DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2013 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.

The Road Re-Traveled

by Djinn

 

 

 

Chapel was enjoying a day off from Emergency Operations, wandering the city as if she was a tourist.  She’d had a coffee at her favorite café, gone to the art museum, enjoyed a croissant and some good Spanish cheese with a glass of wine at a bakery down near the wharf, and now was trying to figure out how to end this perfect day.  A day finally with no pages from frantic coworkers needing her to report to Ops.

 

She decided to pick up Chinese on the way home and walked up a street she didn’t normally travel.  She was in a happy, tired daze, but she stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Jim round the corner.

 

He wasn’t with Spock.  He was with a brunette woman, slim and almost as tall as he was.  They had their arms around each other, and the woman was laughing.

 

The kind of laugh that said: I sleep with you on a regular basis.

 

For a moment, Chapel considered turning and heading back the way she’d come, but she decided to show that she was not the least bit bothered that Jim and Spock had clearly replaced her.

 

God damn it, and the woman even looked like her.  What the hell?

 

Jim’s expression was probably about like hers.  Not happy to see her and clearly not expecting to see her.

 

“New toy?”  She gave the woman the smile she’d perfected in Ops.  It was not a nice look.  “Spock know you’ve got her all to yourself?  I remember how careful you always were with making sure he didn’t feel left out.”

 

“I will be one minute, all right, Antonia?”  He kissed the woman on the cheek and left her standing, then grabbed Chapel by the arm and hauled her far enough to be out of range.  “Chris, I guess you didn’t get the memo.”

 

“There was a memo?  Because we see a lot of the memos, but I don’t remember one with a vacancy for my position in the happy trio.”

 

“Yeah, it wasn’t that kind of memo.”  He sighed, and it was an exasperated sound.  “That woman is Antonia.  She’s my girlfriend.”

 

“As I surmised.  Nice to know you and Spock have a type.”

 

My girlfriend.  I’m not with Spock anymore.”  He took a deep breath.  “Soon I won’t be with Starfleet anymore, either.  I’m retiring.”

 

“What?”  There was always scuttlebutt about retirements, especially someone like Jim.  “Was this a sudden decision?”

 

“You could say that.”  He gave her the tight smile she hated.  “I have to go.  Don’t want to keep Antonia waiting.”

 

“Nice name.”

 

“Yes.  It is.”  He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.  “I wish I could say it was good to see you, but the mood you’re in, it’s not.”

 

“The mood I’m in?”  She stared at him like he was an idiot.  If he’d wanted a woman all to himself, why the hell hadn’t he chosen her?  “Nice of you to give me a heads up on all this.  Oh wait, you didn’t.”

 

“I don’t owe you anything, Chris.  You left me, remember?”

 

“I left you plural.  I would have stayed for you singular.”  She backed away, any desire for Chinese food gone.  “I wish you all the best with your new life, sir.”

 

“Chris.  Come on.”

 

“No, really.  All the best.”  She yelled up to where the other woman was standing.  “Nice to have almost met you.  He’s a peach.  Treat him right.”  Then she turned on her heel and tried her best to keep her pace to a dignified retreat.

 

As soon as she was around the corner she commed Jan.  “Is Spock on Earth?”

 

“Really?  You’re calling on your day off to ask that?  I thought you were over him?”  Jan had never known the real story.  She only knew that Chapel had been with Jim.  And she’d been a hell of a lot nicer about it than Chapel would have been if she’d found out Jan had been with Spock. 

 

Chapel had come to realize that she wasn’t always a very nice person.  “Jan, please?”

 

“Oh, hold on.”  There was a moment of silence, then, “Yep.  He’s at the embassy according to his travel plans.”

 

“Thanks.  Hey, I just ran into Jim and his new girlfriend.”

 

“I heard some scuttlebutt.”

 

“And you didn’t share?”

 

“I thought it was bull.  The same person also said he was retiring.”

 

“And that person was right.”  She sighed.  “The woman was pretty.”  Prettier than Chapel, if she was honest with herself.  It was like Jim had looked for someone like her and then upgraded a few models.

 

“I’m sorry.  Why do you want to know about Spock?”

 

“Because I like picking at scabs.  I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

 

“Christine, go home.  Do not go to the embassy.”  Jan had the tone she got when she knew she was right and also knew Chapel wouldn’t listen to her.

 

“See you tomorrow.”

 

She turned and headed back up the hill toward the Vulcan embassy.

 

##

 

The guard at the embassy made her wait.  Apparently, Commander Spock was not receiving visitors.  She managed to convince the guard that she was actually on official business by giving him some Ops doubletalk—even Vulcans had no defense against that kind of bullshit—and he went inside and commed Spock.

 

A moment later, he came back.  “You can go in.  He will wait for you at the top of the stairs.”

 

She walked past him, into a room she’d never seen before, never been welcome in before.  Jim had, though. 

 

Why the hell had Jim left Spock?  Last she’d heard from Len, they’d been fine. Although Len had admitted he couldn’t read them as well as a couple as he could individually. 

 

Which meant Len had to have seen that Jim was upset, that Spock was, too.  And he hadn’t told her.  But then...why would he?  He wanted her for himself.  Since the first time they’d gotten together at the medical conference, they’d shared a few more interludes.

 

The sex had been great.  The love she felt for Len as a friend, as a mentor, had never translated into ‘in love with,’ though.  And she knew it bugged him.  A lot.  But he’d gone into things with his eyes open.

 

That didn’t mean he was going to give her a heads-up that her one true love was free, though.

 

She got to the stairway and looked up.  Spock stood, his Vulcan robe seemed more wrinkled than she’d ever seen. 

 

She hurried up to him.  “I just saw Jim.  And Antonia.”

 

He looked down, but not before she read raw hurt in his eyes.

 

“What the hell happened?”

 

He turned and walked up another short flight of stairs, his hand held out behind him in a clear indication that she should follow—but not hold on.  He led her to a suite set at the end of the hallway, a lovely view of the courtyard garden and fountain visible from the windows.

 

“Spock?”

 

He pointed to a chair, then closed the door behind her.  “No one knows why he is retiring.  Why he chose...that woman.”

 

“You’ve met her.”

 

“Met, no.  I have seen him with her.”

 

“When you said no one knows, you meant no one but you, right?”  She got up and pushed him onto the bed so he was sitting, then stood in front of him.  “Is this like before?  When he rushed off to Lori and a desk job?”

 

He nodded.

 

“Did you do something to me?  Did he find out?”  She didn’t think he’d taken away any of her memories, but then again, she hadn’t thought so the first time he’d done it, either. 

 

“No.  To him.”  He sighed.  “He was captured.  Tortured.  I...”  He looked away.  “He was in pain.”

 

“You took it away.”

 

He nodded.  “And I told him I did it.  I told him why I did it.  He was incapable of running the ship the way he was.”

 

“Would he have stayed incapable?”

 

“I do not know.”

 

“Does Len know what you did?”

 

“I believe he suspects.  But he did not censure me.”

 

“So not only did you fuck with Jim’s memories, but you didn’t have enough faith in him to believe he’d find his way back.”

 

“His words almost to the letter.”  He put his arms around her, buried his head in her stomach.  “Christine, I was only trying to help someone I love.  This time what I did was not for me.  He needed to stay on the ship—I gave him that.  But he chose to leave.  I have been acting captain for months.  Until we got word the ship’s mission was to be changed.”

 

Suddenly a rumor she’d heard made sense.  “So the Enterprise is becoming a training ship?”

 

He nodded. 

 

“And you’re her new captain?”

 

“It is logged that way, but I will be stationed at the Academy.  We will only use the ship for training voyages.”  He pulled her down to sit next to him.  “Things have been tenuous between Jim and me for some time, even before I interfered with his memories.  He believes I engineered your leaving.”

 

She gave him an incredulous look.  “You sort of did.”

 

“I would not have been opposed to you staying, and you know that, Christine.”  He gave her a hard look.  “I think it was hearing that McCoy was with you that made him reexamine our time together as a trio.”

 

“Len told him?”

 

“They were drinking.  Apparently, it came out.”

 

She shook her head. Len could keep his secrets even when stone-cold drunk.  If he’d said anything, he’d said it because he was mad at Jim or mad at her.  “It’s a casual thing with Len.  And he knows it.  If he told Jim it was more, then he was lying.”

 

“I do not know what he told Jim.  I do not care what you do with him.”

 

“That statement would be more believable if you weren’t holding my hand so tightly.”

 

He looked down, seemed to realize what he was doing, but he didn’t let go.  “I assumed if I lost Jim, it would be to you.”

 

“Yeah, I kind of did, too.  Guess we were both wrong, huh?”

 

He nodded.  He looked entirely lost and she ruffled his hair.  He looked up at her, his expression bleak.

 

“Let’s go get something to eat.  I’m starving, and you look like you’ve been holed up in here for a while.”

 

“Do you hate me for what I did?  How I brought us all together?”

 

“And blew it all apart?”  She leaned in and kissed his cheek.  “Would I ask you to go to dinner with me on one of my precious days off if I did?”

 

“I don’t know.”  He sounded so lost, so hurt, that she pulled him to her and kissed him hard on the lips.

 

“I admire how sneaky you are.  I resent that you won.  But hate you?  No.”

 

He stroked her hair and kissed her, not hard but tenderly.  “I would like to spend time with you.”

 

“Okay.  Let’s go.” 

 

“I do not mean just dinner.”

 

“One day at a time, sweetheart.”  She touched his robe, the deep wrinkles in it.  “This is a new look for you.  Rumpled Vulcan.”

 

He looked down, seemed to take in how he looked.  “I will change.”  He peeled the robe off and threw it into the refresher, then rummaged through his wardrobe.

 

“Should I avert my eyes?”

 

“Is there logic in that?  You have seen me naked before.”

 

“When I was your lover.  I’m not your lover now.”

 

He turned and faced her, giving her a rather spectacular view of what she’d left behind.  “Are you embarrassed by this intimacy?”

 

She shook her head.  “I guess I just thought you would be.”

 

He turned and resumed finding clothing.  She decided to get up and look out the window.

 

He came up behind her.  “You are embarrassed.”

 

“Maybe a little.  It’s been a while for us.” 

 

He rubbed her arms; it felt amazingly good to be touched by him again.  “Yes.  It has.”  He led her out of the room and they were halfway down the hall when his mother turned the corner.

 

“Spock, you’re going out?  And Christine.  How nice to see you, dear.”  The woman looked ready to hug her; Chapel imagined she’d done everything in her power to get Spock out of that room.

 

“We’re going to get some dinner,” Chapel said.

 

“Excellent.  Don’t let me keep you.”  She smiled in a sweetly sad way, as if to say to be gentle with her boy, and Chapel smiled back the same way.

 

“How long have you been hiding in your room?” she murmured when they were out of range of Amanda.

 

“Too long for her taste.  She is most aggravated with Jim.”

 

“Does she know the whole story?”

 

There was a long silence, then a sheepish, “No.”

 

“Well, I’m not going to tell her.  Relax.”  Since there was no one in the hallway, she rubbed his back gently.

 

He leaned into her hand.  “Thank you for coming.”

 

“No problem.  What are ex-lovers for?” 

 

##

 

Chapel saw Spock in the hallways of Command, hurried over to him.  Captain Spock.  Is it still new enough to get a little thrill hearing that?”

 

“Vulcans do not get thrills, Christine.”

 

She grinned at him.  “I distinctly remember you getting some back on the ship.” 

 

His eyes lightened.  “I stand corrected.  There may, indeed, be occasions where that word applies.  Earning a new rank, however, is not one of them.”  He studied her.  “Are you going to Jim’s retirement ceremony today?”

 

She nodded.

 

“Are you going with Doctor McCoy?”

 

“I told him I wasn’t sure I could get away.  Thought he should go on without me and I’d see him there.”

 

“Would you give me the same answer if I were to ask you to accompany me?”  He met and held her eyes.

 

She shook her head.

 

“Then I will meet you here and we can go together.”

 

“It’s going to hurt Len if we do this.”

 

“I am aware of that.  I asked despite that.”

 

“Well, just so we’re clear.  You and I have been spending a lot of time together, but I don’t necessarily want to hurt him just because you’ve been needing a break-up buddy.”

 

“You are far more than a...‘buddy.’  And I believe you are aware of that.  My mother said I must bring you over for a function they are holding on Saturday at the embassy.  You can meet Saavik.”

 

Chapel smiled; he spoke often of the girl he clearly considered a daughter.  “I’d like that.”

 

“As would I.”  He leaned in, pitched his voice low.  “I realize that we are both hurt and angry by Jim’s actions.  He left me...again.  He did not choose you, and let you go in the first place.”

 

She nodded, wondering where he was headed with this.

 

“I think it important that you know that is not why I wish to spend time with you.  You were comforting when you came to the embassy.  But before that you were a woman I could have loved if you had stayed with us.  And now, who knows what lies in store?”

 

“And if Jim comes back?”

 

“He may well find both of us otherwise engaged.”  He stared at her intently.  “Do not sleep with McCoy anymore.”

 

“You’re dictating terms?  You haven’t even slept with me yet.”

 

“It would have been a reaction to being left.  When we have sex, I want it to be because we both desire it.”  His lips ticked up slightly.  “I have enjoyed the weeks getting to know you better—getting to know you on my own.”

 

“You realize Len may be better for me than either you or Jim?”

 

“If that is the case, why aren’t you with him?”  He raised an eyebrow and looked very smug.  “I will be by for you in an hour.”

 

She decided not to argue.  It would be futile anyway.  “I’ll see you then.”

 

##

 

The room was packed.  But then Jim was always popular with his crew, if not his peers.  She saw Antonia standing next to him, a visitor badge on her lovely dress.

 

“She looks like you,” Spock murmured.

 

“She’s about ten times prettier and you know it.  But yeah, brown hair, blue eyes, lanky build.  I think I would have felt better if he’d gone for a tiny blond.”  She smiled up at him. 

 

“He met her at his uncle’s ranch.”

 

“That’ll teach you to not learn how to ride.  Look what happens when you let him go off by himself.”

 

The joke fell flat, but that could have been because Len was walking toward them, an expression she couldn’t read on his face.

 

“Look who I found loitering outside of Ops,” she said.  As lies went, it was pretty close to the truth. 

 

Len didn’t look amused.  “So I see.  Spock.”

 

“Doctor.”

 

“Well,” she said, taking both of them by the arm just long enough to get them moving into the “Wish the captain well before the speeches start” line.  “Let’s send off our former captain.”

 

Len leaned in, whispered in her ear, “Are you trying to look like you formed a new threesome in his absence?”

 

She wanted to slap him.  She settled for a mild glare.

 

He didn’t look the least bit contrite.

