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) 2002 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
Here Be Dragons
Spock sat in his command chair and mused that the huge image of Vulcan on the viewscreen was getting old even for him. The refits were taking longer than expected--caused in no small part by the emergency on the Caledonia that had called away all the techs. The later Psi 2000 outbreak--deliberately set loose on the Carter--and the murder that had followed shortly on its heels did not help, nor did the ensuing investigation that was including a great deal of the refit crews in the list of possible suspects.
So far, Kerr was making no progress in the investigation. Not that Spock had expected him to. The story put out for the crew was that the murder was the work of an enemy of the Federation striking randomly, but Spock, working with Kerr and Christine, suspected that Lieutenant Commander Farrell had been killed by the shadowy Starfleet section she had refused to specifically name, the one she had said had been behind her orders to let the Psi 2000 virus loose on the ship.
Spock glanced over at Christine. She sat quietly, staring intently, if somewhat blankly, at the viewscreen. He checked to make sure the view had not changed. It had not.
Sensing his look, she turned to meet his eyes. "What?" she asked quietly.
He shook his head and watched her turn her gaze back to the viewscreen. She'd been sitting next to him like this for at least an hour. He did a quick calculation and realized that was easily a personal record on her part. Sitting and doing nothing was not her strong suit. But it seemed to be the activity she preferred since Farrell had been killed.
"May I speak to you in private?" he asked softly.
She didn't look at him as she nodded and rose quickly, already on the way to his ready room. He stood and followed her. "Lieutenant Kimble, you have the bridge."
"Aye, sir," the helmsman replied.
Christine waited at the door to his office. He gestured for her to enter and she walked to the view port and stood tensely, staring out at the stars and Vulcan below them. He watched her for several long moments before asking, "Christine, are you all right?"
She didn't answer.
He joined her, shoulder near enough to touch hers if either of them moved. Turning slightly so he could see her face, he asked, "T'hy'la, what is it?"
She just shook her head, not even reacting to the endearment.
"I know that Commander Farrell's death was a shock to you, Christine. That it has left you in a dark place."
She sighed. "Plenty of light here."
"You know what I mean."
She turned to him then, her expression harsh. "You wallowed in grief. Why can't I?"
He tried to keep his expression even, to not show her that her blow had hit home. "I am not sure my method is the way I would recommend."
"Little late now," she said, her tone only slightly less bitter than it had been.
"Perhaps. Do you wish to talk about this?"
She laughed. It was a brittle, hollow sound to his ears. "God, you're as bad as Randall. That's all he wants to do. Talk about this. Can't I just be sad?"
"I think you have gone beyond sad, Christine."
She turned to face him. "If you think I'm pathological, then refer me to Carpenter. Otherwise, leave me the hell alone."
He could feel his face tighten. "As you wish."
She started to walk to the bridge door.
"You will report to Doctor Carpenter at once." He saw her stiffen. "I am sorry, Commander. It is for your own good."
Without a word, she turned and headed for the rear door. Once she had left, Spock hit his comm channel. "Spock to Carpenter."
"This call needs to be private."
"It is. I'm in my office."
"Doctor Chapel is on her way down. She has exhibited an alarming lethargy since Commander Farrell's death. I am...worried about her."
"I'll talk to her, Captain, but I'm not an expert in this field. I may have to refer her to one of our counselors."
"Whatever you think best, Doctor. You are her friend and an excellent physician. I trust you to do the right thing for her."
"And here she is now. I'll keep you posted. Carpenter out."
Spock took a deep breath before walking back out to the bridge. Christine had been through so much. Not just the death of her friend and fighting a virus she considered her personal nemesis, but also helping him through the death of his mother. And that was only days after Christine had been forced by circumstances to get him through the Pon Farr. And even earlier than that she had been staunchly by his side as they had selected the crew and readied the ship.
He remembered how happy she was when it was just the two of them. They had both thought they had known where the relationship they were slowly creating was headed. But then Jim had died, and Spock, consumed with his own pain, had shut her out. And she had turned to another man. A man who could be there for her in the way that Spock had refused. A man that loved her. But who couldn't reach her now either from what she'd said.
Spock reached for the channel again. "Spock to Kerr."
"Kerr here, sir."
"I need to speak with you."
"I'll be right up."
Spock realized this was a conversation he didn't want to have in his office. "No, Colonel. I'll come to you."
"Very well, sir."
Spock cut the connection and left the ready room by the front entrance so that Kimble would know he was off the bridge altogether. Taking the lift down to deck nine he walked slowly to Kerr's office, nodding to the marines who greeted him as he passed. There had been a time, before Christine had chosen Kerr, that Spock had spent much more time in this area. He realized that he'd been avoiding it since then, perhaps because he was unwilling to see the two of them together.
Images of holding Christine in his arms distracted him. He tried to push them away but could not. He had been left with no choice after the Pon Farr but to let go of her and watch her go back to Kerr. It was what she had wanted, what she had chosen. But he could not completely get those days and nights they had spent together out of his mind. And he had tried. Meditation, normally a comfort at the worst times, did not stop the images from reminding him what he had let get away.
He arrived at Kerr's door and ordered the inappropriate thoughts out of his mind. Christine was not his. She belonged with this man. And both he and Kerr needed to try to help her now. He rang the chime.
"Come in." Kerr rose as Spock walked in.
"At ease, Colonel." Spock sat down, watched as Kerr followed suit. "I wish to speak of Commander Chapel. I am concerned about her."
Kerr's response was wary. "In what way, sir?"
Spock approved of Kerr's reticence. "She seems to be detached, lethargic, and highly depressed. I did not notice this immediately following Commander Farrell's death, but it has become increasingly more apparent."
"I've seen it too, sir." Kerr leaned back. "She isn't in the mood to talk about it to me."
"Nor to me." Spock could not tell Kerr he had ordered Christine to sickbay. She would have to share that with him if she chose. Spock was suddenly at a loss for what more to say.
"I'm worried about her too," Kerr said, filling the silence.
Spock let a small sigh escape. "The bridge is not the same place it was. I imagine your private time with her is also impacted?"
Kerr nodded. "She's been hurting and I don't know how to help her...how to reach her."
Spock rose. "I don't either. But we must not give up. I will do what I can. You must too."
"The best I can do is love her," Kerr replied, then gave Spock an odd look of understanding. "Maybe that's the best either of us can do."
"Perhaps. I must get back to the bridge."
Kerr nodded. "Right, sir. I appreciate the visit."
Spock wondered what they had really accomplished. As he met Kerr's eyes, he could see the colonel wondered the same thing. Fighting a small smile, Spock said, "I believe there are no lengths we wouldn't go for her."
Kerr looked wary. "To help her...or to get her?"
Spock chose not to answer. "Good day, Colonel."
"Sir," Kerr replied as the door closed behind Spock.
As Spock walked back to the bridge, he refused to dwell on the answer to the colonel's question. What was the point? Both he and Kerr knew it anyway. And, for now, it was irrelevant. They needed to get Christine back. Then they could continue whatever was going on between the three of them.
Christine walked listlessly to sickbay. She couldn't even muster up much indignation that Spock had just ordered her off the bridge. She knew she was in a dark place, wasn't sure exactly how she had arrived there.
She passed crewmembers and greeted them, trying to feign some measure of cheer. She had the feeling her act wasn't very convincing. She was almost grateful to turn into sickbay and walk to Carpenter's office. The other doctor was talking to someone on her comm. Spock, most likely, Christine reasoned. He would have to explain to Carpenter why he was sending her boss down for an evaluation. He had placed Carpenter in a very uncomfortable position. Christine found she didn't have the energy to care.
Carpenter saw her, and waved her in, cutting off the comm as she did it. "Sit down, Commander."
"I'd really rather not," Christine tried to joke, even as she took the chair in front of Carpenter's desk.
"I imagine not." Carpenter studied her closely. "You look terrible."
"Is that your medical diagnosis?"
"No. That's my remark as a friend. Are you sleeping?"
Christine didn't want to admit that she'd been having trouble sleeping since the wake.
"Christine. You have to talk to me or I won't be able to tell what is wrong. We both know what I'll have to do if I can't get to the bottom of it myself."
"Counselor," Christine said softly. "Time off. Mandatory bed rest. And a few nice drugs so I don't freak."
Carpenter shook her head with a wry grin. "You're not freaking out, Commander. Just perhaps mired in an unhealthy stage of grief." Carpenter got up. "Come on, I want a full set of scans first. You've been burning the candle at both ends for a while now. A good deal of this may be accumulated stress."
Christine followed her out to one of the biobeds and watched as Carpenter took the readings and sent the results to her office. Even from her vantage point, Christine could see that some of her neurotransmitters were completely out of whack. "Stress," she whispered.
"Stress," Carpenter replied softly, her voice returning to normal once they were back in her office. "You've been through quite a bit. That experience on the cave and...uh later, may have taxed you a lot more than you knew. Did you ever really rest up after that?"
Christine shook her head. "We got the news of the death of Spock's mother and I had to mind the store here, and then Randall..."
"Yeah, I imagined he needed some hand holding after what happened. I'll be right back." She walked out to the cabinets and filled a hypospray with a mixture of compounds. When she came back in, she held it up to Christine's neck and released it.
She sat back down and studied Christine. "You aren't even going to ask me what that was?"
"A mix of vitamins and minerals, I imagine. With perhaps a dose of reuptake inhibitors."
Carpenter shook her head. "The Christine Chapel I know would never just imagine what was in a hypo. She'd damn well want to know exactly what I was injecting her with." She smiled gently.
Christine rose, "So I can go back to work now."
Carpenter shot her a look that clearly meant 'sit back down' so Christine did. "I think there's more to this than just being tired. Talk to me."
"Delynn, what do you want me to say?"
"Tell me how you feel."
"Why does everyone want to know that?"
"Maybe because nobody is really sure." Carpenter leaned forward. "I know you're hurting, Christine. Farrell was a good friend of yours. And she was horribly murdered. And none of us know why."
Christine looked down. She knew why.
"And that is preying on your mind. You need to talk about it."
"I will. When I'm ready."
"I think you're ready now." She gestured to the readouts. "Or maybe you're just ready for some serious sleep. The hypo should make you feel better and a little sleepy."
"So I can go now?" Christine asked, rising quickly
Carpenter nodded. "But not back to the bridge. You're relieved from duty for the day." She looked up and met Christine's eyes, resolution clear. "Tomorrow you can talk to me or you can talk to the Captain. If you don't, then you'll spend another day off. Your choice."
"That's not fair."
"Neither is what you're doing to yourself." Carpenter got up and walked around her desk, stopping to touch Christine on the arm. "I'm sorry. I know you're in pain, and this isn't going to feel like it's helping much."
Christine sighed. "It's so black. I try to see the future, try to tell myself that it won't be like this forever. But it's so hard to see anything but being sad."
Carpenter seemed to consider something. Then she took a deep breath. "Do you remember what the virus made me do?"
Christine thought back. "You were trying to get something off your hands."
"It happened on the Reynaldi colony, near Vega V." Her eyes were watching something very far away...or long ago. "There was an attack by pirates and they were using a new weapon. It was awful. I've never seen so many body parts just lying around." She closed her eyes. "People that weren't injured were covered in gore. Literally dripping with it."
"I had to help. I was a doctor. I couldn't take the time to clean up other than to have another medic hose me off. When it was over, I had blood everywhere. I tried to get it off but I couldn't. I just lost it, Christine." Her eyes when they met Christine's were haunted. "They had to sedate me. It took two days before I'd even speak." She shook her head. "I'd been fine up to that moment. And eventually I was fine again."
"It just took time. And talking to people I trusted about what I was feeling. And rest. It's why I'm giving you some time off. You need to rest. Sometimes sleep is the best thing."
"And don't go back to the bridge. Not even to your office. You got that?"
"Yes, doctor." Christine walked out of Carpenter's office and, nodding to the nurse on duty, left sickbay. She saw the door to Redmoon's lab open and walked in. A lab tech saw her and said, "Doctor Redmoon's not here, sir. Can I help you?"
Christine shook her head. "Never mind, it isn't important." She had thought that Redmoon's calming presence might help. He'd been such a support when she and Farrell were fighting the virus. But maybe she just wanted to talk to him because he was some kind of link to Farrell.
Christine left the lab, taking the lift down to deck seven and Farrell's office. There were cartons piled outside the door. Renata's things hadn't been packed up yet. Christine took a deep breath and picked up the cartons. Opening the door, she walked into the space and slowly exhaled. No ghosts. "I'm sorry, Ren," she whispered as she slowly began to pack up her friend's things.
Kerr heard the alarm go off on his console and checked the readings. Someone was in Farrell's office. He got up, opening up one of the drawers in his desk, then reached under to take out the phaser he'd concealed there after the Psi 2000 outbreak. Hiding the weapon in one of the special pockets in his uniform, he hurried up to deck seven.
The corridor was full of medical staff. He nodded to those he knew as he worked his way to Farrell's office. The door was closed. Checking the hall and finding it empty, he reached for his phaser. Standing well to the side, he hit the door control and waited.
"Who's there?" he heard Christine call out, then he heard footsteps.
"Shit," he muttered as he stuffed the phaser back in his pocket. "Christine?"
"Randall?" She backed up as he walked in. "What are you doing here?"
"Finding out what you're doing here. Only I didn't know it was you. I put a watch on the door to this office and to Farrell's quarters just in case."
She looked only mildly interested. "You think that the killer is still on the ship?"
He frowned at her indifference. "Probably not, but I decided it couldn't hurt to be prepared in case they were." He saw the cartons she had brought. "You're packing up her office?"
She nodded, her tone oddly flat. "Spock made me go see Carpenter and she relieved me of duty for the rest of the day. Besides, someone has to."
He turned and locked the door. "Doesn't have to be you," he replied as he took one of the cartons and began to put Farrell's personal files inside. He'd already been through the office once. But he didn't want Christine finding something that he'd overlooked.
"She was my friend. Who else should do this?" She sounded irritated.
"I didn't mean--"
She cut him off, "I know what you meant, Randall. You don't have to help," she gave him a look he couldn't decipher.
He left the carton and walked over to her. "What's wrong?"
Her eyes flashed as she said, "I'm packing up my murdered friend's things, Randall. What the hell do you think is wrong?"
He grabbed her arm as she turned away, pulling her close despite the glare she gave him. Her body was rigid as he closed his arms around her. She pushed on him for a moment. If she asked, he'd let her go. But he hoped she'd relax and tell him what was wrong. He'd just about given up hope that she was going to give up, when he felt her body go slack and her arms slipped around him. "Her service was today," she whispered.
He finally understood. "You should have gone."
She didn't say anything.
He sighed and held her closer. "She loved you, sweetheart. She wouldn't want you beating yourself up this way for doing your duty."
"You didn't know her," Christine said as she pulled away.
He chose not to argue, just went back to packing things up. Glancing back at her occasionally, he made short work of the files and closed the carton. "What are you going to do with these?"
She shook her head. "Put them in storage for now."
He just nodded. Watching her as she worked, he wondered what she was thinking. Usually he could read her, but shut down and in pain, he was finding it impossible to reach her.
"The crew's scared," she finally said.
"They think that the 'random enemy of the Federation' you and Spock created is going to strike again." She closed the last carton and gave him a hard stare.
"I know that too."
"Do you care?"
He nodded. "I do. But they're in no danger. We know who really did this."
She shook her head. "We don't know anything, Randall. And it's driving me crazy."
"You've got to let that part of it go. You couldn't have stopped her death."
Her face fell. "I know that. I just want to believe that I could have."
As she picked up the carton, he eased her arm back down. "Leave it. The quartermaster can take care of it."
"You've done your part." He pulled her into his arms again. "You're a good friend, Christine."
She leaned against him hard. "I miss her, Randall."
"I know." He gave her a quick kiss then pulled away. "It's shift change. Let's have dinner in your quarters."
She nodded. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I know you're hurting."
They took the lift to deck two and walked to her quarters. He was just ordering dinner from the replicator when her comm unit chimed. She answered and a face he didn't recognize came on.
"Len?" There was such joy in her voice, Kerr felt a moment's jealousy. Then he realized that this had to be the McCoy she'd told him so much about and he smiled. Maybe this was just what she needed.
"Hon, I've got some bad news. For you and Spock. I wanted to talk to you first because...because I know that he had a hard time after Jim's death."
"What?" Her voice was dangerously flat again.
"He's retired on Norpin V," she said, as if she were willing it to be so.
"He would have been retired on Norpin V, Chris. If the ship had made it. It didn't." McCoy watched her carefully.
"I see," was all she said.
"Yes. Thank you. I see."
"Hon, I know this is a shock, especially after what happened. I heard about your friend."
Kerr wished she'd stop saying that.
"Chris--" McCoy's voice was cut off as she closed the channel.
"Christine," Kerr said.
She turned slowly, looked at him as if trying to figure out who he was.
She sat down on the couch calmly. Her look was completely composed as she said in an icy voice. "Get out."
"Get out, Randall. I want to be alone."
