The Lesser of Two Evils
Spock sat on McCoy's porch, unsure why he'd come. His efforts to get to Pardek had been unsuccessful; the man had been back on Romulus, and Spock had not wanted to make too much of an inquiry about him for fear of causing problems for Pardek with his government. So he had abandoned the search and came back to Earth, only to find himself once more at loose ends.
Leonard leaned against the porch railing and sipped what Spock supposed was bourbon. "I've gotta tell you, Spock. I've seen the look you're wearing before. When Jim went off with Antonia."
Spock closed his eyes. Yes, he felt much the same, losing the one he wanted—the one he loved—to a person that should never have been competition, much less the victor.
Leonard leaned in. "You got him back. You can get her back."
"He has bonded with her."
"Indeed." Spock sipped the lemonade Leonard had given him. "It is not a new bond."
Spock took a deep breath. "The attack we told you about. The drug they gave me, it did more than make me hurt her physically. I started to bond with her and then...aborted the attempt. She, however, was bonded to me. It was an unusual occurrence."
"I bet. If you started it, how the hell did Sarek get involved?"
Spock sighed and looked down. "She did not want me to bond with her if I did not love her. I was attempting to honor her wishes. Sarek took matters into his own hands when he could not force me to bond with her."
"Why would he do that?"
"She was dying. The way I would have on the ship if we had not made it back."
"You were going to let her die, Spock? What the hell's wrong with you?"
Spock did not want to go down this road. He could not win. To take someone's pain against their will was anathema according to Jim. But to not take it, to let them choose their fate, seemed to be, too, if he listened to McCoy. It was most perplexing. "I wish now that I had."
"She was with you, though. For a while. Even with a bond with Sarek?"
"Yes. But I..." How much did he want to tell his friend? Who else did he have to tell? "There were times when I could feel the bond and it...repelled me. Not solely because it was my father's presence. But for a Vulcan, there is a great sense of...trespass. She was his and I had no business there. So we did not meld, and there were other times I was not able to be open to her."
"Quite the pickle." Leonard leaned back. "Well, what do the experts say?"
"The experts?" Was his friend being sarcastic? It was at times hard to tell with him.
"Vulcans, Spock. My God, don't you think this kind of thing has happened to Vulcans before? Your father left Sybok's mother. Other Vulcans do that, too, I imagine. They're going to run into the same thing, right?"
Spock stared at him, slightly ashamed this had not occurred to him. "It is possible. She and I could..." He shook his head. "But she is with Sarek. She's chosen him."
Leonard rolled his eyes. "For someone's who's supposedly brilliant, you are the biggest dipshit I've ever met." He made an impatient face. "I've seen her with Sarek. She doesn't love him the way she does you—the way she has always loved you. And he's putting a big fat crimp on her style—and her independence. For God's sake, Spock, if you love her, find a way to make it work." He stood up and put a hand on Spock's shoulder; Spock felt support and love and more than a little bit of impatience. "Get your oh-so-logical ass to Vulcan and find someone to help you."
"May I wait till morning?"
Leonard laughed. "Yes. It's too much to expect you to go charging off half cocked." He finished his drink in one big gulp. "If you're staying, let's go down to Ida Mae's. I'm starving and she's doing some pretty impressive things with vegetarian barbeque."
Spock felt unaccountably touched that his friend knew that: McCoy was a confirmed carnivore.
Sarek made his rounds of the latest reception held at the embassy. A Vulcan poet was reading her poetry later, and she was quite popular; the room was packed. He felt through the crowd for Christine, for any twinge of the bond, of her here, or at least on her way.
Nothing. Other than the feeling he always got when he was on Earth. That told him she was still alive. But not much more.
He saw Senek coming in from the courtyard and went to join his friend.
"Your Christine is not here?" There was subtle disapproval in Senek's voice.
"She is quite busy. Her job demands much of her time."
"Your forbearance does you credit, Sarek. But it surprises me as well. I know how you preferred having Amanda with you." Senek's expression changed, became almost mischievous, if only another Vulcan would ever see that. "Your first wife, on the other hand, could have disappeared into another quadrant and you would not have minded."
"You know me too well."
"I was surprised to see your son on Vulcan."
