Three Characters in Search of a Life

"Well, well, well." Spock was waiting for them as Chapel followed Kirk into the lounge. He was sitting on top of the bar, kicking his legs back and forth, and stealing olives when the waitress wasn't looking. "Look what the proverbial feline dragged in."

Chapel could tell he'd already had a few too many to drink. "Jim. Don't antagonize him," she whispered.

"Me?" Kirk shot her an innocent look.

The waitress turned around and frowned when she saw Spock reach for another olive.

"All right, all right. I'm getting down." He pushed himself off the bar, landing gracefully in front of Kirk. "Guess 'she' finally got sick of you two."

"Guess again," Kirk muttered. "Even 'she' needs sleep now and then."

Spock rolled his eyes. "She can sleep all she wants. Not like she's doing much with me right now."

"That's not true," Kirk said as he ordered a scotch from the waitress. "She wrote you a story just the other day."

"And had to piggyback an extra story for you onto it." Spock made a face. "Why you couldn't even resist horning in on the actual story. My story." He leered at Chapel. "Our story." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Chapel rolled her eyes.

As the waitress walked by, Spock reached over and liberated Kirk's scotch from the tray.

"Sir!" The waitress said.

"It's on him," Spock said with a leering smile.

"It is not on me. He isn't even supposed to like alcohol." Kirk tried to wrestle the drink away from Spock.

Chapel thought they looked like a couple of six-year-old boys fighting over a yo-yo. She rolled her eyes at the waitress, who laughed at her expression. "Could one or both of you possibly act your age?"

Spock lost his grip on the drink and it went flying all over a very triumphant Kirk.

"There. That'll teach you," Kirk said, as scotch dripped down his face.

"Yes, Jim. That will certainly teach him." Chapel looked at the waitress. "Bring three more, it's on me."

"Actually, it is on him, after all," the waitress said. When nobody laughed, she said, "Whoa, tough room."

"The drinks," Spock said, making a motion that even on Vulcan must mean "chop-chop."

"Everyone's a critic," the waitress said, muttering to herself the entire way around the bar.

"Well, now that we've pissed off the help, maybe we can sit down. I, for one, am tired." Chapel didn't wait to see if they were following, just walked to a table in the back of the bar and gratefully sank into one of the chairs.

Kirk followed her, wiping his face off as he sat down. Chapel noticed he was blinking furiously.

"Doesn't that sting?"

"Like a mother. But I'm not going to tell him that." He grinned at her.

She felt herself responding. It was hard to stay irritated with him, no matter how his little competition with Spock grated on her. She wasn't sure if it was just Spock that grated on her these days, or if it was having to watch Kirk act like an idiot every time Spock was around that bugged her. She'd been so sure that Kirk was mature, thoughtful, and loving. And he was that...when they were alone. But get him with his big green lowlife of a friend, and he acted like a Neanderthal.

Which probably wasn't at all fair to the Neanderthals.

"Hey, Chrissie."

She looked up at Spock, wished not for the first time that he was more like his character. "Yes?"

"I missed you. Did you miss me?"

Before she could answer, he leaned down and kissed her--a rough, open- mouthed, scotch-tasting kiss. She had to punch him in the groin, fairly hard too, to make him let her go.

Spock pulled away, tears in his eyes. "You are such a bitch." He eased into a seat, hands cupped over his more delicate parts. "Why'd you go and do that?"

Kirk watched from his chair. "Man, you never learn. She does not like to be grabbed." He took the drink the waitress handed him, flirting outrageously until the woman began to stammer and blush.

"See, Chrissie? See how much he loves you?" Spock said, as he shifted and grimaced in pain. He moved a bit more, until he was out of range of Chapel's feet and fists, then took one of the remaining scotches off the waitress's tray. "Your great captain is a great lothario. He'll break your heart, toots. And I'm gonna be here to watch."

"Yeah, well at least he's not cheap."

Spock just laughed. "Uh-huh. Should I point out who's buying this round?"

She looked away.

"Why is it, my dearest Christine, that every time I act 'out of character' you call me on it. And every time Jim does it, you just look the other way?" Spock leaned back with a smirk. "It's going to get wearing for you. Making excuses for him all the time."

She looked around for the waitress, but the woman was nowhere to be seen.

"Face it, babe. Jimbo is no more the man you want him to be than I am."

"Jimbo is getting sick of you talking about him like he's not here." Kirk got up and walked to the bar. "Hello?"