 

Spock was the first to reach Jim, he seemed at a loss for words, so Chapel moved in close and smiled at both Jim and Antonia.  “We’re very happy for you, Jim.” 

 

Jim met Spock’s eyes.  His expression was a mixture of hurt and mistrust.  She imagined if she could see Spock’s expression it would be hurt and guilt—although she wasn’t sure if he felt guilt the same way humans did.  He certainly didn’t learn from his mistakes.

 

Len leaned in, taking Antonia’s hand.  Darlin’, every time I see you, you look lovelier than the last.”

 

If he’d been looking for a way to make it clear he was on the ins with Jim, he was doing a bang-up job.  She felt Spock stiffen beside her.

 

Antonia smiled at Len in what looked like relief.  “So good to see you, Leonard.”

 

Jim moved to Antonia’s other side so she could talk to Len more easily, then leaned in and said softly, “You two look very together.”

 

“That is none of your affair, Jim.”  Spock’s voice was as tight as she’d ever heard it.

 

“I’m in agreement with Spock.  Not your goddamn business.”

 

“I’m glad we’re all behaving like adults.”  He met her eyes.  “You liked him first, right?  How long did it take you to get into his bed?”

 

He wasn’t being quite as quiet as he should have been.  Antonia shot him a startled glance.

 

She waited until Antonia had turned back to Len to say, “We’re waiting.  Until you’re gone and we can move on the way we should.  To each other.  Not from you.”

 

“Eloquently put, Christine.”

 

Jim just shook his head and closed his eyes. 

 

She leaned in.  “Running off with a lovely woman.  That didn’t work so well for you the first time, what makes you think it will be any better this time?”

 

His look turned stormy, and she felt Spock’s hand at her elbow, urging her away from Jim and toward the waiters holding drink and appetizer platters. 

 

“Did I go too far?”

 

“Yes,” Spock said softly.  “I did not, however, mind.”

 

##

 

The Vulcan embassy was quite crowded, apparently to hear a Vulcan ethicist speak, but Spock eased Chapel away from the crowd and down a hall toward a smaller salon that led out to the courtyard.  A young Vulcan woman was sitting near the fountain.

 

She looked up and a smile—small but much larger than anything Chapel had seen Spock or Sarek make—brightened her face.  “Spock.  It has been so long.”

 

Saavikam, I regret that undue time has passed.”


Chapel saw something in the girl’s expression, something that said she thought Spock was full of shit.  Spock had not told her much about Saavik other than she was his ward, had spent her formative years on Vulcan, and was about to start her last year at the Academy.

 

“This is Commander Chapel.”

 

“Ma’am.”  Saavik’s nod was perfect.

 

“Call me Christine.”

 

“All right.  Christine.” 

 

Spock gestured for Chapel to take the seat across from Saavik, then said, “I must go listen to Sulavak, or I will not hear the end of it from my father.  I will send a server in to bring you refreshments.”  Then he was gone.

 

Chapel laughed softly.  “Ever the social adept.  Did you even want to be stuck out here with me?”

 

Saavik seemed to relax, and she gave Chapel a small, sheepish smile.  “I am sorry if I appeared to convey dismay at that.  I was most curious to meet you.”

 

“I’m sure you were.  Especially after Spock has been with Jim so long.”  It was a risk going for the jugular of truth this way, but Chapel was sick of sidestepping the issue with Sarek and Amanda.

 

“I do not know Admiral Kirk well.  I met him when I was younger.  But he and Spock were often away, on the ship.”  She looked over at the fountain, as if the ripples in the water were easier to watch than whatever memories she was reliving.  “Lately, Spock has been distant again.  The way he was when he went to Gol.  I was...relieved when Amanda told me he was bringing you tonight.  Perhaps I will not lose him again because his heart is broken.”

 

Chapel frowned.  Who was this Vulcan girl to speak so easily of broken hearts?

 

Saavik seemed to read her expression perfectly.  “Ah.  Spock did not tell you.  I am half Romulan.  I understand emotions.  I have emotions.  I just try to control them.” 

 

“He didn’t tell me that.”

 

“He wants people to accept me as Vulcan the way most do him.  I can choose to embrace my Romulan side or not—he has never forced me to try to sublimate it.”

 

“I imagine Vulcan did that for you.”

 

“And losing him to Gol.  I thought that if I could be the perfect Vulcan he would not go.  Then when he was there, I thought that I could lure him back if I was even more Vulcan.  It was Sarek who explained to me that Spock was not coming back—and that it was not my fault.  But then there was the incident with V’ger, and Spock was suddenly happy again.  He was the man who had first rescued me from hell.”

 

Chapel waited to see if Saavik would say more of her origins, but she didn’t, so she didn’t press it.  “He was with Jim again.”

 

“Yes.  And they were happy.  Even if the happier he was with Kirk, the less I saw him, since he did not visit Vulcan often and I was never on Earth.”  Saavik studied Chapel with a curious expression.  “You were on the ship at some point, were you not?”

 

“I was.”  She kept her face as neutral as she could.

 

“And on the first voyage as well?”

 

Mmm hmmm.”  Chapel saw the server come in and helped herself to sparkling water and a plate of Vulcan hors d’oeuvres. 

 

Saavik only took water.  “I am endeavoring to understand how you came into his life.  He no longer seemed as happy with the admiral after a while, and then Kirk left him.  He always leaves him.”

 

“Don’t make Jim the bad guy.  It’s not that simple.”


Saavik shot her a sharp look.  “You speak from experience?”

 

She was not sharing her past with a girl—especially one who was essentially Spock’s daughter.  “Nothing is ever black or white.  There are always grays, always things one or the other person could have done differently.”

 

Saavik seemed to consider this.  “I have limited romantic experience so I will bow to your greater wisdom on the subject.”

 

Wow.  Had Saavik just called her a slut?  Chapel laughed softly.  “Was that an insult?”

 

Saavik looked shocked.  “No.  I was being sincere.”  She took a quick sip of her water.  “Spock is clearly fond of you.  I have no desire to give offense.”

 

“Relax.  I wasn’t offended, more amused.”

 

“May I ask you a personal question?”

 

“You mean you’ve been holding back so far?”  Chapel laughed again.

 

Saavik almost smiled.  “Are you with Spock?”

 

“I came with him to this.”  She grinned at Saavik’s expression.  Ohhh, you mean, am I with him?”

 

Saavik lifted an eyebrow at her.

 

“Ah, there’s the look I’ve come to cherish on Spock.  The answer is...”  She frowned.  She and Spock weren’t having sex, but he often spent time with her, talking, eating, walking through the city after dinner—she was even helping him look for an apartment.  And she had been his lover once upon a time.  He was happier now—even she could see that.

 

Saavik coughed softly.

 

“I’m thinking.”

 

“It is complicated, I take it?”

 

“Yes.  It is.  Thank you for the out.”  She smiled and ate some food so Inquisitor Saavik would have to wait to ask her next question.

 

Saavik trailed her finger through the fountain.  “Well, he was not happy and now he is.  He will soon be at the Academy, and I will see him often.  I am grateful that you are in his life since it will keep him in mine.”

 

“You give me way too much credit.”

 

“I do not think so.  I never had a chance to know the admiral.  I would like to get to know you.  Consider me approving of your relationship—whatever it may be.”

 

##

 

Chapel was working at her station when she saw Len stroll into Emergency Ops and come right over to her.  Jan glanced over, shot Chapel a look that did not bode well for the future, and went back to work.

 

“Sure is nice to be back on terra firma.”  Len gave her a smile that hit a little short of the mark if happiness was what he was going for.  “You got a sec?”

 

“She does.”  Jan gave him a sweet smile: she was a big fan of the “settle down with Len” scenario, which was one she’d come up with all on her own once Chapel told her she and Len occasionally were more than just friends.  “Go on, Christine.  I’ll cover your comms.”

 

“Janice, you are a peach.”  He winked at her.

 

She winked back.

 

Everyone was goddamned winking except for Chapel.  She walked out of Ops, letting him hurry to catch up with her.  “What?”

 

“Wow.  That is not the way you greeted me on Calomis.”

 

Calomis was five months ago.”

 

“Yep.  It sure was.”  He took her arm, steered her farther away from Ops.  “Look, I was resigned to losing you to Jim once I realized he and Spock were on the outs.  But losing you to Spock?”

 

“Who says I’m with him?”

 

“Oh, you’re not?  Then have dinner with me tonight.  Any restaurant you want.  We’ll splurge.”

 

“Our dinners lately are usually followed up with sex.”

 

“And that’s a problem?”

 

She decided to go for the blunt approach.  “We’re friends who occasionally fuck, Len.  That worked great when we were both on different ships.  Or even when I was here and you were on a ship.  But put us both on the same planet and that scenario turns into us being a couple, doesn’t it?”

 

She thought he’d get mad, but he just crossed his arms over his chest and studied her.  “So you are with him.”  When she started to say something, he lifted a hand.  “I see you with him all the time, Christine.  Don’t lie to me.  My God, woman, after what those two put you through, you’re stupid enough to do this?”

 

“I’m not doing anything.” Technically true, since she and Spock still weren’t having sex, but in spirit she was with him, and she knew it.

 

“See, here’s how it’s going to play out, Christine.  And I know this because I’ve been to see Jim, and I can read him like a book when it comes to his state of mind regarding his job—or lack thereof.  He’s going to get bored with life in Idaho.  He’s going to get bored with that lovely, but somewhat dull, woman he’s chosen.  He’s going to start longing for the stars.”

 

Chapel felt her mouth tighten.

 

“And for Spock.  Not you, though.  He won’t be longing for you.  And what will Spock do when Jim comes back?”

 

She looked away, resisting the urge to tell him where he could stick his goddamn questions.

 

“I’m not saying this because I’m in love you—although I am.  It’s that I can’t stand to see a friend be so blasted crazy when it comes to two men who love each better than they will ever love her.”

 

“Are you done?”

 

“I am.  Good luck to you, darlin’.  You’re going to need it.”

 

“I’m sorry if you’re hurt, Len.  But I made it clear from the start.”

 

“You made it clear about Jim.  This thing with Spock—it’s a bit of a sucker punch.”

 

“Is it?  Really?  I loved him first, you idiot.”  She turned on her heel and walked away.

 

Jan looked up as she came into Ops, took one look at her face, and shook her head.  “You’re making a mistake.  That man will love you the way you want to be loved.”

 

“But I won’t love him back.  Not the way he’ll want.”  She held up a hand when Jan started to say something.  “End of story, Jan.”

 

“Fine.”  She went back to her comms, her fingers clicking a little more loudly than necessary on the keyboard.

 

Chapel tried to tune her out.  What she did with her life was her business. 

 

##

 

Another apartment and Spock was still finding some fault with it.  Chapel had never met a pickier man.  And she was noticing that something that was a fault in one was not in another. 

 

Did he not really want a place of his own?

 

“Come on, oh finicky one.  I’ll buy you dinner.”

 

He seemed lost in his own thoughts as they walked to a Japanese restaurant they both liked, and she told him silly Ops stories to get his mind off the apartment.  He slowly relaxed, his expression easing, the almost smile appearing more and more.

 

As they walked home after dinner, he didn’t turn to go back to the embassy and she said, “What’s the story here, Spock?”

 

“I wish to go home with you.”

 

“And do what?”  She was grinning but she kept her head down to hide the smile.

 

“Make love.”

 

“Wow.  So, I buy you dinner and you get to make love to me.  Cushy deal, mister.”

 

He nodded, his lips ticking up more than usual.

 

“I amuse you, don’t I?”

 

“You did before, when you were with Jim and me.  You are...light.”

 

“I’m not really.  And I certainly wasn’t at the end of our relationship.”

 

“But at the beginning, you were.  I enjoyed what you brought.  It was uniquely you.”

 

“I’m gonna say yes to the seduction—you don’t need to butter me up.”

 

“I am aware of that.”  He held the door to her building for her, pushed the button for the elevator, and stared at her quite intently as they waited.  Once the doors opened and they were on, he put his arm around her, pulled her close, a sideways hug charming for its awkward spontaneity.

 

When they got to her apartment, she palmed open the door and took his hand, pulling him into the entryway. 

 

He eased her against the wall, stroking her hair back, then kissing her more tenderly than he ever had.  “I waited for this because I was mourning.  But I am done grieving for Jim.”

 

“Good.”

 

“Are you done grieving?”

 

“I was done a long time ago.  He let me go, remember?  He chose you.  Him choosing Antonia and not me was just a momentary twinge on an old scar.  He’ll never choose me, Spock.”

 

“And it appears he’ll never stay with me even if he does choose me.”

 

“Not sure which is worse.  I, at least, got to move on.”

 

“I do not wish to be some sort of friend you occasionally have sex with, Christine.  I did not introduce you to Saavik to only have you in my life occasionally.”

 

“I know.”  She started to smile.  “Is that why none of the apartments have met with your approval?  You want to move in here?”

 

“That would be presumptuous of me.”

 

“That’s not an answer.”

 

He stroked her cheek.  “Yes.  That is why.”

 

“You’re lucky I got a big place.  Jan lived with me for a while.”

 

“She does not appear favorably disposed toward me at the moment.”

 

“Got that right.  But since she doesn’t live here anymore, she doesn’t get a vote on whether or not you’ll be shacking up with me.”  She grinned.  “Are you sure about this?”

 

He nodded.

 

“Do you want to sleep in the other room or my room?  And before you answer, let me say that sleeping in my room full time, well I view that as a commitment.”

 

“As do I.”  He began to undo her shirt.  “I want that.  I missed you when you left.  I told you then that I probably had stronger feelings for you than you did for me.”

 

“You did say that.  I didn’t believe you, though.”

 

“And now?”  He went to work on making her bottom half as naked as the top.

 

“I’m getting the idea.”  She started to laugh.  “And why am I the only one naked?”

 

“Because I am the only one doing any work.”  His lips ticked up and she pulled him to her and kissed him.  Then she eased off his pants and sank to the floor, pulling him onto her.

 

He took her more fiercely than she expected, but he kept his hand behind her head and kissed her as he moved, as he...claimed her, there was no other word for it.

 

He didn’t neglect her while he did it, either, his fingers finding the places she loved to be touched, making her cry out, and dig her fingernails into his back.


He collapsed on top of her, murmuring things she didn’t expect to hear from him about how he felt about her, how he’d missed touching her.

 

She knew not to trust things said right after sex, but the way he was saying these things, as if he wasn’t fully aware of even speaking, gave them a ring of truth.

 

“I love you,” she murmured, as she stroked his back and kissed the side of his head.  “I’ve missed you, too.”

