Snowflakes by Djinn

"What do you think? Exhilarating, isn't it?" The young guide plunged through the snow, leaving Kirk in his wake.

"Exhilarating if you're twenty," Kirk mumbled as he struggled to keep up. Why the hell had he wanted to come here on his vacation? Cartwright had mentioned how much weight he'd dropped at an ice spa in northern Sweden--all while enjoying the company of some very lovely ladies--and Kirk had been hot to try it. Hot: an odd concept in his current surroundings. He was sweating like a pig, but his hands and feet felt cold despite the high tech boots and gloves. His pack was getting heavier with each passing step. "Is it much farther?"

"No, sir."

"What's your definition of far?"

"It's about another mile."

Kirk repressed a groan. His nose was running from the cold, and he was sure that whatever was dripping out was freezing the minute it hit the air. Great, he'd be the snot king. Sure way to win the ladies.

"Captain, I want you to know I'm a huge fan of yours."

"Thanks, Lars. That's nice."

"I have been since I was a kid."

"That's not so nice." At Lars' look, Kirk gave him a tight smile. "Isn't one of your rules to avoid making the guests feel ancient?"

"But you're not ancient. You're James T. Kirk."

"And T stands for timeless in your book?"

"Well, yes."

Kirk sighed and nodded, not wanting to burst the boy's bubble. He waited until Lars had forged ahead again before he stopped for a second to catch his breath, and give his burning legs a break.

In the distance, he heard a noise--a low, consistent drone. Like an engine. On a flying machine. A flying machine with heat and comfortable chairs and probably things alcoholic if you asked really nicely.

A moment later an air car passed over them. "Lars," Kirk said, his voice dropping dangerously low, only the young hunk probably didn't know that. "Was that thing going to the lodge?"

"Sure. It leaves every two hours."

"So, I could have been sitting in the lounge at the shuttle station, nursing a cognac and chatting up the next Miss Sweden instead of trekking across this never-ending glacier with you?" Hell, why hadn't he just beamed over? He had the credits to indulge himself. Why had he thought it would be better to ease into his vacation gradually? Why had he listened to Cartwright when he'd said that nobody ever transported up to the ice spa?

Lars turned to look at him, walking backwards. He did it without slipping. "Captain, really. That's for wimps."

"I'm a wimp. In the future, please remember I'm a wimp."

Lars laughed. "You're so funny, sir." He turned, calling over his shoulder, "Better quick-time it, Captain, if we want to make the lodge by dark."

Cartwright was definitely going to pay.

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

"Can I get you another drink?" the young, very blonde--in a Nordic goddess way--server asked.

Chapel was beyond content in the soaking tub that no one had asked to share yet. She looked up at the woman. "Nope, I'm good."

"Can I offer you anything else?" The woman managed to load a world of possibility into that question. "I'm off duty in an hour. And my name is Ilsa. You should call me that."

"Is 'anything else' part of the service, Ilsa?"

"Only if I like you." The woman set down her tray. "You've been here two days, Christine. You'll be here five more. I checked." She gave Chapel a beautiful smile. "Don't you want to make the time memorable?"

Leaning in, Ilsa gave Chapel an idea of just what memorable might mean. Given the relative size of their respective boobs, Chapel wasn't sure they'd be able to even make contact. They'd be like giant boat bumpers, careening off each other every time they tried to kiss.

"You're gorgeous, Ilsa. Please believe that."

"Oh, I know." Ilsa gave her a guileless smile.

"And I'm very flattered. But..." She shrugged helplessly.

"It's all right. Maybe you'll change your mind later. If so, you let me know, okay?"

As the living representation of Freya walked away, Chapel wanted to bang her head against the back of the Jacuzzi. How long had it been since she'd had sex? With anyone--gorgeous goddess or run-of-the-mill guy? She started to count back, got to thirteen months and stopped. This was not the exercise to preserve her peace of mind.

She heard crunchy noises--someone was coming off the snowy trail onto the patio surface. Probably Lars, guide and poolboy--and Ilsa's fellow godling. Leading some hardy tourist, perhaps? Only the most rugged hiked in.

She turned to see who it was and started to laugh. Kirk, very red-faced, looked like he wanted to push Lars under the snow and suffocate him in it.

As he passed her, breathing heavily--but not actually as heavily as she expected--she said, "Forgot to call ahead for the shuttle, sir?"

He glanced at her, then did a double take.

She realized she had very little on, even if what she was wearing covered everything crucial. She reverted back to the smartass persona that she'd honed in Ops, that she'd first learned while serving on his ship. "I mean, walking in is macho...very macho. But maybe not so smart?"

His eyes seemed glued to her chest, and she sank a little in the water, almost telling him to go look Ilsa up if he wanted to see some truly amazing personal flotation devices. Then he seemed to force his gaze to her face, and a grin started. "What the hell are you doing here, Chris?"

