The Needs of the Many by Djinn

Chapel walked into the mess hall, saw Spock in line and turned around and headed back to her quarters. She had an energy bar stashed away somewhere; it would taste like shit, but it would be better than having to watch Spock react to her presence in line as proof that she was stalking him.

She'd already had to endure one lecture from him in sickbay, when he was recovering from the meld with V'ger. In the twenty minutes Kirk had given him to throw off V'ger's effects, he'd managed to allocate two minutes to making sure she understood that his experience did not mean he would be darkening her door. Only he'd said it in a Vulcan way.

Made a girl feel special, to know someone would carve time out of their busy crisis for a quick admonishment.

"Wait." A deep voice. Not a familiar one. "Doctor Chapel, right?"

She turned. A tall man, cute in a mild sort of way, was hurrying toward her. She'd given him his report-in physical. What was his name?

"Hi."

She nodded, could feel how tight her lips were--remnants of any time spent around Spock.

She'd given up on him: that was what burned her the most--she'd done nothing to deserve his little lecture.

"I'm Seth. We met--well, you checked me in the other day."

Seth Miller. A lieutenant just like she was. She remembered him now. A nice enough guy.

He gestured back toward the mess hall. "I don't know anyone yet, and I wondered if maybe you wanted to eat with me?"

"I'm not really that hungry."

"So does that mean you're still a little hungry?" He grinned at her, his green eyes lighting up, and she smiled despite her bad mood.

"I am a little hungry." She nodded toward the mess. "I'd be happy to join you."

Happy was stretching it, but he didn't need to know that.

They got their food and found a table thankfully very far from Spock.

"It seems weird to call you Doctor Chapel if we're having lunch together."

"My name's Christine."

"Pretty."

"I guess." She smiled to take away how bitchy that sounded. "Do you like the ship?"

He nodded. Out of the corner of her eye, Chapel saw Spock get up. Miller glanced over, then leaned in and said, "I don't like them."

"Them?"

"Vulcans."

"I see."

"They have this philosophy: the needs of the many--"

"Outweigh the needs of the few. Yes, I'm acquainted with it." Hell, she'd goddamned memorized it and a lot of other random pieces of Vulcan trivia back during that first mission.

"The few or the one. People don't matter to them."

"Actually, by that definition, people do matter. A person doesn't."

Miller looked annoyed. "Right. An individual doesn't matter." He tucked into his food for a moment, then said, "I know this from experience."

"Hmm." She tried to keep her response as noncommittal as possible; she was regretting sitting down with this man.

"See, they want you to think they're good guys, but they're not."

She pushed her tray away and shook her head. "Seth, you seem like a nice guy." Or he had before he opened his mouth. "I'm going to give you a little tip. That Vulcan you don't like because of the planet he comes from, he's our first officer and a very good friend of the captain. Your opinions are not going to be welcome here."

"Thought the Federation encouraged freedom of speech?"

"You want to hate Vulcans, I can't stop you. But how about you try keeping that hatred in your head instead of verbalizing it?" She stood. "Good luck on the ship."

"Christine?" He reached out, his hand clamping down on her wrist.

"It's been a weird few weeks, Seth. You have no idea. Now, unless you want me to write you up as mentally unstable, you will let go of me." She stared him down.

He let go. "I lost someone that I cared about. To him."

"To Spock?" She could not keep the incredulity out of her voice.

"Not like that. Not romantically. She was in a landing party. He could have rescued her. He could have."

"When did this happen?"

"Two years ago."

She sat back down. "Did you request this ship?"

He didn't look away. "Maybe."

"Why?"

"Best ship in the fleet. Newest ship now with the refits."

"You know I will check to see when you requested transfer. Was it because Spock was back?"

He shrugged. "Maybe it was because Kirk was?"

"Did you come here to do something to Spock?"

"No. Jeez. What do you think? I'm going to attack him on the way to shift some day?"

He didn't seem to be lying, didn't give any of the signs she was used to--and she saw a lot of them from people who said they were exercising more than they were, or that they weren't drinking too much, or overeating.

He was studying her, too. "You care about him, don't you?" He nodded when she didn't answer. "You're very protective of him."

"I'm protective of anyone on the crew--especially my friends."

"So he's your friend?"

"Not really, no. But we've served together for years. I respect him." Too bad he didn't respect her.

"He doesn't deserve your respect." Miller went back to eating.

Chapel got up. "I'll be watching. As a doctor, I mean."

"Watch away." He smiled at her, as if he wasn't concerned in the least.

Meanwhile, concern was flooding her.


Chapel spent most of the downtime on her shift looking into Miller's background. He had an exemplary record--just what she'd expect to see for someone assigned to the Enterprise.

She debated going to see Spock, finally settled for sending him a comm on his private channel. Her message was terse. "New crewman on board--Lt. Seth Miller--may harbor grudge against you. Not sure what you want to do with this information. Was sure you wouldn't want me to deliver it in person."

She almost deleted the last line. Then she decided to keep it in. Screw him; it was the truth.

An hour later, Spock was at her office door. "May I come in?"

"Suit yourself."

He palmed the door shut and took one of the chairs in front of her desk. "I appreciate the note you sent me."

"Just doing my job."

"If you had been just doing your job, you would have told me in person."

She should have deleted that damn line. Truth or not.

"Christine?"

She tried to hide her surprise at hearing her first name, probably failed miserably. "He said you allowed someone he cared about, someone on a landing party, to be killed."

"I know the person to whom he is referring. Teresa Salazar. She was part of the landing party at Gamma Upsilon."

She remembered that one. It had been right before she transferred off. Kirk had been back at Command. And Spock had been in charge. It had been a nasty situation, one that had no good solution. Spock had done what was best for the ship; it had not, unfortunately, been what was best for the landing party.

