Vignettes After a Voyage Nearly Undone
Spock watched his younger self hurry off and wondered what the future would bring for the man. For himself. Pronouns were going to be problematic.
He turned and saw Christine talking to Doctor McCoy, and his breath caught. She seemed to feel his eyes on her, looked up and smiled in a strange way.
Spock turned away, hurrying off to the quarters Starfleet had assigned him.
"Sir? Sir, wait."
He slowed but did not turn. Her voice—that voice, so young, so innocent still.
"I'm not sure what to call you"—she grabbed him, her hand strong; he'd forgotten how strong she was—"and I'm not trying to make a scene."
He turned, drank in her face, the blue eyes, the lips that bore his kisses—only not now, not yet, and judging by his younger self's affection for Nyota, not ever.
"You're Spock, aren't you?"
He pulled back, yanking his sleeve from her grasp. "I'm afraid you have me confused with someone else."
"I have eyes. You look just like him, sir, only older."
Sir. It sounded so strange coming from this woman who had been his lover for so long.
"This is not a matter to discuss here."
"I think nowhere."
She smiled, that lovely sensual smile he remembered but never on a face this young. "I think you don't mean that."
"And what logic leads you to that conclusion?"
"You stare at me. All the time. I noticed it when I first saw you, and then I started to hang around just to see if I was imagining it. I wasn't." She moved closer. "I was with you, in your reality, wasn't I? Not Nyota."
"Everything is different here."
"Which means yes, or you'd have just said no." She laughed at his expression. "Oh, don't worry. I don't have dastardly plans for your doppelganger. I don't even like him much. I'm just...curious."
"Yes. You were always that way."
"You loved me—her?"
"How long has she been dead?"
"At least a lifetime." He knew it was a self-indulgently imprecise answer, but she smiled and took his arm.
He did not shake free, even though he knew he should.
"All your parts in working order, sir?" She shot him the grin he had loved, the one his Christine had always given him just before seducing him.
"They are. I...think. It has been quite a while."
"Yeah, for me, too. Fiancé went missing, showed up last year running a business making pleasure androids. He was a famous scientist and now he's a rich businessman with no time for me." She glanced at him. "Is that how it ended in your reality?"
"No. Doctor Korby died. Shot by one of his pleasure androids."
"I like your version better." She grinned again. "So you do want to have sex with me, right?"
"I do. Very much. But I must point out that I do not know you. I may simply be trying to recapture what I have lost."
"Well, points for honesty, Spock." She smiled. "Look, you intrigue me. Which is more than I can say for most of the guys around. So take me to bed, mister."
He felt off balance. Should he do this? Was this right?
She moved closer, rubbing the top of his hand gently with her fingers. "Are you really having to think this hard about it? I look just like her, only better, I imagine? What with the youth and dewy beauty." She laughed softy, as if at herself. She did not let up on the attack on his hand, which had suddenly become an erogenous zone of immense proportions.
"Your enthusiasm is overwhelming. You do remember how to do it, right?" Her soft laughter was just as he remembered it. The good-natured mocking, the sweetness underneath.
He gave her his best Vulcan look of disapproval.
She only smiled wider. "Ooh, finally got a rise out of you."
"You have been getting a rise out of me for some time."
"And witty repartee comes with the package, too? I've never seen that with our Spock."
"You are not rubbing his hand in the same way, I imagine?"
"Well, no. Is that the secret?" She grinned and ceased her attack on him.
He stopped in front of his door. "This is not a good idea, Christine."
"Of course not. Nothing fun ever is. Now open the damn door, Spock."
He studied her, looking for any sign of hesitation. He knew his version of her well enough to believe he would see the same signs in this Christine. But all he saw was amusement and impatience.
So he opened the damned door, as she'd ordered.
Once they were inside, she did not resume her attack on him, but went instead to his window and looked out on the Academy grounds. "Pretty view."
He smiled. A real smile. His Christine had done that often. Given him access to her neck, loved to be held from behind, his arms around her, his lips on her as they looked out at whatever view they had to enjoy, even if it was the wall of a neighboring building.
He walked over to her, put his hands on her shoulders and heard her sigh, then relax under his gentle grip. She eased her head to the side, and he kissed her neck the way he'd learned she liked long ago.
She still liked it that way. Still—the wrong word and yet not.
He let his hands slip around her, pulling her back to him, cradling her under her breasts. She sighed happily, put her hands over his. Then she turned enough so he could kiss her on the lips.