"I'm on leave. I left Ops behind for a week. I wasn't expecting to see anyone I knew. This is pretty out of the way, or that's what Admiral Cartwright led me to believe."

"Cartwright, huh?" Kirk smiled again, only this time he seemed amused as if at some private joke.

"Care to share the funny?"

"Not really."

Lars finally seemed to realize Kirk wasn't following him and walked back to the tub. "Oh, hello, Christine."

"Hi, Lars."

He grinned, his cute, innocent grin. "I can give your pack to the bellman, sir."

Kirk swung the backpack off his shoulder, groaning a little as he did it. He waited until Lars had hefted the pack and moved away, then he stretched, grimacing the entire time. "I'll need one of those tubs."

"Why don't you get changed and join me in this one." She blinked, then blinked again. What the hell was she doing? She came to relax, not play footsie in the jacuzzi with her former C.O.

She expected him to turn her down, but he said, "Does a drink come with that offer?"

"Yes. But it wasn't an offer. I mean, I'm a doctor."

"Only you're not practicing right now."

"Okay, granted. But I can see you're tired, and your muscles are going to be a mess if you don't soak. And we can catch up as professional people do on occasions like this." Although maybe she should go change into something a little less fig leafy?

"Good idea. I'll be right back. You stay there," he said.

She wondered if he'd added mind reading to his list of talents. He turned to leave and nearly collided with Ilsa, who had wandered over to take Chapel's empty glass and put down a fresh drink even though she'd said she was fine. Ilsa seemed to be comping her on most of the drinks--Chapel's credit line with the spa didn't seem to be dropping very fast in the bar department. Ilsa had to lean over Chapel to switch the glasses; her boobs would have pushed into Chapel's face if she hadn't leaned back.

Chapel saw Kirk's eyebrow go way up.

Ilsa turned to Kirk. "Did you want something?"

Chapel would have bet money he was thinking Ilsa might be a nice menu item. Then he glanced at Chapel and grinned, and she revised her guess to include an Ilsa-Chris sandwich as the treat du jour.

But he didn't voice any fantasy, just ordered cognac.

"Sure." Ilsa gave him a sweet smile, but she gave Chapel an even sweeter one. "I guess you have your own ways of making things memorable?" Her smile turned heartbreakingly sad, then she walked off slowly, her ass swaying in a way that made Chapel almost question her choice of company.

"Jeeeeeee-sus," Kirk said. "I hate to get in the way of that."

"I almost hate for you to get in the way of that, too," Chapel said, forcing her gaze off Ilsa's backside and back on her old captain. "Maybe you should go get changed before I change my mind about her."

He grinned. "Maybe I should." He looked over at reception; Lars was watching him with an adoring look. "I seem to have my own fan club here."

"He's a sweetie. Do you want to change your mind about venues?" She let an eyebrow go up, probably a perfect rendition of Spock's gesture, which might not be in the best taste. She'd never been sure how many ways Kirk swung, and he and the Vulcan of her old dreams were mighty tight buds.

Kirk looked more amused than offended. "Lars is very much the young Aryan god, but I think I'll pass."

"Not your taste in men?"

"Fishing for information, Commander?" He leaned in, his stare raking over her, seeming to sear right through the water.

"Of course not, sir." She felt the need to cross her arms over her chest. "I didn't expect to see you."

"You're saying you'd have covered up on my account? How insulting." He winked at her, then hurried off, presumably to check in and get changed.

She leaned back, sipping at her fresh drink. It was very strong. Ilsa didn't skimp on the booze.

"You have a new friend?" Ilsa said, dropping off Kirk's cognac.

"An old one actually." Chapel shrugged.

"Someone you like."

"Yes, we've known each other a long time."

"That's not what I meant, Christine." Ilsa smiled and walked away.

"Yeah, that's not really what I meant, either," Chapel said, resisting the urge to down her drink and ask for another one.

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

Kirk looked around at the room, taking in the unique decorating scheme. "This room is made of ice." Each word sent a puff of air into the room.

"You asked for that, sir." The bellboy handed Kirk his pack.

"No, I wanted to stay at the ice spa. I didn't want to stay in the ice room."

"But staying at the ice spa is staying in an ice room. Everyone else just asks for the regular spa package; we offer that year round. This is special because--well, it'll melt eventually."

"In the next five minutes, you suppose?" Kirk glared at the man.

"Err, no, sir." The bellboy sighed, clearly abandoning any idea of seeing a tip added onto Kirk's credit reckoning. "This is a small place. The regular rooms are sold out. Only ice rooms are available." He nodded toward the bed. "You'll find the sheepskin very warm. Just be sure to wear rubber soles if you venture off the carpets."

"Fine." There was a cloud of visible breath.

