Revenant by Djinn

Begin Part 2 of 2

Christine hears a noise at the front door and reaches for her Daqtagh. She has never felt threatened here, not even when Spock has been away on his frequent diplomatic missions. But whoever has come in is trying to be very quiet and that worries her. Jim still has plenty of enemies on Qo'noS--not all of them want to party with her and Spock.

And Spock isn't here to party with. Just her, the defenseless human. She grips the Daqtagh tighter. Not totally defenseless. Getting up, she pulls her robe on, then creeps out of her bedroom and into the main room.

A rising eyebrow greets her as Spock puts down his carryall and studies her. "I see you have gone native."

Lowering the knife, she glares at him. "You weren't due back for a week. And why were you being so quiet?"

"It is late. I did not want to wake you if you were sleeping." He is staring at her.

She realizes her robe has fallen open and ties it shut. "So why are you back?"

"I postponed my visit to Vulcan."


The look he gives her is searching.

"What?" She moves toward him, feels a sinking in the pit of her stomach. He's never shown so much interest in her nightclothes before. And he's still staring at her. "It's not that time of the decade, is it?"

He actually smiles. Just the smallest tip of his lips in the upward direction, but it is a definite smile. "No. It is not the Pon Farr."

"Well, that's a relief, because, you know..." She is unsure where she is going with the thought, so she just waves the knife around in an almost threatening manner.

"I stand warned." He moves to her. "I have missed you, Christine."

She sets the weapon down and hugs him. As always, it is a surprise that he allows it. But he has let her do this since that day she first had to use her Daqtagh. His arms close around her, and she is reminded of his strength as she sinks into his embrace.

She feels a touch on her cheek, thinks she imagines it. There is no way Spock just kissed her.

"So why did you come back early?"

He pulls away enough to look at her. "I was tired. And I needed to come home. And much to my surprise, you and this planet seem to represent that to me far more than my home world does."

She stares at him, unsure what he wants her to do with that information. It touches her to know he thinks of her that way. But it confuses her too. Surely he is not saying...

"Is that sentiment unwelcome, Christine?" Stroking her hair away from her face, his hands stop to rest on either side of her head. His skin is warm, so warm.

"No. Not at all." She can feel his pulse though his hands--it is racing. "Spock? What are you doing?"

"Nothing, if you do not want it." His eyes are intense, more so than she's ever seen. "I know I am not Jim. I know I can never be him for you, and that what you felt for him is not something you can call back up." His hands run though her hair, then move to her face, tracing the lines of her cheeks, her forehead. "But...perhaps you can feel something else for me? I care for you, Christine. Very much."

His fingers are dancing over the meld points and she shivers. Desire--she can feel it even without the meld. He wants her.

She reaches up, touches his face, and he groans softly and closes his eyes.

He really wants her.

She laughs softly, sees his eyes fly open as if he is afraid she is making fun of him. She smiles at him, doesn't stop stroking his face, his ears, his neck. "I can't be Jim for you either. I know you loved him."

He nods. "I am not asking you to be him."

Leaning against him, she feels him push back. "Maybe we both represent that last link to him, though. Even if neither of us can be him. Maybe that's why you want me?"

"Perhaps. But I want you for yourself as well. I did not rush back here to recapture Jim."


He shakes his head. Then he kisses her. The mechanics of a kiss are so simple, yet being with Spock is nothing like being with Jim. His lips feel hotter, but less demanding. He is waiting for her to meet him. He needs that from her.

He is unsure of her. Wrapping her arms around him, she kisses him back, feels him relax.

When they finally pull away from each other, she searches his face. "Are you sure this is a good idea, Spock?"

"No, I am not." He gently pushes her toward his bedroom. "I am sure, however, that I do not care whether it is or not. I want you."

She laughs. It is such a wonderfully impulsive thing for him to say. He kisses her again, and she runs her hands up under his shirt, feels his skin- -so much hotter than her own--and the dark hair that covers his chest. He is built differently than Jim. Lean, almost lanky. Yet he is strong as he pulls her to him, as he kisses her again and pulls off her clothes and his own in one long impatient flow of pants and shirts and under things. Then he is lifting her up, and she wraps her arms around his neck, her legs around his waist, and settles onto him.

She gasps at the feeling. It has been so long since she and Jim made love, and she did not think she would ever want this with another man.

But she wants Spock. She wants him badly.

His hand finds her face, touches down on the meld points, and he is in her mind, just as he was when they shared consciousness so long ago. She can feel his desire for her, and a rush of affection and admiration from him too, and coloring it all is Jim and how much they both loved him.

"I love you," Spock tells her, the sound ringing through her mind. Then he is worming his way deep, into her memories.

Her memories of loving Jim.

She gasps, tries to pull away. He is instantly back with her; her memories are safe.

"Christine. I did not intend trespass. I just want to please you. I know Jim did. I am not sure that I will and I thought...if I knew how he did..."

"You'll please me." She kisses him, holding his fingers in place as she does it. "But please me as yourself, not as him."

He kisses her back almost desperately. "I beg forgiveness."

"I forgive you. Just ask first before you go traipsing through my memories."

She can feel that what she has said resonates with him in some way she doesn't completely understand. She can sense him falling away from her, as if disappointed in himself. So much so that he thinks he no longer deserves this--no longer deserves her.

"Spock." She kisses him again, her tongue finding his, and as she touches him, she feels his shock of desire. "Spock, come back to me and finish what you started." She can hear her own amusement ringing through the meld.

It seems to be the best approach. It occurs to her that it is what Jim would have done. She can hear the echo of that thought from Spock. Jim will always be a ghost between them. But that's all right. They both loved him; they will not mind his company.

Spock carries her to the bed and somehow manages to get them both onto it without falling or crushing her. She decides she loves Vulcan strength. She knows she loves him. She tells him so, in words and then tries to project the love through the meld. She can feel his satisfaction.

Then he deepens the meld, and she is lost in the sensation of his pleasure and her own. She can't begin to compare it to Jim anymore; it is so alien. When Spock comes, he doesn't make a sound, but his pleasure screams through the meld. He keeps moving, doesn't seem to need to stop despite his climax. He begins to touch her, his fingers moving over her until she cries out. She can feel her pleasure ricochet through the meld. It is so intense she is not sure if she is coming again or just reliving what's happened.

She has the strange, disconnected thought that she is glad Jim never made love to Spock. He would never have wanted to leave his friend's bed if he'd tasted this.

To her surprise, Spock laughs. Not loudly, or long, or even very hard. But he is amused.

And pleased.

He is pleased that he has pleased her. He is pleased that she thinks he would have pleased Jim.

He lets go of her face, and the meld eases.

Opening her eyes, she kisses him. "I'm glad you came home early."

"As am I." They lie together quietly for a while, then he says softly. "Will you come to Vulcan with me? I will go in two weeks."

"Come with you?"

He nods. "My father thinks highly of you."

She chuckles. "Yes, he thinks highly of all the people who nearly get him killed by visiting probes."

She kisses Spock, feels a rush of pure affection at the sweet way he kisses her back. He is not Jim. But he is her friend, and now her lover. And she loves him, has loved him, even if not this way, for a long time.

And she knows Jim would approve. He would not have wanted either of them to be lonely.

Especially if they both still love him best. She grins at that thought. Jim was generous, but he also liked to be first.

"You will come then?" Spock looks worried.

She nods. "I'll come."

She cuddles in next to him, feels his arms go around her, pulling her even closer. She is unsure what to do, does not know if the sex is over or just beginning. She studied Vulcans when she had her crush on him, but information on their sexual habits was hard to find and not detailed when she did find it.

"Are you tired?" he asks.


"Do you still desire me?" He sounds tentative, almost awkward.

She feels such a rush of tenderness for him it leaves her breathless. She doesn't answer, lets her kiss tell him that she still wants him, let's her questing hand tell him that she needs to be touched again.

He moans as she grasps him--there is no doubt that he still desires her.

She smiles as she moves out of his arms, as she pushes him to his back and crawls onto him. He looks so complete as he watches her, his hands holding her, helping to move her.

"You saved me." She moves faster. "You know that? You saved me when you brought me here."

"You were so alone. How could I not try to help?" He pulls her down so he can kiss her. His tongue works at her lips, and she opens her mouth to him. When he finally lets her sit back up, he says, "You were my friend. You are my love."

His world is still such a simple place at times.

It is one of the reasons she loves him.


Amanda's garden seems to glow in the tolerable heat of night. Christine wanders through the primarily white flowers, stopping to inhale the aroma of night-blooming jasmine and lovely, huge roses.

She hears the door open and turns to see Sarek stepping out into the garden.

"You enjoy my wife's garden?"

She smiles. "Very much."

He joins her by the rose bush. "She used to plant more colorful flowers. But it was too hot during the day to enjoy them, and they faded into the darkness when the sun set." He touches the petal of one of the roses. "So she created a night garden."

