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.

Never Give All The Heart

by Djinn

 

 

Kirk sits at the dining room table in the apartment he shares with Lori and drinks another glass of scotch.

 

“You might want to go easy on that,” she says from the kitchen.

 

“You might want to mind your own business.”

 

To say their relationship is bad would be an understatement of gigantic proportions.

 

“You going out tonight?”  Her voice is angry, which means it’s not any different than any other day.  She’s angry when she complains about how bad his mood is after work—does she think he should embrace the concept of useless meetings and politics?  Or how he’s too neat—is it his fault he likes a clean place and that he is always picking up her crap around the house? 

 

He takes another sip before he says, “Haven’t decided.”

 

“Well, don’t let me keep you.  I’m sure she’s waiting.”

 

He doesn’t react to her statement.  Lori’s been suggesting he has another woman for months now.

 

Truth is, he’s only had one for three weeks.

 

And Lori has no idea who it is, or she’d stomp over and give the other woman a piece of her mind.

 

“I leave the house to get the hell away from you, darling, not to screw someone else.”  This used to be true.  It was how he ran into his other woman—walking around Golden Gate Park at night, looking conspicuous among the couples and the joggers and those out walking their dogs until he ran into her.  Two solo beings strolling along, reconnecting in ways neither expected.

 

He gets up, downs his scotch, grabs his coat, and leaves without saying goodbye.  Lori doesn’t say a word—no taunt to walk him out of the apartment.

 

Maybe she doesn’t care what he does?  Maybe the anger is just a Pavlovian response when she hears his voice, sees his face, shares space with him?

 

He walks the four blocks to a high-rise that looks pretty much like the one he lives in, holds his palm to the door, and smiles when it lets him in.  He wasn’t on the door last time.  Had to buzz for admittance.

 

Chapel’s waiting at the doorway, leaning against the doorframe. 

 

“How’d you know I was coming?” he asks.  “I thought since I was on the door I could surprise you.”

 

“I wanted you to have a free pass to get inside, but not to surprise me.”  She winks at him.  “I put an alert in with your access.”

 

“Ah.”  He takes a breath.  Then he frowns.  “You don’t like surprises?”

 

“Not when it’s about us.”  Something changes in her expression.  “Is there an us, Jim?”

 

“I’m here, aren’t I?”

 

“Not the greatest answer, love.”

 

He studies her.  Did she call him that because she loves him?  Or because it’s a snotty thing to say if she doesn’t?  “Chris, I’ve had a shitty day at Command, and I’ve been drinking and fighting with Lori.”

 

She laughs—but it’s not a happy sound.  “I’ve had an okay day, but I’m sick of working with cadavers.”

 

“I win.”  He finds himself grinning, the first time that day.  “Can I come in?”

 

She nods and steps aside, smiling as he slips his hand around her waist when he moves past her, as he draws her in his wake to the table, where he lifts her up and kisses her.

 

She wraps her legs around him as if he might try to escape.  Fleeing is the last thing on his mind.

 

As he pulls off her shirt, he finally relaxes, finally feels like he’s somewhere he actually wants to be. 

 

She peels his shirt off, then goes to work on the fastener of his pants.  He kicks his shoes off, then pushes her to her back and undoes her pants and pulls them off.

 

“I’m not sure how it happened, Jim, but we appear to be naked.”

 

“It’s the damnedest thing, isn’t it?”  He grins as she sits up, as she pulls him closer, into her, and he moans with relief.

 

Their first time is quick; he can’t hold out for long, but he makes sure she is satisfied before he lets himself go.  They stay together, holding tight and kissing, for several minutes before he eases out of her and lets her down.

 

“I’ve missed you,” she says.  “Four days is four too many.”

 

Lori used to say stuff like that to him.  Now she probably thinks four weeks apart wouldn’t be too many.  The only reason she hasn’t moved out is that she’s too busy being Nogura’s golden child—Kirk barely sees her.  And he knows they both love the apartment and its view.  Deciding who will keep it when their sham of a marriage is up will no doubt be ugly.

 

“Be a hell of a lot more time between visits once you’re gone on my ship.”  He’s trying to be funny but doesn’t come off that way.

 

Will’s ship,” she says so softly he almost misses it.

 

He can feel his mouth getting tight. 

 

“Jesus,” she says, looking away.  “It’s just the truth, Jim.”

 

“Maybe coming here was a mistake.”

 

“Why?  Because I say the truth or ask inconvenient questions?  Like whether there’s an us?  Do I want too much?”

 

“What the hell do you want?  You’re leaving—how can you want much of anything from me?”

 

“Do you want me to stay on Earth?”  She is looking at him with an expression he can’t read.

 

“I’m not going to tell you to give up an assignment like that.  It’ll make your career, and we both know it.”

 

“Well, I think I’ve proven in the past that I’m willing to derail my career if the man’s worth it.”  She walks to the kitchen and pours herself a glass of wine.  “You want something?”

 

“Do you have scotch?”

 

She nods.  She must have bought it for him.  She didn’t have any the last time he was here.

 

“Do you even want me to stay?”  She looks up from pouring his drink.  “Will you find someone else to cheat with as soon as I’m gone?”

 

“Won’t have to cheat once you’re gone.  Renewal date for the marriage is just about when you report to Will.  I’m not renewing.  Pretty sure Lori isn’t going to suggest we continue, either.  So whoever I replace you with won’t be my mistress—she’ll have to settle for being just a girlfriend.”

 

Something changes in Chris’s face, something that he reads as hurt and disappointment.  She busies herself with putting the scotch away, then bringing him out his drink. 

 

“Sorry.  Did you want to try something long distance?  Be my girlfriend instead of my mistress?”

 

“Not anymore.”  She takes a long, ragged breath.  ‘You’re not at your best, Jim.  You’re mean when you’re unhappy.’

 

“I know.  Does it help if I say I’m sorry that I’m that way?”

 

“Not if you’re going to keep doing it.”  She drinks her wine too fast, as if she’s trying to catch up with him.  Then she sighs and walks away, going to the window, looking out at the city spread before her.  “I’m going to miss this view.”

 

“I’ll trade you the one from my apartment for your view from the ship.” He’s only kind of kidding.

 

“You’re going to be CMO?  For Will Decker?”  She laughs and it’s not a nice sound.  “Maybe you could launch a coup from sickbay?”

 

He joins her at the window.  “I recommended him, you know?  I may want the ship back but not enough to try to steal it from him.”

 

“No?”  She glances at him.  “I’m not so sure.  Like I said, you’re mean these days.”

 

“And you’re suddenly very honest.”  He sighs, downs his drink.  “Do you want me here?”

 

“I told you I do.  I missed you.  Missing you makes me mean.”  She reaches out for his hand, and the soft touch of her skin against his calms him down a little.  “It would be bad to fall in love with you, wouldn’t it?”

 

“I don’t think I’d recommend it.”  He squeezes her hand.  “I’m a son of a bitch.”

 

“Not when you’re on a ship.”

 

“I’m horny and alone on a ship.  My rules...”

 

“Give me a break, Jim.”  Again the nasty laugh comes out.  “Maybe you’re technically alone, since you won’t date your crew, but really alone?  I saw how many women you nailed.”

 

“You saw how many women I talked to.  I don’t believe you were anywhere near the bedroom—or wherever I happened to be with them.  I didn’t sleep with them all, Chris.”

 

“But you slept with a lot of them.  It’s okay—I’m not judging.  I’m just finding your statement stupid.”  She lets go of his hand.  “Don’t treat me like we don’t have history, Jim.  You know me and I know you.” 

