Some Kind of Chemistry
Spock was getting ready to board the shuttle for the new Vulcan home world when he heard his name being called. He turned, saw Jim and his younger self hurrying toward him.
"I think you're going to want to postpone your return," Jim said with a strange look on his face. "Come with us."
His younger self nodded in the self-conscious way he always did when faced with Spock. Spock was sure Jim had brought him along on purpose, trying to make Spock and this other Spock be friends or some foolish notion. They were the same person and yet not. They probably had no business being friends.
They led him into Starfleet Command, past the main gathering areas and into the loading bays. He slowed as he took in the silvery cylindrical object some crewmen were unloading from a shuttle. "Where...where did they find that?"
"Delta Vega," Jim said with a grim smile. "With a note from Nero." He handed it to Spock.
It was in Romulan. "You took my wife from me. I will kill your woman much more slowly. Know that she died just inches away from where you took refuge."
"The container was in the same cave?"
Jim nodded. "Behind a false wall. I sent a crew out to look for that damn snow monster when they went back to get you. They found some strange readings. And then they found that cylinder. What's in it? Or who's in it, I guess, is the better question?"
Spock hurried over to the cylinder and checked the readings. The life signs were dangerously faint. He hurried, rushing the awakening procedures, but there was so little time. Then he popped the lid of the cylinder, looked on Christine Chapel's face for the first time since just after the post-Khitomer trials.
She awoke quickly. And not happily. She sat up a bit clumsily and looked around. "Where the hell am I?" Then she looked down. "And why the hell am I naked?"
His younger self actually ran to get a packing blanket. "Here."
"Thanks, you're a—" She took a good look at him. "Okay. That's a little strange." She turned back to Spock. "Clone?"
He shook his head.
She studied Jim. "He's younger, too. We're in the fucking past, aren't we?"
"Yes. And your language has not improved while you slept."
"Slept? You make it sound like I was in there for my health." She got out of the container—was a little wobbly, but he knew better than to help her. "It was your damn girlfriend who set me up as one of the prime conspirators. Implanted me with memories that fooled even the most advanced Federation tech and the Vulcan interrogator they brought in since they didn't fully trust you. If you hadn't believed me and sneaked me out of custody, I'd be on Rura Penthe being Valeris's bitch."
Jim and his younger self were studying her with undisguised fascination.
"What? You've never heard someone swear, kiddos?"
"You look really familiar," Jim said, then he seemed captivated by something on Christine's shoulder. "I know that birthmark. You're Chris. Chris Chapel."
"Been a hell of a long time since anyone called me Chris. The Kirk of my time doesn't even call me that." She smiled. "Guess you know the Chapel of this time a little bit better than he knew me, huh?" She waggled her eyebrows.
"It's possible I do."
She smiled at both him and the younger Spock. "So, who does a gal have to sleep with around here to get a cup of joe?"
"Not I," his younger self said. "I am taken."
"Well, bully for you, child." She looped her arm through Jim's. "I want clothing, I want coffee, and then I want that one"—she tilted her head back at Spock—"to give me an explanation. Preferably in words, not via some headache-inducing, exposition-heavy mind meld."
"Yeah, those hurt."
"They really do—unless it's during sex. And he never asks first."
"I've noticed that." He frowned. "I mean about asking first, not the sex part."
She laughed, then glanced back at Spock, shot him a questioning look. "You seemed awfully relieved to see me. Was I in danger?"
"I thought you were dead. The last that I knew, you were on my ship, which this other Spock destroyed."
"In my defense, I had no idea you might be on the ship," the other Spock said.
She patted his shoulder. "Of course you didn't, sweetheart." Then she looked back at Spock. "Mmmm, imagine the sex we're going to have tonight when you really process that I'm alive, kicking, and from the look of it, a hell of a lot younger than you are." She laughed as both Jim and his younger self looked down. "Oh, now I've gone and embarrassed the children."
She let go of Jim and moved back to Spock. "Did you miss me while you had me locked up in that stupid box? How many years?"
"Ninety. Give or take."
"Give or take? You must be slipping."
"It has been a trying time. I will tell you everything." He put his arm around her for a moment, and she smiled. "I am relieved to have you somewhere where you are no longer guilty."
"Yeah, that is pretty novel." She leaned against him. "How long you think it'll take me to get in trouble again."
His lips ticked up. "With this group? Not long at all."
Chapel leaned into Spock, feeling a bit less secure on her feet than she wanted to let on to the junior league. Being tucked into a box for nearly a century wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
Jim turned around. "Since you missed your shuttle, Spock, why don't you tag along with us? We'll get you to the new Vulcan home world eventually."
Spock the younger seemed uncomfortable with the idea. "Another shuttle will come. It will no doubt take a more direct course than our route will allow, get them there much faster."
"Nonsense. I'm sure Spock would love to be on the old girl. Ride her again, get that touch of nostalgia."
"I do hope you're talking about the ship and not me, kiddo," Chapel said with a grin.
He laughed. "I'd never call you old."
Spock nodded. "It would be pleasant indeed to be on the Enterprise, Jim." He turned to the other Spock. "I regret if that gives you pause."
"You may find that is the norm when you spend time with James T. Kirk." Spock looked at Jim so fondly it made Chapel smile. Then he turned back to her, seemed to be trying to make it easier for his younger self to process that he was, indeed, stuck with his older self and her. "He will get used to the idea," Spock murmured.
