The Lesser of Two Evils
Spock sat by the bed, trying to ignore the small cries of pain from the woman lying in it. Trying and failing.
Christine was dying because of him. She was choosing to die because he could not—would not—love her.
She shifted, moving her legs under the cover as she whimpered. She called out something that sounded like Spock's name.
Was this how Jim died? Alone until the energy ribbon hit him with the final jolt? Carrying him out to space or blasting him into nothingness? Spock had been on a diplomatic mission when it happened; he had felt the bond between them snap and had cried out, disrupting the discussions. He had stood, apologized, and then called for a recess for the rest of the day. Not waiting to hear if they agreed, he had hurried to his room, ignoring his staff's question about why the negotiations had broken up early.
The pain—the emptiness he felt inside, the lack of Jim where before there had been the ping of his irresistible vitality—had nearly leveled him.
The first news report had appeared twenty minutes later. "Captain Kirk Dies Saving New Enterprise."
Spock had somehow managed to go back to the negotiations table the next day while inside him felt like a black, gaping hole. As the two parties argued over this and that and any other thing they could think of to stall progress, he had sat back and waited, and in his mind, "Jim is dead" had played repeatedly.
And then, once the negotiation was finalized, he had gone to Vulcan. Seeking...what? His mother had died several months earlier. Her passing had been peaceful but only because of the painkillers she'd been given. Her death had created another empty space in Spock. Valeris's betrayal had widened the gap. Jim's sacrifice had blasted the rest away until Spock had felt like nothing, empty and wandering. A man without a home.
He'd returned to Earth, found it unbearable without Jim, and took mission after mission that kept him off planet.
Until the burning had caused him to return to Vulcan, and had prompted him to ask Christine to come with him. He hadn't been careful making plans, had seen no reason to hide where he was going and with whom. With hormones raging and grief threatening to bury him, he had been in no shape to wonder if the conspiracy had been destroyed or just gone to ground. He had not considered that someone might want him to pay for his part in stopping it, for what he had done to Valeris. Truth to tell, he had been too mired in grief to care—would death have been such a bad bargain?
But the conspirators' plan had been more complicated than a simple retaliation killing. It wasn't just him they were after.
His attention was diverted to Christine, who whimpered again. He reached out, touching her gently on the hair. "Shhh, it is all right."
It was not all right. It was not going to be all right. He could stop this now, but Jim had impressed on him the right of free will. Although he did not think Jim would sit by this way. He'd be trying to come up with alternatives, but there was only one, and Christine had rejected it.
She woke and struggled to sit, then gave up and reached out, her voice a rasp as she said, "I'm so thirsty."
He gave her one of the gel sticks that was keeping her hydrated. "Christine, I can end this."
"Can you even feel me? My mind? Battering at you?"
"And I can. The non-telepath." She closed her eyes, and he thought she might be fighting tears, but when she opened them, they were dry. "No. Don't end this." She laughed, a short, bitter puff of something very far from amusement.
He reached for the hypo, held it out so she could see it. "Do you want more pain medicine?" This at least he could do.
"It doesn't help. Not where it really hurts." She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "Is your father here?"
"He has just arrived and has gone to the priestesses. There may be a way to...fix this." Or so his father hoped; Spock held no such illusions.
"Fix?" Again the bitter expulsion of air. "I can guarantee there's no fix for this."
"Other than the obvious." He leaned in and settled his hands on her face. "The bond I started, let me finish it."
"The bond you can't even feel? Spock, you should feel this. You did this to me." She swatted his hands away. There was anger in her voice, but he knew it was less at him than at the person who had, apparently on behalf of what was left of the conspiracy, drugged the water set out for them during the Pon Farr. A drug that did nothing to humans but filled Vulcans with rage: a disaster during the burning. It had nearly proven fatal for her. He had been more concerned with healing what he'd done to her body than checking for more permanent damage in her mind. It was only when her injuries were healed and her pain did not go away that Spock thought to meld with her.
In the midst of his drug-induced rage, during the height of the Pon Farr, he had started a meld with her—not entirely sure where he was or who he was with, looking frantically for Jim and not, of course, finding him in her mind. He'd stopped before the meld had finalized. Had jerked away like a cable snapping off a moored ship. He'd been free. She'd still been linked.
Spock thought this was unprecedented, but his father said he had heard of it and that in this case it was probably due to Christine being human with limited psi abilities. Unlike most Vulcans, she had been a static partner in the bonding, unable to resist or keep Spock with her once the bonding process started. And now she was reacting the way a Vulcan would during the Pon Farr if they had no way to reach their partner or a surrogate—only without the sexual drive, but with death as the result.
