Of All the Gin Joints in All the Towns
The bar was full of cadet red, an annoying place, practically seething with hormones and awash with the din of voices and music. Chapel walked through, ignoring the cadets who smiled and beckoned her over, also ignoring those who were more overt in their interest. One she had to incapacitate with a well placed hand to a rather important nerve--knowledge of anatomy: a benefit of being a nurse. Once the cadet was down, she kept on walking.
She was focused on one thing and one thing only. The distinguished man with salt-and-pepper hair sitting at the end of the bar with a redhead in a backless dress. Roger goddamned Korby: the man she'd joined the Fleet to find after his expedition had gone missing, only to have him show up a few days after she got her commission, just slightly the worse for wear. He'd been the victim of a communicator failure and an ion storm--he'd never gotten where he was going, had crashed on an abandoned but hospitable moon and waited with his team for rescue.
"You're a nurse?" he'd said when they'd met back up, looking horrified that she'd abandoned her doctoral studies while also appearing a bit titillated by the uniform.
He looked titillated now by something else entirely: this abundantly curved woman who'd been his intern. Just like Chapel had been. Goddamn exactly like Chapel had been, apparently. Roger cherished his students--the pretty female ones, anyway.
He looked up and failed to appear even remotely guilty. "Darling."
"This is where you cheat? A cadet bar? With this bimbo? This is pathetic."
"Hey!" the redhead said, her fists coming up as if she had a clue what to do with them in a fight.
Chapel stared her down; the fists dropped, then the eyes, too.
She turned back to Roger. "And don't darling me."
She picked up his drink and threw it in his face. As he was sputtering, she picked up the redhead's drink and threw that in his face, too. Then she turned on her heel and marched back across the bar. Nerve-boy gave her a very wide berth and called her a not very nice name.
She didn't reply. He was right: she was a bitch. But it was better than being Roger's dupe.
The Vulcan who'd told her Roger would be here was waiting at the door. "Two drinks in his face was, perhaps, a bit much."
"I don't believe I asked you." She pushed past him and out into the night.
He followed. "You did not. I am aware of that."
She walked faster, thinking she could lose him. He looked pretty old, but he kept up easily.
"You're following me."
"Having successfully severed you from your pre-marital relationship, I wish to capitalize on your currently single state."
She stopped and turned to face him. "Is that a joke?"
"Unbelievable." She poked him in the chest. "Just who do you think you are, anyway?"
"I am Spock."
"Funny. Unless that name's like Smith on Vulcan."
"It is not. It is, in fact, uncommon."
"So you're Spock?"
"I serve with Spock. He's not you."
"This is true. And also not."
She got closer, tried to see if he'd been drinking, then decided that getting closer was probably stupid. Although, what Vulcan would let her get this close? "What do you want?"
"I believe I already answered that question."
"Oh, right. So you're going to sweep me off my feet?"
"I am not." He managed to look sheepish. "I have been told I lack somewhat in matters of romance." He took a deep breath. "I do, however, excel in sexual activities."
"That's great. Happy for you. So, who told you that you were a romantic dud?"
"Okay, that's it. I don't know what game you're playing, but I'm done with it." He started to talk, and she slapped her hand over his mouth. "No. Obviously you're deranged. Go be that somewhere else." She stormed off.
"I was correct about Doctor Korby's extracurricular activities," he said, sounding almost desperate.
"Bully for you," she muttered. "Goddamn bully for you."
Trying to forget the annoying Vulcan, Chapel headed for the nearest transporter station. She saw Jim leaving the building as she walked up, attempted to turn before he could see her, but he called "Chris" and hurried over to her.
He took one look at her face and said, "What's wrong?"
"Uh huh. Come on. Tell Uncle Jim all about it." He glanced past her. "Hey, look who it is." He waved, and she turned and saw the old guy heading for them. "Spock's great. Have you met him?"
"I see Spock every day."
"Oh, no, that's our Spock. This is the other Spock." Jim seemed comfy with his rather vague manner of Spock identification, so she didn't comment. He smiled and waved at the old Vulcan. "Well, hello there."
"Hello." The Vulcan looked extremely happy--for a Vulcan, which meant slightly less stone faced. "It is a great pleasure to see you again, Jim."
"Same here. You know Chris Chapel?"
"In both realities, yes."
"Huh?" Then she turned to Jim. "This is the guy who's the reason we all nearly died? This is that Spock? I thought those were just urban legends."
This was why she should not let Leonard be the one who got to run around the ship during a crisis. She never learned anything interesting down in sickbay. The injured were, not unexpectedly, more focused on their pain than on giving her the lowdown. Also, they tended to be doped up. So when some of them had mentioned there were two Spocks on the ship, she hadn't really given it a lot of credence. And then after their initiation cruise from hell was over, she couldn't get the same story from anyone.
"Starfleet brass put out some conflicting stories. Didn't want everyone running Spock down to find out what they were like in a future that may never come for us now." Jim frowned. "I mean, there'll be a future, just not the one he comes from. Does that make sense?"
"Barely." She turned to Spock, saw he was staring at her. "Stop that. It's creepy."
"Be nice, Chris. Spock's actually a much easier guy to get along with than our Spock." He frowned, then smiled at Spock. "Wouldn't it be simpler to choose another name?"