"And if he doesn't?" she asked just as softly.
"Then he does not." His look was very intense. "I find myself less interested in him than in you."
"Well, yes. I was the world's most frustrating birthday present. All wrapped up and never to be opened. Why the hell did you wait so long? Didn't you think that maybe in oh, I don't know, twenty years or so, the tech might have proven me innocent?"
"And if it hadn't? There is no statute of limitations on treason. Or on assassination. I could not risk losing you. Not when it was my fault Valeris did that to you—if I'd seen through her. If I'd listened to you in the first place..."
"Well, there you'll get no goddamned argument from me." She saw his face change, decided she didn't want to deal with dour Spock when she was just out of her sleep-packed prison. "So, did you peek?"
"Peek?" Spock asked.
"At me? Every so often? Open the package up and go in for a little grope?"
"I did not."
"Why not? Freebie, after all. Not like I'd have known."
"I did not wish to let impurities into the system. I knew I would eventually find a place where you would be left in peace."
"Did you expect it to be a place and time?" She stumbled and was surprised when he reached for her immediately, his hand firm on her side, keeping her upright. "How the hell did you get us here?"
"It is a long story. I will tell you most of it in our quarters. I do not wish to contaminate this timeline with our history."
"Wait. Our quarters?"
"You object to that?"
"Possibly. Your girlfriend made my life a living hell."
"Valeris died on Rura Penthe thirty years ago. I have been with no one else since she betrayed me. If I have a girlfriend, you are it."
She thought about that. A girlfriend in a box? Was that in any way romantic? Maybe if she squinted. "Fine, our quarters will do for now. So who is this young Spock with? Not my alter ego here?"
He shook his head. "Nyota."
She slapped his arm. "I knew you always liked her."
"He is with her. Not I."
"Still. He's you."
"Actually, he is not. You will come to understand that. Jim is very different, too. And Leonard."
"So, Len doesn't make disparaging remarks about green blood and pointed ears?"
Spock looked down. "Well, not to me."
"Ah, but to young Spock ahead of us...?"
"You may have a point."
"And I take it Jim is with the me of this time? He sure recognized my birthmark quickly." She started to laugh. "God, imagine going for someone my own age. No offense."
"None taken. Things are different here. I have told you that. I will explain everything."
"Oh, no, baby. She will explain everything. In graphic detail. I want to know how much I've changed." She knew she was grinning far too wide by the way his eyebrows pulled down in disapproval.
He took a deep breath. "I have forgotten how trying you can be."
"You used me when it was convenient for you, Spock. And then, after the traitorous bitch you called a girlfriend decided to get even with me—for what I have no idea—you hauled me around in a box for ninety years. Deal with me being trying."
He sighed, closed his eyes for a moment.
"Everything all right back there?" Jim asked, and she felt a shiver of wrongness—his voice was her reality's Kirk's and yet not, the timber lacking the experience of hers, but the basics all there.
"We're fine." She shot back the answer like an old time projectile bullet.
"Not sure I was asking you, toots," he said with a hard look, and she decided she liked this Kirk. "Spock, you okay?"
"I am fine, Jim. As you well know, Christine is, at times, volatile."
Jim started to laugh. "Somehow, my friend, I think your Christine is nothing like mine."
She shot him a hard glance, a glance she'd learned in Emergency Ops, staring down hardheaded planet administrators that thought red tape could stop her from helping dying people.
He swallowed a little bit harder than she thought he wanted to. "Not that there's anything wrong with your Christine."
She let one side of her mouth slide up into her most contemptuous smile.
"I believe I am needed on the ship," Spock the younger suddenly said, hurrying away.
"Awwww, did I scare him off?"
"You are kind of a bitch." Jim gave her a version of the smile she'd just given him. She had to admit it was a good one.
"Nicely played, junior. Look, I'm wearing a dirty blanket, I'm barefoot, and I haven't had a cup of coffee in almost a century—who wouldn't be a bitch?"
"Fortunately," Spock said, "we are nearly to the transporter room." As Jim turned away, Spock put his arm around her and pressed his hand against the small of her back, rubbing hard, possessively. "I understand your discomfort. I will procure you clothing, caffeine, and footwear."
"Not necessarily in that order."
"Agreed." He pulled her closer. "I am gratified you did not perish."
"We are in agreement on that, my love." She put a very sappy spin on the endearment so he'd know she was deliberately overplaying it.
He didn't rise to the bait, just looked smugly content as they followed Jim down the corridors of Starfleet Command.
Spock watched as Christine dried her hair. She had taken a long time in the shower, and he thought she was more shaken than she was letting on both at waking after so long in cryogenic sleep and at waking so far in the past.
"So Vulcan is...gone?" She sat down heavily on the bed next to him, and he took the towel from her and began to dry her hair as if it was something he'd always done.
He had the feeling that might be the best approach with her: show no fear and take command if at all possible. "It is gone. There are very few Vulcans left. A repopulation program has been started. You could help with that."
She nodded absently. "Your mother is dead?" She turned to look at him. "Your mother who was younger than either of us at this point?"
"Yes. And it is his mother, not mine. This is not our reality."
"Yet here we are."
"Yes." He gave her the towel, reached for the hairbrush from the kit of personal items the quartermaster had given them. He gently brushed the tangles out of her hair. "Sarek lives."
"He won't even know me. He won't remember we used to have lunch sometimes when he was on Earth."
