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.
Not Ready to Make Nice
Sitella on Kavela Letotia was famed for its cuisine and hard as hell to get reservations to—unless you were dating the savior of the quadrant. Chapel smiled as the maĒtre d’ led Jim and her to their table, fawning over them just enough to make her happy but not enough to be embarrassing. Spock and Nyota were already seated.
“He’s always early,” Jim said with a chuckle.
“Well, she’s usually late, so maybe eventually they’ll balance out to right on time.” She grinned at him, and he gave her an answering smile that was both sexy and content.
“Good evening. You look beautiful,” Jim said to Ny, then laughed and glanced at Spock. “You do, too, old friend.”
Spock gave the Vulcan equivalent of an eye roll, and Ny and Chapel laughed. “You both clean up well.” He looked over at Ny. “Was that not how Leonard always puts it?”
“Yes, and it’s not the nicest way to say it.” She smiled tightly. “I don’t know why he’s suddenly intent on getting the hang of the vernacular. V’ger was months ago, Spock.”
Chapel tried to bite back a grin as she watched them—V’ger may have been months ago, but it was clear Spock’s feelings for Ny hadn’t dimmed one bit. Which made her happy: something she was sure the Chapel of the previous mission would never have believed.
But then the Chapel of the previous mission hadn’t been in love with the captain. The captain who was leaning in to whisper, “You look beautiful, too, have I told you that tonight? I love that dress on or off.” He’d already removed the dress from her once when she’d asked him to zip her up, which is why they were a little later than they’d planned to arrive, even if they were far from tardy.
Jim ordered the Kavelan equivalent of champagne and once it arrived, lifted his glass and said with a grin, “Here’s to three weeks with no red alerts.”
“You’ll jinx us. You realize that?” Ny shook her head but lifted her glass anyway and clinked it gently against his and Chapel’s glasses and Spock’s water.
“Mmmm. Good stuff.” Chapel sipped the bubbly pink wine happily. She was off duty with friends in a fabulous place. How much better did it get?
“Have you had this?” Jim asked her, pointing to a pasta dish on the menu. “It’s to die for. I had it the last time I was here.”
“You don’t want to try something new?”
“We can go nuts trying new appetizers and deserts. But the main course—stick with what you know.”
She grinned. “I like that answer.”
“I thought you would.” He leaned over and kissed her. A quick kiss, not sloppy, but a good one. A kiss that made her feel...with him.
She pulled away and saw Ny watching them. For a second there was an expression on her face that Chapel couldn’t read, then she smiled and went back to looking at the menu.
Chapel studied Spock. He seemed at ease—as much as he ever did when he was out socially with them. She knew he was trying, and that he made the effort because he cared for Ny enough to brave the perils of three slightly intoxicated humans—four, if they invited Len along.
He was making a real effort. He was never going to be the kind to sweep Ny off her feet in public—surely that wasn’t what that look had been about? Chapel had long ago realized that a life with Spock wouldn’t be full of public displays of affection, even during the days of her “he loves me: he just doesn’t know it yet” fantasy haze. His love was subtle. He wasn’t human—half of him was Vulcan: it was more than half when push came to shove.
She looked over at Jim. “Sorry?”
He laughed. “Do you eat snails?”
She realized all three were watching her. “I’m sorry. I was thinking about a case I saw today. I promise not to do that again.” She took a deep breath. “And no. They are slugs with shells.”
“Good damn answer,” he said with a grin. “Outvoted, Nyota.”
Spock shot Ny an apologetic look. “I would vote on your side if I—”
“Yeah, yeah. Just because you’re a vegetarian you think you don’t have to vote for Kavelan escargot.”
“I would not eat them. And Jim and Christine know I would not eat them, so to vote for them would be—”
“Really not the point.”
“What is the point?” He looked perplexed enough that Chapel almost felt sorry for him.
“We’ve been over this. There’s truth and then there’s supporting your girlfriend.”
“Ah. Yes. Support. Not logical at all times.”
“Bingo, mister. Required no matter how illogical.” She closed her menu. “Can we at least try the cheese bread? They are famous for their cheese.”
“I enjoy cheese,” Spock said quickly, as if finally he could support her with no reservations. “Do you not enjoy cheese, too?” The look he shot Chapel and Jim told them in no uncertain terms that they not only enjoyed cheese, they loved it.
“We adore it. Cheese bread it is.” Jim winked at Chapel, then said softly, “Love’s course ne’re did run true.”
“Not when snails are in the mix,” she murmured and saw him grin. She reached under the table and rubbed his knee.
He covered her hand with his, squeezing gently. “Do you know what you want?” At her expression, he started to laugh and murmured, “I meant food.”
“Oh, that. Yeah, I’ve got that figured out, too.”
He squeezed harder. “Behave yourself, Chris.”
“Me? You started it. ‘Zip me up.’ How hard is that to understand?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He was clearly trying not to laugh as he turned back to the others. “Spock, how are your parents?”
“They are well, Jim. My mother is eager for me to bring Nyota home for a visit.” He seemed to realize he’d scored a relationship coup with that unsolicited remark; his look turned very satisfied. “To whichever home they happen to be at.”
“And I can’t wait to see them.” Ny sounded more nervous than eager.
“Amanda’s a pushover. Just make her boy here happy, and you’ll have her in the bag.” Jim smiled gently at her.
“It’s Sarek I’m worried about.”
“He’s always been nice to me,” Chapel said.
“Well, not all of us have multiple science degrees, Christine.” Ny looked away.
“That isn’t why he’s nice to me, is it?” She looked at Spock. “I thought it was because I didn’t make him eat sickbay food.” She glanced at Jim, and he gave her the little shake of the head that meant “leave it alone” in their personal body language.
“He’ll love you, Nyota.” Jim waved the waiter over. “Now, my friend, we plan to keep you busy. Please tell us you have the cheese bread tonight?”
Fortunately, they did. And many other lovely dishes that kept them happy long into the evening.
Spock heard his chime ring, felt a surge of annoyance, and pushed it back down. “Come,” he said.
Nyota walked in. “Are you ready? Did I get the time wrong?”
He checked the chrono. She was generally late unless he actively prodded her to hurry, and now was no exception. He had spent too long meditating. That did not usually happen. A wave of frustration filled him at losing track of what he was doing, and he forced it away.
She sat on the bed. “You’ve been weird since dinner last week.”
He almost let out a breath in amusement. Did she realize how often she went on attack? She was not wrong, however, and he needed to explain why. “We need to talk.”
“Spock, those four words are the mother of all bad things for a relationship.”
He frowned, then tried to mitigate the expression. “Discussion is a negative thing?”
“Those specific words are generally prelude to a break-up speech.”
“Ah. That is not my intent.” He rose and walked over to the bed. “How familiar are you with what occurred when we diverted to Vulcan during our first mission?”
“When we got to see the wife you never told us about?”
He was frequently bemused by the human need to know the most private details of one’s life. And the offense when such details were held back.
She sighed. “Not much. I was on the bridge for that.”
He fought back the surge of shame he always felt when thinking about that Pon Farr. “It is called the burning. It is the Vulcan time of mating. A Vulcan male must mate or die—it is a holdover from the old ways. A biological burden we cannot shake. Once every seven years for full Vulcans. Being half Vulcan, I am not so regular. It was very late the first time. Between Gol and the meld with V’ger, it has come early.”
“Yes.” He took her hands. “I can go to Vulcan. I have time to get there. There are priestesses trained to deal with unbonded males.”
“Wouldn’t you rather be with me?”
The hurt in her voice touched him. “I would. But I do not wish to burden you with this when our relationship is still new. The Pon Farr is not...lovemaking, Nyota. It is a rut. Sex at its most elemental and not good sex. I will not be concerned with your pleasure. And I may hurt you.”
“But your mother—who is quite petite—has survived it. Right? Multiple times?”
Nyota got up and walked across the room, then turned, leaning against the wall and staring at him. “Do you love me?”
He nodded. “It is why I reached out after the meld with V’ger. I have always been attracted to you.”
“Do you think you’ll hurt me?”
“I will try my best not to. I believe that true regard mitigates the violence.” Again the shame of last time flooded him, and he pushed it back. “It is your choice. I will not hold it against you if you wish to avoid this duty.”
“Duty? Spock, I love you. I don’t want you going to some priestess.”
He stood and walked to his dresser. “There is something we should do, then.” He lifted the silk cloth off the wine decanter. “This custom is very old, passed down through the generations.” He mixed in the ceremonial herbs. “We drink to seal our accord. Our...harmony in this and many things. It is what one does with the person one cares for.”
She smiled and moved closer. “It is?”
He nodded, and stirred the wine gently. “The wine is from my family’s vineyards. The herbs were grown in my mother’s garden. What we do here is not a bond, not a proposal or anything so restricting to you. It only signifies that I value you as I do myself.”
“That you love me?”
“You never say those words.”
“It is not my way. But I am trying to learn to say those words.” He held up the decanter. “Do you wish to share the wine? Or must I first become more human?” Frustration and a tinge of anger surged through him again.
She looked taken aback. For a moment, he thought she might tell him where to shove the wine—she was particularly fond of that statement—but she took a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry. I know you’re trying.”
“Pour the wine, Spock.”
He poured it out into the small golden glasses, then he handed her one, took the other for himself. “To us.” That was a human concession. The Vulcan toast would have been much different. He wondered if she realized it.
“To us.” She drank. He didn’t know if she was trying to hide her reaction—the herbs made the wine bitter. If she was, she wasn’t trying very hard.
Kirk walked to one of the more remote auxiliary labs, curious why Spock had wanted to meet here instead of in the rec lounge. The lab was empty other than Spock, who looked up and nodded. “Jim. Good.”
“We’re not going to play chess in here, are we?” Kirk looked around the lab; it looked like pretty much every other one on the ship, other than being clearly not used much. No experiments were in the stasis units or holding areas, no padds or tools in the cubbies.
“I wish to talk in private.”
“Well, you certainly found the place for it. I’m going to have to remember this lab if Chris and I ever want a change of scene.” His grin faded when Spock’s face did not lighten. “Sorry. Inappropriate. What do you want to talk about?” He sat on the stool across from Spock.
“I am about to enter the Pon Farr.”
“Shit.” Kirk did some mental calculations.
“Yes, it is early, Jim.” Spock sighed—an actual, honest-to-God sigh. “The meld with V’ger, the austerity of Gol not finalized? The two together? My own dual heritage? I am not sure what spurred it on, but it is coming. I recognize the signs from last time.”
“Are you and Nyota...?”
“We are prepared to handle this together. We will need privacy and time off.”
“Of course.” Kirk leaned in, trying to show Spock that his previous levity was gone, that he was only there to support him, not make jokes about Chris and him. “You should get checked out—medically, I mean.”
“We plan to see Doctor McCoy.”
“Bones? I would have thought you’d prefer Chris?”
Spock’s face did something interesting, something Kirk couldn’t read. “Both Nyota and I have decided it would be easier to not involve her in this.”
“Something I should know? Chris do or say something?”
“Jim, Christine has done nothing untoward. But I am sure you did not miss Nyota’s remark at dinner last week.”
“About Chris and her degrees?”
“Yes. At times...at times, she is jealous. And in this case, I think it would be better to not have friendship and medical care coincide.”
“But you’re okay with Chris?”
“Of course. Why would I not be?” Spock met his eyes; he seemed to be telling the truth.
Spock rose. “Chess? While I am still capable of it?”
“Just as long as it’s not with lirpas and to the death.” Kirk glanced at Spock, making sure the humor was going over all right.
Spock’s expression lightened. “Simply chess.”
Uhura watched as Spock paced his quarters. He had become increasingly restless, and was muttering something she could not catch.
“Is it time?” she asked.
“Be silent.” His face was a mask as he turned to look at her. Cold and distant.
This was not how he described what to expect. Wasn’t it called the burning? She felt like the freezing was more apt. “Spock?”
He spun and stalked toward her. “I said be silent.” He seemed to be...smelling her. Then he walked away. “Not her.”
Not...her? Not who her?
“Computer, increase temperature to thirty degrees.” Spock resumed his pacing.
Uhura could barely breathe now, groaned at the idea of more heat. She sat on the bed, but Spock stopped and stared at her in a way that made her more than uncomfortable—she felt threatened. She got up slowly, inched back toward the wall until he began to ignore her again.
She should have asked Christine for information about the Pon Farr. Christine had known everything there was to know about Vulcans back in the day. But Uhura had stayed away when Spock had told her that Christine had recused herself from their care.
It had hurt—why would she do that? Unless she was jealous? Was she still in love with Spock? And when had Uhura become too afraid to just ask her why she wasn’t interested in helping her? Before the refits, Uhura would have been down in sickbay wanting to know what the hell was the matter? Before the refits so many things had been different.
“Spock, what can I do?” she asked softly, in the voice she knew he loved. “Please, let me help you.”
“Where is she?” He turned to look at her. “The woman I had last time. My woman.”
“Uhhhh.” He had not prepped her on this—was this a ritual question? “I’m here, my love.” Maybe that would work?
“Not you.” He knocked all the items off the top of his shelf—fortunately, he had removed all the breakable things earlier—but the violence of his action still startled her. “I want the woman I had last time.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“Last time. Two words. Simple. Even for a human.” He was practically spitting the words at her.
“Christine. I want Christine.”
“She is here? She is on the ship?”
