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) 2001 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.

Never a Dull Moment

(Part 2)

by Djinn


Confidence is the feeling you have before you understand the situation.  -- Unknown



Christine found Kehmak in one of the shops across from the new Dabo parlor.  The Klingon was deciding between two leather outfits.  When Christine walked up she turned to her.  "Good.  A woman's opinion.  Which is more attractive?"


"Well," Christine took in the plunging neckline on both.  "I think either would be." 


Kehmak shook the hangers in impatience.  "Yes but do you like the one with the long skirt with the sword slit and the armored boots?  Or is the one with the pants and hidden knife scabbard more to your liking?"


"You know," she said as she made a helpless face.  "I'm over my head here.  I'm sure Colonel Kerr could tell you right away which was better."  She touched the nearest one.  "I think this one is best with your coloring."


Kehmak considered.  "You are right.  More flattering and has hidden weapons.  What could be better?"  She turned for the shopkeeper, threw him the one she wanted.  "Wrap it up and throw in those armored boots as well." 


Christine looked at the clothing.  It all seemed to have some sort of battle purpose. 


Kehmak laughed at the expressions the other woman was making.  "He is doing quite a good business with the rest of the delegations.  It is just the Federation that wishes to walk around unprotected."  She walked back to the shopkeeper.


He smiled ingratiatingly and said, "What is your name?"


"What difference does it make?  I'm paying in latinum."


"I need it to register the knives."


Kehmak sighed and told him her name. 


He wrote it in large letters across one of the packages then slid the bundle into a wall slot. 


"Hey!  Was that my dress?"


He handed her a larger package.  "Oh no, madam.  That was your knives.  This is your dress and boots."


Her voice dropped dangerously, "Where did you just send my knives?"


"To the spaceport of course.  Weapons of any kind are forbidden in Kandikrand.  You can pick them up when you leave.  Have a nice day."


Christine took the Klingons arm and tugged gently.  "Kehmak, let's go now, okay?" 


The other woman allowed her to lead her out of the shop all the while breathing heavily and staring banefully at the shopkeeper.  As soon as they were out of his sight though she turned back to Christine.  "Damn.  I thought I'd found a way to beat their stupid system."  She laughed as she watched Christine's face.  "You thought I was going to hurt him didn't you?  Oh you are funny, Christine."  She slapped her on the back, nearly rupturing several vertebrae.  She saw Christine's look of pain and shot her a contrite look.  "Sorry.  Here sit down, I will buy you a raktajino with extra cream."


Christine sat for several minutes just trying to breathe.  The waiter looked at her in some concern so she smiled gamely until he left with their order. 


"Are you all right?" 


Christine sat back gingerly.  Nothing seemed to be broken.  She took a deep breath, let it out.  It didn't hurt.  "I'm ok."


"You are sure?  I would hate for word to get out that I injured a member of an opposing delegation."  Kehmak smiled in amusement.


"It's our little secret."  Christine sipped gingerly at the steaming beverage the waiter brought them and was delighted to find it stronger and more robust than cappuccino.


"You like it?"


"It's good."  Christine leaned back in her chair.  


Kehmak did the same.  They sat there for several minutes drinking silently before the Klingon turned to her.  "Christine?"




"Do you not think diplomacy is boring?"


"Excruciatingly."  She could feel her lips tilting upwards into a crooked grin.


"How many days is this supposed to drag on?"


"Hard to say."




"I don't know?  I've never done this before."


"At least you have your warrior to amuse you."


"Who, Kerr?"


"Yes.  I would not mind having him to amuse me."  Kehmak shot her a leering glance.


"Hands off."


"See you are possessive of your man."


Christine laughed.  "He's not my man.  I just don't want to see him broken."


"Well if he is not your man, then who is?"


Christine shrugged, trying to be casual.  "No one at the moment."


"Kerr is a warrior.  You should choose him."


"Uh huh."


"I see no one better in your party.  Two scrawny humans and a couple of Vulcans," she made a spitting sound.  "But you like your Captain Spock, don't you?"


"We're friends, yes."  She laughed when Kehmak looked at her disapprovingly.  "We have served together for a long time." 


"And although he is not a warrior, he is a hero to your people as well as many of mine.  So, you prefer him?"  Clearly the Klingon found this hard to believe.


"I didn't say that."  She had to find a way to distract Kehmak from this topic.  "So how are we going to pass the time?"


"You are changing the subject." 


"Yes, I am."


"Well, we are having a small get-together tomorrow at that restaurant."  She pointed across the square with her elbow.  "He has agreed to make Klingon foods and serve blood wine."


"Good idea.  A party.  What's the occasion?"


"Mak'chak wants to celebrate his day of first blood."


"His what?"


Kehmak looked at her as if her education had been deficient.  "The day he first drew blood.  In battle.  I gather you have nothing similar."


"No.  But it sounds very honorable."


"It is.  Not as important as the Day of Honor and some houses don't even consider it a very important rite of passage, but we like to mark it.  Actually we like any occasion to drink blood wine and eat heart of targh and gagh."  Kehmak signaled the waiter to bring two more raktajinos.  "You should come."


"I should?"


"Yes.  Mak'chak likes you.  I can tell.  And I enjoy your company.  And if you cannot find a man to meet your fancy among your own people, perhaps one of our unattached warriors..." she trailed off suggestively.


"It's ok.  I'm happy with the choices I've got now."  She smiled at the waiter as he set her drink in front of her.


"Speaking of choices..."


Christine turned to see Kerr sauntering up to their table. 


"Ladies.  May I join you?"


Kehmak looked at him suspiciously.  "You smell like a Ferengi."


"And that, I take it, is a bad thing?"  He pulled out a chair.


"They are without honor.  Scheming, slimy little creatures."


"They aren't slimy.  Their skin is actually quite dry."


Two pairs of eyes were suddenly focused on him. 


"You learn a lot as a Dabo girl," he said innocently as he sat down across from the Klingon.


"You were a girl at one time?"  Kehmak was clearly confused.


"Don't pay attention to him.  He speaks nonsense."  Christine turned to Kerr.  "So did you win?"


He grinned widely.  "That is such a stupid question.  Of course I won."  He smiled at Kehmak.  "And she thought I couldn't support her."


Kehmak grinned back at him.  "Your par'machai is fortunate to have such a provider.  And one wise enough not to spill his winnings all over the table as many would be tempted to do.  On the other hand, how does one know you are not just full of empty boasts to cover the dishonor of your loss?"


He patted the chest of his uniform softly.


Christine heard a distinct clink-clink.  "Just how many secret pockets did you sew into that uniform, Colonel?"


"I'm sworn to secrecy."  When she rolled her eyes he leaned in close, putting an arm around her.  "I put the special in special forces, doll."


"I'm going to be sick."  She laughed but did not push him away. 


"Hey, is that Raktajino?"  He turned pleading eyes to her. 


She pushed the cup over to him.  "Here, take it.  I don't need a second one anyway."


"Bless you, my child," he teased as he took a long sip of the drink.  "Oh god, I love these things."


Kehmak had been watching them with interest.  She suddenly spoke softly to Kerr in Klingon.  Christine thought she heard the parma word again.  Kerr turned serious as he answered at some length.  Kehmak looked at Christine, then back at Kerr.  "I have tried to tell her there is more honor in preferring a warrior."


