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) 2006 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
The seething winds blew past Spock, threatening to unseat him from the small sled-like vehicle the locals used to get around.
"How much farther?" McCoy seemed to be having even more trouble staying on the passenger seat.
"Put your face shield down, Doctor."
"I want to see Christine." He coughed. "I can't see her with my damned face shield down."
Spock took a deep breath, the air free of the blowing grit since he had wisely kept his face shield down. McCoy would be able to see perfectly well through the shield, better without the stinging wind making his eyes water. He was just being his usual stubborn and irrational self.
McCoy patted his jacket, over the spot where his inside pocket was. Then he reached in, fiddling with something nervously. He caught Spock looking at him and said, "Dammit, Spock. I'm on edge, and you look like you couldn't care less how she is."
"Doctor McCoy, we do not know that anything is wrong."
"Uhura knows wrong when she sees it."
"Commander Uhura has been highly emotional since Jim died." Not that Spock had not been, as well. He hid it more effectively, of course. And he did not let his grief make him imagine that a former colleague was in some sort of trouble—trouble that only her old shipmates could help extricate her from.
McCoy, naturally, was giving full sway to his imagination. Spock had found it easier to give in to his old friend than try to talk him out of coming. And, if Uhura was right, McCoy might need the help. If she was not, Spock still preferred to be there making sure McCoy made it back to Earth without incident. His friend had seemed a little lost since Jim had died.
"No one's heard from her in a long time, Spock. Not till Uhura came out for a visit."
"She may well have wished it that way."
"I don't care if she wished it or not. What the hell was I thinking? Letting it go this long without a visit—or a call. I couldn't have commed her?" Coughing again, McCoy finally pulled down his face shield, and his voice, as he continued his rant, took on more normal tones. "Something's wrong. I can feel it in my bones."
Spock chose not to comment.
"You think I can't?"
"I am sure that you believe you can."
"Oh, that's right. Humor the crazy man." Suddenly, he leaned over and pointed. "Down there. That's where Uhura said she was working."
Spock was already taking the little sled down. McCoy unlocked his safety restraints even as Spock turned off the engine.
"Doctor, I think you should wait."
"I'm sure you do, Spock." McCoy charged across the street and into the small clinic.
Spock followed at a slower pace.
He entered just in time to see McCoy turn, crestfallen. "She's at lunch."
"She will no doubt return."
McCoy turned back to the young woman sitting at the front desk. "I'm an old friend of Christine's. Fellow doctor. You mind if I take a look around?"
She looked like she minded.
McCoy leaned in. "Oh, come on. I'm just an old country doctor. What harm could I do?"
Spock heard the door open behind him. He turned and saw that Christine had walked in. She looked haggard. Uhura may not have been wrong, after all.
"I knew you'd be here," she said. "Uhura never could keep her mouth shut."
McCoy spun around. "Christine, darlin'. Let me take a look at you."
She crossed her arms, quite effectively stopping what would most likely have been a rather intense McCoy hug. She glanced at Spock. "Hello."
"Doctor." He studied her. Something in her expression was off. He could tell she was trying for stern professionalism, but underneath she seemed...empty.
She dropped her arms, and McCoy moved in for the kill. His hug was fierce.
Spock saw her wince.
She looked up at him, and he knew she realized he had seen her. Her expression shut down even more. "I'm very busy."
"Christine, we've come a long way to say hello," McCoy said. "And there's not a patient in sight. I think you can make the time."
"Perhaps you didn't hear my wife the first time, sir." A low voice, coming from a side door. A voice full of something Spock would normally classify as anger. He turned, surprised at the even look on the man's face. He did not appear to be angry.
"Yeah, Uhura said you'd gotten married. So who's the lucky fella?" McCoy was talking to Christine, not to the husband, and Spock could see the man's expression change—now he did look angry.
And for a moment, Spock thought Christine looked panicked.
The man moved to Christine, his hand on her back, moving lower. "You want to introduce us, Chrissy?" The way he said the name indicated he might be belittling her.
McCoy held out his hand. "McCoy. Doctor. Leonard. Old friend of Christine's. You are?"
Morris did not move closer, did not reach to shake. "Morris. Doctor. Walter. Husband of Christine's." He glanced at Spock. "And you are...?"
