Doctor by Djinn

Begin Part 1 of 2

Christine looks up from her desk as a nurse comes in. "Excuse me, Doctor Chapel. I know you're off duty, but there is an admiral here, and you know how they hate waiting."

Christine smiles. She can almost guarantee which admiral it is by the star struck look in the young woman's eyes. "Which room?"

"I put him in five."

She gets up; her research can wait. It always does. She could have gone into the quiet research life full-time but she's chosen to specialize in emergency medicine. She's invested too much time on a ship's sickbay--on the ship's sickbay--to give it up now.

She grabs the padd from the shelf outside room five, knocks as is customary, hears the soft, "Come." She pushes for entry, the door sliding open soundlessly. The techs must have been by. It was squeaking earlier in the week.

She can feel her smile grow as she sees Jim sitting on the exam table. "My favorite patient." She looks at the padd, shakes her head. "What is this? Your fourth dislocated shoulder in as many weeks?" She moves closer, tries to ignore the way her heart rate speeds up.

He always has this effect on her. She believes he always will. She knows that if she took his pulse, it would be faster than normal.

They both want each other. Some things don't change. No matter how much fate says it just won't happen.

"Rock climbing again?" she asks softly as she begins to scan his back and chest. He has bruised a rib this time too.

"I'm working up to El Capitan."

"Jim." She shakes her head. "I'll never understand the mentality of a thrill seeker."

He just grins, the recalcitrant, slightly wicked grin that he is famous for.

She studies his face, sees the grin fade. There is a darker emotion at work here. "Everything okay other than falling off mountains?"

He shrugs, then grimaces as the movement causes pain. "Sure. Why wouldn't it be?"

"Because I know how you look when things are good. And it's not like this." She smiles up at him. It's slightly unfair to trade on the attraction between them to pull confessions from him. But she does it all the time and he seems to expect it.

Besides, she learned a long time ago from watching McCoy that it was fair to use whatever approach works to get a captain to open up. It was for the good of the ship--and of the man. She's already trying to figure out what approach will work best with Decker.

She doesn't anticipate it being pure lust and love denied for years now. Not the way she uses it with Jim. At least she hopes to hell it won't be that.

And if it is, Joe might have something to say about it. He didn't finagle a spot in Engineering on the Enterprise just to watch her flirt with the captain.

"You still with Joe?" Jim asks as if he can read her mind.

But she knows that he is just trying to divert her from his own situation.

"Yep." She smiles softly, trying to show him that things are good with her beau, but that she won't be put off from her own exploratory voyage. "So about you? How's Lori?"

He grimaces.

"That good?" She moves around, admires his back as she works on the injury. Getting older isn't hurting his looks in any way. If anything, he's more attractive to her. "I thought you two were doing all right?"

"You and me both." His laugh is bitter.

She lets her hand rest on his uninjured arm, squeezes gently. "I'm sorry."

"I know." He sighs. "Term marriages are for the birds."

She laughs. "Why's that, oh wise one?" She moves around to the front, figures it's important to see his face for this part.

"I think I'd almost prefer getting a divorce. At least, I'd know there was some effort on her part to end it. But this...the year's up and she just slides away. I looked up last month and poof it was over and she was gone and I still don't know why." He shakes his head. "The hell of it is that I was happy." His face is confused and hurt. Like a little boy who has had his favorite toy pulled away and doesn't understand what he did to deserve such punishment.

She isn't sure what to say, so she settles for stroking his cheek. It's not the recommended doctor-patient interaction, but their relationship isn't really covered in the manuals.

"I love her." He uses his good arm to pull her in close, for a hug. He's in need of closeness, and she doesn't mind obliging.

She is heartily glad that this man won't be her captain. Joe would never understand their relationship. "I'm so sorry, Jim."

They stay like that for a long moment. She feels his lips on her hair, hears him whisper, "I love you, Chris," and knows it covers so much more than the physical. She seems to be the one who hears his heartache, who knows his secrets. Ever since Spock and Len went away, she is the only one left for him.

"I love you too, Jim." She kisses his cheek, then pulls away, goes back to her job. Healing him. His body anyway.

His heart is up to him.

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

The pre-launch party is in full swing. The brass have even descended en masse. Christine looks around the room, feels Joe's hand on her shoulder tighten. She looks up at him--glad that she can do that with him. He's so tall, so strong. And so good to her.

She loves him. She is happy with him. She is glad that he will be with her on the Enterprise.

She does not dwell on the fact that she loved someone else first. That she still does. It is not important. Life is complicated and the heart is able to hold many people--and many loves. There are those who touch your life fleetingly, popping in and out and making your heart race each time they do. And then there are those who actually land. Who take up residence. Joe has done that.

Jim might have done that. But it wasn't their time. They walked away from each other for all the right reasons. She suspects they always will.

"Lots of people," Joe says quietly. He doesn't like crowds. Prefers to stay in with her than have to fight his way through this many people.

But she knows he is proud of her, loves to be seen with her. He tells her so, every time they go out. How much he loves her, how much he values her.

He is the opposite of Roger. Roger let her swim in his wake. He held her in tight orbit with charisma and sex and the heady feeling of belonging to a man who was larger than life. Joe lets her swim any way she wants. Sometimes he follows her, sometimes she follows him. He doesn't have the kind of ego that needs an acolyte. He just wants a lover he can trust and devote himself to.

She's never had anyone who wanted to devote himself to her. It's a little scary. But in a good way. She can be sure of him. For the first time in her life, she can be sure of the man who loves her.

She suspects she is doing a disservice to Jim by including him in those who can't be trusted. She remembers Len's words, has seen enough on her own to know that Jim Kirk is anything but a prowling tomcat. It shocks her more than a little that he doesn't have better luck in love.

It tells her that he's more like her than like Roger. But she shies away from that revelation. It makes it too hard to justify why she stays away.

Except that she doesn't have to justify it. She's with Joe now. Has been for a year. She's not looking, and Jim knows that.

She is very glad Joe is not telepathic. Her mental thought processes are crazy enough for her to deal with, let alone someone who just wants to be sure of her too.

She sees Jim standing by the bar and looks out of habit for Lori. She is not there. She is gone.

They seemed happy to Christine. She wonders what went wrong. Or maybe nothing did. Maybe there just wasn't enough right for Lori to want to continue it. Not a slap at Jim, just not a glowing endorsement either.

But why does it have to be his fault? Lori might be a raving lunatic for all Christine knows. She only ever saw her at these kinds of functions, and Lori always seemed to bristle whenever Christine came near Jim.

What if Lori didn't want to renew the marriage because she knew her husband was in love with someone else? Christine glances up at Joe. He smiles down at her, his expression open and happy. He loves her. He doesn't need to know that Jim loves her too.

He's happier not knowing. It's how Christine justifies the lie of omission. Why wake up that sleeping dog when it will probably just wake up angry and bite the person stupid enough to rouse it?

For now, her biggest problem is how to navigate past the mob near the bar so she can get a glass of wine.

Eventually, they work the room enough to end up in Jim's orbit. Joe's never served with him but he is a fan. He smiles, his approval clear in the way he nods as Jim talks.

Jim only knows about Joe because Christine has told him. She has told her non-lover far more about her lover than she probably should. But they confide in each other. Secrets are all they have left to give.

She drains her drink; Joe notices and goes to the bar for a refill. He does not appear to see how obvious the ploy is, but she knows Jim does.

He smiles slightly. "Wanted some alone time with me, Chris?"

