DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2013 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.
Chapel woke to darkness, the sound of movement all around her, and the feel of a hand over her mouth.
“Do not move. We are in grave danger,” Spock whispered into her ear, his words nearly inaudible.
She lay as still as she could and assessed the situation. She was in intense pain and she realized something was tied over her eyes. Was she injured? She doubted Spock was suddenly into playing Blind Man’s Bluff. He’d changed since she last worked with him, but not that much.
She remembered back, and her whimsical thoughts disappeared as she recalled their flitter crashing, remembered hitting her head, and Spock’s voice as he lifted her from the wreckage. His very worried voice.
Wreckage she couldn’t see. She hadn’t been able to see anything.
She’d been bleeding, but her eyes appeared fine, according to Spock. For whatever reason, they and her brain had refused to communicate. Spock had wrapped her head to staunch the blood flow—like any head wound, this one had bled profusely, or so he’d told her. Hurt like a mother, too, but then she’d cracked it hard.
Was it still bleeding? If her scanner was working, she’d have him check for internal hemorrhaging, but none of their equipment had worked after the crash. Spock had thought it was some kind of pulse that had taken out the systems of their flitter and forced them down.
She could smell the distinct resinous-amber scent that permeated the Mallutian home world. She and Spock were part of a Starfleet team, joint diplomatic and emergency ops. It had seemed like a good idea when Spock had broached it, after Jim’s death on the Enterprise-B and Scotty’s disappearance on the Jenolan. He’d wanted to work with her, and even though she had a feeling it was only because there weren’t many old friends left he could work with, she’d said yes. She’d had reservations about the utility of the mission, but the planet’s brutal civil war had taken so many lives that she was willing to try if Spock wanted to.
Was the war going to take their lives, too? Which side had shot their flitter down? Did it even matter? After a week here, she was convinced neither side would ever give ground, and bringing down the clearly marked envoy flitter was, in her opinion, a good indication she was right.
She felt Spock touch her face, his fingers unexpectedly gentle. She realized the footsteps had receded.
She heard him trying to raise the temporary headquarters they’d set up. Still nothing. Then he said, “We can go now. But carefully.”
It was a swell plan, but something felt very wrong in her left leg, and when she moved it, a jolt of pain surged through her. The pain in her head had muffled the other things wrong with her. Her left wrist, too, felt wrenched—possibly broken—now that she was paying attention.
“I’m not sure I can walk, Spock.”
“Then I will carry you.”
“How far do you think you can do that? I know you’re strong, but the terrain here is hazardous, and whoever shot us down might be looking for us.”
“Christine, I appreciate you being logical, but desist. I am not leaving you alone and we cannot stay here.” There was something in his voice she didn’t think would have been there before they’d lost Jim and Scotty.
“Okay, fine, but take off this head wrap. I want to see if my vision’s still gone.”
He unwound the cloth, and she could make out the most basic details in front of her. It wasn’t great, but it was better than nothing. “I can see a tiny bit. Am I still bleeding?”
He gently pushed her head forward. “No.” He took her arm and led her off at an easy pace.
“Do you have any idea where we are going?”
“I believe so.”
“You only believe so?” She laughed softly. “We’re so screwed.”
“Your faith in me is touching.” He tightened his hold on her arm. “Go carefully here. The footing is uneven.”
“You must be really worried about me to touch me this much.”
“Do not waste breath, Christine.”
“And to use my first name.”
“Please?” He sounded just shy of desperate.
“And to resort to that tone of voice. Fine, I’ll shut up.” She put all her energy into walking, trying not to lean on him any more than she had to—not because she thought it was offensive to him, but because she wasn’t sure if he was hurt or not, and she knew he’d never tell her if he was.
Her vision cleared the more they walked. Unfortunately, the pain in her leg became worse with every step, too. “Spock, I don’t know how much farther I can go.”
“Shhh.” He was clearly listening to something she couldn’t hear. “Get down. Now.” He pushed her into some bushes, followed her in, and they lay very still as a flitter went over.
Once it was gone, she said as softly as she could, “Whoever shot us down wants us. It wasn’t random, was it?”
“I do not believe so. We would make excellent hostages.”
“We would make more than that. With what we know between us, we could give either side a very big advantage.”
He sighed. “That thought had occurred to me.”
“So what do we do? I can’t keep walking, Spock. Not forever.”
“I can help perhaps. Let me in.” His fingers were on the meld points and she tensed without meaning to. “Christine, please. Relax and let me help you.”
In the old days, it would have been so easy to let him in—she would have given anything for him to want in. But now, she was used to keeping people out, not letting them in. She was Ops to the core these days. No sharing was the rule. She’d carried it to extremes, perhaps, of late, with how little she’d connected with anyone, but it kept her from worrying about what she might have said in her sleep.
She didn’t like the alternative to him helping her, so she let him in. The feeling of him in her mind was familiar from the one time they’d shared consciousness but also utterly new since this was so much more...purposeful. Spock was not just hiding out in her head.
She felt the pain in her leg subside slightly. Then he was out of her mind, saying, “That is the best I can do.”
“It’s good enough. Let’s go.”
He hauled her up as gently as she thought possible, and they set off again.
Spock did not like how many flitters seemed to be closing in on them. He had the distinct impression they were being herded toward something, even if he thought they’d been successful in hiding each time a flitter had flown over.
He was not sure how many more times Christine would be able to get up; the melds were no longer helping her pain.
The only positive thing was that her eyesight seemed to be fully restored.
He turned her to get away from the sound of flitters to the left of them and realized they were indeed being herded. In front of them was a sheer rock wall cutting off all progress unless they went up. He could climb it; Christine could not.
She looked at it and eased away from his supporting hand. “We’re trapped, aren’t we? Or I am. I bet you could climb that.”
“There may be another way up and over.” He listened behind them. The flitters were definitely massing. There would be no going back the way they had come in.
“For you. Not for me.” She tightened her hold on his hand, her face full of a resolve he was not used to, and said, “You can’t leave me here for them to find. Their methods are brutal and I don’t know that I can hold out against them. I know too much, Spock.”
“Then you will try the climb.” He started to move, tried to get her to go with him, but she stayed where she was.
“You’re not hearing what I’m saying. You can’t leave me here alive for them to find.”
“You are serious?”
She started to laugh—a slightly hysterical sound. “The needs of the many, right? I know how strong you are. A simple neck pinch and then what would it be for you to snap my neck?”
“I am not going to kill you.”
“Well, we’re stuck because the only other way is up and my leg won’t take it and you can’t carry me—and even if you could, it would slow you down. You’d never get clear of whoever is on our tail.” She took a breath; it sounded ragged to him. “Do you have another idea? I’d rather not die.”
“We go back.” He started to lead her the way they’d come, looking for any place they could hide.
“Spock, even I can hear them now. We’re out of options.”
He pulled her into some bushes as another flitter came into the area.
“Do you trust me?”
“You are not carrying me.”
“I agree. That solution is unworkable. Do you trust me, Christine?”
She felt his hands on her face, his fingers going to the meld points.
“They cannot take what is not there,” he said.
“You’re going to wipe my memory?”
“Not the memories: your access to them. Theoretically, I should be able to fix them once we get you back.”
“Theoretically?” Her soft laughter grew more hysterical. “What are you going to get back, though? I’ve seen the survivors of torture on this planet.” She swallowed hard, then suddenly pushed his fingers more firmly into her skin. “Do it. Before I can think of all the reasons this is a stupid plan.”
He was inside her mind quickly, felt her intense fear but equally strong determination. He worked as carefully as he could while moving rapidly through her memories, snipping linkages to whole swaths of time.
But how far back should he go?
Even some of her work with Doctor Korby might be of interest to those concerned with winning a war at any cost. He found the time when she’d just begun her relationship with Korby, when she’d just started to learn all the things he was working on.
He checked to make sure he could find the disassociated memories again and then left her with a strong suggestion of: “You trust Spock. Spock is a friend. Spock will find you.”
He eased out.
She opened her eyes and looked at him, and although the body was that of the woman he knew, the eyes were those of a much younger woman. Innocent. Full of hope, he thought.
What would these people do to such a woman? He closed his eyes and asked as gently as he could, “Do you know who you are?”
She smiled, a sweeter—and more flirtatious—smile than he’d ever seen. “Of course. I’m Christine Chapel. Who are you?”
“I am Spock”
“I can trust you.” She frowned. “But do I know you?”
“You do. I will come back for you. Do you understand?”
“Where’s Roger? He should be here—where are we? This isn’t Earth, is it? How can this not be Earth? I would remember leaving it for the first time.”
“It is not Earth. I am sorry for what they will do to you. I will be back as soon as I can.”
“You’re leaving me here?”
“You are hurt. Your leg. Your wrist.” He touched her hair—an unnecessary indulgence. “Your head.”
“I will bring help. Be strong.”
“Why?” She must have read something in his face because she swallowed hard. “Do I have to be brave? Because I don’t think I am that.”
“You are. Trust me.” He forced himself to his feet. There was nothing more he could do here.
He ran for the cliffs.
Christine watched as the Vulcan who somehow felt so familiar left her. Where was Roger? She was supposed to be meeting him for lunch and now here she was on some dusty planet with a bum leg and a clearly broken wrist. Why didn’t the Vulcan just walk her out the other way? So much for that species’ supposed brilliance.
She heard a strange noise coming from behind her, looked up and saw flitters. Quite a few flitters. You’d think this was Cambridge during a parade.
Once they’d landed, a man who was obviously in command—she was used to spotting powerful men after being with Roger for a few months—walked over to her. “Commander Chapel.”
Commander? What? “I think you have the wrong person.”
“Would you prefer Doctor? I have seen your resume.”
“Oh, I’m not a doctor yet. I just started the Ph.D. program.” She gave him her most winning smile, the one that had gotten her off the hook with professors for years now.
No joy. His expression didn’t change. He yanked her up by her bad wrist, and she cried out in pain. “You are a comedian, too, Commander? I didn’t realize that.”
“I don’t know who you think I am, but I’m sure you’re wrong. My name is Christine Chapel, and I’m a grad student.”
“You’re name is Christine Chapel, but you are highly placed in Starfleet. And you know things we want to know.”
“Starfleet?” She laughed, couldn’t help herself. As if she’d ever join Starfleet? “Look, my fiancé is here somewhere. He can clear this up.”
“Ah, Ambassador Spock is your fiancé?”
“Spock?” The Vulcan? They thought she was involved with the guy who’d just abandoned her? “No, not him. Roger. Roger Korby. He’s famous. You must know him.”
The man’s eyes narrowed. “Are you trying to pretend you have amnesia from the flitter accident? Because in time you will give up this charade.” He pushed her to one of his men, making her cry out again as her leg was wrenched.
She was loaded on the flitter, held in place by weapons pointed at her and the strong hand of the man next to her. He held her by her bad wrist, and she tried not to cry as he twisted it just, she thought, because he could.
“I love blue eyes.” He leaned in, licking her cheek, near her ear. “I’m going to love getting you when we’ve learned what we need to. If you’re conscious when we get you, I’ll make sure you know it’s me.”
She didn’t have to ask what he meant by “getting.” The looks on the other men’s faces made it clear. She felt a pit of terror form in her stomach.
Roger was not coming for her. The Vulcan was her only hope.
A man she’d never met, even if he did seem familiar. A man who’d run off and left her.
She did what she’d always done to get out of a jam. She gave the man holding her wrist her best smile and tried not to be too obvious about batting her eyelashes. Then she started telling him everything she knew about the program she was in. Maybe if she made it clear she wasn’t hiding anything, they wouldn’t torture her?
Torture? What the hell kind of place was this where a scientist—a student, for God’s sake—had to worry about torture?
He laughed. “She’ll be an easy one. Who knew Starfleet bred them so weak?”
Why did they keep saying she was Starfleet?
And why did her hackles go up when he called her weak? She wasn’t brave, never had been. She got where she was by being smart, not strong. And having good legs and a nice smile.
She looked down at her clothing. Dark red jacket. Not her usual style. Not a color Roger liked her to wear. Red was too...showy. Trying too hard.
