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) 2009 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.

Fever Dreams

by Djinn




Chapel felt a cold-cloth on her forehead, thought she heard Spock talking to her through the haze of pain and fever.  His voice was low, gentle.  He was trying to get her to lie still.


"I love you," she said, but the words came out as a guttural mix.


"Lie still," Spock said.


Where was she?  She'd been with Spock.  On Vulcan.  The Pon Farr.  Was she still there?


You are not what I want.  You will never be what I want.


Who had said that?  Someone had said that to her.  Spock...Spock would know.  She reached out for him, and pain flared along her ribs, down her arm, into her neck, making her head throb.  She felt as if her skin was on fire, then a different pain, as if someone had hit her.


"Lie still, Christine."


"Vulcan?" she managed to get out, the word coming out broken.  But as soon as she asked, she could feel the slight pulse of an engine, the familiar feel of a ship.


"We are no longer on Vulcan.  We are on a shuttle." 


Someone took the cold-cloth away.  She heard the sound of a new one being opened, felt it being laid on her forehead.  "There," Spock said.  "There." 


Spock was taking care of her?


Why did that feel...wrong?


Whatever I felt was of the moment, of the burning, some remnant of the effects of V'ger.  You are nothing to me.


"Nothing to you."


"Christine, hush."


"No.  You said it." 


Then the memory was blurred by the burning in her head, the wrenching ache in her hips and back, and the horrible, sinking hole in her gut.


"What happened to me?"


"If you do not remember, that is for the best."  Spock sounded off.  Guilty somehow.


Had she been hurt during the Pon Farr?  Had he hurt her?

But no.  She remembered parts of it, memories flitting in between the pain like little birds.


You are beautiful, Christine.


I want you, Christine.


You are mine, Christine.


She had been happy.  Tired.  Sore.  But mobile.  Walking slowly perhaps.  Dazed a bit, sated definitely.   And happy.



This was satisfactory at best.




"Christine.  You must try to relax."


It is time for you to go.




Surely you do not mean to hold me to anything I may have said?  I would have told you anything during the burning to get inside you.  There can never be anything lasting between us.


But you said you loved me.


I lied.


She blacked out before she could remember any more.




She woke to sickbay, the cold antiseptic smell a blessed relief after...

After what? 


She had been on Vulcan.  With Spock.  The Pon Farr.  She had helped him.  It had been good.  Sweet.

And then...what?


"You are awake."  Spock's voice.  Concerned for her.  Low and soft the way he'd spoken to her during the burning.


He'd told her he loved her.  Finally, he'd told her that.


She turned to look at him, felt lingering pain in her neck, in the muscles that stretched across her shoulders.


What happened?  She tried to mentally navigate from the rooms on Vulcan where Spock had made love to her to this moment.  The pain in her shoulders she could blame on the Pon Farr, on Spock having been too rough.


Only, she didn't remember him being too rough.  He'd been careful not to be.


And why did she have the shiny look of just healed skin all over her arms, the itch of regenerated dermal tissue running up and down her legs.


"Why can't I remember anything?"


"You remember nothing?  Do you know who I am?"


"Of course I know who you are."  She could feel herself blushing.  Deeply.  Spock knew who she was now, too.   Knew her intimately: her needs, her desires, all out for him to see.


And his needs were out for her to learn.  Their tastes had been surprisingly complementary.


And then...    And then what?


"Why can't I remember anything after we made love?"  She kept her voice at a whisper, did not want Len or anyone else to overhear her.


"You remember our time on Vulcan?"


She nodded.  Tensed for pain but found only the lingering ache of a headache finally past.


When had she had a headache?


"We were happy there."  He sounded strange, off.


He sounded like he was hiding something.


"What have you done?"


"You must get better.  We will speak of this again when you are well." 


He rose and she grabbed him, could tell she was surprising him with the resolve of her grip even if it took all her strength to hold him. 


"What happened?  Did you take my memories?"


He leaned down, his lips close to her ear, almost nuzzling her as he spoke.  "Your memories are not gone.  You just cannot find them at the moment.  I will help you recover them, but first you must get well."


"But you took them?  You hid them?"


He pulled away from her as he nodded.  He would not meet her eyes.


"Why would you do that?"


"If you had your memories, you would know why."  He surprised her, moving over her, lips touching down for the softest of kisses.  "My Christine," he murmured, and something in his voice sounded broken.  "Sleep.  Please?"


His eyes were haunted when he pulled away; he did not even seem to care who might have seen him kiss her.  Something was wrong.  Something was very, very wrong.

But he was here.  He had called her his Christine.  He had kissed her.


She smiled at him as gently as she could and closed her eyes.  He stood over her for a moment, then she heard him leave.


Sleep did not come quickly, but it finally came.


She did not find her memories in her dreams.




Len was puttering around the vicinity of her bed when she woke.  He was pretending to be working, but she could tell he was really just watching her.


"Something wrong?" she asked, relieved that her voice sounded less like a croak than it had before.


"Just glad to see you doing better."  He came and sat down in the chair Spock had been in.  "You've had a pretty constant visitor since you were brought in."  He met her eyes, and his were hard.  "You want to tell your Uncle Len why old Spock is suddenly so solicitous?"


She shrugged, found the pain was mostly all gone.


"Come on, Christine.  Truth, now."  He leaned in, seemed to be studying her face, the skin, the bones, the medical aspect of how she looked.  "I don't mind telling you that you were in terrible shape when you got here.  What happened?"


"I wish I knew."  The words were out before she could stop them. 


"Amnesia?"  He frowned, scanned her, and then frowned more deeply.  "How much can't you remember?"


"What happened.  Why I'm here."


"But you remember having one hell of a good time with our Vulcan friend?"  Len's eyes were hard again.  "The meld with V'ger kick off the Pon Farr?"


There was no point in trying to evade.  There would have been ample physical evidence for Len to find of what she and Spock had been up to.  "Possibly.  Or it could have been leaving the Kolinahr ritual so abruptly.  Spock wasn't sure."


"And you were just ready to run into his arms."


"I'm sorry you don't approve."  She looked away, could feel a pain, almost an ache, somewhere in her stomach.  "He's been kind to me.  You said so yourself."


"Yeah.  Well, the question to ask yourself is why."  He stood.


"It's not very flattering that you automatically rule out that he might be interested in me."


Len turned to look at her.  "No, it's not, is it?"   He stared at her a long time, then shook his head and walked away.




She walked to her quarters, reveling in finally being out of sickbay.  Len had cleared her for light duty, which meant he'd hover tomorrow and tell her to sit down a lot while she tried to work. 


She caught up on her comms for a while, then sat back and enjoyed the peacefulness of her quarters.   The door chime made her jump.




Spock almost smiled at her as he walked in.  He was so different than the man she'd known.  The meld with V'ger, almost purging his emotions, they both seemed to have affected him deeply.


He sat on the bed.  His look was gentle.