 

She rubs his neck, then slides her hand up under his hair.  He’s helpless when she does that.

 

“Would you stay?” he asks softly enough that she can ignore it if she wants.

 

“Probably.”

 

He sighs.  It’s a good answer, better than a no.  But he doesn’t like who he is with her, not here, on Terra Firma.  He doesn’t like who he is period.  “Don’t.”

 

She drops her hand.  “Why can’t you just let yourself love me?”  The words would come off as pathetic if her voice wasn’t so resigned.

 

“I never signed up for love.”

 

“Neither did I.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t fall.”  She moves away from him.  “I’m going to bed.  Why don’t you go home to the wife you hate?”

 

He waits until she’s gone into the bedroom, then pours himself another drink and takes it into the bedroom.  He watches her as she lies in bed, the comforter pulled up like she’s suddenly very cold.

 

With another sigh, he goes to the other side of the bed, sets his glass on the nightstand, and climbs in.

 

“You’re here for round two?”  She turns away from him.  “I’m not in the mood.”

 

He’s suddenly not in the mood, either.  He’s hurt himself as much as her, but she doesn’t seem to realize that.  He scoots closer, spooning her, snaking his arm over her waist.  “I’m sorry, sweetheart.”

 

He can feel her relaxing in his arms.  She loves being called that and he hardly ever does it.

 

“Are you going to sleep here, Jim?” 

 

He never has.  Has always gone home to his place afterwards.  He’s tired of that.  Not when there’s so little time left.  “Is that okay?”

 

“Yes.”  She puts her hand over his.  “I wish you loved me.”

 

The hell of it is: he does.  He doesn’t tell her that, though.  He settles for kissing her neck and holding her close.  As she falls asleep in his arms, he counts the days till she’ll leave on his ship—with another man.

 

##

 

Kirk wanders the corridors of his ship.  His ship.  Again.

 

After he stole it from Decker, just like Chris thought he would. 

 

Decker is dead.  Ilia is dead.  Lori is dead, too.  What the hell was he thinking taking the transporter controls over from Rand?  Was Lori dead because of him?  Had he done everything he could?

 

He didn’t know it was her.  At least there was that.  He didn’t know it was her so whatever anger remained couldn’t have been driving him.  There was no way he let her die, no way he didn’t try everything he could, because he didn’t know it was her. 

 

And it was Sonak, too.  A friend of his—or nearly one.  Someone he recommended so Will could have a Vulcan of his own.

 

A Vulcan.  He sighs and it’s half a happy sound, and half not.

 

Spock is back.  Spock could have died during the meld with V’ger, but he didn’t.  He lay on the sickbay bed and held Kirk’s hand and talked about simple feelings.  And then, when Kirk had been leaving to go back to the bridge and turned to say something to Chris, he saw how Spock was looking at her.

 

The feelings didn’t look so damn simple from that vantage point.

 

And she was looking back in the same fucking way.

 

It’s okay, though, if Chris wants Spock.  Kirk has his rules, after all.  Rand has already put in a transfer request.  He’d be offended if he weren’t also relieved.  Chris might be next, and he doesn’t want that.

 

He wants her on the ship.

 

Does he want her on the ship with his best friend, though?

 

But she loved Spock first.  And Kirk never told her he loved her.

 

Why the hell didn’t he?

 

He sighs as he feels his ship purring beneath him.  He knows why he didn’t.  The man he is here, on this wonderful vessel, is not the man he was on Earth.

 

Chris got the worst of him.  That she even wants to talk to him is a miracle.

 

He tries not to picture the smile she gave Spock in sickbay.  An open, easy—happy—smile.  She hasn’t looked happy with Kirk for months.

 

Did she ever look that happy with him?

 

Did she ever love him the way she does Spock?

 

These are useless questions.  He tries to push her from his mind and wanders down more corridors, learning his rebuilt girl’s secrets.

 

##

 

Kirk watches Chris as she plays the game everyone seems to be addicted to.  She’s laughing and she looks happy.  Spock comes into the lounge, sees Kirk waiting for him, chessboard ready to go, and nods.  Then he heads over to where she is standing.

 

They talk for a moment, and she puts her hand on his arm—and she’s laughing again.  God damn it all to hell, they’re happy together.

 

And in the open.  They don’t hide that they’re together.  Kirk made her skulk around in the shadows when she was with him, and he doesn’t think she’s quite forgiven him for that—or for not even pursuing her once they were on the ship together.

 

Or it might just be that he’s never forgiven himself for either of those things.  She hasn’t looked over at him since she said hello with a sweet smile, and she and Spock have that unmistakable “couple that is going to make it” look.

 

He hates his best friend right now.

 

He hates himself more.

 

He’s trying not to hate Chris since he never gave her much of a choice—or a chance.  She probably has no idea how much he loves her.

 

Would it have killed him to let her in on that?

 

Spock leaves her and joins Kirk at the table he’s picked.  “Jim.”  He sits and stares at Kirk for a moment, then turns his attention to the chessboard.

 

Kirk turns his attention back to Chris.

 

“I find it interesting—if not somewhat disconcerting—that neither of you have ever told me you were involved.”  Spock meets his eyes.  “Why is that?”

 

“Who says we were involved?”  Kirk gives Spock the breeziest smile he can.  “Just nice to see her happy.”

 

Spock gives him a look that says he clearly knows Kirk is lying.  “The meld, Jim.  It is hard to hide things.”

 

“Talk to her, then.  If she still has feelings for me.”

 

Spock’s eyes narrow.  “Whether she does or not is not the issue.  She is with me.  She is happy with me.  Whatever you had—during your short sojourn together—will not get in the way of that.”  Spock’s voice is extraordinarily gentle while he makes his speech.

 

Uhhh.  Okay.”

 

“Jim, I know you and I know your rules.  I also know how you can be when you are unhappy—and I imagine you were very unhappy without the ship.  The memories I get from her regarding you are...mixed, at best.  Moreover, Christine loved me first.  And she is happy now.  Can you make her happy?”

 

“You think I can’t?”

 

“Here, I mean.  Aboard this ship.  Not hypothetically.”

 

Kirk shakes his head, feels his mouth tightening.  “I have my rules.”

 

“As I said.”  Spock leans back, studies him in a way that seems just the slightest bit pitying.  “If I thought I was getting in the way of an extraordinary connection, I would perhaps move aside.  But you did not tell me about your history with her and neither did she.  How extraordinary can it be?”

 

“Can we just play chess?”  Kirk hates that he sounds...hurt.  He reaches for his drink, downs it quickly.  “I’d say drinks are on me to celebrate you being so goddamned happy, but water’s free.”  He gets up and walks to the bar, getting a refill and a glass of water for Spock.  No ice, because that’s how his friend likes it.

 

Kirk closes his eyes.  “Get a goddamn grip,” he mutters, then smiles at the crewman tending bar before he takes the drinks back.

 

As he sits down, Spock says softly, “I did not say those things to upset you.  I only want to make sure we understand each other.  And to get this out.”

 

“Does Chris know you’re doing this?  Have you talked to her about it?”

 

Spock’s expression changes, and Kirk knows he’s scored a hit.  Maybe Spock isn’t as sanguine as he puts on.

 

##

 

It’s shore leave and Kirk finds several pretty local women to spend the afternoon with, wandering the very inviting planet the ship has stopped at.  They laugh as they take the transport around the island they’ve convinced him he has to visit, and they drink too much at lunch.

