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) 2002 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.
Time and Distance
Be not afraid
Though rain pounds harshly against the glass
Like an unwanted stranger
There is no danger
I am here tonight.
Christine Chapel sat in her seat in the balcony of the Starfleet auditorium long after Kirk's memorial service was over. From this vantage point, she had watched her friends and former shipmates file out and over to the small reception. She should join them, she thought, and part of her wanted to. But another part wanted to sit here and reflect. Think. Be alone.
She was alone a lot.
She had told Uhura she would not be on Earth for the service. As head of the medical exchange program, she was often offworld, but in this case, it had been a lie. She couldn't explain it very well, even to herself. But she didn't want to be around her friends right now.
Hadn't wanted to be around them for a long time, in fact. It was curious and not something she had consciously thought about until now.
She saw Commander Derek Evans talking in the doorway with his boss, the head of Starfleet Operations. He didn't see her, didn't know she was watching him as he and the admiral spoke seriously. He laughed at something the admiral said, and Chapel smiled. Evans was handsome and funny. And he enjoyed spending time with her. Sometimes it seemed that he enjoyed it too much. If he saw her up in the stands, he would come up. He would want to accompany her to the reception. She didn't want that. Theirs was a casual if intimate relationship, and she intended to keep it that way.
She turned back to the real reason she was still sitting in the stands. Spock sat in his place in the front, head bowed, hands steepled together as if he were meditating. She had not been surprised when he had stayed back, had not joined the others. His grief for Kirk would be deeper, more intense. He had lost more than a friend, a former captain. Much more.
She sighed. Remembered how hard it had been to realize that Spock would never be interested in her. That another person, a person she had respected and admired, a person who had been instrumental in getting her to go back to medical school, was the one Spock had desired instead of her.
But she had come to realize it. And she'd made her plans for med school and resigned herself to never having Spock. It had hurt, but it had also been necessary. And she could be practical, she could accept the truth...when it was right in front of her.
She had expected her last day
It had been one last official mission to pass the time. Then she'd be gone, in a shuttle headed safely for Earth and Starfleet Medical.
One last mission. And of course, Spock had been on it. If he had been dismayed to see her included, he had hidden it well. If she closed her eyes, she could still see the captain striding into the transporter room to join the landing party on the pad.
It had seemed such a normal mission...
- - - - - - - - -
"Last time for this, Chapel?" Kirk grinned at her.
She couldn't help but smile. His enthusiasm and good humor were infectious. "Yes, sir."
"Glad to have you with
us." He turned, nodded to the
transporter chief, then looked back at her.
"Should be routine. A simple
overture to the newly elected planetary government, then we're on our
way." He grinned at Spock, who
merely lifted an eyebrow, then turned back to her. "Too bad Scotty's sick. I know he was looking forward to the meetings
with the physicists at the
She smiled. "He does love these technical exchanges. Always comes back energized. Does the Academy know he won't be coming? That they're getting a biochemist instead?"
Kirk shook his head. "But I'm sure it won't be a problem."
A delegation waited at the beam-down site. Kirk and his yeoman were escorted formally to the council room, while Spock and Chapel set off for the science academy.
As they walked, she studied Spock's face. He shot her a questioning look.
"Last day." She laughed nervously. "I imagine that you are relieved to be getting rid of me?"
"On the contrary, the
"You know what I mean, Mister Spock."
He gave her another look, one that clearly indicated that he did know, but had no intention of discussing it. "I predict you will do well in medical school. You may be assigned to a starship again, Miss Chapel. So our paths could cross."
"I suppose," she agreed. "I'm sorry if I've made you uncomfortable over the years."
"No apology is necessary," he said almost distractedly, his gaze diverted by three men that had stepped out from a doorway and appeared to be waiting for them.
"This doesn't look right," she said softly.
"Agreed. Turn around and walk back the way we came. Prepare to run if I say so."
"Yes, sir." She turned and saw that another man had cut off their escape route.
She looked to their left. A high wall cut off any escape. To their right, two men appeared, holding some kind of weapon. "What now?"
Before Spock could answer her, the men fired at them. She felt pain engulf her, then the world went black.
When she awoke, she found herself in some sort of holding facility. Her head pounding and every muscle in her body hurting, she looked for Spock. He was already awake and watching her from the cell next to hers. She crawled over to the bars that separated them. "Where are we?"
"Did we break some law?" She looked out at the room that lay beyond their cells. Along the far wall were several desks and chairs as well as a cabinet stocked with what looked like medical supplies. In the middle of the room there was a strange chair, heavily padded and fitted with restraints.