"It wasn't in Miller's record," she said. "That he was involved with her."

"You checked?" The unspoken "For me?" was very loud.

"I did. I was curious."

"Ah." He leaned back. "I notified the next of kin. Her family told me of her association with Miller."

"You talked to him?"

"No, they said they preferred to do it." He held her gaze. "He is angry, I take it?"

"He blames you for her death."

"As I was responsible, this is not illogical."

"He hates you for her death."

"That is more problematic." He looked away. "I will consider what is best in this situation."

"Good. I'm out of it, then." She pretended to be absorbed in the report on her terminal.

"I am sorry, Christine, for the way I acted."

"Oh? How did you act?"

She glanced over at him. He almost looked amused.

"Oh, you mean, when you were the ass who told me to stay away from you when I hadn't even come near you?"

"Yes, thank you for the colorful summary."

"No big deal." She turned back to the screen.

"I believe I was telling you that because I was unsure of myself. It was important that you stayed away. I was...unsure what I was feeling. V'ger--the experience with it--was intense. I did not want to reach out--"

"Sound policy. I'm a handful." She didn't look up this time.

"If you would let me finish? I did not wish to reach out if I was only going to hurt you in the end." His voice sounded both amused and frustrated. "But it has been some time since the meld, and I am free of its effects. I wish to make amends."

"No need. I'm over you, Spock." She looked over at him. "O-V-E-R. Over."

"I see." He stood, seemed unsure whether to stay or go.

"Watch out for Miller. And don't let the door hit you on the way out." God, she'd waited forever to say that to him.

Even if it made no sense in the age of pneumatic safety doors.


A soft cough sounded at her door, and Chapel looked up to see Miller there. "Hey," he said, "about the other day...can we start over?"

"I don't think so."

He nodded, as if he'd expected that answer. "Can I at least try to explain myself a little better?"

"Why?"

"Because I feel just sick about how I must have come off to you."

"To Christine your shiny new friend? Or to Doctor Chapel, an officer who can declare you unfit for duty if she thinks you're harboring a dangerous obsession?"

He looked sheepish. "A little of both?"

"Come in." She didn't tell him to shut the door and he didn't ask if he could; he just sat down in the same chair Spock had been in a few days earlier and took a deep breath.

"Okay, before I got to the mess that day, I passed Spock in the corridors. I know it's not realistic to expect him to know me, for him to have looked me up because of Teresa, but I guess I wanted him to have done that. He's such a central character in the great tragedy of my life, and I'm...nothing to him. He looked right through me. You have no idea what that's like."

Oh, he might be surprised. She chose not to tell him that. "So you were angry?"

"I was. And frustrated. And sad. And feeling all the things I felt when I heard she died--he didn't even tell me. I had to hear it from her parents."

"I think--" Did she want to let him know how much digging she'd done? "I think he would have contacted you if they'd asked him to. Were you engaged? Should he have known to notify you?"

He shook his head. "No. It was...it was kind of a new thing. I mean, not really new, but not engagement time. Teresa was off on the Enterprise and I was on Earth. And I never knew what was happening to her, or what she was doing. Do you have any concept how hard that is? A long-distance relationship?"

"I do, actually. I was engaged to someone on a mission that went very badly."

"I'm sorry. Did you lose him?"

"I did." And that was as much of the tale as she had told anyone, except for Len, Jan, and Ny. And Kirk and Spock already knew.

"I'm sorry, Christine."

She gave him a stern look.

"I can't call you that?"

"Doctor Chapel is probably better."

His lips tightened. "Okay. Sure." He laughed, shook his head. "Still the crazy guy, huh? I bet you ran right to Spock to warn him, didn't you?"

"Yes, I did." She thought it wise he realize he was on thin ice.

"That wasn't necessary."

"Nevertheless..."

He got up. "Have I made it at all better?"

"You've made it more understandable."

"Okay. Well, good." He smiled, but it wasn't a very happy expression. "I like you. I really...regret having put you off me."

"I'm just your doctor, Seth. You shouldn't think of me as anything more."

"Not even a friend?"

"I'm sure you'll make other friends soon." She gave him a smile that was no doubt lacking--she wasn't sure he would make friends, not unless he quit being the crazy-with-a-grudge guy.

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

Shore Leave was boring. Another bar like the last one, same conversation as the last time. Ny looking around for new meat to take advantage of. Jan pretending not to be doing the same. Chapel wondering what the hell she was doing there when there was work to do.

A glass appeared in front of her.

"I didn't order this."

"Your admirer did," the bartender said, pointing to the far end of the bar.

She looked up, expecting to see Miller, as if a drink could make her forget their conversation. But there was no Miller. Spock was sitting with Kirk and Len.

She looked down, frowning, as if the drink might disappear, then she looked back at them. Kirk was laughing, shrugging and nodding toward Spock when she made a "What the hell is this?" gesture.

Spock nodded to her, got up, and left the bar.

She took the drink and walked over to where Kirk and Len were sitting. "You put him up to that, I take it?"

"We did not." Kirk had his best, "No, sir, not us," look, but Len actually looked dumbfounded.

"Len?"

"He asked me what you like to drink. I told him. He ordered it."

"Why?"

"Hell if we know." Kirk grinned at her. "Something you're not telling us?"

"I told him I was over him."

"Pfffff." Len waved that idea away. "You'll be over him when pigs fly."

"Well, don't tell him that, Bones. Chris may have made an impression." Kirk took a drink. "Finally."

"I seriously doubt that." She toasted them and took a big drink. "Well, now that I sort of understand why I have a fresh glass, I'm going to go back to the girls."