 

“I am in love with someone,” he says, then frowns.  Why the hell is he telling these two strangers this stupid truth when he couldn’t tell Chris?

 

The blonder of the two of them—their names are so similar he keeps screwing them up—laughs.  “Did we forget to mention that honesty is a side effect of this drink?”  She holds up her glass.  “I don’t mind that you’re in love with someone as long as you pick me to be with tonight.”  She looks at the other woman, who rolls her eyes.  “Or pick us both—I guess that would be okay.”

 

“I’d rather he picked us both.  I hate melancholy.”  The other woman grins at him.  “It’s another possible side effect.  Depends on how much you drink.”

 

“I’ll stop now.”  He leans in.  “I’ll happily pick both of you—we’ve had so much fun.”

 

They smile.  The blonder one stands and takes his hand.  “My place is closer than hers.”

 

“Does the someone you’re in love with love you back?” the other one asks, apparently not smart enough to realize questions like that are what bring on the melancholy she claims to dislike.

 

“I don’t know if she does anymore.  She’s with someone else.”

 

“Yes, I figured that since she’s not here.”

 

“Well, she might not be on my ship.”

 

“But then why would you be doing this with us if you really love her and she was yours?”

 

He laughs, a bitter puff of air.  “Why indeed?”  He smiles at her.  “Please stop talking about her.  I clearly didn’t love her enough.”

 

The blonder one leans in and kisses his cheek.  “I think you’re really sad.”

 

“I hate this goddamned honesty.”  He hopes it doesn’t translate to an honest critique of his sexual technique.  Or hell, maybe he does.  Maybe he wants to know if he’s as good as he thinks.  Chris sure didn’t seem to think so if she could just run off with Spock.

 

Clearly, the drink-induced honesty can’t stop him from lying to himself.  Chris didn’t run off.  He ran her off.  Got more and more distant the closer they came to the ship’s relaunch.

 

They could have made it work.  That’s the hell of it.  Her on the ship, him on Earth.  He could have been faithful.

 

Couldn’t he?

 

“I’m not sure I like either of you that much,” he murmurs.  “I wish I was with her.”

 

“Well, go get her, tough guy.”  They both look equally blonde in this light, so he has no idea which one is goading him.  “Go get this love of your life.”

 

He shakes his head.  “Can’t.”

 

“Quit talking about her, then.  It’s boring.”  The other one takes his hand and leads him off. 

 

They lose the one who was goading him somewhere along the way to the other woman’s apartment.  He really doesn’t give a shit.

 

##

 

A new planet, a new month, and he’s sitting in a banquet hall with Chris and Scotty.  He left Spock with the conn, and Spock didn’t seem to think that was a bad thing—didn’t seem to care that he was taking Chris instead of Bones.

 

Hell, Spock probably thought it was about damn time Kirk started treating his woman like a professional and not something to be avoided.

 

One of their hosts comes over and asks if he can borrow Mister Scott for an engineering question.  Kirk grins and makes a “he’s all yours” gesture.

 

“Alone at last,” Chris says, and there is a world of sarcasm in her voice.

 

“Us and about fifty of our hosts.”  He turns to her.  “Sorry I’ve left you out of most of my landing parties.”

 

“I figured you were avoiding me.”

 

“You figured right.  It’s...hard, for me, anyway.”

 

“You think it isn’t for me?”

 

He shrugs and looks away, making sure they’re not being watched as they finally have this talk.  “You seem pretty chipper these days.”

 

“I’m happy.  With Spock.  Would you rather I was miserable?  Pining away for you?”

 

“Maybe.”  He laughs softly and hears her do the same.  “Didn’t expect honesty, huh?”

 

“I’m not sure what I expect from you anymore, Jim.  You made things so damned unpleasant just before I reported to the ship, then your first act when you staged your palace coup was to demote me.”

 

“That wasn’t personal.”

 

“Like hell.”

 

“I needed Bones.”

 

“I’m not going to argue about this.  I’m over it.”  She leans back in her chair and sighs.

 

“You don’t sound over it.”  He pitches his voice lower.  “Or is me you’re not over?”

 

“Your chutzpah is outshone only by your ego.”  She signals the server to fill her wine glass again.  “I’m happy with Spock.  I love Spock.”

 

“You loved me once.”

 

“I still love you, you big dope.  But that doesn’t mean I’m going to leave him for a promise of...what?  Soulful glances across the rec lounge and nothing more because of your stupid rules?”

 

“Would you leave him if there were a promise of more?”  He sounds entirely too hopeful.

 

“Probably not, Jim.  He’s good to me.  You weren’t.”

 

“I could have been.”

 

Coulda, woulda, shoulda.  You had me—I was in love with you.  And you made sure I never forgot I was your mistress.  It’s nice to be with someone who actually seems proud of me.”

 

He turns to look at her.  “You think I’m not proud of you?”

 

“I don’t know what you think of me.”  She downs half her wine in one swallow.

 

“Are you proud of me?”  It is an odd question to ask her.  After all this—now that he has what he wants.  Who cares if she’s proud of him?

 

“Sure, Jim.  I’m very proud of you.”  She finishes the rest of her wine and seems relieved when a member of the medical staff comes to ask her if she’d like a tour of their trauma unit.

 

She leaves him alone.  He doesn’t stay that way for long; their hosts are eager to impress him.  But he feels her absence far more than he should.

 

##

 

It’s been a year.  Kirk has given up hoping Spock and Chris will peter out as a couple.  They seem right together, and Spock, for all that he’s not afraid to call Kirk on his behavior on the rare occasions Kirk lets something nasty slip, does not rub the relationship in.  Spock even encourages occasional innocuous outings as a threesome.  Lunch.  Shore leave excursions.  Even dinner at the Vulcan embassy, where Kirk definitely felt like the third wheel.

 

It’s taken time but they’ve reached some new set point for normal.

 

The Enterprise is rendezvousing with the Vulcan vessel Symmetry, which has taken on passengers from Hellguard—a world the Romulans were using to conduct experiments, including mating programs, on captured Vulcans.  The Symmetry is overtaxed and the Enterprise is close by: why not help?

 

Spock beams over and takes Chris with him.  A while later, he beams back with fifteen Vulcan adults in various stages of distress and malnourishment and a girl, about ten from what Kirk can tell, who seems healthier. 

 

The Vulcan adults seem grateful to be rescued, go about their business in a way he expects from Vulcans.  The girl, Saavik, on the other hand, is a hellion.  Kirk finds Spock with her in the gym—it looks like Spock has her cornered near the free weights.  Chris is sitting off to the side on the mats, and she motions for Kirk not to interfere. 

 

He sits down by her, murmurs, “Do I want to know what’s going on?”

 

“She stabbed me.  Spock took exception.  They’re working things out.”

 

“He brought her here to do that?”

 

“More like cornered her here.  She’s half Romulan—did you know that?”

 

“He left that part out.”

 

“It’s because the breeding program was humiliating.  Especially the half-breed—his word, not mine—children.”

 

“Vulcans: infinite diversity in infinite combinations unless it hits too close to home.”

 

She nods.  “I’m afraid so.”  She rubs her arms and he sees a scratch running up from her wrist to her elbow.

 

“Holy shit.”  He can tell she’s regenerated it once.  “You weren’t kidding about the stabbing.”

 

“Nope.”

 

“Why’d Spock let her keep a knife?”

 

“He didn’t.  She made one out of a toothbrush.”

 

“I’m not even going to ask how she did that.”  He watches as Spock maneuvers the girl more tightly into the corner, all the while murmuring softly to her.

