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) 2020 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.

A Meeting of Minds

 

By Djinn

 

 

Sonak studied the art on the wall of Admiral Kirk and Admiral Ciani's apartment. It seemed a discordant synthesis of their tastes: the abstract mixed-media works that used to adorn her quarters and office on the Izmir next to some of Kirk's antique weapons.

 

"You approve of the decor?" Lori asked as she handed him a glass of amber liquid. "Because I sure as shit don't. But marriage is compromise, or so you've always told me."

 

"My marriage is less of one these days."

 

"And you are very diplomatically not saying how stupid real art looks next to a bunch of old guns." She studied him. "So, T'Lanya isn't here with you. She was on the invitation."

 

"She returned to Vulcan."

 

"Nothing wrong, I hope?"

 

"Our families prosper. Our marriage—since I elected to not follow her wishes and retire to Vulcan—is, for the most part, over." Except when the burning called them together in the future. Otherwise, they were both free.

 

"I'm sorry."

 

"It was inevitable. She is formidable in her desire to drive the marriage. I was equally so in my need to follow the path that seemed most challenging. We were not, as you well know, given any choice in the matter of our joining."

 

"I know. I'm sorry?"

 

"Most kind." But he was sorry for his people, not just for himself. For an entire culture that believed bonding children at seven—an ancient practice once used to unite warring factions and logical at the time—was still a reasonable way to choose mates. "Does your marriage to the admiral prosper?"

 

"Some days more than others."

 

"And this day is...?"

 

"A good day. Plus, bonus—you and others of our friends are here for dinner. That's the best kind of day." She sipped her wine and motioned for him to try his beverage.

 

He took a sip—it was the ginger beer she had introduced him to while they served together. Tangy and deep in flavor. Very satisfying. "You remembered that I like this."

 

"I remember everything, remember? You once said I could be Vulcan."

 

"In that characteristic, yes."

 

She laughed and he found, as he always did, the sound refreshing and free. He had no desire to display emotion so overtly, but he appreciated the different means other species expressed themselves. It was more than IDIC, which many Vulcans touted as if they were patting other species on the head and saying how quaint they were. The implication being that once they matured sufficiently, they would embrace logic instead.

 

Not every species was meant for logic. Not every species would thrive in that way. Did it result in often chaotic interactions and ambience? Yes.

 

Was it frustrating when emotions overtook reason? Of course.

 

But it was also fascinating.

 

"Come say hello to Jim and the rest." Lori did not touch him as some humans might, but still managed to get him going in the direction she desired. "You want a prebrief?"

 

"It would be appreciated."

 

"Some things don't change." She stopped. "Okay, tonight's roster is: Captain Decker and Doctor Chapel, Admiral Cartwright and Captain Liang, Admiral Nogura and his wife Helen Yost, Commodore Tate, Captain Natzal, and you."

 

"Most appreciated. I would appear to be the lowest ranking officer here."

 

"Nope that honor goes to Chapel. She's a lieutenant. And not, as far as I can tell, Decker's date. He's selected her for sickbay. She served under Jim, too, as a nurse, though. Sorry, not meaning to blather, just trying to figure out how she fits. You know it drives me crazy when a piece is out of whack."

 

"It was what made you such a strong security chief."

 

"Damned straight. Okay, my friend. Ready?"

 

Another Vulcan might have chafed at the endearment. He did not. He and this woman had weathered many storms together, including serving under a captain they had both considered a fool. It had been unexpected to find a kindred spirit in a human, but welcome.

 

And he respected her husband. He had served for a time as his temporary exec when his regular aide was on paternity leave, and it had been illuminating to see how the man operated.

 

Especially since he had been so closely linked to another Vulcan. The Vulcan some would say. As if there were no others in Starfleet.

 

"Cold feet?" Lori asked softly.

 

"Lost in thought," he replied.

 

"And again, nothing changes." With a gentle smile, she led him into the main room.

 

##

 

Chapel felt horribly out of place as she followed Will around Kirk's apartment. Everyone outranked her and she wasn't even sure why she was here.

 

She wasn't surprised when Kirk managed to cut her off from the herd and murmur, "You and Will together?"

 

"No, sir."

 

"Chris, relax. Call me Jim. This is a fun evening, not work."

 

She smiled—he'd never told her to call him that before. "Okay...Jim. No, we're not together. To be honest, I'm not sure why I'm here."

 

He grinned in a way she couldn't read.

 

"What?"

 

"He hasn't chosen a CMO yet. Maybe this is his way of testing the waters for his selection, hmmm?"

 

"Oh, come on. I'm just out of med school." His look didn't change. "No. It can't be that."

 

It couldn't be that. Right?

 

Shit, what if it was?

 

"Relax, Doctor. You look like you're about to throw up." He was laughing gently.

 

Will seemed to realize she'd been diverted and made his way over to them. "Everything okay here?"

 

"Just talking to my former crewwoman, Will." Kirk winked at her. "Now, tell me who you've chosen as first officer."

 

She rolled her eyes. Will wanted to experiment. No first officer. Just the beta and gamma shift leads who would effectively be first officer in his absence and section heads who would rotate the job during alpha, getting a taste of what it took to reach the next rung. She foresaw nothing but headaches in that formation, especially for any section heads who were happy in their area of expertise and didn't aspire to general leadership. Hopefully it wouldn't trickle down to sickbay, and her duties in it.

 

Unless he really did want her for CMO. Shit, would she have to be acting first officer at some point?

 

She turned and saw Kirk's wife bringing in a Vulcan who looked very familiar. Not because he looked like Spock—he looked nothing like him. But she was sure she'd met him.

 

His look changed when he saw her, as if he recognized her too, so she walked over.

 

"Ah, Christine. Let me introduce you to Commander Sonak." Lori had a nice way about her, acting as if they were old friends instead of Chapel being some random stranger dropped into her dinner party.

 

"I believe I know Doctor Chapel," the Vulcan said. "We have met, have we not? Were you in academia before Starfleet?"

 

"I was—and so were you. At the 'Tute." Now she remembered him—he'd been in an office down the hall from Roger at MIT.

 

"Indeed. You were Doctor Korby's protege."

 

Protégé—lover, so little time spent between the two. She fortunately didn't say that out loud. "Exactly." She realized she was holding him up from meeting other, way more important, people and said, "I'm going to refresh this drink. Hopefully we can catch up later."

 

"I look forward to it."

 

Lori shot him a look Chapel couldn't read, but it seemed amused. As she led him away, Chapel went to the lovely sideboard that was set up as a bar and poured herself another glass of wine.

 

"Who is that?" Will's tone was curious, not jealous, which was a relief. She really didn't need to be dating another boss. But wouldn't people think that? If she was here with him at a dinner party?

 

"Commander Sonak."

 

"I don't know him."

 

"I met him a long time ago. My academic days."

