Revenant by Djinn

Part 1 of 2

The events unfolding on the big screen in ops are changing the very nature of the galaxy--and of Christine's world. Again. She feels off balance, reeling from the emotions of first having lost Jim to that Klingon hell world, then elation when she saw him reappear just a few moments ago in time to stop another assassination--this time of their own president. She thanks every deity out there that while Starfleet may have kept the location of the Federation-Klingon peace talks secret, they still beamed the proceedings throughout the galaxy.

She bets they never counted on their show being quite this exciting-- fortunately the live events played in their favor. But they might not have. It could so easily have gone the other way. A few moments' delay, and Jim would not have stopped the murder attempt.

And the chance for peace with the Klingons would have been lost forever.

She's not sure how she feels about that. She hears some grumbling in ops, looks around but can't decide where anyone's loyalty lies. Everyone looks stunned, but it is unclear if it is because peace was almost ripped away from them, or if they cannot fathom living in a world that includes accommodation with the Klingons.

There is an undercurrent in the place, one she has never felt. As if a chasm has suddenly opened up underneath them all. As if suddenly there are two camps. She looks up at the screen again, sees Matthew and Valeris, both apparently in custody, and feels a shock as if someone has stuck her with a cow prod.

What if we could do something? Matthew used to say.

What if he had done something?

Something terrible. Something so horribly ambitious that it might have spelled the end to the Klingon empire.

But only after months or possibly years of war.

"Matthew," she murmurs, and sees Rasmussen turn to her.

His look is appraising, as if he is trying to figure out which camp she is in. She stares at him coldly until he finally turns around again.

There should be no question. The man she loves was nearly killed. She's in his camp. In the camp of peace. If he can forgive them for David, for destroying his ship and nearly Spock's chance at rebirth, then what right does she have to hang on to old anger?

Even if one of her best friends is in trouble. Even if her protege appears to be involved somehow too.

She suddenly doesn't feel like being in the big room, walks back to her office and sits down. The comms are coming in fast, updates from all over the system, as well as congratulations from worlds not invited to the talks. And another note for her personally that appears to be from Matthew, sent via an unknown intermediary. Opening it, she sees that the note starts with no text, simply a set of coordinates. She runs them through the system; they appear to be a bar on the seedier side of town.

"You said once that I saved you. It's time to return the favor. Ask for Jasper," the note says after the coordinates.

"Quite the day?" Admiral Manners says from her doorway. Her boss has come back in, and she was too focused on cryptic messages to realize it.

Looking away from her screen, she smiles at him. "Yes, sir."

They have never reached the ease she had with Matthew. At times, she wonders if Manners resents the rapport Christine had with her former boss. The rapport she still has with a member of the CINC's staff.

A former member.

God. What did Matthew do?

"Trust Kirk to save the day." The expression on the admiral's face is light, but there is something biting in his tone.

Christine has found it all too common for some of Jim's peers to resent or be jealous of him. Would they rather he didn't save the day? Would that make them feel more worthy?

"He is lucky that way," she finally says, striving for some neutrality.

Manners shrugs, gets off a last shot as he walks to his office. "It's Kirk's last big hurrah. I guess I can't begrudge him."

It is common knowledge the Enterprise A is being decommissioned. Less common knowledge that the B is just about finished. Command went back and forth on whether to rename the ship altogether or allow the name to continue. Jim's presence looms large, not just for the brass, but for whoever takes his place at the helm of an Enterprise. They still haven't formally announced that they've commissioned the pretty ship the Enterprise B, or that Harriman has been chosen.

Harriman is a good friend of Manners. Christine often wonders if that colors her boss's view of Jim. She can't imagine following in Jim's footsteps. And Harriman hasn't impressed her so far. Decker was a worthy successor. This bozo--

She's channeling Jim. He can't stand Harriman. And corridor gossip is not kind to the newly minted Captain either. He's great at managing up and making the brass think he's competent, not so good at actually leading those who depend on him. And he's been lucky. So far. She hopes that luck keeps up.

Jim was lucky too, but he always had skill to back that good fortune up. Christine doesn't want to think what might happen if Harriman's runs out.

She reads the message over and over. Finally, she gets up and goes out to main ops. The place is in chaos, but for once there is no action needed. They can only watch as history unfolds somewhere else.

Christine looks at Rasmussen, who has turned around to watch her. "I'll be out for a bit," she says, and he nods before turning back to the screen.

The bar is closer than she expects. She's never spent much time thinking about how close the bad part of town is to the good. Has never actually considered that there still is a rougher part of town. Life is so tame now. Even rough is relative. This area may have once been the Tenderloin, but it's just a little dangerous now. A place for rebellious youth and black marketeers to hang out.

Nobody bothers her as she enters the bar, but all eyes seem to be on her. Even if no one is staring outright. She imagines it is in these people's best interest to know what is going on. Especially when a Starfleet officer comes in.

"Pretty stupid coming here dressed like that," a man with a tray says. "You going to stand in the door all day or you going to order?"

"I'm looking for Jasper."

"Yeah, well you found him." He nods at the bar. "Sit down so you don't look so much like a sore thumb." He points with his chin at the vid set that is replaying Jim pushing the Federation president down. "I hate busybodies."

She sits down on one of the stools. "I'm not sure what I'm doing here."

"No?" Jasper starts wiping down glasses. "Better figure that out quick, or you and me will have nothing to talk about." He holds up a glass, as if inspecting it for cleanliness. It's covered with spots. "I count two people in custody. Is that what you count?"

She follows his gaze up to the screen, sees the replay of Matthew and Valeris being led out.

"Two that matter anyway," he says softly.

She leans in. "Matthew sent me. He said I had to save him?"

Jasper leans in. "Rescue him, you mean? I doubt that old Matt meant that." His tone is mocking. "Best you can do is save him from what's to come." He pushes a small packet to her.

She opens it, trying to keep it out of anyone's view. There are two pills inside.

"Supposedly used by Cardassian intelligence. Gotta hand it to the spoonies. They sure know how to make a suicide pill." He leans in. "Nothing but dust left when this is done working." He backs away from her. "Now all you gotta do is find a way to get it to them. Security's going to be mighty tight."

Matthew expects her to get these to him and Valeris. To save him from whatever repercussions capture might bring. She wonders if he knew about that hell hole Jim was sent to when he left these pills for her. She feels like shoving the package back at the unpleasant little bartender.

She puts the pills into her pocket instead.

"Nice talking to you, Commander. Don't ever come back."

She gets up, pushing away so hard that her stool is in danger of toppling over. Fleeing outside, she walks quickly until she is back on familiar-- not so seedy--ground. The sunshine is warm, and as she walks, she fingers the package in her pocket.

Why did Matthew choose her? He had other friends, ones who were probably involved in whatever dark conspiracy led to the assassination of Gorkon and the attempted one she just watched. She wasn't involved, but he wanted her to help him. Why?

She sees the news crews around Command headquarters. The guards are keeping them out of the building for now.

Access. Christine doesn't have it, but Jim will. As soon as he gets back to Earth. He'll be able to see Matthew.

And she just bets Matthew will ask to see the two of them. He'll need to make peace with his friend. Possibly for real, but primarily so she can hand over two lethal little pills. One for him, one for Valeris.

And no one will ever suspect that she was behind it. Where would she get Cardassian pills? Why would she want to save Matthew from a fate he consigned the man she loved to?

It's brilliant.

She has a good idea that Valeris thought it up, not Matthew. It has her hallmark--nothing left to chance. Matthew is far more emotional, far more seat of the pants.

Christine sighs, pushing the pills deeper into her pocket as she walks past the news crews, ignoring those who recognize her as Jim's lover, who want her to give them a statement.

She has no comment.

She also has no idea what she is going to do. Matthew did save her, and he helped get Jim back.

How can she not try to help him?

But he nearly got Jim and Len killed. How can she forgive that?

Mind racing, she heads back into ops to pretend to work.

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

She lies next to Jim, content beyond words now that he is back and safe. She's checked him over about a dozen times, looking for remnants of his time on Rura Pente. The last time she did it he captured her hands and told her to cut it out. Then he kissed her until she gave herself up to other, less medical, examinations of his body.

