The Path Not Taken by Djinn

Kirk woke with a start and tried to open his eyes. The world remained black, and for a moment he panicked until he realized he was blindfolded.

"Somebody's awake." A male voice. Unfamiliar.

"Yes, I can see." Female this time. And very familiar...but why?

He struggled in his chair, stopped as soon as he felt the restraints holding him start to chafe.

"Nice try, Captain." Her voice, low, husky. So damn familiar.

"Why did we even bring him back here? We should have killed him." A male again, only different.

Kirk listened hard, for sounds of movement, activity--anything that might tell him how many people were in the room.

"It's no wonder our mission went tits up with braintrusts like you running the show." The woman laughed, and the laugh wasn't familiar. It was mocking and didn't, for some reason, go with her oh-so-familiar voice.

"Cartwright knew that--"

"Yeah, and look where he ended up." She seemed to be pacing in front of Kirk.

He tried to move his hands carefully, checking out the restraints and praying that no one was standing behind him. His head hurt--probably from being clocked while he'd been lurking outside the meeting house Starfleet had said was a hiding place for what was left of Cartwright's group. The group that had nearly destroyed everything--that had gotten Kirk and McCoy sent to Rura Penthe.

His Starfleet contact hadn't meant for him to try to take the place on his own, but he'd been so sure he could handle this without any backup. When the hell would he learn to wait for help?

A hand touched down on his shoulder, and he jumped in reaction but didn't go far with the restraints holding him down.

"Worried, Captain?" Suddenly the blindfold was pulled off and he squinted madly in the too-bright light.

"Are you nuts?" A man moved closer. "Now we have no choice but to kill him."

"You are so limited in imagination." She leaned in, stroked Kirk's hair. "What we have here is a new ally."

He opened his eyes gingerly, could see without pain since she was blocking most of the light. She--someone he knew. "Chapel?"

"Hello, sir." Her voice held the same mocking tone. "Trust you to be the one to find us."

"Starfleet knows about this house. I didn't come alone."

She raised one eyebrow, an eerie counterpart to how Spock always did it. "Yes, you did. It would be out of character for you to wait." She laughed softly. "And we're not at that house anymore. We've known Starfleet found out about it, and we kept someone on lookout to see who they'd send. How'd we get so lucky? The hero of the galaxy just for us."

There was something so cold in her eyes as she looked down at him, so different than the Chapel he'd known. "Valeris never mentioned you."

"Valeris didn't know about me. Only Cartwright did. I was his secret weapon." She smiled easily. "Even my compatriots here didn't know I was part of it. My role was to clean up if things went bad. I can't tell you how often I prayed I'd never be needed. You have no idea what a mess you've made, what chances you've thrown away by making peace with those Klingon animals."

"My heart's breaking for you and your cause, Chapel." He studied her, saw her fists clench. "You're as crazy as Matt was."

"Don't say his name. You don't get to say his name." She leaned in, grabbing his hair, yanking back his head. "He was your friend and you let him be sent to that hell."

"I was returning the favor." He'd actually spoken against extradition, but it had been in closed session, and he didn't feel like enlightening Chapel. It would be too much like pleading for his life.

He met her eyes: his life was forfeit--he could see that in their cold, blue depths.

"Enough talk," one of the men said, pulling out a disruptor. They'd use Klingon weapons, naturally, even if they hated the people who'd made them.

"We have another way." Chapel's smile made Kirk's hackles rise. "Go get the memory wiper."

"You have got to be kidding. We can't just leave him wandering around with no memory. My way will leave no trace." He waved his disruptor around.

"Your way will get us all killed," another man said, one who was staring at Chapel in a way that indicated more than general interest. "What are you thinking?" he asked her.

Kirk noticed they were all being careful not to use names around him.

"I don't plan to leave him anywhere." She giggled and it was the single, scariest sound Kirk had ever heard. "Meet our newest recruit to the cause." She patted him on the head like a dog. "James 'T for Tabula Rasa' Kirk."

"No way." But there was grudging admiration in the other man's voice, and Kirk began to struggle.