"Can we join you? We're bored."

She drained the drink. "Why don't you go on over. I'm going to see if--"

"Oh, for God's sake, here we go." Len rolled his eyes.

Kirk punched him in the arm, saving her the trouble. "Go get him, tiger."

"I just want to say thank you to him."

"With what part of your body?" Len asked.

Kirk punched him again.

"Stop doing that."

She left them arguing, found Spock sitting not too far from the bar. "So, you're buying me drinks?"

"I am."

"You realize what that means in human terms?"

"I do."

She laughed. "And what do you think it means?"

"That I am interested in you."

She sat down next to him. "No, you're not."

"I am not?"

"Nope. I just said the magic word."

He looked confused.

"Over. As in 'I'm over you.'"

"Ah, that magic word." His lips turned up ever so slightly.

"What? You don't think I am?"

"You accepted my drink. Does that not mean you are interested in me?"

"No, sir, it does not." At his lifted eyebrow, she laughed. "A woman can take the drink, enjoy it, and then blow you off with abandon."

"I see." His lips tilted in a slightly different direction.

"Yep. We can use and abuse."

"You are enjoying this."

"Spock, I've chased you for how long? Of course I'm enjoying this." She laughed at his expression. "Besides, it's the most exciting thing that's happened on this sorry excuse for a planet."

"You are bored? It is not just I who longs for the ship this time?"

"Not just you, my friend." She leaned back. "Pretty place. Nothing going on." She turned to look at him. "Has Miller given you any trouble?"

"He has not. I have seen him, but he has not done anything to arouse my concern."

"Good. He came back to see me. Tried to allay any worries I had."

"Are you sure that is why he came back?" Spock leaned in toward her. "Perhaps he is interested in you?"

"Perhaps. But I'm not interested in him." She glanced at him and saw the briefest flicker of satisfaction. "Which does not mean I'm not O-V-E-R you."

"Understood."

They sat for a few minutes, the silence companionable but not very exciting. But then nothing on this planet was.

Spock rose. "I have an experiment I must see to."

"Bio?"

"Biochemistry, to be precise."

She knew she was failing to contain her interest.

"If you would care to help me? It is a fascinating experiment."

She wondered if this was the Vulcan equivalent of "Come up and see my etchings." Then again, she actually did want to see the experiment. She stood up, gave him a big smile. "I think I would care to help you."

"Shall we go, then?"

"We shall." She didn't think the others would miss her.

Or maybe she just didn't care.


"Here." A mug of coffee was pushed into her hand, and she looked up to see Spock hovering over their experiment. It had become their experiment when she'd added several new twists to what he'd been doing.

He'd been impressed. He hadn't tried to hide it.

She'd been babysitting their experiment for the last six hours after pulling double shifts in sickbay, had let her head rest on the table and fell into what she used to call "the lab doze." Just awake enough to push buttons and log bleary observations.

She pushed herself up so she was leaning on one hand and checked out the coffee. Just the way she liked it; he was obviously paying attention to her and what she preferred. She sipped at it gingerly; it was very hot. "Thanks."

"You are welcome." He sat down next to her. "Are you hungry?"

"Did you bring me food?"

"No, but I will get you food once I know what you want. I knew you would require coffee to form complete sentences."

She laughed, then let her head slump again. "Complete sentences are too much work."

"What would you like?"

"You won't remember."

"I am a Vulcan; I will remember. Tell me."

She felt something moving her hair, realized he was playing with it. She turned her head so she could see his face. "If this is the Pon Farr, just say so."

"It is not."

"Do I have something in my hair you're trying to get out?"

"No." He let his hand fall down, rubbing her neck firmly.

She groaned; he was really good at that. "Okay, then. Two eggs over easy, three strips of bacon, three strips of sausage, those really good country potato things they do, and rye toast with butter."

He got up and left. Not too long later he came back with everything she'd ordered and some oatmeal for himself.

"You have a bright future as a waiter, Spock."

His lip curled up slightly.

"Aren't you going to comment on the unhealthy nature of my food? Or how much of it there is?" She forced herself to a sitting position and dug in. Food really did taste better when someone brought it to you.

"No, you are a doctor, so I have no doubt you recognize the nutritional value of everything you are eating. You are also clearly hungry or you would not have ordered the amount of food you did--which is not an inordinate quantity, in my estimation." He stopped to think. "Although it is conceivable you were testing my ability to bring you what you wanted, but if that were the case, you would have made it a far more complicated order."

"Yep, I would have mixed it up. Eggs scrambled, but only the whites, gluten bacon from non genetically modified wheat, and whole grain toast with organic butter and sugar-free raspberry jam made with no pectin." She laughed softly. "And a cherry on top."

He looked over at her.

"Just something my dad used to say."

"Your dad was in Starfleet, I believe?"

"Yep. He was a computer engineer. We moved a lot when I was young."

"Did you enjoy that?"

"Nope. Hated it. Never got to stay anywhere."

"I stayed on Vulcan most of my life. It was not a pleasant childhood."

"Sorry."

"The Enterprise and this crew must be very important to you, then. Someplace you can call home."

"Some people I can call friends?" She nodded. "There are also some not so pleasant memories."

"Having to do with me?"

"Yes. Well, more how I acted with you. After all, you never asked me to get a big old crush on you." She focused on her food for a while.

"Are you entirely certain you are over me?"

"O-V-E-R." She saw he was done with his oatmeal, offered him some toast, and he took a piece.

"I see." He ate the toast slowly.

"So, I have an idea for a follow-on experiment. If you want to keep going, I mean?"

"Our experiments are not over, then?"