He could fix this, if she would let him. But she'd been with him in that meld, had felt his need for Jim, how she had not been enough, how fast his recoil had been when he realized what he had started to do...and with whom.
"Christine, I do not wish to lose you."
"I appreciate your willingness to finish this. But I don't want that. I know you don't love me. I know you won't love me. Give the conspiracy what they want. Let me die."
He sighed, allowing himself the luxury of frustration. The conspiracy was still out there even if the Vulcan member who had gone after them had been found hanged in her house with a message intended for Spock. His crime: hurting Valeris the way he had. His penalty, to hurt Christine the same way.
And for Christine, a penalty also—for not taking Cartwright and Valeris suicide pills when she went to visit them just before they were released to the Klingons to serve a life sentence at Rura Penthe. The pills had been delivered by messenger from an anonymous sender with simple instructions: "These are your friends. Don't force them to die slowly on that hellhole when you can be merciful."
She hadn't taken the pills to her friends, had instead turned them and the note over to security. Had waited for some kind of retaliation, but it never came so she'd relaxed.
Spock sighed again. Neither of them had deserved this.
She moaned, and the sound was different, more guttural, as from a deep and resounding pain. He reached for her, was only stopped from starting a meld by the snap of her voice rasping, "Don't. Don't you dare."
He pulled back and closed his eyes. That she was alive at all was due to his being half Vulcan. A full Vulcan would have been driven to such a rage that his partner would never have survived—his human partner. A Vulcan woman would have been similarly affected and might have held her own.
The door opened, and Spock turned. His father stood in the doorway, and Spock could tell by the set of his shoulders that the priestesses had been able to offer no help.
"So, there it is," Christine said, her eyes on Sarek, who sighed, surprising Spock with the indulgence.
But he had barely recovered from losing Spock's mother. Spock knew his father was fond of Christine. He was looking at her now with a fierce protectiveness, a look he turned on Spock, as if to say, "Why do you not resolve this?"
It would be a simple thing. He and Jim had been bonded. He knew how to do it. What it should feel like.
He did not understand how Christine could be tethered to him without him feeling her, but his father said that was the nature of the unfinished bond. He had also made it clear that situations such as these were generally resolved quickly, the bond completed as soon as possible. No one should suffer this way.
As his mother had, wasting away from the disease the doctors had diagnosed too late.
As Jim had—did Jim suffer? Perhaps his death was quick, a shock of energy and then nothing. Spock tried not to let thoughts of how long it had taken Jim to die monopolize him the way they had since he was lost, but he remembered how it felt to die, to feel everything shutting down, basic senses useless, not even able to touch...
He reached for Christine. "As my father has been unsuccessful, we will proceed."
She slapped his hand away, and he was surprised at how much strength she could still muster. "How many ways do I have to say no?"
Sarek strode forward; Spock could feel him, a looming presence behind and to his side. "Christine, I know you have feelings for my son. Let him finish this."
"Sarek, I know what it feels like to be loved. You do, too. So does Spock. And he does not love me. I don't want that."
"I was bonded initially to a woman I did not have any regard for, Christine. It can be borne."
"I don't want this to be something we have to bear. And when your first wife died, you must have been relieved. You'd already met Amanda."
Spock frowned and turned to his father, not caring that the expression was a lapse. "You told her this?"
"I did not." Sarek gave Christine a stern look. "My wife told you this?"
"She did. I know much of your great love story." There was no mockery in her voice. "Do me the courtesy of realizing I won't accept any less than that. Honor my wishes."
He moved closer, and Spock vacated the seat so he could sit. "The only time this will be a burden for you is when the burning strikes. Otherwise, the bond does not have to make any difference in your life."
"If I didn't love him, I'd agree with you. But I do. And I'm..." Her voice broke, and Spock turned, shocked that she would cry in front of her father when she had not in front of him.
"And you...?" Sarek's voice was gentle, the one he'd always used with Spock's mother—never with Spock. Spock realized he was clenching his fists and forced himself to relax.
"And I'm so tired. Starfleet believed I was involved in the conspiracy, did you know that?"
Spock had not known the extent of it, or of Jim's attempts to help her. Not until the meld, when he found the half-finished bond. Starfleet had put her through a great deal proving she was innocent. And she was exhausted from the rigors of so many years in Emergency Operations. Her resilience was gone. And after the beating she had sustained at his hands during the Pon Farr, some aspect of hope seemed to be gone, too. Spock could feel that she didn't blame him, not once she understood what had happened. But still, it had left her with a deep vein of despair; he could feel it every time he touched her. Despair and grief for lost friends coupled with exhaustion were a powerful combination.