"Kehmak," there was a warning note in Kerr's voice.


The Klingon sighed.  "I do not understand." 


A new voice sounded behind them.  "Surak says that admitting ignorance is the first step to wisdom."  To Christine's ear, Sovar's voice seemed overly smug as he walked up to the table.


"Kahless says that Surak's mother was a..."


"Kehmak!"  Kerr stood up rapidly.


The Klingon woman stood too.  She spit several words at him in Klingon. 


He answered back.


She pushed him.


He pushed back.


They stared intently at each other for several long moments.  Then abruptly she sat down.  "It is not right."


Kerr sat down too.  "Right or wrong, you will leave it alone."


She nodded abruptly, clearly angry.


"Fascinating."  Spock had come to stand behind Sovar. 


Christine wondered how much of the scene he had witnessed, and if he understood what he had seen any better than she did.


"Your facility with the Klingon language and culture is not included in your file, Colonel.  An oversight on someone's part?"


"Probably, Sir."  Kerr's tone was light again.


"As much as I hate to break up this exchange of...whatever it is you are exchanging, I need the delegation back at the lodging."  Spock was at his most gracious.


"Of course, Sir."  Kerr nodded to Kehmak.   "Good day."


She nodded back then turned to Chapel.  "You will come to the party tomorrow?"


Christine grinned.  "Wouldn't miss it."  Both Spock and Kerr looked at her in disapproval.  She dialed her grin down a notch.  "I mean I'll try to make it if time allows."


"Of course."  Kehmak nodded to the Vulcans and Kerr, clasped Christine's arm briefly in hers, then left.


Christine turned to the men.  "So.  We should get going, yes?"  Without waiting for them, she turned on her heel and started off toward their temporary home.




They found Troi and Penhallon already waiting for them at the lodging. 


"Had the bad luck to wander right into Spock and Sovar," Penhallon explained to Kerr.  "Ah well, the young ladies agreed to meet us tomorrow as well so all is not lost."


Christine was about to launch a caustic comment when she realized she was feeling just as lazy.  Being locked out of the negotiations had seriously dented her work ethic.  She tried to gather her professional persona up as she asked, "So how did the day go?"


"As you would expect.  The check-in period was held up because the person in charge decided that the Cardassians had tampered with their entrance books.  We were all forced to wait while they retrieved a special scanner that in the end determined the books were fine.  The negotiations started with a speech from their Minister of Trade.  A very long speech."  Spock nearly sighed.  "Once he left, we spent an hour going over the administrative policies and then it was time to break for lunch, which was provided at our cost of course, in the basement, which was locked and no one seemed to have the access code.  How long was our wait at that place, Sovar?"


"Thirty minutes, Sir."


"Yes.  When we finally returned to the conference room the negotiations started in earnest.  Or would have if any of us had known we were required to prepare a prospectus responding to a naturalist group's contention that dilithium mining, no matter how it is handled, will damage the Felstraran ecosystem.  We were given an hour to write the response before anything else could begin." 


Sovar shook his head.  "It was a difficult task since none of us have any first-hand knowledge of the ecosystem.  It was indeed fortunate that I had downloaded what information we did have from the Federation central records into the tricorder."


"At this point, the Cardassian delegation, clearly tired of the unceasing bureaucracy, rose and in a great show of disdain, left the building."


Troi looked puzzled.  "I thought it was locked?"


"Apparently the proctor in charge of that particular door believed it prudent to not try to keep two very angry Cardassians in the room."


Kerr laughed softly.  "Can't say I blame him."


"Nor I."  Spock agreed.  "The representatives from the non-aligned worlds also rose and left the building after making an impassioned speech that the Felstraran red tape and inefficiencies was designed to keep out their smaller systems.  The remaining delegations began to make headway in the two hours that remained."


"Although we kept hearing a distant pounding sound," Sovar noted.


Spock's nodded.  "Apparently the non-aligned worlds were only trying to make a statement and were most chagrined to find themselves left out of the proceedings."  He waited for the laughter to die down.  "We did not get very far this afternoon, but I think we were able to see at least the initial positions of the four remaining delegations."


"So more of the same tomorrow?" Troi asked.


"Yes.  I regret that there is not more for you to do during the day.  But we have much work to accomplish tonight.  Mr. Sovar?"


The research head handed out several padds.  "During the course of the discussions we came up with many issues and questions.  We will all be needed to research these."


Christine looked at the questions Sovar had given her:  What is available from the local databanks on the Felstraran agricultural sector and how does it differ from what is in the Federation dbs?   Can you determine the current Felstraran protocols for disposal of hazardous and/or toxic waste/byproducts?  How advanced is the Felstraran medical sector and in what areas would you consider it most lacking?  Well, this would take all night.  She hoped they could order dinner in.


"We'll need your responses back before you retire tonight.  Please bring them to my or Sovar's room when you are done."  Spock waited for questions.  When there were none, he dismissed them.


Christine lost herself in the research and was surprised to hear a chime on her door.  When she opened it she saw Spock with a tray of food.


"I doubt that you have eaten.  I have brought you some dinner."


She glanced at the chrono.  Four hours had gone by.  "Thanks.  Did you bring enough for two?"


"I am meeting the Romulan Ambassador for a late meal.  And I have research of my own to finish.  I will leave you to yours."  He smiled gently at her and was gone.


She ate the meal while she finished answering the first two questions.  The medical sector question occupied the rest of her evening as she abandoned herself to discovering this planet's approach to healing and disease.  By the time she finished she was yawning frequently.  She closed up the padds and walked down the hall to deliver them to Spock's rooms.  He came out the door just as she reached for the chime. 


"Thank you, Christine."  He glanced at the data briefly as he stood in the doorway.  "Very complete as I would expect from you."  His eyes were amused.


"Not much else to do here," she grinned.  "I see you are on your way out.  Do you have any instructions for tomorrow?"


"Yes.  Explore Kandrikand.  See if you and Colonel Kerr can get to the outskirts of this area.  Without breaking any rules, try to find out what makes this Potemkin Village run and perhaps find what lies beyond."




He gave her a despairing look.  "It is from your history.  Look it up."


She nodded contritely.  "So you want us to try to unearth the true Felstrar's Colony?"


"If you can.  And you may not be able to.  But at least try.  And have Commanders Troi and Penhallon attempt to learn more from their local contacts."


"You mean their local babes."


"As I said," he ignored her grin, "anything they can learn could be of use to us."


She nodded.  "I'll pass on your instructions.  Somehow, I don't think that they will find it a hardship."


"Excellent."  He walked back into the room and set the padds down on the nearest table, then joined her again in the hall.  Closing the door behind him, he murmured good night and set off quickly down the hall.


"Good night, Spock," she said to his departing back.




The delegation met in the lobby in time to bid Spock and Sovar good luck and get their marching orders from Christine. 


Troi seemed about to laugh.  "So you want us to just keep doing what we were doing yesterday?  Sitting with three lovely women and enjoying good food and drink?"


Christine nodded.  "Try to get them to talk about the things we don't know.  Like their cities, or well anything I guess.  We really don't know much at all about this place."


