Not in the Nest by Djinn

Chapel watched as Jim paced her quarters; she had her arms folded over her chest, one leg stretched out to keep him away from her if he tried to get close.

Not that he showed any signs of doing that.

"You're not making this easy, Chris."

"I'm sorry, Jim. Was I supposed to?"

He stopped pacing, and she heaved a dramatically loud sigh of relief.

At his look, she said, "I was getting nauseous watching you."

"Funny." He gave her the tight, "Ha-ha-ha" look she hated--he knew she hated it.

"So," she said, "the ship is yours."

He turned to stare at her. She decided not to add, "Now that you've stolen it away from Decker."

Decker. Who was dead. Or a god. Or...something.

Jim moved closer, was brought up by her leg. "We've been over this."

"No. You've been over this. I've just had to listen."

"What we had..." He shook his head, as if it was just too hard to say again.

"Past tense and we're not even officially broken up." She leaned in. "I get it, Jim. It was fun for a while on Earth, but now it's over. That about capture it?" She was so, so, so glad she hadn't blurted out that she loved him during sex.

The great sex.

The amazingly great sex.

"Yes." He sounded miserable. But resolute.

She wanted to hit him, to shake him until he came to his senses. "I'm not even in your chain of command. You conveniently demoted me. I thought that was so you wouldn't be managing me."

"You thought I demoted you so we could have sex?"

"Well, it's a more comforting thought than thinking you demoted me because you believe McCoy is the better doctor." Which McCoy probably was--when he was actually in sickbay.

"Chris. I didn't know I'd end up here."

"I know." She didn't really think he'd stolen the ship. Well, he had stolen the ship, but she thought it was sort of an improvisation, not a grand scheme. He'd seen an opening; he'd taken it. Vintage James T. Kirk.

"It's not that I don't care for you. It's just that I can't mess in--"

"Oh, for God's sake, Captain. I get the shitting in the nest concept. I've got it down pat. In fact, I can now give the lecture." She tried to brush past him, but he caught her up in his arms. "I hate that you are doing this."

He hugged her close. "Do you hate me?"

She pulled away. "I hate that you're making me cry." She wiped at her eyes roughly.

"So do I."

"Just go. It's over. I understand." She could feel a sob coming on, turned it into a sort of laugh.

He touched her cheek. "It was fun." Now she was getting his sheepish grin. She didn't hate it. Not yet, anyway.

"Yeah. It was fun." She kept her voice very calm. Neutral. She wanted to be ice-cold. She'd channel Spock if she could. Well, not post-V'ger Spock. He'd probably be crumpled on the bed weeping like a teenage girl. But the other Spock. The cold bastard she'd once lusted after.

"We can still be friends."

"Can we?"

He nodded.

"Well, you're the boss." Her tone this time wasn't calm; it was bitter.

"Chris."

"Sir, I'm very tired. Perhaps you should go?"

He sighed, loudly and long--this time he was the one with the dramatics. "You can call me Jim. We've been together for six weeks."

He'd been keeping track?

She met his eyes. "You're sure you don't want to try for another six?" At his look, she laughed again. "No, I guess not. And sir,"--she hit the title hard--"we weren't together. We were only sleeping together."

It was a direct hit. His face flushed. "I stand corrected."

"What if I want to transfer?"

"I'd rather you didn't." His answer was practically instantaneous.

"Why not? Surely, it will be easier without me here. Think how embarrassing it will be. Running into each other in the hall, new partner on the arm. Ouch."

"I wasn't planning on dating anyone--"

"--Who said I was talking about you?"

This time his flush was even darker. "I thought you'd handle this with more grace."

"Well, that's me: graceless." She could feel tears threatening again, so she turned away, walked to the viewport. "Technically, these are the CMO's quarters. You going to take them away too?"

There was a long silence. Then she heard him walking toward her. His hands were gentle on her upper arms, and for a moment, she felt his chest against her back. He was so damned warm. Why did he have to be so warm, to feel so good pressed up next to her?

