Fever Pitch by Djinn

Kirk could feel Spock watching him from across the bridge. Earth was about an hour away, and they were back for the first time since Chris had left both Spock and the Enterprise.

Left them, but not Kirk. He and Chris had been in contact by comms, and Kirk had a feeling Spock knew that—and was mad as hell. Not that he'd show it. They'd patched up their friendship as best they could when one friend slept with another man's woman.

A woman who the other man hadn't really wanted.

A woman who'd been desperately unhappy.

Oh, hell—enough with the excuses. A woman Kirk had wanted and friendship be damned, apparently. Not his normal style. But Spock had made him mad as hell when he'd told him to stay away from Chris. And some days, when Spock seemed more like the old one and less like this new one Kirk wasn't sure he liked very much, Kirk suspected Spock had known exactly what telling him that would do.

Make him surly. Make him stubborn.

Make him do just the opposite.

He hated to think he'd been played. But both he and Chris might have been. Even if it was probably partly subconscious on Spock's part.

He sensed rather than heard Spock coming up behind him, resisted whirling around as if he was in some danger. Turning casually, he raised an eyebrow and waited for whatever Spock wanted.

Spock seemed uncomfortable. "I have not decided how I will spend our time off during refits."

Kirk waited. He was sure as hell not inviting Spock to what he had planned.

"I take it you have already made arrangements?"

He nodded slowly, trying to keep his face as stony as Spock's.

He failed. Spock's grew stonier.

"Ah," was all Spock said, but it managed to convey a world of betrayal, disappointment, and disgust.

Or maybe that was just how Kirk was feeling about what he was doing.

Funny thing: it hadn't stopped him from doing it. From being the one who commed Chris in the first place a few days after she left the ship. From being the one who continued comming her, until their easy conversations turned into something more, plans to get together—to be together.

He'd been the one who'd told her he was coming home. To her. If she wanted.

She'd been silent for so long he would have thought the connection had dropped if he hadn't been able to see her on the monitor.

Then she said, "It's hard. Knowing you've had other women since I left."

"I haven't, actually. Not while you and I were clearly... Why? Have you been seeing other men?"

"No."

"Do you want to?" He'd been able to hear the tightness in his voice. Guilt and disappointment making him angry.

But then she had laughed softly, as if he was incredibly silly. "No, Jim, I only want you. But that's a problem because of Spock."

"I agree." There'd been a long silence. Then he'd said, "And I hate myself for saying this, but I don't care."

"I know. Neither do I."

"So, Doctor, I have lots of credits. Pick a place and we'll go."

"Bali," she said without hesitation.

"Bali it is. I'll make all the arrangements. Any special requests?"

She'd smiled, a very, very seductive smile. "Our own pool."

"You've got it."

He'd cut the connection, feeling guiltier by the moment.

Guilt hadn't stopped him from making the reservations immediately and sending her the info.

And soon he would see her and—

Spock coughed softly. He was clearly waiting for an answer to something he'd said while Kirk had been daydreaming about Chris.

"What?"

"Nothing, Jim. Your distraction speaks volumes." Spock turned away and went back to his station.

Kirk wished he felt worse or wished he felt nothing. This in between state of hating what he was doing but not being able to stop himself was driving him crazy.

It probably wasn't doing much for Spock's mental health, either.

##

Spock heard his chime ring, thought perhaps it was Jim, coming to explain—or perhaps to say he'd changed his mind, that he was not going to be with Spock's woman, after all.

Spock palmed open the door, was surprised to see not Jim but Rand.

"Hi." She stood in front of the door with her arms crossed. "Our esteemed captain just logged his plans for liberty."

He raised an eyebrow at her.

"I thought you'd like to know where he's going. I know I was interested. It's funny, when you check the transporter requests on Earth—which I have access to thanks to a lovely young man I dated back in the day—Christine is going to the exact same place as our captain."

He stepped aside and let her in.