It was like coming home. He felt as if his body was waking from a decades' long sleep. This was his mate, it seemed to say. She smelled the same, she felt the same, she kissed the same.
At some basic level, she was the same.
She turned so she was fully against him and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him more deeply now that it was not so awkward a position. They kissed for a long time, until he eased away and began to undress her, no longer able to distinguish between his Christine and this Christine. She was Christine. He wanted her.
She slipped his robe off, then his undergarments. And they were naked.
He took a breath. Waited. He was an old man and he knew it. There was no logic in trying to hide his age. Although one part of him was standing at attention in a way that belied his years.
And she smiled when her eyes traveled down. "You like me."
She pushed him back, then onto the bed, and crawled on top of him, kissing everywhere, over age spots and lines and scars.
"You like older men?"
"Usually. And older men seem to think these things are bad, these tokens of life lived." She smiled at him, then stroked her smooth skin. "Did I have them when you knew me? Battle scars?"
"Was I beautiful to you anyway?"
She kissed him more tenderly than before. Then she moved so she was on him. "Ready?"
He nodded, breathed out slowly as she settled onto him. And then she was with him. This lovely girl. His Christine and not his Christine. He could love her with so little effort.
She rode him like she had done it for years, not as if this was their first time together. She took her pleasure easily before she let him find the rhythm that would send him to completion. He enjoyed her gentle tyranny.
He returned the favor when he had rested sufficiently, when he had her underneath his mouth, when he could take her to the edge and then stop, ease off, take her back, until she begged and cursed and finally just said, "Spock, please?"
And he let her finish. She was loud, clutching the sheets and writhing, and he was inside her before she had come all the way down.
She smiled as he moved. "All parts are definitely in working order."
"Indeed." Then he gave up talk, just moved inside her, found his way back to a place he thought he had lost forever.
As he rolled off her, he reached for her hand, realized he needed the connection with her. She squeezed his gently.
"This was a gift." He closed his eyes.
She nestled against him. "Do you want it to be a one-time gift or the kind that you get periodically? And neither answer will make me mad."
He turned and studied her. She seemed very relaxed, her mouth curled into a soft smile.
He touched her lips with his fingers. So soft and firm. "I would very much like this to continue. If that is agreeable to you?"
"I wouldn't have asked if it wasn't." Her smile grew bigger. "And that's the answer I prefer." She touched his ear, laughing softly at his sharp intake of breath. "Am I just like her?"
"No. You are yourself. But you are very similar in ways I find comforting."
"Well, clearly you know what I like in bed." She ran her fingers over his ear again. "I need to play catch up."
"You were always a quick study."
"That hasn't changed." She abandoned his ears, slid her fingers down his cheek, then his neck, his chest, over his hips to his groin. "So, without offending you, how much life is in my friend, here? I like him, you see. I'd like him to come out and play some more, but if he's not interested right now or anymore tonight, it would be good to know that."
"That is a brave question."
"Also efficient. Why waste energy and create friction between us when I could just ask?"
He pulled her to him and kissed her very hard—not because it was something his Christine would have asked, but because it wasn't. "Your friend is not interested right now. But later, I am fairly certain he will be."
"You'll let me know when he is?"
"I will." He let his fingers travel down her body the way she'd done to him. "I imagine that you might have a more frequent need for release. Fortunately, there are many ways to give you pleasure."
"Yes," she said as she arched her back and closed her eyes. "Yes, there are."
Chapel knew she was sauntering as she walked down the corridor of the Enterprise toward Nyota, but she couldn't help it.
Nyota hooked her arm in hers as soon as Chapel reached her. "Well, you little slut, how was he?"
"Oh my God. I am officially jealous of you."
"Well, you don't know that you should be, really. I mean your Spock was with you, wasn't he? You were right about that?"
"So, you—the other you—may have taught him everything you like. Whereas my Spock does what I like, which may not be what you like."
Chapel started to laugh. "I know what you like. We talk about what you like all the time. It's the same thing I like."
"Well, in general terms. We both like orgasms, sure. But that's the destination. The journey is the where we might say vive la difference, no?"
Chapel put her head on Ny's shoulder. "You crack me up."
"Ditto. So are you going to see him again?"
"Pretty sure. You know how I like older men."
"Yes, I get to hear Leonard bitch about it to Spock and Jim all the time. Would you give the man a pity screw at least?"
"The man is my boss."
"So was Korby, but that didn't stop you."
"Yes, but he was my boss who was an older-man boss." Chapel knew she was grinning way too much, but happy sex did that to her. "I really like him. He's...different than your Spock."
