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.
For What It’s Worth
It was a shitty day and getting worse by the moment. Chapel strode through the grass to where Jim and Spock were standing.
“Storm’s coming in, but I’m sure Spock told you that.” She looked up at the sky where the ion storm’s first purple-gray swirls could be seen. “The gesinium root on this moon is completely unsuitable for being synthesized.”
Jim sighed. “So we have to get it from the outer moon.” He commed the ship. “Kirk to Enterprise.”
“Scott here, sir.”
“We’re wasting our time, Scotty. The gesinium on this moon is no good. How long before the storm makes transporting problematic.”
“It already has, sir. It’s moving in much faster than we expected. I was just about to hail you. Do you have a place to shelter?”
Jim looked at Spock who nodded. “Affirmative.”
“Then we’ll be back for you when the storm clears out.”
“Projection on that?”
“Eight to twelve hours.”
“Understood. Get the ship out of danger, Scotty. We’ll see you when this has cleared.” He turned to Chapel. “We can fill our water containers from the stream. What about food? Tell me you found something we can eat down here because I hate those gel things I know Spock packed.”
She nodded. “Several fruits are growing just downstream. And I saw some berries that scanned clean. You could go hunt one of the rabbit-like things I spotted if you need to feel manly.” She closed her eyes—post-demotion hostility came out at the oddest moments. He’d been avoiding her since V’ger, as if they’d never spent time together on Earth. Why the hell hadn’t he brought Len down with him for this? He and Len and Spock could have built a campfire and sung stupid songs or whatever boys do when stuck in the woods—or more likely a cave, since Spock would want them out of danger. Them being he and Jim. She doubted Spock cared one way or the other about her.
Jim shot her an annoyed look and said, “I think I’ll skip the hunting. We’re not going to be here that long.” He turned to Spock. “Where do you have for us to hole up?”
Spock pointed up to the hills. “There. The hillside is riddled with caves. I have scanned and there are several that show no signs of recent animal habitation.”
“Good. While it’s still safe to be out in the open, let’s collect what we need. Spock, firewood, just in case. I’ll take water detail.” He took the containers from her and Spock and looped them over his shoulder next to his own. “And Chris, I’ll leave you to get the fruit and berries. I’ll come help you as soon as I’ve got the water in the cave.”
She nodded and moved off. Whatever her lingering annoyance with the two of them for showing back up on the ship and making a mockery of her “I’m starting over” plans, they were excellent at staying alive—she probably couldn’t ask for better companions in that sense.
And it wasn’t as if she didn’t miss Jim. He’d been fun to hang out with. They’d laughed a lot. And once upon a time she would have given anything to spend quality time alone with Spock. She should be happy they were all here together. There were so many worse options.
She tried to put on a real smile as she walked. Tried to feel anything but annoyed and tired. She’d been pushing since she left the ship to go to med school. She hadn’t been this tired since grad school.
One of the rabbit-like things ran in front of her, no doubt heading for a hole. Storm like this, everything would take cover. She just hoped nothing decided their cave was the place to do it.
The cave Spock had found had a narrow entrance that twisted to the side and into a rather expansive open area. It was warm enough that they didn’t need a fire, which was good since the space would probably just fill up with smoke.
She put the fruit she’d gathered on a sheet from her kit and left it near where Jim had put the water. Then she sat down and tried to get comfortable.
Spock came in and sat down across from her. Jim came in last, a small load of fruit slung in his shirt. He put it down with what she’d brought in, then sat down between them.
She looked down, drawing symbols in the dirt. Jim coughed and shifted position but said nothing.
“How are you finding the new ship, Doctor?” Spock asked into what was rapidly becoming an uncomfortable silence.
“It’s fine.” She met his eyes with the blandest expression she could muster. “It’s not really new, though, is it? Just redone.” Much like her experience of being on the ship was turning out to be.
“Refitted, to be sure.” Spock seemed to be trying very hard, his voice was falsely light in that way only a Vulcan trying to make small talk could achieve. “And sickbay. It is to your liking?”
He seemed to realize his mistake as soon as it was out of his mouth, but she gave him credit for not trying to make things better before she answered.
“My office is a bit smaller than I expected.” She glanced at Jim whose jaw was very tight. “But otherwise, it’s pretty much what I thought it would be. Same old same old. Other than these festive moments, of course. I mean, who doesn’t want to get stuck in a cave with the two of you?”
Jim looked up at her. “How long are you going to sulk over being demoted?”
She ignored him.
“Consider that your captain asking, Doctor, not your friend.”
“Friend?” She could feel the anger coming up, pushed it down. “Do you really want to do this here?” She shot a glance at Spock, then met Jim’s eyes, knew her own were hard. “In front of him?”
Spock’s expression didn’t change. “Doctor Chapel, please feel free to vent in any way you wish.”
She stared at him. Was he fucking serious? She looked back at Jim, and he made a “go ahead” gesture.
“Fine. I’m not mad about being demoted. I’m mad that you never came and talked to me about it. Being my friend and all.”
“We were in the middle of a crisis.”
“I don’t mean then. I mean after. You just...let it go.”
“And you think he owes you more?” Spock asked.
She glared at him. “I’m resigned to the fact that you are apparently going to get to listen in on this, but I will not have you goddamn moderate the proceedings.”
“Chris, he doesn’t deserve that.”
“And I don’t deserve the way you just...ditched me. Like some friend who only needs me around when her boyfriend has broken up with her. How many times did I listen to you whine?” She looked over at Spock. “Not about you and your quest for soullessness. About Lori. His wife. Has he mentioned her to you yet?”
“I’m sure you didn’t get the full effect of being there, though. He wasn’t happy, Spock.”
“I am aware of that. He and I have melded since my return.”
Wow. He was going to just give her that? Guess she could stop assuming they were involved and really know that it was true.
She felt as if all the air had been sucked out of her sails. Instead of continuing, she went back to drawing symbols in dirt. It seemed more productive.
“Jim has avoided you because he fell in love with you on Earth.” Spock seemed not to understand the “no moderator needed” stance—but maybe she didn’t mind if these kinds of truths were going to be spilled. “He demoted you rather than transferring you because he wanted you near.”
She looked at Jim. “Is this true?”
He nodded slowly.
“And you couldn’t have let me in on your feelings?”
“You were leaving. And my...motivation for looking you up in the first place wasn’t exactly innocent.”
She frowned. “I don’t understand. You never tried anything. I sort of wondered why but decided I wasn’t your type.”
Jim looked away. Then he looked at Spock, and his face had the tight, angry expression she’d seen so often on Earth. “Why are you doing this?”
“Because she is between us and has been since you left me.”
“Wait. You left him, Jim?” She looked back and forth between them. “I thought Spock left you for Gol. I thought it hurt so much you couldn’t talk about it.”
“You thought wrong, Christine.” Spock’s eyes were very gentle—she couldn’t remember him ever looking at her like that. “You do not remember everything.”
“My memory is just fine.”
“No, Chris. No, it’s not.” Jim got up and started pacing the cave. “You remember Spock’s Pon Farr?”
She nodded. How the hell could she forget it?
“You only remember part of it. Up to dropping some soup off, probably? Me showing up seemingly dead.”
She nodded. “And him smiling like a fool when you weren’t.”
“And then what?”
“I left you two and Len to talk alone.”
“And then...?” Jim’s expression was one she couldn’t read.
She shrugged. “And then nothing.”
“I came to you afterwards.” Spock met her eyes, but she had the odd feeling it was hard for him to do it. “I lied to Jim and Leonard when I said my need to mate had been mitigated by the battle. And I lied again to Jim when I told him I needed time alone to meditate, to regain my equilibrium. But it was sex that was needed to regain it, and sex with Jim would not do. I discovered the essence of Pon Farr is to mate—to spawn. I needed a partner with whom I could procreate. Any woman would have done, Christine, but I wanted it to be you.”
“We never had se—”
“Yes, we did. You do not remember it because I took your memory away.” He looked down. “I did not force you to have sex with me. It was very much consensual.”
She searched her memory. She could remember nothing about some interlude with Spock. The only kiss she’d ever shared with him had been forced by the Platonians. “You’re lying.”
“He’s not, Chris. I found out years later, during a particularly deep meld when he dropped his guard. You were getting ready to transfer off the ship. You were on both our minds—but for me, I was just thinking about your future. Spock—well he had other reasons to think about you, as I found out.”
Spock nodded slowly. “Jim left me soon after.” He looked down, as if he would rather be anywhere than in a cave spilling secrets.
“Jim, are you saying you broke up with him...for me?”
“No. I’m not.” Jim took a deep breath. “I did it for me. Because he did it to me, too, you see. I only found out because I went looking once I knew he was willing to do it to you—and he’s not being clear about why he did it to you, Chris. It was because he enjoyed sex with you—he cared for you. And he didn’t want me to know that but didn’t think you could hide it. He could hide it, though, just as long as he took your memory away. It wouldn’t hurt you—just a moment in a life. Isn’t that what you said, Spock? Just a moment gone in all the myriad moments of her life.”
Spock did not look up.
“I started to go through my logs. From the time Spock and I got together. Realized that I couldn’t remember some of the missions as clearly as I should. Realized I couldn’t remember some of the women—Miramanee. Rayna—as clearly as I should. I guess it’s good I mourned Edith before he and I were together.” He looked at her. “You were with Miramanee, Chris. You were with me, then, too. You saw how...”
“Detached. You were detached. I was surprised. She was carrying your child.”
“Spock’s mind meld. He needed me back as his captain—isn’t that what you said when you defended your actions? When you took my feelings for my wife away from me? For my unborn child?”
“You left him because you couldn’t trust him.” She turned to Spock. “And you went to Gol because...you hurt?”
“Yes. I did not understand the nature of my trespass. I thought I was helping him.”
She wondered if he understood the nature of his trespass now. “You were helping yourself with what you did to me.”
“And him. I cared deeply for him. And you, too. I was not going to leave Jim for you. My feelings for you were irrelevant, Christine.”
She looked down.
“Jim’s feelings for you, however, are not. He and I are together and yet...” He took a deep breath. “We needed to talk about this. The three of us.”
Jim was shaking his head as if he didn’t agree but said softly, “I had him give me my memories back, Chris. I told him to give you yours back, too, if you wanted them, but I could tell by the way you acted on Earth that he never came to you.”
“No, he never did.”
“And once he was gone, it was too late, so I left it alone. You didn’t seem the worse for wear.”
“That’s why you found me that day in the cafeteria?”
He nodded. “I was worried. And then I wasn’t and I knew I could leave you alone, but you were a good listener and fun, and Lori was neither. Lori was sick of me, and I was sick of her, and we both knew we had married for all the wrong reasons. They should not let you sign a term marriage when you’re drunk.”
She smiled in what was probably a very ugly expression. “I think that’s the whole reason term marriages exist. For people who marry too fast and don’t want to repent at leisure.”
“Maybe so.” He met her eyes; his were tortured. “Spock and I have been talking about this. He thought I should start including you: that or transfer you off. He said it wasn’t fair not to utilize you fully.”
She looked at Spock. “And you knew the estimates Scotty had for the storm’s progress were wrong, didn’t you?”
“I suspected they were underestimating the speed it would attain. But as the planet had plenty of caves, and it was just the three of us beaming down, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to talk.”
“Talk? Forget talk. I want to know what you took from me. I want to catch up, because clearly I’m behind the curve on this whole thing.” She pushed herself back against the cave wall. “I want to know how mad I should be.”
“How mad are you now?” Jim asked softly.
“Spitting.” She motioned Spock over. “Get this done fast.”
“I will do it as quickly as is safe.” He moved to her side, reached for her face and she had to force herself to stay still—he’d taken her memory? Spock?
But...yes. As he slipped into her mind, as he found the hours he’d...hidden, she realized that yes, he had, indeed, taken her memory.
And it came rushing back now. Lying in his bed, tracing his lips, being pulled on top of him for another round, his mouth soft under hers, his voice husky and deep.
“I desire you immensely, Christine,” he had said. “I care for you.”
“All this time I thought...” She had looked down, overcome with what she’d felt—what she’d been feeling back from him. “That you were with the captain.”
And that had brought him back, brought him...shame. He had let her finish, let her get him off several more times before he’d reached for her face and—
“You bastard!” She struck his hand off her, felt a surge of pain as the meld was snapped by her action. Heard him groan and didn’t care. She scuttled away from him, felt tears coming and bit them back.
She looked over at Jim.
He closed his eyes. “I’m so sorry, Chris. Should I have told you?”
She thought about it before she answered. “Not when there was nothing left to do.”
“It haunted me because I was never sure. And knowing he did it to me, too—well, it destroyed Spock and me.”
“You left him. Married the first woman you could find?”
“Thought I’d do it up right. Have kids. Kids I could actually see.”
She frowned, not understanding what he meant.
“I have a son. I’m not allowed to see him.” He made the “I’ll tell you later” wave she’d learned back on Earth.
“Joke was on me, though. Lori didn’t want kids. Lori wanted advancement. She thought being married to the golden boy of the Fleet would do it. I wasn’t the golden boy on Earth. I was miserable—as you well know. You heard it all, Chris.” He looked over at Spock. “She heard it all.”
“And yet you took me back after V’ger and avoided her.”
She glared at Spock. “How many ways are you going to try to hurt me today?”
“That was not my intention.”
“Could have fooled me.”
“Christine, relations between Jim and me are strained. And you are the cause. You are mad at him and now at me. I could feel through the meld just now that you have strong feelings for both of us.”
She looked down. “Voyeur.”
“It was unavoidable. I had to go past what you were feeling to get to the memory.”
“It’s irrelevant what I feel. I’m transferring off as soon as we get back to the ship.”
“I have an alternate proposal.”
“I can’t wait to hear it.”
“If you are between us, then be between us.”
Jim’s head shot up and he stared at Spock. “Spock, what the hell?”
“There is logic in what I say. We will find out what we all want. What is important and what is not.”
“Are you saying what I think you’re saying? You want to be together right after telling me you stole my memory? And did you plan this so we could do it in a fucking cave? Because guess what? You don’t get to say how this goes. You are done saying how my life goes.” She got up and walked to the entrance. The ion storm was too strong to risk leaving, even though she’d kill to find another cave to wait this thing out in.
She felt hands on her shoulders, heard Jim’s voice. “Get back in here, Chris.”
“I know. Now, come on.” He turned her, put his arm around her shoulder. “I’m sorry. Maybe I should have told you.”
“At least I understand why you were so unfriendly.”
“Do you love me?” She didn’t bother to pitch her voice low, didn’t care if Spock could hear them.
“Yes.” He could have nodded, but he said it. Did he want Spock to hear it, too?
She stared at him, hated to think how helpless her expression probably was. “I’m going to transfer off.”