"I do not believe we were taken by the authorities. They would have no reason to arrest us, much less to stun us."
A door opened on the far side of the room and several men and women came in. She recognized a few of the men from their ambush party. "Spock? Orders?"
"Say nothing. Do not respond to them in any way until we know who they are and what they want with us."
One of the men approached her cell. "Lieutenant Commander Scott?"
She looked at Spock. He shook his head slightly. She turned back to the man but said nothing. He looked over at Spock.
"And Commander Spock. I confess, I certainly don't make a habit of kidnapping Starfleet officers but there is a great deal of interest in you and the lovely engineer." He smiled at Chapel. "We were told by customers who are very interested in some information you hold that the two of you were going to be on Zeta Ceti Three. Our contacts told us to look for two Starfleet officers, a human and a Vulcan, and lo and behold there you were. And so pitifully easy to acquire."
"I see you're following standard Starfleet hostage protocol. My customers told me that you would. Very wise. But ultimately futile." The man nodded to some of the others and they marched into Chapel's cell, dragging her out and to the chair in the middle of the room. She struggled with them but could not break away as they fastened the restraints.
The leader smiled. "We'll get to you later, Commander. Vulcans are so much more difficult to use this tool on."
Spock broke his silence. "Why are you doing this?"
"You have information. Valuable information. And we are information brokers. It's nothing personal." He nodded to the people that were working near Chapel's chair. "Give her a little taste." As he walked toward her, he smiled apologetically. "I'm afraid this is going to hurt quite a lot, my dear."
Chapel clenched her teeth and dug her fingernails into her palm. I will not break, she ordered herself. I will not break.
Then the pain started. It was worse then anything she'd ever experienced.
The leader walked over to where she bucked in the chair. "And that's only on the first setting. Just imagine how much more this will hurt if you don't cooperate? That's enough for now." He leaned in as the pain stopped. "You had some experience with installing a cloaking device, I believe? I'd love to know more about that."
She looked over at Spock desperately.
He was actually frowning. "You are operating under a false premise. She is not Commander Scott."
She took that to mean she could speak too. "I don't know anything about engineering. You've got the wrong person."
The leader called to a woman who was working at a desk, seemingly ignoring what was going on in the middle of the room. "Could you come over here a moment, darling. I'd like to know if she's telling me the truth, and you're the closest thing we have to a military expert."
The woman left the desk and walked over. After studying Chapel's insignia, she scowled. "She's not a lieutenant commander, and I think her uniform would be red if she was assigned to engineering. Blue is science." Then her expression cleared. "She'll still have information we need. Just more general. Start with the recent engine upgrades, there were some questions our customers had about the physics."
He turned back to Chapel. "Fine. Tell me about that, my dear." He nodded to someone behind her.
The pain hit her again. Worse than before. She felt a surge of bile and struggled not to throw up. She heard screaming, realized it was coming from her.
Then the pain stopped. She slumped into the seat, nausea nearly overcoming her.
The leader leaned in. "Do you feel sick, my dear? It's quite a common side effect." He smiled gently at her. "I really don't want to hurt you. Just tell me what I want to know and we can move on."
She shook her head frantically. "I don't know anything. I'm a nurse. I don't deal with engineering."
"I'd really like to believe you. But you must understand, everyone says that. At first." He turned to the person at the controls. "Turn it up."
"No, please, I don't--" Her words were cut off as the agony roared through her. When it stopped, she threw up violently in the bowl that another person held under her chin. She blinked back tears as she gritted, "Guess you've got this process down pat?"
"You're brave. I really hate that." Her tormentor's smile was no longer so pleasant. "More," he told the controller.
And it was more. Chapel knew that if she'd had any of the information he wanted, she would have told him, just to make the pain stop.
When he turned it up again, she began to make things up, saying anything she could think of, anything she could remember from her engineering and physics class. The leader looked at another man who had been sitting to the side. The man shook his head.
"Our technical expert says that's not the right answer," the leader said.
"Please," she sobbed. "I don't know anything."
The leader looked over to where Spock stood impassively, watching. "He doesn't seem to care how you're doing, does he? Vulcans are like that, you know. If you're protecting him, don't bother. I'll crack him too, so you may as well talk." When she just turned away, he grabbed her face and yanked it back to face him. "I'm talking to you. Don't turn away." He nodded to the controller and the pain started again.
It went on for an unimaginably long time.
Then it stopped.
