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) 2014 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.

The Lesser of Two Evils

 

by Djinn

 

 

Part 1

 

Spock sat by the bed, trying to ignore the small cries of pain from the woman lying in it.  Trying and failing.

 

Christine was dying because of him.  She was choosing to die because he could not—would not—love her.

 

She shifted, moving her legs under the cover as she whimpered.  She called out something that sounded like Spock's name.

 

Was this how Jim died?  Alone until the energy ribbon hit him with the final jolt?  Carrying him out to space or blasting him into nothingness?  Spock had been on a diplomatic mission when it happened; he had felt the bond between them snap and had cried out, disrupting the discussions.  He had stood, apologized, and then called for a recess for the rest of the day.  Not waiting to hear if they agreed, he had hurried to his room, ignoring his staff's question about why the negotiations had broken up early.

 

The pain—the emptiness he felt inside, the lack of Jim where before there had been the ping of his irresistible vitality—had nearly leveled him.

 

The first news report had appeared twenty minutes later.  "Captain Kirk Dies Saving New Enterprise."

 

Spock had somehow managed to go back to the negotiations table the next day while inside him felt like a black, gaping hole.  As the two parties argued over this and that and any other thing they could think of to stall progress, he had sat back and waited, and in his mind, "Jim is dead" had played repeatedly.

 

And then, once the negotiation was finalized, he had gone to Vulcan.  Seeking...what?  His mother had died several months earlier.  Her passing had been peaceful but only because of the painkillers she'd been given.  Her death had created another empty space in Spock.  Valeris's betrayal had widened the gap.  Jim's sacrifice had blasted the rest away until Spock had felt like nothing, empty and wandering.  A man without a home.

 

He'd returned to Earth, found it unbearable without Jim, and took mission after mission that kept him off planet.

 

Until the burning had caused him to return to Vulcan, and had prompted him to ask Christine to come with him.  He hadn't been careful making plans, had seen no reason to hide where he was going and with whom.  With hormones raging and grief threatening to bury him, he had been in no shape to wonder if the conspiracy had been destroyed or just gone to ground.  He had not considered that someone might want him to pay for his part in stopping it, for what he had done to Valeris.  Truth to tell, he had been too mired in grief to care—would death have been such a bad bargain?

 

But the conspirators' plan had been more complicated than a simple retaliation killing.  It wasn't just him they were after.

 

His attention was diverted to Christine, who whimpered again.  He reached out, touching her gently on the hair.  "Shhh, it is all right."

 

It was not all right.  It was not going to be all right.  He could stop this now, but Jim had impressed on him the right of free will.  Although he did not think Jim would sit by this way.  He'd be trying to come up with alternatives, but there was only one, and Christine had rejected it.

 

She woke and struggled to sit, then gave up and reached out, her voice a rasp as she said, "I'm so thirsty."

 

He gave her one of the gel sticks that was keeping her hydrated.  "Christine, I can end this." 

 

"Can you even feel me?  My mind?  Battering at you?"

 

"I cannot." 

 

"And I can.  The non-telepath."  She closed her eyes, and he thought she might be fighting tears, but when she opened them, they were dry.  "No.  Don't end this."  She laughed, a short, bitter puff of something very far from amusement. 

 

He reached for the hypo, held it out so she could see it.  "Do you want more pain medicine?"  This at least he could do.

 

"It doesn't help.  Not where it really hurts."  She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.  "Is your father here?"

 

"He has just arrived and has gone to the priestesses.  There may be a way to...fix this."  Or so his father hoped; Spock held no such illusions.

 

"Fix?"  Again the bitter expulsion of air.  "I can guarantee there's no fix for this."

 

"Other than the obvious."  He leaned in and settled his hands on her face.  "The bond I started, let me finish it."

 

"The bond you can't even feel?  Spock, you should feel this.  You did this to me."  She swatted his hands away.  There was anger in her voice, but he knew it was less at him than at the person who had, apparently on behalf of what was left of the conspiracy, drugged the water set out for them during the Pon Farr.  A drug that did nothing to humans but filled Vulcans with rage: a disaster during the burning.  It had nearly proven fatal for her.  He had been more concerned with healing what he'd done to her body than checking for more permanent damage in her mind.  It was only when her injuries were healed and her pain did not go away that Spock thought to meld with her.

 

In the midst of his drug-induced rage, during the height of the Pon Farr, he had started to bond with her—not entirely sure where he was or who he was with, looking frantically for Jim and not, of course, finding him in her mind.  He'd stopped before the bond had finalized.  Had jerked away like a cable snapping off a moored ship.  He'd been free.  She'd still been linked. 

 

Spock thought this was unprecedented, but his father said he had heard of it and that in this case it was probably due to Christine being human with limited psi abilities.  Unlike most Vulcans, she had been a static partner in the bonding, unable to resist or keep Spock with her once the bonding process started.  And now she was reacting the way a Vulcan would during the Pon Farr if they had no way to reach their partner or a surrogate—only without the sexual drive, but with death as the result.

 

He could fix this, if she would let him.  But she'd been with him in that meld, had felt his need for Jim, how she had not been enough, how fast his recoil had been when he realized what he had started to do...and with whom.

 

"Christine, I do not wish to lose you."

 

"I appreciate your willingness to finish this.  But I don't want that.  I know you don't love me.  I know you won't love me.  Give the conspiracy what they want.  Let me die."

 

He sighed, allowing himself the luxury of frustration.  The conspiracy was still out there even if the Vulcan member who had gone after them had been found hanged in her house with a message intended for Spock.  His crime: hurting Valeris the way he had.  His penalty, to hurt Christine the same way.

 

And for Christine, a penalty also—for not taking Cartwright and Valeris suicide pills when she went to visit them just before they were released to the Klingons to serve a life sentence at Rura Penthe.  The pills had been delivered by messenger from an anonymous sender with simple instructions: "These are your friends.  Don't force them to die slowly on that hellhole when you can be merciful."

 

She hadn't taken the pills to her friends, had instead turned them and the note over to security.  Had waited for some kind of retaliation, but it never came so she'd relaxed.

 

Spock sighed again.  Neither of them had deserved this.

 

She moaned, and the sound was different, more guttural, as from a deep and resounding pain.  He reached for her, was only stopped from starting a meld by the snap of her voice rasping, "Don't.  Don't you dare."

 

He pulled back and closed his eyes.  That she was alive at all was due to his being half Vulcan.  A full Vulcan would have been driven to such a rage that his partner would never have survived—his human partner.  A Vulcan woman would have been similarly affected and might have held her own. 

 

The door opened, and Spock turned.  His father stood in the doorway, and Spock could tell by the set of his shoulders that the priestesses had been able to offer no help.

 

"So, there it is," Christine said, her eyes on Sarek, who sighed, surprising Spock with the indulgence.

 

But he had barely recovered from losing Spock's mother.  Spock knew his father was fond of Christine.  He was looking at her now with a fierce protectiveness, a look he turned on Spock, as if to say, "Why do you not resolve this?"

 

It would be a simple thing.  He and Jim had been bonded.  He knew how to do it.  What it should feel like.

 

He did not understand how Christine could be tethered to him without him feeling her, but his father said that was the nature of the unfinished bond.  He had also made it clear that situations such as these were generally resolved quickly, the bond completed as soon as possible.  No one should suffer this way.

 

As his mother had, wasting away from the disease the doctors had diagnosed too late.

 

As Jim had—did Jim suffer?  Perhaps his death was quick, a shock of energy and then nothing.  Spock tried not to let thoughts of how long it had taken Jim to die monopolize him the way they had since he was lost, but he remembered how it felt to die, to feel everything shutting down, basic senses useless, not even able to touch...

 

He reached for Christine.  "As my father has been unsuccessful, we will proceed."

 

She slapped his hand away, and he was surprised at how much strength she could still muster.  "How many ways do I have to say no?"

 

Sarek strode forward; Spock could feel him, a looming presence behind and to his side.  "Christine, I know you have feelings for my son.  Let him finish this."

 

"Sarek, I know what it feels like to be loved.  You do, too.  So does Spock.  And he does not love me.  I don't want that."

 

"I was bonded initially to a woman I did not have any regard for, Christine.  It can be borne."

 

"I don't want this to be something we have to bear.  And when your first wife died, you must have been relieved.  You'd already met Amanda."

 

Spock frowned and turned to his father, not caring that the expression was a lapse.  "You told her this?"

 

"I did not."  Sarek gave Christine a stern look.  "My wife told you this?"

 

"She did.  I know much of your great love story."  There was no mockery in her voice.  "Do me the courtesy of realizing I won't accept any less than that.  Honor my wishes."

 

He moved closer, and Spock vacated the seat so he could sit.  "The only time this will be a burden for you is when the burning strikes.  Otherwise, the bond does not have to make any difference in your life."

 

"If I didn't love him, I'd agree with you.  But I do.  And I'm..."  Her voice broke, and Spock turned, shocked that she would cry in front of her father when she had not in front of him.

 

"And you...?"  Sarek's voice was gentle, the one he'd always used with Spock's mother—never with Spock.  Spock realized he was clenching his fists and forced himself to relax.

 

"And I'm so tired.  Starfleet believed I was involved in the conspiracy, did you know that?"

 

Spock had not known the extent of it, or of Jim's attempts to help her.  Not until the meld, when he found the half-finished bond.  Starfleet had put her through a great deal proving she was innocent.  And she was exhausted from the rigors of so many years in Emergency Operations.  Her resilience was gone.  And after the beating she had sustained at his hands during the Pon Farr, some aspect of hope seemed to be gone, too. Spock could feel that she didn't blame him, not once she understood what had happened.  But still, it had left her with a deep vein of despair; he could feel it every time he touched her.  Despair and grief for lost friends coupled with exhaustion were a powerful combination.

 

Should he disregard her wishes, then?  If she was emotionally compromised should she be allowed to decide to die?  What would Jim do?

 

"I am sorry.  I was off world when you were taken into custody.  Amanda told me of it when I got back, but you had been released by then."  Sarek's regret was clear in his voice.

 

"Could you give me some time alone?  Spock hasn't eaten and you just got here.  Go sit in the rose garden or something."

 

Spock looked down.  Had Christine meant that to be cruel?  Did she not know his mother's roses were dying?

 

Sarek stood and motioned for Spock to come with him.  "We will be back in a short while, Christine."

 

She didn't say anything.

 

Spock followed his father out of the guestroom and down the hall.  Once they were out of earshot, he said, "She does not wish me to—"

 

"It is clear what she does not wish, Spock.  What matters now is that she chooses to live."

 

Spock wanted to shrug.  What did his father want from him?  "I cannot feel what I do not feel."

 

"I am well aware of that, but that does not mean you cannot finesse this.  Surely all that time with Kirk taught you some skill in manipulation?"  Sarek looked as he always did when Jim was the topic of discussion.

 

Spock looked away; would his father never let go of his dislike of Jim?  "It is her choice."

 

"I agree.  Help her make it, Spock.  Tell her that you cannot lose her.  Make her believe it.  Once she is well and refreshed, she will appreciate having her life ahead of her.  She will not hold a small lie against you."

 

"You do not know her as well as you think if you believe that.  And you do not know me if you think I could convince her of that.  My acting skills are limited, and she was in my mind when..."

 

"When you thought of Kirk." 

 

Spock did not want to know what he might have to say about Jim, so he forestalled the impending argument.  "I am hungry.  She was right about that."  He stepped around his father, went to the kitchen, and found very little that was edible in the chiller.  "You have not replenished the food stocks."

 

Sarek's face grew tighter.  The look Spock thought he wore only when talking to him.  "I have been busy.  Off world."

 

"Where you would not be reminded of my mother?"  He would not blame his father for that; it was why he could not seem to stay on Earth.

 

"I am reminded of your mother every day, Spock.  Of her absence.  Of what I have lost."  Sarek rubbed his eyes and turned away.  "Convince Christine you cannot lose her.  That is my advice."

 

"You have always championed her.  But I must respect her wishes.  I am sorry that I cannot make you...happy in this."  He chose the words carefully.

 

"Happy?  I would prefer to not lose another person I care about.  Starfleet would prefer to not lose a fine officer.  You should prefer to not lose a woman who is here, for the burning, when she did not have to be."

 

Spock could feel his own jaw tightening.  "That is none of your affair."

 

"You chose her.  You had other options.  That should mean something.  Save her, Spock.  Save her while there is still time."  His father walked out, heading to the room he had shared with Spock's mother for so long, leaving Spock alone with his meager meal in the dusty kitchen.

 

##

 

Chapel tried to breathe through the pain.  Pain that stemmed from something in her head, not from disease or environmental factors, nothing she could fight or bring her medical or Ops skills to bear on.  This was her no-win situation.  She'd never taken the famed test; she wished there were a way to cheat this as Jim had done with the Kobayashi Maru.

 

She felt the pain she always did when she thought of him.  She'd lost more than a friend: she'd lost a champion.  He'd vouched for her with Starfleet when the conspiracy was exposed, argued for them to release her from the interrogation facility—they'd held her until they were satisfied she wasn’t hiding anything, but he'd been waiting for her with a flitter when she got out, had taken her home and held her and said, "It'll be okay.  Just let this blow over.  Do your work.  Forget what happened.  You'll be okay."

 

He was always so kind to her.  Now: gone.

 

Amanda, too.  She'd made a point of being seen even more with Chapel after the conspiracy.  As if to say, "Here's what I think of your silly suspicions."  And when Chapel had pointed out this could blow back on Sarek and her, she'd given her the wave and the "oh, pfff," she always did when Chapel said something silly.

 

Her friend.  Sick and hiding it when she'd been helping Chapel.  Gone now.

 

Would it be so bad to join her?  To join Jim and Scotty and Roger?

 

She heard footsteps outside her room.  They slowed as if the person was considering coming in but then went on by.  Sarek, probably.  She didn't think Spock would be back for a while.

 

Spock's face, when he'd come out of the drug-induced fog during the Pon Farr, when he'd seen what he'd done to her—she'd never seen horror so clearly etched on his features.  He'd hurt her badly, but nothing the healers couldn't patch up.  They'd thought she'd gotten lucky, because he was half human.  Because he'd found some control.

 

And then the truth.  This bond she barely understood, like half of a circuit, waiting to be completed.  And slowly degrading when it wasn't finished—taking her with it.  The urge to touch Spock, to grab him and pull his fingers to her face and make him finish the connection was nearly overwhelming. 

 

The fact that he would bond with her to save her touched her.  She loved him for it.  But she loved him too much to let him do it.  And maybe she respected herself too much, too.  She wanted to be loved.  It had been so long.  She'd had lovers but someone who loved her?  The way Spock had loved Jim or Sarek had loved Amanda?  Not really.  Not since Roger.

 

Would it be so bad to just let go?  She was tired: she hadn't lied to Sarek about that.  She was floundering and to let go, to push off and just float...

 

Why was that so bad?

 

The pain in her head started up again, spreading into her neck, making her shoulders knot.  She reached for the hypo, jammed it against her neck, hoping that it would help this time.  She sprayed it a second time, maybe too much painkiller but she found she wasn't overly worried about the repercussions of that.

 

Numbness came over her.  Her mind fogged.  The pain didn't go away, but she felt a bit removed at least.

 

She floated, the pain like a chainsaw wrapped in baffling material.  This is what it would be like to die.  Float and float and then dark.

 

Would that be so bad?

 

##

 

Sarek walked into the guest room Christine had been given, saw Spock sitting by her bed, his look distant, but not as distant as hers.  "How much medicine have you given her?"

 

Spock turned to look at him.  "I have given her none.  She said it did not help."

 

Sarek bit back a retort.  It was not Spock's fault he did not understand the way of human women.  He'd spent his life with James Kirk, a man who seemed to fully understand women of all species, but apparently never saw fit to share that knowledge with his son.  "Nevertheless, it is clear she has taken some."

 

Spock closed his eyes as if he was trying to keep from saying something, then he rose slowly.  "If you are here, I will get some air for a moment."

 

"Now?"  Sarek looked at Christine.  "Spock, I believe time is short to do what must be done."

 

Spock's expression did not change; he had looked defeated when Sarek entered the room and still did.  "She does not wish that.  I need to think."

 

Christine seemed to be drifting in and out of consciousness.  She held a hand out and said, "Where did you go?  You were just here."

 

"Go, have a moment alone, my son."

 

Spock looked confused at the sudden acquiescence, then nodded and left.

 

Sarek took the chair Spock had been sitting in, moving it closer to the bed.  "My wife said the same things, Christine.  To the people she was seeing.  Lost people.  I recognized their names."  He studied her, seeing the dark circles under her eyes, the small bit of gray in her hair.  Strands only, she was young, still, compared to Amanda.  Too young to die.

 

"I will ask forgiveness if this works.  It is what Spock's great love would have done."  He leaned in, finding the meld points, her skin soft under his fingers, her mind so far away.  "Christine?"

 

He could feel her.  Could feel the true affection she felt for him, the reaction at his voice in her ears and in her mind.  He knew Amanda would be one of the people Christine was looking for.

 

She would have to wait to see his wife if this worked.

 

He closed his eyes and dove in, down and down, searching for the bond.  It was like a sluggish whip-snake, circling gently as it and her energy drained.  He imagined it had been a true whip earlier, snapping everywhere as it sought its other half.

 

As it sought Spock.

 

Sarek took a deep breath.  There was no precedent for this.  But he did not think Spock would do what needed to be done, no matter how much he was prodded.

 

He grabbed the trailing edge of the bond and pulled it around himself.  He could feel Spock all over it, the induced rage that had made him do this, the moment when he pulled away, leaving her...alone.  A bonded one could not be alone when the partner still lived.

 

"Let him go," Sarek murmured as he began to unravel the strands of the bond.

 

She moaned, her pain clear.  The bond began to whip faster again.  Sarek could tell he had cleared away as much of Spock's presence as he dared.  He began to build onto what was left, a new bond, his bond.

 

"What?  Sarek, what...?"

 

She did not say no, and she had said nothing but no to Spock.  Sarek kept going, reaching deeper, gathering her up as much as he could, giving her strength, feeling the pain begin to fade.

 

Until it was done.

 

He felt the familiar ping of another mind in his.  The emptiness he'd felt since Amanda's death faded just a little.

 

He made sure that the bond was stable, that Christine was safe, and then he let the meld go.

 

She opened her eyes, confusion predominating as emotions played across her face.  Anger did not appear to be one of them.  "Why?"

 

"Your death served no purpose."

 

"Did Amanda's?"  

 

They both knew the answer to that, so he said only, "I could not save her.  I could save you."  He touched her cheek.  "You are safe."

 

She laughed, a different laugh than Amanda's, a soft burst of air, of breath, sounding almost...incredulous.  He did not think it was an indication of happiness.

 

And then she was slipping away, but not to death, just to sleep, and he let her go. 

 

He heard footsteps and moved the chair back to where it had been then went to stand by the window.

 

Spock opened the door almost gingerly.  As he walked to the bed, there was true sorrow on his face.  Sarek wanted to rail at him, ask him why he had not been able to do this if he felt for her.  But he held his tongue.  It no longer mattered why Spock could not do what had to be done.

 

"She is so peaceful.  Is she...gone?" Spock asked.

 

Sarek shot his son a glance he hoped was not as irritated as he felt.  Could Spock not see she still breathed?  Sarek could hear it from where he was standing, could feel her, the soft, warm sensation of her first real sleep in days.  "She is not.  I believe you will find her much improved."

 

Spock frowned and reached down, touching Christine on the neck, feeling for a pulse, and Sarek felt a surge of something more than irritation.  He wanted to tell his son, "Do not dare to touch my mate."  He fought the urge and won.

 

Spock stood up, his eyebrow rising.  "Her pulse is strong.  And the pain is gone."

 

"As I said."  Sarek saw the comment hit, the slight note of disapproval he'd put in his voice the same one that had always upset Spock as a child.  "I did what you could not."

 

Spock seemed unsure what to say, finally murmured, "Most...unexpected."

 

That Sarek could do what his son would not?  In what way was that unexpected?  He realized his hands were shaking, clasped them behind his back.  "It was the logical thing to do."

 

There was something he did not expect on Spock's face: rage.  "You would insult my mother?"

 

"I do not.  I would not.  It is the truth.  It would have been better if you had embraced the logic of the situation, but you would not.  I say only what needs to be said."

 

"And she agreed?"

 

Sarek stood straighter, the way Kirk always had when called to answer for his latest misadventure.  "She was not in a position to agree or disagree."

 

"Father..."  Spock took a slow, deep breath as if he was meditating.

 

"She did not fight me, my son.  She knew I was there and did not fight me.  Not as she did you."

 

"If this"—Spock looked down at Christine, cocked his head as if unsure what to think—"arrangement works, then you will have done right."

 

"And if it does not?"

 

"I believe we both know the answer to that.  She will not appreciate being given no choice.  She wanted to die.  It was her right to choose."  Spock looked down.  "I can see that I am angering you."

 

Sarek realized his jaw was clenched very tightly.  That he had narrowed his eyes, had pulled his eyebrows down—that he was scowling.

 

"I will leave you with your new mate."  Spock did not meet his eyes as he left the room.

 

Sarek held his hand out: it was shaking.  He nearly stumbled to the bed, lying down on top of the covers, resting his head on Christine's shoulder.  Some of the unsteadiness faded as he lay not moving, listening to her breathe, the beat of her heart a promise that he had saved her.

 

She moaned softly and rolled so she was curled against him. 

 

He put his arm around her and touched her hair.  So soft.  "I ask forgiveness.  Spock may be right.  You may have wanted to die.  But I...I did not want to be alone."

 

##

 

Chapel woke, a heavy shape trapping her in the covers, incense wafting up from his robe—incense that was not Spock's. 

 

She was alive.  She was alive and not in pain, and she was in the arms of someone who was not Spock.  And the bond...the bond was no longer draining her life force, causing her pain.  It was alive inside her—where?  Her head?  Her gut?  Her soul? 

 

Sarek, she seemed to remember.  Had Sarek done this?  But...why?

 

She moved slowly and managed to see that it was, indeed, Sarek lying with her.  He woke despite her care, pulled away enough to see her face and seemed to be assessing her mood—but then he had been a master of that with Amanda.

 

"You bonded with me?"

 

He nodded.

