Excavating for a Mine - Part 1

by Djinn

The air was dryer than normal, something Christine Chapel would have bet was not possible. This part of Temeris IV would give a dustbowl a run for its latinum. She slipped her eye shield on, was as glad for the anonymity the dark lenses gave her as she was for the relief they brought from the stinging grit. Fortunately, the walk from her office to the bar was a short one. Not short enough, however, to keep her from passing one of the town's more important citizens, apparently out for an afternoon constitutional, dust be damned.

"Doctor," Mariah Livingston cooed. As the author of the deceiving little 'doctor needed' ad, she no doubt felt that she deserved the credit for luring a former Fleeter out to this fleabag of a planet. Although the forests she had featured did exist, and parts of the planet were quite pretty, the town where Chapel lived was a desiccated, dust-ridden place. She ended up working in the more scenic spots though, for the latinum mines that spread like bad Verulian pox scars across the planet were only found in the higher elevations, among the pretty trees that Livingston had so prominently placed in the ad.

But the ad hadn't been what brought Chapel out, and if Livingston thought she'd duped Chapel, she was very wrong. Chapel had done some checking of her own before packing her bags and setting out for this planet that resided on the wrong side of the back of beyond. Long before she'd boarded that shuttle, she'd pieced together exactly what she was getting into and decided that Temeris IV was just what she had been looking for--a place where no one would bother her by asking her stupid questions like how she was doing or had she heard from Ken lately.

"Doctor Chapel?" the older woman repeated, this time with much less coo and more annoyed 'first lady of the town of Clementine' in her voice.

"Mariah," Chapel said, putting as little emotion as she could into the name. As the other woman started to reply, Chapel held up her hand and shook her head emphatically. "Got an emergency. Can't talk."

Livingston saw where she was headed and frowned. "You have an emergency in the bar?"

"I know. Go figure." Chapel ducked through the doors of the bar, was relieved when Livingston didn't follow her. "Damn busybody," she muttered to no one in particular. Several regulars looked up as she came in. Nobody smiled at her. That was exactly how she liked it.

"Which one's bothering you now?" Ed was watching her from the bar, his face contorting into what passed for a smile. He was at his nicest when he was talking to Chapel, and he wasn't all that pleasant to her. It was another reason she liked Temeris IV. You could be yourself on this planet, be who you really were, or be something else if you were tired of who you really were. Hell, you could be no one if you wanted. Ed fell in that camp, resolutely refusing to give out his last name. As long as he kept the liquor coming, none of his customers were going to complain.

"Mariah," she said, rolling her eyes as she leaned into the bar.

"Damned biddy. I remember when she worked off a mattress at the Lucky Strike, she sure seems to have forgotten that. Hope her husband loses the election this year. That would knock her down a peg." He slapped an empty glass in front of her. "The usual?"

She nodded and watched him pour out a finger of whiskey. She raised an eyebrow. "We having an alcohol shortage?"

"Not last time I checked."

"Then how about being a little less stingy."

He smiled tightly and poured out some more. "Sorry, didn't realize it was that kind of day."

"Shows what you know." She saw Ed's expression change, knew by the warning look he threw that someone was approaching her. She didn't turn as a man sidled up to where she stood, his bulk pushing her against the bar and the stool to her left. It, like all the other barstools, was fastened to the floor--courtesy of a day Ed got tired of his patrons using the barstools to brain each other--and between its unyielding metal and the man's overly large body, she was trapped. "You want something?"

"You the doc?"

"Depends who's asking." She slowly reached into her left pocket, drawing out the thin metal rod she made it a point to carry. She had its twin in the other pocket. You never knew which hand might be free. Turning to look at the stranger, she favored him with her best 'don't crowd me' look. "So who the hell is asking?"

"My name's not important. Are you the doctor or aren't you?" He leaned on her harder, then his eyes widened as he felt the metal rod against his throat.

Chapel could feel her heart beating faster, could feel the anger inside her trying to take hold. Control, she had to keep control. She leaned into the man, the movement might have been seductive if her tone hadn't been so deadly serious. "This is a laser scalpel. If I hit this little button here, it will cut away your windpipe in about half a second, making it pretty difficult to talk, much less breathe. I know that because as you guessed, I'm the doctor." She smiled then, knew it was a smile that effectively broadcast how she just didn't care about anything. "Now, you want to back the hell up or shall I hit the little red button and watch you make a mess all over Ed's bar?"

He started to shake his head then seemed to think better of it. "Lady, I just need a doctor. My partner's been hurt out at the mine. I think his leg's broken." He eased away from her.

"Which mine?" Ed asked.

"The Happy Fortune." The burly man looked sheepish. "Not my idea. It was LaTral's idea. Dumb name."

"LaTral's the one that's hurt?" Chapel put the laser scalpel away, and pushed the whiskey back to Ed. "I'll be back for it."

"Right, Doc." He slapped a piece of plastic on the glass. It fitted itself to the top, forming a good seal. "It'll keep."

"Always does." She looked at the miner. "What's your name?"

"Matson, ma'am."

She didn't ask if that was a first name or a last. It didn't matter to her. Nothing mattered to her anymore. "Well, Matson, we need to go get my gear. Then we can fix up this partner of yours. And in the future, when you need a doctor, you ask me with a little more courtesy and a lot less threat, you got that?"

He nodded.

"You make sure the others know that too. I don't like to be crowded," she said as she pushed on her eye shield. She saw him nod again as she led him out into the dust and across the street to her office. Grabbing her gear from inside, she turned and asked, "You have a hover?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"My name's Doctor Chapel. If I like you, you can call me 'Doc.' And just for the record, I don't know if I like you yet."

"Right, Doctor Chapel." He led her to one of the hovers parked off the main square, held the door for her as she got in, then climbed over her, stepping heavily on her feet in the process. So much for chivalry.

She leaned back, closed her eyes as they lifted off. Judging by the state of the hover, Matson was fairly new to these parts. No doubt came out to Temeris IV to make his fortune like a thousand before him. Odds were against him being all that successful. Few struck it rich, although the ones that did tended to strike it so rich that they could get out of mining and make a life being bigwigs in Clementine or other towns on the planet. It was what Rotell Livingston and the other town council members had done-- they were all former miners who had hit it fast and rich enough to leave that life forever. You could never tell by the way they acted now that they'd once been as rough as Matson here. Just like you couldn't tell that their spouses used to be far less respectable--prostitution in varying degrees being almost as popular a profession as mining on Temeris IV.

Matson glanced over at her, gave her a shaky smile. "You been here long, Doc...tor Chapel?"

"Long enough to know not to ask nosy questions."

"Oh. Okay." He busied himself with the hover's controls. "Didn't mean to intrude."

He sounded so uncomfortable that Chapel almost took pity on him. Almost. Instead she ignored him, staring out the window. She'd been on the planet for a year now; Ken had left her a little before that. She could still hear his words. "I need to find myself." Back then, she didn't ask sarcastic questions like "Don't you have to lose yourself first for that to work?" Back then she was still nice. Still sweet. Fat lot of good that did her. Her husband had needed to find himself. The next day, when she'd gone back to the apartment they had shared to pick up some things, she'd discovered the woman that he was finding himself with. Delara Nihiar had been an associate of his. One he'd traveled with extensively. One whose company he'd always made it seem like he didn't really enjoy much. He'd sure seemed to be enjoying her company when Chapel had walked in on them in bed.