Chapel ignored him, reached for the machine on a wheeled cart that another of the men had pushed into the room and wheeled it over to Kirk. She hooked him up quickly, then stood in front of him, yanking his chin up again. "Jim, this is going to hurt." Her tone hadn't changed, but there was something different in her expression--the others probably couldn't see it the way she was standing.

And...Jim? She'd never in her life called him Jim.

"Go to hell," he said, because it seemed like the right thing to say, and he saw her eyes brighten, not in a "Boy, am I going to hurt you way" but more a "Thank God, you get it" way.

"No one will think badly of you if you scream. This will probably be the worst pain you'll ever feel, but it'll be over quickly--much more quickly than Cartwright's suffering will be." She was staring at him intently, her brows pulled down into a frown, and it wasn't until he gave her a tiny little nod that she said, "Ready for your last moment as the savior of the Federation?"

"You bitch, I--"

She hit the switch.

There was no pain, but he screamed as if there was. He tried to remember all the times he'd been tortured, had his mind raked and sifted and otherwise torn apart, and he hoped the memories were lending credence to the sounds he was making. He didn't stop screaming until she hit the switch again.

He slumped in his chair, head hung, eyes closed, unsure if he should be unconscious or not.

"Give him a minute to wake up."

He kept his eyes closed.

"He'll be disoriented." She laughed meanly again, the sound still a damned scary one. Who knew she was such a good actress? Then she touched his chin, gently this time, her voice changing as she shook him and said, "Jim? Jim, wake up?"

He tried to make it real, tried to play it like a man who didn't know where the hell he was--who the hell he was. "What...?"

"It's all right now. We've got you." Her voice was the sweet one of old, and he found himself relaxing just hearing it. Her eyes shone with the compassion he'd always associated with her.

"Who are you?" He looked around the room, trying to keep up with her in the acting against type department. "Who...am I?"

"You're Jim. My Jim." She undid his restraints. "I've been so worried about you." Then she was kissing him, and he decided the best thing to do would be to kiss her back.

If there hadn't been a bunch of men with disruptors ready to fire at his first wrong move, he would have really enjoyed the kiss. She definitely knew how to use her lips.

When she pulled away, he said, "Who are you?"

"I'm Chris. Don't you remember me?"

He shook his head. Then he looked at the man who hadn't wanted to shoot him. "Do I know you?"

"Yeah," the man said, but sort of hesitantly. "We're friends."

"Friends." Kirk looked up at Chapel, tried to seem helpless. "I don't remember any of you."

"It's all right. We're all friends. I'll fill in the blanks."

Kirk eyed the disruptor in the hand of the other man. "If we're friends, why is he aiming that at me?"

The man holstered it. "Sorry, man. It's just...we weren't sure you'd make it."

Chapel nodded. "You were acting wild, dangerous. You tried to hurt me. It's why we had you restrained."

"I'm sorry." He touched her cheek. "I didn't mean to..."

"It's all right. I know you'd never hurt me deliberately." She kissed him again. "Are you tired?"

He thought the right answer was probably yes, so he nodded. She smiled gently at him, and led him off down the hall and into a room at the end. Before he could say anything, she casually rubbed her ear, as if it itched.

The room was bugged? Didn't they trust her?

He rubbed at his eye and she nodded. So, video, too.

"I'm sorry if I hurt you," he said, pulling her close. In her ear, he whispered, "What the hell?"

She kissed him again, shutting him up, her tongue working against his, her body pressed tightly to him. He felt himself responding.

"I know you're tired," she murmured, in between kisses. "But you've been gone so long. I was afraid I'd never see you again."

She pulled him to the bed and yanked back the covers, then stripped off his clothes and her own. There was nothing seductive in the movements. If he had been a man with no memory trying to figure out their relationship, this was the way a woman would act who'd had you, who'd missed you, who wanted you. No preliminaries needed. Just fall into bed and kiss and touch and--

They were really going to do this. He felt her hand on him, saw her smile at him as she tightened her grip and made him groan. Pulling her closer, he let his body--one part in particular--have its way. She kissed him frantically and it occurred to him that she was probably afraid, that his presence had really screwed things up for her--whatever the hell she was doing here.

They finally lay quietly and she smiled at him tenderly. "Do you remember me now?"