 

He eased off her, pulled her up and led her to the bedroom.  He pushed her onto the bed and kissed her, then drew back and stared at her with a strange look.  “You loved me first, Christine.  Before Jim.  Before Leonard.”

 

She nodded.  It was true, after all.

 

“I had you first.  That Pon Farr that I took away.  And even after the three of us were together, I had you first alone.”

 

“Is this important to you?”

 

“It is.  We have a history that is independent of Jim.”

 

“You were with Jim when you took me during that Pon Farr.”

 

“But you did not love him then.”

 

She took a deep breath, exhaled slowly.  “I loved you first.  Let’s leave it at that, okay?  Anything else gets tangled.”

 

“You wish to avoid self-delusion.  I appreciate that.”  He worked his way down her body, kissing and sucking and making her forget all about self-delusion and tangled truth.

 

“You can move in whenever you want,” she said as he was taking her for yet another torturous climb, stopping before she came, letting her tension ease just enough before starting again.

 

“That is not why I’m doing this.”  He sounded very satisfied.

 

“I don’t care why you’re doing it.  Just let me come.”

 

He made her wait a very long time.

 

She repaid him in kind once she’d recovered.

 

He moved in the next day.

 

##

 

Chapel was debating what Vulcans took on their pancakes.  Saavik had stayed over, and Chapel was doing the near unthinkable and making a meal rather than ordering or replicating.  Fortunately, she had been a short order cook in a diner when she was in college.  As long as the meal could be cooked on a griddle, she was set.

 

Spock wandered out from the bedroom, checked to see if Saavik was up yet, and then put his arms around Chapel and kissed her neck. 

 

“Maple syrup?  Fresh strawberries?”

 

“You are asking a question of some sort.”  He moved to her ear, making her giggle.

 

“On your pancakes, dimwit.”  She heard Saavik’s door open, but he was one step ahead of Chapel as ever, already pulling away and leaning against the counter as if he hadn’t just been feeling her up.

 

“I have learned to enjoy syrup.  In small quantities.”

 

“I have the good stuff.  Pure from somewhere in New England.  None of that imitation maple crap.”

 

“You are passionate about this.”

 

“Damned straight.”  She turned to smile at Saavik.  “So have you learned to like maple syrup on your pancakes?”

 

“Yes.  Romulans have a sweet tooth.”  She poured a cup of coffee and added a lot of sugar, adding weight to her statement.  Then she took a seat on one of the stools on the other side of the counter.  “Are you helping in some way, Spock?  Or merely distracting her so what will no doubt be excellent pancakes are delayed?”  There was a teasing note in her voice that Chapel loved—and she thought Spock did, too.

 

“I will let you finish, Christine.”  He definitely looked amused.

 

“Not to worry.  Order up.”  She smiled, it had been ages since she’d cooked for anyone but herself. 

 

They ate at the counter, Spock next to Saavik and Chapel on his other side.  Saavik slathered her pancakes with an amazing amount of syrup.  But the wonder of pancakes was that no matter how much you put on, they absorbed it.

 

“I’m sorry you’re not hungry, kiddo,” Chapel said as she made more and gave nearly all of them to Saavik.  Then she sat back down and while Saavik ate, leaned lightly against Spock. 

 

He put his arm around her for a moment, the motion subtle, but Chapel had a feeling Saavik noticed.  Not much slipped by her.  But she didn’t comment, and Chapel thought it was because she didn’t want to say anything to make Spock uncomfortable—or stop showing Chapel affection.

 

Chapel was smitten with the girl and she thought the feeling was mutual.  She’d always liked kids, and with Saavik, something just called to her.

 

“Amanda wants to go shopping.  She seems to think you and I should have more to wear than uniforms.”  Chapel laughed softly.  “You game?”

 

Saavik nodded.  She finished her food, then turned to Chapel.  “She has always taken me shopping.  I think she must have wanted a daughter to dress up like some kind of doll.”

 

“Well, now she has two of us.”  Chapel smiled and leaned in to Spock.  “Do you have any suggestions for what I should get?”

 

“A new dress.  Since you will not wear the blue one.”

 

“I told you why.”  He had wormed it out of her and had seemed to appreciate her loyalty to Len rather than being jealous she would not wear it for him.  She did find the dress hanging in the far end of the closet the next day, however.  His equanimity had limits.

 

She wore the green dress for him whenever he wanted.  She was done waiting for Jim. 

 

“Color preferences?”

 

“Not blue.”  His eyebrow went up.

 

“Fine.  Not blue.”

 

“She would look good in blue.”  Saavik took in Spock’s look and Chapel shaking her head.  “It would compliment her eyes, and apparently there is a blue dress you would like her to wear, but please, be illogical and avoid the color.”  She refilled her coffee and topped off Chapel’s, a slight smile playing at her mouth.

 

Chapel had a feeling she would be grilled relentlessly about the moratorium on blue.  She wasn’t telling the girl a damn thing.

 

By Spock’s expression and the way he touched her knee under the counter, he knew that.

 

##

 

Spock had been out on a training cruise for a week and Chapel expected him home very soon.  She found the dress she’d bought—but not when Saavik and Amanda had been around—and put it on, doing her hair and makeup the way he liked.

 

To call it a dress was to be very charitable.  It bared more skin than it covered.  It was a dark magenta, a color he had responded to well when it was in lingerie.  She put a robe on and hoped to hell his shuttle wasn’t delayed.

 

Or that he didn’t decide to spontaneously bring home a bunch of cadets.

 

Fortunately, that would be very out of character for him.  He usually came home from the voyages drained but horny.

 

The door opened, and she didn’t hear any other voices, so she slipped off the robe, and stood.

 

He came into the main room and his eyebrow went up—way up.

 

She grinned at him.  “Please tell me you’re alone.”

 

“I am.”

 

“It’s not blue.”

 

“It is barely a garment.”

 

She laughed.  “I know.  I did not buy this with your mom and an impressionable young woman, just in case you were worrying.  I went to a different store several days ago.  They do not need to know what a pervert you are.”

 

“That I am?  I did not buy that dress.”  He walked over to her.  “I am, however, going to remove it from you.  Eventually.”  He pulled her into his arms, took a minute to just hold her, and she could feel the tension draining out of him as she held him. 

 

“Rough trip?”

 

“I must be engaged and available at all times.  It is emotionally wearing.”

 

“I know.  I hate having interns at Ops for that reason.”  She stroked his hair.  “Do you want me to save the dress for another night?”

 

He looked at her like she was a crazy woman, and she laughed.

 

“Sorry, I forgot you were male.”

 

“Most ill advised.”  He picked her up and carried her into the bedroom.

 

The dress stayed on for the whole time.  She wasn’t sure, after he got done moving it around to showcase certain body parts that it would be wearable again, but then this wasn’t really the kind of dress you wore out, so that was all right.

 

They lay quietly after, and he kissed her gently.  “I missed you, Christine.”

 

“I missed you, too.”  She had missed him.  Far more than she’d expected to.  Each trip he took seemed to last longer, the house seemed emptier.  “I love having you here, Spock.  I’m glad you didn’t want your own place.”

 

“As am I.”  He held her tightly.  “Leonard was less than friendly.”

 

“I know.  He’s not very friendly to me right now either.  I’m sorry.”  She sighed.  “He wants me.”

 

“As he should.  You are exceptional.”  He turned to lie on his stomach so she could rub his back.  “Do you have any advice for how to act with him?  I do not like this current level of animosity I sense from him but am unsure how to counter it.”

 

“Give it time.”  She straddled his back and went to work on muscles that were tighter than she liked.  “Don’t talk about me in that ‘my woman Christine’ way.”

 

“I try not to talk about you at all with him.”

 

“That may be a mistake.  Just do what feels right.  He needs to deal with the fact that I’m with you now.”  She leaned down, kissed his ear the way he liked.  She knew he also liked the feeling of her breasts on his back, her hands running down his arms.

 

He sighed in what sounded like a very happy way.  “I miss this closeness when I am away from you.”

 

“Me, too.”  She sat back up, continued her massage until she heard his breathing change to a light snore.  Then she got up, slid the dress off and put it in the refresher, hoping for the best, then scrubbed off her makeup and got into bed.

 

He rolled to his side, pulled her in and held her close, the way he always did.  She fell asleep in moments, held safely in his arms, his soft snores more white noise than annoyance.

 

##

 

She stared at her comm screen, looked over at Jan to see if she’d gotten the memo from Ny, too.

 

“Oh, boy,” was all Jan said.

 

“God fucking damn it.”  Chapel stood, motioned for the rover to take her station.  “I’ll be back in an hour.”

 

“What is your problem?  You have one ex running around already, what’s another one?”

 

She ignored Jan, walked out of Ops, and took the elevator to the basement tunnels that connected Command with the Academy.  She found Spock in his office.  “Did you know?”

 

He looked up from his terminal, turned it to show her he was looking at an official memo announcing Jim’s reactivation and assignment as admiral in charge of the Academy.  “I did not.”  The look on his face told her he was telling the truth.

 

She sat down in one of his guest chairs and took a ragged breath.  “Is he still with her?”

 

“I do not know.”

 

She put her head in her hands and rubbed her forehead hard.  “God damn it.  Everything’s been so good.”

 

“This changes nothing.”

 

“You’ll be working together.”

 

“Yes.  Working.  That does not have to mean more.”

 

“For you two, it usually does.”  She drummed her fingers on the arm of the chair.

 

“Are you upset that I might go back to him, or that you can’t have him if you are with me?”

 

She turned to glare at him.  “Really?  You’re going to ask me that?  You live with me.  I’ve practically adopted Saavik.  I love you.  I love her.  I love your family.  And you ask me that?”

 

He got up and walked around the desk to sit down next to her.  “I am sorry.  I spoke in anger.  I have always known you love him more than me.”

 

“He and I never had what I have with you.  I never nursed him through a cold.  I’ve never had him go to the store and buy me ice cream at three am after a bad night in Ops.  I’ve never known his son the way I know Saavik.  I may have loved him best once.  I’m not sure that’s true anymore.”

 

He sighed.

 

“What about you?  Do you still love him best?”

 

“I do not know.”

 

“Wow.  Aren’t we the pair?”


“We are a pair, Christine.  We would not be having this conversation if we weren’t.”  He touched her back, rubbing gently.  “We must promise to be honest with each other about Jim.”

 

“Okay.  That’ll be fun.”  She stood up.

 

“Stay.  Eat lunch with me.  We have time.”  He took her hand.  “We can eat outside.  It is a beautiful day.”

 

“We can have a picnic?”  She pulled him tightly to her.  “Maybe he’s still with Antonia.  Maybe nothing will change.”

 

“Nothing has to change.  Except that a friend of ours has returned.”

 

“If only he were just a friend.”  She kissed him as tenderly as she could.  “I love you.”

 

“I love you, too.”

 

She thought they both sounded a little desperate.

 

##

 

The welcome back party for Jim was crowded.  Chapel looked to see if he was with Antonia, realized he wasn’t.  He had the look of a man alone given the way Admiral Cartwright’s current girlfriend was introducing him to people.

 

Shit.  Shit, shit, shit.

 

Why couldn’t Jim have come back with his woman in tow?

 

“He’s alone,” she said softly, but not so quietly that Spock wouldn’t hear her.

 

“So it would seem.”  He eased her away from the line of people waiting to talk to Jim.  At her look, he said, “He is not going anywhere, is he, Christine?”

 

“You mean we don’t have to wait for him.  You want to make him come to you?”

 

“To us, I believe you mean.”

 

“No, actually, I said what I meant.”  She took a deep breath.  “God, see, I’m already bitchy, and we haven’t even talked to him yet.”

 

He almost smiled and led her to the bar, ordering the wine she liked and water for himself.  “Drink.  You always feel calmer after one drink.”

 

She smiled.  “Meaning two is out of the question.”

 

“You tend to speak your mind more after the first glass.  I am not sure that is the approach we want tonight.”


She laughed.

 

“Well, look at you two.”  Len sidled up next to Spock and ordered bourbon from the bartender.  “Thick as thieves.”

 

“Implying that one of us stole something?”  Spock’s voice was even as he waited.

 

“Actually it implies that you both did.  But semantics, right?”  Len turned to look at Jim.  “Isn’t that a sight for sore eyes?  Damn, it’s good to have him back.  And our boss now, Spock.  I imagine he’ll be stowing away for some training cruises.”

 

“He will not have to stow away, as you well know, Doctor.”  Spock glanced at her, and Chapel knew he was probably wondering at her lack of a sharp—or any—retort.

 

She smiled at him and sipped her wine.  She was not going to give Len the satisfaction.  He was hurt and she understood.  But understanding didn’t mean she intended to fall victim to the McCoy acid treatment.

 

Ny came over, gave Chapel a hug and Spock a touch on the arm.  “Good to see you two here.”  She shot Chapel a look that she couldn’t read.

 

“Wouldn’t miss it.”  She gave Ny the same bland smile she was gifting Len with. 

 

What the hell was with her friends?

 

Ny looked over at Jim, a bit of hero worship in her eyes when she said, “I can’t believe he’s back.”  Her smile made Chapel want to slap her.

 

Then again, Chapel would probably be smiling the same damn way if she wasn’t trying to make sure she didn’t lose the man she was with to the man she used to love.

 

Did she still love him?  Did love go away in the face of this kind of fear?

 

She was afraid not of Jim himself, but of what he was going to do.  Of how he’d steal Spock back without any effort.

 

Was it low self esteem or just a keen memory of the past and a dose of self preservation making her think that?

 

Jim came over, got a refill on his scotch, and turned to them with a huge grin.  “Now here’s a sight for sore eyes.”  He hugged Ny, gave Spock a huge grin.  It was clear by the way he smiled at Len that they’d been in contact.

 

Then he turned to Chapel.  He smiled and pulled her in for a quicker hug than he’d given Ny.  “Chris.”

 

“Jim.  Welcome back.”

 

“Thanks.”  His grin didn’t waver, but he said, “Can I borrow Spock?  I need to talk to him.”

 

“That’s fine.”  She gave him her most blasé smile.

 

Ny looked over at the entrance.  “Oh, I see Scotty.  I’ll be back.”

 

Len move closer to Chapel.  “Ballsy move, kid.”

 

“He just wants to talk.”

 

“Man can charm the birds out of the sky with just talk.  But then you know that first hand.”  He sipped his drink and studied her.  “Just so you know, I won’t be there for you this time.  If it all falls apart.”

 

“Do you want it to fall apart?”

 

“Not particularly.  You seem happy and I’m not actually as big an SOB as you seem to think I am.  But history is history, hon’.”

 

She sighed.  “I wouldn’t come to you again.  It wouldn’t be fair.”

 

“And you have been fair—I’ll give you that.”


She tried not to drink her wine too fast, took a small sip, and closed her eyes for a moment.