"We'll do our best."  Penhallon checked his chrono.  "What time do you want us back here?"


After agreeing to meet back in time to rendezvous with Spock and Sovar, the group went out to find some breakfast before heading out on their separate tasks.  They were all finishing up their food when several Felstrarans approached. 


"What now?" Penhallon mused.


"Entrance books?"  The Felstraran did not seem overly concerned with being polite.


They handed their documents over to the man, who passed them outside to another official.


"Is there a problem?"  Christine shot him a warm smile.


"Just routine, ma'am."  He turned to take back the books from his colleague.  They conferred briefly then he handed the books back to the group.  He gave them a forced smile.  "Can't be too careful."


"Of what?" Troi mused after the men moved on.  "We've gone from red tape to harassment?  I really don't like this place."


"Yeah.  Me either," Kerr agreed.




"Ok, now push."  Christine felt herself being propelled upwards and grabbed frantically at the top of the wall.  Her hand came down on broken glass.  "Oh shit!"  She pulled away in time to avoid being severely cut but with nothing to hold onto she began to fall back down as quickly as she had ascended.  Kerr managed to catch her waist and ease her the rest of the way.


"What the hell happened?"


She inspected her hand, then started digging out the few shards that had lodged in her flesh.  "They obviously don't want us going out that way."  She heard a ripping sound and saw Kerr holding a piece of cloth.  "Which pocket was that?"


"One of the cleaner ones."  He inspected her hand and then wrapped it.  "I don't suppose you managed to see anything else did you?"


"I saw a fence beyond this one, looked like it might have been wired.  And then a whole lot of nothing.  Just like at the landing site."  She pulled her hand away.  "That's fine, Randall.  It's not that bad."


He sat down heavily on the grass.  "So what do we know?"  He pulled out a stalk of some sort of weed and began to strip it while he talked.  "Either these people are totally paranoid or they are doing something in their cities they really don't want us to know about."


"Maybe they've discovered something here that they want to keep to themselves.  Like the fountain of youth."


He looked at her skeptically.


"It could happen."


"Uh-huh."  He tossed the weed aside and rose in one smooth movement.  "Well, I doubt that we are going to find anything else out here.  Let's keep exploring the town."


"There's not much more town to explore," she groused as she followed him back to one of the secondary streets.


"Excuse me," it was the Felstraran from before.  "What are you doing back here?"


"Just out for a walk," Kerr said easily.


The man walked over to Christine.  "You weren't injured this morning."


"I cut myself at breakfast.  After you left.  It was a pastry accident."


The man looked at her suspiciously.  "A pastry accident?"


She smiled in what she hoped was a perfect mix of innocence and stupidity.  "Hard to believe huh?  I mean they look so safe.  But I was holding one in my hand like so, and I decided to cut it and well I just wasn't thinking because if you cut it when you are holding it like this you can't help but cut into your own hand.  And that's what I did."


Kerr nodded support.  "Saw it with my own eyes.  Those things should come with little warning stickers or something."


The man looked at them both as if he couldn't believe they were representatives of an important intergalactic federation.  "Sorry to hear you find our food dangerous."  He pointed at the bandage.  "You do realize it's still bleeding?  There's a medic next to the official Felstraran souvenir shop, why don't you stop in and get a little less primitive treatment."


"Thanks, we will."  Kerr grabbed Christine's good hand and pulled her away.


"Actually, it is starting to throb.  Good thing the cuts more or less line up, we won't have to change our story.  We'll just stop in, get it treated, and be on our way.  I mean how long can this take?"


An hour later they were still sitting in the waiting room.  "I could have bled to death by now.  Several times."  Christine fumed.  "I'm sorry, Randall.  I'm holding up the mission."


"Wasn't really much of a mission anyway."  He looked up from the padd he was reading.  "Do you know that every single article in this thing is at least five years old?"


They both perked up when the door to the clinic opened and a nurse beckoned her forward.  "Commander Chapel?"


Christine followed her to the exam room and explained the breakfast mishap.  The nurse pursed her lips.  "Is there something wrong?" Christine asked.


"No.  Or there won't be once we finish.  Let's see..." the woman reached into a drawer and started to rifle through forms.  She pulled a few out then dug around in another drawer, finally coming out with a writing implement.  She started handing the papers to Christine.  "Accident report.  Release of liability for the restaurant owner.  Release of liability for this clinic.  Agreement to pay for medical treatment.  Medical history form. And a customer service survey."  She rose.  "By the time you get those completed the doctor should be back from lunch."


Christine looked at the forms in dismay.  Her stomach rumbled, reminded her that she was getting hungry.  She began to fill in the forms, not sure if she or Kerr had the worst of it.  True to the nurse's word, the doctor came in just as she finished the last form. 


"So, I hear you cut yourself."  The woman smiled at Christine, the first genuine smile that she had received from a native.  "Commander Chapel is it.  Let's have a look at that hand."  She unwrapped the bandage and studied the wounds.  Then she reached over and picked out a small piece of glass.  Her eyes met Christine's.  "So along with this tragic pastry accident you also broke your water glass?"


"Is there another form to fill out if I say yes?"


The woman laughed.  "No.  We just add that to the ones you've already finished."


"Then yes."


The woman reached for the forms and wrote in the new information.  "Well you've missed lunch but I shudder to think how you will get safely through dinner, Commander."


Christine smiled sheepishly.


The doctor reached for a bottle of liquid.  "This is going to sting a little."  She held Christine's hand over a basin and poured some of the liquid over the wounds.


Christine's hand felt as if it was on fire.  "A little?" she gasped.


"Okay, a lot. But we hate to say that going in."  The doctor waited for the liquid to evaporate then ripped open a package of some sort of malleable material.  She carefully placed it over the wounds.


Christine felt a cooling sensation, then the feeling of the bandage molding itself to her skin. 


"There you go."  She handed Christine a small packet of cream.  "It won't come off unless you use this.  Leave it on for at least five days or until you get back to your ship if you have a better way to heal it." 


Christine clenched her hand gingerly and was pleased to feel no discomfort.  "Thanks." 


She followed the doctor out and joined Randall, who was staring at the ceiling and reciting something.  "You done?" he asked hopefully.


Once out in the fresh air he inspected her hand.  "I was worried they'd lost you on the table or something."  He pulled out his tricorder and ran a quick scan of the bandage.  At her look he shrugged.  "Can't be too careful.  No bugs."


"No, it was sterile when she put it on."


He shook his head.  "Those aren't the kind of bugs I meant."


"You can take the man out of security..." she teased.  "What were you doing when I came out?"


"First I counted the little holes in the ceiling.  Then I tried to remember all seven verses of the Federation Hymn.  Finally I resorted to listing all the things I don't like to eat.  It's an old trick I learned to try to fool my stomach into thinking it's not hungry.  You do realize we missed lunch?"


"Believe me, I know.  Maybe we could grab something in the square?"


"Something to drink yeah.  But they don't serve food again until dinner.  I asked the receptionist."


"Well, the raktajinos are on me then."


"You're on."


They ordered the drinks at one of the bars and even cajoled a few cookies out of the proprietor.  As they walked out to the tables, Christine looked around the square.  "Business must be off for your friends?"