"Does that mean you don't like my Spock?"
"No. I mean...he's just looser. Like he's at peace in a way with who he is, where he's been. Everything he's been through has left marks and probably scars inside too, but he's still reaching out."
Nyota looked away.
"He's still shutting you out a little bit?"
"Yeah. It's better, though. Than it was right after. He just needs time."
"But you're having sex?"
"Is that all you think about." Ny gave her a soft smile. "Yes, we're having sex." She let go of Chapel's arm. "I have to get back up to the bridge. I'm glad you had a good time."
"I'm glad you were okay with it."
"You didn't have to ask me first."
"Yes, I did. It was sort of strange. I mean, they're the same guy, kind of."
"No, they're not." Nyota grinned. "I just want you to be happy." Her grin faded before Chapel thought she meant it to. She turned and walked to the lift.
As the doors closed, Chapel murmured, "At least one of us is right now." She sighed and caught the next lift to sickbay.
Uhura watched Spock as their shift progressed. He put on a good show of no longer being emotionally compromised, but he still was.
At least with her.
She'd lied to Christine. They weren't sleeping together right now. He'd pulled away from her, and she'd let him. Too afraid that if she pushed, she'd lose him for good. That had to stop.
Shift change came and he made no move to leave. She ceded her board to her replacement, moved over to his station. "Sir, I need your assistance."
"Assistance of what nature?"
"It's personal. And important." She let her voice trail off. Even let a little shake come into it. It wasn't fair, really.
He seemed unsure.
She blinked hard, as if she was going to cry, then realized she was about to cry and blinked again.
He called for his replacement. "I will need you sooner than I thought." Then he looked up at her. "We will go soon."
She nodded, tried not to look like a fool just hanging around his station. How did Leonard manage to loiter so effortlessly?
Finally the replacement showed up, and Spock rose and walked with her to the lift. He glanced at her repeatedly, finally asked, "Your quarters or mine?"
"Yours." She wanted to be able to leave if this went badly. She didn't want him leaving her again.
He nodded, led them off the lift to his quarters and palmed the door open, standing aside for her to enter. She noticed he didn't look to see if anyone was watching. Was that a good sign that he no longer cared who saw them? Or a bad sign that he was still so consumed by his own sadness that he wasn't thinking to do it?
She pointed to the bed. "Sit."
He sat. Without arguing. Good. Progress.
"This distance between us. It's not good."
He looked down.
"Don't do that. You're just making it worse when you won't even look at me."
He took a deep breath and raised his head. "You saw a side of me I never wanted you to see."
She froze. That was not what she'd expected to hear. "You mean when you beat the holy crap out of Jim?"
"He goaded you. He intended you to do that."
"Nevertheless. It was an unforgivable break."
"Unforgivable for whom?" She sat next to him on the bed. "You haven't wanted to be with me. Not to talk. Not to touch. Why?"
"I'm not the man you thought I was."
"Yes, you are. You reacted the way you did because you were in pain. If you hadn't been in pain at that moment, then you wouldn't have been the man I thought you were." She touched his face, saw him close his eyes the way he did when he was enjoying her touch. "You wouldn't have been the man I love. The man I know feels things. Even when he doesn't always want to."
He was silent for a long time, then he said, "I have missed you. I have wanted to reach out."
"I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere unless you tell me to."
He turned to her, his eyes finally lightening a little. "I find it highly unlikely that you would go even then."
She laughed. "No, you're right. I probably wouldn't."
He pulled her to him, kissed her and his lips were tentative on hers at first, but then he seemed to let go. She wrapped her arms around him, closed her eyes and tried not to cry as he pulled her back onto the bed.
He was touching her. He was letting her in.
She wasn't losing him.
"I love you," she murmured as she opened her eyes and undid his uniform.
"As I love you," he said as he watched her, his expression finally not so cold, finally closer to being at peace.
Spock woke with Nyota curled against him. He watched her sleep, felt as if a part of himself had been returned. He had not known how to bridge the gap he had let grow between them—fortunately, she had not been afraid to simply tackle the issue directly.
But then she never was.
His chrono sounded and he turned it off, felt her stir against him. "Good morning," he said, knowing she would need him to make a sign that they were still all right, that last night had not been an aberration.
She smiled. "Good morning." She glanced at the chrono and frowned. "I promised Christine I would go to the gym with her this morning. A new yoga class she wants to try." She kissed him. "I hate to run."
"I will see you on the bridge. And later, hopefully...?"