"No," he whispered. "Keep them."

Then he let go of her and hurried away, covering the room as if a red alert was in process.

She turned to watch him, but he was already gone.

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

"I noticed that you have not assigned Doctor Chapel new quarters." Spock was chewing his dinner with unusual purpose. Then he closed his eyes and sighed with what sounded like happiness.

"What are you doing, Spock? It's just food. Chew it, swallow it, move on." Kirk felt edgy, had since he'd called off whatever he'd had going with Chris.

They'd just been sleeping together. That's what she'd said. She'd implied she didn't care for him. But she was awfully mad at him for someone who didn't care.

He knew she cared.

Not that he cared. Or if he did, he wasn't going to let that caring stop him from doing what was right--what he had to do.

Spock was still chewing. And he was smiling that sappy smile that was rapidly giving Kirk the creeps. "Jesus-God, Spock, what the hell is wrong with you? It's just food. You've eaten food for how many years now? Why is it suddenly an orgasmic experience?"

Spock burst into tears.

Kirk ignored him, tucking into his stew single mindedly. Spock would stop crying. These jags usually didn't last long.

Spock cleared his throat softly, using his napkin to blow his nose. Without looking at his friend, Kirk pushed the extra pile he'd grabbed toward him. He'd become an expert at getting enough for any meal. Dinner usually had a half dozen crying fits. Just after V'ger, it had been more like twenty. So Spock was making progress.

Still, Kirk would be very happy when all the effects from the V'ger meld finally wore off.

"As I was saying," Spock said, a trace of embarrassment in his voice, "Doctor Chapel is still in the CMO's quarters."

"Yes. She is."

"She should not be. She is no longer CMO."

"I'm aware of that. I was the one who demoted her."

"That could not have felt good for her. Being replaced with so little explanation." Spock looked like he might dwell on that to the point of tears, so Kirk dropped his knife on the plate, the clatter causing Spock to jump. And to hopefully forget how bad Chris might be feeling over her demotion. Thank God his friend didn't know what else Kirk had done to her.

Damn, he missed being with her. He hadn't expected her to be so fun. She was sassy and smart and bitchy as hell sometimes. And in bed...she liked to play, but she could be sweet too. So damn sweet.

"Jim?"

"Let her have the quarters, Spock."

"It is irregular."

"That was an order, not a suggestion."

Spock seemed taken aback. They could both probably count on one hand the number of times Kirk had given him an order like that. "If you wish?"

"I do. Now, let's talk about something more pleasant."

"Talking about Doctor Chapel is unpleasant?" Spock looked very confused.

Kirk game him the smile he usually reserved for bluffing a crappy hand in poker. "For you, Spock...I know how she hounded you."

And she'd sounded damned happy to see Spock when he'd shown up on the Enterprise.

"I am not uncomfortable with that. In fact, I have come to terms with my past."

Kirk smiled tightly. "I'm glad." He reached for his water.

"I am thinking I may have been premature in rejecting her."

Water went up Kirk's nose. It hurt like hell. Choking slightly, he tried not to make a spectacle of himself. "What?" he said, once he could talk again.

"I may have rejected her too hastily."

"No, Spock. You did the right thing."

Spock sat back, studying him. "You know something of her character that would make her an unsuitable mate."

Kirk wanted to say, "Yes, I think she's in love with me, you doodle-brain." But that would be wrong for so many reasons. "She...she..." He couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't give away how well he knew her, so he dropped his knife again.

This time Spock didn't jump. "Are you feeling all right, Jim?"

Leaning in, he said, "Spock, you're highly emotional right now. We both know that. And we aren't sure if this is going to last. I'm not sure that jumping into something with her is the best course of action. Think of how hurt she'd be if you led her on and then rejected her again." He reached for his water, took a big sip.

Spock's face crumpled. "You are right, Jim," he said, reaching for a napkin. "I must wait. See if this desire to mate with her goes away." He looked at Kirk. "Do you think she is skilled in bed?"