“Of course she’s on the ship. Where else would she be?” She moved closer. “The last time? What do you mean the last time?”
“I want her. Go get her.” He put his hands on her shoulders, turned her and pushed. Not gently. “Now.”
She got to the door, then turned around. “Spock, you love me.”
The Spock she knew was nowhere in evidence. The man who stared back at her—he scared her more than a little. He took two steps toward her. “I want Christine.”
“Fine. I’ll get her.”
She might be dead when Uhura got done with her, but she’d damn well go get her.
Chapel tried to remember if she’d left her spare padd in her quarters or in Jim’s dresser. There was a downside to having assigned quarters you were hardly ever in.
“Come here,” Jim said, pulling her into his lap as she walked past the table to get to the dresser. “I’m tired of reports.”
She kissed him slowly, kneading the spot on his shoulder he’d been complaining earlier had been hurting. “You’re always tired of reports. You were born tired of reports. That’ll teach you to steal back your ship from unsuspecting captains and defeat unstoppable machines.” She frowned, taking in what did seem like an extra lot of padds on his table. “Why are you doing so many of them?”
“Spock’s out of commission.”
“Out of”—she saw his expression change—“ohhhh. I guess Ny’s out of commission then, too.”
“Yep.” He pulled her close.
“Why did I not know this?”
His look was cagey. “Bones knew it.”
“But you normally would tell me something like this. Jim?”
“Did you need to know?”
She thought about that. “I guess not. I’d like to think Ny would want me to know.”
“She and Spock both wanted McCoy.”
Chapel felt a pang; she knew why Spock might want Len, but why would Ny? She decided to let it go. “I hope they’ll be all right.”
“Me, too. And I’m very glad you’re here with me and not head over heels for our friend anymore.”
She smiled. “So am I.” She kissed her way down his neck, then back up to his ear. “Who’d have thought a simple little barbecue you needed a date for would end up like this? You, me, cohabiting?”
“I owe Nogura big time. For that, for letting me steal the ship, then keep her. For not saying a word since I know he knows I’m with you.”
She shrugged. “I’m medical. He’s married to a medical officer he served with. Did you know that?”
“I did, but how do you?”
“Met her at the barbecue. Nice lady. She gave me tips on landing you.” She laughed. “I thought she was crazy at the time. Told her you’d only invited me because all your regular gals had been busy.” She bit down on his ear gently, then let go. “Which was true, I believe.”
“It may have been. But see how things turned out? From inauspicious beginnings come great loves.”
“Wow, look at you working a weak opening to your advantage.” She kissed him, was about to pull his shirt off when the chime rang. “Sometimes I hate that you’re in charge.”
“Sometimes I hate it, too.” He eased her off his lap, and she sat down in the chair next to him. “Come.”
Ny came in, looking frantic—and very, very angry.
“Shouldn’t you be with Spock?” Chapel asked.
“Oh, what an excellent question that is.” She got close—too close for Chapel’s comfort—and jabbed a finger into her collarbone. “Why did you recuse yourself from our care? I wanted you, but Spock said you thought it best that we see Leonard.”
“That’s not the story Spock told me, Nyota,” Jim said. “He said you didn’t want Chris. And you might want to back it up a few paces.” When she didn’t move, he said, “That’s an order, Commander.”
She finally backed up, pulling her finger off of Chapel. “He said I didn’t want her? Why would he say that?”
“Ny, what’s going on?”
“I thought you were my friend, Christine?”
“I am your friend.” Chapel glanced at Jim, who shrugged in an “I have no idea, either” way.
“He wants you.”
“Yes, he, Spock. He wants you. He doesn’t want me. He wants the woman he had last time. That’s what he said. Over and over. Which was not very helpful until he said your name, Christine. Your goddamned name.” She stalked over. “How could you have slept with him and not have told me?”
Chapel swallowed hard, felt a sick sensation in the pit of her stomach that began climbing. Memories that felt like they belonged to someone else began to rise up. Spock’s quarters, her carrying soup, happy that he wanted it after all. Happy that he wanted something from her.
“I’m a little curious about that, too,” Jim said softly.
“Shit.” Chapel looked down—the memories faded after that, the happy feeling of being wanted was vivid and then everything else was fuzzy, but not so fuzzy she couldn’t remember what happened. It was just the memory seemed to be...someone else’s, with no emotion of her own around it. “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. No, Ny, are you sure you didn’t misunderstand?”
“No, Christine, believe me. I did not misunderstand. When your lover—who’s going to die if he doesn’t get some—pushes you away and says he wants the woman he had before. And then says her name and it’s your best goddamn friend, it’s very hard to misunderstand that.”
Jim was staring at her. “Chris?”
She closed her eyes and tried to push through the haze in her mind. She’d taken the soup into his quarters. Spock had been waiting. If she’d thought he was erratic the first time she went in to see him, she was wrong. This time, he could not settle. He took a sip of the soup and told her to sit when she started to leave. “Talk to me,” he said. “Tell me what you told me in sickbay that time.”
She wasn’t sure what he wanted.
He dropped the spoon in the soup, splashing green drops onto the desk and his shirt. “That you love me. The Vulcan me. The human me.”
She’d started to get up. He’d stopped her, picked her up, and carried her to the bed.
She should feel panic and outrage as she remembered what he’d done, but she didn’t. Because at the end, when she’d lain weeping on his bed, Spock had responded to her distress, reaching for her, melding with her, forcing her panic and fear away in an almost kneejerk way.
He hadn’t made her forget the attack happened—but he had given her distance. And she had felt his shame and guilt.
He had not meant to do it. He was mortified that he had done it.
She had held onto that. His feelings and the distance he’d given her through the meld—and the conversation they’d had days later, when he offered to turn himself in for what he’d done—had let her keep working with him. Her infatuation with him was dead but something else grew between them: something that felt a little bit like respect.
She took a deep, shaky breath and turned to look at Ny and Jim. “I never told you—either of you—because it wasn’t...consensual.” She met Ny’s eyes, saw disbelief at first, then something changed as Ny looked—really looked—at her.
She turned to Jim. “I couldn’t tell you. You would have had to do something.”
“I don’t understand. Are you saying Spock...raped you?”
“It’s...more complicated than that. But. Yes. I guess. I made the soup the first time and he threw it at me—you remember that?”
She kept looking at Jim, didn’t want to see Ny’s expression. “Later, I went back to him, to tell him we were headed for Vulcan. I didn’t understand what we were dealing with because you and Len weren’t telling me—not that I’m blaming you. I should have guessed, probably. He was acting strangely in his quarters—almost...interested in me. That should have told me something was wrong—he was never interested any other time. He asked me to make him some more soup. I did and when I brought it back...he didn’t take just the soup from me.”
“Chris. He hurt you?”
“Yeah, he did. But he wasn’t himself and I knew that. And I could see how stupid I’d been. I’m not saying I blamed myself exactly, but I also couldn’t blame him, not when he wasn’t in his right mind, which is why I didn’t want to get him in trouble. When he came back, he didn’t need me—didn’t want me, even though he was free. Nothing changed so I...buried it.” She looked up at Ny. “I don’t understand why he wants me, Ny. He doesn’t love me. He loves you.”
“Well, right now he wants you.”
“Maybe once I’m in there and he sees both of us, he won’t. He’ll see that you’re the one he should be with. It makes no sense for him to want me.”
“Actually, it may.” Jim sighed. “He’s half Vulcan, and it’s the Vulcan part that’s burning. This isn’t love: it’s possession. From what you’re telling us, you were his first Pon Farr partner. Maybe that counts for something deeper than we understand? An imprint of some kind? Maybe that’s why he didn’t want you around, wanted Bones to do their check ups—he could already feel it happening?”
“No, I refuse to believe that. I wasn’t his partner—wasn’t an imprint. I was a...diversion. And one he felt bad about—he tried to help me afterwards with a meld, and I felt how much he regretted what he’d done. This was not any kind of real attraction.” She looked at Ny. “He still wanted T’Pring, Ny, after he had me. And he didn’t want me after he fought for her.”
“I can see that you believe that. But you still have to come.” Ny sounded like her heart was breaking. “We all know what the alternative is if he won’t mate with me. And we can see when we get in there if he chooses me, but you didn’t see his face when he turned me away.”
“And you didn’t see his face when he threw soup at me. I’m sure he’ll want you when he has a choice.” She turned to Jim. “I’m sorry. If I’d ever thought it would come to this, I’d have told you. I thought it was just the once. Just a mistake.”
“I get it.” He closed his eyes and nodded, then he pulled one of the padds to him, ran some computations. “We could be at Vulcan in a day.” He looked at Nyota.
She shook her head. “I’d love to tell you that Vulcan’s an option. But he scared the hell out of me just now. I think there’s no more time.”
Jim sighed. “Chris, if you think there is, get out of there, lock him in, and let me know. I’ll get us headed there at once.”
She nodded. “And if there’s not any more time?”
He didn’t look away. “Then you do what you think you have to. I hate this, though.”
“I know. I hate it too. He had to help me after the last time—and I wasn’t with him for very long. This could be a lot longer.” She saw Ny’s face change and said, “I’m sorry, Ny. I don’t mean to hurt you.”
Jim’s face tightened. “I wish you’d told me. Maybe not then, I understand why not then. But now...” Jim stroked her hair. “But it’s okay. I’ll be there for you after. We’ll get through this.”
“Hopefully we won’t have to. Hopefully he’ll pick Ny when he has the chance.” She kissed him, not caring that Spock would smell him on her. This was her lover. He’d be there when this was over.
“Let’s go,” she said to Ny as she grabbed a regenerator and scanner out of her medkit and followed her to Spock’s quarters. She realized her hands were trembling and tried to breathe deeply, tried to slow her heart rate and think calming thoughts.
No, her friend Spock wasn’t going to hurt her again. He’d pick Ny this time.
When they got to the door, Ny stood in front of it, held her hand up to palm the door open but didn’t connect.
“I’m sorry,” Chapel said. “I was afraid to tell you. I felt like if I didn’t talk about it, it never happened.”
Ny nodded and slapped her hand against the door panel. It slid open and a blast of heat shot into the corridor.
“Is this how hot it usually is in here?”
“You were in his quarters back then. Don’t you know?” Ny’s voice was hard.
“That was a long time ago. I don’t frequent his quarters these days.”
For a moment, she saw her friend in Ny’s expression, then the sharpness was back. “No, this is much hotter than he normally keeps them.”
Chapel walked in first with Ny close behind, and the door slid shut, leaving them in semi darkness broken by the guttering flamepot.
“Spock?” Ny said softly.
“You.” Spock stepped out of the shadows, his head bowed, his lips on his steepled fingers. He was looking at Chapel, not Ny.
Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.
“Me,” she said.
He walked over to her, then looked at Ny, his eyes holding nothing of the man Chapel had seen being so careful with Ny, so tender. “Go.”
Ny gave him a hurt and very angry look. Then she looked at Chapel. “Tell Jim there’s no time?” Once Chapel nodded, she left.
As the door closed behind her, Chapel said, “You are going to have hell to pay, mister.”
“Be still.” Spock pulled her to him. “You stink of another man.”
For a moment, she was back in his quarters on the first mission, frightened and unsure. But then a surge of anger roared through her. “Yeah? Well I live with him so too fucking bad.” She knew it was stupid to goad him but didn’t care. “He’s your best friend. Your girlfriend is my best friend. I know you’re in there somewhere, Spock. Wake the hell up and snap out of this. Let me go get her for you. She’s your real partner.”
He pushed her to the bed.
“Or we can do it your way, damn it.” She tossed the scanner and regenerator on the bedside table and pulled her shirt and pants off before Spock could rip them off her—she remembered last time, trying to negotiate the corridors in a uniform dress that was being held together by fingertips and a prayer. She tossed her clothes to the side—they’d be wrinkled but wearable.
Her underwear and bra were goners after Spock got done with them.
He yanked her to him, and she grabbed his hair and pulled his head back as hard as she could.
“Listen to me. I’m your friend, Spock. Christine. Your friend. Treat me right. Do not hurt me.”
His grip on her eased a bit. As she let go of his hair, he murmured, “Christine.”
“That’s right. Your friend. Christine. Go easy.”
“My friend. Christine. My woman. Christine.”
She rolled her eyes and lay back on the bed, letting him do what he wanted to her but ready to fight him if she had to. But she didn’t have to. It wasn’t like the first time. He didn’t hurt her the same way. Somewhere in his fire-engulfed mind, her friend Spock had heard her.
She felt him moving his fingers over the psi points on her face, felt the meld starting. But instead of connection, he was pushing her away, away to somewhere dark and soft and safe, where it felt like nothing bad could happen. “Spock?”
She was vaguely aware of what he was doing to her, but surrounded by the warm and cozy darkness, she let her mind go. It didn’t make the Pon Farr anything you could call enjoyable. But it was tolerable.
Spock woke to unaccustomed heat blasting from the environmental system. He was holding someone close to him, a pale someone, marked in places with bruises.
He let out a ragged breath, felt the same shame of last time course over him, then remembered he had melded with her, had sent her mind away—it had been one of his last conscious actions. “Are you awake?” he asked softly.
“I am. Can you let me up? I’m too hot.” Christine’s voice was hoarse.
He let go of her and she rolled away from him.
“Computer, cool room to twenty-four degrees.” He got out of bed, walked to the bathroom and relieved himself, then brought water for her, trying to keep his eyes up, his tone clinical. “Are you thirsty?”
