Whip Me, Beat Me, Show Me That You Care

By Djinn

1.

The suns are gentle on Demeter IV and the breezes cool. Chapel wishes she could stay here forever and forget how many times she's tried to put herself in Spock's path since he came back aboard the Enterprise after the encounter with V'ger.

She thought the meld would open him up to her. It's opened him up to damn near everything else. She's seen him laugh, cry, try foods she never thought he would. He's eaten lunch with Ny, had breakfast with the captain more times than she can count—does that mean he met him for breakfast or he never left him from the night before?

And why does she even care anymore?

Why the hell can't she just give up on him?

Jan gave up on the captain. Got herself off the ship as soon as it was clear Kirk was back for good, because that's what you do when you're sane. You get the hell clear of your obsessions.

Chapel knows this. Does it make her slightly less crazy to be so self aware?

"Christine, it isn't good for you to stay," Jan said. "Decker wanted you here. And it was because they weren't going to be here that we came back, remember?" Jan was the voice of reason.

Too bad Chapel wasn't listening. "It'll be okay. I'm over him, really."

"Define over for me, my friend. Because this over of which you speak sounds a lot like 'crazy over' not 'out of your system.'"

Jan's annoying when she's right. Fortunately, she wasn't the type to rub it in, just hugged Chapel as she beamed off at Starbase Seven and told her good luck with a look of heavy pity in her eyes.

Her friend pities her.

Chapel sighs and leans back, loving the way the sand feels when she digs her toes into it, finding the coolness underneath the hot grains on the surface.

"Doctor?" A barely civil voice. The stone cold tone only a Vulcan can reach.

"Yep." She doesn't look up at him.

"Is there a reason you are engaged in no activities?"

"Nope." She hopes he'll write her up for insubordination. Send her packing. That would end her problems.

He inhales slowly, as if dealing with her is a trial. "Did you not understand the assignment you were given?"

She hands him her padd. "I'm an overachiever." Her assignment is done. She also cataloged forty other species of flora she's found interesting on her way to the beach.

"I see." He actually seems at a loss for words.

"Did you have something else for me to do? Because if not, you're blocking my sun." She stares up at him, daring him to act, to give her what she deserves. Any reaction at this point would be preferable to what he's given her so far, this studied indifference.

"Carry on, Doctor." He puts her padd in his pocket and walks away.

It is a hollow victory.

2.

Sickbay is more crowded than it should be given they have not been in combat. Chapel is not sure why so many injured fill the space, but she works next to Len and the other doctors, setting broken bones and easing pulled muscles and overstressed tendons.

She sees Spock come in, watches as he looks her way then immediately heads toward Len's station.

She can't help it—it's such typical behavior on his part that she rolls her eyes and shakes her head.

"Something wrong, Doctor?" The young woman she is working on does not seem to miss much. She is staring at Spock, a familiar look on her face—familiar because Chapel has seen it on her own face for the last umpteen years. "He's amazing, isn't he?"

"Is he? You tell me." She is too rough with the woman, sees her grimace and immediately feels bad. She took an oath and that should mean something.

"I've never had the chance to work with him. I'd love to. Maybe someday he'll need someone like me on a landing party."

"Where do you work?"

"Quartermaster's."

Chapel laughs and it's a cruel sound. "Yeah, you just keep dreaming, sweetheart."

"It could happen." The woman won't take her eyes off Spock. "He's so...exotic."

"Mmm hmmm."

"I bet he's good in bed."

"I'm your doctor, not your damn bartender—save your theories for when you're off duty and talking to someone else. Now, what the hell happened that got you all in here?"

"Artificial gravity gave out on our deck. The bad part was when it kicked back in."

"Yikes." Chapel imagines all these people going about their day, suddenly floating in zero G, and then not floating, crashing back down again. Landing wrong—some might have landed very wrong. She glances over at the screen that has been blinking all morning as patients are logged in and statuses updated, sees that no one new has taken up occupancy in the morgue. They got off lucky.

She finishes wrapping the woman's wrist, takes a look at an abrasion on her cheek, trying to be gentler this time. She glances up, sees Spock watching her, a look she can't read on his face. She stares back for a moment, then resumes her work, easing away the scratches with a regenerator, giving the woman a shot of light painkiller and sending her on her way.

Someone new is on the biobed before she's even reset her hypo. Must have been one of the busier decks that lost gravity. Another thing wrong with the refit—and a scary thing, could happen on any of the decks. Everyone will be thinking about it now, wondering if they should start carrying weights in their boots.

