Nearest Distant Shore by Djinn

The room was unbearably hot, and Chapel found it hard to catch her breath. Sweat trickled down between her breasts as Spock eased away from her.

He didn't kiss her. He never did afterwards.

She got up, pulled on her uniform, and left.

Leaving like this, no embraces, no goodbyes, it was how they worked. If you could call this working, this thing they had, this relationship that wasn't.

She wandered to the mess hall, grabbed a coffee and found a table in the back of the room.

"Can't sleep?" Jim was running his hand through his hair, looked like he had just come from the gym.

"Haven't tried." She could tell he was taking in how she looked. She usually spent some time in Spock's bathroom, cleaning up before she left with no goodbye. She'd forgotten to do that tonight. How bad did she look?

She rubbed under her eyes, as if she could get rid of the signs of sex-smeared makeup. As if it wasn't too late.

As if this man didn't know exactly how she looked after sex.

He got coffee and brought it back. He sat without being asked, watching her as she sipped her coffee and tried to look like she hadn't been having sex with his best friend only moments before.

"Is this making you happy?"

"Is what making me happy?"

He smiled tightly. "One thing Decker could have spent more time on is the soundproofing."

She could feel herself flush. The annoying, full body flush that she'd never learned to stop, no matter how much she wanted to.

Spock's quarters shared a wall with Jim's.

His eyebrows lifted, a touche of sorts. "So. Is it?"

"That's really none of your business, soundproofing issues notwithstanding."

"You didn't wait," he said, as if she'd said nothing. "You saw your opening, and you went for it."

"Excuse me?"

"V'ger. The meld. Spock's openness. He was ripe for the picking and you picked."

"Seems to me you're an expert on that."

"That's not fair."

"No?" She rolled her eyes, stirred her coffee even though it was well stirred already, desperate for something to do other than meet his gaze. Because he wasn't wrong, even if she wouldn't give him what he wanted. She had swooped. The man she'd wanted for years had been open to her. It was just her dumb luck that the openness wasn't seeming to last.

But what did Jim want? Contrition? A promise not to do it again? A request for transfer?

He was staring at her, not letting her off the hook. "Are you going to tell me you didn't swoop in?"

"If I did, then I'm getting what I deserved, right?" She gestured at the table, at the mess hall, at the two of them. "He's sleeping like a baby and I'm..."

"And you're sitting here, overcaffeinating."

"What's your excuse, Jim?"

"I don't have one." He settled in, drank his coffee and then got up to fill his mug back up. When she finished hers, he refilled that, too. Didn't ask how she wanted it. Didn't need to--he knew how she liked it.

"So how is Lori, sir?"

"Drop the sir, Chris."

"That's a deflection. How is your wife?" She put as much of a kick in the word wife as she could.

"She decided not to renew our marriage. Shocking, I know."

She felt something hit her, like a fist to the gut. "And you didn't even call. Boy, don't I feel special."

"You were assigned here. You weren't going to be around."

"How convenient for you. No embarrassing mistress on your doorstep." She wanted to throw her coffee at him, opted not to. She was mad and possibly an idiot when it came to men, but she knew better than to throw scalding hot liquid at a superior officer--even one she'd slept with.

"I never considered you my mistress. I thought Lori and I were over when you and I--"

"Look, just save it, okay?" She laughed softly, the sound bitter and ugly. "You were unhappy. You looked for someone nearby who was as far from Lori as you could get. I happened to be in your line of sight. I get it." She leaned in. "It wasn't like you were in love me. Wasn't like you had been for years. So you see, what I did with Spock--what I'm doing with Spock--is nothing like what you did to me."

He met her eyes. His weren't soft or sympathetic. They were hard. Angry. "You never complained about what I did to you."

"I had no complaints. For an affair, it was hunky dory."

"But this is love? This screwing and then leaving Spock's quarters before morning. Your walk of shame starts a bit earlier than mine ever did when I left your apartment."

"It's not the same thing."

"What you're doing isn't love."

"If you say so, captain." She got up, nodded formally, mockingly. "I think I'll just say good night."

"Sleep well, doctor." His reply was just as mocking. The implied "alone" registering another hit in her gut.

She didn't give him the satisfaction of looking back when she left.


"He's looking so damn good." Jan stretched dramatically in her chair in the rec lounge, bringing her breasts into prominence.

"If you like that type," Chapel said, trying not to stare at Jim, who did look damn good.

"Right. Because you only like lanky Vulcans." Jan grinned at her. As far as she knew, Chapel was happy with Spock.

The Vulcan in question was in his lab. He generally avoided the lounge unless he had a chess date with Jim or it was an "attendance mandatory for senior staff" kind of thing.

Jan was still watching Jim. "I bet he's terrific in bed."

He was terrific in bed. In fact, terrific did not do it justice. "I thought you'd given up on him?"

"I have. But I can still look, can't I?"

"Looking is allowed." Hell, it was all Chapel was allowed, and she'd been his goddamned mistress. Even if he hated it when she called herself that.

He'd been married. He'd been sleeping with her. Regularly. Okay, so he'd thought he and Lori were done. Technically, it still fit the mistress category.

That was the annoying thing about term marriages. You never knew where you stood. No one needed to separate; they could just let the thing lapse. Like Jim had been planning to do; he'd been in that "prior to lapse" state when he'd run into her at a party at Command. She'd come with a junior officer who worked for Nogura. She'd left with an admiral. Her admiral.

She'd been stupid enough to think that. For a time. Not a long time, but for a time. She'd fallen in love and been dumb enough to think the feeling was mutual.

And then Lori had wanted to give it another try. Lori had stolen her husband, Chapel's lover, back with no effort at all.

And that had been that. When it was clear Jim wasn't coming back, Chapel had said yes to Decker's offer of CMO. The rest was history.

And she'd never told Jan any of this. It wasn't fair to her friend. She threw back her drink.

"Whoa, what's gotten into you?" Jan signaled for another round.

Chapel waited till she'd drained the new drink, too, waited for the rush of warmth, the tickly feeling in her stomach, the dull comfort of alcohol to the brain. Then she turned to Jan, took her hands in hers, and said in a low voice, "Don't kill me, but I slept with him."

"With...?"

A deep breath. Then another. Could she have another drink? "With Jim."

She expected a slap. Or for Jan to pull her hands away at least. But she only shook her head and said, "My God, I don't know which to be madder at. That you did it, or that it took you this goddamned long to tell me."

"Huh?"

"I saw you two. At the waterfront fair. You didn't see me. Obviously. You were pretty wrapped up in each other."

"Oh, God, Jan." And her friend had been living with that for months?

"I told you I was over him, and I am. I'm angry with you for not telling me. What did you think? I'd turn psychotic on you? I'd fall apart? Give me some damn credit." She finally pulled her hands away. "And what the hell are you doing to Spock?"

"I'm doing anything he wants to him. He's not suffering here. He is, to be quite frank, tiring of me--well, other than the very good sex part."

Jan signaled for another round and told the server, "This round's on my friend. In fact, all the rounds tonight are on my friend."

The server glanced at Chapel, who nodded--picking up the tab was the least she could do.

Once she was gone, Jan asked, "Spock's getting tired of you?"

"V'ger left him open. The door is closing." She glanced over where Jim was laughing at something Scotty had said.

"Maybe he just figured out that you're already taken?"

"Hardly."

"That he'd figure it out or that you're taken?"

"Both, unfortunately." Chapel drank her next drink extra slowly: the time for truths blurted out was thankfully over.


Chapel pulled her uniform on and walked into the bathroom. She was a mess. Spock had pulled out all the stops. She fixed her face, pulled her hair into a ponytail, and left the bathroom.

Spock was watching her. He didn't do that, usually pretended to sleep, or meditate, or just stared at the ceiling as she went past. Her departure was done in silence, with no acknowledgment.

This time he held out his hand. When she walked back to him, he yanked her down onto the bed. She landed awkwardly, half on him, half on the bed to his side. Her arms stung, and her hip twinged where it had hit him.