 

"How?  Did the priestesses tell you to do that?"

 

"No.  I did not lie when I said they had no answers."  He paused, as if to think, and she thought he was trying to make sure the answer he gave did not make her mad.  She could feel caution along the bond—a bond that was getting stronger now that he was awake.  "I could not let you die.  I decided to try, to see if I could bond with you in Spock's place, since he would not."

 

"He would have.  I didn't want him to."

 

Sarek took a deep breath, as if her defending Spock was distasteful to him.

 

"I love him, Sarek.  I love him and you went and...what?  Married me?  With your mind?"

 

"Christine, I know you do not love me.  But we are fond of each other.  There is no reason this arrangement will not work for both of us if we decide we want that."

 

"Arrangement?"  It was as bad as Spock offering to bond with her.  Only she had even less idea why Sarek would want to do it.  Other than he'd just lost his wife and didn't want to lose someone who had been a friend to both of them.

 

"If you wish to resume your life, Christine, to live on your own, I will understand.  You did not ask for this."

 

"And when the Pon Farr comes?  Will I be asking for this then?  Will I have any choice at all?"

 

He looked away, as if the ceiling was the most fascinating object in the universe.  "No.  You will be drawn to me as I will be to you."

 

She began to get up, felt a pang, then a pain as she didn't stop. 

 

Sarek eased her back down.  "The bond is new and it needs—demands, even—that we stay close to each other."

 

"For how long?"

 

"I am unsure.  Our bodies will tell us.  Is it a hardship to be near me?  You were so compatible with me when Amanda was alive."

 

"You were the parents of the guy I loved.  And then my friends.  But as a unit."  She closed her eyes and moved closer to him to stop the annoying twinges that erupted every time she moved away from him.  "What does Spock think of this?"

 

"Spock was willing to let you die if that was your choice."

 

"That isn't what I asked."

 

He met her eyes.  "I believe his feelings lie somewhere between concerned and appalled."

 

"Wow.  Because you did this to me?  Or because it was me you did this to?"

 

She could tell he'd understood that.  But then he didn't get to be a master of diplomacy by not comprehending the nuances.  "I believe the former.  He thinks highly of you, even if he does not share the intensity of your feelings."

 

She felt suddenly very tired, remembered how it was to float and wait for the black.  "I did want to die, Sarek."

 

"I know that.  And I know that Spock was not the only reason why.  You have lost your friends.  Not just Kirk and Amanda but Commander Scott—and the traitors."

 

"You can say their names.  They're still people.  Admiral Cartwright and Valeris."  She closed her eyes.  "My mentor.  My protégé."  Was it any wonder Starfleet had suspected her?

 

"And you feel as if you have no home in Starfleet.  Perhaps then it is time to try something else?  Something with me?"

 

She could feel hope beating along the bond.  Hope and underneath it a terrible loneliness.  Nothing he would ever admit to, but it was there for her to experience.  "You did this partly for yourself."

 

He looked like he was going to deny it, but then sighed.  "I may have."  He studied her.  "You feel that in the bond?"

 

She nodded.

 

"It will not always be so pervasive.  It will fade to background noise, unless one of us is in great distress, but even that can be mitigated by distance."

 

"I see."  She lay quietly, trying to get her feelings under control, unsure of how much she was broadcasting to Sarek—if he could feel how much she would rather it was Spock she was lying against.

 

"What do you think you will do?" he asked, his voice almost tentative.

 

"I'm going back to Ops, Sarek."  She was surprised she said it, but once it was out, she realized it felt right, that it was what she wanted—needed to do.  "I have something to prove.  And running away won't do that.  I wasn't involved in the conspiracy."  She made herself meet his eyes.  "You understand?"

 

"Of course.  I will stay away from you if that is what you wish."

 

"I'm not really sure what I wish.  Or no, I do know—I wish you'd given me a choice in the matter."

 

"You did not fight me when I was in your mind."

 

"I'd shot myself up with a double dose of painkiller.  I'd have probably welcomed an entire bird-of-prey crew into my mind."

 

His eyes lightened at her sarcasm, but he did not comment.  Probably because he knew she was right and also knew anything he said would make it worse.  Amanda had told her he'd learned a lot about human women in the years they'd been married.

 

"Oh, Sarek.  I don't think this was the right decision.  Even if I am glad the pain has stopped."

 

He stroked her hair so gently it managed to be sweet, not sensual.  "Death was not preferable.  We will discover the best way to make this work.  If you find someone else, I will step aside to the extent that I am able."

 

"Can we not talk about it anymore right now?  I just want to be quiet and enjoy this...harmony."  Harmony that was not in her mind, but in her body.  The more he touched her hair, the more relaxed she felt.  This was the nice part, the not confusing part, of what he'd done.

 

He leaned in, and she thought his lips were on her hair, then he moved to her ear.  "I would say I am sorry if it were true, but it is not.  I could not let you die."

 

"I get it, Sarek.  Please?  Quiet?  Okay?"

 

His sigh was a trembling exhale, so she put her arms around him and rubbed his back, the way she would a friend who was in trouble.

 

They fell asleep like that.  Didn't wake for hours.  When they finally stirred, the bond had receded to a point Sarek said would be more the norm.

 

She eased out of bed and said, "I'm going to go talk to Spock.  If he's still here."

 

There was a look she didn't like in Sarek's eyes, some mix of anger and jealousy, but she ignored it and went to find Spock.

 

##

 

Spock heard Christine coming well before she rounded the corner into the living room.  She stopped and took a deep breath, and he tried to make his expression as gentle as he could.

 

"Are you well?"

 

She smiled.  "That's a great question."  She nodded to the chair across from him.  "May I?"

 

"Please."  He watched her sit; she appeared stronger, no longer in distress.  "I have been in contact with Starfleet.  They believe they caught the other conspirators by locating individuals who took undue interest in our schedules for this week and narrowing it down from there."

 

She felt a sense of relief that she wouldn't have to be looking over her shoulder, but at the same time she wondered if they'd really ever get all of them.  "That's good."  She smiled but knew it came off weak.

 

"I am relieved you are alive, but I had nothing to do with my father's actions."

 

"I know.  Neither did I, ironically enough."  She took another deep breath.  "I feel...steadier.  Not so...empty, I guess.  Is that an effect of the bond?"

 

Spock nodded.

 

"I guess he did me a favor.  Hell of a drastic step, though, for an antidepressant."  She closed her eyes.  "What do I do now?"

 

"What do you wish to do?"

 

She stared at the floor, and he wondered if she was even seeing the design of the carpet.  Finally, she said softly, "I don't know."

 

"You care for my father?"

 

"He's your father, so yes.  And he's your mother's husband.  And he's Sarek, the man who I always saw as a savior, I guess."  She laughed, the same puff of air sound, but this time there was some amusement in it.  "And boy howdy, isn't he, though?"

 

Spock let his lips tick up slightly. 

 

"Does he have feelings for me?"

 

He was not sure why she was asking him this—could she not sense if his father did or did not through the bond?

 

She smiled gently, as if she knew what he was thinking.  "The bond is comforting.  His emptiness calls to mine, Spock.  But beyond that, beyond the determination that I should live, and the relief that I'm alive—that his method worked—I'm not sure what I feel from him."

 

"He has always spoken of you highly."  It struck Spock that Jim would find this conversation slightly hilarious.  Spock, so earnestly helpful as he assisted the woman who had loved him so long determine if the father he rarely understood was interested in her.

 

She leaned back.  "Do I have to call you 'Son,' now?"  She gave him a half-smile that on Jim would have been part derision, part good humor.

 

"You do not.  And I shall resist calling you 'Mother.'"  He leaned forward.  "You should know that you do have options.  I am not sure what my father has told you, but I feel that I need to say this."

 

"Options?"

 

"To force a bond on an unwilling partner is not condoned.  I did it to you—half of one, as it were—but I had been drugged and I would not be held responsible, especially since I was willing to finish it.  It was your choice that I not."

 

She nodded.

 

"My father on the other hand..."  He worried that he might seem the slightest bit pleased that his father had made such a misstep, so he tried to make his expression as sober as possible.  "Your wishes were clear.  And it was my bond with you, not his, in question.  The penalty for what he has done would be his death—it is the only way to free you.  If you wish to be free?"

 

"I don't want to be free at the cost of his life."

 

"Then I suggest you do not mention the genesis of your union."

 

Her expression mirrored Jim's when he was frustrated.  "Union.  But what do I want to do about it?"

 

"That is your call.  I imagine he will honor your wishes—other than at..."

 

She nodded.  "Right.  Other than during that."  She stood up and walked to the doors that led to the rose garden.  "They're dying."

 

"Yes.  They are."

 

"She would be sad."  She bowed her head, her hands on the glass.  "I miss her.  Would she be upset over this?"

 

"If she were still alive, she would undoubtedly be upset."

 

She laughed, finally a true laugh.  "You joke at the oddest times."  But her expression as she turned around to look at him was much more relaxed.

 

"She was inordinately fond of you.  I do not believe she would mind this at all."

 

"Do you?"

 

"I do not mind that it is you who are with him.  I regret your wishes were not honored.  But that said, I did not agree with your wishes.  Except that I knew I would not make you happy."  He met her eyes, wanted her to know he meant what he was saying.  "Perhaps he will, Christine."

 

"Maybe so."  She looked around, a strange expression on her face.

 

"What is it?"

 

"I want some time to myself, but your father is in my room."

 

He rose, pushing back the small nudge of enjoyment that he would get by telling his father to vacate her room.  "Wait here for a moment."

 

She walked over to him, put her hand on his arm.  "Be gentle with him.  I'm not saying no to this.  I just need...time.  Alone.  To process."

 

"I understand.  He will, too."

 

"Thank you."

 

Spock nodded and walked quickly to her room.  He knocked softly, heard his father answer back, so he poked his head in the door rather than entering.  "Christine needs some time to herself.  Shall I put her in another guest room?"  The last bit was unnecessary, but Spock felt a small twinge of satisfaction at the look on his father's face.

 

"Of course not, Spock.  I will leave."

 

"I will tell her."

 

Sarek strode to the door, more quickly than Spock anticipated.  "No need.  I will do it."  He walked out and Spock heard his quiet, "I am sorry.  I should have vacated the room when you left."

 

Her voice was soft, softer than it had been when Spock and she had been talking.  "I just want some time to think.  Without...being so close."

 

"It is fine.  I will be in my study if you need me."

 

Christine came down the hall, saw Spock, and smiled.  "Thanks."

 

He nodded.  The door closed, and he heard the door to his father's study close also.  He was suddenly left with nothing to do.  He took a deep breath and went to order food—everyone would be hungry eventually, and he was tired of what his father had left in the kitchen.

 

##

 

Sarek found it impossible to concentrate on correspondence.  Several were marked "urgent," and still he could not focus.  Time ticked away, one hour, then two, and his thoughts refused to stay on task, turning instead to Christine.

 

He had been off planet when Spock commed and told him in the most general terms—clearly not wanting to discuss specifics on an open comm channel—what had happened to Christine.  Sarek had left the pre-briefs and endless strategy meetings, promising to be back by the time the negotiations started.

 

They were in two days and it would take five hours to get there.

 

He needed to prepare.  He needed to read these messages.  A soft knock on the door provided an excuse to close his padd and say, "Come in."

 

Christine smiled at him, finally the smile he remembered from the times he and Amanda had spent time with her.  "Can we talk?  Is now a good time?"

 

"Of course."  He got up from his desk, led her over to chairs set up by the window in a more conversational grouping than if she had sat across from him with a desk between them.

 

"This trip didn't go the way I thought."  She gave him a sweet smile, but one that was embarrassed, too.

 

He was not sure why she was embarrassed.  Nothing that had happened to her was her fault.  Other than that she'd agreed to come with Spock to Vulcan for the Pon Farr.  But that had been a choice and a generous one. 

 

She looked down.  "I came here thinking now that Jim was gone Spock might turn to me."

 

He reached over and tipped her chin up.  "Truths are best with eye contact."

 

"I'm not sure painful truths are."  She smiled.  "But I know you read body language and expressions, so fine, I'll look at you as I tell you that I was hoping Spock would finally love me."  She took a deep breath, seemed to be about to turn away, but then met his eyes again.  "It was too soon.  He's just lost Jim and there I was trying to get my hooks in him."

 

"In time..."

 

"No, Sarek, he's never going to love me.  Want me, yes.  I felt true desire when the Pon Farr started—before the drugs took effect."  For a moment her expression clouded, remembering no doubt how Spock had hurt her.  "But lust and love are different things."

 

"They are."

 

She crossed her arms over her chest.  "So are loneliness and love.  I know I'm lonely, and it's obvious you are, too.  But like Spock, it's too early.  You just lost Amanda."

 

"It was months ago."

 

"Months are nothing when you love someone as much as you loved Amanda.  I know you're lonely—I also know you need to mourn.  I felt how good it was for both of us to be touching, to be quiet and peaceful and together.  But...it's not real.  It's just the bond."

 

"The bond is quite real, I assure you."

 

"The thing almost killed me, Sarek, so yes, I know the bond is real in one sense.  But it also gives feelings that mimic love and attachment—all good things if they come in time, but..."  She looked away.

 

He could feel resolution in her through the bond, could feel trepidation, too.  As if she did not want to say what she needed to.  He would spare her; he would say it for her.  "But you are leaving Vulcan and me, are you not?"

 

"I am."  She looked up quickly.  "Will that hurt us?  Being apart so soon after the bond?"

 

"I believe the danger is over."  He leaned in.  "There will be initial discomfort, though.  The first separation is the most painful, but the pangs subside fairly quickly."

 

"Okay."

 

"So, I am to assume you are returning to Earth?"

 

She nodded.

 

"And that I am not welcome there?"

 

She took his hand.  A jolt of energy rocketed through him.  She looked surprised but didn't drop his hand, even tightened her hold.

 

"I want you to think about this.  What you want.  What you think is best.  I do love you, Sarek.  You're my friend and very dear to me.  But...I'm not Amanda, and I'll never be Amanda.  Just as you said that I could find someone else and you would step aside, I make you the same promise.  There are probably more suitable mates for you than the crazy woman who couldn't get it through her head that your son would never love her."

 

"You are not crazy.  And what you say is logical."  He squeezed her hand.  "What do we do once we have thought for a sufficient amount of time?"

 

"If you think it might work for us—if you want it to work for us—let me know.  Spend time with me.  We can see how it goes."

 

"You are not opposed to a relationship with me?"

 

"It's not something I've ever thought about, to be honest.  All I could see, for so many years, was Spock.  I'm not sure that will change."

 

He nodded and felt a surge of jealousy that his son was so important to her.  The irony was that she was right.  He had never had any intentions toward her, nor she toward him.  And now...here they were.  And it was sudden, and they were neither in the best mental state given their losses and what she went through after Khitomer and during the Pon Farr with Spock. 

 

"I will meditate on it."

 

She smiled and gently extricated her hand.  "And I will go home and try to get one thing I do know I want:  to be head of Emergency Ops.  They moved Captain Lowen up to take Admiral Cartwright's place."  Her face clouded, no doubt at the thought of her former boss and mentor.

 

"You would be a fine choice."

 

"If a tainted one."  She stood up, then bent over and kissed him on the cheek.  Her lips were cool, resting lightly on his skin.  "Thank you for saving me."

 

"You mean that seriously?"

 

"Well, if I don't now, I will eventually.  I think I need to see someone—talk some things out.  We have shrinks just for our department.  We see so much on this job.  Go through so much."

 

He nodded.

 

"I'll have Spock take me to the spaceport."

 

Again the jealousy rising up like gorge in his throat.  "I am perfectly capable of delivering you to the station."

 

"I know.  But I think this is better."  She took a deep breath, seemed suddenly sad.  "And quit being jealous.  I can feel it from here.  He doesn't love me, and he never will.  And in one conceivable future for us, he could be my stepson."

 

Sarek lifted an eyebrow, not sure if he enjoyed that thought or not.

 

"Goodbye, Sarek."

 

"Live long and prosper, Christine.  I will do as you say."

 

One last lovely smile and she was gone.  A little while later, he heard the flitter going.  She must have packed before she came to talk to him.

 

The bond began to protest her leaving so soon after their connection being forged.  He tried to ignore it, but still had trouble focusing on the memos waiting for him.

 

 

 

Part 2

 

Chapel went quickly through her comms queue one last time before she headed home for the night.  She'd fought for and gotten Lowen's job, but it hadn't been easy.  And ironically, she thought that if she'd tried before everything that happened on Vulcan, she wouldn't have had the fortitude to keep pushing—and to let logic, as well as her passion for the job, be her argument.  And the facts had helped: she had not been involved in the conspiracy, she had refused to help her friends when she could have done so with likely no one the wiser, and she and Spock had been targets, even if they'd left a lot of details out of their report to Starfleet.

 

Between her experiences with Spock three months ago, the bond that pinged every time Sarek was on Earth—even if he hadn't come to see her—and the time she'd spent with the Ops shrink, she'd gotten insight into what she did and didn't want.  And what her motivations tended to be.

 

She'd been in the new job for two months.  She'd spent the first week wanting to vomit, sure she'd made a mistake as she tried to keep up with not just the types of comms she was used to taking care of but all the special memos that came only to the head of Ops.  She was finally starting to feel comfortable in her role, to the point where she was heading home at her old time, not staying extra hours just to be sure she had her ducks in order.

 

She felt the bond pinging and tried to push it down.  Sarek had been on Earth for three days, but this was the first time the bond felt so...insistent.  She heard footsteps, then a soft cough—his cough.

 

"I wondered if you were ever going to come see me."  She turned and smiled at him.  "I was just about to leave.  I'm hungry.  Are you?"

 

"I am.  And I appreciate your directness."  Sarek waited while she closed down her terminal and walked with her out of Command.  "I stayed away because I knew you were pursuing this job and once you got it, your energy was..."

 

"A mess?"  She laughed.  "Don't sugarcoat it, Sarek.  I was panicking."

 

"Yes.  I did not think my presence would help."

 

"You're probably right.  I can't feel your mood from a distance, all I know is that you're around.  Price of being a non-telepath, I guess?"

 

He nodded.

 

"Oh well.  I am glad to see you."  And now that he was in the same room with her, she could feel through the bond that he was glad to see her. 

 

"We can eat at the embassy if you wish."

 

"Neutral ground is better.  I think we have a lot to talk about.  Unless you're here to tell me that you only want to see me every seven years.  We don't need to have dinner first for you to say that."

 

"I was not planning on saying that."

 

"So, neutral ground and somewhere that serves food we both like."  She laughed.  "Because, yes, I'm a carnivore."

 

"I have seen many things—smelled many things—during my various missions.  I do not think you will order anything more appalling than the worst of those."

 

"Good point."

 

They walked in a comfortable silence to a casual restaurant she often ate at.  The menu was full of options, and they both ordered quickly, as if they wanted to get food selection out of the way and talk.

 

She knew she did.

 

As she sipped some wine, he said, "I needed to mourn.  You were right.  And I needed to think."  He held up his water glass.  "And you needed to win the job you wanted.  Congratulations.  I intended to say it earlier."

 

She clinked her wineglass against his water glass, touched that he would engage in such a human practice.  "Thank you.  I'm still a little shocked they gave it to me."  She took a deep breath.  "Okay, to save time, I'm going to continue being direct."

 

"Efficient."

 

"Are you interested in me?"

 

"I am."

 

She took a sip of wine, then pushed the glass aside.  "Then I need to tell you a story.  It's sort of long."

 

"I do not have an appointment until tomorrow afternoon."

 

She laughed.  "It's not that long.  I haven't actually shared this with anyone."  Unless you count that Spock might have seen it when they'd shared consciousness.  Oh well, the sentiment still stood.  She hadn't shared it with him on purpose the way she was going to with Sarek.  "It's no secret that I dated my professor."

 

"Roger Korby, yes."

 

"What is assumed is that I went after him.  That I was a glory hound, a star fucker.  Sorry for the language."

 

"I have heard worse."

 

"Everyone thought I went after him, the young woman intent on riding his coattails.  The truth of it is different, Sarek.  I had four other professors wooing me—not for romance, but for their tracks.  I wasn't sure I was going to go biochem, until Roger put on the full-court press.  Professionally, I mean.  The romance came later, but he initiated that, too."

 

She took a deep breath.  "He got me to go into the field he wanted me to go into.  He got me into his bed.  But he couldn't get me to agree to go on the expedition he was mounting.  He didn't leave me on Earth, Sarek.  I refused to go."

 

"Why?"

 

"I was working on a project—it would have made my name.  My name: Christine Chapel not Mrs. Roger Korby.  He was disappointed that I chose ambition over him."  She could remember Roger's face when he left; he had dreamed they would make discoveries together and had been shocked that she wanted to stay behind.  He'd been angry she'd wanted to.

 

"Then he was lost.  And I felt...guilty.  What if I had been there?  Could I have changed things?  It is not unlike what Spock feels about the Enterprise B  launch.  That Jim might still be alive if he had gone."

 

"It is a logical to ask these questions."

 

"Yes, but logic sort of ran away and guilt overtook me.  I handed off the experiment and took six courses in one semester to qualify to be a nurse in Starfleet.  Then I talked my way aboard a ship heading in the right direction."

 

"Kirk's ship."

 

"I know you don't seem to have warm and fuzzy feelings for Jim, but he was a romantic at heart."  She smiled, remembering her pitch to him.  "He let me on his ship because of my story about Roger, not because I was a star officer.  Although my background in science certainly helped—he didn't pick me only for my 'lost love' story."

 

"And you never found Doctor Korby."

 

"Actually, I did.  It's a long story and I will tell it to you someday, but the Roger I found was not the man I'd known. That's why Jim wrote his report the way he did.  Why Spock backed it up.  Why I never said any different.  So I left my project for...closure, I guess.  But ultimately nothing.  Except I fell in love with Spock."  She smiled, tried to make it a wry "I'm a shithead" kind of expression.  "After that.  After it became clear Spock wasn't going to fall for me even though we were both free of previous engagements, I left the ship and went to med school.  And I made myself a promise.  I would never, ever abandon something I wanted professionally for love." 

 

She dug out a padd from her desk drawer and brought up the first article.  "The person I handed my project off to didn't like me much.  He downplayed my contributions.  He's known for this, not me."  She handed him the padd.  "I keep it on my padds to remind me what I gave up."

