Someone Else's Wife
How It Began
Chapel looked around the complex that housed the Federation's forward-placed diplomatic department on Laresian Prime. Kevin was practically foaming at the mouth as he explained this and that about the planet. Not that she didn't know. Truth to tell she was smarter than Kevin, but she didn't usually bother rubbing that in.
Kevin had come along at a time when she'd needed some consoling in a big way. He'd been great in bed, easy on the eyes, and a true gentleman.
Oh, and he'd worshipped her. Past tense.
She'd never worshipped him, but he'd made her forget that Spock had found happiness with that she-wolf Valeris. Temporary happiness as it turned out. If Valeris hadn't been deported to Qo'nos, Chapel might have hunted her down for getting Jim and Len sent to Rura Penthe. The fact that Valeris had snared Spock would just have been icing on the "You hurt me, I hurt you" cake.
Chapel had found, though, that Kevin's courtly manners that reminded her of Len at his best and the beautiful smile that she'd thought similar to Jim's, masked a mind that moved about two warp factors slower than either of those two men's, and that might still be giving Kevin too much credit.
He'd milked charm and looks and a powerful family for all they were worth.
The bad news: she'd married him before she found this out. The good news: it was a term marriage. They'd renewed it the first few years, but she had no intention of renewing it again. She hadn't told Kevin that yet.
And the logic behind that omission? If she had told him, she wouldn't have been invited to accompany him on this assignment. Where Spock was in charge of the diplomatic department. Spock, who had approved her husband's transfer. Spock who handpicked every person who was assigned to his department. Spock who did not suffer fools lightly.
Spock who had recently come to Ops to look her up.
Spock who had never before come to Ops for that reason.
"Walk with me?" Spock had asked.
She'd gotten up and followed him out. They walked for quite a bit, no words exchanged. She wondered if he thought she would break the silence: if so, he thought wrong.
"Your marriage is happy?" he finally asked with no preamble, no chipper small talk, or whatever Vulcans did before dissecting romantic unions.
She studied him. He looked different than he had the last time she saw him—at Jim's memorial, after the Enterprise B launch a few weeks ago. Spock looked very focused now; at the memorial, he'd just looked lost.
"It is a simple question, Christine."
"Maybe it's not." She touched his arm, eased him into an alcove where they could sit. At his look, she said, "I don't want to walk and talk. I want to see you when we talk."
He sat and stared at her, and it reminded her of all the times he'd stared at her when they'd been lovers. Times that never lasted because he was always looking past her. Although to be fair to him—and she prided herself on trying to be fair to him so that when he really fucked up, she could hate him with a clear conscience—he'd usually been driven to her by the Pon Farr, not romantic whimsy. At least as far as she could tell—he'd never actually told her what drove him to her, and she'd never asked. The answer probably wouldn't have pleased her and she'd been smart enough to know that.
"Why are you staring at me?" she asked, letting rancor creep into her voice.
"Because I wish to."
"I'm not yours."
"I am aware of that." He broke the gaze for a moment, then was right back on her with the intensity. "Will you end your marriage?"
She gave him a mean little shrug—not the meanest in her repertoire, but close. "Why do you care?"
He gave her the same shrug back—she'd have bet a lot of credits he wouldn't have been able to replicate the bitchiness of her gesture, but he came through like a champ. "I ask again: will you end your marriage?"
"Have you told your husband this?"
He did not look away. "Is it because he has applied to work with me?"
She could feel her face flushing. "Well, now, that would make me pathetic, wouldn't it?" She started to get up. "Look, if you want him to come and don't want me there too, I'll tell him tonight."
He yanked her back down. Harder than she expected. "Do not."
"Do not?" She pulled her arm away. "Is that an order?"
He seemed to realize what he had done and exhaled slowly. "No. Did I hurt you?"
"Fortunately for you, you did not. Ticked me off a bit, though."
"I have always been adept at aggravating you."
"Yes. Yes, you have." She stood up and this time he didn't try to stop her. "Are you seriously considering his request?"
"If both of you came. There are several billets you would be excellent for. Medical, Emergency Management."
She started to laugh. "You want me there?"
"Did I not just say that?"
She sat back down—standing up had just been to test him. "Why don't you simply ask for me, then? Why saddle yourself with him? You won't like him. I can guarantee it."
"I am aware of that. His reputation precedes him."
"I am, unfortunately, bound by Federation bureaucracy. While I have many billets I am free to fill in diplomatic, the other positions are not mine to fill, unless of course, they are filled with partners of diplomats."
"This isn't you. This isn't how you do things." She narrowed her eyes, remembering how he stole the ship to get Pike to that planet, how he tried to steal the ship to get to Vulcan. "Well, most of the time."
He almost smiled. "Your father in law," was all he said.
"Ah." She leaned back. Jack Porter. Her father-in-law. Hands in every pot in the quadrant. Friend of everyone—or possibly he just had something on everyone, it was hard to tell. Definitely someone that could grease wheels if Spock needed it. And Jack had always wanted his boy to work with the architect of Klingon peace. Another thing she knew: he hated her. Had not wanted Kevin to marry her, had been the one to insist on it being a term marriage. Not that she'd minded that. But Kevin had initially wanted a traditional wedding.
She owed Jacko for being an asshole. "Let me guess. He made you an offer you couldn't refuse."
"There is no offer I cannot refuse. You know me better than that, Christine. He made me an offer I had no desire to refuse—an offer that benefitted me greatly on the diplomatic front and also, in the process, will free you from your inconvenient marriage."
"Inconvenient? I wasn't aware that you even notice I got hitched."
She leaned in. Much too close. But it was a very private alcove on a not very travelled hallway. "Did it hit you where you live when I married someone else? When I finally said, 'Hey, I'm not going to sit around and be Spock's sex toy anymore'?" She leaned closer, her lips nearly on his. "I imagine when your girl turned out to be a big, fat traitor, you missed old reliable me, huh?"
He pushed her back just slightly. "Christine, take care. With all that has happened. With Valeris. And Jim. I am...unpredictable."
She started to laugh, and he backed up abruptly. "Do you actually think you were ever predictable?" She touched his cheek, was surprised when he seemed to flinch. "So you're going to break up my marriage?"