 

"The dark ages." He laughed as she glared at him. "Long behind you now, I'm afraid."

 

She didn't react, just studied him. When his look didn't change, she murmured, "Why am I here, Will?"

 

"I needed a plus one."

 

"I don't think that's the reason."

 

His grin was luminous. "See, you know me too well." He busied himself with the concoction he called a Widowmaker. It was whisky and absinthe and some other things that looked heinous.

 

She didn't know how he could drink that. It made her feel queasy just thinking about it. "Please tell me you brought antitox."

 

"I never forget that." He turned and met her eyes. "You want to know why you're here. Well, I may have plans for you beyond being solely a doctor."

 

Shit. Shit-shit-shit. "No."

 

"You don't even know what my plans are."

 

"Jim does."

 

"Oh, it's Jim now, is it?" His teasing was gentle, not like the acidic taunting Len used to bathe her with. "Well, Jim may know me too well, also. What do you think, Christine? Ready to step up?"

 

"You need to stop thinking everyone wants to do that."

 

"Is that a no? You really want to let someone else finish designing sickbay?"

 

"You said I was doing it because of my dual experience." That she'd know what the doctors would want and what would make the nurse's life easier—and the two often weren't the same thing.

 

"That was definitely one reason." He grinned again. "If you truly hate the idea, let me know tomorrow. Otherwise, I'm heading out on this mission on full thrusters." When she started to answer, he said, "Tomorrow. Not tonight. At least think it over."

 

"Fine."

 

"Come on. I want you to meet Nogura."

 

Praying for strength, she followed him into the bureaucratic fray.

 

##

 

Sonak nodded to Lori's assistant as he was waved through to her office. Lori was keying furiously and muttering to herself. He felt a wave of nostalgia, remembering how she had done this on the Izmir and how diverting he had found it.

 

She was efficient despite the vocalizations. And she could focus on multiple activities, as she did now when she said, "Sit down. I can't go to lunch today, but I want to talk." That had always impressed him. As did her economy of words and directness.

 

He sat and waited, taking in the artwork on the walls. Different than what she'd had on the ship, but this was no surprise. She was constantly adding to her collection—even when they were on the ship, she had rotated the works.

 

T'Lanya had taken his favorite painting to Vulcan with her. Also their most comfortable chair. It...irritated him since he knew the chair would not go with the rest of her things. Perhaps she intended to re-cover it? Remove all trace of him—the leather he had chosen, the rich burgundy color that reminded him of a favorite robe of his grandmother's. Even the lingering scent of his incense would be expunged.

 

"Whatever you're thinking about, it's making you look downright gloomy." Lori leaned in. "What's up?"

 

He shook his head; she did not have time for such petty grievances.

 

"Sonak, you seem sad. Is it T'Lanya?"

 

He wanted to say no. To any other person, he would merely lift an eyebrow and choose a new subject. But Lori understood him—could read him better than even his mate often had.

 

"I thought, when she left, that it would be a relief. Our relationship has increasingly been characterized by acrimony."

 

"I'm sorry. I remember when she was your port in the storm."

 

"Yes. I find myself unmoored without her."

 

"Well then we need to find you a new port." She narrowed her eyes. "You're technically...what now? Not single. Perpetually separated? Unless I off her for you?"

 

Gratitude flooded him—that she could offer a shoulder with such good humor. "I would not ask you to risk your career that way."

 

"I'd probably get away with it."

 

If anyone could, Lori would be the one. "Yes, separated will be my status."

 

"So you'll need someone who'll understand—who'll be okay with that."

 

"Is there such a being?"

 

"Well, I would."

 

"Your husband would object."

 

Her look changed, the good humor dropping away. "Acrimony isn't just in your marriage. He and I—we're headed in different directions, I'm afraid."

 

"I regret that. He is intelligent, with an agile mind. He made unexpected choices. Brilliant ones."

 

"I know. And when he first got here, he was excited to be here. Now...he wants the stars. He wants a ship."

 

He considered that. "I, too, would like to be on a ship."

 

"But you're at the stage of your career where that makes sense. It's entirely logical for a commander to want to progress on a ship. To be in space. For an admiral, it's ludicrous. And it's getting..." She sighed and shook her head.

 

"Tell me. Who else do you have to share this information with?"

 

"No one." Still she seemed unsure. "Fine. It's close to pathological." She shook her head, her lips tight—the sharing over. "Hey, if you're single-ish and I'm going to be, why don't we get together? We know we get along."

 

"I will say something that will vex you."

 

"Not vexation—anything but that." She held the back of her hand over her forehead and laughed—it was an old joke between them, how old fashioned the word was for humans.

 

"I fear so." He waited for her to roll her eyes and was not disappointed. "Your romantic relationships do not tend to last. This relationship with Kirk is one of your longest."

 

"And my only marriage."

 

"Precisely. Whereas your friendships endure. I would not risk losing you as a friend, Lori. Not for momentary pleasure."

 

"Me either." She leaned back. "So, you seemed to enjoy talking to Decker's date the other night."

 

"She was not that."

 

"I know. Just didn't realize you did—although I guess I should have. Since you were pretty damn effective in cutting her off from the herd." She grinned. "If I know you, you're behind on your physical."

 

He gave a small nod, unsure where she was going with this observation, but her abrupt detours in conversation were rarely for no reason.

 

"Might want to wander on down to Starfleet medical and get her to give you one—then ask her to lunch."

 

"How do you know she will be there?"

 

"All the CMOs work their last months before shipping out there. Easy to come and go as they need to."

 

"She is to be CMO?" He knew his eyebrow was rising and could not stop it. It was highly unusual for a lieutenant to be CMO. And a new doctor at that.

 

"Damn it all. I always let my guard down with you and forget to mind what's announced and what's not. So yeah, she is—but don't let on you know. And don't ask me why they picked her. Jim got on board that night at dinner—he got Nogura to champion her. It's apparently why she was there. Not her idea, though. Will dragged her into it, being the runaway train he occasionally imitates when he wants something."

 

"How far off course can a train run? It must follow the tracks."

 

"Fine, he's a runaway horse." Her terminal beeped again. "If you like her, go see if she's there. She's easy on the eyes and seems smart enough for you." She glanced at her terminal. "Ugh. Unlike this yahoo."

 

He had to fight to keep his lips from turning up. "I will let you get back to your yahoos."

 

She laughed. "Have fun. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

 

"That gives me wide latitude."

 

"I know. Knock her dead, Casanova."

 

"To knock someone dead" was not an expression he resonated with—so violent, as many human sayings were—but her meaning was clear. He rose and headed to Starfleet medical.

 

##

 

Chapel looked down the list of personnel waiting for physicals and saw Sonak's name. She transferred his file to her padd and walked out to the waiting room. He was sitting in the corner that took in full sun, his eyes closed as he faced the window. He looked like a cat basking in the light.

 

San Francisco must be miserable for someone who grew up in a desert climate.