"It would. I am, however, Spock and I see no reason I should give that name up."
"We could just call him jerk?" She smiled bitchily at Spock.
"I believe you have called me that on numerous occasions, Christine." His look was fond.
"This one's a masochist, eh, Chris?" Jim took each of them by the arm--Chapel couldn't believe Spock allowed it, but he actually seemed happy to be dragged in the Kirk Wake of Inevitable Destiny or Drunken Bar Fights. Maybe he really was a masochist.
"We are not going back to that bar," she said, as Jim pulled them toward the entrance to Roger's home away from home.
"Something I should know?" Jim asked.
"She caught her fiance cheating here." Spock looked pleased at being Mister Helpful.
"Technically, he was only having a drink. And I didn't catch him. Spock told me he'd be here." She thought about that. "So, wait. If you knew what he was up to, you had to have followed him to find out what he was doing and who he was with and where they were going?"
"Cree-eepy," Jim said softly. "But probably in the long run explainable. If you wanted, I bet he could just meld with you, Chris. It's really efficient when you need a whole lot of questions answered and time's short."
"I'll pass." She smiled tightly at Spock. "Time's never going to be that short. Thanks though."
"I did not offer. Jim did."
"Oh, so you don't want to meld with me?"
"I did not say that. But to use it simply to avoid needless exposition would be lazy."
"And he'd have to miss your sarcasm, which, my dear, you've honed to a fine art--or maybe a deadly weapon." He winked at Chapel. "I love you anyway."
"Do you, Jim?" Spock's voice rose slightly, as if he truly cared about this. "I would not wish to usurp a prior claim."
"Oh, God, here he goes again."
"No, she's all yours, bud." Jim smiled magnanimously and went to get drinks.
"I do not drink."
"I think he knows that. He does, after all, pal around with the other you." She glared at him.
The look seemed to make him happy.
Jim was back with drinks before they were forced to make small talk. "Here, Chris--perfect for the scorned woman." He handed her about three fingers of something amber. "Spock, water, of course. No ice."
"Most kind, Jim."
"Not a problem." He held his drink up, also three fingers of amber goodness. "To friends old and new."
Chapel rolled her eyes.
"Drink, Chris. That's an order." He winked at Spock, and Chapel suddenly wondered what exactly Jim had seen in the meld he and Spock had shared.
Probably Spock's technical proficiency at the sex act. It certainly wasn't his witty repartee.
Chapel was stowing some newly arrived hyposprays when Len came in whistling from whatever exotic locale he'd spent leave at. He set his bag down and smiled the smile that could only mean he'd gotten laid and then some.
"Nice time off, Doctor?"
"Oh, you know it, darlin'." He grinned. "And how did you spend your weekend at liberty?"
"First I found Roger cheating on me and broke up with him."
"Well, hallelujah. I thought I was going to have to fight him for your honor."
"Would you do that?"
"Hell, yes." He winked, but then his expression turned sober. "And I'm sorry, Christine. That's got to hurt some."
"It does. Which is why I ended up doing activity number two the rest of the weekend."
"And activity number two was...?"
"Getting drunk with Jim and Spock."
His eyebrow threatened to disappear into his hair. "With Spock?"
"Not our Spock."
"There's another Spo---ohhhhhhh. That Spock. The older Spock? He got drunk?"
"Nope. Just Jim and I did that. He stuck to water. When he wanted to cut loose, he ordered Orange Juice. Extra pulp."
Len laughed. "Vivid image. Those damn Vulcan pulp addicts."
"I know. We had to cut him off."
"So how'd you end up with him?" Len leaned against the wall, arms crossed, clearly in for the long haul.
"It's a funny story."
"Gotta be. It's got Vulcans." He gave her a sign that she knew from experience meant to get a move on with the dirt spilling.
"It would seem that the esteemed Spock senior is...on the prowl."
"I knew it." Len shook his head. "I told Jim that guy had a thing for him."
"He's not after Jim." Although it had been clear he really liked Jim, and she thought he could probably swing that way with very little provocation. Which suddenly made her wonder about Spock the younger.
"So he's after...you?"
"Wow, Len, your faith in my sex appeal is overwhelming."
"You're a walking, talking sex bomb, little lady. You just haven't attracted any attention from our Spock so..."
"Our Spock is busy. With Nyota. Remember?"
"But...they're the same guy."
"None of us are the same people exactly." She'd just spent a weekend, with copious amounts of booze, listening to Spock explain how things had changed for them. Butterflies, China, she got all that--she even got how things had changed for Jim. His father dying just after he was born, when in the other reality, his older-other self had known his father. But his father had been on the Kelvin, and the Kelvin had run into the Narada. And the rest...well that was new history.
What she didn't get was how the appearance of the Narada had changed Roger's expedition outcome. It sure hadn't changed his choice of bimbos from what Spock had said.
"So, do you like Spock? Isn't he a gazillion years old?" Len was studying her. "Although you like the geezers. Roger is no spring chicken."
"I don't have daddy issues."
"Do, too." He winked at her. "So...do you? Like him?"
"I don't know. I barely know him."
"You spent the weekend with him."
"And with Jim, too. You aren't asking me if I could go for the captain."