She sipped her coffee, tried to look nonchalant. "Well, if you want them to be, then I'm fine with that."

"I did not say I want them to be."

"Then, I guess they're not over."

"That is...acceptable."

He helped himself to another piece of toast; she smiled as he did it.

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

Chapel saw Miller in the mess, tried to work up a real smile as he walked over.

"Hey, stranger."

"Hey." She could tell Spock was coming up behind her by the look on Miller's face.

"Lieutenant," Spock said, his voice very mild.

"Sir." There was a hint of something there, not anger exactly. Pain, maybe?

She turned to Spock. "I'll be there in a sec."

"Of course." He moved away, toward the line for food.

"So. You and him. Not sure what I think about that." Miller leaned in. "I thought you weren't friends."

"Spock and my relationship is none of your business."

"So you have a relationship?"

"I just said..." She could feel anger, frustration. When she was in med school, she'd worked out nervous energy in a martial arts regime. She'd never gotten all that good, but it had helped her to channel her nerves. She took a deep breath, tried to center the way her instructor had taught her. "How are you getting on?" she finally asked Miller.

"Me? I'm fine. Thanks for asking."

She knew he was telling the truth, at least work wise. She'd checked his file. Nothing but good reports from his section chief. She had no idea if he had any friends or not. She definitely wasn't eager to be one. "Glad to hear it. If you'll excuse me?"

"Of course, Christine."

She glared at him.

He smiled back, turned, and left the mess.

She watched him for a moment, then went to join Spock. She was surprised to realize she was on alert, the way her instructor had taught her to be when readying for a fight. She breathed in slowly, breathed out and waited, existing in the non-breath.

"Are you all right?"

She looked up at Spock and nodded as she slowly took another breath.

"Then why are you doing Vulcan calming techniques?"

She laughed. "Korean. Korean techniques."

"My mistake." He glanced back at the door. "Did he upset you?"

"If he did, it was because I let him. It's just..." She moved closer, saw him lean down so he could hear her better. "Something about him bothers me."

"If you wish him removed from the ship, I will look for a reason."

She studied him, realized they were holding up the line and nudged him gently. "You'd do that for me?"

"Yes."

"It would be an inappropriate use of your position."

"I realize that."

She smiled. "Fascinating."

"I thought you might think it so."


Chapel was sitting in the lab with Spock, watching their latest experiment fail to yield results. "I don't understand. We did everything right." She took a deep breath, held it.

Spock reached in, sliding his hand across her ribs, onto her belly. He pushed in gently. "Breathe from here."

"I know. I know."

"If you know, then do it."

She concentrated on breathing from her diaphragm, knew she was succeeding when her shoulders quit moving as she inhaled and exhaled.

"Excellent." Spock's breath was warm on her ear, his hand still pressing on her stomach. "Where did you study?"

"Master Yi's. He taught Kuk Sool Won."

"I am acquainted with the system, and I lectured for him on meditation in the Vulcan tradition. He is an excellent instructor. How far did you get?"

"Not far." She leaned back against him. "Yellow belt." She'd always wanted to do better, but medical school had taken so much time. "I didn't do it to learn to defend myself, although I suppose I do know how to do that a lot better now than I did during our first voyage. I took it because med school was hard--really hard--and I was charging as fast as I could through it, and this took the edge off."

"You do not have to justify it to me." He moved his hand, easing it up, to lie just under her breasts. "Computer, lock door."

"What are you doing?"

"Taking the edge off." He turned her and stood still, simply watching her for the longest time. Then he leaned in and kissed her, wrapping his arms around her, pulling her close.

The kiss lasted forever. On the scale of best to worst kisses she'd ever had, it was off the goddamn charts. When he finally let her go, she almost fell.

"For the record," she said, as she tried to catch her breath, "I'm still over you."

"I expected no less." He pushed her up onto a stool and let her wrap her legs around him, let her pull him close and kiss him the way she'd always wanted to.

"O," she said as he kissed down her neck. "V," came out as barely a breath as he ran his hands under her uniform top. "E," she tried to get out but failed as he pulled down her pants, as he slid his own down.

"Oh, to hell with it," she said, as she pulled him inside her.

He took her gently at first, then went faster and harder until she was moaning against him. When she finally came down, when he leaned hard against her, holding her tightly as she shuddered, he whispered, "I am glad you are not truly over me."

"I have not even begun to make you glad, mister."

He held her to that promise, in the lab, and later, in his quarters.

She was a long, long way from over him.


"So, missy." Len turned to look at her, and she had to laugh at his expression. "You've been a little scarce the past few weeks."

"I've been reporting to shift, haven't I?"

"But after hours. No rec lounge time. No gym time. No lingering in the mess hall."

"I've been in the lab." She knew she was smiling way too big.

"The lab that is often locked?"

She handed him a carton full of spent hyposprays. "Is it locked? Hmmm, weird."

He took the carton, waited as she grabbed another, then walked with her to the drug storage area. "You happy?"

"Yep."

"Well, that's all right, then." He looked up and rolled his eyes. "Can't keep your green hands off her, eh, Spock?"

Spock nodded to Chapel as he walked in, merely lifted an eyebrow at Len. "I have a question of a technical nature."

"Of course you do."

"For you, Doctor. Not for Christine." Christine had the feeling he would have winked if he were human.

"Oh, well, that's different." Len did wink at her.

Spock looked at her, his expression warm. "You are well?"

"Just dandy."

"That is gratifying to hear."

"Oh, for God's sake, quit pretending that you two aren't screwing like minks." Len turned and stalked off toward his office. "You coming, Spock?"

She made a face she hadn't made since she was a teen, caught making out in the hallway, faced with the wrath of Jimmy Chapel--father from hell, if you were his daughter's boyfriend.