She turned and studied him. "I don't get it. Do you know how many years I had to listen to her go on and on and on about you? She gets you and suddenly she's with him? How does that happen?"

He looked away. "It is..."

"Complicated?"

He nodded.

"Uncomplicate it for me. I would have bet the farm she'd have stayed with you forever, the perfect little doormat. And our honorable captain? Well, I'd have put my wager on him being with you, not with her." At Spock's look, she laughed. "Hon', a lot of people thought that."

"I see."

"So suddenly, Christine the one-note wonder is everyone's dream girl? Is there a virus running around this ship I'm not aware of?"

He was surprised at the vitriol in her voice, the hatred shining in her eyes. "Is this because you wanted Jim or because you don't want Christine to have him?"

"Can't it be both?" She leaned back against the wall. "Do you want to know where they're going?"

"No."

"Ooh, aren't you the noble one."

He could feel his mouth turning up. It was not a pleasant look and she seemed surprised to see it. "I already know."

"Devious Vulcan, getting the jump on me." She smiled. "Fancy a trip to Bali?"

"That would be obsessive of us, would it not?"

"Damned straight. Ruin their little outing, too."

He sat down on the bed. "I think not."

She sat next to him. "I suppose we could have sex. That might drive her crazy. He won't give a shit, though, what I do. But going there, interrupting them with an impromptu visit, will ruin both their plans."

"She does not want me." Spock took a deep breath. "And I do not want her."

"Riiiiiiiight."

She misunderstood him, but he did not elaborate, did not tell her that he cared more that Jim had stolen his woman than that he had stolen Christine. Christine had been right about that—even if he'd never given her the satisfaction of knowing her diagnosis of their relationship had been accurate. He turned to look at Rand. "Will you go anyway?"

"To Bali?"

He nodded.

"Nyah. No fun if you're not there. Besides, I'd just come off as a deranged stalker and the captain would have me off the ship like that. But with you...well, who could say it wasn't coincidence?"

"It would not be."

"But who's to say that?"

It was a hypothetical question he had no interest in answering. "Please go, Chief."

She stood. "Suit yourself. But if I were in your shoes, I would do something about this."

He ignored her, stood and went to his desk until he heard the soft sound of her leaving and the door shutting. He picked up the padd that contained the info on where Jim and Christine were going to be and calmly crushed it until his hand ached and the machine no longer worked.

It was not logical—the information could not be wiped from his brain no matter what he did to the padd—but it made him feel better anyway.

##

Chapel stood on the deck of the luxury villa Jim had secured for them on Bali. Secluded with its own pool, it opened to a glorious view of the sea and the beach. The warm breeze was soothing and she felt herself relaxing for the first time in weeks.

Then she heard footsteps on the gravel path and the relaxation gave way to a huge case of nerves.

Yes, they'd had sex. Frantic, desperate sex in the chapel of the Enterprise. Never time alone like this.

What if it didn't work? What if they were bad together?

What if Spock came between them?

The door opened and Jim walked in, wearing shorts and a t-shirt that she had a feeling he'd chosen because it accentuated every muscle he had without looking like he was trying too hard. He smiled when he saw her, the wonderful smile that left her in no doubt how he felt when he looked at her.

That had been hard with Spock: never knowing if she was seeing his stone face of disdain or just an "I'm busy but not feeling particularly negative about you at this moment" expression.

She'd never been able to read him. She'd been able to please him in bed. She'd been able to hurt him. But unless he melded with her—no matter what Amanda had said about time making things better—she'd never known what he was feeling.

If he'd loved her or had just wanted to keep what he owned.

She took a deep breath, pushing Spock into the past and smiling at the man who was her present.

Jim held his hand out to her and she went to him with no hesitation. She thought he'd pull her into his arms, that he'd have her undressed and on the bed—she knew he wanted her—but he just took her hand and pulled her out to the deck and down the stairs.

"We're going beachcombing," he said with a grin.

