Fevers Break by Djinn

"Care to dance?" Kirk smiled at Chapel, glancing over to where Spock stood talking to a visiting engineer. They looked deep in the thrall of fluid dynamics or some such thing.

Chapel looked deep in the thrall of her gin and tonic. "Not in the mood."

"Okay." He gestured for the crewman playing bartender to pour him a couple fingers of his favorite Scotch. The crewman brought it over immediately--the benefits of being captain again: no waiting for liquid courage. Or liquid numbing--Chris looked more like she was trying to drown out something. "Care to tell me what's wrong?"

"None of your damn business." She got up and moved away, heading to a less crowded corner of the rec room.

Kirk glanced over at Spock, who was watching Chris, an unreadable expression on his face, then he turned back to the engineer as if her actions did not concern him.

"Shit. What now?" Kirk followed her, saw her lips tighten when she saw him coming.

"Leave me alone, Jim."

He sat down next to her. "'Fraid not."

"You're the one who said: Fix this, Chris. Make it right. I need you. I need Spock. Well, why the hell did you need us together?" She turned and stared resolutely out the viewscreen, and he realized she was trying not to cry.

"What happened?"

"Guilt wears off, I guess." She took a deep breath. "And love, well, that's hard to pin down, too."

"Look, I'm here if you want to talk."

"I don't want to talk...not here." Her voice broke slightly.

"Then, we'll go somewhere else."

For a moment, he thought she was going to take him up on the offer. Then she seemed to close down. "Just leave me alone."

Kirk sensed someone coming up, turned to see Spock. He didn't think he'd ever seen that particular expression on his friend's face. It made him get up, fast.

"Is there something you need from Christine, Jim?"

"A dance, maybe." He grinned, the safe, easy grin that Spock usually responded to with a lightening of the eyes, a slight quirk of the mouth.

Nothing.

"She is not in the mood to dance tonight, old friend." The way Spock said "old friend" almost sounded like a warning.

"Let's let the lady decide that." The words were out before Kirk could call them back. He heard Chapel laugh and the sound was extraordinarily bitter. He saw Spock pull back, his eyes narrowing. "Or not."

"I think not, Jim."

"Okay, well, this was fun." He lifted his drink. "I'm going to get a refill. You two enjoy your night."

He thought that was probably the meanest thing he could have said.

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

Kirk saw Spock come into the mess, waved him over once he'd selected his normal fare for breakfast. "Look, about last night. I'm sorry."

Spock sat down and seemed unconcerned. "Christine was upset. That was all. I appreciate you caring about her, wanting to make things right."

"I do care about her."

That comment was the wrong one; Spock looked at him sharply.

"As a friend, of course."

"Yes. Of course." Spock leaned back, studied him. "I have had occasion to wonder at the nature of your friendship with Christine."

"Have you?"

"Yes." He pursed his lips slightly, looking very like his father for a moment. "I think it would be best if you did not dance with Christine in the future."

"Well, she wasn't exactly in a dancing mood last night."

"That is not acquiescence to my request. I do not want deflections, good humored though they might be."

"You don't want..." Kirk felt something rising in him. Anger. The old Kirk stubbornness. And worry--what the hell was wrong with his friend? "Fine, I won't dance with her."

"Thank you." Spock went back to eating as if everything was hunky dory.

"I would like to know what the hell is going on, though."

"That, Jim, is none of your business." Spock raised an eyebrow, then dug into his oatmeal.

None of his business? When he'd practically had to strong-arm Chris into giving Spock a chance after whatever happened on Vulcan? He'd given her a damn order to fix things with Spock, for Christ's sake. And this was none of his fucking business?

"I trust you understand. It is a private matter, between Christine and myself."

"No problem, old friend." Kirk sipped his coffee and bit back the smile that wanted to come out.

The smile that said, "Don't goddamn dare me."

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

He meandered down to sickbay, sat shooting the shit with Bones long enough to make any contact with Chris seem accidental if Spock checked up on him. Then he knocked on the door to her office. "Hey."

She looked up and her expression softened. "Hey."

"You okay?"

"No." She turned back to her computer. "I, uh, I can't talk to you about it, Jim."

"Why not? I got you into this mess. You said so yourself."

"I'd had too much to drink."

"That you talking or Spock?"

She swallowed hard.

"Okay. Here's the deal. If you need me, you let me know. There are plenty of places on this ship to talk where he won't find us."

"Like the gym?"

He smiled; Spock never went there. "Yes, like the gym."

"I go there every night now. Right after shift."

"I've been meaning to start back up with regular workouts." He took a deep breath. "Right after shift?"

"Yes."

"Okay. See you there."

She nodded and kept working as if they'd never had the conversation.

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

The gym was packed. Kirk found Chapel in the corner doing sit-ups. He sat down next to her, fell into her rhythm. They worked out in silence for a while, then he said, "So...?"

