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) 2018 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.
The pleasure planet is as lovely as you remember it. The last time you were here was after you found and lost Roger again. Only it wasn't him. The thing the aliens conjured up for you was more him than that android was.
Primarily because they build the "people" you interact with from your own memories. So it's true as can be—if totally subjective.
And now you're not here for Roger. You're here for Jim.
Why do your lovers disappear? Will you find Jim years from now? Only, no. People saw what was left of the portion of the Enterprise-B he'd been working in. No one could have survived that. It's not that he was lost; it's that he was obliterated.
You hate the Enterprise-B more than you thought it was possible to hate a ship. You despise Harriman even more.
You make your way to the welcome center that's been put up since the first time you visited this place during the initial five-year voyage. You weren't in love with Jim back then, even if you were grateful and respected him.
It took decades for you two to move beyond colleagues to lovers. But when it finally happened, you knew he was what you'd been waiting for. And then he was ripped away from you, just when he was finally going to be home, on Earth, with you.
But you can get him back. If only for a little while.
The aliens who run the planet hand you a small disk with a red light on it. They tell you when you come to the area that has been designated for you, it will turn green. They point you down a path and you hurry.
If this were really a fantasy world, your spot would be a cabin, just like the ones Jim used to show you on the real estate listings. A-frame and rustic, lots of glass to take advantage of the pine trees, with room for a big dog. But this planet isn't about atmosphere. It's about who you interact with.
You near a grove of trees, conveniently thick enough to hide those inside and the light on the disk turns green. You duck inside it and see there are cushions on the ground next to a picnic basket.
And he's standing next to them. Turning at your approach. Looking just as he did when he took command of the new Enterprise, after Spock died and was reborn. He convinced you to leave ops and take a science billet, and you did, and then you both started to fall in love and you were together until you had to leave, about a year before Khitomer and that fateful voyage.
His voice. You close your eyes so you won't have to blink back the tears. His dear, dear voice.
"Chris, what's wrong?" He's to you, holding you, kissing you.
You laugh as he sinks down with you to the cushions, as he peels off your clothes, as you're together again, finally.
As if you never had to look up while at your desk at Starfleet Medical and see the news ticker announcing his death. As if he never sacrificed himself for a ship that wasn't his own.
As if you haven't been floundering since then. Trying to move on. Roger disappeared on a voyage but you'd known he'd been leaving you for a time. Jim was lost just as he'd been coming back to you.
"Chris, come back to me," he murmurs and you try to forget what it's been like, the pain, the loneliness. You focus on him, his lips, his beautiful eyes, the way he feels when he's touching you.
You lose track of time. You eat when you're hungry—food appears to replace what the two of you have used—and even sleep in his arms. His snore is the same, the way he holds you, his hand light on your side as he spoons you.
You find it hard to sleep without him now. You were with each other on the ship for so long. Free to explore new worlds and your relationship. And even once you got back and he was still on the ship, you talked every night if it worked with your schedules. He was never far away even when he was halfway across the quadrant.
This make-believe Jim shifts to his back, murmuring, "You awake?"
"I want to stay here forever," you whisper, wondering if you have enough credits. Wondering if anyone will come to find you.
"That would be nice." He sounds half asleep.
"Isn't he a little young for you?" It's Jim's voice again but not next to you. He's standing by the entrance, and you look over and see the man you lost. Older, heavier, more wrinkles, but still with the intensity in the gaze, the velvet in the voice.
The younger version sits up.
"Beat it, fella." Older Jim isn't smiling.
The younger version gets up and pulls his clothes on then hurries out.
"You had to go younger?" His smile is the one you remember him using when he's hurt.
The last thing you want to do is hurt him. Even if—"You left me." Your voice breaks and you close your eyes.
"Is that why you didn't want me? You wanted him?"
"He is you."
"No, he's not. And neither am I." He cocks his head. "The Jim Kirk you know wouldn't like this. He wouldn't want you getting lost in this...fantasy."
"You don't get to say that."
"Why not? Because you told me not to go to the launch and I went anyway?" He moves closer to you. "Because the last thing we did was argue?"
You can't keep the tears back now. They're half from sorrow and half from rage. "You hated Harriman."
"Going to the launch wasn't about that."
"No, it was about that damn ship that you loved more than me." You close your eyes.
You hate that you think that way. But you do.
And this Jim can't give you the real reasons if they were any different than what he told you. There's nothing inside him that wasn't pulled from you or what they remember of him during his previous visits.
Did he die mad at you? Or hurt because you couldn't understand? Did he think of you when he was working? He probably didn't even know he was going to die. He got the deflector working—how could he know it was the last thing he'd ever do?
He moves in, pulling you close, his cheek pressed against yours. "I love you. You know that."
You don't answer. Because while you know he loved you, he's not saying he didn't love the ship more.
For Spock, he blew up his ship. Would he have done that for you?
"I imagine you've had to be very brave, Chris. 'Yes, it was a heroic thing he did.' 'Yes, my lover was a hero.'" He pulls you to look at him. "'No, I don't hate him for abandoning me.' Just. Like. Roger."
You want to push him away. But he's right—and he's also holding your hands because he knows you.
Or this version of him—drawn from your own memories—knows you might do that.
"What do I do, Jim? I miss you."
His look is stern. "We talked about this, Chris."
"We knew this could happen—to either of us. We agreed the other shouldn't be alone."
"I'm not going to Spock."
The irony is that Spock grew to love you after you were with Jim. The two of you found things in common when a relationship was off the table. You found that you really liked him.
You occasionally would look up from the cribbage board and find him staring at you in a way that you'd have killed for in years past. He never said anything—and he always looked away quickly—but you've been around the block more than once.
You know interest when you see it.
Jim knew it, too. It never bothered him, though. He used to joke that he was glad he got you first, but you think Spock never would have gotten there if he hadn't. That he'd have never let down his walls if you hadn't been so safe and off limits.
"Chris. I want you to be happy. Mourning me forever is no life."
You agreed with him back when he was alive and you discussed this as an abstract concept. But now, when you're missing him so badly, and he's right here you can actually envision a life alone with frequent returns to this planet.
Even if you know that's no life at all. And the real Jim would have hated that idea.
But you're so angry at Spock, even if it's unfair to feel that way. "He should have been at the launch."
"Why? So he could die with me?"
"You might not have been killed if he'd been there." But the words are meaningless. Spock's mother had been dying; what was a launch compared to that? No one had thought it would claim one of Starfleet's greatest sons.
"Chris, you need to go to him. He's hurting."
"That's me saying it, though, Jim. Everything you say—it's just an echo of what I want."
"Then do it."
"Says the woman who fell in love with Spock before Roger was found." His tone is gentle, he's not judging.
He knows you. Or you know you and this Jim is made from you. God, you wish you didn't understand how this place works. You wish you could just fall fully into the fantasy.
"I love you. I love him." He holds his hand out, his voice the one you heard him use countless times when he was trying to convince someone to do things his way. "It makes sense."
"I'm not ready."
"I didn't mean you had to run to him right this minute." He grins. That heartstopping grin you loved the best. And then he kisses you tenderly. "You mind if I take up where that younger version left off?"
You laugh softly, because this is typical of you, that you'd banish the version that was pure pretense and be with this Jim. The one who loves you but isn't going to take your bullshit.
The closer thing to the real man. "I miss you. I'm lost."
"I know." His smile is gentle as he pushes you down to the pillows and shows you what loves is.
When you wake in the morning he's gone. Easier that way, you suppose, than some prolonged goodbye. But on a padd left near your clothes, it says only, We agreed.
Part 1 - I Grieve with Thee
You're about to head off to lunch when you get a page. "Doctor Chapel to CR-7."
With a sigh, you tell your empty stomach to wait and head off to the conference room. You expect an impromptu staff meeting, maybe a patient discussion with other doctors. It won't be a patient because you didn't leave Jim just to be a doctor, you did it to be administrator of emergency medicine and urgent care here at Starfleet Medical. Because while Jim could retire, you had a few more years to go.
So you expect a lot of possibly tedious things that will keep you from getting lunch.
You don't expect Spock.
He looks like shit.
He starts to get up and his movement is so slow that you wave him back into the chair. "Christine..." He seems unsure what to follow that with.
"I am recovering. It is immaterial." He gives you the look that never was very successful on the ship at stopping you from treating him.
Pulling the scanner you still carry in your pocket even if you generally don't see patients, you frown as you see what he's recovering from. You know they put him in the conference room because he's a dignitary and he probably didn't share jack shit about why he wanted to see you. But there's no way you're going to treat him in here so you ease him up and say, "Come on."
Walking slowly to a treatment room, you try to assess what you're seeing. Massive bacterial infection on a wound that's been treated in the most rudimentary of fashions. "Do I want to know where you got this injury?"
"You may want to know. I cannot, however, tell you."
"Swell." You fix him with a glare that would make McCoy proud. "I'm going to find out if the bacteria isn't from here."
"No doubt you will." He seems so tired and closes his eyes as he sits on the exam table.
You have a sudden urge to lay your hand on his forehead, to soothe him the way you used to Jim.
It's been two months since the pleasure planet. You've left Spock alone. To his goddamn detriment, it would seem. Jim was right, of course. He needs you.
You let the bed do its work, supplementing with the scanner so you can analyze the bacteria offline where it won't go into his records unless you want it to. You get the result back and while the bug can be found many places, it's not a surprise to see the Klingon home world is lousy with it.
Of course he'd be there. He's their savior, after all.
"You pick strange places to vacation, Spock."
His lips tick up ever so slightly. "A mission."
"Gone wrong, it would seem."
Again the tick of the lips. "Surprisingly the opposite."
Knowing Klingons, you suppose this is true. "It's infected. Badly."
He shrugs in a way that reminds you of Jim when he was at his most exhausted.
"Do you even care that you're sick?"
"I am here, Christine. I am letting you work on me because I trust you both personally and as a person I know to be discreet. Is that not caring in some way?"
"You may just be in enough pain to want relief." This time you do lay your hand on his brow, feeling how hot he is—far past Vulcan normal. "Or maybe you're beyond steering your own course. Maybe you just ended up in here because it was as good a place as any?"
"Quite possibly." He takes a ragged breath. "I...I miss him, Christine. I know you must also be adrift."
Adrift. Such a good way to put it. Moving but not in control of the motion. Feeling everything and nothing.