The Enterprise sits idle in spacedock, waiting to be decommissioned. They plan to make a museum out of her--at least for a while. Luna put in the best bid for her, part of the Lunar Council's attempts to increase tourism revenue, no doubt. They may have an atmosphere on the Moon, but the landscape still leaves something to be desired. Terraforming is a slow business as long as there is no Genesis to speed it up for them.

"You're awfully quiet," Jim says, pulling her close so he can kiss her again.

They've spent a lot of time in their bed since he came home from Khitomer.

"Just thinking about the ship." She sees his expression shift, knows he is already thinking about life without the Enterprise. "It's going to be hard for you, Jim. I know that. I do understand."

"Same as it's going to be hard for you leaving Emergency Ops?" He brushes her nose with his own, a sweet gesture that gives her a warm rush.

They both plan to retire, plan to find a useful way to use their time. One that isn't just second best to the most fun they've ever had. Several foundations have already approached Jim, feeling their way to see if they could get the Captain Kirk at the helm. Several of them have also been wooing her--they're the smart ones, the ones who know if they can interest them both, they'll have it made.

"I'm leaning toward Pan-Relief," she says softly.

"It's a good organization. And Len's already signed up, hasn't he?"

"Yep." She runs her hands down his body, still a bit in shock that he is back next to her. When she saw him sentenced to Rura Pente, she thought for sure that she would never see him again.

Smiling, he lays back against the pillow. "So how long will it take you to get over almost losing me?"

She wonders if he realizes that she's never really gotten over losing him the first time. She's not sure she'll survive it again. "A long, long time," she says, as she lets her hand show him what she means.

Laughing, he pulls her on top of him, watching her as she rides him. "I thought I'd never see you again," he says, the admission coming from him grudgingly, as if he is admitting defeat by even saying it.

"I guess we both should have known better," she says, leaning down to kiss him. "That famous Kirk luck..."

"Let me show you some other famous Kirk skills." He waggles his eyebrows at her as he says it, making her laugh.

Then she concentrates on other, more pressing things. The sex his first few days back was a bit frantic, almost desperate. They've reached a point where they can calm down and take it slow.

Not that frantic, desperate sex with Jim doesn't have its attractions. She thinks that any kind of sex with him is pretty darn alluring.

They finally lie quietly again. She is curled against him, and he is holding her close, drawing lazy patterns on her arm where it circles his waist.

"Matthew wants to see us." He seems to feel her tense. "Chris?"

She has been waiting for this moment. Has known it would come. She looks over at him, studies his face--so precious to her.

She cannot lose him again.

"Why does he want to see us?"

"He says he needs to make things right with me before he is sent there." It is a testament to the awfulness of Rura Penthe that Jim avoids saying its name if he can.

"Why does he need to see me?"

Jim looks at her quizzically. "You're his friend."

"I thought I was his best friend. I think maybe he had better ones. In the conspiracy." Smiling sadly, she says, "You know, sometimes life gives us a chance to prove that we really can learn from our mistakes."

He frowns, clearly not following her.

"Let me up," she says, pulling away from him and walking to the chest where she has shoved the little pills. Carrying them back to him, she says, "This is why he wants me there."

He looks up at her.

"Suicide pills," she says. "No Rura Pente for Matthew and Valeris."

Jim looks disappointed. "I thought he was stronger than this."

"He is--if it were anyone but the Klingons he was about to be handed over to." She cannot imagine a worse fate for him. Sitting down on the bed, she takes the pills back from him. "I've been having a hard time with this, Jim. He's my friend. He did save me."

"I know he did." He is staring at the pills, then raises his eyes to hers. "What are you going to do with them?"

Smiling sadly, she presses them back into his hand. "I'm giving them to you, Captain. What are you going to do with them?"

He sighs. "I'm going to turn them into Starfleet security."

She lies back down, can feel tears starting. "That's what I figured you'd do with them." She turns, and he catches her up and holds her while she weeps.

"Shh. It's okay."

"It's not okay. How can I consign him to the same place that nearly killed you? How can I repay him this way?"

He is silent, just continues stroking her back.

"But how can I lie to you? I could lose you all over again." Wiping at her eyes, she pulls away, so she can look Jim in the eye. "I love Matthew. I would like to spare him this. But, at the end of the day, he's a traitor. And I'm not."

Jim smiles. A sad smile that recognizes how hard this is for her. But a smile that shows her how proud he is of her.

"Don't, Jim." She leans down and kisses him. "Don't look at me like I'm some kind of hero. I'm not. I'm selfish. I don't want to lose you. If it weren't for that, I'd be there, handing over these pills without a second thought." She looks away.

He pulls her face gently back so she is looking at him. "Who gave you the pills?"

"His name is Jasper. He's the bartender at the Lazy Susan."

Jim laughs, but it is a bitter sound. "Matthew and I used to go there in our Academy days. Thought we were living on the edge."

"Well, apparently, he never stopped going there."

"Apparently not." He studies the pills. "Anything else I should know?"

"Nothing concrete. But I don't think the conspiracy was just a few people. I think it ran deeper. Even if just in sympathy not actual participation. I can feel it in ops now. As if we've chosen sides."

He nods. "I can feel it in Command too." He sighs.

"You expected them to love you for what you did?"

He laughs. "Well, I doubt I thought much about it when I did it. But now, it's sort of odd the reception I'm getting. Spock's noticed it too. We're not terribly popular with all our colleagues."

"They don't matter to me. Only you do." Kissing him, she whispers, "We'll be out of it soon."

"Very soon." He pulls her closer, his mouth touching down tenderly on hers. "A few more months pretending to work at Command and then that launch--"

"--You're going? I thought you said you'd rather die than see Harriman take over an Enterprise?"

"I did say that. I still feel that. But the CINC called me in personally. Said it would 'send a message' if I didn't go."

"Yeah. That Command picked the wrong man." She sighs. "Who else is going?"

"Scotty and Chekov." He laughs. "Nyota won't answer her comms, that's how much she doesn't want to go."

Lucky Sulu and Rand were off on their own ship. "And Spock?"

"Spock pretty much does whatever he wants these days. I don't think they know how to rein him in." He grins at her, clearly tickled at his friend's behavior.

"Yeah, it was real funny when he shanghaied you into that mission in the first place." She's never seen Jim quite that pissed. At anyone but her anyway.

"Time heals all wounds, remember?" He nuzzles her, his hand moving lower again.

Smiling, she says, "It certainly seems to have worked for us."

"Yes, it has," he says, as he moves under the covers, following his hand to points south.

For a moment, there is only pleasure, but then she sees Matthew's accusing eyes and she is distracted. She finally tugs on Jim's shoulder, pulling him back up. "It's not there. Not right now anyway." It's rare that she is so preoccupied he can't pleasure her.

He stares down at her, then leans in, kissing her gently. "I'm sorry. I know this is hard for you."

"But I want you, and I'm pissed that he's taking that away right now. And I'm angry that I'm thinking about sex at all when my friend is in trouble. But he betrayed you...he betrayed all of us. It's just so damned confusing." Holding him close, she kisses him frantically. She is crying again, wishes she wasn't. Wishes she could do the right thing and that it wasn't so complicated and that someone she loves didn't have to get hurt.

"I love you, Chris." Jim holds her close, letting her cry.

She did the right thing. She didn't lose his love. She did the right thing.

She has to believe that.

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

She is packing, wrapping up the rest of their dishes when the chime sounds. She almost yells for Jim to get it--she's used to him being home now. Used to him being there to do things like get the door. But he's not here now. He's up on that new Enterprise watching Harriman take over.

She's glad they decommissioned his ship. Doesn't think he could have stood seeing his own silver lady taken away from him by another man, much less one like Harriman. It was bad enough giving him a new Enterprise. Jim asked her not to watch, said he wouldn't have if Command hadn't strong- armed him into being there.

The chime rings again. "Come," she yells at it, setting down the platter that she thinks Jim was given by some Andorian dignitary--why are they taking all this stuff with them?

Spock comes in.

"Hey there. I didn't expect to see you." She smiles at him, but her smile fades as he stares at her.