“Thank you.” She gulped the water down, and he went back to the bathroom to refill her glass; she drank this one more slowly. “You don’t seem surprised that it’s me and not Ny here.”
“I could feel my attraction to you growing as the burning began. I tried to keep you far away.”
“You could have told me what was happening. I’d have gotten off the fucking ship.”
He felt another wave of shame. He should have done exactly that. “I was not thinking clearly.”
“You were thinking clearly enough to lie. To Ny. To Jim.”
He nodded. “I tried to keep you away.”
“Somehow I don’t know if that’s going to hold much weight since you tried to keep me away while also leaving me within easy reach if you needed me.” She moved gingerly and groaned.
“Have I injured you?”
“A little, but mostly we’ve been in bed too long. I don’t remember much—thank you for that, by the way. You held back this time?”
“There was a part of me that knew what was happening throughout this. I could not stop myself from taking you, but I knew it was you I was with, and I tried not to hurt you.”
She reached over to the nightstand and retrieved the scanner, ran it over her body. “I’m in remarkably good shape. You succeeded.”
“You are my friend. You are my best friend’s woman.” He met her eyes. “Jim knows that you are with me?”
“Yes. He knows everything. He was there when Ny came to get me. I had to explain why you’d refer to me as the woman you had before.”
Spock sighed and closed his eyes—he did not want to imagine the look that was in his friend’s eyes when he heard the truth. “I have much to make up to both of them.”
“But not to me? I’m the one lying naked here.” She got up and walked into the bathroom, shutting the door, and he tried to ignore the fact that part of him still wanted her—the burning was not entirely over, but it was over enough to let her go.
She was, after all, not his woman. Not a woman he was interested in. And it was, ironically, his Vulcan side that was responsible for her even being here. For once, his human side was blameless.
How was he going to make this up to Nyota? How did he even begin to try?
Christine came out from the bathroom, threw her underthings into the recycler, and began to pull her clothes on.
“Why did you not report me when I assaulted you, Christine?”
“We went over this then, Spock. I shouldn’t have been in your quarters in the first place.” She slipped on her shoes. “Len told me to stay away, but I had to come, had to see you and tell you we were bound for Vulcan. Had to poke my nose in where it wasn’t needed.” She sighed. “It was clear something was off—it was clear you wanted me—and I didn’t stop and assess the situation the way I should have.”
“Are you saying you asked for it?”
“Of course not. But neither did you. It was...an unfortunate event. Doubly unfortunate since it seems to have repercussions. You need to fix this. Bond with Ny. Or if not with her then with...someone. I don’t care who. But you don’t get to do this to me again.”
He nodded, stung by the vehemence in her voice even if he understood it. “Do you not wish me to heal you?” He nodded toward the regenerator.
She grabbed it and the scanner, then looked at his chrono. “No. Jim’s off shift now. I’ll let him do it. We’ll need that.” She turned and studied him. “You’re not in love with me, right? That’s not what this is?”
“I am not in love with you. I consider you a friend, though.”
“Good. Very good.” She smiled tightly and left.
He went to the comm unit, stared down at it. He should comm Nyota. He should tell her...what?
That he was sorry? That he had not intended to choose another woman over her? That this was not how it would be in the future if she bonded with him—he doubted she would wish to speak of bonds at this juncture.
He lay down on the bed; it smelled of Christine and sex.
He pulled the sheets off the bed, rolled them into a ball, and stuffed them into the recycler. Then he lay back down, ordered the room temperature up to twenty-eight, and fell asleep.
Kirk was lying on the bed, trying not to think about Chris with Spock when the door opened and she walked in.
“Hi.” She stood in the doorway, as if unsure of her welcome.
“Hi.” He was off the bed in a flash, halfway to her when she held up her hand.
“I need to take a shower. I didn’t do it there. I couldn’t—I just wanted out. Wanted to get to you. But I probably should have showered there. Or in my own quarters.”
“I prefer you showering here, if you want my opinion?”
She smiled. “I figured you would. I wanted to give you fair warning that I stink. In general and...of him.”
“Okay.” He hated how wary his voice had become.
She gave him a sad smile, like she fully understood why his voice sounded the way it did. “I could use your help with the regenerator.” She turned and pulled up her shirt. A trail of finger marks ran up her back.
“I’m going to kill him.”
“No, you’re not. This is about as bad as it gets. It wasn’t like last time.”
“So it was...good?” He hated that he sounded jealous.
She glanced over at him, no annoyance in her expression, only understanding. “No, Jim, it was not good. It just wasn’t bad. It was sex with someone I didn’t want to have sex with. But since he was going to die...”
“Yeah, that old excuse.” He tried to grin, knew it fell short so he took the regenerator from her, began to work on her back. “You smell like sex and Vulcan incense.”
“I know. I’m sorry. He had the heat turned way up. It was stifling.”
“So not any kind of fantasy, huh?”
She stiffened under his hands.
“Sorry. That was petty of me.”
“I didn’t ask for this, Jim. I had no idea this was going to happen.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I won’t do that again. I’ve been obsessing since you left. If you ever wondered how much you mean to me, I can tell you it’s a hell of a lot. I could not get you out of my head. You and him. And what you were doing. And how it was eating me up.”
She turned and touched his face, and he hated how tentative she was being. “Well, if you want, once we get me fixed up, we can do something about wiping those memories away. Replacing them with more pleasant ones?”
“Would you want that? After what you’ve been through?”
“He melded with me and sent my mind away—I was spared most of it. But I know I was with him and I didn’t want to be with him. I wanted to be with you. So yes, I need it. With you.”
He pulled her to him, wrapped his arms around her and heard her moan—in pain, not pleasure. He knew he should stop but needed to kiss her, needed to have her back in his arms, as his woman. His woman with him—not with his best friend.
“Finish fixing me before you do that again?”
He rubbed noses with her. “I will. I’m sorry. I got primitive.”
“It’s okay. But only one primitive episode allowed until I’m in one hundred percent working order.”
He smiled. “Understood, Doctor.” He touched her hair, imagined Spock doing the same thing and tried to stop. “How am I supposed to deal with him now, Chris?”
“This isn’t his fault...this biological curse that he never asked for. God knows he didn’t expect to be drawn back to me. He’s got to work things out with Ny now.”
“I’m sure she is. How am I supposed to deal with her? Hey, bestest bud, let’s not allow the fact that I spent the last thirty-six hours screwing your lover get in the way of our friendship, okay?” She rubbed her forehead and let out a frustrated sounding groan.
“It’ll be okay. We’ll work it out.”
“So says the great optimist?”
“We have to. The four of us—the fun we’ve had—it’s too good to lose.”
“It is too good to lose, Jim. We were all happy, weren’t we?”
He nodded. Then he took her hand and drew her into the bathroom. “The light’s better in here. I can get this done more quickly and then we can shower and...”
“Yes. And reconnect.” He sighed. “I was going nuts.”
“I wasn’t terribly happy myself.”
He leaned in and kissed her as gently as he could, felt her kiss him back the way he loved, meeting him fully, lips pressed hard against his. Until she hissed in pain and pulled away abruptly.
“Start here,” she said, easing her lower lip down so he could see the inside was raw. “I think he bit me.”
He didn’t say it again, but a part of him really did want to go beat the hell out of Spock for needing Chris, much less hurting her once he got her. He knew it was stupid, knew his friend didn’t deserve it—especially if he’d melded with Chris to keep her emotionally safe. But that didn’t make it any easier to ignore the urge.
Uhura was sitting in bed reading when her chime rang. She’d been expecting this visit for quite a while. She knew Christine had been back with Jim for hours, had seen her in the corridor walking back to his quarters—well, technically, had been sitting at her desk terminal watching the corridor for hours waiting for Christine to come back. One of the benefits of being a comms officer was knowing how to wire the comms to benefit your needs, like say, routing video signal where it wasn’t technically supposed to go.
She took a few deep breaths then said, “Come.”
Spock walked in and seemed incapable of looking her in the face. Not the best way to start this.
“Get your ya-yas worked out?” She knew her tone was nasty and didn’t care.
“Nyota, I am not sure how to apologize for what has transpired.”
“Usually an apology starts with the word ‘Sorry.’ As in ‘Sorry, my love’—oh wait, you’d never say that, would you? Hmmm, ‘Sorry, you who are somewhat dear to me, I regret spurning you for a woman I supposedly have no feelings for and who happens to be with my best friend.’ Jim’s not terribly thrilled with you either, sugar. You might want to work on your apology before you get to him. This one’s coming off a bit weak.”
Spock sighed and walked to the viewscreen. “I know that you are angry.”
“You don’t have the first idea what I feel, Spock.” She forced herself to remain on the bed, afraid that if she didn’t, she’d wallop him over the head with the padd she was reading. Repeatedly.
He seemed committed to staring out of the viewscreen.
“It’s getting weaker by the second, in case you’re looking for feedback on how you’re doing? Ignoring the injured party is not a winning play.”
He turned. “I did not realize that I would be drawn to—”
“A woman you raped?”
There. It was out. That horrible, horrible word that she’d been chewing on for the past two days. Spock had raped her best friend and she’d had no idea. Neither of them had told her.
He could do that and not tell her. Christine could have it done and bury it, laugh and joke with him as if...as if it never happened. Go back to him now and do it all again.
How do you do that unless you’re in love with someone? That was where Uhura kept ending up. And she hated landing on that point. But she’d listened to Christine go on and on about Spock for too many years to not wonder if maybe some of those feelings remained. Although she’d stopped at some point, and Uhura couldn’t remember when it was. She’d had some choice words about T’Pring, but had that just been for Uhura’s benefit? Part of the lie she’d been building?
She crossed her arms over her chest. “Did you enjoy it?”
Spock looked aghast. “Enjoy?”
“Your time with Christine? Did she enjoy it? She wanted you for so long. Did you hurt her or not?”
“I did not—not much.” He looked down.
“Why not? Oh, wait, how did you put it? Caring for someone can mitigate the violence. Isn’t that what you told me to put my fears at ease? So you care for her?”
“Of course I care for her. She is my friend. She is our friend.”
“So I ask again. Did you enjoy it?”
He moved closer, seemed to be studying her, as if trying to figure her out. “I barely remember it. It is a haze.”
“Well then maybe you should do it again so you have a prettier memory of it. Of her. The woman you had to have.” She picked up her padd. “Did you want something else?”
“Nyota. I did not intend to hurt you.”
She put the padd down. “I know that. But...” She could feel tears welling up and took a deep breath, taking a moment. She would not cry, goddamn it. She was done crying. “I don’t trust you right now. I’m angry right now. And I’m hurt. Just give me some time. I’ll let you know when I want to talk, all right?”
“Are you finished with me?” He sounded dejected.
She cursed the sympathy that rose up inside her. “No, damn it, I’m not finished with you. But I need time. Now get out of my quarters or I’ll call security. There are several young men in that department with rather large crushes on me who will be happy to remove you.”
He walked to the door, then turned around and met her eyes. “I did not intend to hurt you. I regret it deeply. I...I love you.”
“Now you tell me.”
Chapel saw Ny in the mess hall, hurried through the line so she could try to catch her before she sat down. “Ny, we need to talk.”
“And we will. But not now.” Ny didn’t look happy to see her, which was pretty much what Chapel expected.
“It’s been three days. Can we please talk?”
“I said yes, just not now.”
“I know you’re mad but—”
“Yes, I am mad. So, why don’t you listen to me?” When Chapel started to talk, Ny held up her hand. “Look, even though I outrank you, I don’t happen to have a nice cushy office to escape to. I only have the mess. So, take your food back to sickbay and let me have this place.”
Chapel could feel herself turning red. Ny had never, ever pulled the rank card on her. “I know you’re hurting. I know it probably feels good to fall back on something that isn’t going to let you down right now, like that you’re a lieutenant commander and I’m not, but—”
“Right now? I have always outranked you and I will always outrank you, Lieutenant. Now do I have to order you out of this mess?”
Chapel felt her face freeze, especially when two security officers stopped and asked if there was a problem.
“No, boys. The doctor was just leaving.”
The security officers seemed inclined to linger so Chapel smiled and said, “If you don’t want very embarrassing tests scheduled multiple times, you two will skedaddle. My friend and I are fine.”
Ny nodded and the two men left.
“Fan club of yours?”
“You never said.”
“Gosh, keeping secrets? Who would do that in this friendship?”
Chapel leaned in. “Fine. I’ll go back to my admittedly very nice office. Which I have assigned to me because in addition to holding medical discussions, I consult with senior leadership on this ship and I write evaluations for my staff. You see, there’s rank in a person and then there’s rank in position. Tell me, Commander, how many evals do you write? How many consults with anyone other than the bridge crew do you do a day?” She let her smile slip into a mean one. “And don’t bet the farm you’ll always outrank me.”
“Why? Because I’m not sleeping my way to my next promotion?”
Chapel took a deep breath and counted to five. “Aren’t you? My lover doesn’t write my evaluation. Your lover does write yours. Quit throwing stones.”
“Maybe he’s not my lover anymore.” Ny’s face told one story, but her voice was wavering, so Chapel didn’t think she’d actually broken up with Spock.
“And that’s my fault? You really want to have this conversation in the middle of the goddamn mess?” Chapel tried to keep her voice pitched as low as she could. “For God’s sake, Ny. Come to my office with me. We’ll have privacy there. We’ll work this out.”
