Don't own Star Trek in any of it's incarnations, but over the years I've had models, toys, action figures, DVDs, and a film cel with Mr. Spock attached to a keychain.

Winterover betaed the thousand word shorter version of this that was submitted to 2011 St_Respect ship wars. I've done a little rewriting on it since then, so all new problems have crept in, which I own in their entirety.

The title is from Feist's One Two Three Four.

I would recommend that you watch ST_Respect over on LJ. There's some fabulous writing going on over there.

Thanks,

-isobel


-o0o-


Spock was back at Star Fleet's San Francisco headquarters for the first time in months, and he found himself standing in the cafeteria line for lunch. Not a common Vulcan meal, but one to which Spock had grown accustomed over the years spent in the company of humans. The line moved irritatingly slow across the dark tiled floor. He waited patiently in front of a bubbling beef dish and a pan of sautéed pork medallions. The clear sneeze guards and cloud of pink and yellow plastic flowers residing above it couldn't cover the overwhelmingly unpleasant smell of cooked flesh. He'd already filled his plate with a curried vegetable dish, a seaweed salad, and thick slices of boiled purple yam, and just needed to pay for his meal.

If he'd been human, he would have sighed more loudly, not his usual muted release. He'd come for a two-day conference that held little interest for him as a diversion. On the upward side of a downward spiral from a nascent and now platonic relationship with Nyota Uhura, he was a loss for what to do with himself. Had he tried harder, made his pursuit a priority, she might have not abandoned him in favor of her other suitor, the much warmer, less controlled, Montgomery Scott. He admitted that they made a handsome couple. What was it Lieutenant Commander Rand had called them? Sweet?

He knew that he'd needed to be different for Nyota's sake, but he had failed, losing her to the amiable rivalry of a dear friend and colleague. They'd slept together several times, Nyota and he, but the lure of a large green penis, no matter how skillfully wielded, was simply not enough without love. He could not say it to her, not like Scott could and did frequently and in more ways than Spock could imagine. Perhaps it could have been different in an alternate reality. Or maybe not. Maybe he just wasn't ready to say the words to Nyota Uhura.

She certainly wasn't ready to say them to him.

Spock looked around the brightly lit cafeteria, suddenly feeling the need for companionship. The time he'd spent in the company of his human friends had spoiled him, and he didn't really want to eat alone. Across the sea of 'Fleet bureaucrats and stray officers lunching, he found a single familiar face.

His tray carefully balanced in one hand and a bottle of water in the other, he wove his way around seats and booths and artfully displayed greenery to where a dark-haired woman, still beautiful, but just on the feminine side of handsome, sat with an enormous green salad and several piles of PADDs. So occupied in her work, she didn't notice him until he spoke.

"Doctor Chapel," Spock said, his voice deeper than he'd intended.

She looked up at him, slightly startled, her clear blue eyes more brilliant against her dark hair than they'd ever been against the coruscating halo of bleached blonde she had worn in her youth. A smile edged onto her lips, her face expressing curiosity.

"Captain Spock," she replied with genuine enthusiasm. "To what do I owe this pleasure?" She looked around at the PADDs covering the speckled gray tabletop as she flipped off the screen of the one on which she'd been working.

"There is no table that is open. I came to ask if I could share yours," he replied. He tried to keep his expression his usual neutral. He forced down the strong emotion response his memories of this woman evoked

"Absolutely, Mr. Spock," She started stacking the PADDs, making room at the table. He set his tray in the emptied space, and then seated himself across from her.

"I really doubt you're in San Francisco to have lunch with me because of full tables," she said, her voice light and teasing. She set the PADD she closed aside and turned her full attention to him. "So again, to what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?"

"I have been reassigned to this facility," he said, after just a moment. "A project required my particular expertise."

"How interesting!" Christine took a bite of her salad, chewed it slowly. "Which project?" she asked.

Vulcan evasion took the place of the rest of outright lies. "I have not seen the clearances yet, so I am unable to discuss it at this point in time," he replied. It could be considered accurate.