She touched her black pants with her good hand, could tell she was wearing ankle boots, not the cute little flats she preferred. Why was she wearing this outfit?
The flitter landed at some kind of camp, and she was jerked out of it and taken to a tent. There were instruments on a tray—instruments that did not look pleasant.
The man in charge leaned in. “I’ll ask you one time nicely, Commander. We’ll start with an easy question. Where are the leaders of the opposition camped?”
“I don’t know what you’re talk—”
He slammed his fist into her face. She fell to her knees, her bad leg giving out as she went; she could hear something crack, could taste blood in her mouth. Her vision went dark.
“Just to be clear: that was me asking nicely.”
Two men picked her up and hauled her to her feet, holding her in place. She began to tremble.
“Now, let’s try this another way.”
It took him nine point four hours, but Spock finally made it to the makeshift headquarters their team had set up and was immediately spotted by Lieutenant Commander Watkins, Christine’s deputy on the mission.
“Sir? We’ve been trying to raise you.”
“Our flitter was shot down by some kind of pulse weapon. Our communicators were damaged as well.”
Watkins gave him a searching look. “And Commander Chapel?”
“Has been captured.”
Watkins went very pale. “Sir, she would never have let that happen if she was conscious. Did you leave her there uncon—”
“She was conscious, and she made it very clear she could not be left behind for them to torture. We came to a compromise—I took her memories from her. Temporarily. She can give them nothing.”
“But they will try.” Watkins looked slightly sick at the thought.
“Yes. We must rescue her before they realize what I’ve done and kill her.” Once they knew Christine was of no use to them, Spock imagined they would be done with her. If their knowledge of Vulcan psi abilities was limited, Christine would have more time.
Spock found himself hoping that was the case. Hope was illogical in the extreme, but he did not feel like calculating the odds against her survival.
He was tired of losing people.
“We may have a way to help in getting her back.” Watkins motioned him over to an out-of-the-way supply tent and retrieved a carrying case. He put his thumb over the identifier, and the case lid snapped open. Pulling out some type of controller, he fiddled with the settings for a moment, then put it around his wrist. “We were supposed to field test these here. But we realized early on it was too volatile an environment to risk using them. If either side got this tech...” He touched the controller and suddenly disappeared.
“A personal cloaking device?” Spock had thought they were still theoretical at best.
“Yes, sir.” Watkins reappeared.
“And Commander Chapel knew about this.” He had not seen it in her memories—he’d been going too fast, had not had time to look at details.
“She and I were to test the two prototypes. She was a driving force behind this, sir. She’s been at Ops a long time, lost a lot of people she cared for.”
Spock suddenly understood why she’d gone so quickly to a solution where he had to kill her to keep what she knew safe. “This would, indeed, turn the tide of the war.”
“It will also, if it works, allow us to find and retrieve her.”
“Yes, sir. And I’ve been in enough controlled tests in the lab to believe it will work.”
Spock nodded. “I take it Doctor Chapel did not have the other unit with her?”
“No, sir, it’s right here. “
“When can we leave?”
“Now would be good if you’re up to it.”
Watkins handed him the second controller, and showed him how to program it.
Spock felt an unpleasant tingle as the thing engaged. Watkins smiled and said, “Like you aren’t even there, sir.”
Spock turned the device off. “It will take us some time to walk. Can this cloak be extended to a flitter?”
“Unfortunately no. But no reason we can’t ride most of the way. I’m a good pilot when it comes to skimming dirt and staying off tracking systems.”
Spock decided not to ask about that. Some things it was better not to know.
He notified his diplomatic crew of what had transpired, left them with clear orders to inform Starfleet and to suspend operations and get off the planet as soon as Starfleet sent a ship.
Watkins passed command on as well, then joined Spock, handing him a phaser and leading him to the flitters.
“Sir, this may get ugly. Are you sure you don’t want to sit this one out?”
“She will not know you, Watkins. She will know me. And I may be a Vulcan, but you will find I am not unfamiliar with fighting.”
“You like her, don’t you?” Watkins grinned. A sunny expression that reminded Spock of some hybrid of Jim and Leonard.
He could have told Watkins that a personal relationship was not driving his actions. He could have told him he was only looking out for an officer that had been under his command when she was taken. Instead, he simply said, “Yes.”
“Me, too, Ambassador. Let’s go make like the cavalry, then.”
Spock was marginally familiar with the reference. It didn’t matter: he liked the man’s attitude.
Although he did suddenly wonder about the nature of Watkins’ relationship with Christine.
Christine woke to agony. And the feeling of a gentle hand on her shoulder. She looked up, saw that the Vulcan was back. Another man shimmered into existence, a human this time.
“Oh, Commander.” He looked horrified.
She knew it was at what the men had done to her. The only reason she was still alive was because they wanted another round with her. The man who had licked her had told her that—and that he’d won the draw on who would get to kill her when this was all over. He’d said they’d leave her body where her people would find it.
Her people? What people? She wasn’t Starfleet.
The human, who was dressed as she was in red and black, began to work with a regenerator and she tried to get away from him. The movement made every part of her body pulse in torment. “Don’t hurt me.”
“Christine, I wouldn’t.” The human reached for her face, and she shied back.
“Don’t touch me.”
“Christine.” The Vulcan leaned in and met her eyes. He began talking to her softly, and she could barely make out the words, but he seemed to be saying that everything would be all right, that he would help her, that she did not have to be afraid.
“You don’t know what they did to me,” she managed to get out.
“I regret what they did to you.” He moved very slowly, finally settling his fingers on her face, making her flinch but not pull way. “Trust me, Christine.”
She did. She didn’t know why, but she did.
He pushed a little harder, there was a tingle in her head.
What was he doing? It felt so strange to have him in her mind, another violation after what those men had done to her.
Those men? What men? Why did she hurt so badly?
“Where’s Roger?” she asked the two men she’d never met. Only the Vulcan looked familiar, but she had no idea why. He wasn’t from campus; she’d remember him.
“I am Spock. Roger sent us to get you. You have been injured.”
She thought his hands were shaking as he helped her up. But that was silly. Why would a Vulcan’s hands shake?
“I’m Saul Watkins.” The human gave her a smile that she thought was the kind of expression that hid something darker.
“Not a thing, Christine. We’re going to get you home.”
Home. To Roger. To campus. To the lab.
“Where the hell am I?”
“Hell is a good enough answer,” Watkins said. She realized he was using a medical regenerator on her. Why?
Why was there all this blood on her?
Why did she hurt so much everywhere? Including...down there?
Watkins took something off his wrist, put it gently around hers. “You take her, Ambassador. You’re stronger, and I’m as good at eluding detection on foot as I am in a flitter.”
“Someday I will have to look into the various skills required of an Ops officer.”
Watkins glanced at her, the back at Spock. “If you’re going to try to put her back together, you’ll see, won’t you? She has most of them.”
“What are you two talking about?” She groaned as Spock helped her sit up, then felt her head spin and was afraid she’d black out.
“Steady,” Watkins said. “Let me show you how to use this, Christine. You tell me if anything doesn’t make sense, all right?”
“Are we friends? You sound like you think we’re friends.”
He put his hand on her cheek. “We are. You just don’t remember. We’ve been working together a long time. We’re very good friends.”
“Does Roger know? He gets jealous.”
“Not that kind of friend, Christine.” Watkins glanced at Spock. “This one, however...”
She looked at the Vulcan. “What does he mean?”
“Nothing. Please let him show you how to work the controller. You are a scientist. This should be easy for you.”
“Of course it’ll be easy for me.” She shot him her most affronted glance. It was a controller—how hard could it be?
Once Watkins finished explaining, Spock lifted her into his arms. Really? He was going to carry her? Had she slept through a one-night stand with this guy? Had she tried that new drug Carrie was always going on about?
“Christine, please relax. You cannot walk right now due to your injuries. I will explain it all.” When she did not relax, he said, “Or Roger will. Please turn on your controller the way Commander Watkins showed you.”
The tingle that went through her when she turned it on surprised her. Then Watkins reached for Spock’s controller and turned it on, and Spock disappeared.
“What is this tech? This is fascinating. How does it work?” She tried to reach for her controller, which she could still see—interesting to create something that could let the wearer still see it but be invisible otherwise. She heard Spock say, “Christine, I cannot see you. If I drop you, I will not be able to find you easily. Please stay still. We can talk about the tech later.”
Watkins laughed. “She seems pretty much the same to me.” He smiled at them, but in the sort of unfocused way that let Christine know he could no longer see them. “Go on. I’m going to head out the other way. I’ll meet you at the flitter in no more than an hour.”
Spock didn’t bother to say anything other than, “Affirmative.” Then he started moving and whispered to her, “Christine, it is imperative that you not make a sound, no matter what, do you understand?”
“I do,” she whispered back.
It was a hard promise to keep. Every step he took jolted something that hurt, and she bit back moans and tried to just anticipate the pain as he walked.
It didn’t help much. Finally, she saw a flitter come into view. Watkins was already there.
“Christine, turn off your cloaking device.”
“Is that what this is called? I’d have thought it would have an acronym. Like P.I.D. Personal invisibility device.”
“Christine, please. You are heavier than I anticipated.”
“Are you calling me fat?” Although she had seemed to gain weight. What was going on?
“Please, the device?”
She turned it off, and Watkins smiled and hurried over. “Allow me, sir.”
Spock handed her off and then reappeared. “My staff should have called Command by now. A ship should be en route.”
“A ship?” Watkins asked.
“These people are not ready for us. My team is leaving. What your team chooses to do is up to you and your superiors. But I am taking Christine with me.”
“I have a feeling we’ll be bugging out, too.”
“Then I suggest we get back to camp, in your own inimitable way, dusty as it may prove to be.”
Watkins laughed, then carried her to the flitter and strapped her into a seat behind the pilot’s seat. He put a filter mask over her face. “I tend to fly low. Raises some dirt.”
“Where are you taking me? To Roger?” Spock hadn’t sounded like that was what he meant.
Spock nodded, then took another mask from Watkins and climbed in behind her. “Please try to rest, Christine. You don’t remember it, but you have been through a great deal.”
“I’m bleeding. And I hurt.”
“I know. And I am sorry.”
“Is it your fault?”
“Yes, ultimately it is. I asked you to come on this mission.”
He sighed. “Field trip.”
“Oh. Okay.” She was so tired. Why was she so tired? Why couldn’t she remember anything about why she was injured?
She felt Spock’s hand on her hair as Watkins slipped on his mask and turned the flitter on. “Sleep, Christine.” Spock’s voice was so gentle—were Vulcans supposed to sound that way?
She leaned back in the seat, closed her eyes against the cloud of dust that rose as their little ship did, and fell asleep.
Spock watched as the Emergency Ops doctor took Christine into a tent to work on her. Other officers from her staff and his served as a security perimeter. Spock had stopped short of telling them to shoot anyone who approached, and by Watkins’ smile, he thought the other man knew he’d been considering it.
“Hell of a day, eh, Ambassador?”
“Yes, Commander. It is indeed.” He left Watkins to oversee the packing up of their camp and went to check on Christine.
The doctor motioned for him to stay outside the tent and joined him. “What did you do to her?”
“I told you when you unloaded her from the flitter. I took her memory.”
“I thought you meant like amnesia. She thinks she’s in her twenties.”
“It seemed safer for her to leave something that our attackers could work with. If she was a blank slate, they might have just killed her outright.”
“I guess that makes sense. They nearly did kill her outright, sir. She started to hemorrhage internally, but we stopped it. Her leg and wrist were broken from the crash, you said?”
Spock nodded. “And one of the head wounds is from that.”
“The rest, though. And sir, they raped her. Repeatedly.”
Spock nodded. He had known the minute she flinched away from him that they had. The fear in her eyes had been very specific. “I would like to take her to Vulcan to heal. With tri-ox, will she be sufficiently protected?”
“I wouldn’t suggest Vulcan, sir. She’s going to need to talk to counselors about this, in my opinion. That on top of the adjustment issues to the environment...”
“Then I will take her to Earth.”
“That would be best, sir. Home is often the best place to heal.”