She smiled and leaned in for a longer kiss. "Count on it."
She slipped out of bed gracefully—her grace had been one of the things that had captivated him about her—and pulled on her uniform. With a last grin, she hurried out.
He got out of bed, took a shower and put on a fresh uniform, then headed for the mess. He was hungrier than he had been, filled his plate and looked for a table. Jim was sitting alone and waved him over with a very knowing smile on his face.
"I missed dinner."
"You missed our chess game, too. The fair Nyota was not in evidence last night, either. I hope I was blown off for a very good reason." He waggled his eyebrows.
Spock knew he was blushing. "I forgot about chess."
"You never forget about anything. Unless you had a very good reason to be distracted." Jim's grin faded and he leaned in. "I know things haven't been easy for you. So, you be distracted all you want, okay?"
Spock felt unaccountably touched. "Thank you."
"No problem." Jim played with his eggs for a moment, then said, "Do you think I should be captain?"
"You are captain. The question is moot."
"But do you think I should be?" He met Spock's eyes. "I want a real answer."
"I am your first officer. Would I sign up for that responsibility if I thought you were not fit?"
"Maybe. Since I'm the commanding officer of your girlfriend."
Spock had to concede the logic of that. "In that case it would be easier to try to sabotage you and make you look incompetent than to be your friend and answer questions such as these."
"You haven't done that." Jim frowned. "You haven't done that, right?"
"I have not."
"Whew." Jim grinned and it was clear he hadn't thought Spock had. "It's just...I go to these sector meetings and they treat me like the dumb kid who happened to have a really good day."
"You are not a kid, but you are much younger than they are. You are not dumb. I find your intelligence to be quite superior. But you did have an extremely good day and Starfleet's reaction might be seen as kneejerk."
Jim started to laugh. "So you don't think I should be captain."
"I did not say that. I said others might view your rise as..."
"Ludicrous? I've heard that word bandied about."
"Startling, was the word I was going to go for."
"Slightly better." He started to eat for real. A good sign, in Spock's experience.
"Why do you care, Jim? You are captain. Be the captain. Be the best captain you can be. If you obsess over what they think, it may prevent you from developing into the best version of yourself. So, do not obsess."
"Wow, look at you with all this insight." He shot Spock another of the grins that he was rapidly becoming very fond of.
"It is only the truth."
"And you're not afraid to tell me that. I really like that. And I know I need it. So don't stop. No matter how much it ticks me off."
"I will continue to annoy you. It is what I signed up for, is it not?"
"Damned straight." Jim laughed, but the laugh seemed for himself. "What a ride," he said softly.
Kirk went down to Engineering before heading back to Command for the next sector meeting. He found Scotty tinkering with some obscure piece of circuitry.
"Good morning, sir. I bet you're wondering what I'm up to."
"The thought crossed my mind."
"I've been doing some load and efficiency studies in my off hours."
"Of course you have." Kirk grinned at him. He'd never seen Scotty doing but one of three things in his off hours. Working, playing backgammon, or drinking. Man had simple needs.
"Well, this little circuit gets a lot of juice routed through it. It seizes up because it was never intended to handle that kind of load. Bad planning. I'm...enhancing it you might say."
"Another of your unauthorized improvements?" All of which Kirk had appreciated over the last month. The ship ran much better now than it did when he got it.
"That's putting it so bluntly, sir." He winked at Kirk. "But yes."
"Whatever works, Mister Scott." Kirk looked around Engineering. "I love coming down here. It's always so..."
"Well, you're welcome here anytime. You got me off that damn ice planet. I owe you everything."
"No, I owe you. You beamed me aboard this ship."
"Well, that was really the older version of our first officer."
Kirk smiled. "But from a formula that you came up with."
"Ah, you've got me there." Scotty shook his head. "Interesting man, that older Spock. Was a little surprised to see him palling around with our Christine."
Kirk frowned. "What?"
"Oh, aye. Saw them the other day, headed for guest quarters. I'm not usually an old gossip like this, but I know Leonard's got his heart set on her, and I thought you might want to let him down easily."
Kirk smiled and shook his head. He had a feeling that Scotty knew damn good and well that Bones wasn't the only one who had an interest in Christine. "I'll give him the bad news gently." He shook his head. "What does she see in him?"
"Well, some women like an older man," Scotty said with a wink. "It's our experience."
"Oh, is that what it is? You sure it's not your amazing talent for bullshit?"
Scotty laughed. "Possibly that, too. If I ever find myself a woman, I'll let you know."
