Idle Chit Chat by Djinn
Kirk came to slowly, groaning as he opened his eyes and saw that he had been thrown clear of the personal transport when it crashed. No one knew where he was. No one knew to look for him out in the desert. His friends thought he was in the high sierras, climbing mountains. He'd headed off that way, but then turned, filled with a sudden hankering to see the desert in bloom.
He was going to kill whoever had last serviced the transport. The thing had clearly seen better days.
He got up, limping in pain, and made his way back to the transport, to see what he could salvage. His communicator was buried under twisted metal-crushed beyond utility. He took a deep breath and forced himself to think. What did he need to survive out here long enough to find help?
Water. He dug through the still-hot metal and found his canteen-made to survive a fall off a mountain, which had struck him as an odd claim since the user of the thing wouldn't need it if he fell with it, but still, impressive. And he'd been known to fall off a mountain or two in his time. Before he got his ship back. Again.
The new Enterprise wasn't all he had hoped, but it was still light years better than being stuck behind a desk. Hell, they could have given him a garbage scow and he'd have been happy.
He turned his attention back to the wreckage. His climbing jacket was sort of salvageable-enough was left to use as a headcover in the blazing sun.
He eyed the ruined communicator one last time, then set off in the direction he'd been heading before he crashed. A settlement had to be around here somewhere.
Miles later, he realized that maybe a settlement didn't have to be around here.
Damn, he was hungry.
He saw a figure come into view, climbing with effort up a rise. Had he been out in the sun long enough to hallucinate? And why would his hallucination be swearing and sweating?
"Hey!" he said.
The hallucination turned. "Who the hell is there?"
The voice was really familiar. And very female. Also annoyed.
"What are you doing out here?" As the woman got closer, he realized it was Chapel.
"Captain Kirk? You look like crap."
"Yes, well, that's a funny story. And why am I running into you out in the middle of nowhere?"
"I'm doing survival recertification. What the hell are you doing here?"
"Surviving?" He pointed back in the general direction of his crashed transport, made the sound of a ship going boom, and she winced in sympathy. "Is there a settlement anywhere nearby?"
"We're in the middle of the desert."
He brushed sweat away. "I'm actually aware of that."
"No, I mean really the middle. No town for miles."
He frowned. "You're here."
"I was dumped. Hence the survival aspect of survival recertification." She slung her backpack off, reached in and pulled out something that she quickly set up into a shelter. It was open on the sides but blessedly shaded on top. "Get in here before you pass out."
He crawled in. It was just tall enough to sit upright. She crawled in after him and handed him a pill.
"It'll help with the dehydration if you take it with water."
"Water will help with the dehydration if I take it with water."
She laughed. "It helps more than plain water. New thing Emergency Ops developed for drought areas."
"Handy." He swallowed the pill, then studied her. She looked good. Had gained weight just like he had but wore it better.
"Do I meet with your approval? Jesus."
"It's been a while since I've seen you."
"If you hadn't been all wrapped up in Gillian, you would have noticed me at your hearing."
He laughed, a little bitterly. "Gillian made her escape rather quickly."
"Yeah, poor you. She was pretty focused on herself, if you ask me."
He nodded. He'd thought she'd lived for those whales, but she'd abandoned them for a ship in a heartbeat.
"What are you thinking?" She was laughing as she pulled out some nutrient bars from her pack. "Hungry?"
"Starved." He took a bite; it was horrible but would hit the spot. "Thank you, by the way, for calling Sarek to get my ass out of hot water."
"No problem. Nearly got him killed in the process. Amazingly, he does not hold a grudge over that."
"Vulcans are good that way."
She nodded and went back to eating. "You realize I'm supposed to finish this test alone, right?"
"How do you know I'm not part of your test?"
She grinned but didn't look up. "And what part of the test are you in charge of. Desert sex?"
"Owwww. Man, you are so much harsher since you became an Ops person." He laughed. "I'm the injured man; you're supposed to treat me."
She looked up as soon as he said the word "injured." "Are you hurt?"
"My pride is horribly wounded. My knee isn't terribly happy, either. Other than that, I'm fine considering I was thrown clear of a really crappy transport."
"Do you want me to look you over?"
"Can I answer that without getting into trouble?" He grinned and was relieved when she grinned back.
"Let me at least make sure you don't have a concussion. Did you lose consciousness?"
