Post-Traumatic Stress Desire by Djinn

The bar was dark and far too warm--the kind of place a person could escape to when she didn't want to face the real world. The bartenders poured liberally--and it wasn't synthehol they were splashing into glasses--and the pounding music in the main room could drown out even the most insistent inner voices. For those who wanted to lose themselves, the dance floor promised oblivion. And the dance floor was where Rand and Sulu found Chapel. They tried to get her to stop dancing and to leave the bar with no success. Sulu tried to reason with her, which would have worked better if Chapel had been listening to him instead of to the staccato, electronic beats pouring out of the sound system that gave him an instant migraine and put his teeth on edge.

Rand finally pulled him away, knowing how stubborn her friend could be when she was determined to obsess--not that she didn't have reason. Rand had been there, had stood next to Christine as she'd given the order both of them had prayed they'd never have to give. She understood Chapel's pain, even if she couldn't make it any better. She'd thought it would be a blessing having the Enterprise back for refits, thought that Christine's old friends might be able to touch her, might be able to pull her back from the edge when it became clear that Rand wasn't making any impression on her. But Chapel didn't care which of them talked to her, she just kept dancing and drinking. Later, she gave up dancing and just concentrated on the biggest drunk she could achieve. All she wanted was oblivion; if her friends didn't want to join her on the journey to Lethe, they could damn well leave her alone.

McCoy was the most resistant to that idea; he actually tried to drag her from the bar, which had earned him a laugh from Chapel--she was a good deal stronger than he was and always had been--and a stern warning from a bouncer who outweighed him by a factor of three. He left her alone then, but he called out the big gun: Spock--her old flame and maybe the one person Christine might care about disappointing. Chapel's current boss upped the ante as well, ordering his old friend Kirk to go find his missing chief of emergency ops. Cartwright had commed her several times, and Chapel had heard his hails but ignored them, finally turned her communicator off since it was disturbing her bar mates.

Naturally, Kirk and Spock teamed up, and had walked in a few moments ago, searching the bar for one errant officer determined to drown her sorrows. The regulars weren't sure what to make of so much red and black wool traipsing through their watering hole. Some of them were beginning to wonder if the neighborhood was taking an upswing, and they'd need to find new digs. From where she was sitting at the darkened rear bar, Chapel wasn't happy to see more red and black either. She could imagine McCoy calling in Spock to play on her emotions, but why Kirk? He'd never been her friend, even if she'd been happy serving under him for years.

It might have been amusing, watching Kirk and Spock navigate the bar--Spock looking massively uncomfortable, Kirk at ease but his face set in determination. She should feel flattered that the legendary duo was here for her. She threw back her drink, signaling the bartender for another. Flattered was a long way from what she felt. Settling back into the shadows, she watched them search for her.

Kirk looked around the bar, trying to find some sign that Chapel was even in the joint. "You're sure this is the place?"

"Yes, this is where Doctor McCoy said she was." The music pounded into Spock's head, and the smell of perfume and incense flowing from holders all over the bar made him slightly dizzy. "She will have taken a seat from which she can see us but where we cannot see her."

Kirk shot him a look. "You know this how?" It's what he would have done in the same situation--what he had done in the same situation--but he didn't expect Chapel to act like him.

Spock shrugged. "She is an intelligent woman. It would be the logical thing to do if she has grown tired of interference."

Kirk shot him a tight grin. "You're no doubt right." They looked in opposite directions, peering into shadows until he saw a dark head suddenly whip out of sight. "There."

"She will not be happy to see us, Jim."

"Speak for yourself, my friend." Kirk took a deep breath and marched up the stairs, although he knew Spock was right. Chris would not welcome any impediment to her finding oblivion.

Watching them coming toward her, Chapel briefly considered running the other way, but it would take too much effort to get off her stool. Besides, she'd had quite a lot to drink, and she wasn't sure she could stand, much less run. She touched the antitox pills in the pocket of her shirt--not ready to use them, but glad they were there. Although, she wasn't sure she was feeling this unsteady solely because of the drinks. The doctor in her--the doctor she'd left behind to take the ops job--told her that she had a fever. It gave her a certain ironic satisfaction to mutter, "Physician, heal thyself." She lifted her drink--the only healing she needed right now.