 

“You all right?”

 

She nodded.  “You just might be right, is all.”

 

“Well, I might be wrong, too.  You’re not the only one who seems happy—Spock does, too.  You make him happy.”

 

“Thanks.  I don’t deserve you.”

 

“Don’t I know it?”  He gave her a sad smile.  “We were good, Christine.  I think you made a mistake.”

 

“The heart wants what the heart wants.”

 

“Yeah, that would make sense if you’d ended up with Jim.  But we’re not talking about Jim, are we?”

 

She shrugged, then looked up as Spock came back to her.  He seemed to assess the level of her wine and gave her the soft look that was his version of a human’s reassuring smile.

 

“It’s good to have him back?” she asked.

 

He nodded.  “I missed my friend.”  He put no special emphasis on the word friend, yet somehow it was there, and she smiled.  Spock turned to Len.  “Are you not glad Jim is back?”

 

“But of course, Spock.”  Len shot him a look that was pure good old boy.  “But then I’m not the one he left, now am I?”  His expression stayed friendly. 

 

Acid.  Pure goddamned acid.

 

##

 

Chapel sat back and watched Sarek and Saavik having an animated—for two Vulcans—discussion over a recent Federation ruling.  She looked over at Spock, saw him glance fondly at Saavik—she could hold her own against Sarek without ever sounding like she didn’t love him, something Chapel knew Spock wished he could emulate.  His disagreements with Sarek always turned a little sharp. 

 

She realized Amanda was studying her, a look she wasn’t sure how to interpret on her face.  Then she smiled—her normal radiant smile—and turned away to say something to a server.

 

As Saavik wound down and before Sarek could work up his next counterargument, Amanda said, “So, how is it having Jim back?”

 

Saavik looked like Amanda had punched her.  Sarek’s eyes narrowed slightly. 

 

Spock, however, said, “It is good to have him back.”

 

Chapel realized Amanda didn’t seem to care what Chapel thought.  “I was surprised he came back.  He seemed so resolved on retirement.”

 

Amanda smiled gently.  “I’m not surprised at all.  The man belongs in the stars.”

 

“Poetic.”  Chapel glanced at Sarek, who shook his head at her slightly.

 

“Shall we retire to the salon?” Amanda said, getting up so it was really not a question.

 

Spock and Saavik followed her, but Sarek hung back and Chapel stayed with him.

 

“What the hell was that?”  She knew she was turning red.  “I didn’t realize she was such a fan of Jim’s.”

 

“She has always been fond of him.”  Sarek sighed and drew Chapel into the hall so the servers could clear the table.  “And of his relationship with Spock.”

 

“She doesn’t like me?”

 

“I did not say that.  She does like you, Christine.  She knows you have been good for Spock—especially when it comes to nights such as this.  Since you came into his life, we are a family in a way we have not been before.”

 

“But the way she brought him up.  It seemed like a slap.”  Chapel looked down.  She should not be criticizing Amanda to him.

 

“I agree.  It did.”  He seemed to take in her look of surprise and raised an eyebrow.  “If what you say is true, should I disagree?”

 

She smiled.  “I was surprised at the dinner invitation.  I thought you were heading back to Vulcan.”

 

“We were.  But I heard Kirk was back and...found my plans were flexible.”

 

Chapel closed her eyes.  “So I’m not the only one who thinks my relationship with Spock has a shelf life?  Was this our last hurrah—the wacky family dinner before the break-up?”

 

“If I thought the conclusion was foregone, I would offer you condolences, not dinner.”  His tone was sharper than she’d ever heard it.  “But if you give up before the fight has even begun, then perhaps I should not have bothered to try to remind Spock what he would be leaving if he were to choose another.”

 

“So you think the possibility that he’ll leave is there?”

 

“There are always possibilities, Christine.  It is the way of life.  It is how attractive or not those possibilities appear that determine the likelihood they will be chosen.  And if there are steps I can take to ensure you seem the most attractive alternative, I will do that.”

 

“You surprise me.”

 

“I do not know why.  I have never tried to hide how fond I am of you.  Or how much I approve of your relationship with my son.”

 

“Are you two coming?”  Amanda stood at the end of the hall; she gave them another of her radiant smiles. 


Chapel suddenly realized it looked very much like one of Jim’s—when he wasn’t being particularly sincere.

 

##

 

Spock was out on another training cruise and Jim had chosen to observe this time.  Chapel decided to work late; the apartment felt cold and empty, and she knew she was in the wrong kind of mood to be sitting in it alone thinking about the two of them together, reconnecting.

 

“I thought I would find you here.”  Saavik stood behind her, stealthy as the little cat Spock sometimes called her.  “I am hungry and have no credits.”

 

Chapel laughed.  “Where did they go?”

 

“I used them to convince another cadet to rent me her study carrel.  My roommate is noisy and enjoys loud music.”

 

“I had one of those.  Hated it.”

 

“So you empathize.  Can we go now?”

 

Chapel nodded and turned off the spare terminal she’d taken when the shifts changed.  “What are you in the mood for?”

 

Romulan steak.”  At Chapel’s look of surprise, Saavik shrugged.  “It was a thing they used on Hellguard as a reward.”

 

“A reward for what?”

 

“Whatever they decided they wanted us to do.”  Saavik met her eyes.  “Someday, I promise, I will tell you about the planet I grew up on.  But I do not want to tonight.”

 

“Okay.  I can’t offer you Romulan steak but I know a place that beams their steaks in from Honduras.  Best beef ever.”

 

“It is tempting, but I do not think it best that I revert to carnivore after so long denying that urge.”

 

“Not a problem.  We’ll do Chinese, then?  I’m in the mood.”

 

Saavik nodded.  As they walked to the restaurant, she asked, “Admiral Kirk accompanied Spock on this training cruise, did he not?”

 

“Yep.”

 

“Are you not...upset at this?”

 

“I’m not doing cartwheels.”

 

Saavik looked confused. 

 

“I’m not happy.”

 

“Ah.  Idiomatic expressions are the most difficult to master.”

 

“You do pretty well, kiddo.”  Chapel smiled at her, meaning it.  Saavik used the “I am Vulcan, therefore you make no sense” ploy to get her out of things she did not want to do, but she understood humans quite well.  “I’m not happy, but I have to trust Spock.”

 

“I understand that you have no choice but to try to do that, but do you trust him?”

 

Chapel nodded, not letting any hesitation get in the way.  It might be a little bit of a lie, but Saavik didn’t need to know that.  “Enough about me.  Talk about you.  You know that you can always come to the apartment if you need to study, right?”

 

“Would I not be intruding?”

 

“Please.”  She grinned at Saavik.  “And would I tell you if you were?  When I was young, I always thought that parents should have gender, not sex.”

 

“I will remember that one.  A diverting play on words.”  She looked at Chapel searchingly.  “Is that how you think of yourself—as my parent?”

 

Chapel realized she’d said that without thinking.  “I guess I do.  Do you mind?”

 

“No, Christine, I do not mind.”  In fact, Saavik looked very pleased.  “Did you ever want children of your own?”

 

“Yes.  When I was engaged to Roger, we used to talk about having two or three.  It didn’t happen, obviously.”

 

“You and Spock could—”

 

“It’s not the time.”  She thought her voice was firm enough to make Saavik abandon the topic.

 

“I think you would be a good mother.”

 

“I like kids.  I like adult kids, too.  And now I’ve got one, so look at me, skipping the messy baby stage and going right to you.”  She grinned at Saavik.  “Can I ask a question?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Why did you and Jim not interact more when you were younger?”


Saavik’s expression changed.  “I do not know.  I have always believed that he wanted Spock to himself.  I was given to understand they were not open about their relationship on the ship.  When they could get away together, they did.  I was not...welcome.” 

 

“Didn’t they come to Vulcan?”

 

“Not often.  And I was jealous of him, so I was perhaps not at my best when he was around.  Sarek would often take me to the desert or the tall grass fields and let me run like a savage until the anger had fled.”

 

“Sarek would?  Not Amanda?”

 

“It is ironic, is it not?  She is so forgiving of Spock’s lapses, yet she found me very hard to handle when I acted like a savage.  Sarek never feared me.  On Hellguard, that counted for everything.”

 

“I love Sarek.”  Chapel smiled at her.  “I love that he’s good to you.”

 

“And to you.”

 

“Yes, and to me.”  The emotional ground they were on seemed deep and potentially maudlin, so she asked, “How often do you crave meat?”

 

Saavik lifted an eyebrow, suddenly a picture perfect Vulcan.  “Changing the subject that abruptly is hardly subtle, Christine.”

 

“No one has ever accused me of being subtle, toots.”

 

##

 

Chapel heard the door to the apartment open, then Spock’s familiar footsteps coming across the living room.  She sat up, said, “You’re back.”

 

“I am.”  He was shucking his clothes off as he came toward her, letting his uniform lay where it fell.  “I have missed you.”

 

She threw the covers off and pulled him down to her, kissing him almost frantically.

 

“Christine,” he said, pulling away.  “We have time.  There is no need to rush.”

 

“I missed you.”

 

“You are broadcasting distress, not passion.  What is it?”

 

She pulled away some.  “You won’t like it.”

 

“Perhaps I should be the judge of that?”  He moved so he was lying next to her, drew her into his arms, and dragged the covers back over them.

 

“I’m jealous.”

 

He leaned back against the padded headboard.  “If you cannot trust me, Christine, we will not endure.”

 

“You think I don’t know that?  But I liked him best once—is it such a stretch for me to worry that you might still feel that way?”

 

“I am not with him.  I am with you.”  He sounded like he was teaching a slow child a very simple concept.

 

“Possession hasn’t been nine-tenths of the law for some time.”     

 

He slipped out the other side of the bed, went to the closet, and pulled on a robe.  “I can see you are in no mood to be welcoming.”  He went out to the living room, closing the door behind him.

 

She lay there a moment, then got up and followed him.  He was in the kitchen, pouring a glass of water.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“I do not have the energy for a protracted discussion on my fidelity or lack thereof.  I am tired, Christine.  I wanted to come home and be with you.  That is all I can say.”

 

She walked over to him, ran her hand down his chest.  “I know.  I’m just a little bit neurotic these days.”  She took the glass from him and put it down, then pulled him to her and gave him the best kiss she could.

 

He lifted her nightgown, began to touch her as they kissed.  When her knees buckled, he supported her with his other hand.  “You must trust me.”

 

“I want to.  I swear I do.”  She had her head back, felt the tension building and building.  “I wouldn’t be so crazy if I didn’t love you.”

 

He silenced her with a kiss, muffling the sounds of her coming, then pushed her onto the counter and lifted his robe up.  He was a little bit wild with his thrusting, and Chapel imagined it was impatience with her causing him to take her this way.

 

“I’m sorry,” she murmured as he moved, said it again as he clutched at her and found his release.  “I love you.”

 

“And I love you, Christine.”  He didn’t let her down off the counter, stayed inside her, pulling her legs up to wrap higher around his waist.  Then he went back to work on her, becoming ready for her as he played, until she was about to go again and then he started to move inside her.

 

She moaned and this time he didn’t try to muffle her cries or his own when he came again.  He held her tightly, rubbing his hand down her back.  “It is good to be home.”

 

“It’s good to have you home.” 


“We do not have another training cruise for a month.  Ample time for you to tire of me being constantly underfoot.”

 

She smiled.  “Not likely.”

 

##

 

Chapel came out of Ops and saw Jim talking with Cartwright in the hall.  He patted Cartwright on the arm, then turned to her.  “Just the person I wanted to see.”

 

She waited until her boss had gone back into Ops, then said, “Haven’t seen you much.  Been hiding out?”

 

“Not being around you doesn’t imply hiding out, Chris.”  He gave her a smile she didn’t like.

 

“We know each other too well, Jim.  Let’s cut the crap.”

 

He motioned her to a bench near the window.  “By all means, let’s.”

 

She didn’t want to sit, felt like she was giving ground, but he sat and it would have looked odd to keep standing.  She sank down onto the hard cushion.  These benches were for brief stops, not long, lingering conversations.  There were much more comfortable chairs in the cafeteria, and the sitting areas scattered around, for long chats.

 

A brief stop was fine with her.

 

“You seem threatened by me.”  His tone was light, but his eyes were steel.

 

“Give me a reason not to be.”  She stared him down, knew he was surprised when she didn’t look away.

 

“Spock’s with you.”

 

She laughed, a horrible sound that filled the space for a moment.  “I remember a time when you had just left the woman you ran to after Spock.  I was there, remember?  I saw your single-minded devotion to finding one good opportunity to steal back your ship.  Spock wasn’t there, so you couldn’t just take him.  But the ship?

 

“Now, here we are, years later, and you’re right back where you were.  No woman.  No Spock.  No ship.  The ship’s out of reach this time, but Spock?”  She sat up a little straighter.  “Excuse me for feeling more than a little like Will Decker, standing between you and what you want.”

 

His expression changed, grew tighter, his skin flushed.  “I didn’t think you thought so little of me.”  He leaned in closer.  “There was a time I was all you thought about.  Don’t you love me anymore, Chris?”  His tone was mocking, payback for her comment about Decker, no doubt.

 

“What I do or don’t feel for you is irrelevant.”

 

“Not to me.  Not to Spock.  Not to Bones.  Quite the collection of men you have.  I’m surprised you haven’t added Cartwright to your list.”

 

She was about to say she didn’t sleep with her boss, but clearly that wasn’t always true.  “I’m a different woman now.  I learned a lot that second time around on the Enterprise.”

 

He didn’t reply, just studied her.  Then he said, “Are you turning Saavik against me?”

 

She laughed, this time the sound one of true surprise and amusement.  “Me?  You did that all on your own, Jim.  Why?  What has she said?”

 

“It’s not what she’s said.  She’s...prickly.”

 

“Maybe you should have gotten to know her back in the day.  Maybe then you’d be Jim and not Admiral Kirk.”  She shrugged. 

 

“So you admit she’s on your side.”

 

“I admit nothing.  I learned that from you.”  She gave him a mean little half smile.

 

“And Sarek?  He’s colder than usual when he sees me.”

 

“Look, your inability to forge meaningful ties with two thirds of the people in Spock’s family are not my concern.  You had your chance.”

 

He smiled, the smile you give someone when you’re playing a game and find out they’re much better than they let on.  “Ops has changed you.”

 

“Yes,” she said, getting up.  “It has.”  She walked away from him, knowing the whole time that it hadn’t changed her enough to not be scared—or to not have enjoyed that sparring match a little too much.

 

She would have enjoyed it more if she’d actually won.

 

##

 

She watched as Spock threw together the items he would need for the training cruise.  She was already in a mood and watching him get ready wasn’t helping it.