"Okay." She'd put on a short sundress that was blowing in the gentle breeze. She tried to hold it down with her free hand.

"Cut that out," he said, pulling her to him for a quick kiss. "Give me my thrills. There's no one out here but us."

She abandoned trying to be modest, let go of her skirt and let it blow where it wanted.

He turned so he was walking backwards and took a long look. "Never let it be said there's anything wrong with your legs."

"You already knew that. Those godawful minidresses from our first mission."

"Godawful from whose perspective?" He waggled his eyebrows and she laughed. Then he turned and pulled her close, and they wandered the beach. He kicked off his shoes and pulled off her sandals, and they waded into the surf.

"No beach to walk on," he murmured.

"What?"

He smiled, but it was a guilty smile. "I said that to Spock once. How I'd never have that. A beach to walk on, a beautiful woman to enjoy it with. I never imagined I'd be wrong—or that the woman would be someone I stole from him."

"You didn't steal me. I was leaving anyway. I just let you come with me, so to speak." She'd had a lot of time to think of this. A lot of time to wonder if what she was doing with Jim was fair to him, to Spock, to her.

She'd had time to come up with plenty of reasons it wasn't. Or it was. Depended on her mood.

But no matter what her mood, this was the truth: she wanted Jim. And she didn't care who got hurt. That was where she ended up and she had a feeling he was in the same place.

"He knows I'm with you, Chris."

"You told him?"

He shook his head. "He guessed. Or maybe snooped. I'm not sure. It was a little...awkward between us when I left the ship."

"I imagine it was." She really did have the better end of this deal. No one on Earth cared what she did or where she went.

He pulled her farther into the waves and kissed her. In for a penny, in for a pound: the Jim Kirk way. She kissed him back and they stood like that for a long time, lips touching, the feeling of sand rolling away beneath their feet. But he was holding her and she didn't feel as if she'd fall.

He always made her feel safe.

"Are you going to make love to me again? Right here on the beach?"

"What we did before, Chris, that wasn't making love."

She could feel her smile fade.

"No, I don't mean that in a bad way. We connected. We connected in so many ways. But it was spontaneous and frantic and neither one of us planned it. I'm not sure what it was. Release? Escape?" He brushed her hair off her cheek. "It was sex. It was damned good even if it wasn't probably a good thing. And it was nothing like what is going to happen here. Between two people who planned to come together—who want to come together. You understand where I'm going with this?"

She could feel her smile coming back. "Yes."

"So, no, I'm not going to make love to you right now on the beach. We're going to walk and talk and kiss until we think we'll die if we don't rip each others' clothes off."

"I see."

"You object to this plan?" He grinned at her, let his hand run down her side, brushing her breast. "You had other ideas for our time here?"

"I resisted planning."

"Ah. Well, good." He pulled her closer, ran his hand down to her leg and then up, under her dress, moving her panties aside, fingers questing and—there.

Her legs nearly buckled at what he was doing. "I thought you said—"

"I didn't say I couldn't touch you, did I? You're still fully clothed, after all."

"Carry on, sir."

He laughed and did, easing her to the sand, letting her squirm in his arms as he kissed her. Grinning as she came. Loudly.

She hoped he was right that they were alone out here. She pulled him to her, kissed him deeply, then pulled away, running her hands down his body. "Don't you want me to...?"

"As long as you leave my clothes on, I think you'll be in accord with my plans." His grin was devilish.

"Is that what this afternoon will be? Us thinking of creative ways to make orgasms with our clothes on?"

"Can you think of a better use of this fine afternoon?"

"Now that you mention it, I sure can't." She began to rub him, and he exhaled heavily as she worked her way into his shorts.

He smiled and gave himself over to her. He was very loud as he came, too.

She laughed softly as she kissed him and pulled her hand free. "This could get messy."