Should he disregard her wishes, then? If she was emotionally compromised should she be allowed to decide to die? What would Jim do?
"I am sorry. I was off world when you were taken into custody. Amanda told me of it when I got back, but you had been released by then." Sarek's regret was clear in his voice.
"Could you give me some time alone? Spock hasn't eaten and you just got here. Go sit in the rose garden or something."
Spock looked down. Had Christine meant that to be cruel? Did she not know his mother's roses were dying?
Sarek stood and motioned for Spock to come with him. "We will be back in a short while, Christine."
She didn't say anything.
Spock followed his father out of the guestroom and down the hall. Once they were out of earshot, he said, "She does not wish me to—"
"It is clear what she does not wish, Spock. What matters now is that she chooses to live."
Spock wanted to shrug. What did his father want from him? "I cannot feel what I do not feel."
"I am well aware of that, but that does not mean you cannot finesse this. Surely all that time with Kirk taught you some skill in manipulation?" Sarek looked as he always did when Jim was the topic of discussion.
Spock looked away; would his father never let go of his dislike of Jim? "It is her choice."
"I agree. Help her make it, Spock. Tell her that you cannot lose her. Make her believe it. Once she is well and refreshed, she will appreciate having her life ahead of her. She will not hold a small lie against you."
"You do not know her as well as you think if you believe that. And you do not know me if you think I could convince her of that. My acting skills are limited, and she was in my mind when..."
"When you thought of Kirk."
Spock did not want to know what he might have to say about Jim, so he forestalled the impending argument. "I am hungry. She was right about that." He stepped around his father, went to the kitchen, and found very little that was edible in the chiller. "You have not replenished the food stocks."
Sarek's face grew tighter. The look Spock thought he wore only when talking to him. "I have been busy. Off world."
"Where you would not be reminded of my mother?" He would not blame his father for that; it was why he could not seem to stay on Earth.
"I am reminded of your mother every day, Spock. Of her absence. Of what I have lost." Sarek rubbed his eyes and turned away. "Convince Christine you cannot lose her. That is my advice."
"You have always championed her. But I must respect her wishes. I am sorry that I cannot make you...happy in this." He chose the words carefully.
"Happy? I would prefer to not lose another person I care about. Starfleet would prefer to not lose a fine officer. You should prefer to not lose a woman who is here, for the burning, when she did not have to be."
Spock could feel his own jaw tightening. "That is none of your affair."
"You chose her. You had other options. That should mean something. Save her, Spock. Save her while there is still time." His father walked out, heading to the room he had shared with Spock's mother for so long, leaving Spock alone with his meager meal in the dusty kitchen.
Chapel tried to breathe through the pain. Pain that stemmed from something in her head, not from disease or environmental factors, nothing she could fight or bring her medical or Ops skills to bear on. This was her no-win situation. She'd never taken the famed test; she wished there were a way to cheat this as Jim had done with the Kobayashi Maru.
She felt the pain she always did when she thought of him. She'd lost more than a friend: she'd lost a champion. He'd vouched for her with Starfleet when the conspiracy was exposed, argued for them to release her from the interrogation facility—they'd held her until they were satisfied she wasn't hiding anything, but he'd been waiting for her with a flitter when she got out, had taken her home and held her and said, "It'll be okay. Just let this blow over. Do your work. Forget what happened. You'll be okay."
He was always so kind to her. Now: gone.
Amanda, too. She'd made a point of being seen even more with Chapel after the conspiracy. As if to say, "Here's what I think of your silly suspicions." And when Chapel had pointed out this could blow back on Sarek and her, she'd given her the wave and the "oh, pfff," she always did when Chapel said something silly.
Her friend. Sick and hiding it when she'd been helping Chapel. Gone now.
Would it be so bad to join her? To join Jim and Scotty and Roger?
She heard footsteps outside her room. They slowed as if the person was considering coming in but then went on by. Sarek, probably. She didn't think Spock would be back for a while.
Spock's face, when he'd come out of the drug-induced fog during the Pon Farr, when he'd seen what he'd done to her—she'd never seen horror so clearly etched on his features. He'd hurt her badly, but nothing the healers couldn't patch up. They'd thought she'd gotten lucky, because he was half human. Because he'd found some control.
And then the truth. This bond she barely understood, like half of a circuit, waiting to be completed. And slowly degrading when it wasn't finished—taking her with it. The urge to touch Spock, to grab him and pull his fingers to her face and make him finish the connection was nearly overwhelming.
