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.
Taken by Surprise
Kirk walked into sickbay when his shift was over, still a little stunned that he was being allowed to keep the Enterprise after commandeering it from Decker. He saw Chris sitting in her office, walked over, and leaned against the door, watching her work until she finally noticed him.
“Captain Kirk. How does it feel?” She grinned at him.
“I don’t know, Doctor Chapel. How does it feel to get what you wanted?”
Her laugh was the sweet one he’d gotten to know very well while he was on Earth. Spock had left for Gol, Bones had left for Georgia, and Chris, well, Chris hadn’t left. She’d been there. For dinner, drinks, vids. They’d both needed to blow off steam. She from med school, and he from a job he hated and a marriage gone wrong much too fast.
“So,” she asked, motioning him in and then calling for privacy once he moved. The door closed and the screen in the window looking out to sickbay went dark. “Do I stay?”
“Here. On the ship?” She was watching him with a very serious expression.
“Why wouldn’t I want you to stay?”
“Well, you have your real friends back, don’t you?” She sighed. “I mean you made Will tell me I was demoted. I sort of thought that might be a message about the second string no longer being needed.”
He sat down. “You’re not the second string.”
“No, I was the only string.”
He took her hand, squeezed it gently. “There were plenty of people who would have been happy to go to dinner with me or surfing in Cabo. You were the only person I wanted to spend time with. Not some kind of sad default.” He started to laugh. “Although you can’t surf worth a damn.”
She smiled and rolled her eyes. “I told you that when you suggested it. ‘Jim,’ I said, ‘I cannot surf.’ But no, you had to say anyone can do it if they put their mind to it.”
“Well, in my experience they can.” He started to laugh again. “Until you.”
“Shut up. Just shut the hell up.” She was laughing, too.
“I didn’t tell Decker to tell you that you were demoted. He just did it and told me he’d done it, and then I knew I was in trouble.” He squeezed her hand. “Friends still?”
“So you would have told me?”
“Chris, for all I knew, the demotion was temporary. Bones and I should have been off the ship as soon as V’ger was taken care of. That’s why I didn’t tell you—I didn’t think it would be for very long.” He gave her the gentlest smile he knew how. “And now I’m here to tell you it is. Do you want to stay?”
“Yes. Because we are friends. And deputy is still a cushy posting for a newly minted doctor.” She finally squeezed his hand back. “And I’m glad you got your ship back. I know how unhappy you were without it.”
“You’re the only one who does.” He leaned back. “You want to go get a drink?”
“Yeah. I could use one after working on reports all day. I may come to long for those halcyon, report-free days of being a nurse.”
“Somehow, I doubt it.”
As they walked to the lift, she put her hand on his arm. “Can we go change first? I despise these new uniforms. They are so unforgiving.”
“I think you look great. But we can change. I hate them, too.”
“Yes, that’s why you love to wear the one that shows off those arms.” She laughed when he tried to make a “What? Me? Show off?” look. “I’m almost sorry to deprive myself of that.”
They rode the lift to deck five, and he hurried off to change into civvies, met up with her a few minutes later. She was in a sweater with a really deep v and he tried to keep his eyes up. “You forget a tank top with that, toots?”
She looked down and started to laugh. “Oh, shit. Hang on.”
He watched her run back to her quarters and then come back out a moment later, tank of the same dark green color as the sweater in place. “Sorry, I had a message waiting and it sort of threw me. I don’t normally forget the part of my outfit that makes it socially appropriate.”
“I know you don’t.” Although she’d looked damned good in what he’d allowed himself to see. “Who was the message from?”
“Oh.” He waited.
“He wanted to have dinner. I, uh...I told him no.”
“No, never? Or no, maybe some other day?”
“I think the latter, but I’m not sure.”
“Hmmm.” He let her go onto the lift first, then told it to go to deck eight. “Would you rather have dinner with him?”
“Yes, and that’s why I said no to him. Jim, stop it. We’re having drinks. That was the plan. He sent the message fifteen minutes ago. It’s a seizure invitation.”
He started to laugh. “A what now?”
She smiled. “There are the invites that come with plenty of notice. That you understand are made with some actual desire for your company because the guy is working for it. And then there are the ones that come minutes before the event. Why? Suddenly the guy couldn’t live without your company? No. Either his first choice cancelled and he needed a last-minute replacement, or he’s just bored. So: seizure. Imperfect analogy maybe, but it’s what my roommate in college used to call them and it’s stuck with me.”
“Well, not that I really want you to run to Spock and leave me friendless, but to be fair to him, I did just sort of pop in and ask you to have a drink with me.”
“Yes, but we do that. We have a history that says we do that. Spock and I...our history is a tangled mess of me wanting him and him not wanting me. So he has to work a little harder at it, that’s all I’m saying.”