He looked down at his shorts and grinned a bit self consciously. Then he got up and pulled her up too, leading her into the water, falling backwards once they were deep enough so they were swimming in their clothes. "Problem solved, Chris. I can't wait to see how the dress looks when it's soaking wet."

She laughed and paddled them in closer to shore, so they could stand, so she could wrap her legs around him and ride him, till he groaned and pulled her off him, moving her so her back was against his chest. He reached around, began to touch her again.

"Didn't you say something about us talking?" She leaned her head back against his shoulder.

"Don't come until I tell you to. How's that for talking?" He was chuckling as he kissed her neck under her ear. "Tell me what you're feeling. Tell me how fast to go. How hard."

"Jim." She wasn't used to this. Being so...open.

"Tell me." He slowed down, touched her so softly she could barely feel his fingers on her.

So she told him. And he did exactly what she wanted. And later, she did exactly what he wanted.

And then they walked on the beach some more, their clothes drying on them in the sunshine, and really did talk. Managing to resist touching for a while as they caught up, as they reminisced about things before Spock, before all this. As they found the common bonds she knew they'd need to make this work.

They were quite a ways down the beach when he turned them, headed back to the villa. "You ready?" he asked gently as they climbed the stairs to the deck and into the house.

"I am so ready I can't stand it."

He grinned. "Me, too."

They fell into bed, ripping clothes off, and it was frantic but nothing like that first time, when it had been a surprise, almost an accident of where they'd been emotionally.

This was deliberate. This was wanted.

This was amazing.

##

Rand watched Spock pace in the transporter room. She didn't think she'd ever seen him do that, show such impatience.

"Do you love her?"

He glanced over at her, as if they'd never talked about this, as if she'd never offered a chance for revenge.

"I do not wish to speak of this with you."

"Fine." She called up some information on her terminal. "Mmm, sunny and warm in Bali. Bet they have their clothes off by now. Are lazing on some big bed with the breeze blowing the curtains open."

He turned and gave her a look that probably would have scared most people. She wasn't most people, though.

"I'm just speculating, of course. Maybe they're not having wild, passionate sex. Maybe they're reading books or watching a vid. Maybe they're not getting rid of all that pent-up tension—I can only imagine how much it's built up since she left."

He strode over to her. "What do you want?"

"Not sure I follow."

"Why are you doing this?"

"Because I hate her."

"You are her friend."

"Am I? She doesn't include me—I never knew what was going on with you and her. She keeps everything to herself, like I wouldn't understand. And then, she gets the man she always wanted and still isn't satisfied. She has to take mine, too?"

"Jim was never yours."

"Yeah? Well at least I didn't have him in my grasp and then screw it up so bad he fled."

Spock turned away, but she saw his jaw tighten. Direct hit.

"Are you going to beam somewhere or what?" The refit crews were already aboard and she'd seen a couple of promising young bucks, had flirted with most of them. Several had flirted back. Maybe she'd stay on the ship?

"You know where they are staying on Bali?"

"I thought you did?"

"I have the information in my quarters."

"I have the information in my brain, Mister Supposedly Smart Guy." She moved over to him. "You want to go?"

He nodded slowly, as if he really didn't want to.

She hit the comm switch. "Rand to Hansen."

"Hansen here."

"Taking off now. Switching main transporter control to you."

"Got it. Enjoy your holiday."

"Oh, I will." She turned the comm off, transferred control of the transporters to auxiliary, and looked up at Spock. "I don't have reservations anywhere or anything. I was actually going to go to Las Vegas and see what was open."

"I don't want to stay in Bali. I just..."

"You just want to torture yourself with a view of the lovebirds?"

"That is not how I'd put it."

"Yeah? Well, I'm more honest than you." She locked the door from the console then motioned for Spock to turn around. "I want to get out of this uniform. You should, too."

"You want me to change here?"

"I'm not going to look, you big baby." She dug into her pack and quickly changed into a pair of shorts and a tank top. She switched her boots for sandals. "Tell me when I can turn around."