She'd grown up quick that day. Pain did that for a person. Pain and humiliation. Didn't help that all her friends had known what had happened but hadn't seemed to know what to say. Some had just ignored it. Others-- ones that had been their friends rather than just hers--had chosen sides. And a lot of them hadn't chosen her. She'd grown sick of the pitying looks. Tired of the carefully couched questions. And utterly frustrated with the looks she'd gotten every time she'd become the least bit angry. She hadn't been due to retire for several more years, so she'd cashed out as they used to say and searched for a world where no one would know her, or her story. Where no one would pity her. And she'd found it. No one gave a damn about her here, and that was just fine. She could be as angry as she wanted to and no one told her it was out of character, or just a phase. No one suggested she see a counselor or take some meds or maybe have a little nap. It had boggled her mind that nearly all her friends had seemed to view the anger and pain inside her as something illegitimate, something that should go away as quickly as possible. They hadn't wanted to hear about how Chapel had felt suffocated by the emotions inside her, how she had wanted to strike out at anyone and anything. Fine, they didn't have to hear about it. She'd deal with her pain her own way, far from anything or anyone she'd known before.

The hover slowed and she saw the flags that marked Matson's claim. It was in an area that had not been extensively mined. Maybe he would get lucky after all, strike it rich one day and come striding into town with latinum dust trailing from his boots. The planet was loaded with it, even if the latinum itself was elusive, the triciclimene deposits that were found in the latinum veins threw ghosts at the sensors, making the latinum impossible to find through normal 24th century methods. So they took their laser pick-axes and started digging, hunting for the mineral the way their 19th century counterparts would have.

She looked down, saw the trees part in a clearing and realized that Matson was going to land there. He was good with the little hover, touching down gently on the forest floor. As he turned off the engine, she reached over and opened the door before he could crawl over her to do it. She grabbed her gear and strode off in the direction he indicated. As she walked, a flicker of lights through the trees caught her attention. "What's that?"

"Mountain lake," Matson said. "Nice big one. Lots of fish."

"You go swimming in there?"

"Hell, no. It's too cold. Fed by streams coming straight down from the snows."

It sounded wonderful to Chapel. She loved swimming, hadn't done it for a long time, especially not in water that cold.

"You're welcome to swim in it," Matson said.

She shot him a look, trying to figure out his motivation. "Didn't come here to swim."

He held up a hand. "You were the one that asked about swimming."

She could tell he was confused by her attitude. Again she felt bad for him. "You're right, I did. Sorry. And thanks. Maybe I will someday." She knew she wouldn't.

The mine came into sight and she saw all the signs of newcomers in the equipment that wasn't locked up, the food that was sitting out no doubt attracting hungry wild animals, and the gold pans stacked in a pile in the back. "Bought the stories did you?"

He blushed. "They said the latinum was everywhere. Panning in a creek sounded a hell of a lot easier than digging."

She laughed. "Did you happen to notice those images were left over from the Klondike Gold Rush?" The seller of the gold pans had never actually come out and said that they could be used for Temeris IV, or that they were good for panning for latinum. But he had implied it and there were plenty of new and even some old-time miners who had a stack of useless gold pans in their inventory. She pointed to the laser axes lying out in the open. "You should lock your equipment up."

"No one's going to steal it," he muttered.

"You really want to chance that? Believe me, I've seen it happen."

He didn't answer except to say, "Watch your head," as they came to the mine entrance. But she had already ducked under the low beam. "Guess you're used to getting around the mines?"

She nodded. "I'm in and out of them all the time. You'd be amazed how many ways a person can get hurt in one of these." As she rounded a corner she saw a man sitting on the floor. He was leaning back against the wall, and she could tell by the set of his jaw that he was in a great deal of pain. "You LaTral?" she asked without preamble.

"That's me," he looked her over. "You really ex-Fleet?"

"Who told you that?" She ran her scanner over his leg. Matson had been right. Nasty break.

"Stories get around. Ex-fleet docs usually don't end up somewhere like Temeris IV." He leaned forward. "Am I going to walk again?"

She shot him a look, even as she loaded a hypospray full of painkiller. "Of course you're going to walk. This may be the armpit of the galaxy, but last I checked, it's still the 24th century."

"Barely," he said with a grin. It made him look very young, despite the dirt and dust streaked on his face. "Besides, a few more years and we'll be in the 25th. I just hope I see it." He looked down at his leg worriedly.

She relented a bit, smiled at him reassuringly. "This leg won't keep you from seeing it. Just be more careful in the future. Did you have a collapse?"

He nodded. It was an old story. If the latinum deposits had been easier to find, then the Federation mining units would have been in with their ultrasounds, and tunneling equipment, and huge laser drilling machines, and people like Chapel and Matson would never be needed. But with the triciclimene making it impossible to get a decent sensor reading on the latinum, the Federation had little interest in dedicating a unit here. Which left Temeris IV open to anyone willing to use the old-time methods-- trial and error, dig with handheld laser picks and maybe find a big vein. Even a small vein was worth something. So the miners kept looking until they found the latinum, then they cleared the area, and shored up the tunnels they created with whatever supports they could find--logs were preferred but sometimes they used junk metal or leftovers from the prefab housing units. A lot of what they put up was barely strong enough to support all that pressure bearing down and once they began digging and the vibrations started up, it could be a disaster just waiting to happen. She was surprised more people hadn't been seriously hurt over the years. She was thankful though, that they hadn't been. Crush injuries were tricky to treat, if the victims didn't suffocate first.

"Better look away," she said gently, as she numbed his leg with a local. One of the bones had snapped and slipped out of place; she needed to move it before she could begin healing his leg. It wasn't a pretty procedure to watch or to listen to. The sound of bone grating on bone didn't bother her, but she couldn't say the same for most of her patients. "This isn't going to sound nice. But it'll be over quick." She didn't wait for him to answer. With sure and careful movements, she moved the bone back to where it should have been resting. She didn't let go until she heard it snap loudly into place.

"Oh god," Matson sounded queasy behind her.

She didn't turn around. "If you're going to throw up, do it outside. If you're going to faint, sit down now." All she needed was that tree of a man toppling over on her. Why were the big ones always such babies? She heard him sit and stifled a grin, but LaTral had seen her.

"Big sissy," he mouthed. The look he shot his partner was full of affection, and Chapel briefly wondered what their relationship was. Then she remembered she didn't care. She ran the scanner over LaTral's leg again, confirmed that the bone was indeed back where it should be. Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a regenerator and began to work on the break, slowly repairing the bone, then the torn tissue around it. Finally, she went to work on the swelling. When she was satisfied with her work, she wrapped some paris-tape around his leg and watched as it set up into a hard cast. "Keep this on for a week to let the bone finish healing. I don't want any strain on it. That means no mining, you understand?"

She looked over at Matson. "I trust you can keep him off his feet?" When he nodded, she put her equipment back into her bag and stood up, brushing the dust off her pants. "Okay then, I'm done here, and there's a whiskey screaming my name back in Clementine." She grimaced as she always did when she had to say the name of the town. Trust Mariah to name the place after the doomed heroine in an old song about the 19th century California gold rush. A song that had become the unofficial anthem of the town, and was sung far too often for Chapel's taste. 'Lost and gone forever' reminded her too much of Ken. Or of Roger. She supposed it could refer to Spock too, but she was over that stupid crush and she refused to count him with the others. She'd been married to Ken for years. Had loved Roger and then searched for him for almost as long. Spock? Spock had been nothing compared to them. A blip on the sensor screen, barely deserving a second thought.