"If that is all right with you?"
"I don't give a damn what you do. Kevin hasn't slept with me in months."
She could see Spock found that statement very, very interesting. She leaned in, closer and closer, till her lips were very nearly on his again. "Spock, one thing you should know. If you want me this time—if you really, really want me—you're going to have to work for it. Very, very hard." She pulled away, rose in one fluid movement that she knew he wasn't expecting, and walked off.
A week later Kevin had told her he'd been accepted for a position on Spock's staff.
"We're going to Laresian Prime," he had said, laughing. In the early days, he would have grabbed her, spun her around. Not now.
And now, in the lobby of the complex, he turned to her and smiled. "We're really here."
"We really are." She gave him her best smile, saw his surprise and answering smile.
It was true, after all. They were there. Even if she knew only one of them was really wanted.
Chapel did not seek Spock out. Her billet was in medical and in medical she stayed.
It took him five and a half hours to come see her. "You are settling in?" he asked her as he walked into her office.
She could tell by the looks of the other doctors and nurses outside her office that medical was not a place the director of diplomatic frequented except under protest.
"I am. Thank you."
He nodded. Now that she was here, the focus he'd shown on Earth was missing. He actually seemed...nervous.
Or else he knew this would be the sure way to make her feel sorry for him. Draw her out. But that would be giving him a lot of credit—then again, you don't become a crack negotiator by not understanding other people.
She sat tight, smiling pleasantly, letting him stew in his pretend nerves.
His expression changed as time passed, and she started to grin.
"I almost fell for it, Spock."
"I have improved, have I not?"
"Very much so." She mock clapped.
He inclined his head and she laughed. "Would you care to have lunch? We could...catch up is the phrase, is it not?"
"You don't normally come down to Medical just to shoot the shit, do you, Spock?"
"I do not."
"Do you regularly eat lunch?"
"Yes, but at my desk generally."
"Do you really wish to compound the signal you've already sent by coming down here by breaking another routine?"
"You are a shipmate. A trusted friend." He didn't falter, even when she rolled her eyes at the label. "We have served together for many years. Faced death many times."
"Had many orgasms together." She said it softly enough that it wouldn't travel out of her office.
"I intend to omit that part if asked about you." His almost smile was adorable; she chided herself for falling for it so easily.
"When Kevin does leave, do you really want a scandal?"
"There will be no scandal. We are friends. You said I had to work for it, did you not?"
"Then we will be friends. And Kevin will go. And I will be there for you when he does—as a friend. Friends console one another in such times, do they not? And in time, when I have worked for it sufficiently, we will be lovers." Spock was keeping his voice low, too.
"You have this all planned out."
"One problem, Einstein. I may want out of my marriage. I wanted out even before you came to see me. But I'm not sure I want you."
"That is a lie."
"And you know this from your new and improved social skills?"
"No, Vulcans have an enhanced sense of smell. You studied us a great deal when you were so fascinated with me, Christine. How could you miss that detail?"
"That's how you and Sarek do it. The negotiations. You can smell arousal. Excitement of any kind. Fear. Mistrust."
"You can really smell me?" She made a face.
"It is not an unpleasant smell." He was back with the intensity again.
The look was gone immediately.
She wished she could control her emotions so well. "So friends, then divorce, then lovers, huh?"
"If you have a path you prefer, I am open to hearing it."
"We've never been friends. That might be novel." She knew her voice wasn't brimming over with enthusiasm.
"Lunch would be a beginning."
"Kevin would kill to have lunch with you."
"I am not interested in dining with your husband."
She shook her head. "How long are you going to keep him here?"
"His posting is for a year. He will be here a year. His review will be satisfactory, unless he does something to warrant better or worse."
"In other words, you'll evaluate him fairly?"
"Yes. And just so we are clear: I will not be sleeping with his wife."
She let one side of her mouth turn up, knew it was a smile he found attractive, sensual. "But I have a feeling you'll want to."
"Do you plan to torment me during the year?"
She gave him a less mean version of her shrug.
He shot her an expression that had to be the Vulcan equivalent of an eye roll.
Getting to Know You
Spock sat across from Christine in the complex's cafeteria. A mixture of Starfleet and other Federation personnel sat around them, but many were in civilian clothes—the last thing the Federation wanted was to make their diplomatic mission look like a military outpost any more than they needed to.
"These facilities are first rate," she said as she looked up at him and gave him the guarded smile he was getting used to from her. He could not remember the last time he'd seen the smile he remembered from the Enterprise.
It gave him some pause that it bothered him what kind of expression she wore, but she'd been right when she'd said he wanted her because of what she represented to him. She'd always been there for him and now, when he found himself with no Jim and no Valeris, he'd sought her out.
He might have done it even if Porter's father had not contacted him, even if Porter himself had not sent him an overly eager letter of application for one of his openings.
It was highly dishonorable to go after another man's wife. That had not, however, stopped Stonn, a man Spock had considered a friend, and Stonn and T'Pring were happy now. They lived long and prospered.
Spock had been honorable and what was his reward? Long life, perhaps, but those he loved most had betrayed him or been taken from him.
Except this woman.
She believed he had no feelings for her; she was wrong, but she was right in that he had never let any of them out for her to see. He'd done that for any number of reasons, most of which did not make a great deal of sense to him anymore.
Except one. His father approved of her. Sarek had commended her to Spock when he met Christine on the Enterprise during the voyage to Babel. A fact Spock did not appreciate, the incident with T'Pring being still raw—that he'd been bonded to her at all had been the decision of the man now telling him that Christine would also be an acceptable mate. Sarek had championed Christine again after V'ger, when Spock had seemed, no doubt, more open and emotional. Weaker, Spock had always thought his father had thought him. Malleable. Sarek had noted Christine's scientific accomplishments, her quick attainment of an M.D.
And then after the trial of Jim and the others, his father had been especially pointed. Spock had wondered whether if Sarek had not been married to his mother, he would have pursued Christine himself. And now the praise went beyond her ability to nurture, her scientific achievements, or her quick wit. It went to her loyalty, to her command presence, to her ability to achieve results.