"No." He tried to make it sound like his heart was breaking. "But I wish I did."

"Oh, Jim. I love you so. I'm so sorry we let you go out alone. We should have come with you."

He had no clue what she was talking about, but then neither would memory-wiped Jim, so he just stared at her and waited for more.

"We won't do that again. I know you said you wanted to do it. That you had a better chance of making it. But I won't lose you. Not even for the cause." She touched his forehead. "You remember the cause?"

He shook his head.

"I'll remind you. But now you need to sleep." She stroked his hair until he closed his eyes and pretended to sleep.

Trouble was, he was truly tired and his head hurt--sleep sounded good. "Headache," he murmured.

"I'll get something." She was gone for a moment, then back with an old-fashioned hypospray she held against his arm. "Best we can get on the black market." She leaned down and kissed him on the cheek, whispering, "Go to sleep, Jim, it's all right."

The medicine was taking away his pain but making him even sleepier. He decided to do what she said and closed his eyes.

"I love you," she said, and he smiled at how sweet she sounded.

For a moment, he wished it were true.

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

Chapel waited until Kirk had fallen asleep, then strode back into the room.

Rodney was the first on her case. "What the hell, Commander?"

"No ranks. We agreed."

He looked chastened. And also pissed. He'd been the one falling into bed with her until Kirk had come along; Rodney had wanted to sleep with her back in Emergency Ops but she'd resisted--or been otherwise occupied with Cartwright.

"I'd like a word with Christine." Rodney waited until the other men got up grumbling and left the room. "Wiping his memory, I get. But fucking him?"

She threw her hair back, stared him down. "Think with your head, not with your dick. He's a passionate man. If he thinks he's in love with me, he'll die for me--and for whatever I believe in. Get it?"

"You did a pretty good job in there of convincing him."

"So you are monitoring me." She hadn't been a hundred percent sure if they'd been watching her or not since she'd come on board.

He looked angry that he'd blown it. And he should. Mistakes like that were what brought down a conspiracy. To Starfleet's great relief.

"You were screwing me, Rodney? In my bed and you didn't trust me?"

He shrugged. "Maybe I was trying to cement your loyalties."

"That's good. Keep trying. Only with him, not with me." She laughed at his look. "I don't mean with sex. Just...be a little nicer the next time you tell Kirk that you're his friend. Your acting lacks somewhat in the credibility department."

She moved closer to him, touching the back of his neck, at the nape, running her fingers across the short hair the way he liked. "Show me the monitors? I want to see what he's doing."

He took her into the room they used to store weapons, moved a cart aside and then a panel behind it. It slid back to show another room, small but full of all kinds of equipment, some of which she recognized and more that she didn't. He pointed to the screen where Kirk lay sleeping. He looked handsome and very worn out as he lay in her bed. A bed she'd shared with the traitor behind her for far too long.

"Was he good?" Rodney whispered in her ears, his hands tightening on her.

"He was great." She winced as his fingers dug into her. "Better than great." More pressure. "Best I ever had, in fact."

Rodney pushed her away. "Kirk was right. You are a bitch."

She gave him the smile that she'd never had much call to use before. She knew it was an evil look--truth be told, she sort of enjoyed the new look. "You like me that way. And so did the old man." She let an eyebrow rise the way she'd learned to do when her crush over Spock had been in full swing.

"You were with Cartwright, too?"

"Why do you think he picked me as his secret weapon?" She moved closer to Rodney, didn't like the smell of him much, wanted to tell him that, but needed him on her side--for now. "The cause was everything to Matt. And it's everything to me. And I will screw whoever I have to in order to make his dreams come true. And if you have a problem with that, then you aren't a true believer."

"I just...I like you, is all." He looked down. "You're special."

"And I'm also one of the only women here. I can do the math, baby." She turned to look at Kirk. "I've got to have some me time before I face him again."

"Okay." He started to follow her.

"Me time, Rodney. Not us time."

He looked down. "I want to go with you."

"Because you still don't trust me?"

"Because I love you." He looked like he meant it. The fool.

"I'll talk to you later. I'll be busy with him now." She nodded toward the monitors. "I won't have much time for you."