The fact that he would bond with her to save her touched her. She loved him for it. But she loved him too much to let him do it. And maybe she respected herself too much, too. She wanted to be loved. It had been so long. She'd had lovers but someone who loved her? The way Spock had loved Jim or Sarek had loved Amanda? Not really. Not since Roger.
Would it be so bad to just let go? She was tired: she hadn't lied to Sarek about that. She was floundering and to let go, to push off and just float...
Why was that so bad?
The pain in her head started up again, spreading into her neck, making her shoulders knot. She reached for the hypo, jammed it against her neck, hoping that it would help this time. She sprayed it a second time, maybe too much painkiller but she found she wasn't overly worried about the repercussions of that.
Numbness came over her. Her mind fogged. The pain didn't go away, but she felt a bit removed at least.
She floated, the pain like a chainsaw wrapped in baffling material. This is what it would be like to die. Float and float and then dark.
Would that be so bad?
Sarek walked into the guest room Christine had been given, saw Spock sitting by her bed, his look distant, but not as distant as hers. "How much medicine have you given her?"
Spock turned to look at him. "I have given her none. She said it did not help."
Sarek bit back a retort. It was not Spock's fault he did not understand the way of human women. He'd spent his life with James Kirk, a man who seemed to fully understand women of all species, but apparently never saw fit to share that knowledge with his son. "Nevertheless, it is clear she has taken some."
Spock closed his eyes as if he was trying to keep from saying something, then he rose slowly. "If you are here, I will get some air for a moment."
"Now?" Sarek looked at Christine. "Spock, I believe time is short to do what must be done."
Spock's expression didn't change; he had looked defeated when Sarek entered the room and still did. "She does not wish that. I need to think."
Christine seemed to be drifting in and out of consciousness. She held a hand out and said, "Where did you go? You were just here."
"Go, have a moment alone, my son."
Spock looked confused at the sudden acquiescence, then nodded and left.
Sarek took the chair Spock had been sitting in, moving it closer to the bed. "My wife said the same things, Christine. To the people she was seeing. Lost people. I recognized their names." He studied her, seeing the dark circles under her eyes, the small bit of gray in her hair. Strands only, she was young, still, compared to Amanda. Too young to die.
"I will ask forgiveness if this works. It is what Spock's great love would have done." He leaned in, finding the meld points, her skin soft under his fingers, her mind so far away. "Christine?"
He could feel her. Could feel the true affection she felt for him, the reaction at his voice in her ears and in her mind. He knew Amanda would be one of the people Christine was looking for.
She would have to wait to see his wife if this worked.
He closed his eyes and dove in, down and down, searching for the bond. It was like a sluggish whip-snake, circling gently as it and her energy drained. He imagined it had been a true whip earlier, snapping everywhere as it sought its other half.
As it sought Spock.
Sarek took a deep breath. There was no precedent for this. But he did not think Spock would do what needed to be done, no matter how much he was prodded.
He grabbed the trailing edge of the bond and pulled it around himself. He could feel Spock all over it, the induced rage that had made him do this, the moment when he pulled away, leaving her...alone. A bonded one could not be alone when the partner still lived.
"Let him go," Sarek murmured as he began to unravel the strands of the bond.
She moaned, her pain clear. The bond began to whip faster again. Sarek could tell he had cleared away as much of Spock's presence as he dared. He began to build onto what was left, a new bond, his bond.
"What? Sarek, what...?"
She did not say no, and she had said nothing but no to Spock. Sarek kept going, reaching deeper, gathering her up as much as he could, giving her strength, feeling the pain begin to fade.
Until it was done.
He felt the familiar ping of another mind in his. The emptiness he'd felt since Amanda's death faded just a little.
He made sure that the bond was stable, that Christine was safe, and then he let the meld go.
She opened her eyes, confusion predominating as emotions played across her face. Anger did not appear to be one of them. "Why?"
"Your death served no purpose."
They both knew the answer to that, so he said only, "I could not save her. I could save you." He touched her cheek. "You are safe."
She laughed, a different laugh than Amanda's, a soft burst of air, of breath, sounding almost...incredulous. He did not think it was an indication of happiness.
And then she was slipping away, but not to death, just to sleep, and he let her go.
He heard footsteps and moved the chair back to where it had been then went to stand by the window.
Spock opened the door almost gingerly. As he walked to the bed, there was true sorrow on his face. Sarek wanted to rail at him, ask him why he had not been able to do this if he felt for her. But he held his tongue. It no longer mattered why Spock could not do what had to be done.
