Dregs by Djinn

The sidewalk at this hour of the night is empty. Empty like Spock's quarters on the Enterprise. Empty like McCoy's seat at the debriefing. Empty like Kirk's life feels.

Spock is dead. Kirk mutters it as he walks. A cadence of sorts. Spock is dead. Spock is dead. Step, step, step. Step, step, step. Keep walking, keep going. As if everything is all right. As if his best friend isn't gone forever. As if his next closest friend isn't going mad because of it.

Step, just step. Keep walking. But walking where? To what?

He wishes Carol were here. She should be with him. She smiled like she would be with him. On the ship, when they came back with a crew full of battle-shaken cadets and no Vulcan first officer. But where is Carol now? Genesis is declared a forbidden topic, and suddenly she is gone too?

But she isn't gone. He saw her in the hall, earlier, when he was walking to the debriefing. She smiled at him. But she didn't wait, didn't seem to care that she represented hope to him. She could have been home and a soft, warm place to land. Could have been all the things he never had. Things he always wants.

Things he'll never get.

He was a fool to think that he even had a chance. Especially with Carol.

Alone. Alone. Alone. It's replaced the whining rant about being old. He's not sure which is worse. Wonders why he's left behind, why he's expected to pick up the pieces? When does he get to collapse?

A captain goes down with his ship. Nothing in the rules about collapsing.

McCoy's building is in front of him. Did he mean to come here? He turns into the doorway. He will see his friend. Maybe McCoy is better.

He sees a familiar figure in the lobby, pacing as if waiting for something. At her look, he realizes she was waiting for him.

"Admiral?"

"Chapel."

She's wearing commander's bars. He forgot she was promoted. Tries to remember where she's been posted.

"I checked on McCoy." Her voice isn't soft anymore. It's hard and businesslike.

He decides he doesn't like it. "Why? Nobody asked you to."

She blinks, not expecting an attack.

He walks past her. She has no business here. She wasn't part of this, isn't part of this. Left them all when she left the ship.

A captain goes down with the ship. Everyone else gets to leave. Gets to leave him.

"Sir, wait."

He rings for the elevator, ignores her as she stands to his side. "Later, Chapel."

She sighs, and he fights the urge to take the stairs just to get away from her. Why the hell is she here, anyway?

The door opens, he's about to walk in and she stops him, her hand firm on his arm.

"Admiral, he's sleeping. Disturbing him now won't do him any good. There's a nurse with him, I've seen to that. He's fine."

"Good." He shakes her off, moves into the elevator. "Thank you. Good night."

She follows him in. Pushes his hand away as he is about to select McCoy's floor. She hits the button for the roof garden.

"Damn it, Chapel."

"You used to call me Christine."

"You used to be part of my crew." He looks at her, tries to find the soft, blonde nurse somewhere in this hard, brunette officer. He fails. "You were different."

"We were all were different, sir."

The door opens. He stands and she waits for a moment. He hopes she'll get off and leave him to ride back down to McCoy's floor alone. But she pushes him and there is surprising strength in her hands as she maneuvers him off the elevator.

The doors close. The roof is empty, benches and chaises waiting just for them. Flowers bloom in the sheltered areas, trees in the areas on the edge. He loves this place. Loved coming up here with Bones, a drink for both of them: scotch for him, bourbon for McCoy. They'd sit for hours. Talking. About anything.

"I love this place," she says.

He feels his mouth pinch, angry that she is part of this place that he wants to think is just his. Angry at the reminder that she did not leave McCoy's life the same way she left the rest of them.

He walks away from her, to the edge, leaning on the sturdy barrier, looking out over a city that used to mean so much to him. A city that seems far too empty to him.

He hears her footsteps and tenses. But she walks past him, out to the small pond full of koi. He considers making a break for the elevator, smiles bitterly at the idea that she is suddenly his jailor.

He walks out to her, a burning taste in his mouth and chest. She turns as he comes close.

"You weren't the only one to lose a friend, you know." Her voice is gentler than before. But not soft, not giving. There is steel in her tone and it angers him.

"You and Spock being such good friends." He spits the last three words out.

"You have no idea what Spock and I were." She is angry and there are tears in her eyes. "And McCoy has been in my life more than yours the last few years. So don't act like I don't have a right to be here."

Rights? He is sick of rights. He wants nothing of rights. By rights, his friend should not be dead and Khan's planet should have been the one to explode. By rights, McCoy should be up here now. Telling her to come back later, to give them some time alone.

"Go away, Christine."

"No." She sits down on a bench.

"Fine. Then I'll go." He starts to walk away.

"Coward."

He turns slowly. "You should watch what you say, Commander. I've had a very bad few days." His smile is the one that bears no humor, is full of malice.

She smiles back. Her expression is no warmer than his. "What are you going to do to me, sir?"