"So, things are really bad."

"Yeah, I figured that out all on my own, Chris. Of course, Spock telling me not to dance with you anymore was kind of a screaming day-glo warning sign."

"He said we couldn't dance?"

Kirk was finding it hard to talk, so he slowed down his reps. "He told me that your relationship was none of my business."

"He's jealous of you. Has been since we got back from Vulcan."

"Jealous of me? Me and you?"

She nodded and took a break, drinking some water before lying back on the mat. "He's possessive. But he doesn't really want me. He just doesn't want to lose me--lose his woman. Christine doesn't matter. Just that I'm his woman."

"Well, you are his woman." Primarily because he'd shoved her headlong back into Spock's orbit. He had to learn to quit interfering in other peoples' lives.

"Possession isn't worth much when love's missing." She stood and got them both jump ropes.

It was impossible to talk while they were using them, so he just concentrated on the feeling of whipping his body into shape--not that he wasn't in pretty good shape as it was. Working out had been an easy way to try to control how unhappy he'd been being deskbound on Earth. But still, he'd become complacent once he had his ship back, once he was happy again.

When they switched to some treadmills, he said, "He loves you."

"No, Jim, he's just convinced himself he does." She turned the machine up. "I don't want to talk anymore."

"Okay."

He left her to finish her workout alone.

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

He stayed out of sickbay for the next few days. Nodded politely when he saw Chris in the corridors but didn't stop to talk.

This was not his problem. And getting in the middle of it was very, very stupid.

Spock was distant but not overtly unfriendly. But the looks Spock kept shooting at him were getting on his nerves. Suspicious looks.

As if he knew Kirk had been talking to Chris. Did he know? He could know. The meld would tell him that. Would he do that?

"Chess tonight?" he asked, in an attempt to get rid of the nagging feeling of having done something wrong by trying to talk to Chris.

"Of course, Jim." Spock sounded like his normal self.

They met up after dinner; Kirk imagined Chris must be in the gym, but he didn't ask Spock about her. At first, things seemed tense, as if Spock was waiting for questions or comments he didn't want to address, but Kirk didn't say anything about Chris or their relationship, and Spock finally seemed to relax.

"Nogura wants to know if you've come any closer to figuring out where V'ger went."

"I have not. I do not think it unreasonable to assume V'ger could create a wormhole. It could conceivably be able to travel anywhere it chose."

"With Will and Ilia in tow."

"With Decker in tow. Lieutenant Ilia was killed. The machine was not the woman Decker loved, even if he wanted it to be."

Kirk did not look up from the board, afraid that if he did, he'd say something about Chris. "You're right. She wasn't."

"Having experienced V'ger on only a small scale, I can appreciate to some extent the wonder Commander Decker must have had as he was joined with it." Spock almost looked wistful. "Everything seemed so clear after the meld. I thought I knew my way."

"And now you don't think you do?" Was this about Gol? Was Spock thinking of going back, and was that what had Chris so upset?

"I am unsure what I think." Spock sighed softly. "I know that I do not wish there to be strain between us."

"Nor do I, my friend."

"Then we are agreed." Spock's mouth tilted up ever so slightly, and not in a nice way. "Checkmate."

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

Kirk rounded a corner, saw Chris and Spock arguing. More precisely Chris was clearly angry, even if she was talking softly, and Spock was standing like a rock, staring at her as if she was a lower life form.

She took one look at Kirk and hurried off. Spock turned, gave him a hard look, then walked the other way.

Kirk decided to follow Chris. "Computer, location of Doctor Chapel."

"Doctor Chapel is on Deck Three." A panel lit up to show him where. The chapel. He'd never known Chris to be overly spiritual.

Then again, it was the perfect place, the last place anyone would think to look for her.

She was standing in front of the viewscreen, ignoring the various spiritual aspects of the place to stare at the stars instead.

He heartily approved.

He walked up behind her, put his hands on her shoulders.

"No more dancing, remember?"

"This isn't dancing."

"What is it? He doesn't want you here."

"I don't care what he wants. What do you want?"

She laughed, a brief intake of air, bitter and harsh. "I don't know." She leaned back and rested her head against his chest. "They used to come to these places to confess."

"Do you need to confess?"

She nodded.

He let his hands slide down her arms, wrapped them around her waist tightly. It felt good.

Too damn good. He started to pull away, but she moved her hands over his, holding him in place, although he could have gotten away if he wanted to.

He should want to.

He relaxed against her. "Whenever you're ready."

"It was on Vulcan. After the Pon Farr."

He waited, thought maybe she was testing him, to see if he was listening, if he'd let her talk.

"It was good, during the Pon Farr. But that wasn't Spock, not really. It was the burning. It was V'ger. It was Gol. It was memories and you and me and being back. It was history. It wasn't the future. It barely was the present."