"You did not watch the launch?"

She can feel her stomach drop, her throat closing as she says, "Jim asked me not to."

Walking over to the vid set, he turns it on and backs away as the images become her whole world. The images and the text that runs underneath them.

"Captain James T. Kirk killed saving ship."

She sits with a thud, is fortunate a chair is underneath her. She can't see through her tears, can barely hear as she tries to make sense of the news broadcast.

One thing is clear to her. One thing only. There is no body.

"Where is he?" Her voice breaks, sounds like that of some kind of wild animal that is hurt, in terrible pain.

Spock is there, holding her hands, chafing them as if to put some strength back into her. "They did not find a body."

"I know. So where is he?" She knows what explosive decompression can do, but even then there is a body to bring back. "Was there an explosion?"

"I am unsure." He is pulling her up, and she fights him off, does not want to leave the images in front of her.

Does not want to leave all that is left of Jim. They have his image up now. He is smiling. The way he does when he's just won something. She loves that smile.

"Christine. We must go now."

"Go? Go where?"

"To look for him." Spock grabs her arms, shaking her slightly.

She studies him. They've both lost something, both are reeling. "Look for him?"

"Do you want to come or not? I am going."

She nods. Yes, she must go. Together, they will find Jim. He can't hide from both of them. "I'll get my things."

Going into the bedroom, she begins to throw clothes into her bag. She walks into the bathroom and grabs a few items, taking them to the bag. She is about to join Spock, when she turns, grabbing Jim's pajamas and stuffing them into her bag. He'll want them. When they find him, he'll want his favorite pajamas.

And they smell like him. They smell like love and home and the man that both she and Spock would die for if they could.

He can't be dead. There's no body, so he can't be dead.

Spock takes her bag from her as she walks out.

"Thank you," she whispers, knowing that he didn't have to include her. He could have just gone.

His hand is gentle on her shoulder as he urges her to the door. She can't see well and realizes she is crying again.

"We'll find him?" she asks, blinking the tears away.

He nods, but his expression is bleak. She suddenly realizes he doesn't believe it. Why is he taking her out there if he doesn't believe it?

"We will find him," she says fiercely and sees his expression ease a bit. And she understands. He is taking her out there because she believes it.

She clutches at his arm, then feels bad, knows that he does not like to be pawed at and pulls away before he can recoil from her touch. "I'm sorry."

He reaches for her hands, puts them back on his arm. "It is all right. I understand."

She grips him tightly the whole way to his shuttle, letting go only once he opens the door.

"We'll find him," she says softly. If she believes it enough for both of them, it will be true.

There's no body. He can't be dead.

"Yes," Spock says, his voice dull. "We will find him."

She sits in the copilot's chair and stares out at the stars, willing herself not to cry.

They will find him.

There's no body.

He's not dead.

He can't be dead.

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

She doesn't look at Spock as he sits with her in the lounge. He is going on to Vulcan. He is giving up.

And so is she. Jim's pajamas still sit in her bag. She's cried into them every night they've been out looking for him.

Looking for him, then looking for his body, then looking for anything--even just a trace of him.

He's gone. He's gone and he's not coming back.

"He is dead," Spock murmurs, as if reading her mind.

She's a doctor. She should not hate that word so much. Dead. To not live. To cease existing.

Jim is dead. Their bed will be cold, and the chair he would have filled at Pan-Relief will stand empty. They will have to find someone else to run their organization. She can't do it, she's just a doctor. She is not Kirk.

The thought stabs at her. She would have been. He wanted to marry her. Once they were settled. They were going to get married.

She would have been a Kirk then.

She sniffs back tears, feels Spock's hand touch down on her own for just a moment.

"You will join Doctor McCoy?" he asks.

She nods. Len still needs help. She may just be a doctor, never a Kirk, but he just needs a doctor.

She feels herself losing control, is surprised when Spock's hand touches down on hers again, this time gripping tightly, almost painfully. It is a focus, something to stop the tears, and she is grateful to him for the gift, wants to ask him to hurt her some more so she won't have to feel.

She wonders if he is giving her that pain so he won't have to feel either. She touches his hand with her free one, stroking gently. "I thought we could find him."

"We did not."

She has never heard Spock sound so desolate.

They have both lost the man they love. She has not said anything about the feelings she knows Spock has for Jim, does not want to trivialize the loss for Spock. They both understand how things are.

She thinks neither of them have any idea how things will be. Except that they will be bad. Empty.

"Where will you go?" she asks.

"Qo'noS. I have work to do there." He is resolved about that, at least. No hesitation.

They will both go help others. He to his damned Klingons. She to some less offensive place.

The shuttle to Earth finally comes, and she stands. "This is goodbye."

He nods. Spock's eyes are empty, as if all the life he once had has gone away with her lover.

She knows her eyes look just the same. "I love you," she whispers to him, trying to give him at least that. She does love him. He is one of the few things she has left.

And they are saying goodbye. She does not think she will ever see him again.

For a moment, he brushes her cheek with his hand, then he is gone. She watches him walk away, then turns to board the shuttle.

The trip is a blur, when she arrives back on Earth, she can't face the apartment so she wanders the city, her bag growing heavier and heavier on her shoulder. Finally, she sits down in front of Command on the bench where she used to eat lunch whenever it was a nice day. She stares down the hill, watching as people come and go, none of them caring that her life is empty and meaningless and over.

"Christine?"

She looks up, sees Rasmussen. She doesn't remember him calling her by her first name before. But she is technically retired. She only missed the formal debriefing because she was out with Spock looking for Jim. She shouldn't even be wearing her uniform anymore, is no longer on duty. Will never be on duty again.

"You heard, right?"

She thinks he means Jim and wonders why he is asking her.

"About Admiral Cartwright? He's dead."

She feels as if the little bit of earth left under her feet is being chipped away. "How?"

"How do you think? He was beaten to death by some prisoner in that hell hole he was sent to." He gets closer, in her face. "That hell hole that I think you had a hand in sending him to."

"I didn't sit on the panel that decided that."

"You made sure he had to go though, didn't you? I was down at the Lazy Susan recently. Jasper's not there anymore. Why do you suppose that is?"

She looks up at him, eyes dead and she thinks that the blankness in her gaze convinces him that he is wrong.

His eyes soften, and he sits down next to her. "I'm sorry, Christine. I'm just so angry. He was a great man. You know that."

"He was a great man," she repeats forlornly. "What about Valeris? Does she live?"

Rasmussen nods. "She's stronger. And younger. She has a whole lifetime ahead of her to suffer there."

Christine nods. Gets ups, pulling her bag over her shoulder. "I have to go now."

Rasmussen doesn't try to stop her.

She stumbles slightly as she starts down the hill. Matthew is dead. Valeris is suffering. Two little pills would have stopped it. Two little pills that she didn't give them because she couldn't stand the thought of losing Jim.

She's lost Jim. Where are those pills? Why can't she go back and give them the pills? She stumbles again, nearly falls.

Hands catch her, a concerned voice says, "Commander? Do you need help?"

She looks up, sees a young cadet. He looks a bit like Jim, and she starts to cry.

"Ma'am?" He is southern; the title comes out drawled like Len would have done.

Len. She has to get to him. He'll know what to do. How to help her. And there is work to be done. People for her to help. "I'm going off world," she says softly, as if the boy actually cares. "I'm okay."

It's a lie. She is nowhere near okay. But it is the kind of lie that she allows herself these days.

"All right, ma'am." He lets go of her.

She turns away, walking clumsily the rest of the way home. It is hard to see through the tears. She has to hit the door for her floor in the elevator twice before it lights up.

She is going off world. She has to get off world. Away from this godawful planet where bad things happen to her. And not in space either. She wants to be on terra firma just not on Terra firma.

She pulls out Jim's pajamas, curls with them on the couch and weeps.

She's going off world. But for now, she just needs to cry.

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

She can tell Len is watching her from the other side of the ward, ignores him as she sits with the little girl and reads to her. It's late and she has a few minutes before rounds start up again on this hell hole of a planet. Plague has wiped out a tenth of the population already, and the Pan-Relief teams are barely making a dent in the latest cases.

