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

To Belong to Someone

by Djinn

 

 

 

Chapel walked out of Command, heaving a sigh of relief: the latest crisis averted.  Since Cartwright had moved up, she’d been in charge of Ops until they brought in someone new.  People with a mean streak liked to say it’d be Styles running the show. 

 

She knew Command would never be that cruel.  Although she’d also heard Harriman’s name bandied about.  The man was a personality free zone, and she was pretty sure the pace at Ops would eat him alive.  How some people got where they had was a mystery to her.

 

“Want some company for the walk back?”

 

She turned, saw Jim behind her.  “I wondered when you’d materialize.”

 

“Materialize?”  He grinned.  “Nothing so high tech—I followed you out.” 

 

“Where’s Spock?  Is he at the house yet?”

 

Jim nodded.  “He was eager to see Saalen.”  He turned the wattage on his grin up even higher.  “Do you want to get a cup of coffee?”

 

“Jim, if Spock wants Saalen to himself, he only has to say so.  You don’t need to charm me to get it for him.  Or are you just out of practice and wanted to practice on a known sucker?”  She turned and walked away from him.

 

“Whoa.  Chris, hold on.  That’s not fair.”

 

“Do I want to get coffee?  What the hell, Jim?”

 

“I miss you.”

 

“Don’t.  You don’t get to miss me.  Neither does he.  Miss his son.”

 

“I like the kid, you know that.  He’s a great boy.  But it’s not quite the same thing.”  He stopped her with a touch on the arm.  “It’s been seven years since we fought it out over Spock.  Can’t we call a halt to hostilities?”

 

“Hostilities?  You think this is me being hostile?  Who do you think convinced Saavik to stay on Earth so you could get to know Saalen?  She isn’t your biggest fan.”

 

“I know.  Chris, I know.”  He drew her in so her arm was looped over his.  “I just mean...you’ve never let me back in.”

 

“How far did you want in?  I talk to you.  I don’t run you over with a flitter when I see you on the street.”

 

He laughed.  “I don’t mean I want to start our old arrangement up.  I just wish we were still friends.”

 

“There’s a seven-year-old boy back home who’s only heard me say good things about his father and you.  I could have been a bitch—we both know I’m capable of it.  But I wasn’t.  How much more friendly do I have to be?”  She pulled loose from his grasp.  “I’m sorry.  There’s something I forgot to do.”

 

“Chris, come on.”

 

“No, I’ll let Spock have his time alone and you can go do...whatever the hell it is you do.  I’ve got some comms I forgot to send.”  She hurried back up the path to the entrance.  As she barreled down the hallway, she had to stop herself from muttering angrily.

 

How could Jim still spin her head after this long?

 

“Christine?”

 

She slowed, looked behind her, and saw Sarek.  “Oh, God, I’m so glad to see you.”

 

“Is something wrong?”  He walked over to her, and his solid, calm presence made her reaction to Jim seem...silly. 

 

“The boys are in town.” 

 

“Yes, I know.  They are staying at the embassy.”  He gestured toward the cafeteria.  “Do you wish to sit?”

 

She nodded and followed him in.  They sat at a table by the window, the lovely inner courtyard of Command spread out before them. 

 

“Spock’s with Saalen,” she said.  “It was Jim I ran into.”

 

“Ah.”  The way he said it spoke volumes.

 

“Sarek, please.  I was upset.  He was schmoozing me.  Or something.  I don’t know, but when he puts on the charm...”

 

“Yes, I know.  He is famous for that charm, is he not?”

 

She nodded.  Infamous, really.  “He wants us to be better friends.”

 

Sarek’s eyebrow went up precipitously. 

 

She laughed.  “Not that kind, you pervert.”  She’d learned years ago that as long as they were in private, Sarek tolerated a great deal of smartass from her.  He seemed to like the way she teased him.

 

“I am relieved to hear it.  You have been down that road, have you not?”

 

“More than once, as you well know.”  Sarek had seen far too much when he’d melded with Jim during his quest for Spock’s katra.  “It’s frustrating.  They blow into town and suddenly want time with Saalen—and I honestly don’t know what Jim was up to.  Trying to play me or that’s what it felt like.  I’ve been more than fair about Saalen.”

 

“As has Saavik.  I have been impressed at how easily you have remained part of the family, at how much you include all of us.”

 

“Well you aren’t hard to include.  Amanda isn’t, either, now that she’s gotten over her irritation with Saavik for not letting her raise Saalen.”

 

“It was not just Saavik she was irritated with, Christine.  I was your advocate, as well.”

 

“I didn’t know that.  Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“Your relationship with my wife was strained enough.  And you had Saalen to focus on.  I did not think you needed to know you were the cause of tension in our marriage on top of everything else you were shouldering.”

 

“Thank you.  You two are better now?  She’s not mad at you?”

 

“Oh, she often is irritated with me.  But not, I believe, for that.”

 

Chapel laughed.  “Good.”  She reached over, touched his hand for a moment.  “You always calm me down.  Thank you.”

 

“You are not as incendiary as you think.  I find you quite logical.”

 

“Thanks, Gramps.”

 

He made the Vulcan version of an aggrieved face at the nickname.  “How did Saalen do on his mathematics exams?  I worked with him on some of the practice questions and was quite impressed with the agility of his mind.”

 

“Tested out of three grade’s worth.  As I expected.  He’s a brainiac, and I can brag about that since I contributed no DNA to his intelligence.”

 

“But you provided an environment where intelligent discussions were fostered, did you not?  You are quite gifted.”

 

She smiled.  Compliments from him meant something: he never gave them lightly.  “Sometimes I wish I was still in biochem.  Days like today where even the crises had crises.”

 

His eyes lightened, the way they always did when she amused him.  “I am sorry.  And your home is not a sanctuary tonight if Spock is there.”

 

“Not so much.  Saavik’s traveling.  As she usually is when Spock plans to be in town.  Funny how that happens.”

 

“Indeed.  I have no idea who gives her advance notice.”  He lifted an eyebrow at her.

 

“It’s not me.”

 

“I know that.  I will confess something to you: I am the one who lets her know.  Eventually, her anger with Spock and Kirk will run out.  In the meantime, I believe it is beneficial for Saalen to interact with the two of them without a simmering mother in the background.”  He studied her.  “Although you are more a mother than she is.”

 

“She does her part.”

 

“Do not leap to her defense, Christine.  Accept the compliment.”

 

“Sorry.  Didn’t mean to jump down your throat.”  She put her arms on the table and rested her head on them.  “Do you think they’ll clean around me if I sleep here?”

 

“I do not.  Come, I will walk you home.  And I will also collect my son and grandson—and Kirk if he is there, too—and leave you in peace for the night.”  He touched her hand.  “You are exhausted.”

 

“Don’t read me.  It’s rude.”

 

“It is expedient.  And you do not mind—who else looks after you, Christine?”

 

“Good damn point.  Sad damn point.”  She sat back up.  “Okay, walk me home.  Get your boys.  Let me sleep.  Good plan.”

 

“As I said.”  He rose and walked with her to the house.  He was astonishingly effective in getting the boys mobilized and Saalen’s homework packed. 

 

As soon as the house was quiet, she fed Malika, the enormous brown tabby who had followed Saalen home one day—with no prompting on his part, or so he swore—and went to bed. 

 

She was out as soon as her head hit the pillow.

 

##

 

She woke to the sound of her comm terminal going off.  It was Jim.  She checked her chrono—she’d slept till noon?

 

“Wake up sleepyhead.”  He was giving her the grin she found the hardest to resist. 

 

“No, I refuse.  I’m tired.”

 

“So sleep some more but come to the embassy for dinner.  We’re having a barbeque.”

 

“Barbequed what?”  She laughed.  Somehow barbequed veggies didn’t sound very good when she had a rare opportunity to indulge in meat with all the Vulcans away.  “I think I’m gonna enjoy some me time.  Rain check?”  It was the kind of thing you said when you didn’t really want to see the person, and she saw that fact register in Jim’s face.

 

“Sure.”  He sighed and just watched her.

 

“Jim.  Don’t.  Whatever you’re doing—whatever you’re going to say.  Don’t.  I’m going to go now before I get mad at you.”

 

“Oh, you’re not mad yet?”

 

“I’m actually not.  I know some days it’s hard to tell.”  Hard for Jim and Spock to tell, any way.  Saavik and Sarek seemed to read her perfectly. 

 

“Chris, I...”  He stopped himself, shook his head.  “Saalen’s grown so much.”

 

She smiled, grateful he decided to steer them to safer ground.  “He had another growth spurt.  Going to be a tall boy.”

 

“Well, look at his parents.”

 

She nodded. 

 

“You’ve done a great job with him.  I don’t know if Spock ever tells you that, but I know he thinks it.”

 

“Thanks.”  Spock hadn’t told her that.  She and Spock didn’t talk all that much.  She and Jim didn’t usually, either.  This “make Christine a friend again” thing was new.  “I’ve got to go, Jim.”  Although she had nothing planned other than getting the biggest bacon cheese burger she could find after she slept a bit more.

 

“All right.  Take care.  We’re leaving tomorrow.  Just a short visit this time.”

 

“Short or long, Saalen enjoys them.”

 

He nodded.  “I’ll see you.”

 

“Bye.”  She cut the channel.

 

She resolved not to think about what Jim was doing, what he wanted, or if he was playing her.  She had a day to herself, and she was going to enjoy it.

 

##

 

Chapel was sitting in Cartwright’s old office, working on the weekly report, when Admiral Johnston came in followed by a captain she didn’t recognize.  She stood as they came into the office.

 

“At ease, Commander.”  Johnston gave her the kindly smile he always seemed to wear.  “Christine, let me introduce you to Captain Daniel Lorcas.  He’ll be taking Admiral Cartwright’s place.”

 

“Very nice to meet you, sir.”

 

“I’ve heard good things about you, Chapel.  Think you can turn an old space dog like me into a proper boss in this place?”

 

She found herself relaxing at his casual tone and friendly smile.  “I think so, sir.”

 

“He’ll be reporting next week.  I can see you’re busy.  We’ll let you get back to it.”

 

“I’m looking forward to working with you, Captain.”

 

“Same here, Commander.  Carry on.”  He grinned at her as if he knew full well she’d done nothing but carry on since Cartwright had moved up.  Then he followed Johnston to the front of Ops where the admiral made quick introductions for those at their stations. 

 

She went back to the terminal, glad that this would be her last weekly report to do for a while.  She wanted to get back to being in charge of the operational part of Ops, not being a bureaucrat.  She hoped Lorcas knew what he was in for—but if he’d had his own ship, he surely must.

 

She was going through the message queues later when Sarek appeared in her doorway.  She smiled at him, pointed to the chairs in front of the desk, and said, “Take a load off.”

 

He sat and seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.

 

“Bad day?”

 

“A long one.  Tedious.  The negotiations I am preparing for promise to be contentious and I am relegated to sitting in conference rooms listening to Starfleet officers argue over what the best outcome would be.”

 

“Don’t you already know?”  She grinned at him.

 

“Of course.  But I do not negotiate for myself, Christine, but for the Federation.  Starfleet has a say.”

 

“Whether you like it or not?”  She laughed at his expression.  “Hey, speaking of Starfleet, have you ever met a Captain Daniel Lorcas?”

 

“I have.  His ship the Candelario has served as transport for my delegation on several occasions.  Why do you ask?”

 

“He’s going to be running this place.”

 

“Ah, you will finally be able to go back to doing only one job?”

 

She laughed and nodded.  Had she bitched that much to him about this?

 

“His crew seemed to respect him—and to be fond of him.  I know that is important to you.”

 

“Especially here.  Camaraderie is crucial.”

 

“I believe you will find him an excellent choice.”

 

“Good.”  She leaned back in the chair.  “The boys get off okay?”

 

He nodded.  “Saalen seemed to enjoy his time with them.”

 

“He was so happy when he came home.  I like that Jim’s making an effort with him.  He didn’t with Saavik.”

 

“No, he did not.”  Sarek looked vastly disapproving.

 

“Cut it out.  He learned from his mistake.”  She winked at him.  “So what are you doing here?  Did you need something?”

 

He shook his head slowly.  “I was tired after the meetings.  I have another one in fifteen minutes.  I thought talking to you would be a pleasant diversion.”

 

She laughed.  “Well, I hope it was since you wasted your break on me.”

 

“Hardly a waste.”  He rose.  “I believe I will get some coffee before the next one.”

 

“You?  Holy shit, those must be boring meetings if you feel the need for a caffeine jolt.” 

 

He did not comment on her language, but then he was used to it by now. 

 

As he turned to leave, she said, “Hang on.  I’ll go with you.  I could use a coffee myself.”

 

He waited for her and they walked out together to the cafeteria.  She watched him fix his coffee.  He surprised her by adding sugar and milk. 

 

“Spock takes it black,” she said.  “When he takes it at all.  And he goes for weak coffee.  Adds hot water.”

 

“I do not see the point of drinking it if you are going to modify the caffeine content to that extent.”

 

“Well, me neither, but I never said that to him.  It’s possible you’ve been around humans too long.”

 

“It is entirely possible.”  His expression was very light as he took a sip.  He checked the chrono on the back wall.  “I must go.”