She helped LaTral up, watched as he gingerly tried walking. Satisfied that he was going to be okay, she led them to the surface. To her irritation, that damn song was still running through her mind. Dreadful sorry, indeed. Her mood was blacker than normal, but it was nothing that a good stiff whiskey couldn't fix.


Spock sat at the extradition hearing, waiting for the decision to be handed down. He saw Kirk glance at him worriedly, then his friend looked down at Spock's hands.

"You okay?" Kirk asked softly.

Spock slowly unclenched his fingers, realized he had been grinding down with his teeth and let his jaw relax too. "Of course, Jim."

It was a lie. He knew it, and he knew that Kirk knew it too. He was not okay, had not been okay since that day he had discovered that Valeris, first his protege and later his lover, had betrayed them all. She had been responsible for the assassination of Gorkon, had worked with others to bring down everything Spock had held dear. She had tried to ruin his great plan for future peace with the Klingons, and Spock had been too wrapped up in his own dreams to notice.

He felt his jaw tightening again, forced himself to stop clenching his teeth. He saw Valeris turn around from where she sat in the accused box. She searched the crowd, her eyes finally settling on him. He thought a shudder went through her as their eyes met and she turned away. He knew why she shivered, remembered with perfect clarity that moment on the bridge when he had taken her mind, ripping through it and hurting her badly in the process. He had ignored her low mindvoice, so familiar at that point from months of melding, as she had said over and over, *Spock, no. Don't do this. I did this for you, for us. To secure our future.*

At the end she had not tried to appeal to his logic or his sentimentality. At the end her mindvoice had been screaming, even if the most her other voice had ever betrayed was a tortured groan.

He had not just hurt her, he had ravaged her, ripping and tearing in his haste and anger. She was fortunate--or not, depending on how this hearing went--to have survived with her sanity intact.

"Spock." Jim's voice cut into his memories.

Spock realized he was gripping the arm of the chair between them so hard that his fingers had turned white. He let go, tried to seek peace in an old Vulcan discipline, one for children. But the rage inside him made it difficult to still his thoughts.

The rage...and the guilt. Spock saw Valeris turn again, her eyes seeking him out as if she could not turn away. He had loved her. He had believed she had loved him. He did not doubt that even now. But she had betrayed him. His love had meant nothing to her when it came time to make a choice. Her choice had not been him. His mind went back further in time, to hot Vulcan sands and T'Pring stopping him from finalizing their marriage, calling for the challenge. Another betrayal. At least, T'Pring had never loved him. Her crime was less egregious somehow.

The panel came back into the room and Spock forced his thoughts to still, listened as the head of the group, Admiral Komax, said in a firm voice, "It is the resolved opinion of this panel that the accused, Lieutenant Valeris, shall be extradited to representatives of the Klingon Empire, to face justice for her crimes there." The admiral shook his head sadly. Spock knew this had not been an easy decision; the panel had been deliberating for hours.

"Do you have anything to say, Valeris?" The admiral waited for her answer. When she shook her head, he nodded curtly to the Klingon guards waiting, "You may take the prisoner away."

As they approached her, Valeris looked up at Spock one last time; she seemed to be pleading with him to save her. From somewhere deep inside him, fury erupted. *May you rot in that Klingon hell,* he tried to send her. He stood up and saw her eyes widen. Did she really think he would help her? Then he looked down at Kirk. "It is time to go."

Kirk nodded tightly, followed Spock out of the room and down the corridors. "Spock." He hurried to catch up. "Spock, dammit, wait."

Spock stopped but did not turn around. Must fight this anger, must gain control. His hands were clenched into tight fists again and he tried to relax, but he kept seeing Valeris's pleading eyes.

He had just let the woman he loved be led off to her death. He was not sure if that bothered him more because he did not want her to die or because he wanted to kill her himself. Anger seemed to swirl inside him, and he looked over at Kirk. "She will die in there."

Kirk pursed his lips. "Probably. Although she's resourceful. If they sentence her to Rura Pente, she might find a way to survive. Even thrive." He shrugged, in what seemed less a callous gesture than a helpless one. "They may well execute her outright, Spock."

Spock nodded. His friend had offered testimony against extradition. Kirk knew first-hand the horrors of Rura Pente, of the Klingon system of justice. He was an honorable man. Despite what he had suffered at Valeris's hands, he would not condemn her to that hell. Spock wished he could be as noble, that he could find a way to put aside the anger and hurt long enough to feel sympathy for her. But he could not. And these too- strong emotions were eating him up inside.

He saw McCoy coming down the hall. "I just heard. Is it Rura Pente then?"

Kirk looked at Spock, clearly waiting for him to answer. When he did not, Kirk nodded. "That or execution."

McCoy grimaced. "After our short stay in that garden spot, I think I'd prefer execution." He shot a look at Spock. "What do you think of all this?"

Spock gave him the most even look he could muster. "Justice has been done."

McCoy shot him a knowing smile. "Maybe I should rephrase my original question. How do you feel about all this?"

"Emotions are a human failing, Doctor." Spock raised an eyebrow. "I am fortunate to be free of such things." Even as he said it, he could feel anger and pain and guilt warring for control of him. He had a sudden urge to strike out. To hit something, perhaps to knock the tropical plant off of its stand behind Kirk, or to wipe the smirk off McCoy's face with a firm punch. He forced such thoughts away.

"I remember a certain nurse that could attest to you not having any damn feelings, Spock." McCoy's expression was half taunting, half worried. "Although I'm not sure she has any feelings herself these days."

"Where is Chris, Bones?" Kirk seemed to know what McCoy was talking about.

McCoy shrugged. "Last I heard she'd shipped out to some remote mining planet. Real primitive. Lots of trees though, looks like the forest your cabin is in." He looked over at Spock. "You don't care about any of this, I know."

"I did not realize Doctor Chapel had left."

"Why does that not surprise me?" McCoy turned back to Kirk. "I'll tell you what, Jim. I'm damn worried about her. She was so hurt, so angry when Ken left her. I've never seen her like that. Almost out of control. And then it was like she just shut down. Didn't care about anything."

"It was a shock. It's never easy to lose someone you love."

Spock could agree with that. His body still wanted Valeris, even if his heart and mind were united in hatred against her. They had very nearly bonded, were waiting until the Klingon mission was over to formalize their relationship. And all that time that she was linked with him in body or melded with him mind to mind, she had lied to him. How had she lied to him in the meld? He had loved her and she had betrayed him. Mind to mind, she had betrayed him. Spock would have thought it was impossible, realized that he understood nothing. He had thought the meld was sacrosanct. He was a fool. An ignorant fool. He could feel his teeth clenching.

Spock saw that both Kirk and McCoy were staring at him, twin expressions of worry and concern on their faces.

"Spock. Do you think maybe a leave of absence might be in order?" McCoy moved closer, his voice low and only for the three of them. "You've been working so long on this peace plan, and now this. I think it might be good for you to get away."

"I am fine."

Kirk reached down, took his hand, lifting it up and turning the palm so that Spock could see it. "If you're so damn fine, why are you bleeding?"

Spock saw the wounds on his palm, looked down and noticed green stains on his robe. He had not realized that he had torn into his own skin. How had he not noticed that?