He looked away, jaw tight.

"I'll make it up to you baby. You'll get what's coming to you, I promise."

He met her eyes, and she let hers go soft--but only for a moment. He was like a puppy bouncing around her for more. "You promise?"

"I said so, didn't I?" She blew him a kiss and headed somewhere that didn't have him or Kirk in it. She needed to think.

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

Kirk woke to the feeling of someone climbing into bed with him, the slide of flesh against his, the sensation of hair falling over his chest. "Chris?"

"Who else were you expecting, Mister Memory Loss?" She kissed him softly, sweetly, and he knew it was just an act, but he still felt moved by it. Or maybe he just felt safe in her arms. Maybe she felt the same way and that's why she was doing it.

"Just you," he murmured as he pushed her to her back and made love to her.

She was smiling a beautifully seductive smile, her head thrown back enough to expose her neck to his kisses, her moans spurring him on. He buried his head in her hair, heard her whisper in his ear, "You're so damn good."

"I don't remember missing this, but I think I have been." He smiled, hoped she got the message. That this was nice. That under other circumstances...

"I know, Jim. I know." She clutched him to her, the way a woman would who'd lost her man and then got him back--even damaged. "I love you."

"I love you, too." He didn't mean it, but he wanted to, and he imagined a Jim with no memory would want to also.

"Do you feel stronger?"

He nodded, and it wasn't a lie. The sleep had done him good.

"Let's go for a walk, then." She pulled him out of bed, showing no discomfort with being nude in front of him, laughing as he pulled her to him and kissed her again. He was putting on a good show for the cameras--he was doing it for himself, too. She felt terrific in his arms and, God help him, part of him was enjoying this.

They showered together, playful--or as playful as was appropriate under the circumstances and under possible surveillance. He took her again in the shower, and she stroked his face and murmured things that should have been sappy but managed not to be. He met her eyes, saw something real in them.

"Have you always loved me?" It seemed a reasonable question from a man with no memory.

"Not always. But for a long time now." She leaned into him. "Since you helped me find Roger. Remember?"

He almost nodded, remembered to shake his head at the last minute.

"You were kind to me. And I was with you when your wife died."

"I was married?" For such a short time. To that beautiful woman who'd never known the real Kirk.

Chris nodded. "It didn't last." She sighed. "Our lives crossed so many times. We were in each other's orbits for a long time, but it took forever for us to do this, to realize what we meant to one another." There was the lie she was telling Jim-with-no-memory in her voice, but in her eyes, there was truth.

She loved him?

"I'm glad. I'm glad we realized before it was too late." He pulled her close, murmured her name as the hot water splashed down on them both and she ran the soapy cloth over his back. The smell of spices and herbs would last forever in his memory, the feel of her body, the touch of her breasts, her hips, her leg as she wrapped it around his.

She finally turned the water off, and they got out and pulled their clothes on. Taking his hand, she led him to the living room, waving off the man who'd been watching her with such interest. "We're taking a walk. Jim needs some exercise."

If the man had been the one on surveillance duty, he had to know that Kirk was getting plenty of exercise. From the expression on his face, he knew. And he wasn't happy about it. Kirk resolved to watch him closely.

As soon as they were outdoors, Chapel seemed to relax, but she didn't say anything, just swung his arm and smiled at him until they reached a small garden in the back. "I'm sorry if I've been forward," she said, and looked down, suddenly shy.

"Do I appear to have minded?"

She laughed gently. "No."

"Then don't apologize. I'm just glad you didn't wipe my mind."

"I'm just glad you're a quick study. You're doing great, by the way, at playing an amnesiac."

"Thanks." He pulled her further away from the house. "Why are you here?"

"You didn't know I'd be here? I was a surprise?"

"I knew Starfleet had an informant inside what was left of the conspiracy. The messages we've gotten, they had signs of being from someone on the inside--frankly, I probably should have seen it: they had Emergency Ops earmarks. But with Matt heading it up, I figured it was just one of his people who'd changed their mind about continuing this. I had no idea it was you feeding us that information."

"I was planted."

"So I gather. As far as I knew you were on extended leave." Not that he'd paid that much attention, just noticed she wasn't in Ops.