But you got to say goodbye—even if it was to a replica.
He reaches up, pressing your hand down, no doubt reading a great deal from you.
"I miss you, as well, Christine."
You smile but gently pull your hand away. "Let me get you some meds."
He doesn't open his eyes, just nods in a way that seems forlorn.
You come back with a hypo you shoot him full of and some small ones to take home. "One every three days. It would help if you rested. No missions for a while." You turn away but he reaches out, stopping your progress. "Christine, I regret that I was not on the ship with him. I wish..."
"Oh, Spock. I wish, too. But I know why you weren't. I understand. So did he. And I'm so sorry for your loss."
His grip on you tightens. "Your words are kind, but I feel your anger...buried."
"Can you feel that part of it is at Jim?"
He looks surprised.
"That part of it is at myself?" You ease away. "It's an emotional indulgence to blame anyone. It happened. It was his time."
"Do you believe that? In destiny?" His eyes are drooping. You put some relaxers in the meds but they're affecting him more than you expected. "I died. Was it not my time? Yet Jim found a way to bring me back?"
"There's no way to bring him back." Except on a planet of imitations.
His eyes droop even more.
"Spock, I don't like how you're reacting to the meds I gave you. I'm going to admit you."
He nods too quickly—where is the man who dodged physicals, much less being admitted? "I am so tired, Christine." There is a world of sorrow in his voice.
"I'm sorry." You process him in and before you're finished an orderly is knocking at the door, pushing the antigrav chair in once you move aside, but then he stops, clearly unsure if he should help a Vulcan the way he would a human.
You save him the trouble. "Up we go, Spock." Taking his arm, you ease him up and he stands and sits heavily in the chair. "I'll come check on you before I go off shift."
He meets your eyes, and you can't read his expression, so you motion for the orderly to get him upstairs.
A moment later, Admiral Julaba pops his head in. "It's funny how quickly you can turn a courtesy call into an admittance." He walks in. "I saw him come in. Something I should know? Being head of Starfleet Medical and all..."
"Bacterial infection secondary to a combat injury. Location and details of incident restricted."
Your boss rolls his eyes. "It would only take a quick scan."
"Actually it wouldn't. It was inconclusive as to origin." Sometimes honesty is the best way to lie.
"Okay." He shares a look with you—he was in ops for a short time. He knows what it means to not be able to share—or delve too deeply—so he's probably not fooled by your ploy but won't push it. "If he's here for more than a night, there's going to be high-level interest. You realize that, right? I mean...this is Spock. After Khitomer..."
You nod, because of course you know this. Starfleet Medical used to grill Len every time Jim or Spock logged any significant sickbay time on the ship. "I'll keep an eye on him."
"Good. You had lunch yet?"
"Was on my way when I got the page."
"You're on." You follow him to the cafeteria, find some food that looks interesting and join him at a table near the windows.
"How are you, Christine?"
"Kovo, you don't need to worry about me."
"But I do. I know what you're going through. I know how it hurts."
You nod because there's nothing you can say to that. He lost his first wife on a landing party. The way you sometimes feared you'd lose Jim.
The way you assumed you'd lose him. To a cause or a mission, not to a goddamn ceremonial activity.
"It just takes time," he murmurs.
He steers the conversation to less emotionally laden topics for the rest of lunch.
Spock is sleeping when you check on him so you analyze the biobed readings—bad but no worse—and pull a chair up to his bed to catch up on some personal mail. When he says "Christine," in the raspiest voice you've heard since V'ger, you put the padd down and lean in.
"You, my friend, are very sick." You smile gently, and can tell by the way he smiles back at you that he is also very, very stoned. "You've never reacted this way to pain meds before."
And you've seen him in almost every possible state. Near emotionless, happy, stoic, reborn. This is new.
And troubling. You check to see what they gave him and how much, and when it's not anything other than what you'd have done, you order tests that aren't standard for a bacterial infection. Julaba is going to want to know why if he checks into the case. And you know he might. Knowing what's going on in his domain is how he got where he is.
"You sounded like Jim when you said that," Spock whispers. "My friend."
"I'm not Jim."
"Nor am I." The intensity in his eyes belies the softness of his voice. "I...I do not know how to feel, Christine. I was needed at home. But to lose him..."
You lean in, let your lips settle on his forehead before you can think too hard about whether you should be touching him. "I know," you whisper into his skin. "I was harsh with him, Spock. I didn't want him to go to the launch. So we fought. Our last words were angry ones."
"You had a premonition?"
"No. I just hate Harriman. I know Jim detests—detested him. I couldn't understand why he needed to do this. Except it was that damn ship." You take a deep breath. "So the anger you felt. A lot of it is at me. But it's easier to blame you for not being there than myself for being such a bitch when I should have been kissing him goodbye for the last time." You take a deep breath. You've told no one this. Not Ny. Not Len. Not Jan. Only the fake Jim they created from your memories and guilt.
It's clear Spock isn't sure what to say.
"I went to the pleasure planet—the one we went to early in the first voyage?"
He nods. Not the nod of a nostalgic frequent visitor, more the kind that says he's aware but has no idea of the appeal.
"I saw him. I...I got to say goodbye." You lean in. "When you're well, maybe you should do that too?" You indulge yourself, brushing his hair back.
He doesn't tell you to stop. But why shouldn't he indulge you? You may have just given him permission to live out a fantasy. You've never been sure just how deep his love for Jim runs, and Jim got mad the one time you were drunk enough to ask—another angry moment—and you never brought it up again.
"It would not be Jim."
"It might be the next best thing."
"Will he not only tell me what I want to hear? They create the facsimiles from user memories and desires."
"And regrets. And yes, I know he's not real, but he won't just tell you what you want to hear. He'll tell you what you need to hear. Because that's the kind of man he was. For both of us, I think." You ease away from him. Primarily because you're getting too close too fast to a man in no shape to receive more than professional care, but also because one of the scans you've ordered is done.
As you read it, you see nothing unusual in the results. You've already checked his hormones to rule out the Pon Farr. Maybe the other tests will be more illuminating. But they won't be done for quite a while.
"I'm dead on my feet, Spock. I'm going to leave unless you need anything."
"I will be fine." He meets your gaze. "Your eyes. So kind. I have always thought so. Never said. Too slow to realize what was in front of me—and then you were no longer in front of me but at the side of my friend."
Wow, he's going to have this conversation? Then again, maybe flying on pain meds is the only way he ever will. "Timing is everything."
"Indeed." He sighs and closes his eyes. "You comfort me. You always have."
"Everyone's favorite nurse." You wait for his next comeback but he's fallen asleep.
You check on Spock when you first get in, and he's awake but listless. His vitals though are looking much better and you smile in relief.
"Christine, if I said anything to offend you last night..."
You sit and smile gently at him. "You were on pain meds."
"That would not have mattered in the past. I could always exercise restraint." He actually sighs and his eyes are...dead.
You wonder how much loss it takes to break a Vulcan.
"I wasn't offended."
He nods, but he looks away, out the window. His room has a lovely view. Pays to be a VIP.
"Why do you think you would offend me?"
"I dishonored Jim's memory."
You lean in, letting your hand settle on his so he can feel your emotions. "Jim never left anything to chance. People thought he flew by the seat of his pants, but he was a planner."
"He knew he could go first. He didn't want the people he loved to be alone." You wait to see if he'll add up one and one and get the two of you.
His eyebrow goes up. "He would not be opposed?"
"No, he wouldn't be. Well, okay, to be precise, right now I imagine he'd want me to act like the doctor I am and take care of you. I'm worried about you, Spock." Especially since all his scans had come back normal; you read them over breakfast. "Have you ever heard the term 'mired in grief'?"
He nods. "You think I am? Pathological grief is another, not so agreeble, term for it, is it not?"
"I prefer complicated grief, but yes. Have you considered seeing someone—to talk things out?"
"Who would you have me see?" His tone is harsh—one he hasn't used on you in decades.
"A counselor, maybe?"
"Are you seeing one?"
"I'm not the one that let a simple wound get morbidly infected." You don't try to modulate your tone. You're not going to take his bullshit and he has to understand that.
But you do care about him. Too much possibly. "I know someone. He's very discreet. He helped me a few times when ops got to be too much."
You can tell he's surprised you've said this. And no one else knows. Not even Jim knew you had a therapist you saw from time to time. Jim might have been able to tell you were burning out by his own amazing instincts for assessing people, but he never knew how many times before you actually left that you thought of requesting reassignment.
You're glad now that you stayed and worked through your shit. Because you don't think you'd be surviving Jim's death if you hadn't.
Spock has his eyes closed so you try to ease your hand away, but he turns his over, interlacing his fingers with yours, clearly reading you—this isn't a romantic thing.
Does he think you're making this up to get him to comply?
He opens his eyes. "I would like his name."
"Doctor Assif Youssad. He's civilian but on contract with Starfleet so you can be as open as you need to be."
His lips tick up, and you realize that he's amused.
"Okay, you and your super-duper special missions can stay secret. But you can talk about less sensitive things. Now, can I have my hand back? I have a job downstairs, Mister."
He lets you go.
As you get up, he says, "You do not have to take care of me."
"You mean just because Jim wanted me to?"
"Spock, when haven't I taken care of you?"
He has no answer for that. You didn't think he would.
You go up to see Spock in the evening and find several Vulcan healers and Sarek in the room.
"Doctor." Sarek doesn't sound pleased. You're used to him being happy to see you. And using your first name.
"Ambassador." Courtesy seems the best route given the two healers. Plus if he wants to rely on titles, you're game. "What exactly is going on?"
"You are not Spock's personal physician," one of the healers say. "We are transferring him to Vulcan."
"She is my physician and this is quite unnecessary." It's an annoyed sound, almost a growl. Spock is clearly not onboard with whatever his father's is doing. Enough to lie about your status—although you were the referring so technically it's probably not as big a lie as it might have been.
You wonder if he doesn't want Sarek figuring out where he was on his last mission more than he resents the parental meddling. Although with these two...?
You take a quick look at the biobed. He's much improved since the morning, so you figure he can take a little conflict on his behalf. Pushing your way in, you say, "If the patient doesn't want a second opinion, I suggest you honor his wishes."
Twin Vulcan stares descend on you but you ignore the healers and turn to Sarek. "He's Starfleet, Ambassador. We have jurisdiction."