"Good. Right. Enjoy your stay." The bellboy skidded a little in his haste to get out of the room.

Kirk looked around. Ice chair, ice vanity, were those ice drawers? He tried to open them and damn near froze his hands to the ice. Nope, not real drawers.

He thought of Chapel in her hot tub, steam rising up around her as she soaked in something only the very drunk could call clothing. She'd gained some weight over the years--hadn't they all?--but she'd looked damn good sitting there like some dark-haired ice mermaid. He decided to get the hell out of his frozen corner of hell and go join her, and dug into his pack, pulling out his bathing suit and robe, and jamming in his clothes since there was no place to hang them. He changed, then, trying not to slip as he stepped off the rug in his non-rubber soled slippers, he made his way to the door. Damn. Why hadn't Cartwright mentioned ice meant ice?

"You look peeved," Chapel said when he emerged from the lodge. She moved to the far side of the tub as he climbed in.

His cognac was waiting for him and he dispensed with the usual sniffing and twirling and just downed the sucker.

"Wow. Is that how you're supposed to drink that stuff?" Chapel was grinning. "What's wrong? You've only been gone ten minutes."

"You were counting?" He grinned, then the grin faded. "I'm in an ice room."

"Yeah, my room was a little cold when I checked in, too. You just have to fiddle with the buttons behind the curtains."

"No, not icy. Ice."

"As in made of ice?"

He nodded, motioning for Ilsa to bring him another drink.

"But the furniture's not?"

"Everything. Except the bedding and the towels. It's like an ice sculptor went insane in my room."

"That's not good. My room is made of more traditional materials. Warm, cozy, with a lovely non-ice bed. Very big." The smile she gave him was teasing.

"That's an invitation? Please God make that an invitation."

Her smile died. "It really wasn't one."

"What if I order you to make it one?" He kept his tone light.

"You can't order me to invite you into my bed."

"Actually, I think I can. General order 44-600."

"There's no such order." She was grinning now. "Is that 600 for 600 thread count?" When he laughed, she shook her head. "You're a crazy man."

"Chris, I've just hiked across the plain of endless snow. I'm cold and I'm tired and I don't want to live in a room made of ice." He gave her his best helpless look. Then he played his trump card. "You know I've been through hell recently--everything I went through to get Spock back..."

"Oh, that's not even fair." But she looked a lot more sympathetic.

She must have heard about David. From Bones, maybe? Or Uhura. Kirk hadn't told her. It had been a long time since they'd shared things the way they had when she'd been on his ship after V'ger. Before she left to come back to Earth.

"I'm too old for this, but you're not," he said. "How about you trade rooms with me, if you don't want to share?"

"I'm not the one who didn't check the brochure before I booked." She sat up straight as she talked, bringing her breasts into prominence. How did something as skimpy as the bikini top she was wearing push them up like that? The person who invented that garment deserved a commendation.

"Are you looking at my boobs again?"

"What? No." He started to laugh. "Well, dammit, yes. Yes, I am. And it's your fault. I'm a man who's going to freeze to death in his hotel room when you could make it better. So why can't I spend my last hours ogling your breasts?" He leaned in. "I'm sure you'd let Ilsa ogle away if it were her last night."

"Hey, here's an idea. Maybe she'll share her room with you. Or Lars. I bet he will." She sipped at her drink, her expression unreadable but somewhat shaky. As if she wanted to laugh at him, but didn't think she should.

"After all I did for you..." He saw her roll her eyes. "Pushing forward that waiver to get Starfleet Medical to look at your application despite the fact it was weeks late."

"Demoting me in favor of McCoy."

"You stayed anyway." For a while--she'd stayed for a while. "Recommending you to Cartwright for Ops." He smiled at her. "Bugging him constantly for status reports in case you wanted to come back to me--to the fold."

"Oh, like you cared how I was doing."

"I did. I figured it was you who didn't care about us, anymore." They were heading onto dangerous ground. More slippery than the floor back in his sub-zero room.

"I care. It was just time for me to leave. I had...opportunities."

"I know." Where was that damn drink?

She leaned back and closed her eyes, falling silent. He could hear the bubbling of the air jets in the hot tub, the sound of a hawk high up on the wintry sky. The snowfield lay out in front of them, the setting sun turning it shades of rose and gold. It was beautiful here. Cartwright hadn't been pulling a fast one when he'd said that.

"So how cold is it really in that room?" she asked.

"Well, it's not melting, so I'd say it's zero or lower. When we're done here, you can drop by. Enjoy the frosty ambiance. Freeze your ass to one of my chairs." He grinned, knew it was the one most women couldn't resist. "And then, once I gallantly pry you free, we can go to dinner."

"You know you could be seriously cramping my style. Ilsa is one attractive woman."

