We'll Pretend You Love Me
It was a boring day in sickbay and Chapel was happy to see the captain come in, a "you won't believe what I cooked up" look on his face.
"Jim," she said.
"Chris." He held out a padd. "Bones is refusing to go to this conference with Spock. You want to go?"
She glanced at the topics. They were actually things that interested her. And she hated to admit it, especially after all this time trying to get over Spock, but going away with just him also interested her. "Why?"
"Why what?" He was trying way too hard to look innocent.
"Why are you acting like a big matchmaker?"
He grinned. "He's a lot more open, in case you haven't noticed. Since that meld with V'ger."
"A lot more open to what?"
She rolled her eyes.
"I'm serious. You should get some time alone with him. See if maybe..." At her look, his expression grew more serious. "Look, I know I spent a lot of time whining to you about Lori and how unhappy I was when she called our marriage off, and how much I hated being grounded."
He had. She'd never known him that well until his wife left him and Chapel had run into him at the officer's club. An unhappy, stuck-on-Earth admiral.
"And later, when I got over her but still hated being grounded. You were there for fun stuff, too, not just to lend a gentle ear. I can't tell you what that meant to me—you might have kept me sane. So, I guess this is something I can do for you. Don't you owe it to yourself to see if something is there? I know you felt deeply for him at one time."
Earnest Jim was the most dangerous one: she knew because she'd almost slept with him several times during those months before the launch—she didn't think he'd realized how tempted she'd been. "Spock is not going to be happy with you."
"Then I won't tell him I had anything to do with this." Jim grinned. "I'll tell him it's all Bones' fault you're going." He handed her the padd. "Have fun. The shuttle leaves in two hours."
"I officially hate you."
He laughed. "Yeah, tell me that when you get back." He waggled his eyebrows at her until she laughed too.
As he walked away, she murmured, "Thank you."
"You're welcome," he said, one last smile back at her as he left sickbay.
As soon as she could, she went to go pack.
Spock sat quietly on the shuttle, reading something apparently scintillating, ignoring her as effectively as he'd ever done. Jim had thought he was more open?
Jim was an idiot.
No, Jim was a hopeless romantic. She was the idiot for believing he might be right.
"This conference should be interesting," she said, trying to keep her voice as professional as possible.
"Yes," Spock said. Man of many words that he was.
"I'm especially interested in the biochemical fusion panel. McReedy is a hero of mine."
"His arguments are not always fully realized. I have found him marginal at best."
So much for her heroes.
"Who do you prefer on the panel?"
He turned to look at her. "I do not wish to skew your opinion. I believe I will continue reading rather than bias you with a discussion of the scientists I find most credible."
Wow. He could make ignoring her come out as an altruistic act. It was a gift.
"No problem. Very logical." She decided to ignore Spock right back and catch up on the medical journals she subscribed to but never had time to read.
It was a game plan, but it would have been better actualized if she hadn't stopped reading every few minutes to see if Spock was paying attention to her. Any attention. Even a glance.
She sighed and went back to reading. She wasn't sure if the roiling feeling in her gut was due to anger over the way he was ignoring her or embarrassment that here she was being ignored.
Possibly a little of both.
She sighed again.
"Is something amiss, Doctor?" Spock did not sound like he cared overmuch, probably believed it fell in his role as senior officer to inquire.
"No." She put down her padd.
He went back to his. So much for conversation.
"Do I need to apologize for coming, Spock?"
He looked over at her, a question in his expression.
"Len was supposed to come."
"I am aware of that."
She tried to ignore how he could make simple words into a verbal slap.
"He didn't want to. Couldn't get away. Or something."
Spock looked like he was wondering if there was a point looming in the vicinity. She was starting to wonder that, too.
"Anyway, I won't...pester you. So you can stop trying to ignore me."
He slowly raised an eyebrow. "I believe I was ignoring you. There was no 'try' involved."
She did her best to not react. "My mistake."
He turned away, back to the padd that was apparently so much more interesting than she was.
It was going to be a very long conference.