 

She coughed gently and he turned. He didn't smile, didn't lift an eyebrow, but his expression brightened when he saw her.

 

"Hello there." She sat and pitched her voice low. "I saw your name, but I haven't read your file yet. If you'd prefer someone you don't know, I can pick someone else to see."

 

"I have no issue with you doing it. I would welcome the opportunity to speak more."

 

"I would too. I enjoyed talking to you at dinner the other night. Was sorry when Will pulled me away. He was intent on..." She shook her head—the CMO announcement was due out tomorrow. She still couldn't believe it. "It doesn't matter what he was doing. Come on."

 

He rose and followed her past reception and into an exam room. He didn't seem curious about her comment. Did he already know? He was friends with Admiral Ciani—would she have told him?

 

And how did she phrase it when she did? Chapel could imagine—probably would be saying the same thing if it were some other lieutenant just hatched out of med school getting to be CMO on the flagship.

 

"You know the drill, I'm sure," she said as she gestured to the biobed. He slid onto it with the grace she'd always admired in Spock. Must be a Vulcan thing—to move that easily.

 

The bed began to do its thing and she studied his file, seeing nothing unusual for a Vulcan on it or in the biobed readings. Still, she took the time to scan him, not wanting to miss anything—or to become too dependent on the beds. She tended to be ultra vigilant as a new doctor, but felt doubly on the spot since she'd been selected as CMO. Like any mistake would just highlight how not ready she was for this.

 

"Your vitals are great, everything checks out to Vulcan specs." Specs she didn't have to look up since she'd been so obsessed with Spock back in the day.

 

Also, he'd been in sickbay a lot. It wasn't entirely creepy that she knew what the vitals of a Vulcan at his peak should look like.

 

"You seem comfortable having a Vulcan patient. I find that rare in a human doctor."

 

"Well, I served with Commander Spock."

 

"Ah. I knew you were on the Enterprise at the same time he was, but did not realize you knew him well."

 

"As well as a nurse knows anyone—I mean we see everyone but... And I left the ship before the end of my tour to go to med school." Jesus, could she blather on any more?

 

"Are you nervous?"

 

"With you? No." She gave him as genuine a smile as she could, hoping he'd understand that they did not need to talk about Spock anymore.

 

"I find it intriguing that you are so reticent to talk about your experience on the flagship. Usually those who served on it wish all to know. Did you not enjoy serving under Admiral Kirk?"

 

"I loved it. He's a great captain." She grinned. "Everyone thinks they know him—that they understand how he is. There are the rumors and then there's the man, you know?"

 

"I do. I was assigned to his staff briefly."

 

"Then you do know." She couldn't help herself. "Do you know Spock too?"

 

"Not well. There is, after all, an entire planet of Vulcans not related to Sarek."

 

She laughed. "Sorry. It must get old. But Spock's...well, he's unique, right? Half human."

 

He actually looked a little annoyed. "There are others."

 

She cocked her head and waited, her smile growing. "And... Come on, you clearly want to say more."

 

"It would be imprudent."

 

"Why? What is it you have to say?" She moved away to give him some space and sat on the rolling stool by the desk.

 

He seemed to be assessing her—whether he could trust her? She didn't want to try to help him with that assessment so she just waited.

 

Finally he said, "There are others. Not all half human, it is true, but of mixed heritage. Others who have managed to meld their dual natures with more success than Spock has." He seemed to immediately regret his words. "That was inappropriate—"

 

"I think it was just truth. I mean, look where Spock went, after all. To Gol. Instead of learning to blend his human half, he's going to obliterate it."

 

"Not just his human half. His Vulcan as well. To think that Vulcans do not have emotions is to not give sufficient credit for the mastery we do indeed strive for. There would be no need for control if there were nothing to master."

 

"Interesting."

 

"Logical, I think."

 

She grinned. "Yes. Very."

 

"I do excuse Spock, though. Were he not the last remaining son of the Vulcan ambassador, and a child of the ruling house, perhaps he would not have had so many expectations loaded on him. I believe he would have prospered with less of a burden."

 

"The last remaining...?" She knew she was frowning. "He made it sound as if he were Sarek's only son."

 

"Spock is adept at disregarding things that might be...uncomfortable."

 

She laughed before she could stop the sound—it came out way too bitter. "Don't I know it?"

 

His eyebrow went up.

 

"Forget I said that."

 

"Why? I was under the impression we were being honest with one another? Am I mistaken in that?"

 

"No." But did she really want to go into this. She met his eyes; there was no judgement in the way he was looking at her. As if whatever she had to say would be fine. "I may have been interested in him. Once upon a time. No longer an issue since he won't have a heart anymore."

 

"Highly inaccurate. I would expect better from a medical officer." His tone was actually teasing.

 

She couldn't bite back the grin. "I may suck at this doctor thing."

 

"I highly doubt that."

 

The biobed pinged again—its part of the exam over. Hers wasn't, though. She looked at the padd, taking in his past test results and comparing them to what she was seeing now. Specs were great but everyone had an individual baseline. "Actually, your potassium's a little low."

 

"It is a chronic issue."

 

She gave him her sternest glare. "Eat a banana now and then and it wouldn't be."

 

"I do not care for them."

 

"There are other foods loaded with it. Do you need me to make you a list?"

 

"Ah, you are this kind of doctor."

 

She was loving the way he did not hesitate with his comeback. "Do not try to deflect. I've been played by the master."

 

"Spock?"

 

"Nope, James T himself. The man had the worst diet." She went back to his chart. "A lot of remodeling on your femur."

 

"I was born on an outworld. We lived in a remote area. I broke my leg and it was some time before the doctor was able to come."

 

"I guess. Yikes." She turned back to him. "No lasting damage. Just not what I'm used to seeing in the age of regenerators."

 

"It was a difficult existence at times."

 

"I bet."

 

"We returned to Vulcan, where I had a much less physically rigorous life, when I was seven."

 

"That's when Vulcans get betrothed, right?" She immediately regretted being so blunt, but he didn't seem to mind.

 

"It is. My wife—did you meet her when I was at MIT? Her name is T'Lanya."

 

She suddenly felt thrown. She could have sworn she'd been reading some interest—well, in a Vulcan sense anyway—but he was married? "I didn't. I'm sure she's gorgeous. Are there ugly Vulcan women?" Shit—that had come out so snotty and hurt.

 

"Not many." He seemed to be studying her. "My wife and I are separated. Will knowing that make you more comfortable?"

 

"Who said I was uncomfortable?" But she did feel a rush of relief. And she saw something warm in his eyes as he gave the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug. "Have you been separated long?"

 

"No. I am...navigating unfamiliar terrain."

 

"I'm sorry. I know how that feels. Eventually Roger—Doctor Korby—and I got engaged. I'm sure you know he disappeared."

 

"Indeed."

 

"It's why I joined Starfleet. To find him."

