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) 2003 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
"Dilithium readings quite strong just ahead, sir," Ensign Forman said as he turned to Kirk.
"Let's get down fast. We want to avoid contact with the native population," the captain said.
The shuttle slowed, then dropped like a stone, making Chapel's stomach lurch uncomfortably. She sat in the back of the craft, still irritated that she was included in this landing party. She'd planned to fritter—or possibly just sleep—the rest of her day away after several very long shifts in sickbay. A freak ion storm had played havoc with the ship and the crew, leaving damage and many injured. McCoy had been hurt while trying to help a fallen crewman, and was now recuperating crankily in his quarters. The rest of the doctors were filling in for the CMO and, as deputy CMO, she'd been doing more than her share. She was bone tired and not even sure why they needed a doctor on this trip. She looked over at Spock. Couldn't he have just asked for a nurse or a medic like usual? She assumed he'd specifically requested her, but why?
If the transporters hadn't been offline, they could have just beamed in and out. But the damn things weren't working, so they'd been forced to take the shuttle. Forman piloted well, thank God, touching down gently. Chapel didn't like shuttles. Too many things seemed to go wrong. Give her a good transporter beam, scattered atoms and all.
The science crew filed out quickly, setting up the camouflage beacons that would hide the shuttle from the primitive natives of the planet. Spock walked after them, fine-tuning the beacons as he went.
She looked over at Kirk and imagined he didn't like being forced to take dilithium from a world that had no say in the matter. But they weren't going to take much, and if they didn't take it, the Enterprise was never going to leave the planet's orbit. Scotty had kept the engines going through the storm, but the strain had fried the dilithium. They'd barely had the power to get this far. Earth or anywhere else was out of the question unless they found new crystals.
Fortunately, this world had an abundance of them. They just needed to extract some and get out without contaminating the indigenous population.
Kirk walked back to where she still sat in the shuttle. "Pouting?"
She looked up at him in surprise. "Sir?"
"You've been filling in for McCoy with barely a break, Doctor. I thought you needed a change."
This had been his doing? "With all due respect, sir. My quarters would have been sufficient change."
"But boring, Chapel. Really boring." He grinned. "Come on, get some fresh air."
She sighed dramatically and he rolled his eyes. Smiling despite her grumpy mood, she got up and followed him out. The science crew was already taking readings in preparation for drilling, which could take hours if the dilithium was very far down. Chapel's bed seemed even further away.
"Look at this place." Kirk walked to where the beacons jutted out forming a pocket of safe ground. He smiled at her. "Like ancient Greece."
"Whatever you say, sir." The warm breeze wafted across the field they had set down in. The air smelled of grass and wildflowers, and the sun beat down pleasantly. She smiled.
"See, it's doing you good already." He pointed down at some herbivores that were going back to grazing after having scattered at the shuttle's approach. "God, it's pristine here."
"Pristine usually means no nice sheets or indoor plumbing. I like my creature comforts...well, comfortable."
He shook his head. "Haven't you ever gone camping, Chapel?"
"Sure I have. I hated it." She sat down on the grass.
"You don't like sleeping in the open air?"
She laughed. "Only to wake up covered with bug bites?"
"There's such a thing as bug repellent." He sat down next to her. "You can't tell me that there's no appeal to a big bonfire?"
She shook her head. "Biggest wildfire hazard there is."
"You have no sense of adventure."
"So I've been told." She stretched out on the grass. Then felt guilty. "Am I supposed to be doing something?"
"Nope. Me neither." He picked a piece of grass, stuck it in his mouth, and sucked on it happily.
"You have no idea where that's been."
He laughed. "It's been here. I have no idea what might have been on it."
"Same difference." She smiled and felt herself relaxing. Maybe she had needed a change? She yawned. No, what she needed was sleep. "I could have done nothing up on the ship, sir."
"Change is good, Chapel." He took a deep breath and smiled as if there was no better place to be than in this field.
"Change is good. But being useful is also good. I'm not sure why I'm here."
"You just never let things go, do you?" He took a deep breath. "You're here because I feel guilty."
She frowned. "For what?"
"Demoting you. CMO should have been your post, not McCoy's. Because of me, he gets all the excitement. I just thought you might want some."
"Is this what we're calling excitement these days?" She laughed. "Watching clouds sweep by? Trying not to get shat upon by cow-things?"
He chuckled. "Sometimes it is. After V'ger, I'll take it."
She nodded and thought about Decker, hoped he was happy forever united with the Ilia probe.
Kirk seemed to be reading her mind. "Do you think they made it?"
She looked over at him. "Will and Ilia, you mean?"
"It's a nice thought."
He nodded. "Love forever." His look clouded.
"Are you all right, sir?" He seemed unusually pensive.
She heard a strange noise and saw Kirk's brow furrow as he turned to look. Sitting up, she stared down to where he was looking.
A crowd of natives was walking toward the shuttle. She scanned them with her tricorder. Healthy and a mix of ages and sexes.
And well armed.
"Spock, we've got company." Kirk sounded mildly concerned. "You're sure they can't see us?"
Spock called out from where he was taking readings behind them, "I set the beacons myself, Captain."
"Not exactly an answer," Chapel muttered. "They look awfully excited for people who can't see us, don't they?"
The natives were headed right for the two of them, expressions of wonder on their face.
Chapel turned around and gulped. The shuttle had disappeared. She and Kirk sat between two apparently non-functioning beacons. "We have a big problem."
Kirk didn't turn. "No, the beacons will stun anyone that gets too close. Or we have gas to make them all go to sleep if they decide to rush the shuttle en masse."
"No, sir, we don't. They have it in the shuttle. The invisible shuttle that we can't get to now because of the stun-beacons."