"It's beautiful."

"Yes. And very fragile. It takes constant care for these flowers to thrive here." He turns to look at her. "Fortunately, my wife thrives here with greater ease."

"Indeed." She has been around Spock too long. It is something he would say.

"I did not have the opportunity to express to you my deep sorrow at the loss of James Kirk. He was a man of excellent character and deep loyalty to those he loved."

She feels a familiar rush of pain when she thinks of Jim, but it is somehow muffled now. By Spock she thinks. By loving him. She looks up at his father and smiles gently. "Thank you, Sarek."

They walk a bit, and he identifies the flowers she does not recognize. When they reach the end of the garden, she sits on a bench and Sarek joins her.

"I was surprised when my son told us you would be coming."

"Not half as surprised as I was," she says, with a grin she knows is Jim- worthy. She wonders if Sarek can see a bit of Kirk in the expression.

Sarek appears to miss it. "It is not good for a man to be too alone. And my son, I fear, is often isolated."

She can see where Sarek is going with his explorations, decides to make him work for the knowledge that she suspects Amanda sent him out to gather.

He looks at her, as if surprised she does not answer, then he continues gamely on. "My son seems less isolated this time. Perhaps we have you to thank for that?"

She grins at him. "Amanda put you up to this, didn't she?"

He begins to say something, and she shoots him one of her Emergency Ops looks. A look she has perfected on Qo'noS dealing with Klingons.

He stops talking, regroups. "It is possible that Spock's mother has some understandable curiosity about the state of her son's heart."

It seems an awfully romantic way for him to say Amanda wanted to know if Spock and she were involved. But she is beginning to suspect that Vulcans are far more romantic than anyone gives them credit for.

"Yes, I can see how she might be curious." She smiles innocently at him. Amanda has given Spock and her separate rooms--with a convenient connecting door.

"Christine..." Sarek's voice is no longer that of the master diplomat of Vulcan, but only a slightly frustrated father.

She decides to put him out of his misery. "We're together."

He nods. "Good. My wife will be most pleased."

She laughs. "You, of course, could care less about Spock's happiness."

"Happiness is an emotion."

"Right. And you'd never have one of those." She looks up at the night sky awash in stars, takes a deep breath of the fragrant air. "I can see through your little ploy, Sarek. I know you care about him."

He makes a sound--not quite a sigh, more than an exhalation. "It is possible that logic deserts me when it comes to my son."

"I can believe that." She thinks it is possible logic deserts Spock too. She's never seen two men have a harder time relating than Spock and his father. It's not logic that stands in their way; it is all the emotions that rise between them almost without any effort on their part.

Len would say that they just rub each other the wrong way.

She suddenly misses Len very much. Maybe they should go to Earth and see him?

The door opens again and Spock comes out. "Christine?" he calls softly.

Sarek looks at her. "I will leave you alone. I am glad you are with my son. I have always respected you."

"I like you too, Sarek." She grins at him.

An elegant eyebrow is her answer, then he stands. "She is here, my son."

Spock comes to her, seems to be walking with almost exaggerated care. As if he is in no hurry to reach them. As if he is not dying to know what they've been talking about.

"Good night, father."

"Good night, Spock." Sarek turns to her, dips his head to her. "Good night, Christine."

"Good night," she murmurs, as Spock sits down next to her.

As soon as the door shuts behind his father, he takes her hand. She laughs at him, and he shoots her a glance she can only call annoyed, so she leans in and kisses his cheek. When she goes in for another pass, he turns so she has to kiss him on the lips. It is no hardship.

As they kiss, she hears the sound of people talking in the neighboring gardens. Evening must be the time to stroll through the flowers, enjoying the relative coolness.

Vulcan saps her strength far more than Qo'noS ever has, even though she expected to hate living on the Klingon home world. But there is a vitality and rawness to the heat and dust there, an energy that seems to be lacking in the logic-filled parlors of Spock's home world.

She can't believe she is homesick for Qo'noS.

"I am glad you came," Spock says softly.

"Was your mother grilling you about me?"


She grins. "She sicced your father on me."

"And did you fall before the great negotiator of Vulcan?"

"Oh, yes."

"Good. Then he will tell her, and she will leave us alone." He is almost smiling. "Will you sleep with me tonight?"

She has slept with him every night since they became lovers. But she finds it charming that he asks. "If you want me to."

"I do." He pulls her close, and they sit quietly together. Then he says softly, "I told my mother about us. She will not have to hear it from Sarek."

She turns to look at him.

"I do not want you to think that I am ashamed of you."

She kisses him. He is so sweet sometimes. "And just how much did you tell her?"

"Admittedly, not much. That would have spoiled her fun, and been out of character for me." He gives her another almost-smile and she grins at him.

"I understand. I didn't tell Sarek much either."

"They will no doubt have much to talk about when they retire."

She laughs softly. "No doubt." She rests her lips against his cheek, kissing slowly down to his throat. He does not stop her, just tilts his head up and to the side to give her more access.

She never expected loving Spock to be this easy.

It is the best kind of surprise.


Being back on Earth feels strange after so long on Qo'noS. She is struck by how green everything is as they walk from the transporter station to Len's home. She looks over at Spock, sees him give her one of his miniscule smiles. She knows he is a little nervous, felt that in the meld when they made love in their cabin on the shuttle. This is the first time together with their friends.

She allows herself to drift, bumps up against his shoulder. "They won't mind that we're together. What is, is, right?"

He nods, and his hand glances off of hers, the touch just long enough for him to stroke her skin lightly. She would never have guessed how tactile he is, how much comfort she derives from touching and being touched by him.

Len is on the front porch of his house, Uhura and Scotty sitting by him. "Sure, just because you're coming from Qo'noS, you think you can be the last to arrive?" He lifts his drink to them. "Wish me happy birthday, at least."

"Happy birthday, Len," she says as she walks up the stairs and leans down to kiss his cheek. "You don't look a day over forty."

"Thirty, dammit. And don't try to flatter me." He pulls her closer, whispers, "You two together?"

She whispers back, "Yes. And don't tell me you planned for this to happen."

"Planned might be stretching it. Hoped for--now, that'd be true." He kisses her again, then lets her up. "So, Spock. Is having Christine on Qo'noS agreeing with you?" He winks at her.

Spock nods. "Her company is quite satisfying."

"Interesting choice of words, my friend," Len says.

She hopes she is not blushing. Sees Nyota grin and knows that she is.

Scotty seems oblivious, or else he's just taking pity on her and Spock. "Good to see you both here." He smiles. "I'll be outward bound myself in a few weeks. I'm retiring on Norpin V, finally."

Scotty has been talking about retiring for years, but Christine wasn't sure he'd ever really make the move. She can't imagine him not on a ship. She smiles at him. "Congratulations."

"Let's get you a drink so you can toast him properly," Len says, getting up and motioning for her to follow him.

His house is bright and welcoming, just what she expected. "Nice digs."

"Well, it's not a Klingon fortress." He laughs. "So how are you? You look great."

She smiles. "I'm good. You were right to send me away."

"I hated to do it, Christine. It broke my heart, in fact. But you weren't doing anyone any good, least of all yourself. And I don't mind telling you, I was a little bit scared." He looks out the front door, where Spock is sitting down next to Uhura. "For him too. I just thought..."

"You thought right. Even if it was the last thing I expected." She smiles at him. "Did you really think this would happen?"

He shrugs. "I know how much you loved Jim. And how much Spock loved him too. And once upon a time you had pretty warm feelings for our Vulcan friend." He lifts a glass. "Mint julep? I'm fresh out of bloodwine."

She laughs. "How about some Scotch?"

He smiles as he grabs a different glass. "Single malt? In honor of Jim?"

"Of course." She takes the glass, sips at it. She hasn't had Scotch in a long time, hasn't wanted to have it. "Can you make a non-alcoholic julep for Spock?"

"Sure." He grins at her. "Pretty handy having someone around who actually knows what he likes." His look becomes devilish. "And I imagine it's pretty interesting what that man likes, isn't it?"

"No power on this Earth, Len." She grins at him, holding her glass out. "Thank you."

He clinks his against hers. "Seeing you happy again is all the thanks I need." He hands her Spock's virgin julep. "Now, tell me about the state of medicine on Qo'noS. And do I still have a bad name over that little Gorkon thing?" He has the grace to look embarrassed. "Don't know what in the Sam Hill I thought I was doing."

She laughs. Decides not to tell him that Khorta calls a misdiagnosis a "McCoy." It sounds even worse when said with a Klingon accent--roughly like someone trying to clear their throat.

Following him back out to the porch, she tells him a little bit, leaving out the harsher realities. She's not sure she's ready to share that, doesn't think Spock will mind if she lets some aspects of Klingon life stay safely on Qo'noS.

She hands him the drink. "It's lemon and mint," she says. Much like the tea he's so fond of.

He tastes it, and not gingerly. He trusts her. "It is good. Thank you."