"That's good. Safer if my name is held close. Rodney--the one who wanted to know where we were going--is ex ops. I'll have to be more careful in the future--he's going to see what you saw. I can't believe he didn't see it. Stupid. Very stupid." She seemed angry, with herself, no doubt--she'd always been so hard on herself.

He touched her cheek, brought her back to the here and now. "Rodney isn't happy I'm here."

"He had that pillow before you did."

"And wants it back from the look of it."

"Yeah." She looked down, again seemed embarrassed. "I must seem quite the little slut." Sighing, she met his eyes. "I joined them so late. I needed to establish credibility quickly. Rodney was accepted and he's always wanted me. I don't know why he did but--"

He stopped her from putting herself down with a kiss that went on forever. He wanted to push her to the soft ground, to bury himself inside her again. He also wanted to grab her and make a mad dash for freedom. Only he didn't know where they were, much less which way was the right way to run. "How do we get out of here, Chris?"

"Leave it to me. For now, we need to play this their way." She took his arm, walked with him again, away from the house, into the tall grass that lined the property. "How much does Starfleet know? I've tried to get information to them, but I think the transmissions aren't getting through."

"We knew about the house."

"But the others know that. They just don't know how you knew about it."

"I won't tell them." He had to kiss her; she looked so worried.

"Tell me something else has gotten out. You've read the files Starfleet has, right?"

He nodded. "The information they have is mostly conjecture. The location of the house was the only solid thing of late--and it's dated. Other than a few garbled transmissions that Spock thought looked jammed at the source."

"At the source? He could tell that?"

"Something about the signature of the encryption."

"So the messages haven't gotten through." She met his eyes. "Starfleet knows nothing."

"Less than. They actually thought the trail was cold on the house. I came out because I was in the neighborhood--this wasn't an actual mission."

"I figured. I was surprised you'd chance it."

He looked down. "I may have been bored." Bored, antsy, and not happy to be handing over the Enterprise, even a new one, to that clod Harriman in a few weeks.

"A desk again?"

He nodded. "It'll be the death of me."

She kissed him suddenly, holding him tightly even when she pulled away and said, "Don't say that."

He smoothed her hair back. It felt silky against his skin. "Have you really always cared?"

"Yes."

"What about Spock?"

"You think a girl can't have two impossible crushes?" She traced his lips with her finger. "If anyone's watching from the house, we're really making this look good."

"Yes, we are, aren't we?" He captured her finger between his teeth and licked the tip.

She giggled, and it was light years from the horrible giggle of earlier.

"Chris, this doesn't have to be impossible. You're on Earth; I'm on Earth. Once we get out of here..."

Her smile was luminous. He did push her down to the ground, then, and made love to her, safely hidden by the tall grass from any prying eyes in the house.

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

Chapel settled Jim at her desk and the old-fashioned terminal on it; he'd be ostensibly "catching up" on everything that was now gone. She leaned down, kissed him deeply, as passionately as she could. Then she left him.

And locked the door behind her.

The others were sitting in the living room, some looked up at her approach. She saw that Lynette and Maria had joined them--back from their mission, and successfully by the warmth of Maria's smile when Chapel walked in. The men seemed mighty happy to have more women among them.

Rodney gave her a mournful smile, shaking his head but otherwise not commenting.

"I have a confession," she said.

"You've been fucking the great Kirk like there's no tomorrow?" Rodney's not commenting phase was obviously over.

"Well, there's that. But no, that wasn't my big news." She walked over to Dan, took the disruptor from him, and checked the energy reading--fully charged. "We have a traitor among us."

"And you know this how?" Lynette had never liked Chapel. But it was a good question.

"I didn't mindwipe Kirk."

There was a lot of talking, Dan grabbed the weapon back, and Rodney was on his feet--but his face had gone white.

"The signals that Starfleet is getting from our...mole, shall we call him? Those signals are bearing an Emergency Ops signature. Now, other than Rodney and me, all the ops folks were rounded up with Matt and West and Valeris."

Rodney started to get up; Dan pointed the disruptor at him.

Chapel shook her head at Rodney, like he was a bad little boy. "Sit down, lover."

