No One Ever Said It Would Be Easy
Kirk sat in the little café that was Lori's latest bolt hole, at least according to the demon Chris had beaten up for the information. There were times Kirk would have preferred that Chris reach for the other end of her toolkit of persuasive skills. A slayer thing, no doubt to reach for violence first—and the demon had been a piece of filth in need of a good pounding—but still it worried Kirk a little.
Some people used to say he was too much action and too little brains, but he knew they were wrong. He thought about the best way to get what he needed, did not always reach for a fight or seduction when a discussion was the better option. He knew how to manipulate people, which he would never admit to anyone since manipulations was not seen as a benevolent talent, but it was a damned useful skill to have. He knew how to make people stretch and develop way beyond what they thought they could. And he knew how to jump on someone's last nerve.
And combined now with the magic, he was at least doubly dangerous.
He hoped to God he'd have some luck with Lori—if she actually showed up. There were only so many meals he could eat in this place where the food was either tasteless or too spicy, so he hoped she'd put in an appearance sooner rather than later.
"Jim," a purring voice sounded from behind him. Since behind him was a solid wall—he'd thought and his tricorder had confirmed—he jumped out of his chair and whirled, reaching for a phaser that suddenly wasn't there.
Lori stood in a doorway, her hand on what was clearly the mechanism for opening and closing the door. "Hello, lover." She nodded behind him. "Looking for that?"
His waiter was standing behind him; he held up his phaser.
"A cousin of mine. Does a little picking of pockets on the side. Such a useful skill."
Kirk was suddenly aware that more waiters then had been in the café when he started were crowding around him. "More cousins?"
"Friends and family. My pack, if you will."
He reached out, tasting with his magic the buffet of pheromones the werewolves were putting off. Lori was lying: only his waiter tasted like she did. The others had an almost alien zing to their essence. That might be useful.
"Your pack can't cook worth a damn."
She smiled. "Oh, they can. For you, they may have not put forward their best effort. Such a shame you didn't have company to at least enjoy the horrible food with."
One of the waiters suddenly groaned and Kirk heard the familiar sound Chris made when she connected a good, hard punch. He smiled. "Oh, Lori. You don't really think I came alone, do you?" He hadn't been sure the "hide in plain sight" spell he'd done would really work. Especially against her.
Lori rolled her eyes, but she did look surprised. "Of course not," she said, clearly trying to rally back into control of the situation. "I know everything you're up to. You and that slayer are joined at the hip so of course she's here. I have my sources."
"Janice? Is she your source?" Chris walked past the other waiters, not even giving them the courtesy of looking worried. "Is she feeding you information?"
"Janice is a beloved cousin. We're very tight."
Kirk didn't think Lori was very convincing. "She's lying, Chris. I've never seen her with Janice and neither have you."
"Yes, slayer, your lover pays attention to what Janice does. He does like us wolves." Lori suddenly seemed to be flooding the room with pheromones, and Chris's expression grew more sour but she didn't bother replying. "Something wrong, Christine?"
"Oh, most people like my pheromones. Jim used to. You were a little intrigued, too, if I remember correctly?" Lori intensified the barrage. "Once upon a time, I thought I might have both of you. That would have been interesting...then. Now..." She made a dismissive sound.
"As if we'd ever be interested in you." Chris moved toward her.
"Careful." Lori smiled. "You take one more step and I close the door and let my cousins have at you. We'll see just how good you two are."
"I'm afraid, Admiral, that it's more than two you are dealing with." Spock stepped out of the kitchen, downing wolves right and left with his neck pinch, doing it a bit more aggressively than Kirk remembered.
"She's not really an admiral anymore, is she?" Chris muttered to no one in particular.
Lori heard her of course. "I'm on admin leave. Nogura doesn't want to cause a stink with an AWOL note in my file—or a dishonorable discharge." She hit the button and the doors slid closed halfway, giving her room to see out but no room for them to get in. "So, yes, slayer, I still outrank you." Then she looked at Spock. "I'm surprised to see you with them. Your loyalty is a little pathetic, I mean given she's thrown you over for your best friend."
"Your facts are inaccurate, Admiral. Moreover, you will not manipulate me with emotion. Nor is it any of your concern how we conduct our personal affairs."
"Oh, but doesn't that sound interesting?" She gave him a leering smile. "Three's company in this case?"
Kirk realized she either had no idea Spock was involved with her cousin or she did but was holding it very, very close. He really wanted to believe Spock was not sleeping with someone who might turn out to be Lori's spy. Spock happy with Rand took away some of his lingering guilt over stealing his best friend's woman. He also wanted to believe Janice was the officer he thought she was: capable and trustworthy, if slightly wolfier than he'd ever realized.
Chris was not inclined to give Janice any benefit of the doubt.
Kirk held out his hand. "Lori, please come out. We need to talk. You can't keep running and the old man is willing to listen."
She laughed, the bell-like laugh he remembered from countless strategy sessions after Nogura had left for the night. "I can keep running. I can run forever, Jim. And the old man has never wanted to listen. His way or no way. Can't you see that?"
Spock moved forward. "I am confused as to what you want, Admiral? Your cause, given you have tried to kill some of the people I care about, seems hardly preferable to anything Nogura might be after."
Kirk glanced at Spock. He didn't normally talk so easily about caring for people now that the effects from the V'ger meld had worn off.
"I am not unlike your brother, Spock. I want to return to my roots. Embrace who I am, not who others wish to make me into. I am tired of suppressing."
Both Kirk and Chris turned to Spock and said, "Brother?"
Spock looked angry. Not Vulcan angry. Human angry. "He is not mentioned in my file."
"Did I strike a nerve, Vulcan?"
For a moment, Spock looked as if he might try to launch himself through the small opening, then he clenched his hands and visibly calmed. "You will not speak of my brother again."
"But he's such an interesting character and—"
"You would be wise to heed me." Spock took a step forward.
Kirk started counting back to Spock's Pon Farr on the ship. A long time ago, but it was more than possible that it was hitting again now. Spock had said that first Pon Farr had occurred far later for him than for most Vulcans.
Great. A Vulcan off his game.
"Admit it, Jim." Lori was watching him carefully. "I got the jump on you. You didn't expect me to have a secret door. You thought you'd have me surrounded and tagged as soon as I walked in through one of the more traditional entrances."
It was true. He didn't admit it, though.