Kirk whipped around, then got up quickly. "They've seen us, Spock." He reached for where he thought the shuttle was then jerked his hand back. "Spock. Get that damn dilithium out of the ground and back up to the ship."
Spock's voice was as close as the beacons would allow. "Jim, what are you planning?"
Kirk looked out at the natives, most of whom were armed with long spears. He shot her a glance. "Hope you like to run?"
"I don't." She took a deep breath and got ready to do it anyway. "But I can."
"Don't run in a straight line, weave as you go. I don't want you to end up with one of those spears in your back."
She was about to take off when the first of the natives fell to the ground, spear held in his outstretched hands. The rest of the people followed suit, prostrating themselves to Kirk and Chapel.
The first native sat up, a look of delighted wonder on his face. "It's you. You have come. Finally. Be at peace, oh most powerful ones. We bid welcome to Sorla and Lasish."
She looked at Kirk. He mouthed 'One-way' and she changed her automatic translator to incoming translation only.
"I don't think they're going to hurt us," she said.
"They speak in tongues," one of the natives cried, falling to the ground and writhing in some weird kind of fit.
"Do you think he needs a doctor?" Chapel asked, not really wanting to wade in.
"Oh, great gods." The elder stepped closer as Kirk mouthed 'Gods?' at Chapel. "It's just as the prophecies said it would be. We saw the falling brightness in the distance on this most sacred of your days when we had all gathered at the holy site. We rushed here, to see the emergence of our gods from the nothingness that is your noble domain."
The crowd had begun a low chant. "Sorla...Lasish...Sorla...Lasish."
We seek to honor you, great ones."
"If there's a bed in this deal, I'm taking it," Chapel whispered.
Kirk glared at her.
The elder looked hurt. "You will not speak to us in the language of your people? But you understand me?"
The elder looked appeased.
Kirk turned to her. "Better silence and a few hurt feelings than risk contamination through something we say." He turned so that the natives couldn't see him say to Spock, "How much time do you need?"
Spock's voice was a near-whisper. "An hour should be sufficient to extract the dilithium. Another hour to deliver it to the ship and return for you."
"We've already blown first-contact, Spock. Might as well buy you the time you need."
"Jim, this is ill advised."
"Spock, without that dilithium, the ship is going nowhere fast. And two hours worth of contamination will seem like nothing if we have to beam the crew down here to survive."
There was a long pause. "Agreed."
"We'll try to get away in two hours. But you may need to come get us."
"Understood, sir. Captain, Doctor Chapel, be careful."
Jim turned around. "Ready, Doctor?"
She laughed. She could have sworn that Kirk was actually enjoying this. "What the hell. I've always wanted to be a god."
"I've been one. It's overrated." His face clouded for a moment.
She remembered the planet where they'd found Kirk with no memory, living among the Indians as a god. A fallen god, nearly stoned to death by his own people. His wife had died, their unborn child with her. Chapel and McCoy had done everything they could for her. It hadn't been enough.
Chastened, she followed Kirk and the natives away from the shuttle, trying not to look longingly back at their only way home.
They walked for a good twenty minutes crossing the field and then entering a wooded area before coming to a clearing. Four tall columns rose high, running along the back of a huge slab of what looked like marble. Something white and gold sat on the slab, but they were hustled past before Chapel could get a good look.
"Our temple?" she asked Kirk.
The natives kept going, toward a huge table laden with food and drink of all sorts. It smelled terrific.
The rumbling in her stomach reminded her that she'd skipped lunch. She heard Kirk's do the same. "Hungry, sir?"
She scanned the food. "It's safe to eat." She watched the visitors. "If we're invited."
"I thought you just wanted to sleep?"
"Eating's good too."
"Sorla and Lasish, you have traveled far to come to us. We honor you with this your ritual feast." The elder indicated the table. Then he clapped his hands. A young man and woman separated from the crowd. "And these are your most worthy attendants."
The two attendants were dressed in extreme finery compared to the other natives. They were bowing and scraping like the rest, but something in their expression conveyed more resentment than respect.
Kirk moved closer to her. "Our mortal representations?"
"I think so."
"And none too happy about being made our servants."
She nodded and smiled at her attendant but was met by a blank stare. "Definitely not happy."
"Eat. Drink. We will not touch food until you do," the elder said.
Kirk smiled. "Well, we can't let them starve." He filled a plate with lots of small portions. At her look, he smiled. "I'm a veteran of too many functions. Never know if you'll like something. Better to take some of everything, then be stuck with something you hate."
She laughed. "That's been your approach to women too, hasn't it?"
He shrugged and smiled, but she thought she saw something in his eyes, something that said that he didn't think the joke was very funny.
"I'm sorry. That wasn't nice."
"Don't sweat it, Sorla. Or are you Lasish?"
"Beats me." She filled up a plate and followed him as their attendants led them to what was probably supposed to have been their table. It was gaily decorated, with very soft cushions. "I'd hate us too, if I were them. They've probably waited their whole lives to play the gods."
Kirk suddenly frowned, stopped mid-bite. "They don't kill their gods at the end of the ceremony, do they?"
She scanned the area, cross-referencing the readings against what she already had scanned of the natives. "No indication that blood has been spilled here." She went back to eating.
"So either they don't, or they do but somewhere else." Kirk dug into his meal.
"The gods have eaten," the elder suddenly announced loudly.
The crowd began to chant a new word. "Sorlish, Sorlish, Sorlish."
"The gods have barely eaten," Chapel said as her attendant took the plate away from her and dragged her out of the chair. "Hey!"
She glanced back and saw that Kirk was being manhandled out of his chair too. They were led toward a tent, one in which several extra-large attendants stood at guard.