Kirk grinned and took a deep breath, trying to draw in all the things he loved about engineering. "This was just what I needed before I head into the belly of the beast for another grimly boring staff meeting. Thank you, Mister Scott. I am again in your debt."
"I live to serve, Jim."
With a last fond grin, Kirk headed for the lift, and the endless morning that awaited him.
Scott found his way to the rec lounge, saw Chekov waiting for him at their usual table. "Hello, young Pavel."
"Hello, old Montgomery." Pavel had the backgammon board set up. "I have been studying."
"What's to study? I'm going to crush you like I always do. The luck of the Scottish."
"I believe the saying is the luck of the Irish, who imported that luck from a little old lady in Vladivostok."
Scott smiled. The kid gave as good as he got. "So what have you been studying besides how to move your checkers?"
"Physics. Warp engineering—I have some ideas I want to discuss with you about possible dilithium alternatives."
"And ummm..." Pavel took a long swig of his beer.
Scott sipped his scotch and waited.
"There's a girl I want to ask out. And I need your advice."
"Why my advice?"
Well, it's Gaila. I know she works for you and you know her and what she likes—I mean in the way of presents or approaches."
"Try asking her out. You know, just ask." He gave the boy a glare. "I think that'll do it. Be straightforward."
"Well, but I really like her."
"Everybody really likes her, lad. Everybody throws things at her like they have to buy her. Like she doesn't have a perfectly good brain that can decide whether or not she thinks you're worthy. Ask her. And if you really want to warm her up before you do, talk to her about your dilithium alternatives. She's got some ideas about that, too."
"Aye. The lass is brilliant. Now roll for first move before I look for a new game to play."
Pavel smiled. "Brilliant, huh?"
"Yeah, just like you. You'll be two peas in a pod. Don't make me sick with any lovey dovey stuff in Engineering, you ken?"
"Loud and clear, old man." Pavel handed him one of the dice. "Roll."
Scott rolled a six. Pavel rolled a one.
"Oh aye," Scott said, moving his pieces to block the bar. "Here we go, laddie. Luck be a lady."
"Enjoy her. Luck's the only lady you'll be seeing any time soon."
Scott smiled. The kid was a pistol.
Chekov waited until he was sure Scotty was on his lunch break, then he went into Engineering. He saw Gaila in the back and walked over to her, trying not to forget how to put one foot in front of the other.
She turned and smiled at him. "Hi, Pav."
"Hello." Not enough. He needed to say more. "How are you today?" No, too formal.
"I'm good. You?"
"I am also good." No, this was not going well at all. "I was playing backgammon with Mister Scott and was telling him of some ideas I had about alternatives to dilithium."
She put her tools down and said, "It's lunch. Let's talk about this in the mess hall, okay? I'm starving."
"But it has to be quick. So the auxiliary mess down here."
He tried not to let any disappointment show; he had really wanted to be seen walking into the main mess with her. "That's fine."
She led him to the mess, which was full of engineering types. They got their food and sat down. He forgot how to form words for a moment—she was that pretty—but then she launched into her ideas for alternatives and he felt his brain kick in. They were soon arguing in a good-natured way over the merits and pitfalls of their various options.
"Do you want to collaborate on this, Pav? I think we could get a paper out of our ideas. Present it at the engineering seminar that's coming up at the end of the year maybe? What do you think?"
He managed not to blurt out that he would gladly collaborate on anything she wanted. "I would love that."
"Great." She gave him the giddy grin that he'd first been charmed by.
"Gaila, would you also be interested in seeing me socially?"
"That's what we're doing now." The grin faded a bit.
"No, I mean romantically." He knew he was blushing furiously.
"Oh. Wow. Pav, I like you a lot. You know that, right?"
He tried to nod but he could already hear the but.
"But I'm seeing someone and it's exclusive." She smiled and he thought she was trying to make it a sad smile, but all he could see was that whoever the person was, they made her happy.
"Oh. That's wonderful. For you, I mean. Not so much for me."
"I'm sorry. There are lots of lovely women on board. I'm sure you'll find someone else in no time."
"They won't be you. But I will be fine. And we will still collaborate? I have not created discomfort for you?"
"Are you kidding? That's work. Totally different." She smiled gently at him, and he loved her for it. "There is no one I'd rather collaborate with on this."
"You are very kind."
"No, I'm not." She patted his hand. "We're both brilliant. We'll knock their socks off. If they wear socks, I mean."
He laughed. She was the only girl he knew who could make getting shot down this painless.