"I don't need to ask. Everyone, including me, sweetie, could go for the captain." Len laughed softly, a derisive but honest little sound. "So, you gonna see Spock again?"
"I doubt it. I'm here. He's on the new Vulcan home world."
"They ever gonna name that damn thing? The new Vulcan home world is a mouthful."
"According to Spock, they did name it."
"He'd tell us, but we couldn't pronounce it."
"Cheap cop out."
"Yep." She leaned against the counter. "He's very...intense. When he looks at me. I guess he knew me in that other reality--in the biblical sense, I think."
"Lucky man." Len gave her a fond smile. "Hey, now that you're free, are we going to have that friendly, no-strings sex we talk about when we get drunk after a late and awful shift?"
"It's that damned Spock. I officially hate him." Len winked again, then left her to her task.
She watched him walk away. The man definitely had a fine back end. And she did so like men in authority roles--Len had it all wrong about the daddy part; she'd just liked that Roger had been her boss.
She turned back to her task. Her relationship with Roger was barely cold. She did not need to embark on a relationship with this boss.
Not yet, anyway.
Chapel walked down the crowded lane of the market, trying to pick out a birthday gift for Nyota. She saw a familiar figure walking toward her and stopped.
There was no way that Spock was here, on this planet, where the Enterprise was on a day-long shore leave.
"Christine. You are looking well. I presume you are shopping for Nyota's birthday?"
"Uh. Yes." She forced her mouth shut. "I thought you were on the planet whose name we can't pronounce." And calling it that was actually longer than just saying the new Vulcan home world.
"I was. I was adding limited value at this juncture, so I embarked on a venture to which I am far more suited."
His mouth actually turned up. She'd never seen Spock the younger's mouth turn up, not even when Nyota got in one of her zingers.
"I was referring to diplomacy."
She looked around the pristine planet whose sole purpose was to fleece tourists. "Diplomacy? Here?"
"This planet was on my way to a negotiation."
"You're a decent liar, Spock. Who knew?" She started walking the stalls again; he fell into step with her. "And yes, I'm looking for birthday inspiration. Hey, here's an idea, you knew her longer: what doesn't she have but really wants?"
"I may not be the best judge--did I not explain that circumstances for all of you have changed, Christine?"
"Yes, you did. At great length, if I recall."
"I am somewhat surprised you can recall anything given the amount of alcohol both you and Jim consumed."
"We didn't drink in your reality?"
"Generally not together."
"Ooh, someone's jealous."
He ignored her. "Nyota would enjoy this," Spock said, walking over to a jeweler's stall and picking up a long pendant. "She loves blue stones."
"And you know this how?"
"I knew her longer. You said it yourself, did you not?"
She took it from him; it was beautiful and she knew Ny would love it, but it was out of her price range. She put it back reluctantly.
He turned so his back was to the fellow working the stall and said very softly, "How much are you willing to spend?"
She named her price, smirking as she waited for Spock to find out the futility of trying to bargain with a species who lived to win commercial exchanges.
It took him half an hour, but he somehow got the man down to the price she'd named. She wasn't even bored, just stood fascinated as Spock completely controlled the situation. She had the fleeting thought that if he was really after her, she was utterly screwed.
"I owe you," she said as they walked away from the market.
"Allow me to buy you lunch, then."
"You don't really get the 'I owe you' concept, do you?"
He almost smiled again. "As you are short of credits, I assumed you would welcome the opportunity to eat the local fare, which I am told is quite delicious, with no negative impact to your financial bottom line."
"Very astute. But how do you make out from this arrangement?"
"I will enjoy the pleasure of your company."
"Oooh, smooth." She glanced at him as he led her to what looked like a very nice local restaurant. "So, did Nyota go for that back in your time? Or did she teach you that?"
"I was not with Nyota in my reality."
"Really? Or are you just saying that so I won't feel like we're two-timing my friend?"
"I am not just saying that. Spock's relationship with her is one of the things that has changed, and I do not fully understand why. But I am glad for this Spock that it has changed. Losing my--his mother will be made more bearable with her love and support."
"Love. Support. Very unVulcan things."
"Not if you truly knew Vulcans, Christine." He waited until the hostess had seated them, then asked, "You are not close to the other Spock, are you?"
"No. I mean I like him fine, but I don't know him well."
"Strange. Since you are close to Nyota."
"It's not that uncommon to have a gal pal whose boyfriend you don't really know. Add in the 'he's a Vulcan' factor--and not a Casanova-making, food-paying-for Vulcan like you--and..."
"Ah, yes. Understood."
A waiter came by, and they ordered, then Spock sipped from his water glass in what looked like a case of nerves. "You are friends with Jim, however."
"He's a great guy."
"More than a friend?"
"And that is your business how?"
"I am curious."
"Not more. Not yet." She smiled pertly at him, knowing it had to be an annoying look. "And then there's Len." Who she was still keeping her hands off of, even if it was difficult. She was trying really hard to break herself of her "Oh my God, he's the boss and that makes him so hot" complex. Which was why Jim was also still just a friend.
"You are involved with Doctor McCoy?" He did not look at all pleased, but she wasn't sure how she knew that. His face was as stony as ever.
"He's a cutie pie."