 

Sarek's eyebrow rose.  "This was your project?"

 

"Yep.  You can understand my caution now."

 

"Indeed.  And I am most impressed.  Although I have always considered you accomplished."  He frowned ever so slightly.  "So when you left the Enterprise after V'ger, was that because of my son or because of this resolution?"

 

"Primarily the latter.  But having Spock and Jim's giddy reunion play out in front of me and knowing I was utterly inconsequential to Spock didn't help."

 

"Ah."

 

"I tell you all this for two reasons.  One is that I am not going to follow you around.  I am not going to leave this job until I am ready, and when I do leave it, it will probably be to pursue something else I want.  Here.  On Earth.  Or maybe on a ship.  But I'm not going to be like Amanda, willing to give up her profession."

 

"I see."  His expression grew a bit stonier.

 

"Don't look so dour.  There's another part to it.  Through all of this, love has always been a factor for me.  Spock was the anomaly—the way I chased him.  And I vowed I wouldn't do that again either.  So, if you want me, you need to pursue me."

 

"You are saying you would not be averse to being pursued."

 

"I am saying that."  She smiled, thought it was probably a slightly silly smile.  "I like you.  I like being around you.  I never thought of you as anything other than my friend because you were with Amanda.  But I've had a chance to consider it and it's not unpleasant.  At all.

 

"But Sarek."  She leaned in.  "I still love Spock.  I think I'm more realistic about that love.  But it's there and you'll be able to feel it.  And he'll be in our life."  She almost laughed at the look on his face.  "And saying 'he does not have to be' is not an option."

 

He had the grace to look chagrined.  "Being near you, with the bond, after a long absence, that is what I was thinking.  It is not of course what I would say if I were not feeling somewhat emotionally compromised."

 

"I emotionally compromise you?"

 

His eyes were very tender.  "You do.  May I speak now?"

 

"Yes, and thank you for letting me say all that.  You would have found it out, I guess, with a meld, but I needed to say it."

 

"I might not have.  Melds are for sharing, but that does not mean I would rifle through your memories."

 

"Ah.  Okay."

 

He waited as the server set down their orders, then took a few bites as she ate, too.  "I do wish to pursue you.  The idea of you being stationed elsewhere is something I have had to accept.  Although I would prefer my wife to be with me."

 

"Lots of Vulcans are separated by duty."

 

"I realize that.  I, however, do not like the separations.  Or at least I did not with Amanda.  With my first wife, it was different.  Distance was appreciated."

 

She smiled.  "So if my having my own career is a deal-breaker, cut and run now, Sarek."

 

"It is not.  But it will, at times, make me difficult to deal with."

 

She started to laugh.  "Because when you look up 'easy going' in the dictionary, your picture is the one they feature?"  She laughed harder at his expression.  "Sarek, you're challenging.  Just go with me on that."

 

"You have never seemed awed in my presence."

 

"That doesn't mean I haven't been at times.  Not lately, though.  Not for years, really."  She reached out, curious to see what he would do. 

 

He touched her hand for a moment, and the bond seemed to snap with sudden energy.  "As I assume the pursuit will take time, perhaps we should limit physical contact."

 

"Because that was unpleasant to you?"

 

His look was smoldering.  "Because it was not."

 

She knew she was smiling, a very naughty and satisfied smile.  "Ah."

 

This was going to be fun.

 

##

 

Spock ended his briefing on his joint assignment on the Klingon bird-of-prey Batlh and opened the floor to questions.  It was a closed session, his audience being the CINC and primary department heads only.  Christine was in the audience, and Spock realized she must have been promoted to head of Emergency Operations.  He'd been assigned in a somewhat hush-hush manner to the Batlh almost as soon as he'd left Vulcan after his Pon Farr, and news from the Federation had been nonexistent.

 

His mission had been to increase Starfleet understanding of Klingon protocols aboard ship: the Federation was interested in more joint missions, as was the Empire.  The differences and similarities in how each conducted themselves would be critical to the success of these cooperative efforts.

 

Spock was optimistic that further joint missions were possible, but he had recommended in his briefing that more emotional species be selected, as his Vulcan stoicism had been deemed dour by some of his Klingon crewmates.  Whoever was assigned next should also eat meat.  There had been few options for vegetarians, and Spock had made use of the meal supplements he'd been provided more often than not.

 

But he was home now.  Strange how Earth was home again after it being so unwelcoming after Jim's death.  But now...  He sought out Christine, made it clear with a look that he wanted to talk to her. 

 

She hung back, and as the room cleared, made her way to him.  "You gestured ambiguously?"

 

It was very like something Jim would have said, and he felt his lips tick up in response.  "I did.  I wanted to speak to you.  Privately."

 

"Okay."

 

"Are you recovered from our..."

 

"Fabulous vacation on Vulcan?"  She laughed softly.  "I am.  And surprised to find out that a Klingon ship is where you've been.  I wondered why I hadn't seen you in the halls."

 

"Did you think I would go three months after what happened without determining if you were all right?"  She had been often on his mind during his time on the Batlh.

 

"Yeah, I guess I did."  She shrugged.  "Sorry."

 

"I would also have congratulated you on your new position had I been here.  You are in charge of Emergency Operations, I assume."

 

"Yep.  Fought like hell for it and got it."  She grinned, clearly proud of herself and he was, too.  After what he had seen of her interrogation in the meld, she must have been very persuasive for Starfleet to entrust her with such a sensitive position, when before she had been fearful they would assign her to a posting with less access.

 

He decided to ask what he really wanted to know.  "Has my father begun his pursuit of you?"

 

She looked shocked he would ask so directly or perhaps at all.  "I believe so."  He could tell she was holding back.  In fact, he thought by the look on her face, that she had already begun seeing him.

 

"You believe?"

 

She sighed.  "We've been to dinner—more than once.  Other places."

 

"I see.  I do not think you will be happy with him."

 

"Wow, you really don't want me for a stepmom, do you?"

 

"It is not that.  You are a woman of deep passions, Christine.  I have known that since we shared consciousness.  What I remember of the Pon Farr, before the drugs took effect, confirmed that."  He knew what had happened after the drugs only from her memories, and what he had done to her still left him shaken.

 

"Your point?"  She studied him, and her look was not pleasant.  "You think your father is not capable of great passion?"  She did not have the look of a woman who knew from experience.

 

Spock felt a sense of relief fill him.  "I have seen no indication that he is."

 

"Well, why would you?  I never saw my parents being passionate but that doesn't mean they weren't.  They managed to make four kids."

 

"Having children indicates sex has occurred, not that it was enjoyed."

 

"Really?  We're going to discuss this?"  She looked very disappointed in him.  "Your father met your mother before his first wife died, Spock.  Met can mean a hell of a lot of things.  Including an affair.  Affair equals passion."

 

"Do you know that they had an affair?"  He of course knew the facts, but he was curious what she had been told.

 

She shook her head, and he thought by her expression that she was not lying.  "I do know they were in love, though.  Deeply in love."

 

"I agree.  But great love does not always mean great passion."

 

Her look changed to the gotcha look Jim had often worn.  "So you're saying you and Jim weren't bunnies in the sack?"

 

"I am not.  If I were, it would negate my point."

 

"What is your point?  Why do you care?"

 

"I had a great deal of time to think while on the Klingon ship.  And something my father said was foremost in my thoughts.  When he was urging me to bond with you despite your wishes, he said that I chose you.  I had other options, and I chose you as my partner for the Pon Farr.  He was adamant that it meant something.  At the time, I did not think I could promise you a future based on just desire, so I did not make a strong enough case for you to let me bond with you.  Now, however, I believe he was right."

 

"Are you saying you love me?"

 

"I am saying I want you."  At her expression of disbelief, he said, "I have wanted you for some time.  The thing that kept me from accepting what you offered was my love for Jim.  And after the Pon Farr, I was too mired in grief for him, and guilt for what I had done to you, to see that I could indeed offer you something.  But with time I have realized what I want, and in time to take it."

 

"Take?  What do you think I'm going to give you?"

 

"Yourself, to the extent you can.  I realize you will be tied to my father when his Pon Farr comes but other than that, you are free to make your own choices.  Even he cannot expect you to honor a bond you had no say in.  And I believe you are far less traditional than what he will want you to be.  I cannot see you abandoning your career to be with him the way my mother did, and I believe he will find that hard to accept even if he says he will adapt."

 

He could tell by her expression that she'd been over these things with his father, that his father probably had said he would adapt.  "You have never indicated you were romantically interested in him, while we both know how you feel about me. Most importantly, Christine, he did not honor your choice."

 

"My choice to die?"

 

"I recognize there is great irony in my saying that.  If he had honored it, we would not now be discussing this.  And while I wish that it had happened differently, I am gratified you are alive.  But my point is that there will be more occasions when he does not honor your choices.  Is that the life you want?"  He was not sure this had been the best route to take; she did not look like she believed him.  But she had not lived with his father, had not had him try to run her life, make her choices for her.  Had not had him try to dictate what and where he would study, what direction he would go in life.  That he had ended up in the same field as his father was one of the ironies of fate, not a choice he'd made to emulate the man.

 

"And what do you offer?"

 

"Passion.  I am half human.  I believe, in this case, that is a good thing.  I can adapt to both the bond and your schedule.  We can enjoy each other as time allows.  We are both dedicated to our careers.  But we can build something that fulfills our needs."

 

"Are you doing this because it's your dad?  Some kind of competitive thing because of all the shit that's gone wrong between you two?"

 

In some small part, he probably was, but here with her, he felt desire.  Thinking of her with another man, it...enraged him to some extent.  His body had driven him to her, and in some fundamental way, he considered her his—no matter what his father had done, how he had claimed her.  "Consider what I am saying.  Perhaps I can make my case?  Tonight, when you are off shift?"

 

"Make your case?"

 

He moved closer.  The room was empty, so he ran his hand down her arm and watched her carefully.  Her breathing changed, her eyes dilated.  She was aroused.

 

"Spock, I have told your father he can pursue me.  We've gone out."

 

He noticed she did not say they had slept together.  He moved his hand to her cheek, then to the back of her neck, pulling her closer.  "You should make an informed choice, then, should you not?  You and I have never been close except under duress.  Let me show you what it could be like now that nothing compels me."

 

She seemed about to say no, so he pulled her close and kissed her, listening to make sure the door was not opening.  They were in the CINC's conference room; he did not want to embarrass her.  He pulled away and noticed how full and red her lips looked.  Something primal in him liked that they looked that way from his kiss.

 

"I think I might hate you."

 

"But you are not indifferent.  May I stop by tonight or have you penciled in my father, as Leonard would say?"

 

He could tell she was trying to bite back a smile.  "I don't have plans tonight."

 

"Then I will see you around seven?"

 

"I don't usually get home till seven thirty."

 

"That is fine.  I have many reports to write."

 

"I bet you do."  She touched her lips, but he did not think she was aware she was doing it.  "Okay, I'm going back to work now."  She turned on her heel and strode out, but she looked back to see if he was following her.  "Really hate you."

 

"Yes, you made that clear."

 

##

 

Sarek looked up from his desk, surprised to see Spock.  "You are back?"  He was interested in what Spock could share from his mission on the Batlh.  Sarek knew he had been one of the few aware of where Spock was.

 

"I am.  May I enter?"

 

"You hardly need to ask, my son.  Come in and sit."

 

Spock came in, but he did not sit.  "It is not of the joint mission that I wish to speak.  And you should not think of me as your son in this case." 

 

"Explain."

 

"I will be seeing Christine tonight."

 

Sarek was not sure how to respond to that.  On the one hand, it was honorable of Spock to tell him.  On the other, he did not like the note of satisfaction he heard in Spock's voice.  "I see.  What has prompted this?"

 

"I had much time to think while on the Batlh.  You were right.  I do desire her.  I should have listened to you."

 

Was it not the ultimate irony that the first time Spock chose to say that Sarek had been right was about a woman Sarek did not now want him to pursue?

 

"Will you not say something, Father?"

 

"You must do as you see fit, Spock."  He went back to his padd.

 

"Will you continue to see her?"

 

Sarek met his eyes.  "Is there a reason I should not?"

 

"I do not plan to simply dine with her, Father."

 

"No, I expect you do not."  Sarek leaned back and steepled his fingers.  He gave Spock the disapproving look he'd perfected throughout his son's childhood.  "She is mine at the most fundamental level."

 

"I would disagree.  Her heart will dictate what she chooses, not our traditions.  And she loves me.  She has for years."

 

"And you?  Do you love her?"

 

"Do you?  She needs passion, Father.  She is not the type of woman to live without it."

 

Ah, so that was Spock's play.  Sarek had often had cause to be thankful for the soundproofing in their family home and here at the embassy, but he wondered now what Spock thought he and Amanda had done on those nights they had "retired early."  "You must, as I said, do what you will, my son.  And—how does the Earth saying go?  Oh yes, may the better man win."

 

Spock's face went tight.  "You would fight me for her?"

 

"Not mortal combat, certainly.  But I see no reason to cease interacting with her solely because you have decided you want her.  She is a logical woman.  She will make the right choice."

 

"The right choice being you?"

 

Sarek gave him a bland look and did not answer: another strategy that had irritated Spock as a child.  And it still worked, Spock's face grew stormy, a lapse Sarek would chide him for if he were not enjoying it so much. 

 

"I have informed you of my plans.  I will leave now."  Spock turned and hurried out.

 

Sarek waited a moment, then hit the button on his comm unit that he had programmed for Christine.  She answered immediately.  Before she could say more than hello, he said, "My son has told me you will be seeing him tonight.  I realize we are putting you in a difficult position and wished to tell you to enjoy yourself."

 

There was dead silence on her end.  She looked at him with a mixture of chagrin and anger.  Finally, she got out, "He told you?"

 

"He did.  I believe he thought I would remove myself from the playing field.  He was wrong.  Will I still see you for dinner tomorrow?"

 

She seemed unsure how to answer. 

 

He finally took pity on her.  "Christine, I am telling you it is all right to see us both.  Eventually, you will choose one or the other of us.  Is that not so?"

 

"I guess?" 

 

He found her expression charming; she looked confused and surprised.  No doubt wondering why he was taking this so well.  "May I ask one thing?"

 

She nodded.

 

"Did he imply I was lacking in some manner?  That I would not be able to meet your needs?"  Her blush told him Spock had.  "Rest assured, Christine, he is wrong.  If it is passion we are speaking about."

 

She blushed even more.  He found that charming, also.

 

"In time, of course.  I see no need to rush things."  As his son was doing was the unsaid part, and her soft laughter and grin told him she knew what he was implying. 

 

"Wow, you are relentless."

 

"I have never competed with my son so directly.  I will be interesting to see who wins."

 

"I'm not sure how I feel about that.  Am I just the trophy at the end?"

 

"I saved you.  He did not.  And now he wants you.  Who can say if it is true desire on his part, or if it is competition with me?  I am pursuing you because I wanted to well before he decided he desired you.  This is entirely about you, Christine.  And while you may be the trophy, you are also the judge: you will pick the winner."

 

"Is that supposed to make me feel better?"  She sighed.  "I have a meeting in a few minutes, Sarek.  I'll see you tomorrow."

 

"Yes.  Enjoy your evening.  In any way you see fit.  You are a free agent in this."  He met her eyes, did not look away for a very long time, until she smiled, a slow, rather sensual smile.  "Until tomorrow."  He cut the connection.

 

There.  Spock would not expect him to confront Christine over this, much less give her permission to sleep with him.

 

He did not like to think of his son touching her, but she had loved Spock for many years.  She might need to get him out of her system, and Sarek thought that Spock had overlooked one key thing that Christine would want and he would not be able to give.  It would remain to be seen how it played out.  If his son was as inflexible as when he was young, Spock would lose her.  But time—and Kirk—may have changed him.

 

Sarek might not win, even if he had conveyed confidence to his son and to her.  His best chance for success was to give ground now for possible success in the future.

 

He took a deep breath and went back to his padds.  There was always work.

 

##

 

Chapel walked a little faster down the sidewalk.  She'd wanted to get home before Spock arrived, but a late crisis had put an end to that idea.  She saw him sitting on one of the benches in front of her building, and he rose when he saw her.

 

Her heart turned over, and she got the not-unpleasant feeling of butterflies in her stomach.  How many years and he still got to her this way?

 

She smiled at him.  "Sorry, I'm late."

 

"I know your hours are not always your own."  He seemed very at ease, his eyes lightening as he looked at her.

 

"Come on in, then."  She laughed when he held the door for her, then led him to the elevator and up to her floor.  Palming them in, she motioned to the living room.  "Make yourself comfy."

 

He didn't go into the living room.  He followed her into the kitchen.  She turned, and he grasped her arms lightly and pulled her close.  Which was nice but she hadn't thrown off her work stress yet, wanted to change out of her uniform and not just to get naked, wanted to talk and relax and get used to him being in her apartment.

 

"Spock, we are not going to do this in my kitchen."  She pulled free of his hands and mock-punched him in the arm.  "And why the hell did you tell your father?"

 

He actually frowned.  "He told you?"

 

"He sure did."  She turned away from him, headed for the cabinet with the wine glasses.  "You start drinking hooch on the Klingon ship or do you just want water?"

 

"Water is fine."

 

She filled it from the tap and handed it to him, then took a lot longer opening a bottle of wine than was strictly necessary.  "Could you go into the living room?  You're making me nervous."

 

"Of course."  He walked out, and she closed her eyes.  What did she want to do?  Why did he want her and why the rush?  The last time they'd been together, he'd beaten the holy hell out of her—not his fault, but still, he could take a little time before he went in for the kill.  Her shrink had sent her for a few sessions with the trauma therapy machine, so she wasn't afraid of sex like she might have been without the treatments, but he didn't know that.

 

She poured some wine and took the glass out to the living room.  He had chosen the couch; there was room at the end or she could sit right next to him.  Or she could chicken out completely and take one of the chairs.  Or maybe just pace.  That sounded good.

 

"Come sit with me."  His tone was gentle but intense, like it had been during his first Pon Farr, when she'd gone to tell him they were headed for Vulcan.  Had he wanted her then?  She'd always assumed T'Pring had been the reason he hadn't pushed things.  That knowing he was heading home had staved off whatever was going to happen when he talked about protesting against their natures.  "Christine, please?"

 

She sat next to him, put her drink on the table, and turned to look at him.  "Why would you tell your father?"

 

"It is possible that three months on a Klingon ship left me more concerned with honor than I might otherwise have been.  He knows you love me.  I assumed if I stated that I wanted you, he would let you go."

 

"Wanted.  Always that word."  She studied him.  "What if I said I don't want to stay in tonight?  I want to go out and eat a fancy dinner and walk the city?  No sex?"

 

"Then we would go do that.  But you will not say that."  He eased her toward him, running his hands up and down her back.

 

She closed her eyes and tried to hold back a moan but failed.

 

"You want me.  I want you.  What more is there to say?" 

 

As he kissed her, she tried to think of the fault in his logic.  As he pushed her to her back and began to kiss down her body, she gave up trying.  This was what she'd wanted.  Him to desire her so much he couldn't wait.  And it would be easy with him.  No expectations.  But possibilities—down the road, feelings might grow.

 

He moved back up to kiss her lips and she took his hand and smiled, kissing his fingers before settling them on the meld points.

 

His expression changed, all the light in his eyes died, and his almost smile became a tight, straight line.

 

"What?"

 

"I would prefer not to meld."

 

"Why?"  Sharing her mind with him had been one of the things she liked best—or had until he'd semi-bonded with her.  But before the drugs had taken effect, it had been amazing.  She'd felt what he'd been feeling as he moved inside her, had known he was feeling her pleasure, too.  And now they couldn't?

 

"There are parts of you that belong to my father."

 

"I get that there's a bond, but try a light meld.  You don't have to go deep."

 

"Christine, when I said it was good that I was half human, I meant for this reason.  Humans need no meld to achieve a satisfying sexual experience."

 

"That's a bit like putting salt on the table and then saying no one can use it because our early ancestors didn't have it.  We have the capability to meld.  Let's do it."  When his expression didn't change, she pulled down her uniform shirt and eased off the couch.  "I didn't ask for this bond."

 

"I fully realize that, Christine.  But it is there.  Forgive me, but I do not want to feel my father in your mind."

 

"Then don't look for him.  It's not like my mind is all his.  You don't even know how much you'd feel him.  You're not even trying."  Just like he didn't try to convince her to live when he could have—he'd been willing to let her die.

 

She felt tears start to well up and dashed them away angrily.  "I love you."

 

"I know that."

 

"Do you think, over time, that love between us—mutual love—could grow?"

 

He thought about it long enough for her to know he was not simply saying what she wanted to hear.  "Yes.  I do."  He stood and walked to her.  "Will that be enough?"  His expression was soft again.  Soft and yearning, a look she wanted to see over and over.

 

She took his hand and led him to the bedroom.  As she began to unfasten his uniform, he stopped her, holding her hand up. 

 

"Christine, you are shaking.  Is it because of what happened during the Pon Farr?"

 

"No."  She found it difficult to meet his eyes.  "I'm not sure what's wrong."  Damn it all, she was crying again.  "Please, meld with me.  I need to feel you that way.  Just try?"

 

He nodded finally and drew her with him to the bed.  She cuddled against him, and he settled his fingers on the meld points.  For a moment, she could feel him inside, the desire was true, but then it changed.

 

Dismay.  Shame.  A sense of trespass.  And anger.

 

He pulled out of her mind and murmured, "I am sorry.  When I am in your mind, there is no way for me to act as if you do not belong to my father."

 

"Belong?  I don't belong to him.  I sure as hell don't belong to you, either."  She rolled off the bed.  "This isn't going to work.  I'm not really sure why I thought it would."

 

He sighed.  "If you would let me in—"

 

"I did.  You ran in disgust."

 

"Into your life, not into your mind."

 

"You don't want into my life, you want into my bed." Sarek wanted into her life, but would he if he hadn't gone and bonded with her?  Damn it all, could no man want her just because?

 

"Would you have said no in the past?"

 

"Probably not.  But your father didn't own me in the past."  She left him in the bedroom, went back out to the living room and downed her wine in large gulps.