Gaila heard her chime go off and took a deep breath before saying, "Come."
Hikaru smiled as he walked in. He stopped when he took in her expression. "What's wrong?"
"I may have made a big assumption. I hope not."
He walked over to her. "You actually look nervous. You never look nervous." He put his arms around her and kissed her, and she felt herself relaxing. He was the first man who made her feel this way: safe. "So what assumption did you make?"
He was moving her around the floor as if they were dancing, smiling at her in his easy way. She laughed softly, kissed him for a while, enjoying the feeling of just being with him, the casual way he held her, no pressure ever, no expectations. But whatever she wanted, he gave her. If she held on tight, wanted it a little rougher, he was there for her. If she wanted it light and gentle, he was fine with that, too. He never seemed to judge her.
And he always seemed to see her. Her, Gaila, not just the sexy Orion girl.
He'd snuck up on her, first the guy with the sweet smile who liked to play with swords. Then Sulu who sat with her at breakfast since they were both early risers. Then Hikaru who taught her Tai Chi to help her focus better. Then her lover, just like all the others, she'd thought—only when she'd normally have said that she loved him, she hadn't. She couldn't. That was the thing you said to customers. To men who didn't mean much to you.
And Hikaru meant a lot to her.
She hadn't said it, just enjoyed what he made her feel. And then enjoyed it even more the next time they got together. And the next time. Until it became second nature to not even think of other partners, to only think of him.
Monogamy was a strange state for an Orion, yet with him, it felt relaxed. He was so fluid. So forgiving that she never wanted to do anything he'd have to forgive her for.
She stopped their little dance. "Pavel asked me out today."
Hikaru started to laugh softly. "Did not see that coming."
"Me, either. I thought we were just friends."
"Well, he has been smitten with you for a while now. I just never thought he'd work up the nerve."
"I told him no. But..." She looked down, didn't want to see his face.
He tipped her chin back up so she had to look at him. "But...?"
"But I told him I was seeing someone. And it was exclusive."
His grin was huge. "You did?"
She found herself grinning just as big. "Is that all right?"
"All right? That's tremendous." He picked her up and spun her around. "I love you, you idiot."
"Yes. I just wasn't sure if you wanted to be that serious with me."
She kissed him once he put her down. "Well, I do. I love you, too."
"Does this mean we can go public now? Please, I'm sick of sneaking around. It was fun at first, but there's no reason for it now, is there?"
She shook her head. "No, there's no reason for it now."
He grabbed her hand. "Come on. We're going to the rec lounge." His smile was luminous. "This is the best day ever."
She pulled him back to her and kissed him. It wasn't her best day ever. That would be the day she escaped slavery. The next was the day she got into Starfleet. And then the day she got assigned to the Enterprise. But this was easily the fourth best day ever.
Sulu whistled his way into sickbay.
Christine smiled at him. "Somebody's happy." He knew she had seen Gaila and him in the lounge last night. "Congratulations. You two make a nice couple."
McCoy came out of his office. "Yes, they do look nice together. That's what happens when people of similar ages get together."
Christine rolled her eyes and handed him the scanner. She smiled grimly at Sulu. "Doctor Surly will be conducting your physical today."
He tried not to laugh. As soon as Christine was out of earshot, he said, "You need a friendly ear, Doc?"
"I most certainly do not. Lie down."
Sulu did as he was told, tried to wipe the happy smile off his face but just could not.
"Ah, ignore me, Hikaru. I'm happy for you. I'm just having some trouble figuring out Christine's tastes right now. Probably for the best. Chain of command and all that."
Sulu nearly smiled. This is how it always worked. People would say they didn't need a friendly ear, but then they invariably poured out their problems to him. "Chain of command doesn't have to be a problem." He left out the "on this ship" part, since he figured McCoy could follow the logic train to first officer and communications officer.
McCoy grinned. "I like you."
"I haven't seen Christine with anyone." Was she with Scotty? He was older, but not that much older than McCoy.
"Not someone on board this ship." McCoy quit talking, stayed busy running scans and checking the biobed readings. Then he murmured, "It's the other Spock."
"The old guy?"
"That's what I'm saying. He's not just older, he's old."
Sulu had to agree. "Okay, I'd say she has a certain type."
"Corpse, you mean?"
Sulu laughed. "Experienced."
"Nearly expired." McCoy shook his head. "I've seen him watching her. I'd give you even odds that he was with her in his reality."
"That would be strange for both of them."