“Okay.” He led her back to the open area, then let her go and sat down.
She sat down next to him and when Spock looked like he might join them, held up her hand and said, “No. You stay over there. You’ve done enough today.”
She woke up—how the hell had she ended up falling asleep, much less snuggling with Jim—and realized the cave was a lot darker than it had been. The storm was in full swing and she could feel her ears popping as the pressure kept changing.
She eased off of Jim, heard him mumble something she couldn’t make out. It didn’t sound like her name. It didn’t sound like Spock’s, either.
She sighed softly as she looked at him. She was in love with him. She’d never meant to fall, but she had. And it was different than how she’d felt for Spock. This was real—this was based on actual interaction, not just a crush or an interlude that Spock had torn away from her.
But she’d been interacting with Jim at his worst. She didn’t know that she would rate that highly with Jim at his best. Spock might well own him: he and Jim were back together, after all. Despite everything.
The memories so recently retrieved hammered at her. She and Spock. In bed. It had been good.
She looked around. Where the hell was Spock?
She found him at the mouth of the cave, set back just enough to be safe as the storm raged. “Why did you do this?”
He did not turn around. “Because Jim and I are not gelling as a couple the way we did before. And you are the reason.”
She leaned against the side of the cave; she didn’t want to sit down, wanted to be able to get away quickly if he said something that made her angrier than she already was. “Were you counting on me leaving once I heard the truth?”
“Possibly? Since when are you so wishy washy?”
“I am still interested in you, Christine. And the emotionalism brought by the meld with V’ger is not helping. The part of me that is capable of logical thought knows that Jim and I would be happier with you somewhere else. The part that is not logical wants more—wants both of you.”
“You’re right. That’s not logical.”
“As I said.”
The storm outside intensified, and he scooted back from the entrance. “When I took your memory, I reacted rather than acted in a premeditated way. I was still influenced by the Pon Farr.”
“You always have an excuse, don’t you? V’ger. The Pon Farr. It’s never just you that does wrong.” She sighed. “What did you think I would do back then if I’d known the truth? All you had to do was tell me you were with Jim, and I would have known things weren’t going to work out.”
“He would have noticed your unhappiness.”
“And you would have had to deal with actual consequences. But you did it to him, too? Why? What did Miramanee do to you? She died with his child in her belly, Spock.”
“He was someone else when he was with her. I gave him back who he was.”
“And took her away in the process? Not a fair trade.” She studied his expression. “What did they think of this on Gol?”
“It did not come up.”
“So you’re only sorry because Jim wants you to be sorry?”
He did not answer, and she knew she was right.
She crouched down next to him, not touching him but close enough to whisper in his ear. “You know you’re the aberration. He prefers women. Right now, he may even prefer me.” She could sense his posture change, got up quickly. “Maybe I won’t transfer off. Maybe I’ll stay and fight you for him.” She backed away. “What I won’t do is give you the easy out with a three-way. Something he can wake up from, awkward and embarrassed, realizing all he really wants is you.”
“There was a time you would have.”
“That time is gone. That Christine is gone.”
“So I see.” He looked up at her, and she was surprised by the emotion she read in his face. “Please do not stay.”
“I’ll do what I want.” She turned and left him alone with the storm.
Jim slept longer than Chapel expected. When he finally woke up, he looked around, still clearly groggy, and asked, “How long was I out? And where’s Spock?”
“About five hours. And guarding the door for unknown reasons—it’s just possible he can’t deal with me right now.”
“You were safely out, my dearest. I think I’m the problem.” She walked over and scanned him. His readings were fine. “I’ve never seen you sleep like that.”
“Technically, you’ve never seen me sleep. Unless it was in sickbay and then I was usually injured.”
She smiled. “True. But I’ve been on other missions that had some downtime and don’t remember my captain conking out.”
“I haven’t been sleeping much lately. I’ve had a lot on my mind. You, among other things.”
“As in what Spock did to me and how you were going to fix it? Or just me?”
He smiled. “Both.” He stretched and sat up. “I don’t want you to leave.”
“I don’t want to leave.”
They stared at each other.
She was the first to look away. “But you’re with him.”
“I am. Rushed right back into it.”
“That’s love for you.” She tried for a game smile, thought it probably came out weak. “Look, I’ll do whatever you want me to. Stay or transfer.”
“Think about it.” She turned away.
“Don’t go. Right now, I mean. I’m still thinking about long term.”
Turning back, she studied him.
“Sit with me. I’m hungry. Aren’t you?”
“I could eat.” She tossed him one of the apple-like fruits she had picked. “These smell heavenly.” She glanced at the tunnel that led to the cave mouth. “Should I take one to Spock?”
“He’s a big boy. He can get his own damn fruit.”
“Don’t be mad at him on my behalf, Jim, all right? I mean if you’re mad at him for other reasons, that’s up to you. But I can take care of myself.” She took a bite of the fruit, laughed as juice ran down her chin and she barely caught it.
He smiled and bit into his, managing not to have the same thing happen.
“Good at everything, aren’t you?”
“I wasn’t good on Earth. You got earfuls of that.”
She smiled gently. “I didn’t mind.” Then she looked down. “Even if you sought me out for reasons other than that you like me.”
“I do like you. I always have. Liking you isn’t the problem.” He took a deep breath and seemed to hold it, then he finally let it out. “I’m not even sure what Spock wants me to do here.”
“Stay with him. Be happy. If you need me in the mix to do it, he’ll let you, I think.” She took another bite, tried to be nonchalant. “Is that what you want? Me in the mix?” She laughed at his look. “I know. It’s idiotic when you say it out loud.” She met his eyes. “So dump him and choose me.” Then she laughed again to show him how stupid that sounded out loud, too.
He was grinning. “I’d miss you if you left. So don’t leave. Not yet. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Probably nothing. But I want you on my ship.”
“Spock may not like that if he can’t control it—if he can’t control me.”
“Last I checked, Spock wasn’t the captain.”
She smiled. “My mistake.” She nodded slowly. “I’ll stay for a while. Just having you talk to me again will be a nice treat.”
“I’m sorry I avoided you.” His smile was one she’d never gotten on Earth, one she’d never expected to get at any point. Seductive. Almost carefree—how much had this been weighing on him?
She smiled back the same way. “Fine. Just don’t do it again.”
She didn’t think it possible for his smile to get any brighter, but it did. “Aye aye, sir.”
Chapel was in the rec lounge a few days later when Jim walked in. He saw her and made a motion that she knew from Earth meant “Do you want another drink?” He also knew from Earth what she was drinking by the color of the liquid, so she held up her nearly empty glass of red wine and nodded.
He walked over, a grin that she found hard to resist on his face. “Hello there.” He handed her the wine, then put his Scotch down and sat next to her.
“You been hiding out?”
“Maybe.” She leaned back. “Actually, no. We’re neck deep in crew physicals because Len doesn’t trust the check-ins done by Starfleet medical and wants a new baseline for everyone. We’re down a doctor so I’ve been picking up some extra shifts.”
“The life of a doctor—it’s what you wanted, right?”
She nodded, but he immediately said, ‘What?”
“You have an expression that is less than happy.”
She sighed. “I guess I expected it to be a lot more...different than being a nurse. Len had me doing stuff that wasn’t strictly nursing.”
“You’re bored already?” He laughed softly.
“Not bored exactly. Just...” She searched for the right word.’’
She nodded. She looked past him to the door and saw Spock come in. He stopped when he saw Jim and her together. “Someone does not look happy we’re sitting here.”
Jim turned to see, made some kind of hand signal because Spock turned and walked over to where they usually set up their chessboard.
“What did you say to him with your super-secret boy code?”
He laughed. “To wait. He’s early. Then again, so am I because I hoped to see you in here.”
“Think he knew that?”
“Very possibly. He knows me pretty well.” He took a sip of his drink then leaned his head back and sighed. “I have missed this. Talking to you. Being with you.”
She followed his lead and relaxed against the soft leather. “I feel the same. Why do you think I was so sulky with you?” She reached over and touched his hand. “I really don’t hold it against you that you didn’t tell me what he did. I hold it against Spock but even that I’m letting go. I mean what can I do about it now?”
“If you really wanted to create a stink, you could. And I’d support you. I wouldn’t like doing that to him, but I also hate what he did.”
“No, I’m not going to. And not just because I don’t feel like getting him in trouble for it. Technically he could turn around and report me to Starfleet medical. I knew he was compromised when I slept with him.”
“Hmmm. Didn’t think of it like that. Doubt he would, either.”
“Well, I have. I was so eager to get him. Why didn’t I tell him to wait? Tell him if he wanted me, he’d want me the next day, or maybe the next—when his hormones had leveled out. Stupid choice on my part.”
“You were in love with him.”
“Yeah. But that’s not much of an excuse since he had not shown any interest in me up to that point.” She turned to look at him; he’d turned his head, too and was looking back at her. “Why couldn’t I just have fallen for you? Oh, wait, same problem. You two took each other off the market.”
He smiled. “Guess we did.”
“Until you broke up with him.” Why was she doing this? They’d been on fairly safe ground and now she was heading back to this?
“Until that. And he left. And I married Lori. And then there was you.”
“Me. Good old Chapel.”
“Not old. Not that good, either. Remember the bar fight you started in Bogota?”
She started to laugh. “I just said I didn’t want to dance with that guy. I never meant for you to defend me that way.”
“I didn’t like the way he was looking at you.” He laughed. “Man, he was a much better fighter than I am. And that doesn’t happen all that often. I was damn glad you were a doctor that day.”
She shook her head. “You’re an idiot.”
“Well, many would agree with you when it comes to me and fights and women.” He sighed. “That night, when you were fixing me up, that was the night I realized I wanted a lot more from you than just conversation.”
“For me it was that night we went to the waterfront and just walked around in the fog. Do you remember?”
He nodded. “You were cold. I didn’t have a jacket so I said my arms would have to do.”
He’d held her close and they’d walked like two lovers through the damp mist. She could have stayed out there all night. And later, once he’d dropped her off, she’d told herself not to be an idiot. That she could not fall in love with James T. Kirk. Her friend. And nothing more.
She glanced back at Spock. He was watching them intently. “What if he hadn’t come back? Would your rule have applied—although, you really don’t have that rule, do you? If you were with him back then.”
“My so-called rule is very convenient. People always fall back on it when they get to analyzing my relationship with Spock.” He studied her. “I think if he had not come back, you would have found out how permeable my rule is.”
“But without V’ger, I wouldn’t be here.”
“Damn V’ger calling out to Spock. How’s that?”
“Without Spock and his meld, we might not have made it.”
“I can’t win.”
“Sorry.” He glanced over at Spock. “He really doesn’t look happy.” He made no move to get up.
“You’re deliberately ticking him off? Does it make the sex better or something?”
“No. Well, yes, sometimes, but that’s not why I’m doing it. He can’t control everything. He needs to learn that.”
“And if I suddenly keel over and die in a suspicious way, I want him to be the first person you question.”
He laughed. “He won’t do that. He cares for you. That’s the whole problem. He’s not just jealous of you. He’s jealous of me, too.”
“If you say so.”
“I do say so. I know him pretty well, too.” He threw back his drink and got up. “I’ll leave you in peace.”
“Not likely. Being with you is...stimulating.”
His grin was a gorgeous thing to behold. She imagined Spock’s face got just a little stonier if he was watching.
Chapel looked up to see Len studying her with a musing look on his face. “What? You are not going to make us redo the physicals again, are you?”
“Landing party. Spock’s leading. And you’re on it, not me, by his request. That’s the third time this month. Something you want to tell me?”
She went back to her terminal. “Nope.” Pulling up the mission parameters, she saw they were surveying a planet Starfleet hoped to use to replace one of the bases V’ger had destroyed. Weird eddies in the atmosphere made transporting problematic; she didn’t think the shuttle ride down would be much fun, either.
“Is he suddenly sweet on you? Why wouldn’t you want to tell me that?” She’d think Len was lost in a “Spock loves Christine” fantasy if it weren’t for the almost disapproving look on his face. She decided not to dwell too much on it and pushed past him to gather her equipment.
She had a feeling that Spock just wanted her where he could see her. And very far from Jim. The two together: perfect.
She closed her bag, slung it over her shoulder, and made her way to the shuttle bay.
Spock was waiting. “You will work with me, Doctor.”
“Of course I will.” She wasn’t entirely sure why, once he got her away from Jim, he needed to keep her this close. Did he think she was going to comm Jim and whisper sweet nothings as she worked?
There were six other officers on the mission. Spock landed at different spots in the region Starfleet had identified and let the landing party out in groups of two, then finally landed in the area Chapel and he would survey.
As they disembarked, she said, “So I’m included on another of your landing parties. Is it me you don’t trust—or is it Jim?”
He turned to look at her. “I am merely ensuring Doctor McCoy is not favored when selecting medical personnel for missions.”
“Like hell.” She looked out at the barren landscape in front of them. “You want left or right?”
“I will let you have your pick.”
“You’re a peach.” She chose left simply because she thought he would assume she’d go right.
She lost herself in the task at hand: surveying, taking samples, and getting a big sense of the endless prairie in front of them. She didn’t want to know what Starfleet would be doing here: no one would sneak up on them doing it, that was for sure.
She heard Spock coming up behind her and turned quickly.
He looked surprised. “I am sorry if I startled you.”
His eyes narrowed. “Are you frightened of me?”
“Whole lot of nothing right here, Spock. Anything could happen.”
“I would never harm you.”
“Oh, so wiping my memory wasn’t harming me? What if I’d gotten pregnant?”
“You did not. And when I asked at the time, you were up to date on your contraceptives, as I’m sure you remember now that you have your memories back.” He moved closer, seemed sincerely taken aback when she again moved away. “Christine, do you think I would hurt you?”
“I don’t know what you would do, Spock. I know not a damn person would see you do it if you did it here.”
He took a deep breath. “I have no desire to hurt you.”
“I know you wish I was off the ship.”
“Those are two very different things.” He backed up a few steps. “It is time to go. Unless you have more to do?”
“I’m done.” She followed him onto the shuttle, sat for takeoff but once they were airborne, she went to the head, hiding out for a moment in the quiet, tiny space. Did she think he would hurt her? She’d reacted that way but if she thought about it, it was a difficult scenario to imagine—barring her trying to interfere with the Pon Farr.
But even then—he’d need a woman. Jim hadn’t done before. Jim would be in danger—Spock had killed Jim, or thought he had, even though he’d been involved with him. They must have just been starting up; she hadn’t asked Jim much about his relationship with Spock, and what she had asked had been met with vague answers. Jim clearly did not want to talk about the gory details to her. Which in a way was comforting—he probably told Spock very little about the time he’d spent with her.