"You are already changed?"

"I'm efficient. What's your excuse?" She heard rustling, as he no doubt went through the little valise he'd brought in with him, then he said, "Fine."

She turned, saw he had changed to pants and a loose shirt suitable for the tropics. "Ready?"

He nodded.

"Any idea what you're going to do once you've seen them?"

"No."

"Seems out of character. You being the big chess player and all. I'd have figured you for having four moves down the road planned." She knew her smile was a mean one. "I guess Christine really did a number on you."

"I am having second thoughts about accompanying you, Chief."

She pretended to zip her lips, set the transporter for Bali, urged him onto the pad, and said, "Energize." The transporter would deliver them to their destination and then only Hansen would be able to control it.

Bali materialized around them. Or the transporter station, anyway. It looked pretty much like any other transporter station.

She slung her pack over her shoulder and headed off, not caring if Spock followed her now that she was here.

She had her own curiosity to satisfy. Her own desire to torture herself to indulge.

Beyond that, she hadn't planned, either.

##

Kirk lay next to Chris on the daybed, enjoying the feel of the breeze over his naked skin. He had a sheet nearby he could grab on the off chance some intrepid hikers found their neck of the beach, but he didn't think that was likely.

Chris rolled to her side and smiled at him. "You're right. The first time was nothing like this."

"I told you." He touched her cheek. "So sweet."

She leaned in and kissed him, a kiss that went on for a very long time, and he didn't mind that at all. He felt like he'd never get tired of her, could kiss her for the rest of his life and die happy.

He also knew he was high on hormones and neurotransmitters and the feel of skin on skin.

And he was in love.

God help him, he was in love with her. He'd known that, before now, but he hadn't felt it until now. This mad, seething passion coupled with a tenderness that surprised him. He wanted to protect her. Always.

"I hate to do this," she said softly, "but if we don't talk about this, I'm afraid we never will." She looked down and sighed. "About Spock."

"I knew what you meant." He tipped her chin up so she had to look at him. "And you're right."

"I mean, this is wonderful. But this is Bali. In a secluded little villa. Where no one can see us. And I don't want that to be all we have. Stolen, isolated moments."

"No?"

She shook her head. "And I don't think that's what you want, either."

He wondered if she'd ever known Spock well enough to know what he wanted. He didn't think so. "It's not what I want. But..." He sighed.

"I know. He's your best friend, Jim. You'd die for him."

"I would. And yet I do this... I couldn't even tell him where I was going. I always tell him."

"But you said he knows."

"But not because I told him. Every other leave, we'd spend time together beforehand. Playing chess and talking about our plans."

"So you've stopped playing chess?"

"No. We've just had to find a lot of new—safe—subjects. I don't want to hurt him. He doesn't—I think—want to be angry at me so he doesn't ask about us."

"But he's going to know, he's going to be around if we're open about this. All our friends will be around."

He nodded. He'd thought of this. Just not very hard—being with her like this had more or less dominated his thoughts. The immediate present and the sex, not the future. But now the future seemed incredibly important. He leaned in, not close enough to kiss her, just close enough for what he was going to say to be very clear. "I love you."

She smiled, a beautiful, happy smile. "I love you, too. I did when I left the ship. That moment in the chapel, it wasn't the start of something, it was the end, I thought. All the dancing, the laughing. The safe times."

"That weren't safe."

"Right. The safe times that weren't safe. And then you commed me. And I knew we weren't done. I knew I was still safe." She sighed. "I don't want to hurt him. But I don't see a way around it."

"There's one." He met her eyes.

"I don't see a way around it short of ending this."

"Right." He nodded. They needed to be honest. Totally honest. They were hurting Spock because they had not ended this.

And he didn't want to end this.

"I don't want to say goodbye anytime soon. Maybe not ever. Is that too much to say? That I see a long run for us?"

"I don't mind you saying it."