 

“My condolences.  Thanks for the skinny on Lorcas.”

 

“You are welcome.”

 

##

 

After a week full of long nights, Chapel was finally getting home at a reasonable hour.  She heard laughter coming from the living room, went in to see what was going on.

 

Rand sat with Amy, the nanny Chapel couldn’t live without.  They were laughing and Jan looked up and said, “Christine, about damn time.  I was just regaling Amy here with our latest exploits.”  She leaned in to Amy and said in a stage whisper, “I’ll let you worm Jack’s exploits out of him.  I don’t tell on my staff, just on me and the captain.”

 

Amy nodded.  “I’ll grill him tonight.”  Her brother had recently joined the Excelsior crew.  Chapel might have had something to do with that.  She smiled at the thought that he was fitting in—and the third degree his little sister was going to give him.

 

Amy got her things and left them, calling goodbye up the stairs to Saalen, who echoed it back.

 

“The kid is getting big, Christine.  My God.  What happened to the baby?”

 

Chapel laughed.  “They grow up.  It’s the basic premise behind them.”

 

“Oh, right.  He’s quite the charmer.  You sure he doesn’t have some Kirk in there?”

 

“He spends a lot of time with Jim.  Looks up to him.  Would not surprise me at all if he’s learning to schmooze with the best of them.”  She leaned back in her chair.  “How the hell are you, anyway?”

 

“I’m good.  Hikaru’s good.”  She gave her a smile that was this side of illegal.

 

“Well, hot damn, you two finally did it?  Jan, the man has loved you for ages.”

 

“He played his hand close to the chest.”

 

“He did not.  I knew it.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, so I’m an idiot.  We had a mission go really wrong and, well, relief that someone’s not dead can lead to a lot of things.”

 

Chapel nodded, even if she hadn’t been tempted lately to let anything lead to sex.  She couldn’t just disappear to be with some guy, not with Saalen waiting for her and Saavik gone so much, and she didn’t want to traipse men through the house.  She lived like a goddamn nun.  Not that she’d trade Saalen for the world.  But a girl still got an itch every now and then.

 

“So how is she who only smiles for you?”

 

Chapel laughed, against her will.  “She just goes by Saavik now.”

 

“We gave her a ride the other day out to the Ledeburan system.  Man, she’s getting more Vulcan by the minute.  Or does she just not like me?”

 

Chapel sighed.  It was possible Saavik tended to get a little possessive of those she loved.  But she and Jan seemed destined to tick each other off with very little effort.  “She’s a complicated person.”

 

“Yeah, no shit.”  Jan leaned back.  “Is she on Earth today?”

 

“Nope.” 

 

“Good.” 

 

“You want a drink?”

 

“Hell, yes.  I only resisted asking Amy for one since she’s still young and innocent.  Her brother, by the way, is working out great.  Thank you for the recommendation on him.  Not sure we would have picked him based on experience alone.”

 

Chapel nodded and held up a bottle of red wine.  “This okay?”

 

“Yep.”  Jan kicked her boots off and tucked her feet under her on the couch.  “So, what is the latest dirt with you?  Seen Jim lately?  Spock?”

 

“I see them all the time.  When they come to get Saalen and drop him off.”

 

“So no new conquests?”  Jan made a face.  “You have to get back up on the horse.  What’s wrong with Len?  He really loved you, you know?”

 

“I know he did.  And I didn’t love him, not the way he wanted.  Besides, he’s done with me.  I didn’t choose him and that’s the end of that story.”  She’d taken a lesson from him in that—she hadn’t been with Jim or Spock since Spock had left her.  Even when they seemed to be flirtier than normal on Jim’s part or more intense on Spock’s, she’d resisted the urge.  She knew what it was like to be left by those two.  She did not plan on repeating it—did not plan on being their extracurricular toy ever again.

 

She liked to think she’d moved on, but she still had some anger.  They still could mess with her head far more than she liked.  It was hell being the one who got left out: hard to get over wanting back in.  No matter how badly it might turn out, there was still that little nagging part that said, “This time, things will be different.”

 

Fortunately, the rest of her could club that part into unconsciousness.

 

“Earth to Chapel?”

 

Chapel laughed.  “Sorry.  Thinking.  Long day.”  She poured the wine and carried it over to Jan. “You want to stay for dinner?”

 

“Can’t.  Meeting Hikaru’s parents.”

 

Ooooh.  Major step there.”

 

“I know.  Don’t let me drink too much of this.  If I’m stupid on our first meeting, he’ll never forgive me.”

 

“No problem.”

 

Malika came tearing into the room, Saalen clomping down the stairs after her.  The cat mock hissed at him when Saalen touched her tail, then when he took off running back upstairs, she chased him.

 

“They’re playing tag?”

 

“He can get a cat to do anything.  He takes after Amanda in that respect.”

 

“How is she?  Still up your ass about who should raise him?”

 

“No, she’s eased off.”  Chapel heard something crash upstairs and yelled, “Take it down a level, kiddo.”

 

“Sorry!” came drifting down the stairs.

 

Jan laughed.  “I love that kid.  He’s not any one thing.  He’s like the perfect blend of Vulcan and Human.”

 

“And Romulan.”

 

Jan made a face.  “Not my favorite people.  The mission that went so wrong—they had a hand in that.”

 

“Sorry.”

 

“It happens.”  Jan sighed.  “You know caring for someone makes it so much harder to get on with life.  I’m always thinking of him now.  How do you manage with a child depending on you?”

 

“Life is different, that’s for sure.”

 

“Saavik sure made out in this deal.  She gets to live her life and just pop in: instant mom.”

 

“It’s not like that.”  Chapel sighed.  “I knew what I was signing up for.  Believe me.”

 

“Whoa, mama bear.  You’re getting that look you get when I go too far on my Saavik bashing.”

 

“Then don’t go too far.  She loves Saalen and he loves her.”

 

“As a big sister.  You can’t tell me he honestly thinks of her as his mother.  I’ve seen him with you.”

 

“It doesn’t matter what he thinks.  We’re all one family.  It is what it is.”

 

Jan nodded.  “You’re not involved with her, are you?”

 

“With Saavik?  Jan, she’s like my daughter.”

 

Jan laughed and held up a hand.  “I had to ask.  You just went off the market so fast, I thought maybe she was the reason.”

 

“Malika!”  Another crash from upstairs.

 

“Saalen, I’m counting to ten.”  She used the tone that was calm but carried all the way to his room.

 

“Sorry!”

 

Chapel pointed to the ceiling.  “That’s the reason I’m off the market.  Kids take time.”

 

“What does that mean: you’re counting to ten?  What happens when you reach ten?”

 

Chapel started to laugh.  “I have no idea.  He’s never made me reach it.”  She took a sip of her wine.  “I’m pretty much making this up as I go along.”

 

Jan raised her glass as if in a toast.  “More power to you, my friend.  More power to you.”

 

##

 

Chapel walked with Saalen into the embassy, smiling as he went running to Amanda, who was holding a gray Persian. 

 

Sarek came out of his library.

 

“Hello.”  She smiled at him.  “New cat?” 

 

“My wife swears she followed her home.”

 

“She and Saalen are too much alike.”  She grinned at him.

 

“What happened?” he asked, looking at her arm.

 

“Your grandson.”  She eyed the scratches that marked her upper arm.  “My regenerator wasn’t charged.  I’ll fix it tonight.”

 

“He scratched you?”  Sarek looked sincerely troubled.

 

She laughed.  “God, no.  He and Malika were playing tag, and I happened to be in the way.  He swerved right, I swerved left, and the cat, well I guess she thought she’d leap over us or something.  She didn’t clear the hurdle—the hurdle being me.  Not her finest moment.”

 

He looked amused.  “I did not realize life with Saalen was so eventful.”

 

“’Fraid so.”  She grinned, then she gave him a searching look.  “The expression you had on your face when you asked if he scratched me.  Did Saavik do that to you?”

 

“To Amanda.”

 

“Ah.” 

 

“It was when she first arrived.  She was extraordinarily headstrong.  My wife, too, is stubborn.  The two together...”

 

Chapel nodded.  “Recipe for disaster.”

 

“Indeed.”

 

Amanda came toward them, the little cat lying in her arms like a baby.  “Christine, are you staying for dinner?”

 

“I don’t think so.  I’ve still got to pack.  We leave for Valdux at oh dark thirty tomorrow.”

 

Sarek actually frowned.  “That is a very dangerous planet.”

 

“Uh huh.  We don’t get sent to garden spots, Sarek.  I’ve been fully briefed.  And this isn’t my first rodeo.”  She saw that Saalen was watching them from the end of the hallway; with his hearing, he could easily catch the conversation.  “Enough, all right.  I don’t want to scare him.”

 

Amanda nodded but Sarek said, “I do not think this is a wise course of act—”

 

“I said enough, Sarek.  Please.”  She turned to Amanda.  “And who is this?”

 

Danke.  A little sweetheart.  Nothing like that brute you have.”

 

“Malika is a good cat.”

 

“Yes, if one wants a wild animal in one’s home.”

 

“She’s not wild.  She’s just boisterous.  And she adores Saalen, so really what more is there to talk about?”  She grinned.  “Saavik will meet you on Vulcan.  I shouldn’t be more than two weeks on Valdux.  I hope this isn’t an imposition to take Saalen with you?”

 

“He’s our grandson, dear.  It’s never an imposition.”  Amanda smiled gently.  “Stay safe.  You’ve clearly got Sarek worried.”

 

Amanda walked over to Saalen, handing him the cat, and taking him into the kitchen. 

 

As soon as they were out of sight, Sarek drew her into the library.  “Can no one else go?”

 

“Sarek, quit being such an old lady.  I’ll be fine.  And even if I weren’t, it’s not like Amanda would mind getting Saalen, now is it?”

 

“Are you making a joke?  Because I have a feeling it would not be humorous even to a human.”

 

“This is my job.  You’re as bad as Saavik.”  Who was constantly harping at her to get out of Ops and back into medicine, where it was safer with more sane hours.  “There will be no more discussion.  And don’t say anything about Valdux being dangerous to Saalen.  I don’t want him to worry.”

 

He nodded slowly, his eyes narrowed, as if giving up the fight was something painful for him.  “Please, take every care while you are out there.”

 

She leaned up and kissed him on the cheek—she thought it was a measure of how worried he was that he allowed it without comment.  “I will.”

 

##

 

Chapel got out of the shower, the feeling of being clean after so many days in the field indescribable.  She pulled some comfortable clothes on, spritzed on perfume, and enjoyed the casual luxury of smelling good.

 

She lifted her shirt and ran her hand down her side; the new skin was shiny and red.  Valduxian weapons were a bitch—fortunately she was a bigger one.  The injury had looked worse than it had turned out to be.  But so much blood—she had been scared for a while.  Worried that this would be her last mission. 

 

Her door chime rang and she frowned.  Her debriefs were done.  She was on R&R on Starbase Twelve for two days before heading home.

 

She opened the door and was surprised to see Sarek there.  A look of relief seemed to run across his face as he took her in, then it was gone.

 

“What are you doing here?”  She moved aside to let him in.  “I thought you were on Vulcan with Saavik and Saalen?”

 

“Clearly I am not.”  He moved into the main room of her temporary quarters, going to the window and staring out at the view—or lack thereof.  “I saw that you were injured.  I was...concerned.”

 

“You saw?  Just how much access do you have?”

 

“More than you think I do, evidently.”  He turned and studied her.  “You are recovered?”

 

She nodded.  “It wasn’t as bad as it initially seemed.  They treated me on Valdux and let me come here to recuperate.  I’m tired—probably was working too hard and got overtired.  Made myself a target by being too stubborn to rest.”

 

“You have been obstinate since I met you.”  He turned to the window again.

 

“Where is Amanda?”

 

“On Vulcan, of course.  With Saavik and Saalen.”

 

“Great.  A wonderful opportunity to badmouth me with no impartial you to leap to my defense.”

 

“I am hardly impartial.  And I do not think she would do that.”

 

She moved to stand next to him.  “The cherry on top would be hearing Spock and Jim were joining them.”

 

His mouth did something funny, almost a frown.

 

“Great, just great.”  She sighed.  “So they’re all there and you’re...”

 

He turned to look at her.

 

“Does Amanda know where you are?”

 

He shook his head. 

 

“So you just...left?”

 

“As I said, I was concerned.”

 

“Well, you should have waited for the after report, where it said I was fine.  You left Saavik and our boy alone with those three?”

 

“Logic fails me when it comes to you, Christine.”  He met her eyes then turned away again, as if looking at her hurt him in some way.  “Saalen will be fine with his father and Kirk, and it is time Saavik learned to accept what is: my son and Kirk are not going to end their relationship, no matter how much she may want that.”

 

“She’s very invested in the idea of Spock and me together.”

 

“I am aware of that.”

 

She leaned back against the window and closed her eyes.  “Well, you’re here now and I’m starving.  Take me to dinner if you aren’t hightailing it back to Vulcan?”

 

“There is a shuttle in the morning.  I will leave then.”

 

“You have quarters, I assume?”

 

“I do.  I was not sure what state I would find you in.”  He made a sound that seemed like a sigh.  “I, too, am hungry.”