"Spock, what the--"

He kissed her. It was not a gentle kiss. It was not loving. It was not sensual. It was pure and raw, and she wasn't sure if it was desire or just anger that prompted him to do it.

When he finally let her go, he said, "I do not intend to fight him for you."

"Fight who?"

He looked at her, his disappointment palpable. "I am neither blind nor of substandard intelligence. I know when your 'heart' is not in this."

Maybe he should date Jan? They were both so damned perceptive.

"Christine, a statement of protest or explanation is customary, I believe."

She shrugged. "What do you want me to say? I fucked him? Okay, I did. That I still want to? Okay, I do. Am I going to? Probably not."

"Is this revenge?" He moved away from her slightly. "For all the years I would not have you?"

"No." But maybe it was. Just a little bit.

"Revenge on him, then? For not still being with you?"

"Who cares why I'm with you. I'm with you."

"No, Christine." He slid off the bed and walked toward the bathroom. "You are not with me, no matter how much sex we have." The bathroom door slid closed, and she could feel that damned blush starting.

For the first time, the walk of shame did feel shameful.


Jim walked beside her in the Teneveran Defense Ministry's long corridor. He seemed to be finding his way to her side a lot this mission. Didn't say a damn word, but ended up next to her.

She glanced over at him. He was in his "charm the natives" mode, but she could tell his jaw was set a bit tightly. She glanced back, saw that Spock was watching them. He looked neither happy nor unhappy at their proximity.

"Focus on the mission," she murmured.

Jim glanced at her. "Did you say something?"

"Nothing important." Her voice was casual for the benefit of the crew that did not know about her sleeping arrangements--past and current--but she knew her eyes were as hard as Jim's had suddenly became.

"Just so you know, Doctor. They'll expect us to drink heavily."

"I brought the antitox."

"Good." He moved closer. "If you see me being at all friendly to you, slip me some." It should have been a joke, but the way he didn't smile when he said it made it clear he was deeply serious.

"Yes. Couldn't have that."

Spock was suddenly between them. "There is a distant possibility that our hosts' hearing is as keen as my own. I suggest you hold this...conversation elsewhere." He dropped back again.

She could feel the blush beginning. Part embarrassment, part anger. Part contrition that she'd treat Spock this way.

"Ever logical." Jim moved away from her.

"Part of what captivated me."

"I'm sure that brings him great comfort as he listens to us behave like idiots."

A warning cough from Spock shut them up. Jim gave her a sheepish--if still angry--look before he turned his attention back to the business at hand.


Chapel's door chimed. She ignored it. It chimed again and she murmured, "Come," hoping the computer wouldn't hear her.

No such luck.

Jan walked in, Nyota in tow. They had a bottle of champagne and three glasses.

"Not in the mood, Jan."

Nyota smiled. It was not a pretty smile. "Oh, no, this is my idea. We're celebrating having the shittiest friend ever."

"Excuse me."

Nyota's smile turned evil. "You got to have him and you don't tell us about it? What the hell, Christine? What about our pact?"

"The pact was between you and Jan."

"You were there when we made it." Nyota gestured at the bottle. "Get that open, will you?"

Jan was already working on it.

Chapel grabbed it from her. "Oh, for God's sake. I always do this." She eased the cork out, the pop bringing back happy memories of all the times they'd celebrated the big moments--and the pretty much nothing ones--with champagne.

"Why doesn't she ever spill any?" Jan was frowning.

"Little secret," Chapel said. "And if it'll get me out of the 'shittiest friend ever' doghouse, I'm willing to share."

Jan and Nyota pretended to talk it over, then Jan nodded.

Chapel held up the bottle, showing them how she had her fingers firmly pressed into the cavity on the bottom. "Roger's little secret, actually. He said the bubbly goes to the warmest place. My hand is warmer than the ambient room temperature. Ergo..."

"You love to say that word." Nyota held the glasses out. "Fill 'em up and spill your guts, girl."

Chapel poured and then set the bottle aside. She took a glass from Nyota and drank about half of it. "It was phenomenal."

"See, I told you it would be." Jan looked very smug.

Nyota rolled her eyes. "I didn't disagree with you. We had a pact, not a bet."

Chapel refilled her glass while they were arguing. Jim was going to kill her if he found out she'd told these two much of anything about their time together.

"How did you end up with him?" Nyota sipped her champagne slowly, never one to get drunk when she wanted information.

"He and Lori weren't getting along."

"We hate her." Jan drained her glass and held it out for more; Christine obliged. "We hate her so very, very much."

"Yes, we do." Chapel clinked glasses with her.

"Well, he must have liked her at some point." Nyota shrugged. "What? I can't defend the man?"

"Not if you defend Ciani in the process." Jan scooted back so she was against Chapel's headboard. "So, they weren't getting along, and he saw you and you just, what? Decided to fall into bed?"

"We were at a party Nogura had thrown. Lori was all over this other admiral and Jim"--she saw both Jan and Nyota react to her calling him that--"the captain was mad."

"You can call him Jim. It's just..."

Nyota looked down. "It's just we don't."

"But you bumped groins so it's okay if you call him that." Jan held her glass out for more hooch, and Chapel wondered just how much this was hurting her, even if she'd said she was over him.

"We actually just talked that first night. I mean I left with him, but he didn't do anything to hurt her. He's not that way." She looked down. "I do think he loved her. But she kept hurting him, and he kept seeking me out, and one thing led to another."

"And it was good?" Nyota sighed. "I really wanted to be the first to get there."

"Yeah. He's great. Just like you two thought he would be."

"And Spock?" Jan took a deep breath. "How the hell does he feel about this?"

"Spock and I...we're just having sex, okay. It's really good sex, but that's all it is."

"So, you and the captain, that was more?" Nyota was watching her carefully.

"No, it was just sex, too."

"Well, Hikaru told me you two seemed to have some unresolved issues." Jan waggled her eyebrows and Nyota followed suit.

"And you're talking to Hikaru because...?"

"It's possible he and I are close." Jan grinned at her. "But don't think you're going to distract me with that question. Is there something between you two?"

"I don't know." Chapel could feel the champagne, the rush of the drink, the tickle of the bubbles. It was doing nothing for her mood. "I really wish I did know." She shook her head. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I wasn't sure how to."

"We'll forgive you eventually." Nyota refilled them all and then leaned in. "Did you two hear about that lieutenant who won't leave Chekov alone? Martin, I think her name is. She is completely obsessed with him." She winked at Chapel. "Makes your crush on Spock look like amateur night."

"It is Martin. I saw her following Pav around the rec lounge the other night. It was so damn creepy." Jan included Chapel in her grin, and Chapel found herself relaxing.

These two were good friends. Why the hell hadn't she told them?


Chapel sat by the biobed, working on reports while Jim muttered in a painkiller-fueled daze. She heard the door to sickbay open, then footsteps coming down to the private area they'd put Jim in.

Spock appeared in the doorway. "He is all right?"

She stood and patted her chair. "Come sit. I'll get another."

But he turned and as she sat back down, she heard him going into the main bay. He came back with another chair, put it next to hers and sat.

"I was worried."

"It was a nasty wound. He's in a lot of pain." She reached for Spock's hand. "You were right to worry."

He let her hold on, even squeezed back.

"You saved his life. Quick thinking, as ever." She smiled at him, and his eyes were soft as he looked at her, then back at Jim.

"You saved his life, too. Doctor McCoy said a technique you had learned in med school...?"

"Lucky I was paying attention that day."

"You generally do pay attention, Christine." He was clutching her hand tightly, and he sighed.

"He's going to be all right." She wasn't one hundred percent sure of that, but she thought Spock needed to think she was. And if Jim could hear her through the drugs, he needed to think that, too.

Spock let go of her hand, dropped his hand to sit on her knee. Nothing sexual about the move, just touching, just making contact.

"If I've hurt you, I'm sorry," she whispered.