"No, because you have never had lunch with this Sarek."
"I get that. I'm not stupid." She took the brush out of his hand. "And I can brush my own damn hair." She got up and paced over to the mirror. "What I can't figure out is why you thought it was such a brilliant idea to pack me onto your ship when you were trying to stop the supernova. What was your logic? If you were going to die, so was I?"
"You do not think it would be romantic to die together? Human literature is rife with such examples. Tristan and Isolde. Romeo and Juliet."
"Romantic saps. And none of them were in a damn box with no say in the matter."
"I take your point. If we are ever in similar circumstances, I will not take you along on a potentially suicidal mission without first gaining your consent."
"Good." She got the brush snarled in her hair. "Damn it."
He realized her hand was shaking. "Your unsteadiness is a reaction to being awakened so suddenly, and were you thinking more clearly, you'd realize that. Come here and I will do that for you."
"I hate your damn clarity." But she came and sat down next to him and handed him the brush. "What I could never figure out was why Valeris did this to me. What did I ever do to her?"
He stopped brushing her hair and pulled her back against him. "When I first met Valeris, you were involved with Commander Richardson. You were very much in love with him."
"Look how well that turned out."
"But at the time, it seemed you had moved on."
"I had moved on. To a philandering jackass that left me with five sectors' worth of STDs."
"I'm sorry for that part. But my point is that I did not necessarily choose Valeris on her own merit."
Christine turned to face him, quite a feat considering how tightly he was holding her. "What?"
"It was the Pon Farr. I wanted you. I needed you. You were my partner of choice. You had been for the previous times."
"I remember. I also remember you leaving me after every single one of them."
He looked down. What she said was true, and he had no good answer to explain why he had never stayed with her. "You were gone. With him. I looked for you, Christine, but I could not find you. I was..." He looked down.
"Oh my God. You were desperate. You chose her because you were desperate?"
"And she knew that?"
"I could have hidden that from a human, but not from a Vulcan. She knew. But she also knew how highly I regarded her. And I do believe in her way she loved me. It was you she hated, you she blamed."
"When was she born, Spock? I'm going to wait around for that day and kill her the moment she takes her first breath."
He was not entirely sure if she was jesting or not. She sighed, a sound that gave him no clue either way. He decided not to worry about it—they had time before Valeris would be in any danger.
"It's an interesting idea, isn't it?" she asked, her voice soft. "We could kill a whole bunch of people who were evil in our reality. But would it be right? I mean if things are different here, are they evil here? Khan, for instance? Garth. Kodos."
"Kodos still was."
"Was never there. His father's death changed many things we know about our Jim's past."
"So the divergence starts then? When his father died. And we could work from there."
"We cannot embark on a killing spree, Christine."
"No, I know. I'm just trying to figure out why I would have changed. How things for any of our friends might have—just because of the Narada."
"They are not our friends. Not really."
"Hate to break it to you, doll, but Jim Kirk is your friend in any reality. He was ready to take me on for you and not many are. I really am a bitch, you know."
"You are difficult but worth the effort."
"Wow, is that a slogan you worked up?" She smiled and took the brush from him. "I'm hungry. Can we go to the mess without causing a riot?"
"Jim wanted us on the ship. I presume he does not expect us to starve."
"Well, let's go then." She started to get up, but he pulled her back down. "Oh, did you forget something?"
"I am much older than I was."
"Yes. Ninety years. Technically, I too am much older even if I've not aged."
"I am still...vital." He drew her to him slowly. "Does my age distress you?"
"I dated Roger when I was twenty, Spock. What part of that says that older men make me run the other way?"
"An excellent point. But the age difference is much more now."
"Fortunately, the maturity difference isn't." She grinned at him. "I was under the impression you were working your way up to a kiss? If that is an incorrect assumption, then I want food. If it's not, then kiss me, damn it. And make it a good one."
He pulled her to him, made it the best kiss he could. Outside of the Pon Farr, their times together had been few and not very satisfying. Full of unsaid things, recriminations, hurt and expectations never met.
But now? Now it was just...wonderful. He could think of no other word. Her lips on his, her mouth opening, her tongue on his, the feel of her wet hair under his fingers, her body pressing on his. There was a lightness to their touching, an ease as if they were finally, in this strange world where neither belonged, exactly where they were supposed to be.
They pulled apart and she grinned. "Yowza, mister. You been practicing or what?"
He felt quite satisfied with himself. "I have been thinking about that for many decades."
"Well, points for prep." She took his hand, stood and pulled him off the bed. "Now, get me some food or I will skin you and eat you, good kissing be damned."
"You are a barbarian, Christine."
"But you love me anyway." She laughed and danced away, and he realized she'd said that with none of the dark sarcasm that would have characterized such a statement in the past.
Chapel woke the next morning, feeling the hum of a ship she'd never expected to be back on. Spock was holding her tightly. He had not tried to make love to her even though she could tell he wanted her. He'd kissed her a lot, upping the "yowza factor" more than a little, but then had just cuddled with her in bed, one part of him cuddling a little more prominently than the rest of him. He'd stroked her arms until she'd fallen asleep.
She eased out of his arms, pulled on her clothes, and started for the door.
"Please do not traumatize your younger self."
"Moi?" She turned to look at Spock. "I thought you were sleeping."
"You were mistaken. You are headed to sickbay, aren't you?"