Spock's eyebrow went up again and his eyes fairly danced.

She smiled and began filling the hypos. A moment later, she heard Len expounding on something medical, the low murmur of Spock asking questions.

She tuned them out and went back to work.


Chapel lazed naked in Spock's bed, watching as he moved around his quarters, lighting incense, then the firepots. He knelt and rummaged around in a large chest, finally drawing out a small Vulcan drum and two drumsticks made of some kind of finely polished, nearly black wood.

He handed her the drum, then the sticks.

She held them gingerly. "I was never very good at this."

"We will do it together." He sat behind her, and she backed up so she was sitting between his legs, the drum on the bed in front of her. She picked up the drumsticks; he settled his hand over hers.

"I used to love to watch Master Yi do this."

"He taught me some new techniques," Spock said.

"I never saw him do this naked, though." She laughed when he nipped her neck.

"We begin," he whispered, then he gently pressed down, urging but not forcing her to make contact with the drum.

Tap, tap, tap. The drum was higher pitched, less resonant than the ones she'd learned on. She moved the sticks, felt Spock stop urging her, felt him just go along for the ride.

Clack--she hit the sticks together. Then tap on the drum, clack with the sticks, tap and tap and tap and clack.

"Breathe," Spock whispered. "Become the sound."

She breathed from her gut, great lungfuls of air easing in and out of her, as the sticks flew, as the drum sang, the counterstrikes of the sticks hitting together filled the air. Spock took over, guiding their joined hands, the drum suddenly sounding deeper as he struck it in the center, first one stick, then the other barely behind it, the beats stronger than hers. His clacks were heavier, too. The sticks coming together like fighting staffs instead of reeds.

She leaned back, was breathing hard, felt his lips against her neck; the drumbeats didn't falter, and then Spock was beating out the sound of her heart, the drumbeats racing, the sound of her: energized, alive.

She slowed the beat, let it ease into something gentler, let it stop finally. Tap, tap, clack, clack, then silence, filling his quarters almost as tangibly as the drumbeats had.

He let go of her hands, and she held the sticks with one hand, picked up the drum with another. She eased away from him, climbed off the bed and carried the drum and sticks to the chest and laid them on top. She remembered what Yi had taught her and bowed to the four directions. Then she walked back to Spock.

He held his hand out, pulled her on top of him, sighing as she sank onto him. "That was...remarkable."

She was shaking as she rode him, and he held her waist as if he knew how close she was to breaking apart. As she came, he pulled her down to him, kissed her almost viciously, then rolled them, so he was on top, so he could pump into her until he came, too.

"I love you," she murmured, watching his face.

He kissed her gently as he rolled off her and pulled her in to cuddle against him. "And I you, Christine."

They lay together, kissing languidly, then just lying close. She fell asleep in his arms, their hearts beating a lovely counterpoint.


"You're a hard woman to track down." Miller stood in the doorway to her office, smiling pleasantly.

"Am I? I'm here every shift." She turned away from her terminal, gave him her attention.

He palmed the door shut. "I see you with him. You two seem happy. As much as a Vulcan can seem happy, I mean."

She shifted, tried to look more imposing with him looming over her. "I've told you before. My relationship with Spock is none of your business."

"It wouldn't have been. If it had stayed a non-relationship." He sighed, then he held out his hand. "Look, I'm screwing this up again. I just wanted to say that I'm happy for you. The stage you're in now, the honeymoon stage, it's where Teresa and I were. I wish you well with your Vulcan love, okay?"

She didn't take his hand.

"Man, you are stubborn." He moved quickly, faster than she expected, and slapped his outstretched hand against her arm.

She felt the sting of a sharp point going through her uniform, into her skin. Then the burning sensation of some compound being injected into her arm.

"What are you doing?"

"I didn't want to use you, Christine. I thought you might be a kindred spirit. Stealing you from him would have finished this, but you just wouldn't be stolen."

"You were never even close to stealing me and I--"

"Shut up."

She shut up. She felt a strange lassitude coming over her. Not sleepiness, just an unwillingness to make a move.

"Stand up."

She stood. "Which puppet drug did you use?"

"None of your damn business. And when I said shut up, I meant do not talk again until I say you can. Understand?"

She nodded.

"Good girl." He moved very close to her. "I'm going to leave. You are going to wait thirty seconds and then come to auxiliary transporter room four on deck seven." He leaned in. "If anyone tries to come with you, do not let them."

She wanted to ask him why he was doing this, what he hoped to achieve. She wanted to tell him to go to hell. But the drug was powerful. She stood, mouth closed, waiting for him to tell her what else to do.

"Thirty seconds, Christine," he said and then casually walked out of her office.

She waited, praying someone would come ask her a question, would wonder why she wouldn't answer. But no one came. Thirty seconds passed and she walked, out of sickbay and to the lift. She rode it to deck seven, found the auxiliary transporter room. It was the least used of the transporter rooms; she figured that was why he'd chosen it.

"Come in. Sit down over there." He pointed to the floor in the back of the transporter platform. She hurried up the stairs and tried to sit as far away from the pad as she could.

She watched as he worked on the panel, and she could feel the drug letting go of her, but when she tried to talk, she only managed to make sounds, not words. Still, it was better than dumb compliance to his commands.

He finished whatever he was doing at the panel. "Your lover should be here soon. I want him to really know what he did to me. I want him to have to choose between you and the good of the ship." He was watching the door as he talked to her. "You were right. I did choose this ship because I heard Spock was back. And I've had two years to plan this."

She realized he didn't know where Spock had gone between voyages. That if Gol had gone as planned, Spock would have had no emotions, and there would have been no affair. And no friends to blackmail him with if a convenient girlfriend wasn't around.