The conference proved to be fun. Spock's contribution to Chapel's fun was—not surprisingly, after the shuttle ride from hell-nill. He went his way; she went hers. And hers involved two scientists who were particularly taken with her thoughts on biochem. Or maybe they just liked her boobs. Either way, their attention felt good after the shuttle ride with the Man of Ice. They liked her, they thought she was pretty, and they wanted to have sex with her.
At the same time. Which was something she'd never done before, but it was amazing how many things you could do with enough alcohol and Vulcan rejection spurring you on.
At the end of the day, they'd been what she needed. Even if thinking about what she'd done with them made her blush.
Most importantly, they'd kept her away from Spock. When she saw him in a conference room or the dining room, she made sure she and her new friends sat on the other side of the room. Spock returned the favor with apparent relief.
She saw him in the dining room on the closing night of the conference. Her new bed-friends had left that morning, leaving her a little adrift. She'd had some drinks—well, actually, she'd had a lot of drinks and was poised on the "probably will regret this night in the morning" abyss.
Spock made the mistake of meeting her eyes when he came into the room. He gave her a brief nod before he fled to the far end of the gigantic ballroom.
She followed him, plopped herself down in the seat next to him, and said, "You never call, you never write, where's the love?"
It made no sense. But she'd always wanted to say it to him. And now she was finally drunk enough to do it.
"Commander." She leaned in. "You are not very nice." She pitched her voice low. She wanted to say some things to him; she did not, however, want to make a scene.
"Perhaps not, but I am, at least, sober."
"Owwwwwwwww. Score one for the surly science officer." She leaned back in the chair, getting comfy. "How much will you pay me to move?"
He glanced over at her, and she laughed.
"I'm kidding. All the money in the world couldn't make me move right now."
He gave her the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug and stood. "If you will excuse me."
He walked out of the ballroom, and she followed him.
"Miss Chapel, you are behaving foolishly."
"I was an idiot to listen to him."
"To listen to whom?"
"Jim." She said Kirk's first name as if it was a weapon, saw him frown at the familiarity. "We got close, you know. On Earth, while you were at Gol."
"No, you don't. I don't mean groin-close."
"Ah." He moved off, and she followed him again.
"He said you were open to...possibilities."
Spock gave her the coldest look she'd ever gotten from him. "He was mistaken, Christine. Now, if you will excuse me."
She reached out, stopped him. "What did I do? What could I have possibly done in the two months since V'ger? Why are you treating me like I'm a walking plague host?"
"Christine, please, you are embarrassing both of us." The look on his face was actually full of sympathy rather than distaste. As if she was pitiful.
As if she was pathetic.
She looked down. She goddamned was pathetic.
She suddenly felt sick and ran for the ladies' room. She made it just in time.
He was gone when she finally came out.
Thank God for small mercies.
She found him near the shuttle departure lounge the next day. He looked at her warily.
"I'm very, very sorry, sir." She tried her best to look like a real Fleeter. Not some silly grad student who'd signed on to find her fiancé and never changed over the years.
"I...I wasn't think—"
"Christine, I said it was forgotten. Perhaps you could stop while you are ahead?"
She nodded and fled, knowing that this was as good as she was going to get from him.
She stayed a bit behind him as they boarded, chose a seat well away, and followed him off at the transfer station, keeping distance between them, which he seemed to appreciate—or at least not mind.
They were the only two on the shuttle headed to the starbase where the Enterprise would pick them up. She didn't meet his eyes as she tried to give him privacy in the small ship.
But then the shuttle lurched and she grabbed the armrests and looked over at him. "Turbulence? Ion storm?" Please, God, give her something.
"I will find out." He started to rise, but was thrown back into his seat when the ship took what had to be a hit from a weapon of some kind.
She heard the shuttle pilot say something about irreparable hull damage, saw him sucked out of a widening hole in the viewscreen just before everything disappeared and the familiar hum of a transporter took her and Spock.
She was breathing hard when they materialized in what seemed like the lobby of a large building. Comfortable chairs and tables were scattered all over. Aliens sat in them, drinking beverages of dull colors.