“What is wrong with you and Spock? You think just because you want something, everyone will fall in line? I’m not ready to be okay with this. I’m not ready to not be mad. Can’t you get that through your thick skulls? Why is it your boyfriend is the only one who understands me?”
Chapel could feel her face tighten. That was a low blow, and she knew Ny intended it to be.
“He’s been so understanding.” Nyota let one side of her mouth slide up into a very mean smile. “Is he as sweet to you right now?”
“When you’re ready to talk, you know where I’ll be.”
“Mmm hmmm. In the office you didn’t really earn.”
“Are you sure you want to say things like that? You can’t take them back, Ny.” Chapel knew she wasn’t hiding the hurt.
“Who says I want to?” Ny turned and walked to the back of the mess, to the area where they always used to sit together. The message was clear: mine now, not ours.
Chapel carried her tray to her office, left it on her desk, then walked into Len’s office and sat down.
He looked over at her and said, “Something eating you?”
“My best friend told me I didn’t earn the office I’m in.”
“Am I supposed to know anything about what’s going on?”
She smiled slightly. “I know Jim told you the highlights—how much did he tell you?”
“It was more the lowlights from my perspective, but yeah, I got the short version. Boy meets girl. Boy needs to spawn. Boy inexplicably picks girl from past rather than girl he loves. Wackiness ensues. Am I getting it right?”
“I like your version better than mine.”
“Well, I’m sorry for that. To address your original statement: you’re an excellent deputy. I predict you’ll be a lieutenant commander before you know it.” He sat back. “One with perhaps no best friend but...” He shrugged.
“Thanks. You’re a big help.” She stood up.
“What I don’t understand is why Spock chose you. Did something happen way back when?”
“You don’t want to know.” She leaned in, patted his hand. “Let’s just say, way back when, I should have listened to you occasionally.”
He frowned. “Sit down.”
“Not a chance. You’re too good at worming secrets out of me.” She smiled. “Thank you for the nice words on my performance.”
“She’s hurt and mad—and you intimidate her, Christine.”
“Me? The lowly lieutenant?”
“The newly minted doctor with umpteen degrees who is with our captain—the man who never messes in his nest, yet now breaks that rule for you. Sure she’s a higher rank, but she’s in the same chair on the same ship doing the same job—a job she can do in her sleep. She’s gonna be a little sensitive about that. Add in this thing with Spock and well, that’s like throwing bourbon on a bonfire.”
She smiled at his homespun wisdom. “You’re a sage.”
“Don’t I know it? Give her time. And try not to hold what she says against her if you can.” He smiled gently. “And when you’re ready to talk about what happened, I’m ready to listen.”
She nodded. “Thanks. But nothing happened.”
“Well, then it’ll be a mighty short conversation, won’t it?” He gave her another gentle smile and made a shooing motion with his fingers.
Spock saw Christine in the lab and debated leaving, but she looked up and waved him over.
“Were you going to run away on my account?”
“I was unsure if my presence would be unwelcome.”
She smiled gently. “Things are weird enough without us having problems, don’t you think?”
“I would concur with that statement. May I sit for a moment?”
“You may sit for two.” Her smile grew wider, and he thought she was trying to get them back to normal, which he appreciated. It was clear normal was not going to begin with Jim or Nyota.
“Nyota is not speaking to me.”
“Me, either. Can’t help you with that one.”
He nodded. “I thought as much. She believes we...enjoyed our experience.”
“What?” She closed her eyes. “That explains why she’s been so mean.”
“She is jealous of you. She believes I wanted you.”
“Well, technically you did. But only at that moment—no other time.” She smiled, an easy expression.
“How can you be so dismissive of all this. If I had not done what I did to you years ago?”
“It’s done. We can’t change it. Moving on. Isn’t that what the meld all those years ago was for? To allow me to move on? To dismiss the pain?”
He exhaled slowly. “I am not certain it was that calculated. You were like a wounded animal and I was in a vulnerable state: I reacted without thought.”
“And your instinct to help paid off. What happened back then feels like it happened to someone else. And this time, too, but even more so since I remember far less.” She took a deep breath then exhaled slowly. “They’ll come around.”
“Jim is very angry with me. It is not solely that I have had you. It is what I did to you, I think. The way he looks at me...it is as if I am not the man he once knew.”
“You’re not.” She input something into her padd, but kept talking. “He’s trying to grapple with that.”
“But I have been that man this whole time. That instance existed whether he knew of it or not.”
“Logical, but that doesn’t help when it’s a matter of the heart. It’s not just that he loves me, Spock. It’s that he loves you. And now he has to question that.”
“Because humans clearly don’t compartmentalize as well as Vulcans do. Or you wouldn’t have been able to imprint on me and hide that fact away for years.”
He felt the slight barb of her comment, knew she meant him to. He nodded. “I am sorry for everything.”
“I know you are.” She handed him the padd. “Do these formulas look right to you?”
It was what she would have done before the Pon Farr, and he appreciated the overture immensely—so much so he had difficulty focusing on the problem at hand. He felt her hand on his arm.
“It’ll be all right. They’ll come around. I think we need to stop pushing.”
“I am not pushing.” He studied the formulas she was using, made a small correction. “I have found this to be more effective.” He handed the padd back.
“Oh, this is good. Thanks.” She pushed the padd aside. “And yes, you probably are pushing. We both want to fix things because we don’t like them disorderly. But emotions aren’t science experiments. People aren’t variables we can control. Just...give them time.”
“It is easy for you to say that. You are welcome in Jim’s bed.”
She looked away.
“He is not sleeping with you?”
“I didn’t say anything.” She looked angry now.
“So, things are not good between you?” He found himself slightly cheered that he was not the only one having problems, then realized that was petty—especially when it was his fault Christine was even involved in this. “I am sorry. Should I talk to him?”
“Oh, please, yes. Go make it so much worse.” She smiled. “That was sarcasm, just so we’re clear. Jim and I will be fine. You work on your friendship with him and leave my relationship with him to me, all right?”
“All right. If I could relive one moment, Christine, it would be that moment—what I did to you. It was one of the reasons I went to Gol.”
“But what you did to me—the Pon Farr is a Vulcan moment.”
“I know. Vulcans have emotions, too. Purging them would have removed the burning along with all my human failings—or so I thought at the time.”
“Well, I like you with emotions. I’ve enjoyed spending time with you and Ny as couples. But it would have been nice if you could have removed the imprint.” She smiled, but her expression was sad.
“Yes. It would have been most agreeable.”
Kirk was at his table, working on reports that didn’t need to be done yet, but he was trying to avoid Chris. That first night when she’d come back from Spock, they’d been fine. But then it had started to wear on him, and he’d begun to pull away, even though he knew he shouldn’t. That it was unfair to take it out on her.
But she seemed incapable of taking it out on Spock. Why the hell couldn’t she be mad at him? Why was she defending him whenever he brought him up?
He heard the door open, her familiar step. “Hey, I looked for you in the mess. Weren’t we meeting up?”
He didn’t look up. “I got held up on the bridge.”
“Okay. And now you’re grumpy. Did you eat?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Grumpy and low blood sugar. My favorite combination of the possible Jim Kirk daily doubles.”
He glared at her.
“And mad at me, too? Or did Spock do something else to tick you off today. Like, say, breathe?”
He got up and walked to the viewscreen. “Why do you do that?”
“Point out the blindingly obvious?”
“Because you’re letting every little thing get to you.”
“Because the fact that he raped you and didn’t tell me isn’t enough to be mad over?”
“That was years ago, Jim. You need to let it go.” She walked over to him. “He’s confused.”
“You know this how?”
“I’m psychic.” She exhaled in what he knew from their time together was annoyance. “I talked to him today. In the lab.”
“The auxiliary lab? On deck seventeen?”
“No, the main one. Why would I go all the way down there?” She shot him a look like he’d gone crazy so he relaxed a little. “Although if it’s a good place to get away from it all, maybe you and I should go there.” She wrapped her arms around him, began to nuzzle his neck.
Normally, it would feel good. Normally, he’d move so she’d have better access to him. Normally, he wasn’t wondering how his girlfriend could stand to be in the same room with the man who’d attacked her years ago. Normally, he wasn’t wondering if she’d enjoyed—
God damn it, had she enjoyed being with him? That was what was eating him up.
He pulled away. “Chris. Chris, stop. I’m...tired.”
“You’ve been tired a lot lately.”
She rubbed his neck the way he liked, under his hair. Not sexy, just soothing. Had she done this to Spock?
“Chris, I said no.”
She pulled away and her eyes went hard. “Are you punishing me? Is this because I won’t agree with you that Spock should have told you what he did all those years ago?”
“He raped you.”
“He wasn’t himself. And has it occurred to you, Captain High and Mighty, that I go to bed every night with a near rapist? You think Jan didn’t tell me what happened?”
“That wasn’t me.”
“Oh, right. That was only half of you. How is it different? Why do you get a pass and he doesn’t?”
“I didn’t do it.”
“She got away. There’s a difference. If it had been Spock on her, using a slightly less brute force approach than your evil side did but with same end goal and his Vulcan strength, she wouldn’t have. I can guarantee it.”
“Only because it’s you. Did you turn yourself in, Jim? Did you report your actions to Starfleet Command? Because I know damn well Janice didn’t report you. And as far as I know you never gave her the grief for not reporting you that you’re giving me for not reporting Spock.” She turned and headed back to the door.
“Where are you going?”
“To my quarters. Where I have probably nothing I need because I moved everything important in here.” She shot him a glance that was less angry than betrayed, and then her eyes welled up.
Remorse filled him. “Chris, don’t.”
“Why not? You’re making me feel like shit. Like it’s all my fault. And you know what? Maybe it is. Maybe when you dig for root causes, you’ll find me, all those years ago. I was stupid. I was in love, and I was stupid, and now all four of us have to pay.” She sobbed, seemed to be having trouble seeing because she hit her elbow on the dresser, swore and cradled it. “Ny was right at dinner. You did jinx us with that stupid toast.”
He hurried to her, turned her away from the door—she fought him, but not very hard. “Chris, no. I’m sorry. Don’t go.”
“Let go of me.” She started to cry harder. “I’m sick of this. I’m sick of walking on eggshells. I’m sick of not having sex. When I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Chris, sweetheart, I’m sorry.” He turned her toward the bed, rubbed her back as he got her moving.
She turned and hit him hard in the upper arm. “You son of a bitch. I hate you. Do you think I liked keeping it in? I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. Ever. I had to see him and watch his face change every time I saw him in the corridors—and for your information, he did tell me he wouldn’t fight me if I brought him up on charges. He’s not the monster you suddenly seem to think he is.”
He got her to the bed and she yanked away, stood glaring at him, tears bright in her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Chris. I’m just...” He held out his hand to her. As if that could explain it. Could make it better.
She took his hand. “You’re hurt. And you’re mad. And part of it is at me, but you don’t want to be that guy, so you’re sending all your anger his way.”
“But he doesn’t deserve it. Yes, he did a bad thing. And this latest Pon Farr was a cluster fuck of the highest order. No one will argue with you on that.” She moved closer, didn’t object as he pulled off her clothes and shoes and pulled back the covers. She slid in, waited for him to join her, then said, “But he’s still your friend, Jim. And he’s still my friend. And if Ny ever lets me in, she’s still my friend. And maybe someday we’ll be the fun foursome again.”
He got into bed, pulled the covers over them, and held her close until she relaxed in his arms. “Nyota’s hurting, Chris. And I can’t help her.” He could see it stung her to hear that he was talking to Ny, but she nodded. “You talk to Spock. I talk to her. What’s wrong with this picture?”
“One of us has to make things right with them before all of us can be right.”
“You’re very wise.” He leaned in to kiss her.
She stopped him, her eyes angry now. “I’m not sure I want to sleep here. I hate you.”
“You love me. And I love you. If we didn’t love each other, we’d have no problem.”
He kissed her, and for a moment, he wasn’t sure if she would kiss him back, but then she relaxed again in his arms, her mouth opening. They kissed for a long time, sometimes angry touches, sometimes forgiving.
When they finally pulled away, she smiled and said, “I thought you were too tired.”
“I’m an idiot.”
“Finally,” she said as she pushed him to his back and crawled on top of him. “Something we can agree on.”
Uhura stepped into sickbay and immediately felt at a disadvantage. This was Christine’s territory. Even if Leonard was in charge now, Christine had handpicked everyone on the staff when Decker and she had filled the billets. People were loyal to her. Alpha shift to Gamma. Uhura had what? Two security officers?
Christine came in from one of the inventory rooms, saw her standing there. Her smile was wary but real. “Hi.”
“Hi. Got a minute?”
“Sure. Here?” She gestured to the main sickbay area.
“No. The cushy office.” She knew she sounded a little sheepish, didn’t think Christine would mind.
“You know the way.”
She walked in, sat down in her usual chair, busied herself with the dust catcher she always played with when she was down here. “So I wanted to apologize about what I said. I was cruel.”
“Did you mean it?”
She met Christine’s eyes.
“I guess it’s nice that you realize it was cruel. But if you really meant it, then so what, you know?”
Uhura nodded. “I don’t know if I meant it.”
“But I didn’t mean to say it.”
“Okay but if you think it—if that’s how you feel about me. What does that say about us?”