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"I do." She took a deep breath and sat collected and very still. When he didn't move, she looked up again. "Please? Let me be."
"If you want me, I'm here for you. You know that."
"Nobody's here for me. Not when everybody's dying." As he started to argue, she held up a hand. "Just go, Randall."
He wanted to argue but something in her expression stopped him. "I love you."
"Please?" He'd never seen her look so tired.
Finally, nodding in defeat, he left her alone.
Working far later into beta shift than he had meant to, Spock was just about to leave the bridge when the comm chimed.
"Incoming transmission from Earth, sir," Ensign Tompkins said. "Marked personal for you."
He rose. "From whom?"
"A Doctor Leonard McCoy."
Spock's eyebrow rose. "I'll take it in my ready room. Lieutenant Crawford, you have the conn."
Walking quickly to his office, Spock activated the channel. "Doctor McCoy. An unexpected pleasure."
McCoy frowned. "Doubt you'll think so when I get done talking."
"Something is wrong?"
"It's Scotty. He was on his way to retirement. And the ship. The ship..." He rubbed his eyes roughly, "Damn it. He's dead, Spock."
"Dead." Spock had a hard time reconciling his mental image of the vital and energetic Scott with the word. "How?"
"The Jenolen was lost with all hands." McCoy leaned forward, his image growing bigger. "I called Chris first, Spock, because I wasn't sure how you were going to take this news. But she's on the one that didn't take it well."
Spock frowned slightly. "She recently lost a friend."
"Farrell. Yeah, I heard. Murdered. What the hell kind of diplomatic ship are you running, Spock?" McCoy looked worried and somewhat angry. "Story is that a terrorist did it. Who the hell is running your security?"
"It was not a security lapse."
"Well, I'm still worried about you out there. You're a big target whether you realize it or not. And so is Chris if she's with you."
Spock nodded thoughtfully. "You said she did not take the news well. What did she do?"
McCoy sighed. "She shut down on me. Wouldn't talk about it, didn't cry. Just kept saying, 'I see,' over and over again. Is she okay?"
"She has been through a lot lately."
"Well, it must have been a hell of a lot, Spock. She looked damn near catatonic when she signed off." He peered at Spock. "You two close enough these days you can find out what's going on?"
Spock let his eyebrow rise slowly at the barb in the question. The doctor's tendency to not mince words certainly had not changed. "We are."
"Well, good. Go do it." McCoy suddenly looked wistful. "I don't suppose you're coming back for Scotty's memorial, are you? It's in three days. Hate to admit it, Spock, but I miss you."
"I believe I may attend the ceremony. The ship is being refitted here. There is no reason not to go."
"Well, bring Christine with you. She looks like she could use a trip home."
"I will see what she says," Spock replied. "Spock out." He cut the connection and walked out to the bridge. He needed to check on Christine, but he had several things he should do first. "I'll be in engineering," he told Lieutenant Crawford.
The ride to deck ten seemed to take longer than normal. When he emerged, he headed directly for Kettering's office.
His friend looked up as Spock appeared at the door. His eyes glimmering, Kettering blinked hard several times and rubbed his forehead before saying, "I just heard."
Spock sat down across from the chief engineer. "I know you looked up to him."
"I did, Spock. This is so damn unfair. He was on his way to retire."
Kettering slammed his fist on his desk, an unusual gesture.
Spock studied him. "Will you be going back for the memorial?"
Kettering shook his head. "Not my place to. He was my mentor and my teacher, but I wasn't his friend the way you were. Besides, I want to remember him like he was. Out here." He pointed at the image of space outside of the viewscreen. "And in here," he said in a softer voice, indicating engineering.
"I think that is how he would wish you to remember him."
Kettering nodded, his eyes turned down to the desk. Then he looked up and met Spock's eyes. "Thanks for coming down here. You're a good friend, Spock."
"I value your well being, Ron."
"I pretty much value yours too," the engineer said with a smile. "Are you going back?"
"That's good. He'd be pleased. Always spoke about you with a certain tone in his voice."
Spock rose. "I have always held him in the highest regard. This will be a sad occasion."
As he walked back to the lift, Spock considered Kettering's words. Had he been Captain Scott's friend? They had worked together for years. He had relied on the engineer's ability to get them out of the deepest danger. He had helped him on many projects. But friends? Spock was not sure that they had been. Nevertheless, that didn't change his resolve to go.
When he arrived on the bridge, he instructed Tompkins to connect him with his father's residence and went into his ready room.
"My son," Sarek stared at Spock with the slightly lost look he had worn since Amanda had died. "What is it?"
"A friend of mine has died. You remember Captain Scott?"
"I do. A fine man."
"Yes. I plan to attend the funeral."
"And you would like to borrow the ship?" Sarek nodded. "Of course, Spock. I will have it prepared and provisioned. It will be just you?"
"Christine will probably travel with me. Possibly a third person as well."
"I will see to it, my son. When do you leave?"
"As soon as I have packed. Thank you, father."
"Do not thank me. It pleases me to do this for you," Sarek said with a stern but fond look as he cut the connection.
Christine ignored the chime on the first ring. And on the second. When she did not answer the third, her door opened and Spock walked in.
"Command codes, Spock?" She glared at him.
"You are not the only one the can do that, Christine." He looked around.
"He's not here. I told him to go away. Why don't you join him?" Her words were bitter, but her tone was flat.
"Doctor McCoy called me," he said as he joined her on the couch.
She wondered how he knew to sit just close enough for her to reach out and touch him if she wanted, but not so near that she felt crowded. She looked away, saying nothing.
She sat silently, willing him to go away, to just leave her alone.
He didn't move.
Finally, she said, "They're all dying."
"Not all. Doctor McCoy and Commander Uhura are fine. Captain Sulu and Commander Rand are thriving on the Excelsior. Commander Chekov is doing well. You and I are still here."
She looked over at him, frowning slightly. "It feels like we're losing them."
He nodded. "We did not go home when Jim died. That may have been, in retrospect, an unfortunate choice."
"We had a launch to contend with. And a plague after that."
"You are being logical again."
She could feel her mood lighten, the awful blackness that had filled her when McCoy had called finally lifting somewhat. "Annoying, isn't it?"
His voice was tender as he gave her one of his rare half smiles. "Annoyance is an emotion."
Scooting over slowly, she felt his arm drop around her shoulders to pull her closer. She laid her head on his chest. "And we both know you don't have those."
"Yes, we both know that," he agreed, as he rested his chin on her hair for a few moments.
"You think we should go back for Scotty's memorial?" she finally asked.
"I do." He waited. When she did not comment, he said. "My father has offered us the use of his private yacht. It is a very fast vessel."
"That's a good idea," she finally said.
"Are you all right, Christine?"
"Why wouldn't I be?" she said, but a sob caught in her voice, giving lie to the words.
"McCoy was worried about you."
"I'm worried about you," he said.
"I'm all right."
"T'hy'la, you don't need to lie to me."
This time the endearment was her undoing. The tears she'd been holding back began to fall and she quit trying to stop them. He didn't say anything as he let her cry. Finally, pulling away, she looked down at his wet uniform. "I'm making a mess of you," she said.
His hold on her tightened. "I will survive."
She wrapped her arms around him and relaxed. A strange peace settled over her despite her sadness. "I want to see our friends, Spock."
"As do I, Christine." There was a long silence as he held her. Finally he said, "I assumed it would just be you and I traveling." His voice was barely more than a murmur.
"But the yacht can hold up to six."
Still she said nothing.
"The choice is yours."
Her peace was gone; she felt instantly guilty, as she answered, "They weren't his family."
"No, they were not," he agreed quietly.
"And he'll be needed here. His marines..." she trailed off, unable to continue in what both of them knew was a lie.
"Then it will be just the two of us."
"I feel guilty," she whispered, pulling away from him.
He let go of her instantly. "Then ask him to join us." Getting up, he walked to the door slowly.
Before it could open she said, "No, I...I feel guilty that I don't want him to come."
He turned to face her and their eyes locked for a long instant. Then Spock nodded. "I will contact Starfleet and make the arrangements for our lodging. We can leave as soon as you are ready." His look grew more thoughtful. "Are you sure you want to go alone, Christine?"
"I'm sure." She tried to look resolved as he turned and left the room. She tried not to think about it as she packed her bags.
She was forced to think about it when Kerr commed her. "I'm worried about you." The concern on his face touched her.
"I'm okay." He studied her, and she gave him a tentative smile. "I'm sorry."
He nodded. "Can I see you?"
She looked down. "I have to pack. I'm going back to Earth for the memorial. I need to see my friends...the ones that are left. They're like family and I have this terrible feeling that I'm losing them all and if I don't see them soon, I never will."
"I understand. Do you want company? I have leave."
She swallowed. "I'm not going alone, Randall."
Kerr didn't speak, just stared at her from the comm panel.
"When does Spock want you to leave?"
He looked away. When he finally turned back he said softly, "You made me a promise a little while ago. I trust you remember it?"
She nodded solemnly.
He cleared his throat before he said. "If you want to take that promise back, just say so."
"You're sure?" His voice was deadly serious.
"We're going to a funeral, not an orgy." She knew her reply sounded overly defensive.
"Funerals bring out some weird emotions."
She tried to smile. "Well then I guess it's fortunate I'm traveling with a Vulcan."
A rare anger lit his eyes. "Don't bullshit me, Chapel."
"Don't lie to me and don't humor me. If you want to go to a memorial and pay your respects, I'm fine with that. If you don't want me to go with you, I can live with it. I don't like it, but I can live with it. But if you think I'm going to buy some cock-and-bull story about you not wanting him and him not wanting you, then you must think I'm some kind of moron. I was in that damn greenhouse too, remember?"
She didn't know what to say.
The anger in his eyes died, and he looked away for a moment. When he turned back his expression was carefully composed. "Ok, I'll make this easy on you. God knows why, but I will. You go to the memorial, and you say goodbye to your friend. And see your crewmates and reconnect, Christine. And do it at Spock's side.
"And if you find that the promise you made to me is easy to keep, then when you get back, you come to my room and I'll make sure you don't regret that decision. But if it turns out to be something you can't keep, then when you get back, you just send me a message that says "It's over," and that'll be it."
"That's not what this is about."
"This has been coming ever since that damn cave, Christine. Hell, maybe even before. It's your choice. You have to make it. I'm just trying to help you not lie about it, okay." He sighed. "I love you. I wish I were going with you. I'll see you when you get back. Hopefully." He hit the switch and the channel went dead.
"I love you too," she whispered to the blank screen.
Spock checked over the settings he'd programmed for their voyage. Christine sat in the co-pilot chair, her head back and eyes partially closed.
"Are you all right?"
She nodded sleepily. "S'all your fault. Delynn gave me a shot of something. Now I wish I had asked her what was in it. She said it would help me rest."
"Then rest you shall," he said as he got up and headed for the back of the small ship. He realized she was not following. "Christine. You can rest more comfortably in here."
She swiveled her chair slowly. "Too much work to move."
"Come." He held out his hand to her.
With a groan, she pushed herself out of the chair and followed him into the small bedroom.
"I'm not a damn dog, Spock," she groused irritably. "What'll it be next? Roll over?"
As she made herself comfortable, still muttering to herself, he took a blanket from a small closet and covered her up with it.
She made a happy sound as she cuddled into it. "Soft."
"My mother made it." He felt the jolt of sadness that since his mother's death seemed to always accompany any thought of her. He tried to push it away.
"I'm sorry," Christine said, as she reached for his hand.
He felt a shock of connection as their hands touched. He could sense her emotions clearly: sympathy for him, her own sadness, and a terrible weariness.
She looked up at him, her eyes going wide. "You're so sad."
"Yes." He gently disengaged his hand and said, "Rest now."
"Just for a little while." She was asleep in seconds.
He watched her for a few moments, then dimmed the lights and let the door close behind him as he returned to his seat.
He was cleared for departure as soon as he requested permission. Easing the small vessel into the air, Spock didn't accelerate until they were well out of Vulcan's atmosphere. He set the controls to the course he had entered and sat back in the chair, prepared to take the helm if he needed to.
He studied his hand, where it had touched Christine's. He could still feel her touch. Strange that he was feeling her emotions so clearly. He had not been particularly open to her at that moment, yet her feelings had come through and she had been able to read his. In his experience, only Jim had been able to do that.
Jim. Spock felt a tight sensation in his chest as the nightmare of Jim that the Pesadii had enhanced took hold of him again. That Jim was somewhere lost--not dead--was more than Spock could stand to think about. Which is why it was a nightmare, his rational mind told him. It is the last thing you could stand, so therefore it is the first thing you would dream.
Spock was grateful he did not dream very often.
He checked the readouts. The course was true, the monitors all where they should be. He could meditate. It would help the time go more quickly.
Hours passed and Spock slowly became aware of his surroundings. He looked at the empty chair next to him. She was still sleeping. Even in his meditative state, he had not been able to dull his awareness of her, of how close she was, how they were alone together. It had been this way since the Pon Farr, this hyperawareness of her. But she was not his; she had chosen another, and he must honor that. His own feelings were of no concern here.
But what of hers? some more emotional part of him asked. What does she want?
Ignoring the voice, Spock went to the carryall he had brought and pulled out a padd. There was plenty of work to catch up on. This was not, after all, a pleasure cruise. And even if it had been, he admitted ruefully, he would still find an excuse to do work.
Unless Christine wanted to do other things.
Spock closed his eyes for a moment and tried to concentrate on pushing her from his mind. His hand burned again and he sighed in frustration. Definitely time for a colorful metaphor, he decided, the phrase bringing Jim instantly to mind. He raised an eyebrow at his own emotional turbulence and turned back to the padd, determined to get some work done in between thoughts of the two people he loved so much.
Christine woke slowly, groggily becoming aware of a different hum than the one she was used to on the Carter. She opened her eyes slowly and took in the dimly lit cabin. Then she remembered. She was in Sarek's little ship, bound for Earth...bound for Scotty's memorial. The soft blanket on top of her was suddenly too warm and she pushed it off and sat up.
She remembered Delynn giving her a hypo. It had made her sleepy. Putting her feet on the floor, she stood gingerly, afraid she might still be unsteady. But she stood easily, feeling no lingering wooziness. She tried to straighten her uniform, tugging at it to get the wrinkles out, finally giving up when it was clear she'd been asleep for quite a long time. Walking out of the bedroom she saw Spock working at a padd in the pilot's chair. He looked up as she approached.
"How long was I out," she asked as she took the seat next to him.
"Fifteen hours." He put down the padd. "How do you feel?"
She had a crick in her neck and reached up to massage it. "Like I slept funny. But overall? Better, I guess."
"That is good." He met her eyes. "You were in a very dark place."
She nodded. "I packed up Ren's office."
"You did not have to do that."
"Same thing Randall said," she replied, with a sardonic grin. "You two really have to stop using synchronized scripts." He gave her an odd look that she chose to ignore. "So where are we?"
He pulled up the star charts and pointed to their location. "Approximately 30 hours away from Earth."
"Hmmm." She wasn't sure what else to say.
He fell silent too. A few minutes passed as they sat in silence, then he said, "I was going to help my father pack up my mother's things but he did not want me to move them."
She turned to look at him.
"I do not know if that is healthy. It is as if she never died."
Christine shrugged. "We all deal with grief in our own way. My mother was just the opposite. She got rid of everything of my father's really fast. Said seeing it just made her feel worse."
He nodded thoughtfully. "That would be my thought. That the constant reminder would hurt more than the empty space."
"But you're not Sarek."
"That much is certain."
Another long silence fell. "I believed he loved her more than I ever really knew."
She glanced at him. His face was set in a hard, sad expression. "I believe he did, Spock." He did not reply so she asked, "How did they meet?"
"At an embassy function. He was new in the diplomatic corps. She was a linguistics professor on exchange to a Federation project. They met at the ambassador's residence in San Francisco."
"Is that when they fell in love?"
He looked away. "I do not know that part of the story."
She frowned. "You never asked her?"
"I asked him once. Why he married her. He said it seemed the logical thing to do at the time."
She laughed. "I remember. Not very romantic."
"No. But eminently Sarek." Spock leaned back in the chair. "I have had time to ponder the sentiment. I think that he meant, but would not say to me, that because he loved her and could not live without her, there was no logical road but the one he took. To marry her."
He glanced over at her. "You do not sound convinced."
She grinned. "It lacks poetry."
"Indeed." Spock frowned slightly. "It is typical of my relationship with my father that I did not ask for clarification. I believe that he would see the need for more information as evidence of undue emotionalism. Yet another flaw." He sighed softy. "All my life I have tried to make him proud of me."
"He is proud of you, Spock. He loves you. Can't you feel that when you're with him?"
"I cannot." He looked over at her and his eyes were profoundly weary before he looked away. "But I can feel him making the attempt to reach out. Perhaps that is enough."
"Sometimes that's all we can ask." She reached out her hand to him, saw him take it without hesitation. The rush of emotion she felt when he closed his fingers around hers made her gasp.
He looked over. "The sensation is quite profound."
"It is." She stared down at their hands. "Does this always happen after the Pon Farr."