But Gol hadn't gone as planned and they were having an affair.

And Spock loved her. God help them both, he loved her.

Why the hell hadn't she kicked Miller off the ship? Referred him in for a fitness for duty workup? She'd been so busy trying to play fair, seeing the similarities between them. Even though he gave her the creeps.

Why the hell hadn't she listened to her inner bell? That's what Master Yi had called it. The thing--intuition, some elementary form of precognition--that told a person when something was bad or dangerous.

What would Master Yi do in this situation?

He wouldn't be sitting here worrying about what had gone wrong. He'd be planning for what was to come. Thinking--he'd be thinking.

The blood was circulating through her bloodstream, and the more it moved, the less concentrated it was getting, and the less control the drug had over her.

She thought of the drum, envisioned holding the sticks with Spock, hitting the drum, harder and harder and faster and faster. She could feel her heart starting to speed up, managed to move one foot and then the other, was able to slide her hand to the wall, clutch at the fabric of her uniform with the other.

She kept her breathing as calm as she could, while remembering the drums, then adding memories of particularly vigorous sessions in bed with Spock. The man could screw like nobody's business. Her heart jumped; she felt more in control.

She let herself think about her fantasies, all the things she wanted to do with him, even things she only thought about doing but would never actually act on. Nasty things. Dangerous things, even.

Her heart was racing.

"We are all water in the stream of humanity," she murmured, the sound of one of Master Yi's favorite sayings barely passing her lips. But she said it. She said it when she was supposed to be sitting and not saying a word.

It was working.

The door opened, and Spock walked in. He took one look at her, and she saw something change in his face.

He really did love her. There was fear on his face. Fear for her. "What is this, Lieutenant?"

Miller tossed him a padd. "Do you recognize this?"

"You have set several key functions on overload. That should be impossible from here."

"The best minds are always available for a price. And I've had nothing else to spend my money on, Spock. Believe me, it's possible and I've done it."

"What have you done to her?"

She pretended to be struggling to talk, pretended to fail.

"It's a drug that's not in her formulary. They call it a puppet drug in the sex trade. I doubt you've heard of it."

Spock seemed to grasp the drug's function, glanced at her again, worry showing on his face. "What do you want?"

"I want you to make the same choice you did with my woman. The needs of the many and all that."

"You will kill her if I choose the ship?"

"No, Spock. You will kill her if you choose the ship."

"I have no evidence you could even damage the ship."

Miller hit a combination of panels, and an alert klaxon went off. The computer announced in its calm way, "Warning, environmental controls failing."

"We're safe in here. You choose her, and you'll be the only two alive on this ship when it's found."

"The only two?"

"I plan to beam off, have a little ship waiting manned by a creature of low morals who doesn't mind taking my money in exchange for picking me up in the middle of nowhere. He's nearby, looking busy. He's very good at that, in his line of work."

The computer chimed in again, "Environmental controls failure imminent."

"So, I guess you're choosing her. So much for your friends, for the hundreds of people you're condemning to death for one person?"

"Turn the controls back on."

She'd known he'd do that. He had to do it. She'd have had to do it, too, if their situation was reversed.

Miller turned the controls back on. Chapel could imagine Kirk trying to figure out what was going on, and he would figure it out, he and Scotty. And they'd do it fast. This was a race, then. Whatever was going to happen to her would happen fast.

"You're going to kill her, Spock. Not with a phaser or a knife or any other weapon you could turn against me. You're going to kill her with your bare hands. Beat the woman you care for to death."

Spock turned to look at him. "Teresa would not have wanted this."

"Don't say her name like you knew her."

"I did know her. Her death affected me, just as every death of those under my command affects me."

"Yes, I imagine it affects you deeply when you're fucking Christine here."

Spock looked like he wanted to kill Miller. He also looked like he might charge him and try to take over the panel.

Miller moved closer to the panel. "I'm a betting man, Spock. I'm betting if I turn the controls off before you kill me, you won't get them fixed in time to save the crew. So again, you'll have made your choice for the one over the many."

Spock clenched and unclenched his hands, but didn't move toward Miller.

"Good boy." Miller glanced at her. "Christine, stand up."

Christine stood, shifted slightly, not enough that he'd notice as she tried to warm up her legs, to get rid of the pins and needles feeling.

Spock turned, stalked toward her. When he fully blocked her from Miller's view, she mouthed, "I'm not helpless." Hardly a whisper, just enough to carry to Vulcan ears.

His eyebrow went up. She could tell he was thinking, formulating a plan.

"I fall well," she whispered. It was the first thing she'd learned from Master Yi. How to fall. How to take hits.

"If you can't take hits, you'll never be able to fight," her teacher had said. "If you can't fall well, the fight will be over before it's your turn to hit."

"Come on, Spock." Miller was clearly getting restless. "Take the first punch."

"I am sorry," Spock said, and he clearly was, and she tried to show him it was all right, that she understood.

The first blow hit her jaw, she reeled but didn't fall. The second, in her chest, knocked her flat.

She hit the floor well, using as much of her body as she could to land with, to minimize damage to any one part. Pain from his punches radiated from her jaw, erupted out from just below her solar plexus, and the impact from the fall registered all over. But she was better than she should be, given that a Vulcan was whaling on her.

Spock had to be pulling his punches, only Miller didn't seem to realize it yet. Spock was also going for areas that weren't lethal, but looked like they could be. He was missing the sweet spots, a dangerous dance of millimeters.

She met his eyes, tried to show him she believed he'd get them through this. It would be okay. It had to be okay.

She got to her feet, making sure it looked like a struggle, and it was to some extent, but her fall, the way she'd done it right, had helped her.