"Mayyyyybe." She grinned at him. "Let me have some fun, Spock. We'll be on the Vulcan home world soon enough and you know I'll have to reel all this energy and spirit in. And you know I can do that, can maintain some sense of decorum. But not just yet."
He seemed to accept that. "Just...we must be careful not to—"
"I know, I know, don't spoil their future. But we don't know their future, Spock. It's not like we went back to our past, now is it?"
He gave her what looked like a reluctant nod.
"I'll see you later. Don't hold breakfast for me." She bolted out of the quarters they'd been assigned, took a minute to get her bearings, and then headed for sickbay. She'd spent nearly five years on this ship and another three on the refitted version before she'd defected to Emergency Ops—she did not need help finding her way around.
She stood for a moment in front of sickbay, remembering all the times she'd walked in, all the crises, the deaths, the people they'd saved. The aliens she'd seen for the first time. The number of times Spock had found his way in there, hurt and wounded. She took a deep breath and walked in.
Len was the first thing she saw. She'd never seen him this young. It was probably a damn good thing she'd never seen him this young. Young Leonard McCoy was a fine looking man. She had a sudden urge to hug him—but more because she knew she'd never see her Len again, than that she was overcome by his good looks.
"You need some help, ma'am?" That honeyed southern voice.
She smiled. "I do. But from Nurse Chapel."
He frowned. Seemed to look a little closer. "Ah. Jim mentioned you were aboard." He crossed his arms over his chest. "And why should I subject my head nurse to you?"
"Wow, bad news travels fast."
"Light speed, sugar."
She laughed. "I've missed you, you gruff fool."
He looked taken aback for a moment, but then a small smile started. "That actually sounded just like her."
She shrugged. "Hazard of being her. More or less. Where is she?"
"Inventory room. It's—"
"I know where it is." She touched his arm as she passed, then hurried to the inventory room.
Her doppelganger—her oh-so-much younger, thinner, and blonde doppelganger—turned around and stared. "Can I help you?" But there was a glint in her eye, and Chapel knew that Jim had told her exactly who was on the ship.
"You're good. Not good enough to fool me, but good." She winked at her. "Christine, it's nice to meet you. I'm Christine, too, coincidentally."
"So I've heard." She walked over to her, seemed to be studying her. "What do you want with me? Jim said you were..."
"A bitch is how he put it when he was with Spock and me."
"I was raised to avoid words like that."
"I wasn't." Christine pulled up a stool. "See, that's what I want to know. How did we change?"
"Are you sure that's wise? Our Spock says we should avoid contact with you and the older Spock."
"That's because we give him the willies."
"Well, yes. But that doesn't mean he's not right."
Chapel realized this Christine's voice didn't sound right. "Do you have a Boston accent?"
"An Easterner? I was raised in Los Angeles."
"Well, that probably explains what's wrong with you." Blondie smiled in a superior way.
"I was going to say the very same thing." Chapel studied her. "So Jim Kirk, huh? I wouldn't have seen that."
"Fortunately, your foresight isn't required for the success of my relationship with him." Blonde Christine turned back to the inventory. "You've done this, right?"
"A gazillion times."
"A little help, then?"
"Sure, why the hell not." She got up, started to check in stuff. She realized her younger self was watching her closely. "Yeah, sis, we do it exactly the same way. Some things are not going to change—like how damn anal we are about recordkeeping."
The other Chapel laughed. "I guess that makes sense." She seemed to relax a little. "So you and Spock? Isn't he kind of...well, ancient?"
"Yeah, but I've loved him a long time."
"But he was with your friend—Ny was your friend, right?"
"She was, but he was never with her in my reality." Or so he goddamn claimed. Jury was still out on that one as far as Chapel was concerned.
"I don't think we'd be very compatible. He reminds me too much of this skanky visiting professor that came to the Academy to talk to us about exobiology."
"Korby, Roger, Doctor?"
"That's the one."
Chapel laughed. "Yeah, he was my fiancé."
"Holy crap, you've got shitty taste."
"What happened to not being raised to talk that way?"
The other Chapel—oh hell, she was starting to think of her as her little sister—laughed. "I may have been yanking your chain. But really? Korby? Why?"
Chapel busied herself with inventory.
"That's what this whole tough-as-nails act is all about, isn't it? You lack self esteem."
"I've got loads of self esteem. I have self esteem coming out of my ass." She shoved a carton of Krostefaline at the other Chapel. "You've got this in the wrong damn place."
"There are other nurses in this place—doctors, too—who might have put it in the wrong damn place. And you're not distracting me from my point, which was you like it when powerful, older men pay attention to you. Have you ever gone out with a man your own age?"
"Yes. They usually are jerks." Richardson being a prime example. "Look, I didn't come here to talk about me."
The other Chapel started to laugh. "I know. But if you think you're going to get me to talk to you about me, you're wrong. Jim told me ixnay on the aringsha."
"They don't have pig Latin where you come from?" She rolled her eyes. "You really are deprived." She looked Chapel over. "Speaking of deprived, did Grandpa Spock pick out that outfit for you?"
Chapel sighed—she had not been happy at the shapeless box of a shirt and loose pants. "Yes."
"Well, hurry up with your side of that inventory and we'll go shopping for some real clothes. I have credits going to waste."
"I don't need charity."
"Oh, believe me, it'll be fun. I hate to see me—well, you but you in my older body—God, this is confusing. I hate to see us dressed like that."
"That I buy."