So, Sarek had been Christine's advocate. The proverbial "kiss of death" for Spock growing up and apparently well into adulthood. But he'd been drawn to her nonetheless. Had let his body overrule his brain and rebellious pride more than once. No doubt hurting her in the process every time he left her.
"What are you thinking about? You look so grim." She pushed her plate away.
"Oh. That explains it." Again the half smile.
This Christine had changed in ways he could not quite determine. If they were closer friends—or friends at all, as she would undoubtedly say—he would probably be better equipped to figure it out. He would try a more rational approach since he had no intuitive help on this. "How are you finding medicine after so long away?"
She laughed softly and shook her head. "Slow."
"You are bored?"
"Not quite. It's just the pace some days. But I'm good in an emergency, and we do get a lot of those, being the nearest Federation medical facility the far-flung colonies have. "
"Do you miss Emergency Operations?"
"Sometimes. It's in my blood. I spent so many years there. But it's not always a nice place, so in a way I feel like I'm detoxing here. As if this discomfort is necessary, to get to a more balanced place. A pace that isn't quite so frenetic."
"I often travel with a medical officer. If you need a change of pace, you are welcome to accompany us on a diplomatic mission."
She smiled and finally it was a real smile. "Because sitting around watching diplomats work is preferable to giving crew physicals?"
He had to concede the point. "The planets are often interesting."
"I'll give you that. But I've seen a lot of worlds."
"In an emergency state. Not at their best. Not decorated and fully stocked, to demonstrate to our delegation their advances and riches."
"I'll give you that. Landslide season on Elivias Sella was probably not the best time to see the planet." She studied him. "Kevin's happy. He can't stop talking about you since that mission you let him backbench on. If you were his idol before, you're a god now."
He had done that to get to know the man. To see if he should stop what he was doing. If there was any part of Kevin Porter who still loved his wife. There did not appear to be. In fact, to Spock's way of thinking, there did not appear to be that much to Kevin Porter. He had to wonder why Christine married him. He was handsome and must be skilled in bed. But Spock did not envision scintillating pillow talk—or any other kind—for the two of them.
"I am far from a god, as you well know." He sipped his water. "Are you happy?"
"You just asked me that."
"No, I asked you how you were finding medical."
She seemed to shut down. She'd done it before during their lunches, usually when he asked her seemingly innocuous questions like the one he just had. "What is happiness?"
And just as now, she more often than not answered like a zen master.
He lifted an eyebrow. "In the past, I do not believe I would have had to define it for you."
She shrugged, drank her coffee, and studied him instead.
He found it highly unnerving. Something he would never had been able to say about her before.
Spock made his way around the banquet hall. The complex director was throwing his monthly mixer for those just arrived and those leaving, and Spock found himself watching Christine and Porter interact.
They barely spoke to each other. Her smile was distinctly pro forma when introduced, Porter's more real. She had always struck Spock as what his mother deemed a "people person," but this was not what he was seeing now.
She turned away, saw Spock watching her, and made her way to the bar without acknowledging him in any way. But the minute he walked up behind her, she said, "Couldn't help yourself?"
As the bartender was at the other end of the bar and she had chosen a less populated part to stand at, he decided not to react to what was clearly a goad with any kind of reprimand about discretion. "Your mood is worse than usual."
"Wow, go for the jugular, Spock."
He studied her. "What is wrong?"
"I don't like these things."
He remembered differently. Remember her laughing with Uhura, with Leonard and Jim and Rand. Smiling. Happy to be there. He generally left ship get-togethers before she did. "You always enjoyed the parties on the ship."
"I knew everyone. And I wasn't with him." She sighed. "I should have just divorced him on Earth and been done with it."
The bartender came down and asked for their order. Spock expected her to order something highly intoxicating, but she asked for tonic water. He did the same.
"Shocked you, didn't I? Thought I was going to drown my sorrows?"
"It occurred to me. Given your state of mind."
"You have no idea of my state of mind, Spock. You only know the apparent mood I'm in."
"They are, indeed, two different things." He held up his glass, saw her surprise. "To understanding the difference? If you'll let me in?"
She clinked her glass against his. "Eventually."
Who Blinks First
Kevin was watching some type of sporting event. He walked past her several times to get a fresh beer from the chiller but other than that ignored her.
When he sat down again, she put her padd down. "Is something wrong?"
"I heard you had lunch with Spock."
"I often have lunch with Spock. We're friends." And a month into this surreal posting, it was almost true.
"Why don't you include me?"
"Because you'd be bored with stories of the Enterprise."
"No, I wouldn't. I could sit and listen to him talk about how to assemble an emergency kit and it would be interesting."
Was he taking a swipe at her with that emergency comment? "And that's probably why he doesn't want you there. I actually provide some bite to his day." She went back to her padd.
"Meaning what? That I'm boring and you're not?"
She met his eyes. "You idolize him. Do you have any idea how much he hates that?"
He swallowed hard. "But you don't idolize him, so he likes you?"
She shrugged, the mean shrug, the really mean shrug. It was coming out more and more.
"The way Kirk liked you?"
She could feel her mouth going tight, her expression becoming hard. "We were friends." The words came out without expression.
"I know." He shook his head, as if the conversation was wearing him out. "Our marriage is up for renewal in four months, Christine."
"I don't want to renew."
He went back to his sports. She went back to her padd.
"I'm sorry," he said very softly.
She pretended not to have heard.
"He wants out." She was sitting in Spock's office, aimlessly playing with an Andorian dust catcher.
He was working at his desk. "Are you upset?"
"I'm upset that I'm not upset."
"Sadly, I understood that."
She put the trinket down and walked to the window in his office. "Should I feel bad?"
"Only you can answer that." He stopped what he was doing and walked over. "You loved him once?"
"I don't know. I was stung over Valeris. He was attractive and he wanted me. He reminded me of Len and Jim and, if I squinted really hard, you."
"I did care when I heard. It surprised me how much I cared." He glanced over at her.
"Didn't matter. You were with her. She was younger. Prettier. Smarter."
"Ooh, finally something I win at." She sighed. "It's really uncomfortable in the apartment now."