McCoy shook his head, began to input something on the padd he carried. "That's it, Spock. Six months leave. Go back to Vulcan, or stay here on Earth. Hell go to Risa if you want, just get away for a while."

"A while is quite different than six months, Doctor. It sounds as if you are suspending me from duty."

"I could make it a year." When Spock did not respond, McCoy shook his head. "Blast it, Spock. You don't have to take the full six months. But I don't want to see you back here in less then two, is that understood?"

Spock looked at Jim, ready to argue but the captain was wearing the expression that brooked no argument. "He's right, Spock. You need some time away. This has been harder on you than on any of us." When Spock opened his mouth to argue, Kirk leaned in and said, "Dammit, for once, just give in. We're not ganging up on you, although it might feel like it. God knows, the two of you have kicked my butt enough times in the past when I needed a break and didn't want to admit it." He shook his head. "You need to get away, to find peace, with no reminders of Valeris or Klingons. Go home, Spock. Rest." He leaned back, gave Spock a firm look. "That's an order."

"My work--"

"--Can wait," McCoy finished for him. "They haven't assigned you a new mission have they?"

"They have not but that does not mean that one is not waiting for me."

Kirk put his hand on Spock's shoulder, let it sit longer than anyone else would have dared. "Get some rest, some perspective. You won't be of use to anyone until you do, old friend." He sighed, and let his hand drop. "I'll see you when you get back."

Spock watched them walk away. He did not want to get some rest. He did not need perspective. What he needed was a new mission, something he could lose himself in. Something that would take his mind off Valeris and how he would like to put his hands around her throat and squeeze until her lovely eyes went dead. He looked down at his hands, saw that blood was still seeping out from beneath his tight fingers.

Sighing in defeat, he headed for his quarters. Very well, if rest was deemed necessary, if perspective was what he needed, he would gain some. But not on Earth and not on Vulcan either. He searched the federation databases, looking for the perfect planet. It was only after he made his reservations and was on the shuttle heading for the far reaches of the Alpha Quadrant that he wondered why he had started his search with the term 'mining.'


Chapel was hunkered down in her favorite booth in the back of Ed's bar. She had a cowboy hat she had liberated from the lost and found pile in the general store pulled down over her face, and was slouching, feet resting on the seat across from her. She was on her second whiskey and by her estimation needed about two more before she'd reach even mildly relaxed much less content. It had not been a good day.

She heard the door open, didn't look up to see who had come in. Then she heard Ed ask in the voice he reserved for newcomers, "Something I can help you with?"

"I am looking for someone." The voice sounded eerily familiar. But there was no way the owner of that voice was here on Temeris IV. No way. She frowned slightly, was about to turn around when she heard him say, "Is that Doctor Chapel?"

"Who wants to know?" Matson asked from his barstool. He had appointed himself her unofficial protector since their first encounter. She wasn't sure why she rated such interest from him, but it amused her and did cut down on the number of folks that harassed her in the bar for stupid reasons. Nobody wanted to try to get through her goon squad of one for just a splinter or a hangnail.

She peeked over at the bar keeping her hat low so that her face wouldn't be seen. Yep. It was Spock. And he was staring right at her. She reached for her drink.

"I served with her. We are old friends."

She snorted the whiskey she had just swallowed, felt a burning in her throat and nose and tried not to choke. Friends? Them? Yeah, right.

"Well, just don't crowd her," Matson said in his helpful voice. "She really hates that."

Some bodyguard. She waited for Spock to get to her. His booted steps sounded no different than anybody else's, boots being the footwear of choice in Clementine. He wasn't in uniform though. Why wasn't he in uniform? He was wearing casual clothes, no funky Vulcan robe, just pants and shirt like anyone else would wear. Anyone else who wasn't the great Captain Spock, savior of the universe--well co-savior, Kirk would have something to say about his place in all that--and architect of the Klingon- Federation peace treaty.

"Doctor Chapel?"

"I'm off the clock," she mumbled. Go away, Spock. I really can't deal with you.

"It is Doctor Chapel, is it not?"

"No, Spock. It's the goddamn tooth fairy." She pushed her hat up and glared at him. "What the hell do you want?"

"Your bedside manner has degenerated somewhat since we last met," he said as he sat down, deliberately knocking her feet off the seat as he did so.

She pushed herself up. "An insult, Spock?"

He did not answer, just studied her.

"Take a damn holo. It might last longer." She pulled her hat back down. Something in his expression was off, and it made her uncomfortable. Without thinking, she reached into her pocket, fingering the little laser scalpel.

"And you are the doctor here?"

"That's right. I'm the doctor. The only one in Clementine, in fact, the only doc for this continent. Now over on the eastern side there's a Doctor Finkelstein in Fort Brilliance and a medic at Way Station Four. But that doesn't help me here in the west and I'm sure you can understand that I'm quite the busy little bee. This is my time off, my free time, time in which I do not have to interact with anyone, unless I want to. And I don't want to. You are seriously interrupting my personal time. So why don't you shove off?"

He did not move.

She leaned forward. "Show's over, Spock. I don't know why you're here, and what's more, I don't care. I just want you to go away and leave me alone."

He nodded agreeably. "Very well."

She watched as he got up slowly, bowed slightly in what she could only describe as a mocking way, and headed for the bar. Taking a seat a few stools down from Matson, he asked Ed for some water. He sipped at his water glass delicately, showing every sign of having settled in for a while. A good long while.

She pushed herself out of the booth, strode up to him and leaned in. "This is not what I meant."

"I did not think merely moving chairs was in the spirit of your words, although it does adhere to the actual language of your request."

She saw Matson frown, as if he were trying to puzzle out what Spock had just said, and figure out if there was any threat to her included in the thought. He looked over at her. "You don't like this guy, Doc?" When she glared at him, he said hurriedly, "I mean Doctor Chapel?"

"Fascinating. He is intimidated by you," Spock said under his breath. He was still looking at her, studiously ignoring Matson, who she knew he could lay down in less time than it would take her to throw back a shot of whiskey.

"Stand down, Matson." She looked at Spock, saw that he was watching her with something akin to humor. A bitter, black humor though. She didn't think she'd ever seen his eyes quite so cold. "What are you doing here?" she asked.

"I am vacationing." He took a sip of his water. The look on his face became even more sardonic. "I was told I needed a vacation, so here I am."

"You had to come here for your little holiday? To my planet?"

"Strangely enough, Doctor Chapel, that is not how it was indicated on the Federation star charts. Had it been, I might have endeavored to pass it by."

She stared at him, unsure if she was imagining the note of venom she heard in his voice. "Next time, I'll be sure to post a warning sign so you won't make that mistake twice. And now that you know I'm here, you can drink your water and go."

He turned to look at her. The dark amusement was back in his expression. She had the strangest feeling that something inside him was feeding off their interaction. Was disconcerted to realize something deep within her was also responding to it. "Get out." She walked back to her seat, pushed her hat back down and took a huge gulp of her whiskey.

She heard boots hit the floor then Ed asking, "Oh buddy, can't you just leave well enough alone?"

Six long strides later, Spock loomed over her. "You cannot tell me what to do."

"What? Are we nine years old now? She looked up at Spock, knew her expression was the mocking one she had perfected lately. "Can too." She snickered, thinking that response put them down to the range of six year olds.

He set his glass on the table and sat down.