This time the water went up and out of Kirk's nose.

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

Chapel watched the lounge doors from a seat in a darkish corner of the second level. Every time the doors opened, she tried to scope out who came in.

It was never Jim.

"Why are you sitting up here?" Rand sat down next to her, groaning as she stretched in the soft chair. "Man, I'm bushed."

Chapel nodded, not looking away from the entrance, through which Jim had just walked. He was scanning the room. Was he trying to find her?

He looked up, and seemed to home in on where she was sitting. His face was set in a tight line.

"He looks good," Jan said easily. "Sulu does too, don't you think?"

Chapel looked at her. "I thought you had a crush on our Captain Cock."

"That's such an ugly name."

Chapel looked down, feeling bad. It was an ugly name. And it wasn't true that he went through woman after woman--she didn't think Jim had seen anyone else during those six weeks that he'd recently made meaningless. "You're right. Sorry."

"You never called him that before. Are you mad at him about being demoted?"

Chapel sighed. It was bad enough being dumped but that too? At least it was a good excuse to be a bitch. "Yes. Sorry that I'm so emotional."

"Speaking of emotional. Have you seen Spock lately? He's scary. He stubbed his toe in the gym and cried."

Chapel laughed. "No, he didn't." Although she could see it. She'd been in sickbay right after the V'ger meld.

"Ooh, and he's coming up here."

Chapel frowned. Spock was coming up here? Spock was even in the lounge?

He not only was in the lounge, but he was heading purposefully toward them.

"Do you want me to leave?" Jan whispered.

"Don't you dare."

"Doctor. Chief."

They both murmured hellos. Chapel noticed Jim was at the bar, watching with what looked to her like intense interest.

She got up, pushing Spock into her seat. "Talk to Janice, Spock. I know you two have a lot to catch up on."

Spock was actually sputtering as she hurried down the stairs and stalked over to the bar.

"A refill," she told Chekov who was pouring when he wasn't trying to hit on two young ensigns.

Jim stood, his back against the bar, looking out, sipping a clear drink.

"Not your usual poison," she murmured, not turning around.

"I was looking for something with no memories."

"Real nice, Jim." She looked at him. "So why'd you send Spock up?"

"Send him up?"

She nodded.

"I didn't send him up."

"Oh but it'd be ideal, wouldn't it? You could stop worrying about me--not that I think you're worried about me. You're more worried I might upset the nice, clean nest you have going."

"I didn't send him. In fact, I told him to leave you alone."

"You did?"

"Well, only because he's emotional now. And that might not last. I don't want him hurting you."

"Right, because only you get to do that."

He sighed.

She turned, mirroring his pose. Elbows on the bar, foot cocked back. She realized the stance put her breasts into high relief.

Jim seemed to realize that too.

"Guess you're not so over it."

"I never said I was over it." He was definitely sneaking looks. Trouble was everyone else might be too. She relaxed her posture a bit, ending the attack of the amazo-boobs.

Jim looked a little disappointed. But a lot more relaxed. "Can we walk?"

"Around the ship?"

"No, in space without a suit." His tone was pretty damn bitchy.

"Miaowww."

He took her arm. "It was a stupid question."

It felt unbelievably good to have him touching her.

Chapel nodded to Uhura as she came in with Scotty and Sulu. Pointing upstairs, she said, "Jan's up there with Spock. You might want to go rescue her."

Sulu took off running.

"He likes Jan?" Jim whispered.

"Where have you been? He's liked her forever." Chapel smiled. "But now, I think she likes him too." Then she glared at him. "We are not friends having an easy discussion about this."

"Of course not." His hand tightened on her arm. "We started out as friends."

"Five weeks ago, you mean?"

"Six."

She smiled. She'd just been testing. "Yeah, and look how well that turned out."

He didn't let go of her arm, she noticed, once they'd left the lounge. She decided to pull away. He shouldn't always be the one who got to do the leaving.