"Would you like new quarters?"
"Will it disrupt your master plan if I say yes?"
"No. But perhaps you should ask him if it would make things easier if you moved out?"
She turned to look at him. "And how do I explain that I'm staying?"
"Ah. Yes. That." He walked back over to his desk. "It is the strangest thing. You've been asked to remain here by your superior."
"No, I haven't."
"You will be."
"Are you putting him up to this?"
"No. He mentioned he was very happy with you, wished you were one of his picks so you didn't have to leave after a year."
"Well, won't he be thrilled when Santa Spock gives him a Christine of his very own?"
"I imagine he will." Spock met her gaze. "Does this trouble you? Do you wish to leave?"
"I don't know."
"Is this not 'working for it'? I am arranging things quite carefully. For you. I am risking censure. For you."
"Why? You didn't want me then, why do you want me now? And what makes you think it'll be any different than before? You'll have me after all this and then what? We'll be over."
"We will not."
"You don't know that. You're acting out, that's all. After Valeris. After Jim." She picked up the Andorian thing. "Why do you have this?"
"I am sentimental. I know you do not believe that, but I am. And that is why I want this. Why I want you."
"I should just leave. That would be the sane thing to do."
He looked at her as if he thought she might seriously leave him. It would be the sane thing to do, but when had she ever been sane about Spock?
Truths and Not So's
"Your husband came to see me today," Spock said, watching carefully for Christine's reaction. He was never sure anymore what she would give him back.
Chapel stopped eating, stared across the table at him.
Spock always chose a table that did not appear secluded, not a lovers' table, but a friends' table. They sat across from each other, never next to each other. Today though, Spock had chosen a table a bit more out of the way than usual. Still nothing to give anyone pause, but they had privacy.
"No, to my surprise. I thought he must finally be curious as to the nature of our friendship."
"He's too busy trying to form his own friendship with you—and wondering why he's failing so spectacularly."
"No doubt." Spock pushed his plate away and steepled his fingers. "I believe his intentions are good, but he lacks finesse."
"That, as well." He studied her but not with any real intensity. Not in here, where anyone could see them. She had been right that a scandal was best to be avoided. "When did you know you were not going to renew your marriage?"
"When Jim died."
Spock's eyebrow went up.
She smiled gently. "Not the answer you expected?"
"Not at all."
"You were expecting me to say it was when you and Valeris crashed and burned in the fires of Khitomer?"
"You didn't come to me, Spock, after Khitomer. Jim told me to not give up. He was always rooting for us, did you know that?"
He shook his head.
"He was my friend, too. Did you know that?"
"Of course. I did, on occasion, wonder at the nature of your friendship with him."
For a moment, he saw her start to shut down, but she seemed to push through. "It wasn't like that. Some friendships are just too good to screw up with sex. And that's not what I meant when I said I knew Kevin and I had to end when Jim died." She pushed her plate away. "I had to stop using Kevin. Because I was just doing to him what you had done to me. Jim was not in favor of the marriage. He tried his best to talk me out of it. Kneejerk reaction blah, blah, blah. Len, too. Although Len wasn't quite so much in the 'wait for Spock' camp."
Spock's lips ticked up, he could imagine what McCoy had said about the situation. "Most assuredly." Then he narrowed his eyes. "You believe I used you."
"Well, I let you use me. I wanted you. I kept hoping that each time would be different. Doing the same thing and hoping for a different result—that's insanity, you know?"
"I need you to understand something. I don't know that I'm going to stay here with you. I don't know that I'm going to follow your plan. I'm letting you destroy what's left of Kevin and me because he and I already did the heavy lifting in that department. And in the process, he gets it on his record that he worked with you. Which was his dream. Maybe before he goes, you could have lunch with him. That'd be nice."
"If you wish."
"I do. I think it would a good thing to do."
"I assumed you still loved me, Christine."
She sighed and looked down. "I probably still do. But I don't trust myself around you and truth be told, I don't trust you. Not to love me, or to want me once you've had me."
"Those are hard truths."
"If leaving is what you need to do, I will not try to keep you here."
She looked up at him. "Spock, you don't even know why you want me here. Other than I really am your old reliable. Do you know what a goddamned insult that is?" She packed her food onto her tray. "I've got to go. I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize, Christine. I prefer truth to lies."
She got up and smiled at him. "Yes, after Valeris, I imagine you would."
Spock felt slightly unsettled by his conversation with Christine. He tried to shake the feeling and get back to work. But five minutes later, there was a soft knock on his office door, and then Christine walked back in.
"Your assistant said you were free. I told him I forgot to tell you something at lunch. Which is true. Sort of." She looked down. "I lied to you. When you asked me when I knew Kevin and I had to end." She sat in one of the chairs in front of his desk.
"Why did you lie?"
"Because I don't talk about the real reason. But the reason I gave you, that was to hurt you, I think. You're not the only who's unpredictable these days."
"I did not realize leaving Kevin would impact you this way."
"This has nothing to do with Kevin." She snapped the answer out with a bitterness he'd never heard from her.
"I see." He leaned back in his chair. "Do you wish to tell me the real reason?"
She nodded. And then said nothing.
He didn't push her. Just waited as she stared at the floor and seemed to be working up courage.
"I don't talk about it because I've pushed it far back so I can move on." She took a deep breath. "I told you Jim and I were friends. And that's true. But before the launch, weeks before, when he knew he'd have to go, he got antsy. He needed to get out, do things, keep busy. Len was on him again for giving up his best destiny, and so Jim turned to me." She finally looked at Spock. "You were already here."
"He could have come here."
"I think I was more interesting."
He seemed to concede that possibility with a nod.
"And you'd just arrived. It's hard to settle in if your old job comes with you."
She swallowed hard. "Kevin and I, we've been roommates at best for quite a while. He likes to be Mr. Chapel. It gives him access that even his daddy can't get him. Jim. You. Or so he thinks. I've never really done anything for his career."
Spock nodded again, not wanting to interrupt her flow with words.