If he and Spock were new together during the Pon Farr, she could imagine Spock panicking once he realized what he’d done with her. Could see it more easily than if they’d been together for a long time. He’d probably thought his Pon Farr was never going to come, had let Jim in only to have it hit.
She sighed. What difference did any of this make? She looked at herself in the mirror. Should she leave the ship? Was she here for any reason other than stubbornness?
Suddenly the shuttle lurched and she was thrown back. The head was so tiny that she didn’t go far before she hit the wall, then was flying the short distance forward as the ship jerked. She sank to the floor, got into a ball, and felt the ship lurch again, then the sickening drop of a crash.
They hit hard, but she thought she was spared much damage by the cramped quarters and the fact that nothing was loose in the head. She pushed the door open, not easy since debris was blocking it, and saw that the rear of the shuttle had taken the most damage, anyone back there would have been crushed.
She made her way to the pilot’s seat, found Spock with a piece of wreckage impaled in his chest. A fatal wound in a human but his heart was lower. “Can you hear me, Spock?”
No response. She reached for her communicator, “Chapel to Enterprise.”
“Enterprise here.” Uhura’s voice had never sounded so good.
“The shuttle crashed. Spock is badly injured. Get another shuttle down here fast but be careful of the eddies. They’re worse than we thought.”
“Chris?” Jim’s voice was tight.
“The rest of the landing party is not aboard, sir. They’re fine. I’m fine. It’s just Spock. I’m going to stabilize him but please hurry.”
“We’re on our way.”
It did not surprise her at all that he’d come.
She scrounged through the wreckage until she found her bag and pulled it out. Scanning him, she saw that he had internal damage, but the piece of metal was holding everything in place. She dug around in the bag, found adhesive foam, and sprayed it around his chest where the piece was stuck. It would keep it from coming out when they moved him to the other shuttle.
“Spock, can you hear me?” She didn’t want to wake him up if he was deeply unconscious, but she needed to keep him still if he regained consciousness.
His eyes flickered open. He started to move and she held him down gently. “What are you do—”
“You have a piece of metal sticking in your chest. It is preventing you from bleeding out. Let’s keep it that way.”
He glanced down, then looked back up at her. “Are you injured?”
“Bruised maybe. I was in the head when we crashed. Nowhere to go when we hit. Nothing to fall on me.”
“Good.” He was taking shallow breaths, and she scanned him again.
“You can breathe normally. I know it’s hard but just try to relax. I don’t want to move you but I need to make sure you’re not bleeding from the back.” She ran her hand gently behind him, checking for the other end of the metal or any blood. Nothing. Good.
“You could have let me die.”
“You’re not dying on my watch, Spock.”
“You would have Jim if I died.”
“If I get Jim, it won’t be because I let you die. Shut up about dying, will you?”
He seemed to be breathing better, so she commed the other teams, told them there would be a delay and to hold tight until a shuttle came for them. Then she turned back to him.
“Are you in pain? I have painkiller in here.”
He shook his head and met her eyes. “I am sorry that I took your memory.”
“No, Christine. I am truly sorry. Not simply because Jim wants me to be.”
“You’re not dying, Spock. You don’t need to make things right between us.”
“I believe that I do. I have you accompany me on these landing parties because I trust neither you nor Jim, but I have you work directly with me because I still want you.” He did not look away from her. “Perhaps it is I who should not be trusted?”
“I think that’s been established, Spock.” She touched his shoulder gently. “You’re just saying stuff you think I want to hear. Stop it. You’ll be fine in a few hours and you can go back to telling me to get off the ship.”
“I do not want you off the ship.”
She rolled her eyes. “Trust me. Once you no longer have a big piece of metal jutting out of your chest, you’ll feel much less positive about me.”
“I want you and I want Jim. He wants you and he wants me. I assume, from what I am reading from your touch, that despite your uncertainty around me, you still have feelings for me. And you want Jim.”
“We are not all going to jump into bed together.”
“Yes, you have made that clear. But what if we...shared in a more singular way?”
She could feel her eyebrow going up in a creditable imitation of his. “What?”
“You and I would both be with Jim. You and he would both be with me.”
She scanned his head. His brainwave patterns looked fine.
“I am serious, Christine.”
“Uh huh. You talk to Jim about it. If he says yes, then sure.” She laughed softly. There was no way in hell Jim was going to say yes.
Chapel was sitting in her office when Jim came in. She’d seen him out in the main area, sitting with Spock, who was being held for observation at least overnight, much to his dismay. “Hi,” she said with a smile.
“For what? Doing my job?”
“He said you were especially kind.”
“I don’t think I was. Not compared to how I would have been before.” She rolled her eyes at the thought of how she would have been making an ass of herself, no doubt holding Spock’s hand, some sappy look on her face.
He got up. “Have you eaten?”
“You on duty technically?”
She smiled. “Nope.”
“Come with me. I need company.”
She looked down. “Is it fair to do that to Spock? It feels like kicking him when he’s down or something.”
Jim laughed. “He’s fine with it. He told me you’ve been in here since you brought him in. That you needed a break.”
“He was sleeping some of that time. He doesn’t know if I popped out to grab something or not.”
“He thinks he does.” Jim held out his hand. “Come on. I can’t take being alone right now.”
She took his hand, tried to ignore how good it felt to be holding on that way. He let go of her as soon as she was up. As they walked out, she looked over at Spock. He nodded, as if in satisfaction—that his master plan was working, no doubt—then closed his eyes.
She shook her head.
She realized Jim had been watching them. “Nothing. He’s just a busybody.”
“One we’re both very fond of.”
“Well, you are, anyway.”
“Mmm hmmm.” He was quiet as they walked to the lift, but once they were on it, he told the lift to stop. “Look, he told me what the two of you talked about.” When she didn’t say anything, he said, “About us sharing you. Or you two sharing me. Whichever.”
“We didn’t talk so much as he spouted this nonsense and I listened so he wouldn’t get agitated and move the thing impaling him.”
“So, you don’t want that?” He held up a hand when she started to answer. “No, don’t shoot off a smart-ass response. Think about it. Do you want it? Because he’s dead serious and this is not the first time he’s brought it up. At least with me.”
“Do you want it?”
He sighed. “I had to come down to get Spock myself today. I would have done the same if it had been you who was hurt. Anyone else—even Bones, probably—I’d let security and medical take the lead. I’d stay on the bridge like I’m supposed to.”
“Somebody tell you that? A captain’s place is on the bridge?”
“Nogura, actually. Told me no more dumb-ass stunts and to let other people lead occasionally.”
“You do let other people lead. Nogura doesn’t know shit.”
He laughed. “Well, I appreciate the support. He does, however, control my destiny, so I’m trying to listen to him when I can.” He moved closer. “So, do you want to?”
“To stay off the bridge?”
He smiled. Then he kissed her. As kisses went it was definitely in the top ten. As he pulled her closer and deepened the kiss, she moved him up to top five. By the time he let her go, he was residing alone at the top.
“Jim.” She touched his cheek, then dropped her hand when she realized what she was doing.
“I’ve been wanting to do that. Why didn’t I kiss you when we were both on Earth?”
“I don’t know. Maybe because you love Spock, not me.”
“More likely because you were leaving and I was in a bad way emotionally. I don’t know.” He touched her lips, then backed away and told the lift to resume.
“Do I have to transfer off if I say no to this arrangement?”
He shot her a disappointed look. “You say no and we’ll never speak of it again. And if Spock badgers you, tell me and I’ll ensure he lays off.” He glanced away then back at her. “Are you saying no?” He seemed to be keeping his expression even, to give her an easy out if she was saying that.
“I don’t know what I’m saying. I’m not saying anything right now, all right? I’m hungry and I want to eat with my friend.”
“You didn’t kiss me like just a friend.”
She sighed. “I know. Just...let me think about this.”
“No problem.” He leaned back against the lift wall. “This is crazy.”
“On that we are very much agreed.”
“Crazy but very tempting.”
She looked over at him. He was staring at the lift doors. “On that we’re also agreed,” she said softly.
If he was trying to hide his smile, he failed.
Some days later she was still trying to decide what to do. Jim had let the matter drop, and Spock was being unfailingly solicitous but did not bring the issue up.
She was finishing up with a patient when she saw Jim standing at the door of Len’s office. He looked over and made a gesture that she could tell meant he wanted to talk to her, so she met him in her office.
“You busy tomorrow?” he asked.
Tomorrow they were going to be orbiting Maldru X, where shore leave was authorized. She hadn’t made plans yet although Ny was pestering her to stay at some ritzy resort on the far continent with her.
Her friend knew nothing about what was going on. Chapel didn’t know if she wasn’t telling her because she was going to say no or because she was going to say yes, and didn’t want her judging.
She shook her head. “I’m not busy yet.”
“Good. Have you ever eaten at Naluvu’s?”
She’d heard of it. Half the quadrant had probably heard of it. Ridiculously expensive and harder than hell to get a reservation to. The food was supposed to be the best the quadrant had to offer, served in unique and delicious ways. “Can’t say it’s a place I’ve frequented.”
He smiled. “Spock and I are going to dinner there. We made the reservation for three. Was that...overstepping?”
“You want me to go to dinner with you? On your...what? Date night?”
“Pretty much, yep.” He smiled. “It’s just dinner, Chris. It doesn’t have to mean anything else.”
“Whose idea was this?”
“Mine, actually. I don’t know what’s going to happen between the three of us—or any two of us.” He winked. “But I do know that we haven’t really spent much time together, all three of us, when the mood was something other than hostile. So let’s change that.”
“I don’t know.”
“Chris, come on. They have a dance floor and Spock won’t dance.” He grinned when he laughed. “Say yes and then find something sexy to wear.”
“Yes, you. Do you still have that green dress? The one that’s very low cut?”
She laughed. “You remember that one?”
“A man does not forget a dress like that. You wore it the night you went on that awful date, remember? You bitched to me about how he chewed.”
She looked down, laughing hard. “Bits of food spewed from his mouth. It was truly horrible.”
“Well, neither Spock or I do that. So you’re safe. Wear the dress. Dance with me. Flirt with Spock. It’ll do you good after all those years of wanting him. Even if you end up not doing anything else, you can tease him a little. I guarantee he’ll like the dress.”
“This is weird, Jim.”
“Yes. Yes, it is. So is that a no or a yes? Because if it’s only going to be Spock and I, I need to change the reservation.”
She thought of her gorgeous green dress hanging unused in her closet since that date. Of how fun it would be to just have a night out. With Jim. And Spock. Who apparently wanted her, or so he and Jim kept saying. Maybe she could see just how much. Saying yes to dinner didn’t have to mean yes to everything.
“Okay? You’ll go?”
“Great. I’ll swing by to get you after shift.”
“Okay. Am I going to regret this?”
“I don’t know. Do you normally regret a great meal in an exclusive place with very nice men, one of whom is footing the bill because his family is richer than God?”
She laughed. “Well, when you put it that way...”
He leaned in. “Thank you. I can’t wait to dance.” He stayed there a moment, not reaching out, just meeting her eyes, his grin so bright it made her smile, too. Then he straightened up, turned on his heel, and walked out.
The restaurant was amazing. The food was unusual and delicious. Jim was charming as ever but Spock surprised her in how...fun he could be. And she could tell they both liked her dress. Both of them were sneaking peeks at her chest, which, she had to be honest, was almost scandalously bared. The dress retained what little coverage it had by tenacity and some really good body adhesive.
Jim ordered an Adlevian sparkling wine that left champagne in the dust. They drank the bottle quickly, and she could feel her head starting to spin. Fortunately the appetizers came before she could say anything stupid.
They ate and talked, and Spock told them some of what his studies at Gol had entailed. She could tell from the look on Jim’s face that he hadn’t heard the stories before, realized Spock was giving her this—giving them something that was both of theirs, not recycled stories for her to catch up on.
Jim told them about his son David. She thought Spock knew most of it, but the part about him going to see the boy—from a distance but still to see him—while he’d been Earthbound was new. The look on Jim’s face when he stopped talking made her sad and she leaned over and rubbed his arm. “It’s not fair what she did to you.”
He nodded and she looked at Spock, saw that his eyes were very soft. This was clearly territory he was used to treading very gently over.
She tried to think of what to give them that they didn’t know. Something that Jim hadn’t heard already. She finally said, “I guess you figured out I was Roger’s lover when I was his student?”
Jim nodded; Spock looked surprised. She laughed. “I don’t have a lot of...filters, maybe is the right word. Or I didn’t. I took what I wanted back then. And smart men, powerful men, they’re a turn on.”
Jim grinned at Spock. “Sums us up, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, it does, but that’s not my point. Since I’ve been in Starfleet, I’ve tried to change.”
Spock lifted his eyebrow very high. “In what way, Christine, is pursuing me a change? I am both above you in the hierarchy—indeed in a position of power over you and on the ship in general—and highly intelligent.”
Jim started to laugh. “He does have a point. I think the change was someone beat you to him.”
“Crap. Have I not changed?” She made a face at them both. “I did not sleep with a single professor in med school.”
“Wait a minute. Who’d you buy this dress for?” Jim was looking at her like he was going to throw the bullshit flag down at any minute.
“Well, he wasn’t my professor.” She made a face. “Oh, God, I haven’t changed at all.”
“It’s okay. We like you this way.” Jim laughed, then pointed to the dance floor. “Shall I rescue you from your ‘foot in mouth’ disease? The orchestra is starting up.”
She looked at Spock. “You’re okay with that?”
“As I will not dance with him, nor does he particularly want me to since we would no doubt both try to lead, I am most relieved.” He gestured to the dance floor. “Please.”
She let Jim pull her up, followed him out to the dance floor, his hand tight on hers. At first it took them a bit to find their rhythm, but then it was good.
Hell, then it was great.
They danced through about five songs before he said, “Thank you for coming out with us.”
“Big hardship. The two most attractive men on the ship.” She grinned at him.
He pushed her hair back—she’d worn it down, in long waves. Taken time with her make-up, too. Nothing like the old days—she wasn’t that woman, anymore. But she thought she looked good. She thought, by the way he was pressing against her, that he thought so, too.
As he pulled her closer, the music rising and the lights dimming a little in the room, she felt his hand on her back, rubbing gently. She closed her eyes, tried to tell herself the sensation of one hand on her skin could not possibly feel as good as this was feeling.
It was impossible. This felt goddamn great.
She opened her eyes, saw that Spock was watching them. The look on his face was intense, but she saw no hostility in it. To anyone watching he probably just looked like a typical Vulcan. To her, he looked...interested.
She met his eyes just before Jim turned her away in the dance. Spock’s lip ticked up every so slightly and it was not a sardonic almost-smile as she was used to. He liked watching them?
“Is it just me or did you get distracted?” Jim laughed softly. “I’m a pretty good dancer, so I’m relatively sure it’s not me.”