Kerr followed her gaze to where the Ferengi were sitting dejectedly as their Dabo tables stood empty.  "Come on."


The Ferengi watched as they approached.  Kom shook his head, "No business today."


"What happened?" Christine asked.


"Felstrarans are awful, horrible people.  Do you know that hyu-mann?"  He looked at her sorrowfully.  "Last night we were fined for running an unlicensed business.  Fines we can handle, just part of the cost of doing business, although my leader has no doubt already lodged a formal protest.  Anyway, we came back here and set up for tonight and the entire time their gambling and liquor officials sat right over there and watched us.  Then, when we are all done, they tell us that the Dabo tables have to be packed up and out in an hour or they will confiscate them."  He pointed to the elaborate set up.  "It took four of us three hours to put them up."  He hung his head dolefully.  "It's the Dabo girls that know how to move them around, that's part of their job.  But we couldn't bring any of our own girls and the ones we hired here don't know how.  We'll never make it in time."


Kerr slapped him on the back.  "Kom, my friend.  What if I told you I might know where you could find a Dabo girl?  Would it be worth some latinum to you?"


The Ferengi brightened and looked at Christine.  "You will help us."


Kerr laughed.  "No, my friend, I'm afraid she has to meet with our delegation head."  He pushed her in the direction of their residence.  "I'll catch up with you later," he told her with a wink then turned back to the Ferengi.  "No, I was thinking of someone a little more, ummm, masculine."


"You?" the Ferengi asked in some horror.


"Me."  Kerr gave him a mercenary smile.  "Now, how much you figure that should cost you?"


She could still hear them haggling when she rounded the corner.




Christine looked up from the chair in the lobby as Spock and Sovar walked in. 


"Where is Colonel Kerr?"


"He's with the Ferengi."  She ignored their curious looks.  "Penhallon and Troi are still out too."


Spock did not look overly concerned.  "I take it you want to debrief me now, since you are lying in wait?"


She grinned.  "Well, there's this party..."


"Say no more.  Sovar your assistance was invaluable today."


"Thank you, Sir."  He bowed slightly to Spock, then to Christine.  "Commander."


"Mr. Sovar."  She smiled at him.  As soon as he disappeared up the stairs she turned to Spock eagerly.  "About this party.  It is being thrown by the Klingons.  You should come.  I'm sure they would wish you to be there.  The emissary of peace and all that."  She gave him her best smile.


"As tempting as that is, I'm afraid I have other plans.  But I am sure you will make an excellent ambassador to the Klingons."  He sat in a chair across from her.  "Now, what did you discover on your spy mission?  And how did you injure yourself?"


She quickly apprised him of what had happened and what little they had found out.


He nodded thoughtfully.  "I did not expect more, Christine.  I doubt that Penhallon and Troi will have any additional information to bring to bear."  He steepled his fingers.  "It may be immaterial at this point anyway.  We could very well end up with this planet whether we like it or not."


She laughed at the sourness of his expression.  "Why?"


"Simply by being the last to leave the table.  I very much doubt that the Klingons will tolerate much more of this planet's unique version of service.  And the Ferengi were complaining about some rather substantial fines."


"Yeah, we heard about those.  So that just leaves us and the Romulans?"


"So it would seem."


"Perhaps you can ask the Ambassador when you dine with him tonight?"  When he did not react, she continued.  "I find it somewhat odd that you would turn down the Klingon's invitation yet accept his?"


He looked at her evenly.  "I was not invited by the Klingons, you were.  I am not needed there."


She studied him for a moment, willing herself to let it go.  Finally she blurted out, "Do you even care how the negotiations are going, Spock?"  At his look of surprise, she continued.  "I mean really?  Because as far as I can tell, the only thing that seems important to you is resuming your discussions with Pardek."  She began to pace.  "Which I find odd, considering that you keep telling me they are inconsequential."


"Are you saying I am not doing my job?"


"No, I'm sure you are doing your job.  You are nothing but a professional and Mr. Sovar wouldn't look as calm as he does if you were not fully engaged.  I just don't think that getting the dilithium is your highest priority on this mission."


"I am merely enjoying the opportunity to have a free and open discussion with Ambassador Pardek.  Given the closed nature of his society, such interaction is unlikely to come along again.  Perhaps you are feeling left out.  I am sorry that I have not been able to include you in our talks, but I believe the addition of a stranger would serve to restrict the Ambassador's willingness to speak freely."


"Will Sovar be joining you?"


"No he will not.  Are you jealous, Christine?  And if so, of what?"


She laughed off the suggestion.  "Of course I'm not jealous.  I just don't understand why you are spending so much time with the enemy."


His face grew cold.  "If it bothers you that much, Commander, then I suggest you report me to Star Fleet Command for espionage."


She tried to backtrack.  "I didn't mean..."


He rose suddenly from his chair.  "I think this conversation has gone as far as it can.  Enjoy your party, Commander."


Oh that was smooth, Chapel, she thought miserably.




Her mood had not lightened by the time she reached the restaurant.  She heard the noise and music and laughter and suddenly wanted no part of it.  She was about to turn away when a familiar voice rang out.


"Christine?  Why are you standing out there?  Come in."  Kehmak came out holding a glass of dark red wine in both hands.  "Here, this will help whatever is wrong."


"I'm not so sure," Christine replied but she took a deep drink.  The taste was sweet and bitter at the same time.  The wine had been warmed.  "This is blood wine?" 


"Yes.  There is baqghol if that is not to your liking."


"No.  This is good."  Christine sipped again, trying to go easy.  Her stomach was empty and she didn't know how strong this wine was.


"You drink deep of blood wine or not at all, Christine.  Mak'chak will be offended if he sees you take so tentatively of his generosity." 


The general was suddenly behind them.  "Why will I be offended, Kehmak?"  It was obvious that he had already enjoyed a great deal of the wine.  He turned to Christine and scowled at her.  When she did not look away he broke into raucous laughter.  "Ah you are a tough one!  I like you." 


He raised his hand and Christine feared for her spine but instead of pounding her he put his arm around her and leaned in close. 


"Let me tell you, zilm'kach, why you could not possibly offend me."  He pulled her into the room, toward the other Klingons.  "I am beyond offense.  I have put up with more here than any Klingon should ever have to.  And tonight we celebrate that we will not take it ANYMORE!" 


He finished with a roar and Christine was sure she lost partial hearing in the ear closest to his mouth. 


He let her go and began to circle the group.  "Yes, we are going home and no inducement in this or any other galaxy will make us stay!  We will not be treated with disrespect!  We will not stand in any more lines or fill out any more forms!  We are warriors!  We are Klingons!"


At his words the other Klingons raised their glasses and shouted approval.


Kehmak sat on the table next to Christine.  She whispered, "If you think this is impressive, just wait till he gives the targh speech."  She leaned back and grabbed a pitcher of wine from the end of the table.  "More?"


Christine nodded and hopped up on the table next to her.


"And we are here for more important things too.  For it is my day of first blood.  On this day," he punctuated the word with a heavy fist on the table that caused the plates to jump, "forty-five years ago, I blooded my first worthy opponent.  I see fit to honor that day.  Who is with me?"


This time Christine joined in with the shouts of support.  She felt unaccountably pleased when Kehmak beamed approval.  They both drank deeply.


