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) 2013 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.
Too Old for This
Chapel’s migraine had a migraine. She looked across the table at the eager faces of the new officers reporting for Ops and took a deep, steadying breath. Then she launched into her standard “Welcome and abandon hope all ye who enter” speech.
She probably could have hit the welcome part more and the abandon hope section with less energy. The newbies looked terrified by the time she got done.
She turned to Commander Remsen, said as merrily as she could, “And now for the fun part.” Under her breath, she said, “Please clean up my mess.”
He nodded and gave her the look he’d been giving her a lot—that maybe she should take that leave she was earning and never using. Great deputies often had too much insight.
She stood. “Welcome again. I’m going to leave you in Commander Remsen’s capable hands.” She hightailed it out of the briefing room.
As soon as she was clear, she took a deep breath, then another. Ever since Jim and Scotty had been lost, she’d been at loose ends. She wasn’t sure precisely why: neither of them had been constant fixtures in her life of late. But it felt like the old crew was falling away. Len was looking frailer—especially since the stint on Rura Penthe. Sulu and Jan were fine, but their ship was quickly supplanting the flagship when it came to being the go-to vessel for anything touchy.
Pavel was—well, she didn’t know where the hell Pavel was at the moment. His work with security took him some odd places, as far as she could tell, and he often showed up on ships coming back from planets she didn’t think he’d been officially detailed to. She didn’t want to ask what he was up to. Some things were better not to know.
She went into her office and commed Ny.
“Captain Chapel, what can I do for you?”
Chapel laughed—funny how quickly Command had moved her up when Cartwright’s replacement in Ops had also turned out to be a member of the conspiracy. Ny knew she loved hearing the new title. “I’m losing it, I think.”
“How so?” Ny looked distracted, checking her terminal instead of looking at the comm screen.
“I just scared the holy shit out of a group of new Ops recruits.”
“Way to lead, Chapel.” Ny turned to look at her. “Go see Spock.”
“I mean it. He’s at the Embassy, and he looks like hell.”
“And you know this how...?”
“I saw him in the hall. I have eyes. He told me where he was staying when I oh so stealthily inquired—on your behalf, not mine.”
“Yes, because my day hasn’t been bad enough. I should go visit Spock out of the blue?”
“Tell him I sent you if you’re scared.” Ny started to laugh. “Are you? Are you chicken? Big time captain, head of Ops, scared of one little Vulcan?” Her smile faded, and she looked worried. “Seriously, Christine. He looked terrible. This thing with Valeris...what he did to her. And then to lose the captain—if you’re hurting, think of how he must feel.”
“I am going to kill you when this goes inevitably south.”
“Mmm hmmm. I’ll talk to you later, all right?” Ny cut the channel before Chapel could.
“Damn it all, Ny,” Chapel said to the blank comm screen. “Why don’t you go check on him if you care so much?”
But she knew why. Spock had never sought Ny out as a partner for the Pon Farr—Chapel had gotten the nod for that dubious honor, but the ever-the-romantic Ny thought that his choice was significant. Even if the most Chapel ever got out of him any other time was a dignified “Good day.” Maybe a “How are you?” if he was feeling especially gregarious.
Oh well. She loved Amanda and Sarek. They’d be happy to see her, even if Spock wasn’t.
Chapel walked up to the Vulcan embassy, feeling like a damn fool. The guard at the gate took a retina scan and went into the guard post to comm someone. Then he came back out and asked, “Do you need assistance finding your way to Ambassador Spock’s quarters, Captain?”
Yes, damn it all, she did. Couldn’t she just go visit him in the Vulcan equivalent of the parlor?
“Second staircase, fifth door on the right.”
“Thank you. Are Ambassador Sarek and his wife here?”
“They are off world at this time, Captain.”
Grand. Just goddamn grand.
She walked into the embassy, trying to look like she belonged in this bastion of logic. Several Vulcans nodded at her as she passed and she nodded back. She found the second staircase and made her way up.
Spock was waiting at his doorway. “Commander Uhura sent you.”
A statement, not a question. Smart boy. “Damned straight. You think I’d risk making an ass of myself without some prodding?”
He seemed to have to think about that, so she pushed past him and said, “It was a rhetorical question, Spock.”
“Ah.” He closed the door and gestured toward one of several chairs. “Since you are here, please make yourself comfortable.”
She sat, but she was a long way from being comfortable. “Are you all right?” Might as well cut to the chase. Why prolong the misery for either of them?
He turned and walked to the window, stood looking out, his hands at his side—she noticed his fists were clenched.
“Spock?” She got up and walked over to him.
“I should have been there.”
She could figure out what there he was referring to: the launch. “Yeah, you should have. He might not be dead.”
When he turned to her in surprise, she gave him a stern look. “That’s what you want to hear, isn’t it? That’s what you’re telling yourself?”
He closed his eyes, finally nodded.
“You might have saved him. You might not have. He might have left you on the bridge. Or you might have died with him. I can spin you a hundred scenarios, if you like?”
“I am sure I have considered them all.”
“I bet you have.” She leaned against the window and studied him. “What are your plans?”