The waitress came out from the back room, smiling brightly at him as she moved behind the bar.

Spock watched Kirk with a grin. "I rest my case, sweetheart. He'll break your heart. Count on it." He got up, walked over to the jukebox. "What do you think? 'Stand by your Man' or 'It's a Heartache'?"

Chapel looked over at Spock. He was smiling almost whimsically at her. As if he thought she'd suddenly throw Jim over and run into his arms.

As if. "How about 'What Part of _No_ Don't You Understand'? I think that's the perfect song."

He just laughed at her.

Kirk came back, carrying a huge bowl of popcorn. "She gave me this. Wasn't that sweet?"

"Sweet," Chapel said. She dug into the popcorn. Appearing in so many stories was hard work and she was starving. She tried to think back to when she'd had some time off. Couldn't remember that far. "God, I'm tired."

"I can wake you up," Spock said as he walked back from the jukebox.

The bar was suddenly filled with the sound of electric guitars as an old rock standard started to play.

Chapel and Kirk both glared at him.

Spock held out his hand to her. "Want to dance? The way you did in that story? The one where we were bonded but we didn't get along and you kept screwing around on me. Oh wait, that's just like now."

"Only without the bond," she reminded him.

"One little detail." He smiled. It was not a nice expression. "You were hot in that one."

"She's hot in all of them." Kirk said it passionately, angrily.

Chapel tried not to roll her eyes at his over dramatizing.

"My friend, you were not in that one. Not at all. You have no idea what a little sleaze this one can be."

Kirk got up. "Leave her alone, Spock."

"Oh, says you."

Kirk blinked. "Can't you act even remotely Vulcan?"

"No." Spock laughed, then tugged Chapel to her feet. "Dance with me, dammit."

He pulled her to him, and she careened into his chest. He might not act like a Vulcan, but he was still Vulcan strong.

"Let her go." Kirk's voice was tight with anger.

"Dream on, dream on," Spock said, taunting them both with the chorus, his voice badly off key. When he hit the high notes, the sound nearly ruptured Chapel's eardrums.

She tried to pull away, didn't get far before he yanked her back. "Let me go, Spock."

"All right. Now you're asking for it." Kirk strode to the bar and grabbed a cup of mini plastic swords. He carried it back to them and held it out to Spock. "Choose your weapon, sir."

"You must be joking," Chapel said.

Spock pushed her away. "This is a man thing, sweetheart. You couldn't possibly understand." He pulled a bright pink sword out of the cup, brandished it with a snarled, "En garde!"

Kirk pulled a blue sword out and tossed the cup onto the table. Little plastic swords went everywhere. "This time," he said, as he went into a perfect lunge, "it's personal."

"It's always personal with you two," Chapel muttered as she walked to the bar.

The waitress was hurrying out. "Oh, no. We can't have any violence."

Chapel stopped her. "Listen, Miss..." All the waitresses were named for types of booze. She'd already met Sherry, Riesling, and Kahlua. This waitress had apparently forgotten her nametag and didn't seem to be in any hurry to divulge her name. "Whatever your name is, just let them fight, okay. It only gets worse if you get in the way of their manliness. And how much can they hurt each other with those things, anyway?"

The waitress finally nodded. She walked back behind the bar, but Chapel noticed she kept glancing worriedly in the men's direction.

Chapel pushed herself up onto a barstool and watched the two go. They were fighting madly, swords slashing out and back, blocking and parrying, neither gaining ground, neither giving it either.

She yawned hugely. God help her but she was sick of these two.

There was a ripping sound, and Kirk's shirt sported a huge jagged tear; a tiny little scratch with a few drops of blood appeared on his chest. Spock grinned widely. "I draw first blood."

Kirk, rolled and came up behind Spock. "Yes, but I claim best fake-em-out move."

Spock jumped up and twisted, coming down with his sword out. "But I'll not be faked out for long, Jim." He laughed in what had to be the worst villainous laugh Chapel had ever heard, then pressed the attack, little pink sword glinting as he moved.

Kirk, chest heaving, fought on passionately. Back, forth, left, right. Then a crack echoed through the bar. He threw his broken sword down in disgust and launched himself at Spock, who also threw his sword aside, meeting Kirk's attack fearlessly.

They rolled onto the table, then off it again, landing on their feet, furiously trying to get their hands around the other's neck.

Neither could get the upper hand. Spock was stronger, but Kirk was more agile. There was much grunting and sweating but they seem stalemated.