 

He finally came out, stood and watched her as she stared out at the balcony and the view beyond.  "Any man you are with will have to deal with my father's presence and his needs—his claim on you.  I am in the best position to deal with that.  To understand it.  What is a meld compared to acceptance?"

 

She looked up at him, let him see she was crying.  "What you say is logical, Spock.  And I love you."  She closed her eyes.  "I may always love you.  But I need time to think.  You can see yourself out?"

 

His answer was a long sigh.  Then he turned and left.

 

She curled up on the couch, resisting the urge to get more wine, maybe finish the bottle.  Why hadn't Spock come to this epiphany when she'd been dying?  Why couldn't he have bonded with her instead of making his father feel compelled to do it?

 

She let herself cry, knew she'd have a raging headache afterwards but needed to get it out.

 

Maybe some dreams weren't meant to be.

 

##

 

Sarek was at Starfleet Command for an early meeting, so he decided to stop and see Christine on his way out.  The closer he got to Ops, the more he could sense her mood.  After years with Amanda, who had studied with Vulcan teachers to learn to shield, it was almost overwhelming dealing with such an undisciplined mind.

 

He would not, however, tell Christine he found her mind to be undisciplined, especially given the mood she appeared to be in. 

 

She was standing with two of her people, looking at a terminal when he walked in.  She turned and looked at him, her expression neutral but then she pointed discreetly to her office so he went in to wait for her.  A few moments later, she came in, annoyance clear on her face.

 

"This is a bad time?"

 

"The bond tell you that?"  Her tone was what Amanda would have called "snippy."

 

"No, your expression did."

 

She laughed tightly.  "Oh."  She leaned against her desk, close to where he was seated, their knees nearly touching.  It would have been too close for Vulcan norms, but with their bond, he could feel himself relaxing from the proximity.

 

She exhaled slowly, and he realized he was having the same effect on her.  Would he know if she had slept with Spock?  Should he be able to feel that?  He had never worried that Amanda would want another man: this was new ground for him.

 

"I'm not going to talk about Spock to you."  She crossed her arms over her chest as if to make her declaration stronger.

 

"That would be appreciated.  He is my son."

 

"Well aware."  She rubbed her eyes, and he realized they were puffy, the way Amanda's used to be when she'd been crying. 

 

Surely that did not bode well for Spock. 

 

"Why are you here, Sarek?"  The question was direct, but her tone was gentle.

 

"If there was a reason you did not want to meet as we had planned tonight, I thought you could tell me now."

 

"You came all the way to Command to let me off the hook?"

 

"No.  I was here for meetings with Admiral M'tosh."

 

"Oh.  Sure."  She rubbed her eyes again.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't get much sleep."

 

Because she was upset or because she was having sex with his son?  Sarek studied her, then felt for her energy.  "Can you give us privacy for a moment?"

 

She hit a button on her desk and the door closed. 

 

He stood and put his hand on her shoulder, his other hand on her cheek.  "This is not a meld, but it used to help Amanda when she was overtired."  He could feel the chaotic nature of her energies.  Spock was right: Christine was a woman of great passion.  But passion brought spikes and valleys, and what she needed now was balance.  "Close your eyes."

 

She did, and he concentrated on matching his breathing to hers, imagining his energy going into her, then him taking her unbalanced and very tired energy into himself.  He could get no sense of sexual energy; he did not think she and Spock had enjoyed the night quite the way his son had intended.

 

If she was crying, it had to be about the meld.  Sarek thought Spock hadn't counted on it being a factor.  If he had, he would have moved more slowly.  Sarek knew this could rebound onto himself, though.  It was his fault the meld would be distasteful to Spock, his fault the bond was there at all.  Then again, but for his actions, Christine would not be in the middle of this.  Sarek truly believed Spock would not have saved her given the state he was in at the time.  He could not regret having stepped in.  How many would this woman save?  How much good would she do?

 

He let those thoughts go, concentrated on what he was doing for Christine.

 

"It's like coffee without the jitters," she murmured.

 

He found her voice almost unbearably sensual when she spoke at that volume.  This was new for him.  He had cared for Christine before but only as a friend—and her relationship with Amanda had been much more personal and close than what he enjoyed with her.  It was only since the bond that this more physical attraction had grown.

 

But it was Vulcan nature for it to grow.  The bond meant possession—and not just her being his, but vice versa.  Possession and attraction and completion.

 

He eased away from her before she could sense how much he wanted her.  And before he could feel how much she did not want him. 

 

She loved Spock.  Could that change?  Or if not change, could she care for Sarek, too?

 

"I don't want to cancel dinner, but if things don't die down here, I'll have to," she said, giving him a sweet smile before reaching behind her to push the button that opened the door.  "I'll see you later hopefully."

 

"We can reschedule.  I do not want to be a burden to your day."

 

"Really?"

 

"Yes.  We will try that restaurant some other time.  If you wish, come by the embassy for a break.  We will eat there.  I will be working all evening so it will not be a bother."

 

She touched his arm.  "Thank you."

 

He wanted to ask her what, if anything, she could feel from him.  But he decided not to push her.  Spock no doubt had, and it would have been a mistake.  "If you need anything, you have only to call."

 

"I know."  She followed him out, heading back to the terminal she'd been at when he walked in.  Her back was straighter and she seemed to have more energy as her people made room for her.  "Okay, where are we?"

 

Sarek felt a rush of pride for her.  She had fought hard and had been rewarded with what she wanted. 

 

He would do the same with hopefully similar results.

 

 

 

Part 3

 

Chapel walked into the temporary office Spock had been given and paused at the doorway to study him.  He looked good, and when he glanced up at her, his whole expression seemed to lighten. 

 

"So, Spock, I’m told you need me.  From want to need.  Not sure that's progress."  She knew she sounded bitchy.  She didn't care.

 

"I do need you.  Please sit."  His voice was light, his demeanor pleasant.  There was no indication he'd left her apartment in what might have been anger, and was certainly disappointment, a week ago.

 

She sat in one of the chairs, leaned back, and crossed her legs.  She couldn't wait to see what kind of bullshit excuse he had for calling her in here.  And routing it through the CINC's office.  Official and everything.

 

"As you no doubt remember, I made a recommendation during my after-mission briefing that species other than Vulcans be assigned to the next joint mission with the Klingons."

 

Oh.  Shit.  Maybe he really did need her?  Or maybe he was going to suggest she go off with the Klingons—it would be a novel approach to the "If I can't have you, neither can he" dilemma. 

 

"I remember."

 

"I have a short list of officers that have been selected.  I found during my time on the Klingon ship that introversion was not an asset.  Or not to the level I display that trait.  In addition, a buoyant nature would also have been an advantage, as would a high tolerance for alcohol.  Neither of which is likely to show up on evaluations."

 

She laughed.  "And as someone who once located and then wore a lampshade at an office party, I am very glad of that."

 

He almost smiled.  "I believe you know many of the candidates.  You can give me your opinion?"

 

"I can do that."  She uncrossed her legs and leaned in, but he rose and walked around the desk, taking the chair next to her so they could share the padd he was working from.  Or so he could sit this close to her and make it look legit.  Win win, no doubt, in the "I learned all my best moves from James T. Kirk" handbook.

 

It was odd, though, sitting this close to him, feeling the normal "Spock is paying an iota of attention to me" butterflies, and not feeling a single hint of the resonance she enjoyed with Sarek.  Oh what a difference a bond made.  In Spock's favor, she never got butterflies around Sarek.  Not that Sarek had made any kind of physical move on her yet.  Was he waiting for her to do it?  Was he waiting for her to make her mind up about Spock before he did it?  He was a master diplomat, and she had no doubt he was waiting for a reason; she just couldn't figure out what the reason was.

 

She'd always assumed he and Amanda had enjoyed sex outside of the Pon Farr, but she'd never come out and asked her.  What if they hadn't?  But Sarek had told her not to worry about passion.  Damn it all.  She was fine, content to spend time with Sarek and let their relationship unfold as it would—until she saw Spock.

 

"You are distracted.  Is there an emergency you need to get back to?"

 

Could she call her love life an emergency?  "No.  Sorry.  Who's first?"

 

He opened the first file, and she started to laugh.  "No, no, a thousand times no."

 

"Why?"  Even though he asked, he was already hitting "reject."  She was touched he'd put that much stock in her opinion.

 

"He's been known to get a little...surly when drinking.  Loves to insult.  Nice guy otherwise, but pretty much goes for the jugular if he's really into his cups.  I have a feeling he'd dishonor a warrior in no time and be saying hello to the sharp end of a Klingon battle axe."  She knew the correct term for that was bat'leth.  Spock didn't need to know she knew that, though.

 

"Yes, that would not do.  Next?"

 

She saw a woman she'd mentored when she'd first been in Ops.  "Oh, she would be great.  Takes shit off no one but is always game for anything, including bizarre local cuisines.  She actually likes gagh."

 

His eyes narrowed.  "Where has she had it?"

 

She tried to look innocent and not give away that there'd been a few very sensitive joint missions working emergencies.  Not if Spock didn't already know about them.  "Someone made it on a dare."

 

"Ah."  He still did not look convinced.  "She is strong?"

 

"She's not going to win any weightlifting tournaments.  But she's got a black belt in two martial arts."

 

"Excellent.  I will need three more officers in addition to her."

 

"Same ship?"

 

He seemed surprised at the question.  "Does it matter?"

 

"Yeah, one Starfleet officer could get overwhelmed on a Klingon ship.  Two would probably be braver, willing to try more things with another person to urge them on.  But three or more on the same ship, they'd probably clique up, become insular.  Defeat the purpose."  She thought about it.  "Instead of four on one ship put a pair on two ships."

 

"I would not have considered that.  I will be sure to include that as a strong recommendation."  He made a quick note on his padd.

 

The rest of the selection went fast.  She knew about half the people, could infer from the psych profiles and evals of the others if they'd fit.  Spock said they'd be interviewed and tested prior to any assignments being made, so this was just preliminary. 

 

He was making notes on the padd, and she wondered if she should leave or if he wanted to talk.  Finally, she started to rise and he said, "I have given you what you asked for.  Time to think.  Space to do it, as well."

 

She sat back down.  "And I appreciate that."

 

"I too have had time to think.  I am willing to try the meld again."

 

"Why?  It was clear you hated going anywhere near the bond.  I could tell what you were feeling."

 

"Yes, but I went in expecting to hate it, and perhaps I need to adjust my attitude."  He leaned toward her.  "Have you seen my father since we..."

 

She nodded.  Seen him.  Eaten with him.  Talked and laughed—well, she laughed, he just sort of generally lightened up.  And sometimes she could feel amusement from the bond if they were sitting particularly close.

 

But this, this hopeless feeling of wanting?  Not yet.  But then she hadn't spent years lusting after him.  And as strong as her feelings for Spock were, as much as Spock's interest excited her, she wasn't sure he was a healthy choice.

 

"There is much I regret, Christine."

 

"Yeah, me, too."  She reached out, then realized what she was doing and tried to pull her hand back, but he captured it in his and rubbed his fingers lightly over her skin, making her shiver.  "What you do to me."  She sighed.

 

"I do not know what my next move should be.  That is unusual for me."

 

She smiled.  "Admitting it even more so."

 

They sat in silence, their eyes fixed on one another, but not in a hostile way, almost resigned.

 

Finally, she stood.  "I'll think about it.  Trying the meld, I mean."

 

"Thank you."  He gestured to the padd.  "And thank you for your assistance."

 

"Any time, Spock.  You know that."

 

##

 

Sarek watched Christine move around his sitting room in his private area in the embassy.  She would pick something up, study it, and put it down.  She was frowning as she did it.

 

"Is something wrong?"

 

"I can't tell these are yours.  With the bond, shouldn't I be able to tell?"

 

He was having trouble sensing her mood; she was learning to shield on her own, might not even be aware she was doing it.  It was good—some privacy was essential for a happy union.

 

She glanced at him.  "I guess you should have picked a Vulcan if you wanted a woman who could do that."

 

He moved toward her.  "I am not sure that I would be able to tell if something belonged to you if you had not just touched it.  There is nothing deficient about the way you deal with the bond, Christine."

 

She smiled.  "So Amanda didn't do it better than I do?"

 

"She faced much the same challenges you do."  He was not sure if Amanda would have been shielding this quickly if she had not had her Vulcan tutor.  In some ways, Christine might be doing better.  But he would not tell her that: it seemed a betrayal of Amanda.

 

"Did you and she..."  Christine's cheeks began to flame, and Sarek could feel her embarrassment.  And underneath that, a deep sexual need he did not think would be there if she and Spock had embarked on a physical relationship. 

 

"Did we...?"  He waited for her to say what she wanted to know.  They had not talked about this, and he sensed she was frustrated with the time he was taking to initiate any kind of sexual relationship.

 

He, too, was frustrated.  He had hoped she might get Spock out of her system, but it appeared she was holding him back as well, or her frustration level would not be so high.

 

"Did you and Amanda have sex outside of the Pon Farr?"

 

"Of course.  Quite enjoyable sex."

 

She closed her eyes.  "And you met her while you were with Sybok's mother?"

 

"I did."

 

"Did you two...?"  She exhaled as if in irritation and turned to meet his eyes full on.  "Did you two have an affair?"

 

"We did not.  Exactly.  We..."  He tried to think how to categorize that time in his life.  "Sybok's mother and I were discontented with each other.  In a mutual decision, we decided to live apart—to live as we wished.  Amanda and I were...intimate but it was not an affair as you might think of it, nothing clandestine about it."

 

"So you were with her even though you were married?"

 

"To be honest, I did not think of myself as married.  I was bonded to Sybok's mother, but we went our separate ways."  He moved closer, reached out and touched her hair, feeling how silky it was.  "It was not that different than what you and I will have if you choose Spock or someone else over me."  He could feel a rush of anger from her at his words. 

 

"Choose?  Do you even want me?  You barely touch me."  She leaned into his hand.

 

"Do you want me to touch you?"

 

She jerked her head away.  "Stop with the emotional brinksmanship.  Your goddamn telepathic hands have already told you the answer to that."  She strode to the window and stood with her hands on either side, her back tight.

 

"Christine, what I was asking is if you merely need to be touched—and anyone would do—or if you want me."

 

"For the record, anyone is not in the running.  It's you or Spock." She turned to him.  "If you hadn't bonded with me, we wouldn't be here."

 

"This is very likely true.  Although the possibility exists that we might have found our way to each other eventually.  We are friends."

 

"There would have been Spock."

 

He bit back annoyance: Spock, Spock, always Spock.  "It is a moot point, Christine.  Had I not melded with you, you would be dead.  And you would never know what Spock would have eventually wanted from you."  Although she would have wanted Spock.  Would she always?

 

"I am so sick of this."  By her look, he could see she was serious.  As she tried to storm past him, he reached out and caught her arm, bringing her up short.

 

She looked surprised at his strength. 

 

He felt a surge of satisfaction.  Spock was only half Vulcan.  She had no idea how much stronger a full Vulcan was.

 

"I, too, have grown weary of the way things are."  He had waited because he thought Spock would not, and he also thought Spock would not meld with her.  Sarek, in his place, would also have found it difficult—not because it was another man but because it was Spock.  Their troubled relationship added layers to this that might not have been present if they were from different families.

 

But Sarek also wanted Christine to want him for himself.  It was a self-indulgent thing—an emotional failing even—but he did not want to be a stand-in for his son. So he had held back.

 

But perhaps he could give her—and himself—just a taste.

 

He drew her to him, not roughly, but trying to make sure she had no doubts that he was serious, that he wanted this.  He pulled her with him to the wing-backed armchair that was his favorite, sat and didn't let go of her, so she ended up on his lap.  Settling his fingers on the meld points, he looked at her and asked, 'Do you wish this?"

 

"Yes."  Her voice was the sultry murmur that made him remember what it was to be young and in love, to want to throw everything away for just one touch of the woman who'd taught him what a healthy relationship could be like.

 

He engaged the meld, the act incredibly easy because of their resonance from the bond.

 

"Ohhhh," she licked her lips and he could feel the slide of her tongue over her skin as if it was happening to him.  He grew harder, everything in him crying out to take her, to not wait. 

 

Opening her eyes, she smiled.  "You want me."

 

"I do."  He reached deep with the meld, trying to respect the privacy of the individual moments but attempting to read her feelings, how she viewed Spock and him.  Still so much desire for Spock.  True affection for Sarek.  And she was intrigued now—and aroused.  She was ready for this to happen.

 

He kissed her as he let the meld go, and it slowly melted away.  Her lips on his were immensely sweet, and he enjoyed kissing her for a long time.  Then he pulled away.

 

"What are you doing?"

 

"You love him."

 

"I know, but that doesn't mean I can't love you, too."

 

He stroked her hair, wanted to feel her under his hand, the touch that brought comfort.  "Christine, Spock is not some man who if you end up choosing him, will take you out of my life.  He is my son.  We will share tables.  And you will be there.  Either as his or as mine.  And as it stands now, it would seem you want him more than you do me."

 

"Well, finish what we almost started and that might change."  She was angry.  Frustrated.  And lonely. 

 

Sarek understood.  The bond, when they were on the same planet in such relatively close proximity, would ache for connection.  He was lonely, too.  He was almost in pain right now, feeling her agitation on top of his own overly emotional longings.

 

She tried to get up, but he held her on his lap.  He would not sleep with her yet, but he wanted her near him.  And he did not want her leaving in this mood: she would head directly to Spock.

 

He thought she might fight him for a moment, but then she relaxed, and let him hold her and run his hand up and down her back.

 

"Why have you not slept with Spock, Christine?  It is what you most desire."

 

"You want me to sleep with him?"

 

"No.  But you are in a state of not knowing, not having—you need to be touched."

 

"So touch me."

 

He ran his lips over her finger.  "I cannot do this and then lose you to him.  We will be friends until you make your decision.  But know this.  That I want you.  That I care for you."

 

She studied him, then leaned in, her lips meeting his.  Even without a meld, the resonance between them began to throb, and he wrapped his arms around her and lost himself in the feeling of being with her.  They kissed for a long time, touching languidly here and there, safe places that did not take them any further then this lovely communion of body and essence.

 

She cuddled against him, her head on his shoulder, her lips on his neck.  He closed his eyes and held her tightly.

 

"This feeling.  Of peace.  And now...heat."

 

"You enjoy it?"

 

"I do.  Very much."  She yawned and then a moment later yawned again.

 

He eased her off his lap and then with his hand at the small of her back, urged her to the bed.

 

She turned to look at him.  "I thought you said..."

 

"And I meant it.  But you are tired, and I am tired, and my bed is here.  Sleep with me."

 

Her eyes were nearly closed: a very long day coupled with the sharing, he thought, had conspired to make it impossible for her to stay awake.  He pulled Amanda's favorite blanket off the stand, shook it out and then covered Christine with it before crawling underneath it as well.

 

Christine smiled.  "It smells like her."  Her expression was sweet and innocent, and Sarek could imagine Amanda's anger if he hadn't saved her friend: he felt no guilt for what he had done.

 

"Yes.  It does.  When she was first gone, I slept with it every night."

 

"Not now, though?"

 

"No.  Not any longer.  But it seems right using it now."

 

"It does."  She rolled over, snuggling against him, her arm snaking around his waist.  "Wake me at oh five hundred, all right?"

 

"Yes."  He set the alarm.  Normally, he would not, but he was feeling drawn into her exhaustion and was unsure if he would wake as he normally did at whatever time he wanted.

 

For a moment, he held her and let himself imagine that this was how things would be.  Her in his arms.  Her with him—but not always.  Reality came crashing in.  Even if he were with her, it would not be as it had been with Amanda.  Christine would be here, on Earth, not even having the chance to see him as she went back and forth from emergencies since she did not travel much in this job.

 

But she would still be his, with him or not. 

 

His.  For always, not just every seven years.

 

He tried to come up with a plan to get Spock out of the way, for her to work him out of her system, but he was asleep before he could plot for very long.

 

##

 

Spock was just heading into the private section of the embassy when he saw Christine and Sarek go into his parents'—his father's private rooms.  He forced himself to keep walking to the small room he kept here, a place he could find peace from the Visiting Officers' Quarters and store his things when his missions kept him from establishing a home base.

 

As he started to look for the padd he thought he had left in his room, he could feel anger rising, but wasn't sure if he was angry that Christine might be getting closer to his father than he'd thought, or if it was the idea of another woman in his mother's rooms that disturbed him.  He knew that his mother had been very fond of Christine.  Still, that didn't help the emotional side that suddenly, when faced with the image of his father disappearing into his quarters with the woman Spock wanted, made Spock want to storm in and take Christine away.  Both for his own sake and to protect the memory of his mother.

 

He sat down on the bed.  His mother's memory was fine.  It was natural to move on and someday Sarek would, and Spock would have to welcome the woman.

 

But it did not have to be Christine.  Not when Spock could stop it.

 

He debated sleeping in the embassy, decided it would be better to approach her at Command, as if he did not know she was sharing Sarek's private rooms, if not his bed.

 

He found the padd and left, walking quickly back to the VOQ and losing himself in the research he had started.  Morning came quickly and he left earlier than normal, was waiting on a bench outside Emergency Operations when she walked in—without his father.

 

"We need to speak in private.  Is now a good time?"  He knew better than to assume.  She was in a key position with seemingly never-ending crises.  Their relationship had to come second if she was needed.

 

"I'm not sure.  Haven't read my messages.  Tell you what, go get me a coffee—black, two sugars—and by the time you get back here, I'll know if I have time to talk."

 

"A logical suggestion."

 

"I can be that."  She turned away, and he watched her for a self-indulgent moment, then went to get her coffee.

 

When he got back she was scooping up several padds and took the cup from him.  "Bless you.  I have a meeting.  Just found out.  I'm sorry.  We can do this later?"

 

"Yes, at your apartment tonight.  Unless you are going to be with my father."

 

She looked torn. 

 

"If you have made your choice, Christine, just tell me."

 

She glanced at the chrono and made a face.  "I'll see you tonight.  I'll try not to be late this time."  And then she rushed out.

 

He busied himself with prep for upcoming missions, then a reminder popped up on his terminal.  "Jim's birthday: one week from today."  He took a deep breath and cancelled it.