She shrugs. "Maybe. You'll be out of reach soon enough."

"Or you will be." His smile is half sad for him--for them--and half happy for her. He's proud of her. He's proud of how far she's come. He's told her so again and again.

She loves him for it.

She loves him for so many things.

"He's coming back now." He grins. "If I drain mine, do you think he'll leave again?"

She shakes her head.

"Didn't think so." The twinkle in his eyes, tells her that he is kidding. Mostly.

Joe hands her a fresh drink. "Decker's here," he says, pointing with his chin to the door, where their new captain stands. "We should say hi."

She nods. They should say hi.

But she would rather stand here saying goodbye.

Jim takes pity on them. "I'll let you get to that." He wanders away, and she feels half her heart go with him.

She reels it back in sternly.

Loving Jim is fine. Being a fool about it is not.

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

Joe is ranting. Pacing her quarters, which are bigger than his. Nearly pacing up the walls as he raves about the injustice of Jim's maneuver.

He's stolen the ship from Decker.

She wants to laugh; it's such a typical move on Jim's part. She also wants to tell Joe that their chances for surviving the mission have just risen astronomically. She knows Nyota told the bridge crew the same thing.

She says nothing. Just lets Joe rant on. She wonders though how her lover can be such a Kirk fan and not expect exactly this kind of behavior. Jim never gives up, never accepts defeat. And his ship is everything to him. Why does that seem to be such a surprise to Joe?

Finally, she's had enough of words that are becoming more vitriolic. "This thing we're running out to meet, Joe. It's lethal. I'd rather be with a tested captain."

"Tested? Try old. Try out of practice. You know how long it's been since he was in space."

"And Decker's been on this ship, supervising refits. How is that any different?"

She and Joe never fight. They are fighting now.

"He replaced you with McCoy."

"He needed his own CMO back. I'm fine with the demotion."

"I'd expect you to take his side."

"I'm not taking sides. I'm just saying that the brass may have had a reason for doing this. A good reason."

Joe moves closer; there is some strange hurt showing on his face. "I thought you liked Decker."

"I do. But he's not James T. Kirk."

"But then who is?" He stares down at her.

She realizes she is on very shaky ground. "No one. That's why he's a legend."

"Is that what he is to you?"

"What else would he be?" Jim once told her she was clever answering a question with a question. She hopes it works here.

It doesn't. Joe just stares down at her, and as she looks up at him she sees something in his expression shift, move away, run screaming out of the room. She has a sneaking suspicion it is his trust.

He no longer trusts her. And the thought hurts more than she ever expected.

"Joe." She takes his hand, afraid that if she doesn't contain him physically, he'll run. "What are you saying?" Her voice breaks, and it isn't on purpose. Pain wells up as she watches him shutting down on her.

"I've seen the way you light up when you talk to him. I don't know if that's worse or knowing he lights up just as much when he talks to you."

"I like the man. I can't help that." She smiles, tries to make it into a silly thing to be shared. Not a problem. This is not a problem.

"It was okay before. Because I knew we were going to be here, and he was going to be on Earth. But now?"

"Joe. This is a temporary assignment for him. My demotion was flagged as temporary."

"We both know that temporary can turn into permanent real fast." He laughs. It is bitter, a sound she rarely hears from him. "And possession is at least nine-tenths of the law."

"Well, if that's the case, don't you have the upper hand, fella?" She grins at him, moves closer. "If you're so worried about me, maybe you should look at who I spend my time with. Because that would be you. You possess me."

"No, I don't." His words are sad. But something in his tone seems mollified.

She hugs him, kisses his neck. She loves him. She does. He has to accept that.

"Do you love him?" he asks.

"Everybody who's served with him loves him, Joe. I'm with you. I'm in love with you."

It's not a lie. She's worded it carefully enough that it's not a lie.

She's not a bad person for that. She's just trying to hold onto something good, something real.

And Jim's presence on the ship is temporary. She knows it. Joe would know it if he let himself calm down enough to think straight. And Jim knows it.

The only future she sees is one with Joe, and she'll almost lie--or probably even outright lie--if it means saving that.

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

The landing party is a large one. Joe looks at her, then over at Jim and Spock. She thought his jealousy was bad when he was just worried about Jim. Now that Spock has decided to stay on the ship too, the suspicion is getting out of hand.

Which is ludicrous. Spock is more open, yes--with Jim, with Len, hell, even with the bridge crew. But he is in no way inviting Christine in. And that's fine with her. She's over him. Has been over him for a long time.

Quite possibly since she fell even harder for his captain.

She decides to ignore everything but her tricorder. She wanders off from Joe and the others. The planet is beautiful. She will enjoy it. She does enjoy it.

Until Spock decides to make like a housecat that seeks out the one person who isn't calling him or making eye contact. "Doctor Chapel."

She doesn't turn. Maybe he will go away. She has no doubt that Joe is watching the interaction carefully. She wonders if Jim is too.

"Doctor?"

She turns. If she doesn't respond, he'll probably make her go in for hearing tests. "Yes?" She adjusts her tricorder as she answers. Hopefully he will see she is engrossed and wander back off.

"I have not had a chance to congratulate you on your M.D."

Which is not true. He has had ample opportunities. Just probably no desire.

"Thank you."

"Are you enjoying being a doctor?"

She cannot believe Spock has wandered over just to shoot the shit. "Yes, I am. Did you need something, Commander?"

He looks puzzled. "I do. But I assumed small talk would be appreciated. It is customary, is it not?"

"Not from you." She loops the tricorder strap over her wrist, lets the machine dangle. "What do you need?"

"Would you scan the density and types of insect life on this planet? The colonists will be primarily farmers. It will be helpful for them to know which of the insects are beneficial and which are not, especially when designing response systems."

"Sure. That's it?"

He nods. "I am occupied with the soil samples. And the other members of my team are working on the geology and fauna catalogs."

She waves him away. "Say no more. I'll be entomologist girl for the day."

"Thank you, Doctor." He wanders off.

She begins the scans, glad to have something to do. As the Medical rep, her real duty is to be on call for a medical emergency. But she almost always ends up helping with the research. It's just her way.

Just as it's Len's way to hang out with Jim and enjoy a walk on a nice new planet. It bugs her more than she will admit, even to Joe. But it's been Len's way for as long as she has known him. It just bothered her less when she was a nurse than now, when she is one of the ones picking up the slack for him.

She looks down. He's a famous doctor. And her boss again. CMO of the flagship. Is she just envious or resentful that she isn't CMO? Or is she right in thinking that Len sure finds a whole lot of creative ways to not be in sickbay?

And does it matter? It's the way it is. Bitching about it won't change things. Besides, who would she bitch to? She's the deputy. No one else in medical to complain to. And she'd never take it to Jim or Spock.

Probably, if she weren't so on edge because of Joe, Len's behavior wouldn't bother her.

She notices Joe is working his way closer. She sighs. Feels like walking in any other direction but has to finish the scan she just started.

Jim, at least, leaves her alone on the landing parties. He's smart that way. Plus she warned him that Joe isn't as kindly disposed toward their friendship as she once thought.

They still share secrets, she and Jim. It's still the only thing they can share.

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

"You're going to be fine," she says as she pats the child's arm.

The boy smiles up at her. His face is now mercifully free of red welts, and his fever has fallen.

Christine looks out over the makeshift quarantine ward, at the cots full of people even now recovering from the deadly virus. So many people who might have died if the Enterprise hadn't been in the area.