“But I get to skate?”
She laughed. “Yes, you get to skate. Aren’t you glad I didn’t have a crush on you all those years ago?”
“Not really. Would have simplified my life a lot. Might not have lost the ship.”
She shook her head, but her smile was sweet and full of understanding. This woman had seen him at his very worst and liked him anyway.
He grinned at her. “You could have transferred to science when you got bored with nursing instead of leaving the ship. I could have skipped the whole Lori thing.” He closed his eyes. Someday the thought of his ex-wife would not fill him with a huge sense of failure.
She rubbed his back. “Do we have to do the ‘I hate Lori’ song to make you feel better? Because I will if I have to.”
He laughed. “No, we don’t have to. We retired that song before you reported to the ship, remember?”
“I know. But now everything’s different. So if I have to, I’ll sing. Really, really badly.” She winked.
“I’ve missed you.” He sighed happily. His ship back. His friends back. This wonderful woman his, too, again.
The lift door opened and she led him down to the rec lounge. As they neared the door, he saw Spock coming from the other direction.
“Doctor Chapel. Jim.” He gave them a long look.
“Spock.” Chris ducked away, heading for the bar.
Spock watched her go and his brows knit down ever so slightly.
“Ask her a day ahead. A gal likes to feel special.” Kirk smiled at him.
Spock’s frown grew. “She told you I invited her to dinner?”
“Much has happened in our lives that we have not shared. Is your involvement with her one of those things, Jim?”
“I don’t recall you blabbing about your plans to ask her to dinner, my friend.”
“Please do not deflect. Are you with her?”
“Tonight I am. As a drinking buddy. I can get very drunk if I want because she always brings the antitox. She did on Earth.”
“Ah. You were...friends?”
“We were. We still are. That a problem?”
Spock looked into the rec lounge and shook his head. “Not at all. My decision to ask her to dinner was impulsive and no doubt emotional.”
Kirk waited, unsure where Spock was going with that assessment.
“I will give it much thought before I ask again. Enjoy your evening, Jim.” Spock’s voice was back to normal, his expression untroubled.
Kirk watched him go, then joined Chris at the bar. “Coward.”
“If he’d seen my answer, I didn’t want to discuss it. If he hadn’t, I still didn’t want to discuss it.”
“Oh, you messaged him an answer? You didn’t actually talk to him?”
She nodded and drained her drink, then motioned over the crewman on duty as bartender. “I’ll have another and he’ll have a scotch, single malt.”
He smiled. “What are you so afraid of? If he wants you, aren’t you happy about that? You sure sounded happy to see him when he showed up.”
“I was surprised. He did not figure into my plans any more than Len taking my job did.”
“And what about me?”
She smiled. “You, I’m not so worried about. After all, I know your dirty little secrets from the past year. Like Raelyn.”
“Oh, God, please don’t bring her up.” The woman he’d picked up while on vacation in Paris, just before he’d started seeing Lori. The woman who’d followed him back to San Francisco. Who’d thought they could be more than just a weekend fling.
He’d set her straight. His tact was low those days. His patience with bullshit nonexistent. He’d been upfront in Paris about what he was looking for; she’d said she was just looking for fun, too.
It had been dealing with the aftermath of just looking for fun that had sent him into Lori’s arms and what he hoped would be domestic bliss. Bliss hadn’t worked any better than a fling—not while he was stuck on Earth.
“I won’t bring her up if you don’t bring Spock up.”
“Fine.” He took the drink the bartender brought him, held it up to her, and smiled when she clinked her glass against his. “To not talking about them.”
“I’ll drink to that.”
Kirk woke up...somewhere. Why the hell was it so dark in here? He started to get up, felt gentle hands on him.
“Jim, lie back down.” Chris. Chris was here.
He felt some of the panic recede. “Where am I?”
“I can’t see.” He tried to get up again.
She pushed him down, and he fought her. “It’s temporary, Jim. I promise. Your eyes are fine. But you have to rest.”
He felt exposed. How many people were watching him right now?
“Jim, it’s natural to panic, but listen to me, listen to my voice. It’s just us in here. The lights are down low. No other patients. Please calm down.” She stroked his hair, and he reached up and grabbed her hand. “That’s right, breathe and relax.”
“Why can’t I see?”
“Do you remember getting hit on the head during your fight with the Capriall commander? It was a hard hit, according to Spock. You seemed dazed after it. It was because you had some swelling on the brain. Len took care of that, but the area around your optic nerve is inflamed. Once it calms down, you’ll be able to see. Sleep is the best thing.”
“I can’t sleep.”
She sighed softly. “I’m going to help you with that. After you eat.” She pressed a soft tube in his hand. “Nutrition gel. I didn’t figure you’d want to try to eat a regular meal right now.”