You hear Spock's quick intake of breath. You know exactly what you've said and how it will tick Sarek off. You've heard the history of how Spock went his own way and chose Starfleet over the Vulcan Science Academy.
Sarek's eyes narrow for a moment, and you think what you're seeing is rage under the otherwise calm exterior. You glance at his hands—balled into fists.
Yes, you've just royally angered the preeminent Vulcan. But it's on behalf of the second most famous one.
He moves closer, his voice pitched low, so only you can hear—well, and any Vulcan in the vicinity, so pretty much everyone. "I have lost my wife. I will not lose my son."
You're shocked he'd take such an emotional tack, but the healers do not react so maybe it's simply a logical sentiment in their eyes. Possession being an important concept on Vulcan.
"And I will not let your son be lost. But he wants to remain here. And so he shall." You've taken on any number of hostile leaders, administrators, and other types of bureaucrats in your time. You've never gone head to head with a Vulcan, though.
You can tell he expects you to cave under his glare. But he's been on missions with you. He knows how you are.
You want to cross your arms over your chest, but he'll read that as weakness, as self-soothing, rather than the other human meaning of "I've had enough of your shit." So you stand firm and wait.
Waiting someone out is an underrated art. Most humans can't do it. They feel the need to fill a space with words. To seek harmony in the conflict that grows in a hostile silence.
But you learned from Jim. You learned from Spock. And you even learned from the man you're facing down.
He slumps, ever so slightly, but you wait a little longer. Rushing in to claim victory is generally a mistake.
He finally nods and turns to Spock. "My son, do you wish to remain in this medical facility?"
"I do, Father." Spock's voice is at its most neutral, probably to counter how much damage you've potentially done.
Sarek used to be your fan. You think he won't be championing you in the future.
"Then you shall." He motions for the healers to go away and the way he gestures leaves no doubt that he doesn't want to hear any argument—not after having lost to you in their presence. "I assume I may sit with my son, Christine?"
Your name now? Interesting. "Of course. Spock, do you want me to get your padd from the security locker? You're well enough to catch up on messages if you want."
As Sarek sits, you mouth, "Sorry," to Spock, and he nods, almost imperceptibly. His eyes are untroubled.
You have saved him. For once, you're his hero. "I'll be back in a little while."
You leave Sarek and him to talk about whatever it is fathers and sons discuss at moments like this.
You're an only child and your parents doted on you. Moreover, you really liked them. You had your disagreements, but the cold gap that exists between Spock and his father is a mystery to you. You were devastated when your parents died when you were on the second voyage, after V'ger. It was partially grief over them that led you to flee the ship and head for the excitement of ops. Anything not to feel.
Especially when Spock was full of post-V'ger emotion but still not interested in you. And you and Jim hadn't figured out yet what a good match you'd be.
How much time did you waste?
Although you've always believed things happen as they're meant to. You had Jim and you loved him and you lost him before anything could get in the way of your happiness. It's a horrible way to think—that he might have left you, or you him—but it's a way of making sense of losing him. Of sort of sidestepping around having to hurt.
And it works. Until you get home, to the closet full of his clothes, still smelling of his cologne. That you sometimes curl up with in bed, trying not to think that the scent of him will fade until eventually they are nothing but old clothes.
You aren't sure you'll ever be able to recycle them. But then, there's no one demanding you do.
Youssad told you grief is personal. How you mourn is unique to you. When you're ready, you'll deal with Jim's things. But if you're never ready, that's your right.
You didn't tell Spock you'd seen Youssad for grief. You're not sure why. Maybe to make it easier for him to go—if he thinks that you only saw him for issues during your Ops time it might not seem so weird, sharing the same therapist.
Or maybe because you don't want him to know how much you're struggling.
One of you has to be unbroken. Or at least seem it.
By the time you get back with the padd—and you linger near the lockers, nursing a cup of coffee in the staff lounge to give Spock some time with his father—Sarek has gone.
Spock meets your eyes, and he closes his and actually sighs.
"I'm sorry. I may have come on too strong." You sit and put the padd on the table that hovers near him, holding water and some of the nutrition crackers you know from experience he prefers.
"He is the one overstepping, Christine, not you. Clearly I wanted your support." He takes a deep breath, seems to hold it, and then lets it out slowly. "All during my youth he tried to control me—to dictate what I would and would not do. I rebelled. Over and over. Until finally he let me make my own choices." His voice gets softer as he speaks. "Now he attempts to make me come to heel. He has talked of me leaving Starfleet and joining his team. As if it is a reality, nothing we need to discuss. Nothing he needs my opinion on—my assent."
You take his hand because he's agitated, and you think he needs to feel your support. "He's lost your mother. He's terrified he'll lose you, too. You heard him."
"We are not compatible. Working together would be a grave error. I do not..."
You squeeze his hand. "You don't like him?" You laugh so softly it's only a soft exhalation of air. "Do you think he likes you?"
You nod. "I think he loves you, though."
"It is not logical. How can esteem grow without affection or respect or tolerance?"
"Loving someone you don't like is pretty much the definition of a lot of families." You shrug. "It's not logical. And you know that." He doesn't look convinced so you try another tack. "As we age, as we create our own lives separate from our families, we form non-blood families. They're people we liked first and then loved, not the other way around. We were never dependent on them to keep us alive when we were helpless infants, or to fight our battles when we were children. They know us the way we want to be known. They're our family in spirit."
"I do not think your father has that. He had your mother. He has Saavik, yes?"
"He does. But she is stationed at a facility on the other side of Vulcan and is often away."
"My point exactly—I think he's very lonely, Spock."
"Do you think I should work with him?"
"No. But maybe, once he understands that you're not going to uproot your professional life for him, carve out some personal time to spend with him?" You can see he's about to protest so you lean in. "I really do believe he loves you, Spock."
"I am his son. That is all that matters. How I reflect on him." He sounds like a cranky child and you glance at the biobed. He's exhausted.
"You're very tired." You wonder what he'll say, but he doesn't argue, even squeezes your hand gently. You think he can feel the caring coming from you.
Care—just call it what it is: love. You never lost it, even if you found someone new who you cared for just as much. Love doesn't disappear, it just...adjusts.
"I am lonely, too, Christine. I can feel that you are as well."
"We've all been leveled, Spock. There are holes in our worlds." You blink back tears almost before realizing you are crying. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to push this on you." Easing your hand back, you try to spare him, but he doesn't let go. "I miss him."
"I miss him as well."
"You loved him. I know that." But do you know that—do you really understand what that means? "Did you...love him?" You wonder if he'll understand.
His eyes soften in a way you believe they wouldn't if he wasn't able to read that you really want to know. That you're not mad, just curious, just trying to answer a question that never has been fully covered. A question that perhaps Jim couldn't—or wouldn't—answer.
"I did. But he...I am unsure if he was disinclined because he preferred women or if he did not want to do anything to disturb the rapport we enjoyed as a command team."
You see the uncertainty in his eyes—this has been a question he may need answered as much as you do. "You never asked him?"
"No. Not when he had already sacrificed everything for me. His son, his ship—so that I could live. It does not matter that our relationship was not physical, Christine. I will never have a closer friend."
"I know how much he loved you. I never doubted how much real estate you owned in his heart."
"Highly inaccurate from a medical professional." His eyes are soft, his expression...grateful, even as he seems to be eager to get you both to less emotional ground.
"You know what I meant."
"Indeed." He squeezes your hand again softly, then lets you go. "I believe I should sleep."
"I believe you should, too. Don't get on that padd till morning, understood?"
"Yes, Doctor." As you rise and turn for the door, he says, "Christine?"
You turn back to look at him.
"He was extremely happy with you. I envied him his contentment. The way he looked at you. How much he loved you." He is couching his statement in a more emotional way than you think he normally would.
You share a long look, soft and lacking any strangeness. You're talking about a man you both loved.
You're think you might also be talking about loving each other. In the most roundabout way possible.
"Go to sleep." You wait until he's settled in and pulled the covers up, then leave him in peace.
You're running late the next morning and have to wait to visit Spock, but you sneak a look at his charts before your first meeting, happy to see that he's still improving. The attending physician—a man you like—has noted good progress.
Spock may be improving, but he seems grumpy when you use some of your lunch break to visit. Grumpy for a Vulcan, of course, but you're used to reading his moods. He never hid them from you and Jim once you were together, so you saw the real Spock. How open he could be—again, for a Vulcan, but more than you'd imagined back when he'd been all you thought about.
He puts the padd down and says, "I am much improved."
"Oh, did someone make you the physician now?" You smile and check the biobed readings.
"Doctor Chapel?" It's a soft voice you don't recognize immediately, and you turn and see Nurse Liu. "Our patient is much better." She smiles softly and turns a charming shade of pink.
"That he is. Did you need...?"
"Oh, no. Just checking to make sure he doesn't need anything." The flush deepens.
"No, he's fine right now." You wait until she finally mumbles something about other patients and leaves
"You see. Nurse Liu agrees with my assertion." Spock stares up at you, tapping his fingers slightly on the blanket, not seeming aware he is doing it.
"She is most attentive."
"That's because she has a huge crush on you, you big dope." You're laughing as you scan him, liking to get a second opinion to the bed. Len taught you that. Every now and then it paid off—and in the field, there were no beds. Some doctors lost their skill with the scanner if they relied too much on a bed to diagnose.
"How do you know this?"
"No one blushes that much otherwise." You know the look. You were once a nurse with a crush on the unattainable Vulcan, after all.
"Christine, am I well enough to go home? I am tired of the hospital. The intercoms are loud and wake me. It is difficult to sleep or meditate with the interruptions. Doctor Harper says I must stay here but I do not want to." He meets your eyes and you see frustration in his.
"Spock, you're really not ready to go home."
He seems about to argue.
"It's not debatable. You'll go right back to work—I know you." And so does Harper because you told him that restraint isn't Spock's strong point in recovery. "I know you're bored. I know you're stuck with nothing to do but think about what you've lost."
He says nothing. Just stares out the window, his jaw set tightly.
"You know, Youssad has an office in this building. If you want to reach out...?"
He shakes his head.
"I am sorry, Christine. I do not mean to be short. I am..." He waves off whatever emotion he was going to claim.
"Bored? Then I suggest you flirt with Liu. I have to get back downstairs for a staff meeting."
"You have barely been here."