"And I am sorry as well. For the past. For anything I did to you."

"It's in the past, all right?" When he nodded, she went back to her reports, and Spock sat watching Jim. The silence, for once, wasn't full of things that needed to be said or must not be said. It was easy. Comfortable. Broken only by the low moans and murmurs of the man she knew they both adored.


Chapel eased away from Spock, was about to get out of bed, but he pulled her back. "What?"

He kissed her. Softly. Sweetly. And tugged her back down to lie in his arms.

"Why?"

"Because you are exhausted. Because I do not want you to leave."

He was right; she was exhausted. Jim was finally out of sickbay. She'd watched over him more than she probably should have. Spock had been there much of that time. It had been a simple thing when Jim was finally released for she and Spock to find each other, to end up in bed again.

Simple until this moment. "You don't want me to leave?"

"I do not."

He kissed her forehead, shifted a bit, making it more comfortable for her to lie against him. "It is ironic, Christine. When we were first on the ship, one of the reasons I did not pursue you was that I could offer you nothing, not while I was betrothed. I thought it would do you no honor."

She could feel herself tensing in his arms. So could he, apparently. He kissed her softly again, his hand rubbing up and down her back.

"Yet you had an affair with Jim while he was married, did you not?"

"I did. He was sort of in the 'probably not going to renew' phase, though."

"But you are not with him. Why are you not with him?"

"It's a long story. And you were right about me being exhausted." She kissed him as tenderly as she could. "We shouldn't be doing this."

"On the contrary. This is quite enjoyable." His lips tilted up just a little.

"You know what I mean."

"Yes, I know what you mean." He murmured, "Lights off," and the room went dark. "Go to sleep, Christine."

"I do love you, Spock. That's never changed." She cuddled closer to him, enjoying the strange feel of just relaxing next to him. "Even if you are getting tired of me."

"I am not the one who is pulling away, Christine. But you are too close to see that."

"Can we talk about it later?"

"Yes."

She fell asleep to the strange feel of his arms wrapped around her.


"So you and Spock?" Nyota sidled up next to her in line in the mess. "You two are actually being seen together in the light of day."

"Yeah. I know. Weird, huh?" Chapel smiled at her friend, tried to show her she was as perplexed by the turn of events as Ny probably was.

"I thought you said he was getting tired of you?"

"I thought he was." Or maybe she'd just liked that idea better than that she wasn't sure who she wanted anymore, that she would treat him that way. "Those wacky Vulcans..."

Nyota laughed, but she had the look that Chapel feared, the one that said, "I will get to the bottom of this no matter how much you misdirect."

"He's been really sweet to me. Ever since Jim got hurt." She was grabbing food at random, finding it hard to talk about this.

Nyota put a hand on her arm. "That was scary for all of us. I imagine Spock felt it more than most, though." She smiled gently. "And you."

She nodded, then immediately felt guilty. She didn't have any bigger right to feel scared when Jim was hurt. She'd been his mistress; she was barely his friend now. If she left the ship, she doubted that he'd mourn.

Whereas this woman. He'd want Nyota on his crew. He'd ask for her. Chapel hadn't asked Jim if he wanted her to transfer off; she didn't want to hear the answer.

She also didn't want to leave Spock.

Or Jim.

Christ, this was screwed up.

"Lotta thinking going on in that head of yours, Christine." Nyota nudged her down the line. "That's your problem. You can't just live for the moment."

"I did live for the moment. That's how I got here." She knew her tone was mean, didn't want to snap at Ny, but living in the moment had gotten her Jim, and then the moment had ended and so had they.

The moment was very overrated.


Chapel tried not to make much eye contact with Jim, which wasn't difficult since she was focused on his readings--scanners were such handy devices. "You're all clear, Captain." She smiled without actually looking at him, the post-injury check-up completed.

"I'm sorry."

"For getting better?" She busied herself with settings that did nothing important on the scanner, but made her look intensely focused.

Then she felt him touch her arm. "For the way I handled things. When we were together."

"We were together? Really?" She turned to go, but he held her without much effort. Too damn strong for his own good.

"I should... Lori knew about you. She wanted me back, and she may have said some things about me screwing up every relationship I'd ever had because I couldn't keep my dick in my pants."

She turned to look at him. "Did she really believe that? Because that's not the version you gave me for why things didn't work with your various women. In fact, you came out smelling like a rose in the version you gave me."

"I told you what my friends who had to live through those relationships told me, but I'm not sure I believe that I wasn't to blame." He held up a hand when she started to say something. "I don't mean Lori was right, but perhaps the truth was slightly less rosy. No one is ever entirely to blame--or innocent."

She shrugged, held her hands up. What did he want her to do with this information?

"Look, Lori wanted me away from you, and she did the one thing that would guarantee I would stay away. She preyed on my own fears about how I probably fucked up every relationship I've ever been in. And then once she had me back, she didn't really want me after all."

"And we're back to me on this ship and you on Earth and better to just leave it alone."

"I was an idiot, Chris."

"Finally. Something we can agree on." She jerked away from him. "Why are you doing this now?"

He looked down. "Because I needed to tell you sometime."

"Or because Spock and I are looking too happy for your own good?"

"That's not fair."

She laughed, a terrible, bitter sound. "All's fair, lover."

"Is this love, then? Or war?"

"Once upon a time, I thought I knew. Now, I have no idea." She turned on her heel and left him alone.

The same way he'd left her.


Chapel was just leaving the lab when she saw Spock coming down the corridor toward her. She waited for him to catch up, smiled easily, the way it was becoming natural to do. "How was your chess game?"

"Strained." He walked with her to the lift. "As I'm sure you guessed it would be. You didn't tell me you and Jim had...a conversation today? Is that what you would deem it? A talk? Or would fight be more apt?"

"He told you we had a fight?"

"I had to elicit the information from him in small increments over the course of the evening."

She laughed. "You mean you got him drunk and probed?"

"He was not drunk. But he was more open to discussing you than is his norm."

She leaned up against him in the lift; he pressed back. It amazed her that he allowed these liberties. "Why do you want to discuss me with him? Doesn't that bother you?"

"He is my friend. I do not wish for there to be things we cannot discuss."

The lift opened, and she followed him off. "Maybe in this case, an embargo of that topic would not be a bad idea?"

"Being with you is far more complicated than I anticipated." He lifted an eyebrow at her as he palmed his door opened. "Doctor...?"

"Hmmm. Should I come in?"

His look was infinitely patient.

"Oh, all right. If you insist." She smiled as she walked past him, then yelped as he grabbed her and pushed her up against the wall. "Mmm, maybe you should discuss me with Jim more often."

He shut her up with a kiss, his hands moving over her with practiced ease. He knew what she liked. She let her hands roam--she knew what he liked, too. He pushed her toward the bed, was not gentle as he stripped off her uniform, then his own.

He took her fiercely, gave her no quarter. She'd come several times by the time he finally let himself go, murmuring her name as he thrust savagely.

"Wow," she said, once he collapsed onto her.

"Indeed." He rolled off and pulled her into his arms, and she cuddled next to him while she tried to catch her breath.

She kissed his chest, sighed as he rubbed her hair. She shifted so she could see his face, asked softly, "If you thought it best that I leave the ship, you'd tell me, right?"

"I do not think it best."

"But would you tell me if you did?"

He did not answer immediately, and he tightened his hold on her slightly. Finally, he said, "I am unsure."

She nodded.

"Do you think you should leave the ship?"

"Sometimes." She ran her hand down his stomach, smiled when he reacted to her touch. "But then we do this and..."

"Yes. Then we do this."

"This is nice."

"This is extraordinary."

She kissed him. "It's also, as you said, very complicated."

"And clearly not something we are going to resolve today." He let his hand slide down her body. "Or perhaps resolution is not the right word."

She arched her back and moaned as he touched her. Resolution was definitely not the right word.


She woke far too early, Spock's gently insistent prodding forcing her to open her eyes and take in the start of a new day. "What time is it?"