 

“She had to fight every day for survival.  He...feels for her.”

 

“Do you?”

 

“Not so much since she sliced my arm up.”  She scratches the new skin again.  “Maybe in time.”

 

Saavik finally drops the knife and crouches to the ground, hiding her head in her arms as if Spock will beat her now that she has submitted.

 

“What the hell did they do to her?”

 

“It was bad.  Whatever it was.  She doesn’t talk about it.  Not to me, anyway.”

 

He wonders if this child will be the thing that begins to push Spock and Chris away from each other.  But then Spock gently pulls Saavik up and brings her over to where Chris and he are sitting. 

 

“Apologize to my mate.”

 

His mate?  Holy crap, have things progressed that far?  Or maybe he is just using terms the girl will understand.  He and Chris haven’t bonded, have they?

 

“I am sorry,” the girl says, her eyes burning as she looks at Chris. She sounds light years away from apologetic.

 

Chris doesn’t answer.

 

“Christine, she is trying.”  Spock’s hand rests on the girl’s shoulder, and he is looking at Chris sternly.

 

“No, she’s not, Spock.  She’s doing that to mollify you because that’s all she’s learned.”

 

The girl’s expression grows more fierce.

 

“Christine.”

 

“Fine.  Saavik and I are fine.”  Chris gets up and walks out of the gym.

 

This is definitely going to be trouble for them.  Kirk can feel it in his bones.

 

And it makes him way too happy.

 

##

 

Spock comes to Kirk the next day; he has his hands clasped behind his back as he stares out the viewscreen.  It is Kirk’s experience that this pose often precedes his friend asking something uncomfortable.

 

“Just say it, Spock.  Whatever it is you want to talk about.”  He smiles when Spock turns around to look at him, one eyebrow rising.  “It’s usually against my religion to give away another person’s ‘tell,’ but you really need to work on that one.  It’s only gotten worse since V’ger.”

 

At Spock’s look of incomprehension, Kirk turns around and clasps his hands behind his back, trying to take on the vestige of forced Vulcan repose.

 

“Ah.”  Spock unclasps his hand and sits at Kirk’s table.  “I wish to ask you for a leave of absence.”

 

Kirk is expecting this, to be honest.  Saavik hasn’t tried to stab Chris again, but she did put some nasty stuff in her dinner one night.  “Taking the little one home to the parents?”  He grins.

 

“I believe I can do better with her on Vulcan.  Around her own kind.”

 

Kirk realizes Spock has never talked about Saavik being half Romulan; he only knows that from Chris.  He decides to leave it alone if Spock is uncomfortable with that aspect of Saavik’s personality.  “Her own kind and Chris, you mean?”

 

“No, Jim.  Her own kind.  Well, and my mother will provide a human aspect—but in a way that is more in line with what will be expected from Saavik as a Vulcan.”

 

“How long an absence are we talking about?”

 

“Saavik’s progress is much slower than I anticipated.  I imagine I will need four to five months.”

 

“Months?”  He stares at his friend.

 

“I have a list of potential replacement science officers.”

 

Kirk waves that away.  “I can find my own damn replacements for you, Spock.  I had to do it once already, remember?”  He’s never understood how Spock could abandon him.  Their first mission wasn’t even finished when he left.  “Why are you leaving Chris out of this?”

 

“Christine and Saavik...there is conflict.”

 

“Well, the way to resolve conflict between two people who are going to be prominent in your life is to make them interact, not remove them from each other.”  It’s how Kirk has dealt with Spock and Bones, who rubbed each other wrong from day one.  And his method worked: they do much better now, although the outside observer might not see that.

 

“I can hardly stay on the ship with Saavik, Jim.  She is a ten-year-old child and a violent one at that.”

 

“I’m not saying stay on the ship.  I’m saying take Chris with you.”  Jesus, why is he giving Spock this much help?

 

He remembers what it felt like when Spock told him he was leaving.  The pit of emptiness in his stomach.  That is undoubtedly why he is helping.  That and he does love Chris and this will hurt her.

 

“Jim, I suggest you leave the management of my relationship with Christine to me.”

 

“Are you afraid Saavik will attack her again?  Are you doing this to protect her?”

 

Spock sighs, as if he wishes Kirk would stop talking.  “Christine’s method of dealing with Saavik is...counterproductive in my estimation.”

 

“Let me guess?  She wants her to mind?  Doesn’t give her an out all the time.”  Kirk has a feeling Spock would deem his methods counterproductive, too.  The girl isn’t just traumatized: she’s a brat and she plays Spock masterfully.  But then, on the planet she grew up on, those who couldn’t manipulate others probably didn’t survive long.

 

Spock turns and goes back to the viewscreen.

 

“Spock, do this and you’ll lose Chris.”

 

“Because you will take her from me?”

 

“No, because running from things that make you uncomfortable is the wrong way to go.  I’d have thought Gol would have taught you that.”

 

He sees Spock’s hands clench; it is as low a blow as he thought it would be.

 

“Take Chris with you.  I’ll give you both leaves of absence and replace you with temps.  You can come back together when you’re ready.  Spock, I’m thinking of you, here.  And her.  The two of you are happy.  You won’t be when this is over.”

 

Spock turns.  “Will you help that along?  Her unhappiness?  Will you work the situation to your advantage?”

 

He decides not to lie.  “Quite possibly.  Not at first but the longer she’s alone...yes, probably.  It’s not as if you’re being shipped out for a special mission.  This is a family thing, and I’ve heard you call her your mate, yet you’re leaving her out.  On purpose.  She’ll see it as abandonment—I can guarantee it.”  He moves closer, touches Spock’s arm.  “Spock.  Do us all a favor.  Take her with you.”

 

“I will consider it.”  The words sound promising, but they are said in a tone that clearly means Spock will not do any such thing.

 

##

 

The ship is strange without Spock.  Kirk is making himself stay away from Chris.  She looks miserable, though, and it’s difficult not to try to make things better.  He never did that when he was the one making her unhappy.  It’s more than tempting to try to make up for Spock’s lack.

 

But his friend might wise up and come back.  Sooner than expected after dumping Saavik the Terror at the Vulcan equivalent of reform school.  And Kirk wants to give him a chance to repair things with Chris.  He may want her for himself, but Spock is his friend and it’s not usually his habit to poach a friend’s woman.

 

Not usually, but it’s happened.  Carol was dating his friend Lew Mannicker when Kirk first met her.  Their chemistry was instantaneous.  He didn’t look back.

 

Lew is not a fan of Kirk, and that’s putting it mildly.  Then again neither is Carol these days.  Maybe it would have been better if Kirk had just left well enough alone.

 

Which is why he stays away from Chris.

 

He goes to the rec lounge, sits at the bar, and looks over at the chessboard—now put away on a side credenza with other games—with what he knows is longing.  He misses Spock.  He misses their games.

 

He can’t imagine how much Chris must miss him.  Kirk isn’t sleeping with the man and he still feels bereft, shades of what he felt when Spock went to Gol are cropping up.

 

When will he let go of that?  Spock didn’t abandon him; he abandoned his humanity.

 

But...isn’t that sort of the same thing?  Chris used to say it was, the times they talked about Spock and his departure for extreme Vulcanism. 

 

God, Kirk misses talking to her.

 

“How long are you going to avoid me?”  Chris’s voice is in his ear, and he realizes she is standing right behind him.  “He’s been gone for five weeks.”

 

He pulls her around, the way he used to do when they were together.  “Sit.  I will stop doing it now.”