"Spock, I'm on my 'blink and you'll miss it' lunch break. And I'm hungry so I'd like to get some of the lunch part of lunch break, if that's all right with you? I'm sorry but you can't always be the center of my world." Even if you did think of him first thing.
"At one point I believe I was." His grumpiness is growing.
You glance at the chrono on the biobed; you really do need to go if you want to eat. "Yeah, well, those were different times."
He looks so put out, you settle your palm against his cheek, knowing he can read you this way, sense your frustration from having too many meetings booked because that's your life now. "What you're feeling is not about you, Spock. I have a life and today it's sort of a shitty one. Okay?"
He nods and looks chastened. "I am sorry if I am being selfish."
"You're sick of being here. I understand that. If you progress today like you did yesterday, I can discuss discharging you tomorrow with Doctor Harper, okay?"
"Thank you." As you turn, he says softly, "If I am no longer the center of your world, could you send Nurse Liu in?"
You glance back at him, laughing, happy to see that he's finally not so cranky—that he can joke, the way you remember him doing with you and Jim. His expression lightens for a moment, but there is something in his eyes, something intense and questioning.
"Do you want me to tell you not to flirt with her?"
"Flirting is not in my nature."
You let an eyebrow go up because Jim told you all about Droxine. And you've teased Spock about it more than once.
He appears to realize his mistake. "Generally not in my nature."
"Well, I'm not going to tell you what to do. I'm going to grab some chow." You grin and head out the door, and hurry for the elevator.
It stops on every floor. Looks like lunch will be a nutrition bar.
You and Jim lived on those the first year you were together. Sex during lunch was always so much more attractive than food.
You close your eyes, feeling a weird mix of nostalgia and crushing pain. Memories bring pleasure until you remember he's gone forever.
Maybe you should be the one to go visit Youssad. You ping him as you walk to the cafeteria, set up an appointment for later in the week. He's used to that from you. You refuse to commit to an actual schedule. You don't want to admit you need that much help.
Even if you probably very much do.
You track down Harper before you visit Spock. His smile is as warm and sweet as ever. You suspect he has a little crush and maybe, if things were different, you'd have one too.
But you had Jim. And now...now you don't. And there's the Vulcan who's currently his patient that you do have.
"Christine, our patient wants to leave."
"I know. He was surlier than surly this morning." You sit across from him in the lounge. You haven't checked on Spock's readings this afternoon. Been too busy, and then too tired.
You're not his damn doctor, after all.
"You look all in." He pushes a package of cookies toward you. "Have one. The sugar'll do you good."
You laugh and take one. Caffeine and sugar. The medical world runs on it.
And on some less benign things as well, but you've managed to stay clear of that. You had Jim and if it was a really bad day the two of you had booze to end the night with. But most of the time you just had each other. To sit with, to talk to, to touch and kiss. To just be with.
God, you miss that. It was equal, the giving and taking of support. And the sad thing is you never realized how much he bolstered you until he was gone.
"Spock can go home tonight. He's out of danger. Provided he takes his meds like a good boy." He laughs at his own phrasing.
"I'll make sure he does." Then hasten to add, "Not trying to do your job."
"That wasn't what I was thinking. Why do you need to take care of him? Or do you want to?"
You can tell there's a level of personal interest in his question. He has no idea of your history with Spock. You're not that close.
"We served together." Normally that can explain away a world of bad decisions or enabling.
"You've had a long career. I imagine you've served with a lot of people. This one seems different."
You shrug. You're too tired to get into it. "He was my lover's best friend, Carl."
He actually looks relieved. Like that's all this is. "Oh, sure. Duh." His smile is back to the old one, sweet, intrigued—with more energy than before.
Jesus, you just lost someone.
Just. Months ago at this point. But still. It feels like yesterday. Do they think you should get over it faster? Youssad said some people might want that. Grief is often uncomfortable for others. The accompanying emotions: anger, despair. The acting out. The saying whatever you want because what's the point of not?
You decide not to tell Harper to slow the fuck down. Just ask, "He can go now, then?"
He pulls his padd close, checks something and then pulls up the discharge screen.
You get up before he can finish. "Thanks for the cookie." You can tell he wants to talk more but you get the hell out before you alienate another friend.
You can still hear Len when you wanted to know where he thought he was going to get with all his concern right after Jim died. "I was just checking on you, Christine. God damn it, how hard is it to believe I might care about you as a person?"
You've never been Len's type. You're not sure why you thought you suddenly were. Why you were short with him. But it's why he's not here now. Although he's also working a lot off world. His absence may have nothing to do with you—and you know you're prone to taking things way too personally right now.
You make your way to Spock's room. He's working on his padd and his expression lightens when he sees you.
"Good news. I got you sprung."
"Now, if you want it?"
He's out of the bed immediately, grabbing his clothes from the closet and going into the bathroom to change. You're about to grab his padd but then decide not to. You're not his woman. Or his mother. He doesn't need you to help. And more importantly he may not want you to.
He comes out, takes his padd, and indicates you should lead him out.
"You need to check out at the nurses' station."
He veers off in the direction you point, is back quickly with a small bag of meds, and as you near the exit says, "My apartment is on the way to yours. Will you walk with me?"
"Sure." You're ready to get out of here. Ready to collapse. But you have an early presentation for a new treatment protocol and you need to run through it a few more times once you get home.
"I am relieved to be free of that room."
"I'm sure you are. They told you about the importance of keeping up with your meds, right?"
"Christine, I am a scientist. I understand how these types of medicines work—how detrimental not finishing the full course can be."
"Yeah, well, you wouldn't be the first scientist who didn't follow the plan, so I have to ask."
"I appreciate your concern."
You nod and then wait. You want him to ask you about your day. Or ask you anything.
When he finally speaks it's when you're a block from his building and he says, "You will come up?"
It's barely a question. More an assumption.
He stops and studies you. "I think we both know why." He reaches for you arm—no doubt to read you.
You shy away. "Wow. That's romantic."
"Did I misinterpret your actions while I was sick. Your...devotion. What you let me feel through touch. And what you have said that you and Jim discussed. I took it to mean you were interested. That you cared."
"I do care."
He looks relieved. "Then come up. We can...forget. Together."
You stand still, remembering a time when you and Jim stood in just this place. Jim laughed as he pulled you in for a quick kiss before heading in to play chess with Spock. You were meeting Ny and Jan for a rare girls night when everyone was in town.
You can feel his lips if you let yourself. Hear his laugh as he brushed your hair away from your face.
"I don't want to forget."
He looks immediately contrite. "I did not mean forget Jim. I meant the pain. The...loss."
"He is the loss. He is the pain." You study him. "Does it even matter to you that it's me? Would Ny do? Or Len? Or Saavik?"
"Christine, we are both suffering. It is logical to comfort each other."
"Comfort? That's rich. How was my day, Spock? What's tomorrow look like? I've been comforting you but where the hell were you when I needed some love?" You think it's a mixed message to be so mad at him and then speak of love, but this is you now. Honest but with a hair trigger.
This is why Ny stays away. You're too angry, she says. You're unpredictable.
She fucking said that to you. She'd be a goddamn basket case if she'd been the one with Jim.
"Spock do you know why Jim and I were so happy?" Before he can posit a reason, you lean in. "Because we weren't running away from anything. We were just running to each other."
"I did not mean to offend you, Christine. I have feeli— I am interested in you, not anyone else."
"That's great. Really. But I had a horribly busy day. And I've been worried about you and it's exhausting especially when I'm just trying to make it from one day to the next. And tomorrow is going to be another busy day. So no, I'm not coming up and fucking you so you can forget. I'm going home to prep for tomorrow and get some sleep."
"Of course. I am s—"
"Don't say you're sorry. I know you're sorry. I'm just not equipped right now to deal with you being sorry." You touch his cheek, not caring you are in public, and apparently he doesn't care either because he leans in, his eyes narrowing, no doubt reading a world of things from the contact.
"You have to care about me, too, Spock. You have to support me, too. I don't think that's where you're at. Maybe work on your issues, okay? I'll do the same. Then we can talk about me coming upstairs." You can feel tears threatening and jerk away. "I love you."
And then you push past him and walk away, toward your apartment, your lonely apartment filled with memories and pain and Jim's things. Your prison and your sanctuary and a place you're not ready to leave yet.
Not even for a man you've been in love with for so very long.
Part 2 – All Things End
You sit in Youssad's office, your time for the session running down. He's making some notes and says softly, "I'm glad you changed from occasional to weekly appointments. I'm seeing a change in you."
"I'm feeling a change in me." You take a deep breath. "I'm...uh...going to go through Jim's stuff this weekend."
He looks up from his padd. "You're telling me this at the end of the session?"
"End with a bang? Leave them wanting more?"
He smiles. "What prompted the decision?"
"I think it's time." And his clothes barely smell of him anymore. "It's not a wholesale throw-out or anything. But...it's time to make room in my life for the reality of things, yeah?"
"That's one way to look at it." He leans back. "There are no rules, Christine. If it hurts doing it, stop. You have time."
"I know. You've taught me well."
"I didn't teach you. Just reminded you." His smile is so gentle. You think he must be a wonderful father. He has pictures of his kids on his credenza, so you can see them. Two boys and a girl.
You wish sometimes you and Jim had fallen in love during the post-V'ger voyage, when you still could have had a kid or two. But then you wouldn't have been able to stay on the ship with him. So maybe not.
Your life would have been very different. And Jim's as well—no Antonia. Maybe no death of Spock.
You take a deep breath and try to not think about Spock.
He was called off world days after he was discharged from the hospital so you haven't talked to him since the conversation outside his apartment. He's been on non-stop missions but you've looked at the transporter scans and his infection hasn't recurred. He's back to being healthy—in body, anyway.
You long to ask Youssad if Spock ever talked to him, but it's none of your business. And you've been careful to refer to him as a man you once served with, not the oh-so famous Vulcan that was your dead lover's best friend.
You wish you weren't hurt that he still hasn't checked on you. Is he just so mired that he can't look beyond himself—or is this how he is? Jim never complained of their friendship being one sided, though. So maybe this is how he is...with you.
"You look sad. Is it the thought of going through Jim's stuff?"
"Oh, no. I mean I'm not jumping at the bit to get to that but no. Just something else." You see him smile in the way that means he's not letting this go. "I was thinking about that guy I mentioned. The one who wanted to forget."
