You sit and watch him. This man you love. This man you betrayed. You sit and watch him and you say nothing.
You sit silently.
He gets up, stalks out.
You close your eyes. Remember the first man who ever left you.
It was summer. The others were outside eating corn on the cob and hot dogs, but you sat inside with your grandfather.
"Chrissie," he says. "Go on and get some food."
"I'm fine." You know he is failing. You're only twelve but you know. It's a gift—maybe a curse. You're not sure but it's never failed you. You always know when someone's about to die.
"I wish I was going to see you grow up." He takes a ragged breath.
You know you should get the others, your mother, your father, but your grandfather hasn't asked for them, and you don't want to share the moment.
"I love you." It's the truest thing you know to say. You love him. And you don't love that many people. You've learned to pretend to love your parents the way your friends love their moms and dads, but you don't, not really. Not the way you love this crotchety old man.
This crotchety old man who probably only loves you—certainly doesn't seem to love the son he's raised, or the woman his son married.
"I love you, too, Chrissie. People like us, we're special, you know?" He reaches up, takes your hand. "Life doesn't give us what we want. Sometimes you have to take."
You nod because you've already figured that out. "People get hurt if you take too much." You are inside the house because you're grounded for taking too much, but you don't want him to know that. You'd have stayed inside anyway. You like being with him. Even if this wasn't his last day.
"Don't worry about other people. They won't give a goddamn about you. You got that, girl?" His breathing grows more strangled.
You nod. Another lesson you've already figured out. You lean in close and whisper, "Do you want me to get Mom and Dad?"
"No, I don't want them here."
You were glad. You sat with him till the end, never letting go of his hand. You waited even longer, and then ran out to get them.
They lifted the grounding on account of you having seen such a thing.
You thought Grandpa would have been pleased.
The door to the holding cells slams open. You look up, see Nyota staring at you as if she has never seen you before. "How could you?"
You stand. You have waited for this visit. How many years have you let this woman take the lead in your supposed friendship? How many years have you watched her pretend to be in Jim Kirk's inner circle?
You were in a better inner circle. You were in the ultimate inner circle. You go to the edge of the forcefield, motion for her to come closer.
She does. She knows you can't hurt her. This is not some old time jail that you could reach through the bars and throttle her, although the idea is appealing.
"How could I what? Which crime do you want me to answer for? Being a traitor? Or getting him to love me when he wouldn't love you?"
Uhura looks like she might slap you. You hope she tries. You know the sting of the forcefield will travel up her arm and deaden her shoulder. You know this because you've lost control before in a holding cell, only not this holding cell.
She spits. It's a useless gesture; the spittle is swallowed up by the energy field.
"He's wonderful in bed, by the way." You laugh as she leaves. Then you sit down and wait for the next one. You imagine it will be Len.
You are wrong. It is Janice. "Comfortable?" she asks.
"Cartwright and Valeris arrived at Rura Penthe yesterday. You'll be next."
You nod. This is not unexpected.
"I'll be your escort to the Klingons. I'll be back in ten hours to take you to them."
You smile. "Good." You study her. "And you? You're still on Excelsior?"
You feel a small surge of satisfaction. "I thought you might take my job now that it's vacant." You thought no such thing, but those listening will wonder why you asked her if she was still on Sulu's ship.
"I have no desire to run Ops. I am exactly where I'm supposed to be."
That much is true. At least some of the conspiracy is still in place. Still able to effect change, even if Khitomer was a bust.
"Rot in hell, Christine." Janice turns on her heel and is gone.
You know you will not rot in hell, and it will be your friend Janice that ensures you don't.
She's another that you love—it's never clear to you what makes you love someone, how they manage to worm their way into what is clearly a desiccated organ by most people's standards. But Janice is in your heart.
You remember when she left the ship during the first five-year mission. How bereft you felt. But you knew why she had to go. Had seen the captain with his trail of women and how it hurt her.