"Should have gotten off this damn boat when I had the chance," she mutters as she refills her hypo and gets back to work.

3.

Chapel is working in the lab on an experiment that keeps her out of the rec lounge and not drinking. It's not a particularly groundbreaking project, but it doesn't need to be as long as it keeps her from doing something stupid like spending an evening complaining about Spock to Ny like she did the first week after V'ger, or sleeping with unsuitable men, like she did for the next few weeks.

Ny wonders why Chapel can't find a suitable guy to sleep with. It's a good question, and Chapel is pretty sure she's sabotaging any chance of finding a nice guy so she can hold on to the idea of Spock.

The lab door opens and she glances up, sees that it is Spock and can feel her expression freeze somewhere midway between unwelcoming and angry. All the labs on this damn ship and he has to walk into hers?

He sees her and stops, seems to consider his next move. There are other people in the lab, so she can't just yell at him to get out, to find some other lab and leave her in peace in this one.

She's actually a little surprised that he's even having to think. Shouldn't he just be turning tail and running?

He finally moves to the other side of the room, sets up a space very far away from her with his back to her. There is something in the set of his back, in the way he is looking down at his work, that lets her know he is blocking her presence from his mind.

He may not be indifferent to her, but it is somehow worse. It is as if she is a bad smell that he tries to block out by will alone.

She puts her padd down, walks over to his table, knows he can tell she is coming over. "Why?" she asks.

He turns to look at her, his eyebrow going up.

"Seven other labs. Two private ones you could commandeer if you wanted. Why this one? Why do this?"

"This is the closest to the bridge and my quarters." He turns back to his work, the conversation apparently over.

"You've barely started. I've been here for several weeks. Find a new lab."

He does not look up. "No."

She is so angry that her hands are shaking. "Why are you doing this to me?"

He glances at her. "In what way is this about you, Doctor?"

She can feel her face turning red since it's a valid question. She goes back to her table, begins to dismantle the experiment. Fuck Spock. Fuck him and the goddamn Vulcan horse he rode in on.

The experiment isn't important. She'll start a new one tomorrow—in a different lab. Tonight: well, there's probably at least one inappropriate man she hasn't gone to bed with yet.

4.

Chapel stands at the podium, waiting for the room at the conference center on Malana to fill up. She is chatting with the session moderator and the other presenters when she sees Spock come in. He takes a seat in the back, glances at his program then meets her gaze, his own expression unreadable, then it turns almost hostile.

She knows where she won't be looking while she's presenting.

"You ready?" the moderator asks, and she nods as he moves to the center of the room, introducing her.

She sounds so damn impressive when someone lists her credentials this way. She sneaks a peak at Spock; he doesn't look impressed.

She doesn't look at him again as she gets going. This is research built on a project she worked on with Roger, that she refined in med school. She submitted the paper during the time the Enterprise was in refits, while Spock was safely at Gol, before she needed to work on silly things to keep from doing even sillier ones.

She knows her subject backward and forward. The Q&A is a snap, and she has fun with it, knows many of the people grilling her, anticipates drinks with a handful of them later, a raucous good time of catching up after too long.

She glances back at Spock. His chair is empty. It hurts. She hates that it hurts. She hates that it matters to her when he left—did he even see how well she did?

When someone looks in the dictionary under "pathetic," is her picture there?

The moderator calls time, and Chapel takes a seat near the front, letting the next presenter get on with it. It's a brilliant presentation, fortunately, so she can forget Spock and focus on science, which is why she's here. Why all of the six of them who came from the Enterprise are here. It's a prestigious conference and she didn't have to put her name in for the lottery since she was presenting.

She imagines Spock didn't have to either since he was the man in charge of the lottery. Logic would dictate, she thinks, that the most intelligent—ergo Spock—should go, not the most lucky.

Logic is a bitch. But then she's always known that.

When the session wraps up, she wanders out to the hall. She feels an itch between her shoulder blades, turns and sees Spock down the hall, watching her. Again, his look is unreadable.

She wants to march over, to ask him what his problem is with her. But she imagines she knows. It's called history. It's called years of making him uncomfortable. She never really considered him a "payback's a bitch" kind of guy, but maybe he got some of that from V'ger?

Because he's making her damned uncomfortable: she feels like something that crawled out from underneath a rock.

She holds her head up, finds a friend in the crowd, and turns her back on Spock.

5.