Sarek's head shot up. Spock was on Vulcan? "Yes, I am not sure how long he will be there." Better not to plead ignorance. Senek had already seen he could not control his woman, he did not need to know how ignorant Sarek was of his son's plans.
"I was surprised that he was studying with Master Falshan."
"I am not acquainted with him. What is his specialty?"
"Melds, I believe."
Sarek felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. There was only one reason his son would want to improve his knowledge of and control over melds: Christine. Getting her back, specifically. "Spock is ever the seeker."
"Yes. He swings back and forth, does he not?" There was a slight dig in Senek's voice. "Gol, back to Starfleet, now this. I believe it must be most trying, to watch your son vacillate so."
"He is my son, not my clone. He will do as he sees fit. I trust he will not abandon Surak's precepts. Logic drives his actions." Which was a lie if he was on Vulcan learning to shield out the bond. Pure emotion would drive that action. "Ah, I see someone I must greet. Stay well, Senek."
"And you, Sarek."
Sarek felt a ping, turned and saw Christine hurrying through the main salon and to his private rooms. He followed her, found her rifling through one of the drawers she'd taken.
"I thought you would host this with me." His voice sounded more needy than he meant it to.
"I thought so too. But tell that to the folks stuck on Kalova Nedara."
"What are you looking for?"
"If I said stims, would you be mad?"
"I would be concerned." He felt along the bond, could feel no sign of exhaustion—or at least no sign that it was worse than it ever was. "What are you really looking for?"
She pulled out some underwear, began to undress. "I'm going to use your shower."
"All right." He began to relax. "And then you will come to the reception?"
She shot him a look that would equal any he gave Spock growing up. "No, I'm going back to work. I just need to freshen up, give my mind a chance to take a break while I get clean. Win win."
"There is no win in this for me. I wanted you here with me."
She closed her eyes. "We've been goddamned over this."
"Yes, we have. But you did not even comm to let me know you would not be here. I would not have expected you had I known you were caught up in yet another emergency."
"I don't create them. They happen. As emergencies are wont to do. You can't plan for them." She took another steadying breath, and he felt her irritation and frustration through the bond. "Shit, I should have just gone to my place. But you're so much closer."
"It is fine. I am glad you feel comfortable here. I will...let you decompress in peace."
"Hey." She hurried over to him, gave him a very sweet kiss. "I'm sorry."
Sincerity rang through the bond. Sincerity that meant nothing if she did not intend to change.
"It is all right." He pulled her to him, kissed her with as much passion as he could bring to bear on this problem. They must stop fighting, move on to more pleasant activities like this.
He could feel she was anxious, so he cupped her cheek for a moment, then left her alone to do whatever it was she had to before she went back to her job.
Chapel was walking the hallways of Command aimlessly. She was tired and hungry, but nothing looked appetizing. She decided to head back to Ops, rounded a corner and stopped.
Spock stood near the entrance to Ops, just far enough away to not call attention from those inside.
Her stomach did a somersault and her palms were suddenly sweating. "Hi." The word came out crackly; her mouth was suddenly very dry.
He walked toward her, never taking his eyes off her. "I love you."
She looked around to make sure there was no one in the hall.
"I do not care who hears me, Christine. I am back, and I am not done fighting my father for you."
"I'm sleeping with him."
"And how is that?"
She wanted to slap him, but he was looking at her so tenderly, she couldn't. "It's good."
"We have the bond, Spock. It makes it very good." That at least was not a lie. The sex was great, but the constant irritation she felt through the bond at other times wasn't. She'd told Sarek she wouldn't be Amanda right from the start—had he not believed her?
"Good is acceptable." Spock took her elbow and drew her toward the window. "But we have...fire."
"So much we burned up last time."
"What if I told you that I believe I have found a way to prevent that? To let us be closer?" He moved in, and she could smell the slight whiff of his incense, different than Sarek's, and the one she preferred if she was honest. "What if I told you we could start again? And it would be different this time, Christine. I promise."
She studied him, feeling her heart speeding up: he believed what he said. He thought they could work. "Why should I believe you? You've been gone for four months."
"On Vulcan. With an adept. Working. For us."
"Sarek never said you were there."
"I did not tell him."