Christine nodded with understanding. She'd been 'Fleet long enough to understand security, and moved the conversation to old friends and the non-classified parts of her work. Spock, ever the diplomat's son, followed local customs, and talked while they ate their meals.

Spock had no idea what had driven him to lie about the conference, but he had, and was glad of it. So much so that later that afternoon found Spock sitting in a borrowed office, abusing his access rights to find a project in the building that could profit from his particular skill set.

-o0o-

The Vulcan became a fixture in Christine's life. He brought lunches to her office and was there to pick her up when she finished her workday. So predictable were his visits that when he didn't show up at the expected time, her aide expressed concern and would check with someone in the lab where Spock worked just to make sure he was okay. Her staffers in the hallways no longer gossiped any more. The legendary Vulcan had become the norm for even the most awestruck, until the day that the great James T. Kirk came down from his starship eyrie to visit her.

Kirk's mere presence in her outer office caused the staffers to scatter like a clowder of scared cats, scurrying to hidden places from which they could observe the invader, the golden boy turned middle-aged man. They might have grown used to the quiet, dark Vulcan, but had never before seen in person the brilliant light who was his opposite and complement.

"Please let Doctor Chapel know that Jim Kirk is here to see her," Kirk said to the only staffer that could not find a place to hide.

"Yes, sir," the man said and buzzed his boss to announce Kirk's presence.

Christine stepped out of her inner office into his sunshine. "Admiral Kirk," she greeted him. "What can I do for you?"

Kirk, handsome and fully aware of his own gravitational field, smiled, turning on her those hazel eyes that could melt a woman, or man, into a puddle any time he chose.

"It's Captain Kirk," he said. Chris knew that. She'd been there for the trial. She knew the demotion was for diplomatic reasons and to give him back the starship command he craved. He was still an admiral in eyes of many in Star Fleet in everything but name only.

"Let's go into your office, Doctor," he continued, warm, yet formal. She'd known him too long. He wanted something.

She escorted him in. He moved like a powerful animal, every step a study in command, control and self-assurance.

Behind the door, Kirk was direct. "What are your intentions towards Spock?"

"Pardon me?" Chris had not expected such a line of questioning. It was personal and offensive in just six words.

Kirk sat in her guest chair without an invitation. Chris decided to control the space between them and settled in on the other side of the desk. Without the desk, Kirk dominated the space filled with memorabilia from her career and research journals.

"Real simple, Chris. What are your intentions towards Spock?" Kirk's posture changed and attitude changed. "He's stood me up for our regular dates five times in the last two months. I just found out he's been hanging around with you, so I want to know ... what are . . . your intentions . . . towards Spock?"

"That's none of your business, Captain." Chris knew he and Spock had some sort of relationship beyond being just colleagues or close friends, that there was something else more involved going on. She'd never been clear on the subject, and Spock had never been forthcoming. Was this brotherly, friendly concern, Chris wondered, or did he view her as some sort of rival?

"Where Spock is concerned, I make it my business." Kirk leaned forward in his chair, gave her the smile, the eyes, then the serious face. "Look, Chris, he's had lousy luck with women over the years. I've been there to pick up the pieces every time. He won't admit it, mind you, but I have. It's that - when this thing with Uhura went sour, he didn't need me." Kirk sat back up and looked directly at her.

'Damn it, he didn't even tell me about you and him, Chris." The fact that Spock had failed to share something vital that Kirk had expected him to share obviously disturbed Kirk greatly. "I found out because one of your staffers is dating one of the staffers in over in Admiral Harrison's division."

Chris didn't respond. Whatever might be happening between she and Spock just wasn't up for discussion. James Kirk might be playing the role of the devoted family and friend come to warn the person who might break their loved one's heart, but Chris wasn't buying it. She let the silence stretch out, let it become uncomfortable.

Kirk relented first. "Bob told me."