“Spock is watching us.”
“Yes, I imagine he is.”
“He doesn’t look mad.”
“Mad is a long way from what he’s probably feeling.” He ran his hand down her back in a long, languorous stroke, and she realized they were in a place on the dance floor where Spock could easily see him do it.
“Am I just your warm-up act, Jim?”
He sighed, then nuzzled her neck gently. “You aren’t. You shouldn’t have to ask that. Not after all the time we spent together on Earth.”
“Talking. We spent it talking.”
“And laughing. Being with you was the only time I laughed.” He leaned back so she could see his face. “Do you know a better form of foreplay than really connecting?”
His eyes were so intense, she lost her step again, but he kept them moving, seemed to have been expecting her to do it. “I’ve had a lot to drink, and so have you. In my jacket pocket are some antitox. I want you to take one and give me one.”
She did as he said, but once the magical pills were dissolving in their mouths, she said, “Why spoil the nice buzz?”
“Because I need you to answer something sober. And I need to ask it sober.” He pulled her closer again, buried his face in her shoulder. “Just give the stuff a moment to work.”
She closed her eyes, gave herself up to the feeling of being held by him. She almost missed when he started talking very softly.
“I have a hotel room in town. It’s expected of me, you know? On account of me being such a slut. Everyone knows I’d have to sample the local product.” He kissed her neck. “It’s always been convenient for Spock and me what people think. It can be convenient for you and Spock and me, too, if you want it to be?”
“The three of us. One room?”
“Yes.” He kept them dancing. “I’ve thought about the other idea. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want to share you with him if I’m not there.” He sighed. “I don’t want to share him with you, either, if I’m not there.”
“Is this just a one-time thing? A shore leave and then...what?”
“I’m not sure. We’ll see how we feel when it’s happening, when it’s over. Maybe this is what we need and we’ll be done with it after that. Maybe not.” He ran his hand down her back again. “I don’t plan to move you both into my quarters, if that’s what you’re asking. Spock and I have always been discreet. A lot of our best times were on shore leave.”
“If I start tagging along, people will talk.”
“I don’t think they’ll come up with the real answer. They’ll think I’m interested in you or Spock is, and that they read what was going on with Spock and me all wrong.”
She had to admit that if she were watching from the outside, that was probably how she would interpret a woman suddenly in the mix. Especially given Jim’s reputation. And Spock’s lack of one.
“Or we can just say goodnight at the transporter station. You go back up to the ship in that gorgeous dress you are wearing the hell out of. We’ll stay down here. Life goes on. Either way, I got to dance tonight.” He laughed, making it easy for her to answer however she wanted to.
“He wants me there?”
“He does. But I think you should ask him yourself. I think you’re sure of me but not of him.”
“I think you’re right. What if I just want you, Jim?”
He sighed. “I love him, Chris. I love you, too, but I’m not going to choose you over him, not right now, not when I just got him back. But it speaks volumes about how much I feel for you that I can’t be happy with just him the way I used to be.” He laughed softly. “You could do worse than the two of us.”
She chuckled. “Yes, that’s what I’ll tell the board of inquiry. ‘Hey, I could have done worse. At least I picked the two highest ranking men on board.’” She leaned back so she could see his face. “That’s what I did with Roger so I know how to be discreet.”
“I know you do.”
She sighed. “Okay, I want to talk to Spock. There’s a blonde at the bar that’s been eyeing us. Go ask her to dance while I talk to him.”
“It’s possible she’s eyeing you.” He laughed.
“I think I can tell what she’s looking at. And it’s your oh-so-firm derriere. Working out pays off—never think we women don’t notice.”
He laughed and let her go. “Go talk to him.” Then he looked toward the bar. “The blonde in the blue dress or in black?”
She realized a new woman had sat down. “I was thinking of the one in black. But ask whoever you want.” She ran her hand down his back the same way he’d been doing to him.
“Oh, now that’s what I’m talking about.” He shot her a very amused grin and moved off toward the bar.
She walked back to the table. Spock rose as she approached, held her chair for her, even.
She smiled. “Your mom trained you up right.”
“Yes, she did. That is a human custom, by the way, not a Vulcan one. We assume people can seat themselves without assistance.”
“Good to know.” She studied him. “It’s fish or cut bait time, Spock. I need to know what you want. Because maybe it’s time for me to get off the ship and out of this—whatever this is—between the three of us.”
“If it were only Jim who wanted you, I would tell you to leave. It is not only Jim who wants you. I desired you before I took you during the Pon Farr and that feeling never subsided, even if I made you forget we ever acted on it.”
She took a deep breath, nodding slowly as she thought about what he said. “This is a mess we’re walking into, you realize that? It’s not...normal.”
“For some species, single pairs are not normal.”
“For our species, Spock. For humans. For Vulcans—unless your people are closeted like nobody’s business. We pair up. We do not...see, there’s not even a word for it. Trio up? That sounds stupid.”
“Must we label it?”
“Yes, we must. You and I are scientists. We live and die by labels.”
“Then we will come up with one. We are extremely intelligent beings. I have no doubt we can think of something original and descriptive.”
She laughed and rolled her eyes.
“Christine, if you were not as intelligent as you are, I would have no interest in you. Other than what I already have taken from you. But you will add something to the relationship Jim and I are trying to rebuild. You have history with him that I do not, during a period he and I were not together.”
“And you think you can fill that gap with me? I think it might be better if you talked it out and filled it with your own bridges.”
“It would be more traditional to do that. I am not convinced it would be better.” He leaned back, steepled his fingers, and—she could tell—prepared to deliver a huge load of well-thought-out bullshit. “Jim and I have never been traditional people. Neither have you, when you consider your path and what you have done. We are also all enormously determined individuals. Do you not think we would make our own way in romance as well as everything else?”
“I’m not entirely sure I’d call this romance, Spock. It feels more like a negotiation. And why do you want this so much, anyway? Do you see him leaving you for me? Because he just told me he wasn’t going to do that.”
“I am not doing this because I am afraid of what I might lose. I am doing this because I am able to anticipate what I might gain.”
She leaned forward and put her face in her hands. “You make it sound logical. How the hell do you make it sound so logical?”
She suddenly felt his hand on her back, rubbing slowly.
“This is not logical, Christine. This is desire.” He stopped rubbing, let his hand sit at the small of her back, generating a great deal of heat. “You look beautiful in this dress.”
“I may have worked a little harder than normal at making myself presentable. Since it was for both of you—this...date, or whatever we call this.”
“You are more than simply presentable.”
She took a deep breath. Who the hell was she kidding? She’d kick herself from now to the day she died if she didn’t at least try this. One night. That was all this had to be. “Have you paid the bill?”
“Then let’s get the hell out of here.” She looked over at Jim on the dance floor. He was watching them over his partner’s shoulder. “Do whatever signal means, ‘We snookered her, now let’s go.’”
“That is not what this signal means.” Spock did something with his hand, and Jim smiled broadly.
When the music stopped, he walked the blonde off the dance floor, then strode casually over to them, as if he had no burning interest in getting them out of there. “So, we have a decision?”
She nodded. “This is a trial run. Or maybe a fantasy come true and that’s it. One night. That’s all I’m committing to.”
He nodded. Then he looked at Spock. “You outdid yourself.”
“I was quite persuasive, Jim.”
“Oh, quit congratulating each other.” She walked off, heard them coming up quickly behind her. She smiled as they flanked her—it was damned nice to suddenly be this wanted. Even if it only worked for a night.
It was a short walk to the hotel Jim had booked. A lovely place, all dark wood and some marble-like stone. He led them to an elevator marked “Private” and smiled. “Benefit of saving the quadrant. You get a room on the ritzy floors.” He palmed the up button and the elevator opened.
The ride was quick, and the elevator opened to a woman sitting at a fancy desk. “Captain Kirk. So glad you will be staying with us.” She gave Spock and Chapel warm smiles and then ignored them in a gracious rather than snooty way.
Discretion apparently came with the private check-in.
She held out a padd for them to run their hands over to get access to the door, and Chapel looked at Jim to see if he really wanted a record of her being there.
He shot her a strange look and then said with a grin, “I’m not going to let you in if you get locked out fetching ice. Palm yourself on the door, woman.”
Chapel did what he said, but glanced back at him. “Fetching ice is not my job.”
“Figure of speech.”
“I will procure any ice that is needed,” Spock said, and his tone was that of someone who thought he needed to make peace.
She grinned at Jim who laughed softly. She moved back to let Spock put his palm on the padd and whispered, “Now we know how to get him to do things. Fake fight.”
“Christine, I am perfectly capable of hearing you at that volume.”
The woman was ignoring their witty repartee; she input a few things to the padd and then said, “Room 2203, Captain. Enjoy your stay.”
Jim turned and led Spock and Chapel down the hallway. Their room was large with a separate sitting room, and a nicely sized bed in the bedroom. The view was amazing, and she stood for a moment at the window taking it in.
When she turned, she saw that Jim was leaning on a console table, his eyes going from her to Spock. “I think Chris needs you to show her you really mean this, Spock. And I know I’m not averse to watching that.”
She swallowed audibly, then could feel her face turning red. Holy God, was there any scenario in which this wasn’t awkward? One that didn’t involve alcohol anyway?
“Relax, Chris. And it might be helpful to breathe.” Jim was enjoying this way too much.
If she’d thought Spock had looked predatory during the Pon Farr, he was double that now. There was nothing tentative about the way he approached her, the way he drew her into his arms. He smoothed her hair back, ran his hands down her back and inside the fabric, cupping her rear. “Kiss me,” he said very softly.
“You kiss me.”
For a moment, they stayed there, like two stubborn school kids, then Jim laughed and Spock raised an eyebrow and leaned in and kissed her.
Kissed the hell out of her, to be exact.
She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back for all she was worth. When they pulled away enough to breathe, they both turned and looked at Jim.
He smiled and pushed himself off the console. “Hot. Very, very hot.” He held out his hand to her. “Come here.”
She went. He caught her up and kissed her in a way that made what he did in the lift seem like a schoolboy. He was grinning when they pulled away.
She knew she was grinning the same way. “Okay, if those kisses were any indication, I am not going to survive this.”
Jim laughed. “They have excellent medical staff at this hotel.”
Chapel decided not to ask how they knew that.
She woke, Jim on one side of her, his hand thrown casually over her stomach, Spock on the other, his hand on her thigh. She shifted slightly, realized that she was very sore in places that had not been used for a while.
It felt goddamn fantastic.
The boys had pulled out all the stops. She wasn’t sure there were names for some of the positions they’d gotten her into.
And she’d had fun with them, not just sex. Sure they were passionate and intense but so easy to be naked around. Spock especially surprised her. Once he realized she was committed to enjoying herself, he seemed to fully relax—and really let go.
And the man could seriously let go when he wanted to.
She hadn’t felt this...free in a long time. She’d been running toward things for so long. Going from undergrad to masters to doctorate. Then trying to keep up with Roger. Then putting everything on hold to find him. Even once she found him, she’d thrown herself into nursing, then finished her MD program in record time—and somehow won the appointment as CMO on the goddamn flagship.
She’d run herself ragged. She was tired. And it was nice to just lie back and enjoy the afterglow of something that was just for her.
And something she didn’t have to commit to.
She did not have to commit to this. For a moment, she just played with that idea like it was a candy she’d never tried before. A really good candy she might like to have every now and then but not make a diet of.
“You look happy,” Jim said softly, and she turned her head, saw that he was watching her with a smile.”
“I am. I feel great. I may not be able to walk when we finally get out of this bed, but I feel wonderful.”
He smiled. “For what it’s worth, I feel great, too.”
She leaned in and kissed him. “It’s worth a lot. And our Vulcan friend—I think he enjoyed himself.”
“Oh, hell, yeah. He only makes that much noise when he’s lost in it.” He grinned.
“I think I need to say something that might not make you happy, though.”
“I’m lousy in bed?” He started to laugh. “I have terrible body odor? You hate the shape of my dick?”
She laughed. “No, you big idiot. You’re great in bed, you smell fine, and I happen to love your dick.”
“Whew.” He smiled gently, clearly waiting.
“Okay, so this is not what I expected to be saying but...I really like being the free agent part of this equation. I mean, this was amazing and I’m very much interested in doing it again if you two want to. But...I like the freedom of not being in a relationship. I don’t want to...”
“Commit?” He started to laugh. “Chris, this is not a revelation to me. It will be to Spock. He tends to think of relationships in terms of possession, so we’ll have to work on him.” He reached over and pushed Spock’s arm gently. “You awake, buddy?”
Chapel laughed when Spock made grumbly still-asleep noises.
“He can sleep through anything once he’s really worn out.” Jim kissed her slowly, then smiled as he pulled away. “Chris, when have you ever been a traditional type?”
“I was with Roger.”
“Were you? Were you ever with Roger? He shipped out relatively soon after you two got engaged, right?”
She nodded. “Two months or so.”
“And before your engagement, were you living openly together?”
She shook her head. “He planned this elaborate strategy for us to avoid scandal to him or me. The engagement was the culmination of that. And then after the engagement, he was giving up his apartment, so he moved in with me, but it wasn’t as if we had settled down together. Everything was being sent to storage, not integrated. He was gone a lot for the mission prep.”
“And you let him go off for a long-term mission without you. Right after getting engaged.”
“Well, I had a project I was working on. One more degree to get.” She smiled. “Oh.”
“Yeah. And you were the one to leave the Enterprise not because you had a hopeless crush on me like Jan did, or on Spock as many might think. You left the ship because you were bored out of your mind.”
“I never said that.”
“You didn’t have to.” He rubbed her cheek. “I can read you better than you think.”
“But I left everything to find Roger.”
“You did. I never said you’re not capable of great devotion and love. I just don’t think you’re made for the day to day, necessarily. And I’m all right with that.” He pulled her close, cuddled her and kissed her forehead. “It’s probably better in some ways. I don’t see how three of us would work. But two with a very special friend?”
She smiled. “Will you have other very special friends?”
She decided she loved that answer. “I love you. I love Spock. I can see loving you the rest of my life.” She smiled sheepishly. “With no commitments. Is that fair to you two?”
“Normally, I’d worry if we were being fair to you since I am committed to him.”
She thought about that. “I don’t feel any undue angst.”
“Doesn’t surprise me. If I were a betting man, and I sort of am, I’d say you’ll be off this ship in two years tops. You’ll get bored in sickbay really quickly, even as a doctor, I think. I can move you to some other science billet, but then you’ll get bored again. You’ve always been restless, Chris. Look how many degrees you have—how many subjects you minored in.”
“Restless. I’ve never thought of myself that way.”
“And you’re ambitious, too. You could have had me on Earth, but you wanted the Enterprise, you wanted to be CMO.”