He started to pull magic in from the air around him, folding in the pheromones she kept flooding them with, building something soothing, familiar. Safe.
"Lori, come home. No harm, no foul." He let the mixture slide over her, over all of them since she'd be reading Chris and Spock, too. "Come home," he said as if they were making love.
For one moment, it looked like he had her. Then she shook her head and slammed her hand onto the button. The door swished shut and both Chris and Spock charged it, looking pretty much like idiots as they tried to kick in what was probably solid duranium enhanced by major doses of wolf mojo.
"Stop it, you two."
Chris stopped before Spock did-one more nail in the Blood Fever Coffin if Chris was the more rational of the two.
She gave the door a laser-sharp glare. "God, I hate her. Why didn't I kill her on Earth when I had the chance?"
"Because she played us all, Chris—we never really had the chance. Come on."
Spock followed them, and Kirk let Chris stride out and work off some steam as he slowed so Spock could catch up with him.
"Do we need to get you to Vulcan?" he said as softly as he could.
Spock shook his head.
"Do I need to beam Chris to the nearest Starbase and get you far away from her?
"No. I have Janice now."
"Are you guessing or are you sure that you won't want Christine once the fever hits?" He touched Spock on the arm. "We're just learning how to get along again. I want to make sure this does not turn into a disaster."
"It will not. I have Janice now. Christine is not my mate: she is yours. I do not just know this, Jim. I feel it." He smiled, a brittle but real smile. "But I appreciate your concern."
They caught up to Chris at the beam-out site and she studied them. "What's going on, you two?"
"Nothing," they said together.
She didn't laugh, seemed to be trying to shake something off, hugging her body. "I hate wolf pheromones."
"I find them quite pleasant," Spock said, and got one of her better glares for his trouble.
"I don't like them, either. Let's go home, all right? This was certainly one of our more lackluster efforts to capture Lori."
"I checked the structure multiple times, Jim," Spock said with a frown. "There was no secret door."
"There clearly was a secret door, Sherlock," Chris said. "She was standing right in it."
Before they could start arguing, Kirk pulled out his communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise. Three to beam up."
"Aye aye, sir," Janice's voice came back.
He saw Chris bristle. When they arrived on the transporter pad, Janice smiled at Spock, and there was a rush of pheromones in the room that made Lori's little display seem mild.
Chris started coughing and hurried out.
He caught up with her at the lift. "You okay?"
"That was a waste of time." She sighed as they walked onto the lift, let her head sink to his shoulder once the doors closed. "I thought we'd surprise her. Especially since we left that demon who outed her in the brig at Talria."
"I know. I thought we had her, too. That'll teach us for getting too cocky, I guess." He took a deep breath. "There's a party tonight at least. We can dance. Relax."
She kissed him slowly, pulling away only to say, "Hold lift."
"What is our record again?"
"Three minutes. You realize most people try to go for stamina rather than speed on this activity?"
She laughed as she pulled down his pants and let her own down, letting him hike her onto him. "Not when they're in a turbolift."
They didn't make a new record but they came close. "Damn," he said, as he let her down and adjusted her uniform and then his own.
"I see your damn and raise you a holy crap." She leaned in, nuzzling against him. "I love you."
"I love you, too. But we can't hold up this lift forever."
"Fine. Resume lift."
She held his hand until she got off and he rode alone to the Bridge, feeling the happy glow of a stolen quickie, but also not liking how easily Lori had played them.
Chapel threw back her drink, trying to shake the strange unease that had been with her ever since they'd come back empty handed from what was supposed to be a quick bag and tag. She knew Jim had intended this party to take the edge off a crew that had been without shore leave for too long, but so far it wasn't doing much for her.
"You okay? That scotch went down awfully fast." Jim was smiling, but it was a wary smile.
She counted to ten before answering and saying something she'd regret like he didn't need to keep track of how much she was drinking.
Although he was right. She usually kept a clear head. But tonight she felt like she needed to either break something or get very, very loaded. She'd thought they had Lori in their sights, at last. Wanted a good fight—needed a good fight. It had been a while since she'd had one, other than beating up the demon stooge that had given them Lori's location.
She took several deep breaths, trying to center the way Emma had taught her. Then she leaned in and kissed Jim on the cheek. "My slayer senses are all a-tingle. I need to relax and they don't want to. That's all."
Which was a lie. This wasn't her slayer senses, not completely.
She saw Spock come in and met his eyes. They were still working the kinks out of their relationship—it had been nice having him along today against Lori even if he'd seemed a little out of sorts. Maybe it was just chagrin on his part for missing the door?
She smiled at him, and he nodded but walked over to where Janice was sitting.
Janice frowned at something he said, her expression growing serious. Then she went to the bar and Christine let go of Jim, murmured, "I'll be right back," and walked over to Spock.
"Christine." He seemed to be as much on edge as she was. His voice, the way he wouldn't look at her: all wrong.
"Are you all right?"
"I will be." He finally met her eyes. "Christine, if you will excuse me. I must attend to something."
"Yes." The look he gave her was calm, but then urgency replaced it and she realized she'd seen that look. Long ago and far away, but she remembered it. When he'd needed to get to Vulcan. To his wife.
The Pon Farr.
"I've been antsy all day. More than normal. Was I picking up on this? Your...rut?"
His eyes narrowed. He clearly did not like either her tone or her choice of words. "It is possible. You are sensitive on a level beyond most humans. And you do not seem to be overly fond of wolf pheromones, which Janice has told me will increase as she responds to my need."
More than she wanted to know.
"And after V'ger, after all it dredged out of me—it is possible some residue of our former relationship is left. I do not know. I am sorry if you are uncomfortable."
Residue? She was residue? "I'm not uncomfortable. Don't worry about me."
"I was not planning to," he said softly, his words hitting her more deeply than she liked. "I have much else to occupy me, it would seem." He actually looked a little sheepish, talking about this to her.
She felt Jim come up next to her, felt his energy and magic buffeting her as it normally did but not giving the usual comfort.
Then Chapel sensed Janice coming over. Spock wasn't wrong. Janice's pheromones were working overtime, and Chapel could feel her temper flare in reaction.
Janice took in her expression and skirted where Chapel and Jim were standing as she made her way to Spock's side, standing much too close to him. Chapel saw Spock's eyes dilate and he moved even closer to Janice—who was clearly not residue.
"No." It was out before Chapel could call it back.