 

“This is Saavik’s cruise.  Does Jim have to be there?”

 

“Her cruise?  The other cadets might take issue with that concept.”  He turned to look at her.  “She is but one of many.”

 

“She’s not, and you know it.  She’s your daughter for all intents and purposes.”

 

“And yours then by extension?”

 

He sounded curious rather than cutting.

 

“Yes, and mine.  Do you not think so?”

 

“I do.  I was just unsure how far you felt your responsibilities to her went.”

 

She got up and walked to the window.  “All the way.  And that’s why I’m going to say this.  Tell Jim not to come.  She won’t want him there.”

 

“I am aware that you do not approve of how...compartmented my life was prior to being with you.  I regret now not including Saavik more when I was with Jim.  But I did not, and this is what is.  If Saavik cannot put aside her feelings with a Starfleet admiral, then I worry for her career.”

 

“Of course she’ll put them aside.  But why should she have to?”  She turned to look at him.  “She really does lose every time, doesn’t she?”  That didn’t bode well for Chapel if his foster daughter couldn’t come first with him.

 

He put down the robe he was folding and said, “Are you doing this for her or for you?”

 

“You put me in her life.  She talks to me.  She’s not comfortable with Jim because you two didn’t include her.”

 

“Well this will be an opportunity for her to become at ease with him.”

 

“You’re deliberately missing my point.”

 

No, the point is clear.  You are jealous.  You are using Saavik as proxy—or possibly pawn.  And I do not appreciate it.”

 

You don’t?  I’m in her life more than you are these days, Spock.  Why is that?  She loves you like a daughter.  She’s a wonderful young woman.  Why can’t you see that?”

 

“I see that quite clearly.  Saavik is dear to me.  But I will not have you become her mouthpiece, and a biased one at that.  Drop this, Christine.”

 

“Fine.  Go out and have a great time with Jim—does he ever stay at his desk and do real work?  Or does he just tag along with you or harass me?”

 

Spock’s look changed.  “You?”

 

She hadn’t meant to say that. 

 

“I was not aware you two had spoken.”  She was unsure if she was hearing anger, jealousy, or some mix of both in his voice.

 

“It wasn’t to whisper sweet nothings in each other’s ears, Spock.  He...well, honestly, I’m not sure what he wanted.  To intimidate me maybe.”  She waved whatever he was going to say away.  “Look, forget it, okay?  Just...try to be nice to Saavik.”

 

“Why would I treat her in any manner but a proper one?”

 

“Because sometimes when Jim is around, you don’t see anyone else.”

 

“I could say the same for you when he is around.”

 

“Really?  I sit here paranoid cruise after cruise, and you think I’m only mooning over Jim?”

 

“This is not getting us anywhere.  I am going to report to the ship now.  I will hope that you are in a better mood when I get back.”  He walked over, gave her a quick kiss on the lips, and left.

 

Fled might be more accurate.

 

##

 

Chapel was finishing up a comm with Starfleet Medical when she saw Cartwright talking softly to Jan.  They looked over at her, then quickly looked away. 

 

She turned back to her screen; she didn’t have the time or energy to worry about what they were talking about.  Not when they had a crisis on their hands and a ship full of cadets—including one she loved—to handle it.

 

Jan was suddenly behind her, touching her gently, too gently.  She said, “Come with me,” and didn’t bother to get someone to watch either of their stations.

 

“What’s going on?  We don’t have time for this.”  Then she heard Jan sniff, saw the somber look on Cartwright’s face, and said, “What’s happened?  The ship?”

 

“Survived.  Jim survived. A good number of the cadets.”

 

“Khan?”

 

“Gone.  Dead.”  He swallowed hard.  “Christine, why don’t you come in here?” 

 

Jan was pushing her from behind, into his office, down to a chair.  “Spock.  He didn’t make it, honey.”

 

“What?”  She started to stand up, but Jan held her place.

 

“He gave his life to save the ship.”  Cartwright looked down, then walked to his desk and brought up something on the terminal.  “Do you want to read the battle damage assessment?”

 

“No, I don’t want to read the fucking BDA.  How did he die?  Why?”  Spock was supposed to outlive her—outlive all of them.  What the hell were they talking about: dead?

 

He couldn’t be dead.  Not when their last conversation had been so...ugly.  Not when she’d barely kissed him back—that was their last goddamned kiss?  “It’s a mistake.”

 

“It’s not, Christine.”  Jan put her arms around her.  “I can take her home, sir.”

 

“I’m not going home.  I can’t go home.  I’ll stay here.  Here is good.”

 

“I’ll take her to my place, sir.”

 

“Thank you, Janice.”

 

Chapel didn’t resist as Jan pulled her up and led her out.  They walked the blocks in silence, and Jan didn’t touch her, but Chapel could tell she was watching her closely—ready to reach out, no doubt, if she crumbled.

 

She wasn’t going to crumble.  But she did feel as if someone had plunked her down in the middle of a foggy night, and she couldn’t see more than a few inches beyond her face.

 

Spock was dead?  He couldn’t be.

 

Saavik.  Oh, God, was she one of the cadets who hadn’t made it?  Why hadn’t she asked?  “Jan, Saavik?”

 

“She’s fine.  Admiral Cartwright checked.”

 

“Oh.  Thank God.”  She stopped walking, felt Jan gently rub her back.  “I didn’t lose everything.  When will she be back?”

 

“She won’t.  She’s assigned to the Grissom to study the planet we can’t talk about now.  She’s with David Marcus.”

 

How fitting.  His son.  Spock’s daughter.  History repeating?  She felt as if taking another step would be her undoing, so she leaned up against the wall of the building they were next to, focused on breathing.

 

“Is Sarek on Earth?  Do you want to go to him?”

 

Chapel frowned.  “Why him.  Why not Amanda and him?”

 

“You never talk about Amanda, Christine.  It’s always Sarek this and Sarek that.”

 

“Oh.  That’s not good.  I like her.  I think she likes me.”

 

“Why wouldn’t she like you?”  Jan urged her to walk and Chapel finally moved.  “Do you want to stop by your place and get some meds?  Maybe you have something that will help you sleep?”

 

“No.  I need to be alert.  If they need me.”

 

“Okay.”  Jan sighed.  “Let’s get you somewhere safe where you can cry in peace.”

 

“I love you, Jan.  I’m sorry if I’m not a good friend.”  Why hadn’t she told Jan what was really going on?  Why did her best friend know nothing about Jim and Spock and Chapel’s involvement with them both?

 

“You’re a great friend, Christine.  Don’t even think about it right now.” 

 

They walked slowly, Jan rubbing her back as they went, every now and then saying, “I’m so sorry.”

 

##

 

Chapel hurried into Len’s apartment building.  She saw Jim waiting for her, pacing the lobby.

 

He looked...done.  Finished.  Exhausted beyond all measure.  And hopeless.


She’d never seen him hopeless before.  She didn’t like what she was seeing.  It reminded her too much of what she saw now when she looked in the mirror.


“Chris.”  He looked at her like he couldn’t figure out if she was friend or foe.

 

She hurried to him, said, “Shhh,” very softly as she turned them both and walked with him to the elevator.

 

“Something’s wrong with Bones.”  He pulled her into his arms.  “Spock—I’m sorry, I let him—”

 

“You didn’t let him do anything.  I saw the logs.  He did what he had to do.”

 

Jim nodded, seemed to realize he was holding her and let her go.  “I’m sorry.”

 

“Quit saying that.”  She grabbed his hand and held on, leading him down to Len’s apartment.

 

“Of course you know where it is.”

 

“He was my friend.”

 

“He was more than that, and we both know it.”

 

“He was less than Spock and you were.  Now, let’s stop talking about it.  Tell me what’s going on with him.”

 

“Starfleet Medical couldn’t find anything.  Thought it was some kind of post-traumatic stress.  They’ve got him pretty tranked up.”

 

“You want a second opinion?”

 

“Yeah.”  He looked down.  “He sounded...he sounded like Spock to me, on the ship.  He’s not the only one with trauma, I guess.”

 

She took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh.  “I don’t know what to say.  What’s the protocol when you’re talking to your dead lover’s—and your—ex?”  She laughed, a slightly hysterical sound she wanted to call back as soon as she let it out.

 

“Should I have left you alone?  Would that have been the right thing?”

 

“I think we’re making this up as we go along.”  She palmed open Len’s door and she saw a knowing look on Jim’s face.  “Let me go in alone.  He may act differently around me.”

 

“I’ll say that’s certain, isn’t it?”  His voice was harsh, then he shook his head, his expression becoming contrite.  “Shit.  I’m sorry.  I’m just...”  He shook his head.

 

“You’re leveled.  Go back to your place.  I can take this from here.  I’ll let you know if I think Starfleet Medical is wrong.”

 

He started to protest and she cut him off.

 

“Sleep, Jim.  When was the last time you did?”

 

“I can’t remember.”

 

“Go.”  She waited until he walked into the elevator and the doors closed before going into Len’s apartment.

 

He wasn’t in bed when she went into his room, so she looked in the bathroom.  Nothing.  Before she could turn around, she felt him behind her.

 

“A nice surprise.”  He sounded like a man who’d woken from a long sleep, his voice raspy and deeper than normal.  She could see how Jim had thought it was Spock.

 

He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her against him.  “I’ve missed this.”

 

“Len, stop it.”

 

He let her go, lifted one eyebrow and said, “You would deny me?”

 

“What the hell are you doing?  You’re hitting on me when Spock is dead.”

 

“Why did you leave me?  Take me back.”

 

She stared at him.  He looked...wrong.  His expression wild.  She pushed him toward the bed.  “You need to rest.”

 

“I need to go home.”

 

“You are home, Len.  Please rest.  For me?  All right?”

 

“For you.  Yes.”  He touched her cheek and stroked it, a tender expression on his face.  “Christine.”

 

She waited until he was asleep and then checked his vitals.  Nothing seemed wrong other than exhaustion.

 

She’d brought some hypos with her.  Checked to see what and how much the doctor from Starfleet Medical had given him, and then gave him something else, something stronger.

 

He seemed to relax, really sleep, and she touched his arm.  “I’m sorry, Len.  I’m sorry I can’t love you the way you want me to.”

 

##

 

A chime at her apartment door woke her.  She slipped a robe on over her nightgown and walked out to see who it was.

 

Jim stood at the door, holding a container.  “I brought bagels.  You used to love these.”

 

“I still do.”  She let him in.

 

“I thought you’d come by last night.  Let me know how Bones was.”

 

“You needed sleep more than an update.”  She took the container from him and got some plates.  “He’s a mess.  But stress can present in many ways, especially after what you’ve been through.  You weren’t wrong in thinking that you’re suffering from it, too.”

 

He nodded, began to wander through the main room, picking up things that were Spock’s.

 

She realized she’d clenched her teeth and forced herself to stop.  He could look.  Watching him do that wasn’t going to hurt her more than she was hurting already.

 

“Makes you mad.  Me doing this.”  Jim shot her a look that told her he knew exactly what she was thinking.  “He chose you, Chris.  And I tried to get him back.”

 

“Did you?  I thought so but I wasn’t sure.”

 

“Yeah.  When do I ever give up?”  He seemed to slump.  “When do I lose?”

 

“We both lost.”

 

“He’s gone.”  Jim put down the Vulcan pot he’d been holding, setting it carefully back where it belonged.  “It’s a weird feeling to hate someone you also love.  I hate—hated you.”

 

“I know.  I felt that way about both you and Spock when I left.”

 

He nodded, then shook his head when she tried to hand him a bagel.  “I’m not hungry.”

 

“You bring food you won’t eat.  Ask for information that could have been easily delivered via comm line.  Why are you here?  To see his things?  To get some part of him back?”

 

“Would that be so bad?”  He rubbed his eyes.  Then he gave her a hard look and walked into her bedroom.

 

“No.”  She followed him, ready to stop him before he could open the closet, before he could bury his face in Spock’s clothes the way she’d been doing.

 

But he didn’t seem to want in the closet.  He picked up a stick of Spock’s incense, held it to his nose and breathed in deeply.  “This scent.  It’s everything about him, isn’t it?”

 

She nodded.

 

“Your scent is that perfume you always wear.  Jasmine and tuberose.  Heavy flowers that somehow turn light and fresh on you.”  He turned to her, swallowed hard.  “What do I smell like?  What makes me special?”

 

She moved closer.  “You smell like campfires and mountain winds.”

 

He smiled.  “Not on the ship.”

 

“Juniper and amber and sandalwood, then.  Your cologne.”  She touched his hand.  “Not unlike this incense.”

 

“That’s not me.  That was on purpose.  No one would notice I reeked of Spock’s incense if I already smelled that way.”

 

She smiled.  Of course.  Always one step ahead.

 

He rubbed his eyes again. 

 

“Did you sleep at all?”

 

“No.”  He looked ready to fall down.

 

She almost hated that she cared about that.  She was tired, too.  She was sad, just like him.  Who was going to take care of her?


Who was going to push her onto the bed, slip off her shoes, and get a robe of Spock’s to lay over her?  So she’d have the smell with her the way Jim did now. 

 

He pulled the robe closer, then looked up at her.  “Chris.”

 

She realized she was crying.

 

“Chris, I’m sorry.”  He pulled her down, onto the robe—Spock still between them.  “I’m so sorry.”  He traced her cheek, then leaned in, kissing where her tears tracked down, pulling her closer.  “He was ours, Chris.  Ours.”

 

She cried harder, clung to him, didn’t say anything when comforting kisses changed to frantic ones, when his lips found hers instead of following the tears on her cheek.


They came together, Spock’s robe underneath them, the smell of his incense rising up as they moved.

 

Afterwards, they lay silently, not touching.

 

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, then got up, refastened his clothes, and put his shoes on.

 

“It’s all right.  Just please go.”  She felt guilt adding itself to the pile of emotions she was already feeling:  grief over Spock, worry for her friends, shame that her last words to Spock had been angry ones.

 

She heard the door open and close, then the apartment was silent.  She rolled over and clutched Spock’s robe to her as she cried.

 

##

 

The next afternoon, her chime rang, and she went to open it, expecting to see Jim.

 

It was Sarek.

 

“Oh, thank God.”  She hugged him on instinct, then realized what she’d done.  “I’m so sorry.”

 

He eased her back inside and followed her.  “I am not offended.  I know you are in pain.”

 

She nodded.  “I wasn’t nice to Spock, Sarek.  The day he left.  We weren’t fighting, exactly, but I was jealous and tired and I said things that—”

 

“That are not what you wish your last words to him would have been?”

 

“Yes.”  She stood behind the counter and he took a seat on one of the stools.  “Do you want anything?  Coffee, water, food?”