 

"But you did not."

 

She couldn't meet his eyes. "No, the Roger I knew was lost." Would he understand? She looked up and saw a frown flash across his face.

 

"That was very precisely worded."

 

"It was."

 

"Perhaps you will tell me why."

 

"Not now. Patients waiting."

 

"It is the time humans eat lunch, is it not?"

 

"Not for this human. I take lunch late. Lowest on the totem pole and all that." In rank anyway. But assignment wise, she was bucking for the top.

 

"I can meet you at the cafeteria when you are ready—if, of course, you wish to speak more."

 

"Of Roger?"

 

"Of anything." His voice was very soft, in a way Spock's never had been.

 

And she realized she liked that—she was enjoying interacting with him. But she would not, not, not go down this road again, liking a Vulcan, if she was misreading the signals. So she met his eyes and asked, "Are you interested in me?" When he nodded, she leaned in. "Why?"

 

"You are very direct."

 

"I am. Saves time." And her goddamned heart, pride, and probably even her reputation. But he didn't need to know that.

 

"I believe you would get along well with Admiral Ciani—she often uses that as an excuse for not following human conversational norms." He nodded slightly. "Clearly, I enjoyed the time we spent talking at dinner and again now. But also I remember your work from your time at MIT. I was...impressed with the agility of your thinking."

 

"For real?" She could tell she was blushing. "We barely interacted back then. I don't know how you would remember me."

 

"Who do you think was behind the one-way glass during your fellowship interview? It was not just Doctor Korby."

 

"Oh. I was so nervous."

 

"You did not show it." He pushed himself off the biobed with the same grace he'd displayed getting on it. "Are you interested in lunch or not?"

 

She laughed. "Now who's being direct?"

 

"Ah, but no one expects anything else from a Vulcan." His voice was soothing. Different somehow from Spock's.

 

She found it a comforting difference. "Lunch it is. I'll ping you when I'm leaving."

 

"That would be most agreeable."

 

##

 

Sonak ignored Christine as she pointed to a banana and refilled his thermos with coffee. Then he picked out two of the oatmeal raisin cookies he knew from experience were not terribly sweet—and raisins were a good source of potassium.

 

She turned to him, a salad loaded with healthy choices on her tray and frowned. "That's your lunch? Really?"

 

"I do not, as a rule, eat lunch. But I am low on potassium, as you noted."

 

"So put some raisins in a salad. Cookies are your option? Are you even Vulcan?" She was smiling widely, making the chiding enjoyable rather than dismissive.

 

They sat at a table near a window; she let him have the seat that faced the sunshine, where he would be warmer, more comfortable.

 

She was both observant and kind.

 

"Sonak, I have to tell you: that looks like the kind of lunch a Romulan pretending to be a Vulcan would pick." She grinned, the light making her eyes appear an even more vivid blue.

 

"You took my readings, Christine. Surely you can tell the difference between a Vulcan and a Romulan?"

 

"I hope I can. I have to say: I like how easily you say my first name." Her smile was a bit tentative; she appeared to expect so little of him.

 

"I find enforced formality to be a barrier to effective interactions when in private." Although he did not generally move so quickly to drop the walls non-Vulcans expected him to have erected around himself.

 

But she was engaging and intelligent and attractive. A fellow scientist. And one who might think Spock was the standard for how a Vulcan would act.

 

If he were, he would never have gone to Gol.

 

"So, you're this way with everyone?" She was smiling in a way that signified she knew he was not.

 

He let an eyebrow be her answer and she laughed.

 

"Thought not." She gestured to the thermos. "You actually like coffee?"

 

"Very much." Spock must not have. Must all Vulcans be judged by his tastes—or lack thereof? Coffee was delicious and an efficient and safe stimulant. He appreciated the elegant marriage of utility and flavor.

 

"I guess I have a lot to learn."

 

"It would seem so." He studied her. "When you spoke of Doctor Korby. Why did you phrase it the way you did?"

 

"Hypothetically, if I had found him and he had changed beyond all recognition. Was not even human. Would that not explain it?" Her eyes narrowed. "Have you read the logs from that mission?"

 

"I have. He was a colleague. I was curious. But Kirk said in the report that he was not on Exo III."

 

"And he wasn't, given the parameters I just outlined."

 

"The hypothetical parameters."

 

She smiled gently. "If they weren't hypothetical, then Admiral Kirk would be guilty of falsifying information in an official report."

 

"Yes, of course. And he would not do that."

 

"No. He would not." She did not look away, her expression growing sad. "I got closure, at any rate. Not the kind I wanted when I set out to find him—to rescue him, even. But I could move on with my life."

 

"Perhaps someday you will trust me with the full details?"

 

"Perhaps." Again her smile was very gentle. "It's not solely my story I'm protecting."

 

"Understood."

 

She went back to eating, not saying anything for long enough that he was concerned he had offended her in some way. But then she glanced at the chrono near the entrance, and he realized that unlike him, she was due back at a specific time. She was merely being efficient. And capable of eating in silence.

 

He turned his attention to the cookies until she put down her fork and said, "Explain about Spock not being Sarek's only son."

 

A directive, not a question. Her curiosity was the same as he remembered from her graduate-fellowship interview. She might think she had been nervous, but he had found her confidant. Demanding, even, as she had taken advantage of the portion at the end where the candidate could solicit information from the interviewer. A human might have considered her arrogant; he had been impressed.

 

"It is not my story to tell, Christine."

 

"Fine. Give me the abstract. You brought it up, Sonak. It must not be embargoed information in that case."

 

"It is generally not spoken of. I am unsure why I did. Except that..." Why was he speaking of this? It was not forbidden, but it was bad form. T'Pau had made that clear.

 

But T'Pau was not his relative. "I indicated I had grown up on an outworld."

 

She nodded.

 

"My education was...lacking in some respects. Children can be intolerant of difference."

 

She waited, her expression sympathetic.

 

"I learned. Quickly. But for a time, after we arrived on Vulcan, it was difficult for me. An older student was..."

 

"Kind?" she asked into the silence.

 

"Yes. There is no other word for it." Particularly since Sybok himself would have framed it in emotional terms. "I will not tell you his name. I will not tell you his family. But I was grateful to him. I was...fond of him."

 

"Did he die?" she asked in a near whisper.

 

"No. He was exiled." He lifted his hand when she started to speak. "It is also not solely my story to protect."

 

She nodded. "I hope someday you'll trust me enough to share more."

 

"I would welcome that."

 

Her expression was exquisitely gentle. "I would as well."

 

##

 

Chapel heard someone say, "She's in the third office" and steeled herself for yet another interruption. She felt as though the smile was pasted on her face at this point—her selection for CMO had officially been announced and the number of well-wishers surprised her.

 

She took a deep breath and tried to make the smile go to her eyes but relaxed when she saw it was Sonak. "Long time no see. What's it been? Twenty-six hours?"

