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) 2004 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
What Might Have Been (Emotional Rescue Prelude)
Chapel sat back, tried not to glare at Cartwright. He was pontificating. Again. About the Klingons. The enduring threat of same. She took a long drink of her wine. Looked over at Jim and bit back laughter. His expression was the perfect mirror for how she felt.
He glanced at her. Grinned.
She rolled her eyes and he motioned toward the bar, waiting a minute before walking away. A second later, she followed him. Cartwright didn't miss a beat.
She bumped up against Jim and he looked over at her. She sighed, loudly, dramatically. He grinned again.
"The man is obsessed, Jim."
"Yep." He drained his scotch, reached over and pulled a bottle out from behind Cartwright's bar and refilled his drink. "You do realize your relationship with him has a shelf life?"
She made a disparaging sound, a rough explosion of air through closed lips. "Long since expired, sweetie."
He smiled. "You lasted longer than I thought."
"If you knew he was like this, and that it wasn't going to last, why didn't you tell me to bail out?"
He smiled. "I like having you around." He turned, looked over the crowd of people sitting around Cartwright's living room.
Most of them were pretending to be raptly engaged in the discussion. Discussion meaning Cartwright rambled on and on and on while they faked listening.
"I can see how I might have been a breath of fresh air." She leaned closer. "Who'd you roll your eyes at before I showed up?"
His look became shuttered. "Lori. For a while."
She looked down. "Sorry. As a doctor, I should know better than to pick at scabs."
He shot her a look that was full of something she didn't expect. Tenderness. "You didn't do it on purpose. I know that."
She could feel her own look softening. "No. I didn't. I wouldn't, not after Spo--" She took a quick drink of her wine.
"Let's go out to the terrace. They won't even notice we're gone."
She followed him out, felt the warm night air surround her. He touched her back, low, moving her away from the windows, out of view of the rest. She sat down on a bench; he sat down next to her.
"You never talk about him." He smiled at her, but the expression was forced, full of his own pain.
"Neither do you."
He shrugged. "Easier that way. I don't know why he left. It makes me crazy when I try to figure it out." He leaned up against her, as if he needed her warmth, the contact with a human to take away the sting from being abandoned by a Vulcan. A Vulcan he'd thought was his best friend.
"At least you were his friend." It was a stupid thing to say and she cringed.
He nodded. "Fat lot of good that did me."
"He never wanted me. I knew that, but I just couldn't move on."
He moved his hand over, let his fingers touch hers and she reached up, twining their fingers. His skin felt so good against her own.
"You've moved on now," he said. "That's what's important. More than I've done. I can't seem to forget that my best friend left without a word."
"Why should you forget that?" She looked at him. "I wouldn't."
He nodded, took a drink of his scotch. They sat in silence for a while, looking out over the water.
"It's beautiful here," he said.
"Yes. I stay for the view."
He laughed. "How much longer you going to put up with Matthew?"
"How long are we going to be out here?"
He looked at her, his expression changing, becoming more the Admiral and less Jim. "Cartwright, blowhard that he is, is going places. And he's known for keeping people he knows he can trust close. That means you, if you play your cards right."
"You know I'm going to
be on the
"But not forever. When you come back, he might have an assignment for you. Something new, challenging. Good for you, good for your career."
She shook her head. "Hardly seems a fair way to get it. Because I used to be his lover?"
He let go of her hand. "You're missing the point. It'll be because you used to be that and then moved on without undue anger or embarrassing him. Moved on to become a friend. That's what will impress him. Trust me. I know him."
She smiled. Knew he was right, but was so sick of Cartwright that she just wanted to pour her drink over his head and call it a night. "So how do I break up with him, oh wise one?"
He smiled. "Tell him that it'll be too hard with
you on the
She laughed. That was certainly true. "And he'll just let me go?"
"Wow. I feel special."
Jim looked over at her. "I didn't say he was smart."
She smiled, wasn't sure why she said, "Would you let me go?"
Their eyes caught and held. Chapel forgot how to breathe, his stare was so intense. "No."
She swallowed. Hard. She thought for a moment that he was going to kiss her but he looked away, out over the water.
She finally remembered to inhale.
"I'm glad I dated him though," she said softly.
"Why's that?" he asked, not turning to look at her.
She touched his back, rubbing it gently. "I wouldn't have gotten to know you otherwise."
He leaned back against her hand. "That's a nice thing to say."
"It's just the truth."
He turned to look at her. His expression was sad, as if he didn't quite believe her.
"Don't. Don't look like that." She leaned in, her hand pressed against his back. She moved it up, rubbing his neck, at the hairline, where it felt good to be touched. "I hate it when you look that sad."
He looked down. But he didn't move away from her hand.
"I wish..." She looked away.
"I wish that you'd let me try to make you happy. Try to make that sadness go away." She looked over at him, knew that her face was bright red. She was not usually so direct, so forward. She did not usually proposition her former CO. But she was going to now. "Let me try?"
He exhaled, a ragged sound. "Right here?"
She laughed, and the tension between them eased a bit. "Well, that would be sort of tacky."
He grinned, almost his old expression. "Yes, I guess it would." He pulled away from her, a bit reluctantly she thought. "I think I'm going to go home."
"I haven't slept with him in a while." It was an odd thing to blurt out. But she suddenly wanted him to know.
"I'm sorry for him," he said with an easy smile.
She laughed softly. "I'll be on the ship the next few days. Pre-launch stuff."
He nodded. "I know. I keep track of how she's coming along."
She nodded. "I'll have some time, at the end. If you want to get together?"
"You going to ease my sadness?"
"I'd like to try."
"But then you'd be gone. And I'd be even sadder."
She felt something catch in her throat. This man was so sweet. "Jim--"
He held his fingers up to her lips, stopping her words. "I think it's better if we don't." He shook his head. "I never noticed you on the ship. I was a fool."
She leaned against him. "You wouldn't have. Not on the ship. Never on the ship." She laughed. "Married to the ship."
He nodded. "She's a jealous mistress. Odd to think you'll be with her now and I won't."
"You could stow away." She smiled.
He laughed. "Only as Captain." He looked down. "And then I'd be right back where I was."
They said it together. "Married to the ship."
They both laughed.
"I'll miss you, Christine."
She nodded, blinked hard. "I'll miss you too, Jim." She looked over at the house. No one could see them. She leaned in and kissed him.
His hand came up, touching her hair. They kissed for a very long moment.
Then he pulled away, stood up quickly. "I'm going to go. Before I do something very stupid."
"Godspeed, Doctor Chapel." He said her new title lovingly, with respect and admiration.
"Thank you, Captain." She used the title she knew he loved best. "Try to find some happiness."
"I will." He smiled at her. "I'm happy just knowing you're my friend."
"I'll always be that."
He nodded. Then he turned and walked quickly away.
She sat out a long time before she went to join Cartwright for the last time.