He waited.

"When he was more himself, when the fire died down, he said some things, turned away. He was mean--no, he was cruel. He knew exactly where to hit me, and he hit every single fear."

Suddenly some things made sense. "Is that why you asked me if I wanted you on the ship?"

She nodded.

"He told you I didn't want you on my ship?"

"Yeah." Her voice trailed off into nothing but pain.

"I never, ever said--"

She turned to face him, put her finger on his lips. "I know. It was my fear. My own insecurity. He knew that, though." She looked down. "He wanted me off the ship. He wanted me far away. And if that man hadn't attacked us, then I would have been. I'd have left, and he'd have been free. And he'd have been able to ride out his guilt, or whatever the hell it is that's making him try to make this work, and I'd be free."

"But you were attacked."

"And the rest you know, or can guess." She wrapped her arms around him, snuggled in. "I like dancing with you. How dare he say we can't do this anymore?"

He held her, not speaking, swaying a little bit, like she was a child, but she wasn't a child. She was a woman; she was an attractive, vital woman, and he wanted her.

God help him, he wanted her.

"So what's going on now? It seemed like he loved you." Good, get this back to Spock. Her lover. The man she loved. The man she was with.

"I think it was guilt. I think he was ashamed of how he'd handled things. I think he felt sympathy that I was hurt. Responsible for the attack." She looked up at him. "None of those things are love, Jim. They're reactions to negative consequences."

She wasn't wrong.

"But he wanted you during the Pon Farr, right?"

"I don't know why, though. And now he wants me, but it's not love. Spock's Vulcan and Vulcans own their women, Jim. His former fiancee belongs to another man. Belongs."

"You don't belong to him." He studied her face. "You didn't marry him, did you? In secret, I mean?"

"No."

"Then you don't belong to him, Chris. You belong to yourself." He pulled away and started to pace. "And even if you had married him, you wouldn't belong to him. You're human. We don't sign away our lives when we choose to love."

She nodded, then looked down.

"What?"

"I feel trapped. I feel like he'll never let me go and he'll never really love me, and we'll be caught in this half-life forever." She turned back to the viewscreen. "Amanda tells me to give him time. But he's had time. And the more time goes by, the colder he gets. He doesn't love me. And if I'm a possession, I'm one that he no longer wants to care for or display or even be near."

"Then leave him."

"I don't want to leave the ship."

"Then don't."

She turned to look at him. "Why not?"

He stopped in the middle of the room, could feel that the question was loaded, knew the right answer. The right answer was that she should leave. She should go and never look back. Free herself, free Spock. And free him. He'd tell her that. He'd say it. Right now. Like this.

"Because I don't want you to."

That was not what was supposed to come out of his mouth.

Shit.

She smiled. "When we'd dance, the dances Spock hated, you were aroused."

He looked down. She wasn't wrong.

"I was, too. And Vulcans smell things we don't. Is there any wonder he was jealous?" She moved toward him. "He thinks we're having an affair now, did you know that? That's what we were arguing about. He wanted to know if I was meeting you. He thinks you're fucking me."

"I'm not fucking you."

But then she was in his arms, and he was kissing her. She was ripping his uniform off and he had her pressed up against the viewscreen, and was telling the computer to lock the goddamn doors, and he was, after all, fucking her.

And it felt so damn good.

They finished, clawing at each other, kissing frantically. He let her down and she gathered up her uniform and pulled it on, not looking at him. He pulled his own on quickly.

She whispered, "Let me out."

He had the computer unlock the doors. "Where are you going?"

"The gym. To take a shower. He'll smell you on me if I don't."

"I'm sorry, Chris."

She turned and hurried back to him, kissed him fiercely. "Don't be. Don't ever be."

And then she was gone, and he told the computer to lock the doors again. He sat on the floor in the middle of the room and wondered where the man he'd thought he was had gone.

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

He wasn't surprised to see the request for Chris's transfer in his personal comms. Signed it before he could do something stupid like go rescue her from Spock and make her stay.

She would leave and be a doctor at Starfleet Medical; she already had her next billet lined up in Emergency Medicine. He didn't want her to go, but he had to let her.

His chime rang and he got up and opened it manually. Spock was at the door. He looked furious.

"You signed her transfer request?"

"You thought I wouldn't?"

Spock pushed past him, into his quarters. They suddenly felt very small when filled with an angry Vulcan.

"It's her right to leave if she wants, Spock. You don't own her."

"She is mine."

"No, old friend. She's not." And he met Spock's eyes and knew he could read the truth. Kirk had fucked his woman. Kirk had betrayed his trust.

It seemed to deflate Spock, not enrage him further. He slumped into a chair, took a deep breath. "I do not know what to do."