"I guess because of Roger and Spock, that I haven't really considered you with a woman." He got a sudden nasty vision of her and Rand consoling each other on the ship when he and Spock had been uncooperative in the romance department. Or maybe Uhura and her, getting over Platonius together.

"Come back from the naughty place, sir." She was grinning.

"Sorry, I was just imagining the possibilities."

"Well, stop it." She looked over at where Ilsa was taking another couple's orders. "She is pretty."

"She is. Why haven't you been with her? Is it that she's a woman?"

"No." She pointed with her chin over at Lars. "Are you not working Lars for a room 'cause he's a guy?"

"He's not really my type."

"So you do have a type?" She grinned.

"We were talking about you and the young beauty, Chris. Not me. You've been here a few days I take it?"

"Yes, and I'll be here a few more. But it's not as if I can promise her anything."

"I don't think she cares." He gave her his best leer. "Can I watch you two?" He waggled his eyebrows.

"No. There'll be nothing to watch, anyway. It's been a while since..." She didn't seem to want to finish.

"Since you've had sex?"

"No, since I've engaged in nude gardening. And, boy, do I miss it."

He could sort of relate. He'd thought he and Carol were headed for a reconciliation, but then David had died during his mission to get Spock, and Carol hadn't forgiven Kirk. Not that it had been his fault his boy had died, but Carol had not wanted to hear that. She'd made it very clear whatever rapprochement she and he had going was over. And Gillian had been perky and cute, but he hadn't felt like pushing it, especially not once she was running off to bring science to the galaxy--catch-up learning, his ass. He'd seen the captain of that ship. He was a pretty, pretty man. He couldn't blame Gillian for running after him. So before Carol, then--God, had it been since Antonia? What the hell was wrong with him?

"Either you're embarrassed for me, or you're thinking very deep thoughts." She finished her drink.

A new one appeared a moment later, along with Kirk's refill. Kirk watched enthralled as Ilsa subjected Chris to another very good view of her assets. When she walked away, he whispered, "I'm not embarrassed for you. Envious would be the better word. Can I be you? Just while we're here?"

"Yes. Go be me. You have my permission to explore strange new worlds."

"Been there, done that." He leaned back, stretching, and his foot touched her leg. "Sorry."

"That sorry would work better if you actually moved your foot."

"And that would sound more convincing if you pulled your leg away."

She stuck her tongue out at him, but she didn't pull her leg away.

"Why has it been so long?" he asked.

She seemed startled he would be so direct. "I don't know. I guess work got in the way."

"It's not still Spock, is it?"

"No. Long over him."

He wasn't entirely convinced, although she sounded sincere. But he'd probably sounded sincere each time he'd been grounded and someone had asked him if he'd wanted to be back on his ship. He'd have said, "No, I'm over that. I've got important things to do here." Right.

She sighed.

"I'm going to close my eyes for a while," he said, sinking a little lower, resting his other foot on her leg. She still didn't pull away. "Don't let me drown, all right?"

"Okay." If anything, her leg was pushing back hard against his foot.

He closed his eyes and let himself catnap. By the time she woke him, he was feeling no pain thanks to the lovely hot water, the booze, and her.

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

Chapel stood in Kirk's room, staring at the walls, then at the bed. "It is made of ice."

"See. I told you."

"I know, but I thought you were exaggerating. This is really made of ice." She walked over to the bed, gingerly sat. Tried bouncing up and down, which of course didn't work--from the look on his face, he'd tried it, too. "Wouldn't your body temperature melt the ice somewhat and make this sheepskin all wet?"

"Spoken like a true scientist."

"I'm serious." She sighed, and a frosty stream of breath followed her words. "Holy crap, it's cold in here." She rubbed the arms of her thin robe.

"You see my dilemma."

"Okay, we can share my room. But one of us is sleeping on the couch." She gave him the Chapel stare o'death. "One of us who is not me."

"Fine."

She grabbed his pack off the bed. "Come on."

He wrestled it away. "I can carry my own pack."

She let him have it, and led him out of the ice structure and back into the main lodge. Her room seemed very cozy after the frigid space he'd been assigned.

He sat down on the couch, stretching and sighing as if in bliss. "So about dinner?"

"I need to shower."

"Yes, I do, too. Would you let me finish?"

She held her hands up in mock surrender.

"You've been here longer. Do we need reservations for the dining room?"

She nodded. "For the seatings. They're every hour and a half."

"Good, I'll take care of getting us on the list, you go shower."

"You're awfully bossy."

"Side effect of being the boss." He grinned at her, and she smiled in reaction--it wasn't fair that he had such a pretty, pretty grin.

"There are spare drawers if you want to unpack."

He laughed. "You're giving me my own drawers already?" A glare stopped his laughing. "I'll just unpack."

When she finished with her shower, he was hanging up some clothes in the closet. She dug in her drawer, looking for her black pants, when he suddenly handed her something--her bronze dress.