Christine looked down, her face flushing the slightest bit.
"I am Captain Spock. Also a former colleague." He pulled every ounce of Vulcan reserve around him. "I am here because Doctor McCoy wished to see Doctor Chapel."
The old Christine Chapel would have probably been hurt by his words, by the implication that he would never have come to see her on his own. This Christine only looked grateful.
"I go by Doctor Morris now, Spock." She seemed to grimace—but it might have been an attempt at a smile. "I really am busy." This was to him, not to McCoy. Her eyes were a bit more eloquent. They said, "Get out. Now." And then they added, "Please?"
"Doctor McCoy, perhaps it would be best if we found some lodging?"
"You're staying?" Christine asked, and Spock could not tell if there was dismay or relief in her voice.
"We are." McCoy glared at Spock as if daring him to say they were not. Which was illogical since he had been the one to just suggest they look for rooms.
But Spock decided to again humor his friend. "We appear to be," he said.
"Don't stay too long. Planet isn't that hospitable." Morris did something behind Christine's back, Spock was not sure what, but he heard her take a quick breath.
"Seems just fine to me." McCoy turned on his heel and walked out.
Spock inclined his head to Morris. "Congratulations on your marriage. I have always found Doctor Chapel to be a woman of good character."
He had intended what he said to ease the tension. His words had the opposite effect.
"Is that so? And how many times did you 'find' my wife?"
She blushed. Deeply. "Walter, please..."
Spock did his best to look confused. "I am unsure what you mean."
"Sure you are. You were leaving, I think? Wasn't he, dear?" Walter smiled at Christine, moving his hand up to touch her cheek. It should have been a very tender gesture. It was not.
"I told you something was wrong." McCoy stood at the window of his room, staring out at the afternoon windstorm.
Spock sat down at the room terminal, calling up everything he could find on the planet, on the Federation settlement, and on two inhabitants in particular. He found very little about Christine after she had married Morris. She seemed to have faded entirely into the background. To be fair, there was not much about Morris either, after he had married Christine. But before...
"I think you should see this, Doctor."
McCoy came over and started to read over his shoulder. "I read about this before we came. When Uhura told me Christine went and got hitched with no word to any of us."
"She did not owe us a report on her personal life." Although he had been shocked just now. Why had McCoy not told him that Christine was married?
McCoy made a disparaging gesture at the screen. "So he's had some heartache. Who hasn't?"
Spock glanced up at McCoy, trying to see if he had just been given a slap. Leaving Jim's death aside, which had been heartache for all of them, Spock was still working his way through all the emotions of the Khitomer crisis—coming to terms with the fact that the woman he had made his protege, the woman he had been ready to marry, had betrayed him and everything he cared for.
Spock glanced at the screen again, skimming the story. Doctor Morris had been betrayed, too. His wife had run off with his partner. His partner had added insult to injury by taking credit—and all the notes and background data—for the project he and Morris had just finished up. A project that had very useful applications for a common ailment affecting space miners. The partner had become rich, as had Morris's wife when she had left Morris behind.
It was small wonder the man was bitter and angry. Not that it gave him leave to hurt Christine.
Spock looked down and realized he was clenching his fists. He did not know that Morris was mistreating Christine physically. She had appeared hurt, but rigorous exercise could cause an injury, and she did seem fit. Her unease around them could merely have been from her desire to spare her husband the pain of a rival.
Spock sighed. He was a rival of sorts. Christine had lied to her husband by omission. Spock and she had been intimate. It had been before Valeris, after T'Pring. Pon Farr cycles that had come on in irregular ways, no doubt due to his human side. Christine had seen him through them, and after the last one, he had asked her to make the arrangement permanent.
She had told him no. She had told him he did not love her, and she did not want that. She had told him to find a woman he could love.
He had followed her advice. He had found Valeris. A woman he could love. A woman who had ripped his heart out and then stabbed it repeatedly—even if that was a very human way to look at it.
And what had Christine found? A man she loved wholeheartedly? Who was overly possessive because he, too, loved with equal intensity? Or was she in the trouble Uhura had thought? Despite his words to McCoy and the fact that they were all on edge and acting out of character since Jim's death, Spock had learned not to disregard Uhura's hunches.
McCoy walked back to the window. "She winced when I hugged her."