Jim looked at her, his expression perplexed. "No what?"
"No that." She pointed at Spock and Janice.
"Nice, Christine." Janice seemed to be trying to look as tall as she could. "And we're an 'us' not a 'that.'" She looked at Jim, as if for help. "We've been together since that cloud thing took us."
Jim nodded, but Chapel muttered, "I know but not..." Not what? Not for real? Not in any way that mattered? Not that her ex mate's activities mattered to her. Not at all.
"Jesus, Chris." Jim put his arm around her, clearly trying to ease her away from Spock and Janice. "I'm not loving this side of you."
She didn't love it, either. And she should probably tell him what was going on—although he probably already knew: he and Spock had been pretty chummy on the walk back from the café. But she couldn't tell Jim the real truth: that the man she'd left behind had hurt her, was hurting her, with his choices.
Not that she wanted to be in his bed.
Damn Janice and her stupid werewolf joy juice.
Janice smiled at her. Not a nice smile. A territorial, bitch of a smile.
"It won't last," Chapel said, and she could hear Jim cursing under his breath, could feel magic suddenly pressing on her and turned on him "Really? You're going to use magic on me?"
He met her eyes and sipped his drink as if nothing was wrong. "Play nice." He had the look that said, "Don't make me turn that into an order."
"You heard him, Christine. Play nice." Janice touched Spock's hand, just a glancing caress, but Spock took a deep breath and then let it out very carefully. "Oh and it will last. Wolves mate for life."
"Vulcans don't," Jim said, clearly trying to be sort of on Chapel's side.
"I believe in this case, Janice is more apt to be right," Spock said, his voice huskier than Chapel had ever heard it. "At any rate, this is a private matter."
She ignored him, focused only on Janice. "Alpha wolves mate for life. And you are light years from being anyone's alpha." She could feel her hands clenching, tried to relax. "In a true wolf pack, the other wolves aren't even allowed to mate. So really, you're not a wolf, just a human with a moon-sized curse."
For not being alpha in any way, Janice's reaction was impressive. Chapel braced for the angry blond tornado that was headed her way, then felt a forcefield-like hit of magic keeping them apart.
"Enough." Jim grabbed her arm, looked over at Spock. "You should go. Take care of this."
"It is not precisely time to—"
"Spock, you're off duty until further notice. Don't let me see you till you feel one hundred percent better." He smiled grimly at Janice. "Best call Bones if you need anything in the way of medical attention." And then he dragged Chapel off, using magic and the anger she could read in his eyes to keep her from breaking away.
A lot of people were staring at them.
"Forget," he said softly and shook his hand out as if sprinkling something in the air.
The people staring turned away as if the mother of all catfights had not been about to break out in the middle of their party.
"Let me go."
"Shut up? You're just going to let him go off with her? She's a werewolf."
"And you fucked a vampire. Why do you care?"
A whole bunch of people turned around again since neither of them were making any attempt to modulate their voices or the subject matter, and he had to repeat the "forget" spell.
She took a deep, steadying breath.
"Chris, what the hell—"
"Bridge to Captain."
He didn't let go of her, drew her with him as he walked to the communication port. "Kirk here."
"A pair of VIP visitors are hailing from a commercial shuttle. They said you had approved them coming aboard for transport."
"I don't recall any VIP visitors on the schedule. Who are they?"
"A Mister Angel and a Mister Spike from Angel Investigations."
She could hear Jim take a deep breath. "Beam them aboard." He looked at her. "Because this wasn't fun enough already."
She shook his hand off. "Why are they here?"
"How the hell should I know? They're your friends." He held up his hand as she started to answer. "And we are not done talking about why you care so goddamned much who Spock is with. Got it?"
She didn't answer, moved past him and headed for the door. He caught up with her in about three strides.
"I mean it."
"I know you do." She didn't look over at him as they walked to the transporter room in an angry silence.
Angel saw Spike grin and knew Christine must have come in. He turned, his version of a smile ready, but he let it slip away when he saw her and Kirk's expressions.
Pissed. As. Hell.
At him? No, they didn't seem to be glaring at him or Spike with any more energy than usual. In fact, Christine was giving Spike a hell of a tight hug. Bit tighter than strictly necessary unless she was trying to tick off her beau.
Kirk turned away from the not-so-touching tableau and gave Angel a piercing look that made him want to stand up straight and check his hair. Damn, the man had authoritative down in spades.
"Permission to come aboard, sir?" He'd always wanted to say that. Usually he was sneaking on board ships, not asking for entrée.
"What the hell do you two want?" Kirk motioned for Angel to follow him. "Chris, if you don't mind, I think our transporter crew has gotten an eyeful of you welcoming Spike."
"We're going to the gym," Christine said, pulling Spike with her.
Kirk's expression didn't change. "Knock yourself out."
"Or Spike," Angel said, grinning at Kirk who shot him back the same look.
Kirk led him off in a different direction than the way Christine was taking Spike. "Not a good day for you two to show up, Angel."
"Yeah, I can kinda tell. You want to talk about it?" He had his Angelus voice going. He didn't know why, but he just loved screwing with this guy.
"No, I damn well don't want to talk about it. Especially with you." He turned into a large room, where there were many people, lots of them drinking.
"You have a bar here?"
"It's the rec lounge. But yes, there's a bar. And we're going there and I'm going to drink because believe it or not, you arrived in the middle of a party."
"Party for what?"
"Hell if I know. We survived another day without the engine blowing up?"
"Is that a worry?" Angel suddenly wondered if maybe they shouldn't have taken that Eleongi Demon that ran the rickety shuttle they'd taken to reach Kirk's ship up on his offer of transport the rest of the way. "Are we going to blow up?"
"No. But my relationship might." He ordered a Scotch. "You want anything?"
"Wish I could say the same thing." He gestured in the general direction of where they'd left Spike and Christine. "Should I be worried?"
Kirk let out a short bark of laughter. "You're that sure?"
"Yep." Angel motioned for them to move down to a less crowded part of the bar. "Look, I'm sorry to just barge in on you this way—and to bring Spike with me when I did it—but we need to get to the Malitii colony."
"We're going right by there."
"I know." At Kirk's look, he shrugged. "There's a seer and she has this thing for Spike and, anyway, she said the Enterprise was our best bet and it was your ship and you like us—"
"Okay, so you tolerate us, and we thought..."
"Fine, fine. We'll be there in seventeen hours. Fast enough for you?"