It would help if they knew what kind of plague they were dealing with. The best they can say is it's not endemic to Remelia IV. Other than that, they've been operating in the dark.

The little girl reaches up and pulls at her face mask. Christine doesn't even try to stop her, just lets it fall down around her neck.

It's not the first time it's happened. And she doesn't care anymore. Not with Jim gone. If this child wants to see her face, who is she to say no?

She smiles, then slowly pulls the face mask up before Len can come over and read her the riot act. He's tired of her apathy, tired of lecturing her. She wishes he would just leave her alone.

The little girl presses against her, and Christine wonders what her name is. She's too small to tell them herself, and her parents were dead when the scouting team found them. Christine plays with her curls, and the girl closes her eyes, finally falling asleep.

Her hair is golden like David's was. Her eyes though are brown, nothing like David's, or even Jim's. Dark, rich brown starkly in contrast with the golden curls. Christine strokes her face.

"Christine, can I have a word?"

She sighs. Len never wants just a word. There will be too many damn words about one thing only. Her. The way she doesn't care. The risks she takes.

Doesn't he know? She inherited the Kirk luck when Jim died. Nothing she has done has even gotten her sick, much less killed her. And she's not above doing stupid things--she just can't kill herself outright, but to invite death close, to wait for its kiss, that's allowed.

Trouble is death wants nothing to do with her.

She gets up carefully, easing the child back on the bed and off her lap. Ignoring Len until she is closer to the door, she finally turns and waits for the lecture.

"This can't go on, Christine."

She stares at him, giving nothing away. Which is only fair since she has nothing left to give.

Not since Jim died. Jim is dead and she is alive and there is utter wrongness to that. She should have been able to follow him. Is trying to now but the door won't open. Death is supposed to be a simple fellow, but he has eluded her at every step.

Len shakes his head, frustration clear in the way his mouth twists as he watches her. "Damn it, Christine. I know you miss Jim. But do you think he would have wanted this?"

"I don't know. Do you think he'll come tell us?" She smiles, the expression is utter mockery.

"I know you don't care about anything right now. But you have to try. For him."

"For him? He doesn't care, Len. He's gone." Jim doesn't even come to her in her dreams. She was sure he would. Sure that theirs was a love that would laugh at death. That they'd be together, even if only when she slept. But he doesn't come.

In fact, she can't even remember her dreams most nights. She sleeps, sleeps too much, in fact. But if she is dreaming, she's not allowed to keep the memories.

Just like she wasn't allowed to keep Jim.

"He's gone, but you're not. And you need to take more care. I need you here."

She smiles. He always tries this appeal. The personal. The one that would have moved her when she was a nurse, maybe even when she was first a doctor.

But now? Nothing moves her now. Nothing but suffering children and adults who just want to see a face, not a sterile white mask staring down at them. She is moved by people who want to touch skin, not ugly rubbery material.

Len sighs. "You touch them, and they start to expect it from the other doctors and nurses. You're putting everyone else at risk." His face is stern, his tone unyielding.

She's putting them in danger. She can feel her resistance crumbling. He's right. The little girl will reach for his mask next. She should have stopped her.

Moving her gently toward the entrance, he says, "I know it's hard, darlin'. I can't believe he's gone, either. And I wasn't in love with him. I can't imagine how hard it is for you. But Jim wouldn't want this. He'd want you to go on."

"We aren't doing any good here, Len."

"Yes, we are. If you'd open your eyes and look around, you'd see that. But you're too focused on what's inside you, Christine." His look is full of compassion.

She knows he loves her, that he just wants what's best for her.

They just happen to disagree on what that might be. She thinks oblivion looks very inviting. If she could just find it.

"I'm not getting to you at all, am I?" He is angry now. His voice becomes as mocking as hers was. He drags her through the first biofield, over to where they keep the medicines. Loading painkiller into a hypo, he hands it to her. "There. It's enough to take down an elephant. Do it, if you don't care. Why prolong it? Just end it now."

She hands it back to him. She wants death to come to her--a gift, not some dark force at the end of a hypo she jams into her own skin. "Suicide's against my religion, Len."

"You don't have a religion, Christine. That's part of the problem. You don't seem to believe in anything."

She smiles. "I believe in pain. Does that count?" She walks to the bench and sits down, pulling the mask off her face. Studying the gloves, she looks up at him. "What do you think I should believe in, Len?"

He sits down next to her, sighing as he leans back against the side of the enclosure. "Hell, I don't know. In doing good, maybe?"

"I do believe in that. I'm here, aren't I?"

"You're here. But I don't get a warm fuzzy that all of you is really present." Putting his arm around her, he pulls her close. "Grief is a funny thing, Christine. It makes us think we don't care. And we push people away. But eventually it lets up and then you find that the people you pushed away really are gone. I don't want you to end up truly alone."

"I thought it would help being here."

"It's not?"

She curls against him, feels him wrap his arms around her more tightly. "No. It's not." Realizing how that must sound to him, she squeezes him gently. "I don't mean being with you. You've helped."

He laughs softly. "I sure don't feel like I have. Ever since you got here, I've been at my wit's end how to get through to you." He rests his chin on her head, sighs. "Am I getting through to you now, or is this just a momentary truce?"

"I'll be more careful." She sniffs back tears. "I just miss him, Len."

"I know you do, Christine. But this isn't doing anyone any good. Except maybe that little girl." He rubs her arm. "She seems to like you."

"We both know that little girl who seems to like me will be dead soon."

"Yeah. We do." He is quiet for a long time. Then he says softly, "And maybe that's why this isn't the best place for you now."

"You've got a better idea?"

"I do." Pulling away, he gently tips her face up to his. "Will you trust me to do what's best for you?"

"You mean because I'm doing such a bang up job of deciding that for myself?"

"Something like that." He frowns slightly. "I want to help you. Let me?"

She shrugs. She is touched by how much he cares. She wishes she could care more about her own life, her future.

She has no future. Not without Jim.

"Just give me a few days," he says. "Promise me you'll be careful until then?"

She laughs. It is ludicrous that she has to promise him she'll follow basic containment practices. But he's probably smart to make her promise. "I'll be good."

"Go get some sleep." He studies her. "You've been sleeping?"

"Oh yes. I do that better than anything these days."

"Well, I suppose it's preferable to having you haunting the wards at all hours. But not by much." He gets up, touches her face softly. "I only want what's best for you."

"That sounds ominous." Standing, she lets him pull her into a hug. She wishes she could pretend his almost frail frame was Jim's. Wishes she could imagine it was Jim holding her, Jim's arms surrounding her.

But she can't imagine that. Jim's arms will never surround her. Not ever.

Jim is gone. And she's more alone than ever.

And she doesn't foresee that ever changing.

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

She is sitting outside the enclosure, trying to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine instead of obsessing over how many patients they've lost in the last week, when she senses someone coming up behind her. She turns, is stunned to see Spock.

He sits down next to her.

She stares at him.

"Doctor McCoy commed me."

She frowns. This is Lens's solution? "Why?"

"He appears convinced you no longer care if you live or die."

"Maybe he's right." Sighing, she turns back to the sunshine, closing her eyes and ignoring him. She's forgotten how long he can sit in silence, finally says, "You're here to save me?"

"I would not be so presumptuous."

"Then why?"

"I made Leonard an offer, which he does not feel he can accept. But he suggested you would be an acceptable alternative." His voice is dead.

He sounds like she does. Hopeless. Empty. As if all the life was sucked out of him by that terrible moment when Jim gave his life to save the Enterprise B. When Jim was lost to them both forever.

"What's the offer?" She feels a kinship with him. Thinks she could sit forever next to him, feeding off his pain. She wonders if he is feeding off of hers.

"I have been working on Qo'noS, as you know."

"I remember."

"The Klingons are suspicious of doctors, yet they need one who can work with their own healers to improve the state of medicine on the planet."

"The whole planet, Spock? Nice to see that you're ambitious."

"It will start in one place, then move on. It is how these things work."

She nods. He isn't wrong. But the Klingons? He can't be serious.

"And Len isn't jumping at your offer? Go figure." She sighs as she closes her eyes again. Len must have been snorting some powerful drugs to suggest this as a solution for her problems.