"She is so peaceful. Is she...gone?" Spock asked.
Sarek shot his son a glance he hoped was not as irritated as he felt. Could Spock not see she still breathed? Sarek could hear it from where he was standing, could feel her, the soft, warm sensation of her first real sleep in days. "She is not. I believe you will find her much better."
Spock frowned and reached down, touching Christine on the neck, feeling for a pulse, and Sarek felt a surge of something more than irritation. He wanted to tell his son, "Do not dare to touch my mate." He fought the urge and won.
Spock stood up, his eyebrow rising. "Her pulse is strong. And the pain is gone."
"As I said." Sarek saw the comment hit, the slight note of disapproval he'd put in his voice the same one that had always upset Spock as a child. "I did what you could not."
Spock seemed unsure what to say, finally murmured, "Most...unexpected."
That Sarek could do what his son would not? In what way was that unexpected? He realized his hands were shaking, clasped them behind his back. "It was the logical thing to do."
There was something he did not expect on Spock's face: rage. "You would insult my mother?"
"I do not. I would not. It is the truth. It would have been better if you had embraced the logic of the situation, but you would not. I say only what needs to be said."
"And she agreed?"
Sarek stood straighter, the way Kirk always had when called to answer for his latest misadventure. "She was not in a position to agree or disagree."
"Father..." Spock took a slow, deep breath as if he was meditating.
"She did not fight me, my son. She knew I was there and did not fight me. Not as she did you."
"If this"—Spock looked down at Christine, cocked his head as if unsure what to think—"arrangement works, then you will have done right."
"And if it does not?"
"I believe we both know the answer to that. She will not appreciate being given no choice. She wanted to die. It was her right to choose." Spock looked down. "I can see that I am angering you."
Sarek realized his jaw was clenched very tightly. That he had narrowed his eyes, had pulled his eyebrows down—that he was scowling.
"I will leave you with your new mate." Spock did not meet his eyes as he left the room.
Sarek held his hand out: it was shaking. He nearly stumbled to the bed, lying down on top of the covers, resting his head on Christine's shoulder. Some of the unsteadiness faded as he lay not moving, listening to her breathe, the beat of her heart a promise that he had saved her.
She moaned softly and rolled so she was curled against him.
He put his arm around her and touched her hair. So soft. "I ask forgiveness. Spock may be right. You may have wanted to die. But I...I did not want to be alone."
Chapel woke, a heavy shape trapping her in the covers, incense wafting up from his robe—incense that was not Spock's.
She was alive. She was alive and not in pain, and she was in the arms of someone who was not Spock. And the bond...the bond was no longer draining her life force, causing her pain. It was alive inside her—where? Her head? Her gut? Her soul?
Sarek, she seemed to remember. Had Sarek done this? But...why?
She moved slowly and managed to see that it was, indeed, Sarek lying with her. He woke despite her care, pulled away enough to see her face and seemed to be assessing her mood—but then he had been a master of that with Amanda.
"You bonded with me?"
"How? Did the priestesses tell you to do that?"
"No. I did not lie when I said they had no answers." He paused, as if to think, and she thought he was trying to make sure the answer he gave did not make her mad. She could feel caution along the bond—a bond that was getting stronger now that he was awake. "I could not let you die. I decided to try, to see if I could bond with you in Spock's place, since he would not."
"He would have. I didn't want him to."
Sarek took a deep breath, as if her defending Spock was distasteful to him.
"I love him, Sarek. I love him and you went and...what? Married me? With your mind?"
"Christine, I know you do not love me. But we are fond of each other. There is no reason this arrangement will not work for both of us if we decide we want that."
"Arrangement?" It was as bad as Spock offering to bond with her. Only she had even less idea why Sarek would want to do it. Other than he'd just lost his wife and didn't want to lose someone who had been a friend to both of them.
"If you wish to resume your life, Christine, to live on your own, I will understand. You did not ask for this."
"And when the Pon Farr comes? Will I be asking for this then? Will I have any choice at all?"
He looked away, as if the ceiling was the most fascinating object in the universe. "No. You will be drawn to me as I will be to you."
She began to get up, felt a pang, then a pain as she didn't stop.
Sarek eased her back down. "The bond is new and it needs—demands, even—that we stay close to each other."
"For how long?"
"I am unsure. Our bodies will tell us. Is it a hardship to be near me? You were so compatible with me when Amanda was alive."