Chris glared at her former commander. She was a little more than annoyed at being warned off. "He's not here, hanging around me, Captain. He's assigned to a project," she finally said. "I can assure you that I am not getting in the middle of your friendship, relationship, or whatever it is you two have going on. We eat lunch together a couple of times a week. We go to dinner occasionally and discuss work. That's it. Nothing more." She flattened her hands on her desk, perhaps with a bit more force than she'd intended, but, by all that was holy, the man was making her mad.

Kirk was forward again, serious again. "Spock wasn't assigned to anything, Chris. He came in for a two-day conference and decided not to leave. He got himself reassigned here after finding a project they wouldn't refuse him." Kirk breathed in heavily. "He stayed for you."

Chris's stomach began to flip and churn. It had never even dawned on her. She honestly hadn't expected that kind of statement from Kirk, but she also didn't want a sharing session.

"I don't know how I feel," she admitted. "I really don't know. I know I don't feel about him the way I did when I was younger. I'm not sure I know what love is anymore. Not after Roger. But," she concluded, "I know it's not something that I'm going to be discussing with you."

Kirk ignored the last part of her statement. "Well, you need to decide how you feel and what you want. I won't see him hurt again. He's one of the best friends I've ever had and it's very important to me that he's happy." Kirk rose from his seat and moved to the door. Chris stood up and followed him.

"Jim," she said stopping him just before he opened her door. "Does Spock know how you feel?" she asked, gently touching his shoulder. She'd heard rumors, too. She thought she'd chance the question that most piqued her curiosity and impact her choices

Kirk turned and stared at her, reflecting, for only a millionth part of second, a depth of pain and sadness she'd not truly expected. "Doesn't matter, Chris," he replied. He shook his head, his tousled brown curls moved gently distracting Christine. Where did those brown curls come from? she thought, and then brought her attention quickly back to Kirk's words.

"He's human enough to know," Kirk said softly, "but too Vulcan ever to let anything ever happen." Kirk brightened. "Anyway, it's been you for a very long time now, and I have a reputation to uphold."

Christine Chapel just stood there, no response forming on her lips or in her brain, awed by the human side of the legend, while Kirk let himself out with an especially cheery, "See you later, Chris!" just for the staffers hiding in the corners, pretending to be working.

The door slid closed behind him. Christine maintained her composure until she knew the door shut solidly. Then she fell back against her desk, pulling in ragged gasps until she could breathe again.

I never expected that! she said to herself, when she knew she was all alone.

-o0o-

The researcher in charge of the project to which Spock had attached himself felt that everyone should eat lunch and take a nice stroll afterwards. Therefore, at the same time every day, he chased everyone out of his labs and locked them up, just to make sure that no one tried to sneak back too early and work during the lunch break.

Being who he was, Spock had acquired an office in the same hall as the lab. Once the lab was off-limits to any useful work, he moved to his office to check his messages and work on the draft of a paper he was preparing for submission. The mandatory hour and a half break gave him time to work on other projects.

The first message to appear on his screen was from Christine Chapel - a warm, but professional thank you for some debugging work he had done for her. "I can almost hear you say 'One does not thank logic,' so I won't say 'Thank you,' but I do want to express my appreciation for the time and effort that you put in on my programming issue." Spock reread the message several times, and then saved it.

He closed his messages and didn't bother to go on to his research.

It was logical, he finally decided, to foster a relationship with Christine Chapel. She was an old colleague. He could be comfortable with her. She had a quick and incisive scientific mind, along with the right security clearances. He could discuss his work with her.

Her eyes were an aesthetically pleasing shade of blue.

He could drown in them.

It took no effort to scan for local entertainment and a restaurant. It took moments to arrange tickets and reservations. It took him hours, however, to get himself to contact her and extend the invitation for the following day.

Near the time, she'd be closing up for the day, he strolled down the hallways, intending to go to her office on the pretense of checking on the program he'd fixed. He'd commed the invitation to her and was fully intent on collecting her answer in person.