"And who knows what you want better than your own self? I mean when you think about it..." She frowned.
Chapel started to laugh silently.
"Did you just go to a really naughty place, too?"
"Yep. Let's not go there again."
Her younger self made a face. "Deal."
"Wise woman. Okay, inventory first. Shopping second. No thinking of how bad and wrong it would be if we had sex with each other just to see if we're as good as we think we are."
"Right." They looked at each other and the younger Christine shrugged, "Is it even really cheating if it's with yourself?"
"I don't know. I failed philosophy."
"I think that's more ethics. Can we not talk about this anymore?" She slapped Chapel on the arm. "Get busy so we can go shopping. I want to get you some sexy clothes. I think Spock doesn't want the other men noticing you, but we want them to so Spock notices you even more."
"Your logic makes circuits look straight."
Her doppelganger laughed, a silvery peal that made Chapel smile. "Thank you very much."
Spock heard a chime at the door of the quarters he shared with Christine, answered quietly, "Come," and looked up from the desk. Uhura stood in the doorway, looking uncertain.
"Please," he said, gesturing to the other side of the desk, where a second terminal and chair sat.
She came in, sat quickly, as if afraid she might change her mind if she didn't move fast. He studied her, could see traces of the woman he remembered from his reality, but this Uhura seemed more confident somehow, more...natural.
"Can I be of some assistance to you?"
She smiled. "I'm here against Spock's wishes. Well, I mean to say he doesn't know. And he doesn't think it wise that any of us talk to you, ergo..."
She smiled. "You say that just like he would." She took a deep breath. "I'm just...curious, I guess. You're here with Christine, from what he's told me."
"I'm just...surprised. Is she not with Jim in your reality?"
"She is not. She was never."
Uhura frowned. "I'm being selfish by asking this, and I know that, but why did we not last in your reality?" She took a deep breath. "Because I'm very much in love with my Spock and I'd like to avoid whatever it was that happened to make us break up and you take up with her."
"We were never together in my reality."
"No. We were not at the Academy at the same time, even."
"Oh. I don't understand how the Narada could have changed so much for all of us."
"Did you have feelings for the me of your reality?" She smiled gently. "I'm sure she did for you."
"I do not think so. I believe she preferred Jim."
"Oh." That seemed to distress her for some reason. "Great."
"Are you and Christine friends in this reality?"
"We didn't travel in the same circles at the Academy. Until she took up with Jim. And my relationship with Spock became more open."
He nodded, heard the door open just as Uhura asked, "If I could be so bold, how did you end up with Christine?"
"Yes, darling, do tell the little one, how you and I ended up together." Christine stood in the doorway, dressed in something tight and dark and low cut. She smiled as if she knew he was assessing her outfit, then moved into the room and sprawled on the bed on her stomach, legs kicked up, leaning on her elbows, her chin resting on her hands. "It's a love story for the ages. You'll be sobbing by the time he finishes telling it. Don't leave out our sexy getaway on Risa—you remember the time, snookums, with the hot tub, when I forgot my swimsuit and you told me I didn't need it."
Uhura rose quickly. "I should be getting back to the bridge."
"You really should. Your Kirk runs a pretty damn lax ship. You here. Spock in sickbay."
"Spock was in sickbay?"
"Was he hurt?"
"No, he just wanted to talk to Christine—well, the other Christine. I skedaddled because who am I to get in the way of that?"
Uhura's expression grew into something Spock could only characterize as stormy. She nodded to Spock. "Thank you for your time, sir."
"Come back any time, sweetheart. You remind me so much of my Ny." As soon as the door closed, she added, "Or wait, no, you don't."
"Christine, was Spock in sickbay?"
"No, he sure wasn't." She got up. "Bet he's gonna have some explaining to do, anyway." She got up, went into the bathroom.
He followed her.
"Spock, when a gal goes into the bathroom, she generally does not want company."
"Then you should close the door. Why did you do that? It was unkind."
"Oh, and tell me honestly, did she come here to get your opinion on some ship matter? Or did she come here to find out exactly what your relationship with our Ny was?"
"Well, then don't lecture me on being unkind. She waited until she knew I was gone."
"You do not know that."
She started to laugh, walked back out to their desk, slapped on the second terminal, engaged the computer with a string of command codes he did not recognize but that clearly gave her access to user info, and then asked it, "Query search. Time frame: current minus two hours, querent: Uhura, query: location of guest Chapel. Execute."
The computer came back with: One occurrence. Current minus 30 minutes. Guest Chapel location: Sickbay.
"No, Spock. She had no idea I wasn't here." She slapped the terminal off. "And the irony is: Ny's the one that's going to teach me that query search syntax."
She went back into the bathroom, shut the door behind her, and engaged the privacy lock. When she came out a few minutes later, she appeared to be slightly less...angry? Was that the right emotion?
He decided not to assume anything. "Do you wish to talk about this?" He had found seeming open to discussion without admitting he was unsure what the discussion should be about was often a winning strategy.
"No, I don't fucking want to discuss how you might be lying to me that you weren't with her first." She sat down on the bed.
"I was not with her. I told you that." He moved over to the bed and sat down next to her. "I thought I made it clear last night that I wanted you?"
"Last night? When you didn't make love to me, that last night? Oh yes, it was super clear that you wanted me."
He reached for her. "I was letting you make the first move."
She slapped his hands away. "Why in God's name would you do that?"