She smiled and leaned back, not seductively but she managed to be. Her body was too tempting to keep talking about this. They were agreed. What else mattered?

"We're going to stay together, Chris. We might hurt him. We'll try not to, though. Is there anything else to say?" He moved over her, waited for her answer.

"No. There's nothing more to say." She pulled him down, pulled him into her, and moaned as he moved.

Being with her felt perfect. It felt just like coming home.

##

Spock stood at the forest edge and watched as his best friend made love to his lover—his former lover.

"Well? How does it feel?" Rand leaned against a tree and watched him. She'd already made comments about the number of credits Jim had to be spending for such a secluded and luxurious place. And how maybe he didn't want anyone to see him with Christine.

Spock thought Jim just wanted to be able to have sex with her any time, in any way with no interruptions. Such as now, on the exotic daybed near a pool they probably had also made love in.

He realized he was clenching his hands and forced himself to relax.

Rand pushed herself off the tree. "Okay, then. They've ruined our vacation, what say we ruin theirs?"

"What?"

"We walk over, say hi, put an end to all that messy bliss. Come on, Spock. Grow a pair." She started to walk out of the woods.

He grabbed her, yanking her back, and when she started to protest, he put his hand over her mouth. "We are not going to do that."

She elbowed him hard, but he held on. Finally, he found the spot on her shoulder that no human could seem to find and pinched. Hard.

She was out instantly.

He scooped her up into his arms, and with a last look at Jim and Christine, carried her back the way they'd come. Once he was safely out of earshot of the villa, he put her down and considered their options. It was no doubt inadvisable to carry an unconscious woman out of the forest without an excellent cover story that she would back up. Since she would wake up in far less good humor than she was in before—and she had not been very nice then—it was more likely she'd say he abducted her, get him arrested, and then head back and ruin Jim's holiday.

Part of him wanted to let her. He could claim ignorance, even say he'd tried to stop her.

He sighed and sat down, leaning back against a tree, close enough to Rand that he could grab her if she tried to get away, but not so close she'd feel crowded.

He'd learned a lot from Christine. Pity she would never know it. Or care.

##

Chapel leaned back against Jim's chest as they watched the sunset. They'd pulled on some clothes since he'd ordered room service, and they didn't really want to give the waiter that much of a show.

"It's beautiful here," Jim murmured, tightening his hold on her. With Spock, it would have felt suffocating—at least at the end of their time together, when all she'd felt like was a possession. But with Jim it felt good. Safe.

"It is." She ran her hand along his leg. He liked to be touched. More than she would have thought. Now that he'd let her in, he seemed to welcome anything she wanted to do, any way she wanted to show affection. A bump as they walked, leaning into him in the pool, a kiss, a hug. This simple rubbing, skin on skin.

And he touched back—she wasn't the only one connecting. He liked to play with her hair; no one had done that for years and she loved it. He was easy and sweet and light.

And tender. That was what surprised her the most, probably. How careful he was of her. Not like she was going to break, just that she was worth caring about.

She supposed it was possible Jim could hurt her someday the way Spock had, but she had a hard time seeing it.

A low chime sounded, and she patted Jim on the leg and said, "Food's here. I'll get it."

She buzzed in the waiter at the back gate and followed in the succulent smelling wake of the food Jim had ordered. He'd refused to tell her what he'd asked for, smiling in his devilish way that made her worry for her taste buds.

Jim lazily waved the waiter over to the daybed. She laughed at how relaxed he looked, and the waiter seemed to be trying hard to hide a knowing grin.

"He's had a hard day," she said, as if she and the waiter were old buds.

"Yes, ma'am. Of course, ma'am." Then he seemed to realize what he'd said and looked up at her. "I don't mean that spending time with you would be difficult, ma'am."

"You hitting on my girl?" Jim asked, having trouble hiding his grin.

"It would sort of only be fair," she said, wondering if he'd let her make light of this.