-o0o-

Built like a wheel missing about a third of its spokes, the Charles Tucker Engineering Center made getting from one section to the next the most efficient by going through the central hub and reception area. Spock entered the tall, round lobby. An engineer's dream, or nightmare, a bright maze of shiny pipes darted across the ceiling and a meter or so down the walls, concealing the soft lighting in the space. Centered behind the receptionist's desk, a clear cylinder ran from a wide black octagonal base to ram into the ceiling. Glowing blue matter roiled up and down in the cylinder at the same speed as a 60 cycle electronic hum. Someone had told Spock once that it was an artistic interpretation of a theoretical warp core engine. It fascinated the humans. Spock thought that Mr. Scott would have never permitted such a ... unique ... construct into the same engineering bay as his 'wee bairns.'

The beautiful, voluptuous woman sitting engrossed in a PADD was the last person he had expected to see on his trip to Christine Chapel's office. Most likely, a linguistics journal held her interest - he knew those to be some of her favorite reading material. He thought momentarily (and quite illogically) about turning down one of the other hallways, but it was too late. She'd seen him over the top of her PADD and rose to greet him.

Spock often mused about how she must not be totally human. Always she seemed ageless to him, like some ancient goddess. Today was no exception. Dressed in civilian clothing, her elegant afternoon gown echoed an ancient African pattern in bright reds and oranges. She wore chunky gold and bead jewelry, and a modest aso oke on her head.

"Spock! I thought I might find you here!" Nyota Uhura laid her PADD down on the chrome and glowing blue-piped bench, and hugged him. He stiffened slightly.

"It won't kill you to relax a bit, Spock," she whispered in his ear, and kissed his cheek. He tolerated it because he knew she was an emotional woman; she had, in fact, told him that herself several times. Spock pulled back and regathered his dignity. His former lover still disrupted his Vulcan logic and demeanor without even trying. "Greetings, Nyota. Are you here on an assignment?"

She wrinkled her nose and smiled a little. "Not quite. I have an interview with 'Fleet Intel day after tomorrow for something . . . challenging. But right now, I'm waiting for Monty. He's meeting with a couple of engineers down that way." She pointed to the nearest hallway-spoke. "He commed me to let me know he'd be free in about a half hour. We have plans for the rest of the day." She sat back down on the bench and patted it, indicating that he should sit, which he did.

"I'm very glad I ran into you here. I've been talking to Jim about you. Or, more specifically, Jim's been talking to me, so I wanted to talk to you," she said. And she would. If Spock was sure of anything not based on scientific inquiry, it was that Nyota Uhura would get what she wanted.

"Not here, Nyota," he said, "I would prefer some privacy."

"Where, then?" she asked, looking around the lobby.

"Engineers apparently need many small conference rooms," he said with a tone that meant he thought humans were illogical. "I will sign out one of the rooms attached to the lobby."

-o0o-

"So, tell me what's going on, sweet thing," Nyota said once they'd changed locales, settling down into one of the cushioned office chairs. "Kirk said that you went and got yourself reassigned to this building on a project that doesn't deserve your talents, but would kill for them anyway."

Spock settled against the small conference table in the room, his lanky frame at a slight angle. "The project is interesting and may have significant impact on the technology related to the area that it is investigating."

"I may not have the right clearances for the project, but I do know your roundabout double-talk when I hear it. Jim says you're seeing Christy." Nyota stood up and moved towards him, touching his hand with the freedom he had given her over the years. "It's a good thing if you are," she added.

"I was under the impression that you did not feel that I was capable of a relationship with a human woman." He had thought about his words, about what he wanted to say to her. It was impossible to be Vulcan and speak his thoughts on this matter, so he chose to let his human side out.

She pulled back and let her hand drop to her side. "That's not fair, Spock. You know I didn't say that. You and your eidetic memory should remember what I did say." The room suddenly felt colder to him than the preferred human 20 degrees Celsius chill he dealt with perpetually.

"You said you needed the kind of passion and emotional intensity that I was unable to provide to you. That it was as much your choice as it was mine. You knew from the beginning that our relationship might not succeed, but you had wanted to try. You also said you knew I had passion in my soul, but that it was not directed towards you," he replied softly, his voice lifeless, paraphrasing the words she'd said just before she'd told him that she preferred Mr. Scott.