"Commander Chapel," Kirk said as he sidled up next to her. "You're not an easy woman to find."

She wasn't easy--period. The man next to her, who was glaring at Kirk, had found that out when he'd tried to convince her to go home with him.

"Get lost," Kirk said softly to him. "We need to talk to our friend."

The man looked at her, then over at Spock, then back at Kirk. He saw something in one or all of their faces that convinced him to take off. Kirk pulled his stool closer as Spock moved to stand on her other side.

"Not that this isn't a dream come true, gentlemen, but just say what you came to say and then go away." She leaned up against Spock, rubbing his arm. "Unless you came to get drunk too, and then I won't mind if you keep me company."

Spock moved away so abruptly that she almost fell off her stool. She laughed, the sound bitter and ugly. Of course, he'd hated her touching him. It was why she had done it. Now, what would Kirk hate?

Kirk watched her as she pushed against Spock, saw his friend pull back, and sighed. This was going to be a long night. "Barkeep," he said to the man on duty behind the bar. "Three scotches."

"I don't like scotch," Chapel said, her voice sullen and sultry all at once--Kirk found it an intriguing combination.

"And I do not drink," Spock added, wondering if Jim had taken momentary leave of his senses.

"They're for me." Jim threw Chapel an appraising look. "I need to catch up with you."

"You'll never catch up with me," she said, reaching out, her hand touching his cheek softly, in a way she thought he'd object to.

Kirk closed his eyes, letting himself enjoy the touch instead of pulling away the way Spock had. It would be the last thing she expected.

And it felt damned good.

He was right; she yanked her hand away as if he'd burned her.

Spock's eyebrow went up. Was Jim planning on seducing her? Or letting her seduce him? And would he be required to participate in some way? The man next to him moved away, and Spock took his stool, watching as Doctor Chapel appeared to regroup. "Why are you here?" he asked her.

"I like it here. Why the hell are you here, Spock?"

"Because McCoy and I made him come." Jim grinned at her, one scotch empty. His smile was the dangerous one Spock had seen so many times--Doctor Chapel had better tread carefully.

"Why?" She tried to move away from Jim, but he put his arm around her shoulders, holding her in place.

"No, you don't." Kirk leaned forward, could feel the heat rising off her as she got angrier. "Why don't you tell us the real reason you're in here killing off brain cells at what I'd consider an alarming rate. Wouldn't you, Spock?" He grinned at his friend, the dry, tight, grin that had meant so many things in so many situations. "Now." Or "You take the guy on the left." Or "Watch this."

Spock seemed to sigh, as if not quite sure what the grin meant in this particular situation. Or even if it was appropriate.

Chapel on the other hand, leaned against Kirk, her hand going down and down and grabbing him. "How hard should I squeeze?" she said, her voice as dangerous as he'd ever heard it.

Her hand was even more dangerous, and he froze. Then he slowly pulled his arm off her shoulder. When she let go of him, he let himself breathe again.

Trying not to shake, Chapel reached for her drink. Why couldn't they just leave her alone? She glared at Spock when he pushed her drink out of reach.

"You have had enough, I believe," he said, his hand coming to rest on hers. He could read her misery through the light touch, and her skin felt hot, almost Vulcan hot. Was she ill?

"I'll be the judge of that." She blinked, and he thought he saw tears, then she jerked her hand out from under his. "Not that I should be the judge of anything."

"Chris," Jim leaned in, his voice caressing her name in a way that surprised Spock, and seemed to surprise her too. "We all make bad decisions. It's not a failure of judgment, just a questionable call."

"Questionable? Forty people are dead because of me. I doubt their families are calling that questionable."

"It is a part of being in command," Spock said softly. "We have all had to deal with being responsible for the death of a member of our crew. It is not pleasant. But it is a fact of command."

"Nice speech, Spock. Is that what you told your cadets?"

"Yes," Spock said. "And you know it is true."

Kirk nodded, his friend was right, and his tack was sound--reason might be the way to go. Brute force surely wasn't going to get it done. His balls were still tingling from her fingers pressing into them.

"Chris," he tried again, using the name that so few on the ship ever called her.

She turned to him, misery clear in her eyes. "Forty people, Captain." A tear ran down her cheek, then another.