"Not strange enough to keep her away." McCoy's pout rivaled a teenage girl's. "I should not be telling you this."
"Doctor-patient confidentiality. Don't worry." Sulu smiled at him. "I've had my share of heartache. Do you really care for her?"
"I don't know. She...knows how to take my bad attitude. Puts up with me but gives me sass right back. I guess I find that pretty irresistible."
"I can see that. Just enjoy that part of it, I guess. Who can understand how love works?"
"Truer words." McCoy harrumphed in a way Sulu had only ever seen on vids. Then he patted him on the shoulder. "Okay, you're good to go. Whatever you're doing, keep it up. I wish all my patients had readings this good."
Sulu smiled and swung his legs off the table. He decided not to say that love probably had a lot to do with his rosy good health.
McCoy walked the corridors of Starfleet command trying to forget the smile he'd seen on Christine's face as she'd met up with the other Spock. He had to get a handle on this raging jealousy; he was starting to take it out on their Spock, which wasn't fair at all.
He turned into the corridor he'd been told, looked for the office, saw Pike's name on the door and buzzed for entrance. The door opened and he saw the welcoming grin of the man he'd grown very fond of while he'd had him under his care in sickbay. "Admiral."
"Doctor." Pike pushed out his chair and McCoy realized it wasn't the wheelchair. "I've been a physical therapy dynamo."
"Let me see."
Pike got up with a smile; his steps were tentative, but he made it across the room under his own steam. "I have the wheelchair in the closet. I can't go far yet, but I'll get there."
"I'm proud of you, sir."
"Well, you stabilized me. I owe any of this progress to you." He walked back to his desk, leaned on it.
"You weren't even going to PT when we last talked. You seemed really down. What changed?"
Pike smiled. "Friend of mine got back into town. Didn't like my attitude. Has a certain way about her."
"Everyone is getting laid but me, I swear to God."
Pike shrugged. "You either have it or you don't." He walked back around to his chair. "So, you really come all this way just to check on me?"
"I don't believe you." Pike narrowed his eyes. "I mean it's nice and all to see you. But you could have commed."
McCoy tried to think of a good lie but finally just settled for asking what he really wanted to know. "What's going to happen to the other Spock?"
Pike started to laugh. "Ah, those Chapel women."
McCoy tried to keep his face composed.
"Don't even bother. I've seen them together. How bad do you have it?"
"You said women."
"Uh, that was not my question."
McCoy smiled. He had him on the ropes. "Your gal. She's a Chapel?" He tried to remember what Christine had said about her sister. "Ohhh, that woman is your motivator? Wow."
Pike shrugged again. "Like I said. Those Chapel women."
"You're not answering my question about Spock."
"That's because it's none of your damn business."
"I knew it. You're keeping him on as a consultant." He got up and began to pace. "I bet he'll be joyriding around the galaxy, hopping rides on any convenient ship. What do you want to bet it's the Enterprise that's convenient?"
"Okay, you've got it bad. May I make a suggestion?"
"Dial it back or you're going to have some real unpleasantness on your hands. She'll tire of him or she won't. If she does, you'll have your shot. If she doesn't, then she was never meant to be yours. In the meantime, move on."
"That's easier said than done."
"I hate to say this, because I think highly of you, but Christine's like a little sister to me, so I'll be checking in on her from time to time. If you get my drift?" Pike's eyes went very hard. "That can be your motivator to get better."
McCoy didn't look away, then he nodded. "Thank you. That's probably a good idea."
"What are friends for?" He held out his hand. "We are still friends, right, Leonard?"
McCoy reached over the desk, clasped Pike's hand firmly. "Now more than ever, Chris."
Pike sat at his desk, thinking about Leonard. There had been a time when he had been just as obsessed with Gwen and who she was seeing. He knew the danger signs, figured it was a nice irony to be his doctor's sanity check, since it was his own CMO Boyce who'd called him out for his behavior.
Maybe someday Leonard would get his chance, although he wasn't sure. The way Christine looked at the older Spock was intense. And she'd always liked much older men. He wasn't sure Leonard stood a chance—hell, even he was probably too young for her. Who could understand women?
There was a soft sound at his door and he smiled. Gwen was here; he'd given her a special tone on the annunciator. He pressed the button on his desk and the doors slide open.
"Hello, Number One. To what do I owe this visit?"
"I just missed you, Admiral." She smiled at him, the open and easy way she only used with him.