Kirk nodded and took a deep breath. "We had to go down to the end of the bar for you to tell me that?"
"Well, I thought you might want to know why we need to get there."
"I don't care why."
"Oh. Okay, then." Angel realized he sounded a little hurt.
Kirk took a deep breath. "All right. Why?"
"Cursed sword. Got stolen. We were hired to get it back. It's what we do. Help the helpless."
"Stupid damn slogan."
"And you prefer...?"
"'To boldly go' works for me."
"You're splitting an infinitive."
Kirk looked like he might split Angel.
"Okay, Jim—can I call you Jim? Okay, Jim, listen, you clearly need to get this off your chest. Why is Christine rubbing groins with Spike in a big hug when the last time we saw you two, you couldn't keep your hands off each other?"
"Because we're fighting."
"Big damn fight if Spike is a better alternative."
That doesn't work, you know? The mean comments you make about Spike. They don't divert, they shine a damned spotlight."
"On the goddamned fifty credits that my girlfriend will probably never pay me now," Kirk muttered into his drink.
"Is this even about Spike?"
"No, it's about Spock." He met Angel's eyes. "You met him. Vulcan."
"Yeah, I remember. Weird tension that day with your slayer and him and the werewolf woman. I dated one of those. Hell on wheels in bed, let me tell you."
"Good. Glad to hear it." Kirk threw his drink back. "What if I'm not what she wants?"
"Oh, okay, that makes more sense. Well, you clearly are. I mean, I've been around the block a few times and that gal's into you."
"Like your Buffy was into Spike?"
"She wasn't into him so much as having a psychotic break." Angel grinned at Kirk.
Kirk did not grin back. "See, you were her first love. That's what I'm dealing with here. Spock is with someone else now, and it's apparently driving Chris nuts, and I don't know what to do about it."
"Well, first of all, he wasn't her first love." At Kirk's look, Angel said, "Spike tended to go on and on about her so I sort of know her history."
"She loved Spock for years."
"Maybe so, but Markosius was her first love. I mean when he was human."
Kirk nodded, as if he'd forgotten about that guy. "She had to kill him. Thought she'd lost him and then, when she found him again, had to destroy him."
"Yeah, that's not so fun when you're on the receiving end." Angel was lost in an Acathla and being sucked into hell moment for a while. "So anyway, Spock is really her second love or third, if she had any feelings for that watcher guy Korby."
"She didn't—not true love, anyway. But after Spock, she rebounded right into—"
"Spike's arms. Not yours. Right?"
"Right. Right, damn it." Kirk stood up straighter. Then he slumped a little. "But what if she still loves him?"
"Slayers are weird, Jim. They have all this energy and it gets mixed up a lot of the time. They tend to be territorial by nature anyway—all that patrolling's kind of indicative of that. And then the killing and the fighting. It leads to lives that are pretty fierce in all aspects and they don't let go easily. She may still love him like she still loves Spike—as a friend or a memory or something. But you're the real thing for her. That was completely clear to me from the moment I saw you two together. Forget Markosius, you're the Angel to her Buffy." He smiled—Spike would bean him if he heard him say that.
But hell, it was true.
Even if he'd never say it to Spike's face. The guy was not as tough as he pretended and Buffy was still a sore subject.
Kirk was studying him with a wary look. "I keep waiting for the gotcha moment."
"I know. It's weird, me helping you. But for some reason I feel like it. So, go to her." Angel eased Kirk away from the bar and turned him toward the door, enjoying his role as dispenser of relationship wisdom. "Go get her. And tell Spike where our room is if you see him."
Kirk nodded, but then he stopped and started to grin. "Room...singular?"
Damn. Had he said that? "Rooms. Plural. You might want to get your hearing checked."
"Nothing wrong with my hearing." He patted Angel on the back—a little harder than was necessary—then called over a person in uniform. "Ensign, take Mister Angel to VIP guest quarters." He winked at Angel. "Spike will be right next door. I'd give you adjoining rooms but alas, connecting doors are not standard issue on a starship."
"We don't need—"
"Understood. Really." He grinned, but then his smile faded. "Okay, I have a slayer to appease or shake some sense into."
"Probably a little of both."
"She cared." Janice stared out the viewscreen in Spock's quarters, trying to calm herself. She'd been ready to fight Christine. Who was much, much stronger. Who would probably kill her without a thought given the mood she was in after Janice's baiting and deliberate flooding of pheromones in the lounge.
But Janice would do it again. Smug bitch.
Smug bitch who was probably the love of Spock's life.
"She cared, Spock." She turned, saw him watching her as if he did not follow her logic. Which, admittedly, he often did not, but this was a pretty clear-cut subject. "Christine wanted you. She didn't want me to have you."
"I believe the first statement is not accurate. The second, however, is probably correct."
"If it were accurate, would you want her back?"
"The question is irrelevant. She does not want me."
Which was in no way the answer she was looking for. Janice sighed. "So you do still want her?"
"Janice, if I wanted her—truly believed she was my mate—we would not be having this discussion. Do you understand?"
He held out a hand to her. "Do wolves mate for life?"
She took a deep breath as she let him pull her to him. "She was right. Only the alphas." Christine was always right, damn her. The smart one. The strong one.
The goddamned mean one.
"You are not a wolf, Janice. You are a woman, and I care for you deeply." He ran his hand down her side. "Christine's issues, whatever they may be, have nothing to do with me. And only tangentially to do with you."
"It doesn't feel tangential. Why does she hate me so? I didn't do anything to her. Except lie about being what I am. But she lied to me, too, about being the Slayer."
"Christine is seldom logical, Janice. I have found you to be the far more rational partner."
She slugged him. "Because that's just what ever girl wants to hear."
He let go a soft exhale of breath that could only be amusement. "Think about it for a moment or two, and I think it will be exactly what you wish to hear. You have been desired all your life for your looks and your vivacity. But for your ability to harness the animal you fear and be rational and steady? Is that not, in fact, the highest compliment I could give you?"
"You could sweet-talk a Gorn." She rubbed his arm where she'd hit him. "Sorry about that."
"I am uninjured."
"Good. And yes. I guess, now that I look at it the way you're suggesting, it is a very nice compliment."
He pulled her in and kissed her.
"Is it starting?"
He shook his head. "I just wanted to do that."
She smiled, moved into his arms and let him hug her close. "I'm afraid of her a lot of the time, Spock."