"I'm free of sickbay.  Len sprung me."


"So he indicated when I went to visit you."  He frowned.  "He was his usual self."


"Sorry about that.  I don't think he gets why you're hanging around me."  Then again, she wasn't entirely sure she got it, even if she'd like to think it was her scintillating company.


"He disapproves of my interest in you?"


"I think he just questions the reason for that interest."  She looked down.


"The emotions dredged out of me by V'ger and the Pon Farr might have been motivators, but you are the reason."  He did not sound entirely sincere, only she couldn't pin down what made her think that.


She got up and walked over to him, unsure what he might do, hoping he would reach out for her and make her stop wondering why he was here.  Instead he just stared up at her, his expression impossible to read.


"You're confusing me."


"I have no doubt of that."


"Did you come here to give me my memories back?"


"No."  He stood up, took her hand for a moment.  "I came here because I am hungry and as you are no longer on the sickbay regimen, I would like you to join me for dinner."


"In the mess?"


"That is where I normally eat."  Again the almost smile.  "Unless you have objections to being seen with me?"


"I think it's the other way around."


He pulled her close, moved very slowly as if he thought she might try to stop him.  His lips touched down on hers, his mouth opened as he kissed her, and her mouth followed suit.  He wrapped his arms around her and she ground into him slightly and heard him moan.


It felt good, being like this.  It felt...right.


She pulled away slowly, and he stroked her hair and sighed softly.


"What is it?" she asked.


"Nothing.  Shall we go?"


"Yes.  We should." 


He didn't take her arm, didn't touch her in any way on the walk to the mess or while they were eating.  But something in his eyes, in the way he spoke low and soft, told her things had changed between them.


Or maybe just changed for him.  It wasn't as if she'd ever stopped loving him, hopeless as it had always seemed.


He walked her back to her quarters, followed her inside when she invited him in, slowly undressed her and let her do the same to him.


"Are you going to make love to me?"  She blushed when she asked it.  And then her stomach lurched again, and she felt suddenly stupid.  Vulnerable.  "I mean--"


He kissed her before she could try to finish that thought.  Kissed her and pushed her back onto the bed.  And did, in fact, make love to her.


Gently.  Lovingly.  And for a good part of the night before they finally fell asleep in each other's arms.




She woke to find him studying her and smiled.  "Good morning."


"Good morning."  He sighed, as if he was letting go of a great burden.  "V'ger affected me deeply."


"I know."  She reached down, under the covers, found the evidence of just how much.


He let his head fall back, let her touch and kiss and suck.  When she was done, when his toes had uncurled and he had let go of her hair, she slid back up his body.  "Is V'ger still affecting you?"


"No.  You are."


"I like that answer.  Very much."  She could feel her smile widen, then felt a strange panic spreading.  Stupid.  It was stupid to be this happy.


But no.  It wasn't.  She was happy.  He was happy.  They were happy together. 


She smiled as he pushed her to her back, paid her back in kind.  Kissing.  Licking.  Sucking.  Until she came and found herself crying.


"Are you all right?"


She looked away, feeling vulnerable, hating that happiness could equal weakness.  "I'm sorry.  It's just so good."


He kissed her.  "I understand that.  It feels good, yet it is so deeply felt that it threatens to rip everything that matters from you."


She turned to look at him, smiled a little, a smile that was also part frown.  "I'm not sure that's what I meant."


"It is what I mean.  It is what I felt.  During the burning, I mean.  Not just now."  He kissed her deeply.  "Now I welcome the feeling."


"Now you welcome?"  She pushed him back so she could see his expression.  "Now but not before?"


"It was too much."  He was whispering, as if he could not bear to tell her whatever it was he needed to tell her.  "It was too much, Christine."


"What was too much?"  She thought back to the burning, to the sex.  I love you, he had said.  I love you, Christine.


And then...what?


"Spock.  What happened?"


He eased away from her, slipped out of bed, and began to dress.  "Tonight.  I will tell you tonight.  I must go."  He came back to the bed, pulled her up to him, gripping her almost savagely, kissing her in the same way.  "You are mine.  Never forget that."


"I have always wanted to be."


It was not the right answer, but she didn't know why.  He let go of her so abruptly she fell back onto the bed. 




"I...I will tell you later."  And then he left so fast it was as if he was fleeing.


She did not move for a few moments, then she got up, pulled on a robe, and sat down at her terminal.  She called up the injury reports Len had filed when she came in.


She had been burned.  She had been beaten.  And there was not one piece of evidence to show who had done it.  Not one single point of impact for the blows, no sign of what could have burned her.  It was as if she had done it to herself.


"What the hell happened to me?"  And why hadn't she looked this up before?


Len had not logged in anything about her having had sex with Spock.  Not surprisingly, neither had Spock, when he'd filed the incident report.


"Doctor Chapel and I were near the transit station on Falstahvia as we waited for our shuttle to Starbase Ten.  We were accosted by a man with a weapon and forced into an alley.  Before I could react, he fired upon me, leaving me paralyzed but not unconscious.  The man said he fed off strong, negative emotion.  He could not read Vulcans, but he indicated that humans were a preferred source of sustenance.  A by-product of this feeding was wounds that mirrored the negative emotion he was ingesting.  Doctor Chapel's injuries were a result of that feeding.  I have included a rendering of the man.  His abilities are similar to those of the creature referred to in the Maltoshan system as a Pain Feeder, but I cannot confirm that the man was one of these, and he did not share personal information during the attack."


Chapel looked at the drawing Spock had worked with the computer to come up with.  Other than a faint feeling in her gut, this man who had apparently tortured her was completely unfamiliar.


Spock had not been able to help her.  They had just come from the Pon Farr, the sharing and the love and the connection.  He'd been overwhelmed by that connection, perhaps distracted by it.  And then he'd been struck down, left helpless.  He'd had to watch her suffer, incapable of coming to her aid.


No wonder he felt guilty.  He shouldn't blame himself, though.  


She would tell him that tonight.




He came to her after his shift ended, seemed ill at ease as he locked the door and took her in his arms.


"Spock, this isn't your fault.  What happened to me.  I read your report.  You couldn't have done anything."  She snuggled in against him, sighed as he ran his hands over her.  It felt so good to be together like this. 


"When I...rearranged your memories, you were deep in a feverish and pain-filled state.  I will need to take you into an analogous condition, into a state where you are deeply engaged."  He began to take her clothes off.  "I will not hurt you.  But I will take you very deep into a meld."


"I trust you."


She saw him swallow hard.


"Spock.  I trust you."


"Now.  You trust me now, Christine, but everything is about to change."  He touched her face, his look so gentle she had to touch back, had to pull him to her, to kiss him.


"I know one thing that won't change.  I love you."


"Please try to remember that."  He eased her toward the bed.  "Remember that I did not pull away this time.  That I don't have to do this--I could have taken your memories away forever.  Remember all that."