"You were the parents of the guy I loved. And then my friends. But as a unit." She closed her eyes and moved closer to him to stop the annoying twinges that erupted every time she moved away from him. "What does Spock think of this?"
"Spock was willing to let you die if that was your choice."
"That isn't what I asked."
He met her eyes. "I believe his feelings lie somewhere between concerned and appalled."
"Wow. Because you did this to me? Or because it was me you did this to?"
She could tell he'd understood that. But then he didn't get to be a master of diplomacy by not comprehending the nuances. "I believe the former. He thinks highly of you, even if he does not share the intensity of your feelings."
She felt suddenly very tired, remembered how it was to float and wait for the black. "I did want to die, Sarek."
"I know that. And I know that Spock was not the only reason why. You have lost your friends. Not just Kirk and Amanda but Commander Scott—and the traitors."
"You can say their names. They're still people. Admiral Cartwright and Valeris." She closed her eyes. "My mentor. My protégé." Was it any wonder Starfleet had suspected her?
"And you feel as if you have no home in Starfleet. Perhaps then it is time to try something else? Something with me?"
She could feel hope beating along the bond. Hope and underneath it a terrible loneliness. Nothing he would ever admit to, but it was there for her to experience. "You did this partly for yourself."
He looked like he was going to deny it, but then sighed. "I may have." He studied her. "You feel that in the bond?"
"It will not always be so pervasive. It will fade to background noise, unless one of us is in great distress, but even that can be mitigated by distance."
"I see." She lay quietly, trying to get her feelings under control, unsure of how much she was broadcasting to Sarek—if he could feel how much she would rather it was Spock she was lying against.
"What do you think you will do?" he asked, his voice almost tentative.
"I'm going back to Ops, Sarek." She was surprised she said it, but once it was out, she realized it felt right, that it was what she wanted—needed to do. "I have something to prove. And running away won't do that. I wasn't involved in the conspiracy." She made herself meet his eyes. "You understand?"
"Of course. I will stay away from you if that is what you wish."
"I'm not really sure what I wish. Or no, I do know—I wish you'd given me a choice in the matter."
"You did not fight me when I was in your mind."
"I'd shot myself up with a double dose of painkiller. I'd have probably welcomed an entire bird-of-prey crew into my mind."
His eyes lightened at her sarcasm, but he did not comment. Probably because he knew she was right and also knew anything he said would make it worse. Amanda had told her he'd learned a lot about human women in the years they'd been married.
"Oh, Sarek. I don't think this was the right decision. Even if I am glad the pain has stopped."
He stroked her hair so gently it managed to be sweet, not sensual. "Death was not preferable. We will discover the best way to make this work. If you find someone else, I will step aside to the extent that I am able."
"Can we not talk about it anymore right now? I just want to be quiet and enjoy this...harmony." Harmony that was not in her mind, but in her body. The more he touched her hair, the more relaxed she felt. This was the nice part, the not confusing part, of what he'd done.
He leaned in, and she thought his lips were on her hair, then he moved to her ear. "I would say I am sorry if it were true, but it is not. I could not let you die."
"I get it, Sarek. Please? Quiet? Okay?"
His sigh was a trembling exhale, so she put her arms around him and rubbed his back, the way she would a friend who was in trouble.
They fell asleep like that. Didn't wake for hours. When they finally stirred, the bond had receded to a point Sarek said would be more the norm.
She eased out of bed and said, "I'm going to go talk to Spock. If he's still here."
There was a look she didn't like in Sarek's eyes, some mix of anger and jealousy, but she ignored it and went to find Spock.
Spock heard Christine coming well before she rounded the corner into the living room. She stopped and took a deep breath, and he tried to make his expression as gentle as he could.
"Are you well?"
She smiled. "That's a great question." She nodded to the chair across from him. "May I?"
"Please." He watched her sit; she appeared stronger, no longer in distress. "I have been in contact with Starfleet. They believe they caught the other conspirators by locating individuals who took undue interest in our schedules for this week and narrowing it down from there."
She felt a sense of relief that she wouldn't have to be looking over her shoulder, but at the same time she wondered if they'd really ever get all of them. "That's good." She smiled but knew it came off weak.
"I am relieved you are alive, but I had nothing to do with my father's actions."
"I know. Neither did I, ironically enough." She took another deep breath. "I feel...steadier. Not so...empty, I guess. Is that an effect of the bond?"
"I guess he did me a favor. Hell of a drastic step, though, for an antidepressant." She closed her eyes. "What do I do now?"
"What do you wish to do?"
She stared at the floor, and he wondered if she was even seeing the design of the carpet. Finally, she said softly, "I don't know."
