DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2013 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.
The sun was high as Spock sat on the porch of his family’s retreat in the mountains north of ShiKahr. He considered sending a message to Valeris but decided to wait until Christine was safely gone. Pulling his robe more tightly around him, he drank the water his body so desperately needed after the Pon Farr.
The door opened and Christine walked out, fully clothed, hair wet. She sat down next to him and sighed. “This arrangement...” She did not finish her thought so he nodded and murmured, “I know.”
She shifted, as if trying to get comfortable.
“Did I hurt you?”
“No, lying in bed that long just is hell on the back.” She leaned against him, and he found the pressure soothing. “Primal-you likes me, remember? You never hurt me.”
She was right. His more primal self was drawn to her. So much that during their first time together—the Pon Farr shortly after his meld with V’ger—he had bonded with her. He had not given her a choice; she probably had not been aware he was doing it. He had barely been aware of his actions.
Until the Pon Farr was over, and they were left with an unbreakable bond that he had not wanted. She, however, had. His rejection had hurt her a great deal; it was undoubtedly why she had left the ship and medicine for Emergency Operations.
He had been surprised that the connection had not died when he had given his life to save the ship from Khan, but Christine thought the fact that his katra had been kept safe in McCoy’s consciousness and his body was regenerated on the Genesis planet so quickly may have kept them bonded. She said she had felt the separation when he died, but she had also felt the unique pinging of the bond start up again when the Fal-tor-pan had been successful. “You weren’t ever entirely gone, Spock” was the hypothesis she had put forward with no small amount of rancor.
And yet now, sitting here with her, he...felt something. And it was not just his primal self who was comforted by her presence. Over the years, with his cycles being irregular and the Fal-tor-pan playing havoc with his hormones for months after his resurrection, they’d been drawn together frequently and had managed to build something positive.
So positive that he would have tried to make a life with her if she had wanted it after the last Pon Farr.
She had not wanted it. She had found someone else—had eventually married that someone else.
“Your husband is waiting for you in ShiKahr?” he asked.
“Yes. Probably not too happy with me. We’ve been here a long time this go round.”
He nodded. He did not think it a coincidence that the duration of the Pon Farr was getting longer. It was, as he understood it, how it often went for bonded couples separated by duty. Once they were allowed to come together, it was as if they were compelled to make up for lost time, to...feed the bond almost. It was a strange thought, but it was how he’d felt this time with Christine. As if he was trying to fill a glass left empty too long.
He shifted so he could see her face. “Will he be angry?”
“Probably. But I told him the truth about us when he asked me to marry him. Knowing it will happen and living through it are very different things, though.” She sighed.
He thought she was probably thinking of the other men she’d been with over the years. None of whom she’d stayed with—had it been because of the bond?
“I hope it will not be unduly uncomfortable.”
She laughed. “Hi, Tony. I’m back from having sex for four days with a man who is not you.” She shook her head. “No, it won’t be at all uncomfortable. He’s not quite buying the irregular cycle thing. He’d heard seven years, and he’s not sure why you’re so different.”
“You told him I was half human?”
“I did. He didn’t find that comforting.” She nudged him. “Enough about me. How does Valeris feel about it?”
“She accepts what is, but I am relatively sure our situation is not easy for her. If she and I eventually formalize our relationship, she will be denied something that is intrinsic to Vulcan marriage.”
“I didn’t know you two were that serious.” There was something in her voice he could not read. “Isn’t she a little young for you?”
“As you are not available, I do not believe you should criticize my choices.”
“Okay, fine. Rob the cradle.” She took the glass of water from him, drank deeply.
Valeris would never do such a thing. To Christine, it was second nature. Spock wondered if she had any idea how easily she interacted with him.
“I’m going to go get us some more. Since I’m drinking all of this.” She grinned at him. “Do you want me to get my own glass?”
He shook his head before he could think better of it.
“You like sharing?”
“With you. Yes.”
Her expression changed, grew pensive. “Why didn’t we work, Spock? Why couldn’t you have given us a chance?” Her voice was even; she sounded as if she was asking him a question about other people, not something so emotionally charged for her.
“I have at times regretted that.”
“Yes.” It was foolish to talk of this. They were with other people. They were content with other people.
“Yeah, me, too. But I wasn’t the one who walked away from this.” She got up and went back into the house.
When she came out, she had two glasses. “Sharing’s over,” she said softly.
“I am sorry for that, but I understand.” He sipped the water.
This time she sat on the stairs instead of next to him.
Spock walked into the spaceport and saw Christine standing with a tall man with blonde hair. Spock nodded to her slightly, then walked to the far side of the waiting lounge and sat down.
A moment later, the man was headed his way quickly and with resolve in his steps; Christine trailed in his wake, looking anxious. Spock was unsure whether to stand or not, finally decided it would be best.
He didn’t think Christine’s husband would make trouble, but he wasn’t certain of that.
The man stood just slightly too close to be polite and said, “We haven’t met. I’m Tony Sanders. Christine’s husband.”
“For whom?” The man surprised Spock by smiling, but then the smile changed, became something less friendly. “Or are you just trying to be polite in a really screwed-up situation?”
“I am.” Spock looked at Christine, who was hanging back, then back to Sanders. “I regret that this was necessary.”
“She said the same thing.”
“It is an...unusual situation.”
“Well, on that we can agree.” Sanders seemed to be studying him. “I know this is awkward, but I needed to meet you. You have a part of her—I think I deserve to at least have talked to you.”
“It is a logical need.” It was not, of course, at all logical. It was emotional. But Spock had learned in his time as a diplomat that the truth was often less palatable than a well-constructed fabrication.
“See, Christine. I’m logical. Spock said so.” Sanders shot Christine a look Spock could not read, then turned back to Spock. “She thought it was a mistake to come over.”
She was not meeting Spock’s eyes as she said, “Well, you were right, Ton’. It’s all good. Now, can we go?”
“We can.” Sanders turned and headed back to where they’d been waiting.
With a mouthed “Sorry” to Spock, Christine followed him.
Valeris was sitting in the cafeteria at Starfleet Command, and Spock stood at the door and watched her. There was nothing in her demeanor to indicate to most onlookers that she was upset by what had transpired with Christine. Yet, Spock saw something in the way she was eating, the slight stab of her food, as if the salad had offended her.
After selecting his lunch, he walked to her table and murmured, “May I join you?”
“You hardly need to ask.” Her eyes were bright as she looked up at him, but again he got the feeling she was trying very hard to appear normal. “I have...missed you.”
“And I you.” Which was not, strictly speaking, true. When he had been with Christine, he had not been in a state to miss anything. Everything he wanted he’d had at his fingertips during the Pon Farr.
And later he had not thought much of Valeris. Meeting Christine’s husband had given him more to think about. He had found himself dissecting the way Sanders and Christine interacted.
Why did he care?
“You are...well?” Valeris asked, and again there was the slight hesitation.
Spock felt a pang: he would never be driven to her when the Pon Farr came. Not even if they wed, or at least for the span of a normal human life. Once Christine was gone, then Valeris and Spock could bond.
He did not like to think of Christine being gone.
“I am fine, Valeris.” He studied her. “And you?”
“I am also fine, Spock.” She met his eyes, and he could tell she was trying her utmost to appear normal—to appear that she was all right with how things were.
“I am truly sorry.”
She shrugged. “It is not as if you care for the woman, correct?” She was watching him very closely. “You would have stayed with her after you bonded if you had strong feelings for her?”