She suddenly felt trapped. When would these two stop doing this to her? She'd made her choice—her latest choice. She'd settled down. Why was Spock back and why did what he was telling her have to make her so goddamned happy?
And she and Sarek. It was good. When he wasn't irritated that she chose career over him, being with him was relaxing and sweet, and he made her feel treasured when they were close, when the bond made her feel connected to him in a way she'd never had with anyone. But they had nothing like this: this love so deep it hurt.
But was that healthy? Should love hurt? And was she the only one feeling it that deeply?
His eyes narrowed and she read disappointment on his face. "If you truly love Sarek, Christine, I will not press you. This will be the last we speak of it."
She realized she had tears in her eyes—damn it all, this was ridiculous. "What would Jim have done?" She meant it to come out sarcastic, but it came out as a real question, her voice small and hopeless.
"He would have chosen the option that made him feel the most alive. Antonia was Jim's Sarek."
Nothing he said could have summed this up better. Anger filled her. "I fucking hate you, Spock."
He looked wounded. "I see."
She grabbed his arm as he turned to go. "That wasn't a 'No.'"
"It was not?"
"I need to think about this. And...I need to talk to Sarek."
"Then you have decided."
"No, Spock. I haven't. And I'd talk to him either way. I trust him that much." She waited to see if he'd get it, that she didn't trust him that way anymore.
"You do whatever you feel is best for you."
"Feel? Don't you mean think?"
"I do not." He reached out and stroked her hair, didn't bother to check to see if anyone could see them. "I have missed you so, Christine."
She managed to choke back that she'd missed him, too.
Sarek heard Christine's footfalls—much harder than Amanda's had been, always hurrying. The consequence of a life treating emergencies. Of putting others before family: those footsteps sounded just as fast and hard when they were walking away.
He could tell she was headed for his office and put his padd down.
She knocked, waited for his soft answer, then peeked her head in. "This a good time?"
As she walked in, he realized the pinging of the bond was muffled, as if she was trying to shield. Normally she was more open to him.
She walked to the window and stared out at the lovely view of the gardens. He studied her face. She looked quite miserable.
He reached for her through the bond again. Sensed...resolve. And something he had not felt since Spock had left her, a flutter of nerves, an arousal that only his son seemed to bring on. "He is back." Sarek didn't make it a question; what point was there to that?
"Yes." She walked to his desk, sat down across from him. "And he wants me back."
"And you want him?" It was a self-indulgent question. When hadn't Christine wanted Spock? "What has changed, Christine? We have been through this, and it did not work for you and him. It is why you are with me, or have you forgotten?" His voice rose a bit, and he tried to control the anger that was threatening to spill out.
Why could she not have done as Amanda did? Stayed with him, at his side. Let him make her happy. Spock would not have been a factor, then.
"There it is again. What I feel from you so much now. Annoyance, Sarek. And I know it's with me—with the choices I've made. It gets stronger with every trip you take away. I told you I couldn't be her, that I wouldn't just follow you around. I told you that. And I told you that I loved Spock and probably always would."
"Yes, you told me all those things." Again he forced ire down.
"And you thought you could change me, didn't you? Make me more like Amanda?" She leaned in, her expression a bit ugly. "When really I'm far more like your first wife, aren't I?"
He met her eyes, unsure what to say to that unpleasant truth that now hung between them. She was, indeed, like his first wife. And in retrospect, he probably had not wanted to see that, had thought he could remake her more in the fashion of the wife he preferred.
The wife who put him first, not herself.
She sighed. "I think he's changed, Sarek. I think he can give me what I need."
"Do you know the definition of insanity, Christine?"
She rolled her eyes. "The variables have changed, so your definition doesn't hold."
"How? How have they changed? My son is as hidebound as I am."
"Actually, he's not. And how they have changed is my business, not yours." She sat back, her face again resolved.
And he felt something new along their connection: relief. She was leaving him. That had been her declaration of termination.
"And if he disappoints you again? Will you scurry back to me?" Anger was coming out; he knew his expression was not as controlled as it should be, his voice full of the passion she must think Spock had more of.
"I don't know. Are you going to tell me not to come back? Not to let the door hit me on the way out?" She reached out and took his hand. "We're linked, Sarek. You saw to that when you saved me. I'll be back eventually whether you want me to or not."