A frisson of something that felt like fear went through her.  Her gut clenched, pain she couldn't identify rising up inside her, filling her chest, making it difficult to swallow.


"Shhh.  Not yet, Christine.  You must relax.  You must trust me." 


She settled onto the bed, held her hand out to him.  "I do.  I do." 


But deep down...she didn't.  Some part of her was telling her to get up, to get dressed.  To run like hell.


"This is necessary."  His voice was hard, but she didn't think the hardness was directed at her.  "There is no other right way to do this."


He melded with her, and she remembered him doing this during the Pon Farr.  As he moved into her mind, he also moved into her body, thrusting gently, easing his hand between them to make her feel more and more and more until she came, crying out, clutching him.


She could feel him, could feel his emotions.  His love.


His fear.  Spock was afraid?


"We don't have to do this," she said.


"Yes.  Yes, I fear we do."


He feared.  He hurt.  He felt...guilty.  Guilt was flooding her from him.  Shame.  Anger. 




He pushed her deeper into the meld, pushed her harder physically.   She came again.  And again.  She felt as if she was drowning, could tell when he came, too, but couldn't do anything to help or stop him.


"I love you."


And he loved her.  She could feel it as he drove her deeper.  As she fell into her memories.  The end of the Pon Farr.  How he'd murmured to her, sweet Vulcan nothings.  She'd felt as if she could float away on the feelings he was causing.


They had lain quietly, then.  The burning done, the meld pulsing between them, easing away as they had relaxed.  She could feel part of him drawing away, closing down.


"Spock?"  Her voice had been hoarse. 


He'd pulled away, rolled over.


"Spock?"  She followed him, nestled against his back, and wrapped her arm around his waist.  "Are you all right?"


She felt the meld die, and cried out as it ended.  He moaned, too, even though she knew he was controlling it, had snapped it rather than let it just ebb away gently.  "Why?"


He pushed her arm from him.  "Must you cling?"


She scooted back, her legs tangling with the sheets, a pain starting in her gut, working its way to her chest.  She could feel her throat closing up, tried to swallow and barely made it.  She knew this pain.  Humiliation.  Again.  "I'm sorry.  It's just been so nice."


"You are fortunate, then.  The Pon Farr is not always nice."  He made nice sound bad.  Made it sound trite and human and typically her.


"Spock, you made it nice.  For me.  You were so sweet."  Sweet sounded stupid, too.  Sweet sounded pastel and childish and not at all what he was.  "I'm not sorry I did this, Spock.  You said I might be, but I'm not."


"Then again you are fortunate.  To have no regrets would be an admirable state."


"You have regrets?"


"They are of no consequence."  His tone was cold, and he stayed with his back resolutely to her.  She felt as if she was talking to a wall.


A wall she'd just spent the last three days having nonstop sex with--only she'd been stupid enough to think they'd been making love.


"I know part of what you were feeling was because of V'ger.  But it didn't feel fake, Spock."


He turned, studied her as if she was a particularly unwelcome bacteria.  "You are not what I want.  You will never be what I want."


Pain rose again, and she was glad they hadn't eaten anything since she probably would have thrown it up.  "That's not what you said--and I know that's not what you felt.  I was in the meld, remember?  I was in there, too."  God help her.  She sounded like a lovesick girl or a petulant child.  Was so.  Was so.


"Whatever I felt was of the moment, of the burning, some remnant of the effects of V'ger.  You are nothing to me."  His words were like fists, each one hitting a little deeper, a little harder.


He got out of bed and headed to the bathroom.  She heard the sound of the shower running, realized she probably smelled awful.  This damn planet with its blast-furnace heat and thin air.  She felt as if she was the one who was burning.


Or maybe that was just the shame.  That she'd actually thought he cared.


She didn't know how long he normally spent in the shower, but it seemed as though he was in there for a long time.  Probably scrubbing any trace of her off with a wire brush.


He came out and she passed him, not speaking, not looking at him.  She showered and spent a long time in there as well.  The water hid the sound of her crying.




Dimly, somewhere at the edge of her mind, Chapel could feel Spock hovering.


"I am sorry," he murmured.


The pain in her stomach welled up and she knew what it was.  The only remnant he hadn't been able to suppress.   The warning.  Don't fall for him.  Don't love him.  Don't let him in.


She'd failed to heed that warning.  She'd let him in again.


And now...what?


"We are not done," Spock whispered, in her mind, in her ear, she wasn't sure.  Where his fingers touched down on her face, she burned. 


She wasn't sure if he meant they weren't done with the memories or they weren't done with each other.  And now, it didn't matter.  "Finish it.  And get out."


He didn't answer, but she could feel him pushing her again, moving around in her memories.  She saw them board the shuttle for Falstahvia, the best connection--since Spock was in a sudden hurry to get back to the ship--for the rendezvous point at Starbase Ten.


Pain filled her.  He walked ahead of her.  Not caring how much she hurt.  Not caring that he'd hurt her.  Not caring about her in any way at all.


She meant nothing to him.  He had not been overstating that.


On the shuttle, she dropped into a seat far from the one he took, tried not to cry on the ride, knew he'd hate that--hate her for doing that.


Although he appeared to hate her for doing nothing more than helping him.  And believing him when he'd said he cared about her.


Their shuttle to Starbase Ten was delayed, and she wasted no time in heading out of the terminal, to the quaint little shopping area designed to make weary travelers part with their credits. 


Spock came up behind her.  "I want to ensure we understand each other."


She didn't turn around.  "Oh, believe me, we understand each other."


He grabbed her arm, pulled her into an alley.  "I was not as clear as I might have been.  I appreciate what you have done for me, but this was satisfactory at best.  And it will create problems for us--for you.  It is time for you to go."


"Go?  Go where?  Our shuttle isn't here."


"You misunderstand.  It is time for you to transfer off the ship.  It was Decker's choice to make you part of this crew, not Jim's.  He has been gracious, but you would serve us all best by leaving."


She'd thought the pain couldn't get any worse.  She'd thought she'd managed to toughen up on the ride from Vulcan, bury the need to cry somewhere deep inside.  But the thought that Kirk might feel stuck with her, might really want her off his ship and his crew, nearly leveled her.  She was a good doctor.  She knew she was.  Len liked having her around.


She turned away from Spock, clutched at the wall of the building, felt the rough surface graze her skin.  "Why are you being like this?  You said--"


"Surely you do not mean to hold me to anything I may have said?  I would have told you anything during the burning to get inside you.  There can never be anything lasting between us."


"But you said you loved me."


"I lied."  He turned to go, but a man stepped into the alley.  A man with a weapon trained on Spock.  He fired and Spock went down, eyes open but clearly unable to move or speak.


"What have we here?"  The man advanced on her.  "You're broadcasting.  It's intoxicating.  So much pain."


"Get away from me."  She kept her eye on the weapon, but he put it in a holster that sealed over it.  She glanced at Spock, hating herself for doing it, for thinking even yet that he'd help her.