 

She’s seeking him out, not the other way around—when all this goes south and the recriminations start, he’s going to hold onto that fact.

 

Then again, she may just want to ask for a transfer.  He’s reading an awful lot into a throaty remark.  Very throaty.  Did she mean to sound that sexy?

 

“How are you doing?” he asks, trying to be the concerned friend, not the ex lover who would like to get rid of the stupid “ex” part.

 

“I’ve been better.”  She sighs.  “Why am I so easy to leave, Jim?  Roger left me to go on that damned exploration—he could have taken me with him and didn’t.  You left me when we could have tried to make it work.  And you didn’t even hint that you were thinking of making it work once we were both aboard the ship.  And now Spock.  He chose that little savage over me.”

 

She sounds pretty bitter over the little savage.  Kirk tries not to feel cheered by that and fails.  This is going to destroy her and Spock. 

 

But he told Spock that.  He tried to help.  He tried to keep them together.

 

He’s going to hold onto that, too.  Once he has this woman back.  “I can’t explain Roger.  Or Spock.  But I know I miss you and I regret what happened.”

 

She closes her eyes.  “Spock said you were against him leaving me here.”

 

“He told you that?”  What the hell?

 

“He said you were a true friend.  To both of us.”

 

Was that comment designed to keep her on the path of fidelity?  Or Kirk?  Spock must have known Chris would tell him that eventually.

 

“I am a true friend.  I’m also just a man—a man who fell in love and was too stupid to say it.”

 

She turns to look at him.  “Pulling out the big guns, aren’t you?  The L-word?  You never said it when we were together.”  She motions the barkeep over.  “He’ll have a scotch and do you still have some of that Malbec left?”

 

Kirk smiles.  He had the quartermaster order that wine especially for her.  He knows there is more of it left because it was a big order and not that many people even know what Malbec is.

 

“You’re being very nice, Jim.  And hearing what you’re saying is what I need right now.  But your rules still apply, right?”

 

He meets her eyes, makes sure she is paying attention when he says softly, “Those rules may have been over-enforced when it comes to you.”  He sees her freeze, thinks there is a moment of panic in her eyes.  “Just relax, Chris.  It doesn’t have to mean anything.  I know you’re happy with Spock.  But you need to know that while, yes, I was a bastard and I did not handle goodbye well at all, I regret it.  I deeply regret it.  Not all your men leave and never come back.”

 

She swallows hard, grabs the wine from the bartender, and takes a healthy swallow.  “You got this special just for me, didn’t you?”

 

“Yep.”

 

She doesn’t say anything.  She doesn’t have to.

 

“Do you want me to go?” he asks.  “I have reports to catch up on.  I can leave you in peace with the wine you love so much.”  He gives her the best grin he has—the one that says “no harm, no foul.”

 

“I think that would be wise.”

 

He downs his scotch, shoots her a gentle smile, and leaves her alone.  And as he walks back to his quarters, he feels a sense of triumph.  If she didn’t care, she wouldn’t have told him to leave.

 

##

 

Chris seems to be the one avoiding him now, and he doesn’t seek her out.  He’ll let her think about things.  He has a feeling she won’t make a move until Spock comes back.

 

He has a feeling she’ll do it that way because she does not want to be like Kirk.  Cheating on the person she’s with—even if the person she’s with has abandoned her.

 

But she’ll fall harder for Kirk while she’s being virtuous—she’s proven she can do that.  She fell for Spock while she was looking for Roger, although she probably would have kept that fact to herself but for that stupid virus.  

 

Kirk sees her in the mess and smiles but moves on, getting his food and looking for a table.  When his gaze wanders her way, she rolls her eyes and motions him over. 

 

He fights hard to hide his smile, knows it will telegraph way too much.  “You sure?” he asks instead when he gets to the table, his voice as uncertain as he can make it.

 

Never let it be said he can’t pull out his inner thespian when needed.

 

“Sit your ass down, sir.”  She winks at him and he sits in the seat across from her—next to her would be pushing it.  “I’m lonely, Jim.  I’m trying so hard to be virtuous that I’m not doing anything in my spare time.”

 

He likes the idea that being virtuous is something she has to work at—but he’s assuming any lack of virtue would involve him.  He hasn’t seen any other man sniffing around her, so he’s going to go on thinking that.   “What do you want to do?”

 

She shrugs.  “It’s not like we left the apartment much when we were together.  I have no idea what you like to do other than play chess, chase women, and work out.”  She starts to laugh.  “And beat aliens intent on killing us all.  You’re good at that, but it doesn’t sound like promising extracurricular material.”

 

“No, not really hobby stuff.”  He laughs.  “For the record: I didn’t chase women when we were together.  And until we were together, I never cheated on Lori.”

 

“Are you telling me the truth?”

 

“I am.”  He waits to see if she’ll believe him.  He can’t tell at first by her expression, but then she seems to accept what he’s said.

 

“That’s a relief, actually.  Did you find a woman the minute I reported to the ship?”

 

That’s a harder question to answer.  He did find a woman.  A beautiful woman who looked a little bit too much like Chris.  And when he got her to bed, his spirit was willing, but Jim Junior resolutely refused to perform.

 

His body knew what he needed long before his mind caught up.  “I found one.  I didn’t have sex with her.”  Technically.  They were naked, in bed, but he’ll leave that part out.

 

“You’re lying.  You have a tell, did you know that?”

 

He frowns. “No, I don’t.”

 

“Yeah, you do.  And I’m not going to let you in on what it is.”  Her smile is teasing, but then it fades.  “Why not just say yes, you found a woman?”

 

“Because I couldn’t get it up with her.  And that’s embarrassing, isn’t it?”

 

“Really?  You couldn’t do it?”

 

“That’s what I said.”

 

Her smile is the sweetest one he’s seen from her since they first started their affair.  “I really like that.”  Then the smile fades again.  “That state didn’t last, though, did it?  You’ve had plenty of women since you got the ship back?”

 

“You were with Spock.  What was I supposed to do?  I thought you two were happy.  In for the long haul.”

 

“So did I.”  She sighs.  “Distract me, Jim.  For the love of God.  What’s fun to do?”

 

He tries to dial his smile back, but fails because she says, “Other than that.”

 

He thinks about it.  “Dancing.  We never went dancing.”

 

“I think that’ll send a message I’m not ready to send.”

 

“It’s just a dance, Chris.  People do it all the time.”

 

Her look grows impatient.  “Something else.  Is sex all we have?”

 

“No.  There’s pool.  Darts.  There are vid nights.  Any number of games both computer and classic.  There’s a horticulture class Sulu is offering.  Quilting below decks from what I understand.”

 

She laughs.  “Quilting?”

 

“Look, you asked for options.  I’m giving them to you.  The gym offers all sorts of classes and there are intramural teams.”

 

“But you never play on those, do you?”

 

“I don’t.  I used to but it gets weird when the captain is on one side and not the other.”

 

She nods, and he can see she understands.

 

“We can start a book club, Chris.”  He grins.  There are actually about four book clubs that he knows of, but he’d like one that just had the two of them in it.

 

“All these options.”

 

He nods.  “Think about it and get back to me.  We have time.”

 

Everything light suddenly leaves her expression, and she looks away.  “Why did he leave me?  Why didn’t he trust me with her?”

 

He sees some of what he felt with Carol and David in the look on Chris’s face.  “I don’t know, sweetheart.  Why do any of them leave us?”

 

She pushes her tray away, then stands up.  “I’m sorry, Jim.  I’m not hungry.”