“I have no plans.” He met her eyes. “I have the same plans as before. I am a member of diplomatic. Nothing has changed.”
“Everything has changed. I feel it, too. Jim. Scotty.”
He looked away. “Yes. Everything has changed. What did Nyota think you would accomplish?”
“I have no idea. Would you rather she had come? I can arrange that.”
He gave her a hard look. “I have always looked to you.”
“Yeah, we’ll just forget about Valeris.”
“She was my protégé, not my lover. I felt betrayed by her—as a sponsor would.”
“You just keep telling yourself that, Spock.” She reached up, touched his face, and he allowed it, leaned into her hand slightly—okay, so Ny was right, as usual: Chapel couldn’t imagine him letting her do this in his normal state. “It seemed like more between you two.”
“It was not.” He jerked away from her. “Please go.”
“Fine. I’m not sure what I thought I would accomplish here anyway.” She walked toward the door but turned before she got there. “If you need anything—I mean that sincerely—you know where I am.”
“I appreciate that, Christine.”
She turned and walked out, hurrying through the main level, suddenly very glad Amanda and Sarek were not home.
Chapel was sitting at her kitchen counter a few days later, scanning a report she needed to focus on but couldn’t seem to. Her door chime went off, and she closed down the padd, glad for the respite.
It was Spock.
She moved aside. “Please.”
He came in, knew his way around from the times he’d spent with her during his Pon Farrs. She followed him into the living room, took a seat across from him. He didn’t say anything, just sat looking at the floor.
She got up and started to pace, feeling the restlessness she hadn’t been able to shake since Jim died and Scotty disappeared filling her again. “Do you want something to drink?”
“No. Thank you.” He didn’t look up from the floor.
“You want something, though, right? I mean, you’re here.”
“I am here.” He let out a slow breath, the sound not one she was used to him making. He sounded...defeated. He finally looked up at her. “I cannot settle.”
“Me either.” She walked over to him. “Between the two of us, we have a shitload of credits.”
He did not debate the preciseness of shitload, merely nodded.
“We could go anywhere we wanted if, say, we wanted to eat out.”
“You wish to be spontaneous?”
“Are you usually?” His tone was serious.
“Are you kidding? I’m paid to see everything coming or fix it as fast as I can once it gets here. I’m a planner, Spock.”
“As am I.” He stood up. “As neither of us are doing well with that paradigm, perhaps spontaneity will be beneficial.”
“Where do you want to go?”
He shook his head, gave a small shrug.
She took pity on him. “Okay. Three choices, Mister In the Moment. Bombay. Bangkok. Tokyo.”
“Wow. See how easy that was?” She took his arm and then realized what she had done. She tried to pull away, but he put his hand over hers.
“Christine, I wish to say...”
She cocked her head, wondered what he wanted to say.
He just shook his head.
“Tokyo. Now. Whichever of us has the more pull with the transporter gods and gets us out of waiting in line gets to spring for the trip.”
He nodded and let her lead him out of the house and down the street to the transporter hub.
To her shock, she had more status, so the trip was on her account. Spock paid for dinner.
A surprisingly easy meal, as they got lost in the multiple courses of exotic food, talking about her job, his next mission, and not talking about lost friends or anything else that would bring them down.
Never let it be said they couldn’t avoid what hurt like champs.
“So how is he?” Ny was wolfing down her salad.
“Why are you eating so fast?”
“I have a meeting. Downside of the new job: endless meetings.”
“You like it otherwise, though?”
Ny nodded. “It’s so strange to be back on Earth after so long on the Enterprise.”
“Strange nice or strange bad?”
“Strange...strange. I don’t know. It’s just different.” She studied Chapel. “You didn’t answer my question, in case you think your little evasion is going to work.”
“Oh. That. He’s not great. But then neither am I. We’re making our way through Asia.”
Chapel laughed. “That’s not a euphemism for kinky sex. We’re burning through credits like you would not believe going out to eat far away from here. We started in Tokyo and just sort of continued the trend.”
“Wow. How many cities?”
“Half dozen or so.” She saw Ny’s pleased smile. “In a month, toots? That’s not that much.”
“Uh huh. And you went to dinner with him how many times before?”
“Never.” She lifted a hand when Ny started to say more. “It’s not like that. He’s just at loose ends, and I’m an easy way to kill time. Nothing more.”
“Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Yeah. As what it is, not what it’s not.” She hoped her expression was as stern as she meant it to be. Ny did not need to get into matchmaking mode.
“Good. Then you’re helping each other.”
“If you say so. I’m helping my waistline, that’s for sure. Man sure can eat when he’s sublimating grief.”
Ny laughed and said, “I think he likes your curves. Always has.”
“You persist in trying to make my times with Spock into a great romance, Ny. They weren’t. Trust me on that, all right?”
Ny nodded, pursing her mouth tightly in the way she did when she didn’t believe something but was not going to belabor the point.
“Really, kiddo. I hate to burst your bubble but there’s nothing to see, move it along.”
“All right. If you say so.” She finished her salad. “I’ve got to go. Wish me luck in staying awake.”
