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.
We’ll Pretend You Love Me
It was a boring day in sickbay and Chapel was happy to see the captain come in, a “you won’t believe what I cooked up” look on his face.
“Jim,” she said.
“Chris.” He held out a padd. “Bones is refusing to go to this conference with Spock. You want to go?”
She glanced at the topics. They were actually things that interested her. And she hated to admit it, especially after all this time trying to get over Spock, but going away with just him also interested her. “Why?”
“Why what?” He was trying way too hard to look innocent.
“Why are you acting like a big matchmaker?”
He grinned. “He’s a lot more open, in case you haven’t noticed. Since that meld with V’ger.”
“A lot more open to what?”
She rolled her eyes.
“I’m serious. You should get some time alone with him. See if maybe...” At her look, his expression grew more serious. “Look, I know I spent a lot of time whining to you about Lori and how unhappy I was when she called our marriage off, and how much I hated being grounded.”
He had. She’d never known him that well until his wife left him and Chapel had run into him at the officer’s club. An unhappy, stuck-on-Earth admiral.
“And later, when I got over her but still hated being grounded. You were there for fun stuff, too, not just to lend a gentle ear. I can’t tell you what that meant to me—you might have kept me sane. So, I guess this is something I can do for you. Don’t you owe it to yourself to see if something is there? I know you felt deeply for him at one time.”
Earnest Jim was the most dangerous one: she knew because she’d almost slept with him several times during those months before the launch—she didn’t think he’d realized how tempted she’d been. “Spock is not going to be happy with you.”
“Then I won’t tell him I had anything to do with this.” Jim grinned. “I’ll tell him it’s all Bones’ fault you’re going.” He handed her the padd. “Have fun. The shuttle leaves in two hours.”
“I officially hate you.”
He laughed. “Yeah, tell me that when you get back.” He waggled his eyebrows at her until she laughed too.
As he walked away, she murmured, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he said, one last smile back at her as he left sickbay.
As soon as she could, she went to go pack.
Spock sat quietly on the shuttle, reading something apparently scintillating, ignoring her as effectively as he’d ever done. Jim had thought he was more open?
Jim was an idiot.
No, Jim was a hopeless romantic. She was the idiot for believing he might be right.
“This conference should be interesting,” she said, trying to keep her voice as professional as possible.
“Yes,” Spock said. Man of many words that he was.
“I’m especially interested in the biochemical fusion panel. McReedy is a hero of mine.”
“His arguments are not always fully realized. I have found him marginal at best.”
So much for her heroes.
“Who do you prefer on the panel?”
He turned to look at her. “I do not wish to skew your opinion. I believe I will continue reading rather than bias you with a discussion of the scientists I find most credible.”
Wow. He could make ignoring her come out as an altruistic act. It was a gift.
“No problem. Very logical.” She decided to ignore Spock right back and catch up on the medical journals she subscribed to but never had time to read.
It was a game plan, but it would have been better actualized if she hadn’t stopped reading every few minutes to see if Spock was paying attention to her. Any attention. Even a glance.
She sighed and went back to reading. She wasn’t sure if the roiling feeling in her gut was due to anger over the way he was ignoring her or embarrassment that here she was being ignored.
Possibly a little of both.
She sighed again.
“Is something amiss, Doctor?” Spock did not sound like he cared overmuch, probably believed it fell in his role as senior officer to inquire.
“No.” She put down her padd.
He went back to his. So much for conversation.
“Do I need to apologize for coming, Spock?”
He looked over at her, a question in his expression.
“Len was supposed to come.”
“I am aware of that.”
She tried to ignore how he could make simple words into a verbal slap.
“He didn’t want to. Couldn’t get away. Or something.”
Spock looked like he was wondering if there was a point looming in the vicinity. She was starting to wonder that, too.
“Anyway, I won’t...pester you. So you can stop trying to ignore me.”
He slowly raised an eyebrow. “I believe I was ignoring you. There was no ‘try’ involved.”
She did her best to not react. “My mistake.”
He turned away, back to the padd that was apparently so much more interesting than she was.
It was going to be a very long conference.
The conference proved to be fun. Spock’s contribution to Chapel’s fun was—not surprisingly, after the shuttle ride from hell--nill. He went his way; she went hers. And hers involved two scientists who were particularly taken with her thoughts on biochem. Or maybe they just liked her boobs. Either way, their attention felt good after the shuttle ride with the Man of Ice. They liked her, they thought she was pretty, and they wanted to have sex with her.
At the same time. Which was something she’d never done before, but it was amazing how many things you could do with enough alcohol and Vulcan rejection spurring you on.
At the end of the day, they’d been what she needed. Even if thinking about what she’d done with them made her blush.
Most importantly, they’d kept her away from Spock. When she saw him in a conference room or the dining room, she made sure she and her new friends sat on the other side of the room. Spock returned the favor with apparent relief.
She saw him in the dining room on the closing night of the conference. Her new bed-friends had left that morning, leaving her a little adrift. She’d had some drinks—well, actually, she’d had a lot of drinks and was poised on the “probably will regret this night in the morning” abyss.
Spock made the mistake of meeting her eyes when he came into the room. He gave her a brief nod before he fled to the far end of the gigantic ballroom.
She followed him, plopped herself down in the seat next to him, and said, “You never call, you never write, where’s the love?”
It made no sense. But she’d always wanted to say it to him. And now she was finally drunk enough to do it.
“Commander.” She leaned in. “You are not very nice.” She pitched her voice low. She wanted to say some things to him; she did not, however, want to make a scene.
“Perhaps not, but I am, at least, sober.”
“Owwwwwwwww. Score one for the surly science officer.” She leaned back in the chair, getting comfy. “How much will you pay me to move?”
He glanced over at her, and she laughed.
“I’m kidding. All the money in the world couldn’t make me move right now.”
He gave her the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug and stood. “If you will excuse me.”
He walked out of the ballroom, and she followed him.
“Miss Chapel, you are behaving foolishly.”
“I was an idiot to listen to him.”
“To listen to whom?”
“Jim.” She said Kirk’s first name as if it was a weapon, saw him frown at the familiarity. “We got close, you know. On Earth, while you were at Gol.”
“No, you don’t. I don’t mean groin-close.”
“Ah.” He moved off, and she followed him again.
“He said you were open to...possibilities.”
Spock gave her the coldest look she’d ever gotten from him. “He was mistaken, Christine. Now, if you will excuse me.”
She reached out, stopped him. “What did I do? What could I have possibly done in the two months since V’ger? Why are you treating me like I’m a walking plague host?”
“Christine, please, you are embarrassing both of us.” The look on his face was actually full of sympathy rather than distaste. As if she was pitiful.
As if she was pathetic.
She looked down. She goddamned was pathetic.
She suddenly felt sick and ran for the ladies’ room. She made it just in time.
He was gone when she finally came out.
Thank God for small mercies.
She found him near the shuttle departure lounge the next day. He looked at her warily.
“I’m very, very sorry, sir.” She tried her best to look like a real Fleeter. Not some silly grad student who’d signed on to find her fiancé and never changed over the years.
“I...I wasn’t think—“
“Christine, I said it was forgotten. Perhaps you could stop while you are ahead?”
She nodded and fled, knowing that this was as good as she was going to get from him.
She stayed a bit behind him as they boarded, chose a seat well away, and followed him off at the transfer station, keeping distance between them, which he seemed to appreciate—or at least not mind.
They were the only two on the shuttle headed to the starbase where the Enterprise would pick them up. She didn’t meet his eyes as she tried to give him privacy in the small ship.
But then the shuttle lurched and she grabbed the armrests and looked over at him. “Turbulence? Ion storm?” Please, God, give her something.
“I will find out.” He started to rise, but was thrown back into his seat when the ship took what had to be a hit from a weapon of some kind.
She heard the shuttle pilot say something about irreparable hull damage, saw him sucked out of a widening hole in the viewscreen just before everything disappeared and the familiar hum of a transporter took her and Spock.
She was breathing hard when they materialized in what seemed like the lobby of a large building. Comfortable chairs and tables were scattered all over. Aliens sat in them, drinking beverages of dull colors.
Another alien stood before them. He fired a weapon at them and Chapel fell to the ground, screaming in agony as piercing energy, like the older, meaner brother of an electric shock, raced through her body.
Spock didn’t scream—or at least she couldn’t hear him over her own cries. Then the pain stopped and she looked up at the alien.
“A little demonstration. That was on the lowest setting. Do you understand?”
She nodded, didn’t turn to see if Spock was nodding too.
The aliens gestured for them to come with him. Two others—guards she guessed by their uniforms—fell in line behind them. What had seemed like a hotel or office building quickly changed once they got out of the front room. Pens and enclosures were built along several hallways. Artificial light, humidity, and warmth made each area distinct. Inside the pens were two people—or creatures, most weren’t species she’d even seen before. In many of the pens, the two people were having sex. Aliens were gathered at the ledges to watch.
“It’s a zoo,” she murmured. An x-rated zoo.
“Quite so,” the alien said. He stopped in front of an empty enclosure. “You two have barely made eye contact. Am I correct in assuming you are not already in a sexual relationship?”
Oh, God, did she have an answer for that. But she held her tongue and let Spock take the lead.
“You are correct.”
The alien nodded. “I would guess that you two do not even like each other very much.”
Spock didn’t correct him by telling him like was an emotion. She looked down so her eyes would not betray how she felt about Spock and about herself.
“We have had humans here before, but a Vulcan is new for us. So the choice will be yours since we want you to perform at your peak. If you choose not to mate with the human female, we will endeavor to find a Vulcan female who will appeal more. The human female will be given to a Doravian male who has been mateless for a while.” The keeper hit a button on a display padd, and Chapel turned away in horror. “The Doravian is not so choosy. He is, however, somewhat hard on his mates.”
There wasn’t a word for what that thing was doing to the Cardassian who’d been thrown in with him.
She realized Spock had stepped between her and the screen, had backed up, even, and was nearly touching her. Was he protecting her?
“I will take her. Do not give her to him.”
The keeper gave Spock a hard stare. “We will remove her from your enclosure if we believe you are not fully investing your energy.”
“Understood.” Again he backed up.
Chapel peeked around him. “Do I get a say in this?”
“No,” the keeper and Spock answered in unison.
Spock turned to look at her. “Do you prefer that?” He gestured with his chin to the video that was mercifully on pause, but not so mercifully stuck on a rather horrible moment.
“Of course not. But...I know you don’t want to.” She looked down. “And I want you to know that you don’t have to.”
“I most assuredly do.” He tipped her chin up. “For a fellow crewmate.”
She nodded, felt her mouth tighten.
“Can you imagine the lecture I would get from Doctor McCoy if I did not? Let alone Jim.”
She looked away as he released her chin, but didn’t argue with him.
“It is settled, then?” The keeper was smiling beatifically, as if they had a real choice in this.
“It is settled.”
The keeper nodded and hit a button on his belt and a transporter took them, depositing them inside a rock enclosure. A moat divided them from where several aliens were standing at the railing watching them.
She moved closer to Spock, saw one of the aliens point and say something to its companion. “Are they serious? We have to have sex?”
“I am afraid so.” Spock moved her gently in the other direction.
A bundle of cushions was the only furniture in the room. She sat on them; they were surprisingly comfortable.
He sat next to her. “Our audience is increasing.”
She looked over. The number of people watching them was steadily growing. “And soon they’ll be restless.” She swallowed, harder than she meant to. “Is there anything I should do to help get you...? I mean, I know I’ve never been what you want and I—“
It was his lips on hers that shut her up. His lips softly and surely and rather boldly on hers. He pulled her closer, his mouth opening. She moaned as she opened hers and let him in. Moaned even more as he pulled her so she was straddling him, her back to the crowd.
He eased away, gently stroking the hair off her face. “Please relax.”
“Right, because relaxing before having sex in front of strangers is my natural response to this. V’ger must have left you really horny. Any port in the storm.” She didn’t look away, knew what she’d said was crass and didn’t care. She had to get this out there. He could not kiss her that way and let her think he cared.
“You want me. Is that not why you came to the conference?”
She looked away.
“Do not lie, Christine. You loved me once; you love me still.”
“Nothing wrong with your ego.”
“My ego has nothing to do with it. Jim did you no favors sending you with me. I am not, in fact, sure what he was thinking.”
“Well, that makes two of us.”
He seemed to be studying her. “Your feelings for me aside, you are different than before. Your appearance, I mean. Such simple hair. Very little makeup. No artifice.”
She shrugged. “What did artifice ever do for me?”
“You are more attractive this way.” He pulled her to him, then stopped before they made contact. “Kiss me.”
“You want me to kiss you?”
“Yes, I want you to kiss me. I believe it will make sexual congress easier for both of us if I am not the one to initiate everything.”
It was logical if somewhat cold. She leaned in, touching down lightly, trying to make it the best kiss of her life. By the way he clutched at her, she thought she might have succeeded.
There was a collective sigh from the crowd. Chapel realized she was blushing deeply. Spock’s lips curled upward.
“Don’t you find this disconcerting?” she murmured.
“To say the least. An audience is not welcome. Kissing you, however, I do not find disconcerting.”
‘Are you going to do more?”
“Kiss you more? Or do more than kissing?”
“Yes.” She smiled, could tell it was a silly smile. God damn it. A few great kisses and she was smitten again.
Right. Like she’d ever stopped being smitten.
“I intend to do both.” He eased her top off. “I am sorry—you did not have a choice in this. I made the decision for us both.”
“This is definitely preferable to being ripped apart.”
His look grew serious, stormy almost. “I would not have let that happen to you.”
“I know. Starfleet invested a lot in me. Wouldn’t want to waste resources.”
He was staring at her cleavage. “That is, of course, an excellent point. But that is not why I did it.” Her bra followed her shirt to the floor.
“Are you preserving my modesty?” She smiled at the thought.
“Those watching us do not seem to mind that your back is to them.” He buried his face in her chest, doing some extremely forward things given that this was their first real date.
She closed her eyes and rode out the sensations. She wasn’t going to complain that he was rushing things.
The sound of their audience brought her back to reality. “Spock, this is too weird.”
He took a deep breath and pulled away from her, meeting her eyes. “Given that they will separate us and potentially injure or kill you if we do not comply, I see no logic in not continuing.”
She suddenly understood Sarek’s comment about marrying Amanda. These boys could torture logic until it equaled sex every time.
“Still. With someone watching...”
His face seemed to get colder. “Doctors Handerson and D’Val do not count, I take it?”
She could feel the blush starting.
“Your friends at the conference. I saw you with them, Christine. It was very clear what was going on.”
“You were with both of them, were you not? I am relatively certain that at some point during your activities, you were watched by one of them.”
“What I did with them is none of your business.”
“Agreed. Except that I find your argument about sex in front of observers spurious.”
“There’s a difference between sex in front of another lover and sex in front of a crowd of aliens.”
“I will concede that point.”
“And for the record, I don’t do that kind of thing normally. I was upset and they made me feel attractive. Desirable.”
“I have never said you were not desirable, Christine.” Spock went back to what he’d been doing, small sucking noises accompanying the feel of his lips on her breasts and the gentle rub of his hands on her back. Her bare back.
She wasn’t sure how to follow up his last statement, so she settled for, “You’re overdressed.” She was tired of being the only naked Starfleet officer in the zoo.
He mumbled something she took to be agreement, and let her pull off his shirt. She ran her hands over his shoulders and heard him moan softly. Much better.
She almost forgot they had an audience as he pulled her in for another kiss, as he eased her back on the cushions and drew off her pants and underwear, then shed his own.
“This is not how I pictured this,” she said as he stared down at her.
He did not answer.
“You haven’t pictured this even once, have you?”
He met her eyes. “Once or twice. During my Pon Farr.”
“That thing you said? Protesting against our natures?”
“Yes. Please stop talking now.” And then he was with her, in her, not hurrying despite the sounds coming from the crowd of aliens watching them. “Tune them out, Christine.”
“Not that easy.” She glanced toward the crowd.
He touched the side of her face, and she knew the contact would look like a caress, but she felt more from it as he settled on the meld points, initiated a light connection, then eased off again.
“I do not want them knowing we can do this,” he whispered as he nuzzled her ear. “But if it will help you focus, I will risk it.”
“Oh, suddenly, I’m unfocused?”
“Christine. I am inside you. We are having sex. Please stop arguing with me.” He thrust a little harder than was necessary, as if punctuating the request.
Between his intensity and the focus provided by the extremely light meld, she managed to tune the crowd out more effectively, giving herself up to what he was doing.
Holy crap, sex with Spock was utterly fantastic. Even if she felt as if her heart was breaking in between the mind-numbing orgasms.
He held her as they both came down from the incredible heights he’d just taken them to, and she blushed furiously at how much noise she’d made in front of their adoring public.