He shook his head.
"Well, of course it would happen to us. Nothing about this mission is going as I thought it would." Her tone was more sour than she intended.
He dropped her hand.
She turned to him. "I didn't mean that the way it must have sounded."
"It is all right. The sentiment was certainly apt. Let me show you what you need to know to pilot." He demonstrated the panels that controlled helm and navigation, assuring her that the autopilot would most likely take care of everything. "I believe rest would be of benefit. Wake me if you need me."
She nodded. As she watched him walk away from her, she called out softly, "Sleep well."
He did not reply as the bedroom door closed behind him.
Spock slept fitfully in the small cabin. He could smell Christine's scent on the blanket; a reminder of a time when he'd held her as close as he was holding the soft fabric. He pushed it away from him and immediately regretted it. Must gain control, he thought somewhat desperately. His emotions had been chaotic since the Pon Farr. It had never taken this long to regain mastery of them. But then his mother had never died before.
Spock looked around the cabin. His mother had decorated it. Using the spare lines to create an intimate space for his father and her. Spock wished now that he had asked her how she came to wed Sarek. There were so many things he wished he had said to her. Regret filled him. A profound emotion and one he was not unfamiliar with.
He felt it every time he saw Christine and Kerr together. The closeness they shared could have been his. If only.
Sad words. Jim had told him once that he thought those were the saddest words of all. So full of missed opportunity and disappointment.
He could almost hear his voice. "If only I had...what, Spock? What is it any of us would do over in a minute if we could?"
Spock had refused to answer.
Jim had sighed and turned away. Waiting, as always, for Spock to get it.
"I did get it," he whispered, the sound carrying barely past his lips. "But if only I had gotten it sooner, t'hy'la."
He was not sure which one of them he was talking to.
He could hear Christine moving around the main compartment. Heard the replicator buzz as whatever she had ordered was delivered. He waited for the smell to reach the cabin. Coffee. Dark and strong but then completely tamed with milk and sugar. A contradiction.
How long had he known how she liked her coffee? Kerr probably knew more. He knew what she ate for breakfast and how she acted when she woke up. Was she happy in the morning as his mother had been? Or grumpy like Jim until that first cup of coffee hit home?
Jim. Spock mentally calculated their ship's position. "You died near here," he said softly.
He sighed, slightly alarmed at his own sentimentality and inability to stop it. He rose from the bed and settled into the mediation pose on the floor. If sleep would not come, there were others way to calm his mind. It took much longer than normal, but Spock finally reached a level of meditation that allowed him to forget, if only for a while, the things he longed for.
When he finally returned to full awareness, he was satisfied to see that many hours had passed. He walked out of the room.
Christine was at the replicator again. "Hey, sleepyhead."
He let his eyebrow rise and was rewarded by the sound of her rich laughter.
"You want something?"
He nodded. "Tea would be agreeable. Selection seven is the one I prefer."
"Seven it is," she said as she punched in the request. "Nothing exciting happened."
"That is good."
"Maybe for you. I was bored stiff." She grinned at him.
The expression fell short of the smile he was used to, but it was better than the blank look she had worn earlier. He was gratified to see the woman he knew reemerging. "You are feeling better."
She nodded. "I think it's going home. I really needed this." She walked over and handed him a mug. "Maybe it'll be good for us both?"
He nodded and sipped his tea. "It is hard to believe Mr. Scott is gone."
She went back to the replicator for more coffee, then took her seat. "I know." She considered something. "I think this is the way he would have wanted to go. I can't see him being happy just getting old on some planet."
"I agree with you. Mr. Scott was a man that was used to being in the thick of things."
She laughed softly. "Remember how he used to totally inflate his repair estimates?"
"I do. He used to maintain that it was the only way to keep his title of 'miracle worker' intact."
"He was a miracle worker. He could make those engines sing."
"The engines did not sing, Christine."
She grinned. "You know what I mean."
"I wonder what he would have thought of the Carter," she mused.
Spock did not hesitate to answer. "He would have admired the ship, although it would never have measured up to the Enterprise."
"Probably not. But the mission? What do you think he'd think of that?"
"He once said that the best diplomat he knew was a fully-loaded phaser bank."
Christine laughed, nearly spitting coffee. "He never!"
"Indeed he did. It was during our mission to Eminiar VII."
"Yeah. I can see that." She sank down into her seat. "I served with him all that time, but I never got to know him very well. Did you?"
Spock could tell she was looking at him. He shook his head.
"I wonder why?"
"You and I barely knew each other then either, Christine. One can serve with someone a long time and never really know them."
She nodded. "I know. But he was so open."
"I believe that was an act. At heart, I think he was a deeply private man."
"Maybe you're right." She put her coffee down and yawned. "I can't believe I'm tired again."
"Go lay down if you need more sleep."
"I will. In a while." She smiled at him when he glanced over at her. "I like this."
He didn't have to ask what she meant. "As do I."
"It's like the old days. When it was just you and I on the Carter. Before..."
"Yes. Before." Before Jim. Before Kerr. Before many things. "I was not sure we would get this ease back, Christine. I am relieved that we have."
He heard her small laugh and glanced over.
She met his eyes solemnly. "It was touch and go there for a while."
She turned back to the viewscreen and watched the stars for a moment, then reached for her carryall to pull out some padds. They both worked in companionable silence for several hours. Then she yawned loudly. A few minutes later she did it again.
"Go get some sleep, Christine."
She got up and headed for the back. "Wake me before we get there? I want to see Earth get bigger."
"An illogical need," he said gently. "But I will wake you."
"Must be hell to indulge such a capricious human whim," she teased him.
He did not bother to say that he would have indulged far more, if she had asked.
Christine awoke to the sound of Spock's voice calling her from the main cabin. She forced herself to leave the warmth of the blanket and shuffled out to the main viewscreen.
"We will be in view of Earth in approximately five minutes. I thought you might want time to make coffee."
She smiled. "Thanks," she said as she walked over to the replicator, pulling her boots on as she went. "Coffee, French roast, with milk and sugar," she ordered, then turned to him. "Do you want something?"
"I have tea still."
She took the mug of steaming hot coffee out of the replicator and carried it to the copilot's chair. Sipping carefully, she sighed in contentment. "Your replicator does better coffee than the Carter's."
"My mother programmed in her favorite recipes. She also preferred dark roast."
"More robust," Christine agreed.
"Yes, that is the word she used. I never developed much of a taste for it." He looked over at her. "I drank it, of course, at the Academy."
She nodded. "Everybody did, didn't they?"
"Yes. It was almost a rite of passage."
"My aunt taught me to drink it when I was little. Then I went a lot of years not liking it. Funny how some things taste good only when you are an adult." She leaned back. "Like squash and artichoke hearts."
He raised an eyebrow at her.
"Oh come on, don't tell me there isn't some food that you didn't like as a child?"
He considered the question. "I did not like applesauce."
"There you see."
"I still do not like it."
"You were supposed to pick something you didn't like then but you do now," she said in mock exasperation.
"Very complex rules," he said, as he took the little craft off of autopilot. "You should watch now."
She looked in time to see the Earth rising up behind Jupiter. It looked wonderfully familiar as it hung there all blue and white. "Terra mater," she said softly.
He ignored her whimsy and continued to steer them toward the planet. He slowed their speed as the space around them became more congested. The comm channel beeped and she reached over to engage the connection.
"Private craft, this is Starfleet flight operations. Please identify and state destination."
"This is Captain Spock en route with one passenger in personal spacecraft to the Altamira spaceport."
There was a moment while the logged flight plans were checked and the ship was scanned. "Roger, Captain Spock. You are cleared for descent using a S-6-8 pattern. Please proceed, and welcome to Earth."
"Thank you," Spock said, as Christine cut the connection. He moved the ship into the designated flight path and slowed even more. "How does it feel to be home?" he asked her quietly.
"Good," she said as she watched the Earth swallow up the viewscreen. "It feels good."
She watched as the craft glowed slightly with the friction from reentry, but didn't worry as the shields compensated, keeping the inside temperature comfortable. They were in clouds for a moment, the white fluffiness hiding everything from her. Then they dropped out of them and she saw North America come up beneath them. She smiled, looking for San Francisco first, and then Seattle. "Home," she said. She glanced at Spock. "Does it feel like home to you at all?"
He shook his head. "Not particularly. I have some pleasant memories of Earth, but my home has in truth been the ships I have served on."
"Less so." He adjusted their descent slightly. "I have never felt completely at ease on either of my home planets."
"But the Enterprise?"
"That was home." He seemed to sigh slightly. "And her crew was my family."
"Mine too," she said.
"But you left us."
"I had a good reason. Couldn't finish med school if I stayed on board." She frowned. "And what about you? You went off to Gol."
His face tightened and she immediately regretted the words.
"We've never talked about that." She watched his expression become even tenser. "We don't have to now, either. But maybe, someday, you'll tell me why you went there?"
He nodded slowly. "Perhaps. Someday."
She turned back to watch San Francisco get bigger as they approached. She could make out the bridge and Golden Gate Park. "Such a beautiful city," she said, trying to take his mind off of Gol.
"It is that," he agreed.
"Not as pretty as Seattle though."
"Someday I hope to see it," he said, as he steered them away from the city center and toward a private landing pad on the other side of the bridge.
"I guess it's different. Here, it's the buildings and the way the city is constructed to sit on the water that give it beauty. There it's the scenery, the mountains all around especially, that make it unique."
"Perhaps someday you will show me your home?" There was a note of pensiveness in Spock's voice that she had never heard before.
"Maybe. Someday," she said, echoing his earlier statement.
He glanced at her and gave her a half smile. Then he turned his attention back to the ship and brought it down for a smooth landing. He followed a series of lights to the small space designated for them and powered down the systems.
Christine put her padds back in her carry all and fastened it securely. Spock did the same and was already opening the door when she joined him. She went down the ramp quickly, feeling her spirits lift as she touched ground. "Home," she said again.
He gestured for her to go into the main building where they found a transporter pad and an attendant waiting for them. "Welcome, Captain Spock."
He nodded. "We will be staying at the Crown Academy."
"Academy stop then for you," the attendant said as she set the coordinates.
Christine followed Spock up the stairs to the transporter pad. "A hotel?"
"The Visiting Officer's Quarters were full. We could have stayed at the Vulcan Embassy, but I thought you would find this more comfortable."
She considered what staying at the Embassy would have entailed and was thankful that he had chosen the less protocol-rich hotel. "Good thinking."
They beamed to the main academy transport station and walked the few blocks to the hotel. Checking in quickly, they were soon riding the elevator to their floor.
"Adjoining rooms?" she asked in surprise.
"I do not believe so," he said evenly. "Just on the same floor."
As they exited the lift, she saw from the signs that her room lay in one direction, his in another. She stopped and asked, "So what's the plan from here?"
He motioned her to walk toward her room and followed her inside. "We should have some messages. I sent Doctor McCoy a comm from the ship."
Her message light was indeed blinking. She pulled up the comm channel and selected the message that was waiting from McCoy.
"Glad you're coming home, Christine. Think it'll be good for you. Ny and I are hosting a dinner at my place tonight. All the old crew. You two have to come. See you at five. I've attached a map."
They looked at the map. "Won't take very long to get there. We have the day to kill then," she said. "I think I'll shower and grab some breakfast. Did you have anything you need to do?"
"I will meet you downstairs when I have read my messages."
She nodded and waited till he had closed the doors before heading to the bathroom. A short time later, she felt clean again and more human. Ready to face the world, or at least the coffee shop downstairs, she took the elevator down and was just being seated when she heard someone call out, "Chris?" She turned and felt herself enveloped in a firm hug. "Oh my god, it is you. I didn't know if you were going to make it or not."
"Janice?" Christine laughed in delight and let her friend lead her to her booth. "Or should I say Commander Rand?"
"I don't know Commander Chapel, what do you think?"
They stared at each other seriously for a moment before dissolving into identical peals of laughter.
"God, can you stand it, Chris. Us...Commanders?"
"It's not where I would have thought we were going back on that first year on Enterprise, that's for sure." Christine looked around. "Isn't Sulu with you?"
Janice smiled. "He had a meeting. I'll catch up with him later. Or at McCoy's. You're going, right?"
"You bet." Christine leaned back. "Spock too."
"So you two are together?" Janice waggled her eyebrows at her.
"Well not like that." Christine tried to ignore her memories of the Pon Farr. "It's, you know, professional." At Janice's knowing nod, she laughed. "Besides, I'm with someone."
"Get out." Janice leaned forward. "Okay, spill. I want to know everything."
"Well, you first. Did you ever come to your senses and give Sulu a chance?"
Christine gave her a stern look.
"Okay, yes...yes, I did. Yes, it's great. Yes, you were right all those years. Yes, I was a fool not to trust him." Janice laughed happily. "Now tell me about this someone that you're with."
Christine felt herself grinning foolishly. "Well, he's really handsome."
"What does he look like?"
Christine thought of the best way to describe him. "Sandy hair, hazel eyes, nice muscles, great smile."
Janice gave her a funny look.
"Chris, you're describing Jim.'
Christine frowned as she considered that. "I guess he does sort of look like him. I never really thought about it."
"What's his name?"
"Lt. Colonel Randall Kerr, head of the Carter's security section and special forces detachment."
"Kerr? That name sounds familiar."
"It's a fairly common name," Christine said.
"I guess. So you love him?"
She nodded, was about to say more when a new voice interrupted their conversation. "Commander Rand, it is good to see you."
Janice jumped out of the booth. "Captain Spock. A pleasure to see you, sir."
"At ease, Commander. You're at breakfast, if I'm not mistaken."
She sat down gratefully and grinned. "Well, not until they bring the food, but I take your point. You're welcome to eat with us?"
"Most kind. But I have an unexpected meeting at Starfleet diplomatic."
"Me too?" Christine said in dismay as she began to get up.
He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "You do not have to come, Christine. Enjoy your breakfast. I will see you when my meeting is over." He turned to Janice. "You will be at Doctor McCoy's tonight?"
"Excellent. I look forward to catching up." He nodded slightly then left them.
Christine watched him walk away, his long legs carrying him quickly out the door.
"Earth to Christine," Janice whispered. She was grinning evilly. "So, you want to tell me when he started calling you by your first name?"
She willed herself not to blush. "I'm his first officer, Jan."
Janice laughed. "Okay, fine. So tell me more about this Kerr guy. What's he like?"
Christine thought about that. "He's warm. And he's bright. Being with him is like walking in bright sunshine."
"So, pretty much the opposite of the brood king that just left us?"
Christine chuckled. "I guess so."
Janice gave her a sad look. "He still sounds a lot like Jim Kirk. I have to confess I'm jealous."
"I was so sorry to hear about his death, Jan. I can't imagine how hard that was for you." She shook her head. "Well, actually I can, since Spock did die once. But he came back."
"Yeah. Guess that isn't going to happen with Jim, eh?" Janice looked down. "It's stupid really. I mean there was nothing between us. I'd see him every now and then in the halls of Starfleet Command and he'd always ask me how I was. We'd catch up. He was an incredible supporter...kind of a mentor. But that's as far as it went."
Christine nodded sympathetically. "Maybe he had feelings for you that you never really knew?"
"Maybe." Janice leaned back as the waitress came with their food. "I miss him though. I mean, Sulu is wonderful...I really do love him. But Jim still has a hold on part of my heart and death hasn't made him let go."
"I do understand," Christine said, glad to have someone she could confide in. "Part of me will always love Spock. But that part is in the past. Randall's my future. And I'm really happy about that." She didn't have to force the silly grin that covered her face when she thought about Kerr.
"Why isn't he here?"
The grin faded. "I was pretty out of it. After Renata died."
"Yeah I heard about that. Weird."
"Weird doesn't begin to cover it," Christine said. "And still unsolved. But I sort of..."
"Freaked out?" Janice prompted.
"Shut down is more like it." Christine sighed. "I'm a doctor. I know the warning signs. I should never have let myself spiral down that way."
"Physician heal thyself," Janice quoted softly. "Easier said than done."
"That's for damn sure. Anyway, I pushed him away. And then the news of Scotty just really did me in. It wasn't until Spock suggested coming back for this that I began to perk up."
"So you wanted to come alone. I mean with Spock."
Christine nodded. "You're our family. Randall wasn't a part of that. But now that I'm feeling better, I think that leaving him behind may have been a mistake."
"Don't second-guess yourself, Chris. If you didn't want him here, you may have had a good reason."
"Like more time to catch up with you?"
Janice smiled. "There you go."
Christine laughed at her friend's enthusiasm. As she ate her breakfast and traded gossip with Janice, she felt the last remnant of the cold detachment that had plagued her since Farrell's death melt and fall away. I was right to come home, she thought happily. She tried to ignore the voice that kept insisting that she should have brought Kerr with her too.
Spock walked back to the hotel from what had turned out to be, as he expected, a bit of a grilling over Farrell's murder. Starfleet Command was not happy to have an unexplained murder on any ship, but especially not the vessel with the most benign mission in all the Fleet. He had decided on the way that he would not mention the information Farrell had provided to them other than to hint at it. None of the Admirals had taken the bait and he had let it drop.