"Oh, don't think he'll save you, dearest.  He's down for the count.  But he's watching, which is only fair, since it's he who caused you so much pain."


He slammed her head back against the wall, and she felt his fingers seem to invade her mind.  He moaned, like a man having sex, and pressed against her as she buckled.  "Oh, yes, yes." 


She could see over his shoulder.  Could see Spock watching her.  His eyes full of fear.  For her?


The man let her go and she slid down the wall, her legs unable to support her.  "There.  There you go.  So good."  He smiled sweetly.


Then the burning started, on her face, where Spock had melded, on her breasts where his lips had lingered, lower where he had kissed and sucked and thrust.


Fire.  She was on fire.  It spread everywhere.  And as it did, she felt the first blow, thought the man had hit her and realized he was standing near Spock, had raised Spock up so he could watch. 


"See, it's like this, friend.  My feeding has a secondary effect.  All the dark emotion she feels is written in that body--I just bring it to life.  A poison of sorts I leave behind."


Chapel felt as if someone had kicked her in the ribs, seemed to feel bone give as another kick landed.


"And the thing is, if she'd been happy, I'd have chosen someone else.  Not a damn thing I can do with happiness."  He touched Spock's forehead.  "I hate Vulcans.  I'd love to know what you're feeling right now.  Seeing as how this is all your fault."


He let Spock drop and stood.  "Thank you for a lovely meal, my dear.  That will hold me for quite some time.  For what it's worth, I don't think you'll survive this.  Which may in fact be a blessing, given how much you're hurting."  He made a mocking little bow and walked back out the alley as if nothing had happened.

The fire blazed on the outside.  The blows rained down.  And Chapel finally passed out from pain before Spock's paralysis could wear off.




Spock let go of the meld points.  "Christine?"


"Get out."  She could still feel the fire, touched the still-shiny skin on her arm, understood the itch on her legs.




"No?"  She turned and tried to hit him but he caught her up, pulled her close, too close for her to kick or punch.


Not too close to bite, though.  And she would have, but he seemed to read it in the dying meld, wrestled her to her side, lay pressed against her back, one arm around her neck, the other holding her arms tight, his leg keeping her from kicking.


"Get out."  The words came out as sobs.


"Christine, I had a logical reason for taking your pain away.  In the time that it took me to regain control of my limbs, to call for medical attention to you, to board the medevac shuttle, your pain only increased and your physical manifestation of that pain grew worse.  That is what he meant by not surviving.  I took the memories so that there would be nothing feeding whatever was left of the man's poison."


She lay still, exhausted by the memories, by the pain, by her anger and hurt.


"I am not sure that the poison is gone.  You have been happy, so it has had nothing to work on.  I must stay.  I must ensure you do not suffer again."


The restored memories battered at her.  They replayed over and over, and her stomach clenched harder, and she felt as if she might vomit.  "Take the memories away.  I want to be happy again."  She felt him ease up on his death grip.  "Please?"


"You don't mean that.  You wouldn't want to live a lie.  I know that much about you."  He nuzzled her neck and she tried to pull away.  "I could have, though.  I could have taken everything away.  Left only good memories of the Pon Farr.  Or no memories at all.  But I did not."  He sighed.  "In my Kolinahr studies, I learned such acts are trespass."


She didn't answer, just lay still, and he let go of her neck, moved his other hand so it was lying on rather than gripping her arm.  He kept his leg around her but let her move more.


"I loved you."


"I know."


"And you cared for me.  I felt things in the meld during the Pon Farr."


"Yes, you did.  But I told you, I felt as if the emotion was eating away at me.  The Vulcan I was, the man who was prepared to throw all emotion away at Gol and then had been blasted by emotion in the meld with V'ger, was the last man who should have been with you, who should have let you in and reached out.  I...overreacted.  I panicked at the emotions I felt."


"You were cruel."


"Vulcans are masters of cruelty.  Logic has not destroyed that capacity."


"I hate you."


He seemed to be reading her, through the touch of her skin on his, through his lips that lay on the nape of her neck.  "I know you do."


He stayed with her all night, and she pretended to sleep.  He finally left her just before their shift started, when she did not manifest any more injuries.


"You must tell me if the pain comes back."


She nodded.  She murmured, "Yes."  And when he was gone, she sank to her knees by the door and cried for the Christine who'd been hurt, and even more for the one who'd been so happy.  She was some hardened hybrid of them now.  Not hurt, not happy. 

And certainly not ever going to call Spock for help.




She saw Kirk talking to Len, waited for him at the entrance to sickbay.  "Got a minute?"


He smiled when he saw her.  "For you, I might even have five.  Ten if you're lucky."  He motioned for her to walk with him.  "I need coffee."


"Don't you have a yeoman for that anymore?"


"No.  And unless I want Rand to transport it to me, she's pretty much out of the coffee service business."


"Which is as it should be."


He grinned.  "Indeed it is."  He led her to the mess, poured them both coffees, then handed her a cup and watched what she put it in.  "Have a little coffee with your sugared milk."


She stuck her tongue out at him, then realized that was not the best example of how to treat the captain.  "Sorry, sir."


He ignored her and led them to a table.  "So what's on your mind?"


She stirred her coffee, not meeting his eyes as she said, "I know you didn't pick me.  Decker did and since he went, well, spiritually AWOL, you've been sort of saddled with me.  And I'm wondering: do you wish I weren't here?"  She looked up to find him staring at her with a perplexed look. 


"Why would I wish you weren't here?"


"It's not fair answering a question with a question."


He seemed about to answer when Spock walked in.  She looked down, but not fast enough to avoid catching his eye.   She could feel herself blush, saw Kirk frown as he watched Spock get whatever he was getting and leave.


"Okay, what is going on with you two?"


"It's especially unfair to ask me that question in answer to mine."


"He's acting really weird today.  And so are you."  When she didn't answer, he sighed.  "Okay, yes, I have been saddled--as you so nicely put it--with some of Decker's people.  They hate me; they hate that I took the ship from their captain.  They aren't settling in here, and you'll be seeing them trickling out in the next few weeks.  I don't need that kind of headache, and neither does the ship."  He took a sip of coffee.  "But I do not, for the record, consider you Decker's person.  You were mine long before he got his hooks into you, or have you forgotten snookering me into letting you on my crew to find Roger?"


She shook her head. 


"I'm proud of you, Chris.  Damn proud."  He leaned forward.  "Now, what the hell is going on with you and Spock?  And if you won't tell me, fine.  But you better fix it and fix it fast.  I need him, and he's distracted and moody, and it's not just because of V'ger anymore, is it?"


She hated that he could make her tell the truth, or at least get her to shake her head.  But he'd always been able to worm truths out of her.  "I don't know that this can be fixed, sir."


"For God's sake call me Jim.  And why can't it be fixed?"


"Some things can't be.  Maybe they shouldn't be."   She took a deep breath.  "He doesn't want me on the ship, Jim."