"Not a mark on her that I could see." McCoy rested his head against the window. "But he's a doctor. He'd know not to leave a trace."
"Doctor, whatever injury she sustained could have been legitimately earned. Exercise, perhaps a sled crash."
"I could ask her, I suppose."
"That might be the best approach."
"Then again, she wasn't in love with me. Why don't you ask her, Spock?"
"I do not believe her husband will appreciate it."
"Her husband just left with two other men—looks like he might be gone a spell. You think I'm staring out this window because I like the damn view?"
Spock could see McCoy was not going to give up. "And what will you be doing?"
"I, my utterly finesse-free friend, will be chatting these good townfolk up. Never underestimate the power of gossip, even if it's only a piece here and a piece there. It adds up to a portrait." He sighed. "One we may not like."
Spock walked softly down the hall, toward the open door the receptionist had told him was Christine's office.
"I knew he'd send you." Christine was working on her terminal and did not even turn to see who it was who had knocked.
"You were always perceptive." He moved closer and saw her tense. "You are behaving out of the ordinary. McCoy is worried." He took another step; her hand froze on the keyboard. "I am concerned, as well."
She turned, swiveling in her chair. Her eyes were hard. "You know why that is, of course?"
"I am sure you will enlighten me." They had sparred this way at times after their first Pon Farr together. She had become more at ease with him, and he with her. They had found they could joke. He had found he enjoyed her company.
What would his life had been like if he had not done as she asked, if he had not found Valeris? Would he have been on the Enterprise B instead of in a Vulcan retreat, trying to meditate his lover out of his soul? Would he have been able to help Jim? To save Jim?
"I know you're all hurting over Jim, Spock. Uhura was fighting tears the whole time she was here."
"You have no tears for Jim?" By the look on her face, he was not sure she even had tears left for herself. He realized he had not seen her smile. Not once since he and McCoy had landed. She had smiled often in the past.
"But not in front of your husband, I imagine?" He was pushing; he could see her retreat further inside herself.
"Did he? And how did he understand? With his fists?"
The color faded from her face. "How dare you?"
"You implied to him that we were never lovers."
"We never were, Spock. I was just someone you had sex with. There's a difference."
"That is not true. And in any case, I do not believe he would see the distinction."
"You don't even know him. He's a good man."
"A hurt one. A damaged one."
She got up and closed the door. "We're all damaged in our way."
As she tried to move past him, he stopped her. "You are injured, Christine. How did it happen?"
When she did not answer, he grabbed her waist, squeezing just enough to see pain register before letting go—getting just enough telepathically to sense more pain from other places on her body.
She slapped him. Hard. He chose not to react. "That is an answer of sorts. A refusal to admit the truth."
She tried to slap him again. He caught her hand.
She stared up at him. "Why did you have to come? Things were just starting to get better. Now..."
The door opened; Morris walked in, his eyes narrowing as he took in the two of them. They were standing far too close to be friends—Spock knew how it must look. He let go of her hand, studying the expression in Morris's eyes. Was it simply the pain of a familiar betrayal? This man's woman with another man? Or was it rage? The kind that would lead Morris to hurt her?
"Walter..." Christine moved to him, not looking at Spock.
But Morris did not stay to hear whatever she thought she was going to say to him. He turned, and stalked out.
"You need to go," Christine said to Spock, her voice sharp enough to cut durasteel.
"I intend to. I also intend to return tomorrow."
"To check for bruises?"
Their eyes met, and hers flared with anger. But there was still something else in her expression. Something he did not like. She seemed so passive, despite her anger.
"Christine, if he is hurting you...?"
"You'll what? You'll have sex with me and then fall in love with a traitor?" She laughed at his expression—he knew he had failed to hide the hurt from her jibe. "You couldn't save Jim, so now you're going to try to save me, is that it?"
"Perhaps I should not bother?" He had not been able to save Valeris. Valeris had never wanted to be saved. Why was he assuming Christine did?
"Perhaps not. Goodbye." She turned her back on him, going to her terminal and sitting. Hands keying something in quickly—Spock suspected it was something she would erase later.
But he did not walk over to check. "Goodbye," he murmured. Then he left.
He and McCoy went back to the clinic together.
"She didn't come in today," the receptionist said before they could ask.