"God, Spock. What is it about this that you don't get? I don't want to talk. Go away. Leave me the hell alone."

"I have not finished my water."

She leaned in and grabbed his water glass, downing the remaining liquid in one gulp. She slammed the empty glass back on the table. "There, you're done. Now go."

He moved like a cat, his hand capturing her wrist and pinning it firmly to the table before she could even react. "Do not do that again, Christine."

She had never heard so much menace in his voice. His skin where it touched hers felt hot, and she tried to pull away but he would not let her. She reached into her pocket with her free hand, pulled out the scalpel and held it up, igniting the laser as she did so. "You like that hand, Spock? You want to keep it?"

His eyes met hers and she nearly shivered at the emotion she saw in them. He was angry? He looked down at the scalpel and his lips curled up slightly. "You have changed, Christine. McCoy indicated you had, but I did not understand how much." He let go of her and turned his hand so it lay palm up. There were wounds, four of them, quite deep, still in the early stages of healing.

Self-inflicted, she realized. And he wanted her to know that. Why?

As she looked up at him, he said softly, "I am here for a rest, Doctor. I do not need your permission to stay." He moved his hand, she thought to get away from her but instead he pulled her hand back toward him, let his fingers linger over her skin for a moment. It was clearly a caress. But a dark one. "In fact, it would be in your best interest to stay away from me. I am not quite myself, you see." He let go of her and eased out of the booth.

"The Pon Farr," she guessed.

His expression tightened. "No. Not that. And you will not speak of that again, do you understand?"

Anger ran through her. This was her planet. She'd found it first. And how dare he try to dictate what she would and would not say. "I'm not afraid of you. And I do what I please, Spock."

He glanced down at her, his look now completely controlled. "You must, of course, behave in the manner you believe is correct, Christine."

He turned away, leaving her to wonder what the hell was wrong with him. And when he had become so comfortable with calling her by her first name. Even if each time he did it, it sounded like a threat.


Spock looked around the small housing unit. His new landlady, Mrs. Livingston, wrinkled her nose. "My, it is a little rank in here, isn't it? You give me a few hours and I'll have it smelling fresh and clean. Just needs a good airing out. It's been vacant since Ben Stillwell went back to Mars."

From the staleness of the air, Spock put that departure about five years ago. "If you can get rid of this smell, I will take it." He wasn't sure what he thought would stand as an alternative; this appeared to be the only vacant housing unit in Clementine and he couldn't stay at the hotel the entire time--the rooms might be cheap but the walls were too thin. He had heard everything that happened in town last night. And a lot happened in Clementine at night. A lot of noisy things.

Not that he had to stay in the small graceless town. He didn't _have_ to do anything. But he found he wanted to stay. The reasons for that were illogical and if he were honest with himself somewhat unsettling. But he knew that his recent interaction with Christine had awakened something, had called to all the pain and anger inside him. And they had responded.

"You know there's another fleet person here. Although I believe she resigned, not just on leave like you, Captain." Mrs. Livingston beamed up at him, clearly both in awe of his reputation and also delighted to have scored another high-ranking person for her small town.

He reminded himself that she was the council chairman's wife and no doubt a political animal herself. There were similar men and women on Vulcan as well, holding no rank of their own, but more than content to wield the power of their mate's position. "Yes, Doctor Chapel and I served together." He wondered if the story of their first encounter had reached Mrs. Livingston yet, judged by the approval she was beaming that it had not. He doubted she would be amused that her two dignitaries had behaved in such a volatile manner not five minutes after reuniting. She would be appalled, just as he should be. In fact, if he were thinking rationally, he would catch the next shuttle out of here. Aside from the Pon Farr, he had never behaved with such blatant disregard for logic. Had never pandered so to the emotions that raged inside him. He should leave.

"How long will you be staying, Captain Spock?"

He turned to her, gave her the thoughtfully composed face of a Vulcan who does not know the answer to a question. "I am unsure." Inside, confusion reigned. Why did he want to stay? This was dangerous.

This was dangerous and he found that he did not care.

He picked up his small carryall, did not want it picking up the sour odor of the habitat. "I will be back in a few hours."

In a few hours. Even such lack of specificity was unheard of. Would he back in two hours? Two point five? Three point two five? What did a few hours mean? He walked back to the main street of the town, saw Christine getting into a hover with a miner. No doubt answering a call. The bar would be a safe place to wait.

Safe? Did he feel unsafe around her? Or did he feel that he was not safe to be around. He was unsure. Just as he was unsure when he had begun to think of her as Christine and not as Doctor Chapel.

He should leave. Leave now before it was too late.

He walked into the bar. The bartender looked up and shook his head. "Well, you're a glutton for punishment, aren't you? She's not here."

"I am aware of that." Spock sat down. "My quarters are not ready for habitation."

"You taking Ben Stillwell's place?"

Spock nodded, accepting the water that the bartender set in front of him.

"Well, welcome to Clementine. The water's free here," the bartender said with a smile. "You don't even have to ask. But it would make my day if you order something else."

"I require nothing else."

"Yeah, I pretty much figured that." The bartender looked over at the big man that had seemed so interested in Christine earlier. "You need a refill, Matson?"

"I'm waiting for LaTral."

"Suit yourself." The bartender looked back at Spock. "You're that famous Vulcan, aren't you? Captain Spock? So you and the doc go way back?"

"Yes." Spock sipped at his water, noticed Matson had turned in their direction, was clearly listening in. He gave the man a disapproving look.

"Hey, you want to have a private conversation, get a booth. The bar is open territory." Matson moved over a stool. "I gotta say, it sure doesn't seem like you're on Doctor Chapel's list of favorite people."

The bartender laughed. "Do you think she has a list like that?"

"She likes you, Ed."

"Doesn't count. I pour her liquor."

"She likes LaTral, I think. And me."

Ed laughed harder. "She doesn't like you, Matson, she tolerates you. There's a difference."

"Okay, so it's a short list. Really short. But"--he stabbed out at Spock with a meaty forefinger--"you are definitely not on it."

"I believe you are correct in that assessment." Spock took another sip of his water. There was a time when he had been on the top of that list. When Christine Chapel's regard for him had seemed like the surest thing in his universe. He had not wanted her, but she had loved him and that had often been a balm, even if he had never taken advantage of any of the things she had offered him over the years. She was clearly not offering him anything now. Did that matter? The change in her was surprising, but was it also, in some way he did not fully understand, a disappointment? Had he needed that balm after Valeris had so completely shredded his pride? Had he thought to find healing with a woman to whom he had never even wanted to give a chance? He accepted that it might indeed be why he had come here; he knew his subconscious worked in odd ways. But now? What did he want now? That sweet, giving woman who he had rebuffed was no longer in sight. What could he possibly want from this new Christine Chapel?

"Well, she may not like you, but from where I was standing, things were getting pretty hot back there." Ed shook his head. "Guess some folks just like it a little dangerous. Didn't expect that from a Vulcan though."

Spock did not dignify the remark with a reply. He had never been one of those people. He did not engage in intimacy with a woman unless he cared deeply for her. And in his experience, other than the Pon Farr, sex was a logical way of increasing the intimacy between two partners. A way to merge passion and deep respect, and one he enjoyed immensely. He had certainly never considered it dangerous.

But he had to admit that the feelings his short encounter with Christine had dredged up were unquestionably in that category. There was an anger buried in her, an anger caused he presumed by her divorce, an anger that called to his own.