 

“Then let’s go.”  She touched his arm.  “I’m glad you came for me.  Although I imagine Amanda wouldn’t be, would she?  Since you didn’t bother telling her where you were going?”

 

He met her eyes, his own full of a dark emotion she’d never expected to see.  “She would not be pleased with me.”

 

“Will you tell her you saw me, when you get back to Vulcan?”

 

He shook his head.

 

“Won’t she know?  The bond and all?”  She was stomping into some very personal territory here.

 

He didn’t seem to mind.  “The bond between mates requires two telepathic partners.  Few humans have sufficiently developed psi skills for it to be achieved.”

 

“I always assumed that Spock didn’t want one with me—or that he already had one with Jim.  Not that he couldn’t with a human.”

 

Sarek nodded. 

 

“You must have rare privacy for a mated Vulcan.”

 

“Indeed.”

 

They shared a long look, then she pushed herself up from the window, and smiled in her most unthreatening way, letting him—them both—off whatever hook they suddenly seemed in danger of impaling themselves on.  “Come on, Grandpa, let’s get dinner.”

 

The expression that flashed across his face was a mixture of amusement and relief.

 

##

 

Chapel heard the door to the house open, then the sound of running feet.  Saalen slowed as he came up to her, his eyes shining as he sat on the couch and pushed his arm hard against hers.

 

“Missed me, huh, kiddo?”  She put her arm around him and kissed the top of his head; he only squirmed mildly.  He really must have missed her.  “So, how was Vulcan?”

 

“Fine.”  He eased away from her, went to pet Malika, who was lying in front of the fireplace.  “I missed the cat.”

 

“Of course that’s all you missed.”  She winked at him. 

 

“Father was there.”

 

“He was?”  She tried to sound surprised, as if Sarek hadn’t told her about it, hadn’t spoken of how both Spock and Jim were on their best behavior around the boy.  She’d gotten Sarek to admit at dinner that he thought Jim was in full-on woo mode. 

 

Too bad Jim hadn’t tried that with Saavik when she was a child, would have saved himself a lot of trouble.

 

“Jim was there, too.”  Saalen studied her and she smiled as easily as she could.  “He gave me a model of the ship.  I have it in my carryall.”  He looked around as if for the bag.

 

“Christine?”  Saavik came in, lugging both her carryall and Saalen’s.  “He could not wait to get to you.  Left me to carry these up from the flitter.”

 

Saalen had the grace to look as contrite as a seven-year-old could.  “Sorry, mother.” 

 

Saavik let the bags slide to the ground and sat down across from Chapel.  “Valeris was there.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say she and Spock were involved.”

 

Chapel frowned, glancing at Saalen.  He took in far more than Saavik seemed to think he did.

 

“Fine, this can wait.  How are you?”

 

“Right as rain.”  Saavik would just worry if she heard Chapel had been injured.  Would just press more that she leave Ops. 

 

Malika got up and stalked out of the room, and Saalen followed her. 

 

Saavik waited until he was safely out, then said, “Sarek left for several days.  Relegated me to time alone with Kirk and Spock.  Amanda spoke highly of Kirk every chance she got, of course.  And then there was Valeris.  Spock’s new protégé and apparently my replacement in his affections.  A perfect Vulcan.”  She flicked something only she could see off the arm of the chair.  “She can insult me with such ease.  Spock doesn’t even seem aware of it.  Amanda ignores it.”

 

“What does Jim think of it?”

 

“Valeris was only there the last day.  He left before she came.  Had meetings or something—I did not ask.”

 

“No, I’m sure you didn’t.”  Chapel leaned back.  “I missed you two.”

 

“We missed you.  Saalen could not wait to get in here to you.”

 

“I know.  It was adorable.”  Chapel heard the stomp of footsteps that meant the boy and the cat were playing tag.  “Malika missed him, too.”

 

“He thinks all cats are like her.  You should have seen Amanda’s new cat hiss at him when he tried to play that game with her.”  Saavik looked up at the ceiling as the footsteps increased in tempo, then let herself smile with what seemed like relief.

 

“Hell being back there?”

 

She nodded and closed her eyes.  “I never relax on Vulcan.  I love being with Sarek and Amanda, but I would prefer to do it here.”

 

“I know.”  Chapel got up and as she passed Saavik, she laid her hand on her shoulder.  “I’m glad you’re home.”

 

Saavik smiled lightly.  Upstairs a burst of laughter escaped Saalen.

 

“He relaxes here, too, Christine.  He was on his best behavior there, and I think it was because Spock was there—I have never noticed him trying so hard to be...Vulcan.  It is ironic that Spock expects so much more of him than Sarek does, is it not?”

 

“It is.  Sarek’s mellowed.  Spock’s still trying to live up to standards that don’t even exist for him.  Hopefully he’ll realize his son is a child of three worlds and let him be what he will be.”  She let go of Saavik and went to the kitchen to fix lunch.

 

##

 

Chapel walked through the Embassy, passing the parlor where Amanda sat with Saalen, reading some old text.  Danke was sprawled at her feet, fast asleep.  Amanda looked up as Chapel passed, smiled, and went back to the book.

 

Saalen glanced at Chapel and gave her a slow eye blink, which made her smile since they’d just been talking about how Malika did that when she was happy with them.  That it meant, “I love you,” in cat language.  She blinked back at him then left them in peace.

 

She found Sarek in the library.  “Am I intruding?”

 

“No.”  He put aside the padd he was working on.  “Please, sit.  Talk to me.”

 

She sat in one of his guest chairs.  “Not the most comfortable seating in the world.”

 

He let an eyebrow rise.  “I do not, as a rule, want guests to linger.”

 

“Present company excepted?”

 

“Of course.”  He rose.  “Come, these chairs by the fireplace are far more accommodating.”

 

She followed him, sat, and looked at the flames flickering through the mesh screen.  “A real fire.”

 

“It is a necessity in this climate.  I am often too cold here.”

 

She smiled.  “I’m always so hot on Vulcan.”

 

“Amanda was that way at first.  She still has a few days of adjustment generally.”

 

Chapel curled her legs up in the chair.  “She’s with Saalen.  They’re so cute together.”  She looked up, met Sarek’s eyes.  “I care for her.  Even though I know she prefers Jim.  I think I need to say that.”

 

“I realize you care for her.  She cares for you, too.”

 

Chapel sighed.  “Your trip out to see me last month—it’s not the most comfortable thing having a secret like that, you know?”

 

“We have many secrets from those we care about.  We have access to more than they do.  Therefore, it follows that we would have to keep certain things from them.”

 

“This is hardly eyes-only.  It’s...personal.”

 

“If you find it a hardship to keep it from her, then tell her, and I will deal with the consequences.”

 

“That’s just it.  I don’t find it a hardship.  It’s just...not what I expected to be doing again.”  At his look, she managed a sheepish grin.  “Roger was my advisor—we had to be discreet.  Then the thing with Jim and Spock.”

 

“Ah.  Of course.”

 

“And it’s not just Amanda we’re keeping it from.  It’s all of them.”

 

“I was worried about you.  I came to check on you.  Nothing more.”  He was watching her very closely.

 

She nodded.  “We had dinner, then you left in the morning.  Nothing to be ashamed of.”

 

“Indeed not.”

 

“Nothing to keep secret, either, Sarek.  Not if that’s all it is.”

 

“If that is all it is...”  He pursed his lips and leaned his head back against the soft leather of his chair.  “I know this: I do not wish to speak of it to her.”

 

She sighed.  “So, we will not speak of it, then.  If you don’t want to and I don’t want to.”

 

He nodded, then rose, took a volume off his library shelf, and handed it to her.  “I found this.  It is yours, is it not?”

 

She saw it was a volume of poems.  She’d brought it for Spock for his birthday.  It didn’t look as though it had even been cracked.  “It’s Spock’s.  I doubt he cares about it, though.”

 

He sat down again as she leafed through the book.  “The poetry is quite lovely.”

 

“You read it?”

 

He nodded.

 

“I thought it was pretty.  It’s why I gave it to him.”

 

“May I ask a very intrusive question, Christine?”

 

She nodded.

 

“Did you love my son?  Did you fight to keep Spock because you wanted him or because you did not want Kirk to have him?”

 

“Tough questions.”  She shifted a little, thought about the right answer.  “I’ve considered the issue.  On some of my more honest days.  I’m not sure what the real answer is.  I know the one I want it to be: I don’t want to be anything but a good person.  I want to think I loved him.  And part of me did, Sarek.  Part of me did—I’m just not sure if I loved him enough.  Maybe he knew that?”

 

“Did you meld often?”

 

“Almost never.”  She studied him, didn’t see any surprise in his expression.  “Is it normal to meld with a mate?”

 

“It is a personal choice.  Not all Vulcans choose to engage freely in them.”

 

“Do you?”  She laughed.  “Sorry, that was nosy of me.  It’s none of my business.”

 

“I will answer.  Not generally.  Sometimes, on occasions when extreme closeness is wanted—or needed.”

 

A sound of clomping feet sounded, and Saalen appeared, carrying Danke, who looked very put out. 

 

“That poor cat.  He’s used to a much more robust one in Malika.”

 

“The cat will survive.  She has claws.  If she disliked what he did enough, she would scratch him.”

 

“True.” 

 

Saalen slung the cat over his shoulder as he sat down in front of them.  She lay like a dishrag.

 

“Is she purring?” Chapel asked him.

 

“Yes.  She likes me.  She just pretends not to.”

 

“Excellent practice for when you start to notice girls.”  She smiled.

 

Saalen lifted an eyebrow in a perfect imitation of his father and grandfather.  “Girls are of limited utility.”

 

Mmm hmmm.  That’s what you all say at first.”

 

Saalen ignored her, but Sarek looked amused.

 

“Do you remember your first love, Gramps?” she asked.

 

His expression told her he knew she was trying to steer them back to less emotionally laden ground.  He nodded and gave her a look that seemed a little sad.  “She is even now in the living room.”

 

“That’s a lovely answer.”

 

He nodded then looked away.  “I will leave you.”

 

She got up before he could.  “No, we barged in on you.  Go back to your work, Sarek.”  She put her hand on his shoulder.  “You’re a good man,” she said very, very softly, then she nudged Saalen with her knee.  “Come on, kiddo.  Bring the kitty and let’s leave your grandfather in peace.  He’s an important man with crucial work to do.”

 

“I know.  Both he and my father.” 

 

Chapel laughed.  “Nothing wrong with his sense of family pride.  At least on the male side.  What a shock coming from a Vulcan.”  She winked at Sarek and eased Saalen out of the room.

 

“You are quite accomplished, too, Christine.  And I’m sure my mother will be.”

 

“Stop while you’re ahead, bucko.”  She gazed back at Sarek.

 

He was watching her, an expression she couldn’t read on his face.

 

She turned around and followed her boy out.

 

##

 

“Commander Chapel?”  A woman’s voice, young by the sound of it. 

 

Chapel turned and saw a Vulcan woman studying her.  A lieutenant.  “Can I help you, Lieutenant...?”

 

“Valeris.”

 

Ah.  Chapel made her “I’m a busy woman, what do you want?” face that usually worked on just about everyone.

 

It did not work on Valeris.

 

“I was curious about you.  I met Saalen.  Spock said you were raising him.  Since you are not related to the boy in any way...”

 

“Really?  You’re curious?  Since when do Vulcans snoop?”

 

Valeris gave her a little head tilt that no doubt was useful for making humans feel stupid.  But Chapel was a pro around much tougher Vulcans than this woman. 

 

“Well, now you’ve seen me.  Was there more?”

 

“You don’t like me, do you?  Is it because I am close to Spock and you no longer are?”

 

“How close are you?”  Spock and Jim couldn’t have added a Vulcan woman as their new toy, could they?

 

“He is my mentor.  I see him often.  More often than his previous protégé sees him, I think.”

 

“Is this important to you?  Did you have a childhood lacking in affirmations?”  She moved closer.  “What is your game?”

 

“As I said: I was curious.”

 

“And we both know Vulcans have great curiosity.  They usually let great courtesy go along for the ride, however.”  She stood a little straighter.  “Don’t you have a job to do?”

 

“Of course.”  She handed Chapel a padd.  “From Admiral Cartwright.  He asked me to drop this by for you.”

 

Chapel could suddenly understand why this woman angered Saavik so. 

 

“I apologize if my frankness interfered with my efficiency, Commander.  I will endeavor to control my curiosity in the future.”  Again the little tilt of the head.

 

Chapel gave it right back to her.  Once Valeris was gone, she looked at the padd—information she had been waiting for—and sighed.  Taking the long way back to Ops, she stopped at Saavik’s office.  “I just met Valeris.”

 

“You have my condolences.”  Saavik studied her.  “That’s what I grew up with, Christine.  That kind of attitude.”

 

“I’m sorry.  Truly.  I had no idea any Vulcan could be so—”

 

“Bitchy?”

 

“You never would have used that word before you lived with me.”

 

Saavik gave her an affectionate look.  “There are many things I would not have done if I hadn’t.  I just got my schedule for the month.  I’m traveling most of it.”

 

“No worries.  Amy wants extra hours.”

 

“Thank you.  If I haven’t said it lately.  For taking Saalen.  You’ve done better than I could have alone.”

 

“You would never have had to do it alone, kiddo.  I mean that.”