"That other place I mentioned?"
"No, I scanned the whole area."
Her attendant nearly threw her into the tent, the guards stepping aside just in time to let her pass. Kirk followed.
The tent was set up with two steaming bathtubs.
"What was that you were saying about indoor plumbing, Doctor?"
"Okay, the tubs are indoors, but the plumbing isn't."
He shot her a look. "You'll argue to the bitter end, won't you?"
"I'm hoping this isn't the bitter end." She suddenly had a sinking feeling. "What if they drown them?"
Chapel nodded. "The blood would be minimal. Only from the ears and not even necessarily that. The tricorder might not have picked it up." She gulped. "Or it could just be to get us clean for some other non-bloody way to kill us. Like suffocation. Or ritual strangling."
"You're so much fun, Chapel. Remind me not to take you on a landing party again."
"I didn't want to be on this one, Captain." Her attendant began to strip off her uniform.
Kirk hurriedly turned around. "If you need my help, just yell. But on the off chance that they aren't going to kill us, I think I'll be a gentleman." His voice went higher on the last word.
Chapel assumed it was when his attendant ripped his uniform off too. "You okay?"
She had the sense he was gritting his teeth as he said it.
Her attendant pushed her toward the bathtub. "You must get clean. For Sorlish."
Clean, not dead. Chapel decided not to struggle, grabbed the tricorder back from the woman, and allowed herself to be maneuvered into the tub. She pointed at a stool, refused to sit down until the woman brought it close and Chapel could set the tricorder on it. Then she sank into the water and sighed as the warmth surrounded her. The water was scented, rose-like flowers floating gently on the top. "Oh, wow."
She averted her eyes as Kirk was similarly pushed into his bath. He sat tensely for a moment. Then the attendants stepped away and he relaxed.
"Sorla...Lasish...Sorla...Lasish," the droning chanting came from outside.
"Have you figured out which one you are," Chapel asked as her attendant approached with a brush and pushed her forward so she could scrub her back. Chapel smiled, absently playing with one of the flowers floating in her bathwater.
"Nope." Kirk sighed contentedly across from her. His bathtub was filled with some combination of herbs that smelled as delicious as her flowers. He was leaning back, eyes closed, and looking very relaxed.
She took the glass of wine one of the attendants offered her, reached for the tricorder and scanned it. "Don't drink the wine, sir."
"Poisoned?" He opened his eyes, saw more of her than he clearly expected to, and shut them again quickly. "Sorry."
"It's okay." She tried not to blush—or laugh in utter embarrassment. "It's laced with an aphrodisiac."
There was a long silence, then he said, "That might explain the baths."
"I was thinking the same thing."
"How much aphrodisiac?"
She put the tricorder down and set the wine next to it. "A lot." She decided not to postulate a unit of measurement for aphrodisiac effectiveness.
"They don't drink," her attendant said to Kirk's.
"They must drink," the other one replied.
"Your suggestion, Doctor?"
"Well, they don't appear to have the technology to inject us with the stuff." She leaned back, pushing the attendant away.
"That's good." He relaxed deeper into his tub and opened his eyes slowly. He seemed relieved to see that she'd also submerged, naughty bits safely hidden.
"But they could force the wine down our throats. There's a tube over there on one of the tables, possibly made from animal organs."
"That sounds pleasant." He sighed. "Your call."
She looked over at her wine. "They might be less suspicious if we took a sip?"
She reached for the glass, nonchalantly sipped at it. Realized how thirsty she was and how good the wine smelled and forced herself to put the glass down.
He followed suit. "Seems like nice wine. Under other circumstances..."
"They must drink it all." Kirk's attendant scowled. "Sorlish must happen."
Kirk's eyes met her. "It occurs to me that Sorlish is the two names joined together."
"So they want us to..." He started to chuckle. "This is the landing party from hell." He threw her a look as if to show he didn't mean to insult her. "No offense."
His attendant held out the wine. "Drink." As respect went, there wasn't a lot of it in his expression.
Chapel decided they weren't to be killed. She couldn't imagine these two minding losing their roles this much if death was the final outcome of the ritual.
Two more natives brushed the entry curtain aside and came to the tubs. They held clothing. If one could call something totally transparent clothing.
He opened his eyes, took in the outfits that were being shaken out. "Oh, good God. They can't be serious."
"For Lasish," his attendant murmured, holding out a sheer kilt-like outfit.
"Well, one mystery solved," Chapel said softly.
Kirk glared at her then nodded at her attendants imperiously. "Yeah, let's see hers."
They held out the long dress. It had a slit up the middle that nearly met the very low v-neck of the top part. The fabric was a sheer yellow, just like Kirk's.
Kirk grinned. "This should be interesting.
"Sorla," her attendant said, pulling her out of the water.
Kirk made to avert his eyes, but then his attendants pulled him out too.
Chapel could have sworn she caught him checking her out. Never mind the fact that she shouldn't have been looking at him at all.
Her attendants pulled the gown over her head.
"Yellow really isn't my color," she said as she turned and saw Kirk being dressed. Yellow wasn't his color either. Or maybe it was just that he appeared to be blushing with his entire body and the red sort of clashed.
He turned and glared at her. "Eyes up, Doctor."
"Aye-aye," she said, turning, but not before she caught him staring at her butt. "And you too, sir."
Their first attendants conferred so quietly that Chapel couldn't make out what they were saying. Then one of them picked up the wine glass and walked over to her. "You must drink."
She shook her head.
Kirk's attendant began to unroll the long, not particularly clean-looking tube. He looked like he'd enjoy using it on her.
"This aphrodisiac, did it scan as sedating or hallucinogenic?"
The attendant held out the glass one more time.