"Have you seen him?"
"Nope. Just...replaying, I guess, what happened."
"Right." You like the verbal shorthand you and Youssad have developed.
"Do you wish you'd said yes to him?"
"No. I just...miss him. Even though..." You shake your head. "It's complicated."
"Man, do I hate that expression. It's never really all that complicated." But he grins because you both know the hour is up. "Next week, then? Maybe you can uncomplicate it for me?"
"We'll see." You get up then turn back to him. "I want to say thanks. For not pushing me into coming more often before I was ready."
"Pushing gets me nowhere generally. You need to want to make progress." He smiles gently. "And you have. I don't know if you realize this, but you used to jiggle your knee during sessions."
"I did? I haven't done that since undergrad." Roger hated it. Used to put his hand on your knee to still it when you were alone.
"You're not doing it now."
"Well, see. Thanks." You grin and head for the door, thinking about what you've talked about as you ride the elevator down.
As you head out of Starfleet Medical, you hear someone call your name.
Turning, you see Jan. "Hey. I didn't think I'd see you until next week."
"Meetings let out early." She pulls you in for a long hug. "Walk me to the VOQ?"
"It's on my way." You pull her back into a hug. "God, I've missed you."
"I know, honey. I'm so sorry I'm not here."
"You're where you're supposed to be. Still with Sulu?" Of course as his exec but also as his lover. And happy by the way she's beaming at you. "I'm so glad. You two deserve nothing but good things."
"Same for you." She's studying you as you walk. "You look better than the last time I saw you. Sleeping okay?"
You laugh because she's so perceptive. "Now I am. Before, not so much." She saw you a week or so after the launch. You looked horrible. "I've been seeing Youssad. For grief."
"I love him. He helped me so much over the years."
"He's a treasure. I'm—I'm going to go through Jim's stuff finally. "
She's studying you again and you smile, happy to have someone besides just your therapist really looking at you, really seeing where you are. "You want help with that?"
"That's so sweet. But no. I'm going to start but I might not finish. It's just important that I finally face this."
"I hate that you've gone through this twice. No one should have to go through this once, much less twice." She sighs and rubs your back. "So you haven't mentioned Spock?"
"Why would I? Long over him." But you don't say it with much conviction.
"He was on the ship last week. He wasn't very subtle in asking me about you." She grins. "How you're doing, what you're doing, if you're seeing anyone. Also what your favorite color is."
"You're making that last one up."
"Okay, yeah. But the other ones. He's looking better, too. Seems...at peace."
"He's a Vulcan. When don't they?"
"Christine, I saw him after the launch, too, remember. He was a mess. His mother and Jim at the same time. God." She stops at the path that will take her to the VOQ. "He really was interested in you. Something you forget to tell me?"
"I took care of him when he was sick. I intervened between him and his father. It's just...maybe nothing."
"Maybe something, then, too?" Her look is concerned. "He's not Jim."
"No, he's not. But Jim wanted me to be with Spock if anything happened to him."
You nod. "I'll tell you at dinner next week. Ny's not coming, right?"
"She said she was busy. We're meeting another night. You two okay?"
"No, we're really not. But...you know. Grief changes a person."
"Hmm." Her tone is the sound of the women who always gets to the bottom of things. You hope she does. You miss Ny. You wish she was here.
But you wonder if, given the opportunity, she'd want Spock. She's always loved him.
She always loved Jim, too.
You wonder if your problems started long before Jim's death. Maybe on the ship, when you two fell in love.
But she was with Scotty then and happy. Why would she begrudge you happiness with Jim?
Unless she'd given up on ever getting him. "Not in the nest" meaning just that. Until you arrived and showed it didn't.
What if she'd tried harder?
"Whatever you're thinking, Chapel, cut it out." Jan shakes her head. "I'll figure this out. I promise."
"You don't have to."
"Nevertheless." She pulls you in for another hug. "If you need me..."
"You'll be with Sulu, enjoying leave on a long weekend. Go get started on that."
"Okay. I've been so worried about you, Christine. I'm glad you're doing better."
"Me, too. I'll see you next week."
You watch her go, then head down the path that heads toward your apartment.
The sunset is gorgeous. You stop for a moment to enjoy it and a couple pass by, holding hands.
It only hurts a little.
You walk into Starfleet Medical feeling some strange mixture of both exhausted from cleaning out more than you expected and lighter for having done it, for letting go finally. Walking into your office, you're surprised to see Sarek there. "Oh."
"Admiral Julaba said I should wait here."
You give him the best smile you can, one that's like the old you, the one who wasn't broken and then glued back together. "Of course. Are you all right?"
"That is an excellent question." He is lacking any sign of lightness.
"Did you come here for an apology? Because I'm not sure I can give you one."
He waves that idea off and finally looks like the Sarek you remember. "I assumed you were defending my son so stridently because you were involved with him and wanted to keep him here with you. But I think that assessment was incorrect, was it not?"
"Yeah, I think it was." You hate how your voice breaks when you answer. "It wasn't personal. I hope you know by now how much I respect and like you."
"I had always thought we had an excellent rapport. Until you defied me." He cocks his head, studying you. "May I ask a personal question? Not about my son."
"I think you've earned it."
"Did you perhaps try and fail to keep Jim Kirk on Earth? To keep him from the launch?"
You look down, hating that your words to Jim are replaying even now. You fought with him rather than for him. You should have found a way to make him stay.
But you didn't. You just sulked and said mean things.
And he said them back. Frustrated with you. Loving you but aggravated.
"I am sorry, Christine. That is too personal."
"No, Sarek. It's fine. It's...apt, even." You swallow hard and know he sees the motion, that he'll interpret it as nerves—even fear. "Maybe in some way I was fighting to keep Spock here because I let Jim go. But mostly I was just trying to protect a fellow Starfleet officer and a friend. You and I, we've lost someone, Sarek. But he lost two of the most important people in his life. And I...I don't know if he's all right. I don't know if he has anyone to talk to about it. It's not me right now. It's not you, is it?"
"It is not."
You have a sudden horrible suspicion. Is Ny avoiding you because she's with him?
"He has been spending time with a Vulcan teacher he particularly admired in his youth. One who helped him learn how to balance the duality of his nature. I believe it is helping him. He is less...reactive than a few months ago."
"Maybe he's seeing someone here, too. A romantic someone, I mean."
"I do not believe so."
You laugh, because he is so earnest. "And you'd know because he shares that kind of thing with you?"
"No, I'd know because he would tell Saavik and she would tell me. She has long been the bridge between us, funneling information from one to the other. Sparing us from having to attempt to...connect more than is comfortable." He meets your eyes. "These words are between us, you understand. Not for Spock."
"I understand. I will not speak of it." You lean in. "I was serious when I asked how you were. I...I went through some of Jim's things. He didn't have all that much but still." The effect of a career spent mostly in space: traveling light. "I think about your home, with Amanda. How much more must be there that you have to decide what to do with. Whether to keep it, let it remind you. Or remove it and feel like you're.." You stop because you're projecting human feelings onto him and that's not fair. You're projecting your feelings about Jim's things.
But he nods and says, "Remove it and feel like I'm betraying her, our life together, everything."
"I have not begun that task. Someday but I am not ready yet. Her things give me comfort."
You want to reach out, to take his hand and tell him you completely understand. You don't, of course. "I was afraid that I'd drown in his things if I didn't start getting rid of them. That it wasn't healthy." It was when you sprayed Jim's cologne on one of his shirts. Bringing him back—or the memory of him, anyway. You could envision doing that over and over.
"Most wise, then." He stands. "I will not take up more of your time. I only wanted to ensure you would not be uncomfortable around me. We have not spoken since our disagreement."
"My son would be a fortunate man if he were to become involved with you. Such ferocity on his behalf."
"I've loved him for a long time, Sarek. I don't know that I'm really what he wants though. Sometimes solace looks a lot like love when you're in pain."
His eyes are very gentle. "And sometimes we comfort someone—and accept that comfort—because we care deeply for the other person. Do not write my son off just yet, Christine. I would like to think that some of us can find happiness in the future."
"You're a good man, Sarek. Amanda was a lucky woman."
"The good fortune was mine." Any lightness retreats. But then he seems to shake the darkness off. "I have meetings. Tedious, no doubt."
"Me, too. Thank you for stopping in."
He nods and is gone.
Julaba is in moments later. "Just when I think I've figured you out, some other legendary Vulcan pops in to see you. Do you collect them?"
You laugh out loud. Can't help it because it's so ludicrous. "Yes, yes I do. Some people collect art or antiques. I collect Vulcans." Rolling your eyes, you gesture to the door. "Don't you have a staff meeting to run?" One you need to be at.
"Nope. I have to go to some mandatory ethics training. One jack-ass admiral uses official funds to rent a beach house for his family, and now we all have to sit for an hour and listen to what we can and cannot do with Starfleet resources."
"You have my sympathy." But you're happy to have the time back to get some things done.
You're eating lunch in the cafeteria when you get the feeling that someone is staring at you. Looking around, you see Spock in line for food. He's looking right at you. In fact, the space between him and the woman in front is getting bigger so you laugh and he turns and hurries to close the gap. Then he looks back at you. You point to the chair across from you, and he nods and walks over once he gets his food.
"I was not certain I would be welcome," he says as he sits.
"When aren't you welcome?" You study him. He does look better. "I've missed you."
"I have." You go back to eating, letting him get started, taking the pressure off.
Instead he says gently, "How are you?"
You meet his eyes and see he is not just asking in a throwaway manner. He doesn't want to hear "I'm fine" so he can tell you about his day. "I'm doing better."
"I am gratified to hear that. I am, as well." He pours dressing on his salad as he talks. "I found someone to talk to as you suggested."
You decide not to tell him his dad has told you this. "Yeah?"
He nods. "A trusted teacher. A...friend, I suppose."
"That's really good. You look a lot better." You take a deep breath. "Can I ask you something that's none of my business but I need to ask?"
"You may ask. I may elect not to answer."
Laughing, you nod. "Fine. Ny's avoiding me. Are you the reason?"
He shakes his head in such a casual way you know he's telling the truth. "You thought she and I...?"
"You're not immune to her charms. Which are considerable."
"I am not immune but I am also interested in someone else."
You look down. "Oh." He means you, doesn't he? Shit, what if he doesn't? What if he means Saavik or his trusted teacher has a nubile daughter? "Who?"