"It is time to get up."

"That is not an answer." She peered at the chrono. "We've got another hour."

"We do not. I told Jim we would meet him for breakfast."

"You mean that you would and that I could go back to sleep." She rolled over and closed her eyes.

"No, Christine. That we would."

She rolled back over. "Why would you do that?"

"Because last night it was apparent that Jim misses me. I miss him. I know you, too, miss him. And it has been clear for some time that he misses you." He looked at her like there was nothing more to say.

"So we're all going to eat together like happy little shipmates."

"Yes. We are." He walked into his bathroom, and she heard the shower start up.

She had enough of her things in his quarters to get ready without a trip to her own room. They were ready and out of his quarters in time to meet Jim in the corridor.

"Well." He looked as uncomfortable as she felt--and more than a little surprised when he saw her. "Here we are. Here we all are."

"Yep."

"Good morning, Jim." Spock walked off toward the lift.

"Isn't he little Mary Sunshine?" Jim practically glared at her.

"This is not my idea."

"Oh, I'm well aware of that, Chris." He stalked off toward the lift.

With a sigh, she followed him.

Once they got to the mess, she noticed neither she nor Jim got much to eat, while Spock seemed content to load his tray. She almost expected a lecture on breakfast being the most important meal of the day.

Especially when you spent it with your current lover and your former.

She chose the table, one in the back of the mess. She sat, and Spock sat next to her. Jim seemed frozen for a moment.

"The fate of the quadrant does not hang on your seating selection, Jim," Spock said gently.

For a second, she thought Jim might turn around and leave. Then he took a deep breath and sat down next to Spock.

"Safe choice," she muttered, and felt Spock's leg press against hers, clearly in warning.

"So," Jim said with a forced smile, "here we are."

"You said that already." She suddenly wished she'd gotten more food, so she could pretend to be very busy eating rather than feeling like she should say something. Spock was happily chewing as if his responsibility for the breakfast convo was nill. She took a deep breath and met Jim's eyes.

He looked as out of sorts as she did, so she said, "Next time, we pig out, okay?"

He was on her wavelength, and he nodded fiercely and said, "So much food that we never have to say a word. Like our Vulcan friend here."

Spock nodded and kept eating.

She laughed, a short outburst of air, but it made Jim grin. She laughed louder, something closer to real amusement, and his grin grew.

"So what the hell are we supposed to talk about?" Jim asked, reaching for salt and pepper for his eggs.

"I would suggest your previous relationship may not be the best topic," Spock said.

"He is so helpful sometimes," she said as she kicked him under the table.

He was unfazed. "It is startling how perfectly timed you are. Your kicks landed as one." He went back to eating, then got up. "I forgot water. Do you need any?"

"Nope."

"I'm good," she said.

As soon as he was gone, Jim leaned forward. "What the hell, Chris?"

"This wasn't my idea. Spock wanted this."

"Why?"

"How the hell should I know? Because you were mopey over chess, maybe?"

"I was not mopey. Maybe you were mopey during sex."

"I was not. It's not possible to be mopey during sex with Spock."

"Well, how wonderful for you, Doctor."

Spock came back, sat down, and said, "I suggested this was a bad topic."

"We're not talking about our relationship, Spock. We're talking about yours."

"Ah. Another potential conversational minefield. I will remember that." He went back to eating.

Kirk turned to him. "Why are you doing this?"

"Because the two of you are avoiding each other rather than facing the root of your problems."

"The problem is he's an ass."

"No, the problem is that while he may have acted like an ass, you still want him. And he still wants you." Spock took a deep breath. "I told you, Christine, that I would not fight him for you. I also have no intention of walking away. I will leave it up to you two to figure out how to work out your issues within those parameters."

They both stared at him.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Jim finally asked.

"Whatever you take it to mean." Spock looked at the uneaten piece of pineapple on her plate and raised an eyebrow.

"Help yourself. I've lost my appetite." She stood up. "I've got to get to sickbay." She grabbed her tray, glanced at Spock, then at Kirk. "You two can figure this out."

"No, Christine. We cannot. You are an integral part of this dilemma." Spock's eyes were harder than she expected, his jaw tight.

"Get to work, Chris." Jim's order was gentle; he was rescuing her from...himself? Spock's bizarre relationship counseling?

She wished she knew what had just happened.


Chapel was finishing up with a patient when Jim walked in with Len.

"Chris."

"Jim."

Len's eyebrow went way, way up when she used Jim's first name. She'd never told him about the affair with Jim. She didn't want him to know--just one more thing he could lecture her on, one more hopeless romance to make fun of.

"I need to talk to Chris, Bones. I'll see you at dinner?"

"Okay." Len sounded entirely confused.

Jim nodded toward her office. "Private's better."

Len moved toward him. "Jim, if this is a consult, I promise not to lecture."

"Not the type of consult you can help me with," Jim said, winking.

Len's mouth didn't fall open, but it was close.

"Sorry. I couldn't resist," Jim said as her office doors closed behind them. "You didn't tell him, huh?"

"You didn't tell him, either."

"Nope, I sure didn't." He sat down, stared at her. "So what the hell was breakfast all about?"

"I honestly don't know. The first I'd heard about breakfast was when he woke me up early to get ready for it. He said you knew I was coming."

"He lied."

"Vulcans can't do that."

Jim just gave her a look that said she was smarter than to listen to stupid wives tales.

"Okay, so they can do that. Filing that fact away for future reference." She leaned back in her chair and sighed. "I don't know what he wants from us."

"I don't either. He was pretty specific about his parameters. No fighting me for you on his part. No leaving you, either."

"So, well just be friends?"

He looked down. "Chris, I can't just be friends with you. Why do you think Lori didn't want me anywhere around you? That wasn't just a fling. I fell for you."

"You did?"

"I did. She knew it. She used every trick in the book to get me back, probably because she hated to lose, not because she really wanted me back."

"You should have told me that."

"I should have told you I loved you? When? When I was walking out the door?" He rubbed his eyes. "It didn't seem like the best timing."

"Did you tell Spock you love me last night?"

"He bought me a lot of drinks. I was in a weep-in-my-beer mood. Figuratively, I mean. I don't weep in the rec lounge and especially not into good beer."

She laughed.

"I've missed that laugh." His smile was the sweet one she loved.

"I've missed laughing that laugh."

They shared a sappy "all the things I miss" smile for a moment, and then he said, "It was more like he wormed what happened out of me. You know how sneaky he is."

"Oh, yes. Exhibit for the court: breakfast."

He laughed. "He does like to make the big unilateral move. Stealing Pike. Melding with V'ger. Pushing all of us--"

"What?"

"He wouldn't mean..."

"What?"

"He wants us to work out our issues. Without him fighting me. And without him leaving. What does that make you think of?"

She stared at him blankly.

"You. Me. Him."

"A group? Uh, Jim, the Deltan left the ship with Decker."

"What if he--I mean it's eminently logical, from his standpoint. He's going to lose one of us if we go on this way. What if he could keep us both? He is pretty fond of me." Jim made a sort of wink, wink, nudge, nudge gesture.

"And you're that kind of fond of him?"

"I won't say the thought hasn't crossed my mind a time or two." He started to laugh. "Spock does like to think out of the box."

"Jim, the box is in not even in the room at this point. It may not be in the same quadrant."

He just sat and chuckled.

"Stop that. Humans don't do well in threes."

"Well, we're only two and a half humans." He grinned, clearly delighted in an evil sort of way by what might indeed be Spock's Master Plan.

"Someone is going to get jealous when they're left out."

"And it might be you, little lady." Jim waggled his eyebrows at her.

She couldn't help but crack up. "Stop it right now. I'm going to be thinking about this now. A lot. A whole lot."

"Oh, yeah. Me too. I'm not going to let on to Spock, though, that I'm hip to his plan for Kirk and Chapel domination."

She smiled.

"Feel him out. See if we're completely off base."

"You mean see if you're completely off base. You don't want us to be off base, do you?"