"To be honest, I am not sure the Klingons would accept him. He did not have the best results with Chancellor Gorkon."

She bursts out laughing, and several nurses turn in alarm. It is not a sound they have ever heard her make. "You're still the master of understatement, Spock." Glancing over at him, she sees he has lifted an eyebrow at her words.

She feels a warm rush. Somehow, being with him, she feels closer to Jim.

"I know that you miss him." Spock turns to her, his eyes holding hers. "I do as well."

She nods. "It's been lonely. Very lonely."

"For me as well." It is a monumental concession. He breathes in deeply, turns away from her. "Are you trying to kill yourself, Christine?"

"Maybe."

"If you do not care whether you live or die, perhaps Qo'noS will be as good a place as any for you?"

"And what makes you think they'll accept me any better than McCoy?"

He almost smiles. "You mean other than that the Chancellor did not die under your care?"

She does smile. "Yeah, other than that."

"You are Jim's parMach'kai."

"His what?"

"The closest human term is beloved. But it is more violent than that term implies. At any rate, you were Jim's mate and they will accept you for his sake."

"Big with the Klingons, is he?" She studies him. He can't be serious.

"Many of them consider him a true warrior and their savior. Others still hate him, but as a worthy opponent. In either case, you will have credibility."

"You've gone round the bend, Spock. I hate Klingons. They killed David. I'd rather die than go to Qo'noS."

"Would you? Because death may well find you there. It is a violent place." He is staring at her, as if appraising her death wish.

"You trying to scare me? Or is that your idea of a sales pitch for the suicidal girlfriend?"

She starts to get up, but his hand on hers stops her.

"Do not go," he says softly.

"Haven't finished yet?" She wrenches her hand away from him. "The Klingons killed my friend. Matthew is dead, Spock. Because of them."

"No, Matthew is dead because of Matthew."

"And Valeris?" She thinks of the young woman still fighting for survival on Rura Penthe, wonders if Spock ever thinks of her. At one time, she thought he might have been falling for her protege. But he has never said her name, not since Khitomer, not since she betrayed them all.

He does not say her name now either. "She too pays a price of her own making."

"You haven't given me one good reason to go with you."

He sighs, and she turns to him in surprise. He shakes his head slightly, as if giving up on her.

"You said you were lonely, Spock?"

He nods slowly, not looking at her.

"Do you think we could make it better for each other? I haven't with anyone since Jim died. I know Len's tired of trying." Laughing bitterly, she leans back, resting her head on the back of her chair.

"I have not played chess since he died." His voice drops. "I have not wanted to."

"I know. I can't imagine going riding without him."

The silence stretches between them. But for once it isn't painful or full of unsaid recriminations as it often is when she sits with Len or the others. It's just possible that Spock is the only one who really understands her pain.

"Ka'Vareth was ours alone," he says softly.

"Yes."

"I should like to play again."

She realizes she misses their games. "I won't last a minute there, Spock. I'll say something and piss someone off and that'll be it for Jim's parma-- what did you call it?"

"His parMach'kai."

"Right. That."

"Is that not what you want? Someone to bring you death?"

She decides not to lie to him. "Yes." Turning, she studies him. "Do you want that too?"

He shakes his head, his lips pursed--the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug.

"Taking any unnecessary risks?"

"There are some who would say that living on Qo'noS is an unnecessary risk."

"True." She sighs.

They are silent again, until she says softly, "It feels good to be with you."

"Yes. I agree." His hand steals out, covers hers lightly for a moment. "You will come then?"

"Why the hell not? At least if death comes, it will be quick. Right?"

He nods, some dark amusement in his eyes.

"Alright then. Count me in."

She's insane. But at least she'll be in good company. Spock doesn't look like the picture of mental health these days either.

Len comes out of the enclosure and walks over to them. "Looks like you two worked out a solution?"

"We did." Spock looks up at him. "Christine will come to Qo'noS."

"Better you than me, darlin'." Len sits down on the other side of Spock. "You're both crazy, you realize that?"

"It is a distinct possibility," Spock says. He does not sound unduly concerned.

She finds herself smiling. It's comforting to not be alone in this.

Or less alone anyway.

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

Qo'noS is ugly. It's hot and dry and it smells funny. Christine stands in the doorway of Spock's house, staring out at the dusty square. Across the way are the even dustier rooms Spock has secured for her clinic. As far as she can tell, the concept of a housekeeper does not exist on the Klingon homeworld. Maybe whoever loses at arm wrestling has to tidy up?

"Do you want me to stay?"

She turns, sees Spock gathering up his things. He has given her the spare room in his house. She objected at first, until he explained the concept of "House" as the Klingons understood it. As long as she lives here, she is under his protection.

And Spock is well regarded on Qo'noS. Even if it is hard to tell at times.

"No. I don't want you to stay." She's followed him around for a week now. Getting to know the locals, learning what foods to eat and what to stay away from. Everyone who's anyone on Qo'noS knows who she is and why she's there. Even if they grin mockingly at the idea of a Federation doctor in their midst.

Len's little fiasco trying to save Gorkon hasn't done her any favors. One warrior actually teased her and said if she tried to pound on his chest, she'd find herself without hands. It wasn't funny. Although the other warriors all laughed uproariously.

She thinks a Klingon laugh could curdle milk. Knowing them, they'd deem it a delicacy and serve it at their next feast.

She follows Spock out to the square, watches as he gets in his shuttle.

Before he closes the door, he says gently, "I will not be gone long."

"I'll be fine," she says with more bravado than she really feels.

He nods and turns away as the doors close him off from her. Feeling a moment of panic, she picks up a broom and walks over to what will someday be her clinic. The rooms are unlocked, but the furniture and supplies they brought with them are still there. No Klingon appears willing to darken her door, much less steal anything.

It came as a surprise to her to learn that there is little theft on Qo'noS. Little petty crime of any kind, unless you count constant, meaningless violence. That there is plenty of.

She is almost done sweeping when the room suddenly becomes darker. Turning slowly, she sees a Klingon woman standing in the doorway, watching her. Their eyes meet, and the Klingon throws her head back, her smile grows mocking as she stares.

Christine wants to blink, wants to sigh and turn away. But some other part of her, the part that is sick and tired of life, seems to be in control. Striding up to the Klingon woman, she gets in her face and says, "Is there a reason you are blocking my light?"

The woman looks stunned for a moment, then bursts out laughing. It is no more pleasant a sound than the laughter of the men.

Christine turns away, never quite turning her back on the woman as she sweeps an area that is already clean.

The Klingon steps into the room, following Christine around, staring at her, head tilted and eyes narrowed as if Christine is some interesting new animal.

Prey, probably. She forces herself not to swallow too visibly.

"You are Kirk's ParMach'kai?"

"That's right."

"Hmmm." It does not sound like a favorable sound.

"You have a problem?"

"You seem...scrawny."

Christine looks down on a frame she considers frighteningly more ample than it used to be and laughs. "Really? Thanks."

The Klingon smiles, a bit uncertainly but still a smile. "You take insults well." She wanders over to the table full of medicines and equipment. Begins to go through it.

Christine is about to tell her to leave it alone, when she sees the woman make an adjustment to one of the scopes. Sweeping her way to a better angle, Christine sees the Klingon finger the carton of hyposprays, then gently pick up and engage a laser scalpel. The sudden beam of light doesn't seem to surprise her at all.

"You're a healer?"

"I am." The woman turns. "I am supposed to work with you."

"You have my condolences. I'm a real bitch."

It takes the translator a moment to find the right word for bitch. But when it does, the Klingon beams at her.

Christine wonders if it translated correctly. Then again, knowing Klingons...

She leans the broom against a table, and holds her hand out. "My name's Doctor Christine Chapel."

The woman stares at her hand for a moment, then takes it. "I am Khorta, first lady of the house of Gramton. I am healer for this region." She lets go of her hand quickly, as if she finds the feel of Christine's skin distasteful.

Christine eyes the weapons hanging from Khorta's clothing. "I take it you're a warrior too?"

"Well, of course." Khorta holds up a scary-looking dagger. "But these are also tools of the trade. My Daqtagh brings honor to the fallen."