“I am pleased I could satisfy you,” Spock whispered in her ear.
She rolled so she was cuddled against him, murmured, “What about you?” She kissed his cheek, then let her lips stay pressed against him and heard him sigh softly.
“I am quite content.”
“Good.” She opened her eyes. “Content is good, right? That’s not some Vulcan way of saying ‘Nice try but no cigar,’ is it?”
A small puff of air—the closest she thought he’d come to a laugh—was her answer. Then he pulled her closer. “Content is very, very good, Christine.”
She didn’t think she’d fall asleep, buck naked and mooning the crowd, but Spock was warm and his touch was soothing as he rubbed her back. She was gone in minutes.
He woke her a while later with some bogus excuse of keeping the natives amused. After her third orgasm, she decided not to call him on it after all.
Sex with Spock was amazing. Sex with Spock was frequent.
Any other time with Spock was boring the shit out of her.
Not that he was boring. Not really, she supposed. But he had managed to open up to her physically while shutting down even more emotionally. And she would have bet he couldn’t get any more shut down.
Or maybe he was just making the best of a bad situation. Maybe he didn’t find her of any interest when it came to talking about things that actually mattered.
Or sort of mattered.
Or didn’t matter but might be interesting.
He’d started meditating their first full day in the enclosure. The aliens clearly expected it now, so if he’d wanted the freedom to sit and zone out for hours on end, this was a winning plan. Unfortunately one that left her twisting in the wind since meditation was not something she’d ever warmed to, and he clearly was not intent on sharing his bliss with her in some partners’ meditation.
She decided to work on her stretching exercises since there was nothing else to do. Cardio would have been better for her stress levels, but there was the whole bounce factor.
The aliens had taken their clothes at some point their first night. Beamed them away, no doubt, and showed no sign of being poised to give them any kind of replacements.
Not even a fig leaf.
Spock was meditating again now. He looked very peaceful. She wanted to throw something at him, but she forced herself to ignore the urge.
Finally, he rose in one lithe movement and walked over to where she sat. He held out his hand.
He frowned, probably at the way she’d made sex sound like something utterly distasteful.
“I’m...not in the mood.” She kept her face expressionless: a perfect Vulcan imitation.
His eyebrows drew together.
“This isn’t right, Spock. We eat, we sleep, we fuck. Or we ignore each other.”
“I...I am sorry?”
“Really? You know what I am?” She reached out, let him pull her up. “I’m bored.”
“Sex with me bores you?”
“No, that’s the one part of this that doesn’t bore me. But sitting around the rest of the time bores me. You’re here, but you’re a million light years away.”
“I am not.”
“You are. You don’t meld with me the way you did the first time. And when we aren’t having sex, we don’t talk.”
“We don’t know what intelligence the aliens might be collecting. This zoo may be for more than just onlooker amusement.”
“We don’t have to talk about work. My God, do you have no imagination?” She knew he did. He was a virtuoso in the creativity department when it came to ways to make love.
Make love? Is that even what they were doing? Having sex. Screwing.
Fucking. She should call it what it was.
He sighed. “We need to have sex. They expect it.”
She sighed, then whispered, “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be mean. I’m lonely and I shouldn’t be, because you’re right here.”
He was especially sweet while they had sex. He kissed her gently. He stroked her cheek. He said he was sorry.
And then he went back to meditating.
And she wondered who she had to screw around here—who else, clearly screwing Spock was not going to get her anything—to get a drink.
It had been ten days, ten days in Spock’s arms. That would have been a fantasy of some kind back in the day—back when she thought that being close meant just that. That it meant knowing the person. That sex would open doors, not slam them shut. She shifted, suddenly feeling trapped as he held her, post-orgasmic bliss apparently fully functional for him but sadly lacking for her.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“I did not hurt you?”
She started to laugh, made herself stop. Yes, he’d hurt her. But not during sex.
He sighed. “Every day you are more distant.”
“Me? I’m more distant?”
“That’s a good one.” She tried to pull away, was surprised when he held her fast. She considered an all out tug-of-war to get free, but decided not to give that to the aliens who still lined up to watch them.
He finally eased his grip when she relaxed.
“I just...” She swallowed hard. God damn it, what the hell was wrong with her? First laughter, now tears threatening. “I thought it would be different.”
“This. Being with you. I mean...you chose me.”
He rolled onto his stomach and looked down at her, then lazily stroked her hair off her cheek. “I saved you. And sex with you is certainly no hardship.” His eyes changed, grew harder. “But, Christine. I did not choose you. I chose to keep you alive by making you my mate for as long as we are in here, but I would not have chosen you otherwise.”
It should have hurt more, this brutal honesty, but it almost felt good as it tore through any illusions she might still have had. “And that’s why you keep yourself apart? Even if we’re joined so often physically?”
“It is.” He looked away. “I am sorry, but there is a limit to what I am willing to offer.”
“So this really is just sex?”
“Why didn’t you say that from the start?” She tried to move away and he let her this time. “You were so sweet that first time.”
“I wanted to make this easy for you. I do care for you, just not the way you want me to. And...”
“And I thought feelings might grow. I did not want to rule that possibility out.”
“But they haven’t?”
He shook his head.
“And tell me, Mister ‘Feelings Might Grow’ when were they supposed to blossom? Was that during your interminable and silent mediations? Or when you were sleeping? Or was it during the magical fucking that you were going to fall in love with me?”
He looked away. Her voice had risen too much at that last part; the aliens were looking intrigued.
“Everyone knows not to trust an ‘I love you’ delivered with an orgasm, Spock. Why don’t you know that?” She took a deep breath, forced herself not to get up and pace but to calm and center. “You have to get to know someone to love them. But you didn’t even give me a chance. Why?”
He seemed unable to meet her eyes.
“It doesn’t matter. Forget I asked.” She got up slowly, tried to make her leaving look as casual as possible. Her leaving that would only take her to the corner of their enclosure, barely enough room to catch her breath much less process this in private like she wished she could. “Give a holler when you want to fuck again.”
He seemed to wince at that.
More days passed, then weeks. She and Spock fell into an uneasy coexistence, carving out privacy when and where they could, having sex or interacting in other, less interesting ways for the onlookers the rest of the time. At least they were clean now. Early into their captivity, they had woken to find their captors had installed bathroom facilities in a private corner and an outdoor shower with soap—perhaps their adoring audience had complained about the stench.
“How long has it been?” she asked softly as she lay in his arms, trying to ignore the crowd that watched them.
She rested her forehead against his chest, said, “They’re not coming, are they? They aren’t going to find us.” She hoped the words were muffled, that he wouldn’t know she was giving up hope.
He exhaled slowly. “I had thought Jim would have found us by now.”
“You and me both.” She met his eyes. There was a distinct lack of hope in his expression. Then again, he didn’t tend to look all that hopeful most of the time, so what did she know? “He’ll never stop looking for us, Spock.”
“I know. But we may be hidden better than even he can find.”
“There’s something we need to talk about, Spock.” She took a deep breath. “My yearly contraceptive is due for renewal in a month. Do you think—I mean if we’re still here—that we should be worried about this?”
“You mean that you might conceive?”
“I have never had occasion to find out if I am sterile or not. I am a hybrid. It is possible we would not be compatible without intervention.”
“You’re half human and I’m human. Odds are pretty good that if you were going to get someone pregnant, it would be a human or a Vulcan.” She smiled tightly. “Or were you trying to look on the bright side until it happened?”
He shrugged, something she was not sure she’d ever seen him do.
“I’m sorry I had to bring this up. But...”
She started to get up but he didn’t let her go. “You want me to stay?”
“For a while. I am tired.”
She brushed back his hair, which was longer than he’d ever allowed it to get on the ship. “You’re tired of being here, you mean? Tired of being trapped. Tired of me, I imagine.”
“I don’t know that the last part is true.”
“Which means you don’t know that it isn’t.” She curled against him. “I used to have fantasies about this kind of thing.” She laughed, a bitter sound. “You and I trapped alone, forced to do this. I thought it would be...romantic.” She kissed his cheek. “I was an idiot.”
“Perhaps with a human it would be. Perhaps even with a different Vulcan it would be.”
“You mean if I was with someone who actually cared about me.” She put her finger over his lips when he seemed about to try to answer. “Don’t. I don’t want you to lie, and I can’t bear the truth.”
He nodded, and she lifted her finger, moved it instead to trace along his cheek. He closed his eyes, was soon asleep, and she wished she could follow him into slumber but it was far away.
She settled for watching over him—it was so rare that he let his defenses down like this and really allowed himself to sleep.
Chapel was sitting at the edge of the enclosure. By her count, her yearly contraceptive should have run out forty days ago if Spock’s count was accurate, and she had no reason to think it wasn’t. It was a menstrual suppressant as well. Her period should have started at least two weeks ago, but so far it had not.
And she’d thrown up breakfast. She never threw up.
She heard Spock approaching, got up but couldn’t meet his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“For what? For giving me a child?”
“Hardly the mother you’d have selected.”
“Scarcely the point at this juncture.” He put his arm around her, led her back to the cushions. “We need to tell the aliens.”
“Yes, we do. There’s a whole list of things I’ll require as a human. Are there special nutrients a Vulcan baby will need?”
She started to laugh. “When I was with Roger, he wanted a whole house full of kids. I never did. I’m not cut out to be a mom, Spock.”
“I have seen you care for others. You will be an excellent mother.”
“What if I’m not? We’re all our child will have. Stuck in this god-awful place. With us.” She sighed. “What kind of sick life is that?”
“We did not choose this. And there was no way to prevent it. Other than to not have sex and if we had done that, they would have separated us. This is...”
He actually looked appalled. “This is our child, Christine. Unfortunate is not a word I would apply to him or her.”
She felt her face grow hot, looked away. “I didn’t mean it that way.”
Spock turned them away from the crowds, toward the back of the enclosure where food and water appeared. He put his hand on Chapel’s belly, said softly, “Captors, hear me. I know you listen to us. I know you watch us. She is with child. It is a high-risk birth. We will need supplements, additional nutrients.”
A padd suddenly appeared before them. On it was written, “Detail your requirements. We are pleased by this news.”
“Yay,” she said, staring at the padd as he began to list what they needed. “They are pleased. We breed well in captivity.”
He ignored her, kept listing items.
“Put down that as the pregnancy progresses I’ll require additional items. That we’ll need a padd each day to detail these changing needs.”
“That may be pushing it.”
“You tell that to angry pregnant me when I’m eight months along and can’t see my own feet and want ice cream.”
Spock added the additional note, then he set the padd down and it disappeared. He rubbed her back gently, then left her to go meditate.
She stared down at her stomach, trying not to cry. What the hell had they done to deserve this?
Chapel lay curled on the cushions, trying not to throw up, her back to the crowd that was watching. Spock came over with water and sat down next to her.
“I wish they would go away.”
“You have wished that for the last two months.” He let his hand drift from her side to her belly, his face going still, in a way it only did when he was touching her this way.
He already loved his child more than he would ever love her. She swallowed hard, tried to not let that hurt—tried to not let that taint her feelings for the child.
He lay down next to her. “The morning sickness will pass soon.”
She nodded. “First trimester is the worst. That’s what the textbooks say. We never had much call to use those textbooks on a starship though.”
“You need to teach me what to do.”
“We have time.” She leaned in, kissed him slowly. “This was an old fantasy, too. I never factored in the nausea.”
His lips ticked up. “So many dreams quashed.”
“Yep.” She put her hand over his where it lay on her belly. “Can you sense anything from it?”
“No.” He put his other hand over hers. “It gives me pleasure to do this. A rather primitive pleasure, I have to admit. You are mine and the way your stomach swells is evidence that my child is inside you.”
Once upon a time, that would have thrilled her beyond words. Now she just nodded and closed her eyes. “Tell them I want mango.”
“Are you not allergic to mango?”
“I am. I guess the baby’s not, though.” She frowned. “How do you know that?”
“I am unsure.” He sighed. “Perhaps I overheard you at a party?”
“Probably. I doubt you went through my personnel file to find out my likes, dislikes, and allergies. Unless you were planning to off me in a nice safe way—get rid of your stalker once and for all.”
“I was not.”
She smiled slightly. “I didn’t really think you were.” She closed her eyes. “Do you think I could eat it if the baby wants it?” As a doctor she knew the answer; she just wanted to see what he’d say.
“I think it best you do not risk it.”
“Because you care about me as a person or only as the incubator of your son or daughter?”
He seemed unsure how to answer that.
She laughed, an expulsion of air that held a world of bitterness in it. “Never mind. I already know the answer to that.”
Five months into her pregnancy, the sickness had finally passed, and so had the cravings for things that might kill her. Chapel settled down next to Spock, began to nuzzle his neck. New kinds of cravings filled her and he sighed in what she was learning was a sound of good-humored puzzlement.
“Mmm-hmmmm.” She moved so she was nibbling on his ears, something he seemed to enjoy rather a lot—until it became too intense and he had to pull her away. Like right...now.
She laughed as he pulled her around and kissed her.
“You are beautiful.”
“I think you like me better pregnant than not.” She kissed him softly, to show him it was okay if that was the case.
“It is not just that you are carrying my child”—he ran his hand over her belly—“it is that you seem happy for the first time.”
“Happy in here?”
“Happy with me.”
She brushed his hair out of his eyes. “I love you.”
“Loving me does not automatically translate to being happy with me.” He ran his fingers down her cheek. “There are times I wish it did.”
“I bet there are. I’m not the little doormat you thought I was, am I?” She laughed and caught his lip between her teeth, not biting down hard, but holding on.
He held very still and she let go. “I never thought you were that. I just thought you were more...”
“Oh, because one of us has to be cheerful?” She kissed him, let him turn her so she was facing away from him as he pulled her onto his lap. “Maybe if we weren’t in here, I’d be cheerful. But if we weren’t in here, you wouldn’t be with me.”
She leaned her head back, rode him as he moved her gently. He was always careful now, indulging her but never losing control. He reached around—soon she would be too big for him to do that—and sent her over the edge, following her a moment later.
As she lay against his chest, she felt their child begin to kick. She reached for his hand, put it on her belly. “Do you think our baby is objecting?”
“I highly doubt it. Given that it is our child and we enjoy doing it. Although it is possible we woke him or her up, and these are protest kicks.”
“Little terror.” A particularly strong kick seemed to confirm the label. “We haven’t talked about names, Spock.”
“It is time we did.”
She nodded, started to get up but he held her against him. “Aren’t I too heavy?”
“No.” He kissed her neck. “I am content this way.”
“I have been thinking about the names. Would it please you to combine traditions? To honor your parents but follow Vulcan naming practices? Mix the two?”
“It would be nice to honor the lost. I miss my parents. Our children will never know them.” She laid her hand over his. “They were rushing to get to work. Always rushing to get to work. That was what I grew up with Spock. I came home from high school and they were gone. They picked the wrong flitter.” She was seventeen, had to successfully appeal for emancipation—from dead parents—so she could be her own guardian for the five months until she was of age. “I was alone.”
“You felt lost. Abandoned.”
She nodded. “You’ve never felt that way, have you? You always had your parents.”
“Yes, they were always there. But...” He took a deep breath. “What I wish to tell you about is not spoken of in my house, Christine. It is forbidden.”
“I had a half brother. Sybok. A brother I admired greatly. He believed in embracing emotion and was disgraced and exiled from Vulcan. Never to be spoken of again in our family—a thing of shame. I missed him when he was gone. He was a buffer between my father and me. Once he was gone, all of my father’s hopes fell on me—hopes I continually disappointed.”
“I’m sorry.” She squeezed his hand gently. “We’ll do better with our child.” She felt the oddness of that statement. In this zoo, of course they would. But outside? They wouldn’t even be parents if they’d never been in this place. And if they ever got out? Would Spock even stay with her once the child was born? This might be the longest conversation they’d ever had.
“What are you thinking about?” His hand pushed a little harder into her belly.
“Sad things. I’ll stop.” She took a deep breath. “So, names? How would you spin Samantha into Vulcan?”
“T’Samra would be the closest equivalent. If our child is female.”
“That’s pretty.” She started to laugh. “Good luck with Lloyd for a boy’s name.” She turned to look at him. “If our child is a boy, we could call him Sybok. Then your family would have to speak of him.”
“It is an appealing thought. But perhaps not wise. I will consider ways to make Lloyd work.”
“Whatever you think best.” She decided not to say that odds were against Sarek ever knowing he had a grandchild, much less what he or she was named.
Chapel paced the enclosure, trying to resist the urge to kick Spock where he was meditating. She was in active labor and he was goddamn meditating?
Never mind that she’d told him to. Did he really think she’d meant it?
She moaned as another contraction came right after the last one.
“Christine, I am having no success in this exercise. Are you sure there is nothing I can do?”