"I want you back. But I don't want to take you from him. And I don't think you want to leave him. So..."

"What if you are off base?"

"Then we regroup and figure out how to resolve our issues without lots of really good sex. He is good, right?"

"Oh, he's fantastic."

"Better than I am?"

She thought about it. "Different."

"That's a damn cop-out."

"That's all you're getting."

He stood up, walked over to her. "Just in case we're desperately grabbing at straws, let's have that goodbye kiss we never got." He pulled her out of the chair, into his arms, and kissed her, the way she remembered, hands holding tightly, groin pushed into hers, Kirk Junior happy as hell to see her, his lips--oh, God, his lips.

She probably should tell him to stop.

She didn't, not for a while anyway.


As soon as she and Spock were in for the night in his quarters, she pushed him into his chair and straddled him. "We're going to talk."

"This is an interesting method of talking."

"I want to see your face." She wiggled a little. "I want to feel other things."

"Other things are, as ever, pleased that you want to feel them."

She laughed and kissed him. "My others things are equally glad to feel you."

"Yes?" He began to roam under the waistband of her uniform pants, and she slapped him away gently. He raised an eyebrow. "I cannot touch?"

"You'll distract me. I don't want to be distracted."

"Ah." He sat back, watched her with rapt attention, as if at a very important lecture or meeting.

"Stop that." She kissed him again and laughed as he pulled her closer, as he ran his hands up and down her back. "Mmmmm."

"Well stated."

"So, about breakfast."

"Not as uncomfortable as you perhaps feared?"

"Not where I was going with my opener."

His lips lifted slightly. "My apologies for interrupting your monologue."

She laughed again. She loved his humor. Even if most people thought Vulcan's had none. "How creative did you expect us to be?"

"By us, you mean you and Jim?"

Well, that was the million-credit question, now, wasn't it? "Yes. In resolving our issue?"

"As creative as you need to be. I take it he came to see you after breakfast?"

"You followed him?"

"I did not have to. I know him." Spock was paying attention, but his hands were busy elsewhere, unhooking things, pulling off articles of clothing.

"I did not intend to have this talk naked."

"No? A pity, then, because you soon shall be." His eyes almost twinkled. "Ask me what you want to ask me, Christine."

She leaned in, kissed him slowly and very thoroughly. "I'm not ready to ask you that yet."

He met her eyes, his untroubled. "I appreciate that." He eased her up, looked down at his lap. "Some assistance?"

She undid his uniform pants, pulled them and his underwear down enough so she could mount him, sighing as she slid down, as he filled her. "I do love you. I'm sorry if I treated you coldly when we first started." It had been easier to think that Spock was tiring of her, not so nice to think she was doing to him some of what Jim had done to her. It wasn't fun to feel like a thing, a toy for sex but for nothing else.

"It is forgiven," he said, and he pulled her down for a long kiss, as she rode him to completion.


Another landing party, and Jim wanted both she and Spock on it. Len didn't care; he had patients he didn't want to leave, especially for something that would no doubt be routine and boring.

She'd avoided Jim for days, hadn't wanted to tell him she wasn't ready to ask Spock what he meant, and Spock wasn't pushing it.

She gave Jim a tight smile as they boarded the transporter pad.

"Doctor," he said with a gentle smile. "Commander."

"Sir." Spock stood in the back near her, waiting patiently for beam down. He met her eyes, lips turning up enough for it to mean any number of things.

The last two members of the party joined them and Jim gave the order for transport.

The planet was breathtakingly beautiful. Reminded Chapel of Kauai, a place she'd rented once during a break from med school. She glanced at Jim. "You didn't need a doctor here, did you?"

"We might get sunburned." He winked at her, then looked at Spock. "Back me up, my friend."

"Indeed."

"You use that word for everything," she said, but she smiled. Who could not smile when there were flowers blooming and filling the air with their scent, when the wind was rushing over the surf, blowing the scent even more.

Just to be safe, she scanned the flowers. They did not need a repeat of Omicron Ceti III, especially not with all three of them handily down on the planet together.

The flowers were fine; they just smelled pretty.

She followed Jim and Spock, enjoying the feel of real air and non-artificial sunlight. This was good for her, good for all of them.

She halfway paid attention to the discussions, it really was nothing that needed her input, so she thought about other things until it was time for lunch. They ate on the terrace, had a view of the ocean, and she was effusive to their hosts about the loveliness of their planet.

"Perhaps, the Doctor would like to see our medical facilities?" one of their hosts--she was having difficulty keeping them straight, they didn't look alike but their names all sounded similar--asked. "I must confess that this topic is not that interesting to me."

"I'd love to see your facilities." She followed the woman, who seemed to be taking the long way to get to the building she'd indicated was the hospital.

The woman grinned at her. "Our facilities are no different than yours, Doctor Chapel. Mention the purple gel and they will think we went there."

She hurried ahead, and Chapel laughed when she saw the beach come into view. "Really?"

"Oh, yes. How long has it been since you waded in an ocean?"

"Too long." She unzipped her boots and slipped her socks into them, then stepped into the sand. "How did you know?"

"I saw you eying the water with such longing. I could not stand by and not attempt to help." She winked. "The healer instinct."

They waded for a while, then sat in the sand and talked about things medical--Chapel didn't want this to be a complete boondoggle--until it was time to go back.

Jim eyed her pant legs, which were still a bit damp, with a grin. "I trust you had an interesting time?"

"The medical facilities were intensely interesting. The purple gel especially."

One of the delegation nodded and claimed credit for it.

As they walked out to the beam-out point, Spock murmured, "You have sand on your uniform."

"I know. Isn't it great?" She laughed softly.

Jim slowed down so he was walking with them, letting the other two get ahead. "So you like the beach?"

"I do."

Jim glanced past her, over to Spock. "Make a note of that."

She looked at Spock, who seemed to be considering his response. He met her eyes, then touched her hand gently, almost as if he was reassuring himself that she was really there. Then he turned back to Jim and said, "You will remember for both of us."

"Will I?" There was a hint of dare in Jim's voice. Also some nervousness--a lot of nervousness, actually.

"Yes, Jim. You will. Perhaps you could choose the next shore leave point accordingly?"

"We're really doing this?" She glanced at them. "Oh, did I say that out loud?"

"'Fraid so." Jim smiled, but it was a weird smile. "I guess we are." He looked over at Spock. "This is sort of that speak now or forever hold your peace part."

"We are not getting married, Jim." Spock nodded, as if everything was falling into place. "This should be fascinating."

"He's a true romantic," she said with a grin.

"He's a damn idiot. I'm not sure I'd share you." Jim stopped walking. "Spock, are you sure about this?"

"If it does not appeal to us, then we will go back to how things are." Spock's lips were definitely turning up on one side; she'd never seen Spock smirk before. "I with Christine, you without. So, I would suggest you make sure I do not feel like a damn idiot, as you say, when this is over."

She laughed softly and a moment later Jim did, too. Spock walked on, catching up with the others.

"We're really doing this," Jim said to her, and he looked happy and terrified all at once.

"Unless we chicken out."

"Right. Unless we chicken out."

She wasn't sure if that was a comforting idea for him or not.


She and Spock had just walked into his quarters when his chime rang.

"That will be Jim," Spock said, then he told the computer, "Come."

It was, indeed, Jim.

"Spock, listen. I sort of forced your hand today and that wasn't right."

She thought that by Spock's expression he rather thought he'd forced Jim's, but decided not to say anything. She wasn't exactly an uninterested party here.

Spock turned to her, pulled her close, and kissed her quickly but very thoroughly, his hands roaming down her back and back up. Then he looked over at Jim. "How did that make you feel?"

"Angry." And he did look angry. His hands were clenched, his eyes turning flat and dead the way they did when he was not amused.

Kirk junior, however, looked anything but angry.

Spock was staring at Jim's groin. "Only angry?"

"Spock, don't." She tried to pull away, but he pulled her in front of him, had her facing Jim as he kissed her neck and ran his hands over her breasts.