Spock has explained that a Klingon healer is often called in to deliver a death blow, that there is very little healing to be done.

She has seen evidence of that. Warriors with missing arms, puckered eyes, and half cut off ears. No limb replacements for these tough guys. They wear their battle scars with pride, it seems.

"You seem to know your way around a microscope."

The woman actually seems embarrassed. "I may have used one upon occasion." She is saved from having to say more when a young boy steps into the room.

The child's expression is pure warrior, even if he looks barely six years old. Christine can feel her eyebrow going up in a perfect rendition of Spock's at this mini version of the warriors she has met.

"I am Hehnak," he tells her fiercely.

"My son," Khorta says, a note of pride filling her voice. "Heir to the house of Gramton. And a mighty warrior in the making." She lets her hand fall to his shoulder, grips it a bit savagely to Christine's mind.

He only looks up at his mother and grins--the expression making him finally look like a little kid. He looks back at her and his face is once again fierce. "And you are?"

Christine tries not to laugh at the imperiousness of his tone. "I am Christine. Doctor Chapel."

"So many names?"

Khorta laughs. "Why are you here, Hehnak? Did your curiosity about this new member of Spock's house overcome you?" Her voice drops as she says, "And did you forget that you are supposed to be studying with Laranda now?"

"I forget nothing. I am bored with history."

"It is the history of our house and all the others. You must know it, if only to keep track of the blood feuds." She ruffles his hair. "Go now. I don't want to have to tell your father that you deliberately missed a lesson."

He frowns but does as she says. Khorta turns back to Christine, a soft smile--one that makes her look far less alien--on her face. "Do you have children?"

"No," Christine says, looking down. "I regret that sometimes." It is an odd confession for her to make to anyone, much less this Klingon woman. She picks up the broom, begins to sweep again.

"You are busy. I will let you finish." Khorta strides to the entrance, then turns. "You realize no one will come to you for treatment?"

"They'll come." Christine glares at her.

Khorta just laughs. "If you want to scare anyone here, you'll need to work on that. We're taught to glare before we are out of swaddling clothes." She turns and walks out.

Christine sighs, feels her hackles relaxing and walks to the doorway. A few Klingons are passing by and they look at her curiously. She stares at them, trying to out glare them.

She knows she's failed when they burst out laughing.

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

Spock brings her tea, setting the cup down next to the Ka'Vareth board. "Have you had any patients yet?"

She laughs. "Nope."

Sipping at the tea, she studies the board. Spock's been reading up from the look of his opening moves. She doesn't remember him ever taking such a sideways tack before.

She counters with a safety play and sees him almost smile. She has obviously fallen for something; she just can't see what it is. "Reading in your spare time, Spock?"

"It is possible." He moves another piece quickly, almost casually.

She knows she's in big trouble. He spends far too much time on shuttles these days. He could have read half a dozen Ka'Vareth books while she was sitting in the courtyard or her empty little clinic and watching Klingons walk by.

"There are more Klingons loitering around the clinic though." She decides to be daring, moves several pieces at once. "So they are either getting a feel for me or are planning to raid the joint."

He almost smiles again. "I believe it is the former." He moves another piece quickly.

"Damn it, Spock. What are you doing?" She studies the board and finally sees what he is planning. "Oooh, sneaky." She smiles at him and sees his expression lighten. "Did you think I wouldn't see it?"

"I have long since learned to abandon any hope of fooling you indefinitely."

She moves to counter, making sure there isn't a second trap waiting for her. He takes his time moving, and she knows she made the right play.

"I will be off world for a time." He looks at her. "You will be all right here?"

"I'll miss our games." She smiles at him, knows it is true. How can anyone hurt her if no one will even talk to her, much less need her services? Only Hehnak stops in to actually see her, not that he talks to her either; he just follows her around instead of attending his history lessons.

"If you are uncomfortable staying, you could come with me."

"Where are you going?"

He almost smiles. "Cardassia."

"Oh, yes, please. I want to go there." She laughs. "I'd just be trading one hellhole for another." She moves a piece in a rather boring move just to see what he'll do. "I will miss our games, Spock."

"As will I," he says easily.

They've both opened up since she got to Qo'noS. As if their pain together somehow cancelled each other out, and they ended up healthier than when they were alone. He seems more interested in his work; she knows she is too, even if she has no patients.

A heavy knock on the front door surprises them both. "Were you expecting anyone?" she asks Spock as she gets up.

"I was not."

She opens the door, sees Khorta standing in the dark. "Hello."

"There has been a brawl--a result of a blood feud. I thought you might like to come help me pick up the pieces."

"And you probably mean that literally, don't you?" Christine is surprised when Khorta laughs. Grabbing her medkit, she looks over at Spock. "Don't cheat; we can finish when I get back."

An eyebrow is her only answer; he is already reaching for a padd, no doubt reading up on his next mission.

"It is the Houses of Tennor and Prelek." Khorta leads her to a small flitter. "They have been feuding for so long most of us have forgotten any other state between them. But they normally pick at each other, a fight here, a duel there. This is much bigger than any of us expected. It will not be pleasant."

Christine takes a deep breath. "I can handle it."

"We'll see."

"You could tell me what to expect. Will they even let me near them?"

"That is for you to find out."

Christine laughs bitterly, the expulsion of air the only sound in the flitter. She imagines an already irked warrior taking issue with her treatment. "How many healers lose hands in these parts?"

Khorta smiles. "Agility is a job requirement. Just move any weapons before you start any sort of treatment."

"My new rules of thumb. First, do no harm. Second, allow no weapons."

Khorta smiles again. Evidently, Christine is funny even when translated.

She touches the flitter down, looks appraisingly at Christine. "Ready?"

"Sure." She's not, but then she probably never will be.

She strides into the hall after Khorta, trying to cover as much ground as the Klingon woman does. The scene stops her short. "Holy shi--"

It is just like the planets they used to visit after a Klingon raid. Parts...everywhere.

"Why?" she says softly, as the doctor in her takes over and she goes to a young woman whose arm is bleeding badly but is still attached. In fact, she appears to have all her limbs, and Christine wonders if she should bypass her, but she really doesn't feel ready for a mercy killing.

She scans the woman, who looks up and pulls away.

"Human?" she says, nearly spitting at Christine.

"You will sit still, Talinna," Khorta says sharply from across the room, and Christine realizes she is looking out for her.

"This won't take long," she says, scanning quickly. The woman has two long cuts, one on her arm and another on her cheek. Christine goes to work on the arm. "I suppose you want to keep the scars?" she asks softly.

The woman laughs scornfully. "I earned them, p'tak."

Christine knows she's been insulted when Khorta looks over and scowls at the woman. "Just making conversation," she mutters as she adjusts the regenerator to close the wound without healing the injury completely. She moves on to the woman's face, then steps away. "There you go. No more blood, plenty of scar. You'll be the envy of all your friends. You'll get my bill."

The woman stares up at her as if she has gone insane. Christine's not sure how the translator ended up rendering her ribbing, decides to move on just in case she has mortally insulted the woman.

Khorta motions her over. A warrior's arm is partially severed, he is groaning, while another warrior holds him down. "What would you do?" Khorta asks her.

She scans it quickly. The damage is reparable, but there are so many other people to help, she can't afford to spend all her time with him. It would be faster to amputate. But everything in her rebels at that idea. She scans again.

Perhaps she is overthinking this. Klingons are robust and used to far rougher field medicine. She looks up at Khorta. "I'd regenerate the tendon and main artery, then I'd close and let fate decide the rest."

Khorta nods, as if pleased at her answer. "Yes, do it." She gets up and moves on, leaving Christine with the warrior.

The warrior's bat'leth lies close to him. "Can you move that out of his reach?" she asks the other warrior.

He smiles as if she has made a joke, but moves the weapon out of his injured friend's reach.

She works quickly. The artery is the hardest, but once she stops the bleeding, she can see two more small veins that if closed will make the healing more likely. Sealing them shut, she works on the tendon, watching to make sure that the blood is flowing through the repaired artery and veins before closing his wound and applying an antibacterial spray to the area.