Spock nodded. He would have preferred having the buffer of Vulcan between her and anyone from Starfleet, but it was unavoidable. And truth to tell, she wouldn’t care—it was he who was feeling this...anger inside. Anger that they had been allowed to come to a planet that Starfleet surely knew was not ready for them. Anger that Jim had been urged to attend a launch he had no desire to go to. Anger that other friends were so far away—Mister Scott lost with the Jenolan, Leonard off on some relief mission at the far end of the quadrant, Nyota on a training cruise with cadets, Sulu on his ship.
Why was he alone? Was that why he had dragged Christine into this? It had made sense, he’d thought, when he’d approached her with the idea but looking back, had it been only so he would not be alone?
Spock saw a member of his staff approaching, excused himself from the doctor.
“Sir, the Sinclair was nearby when we commed Command and is in orbit now. They’re ready to beam us up. A transport is coming for the flitters. Commander Watkins said he’ll stay with a detail until everything is off planet.”
“Very good. Have them beam Commander Chapel and the medical staff up first.”
The amber smell of the planet filled his nose as he breathed in. He was rapidly beginning to despise the scent. Would his incense bother him as much? It, too, was amber-based.
What did it matter? Meditating was not helping his anger—or would not, he had not had a chance to try yet. But he knew himself after all these years. He knew when his emotions were in control, and no matter how he might appear to those watching, his emotions were most definitely driving him right now.
Why else would he want to protect Christine to such an extent? Why else would he feel such anger at everyone, including himself—possibly most of all himself—for leaving her?
Even if it had been the logical thing to do.
Christine woke up in what seemed like a hospital. She looked around, saw no one she knew and tried to figure out where the hell she was.
Hadn’t she been going to meet Roger for lunch?
She heard someone say, “She’s awake, sir,” into a comm panel on the wall and then the woman—a nurse, maybe—came over. “How are you feeling, Commander?”
Before she could answer, someone said, “That will be all, Nurse.” That voice—she knew it.
Christine turned her head, saw that Spock was standing in the doorway. As the woman walked away and he came toward her, she said, “Why is everyone calling me ‘Commander’?”
“It will all make sense eventually.” He pulled a stool over and sat down next to her. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m in pain. Was I in an accident?” And if so, how the hell did she get hurt in her private bits? Because it was really embarrassing having those parts regenerated. Thank God for female doctors.
“You were. But other things also occurred.” He looked away.
“Look, I don’t have any Vulcan friends”—did Vulcans have friends? “But I’ve been in class with some, and you guys are normally really specific.” She saw his expression change. Why was he so easy to read? The Vulcans in her classes sure weren’t. “‘Other things’ doesn’t cut it as an explanation. What’s going on?”
“Do you trust me?”
“I do. I don’t have the faintest idea why I do, but I do.”
“Then trust that you will understand all of this in time. I promise that you are safe and that I will not leave you.”
She frowned. “You’re intense, you know that? Also, did Roger really send you? Because he probably wouldn’t like how ummm friendly you act around me.”
“Christine, please, let this rest. You will understand everything, I promise you.”
“Can I at least get up?”
“It is not advised. You are still healing.”
“Where are we?”
“The Scimitar. It is a transport ship.”
“I’m in space?” Her voice cracked in a funny way, and she tried to sit up but pain forced her back down. “I’ve never been off Earth. What am I doing in space?”
He started to open his mouth, and she said, “Fine, fine, I’ll wait. I can tell that’s what you’re going to say.”
He got up, and she grabbed his hand, startled at how warm his skin was.
“Please...can you stay with me? I’m supposed to be in Cambridge and instead I’m on a ship I’ve never heard of with people I’ve never met. I don’t know why, but you’re the only person who seems the least bit familiar. Talk to me?”
He sat back down. “I can do that.”
“We could talk about science. That’s safe, right? I mean, I’m assuming you’re a scientist. Most Vulcans I’ve met are.”
“I am a scientist.”
“Is that how you met Roger?”
Something in his expression shifted.
“Have you met Roger. Really?”
He met her eyes. “No. But I am taking you home.”
“You look at me so strangely.” She tried to make her eyes as hard as she could. “You don’t have a crush on me, do you? Because I’m with Roger.”
He didn’t answer.
“Our relationship is complicated, Christine?”
“Have we had sex?”
She laughed. “Then how complicated can it be?”
He nodded as if she made a good point.
“Are we friends?”
He seemed to have to think about that before he said, “Yes.”
She shifted slightly, something felt off about her body. And not just that it was beat to shit. “If I asked you for a mirror, would you let me have one?”
“No.” No hesitation there.
She pulled her hair till she got a strand in view. “I thought this was dark—and a hell of a lot shorter—because of the blood and dirt. But it’s not, is it. I’m a brunette?”
“Spock, I can tell I’m a lot heavier than I should be. My hair is too short and the wrong color. What else is different?” She tried to sit up, was again stopped by the pain. “I want to talk to Roger.”
“Soon as in five minutes from now or soon as in ‘humor the sick woman but really never’?”
He sighed—she didn’t know Vulcans did that. “You are far too intelligent.”
“Yeah, that’s the story of my life. What the hell is going on?”
“If I tell you the truth, do you promise to relax?”
“The year is 2294. You and I serve in Starfleet. I took your memory for a very good reason and with your permission. I plan to restore your memory once we get to Earth, but you need to heal first.”
“Why not restore it now?”
“Your body has been through extreme trauma. Once I add the memories of what happened to you...”
“You think I might not be able to handle it?”
“I think it best to let your body heal before inflicting reality on your mind.”
She looked down, considered all the ways she hurt. “Was I raped?”
“Did you rape me?”
“No. Why would you ask that?” He looked slightly stunned.
“You look so guilty some of the time.”
“I left you. It was logical to do so but I am...”
She took his hand, felt him squeeze back. “Are we lovers?”
“We are not.”
“Why aren’t we? You clearly care about me.”
He made a strange sound and she realized it just might be a strangled laugh. “You see things so clearly at this age, Christine.”
“Do I stop seeing things clearly?”
“Sometimes past rejections obscure clarity of vision.”
She frowned. “Meaning you were an ass to me?” She let go of his hand. “What about Roger. I love him.”
“Yes, you do. It is...complicated.”
“That word means a lot of things to you, doesn’t it?” She was feeling very tired and overwhelmed. She tried to bite back a yawn.
“Christine, do not fight sleep. You need it.”
“Is Roger dead?”
He nodded slowly.
“Were we ever happy, he and I?”
“Yes,” he said, but she thought by his expression that he really didn’t know that. He stood, laid his hand on her forehead, and said, “Go to sleep. We will reach Earth tomorrow.”
“Am I happy? I’m heavier, brunette, and you were an ass to me. Will I be a happy person when you restore my memories?”
“You are accomplished.”
“That sounds empty. Are you going to be there for me?”
It took him a long time to nod.
She looked away. “This isn’t what I planned for my life. How the hell did I end up in Starfleet?”
“It is c—”
“Of course. Complicated. I get it. Just go, Spock.”
She pulled her hair again so she could see it, ran her hand down unfamiliar curves, studied her hand—the skin was a little crepey. How old was she?
She fell asleep before she could think much more about it.
Spock stood with Watkins in Admiral Kasho’s office. Christine was safely ensconced in a private room at Starfleet Medical. She was under round-the-clock guard, and Spock was not sure if that was for her protection or Starfleet’s while they tried to determine what she had told the Mallutians. At least they weren’t trying to keep him out of her room.
“Do you two have any idea what you risked rescuing Commander Chapel? She was willing to die to keep the cloaking tech out of the hands of either side on the Mallutian conflict, and you two yahoos romped right into their camp with both of the prototypes?”
Spock did not answer. He had no defense. It was an emotional decision to risk the technology and rescue Christine. He would do it again. He would not, however, tell the admiral that.
Watkins, too, stood mute.
“Nothing? You two have nothing to say for yourselves?”
“She’s my friend, sir.” Watkins glanced at Spock. “It was my idea.”
“It was not his idea, sir. Rescuing Commander Chapel was solely my idea.”
“But I knew about the tech, Spock didn’t.”
“Oh, quit covering for each other. I’m fond of Christine. I get why you did it. But damn it all, it was so fucking stupid.” He took a deep breath and leaned back in his chair. “At ease, you two, before you break something. Jesus.”
Spock relaxed slightly. Watkins relaxed barely more.
“I’d put a reprimand in your goddamn files but since the tech’s very existence is incendiary, I don’t want to even mention that there was something that important being tested on a diplomatic mission. Consider yourselves lucky, gentlemen. Dismissed.”
They left the office, and Watkins turned as soon as they were clear of Kasho’s corridor. “Whew. Dodged a bullet with that.”
“As I presume you expected.”
“Did occur to me.” The man grinned, and motioned for Spock to walk with him. “How’s Christine doing?”
“Her physical injuries are nearly completely healed. I had to tell her the truth.”
“Oh, boy. I bet even twenty-something Chapel is a bitch when she’s mad.”
“She is more perplexed, I think.” Spock stopped. “I need to ask you something, Saul.”
Watkins’ eyes rose. “Whoa, pull out the big guns with my first name. This must be important.” He grinned again. “Before you even ask, no I’m not with her. I’m her friend, and believe me, I’ve heard about you. Usually after way too many drinks.”
“You are certain you are not interested? I do not wish to impose.”
Watkins laughed. “I’m sure. You’re more my type than she is.”
“Ah. Then I will cease to worry that I am treading on claimed territory.”
“How Vulcan of you.” Watkins shook his head. “For all your logic, you Vulcans see things in very primitive terms when it comes to sex.”
“I am not going to discuss this with you.”
“No? You going to discuss this with my boss? Cuz Christine junior may still be in love with Roger, but the one I know, well, she’s sort of hooked on you.” He winked.
“I find that thought comforting.”
“You sure have thrown logic down the toilet when it comes to her.” He stopped walking when they reached the entrance to Emergency Ops. “Well, this is me. Home sweet home. We miss her. Get her back to us, sir.”
“Call me Spock.”
“Thank you. I’d say call me Saul, but you already did that when you were intent on buttering me up. Diplomats.” He shook his head as if it was a dirty word, then walked into Ops.
Spock walked back to Medical, found a different guard in front of Christine’s door. For a moment, he thought the guard was going to try to stop him from going in.
Then the guard took a good look at his eyes and moved aside.
“Most wise,” Spock murmured.
“She’s not supposed to have visitors.”
“Under whose orders?”
“He did not mean to include me in that order.”
“I think he did, sir.”
Spock realized the guard hadn’t moved aside to give him room, but to get out of range. A phaser was now pointing at him. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave, Ambassador.”
Spock hit his communicator. “Spock to Admiral Kasho.”
“Ah, got to her room, did you? Consider this your reprimand.”
“Duly noted. She does not deserve this. I am the best person to restore her memories.”
“Maybe so. However, we have not determined that is the best course for her at this time.”
Spock felt his mouth tighten. He walked away from the guard, out of earshot. “Admiral, I am going to share something with you that I normally would not. I lost my best friend, as I think you know, and you denied me a ship when I asked to go look for him after the search teams had given up. I lost a colleague I esteemed greatly who thought he was finally retiring to enjoy ‘the good life’ as he put it at his retirement function. You do not want to make me lose another person I care about.”
“What do you think you can do about it?” There was something in Kasho’s voice—a tiny note of uncertainty.
“Are you willing to find out? I am most inventive. I am sure I can think of several things that would embarrass Starfleet and end your career on an extremely sour note. And if I cannot think of anything, perhaps my father might have an idea.” He moved back toward the guard. “Now, tell your man that I am allowed in the room.”
There was a long silence. Then Kasho said, “Spock may have access to Commander Chapel.”
“Yes, sir.” The guard stepped aside.
Spock walked into Christine’s room. She was asleep. Excellent. He imagined the room was bugged, so he pulled out a private communicator and keyed in a message to his father, who was on Earth at the embassy. “Need ship to Vulcan. Cannot explain right now. Please trust me. Is this possible?”
It took a few minutes, but a reply came that said only, “Yes. When?”
He keyed in: “Now would be preferable. However, I understand if that is not feasible.”