He closed his eyes. She was right. In roughly three years, she would be back.
He took a deep breath and pulled his hand away from hers. "I know I cannot stop you. So, I wish you well, Christine. You and my son."
"Thank you." She stood slowly, her footsteps finally the careful, unhurried tread of Amanda as she left him. But once the door closed, they turned back into the heavy, rushing cadence that would take her to Spock.
Spock stood nervously at Christine's door. What if the training did not work? Would it not have been kinder to her to stay away?
Nervous. He was nervous. Fascinating.
He took a deep, steadying breath and rang the chime. She opened it, dressed casually, her sweater the dark blue he had always told her looked lovely with her coloring.
"Hi," she said as she motioned him in and closed the door: her voice squeaked.
He started to relax; she was nervous, too. One of them must at least pretend to be confident. "My father...?"
"Is not here. Is not happy with me. And that's enough said about him, okay?"
"But you are finished with him?"
She rolled her eyes. "I can't ever be finished with him, Spock. That's the whole damn problem, isn't it?" Her nerves seemed to be gone, replaced by anger.
He moved closer to her. "It is no longer a problem—or not at the magnitude it was." Closing his eyes, he breathed in her perfume, and below that, her own scent. Then he moved in to nuzzle her neck the way he knew she loved. "I have missed this," he murmured as he kissed up to her ear, then eased away so he could find her lips.
She snaked her arms around him and kissed him with the same passion she'd always shown, but psychically she was holding herself far too tightly.
He led her to the bedroom, took off her clothes and then his own, and lay down on the bed. He kissed her, a long, sweet kiss, and then put his hands on the meld points.
He remembered the steps the adept had taught him. Surprisingly simple, yet effective: he could feel his father's presence lose its ability to loom over him as he sat in her mind.
She moaned, and he felt her relax a little, then more as he went further, deepening their sense of being one person.
"I've wanted this for so long." She kissed him frantically, pulling him on top of her, into her.
He moaned. Home, he was finally home. Inside her body. Inside her mind. Safe. At last.
He could tell she was about to come, delayed just a little so he could feel what that was like for her. Then he let go and heard her cry out, riding his pleasure in sync with him.
They came down together, holding each other tightly.
"So I have Vulcan to thank for this, huh?" Her voice was slow and sensual, her eyes half lidded, a rosy flush across her chest as she wrapped her legs around him. She began to rub her fingers lightly down his back, then smiled and mumbled, "This feels so good."
"It does. And yes, you have Vulcan—or more accurately Master Solek—for this breakthrough. And Leonard. It was his idea." He thought she should know that Leonard was on her side; he had often been disparaging toward her about her feelings.
"Len? Shit. Now I have to be nice to him." She laughed softly and let him go. "So is there a temple or something?"
He rolled off her but did not move away the way he used to. "No, this is still rare, but not unique. Bonded couples do not always stay together, and new partners wish to meld without distraction. Solek taught me ways to reduce the noise of your bond with my father. Ways to find the pleasure I know we both have wanted."
Touching her cheek, he pulled her even closer, none of their usual distance needed after sharing their bodies.
"Well, you did good. It was amazing. And this is, too." Her smile was beautiful, so full of joy he wanted to smile back, wished he could give that to her—unfettered emotion.
Maybe he could. He rolled so he was above her, and she laughed, a rich, sweet laugh, not the bitter puff of air he'd grown used to from before. He found the meld points, sensed his father's presence and then blocked it out as he'd been shown.
She lay open before him. Trusting, loving, giving him everything he needed and wanted. He showed her that. How much it meant. He touched her as he moved deeper into her mind. He gave her everything he'd held back before.
She was crying when he finally pulled away, and she kissed him, murmuring, "I love you. I will always love you."
He found himself settling, everything relaxing, nothing left to fight or prove. They were together and he had made her happy...finally.
She nestled against him, her skin cool and soothing. They lay quietly for a while, and she gently stroked his arm, tracing symbols of her own design—or perhaps they were letters, he could not tell.
And it did not matter. This feeling of closeness was what did. The way she anchored him.