She looks back at the boy. He's her favorite patient but then she's always been a sucker for brave children. There's something so noble--and unbearably tragic--in a kid who knows how to suck up pain.

She runs her hand down his cheek, smiles tenderly. "Go to sleep. You need to rest."

He closes his eyes. She waits until his breathing changes before she leaves him. Walking to the opening of the enclosure, she goes through the first biofield and peels off her gown, mask, and gloves, throwing them into the disintegrator. She walks through the second biofield, feels the snap- zap as it kills any remaining germs on her shoes and clothes.

A nurse passes her, heading back in after sleeping for a while. Another one comes out of the showers and goes into the sleeping tent.

Jim looks up from where he is sitting with Len at the break table and smiles at her. She grabs a cup of coffee and joins them.

Len pushes himself wearily out of his chair as she sits. He dumps out his coffee and goes back into the enclosure. They've been taking turns on the ward. The rest of the doctors and nurses from the ship are working at other hotspots across the southern continent. They were lucky; they managed to contain the virus before it spread to the other landmasses. That would have been catastrophic, beyond their means to help.

Jim hands her a nutrition bar. "Eat."

She pushes it away. "I'm not hungry."

He pushes it back at her. "Eat it anyway."

She gives up arguing, tears into the bag and takes a bite of the synthesized protein and carbs. As ever, it tastes like shit. She frowns, looks for the recycling bucket.

"Take another bite," he says, watching her.

"Do you always know what I'm thinking?"

He just smiles.

She takes another bite.

"He's going to be okay?" Jim was in the ward as soon as they realized the epidemic was cooling down and that he wasn't needed to argue anymore with the local politicos. He went against Len's and her advice and visited the patients, spending the most time with the children. It had been a risky thing to do, but so like him. And he was careful. He followed all the precautions. Except the one that said that the captain of the flagship probably shouldn't be reading bedtime stories in a biohazard area.

She nods. "He's a great kid."

"He reminds me of my son. Or at least what I think my son might have been like."

He told her the story of his son while they were both on Earth. It was one of the secrets they traded. She shared with him that she had known all along who Andrea was modeled on. He was angry with Roger for her. She was angry with Carol Marcus for him. It was a fair trade.

"Do you ever wish you'd made a different decision?" she asks.

He thinks about that. She loves that he does that--thinks about things before answering. "I do. Or maybe I just wish I could have. Because I'm not sure it's in my nature to choose a different path." He smiles at her. "But then you know what that's like, don't you, Doctor?" He puts emphasis on her title, but in a nice way.

They both know what she gave up to earn that title. What they both gave up.

"I know."

"Do you regret it?" he asks.

"No." Their eyes meet. "And yes."

He smiles, a bittersweet smile. He knows what she is saying. "Do you ever think about having kids?"

She nods. She's been thinking about it more since dealing with that one adorable sick boy in particular.

"You'd be a good mom."

"You'd be a good dad."

The smile they share is sad. Then the smile fades from his face and he is looking at her hungrily. She can feel that she is wearing the same look.

It doesn't help that Joe hasn't come down the entire time. He's not afraid of much, but deadly diseases appear to scare him silly.

Jim hasn't missed a day.

Then again, Jim knows Joe won't set foot on the planet. He knows he can have her if he just shows up. Have being a relative term. Although she's so tired right now and so relieved that the worst of the epidemic appears to be over, that she's almost in the mood to grab his hand and drag him off to the nearest group of thick bushes.

"What are you thinking?" He looks amused.

"A very bad thing." She looks down.

"I like bad things." He reaches over, touches her hand, squeezes her fingers. Then he stands up. "I better get back to the ship."

She looks up at him. "You're a good man. Even if you do like bad things."

He grins, but it doesn't really reach his eyes. "You're not mine."

"No. I know." She looks down then. "If I ever do anything that makes it too hard, you'll tell me?"

"I will. It's a fine line. Being friends...not being more. I care for you as a friend too."

She looks up, smiles at the tender look he's giving her. "I know. Same here."

"Get some rest."

"I will," she says.

"And finish that bar." He laughs at her expression. "I know you plan to drop it in the nearest recycler as soon as I'm gone. Promise me you'll eat before you sleep."

"Technically, that's not the healthiest thing to do."

"Chris."

She smiles. As always, arguing with him is a futile process. "I promise."

He accepts her promise with a smile, turns and walks to the beam-out spot.

She doesn't head for the sleeping tent until he is out of sight.

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

"Hold him down," she yells at the nurse, trying desperately to keep Jim on the biobed. Len runs back with the hypo full of antiseizure meds.

She has never been more afraid. Not even when she and Jim were dying on the shuttle. She wasn't afraid at all then. Because she was going with him.

And because she wasn't in love with him then. Now she feels as if half of her world is lying on the biobed, bleeding to death from the strange weapon that the rebels on Cadmius IV bought from the Klingons. The weapon that the rebels decided to test fire on the man she loves.

Len shoots him with the hypo, and Jim finally relaxes.

"Let's get him into surgery," Len says gently.

She meets his eyes, realizes he knows exactly what she feels for their captain. She helps him transfer Jim to the surgical gurney. They wheel him into the operating area together and they operate together, not needing words except to tell the scrub nurse what instruments they want next.

As Len closes, she goes out and makes sure the biobed has been set up the way they need. She resets the antibacterial fields. The nurse shoots her a glance, but Christine ignores her. This isn't a normal patient, for either Len or her.

This is Jim. Nothing can go wrong.

She sits by his bed as he sleeps. Len brings her a cup of coffee, and she drinks it slowly.

He stands by the bed, looking down at Jim. "We almost lost him, Christine."

She nods, unwilling to give the words reality by speaking them out loud. She is more superstitious than McCoy.

Len looks over at her. "Do you love Joe?"

She nods. Unwilling to give those words voice either. But for a totally different reason.

"More than you do Jim?"

She looks away. This is not fair. Not now. Not when they almost lost him. Not when she'd give everything she has just to make sure he is not in pain, that he will wake up again. That he will know them when he does.

"Christine?"

She shrugs. What does he want her to say? That she is with one man when she loves another? How many people can't say that to some extent?

It is a cop out, but it is her cop out. She's perfected it during many late nights when Joe sleeps happily next to her and she is staring at the viewport and wondering if Jim is staring at the stars too.

She loves Joe. She does.

She just loves Jim more.

Len gives up and walks back to his office. She sits by Jim's bed, watches as nurses come and change fluids and check the readings. She could do it for them, knows their job probably better than they do. But she hated it when doctors did that to her. So she just sits, watching Jim sleep.

The nurses don't ask her why she's there. She thinks they must know why she's there; nurses miss nothing. And the one looking at her with such compassion saw how often Jim came down to see her during the quarantine.

Besides, even McCoy isn't sitting by Jim's bed without moving. Even Spock only comes in and checks on his friend, then goes away again. She is the only one who won't be moved. That level of devotion usually only means one thing.

"Christine?" Joe is at the door. He hates coming into sickbay--that germ thing. She wonders why he was interested in a doctor if he dislikes sick people so much.

"Christine," he says again. He never calls her Chris. He tried shortening her name once; she told him she didn't like it.

It wasn't a lie. She doesn't like it--not from him. Only Jim calls her Chris. She wonders if he'll ever call her that again.

Joe moves a few feet into sickbay, which is a huge concession for him. He doesn't even like to come in for his physicals. He motions for her to come to him.

She doesn't want to leave Jim.