"We could continue this all day. But I think you need a break." He unstrapped her, pulled her to her feet.
She could barely walk as he dragged her to her cell.
"One of the interesting things about this machine is that it creates a great need for comfort, for touch. The memory of the pain doesn't let up, does it?" He tapped her forehead, causing her to groan and try to pull away. "You can still feel it in here. Even now. It gets worse too." He smiled again. "I doubt your Vulcan will be much good for comfort."
She sobbed as he pushed her into the cell. Hitting the ground hard, she tried to rise but couldn't. She finally just sank to the cold floor and lay there shuddering as the pain took her.
"I'll be back in a while. Don't go anywhere." He smiled at his joke as he led the others out of the room. The sound of the door slamming echoed through the empty space.
"Miss Chapel?" When she did not answer, Spock said, "Christine?"
With enormous effort, she turned her head to look at him. "I'm sorry, Spock. I'm not strong enough for this."
"Yes. You are."
She could barely catch her breath; the pain did seem to be growing. She wanted to crawl to the bars, feel him touch her, hear him tell her it was all right. She knew that wouldn't happen, did not even try to move.
"Christine? Can you sit up?"
She attempted to push herself up. The world spun and she threw up. Crawling away from the spot, she collapsed to the floor again. "I think that would be a no."
"Your sense of humor is intact. That is a good sign."
She looked over at him. "You actually sound worried, Spock. That's so sweet." She tried to smile at him just before she lost consciousness.
She woke up when the men came for her again. They dragged her back to the chair and secured her.
The leader approached her. "Feeling better?" When she looked away, he smiled. "I didn't think so. Has the feeling of loneliness started yet? The dreadful need to be touched, to be held?" He leaned in, pitched his voice low, just for her. "I find you very attractive, my dear. Tell me what I want to know, and I will hold you all night long." He ran his hand along her arm.
She tried to pull away and he just laughed. Turning to Spock, he said, "How proud you must be of this one. See how she tries to emulate you? Turning down comfort, even when it is what she so desperately craves." The leader shook his head. "Watch her suffer then, Commander. Only I ask you, how can you do it?"
Before Spock could answer, the pain began. Chapel tried to resist, tried not to scream. She didn't make it.
"Shall we go to another level?" the leader asked her. Then he looked over at Spock. "The wonderful thing is that this chair causes no lasting damage, just pain in its purest form. So, barring any preexisting conditions that might weaken the body to stress, we can go on like this forever." Again his hand ran down Chapel's arm, then moved to her leg. "And you look like a very healthy woman."
Chapel spit in his face. She wasn't sure where she found the strength to do it, and almost regretted it as he backhanded her.
"Turn it up," he said to the person at the controls. He didn't notice Kirk, McCoy, and a large security detachment beaming in.
"I really wouldn't do that if I were you," Kirk called out, as the security officers fired at the leader and his people. Soon the only ones left conscious were those wearing Starfleet uniforms. Kirk freed Spock, as McCoy gently undid Chapel's restraints.
"Hell of a way to end your tour," he murmured, as he helped her stand.
She saw Kirk reach out for Spock's arm, saw Spock touch Kirk's hand before gently pulling away. Swallowing hard, Chapel tried to take a step and lost her balance. McCoy supported her. "Whoa, there. Let's go slow, okay?"
"I don't think I can walk," she said apologetically.
"Perhaps this would be easier." Spock pushed McCoy aside gently and picked Chapel up.
"That'll work." McCoy pulled out his communicator. "Enterprise, three to beam up."
Kirk looked at Spock. "I'll see you on the ship when I'm finished here."
Spock nodded, then turned his attention to Chapel. "It's over now, " he said softly.
Chapel had to resist the urge to burrow into his chest. The need to be touched, the need for comfort, was nearly overwhelming.
They materialized on the pad, and McCoy led the way to sickbay. "I want you to stay here until you can walk on your own," he told her.
She nodded. As Spock put her down, she again had to resist the urge to cling to him, to beg him to stay with her. "Thank you," she whispered.
"No thanks are needed," he said softly. He watched McCoy work for a moment, then with a last glance at her, left sickbay.
McCoy bustled around her, checking the readouts. "No lasting physical damage. But your neurotransmitters are off the chart." He touched her shoulder. "I can't imagine what they put you through."
She closed her eyes. "I don't want to think about it."
"Of course not." He sat down next to her. "I'm sorry, kiddo. This isn't how I thought we'd spend your last day on board."
She smiled weakly. "You had a party in mind maybe?"
"Or something. But not this."