"Drink it, Chapel."
She took the glass and took a sip. The attendants waited. She took a larger sip, then tried to put the glass down only to see the one holding the tube lift it up with an evil-looking grin.
"Fine." She drained the glass. "And by the way, this is no way to treat your gods."
The attendants just stared at her, longsuffering expressions in place, simmering resentment barely hidden. They turned to Kirk. He didn't wait for them to threaten him. Just drank the goblet down.
"Good wine," he said, as he put the glass down.
"I know. Too bad it's drugged." She didn't feel anything yet. No lightheadedness, no amorous feelings. "You okay?"
Chapel tried to cover up, knew that was impossible. As she walked past the people, they reached out reverently, touching her...everywhere.
"Sorla," they moaned.
She tried to push them away.
"Don't," Kirk said. "We want them to keep thinking we're gods. Gods wouldn't be embarrassed at this."
She shot him a look. "Are you?"
He grinned, or grimaced, obviously trying for a cocky expression.
"Is that to keep my spirits up?"
"Nope. Mine. You're on your own." His grin this time was real.
And it was impossible to resist. She shook her head as she grinned back. "So, when the chips are down, you're only going to look out for yourself, eh?"
"Got that right." But he moved closer to her.
The crowd parted. Ahead of them, set up in front of the columns, was the gold thing she'd noticed earlier, the gold thing she hadn't realized was a huge bed. The bedcovers looked soft and downy, glistening as white as the marble in the sunshine. The golden finish gleamed like the real thing—probably was the real thing.
"Wow," Chapel said, impressed despite the predicament. "There is a bed in the deal."
"Somehow I don't think it's for sleeping." Kirk nodded at the table set off to the side. It was set up with wine and finger food. "To keep our strength up?"
"Among other things," she couldn't stop herself from saying, earning herself a sharp look.
Their attendants led them up the slight rise at the side of the structure, then back behind the columns and onto the marble slab. They bowed once, before retiring to the side, by the table. Kirk and Chapel were now high enough above the crowds that all could see what was going on.
It was an impromptu sex stage, and they were the headlining act. Chapel giggled. Then felt a rush of heat pour through her entire body. "Oh, shit."
She heard Kirk groan and turned to look at him.
He was staring at her. Hungrily. Then he forced himself to look away. "I see that 'Oh, shit," and raise you a 'F—"
"Captain, Doctor, are you well?" Spock's voice came out of nowhere.
Kirk appeared more annoyed than relieved. "How the hell do we look, Spock?"
"Underdressed," was the instant answer.
Chapel fought down the mortification at the thought that Spock was looking at her. She was suddenly glad she was a faithful visitor to the gym. Then a contrary anger filled her. Hell, let him look. Let him look all he wanted. She stood a little straighter.
Kirk shook his head, as if he knew exactly what she was thinking. "Where are you, Spock?"
"Right here, sir. I have modified the beacon to allow me to move freely."
If Chapel looked just right, she thought she could see a slight wavering outline around where Spock's voice was coming from.
"Ingenious. How about modifying us a couple so we can leave?" Kirk looked around at the crowd, who'd fallen silent, waiting avidly for the big joining.
"I do not think that would be wise. This unit is extremely heavy. Even with Vulcan strength, it is difficult to carry—and quite hot." Suddenly his form seemed to solidify and he ducked down behind the bed, making some rapid adjustments to the unit. "It also appears to be short circuiting."
"Great," Chapel said, suddenly irritated with Spock for getting them into this mess in the first place. If his beacons hadn't failed...
"I apologize, Doctor, but it is the situation we are faced with."
"Suggestions, Spock?" Kirk looked out at the crowd, then turned back to her. His eyes dilated as he stared, and he seemed to quit trying to look away. "That's a very nice dress, Doctor." He reached out, appeared to be fighting a great battle, apparently winning as he dropped his hand and turned away, back to where Spock's voice had come from. "We need to get out of here."
"You cannot run," Spock said. "Not with so many watching."
"And they aren't going anywhere. Not till we join." Chapel looked at the sea of faces.
One young man in the front row licked his lips as he watched her.
"Then I suggest you make the joining as boring as possible," Spock's voice sounded mildly annoyed with her.
She heard the low whirr of a tricorder. "Which may take a great deal of willpower given the state you both are in. I take it they gave you some sort of—"
"Aphrodisiac," Kirk finished for him. "Yes, Spock, they did."
"Unfortunate. But I trust that you have the willpower to withstand it." If possible, he sounded even more annoyed. This time with both of them.
"Easy for you to say," Chapel said under her breath. "You're not the main event."
"Sorlish, Sorlish, Sorlish, Sorlish." The chant started low, then began to grow until every person in the clearing seemed to be saying it.
"Shall we, Doctor?" Kirk held out his hand.
She took it, felt a spasm of desire jolt through her as they touched. She saw him shudder and knew he was feeling it too.
"This is going to be hard," she whispered.
"Oh, we're long past that." He grinned sheepishly as she looked down. He was right; they were long past that.
"Make it boring, huh?" She crawled into the bed and felt his hands run over her backside; the crowd sighed. "Oh God, do that again."
"That does not qualify as boring," Spock's voice was very close.
"Are you on the damn bed with us?" Chapel wished she knew where he was so she could glare at him. Or slug him. Whichever.
"Very nearly," Spock said.
Kirk followed her onto the bed and pushed her down, to her back. He stared at her, his lips slightly apart. With a sigh, he stroked her hair.
Chapel forgot how to breathe.
There was a rustle as the entire audience leaned forward in anticipation.
"Jim, I do not think you are fully committed to the boring scenario."