 

Everything lately seemed a series of delinking his life with Jim's.  He had been staying in Jim's apartment, but the lease ran out and even though Spock could have afforded to renew it—and it was a beautiful space with a lovely view—it was...lonely there.  He was lonely there.

 

If Jim were still alive, Spock would be even now trying to plan some kind of birthday celebration that would make Jim happy without driving in the fact he was another year older—years that were aging him much faster than they were Spock.  Spock supposed he should be grateful he'd lost Jim before he grew truly old, before it began to fester between them.

 

But he was not grateful.  He was not grateful at all.  He felt the lack of Jim like a constant emptiness within him, as if a space had been carved inside his katra and would never be filled.

 

Christine might help ease some of the emptiness.  Over time. 

 

Except for the bond with his father.  It always came back to that.  If Spock had only his experience with being bonded to T'Pring as reference, it would not matter so.  But his bond with Jim had been the polar opposite, sustaining him, a constant link between them, open by the will of both of them, beating almost with a heart of its own.

 

Lyrical and emotional, but it was how it had felt.  Losing it...

 

Spock took a deep breath.  He could not replace Jim with Christine, and he knew it.  Whatever he built with her would be new. 

 

And probably less.  But anything he found would be less: a cause, a new partner, a mission.  Nothing would ever be Jim.

 

And the way he desired Christine, the anger he felt when he saw her with his father, meant something deep inside him wanted her badly.  He was tired of how things were between them.  This state of always wondering what she would choose.  He would know.  He would have her or he would not.

 

And if not, he would move on.  There were things he wanted to pursue that could best be done from locations other than Earth.  People he wanted to speak to who would not come to Earth.

 

People who could lead him to Pardek, the Romulan who had reached out to him after Khitomer.  A man who seemed to view unification as a possibility if Spock had read his intentions correctly.  A worthy goal: their two people united again.  What could they accomplish together?  As a people, and he with Pardek—how much good could they do?

 

He turned off his terminal and went to find Christine.  It was time, as Jim used to say, "To fish or cut bait."

 

##

 

Chapel managed to get home first this time and had time to change out of her uniform, to decide what kind of message she wanted to send via clothing.  Standing in front of her closet, she studied her options.  Too slutty, too prim, too desperate, too uncomfortable.

 

"Oh, to hell with it."  She pulled on a pair of jeans and one of her favorite sweaters.  It was a light pink with a moderate v-neck.  Nothing that screamed, "Look at my boobs," but also not too buttoned up.

 

Her chime saved her from having to second-guess her choice.  She hurried to get the door, let Spock in. 

 

He surprised her by touching her gently on the shoulder, studying her as if she held the answer to some very difficult question.  Then he moved away, into the living room, then to the slider that led to the balcony. 

 

She joined him.  "I rent this place for the view."

 

"It is most agreeable."

 

"I think so, too."  She heard him sigh, asked softly, "Are you okay?"

 

"No.  I feel...adrift."

 

"You're admitting it.  Wow."  She leaned in to see what he would do.

 

He put his arm around her and pulled her closer.  They stood like that, watching the view, and she wrapped her arms around him and murmured, "How can I help?"

 

"Choose me.  Or have you already chosen my father?"  He let her go.  "Have you slept with him?"

 

"No.  Well, yes.  Sleeping slept not sex slept."  She laughed softly at his bemused expression.  "He and I have not had sex."

 

He kissed her, slowly and with great intent.  It was a long kiss.  A great kiss.  And when he finally pulled away from her, she felt weak in the knees. 

 

She reached up, letting her palm sit on his cheek, smiling as he leaned hard into her hand.  "We don't have to try the meld again, Spock."

 

"I will.  If you want."

 

"I know.  And that means the world."  She took his hand and led him to the bedroom.  They made short work of getting clothes off, of falling into bed, of kissing and sucking and finding out that they were, indeed, very compatible when duress wasn't involved.

 

Spock seemed to go out of his way to give her pleasure, and she knew his touch telepathy—even without a meld—would tell him what she was feeling, how hard to press and where.

 

As he rolled off her, she said, "I love you."  Before he could say anything, she put her hand over his mouth.  "Don't say it back if it's not true.  And don't say anything else as some sort of consolation prize or explanation for why you don't love me.  Okay?"

 

He moved her hand.  "Should I not say something?  Silence seems...unkind."

 

"Say it makes you happy that I love you.  Say 'thank you.' Say whatever you want.  Or hell, just kiss me.  But don't ever lie to me.  And don't think you have to make up for love not being there."

 

He nodded.  "I think it will be.  Eventually."

 

She loved how earnest he was.  She felt as if everything was finally going to be all right, as if she could make her choice and be happy.  Spock was ready to take what she offered.  She snuggled against him, and then felt him tense.  "Spock?"

 

He very gently eased away from her until there was some space between them again.

 

She felt as if he'd slapped her.  "What?  You don't like cuddling?"  Her voice was brittle, and she imagined her expression was ugly.

 

"It is not that.  Right now you are exceedingly open to me.  Normally, I would find it soothing.  But with the bond there—I feel my father's touch on you.  In a few minutes, when your physiological functions calm, when your hormone levels settle, it should be better."

 

"So, let me get this straight.  When I feel so close to you that I don't want to hide anything and can't stand not being near you, that's when I'm most repellant?"

 

"You are not repellant.  The bond you have with my father is."  He closed his eyes.  "I, too, feel extremely open to you.  I want to meld.  I want to be as close to you as possible.  If I did not, then it would not bother me that I feel him so distinctly."

 

She rolled over, turning her back to him.  "Well, tell me when I don't make you want to vomit and then we can snuggle up."  She forced back tears; she would not cry over this.

 

"Christine, please turn over."

 

She didn't.

 

"Christine, I know I have hurt you with the truth.  But at least we are able to speak it.  I want you.  I believe in time I may love you.  I feel jealousy when you are with my father.  I wish to do something about that.  It is why I am here now.  There are, however, allowances I must make since the bond exists.  But they will not define our life together."

 

She rolled over so she could see his face.  He reached out and touched her cheek.

 

"Why the hell couldn't you have bonded with me?  This is your fault."

 

"I realize that.  If it were not a violation of the temporal code to go back and change that moment, I would."

 

She laughed at how earnest he looked, at the irritation in his voice—irritation at himself, not her.

 

He moved closer.  "It is already fading, the feel of him."

 

"That's because I'm mad as hell at you."

 

"I know.  But my point is I was not wrong that I will not always notice him so strongly.  Soon you can lie against me and bring me only pleasure with the feel of your body held against mine.  I want that, Christine.  I crave that."

 

"You had it with Jim, didn't you?"

 

"I did.  And we can have it, but we must make accommodations."

 

Accommodations: as if her bond with Sarek was some kind of disability.  She sighed.  Maybe it was.  Maybe she should start thinking of it that way.  But she didn't want to resent Sarek for it.  And she probably would.

 

"If you don't want this, Christine—if it is not enough—I will go away.  I will leave you to my father, which will no doubt be less problematic.  Even if you never love him the way you do me, the bond and your friendship will make his presence soothing to you."

 

"I don't want you to go away.  I’m in love with you."

 

He smoothed back her hair and kissed her in a more tender way than he ever had.  "Will this be enough?" 

 

His expression was so open, his eyes so gentle, there was nothing to say but: "It will have to be."

 

 

 

Part 4

 

Savannah was hot and humid, and Chapel found a spot on the porch to sit for a moment, while Spock and Len caught up inside.  Len had been eyeing her like there was something wrong, and she wasn't in the mood to deal with him.  The porch seemed like a great option, especially since she could say she was just keeping an eye out for the rest of their friends.

 

"She okay?" she heard Len ask Spock, seemingly not aware of how sound carried through the screen door.

 

She could not hear Spock's answer.  He knew how sharp her hearing was, had probably moved Len away from the door.

 

She was still turned to the door when she heard, "Christine Chapel, as I live and breathe."

 

Ny laughed, dipping even deeper into her theatrical southern voice as she said, "Aren't you a sight for sore eyes."

 

Chapel cocked her head and laughed softly.  "We had lunch yesterday.  How sore can those eyes be?"

 

"You are raining on my Georgian parade."  Ny sat down next to her.  "There a reason you're out here and your man is in there?"

 

"Uh, we're not joined at the hip?"

 

"But other places?"  Ny giggled, and Chapel tried to imagine making that sound and still sounding alluring.  Ny had a gift.

 

"Yes, other places."  Not the one that really mattered, though.  Not that she'd told Ny about the whole thing with Sarek and the bond.  Ny had been at a management seminar offworld when Chapel had gone with Spock to Vulcan for his Pon Farr.  She'd missed out on the bond drama, and was probably better off for it. 

 

"Honey, if something were wrong, would you tell me?"

 

"Nothing's wrong."  Why did everyone think something was wrong with her?

 

"You just seem so...detached.  Are you unhappy about something?  Work?"  Ny lowered her voice.  "Is it Spock?"

 

"I'm fine, Ny.  Now cut that out.  I don't want Jan and Hikaru's visit back spoiled with speculation that Spock and I aren't happy.  We're fine."

 

"Fine and happy are two different things."

 

She gave Ny her sternest look.  "I mean it."

 

Ny held up her hands.  "Okay.  No more questions."

 

Chapel leaned against her, letting her know she wasn't mad, but it was too hot to stay like that long. 

 

"Our first real party without them," Ny said into the silence.

 

Chapel didn't have to ask which them Ny meant.  "I know."

 

"I was going to go see Scotty when he got settled.  We'd started talking again—I mean talking as more than friends."

 

"You never told me that."  Chapel reached over and took Ny's hand; Ny squeezed it.

 

"It seemed immaterial once he was gone.  Another one slipped away."  She closed her eyes.  "First the captain, now him."

 

Chapel realized if she had died, there were people it would have hurt.  She hadn't even thought of how Ny might feel if she were gone.  She'd been too into her own pain.

 

Then again, she'd always had a sneaking suspicion that Ny had a big crush on Spock, so maybe they would have ended up together if Chapel hadn't been around throwing a big monkey wrench into everyone's plans.

 

"Admiral Cartwright died today," Ny said in a whisper.  "It's hush hush.  You don't know anything, got it?"

 

"Got it."  She felt a surge of pain.  Yes, he'd been batshit crazy with his hatred for Klingons at the end, but Cartwright had been good to her for years.  She'd depended on his counsel, his knowledge of the politics at Command.  She'd loved him in a way that was completely devoid of attraction.  Like a big brother or a doting uncle.  "Do you know how?"

 

"We didn't get the details.  Just that he was found dead by the Klingon jailers."

 

"And Valeris?"

 

Ny took a deep breath.  "She's strong and smart and has no compunction about selling out her own—maybe she killed Cartwright.  At any rate, I'm sure she'll do fine there."

 

Chapel held her tongue.  She didn't completely understand how Valeris ended up involved in the conspiracy, but she had a feeling Cartwright had a lot to do with it.  Valeris had worshipped him.  If she killed Cartwright, it was because he'd asked her to.

 

She didn't have to say anything else about the matter because Jan and Hikaru were walking up the street with Pavel.  "Gang's all here."

 

"Jan looks great.  You think she's sleeping with Sulu?"

 

Chapel laughed.  "If she's not, she's sleeping with someone.  She has the look."

 

"She sure does.  She's happy."  Ny glanced at her, as if apologizing, then got up and hurried out to catch Jan up in a big hug.

 

"Guess I don't have the look," Chapel muttered.

 

"What look?"  Spock could be so damn quiet when he wanted to.

 

"It's nothing."  She smiled, realized her smile was nothing like Jan's, so easy and carefree.  Then again Jan probably didn't have to watch that she wasn't too open for her man.

 

No, she wasn't going to do this.  She'd known going in what this would be like.  Everything was fine. 

 

She gave Spock the best smile she could call up and said gently, "Let's go say hi."

 

He nodded, even put his hand on the small of her back as they walked down the stairs.

 

She'd always loved it when Roger touched her that way.  Why didn't it make her feel warmer when Spock did it?

 

##

 

Spock watched through the viewscreen as Earth grew larger.  He had been gone for a month on this latest assignment, and he was ready to be home, to be with Christine.  He had missed her more than he expected.

 

The idea that he had a home to come back to again was a welcome one.

 

The ship arrived later than planned due to some mix-up at spacedock, and he knew Christine would be home from work already, so he beamed directly to the transporter stop nearest her place.  He found himself walking quickly, eager to see her.

 

For a moment he felt a pang that she would not know how close he was to the apartment from the resonance a bond gave.  But he could surprise her.  He would make the best of this and look on the bright side, as the human saying went.

 

He opened the door to their apartment and put his bag down near the door.  She was asleep in a chair in the living room, legs curled under her, an untouched glass of wine on the table next to her.

 

He crouched down and touched her hair.  "Christine?"

 

She opened her eyes, made a face, and said, "I wanted to be awake for you."

 

"You are awake now."  He stood and pulled her up, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her deeply.

 

She mussed his hair when they finally pulled away from each other.  "I've missed you so."

 

"And I you."  He nodded to the wine, "Bring that if you wish.  It may be a while before I let you leave the bedroom."

 

"It can wait."  She took his hand and led him to their bed.  She started to take his clothes off, but he stopped her.

 

"I truly did miss you, Christine."

 

Her smile was like the one he remembered from their days on the ship.  He realized he rarely saw that smile anymore.  Had nonstop emergencies taken it from her or had he?

 

"Can I take your clothes off now?" she asked, her voice husky and sensual.

 

"It would make sex easier."

 

She laughed, made short work of their clothes, and then pushed him to his back and followed him onto the bed.  He pulled her onto him, found that he could not get enough of kissing her, of the feeling of her skin on his.  He was reaching for the meld points before he even realized he was doing it, but her eyes were closed and he pulled his fingers back before she could realize what he had been about to do.

 

He had tried a meld soon after he moved in with her.  A light one.  It had not been a success.  Christine had slept on the couch that night, and the next day when she'd kissed him goodbye for the day, she'd said, "No more melds, all right?"  Her tone had been resigned.  And they had not tried since.

 

But he wanted to.  He craved that level of intimacy with her.  If he could find a way to meld around the bond, he would, but the bond was everywhere.

 

Although he was willing to admit that perhaps his revulsion colored things, that the slightest touch of his father's essence in her mind was as effective as ice water as far as arousal went.  Perhaps if it were a some other Vulcan who had bonded with her, things would be different.

 

He kissed down her body, letting his hands travel over her skin, using the touch telepathy that needed no meld, feeling what she wanted, what she needed.  Making her moan, over and over before he finally took her.

 

"Let go.  Just let go."  She was smiling the sweet smile again, and she rode out his passion as he did, indeed, let go.

 

"Are you all right?" he asked as he eased off her.

 

"Mmm, I've missed you so much."  Her eyes were half lidded; she looked beautiful to him.  And then she snuggled in, open to him emotionally.

 

He knew he tensed even though he tried to stop it.  Maybe if he let her stay pressed against him but did not hold her, this overwhelming feeling of his father would fade?  When he did not put his arms around her, he could feel her tense, then she rolled away, facing the wall.  "I'm sorry, Christine."

 

"Well, I'm glad you remembered to bring your neuroses home with you.  Sure would have missed them if they'd stayed on Delta Nevron."

 

He closed his eyes at her sarcasm.  "I would change if I could."

 

"Okay.  Sure."  She got up, grabbed a robe from the closet, and left the bedroom, closing the door carefully rather than slamming it.

 

He was not sure that was an improvement.  Since he had moved in, she'd gone out of her way to be controlled.  There were times he thought she was losing herself in her quest to kill the openness and his reaction to it. 

 

But she was human.  To be open to someone she loved was normal—was healthy—for her.

 

He rose, took a robe from the closet, and slipped it on.  Then he went out to the living room.

 

The wine glass was half empty.  She sat like a stone in the chair, not crying, not saying anything as he pulled up the ottoman so he could sit in front of her.

 

"My passion for you—my affection for you—is real, Christine."

 

"I know."  Her voice gave nothing away.

 

"Do you think I do not wish this was different?  When Jim and I melded, I found completeness."

 

The puff-of-air laughter was his answer, bitter and angry and somehow damning.  "Really?  You're going to make me feel better by telling me how great you and Jim had it?"

 

"I long—and I use that word on purpose—for that with you, Christine.  But there is nothing I can do.  At the most basic level, Vulcans are taught to respect the order of things.  The rule of our laws.  Respect is—well, in my case beaten into us from a very early age."

 

"Sarek beat you?"

 

"No.  The other boys.  We fought—they would goad me until I attacked them."  He took a deep breath.  "Do you understand that my mother could not marry Sarek, could not bond with him, until Sybok's mother died?"

 

She nodded.  "He told me a little of it."

 

"Despite the agreement that my father and Sybok's mother had made, I was effectively a bastard.  The children knew that.  And before she died, Sarek went through Pon Farr.  He was with her, not my mother.  I heard her crying."  He took a deep breath, tried to push back the past, how much he had hurt for his mother.  "I feel as though I am living her life, and there is little likelihood my father will die in an untimely way as Sybok's mother did.  I will not get the chance to be your mate, only your lover."

 

"I'm sorry."

 

"When I feel him inside you, so many things hit me, Christine.  The past and all the ways it colored my life.  The fact that as a Vulcan male I should not be engaging in a relationship with a woman bonded to another.  The fact that I want you—want more intimacy with you—in ways I will never get to enjoy.  I know this is hard for you, too.  I know I should have bonded with you that day and forestalled this."

 

"Why didn't you?  I've seen you push your will on others before.  Not unlike how you say Sarek did to you."

 

"Do you know why Jim left me for Antonia?"

 

"I've never understood that."

 

"There were occasions during our first five-year mission, when we were still processing what we felt, what we wanted, that he fell in love with other people—women.  He lost them and he...felt pain.  Emotional, not physical pain.  I thought I was helping him.  I made him forget.  Leonard made a passing remark about one of the women, and Jim's reaction was not what he expected.  When Jim confronted me later, I told him what I had done.  Jim was angry.  He wanted me to give him his memories back, so I did."  He looked down, remembering the pain on Jim's face as he had to deal with the death of Rayna, of Miramanee, and his greatest pain of all: Edith Keeler.  "I leveled him giving him what I had taken.  He lectured me on the wrongness of taking a person's choice away—that his pain was his right and his choice—and then he left me."

 

"And then he came back to you."

 

"Yes.  Fortunately."

 

"When did you bond?"

 

"A few weeks after we encountered V'ger.  So he left me while we were bonded.  He was mine but not."

 

She downed her wine.  "I'm never going to really have you, am I?"

 

"You have it reversed.  I am never really going to have you."

 

She let out a ragged breath.  "Right.  That sounds so much better."  She sipped the wine.  "So that's why you were so damned determined to defend my right to choose death.  I thought it was because it would be easier for you."  She started to laugh, a little hysterically.  "And it would have been."

 

"Come back to bed, Christine."

 

"And do what?  Cuddle?"  She glared at him.  "We probably could now, since I am royally ticked off at you."

 

"I know."  He held out his hand.  "Please?  I do want you near me." 

 

She finally gave him her hand.  He could feel very little through his touch telepathy.  He'd noticed that lately, too.  Except when they were having sex, she seemed to grow harder to read each day.

 

But she followed him into the bedroom, let her robe fall in a puddle on the floor, and got into bed. He pulled her close, murmuring that he was sorry, that he knew he was making it worse.  He wanted to tell her that he'd realized on this latest mission that he loved her, but he didn't think she'd take much solace in that tonight.

 

##

 

Sarek sat by the window of the Starfleet Command cafeteria, enjoying the quiet now that the lunch rush was over: he had no more meetings today, no need to sit listening to endless debate over how to do something when he knew quite well what action was needed.  It was difficult at times to balance his near autonomy as Vulcan ambassador to the Federation with the oversight he endured—even if he often did what he thought best once on site—that came with being a Federation special envoy. 

 

He had been off world much in the last months, finding it easier to be far away from Christine now that she had chosen Spock.  He also wanted to give them a chance at happiness, despite his own, somewhat primitive, feelings about her.  She loved his son, and he thought it likely Spock would come to love her.  They deserved whatever happiness they could find.

 

And he knew how important happiness was: his life with Amanda had shown him that.  As a Vulcan he would never exhibit much concern publicly with such a notion, but his private life had been full of connection and intimacy, and he missed that greatly.  With Christine not a possibility in his life, he seemed to be missing Amanda even more, as he had when she'd first died.  He supposed part of that was the cost of having a bond that could not be fulfilled except during the Pon Farr. 

 

A bond that was suddenly pinging.  He looked up, saw that Christine stood at the exit from the food area staring directly at him.  He had seen her in the hallways since she'd chosen Spock, had always nodded pleasantly, even stopped to talk if she'd wanted to, but the resonance between them had seemed suppressed—she had been suppressing it.  But now, it felt almost as it had when he'd been actively pursuing her. 

 

Open.  Receptive.  Wanting.

 

He put everything into sending her a message:  "Come here."

 

She smiled, cocked her head to the side, and stayed where she was.

 

He felt a playfulness fill the resonance and knew his expression was lighter than he'd normally let it be.  He concentrated on one word:  "Please?"

 

With an even wider smile, she walked over to him.  "This seat taken?"

 

"It is not."

 

She sat, and he watched as she fixed her salad.  Taking some things out, adding other things, finally putting some sort of dressing on it.  She looked up and met his eyes with a grin.  "I'm high maintenance."

 

"You like what you like.  The way you like it."

 

"Exactly."  Her laughter was sweet, her expression relaxing some, and the energy soaring through the bond seemed to fill him with energy—and cheer.  She did not look away.  "So, I've missed you."

 

"I have missed you as well.  I thought it best, though, to keep my distance."

 

She nodded and finally looked away; she seemed to be concentrating on eating.

 

"Are you happy?"  It was not a question any Vulcan would have asked, and he felt odd that it had been the first thing he could think to say.

 

"I have what I always wanted."  Something was off in her voice.

 

"That is not the same thing as being happy."

 

Distress pinged along the bond.  "And you care so much about happiness?  Especially mine after I chose someone else?"

 

"I do.  We are friends."

 

"Friends see each other, Sarek.  They maybe have lunch every now and then like we are now.  Stop in and say, 'Hi.'  They don't disappear off world for weeks."

 

"Did you mind that I disappeared?"