The lobby was full of people having drinks or relaxing. As he walked through, he recognized several engineers from the early days on the Enterprise. He nodded to them, and they seemed surprised at the gesture. Spock nearly sighed. Had he been so unreachable then?
As he took the elevator up to his floor, he realized that perhaps he had. But it was who he was. It colored both what he had become, and the paths he had not followed.
The message light was flashing when he got to his room. There was a response from McCoy to Spock's confirmation that both he and Christine would attend the dinner that night. And a quick comm from Christine. "I'm down at the pool," was all it said.
He changed out of his uniform and decided to go see her before he began his meditations. The ride down to the pool level was quick and he could feel the warm humidity of the area long before he reached it. San Francisco weather being what it was, the hotel had built the pool so that part of it was indoors and a smaller portion continued outside, reached by a side door or by swimming under the glass partition. It was still cool out, so Christine had chosen a lounge chair that was well inside.
She looked half asleep and he stood and watched her. As if she could sense him, she slowly lifted her head and looked right at him. A small smile played at the corner of her mouth. He walked over to her.
"What? No swimming for you?"
He pulled a regular chair over next to her. "We have a pool on the Carter, Christine. Have you ever seen me use it?"
"Sure haven't," she said as she shifted slightly in the lounge chair.
He looked away.
"Either you don't like the suit, or you're embarrassed." She laughed. It sounded unusually throaty to him. "You've seen me in less than this, Spock."
"Indeed," he said, trying not to look at her.
"You are embarrassed." She laughed again.
He forced himself to turn back to her. As he admired the view, he decided not to say that there were other emotions that would fit the situation better.
"And you went swimming with the whales. I remember Nyota telling me about it."
"In the first instance, I had to communicate with them. As they could not come to me on land, I had to be the one to find accommodation. The second time, we all went swimming in the bay. The ship was sinking. We had no choice."
"Ah, yes. You're lucky you weren't taken by a shark."
"That would have ended the mission on a somber note," he agreed as he glanced over at her again. "You are in a better mood."
She grinned. "It just feels so good to be here. And doing nothing feels great too."
"You would not say that if we did not have a party to go to tonight. I cannot see you being happy with a continual state of nothing to do."
"You're probably right." Her grin faded. "How was your meeting? Was it about Ren?"
"I figured. Was it bad?"
"Nothing I couldn't handle. They are not pleased."
"Well no, I expect not." Her voice held some of the bitterness that had marked it before they left.
"We may never find out what really happened, Christine," he said softly.
"I know." She looked at him angrily, then her ire faded. "I'm shooting the messenger. I hate it when people do that to me. Sorry."
"It's all right." He rose. "I am going to meditate for a while. Comm me when you are ready to leave for McCoy's."
"Okay." She pushed herself out of the lounge and walked to the edge of the pool. "Sure you don't want to come in?"
For you I just might, he thought as she laughed playfully then turned back to the pool and dove in, setting out with a sure stroke for the partition. As she disappeared underneath, he forced himself to turn around and return to his room.
It took him some time to sink to the level he wanted in his meditations. But finally he achieved it and lost himself to the world. Coming out of it slowly, he saw that he had just enough time to change into a more formal robe.
He was ready when Christine commed him. "You all set?"
"I will meet you at the elevators," he replied.
"Aye, aye, sir," she said with a grin.
She was waiting for him. When she turned to him he took a second to appreciate her appearance. Her clothes were simple but fit her stark features. Her hair was down and she had put on more makeup than she normally wore. When he continued to stare, she gave him an odd look. "What?"
"You look beautiful," he said as he urged her into the elevator, his hand at the small of her back. Even in a contact so brief he could feel her excitement at seeing their friends again, the underlying sadness that it had taken another death to bring them all together, and a strange surge of satisfaction that seemed to be connected with him. He considered the emotion as they rode down to the lobby and got into a waiting cab. As the small flitter took off, he studied her.
"What?" she asked again.
"You are happy we are together?"
She raised an eyebrow at him and he found himself returning the gesture.
"You are happy that we will be together in front of all of our friends."
Her expression changed from questioning to one of alarm. He reached out and took her hand, trying to read the onslaught of emotions he sensed from her. "Or if not together, it pleases you that I am obviously interested in you and that they will see it."
"That makes me sound so petty," she said, pulling her hand away.
He touched her shoulder, "Do I appear to mind?"
She took a startled breath and stared at where his hand lay on her shoulder. "You don't. You...you like it," she finally said.
He drew his hand back. "Did it not occur to you that I am pleased to be with you too?"
She tried to fight the smile that was sneaking across her face. "It really didn't."
"Things have changed, t'hy'la. You must get used to that."
She shook her head as if in dismay but could not quite wipe the smile from her face. "You are bad."
"Not at all," he said as he turned back to watch the city pass underneath them. "Just honest."
"Sometimes they are one and the same," she replied as she too turned to a study of the scenery.
McCoy's house came into view quickly and the flitter set down on the street. Spock gave the man his account number then followed Christine to the front door, waiting as she rang the chime.
The door flew open and Uhura launched herself at Christine. "It's been forever."
"Ny," Christine said, laughing at her friend's exuberance. When Uhura let go of her, she moved aside to let her get to Spock. "Have at it," she said with a laugh.
"Come here, you big lug," the other woman said softly, pulling him into a gentler embrace.
Spock held her for a moment and whispered, "It is good to see you, Commander."
She pulled away. "It's Nyota, Spock."
"Nyota," he said, trying it out.
"It'll take him a while," Christine said as she followed Uhura into the house. "I thought Len was living in Georgia?"
Uhura nodded. "He was. But he got through about three weeks of his first summer there and remembered why he preferred San Francisco. He'll go back to Savannah for the winter."
McCoy turned as they walked in. "Well look what the cat dragged in." He pulled Christine into a huge bear hug. "If you aren't a site for sore eyes, darlin', I don't know what is." He looked over at Spock and grinned. "Certainly not that dour mug."
Spock tried to hide the small smile that was threatening and knew he was failing. "It is pleasant to see you again as well, Doctor."
McCoy let go of Christine and walked over to him. "Oh to hell with it," he said as he pulled Spock to him and clasped his arms around him briefly. "Heck of a reason to come home, Spock. But I'll take it." He pulled away and turned back to Christine. "So, you're looking a whole lot better than the last time I saw you. Don't tell me hanging around with that one--" he cocked a thumb back at Spock "--actually agrees with you?"
She nodded. "I'm afraid it does."
"Well, there's no accounting for taste." He drew her into the kitchen. "Come tell Uncle Len what's been going on in your life."
Spock watched them leave then turned to say hello again to Janice. As they stood talking, Sulu came up the stairs. "Hello, Captain."
He nodded. Sulu looked older than he remembered. The rigors of command, especially of a ship like Excelsior, could play havoc with a man's youth. It had never seemed to strip Jim of his, though.
"It's old home week," Sulu said. "If only Chekov weren't stuck out on the Jamestown."
"He did secure that assignment?"
"First officer and on a real ship this time," Sulu grinned at the old rub. For him it was a starship or nothing. Spock doubted that even a modern marvel like the Carter would satisfy him.
"You're such a snob," Janice said, bumping against him slightly.
He took her hand. "And you aren't?" He laughed. "You should have heard what she had to say about some of the ships in spacedock."
Janice rolled her eyes as Uhura came out and handed Spock a tall glass. "Christine said you like this?"
Spock took a sip of the stout. "It is quite good. Thank you."
Uhura's eyebrow rose in a perfect imitation of her own. "Fascinating." Suddenly her good mood evaporated and she looked down. "It seems wrong. That they aren't here with us."
No one had to ask her who she meant.
"To absent friends," Sulu said, lifting his glass in the air.
Spock joined the rest in the toast. He heard Christine and McCoy come up behind him. When he looked over at her, she smiled gently and joined her glass to the rest.
Only McCoy didn't join them. "I have something to say first. I just want you all to know that even if I live to be a hundred, I'll never have better friends or richer memories than I do right now. You all mean the world to me."
"Hear, hear," Uhura said, as she smiled through eyes suddenly bright with tears. "To the best of times."
"The best of times," they all echoed.
Spock glanced at Christine. She had put her arm around McCoy and was whispering something in his ear. As the doctor laughed, she seemed to sense Spock's eyes on her. Looking over at him, she smiled brilliantly. A surge of regret filled Spock and he had to turn back to the conversation for fear of what he might betray if he kept looking at her.
The talk before dinner alternated between catching up on everyone's career and stories of Scotty and later on of Jim. Spock saw Christine glance up at him in concern when the conversation first turned to Kirk. He nodded reassuringly at her and she turned back to her food.
The evening passed quickly, Spock was surprised to see how late it was when Sulu got up to call for a cab.
"You want to share?" Janice asked him.
He looked at Christine to see if she was ready. She nodded tiredly and got up to join him. Her fingers brushed his arm as she came to stand next to him and he realized that he could no longer sense the lost feeling she had been giving off since Farrell died.
"What?" she said quietly.
He shook his head.
She smiled and followed Sulu and Janice out to the waiting cab. He turned to McCoy. "We will see you tomorrow."
Uhura gave him another hug. "I'm so glad you're here," she said as she let him go.
McCoy nodded. "Thanks for coming home, Spock. It means a lot."
Spock didn't look away from the emotion in the other man's eyes. "To me as well, Leonard."
McCoy's eyes brightened even more and he just nodded. "Better go catch up, Spock. Wouldn't want them to leave without you."
"They will wait. I have faith in them," he said with a wry look before hurrying to join the others.
Sulu stood silently in the back of the Starfleet auditorium, marveling at the number of people that filled the hall. He'd always thought of Scotty as a private man, one that had a few, very close friends, of which Sulu counted himself as one. He had underestimated the man's popularity and the impact he'd had during his stints at the Academy as a trainer.
Sulu wondered how many people would show up at his memorial.
"That's a dark look," Janice said as she walked up to him. "What are you thinking about?"
He smiled gently at her. "Just pondering death."
She shivered. "Yeah, me too. I didn't expect this many people."
He nodded, not surprised that they were on the same wavelength. It was what made them such an effective command team. And what made their other, more personal relationship so vital to him. He wanted to reach out for her, but they had long ago agreed to maintain physical distance while in public. It hurt sometimes, not to be able to touch her, but it was for the best and he knew it.
She looked over at him and grinned. "Sometimes, I wish..."
"Just one touch?"
She nodded. Then she slipped into her more professional expression. "But I like my position by your side on that fancy bridge too much to risk it."
He nodded, then his attention was diverted by Spock and Christine walking toward them. "Funny how things worked out. Us together as a team, them together too."
"Life, she is funny," Janice agreed as she smiled at her friend.
Christine took her hand in greeting then turned to look at the crowd. "Wow."
"That's what I said," Sulu replied. "It's inspiring, isn't it?"
"Mr. Scott touched the lives of many of my students. And he continued to teach long after I had stopped. Our own chief engineer considers him a mentor." Spock studied the auditorium with a slight frown.
"We have seats in front," Janice said, guessing what he was thinking.
He turned to her, "I was wondering." He glanced at Sulu, "Mind reading is a useful skill in a first officer."
Sulu laughed. "Yeah but when it's counterbalanced with sheer stubbornness..."
"My condolences," Spock said.
Sulu and Christine laughed but Janice pretended to glare at the Vulcan. "Like you aren't the epitome of stubborn, Captain Spock."
"I?" he asked innocently.
"You," Christine jumped in. "Very, very stubborn."
"You have never complained."
She laughed. "To you. I've never complained to you."
"Nice to see everybody's here," McCoy's voice sounded behind them. The group turned to welcome him. Sulu could see Uhura out in the foyer. He smiled at her and she gave him a sad grin.
"Everyone okay after last night?" McCoy asked, his drawl seeming even more pronounced than Sulu remembered it.
"Nothing like antitox," Janice replied. "One of the world's great inventions."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Abstinence is also an effective countermeasure."
Janice smiled. "Effective, yes. Fun, no."
"Besides," Christine interjected. "It's therapeutic to let go."
"And I saw you drinking stout all night. So don't lecture me on abstaining," Janice teased.
Before he could comment, Uhura joined them and said, "It's time to go down. They're ready to begin."
Sulu allowed the others to go ahead and ended up walking next to Spock.
"You prosper?" the other captain asked him.
Sulu thought about that. "I do. I love Excelsior."
Spock graced him with a half smile. "Jim would be proud of you, Captain."
"I think he'd be proud of you too, Captain. Or do you prefer Ambassador."
"I answer to either."
Any other comment Spock was going to make was cut off as they arrived at their seats. Sulu saw Janice waiting for him and he slid in next to her as soon as Spock had taken a seat next to Christine.
Admiral Richter, the head of Starfleet engineering, climbed the short stairs to the podium. "We come together to celebrate the life of Captain Montgomery Scott."
Sulu let himself be drawn into the man's words. Even as he listened, memories of his years on the Enterprise with Mr. Scott played in the back of his mind. Good-bye, Scotty, he said, trying to send his good wishes to wherever the dying went. I'll miss you.
He felt Janice's hand touch his for the briefest of moments. He looked at her and saw she was crying. As she smiled at him, he realized that he was too.
He took a ragged breath and turned back to the speaker. A strange feeling of being cut off, totally lost, filled him as the sound of a lone bagpipe filled the room. His throat tightened, and he had to blink to clear his eyes as he listened to the plaintive strains of 'Amazing Grace.'
Nobody in the room made a sound until the song was over. Sulu knew that Scotty would have approved.
Spock stood as the memorial ended, following as the crowd filed out of the auditorium and over to the officer's club across the quad.
Christine walked by his side. "It was a beautiful ceremony."
He nodded, wondering what Jim's had been like. How many people had crowded the hall for his service?
"I imagine Jim's drew an even bigger crowd," she said as if reading his mind. When he shot her a startled look, she frowned. "Why did I say that?"
"I was thinking it," he said softly.
"We weren't even touching this time." She shrugged. "I guess it's not that unusual for us to both be thinking of him right now. Neither of us were here for his ceremony."
He nodded, wanting to support her attempt to find a logical reason for the strange accord between their thoughts but privately wondering if something more was happening between them. Something he truly didn't understand.
"Uhura's got a table for us," Christine said, spotting their friend at the side of the room.
They joined the rest of the Enterprise crew. Talk was subdued at first. Everyone seemed to be dealing with private memories and emotions. But as other crewman who had served with them started coming up to talk, the conversation got louder. Everyone seemed to have a funny story about Scotty. Even Spock found himself trying not to smile on several occasions.
McCoy caught him at one occasion and beamed at him. He gestured toward the hall and got up. Spock followed suit. "Let's take a walk," McCoy said as he headed out the door.
Spock hurried to catch up. "You wish to talk to me in private?"
McCoy grinned. "No flies on you, my friend." He took a few more steps then said irritably. "So what the hell's going on, Spock?"
"I do not follow--"
"Between you and Christine, you great green twit." McCoy stopped and glared at him. "Any fool can see how you feel about each other. But she's with someone else. What's that all about?"
"I do not think it is my place to discuss her love life," Spock said as he turned to go back into the building.
"Then discuss your own, damn it." McCoy reached out and touched his arm. "I know Jim's death left you reeling, Spock. I wouldn't expect anything else. But you have another chance for happiness here. Why are you letting it go?"
Spock sighed as he turned back to McCoy. "It is not that simple."
"Then explain it to me."
"She chose another. That is all there is to explain."
"Well she can damn well unchoose him."
Spock shook his head and smiled slightly. "You would not say that if you knew him. He is a good man, and he is good for her. You would like him, Doctor. Far more than you do me."
McCoy didn't have a retort.
Spock sighed. "I have her friendship, Doctor. It is more than I could have hoped for a few months ago. It will have to do."
McCoy looked down. "I'm sorry, Spock. But that's just a shame." He shook his head sadly as he walked toward the building. "Come on, let's go back in then. Your 'friend' is probably wondering where we've gotten to."
Spock followed McCoy in and saw that Christine was indeed looking for them. "Is everything okay?" she asked.
"Everything is fine," he said, pushing her gently back into the main room.
She looked over at McCoy and the doctor gave her a bland look. "Can't two old friends catch up, Christine?"
She gave them both a searching look, then went back into the reception.
"A crying shame," McCoy repeated as he went back to the table.
Spock didn't want to tell him that he completely concurred in the assessment. Giving himself a mental shake, he went back in, determined not to let the doctor's words prey on him.
When the reception wound down, their group headed out to a nearby restaurant as if unwilling to separate too soon. Once they finished their meals they moved into the adjoining lounge.
Uhura finally yawned and said, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm exhausted." She stood up and put her jacket on. "Seeing you all...it's like I don't ever want to walk away, but I know I have to."
There was a chorus of "I know" and "You're right." She laughed. "But I guess we have to bite the bullet. So let's say goodbye now." She turned to give Christine a hug. "Have a good trip back, Christine."
"I will. We have one more day here," Christine said as she let go of Uhura and turned to embrace Janice tightly. "You're here tomorrow?"