"Not the look I was going for."

"Wear it anyway. It looks very sexy."

It was very sexy. A halter dress, cut down to there in the front, and with virtually no back. She still had no idea why she'd bought it. Flashback to Platonius, maybe?

Kirk pushed past her. "You need anything out of the bathroom?"

It was a surprisingly sensitive thing for a single man to ask. Then she remembered he'd been married. And had lived with women before and after that. It was odd--she always thought of him as being alone. "Yeah, let me grab my stuff."

She heard the shower start up and eyed the dress, holding it up to herself in the mirror. She let her robe drop, pulling the dress over her head. It fit the way it had in the store--like a second skin where it needed to be snug, falling away gently where clinging was a bad thing for a woman her age. Not that she needed to hide her body from him after he'd seen her in that damned bikini. She never would have worn it if she'd thought there'd be anyone she knew here.

She had her hair pinned back and some makeup on when he came out of the bathroom. He smiled as he gave her a quick, non-threatening, once over. "Nice."

"Thanks."

He grabbed his clothes and headed back into the bathroom. When he came out again, he had on more formal clothes than the ones he'd hiked to the spa in. He seemed embarrassed when she gave him a dramatic once over and whistled.

"You must have come here to pick up girls." She laughed, feeling her nerves go away as she moved closer to him. "And here I am getting in your way."

"You're not in my way."

"Aren't I?"

"You're not. Do you still dance?" He grinned and pulled her close, his hand on her back, warm. Strong. He took her hand.

"I'm a terrible dancer, don't you remember?" She wasn't, but she was suddenly sure that the road to sex with her former captain was going to start with a waltz.

He led them out, a little impromptu slow dance around the open spaces in her room. They were the same height; actually, with her heels, she was a little taller. But it felt good with him. It felt right.

They'd danced a few times on the ship. Just before she'd decided to leave.

She pulled away. "Okay, dancing it is. After dinner, right?"

He studied her.

"Or maybe you should hit the bar. There are a lot of unaccompanied people here. Attractive people who are probably dying to get to know you."

"Because you aren't?" His smile was gentle. "What are you so afraid of?"

She decided to go for light, tapped him on the chest with an imaginary fan. "Why, I'm afraid of you, sir." Her southern accent was over the top and made him laugh.

But his eyes weren't as amused. "Did something happen? I don't need details, but was there something that put you off sex?"

She could feel her eyes going wide. "Oh, no. That's not it." She sat down on the bed, stared down at the floor.

He sat down next to her, then he took her hand and squeezed in a way more supportive than romantic. "Just got out of practice?"

"Something like that." She shook her head. "It's not that I don't have offers." She sounded a little too defensive on that one.

"I'm living witness to that." Again the squeeze. "Is it Spock?"

"No. I really am over him." She squeezed his hand back, to show him she meant it. "I don't know. Is it possible to just forget to have sex? Then you realize it's been a while, but you get in this rut. Of not reaching out."

"Of not letting people in?"

She nodded.

"Yeah, it's possible."

She looked over at him, saw that he was watching her with infinite tenderness. "I have missed you, sir."

"That would sound more genuine if you'd call me Jim. You used to. Remember?"

She remembered. Back when she'd been a doctor on board his ship, toward the end of the mission, he'd told her to call him that. Then she'd left, and he'd never corrected her again when she fell back into calling him sir.

He got up, pulling her after him. "Come on or we'll miss our seating." He drew her in close as they walked down the hall, her hand on his arm, his hand tucked over hers. "We don't have to dance if you don't want to."

"Others might be better partners for you."

"That's not what I meant." He sighed, his hand pressing down on hers even more. "You do realize that Cartwright set us up?"

"He did?" Her C.O. had seemed awfully keen to get her up here. "Can we kill him?"

He laughed. "I'm not that upset." He smiled at her. "Are you? Because I can go back home tomorrow. Blame it on the ice room." His eyes bored into her, as if he could see through anything she might say to what she really meant.

"I don't know." She stopped walking, pulling him to the side so others could get past them. "This probably isn't the best time to tell you this. But I left the ship for a reason that had nothing to do with the opportunity Starfleet Medical was giving to me."

"I know." He didn't look mad; he looked hurt. "I kept waiting for you to tell me that. But you never did. Then I decided I was imagining that you were interested in me. Told myself you left because of Spock."

"Hardly." She shook her head. "Damn Cartwright."

"I take it you told him this?"

"It was after that whale probe. We had a big party when the repairs were all done. I got a little drunk; I may have told him things I never could tell you."

He laughed.

"What?"

"When I brought the ship back after the whole Sybok debacle, I may have had a bit too much to drink, as well. It was funny how he kept bringing the conversation back to you. I may have mentioned that I was hurt you left."

"I didn't mean to hurt you."

He nodded.