Uhura nodded. “We need to get some things out on the table. I’m off shift now but you look like you’re still working...?”
“I’m not. I’m off. Jim’s with some dignitaries so I have the night free. But then you knew that, didn’t you?”
Uhura smiled tightly. “No flies on you.”
“Nope. I’m the smart one.” Christine didn’t smile when she said it.
“Yeah. Let’s not start there.” She put the dust catcher down, forced herself to put her hands in her lap. “I need to know if you’re still in love with Spock.”
“See, I have trouble believing that.”
“Why? What have I done to give you any idea I’m not happy with Jim?”
“Those are two different things, technically. You could still be in love with Spock, some part of you. Here’s the thing: I have a hard time imagining myself gadding about with my rapist. That’s what it boils down to. So...your story doesn’t hold up.”
“You think I’m lying about the rape?”
“I think—I think maybe it wasn’t that bad. I don’t see how it could have been. I know you’ve been talking to him. I know you’re supporting him. Why would you do that?”
“Ny, don’t you get it? I felt responsible for what happened. I pushed and pushed—you aren’t wrong about me doing that. I just picked the really worst time to do it that time.”
“So all’s forgiven because it was your fault?”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Because you love him.”
“Yes, part of me loves him, Ny. Loves, not in love with. I gave up on him long ago. Probably that night when I had to limp back to my quarters in a torn uniform, wondering what the hell had just happened. And by wondering I mean both the normal fog that any attack victim has and the fog that came from the meld he used to make me less panicked—it made it hard to feel that the attack happened to me.”
“But you could remember it?”
“Oh, yes. Just...from a distance. But it still hurt. It was still confusing. I couldn’t tell anyone that the man I loved had...” She reached for her coffee, and Uhura realized her hand was shaking. “You think I was all right? You think I wasn’t affected? You remember Ensign Foster? It was after a party and I’d had too much to drink. Foster and I were in my quarters, and I had no idea I’d have any problems...but I did. I...flashed back. He must have thought I was crazy the way I panicked. He left so fast and avoided me for the rest of the tour. I didn’t have sex for two years after that. I saw a therapist outside of the Starfleet system so it wouldn’t be on my record—or Spock’s.
“The first man I was with after therapy was a professor in med school. Nothing like resurrecting bad habits. He was older and lonely and patient, but we had very little in common.” She shook her head. “But he helped me over the hump, so to speak. I never told him what had happened. Not in any detail. Just that it had been a long time since I’d been with anyone, and that my last time hadn’t been good. And then I saw a fellow student. Young, so young. Not very much fun, to be honest. Very serious. But he was sweet. He was good for my ego.
“And then Jim came along and I was ready for him, by then. Thank God I was ready because to have missed what we have... You think this was easy—going back in there to Spock? It wasn’t. But I’m not the same person and Spock’s not either. He went to Gol for me—I was one of the reasons. I never knew that until a few days ago.”
Uhura looked down, stunned to finally know the reason Spock had left—and angry that she was hearing it secondhand. “He didn’t tell me that.”
“I probably shouldn’t have told you. But he felt it, Ny. The guilt. The shame. He didn’t go blithely on with his life. He hated what he’d done. I think if I’d brought him up on charges, he would have been better able to live with it. Paid the price, you know?”
She nodded. “I wish I’d been there for you.” It sounded great, a supportive thing to say—would Christine hear what she was really saying?
“I wish I could have let you.”
“I think you could have.”
“And I don’t.” She met Uhura’s eyes. Hers were implacable. “Is this our line in the sand?”
“No, I don’t think so. It’s a fundamental difference between us. One that I won’t forget. One that you’ll bury as soon as I leave.”
Christine looked away. “You think that’s cowardice.”
“I think it’s not how I’d do it.”
“Well, I’m not you.”
“Yeah. I know that.” She leaned in. “Put the past away if you have to. But this Pon Farr—are you okay now? Can you have sex with Jim now?” She made her voice as firm as she could, as clinical as she could, the way she’d heard Christine do with patients.
Christine smiled at her, as if she knew what she was doing. “I can. I’m fine. I really am a different person. And Spock didn’t hurt me like last time. He’s my friend now. He melded with me and sent my mind far away so I don’t even remember anything about this Pon Farr. He never wanted to be my lover this time, but once he was, he didn’t want to harm me. That’s a good thing in a boyfriend, Ny.”
Uhura thought about that. “I suppose, if I have to see the bright side, that is a good thing.” She laughed and it came out more bitter than amused. “God, this is screwed up.”
“Do you want to go get something to drink and not talk about this?”
“Oh God, yes.”
Uhura stood up, put her hands on her hips, and coughed in the self-important way that used to be a prelude to her “rules of the road” pronouncement for one of their nights out with Jan. “Okay. Acceptable topics are Chekov’s latest romance disasters, rumors from Command, anything having to do with what Janice is up to at Officer Candidate School, and ship scuttlebutt that is not about the four of us.”
“Gotcha.” Christine rose and touched Uhura’s arm. “Thank you.”
“We’re not necessarily all right yet.”
“I know. But we’re not all wrong, either.”
Chapel lay in bed with Jim, nuzzling along his collarbone, running her hand around the back of his neck, up into his hair the way he always liked. She smiled when she hit the sweet spot and he moaned.
He scratched her back lightly, the way she could never get enough of. “So, I rented a house in Tahoe for our leave. Mountains and beach all at once.”
“I didn’t ask you where you wanted to go.”
“The fact you want me to go with you is enough for me.” She pulled away so she could see his face. “Maybe I’ll get upset over having no say in the destination some other time.”
He smiled, but it was a strange smile. “The house is really big. It has a big master suite on one end and about six bedrooms at the other with the common area in between.”
“Is the layout important? Will there be a quiz later? Should I know when it was built?” She grinned.
He laughed. “Sorry to be so cryptic. I was thinking...I was thinking we could invite Spock and Nyota. They won’t interfere with our activities because I made sure our suite was very, very private.”
“Ah, hence the info about the big common area between us and the many other bedrooms. Many rooms, which means they don’t have to stay in the same room unless they want to?”
“Bingo.” He brushed her hair off her face. “And it’s right on the lake, with lots of acreage. Plenty of room to walk if one of them needs time alone. Or if we do.” He waggled his eyebrows.
“So, you on board with this plan or do you want it to be just us?”
“I’m on board, but why are you?” It touched her that he wanted to do this, but she wasn’t sure what had caused the about face in attitude.
“Something you said.” He smiled. “What? I can admit when I’m wrong—did you think I couldn’t?” He took a deep breath. “It’s going to take me a while—maybe a long while—to be able to look at Spock and not see what he did to you. But...you were right. I did it, too, when I attacked Janice.”
“No, Jim. You didn’t. Janice got away.”
“But I could have done it. I wanted to. And, unlike Spock, I can remember doing it. Vivid details not the haze you say his memories are.”
“But also unlike Spock, the odds of you finding yourself that man again are slim to none. He’ll repeat the cycle over and over.”
“This is true. But he won’t repeat the cycle with you. If I have to shoot you off the ship in an escape pod, it won’t be with you.”
She smiled. “I already told him it would not be with me. I don’t care if he bonds with his grandmother, he needs to get this taken care of.”
“Grandmother?” He made a funny face. “At any rate, he’ll have options.”
“Maybe not Ny. She’s really mad at him.”
“I know. He really hurt her. He really hurt all of us.”
“He really hurt himself, too, Jim. And he didn’t mean to. I think you need to hold on to that one little fact. He did not mean to.”
He nodded. “So I’ll let them know tomorrow. If they want to come, there’s plenty of room. We’ll be there for a week during the refits. They can come or not, as they please.”
“It’s nice of you. Thank you.”
“I miss them. And I miss him, especially.”
“I know you do. You must be going through chess withdrawals.”
“I am. Sex with you is great and all but a good checkmate...” He laughed at her expression, rolled her to her back, and moved on top of her. “Wait, I may have that backwards.”
She kissed him, pulling him closer, moaning as he pushed into her. “I love you, Jim.”
His eyes were very gentle. “I love you, too, Chris.”
Spock sat in the window seat of the Vulcan Embassy, looking out at the garden as he wondered where Nyota was—had she accepted Jim and Christine’s invitation to stay in Tahoe?
“Are you moping, Spock?” His mother came and stood behind him, rubbing his shoulders as if he was a small boy.
There was no one in the vicinity—and he found her caress oddly comforting—so he did not tell her to stop. “I do not mope, Mother.”
“Really? Because if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck...”
“That saying has never made sense to me.”
“It’s extremely logical and you know it.” She let go of his shoulders and sat down next to him. “I thought you were bringing Nyota by. What happened?”
He shook his head.
“Oh, darling, please tell me you have not broken up with her—or more likely she broke up with you.”
“I am unsure of the status of our relationship.”
“Well, that’s unacceptable. I’d be quite put out with you if I were Nyota. Letting things go on like that.”
He felt a surge of frustration and pushed it down. “It is how she said she wished it. ‘Give me time,’ she told me.”
“And how long ago did she ask for time?”
“And how long has it been since you ascertained if she still needed it?”
He allowed himself the indulgence of a sigh.
“Ah. Several weeks, perhaps?”
“I took her at her word.”
“A most noble thing to do. But Spock, it’s a fine line between not pushing and checking out.”
He looked down. “I am, as you know, not adept at relationship subtleties.”
“Yes, my dear, I know. Do you have any idea where she’s spending her leave?”
“Can you get there?”
He nodded. He had looked up which transporter stations would be the quickest route and the local transport to catch to take him to the house.
“Do you want to get there? That’s the question, isn’t it, my dearest?” She tipped his chin up so he had to look at her. “You seem quite unhappy. I think perhaps you should go fight for her, don’t you? If you decide to leave, I’ll say your goodbyes to your father.”
He nodded. “I should go.”
“There’s my brave boy.” She smiled at him. “Bring her by on your way back. Once you get all your reuniting out of the way.”
“I am not sure that will happen this visit. She is very angry at me.”
“Well, however long it takes, Spock. Vulcans may be abysmal at romance, but they excel at the long view.”
Kirk finished building the bonfire, saw Chris bringing beers down from the chiller on the patio, and said, “This is the life.”
“A swig of beer, a fire, and thou?” She handed him a bottle.
“Creative paraphrasing.” He opened the bottle, held it up and she clinked hers against it, then nestled in next to him on the old log that sat in front of the fire pit, and they watched the sunset color the sky. She wrapped her arms around him and he asked, “You cold?”
“A little. I forgot how much it cools off at night up here.”
“I love that it does that. Someday I’m going to have a house in the mountains.” He pulled her closer, rubbed her back, trying to warm her up. “Would you like that?”
“I would. Are we making someday plans?”
“Why not?” He kissed her forehead, let his lips linger. Why the hell not?
A soft cough sounded behind them. Kirk turned, saw Spock standing there.
“The house was empty...I knocked.”
For a moment, there was a world of discomfort between them. Or maybe it was just the woman he held in his arms that was between them.
Only she wasn’t. Not really. Kirk had to let that go. “You don’t have to knock, Spock. You’re invited. Come sit.”
“Do you want some water?” Chris asked.
“I will get it.” Spock seemed eager not to put Chris out. “Where is the chiller?”
“Up on the patio,” she said, relaxing against Kirk, not appearing to be in any great need to wait on Spock.
“One down,” she murmured, turning and kissing his neck. “You think you’ll lure the other one in, too?”
“I don’t know. I’m shocked we caught one.”
She kissed him. “I’m not. You’re craftier than you realize.” She smiled at his look. “Neither of them knows if the other one is here. They probably can’t stand that. They’re both like terriers with bones once there is something they want.”
He started to laugh. “That’s true.” He heard Spock’s steps on the gravel, kissed Chris a little more passionately than was really necessary. When he pulled away, she rolled her eyes but didn’t say anything.
“You are enjoying yourselves?” was all Spock asked.
“Damn straight, old friend.”
“It is a beautiful property.”
Chris smiled. “It is. Lots of excellent places to meditate.”
“Most agreeable.” The look he turned on her was full of affection and Kirk bristled, had to force himself to let it go.
Spock was her friend now. Just because Spock had spent a day and a half fucking Kirk’s girl did not mean he wanted more from her than friendship. Just because he had rap—
“Hey.” Chris shook his hand where he was holding onto her. Where he was clenching.
“It’s all right,” she mouthed.
He kissed her again, not caring how stupid it was. Needing to do it.
Spock gave him a bland look when he finally pulled away, then took a long pull from his water bottle.
“So, you have your choice of rooms. They’re all lovely,” Chris said.
“Thank you.” He looked from her to Kirk. “I mean that sincerely, Jim. Thank you for including me.”
“I know I’ve been distant. I know I’m likely to be a bit of an asshole at times this leave. I’ll say that now. I’m still...struggling with this.”
“To be expected.”
“Right.” Kirk looked at Chris. “But she’s our true north. Or mine anyway.”
“She is yours, Jim. That is indisputable.”
Kirk saw how hard Spock was trying, the earnestness in his eyes. “Funny, it didn’t feel like that a few weeks ago.”
“I know. I regret that deeply.” Spock did not look away. “I regret everything that happened. Now and in the past.”
“Tell her that, not me.”
“I have told her that, Jim. I went to Gol because of that.”
“Is that why you went?” Suddenly that decision made a lot more sense.
“In great part. It was not the entire reason.”