"I know you're mad at me," he said.

"Mad is only one small part of what I feel." She moved a little bit farther away from him. They didn't need to be bumping arms as they walked.

Even if it did feel good.

"So, about Spock..." He sounded like he was trying desperately to appear nonchalant.

"Yeah, about him. He's courting me?"

"It would seem so."

"And you warned him off?"

When he didn't answer, she reached out, stopping his progress.

"Yes," he said softly. "I did."

"You don't have the right to do that. Not if you're not with me."

He didn't meet her eyes. "I know." Then he looked at her, and there was an emotion in his eyes she wasn't sure how to read. "You don't want him, do you?"

She shrugged, saw him frown, then look away again.

"If you do want him, I'll back off."

"I didn't say I wanted him."

"You seemed awfully happy to see him when he first showed up."

"I was happy. For you. For him. For me. For our chances of surviving the big, evil, killing thing."

He just nodded.

"Why are you making me say all this?" she asked.

"I just...need to know if you want to be with him."

"Do you want me to be with him?"

"I wouldn't have warned him off if I did."

"How'd you do that? Did you say I snored? Ground my teeth?"

"I almost did." He grinned suddenly, and she felt a pain clear down to her stomach. Why couldn't he be with her anymore?

The corridor was empty, she moved fast, taking him by surprise as she pushed him into an alcove, out of sight. "Jim," she murmured, as she kissed him.

He kissed her back for a long time. Then he gently pulled away. Running his finger over her lips, he said, "Never think I don't want you." Then he took a step back and turned, walking away fast, leaving her alone in the corridor.

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

"Captain, I want to thank you for bringing down your senior officers to help us celebrate Canabh Prime's return to free elections." Parlaxet smiled at Kirk, then his gaze traveled to Kirk's right.

Kirk knew where his eyes stopped. The man had been staring at Chris all night. And she seemed to have taken vivacious pills. She was flirting outrageously with Parlaxet.

"Well, it's been a long day. We're going to have to call it a night." Kirk rose and saw most of his officers rise also, probably glad that he was finally giving the signal they could now leave.

Chris didn't get up. He looked down at her, and she stared back blandly.

"You don't mind if she stays a little longer, do you?" their host asked, not even looking at Kirk.

"Parlexat has offered to give me a private tour of their science academy."

"How nice." He forced a smile. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

He knew his mistake as soon as she grinned. It wasn't quite a taunting look. But it was close.

"That gives me a lot of leeway, sir."

He was sure that his smile was suddenly much less convincing. "Have fun," he managed to get out.

"I'll do you proud."

Their eyes locked. Parlaxet coughed delicately, and Chris finally looked away as their host held a hand out to her, leading her around the table and off toward a rosy marble-like building.

"I believe they are going to have sex, Jim."

Kirk jumped. He hadn't heard Spock walk up from the far end of the table. "There's a strong possibility."

"I am not sure I approve."

Kirk knew he sure as hell didn't, but resisted saying so. "I'm pretty sure that doesn't matter to the good doctor. Chess?"

With a last look toward where Chris and Parlaxet had disappeared, Spock nodded. "Chess might serve as a distraction."

Kirk pulled out his communicator. He saw that the others had already beamed up. "Two to beam up," he said, grinning at Rand as he materialized.

"Welcome home, sir." Her smile was brilliant. But it wasn't a message anymore. She was over him.

Would Chris be over him soon too?

"Do you think Parlaxet will please Christine?" Spock asked as they entered the turbolift.

"I have no idea." It was the idea of Chris pleasing Parlaxet that really had his stomach in knots.

"She is knowledgeable about anatomy. That should make for an informed sexual partner."

"Spock, don't take this the wrong way, but shut the hell up about Christine. I don't care." He sighed as he saw Spock's eyes tear up. Patting him on the back, he murmured, "I didn't mean to yell at you."