"Anyway, he didn't seem to care what I did. So I spent time with Jim. Dinner in Buenos Aires. In Bangkok. Paris and Rome and Cape Town. Dancing in Rio. Long walks on the beach in Tahiti. And we did it all under the auspices of friendship. I never cheated on my husband—but I was cheating on him every minute, I think, when you come right down to it." She seemed very far away. "Jim asked me to see him off to the launch. It was a media circus, of course. Before we got to all of that, he pulled me aside and he said that he was ready to rethink being just friends. That he didn't want that anymore. That he loved me."
She took a ragged breath. "And I told him I loved him. And that I'd leave Kevin. And he laughed. But not at Kevin, more just because he was happy. He was happy and I was happy. And we were going to be together." She swallowed hard again. "And then he didn't come home from the launch, Spock. And he didn't even get to kiss me because the brass came by and swept him up, and he said, 'I'll see you soon,' and then he was gone."
She started to laugh. "Guy declares love. Guy dies in space. I'm a jinx."
He realized she wasn't laughing. She was, in fact, crying. She put her head down, hands over her face, and he got up and moved around his desk to the other chair, and pulled her hands away so he could see her.
"I'm sorry I was mean to you, Spock. I just miss him. And I've never told anyone about what happened. I've just lived with this."
"You've told me. And I understand." He pulled her to him and let her cry.
She pulled away a few moments later. "I'll get your robe wet." She was trembling in his arms, and he knew it wasn't because of nearness to him.
"I have three other robes in the closet by the door. I leave nothing to chance. If you need to cry, I am happy to let you."
"Thank you." She closed her eyes for a moment. "I love you, too, Spock. I just loved him last. It hurts. It's so raw."
He pushed her hair off her cheek, knew his eyes were probably softer than she was used to. "I fully understand that, Christine." He let his hand slip back, around her neck, under her hair. "Jim did not love lightly. And I know you do not, either. Whatever you want to do is fine. Stay, go, divorce, do not. I am your friend. I will be your friend."
"You said you'd console me. You just didn't think it would be like this." She smiled at him and eased away.
He realized she was not going to let him console her, was not going to break down any more than she had.
She was strong. Far stronger than he probably gave her credit for. Jim had no doubt understood that fully.
"I will console you. Whenever you need it."
She stood up. "I don't know what I want to do."
"Whatever you decide."
She nodded and walked out.
He found himself unable to concentrate, and part of him wished for the slightly unsettled feeling of earlier. Everything had just changed and for once he had no contingency plan in place to cover the scenario.
Straw, Meet Camel
It was late as Chapel stood outside Spock's apartment, as she pushed the doorbell and waited. Spock answered, and he wore a look that told her he'd heard about the Jenolan, about Scotty.
"I don't want to be alone," she said.
He moved aside, not seeming to care who might have seen her. "Nor I."
She went inside, standing behind him as he closed the door. They stared at each other, until he opened his arms and she went into them, hid her face against his shoulder as he enveloped her.
She didn't cry; she didn't think he expected her to. He was getting to know the new Christine. The one that Ops and loss had shaped and burned and twisted into something a lot harder than the nurse who had loved him.
"Come," he said, easing her further into the apartment, skipping the living room, going down a hall, into what had to be his bedroom.
"I'm not going to—"
"I know." He managed to get them both onto the bed without it seeming like he was manhandling her, and then he let go of her. They lay on their sides, not touching but faces only inches apart.
"Another one lost," she said.
"Yes." He shook his head. "I commed Leonard."
She smiled a little. "So that's what he meant about old friends checking in. I commed him, too."
"It is natural to reach out."
"It is. Look at us. To hell with scandals, I guess? I passed five people who know me on the way here."
"I do not care." He closed his eyes. "We have lost our friends."
"We have lost our way, Spock." She sighed and settled a bit into the pillow. "We were in love with other people. We loved them and they're gone."
"And now we're here. I loved you before, but you never loved me. I was never enough for you. Why wasn't I enough for you?" Normally, she would have sounded pathetic asking this, but her voice was dead, as if she'd perished with Scotty, or maybe earlier, with Jim. She sounded curious, could see by Spock's look that he didn't find her question strange.
"I always looked past you."
"I know. I never knew why I wasn't enough for you."
"I was a fool."
"That's a nice sentiment. But it's not a reason."
He reached out, settled his hand on her hip. "I find it ironic now, since at heart I have always wanted to be something my father could be proud of."
"Your father married a human."
"That is part of the irony." He shook his head. "I chose a woman who was a traitor because she was my choice. I assume you are not aware that my father has championed you? He was especially impressed after you called him to Earth to testify for Jim and the others, asked again, with far more vigor than previous times, why I did not pursue you as you were a woman of fine intellect, loyalty, and presence."
"Too bad easy on the eyes wasn't in there." She gave him a half-hearted attempt at a grin.
"To be honest, it was. In a more Vulcan phrasing, of course." He shook his head. "I rebelled against him. I always seem to do that. He and I..." He shook his head, then pulled her slightly closer. "I am sorry if I used you. I regret if I hurt you. In any way."
"I let you."
"That does not excuse my actions."
"Why did you keep coming back to me? You had other alternatives, I assume."
"I enjoyed you. You were my guilty pleasure. And, as you said, my—"
"Old reliable." She smiled. "What do we do now?"
"I don't know."
"Who goes next? We're none of us getting younger—although you, at least, are going to live longer."
"That is not certain."
"True." She sighed. "I feel like I want to set up a comm chain so we can all keep tabs on one another."
He nodded slightly, as if the notion had merit. Then he pulled her to him and kissed her—a gentle, tender kiss, like nothing she'd ever felt from him before. He eased her closer, so she was nestled against him. "Go to sleep."
She let her arm snake around his waist, kissed his collarbone. "Thank you. Wake me at five? I have an early call."
"I will." He tightened his hold. Not too much, just enough to let her know he was there, that he had her, that he wasn't going anywhere.
He was holding her nearly as tightly when he woke her the next morning.
She found Kevin in the small office he'd been assigned. "Got a minute?"
He nodded, then held up a padd. "Our agreement. Renew or not. I've check the 'Do not renew' box."
She sat and took the padd from him, checked the "Do not renew" box and held her thumb to the padd till it beeped. "All done. I guess that's it."