She struggled to sit up. The room spun for a moment, then it seemed to right itself. "Well, that's an improvement."
He brought the back of the bed up to support her as she sat. For the next hour, he observed her vitals, finally saying, "Okay, do you want to try to stand now?"
She really didn't, but she wanted out of sickbay, and she couldn't see McCoy carrying her as Spock had. She gingerly swung her legs over and eased to the floor. McCoy steadied her as she took a step, then another. She was a little dizzy, but nothing more.
"Can I go?"
He nodded. "Are you packed already? Because I'm not sure you should be doing it right now."
"I'm packed. Don't worry."
"Okay, Chris. Just be careful not to overdo. You've been through a lot." He touched her shoulder and she felt herself react, almost told him how much she needed to be held. Then she looked at him, saw how he was looking at her. He seemed already nostalgic, full of sadness that she was leaving, but with good wishes for her future. She didn't want to ruin the moment. Or start something with him that she couldn't finish. And the way he was looking at her and she was feeling, it very well might go that way.
She could get by on her own. If anyone knew how to deal with loneliness, with needing to be held when there was no one there, it was Christine Chapel.
She made her way slowly from sickbay to her quarters. Puttered around her rooms for a bit before lying down in her bed and trying to sleep. But she could not relax. She tried to ignore the way the need for comfort kept increasing inside her. Power of suggestion, she told herself. I will be fine.
She got up and walked around a little. Then she lay down again. The feeling inside her was making her frantic. She closed her eyes tightly, willing herself to sleep. Then got up again in defeat. It wasn't happening. And she was becoming increasingly more miserable.
The door chimed and she stared at it, not wanting to see who was there. What if it was Uhura or McCoy checking on her? She couldn't let them see her like this.
Her door opened. Spock stepped through and said, "When you did not answer, I grew concerned."
"So you just busted in?"
"I used my override authority, yes." He approached her. "I had the opportunity to interrogate the man who tortured you. I now have a better understanding as to what the chair did to you, both at the time, and now."
"Now?" Every nerve in her body was screaming. She wanted him to touch her, to hold her.
"The pain you went through was actually the secondary means of coercion. The associated need for comfort, which grows more intense as time passes, is the primary inducement." He was watching her intently. "As that need increases, the chair is no longer needed. The comfort the torturer can offer to the victim is of far greater value. He had already started working on you with that in mind, when we were rescued."
Chapel thought of how the leader had touched her. How good his hand had felt, despite her loathing him. "So I'm not going crazy?"
He shook his head. "And I can help you, Christine. I can get you through the next few hours."
She stared at him, unsure what he was offering.
"Nothing will change with our situation in the morning. You will return to Earth, to begin the medical career for which you are so richly qualified. And I will remain here."
"With the captain," she finished the part that was unspoken, then thought better of it. "And the others."
He nodded. She wasn't sure if he was thanking her for backtracking, or acknowledging his relationship with the captain. She wasn't sure that she cared.
"I can offer you comfort, Christine. Nothing more."
She nodded her understanding.
"Do you want my help?"
A part of her wanted to tell him to go to hell. To leave her alone if he had nothing more to give her. But the rest of her screamed for his touch. She held out her hand to him, said softly, "Please."
He moved to her, his arms pulling her close. Sobbing as she felt the warmth of him, she hugged him tightly and felt the panic within her ease.
He led her to the bed, lay down with her and cradled her as she closed her eyes and tried not to cry.
"Let it out," he urged her. "I know you are hurting. Just let it out." He held her more tightly as she wept.
She felt him stroke her hair, his voice soothing her as if she were a child. And as the time passed, so did the need. And the pain. She could finally rest, could finally sleep. Knew that she would be all right alone.
But he did not leave her. Not until morning. Then he held her briefly, and walked out of her life. The Enterprise rendezvoused with the shuttle for Earth a few hours later and she took it, suddenly more eager than ever to get away from the ship.
- - - - - - - - -
Chapel roused herself from her reverie. That night with Spock was a lifetime ago. So much had happened since that first five-year mission. So many things that had nothing to do with her. She looked down, realized that Spock had left his seat. She wondered if he had seen her.
She walked down the stairs, went outside and debated whether to join the reception. She saw Spock entering the officer's club. Without consciously deciding to, she followed him. Pausing at the door she spotted him talking to Uhura. He turned as Uhura reacted to Chapel's presence. His eyes met Chapel's, and she could finally see the ravages the past week had caused. His uniform was immaculate, his hair purely regulation, but he looked like he had not slept since Kirk had disappeared.