 

"Twenty-eight point four."

 

"But who's counting?" She gestured to one of her guest chairs. "Sit."

 

"I came to offer congratulations. CMO is an outstanding achievement. On any ship, much less the one you've been assigned to."

 

"Thank you. And you're free to express any curiosity you may have as to how the hell I'm even qualified." She hit the button on her desk that closed the door and gave them privacy.

 

"Why would I do that?"

 

"Oh, come on. You've got to be thinking it." She laughed and it came out more bitter than she meant it to.

 

"Even if I did think you were unqualified, which I do not, to say it would serve no purpose other than to hurt you. I have no desire to hurt you. But let me ask: do you believe you do not deserve this assignment?"

 

She looked away. "Maybe."

 

"Is that the full truth?" Something in his voice made her meet his eyes. "The graduate student I remember would tell me no."

 

"Okay, part of me would still tell you no. I worked my ass off as a nurse. I did so much more than anyone knows. Len—Doctor McCoy—he liked to make me stretch. He...challenged me. And I was second in my goddamn class in med school. You don't graduate second in your class without some brains." She took a breath. "Wow, I'm sorry. I just really unloaded on you."

 

"Yes, most distressing. I must leave at once." He made no move to get up.

 

She laughed, and his look brightened in a way she would never be able to describe to someone who hadn't spent time around Vulcans. "How do you even remember me from that MIT interview? Roger said it was touch and go whether I'd end up with him."

 

She saw that she'd surprised him but was unsure how. "Did he mean that you might not have been selected for a fellowship position?"

 

"Yeah. He took a chance on me. I made sure he never regretted it." Both in the lab and later in bed. Or at least she'd thought she'd kept him satisfied until she saw Andrea in that damn jumpsuit on Exo III.

 

"That is untrue." He looked...outraged. "Christine, do you know why I was observing your interview?"

 

"Panel interviews. Nothing new."

 

"No, the chair, the assistant chair, and a professor from a fully staffed department were the panel. Doctor Korby, Doctor Nfalo, and I were there because we had expressed interest in you for open positions within our various projects. If it was 'touch and go,' it was whether you would work with Doctor Korby or with one of us. The chair finally decided that you fit best with his project. His project, Christine. Not him."

 

"I had choices?"

 

"That department chair did not give the student the choice. Assignments were made according to fit and project needs. So you personally did not have a choice once the panel's decision was made. But you had three very interested professors vying for you." He actually did frown. "You had options for post-doctorate work, I imagine. But you did not take them. Did he propose to you before you had to choose whether to leave MIT or his department?"

 

She met his eyes and nodded.

 

"Very strategic of him. Keep you close, perhaps unsure. I found it challenging to work with him. I assume he was no different as a superior."

 

"By challenging do you mean...unpleasant?"

 

"He was undisputedly brilliant. But yes. Most unpleasant. And a man who, in my opinion, did not like to lose."

 

"You're not wrong." She played back interactions in her memory, laying this new information over it. So many things made more sense—and not in Roger's favor. "He gaslit me. Oh my God." She knew her mouth was open, knew she was tearing up. "What could I have done...with my life, with my heart..." She took a deep, ragged breath. "All this time I thought I was lucky to work with him. You're saying...?"

 

"That he was the fortunate one." He reached over and took her hand. "He wanted you because you were brilliant. I assume Will Decker wants you for the same reason." He didn't let go of her hand.

 

"People think I'm with him."

 

"How do you know that?"

 

"Because that's how people think. And some of them know my history. With Roger."

 

His eyes were extraordinarily tender, and he squeezed her hand gently before letting go. "But even you did not fully know your history so how could they? Write your own story from this point, Christine. What does the opinion of anyone else matter?"

 

She nodded and blinked back tears she hadn't meant to cry. "I find your opinion matters, Sonak."

 

"I am relieved to hear that. Since I did not come here solely to offer congratulations. I also have a favor to ask you."

 

"Hit me."

 

"Human sayings are so violent." He sounded amused, as if this was a longstanding thing. Perhaps with Lori? "Admirals Kirk and Ciani are having a barbeque on Sunday. They have secured a house on the beach as a second residence and this is a house warming."

 

"And you need me to help you find a gift?"

 

"No. I have found a piece of art that I believe melds their tastes so no assistance is necessary. I would like to not have to attend alone. Since my wife left, I have been by myself at several such events. It is awkward. I am awkward. Will you accompany me?"

 

"You just rewrote my past for me, Sonak. I'd accompany you into hell."

 

"To Santa Barbara will be sufficient."

 

She laughed. "That works too. I'll pick up some wine to make up for me showing up a second time at her party when she doesn't expect it. She was drinking a Pinot Gris at dinner. Is that what she likes?"

 

"It is, I believe, her favorite. If you cannot find that, get whatever appeals to you. I am sure it will be appreciated as she enjoys experimenting. But she does not like sweet wines."

 

Given what she'd seen of Lori, that sounded right. Cloying wouldn't be her style. "Got it."

 

He stood. "Again, congratulations."

 

"Thanks."

 

"And that is how you will answer all who congratulate you, yes? Do not downplay your achievements."

 

"Yes, sir." She smiled as sweetly as she could to show him the honorific was said out of affection and appreciation as well as respect.

 

##

 

Sonak sat across from Lori in an Indian restaurant far from Starfleet Command wondering what was so urgent. She had commed him as soon as he arrived at Command and told him they were going to lunch, "no questions asked."

 

It was an old code from their days on the Izmir and meant the topic to be discussed was both important and not something they would want to talk about in an area too densely populated with fellow Starfleet crew.

 

They ordered and then she leaned in. "Did you hear about Commander Pepys?"

 

"Other than he had been appointed as science officer for the Enterprise?" A choice Sonak had been disappointed at—he had very much hoped to secure the spot for himself.

 

"He was killed in the line of duty. We just got word."

 

"I see. Most unfortunate." Options ran through his mind, reasons Lori might want to meet this way at this place to speak of this subject. "What are you thinking?"

 

"First, that we've lost a good person."

 

"Indeed." He met her eyes, showed that he understood they were plotting on the barely cold body of a fellow fleeter.

 

"Jim has a lot of sway with Decker. Jim loved having a Vulcan science officer. Jim enjoyed working with you. Jim and I are—for the moment—in a very good place. For some reason, he also seems interested in the happiness of the woman who was your date at our house warming. He was...thrilled she was with you." She leaned back as the server brought them water and the appetizer she had ordered, then leaned in again once he was gone. "And I know how to influence my husband—especially in directions he's already thinking of going."

 

He let a rising eyebrow be her answer.

 

"You and Chapel looked pretty cozy on Sunday. What do you think? You want to be stationed with her?" She held up a hand. "I already know you want the position for yourself because I know you. But she's the wildcard here."

 

"You still cannot place her on the chessboard you persist in viewing life as?" He let amusement color his voice.