“I can have one ready in thirty minutes.”
“Can you beam us directly to it?”
“Christine Chapel and I will be traveling to Vulcan.”
There was a very long pause before the next message popped onto his screen. “You are at Starfleet Medical?” His father must have checked where he was comming from.
“Yes. Is that a problem?”
“Irregular but not a problem. I will be in contact when ready to beam you over.”
His father would be readying the diplomatic transport he used on official missions. It was, like the embassy, Vulcan territory, and the only ship with transporter capabilities in the small fleet the embassy kept on Earth.
Spock keyed in one more thing. “We will need tri-ox.”
“Your mother has a supply on board the ship.” Then the transmission ended.
Spock sat down next to Christine’s bed. “I am not willing to let Starfleet decide your fate,” he said softly in Vulcan. “You may be very angry with me when you find that out.” He touched her hair as gently as he could. “It might be kinder to let you stay as you are now.”
But the kind thing was not necessarily the right thing. Not that he was concerned with the right thing completely, or he would leave Christine where Starfleet Command wanted her. He knew they would eventually give her back her memories, but they might not let him do it, and he did not want to think of the damage that could be caused by someone who had not cut the ties in the first place trying to repair them.
And, if he was honest, on a personal level, he was not interested in leaving Christine behind. Whether it was the Christine he knew or this younger version, he was drawn to her for many reasons right now.
He would explore that. Provided he did not destroy her when he tried to put her back to rights.
Christine woke in what looked like another spaceship. At least this time, she was sitting up in the copilot’s seat rather than strapped down to a gurney. “Guess I’m getting better if you’re letting me sit up like a normal human being.” She stretched gingerly, was pleased to feel no intense pain, just some minor aches. “I feel better.”
“That is excellent news.” He didn’t sound pleased; he sounded harried.
“Is there a reason you look so tense?”
“I am trying to clear Earth’s defense shields and tractor array before Starfleet Medical realizes you are gone and notifies Starfleet Command.”
“So you...kidnapped me?”
“In a sense. It is—”
“No, no, let me. Could it be complicated?” She rolled her eyes.
“It is possible I should endeavor to find a new word.”
“It’s more than possible, toots.” She leaned back. “So where are we going?”
“Always wanted to go to a place where I’ll stand out like a sore thumb and won’t be able to breathe easily.”
Her words seemed to spur him into action. He reached behind his seat and pulled out a small carryall. “Inside you’ll find some tri-ox. It will help you acclimate to Vulcan. Take the first shot in five hours.”
“Man, you’re imperious. Do this, do that. Making decisions for my life without even asking me.”
“I have been told that before. Not by you, however.”
“Well, just in case the other people didn’t make it clear: it’s a criticism. They weren’t lauding you for saving time by being unilateral.”
“Understood.” He turned to her. “Are you hungry?”
“I’m always hungry. Do you have things besides hospital food? I am so sick of that.”
“We have many delicacies. My mother likes to keep this ship stocked with her favorites.”
“Vulcan stuff, I suppose?”
He looked almost amused as he said, “My mother is human.”
“Wow. How’d that come about?”
“My father said it was the logical thing do to.”
“Hmmm.” She thought about the way Spock looked at her: it didn’t look like simply logical interest. “I think that’s a load of crap, myself. I’ll bet he’s madly in love with your mother.”
“You are no doubt correct.”
“And you’re willing to admit it? Why do I think this is a first?”
His lips ticked up. “Probably because it is. Please, go help yourself to whatever you like from the galley. And if you see any Andorian peanuts, can you bring me some?”
“I hate those things. They’re so bitter.”
“They are an acquired taste.”
“If you say so.” She walked into the galley, found the peanuts, and brought him a bowl full.
“Try one. These are the best available.”
She took a gingerly bite, then made a face. “God damn it, Spock. Did you do that on purpose? These are horrible.”
He happily munched on the peanuts. He obviously liked them lots.
No accounting for taste.
There was a pinging sound and Spock hit a button. A screen lit up, the face of an older Vulcan filling it. “My son, Starfleet Command is not pleased with you.”
“As I predicted, Father.”
“I told them you were operating with my blessing. That will hold them for the time being.” He seemed to see her standing behind Spock. “Christine?”
“Oh. Do I know you?”
“You do. You just do not remember. I am Sarek.” His voice grew noticeably friendlier when he spoke to her than Spock. She suddenly felt bad for Spock.
“Your son is helping me.” She wasn’t one hundred percent sure of that, but solidarity seemed called for.
“I am aware of that, Christine. I just felt it prudent he know the way things stand. He risks much.”
“Father, did you not ask Jim to risk much simply to return my katra to Vulcan? How much more than a katra is at stake here?”
Sarek nodded. “As you say.”
She had no idea what they were talking about. But Spock’s father finally sounded gentle with him. “Is there something I can do? Someone I can talk to that will make this better for Spock?”
Sarek’s eyes grew very gentle. “No, Christine. Just let Spock help you.”
“You know, the whole cryptic thing is really overrated.”
Sarek’s lips moved every so slightly. She amused him? “I must go. Safe travels, my son. Christine.” The screen went dead.
“We are fortunate he thinks so highly of you,” Spock said.
“He thinks highly of you. You just annoy him.” At Spock’s look, she laughed, but it was a bitter sound. “Trust me. I’m sort of a...connoisseur of family dynamics.”
“My mom left when I was a baby. My dad, well, he wasn’t cut out to be a dad. He dropped me off with his parents—who were the primary reason he wasn’t cut out to be a dad, because they never were there for him in any loving kind of way—and split. I was stuck with them. Unwanted. Unloved. Cared for, though, in terms of the basic necessities. No one ever would have considered me neglected, you know?”
He nodded, but she didn’t think he really understood.
“I sort of...collected other families. Picked the friends I’d spend the most time with based on their moms and dads, how nice they were to me, how warm the household was. I can pick out a lot of things just by how people talk to each other—and I can tell that you and your dad don’t get along. But I can also tell he loves you—and you love him. You two just don’t understand each other, do you?”
He turned and stared at her. “You ascertained all that from a two minute conversation?”
“I told you. When you don’t have things, you learn to recognize them.”
“He seems to care about me.”
“He does. He once came to Earth to testify on a friend of mine’s behalf because you asked him to.”
“Was it the Jim you mentioned?”
Again he shot her a surprised look. “Yes.”
“Mentioning him shut your dad up—and changed his tone. Jim is important, isn’t he?”
“Jim was very important. To you, too, although you left his orbit much earlier than I did.”
“Was not is important?”
“He died not long ago.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.” She studied his face, saw a trace of sadness—or was it anger? “There’s a mirror in the bathroom. I snuck a look. It’s been what? Thirty years from what I remember right now?”
“So I’ve forgotten more time than I’ve actually lived.” She shook her head. “Can you really get that back?”
“I believe so.”
“What will happen to me if you can’t? I mean, assuming I’m not a vegetable?”
He shook his head. “You will have what most people never do. A chance to relive your life.”
“With an old damn body.” She laughed, again the bitter laugh. Roger would hate that sound: he liked her light and happy—and sweet. She did not think Spock cared if she was sweet or not. “At least I’m smart. Provided you don’t go and mess that up with whatever you’re going to do.”
“I will endeavor not to. I would like the old you back.”
“Why?” She met and held his eyes with her own, knew the look was different than her normal flirting, that this was very serious, but she wasn’t sure precisely why.
“Because I care for you.”
“Will I remember that you told me this?”
“There is no reason to believe it would be lost in the process.”
She narrowed her eyes. Something about that answer struck her as an evasion. “What aren’t you saying?”
“I took away what happened to you, Christine, because it was easier for you to heal without it. The older you may not want it, either.”
“And then she would forget this, too, because I came after that thing you won’t let me remember?”
“Oh.” She put the food aside, no longer hungry. “So I’m just temporary. I’m just...a bandage?”
“It is very possible she will choose to have her memories. She rarely chooses an easy path.”
“She. Me. But we’re both Christine Chapel.”
“Tell me what happened to Roger.”
“He loved you. Right up to his death.”
“That is the least Vulcan thing you could say, I think. It must have been really bad, huh?” She got up and walked to the galley. “Do you want something to drink?”
“Is there any booze in here?”
“I am afraid not.”
“Ooh, shows what you know.” She found a bottle of port pushed back among the other containers. “I bet your mother’s to thank for this.” She held up the bottle.
He glanced back. “You are no doubt right. She enjoys that wine greatly.”
She poured herself a glass and put the bottle back where she found it. Then she took her seat with Spock. “If you erase me, she’ll never know you care for her.”
“That is a likely outcome of that choice.”
“Good. If she doesn’t want to keep me, she doesn’t deserve to know.” She took a long swallow of the wine.
It felt so good going down.
Spock got Christine settled in the guest room in his family’s house. T’Vala, the live-in housekeeper, supervised as he worked. She then led him to the kitchen where she had obviously been preparing lunch.
“Your father was not sure how long you would be staying, Spock.”
“Nor am I. It will depend on the progress I make with Christine.”
“Christine, is it? Interesting.” T’Vala lifted an eyebrow at him. “I did not receive much information on this woman—her likes, dislikes as far as meals go.”
He realized he didn’t know. Also realized that if Christine was a passionate carnivore, Vulcan might be a hardship rather than a respite. But she was safe here, and that was what primarily concerned him, that he have the time he needed to work with her mind.
“I will find out if there is anything she does not eat.”
T’Vala began to wash some tubers. “It has been a long time since you were home, Spock. Not since you brought Valeris with you.”
“I estimated it would take you five point three minutes to mention her to me. You lasted much less.”
Another eyebrow was her answer. “She mingled too easily with humans.”
“That could describe you. You and my mother get on quite well. I imagine you and Christine will, too.”
“But I maintain the essential Vulcan nature. She was too...open.” T’Vala waved the tuber slightly as if she could dismiss Valeris the same way. “At any rate, she is safely in custody.”
“She is.” He sat on his regular stool. “I should have seen what was right in front of me.”
“None of us saw it, Spock. Despite my words, I did not see it, either. I did not find her suitable for you, but it was not because I thought she was a traitor.”
“No, you thought she was too young for me.”
“She was too young for you. This woman seems more appropriate to your needs.”
“You would promote a human over a Vulcan?”
“I look at individuals, as you well know. I am not a snob.”
He let an eyebrow go up. “All Vulcans are snobs, myself included.”
Her eyes were very light as she poured k’vinda juice into a tall glass. “Go take this to your woman.”
“She is not my woman.”
“Ah, the boy is a progressive. How novel.” She handed him the glass. “Go. Let me work in peace.”
Spock walked back to the guest room. Christine was awake and smiled at him as he brought the juice in.
She sat up and plumped the pillows behind her. “So when are you going to get started with making me go away and bringing the old me back?”
“As soon as you are walking without effort for more than a few minutes.”
She grinned. “You just like me better than her, don’t you? Hate to say goodbye to all of this.”
“That is not the case.”
“You like her better, then?”
“You are both Christine Chapel.”
“I know. It’s really weird.” She took a sip of the juice. “Mmm, this is good. I wonder if she’ll like it, too. Do your tastes change as you get older? Or am I tasting with her tongue so I’m the one who might not like it if I was in my younger body?”
“I think you are making the enjoyment of juice very complicated.”
“There’s that word again.” She took another sip and leaned back. “What if I told you that I want to stay?”
“You have already had your turn. It would be unconscionable to not try to get her back.”
“But you could. I could fake it.”
“You could not. She has years of Starfleet experience that you do not. Degrees you have not attained including an M.D.”
“Why would I want to get an M.D.?”
“You were a nurse. It must have seemed a natural progression to you. I am unsure, you were not confiding in me at the time.”
“Have I ever confided in you?”
“So, we’re closer than you ever were to her?”
He thought about that. “Possibly, yes.”
“Then don’t bring her back. I can play catch-up.” She laughed before he could answer. “If you could see your face. I’m almost afraid you’ll launch right into whatever you are going to do to get her back just to shut me up. I’m kidding.” She took another sip. “Sort of.”
He decided not to answer, since she had alarmed him to some degree.