Ny laughed and hurried out of the cafeteria. Chapel lingered, trying not to dwell on all those times that hadn’t been romantic—she’d never lied to Ny about that—but there had been some kind of connection other than just sex. A connection that never went anywhere—that Spock never let go anywhere. That he let die after each Pon Farr.
Was it smart to spend this much time around him? She’d never stopped loving him, had only learned to not show it. Was she asking for needless heartache when Spock finally found his footing, emotionally speaking, and didn’t need her again until the Pon Farr reared its ugly head?
“You seem pensive, Christine.” Spock was staring at her and she found herself bristling. Pensive? So what if she was?
She moved around her living room, picking up her padds, taking them to her study. Killing time, that was all she was doing.
All he was doing, too.
“Christine?” He stood in the doorway to her study, his expression one of confusion. “Are we not going to dinner tonight?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“I see.” He clearly did not see because he was standing there, in the doorway, as if she was going to magically become hungry and then they could go.
And it was a lie that she wasn’t hungry. She was starving. She’d skipped lunch because of dual crises, and that was probably part of her bad mood: low blood sugar. As a doctor, she knew better.
As a woman, she was a goddamn idiot. She tried to push past him, but he stopped her.
He frowned and met her eyes. “You are in distress. Why?”
She knocked his hand off her arm. “God, that’s rude. What is wrong with you?”
“I cannot help that I am a telepath or that you are projecting.”
“You could not touch me. You could help that.” She tried to get by him again, but he blocked her way without touching her. “Damn it, Spock.”
“Why are you upset?”
“Why are you here?”
He looked as though he was trying to follow the jump in logic. “Is that a genuine question or some kind of sarcastic retort?”
“I don’t know.” She leaned her head against his chest and muttered, “I’m hungry.”
“You are confusing me, Christine.” He touched her chin gingerly, tilted it up so she had to look at him. “And you are hungry. Why did you say you were not?”
“Because I’m getting too old for these games, Spock.”
“Every seven years. Or when you’re sad, apparently. Otherwise you don’t want me.”
“Christine, you came to me this time.”
“Be logical at your own risk.”
His eyes lightened—she amused him? He was amused at a time like this?
“Come.” He took her arm and led her to the coat closet. “It will be cold in Ulaanbaatar.”
“There? I don’t want to go there.”
“Then pick another city.” He waited. When she didn’t offer anything up, he opened the closet, grabbed her heaviest coat, and helped her into it. “I, too, am hungry. Which you would know if you were a touch telepath.”
“You’re dancing on my one nerve, Spock.”
“Tell me that once you have eaten. If you wish, this will be our last meal.”
He marched her out of the apartment, got her to the transporter hub, expedited their wait without involving her, and settled them into a restaurant he’d found that stayed open all hours—not an easy thing in this city.
The dishes were mostly meat based. Served him right for pushing her into this. He managed to find things to eat, and she gave him the vegetables off her plate.
He looked very satisfied.
“Not a word, mister.”
“It is just that concern for my well being—sharing your food—is a good indicator that you are feeling better, I think.”
“Uh huh.” She rolled her eyes at him but couldn’t completely bite back the smile at the hopeful look on his face—well, hopeful for a Vulcan. “Okay, so maybe I overreacted.”
His expression was a strong indicator that he agreed.
“I just...I just don’t want to make too much of this.”
“Of us going to dinner.” She met his eyes. “I know I came to you first. I know it’s illogical for me to worry about this. But I do. Because...I care for you.”
He didn’t say anything, just waited.
“I care for you a lot. And I’m worried that if we continue these dinners, that I will care for you even more. And then you’ll be done with me. As you always are. And where will I be?”
“Ah.” He eyed the rice on her plate with a note of longing.
She scooped it onto his plate. “Ah?”
“You are projecting into the future based on past occurrences.”
“It’s a pretty damn valid methodology.”
“Agreed. If no base variables have changed. But they have, have they not? You and I have been changed by the losses we have known. I especially.” He met her eyes; his were very gentle. “I have always been moved by you.”
“Could have fooled me.” She knew how childish that sounded but didn’t care.
“It is true. I have been drawn to you, even if, for whatever reason, I did not choose to ask for more.”
“For whatever reason? Try you didn’t really want me. If you had, you’d have taken me. That’s how you are. That’s how men are.”
He nodded, and she wasn’t sure that being right about that felt very good.
“You called our interactions in the past games. I suggest we do away with them.”
“What does that even mean?”
“I...do not know.” He held up his cup of tea to her, a surprising gesture on his part to make a toast. “To uncharted territory.”
She clinked her cup against his. “You sounded like Jim when you said that.”
“He often told me I was a fool when it came to you.”
“Well, he was a wise man.”
“Yes. In so many ways.”
The next day, Chapel was in her office when she heard a soft cough at the door. She looked up and saw Spock. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to ensure you do not skip lunch today.”
She started to laugh. “It’s oh eight hundred, Spock.”
“I did not want to assume you do not already have plans. Or appear to expect you to drop what you are doing for me. So I am here early to...” He frowned slightly.
“Reserve a spot on my dance card?”
“If that means that you will meet me in the cafeteria at thirteen hundred, then yes.”
She laughed again. “Okay fine. See you then.” As he turned, she said softly, “Why?”