Janice nodded. "Hikaru and I get to enjoy a day together. It doesn't happen very often."
Christine met Spock's eyes. "No, it doesn't."
Spock embraced his friends, having long ago given up the idea that he would be exempt from this particular ritual. Uhura laughed as she hugged him tightly. "Take care of each other," she said, and he nodded solemnly.
As they went their separate ways, Christine looked back and waved. "It's hard to say goodbye," she said as she turned to face Spock. "I feel like we'll never have this again. That we'll never see each other like this again."
He didn't want to tell her that he had the same feeling.
She went on softly. "Or that the next time we do, it will be because another one of us is dead."
He wanted to tell her she was being overly dramatic, but he had did not think she was far wrong. Finding himself eager to change the subject, Spock asked, "Do you want to go to dinner tomorrow night?" When she shot him a look, he said, "I realize you plan to eat."
She laughed at their old joke. "When don't I?"
"I meant to somewhere..." he searched for the appropriate word.
"Yes," he said, deciding fancy was a better word than the only one he was coming up with.
"Romantic," she said it for him.
He sighed, almost resigned that she was going to know what he was thinking. "Perhaps," he said.
She laughed. "You know what would be perfect?"
He raised an eyebrow.
"Gerard's. A window seat." She made a face. "Like that's going to happen. I've never managed to get a window seat there, and I used to eat there all the time."
"Perhaps our luck will be better," he said softly.
"You never know," she agreed. "What are you going to do tomorrow?"
"I plan to see Saavik." He looked at her. "And you?"
"There's someone I need to see." At his raised eyebrow, she shook her head. "Not like that. Ren's father."
"That will not be an easy visit."
"No, it won't. But I owe it to him." She looked over at him. "Will your visit to Saavik be easy?"
"I do not know. She and I never regained the closeness we once had."
"I remember Uhura telling me she and Jim became quite friendly."
He nodded slowly. "They seemed to find some solace in each other." He looked away. "I pulled away from her, from him too, after I died. Jim and I found a way to recreate our...friendship. Saavik and I never did. I regret that."
"Regret is a useless emotion, Spock."
"But a powerful one. So much done that cannot now be undone." He hoped that she didn't realize that he was not only referring to his relationship with Saavik.
"Build some bridges, Spock. It's never too late."
She met his eyes and he knew that she realized that he was talking about them too. She looked away quickly. "For some things, maybe. But not for friendship. Just try."
"I will try," he said, as he followed her into the hotel. They rode up to their floor in silence.
"I'm glad we came," she said as she turned to walk down the other hall to her room.
"It is easier with you here," he replied.
She turned, walking slowly backward as she looked at him. "It is easier. Good night."
"Good night, Christine. Sleep well."
"You too," she said as she turned and walked quickly away.
Christine took a deep breath before ringing the door chime. I have to do this, she repeated silently. I have to do this.
The door opened and an elderly man looked out. She could tell he was trying to place her.
"Yes." Recognition suddenly dawned and he smiled. "Christine, you didn't have to come all this way."
She smiled. "I was on Earth for another reason. I thought I'd come see how you were doing."
"Come in." He moved aside to let her in. "You'll have to excuse the mess."
The house was immaculate. She smiled at him. "There's never a mess here, sir."
"I like things--"
"Ship shape and Bristol fashion," she finished. "Yes, I remember."
"Sit down. Can I get you something?"
She shook her head. "I just wanted to say how sorry I am. About Ren. I know that doesn't even begin to cover what's been taken away from you but I wanted you to know how much I miss her." She found herself choking up and rushed through the last part.
He sat down next to her and took her hand. Patting it, he said, "I miss her too. I've been putting away her things. Trying to decide what to do with them. She always told me to leave her room be unless something happened to her." He looked down. "My baby girl."
"She loved you."
He nodded. "I know. Rennie was my girl. It was just the two of us against the world for so long. Now it's just me." He shook himself, as if he could get rid of his pain that way. "Can you tell me how it happened? I'm getting stonewalled on this end every time I ask."
"We're not sure exactly. We don't even know who did it." She tried to decide how much to tell him and finally settled on asking, "Did Ren ever mention doing work on the side...for some section?"
He seemed to almost force himself to relax as he shook his head and said, "She sure didn't, dear."
"She never went away on missions that couldn't be explained by her normal work?"
"What do you want me to say, Christine?" He gave her an intense look. "It might be better if you didn't go around asking questions like this."
He sighed and his look turned very sad. "Safer."
She stared at him. There was definitely a warning in his expression before he tore his eyes away, rising suddenly. "There's something here for you. I almost forgot." He disappeared down the hall and a minute later was back, carrying an envelope. "She wanted you to have this. Said not to give it to you unless something happened to her. Said it was important."
She took the envelope; saw the hasty scrawl that was Ren's handwriting. "Thank you."
"You going to open it?"
She nodded. "Later."
"Fair enough," he said as she pushed it into the pocket of her coat. "Why don't you let me take you to lunch and you can tell me all about this brand new ship of yours? I hear it's quite a wonder?"
She stood up. "I'd like that."
He held out his arm and Christine took it, trying not to think that it should have been Ren and not her that was here with him--that somehow it was her fault Ren wasn't.
Saavik's neighborhood had an Asian flavor, and Spock walked slowly through the narrow street, savoring the smells. He stopped at a store window, his attention caught by a small figurine. As he walked in, the shopkeeper looked up, "Something I can help you with?"
"There is a goddess in the window."
The man smiled. "There are lots of goddesses in the window. Which one do you like?"
Spock pointed at the one that had caught his eye.
"Green Tara. Good choice." The man removed her from the display and wrapped her in tissue. Handing her to Spock, he rang up the sale and entered Spock's account number.
"Thank you," Spock said as he put the statue in his pocket and walked out.
"Come back again," the man called after him.
Spock wondered if he would be in the neighborhood again. His relationship with Saavik had been anything but warm for some time. He checked the address he had written down and turned down a path between two larger buildings, following it to a small house that sat behind them, surrounded by gardens. He looked for a chime to ring but found none. Some wind chimes hung over the doorway and he reached up and tapped the clapper. A loud, resonant tone sounded.
He heard her footsteps behind him and without turning, said, "Saavikam, it has been a long time."
"Yes," she said, as she brushed past him and opened the door. "It has." She turned, her arms full of flowers. "Come in, Spock. I was just in the garden. You are earlier than I expected. I have not even made tea yet."
"I do not need tea."
"Nevertheless, it is customary." She studied him. "Do you still prefer green?"
"Whatever you have is fine."
"I have green as well as others. Which do you prefer?"
Her face was perfectly Vulcan in its cool disdain. Where was the vibrant young girl he had known? The one that had work so hard to tame her Romulan side? "I prefer green," he finally answered.
"I will make that then." She indicated he should go into the other room. "Make yourself at home."
He knew she did not mean that literally. Wandering around the small living room, he realized that several of the statues she had displayed had been in Kirk's house. He picked one up that he remembered giving to Jim. It was the carving of a sea captain, legs braced wide against the ocean swell, a spyglass at his eye. It had reminded Spock of Jim when he'd first seen it and it still did.
"Do you want that back?" Saavik asked as she carried in a tray.
"He did not leave to me."
"He didn't leave it to me either. I took it because I liked it. But you gave it to him." She laughed and the sound surprised him. When he turned to look at her, she turned an elegant eyebrow up. "I am still half Romulan, Spock. And I have learned to come to terms with that. He helped me."
Little hellcat, he thought, Saavik's childhood nickname coming easily to him now. So angry then. So angry now. "You were quite close?"
She sat and poured his tea. "We were not lovers if that is what you are asking. Although many seemed to think so. He was kind to me at a time when you were not. He was a--"
"Father to you," he finished for her. "Yes, I know."
She handed him his tea, the picture of civilized refinement. He had the feeling she would have preferred to hurl it in his face. He took a sip then set it on the side table. "I am sorry, Saavikam."
She shrugged. "How could I compete with Valeris? She outshone me in every possible way." She cocked her head and studied him. "She hurt you, didn't she?"
"Good." She picked up the teapot. "More tea?"
He shook his head. "Yet you never said a word."
"What was I supposed to say, Spock? That you needed to love me too? That you needed to remember me? That I was lost when you died, and even more lost when you came back and didn't know who the hell I was?" She breathed deeply and sipped her tea. "At least with Jim you were able to forge new memories."
He looked down. "I wish things had been different. I regret...I regret much."
She studied him for a long time. "I believe you do. You are different, Spock. What has happened to you?"
"Life has happened, Saavikam. As it always does."
Her mask of politeness dropped and she let him see a moment of true emotion. "I heard about Amanda. I am deeply sorry. You know I loved her."
He nodded. "Thank you."
The mocking look returned. "Something else has happened to you though. What is it? It can't be that you're in love. You've been there before and we know how much that mattered in the face of your stubborn pride."
He tried not to let her see how her words hit home.
"What then? Can you not tell me, Spock? For old time's sake?" She shot him a scornful glance. "Why are you suddenly so approachable?"
"You were half right, little hellcat."
She smiled at the nickname. "Then I was half wrong. Explain it to me."
"I think not."
She stared at him intently. "Perhaps you have finally lost in love? Is that it? The one you love doesn't want you? Now that's rich."
"Is mocking all you can do?"
Her expression changed instantly to one of outright rage. "He died alone."
"I had a ship to launch."
"You could have been there. You could have postponed. He would have in your place."
"I did not think to do so."
She stood up and began to pace. "Whose name do you suppose was on his lips when he died? Who do you think he was probably thinking of?" She turned her back to him, breathing hard, trying to regain control of herself. "He loved you and you were off with your new ship and your new crew." She turned suddenly. "This person is on your crew aren't they? Even then you were replacing him?"
"You don't know how it was between us. And you don't understand my current situation."
"Then tell me. He wouldn't. No matter what you did, he wouldn't speak badly of you. 'You don't understand him, Saavik,' he'd say to me. And he was right. I didn't understand you. I still don't. I never will. Even after Valeris betrayed you, you didn't come back." She angrily wiped her eyes. "He loved you and you just walked away from him."
Spock closed his eyes. "That is not true. You know that we tried for a while to make it work, Saavikam. But too much time had gone by. Too many things that we could not do over again. Too many things in our past getting in the way. Valeris. Antonia."
"Antonia was good for him. But she wasn't you."
"And that was probably for the best. It might have worked for them. If he had been different."
"You blame him?"
He fought back frustration. He did not speak of this. It was too painful. How did one explain love that was too much, too strong? That would not die but could not be contained either? "He moved on, as did I. Without acrimony. We knew that we would always love one another. But we also knew that we could not make it work any longer. It was the way it was, and we accepted that. Why is it just you that cannot let go of what was?" He stood up and walked across the room to her. "Perhaps you should admit that the problem was that I never came back for _you_?"
"Why would I care?" Her words were tough, but the sob that accompanied them told another story.
"Little one, if I did anything wrong it was to abandon you as if you had never meant the world to me. That was wrong. I freely admit it. I do not know how to make it up to you, or even if I can. I do not know if it is too late for us. But I would like the chance to try."
She stared at him and all he saw in her eyes was hatred.
"Little hellcat," he said softly. "I was wrong. Please forgive me?"
At his words, her expression shifted to one of utter confusion.
"Please, Saavikam. I am sorry. Too many years have gone by. I don't want any more to pass with this enmity between us."
She stared at him, unshed tears bright in her eyes. "I loved you and you didn't even care. I lost everything to Genesis. You. David. My future."
He nodded. "I know."
She sniffed and wiped her eyes. "Are you expecting me to just throw myself in your arms and then everything will be all right?"
"Expecting, no. Hoping is perhaps the better word." He took a step toward her, then another. Reaching out, he touched her hair; let his hand run down the course strands he had tried so hard to tame when she was younger.
She stared at him while he touched her. "I kept you alive on Genesis."
He met her eyes, not sure what she was trying to say.
Why had that never occurred to him? "Saavikam, I beg forgiveness."
"I couldn't let you die." She suddenly collapsed into his arms. "I loved you. I had to keep you with us. For me. For him. You were the only father I'd known."
"Shhh," he pulled her closer and let her cry out her anger and pain. "I'm so sorry, little one."
They stood there for a long time, then he felt her relax slightly and he led her over to the couch.
"I cannot make up the time we've lost."
"No, you can't." Her look was fierce, then it became gentler. "Maybe we could start over. From this point forward."
"If only Valeris had never existed," Saavik whispered.
"But she did. She does."
She looked startled. "You haven't heard?"
"She went mad. In prison. They had to move her to a different facility. The Valeris you knew is no more."
He felt as if he'd been punched. Mad? She'd gone mad? The meld he'd forced...
He pushed Valeris ruthlessly from his mind. He would not allow her to come between Saavik and him again. "That is a pity. A waste of a brilliant mind."
Saavik seemed satisfied by his answer. She gingerly reached for his tea and handed him the saucer. "It's gone cold."
He smiled slightly. "That's all right. I imagine it will still taste as sweet."
She grinned. "Would you like to see the garden?"
He nodded. "Will you tell me how you are? What your path is now?"
"It's a long story."
"I have plenty of time."
Her happy smile was reward enough, he thought, as he followed her out to her flowers.
Christine knelt in front of the small plaque on the lowest row of the columbarium. Two of her friends, this close together. "Captain Montgomery Scott," she read softly. "Lieutenant Commander Renata Farrell." The space was too small to include much more than the pertinent dates. She knew that Ren's ashes lay behind the beautifully inscribed silver. Scotty's remains were lost forever. The space behind his name was empty, as were many of the others in the long marble line. "Wherever you are, Scotty," she whispered. "I hope you're happy."
She put the flowers she'd bought in the small vases attached to the plaques. Farrell's was empty, but Scotty's already had several flowers in it. She had to work to get the red rosebud into the small space. As she did, she had a strange certainty that someone was watching her. It wasn't a scary feeling, more like a warm rush of presence. She smiled and turned, saying, "Spock."
He was standing a few feet from her. His eyebrow went up as she said his name. "I did not think you heard me come up."
"I didn't," she said as she rose and walked over to him. "I just knew it was you."
She thought about the feeling she'd had. "I sensed you."
"Fascinating. Do you often do that?"
She thought about it. "On the ship, I usually know where you are. I mean if you're in your ready room. Or off the bridge entirely."
He nodded. "But like this?"
She shook her head. "Weird, huh?"
"As is much of our interaction of late," he gave her a small smile and reached into the pocket of his uniform coat. "I thought you might like this. To add to your collection."
Christine unwrapped the package and examined the small brass goddess. "She's beautiful."
"The vendor said she was Tara."
"Green Tara," Christine corrected as she studied the goddess's face. "I don't have her yet."
"I did not remember seeing her among the others."
"Good memory." She put it carefully in her pocket next to the envelope Renata's father had given her. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," he said as he turned and walked slowly down the length of the columbarium.
She hesitated for a moment, knowing where he was going but uncertain if she was welcome.
He turned and held out his hand. "Come with me?"
She smiled softly and hurried to join him, taking his hand and feeling a spark of tenderness rush through her as she did so. Her eyes met his. "It really does seem to happen every time we touch now."
"Is it unpleasant for you?" she asked.
His eyes were very gentle as he shook his head. "Is it for you?"
"No," she said, and felt him tighten the grasp.
They walked in silence toward the marble structure that was reserved for Starfleet's greatest heroes. The inside was warm and quiet, recessed lighting giving way to discreet spotlights over each luminary. No one else was inside. "Captain James Tiberius Kirk," Christine said quietly. The memorial was tasteful and very cold. "He would hate this," she finally said.
"Yes," Spock answered. "He wanted to be buried underneath the pines on the property he loved so much. Not here in this cold marble."
"Didn't Saavik fight this?"
"As his executor she could have...if there had been a body. But this is only a memorial. It is not up to her, to any of us, to say how Starfleet will honor him."
She could feel the sadness welling up within him where their hands touched. She expected him to let go but instead he pulled her closer. "I miss him," he said simply. "I miss her too...my mother."
She leaned her head on his shoulder. "I know. I miss Ren. And my mom, even after all this time." She could feel him react to her own pain as he rested his face against her hair. "It never really goes away. The hole they leave."
"No. It does not."
"We just get better at covering it up."
"Or avoiding it," he said softly. "Pretending as if it isn't there, was never there."
She nodded. "As if they never lived." She thought of Farrell's empty vase.
"They live as long as we remember them. That is how the saying goes, is it not?"
She smiled. "It is."
They stood that way for some time before he led them back outside. He pulled her hand up, studying their clasped fingers. "Flesh to flesh...such a comfort," he murmured.
Again she felt the tenderness, then he let go of her. His expression seemed very sad before his more professional mask slipped in place. "How did your meeting with Mr. Farrell go?"
"It was hard. But I needed to do it. He gave me a letter Ren wrote me."
"A real letter?"
She nodded. "Must have been a while ago that she wrote it. She would have just commed me if it had been while she'd been on the ship."
"Yes," he agreed.
"How was your visit with Saavik?"