Chris squeezed his hand, but didn’t say anything.
Spock suddenly stood. “If this is uncomfortable, I can leave. You two looked...peaceful before I arrived.”
Chris answered before Kirk could. “I still am peaceful. The two of you will never get back to that if you keep avoiding each other. That was the whole point of this leave.” She looked at Kirk. “Right?”
He smiled, amused at the tone in her voice. “Right, darling.”
“Excellent. Now sit down, Spock, and enjoy the fire.” She turned and kissed Kirk. A very passionate, very long kiss.
He wondered if maybe she did have a little something to prove to Spock after all.
Uhura took in the house Jim had rented; it was gorgeous. And big enough—just like he’d said—for her to not even have to see Spock if she didn’t want to.
If Spock even bothered to show up.
She opened the door, wasn’t sure if anyone would be awake so said softly, “Hello?”
“Ny?” Christine peeked around the corner. “You made it. Come in.” She enveloped her in a cinnamon-scented hug. “Thank God you’re here. Jim got a house with an actual kitchen, not just synthesizers, and now he wants me to make some cinnamon rolls his mom used to bake. And I’m hopeless. Please tell me you can follow a recipe.”
Uhura laughed. “You can identify particulates in minute quantities. Why can’t you follow a recipe?”
“I don’t know. But I can’t. Please?” Christine made a pleading face, which was funnier because she had flour on her cheek.
“You’re truly pathetic.”
“I know. Come in and save me.” She tried to take Uhura’s bag.
“Don’t touch my bag with those cinnamon-spice hands. I’ll be right out. Any room down the guest hall is mine, I guess?”
Christine started to smile and shook her head.
“Oh. I didn’t expect that.”
“He showed up last night. Took the blue room. In case you want to file that away?”
Uhura shot her a look.
“Or not. Go put your stuff away and save me.”
Uhura walked down the hall, saw the door was open to all the rooms, including one that was, indeed, blue. Spock was slipping on his shoes, his hair wet.
“Hi.” She sounded more defensive than she meant to.
He looked up. “You came.”
“I am...happy to see you.”
She realized that was a concession on his part to phrase it that way. Decided not to reciprocate. “Christine needs me in the kitchen. Seems she can’t cook.”
She tried to make sense of that response, could read nothing from his face. “Well, I’m going to pick a room.”
“I thought the yellow bedroom would appeal to you, so I did not take it. It faces the water and has a lovely bathtub.”
She smiled. “I’ll check it out. Thanks for saving it for me.”
“Do you like cinnamon rolls?”
“The frosting is very sweet.”
“If we made some without frosting, do you like cinnamon rolls?”
“I would enjoy them, I believe.”
“Okay then.” She was suddenly mad at herself for asking. “Not that we’re going to do that just for you.”
“Of course not. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”
“Nobody needs cinnamon rolls, Spock.” Except apparently Jim. She left Spock and checked out all the bedrooms, saving the yellow room for last.
Spock was right. It was definitely her favorite: the view was spectacular and the bathtub was big enough for two. She almost picked another room to be contrary, but decided that was stupid. It should make her happy that he actually knew what she liked, shouldn’t it?
She put her bag down in the yellow bedroom and went to help Christine.
Chapel was washing up from breakfast when Jim came in.
He grinned and came up behind her, putting his arms around her. “I said I’d do that.”
“I know but I wanted us to get the hell out of their way for a while. Did you get the rowboat ready?”
“I did.” He kissed the back of her neck. “Do you think we can make love in it? Cinnamon’s an aphrodisiac, you know?”
She laughed. “Does the rowboat have a cloaking device? Because there are already a lot of boats on the water.” She’d seen water skiers and flitter-boards all morning.
“Spoil sport.” He started to chuckle. “Did you really tell Nyota you can’t follow a recipe? You’ve been trying out new things all week?”
“Shhh. She doesn’t need to know that.” She put the last plate in the refresher and turned so she was facing him. “Although I still have a couple I want to try.”
“Guess you’ll have to fess up.”
“Hopefully they’ll have made up by then. And she’ll be more comfortable here so I won’t have to resort to deception as a way to make her relax.” It had worked though—Ny had liked thinking Chapel couldn’t follow a recipe. That bothered Chapel a little more than she wanted to admit. “Or we’ll go out.”
He took her hand. “While you were doing this, I did load up the cooler. We’re all set.”
“Ny, Spock, we’re going out in the rowboat. See you later.” Chapel waited and heard Ny call back, “Okay.” Nothing from Spock, but she was sure he was debating the proper response to that, so she let Jim pull her to the beach.
He pushed the boat out a little, and she climbed in, then he pushed it out more and jumped in. “Ready, my lady?”
She nodded and leaned back, trailing her finger as languidly as she could, making him laugh as he rowed them away from shore.
“Yeah, you’ll be rowing on the way back, and I’ll be the one lazing.” He took a deep breath, smiled as he exhaled. “Love it here.”
“Me, too.” She crawled the short distance to where he sat and kissed him thoroughly. “I love you, too.”
“Mmm.” He pulled her closer. “Captain’s privilege.”
“I think you’re not the captain on this boat, toots.”
“Oh, I am the captain on any boat, my dear.” He gave her a stern look, then glanced back at the house. “How do you think they’re going to do?”
“I don’t know. She’s something else when she’s mad. And he’s sort of the definition of stiff. I guess time will tell. But without us there, they can crash and burn with no witnesses.”
He nodded. “Live to try another day.” He turned the boat, began to skirt the shoreline, and they looked at the other houses, waving occasionally to people on shore who waved at them. “Friendly place.”
She studied him as he rowed, how strong he was, how he seemed so at peace as he moved them across the water.
“What?” he asked with a smile when he caught her looking at him.
“I love how protective you are of me. I know I’ve been riding you about Spock, but I should say that. Thank you for looking out for me. For caring about how I feel.”
“I hate that it happened to you on my ship, Chris. That I didn’t know. That you went through that.”
“I know. We were barely friends back then. But Spock and I were. Bones and I were. Bones missed it. I missed it. Spock hid it. It makes me hurt for you. But it also makes me wonder how many others I missed?”
“No, Chris, this was right under my goddamned nose. How many other things happen on my ship—horrible things—that I don’t know about?” He stopped rowing. “In the alternate universe, the me of that place had this device that allowed him to see all over the ship. That would be handy—I’d like to get my hands on one of those. Of course, it also allowed him to zap people out of existence, but I wouldn’t order that option.”
“Jim, when you choose to observe something, you by default choose to not observe a host of other things. Even with your magical device you would still miss stuff. More importantly, Spock didn’t assault me because you set a loose moral tone on your ship. Spock raped me because he was in the final stages of the Pon Farr, and none of us knew he should be isolated and not allowed near anything with a pulse. And I was obsessed with him back then. Imagine what I was projecting to a hormonally charged telepath? It was like...bourbon on a bonfire.”
“It’s seems apt.”
“Just promise me. If you ever hear anything, even gossip, that something like that has happened to anyone on the ship, you’ll tell me.”
“Okay.” She reached out, took his hand when he reached back. “Stop beating yourself up. You’re my hero.”
He gave her a sad smile and went back to rowing.
Spock found Nyota sitting on the patio, watching a boat—presumably the one Christine said she and Jim were taking—head down the shoreline. “May I join you?”
Spock sat and studied her. When he had first met her, he’d classified her as soft...sweet. But as they’d grown closer, he’d come to understand that underneath the pleasant mask she wore was a streak of hardness that rivaled McCoy’s. He’d discovered from the melds they’d shared that she was deeply insecure about certain things, although he’d never brought it up with her.
He was glad now he never had. He thought she needed to hide in the fiction that she did not have any worries. That she was not threatened by Christine—even if she was.
And Christine evidently knew it, had clearly given her the upper hand this morning in the kitchen to increase her sense of security in a house that was, for all intents and purposes, Christine’s.
He knew for a fact that Christine could follow a recipe quite well because Jim had told him. Jim loved to eat; Christine loved to cook. It was a fortuitous dovetailing of interests.
The cinnamon rolls had been quite good. Spock had a suspicion, however, that they would have been better if Christine had made them. He would never admit that to Nyota—he might be abysmal, as his mother had said, at romance, but he was not a fool.
“So you’re going to just sit there?” Nyota was never patient.
“Did you wish to converse?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Then I plan to sit here. It is a lovely view, is it not?”
“It is. And the weather is wonderful, too. Anything else innocuous we can talk about?”
“You said you did not wish to talk.”
She started to kick the leg she had crossed over her other one. Never a good sign.
He did not look at her, simply watched the boat with their friends as he said softly, “I miss you.”
Her leg stilled.
“I miss you very much. My mother noted my unhappiness without you.” He turned to her. “Do you not miss me?”
He supposed as answers went that a maybe was preferable to a no. He looked back out at the water.
“Yes,” she whispered.
He closed his eyes for a moment.
“I miss everything, Spock. I miss you. I miss us—being a couple. Being safe. Why can’t I feel safe with you? Why do I have to worry that Christine is going to always be there? But the hell of it is, I don’t want to lose the four of us. I like being with them. And she’s part of them. Although, frankly, if he wanted to break up with her and be with someone else, that might be fine with me. We could be with whoever else he chooses.”
He turned to look at her. “You do not mean that.”
“Don’t tell me what I mean. You may like her more than I do right now, Spock. You may like her more than I ever will again. Can you live with that?”
He did not look away. “She is blameless in this. Do not hate her for what I did.”
“I love you. I have to hate someone, so if not you then it’s got to be her, doesn’t it? We’ve had problems for a while, she and I.”
“Yes. You have been threatened by her for some time. She does not appear to be threatened by you.”
“This is how you win me back?”
“Nyota, I care for you deeply. But you are blaming the wrong person.”
“Take what you get, Spock. I played nice this morning. I’ll play nice the rest of the time. That doesn’t mean I’m not seeing her in your arms when I look at her. That doesn’t mean I’m not wondering if she liked being there.”
“She did not. I melded with her, gave her distance.”
“I thought you couldn’t remember it? If you can’t, then how do you know what she felt?” She glared at him. “Can you honestly say you are one hundred percent certain she didn’t enjoy being with you?”
“I was not myself, but I am relatively certain that my meld did as I intended, that—”
“Relatively. What is that? Seventy-five percent?”
“Ninety-nine point nine.”
“I think you’re overestimating.” She got up. “I’m going for a walk. I’ll see you at dinner.”
He watched her go. He knew if he went after her, if he said he understood her position, he would probably be welcome to accompany her.
She wanted him back. She was prepared to take out what he had done on Christine.
But that was unfair.
He let her go.
Kirk heard banging in the kitchen, came in from the bedroom, and saw Chris taking out pans. “You’re going to blow your cover, sweetheart.”
“You know what? I want to try this Fesenjan recipe—I found one for squash and eggplant instead of chicken—and lying is stupid.”
“Well, since I’m a fan of your cooking, I agree with both points, but how are you going to break it to Nyota?”
“I’ll tell her the truth. She looked uncomfortable and I panicked because I thought she was going to leave. So I lied. And I will skip the part about how I knew that having something that she did better than I did would make her feel good enough to stay.”
She began to chop and peel vegetables. She was a master with a knife and he liked to watch her work.
“Can I help?”
“Do you mind grinding the walnuts?”
He found a grinder, began to feed in the walnuts. As it whirred away, he asked, “Do you want to talk about your last comment?
“The walnuts?” She glanced over at him.
“Nyota.” He grinned at her. “I thought you two were doing better?”
“When she came in from her walk, she had a weird look on her face. She said hello but she can’t hide when she’s really mad. She thinks she can, but she can’t, not from me.”
“Should we be talking about her quite so loudly if she’s here?”
“She went into town—said she’d be back in a few hours. And Spock’s meditating on the beach.”
“Ah.” He poured out the grinder, showed her how much he had. “This enough?”
She nodded. “Thanks.”
“You want some wine?” At her nod, he checked their stock. They had a Beaujolais he’d been waiting to try. He opened it, gave it a taste, and decided it was something she’d like too. He poured them both glasses and took hers over to her. “Have you talked to her about it?”
“She’ll talk when she’s ready. Not before.”
He smiled. He thought Chris taking the reins back in the kitchen might be her way of forcing the conversation to happen on her timetable rather than Nyota’s. Ballsy move. It was probably what he would do. But... “At the risk of ticking you off while you’re making what will no doubt be a fabulous meal, can I ask why your first instinct was to lie to her?”
She stopped slicing.
“I shouldn’t complain, Chris. The objective was to keep her here, and you achieved that. But she was unsure and instead of reaching out to encourage her, you played her. I’m not saying it’s not what I would have done in your shoes, but it’s kind of a cold move. And it’ll have repercussions. She’s going to be more unsure now than when she started.”
She frowned and looked at him. He thought she might get mad at him, but she seemed to be thinking rather than reacting—the same way she did about Spock, only Kirk liked it when her calm was directed at him. “You’re right,” she said. “I did play her. I gave her what I knew would keep her here. Didn’t even think about it. And hated that she enjoyed it.”
“Why did you do it?”
She put the knife down and grabbed her wine glass. He realized her hand was shaking—and it hadn’t been before. “I’m angry at her. For a number of reasons.”
“Elaborate.” He kept his tone mild, sipped his wine as if they had all the time in the world.