She pats the warrior on his good arm. "Good luck."

His eyes narrow and he shakes his head. "Qapla'." Her translator renders it as "Success."

"Qapla' it is ." She leaves him and moves on to a child who looks too young to have been actually fighting. He has a bruise on his face and is holding his ribs. Scanning him, she sees no major damage. "Sorry, kiddo. You're on your own." She'd at least offer a human a painkiller, but he doesn't look disappointed when she moves on.

She catches up with Khorta, who is working on a woman with a disruptor burn across her chest. The healer looks over at Christine, who scans the woman. The damage is too great, major systems are already shutting down. That she is still alive is more a technicality than anything.

Khorta leans down. "Sto-Vo-Kor awaits you. Will you go now or stay a while?"

The woman closes her eyes. "Send me now."

Khorta looks at Christine, then she draws her Daqtagh and plunges it into the woman's heart, killing her instantly. Christine forces herself not to turn away. This is what she is faced with. This is Klingon medicine at its most lethal.

"You'll do," Khorta says as she stands up. "There are more to help."

Christine tries not to laugh in what she is afraid is hysteria. Help is such a relative term suddenly.

She gets up and follows Khorta to the next patient, praying that this one is not bound for the Klingon afterlife anytime soon. She's not sure her stomach or her psyche can take it.

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

Hehnak sits on the stool by her microscope, watching as she makes up some medicine. He comes everyday but he never talks to her. She's gotten used to having him underfoot, sometimes forgets he's there and talks to herself.

"My mother says you were Kirk's parMach'kai." His voice sounds strange in the usually quiet clinic.

Christine stares down at him, then goes back to mixing the meds. "I was."

"But you are not a warrior," he says, practically spitting the words at her.

"That's right." She glances down at the boy. He is staring up at her, as if he cannot figure out why anyone would want to be with her.

"Kirk was a great warrior."

"Yes, he was. But he was also a man of peace."

Hehnak frowns. Peace is obviously not a concept he wants to dwell on. "Kirk did not like Klingons, did he?"

She decides to be honest. "Not particularly."

The boy thinks about that. "Laranda says that his actions before and after Khitomer ensured our survival." He shakes his head. "I do not understand why he would do that for people he did not like."

"There are a lot of people who wonder the same thing, kiddo." She looks down, sees that the youngster is frowning, as if trying to come to terms with Jim's actions. "Hehnak, sometimes a warrior must fight for causes he does not believe in because it is the will of the House, isn't that so?"

"Yes."

Christine smiles, glad she's paid attention to Spock's lectures on honor and House politics--and watched Hehnak's father, Gramton, in action. "Well, sometimes you have to fight for a cause you believe in, even when the ones you are fighting for are your enemies and the ones you fight against are people you love and trust."

"Why?"

"Because it is the right thing to do."

He digests that. "Am I your enemy then?"

"I don't know." She looks down at him. "What do you think?"

He smiles fiercely, touches the small mek'leth he wears. "If I am, you don't stand a chance."

She laughs. He is no doubt right. She has an urge to ruffle his hair, decides it is probably a very stupid impulse--she likes her hands where they are and attached.

She hears a noise at the door, looks over and sees a Klingon woman with a toddler.

"What do you want?" Christine asks, still feeling strange using the Klingon greeting. It is so...harsh.

"My child is sick. Khorta said you might have an opinion on her illness."

Christine tries not to smile at the phrasing. God forbid these people should actually ask for help. "I might indeed. Bring her in." Without thinking, she hands Hehnak the bowl of meds she's been mixing. "Stir."

He stirs. She realizes she gave the order like a Klingon would have and smiles.

She scans the toddler, who sits lethargically on the table. Christine hasn't seen all that many Klingon children, but this one seems far too quiet. The scan shows that her lungs are partially filled with fluid. The Klingon version of pneumonia from the look of her other symptoms.

"Is she having trouble breathing?"

The Klingon woman does not answer. Christine sighs. She supposes it is wrong to admit any weakness. She will have to ask Spock if Klingons cull the weak.

She scans again. "She is having trouble breathing," she says, making the statement as if she is declaring war.

"Yes," the Klingon agrees.

"Her fever is too high, it must come down," Christine says again, trying not to cough from the force she is putting into her words. No wonder Klingons sound guttural--they're probably just hoarse from nearly yelling at each other all day.

"I have given her the traditional herbs. They have not worked." The Klingon looks at her as if daring her to contradict her.

"I have better." Christine goes to the cabinet she keeps the medicines in and chooses several. Loading the first into a hypo, she holds it against the girl's arm.

The child looks up at her, eyes appraising. Even barely out of diapers, these people are fierce. She loads the other--an antibiotic--and shoots it into her arm.

Hehnak puts down the mixture he has been stirring and walks over. "My mother recommends Var'kellik tea for chest conditions."

Christine smiles. "You have Var'kellik tea?" Before she can rephrase it as an order, the woman nods. Perhaps not every question is bad?

"She will sleep from the medicines. Elevate her head, and make sure she does not get chilled."

She looks down at Hehnak to see if he is going to add anything to her recommendations. He merely nods and goes back to his stool.

The woman gathers up her child and leaves. No "Thank you" or "Welcome to Qo'noS" or any other nicety.

Christine doesn't care. They're still her first real patients. She feels a warm glow and smiles at Hehnak before she can think better of it.

He hands her the bowl. "It is stirred."

She looks down. It is indeed well-stirred.

Hehnak says softly, "That was Pirella. She is the first lady of the House of Volahk. She carries much influence in this region."

"In other words, as long as the baby survives, I can expect more business."

"Yes." Hehnak pulls himself back on the stool. "I am bored with talk of medicine. Tell me more about Kirk."

Christine smiles. She and Spock don't talk about Jim even though she knows they both miss him intensely. She begins to tell Hehnak about him, realizes that she wants to tell the boy about him. And it is the most natural thing in the world to tell him.

Even if the boy keeps urging her to skip the boring parts and get to the next battle.

She wonders if Jim is looking on from wherever he is. If he is, she knows that he's laughing.

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

Christine trudges back to her house, crossing through dingy allies as she makes her way from the middle of town. She is tired and covered with rosy Klingon blood and other not so rosy Klingon things, and the few Klingons she passes give her a wide berth as they eye her medical bag and her clothing. She isn't sure if most of them know that the Klingon equivalent to the local flitterbus went out of control and crashed in the central square. Or if they're aware that the vehicle was packed.

She closes her eyes, trying not to see the injured, most of whom were halfway to Sto-Vo-Kor by the time she got there. She'd followed Khorta to the scene. Even the Klingon woman had looked slightly sick at the carnage in front of them.

Lost in that thought, Christine turns a corner, nearly crashes into a warrior.

"Watch it," she growls, too tired to care how he reacts. She looks up, sees it is one of Gramton's lieutenants. "Sorry, Malshrak. I didn't know it was you."

He falls into step beside her. "Khorta wanted me to see you home."

She wonders how he found her. Is her route so predictable? "She thinks I can't look out for myself?"

"I do not know." His voice is surly. He does not seem to relish chaperoning her any more than she wants a bodyguard right now.

She makes a gesture of dismissal. "I relieve you of this obligation. Go on."

"You are not first in my house, Doctor." He slows his pace somewhat. He studies her. "Something is wrong?"

"Good call, Sherlock." Her translator gives up on translating the last word.

"An insult?"

She nods. "But not a good one. You didn't miss anything."

He nods, and she thinks he does not care one way or the other.

"How many people have you killed, Malshrak?"

"Many."

"In battle? Or after?"

He looks at her. "This was your first time delivering Hegh batlh?" The translator gives her the words in Standard: "honorable death."

She nods, forces herself to keep her face even. She must not cry.

"It was a good thing to send those wounded on to Sto-Vo-Kor. Without that"- -he points to the Daqtagh that Khorta gave her--"only Gre'thor would await those who fall so meaninglessly."

She nods. "I am honored to be chosen." She does not feel honored. She feels sick and dirty and wants to wash her hands and her face until they are scrubbed raw. She forces herself to keep walking, to stop wiping her hands on her pants.

Her house comes in sight, and Malshrak bows slightly. "I will leave you."