"Okay, guys. You've proven you are both heartstoppingly macho. Now cut it out."

They ignored her. Continued to circle each other, hands reaching to cut off oxygen. Neither willing to be the one to say uncle.

Chapel looked at the waitress. "Maybe you could hose them down?"

The woman held up the soda water dispenser. "It won't reach." She pulled the hose to its maximum length, just barely above the bar, to prove her point.

"Oh, well." Chapel picked up a bowl of peanuts, began to lob them over toward the two fighting men. Despite being reasonably on target, her missiles had no effect.

"Give up, Jim. Admit that this time I...am... superior." Spock's voice was strained.

"Never!" Kirk spat at him. Literally.

Spock shook his head, spittle running down his cheek. "No fair."

"I'd rather die than give up to you," Kirk said, blinking in surprise when a particularly-well aimed peanut hit him in the back of the head. "Honey, you're not helping."

"I'm bored," Chapel said.

They didn't answer. Just went back to their titanic struggle, their battle between good and slightly-less good, between tall and taller, handsome and handsomer. Chapel sighed. She truly was bored.

"Pssst."

She looked to her side.

"No. Over here."

She looked over to her other side, to the bar entrance where two men were standing out of sight of Kirk and Spock. Both of them waved to her happily, huge grins on their faces.

"Randall? Stephen?"

"Aren't you sick of them?" Kerr asked with a wink, as he cocked a thumb back at her dueling beaux.

"I know we're sick of them," Penhallon said, trying not to yawn.

She nodded slowly. "I may be getting a little uh saturated with them."

"Then come hang with us."

She started to get up. Then sat back down with a mocking laugh. "Who am I kidding? I can't get away from them. Or from her."

"Sweetheart, she hasn't written us in ages. She'll never think to look for you on the Carter." Kerr held his arms out. "Come home with us."

She looked at the two of them. "Us?"

Penhallon smirked. "Surely, you don't think that those two yahoos are the only ones who can share you?"

"But...I thought you two didn't like each other."

"We don't," Kerr said with a silly smile. "But we like them even less."

Chapel looked at Spock and Kirk. They looked like those two strangoid people the Enterprise had picked up on Cheron. The ones who couldn't see beyond black/white and white/black. She downed her drink and slipped off the barstool, started to slip away.

"But what about them?" the waitress asked.

Chapel pretended to zip her lip, lock it, then throw away the key.

"You never saw her leave." Kerr's voice was no-nonsense.

"You never saw her leave, please," Penhallon said with a gently seductive smile.

"I never saw her leave," the waitress said, smiling at Penhallon.

Chapel turned to Kerr, kissed him long and hard.

"Ahem," Penhallon said.

"Go ahead, you know you want to." Kerr looked resigned. "I'd rather share the action with this guy, then watch those two airheads from the sidelines."

Chapel turned to Penhallon, let him pull her into his arms, and promptly realized what all those other women had found out long ago. He was a really awful kisser.

She pulled away. "God, I hate this place." She turned to Kerr. "Don't open your mouth, don't say one more word. I just want to pretend for five minutes that you are remotely like your character."

"He is. He lies a lot," Penhallon said, laughing. "Come on, let's go."

With a last look at her former loves, Chapel let Kerr and Penhallon lead her back to the Carter. "Wait, isn't Sp--"

"--Shhh," Kerr said, holding his hand over her mouth. "Do not say his name."

"The Captain is on indefinite leave, it seems," Penahllon said.

"Then that means that I'm in charge." Chapel started to smile. Maybe this place didn't totally suck, after all.

-----------------

Back in the bar, the waitress watched Spock and Kirk for a moment. Satisfied that they weren't going anywhere, she headed for the door, handing her apron to Vermouth who had just come on shift.

"Hey," Vermouth said. "You forgot this." She held out a name tag.

The waitress smiled, studied it for a moment then handed it back. "They spelled it wrong."

"G-i-n. That's right, isn't it?"

The other waitress patted her hand. "It's been nice knowing you, Vermouth." She grinned broadly, looking out the way Chapel had disappeared, then back at the Kirk and Spock. "Whatever you do, don't break that fight up." She headed for the door.

"But...where are you going?"

The waitress laughed. "Now that I finally have a free moment? I'm going to write something--anything--other than TOS!" And with that she skipped merrily out of the bar, humming the theme song to Voyager.

FIN