"Decide how much damage you are willing to take," Master Yi had once told her, when she'd backed out of a fight after getting a black eye. "If you cannot take it to the edge of blackness, there is no point in fighting."

"What if I just want to get away?" she had asked. "What if I just want to defend myself?"

He met her eyes; his were very gentle, the wisdom shaded by the violence that the Kuk Sool Won leashed, in hands and feet, in swords and staffs, in everything that they did. They could kill; they chose not to.

And above all, they knew what pain felt like. They knew how to fall. They knew how to take the punch, translate it into energy.

She looked up at Spock. She could do this better. She could do more than take the punch; she could use the punch, help him or hinder him with it.

She would help him.

He struck, this time a blow to her shoulder, then another to her gut.

She felt like she might throw up, wasn't sure how to translate that into energy.

More blows, all pulled even though they hurt like hell, all hitting just shy of crucial areas. But they took their toll. She began to fall wrong, saw the knowledge that he had pushed her too far cross Spock's face, then he grabbed her as she was falling and pulled her close, her back to his front as he supported her.

He turned to face Miller. "I have chosen. The woman I care for is bruised and bloody. Haven't you seen enough? Have you avenged Teresa enough?"

Miller looked a little sick, but he shook his head. "Finish it. I don't need to see you hurt her anymore. But finish it. The final choice. Then it'll be done."

Spock turned her so she faced him, stared down at her. There was something in his eyes. Something that was a message. More than just of love.

"A certain amount of showmanship is expected," Yi had once told the advanced drum team. "It is not enough to be good. You must also look good."

"I love you," she told Spock. "I trust you. Whatever you have to do."

He nodded, his face tight, his eyes shuttered. He wrapped his hands around her neck, began to tighten them.

She felt her air cutting off, heard him whisper, "Breathe," and he loosed his grip just enough to let her pull in a slow lungful of air and hold it deep, deep where his hand had been that first time before he kissed her, where he still liked to put it, to see if she was doing it right.

She did it right. She held the air and felt his hand tighten. As he choked her, she slowly let the air out through her nose, and he loosened his grip again but she kept fighting as if he hadn't, took a deep breath through her nose and felt his hand, the one that Miller couldn't see from where he was standing, move to her shoulder and pinch down hard, causing the nerves to her neck to scream.

He said, "I am sorry, Christine," and everything went black.

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

She woke in sickbay. Spock was sitting by her bed and nearly smiled as she opened her eyes.

Everything hurt. Including places he hadn't hit. She rubbed the back of her head, felt a rather large bump. "What the...?"

"I had to let you fall once you lost consciousness. If I'd set you down gently, he would have known you weren't dead."

Len came over, hypos in hand. "Now is not the time for this happy rehashing, Spock."

She heard the hiss of the first hypo, felt relief radiating out from it. "Spock, is Miller...?"

"He transported off once he thought you were dead. He was a man of his word, despite everything."

"I'm surprised."

"I was as well. I was prepared to do battle with him if he had not kept his word, if he had tried to disable the environmental controls again, but once it was clear he was leaving, I confess, my primary concern was you." He stroked her cheek, clearly ignoring Len as he tried to work. "You fought well."

"You mean I took a punch well. And fell well."

"Master Yi would say that is a very important part of fighting."

"Would you two shut up?" Len pushed Spock away from her and scanned the side he'd been standing by. "Well, it looks worse than it is, but it's still pretty damn bad." He glared at both of them, but mostly at her. "I cannot believe you let him beat the shit out of you."

"You could have been lying on the ground croaking out your last breath. You should be thanking me for doing that. You should also be thanking Spock for being so damn good at hitting right. And we should all thank med school for being so stressful that I wandered into Master Yi's one night."

"Spock is getting no thanks from me till I make sure you're really all right. But I'll send your teacher a bottle of bourbon."

"He'd probably like that." She looked at Spock. "You don't have to stay."

"I am aware of that." His eyes were very soft.

"Oh, God. Save me from Vulcans in love." But Len winked at her once he had his back safely to Spock.


Spock was treating her like she was going to break at any moment. He'd been fine right after the fight--if you could call him pummeling the crap out of her and her not even trying to land a blow a fight--but now he couldn't meet her eyes, seemed reluctant to even hold her too tightly.

Truth be told, she was feeling a little vulnerable herself. And this backing off on his part wasn't helping.

She went into Len's office, leaned up against the door and asked, "Am I cleared for regular activities?"

"By regular activities do you mean sex?"

"Yep."

"Just don't go all kama sutra and it should be fine." He smiled at her. "Spock's been acting different."

"Spock's been acting like I'm a glass doll." She palmed the door shut and sat in one of Len's guest chairs. "I'm not going to break."

"You really don't get it, do you, kiddo?"

"Get what?"

Len leaned back. "I've seen Spock in a murderous rage. One time with Jim on the sands of Vulcan. One time with me in that cave with Zarabeth. He was damned scary, and I think he knows he's capable of that. This...this brought him closer to those times, even if it's not the same thing at all, even if he was in control this time."

"He's afraid he'll lose control?"

Len nodded. "Control is all to a Vulcan. They fought hard for that. I do believe he loves you. After all this time, he clearly does love you. But I think you scare the hell out of him right now, Christine."

"Am I supposed to go away?"

"That's the worst thing you could do. Go confront him. Have mad passionate sex and then talk about it. And I do mean in that order. He needs to see he won't lose control before he talks about losing control--and about how frightened you might be of him, even if it's just a little. I was frightened after Sarpeidon; Jim was a little spooked--even if he didn't show it--after Vulcan. You're scared, too, and Spock needs to see that you'll seek him out despite that. Trust me. I do know the big green lug pretty well."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome." He smiled sweetly at her. "And for the record, if he had killed you, I'd have beaten him to death myself."