 

"I really can't. But...I'm resigned to making her rover." At his look of confusion, she laughed. "I'm mixing my metaphors—or your metaphor. Think of it as a softball team, not a chessboard."

 

"There is no position of 'rover.'"

 

"There is when you have more players than can fit on the field. Sometimes it's like shortstop, only between first and second base. Other times like a closer-in center fielder. It helps the team and gets that extra person in the game. So, yeah, she's the rover."

 

"Do you not approve of her for me? You were the one who suggested visiting Starfleet Medical to seek her out."

 

"I do approve of her for you. And she's a nice person. Quick, too. I can envision growing fond of her, even. This isn't about her except as she applies to you, though. You're what matters to me and well, shipboard romances can be fraught with issues, especially if they don't end well. You've missed all that because you were married and not looking."

 

He conceded that with a nod.

 

"So, my good, good friend. Do you want me to nudge Jim? Do you want to be science officer on the flagship?"

 

He had enjoyed the barbeque greatly primarily because he had attended with Christine but had been frustrated at the idea that she would be leaving soon. That their relationship would be one of distance and time stolen rather than progressing naturally. This would be an elegant solution, especially since he already wanted the position Lori was offering.

 

"Yes." He met her eyes. "For many reasons. But for her as well. I...I can see a future with her. And a future I do not need to rush to is more attractive than one where we are on different ships and I must try to...."

 

"Lock her down before she leaves?" She grinned. "I get it. How is she at the idea that you're still married."

 

"Surprisingly sanguine." Another pleasant discovery. She did not appear to care that he was...encumbered. But would she if they were on the same ship—did she even want him on the same ship? "Do I owe it to her to ask her how she will view being stationed together?"

 

"Not by my playbook. But you've always been more honorable. You want to talk to her first before I go full-court press on Jim?"

 

He helped himself to the appetizer, not sure what it would taste like since she had ordered the food, but secure in her knowledge of his likes and dislikes. It was a mix of potatoes, crisps of some kind, chickpeas and several sauces drizzled over. When blended it was a mix of spicy, starchy, and tangy flavors. "This is delicious."

 

"Papri chaat. Can't beat street food." She also began to eat, and for a while there was silence as he considered.

 

He had let his wife leave him because he wanted to stay in Starfleet. It would be illogical to not pursue his highest path even if the woman he was currently courting was not comfortable with it. He would simply stop courting her if she turned out to be averse to the idea of them being stationed together and involved. And he would end things immediately so any awkwardness would be gone by the time the ship launched.

 

But he did not think she would be averse. And he thought she might also appreciate being able to slow down—not that they had rushed into anything physical, but it colored every interaction they had. The idea that soon they would be separated.

 

"I want the position."

 

"That's my boy." Lori had the grin he could only consider both approving and mischievous. "I'll get to work on Jim then."

 

"Thank you."

 

"You'd do the same for me."

 

It was true. There was little he would not do for her.

 

##

 

Chapel looked up to see Sonak at the door to sickbay. "So how did it go?"

 

"I believe I was successful in showing how my qualifications and experiences would add to the efficiency of Decker's crew."

 

"Will loves that angle—more about the many, less about the one." Her smile was brilliant. "I wanted to put a good word in for you with him. But you made me promise so I resisted." Although Will had been at the house warming. Had seen them together. Had commented on it being nice seeing her happy.

 

She motioned Sonak into her office and hit the button on the desk that closed the door. Then she hit it again and opened it. "I love that I don't have to get up to do this like Len used to when this was his office."

 

"You have enjoyed redesigning your former workplace."

 

"I won't lie. I have." She met his eyes. "Haven't done it alone though. Brought the other doctors and the nurses in once I was named CMO. Some things it's too late to change, obviously, but not everything. This will be a place we all can prosper in." She winked at him so he'd know she'd chosen the verb on purpose.

 

"Prospering is no small thing."

 

"I agree. I want us to prosper too so I think I should say this now—if you don't get the position, I'll still want to pursue this. I mean if you do. While I really want you here, I don't need that." God, it felt so good to be this comfortable with someone. To not have to rush to bed. To not have to couch her words. To not have to be anyone than who she was.

 

"I too will want that. But I do not like to think of not securing the position. For myself, not just for us."

 

"You're ambitious. I like that." She closed the door again and moved closer to him. "I really want to kiss you, but we haven't so far and I don't even know if Vulcans like to kiss." Spock reportedly did but not with her if that kiss on Platonius had been any indication.

 

"Vulcans kiss. I enjoy it." He drew her to him and stroked her face. "If I were to be forward, I would tell you that I look forward to discovering how you like to be touched."

 

"I look forward to that too—since you're being so forward." She laughed gently and reached up, stopping short of his ears. "Are ears out of bounds or erogenous zones?"

 

"Touch and find out." His eyes glinted with humor.

 

She gently ran her finger over the tip and he closed his eyes and let out a small exhalation.

 

"Erogenous zone, I'd say," she said, not trying to lessen the huskiness in her voice. She slid her hand gently over his skin, across his cheek, down to his lips.

 

He opened his eyes, was watching her with such gentleness. "I enjoy you, Christine."

 

"I enjoy you too." She leaned in slightly, and he pulled her the rest of the way, his lips on hers, firm and very warm.

 

She snaked her arms around his neck, pressed against him, was pleased to feel him respond to her but didn't reach down to take this any further.

 

He let her go then cupped her cheek. "I am grateful Captain Decker brought you to dinner. I am grateful I was also invited. One fateful encounter."

 

"Life is like that, though, isn't it? We think we have it all planned out and then something happens we could never have imagined. Fortune intervenes."

 

He nodded.

 

"I may be a fan of fortune."

 

"I as well."

 

"When will you find out? Did he say?"

 

"Tomorrow." He took her hand and held tightly. "I hope to take you out for a celebratory dinner."

 

"I'll keep dinner open either way. But I really, really hope you get the job."

 

He ran his fingers over her lips. "What is the human saying? Lips are in it."

 

"From my lips to God's ears."

 

"Or to Will Decker's, since I am not a theist."

 

"From my lips to Will's ears, then." She decided to give him another kiss, just because she could.

 

And he clearly did not mind.

 

##

 

Sonak walked with Christine to Lori's apartment.

 

"So they're divorced?" Christine asked.

 

"She chose not to renew." Term marriages were easy to institute and just as simple to dissolve. At times he envied the lack of complication in such arrangments.

 

"They seemed so happy."

 

"Did they?" He had an advantage over Christine because he knew Lori's opinions on all this. She had told him how quickly Admiral Kirk's moods could change, how the good humor and gusto for life that had attracted her to him when they had first come together had become in increasingly short supply.

 

Sonak had not, however, known she had chosen to not renew her marriage until she told him this afternoon. This dinner celebrating his appointment as science officer was supposed to be with both admirals, and she had wanted him to know Kirk would not be there.