Once they were setting up the board, Spock recovered quickly--more quickly than he had over the last few days. Maybe he was finally getting back to normal? They played many games, and Kirk lost them all, too distracted to plan well. "Spock, I'm sorry to do this. But I've got to get to bed. I'm dead tired."

"Of course, Jim." Spock started to pick up the board. "If you are tired, you must rest."

Jim left him, hurrying to his quarters. "Location of Doctor Chapel," he asked the main computer.

"Doctor Chapel is not on the Enterprise."

Damn.

He tossed and turned all night. Each time he queried the computer, he got the same answer.

Doctor Chapel was not on the goddamned ship.

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

Chapel beamed back, trying to get sand out of her boots. It was quiet onboard. Gamma shift hadn't transferred off yet; alpha shift wasn't awake. She smiled, enjoying the quiet.

She was sneaking through the senior staff's corridor like a teenager trying to get in before her parents realized she'd missed curfew when Jim's door opened.

"Crap," she murmured.

He walked out, looking tired. "Chris," he said, the name coming out as if by sheer gut reaction. She saw hurt on his face, then he dialed it down. "Nice of you to get back before we left."

"Nice of you to care." She started to walk again.

"I didn't say I cared. I just wouldn't want to waste time by having to turn around and go get you." By the sound of his voice, she could tell he was following her.

"Well, if that happens, you should just leave me. Probably for the best." She palmed open her door, could feel him behind her. "I'm very tired, Jim."

"Didn't get much sleep, I imagine." His voice was incredibly bitter.

"No, I didn't."

He looked away, walking to the viewport as if he couldn't stand to look at her. "Did you have fun?" There was something lost in his voice.

She walked to him, standing next to him, her arm pressing hard against his. He didn't pull away.

"I didn't sleep with him."

"You don't have to tell me that."

"I know. I didn't sleep with him."

He laughed then. "Semantics? You had sex, but no sleep?"

"I wasn't in bed with him. Or on the couch with him. I left him, Jim. After the tour, I said goodnight and left him. We didn't have sex."

"A nice story. I like it a lot, in fact." He turned to look at her. "Just one problem. You're getting back in now."

"I sat on the beach. Thinking. About us mainly."

"There is no us."

"I know. And it makes me sad." She turned away from him, didn't want him to see her cry.

"I'll go now," he said.

"Yeah. That's a good idea."

She felt his hand on her hair for a moment, then nothing. He walked quietly; the sound of the door opening and then closing were her only indications he had ever been there.

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

"Are you all right, sir?" Uhura asked as he stared at the viewscreen showing the unchanging image of the planet where his medical team had been helping out. Where they were now ready to beam back up from.

"I'm fine."

"It's been a good time for repairs."

He nodded.

"It's a good time for a party too. Welcome them home and all that."

Smiling, he nodded again. "Fine, but you're in charge."

She laughed, throatily, the laugh that made him feel better whenever he heard it. "Who else?" She walked over to Spock. "You want to be on the party committee, Mister Spock?"

"I do not."

Winking at Kirk, she went back to her station. They were all having fun testing how much Spock was recapturing his old self.

He looked up, realized that Spock was watching him. "Something on your mind?"

Spock nodded slowly. "Emotion is an interesting phenomenon. I always believed that it would make it much harder to think logically."

"And it doesn't?"

"It does. But it also gives clarity. There is the logic of the situation and then there is the desire. If you decide to do what is right and logical, but you feel...cheated, then you know that this is something you want very much."

"Desire?" Were they back to him screwing Christine again? Because Kirk wasn't sure he could convince a back-to-normal Spock to abandon his pursuit of her.

Spock stepped closer, standing beside Kirk's chair as he had always done in the past. "My sudden interest in Christine, for example." Spock's voice was pitched so low that Kirk could barely hear him.

"Yes...?"

"I was interested in pursuing her. But now, I am not. And I feel little conflict over that. My true emotions do not urge me to reconsider."

"Good."

"What do your emotions say?"

Kirk turned to look at him. "Mine?"