Rodney sat.

"When Matt put me in charge of phase two, he put me in charge of everything. And that includes making sure that we're ready for what's to come." She looked around, met and held everyone's eyes--everyone except Rodney. "The future is not written. We've lost this battle but the war, who knows? It could be ours. It might not be. But the future is out there, waiting for us, and Starfleet knows nothing about who we are or how many of us there are." She glanced at Maria. "Your jamming protocols are working perfectly."

Maria gave her a broad grin.

Rodney went even whiter.

"They know about the meeting house, sweetie. That's all that you managed to get through. As I'd hoped when Maria and I came up with a way to flood this whole area with something that would jam your signal." She could feel her smile upping into the evil range again, and it felt good. "You should have realized something was wrong, traitor. You should have run while you had the chance."

He looked up at her. "You've suspected me. This whole time?"

She nodded.

"And you lured Kirk into this...how?"

"I didn't lure him. He stumbled into this. And he'll stumble back out of it tomorrow. We can't afford to keep him out of commission for too long, not when he has a very well publicized launch to make."

"You can't let him go now," Dan said. "He'll tell."

"The mindwiper can be selective. Trust me, I can make him forget the last two days ever happened and replace them with very nice R&R memories. I think blonde twins would be a nice touch, don't you?" She shared a grin with Lynette, who looked like she might finally warm up. "We need Kirk alive."

"What about him?" Dan looked at Rodney. "Do we need him?"

"We really don't." Chapel took the disruptor. "Rodney met with an accident on leave. Fell into a volcano while mountain climbing on Pele. His body was never found."

"Christine." Rodney was rising, hands out to her. "I love you."

"Yeah. I know." She fired, and he disappeared without even a scream. She looked around again as she handed the disruptor back to Dan. "No one hurts Kirk. Am I understood?"

There were nods around the room.

"This is the last time we meet like this. As far as the Federation is concerned, we'll have just disappeared. But you all know the code words and channels to use if you see an opportunity. And you all know where I'll be." She pulled her shirt down, the way she'd be pulling down her uniform when she reported for her new assignment. Her promotion. Right into the belly of the beast: Fleet Operations. Exec to the Admiral in charge.

She expected to make Captain without ever commanding a ship. Officers like her were despised by those who'd climbed up the traditional way with the stars at their backs.

She really didn't care what anyone thought of her.

She felt a lump, deep in her gut. Well, there was one man's opinion she did care about. And he was safely locked away from the truth.

"I'll take care of Kirk. The rest of you, good luck and remember who's died for this." And who was dying. Word on Matt was bad. Rura Penthe was not being as kind to him as it had been to Jim and Len.

She went back in for Jim. To finish this.

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

Kirk looked up from the terminal in frustration. It was telling him nothing and didn't seem to be connected to anything they could use to get a signal out.

He heard the sound of the door unlocking--Chris had locked him in?--and turned.

"Hi," she said, her voice shaky.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine." She sat down on the bed, took a deep breath. "I need you."

"Chris, what's happened?" It was hard to pretend he didn't know what was going on. She looked so...shaken.

"Please. Hold me?"

He moved to her, sitting on the bed next to her and pulling her tight.

"I think I loved you more than Spock, Jim. I want you to know that. He was always the unattainable one. You...I think you and I might have worked if we'd ever given it a chance. It might have...changed things for me."

He frowned. "Chris..."

"They can't hear us. They're all gone for a while. We have right now to just be...us."

"Let's get out of here, then."

"They left me here to guard you, but they still don't trust me. There's a forcefield on all the entrances, windows, ducts. We're trapped." She took a deep breath.

"Are you compromised?"

"No. They'd have just killed me if they thought I was the traitor."

He nodded. She was right. They were probably just being careful.

"I've never forgotten what you did for me in those caves. How kind you were. And later, when I wanted to go to med school. You never stopped supporting me."

He smiled but tried to pull her up. "Chris, this walk through memory lane can wait. There has to be a way out of here."

She didn't seem to be listening. "I love you. I've always loved you." Finally, she let him pull her up, followed him listlessly to the front room. The mindwiper sat in the corner, near the window, and he eyed it with distaste as he tried to see if anyone had stayed back.