“I’m not Lori-style ambitious. For what it’s worth, I didn’t know I could have you.”
“For what it’s worth, you never even explored it. Married. Kids. Is that what you want?”
“Kids maybe. Someday. And how convenient would that be for you two? Built-in baby mama.”
He smiled. “That’s not why we’re here. Not that the idea isn’t attractive, since you’ve put it out there. But we’re here because I love you and so does he—or he wants you a lot and it’s a short step to love.”
“So we’re together but not. I’m your on-the-side girlfriend?”
“Minus the sneaking around part. You’ll start spending more time with us on the ship. People will get used to seeing us together. And whenever we feel like it, we can do this.”
“I really liked this. I wasn’t sure how it would work with three.”
“I’ve done it. It was never this good. It was never full of the feelings I think we all three share.” He rubbed her arm. “I do love you, Chris.”
She felt Spock move behind her, nuzzling in, his arm going around her waist as he spooned her. “You’re awake?” she asked.
“I have been. I knew you two would talk more honestly if you thought I was asleep.”
That was an important fact to file away: Spock was unfailingly sneakier than she expected. “This honest talk upsetting you?”
“Somewhat. A free agent implies to me that you might sleep with others on the ship.”
“A free agent implies I have that right. The fact that I love you two, and sex with you is mind boggling is likely to limit any desire on my part to find a new partner.”
His voice was amused as he said, “That is very logical.” He kissed the back of her neck, sending shivers down her spine. “This is unexpected, though, that you would not want to be with us as a full partner.”
“Thought I was the little woman type?” Truth to tell, she had sort of thought of herself that way, too. Jim was full of interesting insights, which is why she’d enjoyed talking to him all those times on Earth.
“I did.” He reached a little further, found Jim’s hand and squeezed—she could feel the sensation as they touched over her stomach. “This will take some getting used to.”
“I think a threesome in general will take some getting used to, dear.” Jim was grinning.
“Yes, no doubt. I am tired. Go back to sleep.” Spock nuzzled deeper into her neck and soon his breathing changed to that of slumber.
“Gets imperious when he’s tired, huh?”
“That he does.” Jim shot him a fond look over her shoulder. “I don’t mind.”
Chapel knew she was smiling way too much the next day as she worked through her shift. Len kept looking at her with a “What the hell have you been up to?” expression on his face.
She even found herself flirting a little with Lieutenant Austin from astrophysics. But he flirted first, saying, “I should have gotten injured way before now. I haven’t seen you around,” before she could even get her scanner going.
“Then you don’t get out much.”
He laughed. “I do, actually. Do you?”
She tried to bite back the smile that was threatening. She might not get out all that much but when she did, she went to town. “Maybe not.”
“I don’t know. That little grin you’re hiding is saying something. Maybe I should ask for a switch to Alpha shift?”
There was a low cough behind her, and she saw Austin suddenly straighten up and mutter, “Sir, hello.”
She knew without turning around that it was Spock. “Doctor McCoy is in his office if you need him, sir.”
“I was hoping to talk to you.”
“You can wait in my office, if you like.”
“I prefer to wait here as I have not had time to welcome Lieutenant Austin to the ship. Aside from your injury, how are you finding it?”
“It’s good, sir. Great, actually. I was about to tell Doctor...”
“Chapel,” she murmured.
“Chapel that I’d like to be on Alpha shift.”
Austin was ballsy, she’d give him that.
“Gamma might be more appropriate,” Spock said in his most Vulcan tone. “We tend to overload Alpha or Beta with good officers to the detriment of Gamma shift.”
Austin’s face changed. “I’m happy on Beta, sir. I don’t need to be changed.”
“So long as you are sure. Doctor, I think I will wait in your office.”
“Okey dokey.” She resisted rolling her eyes, just patched Austin up as quickly as she could and released him.
She went into her office, hit the privacy lock, and said, “What was that?”
“I was making small talk with a member of the crew. It is required of me as first officer.”
“You were practically pissing in the corners. I’m not your property.”
“I did not say you were.”
“You have no reason to be jealous. It’s partially your fault that I’m feeling...flirtatious.”
“And the other reason is Lieutenant Austin?”
She sat on her desk in front of him. “No, the other reason would be Jim. You remember him. Brown hair, hazel eyes, was in bed with us? Austin just got the afterglow benefit. I don’t like him. But if I did, you would have nothing to say about it.”
“I would have much to say about it. Whether or not you believe I have the right to say it is what is at question.”
She leaned down, put her hands on his cheeks, and kissed him soundly. Then said, “It boggles my mind that you’re the needy one.”
“I am not needy. I merely expect you to—”
“How do you put up with Jim if this bothers you?” Something changed in his expression, and she closed her eyes. “Ahhh. That bothers you, too, but you can’t control him and you think you can control me.”
“If I did think that, I no longer do.”
“Did you let Jim have me so he wouldn’t take anyone else?”
“No. He will do whatever is in the best interest of the ship. And sex is a weapon he wields quite effectively. I could not stop him if I wanted to.”
“He hurts you. Every time he does it, doesn’t he?”
“He will hurt you, too, Christine. Do not act as though you are outside of this.” He shook his head. “I apologize for my behavior with Lieutenant Austin. Do you want him on Alpha shift?”
“No.” At his look, she said, “No, I’m serious, I don’t.”
She got off the desk and started to walk around to her chair, but he surprised her by pulling her onto his lap. He seemed to want her to kiss him, so she indulged herself, sighed as she felt him running his hands up and down her back.
As he held her close, she whispered in his ear, “I’m just happy from the other night. I’m floating, in fact. You two made me feel good. You are a big part of the you two element.” She pulled back so she could see his face. “Don’t spoil this by being jealous.”
“I will try.”
She studied him. “I’m not sure how this works. Would Jim be okay with how we’re sitting if he walked in right now? Would you be all right if it were his lap I was on?”
“You are ours. Whatever we do is fine.”
“Is that you talking or the two of you talking? And I’m not yours, damn it. Think of me as a vid you rented, not as one you own.”
“I do not rent vids.”
“But you understand the reference, don’t you?”
She got off his lap. “Did you have a reason for coming to sickbay?”
“To see you.”
“Big sap.” She smiled; it felt good to be wanted after so long wanting him.
“Jim often says the same thing.”
“Go back to the bridge. I have things to do.” She waited until he stood, then unlocked the door.
As he left, Len came out of his office and walked over to her. “You want to tell me what the hell is going on?”
“You seem pretty happy today.”
“Yeah?” She shrugged.
“I saw you in the square with the two of them. Going into that very nice hotel.”
“That very nice hotel has a great bar.”
“I know. That’s where I was headed. I was there and you three weren’t. You sure you know what you’re doing?” He gave her a searching look that told her he knew exactly what Jim and Spock were to each other.
“I’m not doing anything.” She smiled gently and walked back into her office.
“You’re playing with fire.”
“Not doing anything, Len.” She turned and gave him the blandest look she could.
He just shook his head and walked back to his office.
Later that day, when she was off shift, she ran into Jim in the corridors. He pulled her out of the way of traffic, leaning in the way she’d seen him do when he was consulting on a medical issue with Len.
“How are you?” he asked.
“I’m fine. I’m more than fine.” She gave him the smile she’d been trying to hold back all day.
“Good God, did you smile at Austin that way? No wonder he wanted you.” He was laughing as he said it.
“Spock told you?”
“Didn’t I say freedom is going to be problematic for a while? Just stick to your guns.” He put his hand under her elbow, got her going toward the lift. “Come talk to me while I get ready for a meeting with some cadets who are coming aboard for their interims.”
“Hand picked by me.” He smiled. “One of the perks of being captain: I get to choose who gets to be on my ship.”
“So if the next generation tanks, you’ll be to blame?”
He laughed. “Well, I guess that’s the negative way of looking at it.”
As she followed him off the lift and to his quarters, she asked softly, “What exactly do you have to do to get ready for a ‘welcome aboard’ meet-and-greet with cadets?”
He started to laugh. “Goddamn nothing. But it got you this far.”
She shook her head. “I’d have come on my own.”
“I know. But it’s more fun to do this. Keeps me in practice for tricking aliens.” As soon as his door closed, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her.
She kissed him back, just as thoroughly as she’d been kissing Spock earlier. When he finally pulled away, she said, “I’m a little confused on how this works. Didn’t you say you wanted us all to be there when we did this sort of thing?”
“I did. But since Spock got to kiss you this afternoon, I think it’s only fair.”
“He told you?”
“Oh, hell yes. I think he’s afraid to not tell me anything right now after what happened before.” He pulled her to sit next to him on the bed. “We do need to establish some ground rules, though.”
“Are we going to establish them horizontally?” She started to laugh. “You do have chairs at your table we could have sat in.”
“Hmmm. Good point. But I can’t do this.” He kissed her again.
His door chime rang and he said, “Identity of visitor?”
“Commander Spock,” the computer said.
“Oh, such a poor choice of words.”
He laughed and did not let go of her. Spock walked in and didn’t seem surprised to see them together. She seemed to be the only one feeling weird.
“The cadets are beginning to assemble, Jim.”
“Shall I leave her in your hands, then?”
“I must once again point out that if I’m in anyone’s hands, it won’t be because I’m left there, but because I choose to be there.”
“Understood.” Jim looked up at Spock. “How does this work? Our free agent here wants to know. She seems to be the most concerned about our feelings, which should probably bother me more than it does.”
“Agreed. I find myself drawn to her even though I know I should wait.”
“Sitting right here.”
Jim squeezed her. “As long as we don’t have to share you with anyone else, we can go back to Spock’s scenario if that’s what you want. It’s going to be hard for the three of us to find time together—”
“Okay, I’m calling bullshit on that. We’re in here now. We could easily screw. Why are we going back to one on one? What is going on?” She pulled out of his grasp, suddenly understanding what an alien being duped by James T. Kirk might feel like. “I actually have plans with my friend. You two can get each other off just like you’re used to once you say hello to the kiddies.”
“Chris.” Jim sounded puzzled.
“You’re confusing me at this point. And annoying me. I’m not a new toy.”
“In some ways, you very much are.” Spock looked surprised when she turned on him. “It is novel, having you with us.”
“Yes, but suddenly you’re not having me with you plural. You singular are both trying to snag me. Figure out what we’re doing before you start playing games with me as your soccer ball.”
They looked at her, both clearly surprised.
“I think you’re still mad at each other and you’ve never talked it out. Don’t you see that? Spock, you’re mad at Jim for leaving you, for getting mad at what you did to someone as insignificant as me. He’s mad at you for doing it to me and him—and possibly for running off to Gol. I feel like the flag in a game of tug of war. And I’m not going to be that. The other night was wonderful. Let’s not ruin it, all right?” She started for the door, then turned back to look at them. “And when did I become the voice of reason? That should terrify you, boys.”
She left them standing with their own versions of stunned amazement and walked to the rec lounge. Ny was waiting for her.
“Bad day at the office, dear?” she said as Chapel stormed up the bar.
“Something like that.”
“You know, I don’t miss much.”
“Right.” She motioned the bartender over.
“Like how you’ve been sort of alternately weird pensive and weird happy.”
“I’ll have a margarita and my friend will have whatever poison she’s clearly had too much of already.”
“Chapel, deflect all you want. Something is going on and I’m going to get to the bottom of it.”
“Can we just drink, Ny? There are days when it would have been saner—I just know it—if Decker were still in charge.”
Ny frowned but she nodded. “Sure, we can just drink.” As she took her glass from the bartender, she murmured, “You can tell me anything, Christine. Anything. I mean that.”
Chapel suddenly wondered if that were true. Either that Ny would want to hear what was really going on or that Jim and Spock would want her talking about it.
For a free agent, she suddenly felt very hemmed in.
She decided to avoid Jim and Spock for a few days, let them work out whatever they needed to without their new “toy” around to distract them. She went to dinner one night with Len, met up with Ny for a vid night in her quarters, and even agreed to go to lunch with Austin, who was proving more persistent than she expected.
He was sort of interesting. Seemed more taken with himself than she was, if she was honest. When he asked her if she had plans for that evening, she told him she was going to the rec lounge. When he asked her if she wanted to go together, she said no. Didn’t try to pretty it up. Didn’t give him any “It’s not you, it’s me” speeches. Just “No.”
As rejections went, it was cold. He seemed to take it in stride.
So here she was, sitting at the bar, Austin across the lounge hitting up some new ensign. She sipped her tequila and tonic carefully; she did not want to get drunk tonight, just wanted the warm/tart taste of one of her favorite drinks.
“I’ve left you alone,” Jim said as he slipped onto the stool beside her.
“As have I.” Spock took the stool on her other side.
“We have left you alone, is what we’re trying to say. Unilaterally or together.”
She nodded but didn’t look at either of them.
“Are you unhappy, Christine?” Spock asked.
“I don’t know what I am.” She looked at Spock and gave him a gentle smile. “I should have left the ship.”
“I disagree. Most stridently.” He looked past her at Jim. “What do you think?”
“I think you were right, Chris. We did need to work some things out and we were putting you in the middle.”
She turned to look at Jim. “I don’t want to just be a toy.”
“You’re not. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if you were. We never would have pursued you if you didn’t mean something to us.” He stopped talking as the officer serving as bartender came to take their order. “Single malt for me—you know what kind. Water for our live-on-the-edge friend. What the hell are you drinking, Chris?”
“Tequila and tonic. And I’m fine. I’m nursing it tonight.”
“You heard the lady.” He waited until his drink was in front of him and the bartender had moved off, when he said, “We’re sorry.”
“Yes,” Spock said, and she thought she heard real regret in his voice. “My memories of the other night are most pleasant.”
“As are mine,” Jim said.
“And we do not wish to make your memories of it disagreeable.”
She started to smile. “Wow, when you two do a concerted effort, you’re damn near irresistible. I can see why so many missions go your way.”
Jim smiled. “So, do you forgive us?”
“Yes.” She looked at Spock. “Yes, I forgive you. For this, for the memory thing.”
She took a drink, saw Len watching them from the corner of the lounge. “How much does Len know?”
“About us?” Jim shrugged. “We’ve never hidden much from him, but we’ve never come right out and said it, either.”
“If he were to inquire, I believe we would have told him.” Spock studied her. “Why do you ask?”
“He’s warned me to be careful.” She glared at Spock. “After you came into sickbay with your ‘Christine’s my woman. You back off’ routine.”
He had the grace to look chagrined.
“Socially not the most crafty of boyfriends, Chris. Something you’ll have to learn to make allowances for.” Jim winked at her.
“Do we care if Len knows? I guess that’s what I’m asking.”
Jim at least thought about it for a moment before he said, “I don’t think so. He’ll just ride you the way he used to, only now in private because he won’t want to hurt any of us.”
