a memo—oh.

 

You used to be quicker on the uptake, Jim. Did you lose your sense of humor along with your wife?

 

Quite possibly.

 

Did you want something? If you notice, this is the deputy's office. I've already moved my stuff out of the CMO's quarters too.

 

Wow, that was fast.

 

Yeah, well, Spock helped me.

 

Spock did?

 

Yep.

 

Ohhhhh.

 

There's an old saying on Earth: You snooze, you lose. Guess it applies here.

 

You two have already...?

 

He's quite open to it.

 

He's also compromised.

 

Actually, he's not. He's emotional but his med workup was within normal tolerances. I made sure of that before I had sex with him. This may be his new normal as far as being expressive. Time will tell.

 

And meanwhile, you'll take advantage of it.

 

Why? Are you upset? Did you come to tell me you'd suspend your mother-fucking rule? And why do you think I would give a damn? You could have had me on Earth and you were off star-fucking the admiralty's golden girl.

 

Don't mince words, Chris. Also—did you research her?

 

Maybe. What? I love—loved you. I wanted to know what was so irresistible that you'd just forget all about us.

 

I never forgot you.

 

Oh, and that would have kept me so warm at night when I was alone.

 

Were you? Alone?

 

If I wasn't, it's none of your business.

 

Okay. I get it. I'm sorry. For everything. The demotion, mainly, at this particular point in time. I wasn't sure you'd stay. But I guess Spock's given you a reason to.

 

I guess he has.

 

This won't be at all awkward.

 

It won't be if you don't let it be. It's not like I'm going to sit and make out with him while you two play chess.

 

Good. Because that would bug me.

 

Would it?

 

Yeah. It would. So the demotion.  I just—

 

Look, clearly I'm fine with being deputy. As you pointed out, I'm just a lieutenant. This makes far more sense.

 

I was angry when I said that.

 

And jealous?

 

And that, too. And that was me at the start of my tour. You should have seen me by the end.

 

Is that why you left Lori?

 

She left me.

 

Oh. I didn't realize.

 

Yeah, well, I came home one day and all her stuff was gone and there was a padd with the "Do Not Renew" box checked on our term-marriage renewal message. As goodbyes go...

 

I'm sorry.

 

I deserved it. I was an ass. Not just to you. To her, too.

 

Did you cheat on her?

 

That's getting a bit personal, isn't it?

 

Did you?

 

No. I might have been a more chipper fella if I had.

 

I doubt it. You're a good man at heart. You wouldn't have liked yourself much. It's why...it's why you got so cold to me before I left the ship the first time, I think. You had me and you wanted more and you knew I did, too, and you just...reacted. Kneejerk reaction in the opposite direction. Shut me down, stay far away, act like you didn't care.

 

I loved you. I still do. You might be able to make it past tense, but I can't.

 

How would it be different this time?

 

I had what felt like an eternity on Earth, sitting in boring meetings, thinking about anything but the subject at hand. Thinking about my rule. Looking around at my colleagues, many of whom found their partners in the medical section, wondering what was wrong with me.

 

So you thought that. But what would be different?

 

We'd dance. I don't even know if you like to dance. I was so busy keeping it light.

 

I like to dance.

 

Well, swell, and joke's on you because Spock doesn't dance.

 

I know. What else would be different?

 

Are you trying to torture me?

 

Maybe. Just answer the question, Jim. Just...pretend I'm not with Spock and tell me why I should stay.

 

Because I love you. I love talking to you at the bar and laughing with you in the mess. I want to dance with you and I want to walk on a beach with you during shore leave and I want to make love to you before we fall asleep and do it again once we've woken up. I want us to be together. For the big things and the little. For everyone to see.

 

You want all that?

 

I do. Too bad you've moved on.

 

Spock did help me move my stuff. But then he left. For Ny's quarters.

 

What? So you're... You're not sleeping with him?

 

Nope. And he used the time helping me to find out if Ny was single.

 

That was...cold of him.

 

It's Spock, Jim. Besides, do you think he didn't see what you mean to me when we shared consciousness?

 

You never said that.

 

I thought it would make it awkward. Will it make it awkward?

 

So you're staying? I mean if you care that it's going to be awkward or not?

 

I haven't decided that yet. I had to move into the smaller quarters either way—Len needed a place to put his stuff and Delacroix has already secured another post.

 

Good, then I don't have to tell him he's demoted, too.

 

He figured that out on his own. Or I may have told him.

 

So you should stay.

 

Should I, though? You were an ass. You didn't come find me when you came back to Earth. I...I was so hurt when I found that out.

 

Actually I did come find you.

 

What?

 

You and Decker were leaving your place. You were laughing—and I know that laugh.

 

I told you—

 

And I believe you. Now. But back then it just felt like he was taking everything from me.

 

It didn't occur to you to ask me?

 

After how we left it? No, it didn't. You'd found a better me. Younger. No rules. Why the hell not take it? I stormed off, hurt and angry, and ran into Lori. And that was that. Until it wasn't.

 

You're an idiot.

 

On that we agree. So...will you stay?

 

I don't know yet. I suggest you find ways to convince me to stay. Very nice ways.

 

Okay.

 

Just like that? Okay?

 

You know I love a challenge. And you may not be sure that I love you, but I am.

 

What if you only love me on this ship, Jim? What if that's the only time I'm irresistible to you?