"Then let us eat and drink and make merry.  For tomorrow some of us," he nodded sarcastically to Christine, "will be allowed to leave this cursed planet!" 


Again the Klingons and Christine cheered.


Mak'chak pounded three times on the door leading to the kitchen.  A parade of waiters loaded with trays emerged and marched to the table.  They placed the dishes down with a flourish.  When they lifted the lids, some very strange smells emerged.


Christine swallowed hard at the sight before her.  The food looked like worms...and they were still moving. 


A warm voice sounded in her ear.  "It's gagh, and whatever you do, don't try it."


She turned to see Kerr sitting next to her.  "You shouldn't be here.  They might get offended."


He shook his head.  "Kehmak saw me packing up the Ferengi, told me to join you.  Unless you mind?"


She knocked her shoulder up against his arm.  "Of course I don't mind."  She turned to Kehmak.  "Hey, look who's here."


The Klingon woman nodded to him.  "Grakht, throw me another glass," she yelled at the Klingon closest to the table holding the barrel of blood wine.  She easily caught the glass and filled it from the pitcher.  She handed it to Kerr with a mischievous look.  "Better catch up, Colonel.  We are already far ahead of you."


He smiled, downed the glass, and handed it back for more.


"Wow," Christine laughed.


"Very impressive," Kehmak grinned as she poured him another.  "You are really quite attractive...for a human."  She slid off the table.  "Come it is time to eat."


Christine hissed desperately to Kerr, "Is any of this edible?"


"Sure, just follow my lead."  He pushed ahead of her and began to quietly list off the dishes as he filled up his plate.  "Heart of targh, blood pie, ooh slimy tongue balls."


"You're kidding right?"


He shook his head.  "No, these are great, don't let the name throw you off."


By the time they got through the line her plate was full.  Kerr let her slip past him to sit across from Kehmak, then he took the seat next to her.


Trying not to look as squeamish as she felt Christine took a taste of the tongue ball.  Then another.  She looked over at Kerr.


"Good huh?" he smiled.


She smiled back.


"I wouldn't steer you wrong, Chapel." 


"I'm learning that, Kerr." 


"Have some more wine," Kehmak ordered as she filled both of their glasses.  "Mak'chak is beginning the targh speech."


Their host launched into an impassioned story in Klingon while at the same time digging into his meal.  He punctuated some of his points with his knife and Christine worried that those nearest him might end up wearing part of his food but it never happened.  Kerr softly translated for her and she found herself laughing along with the others even though she was getting the tale second hand.  By the time he finished talking she was done with her meal. 


Mak'chak slammed his fist down.  "Music!"


One of the Klingons rose and fiddled with the restaurant's sound system.  Loud music blared.  Christine could detect no discernible melody in the cacophonous shrieks and deep bass drumming.


Kehmak's face lit up.  "Dancing.  I love dancing.  You two will have to dance."


Christine felt her face grow hot.  "We don't know your dances."


Kehmak smiled evilly.  "Somehow I think that the Colonel does.  If you won't dance with him I will."  She rose and moved around the table.  Rubbing her body sinuously against Kerr, she looked challengingly at Christine.  "Unless you don't like seeing your par'machai with someone else?"  She began to play with Kerr's hair.  "So soft..."


Christine glared at her and hissed, "Back off.  I will dance with him."


They were interrupted by Mak'chak.  "What are you doing, Kehmak?  You know it is tradition for the host and hostess to dance first."


"Hostess?" Christine asked in some confusion.  "You two are married?"


"Did I forget to mention that?" Kehmak laughed.  "Silly me."  She untwined herself from Kerr and moved away with Mak'chak.


Christine turned to Kerr.  "You knew?"


He shrugged.  "Most of the crews on a ship are from the same house.  I figured she was related to him in some way.  So you want to dance?"


She watched the two Klingons move.  There was no space between their bodies.  "Are you sure that's what they are doing?"


He laughed and pulled her up when the music changed rhythms.  "First song is over.  Come on."  He pulled her to him.  Very close to him.


She tried to dance but found herself too self-conscious. 


"Christine," he breathed into her ear.  "Relax."  He began to rub her back gently.  "Close your eyes.  Feel the music.  Let it in."


Christine did as he said.  For a few minutes she knew nothing except the dismal feeling of discomfort.  Then she began to hear a pattern in the bass beats.  Without realizing she was doing it, she pushed her body into his in time to the drums. 


"Yes."  His hands moved lower.


She gave herself over to the sounds and the rush from the blood wine.  She could feel him against every part of her.  She felt as if she was drowning.  They stayed like that as the music changed and changed again.  Her hands began to roam, following his lead. 


"Christine," he murmured.  "So sweet.  So strong."


Christine looked up to see Kehmak watching them from across the room.  The woman smiled then moved her head up to kiss her husband.


"What does that word mean?  Parma...?"


"Par'machai?  It means lovers."


"Kehmak calls us that?"


He laughed softly into her hair.  "Maybe she knows something we don't."


She felt heady with the wine.  "Maybe."  His arms pulled her closer; she could feel his strength, reveled in it.  "My warrior," she whispered. 


His lips found the skin near her ear.  "Always." 


She groaned, and heard him make the same sound.  The wine was making the edges of the world fuzzy.  All that mattered was this closeness.  Touching and being touched.  She needed it, needed him.  Wanted him.  She groaned again. 


And as he turned her in the dance she opened her eyes for a moment and found herself looking out on the square and at a familiar figure.  Spock did not look in as he and Pardek walked past the restaurant.  Spock.  She could feel her whole body stiffen.


Kerr loosed his hold a bit.  "Christine?"  When she did not answer, he pulled back to look at her.  "What's wrong?"  He eased her out of the hot room and into the fresh air.  "Are you sick?"


She shook her head as she sat down on the patio.  "Can't do this," she mumbled.  She suddenly felt very dizzy.


"Can't do what?"




Kehmak came out.  "Is she ill?"


Kerr shrugged helplessly.


"Get her some water."  Kehmak suggested, and as he went to the kitchen she studied Christine.  Turning she followed the direction of Christine's gaze and saw Spock and Pardek as they walked away.  She pulled Christine's face away from the sight.  Shook her head, gently chiding the human.  "I have seen pictures of your planet, Christine.  You have a bright sun.  It fills the sky but it is very far away.  You have a moon too.  It is very beautiful and much closer.  But you cannot see the moon until the sun disappears.  So it is with you, my friend."


Christine looked at her in confusion. 


"You are drunk, Christine.  It is not important now." 


Kerr approached with the water and handed Kehmak the glass.  She held it to the other woman's lips.


"I'm sorry," Christine said brokenly.


"Sorry is for weaklings.  Can you walk?"


Christine stood, took a few steps.  "I can."


"Good.  You go now, back to your lodging.  But take this."  She pulled two rings from her fingers.  She handed one to Kerr and slid the other onto Christine's finger.  "If you ever find yourself on my planet you will be welcome."  She clasped arms with Christine then turned to Kerr.  "Watch over her."


"With my life." 


She watched them go, smiling to herself as she noticed Kerr automatically matching his step to Christine's. 


Mak'chak joined her on the patio.  "Did you have success, wife?"