“What I really wish is that I could meet her. Ask her what not to do, you know?”
“You have already lived. There is nothing left for you to do. You are not some visitor from the past, you are a collection of memories.”
She smiled at him. “We’re all a collection of memories, Spock. Experiences and people we know. That’s what makes us who we are.” She looked down then asked very softly, “Who was Valeris?”
He could feel his eyebrows going up. Christine’s hearing was a great deal more acute than he had thought. “Someone I used to know.”
“Your expression changed. You look...hurt, angry maybe, too? Someone you used to love, I think.” She lifted the glass and watched him as she drank.
“I cared for her. She betrayed not just me but the Federation.”
“Ouch. That’s gotta sting. Having someone you love make choices you don’t understand.”
He resisted the urge to tell her she would know soon enough what that felt like. This Christine had not lived through Roger’s departure and demise yet. She did not know that he would be guilty of hubris and treachery just as Valeris was.
He moved to the door. “I will let you rest.”
“Do I love you?”
“I believe so.”
She smiled. “I have good taste.”
He half shrugged—a very non-Vulcan gesture.
“Aww, you’re embarrassed by the compliment. Do you love me—her?”
“I care for her. More than I realized.”
“So I am useful. Without me, you might not have realized that, isn’t that true?”
He nodded, willing to give her that. Between his Christine’s bravery and this Christine’s exuberance, he was rapidly seeing what he had been rejecting all these years. Seeing and regretting.
Christine was walking up and down the hall. She saw Spock come out of his room and said, “Look, ma, no hands.”
His mouth ticked up ever so slightly, and she found herself smiling in response.
Damn it all. She was really going to miss him. She hoped her older self remembered this—how it felt to be around him with his guard down. She had a feeling that he hadn’t done that around her before. “I think it’s time, Spock. Before I get too fond of this body and run away with it.”
“You would not do that. You would not do that to yourself.”
“You don’t know me very well if you think that’s true. I’m not altruistic.”
“You are now.” He moved toward her, motioning her into her bedroom. “I have been meditating. Preparing.”
“Will you miss me?” she asked as she lay down on the bed and let him pull the covers up over her.
He eased onto the bed next to her. “I will.” He smoothed back her hair, then settled his fingers on her face. “You will not feel anything except the sensation of going to sleep. I won’t start what I have to do until I am sure you are out.”
“Okay.” She smiled at him. “I’d ask you to kiss me but you want to kiss her, don’t you, not me?”
“And she might not want to be kissed, not after what happened to her—to me. To us? This is confusing.”
“I know.” He pressed a little harder with his fingers. “I have enjoyed getting to know you, Christine.”
“Same here.” She surrendered to the push of his mind, felt blackness come over her.
And then there was nothing.
Chapel woke with a start to find herself no longer under the bush on the Mallutian home world but still under Spock’s fingers, pressing hard into her psi points. “Did it work? Where are we?”
She tried to sit up—why was she so weak?
“Christine, stay down, please. We need to discuss some things. I am going to give you a choice.”
“A choice? A choice of what? Damn it. You were supposed to wipe my memory. Did you let them have me with my memory intact? But why can’t I remember getting here—where the hell are we?”
He eased her down. “We are in my parent’s house on Vulcan. I did wipe your memory. They took you. They tortured you and raped you. I have stopped the memory restoration just before that happened.”
She could feel her heart racing, tried to relax but it was strange being this close to him. He was talking to her as if he were used to spending time with her. Since goddamn when? “Can’t you get those memories back? Is that why you stopped?”
“I can get them back. But I do not have to. There is no reason for you to experience that trauma. Your body already has and it is recovering.”
“I can stop now. You will never have to feel that pain.”
“I need to know what I told them.”
“You told them nothing because you knew nothing to tell. I left a younger version of you for them to find.”
“You had just become involved with Roger.”
She laughed bitterly. That version of her? The one who thought everything would go her way if she only smiled pretty enough and flashed her big brain? The Chapel who had never lost?
“You need to give me my memories back.”
He seemed to be pulling his fingers away rather than pressing them in more, so she said, “Now, Spock.”
“All right. I will do it. But perhaps you should rest? This has been taxing for both of us.”
She shook her head. “Just get it over with. I need to know what happened. I can’t fix it if I can’t see it.”
“This is not something you can fix. This is something you endured and now it is over. There is no fixing it. And again, please consider this choice. Traumatic events often produce amnesia: no one but I would know this was not organic. You would still be you, simply with a week missing. You do not have to do this.”
She felt frustration fill her. What the hell was he thinking? This would be bad; she knew that already. “Give me back my memories, Spock.”
“As you wish, Christine.” He put his fingers on her face, his mind pressed into hers, and she let go and let him in.
The memories flooded her all at once, which was preferable to having to relive the brutality in real time. But the feeling of Spock pressing against her, his body so much like those men who’d held her down and hurt her, made her try to scramble out from under the covers.
“Christine, it is all right.”
She slapped his fingers from her face, felt the dying meld snap painfully. “Get out.”
“Please let me help you.”
She tried to crawl out from under the covers, but his body was pressing them tightly against her. She pushed him, but he did not move.
“Christine, I can help.”
“Just get out.” She screamed the words at him, knowing it would hurt his ears far more than a human’s.
He got up and left her.
A Vulcan woman—T’Vala, her other self’s memories told her—walked in. “Can I do anything?”
She shook her head. “Leave me alone.”
“I am just outside if you need me.” She shut the door gently.
Chapel waited until she heard footsteps receding, and then she wept as quietly as she could.
Spock found himself in the uncomfortable position of having absolutely no idea what to do next. He’d grown accustomed to dealing with Christine’s younger self. She would have welcomed his company—and his help. But this older Christine and he had not interacted at the same level. The mission to the Mallutians was their first opportunity to spend time together.
He did not know how to help her—and he wanted desperately to do so.
T’Vala told him several times to go out for a walk, to sit in the garden, to get out of the salon where he could watch Christine’s door, still so firmly shut.
She’d eaten, T’Vala told him that. Had come out once he was gone and shut herself back up before he’d returned.
“She is dealing with it in her own way, Spock. Let her be.”
T’Vala was wise. That did not make him feel any better, however.
Two days later, Christine came out and sat down across from him. She met his eyes; her own were haunted. “You know what happened to me?”
“I did not relive it in any detail. Not when I took it from your younger self, nor when I gave it back to you. I did not wish to intrude any more than I already had. But I certainly have a sense of what was done to you, and I saw your injuries, felt your distress.”
She nodded and sat in silence for a long time. He forced himself to wait, to not say or do anything that might make things worse.
“I told them everything. Nothing important—you saw to that and thank you for that. But I spilled my guts.”
“She did, not you.”
“That’s an easy out, isn’t it? She, not I. But she is as much Christine Chapel as I am. Even if the way I was then is something I hate now.”
“You should not. She had many good traits.”
“I remember everything from the torture on, including being her. It’s...really weird to remember that, being her again. You liked her, didn’t you?”
“I did.” He was not even trying to wrap Vulcan formality around him. Let her understand that he liked who she’d been.
She took a deep breath. “I remember what she said to you. About staying. You should have kept her.”
“She was not you, Christine. I was never in any doubt about that. She is part of what formed you, but she is not you.”
“She fell in love with you.”
“You did as well once.” He wanted to say she could again, but from the look on her face, he did not think she wanted to think of love and closeness.
“I did. You’re right.” She stood up. “I’m sorry if I’ve worried you. I don’t mean to.” She managed to leave the room without coming near him and went into the kitchen.
He heard her talking to T’Vala.
He got up, walked into his room, and settled onto his meditation mat. Not that he thought it would help, or that he could find into any kind of true peace, but it would be something to do other than pester her.
Christine woke from another nightmare. Men hurting her, forcing her. Hard blows and screwed up faces. The horrible things they’d said to her. The more horrible things they’d done to her.
A light knock sounded on her door. She knew it was Spock, knew that if she ignored the knock, he’d go away.
The door opened slowly—she’d never seen Spock as tentative as he was around her right now. What made it worse was she had the memories of how he was with that other Christine. How...light they had been with each other.
She could have chosen not to know and that lightness might have been hers, too, as she got to know him free of this nightmare. Should she have chosen that? She felt mired in this pain.
He sat in the chair that was farthest from the bed. “I should not have brought you here. There is no one for you to talk to.”
“You mean like a counselor?”
He nodded. “Or another human.” He rubbed his eyes, something she’d never seen him do. “I am sorry, Christine. I thought I was doing the right thing, but perhaps I was only doing the thing I wanted to do.”
“I understand why you wanted to get me away. Command is squirrelly about the cloaking tech. I’m sure they would have rather controlled the reintegration of my memories than let you do it.”
“That was my fear.”
“I’d do the same if I were in their place.” She pulled her robe on, crawled out of bed, and walked over to him. “Did I cry out in my sleep? Is that why you are here?”
She sighed. “I’m sorry.”
“You do not ever have to apologize for that.” His look was fierce. “I wish only to comfort you, but I don’t know how.”
“I keep feeling their hands.” She took a ragged breath. “Every time I sleep, I dream of them. When I’m awake, I’m thinking of them. I can’t shake what they did to me.” She moved closer to him. “Part of me wants you to take it all away. But I can’t do that.”
“I could make it less painful.”
She shook her head. “I have to work through this. You said it yourself: this isn’t something I can fix.” She moved closer, till her knees were touching his. “Can you hold me for a moment? I just want hands on me that won’t hurt me.”
He nodded and held his arms open to her, letting her find a comfortable position on his lap before he enfolded her gently and rested his face against her hair. “I am sorry, Christine. This is my fault. If I had not wanted you with me on this mission, you would not have been hurt.”
“Why did you? Was it because of Jim?”
“And Valeris. And Mister Scott. Saavik is away. Leonard is off world. I was...”
“Was I just any port in the storm?”
“No. If you remember what we talked about when you were your younger self, then you know that was not the case.”
“I remember what we talked about. She believed it because she thought everyone would love her if given the chance. I’m not sure I believe it.”
He tightened his hold on her, and she tensed. “Spock, too much.”
He let go so fast she couldn’t feel his arms anymore. “I beg pardon.”
“You can hold on more than that. But not too tight. I know, it’s confusing.”
“Complicated,” he said, his tone rueful, and she smiled.
“Yes, complicated. Your favorite word. She liked it, too, that younger me. I was happy at that age, Spock. Uncomplicated. I saw what I wanted and I went for it. And I got it. I didn’t lose. I didn’t worry about losing or what was at stake. Everything was theoretical in our work, so there was no danger. It was all so fake.
“I got Roger and he went away before we could get married. He created an android to keep him company on Exo III and it wasn’t me. She was short, dark haired, curvy instead of lanky. It was a slap in the face. My series of losses. Losing him. Joining Starfleet when I used to laugh at that idea. Having to ‘yes, sir,’ and ‘no, sir,’ people with less degrees than I had. Watching scientists treat me like I didn’t know anything if I tried to make small talk.”
“Did I do that to you?”
“You were too busy running the other way. Wisely, I might add. I was a mess, looking for something to hold on to. Adrift, after years of knowing my course. Or changing course with no regard for the rocks ahead.”
“You are no longer adrift, Christine. You are highly respected. You have risen through the ranks in an astonishingly expeditious fashion. And you are held in high regard by your people.”
“You’re basing that on Saul?”
“Commander Watkins was not the only member of your crew who was worried about you.” He pushed his cheek against the side of her head. “I am impressed by who you have become, Christine.”
“Thank you.” She pressed back against his cheek for a moment, then said, “Okay, let me up.”
He released her immediately.
“Go back to bed, Spock. I’m okay for now.”
He nodded and stood up. “If the time comes when you need me in your bed, to be there when you wake up, to hold you, do not hesitate to ask.”
“I appreciate that. But I’m not ready.” Would she ever be ready for that?
He looked slightly embarrassed. “It may appear forward of me to suggest it, but I wanted you to know. It is not something we would have talked about before now.”
“No, it’s not. Thank you for caring.” She moved away so he could get by her. “Good night, Spock.”
“Good night, Christine.”