"Thank, Len. He's the bartender here." She sips at her Scotch, sees Spock looking at it. "I was feeling nostalgic."

His look is untroubled. "I understand. It is good to be back."

"Yes, it is good to be back." They share a long look, and she realizes that neither of them is calling Earth home. Home is where the other is. Home is Qo'noS.


Christine collapses into a chair in Gramton's main room, tired after spending the afternoon with Khorta cleaning up the wreckage of another feud. She looks down at the Klingon clothes Khorta has given her to replace the uniform she ruined. Good thing she picked up more when she and Spock were on Earth. Although, she has to admit the Klingon leathers and furs are more comfortable than she would have expected.

Her hair is still wet from the shower she took when they finally arrived back at the Gramton stronghold, and she finger combs it back from her face. It was a short shower--she no longer spends all night cleaning up from one of these missions.

And she no longer throws up. In fact, she's salivating smelling whatever Gramton is cooking in the courtyard. Is she turning as hard as Qo'noS? Or just adapting? Maybe it's the same thing.

"Smells good," she smiles at Gramton as he comes in with a heaping platter.

Hehnak is following him, grabbing bits of meat from the platter as his father pretends to scowl at him.

"It is Sh'iril," Gramton says. "Have you had it?"

She shakes her head.

"It's a delicacy--once you remove the venom sacs."

She frowns. "It's a snake?"

"Yes. A fierce one--its bite is deadly, and there is no antivenin. It is a most worthy opponent of a warrior such as myself." He grins at her. "Shall I tell you how I captured this one?"

Hehnak nods for her. Then he looks over at her, as if surprised to see her in native dress. "You look good," he says brusquely, then turns back to his father. "Tell us of the sh'iril."

"Have you charmed my son, Christine?" Gramton asks. "He is a bit young to take as your next ParMach'kai. Or perhaps your affections are already given?"

Khorta comes in. "You are an old gossip, Gramton." She winks at Christine. "Everyone knows her heart beats only for Kirk."

Gramton doesn't look convinced. Christine glances at Khorta, wonders if she has guessed that she and Spock are together now. They haven't announced it, see no reason to, and their behavior when they aren't behind closed doors hasn't changed much.

Khorta looks over at her and gives her a knowing smile, then she turns back to her husband. "Yes, Gramton, tell us of the sh'iril kill."

The servants begin to cut the meat and pass the plates around. There is no gagh tonight so Christine does not have to think up elaborate ruses for avoiding it. She tastes the meat, smiles in appreciation. It is good.

Gramton stands up. He pulls a spear from the wall.

"No bat'leth?" Christine asks, grinning.

"Klingons are brave, but they are not fools." He glares at her. "No more interruptions. This is an exciting tale."

"Sorry." She goes back to eating, washing the meat down with bloodwine.

"I approached the fields where the sh'iril are known to congregate during the mating season." He looks at her. "At other times, they stay far underground. In a few weeks, they will be gone again."

She nods understanding, smiling broadly. It is generous of him to fill in his story for her benefit.

"This sh'iril"--he taps at the platter with his spear--"was waiting for me." He crouches down, as if studying something a few meters from him. "She lay coiled, moving slowly, hissing." He begins to move his body in a slow circular pattern. "I knew she was ready to attack as soon as I stepped within striking distance."

Hehnak sits forward, his meat forgotten. Christine reaches out and pushes his plate back so he will not knock it over. Khorta grins at her.

"I knew that I could kill her from where I stood. But it seemed unsporting." Gramton stands suddenly, then stomps twice. "I sent her the message, through the ground. 'I am not afraid of you,' I sent to her. 'I will kill you.'"

Christine realizes she too is leaning forward. She smiles.

Gramton advances toward his son. "I moved slowly. Deliberately. She hissed and began to circle more quickly. Oh, she was angry, this ladysnake was." He grins at his wife. "She did not like my message. She did not think I would kill her after all."

He jumps at Hehnak, who leaps out of his seat, crying out with a loud war cry. "Yes, just like that, she leapt at me and just as you did, my son, I met her, my spear catching her in the throat and stopping her before she could get to me." He laughs, and Hehnak roars in triumph.

Khorta laughs too, looking over at Christine who is grinning madly.

Gramton leans down to his son. "I cut her head off and left it there as a warning to the other sh'irils. Beware the House of Gramton. We are your blood enemies."

Hehnak grins ferociously. "Beware us!"

"Yes!" Gramton gestures to the wall, where several snakes hang, stuffed. "Those were my first sh'iril kills. Now, I do not save them. Now, I have the luxury of eating them."

She smiles. "I am glad. It's delicious. Made more so by the bravery of he who killed it."

It is apparently a very good thing to say. Gramton looks suddenly very touched. "You do me honor, Christine." He looks over at the servants. "Well, what are you waiting for? There are empty plates. Eat, it is no good when it is cold." Gramton is in a mood to be generous.

Christine goes back to eating. A rush of happiness fills her.

Life is so strange.


Christine stares numbly at the screen. She cannot believe Scotty is gone.

"Christine?" Nyota is crying, tears streaming down her face.

"I'm here." The video on their connection is iffy, but the audio is clear. Clear enough to hear that their friend is dead. To hear that the Jenolen went down with all hands. Scotty is lost. Just like Jim.

She feels a rush of the old pain. No body. Why is there never any body?

She'll have to get a message to Spock. They should send condolences. Scotty had a sister. Christine realizes she isn't even sure if she's alive anymore. Or if there were other children besides Peter. Jim's voice had broken when he'd told her about his death. Years later, but it still touched him how brave Scotty's nephew had been.

She bites back a sob, isn't sure if she doesn't want to cry because it is not Vulcan, not Klingon, or just more than she can take. But she doesn't want to cry.

She wants to hit something. To yell and scream "Why?" to the universe. Why does this happen?

Maybe it is Klingon?

"I'm sorry, Ny." She's never fully understood her friend's feelings for Scotty. They appeared to be together around the time Jim and she reconciled, but it didn't last. Ny never seemed to want to discuss it. "Were you in love with him?"

Ny shakes her head. Then she nods. "It "

Isn't every relationship? Christine smiles sadly. "I understand."

"I wasn't planning on going with him to Norpin V. So I guess it was over. For real, this time." She sobs again. "He was a good man."

"He was, Ny. He was a wonderful man. The best."

Ny tries to smile. "He was our miracle worker."

Christine nods.

"You'll tell Spock?" Nyota asks.

"I will."

"I have to go. I have to call Sulu." Nyota has the tone of one who has important tasks to do before she can fall apart. She seems about to cut the connection, then she looks back up. "I love you, Christine. We never say that, do we? Until it's too late."

"I love you too, Ny."

Her friend touches the screen. "I'm glad you and Spock are happy." She smiles, then the screen goes black.

Christine finds the contact numbers Spock left with her, leaves a message that he call her as soon as he can. But that it's not an emergency. There is nothing he can do about this.

She is just falling asleep when the comm unit goes off. She crawls out of bed, hits the switch.

"You were asleep?" Regret colors his voice.

"No. I just went to bed."

"Is something wrong?" His look is very tender, as if he can read her mood even over the screen.

She nods. "Did you hear about the Jenolen?"


"Scotty was on it."

He closes his eyes, keeps them closed a long time. It is an eloquent statement.

She feels the tears she held back before begin to fall. "I thought you should know."

"Yes. You were right to call." He reaches for the screen, as if he can touch her from whatever world he's on now. She's lost track.

She reaches back, wishes she could touch him--he's been gone a long time. "I miss you."

"I miss you too." His expression is so tender it only makes her cry harder. "I will be home soon."

She nods. "I better let you go."

"I am sorry, Christine. He was a good man."

She nods. "I love you, Spock."

"I love you too. I will see you soon."

"Okay. Good night."

"Good night." He lets her cut the connection.

She goes back to their bed, but sleep is a long time coming.


"So, when is your parMach'kai coming back?" Khorta asks with a smile.

Christine ignores her.

"You may think you are discreet, but I can see it in the way you look at him. And in the way he looks at you."

Khorta is easing matareth seeds out of their hulls, setting the delicate morsels into a dish Christine has put out for her. The old texts say the seeds are good for a sweating sickness that preys on many of the Klingon children. Christine plans to study their properties, see if she can't synthesize something similar and more potent. In the meantime, they'll use the seeds she doesn't need for research to make tinctures. It's better than nothing.

"You did not answer my question. When is Spock coming back?"

"Oh, that's who you were talking about." She grins at Khorta. "I thought you meant someone else."

"Of course you did." Khorta hands her the full dish, starts to fill another bowl with seeds. "I have to confess. The thought of love with someone so passionless leaves me cold."

Christine smiles, looks down to try to hide the expression.

Khorta laughs. "Not so passionless is he? When you get him alone?"

"I have no complaints." Christine glares at her. "And he would not want me talking about this."