"I know." He ran his fingers through her hair. "But you are stronger than you think. And she is not as strong as she thinks. Not in the ways that matter on this ship. You will be fine." He pushed her down to the bed. "And you will be mine. If you wish it?"
"Will I have to be? After this, I mean? Is that what happens in the Pon Farr? We don't have a choice?"
He looked taken aback.
"I don't mean that I don't want to be yours. I just...I'd rather it weren't because of something you can't control. I mean given my own situation, I know how biological compulsion can drive decisions in ways that are not always prudent."
"You see. So rational." He touched her cheek. "We can wait. But you are at least mildly interested in something more permanent than what we have now?"
"I am. I love you." In the two months since that crazy cloud creature had brought them together, she'd never told Spock that. Even though she'd wanted to a lot lately. She'd sworn she wouldn't be the first to say it, feared it would make her look weak and pathetic.
Now it felt like a gift to him to say it. Not pathetic at all.
He kissed her thoroughly before giving her a small, but very real, smile. "I am gratified to hear it."
Spike dodged a no-holds-barred kick from Christine and said, "So, love, not that I don't enjoy sparring with you, but what exactly has got your knickers in a knot?"
"Can't a girl like sparring with someone who doesn't need the training wheels on?"
"Ouch. Guess the honeymoon's over with Captain Cardboard?"
He could see by the way she bristled at the insulting moniker that it was a long way from over.
"What is your problem with him, Spike?"
"I just don't cotton to military men from Iowa. I've told you that, pet." He feinted left, caught her off guard and tossed her into the padded wall. Hard. "The question is what is your problem? Are you just trying to make him jealous and have some good old angry sex once you meet up with him later? Because that seems a little out of character for the two lovebirds I saw a few months back."
"I don't know what I want." She got up slowly, put her hands on her knees and bent over, panting. "God it feels good to be this worn out."
He knew when he was being handed a come-on. "Oh, I could do much better in the wearing you out department, Christine."
The amused look she sent him was the same one Buffy used to give him. The one that said: "Been there, done that, got the bloody t-shirt." Looked like she really had settled in for the long haul with Kirk.
"I made him so mad Spike. I mean he's been annoyed with me before, but this was different. I...I hurt him." She sank to the mats on the floor, sitting cross legged, the way she used to do after they'd sparred back on Earth. "And I don't even know why I did it."
"You mean that very, very friendly hug you gave me? Oh, he'll get over that. I'm sure he has this place wired up to see if we're shagging like mad fiends."
"Or using magic to far-see or whatever he does with his gifts." He let his eyebrows waggle.
"He does just fine with his gifts." She sighed. "I...this isn't..." She suddenly pushed herself to her feet and started to pace. "Spock is going through the Pon Farr—you remember what that is?"
"That rut thing you told me about? 'Me fight for mate, mate no want me, me kill best friend instead'?"
She laughed. "You're oversimplifying."
"I'm summarizing." He grinned and felt a little pang at her return grin. Same way he'd always felt when he'd made Buffy smile. Slayers lived such dark lives; their smiles always came as a shock.
"Well, Spock's going through it right now. The burning. The overwhelming urge to mate."
"With wolf girl, I bet." His apparent astuteness earned him a very mean glare. "Which you are not happy about."
She turned and walked over to him, loomed over him in fact. "He was mine."
"Yes. Past tense. Then there was me. And now Kirk. Oh and almost that Watcher Vamp."
"Whatever. The point is Spock's not yours now, so why do you give a damn?"
"That's what Jim wants to know."
"Well, yeah. You're his woman, as he made pretty damn clear on that stupid planet."
"I love Jim. I don't love Spock, not that way." She sighed. "But...I hate Janice."
"Why do you hate her? What did she do to you?"
"She's a werewolf."
"Oh, so you don't like them?"
"I don't like her cousin."
He frowned, not sure he was following completely. "Love, you like me but I can promise you you'd hate my cousin, probably most of my mum's side of the family. Family ties shouldn't damn her. Work harder to explain how this is her fault."
"She lied to me. She was one of my best friends and a werewolf and I didn't know."
He suddenly understood. "Those are two different things. She didn't lie to you. She fooled you. And you hate that."
"Oh, so you asked her, 'Hey, friend of mine that's in Starfleet on this big, shiny ship, do you happen to be a werewolf?'" By her glare it was clear she hadn't. "Did you happen to mention that you were the local slayer and if she saw any scary supernatural happenings to let you know?"
She took a longsuffering breath.
"Oh, for God's sake, Christine. You missed it when it was right under your nose. And that makes you crazy because you think you're bloody infallible when it comes to being a slayer. But she missed it, too. Fiends like us, it's in our best interest to know who's a slayer and who's not if we want to stay alive."
"She's not a fiend. She's..." She looked down, clearly unsure where she wanted to go with that thought.
He tried to bite back a grin. God, he'd loved these kinds of talks with her. The endless round and round till she finally saw reason and admitted he was right and oh so wise. He was pretty sure this session wouldn't end with the energetic sex those others had, though.
"Okay, so maybe I'm projecting a little on to her. But this thing with Spock. It's making me crazy."
"Well, of course it is. He's your ex. You want him miserable. Pining over you for the rest of his life."
"I do not."
"All right, maybe not miserable. But you certainly don't want him shacking up with your former best pal and finding perfect happiness. Or even imperfect."
"You think I'm that shallow?"
"I think you're that human. We all are. Vamps, wolves, slayers. We're complicated, screwed up people, no matter what species we may be part of." He held his hand out, waited for her to pull him up before he said, "Go make up with your boy. Tell him you love him, and you just had a momentary brain tumor or something. Or tell him the truth. You don't love Spock but seeing him move on hurts a little. I'm sure Kirk can relate, somewhere in his past is no doubt a woman he let go and felt the same way over."
"I love you."
He pulled her in for a hug. "I know you do, pet. And you know I adore you. With or without the fringe benefits." He touched her cheek, indulged himself for just a moment, then let her go. "Thanks for the lift, by the way. I wasn't sure your fella would let us aboard, but Angel wasn't worried."
"How's it going with Angel?"
"How's what going with Angel?"
"You know...the job...?"
He followed her out of the gym. "You're fishing for something. And not very well."
"Are you two...you know?"