If she doesn't leave Jim, she'll lose her lover.

She's almost too tired to care.

Len comes out, moves to her chair, hauls her out of it. "I'll call you if he comes to. You can use my office."

She looks at him. There is no censure in his eyes.

"Do it fast," he says. As if whatever he expects her to do is a surgical procedure.

Or a mercy killing.

She nods. Maybe it is a mercy killing. She walks to Len's office, motions for Joe to join her.

"I waited up," he says.

"Jim's been hurt."

"And there's a lot of other people in sickbay who could take care of him. Including one of his best friends."

She is angry but it is a remote anger. She is too tired to expend energy on a fight. Not when she may need it later for Jim. "I'm one of his best friends too."

This seems to be a revelation to Joe. "Since when?"

She can feel her face shutting down, her eyes are probably cold. Certainly her voice is. "For a long time. Longer than us, Joe."

"Really?" Now his voice is cold.

She nods. "Why did you come down here?"

"To bring you home."

She looks out at the biobed, smiles sadly. "I am home." Then she looks up at him.

He is angry and she doesn't blame him. "You and him? How long?"

"It's not like that. I never cheated on you." Is that true, though? She loves another man and didn't tell him. She let him think that he was the most important person in her life. She let him think he could trust her. She looks up at him, tries to put some warmth back in her expression. "I'm sorry."

"So am I." He looks like he hates her.

She feels regret, even guilt. But at the same time she only wants to be in that chair by that bed by the man who she is not sure will ever open his eyes again.

She is throwing away love to sit by a bed and hope. And there is no other choice she can make.

"I'm sorry, Joe." And then she does the kindest thing. She makes it quick. "Goodbye."

Len knew all along what she would do. Len knows her too well.

Joe never knew her at all. Not the real her.

She doesn't wait to hear his goodbye.

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

Christine is dozing when she hears Jim cough and mutter something. She jerks awake, is on her feet instantly, searching his eyes for any recognition at all. He seizured for so long. Brain damage is possible-- even likely.

She refuses to believe it though. This is James T. Kirk. He will beat any odds. He will be fine.

"Chris?"

She nearly weeps in relief as she touches his cheek. "I'm here, Jim."

He is in pain, and she motions for the nurse to bring her a hypo. Something that will relieve the suffering without sending him into slumber prematurely. Although she expects him to be asleep again soon. His body needs it.

"Are you thirsty?" she asks.

He nods.

A nurse brings him an ice stick to suck on. He licks it greedily, and Christine finds herself evaluating the movement for anything that looks off. But his actions are just those of a hurt and exhausted man.

Her hurt and exhausted man.

It is a dangerous thought. They are not together. They may not be. She should just be happy he is alive and awake and that he knows who she is. That he is looking at her again, that he needs her.

"What is it?" she asks.

"How long have I been out?" His voice is weakening.

"Five days." She strokes his hair back. It's dirty but she doesn't care. Nothing matters except that he is alive.

"Have you slept?"

She starts to answer--starts to lie--and he looks over at the nurse. The nurse slowly shakes her head then flees.

"Chris." He points to the biobed next to his. "Sleep. I know you won't go to your quarters but lie down over there."

"I'm fine."

"You're not." He yawns. "Please, Chris. Please sleep."

She can't help it, she leans down, kisses his cheek. Lets her lips linger on his skin. Cooler now. Not so hot. "I'll sleep when Len comes back, all right?"

He nods, his eyes already closing. "I love you," he says, the sound barely a whisper.

"I love you too." She can feel the tears starting, tears of relief, of sheer exhaustion.

Len comes in, smiles as one of the nurses stops him, points over to Jim's bed. He walks over, studies her and Jim. "He's all right?"

She nods, wipes at the tears. "He wanted me to sleep."

Len points to the biobed. "He is the captain. Do what he says."

She lies down. Is asleep in moments.

When she wakes up, Jim is watching her. She moves to the chair, pulls it closer to the bed. "Hey."

He smiles. His eyes close but he forces them open.

"Don't fight sleep." She takes his hand.

His grasp on hers is weak. Weak like in the shuttle when they died and she feels a moment of panic, then forces it back. He is not dying. He is just tired. Hurt and in shock maybe. But not dying.

He forces his eyes open again. "Doesn't Joe wonder where you are?"

She shakes her head. "Not anymore."

He looks more troubled than happy. "You and he--"

"--Have gone our separate ways."

He searches her face, and she isn't sure what he wants to find.

She feels a strange pain begin in her chest, looks away. There are some men who only want what they can't have. She knows this. She just never pegged Jim for being one of them. "I thought you'd be happy."

"Are you?"

She isn't sure how to answer that, feels tears begin. Why isn't he happy? Why can't he just answer the question?

She pulls her hand away from his. "You need to sleep."

"Chris."

She closes her eyes. The name hurts if he doesn't want her.

"Chris. Yes, I'm happy. But if you're not..."

She looks at him. He is happy? "It came down to a choice. You or him."

"And you chose me."

She nods. She still feels off balance. This isn't going where she thought it would. Her voice is almost the Christine of old when she asks, "Do you wish I hadn't?"

"No. Chris, no." He sighs. "It's just..."

"It's just what?" She wipes at her eyes. She is dirty and tired and hungry and feels like a lovesick fool. What is he trying to say?

"I'm your captain."

"Oh, god. Not this again." She pushes the chair back, stands up.

"Chris." He reaches for her, but she backs up.

"I need to take a shower." She moves away from him.

"Lieutenant Chapel, get back over here." His voice is that of her captain, not the man she loves, and it stops her dead in her tracks.

She sees two of the nurses turn around and stare at them.

"Sit down," he says, his voice shaking. He is exhausted and he is wasting energy yelling at her.

She doesn't look at him as she pulls the chair back toward the bed and sits down.

"This is a problem."

She feels as if she might throw up. Would that be a problem?

He grabs her hand, his grasp weak but determined. "Look at me, damn it."

She is crying and hates herself for it. But she looks at him.

"I love you and I'm your captain and that's a huge problem. But we'll figure it out."

She frowns.

He smiles. "If you'd let me finish, I might be able to get to the good part." He squeezes her hand. "We'll figure it out." He sighs again, closes his eyes. "Don't leave me," he says and she knows he means more than just while he sleeps.

He is smart enough to know she was about to run. Fast and very far away.

"Don't leave me, Chris."

"I won't," she says.

It's a problem. But they'll figure it out. It's all she needs to know.

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

Her days compress into a simple routine. Sleep for a few hours, eat, shower, and go back to sickbay. Do her job and be with Jim. Watch him as he gets well. Slowly. More slowly than she or Len would like.

The weapon took so much out of him. More than just blood. He has so little energy. It is like the virus again, only they can find no cause. What kind of fiend would make a weapon like this?

She knows what kind. A Klingon kind.

She is walking to the mess when she realizes that someone is watching her. She stops, turns around.

Joe is standing at the turbolift. The doors open, then shut. He still stands there, staring at her. Then he walks over.

"I'm transferring off."

She nods, unsure what he wants her to say.

"Do you care?"

She is not sure she does. She knows admitting this would be stupid. "Of course, I care. I do have feelings for you."

"Really?"

She is rapidly beginning to hate the way he says that word.

"I know it's hard to believe, Joe. And I'm sorry. I wish I could be what you want."

"You can be, Christine. You just don't want to be. You'd rather be what he wants."

She decides not to tell him that what Jim wants may be far more real than the Christine who was with Joe.