He stalks over to her, then stops as he reaches her. She is staring up at him fearlessly, angrily. Then she sniffs, and a tear appears in her eye, works its way free and falls quickly down her cheek.

"He's gone," she says. "And we're losing Len."

Spock is dead. Spock is dead. Spock is dead.

He sits down heavily, and she scoots away as if he will hurt her. Or as if he is contagious. Maybe he is? Maybe he carries death with him? Typhoid Jim. Bringing destruction down on them all.

It is his fault. He keeps wrestling with that thought. Has not said it aloud. Not until now. "I didn't even know he went down there. I didn't even know he wasn't on the Bridge. I was so caught up in the moment." He can tell he has her full attention. "He was giving his life for us. And I didn't even know."

It is hard to see. He wipes at his eyes angrily.

"You were too late?"

"Too late to save him. Not too late to watch him die. Not too late to have to say goodbye." He wipes at his eyes again. "I didn't want to say goodbye. Wasn't ready."

She is silent, and he is grateful. He doesn't want to know what she thinks, what she feels. She wasn't Spock's friend. She wasn't there. She left the ship.

"A captain goes down with his ship." He doesn't mean to say it aloud.

"Not you. Never you."

He can't decide if there is bitterness in her voice or not.

"Why are you here, Christine?"

"Because I have no one else to mourn with."

He looks over at her, surprised to hear such truth from her. She is not crying, sits still enough to be a statue.

"What were you and Spock to each other?" he asks.

"Lovers. Once." She sees the way his eyes narrow and smiles. "The Pon Farr, Jim." She looks at him defiantly, as if daring him to correct her, to make her stick to protocol.

He does not. There is no one but her now to call him that. "I didn't know."

"No one did. It was do or die, as the Pon Farr seems to be." She sighs, appears to be very far away. "He'd have died without sex; I'd have never let that happen. It could have been awful. But he was kind. In his fashion." She sits back. "We parted ways after that. There was no question of making it a permanent situation."

He watches as her emotions play across her face. She has dropped a mask and is somehow closer to the woman he remembers. But as she turns to look at him, he sees the steel again. Time has changed her.

"You still love him?"

She nods. "But I moved on. I had to. There was nothing left to dream. I had him, and he didn't want me after that. What clearer message could I have gotten?"

"I'm sorry."

She shrugs. "I had him. Only for a moment, but I had him. It was enough to let me grow up, to give up."

"Move on?"

"Yes." She laughs, and the amount of bitterness that she forces into that one sound amazes him. "Or so I thought. Until I heard that he'd been killed."

He sighs, looks out at the city. "I wasn't as close to him as I used to be. He was busy with the cadets, and I was back at Command. Deskbound, again." He smiles tightly. "I miss him."

She takes his hand, her skin comfortingly warm against his own. He squeezes.

"McCoy? How is he?"

"I don't know. One minute he seemed fine. Then he started speaking in Spock's voice." She tries to pull away.

He doesn't let her. "What?"

"He knew things. About the time I spent with Spock. He was talking crazy and it was hard to make out, everything was all mixed up. But he said some things he couldn't have known about. Things that only Spock would know." She looks away. "But that's impossible. And I keep telling myself that I just wanted to hear it."

"Because you loved Spock?"

"Because Spock never loved me. I wanted to believe that some part of him thought of me. But I don't have to ask you if he mentioned me. I know that he didn't." She tugs gently, pulling her hand free.

He nods, lets her figure out what it means. She knows anyway. The truth.

Spock didn't think of her. Spock thought of two things. The ship. And him.

"Did you love him?" she asks, as if she can read his mind.

"Yes." His friendship with Spock is on record.

"Were you in love with him?"

This is newer territory, ground he does not let people stray onto. Ground that he does not feel safe on.

"I won't tell," she says.

He believes her. But he can't answer, doesn't know how. "I don't know."

She sighs, a frustrated sound. "I don't believe that."

"I know I feel emptier than I've ever felt. I know that I'll never run into him again in the halls, or at a function. Or on his ship...my ship." The ship is yours, Spock said. The ship and Spock were his. For that moment, again and forever. Until death.

Where does friendship end and love begin? Does it matter if you throw passion into the mix? He had never, would never, feel more for a person than he had for Spock. That is the only truth he knows. And Spock is dead.

Spock is dead. Spock is dead. Spock is dead.

"I think he was in love with you," she says.

He shrugs. "Too late now." Too late to know and not something he would have pushed. Spock was his friend. That had been enough. For both of them.

"I've spent much of my life hating you."

The admission surprises him. Not the words, but that she would say it. He turns, studies her. It is hard to find the nurse that he and Spock and Bones so cavalierly dismissed. The nurse that they all took for granted. She is stronger, but less solid, less devoted. He senses that her new loyalty is to herself, that anything else wavers. That she does not pine, does not long, does not suffer rejection.

"I'm sorry," he says. "I couldn't change the way he felt about you."