"If it's any consolation, I actually am right there with you on that." He sat in the chair opposite.

"If you were anyone else, Jim, I would..." Spock shook his head, as if contemplating the things he might do to a man who stole his woman was too much to bear.

"Are you sure you aren't glad I freed you?" Kirk held up his hand when Spock started to protest. "No lies, Spock. No evasions. No damn Vulcan platitudes about eternal love and bonds and all that crap. You were tied to a woman you didn't love. She deserved better. Hell, you deserved better. Aren't you the least bit relieved it's over?"

Spock looked down. "She went to you. She knew what that would do to me."

"She came to me because I was the only one she could come to, and we both know it. And for what it's worth, she didn't come to me. I sought her out." Kirk got up and poured himself a drink, then decided to pour a small one for Spock. "Here. Drink up. It'll fill the pit somewhat."

Spock downed it like a pro. "I loved her."

"Did you? Or did you just give it the college try?" Kirk sipped at his drink, not willing to lose control, not when he was indulging in a very stupid game of Vulcan baiting.

"I thought I did love her, after V'ger, during the burning. Then I knew I did not when it was over and I wished her gone. I said...I said things that were not kind. Then horrible things happened as a result of my actions. I sought to make things better."

"Yeah, well the road to hell and all that."

"Indeed." Spock pushed the empty glass around the table. "Are you going to see Christine when you are on Earth?"

"Hadn't gotten that far." Shit--why was he being so goddamn honest all of a sudden?

"I would prefer that you do not." Spock got up. "But I would have preferred you not have sex with my woman, and that wish did not come true, why should this one?" He met Kirk's eyes, and there was disappointment and anger and under it all some glimmer of relieved exhaustion.

"Will we be okay?"

"If you stay away from her, then most assuredly, although it may take time for me to...forgive you. If you do not stay away from her, then I am unsure."

"I have no plans to see her, Spock."

"I believe that, Jim. I also believe you had no plans to fuck her, and yet you did." He seemed amused at Kirk's surprise that he'd swear. "You are not the only one who is acting out of character, old friend."

He left, the door hissing shut as quietly as ever, but still somehow giving the impression of a slam.

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

Kirk stood at the transporter room controller, trading jokes with Rand. He'd been there for ten minutes already--where the hell was Chris?

She finally came in, and he turned and smiled.

She smiled back. A strange, crooked smile.

"Jan, take a break, all right?" He turned to look at Rand, saw her expression go blank, then turn angry as she looked at them. "Now."

"Sir." She hurried out.

"Well, that's the way to leave a friend behind. I doubt she'll ever forgive me," Chris said as she walked over to him. "Spock knows, too."

"I know. We...talked, I guess you could call it."

"That's weird." She looked down. "I wasn't here long, but I'll miss the ship. I'll miss you."

"Spock wanted to know if I'd be seeing you when I was on Earth."

She looked up, met his eyes. "What did you say?"

"I think I may have lied. I told him I didn't have any intention of seeing you."

"You're welcome anytime. You know where I'll be." She moved closer, touched his cheek. "I'll keep track of where you are, too. And I'll try not to imagine all the beautiful women you might be with." She grinned, but there was something dark under the smile.

"We're not together."

She nodded quickly and looked away.

He tilted her chin so she was looking at him. "But if we were, you'd never have to worry about that."

Her expression changed from something hurt and embarrassed to something beautiful. "Maybe someday."

"Yeah, maybe someday." He pulled her to him, kissed her the way he'd been thinking about since she'd left him in the chapel. Softly, gently. Nothing frantic. "I'm really going to miss you."

"Same here, Jim." She touched his cheek, let her finger slide down to his lips. "Thank you for helping me."

"Of course."

She picked up her bag and walked to the transporter pad. He moved to Rand's station.

"Goodbye, sir." Her eyes were sparkling with tears that she was blinking back.

"Goodbye, doctor. Be well."

She nodded and he beamed her to the waiting shuttle, her first step toward freedom.

He motioned Rand in from the hallway; she didn't meet his eyes as she passed him and went back to work. He looked at her for a moment, then said, "Don't take it personally, Jan."

She looked up, her eyes hard--no tears for her. "Is that what you'll tell Spock?"

He blinked, saw her smile slightly that her barb hit home. He straightened and said, "Carry on, then," and left her. He composed himself on the ride to the bridge, strolled onto it as if nothing was the matter.

Spock was quieter than normal, but he said nothing. And when their shift was over, they met up for chess. They didn't talk much, but it was a start.

Kirk thought of Chris, far away by now. He thought of being with her on Earth, enjoying shore leave with her, taking her places he loved. Dancing with her--and not having to worry about her lover.

Spock was watching him as if he could read his thoughts. Kirk gave him his best devil-may-care smile and resolved to push Chris out of his mind.

At least until he was alone.

FIN