“You figured right.” He sucked the gel slowly. “God, why can’t they make some flavor other than lemon-lime?”
She laughed. “I put in a request for Scotch, tequila, and beer, but so far, we’re stuck with fruit flavors. And you hate cherry and grape.”
“You remember that? From our last voyage?”
“Yep. I hate the cherry, too, but I have this childish love of grape. My dad used to take me to the zoo in the summers, and he’d always buy me a snow cone. Grape was my favorite. The syrup turned my lips and tongue dark purple.” She was rubbing his arm as she talked, the sound of her voice soothing him more than any drug would do.
“I loved those things. Lemon-lime was—ironically since I’m whining about it now—my favorite. I always got brain freeze because I’d wolf mine down and order a second one.”
“Too bad you didn’t have me around to show you my handy-dandy remedy for that.”
He smiled. Her remedy worked like a charm. Who knew pressing under the eyebrow could relieve that kind of pain?
He finished the gel and handed it to her. She took it, and then walked away for a moment. He followed the sound of her boots, heard what sounded like a hypo being loaded up. Then she walked back.
“By the time you wake up, you should be able to see.”
“Not yet. Stay and talk to me for a while? Unless you have a hot date with Spock?”
“Spock has not repeated his invitation.”
“I mentioned the other night when you dashed off and left me with him that he should have given you more notice. He and I had an odd conversation about you. I may have...scared him off. If you want, I’ll try to make it right.”
She laughed, a true sound of amusement, the laugh he loved to hear—it was so spontaneous and rich. “Do you honestly think you could scare him off if he really wanted me? You know how competitive he is. You play chess with him enough to know that.”
He smiled. “That’s true. So it’s not my fault?”
“Well, I can’t say that you may not have given him the wrong idea. Suddenly his comment while you were unconscious that he’d leave the two of us alone makes a lot more sense.”
“I’m sorry. I know you love him.”
“I barely know him. Socially, I mean. Professionally, I think he’s grand. The old crush occasionally tells me he’s aged well. But I’m not in love with him anymore.”
“No. Stop worrying about it.”
“Tell me you’re in love with Uhura or Rand, so I can fall asleep with that image in my head.”
She snorted, and he laughed at the sound. She only did that when he took her by surprise with something funny. “Yeah, right. Both of them, Jim. I’m in love with both of them and we have nasty, hot, girl on girl on girl sex all the time.”
“Oh, my dreams are going to be so sweet. And you all think of me when you do it, right? How someday you’ll invite me in?”
“Never let it be said you’re not a typical guy. What makes you think I’d share you? Although I guess in that scenario, sharing is a given.”
He nodded and knew his grin was his goofy one.
“Stop it. And it’s not going to happen, anyway. Sorry to burst your little fantasy. Spock asked Ny out.”
“Yep. And gave her lots of notice, so your tip was useful even if not for me.”
“Are you okay with that?”
“Yes, I am. To my shock. She looked so unsure when she came to tell me. She asked me if it was all right. Of course I said yes. I really don’t think he was ever interested in me. It was a more a kneejerk, remnants of V’ger thing.”
“He’s an idiot, then.”
She leaned in—he could tell by the subtle smell of her perfume—and kissed him on the forehead. “Let’s leave them be, all right? What Spock and Ny do is their business.”
“I’m all for that.” He looked at where her voice was coming from. “I hate not being able to see.”
“I know. But by tomorrow, you’ll be fine. Now, mon capitaine, are you ready for your nightcap?”
“Yes. Thank you. You always make everything better.” He felt the cold metal against his arm, heard the hiss, then felt bliss in the form of sedatives and who knew what else filling him. “Love you.”
“I love you too, sweetie.”
“No, Chris, I...” He yawned and tried to keep his eyes open, but the medicine was too strong. “I really love you,” he managed to say, but it came out mumbled and resembling no known language.
“Go to sleep, Jim. It’ll all be better in the morning.”
He surrendered to the blackness calling him, her hand on his arm the last thing he knew before he fell asleep.
Kirk woke and smiled as he looked around. He could see. He could see everything: the other biobeds, the sickbay lights set on low, and the woman sleeping in a chair she’d pulled up next to his bed. She did not look very comfortable, so he reached over and stroked her knee until she came awake.
“Oh, God, Jim, I’m sorry. I wanted to be awake before you were.” Chris rubbed her neck.
She nodded then reached for the medical scanner and ran it over him.
“So, you are fine. Perfect male specimen except for your predilection for getting yourself hurt on landing parties. Why don’t you let Spock lead the next one, huh?”
“Is that because you think Spock is more capable of avoiding injury than I am or because you care less if he gets hurt?”
“Uh uh. Not answering that.” She smiled, a silly smile, and he grinned back. “One thing I know: he’s not going to offer to take on a man three times his mass. That’s what I mean. Are you even thinking before you leap?”