"Jim. My name is Jim." He smoothed the tears away, rubbing her cheeks again even though no more tears came down--her skin was soft and so damn hot. How much had she had to drink? And when was the last time she had eaten? He let his hand stray up to her forehead--she felt like she had a fever.

His eyes locked with hers, and he saw something in her expression that looked like surrender. "It hurts, Chris. I know that. And you feel guilty and miserable, like you deserve to die. I've been there. But you have to go on. You'll do better next time, and in the meantime, you'll make sure that none of those deaths was in vain." He looked at the scotches still lined up in front of him. "Drowning the loss in booze? That's a waste." Not that it had stopped him when he'd been in her situation.

"I know." Her voice was very small. She tried to say more, but felt her mouth close up. "Captain--"

"--Jim." He pulled her close. His arms were warm and strong--they felt like forgiveness.

She relaxed against him and quit trying not to cry.

"Shh, it's all right." He held her, letting her weep against him, her body shaking as great sobs claimed her.

Spock wondered if he was necessary to whatever was going on between his friend and Doctor Chapel. She was leaning into Jim and was crying, which Spock thought was a good sign. He met Jim's eyes over Doctor Chapel's heaving back and let an eyebrow rise. His old sign for "Can I go now?"

Jim nodded, then seemed to pull Doctor Chapel in closer.

Spock suddenly wondered if it was a good idea to leave them alone. On the other hand, Jim was lonely, and the doctor was no longer serving under his friend. Perhaps it would help them both. He let his hand rest on Doctor Chapel's back, felt her pain rising up and eased his hand away.

Kirk watched him go, surprised that Spock had touched her. He'd often wondered if his friend regretted not taking what Chris had offered him so many times over the years. But Spock had always walked away, and had never seemed overly concerned at his loss.

"Cartwright sent you?" Chapel asked, knowing that her C.O. had probably ordered them to his hospital bed. She wondered that he cared--he'd almost been victim forty-one.

"Or McCoy. I forget." Kirk smiled. Bones had told them where to find her, but it had been an almost-frantic Cartwright who'd called Kirk and told him what had happened, that she'd made the only decision she could have made. It hadn't even been a bad or questionable call--and Kirk planned to go over that when she stopped crying and was ready to hear it. But bad call or not, forty men and women were dead now because of her decision.

That was never easy. His first time he'd ended up in a bar too, on the rough side of town. Alone. The blackest night of his soul...and he'd been alone.

He didn't want that for her.

"Jim," she said softly, having trouble using his name after so long calling him "captain" or "sir." She tried to pull away, felt him let go of her. "I'm sorry."

He looked down at his groin, winced a little. "For that, you mean?"

She nodded. "Should I kiss them and make it better?" She hadn't really just said that, had she? "I'm drunk, sir."

"I'm not." He touched the front of her shirt, his fingers dropping dangerously low before rising again and digging into her pocket. "Here, take these." He dropped the antitox into her hand.

"I like the fuzziness."

"I don't." He took back the packet, tore it open, and held it out to her. "Open up, Chris." He waited for her to do it, finally had to glare at her. When she opened her mouth, he dropped the pills in--they would dissolve on her tongue in seconds.

As her head cleared, the music in the club suddenly seemed too loud. She closed her eyes, saying goodbye to the stupor that had put a lid on her pain.

"It doesn't help, not really. It just masks the pain." Kirk seemed to be reading her mind.

She realized Spock was being awfully quiet and turned to look at him; he was gone.

"He left."

"Why? This too much for him?"

Her voice was bitter, and he sighed. He wished he could make that better for her too. "I don't know. He probably just thought he wasn't needed."

"He's not. This is all I need." She reached for her drink, and he slammed her hand down on the bar harder than he meant to. The look she shot him was blazing hot, as if her pain was being turned into raw anger as she sobered up. "Let go."


Her other hand shot out, low and about to grab him again, but this time he was ready. He caught her, stopping her before she reached his groin. "Fool me once..."

She struggled, could not get away. She'd never realized how strong he was, had been too busy dreaming of Vulcan strength. "I hate you," she said, but wasn't sure who she was talking to--him or Spock, or maybe herself.

"Fine, hate me. But no drinks. And no gouging." His grin was tight as if he was a little worried what might happen once he let go of her.