 

Which did not, in the end, perturb him. Lori was his friend; James Kirk was merely another officer. One he admired but not one he would miss.

 

Perhaps the same could not be said for Christine, though? She knew Kirk on a more personal basis. "Will you be uncomfortable without him there?"

 

"Should I be?" She winked at him because he had said her ability to answer a question with another question was, at times, vexing.

 

"You served with him, Christine. He is your friend."

 

"Friend would be stretching it. I only started calling him by his first name at dinner that night. But I'm sorry for him. If he's unhappy, I mean. He's lost at love. A lot."

 

"That is not his reputation."

 

"As I once said, the rumors are not the man." She sounded...protective. He approved. Loyalty was an excellent trait.

 

"Yes, you did say that."

 

"There were women he cared for who died. I resonate with that. How could I not with what happened with Roger? Losing someone you love...it's so hard."

 

"Yes, of course." She had told him the true ending of Doctor Korby. He had not told her more about Sybok. Not yet, but he imagined there would come a day when he would—if she still wanted to know. He thought she cared less and less about Spock or his family. That the things she wanted to know about Vulcan had more to do with him than with any past infatuations.

 

He led her into Lori's apartment building, pleased to find he was now on the door, could wave them into it and the elevator without having to call up. Lori was waiting at the door to the unit when they exited the elevator, which did not surprise him. She would have programmed the computer to alert her to the presence of anyone on her access list. Her cautiousness was just one of the reasons she was such an excellent security officer.

 

She touched him on the shoulder as he passed and gave Christine a half hug that seemed to surprise them both. He could tell Christine was struggling with what to say, so he pointed to a place where Lori's art and Kirk's weapons had been particularly discordant and said, "Artistic harmony has been restored."

 

Christine looked surprised—did she think him callous to Lori's pain?

 

Lori laughed. "You know rearranging the art was the first thing I did. Hated his stuff." She led them down the hall, talking about a wine she had found that she thought Christine would enjoy.

 

"You really do know her, don't you?" Christine murmured to him.

 

"Yes. I really do."

 

"I like that." She kissed his cheek gently in what he thought might be an unconsciously territorial show of affection, then she moved into the kitchen to talk to Lori. He studied them, these two women who meant so much to him, then went to the balcony and watched the sailboats in the harbor.

 

Lori and Christine joined him, Lori with a ginger beer for him.

 

"To new beginnings," she said, holding up her wine glass. He and Christine both gently touched their glasses to hers.

 

"To old friends and new," Christine said softly. "I'm sorry, Lori."

 

"People change. I just didn't expect Jim to change as much as he did." She gestured out to the view. "But I got this gorgeous place out of it."

 

"And the house on the beach?" he asked.

 

"He gets that. And I assume somewhere in town. Or maybe he's commuting. Don't really know—or care." Her eyes were surprisingly bright, and he glanced at Christine, who was looking far too sympathetic.

 

Lori would not want comfort in this situation.

 

As Christine reached out, he almost imperceptibly shook his head, and she looked at him, a question in her expression. But she dropped her hand and took a sip of wine before asking, "Are you much of a beach person?"

 

It was exactly the right question to ask. It gave Lori a way to discard her emotion in sarcasm.

 

"Nope. Mountain girl, here. It's where I met him, climbing a particularly challenging peak. Didn't know he'd have such a hard-on for beachcombing." She smiled at Christine, her eyes now back to normal. "You a beach bunny?"

 

"Yeah, I am. I love it. I like mountains if I get to sit in a hotel and look at them. Not much of a hiker and definitely not a climber."

 

"Well..." Lori laughed softly. "Career wise..."

 

Sonak was not sure how Christine would take that.

 

Fortunately, she laughed. "Yeah, I guess when you look at it that way, I am." Her smile was uncomplicated.

 

"Hey, ambition is not a bad thing in my book." Lori's smile was her most genuine one, not the one he had often seen her display when she was interacting with someone who annoyed her.

 

He sat in one of the chairs scatted on the balcony and gestured to the sailboats. "I have always wanted to experience sailing."

 

"It's boring," Christine and Lori said together.

 

"Give me a powerboat," Lori said with a grin.

 

"And don't make me dodge that damn boom—or whatever it's called—all day."

 

"Amen to that, sister."

 

They clinked glasses with matching smiles.

 

He felt himself relaxing. They were getting along. He had not realized how much he wanted that to be the outcome—or how worried he had been that it might not be what happened if Kirk was absent.

 

He felt as if his life was coming together in a new but comfortable pattern, but this time the weaving was by his own hand. Not from choices his parents made for him, or that his culture dictated.

 

He had secured a position he was immensely suited for but that would challenge him. Had found a woman he wanted who wanted him back in equal measure. And he had this friend for so many years: a friend who could weather heartache without breaking.

 

The sun hit him, warming him, and he closed his eyes and listened as Lori and Christine truly got to know each other.

 

##

 

Chapel finished putting the things she wasn't taking to the ship into weathertight bins, called for beam-out to the storage facility they'd sit in for the next five years, arranged for the custodial service to give the place a final clean, and walked out of her apartment and into the big common area between buildings. This had been a great place to live, a haven during med school. She'd miss it but she was ready to move on. Ready to start the next chapter of her life.

 

She pulled out her communicator and said, "Chapel to Rand."

 

"Howdy, stranger." Jan sounded so happy. Chapel couldn't wait to serve with her and Nyota again. "I got your trunks tucked into your quarters, which are way nicer than mine. Parties are definitely going to be in your room."

 

"You didn't have to do it yourself."

 

Jan laughed. "Oh, honey, I didn't. I supervised two very willing recruits."

 

"Cute?"

 

"But of course. This voyage is going to be so much fun."

 

"I know. I can't wait." She hadn't told Jan about Sonak yet. Hadn't told Nyota either. She and Sonak were new and she didn't want to jinx it. What if they broke up for some reason before they even got going? Like if sex with him turned out to be bad. Although given the way he kissed her, she didn't think it would be.

 

And they kissed a lot, even if they hadn't slept together yet because they had time. Such a wonderful idea. They had time to explore and make sure they were compatible. Not rush to something the way Kirk and Lori had.

 

"So you ready to beam up or what?" Jan asked.

 

"Ready as I'll ever be. Beam me up, chief." She felt the familiar tingle, then a jolt, then another before the transporter took her. She materialized on the pad with a bump so hard it sent her to her knees.

 

Techs were running into the transporter room and Jan exhaled shakily. "Are you okay?"

 

"Yeah, what's going on?" She stood and got off the platform just in case something was wrong with the transporter.

 

"This thing—we're not goddamn ready." Jan slapped a control. "Rand to Scott. It happened again. You said it was fixed."

 

"I was told it was. There's too much— "

 

Chapel heard him sigh in a way that was way more real than the dramatic ones she was used to.