He looked down. “I would have.” That was what he had always told himself.
“You sound convincing, Spock. But I would have less uncertainty if you would meet my eyes when you answer.” Her tone was composed, a perfect Vulcan even when expressing insecurity.
It was what he had found so compelling about her. She was a full Vulcan and she looked up to him. She wanted him, even if they had not made love—that was Spock’s doing, not hers.
She was too young, he’d told himself. She was still a junior officer. This might be simply an infatuation.
All excellent excuses to keep her close but not too close.
A memory of the recent Pon Farr returned to him. Christine lying under him, her legs wrapped tightly around him, her lips hard against his. She had moaned as he moved, then murmured, “I love you. I still love you.” He had not been sure she even knew what she was saying—they were deep in the rut and the meld was a strong one.
He had felt comforted by her words. Enflamed by her touch. He wondered if he would find her as compatible a partner without the burning adding desire and resonance.
“You are very far away, Spock.” There was hurt in Valeris’s voice.
“Did you say something?”
“It was of no importance.”
They finished their meal in silence.
Several days later, Spock was in the office Starfleet Command let him use when he was on Earth for a diplomatic venture. He heard his chime go off and said, “Come.”
Christine walked in, looking uncomfortable—he could not remember the last time she had been to see him, other than to make plans for this most recent Pon Farr. She left the door open, as if she didn’t want any sign of impropriety, and Spock wondered if her husband was in the vicinity.
She took a deep breath. “I wanted to catch you before you went back to the Enterprise.”
“I leave in two weeks.”
“So long? How does Jim make due without his first officer?”
“It is becoming more difficult for him, I think. I do not know how long I can successfully do both jobs.”
“You’re the king of multitaskers. If anyone can do it...” She turned to the back of his office, seemed to be studying the bare shelves where someone more permanent might put personal items.
“You did not come to laud my ability to do two things at once.”
“You’re right. I didn’t.” She turned to look at him. “First, I’m sorry about Tony.”
“He was quite pleasant under the circumstances.”
She laughed softly. “To you. He was quite pleasant to you.”
“He did not hurt you, did he?”
She looked surprised. “Oh, no, I don’t mean that. He’s a good man. This is hard on him, as I think you’d expect. I certainly expected it. I just didn’t imagine him wanting to meet you. He knew who you were of course—how could he not? But to, well, charge you in the middle of the spaceport—it wasn’t what I expected.”
He waited, surely this was not the only reason she was here. When she said nothing more, he rose and walked over to her. “I was not overly distressed by his actions. Were I in his situation, I would want to inspect my rival.”
“Rival? Is that what you are?” She looked up at him with an expression that managed to be both irritated and helpless. Then she looked down, as if meeting his eyes was difficult. “Have things changed for us? You seem different. We seem different.”
“Commander Chapel,” a snap of her title, somehow still managing to keep within the bounds of Vulcan propriety, sounded from the doorway. Spock turned and saw Valeris there. Her face was a perfect Vulcan mask, but he could tell she was not pleased to see Christine with him.
Christine turned slowly. “Lieutenant.” She seemed to put an extra emphasis on the rank. “Do you make it a habit to linger in doorways when your superiors are having a conversation?”
Spock had never witnessed Christine on the job at Emergency Operations. He suddenly had a vision of just how much she had changed since her time as a nurse and then a doctor on the ship.
“I was not lingering. I have an appointment with Captain Spock.”
That was a mangling of the truth. They were to have lunch. He glanced at the chrono—it was the time they had set to meet. But she could easily have waited outside or gone away and come back.
Then again, it was not as if Christine was here for any official reason and he suspected Valeris had ascertained that.
Christine walked toward Valeris, and she managed to be very intimidating as she moved. She stopped before she was close enough to give offense and said, “I’m sure the captain will come get you when we’re done.”
It was a resoundingly cruel choice of words in Spock’s estimation, and he could see Valeris register the double meaning by the way her eyes narrowed.
She looked at Spock, ignoring Christine as only a Vulcan could, when she said, “I will see you later, sir.”
“Indeed, Valeris.” He used her name because he felt that he should make up for what Christine had said.
Christine turned and walked back to him, leaving Valeris facing her back. Spock tried to send Valeris some message—he was not sure what—in the swift downturn of his brows, and she nodded and walked out.
“That was harshly said.” He went back to his chair and sat, trying to hide the fact that he was not as irritated at Christine as he perhaps should be.
That some part of him had just enjoyed that exchange.
Did he want her? Now? When it was too late?
“She loves you. She loves you enough to be jealous. That must feel good after T’Pring.” Christine sighed and all the steel went out of her posture. “I’m sorry, Spock. I don’t know what came over me.”
“It is possible that you still feel...territorial after the Pon Farr. The bond was invoked, the need to return to Vulcan felt by both of us. We are mated, despite how we live apart.”
“That must be hard for her. I mean, I knew that intellectually, but I guess I just never put emotion—love—into the mix since she’s a full Vulcan.” She shook her head. “I should know better. Your father is certainly capable of it.”
There were times he resented the way she got on with his father. He resented even more the disapproval in Sarek’s voice when he asked why Spock could not come to his senses and formalize the union with the woman he had made his mate.
Spock had a feeling Christine had told Sarek the parting was not her idea—but he did not blame her: Sarek had no doubt worked it out of her in his inimitable way.
“I do not wish to keep her waiting, Christine.”
“You never answered my question. Have things changed between us?”
“You are married. Happily, if I am not mistaken? Why does this matter?”
She seemed to have to think about that. “Ego, probably. Or maybe I still love you. One or both.” She headed to the door, but she turned before leaving. “Or maybe I’m just a bitch who likes to make trouble. I think you will not have an easy meeting with your young lieutenant.”
He tried to ignore the way she had to mention Valeris’s youth and rank. It was entirely possible this older Christine was the kind of woman she just called herself—and was making trouble.
The thing that concerned him was that he was not sure he minded.
Spock finished packing the last of his things. Starfleet had finally made him choose, and Spock had chosen diplomacy.
He heard a cough at his door, realized he had left it open when the officer from the quartermaster’s shop had picked up his foot locker.
“So,” Jim’s voice was full of emotion, and Spock turned to him. “This is it?”
“This is not like before. I am not going to Gol, Jim. Merely to Starfleet Command.”
“Gol may be preferable to that place.” Jim winked. “Diplomacy, huh? Over staying on ship? I just can’t see it.”
“I realize that. This ship defines you. And your name has become synonymous with it.”
“My wife, some say this ship is.” Jim wandered the room, seemed to be taking in the empty shelves and closet. “It won’t be the same without you here. But I imagine your paramour will be glad to get you back on Earth.”
For a moment, Spock wondered how Jim knew about the Pon Farr and Christine. Then he realized that of course Jim was speaking of Valeris. Jim had no idea Spock had bonded with Christine. Why had Spock never told him?
He wondered who Christine had told, other than her husband. Did Nyota know? Did Leonard? And if they did, then had they told Jim and would Jim hold it against him?
“You refer to Valeris?” he finally said into the silence.
“Who else?” There was definitely something in Jim’s voice, something Spock hadn’t heard before. Disappointment? Hurt?
“I have not rushed that relationship. She is very young and looks up to me. But I can see a future with her, as my wife.”
“Another Vulcan wife.” Jim’s expression was unreadable. “Just like T’Pring, then? The bond, this time with no challenge, though.”