"And the other Doctor Morris?" McCoy asked.
"He had to fly out to Seven Hills. He'll be back later."
"Do they appreciate what a fine member of this staff you are? This place couldn't run without you." McCoy smiled, the smile Spock had seen him use to win countless dates with willing young aliens over the years. It was a guileless smile, backed up with infinite quantities of guile.
The receptionist blinked a few times, her own smile growing. "Oh, I'm not so sure."
"Well, I am. I've run my share of sickbays, young lady. And clinics. And I'd have loved to have had someone like you on my staff. Why don't we go to lunch and you can tell me all about yourself?"
"It's not lunch time."
"Darn near, darlin'. Come on. Nobody's going to say anything."
She looked torn, but McCoy's smile seemed to convince her. "Give me a few minutes." She hurried off to the back of the clinic.
"Never underestimate the need of the human female to 'freshen up,' my friend."
Spock was already checking the terminal, finding the personnel info, locating the address for the Morris residence.
"Got what you needed?"
"Then get the hell out of here. I plan to enjoy my lunch date."
Spock did not argue, hurrying out and climbing into the sled. The wind had died down a bit today and it was easier flying. Christine appeared to be waiting for him, sitting in a lounge chair, dressed in a very brief halter and shorts. She took off her sunshades as he landed the flitter and got out.
"So," she asked, as he walked over to her, "is Roxanne enjoying a nice lunch on Uncle Len?"
Spock had seen him play the Uncle Len card, too. "I believe he was deemphasizing the family relationship."
"Who wouldn't? She's a looker." She stretched a little. "Speaking of. See? No bruises. I wore this to save you the trouble of having to think of a way to get my clothes off." She smiled, and it was an ugly expression. "Oh wait. That's an easy one. Two little words are all it takes. Pon. Farr."
He thought of three words that would also be effective at the moment: Go. To. Hell. He was about to turn when he noticed how careful she was being to not show him her back.
"Fifteen minutes on this side first. Then I'll turn over. That's the way to a perfect tan."
She turned over slowly—was she in pain or was she trying to make sure he saw nearly every inch of her?
Her back was unmarked. She glanced over her shoulder at him. "Satisfied?"
"No. Get up. Walk." Wounds could be covered, but the damage and stiffness took longer to heal.
Her face changed. "I'm comfortable here."
"I am strong enough to make you get up."
And she was nearly strong enough to fight him off. It was something he had always enjoyed about her. Although he knew enough about human women to understand that 'sturdy' was not a word any of them yearned to be called, it was applicable. She was strong, sturdy. She had not broken when they had come together. In fact, it had been most pleasurable when they had come together.
Staring down at her nearly naked body made it easy to recall that.
"Spock. Please go away."
"Get up. Now." His voice was hard. Cruel, perhaps?
"You sound just like him." But she got up. Slowly. Wincing as she took a step, and he wondered how long it had taken her to get dressed, to set this charade up, if it hurt her so much just to walk.
He moved to her and saw that she was crying. "Why are you letting him do this?"
"It's just bad right now. He doesn't like to be reminded that I have a past. He likes to think he's everything to me. That he always has been and always will be."
"I know his history."
"Then you know his pain. His wife left him for another, Spock. Surely you can sympathize?"
She always knew exactly where to strike. Even Valeris had not been as deft as Christine at hitting the soft, vulnerable parts of him.
"Sympathize, perhaps. Understand him hurting you, no. We were together after T'Pring. I did not hurt you, did I?"
She looked down.
"Did I hurt you, Christine?"
"Yet you give him the right to?"
"You don't understand. He's not normally like this."
"Perhaps, he is. Perhaps it is why his wife left him?"
"It's not." She shook her head, and he thought she had no idea if it was or was not the reason, that she just could not bring herself to believe that it was a pattern. Or that she had married a man who liked to hurt the people who loved him.
"You need to go." She turned and slowly walked back into the house.
McCoy was not at the clinic when Spock arrived back in town, so he went to his room. He sat down at the terminal, calling up random things.
"She loves you."
Spock whirled, irritated that he had been so distracted he had not even thought to check his room. Morris sat in the shadows, but not so well hidden that Spock could not have seen him if he had been more alert—if he had not been ...obsessing over Christine.