He steps closer, and she is suddenly aware that someone else has stepped closer too.

Spock's voice is pitched low, the words only for the three of them. "Is everything all right?"

She wonders if he thinks Joe will hurt her, then wonders how he knows anything is wrong at all.

"Everything's fine, sir." Joe's voice is calm. But his eyes as they stare back at Spock and her are angry.

"I have approved your request for transfer."

She looks down, knows it is because of her Joe is leaving.

Is glad he is leaving.

Maybe the Klingons aren't the only fiends in the quadrant?

"The Captain was a little busy, I guess?" He looks at Christine. The unsaid "stealing my woman" is so clear to her she can almost see the words hanging in the air.

And apparently to Spock. "He is gravely injured." His voice invites Joe to debate that.

She glances at Spock. His eyes are hard, firm. Why is he sticking up for her? She expected him to resent her.

"Fortunately, he will recover." This time there is much unsaid in Spock's words. Christine's role in that recovery, for example.

Joe takes a step back. He looks at Christine and shakes his head.

"I'm sorry, Joe." The words are meaningless, she can see that.

He is hurt. He is angry. He has every right to be outraged.

And she just wishes he would go away and leave her alone.

Joe turns, walks back to the turbolift and finally disappears inside.

"Thank you. He wouldn't have hurt me."

"I am aware of that. I thought, however, it would be prudent to avoid a scene in the corridor."

She suddenly understands. He is protecting Jim, not her. She smiles. This she can accept.

"Do you disapprove?" she asks.

"It is not my business." He indicates she should precede him into the mess.

"Seems like you just made it your business."

He gives her a noncommittal nod.

"How did you know there might have been trouble?"

He almost smiles. "Jim told me. He asked me to look out for you."

She does smile. "He did?"

He nods.

"But you're also concerned for his reputation, aren't you?"

"I am." He hands her a tray. "It is my job."

"As first officer."

He shoots her a look. "And as his friend."

"What are people saying about this?" She's been in sickbay full-time. She doesn't know what her friends think, much less what Joe's friends think.

Spock considers her question. "Do you know the tale of David and Bathsheba?"

She has to think. Some dim memory comes to mind. "Didn't he send her husband off to die?"

"He did."

"That's hardly what happened here." She frowns. "Are they calling me Bathsheba?"

"Among other things." He helps himself to fruit and cereal. "Does that bother you?"

She wonders if he is enjoying the idea of her being called that.

"It does bother me. But I can't make them stop." She sighs.

"The 'they' in question is not a large group, Christine." Her name sounds odd coming from him. It rattles her a bit that he is calling her that.

She doesn't reply, just busies herself getting food.

As he walks her out of the mess and toward sickbay, she asks softly, "Do you approve of this?"

"You already asked me that."

"No. I asked if you disapproved. This is different, and you know it."

He turns to look at her as they wait for the lift. "Jim wants you. If you will make him happy, then I approve."

"If?" She smiles. He is being very careful. Not that he's normally mister flip.

"We do not know how this will turn out."

She sighs. He is right.

No one knows how this will turn out. Least of all her.

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

Jim is fidgeting; she can see him from her office. He is clearly tired of being stuck in the biobed. Even the padds Spock brings him to look over aren't diverting him anymore.

She gets up, moves to the door and looks out at the main ward. Jim checks both ways then pulls back the covers. He slowly starts to move his leg.

She clears her throat. Loudly.

He doesn't turn. Just eases his leg back under the sheet and pulls the covers up. His every action is grumpy.

She walks over, sits on the side of the bed. "Going somewhere?"

"Anywhere but here."

She smiles. "Should I take that personally?"

"Yes. You're the one keeping me here."

Her smile gets bigger. "No, that would be Len. I thought you should be able to start moving around a bit."

"You did?"

She nods. "See what you get for demoting me?"

She laughs and gets up, but he reaches out and pulls her back. He is smiling. He is so much better--is finally healing the way they are used to him doing. She cannot begin to tell him how relieved she is. Doesn't want to scare him with how dark the prognosis seemed to be when they first brought him in covered with blood and crying out in pain.

He pulls her close. It is late and the nurses are on break or in the other room working. She leans in, kisses him.

It is a great kiss. Even weak as a kitten, this man can sweep her off her feet.

"That was fun," he says. "If I could do more of that here, I might not want to leave."

She shrugs. "He's your CMO. You talk him into letting you go."

"You do it. He'll listen to you. You're the objective one."

She laughs. "Hardly. He thinks I just want you released so I can take extreme advantage of you."

"Ooh. That sounds nice." He pulls her close again. It is a very long time before they pull away.

"I love kissing you," she says softly.

"Yes, I am nice to kiss," he says, grinning as she pretends to punch him.

"Are you bored?"

"Well, not right this second. But the minute you walk away and go back to work I will be."

She reaches for the instruments, scans him. His injuries are nearly healed. He needs to start getting around. Len is being an old woman on this one.

Even if he's right that she does want to take advantage of their patient. And as soon as possible.

She pulls back the covers. "You can walk around." She looks at him sternly. "Slowly, and just in here. Got that?"

"Yes, ma'am." He mock salutes her. Then he carefully swings his legs over, eases himself down.

She pretends that she isn't watching him as vigilantly as she really is. Knows that he will hate her hovering over him. She pushes herself up on the biobed, swinging her legs as if this is the most normal thing in the word. As if she doesn't want to hurry to him and take his arm.

"So do you really?" He is concentrating on walking and the words come out rushed.

"Do I really what?"

"Want to take extreme advantage of me?" He turns, one length of sickbay completed successfully. She hopes if he walks enough, he'll tire himself out and sleep.

She nods.

He grins. "Can you define extreme?"

"Better not. Don't want to get you too excited." She looks down suddenly. She is not sure that she is actually in his league when it comes to sex. This might be false advertising on her part.

He traverses the room and stops next to her. He pushes her chin up, forcing her to look at him. "Nervous?"

"I thought we covered this. A long time ago." She smiles. "I'm always nervous around you."

"Don't be." He moves his hand, touches her jaw, slides up to her ear, then her hair.

She moans and he smiles at the sound.

"I haven't had much experience. I mean Joe and Roger and there were a few others when I was in school. Nothing serious." She stops talking. What she's saying might not be considered good P.R. Is six too many? Or not enough?

"It'll be good." His eyes are calm, all-knowing. He smiles tenderly at her.

"How do you know? What if it's not?"

"I just know." He moves his hand behind her head, pulls her to him. He kisses her and this time it is different.

Everything he does seems designed to arouse her. His lips moving softly against hers, his tongue tracing her upper lip, then pushing into her mouth, meeting her own tongue, tasting it. She shivers, moans again.

"I rest my case," he says as he pulls away. "You can tell a lot from a kiss, you know." He winks at her as he turns and sets off across the ward again.

She exhales in what she is afraid is a very dreamy way. He is capable of turning her into a total sap.

He reaches the end of the room, starts the return walk. As he sees her touch her lips, he grins. "I told you I was nice to kiss." He waggles his eyebrows at her. "Just imagine what the rest will be like."

She's been imagining it. For years now.

He sighs. "I'm sorry about Joe though. I didn't want him to get hurt."

She almost shrugs then thinks better of it. It might not be nice. And Jim seems to want to be nice about her former lover.

"I don't think I was the right woman for him."

"Well, obviously not, because witness this conversation." He smiles, then his expression becomes more somber. "He hates us, I imagine."