She looked up at him, allowing her tenderness to show.  "I don't know."




Christine kept one foot moving in front of the other.  She tried to ignore the funny spinning sensation. 


Kerr stopped.  "Are you going to be all right?"


She nodded.  "Let's just keep going."




"I'm sorry.  The wine..."


"Sure.  Don't worry about it."




They passed the Cardassian lodging, darkened now. 


"The Ferengi left today too," he told her.


"Can't say I blame them.  This world stinks."


"You tell 'em, tiger."


She grinned.  "I will, I...."  She trailed off.  Suddenly, she just wanted to go to sleep.


Several minutes later, she wasn't really sure how long or how they got there, they were at her door.  She palmed it open and turned to see him watching her with concern.  She smiled and before she could think better of it reached out to stroke his cheek.  "My warrior."


His closed his eyes under her touch.  Then whispered, "Goodnight, Christine."


She nodded and stumbled back into the room, letting the door fall closed by itself.  She tried to get her uniform open but found the fastenings too complicated.  To hell with it, she thought as she fell on the bed.  She was asleep in minutes.




Christine awoke to a vicious pounding, only part of which was coming from inside her head.  "Oh what now?" she muttered as she padded to the door.  "Spock?"


"The Felstrarans have declared that we are all to be included in the negotiations today.  I need you downstairs at once."


She tried to ignore the pain in her head.  "Okay."  Tearing off her clothes as she went, she stepped in the shower just long enough to clean her hair and body then dried off hurriedly.  She pulled on her uniform and boots and grabbing her padds and a handful of hair clips, she ran out the door and down the hall.  Her head throbbed each time she put a foot down. 


"Christine, hold up a sec."


She turned to see Kerr jogging down the hall.  He stopped long enough to hand her two yellow and orange capsules.  "You look like hell, let those dissolve in your mouth," he instructed as he set off again.


She hurried to catch up.  "What are these?"


"They'll make you feel better."


She took the capsules.  A few seconds later she started to feel less fuzzy.  "These aren't regulation, Colonel.  Nothing I have in my dispensary works this fast."


"Yeah, but they work don't they?  Something I picked up on, well I can't really tell you where.  But we analyzed and copied them and now they are standard issue for certain kinds of missions."  He became suddenly very serious and enunciated each word slowly.  "But you never heard of them."


"Heard of what?"


He grinned at her as they took the stairs.


They reached Spock about five minutes before Troi and Penhallon showed up.  Spock led them off immediately, briefing them as they went.  "I'm sorry you won't have time for breakfast.  Let me explain what has happened.  As expected the Klingons and the Ferengi have withdrawn from the negotiations.  That, and the earlier departure of the Cardassian and non-aligned contingents, means that only the Romulans and us are left.  While we are both ready to sign a treaty of protection in exchange for mining rights for the dilithium and other minerals, neither of our worlds is ready to do this without a better understanding of what we are protecting."


Troi smiled.  "We want to see the rest of the planet."


"Indeed."  Spock motioned them into the building where the discussions were being held.  "That is as far as we have progressed.  I believe their demands that we assemble our entire delegation was an attempt on their part to play for time."


Penhallon sniffed in disbelief.  "They couldn't possibly have thought we would sign a treaty without knowing what is going on here?  The way they cover up all but the most basic facts of Felstraran life, they could be hiding slave labor camps, or who knows what else."


"Precisely."  Spock took a seat next to Sovar.  The rest dragged chairs from around the room and joined them.  "I do not believe we will find out anything on this trip.  The best we can hope for is to start down the road to a settlement of some sort."  He trailed off as the Felstraran trade representative stepped up to the podium.


For the next few hours the Romulans and Federation representatives argued with their hosts on the necessity of full access to the colony.  The Felstrarans seemed equally determined to protect their privacy.


Pardek stood up suddenly.  "Mr. Ambassador, this has gone on long enough," the Romulan shouted.  "The Federation may be content to dicker with you but the Romulan Empire is now out of patience.  You have heard our terms and they are far more generous than those of my esteemed colleague.  However, if you wish to benefit from them you will give up this attempt at cloaking your society and prepare at once to receive official Romulan visitors in your capitol.  I await your answer." 


The Felstraran began to speak, launching into another impassioned diatribe about the need to protect his world's culture from contamination.


"Enough!"  The Romulan spat.  "You wish all the benefits of protection and none of the duties.  While my empire would welcome a new source of dilithium, I am afraid the price of dealing with you and your endless lines and forms is not worth it."  He turned to Spock, nodded gravely.  "I wish you well Ambassador Spock.  I do not think that anyone will benefit from trade with this world."


"Ambassador Pardek."  Spock inclined his head graciously.  A look seemed to pass between them, then the Romulan Ambassador swept out of the room, followed closely by his subordinates.


"Well then I guess the Federation has won this round," the Felstraran smiled nervously.  "I have a treaty ready for signing."


Spock countered, "I am afraid it will not be that easy, sir.  There are a great many things you will need to agree to, including a full Federation inspection, before any document between us can be signed."  He motioned to Sovar who pulled out a padd.  "I have prepared an interim document, laying out what the Federation requires of you and what we are prepared to give in return.  By signing it you agree to allow a dialogue to start, nothing more."


The Felstraran shook his head violently.  "We offer only access to the dilithium."


Spock's eyes nearly gleamed as he stood up.  "Ambassador, you have alienated three of the most powerful empires in this quadrant.  I do not think it would be an overstatement to say that they dislike you very much.  If you do not sign the agreement with us, you will find yourself alone.  Just how long do you think you can survive without protection?"  He rose and signaled Christine and the rest to follow him.




Spock kept walking.




Spock did not slow.


"We'll sign."


Spock stopped.  "A logical decision, Ambassador.  I applaud it."  He waited for the Felstraran to come to him. 


The man stomped slowly up the stairs.  When he reached the group he held out his hand for the padd and began to read.  At the third paragraph he looked up in protest, "Surprise inspections?  We cannot allow you free access to our world any time you wish."


"You must or there will be no treaty.  The contact with your populace will be limited.  But you must see that the Federation will sign no treaties without ascertaining that you are not in violation of any of our guiding principals.  If you wish to be xenophobic and insular that is your business.  But we must make sure that you are not hiding something.  In any case, the inspection teams can work that out with the trade ministry.  It is up to us to begin the process.  Will you sign or not?"


The Felstraran quickly read through the rest of the document.  "What is this?  'The Federation shall not be required to undergo onerous Felstraran bureaucratic policies or practices.'  Everyone that arrives here is treated the same."


"That is no longer acceptable.  When my people and I leave her today, I want it to be with the bare minimum of paperwork.  The same will apply to those who come after us.  We will not put up with your slowdowns, ill treatment, and inefficiencies."


The Ambassador looked ready to balk. 


Spock slowly raised an eyebrow.  Then he held his hand out for the padd.  His eyes met the Felstraran and locked.  He did not look away first.


"Fine.  We will have things to add."  The man signed the padd then handed it back. 


"I have no doubt of that.  Good day sir."  Spock handed the padd to Sovar.  "Mr. Sovar, see that the Felstraran trade ministry gets a copy of that."  And with that he swept out much as the Romulan had.