"It's just...that was years ago, Jim. And I think it was just a crush. I mean, who doesn't have a crush on you?"

"Well, Ilsa comes to mind." He gave her a grin that wasn't as luminous as some of his others. Had she hurt his feelings with the crush comment? "Come on, let's go eat. We can plan our revenge on Cartwright over appetizers."

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

"So how long has it been?" Kirk knew he should find a new theme, but the idea that she hadn't had sex in a while really interested him.

"Long enough." She looked over the menu at him. "The snails are good, by the way."

"You know they call them escargot for a reason, Chris. So you don't know that you're eating a slug doused in garlic butter."

"I'm sorry. Shall I call them by their Latin name?" She grinned.

"Yes, please." He leaned back. "You like Ops, don't you?"

"I do. Aside from working for Yenta Cartwright, it's a blast. And I'm doing something important. That not everyone can do--our burn out rate is really high."

"I know it is." He smiled. "I'm glad you're happy."

She nodded, but something in her expression changed.

"You are happy?"

"Of course I'm happy. Why wouldn't I be happy?"

"Which nicely segue ways into the 'how long has it been' question?"

"You're not going to let that go, are you?"

"I'm really not." He laughed at her expression. "Do you mind if I order for us?"

"Okay." She put her menu down. "But there's no way you remember what I like."

They'd eaten together a lot in that last year before she'd left. He'd enjoyed those meals.

The waiter came over. "You are ready?"

He nodded. "My friend here wants the escargot. I'll stick with the herring." He grinned at her. "And we'll both have the steak. She likes hers medium well, I'll take mine medium rare. And rice for her--she doesn't like potatoes."

The server didn't look like he cared all that much what Chris liked or not, but he took the order with a gracious smile. "Wine?"

Kirk looked at Chris, who shook her head. "Scotch for me, and the lady will have a highball."

"Very good, sir."

"Nicely done, Jim." Chris smiled, leaning forward, the candlelight gleaming on the skin her dress exposed between her breasts. She seemed to realize where he was looking and shook her head. "One-track mind."

"The dress is beautiful. You look beautiful." He thought she blushed.

"Thanks. I'm not sure why I bought it."

"Maybe you bought it for me?" Then again, maybe she bought it for whoever might catch her interest. "Did you come up here to have sex?"

"You really need to find a new subject."

He waited.

"Yes, I did. And it's not like a riding a bike."

"Yeah, it is." He laughed, waiting for the server to set down their drinks before saying, "You just have to let go."

"Right. Because you're so good at doing that." She immediately looked down. "I'm sorry. That was harsh."

"Yes, it was. And I didn't deserve it."

"I could go back to being just a smartass?"

"That might be preferable." He studied her, she seemed upset with herself. "Why didn't you tell me why you were leaving, Chris?"

"I'd been Jan's friend too long, Jim--I lived through her crush on you; I knew your rules."

"I was ready to break them for you."

"You were?"

He nodded.

"You could have shared that info with me. It might have changed my mind." She took a long sip of her drink. "I thought I had a crush. I thought you were just being nice to me." She didn't meet his eyes. "You know my history with Spock. Did you think I wanted to relive that with you? After I'd seen my best friend flee the ship twice to get away from what she couldn't have?"

Kirk felt stung. "I thought the second time was to go to OCS?" Rand hadn't acted like she'd still had a crush.

"Well, maybe that, too. But partly you."

"All right, how about if we just put it on the table that we both were interested back then but too damn stupid to let the other one know?"

"That works." She smiled tentatively.

"Okay, then." He studied her. "We are going to dance tonight."

"Not if you have herring breath, we're not." She laughed.

"And slug breath is such an improvement." He grinned, glad they'd just navigated what felt like a potential field of landmines. "You can't not dance in a dress like that, Chris. It's criminal."

Her smile was pleased, and he thought she blushed again. He remembered that about her, that she was embarrassed by too much attention.

They lingered over the excellent food, switching to water at some point, then to coffee--strong and dark and guaranteed to keep him awake all night. When they finally made it into the lounge, it was packed. He couldn't even see the dance floor.

"Come on," he said, pulling her outside, to the covered part of the patio, now warm thanks to the many heaters scattered about on the roof. He pulled her to him, started to dance to the music that came out the windows of the lounge. She relaxed against him.

There were couples scattered about on the patio. Talking. Kissing. One other pair was dancing, lost in each other. Chris shifted, and her back felt smooth and warm against his hand.

"Not too cold?" he asked.

"No." She rested her head on his shoulder. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you. But it had the potential to be very embarrassing if you didn't feel the same."

"I know. And you weren't wrong, earlier. I don't let go. I don't reach out, either." He sighed. "I thought you understood how I felt. We had such fun."