“It will be a Vulcan marriage, yes.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Spock, cut the crap. You think I don’t know about you and Chris?”
“Did Doctor McCoy tell you?”
“No. Chris told me. One night in the officer’s club after our adventure back to save the whales. Too much tequila can often equal truth.” He sat down at the desk. “I know you were on Vulcan a couple months ago. I know she was, too.”
Spock suddenly wondered just what Chris meant to Jim that he should know these things. “If you are interested in Christine, Jim, you should have told me.”
Jim laughed, the soft, bitter laugh that was Spock’s least favorite. “That’s not what I’m talking about, Spock. I happen to be a fan of you two together. But you’re not together and you do seem fond of Valeris, and it’s Valeris I’m worried about. I don’t think you’re her only crush.”
“I am far more than a crush, Jim.”
“Fine, call it what you like.” Jim took a deep breath, seemed to be thinking about something. Finally, he said, “You know Matt Cartwright’s my friend, so I say this with reluctance, but I’ve seen them together. The way she looks at him is...significant.”
“He is an admiral who values her greatly as an officer. Valeris appreciates being valued.”
“Something is going on there. You know me—I do have some expertise in this area. They share something.”
“I have not rushed the relationship with Valeris, but I have melded with her. She has no feelings for him other than the natural admiration of a junior officer for an admiral.”
Jim’s lip went up on the side, the “gotcha” smile as Leonard called it. “And of course you engage in deep melds with her. Let her see exactly what you do with Chris on your ‘sabbaticals’? How much you do or don’t feel for her?”
Spock looked away.
“Yeah. That’s what I thought.” He stood up. “This isn’t how I wanted your leaving to go.” He settled his hand on Spock’s shoulder, the warm regard coming through the contact the same as ever. “I just don’t want you to get hurt. I’m not sure how invested Valeris is in you. And, more importantly, I think you might want to consider Chris instead.”
“Christine is married.”
Jim grinned. The real grin, the one Spock liked best. “Yeah, you might want to talk to her about that.” He winked at Spock and said, “I’ll see you next time I’m on Earth. If you ever need a ride to your diplomatic assignments, call me first.” He tightened his grip on Spock’s arm, then let go. “Good luck, Spock.”
“Thank you, Jim. I will see you soon.”
Jim nodded and walked out.
Spock considered what Jim had just said about Christine’s marriage. He would most definitely talk to her about it.
Spock stood at the entrance to Emergency Operations and watched Christine as she moved around the space. She reminded him of Jim the way she stopped to talk to her people, the slight touch on the shoulder or arm, the warm, easy smile.
She stood up and seemed to stiffen, then turned to look at him. He had to bite back a reaction: she had known he was there. Had felt it through the bond. And he could sense something coming back from her. Irritation—and excitement. Then pleasure: she was happy to see him.
She pointed to an office and met him at the door. “Not the way I expected my morning to go.” Gesturing him to one of her guest chairs, she closed the door then sat down behind her desk.
“I am home based on Earth now.”
He let a rising eyebrow be an answer to that.
“Do you want me to lie?” Her voice slipped into a strange falsetto. “Oh, Spock, really? How amazing that you’re here.” She didn’t look away, but her voice went back to its normal tone when she said, “I always know where you are.”
She laughed. “No, it’s this little thing called the location command. Knowing where ships and people are is our job here.”
He let the side of his mouth tick up.
She smiled more fully. “Although I did feel you just now. I don’t remember that happening before. Has it for you?”
He shook his head. “As you said the last time we talked, something has changed between us.”
She looked away, moving padds on her desk almost nervously. “I try not to think too much about that.”
She sighed. “Because I want to hear that. I want you. But...you’re taken.”
“Technically, in the Vulcan sense, I am taken by you.”
She laughed softly. “True.” Then she met his eyes. “But in a human sense. Doesn’t Valeris own that part of your heart?”
“I am unsure at this point.”
Her eyes widened. “What?”
“I have never initiated a sexual relationship with her, Christine. Why do you think that is?”
“Because she’s young enough to be your daughter.”
He took a deep breath. “I do not believe that is it.” He leaned in. “Jim told me to ask you about your marriage.”
She blushed deeply. “Oh, shit. So, he also told you about a certain evening with tequila?”
He realized she was couching the question so that if he was unaware of her truth telling, she could go another direction. “I know you told him about the bond.”
“I’m sorry.” She made a face. “I never intended to tell him anything, I swear.”
“I believe you. I am, in fact, unconcerned about your inability to hold your liquor and your tongue at the same time. I wish to know of the state of your marriage.”
“Because things have changed between us.” He held her gaze. “And I am interested in that. I am very interested.”
“We’ve never been together outside of the Pon Farr. You’ve never let us. Maybe we wouldn’t work.”
“In bed or in a relationship?”
“Either. You don’t want to sleep with me unless your biological urges get the better of you.”
He let his lips go up into a true, if small, smile. “You are wrong. This last time, the final few hours we spent in bed? The burning was gone. I was with you because I wanted you, and I know that you wanted me. I could feel it through the melds, the bond, and by the way you moved against me.”
She stared at him and swallowed hard. “Fine, if you must know, my marriage is over. Our being together during the Pon Farr ate at Tony. He thought he could handle it, but it was harder than he expected. And I’ve been distracted. I’ve been thinking about you a lot and not paying much attention to my husband. Tony’s not the kind of guy to take a back seat, you know? He loves me, but he thinks I lied to him from the start. That I always loved you.”
“You always did love me.”
“That’s not the point. I pushed it back. I moved on.” She took a deep breath, then exhaled quickly, a huff of exasperation, he imagined. “Just not far enough.”
“How could you, when we have this bond between us?”
“I didn’t ask for it.” She got up and walked to the window of her office; Spock saw that it looked out on the Starfleet gardens. “I would have gladly been your wife, but you didn’t want that. I accepted your decision—with difficulty, granted—but I did accept it.”
He stood and joined her at the window. “Are you still living with him?”
“Yes, but I’m moving out.”
“Have you secured a place yet?”
She glanced at him. “No.”
“Neither have I. Perhaps we could look for one together.”
“You, me, and Valeris, you mean?”
He put his hand on her back and rubbed gently, felt her lean back into his touch. “I believe it is time for my relationship with Valeris to revert back to sponsorship—if she still wishes to have contact once I have told her you and I have decided to cohabitate.”
“I haven’t said yes yet.”
“I know. Am I being presumptuous?”
She smiled. “Yes.”
“I accept that. Am I wrong in my presuming?”
She smiled again. “No. But tell her first. I’m not considering this any further until you’re free of her.”
“And it’s just a trial run. Don’t tell people we’re married.”
“Technically we are.”
“Don’t tell people that, either.” She turned to study him. “I suppose you’ve got a space all picked out for our little love nest?”
He shook his head. “I thought it best we look for it together.”
Her smile was a pleased one, but then it changed. “So answer me this: why didn’t you break up with the little princess first?”
He lifted an eyebrow at the sarcasm in her tone. “Because I came right to you once I left the ship.”
“Romantic if you look at it one way. Pragmatic if you come at it from another angle: what if I’d said no? You’d still have her this way.”
“You work with scenarios in Ops. I accept that. However, I truthfully was driven to you, to not wait to discuss this. I have great regard for her as a fellow officer and as a protégé, but romantically, she is secondary in this.”
“I wouldn’t tell her that when you kick her to the curb.” Christine’s smile was not a very nice one.
Spock did not call her on it.