"Not very doctor-ly of you."

"You're my friend. To hell with being doctor-ly. " He got up, gave her in impromptu and very firm hug. She realized he was checking to make sure she could take whatever Spock might dish out, as much as letting her know how much he cared.

"Old worry wart," she murmured as she pulled away.

"A little caution never hurt anyone, darlin'. Now, go get laid."


She checked in the lab first, but Spock wasn't there. Several other people were working, and one volunteered that Spock had left about an hour ago.

Chapel went to his quarters, had to ring several times before he let her in. "Am I not welcome?" she said, willing to meet this head on, letting hurt into her voice.

"You are." He was sitting in the dark, not meditating, but in his chair with his elbows on the armrests, his fingers steepled. Clearly thinking--clearly brooding was more like it.

She walked over to him, moving slowly. Master Yi once told her, "The secret to working with any animal is to approach with kindness, with gentleness. But also with a firmness of purpose. The mixture of both is crucial."

She crouched in front of Spock, her hands on his knees as she studied him in the low light. He would not meet her gaze at first, then he lifted his eyes to hers.

"I miss you." She let her hand trail up toward his groin.

He didn't stop her.

"I miss this."

He swallowed hard as she leaned in, both hands traveling now.

"Len says I'm cleared for takeoff." She smiled, a sweet and goofy smile. One that did not say she was, in fact, a little bit scared.

She'd had nightmares--Spock's hands coming at her, a different outcome, a beating that went on and on.

"I love you, Spock."

He pulled her up, into his lap, and crushed her to him. She managed to squirm free enough to turn and kiss him. His kisses were frantic, and he clutched her too tightly but she didn't cry out, just kissed him back the same way.

She knew how much she could take. She would not lose him. Not now.

Then he slowed down and pushed her away enough to look at her. "Lights up twenty-five percent." He was studying her and she kept her eyes soft, her smile sensual, and touched him, played with his hair, his ears, ran her fingers down his robe. "Are you sure you want to do this, Christine?"

"Am I sure I want to have sex with the man I love? That's what you're asking, right?" She nipped at his earlobe. Keeping it light. Keeping it sexy. Keeping it just a little bit dangerous.

He wouldn't go too far. She trusted him, even if maybe he didn't trust himself.

He seemed about to launch into something that would probably fall into Len's "talk about it after" part, so she kissed him, and reached down, found him, how ready he was for her. He had her uniform bottom pulled down in moments, was touching her, pushing her harder than he ever had.

He stopped just before she came, ignoring her moans of protest. "This doesn't frighten you?"

"Do I look frightened?" She was scared, and he probably could tell that to some extent, but she fought to keep her emotions under control.

He finished her off and she cried out loudly, squirming in his arms, his lips hard on her own. She'd barely come down when he was pushing her off his lap, over to the bed, covering her, plunging into her. "This is what I am, Christine. This is what the Pon Farr will be. This is the man you love."

"I know." She thrust up and clamped down on him as hard as he could, making him cry out at the twin sensations. "And this is me. You know me. You know what I like. All the ways I like this."

He stopped thrusting, stared at her as if he was seeing her for the first time. "Christine."

"I'm right here. And you're inside me. Finish what you're doing." She kissed him gently. "Love me."

He kissed her back, slowly, tenderly, but not as if she might break. He started moving again, thrusting firmly, moaning as she clamped down again, breaking the kiss to throw his head back, to call out wildly as he came.

He held her so tightly she didn't think she could breathe, was relieved when he rolled off her, and pulled her with him, kissing her softly, sweet glancing kisses. "I love you. I was afraid..."

"That you'd hurt me?"

He nodded.

"Like you did when you beat me?" This had to be said. This had to be said this way.

He nodded.

"You did hurt me when you beat me. You had to. But you didn't hurt me as badly as you could have. You chose not to. And you won't hurt me in the Pon Farr, when it comes, because you love me. And you won't hurt me, no matter what we do in bed, because I trust you and you know that."

He stoked her hair, kissed her neck, ended with his lips pressed against her ear. He whispered, "I have thought about what happened. So many things I could have done differently. I hate that he got away." He pulled back, let her see his expression. "Hate, Christine. You understand that?"

She nodded.

"I dream of killing him. Beating him to death and enjoying it."

"That's not a bad dream." She wished she had that one instead of hers.

"It is for a Vulcan."

"Oh. Of course."

"When we find him..."

"Spock. We're not going to find him. He has nothing left. I wouldn't be surprised if he kills himself. He's obsessed with her, and --" She met his eyes.

"Gamma Upsilon," they said together.

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

They found his body in the same place Spock had found the landing party. One phaser shot to the head. Fast. Painless nearly.

Not. Damn. Fair.

"To hold anger inside," Master Yi had often said, "to hold hatred inside, is to make oneself a slave, to cut away all the good things in your life and indenture yourself to the bad."

"What if someone has done you wrong?" a student had asked. "Is it wrong to hate them?"

"I think it is asking a bit much to love your enemy in some cases, although that is the highest path," Yi had said, a twinkle in his eye. "But perhaps you could try to ignore your enemy? Influence denied is power broken. If it makes you feel better, it is likely you will hurt him worse by not hating him. To make him nothing in your life rather than everything."

"Let's go home, Spock." She touched his hand, and he let her, even though there were security guards around them. But she didn't try to hold his hand; she understood his limits.

But he surprised her. He put his hand on her back, low, pushing gently. In full view of all the guards. "Yes, Christine. Let's go home."

FIN