"He is also your superior." Spock's brows knit for the briefest of moments. "And you were involved with Doctor Korby, who was your superior as well."
Wow. Only a few minutes and Spock was on to her secret obsession. She smiled blandly and said nothing, but somehow he read her.
"So you are not involved with Doctor McCoy?"
"If it would help my cause for you to be my subordinate, I will speak to Starfleet Command and have you transferred to my staff."
"Do you even have a staff?"
"Not as such. You would be the first and only member of it."
She laughed, a good, solid laugh. His eyes lightened.
"I'm happy where I am, Spock, but thanks."
"I suspected as much."
The waiter came with their food and they dug into it for a while. Then she asked, "If you weren't with Ny, how do you know what she likes?"
"I served with her for many years. I had occasion to notice what kind of jewelry she preferred." His brows knit again. "Although, as I was saying earlier, who is to say that in this reality, she enjoys blue stones the way she did in mine."
"Don't worry. She does." Chapel smiled at him, realized it was one of her better smiles, the one she only gave to people she was relaxed with.
He seemed to realize that; his stony expression was somehow showing satisfaction.
"So are you really a diplomat now?"
"Because that's your calling?"
"That and it will allow me to be nearer to you. In fact, I will probably avail myself of the Enterprise and Jim's hospitality when I am in need of transport."
"How convenient. And the fact that there's another version of you on the ship doesn't bother you in the least?"
He had to think about that. "It is somewhat unsettling. Also fascinating, seeing if I will make the same choices. I admit, I have pushed Jim into pursuing a friendship with him."
"No. You? Pushy?"
Again the lightening in the eyes, the slight tilt of the mouth. "It is difficult to accept, I know." He took a deep breath. "You are right that I should probably stay away from Spock for his sake. But you are on the ship. And I want you. So, Spock will have to learn to accept my presence." He leaned in, said softly. "If you are concerned for him, you could request a transfer? Perhaps to somewhere more convenient for us."
"There is no us," she said, but she lacked any trace of vinegar in her voice. She went back to eating, not wanting to see another miniscule trace of triumph in his expression.
The "It's the End of the Day or the Start of the Night, and We'd Know Which if We Weren't in Space" party was in full swing. Chapel laughed as she and Nyota swept into the rec lounge, dressed to kill and then some.
"Wow, there's a sight you don't see too often," Nyota said, nodding to the bar where Spock the younger was talking with Spock the older. At least they were drinking water, not booze, so the universe hadn't flipped on its side completely.
Nyota grinned at her. "He really is after you."
"I told you." She studied them. "Although technically, he could be after Spock."
"No, really. I mean who knows you better and what you like than yourself?"
Nyota pursed her lips, clearly thinking this over. "I'm very good in bed. I think I would enjoy fucking myself."
"I think I would enjoy fucking myself, too."
Nyota suddenly looked worried. "Let's go interrupt them before they come to the same conclusion."
"Officer thinking, Ny."
Before they could get to the two Vulcans, Jim swooped in, slipping an arm around each of them. "How are my two favorite girls?"
"Not girls." Nyota glared at him.
Chapel wasn't sure she'd mind being his girl. He was the captain, after all, and he had that very big chair they could--
No. No, she was not going to screw the captain.
"What are you thinking about?" Jim asked as he swung them toward the bar.
"Probably sex. Christine has sex on the brain."
"You have not even begun to drink, Nyota, and yet here you are with the honesty." He winked. "So, little Chrissie..."
She rolled her eyes. She was an inch taller than him in her heels.
"Tell me all your fantasies."
"I believe that is my department, Jim." Old Spock was deftly prying her out of Jim's arms with the dignity only a Vulcan could show in such situations.
"I did not say you could step into that role." She glared at him.
Spock the younger looked on, clearly fascinated--and a little appalled.
"Yeah, kiddo, this is your future. Read it and weep," she said, as older Spock inexorably moved her to the end of the bar. "I was having fun with my friends."
"Would you rather be with them?" He cocked an eyebrow at her. "I just acted in a manner extremely unbecoming a Vulcan. Does that not please you?"
She had to admit it sort of did. "Mayyyyy-be."
"And I am prepared to buy you expensive liquor."
"That'll win you points."
He gestured for the bartender, ordered a very, very, very expensive brand of Scotch.
"I thought you said you reeked in the romance department."
"Truthfully, I do not consider getting you drunk to be romantic."
She laughed. "Who says I'm going to get drunk?"
"I have reason to know your capacity for booze--at least in my timeline--so I agree the odds are actually quite slim." He seemed to be assessing her outfit.
"Checking me out? Like what you see?"
"Yes." He leaned in. "So do many of the other men and not a few of the women in this room."
"You get off on that, don't you? Having someone other people want?"
"It does provide an ego boost of sorts. Does that mean I 'have' you?"
"Slip of the tongue."
He was suddenly staring at her mouth.
"Quit lusting after my tongue."
"I remember it as quite talented."
"Have you been drinking?" She leaned in, looked at his pupils. "Because I cannot imagine the other Spock saying something like that."
"That is because he has no idea what he is missing." He frowned, thinking. "Although I imagine Nyota is quite skilled as well in that department."