"You care for my father?"
"He's your father, so yes. And he's your mother's husband. And he's Sarek, the man who I always saw as a savior, I guess." She laughed, the same puff of air sound, but this time there was some amusement in it. "And boy howdy, isn't he, though?"
Spock let his lips tick up slightly.
"Does he have feelings for me?"
He was not sure why she was asking him this—could she not sense if his father did or did not through the bond?
She smiled gently, as if she knew what he was thinking. "The bond is comforting. His emptiness calls to mine, Spock. But beyond that, beyond the determination that I should live, and the relief that I'm alive—that his method worked—I'm not sure what I feel from him."
"He has always spoken of you highly." It struck Spock that Jim would find this conversation slightly hilarious. Spock, so earnestly helpful as he assisted the woman who had loved him so long determine if the father he rarely understood was interested in her.
She leaned back. "Do I have to call you 'Son,' now?" She gave him a half-smile that on Jim would have been part derision, part good humor.
"You do not. And I shall resist calling you 'Mother.'" He leaned forward. "You should know that you do have options. I am not sure what my father has told you, but I feel that I need to say this."
"To force a bond on an unwilling partner is not condoned. I did it to you—half of one, as it were—but I had been drugged and I would not be held responsible, especially since I was willing to finish it. It was your choice that I not."
"My father on the other hand..." He worried that he might seem the slightest bit pleased that his father had made such a misstep, so he tried to make his expression as sober as possible. "Your wishes were clear. And it was my bond with you, not his, in question. The penalty for what he has done would be his death—it is the only way to free you. If you wish to be free?"
"I don't want to be free at the cost of his life."
"Then I suggest you do not mention the genesis of your union."
Her expression mirrored Jim's when he was frustrated. "Union. But what do I want to do about it?"
"That is your call. I imagine he will honor your wishes—other than at..."
She nodded. "Right. Other than during that." She stood up and walked to the doors that led to the rose garden. "They're dying."
"Yes. They are."
"She would be sad." She bowed her head, her hands on the glass. "I miss her. Would she be upset over this?"
"If she were still alive, she would undoubtedly be upset."
She laughed, finally a true laugh. "You joke at the oddest times." But her expression as she turned around to look at him was much more relaxed.
"She was inordinately fond of you. I do not believe she would mind this at all."
"I do not mind that it is you who are with him. I regret your wishes were not honored. But that said, I did not agree with your wishes. Except that I knew I would not make you happy." He met her eyes, wanted her to know he meant what he was saying. "Perhaps he will, Christine."
"Maybe so." She looked around, a strange expression on her face.
"What is it?"
"I want some time to myself, but your father is in my room."
He rose, pushing back the small nudge of enjoyment that he would get by telling his father to vacate her room. "Wait here for a moment."
She walked over to him, put her hand on his arm. "Be gentle with him. I'm not saying no to this. I just need...time. Alone. To process."
"I understand. He will, too."
Spock nodded and walked quickly to her room. He knocked softly, heard his father answer back, so he poked his head in the door rather than entering. "Christine needs some time to herself. Shall I put her in another guest room?" The last bit was unnecessary, but Spock felt a small twinge of satisfaction at the look on his father's face.
"Of course not, Spock. I will leave."
"I will tell her."
Sarek strode to the door, more quickly than Spock anticipated. "No need. I will do it." He walked out and Spock heard his quiet, "I am sorry. I should have vacated the room when you left."
Her voice was soft, softer than it had been when Spock and she had been talking. "I just want some time to think. Without...being so close."
"It is fine. I will be in my study if you need me."
Christine came down the hall, saw Spock, and smiled. "Thanks."
He nodded. The door closed, and he heard the door to his father's study close also. He was suddenly left with nothing to do. He took a deep breath and went to order food—everyone would be hungry eventually, and he was sick of what his father had left in the kitchen.
Sarek found it impossible to concentrate on correspondence. Several were marked "urgent," and still he could not focus. Time ticked away, one hour, then two, and his thoughts refused to stay on task, turning instead to Christine.
He had been off planet when Spock commed and told him in the most general terms—clearly not wanting to discuss specifics on an open comm channel—what had happened to Christine. Sarek had left the pre-briefs and endless strategy meetings, promising to be back by the time the negotiations started.
They were in two days and it would take five hours to get there.
He needed to prepare. He needed to read these messages. A soft knock on the door provided an excuse to close his padd and say, "Come in."
Christine smiled at him, finally the smile he remembered from the times he and Amanda had spent time with her. "Can we talk? Is now a good time?"