 

Saavik smiled quickly, then closed her eyes.  “I’m tired of traveling.  I am relieved you don’t do it as much as you used to.  Saalen needs one of us home.”

 

“Yes, he does.  Both of us would be good, too.  See if they can’t schedule you lighter next month.”  At Saavik’s rueful nod, she said, “I’ll let you get back to work.”  She tapped the padd she was carrying.  “I have some stuff to look at.” 

 

“Very well.  I will see you tonight.”

 

##

 

Chapel watched the comms coming in on her special access line.  There had been radio silence during the Khitomer Accords, but now that the thing was over, messages were coming in like crazy.

 

Cartwright a traitor?  How the hell could Cartwright be a traitor?  He loved the Federation more than anyone Chapel had ever met.  How did such a good man get mixed up in this?  He’d been her boss, her mentor, for so long.  He’d groomed her and—

 

Why?

 

And Valeris.  She laughed softly: Saavik would be thrilled.  Not just that her dislike of the woman had merit—if not for the reasons she thought—but also that Spock had been betrayed after he’d chosen to replace Saavik with a new protégé.

 

Although Chapel didn’t think it was really that simple.  Trust was a two-way street, and Saavik had lost Spock’s, too, when she bypassed him and came to Chapel for help with the baby.  Not that Chapel blamed her for that, but she could be realistic in who was at fault for the relationship crashing and burning.

 

Captain Lorcas came out of his office and walked over to where she was sitting.  “What do you make of all this?”

 

She looked up at him, trying to get a read on his reason for asking.  It was well known she was one of Cartwright’s golden children.  Was she under suspicion, too?

 

But Lorcas didn’t look like he was digging—he looked like he really wanted to know what she made of it.

 

“I’m not sure what to think.  I looked up to Admiral Cartwright.”

 

“A lot of us did.  This is damned odd.”  He let his breath out slowly, as if that would help him consider the situation.  “Things are going to be nasty for a while.  No one’s going to know who to trust.”  He gave a small grin.  “Other than the heroes of the day—most of whom are your friends, I think?”

 

Friends.  Ex lovers.  Parents in common.  She was suddenly very grateful she had them on the other side of the equation.  Jan and Sulu, too.  “Trust Jim Kirk to find a way to make his last voyage a memorable one.”

 

“Is he retiring?”

 

She nodded.  He’d told her he was the last time she saw him.  It hadn’t surprised her.  What would surprise her was him staying retired.

 

Spock had never been involved with him when Jim was off the ship.  He would not have fun once they settled in to play house with no duranium hull under Jim’s feet.  Jim did not do well planet bound.

 

Well, let Spock find that out for himself.

 

##

 

Chapel walked with Saalen to the embassy.  The guard nodded at them and they passed through without having to show any credentials.  Benefit of being family.

 

“You be good while I’m gone, yes?”

 

Saalen nodded, already falling into his more Vulcan persona.

 

“Kiddo, just be yourself.  Spock will like you that way too.”

 

He looked up at her, his eyes old for his age.  “He likes me better this way.”

 

She sighed.  “Okay.  Whatever you think best.”  She ruffled his hair since there was no one to see.  “I’ll be home in a week.  Go on.  Go find your dad.”

 

Saalen hurried upstairs.

 

As she walked out, she saw Jim in one of the offices working on a terminal.  “Thought you were retired?”

 

He looked up and smiled.  “I am.  Have to wave the flag one last time.  Send off Harriman.”  He rolled his eyes.

 

“How he got that ship is beyond me.”

 

“At least it’s not my Enterprise.”  He smiled tightly, then turned off the terminal and walked over to her.  “The man is a moron.”

 

“No argument from me, Jim.  I was terrified they were going to give him Ops.  I might have felt safer if they had: the fucking flagship?”

 

“I know.  Snap decisions aren’t his forte.”

 

“What is?”  She grinned.  “Are you okay going to this?  You could say no, you know?”

 

“I could.  But it’s a good time to get away.  Give Spock some alone time with his boy.”

 

“Saalen adores you.  This isn’t like it was with Saavik.”

 

“I know.  But he’s easy to love.”

 

“And she wasn’t?”

 

He seemed to think about it.  “I tried, once, early on, to get to know her.  She only had Spock at first.  She was...possessive.  Her background—it didn’t make sharing an easy or smart thing to do.  We got off on the wrong foot and never found a better one.”

 

“You’re trying now, though.  She seemed to enjoy the last time she was here, with all of us.”

 

He nodded.  “I’ll keep trying.  I do regret not getting to know her better.  One of the many things I regret.”

 

She looked down.  “Like me?”

 

“No, not like you.  Why would I regret you?  I’m sorry we lost the friendship we had when we took that next step.  I’m sorry we couldn’t find our way back to it when everything was over.”

 

“I am, too.  But you know why I’ve stayed away.  It’s less confusing, for one thing, for Saalen.  And it’s easier for me to steer clear of you and of Spock.  Saner.”

 

“You still love us?”

 

She shrugged.

 

He looked down.  “We never did that again—invited someone in.  Just so you know.  It was you.  Only.”

 

“Okay.  Thanks, I guess.”  She wasn’t sure what one said to a statement like that.

 

“I’m just trying to...”  He laughed softly.  “I don’t know what I’m trying to do.  But I’m on Earth now and you know how I get.  Far better than Spock does.”

 

She nodded.

 

“I’m just saying this now.  Before I’m too big a son of a bitch to admit it.”

 

“Hey, watch it.  I fell in love with that son of a bitch, remember?”  She sighed.  “Okay, I’m going to go.  Have fun at the launch.  Try not to show up Harriman—oh, wait, you can’t help it.”  She winked at him, and he laughed.

 

“Bye, Chris.  I’ll see you soon.”

 

He walked her to the door.  She saw Spock coming down the stairs with Saalen and lifted a hand to him, the small polite wave they’d perfected over time.  Then she turned and left her boys in peace.

 

##

 

Chapel trudged back into camp, was surprised to see a group of people gathered around the comm system.

 

“What’s up?” she asked whoever wanted to answer.

 

“Something happened during the launch of the Enterprise B.  Captain Kirk is dead.”

 

She steadied herself on the table.  They didn’t know she knew him—most of these people were new.  Didn’t know her history.

 

Didn’t know she loved him.

 

“Are you all right, Commander?” someone asked.

 

She nodded and said, “I’ll be in my tent.”

 

She sat on her cot and pulled out the hip flask she always brought with her on these jaunts.  She took a deep pull and wondered when she’d lost the ability to cry for those she loved.

 

“You okay?”  Jake Robinson poked his head in.  She’d worked with him for years.  “Did you know him?”

 

She nodded and handed him the flask; he took a pull, then handed it back.  “He was my first captain.”  She put the lid back on the flask.  She did not need to get drunk and maudlin—or too talkative.  “Is it confirmed?  Did they find a body?”

 

“There was no body.”

 

“What?  Then how do they know he’s dead?”

 

Robinson sat down next to her.  “The ship hit an energy ribbon of some kind.  Details are fuzzy.  Kirk went to modify the deflectors.  There was a hull breach where the energy ribbon hit the ship.  It was right where he was working.”

 

“Oh, God.  He always used to say he’d die alone.  Was he alone?”

 

“Yeah.  He was.”

 

She closed her eyes.  “My son is with his father.  Oh, this is the worst time.”

 

“His father?”  Robinson was clearly confused.

 

“Spock is his father.  I’m not really his mom, more a grandma, I guess.  I was with Spock for a while.  His mother is—”

 

“Saavik.  That’s what I thought, but I went in the wrong direction.  I thought you two were together.  The way you both refer to him as ‘my son.’  Hell, Christine, I would have asked you out a million times if I hadn’t thought you were living with your girlfriend.”

 

She laughed, a half bitter, half amused laugh.  “No, she’s sort of my daughter.  It’s confusing.”  She met his eyes.  “I used to see Kirk, too.  For a while.  Before I was with Spock.”  Jesus, why was she being so honest?  She reopened the flask—clearly staying sober wasn’t doing a damn thing, why not get some liquid numbness?

 

“This must really hurt, then.  I’ll leave you alone.”

 

“Thanks, Jake.  For checking on me.”

 

“I care about you.”

 

“As a friend.”  She tried to keep her expression the one that said, “Do not ask me out.  Ever.”

 

“Yeah, Christine.  As a friend.”  He smiled sadly and left her alone.

 

“I’m sorry, Jim.”  She closed the flask and curled up on her cot.  She was sorry for Spock, too.  Couldn’t imagine what he was going through.  And her boy.  She wished she could spare him, wasn’t sure if Spock would shut down around him or not in the face of this.

 

She sighed.  There was nothing she could do from here, and she had the rest of the week to get through. 

 

She sent Saalen a comm message that said if he needed to talk to someone, he could write her.  That she knew it was a confusing time.  That she was very sorry she wasn’t there with him.  And that she loved him more than anything.

 

She sent Spock a message, too.  It said only,  “I’m sorry.”

 

##

 

Chapel beamed into Starfleet Command, reported to Ops for a quick debrief, and then made her way to the embassy to get Saalen.  The guard waved her through and she hurried to the stairs, then heard Sarek calling for her.

 

She turned and walked into his library, saw that Saalen was there.  The boy got up and barreled at her, wrapping her in a tight hug.  She held on to him and met Sarek’s eyes.

 

“Where is Spock?” she mouthed.

 

He shook his head and looked pointedly at Saalen.  Then mouthed, “Later.”

 

She crouched down and said, “Hey, kiddo.  It’s okay.” 

 

Saalen wasn’t crying—and she hadn’t expected him to be—but there was something so lost in his expression that she pulled him back in for another hug.  He whispered, “I kept thinking of all the things that could happen to you.”

 

She swallowed hard and said, “I know.  It’s scary to lose someone.  Makes you wonder how many others are going to go away, too.”

 

He nodded against her.

 

“I’m here.  I’m right here.”  She knew better than to promise nothing would happen to her.  Her job was dangerous at times.  But bad things could happen on Earth, too.  Shuttles still crashed.  Diseases still took people before they were ready, even if there were far fewer of them that proved fatal anymore.

 

“Christine.”  Amanda’s soft voice sounded from the doorway.  “I’m so glad you’re back.”  And she did sound really glad.  “Sweetheart, why don’t you let Christine and your grandfather talk?  I’ve made you lunch.” 

 

Chapel let go of him and walked him over to his grandmother.  “I’m so sorry, Amanda.  We all loved Jim.”

 

“I know we did.”  She sighed.  “I guess I made my feelings about him very clear, didn’t I?”  She gave Chapel a rueful smile, then eased Saalen away and out of the library.

 

Chapel turned back to Sarek.  “Spock went to look for him, didn’t he?  The moment I heard there was no body...”

 

Sarek nodded.  “He waited until we arrived.  He did not abandon Saalen.”

 

“Good.”  She sat down, then looked back where Amanda had stood.  “Does she know that Jim and I were close?”

 

“No.  Not unless Kirk told her.”

 

“I doubt he would have.” 

 

“Why do you ask?”

 

“I don’t know.  I guess because it was so long ago, and yet he meant so much to me.  I left Spock and him—during the time I lost my mind”—she gave him an embarrassed smile—“because I was in love with him and didn’t want to share.  I sought Spock out after Jim left because I was mad he’d chosen a woman who wasn’t me.  I’ve had time to think about it while I was grieving the last week.”

 

He nodded, as if this news was not unexpected.

 

“I can’t believe he’s dead.”  She looked down.  “I can’t believe he didn’t die already given the risks he took.”  She laughed a little bit helplessly.  “I don’t know what I believe.”

 

“You may believe anything you need to that helps you bear this.”

 

She smiled.  “Ever the wise one.”

 

“Not at all.  Just able to see clearly because I have distance from this.  James Kirk and I were never at ease around each other.  He knew I favored you.”

 

She nodded.

 

“I am sorry for my son, though.  He is in a great deal of pain.”  He looked down.  “As is Saalen.”

 

“He loved Jim.  Idolized him.”  They sat in silence for a moment, then she stood up.  “I feel a very strong need to be with my boy.”

 

“Of course.  And he needs to be with you.  You are the most important thing in his life, Christine.  He is your son in truth if not by blood.  I do not know if you realize this.”

 

She smiled at him.  “I do.  But thank you for reminding me.” 

 

##

 

She was home, Amy gone, Saalen fast asleep, Malika upstairs on the bed with him.  Chapel wandered the downstairs, wishing Saavik wasn’t traveling.  Wishing she didn’t feel so antsy.  The newsvids were still running—even a week later—documentaries on Jim’s life and death.

 

She’d forced herself to stop watching.  At least it didn’t hurt all that much that she was never mentioned: she’d given up thinking she’d played a meaningful part in his life.

 

Her chime rang and she went to the door.  Spock stood on the other side.  He looked horrible.  Exhausted.  Hopeless, she thought.  Had he really thought that he’d find Jim?

 

He probably had.  It was what made the two of them different than she was.  They never gave up.

 

She stood aside and let him in.  “Sit down.  When was the last time you ate?”

 

He shrugged and made a low sound she thought was supposed to be some kind of answer. 

 

“I’m making you an omelette.”  She pushed him toward the stools at the kitchen counter, and he didn’t fight her but he also didn’t sit down.  “Now, listen to me and sit.”