"Man, he's good," Kerr whispered to Christine.


She smiled.  "Yeah, he really is."




Checking out both at the lodging and at the spaceport was surprisingly uneventful. 


"Evidently the Felstrarans have taken me at my word," Spock mused.  "To be truthful I was not sure they would."


Kerr laughed.  "I wouldn't want to mess with you, Sir."


But by the time they had settled back onboard, the Felstraran Trade Ministry had sent a list of demands for the inspections.  Spock had Saldusta forward them on to Star Fleet Command.  She had to do it in several takes.


"You knew they wouldn't sit idle," Christine said as she sat in Spock's office.  "They must have been prepared for this eventuality.  No way they could have prepared this many screens worth in the last few hours."


"I believe you are right."  Spock leaned back.  "I am not unsatisfied with the outcome."


"Does that mean Diplomatic is throwing a party?" she teased.


"Indeed.  I believe that we are."


"Great.  We can finally break in those facilities."


He let his expression relax into an almost smile.  "Did you enjoy your first diplomatic mission, Christine?"


Her mind flew guiltily back to the Klingon party, dancing with Kerr, almost doing other things with Kerr.  "It was interesting," she replied, aiming for nonchalant.


"I commend you and Colonel Kerr on your ability to interact with the Klingons.  You should perhaps consider a posting there someday."  He looked at her seriously.  "I know that you think that I did not care about the Klingons but I was gratified to see our two parties mingling socially.  It tells me that all I worked for has indeed come to pass."


"No one could deny that, Spock."


"Now," he gestured toward her hand, "perhaps you should visit sickbay before you go to the party?"


"You're right."  She got up and headed for the door.  Looking back she asked, "Will I see you there?"


He already had his head buried in the waiting padds.  "Of course."




Carpenter walked up as Christine used the cream to remove the Felstraran bandage.  "I didn't realize diplomatic duty was so hazardous?"


Christine laughed as she held the dermal regenerator against her palm.  "It is when you are with Colonel Kerr."


Carpenter smiled suggestively.  "With him how?"


"That's not what I meant."  Christine knew she was blushing.


"Whatever you say, Commander."  Carpenter patted her on the shoulder.  "Good to have you back, Christine."


"It's good to be back, Delynn.  I'll see you at the party?"


"Wouldn't miss it."


Flashing her a smile, Christine put the regenerator away and left sickbay, heading down the hall to the lift.  When it arrived, Kerr and other marines were already in it.  A space appeared next to him without her really seeing which of his people had moved.  He looked at her hand.  "No bandage."


She held it up.  "Nope.  All better."


His tone was extremely casual.  "Glad to hear it."


They walked together to the reception room.  All the doors were open and the huge room was filled with officers and crew enjoying themselves. 


Kerr nodded toward the food tables.  "Nice spread.  Ritsuko's outdone herself." 


"I don't know.  It's not gagh."  She smiled wickedly.


He pulled Christine back a little.  "Yeah.  Speaking of that.  I was hoping that we could get together later.  Maybe talk about what we almost started the other night?"


She felt the color rise on her cheeks.  "I..."  She looked down in embarrassment.  "I'm sorry about that.  I...we...should never..."


Kerr backed off a bit.  "Sure.  It's no problem."  He looked over to where Spock stood with Sovar.  "That's where you really want to be isn't it?"




He shook his head.  "No.  It's okay, Christine.  I've known the score here.  I've always known the score."  For a moment his eyes showed his disappointment, then they went dead as he damped down all emotion.  He turned and walked away, managing to leave the party without anyone noticing.


Damn.  She resisted the urge to follow him.  He was right.  She wanted to be with Spock.  Didn't she? 


She pushed through the crowds, finally making her way to Spock's side.  He and Sovar immediately stopped talking.  She felt a brief surge of annoyance.  "I'm sorry.  Am I interrupting something?"


Sovar's reply was smooth.  "Not at all Commander, the Captain and I were just ending our discussion."


"Hmm, from my perspective," she knew her words were laced with irritation but she didn't care.  "It looked like you were having a great little talk and I just put a premature end to it."  She turned to Spock.  "But what could you possibly be talking about that you couldn't share with the First Officer?" 


"Oh look," Sovar said somewhat desperately, "I believe Commander Penhallon needs my assistance." 


She snorted in derision.  "Somehow I doubt that.  But by all means don't let me keep you."  As the younger Vulcan hurried away, she turned back to Spock.  "More cryptic conversations.  I never realized that diplomatic missions could be so hush-hush.  Especially once they were finished."


He looked back at her, his expression serene.  "There is nothing about this mission that I am keeping from you, Christine."  He motioned to the buffet.  "Did you try Lt. Ritsuko's sushi rolls?  I believe these are the ones you said I might like."


She allowed him to lead her to the table.  She tried to relax as he speculated what mission Star Fleet would send them on next, and when they would finally tell them. 


"They're probably still reeling from all the conditions the Felstrarans wanted to put on the inspections."


"Undoubtedly," he agreed.


"I wish they'd tell us though.  I want to get away from this planet."  She had a horrible thought.  "You don't suppose they'd make us do the inspections, do you?"


He shook his head with rather more force than usual.  "It would be an illogical and inefficient use of our time."


She chuckled.  "Plus you will protest."


"I will."


She looked around the room; saw many of her friends and colleagues.  One face was missing.  "Where's Nako?"


"I called her when we returned.  She says she does not feel well."


"Still?  Maybe I should check on her?"  She moved to put her plate down.


His hand reached out, stopped her.  "She will call you if she needs help.  Nako is not shy about such things.  And she values her privacy nearly as much as I do."  His look was gentle, but still a warning.


They ate for a while in silence and Christine searched for something else to talk about.  The arrival of other crewmembers saved her the effort and she allowed herself to drift away from his group.  She was surprised to realize that she did not want to be there any longer, that she had had enough of parties and people.  She craved somewhere more tranquil and thought immediately of the rose garden.  A few minutes later she was heading down the corridor for the lift.


But once in the garden she found that despite her best efforts at finding some calm center, her bad mood was taking a stronger hold on her.  She gave up the meditation; just lay on the grass, soaking up the smells and small sounds of the rose garden.  She heard his steps long before his voice sounded out.


"I wondered where you had gone."


She did not open her eyes as she answered him.  "I was tired of the noise and confusion."


"You?  I thought you thrived on such chaotic exuberance?"


She sat up.  "Yeah.  Me too."


"I also needed some time to myself."  Spock stood uncertainly at the door to the garden.  His face was in shadows but she could sense his hesitation. 


"You can come in.  I won't bite."  She knew her voice was bitter.


He approached slowly.  "I did not think you would."  He took in her quick scowl.  "Have I offended you in some way?"


She stared at him a long moment.  Resisting the urge to respond in some caustic way she pushed herself off the grass and walked over to the viewport. 




She sighed.  "Don't mind me, Spock.  I'm just in a mood."


"So I gather.  Have I contributed to it?"


"You?"  She laughed, the sound was mocking.  She tried to feel remorse, failed.  She let another heavy sigh escape.


He walked to stand next to her, his shoulder nearly touching hers.  "What is it?"


She did not answer for a long time.  Just as she sensed he was about to turn away she said in a soft voice, "What did you and Pardek talk about?"