He started to laugh. "Me and the big ponce? Are we doing it?" He turned away, not letting her see his eyes as he laughed. Had he and Angel been standing too close? Is that what gave it away? "Right, because that's what I'm going to do with my eternal life. Have a go at my grandsire."
She laughed, in what sounded like relief.
"What? You disapprove of the idea?" Or maybe she was the only woman not to find Angel attractive. That would be amazing.
"No, I'm just a bit short on credits, and Jim and I have this bet..."
He laughed. "And Jim is with Angel right now, I bet, since you dragged me off. Doing his best to find out. Your boy seems a determined one. How much are you going to owe him?"
"How much? You mean...?"
He gave her the breezy, noncommittal smile that used to drive her nuts when they lived together. "Oh, I'm not admitting anything. But Angel...well, lets just say I may have more in the way of stones when it comes to being grilled."
She rolled her eyes. "Angel won't crack."
"No, he probably won't."
She took his arm, squeezed it once. "Well, whether you are or you aren't with him, can you tell me this: are you happy?"
He met her eyes. "Yeah, pet. I actually am." He nodded at the figure coming down the hall toward them—a rather annoyed looking starship captain in all his glory. "Now, how about you go try to be happy, too?"
"You're very wise." The look she gave him told him she remembered how their talks used to end. And that it was not ending that way this time—no surprise there.
She headed toward Kirk, and Spike held back. Fire magic was unpredictable and Kirk reeked of it. Spike knew the likelihood was high that he'd say something a little too smart ass that would set Kirk off, so he did the sensible thing and headed for the turbo lift. Quickly.
Chapel smiled sheepishly at Jim as she walked toward him. His smile managed to be infinitely patient while also wary. The man loved her, but he was no one's punching bag. She knew enough from what he'd said about Janice Lester to know he could walk away if she ever went too far too many times.
"I'm sorry," she said softly as she finally reached him.
"For which part?"
"All of them. Well, except the turbolift."
He started to grin, and she could tell it was irritating him that she was making him smile. "It has not been a good day. Other than our turbolift moment."
"I know. I really am sorry."
"You just took off with Spike. I felt a bit abandoned."
She swallowed hard. "I didn't leave you for Spike the way I ran from Spock. And for the record, I didn't leave Spock for Spike. Spike found me. He saved me. And he's always given me good advice."
"Sounds like a match made in heaven."
"It is." She took his arm and turned him so he couldn't glare at where Spike had been standing. "For a friend. A friend that helped me see some things about myself that maybe I don't like very much."
"Yeah." She took a deep breath. "Can we go to your quarters? I really want to talk about this."
He studied her. "That's good, isn't it?"
"I think it is. We've been riding this high for a long time. We waited so long to be together, and it was so good to finally have what we wanted."
"And this was our first real fight."
"We've had some others."
"Those were arguments. This was...different. You walked away from me. Several times."
"I did. But Jim, for me, sometimes I'm going to do that. Because if I don't, the other option is to engage, and I don't always think before I open my mouth. But it's important that I walked, not ran."
"Oh sure. It made a huge difference what speed you left when it was with Spike." He ushered her onto the turbolift, then urged her off when it got to their deck. As soon as the doors to his quarters shut behind them, he pushed her up against the wall and kissed her.
A bit angrily.
And very, very thoroughly.
Then he let her go and walked away, taking a seat at the table and gesturing for her to take the one opposite him. "We talk."
She sat. "The thing with Spike was just petty. I'm sorry."
"Don't do it again and we're fine. We're not petty, Chris."
She nodded. "But the thing with Spock. That's a lot tougher."
"Are you still in love with him?" He cocked his head and seemed to be studying her. "Is he your one great love?"
"No." She smiled at him. "You are. You're the only one who's ever known a sane me. Or a getting-closer-to-sane me."
He seemed to relax. "So I'm the Angel to your Buffy?"
"I only ever heard the Spike version of that story," she said with a wink. "I'm not sure that means the same thing to me that it does to you."
"Romeo to your Juliet? Antony to your Cleopatra?"
"Do you think we could be people who don't die as part of their epic love story?"
He laughed. "If we keep pulling bonehead moves like today, we'll be lucky to stay alive." He tapped the table, as if in frustration. "Spock checked the building out. It never occurred to me to use magic if he was on the job."
"But next time it will. And to be fair to both of you, he's not exactly at the top of his game today. Or he wasn't earlier. Now, he's probably doing just fine." She could hear the bitterness in her voice and grimaced.
"Okay, why do you care?"
"Maybe I thought he'd want me longer? Maybe I didn't want to envision him getting together with someone else, someone I don't trust." She met Jim's eyes. "I'm not in love with him. But I still love him."
"I understand that part of it."
"I don't like that it bothers me. I will get past this. And soon, I promise. This is going to sound strange but maybe even though I left him, I didn't let go all the way. I thought he was mine, even though I didn't want to be his. Does that make sense?"
They sat quietly for a moment, the silence between them slowly turning from cautious to comfortable. He finally reached over and took her hand. "Sweetheart, we've been through hell and I know that you love me and that you want to be with me. No matter how much it stung today, I know you and I belong together."
"We do. I'm so sorry."
"Do you want to make it up to me?"
She started to smile. "What did you have in mind?"
He didn't answer her smile back. "Work things out with Janice."
Her smile faded.
"I mean it. We can't go on like this. I don't think Lori had any idea Spock was with Janice. I don't believe Janice is the spy—it could be anyone. It could be no one, just Lori using magic to find out what she needs. But if it is Janice, Spock will know. I can't imagine he could meld with someone and not know they were betraying us."
She could feel her mouth tighten.
"And Chris. I think he loves her. Or at least cares very, very much for her. I would have moved one of you off this ship if I thought he still wanted you."
She looked down. "I can back off, I guess."
He stood and walked to the viewscreen. "No. That's not enough. You start to fix this. You figure out if you can be friends with her again."
"Why? Because she's with your best friend and you want to double date? Or hey, maybe you two could swap. You could find out what you've been missing."
He turned to look at her and just shook his head.
She didn't like the disappointment in his eyes. "I can't trust her, Jim."
"Can't or won't?"
"I never knew she was a werewolf. I used to sit in her quarters, surrounded by all that pink and frill and never, ever knew she was something from my old world." She took a deep breath. "Maybe it's myself I can't trust, Jim. Maybe I'm afraid that she'll use me again."
"How did she use you then?"