Jim's eyes followed his hands. He swallowed hard. When she moaned as Spock sucked at her earlobe, Jim closed his eyes.

"This is your choice, Christine," Spock said softly. "Do we wait until shore leave or do we do this now?"

She didn't answer right away, studied Jim, saw how helpless he looked as he watched Spock's hands roaming across her body, how much desire was in his eyes as he looked at her. "What should I do, Jim?"

She could tell he wanted to take the few steps that would bring him to her, but he took a step back.

"I'm not ready for this." He turned on his heel and left.

She felt Spock's lips on her neck again and pulled away. "Why did you do that?"

"He needs to understand what this is. You are mine and I am willing to let you be ours, but he needs to see that I am part of this--that this is complicated."

"It is complicated." She turned, met his eyes. "But I am not yours."

"I am aware of that. It is merely a figure of speech. Sexually speaking." He tilted her chin up. "You belong to yourself, and I know this. If you wish to leave me now and go to him, he would welcome that, I think."

She looked down.

"You want both of us, is that not true?"

She nodded, couldn't meet his eyes.

He tilted her chin up again. "You came on this ship wanting both of us. For you, this is not a new thing. And I do not blame you for wanting us both. Having us both, however, may be a more difficult venture." He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. "Can you be happy if it is just you and I?"

"Yes."

"You answered too fast." He kissed her, easing any need to try to answer better. He had her naked and in bed quickly, made love to her with a great deal of tenderness.

When they finally lay still, wrapped in each other's arms, she said, "You think I'm going to leave you."

"I think it is a distinct possibility."

"You're wrong."

"Go to sleep. Time will tell how this will play out."


Chapel saw Jim several times over the next few days, but he just nodded tersely and walked away with great purpose--too much purpose given that they were transiting a very boring sector of space between missions. She considered going after him, but decided to leave well enough alone.

He showed up at her door eventually, waving Len off and palming her door shut.

"I'm sorry, Jim." She found it hard to meet his eyes.

"Yeah, me, too. On the one hand, I'm kicking myself for running out. On the other..." He sighed and shrugged.

"I know. It wasn't fair, what he did."

"Actually, it was. I'm not mad at him."

"Are you mad at me?"

"I'm not mad at anyone." He sat down, rubbed at his eyes. "It's just, that's what we're talking. You and me and him, and it's not just on a beautiful planet somewhere on shore leave, but it's here, on my ship. I don't date my crew and now I'm contemplating dating two of you?"

She bit back a smile.

He shook his head and laughed softly. "I know, I know. It is funny, damn it. Also, not funny."

"Do you want me to transfer off?"

His head shot up. "No." Then he took a deep breath. "I don't know. Would that be fair? Ask you to do that? Deprive Spock of you just because I can't make up my goddamned mind?" He smiled at her. "I just don't like my options. I can have you if I share you with him. I can have you if I can pry you away from him, but then I lose him. Or you can leave, and neither of us will have you, and I don't want that."

"You left out option four." At his look, she said gently, "You can leave well enough alone and let him have me."

"Yeah, I did leave that one out, didn't I?" He seemed to be thinking, so she waited. "Why did I leave that one out? Why can't I leave well enough alone? I had my chance with you, Chris. I had it and I blew it."

"You did, Jim."

"So is that it? Is that the option you want?"

It would be the best thing for all of them if she could just say yes, and she knew it. She wanted to do the right thing. Put them out of their misery.

She should do it.

"I want both of you," came out of her mouth instead.

"Really? Both of us?"

"Yes, but I realize that may not be what I get. I will tell you that if you try to take me away from him, if you put your friendship with him at risk, I'll leave the ship."

"But he might leave then, too."

She nodded. "I'm not sure anymore what he'd do."

"Can we just slingshot around the sun so I can choose to not go back to Lori?"

She laughed softly. "That would be nice."

"Spock would probably catch on. I'd have to get him to do the computations."

"Yeah, he would." She grinned at him, then held out her hand.

He took it, squeezed it hard. "I hated seeing him touching you."

She waited.

"And I was so damned turned on. It's just..." He let go of her hand. "It's just not the most practical solution, you know?"

"I know. I haven't really thought things through." Not that lacking a plan would stop her if he said yes.

"I'm going to go." He stood up, smiled down at her. "I do love you, you know."

"I know."

He left and a moment later Len was at her door.

"All right, that's it. What is going on around here? I have a couple of tricky patients that take me offline and suddenly you're Jim's private physician?" He studied her, no doubt missing nothing. "And that's the more charitable of my guesses."

"It's complicated." She gave him the face that meant he was not going to get more than that.

"Isn't it always?" he said as he turned and stalked off. She could still hear him as he went into his office, knew he was talking loud for her benefit. "Isn't it goddamned always?"


Nyota found her in the rec lounge, separated her from the rest, and motioned for Jan to come join them.

Chapel felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. No more secrets had turned into even bigger secrets.

She saw Jim look over, and while his expression didn't change, she caught a flash of warning in his eyes.

Like she was going to tell anyone about what was going on? Especially when it wasn't anything more than a possible outcome of several possible outcomes.

Jan smiled tightly at Chapel as she walked up with fresh drinks for her and Nyota--but not for Chapel. "So, your open and honest policy didn't last very long, did it?"

"What do you mean?" She kept her voice even, made eye contact, but not aggressively so.

"You've pulled away again," Nyota said. "You're never around."

"It's new with Spock. You know how that goes."

"Is that all it is?" Jan sipped at her drink, looking like she thought Chapel's devotion to Spock a bit dubious.

"I waited how long for this? So, okay, I'm enjoying it. And maybe I'm neglecting you two. I'd apologize if this didn't sound like we're teenagers again." Chapel let herself work up a good dose of anger; it's what someone who wasn't trying to hide something would do. "What do you want me to tell you? My favorite positions with him? What we do when we're not screwing?"

Jan held up her hand. "Whoa, Christine. We didn't mean anything by it. We just miss you."

"Funny way of showing it." She stalked off, feeling guiltier than she had in a long time.

As she passed Jim, he put out a hand, slowed her. "You all right?"

"I'll be lucky to have any damn friends at all when we finally figure out what the hell we're doing." She pulled away from him and went back to her quarters.

For a few hours, she busied herself with her comms. Personal stuff she was behind on, general work announcements she hadn't had time to read.

One in particular. Torrential rain on Almadar, medical emergencies all over the planet. Doctors needed on short-term assignment basis. Excellent experience in emergency medicine, which was her specialty.

And a chance to get the hell away from the mess they were making. Only a month away, but time to see what she really wanted. Time to give Spock and Jim a chance to see if they really needed her coming between them.

She filled out the forms and routed them through Len. With a note that said, "This will make things less complicated." Two hours later, he'd approved it with a note that said, "I doubt that, but everyone deserves a break--if you can call this that."

She walked down the corridor to Spock's quarters; he never slept much unless he was with her, and even then she knew he had a padd or two stashed near his bed to work on while she slept.

"Come," she heard through the speaker, and the doors opened.

She walked in, saw Spock look up and hold his hand out to her. She walked over, took his hand, let him pull her down into his lap, kiss her softly.

"I presume you wish to talk about this?" He motioned to his terminal, where her request--minus the personal notes--sat with Len's approval.

"Do you have to chop off on that?"

"No, McCoy's approval is all you need." He pushed her hair back, studied her. "Why?"

"Things are getting strange. And I'm lying to my friends. And you and Jim, you're friends or you used to be, and well, maybe I'm just a distraction, and maybe once I'm gone, you two will be okay without me?"

"I do not consider love a distraction."

"You love me?"

"I do." He kissed her again, then pulled away. "That answer is a surprise?"

"It just makes it harder." She hugged him tightly. "I'm leaving in two days."

He was already taking off her uniform. "Then we should make the most of that time."


Jim found her on the way to sickbay the next day. "I have to hear about this through an interoffice memo?"