And she did want him to let go of her, was afraid that if he didn't, she'd start crying again and this time she wouldn't be able to stop. But his hands on hers were tight, and his eyes wary--he wasn't letting go of her any time soon. She did the only thing she could think to make him release her. She leaned in and kissed him hard, passionately. She gave him something he'd never ever wanted: herself, her lips, and her body as she slid off the stool and pressed against him.

Kirk let go of her hands and pulled her closer, overwhelmed by the sensation of her pushing against him. Her lips were hot and full, and they pressed on his relentlessly until he opened his mouth and let her in, and that was probably a mistake because suddenly he couldn't think at all.

She felt his mouth open, pushed her tongue against his and heard him moan. His hands were running up and down her back, causing her to shiver. He finally pulled away, and his eyes were startled as he stared at her. Then he stroked her cheek, his mouth finding hers again, and this time the kiss was sweet and tender and it broke her into a hundred million pieces.

He felt her control shatter, held her close as she shuddered against him, pushing her away just enough so that he could get down and get her out of the godawful bar they were sitting in and somewhere, anywhere else.

She knew he was leading her out of the bar, could tell they were outside when the music stopped and the night air hit her--cold and harsh. She'd forgotten her coat, hadn't cared enough to even think of it. Now she wished she had.

Cold, she was so cold.

He felt her shivering and took off his jacket, easing it around her shoulders. "I think you're sick." He took her hand, held it up to her forehead.

Free of the stuffy, too-hot bar, she could tell that she was burning up. "I think you're right," she said, trying to pull away from him.

He held her, then slowly let go. "Only if you want to...don't pull back on my account."

She studied him, unsure what she was seeing. Did he want her? Because she suddenly wanted him.

He saw her eyes soften, saw desire in them and gently pulled her back to him. "Kiss me," he said, as he led her up the hill toward his apartment.

She obeyed his order. It was easy, like old times. Only he'd never ordered her to kiss him before, which was probably a good thing because now that she was doing it, she didn't want to stop. They stumbled up the hill, toward his place, she guessed. Was he going to seduce her?

She found the prospect didn't bother her at all. In fact, she wanted it. Pulling him into a darkened doorway, she pushed him against the wall, kissing him as if there would never be another chance for them. He kissed her back, his tongue and hands and lips and body all so warm against her and quickly becoming her whole world. A world where things made sense and people didn't have to die because she'd done what she'd had to.

"I didn't have a choice," she said brokenly as she pulled away. "I didn't have a choice."

He nodded. "I know. I know." He kissed her, letting his words add emphasis to the kiss, letting his lips add power to the words. "You had no choice, Chris."

"I didn't want them to die."

"I know." He turned her, supporting her as they walked the rest of the way to his place. The apartment was warm and welcoming, and he eased her down onto the couch. He planned to make her something hot--tea or maybe cocoa--but she pulled him toward her.

"Warm me."

Her arms as they stroked him were alluring, enticing. He wanted her, wanted this. He pulled away. "You're burning up."

"I'm so cold. Please, Jim." She stared up at him, shivering and lonely and afraid that what was happening would stop if she let him get away from her. She tried to put everything she needed and wanted from him in her eyes so he'd see it and come back to her and love her if only for a little while and make her forget--and so that he'd be there to hold her and tell her it was all right when she remembered all over again.

"Not here, then." He pulled her off the couch, led her to the bedroom. "Let's do this right, Commander."

Her title on his lips made her remember, his hands on her clothes, gently easing them off, then stroking her skin, made her forget.

"It's all right. You had no choice," he said, making her remember again.

"Don't. No reminders. I want to forget."

"You can't run away." He pushed her to the bed, following her down. "I'll hold you. I'll make you warm. But I won't be oblivion." He stared down at her naked body, let his hand trace the wonderfully full breasts he'd never once fantasized about. Why in hell hadn't he imagined making love with her?

She arched underneath his touch. "I keep seeing them."

"They'll haunt you for a while. It's the way it is." God knew he'd had enough ghosts in his life, his quarters, even in his bed. You had to learn to live with them.

She nodded, knew he was right. He was wise and had been there. She'd seen him enough times in this situation, had been with him in sickbay when he'd watched another crewmember die.