"Oh, yes." She looks down. "But I think he's hated the idea of us for some time. Apparently we light up when we're around each other."

He nods. "Not something we can help, I'm afraid. It's been my experience that chemistry isn't something you can turn off."

"I know."

He yawns and she hops off the bed. "That's enough for you, mister."

He lets her help him onto the biobed even though he doesn't really need the help. She covers him up, and he pulls her down to him again.

"Your turn," he says.

"My turn for what?"

He grins. The mischievous grin she hasn't seen since he was shot, another milestone that brings relief. She grins back.

"Your turn to kiss me," he says.

She leans into him, gives him the best kiss she knows how. Her hands come up to run through his hair.

He groans, clutches at her arms.

Maybe she's not so bad at this after all.

When she pulls away he smiles, a self-satisfied, cat-who-ate-the-canary smile. "Like I said. A lot you can tell from a kiss."

She smiles too.

"I can't wait," he says, then promptly falls asleep, exhausted from his two laps across sickbay.

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

She sits at Jim's table, working on a report. Len has relented and allowed Jim to return to his quarters. It will still be a few days before he can begin very limited duty.

He lies on his bed and watches her. "Come here."

She shakes her head slowly and continues working.

"Chris." His voice alone sends shivers down her spine.

"You're recuperating. And I'm working."

"Well, work over here."

She laughs. She should have known he would be as relentless at this as he is at everything else. "No."

His voice changes. "Chris. Oh--"

She turns, sees he is clutching his stomach. She is by his side in an instant. "Did you sit up too fast?"

He looks up, and she realizes too late that he is faking. He pulls her down hard, making her land in an ungraceful heap on the bed. He laughs.

She glares at him. "If I'd fallen on you, you wouldn't think this was so funny."

"I knew where you'd land." He smiles, a smile that would leave her weak in the knees if she was standing.

"And now you can watch me get up."

He grabs her, and she's glad to see that he has much of his strength back as he pulls her back to the bed.

"You're better," she murmurs as he pulls her close.

"Yes. I am." He kisses her.

She relaxes, enjoying the sensation of being this close to him. They are lying on their sides, lips pressed together, his hand on her arm. As he pulls away, she whispers, "Just like the shuttle."

"Only we're not dying." He touches her face. "Not by a long shot." He begins to push her to her back.

She gently pushes him back. "I haven't cleared you for that activity, Captain."

He pouts and she laughs. She kisses the pout off his face, kisses him until he starts chuckling.

"And when will I be cleared for that particular duty, Doctor?"

"A few more days."

"I'm sure I can do it now."

"I'm sure you can too. But that doesn't mean we're going to." She runs her hand through his hair. "That doesn't mean it's good for you yet."

"Oh, I'm sure you'd make it good for me."

She laughs. She used to think sparring with him was fun. This is so much better.

He is studying her; his hand comes up and gently touches the skin under her eyes. "You look tired."

If Roger said that, it would be a criticism. A roundabout way of telling her to go fix her face, conceal the flaws. But Jim seems only to be making an observation. And showing that he notices, that he cares. So she is free to just lie there and say, "I am."

"Sleep here. Stay with me."

"Stay?"

He nods, pulls her closer. His lips rest on her cheek. "I love you."

"I love you too," she says. It's such a luxury to have him all to herself.

He pulls away, then gently pushes her to her back.

"Jim. I said--"

He lays his finger on her lips. "You said I wasn't cleared. You didn't say anything about you."

She can feel herself blushing, tries to get up.

He holds her down with one hand. He is definitely getting stronger. "Chris. Just lie still. You don't want me to hurt myself holding you down, do you?"

She slowly shakes her head.

"Now, if I don't move much, will you object to this?"

She blushes again and he smiles.

"You, on the other hand, can move around as much as you like." He kisses her gently. "As much...as you like."

He slowly pulls up her uniform top. She swallows hard. He smiles, and she closes her eyes in relief. She has never been this nervous.

And he seems to know it. His hands are running over her, his fingers making her moan. "Relax, Chris." He settles in next to her, his head on her shoulder, his lips on her cheek, then near her ear. His voice is so soft, so sensual. "Just relax."

She shivers again, turns to him and kisses him. He lets her do most of the work, and she indulges herself. His lips are soft, his tongue is not. It is a heady combination.

He pulls away gently. "Lie back."

She relaxes against the pillow. His hand slides down under her pants, warm against her skin. Down and down and then--there.

She throws her head back, breathes in through her mouth, moaning.

"I think you like that." His fingers are pushing, prodding, touching places. "I think you like this too." He is deep, moving in and out. "Soon," he says, drawing the sound out. "Soon, this will be more than just my fingers."

She turns to look at him. She knows her eyes are half-closed, her mouth is open. He controls her; his fingers are the only thing in her world.

"You are so beautiful," he whispers.

Then his lips come down on hers and she wonders if it is possible to overload from the feelings he is causing. She moans, loudly.

He is moving so slowly, his fingers torturing her. In and out, over and around. She wants to make him go faster but he just smiles as if he can read her mind. "Not yet."

"Please?" She lifts herself against him. "Please?"

"Please what?" He grins.

She stares at him. This is different. So different. Joe was a good lover but he was silent when they made love. Much tender staring and soulful kisses.

Jim is giving her a look she can only call mischievous. "Please what?" he says again.

Roger would never have done this. He would have rested. Waited till they could both partake.

Jim is doing this just for her. Only not. Somehow, this is as much for him.

"Please finish it," she says.

He smiles. "You want that?"

She nods, feels his fingers speed up just enough. He knows exactly what he's doing. And it's wonderful.

"Like this?" he asks as he pushes her closer and closer.

She can't talk, just opens her legs to give him more access. She feels herself falling.

"Let go," he says, as he pushes her off the cliff.

She is not quiet as she falls. He seems to like that a great deal.

As she lies, breathing heavily, he brushes the hair off her forehead. His lips touch gently down on her face. Over and over again. So tender. So sweet.

She smiles, knows it is a goofy smile. "I owe you."

"Don't think of it that way." He kisses her again. "Mutual pleasure is just that. Mutual." He smiles, lays his head down on her shoulder again and closes his eyes. "I love you. I'm glad you chose me."

She can feel her eyes closing. Gods, she is sleepy. Her mouth is dry and she wants to get some water but it is so comfortable lying like this. His head resting on her, his hand still under her pants.

"Go to sleep, Chris." He relaxes, his head becomes heavier on her shoulder.

She does what he says. She goes to sleep. And doesn't wake up till morning.

He's still curled up against her.

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

Her chime sounds and she says, "Come," not looking up to see who it is.

"Captain Kirk reporting for duty."

She turns, sees that he has his uniform on. It's wonderful to see him back in it. Wonderful to see him looking tall and strong. Not so weak. Not so close to broken.

She stands up, moves over to him. "I think you're supposed to report to the bridge, sir."

He pulls her into his arms. "You think so, do you?"

They kiss for a very long time. When they pull away, she says, "Weren't we just doing this in your quarters?"

He nods. "But you left before I was ready." He tried to get her to take a shower with him, but she decided to take one in her own quarters. She still hasn't cleared him for naughty activities.

Except, of course, the ones he does to her, for her. She smiles. She's not being selfish. Really. He's just not ready.

He pulls her closer, lets her feel that he is, indeed, ready for her. "Tonight?"

She smiles. "Let's see how you feel after half a shift?"