He should leave.

"I am staying here for an extended period. Do you know of any opportunities for work?" he asked.

Matson stared hard at him. 'You want to work? Aren't you on vacation?"

Spock nodded. "I believe physical labor would be a useful activity." And an excellent outlet for some of his anger. "I am very strong."

Matson looked at Spock's lean frame with disbelief. "Sure you are, buddy."

"You do not believe me?"

Matson thumped his right elbow on the bar, his fingers spread. "Prove it."

Spock resisted a sigh. How many times at the Academy had he had to arm wrestle a bigger cadet to prove he was capable of some task that required strength? He put his right arm on the bar next to Matson's, took his hand. "You realize you are at a disadvantage. Your leverage will be compromised by your seating position."

"I'll risk it." Matson tightened his fingers, waited for Spock to do the same. His eyes widened slightly at Spock's grip. "Ed, you want to do the honors?"

Ed didn't even look up as he said quickly, "One. Two. Three. Go."

Spock barely had to exert pressure to get Matson's arm down; it hit the bar with a resounding thud.

"Two out of three?" Matson asked in a stunned voice.

Ed's head shot up. He took in the tableau. "He beat you?" He laughed. "Damn. I owe you a drink. You just broke the longest winning streak in Clementine arm wrestling history. You sure you don't want something stronger?"

When Spock indicated he was sure, Matson said, "Hey, maybe you could use it to buy the doc a drink? She likes whiskey."

"So I noticed."

"Used to drink it on the rocks, but she gets called away a lot and the ice melts. She hates watered-down whiskey. Drinks it neat now." Ed seemed to realize he was passing on a little too much information and busied himself with wiping some glasses down.

"She is a good doctor?"

"The best," Ed said with a nod.

Spock had the idea he wouldn't lie about that. "She was always a fine healer," he agreed.

"Surly as hell," Ed went on. "But a great doctor. I'm sure she'll warm up to you if you buy her some expensive whiskey."

"It has worked for others?" Spock felt an odd emotional surge at the idea that she might be close to someone else on the planet.

"Well, no." Ed laughed. "But there's a first time for everything."

"So you really want a job? Because me and my partner could use some help, if you don't mind hard work?"

He looked at Matson. "When shall I start?"

"Well, how about tomorrow? We're getting close to a big vein. I can feel it in my bones."

Spock let an eyebrow rise, saw Matson grin.

"You'll see, Captain. It'll be the biggest one yet."

"You may call me Spock. And since you seem so certain, I will not doubt your word."

Another man walked into the bar, he saw Matson and smiled. "What are you doing, Johnny? Talking up our mine again?"

"This is my partner LaTral." He pointed at Spock with his drink, splashing some of it on Spock's shirt. "Spock's gonna work in the mine."

LaTral studied him. "_The_ Spock? The Spock who brought us peace so we don't have to worry about angry Klingons taking our latinum away?" He frowned. "You're going to dig with us?"

"I am on vacation," Spock said, tired of trying to explain why he wanted to work on his vacation. They had no need to know about his volatile emotional state. Or that hard work would be a very good way to make it less volatile.

LaTral seemed to accept the weak answer. "Well, okay then. I have to say, I don't really get the attraction of a dusty, airless mine shaft if you don't own the place. But suit yourself."

"Then it is settled. I shall report tomorrow?"

Matson nodded. "Be here at six am sharp. You can ride with us."

Spock nodded, feeling unaccountably pleased with himself at having defined how his time would be spent. Or some of it in any case.

The door opened and Christine walked in. She had dust on her pants, from treating someone in the depths of a mine, he supposed. "You're still here." She shot him a resigned look. "No shuttle till tomorrow, I guess?"

"He's not leaving, Doctor Chapel. He's gonna stay a while and mine for fun while he's on vacation," Matson said, with a grin at his partner.

Christine's eyebrow went up; Spock found himself wondering if that was a natural gesture or if she had perfected it for him all those years ago on the Enterprise.

"You have no comment?" he asked her.

"Yippee?" she said, turning to Ed. "Where's my damn whiskey?"

The bartender grabbed a plastic sealed glass and peeled the plastic off. "Here you go."

She took the drink and glared at Spock. "Stay the hell away from me." She punctuated each word with a stab of her glass at Spock, but unlike Matson did not spill a drop. Then she drained it and handed it back to Ed. "Another." As soon as he handed it back, she walked away from them, and settled into her usual booth.

"Definitely hot," Ed muttered so low that Spock wouldn't have heard it if he hadn't had Vulcan hearing.


Chapel patted Ezra Livingston on the knee. "Okay, kiddo. You're good to go."

The ten-year-old looked over at his mom. "See, I told you she was nice."

Mariah Livingston looked distinctly uncomfortable. "I never said she wasn't, Ezra."

"Yes, you did. At dinner the other night when you told Dad that--ow!"

"That will be quite enough." She simpered. It was not a pretty expression. "Children repeat everything out of context, don't they?"

Chapel shrugged. "They tell it like it is, that's for sure." She rather enjoyed seeing Mariah squirm. "He's good for his inoculations. And this should help his cough." She handed the woman a bottle of cough syrup. "Try to keep him out of the mines when he's got a cold. All that dust isn't good when he's sick."

"Oh, that's easier said than done, Doctor." Livingston led Ezra to the door, then turned back. "I guess you know that Captain Spock, _the_ Captain Spock, has joined our little community."

Way ahead of you on that one, sweetie. Chapel kept working on the padd, so that Mariah wouldn't see her smirking as she said. "Yes, I heard that."

"You two know each other?"

"Uh huh."

"Well, I was thinking that maybe you could encourage him to stay...you know, permanently."

Chapel gave her a sour look. "Why would I want to do that?"

"You don't like him?"

Chapel sighed. She was trapped. Either way Livingston would have this on the gossip net in minutes. "He's fine." She turned back to the padd. "I have another patient waiting, Mariah. I really have to prep the room."

Fortunately, Livingston didn't question the statement, just nodded understandingly and left. Chapel knew that she'd be on the comm to Fiona Schilling the second she got back to her house. Damn. Why couldn't she just have said something innocuous and let the woman's request go. Did she always have to be so up front?

She prepped the room, which consisted of spraying down the exam table, and called for her last patient of the day.

It was LaTral. "Hey, Doctor Chapel. It's been a week, and I wasn't sure how to get this thing off."

"How's the leg feel?"

"Great. Good as new. Maybe better." He grinned as he hopped up on the exam table. "I can't wait to get back to the mine. I mean, Spock's working out well and all, so no worries there. But I miss the work, the excitement."

She took in his black pants and white shirt. "The dust?"

He laughed. "Well, maybe not that. It's been kind of fun to wear regular clothes again." He pulled up the leg of his pants. "So how are you?"

"I'm fine." She bent down and carefully cut the cast with a small laser saw. It stopped as soon as it sensed flesh instead of manmade material. She gently moved his leg and worked on the other side.

"Johnny said you were admiring the lake."

"Johnny?" She pulled the cast pieces away from his skin, working them gently so she wouldn't tear any skin.

"My partner."

She laughed as she ran a scanner over his leg. "Oh, my faithful bodyguard. Didn't know Matson had a first name."

"Sure he does. Don't you?"

She smiled. "Yes."

"But you aren't going to tell me." He shook his head. "I could just ask Spock."

She looked up at him, struck again by how young he seemed. "What do you want, LaTral?"