"Of course not. He's a Vulcan. They aren't exactly known for composing epic love songs for their beloveds."

"Gramton's done that for you?"

"Oh yes." She starts to laugh. "They are terrible songs, and when he sings them he scares even the most hardened warrior. But he has composed them for me."

Christine laughs.

"Did Kirk compose love songs for you?"

"Jim? No." She smiles.


" was kind of like a love song with him." She frowns. "Except when it was really terrible."

"Ah, yes. The passion."

"The passion." She shakes her head. "Sometimes I thought I would die from loving him so much. Other times I just thought we'd kill each other."

"And then you lost him."

Christine looks down. "Yes." She still wonders if she should have tried harder to keep him home, away from the Enterprise B. That damn ship.

"He gave his life for others. He was a true warrior."

"Yes. He was." She sighs.

"I did not mean to make you sad."

Christine stands up. "I still miss him. I know Spock does too. It's hard. There was never a body, nothing to bury." She shakes her head. First Jim, then Scotty. So hard to mourn without a body, even if it is often the fate of a Fleeter. Space is a harsh mistress, and she doesn't like to let her favorites go. "Enough of that kind of thought. I have a life to live."

"When you came here, you didn't care whether you lived or died, did you?"

"I didn't. I wasn't in the healthiest frame of mind."

"But now I think you thrive here. You and your emotionless lover." Khorta laughs again.

"We thrive. I just wish Spock were here. He's been gone a long time." It's been weeks since she commed him to tell him of Scotty's death.

"He will return to you." Khorta looks past her. "Perhaps sooner than you think?"

Christine turns around, sees Spock walking up, his bag over his shoulder. She gets up and hurries toward him, remembering almost too late to not throw herself into his arms.

He raises an eyebrow at her as she stumbles to a halt. "I see you are eager to welcome me home, Doctor Chapel."

She hears Khorta snicker. It is a rather fearsome sound.

Spock looks over at her. "Khorta, I trust you and your house prosper?"

"We do indeed, Spock." She gets up, picks up the bowls of seeds. "I think I'll take this into the clinic to finish. I'm sure you two have much to catch up on. Things that are best handled in the privacy of your own home." She grins knowingly and walks away.

"You told her," he asks.

"She figured it out all on her own."

He nods. "It is inconsequential."

"It is?"

"It was only a matter of time before she discovered the true nature of things." He gestures toward their house. "And I believe we have more important matters to discuss?" An eyebrow goes up, its languid rise somehow sending a message of urgency.

"Discuss? Yes. I've missed our discussions." She smiles.

"Indeed. I have had no satisfactory discussion since I left Qo'noS."

"Well, I should hope not," she says as she opens the door, feels him behind her, pushing her inside and closing the door.

"You do not wish for me to hold discussions with others?"

She tries to look stern--it is difficult when he is pulling her towards him. "Strangely enough, no."

"I believe I knew that." He kisses her, pushing her back toward their bedroom.

"I believe you did too, Spock," she says as he pushes her down, follows her.

Their kisses are sweet and gentle at first. Easy reconnections. A way to say hello and that they missed each other. And that they love each other.

But after a while the tempo switches, becomes more passionate, more frantic. He pushes her clothing up or down--whichever way gives him better access to her body. She pulls his pants down just enough to free him, so that he can move into her.

His fingers find her face; his mind sinks slowly into hers, as if relishing the feel of joining after such a lengthy absence.

"I have missed you," he says softly.

A lingering sadness from her news of Scotty colors the meld, and underneath she feels the old sadness for Jim. She knows he will feel the same thing from her.

She kisses him tenderly. "I've missed you too."

He moves deliberately, and she knows he is using the meld to determine what touches give her the most pleasure. Just as she can tell what he is feeling, how each thrust is pleasure, each retreat torturous bliss. The combination of his pleasure and her own is too much, especially when he reaches down, begins to touch her. He knows she likes that, knows what effect it will have on her. Particularly after so long apart.

She calls out. He holds her close, never stopping his motion. She gasps, trying to come down as he moves harder and faster and eventually comes. The wonderful sting of his pleasure rings through her mind; she rides the wave of sensation, the meld letting her truly share his pleasure.

Lying on top of her, he kisses her, does not move away. "I love you."

She smiles up at him. "I love you too, Spock."

He studies her. "Do you think it would have been like this if I had given in to you on the Enterprise all those years ago?"

She laughs. He has never asked her such a whimsical thing before. "No."

He considers that for a moment, then begins to kiss her throat. "Why not?"

"Because we weren't friends then. And now we are. It's why you wanted to help me, right? Because we were friends, not because you were in love with me."

"That is true." His lips are tracing a deliriously hot track up to her ear. He is moving inside her again. "But I am in love with you now."

She moans at the feeling. His hand finds her face again, and he is pushing harder on the meld points. She feels his mind questing, going deeper, deeper. Then deeper still.

"Do not be afraid," he says, as he continues to work his way into her mind.

The sense of connection is intense. Her body is tingling the deeper his mind goes. He is moving with more purpose, thrusting hard against her, bringing wave upon wave of pleasure.

When she comes, she is very loud, and he muffles her cries with his lips, but then he has to let up, because he too is calling out. She almost laughs at the sound. He is normally so quiet in his pleasure--even if the feel of it in the meld is anything but subdued. He eases the meld slightly, and she feels faint.

"It is a temporary sensation," he says to her. "It will pass."

She strokes his face, wonders if she will have the strength to get out of the bed. She senses him wondering why she would want to leave the downy softness. Why she would want to leave him now that they are finally together again.

And he's right, she can't think of a single reason.


Christine wanders through the fields, searching with Hehnak for the M'alehk herb that Khorta uses to stop fevers. None of Christine's Federation meds are helping those who are suffering from the L'iktil fever that followed Gramton home from the Kilira outpost, and Khorta's stock of M'alekh is almost out.

Christine's also hoping to find some of the rare Ladula herb that Khorta says will stop bleeding. She hopes to synthesize it, make something better than the Federation meds, which seem about as useful as an old-fashioned styptic pencil for stopping the bleeding of the Klingon wounded. She's sure she could do more for those who aren't so eager to get to Sto-Vo-Kor than what her current stock of remedies is allowing.

At times the Klingon Empire does seem to be cracking apart through these damn blood feuds. But it's one person at a time, and she's sick of only being able to offer them her Daqtagh.

She thinks of Matthew, probably rolling in his grave at how comfortable she's grown on Qo'noS. She wonders if Valeris is still struggling to survive on Rura Penthe. Maybe Christine is atoning for all of them?

She realizes Hehnak is watching her and shoots him a glance. "What?"

He grins. "I was thinking about you eating gagh at my father's birthday feast."

Gramton finally cornered her at the gagh table before she could escape. He took extreme delight in loading her plate full. She fights down nausea at the thought of having eaten it. "You're a cruel boy."

He laughs. "If you could have seen your face."

Gagging on gagh. It doesn't translate well, but she tries to share the idea with him. He grins. Maybe some ideas don't need translation.

"Do Klingons like it when they're kids? Or do you have to learn to like it?" She smiles. Like artichoke hearts and pickled herring and--

A sudden hiss stops her cold. She turns. "Hehnak, don't move."

A snake is between them.

He doesn't move, as he says, "It is a sh'iril."

She remembers Gramton saying they would all be back underground. But this snake seems very active. And it has its eye on the boy, is moving in the rapid circling motion Gramton said is the preface to attack.

Vibrations. She can divert it through the ground. "Don't move," she says again, then she stomps as hard as she can.

The serpent twists and leaps out at this new threat. Christine jumps back, but the snake is faster. It catches her in the leg, its fangs sinking quickly through her uniform, then into her skin, before it jerks back, and slithers away quickly.

She stares down at her leg, feels it begin to throb.

It's okay. She mustn't panic. So Gramton said there was no antivenin-- maybe that was just exaggeration? She looks at Hehnak. "Is there really no antivenin?"

"Father spoke truth. There is none."

"Well, we still need to get back to the clinic." She feels panic starting, her heart is racing. She knows she must fight the fear, or the poison will only spread faster.

"It is not fast acting. We will walk carefully. We will get home." Hehnak sounds very adult as he tries to support her, his small frame pressed against her as he urges her back toward the clinic. "You must stay calm."

"Easy for you to say, kid." She smiles at him, tries to show him she is all right.

She is not all right.

She is dying.

She has a sudden flash. A shuttle, ages ago, lifetimes ago. She and Jim. Dying. Together.

Soon they'll be dead together. She stumbles, forces herself to pay attention.

Hehnak looks up at her. "I should have sensed the sh'iril."

"It wasn't your fault."

"I am a warrior."

"You're a child too."

Hehnak frowns. "You should have let the snake strike at me. I am faster than you; it would not have bitten me."

"Says you." She laughs suddenly--she is dying, and all she and this boy can do is argue over which of them should have taken on the snake. It is so....Klingon.