"I'm thirsty," she said softly and eased away from him. "Do you want some water while I'm up?"
He nodded, and she leaned in and kissed him.
"I love you."
"And I love you." He knew his expression was softer than any Vulcan's should be, but he did not care.
He heard her in the kitchen, the sound of water being poured into glasses, and then she was back, a small light blue box under her arm. He recognized the box and its decorations, that type usually held chocolates, the kind his mother had favored. Had Sarek given them to her? Why would she bring them in now?
She was smiling at him. "And thank you for these, by the way. I just had one. I know you don't like sweets, but you should really taste them. They're wonderful."
"They were from you." Her smile changed, fading as she clutched at her throat, as the water glasses fell from her hands.
He felt dread, remembering the water set out for them during the Pon Farr. Clear and cold—and deadly.
"Spock?" Her voice was strangled, her expression full of dazed comprehension.
And this time, as he launched himself off the bed and caught her as she slumped, he could tell he would not save her. They had gone after her directly this time, not using him as a proxy. Foam bloomed softly from her lips and she became dead weight.
"Christine." He tried to resuscitate her even though the part of his brain that was still capable of logic told him she was dead. He instructed the computer to call Emergency Services, and then he kept breathing into her and did chest compressions until the emergency techs arrived and took over with their machines and hypos.
But nothing helped.
"I'm sorry for your loss, sir," the tech said. "Do you want us to call anyone for you?"
"No. This is a murder scene. I will notify Starfleet Security."
The tech nodded and left. As the door closed, Spock realized he was still naked, that Christine was, too.
He found her nightgown, pulled it onto her. It was not fitting for another man to see his mate this way. No, not his mate. Sarek's. His father—his father would have felt her death.
Spock pulled his robe on and then picked up the communicator. His conversation with Starfleet Security was brief; they were on their way.
He should call his father. He should let him know what happened. He moved closer to Christine, stroking her cheek, feeling it grow colder under his touch.
"Spock to McCoy."
It took a moment for the call to be picked up. "Spock, do you have any idea what time it is here?"
"Christine is dead."
There was a long pause. Then, "Where are you?"
"At her apartment."
"Poison. Chocolates. We did not get everyone in the conspiracy. I wanted to believe we did, but it was a foolish thing to think. I should have known. I should have been prepared." Would he let down everyone he loved? Why bother loving if this was the result: this gut-wrenching pain? "She is cold, Leonard."
"Spock, don't do anything. I'll be there as soon as I can."
"There is nothing to do. She is gone." As he cut the channel, Spock picked up the box of chocolates. For a moment, he considered eating one, too, then he saw there was a small card affixed to the box.
"To our future," it said, in his handwriting.
He commed his father.
"My son. What has happened?" His father's voice was shaking, more emotion that Spock had ever heard leaking out.
He found he could take no pleasure in that. They shared this pain, just as they had his mother's passing. "Christine is dead. She was murdered by what is left of the conspiracy."
There was a pause. Then, "We will find them," said in a voice he barely recognized as his father's. "We will hunt them down." The pain in his father's voice shook him, even though he knew what that pain felt like.
"Yes, Father, we will." It might be the first time they had ever been so in sync. "Do you wish to see her?"
There was a very long silence; Spock thought the comm line had dropped. Then his father said, "No. She is where and with whom she wanted to be."
"I am sorry."
"As am I, my son. I must go." The comm channel went dead.
Christine's body felt even colder when Spock touched her cheek, then her lips.
His communicator sounded. He looked down, expecting it to be McCoy, but it was a text message. The sender was not identified.
The message said only: "Debt paid."
He routed the comm to his father with a note to trace the origin if possible.
Another message popped up. "We endure." It was intended to taunt. The conspirators clearly felt themselves safe enough to risk capture with these messages.
Spock realized he was crushing the box of chocolates and dropped them before he destroyed them: he'd test them later to see if there were any clues in the choice of ingredients or trace elements. He imagined he would find that whatever was in the chocolates was the same thing Christine had been given to hand over to Cartwright and Valeris.
Leaning down, his breath making Christine's hair float as if in life, he whispered to her the promise he had heard several times on the Batlh. "You will be avenged."
It was a promise he intended to keep, but it left him no less desolate.