Morris got up, and Spock saw that he was holding a weapon. "She loves you. She calls your name out when she dreams. Do you have any idea what that feels like?"
"I had a wife, once. She preferred another. She humiliated me—and put people I cared about in peril—to get him."
Morris blinked, as if surprised by Spock's honesty. "Oh. I guess you do get it." He began to pace. "Do you love my wife?"
"I never have." Spock knew Jim would have caught the hidden message in the way he had phrased his answer—the realization that Spock had come to, that he had chosen the wrong woman and left the right one behind.
"That's why she chose me, I think. She knew you didn't love her." Morris sat down on the bed. "Do you think I like what I do?"
"I do not know if you enjoy hurting her or not."
"Well, I don't. I never hurt Terry, not that it stopped her from hurting me."
"You think by injuring Christine you can stop her from hurting you?"
Morris shrugged. "I didn't always hurt her. We were fine when we first got married. We were happy." He met Spock's eyes. "I didn't even know about you. Not until Khitomer and all the newsvid coverage. Not until I watched her face as she saw you. Then I knew. I'd found another Terry. Another woman who'd never really love me."
"Are you expecting me to feel some sort of pity for you?"
Morris suddenly waved the weapon in front of Spock. "I'm expecting you to get the hell off this planet and leave me alone."
"It is what I intend to do." He felt some strange resolve fill him. Resolve...and anger. Anger at Valeris. Anger at Jim for going alone and being a hero. At himself for letting Jim go alone. At McCoy for dragging him out here. At Christine for making him care too much to leave. "I intend to leave you here all alone."
"You think you can take her?"
"I think I already have." It was the kind of thing Jim would have said, but Spock knew it was truth.
Morris seemed to know it was, too. "She's all I have."
"Then you should have treated her better."
"For all you know, I may be planning to go home and kill her. Kill us both. You'll never have her then."
"Christine would never have married you if there was not good inside you. And you are a doctor. Pledged to protect life."
Morris looked down, and Spock could tell he had hit some hidden part of the man that was full of shame and self-loathing. Spock had spent most of his youth mired in that part of himself.
"After my wife left me," Spock said, "I found another to care for. Like you, I thought she loved me. Unlike you, I was being used. I am sure that Christine did not mean to hurt you."
"If you don't love her, leave her here. I swear I'll treat her right. I'll get help."
"You should get help," McCoy said from the doorway—how had he gotten the keycode? "In fact, I'm making it mandatory."
A security officer from the port stood behind McCoy. "Put the weapon down, Doctor."
Morris stared at the weapon, as if surprised it was still in his hand. "Oh, no. I didn't..." He quickly put the weapon down.
The officer came in and took it.
"You don't have any authority to do this," Morris said to McCoy.
McCoy pulled out a padd from his inner jacket pocket, clearly enjoying Spock's surprise. "Secret inspection. You know how this works. Federation sends a physician to check up on the services—and the staff." He also pulled out a very small instrument. "I took the liberty of scanning Christine yesterday. You did well on the outside—or maybe that was her having to clean herself up? But the damage is still there if you know where to look. Spousal battery is a crime, Doctor."
Morris looked down and did not say anything.
McCoy moved in, sitting down on the bed next to him. "You know, Roxanne's really worried about you. She says she's known you since she was a kid. Says this isn't like you. That she believes in you."
Morris looked up at him.
"She's in love with you, I'd say. You might think about that—once you've gotten the help you're going to get whether you like it or not." McCoy got up and then turned around. "And don't think I won't be checking on you—and her."
He nodded to the guard, who escorted Doctor Morris out.
Spock stood, staring at McCoy.
"What? You thought I was going to leave this little mission up to your interpersonal skills? Or your ability to sweet-talk Christine? In a pig's eye." He smiled, and for the first time, the tight, worried look was gone. "I'm going to pack so we can get off this Godforsaken rock. The wind alone could make a man crazy. Shouldn't you go collect your woman?"
"Give it up, Spock. You were planning on taking her from him." His expression was full of glee. "I was listening in. You were very much the knight in shining armor. When Christine's more herself, I plan on telling her."
Spock knew he was not kidding. Instead of searching for a retort, he chose to flee—and go collect his woman.
He found her in the house, packing. She whirled, a weapon in her hand. A weapon she lowered immediately when she saw it was him.