 

"I miss..."  She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

 

"What do you miss?"

 

"Knowing you're around."  She stabbed at her salad as if it was the enemy.  "Things are fine."

 

The increasing distress through the bond gave lie to that statement.  He chose not to comment, though.  If she wanted to pretend she was fine, he would honor that. 

 

"We play the hand we're dealt, anyway.  That's just how it is."  Again the stabbing.

 

"I have never understood that sentiment."

 

She laughed and it was a bitter sound.  "No, I don't imagine you've spent a lot of time playing human card games."

 

"I have not, but I am aware of the rules for many of them.  And as I understand it, there are many hands within a game.  So yes, one must play each hand as dealt—although some games do allow for discards and new draws even within the hand.  But the game is another matter.  The next hand might be very different.  Unless I misunderstood: are there any card games where one hand is all you are allowed?"

 

She started to laugh.  "I guess I will never use that saying again because you just blew it right out of the water."  She looked away, as if she could not look at him.

 

"Life is a series of opportunities, Christine."

 

"Some things get in the way of opportunity.  An unwanted bond, for example."

 

The word "unwanted" stung him, but the energy coming from her had not changed.  He realized she might be referring more to Spock's reaction to the bond than her own.  "Spock has already paid the price once because of a bond."

 

"With Sybok's mother?  He told me.  That he was..."

 

"Yes, that he was a bastard.  Or was taunted with that by children.  No adult said it to him, as far as am aware."

 

She stared at him as if he'd just said something wrong.

 

"What?"

 

"Where do you think kids learn a thing like that?  They aren't born knowing that term.  You want to believe no one censured you?  You're living in a dream world."  She stabbed at her salad again.

 

"I perhaps am."  He knew he was nearly frowning.  Had Amanda been right?  He'd always thought her fears of being judged were overly emotional—even paranoid.

 

He felt regret pounding at him, and Christine suddenly reached across the table and took his hand.  "I'm sorry.  That was cruel."

 

Her touch on his fed him a myriad of emotions, and he turned his hand for a moment, let their fingers touch, before easing away.  "I hope that your relationship with my son improves."

 

"Me, too." 

 

Despite him letting go of her, her emotions were assailing him, and he was almost overcome by the combination of need and disappointment and uncertainty.  He could help her, could use the energy between them to calm her, but it would be wrong.  She belonged to his son.

 

He could feel his body disagreeing.  The most intimate parts of him thought she belonged to him.

 

He stood, reaching for his tray.  "I must leave."

 

She looked up at him, her mouth parted slightly, her pupils dilated.  She had felt what he'd been feeling?  And she was responding.  "Yes, you should go."

 

"Be well, Christine."  He walked as quickly as he could to the door while still maintaining some measure of dignity.  He looked back as he dumped his tray.  She was staring out the window, then she turned, and met his eyes.

 

Raw need flew through the bond.  A desperate longing for connection filled him, and he knew it was not just what he wanted, but what she wanted, too.

 

He fled before he forgot about respect and convention and went back to her.

 

##

 

Chapel stood by Ny's bed, watching the rise and fall of her chest—a rise and fall aided by machines.  She'd been hurt in a shuttle accident during a cadet training exercise.  She'd been standing in as "civilian personnel" for the scenario, doing Pavel a favor with his cadets.

 

Pavel had been beside himself when Chapel saw him.  She'd left him in the waiting room once Spock had arrived, had used her medical access to get past the door that separated friends and family from the working area.  Ny had been in surgery when she got to her room; the bed had lain pristine, waiting for her friend to be wheeled out.

 

She'd sat in Ny's room since she couldn't face trying to comfort Pav, or trying to moderate how she felt around Spock.  The attending physician, Doctor Sullivan, had found her and given a guarded prognosis.  But something on her face was off.

 

It had taken Chapel no time to worm out that Ny's heart had stopped on the table.  Three times.  She'd died three times. 

 

Sullivan had sat with her for a moment, not saying anything, doctor to doctor, both knowing how serious this was.

 

And then they'd wheeled Ny in from recovery, her normally luminous skin strangely ashen. Chapel had taken her hand, told her over and over, "You'll be all right.  You're strong.  You're going to be fine."

 

And now she just stood and watched, no longer able to offer affirmations without crying.  Trying desperately to get herself back together emotionally.

 

There was a soft knock and then Pavel peeked in.  "Is it all right to...?"

 

"Yes.  Come in."  She spared him the details of what had gone on in the O.R. and gave him some time alone with Ny, wondering as she saw the expression on his face if he felt more than any of them thought for her friend.

 

Spock found her in the hallways.  "How is she?"

 

"Out of immediate danger."  She thought that Sarek would know she was lying; Spock just looked relieved.

 

He pushed the door of Ny's room open and pulled a chair to the side of the bed opposite Pavel, a lost look on his face.

 

Not for the first time, Chapel wondered if Spock had feelings for her friend. 

 

Finally he got up and came back out to her.  "She is so still."

 

Chapel wasn't sure what to say, so she just nodded.

 

"I believe I will walk for a time."  The look he gave her was one of someone who wants desperately to hear his plan approved.

 

"Fine."  Anger filled her, even though she knew better than to hope he would come over and touch her when she was this upset and open.  God forbid he give her shoulder a supportive squeeze and happen to feel his father's bond in the process.

 

He turned and walked out, his gait slow and measured, ever the perfect Vulcan.  She fought down the anger as she went back in to Ny and sat in the seat Spock had vacated.

 

"Christine, is she really all right?"  Pavel was looking at her as if she held all the answers.

 

"Time will tell, Pav.  And I'm not the attending.  I don't have all the details."

 

"Of course.  I have a meeting I must be at.  Comm me if anything changes?"

 

"Pav, I'm not the attending physician.  Leave your contact information with the nurse at the station.  They'll contact you."  She tried to keep her voice even, tried to project a calm she was light years from feeling.

 

"I am sorry, Christine.  I did not mean..."  He stood and hurried out.

 

Doctor Sullivan walked in a little while later.  She sighed and handed Chapel her padd without comment.

 

It said: "Stable but unresponsive to stimuli at this time."

 

Chapel closed her eyes and handed the padd back.  It was preliminary data only, gathered by the biobed since Ny had come back from surgery.  Things could change.

 

Or Ny might never wake up from this coma. 

 

"Thank you," she tried to get out, but she was starting to cry.  She wiped the tears away, but they wouldn't stop.  She stood, didn't want to do this in front of Ny—if Ny could hear anything, Chapel wanted it to be good things, affirming things, not the sound of her losing it.

 

"We have a spare office down the hall.  I'll show you where it is.  It'll give you a chance to be alone."

 

"Thanks."

 

Sullivan led her down the hall, and as soon as the door closed, she burst into tears again.  Ny had to wake up.  She couldn't leave her, too.

 

Then worse thoughts started to fill her head.  What if Ny did wake up but wasn't all there.  What if she couldn't relearn the way she had when Nomad wiped her memories.

 

"Christine?"  Spock stood at the door; Chapel hadn't even heard it open.  Had he found her by some kind of instinct?  By feel?  She wanted to think so.  "Doctor Sullivan told me you were in here."

 

Ah.  Of course.  Logical.  And not what she wanted to hear.

 

He stood across the room from her.  Didn't he know she needed to be held?  If he couldn't sense her pain, didn't he at least see it in her face, the set of her shoulders?  Or did he just not care?

 

"She may not wake up, Spock."

 

He closed his eyes for a moment, his sorrow evident. 

 

She held her arms open.  "Please?"

 

He didn't move.

 

She knew the look she was giving him was one of deep betrayal.  When he still didn't move, anger replaced everything else.  "Really?  Another occasion where you won't be there for me?  Let me guess: I'm wide open and all you can feel is your goddamn father?  Well, too bad, Spock.  Suck it up." 

 

"Christine.  You do not understand."  He actually took a step back.

 

"No?  Well, explain it to me."

 

"You are in deep distress.  You are broadcasting it strongly."

 

'Then fucking comfort me."

 

The expression on his face confused her.  He looked...hurt.  "I would, but you are not broadcasting to me."

 

And then she felt it—felt him.  Coming down the corridors from Command to Medical.  His energy never changing as he followed her call to the room she was in, and if the door hadn't been automatic, she had the impression he would have slammed it open. 

 

He had not lost any of his Vulcan reserve; to an outsider, he must have simply seemed a man with a mission.  But she could sense two emotions warring for control.  Concern for her and rage at the man she was with.

 

She got between them.  "He didn't hurt me."  She had to grab Sarek's face and force him to look at her.  "Sarek, he didn't hurt me."

 

"You were in such distress.  I feel your anger at him.  He did hurt you."  The look he turned on Spock was fierce.  "Get out."  There was an undercurrent of violence in his voice that Chapel had never heard.  And she did not think he was talking to his son, but to his rival, another Vulcan male who was with his...

 

Mate.  His mate.

 

Spock did not argue; he left.  Fled might be the better word.

 

Sarek turned to her.  "What did he do?"

 

"He didn't do anything."  She started to laugh, more than a little hysterically, because wasn't that the essence of the problem?  Spock hadn't done anything.  If he'd comforted her when she'd first started getting upset, none of this would have happened.  "He really didn't do anything except keep his distance when I needed comforting.  You see, when I am at my most...open, he feels you."

 

"I did not realize."  His eyebrows pulled down into an almost-frown.  "If he was not the cause of your upset, what was?"

 

"My friend, Commander Uhura, has been hurt.  Very badly.  It didn't look like she was going to make it.  She died on the table three times before they got her stabilized.  And now she may not wake up.  I guess..."  She brushed away tears she hadn't realized had started to fall again.  "Yeah, here I am, your head of Emergency Operations.  Crumbling during my own crisis."

 

He held his arms open and as his anger at Spock faded, his concern surrounded her, the bond throbbing with it, with his need to help her, to be close to her.  She went to him, wrapped her arms around him, and fought to not cry.

 

"You do not have to hold your emotion back on my account, Christine.  You are human: you feel pain and it is your nature to express it."

 

"Thank you."  But as he held her, as the comforting buzz of the bond took over, she didn't need to cry anymore.  She closed her eyes and gave herself over to him, to this feeling, this sharing—this thing she and Spock seemed destined never to have.

 

"I will apologize to Spock."  He sounded contrite.

 

"Why?  If he could just get past the fact that you've got a piece of me, he wouldn't have let me feel so isolated and upset.  But he can't.  And because he can't, I've interrupted your day to do what?  Hug the sad lady?"

 

His tightened his hold on her.  "I was not doing anything critical.  I do not mind comforting you."

 

It felt good, so damn good, so she let him keep on hugging her.  "Do you always feel my emotions like that?"

 

"No.  I am accustomed to you keeping me out of your mind.  To feel you calling so strongly is new, and I could not ignore your need."

 

She pulled away so she could see his face  "Wait, I keep you out?"

 

He nodded.  "You were already beginning to shield a few months after the bond.  But you have become quite effective at it since you have been with Spock.  Other than our lunch the other day, I feel very little from you."

 

She closed her eyes, could feel tears beginning again.

 

"What I just said upset you in some way.  I am not sure how."

 

She shook her head.  "The more open I am, the more Spock feels you.  I've been working on that.  Trying to keep myself...shut down.  But nobody likes it."

 

"That is not the right way to shield.  You are taking much of your own energy with it."  He reached for the meld points, didn't ask, just initiated the meld.

 

She nearly cried out at the welcoming feel of it.  The closeness.  The intimacy.

 

"Christine, there are Vulcans who can work with you, teach you how to shield in a way that will not change your essential nature."

 

"Can't you teach me?"

 

"If we were not bonded, yes.  But the nature of the bond is for us to open to each other when we are together, especially in a meld.  We would both be too emotionally receptive to be effective as teacher and student for this task."

 

"And Spock won't teach me.  God forbid he have to meld with me."  She let herself float inside the meld with Sarek, felt a moment of satisfaction from him and could feel it had to do with the meld.  "You knew, didn't you?  That he wouldn't meld with me?"

 

"I thought it likely he would not.  I also thought it likely that it would bother you immensely if he did not."  He rested his chin on her shoulder.  "And I can sense it does."

 

"I feel alone when I should feel the closest to him."  She shouldn't be talking about Spock this way.  Not to Sarek.  She pulled away gently, and he let the meld go as she hoped he would, but she felt bereft as it dissolved.

 

"I will locate a teacher for you.  It will be useful for you to learn the right way to shield."

 

She heard the unsaid, "No matter who you are with." 

 

He studied her for a moment, then turned and left.

 

She leaned against the desk and tried not to think about how much she wanted to call him back.  How much she liked what he'd given her: the comfort, the sense of being...loved.

 

The door opened and Spock stood, not coming in. 

 

She met his eyes.  His were sad again.  And angry, too.  Yes, poor neglected Spock.  Poor goddamn Spock.  She pushed off the desk and stormed past him, and when he tried to follow, said, "Not now.  Go home.  Go to work.  I don't care where you go, just don't stay here.  I'll be with Ny."

 

"She is my friend, too, Christine."

 

She could feel anger about to erupt and turned slowly.  "If you upset me again and Sarek comes back, I won't step between you two this time."

 

His look changed to one of betrayal.  Then his jaw seemed to set, and he turned on his heel and walked away.

 

"Shit."  She wanted to kick the wall, wanted to punch something—or someone.  Preferably a Vulcan.  "Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit."

 

##

 

Spock heard the door to the apartment open; Christine did not call out her customary and slightly sarcastic greeting of "Honey, I'm home."  He listened as she went into the kitchen, opening a bottle of wine and pouring a lot of it into a glass.  Finally she walked into the living room.

 

"Ny's responding to stimuli.  Her brain activity is normal.  I think she'll wake up.  I think she'll be okay."  She did not smile as she delivered the news, but there was relief in her eyes.

 

He felt a surge of the same emotion.  "That is excellent news."

 

"Yep."

 

They stared at each other, and her look was as bland as he was striving to keep his.  She took a sip of wine.  The silence continued and became something tight and angry and...unwelcoming.

 

"One of us should say something before our faces freeze this way," she said, bitterness loaded into every word.

 

He took a deep breath.  "Please.  You may start."

 

"Fine.  I don't think I can do this.  Not if you're never going to be there when I need you."

 

"And I don't believe I can continue, either, if you are going to summon my father every time you are annoyed with me."

 

"Annoyed?  I wasn't annoyed.  I was frantic with worry for Ny.  I was afraid.  I wanted you to be...nice to me."

 

"I am nice to you, Christine.  What you wanted was a closeness you know I cannot give you."  He could feel his voice rising and endeavored to find control.

 

She took another long sip from her glass, then set it down.  "I didn't mean to summon him."

 

"That is hardly better—that your mind is so undisciplined that you did it without intent."

 

She looked stricken.  "Undisciplined?  I've stuffed away so much of myself I'm barely present, all so you could feel comfortable with me.  Every time I feel something deeply, I have to repress it, so you don't sense your father inside me when it's your goddamn fault he's here.  You let him do this."

 

"I did not let him do anything."

 

"No?  Why weren't you in the room?  Why did you leave me?"

 

"You would not let me save you.  I tried.  We have been over this." He took a deep breath, felt the same way he had when his father had harangued him all those months ago on Vulcan.  Cornered.  Forced into an action—a relationship—he had not wanted, had not been ready to want.

 

He closed his eyes, tried to imagine Jim's face, what would he do, how would he calm Christine?

 

But why did Spock have to calm her?  Why could she not control herself?  "When you were alone with my father, did he censure you for your emotional call of distress?"

 

She frowned deeply.  "No.  Why would he censure me?"

 

Spock felt himself shutting down, like he'd used to do as a boy, when no matter what he did, he could not please his father.  His father, the great Sarek—the man who had stepped in to save the day when Spock had failed to...what?  Comfort his woman?

 

But not his woman.  Never his woman.  Christine was his father's woman and that had never been more clear than today.

 

Christine walked to the slider, staring out.  "We're not going to work, are we?"

 

"I do not believe so.  Not if my father is going to interfere the way he did today."

 

She turned, her look appraising, a slight smirk on her face, the same one Jim would wear when Spock had said something imprudent during an argument.  But he had said nothing wrong.

 

"I find it...fascinating that our relationship was not doomed when it was only I who suffered.  When I was the one who had to watch what I said and did so I didn't make you uncomfortable.  But now that Sarek might interfere, might actually call you on the carpet for leaving me to twist in the wind emotionally, you're ready to throw in the towel.  I find that unfair, Spock.  I have to try.  I have to change.  You never have to."  She turned away again. 

 

"I have done the best that I can, Christine."  He could see he was getting nowhere with that argument.  "I love you."

 

She laughed, the bitter puff of air he hated.  "I have no way of knowing that's true, Spock.  And your timing reeks."

 

He swallowed hard.  He felt as he did after Jim died, not the pain of losing him, but the sense that the ground was slipping away beneath his feet.  Christine would undoubtedly go to his father once he was gone, which would mean he had no safe port on Earth any longer.  Not here at their—her apartment, not at the embassy, where she might also be.

 

The apartment was filled with a silence full of hostility, the absence of sound broken only by her picking up her wineglass and taking a long drink.  Would she not say she loved him?  It was how she always mitigated this sort of discomfort.

 

He looked over at her.  Her back was perfectly still; he did not think she was crying.

 

Did he want her to be crying?  Had he been with Jim, he would have known what he was feeling.  The bond would have told him.  "Do you love me?"

 

She turned, her eyes completely dry.  "Yes.  And it's destroying me."  Her words were delivered with no undue emotion, just a fact.  She loved him.  And it was destroying her.

 

He took a deep, ragged breath.  Then he rose.  "I will procure lodging at the VOQ."  Nothing.  No reaction.  "I will get my things tomorrow, when you are at work."

 

She nodded; he could not read her expression.  No Vulcan had ever hidden emotion better.

 

 

 

 

Part 5

 

Sarek walked through the park, surprised that Spock wanted to talk to him, even more surprised that it was here and not at the embassy. He saw Spock just ahead, sitting on a bench near a small pond.  When he got close enough, Sarek nodded and said, "My son."

 

"Father."  Spock got up quickly, as if the last thing he wanted to do was share a bench with him.  "We will walk."

 

"I was unsure why you wanted to meet here and not at the embassy."

 

Spock shot him a look that Sarek could not read.  "I did not want to encounter Christine at the embassy."

 

Sarek could feel his brows knitting down, tried to make them stop.  "Why would Christine be there?"

 

Spock turned and there was true anger on his face, but then it faded as he seemed to see that Sarek had no idea what he was talking about.  "She did not come to you?"

 

"The last time I saw her—and you—was at Starfleet Medical.  I believe I owe you an apology.  I am sorry that I overreacted, the bond—" 

 

"I am fully aware of the effects of a bond."

 

"Of course."  Sarek thought about the way Spock had phrased his statement.  That Christine had come to him, not simply come to see him.  "What did you want to talk to me about, Spock?"

 

"I am leaving Earth for a time.  I have much leave to use so I will travel.  Go where I will."  There was something in his voice that told Sarek the travel would not be as unscheduled as Spock was trying to make it seem.

 

"I see.  Christine will miss you."

 

"Christine and I are no longer together, Father, so I very much doubt that she will care."  There was a world of bitterness in Spock's voice.

 

"You care for her.  I can hear it in your voice.  Did you tell her that?" 

 

"Yes.  It made no difference."  Spock stopped and turned to look at Sarek.  "You made it very clear she was yours.  Telling me to get out of the room."

 

And Spock had gotten out, and with alacrity.  Sarek had never seen his son afraid of him that way—not even when he was a child.

 

"I am sorry, my son."

 

"I am sure your regret will be profound until, that is, you get her into your bed."  The bitterness was even stronger.

 

"She has not approached me.  Perhaps she is tired of both of us."

 

Spock's expression tightened.  "She did not tire of me father.  She still loves me, but I could not give her what she wanted.  Because of the bond you forced on her."  He leaned in, his expression strange.  "After you bonded with her, when she first came out of her room to talk to me, I told her she had options.  If she wished to be free of you."

 

Sarek lifted his eyebrow.  "I see."

 

"She did not wish you dead, even to gain her freedom.  But if you were not my Father, I would go to the Vulcan Council and tell them what you have done.  They would condemn you and you would die, and once she was free of you, I would bond with her and give her the connection she needs so she would stay with me."

 

The anger was very clear in the tight way Spock was talking.  He did not, of course, speak loudly or gesticulate the way a human would, but Sarek could see repressed rage behind his statement.

 

"I will not do it, though, Father.  And do you know why?  Because even though I have never been good enough for you.  Even though you have ruined my chances with this woman.  Even though I could fix everything by exposing your unilateral action, I cannot seem to help having an emotional attachment to you, a need for you to see that I am a true son, a good son.  A son you can be proud of."

 

"I am proud of you, Spock.  But let us be clear: had I not bonded with Christine, we would not be having this discussion.  You would not do it."

 

"You do not know that."  This time Spock's voice did rise slightly.  "I might have wavered.  I might have saved her."

 

"You were still reeling from Kirk's death.  She was barely more than a vessel to fill with your seed."

 

"You have no idea what she was and is to me.  None.  Do not presume to tell me what I would and would not have done."

 

Sarek took a deep breath, then another.  He would not let Spock bait him.  And he could tell his son was hurting.  Did he finally love Christine?  "So this, I gather, is your concession speech."

 

Spock's jaw tightened even more.  "You will never treat me like your son, will you?  Never let me forget that your favorite son left and you were stuck with me."

 

"Sybok was not my favorite, Spock."

 

"He showed me.  The day of my birth.  You took one look and said, 'So human.'  And turned away in disgust."

 

Sarek felt a pang that Spock had been carrying this perception for years.  "Did he also tell you that it was his mother who delivered the baby?  His mother who I suspected of tainting him with her zeal for embracing unfettered Vulcan emotions despite her role as a priestess and high-ranking Vulcan, one who should spread logic.  She left your mother's red blood all over you because she was happy that you were half human, that you might follow in her—and later Sybok's—footsteps.  You were no more human than you are now: you are a blend of two worlds.  A successful blend of them."  He saw some of the tension leave Spock's face.  "It was my own emotions at play.  I was angry at her, not at you, not at your mother.  I knew I would make it up to your mother, and she would understand why I said it the way I did—neither of us had expected T'Rea to show up in the birthing room, but she did."