"She is." She could feel herself blushing. "I mean she thinks she is. How the heck would I know?" Just because Chapel had blown off nervous pre-test energy by having stim-fueled sex with Ny did not mean they were an item. Just because they'd done it a lot. Pre Spock of course. Ny's Spock, not this one.
This one was watching her, a tilt of his lips indicating he was more than a little enthralled with the idea of her and Ny.
"Hey"--she shoved at his chest--"maybe we could make a foursome for goddamned bridge. You, you, her and me." She slammed back her drink. "You are such a man."
"Yes. I am."
She had a feeling if she reached down she might find out just how much of one. Ny was always going on about the errr endowments of the Vulcan male. Or one Vulcan, anyway.
"So, you're here riding Jim Kirk's taxi service, I take it?"
"I am. He has most generously offered to take me to my next mission."
She glanced over at the captain, who looked up and grinned at her, then went back to whatever he and Len were talking about. They turned so they were facing the dance floor, leaving her a view of their back sides. Such fine, fine back sides.
"You are distracted by them."
"Yep." She smiled up at him. "Just indulging my imagination."
He frowned. "Does your taste run to multiples? It did not in the past."
She nodded at them. "Did I have that option in the past?"
"I am not certain you have it now."
"Well, that's true." She grinned at him. "I'm just looking. Not that I owe you an explanation."
"Of course not." He nodded for the bartender to refill her drink.
"Why are you doing that?"
"Because I wish to get you away from the others and seduce you."
"And getting me drunk is your strategy for success?"
"No, but enabling you to relax around me would be a significant improvement."
"Perhaps focused on me would be a better way to phrase it." He touched her hand, his hand moving beneath the bar, where no one would notice.
"I--she was important to you?"
"But I'm not her."
"I am aware of that. However, as I find you charming and beautiful in your own right, this does not concern me."
"Have you been in the same conversations I've been in? Charming? I must be slipping." She winked at him, was startled when he made a low sound, almost like a laugh being bitten back. "So seduce me, huh?" It had been a long time. And if he applied this level of intensity to the actual sex? Well, yowza!
"I am somewhat acquainted with what you like."
"That might have changed."
"Perhaps." His hand moved to her thigh, grasped her firmly. "Or perhaps not."
All she could feel was his hand. His eyes seemed to bore into her, and she finished her drink in one desperate gulp.
"Shall we go, Christine?"
He steered her away from her friends and she laughed.
"Afraid I'll change my mind?"
"I prefer to leave nothing to chance."
He met her eyes, his were amused, also very black since his pupils were intensely dilated. "On the contrary."
They were halfway to the lift when the red alert was announced.
"Goddammit," Len muttered as he ran past them. "Way to spoil a perfectly good party."
"I have to go." She touched his hand. "You'll be okay?" Stupid question: he'd probably been though more red alerts than she could even imagine.
"Go. Do your duty."
She pulled him to her, planted a big, wet one on him.
He returned it enthusiastically, other parts of him begging to be included as he pressed against her.
"Hold that thought, Spock," she said, and then she hightailed it to sickbay to do her duty.
Exhausted, Chapel followed Len to the lounge for the "We Kicked Ass" party.
"Your boyfriend's not joining us?" Len reached back and dragged her into the lift before the doors closed. "I know you're tired, but hurry it up. I need a drink, woman."
"I told him to meet us there." She leaned against the wall and closed her eyes.
"Seems to me you're more in the mood for whatever old Vulcans have to offer in their guest quarters."
"I'm more in the mood for eight solid hours in a sensory deprivation chamber, but that is not to be. And don't tell me what I'm in the mood for." Red alerts tended to make her surly; she probably needed to work on that now that Jim "Never Met an Alien I Couldn't Tick Off" Kirk was in command.
Spock was waiting for her, and he eased her away from Len. "Christine, I am holding that thought as you asked. Shall we go?"
"As sexy as your attempts to separate me from the herd are, I'm going to have to say no."
His face fell, if a Vulcan's face could fall, which of course, they couldn't, but she definitely got the feeling that if he were human, his face would have been about three decks below them.
"I don't mean no to you in general. I mean no to going off alone when all my friends, including you, see"--she pointed to where the other Spock was sitting with Jim and Ny and Len and Scotty, and Scotty's little bumpy friend who always tried to feel her up when she was giving him his exams, were sitting--"are all over there."
She grabbed his arm and jerked him after her. "You are already there so somewhere in that Vulcan body is the capacity to live a little."
He actually sighed. But it sounded like a sound of happiness. She glanced back and he nodded. "She would have said that, too."
"I have to tell you it's not very flattering that you're after me to recapture her--me--her--whatever."
He seemed to follow that. "I understand. I would be upset to learn that you were choosing me because you could not have him." He pointed to the other Spock.
"Never crossed my mind." His girlfriend, on the other hand...
"That is a relief."
"Move over, Len, we're joining you." She knocked Len with her hip.
"God, I live for these moments, Chapel. But next time just ask." Len scooted over to the next chair.
Jim winked at Spock. "Welcome to the table, old friend."
"Thank you, Jim." Spock glanced at the younger Spock and nodded, got a rather terse nod back. Probably neither of them was exactly comfy sitting at a table with a bunch of people about to get drunk.
She took pity on her Spock, put her hand under the table, found his thigh, and slowly traveled from the outside to the inside.