Spock commed Valeris, leaving her a message to come to his office when she could. He assessed his feelings for a moment once he cut the connection. He should probably feel something more profound than relief that he was ending their romance, but he did not. He had used Valeris, and she had let him use her. What had she been thinking? He was bonded with Christine—it was unseemly to take another woman’s man.
No, he must not make her the villain in this. He had used her. The fault was with him. He had not wanted Christine when he first bonded with her, and then once he did, she was no longer free. He had chosen Valeris because he was proud of her, proud of her accomplishments—and he still was. She had the brightest mind he had ever known.
He should not have reached as far as he did. He should not have let admiration turn to more. Even if he had never been inclined to take their relationship to the final stage.
Enough. This was what it was. He would hurt Valeris, and he was sure she would not show him how much. She would be Vulcan in this as in all things.
He went back to work, but a nagging sense of guilt lingered. When his chime sounded, he said, “Come,” and the guilt intensified. He had not been free; he should never have pursued her. His father had tried to tell him this, but Spock would not listen.
“You wanted to see me?” Valeris’s eyes were sparkling.
He realized she had changed her hair. It was no longer up in a bun, was instead cut into a chin-length style.
It was not unlike the way Christine wore her hair now except that Valeris had hers held back from her face with a silver headband and her bangs were cut more severely over her ears. “Your hair.”
“Do you approve?”
“It is not important that I approve or not. It is your hair, Valeris.”
The sparkle died and she cocked her head, studying him intently. “So, you do not like it.”
“I did not say that.” But if he were truthful, he would say that. It made him uneasy that she had thought it necessary to cut her hair in such a similar way to Christine’s.
“It is easier to maintain.”
He thought that was probably untrue, but he did not call her on it. Did not play their old game and ask, “A lie?”
She sat. “You have something to tell me?”
“I do.” He took a deep breath. Looking at her, seeing her usually eager eyes dimmed, he felt the guilt again. “You are aware that I value you greatly, Valeris, are you not? That our association brings me great satisfaction.”
She nodded, but it was a tentative motion, as if she did not like the careful way he was phrasing things.
“I can never give you a full life with me. Never give you access to the heart of a marriage—what a Vulcan wife deserves.”
She frowned, the expression nothing more than pulled-down eyebrows, but still a breach. “I have been aware of that since you first told me you had bonded with another woman.”
She would not even say Christine’s name?
She leaned in. “I have made peace with this, Spock. Please, if you feel uneasy, then do not persist in that. I am aware of the limits that face us, but I also know that we can still have a full life. And she will not live forever.”
He glanced at her sharply—even if he had thought of this himself, he did not like the sound of it when she said it.
She held up a hand, and he realized he must have telegraphed his displeasure. “I do not mean anything by that. Except that Vulcans outlive humans, barring untimely death. It is the natural way.”
“It is.” He looked down for a moment, then back up, meeting her gaze, knowing he had to look at her when he said this. “It is also the natural way for a Vulcan male to bond with the woman he wishes to spend his life with.”
Her expression turned to stone.
“Even if the male does not realize that at the time of bonding.” He leaned forward. “It is not something that can be resisted, Valeris. Once you are bonded, you will understand.”
“You wish to be with Commander Chapel? But she is married.”
“Her marriage is ending.”
She leaned back and said, “I see.”
“I hold you in the highest regard. I most willingly offer to continue as your sponsor, but I understand if this is not an association you can maintain at this time.”
“You would forsake me in all ways?” Her voice was even, no emotion coming through to accompany words so plaintive.
“I am not forsaking you. This happened long before we met. It was set into motion when you were a youth. I should not have pursued you.”
“It was I who pursued you, Spock. Give me the credit of that at least.” She stood and walked to the door. “I will consider if I wish to continue our association. There are others who would be suitable mentors.”
“Like Admiral Cartwright?”
She turned and gave him a puzzled look. One that eventually made him say, “I had heard you were close.”
“You had heard? You have been in my mind, Spock. Although you have never gone very deep. Now I know why, if your sentiments for that woman were changing. I can see how you would not want me aware of this. Had you gone deeper, you would have seen that you are the only man that matters to me.”
“I beg forgiveness, Valeris. I should not listen to gossip.”
“Gossip?” Her expression was one he could not read. “From her?”
He shook his head. “I will not tell you who told me, but it was not Christine.”
“How easily her name slips from your tongue now, Spock. Before it was always Commander Chapel.” She took a deep breath. “I wish you both well.”
She turned and walked out, and he sat for a moment before comming Christine.
When she answered, he said only, “It is done.”
“Is she okay?”
“Do you care?” He could not envision a scenario where Christine would worry over the state of Valeris’s heart.
“Only in the sense of I might have made an enemy. She’s smarter than I am—and I’m plenty smart. I hate to think of all that brainpower gunning for me.”
“You are not in favor, but then you never have been with her, to be honest. I believe she took the news with as much equanimity as can be expected.”
“On the outside. But how is she on the inside?” There was a long silence, and he waited her out. Finally, she said, “Okay, then. Let’s find a place to live.”
To Spock’s surprise, Christine insisted on a place that would allow them both to have their own bedrooms. He wanted a study, as well, so they ended up in a large three-bedroom apartment in a high rise within walking distance of Command.
When he’d asked Christine why she was adamant about having her own room, she’d given him a hard look and said, “I’m not sold on this concept yet.”
Her tone and expression had been resolute enough that he had chosen not to challenge her statement. He was fairly certain she would come around once they were together, and if she did, they would have a guest room once she moved into his bedroom. Or he moved into hers—he’d let her have the nicer of the two.
It was their second week in the apartment and Spock was making coffee—for her, he normally did not indulge—when Christine came out of her bedroom and walked up behind him, wrapping her arms around him and hugging him.
“To what do I owe this? It is most pleasurable.”
She laughed. “Because you’re a hell of a lot better roommate than I thought you would be.”
He put one hand over hers and continued setting the coffee maker with the other. “And this surprises you?”
He pulled her around so she was hugging him from the side and wrapped his arm around her. She didn’t complain, so when he finished the coffee prep, he moved so he could draw her to where she was facing him.
“It’s going to be hard for me to make us breakfast,” she said in a sultry whisper, “if you do this.”
“I find myself increasingly less invested in breakfast.”
She laughed, and then surprised him by pulling him down to her for a kiss. A kiss he engaged in willingly and with great enthusiasm. She grinned as they finally pulled away. “Yowza.”
“Indeed.” He wanted to pick her up and carry her to a bed—or the couch, a nearby table might also be acceptable—but he settled for leaning in for a quick kiss on the cheek and letting her go. He reached for a mug out of the cabinet.
“So you want me to fix breakfast?”
“Want would be an exaggeration. I merely do not wish to push this relationship in a direction you are not yet ready for it to go.”
She took the mug out of his hand, pulled him back down to her, and just before their lips touched, she whispered, “Who says I’m not ready?”
He pulled back enough to see her eyes. “You are ready?”
“Weren’t you about to kiss me?”
“I was. Answer the question.”
She laughed and nodded. “Your room or mine, sailor?”
“Neither.” He lifted her to the counter—she was not wearing any underwear under her sleepshirt and robe—and undid his uniform pants. Then he kissed her and rubbed her back and the nape of her neck the way he’d learned she liked during the Pon Farrs.
She moaned and played with his hair the way she’d no doubt learned he liked, and then she whispered, “Spock, for the love of God. Just do it.” She pulled him closer, wriggled a little and then...there.