Klingons as a rule do not say "Thank you," so she nods, tries to smile in gratitude but knows the expression comes out half hearted. She turns into the house, gets the door shut before she breaks down, leaning against it and sobbing.

"Christine?"

She whirls, sees that Spock has finally returned to Qo'noS. He is coming up behind her, and she throws herself into his arms.

"Shhh. Christine, what has happened?"

She realizes what she has done, how dirty and bloody her clothes and skin are and tries to pull away. "I'm sorry, Spock. I didn't think."

He does not let her go. "What has happened?" He pulls her closer, his hands moving slowly up and down her arms, comforting her.

"I'm sorry."

"You said that." His voice is still concerned. "I returned at a good time, I see." He starts to move her to the couch.

"No. I'm covered with blood." She pulls away and this time he lets her. "And you are too now."

He looks down, seems to just be noticing the blood. "There was another fight?"

"No. A flitter accident. I had to--" She turns away from him, rushes to the bathroom and makes it in time to throw up over and over again.

Spock stands at the door, watching her. When she seems to be finished, he walks to the sink and wets a small towel, handing it to her.

"What did you have to do?"

She meets his eyes. "I killed them, Spock." She begins to cry, long terrible sobs that seem to come out of her very soul. She pulls the Daqtagh out of its scabbard, lets it fall to the floor. "With that."

He crouches down in front of her. "Was there anything else you could have done?"

She shakes her head.

"Did they wish you to do it?"

She nods.

"Did it end their suffering?"

She can still smell the burned flesh of the ones who had been too close to the engine when the flitter hit ground. "Yes."

"Then you did your job, did you not?"

She meets his eyes again, searching desperately for some judgment in his dark gaze, something she can hold onto, can label herself with. She is an animal. Or she is not. She did wrong. Or she did not.

He touches her cheek. "You did what you were called to do. This is a hard world, Christine. I warned you of that."

She nods. "I know. I just didn't think that I'd have to..."

"I know." He hands her the dagger. "You should clean this off."

She takes his hand and lets him pull her to her feet, looking down at the plain white medical uniform--it used to be white anyway. "This thing's ruined."

"You have others."

"What if I wreck them all?"

"Then you will wear the local clothes until we can get you more."

She nods; he is so logical. It is a comfort. Moving to the sink, she lets hot water wash the blood off her dagger. She will put it in the sterilizer tomorrow. For now, it is clean enough. She sets it down on a fresh towel.

He pulls her close again, surprising her with a warm hug. "If you were not a good person, this would not hurt so badly, Christine."

"Thank you, Spock. I'm glad you're home." She lets herself hold onto him for a moment, then pulls away. "I need to shower."

He eyes his own robe. "I will put this in the refresher." He touches her cheek one last time, then leaves her alone.

She stays in the shower for what seems like forever. But even then she doesn't feel clean.

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

Gramton's house is more like a stronghold--but the doors are open and the loud, raucous Klingon equivalent of mood music is blaring. The party he has thrown for Hehnak's seventh birthday is in full swing.

"Christine," Gramton's huge hand comes down on her shoulder, squeezing painfully. For some reason, he has decided he likes her--he called her by her first name long before Khorta or Hehnak would. "You honor my house. This is a historic event. Worthy of such a feast." He glowers happily at the heaping tables of food.

"You say that about every occasion, husband," Khorta says, a tolerant edge to her voice. She shoots Christine a look.

Christine laughs softly. Khorta's right; Gramton is pretty liberal when it comes to finding an excuse to party. Last week, he threw a feast because the moons all decided to rise on time. She can smell the delicious aroma of roast targ from the central courtyard, and she tries not to salivate. She can't say she minds the frequent get-togethers--the man does know how to barbeque.

She looks over at Spock, watches him checking out the table. It isn't easy being a vegetarian on Qo'noS. He ate a big meal before they left the house. Fortunately, none of the Klingons seem to take offense when he won't try something. They just expect Vulcans to be finicky. Christine on the other hand is not offered any such mercy. Humans, apparently are expected to try everything. Each and every time. She prays she can get by the gagh table without Gramton loading her plate up. So far she's been lucky, at past feasts she's told him she tried gagh and finished it already. Despite his dubious looks, he could not prove her wrong, and it would be the height of rudeness to call his guest a liar.

Hehnak laughs at her for her elaborate ploys to get out of eating gagh. But she senses that he admires her deviousness in a way, even if he does call her a sneaky Romulan. And she knows that's no compliment on Qo'noS.

A servant offers her a tankard of bloodwine, and she accepts. It is an acquired taste, but she's grown used to it. And learned the hard way to go easy on it. She's not sure Spock will ever recover from her attempt to recreate the Klingon opera from the Festival of Kot'Baval. She wasn't sure she was going to recover from the hangover the next day either. She sips at her wine, sees Spock almost smile as he does the same. Naturally, he is a master of moderation.

"No Klingon opera tonight, I hope," he says softly as he moves away from her.

She resists the urge to stick her tongue out at him.

"I think you see a different side of him," Khorta says quietly, coming up with a small plate of appetizers that she knows Christine likes.

Christine picks one and pops it in her mouth. "If Gramton keeps throwing feasts, I'll never fit into my uniforms." She sees Khorta's face and laughs. "I know, you think I'm too scrawny anyway."

"I am getting used to the oddness of your looks," Khorta says, a smile on her face.

"Yeah. Well, right back at you." Christine can see by Khorta's puzzled look that the translator doesn't do that phrase justice. "I am as well," she says and sees the woman's expression clear.

"Vulcans are so cold. Jim Kirk was rumored to be quite passionate."

Christine smiles.

"I guess the rumors are true. Or are you trying to say that Vulcans are not cold?"

"Well, I don't think they are, if they like you. But I was reacting to the Jim part of your statement."

Khorta nods. "You miss him?"

"Every day." It is true, even if missing him no longer translates into the bottomless and hopeless ache she felt when Spock came for her. Qo'noS, in some strange way, has helped her.

"Kirk was good to you?"

"Oh, yes. But we had our fights. And we weren't always together."

Khorta smiles. "We Klingons prefer a volatile relationship. Fire is beneficial to passion."

"Well, we had plenty of passion." Christine smiles. "I'll never get that back."

"One never recaptures a great love. But there are other loves." Khorta looks over at Spock. "Cold, passionless Vulcans, for example?"

Christine gives her the Chapel equivalent of the Vulcan eyebrow of disbelief.

"Or, if that option does not appeal, Klingon warriors are quite passionate."

The eyebrow goes higher.

Khorta looks a bit offended. "Are you saying you don't find Klingon men attractive?"

Christine laughs. "No, I'm not saying that. Although, when I first came here I might have." She smiles. "But I can't believe you think one would find me his cup of tea."

She hears the translator translate that as something to do with blood. It makes Khorta laugh, and Christine hopes it came out right.

"Malshrak finds you intriguing."

"He does?" Christine glances over at Gramton's lieutenant.

He glowers back at her, same as always.

"You sure about that?"

"Quite sure," Khorta says.

"I'll take your word for it." She sips at her bloodwine, buying time while she finds the right words. "I'm not ready. I'm not sure I ever will be. But I'm flattered."

Khorta sniffs. "Passion with a warrior could take your mind off how not ready you are."

Christine laughs. "Probably so. But I think I'll pass. Besides, Spock needs me around the house. What good is a House of one?"

"Good point." Khorta studies Spock, her eyes narrowing. "He seems so far away. Are all Vulcans like him?"

"Pretty much." Christine smiles. "He does love though. He loved my ParMach'kai."

"And I think he loves you, Christine. In his own way." Khorta looks over at Gramton, who is making noises for people to dish up.

"You better hurry if you are to avoid the gagh," Khorta says, doing something odd with her eyes that Christine realizes is the Klingon equivalent of a wink.

"You don't have to tell me twice." She heads for the table.

Hehnak trails behind murmuring, "Be sure to try the gagh, Christine."

Klingons. They're such comedians. She gives Hehnak her best glare, which is pretty good now--she's been practicing.

He almost looks scared. Or so she's willing to believe.

End part 1 of 2