"Okay, we're gonna do this the hard way because I don't have my normal gizmos." She ran him through the standard neuro tests: push hands, follow finger, etcetera. "You seem fine. Let me look at your knee."
Before he could argue, she was gently rolling up his pant leg.
"I normally don't let a lady do this till the second date."
"Uh huh." She was absorbed in checking his knee, seemed immune to his banter. But then she looked up and grinned. "This isn't a date, sir."
"Well, if you're going to be fondling me..."
"If you think this is fondling, Jim, then you've been doing it wrong." She patted his shin. "You're fine. It's probably just wrenched."
"You've still got the touch." He took another bite of the nutrient bar. "If I asked you to come back to the ship, would you?"
"As what? Len's co-conspirator? I've done that twice." She leaned back on her elbows. "Besides, other than emergencies like this, I don't really practice medicine much anymore."
"There are other places on the ship you could work. You've grown a lot since you left. I could use someone with your planning ability."
She met his eyes. "Have you been talking to Cartwright?"
"The man can't shut up about you. I didn't bring you up, believe me."
She made a face and turned away.
"That came out wrong."
"No, it's all right. But I can't help but think you just want to get the old gang together. And I'm not sure I really want that."
"Well, been there, done that."
"Okay, glad we had this little chat." He busied himself with eating.
"I didn't mean to offend you."
"You didn't. Really. It's okay. I'm good."
She started laughing softly.
"No, I can take rejection. You don't want to be part of my crew? Fine." He smiled, knew it was a bit lacking in the warmth department. "Will you at least be part of my crew till we get out of this damned desert?"
"You can be part of mine."
He could feel his eyebrow giving Spock's a run for its money.
"This is my survival recertification. I'd like to recertify in one try. If you're running the show; I won't. You can, however, tag along." She smiled at him, in a way he was finding more and more annoying. "I can't imagine they'd expect me to leave you behind..."
"Chapel, you are a pain in the ass." He yawned. Crashing was hard work.
"Take a nap. You probably need it."
He realized his mouth wasn't as dry as it had been. "Those pills really work." He lay back, closed his eyes, and fell asleep, then woke in what seemed like only moments when he felt Chris shaking him gently.
"Time to go, Jim. I have to get to a checkpoint by nightfall or it's curtains for this girl."
"Okay." He crawled out of the shelter, started to pack it up, and heard her make a clucking noise.
She eased him out of the way. "I have to do it if I want to pass."
"How will they know?"
"They'll ask me. I'll tell them."
"Truth can be overrated." But he liked that she was an adherent of it.
"Says the man who's usually quite honest-when he isn't doing some 'trick them up the yin-yang' maneuver to get us free of the latest unspeakable killing machine."
He stood back and let her work. "It always works. Don't see why I should change now."
"Oh I like those maneuvers. I like living, ergo..."
He laughed. "I'm glad it was you who happened along."
"Yeah, yeah, that's what all the boys say." She motioned for him to follow her.
He did. He enjoyed the view while he was at it.
They barely made the checkpoint before dark, largely due to his knee giving him more and more trouble. "You know, Chris, you could leave me."
"Yes, I'm going to leave the savior of Earth to die in the desert because I'm too lazy to retake the test." She gave him a stern look.
"I won't die." He sounded sulky, a side effect of being in pain.
She got the shelter out and pointed at it. "Sit down before you fall down."
"Are you always this bossy?"
"You know I am. Nurse, doctor, pain-in-the-ass Ops person, doesn't matter." She smiled as she busied herself with pulling out a survival blanket and more of the bars. "We're going to have to share."
"I don't mind if you don't."
She looked over at him and sighed.
"That's not what that sigh meant."
He watched her as she worked. "Aren't you going to catch and cook us a rabbit or something?"
"No. If you want bunny for dinner, you go catch it. I have plenty of bars."
"But only one blanket?"
"Hey, I wasn't expecting you to just drop in." She sighed again.
"Nothing." She finally sat down, stretching her legs out and closing her eyes for a moment. "I'm tired."
"I am, too."
They ate in silence for a while, sipping occasionally from their water containers.
"Is it me?" he finally asked.
"Is what you?"
"Why you don't want to come back to the ship." He turned to look at her. "You came back for Decker, but not for me?"