"I'm on board, Spock." Kirk touched Chapel's cheek briefly, then pulled her up to a sitting position. He exhaled. Loudly. "I trust you know patty-cake, Doctor."
"I do." She didn't want to let go of his hand. "And 'See see your playmate.'"
He grinned. "I don't know that one; you'll have to teach me. Let's go."
The crowd let out a cry of wonder as they began to intone, "Patty-cake, patty-cake, baker's man..." Then the wonder turned to confusion, then to dismay.
After about the twentieth rendition, the onlookers began to talk among themselves.
The attendants walked over to the bed, staring at Kirk and Chapel as if trying to determine their sanity.
"We better look like this feels good, sir, or they may give us more of that wine. And I'm not sure I could take it." Chapel threw her head back, realized too late that as she did it she was also throwing her breasts into prominence.
Kirk missed a beat of patty-cake. "I think they need sound effects." He moaned. Loudly. With heartfelt gusto.
She kept up the nursery rhyme sing-song, softly, under her breath.
"Our gods are boring." Kirk's attendant turned away, muttered, "We would have been better."
"Much better," the woman said.
"Excellent," Spock sounded very pleased. "Keep it up."
"Easy for him to say," Kirk said with a grin to Chapel.
She giggled, and his grin grew bigger. He had the most beautiful mouth. She felt herself drawn into it and leaned forward, missing the beat for the game and felt Kirk's hand land on her chest instead of her palm. He slowly let his hand slide down toward her breast.
"Oh, the gods love!" someone yelled from the front rows.
The crowd let loose a sigh of anticipation and all conversation ceased. Chapel could feel every eye on her again.
"That is not boring," Spock said.
With a frustrated sound, Kirk pulled his hand away. His eyes locked with hers and she felt as if she was drowning in them. He had remarkable eyes. Green and gold, such pretty colors.
"You have nice eyes," she said softly, knowing she sounded like a total sap but didn't care.
"So do you," he murmured back, a shy smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
"Yes, you both have quite attractive eyes. Now. Please. Captain, Doctor. Pay attention."
"We are." Chapel sighed dreamily.
"Not to each other. To the mission, which is to be so uninteresting to these natives that they go away and you can effect your escape."
"We know the damn mission, Spock," Chapel tried to look away from Kirk but found she couldn't. "Maybe it's time for 'See see your playmate?'"
"Long past," Kirk said fiercely, letting his eyes rake up and down her body.
She should have been embarrassed, knew she should not be enjoying his scrutiny, or looking back at him in the same way.
Spock actually sighed.
The sound brought her back to reality just enough to begin the new song. "See see your playmate. Come out and play with me."
"I'd like to." Kirk grinned, but followed suit, easily keeping time with her in the more complicated hand motions.
She laughed, which was good because she couldn't remember the next part. "And bring your something something, climb up my apple tree."
He waggled his eyebrows, causing her to giggle again.
"Slide down my rain barrel," she said softly, then looked down significantly.
He laughed again and shifted forward.
She started to meet him but heard Spock cough so she settled for whispering the next line, "Into my cellar door."
They both groaned.
"And we'll be jolly friends, forever more, more, more, more." The last few hand slaps were more like caresses.
"May I suggest that the lyrics to that song are not conducive to being uninteresting?" Spock's voice was muffled by the whirr of the tricorder. "Please return to patty-cake."
"Party pooper," she said under her breath.
"I heard that, Doctor."
'I heard that, Doctor' she mouthed to Kirk, who laughed.
"Do not encourage her, Jim. This is a serious situation."
"Damn right it is, Spock." Kirk didn't take his eyes off her. 'I want you,' he mouthed.
She mouthed it back. Could think of lots of other things she'd like to mouth. He seemed to be reading her mind, leaned in. Their lips met and for a second there was only bliss. Then Spock pushed them apart.
"I wish you'd just go away," she said.
"That is the drug speaking, not you."
"Says you," she said with a pout.
Her attendant held up a bottle of wine, calling out from her place by the table, "More wine? It will help the Sorlish."
"We wouldn't have needed help," the male attendant muttered.
"Refuse it, Doctor," Spock said. "I do not believe they can afford to force feed their gods in front of an audience."
Chapel shook her head.
"Our gods are very boring, and possibly crazy," her attendant said as she buried her face in the other attendant's chest.
He patted her back, staring daggers at Kirk and Chapel.
"My plan is succeeding," Spock said, satisfaction evident in his voice.
"A little less emphasis on that 'my,' would be nice, Spock. Doctor Chapel and I are more than doing our part." Kirk held up his hands. "Ready, Chris?"
She smiled at the nickname. It had been years since anyone had called her that. "Ready, sir."
"Jim," he said softly to her.
She tried it out. "Jim."
He nodded and smiled at her with that warm, wonderful smile that made her want to kiss him all over and—
She forced herself to concentrate on 'Patty-cake' instead.
Hours later, hands aching and throat burning, Chapel watched as the last of the crowd gave up and went away.
"Soon," Spock said quietly.
Only their attendants were left, and they sat dejectedly on the cold marble by the table, staring at their disappointing gods. Kirk's attendant got up first and held his hand out to the woman, pulling her to her feet. With one last malice-filled glance at them, he grabbed the wine and handed the woman a plate of food.
"You're terrible gods. I spit on you." He did just that.
"And a new religion is born," Kirk said.
"They could have had the bed if they'd just asked," Chapel said as they disappeared into the woods.
Two uniforms fell out of nowhere and landed on the bed. "I took the liberty of procuring these while you were busy with your hand-clapping."
"Thanks," Kirk said as he pulled the pants on under the short outfit.
Chapel decided that modesty was a moot point, and slipped the dress off before putting on the uniform. When she was done, she looked over at Kirk and saw him glance at her, a slight blush spreading across his face. She realized she was blushing too.