“Yes, there is something you can do. Get up and help me.”
He got up but once he got to her, he was clearly at a loss as to what to do to assist. She didn’t have many suggestions either as she paced. He tried to take her arm, but she shook him off.
“Just walk with me.”
He began to murmur words of encouragement that she was pretty sure he must have picked up long ago from some Starfleet officer training class. “Excellent work. Your progress is remarkable. You are a wonderful example.”
“Spock, shut up.”
He seemed grateful to stop the affirmations.
Suddenly, another contraction rocked her and she stopped, let him support her as she slipped to a crouch, then sat back.
The crowd watching oohed and ahhed.
“I hate them so much right now.”
“Ignore them.” He eased her to the side, so she was facing away even more from the onlookers. “You said you could not push until dilation reached ten centimeters, correct?”
She nodded. “I really want to push. Can I push now?”
“I do not think so.”
“You do not think so? You figure everything to the fifth decimal place, Spock. Am I dilated to ten centimeters or not?”
“Damn it.” Another contraction shook her and she yelled at the ceiling. “In our hospitals, if you’re going for realism, we have drugs. Really good drugs.” She looked at Spock. “I want some drugs, Spock. No one should have to do this without drugs.”
He pitched his voice very low. “I would meld with you but I do not know what that would do to the child.”
And God forbid he think of her if their child might suffer. Oh shit, she didn’t mean that...exactly. It was just—would he meld with the child if it would harm her? Somehow she didn’t think that would be such a tough choice.
“I hate you, Spock,” she said as another contraction tore through her and she ripped at the grass. “Can I please fucking push?”
“No.” He held on to her knees, squeezed gently. “Try the breathing exercises you had us work on.”
“You try the breathing exercises I had us work on. I’m in agony here.”
“Christine, please.” He actually started to pant the way she’d shown him and he looked so stupid doing it she had to join in.
For a moment, there was some relief, and then another contraction started and she gave up panting, said, “Please, please, please, please.”
“Now, you can push now. Go gently.”
She pushed, trying to remember to use her lower body, not her upper, moaned when she felt the baby finally moving.
She met his eyes, could not tell what he was feeling. “Is the head clear?”
He nodded. “The neck is free of the cord. You can keep pushing.”
“Make sure the nose and mouth is clear.”
“The baby is fine. You are doing very well, Christine.”
The rest of the delivery went quickly, and Spock handed her the child, said softly, “We have a daughter, Christine,” as she put the child to her breast and prayed the baby would figure out what to do because she was too exhausted to help her.
Her child had one hell of a survival instinct. Nursing was not the blissful experience Chapel had imagined. But she closed her eyes and smiled at Spock. “T’Samra?”
He nodded. Then he let her nurse in peace, rubbed her stomach gently the way she had shown him until the placenta was expelled and let her see it to make sure nothing had been left behind.
“I should be okay.” She handed him the baby, cut the cord with the instruments the aliens had left them—instruments she knew would be gone again soon—and waited while Spock cleaned T’Samra up and wrapped her in the diapers Chapel had insisted the aliens give them and the swaddling blanket.
They might have to run around naked, but she was not going to be peed and pooped on willy nilly. And somehow she had gotten that through to the aliens.
Spock put the baby on the mattress, then brought a fresh towel over to Chapel, cleaning her up gently before lifting her in his arms and carrying her to the mattress. He put the now sleeping baby in her arms, made a nest of pillows under her so the baby wouldn’t fall if she fell asleep, and Chapel smiled at him.
And she saw something in his eyes, something she wasn’t sure how to classify.
“You’re good at this daddy thing.”
He touched her cheek. “Go to sleep. You are exhausted.”
Chapel couldn’t say she was one of those women who took to motherhood overnight. While she felt the bond she’d heard so much about with T’Samra, she still was aware of how very “other” her baby was, how much she didn’t know about what to do with one. She’d never had any siblings, never babysat when she was young, and taking care of T’Samra seemed like learning everything by doing it wrong.
Fortunately the baby was a solemn little thing who seemed only interested in nursing, sleeping, and pooping and wasn’t much interested in crying all the time. Maybe that was the Vulcan quarter of her.
Spock on the other hand, seemed to take to fatherhood like it was a new science discipline. He would take the baby from her, walking around the enclosure, speaking softly to T’Samra in Vulcan—so softly Chapel’s universal translator couldn’t make out the words. On good days, Chapel pretended he was telling their daughter nice things about her. On not so good days, she thought his conversations were more like, “That, T’Samra, is your mother. She is of substandard intelligence and beauty. If we ever escape this place, I will endeavor to locate a more appropriate maternal figure for you.”
He was good at changing the baby, good at bathing her. He’d probably be better at nursing her, too, if he could only lactate. Chapel wouldn’t mind a break; her breasts were aching and she felt fat and unattractive. She knew post-partum depression was common, knew that their surroundings didn’t help her state of mind, but found it difficult to find a happy place.
When Spock came sniffing around for sex, she didn’t find it hard to turn him down. He let it go, but gently made overtures the next week, and the next.
“They will expect us to resume,” he finally said, a month and a half after the birth.
“Too damn bad. I’m not ready.”
“Are you all right? Are you still sore?” He began to knead her stomach, his look worried.
She pushed his hand away. “Stop it. You’ll get some when I’m ready.”
“Christine, I am merely concerned that you may be suffering adverse effects from delivery.”
She closed her eyes, forced herself not to break down in tears, which is what she wanted to do. It was just new mother blues. She had to ride it out. “Hold me,” she whispered.
He drew her into his arms, then eased her down onto the mattress, till they were lying next to the nest she’d made for the baby, where T’Samra was sleeping happily. He lay behind Chapel, running his hand down her side, and she finally felt herself relaxing, possibly for the first time since she’d gone into labor.
He kissed her neck gently, not a sexual kiss, just affectionate, and she stretched a little, so he’d have more of her to kiss. He took advantage of that, touching down gently, murmuring that he had missed holding her.
The baby began to fuss slightly and they froze, then Chapel laughed silently as the baby went back to sleep, as Spock went back to kissing her neck.
Chapel studied her daughter, really looking at her. “She’s beautiful, isn’t she?”
“She is. She looks like you.”
“I think she looks like you.”
“She has your eyes. And your lips.”
“Your ears.” She smiled when he nipped her. “And eyebrows. And skintone.”
“Our features come together most agreeably on her.”
“They do.” She turned in his arms, slid her leg over his, smiled when he lifted an eyebrow.
“Do you want to...?” he asked. “I thought...?”
She nodded and leaned in, kissing him gently, and he kissed her back the same way, keeping their touches easy and sweet. It wasn’t until her kisses became more passionate, that he reached between them, touching her the way she liked, getting her ready. She shifted and he moved and then they were together.
“If anyone watching wakes up the baby, I’ll kill them,” she whispered as they moved slowly.
“I will help you,” he said, his eyes half lidded.
“I’m sorry I’ve been distant. I’ve been...”
“Sad. I know. I’ve sensed it. Is it the baby?”
“Not her. But having her. It happens for some humans.” She could feel herself beginning the long slow climb and she closed her eyes. “I’ll try harder.”
“I will try harder, too. You are not alone.” He kissed her as she came, and she returned the favor for him.
They lay together, gently nuzzling each other until she fell asleep in his arms. She slept until T’Samra woke up and demanded to be fed.
Chapel was leaning against Spock with T’Samra reclining on her bent legs. She was running through the standard neuro tests with her fingers and making new ones up as she went, all designed to stimulate T’Samra’s interest.
She moved her finger toward Spock and said, “Papa.” Then moved the finger back toward herself and said, “Mama.”
“This is not first contact,” Spock said as he held his finger out to T’Samra. She immediately reached for it.
“Say it. Say ‘Papa’ so she knows that’s you.”
“Well, it is preferable to Daddy. I take it you called your father by this name?”
She nodded. “If you have a better term, I’m open to hearing it, but it better goddamn not be in Vulcan. We have exactly one language in common and I expect us to use it with her. You want to make her bilingual, more power to you—but it leaves me out and I won’t have it when it’s all of us talking.”
She could feel him tense behind her. “All right. Papa it is.”
She let out a long breath. “I’m sorry. Is there a term you prefer? Father, perhaps? It’s more...dignified.”
“It is also harder for a child to say. I have no deep reservations about Papa and Mama.”
“Or if you do, you’re not going to voice them here. You can tell her in Vulcan later how distasteful those names are and how she will, of course, never address you by them when you are in polite Vulcan company.”
“I did not say that. Moreover, I see no polite Vulcan company in evidence.”
“You were doing great until the second part.” She went back to running the neuro tests.
“What exactly are you doing to our daughter? Other than teaching her words that cause friction between us.”
“We have limited ways to track her development. I’m trying to ensure I don’t miss anything. And that she has fun and is stimulated.”
“Ah. And our daughter is fine?”
“I think so. She appears to be a healthy four-month-old, not that I’m a pediatric specialist and not that I know how the Vulcan side factors in.”
“She looks right for what I remember my cousins being at that age.”
She felt a wave of nausea come over her, handed the baby to Spock and got to the bathroom facilities in time to throw up.
Spock walked over, T’Samra cradled gently, a knowing look on his face. “You are pregnant again?”
“My period’s late. I’m throwing up. Looks like. Damn it.” She waved him way. “Go. I’m gonna throw up again. She doesn’t need to experience this.”
He hurried off, clearly not wanting to experience it either.
When she finally had her stomach under control, she went back out to where he was sitting with T’Samra. “I’m not ready for another one.”
“I believe it is a little late for that, Christine.”
“A joke? A goddamn joke?” She clutched her stomach as a wave of nausea and something stronger—pain, cramping, almost. “I don’t just mean emotionally, Spock. I mean my body—I’m not ready.”
He finally looked concerned. “Sit down.”
“I don’t want to sit down. I’m about to throw up again.”
“Christine, you should—”
She felt bile rising, turned away. “Just take care of the baby.” Holding her gut, she went back to the bathroom area and threw up again.
And again. And again. Finally, she whispered, “Please, this isn’t normal. You saw what it was like for me the last time. I need your help.”
A padd showed up next to her. She typed in several meds that could help her stop the vomiting without hurting the baby, several others that would rehydrate her, and a list of foods she could mash up for T’Samra, and a request for bottle and formula that would meet both Human and Vulcan needs. Spock had indicated Vulcan children were weaned earlier than humans, and Chapel wasn’t sure she would have enough energy to nourish a growing baby and nurse T’Samra if she was going to continue to be this sick.
As she put the padd down, she felt like a failure. She had one job in this godforsaken place and her body wasn’t up to the task. “Spock?”
He was at her side quickly, helping her up and easing her to the mattress. T’Samra was sleeping in her little nest.
“We have to wean her. Easiest to gradually drop feedings and replace with a bottle than go cold turkey. Safest for both of us. It’ll take a while to get her onto food. The aliens are sending—ohhhh.” She clutched her belly, rolled into a ball, and felt Spock rubbing her back. “I’m sorry.”
“Shhh. The aliens have sent medicine.”
“Show me.” As he held the hypos out, she nodded. “Give me the blue capped one. And there should be a drink for dehydration?”
“There is a gel.” He handed it to her.
She ripped it open and sucked it down, the terrible thirst finally subsiding. Then she felt the cool hiss of the hypo. “I think something’s wrong. I want to save this child, Spock. I’m doing everything I can. But I want to protect T’Samra and me.”
“I want those things, as well.” He lay down beside her, rubbing her back until she fell asleep.
Spock was meditating, T’Samra safely nestled within his crossed legs, dead to the world, her eight-month-old body exhausted after a rousing game of chase—Spock walking backwards around the enclosure, T’Samra crawling after him, gurgling with excitement or frustration depending on how close she was to getting him.
He’d let her catch him when the frustration got too much—he’d had to concede that trying to teach an infant patience was a losing proposition.
Chapel sat quietly, her hand on her rounded stomach, trying to ignore the pains that still shot through her. She had asked the aliens for a scanner but they had not sent one. The next time she was alone in the bathroom, a padd had shown up and it said simply, “The pains are from your body protesting the pregnancy, but the baby is fine.”
She wondered how big a concession this was on the part of the aliens, giving such reassurance to their zoo animals. But she held the padd to her chest for a moment, then put it down and watched it disappear.
Still, as reassurances went, it was not good news. Her body had to carry the baby to term. Her body would no doubt have to carry more babies to term. And she frankly didn’t think her body was cut out for the job.
She sighed. Wished Nyota was here to talk to. Or Amanda. Or her cousin Melinda, who had four children and could tell her what it was like to pop them out in rapid succession. Any female would do—she might even welcome T’Pring or Leila or that bimbo Droxine at this point.
God, she missed her friends. She hadn’t had a real conversation—or at least a fun one, one that didn’t revolve around her child—since she’d been trapped in this damn place. Spock could surprise her at times but then there’d be times like this.
She looked over at him again. He looked...so at peace. T’Samra shifted and his hand went down, steadying her. They were so...together.
Where did that leave Chapel? If they ever got out of here, would she even be needed?
She realized Spock had opened his eyes, was watching her. “Are you all right?”
She nodded, too quickly from the way his eyebrows pulled down. “I’m fine. The baby’s fine.”
“You looked...unhappy just then.”
“Just borrowing trouble.”
“My mother says that. My father’s response has always been: ‘Is there trouble to borrow?’”
Sarek was a wise man. Was Spock just parroting him or did he understand what Sarek meant when he asked Amanda that. She decided to find out by not answering.
Spock exhaled slowly—it sounded almost like a sigh—and closed his eyes, going back to his meditation.
Well, there was her answer.
She began to pace, trying to get some exercise, trying not to cry—great, just what she needed, to be more of a hormonal mess than she already was.
She missed her friends. She missed Len. She missed Jim—missed the easy way she could talk to him. Why the hell was it so hard to talk to Spock? She’d borne him a child, had another on the way, and she still couldn’t just tell him what was wrong.
But then how did one broach that? Oh, honey, it’s nothing: I’m just worried you don’t love me, never will, and if we get rescued will unload me the first chance you get. That any tenderness you show me I should be careful not to read too much into. That I should never, ever mistake sex for love—no matter how goddamn much I want to.
And that the fact I feel so lonely in here I could scream is in no way a reflection on you. That’s all, snookums.
“Christine.” He touched her shoulder and she yelped.
“Spock, Jesus, a little warning.” She glanced over at where he’d been sitting. T’Samra was still there, conked out despite Chapel’s cry of alarm.
“What is troubling you?”
“I told you I’m fine.”
“I don’t believe you.” He pulled her close. “When you were pregnant with T’Samra, you were quite amorous.”
“When I was pregnant with T’Samra, I didn’t feel as if my insides were about to fall out.”
He let go of her, as if she had kicked him. “I...I am sorry. I did not mean to impose my needs on you at this time.”
“Don’t worry. You’re not going to. There’s no goddamn way we’re having sex.”
“As you wish.” He touched her cheek, frowned when she shied away. “You blame me for this pregnancy.”
“It takes two to tango. I blame both of us.” She turned away from him, resumed her pacing, trying not to feel bad at the look he’d had on his face—at the way she knew she’d hurt him.
Chapel smiled at the things the aliens had left them. “Perfect.” She debated whether she wanted to try to get off the mattresses to go over to them, decided at eight-months along, she didn’t need to try. “Spock, can you bring them over here?”
She cuddled T’Samra to her, and her daughter seemed to be in an unexpectedly snuggly mood as she nuzzled her back. “Happy Birthday, sweetheart. This isn’t much, but you’re going to have a first birthday.”
She grinned at Spock as he put the items down. “We have a piece of cake that you can smear all over your self. Your father wanted carrot cake so it would have some nutritional content, but I pointed out that there were all sorts of choking hazards in that and it’s the point of a birthday to not be healthy.” She blew on T’Samra’s neck, making a silly sound that made her daughter dissolve in peals of laughter.
Chapel glanced over at Spock. “They don’t do that on Vulcan, do they?”
His eyes were amused. “No. But she clearly enjoys it.”
“Let’s see. Oh, what have we here? She handed Spock the ball—a rubber one colored like a nebula in pinks and purples and blues. “Can you get the ball from Papa?”
She supported T’Samra as she stood, expecting her daughter to drop to all fours into the lightning-fast crawl she’d perfected. But T’Samra took a step instead.
Spock’s eyebrow went up.
Chapel held tight as T’Samra took another step, then another. Determined, “Give me the damn ball,” type steps. “Has she been practicing while we’ve been asleep? She’s really good.” Chapel had been a little worried that they were behind on this milestone. She knew they were behind on talking—T’Samra seemed to take in everything they said but said nothing back.
Chapel let go, and Spock took over, holding the ball in one hand, supporting T’Samra with the other. The baby grabbed the ball and laughed, hugging it to her chest and plopping down.