Hehnak slowly smiles. As if he knows what she is thinking. "I owe you my life."

She shakes her head.

"I will not forget."

She looks down on the boy. He is so earnest. So innocent in his honor and his desire to be what she once hated--a Klingon warrior. "Just look after Spock. He's going to be alone now."

The boy nods. A human would have tried to buck up her spirits. Would have lied and told her she isn't dying. But this is no human.

She is glad for it.

Fate has always had an odd sense of humor. Now it seems to be laughing uproariously at her.

She will that a Klingon child will grow up to be a warrior.

Khorta is sitting outside the clinic, sharpening her Daqtagh. She sees them and cries out in alarm, hurrying over to help. "What happened?"

"A sh'iril. She distracted it. I should have been the one it went after," Hehnak says as he pulls away from Christine. "I will go get Spock."

Khorta nods. "Yes. Hurry."

"He said the poison was slow acting," Christine says.

"It is. But you will want as much time with your parMach'kai as you can have."

Christine nods. Khorta is not wrong. Spock will have nothing left but his causes once she is gone.

"He's going to be alone," she says as Khorta eases her down onto one of the beds in the clinic. "Will you look after him?"

Khorta's eyes narrow, and Christine wonders if she has asked something difficult.

Hehnak runs in. "Spock is in the far provinces with father. But they are on their way."

Christine nods. She can imagine Spock will be terribly worried--almost frantic. He will hide it though. Or at least he will try to--but Klingon eyes miss so little. Gramton will know.

Hehnak looks at her solemnly, a strange expression in his eyes. "I must go."

She wonders if this is the Klingon way. Children do not witness death? But that seems off.

She realizes he is waiting for her permission. "Of course. Go."

He runs off.

She feels hurt, tries to push the feeling away.

It is not hard. Other pain is starting. Her leg was barely throbbing a moment ago, now it is on fire. "Hypo," she says, pointing to the cabinet. "The one with the orange ring."

Khorta brings it, and Christine holds it to her neck. The fire recedes a bit. She doesn't put much in, wants to stay awake and lucid for Spock.

He will need that from her.

Khorta pulls a chair over, then she pulls out her Daqtagh .

Christine laughs. "Please tell me you're not going to put me out of my misery."

Khorta laughs too. "No." She takes a deep breath, lets it out. "I can look after Spock for you. But only to a certain extent as his friend. You do realize that?"

Christine nods. They are outworlders. She cannot expect too much.

Khorta smiles. "But as a member of my House..." She holds her left hand out, palm up, and draws the Daqtagh lightly over it. Rose-colored blood beads up.

She reaches for Christine's hand, turns it over.

"No. The poison is in me."

Khorta ignores her, slicing the blade across Christine's hand. It is so sharp that Christine does not feel it cut until her own blood wells up. Then Khorta's hand is pressing against hers, their blood mingling.

"And now, it is in me. And not enough to hurt me, so rest easy." Khorta smiles as she pulls her hand away. "I welcome you into the House of Gramton."

Christine finds herself smiling also. It is too funny--she will die a Klingon.

"Your parMach'kai is one of us now also. It is our way."

"You realize that you just welcomed James T. Kirk to your family too then?"

Khorta's smile grows. "That's right. It is fitting."

Christine can't help it. She laughs.

She is sorry immediately. The movement causes great pain.

There is a rustle at the door. Hehnak holds up the lifeless sh'iril. "I have avenged you."

Christine feels a chill. He could have been killed.

"It was my blood enemy because it hurt you. I have destroyed it."

Khorta laughs loudly. "My mighty son. You have done a good thing. You have avenged a member of our house." She holds up her palm, and he smiles in understanding.

"I am pleased." He looks at Christine. "This is my first kill by myself. I am truly a warrior now."

He killed for her. She feels unaccountably touched despite her worry. "I am honored by your actions." It seems a better thing to say than thank you or you shouldn't have.

He studies the snake, then puts it gently into a container.

Christine looks at Khorta. "He's going to keep it?"

"Of course. It will be a trophy of his first kill as a warrior."

"You realize it's still poisonous?"

Khorta frowns. "Well, of course."

Christine sighs. "Forget I said anything. Just hang it high so he doesn't run into it until he's older."

"If you wish it." Khorta smiles tolerantly.

Christine can tell this is a great concession.

Hehnak moves to the doorway, looks up at the sky. "Father's shuttle is coming." He runs out.

Touching Christine's shoulder, Khorta whispers, "I will miss you, my friend."

Christine grasps her hand. "I have learned so much from you." It suddenly seems important to say this. She wonders if Khorta has any idea how much it means.

Khorta nods slowly. "May your journey to Sto-Vo-Kor be full of adventure."

Christine shakes her head. "This is hardly a warrior's death."

Khorta smiles. "On the contrary. You saved my son. I am sure the warriors will let you in." She seems to consider it. "But if it will make you feel better, I will go kill someone in your name. I could start a blood feud with the House of Lukar. I believe they cheated us on our last bloodwine shipment."

Christine laughs. "That's okay. I need to find Jim, remember? I doubt he's in your afterworld."

"I doubt it too." Khorta smiles. "Although if he is, he's probably having a very interesting time."

Spock comes in, Hehnak and Gramton behind him. The Klingons stop at the door, watching Spock, who is hurrying to her. Christine cannot remember the last time she saw him walk that fast.

Khorta gets up and moves away as Spock sinks into the chair she has vacated. Leaning down, she says, "You have time, Spock."

He seems to notice the blood on her hand, then on Christine's. He frowns slightly.

"We've got new relatives, Spock." Christine looks over at Gramton. Sees him grin, but it is a grin touched with tragedy.

Spock nods, understanding what has happened. He is wise that way. "We are honored." His voice is raw.

Christine swallows. How can she leave him alone?

Khorta withdraws, taking Hehnak and Gramton with her.

"I'm sorry," Christine whispers.

He shakes his head. "Hehnak told me what happened."

"I wanted to save him. It was stupid. He probably wouldn't have been bit."

"You do not know that." He is trying to make her feel better, but his eyes seem to hold all the sorrow of the universe.

She begins to cry; he is so dear to her.

"Shhh," he says, as if he can somehow ease her pain. He always seems to be offering her comfort.

"I don't want to leave you alone," she says, her voice breaking on the last word.

"I fear you will have no choice." He brushes the hair from her face gently, does not seem to mind how sweaty she is.

The poison is making her sweat, and she can feel her leg swelling and her lungs filling with fluid. There is not much time left.

"Promise me you won't get too isolated." Clutching at him, she is suddenly afraid of the future she sees for him. Alone is not good for anyone, but especially not for Spock.

He looks down. He will not make false promises. Not even to appease his dying lover.

She smiles sadly. "Promise me then that you'll follow your passions, even if they're for causes not people anymore."

He looks back at her.

She tries again. "You speak often of unification."

He nods slowly.

"Make it happen then." She groans, tries to stifle the sound but cannot. "If anyone can, Spock, it's you. You have so many years ahead of you."

It is the only comforting thing. The idea that this moment would have come anyway. He is doomed to outlive her. To end up alone.

"Find love, Spock."

He leans down, lays his lips on her cheek. "I have found it. With you."

She turns so their lips meet. It is a sweet kiss. "And with Jim."

He nods. "My friend." He kisses her again. "I love you, Christine."

"I love you." She is crying now. She cannot leave him.

Very soon, she will not have a choice.

"Jim will come for you," he says softly.

"You think so?"

He nods. She wonders if he believes that or is just trying to give her hope. But his face is solemn. He does not appear to be humoring her. He believes Jim will come.

And why shouldn't he? When hasn't Jim come for him?

"You will be together again." He kisses her again.

She sees his pain. Sees envy too. She will be with Jim; he will not.

"Come with me. Just a little ways." She lifts his fingers to the meld point.

He does not hesitate, is in her mind quickly--they have shared so many melds. She is glad he is with her, is even gladder when he pushes her pain away, muffling it with his own strength.

She sends him all her love. He sends her his own back. And buried inside them both is all the love they both have for Jim, and the burning, intense need to see him again.

She feels disconnected, but Spock is there with her, keeping her grounded for these last few moments.

A light appears; it is so bright.

"Don't stay too long," she says to Spock, afraid he will try to follow her.

"I will not."

Someone steps out of the light, and she moans in anticipation. But as he gets closer, confusion fills her.

It is David. David has come for her.

"No. Where is he? Spock, where is Jim?"

She can feel his dismay. For her. For himself. Before he can answer, he is gone, sent hurtling out of her mind by some force she can't see. And there is nothing but the light and David smiling down at her.

He holds out his hand. "You were expecting dear old dad?"

She takes his hand and stands up, feels no strain, no pain as she moves. "Yes. I was."

He points behind her, and she lets go of him as she turns to look, hoping to see Jim. But it is just her body, still lying on the bed. And Spock bent over her, his fingers free of the meld points. He is stroking her face, murmuring something.