 

“I am fine, Christine.  I came to speak to you of something important.  Come sit.”

 

She sat next to him.

 

“Do you know what a katra is?”

 

“Spock told me.”  She tried to remember his words.  “Somewhere between soul and mind, the essence of a person.”

 

“Yes.  Just exactly.  At the time of death, if at all possible, a Vulcan puts his or her katra in another person via a mind meld.  The recipient returns the katra to Vulcan, to Mount Seleya, to the sanctuary of emplacement.  That way, nothing is lost even when we cease to exist.”

 

“Does it require a Vulcan?”

 

“No.  A human can be suitable.  For a short time only though.  The power of the katra is detrimental to a human’s mental and emotional stability.  I believe that the logical thing would have been for Spock to meld with Kirk.  They were together when my son died from what I have been told.”

 

She nodded.  “Yes.  They were.  Always together.”  She took a deep breath: her pity parade could wait.  “You need to go see Jim.  He’s having a get together tonight, the old senior staff.”

 

“Are you not invited?”

 

“No.  I heard about it from my friend Nyota.  She didn’t realize I wasn’t on the guest list when she asked if I was going.”  She sighed.  “Go break up their party, Sarek.  Go find whatever is left of Spock and take him home.”

 

Sarek stood.  “Time will be of the essence.  I will not have a chance to say goodbye.”

 

“That’s all right.  I won’t take it personally.”

 

He touched her cheek, holding his hand against her skin much longer than she expected.  “I grieve with thee, Christine.”

 

She put her hand over his.  “I know you do.  I’m so sorry.”

 

##

 

Chapel heard Cartwright say, “What in the hell does he think he is doing?” 

 

She got up and walked into his office.  “You all right, sir?”

 

“Jim’s lost his damned mind, Christine.  He’s stealing the Enterprise.”

 

“From space dock?”

 

“So it would appear.”

 

She frowned.  Didn’t Sarek have a diplomatic ship he could have flown them out on once he found Spock’s katra?  Why were they hijacking the Enterprise?

 

They walked out to the main viewscreen.  “Space dock exit camera on main screen now.”  Cartwright barked the order in the “move slowly at your peril” tone he didn’t use very often.


The screen was filled with a shot that took her aback.  The Enterprise, relentlessly heading for the space dock doors—doors that were closed.

 

“She’s going to crash,” Jan said. 

 

Suddenly the doors began to open.  Chapel glanced over at Jan to see if she had done anything to get them open, but she was still staring at the viewscreen, her look of alarm changing to one of pleased surprise.


“The Excelsior will get her,” someone said.  Chapel looked around, unsure who had said it.  No one looked back at her, all eyes were on the screen.

 

But Excelsior didn’t get her.  The Enterprise cleared space dock and warped away while the bright shining hope lay dead in space.

 

What the hell was going on?

 

##

 

Spock was alive.  She didn’t understand and didn’t care how it had happened now that she knew it was true.


He wasn’t dead.  But according to Sarek he wasn’t himself yet, either.

 

She’d tried to get leave to go to Vulcan, to see him for herself. 

 

Cartwright had looked angry when he’d denied her request—but not at her.  “I’m sorry, Christine.  I’d let you go if it were up to me, but it’s not.  Starfleet Command is blistering mad at Jim.  If you leave now—to join a group Starfleet deems traitors—your career will be over.”

 

She was at home, thinking about that.  Jim would tell them to stuff their ultimatums and go anyway.  Nothing would keep him away.  Should she be more like him?

 

Her comm terminal pinged that a message had come in, and she looked at the screen.

 

“Travel orders approved.  Vulcan ship waiting.  Apologies for mix-up.”  It was signed Admiral Morrow, Starfleet Command.

 

Her comm line rang, the sound for a call, not a message, and she answered.

 

It was Sarek.  “I have a ship waiting for you.”

 

“So I see.  When I asked, they said no.”

 

“You forgot to tell them you were Spock’s mate.  That your presence was integral to his recovery.”

 

“I did forget to mention that.  Primarily because I’m not his wife.”

 

“Did I say wife?  I said mate.”  He let an eyebrow go up.  “If they heard wife, I cannot help that.”

 

She laughed. 

 

“Saavik is here.  She needs you.  Spock is—his reintegration proceeds slowly.”

 

“Does he know...everyone?”

 

“Some more than others.  He does not seem to be at ease with Kirk but that could change, which is why I have sent my fastest ship.”  He gave the look she’d come to know, the look of “I support you but meet me halfway on this.”

 

“Understood.  I’ll see you as soon as your fastest ship can get me there.”

 

“Most satisfactory.  Sarek out.”

 

She smiled, glad that Sarek was on her side.  She didn’t imagine he was making it easy on Jim.

 

She thought about that for a few more seconds, then got up and began to pack.

 

##

 

Spock stood near the edge of the cliff, staring down at something.  Chapel didn’t have to look to know who it was he was so fascinated by.

 

She coughed lightly, and he turned and studied her.

 

Amanda had told her not to help him at first, not to give him any information, that sometimes memories came up spontaneously upon seeing a person.  Or maybe Amanda just didn’t want her to catch up with the head start Jim had on pumping him full of intimate details.

 

“I know you,” he said.  His expression was the coldest she had seen next to when he’d just returned from Gol.

 

“You do know me, yes.”

 

He walked over to her, a slight frown tipped his lips down, his eyebrows in.  “Odd memories.”

 

She could only imagine.  Especially if he was digging up the time they were all three together.

 

“Pancakes?  Is that right?”

 

She smiled and nodded.

 

“You approve of that association.”

 

“There are worse things to be remembered for than pancakes.”  She wiped sweat from her forehead.  “Can we go back inside?  I’m only human.”

 

“Of course.”  He followed her into the room inside the cliffs.

 

The temperature dropped precipitously and she sighed in relief.  “Sorry.  I know you were looking at Jim.”

 

“He wants me to remember him.  I do but...not the way he wants.”

 

“Has he told you what he wants?”

 

“No.  But it has to do with feelings.  Just as your visit does.”

 

“Pancakes to feelings?  Kind of a leap.”

 

“In the memory I recalled, you were preparing them naked.”


She knew she was blushing.  “Oh.  Yeah.  Well, that was your fault.  I started off with a robe on.”

 

He tipped his head, studied her.  Then he looked very far away, and she thought he must be seeing something else.  “You and him, with me.”

 

She thought her face probably flamed even more.  Thank God the cave was dimly lit.  “It was only for a short time.  It didn’t work.”

 

“Three is a difficult number.”  He frowned.  “Why do I think that?”

 

“I said it to you.  Jim probably did, too.  Although for the record, three doesn’t have to be.  In other circumstances.  You and I and Saavik did just fine as a family.”

 

“Saavik.  I disappoint her, too.”  He cocked his head again, and she felt uncomfortable under his scrutiny.  “And you—do I disappoint you?”

 

“I came expecting to be disappointed.”

 

“A most refreshing attitude.  Expectations weigh heavily when one cannot meet them.”

 

“I can see that.”  She decided to study him for a moment before saying, “You and I were happy.”

 

“Happy is an emotion.”

 

“Yes, one you used to feel.”  She eyed a chair.  “Do you want me to sit or go?  Either answer is fine.”

 

“Sit.  I wish...”  He frowned again, barely, but she knew how to read him.

 

“It doesn’t matter what you wish, Spock.  All that matters is you becoming whole.  Well.”

 

“You are a healer.  I remember that.”

 

“Yes, in addition to nude cooking, I also have many degrees to fall back on.”  She smiled.

 

He looked confused.

 

“That was humor.”  That thing that Saavik would say was a difficult concept when she wanted to make someone uncomfortable.  She seemed quite adept at her own brand of dry humor.

 

“Ah.  I have not reached that on the reintegration module.  It persists in asking me how I feel.”

 

She smiled.  “Most humans answer that with a lie.  They say they feel fine.  If it’s a really good day, they might say great.”

 

“And if the day has been less than positive?”

 

“No one cares.  You just say fine anyway.  It’s a meaningless question.  A doctor walks into an exam room to a sick patient and asks ‘How are you?’ and nine times out of ten the patient will answer ‘Fine” before realizing they aren’t fine, that’s why they’re there.”

 

“Fascinating.”

 

“Not really.”  She smiled again.  “Or maybe it is.  We used to have discussions like this.”

 

“We were intimate?”

 

She nodded.  “But you were intimate with Jim, too.  That man out there who longs for you to remember him.”

 

“You are...generous to say that, are you not?”

 

“I am.  I’m a fucking saint.”  She started to laugh.  “Sorry about the swearing.”

 

“It provoked a reaction.  Uncomfortable and not.”  He looked more like a scientist discussing a subject’s reaction to stimulus than a man talking about himself.

 

“This is more than I expected.”

 

“I feel at ease with you.  Will you tell me more of what we were to each other?”

 

She shook her head.  “I’ve probably already said too much.  Your memories will come back or they won’t.  I don’t want to fill your head with my perspective on how things were between us.  You’ll remember more about us in time—care, or not.  Everyone heals differently.”

 

“Logical.  And ethical.”

 

“I try to be the second one.  I’ve made some illogical choices in the past when it comes to you and that man waiting for you.”  And Len—letting him go so she could have Spock may have been the most illogical thing she’d done.

 

But then, when was love ever logical?

 

##

 

Chapel saw Len waiting for her when she came down from Spock’s room.  She smiled at him, walked over, and touched his head.  “All alone in there now?”

 

He nodded.  “You were up there a long time.  Jim’s fit to be tied.”

 

“I have no expectations.  Sometimes it’s good to be the loser.”  She motioned for him to walk with her.  “You guys are in a lot of trouble.  You know that, right?”

 

“Well, technically, I was not in my right mind, and I plan to go back and tell the Council that.”

 

“Don’t.  They’ll take you into custody first and listen later.  I’ll talk to Sarek.  He would be the best one to speak for you.”

 

“And he’ll go simply because you ask him?”  He made a pensive face.  “You two are close?”

 

“He’s the closest thing I’ve had to a father-in-law, even if it didn’t last very long.  He likes me.”

 

“His relationship with Jim is...tenuous.”

 

She shrugged.  “Not my concern.”

 

“Jim went through hell, Christine.  He gave up everything for Spock.”

 

“And what?  I’m not supposed to get in the way of that?  Do you say that because you want Jim to be happy or because you don’t want me to be?”

 

His look changed, the anger finally coming through.  “Both, maybe.”

 

“Spock was inside you, and you both wanted me, and I did the right thing.  I didn’t sleep with you.”

 

“As I remember it, you didn’t have a clue that he was in me.  You just thought it was me being the same old lovesick pup.  So, don’t give me the ‘Look how noble I am’ speech.”

 

She looked down.

 

“But you did sleep with Jim, didn’t you, Christine?  He looked damned guilty when he saw you, and you didn’t seem to be making much eye contact with him, either.  Did you happen to mention that to Spock?”

 

She swallowed hard.  “It was one time.  We were both in pain.  If I could do it over again differently, I would.”

 

“Why?  Because it was wrong or because Jim left you high and dry the moment he found a way to bring Spock back?”

 

“You’re so ugly when you’re hurt.”  She turned to go. 

 

“You’re so ugly when you’re you.”  He stopped her.  “Leave Jim alone, Christine.  You hear me?  He does not need you rubbing his face in whatever happened up there.”

 

“Happened?  What the hell do you think happened?  Spock and I talked.  Mostly about things other than us.  Because it would be unethical to impose myself on his reintegration, and I actually am ethical.”  She moved closer.  “I’m sure Jim’s not giving me the same consideration.  Where do you stand, lover?  Are you going to be on the ‘Jim’s your soul mate’ bandwagon?”

 

“There are days that I hate you, Christine.”

 

“That’s crystal clear.”  She turned before he could say anything else and walked away.

 

##

 

Chapel sat with Saavik in Amanda’s garden.  The night was cooler than normal, and the roses Amanda somehow coaxed out of the dusty Vulcan soil smelled heavenly.

 

“Are you all right, kiddo?”  She studied Saavik.  Something was off, but she couldn’t figure out if it was more than just dealing with Spock’s reintegration.

 

“You spent a lot of time today with Spock.  I saw Admiral Kirk’s face.  He was not happy.”

 

“My goal being here isn’t to make Jim miserable.”

 

“Maybe it should be.  Spock needs to choose you.”

 

“Spock’s in no shape to choose his next meal, much less who he wants to be with.”

 

“That is an exaggeration.”  For once, Saavik didn’t sound amused at her humor.  She looked away, her mouth tight.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Sacrifices were made to get him back here.”


“David.  I know.”

 

“Other things, too.  To keep his body alive.  To get him home safely.”

 

She frowned.  “I don’t understand.”

 

Saavik stood and began to pace.  “I kept him safe for you.”

 

“And I appreciate that, Saavik.  But you also kept him safe for yourself—let’s be honest with one another.”

 

Saavik stopped moving, closed her eyes tightly as if trying to hold in emotions Chapel didn’t understand.

 

“He will remember you, honey.  I know he will.”

 

Saavik nodded.  “Of course.  Certainly.”  She went to the window.  “Will he choose you?  He talked to you today, did he not?”

 

“He talked of nothing consequential.  I...I am unthreatening.”

 

“Because he loves you.”

 

“Not necessarily.  Why is this so important to you?”

 

“How can it not be important to you?”  Saavik stalked to her.  “I heard what you said to Doctor McCoy.  About ethics.  What good are ethics if you lose him?”

 

“What good is having him if I lose my integrity?”  She took Saavik’s hand, but Saavik jerked it away.  “I appreciate that you’ve lost someone you care about, Saavik.  That you and David grew close.”

 

“You think that is what is on my mind?”  Saavik laughed.  A bitter, horrible laugh that made Chapel swallow hard.  “I gave everything.”

 

“I know what it’s like to watch someone you love die.”

 

Saavik’s expression changed.  All anger faded and a sort of resignation seemed to come over her.  “Yes.  Yes, of course you’d understand that.”  She sat down next to Chapel.  “I have spoken of you often to Spock.  I lack your ethics, Christine.”

 

“Don’t do that, Saavik.  You could harm his progress.”

 

“I want us back the way we were.  I had a family when you were with him.”

 

“You have a family now.  Sarek and Amanda love you.  Spock will again.  And Jim—didn’t you see anything you could admire?”

 

“Why do you care?  Why are you so damned fair to him?”

 

“He’s fair to me, too.  He never lied to me.  Never.”


Saavik looked confused; Chapel wasn’t going to fill her in now on the past and her unconventional sleeping arrangements.

 

“Never mind.  Just...try to understand if Spock chooses him.  Jim gave up everything he had to get him back.  That’s hard to fight.”

 

“Fight anyway.”