 

“It’s okay.”  He watches her take the tray to the recycler then head for the door.  She turns to look at him for a moment, and her expression is unreadable.

 

He smiles gently at her before turning his attention to his food, giving her the easiest out he can.

 

##

 

They end up taking Sulu’s horticultural class, which is more fun than he expects, working out together in the gym, and starting up their own book club: anything romantic automatically off the menu.  They hold the book club discussions in the mess or the lounge—occasionally in the observation lounge—but never in either of their quarters.  They’ve never discussed it directly, just seem to know that they need to avoid being alone for any number of reasons.

 

He also likes being out in the open with her.  They never had that on Earth.  And if things do turn out his way, no one will be surprised, given how much time they’ve been spending together, even if it’s innocent.

 

She has refused to dance with him.  He thinks he knows why.  Every now and then, she looks at him the way she used to.  When they were first new and the connection between them was a revelation.

 

He wants to touch her so much it’s killing him.  He resists the urge.

 

The months go by quickly, and Spock is back before Kirk’s ready for him to be.  Gone one day and then reporting for duty the next.

 

“Saavik settling in?”  Kirk gives him an open, easy look.  He has not, after all, stolen his woman.

 

Not yet.

 

But he had her first.  For all Spock says she loved him first—and he’s right, Chris did love Spock before Kirk was ever on her radar—Spock never acted on it.  So really, Kirk had her first. 

 

“Saavik has a long journey ahead of her.  But she has made progress.”  Spock seems to be searching Kirk’s face for something.

 

“I didn’t sleep with Chris, Spock.  Didn’t even kiss her.  She’s still your woman.”  For how long, though?  That’s the question that interests him.  He’s knows Chris does not like to be left; Spock should have learned from Kirk’s mistakes. 

 

Spock seems to assess those statements for a moment, then he nods.  “I appreciate that, Jim.”

 

“I did spend time with her, Spock.  Just because I didn’t try to seduce her doesn’t mean I ignored her.” He’ll save the fact that he was ignoring her just fine until she approached him.  He may need it later.

 

“I did not expect her to be alone.”  There is something in Spock’s eyes, though.  Kirk thinks that while he didn’t expect her to be alone, he also hoped she would keep company with someone other than his friend.

 

“She missed you.  She’s mad at you.”  These are things a friend would say. 

 

“I have a responsibility to Saavik, Jim.  Christine will have to come to terms with that.”

 

Kirk thinks Spock is an idiot when it comes to Saavik.  Projecting too much of his own experience as a child of dual heritages on her and keeping Chris away for no good reason.  Being kept from a child that you could have loved doesn’t make you fonder of the person keeping you away.  Kirk knows this from bitter experience.

 

But he says nothing more.  Just nods as if Spock needs to decide for himself.  There is a limit to what he will do for his friend when it comes to Chris.

 

##

 

Kirk watches as Spock and Chris interact—if that’s what you can call it—on the landing party.  It’s not any kind of emergency or he’d have left one of them on the ship.  They are not at their best when they’re together—not right now, anyway.  He knows that might change.  Kirk really doesn’t know how much she loves him and if that can even stand up against what she feels for Spock.

 

But they sure as hell do not look like the picture of happiness at the moment.

 

He’s trying to be as normal as he can.  Playing chess with Spock—they pointedly do not talk about Chris.  He still meets up with Chris at the gym or to talk about a book they’re both reading, but the reading, on her side anyway, is taking much longer, and he hopes it’s not because she and Spock are spending all that time in bed.

 

He wishes he wasn’t hoping they were using that time to fight instead.

 

He realizes she is walking over to him and he tries to keep his expression neutral.  “Doctor.”

 

“Sir.”  She doesn’t appear to want anything from him, so he waits to see what she’ll do. 

 

When she sighs and looks at the ground, he asks softly, “Something on your mind, Chris?”

 

“Why did you bring us down here together?”

 

“Because you are two of my senior staff.  Professionals, if I’m not mistaken.”  He gives her a hard look because he’s managed to keep his relationship with both of them on the positive side of the line despite how he feels.  He may want to see them blow up but if it looks like their relationship will derail how his ship runs, he’ll transfer one of them off.

 

And he has a feeling it’ll be Chris he will have to send away.  Spock is more important to him in a professional sense.  He is not sure he can say that is true anymore, however, in a personal sense.

 

She takes a deep breath.  “Yes, sir.  Of course.”  And she pulls something around her, some mantle of professionalism that he loves.  “It’s hard with him right now, but I’ll put that aside.  Of course.”

 

Put him aside, Kirk wants to tell her.  He doesn’t.

 

“Things are not good, I take it?”  She has not been talking much to him about her relationship with Spock.

 

“Things are horrible.”  She rolls her eyes, and her anger is palpable.  “He’s not going to include me in her life, Jim.  Why?  How am I unsuitable?”

 

“She did stab you.”

 

“And poison me.”

 

“That, too.”

 

“But that makes me the victim, doesn’t it?  How did I become unsuitable?”  She rolls her eyes again.  “I never even got a chance.  Amanda gets a chance.  From all accounts, Amanda is a goddamn saint where the girl’s concerned.  So it’s not a human thing.  It’s me he doesn’t think will work with this girl who’s apparently becoming like his daughter.”

 

He doesn’t say anything right away.  Then he takes a deep breath and says, “I have a son.  A son I never see because Carol—his mother—wants me to stay away.”  It’s a creative paraphrasing of what really happened.  Carol would have let him in David’s life if he’d only given up the stars.  But after he wouldn’t give them up, then she had no use for him in their lives, so he’s not, strictly speaking, lying.

 

Chris frowns.  “You never told me.”

 

“It hurts.  I keep it inside.  What kind of father am I?”  He looks down.  This, of all things to do with Carol, weighs the most on him.  That his son will grow up thinking he wasn’t wanted—wouldn’t have been loved.  Carol has no doubt spun the story to favor her: she’s a master of that.

 

Chris touches his arm, her expression tender.  “If she won’t let you in his life, then the question is moot.  I know you would have been a great father.  Do you think I would have been a good mother for Saavik?”

 

“Yes,” he says without hesitation.

 

“Thank you.”  She seems to realize her hand is still on his arm, blushes a little.  “Sorry.”

 

“I’m not complaining.”  He glances over to where Spock is working.  His friend is watching them.  His expression is unfathomable.  “Someone else may not like it, though.” 

 

She looks over at Spock, and the tenderness in her eyes fades.  “I wish I cared more.”

 

That should not make Kirk happy.  But it does.

 

##

 

He and Spock are playing chess.  Things are more than a little awkward between them.  Kirk tries to ignore that and concentrates on the game, hoping that Spock won’t bring Chris up tonight because it’s been a bad day, and he’s afraid of what will come out of his mouth.

 

Spock makes a move and then says, “When I first returned to the ship, you said Christine was angry at me.  You were right.  How much did you contribute to that anger?”

 

Kirk takes a deep breath, counts to five before answering.  “You think I tried to sabotage your relationship?  The relationship I told you not to throw away?  I was the one who said to take Chris with you, remember?”

 

“How long did you wait after I was gone before seeking her out?”

 

“Spock, don’t do this.”

 

“Jim, how long?”  Spock doesn’t sound angry.  Kirk isn’t sure what he sounds like.  Resigned, perhaps?

 

“I mean it, Spock.  You won’t like the answer.”

 

“A day?  Two?  Did she stand a chance against you if you were determined?”