He looked back at her. “You are insecure about our relationship and how it is developing. I thought perhaps being seen by others here at Command would allay some of your fears.”
“Fear is a little strong. Concern is better.”
“Semantics, but I will allow it if it keeps you in good spirits.”
She grinned. “Get out of here. I have work to do.”
He nodded and left her alone. The morning sped by, and she was soon walking to the cafeteria, saw him waiting outside, talking to Admiral Van der Wallen.
“Ah, Chapel. Have I congratulated you on your promotion?”
She grinned. He was one of the first to send her a comm. “Yes, sir, you did. As you well know.”
“I was a big backer of you. Always have been.”
“That’s because I never gave you shit when you were still a captain and came back from a deep space mission unable to remember your access codes.”
“That is a large part of it, yes. I also appreciated the oh-so-casual way you’d let me know the state of play at Command—what land mines to watch out for. Old space dog like me only knows to sniff out the kind in space.” His expression changed. “Oh, you two are here together, aren’t you? I’m keeping you.”
“You are welcome to join us, admiral,” Spock said, ever the diplomat.
“Don’t be so quick to include me, Ambassador. I’ll steal her right out from under you if you’re not careful. She’s a keeper, gotta hold onto her.”
She expected Spock to at least make a “she is not my woman” face, but he only nodded, as if Van der Wallen had said something very wise.
“You take care, Christine.” The admiral gave her a fond smile and then headed back into the bowels of Command.
Spock watched him go, then turned back to her. “I forget that you are significant here.”
“I imagine you forget about me period.” She stared him down. “Do not tell me that you’ve lost much time wondering about me prior to the last month.”
“All right. I will not tell you that. Although I imagine you crossed my mind more frequently than you think.”
“Let’s eat, all right? Much easier on my psyche than this subject.”
They got in line and Spock asked very softly, “Was the admiral serious? Is he interested in you?”
She laughed loudly, startling the person ahead of her. “He’s happily married, Spock. After all these years around Len, you can’t tell when someone’s pulling your leg?”
“He appeared to view you quite fondly. I thought it best to simply ask rather than assume he was ‘pulling my leg.’”
They reached the servers, and Spock let her be while they selected their food. As they sat in a booth along the wall, he studied her. “Why are you not with someone?”
“Who says I’m not? Who says I don’t have a whole string of nice men I’m with?”
She laughed softly. “You really don’t play the game very well.”
“I thought you were tired of games?”
“Oh, sure, throw that back in my face.” She shrugged. “I do, as a matter of fact, have a couple of men I see from time to time. They are nice men. I like them. They like me. The sex is good.” She studied him to see if he would look embarrassed or angry at her words.
His expression was even and he said only, “I see.” He ate his salad for a bit, then looked up and said, “If our relationship continues in the manner it has been going, I will not want you to see these other men.”
“I am not seeing anyone else. It is only equitable.”
“Nothing is equitable when it comes to you, Spock. Because I care too much, and this is all new and fun—for the moment—for you. I’ll give up my men when I think it’s time, not when you say it is.”
“Have you seen them lately?”
She didn’t want to tell him no, didn’t want to give him that, so she just shrugged.
This time he did look a little miffed. Did he actually care what she did—or was it not anything to do with her, just the idea that his woman might cat around on him? A few dinners and some shared Pon Farrs did not make her his woman.
He seemed to be stabbing his salad with a little more vigor than before.
“Not so fun being the uncertain one, is it?” She was enjoying this way too much.
He didn’t answer.
“Oh, so you’re pouting now?”
“I am not pouting. I am considering.”
“Ah. Semantics, but I’ll allow it.” She gave him a smug grin and was surprised to see his eyes lighten.
This was the connection they had after the Pon Farrs, before he’d inevitably leave her. This banter, her ability to amuse him, his ability to keep her on her toes with the verbal sparring. It was...arousing. And it was fun.
Why hadn’t he ever valued it enough to keep her around?
She focused on eating her sandwich, making small talk that had nothing to do with personal things. She looked up to meet his eyes and saw he was studying her carefully.
“You’re face gives nothing away, Christine. That is different than in years past.”
“Work in Ops long enough, anyone can become stone faced.”
“I am used to being able to read you.”
“Well, welcome to my world. Now neither of us can read the other that well.”
“I can tell by your tone that you are angry. I am unsure why.”
“I don’t trust you to not break my heart. But at the same time, I enjoy spending time around you. So I’m unwilling to do the logical thing and tell you to leave me alone. And I get angry at that—and angry at you, because that’s easier than blaming myself.”
“Your self-awareness is commendable.”
“Are you making fun of me?”
“Not at all.” He went back to his salad.
She waited for him to say something else, but he didn’t. Just ate in what was a companionable silence rather than a tense one—since he seemed to accept she was ticked off at him but now that he knew the reason, was untroubled by it.
Did that mean he was relieved she knew he was going to break her heart again? No surprises being a good thing? Or that he didn’t intend to? That he wanted more from her this time?