He nodded. "No more mister and missus."
She nodded. "I'm sorry, if I've hurt you."
He smiled. "You got me here. I'm fine with what I got out of this marriage."
"What if I hadn't gotten you here? Would you have been fine then?"
He frowned. "But you did. Hypotheticals don't apply." He grinned at her, the grin she'd once stupidly thought looked like a little bit like Jim's. Until she started spending time with the real thing.
"You're right, Kevin. Hypotheticals don't apply."
"Did you want to talk about something?"
"I think I left some things in the apartment." Which had not been what she'd come to say. She'd felt the need to unburden her soul, to tell him why she'd checked out of their marriage after Jim's death. Or to tell him at least a little bit of the story. To make things right to some extent. But since hypotheticals didn't apply...
"Go in whenever you want. You're still on the door." He grinned at her again. "Spock sure is something, isn't he?"
She nodded. "We lost a friend yesterday. Another person from the Enterprise."
"I'm sorry. It's good you two are here together, then."
"It is. He's been a big comfort."
"He's amazing. You're so lucky he's your friend."
"I am indeed." She gave him the best smile she could, under the circumstances. "I'll let you get back to work."
"Thank you very much, former wife." He was so chipper she wanted to slap him.
Instead she turned and left him alone.
She saw Spock coming down the hallway, stopped him. "You going to ask Kevin to lunch?"
She knew her eyes were dead. "Do it another day."
Spock didn't ask any questions, just said, "As you wish," and turned and walked back the way he'd come.
Kevin could have lunch with his idol on a day he wasn't so damned cheerful about being divorced from her.
Shot to the Heart
Spock woke in pain, his abdomen on fire, and he moaned and immediately tried to bite the sound back, but another groan came out.
"Shhh," Christine's voice, soothing, but then she turned away, and her voice rang out like a shot, "Hypo, now."
She had it to his arm, the soft hiss bringing immediate release. Then he heard her through the haze of well-being, talking to a nurse or other doctor about getting his transdermal pain patch changed so it would better handle Vulcan physiology.
He had a chance to admire her efficiency—and ferocity on his behalf—before he passed out.
When he woke again, the room he was in was private and half dark.
"How do you feel?" Christine sounded exhausted.
"How long have I been unconscious?"
"I asked first."
"I outrank you."
"Two days. Barring your pain-driven excursion into consciousness. Sorry about that."
"Have you slept?"
"No way, that's two questions. Answer mine, now." She moved her chair so she was sitting next to him, so he could see her. She looked as drained as she sounded. "How do you feel?"
"The way I imagine any Vulcan negotiator would feel after being shot in the chest on a diplomatic mission." If he were human, he'd be dead. Vulcan physiology was a blessing at times. "Now, have you slept?"
"No. And I won't till I'm sure you're out of the woods. I'm not losing another. Especially not you, not now." She sighed.
"You are using stimulants to stay awake?"
"No, just bad temper and obstinacy." She tried to hide a yawn amid the sarcasm. "We learn to mix stim cocktails in Ops. We learn or we don't survive there long. Trust me, I know what I'm doing."
"Your judgment may be compromised. With all that's happened."
She laughed, a bitter, tearing sound. "Would you like me to get my boss? You can put a formal reprimand in my file?"
He reached for her, ignoring the pain across his midsection, and took her hand. "Christine, that is not what I meant and you know it. You need sleep."
"What I need is to not lose another person I love. Now shut up and go back to sleep."
He knew it was important not to let her have her way in this. She was hard and brittle—but she might find that he could be harder and more brittle if he needed to be. "Only if you will."
"I'm on stims, Spock. I can't sleep."
"You are yawning." He could be hard, but he could also adjust his approach. And now, something softer was called for. "Just for a few minutes, Christine. Please?"
"I am not crawling in that bed with you. I will not be responsible for reinjuring you with a misplaced elbow to the ribs." She sighed, then shifted the chair so it was facing the bed, crossed her arms on the blanket next to his arm, and put her head down as if she was a student sleeping at a study table.
She was gone in moments.
He watched her for a moment, then felt his own fatigue calling. He leaned back, put his hand on her arm—feeling a surge of peace at just the contact—closed his eyes, and was gone.
When he woke, she had left. But she checked on him a bit later, in much better spirits, so he thought she might have actually slept more than a few minutes.
Spock walked gingerly along the path that circled the diplomatic complex. His stomach still ached, but the exercise would make him stronger.
He saw Kevin Porter hurrying up the path toward him and stifled a sigh. He'd cancelled lunch with the man again. Had not been inclined, when he still felt off from the injury, to sit with Christine's ex-husband.
For once, Kevin didn't look as hopeful and happy as he normally did. "Sir, did I do something wrong."
"Not that I'm aware of." Which was true. It was also true the man had not done anything outstanding. Average. That was the best he could say of him. Satisfactory. Got work done. Would never be a star. Would never probably be a problem. To be honest, Starfleet ran on the backs of men and women just like him.
"Then why do you keep canceling on me?"
"As you know, I was injured."
"Yes, and I also know you had Christine at your side."
Spock tensed. Was the man finally going to address Spock's relationship with his former wife?
"Is she badmouthing me?" Porter asked.
The one thing Spock would give the man is he never went the direction Spock expected him to. "Why would she do that?"
"Well, to be honest, sir, I don't think that I was as broken up about our divorce as she might have liked. May I speak plainly? Man to man?"
Spock nodded, not entirely sure it was a good idea.
"She's not the nicest person. I mean, she wanted the divorce, too, you know? Then she got mad at me for being glad to get free? I don't get it."
"That is human nature, Commander. If you do not understand something so basic about your own species, how can you possibly hope to understand any other?"
Porter looked chastened.
"Moreover, Commander, Christine has been my friend for several decades. You, on the other hand, have not. I would advise you to tread carefully when you next wish to speak to me 'man to man.'"
He left Porter staring after him, walking fast enough that his injury complained a bit. He did not care.
Christine sat in Spock's apartment, staring out at the trees that rimmed the building he lived in, admiring the peace of his unit. He came in from the kitchen with tea for them both, set it on the coffee table, then sat next to her on the couch.