He was sitting very still, suddenly highly at peace.
She moved just a tad more to the inside and--
Holy shit. Holy mother-loving shit. Her friend had undersold the size of Vulcan equipment. Chapel looked at Nyota. Her hand was under the table, too. Her Spock suddenly seemed very happy to be where he was.
Spock slipped his hand under the table, covered hers and pushed down. She smiled, and she saw Jim narrow his eyes as he watched them. Then he grinned and shook his head and mouthed, "Bad girl."
Spock just sighed softly and thanked the waiter for the water he brought.
Scotty was looking back and forth from one Spock to the next. "I have to tell you. I can't imagine how strange this must be for you two."
"It is strange," the younger Spock said.
"Yes." Her Spock gently eased her hand off him, slid it to a safer distance down his thigh, and threaded his fingers through hers. His hand was very warm, and his grip light and easy.
"I think it would be interesting to meet myself." Ny winked at her and she laughed softly.
"Interesting is funny?" Ny's Spock turned to Chapel. "Explain."
"Oh, I don't think you want me to."
"Don't be a dimwit, Spock. They're thinking that it would be fun to meet another version of themselves so they can see if they're as good in bed as they think they are." Len laughed. "We've all wondered that."
"We have not," Young Spock said.
"And we will not."
"I'm just saying..." Len threw back his drink. "It's only human to wonder. And last I checked you two were half human."
"That is beyond our control."
"Well, there's no doubt you're the same person," Len said, motioning for another round.
Chapel turned and shook her head at the bartender. "You ready?" she asked Spock, smiled when he looked surprised. "I'm tired. I don't need more booze."
"Okay, then. This has been fun. We'll see you all tomorrow."
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do," Jim said with a huge grin.
"That leaves me a great deal of leeway, Jim." Spock's mouth almost tilted up. "Good night."
A chorus of good nights followed them.
"Doctor McCoy thinks I am too old for you."
"Huh? How did you arrive at that deduction?" Not that he was wrong, but it still seemed like a hell of a leap.
"Not a deduction. He said it once he thought we were out of earshot, however Vulcan hearing is very acute."
"Oh." She made a face. "Sorry about that. It's possible he's just a teensy tiny bit jealous."
"You have been with him?"
"No. But we joke around about it."
"Ah." He shook his head as they walked onto the lift. "In my experience, he often makes light of that which he cares about the most."
"Yep, that's my experience, too. Then again he also jokes about things he doesn't give a shit about. So it's a little hard to tell the difference most of the time."
"This is true." He turned to look at her. "Was that a test? To see if I would spend time with your friends."
"They're your friends, too."
"No, Christine. They are the other Spock's friends, and no matter how much I wish it were otherwise, it will never be."
"I'm sorry." She wanted to take his hand, settled for pressing him gently as the lift doors opened to her deck.
"Do not be sorry. This is how it should be. I am fortunate that you are here and...open to indulging me."
"Indulging? Oh, buddy, you are going to have to indulge me, too, and more than a little, if I make myself clear."
His mouth almost tilted up again. "As I said, the other you had no complaints in that matter."
"Yeah, but she might have been faking." She grinned at him to show she was teasing.
"I am a touch telepath. I can tell the difference, I assure you." He leaned in, whispered, "I can tell many things that way, if I make myself clear."
"Oh, yes. Crystal." She palmed her door open, led him inside. "Welcome to Chez Chapel."
She palmed the door shut and studied him. "And for what it's worth, I think Jim is your friend."
"I manipulated him into feeling that."
"So? You manipulated me into bed, and don't say you didn't."
"We are not yet in bed."
"A technicality. We soon will be." She turned the lights down to half strength. "And didn't you meet Scotty before he met the other Spock?"
"This is true."
"So I bet he thinks of you as the real Spock."
"This is possible."
"Okay, then. Don't let me hear you don't have real friends on this ship."
"I will not say that again." He pulled her to him slowly, his lips tilting ever so slightly upward. "Are you finished with your pep talk?"
"Are you going to kiss me if I say yes?"
"Are you going to rip my clothes off with your teeth and make mad passionate love to me?"
"The latter--although I do not intend to lose my sanity during this--but not the former."
"Not on your clothes, at any rate." He did smile, just a baby one, but it was definitely a smile. "Is the pep talk finished?"
He pulled her in and kissed her. She expected tentative. Maybe a bit rusty after years alone. Furtive, possibly. Prudish also a possibility.
He was none of those things. His kiss was amazing. Strong, but not messy. Tongue used in the best way.
She felt her uniform being tugged off, heard a fastener give way. "I thought you weren't going to rip off my uniform."
He captured her lips in his teeth, bit down very gently, then let go. "I did not say that. I said I would not use my teeth to do it."
She laughed, and laughed again as he picked her up and tossed her on the bed. She landed smack in the middle, and smiled as he removed his robe swiftly and let it drop to the floor--she'd have bet money he'd be a "fold 'em up before you move on" type of guy, but nope.
"You--she hated it when I wasted time on being neat."
"I don't disagree." She held out her hand. "But could we not talk about her while we're naked?"
"Agreed." He joined her on the bed, lay back and let her get to know his body.