"Would it be really self-pitying of me to say fun and romance aren't two things I'd have linked back then? I was coming off Spock, and then everything that happened with Roger..." She pressed against him. "I thought we were having fun because it wasn't romantic."

He spun her gently, letting the music fill him for a moment.

"I saw you with Antonia, once," she said. "You two didn't seem to be having much fun. It sort of made the argument for me."

He pulled back so he could see her face. "When was this?"

"I was at a seminar in Seattle. I went to the ballet. Swan Lake. You two were there; I saw you getting drinks. You looked like you'd had a fight."

He remembered that night. "We hadn't had a fight. But Antonia was peeved at me because I was leaving the next day for San Francisco. To talk about Starfleet's offer for me to come back."

"She didn't want you to?"

He shook his head. "She wanted me to stay with her."

"You loved her, right? Why didn't you stay?"

"Space called."

"She couldn't share you with the stars?"

"She never even considered it. I was retired when I met her. I was supposed to stay that way."

"Sorry."

"Let's not talk about the past, anymore." He rested his mouth against her neck. "It's been a while for me, too, if you must know."

She laughed softly. "I didn't ask."

"I know. I'm telling you, though."

He felt a tapping on his shoulder. Lars and Ilsa stood behind them, both looking young and beautiful. "May we cut in?" Lars asked, holding his arms out to Kirk .

"The dance floor's all yours," Kirk said, not letting go of Chris as he moved around the Teutonic twins. "Dance with each other. You'll make beautiful babies."

"But we are cousins," Ilsa said. "And I like women. And he prefers men."

"No one ever said love was easy," Kirk said, winking at them as he pulled Chris behind him.

"You're very bad." She wasn't fighting him, was keeping up nicely as they headed toward their room.

"So about that couch?"

"Yes?" She sounded suddenly less amused.

"I'm still going to sleep on it." He turned to look at her. "I think that's best for tonight."

"Okay."

He couldn't decide if she sounded disappointed or relieved.

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

Chapel listened to Jim toss and turn on the couch that would more properly be called a love seat. "Why don't you take the bed?"

"No. No. I'm fine."

"Really. We'll switch."

"You're as tall if not taller than I am, Chris. I'm fine." The rustling stilled, as if he was determined to make himself comfortable by will alone.

She waited for him to start fidgeting again, but he didn't, so she closed her eyes and tried to fall asleep. Sleep laughed at her. Finally, she eased out of bed and went to sit in the large window seat that looked out over the snowfield. The moon was shining down, making the snow gleam.

She heard the rustle of the blanket, then footsteps. Jim crawled into the space behind her, his arms going around her, pulling her close, her back to his chest. She relaxed against him.

"My God," he murmured, his breath warm on her ear, "it's beautiful here, isn't it?"

"It is."

The gleam on the snow faded, and then the moon disappeared under some clouds. It began to snow, a light fall, big snowflakes coming down. She smiled and felt him tighten his hold on her.

"Every one of those is different," she murmured.

"I know. It's what I always thought of when Spock spoke of infinite diversity in infinite combinations."

"I used to hope he meant Vulcan and Humans could make like bunnies in the sack." She was glad to hear him laugh.

"You don't hope that anymore?"

"Nope." She let her hands rest on top of his, felt him nuzzle her neck. The sensation of his lips on her skin made her shiver.

He moved his hands, taking hers with them, as he found his way under her pajama top, his skin on hers now, moving up, to settle under her breasts. He kept kissing her neck, not saying anything, and when she tried to turn to kiss him back, he held her still.

"Do you still want me?" he finally asked.

"Yes." She moved her head, cocking it so he could have more access. "Do you still want me?"

"Yes."

He moved one hand up, the other down, both playing, both making her moan. It was not the action of a person who didn't want her. It was not the kind of thing she'd let a person she didn't want do. She was about to tell him that, when he intensified what he was doing, and she forgot how to form words.

He was chuckling softly when she finally came down from wherever very good girls go after he'd touched them like that. "So how long has it been?"

"Sixteen months."

"I have my work cut out for me."

She turned, fighting his hold and proving strong enough to break free--but she imagined that was only because he let her. "How long has it been for you?"

"Nine months."

She grinned, knew that if he could see her eyes, they'd be sparkling. "I have my work cut out for me, too. And what's this work crap?" She nuzzled his neck, the way he'd done to her. "Sex is supposed to be fun. At least, that's what I hear."

"Is it?" He was laughing and sort of jerking slightly whenever she touched one spot in particular--someone was a little ticklish. She filed that for future knowledge.

He pushed her away, smiling as he stared at her. "You're so beautiful."

"It's dark in here."

"You're so beautiful."

"You're horny, you'll say anything."

"You're so beautiful."

"Thank you." She smiled.