Chapel has no idea how she and Spock have come to be in what looks like a large warehouse. Last she remembers, she was shopping on Belgruva. And definitely not with Spock.

Two aliens—all spikes and quills—come out, loaded down with video equipment, which they begin to set up, some on the ground, some hovering.

"Time?" one asks.

"Fifteen minutes."

"We've never had a Vulcan before. Should be interesting."

One of them points a weapon at her, fires, and a dart goes into her belly. She pulls it out, but she can feel a burning. "Poison?"

"Not quite," the alien says, then shoots Spock in a spot higher and to the left.

She can feel her heart rate speeding up, can feel anger growing. "Adrenaline? Cortisol?"

"That's right. Fight or flight, and there's nowhere to flee so you'll fight. Any anger you two have will just make it better. And we film it for a discerning audience. You probably don't stand a chance once he starts to feel it, too."

"Why him?"

"He was near you in the market. You both wear similar uniforms. Seemed to make sense." The aliens back off and a portable corral of sorts comes down around them. "Fight to the death. Unless you somehow last more than twelve minutes."

She starts to tremble, not from fear, but from the surge of adrenaline. She looks over at Spock, sees that he is trying to control his reaction.

Even in this, he will give her indifference?

Rage fills her. She knows it's induced, not real. That doesn't stop her from launching herself at him, hitting him as hard as she can, sharp jabs at places she knows are the most vulnerable.

He finally kicks her back against the far side of the corral.

He is breathing hard, his eyes half closed. He holds his hand up as if she is some rank ensign he is telling not to bother him.

She rushes him, yelling at him this time. "Can't you even care about this?" She kicks at his groin, but he is ready for her, pulls her around so her back is tight to his chest, finds her throat and begins to press.

She can hear his breathing, harsh and ragged in her ear, and he is pressing harder.

For a moment, she stops fighting, then she slams her elbows back, over and over into his ribs, until he lets go of her. She turns and he is back on her, running her backwards, crashing them both into the corral, knocking the breath out of her. He finds her throat again, his fingers on the same point and she looks into his eyes and sees...nothing.

"Why?" she manages to get out, and then one of the aliens says, "That's time," and they begin pulling in the vid units, the corral the last to go as they beam out just as the world fades to black, Spock's expressionless eyes the last thing she sees.

6.

She wakes slowly, her throat feels crushed. Spock is sitting nearby but not touching her, rocking slowly, as if trying to get control of himself. His face is the same expressionless mask he wore when he was trying to kill her.

She decides not to move, not to bring any attention to herself at all. But then he turns and meets her eyes. Something flickers in his, but she has no idea what emotion she just saw. Anger, for all she knows. Anger that she got them into this—she's sure this will somehow be her fault. Or maybe disgust that he was stuck here with her. That he had to touch her, had to get so close.

Whatever the look was, it was nothing good.

She realizes her back is starting to cramp, shifts a little, trying not to cry out. Where he sent them crashing into the corral is bruised—maybe worse—and it hurts to lie on it this way. She sees him glance down as if he knows where she is in pain, but his expression still does not change.

He doesn't care that she's in pain? Does he care that soon around her throat will be a ring of bruises from his fingers? Does he care that her elbows will be bruised from trying to free herself from him? Does he really not care about her at all?

She can't think about this anymore, closes her eyes and drifts, only waking when she feels a hypospray that sends blessed numbness through her body.

Opening her eyes, she sees Len working over her. He is glaring at Spock, and she tries to say, "Not his fault," but her voice refuses to cooperate. She grabs the scanner from him, shows him the elevated adrenaline and cortisol.

"You were drugged?"

She nods. Points to Spock and nods, too.

"I guess I owe you an apology, Spock. You didn't mean to nearly crush Christine's windpipe." His voice is so bitter the apology does not sound like one.

Spock looks away.

She tries to swallow, can only get halfway and nearly panics at the sensation of being stuck mid-swallow.

Len shoots a hypo full of something else into her arm. "This is to calm you down, all right?" His voice is so gentle, she nods.

She takes his tricorder, switches it to slate mode and writes out, "Stop riding him. He tried to control it. He wasn't hurting me when you arrived, was he?"

Len shows Spock the tricorder, and she closes her eyes and wishes he hadn't. Just one more sappy gesture Spock doesn't need from her.

"Let's get you up to the ship." Len calls for beam out. He takes Chapel away on a gurney even though she tries to tell him she can walk. He leaves Spock alone on the transporter after asking him gruffly if he needs medical assistance.