Spock nodded.

"Mine about what?"

An almost smile, not the creepy full smile, crossed Spock's face. "About Christine. You seemed unusually vehement that I not woo her."

"I was just looking out for her."

"Ah." Spock had that look he got when he had Kirk's king checkmated. "And when you checked on her location thirty-seven times while we were orbiting Canabh Prime, was that you looking out for her as well?"

"Maybe." Kirk saw Spock's eyebrow go up. "Well, obviously I was. No man left behind and all that."

"Jim."

The intercom rang. "Transporter room four to bridge. All medical personnel accounted for."

Kirk wiped his hands on his pants. "All right then. Let's get underway." He'd order double time if he could. Anything to make Spock go away.

"Perhaps, you should welcome them home personally?" Spock murmured as he turned for his station.

"Perhaps, you should mind your own business." His words came out louder than intended. Uhura shot him a startled glance. He laughed innocently. Tried to make it clear he'd been just joshing around with his good buddy Spock.

She didn't look convinced.

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

Chapel sat in her quarters wishing that she was going to the party with the man who didn't want to be with her.

She couldn't decide what to wear. She had the top from one outfit and the pants from another on, and she just sat on the bed too tired to get up and try again.

"Forget the party. I'm not in the mood." Curling up on the bed, she let herself cry. She hated to cry like this. But she knew that if she didn't let the tears out on her terms, they'd come out on their own when she least wanted them to.

She stopped crying finally, was dozing when her intercom rang. "Kirk to Chapel."

"What?" She hoped no one else was listening in. Neither her tone nor her greeting was standard.

"Get to the party."

"I'm not in a party mood."

"That's an order. You have fifteen minutes, or I'll come get you myself."

He sounded like he meant it.

"Jim. Please." Her voice caught, and she bit back a sob, hoping he hadn't heard it.

There was a long silence, then he said, "Please come?"

"Don't do this." She could hear something in her voice. Something broken.

He could hear it too, she thought. His voice was very gentle as he said, "Okay, Chris. Never mind the party."

As soon as she cut the connection, she got up and went to her terminal. It took her little time to fill out the transfer papers. Her finger hovered over the button that would send them to Jim for approval, but the ring of her door chime stopped her from hitting it.

Wiping at her face, she said, "Come."

Jim walked in.

She turned back to the computer, not wanting him to see her puffy and aching eyes. "You're missing your party."

"It's not my party. It's everyone's party." He came up behind her, touching her neck, giving her an impromptu massage. "You're part of that everyone. You should be there."

"I'm not part of them. Not once you approve this." She pointed to the transfer request on the screen. "Please, Jim?"

He drew her out of the chair, made her face him. "No."

She tried to hold the tears back, but they had a mind of their own. "Why not?"

Pulling her into his arms, he held her tightly as sobs shook her.

Suddenly angry, she pulled away, hitting him with fists clenched but not very accurate. She was crying too hard to see what she was doing. "Why not, you bastard? Why the hell not?"

He was kissing her suddenly, and she was so surprised she forgot to pull away. The kiss was sweet and passionate, and it felt so good.

But she finally jerked away from him. "Jim, you have to let me go."

"I can't." He pulled her into the bathroom, and she was too tired to resist. Wetting a cloth, he began to wipe off the smeared makeup she'd completely missed in her impromptu cleanup before letting him in.

"Why can't you let me go?" She met his eyes as he gently undid her hair, letting it fall out long and wavy from being up all day.

"Because I love you."

"Don't say that."

Acting as if he hadn't heard her, he turned her to the mirror. "Ready to come with me to the party?"

The smeared makeup was gone, and her hair looked sexy, but her nose was red, and her eyes were puffy, and her skin looked blotchy. Then she realized what he'd said. "With you?"

"Mmm-hhh. I need to bring a date." His smile wasn't as brilliant as normal. He looked a little sad, a little nervous. But not guilty or conflicted. "I want to bring a date."