"He loves you."

"I love him."

David nods.

"Where is Jim?" she asks. Her tone is not nice; she is angry. She has just died, and her first emotions are disappointment and anger. She's pretty sure this isn't how it's supposed to work.

He laughs. "I would not want to be my father right about now." He holds out his hand again, waits for her to take it before leading her into the light. "Come on. I have a lot to show you."


Death is a lot more like life than Christine expects it to be. She can feel David's hand on hers, can feel warmth and energy from the light they are passing through, can hear him as he is explaining something to her, something she has tuned out as she looks back toward Spock.

"You can't help him now. And pretty soon you won't feel the need to. It's what lets us move on, get to work."

The light closes in behind her, cutting Spock off from her view. "Goodbye," she whispers.

David is watching her with a tender expression that she never saw on his face in life. She realizes that he is different, the sharpness, the impatience with everyone and everything who couldn't keep up with him, seems to be gone.

"Where is Jim?"

"Well, that's actually the relevant question. You see, he cheated death again."

She frowns, and he laughs.

"Let's go," he says, and his form seems to dematerialize as if he's being beamed somewhere.

"Go where?" she asks, trying to figure out how he left. Then she feels an energy brush her, and David's hand reappears on hers, tugging her after him. She feels her body becoming less solid and fights the feeling.

"It's all right. I do it all the time. Just relax." David's voice is amused.

She stops fighting him, and the world dissolves. There is nothing, and she is nothing, but she has the sense of motion, and she can tell that David, who is also nothing, is still next to her.

It is very confusing.

They rematerialize in the mountains in what looks like southern California. There is a cabin, hidden away in the pines. And a man is chopping wood.

It is Jim.

"Et voila," David says, walking close to him. "He doesn't know we're here." He smiles, a hint of his wicked, mercurial smile in the expression. "Or rather, he can't see us."

She rushes to Jim, tries to touch him but her hand goes right through him. But Jim stops what he is doing, and he looks around, his eyes going wide then narrowing, as if he's trying to remember something important.

"Jim," she whispers, getting as close to him as she can without having to re-experience the disconcerting feeling of falling through him.

He stops, his expression clears and he grins, the old grin that he used to give her, but then another voice calls out, "Jim?" and he turns, his expression goes cloudy for a moment, as if he's trying to hold on to the happiness, then he becomes calm again.

Antonia is walking out of the house.

"This can't be right," Christine says, watching as Antonia walks up to Jim, strokes his cheek.

"Right and wrong mean nothing here, Christine." David takes her hand again. "Let's get a little perspective on this."

She resists his tug. "Just tell me why she's here."

"She's not here." He makes a face, the old impatience resurfacing, and it makes Christine feel better that this part of him, at least, hasn't changed as much as she thought. "Come on."

She lets him pull her, out and out and out and suddenly they are in space and she is watching a bright ribbon of something as it moves, twisting forward as if by a group of children playing "snap the whip" or as if it was a sh'iril. "What is it?" she asks, mesmerized by the beauty of the thing, the alienness of it.

"It will be called the Nexus. But that's not how it thinks of itself." David moves them closer.

She can feel the energy flowing off the thing as it travels through space. Huge amounts are being expended. So huge it feels wrong. "It's hard for it to move, isn't it?"

David nods. "For all its elegant twists and advances, movement is not its natural state. It was once part of a larger entity, something so alien we would have had no words for it. A storm pulled it apart, out of its own dimension and into our own. It's been trying to find its way back home ever since--to rejoin the rest of itself. But it can't, of course. So it traverses this path, over and over, revisiting the same spots in our galaxy every seventy-eight years."

"Jim got caught up in it?"

David nods. "The ribbon that was in the reports. That was this. Only they don't understand it. Won't for some time."

She frowns at him. "How do you know all this?"

He laughs. "I've been dead a lot longer than you have, and I haven't just been sitting around playing some harp. Besides, I was curious about where my father went when he didn't show up dead. And I found him. In Isirria Latall. That's the closest I can come to making the sounds that the Nexus uses to refer to itself."

"You said movement wasn't natural for it?"

He nods. "If it were still in its home dimension, it would be joined with the larger self. It would not move, just bask in the serenity that was its existence. There was no effort, no pain, no loneliness, no anger, no passion. Just contentment. Serenity. Perfect tranquilly."

"Sounds boring."

"I agree. But then we're used to scrapping and fighting. There are some humans who seek serenity. The prefect stillness within. And Vulcans come close."

She shakes her head. "Vulcans do not come close." This she knows about. "There are untold depths of hidden passion under that serene front."

"Okay, I'll give you that. But my point is that not all beings would view passion as the paramount ingredient for a meaningful existence."

Christine moves along the Nexus, feeling the energy shift as she goes. "Why does the energy change?"

"See for yourself."

She peeks in, sees a young woman, cradling a baby. She is leaning back in a rocking chair, holding a bottle and crooning as the baby falls to sleep. It is a scene of perfect peace and love. Christine backs out of it, moves further along the entity, dipping in when the energy changes again. A man sits on some cliffs overlooking a great orange sea. He is drawing the scene, humming softly to himself, his alien voice making clicks and whirrs that go with the humming sound.

She pulls out, turns to David. "Is it all like this?"

He shrugs. "Keep going."

She does, and he follows her, as she samples each different energy. Different but all the same. Tranquil, peaceful. Stultifyingly boring for someone like Jim.

They end up back with him. He is chopping wood again. A simple routine, repeated endlessly. Reach back for the log, lay it on the block, the axe is raised high, he lets it fall. Thwack. The log splits. If it is still too big, he chops it again. If not, he puts it in a pile to the side and grabs another log from the pile of unchopped wood.

He doesn't seem to notice that the pile of chopped wood never grows too much, that the pile of wood yet to chop stays about the same. No matter how long he works.

She huffs in frustration. "Why? This is meaningless."

"To you. To me. Probably even to him if he could actually tell what is going on. But not to the Nexus." David moves her away from Jim a bit. "Don't feel with your human senses, feel with something else. Find the energy and follow it."

She frowns at him, but turns back to Jim. As he chops, she tries to sink into the air around him, feels her body begin to dematerialize a bit, and hears David murmur, "Yes, good."

She is drifting, and as Jim chops, energy flows out of him, out of the action, out of his serenity. Energy that is siphoned off and pulled away. She follows it.

It is powering the Nexus. She feels other streams of energy coming in and realizes that everyone trapped in the entity is providing power to it.

Power so it can move.

She returns to the pines, to Jim, to David. "It can't move without them."

"That's right." David smiles, and this time the expression is totally mischievous. "And it needs them calm to get energy it can use. Let's have some fun, okay?"

"Don't hurt him," she says, suddenly worried.

"I'm not going to hurt him." David leans in close to Jim, close enough to say in his ear. "Chris."

Jim's head turns slightly.

David moves to the other ear. "Chris."

Jim nearly misses the log as he chops down.

"Chris," David says louder.

Jim puts down the axe, looks around. "Chris?" He suddenly smiles, and it holds true exuberant joy, and very little serenity. "Chris?" he yells to the pines, as if she is wandering in the woods and his voice will bring her to him.

Horses whinny, and Christine turns, sees that part of the scene has shifted to Idaho. She looks back at Jim, they are still in the mountains. She looks the other direction, and she sees the plains and the grove of trees where they made love and where Caya and Kaiser are still tied up.

"Chris!" Jim is running now, running away from the mountains and onto the plains and the air around them is rumbling.

"Feel the energy now," David says.

It is jagged, spiking crazily as Jim runs faster, yelling for her.

"Follow it, see what happens," David says, almost pushing her after it.

It goes the same place as the other energy, but the Nexus cannot seem to use it. Instead of being sucked into the entity, this new, wilder energy is only spinning around. She can feel the Nexus itself rising up somehow. A great feeling of pressure snaps down, and the energy stops spiking. The pressure turns into a fog that rides the energy trail back to Jim.

She follows it. Sees him stop running.

"Chris," he says brokenly, then his expression clears even as Idaho, and the golden plains, and their horses wink away.

"Jim?" Antonia walks out. She strokes his cheeks and he smiles, but the smile is a bit sad, as if he knows he has just lost something precious.

Then it clears. He smiles at her, a serene smile, no exuberant joy in this expression. "There's a lot of wood to chop."

She smiles. "Yes. And later on, we can make a fire and sit by it."

Jim nods. Turns away from her and starts to chop again.

Christine starts to laugh, even though she feels as if part of whatever is left of her heart is breaking. "Antonia is here because she bores him?"

"That's pretty much the size of it." David grins at her. "Feel better now?"

She smiles, feels bad about it but can't stop herself. "I do."

"I figured you might." David sinks down to the ground, stretching out as he watches his father chop wood. "So now you see the problem. He's stuck here. He won't age; he won't die. And he can't get out."