"You thought I was your husband?"
She nodded, turning back to her packing.
"You are leaving him?"
"I'm leaving him. I don't know why I stayed."
Spock sat on the bed, watching her work.
"You could help. We don't have time to lollygag. Walter could be home at any time."
"Do you think I would not protect you from him?"
"Oh, sure you would," she said as she folded a shirt. "You'd challenge him to a duel for me." She threw the shirt into the satchel, making her folding a moot point.
"I might do exactly that." It was, after all, what he had done for T'Pring. And he had never cared for her the way he was now realizing he did for Christine. "He is not coming back. Doctor McCoy has arranged for psychological rehab for him."
She looked over at him. "Len has?"
"Oh." She reached into the satchel, taking the shirt out to refold.
Spock almost smiled at the act. She was, at times, as compulsively neat as he was.
"Your husband came to see me before McCoy confronted him."
She stopped moving.
"He told me that the trouble between you started when you saw the Khitomer coverage." He was watching her face carefully. "He thought it was when you saw me. I think, however, it was when you saw Valeris being led away. Am I right?"
"You realized I was free again. You realized you had married the wrong man."
She turned on him, her expression vicious, but more alive than he had seen it. "And you're the right man?"
"And I'm the right woman for you?"
"You make me so mad." She was starting to cry, and he had a little bit of trouble understanding her words.
So he reached out, touching her hand, hating that she flinched as he did it. Gently, very gently, he pulled her to him, trying not to jar her, not to hurt her at all. Pulling her into his lap, he stroked her hair, holding her close while she cried.
He imagined she had not cried in a very long time. It was not her way. She would sleep as long as she could stand to in the bed she had made—and she would try to make the bed a nicer place. She had waited for him a very long time—had tried to make it work even when he had been intent on pulling away—before finally telling him to find someone else.
She was trembling in his arms. "He hurt me."
"I know he did." He kissed her forehead. "But you decided to leave him. You weren't waiting for me to rescue you, were you?"
"I'm done waiting for you."
He lifted her chin and kissed her gently. "Does that mean I will have to chase you now?"
"Maybe." She sniffed, and he smoothed the tears off her face. "It would serve you right." Then she kissed him, the kiss sweet and soft and not necessarily one of a lover. But it was one of love.
"I think we have all suffered, in our ways."
She nodded, tucked up against him. "I don't know why I let him do that to me."
"Because you thought you could help him. Because it was not who he was. Because, in your way, you loved him."
"I did. I wouldn't have married him if I didn't."
"I know that. I tried to tell him that, but I do not think he believed me."
Her expression was rueful. "He doesn't know me as well as you do." She closed her eyes.
"What else is there to pack?" He let her down, making sure she was secure before letting her go. He knew it was a tender thing to do, was a bit surprised at how much he felt like being tender with her.
"Just a few things. Wait here a minute?"
"I will wait much longer than that."
She went into the bathroom and came out with an armful of things she put into a smaller carryall.
"You will come back to Earth?" he asked.
She nodded. "I have nowhere to stay. Maybe Uhura will—"
"You will stay with me."
She turned to look at him, and he thought he saw a shadow of her old fire. "I'm pretty tired of men who think they can order me around."
He immediately rephrased it. "Will you stay with me?"
She laughed slightly, almost against her will, he thought. "I don't think...I don't know." She stopped, staring down at the suitcases as if unsure what they were for.
"We have lost so much time already, Christine."
She looked over at him. "And that concerns you?"
"Would you have fought him for me?"
"I would have." He knew his expression was hard. No prevaricating, no seasoning the truth to make it more palatable for her. He would have fought Morris for her. He might even have killed Morris for her—but she did not need to know that.
"I guess I could stay at your place. See how it goes."
"You will put in for—" He paused, almost smiling at her as he rephrased. "Will you put in for a divorce?"
She nodded. And then she smiled. A shadow of her old smile, but still a real one. He felt something inside him unclench at the realization she might be all right. That Morris had not broken her.
"Are you ready?" he asked, taking the larger satchel. He meant a good deal more than just ready to leave the house. He had a feeling she understood that.
"I am." She took a last look around. "I'll be another monster in his life, Spock. Another woman who betrayed him."