"I don't think she was ever my friend. I don't think she ever really liked me." She stopped talking, realized that last part had been more truth than she'd meant to share. Finally, she met his eyes. "I sound like a teenager again."
"No, you sound like someone who never got to be a teenager. A normal one anyway. Just...just tell me you'll try, all right?"
"I'll try." She got up, walked over to him. "We're all right?"
"Of course we are. We weathered worse than this on Earth. Much, much worse." He put his arm around her, drew her close. "How are we going to get Lori, Chris? Is she always going to be one step ahead of us?"
"You know, we have two very old vampires on board right now that might be the ones to talk to about this. They have fought a lot of things in their many days."
"You owe me fifty credits, by the way."
"I know, damn it. But Spike's happy and I'm glad."
"I'm still not sure I like Angel. Something about him just rubs me the wrong way. Like he's always trying to screw with me. Reminds me of Finnegan at the Academy."
She started to laugh. Spike had filled in a lot of blanks about his bloodline.
"Oh, it's just that Angel's Irish, too."
"Right, the complete absence of accent and the oh-so-Irish name are the giveaways?"
"Angel's not his name. I mean it is now, but it's wasn't when he was turned, any more than Spike went by Spike back then." She started to laugh. "Angel was originally from Galway. The black sheep son Liam of the Finnegan family."
"You're making that up."
"I'm not. Ask him when you're not busy grilling him over how to catch an alpha bitch of a werewolf."
He began to nod, as if it all made sense finally. "All right then."
As she turned to go, he stopped her.
"We don't have to go talk to them right this minute, do we, Chris?" He was already undoing her uniform, and his magic was battering against her. He seemed to be producing some pheromones of his own.
"Are you marking me so they know I'm yours?"
"Primarily I plan to make love to you. But yes, marking you did cross my mind."
She laughed and let him push her down. He spent a very long time marking her as his, and taking off any edge that remained in her, before they went to talk to Angel and Spike.
Janice lay sated in Spock's arms. She was sore, she was bruised, and she was desperately in need of a shower, but she was happy.
Which was not a state she was used to. She immediately began to check Spock for love bites. Christine would kill her if she turned Spock into a werewolf.
"Janice, what are you doing?" Spock let her push him to the side as she checked his back for any bites.
"Just making sure I didn't lose control."
He shook his head but let her pull him to his other side and check his hips and other parts for any sign of a misplaced nip.
"You did not lose control. I would remember." He sounded very tired.
"Everything we did is in here." He tapped his forehead slowly. "The Pon Farr causes lust, not amnesia."
She smiled down at him. She tapped her chest, over her heart. "Everything we did is in here." Then she couldn't resist a little leer. "And here"—she tapped her breasts—"and here..."
He smiled as she pulled his hand down the place she had in mind. "You are insatiable."
He didn't seem to mind that she was. Was moving his fingers just the way she liked, there and there and there and—
She rode it down with a loud moan, pulled him onto her when she realized he was ready for her, and let him take her again. When he lay sprawled on top of her, finally easing off and pulling her close, she said, "I'm crazy about you. And it's a novel feeling for me, Spock. Especially when you see the real me, you understand the real me, and you like me anyway."
"I believe my feelings qualify as more than just like."
"Of course. But you also like me. I don't know when that's ever happened. To have sex this many times and still want to talk to you afterwards. Still feel a little gooey lift in my heart when you look at me the way you are now."
"I make you happy?"
"You do." She smiled, knew it was an incredibly light expression. In the past, it would have been fake. Put on to hide the pain inside. The loneliness. The stigma of the wolf—and of being a low-ranked one at that.
But this time the expression wasn't put on. Spock made her happy.
"Do I make you happy?" she asked him.
"You do." He pulled her closer, rubbed her back. "We need sleep."
"We also need food and a bath."
She decided he was right and focused on his hands on her skin, the heat of him so comforting. She was asleep in seconds.
Chapel watched Janice move across the mess like she owned the place. She looked over at Uhura and took a deep breath before she said, "Do you hate her?"
"Who?" Uhura followed her gaze. "Ohhhhh. Am I supposed to? Because we used to be the three musketeers, remember?"
"Were we, though? She lied. I lied. You were the only one who didn't."
"I may have lied about some things. But nothing at the scale of the two of you, that's for sure." Uhura smiled gently.
"Jim wants me to fix this."
"What do you want to do?"
"Honestly, I think it's easier to just hate her."
Uhura shrugged. "Do what you've got to do. For what it's worth, I've been spending some time with her. A few lunches. She's pretty busy with Spock now so it's not like the old days, but it's something."
Something. That wasn't so much to ask, was it? It's all Jim wanted from her.
Janice walked past them, saying hello to Uhura, and settling for a stiff nod at Chapel.
"Go talk to her. And try not to threaten her if you can." Uhura laughed softly. "Speak softly and all that."
"The other part of that saying is and carry a big stick."
"Your fist is your big stick. Just try the first part, okay?" She pushed Chapel's empty tray toward her. "Go on, get out of here."
Chapel dumped her stuff in the recycler and left the mess. She was afraid Janice had been headed to Spock's quarters but she found her in the transporter room, leaning back and enjoying a protein shake. Janice put the drink down and got up quickly when she saw Chapel.
"I'm not here to fight."
"Right." Janice seemed to be trying to find the right stance, as if she really was going to have to defend herself from Chapel.
Chapel moved back and to her right, finding the wall and sliding down it till she was sitting on the floor, arms crossing her chest. "I'm serious."
Janice just stared at her.
"I'm angry that I didn't know what you were. I question everything from back then. Replay things you said and they take on new meaning."
Janice finally sat back down on her stool, but she left the shake on the floor. "I didn't know what you were, either. Why would I tell you what I was? We're trained from childhood not to tell normal people what we are." She looked down. "And I was too stupid to know a slayer was one of my best friends."
"I'm surprised Lori didn't tell you. She seems to know everything."
Janice made a deprecating sound. "Lori barely knows I'm alive. She's our golden girl and I'm..." She sighed. "I'm the omega to her alpha. If there were a letter after omega, I'd be that."
"I bet you'd like that to change? Make her respect you? Help her?"
Janice narrowed her eyes. "Respect me? You just don't get wolves at all, Christine. She'll never respect me. My place in the pack is permanent. I worked my ass off to get where I am in Starfleet and I'll never be anything to my family. Not when Admiral Ciani is our standard-bearer. Help her? I hate her. I'd rather die than help her." Janice took a deep breath. Her face was flushed and she looked like she might cry.