"It ended pleasantly. I was not sure at first that would be the case. But she prospers. And finds her own way to live."
He fell silent and she sneaked a look at his face. He seemed troubled. "What is it?"
"She had news of Valeris."
When he didn't continue, she asked, "Bad news?"
He nodded. "She went mad in prison."
Christine sighed. "Some people cannot take captivity, Spock. It's been proven in quite a lot of studies."
"It was the meld," he said so quietly she almost couldn't make out the words. "The meld I forced on her."
"You don't know that. Did Saavik say that?"
He shook his head and walked a little faster.
Christine touched his arm, stopping him. "You didn't do this to her. She made a choice."
"I hurt her, Christine." He looked down. "I wanted to hurt her."
She reached up and touched his cheek gently. "And you regret that. I felt how much you regret it when you had to do the same thing to me."
He covered her hand with his own, pushing her palm tightly against his face. A wave of self-loathing passed through her. Then regret and shame.
"No," she said as she pulled his head to her own, letting their foreheads touch. "You didn't do this." She put every bit of her certainty into her words, tried to make him feel that she believed in him. "She made a choice, so did you. It is what is. You can't change it, Spock. But I don't believe you did this to her. It may have pushed her over the edge, but she was teetering already."
"You did not know her. She was confidence personified."
"On the outside, but what was her true mental state? You can never really know that." She let go of his face and pulled away. "What did you feel when you forced the meld? Confidence?"
He thought carefully before answering. "Cunning. Pride. Hatred. Rage. Fear."
"Those things can eat you alive, Spock. You know that."
He didn't reply for a long moment. Then in a shamed voice he said, "She laughed at me."
"When I melded with her. She laughed at me. She taunted me. Said that I would never hurt her because I wanted her, because I loved her."
"And you did."
He nodded. "I did love her. Was so proud of her. But in that moment, I hated her more than I had ever hated anyone. I wanted to hurt her and I did."
"All right, you did. But now, you're a different person. I know that. You need to know that."
"And she can never know that." He turned away. "She will never know that I regret my actions."
"Spock, if she really knew you at all, she'll know that."
He looked at her. "Is your faith in me so unshakeable? I was unkind to you not very long ago."
"You were hurting," she said, faltering slightly as she realized where he was going with his logic. "And being unwilling to share is not the same thing as being unkind."
"You are determined to not see my logic."
"You're right," she said, as she led him in the direction of their hotel. "I know the truth. And the truth is you didn't cause this. She caused it when she chose betrayal."
He suddenly shivered. "I spoke of Valeris once with my mother and she told me that we choose betrayal because it often seems the shortest road to what we most want."
"Your mother was a wise woman, Spock."
"She would have liked you." His expression was very tender as he corrected his statement. "She would have loved you."
As they entered the hotel, she smiled back. "And I would have loved her."
Janice waited as Sulu placed a chrysanthemum blossom in the small vase attached to the grave marker. She closed her eyes for a moment, sending her own version of good will and remembrance to Lieutenant Selto, Sulu's first casualty after taking command. There had been others since but Sulu always visited Selto's grave first. Except for today when a stop at Scotty's marker had come first. She smiled. Her captain was a man of tradition but not a hidebound one.
He looked up at her and as his eyes met hers, she felt her tension drain away. He had always had this power: the ability to make her feel at home and safe. It was why she had valued his friendship for so long. And why she had always been reluctant to ever reach for more. The thought of losing this refuge had been more than she could stand.
He rose gracefully and walked up to her. "A penny for them?"
She shook her head. "You'd be getting gypped."
He chuckled. "I'm never that when I'm with you."
"Always the charmer, Hikaru," she teased gently. They both knew he was anything but a womanizer, and that she was anything but immune to him. She may have been afraid to reach out for more, but he hadn't been. His campaign had been gentle, considerate, and utterly ruthless. By the time it had occurred to her to resist, it was too late. Not that it was easy being lovers--they had to be discreet but she didn't mind. Knowing he was there made everything else that had gone wrong in her personal life bearable.
They worked their way over to Scotty's newly inscribed plaque. Sulu's white chrysanthemum had been joined by several other flowers. Janice looked around to see if she could spot anyone she knew but the cemetery around them seemed empty. She looked down the row at the heroes' hall.
"Do you want to pay your respects?" Sulu asked, following her gaze.
"I already did. Yesterday."
He grinned. "So did I."
"Guess we both wanted to remember Kirk our own way." She made a sheepish face.
"I've learned to not even try to compete with him," Sulu said with a wry smile. "Besides, he was the best role model I ever had. The finest captain I've ever served with."
She nodded. "Me too." Janice was about to say more when her attention was captured by two familiar figures walking out of the hall.
Sulu turned to see what she was looking at just as Spock lifted his hand. They could see that he held Christine's hand in his.
"Well that's not something you see everyday," Sulu mused. "Gotta give her credit. It may have taken all these years, but she got him."
Janice watched Spock drop Christine's hand as the two walked away from where she and Sulu stood. Spock and Christine appeared to be having an intense conversation, made even more intense when she reached out to stop him and, standing very close to him, touched him more than Janice would ever have believed Spock would allow. Why hadn't Christine mentioned this? Why had she only referred to her colonel? "But she's with someone else, Hikaru."
He made a dismissive sound. "I hope he's not too fond of her."
"No, I mean it. I know what Chris sounds like when she's in love, and when she was telling me about him she sounded like that. She loves him."
Sulu indicated the still touching couple. "Then what do you call that?"
"I'm not sure. I wonder if they are?"
"This other guy, he's on the Carter?"
Janice nodded. "Head of security. Special forces too. Randall Kerr." She frowned again. "Does that sound familiar to you? Because I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out where I know that name from."
Sulu considered for a moment, then said, "Starbase 14. We'd stopped in at the lounge while we picked up supplies for Gamma Epsilon. Wasn't he that big guy that was with Christine's friend?"
Janice pointed down at Farrell's plaque. "Her you mean?"
He frowned. "Yeah."
"I think you're right. He was the one that looked a bit like--"
"I'm well aware of who he looked like," Sulu said with a stern look. "Why do you think I hustled you out of there?"
"You never let me have any fun."
"I'm a nice guy but I'm not stupid, Jana." He grinned.
"No, you're anything but stupid." She was still puzzled. "I wonder what they were doing together. Renata didn't go for guys. Even ones that looked a lot like a certain captain we both knew."
Sulu shrugged. "It's a big galaxy. Especially if you're a special forces type."
"But Renata Farrell wasn't that type. I guess it really doesn't matter. It looks like Chris has other things on her mind right now than how I might know her boyfriend. Her other boyfriend. I mean...god, this is confusing."
"You don't suppose the three of them?" Sulu asked very quietly.
She slugged him in the arm. "Hikaru, that is insane. Can you see Spock doing that?"
"You were the one that said this Kerr guy looked like Kirk," Sulu grinned devilishly.
"I won't listen to this. I just won't." She put her fingers in her ears and sang, "La la can't hear you la la."
He laughed and gestured surrender. When she unplugged her ears, he said, "Let's get some dinner, Commander Rand."
"Isn't it a little early for dinner, Captain Sulu?"
"Gives us time for other things," he said as his look became very predatory.
She didn't have to reply. They both knew that she loved that look.
Kerr was missing Christine more than he liked to admit, even to himself.
It's just a memorial; he'd tried to tell himself a hundred times since she had left. Just because she and Spock are going to it together doesn't mean that anything is going to happen.
If he were Spock... Kerr frowned. If he were Spock he knew exactly what he'd want. The same thing Kerr wanted. Christine.
The chime of an incoming comm interrupted his reverie. He hit the switch, hoping it would be Christine. As the screen lit up, he felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. Renata Farrell looked back at him.
"Well, hey there, Randy. You're probably feeling pretty safe about now?" She grinned meanly. "Or else your whole world has gone to hell, which would be my personal preference."
She went on as if he hadn't spoken. "This is a recording. I'll say that now so you don't embarrass yourself by talking back to it. Although knowing you, you probably already have."
"You bitch," he muttered under his breath.
"That's not a nice thing to say," she laughed, and he wondered if he had always been this predictable. "But perhaps accurate." Her smile faded. "If you're watching this then I've been dead for a few days. I knew you'd block all my outgoing transmissions after my cover was blown. And knowing you, I'm probably still blocked. For outgoing comms...to anyone but you." She suddenly pretended to be looking past him. "Christine isn't there, is she? Hey Chris, let me tell you about your boyfriend."
Kerr realized he had been holding his breath and slowly let it out. "Get to the damn point, Ren," he muttered.
"Nope, guess she's not there. Oh well, no matter. She's probably already read that little message I sent to her." She made a moue of petulance. "Oh wait. If you blocked my messages, maybe you intercepted that too."
Kerr thought about Nako, how she had managed to catch the transmission before it went to Christine. "Not me," he whispered.
"If that happens, then she'll never know. And you'll win." Her expression turned sly. "Or maybe not. Maybe I found another way of getting the information to her. It might take a little longer than a comm message, but she'll get it eventually. I've made sure of that, Kerr. It might be today, tomorrow, or maybe a few months from now. But she'll find out the truth. Unless you can stop it." She laughed again. "Figure out where I sent it, how I sent it, and when she's going to get it. A lot of variables, Colonel. And what did they teach us at all our training? Oh yeah: 'Control or eliminate as many variables as you can'."
His jaw tightened at her words. It was one of the reasons they had worked to get him close to Christine...to have a means to find out what she and Spock were thinking and planning. To make sure it didn't interfere with their other...less benevolent mission. He swallowed convulsively. But something went wrong. He fell in love. He wasn't supposed to do that. Ren never did.
"So good luck finding it, Randy. It really makes me happy thinking of you trying to chase it down." She chuckled. "It makes me even happier thinking of you failing utterly." She reached for something off screen. "Have a nice life, Colonel Kerr."
The screen went dead. He saved the message to a secure file and took a deep breath. Could she have done it? He'd locked down every communications channel that he thought she might try. He'd even checked all the outgoing priority shipments waiting for beam out. There had been nothing that had looked out of the ordinary. He'd scanned everything just to be sure.
The only way something could have gotten off the ship was if it had been in the general delivery. He'd checked the manifests once. He pulled up the lists again and started to run down them, crosschecking anyone he didn't know against the previous month's lists to check for prior occurrences. Everything checked out. Except...
He hit the comm switch. "Kerr to Nako."
"Nako here, Randall. What can I do for you?"
"Do you know a Martin Cantwell in New Mexico?"
She thought about it. "I don't believe so. Should I?"
"You sent him some woven goods maybe? His address is a gallery in Santa Fe."
She smiled. "Oh, of course. I sent him some of my weavings to sell for charity. Why?"
He couldn't hide his disappointment. "No reason, Nako."
"Is something wrong?"
"I'm afraid the enemy knight just sent a late salvo."
She frowned. "Really?"
He nodded. "Claimed to have sent a backup copy of that information you intercepted. Traveling a circuitous route but ultimately intended to go to one person."
"This is not good."
"That's the understatement of all time."
"I will be right over." The channel went dead.
As Kerr ran his hands through his hair and waited for her, he desperately tried to figure out a way to stop the inevitable. And failed miserably.
Nako arrived quickly. "Tell me exactly what happened."
He called up the file and let her see it. When it finished, he shrugged. "I can't find anything out of the ordinary. I thought maybe the one from you..."
She frowned. "Are you sure she really sent something?"
"You're the damn psychic. You tell me."
"I have told you before, I cannot see all. Nor can I change what is. It may be that I cannot stop Christine from finding out about your past."
"Maybe you should have thought about that before you murdered Farrell?" Anger and frustration made him mean but she did not appear offended.
"Maybe so," was all she said.
He sat down heavily. "Nako, I'm sorry."
"I know you are." She took the seat next to him. "Would she be likely to say she sent something if she had not really done it?"
"Without a doubt. She loved spinning people's heads like that." He sighed. "I just don't see how she could have gotten something out. I had this place locked down tight."
"I believe you, grandson," Nako said, patting his hand gently. "I also believe that you must be on your guard."
"That's what my superiors said too. About the Romulans."
"So they believed our little story?"
He nodded. "They sure appeared to. Seemed to find the Tal shiar connection very interesting."
"As I thought they would. This is not a complete red herring. Trouble is coming from that quarter, Randall. And your superiors know it."
"So I'm suddenly an important asset again."
She nodded. "As we hoped."
He looked down and whispered, "Sometimes, I just feel like telling Christine everything. Stop all these lies and secrets."
"You must do as you think best, grandson."
He looked up at her, met her calm eyes and sighed. "I'd lose her."
She nodded again. "Quite possibly."
He stood up suddenly and began to pace. "I'm losing her anyway, Nako."
She cocked her head to one side and made a skeptical face. "Why do you say that?"
"She's with Spock."
"Alone," he added bitterly.
He made a small gasp of frustration. "The king and queen, Nako. Remember them? Alone. Together. Far away from me. Makes for a rather volatile situation."
"This has always been a volatile situation, my dear. Surely you are not just realizing that?" She stood up slowly. "You must decide what you can and cannot accept."
"I don't like the sound of that."
"I imagine not." She rested her hand on his arm as she passed him. "She loves you, Randall. Never forget that."
"That's easier said than done."
"Try," she said with a compassionate smile, as she left him to deal with his gloom and fear alone.
"Are you going to open it?" Spock asked, looking at the envelope Christine was holding.
"Yeah." She stuck it in the inside pocket of her traveling bag. "Eventually."
"You remember the comm Jim sent me?"
She nodded. How could she forget? He had been very angry with her when she had pressed him to open it. "How long did it take before you read it?"
"Quite a few days. I thought you knew that?"
"It was none of my business what you did with it." She turned away. "We'd already had one fight about it. I didn't want a repeat."
He touched her shoulder gently. "I am sorry, Christine, that I shut you away from me."
She shrugged slightly and his hand fell away. "We can't change the past, Spock."
"No. We cannot. Or the futures that our past actions have created."
"I lost you then," he said. "I cannot remedy that."
She turned slowly to look at him. He was standing very close to her. "Would you want to?"
He looked down. "There is much I regret."
"That's not what I asked."
He met her eyes. "Would you change what is?"
She thought of Kerr and shook her head.
"I did not think so." He turned away from her.
"Maybe there's another Spock and Christine that aren't apart. In some other universe, where you didn't shut me out and I didn't choose him?" She smiled. "I don't remember much of my quantum theory classes, but I do remember that part."
His lips turned up slightly. "Do they prosper, this version of us?"
She grinned. "They are very happy."
He nodded. "That is good then. Perhaps at dinner we should drink a toast to them."
"Yes." She went to the closet and grabbed her sweater. "Shall we go?"
They walked slowly to the waterfront. Christine enjoyed the freshness of the cool San Francisco air. She loved the Carter, but it was good to be back on Earth.
"It was agreeable seeing our shipmates again."
She smiled. "It was. Thank you for arranging this."
"We both needed it."
"Yes, we did." She laughed. At his look, she explained. "We've come so far since the last time we were here together. For that stupid training."
He nodded. "We have."
"I remember dreading that class. And then when I walked in and you were there..."
"I had the same trepidation."
"Were we dysfunctional or what?" She had a sudden picture of herself hosing down Kerr and Spock in the greenhouse. "Not that our current situation is any kind of model for normalcy."
"It is somewhat unusual," he agreed.
"Did I ever tell you how much I admire your gift of understatement?"
"I do not believe so, Christine."
"Well, I do," she said as they arrived at Gerard's. The maitre'd led them to a table in the front. "You called ahead?" she asked in surprise.
"You said you have always wanted to sit at a window table. Did I misunderstand you?"
"No, but I didn't expect you to get us one."
"There are times it is beneficial to be a...how did the owner put it? Ah yes, a 'living legend.' I, of course, tried to downplay any claim to fame I might have."
She laughed. "Naturally. You'd never trade on your name just to impress a dinner companion."
His eyes seemed to twinkle. "Unless she was a very special dinner companion."
"Flattery will get you nowhere," she said sternly. But she couldn't help but smile.
"Of course not," he agreed as he turned his attention to the menu.
When the waiter came by, Spock ordered his normal stout. Christine ordered a single-malt scotch. "In honor of Scotty," she said to Spock.
"Most appropriate," he nodded. "Should I change my order?"
"Have you ever had scotch, Spock?"
"Jim used to drink it." He seemed less than enthusiastic.
"Stick with your stout. Ireland will have to be close enough." Spock nodded, clearly relieved. They placed the rest of their order and the waiter moved on.
Christine noticed the people at the next table pointing to something out in the water. As she turned to see what had captured their attention, a small plume suddenly exploded from the water. "George and Gracie," she said softly.
Spock turned to see. The whales were moving smoothly past the pier, a collection of small boats trailing alongside. "And family," Spock added.
"Four calves so far," Christine said.
"You are a whale aficionado?" He sounded surprised.
"A man that I used to see was a fan." She saw Spock's look and laughed. "Not like those boaters. Larry was a scientist. Decided to go into cetacean biology when these guys showed up. He was that besotted with them."