Why did she even care? She was an idiot. Pure and simple. The easiest thing in the world would be to tell him no more dinners, that lunch was nice but not something she wanted to continue. So what if she was obviously helping him? So what if she felt better—when she wasn’t obsessing over things—when she was with him? This thing between them, whatever it was, had a shelf life probably best measured in weeks.
“We have not been to Singapore yet. Tomorrow night?” he asked softly.
“Sure,” she said, wondering why it was her mouth and brain had suddenly decided acting in tandem was overrated.
Chapel sat on her balcony in her pajamas, sucking down her third glass of wine while she ignored the chime on her door. She knew it wasn’t Ny—they’d already talked, and she’d told Ny she was going home and straight to bed. A lie, but a necessary one: she’d lost five people—five good people—on a mission today. A mission she’d approved. She needed to drink and drink heavily.
Finally, whoever it was at the door started up with a barrage of chimes rather than a polite, every so often, “Are you there?” ping. The assault of noise clearly said, “I know you’re there.”
“Fuck it all,” she said as she put the wine down and stomped to the door. Whoever had braved her chime was going to get an earful.
It was Spock. He pushed her aside as soon as she opened the door, holding tightly to her arms as he did it—no doubt reading every goddamn thing she was feeling.
She tried to jerk away, but he was holding her too tightly. He managed to close the door with a gentle kick.
“What are you doing here, Spock? We don’t have anything scheduled.”
“Nyota commed me.”
What the hell? She and Ny were going to have to have a talk on boundaries.
“She was worried, Christine. Very worried. Do not be angry with her.”
“Fine, I’ll be angry with you.” She tried to pull away, and this time he let her. She left him standing at the door and walked back out to the balcony.
He followed her out, taking in the bottle that sat next to the too-full glass of wine.
“Don’t start with me, Spock.” She sat and picked up the glass. “I’d offer you some, but you don’t drink so...”
He sat in the chair next to her. “You are hurting. Alcohol will not help.”
“Is that what you used to tell Jim? Because his numbing agent of choice was scotch.” She knew this because she occasionally was the one telling him it would all be all right while he overindulged over a mission gone wrong. He’d told her once to wait until she’d sent people to their deaths.
He hadn’t been wrong. And this wasn’t the first time she’d had to do it. She just wasn’t coping very well with this one. Her resiliency was nil right now.
“I am well aware what Jim drank.” Spock leaned his head against the back of the chair, appearing to get comfortable, and didn’t say anything more, just sat and looked out at the park—she paid a lot for this view, had never felt like it was worth it until she’d been promoted, when she finally wasn’t traveling half of the time. When she had time to sit on her balcony and enjoy the vista.
She finished her third glass, her mind and body finally numb, and he asked, “Was what you did logical?”
“Don’t. I don’t need you to tell me it was the right decision. It was. That doesn’t make it easier. If you had a heart, you’d know that.”
She felt bad immediately. That was cruel. He had a heart: he was here, wasn’t he?
“I’m sorry, Spock. Why don’t you go and let me enjoy my drunk?”
“I let Jim slip away, Christine. At the end, once he retired, I let us drift apart. He was at his ranch in Idaho and I was...” He waved toward the sky. A startlingly ambiguous gesture on his part for “out there.” “He was my best friend, and I scarcely saw him. I abandoned him long before he died.”
“He didn’t see it that way.”
“Please do not take this the wrong way, but how would you know?”
She laughed softly. “Every so often he’d come to the Academy to lecture. Whoever was in town—or could get to town—would go to drinks with him. They were generally impromptu and since you don’t drink...”
He still looked slightly stung at not having been invited. But he’d traveled so much after the whole thing with Valeris, been offworld more than on usually—she wasn’t sure any of them had thought to include him.
“I was the only other person at one of them. Jim and I talked a little about you. He was proud of you, Spock. Proud of you for the good you were doing. He knew why you weren’t around. It wasn’t like you lived next door and didn’t see him.”
She reached for the bottle, but he got to it first, gently pulled it toward him, out of her grasp unless she wanted to get up. He dug into his pocket and handed her a white pill.
She put it on the table. “I’m not ready to not be drunk yet.”
“As you wish.” He moved the bottle even further out of her reach. “But you are done drinking.”
“You don’t get to say that.”
“Yes, Christine, I do. You would tell anyone who were here the same thing.”
“Not if I also came armed with antitox. I’d let them drink until it didn’t hurt anymore. Until they stopped making sense.”
“I do not think that is true. But if you want the bottle, you have only to get up—I will not move it further out of reach.”
“Do you expect me to say thanks for that?”
“No.” He closed his eyes and leaned his head back again. “I am tired, Christine. I would like you to finish your ‘drunk’ and take the antitox, so we can go to bed.”
She looked over at him. He did look tired. Very tired. “Go home. Go to bed. I’m not stopping you.”
“I wish to sleep here.”
“And you think I’ll just say yes to that.”
He nodded. “You are hurting.”
“If I’d wanted company in my bed, I have several options for that.” It was mean to say that, and she felt like a bitch as soon as it was out of her mouth.
“If you wanted sex, you have options. But comfort...?” He didn’t sound hurt.
“Because you suddenly stand for comfort?”
“Not suddenly. I always could have, is that not true? Every Pon Farr—I had a choice and I did not choose you.”