“Somehow I don’t think sharing will be her strong point.”
“Very possibly not.” Spock touched her shoulder. “I am proud of you, my daughter.” He moved to the mattress, began to massage Chapel’s back. “Are you all right?”
“I’m uncomfortable. But you’re making it better.”
He leaned in, kissed her neck. “You have made what could be a painful milestone happy.”
“That our daughter has been a zoo animal for a year? Yeah, something to celebrate.”
“I’m sorry. You were trying to be nice.” She leaned against him, could feel he was aroused—he often was. She hadn’t slept with him since she’d found out she was pregnant. The aliens did not complain—they seemed more interested in T’Samra and the unborn baby than in the sex show. She got whatever she needed for them—requests for Spock and her often went unfulfilled.
She shifted so she could lean back against the pillows and look at him. “Does it worry you she doesn’t talk yet?”
“I have wondered about it.”
“Yeah.” She took a deep breath. “Children learn by what’s around them, you know? I talk to her and you talk to her. But you and I...we don’t really talk, do we?”
He met her eyes. “We converse.”
“Not really we don’t. She’s with me or she’s with you. These moments, like this, where we’re a family. They’re not that common, Spock.”
“We are a family at all moments.” He gestured around, at the space around them. “We live in an enclosure that is two hundred meters square. How can we not be a family? How can we avoid it?”
“It’s not proximity that makes a family, Spock. It’s intimacy.”
“If we are not intimate, that is not my doing.”
“Not that kind of intimacy.” She shook her head. “Maybe she doesn’t talk because this is all we do. Spout words at each other without ever once communicating? Who would want to learn to talk for this?”
“You are clearly emotional.”
“A damning trait. One you are trying to stamp out of our daughter, I imagine. Is that what your little Vulcan pep talks are all about?”
“Christine, please. You are saying things you do not mean.”
“No, I’m meaning things I should not say.”
T’Samra turned to them, held up the ball. Spock took it from her, rolled it gently away so she could chase it. She chose to crawl rather than run.
Chapel wasn’t surprised. Who would want to be brave in the toxic atmosphere they’d just created. She tried to relax, tried to let her anger go. Spock was who he was. This had never been his choice. He’d chosen her to save her from a monster, not because he loved her.
He was doing the best he could.
She probably wasn’t. Then again she was the one with a kicking child in her gut, not him. She was the one who would probably have another and another until her body ran out and he’d be free of her.
And then what?
She looked at T’Samra’s cake.
The aliens had spelled Birthday wrong. It was somehow fitting.
Chapel tried to shift on the mattress but comfort eluded her. She struggled to her feet, paced and felt a gush of liquid. She looked down, saw it was clear and breathed a sigh of relief. So far so good.
Spock woke, didn’t go near her but watched her from the mattress. “Is it time?”
“Do you wish my help?” They had been tentative with each other since T’Samra’s birthday. Walking on eggshells, really, as if afraid of what else might be said.
“Not yet.” She moved closer as she paced. “I’m sorry, Spock.”
His watchful expression relaxed. “I, too, am sorry, Christine. If I am lacking...”
She held her hand up. “This is what it is. That’s the Vulcan way to look at it, isn’t it?”
“You are not Vulcan. You do not have to be.”
“I worry for me if I’m not.”
“I do not understand.”
“It’s all right. It’s immaterial. Ohhhhhhh”—she bent over double and clutched her stomach—“this isn’t right. Something’s not right.”
There was another gush of liquid. Spock was cradling her so she couldn’t look down to see her feet.
“What color is it? The liquid?”
He looked down and didn’t answer, which was all the answer she needed. “You should lie down,” he said, and there was an urgency she’d never heard in his voice.
“I should be in a hospital. I should not be here. You should not have to do this. This is not right.” She moaned loudly and saw T’Samra watching her from her little nest, her eyes wide. “Oh, baby, mama’s all right. Mama’s just fi—ohhh God, make it stop.”
There was another rush of wet warmth and she clutched at Spock. “It’s not right. Something’s really wrong.”
“Christine?” she heard, then the world around her went black.
She woke to blistering pain, sharp white lights blinding her. “Spock,” she said, trying to reach out but found she was restrained.
“He is with your female young. We removed you from the enclosure because you were hemorrhaging and this child is in danger of suffocation from your placenta.”
“Have you stopped the bleeding?”
She heard a hiss, felt a coldness in her arm, then relief as some kind of painkiller flooded her system. “I can’t be pregnant again. Do you hear me?”
“We are listening.”
“I am a doctor: I have knowledge on this issue. These children are seventy-five percent human. A mother is crucial to the development of a human child. I was lucky to have an easy birth the first time, but this pregnancy is probably more typical of what we can expect. If you keep me pregnant, I will likely die. I assume you would rather have a family unit to observe? The family will not thrive without me there—this child, and possibly my eldest, may not even survive if I am gone.”
“What you say is reasonable. We analyzed the contraceptive you were on when you arrived. We can replicate it.”
“Yes. That will work.”
“Do not engage in sexual activity with Spock while you are nursing this child. We will give you the medicine once he is weaned.”
He? They had a son?
She heard a cry, then the aliens were laying her child on her chest. He was a mess, still connected to her through the umbilical cord, but he was beautiful. She cradled him, helped him find her breast, groaned at the feeling of his determined little mouth.
It hurt. It didn’t. She was just glad they were both alive.
She lay back, felt as if the world was spinning a little, tried to doze, tried not to drop her child.
“She will not produce enough milk for him,” she heard one of the aliens say. “This feeding and maybe two more.”
She forced herself awake.
The alien was back, the one that had been talking to her about the contraceptives. “In the wild, he would die.”
“We don’t live in the wild. Humans bottle-feed when we don’t breast feed—you let me do it when I weaned my daughter. It’s exceedingly common. You give us food; you don’t make us hunt down a wild animal. Give us formula for the baby. It’s not that difficult—or aren’t you as smart as you think you are?”
The alien smiled. “I remember when you told Spock that you would not be a good mother. Yet how fiercely you fight for your young.”
“Do you listen to everything we say?”
“Of course. We are scientists—we simply fund our research through the zoo.” He gestured toward one of the other aliens. “Get her and the baby cleaned up. Give her the contraceptive since her milk is failing anyway. Then put her back in the enclosure with her mate.”
There was another hiss and the world went black again. She woke in Spock’s arms, to his whispered, “Christine? Christine?” He sounded frantic—hushed but frantic.
She wondered why he was being so quiet, then saw that their son was in her lap, was sleeping, and that T’Samra was watching her new baby brother with solemn eyes that shifted to Chapel.
“Hello, sweetheart,” Chapel said, holding her hand out.
T’Samra toddled over, touching her carefully.
“It’s all right, baby. I’m back.” She felt Spock’s arms tighten on her arms. “And I brought your brother with me.” She leaned her head back harder against Spock’s chest.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“I am. But it was not good there for a bit. They gave me a contraceptive. I won’t get pregnant again.”
“I am relieved.” He ran his fingers down her arms.
She sighed, feeling safe finally, studying her son who looked more like Sarek than like she or Spock. “He looks like your father. He has his nose—that hawkish nose.”
“Wow, you really must have been worried about me?” Or was he only worried about his son—with her gone, his son might stand no chance for survival? “No, you pick.”
“I would like to honor my brother and call him Sybok.”
“Even if it annoys Sarek more than words can say.”
“You believe we will get out of here? That someday my father will know our children?”
“I don’t know, Spock, but I have to hang onto something.”
He once again tightened his hold on her.
She touched their son. “Little Sybok. He’s beautiful, Spock.”
“He is.” Spock took T’Samra’s hand. “What do you think of him, my daughter?”
She leaned in, sniffed her little brother, and made a face that clearly showed what she thought of this small interloper.
Christine laughed and was instantly sorry she did it as her abused insides protested. At least she didn’t wake the baby up.
Sybok fussed for the first week, keeping T’Samra awake, throwing Chapel more and more into a funk that she was not sure she was going to get out of. Finally, on the ninth day, he wore himself out and slept, and the rest of them could finally relax.
She held T’Samra, sang to her softly, a nonsense song she made up on the fly about baby brothers who wouldn’t sleep until they finally did. T’Samra hugged her tightly, nuzzling in the way she only rarely did, and Chapel looked up to see Spock watching her, his eyes very soft.
As she continued singing, as T’Samra went limp in her arms, his expression changed to something less soft, something more helpless—more hopeful. She put T’Samra on the mattress then walked over to him, he drew her with him to the far end of the enclosure.
“It has been a very long time since we made love.”
She frowned. “You’ve never called it that before.”
“Do you object to me calling it that?”
“No. It just seems...strange.”
He pulled her closer. “Do you object to me doing this?”
“I don’t know.”
His look turned wary and he let her go. “Are you not healed?”
“I am.” She looked down and sighed.
“Christine, do you not love me anymore?”
She laughed, and it was a bitter sound. “Do you care?”
“You are the mother of my children. We are here, together. Of course I care.”
“Those are not compelling answers, Spock.” She could feel tears starting, hated that she was going to cry. God, when would she give up on the idea that he would love her? She turned away.
“We will still need to provide entertainment, Christine.”
“Why? Human couples have babies and stop having sex all the time. They wanted to observe us in our natural state, well here we are. I’ll be happy to tell the aliens that. In fact, they’re no doubt listening in right now.”
“Do you not want me?” His voice was pitched very low, as if he could elude any alien listeners.
“I will always want you, Spock. Don’t you get it? That’s my cross to bear. My goddamn curse. I will want you and never have you.”
“Is this because of the birth? Are you sad again?” He moved closer. “Please, let me help you?” He was reaching for the meld points, not seeming to care if the aliens saw him do it or not.
“Stop it. Are you nuts?” She stepped back. “I’m not going to cut you off. But I’ll let you know when I’m ready, okay? I’m not ready right now. Just...give me some time.”
“It has been nine months.”
“You’re a Vulcan. You’re famed for your patience. Man up.” She turned and walked back to the children, lying carefully on the mattress and wrapping herself around T’Samra.
She didn’t think she’d be able to sleep, just thought it was a safe place to get away from Spock. But she was so tired from being up with Sybok that she fell asleep almost instantly.
She woke to Spock’s urgent touch as he gently shook her awake.
“Something is happening,” he said.
She realized she heard what sounded like phaser fire, the yelling of men—in standard. “Holy crap. Are we being rescued?” She reached down and picked up Sybok, and Spock caught T’Samra up in his arms. They both moved toward where the crowd normally would be watching, but wasn’t for some reason.
The wall of the enclosure blew in. Men in Starfleet uniforms burst in. “Hands where we can see them.”
“I am Commander Spock of the USS Enterprise. This is Doctor Chapel. These are our children. We are prisoners. Do not fire.”
“Commander Spock? We were told you might be here. I’m Lieutenant Commander Jenkins, sir.” Jenkins yelled out the hole. “Someone get some clothing in here now.”
A crewman ran in, dropped the clothing and ran back out.
“Sir, I’ll leave you and the doctor to get dressed. I’m glad you’re all right. Do you need any immediate assistance?”
“No, we are fine,” Spock said, then as soon as Jenkins left, walked over to the clothing, put T’Samra down and quickly pulled on the oversized top and the sweats with the drawstring. He took Sybok and let Chapel get changed too. “It would seem we are rescued.” He looked slightly shell shocked.
“It would seem so.” She realized the crewman had brought children’s t’shirts as well and pulled one over Sybok’s head—he swam in it—and the other over T’Samra. Then she scooped her up and held her close. “We’re going home, baby girl.”
Home. Where the hell was that anymore?
She clutched her daughter to her, reached out and stroked Sybok’s hair. This was home to her: wherever her children were was home.
Jenkins poked his head back in. “All right, then. We’re all clear. Let’s get you out of here.”
They followed him out of the enclosure and into a wide corridor. There were others being rescued—alien species both Federation and non—and everyone was subdued. Chapel saw that many of the couples had children.
What the hell must their rescuers think of them? Chapel saw Jenkins glance back at her, and he gave her a gentle smile. Then he looked at T’Samra and grinned at her. “She’s gonna be a heartbreaker.”
Chapel laughed softly. “Probably so.”
Jenkins steered them up to the front of the ship, winked at them as the rest of the aliens were routed to the cargo bay of the large shuttle. “You’re Starfleet. And I bet your little ones will be, too, someday. They’re legacies, after all.” He showed them to seats near the front of the shuttle. “Make yourself comfortable.”
“Are you sure you don’t want us in the back? I don’t know how well these two will travel?”
“Doctor, with all due respect, I don’t give a rat’s ass how well they travel. I think you’ve been through enough, don’t you?”
She sat up a little straighter. “You’re right, Commander. Forget I said anything.”
Jenkins looked at Spock. “You’re the ranking officer on this mission now, sir. Care to give us the go ahead to get the hell out of here?”
“You have my permission to do exactly that.”
Jenkins grinned, an expression that reminded Chapel suddenly of Jim, and turned to the shuttle pilot. “Let’s get out of here.”
The children fidgeted as the ship took off but then once they got going, they both fell asleep, and Chapel found herself grateful for Sybok’s period of restlessness that had left them both exhausted enough to sleep all the way to the rendezvous with a larger starship.
Jenkins grinned at them. “It really is home. Captain Kirk is expecting you.” He leaned in. “The rest of these folks will be catching a ride home on a different ship. That’s another reason you’re up here.”
She smiled, glanced at Spock.
His eyes were gleaming in an almost unVulcan way. “Understood, Commander. Most kind.”
“Least I could do, sir. The Enterprise was headed back to Earth and close, well, okay, sort of close. Close enough to divert with some creative navigation. I figured...it’s what I’d want.” He grinned at them. “Besides, you’ve got to show off your kids, right? They’re beautiful.”
She had to look down, almost undone by his easygoing kindness. He had no idea how...strange it was to be sitting here, with someone new, talking about her children.
Their beautiful children. Someone else thought they were beautiful. Jenkins could just be saying that, but somehow she didn’t think so.
And that suddenly meant the world to her.
They beamed aboard the ship they hadn’t seen in over two years. Janice wasn’t at the controls. Chapel imagined she’d long since transferred off.
Jim stood waiting for them, a big grin on his face, a grin that turned to one of surprise as he took in the children.
She and Spock stepped off the transporter pad together.
“We’ve been busy,” she said softly as she let him enfold her and T’Samra in a hug.
“And who is this?” he asked, grinning at T’Samra, and getting an echo of that expression back.
“Jim, please, she is extremely impressionable.” Spock did not, in all actuality, sound terribly concerned. He sounded incredibly pleased to be back with his friend.
“This is T’Samra,” Chapel said, surprised when her daughter began to lean, arms out. “Oh, of course. Not a woman in this quadrant you can’t charm.” She let him take T’Samra.
“Nonsense. I’m the one who’s going to screen all your dates, kiddo. Your father will be useless. He’ll grill them on physics and chemistry and have no idea what to really look for.” He laughed as T’Samra gurgled. “I’m making a big assumption that I’m going to be the godfather of this one. Is that a bad assumption?” He took her over to the transporter station, started to explain how to beam bad guys into space.
“It is not a bad assumption, Jim.” Spock was watching him with a fondness Chapel was sure she’d never seen in his eyes when he’d looked at her. “In fact, you can serve as godfather to both.” He looked at her. “That is all right?”
She smiled and nodded.
“Oh I don’t mean to ignore the baby, Spock. Infants are just far less interesting. They spit up and maybe hold their heads up, if you’re lucky. Not like this little doll.” He took her to the intercom, began to explain how to send out an all hands message rescinding personal leave just because.
Chapel laughed softly, felt Spock bump gently against her and pushed back.
Jim looked at the baby. “Oh, fine, you’re dying to tell me about that one. Boy, girl?”
“A son,” Spock said. “His name is Sybok.”
Spock looked down. “I will tell you some other time. It is...”
“Complicated,” she said with a smile.
“Wow, look at you two. Finishing each other’s sentences.” He smiled but then his smile faded. “I don’t mean to make light. I read the reports Jenkins sent. I know what that place was. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t find you when you were first captured.”
“We know you tried, Jim.”
“I did. I looked until Starfleet Command threatened to relieve me of duty if I didn’t stop. I figured better to keep the ship and look when I got back in this sector occasionally then never be able to look at all.” He couldn’t seem to meet their eyes. “But I let you down. I’m sorry.”
T’Samra cuddled against him.
“Man, she’s adorable.” He smiled gently at them. “And the baby’s cute, too. Come on. Len’s chomping at the bit to get you all checked out. I was selfish. Wanted this all to myself. Wanted you all to myself.”
“Thank you for taking us home,” Chapel said. “How far away are we?”