"You're right." He laughed. Thank God. He signed the man's tablet and said, "Now, skedaddle, sir, before you get me in trouble with the lady."

"Yes, sir. Very good, sir. I'm sorry, sir." The man was clearly very confused.

She laughed as Jim pulled her back down to the daybed. "What did you get us?"

"Mie goring," he said as he pointed to a noodle dish. "Chicken satay. And lots of rice. Gotta keep your strength up for all the sex we're going to have."

"Mmmm." She leaned down and kissed him. "I think I could muster up the strength if I had to, even without this lovely meal."

"I'm sure you could, you vixen. Now, quit distracting me from my meal." He grinned at her and dished up a plate, but then he gallantly handed it to her.

"You're giving me first taste?"

"I'm selfless that way." He fixed one for himself and they ate quietly, shoulders pressed together as they leaned back against the daybed cushions, occasionally making happy "this is damned good food" sounds.

"You know what?" He looked over at her, a content look on his face. "I really like you."

She smiled. "I really like you, too." She leaned in, earning a nice, peanut-sauce-infused kiss.

That only made it better somehow.

##

Rand woke up sputtering, with an ache in her head that seemed to emanate from her shoulder. She saw Spock and sat up, then realized he'd moved them very far away from the little house on the beach.

"You bastard."

He looked at her with an untroubled expression.

"Why?"

He took a deep breath. "I have had ample time to think about that as I waited for you to wake up."

"Sorry I took so long. Next time, don't knock me out."

He ignored her anger. "My reaction was instinctive. To protect Jim. And possibly Christine, but I think it was Jim I was most concerned with."

"Yeah, there's a newsflash."

He ignored that too. "I do not want to ruin his time with Christine."

"What if she were with someone else? Would you ruin it then?"

"Ah, but you would not be interested if she were with someone else. And without you to instigate, I would probably not have come here."

"Logic is a bitch."

"But to answer your question, were I in that situation and it were not Jim who was with her, then I might have allowed you to ruin her fun."

"Really? You're not just saying that?"

"I am not just saying that."

"Awwww." She rubbed her shoulder. "Is the neck-pinch aftermath supposed to hurt this much?"

"It is different for everyone."

"Anyone ever do it to you?"

"Not in recent memory."

"Well, maybe they should. Then you wouldn't be so quick to reach for that as a solution."

"It was a solution. You were hell bent on your plan."

She sighed. "Yeah, and what difference would it have made to you if I'd done it? Why should you be such a good friend to the captain when he's not being one to you?"

"Why does it bother you so that he's with her? He has been with many women. Has any ever bothered you like this does?"

She moved back so she had a nice tree to lean against too. "Why are you suddenly so concerned about my motivations?"

He closed his eyes for a moment, surprising her with that show of weakness—or maybe just garden-variety exhaustion. "When I hurt Christine—and I did hurt her, she did not throw me over for Jim without good reason. When I hurt her, it was in response to things I was feeling, to things in my own past, not really in reaction to her. I am surmising that for you, this too is true."

She looked away.

"When you left the Enterprise during our first five-year mission, it was with a recommendation to Officer Candidate School, was it not?"

She could feel her face turning red.

"Janice?"

She met his eyes, could not remember him ever calling her by her first name. "Yes."

"And yet here you are. A chief petty officer."

She took a deep breath.

"What happened between your leaving and OCS starting?"

"Maybe I flunked out?"

"Highly doubtful. Jim would not have given a recommendation to an officer he thought would flunk out. Nor would I."

She stared at him. "I never asked you for one."

"I gave you one anyway. I was impressed by your performance."

She swallowed hard. Of all the things he could have said, that surprised her the most. And made it harder to say, "I chickened out."

"Why?"

"I don't know." But she did know. It was people like Christine. People with their gazillion degrees and their easy way of talking their way into Starfleet and ending up an officer when she'd had to scratch and crawl to earn every post. It was the idea of being found wanting. If she never tried, she couldn't fail.