"Really? You're going to bring that up as relevant to this discussion? Next you'll tell me that you always wondered about Will and me."
"I may have." He held a hand up at her glare. "Until Ilia came on the scene and you were clearly not too upset."
"I reached out to him after his father died. I felt bad for him. He thought of me like a big sister or something. I don't know. He trusted me."
"I trust you."
"Yes, that's why I've been calling you by your first name all these years." She practically spat the words at him.
"Did you want to call me by my first name? You never said."
She shifted, as if she couldn't get comfortable. "It's not the kind of thing you say, Jim."
"Yeah." She went back to eating, but this time the silence was more angry than peaceful.
"For making you mad."
She laughed, a sharp, harsh sound. "Don't worry about it."
"Not like it's the first time?"
"That's right." She seemed to realize what she'd said and looked over at him. "I mean..."
"Did you want me?"
"Everyone wanted you, Jim. You were the golden boy. The star. The savior. Fill in the damn superlative, that was you."
"You never said."
"Prettier women than I never made any headway with you. Why would I try?"
"I don't know what to say." He finally reached out, touched her arm. "Chris, you were in love with my best friend."
"He didn't want me."
"I wasn't sure if he did or not. I thought he might come around. And you never let on that you liked me."
She took a deep breath, let it out slowly.
"You do like me?"
"We're not having this conversation."
"We're in the middle of the goddamned desert about to share a blanket. We are going to have this conversation."
She started to get up and he pulled her back down. He thought for a moment she might fight him, but she finally gave in, and he let her go.
"I quit being in love with Spock sometime after V'ger. We...he was amenable to getting together. But we weren't very compatible as it turned out. We parted amicably." She was looking away, her face lit by the last of the sunlight. "I was with you a lot. On landing parties. We had fun, or I thought we did. But it never went anywhere. You didn't even seem to see me, Jim. And I wasn't going to be the pathetic Chapel again, the one who chased what she couldn't have."
"Why the hell do you think you were on all those landing parties? We had a blast. Why didn't you say something?"
"Like what? Gee, Captain, this is a nice planet, can we fuck now?"
"Direct. I like that." He smiled, tried to bring them back to a place where he didn't feel quite so off balance. "Chris, Jesus, how many years have we wasted?"
"We? I didn't waste them. I didn't wait around for you. And you didn't wait around for me. You quit Starfleet and went off with Antonia."
"Look how well that turned out." He sighed. "I liked you, Chris. I wanted you. I thought you wanted my best friend. I tried to turn any feelings I had for you off because of that."
She nodded and stared off into the distance.
"Could you look at me?"
"Why? So we can have a romantic night under the stars?"
"Would that be so bad?"
She didn't answer, and he had the feeling that she wasn't going to, even if he sat all night.
"I'm really tired," he finally said.
She nodded and lay back, then turned to her side. "You'll have to get close if we're going to share."
He slid next to her, tried to find a comfortable way to lie that didn't involve putting his arm around her waist.
"Back to back, Jim."
"Oh, sure." He turned over, feeling very stupid.
She settled the blanket over them. It almost fit. Neither of them was as small as they had been in their prime.
In their prime. Jesus, how much fun could they have had back then?
The next day was more walking, more sweating, and a whole lot of not saying much to each other. He was shuffling on autopilot when he saw Chris freeze in front of him.
"Okay." He peeked around her. "It's not that close."
"I really don't like snakes." She sounded a little panicked.
"Back up. Slowly. Here"-he gently took her by the arms, pulled her to him. "It's okay."
As soon as he had her back a safe distance, she wrenched free of him and made her way around the snake.
He stood for a moment, then hurried after her. "You're welcome. Really. Don't mention it."
"I would have managed without you. I've seen my share of snakes. I just don't like them."
"For a moment. I'd have turned around and gotten clear without your help."
"You can quit being strong for five minutes."
She turned and her expression was empty. "What are you doing?"
"I'm just trying to help." He pushed past her. "You know, I'm starting to be sorry I ran into you."
"You'd be dead if you hadn't." She moved him aside, took the lead again.
He hurried to catch up. "I can take care of myself, sister."
"Yes, you were doing a bang up job of that when I happened on you."
"I would have done fine."
"You just keep telling yourself that."
They kept walking, the silence punctuated by huffs and sighs.
He started to laugh. "You know, it would help if we weren't both drama queens."