 

As she moved away from him, he grabbed her, pulled her back, into a tight hug.

 

Shhh, it’s all right.”  She stroked his hair as if he was Saalen needing comfort.

 

“It will never be all right.”  He eased back, stared up at her, then pulled her down and kissed her.

 

Whoaaaaa.  Spock, stop.”  She wrestled away from him.

 

“You slept with Jim when I died.  He said it was for comfort—you did, too.”

 

“And it was a mistake.  One I don’t plan on repeating.”  She touched his cheek.  “I’ll make you dinner.  I’ll dose you up with sedatives and let you sleep in the guest bedroom.  But I will not have sex with you.  It’s not what you need—and it’s not what I need, either.”  She smiled at him sadly.  “The only way to get over this is to let yourself feel it.  I’m sorry.”

 

“You do not feel what I do.  You have had more time to let him go.”

 

She tried not to show him how much his statement hurt.  “I have.  I realize that.  But that doesn’t mean I never grieved.  Or that it wasn’t painful at the time.”  Or that she hadn’t had anyone to help her get over it—it might be petty of her, but she was not going to volunteer to help him at this point.  Not through sex.

 

He sighed.  “I am hungry, you are right.  And tired.  I have not slept since I left.”

 

“Then let me help you.”  She got busy in the kitchen and made a mushroom and cheese omelette.

 

He ate it quickly, and when he finished, murmured, “Thank you.”  He met her eyes.  “Jim used dill in his omelettes.”

 

She usually did, too, after he’d told her about his secret ingredient.  She’d left it out on purpose: she was not a substitute, not a stand-in.  Not again.  “I know.”

 

He nodded, as if he could see her logic trail and understood it.  He rose.  “I should go.”

 

“No, you should go upstairs to the guest room and get into bed.  Maybe a shower first?  There’s a bathroom attached.”

 

“I smell.”  It was not a question; he looked resigned to the fact.

 

“Yes.”  She smiled gently.  “When you’re done, leave the door open.  I’ll give you something to help you sleep.”

 

He nodded and got up.  She followed him upstairs, and he surprised her by veering off to open Saalen’s door and stand in the doorway, looking at his son.

 

“He loves you, Spock.  He loved Jim, too.”

 

He nodded and she left him to his vigil, went and got clean towels, and put them on the guest bed.  Then she left him alone.

 

As she cleaned up the kitchen, she heard the shower running.  When it was off, she went upstairs and found her med bag, loaded up a hypo with a dose of sedatives and restoratives.  She saw his door was open, so she went in and sat on the bed next to him.

 

He looked helpless as she scanned him; he was okay other than exhaustion and stress.  She shot the hypo into his arm and watched as he slowly relaxed.

 

Once he closed his eyes, his breathing changing to that of sleep, she leaned in and kissed him on the forehead.  Then she got up and left him, closing the door gently behind her.

 

She went to the comm terminal in her bedroom, called the embassy, Sarek’s private line. 

 

He answered it immediately.  “Are you all right?”

 

She nodded.  “Spock’s home.”

 

His eyebrows pulled down slightly.  “I have not seen him yet.”

 

“Because he’s here.”  At his look she added, “In the guest bedroom.”

 

“He came to you.  Of course.”  He nodded.  “Will he be staying with you?”

 

“No.  Not past tonight.  I’ll make that clear in the morning.”

 

“Have you fully considered that?”

 

Even over the comm channel, she could hear a myriad of things in his voice. 

 

“I don’t need to.  I like being chosen for myself.  I lost that battle eight years ago.”

 

“I understand.”  His eyes were full of support.  “I will let my wife know Spock is home.”

 

“Thank you.  Good night, Sarek.”  She cut the comm channel and went to bed, but sleep was a long time coming.

 

##

 

Chapel was sitting in the embassy parlor with Amanda.  Saalen was with his father, playing chess in Spock’s bedroom.

 

“I want to clear the air between us, Christine.”  Amanda picked up Danke, cuddled her to her chest, and then let her go when the cat struggled to get free.  “I know that you resented me for siding with Jim.”

 

Chapel resisted commenting that clearing the air didn’t normally start with pointing out how the fault was with the other person.  “And you resented me for getting Saalen when you wanted to raise him.”

 

“I did.  That’s true.”  She sighed.  “As it turns out, you were the better choice.”  She handed Chapel a padd, some medical test results were shown.

 

Chapel studied them, then met her eyes.  “Oh, Amanda.  I’m so sorry.”

 

“I won’t see him past his next birthday.  That would hardly have been fair to him, leaving him like that, so I guess it’s good you got him after all.”  She took back the padd.  “I haven’t been feeling like myself for a while.  I just got these results, so now I know why.  I’ve told Sarek, but I don’t think it’s fair to put this on Spock when he’s still reeling from Jim’s death.”

 

Chapel wasn’t sure what to say, so she stayed silent.

 

“You don’t approve?”

 

“It’s not my call.  He’s not my son.”

 

“What if it were Saalen?”

 

“Saalen is seven.  Spock is grown.  They are hardly equitable comparisons.”  She got up.  “You don’t need my permission to keep this from Spock, Amanda.  Nor did you need to include me only to tell me not to say anything.  And I don’t think you really give a goddamn about clearing the air between us.”

 

Amanda leaned back, a small smile playing at her lips.  “You speak your mind, Christine.  You’re so like Jim in that respect.”

 

“Don’t.  Don’t do that to me.  Don’t try to play me.”

 

Amanda got up and walked over to her.  “Fine.  Plain speaking, then.  Spock needs you.”

 

“You have got to be kidding.  He chose someone else.  He was with me and he left.  And you don’t even like me that much.”

 

“I do like you, Christine.  And you and Spock were quite happy when Jim was out of the picture.  There is no reason to think you would not be again.”  She took Chapel’s hands in hers.  “I’m thinking of my son here.  I want him settled before I go.  I know you can understand that because of how you feel about Saalen.  You would only want what’s best for him.”

 

“And when the time comes, I hope I’ll let him figure out for himself what’s best for him.” 

 

Amanda dropped her hands as if stung.  “You loved Spock once.”

 

“And he left me.  What if Sarek left you?”

 

“Sarek won’t.”  There was something in Amanda’s expression.  Something hard that then turned sad.  “But I will leave him, won’t I?”

 

Chapel swallowed hard and turned away.

 

“Do not say a thing to Spock.”

 

“I got that part.  And I won’t tell Saalen, not until Spock knows.”  She turned back to look at Amanda.  “If you need anything...medical—or that doesn’t involve me going back to Spock—you only need to ask.”

 

“I appreciate that.”  Amanda’s face was as stone still as any Vulcan’s.  “You can tell Saavik.  You see her more than I do these days.”

 

Chapel nodded then hurried out, trying not to look like she was fleeing.

 

##

 

Saavik and Chapel were just sitting down to eat breakfast when Saalen came into the house, followed by Spock.  Saalen mumbled something that sounded like “Good morning,” scooped up Malika, and ran upstairs.

 

“Is he all right?”  Chapel looked at Spock. 

 

“I had to tell him about my mother.”

 

She exchanged a look with Saavik, who closed her eyes.  “I’m sorry.”

 

“You knew and did not tell me.”  It was clear that he was not asking—Amanda must have told him they knew.

 

“She asked me not to.”  Told her not to was more like it.  Goddamn ordered her not to. 

 

“Are you hungry, Spock?”  Saavik was watching him closely, as if she was afraid he was going to explode from the losses he was facing.

 

“No.  I ate with Saalen at the diner Jim loved.”

 

Chapel got up and said, “I’m going to check on Saalen,” and left them alone to talk. 

 

Saalen was lying on the bed, stroking the cat as she lay draped over him.  “Why can’t you fix Grandmother?  You’re a doctor.  She’s sick.”

 

Chapel sat next to him and rubbed his arm.  “There are limits to what medicine can do.  Your grandmother has a disease we can’t cure.”

 

“Are you going to get sick?  You go to planets where there are sick people.  They might have diseases you can’t cure, too.”

 

“Oh, sweetheart, I’m very careful.  And I don’t go as often as I used to.”

 

“You shouldn’t go at all.  You should stay here.”

 

“For a while, I will.”  She leaned down and kissed his forehead.  “I’m so sorry.  I was your age when I lost the only grandparent I knew.  I know how confusing this is.  Especially after we lost Jim.”

 

He nodded and petted Malika more roughly.  The cat just purred and stayed where she was.

 

“Malika will die someday, won’t she?”

 

Chapel nodded.  “But we take good care of her and she’s a big, strong cat.  She has many years ahead of her.” 

 

Saalen turned, dumping Malika off as he curled into Chapel.  She rubbed his back, and the cat crawled back onto his side, purring very loudly as she kneaded his shoulder.

 

“I’m so sorry, sweetheart.”  She stayed with him for a long time, until he finally let go of her and said he was all right.  The Vulcan boy back in place.

 

She went downstairs and saw that Spock was gone. 

 

Saavik met her eyes.  “Is Saalen all right?”

 

Chapel nodded. “He’s worried I’m going to die.”

 

“But not me, is he?”  She raised a hand when Chapel started to answer.  “It’s all right, Christine.  This is the way I wanted it.  That was a statement of fact, not dismay.”  She got up and put her arms around Chapel.  “You’ve been the best mother I could want for him.”

 

Chapel realized Saavik was crying, so she held her tightly and murmured, “I’m sorry about Amanda, kiddo.”

 

“Me, too.  I was horrible to her when I first arrived on Vulcan.  I don’t know why she kept trying, but she did.”  Saavik let her go, brushing her eyes impatiently, as if she wished she hadn’t cried.  “I think I’ll stay home with Saalen today.”

 

“I think that would be a very good idea.”  She kissed Saavik on the forehead.

 

“Have I thanked you?  For taking me in, for raising Saalen?”

 

“Yes.  But you don’t have to.”

 

##

 

Chapel looked down at the comm message Saavik had sent her.  “It is over,” was all it said.

 

She closed her eyes for a moment then walked up to Saalen’s room.  He was working on a heritage project his social studies teacher had assigned.  It had been an interesting discussion when she had explained to him that the fact that she was English and German didn’t have any real relevance to the project. 

 

He told her it did.  That it colored the environment, if not his DNA.  He sounded very like his father at times.  She had finally given up and let him include her background in the family study.

 

“Can you take a break for a minute, Saalen.  I need to talk to you.”

 

He put his work down and came over to where she sat on the bed.

 

“Sit down, baby.”

 

He looked down.  “You never call me that anymore.  It’s Grandmother, isn’t it?”

 

“Yes.  She’s gone, Saalen.  I’m so sorry.”

 

He swallowed hard and leaned up against her.  “Shouldn’t we have been there?”

 

“This is how she wanted it.”  Amanda had told Chapel she didn’t want Saalen to have to see her laboring for her last breaths.  That she wanted him to remember her alive, not lifeless in her bed.

 

Saalen turned and hugged her, and she wrapped her arms around him and wished just once he’d let himself cry.  His mother was capable of it—had probably cried when Amanda had passed.

 

“I’m sorry, baby.  I’m so sorry.”  She realized she wasn’t crying, either—was that why Saalen didn’t?  Because Chapel didn’t let herself do it these days?

 

Was she a bad influence on the boy?

 

He looked up at her and said, “I love you, Christine,” in a voice that held a world of sorrows.

 

“I love you, too, Saalen.  More than you’ll ever know.”

 

##

 

Chapel rushed into the house, saw Amy standing at the French doors that led outside.  “Where is he?”

 

“Out there.  He came in when we were having lunch.  Just...went out into the garden and sat down in the sun.”

 

“I’ll take care of it.”

 

“Saalen’s worried about his grandfather.  I finally told him to go upstairs with Malika.”

 

“That was the right thing.  Can you stay a while longer?  I may need to go with Sarek back to the embassy.”

 

“I can stay as long as you need me.”

 

“What would I do without you?”

 

“Hire a different nanny?”  Amy smiled.  “But I’m glad you hired me.”

 

Chapel saw Sarek get up and walk deeper into the garden, finally seeking shade she hoped.  She opened the door and went out.

 

“You have no roses.”  He didn’t turn to look at her; he probably knew her footsteps.

 

“No.  I never have any luck with them.  This garden survives on its own, I’m afraid.”  She walked over to where he stood, gazing at her azaleas. 

 

“She had a rose that color.”

 

“I remember it.  In the back corner of the garden?” 

 

He nodded.  “You did not come often to Vulcan.”

 

“I know.  But I remember the rose.  Red Rapture I think was the name.”

 

“I did not pay enough attention to them.  I do not know their names.”

 

She stroked his back, felt him lean into her hand.  “I’m sorry you’re hurting, Sarek.”

 

“The embassy seems very empty.  Even fully staffed.”

 

“I know.  Come inside where it’s cooler.”

 

“I am Vulcan.  I can stand the heat.”

 

“Yes, of course you can.”  She was unsure what to do.

 

He stood staring at the flower.  Then he reached for her hand and held on tightly.

 

She heard the door open, turned, and saw Saalen walking toward them.  He came and stood on Sarek’s other side, leaning against him, his head pressed into Sarek’s hip.  Sarek reached down and put his hand on Saalen’s shoulder, rubbing gently.