“I am. That’s probably not going to help my case, is it?”
“Nope.” She pushed him down to his back, scanned him again.
“Do you always rescan patients, Doctor? Don’t trust your own work?”
He started to say something else and she held her finger over his lips and said, “Keep up the smart comments and I will cut off all booze. I’ll put the fear of God into the bartenders and reprogram the synthesizers. Now, let me work.”
“Wow, you play dirty.”
“I like having you around. I want to make sure you’re okay before I release you because I know you’ll be off doing things that don’t equal rest. So humor me, please.”
“All right.” He watched her work for a moment, then said, “So you care...?”
“Of course I care. I slept in the goddamn chair of doom.” She glared at him.
“I liked seeing you there. Well, to be honest, I loved seeing, period, but then when it was you I was seeing—it made me feel good. Safe.”
She held her hand on his cheek. “What would I do without my drinking buddy?”
He put his hand over hers, pressed hers more firmly against his skin. “Pay for your own drinks?”
She started to laugh. “Just for that, you’re on salads for a week.”
“Okay, but we have shore leave in three days on Starbase Thirteen, and they have a great steak restaurant I was going to suggest we go to. But if I’m on salads, then I guess you’ll have to go alone.” He bit back the grin that was threatening to split his face. “It’s hard to get into. Very hard. Unless, say, you’ve saved the quadrant from a big killing machine. Having done that once or twice, I apparently rate a table any time I want.”
She rolled her eyes. “Fine. No salads.” She turned the scanner off and sat down. “And you don’t have to take me. I’m sure there’s a nice girl on the starbase. Maybe another Raelyn?”
“Miaow. Of course I’m going to take you.”
“Because I won’t stalk you after?”
“Because if you do, I won’t mind.”
She smiled and looked down. “That’s a very nice answer.”
“It’s just the truth.” He reached out, and she took his hand. “Can you discharge me? I’m starving and don’t want another of those gels.”
“Fine.” She walked over to the terminal, and the biobed pinged as she closed his case.
“Do these new beds capture readings at discharge?” They were more comfortable than the old ones, even if they looked less so. Was it a bad sign that he could comment with authority on the comfort of beds in sickbay?
“Yep. Improvement to the old ones where it wasn’t automatic. One doctor whose name I will not say but sort of rhymes with decoy forgot to log his in a lot of the time. But he had me around and knew I’d do it.” She walked back over to him. “Old reliable, that’s me.”
“That’s not how I think of you. That sounds dull. You’re anything but.”
“Thank you.” Her eyes were sparkling, more than usual or maybe he was just so ecstatic to be seeing her eyes that it seemed that way.
“Have breakfast with me.” He glanced at the chrono. “We have time. Unless you need more sleep. If you’re tired, then—”
“I could eat.” She helped him off the biobed. “I hate those gels, too. Had a grape one for dinner last night because I didn’t want to leave you. I think grape is not as yummy as I remember.”
“Like I said. I’m never wrong, Chris. You need to get used to that.” He winked to let her know he was kidding—mostly. “Get to work on that scotch flavor.”
She laughed. “Aye aye, sir.”
“So,” he said, the night before they were to dock at Starbase Thirteen, “I have an odd question for you.”
Chris turned away from watching the crowd doing some new dance in the rec lounge and raised her eyebrow in a creditable impression of both Spock and McCoy.
He bit back a laugh. “Bones doesn’t have plans.”
“I know. You want to include him in our dinner plans?”
He nodded. “But if you want it to just be us...?”
“I’m fine including him. We’re all friends, right?”
“We are.” He turned to see what had her attention again. “What the hell is that?” Was he getting old? The dances the younger members of his crew were doing just didn’t look like dancing to him. But then he’d learned the classic dances from Ruth, all those years ago.
She laughed. “It’s dancing.” She waved at someone, and he saw Rand. She was in the middle of the crowd and waved back, but Kirk thought her look changed from someone having fun to someone pretending to have fun.
Chris didn’t seem to notice, so he turned back to the bar. “I am not dancing with you.”
“Ever? Or just that?”
“I’ve danced with you plenty. On Earth. And I’ll happily dance with you again if there’s ever a chance to engage in real dancing, where you hold your partner, not grind up against her.”
She started to laugh. “When did you become such a fuddy duddy, Mister T is for Tomcat?”
McCoy came in and made a beeline for them.
Kirk ordered him a drink and patted the stool next to him. “Take a load off, my friend. Ambrosia is on its way.”
“No, blended Canadian. Of course bourbon. Do you think I lost my memory when I got hit on the head?”
McCoy smiled and took the glass from the bartender, “Thank you, my dear. And you are...?”
“I’m Doctor McCoy.”