Funny that it wasn't until she had clothes on again that the full import of how they'd been dressed hit her.
"May I suggest we make haste?"
"Lead on, Macduff," Kirk said with a slightly uncomfortable grin. He stared out to where Spock's voice had come from, a frown beginning.
"Where'd he go?" Chapel asked.
A warm if invisible hand grasped her wrist, pulling her along. Kirk was dragged along on the other side.
"We're sure this is Spock, right?" Chapel asked, another giggle working its way loose despite her best efforts to try to control herself. She reached out and touched a warm, rigid back. Only Spock could be that much of a tightass in this situation. "Yep, it's Spock."
There was a loud hiss and Spock's form shimmered into view again for a moment. Chapel realized she was touching the beacon not his back. So maybe he wasn't that much of a tightass. She smiled wider as she looked over at Kirk. He was chuckling too and he turned to her, shot her a "Now, we're in for it" look. She giggled again.
"I will attribute your behavior to the effects of the drug," Spock said, almost sourly as the beacon sputtered and he disappeared again.
"You do that, Mister Spock," she said.
His hand tightened on her wrist and she realized her tone had been a long way from professional.
"I mean 'Yes, sir.'"
She shot another look at Kirk and saw that he was laughing. She stuck her tongue out at him. He returned the gesture, then slowly licked across his lips, his expression becoming intense. Desire shot through her.
"May I remind the two of you that I am a touch telepath? If you could refrain from doing that until we have reached the shuttle, I would appreciate it."
With a smile, Kirk turned away. "So, what's the status of the dilithium extraction?"
"Completed sir. We took a minimal amount and covered our tracks perfectly."
Hopefully not as perfectly as he'd set up the beacons earlier. Chapel felt Spock stiffen and worried that she'd said that out loud. But he'd probably just read the mockery in her thought. Him being a telepath and touching her and all.
She almost laughed. Years ago, this situation would have been tailor-made for her fantasies. High on an aphrodisiac, she could have thrown herself at him with abandon. It just figured that now, when she could, she didn't want to anymore.
She turned to look at Kirk. He was staring at her. His eyes still burned. She wondered if hers did too. Got the answer when he sighed and looked away.
Great—she'd just traded one impossible crush for another.
She sighed too, resolutely pushed down what she was feeling. Way down. But from the way Spock's hand tightened on hers again, not down far enough.
"Sorry," she said, softly enough that Spock could hear but Kirk probably couldn't.
Spock's grip on her eased. Then he let go altogether. "Please wait here until I have dropped the beacons."
Suddenly there was a shower of sparks and Spock popped into view. He shrugged out of the beacon apparatus hurriedly. Chapel thought that the ends of his hair look singed.
"So much for your personal cloaking device," Kirk said.
Spock picked up the still smoldering unit, turning away from them and walking toward what she presumed was the shuttle.
Chapel heard the whirr of his tricorder and a shooting panic seemed to settle in her gut. "Captain, my tricorder."
He nodded. "Is in that tent, I know. We'll have to get it back. Soon."
The shuttle appeared as if out of thin air. Chapel knew it was just a function of Spock having dropped the camouflage beacons, but it was still impressive.
A moment later, Spock walked toward them, and she noticed he had a second tricorder slung around his neck.
"I believe you left this behind?" He drew the tricorder over his head and handed it to her, disapproval rampant in his tone.
"Nowhere to hide it in that dress."
His eyebrow rose. "You could have simply taken it with you. I doubt they would have tried to stop you. You were, after all, a god in their minds."
"It was a mistake, Spock. She didn't mean to do it." Kirk sounded annoyed—and protective. "And she'd already told me she left it."
"Yes, a few moments ago. I did hear her, Jim."
Chapel frowned at him, unsure why he seemed so put out with her. She stood up straight. "He's right, Captain. It was sloppy of me and I apologize." She didn't look at either of them.
"At ease, Doctor." Kirk pushed past her and Spock. "Let's get the hell out of here."
She didn't look at Spock as she hurried after Kirk. Ensign Forman nodded to her as she entered the shuttle.
"Where's the rest of the party?" Kirk asked.
"Took them to the ship with the dilithium, sir. Just got back myself." He looked at Spock. "I hope I set those beacons up correctly, sir?"
"You did quite well, Ensign."
"Very good." Kirk settled into a passenger seat, letting Spock take the copilot's seat. "Let's go home.
Chapel took the seat across from Kirk.
The ride back to the ship was uncomfortable. An odd silence fell over them, and Chapel found it depressing. She could feel Kirk's gaze on her and tried not to look at him. Also tried not to move around too much. The drug was at full strength now and she'd never felt quite so aroused. Or quite so frustrated. She remembered seeing a cat in heat, yowling piteously and rubbing herself on the carpet. Chapel suddenly understood why.
Unfortunately, yowling and rubbing oneself on the carpet were frowned upon in an already tense shuttle.
Kirk turned away from her, staring out the viewscreen, but his hand dug into the armrest. She allowed herself to stare at the back of his head and felt a rush of lust rise up inside her. Odd that it seemed so specific to him. Was it because he'd had the wine too? Did something in the drug make it only work if two had partaken?
She analyzed the readings she'd taken. According to the tricorder, the effects should be intense but short lasting.
She shut the tricorder off with a sigh of relief.
"Not terminal?" Kirk asked with a small smile.
He nodded then turned away again.
When the shuttle finally docked, Chapel was the first off.
Kirk was right behind her. "Chris?" His voice was low and somewhat urgent. "Are you all right?"
He touched her hand, and she moaned, then moaned again when he pulled away. He sighed.