He isn't amused anymore, pulls away. "I'm fine."

She doesn't let him bully her, or move her with his irritation. For this to work, she has to be able to be his lover and his doctor.

"I'm sorry. I know it's not what you want to hear. But let's see how it goes." She doesn't try to cuddle up to him, doesn't try to cajole.

He stares at her, eventually nods. "Fine."

"Jim."

When he turns, she moves closer. "I want this too. But rushing it...what's a few days, if it means you don't re-injure yourself?"

He scowls, but it is a playful one. "Easy for you to say."

She laughs. "I thought it was mutual pleasure." She reaches down, begins to rub him. "Maybe I could make it more mutual?"

"I thought you said--"

She puts her fingers on his lips the way he did to her that first night. She pushes him back to her desk, till he is leaning, half-sitting on it. Sitting down in her desk chair, she pulls his pants down, then lets them fall to the floor.

He groans. "Chris. You don't have to."

She looks up at him. "Of course, I don't have to. I want to. Now, try to limit your movements...if you can." She is not really worried about injuring him, not when she is doing all the work. And she can see how much he needs it. Needs her to touch him. The way he's been touching her. For one purpose only. Pleasure. Shared, mutual pleasure.

She grasps him, her hand tightening and she hears him mutter, "God, yes." She has strong fingers, a nurse's strength in her hand. She slides her hand and he throws his head back, groans again.

She bends down, kissing around his thighs, his belly, finally taking him, tasting him.

He is saying something. It sounds like a prayer. She decides to keep going.

Her hand is still gripping and his own comes down to cover hers, squeezing her hand so that she tightens her own grip.

"Yesssssssss." It is a hiss. She didn't know he could make that sound. She loves that she can make him make that sound.

He is thrusting against her and she pushes deeper onto him, her tongue never still. There is only the sound of his groans and his whispered urgings not to stop, please god don't stop, and the sound of suction and moistness and then he is crying out. She feels him start to pull away but she holds him to her, lets him know it's all right. She loves him for trying to be a gentleman. Even if it's unnecessary.

She finally pulls away, releases her grip and he slumps.

"Oh. My god." He pulls her up, kisses her.

She loves him for that too. Roger never would. Roger would have insisted she rinse her mouth out first.

Roger, she is rapidly learning, was a toad.

Jim pulls her in, hugs her close. "Thank you."

"My pleasure," she whispers as she kisses his cheek, reaching down to do up his uniform. "Now promise me you'll take it easy. And you'll be back in your room resting in four hours. Less if you get too tired."

"Yes, ma'am."

She pulls back to be sure he's not mocking her. He's not. He's smiling at her. Her lover smiling at his lover. And her captain smiling at his deputy CMO. She reaches up, strokes his face.

"What?" he asks softly.

"I'm just happy." She sees his expression soften.

"I am too. And you know what? It feels nice." He grins at her, then walks out.

He's right. This happiness does feel nice.

And long overdue.

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

The party is in the rec lounge and this time Jim is the guest of honor. The whole crew--or all that could get off shift--are there to welcome him back to full duty. It's a sign of how beloved he is that they do this, and he blushes slightly at the applause as he blows out the candles on the cake they've made him. One candle for every day he was out. Far too many candles. A scary number of candles.

But he's back now. Finally back to normal. Back to duty.

And tonight, he can get back to other things too. She bites back the grin that thought brings.

He turns to look at her, smiles. She kept the party a secret, kept him busy in sickbay with a final examination while the others finished setting up.

He shakes his head. "Diagnostic table not working right?"

She shrugs. So she lied. It was for a good cause. She feels a hand on her shoulder, sees Nyota smiling at her. She grins back.

She was worried that her friends might react badly to Jim and her being together. Might react the way Joe's friends are, with glares and barely contained hostility.

She should have given them more credit. They are happy for her, happy for their captain. He's been alone too long. They do not seem to mind at all that one of their own makes him less alone. May even prefer that one of their own is the one to do it. Her friends aren't calling her Bathsheba or Jezebel of whatever other nasty names they can think of.

She hates running into Joe's friends in the corridors. His Academy roommate called her a slut. She hasn't told Jim. She doesn't want to put that on him, having to defend her--or having to choose not to. Things will die down. They all just need time to forget.

Jan comes up. There's something a little wistful in her expression, and Christine knows this is hardest for her. She's been in love with Jim for so long. Long before Christine even knew he was alive. She looks at Janice's face, and she knows it hurts her.

"He's all better?" Janice shoots Jim a look, smiles. The expression is bittersweet. "You're taking good care of him?"

"I am." She is careful to keep the happiness toned down a bit. To not be too obviously in love. It's hard. She'd rather share this with Jan. But she can't. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

She wanders off to the bar with Jan and Ny. They catch up on what's been going on while she's been sequestered with Jim in sickbay, and later in his quarters. Nothing much is going on. Spock runs the ship more than capably. She looks over to see him standing near Jim. He looks pleased that his friend is back, looks happy when Jim laughs. Spock loves him. She sometimes wonders if that should bother her, but his love seems to be the kind that can share. He certainly isn't being mean to her. He's actually nicer to her now that she's with his best friend than he ever was when she wanted him for herself.

"So Joe transferred off?" Ny is looking a bit torn. She likes Joe. They get along famously.

"He did." Christine attempts to put some sort of regret in her voice. She almost wishes she could feel more regret. It should be a crime to be this happy, to care so little that she hurt someone else to get this happiness.

Jim comes over, smiles as he takes in the three of them. He reaches for her glass, sips at her wine, and she rolls her eyes at him--the move is so territorial.

But she loves that he is not going to hide this. His hand rests on her back, up high, then drops lower, dangerously close to no longer being on her back at all. She laughs softly.

He leans in. "Dance later?"

She nods and he goes back to working the room. Jan follows his movement with her eyes, and it is clear she would give anything to hear him ask her to dance later. Christine doesn't think he will.

She feels sorry for Jan. Sorry that she will never get him because Jim doesn't want to be adored the way she wants to adore him. But not that sorry. Christine doesn't intend to let go of him now that she's got him.

A lieutenant from geology comes up and asks Ny to dance. Jan watches her go off with him, then smiles as another lieutenant, this time from engineering, asks her to dance.

Christine sips her drink. No one will ask her now. Not until they know how this works. Not until they figure out if Jim will let her dance with other people.

She smiles. Jim doesn't let her do anything. He'd die if he heard her even think that. She's a free agent and she suspects that's why he loves her and how he wants to keep her. At his side by choice. Never by force. She can dance with whomever she pleases, so long as she ends up with him at the end of the night.

Tonight though, she's not interested in dancing with anyone else. She can barely get her mind off what will come later. She didn't tell Jim he was cleared for takeoff as far as sex was concerned. Didn't think he would have agreed to go to the rec lounge if she had. So she told him probably a few more days. He was disappointed. Very disappointed.

She'll make it up to him later.

"Jim's looking great. You must have one hell of a bedside manner." The smell of bourbon accompanies Len's words. She knows he is drinking out of relief. He's been as worried about Jim as she has.

"You've seen my bedside manner. It's fairly standard."

He grins. "Somehow, I think he might see a different side of you."

She laughs. "Somehow you might be right."

"You want to dance?"

She decides it would be good for the crew to see her do it. "Yes."

He puts down his drink, takes hers and sets it on the bar, and leads her to the dance floor. She glances over at Jim. He grins at her, then turns back to Scotty.