No, of course he doesn't. How the hell could she have hurt him?

7.

Chapel's chime rings and she calls "Come."

It is Spock.

"We need to discuss what happened." His voice is not quite even.

She points to her guest chair, says "Sit." She catches a grimace as he settles, walks to her medkit and says, "Stand up."

"Why?" But he does it.

"You never let Len check you out, did you?"

"He was clearly not in the mood."

"Maybe you were in the mood to do penance." She scans him, sees that two of his ribs are cracked. Reaching for the regenerator, she pulls his shirt up, and begins to work. "We don't need to discuss anything. I'm going to request a transfer. I'm going to do that because it actually makes me happy that I've cracked two of your ribs."

"I thought they might be compromised." He takes a deep breath. "Do not transfer."

"Why?"

"Because I do not wish you to."

"Why?" She works her way around him, scanning and healing anything she finds that is bruised or strained.

"I am unsure at this point. I only know I do not want you to leave the ship."

She moves around to face him, turns off the instruments. "That's not much to stay for."

He touches her throat, seems to be looking for any trace of what he did. "Is it healed?"

She nods.

"I am sorry I hurt you."

"It was the drug." She smiles sadly. "I'm sorry I hurt you."

"Was that the drug?"

"Hurting you? Yes. The anger? Not so sure." She sits on the bed. "Spock, leaving would be the best thing."

"I realize that. But do not do it."

"Give me one good reason. Just one."

"You were right. I could have gone to any lab. I chose the one you were in on purpose."

"Why?"

"I am uncertain."

"Well, that's a reason. I'm not sure it's a good one, though." She closes her eyes, shakes her head. "I want to leave, Spock. I don't want to be this person anymore. This person who chases you."

"I was following you in the market. That is why the aliens were able to take us together."

"Why?" She studies him, looks for any evidence that he is trying to spin her head, but he appears to be as confused as she is.

"Again, I am uncertain." He walks over to her, touches her face gently. "Please stay. For me?"

She lets out a huff of air, a quiet show of impatience with herself, with him, with fate for laughing at her. Why the hell now? "Fine."

He nods and heads for the door. When he gets there, he turns, looks at her with a softer expression than she's ever seen him give her. "And your presentation was excellent."

"I wasn't sure you stayed for it."

"I did. I find your work impressive."

"Thank you."

He nods and leaves very quickly—appears to be fleeing, in fact.

She's an idiot for saying she'll stay, and she knows it.

8.

To the casual observer, nothing has changed. Spock is not interacting with her any more than he ever did. But she finds herself on many landing parties, and it's because he's asked for her. She knows this because Len isn't shy about commenting on Spock's sudden preference in doctors to take to pretty planets.

For the more dangerous planets, he takes someone else. She's not sure if she's touched or insulted that he's protecting her that way.

She's headed for the transporter room now, late due to a last-minute emergency in sickbay. She runs the last few corridors, sees Spock waiting at the lift door, talking to the captain, who grins at her.

"Cutting it close, Christine."

"Busy day back at the ranch."

Kirk laughs; she doesn't think Spock gets the reference. She scurries past them into the transporter room, takes her place with the team, waiting for orders.

Spock comes in. He doesn't pay her any more attention than the other members of the landing party, assigns various tasks but this time has nothing for her, says only, "You will work with me."

"Aye aye, sir." She follows the others onto the transporter pad, materializes on a world that reminds her of Tahiti, and smiles.

As the others start their tasks, she waits for Spock. He comes over, indicates they should walk, and she realizes he is leading them toward the beach.

"Really? We're playing hooky?"

"You seemed to enjoy the beach on Demeter IV."

"You should have put me on report that day."

"Technically, you finished your assignment. And found more to do."

He's defending her? "It may not have been what needed doing. I should have reported back with the padd and asked for a new task."

"Yes, you should have." He glances over at her. "Would you rather I assign you a task than time to walk on what I am told is one of the most pleasant beaches in this quadrant."

"When you put it like that." She takes a deep breath. "Are you going to walk with me?" She does everything in her power to keep her voice free of innuendo.

"I do not know."

"Well, you seem to be headed toward the beach. Since it's pretty hard to miss, I don't think you're coming with me to make sure I don't get lost."

He stops and narrows his eyes. He nods. "You are right. This is most confusing."

"We can agree on that."

"Come up when you have had your fill of sand. I will assign you something to do." He meets her eyes; as usual, she can't read the expression in his.

He turns and heads back to the group. She knows she should follow him, do some work, be useful.