"I just want him to notice me," Janice would say. "Why won't he?"
You couldn't give her forever with him. But you did give her a night. One night, the right combination of drugs to make him want her, want her more than he'd ever wanted anything, and then, when he finally slept, to make him forget it ever happened.
But Janice never forgot. Janice loved you for giving her that. The perfect send-off, she'd said. He'd been as good as she'd thought he'd be.
And you were left every day with the captain you had drugged and given to your friend. You probably should have felt guilty.
Not the way you'd felt guilty when you'd stood by and done nothing to stop Roger from putting the captain in an android body. But that may have been due more to the fact that you'd been duped by Roger than any lingering loyalty to Kirk. You've never been entirely sure if dissonance or true regret lies at the heart of how you view those events.
Whatever the reason, you were not happy with yourself. Then again, you'd derailed your career searching for a man who'd left you behind, so you weren't happy with anyone at that point. Roger, that slut Andrea—or the vapid android he'd fashioned in her image—or anyone who offered condolences afterwards.
They had no idea why you were drawn to Roger. What kind of man he'd been.
He'd been with Andrea when you met him. Pretty little thing. Smart, too. Nice, though. That was her fatal flaw. She was nice. And you weren't.
She was in your way. You got her out of it. Nothing so cliché as a flight of stairs or a drugged cup of tea. You just manipulated her. Let her see what she was afraid of. That Roger was unfaithful. That Roger didn't love her enough. That Roger was a cad.
It wasn't that hard. Roger was unfaithful, he didn't love her enough, and he was a cad. You didn't have any trouble getting his pants down, letting her find you with your head in his lap, sucking as vigorously as you could, looking up and exclaiming "but you said you were single" as you wiped your mouth and left him sitting there with his dick hanging out and a strangled, "Andrea, I can explain."
She ran out. You were there. "I'm so sorry. He told me—I had no idea. All those times. I swear, I would never have gone to bed with him."
You think you broke the poor girl's heart. You never saw her on campus again. She never crossed your mind—not till you saw her there with Roger. He'd built her, not you. He'd wanted her back.
Some things you steal don't stay stolen.
"All these years."
You look up, startled. Len has come in and you didn't notice, too lost in the memories. There is pain in his blue eyes. Pain and anger. It is partly your fault that he was sent to Rura Penthe. That he almost died on that icy world.
"Don't take it personally." You get up and lean against the wall, watching him as he begins to pace. He clearly is taking it personally.
"Christine, damn it. How the hell could you do this?"
You don't answer him. It's none of his business how the hell you could do this. Choices were made, paths were chosen. People you trusted set things in motion. You followed where they led. You would do it again.
"Valeris was your protégé."
"She was. I did a great job, don't you think?"
You can tell he would slap you if he could. You also know he is not strong enough to get past your defenses. Defenses he is not aware you have. Defenses trained into you by the people you trusted. If you were to arrive at Rura Penthe alive, you would do all right there. At least for a while.
"I hate you right now, Christine."
You stare at him blandly, knowing that is the worst thing you can do to him. Not give him anything back. Not give in to the emotion he wants to vent on you.
"All these goddamn years!"
"You're like a broken record, Len. Get a life." You turn and sit on the hard bench, ignoring him, letting him stare at you, until he finally calls you a name you think southern gentlemen are not supposed to use and leaves.
You close your eyes, remember Valeris as she was just before she left on the Enterprise. Her eyes danced, and you cautioned her to rein in her excitement. It struck you as ironic: a human telling a Vulcan to be less emotional. She was a zealot for the cause. Cartwright had made her one. You had helped. She would do anything, betray anyone. Logic was a tool that could be twisted and shaped to play to your advantage, and Valeris couldn't see that. She'd been coopted and could twist any situation into logical and right.