"Janice. Why?"

She met his eyes. "You won't understand this. You're brilliant, just like she is."

"Did she make you feel inadequate?"

"Without even trying."

"Like you didn't belong. Would never, no matter how much you tried, be like she was?"

Rand nodded.

"Believe me. I understand completely. I am, after all, only half Vulcan."

She thought about that. Growing up on that world. A world of people like Christine. For whom knowledge came easy and studying was a breeze. Who could sweet talk their way into everything—Christine used charm and wit; Vulcans had their logic that greased the way.

But Christine had other ways to get ahead. "She dated her professor, Spock. Korby. He was her teacher. Her boss, in a way."

"Ah. Another crime, then. She could have him, but you could not have Jim?"

"Exactly. And no one calls her on it. Like, 'Hey, Christine, what did the faculty think when you got engaged to your goddamned advisor?' I was always happy that you ignored her. One man she couldn't have no matter what." She laughed bitterly. "And then you went and fell for her."

"It is far more complicated than that."

"Yeah? How so? You were fucking her, weren't you? She was your mate, or whatever you call it?"

"We were involved, but we were not formally bonded."

"Well, there you go. She still got you." Rand could feel the pain starting. Why was she still alone? Why did she never get a nice guy? Why did she never get the nice guy: Jim Kirk. The perfect guy. And Christine did? How was that fair?

"If it makes you feel better, I am not sure I ever loved her."

"You're just saying that."

"I am not. I was possessive. But it was as much what had happened between us that made me so—and much of that was due to my own guilt over some very bad things that occurred—as any true affection."

"And next you'll be saying you didn't like screwing her."

"I will not say that. I did. Very much."

"Enough sharing. Jeez." She smiled at him, though. Somehow the thought that maybe Christine really hadn't gotten the impossible guy did make her feel better.

Spock stood up. "I am done here. Are you?"

She held up a hand, was surprised when he took it and pulled her up. "I don't know. Am I?"

"I believe you are. Have you ever been to Tasmania?"

"Say what?"

"It is not far. We are dressed appropriately. And I have always been curious about it."

"What about that Tasmanian Devil thing."

He almost smiled. "I believe you are surly enough to scare anything off."

"I'll take that as a compliment." She grinned. "Better than being a fucking doormat."

"Your language is atrocious."

"You try being a chief petty officer without swearing like a longshoreman and tell me how that works."

"Which is why you should go to Officer Candidate School."

"I lost my chance."

"I know the administrator of the program."

She stopped and turned to face him. "You'd do that for me?"

"I would."

"That's very nice of you."

Again the almost smile. "I can, given the right impetus, be nice."

"For what it's worth, Christine was an idiot."

He looked back toward where she imagined the captain and Christine were. "No, I'm afraid she was not." He looked sad for a moment.

She took his arm, shocked that he let her, that he started walking at her urging. "Well, that's in the past. Tasmania awaits."

"Yes." He did not ask her to let go of his arm, so she didn't.

Finally she looked up at him. "Are we going to have sex in Tasmania?"

"Would you like that?"

"We could have sex right here and I'd probably like it. That's not the point."

He did smile at that. Just a slight tipping of the lips, but a real smile. Spock thought she was funny? "What is the point, Janice?"

"Well, you know, if I'm going to think about transferring off the ship and going to OCS—that is what you meant, right? Me transferring off?"

He nodded.

"Then I wouldn't be in your chain"—or thank God, Kirk's—"and we could have more than just sex. We could have a relationship—I mean if I decide I like you that way. And if I were to go to OCS, then I'd be a different person, not one that needed to create a big scene and ruin her friend's life."

"I am unsure if I follow."

"What I'm saying, Mister Supposedly Smarty Pants, is that I'm not sure I'm going to sleep with you."

He nodded as if she had said something very wise. "You will advise me once you have decided?"

"Count on it."

FIN