Several nights later, Spock woke to the sound of Christine crying out. He debated going to her, then heard her get out of bed, heard her steps on the short walk to his door, then a soft knock.
“Did I wake you?” Her voice shook.
“I’m sorry.” She started to cry, and he held up the blanket and sheet on his bed, unsure if she would join him but sensing she needed the comfort that only another person could bring.
She walked over slowly, slid into his bed, and shuddered slightly as he settled the covers over her. “I can’t do this on my own. I’ve tried and I can’t.”
“I will do whatever you want me to.”
She nestled in against him, and he put his arms around her, being careful not to hold too tightly and spook her. For a moment, she lay pressed against him, then she moved back.
“I can’t let you take the memories altogether. I need to remember. Starfleet will need me to remember. The Mallutians asked what they asked for a reason, and I’ll be debriefed eventually.”
“But if you can give me any distance—any at all.”
“I believe I can.” He settled his fingers on the meld points, felt panic coming from her in waves—and exhaustion. Had she slept at all since he’d given her back the memories? “Shhh. It is all right. You are safe, Christine. It is over. It is in the past. You are safe now. I will help you.”
She moaned and seemed to relax under his fingers.
He stopped talking, worked instead with intent, deep in her mind, easing the sharp edges of the memories, telling her over and over again that she was safe—that she was safe with him.
He finally eased out of her mind and slipped his fingers off the meld points, then let himself stroke her cheek.
She snaked her arm around his side, pressed herself tightly to him. “I’m so tired.”
“Then sleep. I will watch over you.”
“I’m sorry I’ve been so mean to you.” She nuzzled his neck. “I should have asked you for help right away.”
“You have not been mean. And this is a process you had to go through. You have asked for help now, and I have given it, and I will give more if you need it.” He let his lips sit on her hair, inhaled the sweet smell of her shampoo.
“I love you.” She was half asleep but her words still made him smile slightly.
“I care for you greatly, Christine,” he said, but he was not sure she was still awake. It did not matter if she heard or not. She would surely have felt his regard in the meld. He had not tried to hide it at all.
She moaned softly and cuddled in closer, her breathing finally changing to that of deep sleep.
Chapel woke to find Spock curled fast asleep around her. She eased out of his embrace and pulled on her robe, opening and closing the door quietly so he would not wake. She found T’Vala in the kitchen.
“Christine. Did you sleep?”
The woman didn’t miss a damn thing. Like that Chapel hadn’t been sleeping at all before. “I did. Can you do me a favor? Can you call me a transport?”
“Are you leaving?”
“Why? You are finally relaxing, are you not?” T’Vala handed her something that smelled suspiciously like coffee.
She took a sip. It was coffee. She knew her look was more “What the hell?” than “Thank you.”
T’Vala raised an eyebrow. “Spock’s mother enjoys it. I thought you would, too.” She shooed Chapel onto a stool and dished her up a hearty Vulcan breakfast to go with her Terran caffeine jolt. “Now, explain to me why you need to leave. And why you are doing it while Spock is still asleep. You clearly care for him and he has made it quite clear he holds you in high regard, as well.”
“Has he ever mentioned me to you before now?”
“See. That’s why I’m leaving.”
“I do not follow.”
Chapel took a bite of her food and tried not to let the stern face of Vulcan logic break down her resolve. She took another couple of bites—the stern face of Vulcan logic sure could cook.
T’Vala waited. Chapel had the feeling she could wait all day for the reply.
“It’s transference. Or guilt. Maybe both.”
“Him caring for me. Yes, I’ve loved him for—well, since I met him, basically. Forget about me. He’s never wanted me. And now he does? After I was injured when he had to leave me. It’s not love.”
T’Vala sat down next to her and said, “Keep eating. I will talk.”
Since the food was heavenly, Chapel kept eating.
“Spock left you because it was the logical thing to do, was it not? A nod will suffice.”
“He may well have felt some form of guilt for leaving you there. That guilt, however, would have been assuaged when he rescued you and you were safely off the planet. He is not human—do not apply human psychology to him, Christine.”
Chapel shot her a look.
“I am quite serious. If it was logical and for the good of the many and he found a way to make it right despite that, his conscience is clear. If he has you here, it is because he wants you here. Simple, is it not, this logic of ours?” T’Vala raised an eyebrow again, this time managing to make the gesture gently mocking. “You may speak now.”
“You think he cares about me?”
“I believe he does, yes.”
“Do you approve of me?”
“I am the housekeeper here.”
“He trusts you. I trust you. You’re a Vulcan. Do you approve of me?”
“I was not so sure about the version of you that first showed up. She was—”
“Flighty? An idiot?”
“I was going to say young. I found her quite intelligent and interesting to converse with, however.”
“She is you, Christine. Why do you dislike her so?”
“I made some stupid choices.”
“Which led you to this moment. So ill advised or not, they are your history, the stepping stones of your life. You might as well hate the cells inside you.”
Chapel smiled. “A poet and a great cook. No wonder they love you.” She looked down.
“May I make a suggestion?”
“Do not rush into any decision right now. You are in distress psychologically and emotionally. And Spock is willing to help you. Let him help you. If more develops, then more develops. If it does not, you will still be helped.”
“Or common sense. Call it what you will.” She got up and left Chapel alone in the kitchen.
But not before dishing her up a second helping of everything.
Spock found Christine in the kitchen.
“Food’s on the stove,” she said, pointing with her fork toward the cooking unit. “I didn’t make it, needless to say.”
He tried to determine her mood by the tone of her voice and failed. He decided to get some breakfast and figure out Christine’s state of mind more organically. “T’Vala is an excellent cook.”
“You saying I’m not?”
Her mood did not seem good. Had she not been able to sleep? He had meant to stay awake but feeling her relax finally and having her next to him, on top of the fact that he had gotten very little sleep since she’d been taken, had made it impossible for him to keep his eyes open.
“Is something wrong?” he asked as gently as he could.
“I wanted to leave. Tried to get T’Vala to call a transport for me. She convinced me I should stay.”
He knew he was frowning, didn’t try to stop the expression. “Why would you want to leave? Did I do something last night in my sleep?”
She reached over, rubbed his arm. “No. You didn’t. It’s not you, it’s me.” Then she laughed—the sound was slightly hysterical. “That excuse always worked in the past when I needed to unload a one-night stand who thought he could be more.”
Spock was not following her stream of logic—if indeed there was any logic in what she said—so he waited.
She finally turned to look at him. Her eyes had lost their haunted look but there was still something showing in her expression he did not like. “Why do you want to help me, Spock?”
“You need me.”
“I do not understand.”
“Yes, you do. Do you feel guilty over what happened to me? Is that why you’re being so...solicitous?”
“I did the only thing I could do under the circumstances. And you are safe now and healing. Why would I feel guilty?”
She started to laugh again in that semi-hysterical way.
“Christine, perhaps another meld?”
She held a hand up the way he’d seen his mother do to his father when she’d had enough of whatever he was trying to make happen. “Why am I here...with you? In the bedroom next to yours. In your bed last night.”
“You came to my room.”
“So it was unwanted? My presence?”
“What do you want me to say?”
She got up and nearly spat “Something really stupid—that’s what I want you to say” at him, and then she was walking down the hall. “Call me a goddamn transport.”
He got up and followed her to her room, trying not to loom over her, to not threaten her in any way. “What are you doing?”
She wouldn’t look at him, and he realized she was crying.
“Christine, what is wrong?”
“I’m still that idiotic woman, that’s what’s wrong.” She tried to brush past him, but he stopped her as gently as he could.
“I do not want you to go.”
“Why?” She looked furious with him, and he suddenly understood what she needed him to say.
“Because I care for you. Stay with me. Please?”
She swallowed hard. “Shitty routine. Excellent dismount.” She slumped onto the bed and wiped her eyes in what looked like anger.
He sat down next to her. “Did I say the wrong thing?”
“Nope. You said exactly the right thing.”
“But you are still angry.”
“I am. And sad. And afraid. And hurt. And thankful. And in love.” She laughed, a bitter sound he liked even less than the hysterical amusement. “I’m a mess.”
He put his arm around her very carefully, pulled her against him. “Do not go, Christine. I do not want you to.”
She turned and wrapped her arms around him. He thought she would cry but she didn’t, just sat pressed against him, breathing very deliberately as if she was trying to get control of herself.
He could feel the chaos of her emotions wherever she touched him. He felt it and ignored it.
She had been through something awful. This was no doubt part of the process to healing.
He hugged her closer and told her over and over not to go, until she finally said, “I won’t. I’ll stay.”
Chapel woke, hours later, coming awake more gradually than she had before. She saw Spock reading, not on the bed but in the chair by the door. He didn’t seem to realize she was awake, so she studied him, trying to imagine them in the same room like this if the mission had gone off differently.
Was this what he’d wanted from her when he asked her to join him? To be...together in some way?
He looked up, and she realized he’d known she was awake: her breathing had probably changed and he’d notice that with his hearing. “You slept a long time.”
“You didn’t need to watch over me.”
“It was no bother. I have much reading to catch up on.” He put the padd aside. “Are you feeling better?”
“More stable, you mean?” She gave him the most honest smile she could muster. “I don’t know.” She rolled to her side, stared at the wall rather than him. “How much have you seen of what happened to me?”
“Bits and pieces.”
“I want you to see it—to know what I went through. Would you be willing to do that?”
“I would, if you are sure.”
She turned over and looked at him. “Why did you ask me to go on this mission with you? Had you already decided we were going to be...important to each other?”
He nodded, his expression thoughtful. “I am not sure it was a conscious decision, but in hindsight, yes, I believe I did that.”
“And you want that? You want more from me?”
He nodded, his eyes intense—something he appeared to realize because he seemed to dial back the energy he was projecting.
“Then I want you to know—I need you to know—what they did to me. And once you know, you can help me put it behind me. I can stop fighting you once you know, if that makes any sense?” She sighed. “There won’t be anything left to hide from.”
“I will do whatever you need.”
She patted the bed, and he came over and lay down beside her, only on top of the covers. “Can you keep it distant for me while you view the memories? I’m already reliving it, I don’t want to do it again.”
“I can try.” He didn’t reach for her immediately, just lay on his side, facing her, then inched closer. “I would do anything to keep you safe.”
“Because you matter to me. And because I have lost too much this year not to try.”
“At least you’re honest. I think the second part may be a bigger driver than the first.”
“Does it matter?” He smoothed her hair back, the touch of his hand on her head soothing instead of frightening. “When I had to leave you—nothing would have prevented me from going back for you.”
“Lucky for you we had that handy tech.”
“I would have found a way even without it.” He moved closer, his lips coming down on hers very lightly, not pushing in any way, not threatening.
She closed her eyes and let him kiss her, was surprised to realize, when she opened her eyes again, that she’d put her arms around him, was holding him against her. “I trust you,” she whispered. “Why do I trust you?”
“Does that matter? You do trust me and for that I am grateful.” He nuzzled her neck gently, the feeling sending shivers through her.
She realized he could tell what she was feeling, could stop the moment he made her uncomfortable. She moved her neck to give him more access, smiled as he skipped his lips down to her collarbone.
Then he eased away, his hand resting on the covers over her hip.
“The meld, Spock.” She smiled. Not a silly smile—she wasn’t capable of that yet—but a sweeter one, she thought, than she’d given him since he’d restored her memories.
He raised his hand to her face, his fingers on her skin felt familiar and right. She sensed him pushing her away slightly, giving her the distance she wanted, and then he watched what had happened to her.
She could sense anger in him, anger that turned to a white-hot rage. The rage didn’t frighten her, though. She could tell it was focused on her attackers, not on her.
He seemed very shaky as he pulled away from her and lay on his back, staring at the ceiling. “Had I known all they had done to you, I would surely have killed them.”
He turned, met her eyes, and his were as ferocious as she’d ever seen them. “Yes. I.” He turned. “Did you relive any of it while I was watching?”
“No, you gave me the space I needed. I could feel your emotions, though.” She touched his cheek gently. “Your anger.” She rested her head on his shoulder. “They hurt me in every way they could. Humiliated me.”
He closed his eyes. “The shame was theirs, for hurting an innocent.”