“Three days. Time to play chess, old friend?”
Jim looked at her, his grin the one that was just for her. “We can catch up, too?”
She laughed softly. If felt like a lifetime ago he’d told her to take Len’s place at the conference—that maybe she could nab Spock. “That would be nice.”
She saw Spock glance over at her but ignored him.
Chapel felt strange being back on the ship. The vibrations underfoot, the constant presence of the crew no matter what time she went into the corridors. Even sitting with Uhura in the observation lounge during lunch, watching the stars go by at warp as her friend played with the babies had made her feel slightly queasy—like she was a raw ensign getting spacesick again.
“You are meeting Jim soon?” Spock asked her softly; T’Samra and Sybok had just gone down for the night. Spock looked different, his hair short again—one of the first things he’d done once they’d beamed aboard was visit the barber.
She nodded. “Catch up time. I won’t be out long.” But she could be. Spock had played chess for hours the night before. When she’d asked him how his evening had been, she’d gotten a one-word answer: “Satisfying.”
Is that how he would describe her? She somehow doubted it.
She realized she was bouncing her knee up and down the way she used to do in college—the way Roger used to get on her for doing. A nervous habit. “You’re too good for that, Christine,” he’d say.
“Okay, I’m going.” She got up and left, hurrying out, and realized she’d hit the corridors just as beta shift was changing over to gamma.
People. People everywhere. She kept walking, trying to remember how to breathe, feeling a fluttering in her chest. Then a harder thump, thump, thump, as if her chest might explode.
Len had just checked them out. Tip-top shape, he’d said. This was just a panic attack. She reached down for her wrist, felt for her pulse. Rock steady. That’s how you knew the difference between a panic attack and a heart attack. You just felt like your heart was going too fast. But it wasn’t. Trick of the mind. Anxiety.
Didn’t really help to know that, though. Not when the corridors felt like they were closing in on her. When every crewman she passed seemed intent on bumping her. When she couldn’t get catch her breath.
“Okay, I’ve got you.” Hands, strong hands, pulling her into a darkened conference room. “Lights, sixty percent.”
She took a ragged breath.
“Breathe, Chris.” Jim. Thank God.
“I don’t know what happened.” Which was a lie. She knew exactly what happened.
He eased her into one of the chairs, sat down next to her. “Looked like a panic attack to me. Pretty easy to understand why. You were essentially in isolation for over two years. And like an idiot I ask you to meet me at shift change? I’m so sorry—I wasn’t thinking.”
“This should not be a big deal.”
He took her hands. “Yes, it probably should. What you’ve been through—you’re no doubt suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. What just happened is only to be expected.”
She met his eyes. “Don’t tell Spock.”
He looked confused. “Why?”
“Just one more way I don’t measure up.”
“I don’t think you’re reading him right.”
She laughed, it was a slightly hysterical sound. “Because you’ve been around him all of a day? Learned a whole lot over chess, did you?” She realized she was crying, tried to wipe the tears away, but he stopped her.
“How long has it been since you cried?”
“How long was I in that goddamn place?”
“Then go ahead and cry. You know you’re safe with me.” He went over to the intercom. “What’s your pleasure? Wine, if I remember right?”
“I would love a Pinot Grigio.”
He smiled. “Kirk to mess. Can you bring a couple of bottles of my private stash beer and a bottle”—he frowned when he saw her shake her head—“make that a glass of Pinot Grigio and a bottle of sparkling water to conference room twelve. Also an appetizer platter. Thanks.” He grinned at her. “I didn’t get dinner and I’m starved.”
“So we’re going to catch up in here?”
“Unless you want to brave the crowds?”
“Then yes, this is our room for the night.” He made a funny face. “That didn’t come out right.”
“Once upon a time I would have loved to have a room for the night with you.” She wasn’t sure it was smart to be this honest, but she and Spock seemed incapable of talking about anything real, so why not try with Jim?
“Once upon a time, Chris, I’d have been wholeheartedly in favor of that. But...you’re the mother of my best friend’s children. And whether you believe it or not, he cares for you. So I’ve put that part of myself away.”
“Yeah, me too. I love my children.”
“Do you love Spock?”
“I do. He just doesn’t love me.”
He sighed, then held up a hand as the door chime sent off. “Hold that thought.” He let in the server, waited until he’d put down all the food and drink and then left, before taking a swig of beer and picking out some bread and cheese. Then he said, “Chris, you’re judging him by Earth standards. You’re smarter than that.”
“When we first got to the zoo, when the aliens made it clear that they expected us to have sex, they gave Spock a choice: me or they would try to find him a Vulcan woman. Spock kept me with him only because if he didn’t, they were going to put me with an alien who tore up his mates. And I mean that literally. He flat out told me—after we’d had sex, really good sex—that he would not have chosen me otherwise. It’s hard to move past that.”
“That was two years and two children ago.”
“I’m not his wife, Jim. He never bonded with me in there. He only melded with me once.”
This did seem to surprise him. “I’m sure he had his reasons.”
“He said he didn’t want them to know he could meld. And I suppose he was worried that they’d run experiments to see what would happen if you separated a bonded pair. But I can’t help but think that he just didn’t want me enough to do it. That he always thought I could be replaced if we ever got out.” The wine was already going to her head, so she took a big piece of bread and some cheese.
“Chris, I swear to you, the way he described what happened—and he gave me the clean version—he was complimentary to you. I did not get the impression he viewed you as replaceable at all. To be honest, I got the idea that you kept him sane.”
She shook her head. “Then you weren’t listening close enough.”
“You know I love you, right? That I have your best interests at heart?”
“Then promise me something. Don’t make any decisions right now. Just let yourself reacclimate. You’re overwhelmed and you’re exhausted. You’re a new mother trying to figure out how to deal with two kids outside of an enclosure.”
She nodded. “Much harder than I thought.”
“I bet it is.” He held his beer up to her. “Here’s to taking it slow. All right? And cutting Spock some slack. He’s trying. He’s traumatized, too. He just shows it differently.”
She clinked her glass against his bottle. “I’m glad the Enterprise was in the vicinity.”
He started to laugh. “Oh, Chris, we were nowhere near the vicinity. When Jenkins called, you should have seen us scramble to come up with a flight plan to get us to where you were and not make Command curious.” He grinned. “Jenkins seems like a good guy.”
“I like him. He reminded me of you a little.”
“Should I be jealous?”
She shook her head.
“I love you, Chris. I’ve spent the last two years alternating between beating myself up for suggesting you go to that damn conference and being glad for Spock and you that at least you’d have each other, wherever you were. I wish I’d found you and rescued you before all this happened.”
“Maybe there’s a universe where you did.”
“That’s a nice thought.” He looked down. “Maybe there’s a universe where...” He took a swig of his beer.
“I know what you were going to say. And maybe so. Just not this one.” She pulled him to her, kissed him gently on the lips. Not a passionate kiss at all, a tender one. “I know you’re my friend. This—the talk, the food and wine—it’s exactly what I needed. Spock doesn’t...he doesn’t talk to me much. I’ve kept a lot of stuff in.”
“And I imagine there’s still a lot of things you haven’t said.” He sighed, then he leaned back, seemed to channel a different man, the man she used to go out with, see the sights, go dancing. Her friend—just a friend. There for her. Always there for her. “Try these almonds. They’re from Spain. To die for. Now, do you want to tell me about how you spent the last two years or do you want to hear the dirt and major events from our end? Or a little of both?”
She grinned and sat back. “Catch me up.”
“Roger that, Doctor.”
Chapel walked into the guest quarters she was sharing with Spock feeling mellow and panic free after her evening with Jim. The babies were asleep in the cribs the quartermaster had set up in the corner of the room. Spock was working at the desk.
She smiled and walked over to him, slipping her leg over his lap and settling into his lap. “I’m back.”
“I see that.” He was looking at her with an expression that was less warm than she expected—especially given that she could feel he was aroused. They hadn’t had sex since she realized she was pregnant with Sybok, why was he looking at her like she was doing something wrong?
She shifted a little on top of him, moved in to kiss him but he stopped her. “What?”
“I find it curious that you are finally in the mood.”
“Time alone with me does not make you feel so inclined. Time alone with my friend, however...”
She could feel all the mellow feelings sliding away. “Are you kidding me?”
He lifted her off him. “Perhaps another night. When you have not been drinking.”
“I had one glass of wine. I’m not drunk.” She studied him. “Are you jealous of him? Do you actually care what I do?”
He turned back to the terminal. “I simply am not in the mood.”
“Christine, please”—he managed to load a world of disdain into his voice—“you will wake the children.”
She stood in the middle of the room, dying to scream or throw something at him, but that wasn’t how she behaved. Not here and not in the enclosure and not ever. “You’re unbelievable. I just...I just felt good about us. For the first time in a long time. My mistake.”
She turned to go into the bathroom.
Before she could get there, he said, “I talked to my parents.”
She stopped, felt a pang. “I thought we were going to talk to them together?”
“I had nothing to do while I waited with the children. It seemed efficient to comm them.”
She didn’t turn, couldn’t stand to see the expression—or lack thereof—on his face. “And...?”
“And we will be staying with them at the Embassy.”
“We will? The three of you decided that?” There had been several options for temporary housing they’d been weighing until they worked out their future plans.
She did turn to look at him. “Am I part of that we who’ll be staying there? Or is it only you and the children?”
He looked taken aback. “Of course you are part of it.”
“Well, I had to ask. I’m clearly not part of the planning. Not a voice that needs to be considered in any decisionmaking. But then when do you ever talk to me, Spock? Why would my voice ever matter?” She walked over to him. “You want to know why I came back ready for sex tonight? Because Jim talked to me. Not at me or through me. But to me. You might want to get some tips from him.”
She realized he was clenching the desk, that his fingers were turning white, so she spun away and headed into the bathroom, locking the door behind her.
She stared at herself in the mirror, her hair was too long, her skin paler than normal. She was still carrying some of the weight from Sybok, didn’t think she looked all that great.
Jim hadn’t seemed to mind. God, what would it be like to be with a man who actually let her see what he felt for her?
She pushed him out of her mind, got ready for bed, and went back to the sleeping area. Ignoring Spock, she changed into the fleet-issued pajamas and got into bed.
A moment later, he crawled into bed with her and told the computer to turn the lights to ten percent. He eased behind her, holding her lightly against him, and asked, “Are you in love with Jim?”
“No, I’m in love with you. And all you do is hurt me.” She turned in his arms, burrowed against him, and he pulled her in tightly. “I hate you sometimes, Spock.”
“I realize that.” He rubbed her back gently until she relaxed and finally fell asleep.
Chapel sat with Spock and Jim in the mess on their last night. Ny and Len had offered to babysit, and they’d been staging an impromptu puppet show from the side of the bed when she and Spock left.
“So I wanted to talk to you two before you left,” Jim said, pushing his plate aside and leaning in. “Professionally, I mean. I don’t know what you’re planning for your future. But there’s a place for one or both of you here. I’d like to say there’s a place for all four of you here, but there’s not, because Starfleet won’t let me.”
He grinned, then started to laugh softly. “I know because I tried. Bones and I wrote the mother of all pilot program requests. ‘Families on Starships’ by James T. Kirk and Leonard ‘I can bullshit with the best of them’ McCoy. Starfleet shot us down. No babies on the ship—not full time anyway.”
“It is to be expected, Jim. Thank you for trying.” Spock’s voice was warm. “I will consider your offer.”
Chapel looked at him. “The offer was to me, as well.”
“One of us must stay with the children.”
“And it has to be me by default?” Not that she didn’t feel a pang at the thought of leaving them, but his attitude was irritating her.
“Moreover”—he went on as if she hadn’t said anything—“I am unsure if I would allow her to serve on your ship unaccompanied.”
“Allow?” Jim looked over at her, clearly trying not to laugh. “Spock, take some friendly advice. Purge that word from your personal lexicon when it comes to Chris.”
“I have been with Christine for two years, Jim. I do not need any friendly advice.”
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Yeah—yeah, you really do, Spock.”
Jim held up a hand. “Look, can we move past whatever personal thing is going on and focus on the job? I’m not saying that returning to the ship is the right thing for either of you at this point in time given your family situation. But I had to let you know that if you want to come back—individually or together—I’ll make sure your spots open up. It’s up to you.”
“Thank you,” she said, then kicked Spock under the table.
He gave her a creditable version of a glare before he turned to Jim. “Yes, thank you.”
“You know, I’m no counselor and I’m no philosopher—although you’ve both heard me go on and on with aliens from time to time—but I think you need to go easy on each other.”
She looked at him in surprise, then she glanced at Spock and saw that he was staring at Jim with the closest thing to surprise she’d ever seen.
“You’ve been through hell. You’ve got to be feeling overwhelmed being out of that place finally. It’s what you dreamed of, I’m sure, but you got used to it there, as strange as that might sound. Not just the environment, but the dynamics of it just being the two of you and your kids. Well, now it’s not. There’s all of us bumping into you and causing you to interact in ways you didn’t have to before.
“It’s hard and it’s probably kind of ugly. And you’re maybe a little sick of each other, to be honest. But just...go easy on each other. That’s my advice, even if you don’t want it.” He looked at Spock. “And you—drop the attitude. I’m not going after your woman, Spock. She’s my friend, though, and she’ll keep being my friend.”
“Yes, Jim. I am...sorry.” Spock actually sounded contrite.
“Oh for God’s sake, I don’t mean to make you feel bad. Just...calm the hell down. Both of you. Finding out you always have a home here if you want or need it should be good news, not cause for alarm.”
“It is, Jim.” She reached over, took his hand, and squeezed it, knowing Spock was watching but not caring. He needed to learn to deal with this because she was Jim’s friend and that wasn’t going to change. She let go and leaned ever so slightly against Spock, a small gesture that she hoped he’d read correctly as “no harm, no foul.”
He seemed to. He pushed back just as gently.
Chapel took a deep breath as the flitter stopped in front of the Vulcan embassy. She had always enjoyed the times she’d spent around Spock’s parents—time that Spock had never been a part of other than the first meeting on the ship—but for some reason this time she was feeling... What the hell was she feeling?
Trapped. She was feeling trapped. She’d had no say in this. They could have stayed at temporary family quarters. Been on Starfleet grounds under Starfleet rules.
Not here, on this little piece of Vulcan in San Francisco.
Spock turned to look at her. “Are you all right?”
She realized she was rocking Sybok a little frenetically. The baby didn’t seem to mind, but she slowed her motion. “Fine.”
The door to the embassy opened, and Amanda came out, rushing to the flitter, a huge smile on her face.
Chapel felt herself relax. “That’s your grandma,” she murmured to T’Samra and Sybok.
T’Samra looked up at her, then followed Spock out of the flitter when he held his hand out for her.
“Well, my goodness, let me see you, sweetheart,” Amanda said to T’Samra. “Aren’t you a big girl?”
T’Samra clutched at Spock’s pants, hiding her face, but then peeking it out immediately to see if Amanda was watching her.
Amanda looked past her into the flitter, and smiled at Chapel. “She’s beautiful.”
“So is your grandson.” Chapel slid over and out of the flitter. “Sybok.”
Amanda shot her a look. “I don’t have to ask who picked that name.” She took the baby from Chapel. “Oh, my, what a handsome boy. He looks like Sarek, doesn’t he?”
“He does. We both think so, too.”
“Well”—Amanda turned and looked at Spock—“having his grandson favor him so greatly may make him overlook the choice of names, my son.”
“He is my son. I named him as I saw fit.”
Chapel looked down. “Our son,” she murmured low enough that Spock would hear her and Amanda would not.
He nodded. “We named him. Christine was agreeable. And T’Samra is named for her mother.” He glanced at her, and the look on his face was almost apologetic.
“Well, Sarek is away at meetings in Paris. He won’t be here until tomorrow. So I get you all to myself tonight.” She beamed at them both. “What are you hungry for? I’ll order in anything you like.”
Chapel grinned. “You’re not going to cook?”
“Are you kidding? I like you, why would I subject you to my cooking?”
Spock nodded every so slightly, as if backing up what she was saying, and Amanda laughed.
“See, even my son doesn’t like my cooking.” Amanda handed her the baby and leaned down and swooped T’Samra up. “Would you like to see the inside of the Vulcan embassy, my darling?”
T’Samra looked like she wasn’t sure whether to protest or go along with being manhandled by this petite windstorm of a woman who was carrying her across the threshold. Amanda began to chatter about the architecture of the building, smiling and laughing and tickling T’Samra as she did it. In no time she had T’Samra relaxed and holding on to her shoulder, pointing at things in the embassy that Amanda would then explain—or possibly just make stuff up about. Some of the explanations sounded dubious to Chapel.
She eventually got them upstairs and to the set of adjoining rooms, one of which that had been set up as a nursery with two cribs.