He was struck by how beautiful she still was. All these years and she was the only woman he could see. The only one he wanted. "Well, that is a fortunate coincidence because I missed you, too." He held out his hand and she came and perched in front of him on his desk, then leaned down and gave him a lingering kiss.
When she finally pulled away, he said, "I will never get tired of that."
"Me, either." She sat up straight, took a deep breath. "I have news."
She nodded. "I'm transferring off the Meridian."
"To a better ship?"
She shook her head.
"To a starbase?"
He could feel his heart beating faster. Her leave was almost up. He'd been counting the days till she left, could feel his mood shifting down as that moment approached. "To...here?"
She nodded. "Different area of Fleet. You won't be in my chain of command."
"I didn't ask you if you even wanted this. I should have."
He laughed and pulled her down to him, covering her with silly, joyful kisses. "You don't ever have to ask me something like that. We're going to be together? Really together?"
She nodded. "I just...I couldn't go back. I couldn't leave you again."
"Good. Because I don't think I could have stood it if you had."
She smiled, and he realized her eyes were suspiciously bright. She never cried. Never.
"Am not." She dashed at her eyes.
"Yes, you are. And I love you for it."
"I love you. I have loved you for the longest time. And I will love you forever."
He drank her in, played those words over and over. He loved those words. They were true. And she'd be here. He didn't have to say goodbye again. "I will love you forever too, Gwen." He laughed. "Let's go out for lunch. Chair be damned. We'll go somewhere nice. Really nice." And the restaurant would accommodate him, or Gwen would kill someone.
"I'd rather get Greek. You remember, the first place we ever had dinner as more than just colleagues?"
"Even better." Mykonos had outside seating. Easy to fit the chair in that. And eventually, with her here, he knew he wouldn't need the chair.
With her here, he could do anything.
Number One came back from lunch with Chris sated and happy. He'd been so relaxed, so cheerful. She'd done the right thing. And for once, the right thing was also the thing that made them both the happiest.
She rounded a corner, saw her sister with an older man—that was nothing new. But an older Vulcan man, now that was unusual.
Christine saw her, waved, and said something to the man, who turned and stared at Number One like he was seeing a ghost.
She realized she knew his face. It was older, so much older, but it was Spock's face. She'd heard he was here; she'd just never imagined she'd find him with her sister.
She walked over to them. "Christine. And you are Spock, aren't you?"
He was still staring at her in the most intense way. "I am. It is good to see you again, Number One."
"You knew me, in your reality?"
"I did. You were a mentor to me."
Christine smiled. "Same as here, right, Gwen?"
"That is your name? You never told me." He seemed so surprised.
She did, too. "I've told our Spock."
"One of the many differences." He turned to Christine, graced her with a look Number One could only classify as tender.
"You are together?"
She nodded, had the expression that dared Number One to make something of it.
"You do not approve?" Spock asked, and he sounded as if he cared about the answer.
"I'm unsure." She studied him, then her sister. "Were you with Christine in your reality?"
"Gwen, that's none of your business."
That pretty much answered her question, but she said, "I think it is. If Spock here is just trying to recapture what he's lost, I'm not sure that's fair to you."
Spock smiled. "Another difference. In my reality, you and Christine were estranged. She longed for a closer relationship with you. If you had ever shown this much interest in who she was seeing, it would have made her very happy."
Number One was not sure if that was an argument for or against her case. She saw Christine smiling in a way that said this was why she liked older men: they could get one over on her big sis. Number One settled for saying, "I'll be watching you," and tried to load a lot of threat into her voice.
Spock bowed his head. "I would expect no less." He stared at her again. "It is extremely good to see you."
Christine gave her a hug. "Buzzkill." Then she kissed her on the cheek with a little giggle and went off with Spock.
Number One watched her. Her sister had an ease with the way she walked next to Spock, the way they talked as if there was no one else in the room. They navigated the space like one unit.
Christine had never had that with Roger. Number One had despised Roger. She'd been so happy when Christine had dumped him. Maybe...maybe this was who she was supposed to be with?
She decided to not worry about it for now. She had meetings all afternoon, and then she and Chris were going to start looking for a place. Someplace that would be theirs, not his or hers.
Theirs. It had a nice ring to it.
She saw Kirk and McCoy heading back up to the ship that should have been Chris's. She used to resent Kirk for taking it away. Now, now she decided to be more sanguine about it. The kid had a hard row ahead of him. And she had Chris on Earth with her.
She thought maybe she and Chris got the better deal. Even if they'd already agreed that the one thing their place had to have was a roof deck, so they could always see the stars at night.
Some things you don't just leave behind.