“I’m hardly that, Spock. Although I suppose the Chapel they ended up with was more an innocent than I am now.” She rubbed his chest lightly. “Are you okay?”
“It is...difficult to process everything.”
“Then don’t try. Just accept it and let it sit.” She realized he was shivering. “Get under the covers.”
He kicked off his shoes then slid under the covers with her. She went into his arms, knowing they both needed that. He wrapped her up in a tight embrace—it would have been too tight before he knew, before he needed comfort, too.
“I love you,” she murmured. “Don’t force yourself to say it back, Spock. Just let me say it. Thank you for saving me.”
Her only answer was him tightening his hold on her and his lips pressed firmly against her forehead.
A light knock on Christine’s door sounded, and Spock jerked awake. T’Vala peeked in through the door he and Christine had never bothered to shut and said, “Starfleet Command wants to talk to you. An Admiral Kasho?” She looked remarkably unperturbed at finding him in bed with Christine.
“Ah. The Admiral.”
“Yes, ah.” For a Vulcan she looked almost amused. “You seem to have irritated him.”
“I have no doubt of that. And he was irritated with me before I took Christine away.” He eased out of bed and shut the door behind him to let Christine sleep.
“Admiral,” he said, then realized he had no idea if his hair was mussed or his robe wrinkled.
“Did I wake you, Ambassador?” Question answered. “Middle of the day there, isn’t it?”
“What can I do for you, sir?” Sometimes the best policy was to ignore the dig.
“You can bring Commander Chapel back to Earth. Your father can only cover your ass so long.”
“I am not sure she is ready to come back, sir.”
“You will bring her back or I will have you up on charges.”
“Hello, Isak.” Christine put her hand on Spock’s shoulder and leaned in so Kasho could see her. “I asked him to bring me here. You’ll have to put me up on charges, not him.”
“Christine, don’t defend him. I’m down to one nerve right now and he’s dancing on it.”
She laughed, and Spock was struck by what a good actress she was. He would never guess how fragile she was by the hearty sound she’d just made. “I know I need to be debriefed. I will come home. I promise. Just give me some time to heal up and I’ll be there before you know it.”
“I need you here now.”
“If you think that’s best. Hey, how’s Rochelle?”
There was a long silence as Kasho stared at her, his lips tightening. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Comm me when you’re ready to leave Vulcan. Kasho out.”
The screen went dead.
“Ah, the power of being in the right place at the right time.” She patted Spock’s shoulder.
“Who is Rochelle? His wife’s name is Candice.”
“Yes, it is, isn’t it?” She winked at him and went back into her room. Then she poked her head out. “Do you have more tri-ox? That first shot is wearing off.”
“In the bathroom, the third drawer down.”
“Thanks.” She disappeared into the bathroom and he heard the shower running. When she finally came out—she appeared to like long showers; her younger self had taken even more time in the bathroom—she sat down across from him. “Talking to him that way felt good. Taking back some power, maybe?”
“Since I do not fully understand what you did, I cannot say for sure. But as the admiral did back down with alacrity, I would say you won in some way.”
“Go me.” She leaned forward and pulled the turbaned towel off her hair, rubbing it and then finger combing it into place.
She looked remarkably appealing in the soft robe with tousled wet hair. “What?”
“I am admiring you.”
She laughed. “You really don’t know how to play it cool, do you?”
“Why would I wish to? You asked. I answered.”
She smiled. “Can we go for a walk? I need to get out for a while. I’ve been in that bedroom for too long.”
“I’ll get dressed.” She took far less time getting dressed than getting clean. She was out in a few minutes, and they left by the back gate, exiting onto a walking path that went behind the houses in the neighborhood. On the other side was open land, covered with low grass that blew in the hot breeze.
She started to laugh softly. “Walking in the middle of the day was not one of my better ideas.”
“We will not stay out long. But it is good for you to move.”
She nodded. “I hope you know I only bought a few days with Kasho. You’ll need to take me back to Earth.”
“I think if I stay more than two more days, I’ll be pushing it. I’m gunning for a new job. I don’t want to tick him off completely.”
“His exec.” She started to laugh. “And it has nothing to do with being in the right place at the right time. I’ve worked with him on and off or years. We get along really well.”
“So you trust him?”
“I do. I just like how peaceful it is here. Once I go back there, it all starts up again.” She sighed. “I have to get back into Ops, into that big room and look my people in the eye. If I don’t do it soon, I never will.”
“I understand. ‘Get back on the horse,’ Jim used to say.”
“Exactly.” She walked in silence for a moment, then said, “I need to get back on the horse in another way, Spock.” She stopped walking. “Sex. I’m afraid of it and that’s just going to get worse. If you want to...I’d like us to...” She was turning very red.
“I will do whatever you want.”
“But what do you want?”
“You.” He touched her arm to get her walking again, then said, “May I suggest we not rush it?”
“Kasho may be mad enough to find you a diplomatic assignment very far away.”
“Then I will take a leave of absence. I have remarkable latitude.”
She smiled. “You’d do that for me?”
“Maybe you just don’t want to have sex. Maybe I’m assuming a lot.”
“Neither is true. If I do not wish to rush this, it is not because I am uninterested in sex. It is merely that I want it to happen more naturally.”
“Awww, you’re a romantic. Who knew?”
He tried to bite back a small smile. Just then she had sounded like her younger self: light and happy. It was a relief to hear.
“Can we go back? It’s too hot out here.”
As they neared the house, she said, “Sorry that I’m not more romantic. I lost that ability somewhere along the line. I don’t really...socialize much anymore.”
She shook her head. “Easier to just be alone.”
“Easier, perhaps, but not healthier. Isolation can lead to problems.”
She smiled. “Like saying yes when your old crush asks you to go somewhere you think is a lost cause.”
“You thought that? Before we got there?”
“I had my suspicions it was a fruitless mission. I guess I found out the hard way that speaking up is a good thing.” She glanced at him. “Would you have listened to me if I’d said it was a waste of resources to go?”
“I do not know.” He held her gaze. “Perhaps.”
“But probably not. And I sure wasn’t going to turn down a chance to work with you.”
He held the door for her to go into the house and she smiled. “Thank you.” Then he followed her into her bedroom and shut the door.
She lifted an eyebrow in a creditable imitation of a Vulcan. “What are we doing?”
He moved carefully, knew she was still capable of being spooked even if the meld had helped her. He took her gently by the arms, pulled her close, ready to let go if he felt any resistance.
“I thought you said you wanted it to happen naturally?”
“This is natural.” He kissed her as tenderly as he could, felt her twine her arms around his neck, her body pressed against his own. He could sense she was comfortable but that could change if he pushed it, so he released her and moved back. “I will let you rest.”
She touched his arm. “That was nice.”
“Yes. It was indeed exceedingly pleasant.” He stared at her for a moment, then left her alone.
Chapel sat in the passenger seat of the transport ship as Spock piloted them on the final approach to Earth. “So, where are you staying while you’re on Earth.”
“I had thought the VOQ or the Embassy if that is full.”
She watched his profile for a moment, then said, “You can stay with me if you want.” She couldn’t believe how easy that was to say.
Or how easily he said, “I would like that. Are you sure you want that?”
“I’m sure. I have a guest room.”
“Of course.” Did he sound disappointed?
“I’m not saying you’ll have to sleep in the guest room...” She thought his lips turned up just enough to qualify as a smile. “I’m not saying you won’t have to, either.”
“But in either case, there is room for me and I will not be an imposition?”
“Right.” She laughed softly and watched as the big blue planet she loved grew bigger. “Thank you for everything.”
“Including getting you involved in this?”
“Yes. Strange as that may sound.” She reached out to him, was surprised but happy when he reached back and took her hand. “I mean...I like this. Even if it’s still hard to imagine being really close.”
“When you are ready, we will take it slowly. There is no reason to rush.”
“The younger me would have had you in bed already.”
“The younger you did not have the memories you struggle with. It is a significant difference.”
“True enough.” She let go of his hand and leaned back, content to sit quietly and watch as he took her home.
Once they had landed, he hailed ground transport for her. “Are you sure you do not want me to come with you?”
“Yep. The admiral needs to see that I’m one hundred percent.”
“You are not.”
She grinned. “He doesn’t need to know that, does he? I mean it’s what you or Jim would do.”
He conceded that with a somewhat sheepish nod. “I have an afternoon meeting at Command. I can come to you after if you wish.”
“Sounds good.” She got into the transport and was alone for the first time since she’d been taken. It felt...strange to be apart from Spock. Was that neediness from what had happened to her, or was she just happy to be with him?
Was she with him? He was staying with her and they were joking about beds. She didn’t think that would happen if she wasn’t with him.
She’d know if he was just doing this to help her, right?
God, why couldn’t she have the confidence of that younger version of her? Who would have simply said, “Of course he wants me.”
She found the walk to Kasho’s office taxing but stopped in the bathroom to make sure she looked all right before going to his office. His aide said he’d be right back, so she sat and waited.
A few minutes later, Kasho strode in, glanced at her, muttered, “Nice of you to grace us with your presence, Christine,” and motioned her inside his office.
Once the door closed, he said, “Jesus H. Christ, Chapel. Rochelle?”
“I wasn’t ready to come back. And you knew that. I’d have been back if I was ready.”
“Are you ready now? Or is this just a visit to have dinner at the Vulcan embassy?”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m back. So’s Spock. Don’t send him away.”
“I should. He’s not my favorite person right now.”
“Well, he is mine.”
“No accounting for taste.” He shook his head and sat down. “Okay, so your memories are back, I assume.”
“Yep. I’m ready for the debrief.”
“How much did Spock see?”
“He was careful not to pry. He did what he needed to without going too deep.” Which was technically true. He’d seen a lot more when she’d asked him to look, but she was pretty sure he’d stuck to the events of the attack, not to any Ops things that might give Kasho hives. “Besides, this is Spock. He defines tight lipped.”
“I know. I know. He was just up in my grill over looking for Kirk. I was the one who denied him the use of a ship.”
“Well, that’s between you two.” She gave him a bland look and waited.
He finally seemed to relax. “I’m damned glad you’re all right. Hated to think of having to interview a bunch of ambitious yahoos for your job.” He studied her. “Seriously, I was worried about you.”
“I didn’t expect Spock to hijack you.”
She laughed. “Given his and Jim’s record, I don’t know why not.”
“You’re right. I’m a damn idiot. Guess I thought it was Kirk’s influence on him, never thought it was something he’d do on his own.”
She thought about Spock hijacking the ship to get Pike to Talos IV—there was really no limit to what he was willing to do for a friend in need.
Kasho reached for his comm unit. “Commander Jerule?”
“Jerule, here, sir.”
“Commander Chapel is ready for her debrief.”
She wondered what the head of Kasho’s special security staff was going to want to know. She hoped this wouldn’t be any more painful than it needed to be.
“Send her down.”
“Go on, Christine. Once he’s done with you, get your things settled in Ops so you can report here next week. I’m letting Commander Jenkins go on leave before he reports to the Miramar.”
“You’re barely giving my folks time to get the goodbye party organized.”
He laughed loudly. “The day that crew can’t organize a party in five minutes flat is the day I hang my hat up.” He winked at her. “Glad you’re back, Christine. Now go fill Lindsay in so he’ll quit asking me how much damage control he’s going to have to do.”
She smiled at him and walked down to Jerule’s office. He was thorough but surprisingly gentle with her—she’d always thought him kind of an ass. Apparently, it paid to nearly get killed. It also helped that she hadn’t been the idiot who pulled out the prototypes for the big rescue.
Not that she blamed the idiots. They were two of her favorite people. Now more than ever.
Spock walked into Ops, looking for Christine but not seeing her.
Watkins saw him and grinned. “Well, look what the cat dragged in.”
“I have never understood that particular saying.”
“Then you’ve never had a cat.” Watkins motioned him to the back of the Ops bay. “You hungry? We always have food. Today’s event was two newbies reporting to Ops.”
Spock took in the spread. “There is a lot of food here.”
“We have hungry people. Also long shifts.” Watkins’ smile died a little. “So, how is she? I assume she’s here if you are. Boy, but didn’t you tick off some of the brass when you shanghaied her.”