"Perhaps. But if you did betray him, which I do not believe you did, I think you have paid the price already." He touched her cheek. He had not noticed it earlier, but there was a faint trace of a bruise there.
He would almost certainly have killed Morris.
"Let's go," she said, following him out to his sled, bundling her things in with an expert hand.
They rode in silence to the spaceport. It was a silence full of comfort, not rife with things unsaid, as had been the case before, when they'd been lovers.
McCoy was waiting for them at the shuttle waiting area. "Hello, Christine. Glad you could make it."
She kissed him on the cheek. "Did I have a choice?"
"You did." Spock said softly, and felt her hand brush his. It felt good, the way the touch of a lover—of a love—should. "You would have saved yourself."
McCoy beamed at her. "Figured you'd come to your senses if I just brought the big green lug along."
Spock gave him the Vulcan version of a glare. "That is not what I meant, Doctor."
"I know." The look McCoy gave them both was full of affection. "I plan to sleep all the way back to Earth. Damn wind here kept me up all night. That means you two will have plenty of time to catch up."
"And plan the wedding. I do expect to give you away, Christine."
Her smile faded. A look of panic set in.
"Perhaps we should allow her to dissolve her current marriage before planning the next one, Doctor?"
"Well, what the hell fun is that?" Fortunately, McCoy had to stop planning weddings long enough to get his things stowed on the shuttle. He let Spock and Christine have the inside seats, took the seat on the aisle and promptly fell asleep, trapping them in their seats unless they wanted to wake him up—or crawl over him.
"Now what?" Christine asked, turning to look out the window as the planet dropped away from them.
"Will you miss it?"
"Will you miss him?"
She turned to look at him. "Yes. No. It's complicated by what our marriage became."
He understood that. "Did you miss me?" It was a terribly emotional thing to ask. He let the question stand.
He noticed she did not ask if he had missed her. He had, but not in a way he had been aware of at the time. Valeris had been exciting. Valeris had been like a strong perfume that took over and filled his head, leaving room for nothing else. But once it faded, he had realized it was too strong, too heady. False and bright with no substance—none that mattered, none that was not tinged with betrayal.
Christine leaned back, and in the harsh light coming through the window, he saw a place on her throat that she or Morris had missed with the regenerator. It looked like a finger mark.
"What are you looking at?"
"You missed a bruise." He touched the spot. "Did he grab you here?"
She nodded, her eyes losing some of their light. But they had to be able to talk about this. They must not sweep it away as if it never happened.
"Was he trying to strangle you?"
"I don't know. He was mad. Really mad."
There was one more thing he needed to know. "Did he hurt you during sex, too?"
She looked away, blushing deeply. And she nodded quickly.
"Since Khitomer?" That had been months ago.
She nodded again. Then she met his eyes. "It hasn't been good since then. He got...rough."
Rough. An understatement, he was sure.
"I will not be."
"We're going down that road again?"
"I believe we are. But it will be up to you to tell me when you are ready." Although he planned to pay much closer attention to her than he ever had in the past. He found himself very eager to help her forget that sex could be something to fear.
"I was surprised to see you here."
"You said you knew we'd come."
She shook her head. "I knew Len would come. Uhura can't be thrown off a scent, and those two are in cahoots when it comes to taking care of us. But I didn't expect to see you."
"McCoy wanted me along." He touched her hand gently. "And, it is possible, that the thought of you needing me was appealing." He looked down. "You were not wrong when you said that I wanted to make up for not saving Jim."
"I know. I'm rarely wrong when it comes to you. You just never seem to realize that."
He looked over at her, let his eyes go soft. She was right. He had not realized that. Valeris, who had seemed so in sync with him, had actually thought he would have supported her twisted cause. She had never understood him. Never.
"I am realizing it now," he said, moving his hand so their fingers could twine if she wished them to.
She apparently wished them to. The touch of their skin was sweet—the touch of the love he could sense even sweeter. She leaned back, trying to get comfortable.
"You need a pillow."
"I forgot to get one."
He moved the armrest out of the way, eased her to him, and felt her relax as she rested her head on his arm.
"You'll get tired of me doing this," she murmured sleepily.
"That is highly doubtful."
She slept, and McCoy slept, and Spock sat between them, thinking about all the things he had lost. And all the things that somehow still remained.