He sighed. Loudly. To be more precise, it was more of a moan than a sigh.
“Somebody likes this,” she said as she wrapped her legs around him and pulled him in more.
“A most accurate statement.” He kissed her as tenderly as he could manage given how hard he was thrusting, and he felt something ping between them through the bond, something he’d never felt during the Pon Farrs they’d shared.
Amusement. Lightness. Joy?
“Holy shit, Spock. This is amazing.”
He would not have phrased it precisely that way, but he had to concur.
Spock sat working in his office at Command, getting ready for his next mission. A very special one and one he was honored to be chosen for. Reaching out to the Klingons was a step he had not thought Starfleet would make in his lifetime, let alone so soon.
His chime went off and he said, “Come,” expecting it to be the assistant Command had assigned him, but instead it was Valeris who walked in.
“I hope I am not bothering you.”
He put down his padd. “It is never a bother, Valeris.”
“I have had time to consider our relationship. You are an excellent mentor with outstanding connections. I would like to continue our association.”
“You are certain?”
She nodded. “I know that your relationship with the commander is progressing. I have seen you together in the corridors of Command and you look...compatible.”
Spock knew compatible wasn’t sufficient to describe what he felt for Christine and what he knew she felt for him. But he would let Valeris categorize their regard any way she wished.
“Also, I need to say something. I believe I must be honest in this, Spock, because I used to think we were honest with each other, but now I question that.” As he began to protest, she held her hand up. “Please, do not insult me with arguments. You clearly had stronger sentiments for Commander Chapel than you led me to believe.”
He stopped what he had been going to say. Primarily because she was right: at the time he had begun to think of Valeris as a possible wife, he had already realized he wanted more from Christine.
“My honesty is this, Spock. You are making a mistake choosing her. Logic dictates that your best path lies with a Vulcan.”
“Logic? The choosing of a mate is rarely logical, Valeris. And I do not think you would argue thus if you were approaching this from a logical standpoint alone. I realize I have hurt you. I regret that deeply.”
“She is not good enough for you.”
“Because she is human?” He saw she realized the trap she had stumbled into. “But then by that reasoning, would I also not be good enough for you? I am, after all, half human. Would you view my mother with the same...contempt you show for my mate?”
“I hold your mother in high esteem.”
Spock wondered if Valeris knew his mother did not return the sentiment. Like Sarek, she preferred Christine. Unlike Sarek, she had never harangued him over it.
“I have made my decision, Valeris. My only regret in making it now is that it hurt you—I should have acted sooner, but circumstances did not allow.”
“It is not solely that she is human, Spock. I did not intend to give insult. It is that—do you have conversations with her that truly stimulate you? What does she bring to this match? Stories of the latest emergencies?”
He narrowed his eyes. “I have difficulty believing you have not researched her background at some point. She is a scientist. She has more degrees than I do, Lieutenant.” He saw Valeris wince slightly at the title. “Her intellectual acuity is not in question.”
“And yet you did not choose her when you had the chance, when you first bonded with her.” Valeris stared at him with an expressionless face. She might have been discussing why he had selected a particular entrée for a meal. Yet underneath the stoicism, he thought there was something more, something emotional.
Valeris could talk all she wished about logic, but she was not approaching this from that standpoint, or she would see her position was a losing one and give up before she offended him.
“Spock, I believe we are kindred intellects.”
“I have often thought so.”
“Is that not more important than whatever momentary passion you feel for her? You have recently returned from the Pon Farr. Your physiological system is still recovering. What you feel for her may be transient. And you will outlive her by many years. Choose me, Spock. It is the logical thing to do.”
He could hear his father’s words to him, echoing back across the decades. But no matter what his father had said, Spock knew—had seen with his own eyes—how much Sarek loved his mother. Logic had nothing to do with their union. And it had little to do with Spock and Christine’s.
He took a deep breath, steepled his fingers, and studied Valeris. “Do you wish to be my protégé?”
“I have said so.”
“Then give up being my wife. I have one.”
She did not look away. Finally, she nodded. “I apologize if I gave insult to your...wife.”
“It is forgiven. Pain makes one do things that are out of character.”
“Do you expect she and I to be friends?”
He shook his head, tried to make his eyes as gentle as he could.
“Good,” she said, and she rose gracefully. “Thank you, Spock, for being careful with me.”
“This is my fault, Valeris. I should never have let our relationship progress as it did.”
“You were not alone in this relationship, Spock. You cannot take blame—or credit—for it.”
He nodded his head to acknowledge what she said, then watched her straighten her shoulders and walk out of his office.
“So I just get you and you’re leaving?” Christine moved over Spock, and he closed his eyes as she did things with her mouth that made it impossible for him to answer her. He reached down, stroked her hair gently as she played, enjoying the sensation of her on him but keeping his touch light—he knew she hated the feeling of being held down when in that position.
In other positions, she didn’t seem to have quite the same concerns.
She finished, making him cry out, and before he was fully recovered, slugged him lightly in the arm and said, “You’re leaving, buster. Are you even listening to me?”
He opened his eyes, saw she was smiling, and closed his eyes again to enjoy the post-orgasmic contentment. “No, Christine, I am not listening to you.”
She laughed. “Yeah, I had a feeling you might not be.” She kissed his cheek and he turned so her next kiss landed on his lips. When she finally pulled away, she asked, “Have you told anyone else where you’re going?”
“No. Only you.”
She snuggled in next to him. “And Sarek knows.”
“Of course, since he gave me this mission.”
“I am unclear what part of ‘only you’ requires further queries. And why would I tell Valeris?” He opened his eyes to check her expression—she was not happy he had resumed his mentorship of Valeris and had not been reticent in letting him know that.
“I don’t know how much you tell her.”
“Not as much as I tell you. You are my mate. She is my protégé. You see the difference, of course?”
She sighed. “I see it intellectually. But emotionally, to feel it—I’m not there yet. You were with her, Spock.”
“I was with her because I could not have you. And I was never with her sexually.”
“But you melded. You have a connection with her.”
“I am proud of her. I am proud of my affiliation with her—as a sponsor, not a lover.” He rolled her to her back, began to kiss his way down to more intimate parts.
“Not fair. You know I’ll believe anything you say when you do—oh, God, yes that. Do that.”
He allowed himself a small smile. Making Christine writhe under his tongue gave him no end of satisfaction.
But when he finished, after she’d made a great deal of noise and was lying quietly against him again, she murmured, “Don’t you think it’s kind of weird she wanted you back in her life? It’d kill me to be around you now if you called this off.”
“I have no plans to call this off.”
“But you know what I mean?”
He nodded. “I do not think Valeris’s feelings for me were as strong as you—or I—might have thought. There may be others she also admires. Jim seems to think she had feelings for Admiral Cartwright.”
Christine pushed herself up on one elbow. “What? Matt? No way.”
“I, too, find it unlikely. But Jim saw them and said they looked...together.”
“There is no way Matt would do that. I know the man. He wouldn’t go for her.”
“Did he ever try to interest you in a relationship with him?”
“He was my boss.”
Spock let an eyebrow go up. “I present Exhibit A: Roger Korby.”
She laughed. “Point taken. But no. I love him as a friend and a champion. That’s it.” She nuzzled his neck. “Enough talk about Valeris. I’m about to lose you to the Klingons for a while. I want to focus on us, not outside distractions.”
“A most logical suggestion.”
“You’re rubbing off on me, Spock. Not sure that’s good.” She laughed as she ran her hand down his front. “Speaking of rubbing...”