Everything that Chapel relied on told her that Janice was telling the truth.
"I guess we've both been through hell," Chapel finally said. "You'd think that would bring us closer together, not land us on different sides."
"I'm not on a side. Or maybe I am. I'm on whatever side Spock's on. I love him." Janice stared at her as if daring Chapel to say she didn't.
Or to say it wouldn't last.
Chapel looked away. Gave her that victory. "I think he loves you, too."
"And you're with the captain. And the version of us back then, who did our hair and laughed at dumb jokes and obsessed over these guys would be appalled at how things turned out."
"They wouldn't recognize us. But then, we're not hiding anymore."
"No. We're not." Janice took a deep breath. "I'm not sure we can ever be friends again."
"I know. I'm not either." Chapel met her eyes. "But maybe we don't have to be enemies?"
"I could live with that." Janice sighed. "Spock needs to be with the captain. I can't give him chess or anything else their friendship provides. You and I, we're going to be in each other's orbit whether we like it or not."
"Awkward as hell."
Janice nodded. "Yeah."
"Maybe we could do something with Nyota sometime. She's the most sane one of us."
"And part of the club, right? You're friend. McCoy's girlfriend."
"She went through a lot with us on Earth. More than Len did."
"She told me he was gone nearly that whole time. She didn't tell me what she was doing unless it had nothing to do with you."
Chapel smiled. It was a gift for Janice to say that. "Thanks."
"Maybe someday the two of you could tell me about it? Like at lunch or something?"
"Yeah. Maybe." Chapel pushed herself up. "Be good to Spock, okay?"
"Or you'll hurt me?" The old defiance was back in Janice's voice.
She turned to look at her. "Probably. I don't know. Just...be good to him."
Chapel turned and walked out. She felt more confused than anything as she took the lift to the bridge and saw Jim turn to see who had decided to visit.
He took in her expression, then smiled gently. "Thank you."
She walked over to stand beside his chair. Not touching him but his magic was running over her like he had twenty hands, soothing, loving her.
"Maybe it'll be okay." She turned to look at Spock. He was not looking at her. She smiled at his back anyway. "Maybe we'll all be okay."
She took a deep breath and gave him her gamest smile. "Duty calls. Thank you for the mojo massage."
He grinned and let her go. But the feel of his magic stayed with her for hours.
Spock seemed to be spending an inordinate amount of time studying the chessboard and Kirk debated calling time on him.
Finally Spock moved. "Your game has changed, Jim. You make moves that appear random and are not."
Kirk thought it was more that Spock had a Pon Farr hangover of the highest order and was simply not at his mental peak—but he resisted saying so. "Maybe it's the magic." He moved another piece, not really caring what he risked.
"Perhaps so." Spock let his eyebrows pull down into a frown as he tried to apply logic to Kirk's randomness. "I regret I missed your strategy session with Spike and Angel."
"Yes, you missed loads of fun. Do you know that Angel appears to be from the same family that spawned my nemesis Finnegan?"
"It is, indeed, a small world. Especially if one is immortal."
"And lucky. How those two haven't been staked yet is a mystery to me. On sheer obnoxiousness alone..."
Spock's lips ticked up. "Did they have any ideas worth considering on how to find Admiral Ciani?"
"No. They did say they'd ask around their own network. But I doubt their network runs in the same circles as Lori's."
"It is highly doubtful." Spock leaned back. "Did you know Christine approached Janice?"
"You mean in a way that didn't put Janice at risk of physical harm?"
"Yes. An overture of sorts."
"Yes, I'm aware." He smiled at Spock. "Jan okay with that?"
"I believe she was quite relieved. She misses her friend. She won't admit it, but there is much that becomes apparent during a meld of long duration."
"I bet." Kirk was a bit glad he and Chris didn't share that much intimacy. They were both a little too battle worn to be delving into those dark depths. What they had was perfect—most of the time. Perfect all the time would get boring.
"If you had something to do with it, Jim, I do appreciate it."
"Me? Tell a slayer what to do? Surely you jest?" He grinned, seeing Spock's eyes lighten a bit.
"You are quite adept at getting her to do what you want."
"Oh, old friend, I have you truly snookered if you believe that." Old friend. Best friend. Having this interaction back, especially after feeling like he'd never see Spock again, never be welcome in Spock's life again, was wonderful.
Spock was back to studying the board, trying to make sense of chaos. "I will endeavor to study the readings I took of that door. If I can identify how she hid the entrance, I may be able to find the next one."
"Good idea." He leaned back, stared out the viewscreen, thought of Lori and her search for Kirsu. How he and one little girl had held her off last time. One little girl who probably deserved a better life than she had with the slayers. "Have you decided what to do about Saavik yet?"
"I would like to take her to Vulcan, but I worry what Nogura would do to her if he learned of her existence. And I fear he would learn of it, given what Lori knew of my background."
"You really have a brother?"
Spock nodded. "I have not kept it from you—it is just something our family does not speak of. But perhaps we should..." He shook himself. "Sarek would never allow it."
"Would Sarek allow Saavik in your family?"
"I believe so. But it is not time to ask him."
"Agreed. For now, she'll stay where she is." Kirk nodded. Saavik was safe where she was. Safe if not precisely with her own kind.
Then again, who knew what kind she was exactly. Kirk might hold the key to the Romulan conspiracy Nogura so feared and he wasn't sharing it.
And he never would. Not as long as Saavik was an innocent.
Kirk saw McCoy come in, waved him over.
McCoy studied the board for a moment, then looked at Kirk with a smile. "Bit rusty, Mister Spock? Our friend seems to be skunking you."
"There is no skunk in chess, as you well know."
McCoy held up his hands. "Me? I'm just a plain old country doctor. Checkers is more my speed."
"Of course, Doctor. My mistake."
"Crazy few days. Nice to see Spike again, though. Boy makes me laugh."
"That boy is several centuries older than you are, Doctor."
"Oh, you're still mad at him over Christine. Admit it, Spock. He's a funny guy."
"Humor is not a concept I resonate with."
"I know. Otherwise you'd appreciate me more." McCoy pulled up a chair and put his feet up. "Sure is nice to have the whole gang all together."
Kirk shared a look with Spock. A look both world weary and amused. Then he smiled at McCoy. "It sure as hell is, Bones."