Not a young body. Skin not taut, although one part of him was plenty damn taut, thank you very much. She grabbed said part and watched him rest his head back and close his eyes as his breathing quickened.
He wasn't young. But he wasn't unattractive. And he was definitely enjoying what she was doing. The little un-Vulcan like grunt-moans were an indication of that.
He opened his eyes.
"I'm doing all the work here."
"I was curious how long it would take you to comment on that." He pushed her to her back, kissed her for a long time, then slid down, kissing his way all the way down to the mother lode and--holy crap he was good with that tongue.
She felt boneless when he finished and she murmured, "I love that telepathy thing."
"It is useful, is it not?"
He lay next to her, caressing her for several minutes, then he said softly, "I believe the effort expended here is overwhelmingly in my favor."
"Yeah, yeah." She opened an eye and winked at him.
Again the baby smile.
"What would you like, Ambassador?"
"I would like you on top of me immediately."
"Oh, fine, if you insist." She roused herself enough to crawl on top of him, nearly gasped when she settled down on him--so damn much of him. "Good Vulcan craftsmanship. Can't beat it."
He seemed to get what she meant, his lips ticked up and his eyes glinted in a way that made him look very pleased with himself.
Then she lost all thought as she rode him, as he steadied her as she went faster and harder, as she gasped out something incoherent when she came, as he called out her name as he followed her. She collapsed on his chest, heard him give a slight "Oomph."
He wrapped his arms around her, kissed her forehead. "No, it is all right."
"Just all right?" She started to laugh.
"More than all right, and I think you know that." He eased her off him, moved her to his side and somehow managed to get the covers pulled down and them underneath without making her get up.
"You're very good."
"I told you that."
"Mmmm." It came out half word, half laugh. "I'm beat, Spock."
"I imagine you are." He tipped up her chin, kissed her thoroughly. "Good night, my dearest."
"I'm not your dearest, Spock. That was her."
She thought she saw a flicker of sadness in his eyes, then he kissed her again. "You are right. I should not call you that."
"Yet. You should not call me that yet." She pulled him back, kissed him lazily.
When they finally pulled away, he said, "Good night, Christine."
"Good night, Spock."
"So, what should we do tonight?" Jim asked as he led her off the shuttle. "And where the hell is Spock?"
"How did you get invited along on our date?"
"I didn't. So what?" His face brightened. "Spock. Over here."
She smiled as she saw a familiar tall figure coming toward them. "Spock."
"Christine." His eyes gleamed in the shuttleport light.
"Wow, you could cut that sexual tension with a butter knife, kids." Jim took their arms, the same way he had the night she'd found Roger cheating. "I have an hour to kill before a certain alien princess is released from her charm classes. You don't mind me killing it with you, do you?"
Spock glanced past Jim at her. She could see how much he wanted this friend back in his life.
"Oh, fine." She put her head on Jim's shoulder. "But you're seriously cutting into our naked time."
"I'll make it up to you."
"To both of us?" Spock had a note of humor she'd never heard in his voice. "And how, exactly."
"Wouldn't you like to know, old friend." Jim winked at him. "He's a wild one, Chris. Run for your life."
"I'll risk it." She glanced at Spock, saw his lips quirk. "He's my wild one."
His lips quirked even more. Who knew he was such a sap?
"Now that's true love." Jim let them go and led them into the cadet bar.
"I hate this place."
"I know. Me, too. But it's cool when we're here."
"Was he this cocky in your reality?"
Spock nodded. "This may, in fact, be him restrained."
"Shit, no kidding?" She bumped up against him. "I've missed you, by the way. I thought you were going to ride back with us?"
"I fully intended to. But the mission ended sooner than expected and I was needed for another negotiation on Earth."
"No, Christine, I assure you it was mine."
"Oh, hell, it was a mutual loss, you lovesick pups." Jim slapped Spock on the back. "Let's go find a table."
She followed them as they maneuvered their way uncannily through the crowd in the bar. They made a hell of a team--she could see why Spock loved this man. Even if he'd never categorize it that way. She liked to boil things down to their simplest terms: love, hate, want.
She turned, saw Roger's little intern behind her. Perfect example of hate. "You don't want to talk to me."
"No, I do. I want to apologize. I thought--I thought it was true love. But he used me. And then I found him with another intern."
"Did you happen to kill him or make him an android?"
The woman shook her head. "I slapped him. Will that work?"
"Not as well."
Christine gave the woman a quick hug--girl power and all that. "Don't sweat it. You'll find a lot better guy than Roger. Just shake it off and keep moving."
She wasn't one hundred percent sure the girl was following. "Were you acing his classes?"
"Oh, no. I was doing terrible in them. He was always having to help me. I'm not sure why he picked me to be an intern."
"No. Of course you're not. Okay, well my friends are"--she glanced around, couldn't see them--"somewhere in here. So I'm going to go. You take care, all right."
"Thank you. You know you're not at all the cold, uptight bitch he said you were."
"Okay. Bye." The girl was waylaid by horny cadets before she took three steps.
Two other cadets tried to cut Chapel off at the pass. One of them looked familiar.
"Oh, you," he said and backed off slowly.
"What's his problem?" the other one asked. "I'm just interested in buyi--oh, shit, are you with him?"