"The look he gave you as he walked in was light years away from not wanting you on the ship.  I'm not exactly sure what the look was saying, but it wasn't saying that."


"I've always been stupid over him."


"Is it stupid to love someone?"


"If they don't love you back, it is.  If they'll never, ever love you back, it is."


"Well, you better make sure that's the case before you decide anything drastic."  He finished his coffee and got up, laying a hand on her shoulder for a moment.  "Fix this, Chris.  Consider that an order."




She found McCoy waiting for her when she walked back into sickbay.


"Nice coffee break with Jim?"


She nodded.


"Spock was here.  I told him where you two went."

Spock had followed them, then?


"Our Vulcan friend is acting even weirder than normal, by the way."


She shrugged, saw his eyes narrow.  McCoy on the scent was a terrible thing; he never lost it once he picked it up.  "Just leave me alone, Doctor."  She pushed past him and into one of the diagnostic rooms, intent on rearranging the cabinet.


"Don't Doctor me, Doctor."  Len sat down on the bed, arms crossed.  "I thought earlier he was acting weird around you in a bad way.  I'll admit I thought maybe he hurt you in the Pon Farr and that he felt guilty.  But that's not the case, is it?"


"No."  She didn't look at him, kept her back to him as she moved things around randomly in the cabinet.


"You were happy.  Two days ago, I saw the two of you in the mess, eating dinner, and you were happy.  Both of you."


She shrugged again.


"Damn it, Christine.  You're really annoying when you won't look at me."


She kept working.


"All right, little lady.  Here it is.  Spock's not happy anymore.  And neither are you."


She turned to look at him, saw him smile as if he thought his gambit had worked, but his smile faded when she asked, "Are you happy?  That I'm here.  Working here.  Do you wish I was gone?"


"No, I don't wish you were gone.  Who the hell else is going to put up with me?"  He moved closer, studied her.  "What's wrong?"


"Everything."  She started to cry, hated that she was crying in front of him.  Knew he'd mock her like the old days.


But he didn't.  He took her into his arms, held her and said, "Oh, sweetheart, it's going to be all right.  Just let it out."


She finally pulled away.  "Why are you being so nice?"


"Because it seems like you could use a little nice."  He smiled gently at her, then left her to do her completely unnecessary task in peace.




She stood at Spock's door, trying to decide if she was going to ring for admittance or not.  Footsteps sounded down the corridor, and she took a deep breath and hit the button.


The door slid open and she walked inside.  She'd never been in these quarters.   Spock hadn't had much chance to decorate them; they were still standard issue, no flame pots, no wall hangings.  He hadn't had time to get anything from his parents' house on Vulcan, had shuffled them off the planet so fast...


Her gut clenched, and she almost walked out, but she closed her eyes instead, tried to imagine Len's arms around her, heard Jim's order in her mind.




She opened her eyes.  Spock was sitting at his desk, watching her with a look of concern.


"I'm not experiencing the pain, well, that pain.  The thing he did to me.  It hasn't come back."  God, could she be any more incoherent?


She closed her eyes again, prayed for strength--or at least a shred of her dignity, if there was even that much left.


Taking a deep breath, she let it out slowly.  She opened her eyes and said, "Jim wants me to stay on the ship.  So does Len."


It was clearly not what he expected from her.  "I have no doubt they do."


"You said they didn't.  Oh, wait, you can lie.  Despite the popular myth that Vulcans can't."


"I believe it is more a case of 'don't.'"


"Yes, I'm learning that."  She walked over, sat down across from him.  "What are we going to do?"


"I do not know."  He turned off the terminal, steepled his fingers, and looked at her.  He seemed anything but calm, however, as his eyes met hers and he couldn't hold her gaze.


"Feeling guilty?"


"I have been feeling guilty since Vulcan."



He didn't answer, didn't look at her either.


"What was so bad about being happy with me?  Why did you have to ruin it?"


"It seemed very clear at that moment what my best action was, but looking back, I no longer see the logic in the path."


"That's just saying you fucked up, only with a lot more words."


He met her eyes.  "You are correct."


"I've had a lot of time to think about this."  She saw his eyebrows draw down in an almost frown.  "Okay, I've had a lot of time last night and today to think about this."  He seemed happier with that time assessment.  "At any rate, I've thought about what you did.  I can forgive the memory thing.  You had a medical reason and it was a good one--and your amnesia therapy proved efficacious."


She thought he let out a breath, as if he'd been holding it.


"And you didn't hide that you'd done it.  You didn't try to talk me out of getting the memories back.  You did the right thing."


"Thank you."


"But you were an utter bastard on Vulcan."


He nodded.


"You hurt me on purpose.  The same way that man did, only really, he just took what was already inside me.  You put it there in the first place.  Do you have any idea how much I was hurting?"  But of course he did.  He'd taken the memories.  He'd felt it for himself.  "Question withdrawn." 


She got up, began to pace, unwilling to sit across from him and have him not look at her.  "Why are you just sitting there?  What do you want from me?"  She stalked over to him, tilted his chin up, expecting him to startle at her touch, but he didn't.  "Forgiveness, is that what you want?  Absolution?  Or do you just want me to go away so you can forget this ever happened?"


Something changed in his eyes, and he stood and pulled her to him and kissed her.  It was not a gentle kiss.  It was not a kiss meant to hurt, either.


It was pain, though.  His.  Hers.  Theirs.   It was pain and desire and regret.


She moaned and he pushed her to the bed, urging her onto it, following her down.  He kissed her, not trying to do more, not easing her clothes off or letting his hands roam. 


He sighed and put his fingers on the meld points.  "Give me permission."


"And if I don't?"


He slowly lifted his fingers off her face.


"You have my permission."


He didn't hesitate, and her mind welcomed him, and she felt his guilt and sorrow and anger at himself filling her.  She felt pain that he might have lost her and then more pain that she was surprised the thought even bothered him.


And then she felt jealousy coming from him.  Over Jim?  And anger at her for being with his friend.  And anger at his friend for taking his--his woman?


"It was just coffee."


"There was an ease between you two.  We had it while your memories were gone; we no longer do."


"You think I'm your woman?  After all that's happened?"


"I will always think you are my woman.  Whether you think that is the question."


"You confuse me.  You confuse me so much."  A sleepless night, the weirdness of the day, it all caught up with her and she yawned.


He let the meld go and pulled her close, not letting up on his grip until she relaxed in his arms, until she cuddled in and closed her eyes.


"I am sorry, Christine."


"I know."




She woke to find him sleeping next to her, holding her in a gentle grip, his breathing regular and deep.  She eased out of his arms, slipped out of bed, and stared down at him. 


She should leave.  Leave and let him wake up without her. 


 But she'd hate that, if he did that to her.  It had been bad enough having him turn his back to her.  What if she'd awakened to find him gone?


She eased back onto the bed and whispered, "Spock?"