"And you weren't?"
She smiled. "Sorry, I didn't mean to insult your whales."
"They are not _my_ whales, as you well know, Christine."
Her smile faded. "They may not be anyone's, Spock. One breeding pair? How do we expect them to survive?" She watched the small pod swim out of sight. "Even if they have twenty calves before they die, there won't be enough genetic diversity. Within five generations, they'll start to suffer abnormalities, genetic weaknesses like inbreeding depression. It's likely they'll be extinct again in as little as twenty generations unless we find a way to add some spice to those chromosomes."
He looked away thoughtfully. "We brought them here to die then."
"All things die, Spock. And if the stories we all heard about your adventures getting them here were right, they were about to be killed when you beamed them up."
"That is true." He took a sip of his stout. "Perhaps samples of whale DNA will be found, from before they were hunted to extinction."
"Perhaps," she agreed. "It's what Larry and the others on his team were looking for. Last time we talked, he thought they might be on to something in Australia."
"You have not talked to him recently?"
She shook her head. "We really had little in common other than science." She looked down. "I'd sworn off Fleet men in those days. Only I should have remembered that I'd sworn off obsessed scientists before that."
"Your life would have been very different if Doctor Korby had not been lost. We might never have met."
She nodded. "I guess there's a universe for that too. I can't imagine what that would have been like now. I mean to not have been on the Enterprise? It just seems inevitable that I served on it, that I knew you and everyone else. If there is a Christine Chapel that never did, I wonder if she's happy?"
"You will never know." He held up his glass. "I believe we were going to toast a different alternate Christine Chapel?"
"And to her alternate Captain Spock." They clinked glasses and she frowned. "You know, there may be others of them out there. Like a Spock that came to visit me after a certain awful incident on Platonius?" She glared at him in mock ferocity.
"Or a Christine that did not leave my cabin quite so quickly when she brought me soup that second time." He raised an eyebrow.
She laughed. "Or here's one. A Spock that didn't hang out with Dr. Kalomi when he should have been enjoying that spore-induced euphoria with me."
"I seem to remember passing you and Lieutenant DeSalle while Leila and I were out walking. You appeared to be quite busy at the time."
She blushed at the memory of exactly what she and DeSalle had been doing. "Nevertheless..."
"Point taken," he said quietly. "But the fact remains that any of those people are only alternate versions of us. We cannot go back and make those choices again."
"No, we can't." She took a sip of her scotch and savored the smooth warmth. "You never did say if you wanted to."
He did not look away. "I am not sure that I would be able to live that moment differently even if I wanted to." He reached out and touched her hand. "And I do want to."
Her skin where his hand touched hers felt as if it were on fire. She could sense regret...and desire. He pulled away. "I'm sorry. I have no right to do that."
"Did you do it on purpose...send me those feelings."
"No, but that you should sense them was not precisely unexpected given what has been happening between us. I...I should not have touched you."
She studied him for a moment before saying carefully, "Shouldn't I be the judge of that?" Their eyes locked and the expression on his face was so intimate that she suddenly found it difficult to breathe. Why had she said that?
She was saved by the arrival of the waiters with the salad. Spock ate silently and she followed his example. She was relieved when he kept their conversation between courses light and professional. Clearly he had no wish to go to whatever dangerous land they had nearly been headed.
They lingered on the waterfront for a long while before heading back to the hotel. Spock was very quiet on the way and she frowned as she whispered. "I shouldn't have said what I said at dinner."
"There seem to be many things we should not do," he replied as he led the way into the hotel.
It was like their first days on the Carter as he walked her to her room. She turned around to say goodnight only to find him standing very close to her.
"So many things we said we would never do again." His eyes did not leave her face as he took the key from her and opened the door.
"Never again," she murmured.
"Hard words, I find." He handed her the key, and she backed into the room holding the door open.
She stared at him and found herself saying, "Do you want to come in for a while?"
"I do not know if that is wise."
"We're both adults." She stepped aside. "Please?"
He moved past her and she let the door close softly. The city gleamed softly outside the large window and she walked around him to admire the view. "It's beautiful," she murmured, very aware that he had moved to stand behind her.
"It is," he said huskily.
She watched his reflection in the dark window. Held her breath as she saw him lean down, his lips touching her neck, his hands settling on her arms. Waves of desire buffeted her as soon as his skin touched hers. She moaned and turned around, staring intently into his eyes. "I love you," she said, her voice cracking slightly as his desire hit her again.
His lips claimed her own and his fingers found the meld spot. As his mind joined hers, he let go of her face and began to undress her. She could feel his hands running over her, could also sense what he was feeling as he touched her.
*I love you, Christine.*
The onslaught of emotions threatened to overwhelm them both. *Want you so much,* she managed to convey.
His answer was to pick her up and carry her to the bed. She helped him pull his own clothes off, kissed him as they fell to the bed, moaned as he entered her. He deepened the meld and she could no longer tell where she ended and he began. The experience seemed to last forever.
Until it was over. And she came down from the places he had taken her.
And remembered that she had made a promise. A promise she had just broken.
She felt Spock's dismay through the meld as well. Regret warred with the immense afterglow of pleasure that they both still felt. Guilt vied with desire only barely slaked.
"We should not have done this," she whispered.
"It is too late to undo it."
She felt his hurt. "You thought..."
"It is irrelevant what I thought." He rolled off of her to lie on his back, staring at the ceiling.
"I love him."
"I'm not sure he'd agree with that statement were he to walk in right now." Spock's pain made his words sting. He turned to look at her. "Do you want me to leave?"
She touched his chest and felt another flare of desire. Knowing she should pull away but helpless to resist, she whispered, "No," as she leaned in to kiss him again.
He pulled her to him almost savagely. His lips were demanding and passionate and she gave herself up to them completely.
When they finally pulled apart, she said again, "I want you."
"But you belong to another."
She nodded. "But that doesn't change what we've done. Or that we're here now."
"Or that you want this?" He stroked her skin lightly, causing her to shiver. "We have tonight?"
"But only tonight. And then never again."
"Hard words to hold to, Christine."
She nodded. "I know."
His mind in the meld was tinged with a sadness she had never heard there before. *Your terms are acceptable.*
For a moment, she wondered if he should leave. Wondered if this was fair to him?
In answer, he pulled her on top of him. *I will have you. Do not consider ending this before the night is over.*
She kissed him as she moved against him. Too many emotions assailed her to analyze any one of them, so she quit trying and just surrendered to the sensations their bodies were experiencing. Over and over. It was nearly morning before he permitted her to fall into an exhausted sleep.
Spock held Christine against him as he watched the curtains lighten with the rising sun. She turned slightly and wrapped an arm around his waist, snuggling in against him in a way that made the breath catch in this throat. Why did she have this effect on him? Why did he want her so?
He stroked her face, slowly waking her up. She made a sleepy sound that he found unbearably stimulating. Pushing her onto her back, he kissed her, at first gently then more roughly. His hands found the meld point before he could stop himself. *Wake up," he urged.
*Spock?* she asked in a mixture of confusion and desire that tempted him beyond any power to resist. She came awake beneath him, pulling his face down to hers for a fierce kiss, matching his passion with her own as she moved against him.
*Never again,* he sent to her as she arched beneath him. He felt his own body release and repeated, *Never again.*
They lay silently then. Minds and voices stilled as their breathing slowly returned to normal. He reluctantly released the meld.
"I'm sorry," she finally said.
"For what?" he asked, as he eased off her. Settling by her side, he pulled her to him. "There is nothing to be sorry for, Christine."
She burrowed against him, but the motion lacked the sweet spontaneity of earlier. Asleep she had been his forever. Awake, they both knew that this moment would end. Soon.
But not just yet, he thought, as he pulled her closer. "Somewhere we are together," he whispered, not expecting her to hear him.
*Forever,* she answered in his mind, surprising him. That she could reach him so easily when he was letting the meld ease was nearly impossible. Normally only a bond--
He touched her face worriedly.
*Spock?* her mind voice was startled as she felt him demand reentry to her thoughts.
As she let him in, he heard her say again, *Spock, what is it?*
He checked for the bond. Perhaps inadvertently in their passion he had lost control and she had allowed him to make the connection complete.
There was nothing.
He pulled out of her mind and tried to block her. She followed him easily, her alarm making her voice loud in his head, *Spock, what the hell is wrong?*
He masked his own worry and soothed her. "It is nothing."
*What?* she asked again, then followed his example and switched to words, "Spock, talk to me."
"It is nothing, Christine." He distracted her with gentle kisses until it was time for them to get ready to leave. He went to his own room to clean up and change. As he packed his things, he tried to make sense of what had happened. He had not lost control, as he had feared. But if they weren't bonded, then what exactly was going on between them?
He had ample time to think about it as he flew the sleek Vulcan craft out of the private spacedock because Christine seemed determined to say nothing.
"Are you all right?" he asked gently.
She did not answer.
"Are you going to speak to me at all on this journey?"
"I don't know," she finally replied.
"If I have lost your friendship, then what we shared was not worth the price."
She swiveled her chair to face him. "You haven't lost my friendship, Spock."
"Are you sure?" He busied himself with plotting the course into the autopilot.
"I just feel guilty."
"And I can still feel your touch."
He still waited.
"And I like it, I like that feeling," she whispered. "And I feel guilty that I like it."
He reached over and touched her hand. He could feel exhaustion rolling off her in waves. "You are very tired, Christine. You did not get much sleep last night. Why don't you rest for a while in the back cabin?"
"What about you? You didn't get any sleep last night, did you?"
"I don't need as much as you do." She seemed about to resist, so he said, "I think you will feel much better when you are not so tired."
She swiveled back away from him again. "I'm fine."
"You are not." He finished the autopilot sequencing and turned to her. "T'hy'la, what we have done is probably wrong, perhaps ill considered, and most certainly would hurt the colonel if he finds out. I do not intend to tell him. I do not know what you plan to do. But until you get some sleep, I do not think you can assess how you are or what you will do when you face him again."
"You think I'm awful."
He raised an eyebrow. "I am uncertain how that interpretation was derived from what I said, Christine. I think you are tired."
"I want to go back to him."
"So I assumed, or your 'never again' caveat would not now be in effect."
"Again." He glanced at her and she continued. "In effect again. It was in effect, but then it was lifted, and now it's in effect again."
His lips lifted slightly. "I assume now would be an inopportune time to ask if it might be lifted again in the future?"
She stared at him and for a moment she seemed confused, then she started to laugh. "I forget sometimes that you joke."
He decided not to tell her this wasn't one of those times.
She stood up. "I guess I will get some sleep. Then maybe you can rest when I wake up."
"That would be agreeable." He tried to push the thought of her sleeping in his arms out of his mind. Never again.
He was rapidly beginning to dislike those two words intensely.
He felt her hand on his shoulder, was overwhelmed with a powerful mix of guilt, regret, and love. She leaned down and whispered, "Thank you for last night." Then with a kiss on the cheek, she was gone.
He waited half an hour before he walked to the back cabin. She was lying on top of the covers, curled on her side. He went to the closet and pulling down the blanket, covered her gently with it, denying his urge to touch her. Leave her, he ordered himself sternly. As he turned to go back to the controls, he could not resist a last look. "You're welcome," he whispered as he let the door close behind him.
Kerr was getting antsy. He knew that Spock's yacht had landed on Vulcan and that he and Christine had transported up shortly thereafter. But he hadn't heard from her and it was making him nervous. He tried to concentrate on work but couldn't focus on the words he was trying to read. Damn it. Why didn't she contact him?
The chime on his door startled him. "Come in."
She walked in. He studied her carefully, the emotionless face, the rigid posture and his hopes died. Then suddenly she broke into a huge smile and hurried to him. He caught her up in his arms, pulling her down onto his lap. He had just enough rational thought left to order the computer to lock the door before her lips were on his and he was drowning in her.
When she finally pulled away, she looked him squarely in the eye and said, "I love you." Her expression was soft and gentle and loving. The look of the woman he'd fallen in love with and he was glad to see her back. But also, he realized with some primitive part of his brain that operated solely on intuition, it was the look of a woman that was trying desperately not to appear as if she had something to hide.
He leaned back and brushed the hair off her face, studying her expression as she looked at him seriously. "The trip home did you good," he finally said.
"Being with him did you good too," he continued.
"Randall, nothing ha--"
He put his finger over his lips. "Shhh. Don't lie to me."
She didn't look away, seemed to be thinking what to say next. When she opened her mouth, he pushed harder on her lips.
"I mean it. Don't lie to me." He let his finger press down for a long moment, then moved it gently over her lips and across her cheek.
She sat quietly, slightly tensed as he continued to touch her.
"I missed you." He tightened his hold on her with his other hand. "So much."
She leaned in and kissed him tentatively and he pulled her closer, not caring how rough he was being. Not caring until she suddenly winced and he touched her lip where his teeth had cut it, washing the blood lightly away with his tongue. He saw her eyes widen as he pulled away.
What good is a promise if it's not kept? he thought, even as he began to take off her uniform.
He shushed her with a kiss, far gentler this time, and didn't pull away until he felt her respond to him. "I love you," he said as he felt her begin to undo his uniform. "I'm glad you're back."
"I am back," she said as she rose only to settle back on top of him, breathing a sharp gasp of pleasure as their bodies connected.
He echoed her, holding her as she began to move, staring hard into his eyes. He realized that she was no longer trying to hide anything from him.
He wondered why he didn't care more.
As she threw her head back and made the low, wild cries he loved he didn't have to wonder. It meant everything to have her back in his arms like this. As he followed her into pleasure, muting his moans in her hair and clutching her tightly, he heard her whisper, "I love you, Randall."
He knew it was true. He also wondered if she'd said the same thing to Spock.
Christine slowly made her way back to her quarters. Having sex with Kerr in his office had been out of character and wildly unprofessional. But she'd felt an overwhelming urge to see him, to make sure that their relationship was as it had been when she'd left.
To make sure she hadn't ruined everything.
She hadn't intended to give anything away. Yet he had known immediately. She remembered his restrained violence with a shiver. It hadn't frightened her exactly, but she had not been completely certain what he would do.
But he had done what he always did. He had loved her. Completely. Unequivocally. Passionately. With his eyes wide open.
"Christine, wait up." Kerr was hurrying to catch her.
She turned, waiting for him. "What is it?"
There was something in his grin she'd never seen before. Something haunted. "Shift's almost over. I've been working lots of overtime with you gone. Thought I'd knock off a little early so I could spend time with you?"
She smiled. "I'd like that."
They walked together to the lift and rode it to deck two. "Are you hungry?" she asked as they entered her quarters. She was already moving to the replicator when his hand on her arm stopped her. "What is it?"
He moved closer to her, pulling her into his arms. "I missed you." His kisses were sweet and gentle--more tender than she could ever remember.
"I missed you too," she said softly as she returned his caresses.
As she looked into his eyes, she saw the haunted look cross his face again. She reached up and touched his cheek gently. "I don't want to hurt you." The words were out before she could call them back.
He stared hard at her before he leaned in to kiss her again. His reply was so soft she barely heard him say, "Then don't."
"I won't," she said.
"That sounds like a promise, Christine. And promises seem to be hard to keep."
She looked down. "I'll try not to."
"Better," he replied in a harsh tone as he urged her to the bedroom.
She tried to gauge his mood as he pulled her clothes off and found herself unable to. His kisses were intense, his hold on her possessive, but his eyes were gentle as he made love to her. Gentle and just a bit sad.
I'm hurting them both, she realized.
"Love you," he whispered as he moved inside her.
"I love you," she replied as she surrendered to the pleasure he was giving her.
When they finally lay still he pulled her close to him and didn't say anything, just held her for a long time. When she became restive, he let her go. "Do you want something to eat now?"
She nodded. "Something light."
He got out of bed and went to the replicator. As she listened to him getting their food, she glanced over at the carry all sitting on the chair next to the bed. She suddenly remembered the envelope that Farrell's father had given her and moved across the bed to grab the bag. Digging through it, she pulled out the envelope just as Kerr walked in with a tray.
"What's that?" he asked as he set the tray down on the now vacant chair.
She tore the seal. "Something Ren wrote me."
When he said nothing, she glanced over and saw that he was staring at the envelope. His expression was no longer open or gentle. He was looking at the letter as if it were his worst enemy. "What's the matter, Randall?"
As she watched his face, she had the strange impression that some inner struggle was going on inside him. Finally, his expression falling into one of resignation, he said, "Just read it, Christine."
"Read the damn letter," he said, his dead tone at odds with the words.
She unfolded the sheet of paper. "Dear, Chris. Remember back in emergency ops when we said that if anything happened to us, we didn't want the people we loved to not know how much they meant to us? Well, that's why I'm writing this. Obviously, I'm dead if you're reading this. Dead. The word brings on some very weird feelings. Terror and an odd sense of peace. Like my worries are over and I can finally relax and just be me. A lot of people don't know the real me. But I think you did. Or as much of me as I ever really let out. I can't really explain that, but maybe by now you know what it means.