“Great. Loved that the first time. His tongue is forged of acid when he wants it to be.”
“Would you like me to talk to him?” Spock asked.
“No,” she and Jim said at once.
She started to laugh at how offended he looked. “Sorry, hon’.” She yawned, realized she was beat. She drained about half her drink, left the rest in the glass as she put it down. “I’m going to bed, gentlemen. I’m exhausted.”
“But you feel better about things?” Jim gave her a very sweet smile.
She nodded. “I think that’s why I’m suddenly so beat. All of the fight went out of me.”
“We do not wish to fight with you.” Spock’s voice was very tender.
“This is so warped.” She patted them both on the knees and then slid off her barstool and went straight to her quarters.
She was asleep seconds after her head hit the pillow.
“Christine,” Len called from the door of her office.
She turned, saw he was with another doctor. “Yes, sir?”
Len smiled, probably at the unaccustomed formality, and said, “This is Doctor Minors. He’s just transferred over from the Bogota. Sam, this is Doctor Christine Chapel. She’s deputy CMO.”
“Good to meet you, ma’am.” He was a lieutenant just like her, but still managed to give her the respect due her position if not her rank. And he had a sweet, “Aw shucks” thing going. She hoped to hell he was competent and not just coasting on political savvy and charm.
“Welcome aboard, Sam. And please, call me Christine. We’re pretty informal here.”
“When she’s not sirring me for the new folks.” Len laughed softly. “In fact, I can’t remember the last time you sirred me.”
“I think it was before the refits.”
“Can I turn him over to you, Christine? You can show him the peculiarities of this sickbay since they made it better.” He rolled his eyes rather obviously, probably so Minors would know he was kidding. “Show him the ship while you’re at it?”
She narrowed her eyes. What was he doing? He never made her give the “break-in the newbies” tour: she tended to be a little too blunt. “Sure, be happy to.”
“Great. Sam, welcome again. I think you’re going to like it here.”
She got up and took him around sickbay, finding out how long he’d served, what his most difficult cases had been, what he was used to treating and not. He seemed competent, so she relaxed a little.
“You grill everyone this way?” he asked softly as they made the rounds of the various inventory rooms.
She laughed. “This is why he normally doesn’t have me welcome people. I’m like the anti-welcome committee.”
He smiled. “He told me an awful lot about you. He thinks the world of you is my impression.”
“We’ve worked together a long time is all.”
“Do you always do that? Not take a compliment?”
She thought about it. “Probably.” She led him into the decon area. “Well, that’s sickbay. How much of a tour of the ship do you really need?”
“I studied up on the schematics before I came. Did not want to be found lost in the corridors.”
“Good man.” She looked at the chrono. “Well, I’m about to—”
She saw Spock walk in. His look darkened when he saw her with Minors. What part of “I’m not yours” was so goddamn hard for him to understand?
“You’re about to...?”
“Go to lunch. Care to join me?”
“Stay right here.” She walked to Len’s office, said, “I’m taking him to lunch,” and he nodded without looking up. Then she rejoined Minors and took him over to where Spock was waiting. “Commander Spock, have you met Doctor Minors?”
“I have not. Welcome to the Enterprise, Doctor.”
“Thank you, sir. It’s a pleasure to be here. And an honor to meet you.”
She didn’t think Minors’ boyish charm was getting him anywhere with Spock. “Okay, well, we’re just going to lunch. Len is in his office if you need him.” She motioned for Minors to follow her and walked away.
“I’ve heard so much about him,” Minors said as soon as the door was closed. “He’s...”
“A Vulcan.” A Vulcan she was going to be talking to Jim about. “And an extraordinarily competent officer. Brilliant. All the things you’ve heard.” She waved the topic of Spock off.
She spent the bulk of lunch sticking to work topics. As much as she wanted to teach Spock a lesson in “Christine is a free agent,” she was not going to fall for Len’s obvious ploy.
Did he think she wouldn’t notice that Minors looked quite a bit like Roger?
She commed Jim once she was off shift and in her quarters. “Can I talk to you?”
“Me alone or me with Spo—”
“Okay. You want to come to me?”
“Sure. I’ll be right there.” She headed down the corridor—at least they were on the same deck so she didn’t feel as if she was going to be “caught” somewhere she didn’t belong. She rang for access; the door slid open quickly and she ducked in.
“Is there some reason you are acting like you’re committing a crime by coming to see me?” He looked up from his table, where padds were spread out.
“I don’t know. I don’t know how to act.”
“Start by sitting down.” He shot her a wary smile. “Then tell me what’s wrong that you don’t want Spock here to listen to.”
She sat across from him rather than beside him, and by the look in his eyes, he knew she’d chosen that seat on purpose. “He was in sickbay again today. Normally, we have to hogtie and/or sedate him to get him in for required visits. Now he’s just showing up randomly.”
“He didn’t tell me he was down there.”
“Guess he’s done being unsure of you.” She leaned back and crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not your property.”
“I know that. Why doesn’t he?” He sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Did he say something that ticked you off?”
“It’s how he watches me. The way he reacted when he saw me with a new doctor. Like...he didn’t like it. Is this what you put up with?”
“No. No, it’s not.” He frowned slightly. “Maybe this has to do with the Pon Farr.”
“You mean he’s about to go through that again?”
“No. Although I suppose we can’t rule that out. But I mean more how you first came together. During the Pon Farr. Maybe at some basic level he really does think you’re his?”
She stared at him. “And it’s just coming out now? He couldn’t have had this epiphany years ago? Like, say, just before he took my goddamn memory away?”
“We weren’t all together the same way. He was so...relaxed the other night with you and me. Maybe he let you in—more than he ever has. Maybe it triggered something.” He held up his hand when she was about to comment. “I don’t know, all right? He doesn’t do this to me. Do you want me to talk to him?”
“He needs to back off.”
“How far? We’re sort of making this up as we go along, you know. This arrangement may work better for humans than for Vulcans.”
“That thought has occurred to me.” She looked down, unwilling to meet his eyes. “I just wanted to have some fun.”
“And we did. And we will again if we choose to. Unless you want this to stop altogether and then I’ll have a slightly different talk with Spock.”
She sighed. “I don’t want this to stop. I just want him to quit being so damn creepy.”
“Okay. I’ll talk to him.” He rubbed his eyes again.
“You feeling okay?”
He shook his head. “Too many reports, a raging headache, and not enough sleep.”
“Well, I can’t help you with the reports, but I can get you something for the headache if you want—and it’ll help you sleep.”
He shook his head. “I’ll tough it out.”
She had been expecting that answer. “Comm me if you change your mind.” She stood, was unsure if she should give him a kiss or just leave. This was so goddamned confusing.
He looked up at her and gave her a tired smile. “Get over here.”
She moved to his side of the table, leaned down and kissed him soundly.
Then he let her go and said, “Now skedaddle. Or I’ll be giving Spock that talk from bed with you in it.”
She laughed, but the laugh came out a little strained. He looked up at her, his expression questioning.
“Sometimes I wish it was just us.”
“It’d be simpler if it was. That’s all.” She touched his hair, then turned and left.
She managed to get back to her quarters without running into Spock.
The next morning, her chime sounded as she was getting ready for her shift. She threw a robe on and opened the door.
It was Spock. He looked uncomfortable and said, “May I come in?” so softly she almost missed it.
She stood aside and let him in, the door sliding closed behind him.
“I am sorry that I have been making you feel uncomfortable.”
She wasn’t sure what to say. She didn’t want to say it was all right or to forget about it. She motioned him into her room, sat on the bed once he chose her desk chair. “Why are you coming to sickbay?”
“I wish to see you.”
“Why are you acting so territorial once you get there?”
“I am...unsure.” He took a deep breath. “Jim told me his theory. It is conceivable that at some deep level I do feel possessive of you because of our history during my first Pon Farr.”
“Is it something you can control?”
“I will do better.”
“This isn’t the Pon Farr, is it?” She stood up, started to pace. “You’d tell me if you were feeling that way?” She reached for the scanner she kept in her quarters, held it out and he pushed her hand away.
“It is not the burning.”
“Humor me.” She waited for him to lower his hand and then began to scan him. His readings looked perfectly normal.
“Was I mistaken?”
“No.” She put the scanner down, studied him as he sat staring up at her. “You didn’t have to deliver this message in person, you know. You could have just stopped coming to sickbay.”
“I wanted to see you. I wanted...to do other things with you. I want to even now.”
“Does Jim know that?”
He shook his head.
“Would he mind if you and I did other things?”
“I am uncertain at this point. My decision-making with regard to you has proven somewhat compromised.”
She reached around him, tapped her comm terminal. “Chapel to Kirk.”
“Kirk here.” He sounded grumpier than when she’d left him.
“I am.” He had a sort of “What now?” sound to his voice.
“I’m about to have a discussion with Mister Spock. Did you want to be included in the discussion or should we proceed without you?”
There was a long silence, so she said, “Or would you rather we table the discussion?”
He laughed. “Would you?”
“I appreciate that, Chris. No need, though. Enjoy the discussion. I’ll join the next one. Or have one with you myself later.”
Spock’s eyebrow went up.
“Roger that. Chapel out.” She tried to straighten up, but Spock was pulling her into his lap. “I guess we know now. How do you feel about him doing this with me—without you?”
He gave the question some thought, didn’t just shoot off a quick answer. “As it is Jim, I can share.”
“You don’t like it, though?”
He frowned, a very human looking frown. “I am unsure.”
“You either do or you don’t, Spock.”
He began to take her hair out of the clips that held it up. “Logically, I recognize that if I can do this with you without him here then he should be able to do it as well. But, I do not like it.”
“Are you jealous of me or of him?”
“Both.” He glanced back at her chrono. “We do not have much time.”
“I don’t mind a quickie if it’ll make you stop hovering.”
“Perhaps I will hover more if sex is my reward?”
She laughed as he began to pull her clothes off. “You’re right. I’m rewarding you for bad behavior, aren’t I?”
“On the contrary. You are rewarding me for coming to discuss the issue with you.”
“Oh, is that what I’m doing?” She got up enough to pull his pants down and straddle him, and then—oh, yes, this had not been made rosier in her memories.
He kissed her, and his lips on hers were ferocious and almost desperate. She kissed him back, trying to inject some tenderness so he’d relax, so he wouldn’t feel so...threatened.
She murmured his name, moving in a way she knew from their night of shore leave that he liked. He watched her move, his eyes finally losing some of their wildness. Then he took over. And he was extraordinarily efficient when it came to quickies. She wondered how often he and Jim had them. Then she quit wondering anything as he sent her climbing and then falling to an orgasm he muffled with his hand over her mouth.
She was laughing as she returned the favor. He clutched her tightly and buried his head in her chest.
“And good morning to you, too, Mister Spock.”
He pulled her down and kissed her, and this time the kiss wasn’t so fierce and desperate. They kissed for several minutes, and she massaged his shoulders, making him moan when she hit several tight spots.
“Am I what’s making you so tense?”
“Partially. Reforging a relationship with Jim is, as well. Simply being on the ship, with so many people, after the solitude of Gol is trying.” He bit her lip gently, then let go. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” She gave him one last kiss and then climbed off him. She pulled her pants back on, then grabbed her hairclips and walked over to the mirror.
She turned to look at him.
“I am sorry if I complicated this.”
She laughed. “Sweetheart, this thing we’re all doing was born complicated. You made it stranger, but you didn’t make it strange.”
He nodded slowly, as if she had said something very wise, then he dressed but didn’t leave, waiting for her to get her hair back up.
They left together.
Jim showed up in sickbay after lunch. He talked for a few minutes to Minors, then sat in Len’s office for about ten minutes—she heard them laughing the way they always had. A little while later, he popped into her office, leaning against her desk while she worked at her terminal.
“So Spock was in an excellent mood when he started his shift.”
She smiled and looked up at him.
“When is your lunch?” he asked.
“Whenever you want it to be.” She grinned.
He grinned back. “In an hour. My quarters? Unless you’d rather actually have lunch at lunchtime?”
“I’d rather have you.”
His grin was priceless. “Wonderful. See you in a bit.” He was up and out so fast she doubted anyone really noticed he was in her office.
An hour later, she walked over to Len’s office and said, “See you in a little while.”
“Have a good lunch.” Then, as she turned away, he said, “Oh, hey, you know, I could eat. Why don’t I come with you?”
She froze. “Umm. I’m not...” She wasn’t what? Headed for the mess? Planning on actually eating?
His laugh was half amused, half not so. “Yeah, I didn’t think Jim came down to shoot the shit with me. Go on, then. I hope to hell you know what you’re doing.”
She turned and stared him down. When he finally looked away, she said, “If I do or don’t, that’s my business, isn’t it?”
“It is until it compromises your performance. Then you’ll realize what a son of a bitch I can be.”
She wanted to tell him she already knew, but something in his expression told her that maybe she really hadn’t experienced how hard he could ride her. She settled for nodding and leaving.
Jim was waiting for her; he pulled her into his quarters with a laugh and pushed her up against the wall.
“Hello there, Captain.”
“Hello there, Doctor.” He kissed her gently, surprising her by how tender he was being. “I’ve been thinking about this since you commed me this morning.”
“Was that out of line?”
“Nope. You offered every alternative you could. I chose the one I wanted to.”
“I would have kicked him out if you’d told me to.”
He touched her cheek. “I know you would have. Maybe he’ll calm down now that he’s had you again.” He began to take off her clothes, kissing as he went.
They had more time than she’d had with Spock, and they put it to good use, and still had time to lie together after.
He smiled as she ran her hand across his chest. “This is nice, Chris. I used to think about this when we were on Earth. What it would be like with you.”
“I know. Me, too.” She grinned. “You’re even better than I thought you would be. And I was giving you pretty high marks in my imagination.”
He laughed. “Did you ever think of me when you touched yourse—”
“Oh, I don’t do that. You can go blind doing that.” She started to giggle and then really laughed at how silly she sounded. “Yes, of course I thought of you when I did that.”
“Mmmm, that’ll keep me going for a while, too.”
“Who did you think I thought of?”
“Spock comes to mind. He was just fucking you, my darling. You let him have you first.”
She studied him, trying to read what kind of emotion was behind the words. “You could have had me last night. You didn’t seem to want more than a kiss.”
“I was off my game, clearly.” He sighed. “I said it was okay, and it was okay that you were with him. It’s just a little different sharing you separately than it was sharing you together.”
“I know.” She kissed him slowly. “I love you. For what it’s worth, I didn’t tell him that today.”
He gave her a sad smile. “That should not make me feel better.”
His smile turned a little predatory. “But it does.”
Chapel heard her name being called, turned and saw Minors coming through the corridors. “Hi, Sam.”
“Hi. Ever since I switched to Gamma shift, I never see you.”
“I know. I always find shift changes strange. But you get to meet new people.”