But the beach is calling and he's given it to her. She doesn't imagine he's a hearts and flowers kind of guy, so this may be the closest thing she'll ever get from him.

She decides to enjoy it.

9.

Chapel is dead on her feet. She wishes Kirk wasn't quite so good at ticking off aliens—although she's thankful he's equally as skilled at getting away from them. But the ship took a beating and so did many of the crew, herself included, when the ship was hit.

She lost her footing, crashed into a cabinet, hitting her head hard. She didn't lose consciousness, so she kept working, but her head is killing her, and she is having trouble focusing on her patient.

"Doctor?" It is Spock and she's not sure where he came from. She's also not sure why she's seeing two of him.

The room starts to spin, and she sets the scanner down on the rolling instrument tray, tries to sit on the stool but misses, is falling but somehow he is there, catching her awkwardly, his hands hard under her arms as he pulls her up and hauls her to a biobed in containment since all the ones out front are in use.

"My head hurts," she says, her voice coming out as a child's whine.

"Lie still. I will get Doctor McCoy."

"He's busy. I can wait." She struggles to get up.

"Christine, do as you're told."

She lies back, primarily because she is so surprised he has called her by her first name. A few moments later, he is back with Len.

"I'm fine, Len."

He scans her, something she should have thought to do. Why didn't she?

"Aneurism."

"No, just a minor concussion." She smiles at Len as if she can charm the diagnosis away.

"Lie still, Christine, and shut the hell up. Spock, go find Nurse Garcia. Tell her to prep the operating room. Then if you could skedaddle, that would be good."

"She will be all right?"

She is fading in and out, but she smiles at the thought that he sounds as if he cares.

"She'll be fine, now go find Garcia for me."

She waits until Spock is gone, then asks Len, "What is he doing down here?"

"Haven't the faintest idea, darlin'. Probably came to see you, although he'll never admit it." He pats her shoulder "Just lie still for me and I'll get this taken care of in a jiffy."

"I didn't think I hit that hard. There was so much to do." She moans. "My head really hurts."

"Painkiller after I get your head fixed. Just suck it up for now—you know I'm right."

The hell of it is: she does. She closes her eyes, tries to calm herself. When that doesn't work, she tries to come up with a good reason for Spock to be in sickbay other than to see her.

She can't think of one.

10.

Chapel is in line for dinner with Len. Spock joins them and asks, "You are feeling better?" in a stiff way.

She replies, "Yes. Thanks," just as stiffly.

He nods again, apparently can't think of a follow-up to that question, and they look at each other for a moment, then turn to study the food.

She thinks Len is biting back a grin.

When they sit down—sans Spock who has taken his food to the lab—Len laughs. "I never thought I'd say this, but you two need to get a room."

"Were you in the same line I was?"

Once back in her quarters, she dims the lights, turns on some soothing music, and puts on her most comfortable nightshirt. Lounging in the armchair, she is annoyed when her chime rings.

It is Spock.

He is clearly uncomfortable. She decides not to make it easier for him and just waits, then finally she moves aside. He says nothing but walks past her, into her room.

She decides she won't be the first one to break the silence, so once the door closes, she moves to stand across from him in the narrow hall. There is very little room between them, and she thinks he is realizing that she has no bra on under her nightshirt.

He reaches out, touches her throat, then her head, then trails his fingers down her cheekbone to her lips. His expression is soft now. Soft and full of something she believes is desire.

He moves closer, until there is no space between them, and she exhales raggedly, the sound filling the silence between them. She lifts her lips ever so slightly to his, and he does not hesitate, is kissing her, gathering her up in his arms, running his hands up and down her body, the nightshirt nothing more than a formality at this point.

She goes to work on his uniform, pulling it off him in a way that is not gentle, and when she is done he slips off her nightshirt, then her underwear, and pushes her to the bed.

She pulls him down onto her, into her, and wraps her legs around him. The silence is broken by their moans, by the sounds of bodies coming together, her cries as she comes, then his. They lie, still joined, breathing hard, no words spoken, and he kisses her gently.

She can tell he is still half ready for her, moves and clenches and soon has him fully ready for her. Without words, he rolls to his back, steadies her on top of him as she rides him, her head thrown back, her eyes closed. He plays with her with his other hand, making her come again, crying out loudly. As he comes, he pulls her back down to him, kissing her as he cries out, biting her in the process.

She doesn't care. Spock wants her. And this strange, silent fucking is the best she's ever had.