 

“Stay and have dinner with us, Sarek.”

 

He nodded but did not let go of her hand or of Saalen.

 

“Grandfather, I need your assistance.”

 

She frowned, unsure what Saalen needed help with.

 

Sarek finally looked away from the flower.

 

“I’m working on a project for school.  It is on personal heritage.  Where we come from.”

 

Sarek nodded.

 

“Can you help me with the part on Grandmother’s family?  I can’t ask her now.”

 

Chapel smiled as Sarek said, “Yes.  Yes, of course I can.”

 

He let go of Chapel’s hand and followed Saalen in to the house.  They disappeared upstairs as Chapel went back inside.

 

“You don’t have to stay, Amy.  Unless you want to eat dinner with us.”

 

“What’s on the menu?”

 

“Not meat.”  She grinned.  “Spaghetti with eggplant maybe.”

 

“I’ve been craving a burger.  No offense.”

 

Chapel smiled.  “Don’t worry: I’m a carnivore at heart.  I just have lived with Vulcans for too long.” 

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow.  I hope Sarek’s okay.”

 

“I think he will be.  It’s a hard time for him.  They were married so long.”

 

“That’s so rare.  There are so many term marriages nowadays, and they barely last a year, let alone get renewed.”

 

Chapel nodded and saw her out, then got busy getting dinner ready.  She could just make out Sarek’s voice from upstairs, as he told Saalen about his grandmother.

 

##

 

Chapel came into Ops from a meeting, saw Sarek talking with Captain Lorcas.  Then he turned and came out to where she was standing. 

 

“Hello,” she said with a smile.

 

“Good afternoon.  Can you walk for a bit?”

 

“I can.  Would do me good.  I’ve been sitting for two hours in a very dull meeting.”

 

They walked along the hallways of Command, and he finally said very softly, “I wish to apologize for the other day.”

 

“The other day when you helped your grandson with his homework?”

 

He glanced at her.  “I should not have burst into your home that way.”

 

“Why not.  You’re on the door for a reason, Sarek.  Think of it as our home, not mine.”

 

“Nevertheless, I—”

 

“Whatever you’re going to say, just stow it.  You’re family, Sarek.  And you’re my friend on top of that.  Whatever drew you to the house, you’re always welcome there.  You know that.  I love having you around, and so do Saavik and Saalen.”

 

He seemed about to say something and she held up her hand.  “I mean it.  No more apologies.  If you have something else to say, then go ahead.”

 

His eyes lightened as he looked at her.  “The fact that you will not entertain an apology is no doubt one of the reasons I came to you.”

 

“I’m always here for you.  Just like you were there for me when I needed you.”

 

He nodded and they walked a little before he said, “Your spaghetti the other night was delicious.  I have not had it prepared that way before.”

 

“All in the same pan?”  She laughed.  “That’s what you end up with when English/German people try to make Italian food.  I didn’t know there was any other way to eat it until I got into high school.”

 

“There is a Vulcan dish that my mother used to make—she would have said the proper way, but others less charitable would have said incorrectly.  I still prefer teshanya the way she prepared it.”

 

Chapel smiled.  “It’s what we grow up with that makes us who we are.”

 

He nodded, then his expression changed.  “If I were to tell you how she changed the recipe, would you prepare it for me?”

 

“What?  You think just because I mess up spaghetti, I can properly mess up anything?”  She laughed.  “Yes, I would be happy to.  It’ll be good for Saalen to try it, if it’s something...native to your family.”

 

He nodded.  “Thank you for transforming my nostalgic, emotional request into a learning experience for my grandson.”

 

“Oh, I can rationalize anything, Grandpa.”  She took his arm for a moment, then realized they were not alone in the hallway and let of him quickly.  “I’m sorry.  I don’t know what I was thinking.”

 

“I did not mind, Christine.”  His expression was untroubled as they continued their walk.

 

##

 

Chapel was getting Saalen’s bag ready for a weekend with Spock.  Sarek was in the living room with the boy, giving advice on the science project that Saalen had half completed.  She could hear their low voices murmuring, the sound soothing to her.  Saalen had been asking Sarek’s advice ever since the heritage project—as if he knew that he was helping his grandfather and at the same time getting invaluable assistance.  Win, win: the family way.

 

She walked out to where they were.  “Do you know where your father is taking you, kiddo?”

 

“Jim’s house in the mountains.”  Saalen looked up at her.  “Father seems sad when we’re there.”

 

“I’m sure he is, sweetie.  He loved Jim a lot.”

 

“I did, too.”  Saalen went back to his project, leaving Sarek and Chapel to exchange a wry look over his head.

 

“Do you approve of the route he took with that project, Sarek?  I thought it was highly original.”  She loved seeing Saalen gravitate so naturally to science.  They’d had a great time discussing possible topics before he’d settled on one.

 

“Indeed.  Most interesting.”

 

The chime sounded, and she went to get it, smiling at Spock as she led him into the living room.

 

He looked surprised to see Sarek there.  “Father.”

 

“My son.”  Sarek leaned down, said something softly to Saalen, then more loudly, “Go now.  Your father is waiting.”

 

Saalen put his project into a cabinet where Malika wouldn’t bother it and said, “Thank you for your advice, Grandfather.  I had not considered those possibilities.”

 

“It was most enjoyable to consult with you.”

 

“Get your bag, kiddo.  It’s in your room.”  As soon as he was out of the room, she turned to Spock.  “Are you sure going to Jim’s is a good idea?”

 

“Antonia will not be there.”

 

“That’s not what I meant.  Won’t it make you sad?  And is that the mood you want to be in on a weekend with your son?”

 

He raised an eyebrow.  “Thinking of what one has lost can induce negative feelings.  But I will endeavor not to let those spill over into my interactions with my son.  The house is located on a beautiful ridge and Saalen enjoys hiking.  It seems...appropriate for us to go there together.”

 

“It’s your call.”

 

He moved closer.  “I would like to talk to you in a more private manner when I return.  If that is agreeable?”  He glanced over at Sarek, as if embarrassed to be asking her this in front of him.

 

“Fine.”  She turned as Saalen came out with his carryall.  “Be a good boy for your father.”

 

He nodded solemnly.  “Play with Malika when I am gone?  She will get lonely.”

 

“As will I, young man.  What about me?”

 

“Grandfather will keep you company.”  He leaned against her briefly, then headed for the door.

 

“Go,” she said to Spock.  “Time waits for no man and neither does your son.”

 

Spock looked amused as he nodded to both her and Sarek before taking off after Saalen.

 

She sighed as the door closed behind them.  Then she heard Sarek come up behind her.

 

“We must talk.”

 

She turned; he was standing very close.  “I—”

 

“I misspoke.  I must talk.  You must listen.”  She let her eyebrows go up and he added, “Please?”

 

She nodded and let him lead her to the sofa.  He took a seat next to her. 

 

“Christine, I must know something.  I saw interest on Spock’s part just now.  Does that make you...happy?”

 

“Just because he wants to speak to me in private does not mean he’s interested.”

 

“I know my son.  Answer the question, Christine.  It is a simple one.”

 

She met his eyes.  “Why do you want to know?”

 

“You are too intelligent to ask that.  The connection between us is not something I have imagined.”  He rose and paced to the window, just as he had the night he’d come to her on Starbase Twelve.  “This is not how I would have preferred to broach this.  It is too soon after Amanda’s passing for my words to be proper.  But I did not like what I saw on my son’s face.  That said, if it is he who you desire, I will remove myself from the equation.”

 

“Remove yourself?  You’re Saalen’s grandfather.”  She got up and walked to where he stood.

 

“I do not come here merely for Saalen, and we both know it.  I could be here less often, find myself off Earth more frequently.”

 

“I would not like that,” she said quickly, and he turned to look at her. 

 

“You would not?”

 

She shook her head.

 

“I dishonor my wife—the strength of the desire I have for you.  The...emotion.”

 

“So we’ll wait until you won’t dishonor her.”

 

He narrowed his eyes, then moved toward her.  “I find that solution untenable.  Spock will move, and I will not have claimed you.”

 

“Claimed?”  She let an eyebrow go up, a grin playing at her lips.

 

He stopped very close to her.  “A poor choice of words, I realize, with a human.  Yet...it is how I feel.”

 

She touched his face, and he closed his eyes for a moment.  “You feel primitive?”

 

He nodded.

 

“You want me?”

 

He nodded again and reached out for her, touching her face gently.

 

“You love me?”

 

“I have always.  Although I am not sure when regard for you as Spock’s mate changed to this.”

 

“Maybe when I stopped being his mate?”  She smiled and pressed against him, smiled more broadly when she heard him moan.  “Do you want to wait?  I’ll do whatever is best.”

 

He had his eyes closed.  “I do not want to lose you.”

 

“He left me, Sarek.  He left me for Jim.  You have never abandoned me.  Why would I ever choose him over you?”

 

“Because you love him.”

 

“Is that why you asked me how strongly I felt for him, that time in your library?  You wanted to know if I could love you?”

 

“Possibly.”

 

“I already love you.  I always have.  And like you, I’m not sure when you stopped being a father-in-law, started being a man I could imagine being with.  Could fantasize about.”  She murmured the last bit in his ear, pressed against him.

 

He pulled her close, held her very tightly.  She felt his lips on her neck, then he whispered in her ear, “We must wait.  The period of mourning is prescribed by ritual.”

 

“Of course.”  She eased away from him.

 

He brushed the hair off her face, studied her intently.  “I did not tell Amanda that I loved her often enough for her needs.  I will not make the same mistake with you.”

 

She put a hand over his lips.  “Don’t.  I had a Vulcan who told me he loved me.  Right up to the moment he left me for another.  Show me you love me—don’t say it.  I don’t care about the words.”

 

“Most wise.  And most Vulcan.”

 

“I am not that.”

 

“I do not mind.”  He eased away from her.  “Although we must be circumspect, I would still like to spend time with you alone.  There is a new exhibit at the art museum.”

 

“Anything you want.”  She smiled at him, saw him seem to relax.  She thought it was at the pure joy in her expression.

 

“And dinner.  At any restaurant you desire.”

 

“I guess here in the apartment is out?”  She grinned.

 

“Despite how good your teshanya was, staying here is not an option.  I would not be able to honor the period of mourning were I to be alone with you in private for very long.”

 

“You want me that much?”

 

He nodded.  Then he looked away.  “But perhaps you do not feel the same zeal.  If that is the case then you must—”

 

He stopped talking because she was kissing him.  At first, she thought he was shocked, but then he pulled her to him, his mouth opening, his touch more possessive than Spock’s had ever been.

 

They finally pulled away.

 

“That enough zeal for you, Gramps?”  She laughed softly.

 

“Indeed.”  He touched her lips, tracing the shape of her mouth, and his expression was so light, so unguarded, it made her feel a rush of tenderness for him.  “Will you persist in calling me that when we are lovers?”

 

“Probably.”  She grinned.  “Unless you ask me very nicely not to.  Or think of other things I might like enough to give up that nickname.”

 

“I will consider the best thing to offer.”

 

“You do that.” 

 

##

 

Chapel was making dinner when she heard a flitter pull up outside, the sound of the door opening, then the pound of familiar feet.

 

“Malika,” Saalen called and a trilling miaow answered him back from the upper level. 

 

“Nice to know where I rate, kiddo.  Below the damn cat.”

 

“Hello, Christine.  I missed you.”

 

She laughed and went back to cooking.

 

“I, too, have missed you.”

 

She nearly burned herself in surprise, turning to look at Spock.  “A little notice.  A cough.  Anything?”

 

“I apologize.  I did say I wanted to speak in private.”

 

“So, we’re doing this now?”

 

Spock moved into the kitchen, leaned against the counter at the side of the stove, the same place he used to stand in their apartment.  “I have missed you.”

 

She could feel herself tensing.  “Since when?  Since you left or just since Jim died?”

 

He didn’t flinch, just nodded as if he’d been expecting an attack.  “I regret that I could not stay with you.”

 

Did not stay.  You could have.”

 

He looked down.  She had the feeling he was becoming frustrated with the way the conversation was going.  Had he thought she could be so easily manipulated?  A few heartfelt “I miss you’s” and she’d be his again?

 

Because the problem was, she’d been his, but he’d never been hers.  And she wasn’t about to forget that.

 

“You know I miss him, too,” she said.   “You’re not the only one who lost someone when Jim died.”

 

“I am aware of that.”

 

She turned the flame off the stove, put a lid on the pan to keep the food warm.  “Why are you here?”

 

“Because I was bringing my son back to you.  My son.”

 

“Yes.  He’s your son.  And I’ve never done anything to jeopardize the relationship you have with him.”

 

“Have I told you how much I appreciate that?”

 

“Don’t tell me now.  I don’t trust your motives.”  She leaned back and crossed her arms over her chest.  “What do you want?”

 

“I remember our time together with warmth.”

 

“And I remember my first kitten with warmth.  But she’s gone and she’s not coming back.  You should embrace that concept.”

 

“Are you with McCoy again?”

 

“Spock, leave this alone.  Who I see or don’t see is not your concern.”  Which wasn’t strictly true since it was his father she was seeing, but she had a point to make and she was damn well going to make it.