"I know. Neither could I." She grins, a sad, quirky smile. She gets up, reaches for his hand. "I don't hate you now."

"Why not?" He does not reach back.

She drops her hand. Her eyes are shuttered as she says. "Because I grew up. Because he's gone. Because neither of us have much left."

"Except each other." This time it is he that reaches for her. As her fingers clasp his, he lets her pull him up.

"I live in this building," she says softly.

He laughs. So much he doesn't know. "Are you and McCoy...?"

She smiles, an embarrassed smile. "Sometimes. It's nothing."

"Are you sure?"

She nods. "I can recognize nothing--it's easy to diagnose." She closes her eyes as if the words have hurt her.

"He doesn't love you?"

She shakes her head. "Maybe he does. But I don't love him and he knows that. He doesn't push. It's just what I said. Sometimes but nothing."

He wonders for a moment if her attitude is payback for all those years McCoy teased her about Spock, took her for granted. Then he thinks better of her. Surely she would not be that cruel.

But he does not know her. Not this hard Christine and not the soft one either. He never knew her. Not well. Not enough to read any messages that might lie behind those steely blue eyes that seem to gleam as they step into the elevator. Or to read the strange, fierce determination in her face as she unlocks the door of her apartment, draws him in and locks the door behind them.

And he finds he doesn't care. Finds that he only wants to feel someone, anyone pushing back against him. To reach out and connect with warmth, not pain and grief and emptiness.

And she is warm, her skin silken as she slides against him, as he exposes more of it and she undresses him. She is life--throbbing, thundering life as he takes her over and over. And he thinks that maybe he is life for her as she cries out at his touches.

And afterwards her bed is soft and her covers sweetly heavy as they lie next to each other, not speaking. Her hand is tight on his waist; his is running up and down her arm.

He wants to ask her if she was thinking of Spock. She didn't call out Spock's name. Didn't call out any names, just made incoherent sounds.

He doesn't think he called out any names either.

As he turns to watch her, he begins to feel awkward, wondering if he should go. Wondering why he does not want to. They came together for solace. Nothing more. And that solace has been given. He does not have anything left for her tonight.

"You can stay," she whispers, as if his thoughts have leaked out through his fingers into her skin. She looks up at him. "Stay." The suggestion is more now. Not a plea, nothing so desperate. But a wish, a prayer. A truth.

Stay. Where there is warmth. Hope. A soft place to land.

Her body is very soft. Her bed even softer.

He snuggles into the warmth. "Are you sure?"

He realizes he very much wants her to say yes.

She kisses him, a gentle touch on his lips. He frowns, wondering why he is feeling overwhelmed, what she represents to him. At one time, for a brief moment, she was Spock's. Is that what attracts him? Or does he find the woman alluring all on her own? Does he want her for herself or because she is the closest thing left to having Spock?

And why does she want him?

And does it even matter? Does anything matter anymore? If there is warmth, and touch, and soft, caring hands, does it matter why they are there?

He kisses her, softly, tenderly, allowing himself to explore the way she feels. Wondering if he would like to lie with her in this bed again. A series of encounters, not just this sharing of pain.

He wonders what she wants. Is she glad now she is with him, or merely coming down from having tasted Spock's love secondhand?

"We can see McCoy in the morning," she says sleepily, nestling into his chest.

"Yes," he agrees.

"Then I have to go." She is telling him what he needs to know.

He feels his heart beat faster, hates the wave of fear that rushes over him. Fear that he will be alone. Forever.

No warm place for him. Had he really thought there would be?

"But if you want, I can meet you here after work. We can check on him? And, after that, if you're hungry..."

Her words grow softer as she trails off. He feels her stiffen slightly, as if waiting for his rebuff. He wonders if she has been seeking a soft place to land too.

"I'd like that." He runs his hands down her body, tries to tell her by his actions that he wants to see more of her, wants to get to know her, Christine, not just the woman who once made love to the man he loved.

She seems to relax, and he kisses her cheek. She is so soft. The Christine he remembers is still there, is lying in his arms now. But he knows that if she opened her eyes, he might see steel. And he does not mind that there is something stronger, more dangerous in the mix now.

He probably needs it.

"Why did you follow me?" he asks.

She smiles slightly. "Who else should I have followed? How many people knew him? Knew any of us? I left the ship a long time ago, but the Enterprise and all the people on it made me who I am. You and Spock and Len, especially, changed me. I needed to reach out. You were all that's left."

He grimaces.

She kisses him again. "Just as I was all that was left for you. I don't flatter myself that this would have happened in any other situation."

No. He can't see it either. He closes his eyes, murmurs, "Go to sleep, Christine."

She shifts, getting comfortable as he does the same. As he drifts off, he feels her adjusting the covers over them, tucking them in, keeping the warmth from escaping.

Even if only for a moment, it's all he's ever wanted.

FIN