Was he trying to make her angry? She eyed the bottle.
“I was, as Jim said, a fool.” He opened his eyes, reached over, and pushed the pill toward her, saying, “Christine, please?”
She had no resistance for earnest Spock, no antibodies in place. She reached for the pill, let it melt under her tongue. Sobriety followed quickly. “Five dead, Spock.”
“I know.” He stood, picked up the bottle and her glass, and carried them into the kitchen.
She sat out for a moment longer, then followed him in. He had re-stoppered the wine and put her glass in the fresher. He held his hand out for her, turned as soon as she took it, and led her into the bedroom. Once inside, he let go of her, pulled off his uniform and got into bed, watching her.
She kicked her slippers off, turned the lamp off, and got into bed with him. They lay there, both on their sides, until she finally slid over, felt him put his arm around her and pull her closer.
“Are you here to make something up to Jim? Because you think you let him go? Being nice to me won’t bring him back.”
“I am aware of that. I am here because here is where I want to be.”
She tried to think of an argument for that. Found she couldn’t. So she snaked her arm over his chest and lay quietly.
He fell asleep long before she did, but she found it comforting to have him there as she replayed the events in her mind, trying to find scenarios where her people didn’t die, where she didn’t have to notify their spouses, their children, their parents.
She found the scenarios—but these alternate outcomes brought her small comfort. Kaidith. What was, was. The Vulcans had it right.
She woke curled around a still sleeping Spock. She checked the chrono—almost half an hour before she had to get up. A luxury.
As she shifted to get comfortable, Spock pulled her in closer to him, nuzzling into her in a way that was utterly charming since he was unaware he was doing it.
She lay there, enjoying the strange feeling of him wanting her close to him with no biological imperative spurring it on. His skin was warm where it touched hers, where she wasn’t covered by the soft cotton of her pajamas.
When the alarm went off, she reached behind her, stretching to get to it and turn it off. “You’re not making this easy, Spock.”
“Mmmm,” was her answer. But he let her go and she slipped out of bed and started her morning routine.
“Do you normally sleep that deeply?” she asked once she got out of the shower and had a robe around her—he was still lounging in her bed like a bona fide layabout. “You were always feeding Len and me that routine about not needing much sleep.”
“Normally, I do not. But since Jim died, I have pushed myself. And I have found sleep elusive.”
A whimsical way to put it, but she understood. “So what changed?”
“You. You needed me. I could finally help. And it was perhaps what I needed.”
“You didn’t let him down, Spock. He didn’t expect you at the launch. I talked to him right before he left.”
“You can say that as often as you wish. What you say and what I believe may never be in accord.”
“Fine. Then get up and go shower. I put towels out for you. I’ll make breakfast, which you should know consists of me pouring a protein mix into milk.”
“Efficiency is a core value at Ops.”
“As it is on Vulcan. Things are rarely efficient in diplomacy. It has proved wearing at times.” He sat up and seemed unsure whether to get out of bed in just his underwear or pull his uniform back on.
“Spock, please. I’ve seen you naked multiple times.” She left him in peace and went out to the kitchen.
He took a very quick shower and then joined her, fully dressed, his uniform a little wrinkled—she realized she’d never seen him drop his clothes on the floor the way he had the night before. Even at the start of the Pon Farr, he’d still found the wherewithal to put his clothes away neatly.
She handed him a glass of the breakfast drink and took hers out to the balcony.
He followed her and they stood at the railing. “You have a beautiful view from here.”
“I do.” She looked over at him. “Thank you for coming over.”
“You did the same for me.”
“Where would we be without Ny?”
His lips ticked up. “She cares for us. Deeply.”
“We’re lucky. She’s a good person.”
“Yes, she is.” He finished his drink. “I should get a fresh uniform from the embassy. It is on the way to Command if you wish to walk together.”
“Let me get dressed and we can go.” She finished her drink in a big swallow.
He took her glass and cleaned up while she got ready. They walked slowly, enjoying the lovely morning.
When they reached the embassy, he said, “I am growing tired of Asian food. Perhaps another continent tomorrow night?”
“Whatever you want.” She smiled at him.
“It will only take me a moment to change. If you wish to wait.”
“All right.” She followed him past the guards, then waited in the reception area while he changed, nodding to the Vulcans who walked past. He was true to his word and down in no time, and they were back on their way.
“Where do you want to go?” he asked as the grounds of Starfleet came into sight. “For dinner.”
“I told you. Your choice.”
“But if you could go anywhere, where would it be?”
She grinned at him. “Tegucigalpa for some steak. But I can’t see that working for you and that area isn’t known for its vegetarian cuisine.”
“I will make reservations.”
“Indulging me? Why? You already wormed your way into my bed.”
His expression was light. “I wish to make you happy. I suggest you take advantage of it.”
“No argument here.” She left him at the main entrance and made her way to Ops. It was only when she walked in that she realized she’d stopped obsessing over the people she’d lost. She hadn’t forgotten them, but there was nothing she could do now except learn from the experience, and she’d considered every way things could have gone while she’d waited for sleep to come. And then she’d finally let it go.