And now she was with him in a way she had never imagined. She'd been so busy dreaming about Spock, that she'd never noticed how kind her captain's eyes were, or how sensuous his lips were. There was no way she could have imagined how his mouth would feel against hers, or how his fingers and lips and tongue would make her arch and writhe and finally cry out, unsure if the words she said made sense.

He smiled as she came down. She'd called his name. He didn't think she even knew she'd done it--he'd been afraid that he'd hear Spock's name on her lips as she came.

He let his hand rest on her stomach, where the pink flush that also covered her breasts was receding. Her skin was so hot. Crawling up the bed, he lay down beside her. "You're sick, Chris. Maybe we should wait."

Her hand found him, so full and strong and wanting her. This man, who had just sent her to a place where oblivion held sway if only for a moment, wanted her. She moved her fingers, squeezed--not the way she had earlier and not in the same place and she saw his eyes close and his mouth open in pleasure.

"Chris," he said, the word barely more than a breath.

"Yes?" She moved closer, feeling a strange power as he groaned when she pulled him onto her. "Now. No waiting."

And then he was with her and filling her and moving over her, and she thought that the word pleasure must have been invented just to describe what this man could do with his body. She wrapped her legs around him, trying to pull him into her even more.

Kirk groaned, felt her lock her legs around him and knew he could not control himself much longer. She was slick and hot and the fever only made it more intense. And she wanted him, her eyes as she looked up at him were dilated, and her lips were wild as they found his. But her hands running through his hair were softer somehow, soothing and loving, and she called his name out again as she came. When he followed her, he was smiling because of that and because he was calling her name out too, and because it just felt so damned good to be with her.

He collapsed on top of her, trying to keep most of his weight off her. Her eyes were bleary from sex and exhaustion and probably from being sick, so he eased off of her, cuddling next to her, holding her.

She rolled so she was facing him, their bodies pressed tightly together. He noticed she was sweating, and gently rubbed her forehead.

"Are you all right?" he asked, and his voice was so tender it made her eyes well up as she nodded.

He kissed her tears away, his lips so gentle on her it only made her cry more. "I'm sorry, Chris. I'm sorry it happened to you."

She nodded, holding onto him tightly. Letting him guide her through this terrible pain. His body, so demanding and sensuous a moment ago, was now comforting and sturdy. She could fall, and he would catch her.

"Sleep now," he said, as she stopped shuddering, her fever-stoked skin pressing against him in ways that made him want to take care of her forever. "Sleep. It will be just as bad in the morning."

She looked up at him, smiling at how he wasn't going to lie to her even now. It was what she needed, and he seemed to know that. Or maybe it had just been what he needed, so long ago. "When you went through this, who talked you down?"

His eyes seemed to darken, and he didn't look at her as he whispered, "No one."

And she suddenly understood why he'd come into that bar in the first place. She could feel tears in her eyes again, but this time they weren't for herself. And this time they didn't burn as they fell. "I'm sorry."

He shrugged.

She thought his pain was like an old wound covered in scar tissue but still aching at times. Impossible to heal, and not a bother most of the time, but every now and then, like now, it must twinge a little.

"You're wrong, you know," she said softly.

"Oh?" he asked, his lips finding hers. He could get used to kissing her. Could get used to doing a lot of things with her.

"It won't be as bad in the morning."

"No?" He was looking at her with such longing that she wondered if he had any idea that he was doing it. This man was lonely, and that floored her. This man wanted her, and she wanted him, and it was possible that together they might be very, very good. And that floored her too.

It was the last thing she would have expected. "No. It won't be as bad."

"Why not?" he asked.

"Because you'll be there."

It didn't come out as a question, but he could hear the question in it. She was asking him if he wanted her there, if he wanted her to come back. If he'd want this again, this fire and touching and kissing. He wasn't sure how or why he was reading all that into her tender if tentative gaze, but he knew he was right.

She watched his face--there seemed to be a lot of things running across his expression: wonder, and worry, and an aching loneliness. Then there was only utter tenderness as he leaned down and kissed her. It was a long and lovely kiss. It said so much that she needed to hear. Somehow, in a way she didn't understand, they were in this together.

"I like that," he said, smiling. And for the first time in a long time, he didn't feel alone at all.