 

Kirk is about to tell him it was Chris who was determined.  Chris who approached him.  Truth to tell, he’s been waiting to tell Spock that. 

 

But he can’t seem to say it.  He doesn’t want to make her the villain.

 

Finally, he says, “Five weeks.  And we never met anywhere that wasn’t public.  I told you: I didn’t touch her.”  He takes a deep breath.  Says the other thing he’s been wanting to say.  “But you know, let’s be clear on something.  I had her first, Spock.  Unless you had a relationship with her aboard the ship during our first mission that I’m not aware of, I had her first.”

 

“She loved me first.”

 

“But you weren’t interested.  And I was when she and I ran into each other on Earth.  So it didn’t last that long?  So goddamn what?  She was mine.”  The last part comes out stronger than he intends. 

 

Spock looks a little surprised at his vehemence.  “Yours?”

 

“Mine.”

 

“She does not think she is yours.”

 

“She didn’t, my friend.  I’m not sure what she thinks now.  Have you melded with her to find out?”

 

Spock looks away and doesn’t answer, but Kirk thinks he probably has not melded with her since he got back.  He can see Chris denying him her mind but letting him have her body; he can also imagine that it might drive Spock crazy if that’s what’s happening.

 

Kirk sighs.  “I wasn’t going to do this.  Not today.  I’m sorry.”

 

“When were you going to do this?”  Spock leans back.  He sighs, an actual human-sounding sigh.  “It is possible I should have listened to you.”

 

“Yes, it is.  And I tried, Spock.  God help me, I didn’t want to, but I tried to help you.”

 

“You did.”  He closes his eyes.  “I do not understand why she will not let this go.”

 

“Are you kidding?”

 

Spock opens his eyes.  “I am not.  It is illogical to maintain the kind of distance she has been insisting on over some perceived slight.  I did not believe her presence on Vulcan would facilitate Saavik’s integration into Vulcan culture.”

 

“You think of Saavik as a daughter, don’t you?  Or something close to that?”

 

Spock seems to consider the question, then he nods.

 

“You’ve called Chris your mate, Spock.  I know you’re not bonded but wouldn’t that imply she’d be the mother of this new daughter?”  He sees the dawning comprehension in Spock’s eyes.  “Only you don’t find her suitable.”

 

“I have never said that.  Her presence would have been counterproductive.”

 

“I’ll let you explain that to her.”

 

“I have tried to, Jim.  She is not hearing me.”

 

“Oh, Spock, I think she is.  She just doesn’t like what she’s hearing.”  He pushes the chessboard to the side.  “You left her out.  You marginalized her.  Why do you think she was so damn mad at me?  And if you can do it to her, too, then you lose all the ground you gained earlier, when she thought you were a different kind of man than I am.  Do you understand me?”

 

Spock nods.  “You plan to get her back?”

 

“I plan to let her choose what she wants for herself.”

 

“You say that because you assume she’ll want you.  You would not have a noninterference policy otherwise.  I know you, Jim.  You see what you want and you take it.  You did it with this ship, and you’ll do it with Christine.”

 

“The ship was mine, Spock.  Another man had her for a while, but it was a temporary possession.  I think the same can be said for the woman in question.”

 

Spock’s mouth tightens in a way that is far more human than Vulcan.  He rises slowly.  “I do not wish to play tonight.”

 

Kirk nods at the pushed-aside chessboard.  “I knew that.”

 

##

 

Kirk is just settling in to bed when his chime goes off.  He sighs and gets out from under the covers, pulls a robe on, and goes to the door.

 

Chris is standing there.  “What did you say to him?”

 

“Not everything I could have.  But some things he didn’t like.”  He moves out of her way, curious to see if she’ll come in.

 

She does.  “Did you really tell him that I’m yours?”

 

“That rings a bell.”  He doesn’t try to grin it off.  “Was I wrong?  Should I go tell him I was mistaken?  Or did you do that for me?”

 

“I got angry at the idea of being anyone’s possession.”

 

“That’s not how I meant it.  I think you know that.  Especially since the way I used to treat you was so hands off that I’m sure you wondered if you were really with me or not.”

 

“I did.”

 

“Well, then, there you go.  You’re mine.  That’s how much I love you.”  He moves further into his quarters and sits down on the bed.  “How much I want you.  How much I don’t like that you’re with him now.”

 

“But you didn’t try to interfere with that.  When Spock and I first got together.”

 

“Why would I?  I treated you like shit, Chris.  I know that.”

 

“How do I know you won’t do that again?”

 

“You don’t know.  No one knows what another person will do.  I’ve had a chance to think about it.  Lots of nights when sleep laughs at me.  I think, after Carol, after losing my son, I shut down part of my heart.”  He looks down.  “And after losing Edith.  You know what happened when we went to Earth’s past to find Bones?”

 

She nods. 

 

“I just...grew afraid, I think, to reach out that much.  I tried—I honestly tried—with Lori.  But it got worse and worse the longer we were together.  You and I, what we had, it kept me sane, Chris.  But you were leaving.  I was going to lose you to my ship.  My ship.”

 

“You don’t have very much that’s truly yours, do you?”

 

The question surprises him.  He doesn’t expect her to understand him quite so clearly.  “I don’t.  I thought I had a best friend or two, but where were they when I was Earthbound?  Spock was purging his emotions—and by extension me—at Gol.  And Bones didn’t approve of my choices and became distant.  Not just by staying in Georgia but emotionally.  Earlier than that?  My girlfriend took my son away.  I had to kill one of my best friends.  I had to let a woman I love die.  And maybe it all started even earlier on Tarsus IV?  When I found out that being good and noble and true wasn’t enough to keep you alive.  That evil men prospered.  That even once they were brought down, no one could bring back the people they killed.  All those bodies.”  He shuts his eyes.  “People I cared about died.”

 

“I’m sorry.”  She sits next to him on the bed.  “I know it’s not the same scale as yours, but I haven’t had the best track record, either.”

 

“I know.”  He turns to her, puts his hands on either side of her face.  “I fell in love with you when I was with you on Earth.  It’s not just up here that I feel that.”

 

She puts her hands on his.  “I wish I’d known that, then.  I might have fought harder for you.”

 

“Maybe I needed to see you gone?  To know that my rules don’t work for me anymore.  That I like you and I want you in my life—not just in my bed.  When Spock was on Vulcan with Saavik, the things we did, they were fun.”

 

She smiles.

 

“And no one cared that we were together—and I’m sure some people thought we were together.”

 

She nods.  “Ny asked me what was going on.”

 

“What did you tell her?”

 

“That it was complicated.  I never told her I was your mistress.  I was embarrassed about it, to be honest.  I thought you didn’t care about me.”  She lets go of his hands and gently pulls away from his grasp.  “Spock and I are coming apart.”

 

“I know.  I told him you would if he didn’t take you with him.”

 

She nods.  “I don’t know that I’m going to stay on the ship.”

 

He feels as if she’s punched him.  “What can I do to make you want to stay?”

 

“I don’t believe you’ll break your rules, Jim.  I guess...I guess if you made me believe that...”

 

“Okay.”  He smiles at her, tries to make it the sweetest smile he has.  One lacking guile.  He does not want her to think he’s playing her.  “Is there a part of you that wants to stay with him?”

 

“Was there a part of you that wanted to stay with Carol?”

 

He nods.

 

“Well, there’s your answer.”  She gets up, hurries to the door, and is gone.

 

##

 

Kirk watches Spock and Chris as they talk in the lounge.  She is not laughing.  She is not happy any longer—it’s clear to him.