He gave himself over to her talented hands until she climbed on top of him and rode him hard to completion.
“I love you, mister,” she said with a soft smile as she collapsed gently on his chest.
“And I you, Christine.”
Spock sat next to Christine in a booth in the out-of-the-way restaurant Jim had chosen, enjoying the rare opportunity of having his friend on Earth at the same time he was.
“So, you two doing okay?” Jim was grinning as he asked, and Christine nudged Spock in the ribs gently. “Oh, guess you have to answer that one, my friend.”
“She is subtle, is she not? It is one of her most appealing qualities.” Spock heard Christine laugh softly. “We are doing well, unless my woman would care to add a differing opinion?”
“Your woman is studying the menu. Which is huge and full of yummy things.” She looked up at Jim. “Where did you find this place?”
He grinned. “Friend of mine eats here all the time. It’s a hole in the wall, but the food is amazing.”
“Sometimes the least likely things yield the most amazing results.” She grinned and went back to studying the menu.
“Well said. And I guess that means I don’t have to ask about your sex life.” Jim chuckled and winked at Spock. “They make a vegetarian lasagna here that’s to die for. Or so my friend tells me—I’ve never wandered off the carnivore side of the menu.”
Spock decided to go with Jim’s suggestion and put his menu down. “How are you finding Commander Melton?”
“He’s not you.” Jim’s voice held a tension that Spock thought was either disappointment in his new first officer or annoyance with Spock for leaving. Or possibly both.
“Give it time, Jim,” Christine said gently. “When Jan left I was really hard on the person who took her place. Turns out I was looking for my friend, which he couldn’t magically become, but he was doing the job just fine.”
“Oh, quit being wise, Chris.” Jim sighed. “I do miss my friend. But it’s more than that. We had a synergy as a command team that I am not finding with Melton.”
“We did not have that synergy when we first met, Jim. It took time to build. Give him the opportunity to surprise you.”
“Or not,” Christine added, not terribly helpfully in Spock’s opinion.
“That’s my bet, Chris, that he won’t surprise me. Despite what our Vulcan Pollyanna says.”
“He does tend to think the best of people.” She thankfully did not mention Valeris specifically, although Spock knew that was who she meant.
And he had not shared with her certain things Valeris had said over the past few months, things that led him to believe she was not moving on as quickly as he might have hoped. Her behavior was, of course, perfect, but there was something in her tone. Something in the way she occasionally talked of how the future was an open book, waiting for those who would write on it. Her expression when she said such things was almost euphoric. If he thought she was a danger to Christine, he would report her. But that was not how she sounded. She sounded more like his brother had when speaking of his quest than a jealous woman.
“Spock?” Christine touched his leg under the table and he realized the waiter was ready to take their orders.
“The lasagna. Vegetarian.”
The man entered his order on a padd and left.
Jim studied him. “Distracted, Spock? Working on something interesting?”
Christine’s expression did not change, and Spock admired how careful she was with the information he gave her.
“I am, Jim. But I am not at liberty to discuss it.” In his younger days, he would never have imagined a time would come when he could share the details of a mission with Christine and not with Jim.
“But you’re happy? In your diplomatic work? Not chomping at the bit to come back to me?” Jim looked resigned as he smiled.
“I am extremely content, Jim. Both with my work and my personal situation.”
“Wow, pull out the big guns, honey. I’m a personal situation.” Christine was laughing softly. “You see what I put up with, Jim? Gotta take my endearments where I can.”
Spock let an eyebrow go up but did not dispute her words. Jim did not need to know that just earlier Spock had been sharing endearments that were vastly out of character but often the result of spending time in bed with her.
“Chris, I can see that you have a hard life.” Jim held up his glass of beer. “To friendship and other types of relationships.”
Christine chinked her beer glass against his and Spock’s water glass. “Here here.”
Spock didn’t say anything; he was too busy holding on to the feeling of being with the two people he cared for the most.
Spock saw Christine coming down the corridor toward him as he was walking with Valeris.
“We need to talk,” she said, ignoring Valeris as if she wasn’t there.
“Very pleasant to see you again, Commander,” Valeris said then nodded to Spock. “I will leave you, sirs.” She added the plural just quickly enough to not make it an insult.
Christine didn’t seem to notice; she motioned for Spock to walk with her, waited until they were well out of Vulcan hearing range, and then said, “Jim’s getting rid of Melton.”
“How do you know this?” Jim would have told him surely?
“You know I see lots and I hear more.” She followed him into his office. “The crew’s going to stand down soon. Jim’s miserable without you. I think you should go back for the time that’s left.”
“He is miserable? At dinner he indicated—”
“It’s possible I had a private talk with him here, when he came to visit Ops, the day after our dinner. It’s possible I think you belong with him.”
“It is also possible you want me well clear of Valeris.”
She smiled. “A lovely side benefit. But may I point out I’m also depriving myself of your company?”
“A very logical argument. Unless you have grown weary of me already?”
She grinned. “Yes, I’m horribly bored and going to interview replacements as soon as you’re gone. That’s why I’m jealous of a girl half my age—because I don’t care.”
He took a deep breath. “Even if I were to rejoin the crew, I will not be on the ship very much. My father wants me to visit the Klingons again and this time Command has been apprised of my mission.”
“And they support it?”
“Good. I’m shocked they’ve kept the news about Praxis as well held as they have. But Jan always could keep things to herself. Hikaru, too.” She touched his arm. “Go back to the Enterprise. For Jim. Ride out the last of his mission at his side. I think it will be good for both of you. Things will be different once he doesn’t have the ship. You didn’t see him the first time he lost her. I did and it wasn’t pretty.”
“I saw him the second time. Witnessed him leaving Starfleet for Antonia.”
“Never cared for her. Never cared for Lori, either.”
“Would anyone have met with your approval?”
“Jan?” She laughed. “Sorry, old loyalties die hard. Ny would have been all right, too.”
“Have you ever considered him?”
“Me? I’m his friend, Spock. Besides, he doesn’t strike me as a guy who’d want to share his woman.” She seemed to think about that. “Well, maybe if he was really drunk and allowed to join in. But losing his woman a la our Pon Farr scenario? No.”
Spock walked over to the door, locked it, and then moved back to her. Drawing her into his arms, he said, “I have missed Jim and the ship. I have felt guilty about leaving him. But I did not want to go back to the ship when you and I were so new. I thought you might think I was abandoning you.”
“How far can you go with this bond between us? Besides, it’s only for a few months.” She pulled him closer and kissed him. It was one of her better kisses, and Spock thought that was deliberate on her part. They pulled away and she said, “We’re together, but we don’t have to be joined at the hip.”
“Joined other places, I must point out, has proved most satisfactory.” As she laughed, he tucked her hair, which she was wearing longer now and in a bun—Valeris’s haircut had not been lost on her—back into place. “I will miss you.”
“And I’ll miss you. But at least that little bitch—I mean Valeris—won’t be anywhere near you.”
Spock was not sure how to navigate a Jim who was this angry at him. He had a feeling his friend wished he had not returned as First Officer, not now that he had volunteered them for the mission to escort Chancellor Gorkin to Federation space.
As they stepped off the lift to the bridge of the ship, Spock was surprised to hear a familiar voice.
“Captain on the bridge.”
Jim glanced at Valeris, but kept his face blank. Spock had the feeling that if he had met his eyes, Jim would have asked, “What the hell, Spock?” in his incredulous voice. Instead he said, “As you were...Lieutenant?”