"No space for Chrissy tonight?" He normally chose the chair next to the couch.
"Do you need space?"
"I don't know."
He started to get up and she pulled him back down.
"That is becoming increasingly difficult to do, Christine." He reached over, swept her hair off her neck, and kept his hand there, kneading gently. "Your husband is leaving tonight."
"My ex-husband is leaving tonight."
"My lack of precision is due to my distraction."
"You want to celebrate his departure?"
"Would that be callous of me?"
"No. But not asking me if I wanted to would be."
The kneading stopped. He let her go, stood, grabbed his tea, some of it sloshing over the side, letting her know he was upset with her as he walked to his usual seat.
"Are you so sure you want me, Spock?"
"I know myself, Christine. I no longer know you or what you want."
She laughed, hated how ugly it came out. "Why? Because I didn't fall for your college boy attempt at seduction?"
"I presume Jim would have done it more skillfully?"
"I cannot believe you just said that." She was mad but bubbling up underneath the anger was the ludicrous idea that Spock was jealous of her and Jim. Possibly more jealous than she'd been of him and Valeris. She'd at least had years to get used to that idea. "Stop being stupid."
He clearly had no retort for that, just sat drinking tea, staring into space, while she quietly wiped up the mess he'd made on the coffee table, finished her tea, and left.
He showed up at her apartment the next night, standing tentatively until she invited him in—as if he thought she wouldn't. She tried to lead him into the living room, but he grabbed her by the shoulders and backed her into the wall. Gently.
"I don't know how to act around you."
"Well, this is certainly a novel approach. I don't think you've tried the he-man scenario yet."
He let her go and stalked off on his own, clearly able to navigate a small apartment.
"You want a beer or something, darling?" she asked to his disappearing back.
He ignored her.
She followed him in. He was standing at the window, checking out her view—much less scenic than his—and she noticed his fists were clenched.
"What do you want from me, Spock?"
"I love you. There."
He turned, eyes narrowing. "You think you cannot love anymore."
"I never said that."
He reached for her, and she considered backing away, but was curious what his next big ploy was going to be. He drew her close, began to run his fingers down her back, the way he knew she liked, barely touching down.
"Jim never had a chance to touch you. I did."
"Not the same."
"He was a very good dancer." She was shivering at the sensations his fingers were causing.
"Nevertheless." He lips ticked up into a smile as he took a deep inhalation through his nose. "You have such a lovely bouquet."
She slapped him. Or tried to. For someone who said he didn't know her, he sure knew what she was going to do. His grip was like iron.
"Do not do that again, Christine. That is not who we are. No matter how angry we are at life, and at how things turned out."
"And at them. For leaving us." She tried to get her hand free, had no luck. "And at you. Why the hell couldn't you have just listened to your fucking father? Back when I was still nice? Back when I still had a heart?"
"Because now is our time. Not on the ship. Now." He let her hand go. "I realize you feel broken inside. I, too, have struggled. I would not tolerate this from anyone else, Christine. But I understand. We are kindred spirits whether we like it or not."
She let out breath she hadn't realized she was holding.
"Let me in," he said softly.
"What if there's nowhere to go once I do?"
His eyes were incredibly tender as he pulled her to him and kissed her the way he had the night she'd slept in his bed. The gentleness of his touch, the sweetness and love in it nearly undid her.
"We will make room there. Where is your bed?"
"You found the living room on your own. You tell me."
He did smile then. It was a very predatory smile as he scooped her up and followed the one hall past the bathroom to the one other room. "Victory," he said as he tossed her gently onto the bed.
"Hardly an advanced maze."
He joined her on the bed. "Do you wish to do this?"
"I don't know."
He nodded, as if that was expected. "You let me bring you in here. That is something. I will leave while I am ahead." He started to get up and she grabbed his arm. He raised an eyebrow.
"Sleep here?" she asked. "Please?"
He nodded and settled in next to her, pulling her close, his lips resting on her hair. She started to cry and tried to hide it, but he just pulled her closer and said, "It's all right."
It took her a long time to fall asleep. He held her and murmured to her until she did.
Fish or Cut Bait
"Admiral Huang is having a dinner on his ship tonight. I can bring a companion. Would you care to accompany me?" Spock watched Christine's face as he asked, curious what her reaction would be. Since he'd stayed with her in her apartment, over a week earlier, he had eaten lunch with her most days but had not tried to seduce her. And she had been softer somehow since then.
"I like him. He was always fun when he'd drop by Ops."
Spock tended to forget that she probably knew as many if not more high-ranking officers than he did. "Is that a yes?"
She laughed and it was a true laugh. "Yes, that was a yes."
He felt himself relaxing. "I will RSVP."
"Sounds good. Dress uniform?" When he nodded, she smiled, almost but not quite the open smile he remembered. "I'm so much happier with Kevin gone. No reminders. No uncomfortable encounters." Then she reached across the table and settled her hand on his. "And thank you for putting up with me. I know this hasn't been easy for either of us."
He could have told her to take her hand off his—they were at a central table, in a crowded mess. He could have eased his hand from under hers—he was a Vulcan, public displays were out of character. Instead, he laid his other hand over hers. "It is the road we are on. Easy or not, we walk it."
Now who was the zen master?
"Very nice sentiment." She glanced at their clasped hands. "Sending a message? I think people are looking."
"It is time, don't you think?"
"Yes, Spock, it probably is."
He took his hand off hers, and she eased hers off his. He knew exactly who was in their area—the news would be around the complex in less than an afternoon. If news it even was: he was single as was she now, and he was not in her chain of command. They were free to see each other, free to do whatever they wished.
"Why did you wait till today to ask me to a dinner that's tonight? Did you only just find out about it?"
She smiled. "Ah, so you thought if you gave me no chance to think better of it, say a night or two to sleep on it, that might be the best route for success?"
"That may have crossed my mind."
"What if I'd been otherwise engaged?"
He could feel his mouth tightening. Were there other men she was seeing? "I...I had not considered that possibility."