She smiled. “I know, sir.”
“Call me Leonard since we’re off duty.”
Kirk rolled his eyes at Chris and she smiled. McCoy whapped him but did not take his eyes off young Forbes.
“Skeddaddle, kiddo, unless you want to him to continue. He can work up quite the woo.” Chris grinned at the other woman.
“I’m not averse to some quality woo.” Forbes looked up through thick eyelashes at McCoy, giving as good as she got, in an accent suddenly much stronger.
“Lord have mercy, girl. Are you from the motherland?”
She nodded. “South Carolina, born and raised.”
“Georgia original.” He grinned at her. “After your shift, we’re going to talk about things we miss. Peach pie.”
“Catfish,” they both said at once.
They laughed and it was suddenly like a convention of the good old boys—and girls—of Dixie had descended on the place. Kirk picked up his drink and motioned for Chris to follow him to the sofas off in the corner. McCoy didn’t even seem to notice them leaving.
“Should we tell him to invite her, too?” Chris asked as they sat.
“He can take her somewhere else. I’m not interested in a night hearing the two of them yammer on about the War of Northern Aggression or a discourse on the golden idol that is cornbread.”
She leaned back. “Good. Neither am I. Although I’ve had Len’s cornbread. It’s fantastic.” She seemed to think about something. “You’re from Iowa. Isn’t corn a big deal there?”
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean I like it baked into cakes—don’t try to tell me that’s bread. It’s cake.”
“Fine, it’s cake.” She leaned in and said softly, “You are a very strange man at times.”
“Don’t spread it around. Oh, do you think he struck out?”
McCoy was heading their way, alone.
“I don’t see how. They seemed very compatible.”
McCoy collapsed into the couch next to Chris and managed to not spill a drop of his drink. “As luck would have it, the lovely Gillian is busy tomorrow night. I have secured her company the following night though.”
Kirk smiled. “Then come with Chris and me tomorrow. We’re going to Delaney’s.”
“For real? That place is harder than hell to get into.”
Kirk put on his fake modest face and said, “Well, I guess if you’re—”
“The hero of the quadrant. Or were you going to up it to universe?” Chris grinned at him. “He’s very modest about it, though, Len. Would never rub it in that he can get a table and we can’t.” She took McCoy’s arm. “Come with us. You can regale us with ‘What I did on the retirement I thought was permanent but found out to my dismay was not’ stories.”
Kirk nodded. “Come, Bones.”
“Okay. What the hell.” McCoy’s attention was suddenly on the entrance. “Hmmm. You okay with that, Christine?”
She glanced over, where Spock and Uhura were standing—quite clearly together, Kirk thought—and shrugged in a way that was truly casual, not bitchy. “Sure. Why wouldn’t I be?”
Kirk shot McCoy a look. A “Give her shit about her crush and I will kill you” look. Or at least he hoped it translated that way.
McCoy frowned at him, then let the expression go. “Just didn’t want you to be upset, hon’. But you’re not, so it’s all good.”
Chris leaned back, her arm against Kirk’s, and took a sip of her drink. “Yep. It’s all good.”
Kirk yawned, still tired from the late night he and Chris had enjoyed. They’d had a fabulous dinner with McCoy, good steaks, rich desserts, booze up the yin yang. And then Bones had bid them goodnight with a wink for Kirk once Chris wasn’t looking, and left them alone.
They’d walked along the promenade, looking in shops, talking, ending up in a bar down from Delaney’s. There had been music—good, old-fashioned music with people dancing the right way—and he’d taken her hand and led her to the dance floor.
There had been members of his crew there. He hadn’t given a damn. He loved dancing with Chris. Loved the way she melted into him, let him lead, seemed content to just “be” on the dance floor. That was what Ruth had taught him after much posturing and fighting on his part: to find the rhythm. That dancing wasn’t about owning the dance floor; it was about surrender: to the music, to the steps of the dance, and most especially to your partner.
But you had to have the right partner. She had to surrender, too.
Chris knew how. He’d asked her where she’d learned to dance, and she’d said Roger had enjoyed it. Then she’d said she’d never felt as in sync with Roger, or anyone, as she did with Kirk.
He liked that idea. A lot.
Forcing his attention back on work, he saw a request for transfer in his queue and frowned. He read it, then reached over for his comm terminal, said, “Kirk to Rand.”
“Rand here, sir.” She sounded nervous.
“I’d like to talk to you. Can you leave your post?”
“In my office.” Which sounded so much better than in his quarters but barely. Why didn’t Starfleet think ships’ captains needed their own space, separate from where the goddamn bed was?
“I’ll be right there.”
She was as good as her word, ringing his door chime only a few minutes later. She looked more nervous than she had sounded.
“Do you want to explain?”
“Not really, sir.” She was standing at attention, staring over his head at the viewscreen.