“This is true. Some of them very special.” He grinned in a way that showed he wasn’t hiding that he was dating Lieutenant Saavedra from engineering.
She felt a pang. She would not be grinning that way anytime soon. But then, that was what she wanted, right? To be a free agent?
To have two men she’d always wanted.
To have to share them—to always know she was just...a diversion.
She laughed, “Personnel issues. I’m sorry. Did you say something?”
“I was wondering what you were doing for shore leave? We’re getting a bunch of us together to go hiking.”
“Not really much of a hiker, but thank you.” She and Jim and Spock had their own physical activity planned. Somewhere with drapes and no sunshine probably.
Jesus, what was wrong with her?
“Well, come by for a drink. We’re staying at the Mountain Lodge.”
“Maybe I will.” The ever-useful excuse she used to put out whenever she had a “date” with Roger and someone else wanted her to do something.
He smiled as if he knew that meant, “I won’t.” “Good to see you, Christine. I’ll let you go.”
She nodded and headed to her quarters, but when she got to the door, she looked down the hall to Jim’s quarters. She had no idea what he was doing. What he and Spock might be doing.
And she didn’t goddamn care. They could just drop in on her, then she could do the same.
She walked down—stomped down might be more accurate—and rang the chime.
The door slid open and she saw Jim and Spock sitting at his table.
As the door slid closed behind her, Jim took one look at her face and turned to Spock. “What the hell did you do now?”
“Nothing that I am aware of.”
“It’s not him. Well, it is—it’s both of you.”
Jim frowned. “I don’t follow.”
She began to pace and Jim pushed the chair next to him out with his foot. “Sit down, Chris.”
“On shore leave, how does it work? Do we just hole up? Do we even see the sun? Or do you two go out and leave me to fill my time until we fuck again?”
Spock’s eyebrow went up, but he did not answer. He looked at Jim in a way that clearly meant, “I have no idea how to answer that.”
Or possibly, “Do you think she is entirely sane?”
Jim studied her. “What happened?”
“Just answer my question.”
“Someone invited me to a hike when we’re on shore leave next month. And he was happy because he’s sharing his shore leave with someone and...” She sighed. “I don’t want to sneak around. I’ve done it. I don’t like it.”
“Did we sneak around last time, Chris? I put you on the goddamn door, remember? I know Bones saw us going into the hotel. I don’t care.”
“Well, I’m not going to plant a big wet one on you in public, but I’m not going to hide that you’re doing things with us—and people can try to figure it out from there. Given how Spock has been acting, I think, as I’ve said before, they’ll just figure you’re with him.”
“May I propose an alternative idea?” Spock sounded very tentative.
They both turned to look at him, and Chapel almost felt sorry for him. She was pretty sure her glare matched Jim’s “This better not be something that will tick her off more” look.
“It might make things easier for all of us if Christine and you were thought to be a couple, Jim. She is in medical, which is independent and thus not against regulations. I, however, am in your direct chain of command.” He looked at her, then back at Jim, as if to make sure they were listening. “It is well known that we are friends. If I were to accompany you on social outings, I do not believe anyone would comment.”
She was staring at him and just managed to close her mouth. “Are you serious?”
“I am. So long as Jim is my commanding officer, there is a conflict. You can relieve him. I cannot.”
She looked at Jim.
He leaned in. “Spock, are you really comfortable with that? I know it’s logical but does it feel right?”
Spock leaned back and steepled his fingers: Chapel knew this was potentially going to be a logic train loaded with immense quantities of bullshit. But she liked the direction he was going, so she didn’t call him on it.
“First, Christine is clearly feeling the strain of our unusual arrangement and that will only increase. I do not wish to lose her. I presume you do not wish to lose her, either, Jim?”
“Second, you were cautioned by Nogura about more than just staying on the bridge, were you not? Your relationship with me, for one thing?”
Chapel looked at Jim—why hadn’t he told her this?
“Then this solves that. Nogura married his ship’s doctor so he will resonate with your choice. I am safely relegated to the role of friend. The three of us can continue as we are.”
“That might work,” Jim said, but something was off in his voice. For an idea that was being posited for the first time, he didn’t sound surprised to hear it.
“You thought of this.” She laughed, a bitter snap of air. “Oh my God, you goddamn thought of this. You simply let us get here naturally.”
“It may have occurred to me.”
“Did you drag me into this just so you could have him without getting in trouble?”
“No.” He met her eyes, didn’t appear to be hiding anything. “You know me. You know what I’m capable of. I saw this possibility, sure. But only after we were together. I didn’t set out to make you some kind of smokescreen.”
She looked at Spock. “Does this upset you?”
“No. I applaud that he thought of such a logical solution and am somewhat chagrined I did not reach it first.”
“You two are insane.” But she didn’t make a move to get up. Did that mean she was insane, too?
“So are we agreed?” Spock asked softly.
She nodded. “Just tell me I’m not going to have to learn to play chess to make the ‘Spock tags along as a friend’ scenario more plausible. I’m more a cribbage girl.”
“I like cribbage,” Jim said with a smile. “Used to pay for drinks with my winnings.” He reached over and held out a hand to each of them. “What are we all doing for the rest of the evening?”
“I have no plans, Jim.” Spock looked at her.
“Let me check my social calendar.” She pretended to scroll through a padd. “Gee, I happen to be free.”
“Spock, could you please take our girlfriend’s clothes off while I pour her a drink.”
“I would be most happy to, Jim.”
The official courtship dance began the next night in the rec lounge. She was sitting with Ny and Chekov when Jim came over with a smile.
“Do you mind if I steal Chris?”
Ny shot her a surprised glance but said, “No, steal away.”
He put his arm around her and led her to the dance floor. “Not my most subtle work.”
She laughed. “I’m going to have some explaining to do. I never told her how much time we spent together on Earth.”
“Why?” he asked as he led her into a slow dance.
“You weren’t talking to me right after V’ger, remember? She wouldn’t have believed me. And she was so busy with the refits, we sort of lost touch when it was happening.” She relaxed into his arms. “But we’ll talk about it now, I can guarantee it.”
As he turned them, she saw Spock sitting with Scotty. He glanced their way but didn’t register any emotion at seeing them.
“He’s a good actor.”
“Spock? Better than people think. And he can lie, too. Don’t ever believe that crap about Vulcans not lying. They can, they just usually don’t.”
“No, they couch stuff in so much logic that they dazzle us with BS before they have to resort to lying.”
He laughed. “True.” He dropped his hand a bit lower on her back. “So, honesty time. Would you have rather have been ‘officially’ linked with him?”
“Nope. And I think you know that.”
The hand went even lower.
“Careful there, sailor. You’re supposed to make me look like your new interest, not someone you bought for the night.”
He laughed and moved his hand up a bit. “True.” He sighed. “This feels good. He and I...as long as we’re captain and first officer, we’ll never be able to be this open.”
“Then quit being captain and first officer.” She thought about that. “Although you were a real son of a bitch on Earth. Would you have done better if he’d been with you?”
“Don’t think so. Maybe. I don’t know.” He let out a little bitter laugh. “Who am I kidding? Off a ship, I’m not fun.”
“You were fun enough that I fell for you.”
“True. So I didn’t completely fail.”
“Nope.” She tightened her hold on him and whispered, “I’m sorry I’m not Spock.”
“I’m not. I didn’t mean to imply that with the question. I just wish I could be this open with him, too.” He leaned back, met her eyes. “I never want to make you feel second best.”
“But I am, aren’t I? I mean, when you come down to it. Although second best is still pretty good.” She gave him her best smile. “Just to get in the game with you...”
“Some would say that’s easy.”
“Not to matter to you. I know that about you, Jim. You don’t fall in love with everyone.”
“No, I don’t.” As the music ended, he said, “Let’s go again. Make this look good.”
“Fine by me.”
They danced through and then he smiled and walked her back to the table Ny and Chekov were at. “Thank you very much.” He gave her his best smile, then headed for the bar.
Ny pursed her lips and said, “Something you forgot to tell me?”
“We hung out a lot on Earth. He was married then, though.”
“And now he’s not.” Chekov winked at her. “And you are in medical, land of autonomy and unpleasant physicals.”
“Handy, I guess.” She shrugged. “Is it going to be a problem?” She met Ny’s eyes.
“Nope. No problem. Just wished you’d told me.” Ny turned back to Chekov. “Problem for you, Pav?”
“Not for me, no. But I’m a fan of romance.”
Chapel laughed. “Good thing Jan transferred off, though.”
“Oh, she would kill you. Slowly and with great pleasure.” Chekov’s smile was very mischievous. “How much will you pay me to not comm her with the news.”
“I will not make you undergo extra embarrassing physicals.”
“A very fair deal. I will keep this to myself.” He winked at her.
She smiled and tried not to think how much she hated lying to her friends. But it was better than it had been when she was lying about everything.
“Okay, I am officially jealous,” Ny said as she handed Chapel a drink. “Two months and the captain still looks at you like he can’t get enough of you.”
Chapel laughed and looked over to where Jim was standing. They’d split up to mingle after sharing quite a few dances. “It’s nice,” she said.
“Nice? Ooh la la, sister, if you could only see the two of you dance—it’s more than nice.” Ny smiled. “Jan really will kill you.”
“Have you told her?”
“I may have mentioned it.”
Chapel shot her an annoyed look.
“We’re going to be on Earth next month, Christine. Do you want her to find out by bumping into the two of you?”
“No. No, I don’t.” She sighed. Earth, where Jim and Spock were going to the Vulcan Embassy for dinner with his parents. She was not going. No fake girlfriend needed apparently with Sarek and Amanda. Or maybe it was the other way around. No real girlfriend wanted—too embarrassing. Too many questions. Why bring their toy to dinner? If Chapel ran into Jan on Earth, she’d probably be alone.
“Christine, you have to face her sometime.”
She nodded. She knew this. But she’d rather face Jan’s anger knowing she actually had Jim instead of that she was sharing him—and that she was some sort of false front.
She glanced over at him and he smiled. The expression lit up his face and she didn’t think it was a calculated move. He seemed...happy.
But then he loved to dance and never got to. Of course he was happy.
“Are you all right?” Ny’s voice was full of concern. “For someone who’s sleeping with my secret crush, you don’t seem very happy.”
“It’s not so secret that crush of yours.” She closed her eyes; that had come out way too harsh. “I’m sorry, that was—”
“Exactly what I’m talking about. The Christine I know would have told Jan herself. And she’d be happy—or happier anyway. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever seen you happy except maybe for the five minutes you were CMO under Decker.”
Chapel laughed. “Yeah, blink and you’ll miss it. Is it even on my official bio?”
Ny shot her a contrite look. “I’m sure it is. You were CMO during part of refits, too.”
“Oh, you mean before I was physically on the ship?” Chapel laughed. The best job I’ve had and I didn’t even do it.” She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Ny. I’m just off tonight.” She looked over at Jim. “But I am happy with him. I love him.”
“Is that a question or a statement? You sound pretty tentative.”
“No, trust me, I do love him.” She finished her drink in two gulps, saw Ny make a surprised face—probably because she’d finished off the first one the same way. “In fact, I’m going to go see if he wants to get out of here.”
She walked over to join Jim and when he moved them on to talk to another group of crew, she said, “Do you want to go back to your quarters? I’m really not in a group mood tonight.”
He seemed to tense. “I told Spock I’d be with him tonight.”
She stopped and he moved closer; they probably looked very intimate. “Won’t it look odd us leaving separately?”
“We won’t. I’ll just say goodnight at your door. But you might want to slow down on the drinks.” He gave her his best “snooker the aliens” smile and she could feel her expression tighten. By the look on his face, he realized he’d done the wrong thing.
“Are you my mother now, too?”
“Sorry, you just have been drinking more than you used to.”
“That’s what they make antitox for. I can be sober in two minutes if you’re worried I’m too drunk to take to bed.”
He shook his head and took her hand. His face was very earnest and she felt like punching him. “I feel like he loses out on nights like this, Chris. You can have me another night, all right?”
Sharing apparently wasn’t an option? She’d be damned if she was going to ask that, but it grated on her. This had been Spock’s idea; Jim had asked him directly if it would bother him if they were together publicly and he’d said no. Now Jim was deciding it did hurt him and as far as she could tell no one had asked Spock.
Or maybe Jim had. Maybe they’d had a long talk without her?
“You know what? I’m tired and if I stay here I will drink too much and maybe get angry over this and God knows what might come out of my mouth. So I’m just going to go to bed.”
“Okay. I don’t mean to hurt you but you get me like this, in public. He has to take a back seat.”
“A back seat? Holy shit, Jim, he’s piloting this. When are you going to see that?”
“Just enjoy your damned evening, okay?”
She leaned in and kissed him gently, far more gently than she wanted to, but anything for the goddamn show. Then she walked out of the lounge, trying her best not to weave or look as angry as she was.
“Christine, wait up.”
She groaned. She really could not take Len right now. She managed to get to the lift before he did, let it close right in front of him.
She decided not to go to her quarters, since he’d just come to lecture her there, so she headed to sickbay.
Minors smiled as she walked in. “Good party?”
“The best.” Her smile was falsely brittle, but he didn’t seem to notice. She realized she was more than a little unsteady after that last drink and decided to grab some antitox.
“Sorry I’m missing it.”
“You know what?” she said, as she popped the pills. “Don’t miss it. Go, I’ll cover for you.”
“Belay that,” Len said from the door. “Christine, can I talk to you in my office?”
She followed him into his office and hit the door button before he could. “What the hell, Len? Since when can’t I pick up an extra shift?”
“Since you’re in the kind of mood to let a lift shut in my face when you knew I wanted to talk to you.”
“Who knew you were so sensitive?”
“Look, I’ve kept my mouth shut—mostly—but you’re not happy.”
“Ny already told me that.”
“Then listen to her if you won’t to me. What is wrong with you? Did you really think you could get between those two?”
“You ask because you’ve tried?” Her smile was the ugliest one in her repertoire.
His expression was one she rarely saw. That of her boss, Commander Leonard McCoy. “Get out of here and go to bed. Report tomorrow with a better attitude. Your personal life should not impact your professional one.”
“Not yet. But it’s going to if you keep on this way.”
“This isn’t your business.”
“It is. You’re my friend and I care about you. But you’re also my deputy and you can relieve the men you’re sleeping with.”
There, it was out, and the way he said it made it sound so wrong. She closed her eyes. “You don’t know that’s what is—”
“Cut the crap. I know you. I know them. I know you and Jim got close when you were on Earth. I also know it doesn’t mean shit compared to what he feels for Spock. Nothing does. Those two...” He sighed.
The antitox was kicking in and she felt the booze-fueled anger draining out of her. She sank into his guest chair and closed her eyes. “What’s wrong with me?”