 

Spock nodded, as if he finally understood.  "I barely remember her.  In the vision Sybok showed me, I did not recognize her."

 

"I would have told you, if I had ever thought you had found out what was said.  But it did not occur to me that you would remember that part of your birth."

 

"Because I am too human to remember such a thing?"

 

"Because as soon as she cleaned you and left us in peace, I held you.  And I told you of my hopes for the three of us.  How we would make a family despite the barriers facing us.  But Sybok would not have wanted to show you that.  It might have made you less aggrieved."

 

Spock looked unsure; he had clearly not been expecting this. 

 

"Spock, I know we have our issues.  And now Christine is one of them.  But you are my son—a son I wanted, not some sort of accident—and you will ever be so."

 

"That will be very comforting as I sit across from the two of you at family dinners."  Despite the rancor in the words, there was something less tense in the way Spock was standing.

 

Sarek turned them so they were walking again.  "She has not contacted me, Spock.  Perhaps she will not."

 

"Perhaps."  Spock did not sound as though he believed it.  "Nevertheless, I will prepare myself for the eventuality of her as your wife."

 

Sarek had the overwhelming urge to put his hand on Spock's shoulder, to squeeze the way a human father would.  "I am sorry, Spock.  I stayed away.  I hoped this would work for you."

 

"I realize that.  And appreciate what you did."  He stopped, turned to face Sarek.  "Live long and prosper, Father.  And be kind to her.  She is an exceptional woman."

 

Again the urge to touch, to comfort.  Instead he said, "I will if she seeks me out.  It may not be an issue."  He held his hand up in the Vulcan salute.  "Peace and long life, my son.  You are welcome at our homes no matter what transpires with Christine."

 

"It will be awkward."

 

"When have our family gatherings been anything but?"  Sarek had to let a small bit of amusement show for that.

 

"Indeed."  Spock closed his eyes.  "I should have gone with Jim to the launch."

 

"And perhaps I should have let Christine die."  He did not believe that, but for Spock, he'd say it.  It was the closest thing to an apology he could make for turning his son's life upside down.

 

"No.  She is alive.  The mistake is mine: I did not do it myself."  He turned and walked away, a slow pace, not fleeing, just leaving.

 

"Goodbye, my son," Sarek said, knowing Spock was still in range to hear him.

 

##

 

Chapel palmed the lock to Ny's apartment, opened the door, and shouted out, "You decent?"

 

"Nope, I have four Deltans in bed with me.  Go away."  Then the giggle.

 

Chapel laughed and walked in.  "Last day on bed rest.  How does it feel?"

 

"Thank the Lord it's almost over because I'm bored to tears."  Ny took in the bag Chapel was carrying.  "What do you have there?"

 

"I felt like treating you.  It's from your favorite place."

 

Ny got out of bed, said, "Not a word about my poodle pajamas," and followed her out to the dining room as Chapel laid out the spread.

 

"Chicken wings, just the way you like them.  Sweet potato fries."

 

Ny took the bag.  "What else?"  She pulled out the pieces of peach pie and made cooing noises over them before pushing the plates to the side for later.  Then the best part, as far as Chapel was concerned:  barbequed ribs with coleslaw and baked beans.

 

Ny sat while Chapel got plates, but as Chapel started dishing things up, Ny said, "You seem different.  Happier.  What's up?  Spock propose or something?"

 

Chapel sighed.  They were going to have this conversation sooner or later, why not now?  "We broke up."

 

"What?"  Ny grabbed her arm, made Christine stop and look at her.  "Are you kidding?"

 

"I'm not kidding."

 

"I could tell at the party at Len's that he really cares about you."

 

"I know he does, and I love him."

 

"Is it bad and wrong of me to ask what your problem is?  Because you wanted this forever and now you're...quitting him?"

 

"Finish dishing up.  There's stuff I haven't told you, and I'm going to have to remedy that.  But you can eat while I talk.  I had a big lunch so this is mostly for you, anyway, for tomorrow, too, so you don't have to cook after your first day back."

 

"Thanks."  Ny bit into a wing and sighed in happiness.

 

Chapel nabbed a few fries before launching into the story.  It didn't take as long to tell as she'd thought it would since she left out most of the gory details.  Ny let her tell the story without interrupting.

 

Once she'd run down, Ny asked, "So...Sarek?"

 

"I'm not with him."

 

"But...you are.  Right?  I mean if he 'needs' you?"

 

"Yep."  Chapel sighed. "But I like him, too.  It's hard to explain but when I'm with him, I just seem to settle down.  Like all the weirdness happening at work or that I'm feeling just seems to fade and there's just us.  I'm sure that would go away over time."

 

"I don't know.  Amanda always seemed pretty serene."  There was a wistful look on Ny's face, then it changed.  "So now I get why Spock seemed so sad this morning."

 

"This morning?"

 

"He stopped by.  Said he was going on leave for a while, wanted to make sure I was okay before he left.  I said something about you giving him updates while he was gone and he didn't say anything, just looked...sad."  Ny got the look that meant a big-time lecture was coming.  "Are you sure about this?  Because—"

 

"You weren't there.  You don't know.  And yes, I'm sure."  She grabbed a plate and dished up some ribs and coleslaw. 

 

If she were a bigger person, she'd tell Ny that she was free to go after Spock.  Especially since he'd taken the time to come visit her.  But Chapel didn't feel like a big person right now.  She'd tell Ny that eventually, but right now it hurt too much.  Right now she was too raw.

 

##

 

Sarek arrived just as the Natadian opera was about to start, striding to the box reserved for the Vulcan embassy.  As soon as he was seated, he felt the resonance.  She was here.  He looked down into the crowd and up toward the balcony, but the lights went out before he could find her.

 

He found himself impatient for the opera to break for intermission, was uncharacteristically quick to get out of the box and down to the bar, where he thought she would go.

 

He saw her before she noticed him, but she was scanning the crowd in a way that told him she felt that he was close.  He allowed himself a moment to admire her; the dark blue gown she wore was extremely flattering. 

 

She turned and smiled as she walked over to him.  "You are broadcasting like crazy.  I take it you like this dress?"

 

"Very much."  She could sense that?  He realized she was much more open than she had been when she was with Spock.  He was getting far more from her than before.  "You are well?"

 

"I am.  Well, I'm sort of bored with this opera.  Ny wanted to come so I said I'd come, too."

 

Ah, she was not here with a man, then.  Good.

 

"Spock's gone for a while."  She indicated they go out on the terrace and he followed her.  "And we're done."

 

"Yes, he met with me before he left.  It was...illuminating."

 

"I hope he found some closure—or whatever it was he needed."  Annoyance rang through the bond, but so did hurt.  And loneliness.  She missed Spock terribly.

 

"We do not have much time before the intermission is over, and normally I would not broach a subject like this at an event that should be pleasurable, but as you are not enjoying it, I will."  He drew her out toward the end of the terrace, where they were away from prying ears.  "I forced the bond on you, Christine.  If you want to be rid of it, I will tell the Vulcan Council what I have done.  You will be free."

 

She closed her eyes.  "Once you're dead, you mean?"

 

"Yes."

 

"You would do that for me."

 

"No, I would do that for you and my son."

 

He felt gratitude and sorrow and affection and something he could not identify coming from her. 

 

She shook her head, made a sound that seemed like a groan.  "Don't do it."

 

"But you could be with him.  Truly with him."

 

"I think it's too late for that, Sarek.  The trust is gone.  I mean on his side, too.  We don't trust each other.  So you would die for nothing, and he would bond with me, a bond that would become just another Vulcan ball-and-chain that we would implode inside of."  She moved closer.  "I'm sorry, but these days, I'm calling it like I see it."

 

"Understood."  He took a deep breath, Spock's words from their talk in the park playing in his mind.  "Do you think, had I waited, that Spock would have saved you?"

 

"No."  Her answer was immediate.  Her look didn't change.  He felt nothing different in her energy.  It brought him great consolation: that he had not robbed Spock of his future. 

 

She turned and leaned on the railing.  "He was too hurt from losing Jim and Amanda.  I wanted too much and I'd lost people, too.  I wouldn't budge: love or nothing.  I probably should have let him bond with me, but I was in stubborn mode and I was depressed.  So ultimately this is my fault, Sarek.  That I've made a mess of this, that you're stuck with me."

 

"I can think of worse fates."

 

She laughed, and leaned against him.  The energy surge between them was intense, and she exhaled slowly.  "I've stayed away."

 

"I know.  I did not realize you and Spock had separated until he told me."

 

"I needed some time to just be me.  You were right: I gave up too much of myself trying to shield.  Trying to spare him."  She put a bitter twist on the world "spare," and the energy coming from her changed to something dark and haunted.

 

"While I do not wish my son pain, if being away from him makes you a more whole person—a happier one—than I think his leaving was for the best."

 

She studied him.  "Not that you have anything to gain from his leaving."

 

He met her eyes.  "Do you wish to try...?"  He had never felt more tentative with her.

 

"Do you love me?"  Her voice was so soft that a human would not have heard it.

 

"As a friend, yes.  And I am strongly attracted to you.  It is, I think, a small step to the kind of love you mean." 

 

She didn't respond, and he thought he had said the wrong thing.  Before he could ask, he heard, "There you are.  Oh, ambassador..."

 

"Commander Uhura."  He nodded slightly.  "I will let you two enjoy the evening air."

 

"Am I interrupting something?  Because I can go."

 

"You're not interrupting, Ny.  And the lights are flashing, anyway.  Time to go back to our seats."  Christine turned and smiled at him and said very, very softly while touching his hand, "And your answer is yes, we can try."

 

He knew his expression did not change, but he thought he was broadcasting satisfaction and arousal to her with every breath.

 

Her smile confirmed it.  She turned to go.

 

He did not want her to go.  Not now, with her answer still hanging between them, with him feeling such...connection with her.  "There is no one sharing my box tonight.  If the two of you would like to join me?"  He could tell the space and comfort of a box sounded appealing to Uhura, but she looked to Christine for an answer.

 

Christine laughed softly.  "That would be lovely.  Lead on, kind sir." 

 

##

 

Chapel was finishing up the last of the comms that had to be done before she went home when she felt a strong sense of presence just before the bond went off, sending her a variety of emotions, not the least of which was arousal.

 

She turned and saw Sarek coming toward her, a look of intent on his face.  Frowning, she reached out, trying to make sense of his energy, hoping it was not the Pon Farr.  But she didn't feel that kind of urgency.

 

He appeared to be simply horny as hell.  That thought made her laugh as he came into her office and sat down.

 

"You are tired of waiting."  She grinned at his look of surprise.  "What?  You think you're the only one who can access this bond?"

 

He looked slightly chagrined.  He really had no reason to.  Since they'd shared his box at the opera he'd taken her to several very nice restaurants and asked her to be his guest at a reception at the embassy.  He hadn't pushed at the end of the night, had been a perfect gentleman, even if each time his frustration level had been a little higher.

 

"Give me a few minutes and then I'm all yours."  She let the side of her mouth tick up. 

 

He took a deep breath and impatience flooded toward her through their connection.

 

She found it hard to concentrate on the memo she was composing, and had to read it over twice before sending.  "All done."  She looked up at him. "What do you want to do?"

 

The look he gave her told her exactly what he wanted to do.  But he said, "I will do whatever you want."

 

"And if I want to go home and get you into bed?"

 

"That would be my preferred alternative."  His eyes lightened.

 

She laughed, feeling the comfort she always did with him.  "Then let's get out of here."

 

They chatted as they walked back to her place, and she was glad he wasn't making any of Spock's "must not tread where the other guy went" noises by insisting their first time be at the embassy.  She did not relish the walk of shame from the bastion of logic.

 

They got to her apartment, and she noticed he did not rush to hold the door for her the way Spock had.  But then he hadn't held them for Amanda, either.  It wasn't the Vulcan way.

 

If he held his fingers out and said "Wife, attend me," they were going to have words.  Otherwise, she could open her own doors.

 

As they rode up the elevator, she moved closer, so her arm was pressing against his.  She heard him let out a very shaky exhale.  "Patience."

 

"There are times when patience is a burden, Christine."

 

The elevator opened, and she led him to her door, palmed it open, then gestured for him to enter.  She had barely shut the door when he pushed her up against the wall, his fingers finding the meld spots, his energy frantic and wanting.

 

She didn't fight, let him in and her legs buckled as the full force of his lust hit her.  Spock had been so wrong if he'd thought there was no passion in his father.  Then she stopped thinking as Sarek pulled off her uniform, then his robe, and took her right there, up against the wall, his kisses far sweeter than the way he was pounding into her.

 

He seemed to ratchet up the meld, until she wasn't sure what were her reactions and what were his.  She called out loudly as she came, heard him follow her, his lips on her neck, his arms holding her up.

 

He let her down, and she put her arms around his neck and hugged him close, was nearly overwhelmed by the feeling of connection, the intimacy of the sex.

 

Then he let the meld go.  "I have wanted you for some time."

 

She was not sure how to answer.  She'd wanted him, too, but not exclusively.  She suddenly realized what Spock must have felt like when she'd told him she loved him.  The question: how to answer?

 

She decided to let a kiss be her answer, then a murmured, "Was it worth waiting for?"

 

"Most certainly."

 

"Good."  She nuzzled his neck.  "So, Ambassador, are you a one and done kind of guy?"

 

He appeared to have no trouble following her meaning.  He almost seemed to smile.  "I am not."

 

She took his hand and led him to the bedroom.  "I am profoundly relieved to hear that." 

 

##

 

Sarek packed quickly and carefully; he traveled so much the task required very little thought.  He glanced over to his bed, where Christine lay sleeping, and stifled the pang he felt at leaving her.

 

Why could she not come with him?  The way Amanda had?  These negotiations would take little time as the two parties were known for efficiency when it came to trade agreements.  She had sufficient leave to come with him.

 

She moaned and turned over, her hand stealing out to where he had been sleeping.  Did she reach for him in her dreams or for Spock?

 

Sarek closed his eyes and drew in a calming breath.  He must not hold on to this jealousy he felt.  Christine was with him, now, not his son.  Spock had left and given him leave to take her.

 

A part of him said no leave was needed.  She was his.

 

He took another breath, seeking control, seeking peace but found only partial relief.  His meditations had been off since Amanda died.  This back and forth with Christine and his son had done nothing positive for his state of mind.

 

But she was his now.  His.

 

He went back to his packing and finished quickly, then he got back in bed.  There was still time before the flitter would be here.  Christine kept enough of her personal things in his room to leave directly from the embassy; they could ride together to Command.

 

He kissed her. 

 

"Mmmm."  She curled into him, mumbled something about "more time" and went quiet.

 

"Christine, wake up."  He kissed her again, nuzzling down to her neck, letting his fingers play with her the way she liked.

 

"Mmmm," the sound changed, her arousal evident from the way she began to move slightly under his touch.  "Spock," she murmured.

 

He drew his fingers away as if she had burned him.

 

She moaned but it was a sleepy sound, and he realized she was not awake, she did not mean to call out Spock's name.  Logically, this meant nothing.  He himself might call out Amanda's name if Christine tried to wake him in the same manner he had done.

 

It should not hurt. 

 

She cuddled into him and he shook her slightly.  This time she opened her eyes and smiled softly.  "Is it morning?"

 

"It is."

 

She touched his forehead, frowning as she did.  "You're upset."

 

"I am fine."

 

"No, you're not, Sarek.  I can feel it.  You're hurt."

 

He lay back and stared at the ceiling.  There was no point in hiding this: she could feel it, and he could sense very real concern coming from her.  "I was attempting to wake you.  You thought I was Spock."

 

"Oh.  Shit."  She turned his face so he had to look at her.  "Sarek, I didn't do that on purpose."

 

"I realize that."

 

"He's gone.  I'm with you."

 

"Perhaps that would be more believable if you came with me to Ladanna."

 

"I can't just leave.  We've been over this."

 

"You can just leave.  You do not want to.  Is it because Spock might come back while I am gone?"

 

She rolled to her back and gazed at the ceiling.  "We've been over all of this.  From the start I was honest.  I am not going to be Amanda.  I'm not going to follow you around all the time."

 

"I am not asking for all the time.  I am asking for now.  We are newly together.  I need you.  I believe you need me.  You have leave."

 

"No."  Resolve pulsed from her.  Resolve and...anger.  Then a bitter humor.  She even laughed, the puff of air that meant she was only amused in a most negative way.  "He told me you wouldn't respect my choices."

 

"He?  Spock?"

 

She nodded.  "Don't prove him right, Sarek.  We had a deal."

 

Did they?  This deal she spoke of, did it mean she would never come with him? 

 

He started to get out of bed, but she grabbed him.  He tried to shake her off and was surprised at her grip.  "Wife, do not."

 

She shook him.  "I am not your damn wife, Sarek.  Not yet.  Maybe not ever if you keep this up.  I love you.  Why isn't that enough?"  Her touch became softer, and she ran her fingers lightly down his neck.  "Is it enough?" she whispered as she let her hand trail much lower.

 

He groaned.

 

"I'll take that as a 'yes.'"

 

He did not correct her.  What she was doing felt too good to ruin with the truth.

 

##

 

The embassy was crowded with people offering congratulations, and Chapel wished, not for the first time, that these functions came with an open bar.  Or hell, even a cash bar.  Any bar.

 

She'd kill for a drink.

 

She felt an arm slide in next to her, Ny's throaty murmur of, "Guess who brought a flask with her?"

 

"Don't tease me."

 

"I'm not.  Can we sneak away?"

 

"Damn straight."  She led Ny toward the private rooms when she heard Sarek call, "Captain Chapel."

 

"Shit."

 

"Busted," Ny said with a laugh.  "And how nice does that rank sound?"

 

"Nicer with a shot of whatever's in your magic flask."  But she turned and went to Sarek.

 

"This is Senek.  His and my family have been close for generations."

 

She gave the head bow that passed for a handshake or hug in Vulcan culture.  Senek's bow was just as courteous, maybe more so.  Sarek was proud of her.  Proud of her promotion.  He was showing her off to his Vulcan kith and kin.  She should be happy, not pissy over the fact it was a dry party.

 

Sarek seemed to have a ton more people for her to meet.  Why were there so many damn strangers at her party?  She'd given him a guest list.  Where the hell were her friends?

 

There.  By the door, looking bemused and hopefully also carrying a flask, was Len.  She excused herself from Sarek, saying she needed to take care of her guests and gave Len a big hug.

 

"Uh, darlin', not that I'm not thrilled to see you—and congratulations on your promotion—but what exactly are you trying to prove giving me a hug like this in the middle of the Vulcan embassy?"  His voice was pitched low, even below Vulcan hearing, she thought.

 

She pitched her voice just as low.  "I'm happy to see you.  And I'm a goddamned human.  Let's go find Ny."

 

Ny ended up finding them, and Chapel led them back to Sarek's private rooms and once the door was closed, held out her hand.  "One of you give me some hooch.  Now I know how those poor people felt during prohibition."

 

Len held out his hands in the classic "I come bearing no booze" pose, but Ny pulled a beautiful silver flask out of her purse. 

 

"Tequila?"

 

"What else?"

 

Chapel took a decent hit, but not so much she'd act stupid.  She just wanted to calm down and for some reason the bond wasn't giving her much in the way of relaxation. In fact, it felt like Sarek had closed down a little tonight.  Was that because there were so many Vulcans around?  Could they sense undue emotion even so privately between a bonded pair?

 

She would ask Sarek but it might start another fight—well, fight would be too strong.  A not very pleasant discussion would be more like it.  Sarek expected a lot of adapting on her part, and she knew he was trying to adapt to her needs, too.  It just felt like she was going way more his way than them both hitting the middle of the compromise scale.

 

She led Ny and Len out to the private courtyard off the salon, and sighed as the peace of the place took her over.  Sarek had asked her to move in, and even though she loved staying here with him, she wasn't quite ready to take that step.

 

"You heard from Spock?" Len asked into the quiet that had fallen.

 

"Nope."  She looked at Ny.  "You're more likely to have heard from him."

 

"Me?  Why me?"  She waved that thought off.  "I think he's still on leave."  She took a deep breath.  "Okay, once again, you did not hear this from me but I just found out Valeris was killed.  From the report I saw, it was not a pretty death."

 

Chapel closed her eyes, remembering the vivacious—for a Vulcan—and eager young woman she'd taken under her wing.  First Cartwright and now Valeris—would it have been kinder to just give them the pills and let them die quickly?

 

Stupid question.  Of course it would have been.  Kinder but not smarter.  Chapel had to protect herself and besides, it was the right thing to do.

 

Wasn't it?

 

"You okay, hon'?"  Len leaned forward.

 

Before she could answer, the door to the courtyard opened.  Sarek stood there, his expression stony.  "I need you."

 

"I'm with my friends.  It's my party."

 

"Attend me."

 

She could feel anger coming from him.  Anger he usually tamped down.  She hoped he was feeling her anger, like water rising to a boil in a test tube, about to spill over.  "Why?  Who needs to meet me now?"

 

He looked very disappointed in her.  "Your friend Commander Chekov is here.  As are two high-ranking Vulcans I do not believe you have met.  As you say, it is your party.  You should, perhaps, put in an appearance."  His words were calmly stated, his expression Vulcan perfect, but she could still feel his anger.

 

"I'll be right there."

 

She felt him pushing on her, invoking God knew what to...what?  Make her mind?  She let her mouth settle into a straight line, her eyes stone cold, the expression that had made many a person give in to her when she was trying to get through red tape or bypass an idiot who thought posturing during an emergency was a good idea.

 

"As you say."  He turned and left them alone.

 

"Wow.  Bossy or what?"  Ny dug out the flask from where she'd stashed it behind her on the chair and handed it to Chapel.

 

"No, I'm good."  Besides, he'd smell it and be angrier.

 

"Hon', is this how things are?"  Len looked concerned.

 

"Things are fine."  It wasn't a lie.  Often they were more than fine.  She stood.  "We'll divide and conquer.  You two go find Pav.  I'll go meet whoever it is that Sarek wants to show me off to."

 

"At least he wants that.  He could hide you in a closet."  Ny grinned.

 

"Ny, you are, as ever, my favorite Pollyanna."