"I didn't mean to hurt you, tal-kam, but we were just not meant to be. I may love you, but ... I'm not in love with you." She looked sad for just a moment. "Maybe in another universe or another time," she said, unknowingly echoing his own thoughts.

"I was not happy when you left. However, I am, as you say, moving on." His Vulcaness reasserted itself. "I have found satisfaction in the work I am doing, Nyota."

"You have found satisfaction in evading, Spock." She touched him again. He sensed her sadness and concern. "Christy is not me. I think she does love you. She's probably just forgotten, after all these years, though."

This woman understood him better than most others did, sometimes better than he understood himself. It was one of the reasons that he'd chosen her as a lover and then decided to keep her as a friend, if they could not be lovers.

"You are correct, Nyota. I am attempting to pursue a relationship with Doctor Chapel," he admitted, "What I could not see as a youth has become clearer with experience. I have not told Jim any of this."

"I approve tal-kam." Nyota looked at her chronometer. "I have to go. Monty will be here any moment. And don't tell Jim, yet. He'll just interfere," she added quickly as she ushered him out of the room. An impertinent smile on her face, Nyota rose up on her toes and kissed Spock quickly on the lips before dashing off to meet Mr. Scott.

Down the hall, Christine Chapel watched this short exchange. She turned and headed back to her lab, fully certain Jim Kirk was talking out of his ass.

-o0o-

Christine called Spock to cancel the next day. She'd left an acceptance on his comm unit as soon as she'd received the invite, well before she had seen Nyota kissing Spock. Her message was brief, to the point, and did not require that she explain what she'd seen.

Fortunately, for her, reality gave her the perfect excuse.

A massive freighter and a large passenger liner had both had fools for captains and incompetents for command crews. In the boundless reaches of space, they'd managed a collision. Together, they'd limped along to the nearest Federation colony planet, where the freighter had dropped too low into the atmosphere and spewed its toxic cargo, one never intended for any habitable world, over several hundred million inhabitants. Needless to say, said inhabitants were not happy. Star Fleet had pulled the freighter up and away from the planet and rescued the happy souls from the passenger liner, but not soon enough to preempt an ecological disaster.

Christine's team focused on organizing the initial medical assistance for the inhabitants. Someone else would be arranging the long-term support - it was just their job to identify the closest resources to the disaster, and get them there as quickly as possible.

"Sorry," she'd left on Spock's comm, relieved she could put off her personal crisis. "We had an emergency and I'm not going to be able to get away." She was surprised when he appeared that evening, carrying a portable stasis unit. Her assistant knocked on her door to announce the visitor.

"If you cannot come to dinner, it is only logical that dinner come to you," Spock said, almost smiling. "My father told me of the nature of the emergency and I expected you to cancel our engagement in favor of work."

"I'm really not interested in food, Mr. Spock," Christine said, her voice crisp and formal. She didn't know how Kirk had been so mistaken, but he was, and she was going to nip this new relationship in the bud. "We may have the emergency medical resources allocated and on their way, but I still have reports to write, so I don't have time for this."

Even though she'd covered her desk with PADDs, as was her work habit, Spock ignored her clipped comments and found room to sit the portable stasis unit on her desk and unpack its contents. Plates, utensils and mugs emerged first, followed by the delightful smell of Vulcan cuisine. Christine relaxed a little, basic biological needs overtaking what she considered common sense.

"Oh, God, what is that? It smells heavenly," Christine said. Suddenly she was aware of just how hungry she was.

"This is Pree tarmeeli, similar to a hot vegetable curry. And red cargo rice from Earth," he said, opening the first container. "This one is similar to your sweet potatoes," he indicated a container of dark red roasted tubers, "and slor kap, a sweet bread for dessert. T'Naan, the wife of my father's aide, arranged the meal for me. It was prepared by the head chef at the Vulcan embassy."