"It's just the drug, sir." She saw his look and said softly, "Jim."
He nodded with a sad smile. "Yes. Just the drug."
Spock walked off the shuttle and she jerked away guiltily. "If that will be all, Captain?"
At Kirk's nod, she turned and fled for the safety of her own quarters.
Chapel heard footsteps on the walk behind her, didn't turn to see who it was. She was on leave, and she officially didn't care who might be standing behind her.
It has been a hellacious few weeks since they'd been elevated to the ranks of the gods. Even with new dilithium, the ship had barely limped away to the nearest repair facility. As the repairs had commenced, medical had shipped out the few wounded who needed more care than could be obtained on a starship. The crew had helped out with the repairs where they could. Then yesterday they'd been given leave on this lovely nearby world where they would get to stay until the repairs were complete.
Chapel's life seemed stuck in some odd place that wasn't normal but didn't seem to go anywhere else. She was having trouble forgetting what it had felt like to touch the captain, to be that close to him, to see quite that much of him. She wished she could move on. She knew it had just been the drugs that made him interested in her.
And it was just a crush that made her interested in him now, when there was no way in hell she'd ever be in that position again. Why did she do this to herself?
At least she was getting some rest. McCoy had come back quickly, if not fast enough for his taste and, while he'd been even crankier than when he was on bed-rest, he was at least back on the job. She'd been glad to hand back the reins of sickbay.
She wished things with Spock would settle down. He'd seemed to take any opportunity to ride her. And Jim—the captain. She made the mental adjustment, trying to forget that she'd ever had permission to call him anything but 'sir.' The captain had avoided her nearly as studiously as she'd been avoiding him.
At least the aphrodisiac had worn off quickly.
"Doctor Chapel?" Spock said.
She groaned. "I'm on leave, Spock."
"Yes, I know. I wish to speak to you."
A shadow fell across her face and she looked up at him. "You're blocking my sun, sir."
He sat down in the chair next to her.
"Look if this is about that damn tricorder, I'll put myself on report if it'll make you ease up on me."
"It is not about the tricorder. Although that was careless of you."
"And it's a shame they don't have the death penalty for that." She took a deep breath. "I know that it could have been catastrophic. But you found it and saved us all. Again."
He sat back in the chair. "Yes. But I wonder about the damage we did."
"You mean to their religion?"
"I was thinking of patty-cake. I fear that it may be incorporated into their culture. They had ample time to learn it."
Spock making a joke? She laughed uncertainly. "At least they only got one verse of the other song."
He shot her a stern look. "Yes, that was fortunate." He sat back, studying her.
"What?" she asked, feeling a bit paranoid.
He didn't answer.
She gestured out toward the beach. "This doesn't seem like a place you'd gravitate toward."
"It is not." He looked off to their left and gestured toward a lone figure. "He has found his beach."
"A beach to walk on," Spock said, his tone musing, gentle. Almost tender.
She reached for the tricorder she always carried with her and scanned him.
"I am fine, Christine."
"Now I know you aren't okay. You'd normally rather die than call me by my first name."
He pushed the tricorder away gently. "It was only to get your attention."
She gave him a perfect rendition of his eyebrow. "Well, it worked."
He took the tricorder from her. "I am sorry that I have been hard on you. I was disturbed by what I saw on that planet."
"You mean the way the captain and I behaved?"
"But now you're not?"
"I am not. I have had time to think, to consider."
"And because it was the drug, you're going to let it go?"
"Not precisely." He pointed out to the figure on the beach. "There is a man with no braid on his shoulder who would, I believe, welcome your company."
She realized that the figure coming toward them was Kirk. She shot a startled look at Spock. "Why?"
"I do not believe it was solely the drugs that spurred the attraction between you." At her look, he raised an eyebrow. "If it had been, you would have still wanted me. But you did not. It was something else." He almost smiled. "I have always regretted that I could not return your affections, Christine." He seemed about to touch her hair, then he got up and left.
Chapel turned in her chair to watch him go. "Well, that was odd."
She turned back and watched Kirk as he walked on the beach. His shoulders seemed slumped, as if he were terribly tired. He turned and walked to the water, letting the surf run over his feet as he stood in the wet sand.
She got up and walked out to him. "Spock said you might want some company?"
Kirk turned to her, a strange look on his face. "Spock said that?"
"Something about braid on your shoulder, a beach to walk on?" She saw the astonishment in his face. "Sir?"
He stared at her as if he could see into her soul.
"Jim? Are you all right?"
He nodded. But he didn't smile. His brows were drawn down in a frown.
She fought the urge to reach out, to stroke his cheek. Her face felt hot and she realized she was blushing. She was going to kill Spock the next time she saw him. "Right—I shouldn't call you that. And now I'm disturbing you, sir. I'm sorry." She turned to go.
His hand on her arm stopped her. "Stay," he whispered.
She looked back at him.
"Chris. Stay." He let go of her.
She turned around. "Spock seemed to be implying that you would welcome my company, not just company in general."
He smiled, a shadow of his normal grin but still welcome. "Spock's rarely wrong."
"What's going on, Jim?"
He held out his hand and waited until she took it to say, "I'm not sure." Then he grinned. "But I think I like it."
He led her down the beach, taking them through the surf. She loved the feel of his hand on hers, the way his shoulder bumped up against hers every so often, the way he looked over at her, as if checking to see if she was real, and still there.
"Spock was postulating on the damage we'd done to the culture with our patty-cake routine."
He laughed. "Somehow I don't think it will lead to the rise of a gangster culture." He grew more serious. "Or a Nazi one."
"Probably not. Just a bunch of really dexterous people. Or a planet full of bakers." She laughed at his grin.