Spock had been a comfort, even fast asleep.
Chapel probably owed Ny a drink.
Chapel waved a waiter over to the table she and Ny had chosen. They were outside, on the wharf, enjoying the lovely breeze and mellow day. “Drinks are on me,” Chapel said. “For completely ignoring me the other day when I said I was all right and sending Spock over.”
Ny looked very smug. “I saw him in the cafeteria today. He looked good. You must agree with him.”
“Well, we’re helping each other at any rate.”
“But you’re having fun, right?”
“Yeah. It’s fine, Ny. I’m just being careful, you know? With my heart.”
“When did you get so afraid of saying you were happy? Because he looked happy—and I spent years on the bridge with the man, so I know how different moods look on him. Don’t give me any lip about Vulcan stone face.”
Chapel laughed, but Ny gave her a firm look. “I mean it, Chapel. When did you get so skittish of anything lasting?”
“Lasting? He and I have no track record to base lasting on. I’m enjoying this, Ny. I’ll give you that. I love him—nothing’s changed on that front, either. But I’m not going to be stupid about this. It is what it is.”
“Oh, good lord, you’re annoying. The man really likes you.” She looked at Chapel like she was stupid. “Likes, not just wants. Likes is good. Likes is crucial. And you like him. Not just love him. Not just want him. You like him.”
“Is someone paying you to fix us up?”
“Do not joke your way out of this. You’ve gotten harder and more isolated every year you spend in Ops. Let him in, Christine.”
Chapel studied her. “What did he say to you?”
Ny’s look was immediately innocent, in the way that meant maybe Spock did say something to her.
“Did he say I was emotionally unavailable?”
“Would he say that? To me, especially? I’m your best friend and he knows that.” Ny leaned in. “But it’s interesting you should hone in on that. Because there are two guys you occasionally see that could probably give him notes on that.”
“Oh, please. You don’t even like them.”
“You’ve never given me a chance to like them. You don’t date them, Christine. You use them. The same way you say Spock used you. Only you don’t have the Pon Farr to fall back on as an excuse.”
“They don’t want to date. Just sex is fine with them. You don’t even know either of them, Ny. Jesus.” Chapel suddenly regretted her earlier “Drinks on me” stance.
“Don’t get that look. I’m worried about you. I’ve been worried about you for a while now. We used to do more together.”
“I used to not be head of Ops. And excuse me, you used to be out on a damn ship most of the time. What are you talking about?”
Ny looked out over the water, sipped her drink, and seemed to be composing herself. “Let him in, Christine. That’s what I want to say. I didn’t mean to make you mad.” She swallowed hard. Then she turned back and looked at her. “I mean it. I’m just...I just want you to be happy, okay?”
Chapel realized that maybe this wasn’t all about her. “Are you okay?”
“Is not serving under Jim Kirk, is it? I go to meetings. I sign off on stupid shit. I don’t know why I took this except the captain told me it was time to try something different.” She looked over at Christine. “Spock’s not the only one who thinks things might have been different if he’d been at that launch. But I wasn’t even invited.”
“I’m sorry. Neither was Len.”
“I know. I tell myself not to take it personally. Scotty, I understood, but Pavel? What the hell?”
Chapel laughed. “Right there with you.” She reached out, touched Ny’s hand. “I’m sorry if I’ve neglected you.”
“It’s not you. I’m just...not happy. But you like it here at Command. I know that. And I want you happy with Spock, so I shouldn’t complain that you’re busy. And you’re doing so well. I know you are. I know you’re someone here.”
“I wasn’t invited to the launch, either.”
“Neither were the admirals you routinely say hello to in the halls. Christine, you matter.”
“And you think you don’t?”
Ny shook her head. “I want to get back out on a ship. Is that stupid?”
“Not if that’s what will make you happy. Life is too short, Ny.”
“Maybe that’s it. Life is too short and that’s never been more apparent than when we’ve lost two of our crew.”
Two men Ny loved, Chapel realized. Even if she’d never gotten Jim, she’d loved him for years. She didn’t talk about it; she didn’t have to. What hadn’t she done for Jim? And Scotty and she had been close for a while. Really close. “I’m sorry they’re gone, Ny. I know they were important to you. I think a ship is a great idea.”
“What the hell am I waiting for?” She pursed her lips and nodded. “I’m going to go for it.”
“You know a smaller ship might be the ticket. Go for a first or second officer spot, stretch a little.”
“I could do that. You know of someone looking, I take it?”
Chapel grinned. “I might.” She winked at Ny. “The Saratoga needs a new first officer. Captain Anders is wonderful and didn’t have a clear frontrunner last time she and I talked. I think you’d like her.” At Ny’s look, she laughed. “Yes, it’s a woman. You could work for a woman, trust me.”
“It’s strange, isn’t it? But I never have.”
“New frontiers, my dear. New frontiers.”
Chapel heard the chime go off and then the sound of Spock letting himself in. She’d put him on the door a while ago, but he seemed to like to let her know he was there by ringing the chime first.
“Hello,” she said, as he came into the bedroom. She was sitting reading, pillows plumped behind her. She hadn’t been expecting him today. “This is a surprise.”