"Easy there, big fella. Breathe. I meant with a friend. Of which I have so many." She rolled her eyes, but in a good-natured way. "I need to work on that."
He did what she said and tried to breathe. Being with her was not the easy interaction of the past. Far from it. "Christine, I will be honest. I very much wanted you to go with me to this dinner. As your mood has been somewhat mercurial, I chose the way most likely to limit your ability to change your mind."
"Sneaky man." But she said it with affection.
The dinner on the Miramar was winding down. Spock watched as Christine talked gracefully with the others, not seeming to be making any effort yet managing to finally be the woman he remembered from parties on their ship. She also seemed to have no trouble appearing happy she was with him.
"Good gal you've got there," Huang was smiling. "I was always a little sweet on her."
Since Huang was happily married, Spock allowed his lips to tick up slightly. "I was gratified she was available to accompany me."
"Which in Vulcan speak means you're head over heels for her." Huang grinned. "Don't bother denying it."
Since he had not planned on denying it, Spock decided to say nothing.
Christine came over. "Time to go?" At Spock's nod, she took Huang's arm. "What are you saying to him, sir? He's trouble enough without you giving him pointers."
Spock found that statement unaccountably reassuring. The easy affection of the slight insult.
Once they had beamed back to the complex, they stood outside the transporter room. He was uncomfortable, wanting to invite her to his apartment but unsure what the right thing to do was.
She waited, a smile growing on her face. "You really are having to work for it, aren't you?"
"I believe I should get some credit in that department." He touched her cheek. "I will say goodnight."
He had gone three steps when she said, "Maybe the evening doesn't have to end?"
He somehow prevented himself from whirling around and tried to wipe away any hopeful look that might be in his eyes. "No?" he asked as evenly as he could after he turned with as much decorum as he could muster.
She took the steps to close the distance between them. "No." Then she took his arm. "Walk me home?"
He nodded, far too fast, and she laughed. A real laugh. Not mean, not harsh, just amused.
They got to her apartment much faster than normal, but she didn't complain about the double-time pace. As soon as the door closed, she pushed him against the wall and put her hands on his shoulders, holding him the way he had her.
"I have three things to say. One: I'm sorry for being so mean to you. Two: I may—no, probably will—still be mean in the future from time to time. Three: I love you."
"I am sorry if I in any way contributed to your being as unpleasant as you have indeed been." He knew he was pushing it, but she laughed instead of kicking him in places that might not recover quickly. "I will no doubt provide trials of my own in the future. And I love you, too."
"Wow. We are the two least romantic people in the universe."
"I believe that might be true."
She laughed again, then kissed him and he forgot about anything but lips and skin and how hard dress uniforms were to get off when your hands were shaking—why were his hands shaking?
"Are we going to do it right here in the hall," she asked, as he fumbled with her jacket.
"Anywhere you want," he muttered as he tried to apply Vulcan logic to the task.
"Hey." She stilled his hand, seemed to realize he was trembling. "Hey, it's okay." Her look changed, and for the first time he saw the nurse he remembered. Compassion. "I'm not going to change my mind if you don't get my uniform off right this second." She touched his face. "I'm not going to change my mind at all."
"But you have changed it. The last time we were together like this you—"
"I was still lost. Still broken. And you gave me space. Without abandoning me. I don't know if you realize what that meant. We loved other people. But those other people are gone and now there's just us. And I love you and God help you, you must love me or you would not have hung in there." She shook her head. "You were right. Now is all we have. Why are we wasting it?"
He decided not to tell her that was not exactly what he had said. Not when she was looking at him like that. When she was slowly drawing him to her bedroom, taking her time in removing his uniform, then her own.
She pulled him with her onto the bed and they kissed, for a long time, until kissing became not something just nice but easy, comfortable. Then he began to move, kissing down her body, stopping anywhere that interested him, making her moan louder and louder until she cried out, shuddering under his mouth.
She pulled him up and kissed him. "I didn't make it better in my memory."
"Nor I." Then he moved over her and inside her and was lost. He found her lips, kissed her as they moved together, as he hiked her legs up high around his waist, as he went harder and faster until...there. He had never made so much noise as he came.
When he could finally open his eyes, he realized Christine was watching him with a lovingly amused look.
"Guess you kind of liked that, huh?"
"It was"—he tried to catch his breath—"acceptable."
"Yeah, I'll work harder next time." She laughed, a lovely sound, sweet and innocent even if she was lying naked underneath him, with him still inside her, her legs still wrapped around him. Very tightly as if she thought he might leave her.
And why not? He always had in the past.
He eased off her, pulled her in to lie against him. "I will admit, waiting this long for something I have wanted so badly has made me appreciate you far more than I already did."
"A longwinded way of saying, 'Damn, woman, you're great in bed'?"
"No. A Vulcan way of saying that I am not going to leave you this time. That I have waited for what I wanted, and I feel as if I know you. You, not just your lovely body and how it responds to mine, but you. And I am intoxicated by you."
She looked very pleased and surprised. "That was downright flowery."
"I will blame it on the orgasm later. It is, however, the truth."
She touched his cheek, traced up to his ears, and he closed his eyes at the sensation. "I've always loved you. I love you still." She kissed him tenderly. "And I'm okay with that."
"I am relieved to hear it." He began to run his hand down her hip. "Are you rested yet? There are duties associated with intoxication. Onerous duties involving sexual relations."
"If I must." She pretended to be very bored, but then she was finding her own way down his body, making him gasp and moan as she licked and sucked. She worked her way back up lazily once he was done crying out, and he lay staring at the ceiling, wishing he had listened to his father like a dutiful son. Valeris had hated doing that.
She cuddled in against him and snaked her arm across his chest. "So what did Huang say to you?"
"That he was as he put it 'a little sweet on you' and that I was clearly, also as he put it, 'head over heels' for you."
"He said that?"
"Which part surprises you?"
She punched him gently in the ribs. "The second part."
"Whether it was ever true in our past, it is true now. I am in love with you. He was astute enough to see it for whatever reason. I did not question it."
"Hmm." She cuddled him closer and gave him a long, slow, extremely sexy kiss that led to another and another until they finally pulled away breathless. "Then I won't, either."