He smiled. "I have a first name too. It's Rene." His smile grew; he had to be aware of how disarming it was. "I just wanted to say you should come up and swim. It's a good lake. Or you could have lunch with us sometime."

"I'll think about it." She pulled his pant leg down. "You can get down now. You're all fixed."

"You won't think about it. But that's okay." He took a few tentative steps, then smiled. "You're good, Doc."

She didn't correct him on her title. "Any first year medical student could have done what I did."

"Not with your finesse." He smiled again. "I'm a fan, Doc. You're not going to get rid of me or Matson very easily."

"Lucky me," she said as she rolled her eyes. "Now, git. I have things to do."

"Okay." He stopped at the door. "See you at the bar later?"

"Is there anything else to do here?"

He grinned wickedly.

"Forget I asked." She watched him leave, realized after he was gone that she was grinning. Shaking her head, she cleaned up the exam room and headed for her office. She had about an hour's worth of work if she wanted to do it tonight. She glanced across the street to the bar. It looked so inviting, bright lights shining into the early evening gloom. Ed had upgraded his lighting again, she realized. Before too long he'd be rivaling the Vegas strip or the pleasure sector on New Bangkok.

She decided to call it a day. The wind had died down and for once no dust blew into her eyes as she crossed the street. The bar was only moderately crowded, but she saw Spock standing with Matson and LaTral. He and Matson were both covered with dust. She ignored them, saw LaTral wink at her even as he moved closer to his partner. She shook her head and took her drink over to her favorite booth, which was currently occupied by a group of teenagers.

"You're in my booth."

Three of the boys slid out and hurried off to another table. But the last one, a new kid she didn't recognize looked around the booth with a sulky arrogance and said, "I don't see your name on it."

"It's there, if you know where to look. Now get out."

"Maybe you should come in here and show me."

"Perhaps we both should?" Spock answered for her.

"I don't need your help," she said, trying not to sound shrill. She turned to face Spock and realized he was standing too close, much too close. "You're covered with dust, get away from me." She took a step back, toward the booth.

"I doubt that bothers you, Christine. You are in and out of the mines all day. I think something else is bothering you." Spock took a step toward her, forcing her back. Another step and he had her pinned against the table. "LaTral said to bring you this." He held up a general store package.

She took it from him, looked inside. A bathing suit. Of course. And it looked like her size too. She closed her eyes, tried to keep her voice controlled. "Fine, you've brought it to me. Now get away from me."

"As you wish." He waited a second too long before turning and heading back to the bar. She could tell he had known he was making her uncomfortable and that he was enjoying it. What the hell was wrong with him?

"That was weird," the kid in her booth said.

"Get the hell out. Now." She felt the anger rise, the anger she hadn't been able to conjure the first time she'd told him to clear out.

The kid turned white, slid out of the booth quickly. "Get a grip, lady, it's just a booth."

She sat down, took a deep gulp of the whiskey. "It's my booth," she muttered to herself. "My booth, my planet." She glared over at Spock, wished she could scare him off as easy as she had the teen squatter. So far it did not look like much of a prospect. Like it or not, Spock was here. She just prayed it wasn't for very long.

She finished her drink and gestured to Ed to bring her another--a triple this time. It was going to take a hell of a lot of whiskey to turn this into a good night.


"Time to call it a day, Spock," LaTral yelled down the passageway to him. "You're putting us all to shame, buddy. Even Johnny can't keep up with you."

Spock turned back, saw that he had indeed cleared a great deal of property. He put the laser axe down and wiped his face. To his surprise, he was enjoying himself. There was something soothing about landing the solid blows, keeping a rhythm as he swung then rested. And there was no reason to hold back. He could strike hard. As hard as he wanted. For once, his emotions worked for him, urging him on.

"We're going to the bar. You coming?" Matson picked up Spock's laser axe to put it away for the night.

Spock nodded. He knew his former shipmates would be shocked that he would spend any time in a bar, much less as many hours as he had been spending at Ed's. He liked the company, the way they expected nothing from him, letting him be if he did not want to talk, welcoming him into the conversation if he had something to say. And he liked to watch Christine. She was part of the group, yet apart. Like he was. It fascinated him. When had she become such a loner? He remembered her as being close to other women in the crew, but here she appeared to have no close friends.

And when had she become someone that could scare burly miners. Not just out of her booth, he'd seen them give way to her in other matters. Spock wondered what she said. Or did something show in her eyes? The same thing he saw when she was angry with him? It was anger. Pure, unadulterated rage. He recognized it as the same thing he was fighting inside himself. He wished he had asked McCoy about her. What had happened to her marriage? He knew divorce was difficult but this seemed like more.

His interaction with her the night he had given her LaTral's present had left him feeling deeply satisfied, much as he used to feel when he won a point in the eternal round of insults that he and McCoy engaged in. He had put her off balance, and he had enjoyed it.

And she had smelled so pleasant. A mix of medical soap and perfume and her own natural scent. Spock had noticed that her scent grew stronger the angrier she had become. It had been what made him move closer to her, made him push her back against the table. He had enjoyed that moment, her scent growing, her eyes dilating as her emotions grew, gathered strength. A small part of him had said to move back, to give her room. But he had ignored that more rational part. He did not know if it was the primitive Vulcan buried deep within him or the Human that wanted to push her, wanted to see what other emotions he could provoke. And he was not sure he cared.

But he knew that there was a point after which this would no longer be harmless. There was a line he should not cross, no matter how much he might enjoy pushing her. So tonight he would leave her alone just as he had left her alone the night before and the night before that and the night before that. She would sit in her booth, and he would stay at the bar, and they would ignore each other as if there was a galaxy between them and not just a hard wood floor.

The hover ride to town was short and he followed Matson and LaTral into the bar. He saw Christine at the bar instead of her booth, which sat empty. Curious. She was smiling at him in an odd way. It was not a welcoming expression. Indeed, it struck him as more predatory than anything else. He turned away, took the water that Ed offered him, tried to ignore her as she moved close to him.

"I understand now," her voice was low, husky. As if she was trying to seduce him. "I made some calls. Got the scoop on what's been going on in your life." She drank from her glass deeply, then put it down. "What was her name? Valerie?"

He could feel his mouth tighten. Do not go there, Christine.

"No...Valeris. Yes, that was it." She had been looking down, now she looked up slowly, staring at him forcefully, her expression taunting. "The biggest traitor Star Fleet has ever known was in your bed, Spock? That is too rich." She grinned. "You were screwing her and you didn't even know."

"Leave it alone, Christine."

She leaned in close, moved her face languidly along his until she was whispering in his ear. "Don't like to hear about her, do you? But you're going to. Every damn day until you go away. This is my planet. I don't want you here."

She took the water glass and put it down on the bar. "Spock was just leaving." She smiled as she turned him to face the door. "Forever," she said so low that only he could hear.

He gripped her hand hard. "We are both going. Good night."

A chorus of good nights followed as he pulled her out into the street. Her shock wore off as soon as the door slammed behind them. She tried to pry his hand off her. "Let go of me," she said as she gave up on moving his hand and reached toward her pocket.

"Not twice, Christine. What was that saying of Mister Scott's?" He pushed her up against the wall of the bar, pinning her hand before she could reach her little scalpel. "Shame on you, shame on me? Is that not how it went?"