 

What did I just say? I'd never have picked Lori if I hadn't been looking for your polar opposite because I was so...angry I couldn't have you on Earth either. I've loved you since I first met you in that bar, when you were surly and wanting to find Roger.

 

You set a low bar for your lady loves.

 

Not true. Not true at all.

 

I'll stay for a while. Okay?

 

Good. I'll convince you the rest of the way. Chris, I will. Can I kiss you?

 

No.

 

No?

 

No. What part of "You were an ass to me" doesn't compute?

 

Got it: defer kissing. See, I can still make you laugh.

 

Yes, you can still do that. Now get out. I've got reports to finish.

 

Okay. And Chris. I'm really sorry about Decker—I mean that he's gone. He was a fine officer.

 

And a very nice man. I'll miss him.

 

I imagine you will. I wasn't a nice man to him, not this time. I recommended he get the ship and then stole it out from under him. I took...everything.

 

You think I don't know that? You were a prime asshole. Sorry, I shouldn't talk to the captain like that.

 

I'm not your captain in here at this moment. Just a man. So...honesty is good. It's what we need.

 

We've generally been honest. Maybe if we'd lied to each other more we'd have done better.

 

I don't think so.

 

We can debate it later. Reports, remember? You and your magic lips and twinkling eyes can get out.

 

You sure are noticing a lot of my best qualities for someone who wants me to leave. Okay, getting out now. But...

 

Jim, God damn it, I said no kisses.

 

It's a hug, not a kiss. I'm just...I'm just so happy you're here.

 

I may not stay.

 

You will.

 

 

##

 

Wow, ballsy move, mister. Putting your arm around me in public.

 

Not going to hide this.

 

May not be anything to hide.

 

That would be more believable if you weren't leaning into me.

 

Oh. Right.

 

I didn't say to stop. Come here.

 

Mmmmmm.

 

There, I've kissed you in front of the whole crew.

 

Jim, there are four people in the rec lounge and we are two of them.

 

I'm starting slow. I've lived with this rule for a long time, Chris. Let me ease into it.

 

Fine. Mmmmmmmm. And what was that kiss for? You've already impressed the ensigns playing bartender and dj for the night.

 

That was because I wanted to.

 

What if I didn't?

 

You probably shouldn't open your mouth while I'm doing it if you want me to stop.

 

Maybe I was going to yell for help.

 

Generally that works better if you don't put your tongue into my mouth at the same time.

 

Details. Mmmmm. My God, Jim, three?

 

That one's because I need to tell you something. Delasco over on the Canberra is looking for a CMO. She asked me if you'd be interested. Everything in me wanted to say you wouldn't be, but this is your career—your life. So I told her I would find out. It's a nice ship.

 

As nice as this one?

 

No.

 

Like I didn't know that answer was coming. Is she a good captain?

 

She is. One of the best. I'd only send you to the best.

 

What do you want?

 

You know what I want. But it's your life, Chris. What do you want to do?

 

I want to stay here with you. Like this. In the middle of a—hopefully less empty—rec lounge dancing. Tell her I'm good where I am.

 

You weren't looking at me when you said that. Do you want to go? We'd make it work somehow.

 

I threw my career away for Roger.

 

I know.

 

I think I might have thrown it away again to stay here with you.

 

You could have gone back to academia.

 

I could have. I didn't want to. I liked it here. Until I didn't.

 

And you left.

 

And I left.

 

Do you want to leave now?

 

Do I have to answer now?

 

You probably have a couple days.

 

Okay.

 

What? You look so sad.

 

I don't want to think it over.  I want to stay with you.

 

Yeah?

 

Yeah. It's stupid.

 

No, it's not. It's wonderful.

 

What if we don't work?

 

What if we do? You see this smile on my face? You're the reason.

 

Well, and your ship.

 

But you on my ship. And someday, you on Earth or wherever else we might end up. Chris, I'll let you go and I'll give you a glowing recommendation if that's what you want, but I think this could be wonderful.

 

And we already know the sex is good.

 

The sex is fucking fantastic.

 

It really is.  And I missed you. Once I left.

 

I missed you. Don't. I know that look. The "all the other women" look. There won't be those other women. I may still have to play solicitous captain—and flirting is in my blood, I'm afraid—but I come home to you.

 

And only me.

 

And only you.

 

Fine. Tell Delasco I'm staying put. Mmmmm. The lounge is getting crowded.  You sure you want to be giving me all these kisses?

 

I'm sure.

 

Mmmmmm.

 

Jim, is there a reason you're manhandling my deputy with your lips?

 

We're in love, Bones.

 

News to me. Can't a man retire and have anything stay the same? Spock, did you know about this?

 

I had my suspicions, Doctor.

 

Hrrrummpphh. Well, they're not coming up for air anytime soon. Buy you a non-alcoholic beverage, my fine Vulcan friend?

 

Most kind.

 

Should we move them out of the traffic area?

 

I believe they are exactly where they need to be. Shall we, doctor?

 

So tell me about this cockamamie plan you had to purge your emotions, Spock. Guess that didn't work out as planned...

 

Are they gone, Chris?

 

They are. We probably should get out of the traffic pattern. These uniforms don't hide much and some parts of you are super happy to see me again.

 

I know. Hey, I have an idea. Let's go to my quarters, put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door, and get out of these uniforms.

 

Sweetie, there are no "Do Not Disturb" signs on these doors.

 

Well, damn. But it's still a good idea even without them.

 

I agree one hundred percent.

 

FIN