There is a small puff of air and you realize you've made him laugh. "You, Christine."
"Oh. Okay, then." You grin and his eye are gently amused as he looks back at you, and you wonder how long it's been since you've felt this light.
"Is that interest welcome? I do not think it was last time." He holds up a hand before you can answer. "I do not think either of us was in a place to make it welcome and you were wise to say no. But...perhaps now we are?"
"Perhaps now we are." You give him the sweetest smile you can.
"I am fortunate you were eating at the same time I was. I have been wondering about this and am tired of the uncertainty."
"I said, 'Not now.' Not 'Not ever.'"
"I am less skilled than you in nuance. You had taken such care of me. I...I overreached. I thought perhaps I had misunderstood completely."
"I'll always take care of you." You reach out briefly, a glancing touch on his fingers. "But...I think you were also representing a lot of things besides just yourself. Jim, maybe. Spock, I feel like I failed him."
"I, too, feel that way."
He is the one to reach out this time, touching your hand, keeping the contact longer than you expect. "Neither did you. Jim made his own decisions. We both know that."
You turn your hand so for a moment, you are palm to palm. "Are you back for a while?"
"Do you want to come over tonight? Play cribbage? I'll cook for you, even."
"At your apartment?"
"At my apartment. You've been there before, Spock. Jim and I loved having you there. But he and I didn't play cribbage—that was our thing." You study him. "If it's uncomfortable, we can go out or do it at your place."
"Is it important to you that your apartment with Jim becomes your apartment alone? That you entertain me there?"
"It is." You're surprised he's that perceptive. "I got rid of some of his stuff. Not all. There's a museum he loved that's interested in his antiques. And I have some things put aside I thought you might want to have. And I'm keeping a lot."
He nods, waiting, not trying to tell you how brave you've been or what a good thing it is to move on.
"When I held onto it, I could pretend he was coming back. But he's not coming back, Spock."
"No, he is not."
You realize you're tearing up and whisper, "Give me a sec," and look out the window, blinking rapidly.
He does just that. Goes back to eating. When you turn, he studies you again, his expression gentle. "If you want to postpone, I will understand."
"If you want to, I'll also understand."
He seems to think about it. Then he shakes his head. "I do not want to postpone." His lips tick up ever so slightly, his eyes so soft you wish you could capture the look because it makes you feel warm and safe and...loved.
"Tonight, then. Around seven?" Your communicator goes off and you glance at the message. "They need me back. A long leisurely lunch was too good to be true."
"I will see you at seven."
"Looking forward to it. Although if this afternoon is bad, you may end up with an omelette for dinner."
"You make excellent omelettes."
"I do, don't I?" It was always an easy way to make a veggie meal for one. "Okay, I'll see you later. Don't let them assign you off the planet before then."
"I will not."
You're getting vegetables chopped for a stir-fry when you hear the chime go. "Open," you tell the apartment system and hear Spock coming down the hall to the main room that is the reason you and Jim picked this particular apartment. The view is spectacular.
Spock sits in the spot he normally does when you cook, only in the past, Jim would have been next to him at the counter, and you feel a small pang at that thought.
Pushing a small box toward him, you say, "Look through those. I thought...maybe some things you'd want to keep."
Before you go back to chopping, you pour him a glass of cranberry juice and mix it with seltzer the way he likes it. Cold but no ice. He murmurs a thank you as you put it down but is focused on the box so you let him look in peace as you get things ready.
"Yes, thank you."
You turn. "All of it?"
"Yes. You chose well." He gets up and walks to the sliding door that leads to the large deck but doesn't go out. He has his hand on the chair Jim loved to sit in, the one he picked out even though he was going to be on the ship for another year and you were here.
"Spock, you can sit in his chair."
He turns to you, his expression light. "Do you?"
"I do. It's my chair, too. And it's super comfy."
He strokes the leather but doesn't sit. "When you left the ship, he was miserable."
"Miserable? Since when do you categorize something that way?"
"It is what he said he felt. He...truly missed you."
You pour yourself a glass of a cabernet Jim loved and say, "I missed him, too. But this job came open and he was retiring. We didn't know if another position would be as good for me. So I left." You stare at the beautiful chair. "He barely got to sit in that thing, Spock."
"He never told me he was miserable." He told you over and over that he missed you—you never had any doubt of that. But he obviously sugarcoated it a bit for your sake.
"I was envious of what you two had, Christine." He doesn't look at you when he says it.
"Why? Because I had him or because he had me?"
"Could it not be because you had each other?" He turns and walks to you. "I cared deeply for you both. I grew to consider you a friend, Christine. We were never that before."
"No, we weren't."
"You still love me. I feel it whenever you touch me."
"I do. It's true." You smile in what you think is a rueful expression. "And despite that do you think we can...go slow?"
"He is still here for you?" He gestures around the apartment.
"He'll always be here. And here." You lay your hand over your heart. "But that doesn't mean there's not room for you. And he wanted me with you if he wasn't here. He'd approve. But I want to do this right. I don't want to worry that I'm not done saying goodbye to him as I'm letting you in. I think they can happen...together if we don't rush."
"I am a Vulcan. I do not need to rush."
You give him a "Really?" look.
"Barring the Pon Farr." He reaches out and pulls you in, going slow, probably so you can stop him if this is not what you mean by not rushing.
But you let him hold you and wrap your arms around him. He rests his chin on your neck, his head pressed against yours, and he's so warm and strong that you just relax into him. It feels like it's been years since anyone held you.
He tightens his hold on you and you know he's reading what you're feeling. Relief, surrender, affection, and grief. Less than before but not gone.
You pull away enough to kiss him. A soft kiss. A short one, too. You want to give him something sweet but not too much. Not yet.
Because he's right. Jim's still here. At least for you.
"So if you want your meal, you're going to have to let me go."
He smiles. Miniscule and fleeting but you saw it. Then he kisses you. Soft. Quick. Loving. And he murmurs, "I will wait as long as you need, Christine." Then he lets you go.
He sits back at his place and sips the juice and you cook. The two of you talk about easy things as you work. He tells you Scotty has shipped out for his retirement on Norpin. You can't believe he's leaving, but you suppose all of you will soon enough. Except the man sitting so calmly, filling your apartment with an energy that is alive and strong and good. He'll outlive you barring injury or illness.
Someday, he'll lose you too.
You turn away so he can't see your face. You don't want to think of sad things. Not when he's doing better and so are you.
Amanda lived with the fact Sarek would outlive her. She did it gracefully. You can too.
Provided you two last long enough for that to be an issue. You glance over at him. He's watching you intently and his eyes go soft when they meet yours.
You think lasting is not going to be a problem.
"So you look happy," Jan says as she settles into the booth across from you in one of your favorite restaurants.
You shrug but give her the kind of smile that can only mean one thing.
"Ah, I guess all those questions Spock was asking about you did mean something." She laughs softly. "And...?"
"We're taking it slow. So there's not much to talk about. Just...it's a nice thing. And I can be sad with him and not worry if it happens, because he understands and he's sad, too. It would be weird with someone who hadn't known Jim, you know?"
"I do." She glances over at the entrance. "Don't kill me but tonight's going to be the three of us."
You follow her gaze and see Ny making her way to you, her face grimmer than you like. But you smile up at her anyway when she gets to the table, and you don't move over because it's going to be easier to talk to her if she's across the table and she'll feel like she has Jan on her side. Which she does literally, if not emotionally.
Jan, as ever, is on all your sides.
"It's been a while." You try to keep the level of snideness low but think you failed when her lips tighten.
"You weren't exactly welcoming."
Jan sits back, looking pleased that you two are "working shit out" as she'll no doubt phrase it later.
You give Ny all your attention. "You've been avoiding me. You told me I was too angry."
"You were too angry."
"Too angry for what? I lost Jim."
"Well, I lost him, too, Christine. And there was no room for me to be sad in your world. It was all about you." She looks shocked that she's said it and you aren't sure what to say. She finally whispers, "I loved him, too. We all loved him, too."
"To be fair," Jan says, sounding an awful lot like Youssad, "Christine was with him."
"Not that last year. She left." She turns to you. "I was glad you left. He finally came up for air."
You aren't sure what to say to that. You look over at Jan and she's got a "Well, shit" look on her face.
"I was still with him even if I left, Ny, Jesus. And why didn't you say something then? We're friends."
"Because you were in love and happy and I was happy for you. But...I missed having him there. Single him." She sighs. "I didn't say it makes sense. It's just how I felt and then I wanted to be a good friend when we lost him but it was as if only you lost him. I was hurting and it felt like you didn't care. So it was just easier to stay away."
Nowhere in there is an apology. That pisses you off. A lot.
But then Jan's communicator goes off, and she pulls it out and her expression changes. "Fuck." It's not the angry swearing of an officer called back to her ship. This has a note of desperation.
"What?" both you and Ny ask together.
"I'm so sorry," she says as she hands Ny the communicator.
"No. No, no, no."
You try to see what's on the screen but can't. "What the fuck, Jan?"
"The ship Scotty was on. It was lost with all hands." She doesn't have to say the rest. That it's just like Jim.
You feel it. "Ny, I'm so sorry."
She meets your eyes. "I guess our shit doesn't matter, does it? Not at the rate we're dying." She laughs, but it's a slightly hysterical laugh and you motion for the waiter as Jan urges her out of the booth.
"I'm so sorry," you tell him. "We're going to have to leave." And then you take Ny back to your place because it's closer and you have the better stock of booze thanks to Jim.
And the three of you plan to get rollicking drunk, but only after you check the antitox stocks because Ny wants to be able to be sober in case this is all a big mistake.
You know it's not. But you let her say it and you hold up the packs of antitox so she'll know it's okay to let go.
"We should drink scotch," she says, "because he loved it. But I hate it."
You make her a margarita instead because she loves them and you drink the scotch. Jan sticks to beer.
"I'm a shitty friend," Ny says, three drinks in.
"No, I'm the shitty friend." You've got one soldier down—the half-full bottle of Jim's favorite scotch is empty—and another one started.
"You're both really shitty. I, on the other hand, am a wonderful friend." Jan starts to laugh. "Ny, was Scotty good in bed?"
She's staring into her drink, lost in the depths of lime and tequila and triple sec. Then she nods. "He really liked me. But...but I didn't love him." She takes a deep breath. "I wanted other men. And they don't want me."