Amanda took in the small carryall Spock had slung over his shoulder and the larger bag filled with things for the babies that Chapel was carrying. “You don’t really have anything, do you?”
“Our things were sent to storage when we were kidnapped, Mother. We have what Jim gave us from the quartermaster’s stores.”
Chapel nodded. “Please don’t ask us to dress for dinner.”
“Oh, my dear. Of course not.” She walked over to a small wardrobe. “I hope this wasn’t terribly grandmotherly of me, but once Spock told me you didn’t have anything, I may have gone a little crazy.”
She opened the door. Inside hung a large number of clothes for both T’Samra and Sybok.
Chapel started to laugh. “What did you leave in the store?”
“The racks.” Amanda grinned. “Everything was so adorable.” She rubbed noses with T’Samra. “But Nana should have gotten your mother some clothes, too.”
“It’s what I called my grandmother. I’d love it if they’d call me that, too. But I know you can’t force these things.” Then she pointed at herself. “Na-na. Na-na.” She laughed. “You can help things along, though.”
“She’s not talking yet.”
“She will talk when she is ready, Christine. She is an extremely gifted child.”
“Why, because she can charm the pants off Jim and your mom?” Chapel winked at T’Samra. “Fine, talk when you feel like it. Don’t let me pressure you.” She handed Spock the baby. “I’m going to go put the stuff we do have away.”
“I’ll let you two settle in. I’ll order Chinese. What are you hungry for, Spock? Do you have a favorite, Christine?”
Chapel wanted to add a huge helping of orange beef or maybe some sesame chicken, but she didn’t see that going over well in this bastion of vegetarianism. Spock asked for lo mein and Szechuan string beans, which were her other favorites. “I’m fine with whatever you’re getting.”
Amanda nodded, her look the slightest bit knowing, and then left them alone.
Chapel sat in the children’s room, telling T’Samra a story as she gave Sybok his last bottle for the night. She was pleasantly full from dinner and was ready to go downstairs and join Spock and Amanda once she got the children settled.
She reached out to T’Samra, smiled when her daughter reached back and touched her fingers. “So your father and your godfather ran smack into the Klingons they were trying to escape, and things did not look good for them.”
“Yeah, you think you know how this is going to end. With Jim pulling a rabbit out of his a—umm, his hat and your father finding the most logical way to escape, but maybe that’s not what happens in this story, huh, little girl?” Having kids was putting a serious crimp on her language.
T’Samra’s eyes were closing. Sybok had fallen asleep with the bottle, so she took it and put it on the table next to the rocking chair.
“And then Jim and your father told all the nasty Klingons to embrace peace and love and logic, and the Klingons felt bad and after they cried a little, they went away. The end.”
T’Samra was gone. Klingon stories were always a winner with her. Chapel wasn’t sure why. Maybe she liked all the harsh sounds of the names?
She got up carefully, easing Sybok into his crib and making sure both children were really asleep before turning the lights down and shutting the door. She made her way down the stairs just as quietly, as if babies who had slept through onlookers at the zoo were going to be awakened by her footfalls on the stairs.
But better safe than sorry.
Chapel stopped as she heard Spock and Amanda’s voices in the small parlor off the kitchen. Spock was midsentence, all she heard was, “but I never loved her.”
“Of course not, she was forced on you. I don’t blame you for not loving her. You deserve real love, my dear. And you know she has no standing on Vulcan.”
Chapel tried to swallow past the lump in her throat. Amanda had been so nice to her—had it all been an act?
“So what will you do now?” Amanda asked.
Chapel backed away, unwilling to hear Spock’s answer—afraid to hear it. She crept partway back up the stairs, then walked heavily down them, coughed as she came around the corner so they’d be sure to hear her this time.
Amanda saw her and smiled. “Are the children down for the night, darling?”
Chapel tried to keep her smile the same as it had been. She’d trusted this woman. Why? Why had she thought Amanda would be on her side? “Sleeping like...well, like babies.”
“Come sit with us. We were just talking about the old days.”
“I came down for some water.”
Amanda started to get up. “I’ll show you.”
“I can get it.” She practically barked out the words.
Both Amanda and Spock looked startled by her tone.
“I mean...don’t get up. You both look so comfortable and chairs were in short supply for two years, weren’t they, Spock?”
He frowned slightly, seemed to be trying to read her expression.
She tried to give Amanda her best smile. “Just tell me where the glasses are and I’ll be on my way.”
“The cabinet to the left of the sink.”
“See? See how easy that was?” She could hear the brittleness in her voice and turned to go before her expression turned as bitter.
“Christine,” Spock said, his voice actually soft and full of something that almost sounded like tenderness, “are you all right?”
“I’m home. With you. With our children. With our family. Why wouldn’t I be fine?” She didn’t turn to look at him as she listed all the things that probably weren’t hers to enjoy—or to keep—then hurried into the kitchen.
They went back to talking, but they switched to Vulcan and were speaking too softly for her translator to pick out the words. She fled upstairs as quickly as she could.
When he came in to bed a short time later, she pretended to be asleep.
She woke to find Spock already up. He was reading in the armchair by the window and looked up as she rose and headed for the adjoining door to check on the children. His eyes gleamed in a way she could not read.
“Christine, they are not—”
The nursery was empty.
Sybok was not in the crib. T’Samra’s little bed was made. Chapel stood staring, as if she could make them reappear if she stood there long enough.
Spock came up behind her; he put his hands on her arms.
“I have no standing on Vulcan,” she whispered. “And this is Vulcan territory.”
She turned to look at him, wrenching loose from his grip. Dashing away the tears that were starting to well up in her eyes, she said, “You didn’t even let me say goodbye to them.”
“It was a surprise.”
“A surprise? Taking my children away is a fucking surprise? Do you even plan to let me see them eventually? Or will I be like your brother? Persona non grata in this family?”
He looked bewildered. “Where do you think they have gone?”
“Vulcan. You never wanted me. You said so yourself when this all started. And I heard you last night, talking to Amanda.”
“Talking to my mother is a bad thing?” He seemed genuinely bewildered.
“Never loved me. Forced on you. No standing on Vulcan.” She turned to look back into the children’s room.
“Ah.” He took her arms very gently, as if he was afraid she was going to break—or possibly explode. “Please, Christine, come sit down for a moment. I can explain.”
He got her situated on the bed, then walked to the desk and picked up a civilian communicator. He punched in a number then carried it back to the bed and sat down next to her.
His mother answered, her look on the viewscreen slightly annoyed. “Spock, I’ve only just arrived. Your children are fine. Quit being such a mother hen.”
Spock pulled the communicator out so both he and Chapel were on the viewscreen. “Mother, tell Christine where you are.”
“Oh, hello, darling. Didn’t he tell you? Spock, you’re terrible at surprises. I’m at our house in Nantucket with the children and Sarek. You and Spock have never had a chance to be alone and he wanted that for you—I assume he hasn’t told you that, either?” She glared through the screen and Chapel had the distinct feeling the expression was only meant for Spock.
“Nantucket? Not Vulcan?”
“Why would I be on Vulcan?”
“She heard us talking last night, mother. About the person I did not love, who was forced on me, the one with no standing on Vulcan. She thought we were talking about her.”
“Oh, no wonder you seemed so mad at us. Christine, we were talking about T’Pring. Spock would never say that about you.” She seemed to feel the frost in the room even over the comm lines. “Although it’s clear he’s got a lot of explaining to do since you don’t seem to know he would never say that about you. I expect to see you both here once you’ve worked things out.”
Chapel grabbed the communicator from Spock. “Wait, so you’re not taking the children away from me?”
“No, Christine, I am not.”
“But you were talking in Vulcan.”
“About Spock’s surprise. His obviously very ill-conceived surprise. I will have words with my son when he gets here, I promise you. I would never have agreed to surprising you if I’d thought that you would react this way. I’m a mother, too, my dearest. I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” She sighed. “I’ll be the best grandmother in the world. And Sarek is surprisingly good with them—he’s just arrived. Wait till you see him with Sybok. The resemblance is uncanny.”
Chapel nodded, unable to stay mad at her. “All right. But I may kill your son, just so you know.”
“You may have my permission to do that. Just so you know.”
Chapel cut the connection. Then she threw the communicator at Spock, hitting him in the chest. “Damn you!”
She launched herself at him, letting out the anger she’d been feeling for too long—anger she’d held in because of the children. He didn’t try to stop her as she pounded her fists on his chest, her blows growing less effective as she started to weep.
“I hate you,” she said as he gathered her up in his arms. “I hate that you could do this to me. They’re all I had for so long and you took them away. You can’t do that.”
“Christine, I am sorry. I have handled this badly. I meant this to be a good surprise. Time for us.” He smoothed back her hair and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “I am not good at...romance.”
“This is romance?”
He let out a short puff of air that she realized was a laugh. “I am afraid so.”
“You’re terrible at it.”
“As I said.” He eased her back onto the bed, ended up with them cuddling together. “I would never take our children from you.”
“Why not? You don’t love me.”
“I do love you, Christine. You were the only thing that kept me...sane in that place. Do you not realize that? Watching you as you tried to make some kind of normal life for our children—in that hell. It was remarkable.”
“You never changed the way you acted. You barely said anything to me. You never told me you loved me.”
He closed his eyes. “I was afraid, Christine. I was afraid that if the aliens knew how much I felt for you, they would take you away.”
“Why would they do that? They wanted us together.”
“They seemed appreciative of the status quo. I did not want to risk changing that.” He took a deep breath. “And I was afraid. I am sorry that I made you feel unwanted.”
“Oh, I felt wanted. You fucked me enough to make me feel that. It’s love that you came up short on.” She fought herself free from his arms and scooted off the bed. “You can’t do this. You can’t take my children and do...whatever this is. What? A romantic night in the Vulcan embassy?”
“This is not where I intended for us to stay. I made reservations for us in a mountain retreat.”
“And I had no say in any of it. I’m still no better than a prisoner, Spock. I might as well be back in that damn zoo.”
“Christine, please come back here. We can salvage this.”
“Salvage? What an outstanding word for us.”
“That is not what I meant.”
“I want to go to Nantucket. I want to see my kids. I don’t actually care if you come. Tell me how to get to the house if you’re not coming with me.” She pulled their carryall out, threw the few clothes she had into it.
“I will come.”
He came up behind her, put his arms around her. “Christine, please. I lo—”
“I get it, Spock. You love me. It feels surprisingly empty.” She tried to shake free. “Let go of me or I will make you very sorry.”
He let go of her.
“If you’re coming, put what you need in the bag. I’m going to shower. Be ready to go when I get done.”
“I need to shower as well.”
“Too goddamn bad. You should have thought of that earlier.”
Chapel was in an even worse mood when they finally got to the lovely shingled house that Spock said had been in Amanda’s family for years. She glared at him before opening the gate of the white picket fence and following the sound of happy children to a back yard filled with hydrangeas, roses, and lush green grass.
She could feel the tension draining out of her as she saw T’Samra look up and smile, then push herself up, bottom first, and toddle over to her, raising her hands up and laughing as Chapel picked her up.
Sarek was holding Sybok. “Hello, Christine. Amanda is upstairs getting your bedroom ready. She seemed to know you and Spock—I assume my son is with you?”
She nodded. “I think he went in the other way.”
“Ah.” Sarek seemed to fully understand her meaning. “At any rate, my wife anticipated a change in your arrival date. Is everything all right?”
“Not sure. Ask me later.” She sat down in the chair next to him, smiled despite her bad mood at the easy way he was holding her son. “You look pretty comfortable with him.”
“He is a fine child. I approve.”
She sighed. “Even of the name?”
“That was Spock’s choice, no doubt?”
“I supported it.”
“Ah, you are mad at him, but you defend him. Surely a good sign for the marriage.”
“We’re not married.” Her words came out as a snap.
“You will be.” He did not seem at all concerned. “My son is not always astute in matters of the heart.”
“Your son is an idiot.”
“As I said.”
She laughed softly. “Did Amanda fill you in?”
“We have been married a long time. What do you think?” He reached over, touched her hand ever so briefly. “I assure you, she did not mean to frighten you. Taking the children was supposed to give you a respite, not a shock.”
“I know. It was Spock’s fault.”
“It often is.” He began to gently dandle the baby on his knee. “Is it not your father’s fault, Sybok? Is it not?”
“Stop that,” she said, fighting a smile. “I mean it, Sarek.”
He stopped the talking but not the dandling. The baby seemed to be eating up having quality time with grandpa. “Give my son, ignorant as he is, a chance, Christine. That is my best advice. I believe he cares for you very much.”
“How can you tell?”
“The way my wife tells me he looks at you.”
“I never see it.”
“Perhaps you have abandoned hope of ever seeing it?”
“Stop being wise.” She gave T’Samra a kiss and then let her down when the girl began to fidget. “All right, I know that grass this lush is a new thing. Go play.”
“You were lucky to be rescued before she was much older.”
“Yes, we were. I don’t want to think about what might have happened.”
“Nor do I.” He nodded solemnly at T’Samra when she brought him a gardening glove. “Thank you. Most kind.”
She grinned and toddled off toward what looked like a spade.
Chapel got up and followed her. “The one good thing about living in an enclosure was that there was nothing there you didn’t know about. Okay, missy, let’s see what you think you’re going to do with the sharp, pointed shovel.” When T’Samra started to dig into the grass, Chapel found the twin to the first glove and traded her. “Let’s not ruin Grandma’s lawn our first day here. Why don’t you go give that to your grandfather.”
She glanced up, saw that Spock was watching her from an upstairs window. She didn’t smile at him, and he finally backed away and let the curtains close.
Amanda found her in the kitchen a short while later, Spock trailing in her wake, an uncertain expression on his face. Amanda picked up T’Samra, put her in Spock’s arms, and said, “Go join your father, Spock. Christine and I are going shopping. And we’re having lunch, so you’re on your own with the children.”
Chapel frowned as he carried their daughter away, but then Amanda winked and said, “Oh, it will be good for Sarek and him. Two fish out of water. Might even bring them closer together. And if anything dire happens, we’re only a communicator call away. But you and I need to talk. So come on.”
She led Chapel out of the house and down to the main street, and they walked in silence for a while, looking in store windows. Chapel felt overwhelmed by all the things there were—after making due with so little for so long it was strange to have so much...excess around.
“Come in here, dear. They have lovely things.”
“Oh, my accounts are still frozen.”
“Well, mine aren’t. Come on.” Amanda’s voice was a mixture of silk and steel, and Chapel found herself giving in, probably the way Sarek and Spock did. “Is that the secret to managing them?”
“Well, that’s my secret. I think you have your own way of managing Spock. He’s quite miserable at the moment. He’s afraid he’s lost you.”
Well, don’t tell him that.” Amanda grinned at her as she started going through the racks of clothing in the front of the store. “It’s good for him to think he’s lost you. Make him wonder what he could have done better—could have done differently.”
“Talking would have been a nice start.” Chapel sighed and looked down. “I’m sorry. This is your son I’m complaining about.”
“And you need to get it out. Who have you had to talk to for the last two years?”
“No one. Not even him. He...he pretty much shut me out.”
“My son is not always the most intuitive boy.”
“Boy?” Chapel found herself grinning. “If I weren’t a mother, I would not understand you still calling him that.”
“But you are a mother. And a wonderful mother from what Spock tells me.”
“He said that?”
“He did. He went on at length last night. That conversation you overheard. You missed the part about you. It was very complimentary. He was actually comparing you to T’Pring. That’s how she came up.”
“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop. I’m not usually like that. It’s just...I’ve been so afraid since we got back.”
“You really thought he would take the children away that way?”
“He has a lot of things to make up to you. But I can assure you. Getting shed of you, as my grandfather would have said, was the furthest thing from his mind.” She moved to another rack, held up a red and white sundress. “This would look lovely on you.” She thrust it at her, leaving no room for argument. “Oh and look at this.” She pulled out a white halter dress, sheer in a few places, opaque in most others. “Perfect.”
“For when you and Spock make up. As I’m sure you will. Go try those on.”
“I don’t feel like wearing this.” She tried to hand the white dress back.
“I’ll find you some shorts next. Go get in a room and do what I say.” A wink followed the command.
Chapel rolled her eyes and found an open dressing room. Both dresses fit her perfectly. The white one was gorgeous. Casual enough for a beach party but sexy—too sexy for Spock, the mood she was in. But she could imagine it being a hit if he really felt the way Amanda said he did.
Why the hell did her lover’s mother know how he felt better than Chapel did? Wasn’t something off about that? Even with a Vulcan?
“Christine, I have more things for you?”
Chapel opened the door.
Amanda started to smile. “Oh, my dear. You know, men like to think they like little black dresses, but there’s something about white.”
“Is that a veiled reference to a wedding dress?”