"Not ever?"

"Well, eventually someone is going to come for him. But he won't be able to get him out." David grins again, this time the expression is pure trouble. "Not unless we prep him first. Doctor Chapel, we have our work cut out for us."

She sits down by him, watching Jim. Even if he doesn't know she is here, it's still a treat to see him. "And you have a plan, I take it?"

He looks over at her and chucks her nose gently. "This time, you're going to be the protomatter."

She has no idea what he's talking about, but doesn't care. He's smarter than she is, about this place that seems to be death, and about physics. If he thinks they can free Jim, then she's in.

She'll do anything to get him back.



She is drifting, watching Spock handle her burial preparations. He is not taking her back to Earth, and she is glad for it. He's burying her where Gramton's House has buried all their dead for centuries. The Klingons and Vulcans have similar views on the meaninglessness of a corpse once the spirit has left, but she knows Spock takes care with hers to show that he honors her.

She wishes she could touch him, make him realize she is there, and that she is not gone. He is so closed off now. She worries about him. But she can only worry about him for short periods. As soon as she stops watching him, she forgets about him.

David says that is normal. He says the only reason they don't forget about Jim is because he is not where he is supposed to be, and they have a job to do. They must free him and until they do, they will never be able to forget him. She is willing to believe David, because she knows that Jim is never far from her thoughts, even when she's nowhere near the Nexus.

The afterlife is big and confusing, and pretty much anything she wants it to be. She's looked for people she loved, found them and yet didn't. Some have gone on to new lives, some stay put, but whichever they chose, there is always a part of them that remains in wherever this is--Heaven, Nirvana, Valhalla, maybe Sto-Vo-Kor. She smiles, still enjoys moving her face to express emotion. And some--like Scotty and Jim--never made it. She is not worried for Scotty, sees at least a resumption of his life eventually. But Jim? Jim is trapped. In a hell that is filled with perfect contentment.

There are other kinds of hells. She found Matthew, but he couldn't see her, is still obsessed, and his existence now is filled with Klingons who attack those around him while he is powerless to stop them. David told her it would stay that way until he lets go of his hatred. Until he gets bored or tired of it and sees his hell for what it is, just his own feelings getting in the way of his moving on.

Maybe that's what hell always is--obsessions and passions a person just can't let go of? She thinks of the guilt she carried so long over Genesis and over keeping David from Jim. But David doesn't seem to care, and the universe recovered from whatever Genesis did. She was the one who had trouble letting it go. Although she thinks on Qo'noS, she finally gave it up, finally quit obsessing over her own guilt.

Of course her passion for Jim and this need to "rescue" him might also be a form of hell. But she can't imagine David sharing it, so she makes herself stop thinking like that.

She feels David calling her. He's back in the Nexus, is waiting for her to come back too. She moves there with barely a thought.

Jim is still chopping wood.

"Is this all he does?" She knows the answer to that. It is nearly all he does. And it is up to them to broaden his repertoire, and to make these activities that bore her to tears feel wrong to him.

She moves close to him. "Jim," she says, stroking his hair. She's become better at not sinking into him, at riding the energy field that surrounds his body.

As she touches him, he shivers.

"I'm hungry, Jim. I'm so hungry."

David nods in satisfaction, as Jim finally puts down the axe. They've been working on this for a while, and Jim has never put down the axe. Finally, he is moving toward the house.

Antonia steps out onto the stairwell, but he does not appear to see her.

"I'll make you eggs," he says.

"Yes," Christine murmurs, trying to keep him from getting excited enough that the Nexus will notice. "Ktarian eggs."

He smiles. Ktarian eggs appear on the counter. He cracks them. Adds dill, the way he taught her to like them.

Antonia moves into the kitchen, this time he sees her.

He looks down at the eggs, frowns. "You don't like these."

She doesn't move, just stares at him, as if this is not scripted and there is nothing for her to do.

"Who liked these?" Jim asks softly, staring down at the frying pan.

Christine can feel him getting agitated.

The Nexus moves in, Antonia right behind it. Her hand is on his cheek even as the entity's presence is pushing his emotions back down into something manageable.

A moment later, he is chopping wood again.

Christine looks at David. "That didn't last long."

"It's progress though. We just have to keep at it."

They let him work, let the Nexus return to normal. The entity does not seem aware of them. Or if it is, it cannot touch them.

But Antonia seems to hover. So maybe the Nexus is more aware of what is happening then they think.

Antonia sits on a large rock, watching Jim chop wood.

Christine sits down next to her. "I gotta tell you, toots, this is not very flattering to you."

The woman stares at Jim, a dreamy smile on her face. Christine remembers the woman who stared up at her so angrily, who left her girth loose, who may have fought for Jim once they got back to their cabin and she realized he was really going to leave her.

"In fact, I don't actually think you were this boring in real life. So I guess this is how he remembers you." She pats the woman's hand. There is nothing but energy there and Christine has no problem connecting with it. Antonia is not human, is only a projection. "Tough break, kid."

Antonia stares serenely ahead.

David looks up from where he has been studying the grass. "Try something new, Christine. Something that will get a rise out of him."

She gets up, walks back to Jim's side, not paying attention to the axe, which goes though her head harmlessly on his back swing, or his elbow as it comes up and melts into her instead of pushing her away.

She thinks for a bit, then leans in. "Jim, when is the wedding?"

He doesn't miss a beat.

"Our wedding, Jim. We never got married."

He falters a bit in the next downstroke.

"We were going to get married, Jim. Right after the launch, remember? A small wedding with just our friends. Don't you remember what we planned?"

He looks at Antonia. "We never got married."

Christine sighs. "No, dumb ass. We never got married." She regrets her language at once--even as David breaks up laughing--but Jim seems to respond to it. Apparently, it's not something Antonia would have said.

He's dropped the axe, looking around again as if missing something. "We were going to be married," he says softly. "Who was I going to marry?"

"Jim?" Antonia is moving closer, reaching up to stroke his cheek.

David makes an impatient sound. "We really have to get rid of her. She's a definite downer." He stands up. "Keep going. I think you're on to something."

"Where will you be?"

He shrugs. "I have a mad scientist to visit. He may need some encouragement building a certain weapon." He shoots her a look. "I'm good at building weapons, remember?" Then he grins. "Besides, it's fated. If I wasn't supposed to reach him, I wouldn't be able to. God knows I can't reach mother, and I couldn't reach you when you were wallowing in grief for my father." He shrugs again. "Oh, well. Bye." And he is gone.

She sighs. Leans back to Jim's ear and whispers, "I'd like some eggs, Jim. Ktarian eggs."

He smiles. "They're your favorite." He looks up at Antonia. "No, they're not."

Antonia gets up, runs through the cheek stroking routine again and he goes back to chopping wood. Christine yawns. She is so bored.

This saving Jim business is tedious work.


They're making progress. Antonia doesn't come out to the chopping block anymore. David thinks that Jim is keeping her away, that it is getting too confusing for him to hear Christine's words and see Antonia's face.

Antonia is still inside though, when they go in to make eggs. Or when Christine reminds him of the day he came bounding into their room, breakfast tray in hand and asked her to marry him again. He was on leave, and it was the last leave before he stood down. And he kissed her as he set the tray down, and as she ate Ktarian eggs, he told her that he wanted to marry her after the mission was over, once they settled down somewhere.

It was one of the happiest days of her life. Now it's the happiest day of Antonia's life. Even if she is the picture of composure as she accepts. Christine is trying to change that.

Jim is bounding up the stairs. Christine waits for him at the top. As he tries to open the door, she whispers, "I love you, Jim." Leaning in, she kisses him on the lips.

He touches his mouth, the movement almost involuntary.

"I love you and I would love to be your wife, Jim." It was what she said back then.

He stares at the rustic wooden door, frowns as he looks back on the wooden staircase.

Their apartment in San Francisco was modern, not rustic. There were no stairs. The door was dark, stained a dark espresso not this light rough- hewn pine.

His frown grows deeper. "Not here."

"That's right. Not here. It didn't happen here. You never asked her, Jim. Chris, you asked Chris."

"Chris," he murmurs.

She can hear Antonia on the other side of the door, the knobs turns, and he whirls, looks at it. "Not here," he murmurs.

The doorknob continues to turn, but Antonia can't get out. He won't let her out.

Dissonance, Christine realizes. This is cognitive dissonance at its most basic. She wasn't all that hot for psychology, but she suddenly wishes she paid more attention in class.

"Chris was going to be your wife." She moves closer to him. "I was going to be your wife. Remember?" She kisses him again, trying to ride the energy field, somehow give him something of herself.

He sits down on the stairs, closes his eyes. "Chris?" He is clenching his hands and she can feel the Nexus reacting. The reaction has an emotion now. And it is growing.

The Nexus is learning to feel annoyance. She wonders what will happen if it learns to feel rage.