She turned to see Jim bearing down on her. "Yep." For another hour or maybe more--alien princesses weren't known for their punctuality.
"Chris, we're over here."
She let him pull her along, saw Spock carrying drinks to a table in the corner. "You've got him so whipped, Jim."
"I know, isn't it great?" He grinned at her, and there wasn't a trace of malice in it. Spock was so wrong if he thought this man wasn't his friend. "She was being hit on by cadets, Spock. You need to watch her."
"I will bear that in mind."
She took a sip of her drink and smiled. It was the very, very, very expensive Scotch she loved.
"Damned hard on the credit line, too," Jim said with a wink. "Not sure she's worth it."
"She is more than worth it, old friend." Spock was rubbing her thigh gently, his expression giving nothing away to anyone watching.
"Lovesick, I'm telling you." Jim leaned back in his chair and smiled. "It's good to be on Earth."
Jim nodded. "I love space, don't get me wrong. But there's something to be said for solid ground under your feet."
"Fascinating. The Kirk of my time had no use for solid ground."
"Well, as you've told me more than once, I'm not that Kirk." He nodded at Chapel. "Just as she's not that Christine." His eyes narrowed and he glanced at her. "Isn't that sort of weird, being his girlfriend...again?"
"Is it weird being his friend again?"
"First time for me." He raised his glass before she could reply. "Understood, Chris." He met Spock's eyes. "Weird for you, though. Has to be."
"A bit. But weird has never been a stranger."
"That would make a great band name. 'Ladies and Gentleman, please give it up for Weird Has Never Been a Stranger!'"
She laughed, Spock looked confused, and Jim did some impromptu air guitar on his leg.
"What the hell are you doing?" Len sat down in the spare chair. "Where's your damned alien princess?"
"Primping or something, how the hell should I know?"
Len took in Chapel and Spock. "Hello to you two."
"Wow," Chapel said, "you're surly."
"He needs alcohol and a sexual partner."
They all stared at Spock.
"Or he would have in my reality."
"Alrighty, then," Jim said, clearly trying not to laugh. When Len glared, he said, "What? He's not wrong, now is he?"
Len muttered something about roommates who didn't know when to keep their mouths shut.
Chapel leaned in and whispered, "Let's go," to Spock. He rose as she did and she said, "Jim, you have company now. We're going to start our date, if you don't mind?"
"I do mind. You're leaving me here with him."
"Yeah, well, that's why you're the captain." She winked at him. "I'll see you back on the ship."
"Good night, old friend." Spock nodded at Len. "Good night, Doctor McCoy."
She took a deep breath once they were outside the bar. He moved very close to her, and they walked for a while. "I feel guilty. Do you think his alien princess will take long?"
"Christine, I find myself strangely callous as to her ETA."
She laughed. "Yeah?"
"Yes. I have secured luxurious rooms at a hotel in Paris. I would like to transport there immediately."
"I've always wanted to go to Paris."
"Yes, I know."
"I thought we weren't going to talk about her."
"You stipulated when were naked."
She nodded. "Okay, just making sure you were listening."
"I am an adept listener."
"Let's get going, then." She felt warm and happy at the thought of seeing Paris. "You're going to order me croissants and cafe au lait for breakfast, right?"
"If that will make you happy."
She sighed. Then she frowned. "Wait a minute. How can you afford this?"
"Some things have not changed from my reality. Certain investments have proven profitable."
"That is so bad of you."
"On the contrary, it is eminently logical. I do not have to be a burden to my people. I can afford to work for the Federation on a pro bono basis. And you have expensive tastes and I know this. Our future happiness will be more probable if I can afford to give you nice things and take you nice places."
"I don't have expensive tastes, Spock."
"Another thing that has changed, then. I have no doubt, however, that you will learn to appreciate the finer things."
"And who wouldn't?" Like she was very happy to use the VIP line in the transporter station. And not sorry to see a very pretty box with a negligee inside waiting for her in the hotel room.
He could spoil her. She wouldn't complain.
She walked over to the window, stopped and stared at the spectacle of nighttime Paris laid out before them.
"It is beautiful, is it not?"
"It is." More than she'd even imagined.
He wrapped his arms around her waist as they stood there, pressed back to front, and he kissed her neck as she watched the lights twinkle.
"Thank you," she whispered. "This means...this means so much."
"I can bring you to lovely cities. I can shower you with gifts if that is what you wish. But there is much I cannot offer you, Christine." He sounded uncharacteristically somber.
She turned in his arms, studied him, then she rubbed up against him. "There is clearly much you can."
"Still. You are young. You may get tired of being with a man who could be your grandfather."
"Or I may not."
"What Jim said is not wrong. You are not my Christine. Perhaps I should have left you alone."
"Are you breaking up with me in Paris? Because shouldn't you wait to do this until after I've had a chance to model the new sleepwear?" She pulled him to her, kissed him quickly, keeping it light. "You're just jealous because you don't have an alien princess, aren't you?"
"Yes, that is it precisely." His expression softened, and he stroked her face. "This is confusing for me."
"I know." She pushed him to the bed, began to strip off her clothes. "Fortunately for you, this part isn't. Now hand me that box."
With a glint in his eye and a slight quirk of his lips, he ripped the top of the box off.
With his teeth.