Uhura came over to her. "I thought you were offworld?"
Chapel tore her eyes away from Spock's and turned to her friend. "Change of plans."
Uhura frowned. "You were at the service?" When Chapel nodded, her frown deepened. "We'd have made room for you."
Chapel looked away. "It was easier sitting somewhere else."
"I don't understand you anymore, Christine."
"It's not a crime to want to sit alone."
"But you do everything alone these days. I feel like you're slipping farther and farther away, and I don't know what to do to stop it. We used to be best friends."
Chapel wondered if she should tell Uhura that she still thought they were. "I'm sorry. If I'd known it would upset you this much..."
"How could you not want to sit with us?" Uhura looked hurt, then shook her head. "Never mind. Come in now." She took Christine's arm, led her to where Spock stood.
"Commander." He inclined his head. His voice was hoarse, and up close she could see that he had deep shadows under his eyes.
"Captain." She tried to convey regret, condolence, anything to support him.
They stood staring at each other for a long time. Then he bowed again and murmured, "If you'll excuse me?"
"Of course," she said, turning to Uhura as he walked away. "I need to go."
"But you just got here. The others will want to see you. We have a table."
Chapel didn't think she could face that. "I know. But I really need to go."
She was already heading for the door when Uhura said, "Comm me sometime. I never hear from you anymore."
Chapel turned and nodded. "Soon. I promise."
She could tell that her friend didn't believe her.
Later that evening, Chapel was just finishing some work she'd brought home when the door buzzed. She glanced at the chrono, realized it wasn't as late as she thought it was. Still, she wasn't expecting anyone and she didn't like surprises. Getting up slowly, she hoped that the visitor would give up and go away if she dawdled enough. But the door buzzed again.
She hit the security monitor. The small wall screen lit up. Spock was just reaching to hit the buzzer a third time when she opened the door.
She stared at him and felt a moment of shock at the raw pain that was on his face. Then he seemed to force the emotions back into hiding, as his expression became the familiar Vulcan mask she had seen for years. He inclined his head jerkily, as if in some kind of odd salute, then simply stood and stared at her.
She studied him for a long time, then she moved aside, giving him room to pass if he wanted to.
He stepped into her apartment.
She let the door close behind her as she followed him into her living room. Unwilling to be the first one to speak, she sat down on her couch and watched him walk around the room.
He examined each picture, every piece of art or sculpture. He picked up the pottery she had found on a recent trip to the Southwest. He studied the titles in her bookcase. At one point, he turned to look at her, his eyes boring into hers. Then he turned back to his strange inspection of her home.
She finally rose and walked over to him. As he reached for a bowl he'd already looked at, she put out her hand, stopped him mid-motion.
He stared at where her hand touched his, then he looked up at her, his eyes again seeming to tear into her.
She pulled gently, leading him over to the couch. When he didn't sit, she pushed him down, sat next to him and waited.
He said nothing, kept looking away from her only to turn back to stare. She thought she saw something desperate in his expression, something just slightly mad. He closed his eyes and let them stay that way for a long time.
"When did you last sleep?" she asked.
He shook his head.
"You don't know or you didn't sleep?"
"I do not know." His voice came out a croak.
"You didn't sleep the whole time you were looking for Jim?"
"I'm sorry you couldn't find him."
He shook his head. "He is gone."
"I was not there." His voice dropped to a whisper.
"I should have been there."
She sighed. "Maybe so. But you weren't."
He turned to look at her. "I cannot remember now what was so important that I could not join him." He ran his hand across his eyelids, rubbing hard as if trying to keep himself awake. It was a strange gesture for him to make, and she wondered if he was even aware he was doing it.
He looked away. "I should still be looking for him."
"For how long? For another week? Another month? For your whole life?"
He didn't answer.
"Jim wouldn't have wanted you to lose yourself looking for him."
He seemed to consider that.
She got up slowly. "Would you like to sleep?" When he didn't answer, she reached out to him. "Come."
He took her hand; let her pull him to his feet. Following her into the bedroom, he didn't resist when she eased him down to her bed, didn't say anything when she pulled his boots off and covered him up.
Chapel stared down at him for along moment, then she patted his shoulder awkwardly. "Rest."
He turned on his side and let his eyes close. She stood watching him for a few more seconds, then she went out to her computer and commed her assistant.
Lieutenant Parkins answered almost immediately. "Yes, Commander?" he asked, seemingly not annoyed to be bothered at home by his boss.
"What's on my schedule for tomorrow?"