"You don't have to. Just let me transfer off, and then you'll never have to see me again."

"Chris, shut up." He lifted her then, onto the narrow sink, pulling down her pants and his own. "I hope you don't mind if I do this."

Chapel had her eyes closed, could barely talk for the feeling of being with him again. "I don't mind," she managed to get out as she hung on for dear life.

The sex had never been this good.

"I love you," she murmured.

His grin lit up his face. "Really?"

She nodded.

"Good. Because I love you too. Which I was saying earlier, but you told me to quit."

"I can be stupid sometimes."

He brushed back the hair from her forehead. "You can be the smart one too. You were right. We can make this work."

She nodded solemnly, pulling him back so she could kiss him some more.

When they finally drew apart, he let her down and pulled up her pants, then seemed to get a good look at them with the top she had on. "Is that what you were going to wear?"

Laughing, she walked into the other room. "No. This is the state you put me in. I can't even dress myself now."

Waggling his eyebrows, he said, "I'll do it." He was very efficient in the undressing department until he had her down to her underwear. Then he got distracted as he pushed her onto the bed.

She didn't complain in the least.

When they finally crawled off the bed, he had no trouble dressing her. Then he led her out to the turbolift. She expected him to let go of her hand, but he only clutched it more firmly as they exited the lift and walked toward the rec lounge. Entering first, he nearly dragged her as she tried to hold back.

She saw folks watching them. Eyebrows rose for a moment. Jim smiled and pulled her closer, finally letting go of her hand, but substituting his arm around her. The questing eyes followed, then lost interest.

Jan walked up with two drinks. She handed the amber one to Jim. "You are still drinking this neat?"

He nodded.

"Sulu thought it was with rocks. He bet me anything I want. I'm going to have to think about that." Her look was positively naughty.

Jim laughed. "Don't think too long. The offer might have an expiration date."

Jan's expression was untroubled as she gave Chapel her wine. "Somehow, I don't think so." With a smile for both of them, she turned and went back to Sulu at the bar.

"This doesn't have an expiration date either," he said, putting his mouth on Chapel's hair, close to her ear. "You're with me."

"What happened to the nest concept?"

"I decided it was big enough for two."

Laughing, she let him pull her with him. They eventually ended up with Spock and McCoy.

"Doctor Chapel," Spock said.

McCoy rolled his eyes. "It's just Christine. Can't you get that through your thick, green skull? At parties, avoid titles." McCoy looked over at her. "How come you didn't tell me you two were together?"

She shrugged.

"Yeah, that's what Jim's going to say too, what do you want to bet?" He clinked his glass against hers and smiled.

Jim laughed softly. "We were working on our relationship."

"I helped," Spock said, no levity apparent in his voice.

"Right. What the hell did you do, my pointy-eared friend?"

"I provided guidance of a romantic nature."

"You? In a pig's eye."

They wandered away, still arguing softly.

"Well?" Jim asked.

"Well, the sky didn't fall," she said.

He chuckled. "Give it time." But his hand tightened on her waist. "This is nice."

"It is."

For a moment, their eyes met, and his touch on her got even tighter, even more possessive. Then he let her go.

"I take it we're to mingle separately?" she asked.

"We're not joined at the hip." He laughed when she made a funny face. "Well, not yet, anyway."

"So, I guess I should erase that transfer request?"

He nodded, then he left her to fend for herself. She did it with aplomb; she'd been doing it for years. Just as she was getting tired, she felt him sidle up against her with a fresh drink and a strong arm.

Smiling at him, she whispered, "When can we leave?"

He grinned. "You're in luck. Captain sets the tone, you know?"

"I know that, yes."

"Then let's say our goodbyes and get while the getting's good."

"Officer thinking."

At his grin, she followed him, her imagination was already long out of this room and safely ensconced in her quarters. Or his. She hoped her smile wasn't coming out dopey.

But judging by the silly smile Jim was sporting, her own expression was probably very, very sappy.

She'd never, ever complain.

FIN