 

"Okay, lass. No one comes in or out by transporter until I say so. Get Wilson and Mbana on it."

 

"Way ahead of you, sir."

 

"Lass, I like the new Janice."

 

"Yeah, me too. And the new Janice would prefer not to kill someone before we even leave space dock." She rolled her eyes at Chapel as she cut the connection, then told the bridge no one would be coming in via transporter.

 

"Got it," Nyota said in a stressed voice then signed off.

 

"What's going on?" Chapel asked, trying to figure out why everything felt so...wrong. This wasn't how Will's ship usually felt. This frantic, intense energy.

 

"Are you sure you're okay. You were in the buffer for a really long time." Jan actually looked a little green.

 

"Didn't feel like it. Thank God." She'd been blissfully unaware—how horrible would it be to know something was going wrong with beam in and not be able to do anything about it?

 

Jan nodded but she still looked on edge.

 

"Why is everyone so...frantic? We don't launch for twenty hours. And if it's not ready, then we don't launch. You know how Will feels about this." He'd said it over and over. He was not going to start his command with a ship that wasn't going to protect his people. And he was nearly obsessive with doing things by the book whenever possible. Which was why Sonak was at Starfleet completing his check-in in person rather than beaming up with her now and doing it virtually from the ship.

 

"Everything's changed," Jan said. "I don't even know what it all means. There's something out there—something bad and we're the only starship close enough to deal with it. And, Christine, this isn't Will's ship anymore."

 

"Oh, come on."

 

"I'm not joking."

 

"Well, whose is it, then?"

 

"Kirk's."

 

What the hell was going on?

 

##

 

Sonak arrived in the shuttle station just as another shuttle landed. He saw Admiral Kirk exit and walked over to him.

 

Kirk's eyes were narrowed in a way Sonak had learned during his time as his exec meant he was doing something he was not entirely comfortable with but considered necessary.

 

But necessary for whom? The many or the one? That was what made this man such a cipher: so many times both needs seemed to align for him. It was no doubt what had made him such a challenge for Lori. Could anyone predict what he would do? Sonak doubted even Kirk himself knew some of his actions in advance.

 

He nodded as Sonak fell in step with him. "Commander Sonak, you received your appointment as Enterprise science officer?"

 

"Based, I am told, on your recommendation, Admiral. Thank you." He imagined, if Lori and the admiral had not been estranged, Kirk would give her some credit in the decision.

 

Although perhaps not. Kirk seemed more intense than usual as he frowned and asked, "Why aren't you on board?"

 

"Captain Decker requested I complete final science briefing here before we leave on our mission." A requirement that was tiresome but, given what Christine had told him about Decker's desire to do things by the book, understandable.

 

So here he was.

 

"Here? At Starfleet? The Enterprise is in final preparation to leave dock."

 

The admiral's energy was palpable; Sonak was unsure what was making him so tense. "Which will require twenty more hours at minimum."

 

"Twelve! I'm on my way to a meeting with Admiral Nogura which will not last more than three minutes. Report to me on the Enterprise in one hour." His tone was the one Sonak had learned brooked no argument.

 

But—"Report to you, sir?"

 

"It is my intention to be on that ship following that meeting. Report to me in one hour."

 

Sonak lifted an eyebrow as Kirk strode away. It would be a very short final briefing.

 

He was wrong. The various teams that needed to finalize his check-out took fifty point seven minutes. He walked faster than was his norm to the transporter room—Kirk had given him one hour and he would not take one millisecond more.

 

He hoped to be early.

 

He found Lori in the transporter room. She was pacing, muttering, "How hard is it to align these babies?" Then she turned to him with a grin. "Fucking refits. You'd think we'd never rebuilt a starship before."

 

"There is a problem?"

 

She threw her hands up—a sign that a vocalized answer would be full of more expletives and blunt assessments on the ability of those delaying them. He had to fight back a miniscule smile. She at least seemed no different.

 

Her look softened. "So, you ready to make a new life with your girl?"

 

"Christine is not my girl. She is not a girl, at all." He let himself indulge in thoughts of what a relationship might be like free of the bond, free of Vulcan expectation—purely because both partners wished it.

 

"I know. I just wanted to tease." She glanced over at the transporter techs and scowled, then glanced back at him. "Hope you're not in a hurry."

 

"I was. What are you doing here?"

 

"Getting my husband back."

 

He could not hide his look of surprise.

 

"And also doing the final check—Nogura's a little busy what with this emergency and all."

 

"An emergency?"

 

"Big damn killing machine was, I think, how Jim put it. Call me crazy but I don't want him to die and us to be apart." She grinned. "I miss the fool. What can I say? He—"

 

"Challenges you" he finished for her and she laughed softly.

 

"Even if he drives me nuts half the time. And I hate what he calls art."

 

"But you care deeply for him." Sonak felt a sense of contentment for his friend; he did not like to think of her alone. "Does he know you are coming?"

 

She laughed. "Nope. I told them just to announce you. Want to surprise him. He's not the only one who can fly by the seat of his pants."

 

"I am...happy for you."

 

She put her hand on his shoulder. "I am for you too."

 

"Ma'am," one of the transporter techs said. "We're ready."

 

"Well, okay then. Let 'er rip."

 

Another distressingly violent human saying. He lifted an eyebrow and she grinned at him, clearly knowing what he was thinking.

 

He hoped someday Christine would know him as well as this woman did.

 

Lori led him onto the transporter pad, murmuring gently, "To the future, my dear, dear friend."

 

He felt the familiar tingling that signified the start of transport. "Yes. To the future."

 

 

FIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:

 

So this is a gift to a friend, and she knows why, and she requested that I flesh out a new (or previously seen but little known) Vulcan, so I chose Sonak. I hope I did him justice and made him something different than the Spocks and Sareks and other Vulcans I've written over the years. It was a lot of fun to do this but also challenging to tackle this sad of a story at this time. So I tried to find a way to build some happy into the sad. Because we know how it ends. It's canon for Sonak that he dies in a transporter accident in the first movie. Pseudo-canon (the books are not considered canon—not even novelizations written by Roddenberry) for Lori dying (or even existing).

 

I considered tackling Sybok instead of Sonak, but my affection for the recipient of this story just could not outweigh my distaste of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and I would have had to watch it again LOL to do it justice. And it still would have been a sad story. Plus Sybok, pulled out of the powers-that-be's ass as he was, got plenty of screen time and backstory. Sonak didn't. He had a minute at the start and then a horrible death. I enjoyed giving him (and Lori—man she's starting to own me as bad as Chapel does) some history.

 

Also note: somewhere along the line there has been a retcon to Lori's last name. Now she is apparently Ciana. The word is that Ciani was a typo. I don't care. I'll stick with Ciani. If it's a typo, it's a damned enduring one. Maybe someday I'll go do a global replace on all the fics that mention her, but I doubt it.