He head her laugh, then she slowed and held out her hand. "Truce?"
"Yes. Oh, God, yes." He took her hand, but only for a moment. It was too damn hot to make that kind of contact, and he was sweaty and stinky.
"Commander Chapel," a booming voice sounded. "Explain why you have help on your survival recertification."
"I'm not helping her," Kirk said. "She saved me."
Chapel shot him a grateful look.
"Is that accurate, Commander?"
"Sir, yes, sir."
"Wow, look at you with the regulation response."
She hit him.
The voice boomed back, "Hitting a superior officer is not a good idea, Christine."
"Cartwright, you old dog. Is that you?" Kirk peered into the bright sunlight, trying to figure out where the voice was coming from.
"I'm not even going to ask why you're on Chapel's survival test, Jim." There was a roar and a transport lifted off. "Congratulations, Commander. You passed."
It left them.
Kirk watched it go. "Uhhhhh."
She laughed. "Come on. There must be a bunker up ahead." She led him to where the transport had been parked, then pointed to a metal hatch. "There we go."
He lifted the hatch and let her go down the ladder first, holding her backpack, then dropping it down to her once she'd made the short climb. He followed her down, pulling the hatch shut before descending into the blessed coolness. The room they were in was full of monitors. "Oh, crap. Were they listening in on us the whole time?"
"If they were, I'm going to kill my boss." She sat down at the terminal, seemed to be checking a schedule of some kind. "They'll be back for us tomorrow. I'd say he's been monitoring us. Old busybody."
Kirk laughed softly. "Come to think of it, he did seem to be playing matchmaker the other day. I just thought he was trying to find you a new assignment."
"Silly boy." She spun in the chair and studied him. "There are showers here."
"Those are the sweetest words I've ever heard."
Grinning, she led him to a small closet, where she grabbed them both some clean clothes, then pointed him to the nearest bathroom, leaving him alone to get cleaned up.
A shower had never felt so heavenly. He wanted to stay in it forever. Finally, he got out and dried off, pulling on the clean clothes and feeling like a new man.
He wandered into the hall, called out, "Chris?"
"Down here." She was in a small kitchen, hair still wet and looking damned good. "Real food, if you want?"
"I want." He caught the apple she tossed to him and sat at the counter, eating it happily while she piled some other food on a plate for them to share.
They ate like they'd missed meals during their two-day adventure, and when the plate was empty, they went back for more.
She put the dish in the recycler, and he walked up behind her, stopping her from turning around by putting his arms around her. She froze.
"I'm sorry, Chris. I'm sorry I wasn't paying attention-or that I didn't just act on what I wanted."
"I'm sorry I didn't say anything. I feel pretty stupid now."
"Don't. It's done now. We can't change it." He nuzzled her neck. "Do you want me to stop?"
"No." She leaned into him. "But you're going away. On your ship."
"On my ship that..." He waited for her to get it.
She laughed. "That I could be on, too, if I wanted."
He smiled and continued with the nuzzling. "For the record, I wanted you on it for your competence. This will just be an extra added bonus."
She turned in his arms. "This?"
"You think there'll be more of this cuddling and nuzzling and possibly kissing?"
"I do." He started to laugh. "Also probably the fighting and the silences."
"I don't want to fight with you." She started to smile. "But that doesn't mean I won't."
"I'll talk to Cartwright. We can make it an Emergency Ops billet. You'll report to him technically."
"I think so." He pulled her with him.
"Where are we going?"
"In search of a bed. Unless you object?"
"Will I still get the job if I do?"
He stopped, let go of her hand. Then he turned around and waited until she met his eyes to say, "If you need to ask that, then we won't do this. And I'll still talk to Cartwright and arrange a billet."
She moved closer. "Asked and answered. I think that's enough talking for now, don't you?"
"I do. Finally, we agree on something." He pulled her the rest of the way to him.
She kissed him. He'd spent a lot of time imagining what it would be like to kiss her. It was as good as he'd imagined. He hoped to hell he wasn't disappointing her. They came up for air, and he murmured, "So?"
"Oh my God, what the hell was wrong with us? Promise me, in the future that if we want, we ask."
"I promise." He pushed her against the wall. "Let's start now. I want you. May I have you?"
Her smile was luminous. "Oh, yes."
Turned out, they didn't really need a bed.