His hand tightened on hers. "I'm sorry I avoided you."
"Hey, you weren't the only one hiding."
"I said avoiding not hiding." He shot her a stern look.
"Right." She bumped up against him and saw him smile.
"So why were you avoiding me?" he asked.
She looked down. "I don't know. Embarrassed, I guess."
"No reason to be. It was the drugs, you said so yourself."
"Right. The drugs."
"Which is why we're here now." He glanced at her, smiled gently. "And why I keep thinking of you in that damn dress."
"You were pretty memorable in that kilt too."
He let go of her hand but put his arm around her and pulled her close. She wrapped her arm around his waist.
They walked silently for a while. Chapel could feel her heart pounding, was intensely aware of where his hand rested on her skin.
"We're in trouble, aren't we?" She looked over at him.
"Big trouble." He shook his head. "Although my first officer apparently doesn't see this as a problem."
"I'm not sure I quite understand what he was doing."
Kirk tapped her gently on the nose, then touched her cheek. "He knows what I need." He grinned. "Sometimes better than I do." He laughed softly. "Maybe it's a good thing that I demoted you, after all. McCoy and Spock write your evaluations, not me."
She began to smile. "Lucky that."
He wrapped his other arm around her, pulling her close. "The beach is deserted, Chris. What should we do?"
She didn't stop to think, didn't want to hear her inner censor tell her not to be stupid. She kissed him.
And he kissed her back. Passionately. Possessively. With a great deal of gusto.
So much gusto that she found it difficult to stand when they finished. "Wow."
"That was without drugs," he said, an amused—but also proud—note in his voice. He pushed her hair off her face. "Sweet."
His tenderness touched her, opened something up inside her and helped her say, "I've been lonely." Once the words were out, they sounded stupid. She wished she could take them back.
But then he said, "Me too," and everything was all right again.
He kissed her, this time gently. Then he took her hand again and continued walking down the beach.
She felt off balance. "What's happening?"
He shrugged and tightened his grip on her hand.
"You don't know or you don't care?"
He grinned at her. "Oh, I care. I care a lot." He pulled her close, kissed her quick. "I think it's nice. If you aren't sure, then go back to whatever you were doing before our Vulcan friend decided to meddle."
She noticed he didn't let go of her hand. "Well, if he went to all the trouble of meddling, I really should stick around for a while."
"I think we owe it to him." He pointed to where a tent was set up on the beach. "I was thinking of getting one of those and sleeping out tonight. Under the stars." He shot her a look and raised an eyebrow in query.
She laughed. "We've been over this."
"Oh, right, nice sheets and indoor plumbing." He nodded and smiled but his brightness seemed to dim.
She reached over and stroked his cheek, letting her hand run through his hair. "Do you have bug spray?"
"I'll get some." He closed his eyes as she rubbed the back of this neck gently, letting her fingers comb through his hair. "And the stars are phenomenal here."
"But how will we see them in the tent?"
"We can see other things in the tent," he said softly, his voice intense.
"Ah." She laughed, then she kissed him again, trying to memorize what it felt like to be close to him. She wasn't sure how long whatever they were doing would last. But she didn't want to lose a moment of it.
He pulled away first, smiled at her happily. "A beach to walk on," he whispered.
"It's right here," she said.
"And so are you." He put his arm around her again. "So what other nasty songs do you know?"
She laughed. "Under normal circumstances, 'See see your playmate' isn't nasty."
"Normal circumstances? What are those?"
She smiled. "I have no idea."
"Me neither." He stared at her, his look so intense she thought he'd melt her.
"Spock said it wasn't the drugs." At his look, she said, "Because he knew that I didn't want him."
"Nothing wrong with his self-esteem," he said with a laugh. Then his expression became more serious. "I knew it wasn't the drugs. I kept seeing you in that bathtub. And in that dress. I kept seeing your eyes, kept remembering how I couldn't look away." He seemed lost in thought for a moment, a happy look on his face. "You do have pretty eyes."
She was drowning in his. "So do you."
She pulled him into the surf, sat down and pulled him down to sit with her.
A wave slid over and around them, pushing her against him.
"A salt-water bath?" He smiled. "You'll get sand in your suit."
She shrugged. "I'll get used to it." She glanced at him. "If I'm going to sleep on the beach."
She leaned against him and he pulled her closer, kissing her hard, his hands roaming freely.
"Best shore leave ever," he muttered as he pushed her down.
Another wave came, this time harder, splashing them as they kissed. She began to laugh and he wiped her face off then kissed her again. Then he stood and pulled her up. As he turned them back to the beach, she thought she saw a familiar figure watching them from across the sand.
Kirk's smile was infinitely gentle. His hand tightened on her waist. "My best friend. I'm going to have to do something nice for him."
She smiled, felt tears threaten and blinked hard.
Kirk raised a hand.
Across the sand. Spock raised a hand back in greeting. Or farewell. Or maybe just luck to them. Chapel didn't know, was still reeling a bit from what was happening.
"You loved him once," Kirk said.
"He never loved me," she said, with more assurance than she felt. After what he'd just done for them, she wasn't sure of anything anymore. "But he loves you."
Kirk nodded and watched Spock walk away. Then he looked over at her. "I'm starved. Are you starved?"
She laughed. "I am."
"Come on, I know a great little place, right on the beach. Best seafood on this planet. And no dress code."
She looked down at their sand-covered legs. "Good thing."
He put a hand on either side of her face and stared at her. "I want to know you. Really know you."
"Same here." She held out her hand then smiled when he took it and swung her arm back and forth as they walked.
His happiness was contagious. It filled her, made her feel flushed, as if with fever. If his happiness was a disease, it was one she hoped never, ever to recover from.