Then he kissed her. He'd never kissed her, not on the ship when they'd been having so much fun, although there'd been times she'd wanted to kiss him. And he hadn't kissed her goodbye. But he was kissing her now. So she closed her eyes and enjoyed it and kissed him back.

It took a very long time for them to come up for air. He was grinning when he finally pulled away. "About that couch," he said, as he began to unbutton her pajama top.

"Yes?"

"I hate it. I think I need to sleep in the bed."

"I think you need to do something in the bed." She grinned at him. "Sleeping would not be my first choice."

He laughed, and it was an echo of his laughter when they'd been having so much fun and she'd worried she'd ruin things between them if she told him how she felt.

"Why, Commander, whatever do you mean?" He was putting on his own fake southern accent, his tone one of shock. But the sentiment was ruined as he pulled her shirt off her and got to work on her bottoms, sliding them off. He shot her a smug look when he saw she wasn't wearing anything underneath them. "Expecting this?"

"No. Maybe I have a condition. I can't wear underwear while I'm sleeping." She realized he was still in his pajamas. "I seem to be suffering from a bad case of solitary nudity."

"I wouldn't call it a bad case, Chris." He climbed out of the window seat, began to take off his pajamas. "Better?" he asked, when he was finally clothing free.

"Much." She took the hand he held out for her, let him pull her to the bed. "I used to fantasize about this on the ship."

"Used to? Who do you fantasize about now?"

She laughed. "You may still star in my fantasies. But I don't want you to get a big head." She reached down, grinning when she realized other things were mighty big. "I didn't do you justice in my scenarios."

His smile was so sweet, as if he'd been worried he might not please her. "I'm getting older."

"Aren't we all?"

"I suppose. I've just...felt old, lately. Old and a bit lonely. Cartwright knew that."

"You know, it's funny, but I don't feel like killing him anymore." She drew Jim to the bed, lay down and pulled him down to her.

"What a coincidence. Neither do I."

And then they were together, and she felt something inside her let go finally. "Oh, God."

"You okay?"

"I'm way beyond okay, Jim."

His laugh was a soft puff of air, warm in her ear as he kissed her and moved and made her feel loved and wanted in the way she'd always suspected he could but had been too afraid to explore.

When they finally lay quietly, he held her close and kissed her, and she decided that she could probably kiss him forever and not get tired of the feeling.

"I wish..." She snuggled against him.

"You wish what?"

"That we'd done this back then. How much time have we wasted?"

He rubbed her back. "We're doing it now. That's all that matters." He laughed softly. "And we'll do it again in a little while." He began to touch her in ways less comforting, more naughty. "And again."

"Promise?"

He nodded. "Sleeping is a low priority for me tonight."

"For me, too." She looked out the window as he stroked her skin, causing her to shiver from the light touches. "It's really snowing out there now."

"Good. Maybe we'll get snowbound here and have to stay in bed just to conserve warmth."

"Thank God you're not in that ice bed."

"Thank God."

There was a long pause and then she said, "You want to try it out, don't you?"

"It's still my room, right?"

She laughed. "If I get frostbite on my ass because of you..."

"I'll kiss it and make it all better." He turned her, proceeded to demonstrate.

She giggled--he'd found her ticklish spot, right at the base of her spine where her butt started.

"Oh, now you're in trouble." He kept going back to the spot, making her jump. It hurt...and it didn't.

She rolled, hiding her vulnerable spot from him. He tried to turn her again, but she pulled him to her, made him kiss her. He proved easily distracted, seemed to lose himself in kissing her again.

When they pulled away, she smiled lazily. "I think I'm going to send Cartwright some flowers."

"I think they should be from both of us." He traced her lips, then moved lower, tracing other round things. "With a nice card."

"Dear Admiral Cartwright." She waited for Jim to do the next part.

"Ice spa a bust."

She frowned.

"Got no work done."

She laughed.

"Ran into an old friend. With my pelvis."

"Repeatedly."

"Right." He smiled down at her, his expression changing. "Can't thank you enough for thinking of us."

She touched his cheek. "Love and kisses, Your Victims."

"Perfect. I think it should be red roses, don't you?"

"There's a reason they're a classic."

He pulled her to him, holding her closely. "I'll be back in space soon."

"I know."

"He may not have done you any favors."

"I doubt that." She nuzzled his neck, trying to find the ticklish spot.

"Cut that out," he said, reaching behind her to touch her sensitive spot, making her jump.

"Okay, truce. You don't if I don't."

"Or what?"

"I'll invite Ilsa and Lars in here for a game of bridge."

He laughed. "Okay, fine. Truce." He kissed her again. "Ilsa will be one sad girl in the morning."

"I doubt it. She seems the kind to land on her feet. And she's not afraid to go for what she wants. I could take a lesson from her on that."

"We both could, I think."

And then he pulled her on top of him and demonstrated--to great effect--that neither of them was afraid to reach out, anymore.

FIN