“No. I mean that dress. Look at it. It’s very sexy. Spock will love it. You want it, don’t you?”
Chapel closed her eyes and nodded. Damn it all, she did want it.
“Does the other dress work?”
She nodded again.
“Well, good. The rest is more casual. I know you don’t have much after being in that place for so long.”
Chapel met her eyes, saw no pity, just affection. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Now, take your time. I’m going to try on some things, too.”
They ended up spending an hour in the shop. Amanda kept finding more things for them to try on, and by the time they finished, they had quite the haul. “Can you deliver these to my house, Laura?” Amanda asked the woman behind the counter.
“Don’t I always? Peter?”
A teenaged boy poked his head out from the back room.
The woman smiled at him. “Delivery, son.”
He came out, took the address, smiled at Amanda and Chapel, and loaded their bags on his bicycle cart. Chapel tried to picture Sybok at that age. It seemed impossible now, but she imagined soon enough she’d be looking back, wondering where the years had gone.
“He’ll get them there safe and sound and you can enjoy the rest of your day, Amanda.”
“Thank you, dear. See you next time.” Amanda took Chapel’s arm and said, “A little more shopping, then what would you say to a big, juicy hamburger? Maybe with a bowl of clam chowder to start? I’m so sick of vegetarian food I could scream.”
Chapel laughed. “I wouldn’t say no to a cheeseburger.”
“Wonderful. What our men don’t know won’t hurt them.”
Chapel found Spock in the children’s bedroom, sitting on the window seat—clearly he’d been watching for her and Amanda—while T’Samra and Sybok napped. She cocked her head toward the hallway, saw him nod and get up to follow her out.
The packages from the store were in the bedroom. She frowned and Spock said, “My father said these were not my mother’s size so I brought them up for you.”
“But you don’t know my size, do you?”
“I do not.”
“Why would you? We were naked the whole time we were in the zoo.” She closed the door then walked to the window, saw that they had a lovely view of the back yard and if she moved just right, of the water.
She could hear Spock coming up behind her. Before he got too close, he asked, “Is this all right?”
She couldn’t remember him ever sounding so tentative. “Depends on what you have in mind.”
He moved closer, put his arms around her waist, settled his chin on her shoulder. “Just this.”
She relaxed against him. “This is fine.”
“I am sorry, Christine.”
“I wanted to surprise you.”
“Oh, you did that.”
“Shock and surprise are two different things.” He slowly moved until he was nuzzling her neck. “Is this still all right?”
“I miscalculated. I will not do it again.”
“You don’t talk to me, Spock. We spent two years not talking. Making babies but not talking.”
“We made two beautiful children.”
She laughed softly. “You still could have found time to talk to me. The effort of child-making wasn’t that tough.”
“I will do better from now on.” He breathed out slowly, as if holding her was a relief of some kind. “I missed you today. We have not been apart.”
“Being apart is healthy.”
“I am aware of that. Still, I missed you.” He turned her to face him, brushed her cheek with his fingers. “You did not miss me, did you?”
“Not really. But then I had a wonderful time with your mother. I’ve missed that. Having a friend—another woman to talk to. While you were stuck here with your dad.”
“You talk to my father quite easily.”
“I can’t help that.”
He held up his hand. “That was not criticism. More...envy. He and I...even with the children, we do not work.”
“He loves our children, though.”
“Yes. He does not even seem to mind Sybok’s name—did you tell him you chose it?”
She smiled. “No, he guessed you chose it. And I told him I supported your choice.”
He pulled her closer. “You defended me to him?”
“Yes. Twice actually.”
“Most unexpected given the level of ire you are feeling.”
“I love you. Just because I’m hurt and mad as hell at you, doesn’t mean he can disrespect you to me.” She could feel her smile turn a little bit mean. “Only I get to do that.”
“I believe I understand that logic.” He was staring at her with the most helpless look she’d ever seen him wear.
“What is it, Spock?”
“We have time before the children wake. Please come to bed.”
“You want to have a quickie? After everything that’s gone on?”
“We need to reconnect. It has been so long.” He leaned in, moving slowly enough that she could pull away at any time.
She didn’t pull away, leaned into his kiss, let him draw her away from the window, let him ease her clothes off, reach over and lock the door, then push her down to the bed.
He was gentler than he’d ever been with her, and he took his time despite them not having much of it, making sure she was very happy and relaxed before he moved over her. “I want to meld with you, but we need to wait for that.”
“Because you don’t trust me yet. And you don’t like me. You only love me.”
“When we have all three, then we’ll meld. In the meantime...” He slid into her and she moaned, heard the sound echoed back to her as he groaned and began to move.
“No one is watching us,” he said as he leaned down to kiss her. “Finally, no one is watching us.”
“It’s only us here.” She ran her hands through his hair—it felt so different now that it was short again—and smiled when he closed his eyes at her touch. She wasn’t sure how this was any different than the hundreds of times they’d had sex, but it was. He was...present, was the only way she could think of it. In the way he brushed her hair off her face. In the way he met her eyes, how his lips nearly ticked up, how he kissed her and the soft, helpless noises he was making as she kissed and stroked and clenched.
“God help me, Spock. I love you so.”
“I love you,” he said with no hesitation, then he stopped moving. “I do love you, Christine.”
He kissed her, gently at first, then more fiercely, as if telling her that she was his, that he really was afraid, as Amanda had said, that he was losing her. He started to thrust, harder and harder, and Chapel moaned, feeling another climax coming, riding it out as he continued to move, until he too came, burying his face in her hair to muffle his cries.
They lay together, both breathing hard, no appreciative audience making comments or clapping, just the two of them in this beautiful, soft bedroom.
He stirred enough to kiss her cheek, to roll and bring her with him, half lying on her side, half on him. “We needed this.”
She nodded and ran her finger down his cheek, saw him close his eyes, his lips turning up in the closest thing she’d seen to a smile. He looked so relaxed, so...happy.
“Ah,” he murmured. “Our son awakes.”
A moment later, she heard the crying. “Get those clothes back on because naked is not our natural state anymore.” She leaned down, kissed him quickly. “That was really nice.”
“I concur.” He watched as she pulled on her clothes, caught the garments she tossed to him. “My father thinks we should teach the children to swim while we are here.”
“You are not going to say they are too young?”
“I learned to swim when I was T’Samra’s age. They have no fear at that age. And we’ll be with them. They’re not going to learn on Vulcan, are they? How many swimming pools are there?”
“Not many. Offworlders are the only ones who have them generally.”
“Then teach them while we’re here. Then we don’t have to worry about them drowning because they can’t swim. Drowning for other reasons I’ll still obsess over.” She smiled at him. “Because that’s what mothers do.”
“I believe fathers do that too.” He got up and pulled on his pants. “I was unduly diligent in following T’Samra around the yard this afternoon. My father told me I was smothering her.”
“We’re not used to having to worry about all these...hazards. The enclosure was safe. Nothing there but what was always there. Or what the aliens put in. And they were careful—didn’t want to damage the merchandise.” She followed him into the children’s room and picked up Sybok, who stopped crying as soon as he nuzzled his nose into her neck.
“See, he too finds your scent comforting.”
“Papa,” a little voice sounded from across the room.
Chapel looked at Spock, and they both turned to look at T’Samra. She was sitting up in bed, a big smile on her face, holding her hands up for Spock.
“Did she finally say something?” Chapel asked softly.
“Papa.” She stretched out her arms and opened and closed her hands at him.
“Indeed. And it is an order. Like mother, like daughter.”
“More like grandmother, like daughter.” Chapel laughed and pushed him toward the bed. “Go make the little martinet happy.”
He bent down, picked up T’Samra and swung her around with enough restraint to still be within the bounds of Vulcan dignity—but just barely. Chapel had a sneaking suspicion he was thrilled beyond words that she’d called his name first.
Sybok was still happily nuzzling her neck, so she walked over to T’Samra, said, “Little minx, what took you so long? I bet now we won’t be able to stop you from talking, will we?” She leaned in and kissed her daughter.
T’Samra reached over, giving Chapel one of the rare caresses on the cheek that always melted her heart. “Mama,” she said.
“We might want to rethink Jim as a godfather for this one. She does not need any lessons on how to steal hearts and manipulate people.” But she was grinning from ear to ear—she loved the way that “mama” sounded when her daughter said it.
She wore a red sweater and khaki shorts that she’d bought with Amanda down to dinner; it felt great to be out of the Starfleet-issued clothing. She caught Spock looking at her as they sat at the table in the back yard, smiled at him, and was surprised when he reached under the tablecloth and let his hand settle on her thigh.
Amanda was too busy trying to get T’Samra to say “Na-na, Na-na” to notice, but Chapel thought she saw Sarek try to hide a flicker of a smile. She met his eyes; one eyebrow went up and then he went back to telling Sybok about his long and storied family history. Chapel admired his ability to eat and hold the baby—neither she nor Spock had managed it with such skill.
“Was he that good with you?” she murmured into Spock’s ear.
He shook his head, and she thought she saw both a trace of regret that this was a side of his father he’d never known, as well as pride that his son was so accepted. She reached down, laid her hand on top of his, and rubbed gently.
“So, darling, I was thinking.” Amanda turned to look at her. “A friend of mine has a house on Martha’s Vineyard that is free this weekend. If you and Spock would like some alone time?”
“My wife...” Sarek glanced quickly at Chapel. “She does not mean to meddle.”
“Oh, of course I mean to meddle. Spock’s surprise was poorly executed to be sure, but his heart was in the right place. He can’t help it if he comes from a long line of idiots when it comes to romantic gestures.”
Sarek looked down, and Chapel bit back a smile.
“It’s a beautiful house. Very private. Just the thing for...reconnecting.”
“You mean sex.” Chapel let her own eyebrow go up.
There was a very awkward silence broken by T’Samra suddenly saying “Nana,” and hitting Amanda on the arm lightly. “Nana.”
“Oh, there you go, my smart girl. Now, what shall we have you call Sarek?”
“She can call me whatever she desires. I see no reason to force my will on the child.”
Sarek looked at him. “What?”
Chapel took a deep breath and tried not to laugh. She looked at Spock. “Do you want alone time?”
He nodded. No hesitation. No looking at his father to see what he thought. Just yes.
“Okay, then. Martha’s Vineyard it is.”
“Oh, perfect. I’ll comm her and tell her. And pack that white dress, Christine.” Amanda gave her a very wicked smile. “I’m sure you’re going to need it.”
There was another slightly awkward silence. This time T’Samra did nothing to ease it.
The house on Martha’s Vineyard was a lovely little cottage with a sweet wisteria-covered veranda. Chapel and Spock arrived midday, bummed around town for a bit, then went back to the house to relax before dinner.
She changed into the white dress and came out to where Spock was sitting on the swing on the veranda, and saw something change in his eyes as he took her in. “You approve?”
“Very much so.”
She twirled slowly, so he could really take in the dress. “Your mother made me get this.”
“My mother has excellent taste.” He held his hand out. “What would you like to do tonight?”
She walked over to him. “You want me to take your hand? Right here, in front of whoever might see us?”
He didn’t drop his hand. “This is a fairly private house, but yes, I do.”
She took his hand and let him pull her down beside him. As she suspected, he drew the line on putting his arm around her, but he did keep a tight hold on her hand as they gently swung back and forth on the veranda. “I’m hungry.”
“As am I.”
“I’m hungry for something other than vegetables pretending to be meat.”
“My mother chooses to be a vegetarian because as the wife of the Vulcan ambassador, being a carnivore would be...awkward. But you are under no such constraint. If you wish to eat meat, eat meat. After this many years around humans, I can assure you that I am no longer squeamish.”
“What if I come to bed with meat breath?” She laughed softly.
“Brush your teeth before you come to bed. But you usually do. You are quite diligent about dental hygiene.” He squeezed her hand. “You do not have to change for me, Christine. Did you think you did?”
“I did in the zoo. And our children...”
“They are three-quarters human. They will, at some point, express their own preferences. They are our children, after all, and neither of us have difficulty expressing ourselves.”
She sighed. “Except with each other.” She turned so she could see his face. “Spock, didn’t it occur to you that I might be lonely? That I might need someone to talk to in that place?”
“It did. But it also occurred to me that if they took you away from me, you might be in a far worse state than simply lonely. I thought...I thought that if I could connect with you through the sex, it would make up for everything else.”
“You thought wrong.”
“And I will not make that mistake in the future, I assure you.” He let go of her hand, touched her cheek. “I am not sure that I could convey, even through a meld, the level of misery I felt in that situation. I do not mean with you. I mean being observed, the lack of privacy, the humiliation. You were the only thing that kept me grounded. I mean that sincerely. I know you believe my fears of losing you were unfounded, but to me they were very real.”
“I was that important to you?”
“You were my world, Christine. You and the children. The fact that I failed to convey that to you is something I will endeavor to make up to you for the foreseeable future.”
“On that we are agreed.” She smiled, was happy to see his lips tip up slightly. “So, you asked me what I wanted to do. Can we walk until we find a place that looks good?”
“We can do anything you like.” He gave her a very slow once over. “You look beautiful. I find I have other things on my mind as well.”
“Well, you’ll have to wine and dine me before you can have your way with me. Or at least buy me some clams. There’s a casual little place by the water your mother said was really good.”
“I am quite willing to take you to the finest place in town.”
“I know. But I don’t need that. I don’t need the trappings of a relationship, Spock. I want the relationship.” She leaned against him, rested her head on his shoulder without thinking, but he didn’t say anything so she kept it there. “I want us to have a nice little beach dinner like any other couple.”
“And talk. And enjoy having the kids with your parents. And then come home and make love.”
He made a sound—a happy one.
“What was that for?”
“You finally said make love. Rather than having sex or the other word you often use.”
She laughed. “That word you’d never say. Have you ever said it? Will your lips melt off if you say it?”
“I can say it. I just choose not to.”
She ran her hand up and down his leg, keeping close to his knee in case anyone was watching. “My mistake.”
“We should go, Christine, before I decide eating is overrated.” The look in his eyes told her he wasn’t kidding.
She laughed and pulled him out of the swing, then let go of his hand. They walked into town, talking about what they thought T’Samra and Sybok were getting up to, how many outfits Amanda had probably bought them, and what their daughter would end up calling Sarek now that she’d landed on “Nana” for her grandmother.
It was an easy conversation to have, an easy way to start talking to each other, but Chapel knew they had a lot more they needed to talk about. Like what they were going to do now that they were back. When Jim had mentioned having a place for them on the ship, Spock had seemed...open. She wasn’t thrilled at the idea of that, but if that was what Spock needed to do, she would adjust. She wasn’t sure she wanted to bring the topic up tonight though.
She was afraid they’d end up in a fight. Even though she was willing to bend—bend so far she might come close to breaking—she was still not feeling sure of him and was pretty sure that picking a fight wasn’t beneath her.
She sighed and he looked over at her.
“What is it?”
She shook her head.
“Tell me. Or is it only I who is expected to be more communicative?”
She stopped walking, met his eyes. “That’s a little harsh.”
“Actually, it is not. What are you thinking about that has you tensing? I can feel your anxiety from here.”
“Let’s wait till dinner.”
He nodded toward a bench that overlooked the water. “I think now would be preferable.”
“Fine.” She sat down next to him and said, “I’m unsettled because I don’t know what we’re doing about our next postings. Well, I don’t know what you’re doing. I’m staying on Earth, obviously, since families don’t belong on starships, and even though I don’t think it’s my responsibility to stay with the kids, I find that I want to.”
“Ironic, given that you were uncertain if you would take to motherhood.”
“Yeah, yeah. But it’s not my damn duty, let’s be clear on that. It’s my choice. It may not always be, though.”
“Understood. I have put out feelers at Starfleet Command. The assumption was that I would wish to rejoin Jim on the Enterprise. Once I made it clear that this was not the case, I have had some interesting conversations.”
“When did you find the time to do that?”
“When you were angry at me, when you’d gone shopping with my mother.”
She laughed. “I appreciate that. But, Spock, if your best destiny is with Jim, you should be on the ship.”
“I am not sure that my best destiny is with him. Or at least not right now. We are in a tentative state and the children are young. When they are older, when you and I are on more solid ground, perhaps then it will be time to move back into space, to again serve at his side.” He touched her hand gently. “Have you decided what you will do?”
She nodded. “Starfleet Medical has several interesting billets. Diagnostic or research, my pick. Daycare onsite. It’s too good to pass up. So you could join Jim. If you want to.”
“Yes, I see that the children will be well cared for during the day. But what of you? What of you and me?”
“If we had no children, then I would return to the ship if you came too. But that cannot be as you have said, so I will stay here with you. You are important to me, Christine. Jim will understand.”
“What if he doesn’t? He gave up David for the stars.”
“Doctor Marcus forced him to. You are not forcing me to, are you?”