 

And he had nothing to do with her unhappiness.  Not this time.  Spock can blame himself for this one.

 

“You sure are interested in what they’re up to these days.”  McCoy slides onto the stool next to him and orders a bourbon.  “Why is that?”

 

“I cheated on my wife.  With Chris.”

 

McCoy blinks.  Clearly he does not expect such honesty.  Ohhhh.”

 

“I loved her.  I treated her badly despite that.  She left for the ship, and I thought that was that.  And then V’ger happened.”

 

“Yeah, about that.”  McCoy laughs.  “Well, on the bright side, she got what she wanted.  For a time.  Spock, I mean.”

 

“Yep.”

 

“And it wasn’t enough.”

 

“He made a mistake.”  He doesn’t want to badmouth Spock to McCoy.

 

“Jim.  You think I haven’t heard about Saavik and Spock and how he left Christine behind a hundred times?  Who do you think plies her with alcohol and gets her to rant?”

 

Kirk grins.  “But she never ranted about me?”

 

“Tight lipped, our Christine.  When it matters, I guess.  So does she love you?”

 

Kirk nods.  “May not be enough to keep her here, though.”

 

“I am not breaking in a new deputy.  What can I do to help the cause?”

 

Kirk laughs.  “Nothing.  I don’t want to manipulate her.”

 

“That’s refreshingly healthy of you.”  McCoy smiles.  “When you’re honest, Jim, you’re vulnerable.  And it’s damned alluring, and I don’t mean in a sexual way.  You’re so private—so strong—that when you open the door to let someone in, it’s almost impossible not to want to run inside.  Use that with her.”

 

“Honesty as a weapon?”  It was what he did the other night, when she came to his quarters.  He told her a truth he doesn’t share with most people.  That he never gives all his heart anymore.

 

“A weapon?  Quit thinking of this as a war.  It’s not.” He holds his glass up to Kirk.  “Cheers?”

 

“Cheers.”

 

##

 

Spock has avoided any personal time with Kirk for a week now, which means, Kirk thinks, that he and Chris are on their last legs.  He tries to be especially gentle with Spock while on duty, no teasing, no sarcasm.

 

He is sitting in the mess when Spock comes in and sits at his table without first getting food. 

 

“You all right?” Kirk asks.

 

“It is ironic.  I know you mean that sincerely and yet you will benefit from what is happening.”

 

“I may not.  She may be sick of both of us.”

 

Spock looks cheered at that thought.

 

“I’ve missed our chess games, Spock.”

 

“I have as well.”  He takes a deep breath.  “If you had asked me several years ago the odds of Christine coming between us, I would have given very long ones.”

 

“Has she come between us?  In a way we can’t recover from?”

 

“I do not think so, Jim.  I made a choice.  She did not like the choice—nor did you—but I would make it again.  Saavik needs me.”

 

“And you’ll choose Saavik over the woman you love?  She’s not your daughter, Spock.  Or is it that after everything, after rebelling against Vulcan ways and then embracing them in the most extreme manner possible, you see this as your path to salvation?  Saving this one girl?  Bringing her into the Vulcan fold—your way?”

 

Spock steeples his fingers and studies them.  “You do, as ever, bring insight I had not considered.  It is possible that is what I am doing.  But if I were to be honest, I also chose Christine because of the meld with V’ger.  It left me open to finally letting her in.  I would not be with her otherwise.”

 

“Do you regret it?”

 

“I do not.  I...care for her greatly.”

 

Kirk wonders if Spock can bring himself to say he loves Chris when he’s alone with her.  Then again, Kirk wasn’t very quick to say it, so maybe he shouldn’t be throwing stones.  “I know she loves you.”

 

“She does.  But I lied to you, Jim.”

 

“I thought Vulcans couldn’t do that?”

 

“We can.  We do.”  He looks down.  “I told you that what I read from Christine about you—about her feelings for you—was not altogether positive.  That was a lie.  She was still in love with you when she came to me.  I did not care.  I thought, since you were together such a short time and in circumstances that were not optimum, she would forget you once she had me.  Especially since she had loved me first.  So I told you what I needed to say to make you back away, and your rules did the rest.”

 

Kirk thinks about that for a moment, then says, “I’m willing to throw away my rules for her.”

 

“I surmised that.”  Spock looks at him and he seems tired.  “Saavik is worth this, Jim.  Christine has you, but Saavik trusted me only.  I do not know why she trusted me—possibly she could sense I was like her.  A half breed.”

 

“That’s an ugly label, Spock.  Why not think of it as doubly blessed instead of something halved?”

 

“An intriguing notion.  I may use that concept with her in time.”  He stands.  “I will not get in your way with Christine.  I may...retreat to the lab for a time.  It will not be easy to lose her, but I realize this was my doing.”

 

“It was.  She wouldn’t have chosen me otherwise.”  For all that he wants to believe she might love him the best, Kirk knows this to be true: if Spock had included her, she would still be with him.  “I missed you when you were at Gol, Spock.  No matter what is happening with Chris, you have to know that.  I missed my friend.”

 

“I believe that.”  Spock almost smiles, then turns and leaves Kirk alone.

 

##

 

Kirk gets back to his quarters and sends Chris a private comm.  All it says is, “Are you all right?”

 

She doesn’t comm back; she comes to his quarters an hour later.  She doesn’t look like she’s been crying, but he doesn’t really expect her to weep much at this point.  She had months to do that while Spock was gone—and her eyes were red enough some days to make him think she did cry over him.

 

“What should I do?” she asks.

 

“About staying or going?”

 

She nods.

 

“You should stay.  With me.”  He meets her eyes, doesn’t hide the truth with his best grin or a flash of shy aw shucks bullshit he might try on another woman.  “I love you.  I need you.  And I’ve missed you.”  He takes a step closer to her.  “But if you want to go, I will write you the best damn recommendation that has ever been written.  You will have your pick of assignments once I’m done.  I won’t make this difficult if leaving is what you need.”

 

“But you want me to stay.”

 

“I will be very, very sad if you don’t.  I mean that sincerely.”

 

“Because I’m yours?”

 

“Maybe because I’m yours and I was too stupid to know it.”

 

Suddenly she is crying, and he takes the few steps that close the gap between them. “Was that the wrong thing to say?”

 

“No.”  She pulls him to her.  Kisses him hard then lets him go.  “That was exactly the right thing to say.  I still love you.”

 

He wants to take her clothes off and push her onto his bed and make love to her.  But instead he pulls her in close, loops his arm around her shoulder, and says, “Then let’s go get a drink.  And dance.”

 

“In the very public rec lounge?”

 

He nods.  “Where everyone can witness me shredding my rules.”  He pulls her back to him, has to kiss her before they leave.  “I love you.  And I like you.  I never gave you a chance on Earth to find out if I liked you.”

 

“I know.  It was just sex.”

 

“It wasn’t.  But I made you think it was and that may be worse.”  He nuzzles her neck up to her ear and whispers, “The days when Spock was gone, when you and I just spent time together, they were special to me, Chris.”

 

“To me, too.  You could have seduced me.  I would have let you.”

 

“And I would have lost you.”  He grins at her.  “And what makes you think repotting plants in Sulu’s horticulture class isn’t a form of seduction?”

 

She laughs.  Bright.  Easy.  The way she used to with Spock.  The way she never has with Kirk.

 

As he takes her hand and leads her into the corridor, he feels something heavy and dark inside him ease. He realizes it’s the part of his heart he hasn’t used for a very, very long time—finally coming back to life.

 

 

FIN