He opened his eyes, stared at her, and she realized that he'd been awake the whole time.  Then he pulled her down to him and kissed her, rolling her onto her back, easing off her clothes, finding all the places she liked to be touched, liked to be kissed and licked and suckled.


"Spock, this isn't a good idea."


"I disagree."  He moved back up to her mouth, kissed her hard, entering her almost as fiercely.


She arched up to meet him, crying out as he took her, as his fingers found the meld points, as his lust overwhelmed her.  Clutching him, wrapping her legs around his back, she let him do whatever he wanted to her--and enjoyed the hell out of it.


When it was over, when they both lay breathing hard in each other's arms, she whispered, "That was impulsive."


He kissed her forehead, let his lips linger on her skin.  "When I was at Gol, when I was first assessed as a candidate, the priestess said that my tendency toward impulsive acts was the source of much of my dissatisfaction."


Dissatisfaction: such a safe word for unhappiness.


"I don't think of you as impulsive."


"Then you do not know me as well as I thought you did."  He took a deep breath.  "I hurt you because I was afraid of the emotions I was feeling.  Instead of riding them out, seeing where they led, I reacted.  I did the same when I took your memories from you--I know you have absolved me for that, but you should know that I was not sure it would help you, but I knew it would help me."


She closed her eyes.  These truths were hard; they hurt.  But she had the feeling he wouldn't share them with just anyone.


"Even telling you of the burning--that I needed you.  I could have found other means to deal with this.  There was time.  But I wanted you and so I took you."

"And then you threw me away."


"Yes."  He drew away, meeting her eyes.  "I have done other things.  You have seen many of them.  Impetuous, illogical things."


"I'm not sure I care about those.  I'm still fixated on what you did to me."




"Yes.  What's not understandable is why I'm lying in bed with you."


His lips turned up slightly.  "You love me."


She had the urge to hit him.


"Even if I don't deserve it."


Hit him, but not very hard.


"Because you are kinder than I am.  Because you are capable of loving even when you are hurt."


"I'm not sure the second part is a good thing."


"I'm glad you love me, even though I hurt you."


She moved farther away in the bed, needing to put some distance between them.  "I'm afraid you'll hurt me again."


"An eminently logical fear.  I no doubt will."  He watched her calmly.


"And I can't begin to hurt you."


"There you are wrong.  It would hurt me if you left me.  To see you with someone else would cause me pain."


"Really?"  She laughed softly, bitterness adding a harshness to the sound.


"Really."  He moved to close the gap between them, kissed her again, his hand sliding down, touching her in a way she could not possibly ignore.  He looked very satisfied with himself when she finally stopped writhing.




The ship seemed quieter without Spock on it, which was ludicrous since he wasn't exactly a loudmouth.  She'd thought having him and Jim off the ship would be relaxing.  Give her a chance to think.


She seemed to be doing more missing him than thinking.  Her brain was losing the war to her heart--and her damn groin.


"You have dinner plans tonight?" Len asked her as he handed her the weekly report padd to sign.




"Well, then join me."


"That would be nice.  I think I--"   She saw Spock standing at the door to sickbay.


Len followed her gaze and his lips tightened.  "Oh."


"I'm sure you have something nasty to say."


"Not really.  I can find another dinner companion.  Don't worry about me."


She didn't, as a rule, worry about him.  But he moved away before she could decide if she was going to tell him that.


Spock walked over to her, glanced at Len's office long enough for the look to be significant, then nodded for her to go into her office and palmed the door shut.


"We are not doing it right here."


"No?"  His look was amused, and she realized he had one arm behind his back.


"What are you doing?"


He handed her a package wrapped in dark blue paper.


"It's not my birthday.  Or any other holiday that requires gifts."


"I am aware of that."  He almost smiled.  "Open it."


She tore the paper carefully and pulled out a scarf made of some silky fabric.  It was purple and black, with streaks of turquoise.  She wound it around her neck.  "Good?"


"No.  When you wear it next, do not wear anything else."  He moved closer.  "And please ensure I am there."


"You're taking a lot on faith.  That I'll get naked for you again.  That I even like the scarf."


He touched her cheek, stroking lightly along her jaw line.  "I do not give gifts as a rule.  I think you do not get them, either, as a rule.  Since I am enjoying the giving, and since it is a beautiful item, it stands to reason that you are enjoying the receiving." 


"Very logical."


"As for being naked for me again..."  He pushed her up against the wall that separated her office from Len's.  She couldn't help but think he did that on purpose, some weird need to assert that she was his.  "I think we both know how specious that statement is."


Then he kissed her, and she found herself agreeing that it was highly unlikely she wouldn't be modeling the scarf--with nothing else on.




The rec lounge was nearly empty and Chapel sat at the far end, trying to finish up some work in a place where no one would think to look for her. 


"Hiding?"  Jim sat down next to her, a cup of coffee in hand, and sipped it as he stared out at the stars.




"Why?"  He wasn't looking at her, was still staring at the stars as they went by at warp.


"I need to get this done."  She showed him the padd.  Efficiency reports that Starfleet Medical had just instituted.  Like there wasn't enough to do without more bureaucracy.  "Why are you so interested in why I'm here?"


He shrugged and took a deep breath, then let it out slowly.  "It's nice to be 'off' for a minute."


Yes, that was it.  She could be off here.  No Len watching her like a hawk, for reasons she wasn't entirely sure he understood--she knew she didn't.  No Spock coming in at weird moments as if he wanted to make sure she knew he cared.


"Did you come to check on me, Jim?"


"Not really.  I come here to relax.  But here you were, so it seemed like the best place to sit."   He was studying her.  "You look happier than the last time we talked."


She didn't say anything.


"Spock does too."


She still didn't answer.


"That's good.  If you're happy and he's happy.  Or if you were happy together, that would be good, too."


She started to laugh.




"If this is you being Cupid, you really aren't good at it."


He grinned.  "No?  I do much better for myself than for others, I guess."


"I guess so."  She took a deep breath then said, "He's happy.  I think I'm happy.  And we seem to be happy together."


"Why do you not sound very happy about possibly being happy?"


She smiled; he always got it, damn him.  "With Spock and me, happiness doesn't seem to last."


"Has there been a Spock and you before now?"  He held up a hand as her lips tightened.  "Don't get mad at me, Doctor.  I'm serious.  You liked him, even chased him on occasion.  But were you ever really with him?"


"No."  She put the padd down, leaned back, and closed her eyes.  "That's not the point."


"Oh.  Okay.  What is?"


"I don't know.  I'm afraid, I guess."  She turned to meet his eyes, saw only sympathy in his.  "What good is being happy if it's all going to get ripped away?"


"Who's going to rip it away?  Because the only one I see questioning it is you."  He leaned in.  "Spock's very happy.  I can tell these things.  You make him happy, Chris."


"But does he want to be happy?  Can that last?"