Len is a good dancer, and she relaxes as he leads. He irritates the hell out of her at times, but she trusts him. She'd trust him with her life...or Jim's, which seems to mean far more to her these days anyway.

"Are you happy, darlin'?"

"I am." She sighs. She has never been this happy.

"He's happy too. You're good for him."

"We're good for each other." She smiles. In so many ways, they are good for each other.

The music winds down and Jim is behind Len, cutting in. Len gives her up with easy grace.

The song is romantic, slow and sensual. She has to remind herself that they aren't alone, not to move against him the way she'd like to.

He pulls her closer. She can feel he is aroused. Knows she is too.

She whispers in his ear. "I lied when I said you had to wait."

He nearly stops dancing.

"Tonight, if you want it."

"If?" His voice actually squeaks.

"I know I want it." She laughs softly, the air escaping more from her nose than her mouth.

"You bitch." His voice is low, in her ear, so only she can hear him. "You tell me this now? When we've got hours to go?"

She laughs again. This time it is closer to a snicker. He brings out the devil in her.

The song ends and he holds her close. "We go again."

"I thought you might say that."

As soon as the next song begins, he is moving them. "So we can finally do it?"

"Yes." She runs her fingers up his back. "After...the...party."

"Bitch," he says again, his hand tightening on hers.

She knows it will be a long night. For both of them.

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

They are walking back to his quarters, the party has finally wound down enough for them to leave, and Jim is dragging. He seems out of energy and she worries that the party was too much for him. Too much, too soon.

He yawns, his feet seem to be shuffling not hitting the floor with his normal stride.

She takes his arm. "Are you all right?"

When he looks at her, there is no life in his eyes. He just seems empty. "I'm tired, Chris." His voice is off.

She feels something catch in her throat. "We're almost home." Home. His quarters are home. She's moved in, isn't really sure how it happened. A few things here, a few there, and suddenly she has enough stuff in his quarters to get ready in the morning and never have to set foot in her own rooms unless she wants to.

He doesn't appear to mind at all that she's fighting him for room in his closet. He seems to like having her that close by.

He yawns again, palms the door open with none of his normal energy.

"Maybe we should go to sickbay?"

He shakes his head, walks to the bed. "I'm just tired, Chris." He lies down, his arm thrown over his eyes.

She stares down at him. Is a little ashamed at how disappointed she is. She wants him so, but if he's this tired, then he has to rest. She won't have her libido be the cause of a relapse.

He seems to be shaking. Is he convulsing? Then she realizes his mouth is trembling. He's trying not to laugh.

"You son of a bitch." She reaches for him, but he is too fast, grabs her wrists, yanks her down to him.

"Payback hurts, eh?" He kisses her fiercely. "You think you can tell me what you did and then make me wait through that entire party without me getting revenge?"

He is pulling off her clothes, nothing tender or gentle in his motions.

"Will I like your revenge?" She rubs against him, sees him shudder.

"Oh, yes." He kisses her again, lets go of her wrists and pulls her close, as close as she can get to him.

She is trying to pull off his clothing, but he is not helping her at all. His tongue forces its way into her mouth, and she forgets about liberating his shirt.

His hands are everywhere, on her breasts, at her groin, touching her, prodding and teasing relentlessly until she comes as he kisses her, the sound muffled by his lips covering hers.

He pulls away, yanks off his shirt. She runs her hands down his chest, touching where the Klingon weapon tore a hole through him. There is no scar. Nothing to remind her of how close she came to losing him. Nothing but her memories.

"I love you," she says softly.

"I love you." He kisses her hard then kicks his boots and pants off with a minimum of fuss. Undergarments follow.

They are naked, skin against skin. Warmth to warmth. She shudders at the feeling as he slips into her, firm and large and filling her.

She moans. So good. So unbelievably good.

"Chris." His mouth finds hers, lips suddenly soft again, gentle and tender even as he moves against her in a much less tender way. He closes his eyes, suddenly stops moving.

"Jim?"

"Don't move." He leans down, whispers to her, "Want you so bad. Have to slow this down."

She moves her hips, pushing up against him.

He thrusts into her hard, and she groans in pleasure. His hands capture her wrists again; he pulls them over her head. "I said, don't move."

"I must have misunderstood." She knows better than to do it again.

He kisses her then. Deep, hungry kisses. His hands grip her wrists tightly, and she fights against him, surprised when he doesn't let go.

He is smiling. "Try harder."

She does. He is too strong for her. She can't get away. She stops struggling.

"I'm all better, Doctor."

"So I see." When he shakes his head, she says, "So I feel."

"Feel this." He pulls her hands up a bit more. "You're mine." His tone is fierce, and he kisses her again, taking his time before letting go of her wrists so she can wrap her arms around him.

"Jim." There is so much more she wants to say, but words are deserting her.

He is moving inside her again. Slower this time, more deliberately. Firm, long strokes that send her reeling. He reaches down, touches her and she shudders. He begins to move harder and faster and she is already so sensitive and the feeling of him moving in and out of her sends her over the edge again.

He follows her, hands clutching her shoulders, head thrown back. She hopes to god his walls are soundproofed. They are both making a great deal of noise.

She looks up at him, sees that he is grinning. "Welcome back to duty, Jim."

"This is hardly duty, love." He kisses her as he rolls off her, pulling her so she ends up curled up next to him. He lays his head back on the pillow, exhales loudly. "My god that felt good."

She chuckles as she moves her leg over his, getting closer to him. He rubs her back, kisses her. He closes his eyes, then sneaks one open to look at her. She laughs again.

"You're all right?" he asks.

"Of course, I'm all right. Why wouldn't I be?" She kisses him, loves that he cares if she is all right.

He sighs, moans a little. She runs her hand over his chest then down to his abdomen, checking to make sure the skin is not too warm.

"Always the doctor," he murmurs. "I'm fine, Chris."

She nods. "I know. Just checking though. Indulge me."

"Any way you want." He eases her to her back. "In fact, I've got something in mind." He pushes her knees up, until her feet lie flat on the bed. Then he moves her legs gently apart and stares down at her.

She has never felt more exposed. She feels as if she is blushing with her entire body.

"You don't mind if I do this?" he asks as he leans in, begins to lick and kiss and suck.

She answers in something that she thinks will be coherent, but the words come out as just random sounds.

"I'll take that as a no." He is gripping her thighs, low, where they join her buttocks. His fingers press almost painfully into her skin, and she begins to writhe as sensation buffets her.

Just like the first time he pleasured her, he controls her. Knows exactly where she is, how close to the edge. He pulls back just enough to keep her going, not enough to draw her out of the moment. She cannot relax, just keeps rising up a notch, tension whipping across her body.

"Jim, please?" She touches his head, plays with his hair, trying to encourage him to finish it please, please, please.

He eases back, and she cries out in frustration.

"Payback, Chris. It's a bitch," he says before bending down again. He takes her back up, leads her to the abyss and then pulls back again.

"Jim?" She is trying to move her body closer to his mouth, his lips, his wonderful tongue.

He digs into her thighs again, and it does hurt. She cries out just as his tongue finds her again. This time he takes her quickly, pushes her over, and she cries out loudly.

She has never made this much noise during sex.

He smiles. She pulls him up, her arms barely cooperating as he slowly slides over her. They kiss and he pushes inside her and the pleasure begins again.

"I'll never get enough of you," he says, his hand stroking damp hair off her forehead.

She has a feeling neither of them will get any sleep.

She finds she doesn't care.

End part 1 of 2