He felt off base...again. "I brought you here, and you had no choice in that. We are stuck with each other. I wanted you to have some say as to when and where we became lovers."
"Stuck with each other?" She stood up. "Stuck with each other? She started to laugh. "You are an idiot. I'm not stuck with you. There are a hell of a lot of men I could have on this ship alone, not to mention in the Federation. You put me in a box to save me? Well damn it all, you owed me that since I never did jack to your stupid damn girlfriend. And I don't owe you shit. I'm not your woman, and I'm not your lover, and you never wanted me other than when you had to have me. And I'm going to Jim and getting myself my own damn quarters."
She got up and stormed out, and he was unsure what to do. He only knew it would look the height of foolishness for a Vulcan of his years to go chasing after an angry human woman in her prime.
She didn't go to Jim; she went back to Christine. Her doppelsister took one look at her, put her arm around her, and said, "What's he done?"
Chapel's resolution to not cry flew right out the window in the face of her own particular brand of sympathy. She sobbed for a few minutes, indulging herself shamelessly, then said, "I need my own quarters."
"Hang tight." The other Christine sent a short text to Kirk, there was a pause, and then a response back with, "It's done. 33G."
"Just like that? You didn't even tell him why."
"He trusts me. I trust him."
Chapel sat down. "I wish I had that." She shook her head. "He never loved me. Grandpa Spock."
"I don't know. Think of all the excess baggage fees he coughed up on your behalf."
Chapel started to laugh. It's exactly what she would have said. "Thanks, I needed that." She wiped her eyes. "Am I really stuck with him?"
"Of course not. Why would you be?"
"I don't know. Change the future and all if I pick someone from your reality."
"Pffff." Chapel sat down and put her feet up on the desk in front of her. "I think that ship's already sailed."
They both smiled.
"Ladies," Len said as he came up behind them, "I stupidly thought that having two Nurse Chapels on board would get me double the work done."
"I'm a doctor now," Chapel told the other Christine.
"Really? I considered that but kept changing my major every time I'd hit a new science."
"She has minors in all of them," Len said with a laugh, rubbing the back of Christine's neck. Rubbing it in a really familiar way—a way Christine didn't seem to mind at all.
Chapel watched their interaction with a frown.
She saw Jim walking into sickbay, wondered what he'd think of his other best bud giving his woman neck sex, but he just winked at Len. "Hands, Bones. Save it for shore leave, my friend."
Then he patted Len on the butt.
Her double had the grace to look the slightest bit embarrassed. "It's maybe a little more complicated than I let on."
Chapel just started to laugh. It was a slightly hysterical laugh. What the holy hell had Spock done to all of them when he'd played around with red matter?
Jim walked over. "You okay? Spock still in one piece? I take it you two had a fight?"
"You need me to talk some sense into one or both of you?"
She rolled her eyes. "Yes, kid, I want you to give me advice on relationships. I've been having sex longer than you've been alive."
He made a disparaging sound and sat down. "I don't know if you noticed but the quarters I gave you adjoin Spock's."
She hadn't noticed. Now that she knew, she gave him a hard look.
He held up a hand. "You can lock them when you get sick of him. I did it because I would really like him to be happy. He seems to think—for God only knows what reason—that you will make him happy, so I'd like to see you work it out and proximity makes that easier."
"Thanks, you're a peach." She got up, unsure where she might go next since her new quarters sure as shit weren't going to give her any damn distance.
Her younger self took her hand. "You don't have to go."
"Look I don't want to rain on your...whatever it is you have going here parade. You guys seem happy. I'm glad."
"We are happy. Weren't you happy when you were on the ship?" Jim was watching her with a look that screamed pity.
She felt a matching pity party growing inside her. "No. No, I don't think I was."
Spock heard a soft bell tone, realized it was coming from the adjoining door to his quarters. He said, "Come," but nothing happened. Then he saw a small button flashing a pale yellow. He got up and walked over to it and the door slid to the side.
Christine stood there, her eyes red and swollen. "Yes, I've been crying. Shut up." She walked past him. "I asked for new quarters. This is what your boy gave me. I guess he's not a big believer in boundaries?" Then she started to laugh, a little bit hysterically. "And boy is that not true. Did you know he's sharing me with Len? Did you know that and not tell me?"
Spock knew his mouth was hanging open slightly.
"Okay, so I'll take that as a no." She began to pace between their two quarters. "I hate this time, Spock. It's weird, all right? It's just weird. What kind of idiotic Starfleet is this? They make a cadet a captain? Of the goddamn flagship? And you're okay with that? I mean the younger you. You follow him?" She whirled on him. "Did you meld with Spock, too? Jim seemed to have had that joyous experience but did you force your memories on this Spock so he'd go along with all this?"
He moved back to get away from her accusing finger. "I did not."
She seemed to be deciding whether or not to believe him, finally exhaled slowly as if she'd accepted his words as truth. "By my recollection there are at least twenty five different guest quarters on this ship. Do you know why Jim picked this one?"
Spock decided not to hazard a guess.
"So we could work it out. Boy genius who shares me with my goddamned boss wants me to work it out."
Spock opted not to point out she had been engaged to her boss and by many methods of hierarchy, Spock himself could have been considered her boss—several layers removed—in their reality. He just nodded in a way that he hoped meant he was being supportive.