"Not if you are determined to analyze it to death."  He touched her hand for a moment.  "Just...go with it."


"Why do you care so much?"


"I like you both.  I need you both.  Happy works for me."  He gave her a silly grin.  "I'm a very selfish man, Chris."


"Go away.  I have work to do."  Her tone was rough, but she gave him her gentlest smile to soften it.




"What if I were to leave the ship?  How would that affect you?"  She turned on her side, watching Spock's face as she ran her hand up and down his chest.


He caught her hand, holding it in place.  "Are you leaving?"


"If I were--how would that--"


"I would be most unhappy."


"That's a very human thing to say."  She wrestled her hand away, let it roam much farther down than his chest.


He groaned and closed his eyes.  "Nevertheless, it is an accurate answer to your question.  It is a hypothetical question, is it not?"


"For now."  She smiled at his frown, and then at how his frown disappeared as she slid down his body, kissing her way to his groin. 


He didn't speak as she finished, just stroked her head and groaned, finally calling out. 


Her name.  Always her name.


She felt him pulling her up, went eagerly, kissing him and laughing as he pushed her to her back and returned the favor, making her cry out, making her writhe underneath his mouth.


"Are you leaving me?" he asked softly when they were finally quiet, lying in each other's arms.


"No."  She kissed him tenderly, almost sorry she'd asked.






Chapel walked into the rec lounge with Spock, surprised he was willing to go to the party, much less had suggested it.  She saw Uhura glance over at her and smile, saw Rand roll her eyes but in an "about damn time" way, not meanly.


Spock led them to the bar where she ordered a gin and tonic and he ordered water, no ice.  Jim was sitting farther down the bar and raised his glass of amber liquid to them both, then walked over. 


"Coming out, are we?"  He grinned at them both.


"Are we?"  She glanced at Spock.


"We are."  He sipped at his water calmly.  "Do you object?"


"No."  She took a deep breath.  "A little warning would have been nice."


Spock looked amused, in a completely Vulcan way.  V'ger was definitely wearing off.  "I do not plan to ravish you on the dance floor."


"Primarily because he doesn't dance," Jim said, obviously trying not to laugh.


"That is correct.  I do not."  Spock gave them both a stern look.  "But the mere fact that I will maintain a close distance to you all night will be equivalent to anyone else doing"--he gestured to a couple having a little too much fun on the dance floor--"that."


"I suppose you're right."  She moved closer to see what he'd do; he didn't back up, just took a deep breath and sipped more of his water.


"Wow, look at that."  Jim put his drink down and took hers and handed it to Spock.  "You don't mind if I dance with her, do you?"


"Of course, Jim.  Please feel free to avail yourself of my woman."


They both stared.


"Ah, I see I have your attention.  Dancing is acceptable."


"But just dancing?"  Jim's eyes were glinting.




"How territorial of you, Spock.  Remarkable."  He winked at Chapel and pulled her away.  "Wow.  Guess he told me."


"It's just possible he's jealous of us."


"Then you are making progress."  He sighed, easing into the dance with practiced ease.  "God, I miss doing this.  This, Chris, was my ulterior motive.  If you're with my best friend, then you're safe.  I can dance all night with you if I want--although I think your beau might object."


"Safe."  She took a deep breath, tried not to let the word rile her.


"You're not safe?"


"With Spock?  Uh, no."  She missed a step and mumbled a quick "Sorry."


"What happened with you two on Vulcan?"  At her look, he gave her a knowing smile.  "Chris, he's my best friend.  I can figure out when he's hormonally challenged."


"Right."  As could Len.  No hiding anything from the holy trinity.  "It was just..."  She couldn't bring herself to tell him what had happened on Vulcan.  "I just feel like I shouldn't be too happy."


"Why?  Isn't this what you always wanted?"


"It is."  The music changed but they kept dancing.  "You remember when we found Roger and it was good, full of passionate kisses and the sex--"


"You had sex with him?"


"A quickie.  A really good quickie."  She sighed.  "And then it wasn't good because he turned out to be an android."


"Spock's not an android."


"I know.  My point is that sometimes I can't tell a fake good thing from a real one."


"Roger was a perfect copy, Chris.  That was the point.   And I think he did love you.  And I think Spock loves you, too."


"Or he thinks that he loves me.  And that's not the same thing."


He pulled her closer.  "Stop overanalyzing this and enjoy.  You break up with him and I'll have no one to dance with."


"You could always dance with Len.  He's quite good, you know.  Although I'd hate to see the war for who would lead."


He was still chuckling when he led her back to Spock.




They lay in bed, Spock draped half over her.  He'd outdone himself in the "pleasing Christine" department, and she stroked his head while he lazed.  She was a little surprised he was capable of lazing, but he was capable of many things that she hadn't expected.

Being jealous of his best friend was one of them.


He leaned up to look at her, and she kissed him gently.  His hand meandered down her belly and she grabbed it and said, "For the love of God, Spock.  Let me catch my breath."


He gave her his almost smile and went back to lazing.


"You're trying to make it impossible for me to leave you, aren't you?"


"Yes.  Is it working?"


She laughed.  His honesty often amused her.  When it wasn't ripping her to shreds.  "I would have left.  If that man hadn't attacked us.  I'd have requested a transfer just like you told me to and left." 


He didn't answer.


"But then you know that.  You took my memories, after all."  She tipped his chin up so she could see his expression.  "That's why you seduced me when I was recovering.  So I wouldn't leave.  So I'd have new memories on top of the ones you were going to give me back."


"Yes.  That is exactly what I did."  He moved up to lie on the pillow next to her, did not look away as he said.  "I had a made a mistake.  I wished to remedy it.  I knew you would flee as soon as I restored your memories.  It seemed logical to give you something to stay for."


"But was that because you loved me or because you felt guilty?"


He kissed her gently.  "Does it matter if this is the result?"




"Then both.  It was because I loved you and because I felt guilty."


"That last part could destroy us.  If the first part isn't strong enough."


"It will be strong enough."  He touched her face, dipped down to press lightly on the meld points.  "I could bring us closer any time I chose.   I am electing not to do that.  Because you need to do this the human way.  And I have learned enough about you to know that."


He kissed her again, pulling her against him, showing her he was ready for her again.


"Recovering that quickly is not human."


"I cannot be held accountable for the vagaries of my anatomy."  His eyes were very light as he pushed her to her back.


She laughed as he took her.  She kissed him, and for the first time since he'd given her back her pain, felt as if disaster didn't loom at every turn.




The Federation detention center was a large gray block surrounded by multiple force fields.  Chapel followed Spock inside the main door, trying to beat back the fear she felt as they moved deeper into the building.


He glanced back at her, touched her hand in full view of their escort, and she smiled at him and took a deep breath.


The guard gave her a gentle look.  "Here we are."  He gestured toward a holding cell.  "Is this the man who assaulted you?"


They could have done this remotely.  But she'd wanted to see the man in person.  Needed to see him. 