He laid a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “That’s the question, darlin’. That’s the goddamned question.”
A week later, Chapel came in from her shift and saw her comm light flashing. She had a message from Captain Maurice Kelting of the USS Shalimar. He was looking for a new CMO, and he wanted her. The Shalimar was, among other things, a medical relief ship: to be CMO on a ship full of medical and scientific personnel meant a huge vote of confidence.
She couldn’t remember meeting Kelting. But she did some quick research on the Shalimar’s latest missions and then commed him before she could think better of it.
“Chapel. That was fast.”
She realized once she heard his voice that she had met him at a function Decker had hosted. Had she impressed him somehow? “Sir, I was intrigued by your message.”
“Only intrigued? I’d expect you to be goddamn flattered. The Shalimar is the best ship in the fleet.”
“I serve under a captain who might debate you on that.”
“Potatoes, potahtoes, Commander.”
“I’m only a lieutenant, sir.”
“Come to my ship and you’ll be a lieutenant commander in no time.”
She smiled. “Sir, why me?”
“I knew Will Decker. Trusted his judgment. Don’t necessarily always trust Kirk’s. Not to speak ill of your captain, but your demotion was a bit irregular.”
She swallowed hard.
“Oh, at ease, Doctor. I’m not going to make a habit of badmouthing someone you obviously like. In fact, that’s the last I’ll say of it. But I need someone capable, who understands the issues of nurses, doctors, and—since I have a ship full of them—bio-researchers. I know the kind of work you did with Korby. Doesn’t this sound like it was made for you?”
She nodded. “It does indeed.”
“Glad we agree. You have twenty-four hours to tell me whether you want it.”
“I want it.” The words were out before she could call them back—then she realized she didn’t want to call them back. That they felt right.
He looked surprised. “You don’t want to think about it?”
“It’s an excellent opportunity. And I’ve been worrying that I’m treading water professionally. The CMO here is a friend and a fabulous doctor. But we’ve worked together for years and that can get too comfortable.”
“Doing your job in your sleep already?”
She shrugged. “Maybe. I’ve always been a quick study, sir.”
“I know you are. I’ve read your file, Doctor. I know exactly what I’m getting.”
She imagined there were a few things he didn’t know.
He nodded, as if it was all settled. “When can you report? I’ll have my exec get the transfer started.”
“I need to inform some people here first. Can you give me a day before you start anything?”
“I can. I like a person who makes her mind up quickly. It’ll stand you in good stead once you’re knee deep in a relief mission with fifty people wanting guidance or worse, yet, approval for some cockamamie project.”
She smiled. “I appreciate your confidence in me, sir.”
“Don’t let me down. Kelting out.” The screen went black.
She stared at her terminal. Then she commed Jim. Things had been tense between them since their talk on the dance floor. “You free?”
“I’m with Spock.”
She felt a pang. Of course, he was. “Comm me back when you’re presentable, then. I need to talk to both of you.”
“Okay.” She cut the channel and got up before she could lose her nerve, walking down the corridor quickly to ring for admittance.
He’d never put her on the door. Had he put Spock on the door?
They were lying on the bed, not in it. Fully clothed, but Jim’s hair was mussed. “What’s up?” he asked.
“I have some news. It’s...maybe odd.”
Spock lifted an eyebrow.
“The Shalimar is looking for a new CMO. Her captain commed me directly. I—I accepted.”
Jim looked sandbagged. Spock, however, did not.
“You said I’d get restless, Jim.”
“I didn’t expect it to be this quickly.”
“She is not restless, Jim. She is unhappy.” Spock was staring at her in a knowing way. “She does not like this arrangement.”
Jim sat up. “I know there have been some issues with sharing but—”
“Jim, this whole relationship is about sharing. Issues are going to become problems, and I don’t think it will take long for that to happen. I can’t...I can’t do this.”
“You could have talked to me.”
“This is how she left last time, Jim. She had her acceptance to medical school before she informed any of us she was going.”
“That’s right, isn’t it? That’s how you do it. Find an escape route and go.”
“Len knew. I went through the proper channels. There was no reason to tell either of you back then.” She took a deep breath. “I’m not angry, Jim. Please don’t you be. You have Spock. It’s not fair for you to be angry with me for needing to get clear of this.”
Spock got off the bed. “I am going to leave you two alone.”
She touched him on the arm. “Are you happy that I’m going?”
“No. I will miss you.” He shot Jim a look she couldn’t read and walked out.
Jim rolled off the bed and walked to the viewscreen, stood watching the stars, his posture saying clearly, “Do not come over here.”
“I love you, Jim. I want you for myself. I thought I could be the free agent and share. I thought wrong.”
His stance relaxed a little. “You still could have talked to me.”
“And say what? ‘I want you to ditch the love of your life’? I think Spock knows how I feel. But then he would, wouldn’t he? The touch telepathy. He’d feel any anger or sadness or...jealousy.”
“Maybe if you gave it time?”
“Time for what? To get bitter? I’m not bitter now and look how bitchy I’ve been. Imagine how much worse it will get. I’m just being realistic. That’s preferable, isn’t it? To move on while we’re all still friends.”
“We’re more than friends.”
“And I imagine we always will be, in some sense. But...I’m sorry, you’ve got it all your way. You have Spock and you have me. And it’s not fair to either of us.”
He turned to look at her. “This is my fault?”
“Not what I mean. I just think you’re taking this the hardest because you like how this is the most. And I don’t blame you. I’d like how it was too if I was the one most loved.”
“Is that what this is? A contest? I love him more than you? He loves me more than you?”
“See, even now you’re saying how it is. You two love each other more than you love me. It’s not a contest, but it is a little...empty. And I don’t want to see what happens when I can’t take it anymore. I want to leave now, before it gets ugly.”
She walked over to him, watching him closely in case he really didn’t want her anywhere near him. But he pulled her to him as soon as she was close enough and held her tightly.
“You have no idea what I feel for you, Chris.”
“I have some idea. And I love that. It’s just not enough.”
“It never goddamn is. Carol. Janice. Lori.” He let go of her.
“That’s not fair. Lori was a bitch, who was with you for advancement, not love. Carol had issues sharing you with space, which I wouldn’t have. I assume she didn’t have to share you with Spock?”
“No, she didn’t.”
“Well there you go. And Lester was a raving psychopath. Do you think I’m that?”
He shook his head.
“I’m leaving you because you need to choose one of us, and I know who it will be. You told me who it would be when this started.”
And now he could choose him with a clear conscience. Her presence in their relationship had put to rest the angst from Spock’s wiping her memory.
It had been Spock’s idea for her to be Jim’s open girlfriend.
It had been Spock’s idea for her to even be in their relationship.
It was a logical stream of events if you took away the emotional aspects and just looked at the progression of A to B to her leaving—leaving Spock all alone with Jim again. Spock would be the one who remained. The one who was loved.
Spock was damned brilliant.
She touched Jim’s face. “Do you want me to go back to my quarters?”
“No, I want you to take off your clothes and get into bed.”
She did what he said, and he stripped off his own clothes and followed her. The way he touched her was angry but not violent. She could feel his frustration with her and kept saying, “I’m sorry, Jim. I love you. I’m sorry.”
He made her come several times before he let himself go. And then he held her tightly, her face pressed against his chest as he rubbed her back.
She buried her face in his chest so he wouldn’t see she was crying.
By the way he was stroking her hair and murmuring, “Shhh, it’s all right,” she thought he knew.
“Last night,” Jim said as they lay in bed after her farewell party and watched the stars through his viewscreen.
“Last night.” She had Jim all to herself. Spock had said he had an experiment in the lab that needed his attention, but she was pretty sure he was simply letting her enjoy Jim without him.
He pressed his lips to her forehead, said softly, “You have no idea how much I’m going to miss you.”
“If it’s as much as I’m going to miss you, then I do.” She pulled him down to her and kissed him. “I wish...” She laughed softly. “Well, it doesn’t matter what I wish, does it?”
“Don’t be. I got to have this. It was fun. And I’m closer to you and Spock than I ever thought I would be—I mean aside from the sex. I love you both.” She sighed. She did love them both, but she was only in love with one of them.
He pulled her on top of him. “I love you.”
She tried to memorize the feeling of being with him. Once it was over, she lay collapsed on top of him, wishing she could slow time and never leave him.
And that was why she was leaving him. This would never be enough. Not when she knew that Spock would always take up the majority of real estate in Jim’s heart.
She slid off him and said, “So you haven’t said much about my new boss. What do you think of Kelting?”
“Well, he’s no Jim Kirk.” He gave her a silly grin.
“Probably a good thing. Since I seem to have a weakness for Jim Kirk.”
“You do, don’t you?”
She nodded. “Seriously, what aren’t you saying?”
“He’s fine. He’s just...very by the book. And I’m not sure he’s terribly receptive to feedback.”
“Neither was Roger. I had to find ways to make him think things I came up with were his idea.”
He smiled. “I forget powerful men are your forte.”
“I guess they are.” She snuggled against him.
“You going to try to snag him? He’s sort of old.”
She laughed. “No. I’ve had you, what other man will do?”
He grinned and kissed her. “And you’ve had Spock. Do you love him?”
She met his eyes. “I do love him, but the schoolgirl crush is over. I’m fond of him, don’t get me wrong. I like having sex with him. I enjoy talking with him. I’d want him at my back in a crisis either physically or intellectually.”
“But you’re not in love with him?”
She shook her head. “That honor belongs to you.” She looked away. “Or maybe not an honor. Maybe it’s a burden.”
“It’s not a burden, Chris. I love you so much.”
Just not enough to leave Spock. Never enough for that. And part of her didn’t want him to—the part that was leaving the ship while her heart was still capable of functioning. “I’ll always remember this. You’ll be my benchmark.”
“Not sure that’s a good idea. Something you can’t have can be artificially good. If you had me all the time, you might get bored, or get sick of things I do like squeeze the toothpaste the wrong way.”
She smiled. She’d love a chance to get bored or sick of things he did. “Maybe so.”
“Just be happy. That’s what I want for you. And to be CMO like you were supposed to be.”
“Was I, though? Destiny would say no because you showed up, then Len, then Spock.”
“We can write our own destiny. I know you will. I know you’ll shine on Kelting’s ship.”
“Thank you, Captain.” She touched his cheek; he always knew just what to say.
“You’re welcome, Doctor.”
She rang the chime for Spock’s quarters and walked in to the smell of incense. She breathed deeply: she would miss this.
He was sitting at his desk. “You enjoyed your evening with Jim?”
“I did. Thank you for that. I know the experiment was just an excuse to give us time alone.”
“I realize you love him more than you do me, Christine, and that he is the reason you are in this relationship. I wanted to give you space to say goodbye.”
“You knew I’d leave, didn’t you? That’s why you suggested this arrangement with Jim and me?”
“I thought it would prove untenable for you, yes.”
“But you needed me. At first, you needed me.”
He nodded. “You would have been forever between us. I did the only logical thing by bringing you into our lives, into our bed. But do not think I don’t care for you. Perhaps far more than you care for me, Christine. I don’t want you to leave, but it is not a surprise that you are doing so.”
She walked to the viewscreen. Soon she’d be seeing the star stream from a different ship, a ship without Spock and Jim on it. Shiny and new, the way this ship was supposed to have felt. “You’ll take care of him?”
“I will. You know that.”
She turned. “I don’t, actually. You’ve proven you can put your own interests ahead of others. I have the memory to prove it.”
He looked down. “I will not do that again.”
“Good. He deserves better than that. And he loves you—more than he’ll ever love me.”
He rose from his chair. “More is relative, Christine. Is the gap between his love for me and for you a chasm or only a millimeter?”
She smiled. “He won’t say, will he? But you can tell when you meld with him.”
“I can. It is nowhere near a chasm.”
“Thank you.” She walked over to him, touched his cheek. “I once thought I’d give anything for you to love me.”
“You are no longer that woman.” He pulled her into his arms, kissed her gently. “If you ever have need of me, I will come. We both will.”
“It’s a good thing I won’t be on Earth—I’d have a hard time saying no to one or both of you if you turned up at my door during a visit home.”
“I think we would count on that.”
“Nothing like a little variety to add spice.”
“You could have been a staple, Christine. Not just the spice.”
She made a face before she could stop herself. “I simply don’t want to share.”
He nodded slowly, as if he’d always known that.
“So I have to ask. When you were being so possessive, was that just an act? To get me hooked more than I already was?”
“No. I was uncertain of you, and I believe Jim was right that something did carry over from the Pon Farr. But once you are off the ship, it should abate somewhat.”
“But some part of you will always think of me as yours?”
“I believe so. I am sorry if that is an unpleasant idea.”
“I’ll just be sure to stay very far away if you start throwing soup.” She winked at him and his expression lightened.
“I will do this the proper way, Christine. Live long and prosper on the Shalimar. They are fortunate to have you.”
“Thank you.” She made a sheepish face. “I am definitely not sleeping with the captain or the first officer.”
“You have no idea what the future holds.”
“Well, how about this: I am definitely not sleeping with both of them at the same time.”
“I accept that.” His gaze was extraordinarily fond. “I shall miss you.”
“I’ll miss you, too.” She kissed him with the same tenderness he’d given to her. “I wish I could stay.”
“You would not be you if you could.”
She was all packed, she’d said her goodbyes to her friends, to Jim and Spock. Only one thing needed to be done.
She made her way down to sickbay, took a last look around. Len came out and stood against the wall, arms crossed as he watched her.
She walked over to him and hugged him hard. “This wasn’t how my great adventure as CMO was supposed to end.”
He laughed softly. “I know, darlin’. And I’m sorry for that. You’ll knock ‘em dead on the Shalimar.”
“I had a good teacher. How to be CMO.”
“I did my best. Not sure I did that much.” He eased her into his office and shut the door. “You leaving with a broken heart?”
“No. Just bent a little.” She grinned, thought it was probably a little like a Jim Kirk grin.
“Can’t fool me, hon’. But you keep telling yourself that: maybe you’ll get over them faster.”
“It’s not really them. Just him.”
He looked surprised. “Which one.”
She shook her head and he smiled.
“Okay, then.” She hugged him again, suddenly wishing she’d listened to him when he’d told her to be careful. “For what it’s worth, Len: you were right.”
“Well, I’m sorry for that. I’d rather you were happy.” He put his hand on her cheek. “Now get out of here and make a life for yourself. Hell, find a nice guy if you feel so inclined.”
“Yes. Guy—singular.” She took a deep breath then turned and opened his door. “I’ll see you around the quadrant?”
“Count on it. Or at the next medical conference. When we skip the sessions and hit the bar.”
“You wish, Christine.”
She heard his gentle laughter as she walked out. She couldn’t imagine a nicer accompaniment to a new beginning.