"Of course." He got up from his desk, led her over to chairs set up by the window in a more conversational grouping than if she had sat across from him with a desk between them.
"This trip didn't go the way I thought." She gave him a sweet smile, but one that was embarrassed, too.
He was not sure why she was embarrassed. Nothing that happened to her was her fault. Other than that she agreed to come with Spock to Vulcan for the Pon Farr. But that was a choice and a generous one.
She looked down. "I came here thinking now that Jim was gone Spock might turn to me."
He reached over and tipped her chin up. "Truths are best with eye contact."
"I'm not sure painful truths are." She smiled. "But I know you read body language and expressions, so fine, I'll look at you as I tell you that I was hoping Spock would finally love me." She took a deep breath, seemed to be about to turn away, but then met his eyes again. "It was too soon. He's just lost Jim and there I was trying to get my hooks in him."
"No, Sarek, he's never going to love me. Want me, yes. I felt true desire when the Pon Farr started—before the drugs took effect." For a moment her expression clouded, remembering no doubt how Spock had hurt her. "But lust and love are different things."
She crossed her arms over her chest. "So are loneliness and love. I know I'm lonely, and it's obvious you are, too. But like Spock, it's too early. You just lost Amanda."
"It was months ago."
"Months are nothing when you love someone as much as you loved Amanda. I know you're lonely—I also know you need to mourn. I felt how good it was for both of us to be touching, to be quiet and peaceful and together. But...it's not real. It's just the bond."
"The bond is quite real, I assure you."
"The thing almost killed me, Sarek, so yes, I know the bond is real in one sense. But it also gives feelings that mimic love and attachment—all good things if they come in time, but..." She looked away.
He could feel resolution in her through the bond, could feel trepidation, too. As if she did not want to say what she needed to. He would spare her; he would say it for her. "But you are leaving Vulcan and me, are you not?"
"I am." She looked up quickly. "Will that hurt us? Being apart so soon after the bond?"
"I believe the danger is over." He leaned in. "There will be initial discomfort, though. The first separation is the most painful, but the pangs subside fairly quickly."
"So, I am to assume you are returning to Earth?"
"And that I am not welcome there?"
She took his hand. A jolt of energy rocketed through him. She looked surprised but didn't drop his hand, even tightened her hold.
"I want you to think about this. What you want. What you think is best. I do love you, Sarek. You're my friend and very dear to me. But...I'm not Amanda, and I'll never be Amanda. Just as you said that I could find someone else and you would step aside, I make you the same promise. There are probably more suitable mates for you than the crazy woman who couldn't get it through her head that your son would never love her."
"You are not crazy. And what you say is logical." He squeezed her hand. "What do we do once we have thought for a sufficient amount of time?"
"If you think it might work for us—if you want it to work for us—let me know. Spend time with me. We can see how it goes."
"You are not opposed to a relationship with me?"
"It's not something I've ever thought about, to be honest. All I could see, for so many years, was Spock. I'm not sure that will change."
He nodded and felt a surge of jealousy that his son was so important to her. The irony was that she was right. He had never had any intentions toward her, nor she toward him. And now...here they were. And it was sudden, and they were neither in the best mental state given their losses and what she went through after Khitomer and during the Pon Farr with Spock.
"I will meditate on it."
She smiled and gently extricated her hand. "And I will go home and try to get one thing I do know I want: to be head of Emergency Ops. They moved Captain Lowen up to take Admiral Cartwright's place." Her face clouded, no doubt at the thought of her former boss and mentor.
"You would be a fine choice."
"If a tainted one." She stood up, then bent over and kissed him on the cheek. Her lips were cool, resting lightly on his skin. "Thank you for saving me."
"You mean that seriously?"
"Well, if I don't now, I will eventually. I think I need to see someone—talk some things out. We have shrinks just for our department. We see so much on this job. Go through so much."
"I'll have Spock take me to the spaceport."
Again the jealousy rising up like gorge in his throat. "I am perfectly capable of delivering you to the station."
"I know. But I think this is better." She took a deep breath, seemed suddenly sad. "And quit being jealous. I can feel it from here. He doesn't love me, and he never will. And in one conceivable future for us, he could be my stepson."
Sarek lifted an eyebrow, not sure if he enjoyed that thought or not.
"Live long and prosper, Christine. I will do as you say."
One last lovely smile and she was gone. A little while later, he heard the flitter going. She must have packed before she came to talk to him.
The bond began to protest her leaving so soon after their connection being forged. He tried to ignore it, but still had trouble focusing on the memos waiting for him.