“I’m angry that she told me I don’t deserve the position I’m in, the office I sit in, the rank I’ll get next. That I’m sleeping my way to my next promotion.”
He had to bite back a surge of anger on that last one.
“That she pulled rank on me. That she told me she’d always outrank me.”
He leaned in, looked her straight in the eye. “She won’t.”
She met his gaze. “I know.” And she looked like she believed it. “But it’s more than that, Jim. I’m angry that she won’t let go of this idea that I somehow liked what happened. Do you think I did?”
He shook his head.
“But you wonder, don’t you? Or you did.”
“No, Chris, I don’t. I did at first, okay, I’ll admit it. But now? No. If you told me it was a romantic interlude, then yes, I might wonder about it. But this wasn’t that. I know what I did to Janice. I know what I saw on Tarsus IV when I was a boy. No one enjoys being brutalized, no matter how easy he was on you this time. The best that can be said is that it didn’t damage you, and for that I’m very grateful.”
She let her breath out slowly as if she’d been holding it. Then she nodded. “Yes. Exactly.”
She turned, picked up the knife.
He moved in close, put his arms around her. “But the first time—it damaged you that time, didn’t it?”
“It did.” She was slicing mushrooms very carefully as she said, “Even with the distance he gave me, there was a long time when I didn’t want anyone to touch me. I thought...I thought I’d find a way over it by myself. I eventually had to get some help.”
“No. Outside. When I was in med school.” She leaned back. “And an understanding partner. Not a very good one, but that didn’t matter. With help, I found my way back.”
“I’d never guess you’d ever had an issue with sex. But promise me—if I ever do anything you don’t feel comfortable with...”
“Jim, I’d tell you.” She turned her head enough for him to kiss her. “I would tell you, and you never have. I have always felt safe with you.” She started slicing with more vigor. “I’ll think about what you said, about the lying. I shouldn’t do that. It’s not a good habit to fall into, playing people.”
“No.” He gave her a squeeze, then moved around to the other side of the counter and sat on a stool so he could watch her cook. They’d had chicken Fesenjan in a Persian restaurant in Berlin and fallen in love with the sour-sweet taste of the pomegranate-walnut-based stew. He couldn’t wait to see how her vegetable version compared.
Uhura sat back in her chair, enjoying the pleasant fullness from the fabulous dish Christine had served. “Where did you get this?”
Jim shot Christine a look, then turned to Spock. “What do you say to a game of chess on the patio?”
“Yes. Right now. I think Christine and Nyota have some things to talk about.” He gave Christine a strange smile—one that Uhura thought looked more like “good luck” than anything else—then hustled Spock away.
“What did I say?”
“I didn’t order out. I made the dish. I can follow a recipe just fine.”
Uhura felt her contentment melt away. “Oh. So you lied to me this morning?”
“I did. I thought you looked a little panicked and I was afraid you were going to run. So I...gave you what I thought would keep you here: one up on me. And we probably need to talk about that.”
“We probably need to talk about quite a few things.” Uhura bit back the even meaner things that wanted to come out. “Did you practice with Jim? Is that how he knew to flee?”
“No. He’s a smart guy. And he called me on the lying. He’s in your corner, Ny.”
“Well, at least someone is. Spock certainly doesn’t seem to be.” He could have been, but he’d refused to side with her. Since when were he and Christine such great buddies?
“I don’t think this is really about Spock, is it? I think this goes back to what you said in the mess. That’s what keeps eating at me. That I don’t deserve the job I’m in. But you didn’t really mean the job I’m in now, did you? You meant the job I was in before Jim brought Len back. The job Decker put me in: CMO.”
Uhura debated getting up and walking out, not having this conversation at all. She could grab her stuff and leave. Put in transfer papers and get off the goddamn Enterprise finally, the way her career counselors had advised her two years ago.
But she wanted to have it out with Christine. She wanted to get some things off her chest. “You’re a lieutenant. Show me another lieutenant that’s a CMO. It’s ludicrous. You said Decker picked you because he liked your attitude during the interview, but I saw the two of you together when you were staffing sickbay. You were simpatico.”
“Oh, you more than clicked. You clearly had history. You were sleeping with him, weren’t you?” Why the hell wouldn’t Christine sleep with a boss—she’d done it once already with Roger.
Christine laughed—a soft, bitter exhalation of air. “I wasn’t sleeping with him during the refits. I was sleeping with Jim.”
Uhura felt like she’d been punched. “You said you were his plus one a few times. You never said—”
“He was staying on Earth. I was leaving. What point was there in telling you?”
Uhura stared at her, knew her jaw had dropped, and shook her head. “So you buried it, just like the rape? What else have you not told me about? Do I even know you? Why don’t I know that you cook? You and Jan and I went on vacation all the time—you never cooked for us.”
“Cooking is domestic. Our vacations were about other things.”
“So you only cook for men?” Uhura held up her hands. “This is a tangent I don’t even want to explore. Let’s get back to Decker. If you weren’t sleeping with him, then how did you know him?”
“His father and Roger were good friends. Matt used to try to recruit Roger into Starfleet. It never worked, but he never stopped trying. Since Matt was out on the ship so much, we looked out for Stella and Will. I was like Will’s aunt, I guess. A young aunt.” She took a deep breath.
“So, I rest my case. You didn’t earn your job.” She pushed her chair out, got up, and began to pace. “Some of us went to the Academy and busted our asses and did the right thing, over and over and over. And we moved in the way you’re supposed to. We got places by working hard and earning what comes next.”
“Well, I’m sorry I missed the Academy, Ny. I was too busy getting my degrees.”
“Yes, your fifteen trillion degrees.” She shook her head and laughed. “So when you got on the ship the first time, you didn’t talk your way there. Commodore Decker got you on board to look for Roger. Jim had nothing to do with it.”
“Oh, I talked my way aboard Jim’s ship. But you’re right, Matt helped. He got me into Starfleet with a minimum of red tape.” Christine’s face flushed, the way it did when she was very angry. “Found a nurse’s billet to point me to, but I did the rest. I’m just sorry we were on vacation with Jan when Jim found him and the Constellation. I might have been able to reason with him.”
She seemed lost in thought for a moment, then she looked up and her eyes were hard. “And sure, Ny, some people work hard and progress that way—quickly or slowly, depends on the person. And others have opportunities presented based on relationships they’ve built. It’s how the world works, and if you haven’t had a chance to forge any ties sitting on the bridge of Jim’s ship for most of your career, well, that’s not my problem.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m who I always have been. It was fine when I was a nurse and an ensign, you could deal with that. But the minute I was a section head, then you started acting weird. And then I got Jim and everything changed.”
Uhura clenched her teeth, forcing herself not to say anything.
“What are you really the most jealous of? That Spock had me, or that I have Jim? He wouldn’t break his rule for Jan. You never tried to make him notice you like she did, but we both knew—she and I—that you were as infatuated with him as she was.”
“And you never were. So why do you end up with him? How the hell did that happen? How do you even deserve him?” She closed her eyes. Damn it all—she had not meant to say that.
“Because he loves me. Because I love him. Because we work. I don’t know, Ny.” Christine sighed. “Why did you get Spock?”
“Does it bother you?” She studied Christine.
“No. It was more a hypothetical question.”
Uhura sat back down. She felt...empty inside. She’d always thought that being able to tell Christine how she felt would make her feel better somehow. Stronger in a perverse way.
But now she felt like there was nothing left to say. “So, what now?”
“Well, we know where we stand. Finally.” Christine poured herself more wine, then pushed the bottle to her. “We figure out if we want to still be friends, I guess.”
Uhura poured herself another glass and drank a third of it down in the first big gulp. “Yeah. I guess that’s what we need to do.”
“It’s going to be damned inconvenient for our men if we don’t.”
“Well, not all relationships last. And I don’t give you and Jim much of a shelf life.” Uhura knew it was too much—too low a blow. And mean rather than true.
Christine stood up slowly and picked up her wine glass. Her expression was as cold as Uhura had ever seen it. “Stay off the patio tonight. In fact, you may want to retire to your room now.”
“I’m fine here.”
Christine’s eyes seemed to go dead, as if Uhura wasn’t even there. More than anything it reminded her of how Spock had looked when he’d told her to go get Christine during the Pon Farr.
Why were these two so damn much alike? It was almost a shame they hadn’t gotten together and saved her and Jim a lot of trouble.
Christine turned and went out to the patio, closing the door behind her.
Chapel stalked past Jim and Spock playing chess and walked down the beach. She kicked off her sandals and walked barefoot into the water, kicking angrily as she waded.
Ny was a problem.
Chapel sighed. If she was honest—and she prided herself on being honest with herself—Ny had always been a problem. Chapel had always kept things from her.
She’d told Jim why Will had chosen her the minute the selection was made. It had never occurred to her not to tell Jim. With Ny it had been second nature to lie about it because Chapel had known she’d be judged: one more way she hadn’t fucking earned her place in the Fleet Ny professed to love so damn much. A fleet Ny never explored because she was too busy homesteading on one ship, which was career suicide.
It had taken all of Chapel’s self control not to tell her how hard Decker had to fight to get Ny promoted to lieutenant commander. He’d told Chapel about it—primarily because she’d urged him to do it. He’d barely known Ny, had no reason to fight for someone who had resisted any and all career broadening experiences. But Chapel had pushed, and he’d done as she’d asked.
She was Ny’s friend, even if Ny probably didn’t believe it any more.
But Ny wouldn’t appreciate knowing her promotion came as a result of connections. She would want to believe she’d earned it.
And Chapel would let her. It might be the last thing she did for her as a friend. That comment about Jim and her was uncalled for.
She whirled, was shocked to see Ny standing behind her in the wet sand. All her angry surf-kicking must have masked the sound.
“I’m sorry. I went too far. I thought getting all the anger and ugliness out would make me feel better, but now I feel sick inside.” She backed up to where the sand was dry and sat down. “My mentors have told me to move on—that I was committing careericide by staying in the same job for so long. I love this job. You know?”
Chapel nodded. “You’re really good at it.”
“But I’ve stopped growing. That’s what they tell me—and what the perception is. They were shocked that I got promoted again.”
Chapel kept her face expressionless.
“So I have this job I love. Working with people I love. Most of whom are also doing the same thing they’ve been doing. Scotty. Sulu. Leonard. And then there’s you and Jan and even Pavel. Trying new things. Even Jim did. He came back but he tried, he did his time. And Spock, in his extreme way.”
“I’m not afraid to try new things. I’m just really good at this.” Ny looked up at her as if daring her to argue.
“You are. You may be the best at it. But...you’d be really good at other things, too, Ny. And if you never move, no one else can have the job. No one else can ever experience what you love about it.”
“Yeah, I’ve been told that too. You really have been doing personnel stuff, haven’t you?” She laughed, then the laugh turned into a sigh. “The hell of it is that I know you and Jan and Pav and anyone else who gets off this ship or tries new things will pass me by eventually. And that makes me so mad.”
Chapel left the surf and went over to sit down in the sand, facing Ny.
“My mentors even wanted me to go back to school—a real university, not the Academy—and get a graduate degree. I uh...I really am not eager to see how I don’t stack up against you.”
“Okay, I’m just going to say this: you’re mean when you’re hurt, and you’ve been a real bitch to me lately, but you’re also an idiot.” At Ny’s expression, she held up a hand. “Wait, I’m going somewhere good with this. Do you remember when Nomad wiped you?”
“I’d hardly forget that.”
“Wiped, Ny. How fast did you come back?”
“Well, you were helping me.”
“Okay, so I’m a swell teacher. It was still your brain and your determination and your ability to make connections and remember things and process complex problems. Jim never wavered. He never said: send her to a facility. He had utter faith in you. Spock never advised him otherwise. Len never told me I was wasting my time. Those three men are the hardest judge of character and talent I know. To have the trust of all three? You would do fine at any university, Ny. Quit being an idiot.”
Ny stared at her. “Okay, that really was good.” She brushed her eyes. “So what am I supposed to do, you who are so well versed in how to succeed the other way? I want to stay in my job, but I don’t want to rot in it.”
“You want my help?”
“Yeah, give me some ideas, smart girl.” She snapped her fingers. “Show me what you got.”
Chapel grinned. “No more party committees. They suck up time and do nothing for your resume. Did you see the engineering notes? Mister Scott is setting up an interdepartmental committee to look at revamping the food synthesizers. It’ll be a prototype for the Fleet. That is something you want to be on. High visibility, high impact—and maybe fun.”
“You read the engineering notes?”
“I read all the main departmental notes. You never know what gems you might find.” Chapel thought. “There’s also a new mentoring program being started. You should volunteer to be a mentor.”
“Right--because I have so much to offer.”
“To an ensign? New to the ship? Of course you do. I signed up for it.”
“Hell yeah. Connections, Ny. It’s all about relationships. And getting your name out there. And for later, when they say, ‘Yeah but she just sat on the bridge,’ the answer is, ‘No, actually, she didn’t. Look at these projects she was involved in.’ But make sure they weren’t the Valentine’s Day party—they will only roll their eyes. Or if you must help out with those, make sure they aren’t the only thing and do not sign up to be the chairwoman.”
“I ask again: who are you?”
Chapel laughed. “You think I landed Roger with my looks?”
“You know, I always kind of assumed you had. Figured he was a leg man.”
Chapel shook her head. “He was a total pushover for community service. And okay he was a leg man.” She smiled.