“I apologize for—”
“Spock, please. I put you on the door for a reason.” She set the padd down and smiled. “Did you want to go out?”
“I do not.”
He walked toward her, staring down at her. “I have a diplomatic mission coming up. I will be gone for some time.”
“You do not see. You persist in not seeing.”
She could feel her eyebrows going up at the unaccustomed frustration in his voice. “What are you talking about?”
“I was concerned that if I came over unannounced, I would find you with one of your other men.”
“And yet you did it anyway.”
“I wanted to know. And I did not.”
“You’re making no sense.” She picked up her padd and pretended to read.
He walked over, took the padd from her, put it on the bedside table, and pushed her to her back.
As he moved onto the bed, she said, “Okay, just because you didn’t find me screwing someone else, doesn’t mean you get to go for it without so much as a by your leave. I have some say in this, buster.”
He was looking at her in a way he only ever had during the Pon Farr. As if he would die if she didn’t touch him.
“Is it the burning?”
He shook his head, not looking away from her, but not trying to kiss her either. He was lying on her lightly, the contact leaving her in no doubt what he wanted.
And how much he wanted it.
“What is it, then?” She forced herself not to reach up to touch his face. Not to close the gap and kiss him.
“I do not wish to go offworld with our status unresolved. I do not want to share you.”
She made a “Try harder” face and amazingly he seemed to get it, because he touched her cheek and murmured, “I care for you. I want you.”
She pushed up with her hips, and he closed his eyes and moaned. “I guess you do, don’t you?”
“I said it, Christine. I am not prone to hyperbole.” Something changed in his expression, and he closed the distance between them and kissed her.
She wrapped her arms around him and hung on for the ride. As kisses went, it was up there. Way, way, way up there.
“I want you to be mine,” he said, as he eased away from her enough to pull off her clothes and his own. “Do you wish this or not?”
“Only yours? No other men?”
“What about women?”
He seemed to realize she was yanking his chain, his eyes finally losing some of their intensity. “Would I be allowed to join in?”
“Oh my God, there’s the human in you coming out. Or maybe it’s just a male thing. No. You would not be.”
“Then there is a moratorium on partners of any gender—even unspecified.”
“Wow, you’re really covering the bases, pardner.”
He kissed her again, then said, “You are a profoundly clever woman and you specialize in scenarios. I must be comprehensive in my requirements.”
“True enough.” She reached down, started playing with him, and he closed his eyes again, seemed to bite back what sounded suspiciously like a whimper. “If I don’t agree to your terms? Then what?”
“Then I will have to go.”
“Before or after we finish up here?”
He gently pushed her hands off him. “Before. I will not be a man you occasionally bed.”
She knew she had the widest smile imaginable on her face. “I think that is the most wonderful thing you could ever say to me, Spock.”
“I meant it sincerely.”
“I know that. No guy stops a woman in the middle of a hand job unless he’s serious.”
“Then your answer? I would like to get back to the sex if you are going to agree to my terms.”
“Your terms are acceptable. You’re lucky I love you.”
“You are not a simple woman to love, Christine. Luck may have little to do with it.”
“Sheer stubbornness on your part is more likely, I agree.” She pulled him down onto her, into her, and then closed her eyes and smiled. “I love this. I always have.”
“As have I. I was most remiss in not continuing our relationship.”
“Remiss?” She slammed her hips up against his, heard him groan in a “Please do that again” way. “Fucking remiss?”
“Pick another word, Christine. Any word you like.” He began to thrust and seemed incapable of more conversation.
She didn’t truthfully mind. He could thrust with the best of them. And for once, she didn’t mind him being a touch telepath. He got her where she needed to go well before he followed.
They lay on their sides, breathing hard, and he smiled. Ever so slightly, but it was a true smile. “You are remarkable in bed. It is no doubt why your other men put up with you.”
“Put up with me?” She laughed and rolled him to his back. “Am I so bad that only sex offsets the effort?”
“For them. As you did not love them. For me, no.”
“I think what you just said was actually kind of romantic.”
“I endeavored to make it so. Romance has been lacking from our previous encounters.”
“I don’t think you can compare everything to the Pon Farrs. You’re grading way off the curve on that one.”
“Agreed. We will establish our own baseline, then.”
“You make science sound sexy. Well done.” She saw some parts of him were clearly focused on sexy things, so she climbed aboard, and rode him the way she loved to.
His kiss was very tender when she got done. The way he touched her moved her more than she would ever admit—but she didn’t have to admit it: he could feel it, no doubt.
“So how long are you going to be away?”
She started to laugh. “You are turning into a romantic sap. Where is my padd? I want to record this for posterity. When I’m bitching at you some day for being cold and unfeeling, you can play this back for me.”
His little smile was back. “You will not have to.” He snuggled down next to her, pulling her in, seemed to be unwilling to not touch her. “I will be gone for three weeks at least.”
“I’ll miss you.” She twined her fingers with his. “You don’t expect me to give up my job and come with you, do you?”
“I do not.” He touched her cheek, running his finger down to her throat and back up the other side. “Part of me, however, will always wish you were there.”
“That’s okay. Part of me will, too.”