Christine grabbed one of the long-tined Vulcan forks and speared a toasty chunk of the roasted red tuber, popping it in her mouth even before she had a plate of food. "They did a wonderful job," she said thickly. "I didn't realize how hungry I was."

Spock almost smiled again. "I remembered your devotion to your duties over the years and concluded that the odds favor you not having eaten. I calculated there was an 87.6% chance that you had skipped all your meals today." Chris could almost see the cogs turning in his head.

"You'd be 100% correct. I am starving." She started to smile, and then stopped. He shouldn't be here with her. She looked over at him, wanting to understand how he could be so attentive to her and still be seeing Nyota.

Their eyes caught for just a moment. Christine remembered her unprofessional crush from years past.

Spock thought about his conversation the day before, and realized why he could never say 'I love you' to Nyota Uhura.

Christine remembered the kiss she observed in the hallway.

The moment broke. Christine was determined that there would be no more moments like it.

"I saw you and Nyota in the hall yesterday. You were kissing, I'm sorry but I can't do lunch or ... with you ... any ..." Christine rambled. She didn't want this conversation. The sensible part of her brain didn't want him here, but he didn't seem like he was going to leave.

"Nyota – Miss Uhura – kissed me, Christine. I did not kiss her."

"I thought you and Nyota were ...?"

"No," Spock interrupted, "No, not now. Not for a long time and now – never, as she has chosen Mr. Scott for her companion."

What Christine had thought was anger in the pit of her stomach directed in equal parts at Jim Kirk for misleading her and herself for believing it vanished in that instant. She felt a sense of relief, and realized it was not anger, but disappointment. "Oh. That's an awfully interesting choice for her." She could feel a smile warming on her lips.

"Indeed." Spock uttered that word in the way only he could. "In fact, she was there to meet Mr. Scott when I encountered her. She wanted to give me her 'blessings,' as she calls her approval."

"For –" Chris knew the answer now, but she wanted to hear it anyway.

"For my pursuit of you. She said that my passions did not lie with her."

"Oh." Christine softly exhaled the single syllable. "Did you know Jim Kirk came and warned me not to break your heart?"

The eyebrow rose. "Jim is my friend."

"Jim loves you, you know."

"Jim loves many things. He frequently says so," Christine could see the reality of his knowledge under the sharp Vulcan wit.

She batted his arm, a friendly but possibly inappropriate gesture, of which she suddenly became aware after the fact. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean ... I forgot in the moment."

"There is no offense –" he began and moved his hand to cover hers – "where none is taken."

His fingers moved across hers in a gesture she remembered seeing his parents use years before. Gently, at first, he dragged his fingers across hers, then deliberate and sensual. Christine felt her insides melting. She leaned over to him for a more human kiss.

They broke contact for a moment. "I do love you," he said to Chris. He sounded surprised, as if the words were unexpected even by him as he spoke them. "I have not said that to anyone else before, not of my own free will. Not even to my mother since I was a child."

She ran a delicate finger along the outer edge of his right ear, letting her hand rest finally on his shoulder. "And now that I've had a chance to really get to know you, I think I love you, too," she replied, almost as amazed as he was. She knew she'd still doubted until he spoke first. She leaned in and kissed him again, full, hard and with abandon, only pausing long enough to tell the computer to lock and soundproof her office.

An hour or so later, laying on the long wide couch in her office, Christine raised herself up on her elbow to watch the Vulcan of her dreams move towards her with slow, deliberate movements. She'd held no misconceptions that his body was flawless. She'd been his surgical nurse too often in the past, but she couldn't see the flaws, just the broad shoulders, the long lithe body, the dark dusting across his chest that trailed down to ... She couldn't help herself. The great temptation drew her eyes down to the thick, greenish monster bobbing in wait for her. She killed a passing thought – how could Nyota have wanted to give that up, even if she did prefer a man more human in demeanor?

On the other hand, how could she, Christine, think about anything but the Vulcan attached to the big green penis; the Vulcan whom she now knew she loved, the Vulcan who loved her.

-end-

-isobel