The corner of Jan's mouth goes up and she mutters, "Finally."
"I was trying to get Spock to ask me out, Christine. Right before everything happened, when it was clear he wasn't with Valeris. That was the other reason I stayed away. But he didn't bite. Please tell me it's Saavik and not you."
"She can't tell you that." Jan opens another beer.
"Fuck." Ny glares at you for a moment, then holds up her drink. "You know what? Who the hell cares? This wake is about Montgomery Scott. The finest engineer ever to grace the corridors of a ship."
"Amen," you say.
"I wish I'd loved him."
"I don't." Jan makes a face. "You'd have been on the Jenolan too if you had. I don't want to lose you."
"Me either, Ny. I'm sorry that I made you feel like your grief doesn't matter."
She drains her drink and then thrusts the glass at you. "Make it up to me, barkeep."
"I really love you. I'm sorry."
"About Jim? Or about Spock?"
You get up and make her another drink instead of answering. She seems fine with that.
You spend the rest of the night telling funny Scotty stories and reminiscing. When Ny passes out, you slip an antitox under her tongue where it will melt and prevent any nasty hangover, and cover her with a throw.
"You want to stay here, too?" you ask Jan, but she's already put an antitox in, and you see the drunk falling off her like dirt in a shower.
You do the same, intoxication giving way to sleepiness as you walk her to the door.
"You mad I had her join us?"
"No. I guess she told you all that stuff and that's why you did it?"
"Yep. Only I didn't know you were with Spock, until I saw you. But I had my suspicions he was interested in you." She touches your hair. "Please make up with her. She's going to need you."
It's your role whether you like it or not. Caretaker. You didn't do it when you lost Jim and that's why she backed away. You had it happen when Roger was lost too, but you didn't care back then. You were too focused on finding him to worry about any friends you were losing because you weren't acting the way they'd come to expect.
This time, you're left behind too.
"I'll look after her."
She takes a deep breath. "I didn't really know Scotty that well. I mean the officer, yes, but not the man. He...kept things close under the likeable act, I think. I feel really bad for him, but I can't say this hits that hard."
"I was on the ship with him for longer. But yeah, he was guarded. I wasn't surprised when they broke up." She glances at Ny. "I was more shocked when she told me she was with him."
"Exactly." She laughs, a regretful sound. "Now we sound like bitches."
"No, we sound like people who can only feel so much. I feel bad for him. I feel worse for her."
"Right." She pulls you into a warm hug. "I love you, Chapel. Don't you go dying or I'm going to be so ticked off."
"You either. And take care of Hikaru."
After she's gone, you notice your message board is blinking. You take it in your office and see that it's from Spock. He's forwarded the announcement about the Jenolan with a note of "If you need to talk, call."
So you call. He answers immediately. "Are you all right?"
"I am. Are you?"
He nods. "You should check on Nyota."
"She's here. Asleep." You lean in and say softly. "You left out the part where she was hitting on you."
"She has been flirtatious since I met her. It is difficult to estimate the true level of interest." He says it with utmost earnestness.
"Riiiii-ght." You give him a fake stern look. "She's not thrilled we're..."
"You can say that we are together. We are just not rushing toward the full exploration of what together means."
"Got it." You frown. "Do you think it's bad that we're both all right when Scotty's gone?"
"It is simply emotional triage."
You smile. Because of course it is. "And maybe that we're already broken. It's harder to hurt us now."
"I prefer my explanation."
You laugh. "Okay, I do, too, Mister Smarty Pants." Then you feel bad, because you're joking with him while Scotty's dead.
He too seems more somber. "He was looking forward to his new life. I believe he, too, felt responsible for Jim. He was there."
"So was Chekov. They did what they could. Jim was just being Jim."
And for a moment, there's a sense of peace descending. No matter what you said or did, no matter whether Spock was there or not, Jim did what Jim would always have done. His death isn't your fault.
"I better go, Spock. Thank you for letting me know. And being there."
"I hope to always be there for you."
"Good night, Christine." He cuts the connection.
As you clean up the remnants of your impromptu wake, then get yourself some water, Ny stirs and sits up. "I passed out?" She seems to be assessing how she feels. "You gave me antitox? After I was such a bitch?"
"Friends don't let friends get hung over."
"I love you. I'm sorry I was selfish."
"You weren't selfish, Ny. You were grieving. We all were."
"Yeah. We all were." She finishes her water. "Can I sleep with you instead of the couch?"
"Will you spoon me?"
"You always say that. And then you end up doing it in your sleep."
You turn the lights out as you follow her to the bedroom. "Then why do you ask if you know how it's going to go?"
She turns suddenly and you nearly walk into her. "I'm really happy for you and Spock. I mean, I wanted him, but if he's gonna turn down this"—she runs her hand over her side and hips—"it should be for you." Her smile is silly, but you think there's still some uncertainty.
"Some men have no taste."
"That's also what I'm saying." She takes your arm as she says it, leaning her head on you. "I really am sorry. I should have been there for you. You're here for me."
But you know it's different. Because it's easy to be here for her for Scotty. You simply don't care that much about him—he was a good man and you feel bad his life was cut short, but the hit isn't to any vital emotional organs. But she loved Jim. She always had. Her loss was complex. As complex as yours in its own way.
And you couldn't even see it.
"Grief is like blinders."
You're not entirely sure why you're standing in Sarek's kitchen while three Vulcans look on in what you think anyone would agree was eagerness. But you are here, cooking a human breakfast, and they are seemingly chomping at the bit to eat some veggie bacon and scrambled eggs and hash browns.
Spock and Sarek you understand—Amanda had them well-trained. But T'Vanya, who Spock explained was a third cousin twice removed, seemed the perfect Vulcan when you were introduced. Beautiful. Brilliant. Little bit haughty.
She's Sarek's...housekeeper isn't accurate. More mistress of his house, supervising the help, taking care of Amanda's roses, handling bills and such. Spock said she's the daughter of the matriarch. That this experience is considered useful experience. She's been living with them for years, ensuring nothing goes wrong when they are in residence on Earth.
And when she mentions Saavik, she gets a certain look. You make a mental note to ask Spock later if they're together.
In the meantime, breakfast is almost done. You divide the booty onto four plates and pass theirs to them, then pull up a stool and sit next to Spock at the combination island and kitchen table.
"This is excellent," T'Vanya says, closing her eyes. "I have tried to make things the way Amanda showed me, but I think one needs to be human to do this right."
You're not sure how difficult it is to cook a good breakfast, although Jim used to tell you it was one of the harder meals to get right. The man knew eggs—he taught you about dill in omelettes and scrambles.
Sarek's eyes are soft as he says, "Most kind, Christine. Thank you for indulging us."
You're visiting because Spock asked you to come with him. He and Sarek spent most of last night after you arrived talking about Spock working for him. As a partner, according to Sarek, but Spock doesn't see that working. Things were tense, even into this morning, until Spock asked you if you would make a human breakfast.
Given the amount of perishable ingredients available, you think he planned for this eventuality and even gave his cousin a heads up on what to buy.
Breakfast soothing the savage beast that is his father. Their voices had risen last night, but never to the point where a human argument would have gone. You could almost feel the spots where Amanda should have stepped in, bringing the conflict down a notch, smoothing over the dislike to remind them there was still love.
But she's gone and you can't step in, not yet. And T'Vanya clearly wasn't going to—she went outside to work on the roses the moment they closed the door.
You finally joined her. It was easier than sitting around waiting to see how badly Sarek wanted this or how far Spock would be pushed.
He could have told his father no at the Embassy, where Sarek would have been more constrained, but he chose to do it here, in the relative freedom of their private home. You admire him for that.
Even if it was uncomfortable afterwards.
Vulcans don't talk when they eat generally, so the meal passes quickly. As T'Vanya gathers up the plates, she says, "My mother invites you to dinner tomorrow."
Both Spock and Sarek look up.
You realize this is unusual. "Me?"
"All of us." Her eyes are sparkling. "A...family gathering."
Spock lets an eyebrow rise slowly. "The entire family?"
She nods. "It is so rare that we are all here. Saavik is coming. She will be back from the labs on the southern continent tomorrow morning." Her eyes grow soft and you know you're right.
Spock seems about to argue so you put your hand on his knee and he looks at you in surprise.
"Will there be an announcement at this gathering?" you ask. "Since Saavik will be there?"
She actually shrugs and manages to look coy in the most Vulcan way imaginable.
Spock and Sarek both seem to relax. You get a sense they're not huge fans of the family gatherings.
"A welcome event then." Spock nods slowly then looks at you. "Much like Leonard's barbecues."
You laugh. "Only without the booze, or the loud music, or brisket."
"Precisely. But otherwise, similar."
Sarek rises. "Christine, thank you for the meal. I must go as I have meetings all afternoon. I will see you this evening. My son."
T'Vanya waits for him to leave and then rushes over to Spock. "Did he win?"
"He did not."
"Saavik said he would not. I could not imagine anyone holding out against him. I owe her dinner at a fine restaurant."
"You bet?" you ask.
"She has taught me many bad habits." T'Vanya's eyes are again sparkling.
"Christine has held out against Father. When he wanted to bring me back here and recover."
T'Vanya studies you, as if you are a rare specimen. "Interesting."
"She is exceptional," he says.
"Perhaps soon you two will have an announcement that requires a family gathering?" She includes you, her eyes gentle. "I will take care of this"—she gestures to the dishes—"since you were generous enough to cook for us, and then I have to go to class. I will be gone all afternoon." She doesn't wink, of course, but somehow you hear it in her voice.
Spock puts his hand over yours, where it still rests on his knee. He squeezes and you stifle a laugh.
"Children," she says, in a way that last night you might have called haughty, but today just seems mischievous. She meets your eyes, assessing this time, and you don't look away. Finally, she nods. "I am most relieved that Spock has found you."
"Oh, I've been in front of him for years."
Spock makes a noise of some sort of protest.
"You wish to debate that?"
"It has been some time since you were available."
"But you had years, Mister. That's all I'm saying."
He holds his hands up in defeat.
"I have missed this. Sarek and Amanda used to engage in such banter." Her expression changes. "Amanda was my friend." She says it so easily. You wonder if it's Amanda's influence or Saavik's or if you really don't understand Vulcans well at all. "I will be quite content to count you as one also, Christine."