“Valeris, sir. We were told that you needed a helmsman so I volunteered.”
Spock wondered who “we” were. He was not aware that the C-in-C had any dealings with Valeris. But Admiral Cartwright had been at the meeting where they first discussed this. Perhaps he had taken a larger role as a sponsor for her—this was certainly a plum posting.
One that Christine would be livid over. Fortunately, they were operating under a moratorium for personal comms, so he did not have to decide whether to tell her now or later. Later would have to do.
He turned to Valeris. “Lieutenant, it is agreeable to see you again. The Lieutenant was the first Vulcan to graduate at the top of her class at the Academy.”
Jim knew this. He also knew from Spock how typically Vulcan she was. Still he said, “You must be very proud.”
“I don't believe so, sir.” Her voice held disdain—she knew this man was Spock’s friend. Why would she answer so?
He watched her carefully. She seemed at ease on the ship. Perhaps she was only here because she wished to serve on the Enterprise, not to be with Spock. There was a simple way to find out. When the moment presented itself, he said loudly enough for Vulcan ears but not human, “Will you come to my quarters? I wish to speak with you in private.”
Her face betrayed no emotion; he could read no change—excitement or dismay. She merely nodded and went back to her task.
In his quarters sometime later, Spock set up the candles and water for the ceremony of succession. He was curious to see what Valeris’s reaction to it would be.
When she rang for admittance and stepped in, her face registered confusion for a moment—had she thought he had asked her here to discuss restarting their romantic relationship? She walked past him, to the Chagall he had bought with Christine. Spock thought it was the first time she’d realized just how rich his family was. She had made the title a private joke, that he could hang it in his quarters and remember that leaving her—and their bed—was expulsion from paradise.
Valeris had her arms folded, a sign of defense?
He turned and lit the pyramid candle, the only one unlit, the one that waited for the bright light that would be the successor. “You've done well, Valeris.” He kept his voice even, almost impersonal. The voice of a sponsor, not someone who had once considered marriage.
She had to understand this.
“As your sponsor at the Academy I've followed your career with satisfaction. And as a Vulcan, you have exceeded my expectations.”
She seemed to ignore his words. Her arms stayed crossed and she studied the painting. Her jaw looked unusually tight, as if she was fighting to maintain some level of control. “I do not understand this representation.”
He was surprised that she did not. She had excelled so at working with humans it had not occurred to him she would not know their primary religious references. Then again she might have an idea he bought it with Christine and was feigning ignorance. “It's a depiction from ancient Earth mythology. The Expulsion from Paradise.”
“Why keep it in your quarters?”
“Do you ask because you do not like it or because it is human?” he wanted to say. Instead, as he added the ritual herbs to her water glass, he answered in a way that would set the stage for what he wanted to accomplish here. “It is a reminder to me that all things end.”
Her expression changed to irritation—restrained, but he saw it for just a moment. Then she turned, her face again a perfect Vulcan mask and walked toward him. “It is of endings that I wish to speak.” She met his eyes in the mirror. Her voice was that of his protégé, not of his former lover. “Sir, I address you as a kindred intellect. Do you not recognize that a turning point has been reached in the affairs of the Federation?”
She seemed unusually sincere, and in her eyes shone almost a plea for him to understand her. This was not about Christine, but he was not sure what she was referring to. She had called him sir. That could be both military protocol or something deeper, something Vulcan. Student to teacher.
He would be the teacher, then. And her commanding officer. “History is replete with turning points, Lieutenant. You must have faith.”
“Faith?” Her voice held mild confusion.
“That the universe will unfold as it should.” On reflection, this was somewhat cruel to say to her. He watched her reaction to see if she would read into his words how Christine had taken what she wanted, how the way the universe had unfolded had hurt her. But she did not seem to react to his words.
She seemed unusually impassioned, though. “But is this logical? Surely we must—”
“Logic, logic, and logic.” He knew his voice was mildly disapproving. “Logic is the beginning of wisdom, Valeris, not the end.”
She looked down, and he thought that he had disappointed her in some way. But again, it did not seem to be about Christine.
His next statement seemed unnecessary given her reactions, but he needed to know if she was on the ship for him or because of her own ambition. “This will be my final voyage on board this vessel as a member of her crew.”
She looked surprised. Did she not realize the crew would be standing down? That a new captain would take over, with a new first officer in place. She would surely be promoted during the next cycle. She could easily assume first officer duties.
He moved toward her. “Nature abhors a vacuum. I intend you to replace me.” He handed her the glass. The glass that signified that the lessons were over, that the student had learned what the teacher had to give.
That he would no longer be her sponsor, her mentor. That he would be, at best, her friend.
For a moment, he saw something stricken in her expression. But then he saw something else, what he wanted to see: Pride. She might have told Jim she felt none but as they both knew, lying was a simple matter when those around you thought you incapable of it. She understood the ritual perfectly, answered as it demanded with, “I could only succeed you, sir,” and drank.
There was no time for further conversation. Uhura’s voice rang out on the intercom, calling all officers to the bridge.
Spock felt a darkness over come him, a rage he had not felt since his first Pon Farr. He stared at Valeris as she held her weapon and blinked in the sudden light of sickbay. She had killed two men, men she had ordered to assassinate the Klingon Chancellor, men who were part of her cause. She would have had to kill at close range, to be that ruthless. If she could do this to her compatriots, what could she have done to Christine?
He knew there was anger in his voice as he advanced on her. “You have to shoot. If you are logical, you have to shoot.”
She looked shaken, and if she were human, he’d have said broken hearted. “I do not want to.”
“What you want is irrelevant. What you have chosen is at hand.” Chosen. Had this started when he had chosen Christine? Or had Valeris been part of this even earlier? While she was with Spock, while he was considering making her his wife?
Jim seemed to realize they were at a standoff. “I'd just as soon you didn't.”
Spock knocked the weapon out of her hand. Hard. Too hard. Hard enough to break bones if she were human. He was not sure which part of him was more furious: the Vulcan or the human.
McCoy intervened. “The operation is over.”
Security took her to the bridge. She shut down, wore the smug arrogance only a Vulcan who knows something she will not share could display. She was not hearing him any longer. She was not hearing anyone.
She was a traitor. She was a murderer. And he had been going to loose her on the next captain of the Enterprise?
And she seemed to be trying to reach the ship’s current captain, appealing to Jim with, “Klingons cannot be trusted. Sir, you said so yourself. They killed your son. Did you not wish Gorkon dead? 'Let them die,' you said. Did I misinterpret you? And you were right. They conspired with us to assassinate their own Chancellor. How trustworthy can they be?”
Jim wasn’t swayed, as Spock knew he wouldn’t be, and Valeris would never understand that. That the man who allowed himself to be tried for a crime he had not committed in order that peace might have a chance to prevail would never see the logic in her cause. But Jim would get to the bottom of this conspiracy, and Spock did not think Valeris understood how far he would go to do that. Jim had given his life—or nearly so—to keep the peace: what would one traitor’s life matter? Or her mind, more specifically.
Spock readied himself for what he was sure was to come.
Jim asked, “Who is 'us’?”
“Everyone who stands to lose from peace.”
Jim’s voice dropped to his most dangerous register. “Names, Lieutenant.”
Her smugness was palpable. “My comrades will make sure all your ship-to-ship transmissions are jammed.”
“I do not remember.”