 

Chapel nodded.  “I will.”  But she wasn’t sure she’d fight the way Saavik wanted her to.  Because there was a time she would have chosen Jim, too, if he’d wanted her.

 

##

 

Chapel heard a knock on her door, went and opened it and found Sarek waiting.

 

“Your comm said it was urgent.”

 

She nodded.  “Len—Doctor McCoy intends to go back and testify on Jim’s and the others’ behalves.”

 

Sarek said nothing; his expression looked as if he was waiting for her to say something that mattered to him.

 

“Len will be taken into custody.  He was out of control when he left—Starfleet security won’t take any chances.  I know how they work.”

 

“Then tell him not to go.”  He raised an eyebrow.

 

“I did, but he’s right in thinking that someone needs to speak for them.”

 

“For them?  You mean for Kirk, don’t you?  My son is not implicated in what Kirk did.  Neither will Doctor McCoy be once they determine he was mentally compromised by the presence of Spock’s katra.”

 

“But Jim did what he did because you told him to.  And the others were just helping him carry that out.”

 

“I did not tell him to hijack a starship.”

 

“You didn’t have to.  He’d do anything to please you, and we both know it.  Especially if it dovetailed with helping Spock in some way.”  She took a deep breath, forced herself to stay unemotional.  “You and I need to go back to Earth.  Tomorrow.”

 

Sarek moved farther into the room.  “Your feelings for Kirk are compromising your judgment.” 

 

“My feelings for—”

 

“I melded with the man, Christine, when I went to him that night of the party he did not invite you to.  I saw everything I needed to.”


She could feel her face flaming.  “It was a mistake.  It was one time.”

 

“I am not censuring you.  I accept that humans reach out in inappropriate ways when they are in pain.  It was clear from his feelings that he, too, regretted it.”

 

She looked down.  “I was in love with him once.”

 

“Yes, I saw that, too.  You and Kirk and my son were quite busy.”

 

She hadn’t thought her face could get any redder; she was wrong.  “Shit.”  She turned and went to the window.  “That was over quickly, too.  My relationship with Spock is what’s important here.”

 

“I concur.  How will helping Kirk evade punishment assist you in reestablishing your place with my son?”

 

“That’s not the point.  You owe Jim this.”

 

“Do I?  It was because of him that my son died.”  Sarek’s voice was angry—something she’d never heard before, even when he was annoyed with Spock.

 

“So many circumstances led up to what happened.”  She walked over to him, took his hand and held it tightly, was surprised to feel him squeeze back.  “It’s the right thing to do, Sarek.  Maybe not the logical thing, but the right thing.”

 

“I am...angry with him, Christine.”

 

“I know.”  She winced as he squeezed her hand tighter. 

 

He let go with a murmured, “I beg forgiveness.”

 

“I’m going back to Earth.  Will you come with me?”

 

His eyes were defeated as he nodded.  “Your unwillingness to fight in any manner other than fair may be your downfall.”

 

“What will be, will be.”

 

“As you say.”  He took a deep breath, seemed to become the Sarek she knew as he let it out slowly—the calm and gracious man she loved.  “And this week, it has been you, not Kirk, who has spent time with Spock.  He clearly prefers your company.”

 

She nodded, even if she didn’t think it was that simple.  But why ruin Sarek’s illusions?

 

##

 

Chapel came down from talking with Spock and saw Jim waiting for her where Len had been the day before.  He looked...exhausted, and she hated how much she wanted to take care of him.

 

“You were up there a long time again.”  He took her arm, drew her away from the bird-of-prey and toward a makeshift camp that had some shade.

 

And also scotch.  He poured them both glasses.  “Why will he talk to you and not me?”

 

“I go in expecting to lose?”  She held her glass up to him in a bitter toast.  “I’m low threat?”

 

“And I’m high threat?  Since when?”

 

“He knows you gave up everything for him, Jim.  Someone told him.  You?  Amanda?  Len?  I don’t know who let that gem slip.  But he knows.  And that weighs on him.  Put yourself in his shoes.”

 

She saw Ny come out of the Klingon ship.  Her friend seemed to have to think about whether she was going to come over, and then she turned and walked the other way, toward the sleeping chambers.

 

“When did I become the bad guy?” Chapel asked, taking a big sip of the scotch; it burned all the way down.  “And does she know now?”

 

“I may have let something about my relationship with Spock slip during my recruiting for a mutiny speech.”  He shook his head.  “I was off my game.  Besides, you’ve got Sarek and Saavik on your side.  How many more do you need?”

 

“Be glad Sarek’s on my side.  Because soon he’ll be on yours.”

 

“I don’t follow.”

 

“We’re leaving for Earth tonight.  He’s going to testify on your behalf.”


“What?  I thought Len was going to do that.”  He shook his head as if she was crazy.

 

“Len will be thrown in the brig before he can make landfall.  He made a lot of noise talking about Genesis, and until Starfleet security is sure he can keep his mouth shut, they aren’t going to let him loose.  Especially not in front of the Council.”

 

“Then I should go.”

 

“They’ll crucify you.  Trust me on this.  I actually do have your best interests at heart.”

 

He studied her for a long time before saying, “Me in the brig would mean you get Spock.”

 

“A hell of way to pay you back for a resurrection.  Besides, you know me: I want to win fair and square, not by default.”

 

He threw back his drink.  “You did win.  He chose you.”


“Well, things are different now.  We’ll have to see how this plays out.”  She urged him into one of the chairs scattered around the enclosure.  “Sit down, for God’s sake.  You look dead on your feet.”

 

He let her push him down, sighed as he seemed to relax.  “I don’t want to be enemies, Chris.”

 

“We’re not.  We’re rivals.”  She smiled and sat down next to him.  “And ex lovers.  I don’t forget that.”

 

“Especially since it was not too long ago.”  He turned to look at her.  “I’m sorry if I took advantage.”

 

“It was both of us.  Comfort, maybe.  Not sure.”

 

“I’m also sorry for how I didn’t include you in our little adventure.”  He rolled his eyes at the word.

 

“No, you’re not.  You saw a chance to save Len and maybe Spock, too.  I knew what you’d do as soon as Sarek came to you—he told me he was going to talk to you.”

 

“He did?”  Jim looked sincerely surprised.  “How close are you two?”

 

She gave him a look that would have done a Vulcan proud.

 

“Question withdrawn.  Jesus, you’ve been hanging around Vulcans too long.”

 

“He and I see eye to eye.  And we both love Saavik.”

 

His jaw seemed to tighten.  “She’ll be a good officer.”

 

“She’ll be a great officer.”  She sighed.  “Why didn’t you bother to get to know her?  You never had the chance with David and—”

 

“Don’t talk about him.  I’m...raw.”

 

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to hurt you.” 


“We never mean to hurt each other, Chris.  And we just keep doing it.”

 

She stared at him, saw an expression on his face she’d never seen before.  Defeat.

 

Holy shit.  He really thought Spock would choose her.  Even with her surrendering the field by leaving Vulcan?

 

“I never stopped loving you.”  He turned to look at her.  “I never stopped loving him.”

 

“Likewise.”

 

He nodded.  “Can we just go back to being a threesome?  That suddenly seems so much simpler.”  He reached over and took her hand, holding on tighter than she expected, then he let go of her.  “God damn I’m tired.”


They drank and sat in silence until Sarek came to get her.

 

##

 

“It would seem,” Sarek said to her after the Council meeting, “that Kirk has again snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.”

 

She smiled, even if it hurt to watch Spock and Jim standing so closely together talking, the heroes who had had gone back in time and brought whales home.  “Why don’t you ever call him Jim?”

 

“Do you know why I prefer you with my son, Christine?”

 

“You like blue eyes better than hazel?”

 

He shot her the glance she knew was his version of amusement.  “My son loses himself in that man.  He has no need of me.  His mother cares for both of you, but I am selfish, Christine, and you are the one who allows me into Spock’s life.  And allows Saavik in the way she deserves.”

 

She turned and waited for him to follow.  “Then I’m sorry.  Because I think he’s chosen Jim.”

 

“I would not be so quick to jump to that conclusion.”

 

“Wait until they see the ship they’re getting.”  She smiled wryly.

 

“You know?”

 

She nodded.  “The NCC-1701-A”

 

He let out a puff of air that she recognized as some sort of bitter amusement.  “Of course.”

 

“Spock will go with Jim.  History repeats itself.  I’ll lose.  If I haven’t already.”  She took a deep breath. 

 

“You will always be family to me.  And to Saavik.”

 

“I know.”  There was no one in the corridor so she touched his forearm briefly.  “Thank you for everything.  I’ll see you at the next disaster?”

 

He lifted an eyebrow, the gesture somehow so different from when Spock did it.  She smiled and walked back to Ops.

 

Her smile died on the way.

 

##

 

She was settling in for dinner, comfy in sweats and a t-shirt, when her chime rang.  She was tired.  She’d worked a double shift to avoid thinking of Jim and Spock out on their shakedown cruise.  She’d seen some reports.  The ship might be a thing of beauty, but it ran like shit.

 

She put her dinner in the warmer and walked to the door, opening it with the least welcoming expression in her repertoire.

 

Spock stood there.  “Christine.”

 

“Oh.  Hi.”  She peeked around him.  No Jim.  Was that good or bad?  Would he want to break the news to her alone? 

 

He probably would.  Shit, she was not in the mood for this right now.

 

“May I come in?”

 

She moved aside.  “You’re still on the door, Spock.”

 

“I did not want to presume.”

 

“Very noble of you.”  She suddenly really wanted a drink but forced herself to sit down on the couch instead.  She crossed her arms over her chest, then realized that was too defensive a posture, and tried to look more casual.  “Sit.  Take a load off.”

 

“You are angry.”

 

“I’m anticipating.”

 

“Ah.”  He sat down—right goddamn next to her.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

“I remember everything.”  He turned so he was facing her and pushed the hair off her cheek.  “I remember that Jim left me again.  I remember that you were there.  I remember we were happy.”

 

“I can’t share you.”

 

“I’m not asking you to.”  He frowned slightly.  “Why do you presume you have lost?”

 

“Because he always wins.”  She looked away.  “And because he gave everything to get you back.  While I was here, on Earth, doing nothing.”

 

“It happened as it happened.  A cycle of incidences fortuitous and not so.”

 

She nodded.  “David.”

 

“Jim is hurting.”

 

“Jim was hurting even more when you were dead.”  She met his eyes.  “I slept with him.  Once.  When we were both grieving.”

 

“I know.  He told me.  You are both so honest.  Or so afraid of the other one telling me first.”  He sat very still, as if he could sit there all night.  “You did not sleep with McCoy, though, did you, when my katra was inside him?”

 

“Do you know that?”

 

“No.  I...surmised it from something he said when he thought I was not in range.”

 

She sighed.  “He’s not happy with me.  He’s on the ‘pick Jim’ ticket.”

 

Spock leaned in.  “Do you want me to pick you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“When I was dying, I told Jim that I had been and always would be his friend.  And that is true.  He is my closest friend.  I would die for him again, Christine.”

 

“I know.”

 

“But you are who I chose.  And I wish to honor that.”

 

“You’re not stuck with me.  If you want him, take him.”

 

“My father believes you are the better choice.”

 

“What do you care?  You’ve defied him your whole life.”  She got up, suddenly uncomfortable with him so close.

 

“I thought you would welcome my choice.”

 

“Are you choosing?  Or are you just slipping into an old pattern?”

 

“Could the same not be said if I chose Jim?  Christine, I want you.”

 

“You’ll be on the ship with him, though.”

 

“I am perfectly capable of being faithful.”  He moved toward her.  “You look tired, Christine.  How long has it been since you slept?  I assume your bed is in the same place?”

 

She laughed helplessly.  “Yes.”

 

He reached out his hand, and she took it. 

 

“I don’t want to have sex.”

 

“You do.  You are afraid to.”

 

“Quit reading me.”  She pulled her hand back.

 

“It is not something I can help.  And you are broadcasting quite strongly because you are exhausted.”  He took her hand again, led her to the bedroom.  He kicked his boots off, and pulled her into bed, fully clothed.  “We will just sleep.”

 

It felt so good to have him back—to have his arms around her.  She closed her eyes and tried not to cry, because she was terrified this was temporary.

 

“Christine, please.  Your distress is uncomfortable.  I am still not entirely myself.  Emotions—I know I once dealt with them quite successfully, but it is more difficult now.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

He eased her onto her stomach, began to rub her back the way she used to do his.  “Relax.”

 

She finally did, and he lay back down and pulled her into his arms.  She moaned in a sleepy way, and he leaned in and kissed her gently.

 

“I love you,” she murmured.

 

“You were the one person who did not cause me distress when I was reintegrating on Vulcan, Christine.  That is significant.”  He pulled her closer and rubbed her arms until she fell asleep.

 

##

 

She woke to an empty bed, but then she heard Spock in the dining room, typing on her terminal.  She looked at the chrono: five a.m. 

 

Jesus, she’d barely slept.  She got up and walked out to him, and he closed down a message terminal as she approached. 

 

“What are you doing up, Spock?”

 

“I do not sleep very much right now.”

 

“Okay.”  She went into the kitchen, made coffee, trying not to overthink that he used to not sleep very much either but that didn’t mean he left their bed to go do...whatever he was doing.  Especially not his first night back.  “Did you eat already?”

 

“I did not.”

 

She studied him—well, his back, since it was still facing her.  “Do you want to be here?”

 

He turned, surprise on his face.  “I am here.”

 

“Are you?  Or are you with him.”  She pointed to the terminal.  “Since when do you close down message screens when I come by?”

 

He sighed.  “It was not Jim I was talking with.  It was Saavik.  I am trying...”  He looked away.  “She is distant now and I am trying to make amends.”

 

“Is that why you’re here?  Because I can deliver Saavik and your father—the two Vulcans you care most about—and Jim can’t?”  She went back into the bedroom.  “Get your own fucking breakfast.  You lived here long enough to do that.”

 

She got back into bed and pulled the covers over her head. 

 

A few minutes later, she heard Spock’s footsteps.  He sounded like he had stopped at the door.  “Do you want me here, Christine?”

 

“Of course I do.  Jesus.”

 

“I had forgotten how many colorful metaphors you use.  I was not successful in mastering them when we were in the past.”

 

She didn’t answer.  Was he actually trying to lighten the mood?

 

His footsteps sounded again, then he pulled the bedclothes up and got back into bed.

 

Naked.

 

“What the hell are you doing?”

 

“I believe you know.”  He pulled her to him, very slowly, and she knew he was giving her every chance to get away from him.

 

“I hate that I can’t be sure of you.”

 

“You can be sure of me.  You just do not want to.”  He pushed her to her back.  “Or maybe it is you that you are not sure of?”