"Same here, kiddo." The nickname comes out before you can call it back, but she doesn't seem to mind. Kiddo it is, then. Turning to Spock, you say, "I didn't bring anything for a party. You said this visit would be casual."
"We will go into town and find something. I would like to show you where I grew up."
You get the feeling he would also like to show you off to the people he grew up with. He seems very territorial now that you're on his world.
You're totally okay with that.
You follow Spock into the house, which has a different quiet than usual. The sound of a house all to yourself. You laugh as he hauls your packages around. It's his fault for taking you to a designer who makes such pretty dresses. Dresses that with the artful addition of a scarf or two, double as a decent robe.
You have separate rooms with a connecting door and he takes the packages in and puts them on your bed.
You dig the dresses out and hang them so they won't wrinkle, then say softly. "We're going to be at a big family to-do tomorrow. Do you think, since you're the logical one, that it would make sense to make love before then? Solidify this partnership?" You've waited. Even though you see him nearly every night he's on Earth, you've waited to have sex. "We've got the house to ourselves."
He actually smiles. "I believe it would be very logical." He holds his hand up. "But wait." Then he turns and heads through the connecting door.
You go to the door and watch as he opens his wardrobe and pulls out a small box. "I saw this on Corsius. I think...I hope you will like it."
"You bought me a present?" You grin, and then smile wider as he pushes you against the doorframe and kisses you.
You may have waited for sex, but you've been doing a lot of this. As he kisses down your neck, you groan, glad you won't have to stop him this time—or just as likely he'll stop himself before it goes too far.
He opens the box to show you a rather unremarkable pendant. A pretty copper color but with a...lump is how you have to think of it hanging off the chain.
"It is not attractive. I am aware of this." As you reach for it, he says, "Not yet. Let me explain."
You laugh. "Gifts with explanations...?"
"Be patient." He kisses you roughly, almost a nip, and you murmur, "Fine, fine," against his lips.
"The Corsians have found a way to combine the unique vibratory properties of individuals into something truly unique. We need to hold our hands palm to palm, and I will lower the pendant between us. The pressure of our hands against it will imprint our pattern. Once it is set, you can replay it."
"Provided we don't produce cacophony."
"Yes, provided that. Although I imagine you would find that humorous during times of stress."
"You're right. I probably would." You nod at the box. "Proceed."
He takes the necklace out by the chain and lifts his other hand up. You press your hand against it, then ease off just enough to let him dip the pendant in between. You feel it getting warmer, shivering against your skin. Spock is watching you, his expression possessive, and you don't look away. You let yourself smile in a way you really haven't yet. The smile that says, "Why are we not fucking?" The smile that tells him all the things you want to do. The smile that says you love him and you can't wait to be with him.
"Perhaps this gift could have waited," he says, his eyes glinting.
"No way we're stopping now. I want to hear what this much lust feels like."
"It is not just lust." He leans in, nuzzling your neck. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
As you kiss, the pendant gives off a little beep and then goes still and cools against your skin. He eases it away from you and shows you the tiny buttons hidden in the grooves of the nugget. You push them in with a slight pressure and a series of notes sounds. A beautiful mixture of high and low, cascading in a way that reminds you of how a flock of starlings fly.
You swallow hard. "It sounds like joy, Spock." You meet his eyes, not trying to stop the tears that have started. "I didn't know I could sound that way anymore. That we do..." You reach out, touching his cheek, wanting him to feel the gift he's just given you. "We made something beautiful."
He slips the necklace over your head and then begins to take your clothes off. You don't even bother to head for one of the beds; he just hikes you up and pushes you against the door frame, never looking away from you as he thrusts, discovering how you like to be touched while he's inside you, until you have to close your eyes, and call out.
He's doing the same a moment later, and he breathes hard against you. "I should have made it last—"
"Shhh. We don't need to make it anything. That was us. Up against this door. Going fast because we couldn't not." You reach down and hit the buttons on the pendant and the tone rings out. "I like us."
"I do as well." He carries you to his bed, kissing you the whole way, and you feel him coming back, wanting more. He eases you onto the bed and crawls over you, kissing anywhere he wants as you moan softly. Finally, you capture him with your legs and pull him down and into you.
He groans. "I have thought often of this."
"Was it this good?"
"No. Clearly my imagination is limited in this department."
You laugh and move your legs up higher, making him moan almost helplessly. Then you squeeze and you laugh again at the expression he makes. "We're going to have so much fun, Spock."
And that's the biggest surprise of all. Passion, you expected. Intensity. Love, even.
But fun? Joy? Laughing during sex with him?
Some things really are worth waiting for.
You're enjoying Spock's family shindig more than you expected. But it could just be the warm afterglow of a whole lot of quality sex with Spock. You're wearing the pendant. It still looks like a lump of copper but it means so much more.
You wonder what your sound with Jim would have been like. Spock said he saw two couples activating their pendants in the shop on Corsius and neither sounded the same.
You turn and see Saavik. "Congratulations."
"Thank you. I am happy to see you here with Spock. I've been worried about him."
"I think you take good care of both Sarek and him, don't you?" You glance over at her betrothed. "You and T'Vanya."
"We try. But Spock is more difficult than Sarek. He lost his mother, and Captain Kirk, of course. But Valeris also."
You make a face before you can think better of it. "Sorry, for all I know she was your friend."
"No." Then she laughs softly, and you're shocked until you remember she's half Romulan. "I was not happy that she might end up with him."
You'd thought perhaps Spock was in a physical relationship with Valeris but he hadn't been. He's told you about his feelings for her. He's also told you he turned to her when it was clear you and Jim had taken each other off the market. He'd grown to care for her, had even performed a ritual that officially ended their teacher/student relationship when they were on their way to meet Gorkon. He'd been telling her he wanted more.
And then she betrayed everything.
It makes you unreasonably happy to know he wasn't with her. You're not sure why. But you followed that relationship with more intensity than you probably should have. Not that Jim ever said anything about it. Then again, why would he? He was on the ship and not watching it play out when Spock was on Earth doing diplomatic work half the time, instead of being his first officer.
You both abandoned Jim that year. That makes you sad when you think of it, so you try not to dwell on it. Jim never did.
"I wanted to give you my condolences," Saavik says gently, "on the loss of Captain Kirk. I served with him very briefly. And I knew his son." She looks down. "His son was very important to me."
"Jim hoped that was true. He wanted to think David knew love before...the end."
"He did. But I was harsh with him. I think of that sometimes. How it was perhaps our last interaction. Until he died saving me."
You reach out before you can think better of it, your hand settling on her arm, but she doesn't seem to mind. "I spoke harshly to Jim before he left for the launch. I understand what you're feeling, believe me."
Saavik smiles gently. "T'Vanya said I would like you. She is usually right."
"Spock said the same thing. I'm not going to tell him he's right. He'll get a big head."
Saavik nods. Then her expression changes, grows more Vulcan, and you turn and see it's Sarek. "Grandfather."
The title surprises you. Even though it probably shouldn't. You've always known Spock considers her a daughter. But you didn't know how much she was integrated into the family. Didn't realize the obvious tenderness between her and Sarek.
He moves close, his arm pressed against her. "Granddaughter. I am weary of my family."
"I cannot help you with that."
You realize with a start he's referring to you. Spock has told you there are no 'in-law" appellations on Vulcan but you're not even engaged.
He sees your surprise. "Are you not with my son? Is that not a Corsian Unity Pendant?"
"He didn't call it that."
"It will not work if there is not true regard." He gazes at it almost fondly. "Amanda and I had one made. I have never told him that."
"Does that mean we can't tell him?" you whisper to Saavik.
"I can hear you, Christine. You can tell him if you want. I will be sure to mention when I say something I wish to stay just between us."
You pretend to be relieved. "Whew. Worried there. All these secrets." Then you give him the best smile you can.
His expression changes, becomes...almost wistful. "My son is happy. Thank you for that."
"Happiness is an emotion." You grin at them both.
"Then do not tell him of my lapse." But he turns to watch Spock talking to T'Vanya. "I want only good things for him, Christine. No matter how much I try to interfere in his life."
"Or how many fights that engenders." Saavik rolls her eyes.
The matriarch calls for them both, leaving you alone until two cousins come to introduce themselves. They seem to be charged with making sure you meet everyone. You follow along and do your duty, wondering how many of these people you'll see again barring big celebrations.
You find yourself longing for a drink, for music, for some of Len's barbecue. When you get home, you need to check on him. And apologize for being so weird. You know why you were, but it doesn't mean you weren't in the wrong.
And you can't remember if you even asked if he was okay? Did you even notice anyone's pain but your own? You were so disappointed in Spock for being selfish—how much more selfish were you?
That's going to change. You've been working hard to mend fences with Ny since Scotty's impromptu wake and things are better. You have your friend back and you think, but for Jan, you would have just let her slip away.
"What are you thinking about? You look quite grim?" Spock moves you back to some chairs well out of any traffic pattern"
"Just thinking about how I let people go when I was hurting."
"You did not let me go."
"Well, I kind of did there at the end."
He pitches his voice very low. "You did not have sex with me, that is true. But you took care of me. You were my champion when I needed it. You did not abandon me, Christine. Believe that. It is quite possible you saved me."
You take his hand, letting your pretty, pretty dress cover up the contact. "Your father called me 'Daughter.'"
"It does not surprise me. He cares for you. While he is annoyed with me for not seeing his logic and joining his team, he approves fully of my choice in women."
You laugh softly. "Well, glad I could help the dynamics." You squeeze his hand. "I like Saavik."
"As I said."
"Yeah, yeah." You want to cuddle in with him. To rest your head on his shoulder and have him touch you and kiss you and maybe undress you.
You do none of those things, of course. "Vulcan's great, but I'm ready to be alone with you. On Earth."
"I am as well. But..."
You turn and study him. "But...?"
"I am relieved our first time was here. Not in yours and Jim's place and not in mine as some way to avoid the bed you shared with him. This is neutral ground. No associations."
"That's your bedroom from when you were a kid we were doing the nasty in."
"You know what I mean."
"It's still a weird thing to say." At his look you laugh, but it turns into a yawn. "Can you let me sleep some tonight?"
"I am unsure." There is such a note of longing in his voice that you want to kiss him.
"That's a lovely answer."
"It is just the truth." His hand tightens on yours. "But I am gratified it pleases you."