The man saw her and looked shocked.  "You?"


"Me."  She nodded at Spock.  "And him."


The man as close as the forcefield would allow him.  "You shouldn't be alive."


"Never underestimate Vulcan ingenuity."  And she smiled as she stared him down.


She felt Spock's hand come to rest on the small of her back, could feel the warmth of him.  And she let that warmth seep in.  She looked at the guard, took a deep breath, and said, "Open it.  I want to test something."




"It's okay, Spock.  Really."


The guard opened a small section of the forcefield and she walked through.


"You thought it was fun to hurt me."  Rage filled her, at Spock, at this man, at herself. 


The man backed away.


"You don't like anger, do you?"  She moved closer.  "You just like pain."


"You've made a remarkable recovery, my dear.  But he'll betray you in the end."


"No.  No, he won't."  And before she could think better of it, she slugged the man hard in the stomach, caught him with linked hands on his chin as he fell.  He hit the ground and didn't get up. 


Those Starfleet self defense courses were useful, after all.


"Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to come out now."  The guard sounded more amused than angry.


"No problem.  We're finished here."


Spock's lips tilted up slightly.  "You are all right."


"I'm a long way from all right," she murmured as they walked back to the entrance.  "I may have broken my hand."




Vulcan still felt like a blast furnace.  As she walked the short path to Spock's family home, she felt out of breath and sweaty.


"The Tri-Ox will help, Christine, but only if you take it."


"I'm aware of that."  She took the hypospray out, slid it under her hair, and let it go.  The hissing sound was accompanied by an immediate feeling of relief.  She could breathe again.


But she was still sweating like a pig.


How did Amanda stand this?


Spock opened the door and indicated for her to go in.  The house felt blessedly cool.


"Spock?"  Amanda came out from an adjoining room, smiling at him, then turning to Chapel.  "Oh, my dear, welcome."


Chapel shot Spock a panicked look.  "You said they wouldn't..."


"I was mistaken."  Spock turned toward the hallway.  "I believe I hear my father."  And he was gone like a shot.


Amanda was laughing.  "He told you we'd be gone?"


Chapel nodded.


"Would you have come if you'd known otherwise?"  She walked over to Chapel, took her arm and led her into the kitchen.  "Meeting the parents can be scary, but you know us, dear.  Why so apprehensive?"  She poured a glass of something golden into a glass of ice.  "Here, this is very cooling."

Which meant Chapel didn't just feel like a sweaty pig, she looked like one, too.  Great.


Although, Amanda was right.  Chapel knew them.  Had seen them occasionally on Earth when she was in med school.  Had even had lunch with Amanda once when she'd run into the woman in the shopping district.  They'd not talked about Spock; he'd been at Gol then.  They'd talked about other things, easy things.


She sipped her drink, found it delicious if a bit bitter.


Sort of summed up her relationship with Spock right now.


"Spock clearly wanted me to talk to you if he fled to his father's study.  That is the last place he would normally go."  Amanda eased Chapel onto one of the stools that sat near the high counter.  Then she took the one next to her and waited.


Chapel fiddled with her glass, making little patterns in the condensation that was forming on the side.


"Are you two having trouble?"


Wow, Amanda was really going to do this.  Spock got his determined streak from her, apparently.


"No, we're not having trouble." 


"But you've had trouble?"


"Did he pre-brief you?"  Chapel shook her head and laughed--it came out too harsh.


"No, he didn't.  He just said he was bringing you with him.  Since my son has brought exactly zero women home with him before you--with the exception of his fiancee of whom the less said the better--both Sarek and I thought this might be a significant thing."


Chapel laughed, and this time it came out right.  Light and almost happy.


"So, what's the problem, Christine?"


Chapel wasn't going to talk to Spock's mother about this.  It was just...wrong.


"You're being very loyal.  And I appreciate that.  Spock needs that in his life after T'Pring.  But I think I can imagine what this is about.  I had my own doubts many years ago when I fell for Sarek."


"It's confusing.  Vulcan men."


"It is, isn't it?  When we're young, everyone sells us on true love, soulmates, all that romantic stuff.  They never tell us that someone who can see your soul--can see the real you--can also hurt you worse than anyone else."  At Chapel's startled look, she took her hand.  "Spock is very like his father.  And Sarek has hurt me over the years.  Not often, but when he did--he hit deep."  She swallowed.  "I almost left him once.  He was...well, never mind what he was.  Suffice it to say that they can be real jerks when they want to be."


"Yes, they can."


"But the rest of the time, they can be extraordinary.  Are you happy with my son, Christine?  Because if you're not, that's one thing.  But if you are, and you're simply afraid that he will cause you pain in the future--well, that's silly.  Because of course he will.  The people we love are always the ones who hurt us."


"This is some pep talk."  But Chapel was smiling.  Amanda might not sugarcoat anything, but what she said made sense.


"Spock clearly thinks the world of you if he's inflicting his father on himself."  She grinned.  "They are far too much alike.  You'll no doubt get to experience that during your stay.  But Sarek approves of you, so you can rest easy--his disapproval will be pointed at his son, not at you."


Chapel wondered what it would be to live that way.  Knowing the two men you loved couldn't get along--might never get along.


"Listen to me go on.  You should go to Spock.  Your room--that's you in the plural, in case you were wondering--is just down the main hall.  Third on the left."


Chapel found Spock unpacking.  He shot her a look that was almost guilty, but also very satisfied, as if he had every confidence that the Amanda Grayson Method of Girlfriend Adjustment would be entirely successful.


She shut the door and walked up to him.  "You could have told me the truth."


"You would not have come if you'd known they would be here.  I wanted you to have a chance to interact with them.  And the memories you have of Vulcan are not pleasant ones.  I hope to change that." 


"By fighting with your father the whole time?"


"I will endeavor not to do that.  But I cannot guarantee anything."  He seemed to sigh, then shook it off.  "My father once asked me why I did not pursue you.  When I told him you were, in fact, pursuing me but I was not interested, he indicated that my intelligence might be substandard."


She laughed.  "Really?  Sarek did?"


"He did.  He thought you were a most suitable mate."


"Well, points for him, then."


Spock left the unpacking and walked over to her, locking the door before he pushed her up against the wall and kissed her almost fiercely.  "I have since been convinced that his position was, indeed, the right one.  Most logical to have you in my life."


What he was doing to her wasn't logical at all.  He had her clothes pushed up and slipped down, had his robe in the same state.  He hiked her up onto him, moving quickly and hard, kissing her to drown out the sounds of their climaxes.


When he let her down, they were both breathing hard.  He kissed her gently and said, "I love you, Christine."  He stroked an errant strand of hair off her cheek.  "I love you very much."


It was all she'd ever wanted to hear from him.   She searched her heart, found fear but hope as well.  Maybe the future didn't have to be scary?  Maybe they could make it?


Whatever it ended up being, she knew one thing was certain: "I love you, too, Spock."