 

“Shut up and kiss me.”

 

It took a while before it felt right, before it felt like she was with the Spock she knew.  But she found him, eventually, and he found her—and all the spots she liked.  He had her clutching the sheets and calling out his name as he became reacquainted with her body.  She got to know his again, too, and realized it had changed, that this was his body reborn.

 

Reborn and returned.

 

But for how long?

 

##

 

Chapel tried to relax, tried to trust Spock.  When he said he was going camping with Jim and Len she’d accepted the news without making a fuss, even though she wanted to ask if Len was really going to be there.

 

Not that she could ask Len.  He was avoiding her whenever he saw her at Command.

 

She had commed Saavik after Spock’s first night back with her.  Asked her if he had reached out to her.  Saavik said he’d messaged her several times the night before.  So, he had not been lying about that.

 

Chapel had not been sure.  Why couldn’t she be sure of him?

 

And now Jim was sitting in her living room, smiling uncomfortably while Spock got his things together for a camp-out.  “I’ll take good care of him.”  By the look on his face, he seemed to know that was the very worst thing to say.  “I mean—”

 

“Stow it.  I don’t care what you mean.”  She sat down across from him. 

 

“He chose you, Chris.  You won.”

 

She nodded in a way that meant nothing.  She knew her face was like stone.

 

“I told him about us.”  Jim looked down.  “I didn’t want any secrets.”

 

“I did, too. 

 

“What happened between us...”  He had the look she never expected to see.  The look she imagined Jan had seen far too many times after he’d opened up even a little and then pulled back, into his rules—his nonexistent rules.

 

“Let me guess.  It never happened?  It meant nothing?”  She suddenly could imagine hating him.

 

“It meant everything, Chris.  You saved me that night.  My best friends were gone.”  He was pitching his voice low; Spock couldn’t hear them—this was just for her.  “That’s why I told him.  Because it did mean something to me.”  He laughed softly, a bitter sound.  “But I guess you told him the opposite.  It was nothing, huh?”

 

“I told him it was one time.  I’d never tell him it was nothing—he’d know I was lying.”  She looked down.

 

“I miss you, Chris.”

 

“Don’t do this.  Don’t woo me now that he’s made his choice.  Don’t try to insert yourself in the middle of this.”

 

“The way you did with us?”

 

She looked away, stung.

 

“Is that what you think I’m doing?  Trying to get that back—anything back.  Even the crumbs?”

 

“So you admit that’s what I got?  The crumbs?”  She stared him down, the Ops look that had seemed to impress him so before.

 

“I may have overcompensated being fair to Spock.”

 

“No, Jim.  You just loved him a lot more.”  She heard Spock coming, stood and asked, “All set?”

 

He nodded and pulled her close, kissing her in front of Jim quite thoroughly, like they were the perfect couple.

 

Which of the three of them was he trying to convince?

 

##

 

She came into work to find out that Spock was no longer camping with Jim, but they were off to the neutral zone on a new mission on a barely functioning ship.

 

He hadn’t bothered to comm her.  She didn’t want to know why. 

 

And then things got weirder.  The comms she saw were confusing.  The ship was going where no one should go.

 

Spock and Jim were going there.  Together.

 

She could almost feel her life unraveling as she waited at her station, doing work she didn’t care about, work that she wanted to leave behind forever and just run and run and never stop.

 

When Spock finally showed back up at her apartment, days after the ship had made it back to Earth, his hair smelled of campfires. 

 

She closed her eyes and whispered, “Do it quick.”

 

“I cannot fight this.”

 

She closed her eyes.  “I can give you Sarek.  He cannot.”

 

“It is ironic, given that my father’s first words upon seeing me were, “So human,” that a human would be my way back to him.”  He touched her cheek.  “I have never pleased him, and if he and I are to build anything between us, he must accept me for who I am.  And who I love.  All the people I love.”

 

“I love you more than Jim does.”  The words sounded weak even to her.  She knew it wasn’t true.  She loved him as much as she loved Jim.  But could she ever say she loved either of them the way they did each other?  She’d run to save herself.


She’d do it again if she had to.

 

They’d die for each other.  Give anything, everything.

 

She tried a different approach.  “He’ll leave you again.  And I won’t be there to pick up the pieces.”  She sounded just like Len had to her, and she imagined Spock would pay her as much mind as she had Len.

 

“He will not.  I betrayed him during this mission—far more than when I took his memory—and he forgave me.  He will not leave me this time.  I am sorry, Christine.  I care deeply for you.  I know I am giving up a great deal.”

 

“Just go.” 

 

He did not move except to take her in his arms and hold her.  “Give my father a message for me. Tell him my brother is dead.”

 

She pulled away.  “Is that a joke?”

 

“It is not.  He will understand.”

 

“I don’t.”

 

“I know.”  He kissed her forehead, then let go of her and walked out of the apartment.


For good, she imagined.


The hell of it was, it didn’t hurt the way it should.  It hurt the way a hangnail did after you pulled it, when you knew from the moment you grabbed the skin that it was a stupid thing to do.

 

It hurt like a punch in the face from the girl you taunted into hitting you.

 

It hurt like the burn of muscles after you played too many games of beach volleyball when you were out of shape.

 

It hurt like every stupid thing she’d ever done in her life.

 

She sat down and commed Sarek.  He took one look at her face and closed his eyes.

 

“He made his choice.  I wasn’t it.”

 

“I am sorry, Christine.  I believe my son is a fool.”

 

“You married for love—you have no room to talk.”  She frowned.  “He gave me a message to give to you.  It’s odd.”

 

“What is it?”

 

“He said his brother is dead.”

 

Sarek went very still.

 

“Are you all right?”

 

“Amanda was not my first wife, Christine.  I did not marry for love the first time.  I had a Vulcan son I do not speak of.  If what Spock says is true, then he is no more, just as his mother passed before him.”  He narrowed his eyes.  “Did Spock mention his katra?  A ceremony of emplacement?”


She shook her head.

 

“Then he is lost forever.”  His expression changed, became hard.  “It is as it should be.”

 

She swallowed.  Was this the Sarek Spock saw and could not reconcile with?

 

Sarek’s look softened.  “We will never speak of this again.  But you and I are friends, Christine.  Family.  Do you understand what I am saying?”

 

“That I’m not out of your life?”


He nodded.  “Have you told Saavik of Spock’s choice?”

 

“Not yet.  But I imagine he might.  He wants to repair their relationship.”

 

“Something is wrong with her.  She will not talk to me.  Perhaps she will to you.”

 

Chapel nodded.  “I’ll try.  She’s stubborn.”

 

“Yes.  I know.”  Sarek touched the screen, a sentimental gesture that surprised her, but she returned the favor and smiled. 

 

“Thank you for making being in Spock’s life so easy, Sarek.”

 

“Thank you for your time in it.”

 

##

 

Chapel took a deep breath, trying to push down the rising panic.  This had been happening more and more since Spock had chosen Jim.  The job was too much suddenly.  And now Jan was leaving with Sulu on the Excelsior.  Saavik had taken a leave of absence and given no reason.

 

What more was Chapel supposed to deal with?

 

She opened up the memo from Starfleet Medical.  A job notice.  Head of emergency services at the medical center on Oldivia V.  A gorgeous planet, the main trauma center for that sector.  Very far away from Ops.  Very far away most days from the Enterprise’s usual area of operation.

 

And a quiet planet with more normal hours.  Not like this.

 

But it would look like she was running away again, and she’d sworn not to do that.

 

“Christine?”

 

She looked up and saw Saavik standing there.  “I thought you were on Vulcan.”

 

“I was.”  She looked down.  “May we speak in private?”

 

Chapel got one of the rovers to cover her station and walked with Saavik to the main cafeteria, which was quiet in the lull between lunch and dinner.  “I’ve missed you.”

 

“I have missed you.  I am so angry at Spock, Christine.  I want you to know that.  I did not keep him alive for him to choose Admiral—Captain Kirk.”

 

Shhh.  He’s made the only choice I think he can make.”

 

Saavik shook her head.  “No, he had other choices.  He could have stayed with you.  You were happy, were you not?”

 

“I thought so.”  She shrugged.  “But then how do you fight destiny?  I think if soul mates exist, those two definitely fit the bill.”

 

“Soul mates who leave everyone out, especially me.  They did before and they will do it again.  You...you included me.  I do not know if you have ever realized how happy I was when I stayed over.  Something as simple as pancakes.”  She looked down. 

 

“I know.  Sarek’s not happy about this, either.”

 

“I know.  He has tried to talk to me.  I cannot talk to him about—”  She began to fiddle with the salt shaker.  “Christine, I am pregnant.”

 

“What?”  She sighed.  “Is it David’s?”

 

“No.  I was not involved with him.  And I would not want to have Kirk in my child’s life, trying to play grandfather when he has never been anything but the man who has taken Spock away from me, over and over again.”

 

“That’s not fair, Saavik.”

 

“You love him in ways I do not understand.  But I never have loved him and I never will.”

 

“Whose baby is it?  And why weren’t you on contraceptives?  They’re mandatory for active duty and—”  She thought back, to what Saavik had told her of the Genesis planet.  What she had obviously been trying to tell her and Chapel hadn’t been hearing her.  “Oh, Saavik.  The Pon Farr.”

 

“Yes.  The Pon Farr.”  Saavik swallowed visibly.  “I was still a cadet and not sexually active.  Contraceptives were optional.  I did not know how my body would react to them—my Romulan physiology can make medicines problematic—so I opted to not take them until I had to.”

 

“You have to tell Spock.”

 

“Why?  He was not there when it happened—his essence was gone.  Whatever consciousness was in that body belonged to someone else.  Some new Spock that was integrated or possibly extinguished during the re-fusion ceremony.”

 

Chapel frowned. 

 

“I know this for a fact, Christine.  Spock does not remember.  I have probed more than once to see if he recalls anything from the planet, but he does not.  And frankly, it is difficult to get time with him.  First he knew none of us, now all he sees is Kirk.”

 

“You have to tell him.”

 

“I do not.  I will not.”  At Chapel’s look, she leaned in, her voice pitched low and angry.  “He did not know me after the Fal-tor-pan.  He hardly reacted to me.  I am inconsequential to him.  I will not share this baby with him.”  She sat up, suddenly looked worlds away from a Vulcan.  “It is my Romulan side, perhaps, but I feel vengeance is in order.  He chose wrong.  He left you and he left me.  And now we will leave.”

 

“We?  What?  Leave?”

 

She nodded.  “You are exhausted.  I see how tired you are of Ops.  Do you have no other opportunities?  Somewhere we could go, and I could have this baby.  We will make our own family.  Mother and daughter and grandson or granddaughter.”

 

“It’s a lovely fantasy, but then what?”

 

“And then you raise my child.  The way you would have your own and Spock’s.  If he had chosen you.  Or your own and Roger’s.”  She leaned in again.  “I will be in the child’s life.  I will not lie to it about being its mother, but you would raise it.  Far away from Vulcan—I do not want it raised a Vulcan.”

 

“Has Vulcan treated you so badly?  Sarek and Amanda—”

 

“Were often off world.  The rest of Vulcan was not.  You try living there when you are only half as good as everyone else.”

 

“Spock went through the same thing.”

 

“Spock is human, not Romulan.  Spock was wanted, not an experiment.”

 

Chapel had no answer for that. 

 

“Christine, please.  I trust you.”

 

“Spock doesn’t deserve this.  And if I’m suddenly with a Vulcan baby, word will get back to him.  He’ll think it’s his.”

 

“You will tell him the truth, then, if the time comes.  A version of it, at any rate.  That the child is mine.  A youthful indiscretion.  One that might have derailed a command track career, had you not intervened.”  Saavik nodded.  “This can work, Christine.”

 

“It can also work if you tell him.”

 

“And have him and Kirk take over and squeeze me out of my own child’s life?”

 

“They wouldn’t.  They couldn’t.  Not on a ship.”

 

“I do not know that for sure and neither do you.  I want you to help me.  I no longer fully trust Spock—he let me back into his life when he was with you, Christine, but how do I know he will not slam the door shut once more now that he has chosen Kirk again?”  She met Chapel’s eyes, and hers blazed with hate.  “Please?”

 

“I have to think about this.  What about Sarek?  He’s been so good to you.”

 

Saavik looked down.

 

“He wants Spock back in his life, Saavik.  But Spock is with Jim so that won’t happen.  But this child.  Spock’s son or daughter.  You could give Sarek that.  A chance to start over, to make amends.”

 

Saavik smiled.  “You mean you could give him that.”


Chapel looked down.

 

“Three of us, all wanting one thing.  And Spock does not care.”

 

Chapel thought of that peaceful planet.  Raising a child, Saavik there whenever she could be, Sarek could come too—he had remarkable freedom to come and go as he pleased.  He would include Amanda as he saw fit—Chapel found herself not terribly concerned about Amanda’s feelings. 

 

It sounded appealing—too appealing—to just disappear and never be seen again.  But of course that was silly.  She wouldn’t disappear, not really.  Jim and Spock would always be able to find her.

 

But a child.  A new start.  It seemed so right after so many false beginnings.

 

“I’ll raise the child, but you have to tell Sarek.  Ask him what you should do regarding Spock.  His answer will determine if I take a job off world I’ve been offered or raise the child here.”  She had worked so many hours, earned enough credits to get a nanny for when she wasn’t at home.  And there were other jobs for her here on Earth, ones with more normal hours.  She would not need to be so far from Sarek and Saavik, when Saavik was back at Command.

 

“I would like to tell him.  But I know Amanda.  She will want me to include Spock.”  Saavik met her eyes.  To Chapel’s shock, she was crying.  “How can you stand it?  That he left again?”

 

“I’m not his daughter.  I was only ever a stand-in for someone he loved better.  And it’s prudent that you forgive him.  I know for a fact he wants you in his life.  If I can do so, my dearest, you can, too.”  She reached over, took Saavik’s hand.  “Do you want me to go with you to the embassy?”

 

Saavik nodded.

 

“All right.  And then we’ll take it from there.” 

 

She could imagine Sarek’s look when they told him.  The hope she would see in his eyes.  The ally he would be in this.

He would, of course, insist Saavik tell Spock.  He might offer to be there when she did.  Might even want Chapel there, since she was going to raise the child.

 

They would all get Spock back.  This child would ensure it.  Not the way they wanted, perhaps, but then when had her life ever gone the way she expected?

 

She would raise Spock’s child.  With Saavik’s help.  With Sarek’s help.  But ultimately, it would be her child to bring up. 

 

Not according to Jim’s orders or Spock’s wishes.  In whatever manner she saw fit.

 

Part of her enjoyed that idea far, far too much.

 

 

FIN