 

“Saalen would be happy if we were together.  It would provide...stability.”

 

Provide?  As in it’s been missing?  Listen, bucko, I was the one who stayed on Earth.  I’ve been here for him while you were out gallivanting around the cosmos with Jim.  And when I wasn’t here, Saavik was.  Or your father and mother were.  Saalen has stability—it’s you who don’t.”

 

He finally looked angry—and like he was seeing that he was not going to win this one.  “I was in the boy’s life as much as I could be.  I included him with Jim—I did learn from my mistakes with Saavik.”

 

“Yes, you did.  And I’m not saying you’re to blame for your choices.  But don’t you dare imply that he hasn’t had a stable life.  He’s happy, and he’s well adjusted, and I’ve made considerable effort to ensure he stays that way.”

 

There was the stomp of feet upstairs and then Saalen came down and went into the living room, followed by his striped brown shadow.  

 

She turned back to the stove, getting the flame going again and taking the lid off the pan.  “I’ve got to get dinner on.  I’d invite you to stay, but I’ve only made enough for two.”

 

Spock looked at the pan, which held enough food for four people.  “I see.”

 

“Thank you for dropping Saalen off.  I can’t wait to hear what you two did.  From him, I mean.  Not from you.”

 

“Yes.  Your meaning was not lost on me.”  He looked into the living room, and she could tell he was watching Saalen.  “Was what I did so terrible, Christine?  I chose another, but you were always important to me.”

 

“I don’t want to be the runner up, the one who gets to wear the crown now that the real winner can’t fulfill his duties.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t do that again.”

 

“There will be no Jim to interfere.”  His voice was off, as if even he knew he was putting forward a weak counter.

 

“Spock, go away.”  She stirred the food, concentrating on the simple rhythm, trying not to say something she’d regret forever.

 

She heard him sigh.  He stood a moment longer, then he left.

 

##

 

Chapel’s comm panel pinged as she was getting ready to leave Ops.  She rushed to get it, sure that it would be Commander Dhonna with information she’d asked for.

 

It was Sarek.   She’d seen him quite often since their talk—and their kiss—but always with Saalen there, or in public if they were alone.  He was honoring Amanda’s memory the way his traditions required, and Chapel liked that.  Respect was important to him.

 

She grinned at him.  “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

 

“I have been invited to a diplomatic function at Admiral Johnston’s.  It will be tedious.  Would you like to accompany me?”

 

She started to laugh.  “Is that your normal wooing technique?  Because it needs work.”

 

“We understand each other, do we not?  Do I need to couch it in terms of romance?”

 

She thought about that.  What had romance done for her that plain speaking couldn’t?  “No, it’s fine.  So I’m going as your...?”

 

“Companion.”

 

“I was looking for the word ‘date.’  But I’ll accept companion.  Dress uniform?”

 

He nodded.  “The admiral assumed I would come alone.  I told him I would be bringing you.  Was that presumptuous of me?”

 

“Uh, yes.”  She grinned at him.  “You’re lucky I like you, Sarek.”

 

“I am indeed.  I will pick you up at your house at six.”

 

“See you then.”  She cut the channel, then commed her house.  Amy answered, laughing as she did so.  “Oh, Christine.  We’ve been playing catch.”

 

“Inside?”

 

“No, of course not.”  She rolled her eyes.  “What’s going on?”

 

“Can you stay late tonight?  I have a function to go to.”

 

“Sure.  Could use some extra credits—there’s a dress I have my eye on.”

 

“Thank you.  You’re my hero.  I’ll be coming home to change and then I’ll be out of your hair.”

 

“I think I might take Saalen to my house, if that’s okay?  Jack’s in town for training, and I haven’t seen much of him.  Saalen adores him.  I can bring him back tomorrow after work.”

 

“Sounds great.  Tell your brother I said hi.”

 

“He told me to tell you thanks for the recommendation to the Excelsior.”

 

“It was the least I could do.  For you, for saving my life so many times.  And for the Fleet, because he’s a great officer.”  She saw another comm alert, maybe this one was Dhonna.  Gotta go.”

 

“See you tomorrow.  Saalen, get your bags packed.  We’re going to see Jack.”  She cut the comm channel as she yelled, and Chapel smiled at her boisterous good humor.  Saalen was in good hands.

 

She changed to the other comm, got the information she needed from Dhonna, and sent it on.  The rest of the morning went by in a blur and she grabbed a nutrition bar for lunch. 

 

Saavik came in near shift change, smiling at her as she stood near her station.  “Do you want to get some dinner tonight?”

 

“Can’t.  Going with Sarek to some diplomatic thing.”

 

Saavik’s smile turned into a full-on grin.  “Going with him.  Or with him?”

 

“Never let it be said you haven’t mastered the subtleties, my darling.  If I say it might be the latter, would you disapprove?”

 

“Disapprove that the two people I love most in this world are spending time together?  No, I would not disapprove.  I expect details.”

 

“That seems wrong.  He’s like your grandfather.”

 

“Nevertheless, I would like to know if it went well.  I do not need a play-by-play.”  She looked extremely pleased, and Chapel suspected it was at the use of the word.

 

“Good, because you’re not going to get it.”  She turned to face her.  “I was afraid you might be still rooting for Spock and me.”

 

“He left you.  Had he come back to you while Jim was still alive, I would have accepted it happily as the way things should be.  But I do not think you should take him back now that Jim is gone.  I believe it would bother you.”

 

“You’re not wrong.”  She leaned back.  “He made an attempt.  I wasn’t receptive, so I don’t think he’ll try again.”

 

“Imagine how awkward it will be for him if you become his stepmother.”  Saavik looked like the idea of Spock being uncomfortable made her a little bit happy.

 

“Be nice.”

 

“I am being nice.  I could be much more vicious if I chose.  Lunch tomorrow, then.  You can tell me whatever you deem acceptable to share with me.”  Another small smile and then she was gone.

 

##

 

Sarek was right on time, but she was ready—these days she could put on a dress uniform in her sleep.  She’d taken a little extra time with her makeup and hair, and though he did not compliment her, she thought by the way he studied her that he noticed.

 

The flitter ride was too quick to worry about small talk, so she leaned back and enjoyed the ride, the silence between them easy instead of strained.  Just before they arrived at Johnston’s, she said softly, “Amy took Saalen to her house tonight.”

 

Sarek looked at her, his eyebrow going up.

 

“Just making conversation.”  She grinned at him.  “File it away or ignore it.  Whatever feels best.”

 

He nodded as if she’d said something very wise, and helped her out of the flitter.  “I believe I do not wish to ignore this news.”

 

“No?”

 

“No.”

 

“Okay, then.”  She started to laugh softly as she walked next to him.  This was the least romantic romance ever. 

 

But if that was so, why did she suddenly feel so aroused?

 

Sarek was very solicitous and didn’t leave her side, which was great until they ran into Spock at the other end of Johnston’s large living room.

 

“Father.”  Spock’s eyebrows came down as he studied them together.  “I am surprised to see you here, Christine.”

 

“She is with me, Spock.”  Sarek said it very mildly, as if he was saying Earth’s sky was blue.  And yet there was somehow still a declaration in there.  And a warning.

 

Hands off.

 

It made her very happy. 

 

She gave Spock her blandest smile.  “It’s good to see you.”  As soon as he mingled out of ear range, she turned to Sarek.  “You didn’t say he would be here.”

 

“I was not privy to the guest list, Christine.  Does it bother you for him to see us together?”

 

“No.  I just thought I’d get some notice.”

 

“If I had known, I would have told you.  It is useful, in all honesty, for him to see us this way.  Do you not think so?”

 

“You mean it’ll save you from having to explain that you’re dating his ex?”

 

“I would have found another way to phrase it, but yes.”  His eyes were light.  “I enjoyed that interaction with him.  Does that make me petty?”

 

“Yes.”  She grinned.  “But also ruthlessly efficient.  You came, you grabbed the girl, you put him on notice.”

 

“And in Latin that is vini...?

 

She laughed.  “I have no idea.  If it’s not a medical or biochem term, my Latin is rusty.”  She leaned in just a little.  “So far, this is not tedious.”

 

“I agree.  With you here, it is not.”

 

Spock seemed to avoid them during the evening, which made it easier for Chapel to relax with Sarek.  She wasn’t sure how Sarek did it, but he managed to make it very clear he was with her without ever being anything other than the perfect Vulcan.

 

“We have done our duty,” he said, gently steering her toward Johnston.  “Admiral, a pleasure as always.”

 

“Thank you for coming.”  Johnston grinned at her.  “Nice to see you, too, Christine.  Oh and rumor has it you might want to polish your bureaucracy skills.”

 

“Sir?” 

 

“With Cartwright running off the rails, there’s likely to be some movement in the upward direction. Lorcas is on the admiral’s list that’s coming out tomorrow—don’t tell him, I want it to be a surprise.  He’s a shoe-in to take Cartwright’s place.”

 

“So acting head again, huh?”  She made a face.

 

“Don’t be so quick to put acting in front of the title.  Captain’s list is coming out tomorrow, too.”  He winked at her.  “Well, I’ll quit yammering and let you two get going.”

 

As she and Sarek headed for the door, Sarek murmured, “Congratulations are in order.”

 

“I guess so.  I’m in shock.”  She smiled up at him.  “But a good kind of shock.”

 

He nodded, and looked very proud of her.  She was glad he’d been there to hear it.

 

Spock was suddenly in front of them.  “Father, you are leaving?”

 

“As you say, my son.”

 

“Perhaps I should come with you?”

 

“No need to trouble yourself.  Stay.  Enjoy the evening.”  With a subtle push on her elbow, Sarek had them moving by Spock and out the door.

 

“Wow, you just completely outmaneuvered him.”

 

“I am older and less bound by worry that I will be too human when I pursue what I want.”

 

“True enough.”  She grinned at him.  “I didn’t mind.”

 

“I am sure you did not.”  He hailed a flitter.  “Do you wish to eat?”

 

“Would you think badly of me if I said no?”

 

“I would think you highly logical in not wasting time on an activity in which you have no interest.”

 

“Then color me logical, kind sir.”

 

He programmed her address into the flitter screen, then sat back.  “I, too, have little interest in dining.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

He nodded, did not look at her, but there was something about the set of his mouth that in a human would be a grin.  Then he turned to study her.  “I enjoyed taking you from my son.  I should examine that at some point.”

 

“Or not.  You two have a rather competitive relationship at the best of times.”

 

“And these are not the best of times?”

 

She thought about that.  “If he wants me back, it’s because I’m comfortable for him.  Not because he can’t stand the thought of not having me.”

 

“Are you certain?  I believe he did care for you deeply.”

 

“Not deeply enough.  And I don’t want to go back there and grab him instead of staying with you.  I think that says it all, doesn’t it?”

 

He nodded.

 

“Are you having second thoughts?” she asked.

 

“No.  I merely do not want you rushing into something you may regret later.”

 

“It’s been over a year since you came to Starbase Twelve, Sarek.  And that’s when everything changed for me.  So, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve hardly rushed into this.”

 

“Logical.”

 

“I can be.  For once logic and love may coincide.”

 

“Most fortuitous.”  He helped her out of the flitter once it pulled in front of her house, followed her to the door.

 

“You can open it.  You know you’re on the access list.”

 

“I did not want to appear overeager.”

 

She grinned.  “Open the damn door, Sarek.”

 

“As you wish.”  He palmed the door open. 

 

Once inside, they stood facing each other, and he reached out and very gently traced the curve of her cheek.  She closed her eyes and sighed softly as he moved to her lips, his fingers gentle.

 

“You love me.”  He looked very satisfied, and she could tell he was reading that from the touch.

 

“I love you in so many ways, Sarek.”  She touched his hair, then let her fingers drop to his ear.

 

He groaned.  “And I love you.”

 

“I know.”  She moved closer, pressed against him.

 

He pulled her to him, no longer gentle, drawing her with him to the couch.  He sat and pulled her onto his lap, his lips finding hers in a sweet kiss that quickly turned more passionate, more possessive.  “You are mine.”

 

“And you’re mine?”

 

He nodded with no hesitation as he began to ease her uniform top off.

 

“That sounds wonderful.”

 

##

 

Chapel woke to the feel of Sarek’s hand on her leg, stroking, then moving higher.  She laughed in an exhausted way.  “You’re insatiable.”

 

“You make me so.”

 

He said the nicest things.  She smiled and closed her eyes, giving herself up to his hands and mouth.  Moaning loudly, she rode it out as he took her higher and higher and finally let her fall.  Then he was inside her, moving carefully, his eyes pressed shut as he called out her name over and over.  The word clear and never in doubt:  “Christine.  Christine.  Christine.”

 

She dug her nails into his back just enough to feel good, but not to leave marks.  She’d discovered last night that he seemed to like it—he seemed to like anything she wanted to do to him.

 

He collapsed against her, and she wrapped her arms around him and rubbed his back. 

 

“You will be late for work at this rate,” he finally murmured into her neck.

 

She laughed.

 

Downstairs she heard the door slam, then the pound of running feet.  “Christine?”

 

“Crap.”  What was Saalen doing here?

 

Sarek was off her in record time, but she could tell he was unsure what to do, so she said, “Just lie there like you have every right to be in the bed.”