“At ease, Janice. Why? You’re doing great here. Has something happened?”
“I struggled with whether to do this or not, sir. Because when I tell you why I want to go, you’ll think I’m the most unprofessional person on your crew. But the problem is, if I stay, I think I’ll get bitter and be even more unprofessional.” She finally met his eyes. “I always assumed that if you broke your rule about getting involved with someone on the ship, you’d break it for me. It was obviously a bad assumption.”
He frowned. “I haven’t broken my rule.”
“So, you haven’t had sex with her yet. Okay. Fine. But I’m kind of an expert at knowing what your moods look like, your different frames of mind. It was what made me a good yeoman—anticipating, reading you. And...you’ve got a certain look these days. And so does a friend of mine.”
He could feel his face tightening.
“She told me when we were back on Earth before we launched that you and she were having drinks occasionally. I didn’t love hearing that, but I appreciated her giving me a heads up and figured: drinks, no big deal. But this is not just drinks. Even if you two don’t realize it yet.” She met his eyes. “She’s my friend, one of my best friends. I don’t want to watch and get mean and ugly. And I admire you. You’ve always been in my corner. I don’t want to repay you by being a bitch.”
“I can’t promise I won’t. Let me go, sir. It’s the decent thing for all of us. Christine doesn’t have to know. I’m going to put my request in for Officer Candidate School when the call comes around again—I’ll just tell her that’s why. Don’t worry. I won’t ask you for a recommendation.”
“Well, I figured after we had this talk that an officer would be the last thing you’d see me as.”
He leaned back. “I’m not happy you can’t put your feelings aside, but I respect that you’re telling me and doing something about it before it gets unpleasant. I will recommend you, Janice.” He sighed. At least this was about a thousand times more pleasant than dealing with Raelyn had been.
“Thank you, sir. You won’t tell Christine, will you?”
“I can’t promise that.”
“Wow. You’re really in love her, aren’t you?”
“The fact that I don’t want to lie to a friend does not automatically translate to me being in love with her.”
“That’s not a no.” She smiled sadly.
“You’re dismissed, Chief. I’ll include Spock on the approval to your transfer. He may make some shift changes, or have you train replacements. I’ll leave it to him.”
He remembered the first time she left. The long hug, the regretful look that lasted a moment longer than it should have. He felt no urge to do that this time, stayed planted in his seat. “Good luck to you, Janice. I’ll be rooting for you.”
“Thank you, sir.” She met his eyes and he thought she was hoping for a repeat of last time, but he kept his expression friendly but bland. She turned on her heel and left.
He took a deep breath and went back to his message queue.
Kirk sat at the bar with McCoy at Rand’s going away party, and watched Chris as she moved around the space. She seemed to be staying far away from him but the few times he’d caught her eye, she’d given him a sweet smile, so he didn’t think anything was wrong.
She was a smart woman. She could add one plus one equaled “get me off this ship.” He sighed and finished his drink. “Bones, I’m calling it a night.”
“You mean Spock is going to stay at a party longer than you are?”
“Yep. Rand won’t mind. She’s the center of attention. She doesn’t need me here.” Not, at least, as a man she couldn’t have. He smiled at McCoy and walked over to where Rand was in the middle of a group of friends and admirers.
The others moved back to give them privacy, and he pulled her in for a quick hug. “Good luck with the OCS application. Make sure you tell me when the recs are due.”
“I will. Thank you for everything, sir.” There was a rather pregnant pause, and he thought she might be waiting for him to say she should call him Jim.
Instead he pulled away gently and grinned. “Safe travels.”
She nodded and turned back to her friends.
He met Chris’s eyes and she smiled a little sadly, then turned to Rand, and he went back to his quarters, pulling up reports on his padd that he had little interest in doing but had to anyway.
This was what he wanted. His ship back. Reports were part of having her. The not-so-fun part of having her, but still a part.
He started to plow through the first one. He was on the third when his chime rang. “Come.”
Chris came in and sat down on the chair next to him. “She’s leaving because of us, isn’t she?”
He studied her. Then he nodded.
“I thought so. She gave me some cock and bull story about OCS.”
“I think she is planning to apply. That part is probably true.” He pushed the reports aside. “Are you upset?”
She shrugged and shook her head, looking more angry than unsure.
“You dealt just fine when your friend took up with your former crush.”
“But I had you. I wouldn’t have been so sanguine if I hadn’t.” She met his eyes. “I do have you, don’t I?”
“Yeah, I think you do. Do you want me?”
She laughed and nodded.
“Whew.” He took her hands in his, looked down and sighed. “I’m never going to fall in love with her, Chris. Her leaving is probably the best thing for all of us.”
“I know.” Her tone lacked any doubt, and she smiled when he looked up in surprise. “I’m just going to miss my friend.”