Spock tried one thing that might save her, that might call back the young, brilliant woman who had so engaged him. The game they had been playing for days: “A lie?”
“A choice.” He could hear so much more than just this in her word. She was blaming him. She was blaming his choice long ago to pick Christine, and his more recent choice to reject Valeris. This was personal as well as for the cause.
Jim’s voice was without mercy. “Spock.”
It was no doubt a testament to the synergy Jim had referred to that Spock knew immediately what he wanted from him—had known from the time this started. Jim had seen the path they would be on as easily as Spock had—why had Valeris not seen it? Did she really think they would not do this?
He walked to her, and she stood with her back to him. Defiant to the end. Disbelieving, too, he imagined.
But when he yanked her around, when she stared up at him with eyes that pled for understanding—for his love, he thought—and he gave her nothing back, and when he put his hand on her face and she tried to get away, he knew she understood. He held her by the back of her neck as he probed her mind. Deeper, far deeper than he’d ever gone.
She loved him. She was terrified.
And she had been part of this before he had chosen to make a life with Christine. Relief filled him, even though he knew he would not really have been to blame for her reaction to his choices. But he had used her and he preferred to think that his transgression had not damaged her enough to join this band of traitors.
He found why Jim had seen something between her and Cartwright as she named him as the first member of the conspiracy. Her admiration for the man was deep: he was a zealot and she was his primary disciple. But she did not love him. As she had once told Spock, he was the only man who mattered in that way to her.
And her hatred for Christine was extreme. He read plans for her that made him feel sick. Valeris was unapologetic as he sensed her presence as he went deeper, as he drew General Chang’s name out, and the Romulan ambassador. She hated his woman. If his woman died, Spock would be free. She believed Spock could love her more than he loved Christine. Therefore Christine should die. It was a simple thing.
Spock heard Jim ask, “Where is the peace conference?” He dug, could not find it, and saw hatred blaze out of Valeris’s eyes as he went deeper. Hatred and betrayal. Jim asked again and Spock let go of her neck, put his other hand on her face. This kind of meld, it was not done. Too intense, too forceful. It was a breach of the highest order.
But she was a traitor. And she would see his mate dead.
He made her cry out before he finally pulled away, shaken both because he’d had no choice but to feel what he was doing to her, and by his own rage at her. She had tears in her eyes, was shaking as she stared at him as if she did not know who he was.
He let her go and said, “She does not know.”
But as their eyes met, he saw that she did finally know one thing: he would never choose her instead of Christine.
He put Christine out of his mind, tried to get past what he had just done to a girl he...loved, as a protégé if never as what she wanted, and focused his mind on the problem at hand.
“Tell Command to go to hell, huh?” Jim grinned at him as they stood in the observation lounge, watching the starstream. “How long do you think Starfleet will let us joyride around?” He laughed softly. “How long do you think Chris will let us?”
“We could ask her to join us. Steal the ship. It is being decommissioned.”
“Who are you and what have you done with my first officer?” Jim put his hand on Spock’s shoulder. “A life of piracy, maybe? We can roam the neutral zone and let everyone shoot at us.”
“There is more to life than this ship, Jim.”
“Spoken like a man deeply in love.” He sighed. “I’m sure I’ll find things to do. They just won’t ever be as good. Or as fun. Or as meaningful. You sure you don’t want to comm Chris and ask her if a life on the run sounds like a plan?”
“I am sure.”
“Big spoilsport.” He leaned his forehead against the viewscreen. “I’m sorry about Valeris. What I had you do to her.”
“I knew you would ask it of me. And I did not hesitate. It was a clear case of the needs of the many.”
“It was also anger. I saw it in you. In sickbay. On the bridge.”
“I felt betrayed, it is true. But she planned to get rid of Christine—or had at least considered the matter in great detail.”
“Nothing that might be set in motion now that she’s been caught?”
“I sensed nothing concrete. I will, of course, be on my guard on Christine’s behalf and will tell her to be as well.” He almost smiled. “Valeris’s role in this will make her happy.”
Jim laughed. “Hell, yes, it will. She never liked Valeris and now the whole Federation—and a good portion of the Klingon population—will hate her, too.”
“I wish I had what you have, Spock.”
“You cannot have Christine, Jim.”
Another chuckle, but the laughs were growing more hollow, Spock thought, the closer the ship got to Earth. “I mean home and hearth and a woman to love me. Not your woman to love me.”
“Find those things, Jim. You are not old. There is plenty of time to be happy.”
“Happy? Old friend, you’re slipping. Isn’t that an emotion?”
Spock met his eyes. “Indeed. And one I do not wish you to lose when you are off the ship. You have been less than happy the other times you gave her up. Find something to make life worthwhile this time.”
“Big softie.” Jim squeezed his shoulder and then turned back to the stars. “Let’s enjoy the view while we can.”
Spock was surprised to see Christine waiting for him at the transporter room when he beamed down to Command. He raised an eyebrow and said, “I did not call you with my ETA.”
“Where do I work, toots?” She looked at the lieutenant manning the transporter. “Anyone else in line to beam in?”
“Then could you step out for a moment?” When he hesitated, she smiled in a way that was more threatening than friendly and said, “That wasn’t actually a request.”
He locked his station and stepped out, leaving them alone.
She pulled Spock to her, kissed him hard, then pushed him away and grabbed either side of his face. “Damn you. You almost got killed again.” Then she began to grin. “But since Valeris turned out to be evil, I’m going to give you a pass on the scare you gave me.”
“You have no reason to be jealous of Valeris.” He let his mouth tick up enough to qualify as a real smile. “But I knew you would find her involvement gratifying.”
“I do. But Matt? Shit, Spock. I looked up to him. He made me who I am. Took me into Ops and guided me through the layers of politics and bureaucracy. I...” She shook her head.
“You feel betrayed. I understand because I do as well when it comes to Valeris.”
“I know. I’ll try not to rub it in that your protégé—and at one time future wife—was a traitor.”
“When will you try that?”
“Oh, in about a week.” She grinned and kissed him again. “I have to get back. We’ve got emergencies in five sectors. And you have hours of debriefings and depositions ahead of you.”
He knew about the debriefings, not about the depositions. It was useful, at times, to have a woman so in the know. “I will see you at home, then? When we are both done?”
She nodded and he could feel the bond pinging between them. He felt relief from her. A residue of the fear she must have felt. And love. He knew he was sending the same thing back to her.
He pulled her to him and kissed her. “Be careful. Valeris did not like you.”
“Oh and she had nefarious plans for me? You think I don’t know that, Spock? I can ID a jealous woman when I see one. And I wasn’t shy about treating her like crap whenever I could. But I have friends, too, and I’m not sure how many people will want to help her now.”
“Do not become overconfident.”
She nodded. “Fine. You be careful, too. She has as much reason to hate you. Love can turn so easily.”
“If it hasn’t yet?” She laughed. “I think you’re safe. I’m clearly a sap when it comes to you.”
“I do not mind that you are.”
“You’re supposed to say I’m anything but a sap.” She pulled away from him, and walked to the door, letting it open to show the lieutenant standing with his back to them, apparently guarding the entrance. “Okay, sparky, you can have the room.”
Spock watched the lieutenant’s face as he turned to face Christine. There was a moment of terror and then...admiration—he was clearly watching Christine as she walked out. Spock coughed softly and the man turned red and then said, “You’re a lucky man, sir.”
“Vulcans do not believe in luck, Lieutenant.” As he walked out, he added, “But I will allow that I am...privileged to have her in my life.”