He looked up for a moment, clearly visualizing the calendar program he used to keep her appointments. "A morning meeting with personnel, lunch with Commander Evans, and an afternoon resource review."
"When you get in, cancel all my meetings. I'll take care of canceling lunch with the Commander."
"Are you all right, ma'am?"
"A bit of an emergency's come up. Try to keep my schedule clear, if you would. I'm not sure how long I'll be out."
"Chapel out." She punched Evans's code into the system. He answered immediately, grinned when he saw who it was on the other end. "Chris. Missed me, huh?"
She smiled, wondered if it looked at all genuine. "I'm going to have to cancel lunch, Derek."
His grin disappeared. "You've already cancelled lunch. Three times, if I remember correctly."
"But who's counting?"
His face tightened even more. "I am, if you must know. You've also skipped out on two dinners. And let's not even talk about breakfast. You'd have to be around in the morning for that."
She sighed. "This is supposed to be casual. No strings, no expectations."
"Well, maybe you can do that. But I can't. I care about you, Chris. And I keep waiting for you to care about me. But I don't think it's going to happen."
His voice was tight as he interrupted her. "--I damn well know what we said. But it's not that easy for me. I want more."
"It's just casual, Derek."
"Maybe if you have ice-water running through your veins, it is."
"That was low." She smiled tightly. "You never used to mind. Seemed to even like--how did you put it?--oh yes, the cool ones."
He didn't say anything
"I'm sorry about lunch, Derek. I'm sorry about everything. But something important has come up."
"Yeah. Okay. I'll talk to you later, Chris."
The screen went black. She had a feeling he wouldn't be calling her back later...or ever again. She turned and was surprised to see Spock standing in the doorway.
"You heard that?"
"I'm sorry." She frowned at him. "Why are you out of bed?"
He held out his hand. "Please?"
She recognized what he was asking, could feel her expression soften as she looked at him. Taking his hand in hers, she followed him into the bedroom and lay down on the bed next to him.
He turned on his side, lay in silence staring at her.
She looked over at him, saw again the pain he was trying to fight. Rolling to her side, she faced him. "You helped me once. When you didn't have to."
He didn't respond, just continued to stare. Not asking, not forbidding either.
"Let me return the favor," she whispered, as she wrapped her arm around him, pulled him close to her. She felt him shift, burrow against her as his arm snaked around her waist.
"I hurt," he said into the silence.
She stroked his hair. "I know."
"Make it stop."
"I can't." She laughed soundlessly. How different would life be if a person could do that for another? "It's your pain. You have to feel it."
He moved so that his head was resting on her arm and looked up at her. "I do not want to feel it."
She smiled gently. "No one ever does, Spock. But we don't get a choice." She laid her hand on his chest. "You're exhausted. Close your eyes."
"I will dream." He seemed to shudder.
"You're part human. Humans dream. Especially when we are under stress."
"I wish to be Vulcan."
She smiled again. "Oh, you're still that, never fear." She touched his face gently. "Close your eyes, Spock."
He stared at her, then slowly did as she said. She watched as his features went slack, felt as his head became heavy on her arm. This was not going to be comfortable, she mused, realizing he had endured the same discomfort for her that last night, when he helped her. She could do no less.
His hand still rested on her waist and she moved away from him a bit to try to get more comfortable, only to feel him tighten his grip and pull her closer. Or I'll just stay here, she thought, as she forced herself to relax against him.
She closed her eyes, tried to welcome sleep. But it was hard; she did not sleep well with others. Didn't let them stay, those few men she had allowed into her life over the years. Did not stay with them either. She hadn't spent the night with anyone since her night with Spock, when he had given her the only thing he could. His compassion. His tenderness. His comfort.
She had left the warmth of his arms in the morning and outwardly had never looked back. But she'd dreamt of that night many times since. She'd fantasized about it. She'd played it back over and over. Even when Spock had come back from Gol and had barely acknowledged her. Even after he'd died. And come back. She'd seen him at the trial after the whale probe. He hadn't known her, obviously did not remember her.
Yet she had never forgotten. And she had never given up on him.
God, she thought. Have I been waiting for him all this time? Had it been a conscious choice? And if so, why hadn't she noticed that she'd shut down? Or hadn't she cared that she was giving up?
Odd that only now--with him in her arms again--she could see that.
Spock moved in sleep. The sound of his steady breathing reminded her of that last night with him. The smell of him still so familiar even after the time that had passed, the distance the years had created. The distance that had always been between them.