She moved closer. "What he doesn't get, Spock, is that while you had ninety years to tootle around the quadrant getting over Valeris and her betrayal and to begin to think fondly of the gal you were checking as baggage—literally—I did not. I'm still there and then. I never got a chance to get over losing my friends, processing that Cartwright betrayed us all, dealing with the fact that a woman I considered my goddamned protégé set me up to take a fall for something I didn't do. And why? Because a man who didn't even love me wanted to fuck me more than he did her when he came into heat."
She took a step back, was breathing hard. "Work this out? How the hell am I supposed to work this out when I'm this angry? When I know you don't love me. Or if you suddenly do, you managed to fall in love with me completely independent of my involvement—or even presence—in the process. How utterly not romantic can this get?"
"You would rather have gone to Rura Penthe?" He knew his voice was harsh, but he had felt every one of her words hit home, as truth had the unhappy way of doing.
"I honestly don't know, Spock."
"Do you wish me to speak to Jim? Get you different quarters."
"Why couldn't Jim just be human and give me the right quarters to begin with? When did I lose control of my own life?" She turned and walked into her quarters, not bothering to shut the door, and he heard her lie down on the bed.
He expected to hear her crying; he did not. He sat for a quarter hour, than another, waiting to see if she was going to get up and leave. He did not think she was asleep, so he finally walked over to the door and looked in.
She was staring up at the ceiling.
"May I come in?"
He walked in and sat down on the bed next to her. She surprised him by saying, "Lie down."
He slid down beside her, noted that she smelled good—but then she always had. He exhaled slowly.
"You're an old man. And I'm not an old woman."
"I am aware of this." He felt stung by her words. Had hoped it would not make a difference.
"I don't want to be stuck with someone. More importantly, I don't want someone to be stuck with me. You never wanted me, Spock. Not when it mattered. Not when we were both young and vital, when we were equals."
He had no argument. Except perhaps this: "I never wanted to want you."
She frowned. "What the hell does that mean?"
"Just that...for whatever reason, you were not the kind of woman I wanted to be with at that time. Even though I was very much drawn to you."
"That makes me feel oh so better." She turned, cuddled into his chest, confusing him greatly.
He debated whether he should stroke her hair or not, finally decided to do it, and she cuddled in even closer.
"I don't want to live on a planet full of Vulcans," she mumbled into his chest, and he realized somewhere between insulting him for being old, and not wanting to be stuck with him, she'd landed on them living together. He decided not to point out the strangeness of the logic trail.
"Nor do I. And to be honest, Christine, my presence is barely desired. I will leave whatever amount of my seed they wish from me—if it is even viable, which is not certain due to my age and my dual heritage—and depart."
She pulled back and looked him squarely in the eyes. "You're not going to stay there?"
He shook his head.
"Where will you go?"
"I do not know." He realized her eyes were wary again and decided to address the larger issue, not assume she was going to stay with him. "If I were a very fortunate man and you decided to accompany me, where would you want to go?"
"I still think my plan of hunting down everyone we know is evil is viable. Might do wonders for my disposition." She smiled weakly at him. "I'm not sure where I'd want to go." She started to laugh. "Wait, no, yes, I've got it. You can make Kironide, right?"
He could feel his mouth ticking up against his will.
"I would kill to see Parmen sing 'Maiden Wine.' We could rescue Alexander way before he'd otherwise be rescued. And you know there's no guarantee that this ship will even wander that way now. That poor guy could be stuck with those assholes forever."
He shook his head, but he knew his eyes were shining.
"We could find Miramanee's planet and get that obelisk thing working."
"We cannot interfere."
"Why the hell not? It's already going to happen. Jim defeats Parmen, rescues Alexander, and sets a message buoy around the world. We do it a bit earlier in case he doesn't get there. I think it's a great plan. And face it, we've got between us eighty times the experience of the junior varsity on this ship."
"They are quite capable."
"They are just graduated cadets, you dingbat. Capable or not, they should be on ships learning under more seasoned officers, not on the flagship doing at will with no supervision."
He had to concede her point. Even if had thrilled him a bit to see the old team together—the logic of it threw him. "We could discuss which of our previous missions might be worth undertaking again. Which are the least likely to happen given present circumstances but would benefit by happening again." He found the idea fascinating actually. The models they could write to determine possible outcomes. They would be true partners in this.
"Wunderbar." She leaned back. "Okay, so I guess we are stuck with each other."
"So it would seem. In the service of the galaxy." He reached over, slowly began to run his hand down her top. "This is, I think, new."
"Little me ordered it—she objected to the sackcloth you'd outfitted me in. You like it? The boys on the ship seemed to, even if I don't have my younger self's sweet little shape anymore."
"I have no complaints as to the shape of your body," he said, as he began to unfasten the snaps that held the shirt across her breasts. "I, in fact, prefer it to hers."
"Big liar. You always go for willowy girls. I've seen your women."
He grabbed her hand, pulled it down to his groin. "Do I appear to be lying as to my attraction?"
She began to smile. "Nope, you sure don't."
"Then please refrain from arguing." He had the shirt loose and pushed it off her. Her bra most conveniently fastened in the front; he had it off in seconds. He stared down at her for a moment, before leaning in to kiss her softly on the mouth, thinking that tenderness might be called for more than passion.
She kissed him back the same way, then pushed him down to her chest, where he abandoned tenderness and played the way he knew she liked from the aftermaths of the Pon Farrs they'd been through, when the fire had been over but the desire had not, and they had a chance to find out what pleased the other.