She resisted telling him she'd had less to go on when he went back to Lori.

He followed her into sickbay, didn't bother to wait till they were in her office to say, "What the hell, Chris?"

Len glanced at the nurses and then walked over quickly. "Do you two mind?"

"This is why I'm leaving."

"And she's not leaving for good," Len said. "It's only a month."

She loved how Len could jump into any argument, prior knowledge or no.

"Bones, stay out of it."

"Well, that's not too damn difficult since you've kept me out of it." He pushed them both into her office. "You settle it in here, then." He palmed the door shut.

Jim barely waited for the door to shut before he rounded on her. "What are you doing? Does Spock agree with this?"

"I didn't ask his permission." She sat down behind her desk, needing to put something between them. "Welcome to how I felt, Jim."

"I've said I'm sorry."

"And I know you are. But it still hurts. And this hurts, too. I'm lying to my friends--or at least avoiding them so I don't have to lie to them. I'm tearing you and Spock apart. Don't you think it's a good idea for me to get the hell off the ship for a while? You can figure out what you want, without me here."

"You're just running. You do that." He moved around so he was standing right in front of her, forcing her to look up at him. "You did that when you ran to Spock instead of me."

"Running to you wasn't an option."

"Why the hell not?"

She could feel tears threatening. Part anger, part hurt. "Because you left me. The same way Spock left you for Gol, you left me for that bitch who wasn't good for you and who you said you were leaving."

"Chris." He pulled her up, held her close. "Chris, I'm sorry. I've told you that. I'd do it differently if I could."

She clutched at him. "No, you wouldn't. We always think we will, but we don't. We just make the same mistakes over and over."

He kissed her and she kissed him back for a moment, then pulled away.

"Stop it. That's not helping. I'm going to do this. I'll be gone for a month. We'll talk after."

He nodded tightly and left.

A few minutes later, Len came in. "Hon', I'm not sure what the hell is going on, but I have a feeling that complicated does not begin to cover it."

"It's a mess. Everything's a mess." She smiled up at him. "Thank you for letting me go."

"They need you. I'd go myself but one of us has to stay here and keep an eye on your two yahoos."

She laughed bitterly at how close he was to the truth without even knowing it.


The crisis on Almadar was all consuming. She worked back-to-back shifts and slept once she was exhausted enough not to lie awake thinking. She missed Spock. She missed Jim, too. But she was doing good work and it took up her mind and heart and body.

She made friends, doctors and nurses, and officers from Emergency Operations. They were wild, those Ops people. Living from one crisis to the next and enjoying the hell out of it. A few times she drank herself into a nice dreamless sleep, soaking up Ops lore like it was a medical lesson.

Spock didn't contact her; she'd asked him not to. Jim didn't either; she hadn't bothered to tell him not to, figured he wouldn't after the way they'd left things.

But when the month was up, when she'd heard from the ship and had packed her stuff, she saw Jim leaning up against one of the temporary buildings, waiting for her to come out of the dorm. He took her carryall, gave her a grin, and said, "Come on, let's go home."

She looked around and he laughed.

"You think he'd let me come alone? He's over talking to one of the Vulcan doctors." Jim grinned again. "God, it's good to see you."

"Is it?"

"Isn't it good to see me?" His grin went up a notch on the sunny scale. "And just in time for shore leave, too. A planet that happens to have beaches--however did I pick that?"

"So, I guess you've made up your minds?" She tried to read his expression.

"You left us alone to do that, remember? You said you wanted us both. Then you fled. I wasn't in favor of the move when you did it, but it was smart. Gave us time to think. Gave us time to miss you." He moved closer. "Spock missed the hell out of you, by the way. Never think he doesn't love you."

"Me coming back will complicate things."

"Oh, hell yeah. I have no idea if we can make this work or not. But Spock and I had plenty of time to reconnect as friends; you were right, this was tearing us apart."

She saw Spock ahead; he turned, said something to the Vulcan, and then walked toward them, his eyes crinkled ever so slightly, his lips turned up just a tad.

"See what I mean. Happy to see you."

Spock stood very close when he got to them, seemed to be drinking in the sight of her. "Christine, it is good to see you."

"Ever the master of understatement. Come on you two." Jim laughed softly as he led them to the beam-out point.

A new team of doctors was coming in as they waited their turn. She felt Spock bump against her on one side, felt Jim press his arm against hers for a moment.

"I missed you both," she said, and it was true, even if she'd not dwelled on it. Having them both beside her, she felt her heart beat faster, her palms get a little moist. They made her nervous, made her feel alive. Far more than any crisis. "When is shore leave?"

"We are on our way there now," Spock said, and the look he gave her fairly burned with desire. Then he glanced over at Jim, a look of shared understanding passing between them.

"Wait a minute." She laughed softly. "Did you two do something...?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Jim laughed at her glare.

"It would have been highly illogical to go into this arrangement without ensuring that the sexual compatibility was mutual." Spock's look dared her to refute the logic.

"I was up to my ass in mud, helping people, and you two were exploring your sexual compatibility?"

"Pretty much, yep." Jim urged her forward. "We were both quite satisfied with the arrangement. However, we anticipate our satisfaction will go up considerably when you are added to the mix."

"Indeed."

"I left so you could play chess, not hide the salami." She glared at them as they transported and held the glare all the way to the lift.

Until Jim said, "Hold lift," and Spock pulled her into his arms and kissed her. She felt Jim behind her and she turned so she could kiss him.

"Welcome back, Doctor," Jim said, then he pulled away, gave Spock some time to get a few more kisses in, and then told the lift to resume.

She leaned against the back wall and smiled like a fool. "Are we to the planet yet?"


The planet was as pretty as she could ask for. Jim had booked her and Spock into one cabin on the beach and he had the adjoining one, which had a convenient door to open the entire area up for a family--or less conventional groupings.

She expected that they wouldn't leave the cabin, but Jim surprised her, changing into swimming trunks and telling them both to do the same.

"I see a downside to being involved with the captain," she muttered to Spock as she slipped into her bathing suit.

"We will have to set boundaries," he said, but he did not seem unduly concerned, displayed more uncertainty about donning swim trunks. "Jim ordered me to bring these."

The captain in question was standing on the deck, one leg up on the railing as he applied sunscreen. She couldn't help but admire him, which she thought was exactly the point.

"I know Spock doesn't burn, Chris, but you do. Here"--he tossed Spock the bottle--"put this on her."

He leaned against the railing, watched Spock fix her up with a smile on his face, then he said, "Could one of you do my back?"

Spock handed her the bottle, and she took her time with Jim, heard him sigh happily as she rubbed hard into muscles, an impromptu massage along with the sun protection. When she finished, he grabbed a towel and headed for the beach.

She enjoyed the view of him walking in front of them, glanced at Spock and thought he was enjoying the view, too. She took his hand, and Spock looked over at her, squeezing gently.

"I love you, Spock. Him being here doesn't change that."

"I know. For me as well."

Jim looked back at them. "Would you two hurry up? This sun won't be up all day."

He bounded into the surf and she looked at Spock, who took her towel and indicated she should join Jim. Spock laid out their towels, obviously well versed in the human post-swim ritual. She walked into the ocean.

Jim splashed her, then swam away. She chased him, tried to dunk him but he got away, and then she swam away when he tried to dunk her. A while later, he was happily floating on his back, and she swam back to shore and joined Spock on the towels.

"This isn't what I expected. It's..."

"Normal?" Spock watched Jim, a fondness coming through in the way his face softened. "He wants that. Craves it even."

She nodded. "It's why he took the desk job, why he married Lori. He told me that when we--"

"You can talk about it to me. You need to talk about it to me. You are still very angry at him. He told me that."

"I am. He just left me."

"He feels great regret that he did that."

"I know." She rolled to her side, reached out and touched his hand. "I was his first step on the way back to not normal, to being a captain again. Lori was hurting him and I was in reach."

"He loves you."

"He didn't at first. It was just sex."