He felt her hands on his shoulders, smiled and said, "Chris, not now."

Then there was the hiss of a hypospray and he felt his muscles stop working. "What?" he tried to say but nothing came out.

"I'm so sorry, Jim." She was easing him into the chair. "But I promise that you will have wonderful memories of leave here, with two very beautiful girls."

She was crying as she strapped the mindwiper onto him.

He tried to shake his head, tried to say something--anything--but he couldn't move.

"You're going to forget me. What we've shared. And that's good, because it will keep us both safe."

She was part of this? God help him, she was part of this?

"I can tell you're getting it. And I wish...I wish I was the woman who would have saved you. Who would have escaped with you and made a life with you." She kissed him. "And if I was more the woman you probably think I am now, I'd seek you out when you return from the launch, and I'd get this back. Being with you--it was everything I ever wanted and more. But I'm not that woman either, exactly. Not someone who could live a lie with you, no matter how nice it might be. I'm not sure who I am."

A traitor. She was a goddamned traitor.

"I hate that look. Your condemnation. I know that you truly believe I deserve it, but I hate it." She leaned in and kissed him.

He wanted to bite her, to spit on her, to push her away. He could do nothing except let her kiss him.

She fiddled with the mindwiper. "I won't take all of your memories away. Just the time you've spent with me."

He managed to make a noise, a sort of grunting moan.

"Jim, don't." She was crying freely now, wiping at her nose, and a noise escaped her. Not a sob, not quite a wail, but a sound of pure pain.

She really loved him?

Then she hit the switch and the world went black.

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

"Captain Kirk?" Chapel felt her heart speed up at the sight of Jim.

"Chapel?" He was beaming at her. "Congratulations on the new position."

"Thank you, sir." She wondered if any part of him was feeling what she was. She wanted to take him into the nearest empty room and rip his clothes off. She wanted to kiss him and just talk to him, too.

This was not good.

"Chapel?"

"It's still new. Getting used to it. You're on your way to the launch?"

He nodded, his smile fading.

"It won't be that bad." She touched his hand, knew it was stupid but couldn't stop herself.

"It will be that bad." His look was resigned. As if he was handing over his wife to another man and hated it but could do nothing about it.

"You're--you're here now." She was stuttering. And where the hell was she going with this?"

"Yeah. Stuck on land. Again. It went so well the other times." He shook his head. "Poor Antonia found that out the hard way."

Antonia. That woman he'd left Starfleet for. That woman he'd later left to come back to Starfleet.

"Maybe you can make it work with her again?" The idea made her want to throw up.

"No. Some chances don't come around again."

She nodded, trying not to show any relief. This did not matter to her.

"Do you want to have dinner?" he asked, his beautiful smile back. "When this is all over?"

"Yes." It was out before she could call it back. Out before she could do what was smart, not what her heart wanted to do.

This man was dangerous. This man was a threat to her cause.

His smile grew larger.

This man was as well placed in Starfleet as she was. This man would know things, things he might tell her once their heads were safely on her pillows--or his.

"Yes, I'd love that." The way she loved him. The way, for just a moment out of life, she'd been something else for him, someone else. A woman she'd left behind the day she'd joined Matt and his--their cause.

"Then it's a date." He pulled her to him, holding her the way he had in that bedroom, fingers seeking the same handholds by memory--or something deeper than memory. He pulled back but didn't let her go. "I'm sorry, this is a bit familiar, isn't it?"

"Don't be sorry. I like it." She made her voice as soft as it would go. Not just to seduce him. Not just to reel him in. But because when she was with him, some part of her could be good again. Could be his Chris. Even if she would kill his Chris in a heartbeat if it would further the mission.

He gave her shoulders a squeeze, then let her go. "I'll see you when I get back."

She nodded, watched him until he was out of sight, and then went to start her new job.

Her new life.

She could smell his cologne on her, knew he'd be smelling her perfume on himself. So primal. So...perfect.

The future beckoned. She joined the others in the Fleet Operations front office watching the preliminary coverage of the launch on the vid screens, and sat down to watch James T. Kirk make history again.

FIN