She arched underneath him, and he used the opportunity to undo her pants and slide them off her, grabbing her panties with them, leaving her naked. He kissed his way from her chest down her body, making her wiggle and cry out and arch her back some more.
As she came down, she looked over at him. "You're overdressed."
She got a funny look. "It's because of what I said. The old man comment?"
He knew it was illogical. She had only been speaking the truth. But he nodded and looked away.
"I'm sorry about that. I was hurt."
"I was just being mean." She got up on her knees, pulled his robe and underwear off him and studied him. "It's been so long for you, hasn't it, since you've made love?"
"Then the first time is going to go really fast so let's not make you wait." She buried her face in his lap, began to lick and suck, and he was lost in the sensation, wanted to push her head down but also wanted to kiss her, only that would mean stopping the wonderful sensations she was causing. Before he was ready, he was calling out, riding out the spasms and saying over and over, "I'm sorry, Christine. I'm sorry."
She looked up, a smile on her face. "Don't be sorry. When a man waits ninety years, things want to come out. Let's see how you do on round two, okay?" She pulled him on top of her. "Kiss me. Show me that you love me, if you really think you do."
"Do you love me?" He moved so he was not lying so heavily on her.
"I do. I always have. But then, I'm an idiot." She ran her fingers over his face. "Now show me."
He tried to do just that. Kissing her as tenderly as he could. Touching her, running his hands over her body, sucking at her neck in a way he realized would leave a mark, moving back down to her chest again. He'd always loved her breasts, could barely leave them alone now.
She was moaning as he moved over her, kissing him back as sweetly, licking his nipples, making him jump at the unexpected sensation, then she sucked the tip of his ear and he felt his lower half coming back to life in a hurry.
"There he is," she murmured in his ear as she reached down to encircle him.
He moaned, allowed her to guide him into her, and then he pushed and found his way home.
This time he was not so eager; this time his body did not betray him by coming so soon. This time he gave her pleasure and saw in her eyes that it was good and that she was pleased.
This time, he enjoyed himself as he came.
Chapel sat with Spock in a quiet corner of the rec lounge, watching release two of themselves and their friends celebrating...something. Neither of them was quite sure what. There seemed to be a party nearly every day between shifts—every shift.
"It's like the old 'day that ends in Y' party they used to have at my university," Chapel said, her feet tucked under her, several empty glasses in front of her. Spock was being unusually generous with the expensive hooch and she'd found that ninety years in cryo had in no way reduced her ability to hold her liquor, so she was taking full advantage of his generosity.
"They do seem..."
"Young. Just say it, Spock. They're goddamned babies. Every day is a party to them." She took another sip of her drink. There was no way she could even think about affording this. Starfleet had frozen all her assets.
She frowned. Spock shouldn't have any assets, should he? She studied him.
"You have a question?"
"You're using knowledge from the future to profit in the past."
"The markets. Industry. Commodities. The goddamn horseraces for all I know. This booze costs a hell of a lot and you, as far as I know, lost everything on the Narada."
"Not everything." He found her hand, squeezed it.
"Very sweet but you will not distract me. So what are you doing?"
"Technically, since the past has changed, my knowledge from the future is now little better than a hunch. So I am...speculating at best."
"And you've done how well?"
"We can afford anything we like. I am accustomed to having a great deal of wealth at my disposal." He almost smiled at her.
"I know. Just one more reason to make you a guy to fall in love with." At his look, she laughed. "It's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man."
"Logically, it may be easier."
"See." Chapel saw her doppelganger coming toward them, with Jim and Len on either side, arms draped around her. She started pounding on Spock's leg. "See, see, see?"
He stopped her attack. "I see."
"So you're leaving us...finally?" Chapel the younger was clearly feeling no pain as she leaned against Len and played with Jim's hair.
Chapel shook her head. "I thought you three saved that for shore leave?"
Len looked around and then at the other two, and they all started to laugh. "Oh, shit. Are we still on the ship? Damn it. We did this last time, too."
"I believe your secret is out, Jim," Spock said. "Perhaps less alcohol? If a red alert were to sound...?"
Jim leaned in. "We have antitox. We can be sober in 20 seconds."
"It's actually 120," Chapel said. "But math doesn't have to be your strong suit."
"No, really, ours works in 20." The other Christine dug into her pocket and handed her some. "Maybe another thing that's changed?"
"Well, this change I actually like. No wonder you people get shitfaced so often."
Len frowned. "It's not that often. You don't need to sound so judgmental."
"That was quite mild for her," Spock said, trying to be helpful no doubt.
She elbowed him.
"Jim wants to know if you two made up," the other Christine said.
"Something wrong with Jim's ability to ask us himself?"
She elbowed Spock again, but he blocked her.
"Yes, Jim, as you can see, despite Christine being as volatile as ever, we have made up."
"We were never fighting."
"I stand corrected."
Jim winked at Spock. "That's right, my friend. The road to a happy relationship is to realize that no matter how wrong they may appear, the woman is always right."
"Illogical but accurate."
Chapel rolled her eyes. "Give me a break. Like you ever admit I'm right without an argument first." She met Jim's eyes. "We've forged an understanding. Let's leave it at that."
"And she's happy with the sex. I know that look." Len smiled in a sort of dreamy way.
"I find that unnerving," Spock said.
"You and me both, lover." She moved a little closer to him. "You and me both."