You remember the girl that first came to you. The only pangs of guilt you ever get are on Valeris's behalf. She was an innocent in this. Her only crime her enthusiasm and her naiveté. Her ability to be led, to be pushed off a cliff and made to believe it was her idea.
You think that is what Spock hates the most about what you did. That you ruined this girl.
That he loved you and you ruined this girl that he considered a daughter.
That two of the people he loved most were traitors and he didn't know it.
You hear a sigh, a slow exhale of air. Kirk is staring at you from the entrance.
This man was good to you. He let you on his ship to search for Roger. He let you stay on his ship after Roger. You will give him this one thing: "I did it for Cartwright."
"I know. And Valeris did it for you." He sighs. "And Spock's a wreck because of you and her." He moves closer. "I never saw it. I never saw you. And I'm normally so good at that."
You shrug. "Years of practice."
"I didn't expect a sociopath to be a nurse."
"I was never supposed to be a nurse. It was an expedient way to find Roger." You look down. "Finding Roger was the aberration. I should have let him go."
He laughs softly—and very bitterly. "Our lives would have been very different if you had."
"Yes." You stand up as straight as you can. "We never intended for you and Len to end up on Rura Penthe."
He nods. "Yeah. But it happened. You'll be there soon."
You nod, try to look scared, because it's what he'll expect of you.
He shakes his head and leaves you. You hear him say something to someone just outside the door, know it is Spock.
He does not come in, so you pace the cell, working off excess energy until he finally does come in.
"Why?" he says again.
You turn to him. "Do you want to know if I ever loved you?"
"I know that you did. I know that she did, too. I want to know how two people who loved me could betray me."
"The cause was bigger than you, Spock. And Valeris thought that once it was done, you would see that a better world lay ahead." Valeris thought that, but you never did.
You have waited for them to drop the forcefield. For Spock to try a meld on you, to force the names of your conspirators from you. If he does, your mind will...self-destruct is probably the right term. It is one of those defenses you were given. One they thought Valeris would not need, being full Vulcan. They had no idea Spock would nearly wipe her mind himself in his quest for the truth.
They have not dropped the forcefield. Perhaps they have already tried a meld on another prisoner and found out what happens. Perhaps he wants you to suffer on Rura Penthe, not die a quick death. There is no other reason for him to have left you alone, not when he is so angry at you.
And he is angry—you can see it in his eyes, in the way he is clenching his hands. You think that if he could, he would wrap his hands around your neck and squeeze the very life from you.
You would not mind dying at his hands. There would be some sort of justice to that and in your way, you do love him, as much as you have loved any man.
"I must go. This emotion overwhelms me." He pushes through the door, leaving you alone.
The hours pass slowly. They bring you food you don't eat. What is the point? Janice will walk you to the Klingons. She will make sure that you are given the poison pill that you will take on the warbird. You will be dead before you leave orbit. Food is unnecessary.
She shows up finally. "Ready?"
You nod and stand, take a long breath before leaving the cell. There are Starfleet guards ahead of you and behind you, but she walks next to you—she earned that right when she testified against you, provided key evidence as your best friend.
You walk next to her, waiting for her to move closer, to hand you the pill.
"I love you—you know that, right?" She smiles at you. "Remember that always."
Always? How long can always be?
You are almost to the Klingons; you look at her, see a resolve you don't like on her face.
"They'll know it was me, Christine."
Her words hit like darts.
"I'm in place. On an important ship. I can still carry out the mission. I can't save you and do that." She meets your eyes. "I'm so sorry, Christine."
You feel her words more than hear them. You feel them and want to scream. But then you take a deep breath and force yourself to be calm. "Carry out your orders. The mission goes on." You hate saying those words. You want that pill. You do not want to leave her behind and go on alone to hell. "I'll find Valeris and Cartwright. The others, too. We'll stay alive as long as we can. We'll know you're here."
You see the Klingons up ahead. They are standing tall. They are strong and unforgiving just as their prison will be.
You will die in their prison. You should have eaten dinner.