“You have me.”
“I do. And truth be told, I had you on Earth, too. She wasn’t in my life much, you know? She or Ny. You were.” She shook her head. “And I’ve been trying to figure out if they were distant or if I got lost in the fun you and I were having and didn’t care—am I one of those people who only needs friends when a lover isn’t around?”
“I can’t answer that. But I know you wanted to include Bones in what could have been a romantic night with me, and that sort of strikes me as someone who doesn’t get ‘lost’ in a relationship.”
“Did you want it to be a romantic night?”
“No. I mean yes. I mean”—he started to laugh, and she was grinning, too. “I wanted to include him and later, I wanted it romantic, and it was nice. Spending time with you. Dancing with you.”
“It was more than nice. I love dancing with you.”
He nodded, and they sat in silence for a moment, then he said, “I’ve never kissed you.”
“I know. Believe me, I know.” She squeezed his hands.
“Thought of it?”
“You have no idea. You?”
“Oh yeah.” He sighed. “I don’t know whether we should say screw Janice and kiss now like we both want to or wait.”
“I wouldn’t be here tonight if she wasn’t leaving. And you wouldn’t kiss me. You’d work on your reports here.”
“Well, I might join you in the bar, hoping against hope that you’d forgotten your tank top again.” He waited for her to laugh, was not disappointed. “And then I’d buy you expensive drinks as is my requirement.” Another grin—God, he loved her smile. “And then I’d walk you home and maybe, just maybe, I’d kiss you.”
“If I were really lucky?” The goofy grin was firmly in place and her eyes were sparkling.
“Damned straight. Not everyone gets kissed by me.” Rand never did. Not by all of him, anyway. He wasn’t going to count what the evil half of him did—and he thought Rand would consider that a violent rather than romantic encounter.
“I’m going to let you get back to those reports.”
‘Okay.” He pulled her hands up, kissed one and then the other. “Do you have plans for tomorrow night?”
“I don’t. Should I hide my tank top?”
He laughed and nodded.
“Yeah, in your dreams, sailor.” She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
They stared at each other for a moment, then he let go of her hands and she got up and walked to the door.
He watched her go, smiled when she turned back at the door to look at him, to give him the sweet smile that was one of his favorites, then left.
He was letting go of his rule for her and it was amazingly easy. Maybe after his stint in hell on Earth, with her being the only sign of light, it wasn’t even a question any longer. He wanted her. She wanted him. End of story.
He went back to his reports, stopping occasionally to see if he could still smell her light perfume in the air.
Kirk commed Chris after breakfast, just before their shift started. “I was serious about drinks.”
“I was semi serious about losing the tank top.”
“Maybe we should have drinks in my quarters, then?” He waited, wondering if he was pushing it—how the hell could they be pushing it? They’d been dancing around each other for months.
“Maybe we should,” she finally said, and there was no indecision in her voice. The maybe was a formality.
He smiled. “I’ll put an order in with catering. Captain’s privilege and all that. Any requests I don’t already know about?”
“Nope. You know what I like.”
“Well as far as food and drink goes, I do. But other things...”
“You’re a smart boy. I’m sure you’ll figure that out in no time.” Her voice was as sultry as he’d ever heard it.
“Do you want to play hooky and come over here now?”
“I think they’ll notice if the captain and deputy CMO fail to report to their posts.”
“Damn.” He laughed and heard her laughing on the other end of the comm. “I’ll see you after shift.”
“Okay. Have a good day.”
He didn’t see how he could have any other kind at this point. Only—was that asking for trouble? God knows they’d run into their share of strangeness that just sort of popped up at the most inopportune time.
“Fates, omnipotent beings, and anyone else who might be tempted to screw up my day. Please don’t.” Did that count as a prayer?
He was not good at the whole worship thing.
The day dragged. He diverted himself during the morning by picking out a bunch of goodies for them to snack on.
Spock came over at one point and let an eyebrow go up as he took in the screen Kirk had up on his padd. Then he pointed to the entry for field greens and baby goat cheese salad. “I suggest this one.”
Kirk shot him a sidelong glance—Spock had gotten there before he had? Shit, he was off his game. “Thanks, I’ll take that under advisement.” Did he want stinky, goat-cheese breath for his first time with Chris? Hell, most of the foods he was looking at were tasty because they were savory, and savory meant stinky.
Oh, well. As long as they both ate it.
But not the salad—he was pretty sure Chris detested goat cheese. Showed what Spock knew, big dummy. He wouldn’t have lasted five minutes with her.
Finally, Kirk was off shift and double-timed it to his quarters, wanting to freshen up, brush his teeth, maybe work out for a bit. No, she’d said he looked great, hadn’t she? He took off his uniform and changed into something...that looked stupid. He rifled through his closet, finally deciding what he had on was fine.