What she is doing is not without potential cost. She knows that. But David assures her it is what they are supposed to be doing. And he is right when he says that they cannot usually interfere. She has not been able to help Spock, or bring any comfort to her other friends who feel as if they are being abandoned one by one. Len and Ny didn't even know she was there when she tried to console them.

If she can reach Jim, it is because she is supposed to. She has to believe that.

She crouches behind him, enfolds him in her arms, putting all the love she feels for him in the hug. "Let's go riding, Jim."

He looks up.

"I want to ride Caya."

He laughs. "I want to ride Kaiser."


The Nexus allows the scene change this time. Horseback riding doesn't bring a rise. Not yet anyway.

He rides Kaiser in a controlled canter, his every movement graceful--and serene.

Antonia rides up on her bay. He smiles at her.

Christine can keep up with them, even if there is no Caya for her to ride. She suddenly would give anything for that bitchy mare. She'd love to let her bite Antonia's horse.

She moves closer to Jim, ignoring Antonia. Seeing that he is headed toward their grove of trees, she says, "Oh, no you don't."

Not that she's really worried he'll make love to Antonia there. She's never seen him make love to her the whole time she's been working on him.

Sex, for someone like Jim, is never a serene activity. Although a part of her wishes he could make love to Antonia and not feel much. It would make her feel better in a petty way. But she knows that Jim Kirk isn't like that. He makes love with his whole self. And the Nexus can't support that. No matter who his partner is.

She lets herself rest on his horse, riding pillion behind him as if he is a knight of long ago. "The ravine," she whispers over and over as he rides. "Jump the ravine, and I'll come for you."

He doesn't seem to hear her, then suddenly he is wheeling Kaiser and heading back the way they came.

"Jim?" Antonia keeps up with him until the ravine comes in sight, and then she falls back.

"Yes, love. How many times has Antonia jumped this damn thing, huh?" She laughs as he charges Kaiser at it, feels a thrill as she rides the energy- horse over the ravine.

Jim is laughing too. "Chris,'" he says softly, so softly she is not sure he is aware he called her name.

"It's wrong, Jim. The ravine is wrong. Jumping it feels wrong. No danger. There is no danger. Remember the danger? Remember when I jumped the ravine on Caya? Remember how you couldn't make her jump for you?"

"Damn horse," he mutters, his gaze fixed on the ravine.

"Yes. Where is she, Jim? Where is Caya? Where is Chris?"

"Chris," he says again. Then he looks down, laughs softly. "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."

She laughs. "You think I won't," she says back to him, sees him tense.

He looks up at the hill. Antonia is silhouetted on it, the sun making her look like some tragic ghost.

"You won't stay with her," Christine says. "You'll come back to me, Jim. Remember the ravine. Remember me."

He suddenly yells, loud and long as if he has gone crazy, then he claps his heels against Kaiser, not giving him room to get up speed to clear the ravine. He clears it anyway--a normal horse wouldn't have made it.

Jim rides him to the edge, looks down. "Something's wrong," he says.

She can feel the Nexus coming for him. Antonia tries to ride down the hill but she only gets halfway before she winks out, reappearing back up on the top, silhouetted again.

Jim looks up at her, looks back at the ravine. His look is troubled. Then he winks out too.

"We're definitely making progress," Christine says, as she follows him back to the woodpile.


"Okay, that's it." David appears beside her, pulling her away from Jim.

"Are you sure? I've got a good riff going on us not having kids." She's beyond bored at this stage, but she's not certain she's ready to give it all up.

"I'm sure. It's time to let fate do its work." He points to the woods, where a bald man wearing what she thinks is a Starfleet captain's uniform is standing.

"How long have we been at this?" she asks.

"You don't want to know. Besides, time is meaningless." He grins at her.

"They should not allow brilliant physicists access to infinite knowledge." But she grins at him. She's glad he's been spending eternity with her.

He doesn't like to talk about it, but she knows he loves Jim. His devotion to the cause--and to the insane Doctor Soran's weapon--is evidence of that.

She frowns. "Isn't it inherently wrong to help someone develop a weapon?"

"I only whispered inspiration in his ear."


He laughs. "Not if it is never used."

She picks out the most likely timeline and follows it the way he's been showing her. From where she's standing, it looks like the weapon will be used.

David smiles. "What if my father gets out? See what that does to the timeline."

She follows a new timeline that has suddenly sprung up as the most likely and gasps as she sees what happens.

David isn't smiling anymore. "You'll be together."

"David. Does it have to be like this? Dying alone?"

"He won't be alone. I promise."

Suddenly he disappears.

"David?" She calls for him but he is gone.

She watches Jim, as he listens to this other captain's--Picard's-- outrageous story. He goes into the kitchen. The eggs are already cooking-- regular eggs, the kind Antonia likes. She thinks the Nexus is taking no chances.

Jim takes them off the stove. He grabs the Ktarian eggs, starts telling Picard about them. The facts are all wrong, and Jim looks as if he is not bothered by the inaccuracies. But when he gets the breakfast tray together, when he goes bounding into his and Antonia's bedroom to ask her to marry him, he never makes it there.

She laughs. They are in Idaho. In Harry's barn. It is the day she came for him, she knows it even though he thinks it is two years earlier, when he was so mad at her and met Antonia.

He rides out, and Picard rides after him and she passes Picard, catching up with Jim as he jumps the ravine.

"Something's wrong," she says.

And he tells Picard the same thing. Something is wrong. Something is wrong.

They've won. She and David have won. She sees Jim look up at the silhouette.

"I'm sorry," she says, not to the figment that sits on the imaginary horse but to the real woman, long dead now, who never really had a chance with him.

If Antonia couldn't hold him here, in paradise, when could she? Christine may be hell, but she is Jim's hell, and he'll take her over any perfect heaven.

And then he's free. She feels the energy in the Nexus jolt, as one of its old and trusty fuel cells follows the newest one out. She feels the entity's bemusement, wonder. No one leaves the Nexus willingly. Only those who are ripped away, like Soran, ever leave.

She can feel Soran. He's happy, his energy settling in where it once flowed. He is so supremely happy.

His happiness will be short lived. Picard has found a way back that puts him on Veridian III before the weapon fired, just as David's timeline predicted.

Jim and Picard stop Soran, they stop the weapon.

But no one stops Jim from tumbling off the cliff as the catwalk collapses beneath him. No one is there as he hits the ground, blood filling his mouth.

No one but her. "Jim," she says, trying to touch him.

He can't see her.

Picard races down. He is there, there so Jim won't die alone.

"It was fun," Jim says, with his old grin. The grin she has worked so hard to have him use again. The grin that says, to hell with it all, let's just do it.

The Nexus has lost. Jim Kirk is back if only for this short time. And the Nexus is streaming away. It will not take him back. Not him, not Picard, not Soran.

Suddenly, Jim is looking past Picard, looking at her. And she realizes he sees her, as a look of wonder comes over his face, and he says, "Oh my."

She holds her hand out, the way David did to her, and Jim reaches up, even as his body falls back, dead, gone, lost.

But not to her. She pulls him up. "Hello, Jim."

He stares at her in wonder, then laughs. It is the laugh she remembers from when times were good, and they had not hurt each other so much that they couldn't laugh together. From the days on the ship, or the days long after when they finally made the bad times go away.

"Chris," he says.

"It's me." She wonders which Chris he sees when he looks at her. Maybe he sees all of them, the way she somehow sees all of the Jims she's ever loved. It should be disconcerting, but it is comforting, seeing them all reflected in his face. Young, old, the years in between. All of them so dear.

All of them her love.

"I've missed you, Jim," she says, and her voice breaks, and tears she was not sure she could still cry are falling.

And he is pulling her close and kissing her and saying, "Chris. Chris," in between the kisses.

She laughs and ruffles his hair and pulls him closer. "You were lost."

He nods. "I know that now." He smiles. "You rescued me."

"Well," a new voice sounds from behind them. "She didn't do it alone."

Jim turns, sees David. He smiles, a smile she thinks that he never probably gave his son during life.

She sees David smile too, and it is the most beautiful smile she has ever seen him give anyone. "Couldn't let you rot there," he says, his eyes twinkling.

"I should say not," Jim says, winking at him. He pulls her with him as he walks to David, and draws him close.

She feels David's hand on her arm, patting gently. As if to say, "See. I told you we'd save him."

She sobs, and smiles. She has never known such joy or felt so moved. Is this what death is then? ?

Jim looks down at her. "Let's go home."

And she nods, and waits as David looks back at Picard, who is building a cairn of stones over Jim's body.

"He is a good man," David says.

Jim turns around. "He is." Then he looks at her and smiles, and they kiss again.

"I am home," she whispers. "I'm with you."

Jim nods and kisses her again, then, pulling David with him, he leads the way into the unknown.

She knows he doesn't have a clue where he's going, and she glances at David, sees him wink at her.

"That's my Dad," he mouths to her.

Then they both follow Jim into the light.