But he had come to her. He loved her. She smiled sadly. He might love her, might even need her, but he would never be in love with her. Had she really never understood that?
She cringed as she realized she had passed the years waiting for him to come to his senses. And in the process, had forgotten to live her life at all.
She pushed her face hard against his chest; let tears of sadness and loss fall against his shirt. It was time to give up the fantasy. It was time to live.
Spock shifted restlessly. Called out helplessly, "Jim?"
She reached up and stroked his hair. "Shhh. It's all right."
He quieted under her touch. As she watched him fall back into a more peaceful sleep, she studied his face, really looked at him the way she had always wanted to but had never had the freedom to do before. His face was no longer young; his hair though still thick and silky was touched with gray. She knew if she had a mirror she would see time's passage in her own features.
They were no longer young. They had grown old together. No, they had grown old apart. She felt the bittersweet pang of the truth. And for the first time, welcomed it.
This man that slept in her arms, this man she was in love with, would never be hers.
It was time to move on. It was time to grow up.
She shifted so she could kiss his cheek. His skin was warm against her lips, and he moved slightly, pressed against her.
My friend, she realized. Spock, my friend.
It would be enough. It would have to be.
She closed her eyes. Waited for sleep to come. Expected it to hide from her. But the warmth of Spock's arms, the feel of his chest rising and falling against her, lulled her into slumber almost immediately.
Light coming through the curtains woke her slowly. The unaccustomed sensation of arms around her caused a moment of panic until she remembered the night before. Remembered his pain. And her moment of clarity.
He still slept, and as she looked at him, she felt tenderness suffuse her. She would always love him. But it was time to accept what was. And what could never be.
She slowly pulled out of his arms, barely felt the pang when he whispered, "Jim."
She leaned over him, whispered, "He's there, Spock. In your dreams. Find him. Be with him." She blinked back tears. "He loves you so."
Then she hurried from the room.
It was late in the day and she was in the living room, curled up with a report, when Spock came out of the bedroom. He had cleaned up before he dressed. She had heard the shower running, the refresher working on his uniform.
She looked up. "Do you want coffee?"
He shook his head. "Water would be welcome."
She stood up and went to the kitchen. "Food would be a good thing too, Spock. How long has it been since you've eaten?"
He frowned slightly as he tried to remember. "Several days...I am unsure of the exact number."
"It's okay. I don't need it to the last decimal point." She smiled gently; let him know she was teasing. She put a plate of food in front of him. "Let's remedy that."
"Thank you," he said, as he watched her take the seat opposite him.
She knew he was thanking her for much more than the food. "That's what friends are for, Spock."
He stared at her for a long time. Then held his hand out. When she took it, he squeezed slightly before letting go and saying, "Friends."
She smiled, knew that there was still some lingering sadness in the expression. Knew that he saw it also. Found it didn't matter. It didn't change things.
"What will you do now?" she asked, as he took a bite of the food.
He chewed slowly, seemed to consider the question. "There is a project that is of great importance to me and upon which I have not been able to focus my attention. I think perhaps I may begin working on it."
She leaned in. "That's cryptic."
He almost smiled. "Yes. It is."
"So be it." She smiled. "I'm sure if you put your mind to it, you can do anything, Spock." She leaned back. "I wish you good fortune and fair winds."
He looked at her hard. "Jim used to say that."
She nodded. "No sense in tiptoeing around him, is there? I understand what he meant to you."
"Yes. I think you do." He looked down again. "I wish that you and I...that I..."
Her sharp exhale of air was full of bitter amusement. "No, you don't, Spock."
"You do not know what I was going to say."
"Yes, I do. You wish that you could love me."
She shook her head. "No, you don't."
He touched her hand, fingers moving lightly over her skin. "Sometimes I do. You are a good woman. You have a compassionate and caring nature. There were times that I wished I could accept what you offered. What I think you would offer me still. But I cannot. It would not be fair. I do not..."
She nodded. "You don't love me. I know that. Or you do, in your own way, but you'll never be in love with me. I've finally figured that out." She got up, poured herself some coffee, stood drinking it with her back to him.
There was a long silence, then he asked, "What will you do now?"
She turned to look at him. "Life doesn't necessarily change because of one night, Spock."
"One night can be a great gift."
"I suppose it can." She smiled tiredly. "But sometimes, during that one night, there is too much time to think. To figure things out. To find clarity." She looked down for a moment, then looked back up at him. "Clarity hurts."
"Yes, I know."
She fell silent, watching him as he ate.