"During our tour together, you learned a lot about me and I learned a lot about you. Well that tour's over and now we're on our way to different assignments. I don't know what lies ahead for either of us. But I wanted you to know that I love you and that I'm so proud of you. You've come so far and grown so much in this job. I admire that, and I wanted you to know that I'd be proud to serve under you again.
"So I guess I just wanted to say that. And to leave you with my parting wisdom. Remember, we said we'd do that too. So here's what I've learned over the years: Things aren't always what they seem. Trust shouldn't be given completely. Love someone. And of course, never eat the banana pudding at the Academy lunchroom."
Christine found herself laughing and looked up at Kerr. He was staring at her tensely, confusion coloring his expression. She handed him the letter and watched as he read it quickly. When he looked up, she had a strange impression that he was enormously relieved.
He handed the letter back. "That was nice."
She nodded. "It was hard saying good-bye after working together in emergency ops. We were like extensions of each other and then, bam, it was all over and she was going her way and I was going mine. I missed the hell out of her." Christine closed her eyes as memories of Farrell dying overwhelmed her. Tears threatened and she looked at Kerr searchingly. "I miss her now."
He held open his arms and she went willingly into them. As she cried, he soothed her. "Shhh, sweetheart. It's okay."
Christine stopped trying to keep the pain in, letting him anchor her as she wept. When she finally stopped, he didn't let go and she didn't pull away...she didn't ever want to pull away from his love again.
Spock was just leaving his quarters when Christine's door opened and Kerr walked out. The colonel saw him immediately and stopped, a strange look on his face. As an uneasy silence fell between them and they both looked away, Spock had the bizarre notion that the man knew or at least suspected what had happened between Christine and him. He glanced at Kerr. The look he got back was decidedly hostile.
He was surprised that Christine would have told him. But perhaps she didn't have to. Kerr was a man of deep intuition.
"Welcome back, sir." Kerr's wary look did not lessen.
"Thank you, Colonel. How is your investigation going?" Spock walked the few steps to join the other man, then kept walking.
Kerr fell into step with him. "It's going nowhere, sir." He followed Spock into the lift and rode with him to the bridge. "Did you want to discuss it further?"
"If you don't have anything pressing," Spock said evenly.
"Nothing that can't wait," Kerr replied as he followed Spock to his ready room.
"Please sit." Spock took the chair at his desk. He looked up and met Kerr's eyes. There was a tense anger warring with a more professional expression on the colonel's face. As Spock watched, professionalism won.
"The leads we had are all coming up cold. The refit crewmembers all have alibis. And no one can remember a stranger working with their units. So if it was someone that was masquerading as a tech, they must have come on board alone and left that way too." Kerr sighed. "Which, given what Farrell said about this 'section' of hers, pretty much tracks to what I'd expect."
"So this remains an unsolved mystery." Spock leaned back in his chair. "How is the crew taking this?"
"Not well. A lot of people are scared. Afraid that there is a killer loose." Kerr sighed. Then he met Spock's eyes in an intense look. "In time, if there are no more incidents, they'll settle down and life will return pretty much to normal. But it won't be right away."
Spock heard a different tone in Kerr's voice. The colonel was not just talking about the murder. He did not know why he felt compelled to ask, "And if there are more of these incidents?"
Kerr's look darkened but he did not answer.
"The question is irrelevant," Spock finally said. "We both know that this was a unique occurrence."
"You expect more murders?"
Kerr smiled in what Spock could only think of as a dangerous way. "Were we talking about the murder?"
"I believe we were. At first."
Kerr's posture became even more rigid. "Sir, with all due respect, I think we've reached the end of this conversation."
Spock nodded, unsure why he was deliberately baiting the other man. "You are no doubt right. So we will consider the investigation closed?"
"I don't have any other avenues to explore." Kerr relaxed slightly. "I'll send you my report as soon as I get to my office."
"Very well." Spock studied him. He felt an overwhelming need to try to reach out to Kerr, even though he knew that it was probably a terrible idea.
"Was there anything else, sir?"
"Do you play chess?"
Kerr immediately stiffened. "Sir?"
"Three-dimensional chess. Do you play it?"
"It is a diversion I greatly enjoy. Had I known you played, I would have asked you for a game."
Kerr let out a small bitter laugh. "I kind of thought we'd already played a few."
Spock found himself responding with a half smile. "It does feel that way at times." He became more serious. "If I asked you, would you play?"
Spock shook his head. "Some evening."
Kerr considered and Spock gave him credit for not coming up with a glib but meaningless 'yes', or an even more likely 'no'. Finally Kerr leaned back in his seat and shook his head. "It's not an easy question to answer."
"Why? It is just a game."
Kerr pursed his lips. "Permission to speak freely, sir?"
"I don't know the details and I don't want to know them. Christine got lost and somehow you found a way to bring her back. I feel as if I owe you for that. On the other hand, I have a feeling I know what was involved in that recovery. And I don't like it at all. In fact, it would be very easy to hate you right now, Captain. With that in mind, it's somehow hard to imagine the two of us sitting down to a friendly little game of chess."
"Who said it would be friendly?" Spock replied evenly.
Kerr laughed, obviously taken by surprise by the joke. "Well, that's true."
"This is the damnedest situation," Kerr finally said.
"We agree on that."
Kerr suddenly stood up and walked over to the viewscreen. "The thing is...I can't blame you."
Spock turned to watch him.
"I took her from you when you weren't looking."
"Actually, I was looking," Spock corrected softly. "I was just too distracted to care."
"Guess that's changed, huh?" Kerr asked without turning around. When Spock didn't answer he went on, "She didn't tell me, in case you were wondering. I just suspect."
Spock sat silently, not knowing what he should say. Silence seemed the most logical course.
Kerr glanced over at him. "Cat got your tongue?"
Spock shook his head slowly. Their eyes met and locked for a long moment. Then Kerr turned back to the view of the stars.
"I gather chess is out then?" Spock said into the silence.
Kerr exhaled loudly and it took Spock a minute to realize that sound was caused by amusement. "Oh, what the hell," he said. "What the god damn hell, Spock."
They both seemed to realize at the same time that this was the first time Kerr had ever called Spock by his name. Kerr looked nonplussed for a moment, then he grinned.
Spock had a hard time deciphering all the emotions that seemed to reside in that expression. "So, you wish to play?" he asked in confusion.
"Sure. Why the hell not." Kerr shook his head as if at his own folly. "But not tonight. I've got a date."
Spock sensed that the words were meant to warn as much as hurt him. "Of course. Another time."
Kerr started to walk out and then turned back. "Tomorrow night. After dinner."
Kerr nodded, then he grinned again. This time the expression was pure evil. "I hope your strategy is first-class, Spock, because I'm a really good player." His grin grew wider. "And I always play to win."
Spock slowly raised an eyebrow. "You mean at chess?"
"Well now, that's a damn good question, Captain."
"Another mystery," Spock replied, knowing the words would bring them back to their original topic of conversation.
Kerr's grin died, replaced with a more somber expression. "I'll have the report on Farrell's murder up to you at once."
"Thank you," Spock said as he watched the other man leave. As the door shut, he got up and walked out to the bridge. Christine was already there.
"Captain," she greeted him with a smile that seemed somewhat shyer than usual.
"Commander," he replied as he sat down next to her.
"Kettering just called up. The repairs are finished. We can leave whenever we get our orders. Saldusta has relayed that news to Starfleet Command."
"Excellent," he replied. "I am getting tired of seeing my home planet on that screen."
"I think we all are," she said with a conspiratorial grin. "Any idea what's going to be next for us?" She leaned back and smiled. "Just no viruses for a while."
He nodded. "There are several ongoing conflicts that might benefit from our presence."
"Ongoing and conflict are two words I don't like together," Christine said softly. "But you should see how Myrax just perked up."
He did not need to turn around to know it was true. The entire bridge crew seemed suddenly more alert.
"Message coming in from Starfleet Command, sir."
He looked over at Christine. "What do they say, Lieutenant?"
She smiled at him as Saldusta said, "We are to proceed to Livornin, best speed."
"Are you sure about that, Lieutenant?" He looked at Christine; she seemed equally mystified by the assignment.
"Yes, sir. There have been a number of disappearances. Including several Federation science teams."
"How is this a diplomatic mission? There's nobody on Livornin except our own researchers. Shouldn't they send a science vessel?" Christine didn't hide her disapproval of their mission.
He looked at her and made a small expression of agreement.
Saldusta continued. "They are sending background material. Directly to you, Captain."
"I'll take it in my ready room. Commander, if you will?" Spock rose. "Set a course for Livornin, Lieutenant Sabuti. Lieutenant Kimble, best speed."
"Aye, aye, sir," Kimble said.
Sabuti did some quick calculations, then said, "Estimated arrival: four standard days."
"Well it's not because we were the closest ship, that's for sure," Christine muttered as she rose to join Spock.
"Lieutenant Sabuti, you have the conn," Spock said, then preceded Christine into his office.
She walked over to the viewscreen, unconsciously choosing to stand in the same spot Kerr had occupied.
He watched her for a moment, then asked, "Are you all right?"
She turned to look at him and smiled slightly. "I feel like my old self, if that's what you mean?"
"That is some of what I mean. Is everything else all right?"
She looked down. "I think he knows."
"I believe you are right."
Her head jerked up and she frowned deeply. "You talked to him about it?"
He shook his head. "Not in so many words." He decided to disregard the last part of the conversation when he and Kerr had talked about it less ambiguously. "I think he wanted me to know that he suspected."
"Great." She walked over to one of the chairs in front of his desk and sat down with a huge sigh. "This just keeps getting worse."
"Not necessarily." Spock gave her a small smile then turned to the computer. "We are going to play chess tomorrow evening."
"You and Randall?" She looked suspicious. "Whose idea was that?"
"Mine," he answered as he called up the information that was coming in from Starfleet Command on Livornin.
"Chess?" She laughed softly, it was a slightly hysterical sound. "Spock, don't you think that's just a little weird?"
He didn't turn to look at her. "Everything about our various relationships is odd, Christine."
"Well, I know, but what are you thinking? That you two can be friends?"
"Would that bother you?"
She had to think about that. "I just think it's unlikely, is all."
"Perhaps you are right. And if so, I imagine that I will find out tomorrow." He turned to her. "I am sending you the information that Starfleet has sent."
"Okay," she rose. "I'll read it in my office."
He nodded and turned back to the monitor. He could hear her walking to the bridge door then she stopped.
"Do you like him?" she asked.
He swiveled his chair to face her. "I do."
She nodded, her face very serious. "I think he likes you too."
"Well then perhaps our chess game will be enjoyable for all involved."
She made a face. "All involved except me. I'll be the one wondering what the hell you two are talking about. Or if you both will survive the night."
He smiled slightly. "Do we strike you as violent?"
She raised an eyebrow, subtly mocking him. "In a word...yes."
He made an aggrieved sound. "I do not agree with that assessment."
"Oh of course not, where is the logic in violence?" She grinned at him, then her smile turned softer. "Did I say thank you? For bringing me back?"
He nodded. "All night, I believe." He felt a contrary surge of satisfaction when she blushed at the memory.
"Well," she went on, trying to ignore his comment. "Thank you."
"We helped each other, Christine. It is what friends do, is it not?"
She nodded. "It is." With an affectionate look, she turned and walked out the door.
Friends, he thought. It would have to do. He stared at the door for a long moment before sighing slightly and turning back to begin reading up on their next mission. It took him an unusually long time to immerse himself in the text.
"Sir?" his assistant said over the comm. "You have a package. Shall I bring it in?"
"I'll come out," Penhallon, glad for a distraction, rose and walked out to Lieutenant Maddox's desk. The younger man handed him a small parcel and Penhallon studied it curiously. "It's been scanned?"
"Yes, sir. By the couriers and I scanned it myself. It looked funny to me."
Penhallon nodded. "Well, let's see what it is." He unwrapped the first layer of durawrapping and stopped. The next layer was marked for his eyes only.
"Guess the fun's over for me," Maddox grinned at him as he turned back to his work.
"Guess so," Penhallon agreed as he took the parcel back into his office. He carefully opened the wrapping and found an old fashioned envelope, with a handwritten note fastened to it. "What the hell?"
He hit the comm, "Maddox, where did this come from?"
"Does it need to be removed, sir? I can call security."
"No, it's nothing. I'm just curious," Penhallon asked, as he studied the signature on the note. Curious was an understatement. It wasn't every day that you got a letter from a dead woman.
"The manifest said it came from the Terrax colony on Luna."
"Thanks." He cut the connection. "But where did you come from before that?" he asked the letter. He studied the note again. Hastily written, as if she had decided at the last minute that he would be the one that would receive the larger letter.
"Stephen - I know I can trust you. I know you care about her well-being. There are some things you should know about Colonel Kerr and me. Some things you need to make sure that Christine knows. The letter will explain it...read it and you'll understand why this is so important. Read it, then give it to her. I'm counting on you. - Renata"
He took the note off and opened the envelope. What was inside shocked him both in terms of the information laid out but also because of the vitriol he sensed underneath each word. He was a master of the subtle insult, the barely noticed slice, and this letter was clearly intended to do more than just inform. Each word was designed to flay Christine even as it crucified Kerr.
He really didn't like that.
He put the letter down and leaned back. Letting this new information flow into what he already knew of his shipmates. So Farrell and Kerr were both part of the section? He could accept that this was more than likely true. He'd been in diplomatic too long and had too many connections not to know what the section was in the most general terms. He'd never tried to find out who exactly was in it or what its ultimate goal was. That had never mattered to him before.
He touched the letter gingerly. But maybe now it should matter. The information Farrell had laid out in this letter would hurt Kerr. He wasn't sure he wanted that.
It would also hurt Christine and he knew that he didn't want that.
He sighed heavily as he pushed the letter back and forth with his thumb. What to do?
Finally, he picked up the letter and stuffed it in his uniform. As he closed his office, he said to Maddox, "I'm calling it a day. Why don't you do the same?"
Maddox shook his head with a rueful grin. "I'm behind on my reports. I'll just stay here a while longer."
Penhallon frowned. "I thought you had a date with Ensign Darvis?"
"I do. I mean I did. She cancelled and wants to reschedule. Is that a bad thing?"
Penhallon sighed. "It depends on why she did it. If you see her in the mess hall with someone else, then I'd say yes. If you see her in sickbay getting a headache remedy, then I think you're okay."
"I wish I had your touch with the ladies, sir."
Penhallon smiled. "No, I really don't think you do. Good night then, Paul."
"Good night, sir."
Penhallon hurried to the lift and up to deck two. He managed to get to his quarters without running into anyone. Once safely inside, he took the letter out again and considered what he knew.
Farrell worked for the section. As did Kerr. Farrell wanted to out Kerr both as a section operative but also as someone that had been essentially prepped to win Christine's heart. But why? Why would Farrell want to hurt Christine that way? Penhallon surmised that Farrell would only do this if Kerr were no longer working for the section. Therefore, Kerr must have pulled away from them and this was her revenge.
But if Kerr had pulled away, that showed a strength of character, or a commitment to his new life, that Penhallon admired.
But the fact that the information had come to him through such a bizarre route meant that Farrell had known that someone, most likely Kerr, was watching incoming and outgoing shipments.
Penhallon believed he was the only one outside of the captain, Kerr, and Commander Chapel that knew that Farrell had let the Psi 2000 virus loose. He had expected Spock to put Farrell off at the first Starbase, but she had been killed before that could happen.
Killed...murdered. And Kerr had probably been running the investigation. Was it possible that she tried to blackmail him into helping her stay on board? And if she did, could Kerr have killed her to silence her? Would he have done something that desperate to keep Christine?
Penhallon sighed. He'd seen the way Kerr looked at Christine. There wasn't much of anything that the colonel wouldn't do, at least in Penhallon's book, to keep her.
So Kerr might be a murderer. If that were the case, was it safe for Christine to be with him? Maybe Farrell was right? Maybe Christine should know the truth.
But he couldn't imagine Kerr ever harming her, and Penhallon knew he was an excellent judge of character.
Farrell, on the other hand, might not mind hurting Christine as long as she destroyed Kerr in the process. That was a surprise--he would have bet a lot of credits on her being a true friend to Christine. So much for his ability to judge people.
Good night, what a conundrum, he thought wearily.
He walked over to his closet and pulled out his traveling trunk. Opening it, he reached down and hit the intricate combination of panels that would pop the bottom up, revealing a small chamber underneath. Setting the letter inside it and pushing the false bottom back down, he slid the trunk back in place in his closet. The information was safe for now...at least until he had more time to think about this. He knew better than to make a hasty judgment on a decision this important.
Trying to push the whole thing out of his mind, he quickly freshened up and changed into casual clothes. He had planned dinner with Ritsuko and he wasn't going to be much good cheering her up if he was obsessing over this. With a quick glance toward the closet, he headed out the door, not happy that he was now the possessor of such potentially explosive information but determined to put it out of his mind, at least for the next few hours. At the last minute he turned back and put an extra lock on his cabin. The information could safely wait, but there was no reason not to take a few extra precautions...at least until he decided what to do with it.