 

He pulled the covers up over them just as Saalen rushed into the bedroom through the door they hadn’t bothered to close.

 

“Hello, grandfather,” he said, then focused on Christine.  “Jack is going to Mount Shasta to hike.  He said I could go as long as you said it was all right.  Jim used to go hiking.”

 

“Jim used to go rock climbing.”

 

Saalen shook his head.  “This is just hiking, no climbing.  Jack promised I’d be safe.  Please?”

 

She saw how excited he was, thought it wouldn’t hurt for him to be around a human male.  “Fine.”

 

“Thank you.  Amy says hello.”  Saalen turned to go, then looked back.  “Grandfather, are you all right?”

 

“Just fine, child.”

 

“You seem quiet.  When I sleep over with my friend Rodney, we talk all the time.  Okay, bye.”  He was off.

 

She could feel Sarek relax beside her and she started to laugh.  “I think we should be grateful he’s such an innocent.”

 

“I worry, though, that Saavik will hear about this from him.”

 

“Saavik wanted to go to dinner last night.  I had to tell her no.”

 

Sarek shot a look at her. 

 

“Don’t worry.  She’s a fan of us.  She and I are having lunch.  I’ll avoid giving her the gory details, but I’ll tell her things have changed, how’s that?”  At his careful nod, she asked, “Did you think she’d be mad?”

 

“She has always been a advocate for you and Spock.”

 

“Even she can see this is a better deal.”  She pushed him to his back.  “Now, where were we?”

 

He relaxed under her touch.  “Right there, I believe.”

 

##

 

Chapel looked up to see Spock standing at the doorway to her new office.  Things had moved quickly once she made captain—she was head of Ops for real.

 

“Congratulations on your promotion, Christine.”

 

“Thanks.”  She didn’t like the look in his eyes, like he was...angry.

 

“Is this a convenient time to talk?”

 

“Depends on what you want to talk about.”  She didn’t smile, didn’t try to make it easier for him.  She was done being welcoming Christine, especially when he looked like he did right now.

 

He came in and sat down.  “I wish to speak of you and my father.  As you well know, my father and my mother had a long and happy marriage.  He has recently lost her and is somewhat adrift.  He may see you as a welcoming...”

 

“Port in the storm?”

 

“Yes.  I worry that you have jumped into yet another relationship.”

 

She tried to bite back a laugh, failed when it came out as a soft snort.  “And you’re a better choice for me?  Is that what you’re here to say?”

 

“We were happy together, Christine.”

 

“I know.  That’s the hell of it.  But part of the reason we were happy is because I got Saavik and Sarek.  And wonder of wonders: you’re gone but they’re still here.”  She leaned in.  “Moreover, everything you just said about Sarek could describe you.”

 

“I realize that but—”

 

“What I have with your father is none of your concern.”

 

“It is when my son finds the two of you in bed.”

 

She hoped to God she wasn’t blushing.  “He told you that, huh?  Did he also tell you that we were having a sleepover?  He’s too young to understand.  He also, in his mind, sees me to some extent as his grandmother.  Sarek is his grandfather.  It probably makes sense to him that we’re together.  He’s taken it in stride since that morning.  And I never intended for him to see us: he was supposed to be at Amy’s.  He rushed in because Jack was going to take him hiking if I said it was okay.”

 

Spock looked down.  “Yes, he told me that part.”

 

“Then what’s the problem?  You mean to tell me he never caught you and Jim in less than optimum circumstances?  Because I remember a story about him bursting into the bathroom and seeing you two showering together.”

 

“He told you about that?”

 

She nodded.  “Kids do impulsive things.  They see things.  They don’t usually understand what they’re seeing.  End of story.  Your father and I will be more careful from here on out as I’m sure you and Jim were more careful.”  She leaned back, crossed her arms over her chest.  “Have you talked to Sarek about this?  Told him how I’m not suitable or how he is not in the correct frame of mind to form a meaningful relationship?”

 

“I have not.  It would get me nowhere.  He made it very clear the last time I saw him that you are with him.”

 

“Then what’s the problem?”  She smiled, and knew it wasn’t a very nice smile.  “Is it that you just don’t like knowing how Len felt.”

 

His expression grew stony.  “You never loved McCoy.  You did love me.  I hurt you when I left.”

 

“And I knew you’d hurt me.  I knew you wouldn’t choose me.  Now I have someone who is choosing me.  And I’m secure with him.  I trust him.”  She let the unsaid part dangle: that she didn’t trust Spock.  Would never, ever trust him with her heart again.  Then she uncrossed her arms and smiled gently, could tell the change in her threw him a little.  “Look, we’ve done a good job up to now raising your son.  Me, you, Jim, Saavik, Sarek, and your mother.  It’s been unconventional, but he’s used to that.  I’m proud of him.  Sarek and Saavik are too.  Aren’t you?”

 

“My feelings for my son are not at issue here.”

 

“They are if you use him against me because you don’t like me being with your father.”

 

He shook his head and stood up.  “I would not do that.  He is an exceptional child.  You have had a hand in his development, and I am aware of the debt I owe you for that.  You did not have to raise him, probably would have preferred not to.”

 

“Doesn’t matter what I would have wanted.  I have him and I love him.”

 

“You had me and loved me, too, Christine.”

 

“Look, I get that you’re at loose ends.  You lost your lover, your mother, and your protégé in one fell swoop.  I’m sorry for that.  But I’m not your savior, Spock.  I can’t be.  You left me.  When it mattered most, you left me.  And the fact that I knew you would doesn’t change the hurt you caused.”

 

“So you will not forgive me?”

 

“I have forgiven you.  I forgave you the minute I agreed that you’d be part of Saalen’s life—and didn’t try to turn him against you in any way.  But I’m not going to forget it happened.  And I’m certainly not going to take you back.  Find a new person to love.  I’m taken.”

 

He looked down.  “This will be most awkward at functions and dinners.”

 

“No more than it has been with me there solely as Saalen’s foster mom.  This time I have a role.  Your father’s woman.”

 

“Not his wife?”

 

She shrugged.  “That’s up to him.  I don’t care.  I didn’t care with you, why would I pester him about that?”

 

“If he loved you, he would marry you.”

 

She could feel her jaw tighten.  “I’m very busy, Spock.  Was there anything else?”

 

He stood and studied her.  “You belong with me.”

 

“As second best?  No thank you.”

 

##

 

Chapel lay in bed, trying not to let the conversation with Spock play in her head. 

 

“What is it?” Sarek asked softly.  He was staying over more and more.  They had sat down with Saalen and explained how things were between them—in the most general way, of course.  Saalen’s main question was if he would see his grandfather more with this new arrangement, and the answer that he would had pleased him greatly.

 

“Christine?”

 

“I had a weird talk with Spock today.”

 

“What did he say?”

 

“A lot of bullshit.”  She glanced at Sarek to see if he would wince at her swearing; he took it in stride.

 

“If it was, in fact, that, why does it have you so pensive?”

 

“Let’s drop it, all right?  He was just trying to spin my head.”

 

“And he clearly succeeded.  Christine, tell me what he said that has you so upset.”

 

She shook her head.

 

He pulled her to him and kissed her, moving down her neck to her chest, making her arch her back as he went to town on her breasts.  “Tell me.”

 

“That’s not fair.  I can’t think when you do that.”

 

“Then you will be too distracted to give me a creative excuse rather than an answer.  Tell me.”

 

“He said that if you really loved me I’d be your wife.”

 

Sarek stopped what he was doing and moved back up where she could see his eyes.  His were untroubled.  “You are not my wife because I have not asked you yet.  That does not mean I am not going to.”

 

“You don’t have to.”

 

“I want to.  You belong at my side.  As my wife.  I am not my son, content to let you dangle while I consider my options.  You are my only option.  You are the only thing I want.”  He kissed her, was unusually tender.  “I had not asked you as we are still finding our way together.  But I will ask you now, if you wish.  I do want to marry you, Christine.  I have wanted you for some time, and that desire has not waned with the having, as so often is the case.”

 

She smiled.  “No, it hasn’t.”  She reached down and began to play with her favorite part of him.

 

He put his hand over hers, stilling her movement but not pushing her off.  “I care for you deeply.  I would like to make this a permanent arrangement.  If you wish that?”  When she did not answer, he said, “I realize the way I said that is not romantic in human terms, but I did just ask you to marry me.”

 

She laughed.  “I know.”

 

“And your answer?”

 

“You love me.  You’ve been in my corner since the beginning.  I don’t have to doubt with you.  I don’t have to question who comes first in your heart.  I love you.  I should say yes.  But I don’t want you to think you have to marry me just to shut Spock up.”

 

He looked amused.  “A rather drastic step for what would be, at most, a temporary state of affairs—my son cannot remain quiet for long.  Especially if I am involved.”

 

She grinned and conceded that fact with a nod.

 

“I will do this in a way that is perhaps more convincing.”  He began to move his hand over hers, and she tightened her grip on him, causing him to close his eyes.  “Would you...consent to...marry me, Christine?”

 

She paused in what she was doing.  “I’m sorry, Gramps, the words are swell, but you cannot propose while I’m giving you a hand job.” 

 

“Then I will ask later.  Please continue.”

 

She nuzzled his neck as she pleasured him.  “Typical boy.”

 

##

 

The embassy was full of people Sarek considered close colleagues.  She had invited her friends as well.  This was their first party given jointly.  They mingled together, Sarek making it very clear how important she was to him by the attention he paid her.

 

Len came up to them with Nyota beside him.  Neither of them looked particularly friendly.  Chapel regretted Jan and Sulu being out on their ship—it would have been nice to have someone from the Enterprise here who still approved of her.

 

“Nice shindig, Christine.”  Len’s eyes were bland, the acid kept down—for now.

 

“I made sure your favorite bourbon was stocked.”  Then again his favorite bourbon was a lot of people’s pick so it hadn’t been that big a deal.  He didn’t need to know that, though.  Let him think she’d made an effort for him.

 

“Much appreciated.”  He nodded to Sarek.  “Sir, I trust you prosper?”

 

“I do.”  Something in Sarek’s voice told her he was knew about Len, even if he’d never mentioned her relationship with him.  What hadn’t he read from that damned meld with Jim?  We do.”

 

“Ah, we.”  Len grinned at Ny.  “There’s a we, sugar.  How do you like that?”

 

She gave Chapel a hug.  “Just be happy.”  There was something in her voice that said she didn’t think Chapel would be, or could be.  Or was Chapel projecting?

 

“I am happy.”  She wanted to give them both an easy smile, a happy-go-lucky one.  But there was something in the way they were looking at her that didn’t feel easy or lighthearted.  She straightened up.  They didn’t matter.  Not anymore.

 

“We’ll let you mingle,” Len said.  “Thank you for inviting us.”

 

Sarek nodded, then turned his attention immediately to others waiting to talk to them.  She smiled, knowing he was doing that for her.  Showing her that her friend’s approval was inconsequential to him. 

 

She would make it inconsequential to herself, too.  He was wise.

 

She saw Spock come in.  He spoke with Len and Ny for a moment, then walked over to Sarek and her.

 

Sarek spoke before he could.  “My son, you have met she who will be my wife?”  It was the first time he’d mentioned their engagement, and there was a ritual formality to the question.  She saw Spock’s face tighten as he turned to Sarek.

 

“I did not realize you had—”

 

“Why should you, my son?  I did not see the need to obtain your advice prior to asking the woman I care for to marry me.”  His eyes were hard, and Christine was surprised at what a clear message he was sending to Spock.  That he knew what Spock had said to her.  That he did not like what Spock had said to her.

 

That she and he had no secrets.  And that he was willing to couch things in almost human terms to make a point.

 

“I offer congratulations.  She is a woman of fine character.”  Spock glanced at her. 

 

She smiled at him, knew there were a lot of things he could have said in place of that.  Things that might have embarrassed her and Sarek.  But he had chosen to temper the anger she could read on his face.  The anger Sarek had caused on purpose.

 

It was a damn good thing she no longer cared very much about being a force for peace between them.

 

“Saalen is upstairs, Spock.  He wanted you to see the model he’s building.  He said you’d appreciate it.  I confess I didn’t.”  She gave him the sweetest smile she could.  The one that said, “I’m sorry.  This is how it is now, but we don’t have to make it painful.”

 

As Spock nodded and headed toward the staircase, Sarek murmured, “You are kind, Christine.”

 

“Yes, I am.  It’s my failing.”

 

“I do not find it so.  I was, perhaps, hard on him just then.”

 

“You?  On him?”  She laughed softly.  “Never.”

 

“Unlike my son, I will never share you.”  His tone made it clear he was entirely serious.

 

“I consider that fabulous news.”  She saw Saavik come in and grinned at her.  “Come say hello to our daughter.”

 

At his look of surprise, she said, “In her heart, she’s always had two fathers, Sarek.  Spock and you.  Didn’t you know that?”

 

He made a considering face.  “I did not.  I have not always been a successful father to my sons.  It is agreeable to think I did better with her.”

 

“Some families are made, not born.”  She smiled, then leaned in as if to tell him a secret.  “I am very lucky I found my way into yours.”

 

His eyes were soft and indulgent as he said, “No, Christine, I am the fortunate one.”

 

 

FIN