When he finished, he carried his plate to the recycler. Looking over at her, he said gently, "The man last night..."
"Derek. I think that he loves you." Reaching out, he touched her cheek lightly. "Perhaps one night could change things for the two of you, as well?"
"I've had plenty of nights with him, Spock." She walked into the living room.
"Have you? Or have you only had plenty of sex with him? I do know the difference, Christine. And so should you." Again he nearly smiled at her shocked look. "Think about it."
She nodded weakly.
He walked over to her. "Thank you for what you did for me last night. I will never forget it."
"Nor I." She was surprised when he pulled her into a tight embrace. Even more surprised when she felt his lips on her hair, when he whispered, "Find happiness."
Then he was gone. The apartment suddenly felt very big, very cold.
She went back to her report, tried to concentrate. The words on the padd ran together and she couldn't see them. Blinking back tears, she put the padd down.
What _would_ she do now? Spock was right. One night could change everything. If she let it. If she was brave enough to let it.
She wasn't sure that she was.
Then she heard his voice again, urging her to find happiness.
Did she even know how to do that?
She got up and walked into the bathroom. Studied her reflection for a long time. She was no longer young.
It was past time to grow up.
She grabbed a small bag, shoved some things in it. Walked out to the closet and pulled some more items out. Dropping them into the bag, she pulled the strap over her shoulder and hurried out of the apartment.
It was only a short walk to Evans's apartment. He answered the door on the first buzz, stood looking at her. His eyes gave nothing away. "Chris."
"Derek." She felt incredibly uncomfortable standing there. The cold expression he was wearing wasn't helping. She waited for him to invite her in, but he didn't. "Can I come in?" she finally asked.
"Why? Did you forget some of your things?" He laughed. The sound was bitter. "Oh wait. You'd have to actually leave something here, wouldn't you?" He shook his head and stepped back.
The door closed in her face.
She stood for a long moment. Then she buzzed again.
He was not amused. "Go away, Chris."
As the door started to close, she threw the bag at him, saw his look of surprise before she was shut out again. She waited.
A minute later the door opened. "I don't get it," he said.
"I should leave something here to forget." She tried to smile, hated how uncertain she felt. "I haven't been fair to you."
He handed her the bag. "No, you haven't." Crossing his arms, he leaned against the doorframe, clearly waiting for her to go on.
She swallowed hard. "I'm not good at this."
"This? This what?"
"This relationship, us."
"Not good? You're terrible. Do you even know what a relationship should be?"
She looked up at him, met his gaze unflinchingly. "I really don't, Derek."
He looked away.
"Maybe you could show me?" she whispered.
He turned back to her slowly. "What?"
"I thought maybe you could show me." When he just narrowed his eyes, she shrugged in embarrassment and said, "I'm sorry. It's probably a stupid idea." She turned to go.
"Do you want to come in?"
She turned, saw him move aside to give her room. She nodded.
"Then come on." He smiled, the expression so full of tenderness it nearly took her breath away. Had he always looked at her like that, and she'd been too busy running away to notice? As she walked into his apartment, he reached for the bag. "Let me put this in the bedroom. You _are_ staying." It wasn't a question.
"I'm not going anywhere."
They stared at each other a long moment. Then he asked, "Why?"
"Why am I here?"
"Does it matter?"
"It does to me."
"I missed you."
He stared at her, shook his head. "That's not it."
She looked down. "You're right, it's not." She thought of Spock. "I had a visit from an old friend. It was sort of a wake-up call." She smiled wryly. "Or maybe a grow up call. I've been keeping everyone out. But especially you. I don't know if this will work, Derek. But I'd like to try."
His look softened. "I'd like that too."
As he reached for her, she held up a hand. " I don't know if I'm capable of giving you what you want."
He brushed her hand away, pulled her to him. "You don't even know what I want, Chris." He kissed her. She kissed him back. And for the first time, there were no ghostly arms forcing a distance between them.
When they pulled away, she said. "Tell me what you want. Show me."
"Gladly." He led her to the bedroom. "Do you mind if we start in here?"
She laughed. "We know we're good at that."
"Let's save the scarier stuff for later." As he pulled her to him, Derek mumbled, "I owe your friend."
"We both do," she said, finally giving herself up to him. It was still scary. But in a good way.
She thought maybe she could get used to it.
Well now I am grown
And these years have shown
That rain's a part of how life goes
But it's dark and it's late
So I'll hold you and wait
'Til your frightened eyes do close.
Vienna Teng - "Lullabye for a Stormy Night"