 

 

 

Part 6

 

Spock sat on McCoy's porch, unsure why he'd come.  His efforts to get to Pardek had been unsuccessful; the man had been back on Romulus, and Spock had not wanted to make too much of an inquiry about him for fear of causing problems for Pardek with his government.  So he had abandoned the search and came back to Earth, only to find himself once more at loose ends.

 

Leonard leaned against the porch railing and sipped what Spock supposed was bourbon.  "I've gotta tell you, Spock.  I've seen the look you're wearing before.  When Jim went off with Antonia."

 

Spock closed his eyes.  Yes, he felt much the same, losing the one he wanted—the one he loved—to a person that should never have been competition, much less the victor.

 

Leonard leaned in.  "You got him back.  You can get her back."

 

"He has bonded with her."

 

"Shit."

 

"Indeed."  Spock sipped the lemonade Leonard had given him.  "It is not a new bond."

 

"Huh?"

 

Spock took a deep breath.  "The attack we told you about.  The drug they gave me, it did more than make me hurt her physically.  I started to bond with her and then...aborted the attempt.  She, however, was bonded to me.  It was an unusual occurrence."

 

"I bet.  If you started it, how the hell did Sarek get involved?"

 

Spock sighed and looked down.  "She did not want me to bond with her if I did not love her.  I was attempting to honor her wishes.  Sarek took matters into his own hands when he could not force me to bond with her."

 

"Why would he do that?"

 

"She was dying.  The way I would have on the ship if we had not made it back."

 

"You were going to let her die, Spock?  What the hell's wrong with you?"

 

Spock did not want to go down this road.  He could not win.  To take someone's pain against their will was anathema according to Jim.  But to not take it, to let them choose their fate, seemed to be, too, if he listened to McCoy.  It was most perplexing.  "I wish now that I had."

 

"She was with you, though.  For a while.  Even with a bond with Sarek?"

 

"Yes.  But I..."  How much did he want to tell his friend?  Who else did he have to tell?  "There were times when I could feel the bond and it...repelled me.  Not solely because it was my father's presence.  But for a Vulcan, there is a great sense of...trespass.  She was his and I had no business there.  So we did not meld, and there were other times I was not able to be open to her."

 

"Quite the pickle."  Leonard leaned back.  "Well, what do the experts say?"

 

"The experts?"  Was his friend being sarcastic?  It was at times hard to tell with him.

 

"Vulcans, Spock.  My God, don't you think this kind of thing has happened to Vulcans before?  Your father left Sybok's mother.  Other Vulcans do that, too, I imagine.  They're going to run into the same thing, right?"

 

Spock stared at him, slightly ashamed this had not occurred to him.  "It is possible.  She and I could..."  He shook his head.  "But she is with Sarek.  She's chosen him."

 

Leonard rolled his eyes.  "For someone's who's supposedly brilliant, you are the biggest dipshit I've ever met."  He made an impatient face.  "I've seen her with Sarek.  She doesn't love him the way she does you—the way she has always loved you.  And he's putting a big fat crimp on her style—and her independence.  For God's sake, Spock, if you love her, find a way to make it work."  He stood up and put a hand on Spock's shoulder; Spock felt support and love and more than a little bit of impatience.  "Get your oh-so-logical ass to Vulcan and find someone to help you."

 

"May I wait till morning?"

 

Leonard laughed.  "Yes.  It's too much to expect you to go charging off half cocked."  He finished his drink in one big gulp.  "If you're staying, let's go down to Ida Mae's.  I'm starving and she's doing some pretty impressive things with vegetarian barbeque."

 

Spock felt unaccountably touched that his friend knew that: McCoy was a confirmed carnivore.

 

##

 

Sarek made his rounds of the latest reception held at the embassy.  A Vulcan poet was reading her poetry later, and she was quite popular; the room was packed.  He felt through the crowd for Christine, for any twinge of the bond, of her here, or at least on her way.

 

Nothing.  Other than the feeling he always got when he was on Earth.  That told him she was still alive.  But not much more.

 

He saw Senek coming in from the courtyard and went to join his friend.

 

"Your Christine is not here?"  There was subtle disapproval in Senek's voice.

 

"She is quite busy.  Her job demands much of her time."

 

"Your forbearance does you credit, Sarek.  But it surprises me as well.  I know how you preferred having Amanda with you."  Senek's expression changed, became almost mischievous, if only another Vulcan would ever see that.  "Your first wife, on the other hand, could have disappeared into another quadrant and you would not have minded."

 

"You know me too well."

 

"I was surprised to see your son on Vulcan."

 

Sarek's head shot up.  Spock was on Vulcan?  "Yes, I am not sure how long he will be there."  Better not to plead ignorance.  Senek had already seen he could not control his woman, he did not need to know how ignorant Sarek was of his son's plans.

 

"I was surprised that he was studying with Master Falshan."

 

"I am not acquainted with him.  What is his specialty?"

 

"Melds, I believe."

 

Sarek felt a sinking feeling in his stomach.  There was only one reason his son would want to improve his knowledge of and control over melds: Christine.  Getting her back, specifically.  "Spock is ever the seeker."

 

"Yes.  He swings back and forth, does he not?"  There was a slight dig in Senek's voice.  "Gol, back to Starfleet, now this.  I believe it must be most trying, to watch your son vacillate so."

 

"He is my son, not my clone.  He will do as he sees fit.  I trust he will not abandon Surak's precepts.  Logic drives his actions."  Which was a lie if he was on Vulcan learning to shield out the bond.  Pure emotion would drive that action.  "Ah, I see someone I must greet.  Stay well, Senek."

 

"And you, Sarek."

 

Sarek felt a ping, turned and saw Christine hurrying through the main salon and to his private rooms.  He followed her, found her rifling through one of the drawers she'd taken. 

 

"I thought you would host this with me."  His voice sounded more needy than he meant it to.

 

"I thought so too.  But tell that to the folks stuck on Kalova Nedara." 

 

 "What are you looking for?"

 

"If I said stims, would you be mad?"

 

"I would be concerned."  He felt along the bond, could feel no sign of exhaustion—or at least no sign that it was worse than it ever was.  "What are you really looking for?"

 

She pulled out some underwear, began to undress.  "I'm going to use your shower."

 

"All right."  He began to relax.  "And then you will come to the reception?"

 

She shot him a look that would equal any he gave Spock growing up.  "No, I'm going back to work.  I just need to freshen up, give my mind a chance to take a break while I get clean.  Win win."

 

"There is no win in this for me.  I wanted you here with me."

 

She closed her eyes.  "We've been goddamned over this."

 

"Yes, we have.  But you did not even comm to let me know you would not be here.  I would not have expected you had I known you were caught up in yet another emergency."

 

"I don't create them.  They happen.  As emergencies are wont to do.  You can't plan for them."  She took another steadying breath, and he felt her irritation and frustration through the bond.  "Shit, I should have just gone to my place.  But you're so much closer."

 

"It is fine.  I am glad you feel comfortable here.  I will...let you decompress in peace."

 

"Hey."  She hurried over to him, gave him a very sweet kiss.  "I'm sorry."

 

Sincerity rang through the bond.  Sincerity that meant nothing if she did not intend to change. 

 

"It is all right." He pulled her to him, kissed her with as much passion as he could bring to bear on this problem.  They must stop fighting, move on to more pleasant activities like this.

 

He could feel she was anxious, so he cupped her cheek for a moment, then left her alone to do whatever it was she had to before she went back to her job.

 

##

 

Chapel was walking the hallways of Command aimlessly.  She was tired and hungry, but nothing looked appetizing.  She decided to head back to Ops, rounded a corner and stopped.

 

Spock stood near the entrance to Ops, just far enough away to not call attention from those inside.

 

Her stomach did a somersault and her palms were suddenly sweating.  "Hi."  The word came out crackly; her mouth was suddenly very dry.

 

He walked toward her, never taking his eyes off her.  "I love you."

 

She looked around to make sure there was no one in the hall.

 

"I do not care who hears me, Christine.  I am back, and I am not done fighting my father for you."

 

"I'm sleeping with him."

 

"And how is that?"

 

She wanted to slap him, but he was looking at her so tenderly, she couldn't.  "It's good."

 

"Just good?"

 

"We have the bond, Spock.  It makes it very good."  That at least was not a lie.  The sex was great, but the constant irritation she felt through the bond at other times wasn't.  She'd told Sarek she wouldn't be Amanda right from the start—had he not believed her?

 

"Good is acceptable."  Spock took her elbow and drew her toward the window.  "But we have...fire."

 

"So much we burned up last time."

 

"What if I told you that I believe I have found a way to prevent that?  To let us be closer?"  He moved in, and she could smell the slight whiff of his incense, different than Sarek's, and the one she preferred if she was honest.  "What if I told you we could start again?  And it would be different this time, Christine.  I promise."

 

She studied him, feeling her heart speeding up: he believed what he said.  He thought they could work.  "Why should I believe you?  You've been gone for four months."

 

"On Vulcan.  With an adept.  Working.  For us."

 

"Sarek never said you were there."

 

"I did not tell him."

 

She suddenly felt trapped.  When would these two stop doing this to her?  She'd made her choice—her latest choice.  She'd settled down.  Why was Spock back and why did what he was telling her have to make her so goddamned happy?

 

And she and Sarek.  It was good.  When he wasn’t irritated that she chose career over him, being with him was relaxing and sweet, and he made her feel treasured when they were close, when the bond made her feel connected to him in a way she'd never had with anyone.  But they had nothing like this: this love so deep it hurt.

 

But was that healthy?  Should love hurt?  And was she the only one feeling it that deeply?

 

His eyes narrowed and she read disappointment on his face.  "If you truly love Sarek, Christine, I will not press you.  This will be the last we speak of it."

 

She realized she had tears in her eyes—damn it all, this was ridiculous.  "What would Jim have done?"  She meant it to come out sarcastic, but it came out as a real question, her voice small and hopeless.

 

"He would have chosen the option that made him feel the most alive.  Antonia was Jim's Sarek."

 

Nothing he said could have summed this up better.  Anger filled her.  "I fucking hate you, Spock." 

 

He looked wounded.  "I see."

 

She grabbed his arm as he turned to go.  "That wasn't a 'No.'"

 

"It was not?"

 

"I need to think about this.  And...I need to talk to Sarek."

 

"Then you have decided."

 

"No, Spock.  I haven't.  And I'd talk to him either way.  I trust him that much."  She waited to see if he'd get it, that she didn't trust him that way anymore.

 

"You do whatever you feel is best for you."

 

"Feel?  Don't you mean think?"

 

"I do not."  He reached out and stroked her hair, didn't bother to check to see if anyone could see them.  "I have missed you so, Christine."

 

She managed to choke back that she'd missed him, too.

 

##

 

Sarek heard Christine's footfalls—much harder than Amanda's had been, always hurrying.  The consequence of a life treating emergencies.  Of putting others before family: those footsteps sounded just as fast and hard when they were walking away.

 

He could tell she was headed for his office and put his padd down.

 

She knocked, waited for his soft answer, then peeked her head in.  "This a good time?"

 

"Of course." 

 

As she walked in, he realized the pinging of the bond was muffled, as if she was trying to shield.  Normally she was more open to him.

 

She walked to the window and stared out at the lovely view of the gardens.  He studied her face.  She looked quite miserable.

 

He reached for her through the bond again.  Sensed...resolve.  And something he had not felt since Spock had left her, a flutter of nerves, an arousal that only his son seemed to bring on.  "He is back."  Sarek didn't make it a question; what point was there to that?

 

"Yes."  She walked to his desk, sat down across from him.  "And he wants me back."

 

"And you want him?"  It was a self-indulgent question.  When hadn't Christine wanted Spock?  "What has changed, Christine?  We have been through this, and it did not work for you and him.  It is why you are with me, or have you forgotten?"  His voice rose a bit, and he tried to control the anger that was threatening to spill out.

 

Why could she not have done as Amanda did?  Stayed with him, at his side.  Let him make her happy.  Spock would not have been a factor, then.

 

"There it is again.  What I feel from you so much now.  Annoyance, Sarek.  And I know it's with me—with the choices I've made.  It gets stronger with every trip you take away.  I told you I couldn't be her, that I wouldn't just follow you around.  I told you that.  And I told you that I loved Spock and probably always would."

 

"Yes, you told me all those things."  Again he forced ire down.

 

"And you thought you could change me, didn't you?  Make me more like Amanda?"  She leaned in, her expression a bit ugly.  "When really I'm far more like your first wife, aren't I?"

 

He met her eyes, unsure what to say to that unpleasant truth that now hung between them.  She was, indeed, like his first wife.  And in retrospect, he probably had not wanted to see that, had thought he could remake her more in the fashion of the wife he preferred.

 

The wife who put him first, not herself.

 

She sighed.  "I think he's changed, Sarek.  I think he can give me what I need."

 

"Do you know the definition of insanity, Christine?"

 

She rolled her eyes.  "The variables have changed, so your definition doesn't hold."

 

"How?  How have they changed?  My son is as hidebound as I am."

 

"Actually, he's not.  And how they have changed is my business, not yours."  She sat back, her face again resolved.

 

And he felt something new along their connection: relief.  She was leaving him.  That had been her declaration of termination. 

 

"And if he disappoints you again?  Will you scurry back to me?"  Anger was coming out; he knew his expression was not as controlled as it should be, his voice full of the passion she must think Spock had more of.

 

"I don't know.  Are you going to tell me not to come back?  Not to let the door hit me on the way out?"  She reached out and took his hand.  "We're linked, Sarek.  You saw to that when you saved me.  I'll be back eventually whether you want me to or not."

 

He closed his eyes.  She was right.  In roughly three years, she would be back.

 

He took a deep breath and pulled his hand away from hers.  "I know I cannot stop you.  So, I wish you well, Christine.  You and my son."

 

"Thank you."  She stood slowly, her footsteps finally the careful, unhurried tread of Amanda as she left him.  But once the door closed, they turned back into the heavy, rushing cadence that would take her to Spock.

 

##

 

Spock stood nervously at Christine's door.  What if the training did not work?  Would it not have been kinder to her to stay away?

 

Nervous.  He was nervous.  Fascinating.

 

He took a deep, steadying breath and rang the chime.  She opened it, dressed casually, her sweater the dark blue he had always told her looked lovely with her coloring.

 

"Hi," she said as she motioned him in and closed the door: her voice squeaked.

 

He started to relax; she was nervous, too.  One of them must at least pretend to be confident.  "My father...?"

 

"Is not here.  Is not happy with me.  And that's enough said about him, okay?"

 

"But you are finished with him?"

 

She rolled her eyes.  "I can't ever be finished with him, Spock.  That's the whole damn problem, isn't it?"  Her nerves seemed to be gone, replaced by anger.

 

He moved closer to her.  "It is no longer a problem—or not at the magnitude it was."  Closing his eyes, he breathed in her perfume, and below that, her own scent.  Then he moved in to nuzzle her neck the way he knew she loved.  "I have missed this," he murmured as he kissed up to her ear, then eased away so he could find her lips.

 

She snaked her arms around him and kissed him with the same passion she'd always shown, but psychically she was holding herself far too tightly.

 

He led her to the bedroom, took off her clothes and then his own, and lay down on the bed.  He kissed her, a long, sweet kiss, and then put his hands on the meld points.

 

He remembered the steps the adept had taught him.  Surprisingly simple, yet effective: he could feel his father's presence lose its ability to loom over him as he sat in her mind.

 

She moaned, and he felt her relax a little, then more as he went further, deepening their sense of being one person.

 

"I've wanted this for so long."  She kissed him frantically, pulling him on top of her, into her.

 

He moaned.  Home, he was finally home.  Inside her body.  Inside her mind.  Safe.  At last.

 

He could tell she was about to come, delayed just a little so he could feel what that was like for her.  Then he let go and heard her cry out, riding his pleasure in sync with him.

 

They came down together, holding each other tightly.

 

"So I have Vulcan to thank for this, huh?"  Her voice was slow and sensual, her eyes half lidded, a rosy flush across her chest as she wrapped her legs around him.  She began to rub her fingers lightly down his back, then smiled and mumbled, "This feels so good."

 

"It does.  And yes, you have Vulcan—or more accurately Master Solek—for this breakthrough.  And Leonard.  It was his idea."  He thought she should know that Leonard was on her side; he had often been disparaging toward her about her feelings.

 

"Len?  Shit.  Now I have to be nice to him."  She laughed softly and let him go.  "So is there a temple or something?"

 

He rolled off her but did not move away the way he used to.  "No, this is still rare, but not unique.  Bonded couples do not always stay together, and new partners wish to meld without distraction.  Solek taught me ways to reduce the noise of your bond with my father.  Ways to find the pleasure I know we both have wanted."

 

Touching her cheek, he pulled her even closer, none of their usual distance needed after sharing their bodies.

 

"Well, you did good.  It was amazing.  And this is, too."  Her smile was beautiful, so full of joy he wanted to smile back, wished he could give that to her—unfettered emotion.

 

Maybe he could.  He rolled so he was above her, and she laughed, a rich, sweet laugh, not the bitter puff of air he'd grown used to from before.  He found the meld points, sensed his father's presence and then blocked it out as he'd been shown.

 

She lay open before him.  Trusting, loving, giving him everything he needed and wanted.  He showed her that.  How much it meant.  He touched her as he moved deeper into her mind.  He gave her everything he'd held back before.

 

She was crying when he finally pulled away, and she kissed him, murmuring, "I love you.  I will always love you."

 

He found himself settling, everything relaxing, nothing left to fight or prove.  They were together and he had made her happy...finally.

 

She nestled against him, her skin cool and soothing.  They lay quietly for a while, and she gently stroked his arm, tracing symbols of her own design—or perhaps they were letters, he could not tell.

 

And it did not matter.  This feeling of closeness was what did.  The way she anchored him.

 

“I’m thirsty,” she said softly and eased away from him.  “Do you want some water while I’m up?”

 

He nodded, and she leaned in and kissed him.  

 

“I love you.”

 

“And I love you.”  He knew his expression was softer than any Vulcan’s should be, but he did not care.

 

He heard her in the kitchen, the sound of water being poured into glasses, and then she was back, a small light blue box under her arm.  He recognized the box and its decorations, that type usually held chocolates, the kind his mother had favored.  Had Sarek given them to her?  Why would she bring them in now?

 

She was smiling at him.  “And thank you for these, by the way.  I just had one.  I know you don’t like sweets, but you should really taste them.  They're wonderful.”

 

"Thank you?"

 

"They were from you."  Her smile changed, fading as she clutched at her throat, as the water glasses fell from her hands.

 

He felt dread, remembering the water set out for them during the Pon Farr.  Clear and cold—and deadly.

 

“Spock?”  Her voice was strangled, her expression full of dazed comprehension.

 

And this time, as he launched himself off the bed and caught her as she slumped, he could tell he would not save her.  They had gone after her directly this time, not using him as a proxy.  Foam bloomed softly from her lips and she became dead weight.

 

“Christine.”  He tried to resuscitate her even though the part of his brain that was still capable of logic told him she was dead.  He instructed the computer to call Emergency Services, and then he kept breathing into her and did chest compressions until the emergency techs arrived and took over with their machines and hypos.

 

But nothing helped.

 

“I’m sorry for your loss, sir,” the tech said.  “Do you want us to call anyone for you?”

 

“No.  This is a murder scene.  I will notify Starfleet Security."

 

The tech nodded and left.  As the door closed, Spock realized he was still naked, that Christine was, too.

 

He found her nightgown, pulled it onto her.  It was not fitting for another man to see his mate this way.  No, not his mate.  Sarek's.  His father—his father would have felt her death.

 

Spock pulled his robe on and then picked up the communicator.  His conversation with Starfleet Security was brief; they were on their way. 

 

He should call his father.  He should let him know what happened.  He moved closer to Christine, stroking her cheek, feeling it grow colder under his touch.

 

"Spock to McCoy."

 

It took a moment for the call to be picked up.  “Spock, do you have any idea what time it is here?”

 

“Christine is dead.”

 

There was a long pause.  Then, “Where are you?”

 

“At her apartment.”

 

“How?”

 

“Poison.  Chocolates.  We did not get everyone in the conspiracy.  I wanted to believe we did, but it was a foolish thing to think.  I should have known.  I should have been prepared.”  Would he let down everyone he loved?  Why bother loving if this was the result: this gut-wrenching pain?  "She is cold, Leonard."

 

“Spock, don’t do anything.  I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

 

“There is nothing to do.  She is gone.”  As he cut the channel, Spock picked up the box of chocolates.  For a moment, he considered eating one, too, then he saw there was a small card affixed to the box. 

 

“To our future,” it said, in his handwriting. 

 

He commed his father.

 

"My son.  What has happened?"  His father's voice was shaking, more emotion that Spock had ever heard leaking out. 

 

He found he could take no pleasure in that.  They shared this pain, just as they had his mother's passing.  "Christine is dead.  She was murdered by what is left of the conspiracy."

 

There was a pause.  Then, "We will find them," said in a voice he barely recognized as his father's.  "We will hunt them down."  The pain in his father's voice shook him, even though he knew what that pain felt like.

 

"Yes, Father, we will."  It might be the first time they had ever been so in sync.  "Do you wish to see her?"

 

There was a very long silence; Spock thought the comm line had dropped.  Then his father said, "No.  She is where and with whom she wanted to be."

 

"I am sorry."

 

"As am I, my son.  I must go."  The comm channel went dead.

 

Christine's body felt even colder when Spock touched her cheek, then her lips.

 

His communicator sounded.  He looked down, expecting it to be McCoy, but it was a text message.  The sender was not identified.

 

The message said only:  “Debt paid.”

 

He routed the comm to his father with a note to trace the origin if possible. 

 

Another message popped up.  "We endure."  It was intended to taunt.  The conspirators clearly felt themselves safe enough to risk capture with these messages.

 

Spock realized he was crushing the box of chocolates and dropped them before he destroyed them: he'd test them later to see if there were any clues in the choice of ingredients or trace elements.  He imagined he would find that whatever was in the chocolates was the same thing Christine had been given to hand over to Cartwright and Valeris.

 

Leaning down, his breath making Christine's hair float as if in life, he whispered to her the promise he had heard several times on the Batlh.  "You will be avenged."

 

It was a promise he intended to keep, but it left him no less desolate.

 

FIN