She squirmed and the movement was like an electric shock against his body. He leaned against her harder. "What will you do now? You cannot use your laser scalpel. And your bodyguard appears to have abandoned you."

"I don't need Matson." She twisted one way then another. Her knee came up and he moved quickly to avoid it. She had the opening she needed, pulled out the scalpel and said, "Give me a reason, Spock."

He stared at her, putting every inch of Vulcan disdain in his expression as he said, "It is understandable that your husband left you." Then he let go of her, turned around, and headed to his house.

He heard her coming up behind him as he rounded the corner and headed the two blocks to his small house. "Go to bed, Doctor Chapel, you have nothing that I want." He heard her stop, thought he heard her sob. Why did it feel good to hurt her? Why did it make him feel alive, aroused? Why did he want to pull her to him and touch her and insult her until there was nothing left to say, or to touch...or to kiss?

To kiss. He wanted her.

He opened his door, turned as he heard her coming up fast behind him. There were tears in her eyes, but she was not crying. He knew the difference between angry tears and tears of sadness. She was definitely in a rage.

"You bastard," she said softly, the scalpel activated and shining in the low light of the front room as it came flashing down at him. He knocked it away as easily as he had knocked the phaser out of Valeris's hand in sickbay that night when they had finally trapped her, finally found unequivocal proof of her involvement. The night his world had blown apart.

Christine looked at the scalpel, as if assessing whether she could get it before he could get her.

"Go home, Christine. You cannot hurt me." He knew she would take it as a dare.

"Did she love you, Spock?" Christine was breathing hard, her eyes were wild.

He had never seen her look more alluring. "She did."

"She didn't love you. She was just using you." She stepped closer to him. "After all, no Vulcan woman wants you for very long." Her smile was a slow, evil thing. He could tell that she knew she had drawn blood with that one.

He reached behind her and slammed the door shut. "What about human women, Christine? Do they want me for years? Or do they forget that they once would have given anything to be touched like this?" He grabbed her, pulled her close.

She didn't answer, just stared at him, tears in her eyes, breathing hard, her body pressing hard against him.

Let her go, the small voice inside him said. Let her go.

He ignored it. Kept seeing Valeris's scornful face as she'd faced him down on the bridge, so sure he would never hurt her.

She had been wrong. He had hurt her.

"You can have me now, Christine. Do you not want me? Want this?" He pushed her against the door and kissed her hard. Then he pulled away, let her go. "Get out."

Her eyes were like obsidian sapphires, the pupils so dilated that he could not see any blue at all. "Screw you," she hissed, as she walked up to him.

He took a step toward her, meeting her. "As you wish."

"Bastard," she said, as she pulled his face to hers.

"Inaccurate," he replied just before their lips met.

The kiss was like touching an unshielded power cable. Electrical current seemed to sizzle and snap between them. He could taste her anger as she opened her mouth to him, feel her rage as she pushed her body against his, grinding in a frenetic motion as he bent her backwards. He heard a groan, realized he had made the sound. He turned her and pushed her into the bedroom, tearing her clothes off even as he maneuvered her to the bed. She undid his pants then looked up at him. "I hate you."

He nodded. "I accept that."

She yanked his pants off with one firm movement, tore the rest of his clothes off and pulled him down to her as she fell backward to the bed. Her legs came up, wrapping around him as he kissed her, bit at her neck, her lip. The feel of her skin against his, the taste of her mouth, her scent coming up and surrounding him, it was all too much. He moved slightly, found his way into her, nearly lost control at the sensation she was provoking as she tightened around him. He fought to maintain some mastery of his own will; he did not want to hurt her, not that way. She was human, not Vulcan. Not that he had ever been this way with Valeris. Theirs had been a logical mating filled with regard. Not this hot, turgid, completely mindless lust that was threatening to strangle him as he moved faster and harder inside Christine. She was clawing his back and he looked down at her, forced himself to make sure she was all right.

Her head was thrown back and she was flushed. She suddenly clenched around him and cried out. As he watched her, spasms shaking her body, he increased his movements. She held on to him, her arms thrown around his neck, her short fingernails again digging into his back. He cried out loudly as he reached completion, his thrusts coming harder than ever. When it was over, he rolled off of her, laid next to her on the bed. Close but not touching.

She looked over at him. Her eyes were languid but he thought he saw confusion and some deep sadness there as well. She seemed to be considering something, and he could not tell what it was. Then she closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, he saw the Christine from the bar.

"Better than Valeris?" she asked scornfully. Her eyes darkened, as she rolled over and stared down at him. "You were certainly better than I expected." She started to rise.

He reached out and stopped her, his hand in her hair causing her to grimace. "We are not finished here."

"That's not your decision to make." She tried to pull away but winced again when he did not release her hair.

Pulling her close to him, he leaned over so he was covering her body with his own. He let go of her hair, reached down and began to stroke her.

"I hate you," she whispered.

"You have already indicated that." He kissed her deeply, hungrily, as if he could not get enough of her. "I am not overly fond of you either, Christine. But your talent in bed seems to offset your rather unpredictable personality." She bucked under his touch and he felt his own body responding. He wanted her again. Wanted her so much. Too much? that little voice inside of him whispered. Let her go, it seemed to say. But it was drowned out by the feeling of Christine reaching for him, her hand encircling him, bringing him pleasure, so much pleasure.

Pleasure that was supplanted by a greater one as she took him into her mouth. The sensations overwhelmed him, warm and firm, moist and tight, so tight. He threw his head back, his hand again finding her hair, this time to caress and stroke, not restrain. "Yessss," he hissed, the sound not something he knew he was even capable of making.

She slid up his body, her flesh cool as she rubbed along his own hot skin. Climbing on top of him, she impaled him inside her. "Spock," she moaned, and he was not sure if she knew that she had cried out his name.

He reached up, let his hands roam her body, touching and stroking and pinching lightly. She began to buck again, and he felt himself stiffen and explode as she clenched around him. She collapsed on top of him. A moment later she pushed herself off him and crawled to the top of the bed.

He felt cold after having her warmth surrounding him. Looking over at her, he saw that she was staring at him, her expression unreadable. Her skin was flushed, her hair slightly damp. He reached out, saw her flinch. "Christine?"

He had the sudden thought that this was a moment that could change everything, and Christine seemed to realize that. She pushed herself off the bed, and grabbed her clothes.

He sat up. "I will not try to stop you. There is no cause for panic." He could hear scorn settling back into his voice.

"I'm not panicking. I'm disgusted. I want out of here." She hurried out to the other room and he heard her rustling around behind the chair for her scalpel. Then the door opened and slammed behind her.

He lay where he was for a long time, not moving, trying not to think about what had just happened. But he kept replaying it in his mind. He swallowed, realized his mouth was unbearably dry. Going into the bathroom, he splashed water on his face, then drank deeply, filling the cup over and over. As he stared at himself in the mirror, he wondered where the Spock he had thought he was had gone. He had just had sex with a woman who hated him, who he did not even know if he wanted other than in the way he'd just had her. Who was he that he could do this? And why wasn't he more concerned? Why was he still thinking of how he would like to pull her to him and--

He turned off the light, cutting access to a reflection that gave him no answers. Walking into the bedroom, he crawled onto the bed, breathing deeply as he tried to find her scent on the bedspread. Once he found it, he pulled the rest of the spread over himself and let the warmth of the covers and the smell of Christine lull him into an uneasy sleep.

-----------End part 1 of 2 -------------