11.

Chapel wakes up in Spock's arms, sore and tired from the night before. She smiles at him, says softly, "I hope you don't expect silence this morning, too?"

His eyes are gentle. "I did not expect it last night."

"Did you expect sex last night?"

"I hoped for it. I am not sure what I expected." He pulls her closer.

"Was last night you satisfying your curiosity? A post V'ger blip?"

"Are you asking if I wish it to never happen again?"

"Yep." She makes herself look at him, makes herself face this.

"I enjoyed last night greatly. I would like it to happen again. Although we can converse if we wish." He almost smiles. "Why did we not talk?"

"No one wanted to blink first?"

"Ah." He leans in, kisses her deeply. "There, I have blinked first."

She reaches down, finds that he is more than ready for her, and shifts so she is straddling him. "Is this okay? If I blink this way?"

"Most assuredly."

As she slides onto him, he closes his eyes and sighs. She laughs and moves a bit harder; his mouth opens, and his breathing speeds up, and then he is gone, thrusting up and calling out and trying to help her along as he goes until she pushes his hand away and says, "Enjoy your ride."

He holds her on top of him, rubbing her back, kissing her cheek, still inside her, and she says, "If we're going to keep doing this, I need to say something. You can't take me off the dangerous landing parties."

He frowns and stops rubbing her back. "I am not—"

"Yes, you are. And in case it's escaped your notice, the only times I've gotten hurt so far are on this ship and by you during shore leave. So dangerous landing parties should be a breeze."

He sighs. "I feel protective of you."

"Which is sweet and...unexpected. But let me do my job, all right?"

He studies her, then nods.

"Why did you come to me last night?"

"I have wanted to since V'ger. I thought that it was nothing more than lust. That I would end up hurting you. So I tried to ignore you."

"You did a good job."

"I did not. I sought you out at the beach on Demeter IV. I came to your session at the conference even though I should have been in a session across the hall—that is why I had to leave as soon as you were done. I saw you in the market on Belgruva and followed you. And since then—I cannot stay away from you."

He pushes her so she is sitting up straight, begins to play with her breasts. "Indulge me?"

"How?"

"Show me how you touch yourself. I want to know." He continues to play with her breasts, but his focus is much lower.

She blushes but complies. She is not sure which of them gets the most pleasure from the activity.

12.

Starbase Sixteen is on a planet with an abundance of shoreline. Chapel is sitting on the beach where Spock told her to wait when Kirk comes out.

"Hello there," she says. "Are you lost?"

"Your paramour said I could borrow you."

She laughs. "In what way?"

He actually blushes. "To walk on the beach with. He tells me you're a sand between your toes kind of gal."

"You are correct. And he's not that kind of guy." She takes the hand he offers, lets him pull her up. "A walk it is, Jim."

"Next best thing to having a girl of my own," he says, patting her hand before letting it go. "Seeing my best friend happy."

"Aww, you say the sweetest things."

She glances back, sees Len, Ny, and Spock beginning the party preparations. Jim is having a birthday party whether he wants one or not. It's the only reason Spock has loaned her out—she's discovered he's not only protective, he's possessive.

She keeps their captain busy the requisite amount of time and then sees his face as they walk back, as he realizes he's been royally had.

"Et tu, Brute?"

"Blame your happy best friend, Tiberius, not me." She grins at him and then runs before he can throw her in the drink.

Spock is there to rescue her, even willing to get sand in his shoes as he stands between her and a red-faced, but she thinks secretly pleased, captain as everyone else yells "Surprise!"

"You owe me," she murmurs to Spock as Jim joins the party.

"I will repay you in any fashion you desire. I can think of some that I would prefer, however." Spock's eyes are light—happy, even. He tends to look that way when he speaks of sex. It surprises her how much he likes it—or maybe it surprises her how much he likes it with her. She probably needs to work on her self-esteem.

Len lifts a glass to them, then to Ny and smiles widely. Getting one over on the captain on his birthday is apparently a major milestone. Let alone doing it up right like this.

She feels Spock's hand on her back, pressing and releasing, she looks over at him, touches her throat for a moment and sees his eyes soften. It is something she does because it signifies them in a strange way. She thinks Spock might have circled her forever if those aliens hadn't taken them and made them fight.

What the aliens made them do to each other was horrible and harsh and ugly—and she's lucky Spock was able to pull back. Yet it brought them together. Despite everything, they're happy. It's not the love story she dreamed of, but she can live with that.

FIN