His answer was quick, practiced.  "Things of a diplomatic nature.  Nothing that would interest you."


"What kind of things of a diplomatic nature?"


He turned to look at her.  "Why this sudden interest in my conversations with the head of the Romulan delegation?  Or do you still think me a spy?"  His tone was light, but there seemed to be something more serious underneath.


"You just seemed so animated.  I haven't seen you that interested in anything since..."




"Since Jim died."  She turned to him.  "You spent so much time with Pardek."


"As you spent a great deal of time with the Klingons and Ferengi, yet you do not see me grilling you about what you spoke of with them."


Damn the man.  He was so good at this, ever the diplomat.  "You had that look."


His eyebrow rose slowly.  "What look would that be?"


"The one you used to get when you and Kirk and McCoy were working on something, plotting something.  I learned to recognize it even if I was never involved.  Never allowed to be involved."  She could feel her hands clenching tightly.


"Christine, you are angry at me and I am unsure why."


"Just tell me what you spoke of."


"I cannot.  I am sorry."


She felt shoulders she did not realize she had tensed slump in defeat.  "I believe there was a time that you would have told me."


His voice sounded irritated.  "I doubt that is true."


"I think you would have at least considered telling me.  Before Jim died."


"Everything is not about Jim."  He began to walk away from her. 


She spun.  Called to his departing back.  "He didn't die alone out there.  He took part of you with him."


Spock froze.


"The part of you that trusted.  The part of you that loved."


He did not turn.  "Those are human emotions.  You do neither of us any credit by this tirade, Christine.  I am going to retire now."  He started to walk again.


"I miss you, Spock."  She had not intended to have this conversation, to say these words, even though she had felt this way ever since Kirk died.  Now it was too late, she forged ahead, "I need that part of you back."


He did not slow but his words were clearly meant to carry back to her.  "We are doing fine without it."


"Commander Chapel and the Captain are doing fine.  Will continue to do fine.  But Christine and Spock...they aren't going to make it.  Don't you see that?"


"You are tired, Christine.  Get some sleep."  His stride did not falter as he left the garden.


She watched the entrance for a long time.  Sat quietly, mind processing.  What they had was good.  She should value the way they had cemented this working relationship.  Theirs was an easy rapport that would endure as long as she did not demand more from him than he could give.  It would have to be enough...and for Commander Chapel it was.  For Christine, however, it just wouldn't do. 


Her steps were slow and measured as she left the gardens.  She did not question the impulse that led her to the turbolift, that prompted her to request Deck 9.  She did not question what she would say when she got to his door.  She did not hesitate to ring for entry.


The door opened and Kerr stood looking at her.  He tilted his head and pursed his lips as he studied her.  "Didn't expect to see you again this soon."


"Yeah.  Me neither."  She tried to smile, felt it die before it reached her eyes.  "Got any gagh?"


His eyes narrowed, he stood unmoving. Then he took pity on her and motioned her into the room.  She sat in the nearest chair.


He perched on the one across from her.  "Something happen?"


"Yes.  No."


He waited for her to explain. 


She took a long breath but when she tried to talk she found herself at a loss for words. 


He let out a sigh, stood and walked away from her.  A minute later he was back, handing her a glass.  "It's single malt.  Go easy on it."


She sipped at the drink.  Staring down at the golden liquor she whispered, "I thought I knew how it was all going to play out."


He didn't say anything, just stood down looking at her, taking small sips from his own glass.


"I was supposed to be with him, and you...you weren't even supposed to be an issue."  She looked up at him finally.  "I've loved him forever, Randall.  I thought I was over it and I'd really moved on and then we got this assignment and he seemed so interested in me.  All those old feelings came back.  In the days between that silly team training and Kirk's death, we shared so much.  It seemed like everything was coming together perfectly."


He still said nothing.


She took another sip.  "But then you showed up.  We had such fun together.  And Kirk died.  Spock...Spock hasn't been the same.  And you were there for me.  Every time I needed someone, you were there for me."


He shrugged.  "Just doing my part."  He threw back the rest of his drink.  "You know..." he punctuated his words with stabbing motions of the glass, "it really doesn't feel good coming in second."  He walked back to the small galley and poured himself another glass.  "You want more?"


She rose and moved over to him.  "Sure," she said as she handed him the glass.  She moved closer to him as he poured.


"Go back and sit down, you're distracting me."


"Maybe that's what I'm trying to do."


He took the glass from her with a quick motion.  "I'm not playing this tonight.  Get out."


She shook her head.


"I've already lost once, Christine.  Don't compound it by offering me what's left over."


She reached over and calmly took back the glass.  Sipping from it she met his angry gaze fearlessly.  "You never lost, Randall.  Never."


"Funny."  He moved around her, flopped into the chair, took a deep swallow of his scotch.  "It doesn't feel that way."


She followed him and stood in front of him.  "Look at my eyes."  When he ignored her, she placed her drink on the table and leaned over him, hands on the arms of his chair, face dangerously close to his own.  "Damn it, Randall, look at my eyes."


He did.  "They're blue.  They're beautiful."


"Exactly."  She stood up in triumph.


"Either you're way too tired or I am, because this is making no sense."


"Yes it is.  Look at my eyes."  She reached down and smoothed back his hair.  His brow was furrowed.  "I haven't cried."


He was silent.


"I haven't cried over this.  It hurts yes.  But I haven't lost my friend, Spock, the Captain of this ship.  I just lost the possibility that one day he might be more to me."  She moved her hand down to his cheek.  "And I find that it doesn't bother me nearly as much as I thought it would."


He sat like a stone, his eyes searching hers for any sign of falseness.


She took his drink, placed it next to her own.  "But if you kick me out of here, Randall.  If you tell me to go.  Then I can guarantee that these eyes will be red in the morning."


"Don't do this to me, Christine."  He tried to get up but she pushed him back down. 


She knew he could move her aside in a second if he wanted to.  He did not appear to want to.  She moved closer.  "If you don't want me to stay?"  She moved her fingers over his lips, allowed herself to play.  "Just tell me."


His eyes closed as she watched him.  Then they opened again.  They were fierce.  "I love you."


She leaned in to kiss him.  "And I love you.  I was just too caught up in what might have been to see what was standing right in front of me." 


His mouth resisted her for a moment, then he pulled her to him, his strength threatening to hurt her.  But he eased his hold on her as soon as she was settled in his lap. 


"I'm not going to share you."  His tone was rebellious.


"Neanderthal.  Not sure I like that."  She grinned at him.  "He's still the Captain, and he's my friend.  You'll have to share me with him as far as those relationships demand."


He nodded.  "That far and no more."  He kissed her soundly for several minutes.   Then he pushed her out of his lap and to her feet. 


She looked at him in surprise as he rose too. 


He grinned at her wolfishly.  "You have two choices, Commander.  Either you leave now and eat breakfast with me in the morning."


She smiled.  "Or?"


"Or you stay," he was already pulling her toward the bedroom, "and eat breakfast with me in the morning."


"See this is why we're so perfect together," she said laughing.  "You knew the important thing was breakfast and as long as that is included I'll..." she never got the chance to answer before his mouth covered hers and they forgot about anything but each other for the rest of the night.