“I did not shanghai her.”
“Depends on who’s telling the story, I guess.” He sat in one of the chairs scattered around the back of the bay and yawned. “Is she okay?”
“She is.” Spock was uncertain how much to say; surely Christine would tell Watkins whatever she wanted him to know.
“And there she is now.” Watkins stood as Christine walked in. The others in Ops—those who weren’t currently occupied on a comm channel—also stood.
“I’m fine. I’m fine. Thank you. Get back to work.” She smiled and walked back to where he was standing with Watkins. “Saul, figures I’d catch you loafing.”
“You know me, Christine. Never doing my job.” He gave her a big smile. “Sure is good to see you back.”
“Don’t get too used to it. Kasho wants me to start next week.”
“Shit. Barely gives me time to plan the party.”
Spock refrained from asking if they could not just use the food they already had. He knew his command of party etiquette was low even after all these years with humans.
“Just make sure there’s meat. I’ve been dining al vegetariano lately.” She smiled at Spock.
“That’ll teach you to be self sacrificing.” Watkins stood. “Can I show you something? It’s a little weird, and I want your opinion on how I handled it. I’m so tired I can’t see straight right now.”
She nodded and followed him to a terminal, their heads very close together as they worked, and Spock wondered if she would miss this camaraderie when she moved on to Kasho’s office.
She came back to where he was standing a few minutes later. “You ready to go? Kasho gave me the rest of the day off.”
The rest of the day was probably about an hour, but he decided not to point that out, just followed her out of Ops and the building. She lived very close to Command, not surprising, he supposed, given the hours she worked and that she was often on call. She put him on the access list as she palmed them in, then showed him around the modest apartment.
“So,” she said, as she leaned against the wall and studied him with the intent look he was coming to know and like. “Which room do you want to sleep in?”
She smiled. “Wow, no hesitation.”
“Did you think there would be?” He moved closer to her. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine. For the first time, I actually feel...human again.” She smiled. “Not what you’d strive for, but I’m happy with it.”
He nodded, understanding what she was saying.
“Were you going to finish getting over here or do I have to come to you.”
He reached out for her, drawing her to him.
“Oh, the latter, huh?” She put her arms around him, kissed him easily, and he could sense no fear from her.
This was why he had not wanted to rush into sex. He wanted her to be this at ease with him when they finally took that step. He led her to the couch, sat and pulled her down into his lap, and kissed her again, never pushing very hard, forcing himself to not let his hands roam too far off her back.
She smiled as she eased away, then cuddled against him, her head in the crook of his shoulder. “Never let it be said you can’t kiss, Spock.”
“Has anyone said that?”
She laughed and rubbed the back of his neck, then under her hair. It was highly soothing—and also arousing.
“I received my orders for the next mission,” he said. “A trade agreement that is being negotiated on Earth so I will not have to take a leave of absence to be with you.”
“Good.” She tried to get up, but he held her. “Aren’t I too heavy?”
“No.” He reached for her hand, put it back on his neck. “Please resume what you were doing. It is pleasurable.”
“Do this, do that. Same old Spock.” She kissed him after she said it, and did not stop the massage of his neck, so her words lacked any bite.
He closed his eyes and relaxed under her touch.
Chapel woke up, found it hard to reach her pinging chrono because Spock was spooning her, holding onto her with what felt like a deathgrip. She finally had to elbow him gently to get him to let go so she could turn it off.
“Don’t tell me that Mister ‘I have superior hearing’ could sleep through that?”
“I do not want to get up.” He sounded...surly?
She turned over to look at him. He had closed his eyes.
“Spock, I’m fairly sure this isn’t normal for you.” She pressed the back of her hand to his forehead and frowned. Even for him his skin felt hot. “Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m very tired.”
She got up and found a scanner and ran it over him. His readings were all out of whack and he had a slight fever. It wasn’t the Pon Farr, though. She didn’t think it likely she’d forget what those readings had looked like given the strange things he’d said to her in his quarters—words that had once been all she’d had to pin her hopes on.
“How long have you been tired? You fell asleep the other night, too. When you said you’d watch over me. I was surprised you’d do that.”
He opened his eyes slightly. “You are correct, I did.”
“And Watkins said he was tired, too.” She sighed. “Well, I guess we know what’s probably caused this. Some tweaking’s in order for those cloaking devices before we test again.”
“P.I.D.s,” he mumbled and she smiled, remembering what her younger self had called them.
“Right. Those.” She nudged him until he roused. “I need to get you both checked out. I think all you probably need is a shot of B12, maybe some other vitamins, but you need to come with me.”
“What you say is logical.” He rolled over and pulled the covers back over him.
She left him in the bed and commed Watkins. “Saul, you said you were tired yesterday.”
“Do you ever say hello before you launch into things?” At her look he laughed. “Yeah, I’ve been sleeping like crazy, but I can’t seem to get any rest.”
“Spock is having similar symptoms.” She waited for him to get it.
He didn’t disappoint her. “Oh. Oh crap. They seemed so promising.”
“Still are. Probably just need some tweaking. Can you stop by the lab to let Carruthers run your readings?”
“Sure. Spock’s coming in, too, I guess?”
“If I can get him out of bed, yes.” She saw him start laughing and said, “Shut up. Not one damn word.”
“Who, me? Guy’s a catch, Christine. I won’t say a thing.” He grinned at her. “See you later. Watkins out.” The screen went dark.
She showered and pulled on her uniform, then went and got Spock out of bed. It took a mix of ordering and cajoling him, but he was finally on his feet. She called a transport to get them to Command since she didn’t feel like walking and didn’t fancy a stroll with a drowsy Vulcan, and led him to the special lab where the controllers had been made.
Watkins was there already, hooked up to a drip that was no doubt full of things his body desperately needed, and fast asleep.
“Oh, good, a Vulcan.” Carruthers, the techhead in charge of the product, rubbed his hands together.
“Really? That’s what you have to say?” She sat down in a chair and waited while they worked on Spock. “I used it too. But not for very long and I didn’t have to exert myself while I used it since he was carrying me.”
Carruthers walked over and scanned her. “You seem okay. But from what I understand you were injured?”
“The treatments they gave you may have addressed the issue. It’s mainly neurotransmitter and electrolyte imbalance. They might have picked that up and thought it was from the trauma.”
“Sounds reasonable. When can I have them back?” She nodded at Watkins and Spock, both happily napping in their chairs as Carruthers’ solution dripped into them.
“Five hours or so. I want to monitor them for a while.”
She got up. “Then I’m going to Ops. Take good care of them.”
“Don’t you worry on that account. Gotta figure out what part of the field did this. Watkins said they didn’t have the devices turned on that long. The exertion may be a key variable.” He waved her out as he went back to his readings.
On her way back to Ops, she passed the cafeteria and decided to grab some breakfast since she’d been too focused on getting Spock checked out to eat. As she dished up more food than she’d normally get, she realized she really missed T’Vala’s hearty Vulcan breakfasts.
She really missed T’Vala, too. The woman had been good to her—both versions of her.
Spock woke to Christine’s gentle, “It’s time to go.”
He looked at the chrono on the wall of the lab, realized he’d been sleeping for seven hours. Watkins was gone, something he found vastly annoying. His Vulcan physiology should have made him less affected by the cloaking device, not more.
He stood up and realized he was still very tired as he followed Christine out of the lab and through the corridors of Command.
“Carruthers thinks you got a double dose because you were carrying me while I was also using the device. That somehow the fields may have merged in a way that exacerbated the effect. Add to that the fact that I’m not light.” She shot him a rueful smile. “Whole lot of trouble for one woman, Spock.”
“You are worth it.” He tried and failed to bite back a yawn.
“Come on. I got us a transport.”
“I can walk, Christine.”
“Yes, I’m sure you can. But you don’t have to and I’m tired after my first full day back.” She pushed him into the transport and followed him in.
The ride was short, but he found it hard to keep his eyes open.
“You were running on adrenaline and Vulcan will alone, I think,” she said as she palmed open her door and led him inside. “Go lie down on the couch. I bought it because it’s the most comfortable napping couch ever. I’ll wake you when the food’s ready.”
“You do not have to, Chr—”
“I know I don’t have to. But let me take care of you, all right? You’ve done a bang-up job looking after me, but it’s time to admit defeat.”
He pulled her to him, could feel momentary alarm at the suddenness of the action, then she relaxed in his arms. He yawned again. “I am sorry.”
“For what? Being a guinea pig?” She kissed him gently and he deepened the kiss without thinking about what he was doing, but she didn’t give off any sense of alarm, just settled in and kissed him until he let her go. “Nice distraction technique. Now lie down before you fall down.”
He went to the couch and lay down; it was a very comfortable piece of furniture. He was out in no time, woke to the smell of food and Christine nudging him awake. He ate without paying much attention to the food, didn’t protest when Christine got him up, undressed, and into bed and then took her own clothes off and crawled in after him.
He realized they were naked. Together. In bed. She cuddled close to him.
“I am too tired to enjoy this,” he said, pulling her closer.
“Probably why it feels so safe.” She kissed him and he was very conscious of her breasts against him. “Go to sleep.”
She snuggled against him and ran her hand up and down his chest. Any other night he would have found that arousing, but he was too sleepy to do anything about it.
“I love you,” he said, pulling her closer.
“I love you, too. But tell me that again when you’re not half asleep, all right?”
“Whenever you want,” he mumbled, unsure why she thought it would matter. Then he gave in and surrendered to the exhaustion.
Chapel woke before the chrono went off, tried to figure out why and realized Spock was kissing her. “What time is it? Have we slept at all?”
“It is an hour before your chrono is set to go off.” He managed to kiss her collarbone while talking, as ever he was the best multitasker in the quadrant. “I feel much better.”
“So I see. Carruthers will be glad to hear his concoction worked so well.”
“Indeed.” He pushed her to her back and nuzzled her neck. “I love you. You asked me to tell you that again.”
She laughed. “I did, didn’t I?” He was moving down from her collarbone, to her breasts and she could feel her good mood fading, fought down a rising sense of dread.
He stopped what he was doing. “I can feel your panic.”
“Do not be sorry.” He put his fingers on the meld points, asked softly, “May I try to help?”
“You just want to have sex with me.”
“While that is certainly true, that is not my primary motivation.”
“Fine, go ahead.” She felt the panic recede as his mind flowed into hers. She wasn’t sure what he was doing but she felt good, she felt loved, she felt...sexy.
She wasn’t sure she’d ever feel that again. Sex had turned into something ugly.
He began to kiss down her body again, and this time she relaxed as he found her breasts, as he licked and suckled. Whenever he went too hard, he backed off immediately, clearly able to read everything she was feeling. Then he worked his way back up to her lips.
“You’re not going to try for more?”
“You are not ready.”
She reached down and encircled him with her hand. “But you are.”
“And I can wait until this is a mutual pleasure, Christine. We will get there. I am a man of great patience.” He gently covered her hand with his own and slid it off him. “Are you still tired? There is time to sleep yet.”
He did it willingly, and she could feel herself letting go of a tension she hadn’t been aware she’d been feeling until it was gone.
She realized he really was a man of great patience. That he might wait forever for her to be ready if she needed him to.
She didn’t think she’d need that long.
He brushed her hair back and she snuggled into him.
“Maybe I will sleep for a little bit.”
He pulled the covers up and rested his lips on her cheek. She felt completely safe and let go, lying not quite asleep, but in a hazy doze, his hand on her hip, her leg thrown over his.
When the chrono went off, she fixed him breakfast, then they showered together, and she couldn’t help but see exactly how much he wanted her.
It might have been scary if he weren’t such a patient man.
“I have a meeting at the Andorian embassy. I will see you tonight,” he said as he pulled her in for a last kiss.
“If you get tired, come back here and sleep.”
“Aye aye, sir.”
“Doctor. I’m still that.” She pulled him down for another kiss. “Your personal physician.”
“I find I am interested in other roles you might personally play.”
She laughed and let him go. “Typical guy.”
His eyebrow cocked up and he gave her the quintessential Spock look. She conceded with a little shrug.
They both knew he was anything but typical.