“I’m not sure how much I really know about you and Roger.”
“Probably only the bits I wanted you to know. Ask me anything you want. I’ll answer it. I’m done hiding.”
“That sounds good. But first, can I ask you something that’s not about Roger and you answer that?”
Chapel smiled. “I’m really not in love with Spock.” She touched Ny on the cheek. “And he’s really not in love with me.”
“Oh, okay. But I was just going to ask for the recipe for that incredible Fesenjan dish tonight.” Ny’s expression changed, turned silly, then she began to laugh.
Chapel laughed too. She thought the sound of their amusement probably carried up to Jim and Spock.
Spock watched as Nyota and Christine walked up the gravel path. There was an ease between them that had been missing for some time. One he had not seen since he arrived back on the ship after leaving Gol.
“Never underestimate the value of a heart to heart,” Jim murmured. He looked over at Spock and grinned.
Spock felt something inside him lighten at Jim’s smile. His friend was letting him back in; they were playing chess; they were speaking softly about their women the way they used to.
They would be all right. In time.
Jim pulled Christine into his lap and kissed her. Spock looked up at Nyota, wishing for one brief moment that it were in his nature to give her the same thing.
But she was ignoring the other two. “We need to talk.”
He remembered what she had said about those four words, felt a pang but took in her expression, the calm way she was standing, the lightness in her eyes. “Of course,” he said as he rose.
They left Jim and Christine on the patio; he did not think they noted their abandonment.
Once they were inside the house, she took his hand and pulled him down the hallway, past his bedroom and into hers. She shut the door and pointed to the bed. “Sit down.”
He decided not to argue, sat down, and waited.
“What’s been going on between you and me may not have really been about you, which does not in any way mean you have a free pass to sleep with Christine at any point in the future. You better get this figured out by your next Pon Farr.” She took a deep breath. “We better get this figured out.”
He let an eyebrow go up. “We?”
“Yes. We. If...if after everything you’ve seen you’re still interested in there being an us.” She took a step closer. “I’m not always nice.”
“I was aware of that before. Have you and Christine resolved your issues?”
“No. But we’re finally talking about them, not around them.”
He felt the first sense of hopefulness since the Pon Farr had taken him. “That is progress, then.”
“It is. And I won’t be as mean—I’m much better when I’m dealing directly with things. It’s when people hide things from me that I get nasty.”
“I will endeavor not to hide anything from you. Unless required by Jim or Starfleet.”
She smiled. “I have this theory about why I wasn’t enough for you. It may be silly, but I need to tell you about it.” She took another step closer to him. “Ever since Decker chose Christine for CMO, I’ve been wrong with her. And that’s what we’re working through. Because it’s not just her I’m wrong with—it’s me, too. You were right: I’m threatened.”
He held his hand out to her, was gratified when she took it, felt a sense of homecoming at the coolness of her touch, the surge of her emotions into him. “I chose you. I never chose her, Nyota.”
“But during the Pon Farr some part of you did. And maybe you always will so long as I don’t think I’m as good as she is? So I need to work on that.”
“If we were bonded, there would be no question who I would choose.”
“I’m not ready for that yet. And neither are you. And besides, the Pon Farr won’t happen for years, right?”
“I am unsure how many, but yes.”
“Let me fix me. Let me fix this thing with Christine if I can. You’ll like me better if I try. And I’ll like me better, too.” She took the last step that closed the gap between them. “I’ve missed you so much, Spock.”
“As I have missed you.” He pulled her down into his lap, kissed her the way he’d wanted to for weeks.
She wrapped her arms around his neck, relaxed into him, her mouth opening, nothing hard or brittle about her anymore. Just the warm, welcoming woman he had fallen in love with.
When they drew away, she grinned and said, “There is a big bathtub in the bathroom.”
“Yes. I believe I identified that as a point in this room’s favor.” He eased her off his lap, began to slowly remove her clothes.
She pulled off his robe and underwear, then took his hand and pulled him into the bathroom. She started the bath, laughing when he drew her back to him and eased her up onto the counter. “Can’t wait?”
“I find I cannot.”
He made sure she was ready for him, then he was inside her.
He kept an eye on the water level in the mirror—it would not do to flood Jim’s rental house—as he made sure Nyota was very happy before he let himself go. Then he let her down in time to turn the water off.
She laughed as she drained some out before they got in, and the sound of her laughter was beautiful to him, one of the things that had drawn him to her in the first place.
As they settled into the water, and she rested against his chest, he said, “I love you, Nyota.”
“I love you, too, Spock.”
Kirk sat by the fire and glanced back as Spock and Nyota moved around the patio, cleaning up another fabulous meal that Chris had made. They were in sync finally. And the looks they shot at each other were the kind that told him they’d be retiring early.
Which was not something he was sorry about since it was a mild night and a new moon—their lovely lake would not be lit up. Kirk grinned and looked over at Chris. “How adventurous do you want to be tonight?”
She started to laugh. “You’ve been staring at that lake all day. Are you asking me if I want to freeze my ass off skinnydipping with you?”
“That is exactly what I am asking.” He watched her, curious to see her reaction.
She laughed. “It’s warmer than it’s been. What the hell?” She cuddled in next to him. “We can watch the sunset first?”
“Absolutely. And we’re going from here, toots. No running inside for robes and towels. Or parkas. Just strip and go.”
She laughed and it came out a nervous-sounding giggle. “You’re a kook. Are we supposed to make love in the cold, cold water?”
“The water will actually feel warmer than you think. And yes, I’d like to give that a shot, too. But sex in the water can be problematic—it sounds romantic but rarely comes off like you want.”
She leaned her head on his shoulder. “I’ve never tried.”
“Are you just saying that?” He wanted to believe her, was surprised how much he wanted it to be true.
“I don’t lie to you, Jim. It’s something I realized when Ny and I were talking. Other than about the rape and that wasn’t a lie so much as an omission—if you’d ever asked me point blank, I don’t think I’d have been able to keep it from you.”
“Good to know.” He kissed her forehead. “So no water sex for Chris?”
“Roger wasn’t a big bath guy. And he didn’t like to swim. And the guys after him weren’t adventurous, which was sort of the point since I was trying to ease my way back into the game.”
“And before Roger?”
“Don’t laugh at me.”
“Nobody before Roger?” Was it bad and wrong that the idea of that made him...happy?
“I was all about studying. And sort of gawky. I grew into my body late in life. And I was a science geek. It didn’t really add up to femme fatale. Why do you think I’m such a good cook? I had plenty of time to practice.”
“My gain.” He moved so he could see her face, traced her cheek. Her hair was lit by the firelight, and it gleamed softly. “So tabula rasa in some ways. I can corrupt at will.”
“You can.” Her smile was tender, so full of affection it made him feel safe and warm and cared for in a way he hadn’t since he and Carol had first started out—before they had gone so terribly wrong.
“I don’t mind that idea at all.”
“Good.” She sighed. “I need to tell you something. It’s going to sound weird.”
“Oh, joy.” He laughed softly.
“Hopefully weird in a good way. It’s just...none of us know what tomorrow brings. Or whether relationships will last or not. If you’d asked me a few years ago if Ny and I would be on the verge of hating each other, I’d have laughed at you. If you’d have told me that I’d be in love with my captain, I’d also have laughed. Time...time changes everything.”
He nodded. “It does.”
“We may grow old together and forty years from now we’ll be sitting on a log like this in front of our bonfire in the mountains. Or we may not. One of us could die. Both of us could. Or we could...end.”
He nodded, waiting to see where she would go with this.
“However it ends. Whenever it ends. You will always be the love of my life, Jim. You will be the first man I was ever truly myself with, who made me feel beautiful just the way I am.” She ran her finger down his cheek. “I pity anyone who has to come after you. They’ll never measure up.” She looked away, as if suddenly embarrassed. “Too weird?”
“No. Not too weird. And for the record, I vote for the happily ever after plan.”
Her smile was luminous.
“I love you, Chris. I can’t imagine life without you.” He pulled her closer and kissed her tenderly, slowly, his tongue starting a rhythm that he intended to follow with other parts of his body as soon as the damn sun finished setting.
She moaned, and he decided to hell with the sunset; it was nearly dark. He began to pull off her clothes, then stripped off his own, and they ran like two teenagers onto the beach and into the water.
“Oh my God, it’s cold,” she said.
“Swim,” he said. “Race me.”
They took off for deeper water and the water did start to feel warmer. As she slowed, he caught her up in his arms, and she wrapped her legs around him as he swam her back to where he could stand. They kissed while they waited for the sky to darken completely and as she moved and stroked and whispered very naughty things in his ear, he felt his lower half coming to life.
He adjusted her a bit, into position, and she moaned as she slid onto him.
“I don’t think this water sex is overrated, Jim. The buoyancy factor gives it a unique quality.” She kissed him, biting his ear softly.
“Ever the scientist. It’s even more pronounced in salt water.” He laughed and moved her slowly, trying to hold back, but the idea that they were so exposed was exciting—and he thought it excited her, too. The idea that it was her first time doing this wasn’t a turn off, either. “Have you ever done it in a science lab?”
“Ah, the ‘Corrupt Chris’ campaign is in full swing?” She laughed softly. “Sadly, yes.”
“On board my ship?”
“I can’t say I have.”
“Good.” They were definitely going to have to give that never-used science lab on deck seventeen a whirl.
Uhura followed the other three through the casino to the elevator that took them to the top floor of the hotel. The restaurant had an amazing vista of the lake, and Jim had reserved a table at the window.
“Bon appetit,” the maĒtre d’ said, and left them to peruse the menus.
They had escargot listed as a house specialty. And from what the reviews on this place had said—Uhura had looked it up before they had left the house: she liked to know what she was walking into before she got there—they made them really well.
She knew she’d be outvoted again, though.
But they couldn’t stop her from ordering a nice, juicy Steak au Poivre. She was sick of vegetarian fare, and Spock was taking her by the Vulcan embassy tomorrow on their way back to the ship, so she needed to get her meat fix now. The review had noted how good the pepper steak was—almost as good as the escargot.
The sommelier came by and Jim looked at her. “Red or white tonight?”
He looked at Christine and she nodded without looking up from her menu. Spock was a non-player as usual.
“What do you have that will bowl us over in a red?” Jim smiled at the sommelier, that mega-watt Kirk grin that no one could stand against long.
The man looked like he’d fallen in love. “We have a new Cabernet Franc, underappreciated by the hoi polloi but truly outstanding.”
“Never let it be said we’re not smarter than the masses,” Jim said with a wink to the man. “We’ll be brave.”
“Excellent.” The man hurried off.
“All right. Appetizers—what are we getting?”
Before anyone could say anything, Uhura said, “They have escargot.”
“Do we have to take a vote again, Nyota?” Jim gave her a “been there, done that” smile.
She noticed Christine did not look up from her menu. Neither did Spock.
“Fuck the vote,” she said very softly, but as clearly as she could.
Jim’s eyes went wide, and the other two looked up.
“You two are a voting bloc and we all know it,” she said, looking at Jim and Christine. She turned to Spock. “And unless it’s rice and beans, I can forget about any help from you. I’ll never get what I want, and what I want is escargot. And damn it all, I’m sick of not getting what I want. So I’m going to order them tonight.”
Spock and Jim stared at her as if unsure how to respond. Christine grinned and went back to studying the menu.
“Will that not be a lot of...snails for you to eat?” Spock looked as if he knew this was not the time to ask the question but could not help himself.
“I may eat one. I may eat a few. I may eat all the goddamned order. It does not matter. I want my snails.” She sat back. “Are we clear, boys?”
“Good. And, just so you understand, this is not how I plan to act the rest of the meal. I am...sick of holding stuff in. Letting it fester inside me instead of speaking my mind. So I’m going to say what I want from time to time in a more direct manner and not be so snide and sideways about it later when I’m too mad to be rational. Doesn’t that sound like a plan?”
She saw Christine grin again as she nodded. The boys looked unsure how to answer—as if they weren’t sure agreeing with the plan might not be also agreeing that she was often unpleasant.
“At ease, you two. Christine and I understand each other, so you both can relax.”
“Yes, yes we do.” Christine looked up, smiled at Jim. “I want gougeres.”
He started to laugh. “Cheese bread.”
“Cheesy puff pastry. Much fancier. Besides, Ny loves them, right?” She winked at Uhura. “And so do the rest of us.”
“Fine, we’ll get the puffy cheese.” Jim looked over at Spock. “You have any special requests, my friend?”
“I am content, Jim.”
Uhura put her hand on his knee, was only going to let it sit for a moment to let him know she planned to play nice the rest of the evening, but he put his hand over it and squeezed gently. She smiled as she put down her menu.
She saw Jim lean over and murmur something in Christine’s ear. Christine laughed and said something back that made him grin. Then Christine looked up, saw that Uhura was watching them, and for a moment their eyes met.
Uhura remembered telling Christine she didn’t think she had a future with Jim. It had been a low blow, especially because it wasn’t true.
She let her eyes go soft and smiled gently. Christine’s expression changed from wary to something gentler, and she smiled too.
The sommelier coming back with their wine finished the moment, but it was there, it was a good moment. They’d had a few of them since their talk on the beach.
The wine was delicious. Unexpected for something so often overlooked—a wine that was usually mixed in with other varieties, never stood on its own. Uhura could relate.
The appetizers were even better. Especially the escargot.
She ate every damn one of them.