"So were we." Spock looked amused.

"Good point." She rolled to her back. "So you two...did it while I was gone?"

"Yes. It was most pleasurable."

"You hadn't ever before?"

"You thought we had?"

She laughed. "The whole ship thought you had."

"Interesting. Then the new rumors will be no different than the old."

She coughed pointedly.

"Aside from the addition of a third party, of course."

"Aside from that." She smiled and closed her eyes. "This is nice."

Jim finally came up to where they were and fell on the towel on her other side. "Damn, the water's great."

"It is nice."

"I will take your words for it." Spock rolled over on his stomach, face turned to her, eyes closed, a slight smile playing on his lips.

She looked over at Jim who was watching her with an unguarded look. So much affection. So much desire.

"I'm glad we're here," he said, as he ran his hand lightly up her arm, making her shiver. "And I mean we three."

"Me, too."

He moved so he was leaning over her, kissed her, getting her wet again, but she didn't mind. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him back, knowing Spock was watching them, knowing this was all right.

Or hoping it was at any rate. But Spock didn't say anything, so she decided he was fine with it.

Jim let her go. "He's a few kisses ahead of me, so I think it's all right if I sneak a few."

"It is not sneaking if I am lying right here, Jim. Nor am I ahead of you if you had a relationship with her prior to mine."

"Note to self," Jim said as he moved back to his own towel. "Do not argue with Vulcans."

"Or that Vulcan anyway."

"Right. Or that Vulcan." He smiled at Spock. "Our Vulcan."

Spock sighed, and it was a contented sound. Chapel closed her eyes and let the sun and the sea air relax her. And Jim fell asleep, his soft snores making her smile.


Jim had them eat a big lunch. "We're not going to want to be overfull later."

She grinned, Spock nodded sagely, and Jim wolfed down food as if he wasn't going to get another meal for a while.

After lunch, Spock retired to read, and she and Jim swam more.

Jim floated in to shore, stood thigh deep in the water, and watched her as she dove to the bottom. Then he held his hand out. "Come walk with me."

She swam to him and they walked for a long time, not saying much, stopping to look for beach glass and shells and other treasures.

She took him a piece of red beach glass and he didn't look at it, just stared at her. "What?"

"I need to know that we're okay before we do anything more. That what happened, how we ended, is in the past."

"You don't want me throwing it in your face anymore?"

"No. I'm sincerely sorry, but I can't change it, as you said. I want us to start fresh."

"If it had just been sex, just been a little fling, I wouldn't have cared." She moved closer to him. "But I fell in love with you."

"If it had just been a little fling, I could have said goodbye." He pulled her to him, kissed her for a long time. It wasn't a passionate kiss. More sweet than heady. A kiss of forgiveness, of apology, of starting over.

Then he pulled away. "Spock's waiting for us."

"Yes, he is."

"You ready?"

"I've never done this. Not even in my wild college days."

He laughed. "I may have. But it was just sex. This isn't." He put his arm around her as they walked back to the cabin. "And that makes this so much more complicated. This is a relationship."

"We'll figure it out as we go, I guess?"

He started to laugh. "Spock's found us three religions we could join that allow multiple partner relationships and are sanctioned by Star Fleet."

"Isn't that a little disingenuous?"

"That's what I said." He laughed again. "Spock said one of them appeared to be set up solely to give 'respectability' to fringe groups."

"We're a fringe group now?"

"I feel a little fringe like. I don't look forward to telling Bones about our arrangement, do you?"

"He'll probably want to join in." She started to laugh. "And then Ny and Jan will, too."

"If we recruit, we could probably put together a decent softball team."

She chuckled. "Let's not recruit."

"Pooping on the party already. I can see how this is going to go." He pointed down the beach, to their cabin and the man standing on the porch. "There he is. Looks a little antsy to me."

"To me, too, actually."

"I think he wants his woman."

"It's possible he wants his man."

"Would not surprise me." Jim grinned. "I am good in bed."

She slapped him lightly on the chest, then said, "Race you to Spock," and took off running.

She almost beat him.


It was the awkward moment she thought Jim had been trying to get them to slowly all day. The moment where they stood, in the biggest of the bedrooms, clustered together the way they would at a party or a beam-out site. No one making the first move.

"Oh, for God's sake. We've all seen each other naked." She slipped off her swimming suit and they both watched her.

When neither made a move to do the same, she undressed Spock, then did the same for Jim.

"I love a take-charge woman, Spock."

"Indeed. Most useful."

"I'll show you useful." She pulled Spock down to her, kissed him hard, felt him pull Jim in, and then they were moving, three bodies as one toward the bed.

Until they ran into the nightstand instead.

Jim started to laugh and pushed her down onto the bed, then followed her while Spock walked around the bed and lay down on her other side. "This does not need to be so damned serious."

Spock nuzzled her neck as Jim kissed his way to parts further south. She arched her back, moaned as they took her slowly--tortuously slowly--to heaven.

Jim eased away, watched her face as Spock moved above her, into her. Jim smiled and kissed her, then pulled Spock down to kiss him, too.

She'd thought it might be strange, to watch them together, but it was nice, it felt good that they were all enjoying, all touching. She slid her hand down Jim's body, stopped when she found Kirk Junior, heard Jim groan and smiled. She had to let go as Spock sped up his pace, found herself coming again, Spock letting out a cry as he followed her.

She lost track after that of who was doing what to whom. Sometimes she watched, sometimes she was a participant, it didn't matter. Spock had stocked the nightstand drawer while they'd been walking, anything they needed was just an arm's length away.

And they used it all.

More than once.

As they collapsed around each other after a particularly inventive round, Chapel said, "So, this trial run you had--just how many times did you run the trial? Because you two look mighty comfortable with each other."

"As you know, Christine, some activities can be enjoyable in the short term but not the long." Spock's tone was the one he usually reserved for boring lectures--or whoppers of lies. "The novelty effect could not be discounted, so it was wise that Jim and I work through that and ensure our sexual compatibility could be sustained for the duration."

"Wow, that sounded pompous," Jim said, pulling her closer. "We knew this was going to be awkward, Chris. Spock and I were going to be a big part of that awkward, so we worked through it so this would be better."

She started to laugh, and Spock shook his head. "I do not think the 'we are great humanitarians' angle is playing any better than my logical one, Jim."

"So, let me get this straight," she said. "I was in the middle of a planetary crisis and you two were making like bunnies back on the ship?"

"Oh, like you didn't have fun down there," Jim said with a grin. "I talked to one of my Ops buddies while I was waiting for you. You were quite the hit with that crowd."

Spock looked startled.

"I don't mean she slept with any of them. But she was deemed a kindred spirit."

She nodded. "It's true. If this doesn't work out, I know where I'm going next."

"If you enjoyed it, there's no reason you cannot go there next regardless of our success as a sexual unit." Spock pursed his lips, as if he was already planning her future.

"He can take the romance out of things so damn fast..." Jim moved so he had better access to her, began to stroke, and she began to moan. "Maybe I can put some back in."

Spock watched them, a small smile on his face. He leaned down and kissed her, reached out to run his hand through Jim's hair.

Then she quit paying attention to what Spock was doing to Jim, because Jim had found the sweet spot and was working it for all he was worth. Spock kissed down her neck, to her breasts, moving back and forth between them, sucking hard as she writhed beneath their mutual efforts.

When Jim kissed his way back up her body, he was grinning like a fool. "Spock, we are one hell of a team."

"This should come as no surprise."

She laughed, but not very hard. Breathing was more important. "I'm not going to be able to walk after this."

"Did you get that, Spock?"

"I believe she said something about walking."

"The most walking any of us will be doing is to the intercom to order food or the chiller to grab a beer."

"Good planning," she said, trying hard to make her words understandable.

"Thank you." Then he looked over at Spock, his expression turning serious, even a little humble. "And thank you, my friend. For letting me in."

Spock's eyes were very soft as he touched them each on the cheek. "It was the logical thing to do."

FIN