“I’m not. I just need to know how to plan for the future. How much of my heart to give you.”
“You will stay with me, though? Even if I were to choose the ship and Jim?”
“But I would have less of you?”
“I think so. I’d have to protect myself.”
“Which is precisely why I have to stay. In the future, if you were more secure in my love, would you feel the same way?”
“No. I let Roger go without obsessing—well until he disappeared.” She shook her head and laughed softly. “Of course look how well that went.” She winked to let him know she wasn’t being terribly serious. “Now I feel guilty. Like I’m keeping you from something you want to do.”
“Do I appear at all upset that I am not going? Jim has been without me for two years, Christine. It is not as if we disappeared a few weeks ago. He will get over this. I have my mate to put first, my children.”
“Your mate.” She shook her head. “That used to be a favorite fantasy.”
“I would rather you were my wife.”
“I’m not ready for that.”
“Will you tell me when you are? I do not wish to annoy you by asking repeatedly.”
She nodded. “Will you surprise me with some ring I won’t like?”
“No, if you wish for us to have rings—and I am agnostic on that—then we will pick them out together.”
“You’re learning, mister.”
His lips ticked up. “And the bond can be done whenever you are ready—it is a private matter between us. There does not have to be a ceremony on Vulcan unless you wish it.”
“I don’t wish it.” She glanced over at him. “Unless you do?”
“I would not be opposed to it, but it is not necessary. Mother will be disappointed. I believe she would love to show off her mostly human family.”
Chapel laughed. “That I believe. In the interest of harmony with the rest of the clan, let’s not let her do that.”
“Agreed.” He touched her hand again. “Are you feeling less unsettled?”
She nodded. “Thank you.”
“May we go eat now?”
“You just want to get back to the cottage and have sex.”
“That may well be. But I am also hungry.”
Chapel sighed happily as she finished her clam strips and the bucket of steamers. Spock had managed to make a meal out of cold slaw and sweet potato fries, which she had to admit were really good. She’d stolen so many of the fries, he’d had to go back for a second order.
He’d done it with a fond look. Clearly he was of a mind to indulge her tonight. As they left the restaurant, he nodded to a shop across the street. “My mother told me they sell the best ice cream on the island.”
“Are you an ice cream fan?”
“No. But you like it.”
She bumped up against him. “I’m pleasantly full right now. But if I have dessert, I’ll be overly full and I’m afraid I won’t want sex.”
He took her arm and turned her away from the ice cream shop. She laughed, loudly enough to make several couples turn and look at them, probably wondering what could be so funny coming from a Vulcan.
He did not drop his hand, and she murmured, “You feeling all right?”
“It is not the nature of Vulcans to linger on what might have been, but I find myself wishing I could redo our time in the enclosure. That I could have found a way to make you understand what you mean to me.” He finally let go of her arm. “I would like to try something when we get back to the cottage. It may not work, but it will not be dangerous if I fail.”
“Will it be dangerous if you succeed?” She grinned at his look. “Well, you left that wide open.”
“I did. No, it will not be hazardous. I wish to show you with a meld what I was feeling during our time in the zoo. I am adept at retrieving other people’s memories. I have never attempted to show anyone mine before.”
“An adventure, then.”
He nodded. “An important one, if I can achieve it. I want you to feel, not just take it on faith.”
“Ironic coming from a Vulcan.”
“Do you think my father does not feel deeply for my mother? Emotions are part of us, even if we seek to master them.”
“Mastering them wasn’t the problem in the zoo. Sharing them was.” She bumped up against him again, trying to show him she wasn’t mad. “But I love that you’re willing to try this.”
She looked up at the sky, a blaze of orange and pink as the sun set, and said softly, “I almost gave up ever seeing a sunset again. Almost thought the only sky we’d ever see was the gray roof of our enclosure. That T’Samra and Sybok would grow up thinking that was normal.”
“I know. I felt that way as well.”
She stopped and watched as the sky darkened, felt him settle his hand on the small of her back and pressed back against it. “I feel this, Spock. Even if what you want to try doesn’t work, I feel us now. And it’s different than it was. So it’s okay if you can’t show me what was. What is and what will be are really all that matter.”
He leaned forward, his breath hot on her neck near her ear. “A wonderful attitude. And normally I might agree with something that lets me off the hook so easily. But we both know time is far from linear at its most basic state. The past will forever influence how you feel about us. Therefore I would prefer to change the base variables if possible.”
She leaned back. “Isn’t science sexy?”
He exhaled quickly, and she realized he had just laughed. “Indeed.”
“I do love you, Spock.”
“But perhaps you could like me better? Trust me more?”
“Perhaps you can’t force that, though? You’re always one for the quick path.” She took a deep breath. “Okay, I’m done sky gazing.”
“I will not force this. I promise you that.”
She glanced at him and gave him a knowing smile. “I’m not sure you can help yourself. It’s sort of your basic nature.” Her smile grew wider. “I imagine you may find yourself in a battle of wills with our daughter when she grows older, but I may have to do some end runs for Sybok.”
“You think I will treat him as my father did me?”
“Because no one ever repeats patterns?” She took his arm for a moment. “Yes, I think you might try to run his life.”
“He may not mind that, may not fight me the way I did my father. We may, in fact, be quite in sync in our goals and aspirations for him. Moreover, Christine, he is an infant. There is no way you can determine his temperament at maturity from his behavior at this age.”
“I disagree. He is a mellow child, and we both know it. I imagine he will grow up to be a peacemaker. Which in this family may be a very good thing—so long as someone looks out for him once in a while. Which I plan to do, so stand warned.” She bumped up against him. “Just so you know, I plan to withhold sex if you aggravate me.”
He turned a look on her that could only be deemed annoyed. “That is most unfair.”
“What? I should withhold my cooking? Please don’t try to tell me you enjoyed that soup I made for you ages ago? You never asked me to cook again. No one I have ever cooked for has asked me to repeat the experience.”
“It is true. Your skills do not lie in the kitchen.”
“So, see. I’ve got to withhold what’s of value to you.”
“Your company is of value. The children are of value.”
“But I wouldn’t deprive you of those things. That would be too mean.” She smiled. “Although once the kids become teens, they’ll probably deprive you of their company—hell, we may beg them to deprive us of their company.” She laughed, saw his eyes lighten. “Life would have been easier with children that were nearly full Vulcan than nearly full Human. You really should have held out for a full Vulcan mate. Let the zookeepers give me to that monster thing.”
“I heartily disagree.”
She smiled, felt him grab her hand as he pulled her onto the walkway to their cottage. “In a hurry?”
“I find I am.”
“Fascinating.” She took the steps up the veranda at a run, her skirt flaring out, and he looked back at her as he opened the door.
“I look forward to removing that dress from you, Christine.”
She followed him in and shut the door, then pushed him up against the wall and kissed him the way she’d been wanting to all evening. “Promises, promises.”
He reached behind her, slowly unfastened the halter and let the top of her dress drop down. He bent and kissed his way down her neck to her chest, pushing her breasts together with his hands and kissing where they met, then moving back and forth, sucking and licking until she moaned and said, “Spock, find us a bed.”
“Ours is just here,” he said, not letting go, moving back up to kiss her as he turned her so he could push her into the bedroom. He let go of her once her legs hit the bed, reached under her skirt and pulled off her underwear, then eased her onto the bed and followed her down.
“Aren’t you overdressed?”
“Shhh.” He went back to playing with her chest, then he lifted her skirt up and moved down between her legs. “Do you want me to undress or do you want me to continue with what I am doing?”
“Forget I said anything.”
“I thought as much.” He kissed her thighs, light glancing touches that tickled as much as they were sensuous, but the way he was digging his fingers into her hips left no doubt that he was serious about what he was doing. He kissed his way up and up and—
“Oh God,” she said as she arched her back and lifted her hips to meet him.
He took her to the edge and as she was about to go over, he backed off just enough that she hovered right between coming and not. She tried to push down and find his mouth but he eluded her.
“I can tell where you are, Christine. Exactly where you are.”
He had never done this in the zoo. Never teased her this way. She fidgeted under him, trying to bring herself off, and he tightened his hold and said, “Lie still.”
She settled, breathing hard, and met his eyes. His were amused—he was enjoying this. He dipped his head down, found her again, brought her closer and closer and then stopped just as she was about to come.
“Spock, damn it.” She wrapped her legs around his neck, tried to pull him back down to her, not caring about anything but finishing.
He pried her legs off him—damn Vulcan strength—and held them down as he went in again, barely touching her, not even getting her close enough, and she murmured, “Please, please, please,” as he teased her.
He let go of her, moved up and kissed her on the lips, and she pulled him to her, wrapping her legs around him, trying to grind against him, but he slipped away, rolling to the side and whispering, “Not yet.”
He smiled—a real smile even if it was minuscule—and said, “Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?”
“I don’t care. Just finish me off, please?”
Again the smile and he leaned down and kissed her again, forcing her mouth open, and she wrapped her arms around him and gave herself up to whatever he wanted from her. As he deepened the kiss, his tongue finding hers, she felt him reach down and find the spot, no longer teasing, his touch sure and strong and—
Oh God, yes. She couldn’t speak, could barely breathe as she came while they kissed, as her body did exactly what he wanted it to do. He let her go finally, let her catch her breath, and began to take off his clothing as she lay breathing hard and trembling.
He pulled her up, eased the dress off her and tossed it onto the floor, then let her lie back down like a boneless doll. He was on top of her and inside her, moving slowly, as if he was going to subject himself to the same torture he had just put her through.
Then he pushed in deep and stopped moving. “Can you do something for me?”
“I’m not actually sure.” She grinned. “But I’ll try.”
“When you clench—can you do that?”
She smiled. He’d once called it milking after a particularly vigorous session in the zoo.
“I hadn’t had two kids back then, Spock. But I’ll give it my best shot.” He didn’t need to know that her workouts to keep boredom away back in the zoo included muscles down there. She pretended like she was doing it, saw his expression cloud a little, then she clenched down with everything she had.
The moan he let go made her grin and pull him down for a kiss. “Guess maybe I still have it.”
“You want to see if I can get you off this way, don’t you?”
“Yes.” But then he pulled away and thrust. “Although it will be hard for me to lie still.”
“So I see.” She wrapped her legs around him tightly, trying to hold him down. Then proceeded to do her worst—saw she was succeeding by the way his eyes screwed up, the groans that were coming from him, and the way he was clutching at her, and kissing her and calling her name out.
She occasionally let up on her death grip with her legs, let him shift and thrust and then she started again. Until she could tell he couldn’t stand it anymore, and she let her legs slide off him, and he moved harder and faster, murmuring things in her ear she wasn’t sure Vulcans were supposed to say but that she found exciting. She clenched down one more time, heard him cry out, and then grip her shoulders so hard she was sure she’d have bruises.
He collapsed on top of her, breathing hard and holding her close, snuggling with her, finding her lips once he caught his breath.
They kissed for a long time, and he rolled to his side, pulling her with him, never letting go of her, as if to take his hands off her would be a serious breach.
“My, my,” she whispered as she buried her face in his chest and he rubbed her back.
“Indeed. That was extraordinary.”
She kissed his neck. “That was your intent, wasn’t it? For the meld you want to try?”
He nodded. “But I also enjoyed the sex for its own sake. You are a tremendously sensual partner.”
She smiled. “Likewise, mister.”
He wrapped her up in a hug so tight it almost hurt and they lay like that for a long time, touching and kissing and just enjoying the lovely summer breeze that blew through the curtains of the open window.
Then he said, “I would like to try now.”
He moved his fingers to the meld points, said, “Once I am inside your mind, it will take me some time to find my own memories and to bring you with me to them. Will you be patient?”
She knew that was not a frivolous question. But she had learned patience in that godforsaken zoo. “I will be.”
He touched down on her cheek, was in her mind for the first time since they’d initially had sex in the zoo. It felt right to have him there, like finally they were complete. She felt herself relaxing, hadn’t realized she’d tensed up, and just let herself drift as his presence in her mind got further away.
She wasn’t sure how much time had passed when she felt him gathering her up, felt her mind-self somehow carried into his essence, past memories that she didn’t try to read but that seemed to reach out for her anyway. His childhood, his brother, his father, his mother, the Academy and then serving with Captain Pike, and finally Jim.
And then her, one fellow crewmember among many until the Psi 2000 virus. An annoyance, at first. The memory was there and he didn’t try to hide it from her but it was not where they were headed and she let it go.
When they hit Gol, she was shocked at how negative the memories were of the place, at how stripped and harsh everything felt. How...wrong. He knew that now. But on the other side, before he’d gone, Gol had shone like a beacon of hope. The chance to be the perfect Vulcan...finally.
And then V’ger. The meld. The emotions. And her. She was...no longer an annoyance. She was confusing to him. Jim hadn’t been wrong. The conference—he had been jealous of her quick affair with Handerson and D’Val. And then their captivity.
He finally slowed, let them sink into the memories.
I want you to feel what I felt. He moved them through the experiences in the zoo too fast for her to know what he had been thinking at any given time, but she could feel his emotions.
Misery. Humiliation. Far worse than she had ever felt in the place. The utter lack of privacy. The stripping away of dignity. Every time he fought with her made it worse—an audience to see that, to judge, to enjoy it.
But then she had become pregnant and his emotions changed. He was filled with wonder. Chapel realized he had thought he could not father a child, not without medical intervention. But fear also began to rule him. Fear that the child would not develop naturally, fear that she would be harmed during the pregnancy.
Fear that he would lose one or both of them.
But he had not and she was shocked at the emotion he felt when he delivered their daughter. She remembered meeting his eyes and wondering what he was feeling.
It had been joy. Abject terror during the delivery but joy once it was over. And pride as she lay nursing his daughter. Satisfaction.
And love. He first loved her at that moment when their daughter finally slept, and Chapel had looked over at him exhausted and smiled. Her smile had been the thing to do it.
Such a small thing.
You had gone through hell. And yet you had a smile for me.
And she could feel all through the meld that this was the point he wanted to change, the moment he wished he could go back and redo.
He took her more quickly through the days that followed, as she made a routine for them, as she included him—she realized he’d expected her to keep the child to herself.
She saw him walking with T’Samra, whispering to her in Vulcan, and she tensed.
Ah, again, the things left unsaid—or said in ways you could not understand. I am telling her here, “That is your mother. She is a scientist. You would do well to be as brilliant as she is. She is perhaps more brilliant than I at biochem, but we will not let her know that. She is of vital importance to me, my daughter—and will be to you, too. If we have any happiness here, it is because of her.”
She relaxed in his arms.
I am sorry. I told T’Samra everything I was feeling for you and never told you.
She realized as she assessed his feelings that she had been his true north in all this. Despair was always underneath the surface, but he would look over at her and his child playing some silly new game she’d racked her brain to come up with, and peace would fill him. She had been the most important thing in his world, and he’d known that she was completely unaware of that fact. The irony was not lost on him. Her own loneliness was not lost on him. But as he’d said, he’d been too afraid to tell her the truth, to give the aliens that power.
And then when she was pregnant again, his fear returned. Especially as this pregnancy did not progress the way the first had. And as she withheld herself from him. He’d been filled with panic when the aliens had taken her out of the enclosure, sure he would not see her again. But she’d been returned to him. Whole and with his son. And would not have to get pregnant again. His relief had been genuine. He could not hurt her again.
Not that way, at least.
But still she did not want him.
And then they were rescued. And she expected him to shut off the memories but he didn’t. He let her see his joy at being reunited with Jim. At being free. But he also let her feel his jealousy over Jim, his unhappiness at how things were with her, his dismay over how he had hurt and still was hurting her.
He let her see what kind of life he foresaw if she left him. It was not a life he wanted.
Now he began to ease her away, out of his mind, and she realized she had started crying at some point, but she wasn’t sure if she was crying for him, for herself, for their children, or just for so many lost opportunities.
He let the meld go and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “That is how I felt.”
“I had no idea you felt things so profoundly.”
“That is the conceit of Vulcan mastery.” He buried his face in her hair, as if the sharing had been too much for him. “Living it again was difficult.”
“For me, too.” She pulled him closer, stroked his hair. “I love you. I love our children. I love our family. I don’t want to leave you. I do want to be your wife.”
“Yes. Not tonight. Not tomorrow night. But soon. All right?”
He nodded and sighed, a long exhalation of air, as if he was letting go of all the years of captivity. “You have given me beautiful children, Christine. I watch my father look at them, look at you, and I know that having them and being with you are the only things I have ever done that he wholeheartedly approves of. It is ironic, is it not?”
She nuzzled his neck. “Well, he married a human.”
“Indeed.” He brushed her hair off her face and studied her for a long moment. “I love you, Christine.”
“I know,” she said. And for the first time, it was absolutely true.