His chime saved him from having to anguish any further over outfits. He shut his closet and said, “Come.”
Chris walked in. She had on black pants and a heavy fisherman’s sweater, buttoned to the neck. He knew he was frowning.
She began to unbutton the sweater from the bottom up. “I had this other sweater I thought you might like better than the green one. But I couldn’t really be seen in the corridor wearing it so you get the heavy sweater as camouflage.”
His frown changed to a smile.
When she finally unbuttoned the cardigan and shrugged it off, he nodded his approval. She had on a dark red v-neck sweater in some figure-skimming fabric, cut scandalously low when worn with nothing underneath it. He couldn’t help but notice there was no way she had a bra on. The fact that the sweater stayed in place and covered her breasts was probably due to adhesive or willpower alone.
“I like very much.”
The door chimed again and he said, “Catering.”
She grabbed the fisherman’s sweater and buttoned it in a few strategic places. Crisis averted.
“Come,” he said, once she had hurried over to him.
A crewman from the galley staff wheeled in a table packed with dishes.
She started to laugh once the crewman was gone. “How long are we going to be in here?”
“I may have overachieved.”
“I like that you did. Spoil me. Good strategy.”
“Yeah, but how do I top it later? Very poor planning on my part.” He pulled her to him, began to unbutton the heavy sweater, then pushed it off her. “I want to enjoy the lovely view.”
She moved her elbows in tight to her body, then pressed them upward and—oh, holy crap. He’d thought he’d been enjoying the view before? She was doing unlawful things to her cleavage.
She laughed and eased her arms away from her sides, letting her breasts ease back to what was admittedly also a very nice place. “I probably shouldn’t have done that. Seeing as how you’ve never kissed me.”
“I can remedy that.”
He nodded and pulled her to him. She went into his arms the same way she did when they were dancing—surrendering but not losing any of herself in the process. That was what he loved about her. She was always present, never let him forget she was a woman with a brain as big as his own.
And, wow, could she kiss.
They finally pulled away and he sighed happily. “That was worth waiting for.”
“It was.” She stroked his hair. “I’m so glad I got to know you on Earth.”
“Even if I was a jerk half the time.”
“You were a never a jerk to me.” She began to kiss his neck, then worked up, laying small kisses on his cheek, to his ear. “The food can wait, right? It’s in stasis.”
“Yes, yes it is.” He took her hand and drew her to the bed, easing off her pants and underwear and leaving her wearing only the sweater.
“I always suspected you were a boob man.”
He ran his hand down her thigh. “It’s not an exclusive choice. I like your legs very, very much.” He moved his hand around. “And your ass.”
“Ah, so you’re an all-angle ogler?” She pulled his shirt off.
“I try to ogle discreetly.” He pushed her to the bed, then undid his pants and kicked off his underwear. “Although right now, I plan to leer.”
She grinned. “Me, too.” She reached down, sliding her hand past his chest to his stomach to...
“You haven’t been with anyone since Lori, have you?”
“I’ve been with you, Chris. I just didn’t want to think about how much more I could have been with you, since you were leaving.”
“I’m not going anywhere. And here we are.”
“Here we are.” He pulled her onto him, kissing her for a very long time, until he finally felt like he’d made up for months of not touching her—of not even letting himself think that was a possibility.
He pulled the sweater off her, and she moved so she was straddling him, then eased down onto him.
Holy shit, she was tight. “How long has it been for you?”
“I was in med school or with you. I didn’t have time to sneak in a guy.”
As she moved, he closed his eyes and rode out the feeling of having her on top of him, riding him with her head thrown back. He reached for her, sent her off quickly, then rolled her so she was under him and took her the way he’d been thinking about all day.
They kissed frantically, and he pulled her legs up, going harder, deeper, until—he cried out so loudly she slapped her hand over his mouth and laughed softly.
He smiled and collapsed on top of her. “Not soundproof?”
“Oh, hell no. I hear everything in the quarters next to me.”
“Well, sleep here, then. You’ll only hear us. No one on either side of me.” He brushed back her hair and kissed her gently. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” She eyed the cart. “Can we nibble while we do this? I skipped lunch.”
“And nervous.” She looked sheepish. “Silly, isn’t it? We’ve been hanging around each other for months. Suddenly it was scary.”
He thought back to his small panic attack over what to wear. “I know. Me, too.” He let her go and she crawled off the bed—giving him a wonderful view of her backside—and wheeled the cart in from the other room.
She turned off the stasis generator, then crawled back onto the bed, leaning over him and kissing him very soundly before she fed him a strawberry.
He smiled as she pulled the cart closer to them, then poured them both champagne. “You don’t like goat cheese, right?”
“Despise it. Why?”
He lay back and grinned. “No reason.”