Another alien stood before them. He fired a weapon at them and Chapel fell to the ground, screaming in agony as piercing energy, like the older, meaner brother of an electric shock, raced through her body.
Spock didn't scream—or at least she couldn't hear him over her own cries. Then the pain stopped and she looked up at the alien.
"A little demonstration. That was on the lowest setting. Do you understand?"
She nodded, didn't turn to see if Spock was nodding too.
The aliens gestured for them to come with him. Two others—guards she guessed by their uniforms—fell in line behind them. What had seemed like a hotel or office building quickly changed once they got out of the front room. Pens and enclosures were built along several hallways. Artificial light, humidity, and warmth made each area distinct. Inside the pens were two people—or creatures, most weren't species she'd even seen before. In many of the pens, the two people were having sex. Aliens were gathered at the ledges to watch.
"It's a zoo," she murmured. An x-rated zoo.
"Quite so," the alien said. He stopped in front of an empty enclosure. "You two have barely made eye contact. Am I correct in assuming you are not already in a sexual relationship?"
Oh, God, did she have an answer for that. But she held her tongue and let Spock take the lead.
"You are correct."
The alien nodded. "I would guess that you two do not even like each other very much."
Spock didn't correct him by telling him like was an emotion. She looked down so her eyes would not betray how she felt about Spock and about herself.
"We have had humans here before, but a Vulcan is new for us. So the choice will be yours since we want you to perform at your peak. If you choose not to mate with the human female, we will endeavor to find a Vulcan female who will appeal more. The human female will be given to a Doravian male who has been mateless for a while." The keeper hit a button on a display padd, and Chapel turned away in horror. "The Doravian is not so choosy. He is, however, somewhat hard on his mates."
There wasn't a word for what that thing was doing to the Cardassian who'd been thrown in with him.
She realized Spock had stepped between her and the screen, had backed up, even, and was nearly touching her. Was he protecting her?
"I will take her. Do not give her to him."
The keeper gave Spock a hard stare. "We will remove her from your enclosure if we believe you are not fully investing your energy."
"Understood." Again he backed up.
Chapel peeked around him. "Do I get a say in this?"
"No," the keeper and Spock answered in unison.
Spock turned to look at her. "Do you prefer that?" He gestured with his chin to the video that was mercifully on pause, but not so mercifully stuck on a rather horrible moment.
"Of course not. But...I know you don't want to." She looked down. "And I want you to know that you don't have to."
"I most assuredly do." He tipped her chin up. "For a fellow crewmate."
She nodded, felt her mouth tighten.
"Can you imagine the lecture I would get from Doctor McCoy if I did not? Let alone Jim."
She looked away as he released her chin, but didn't argue with him.
"It is settled, then?" The keeper was smiling beatifically, as if they had a real choice in this.
"It is settled."
The keeper nodded and hit a button on his belt and a transporter took them, depositing them inside a rock enclosure. A moat divided them from where several aliens were standing at the railing watching them.
She moved closer to Spock, saw one of the aliens point and say something to its companion. "Are they serious? We have to have sex?"
"I am afraid so." Spock moved her gently in the other direction.
A bundle of cushions was the only furniture in the room. She sat on them; they were surprisingly comfortable.
He sat next to her. "Our audience is increasing."
She looked over. The number of people watching them was steadily growing. "And soon they'll be restless." She swallowed, harder than she meant to. "Is there anything I should do to help get you...? I mean, I know I've never been what you want and I—"
It was his lips on hers that shut her up. His lips softly and surely and rather boldly on hers. He pulled her closer, his mouth opening. She moaned as she opened hers and let him in. Moaned even more as he pulled her so she was straddling him, her back to the crowd.
He eased away, gently stroking the hair off her face. "Please relax."
"Right, because relaxing before having sex in front of strangers is my natural response to this. V'ger must have left you really horny. Any port in the storm." She didn't look away, knew what she'd said was crass and didn't care. She had to get this out there. He could not kiss her that way and let her think he cared.
"You want me. Is that not why you came to the conference?"
She looked away.
"Do not lie, Christine. You loved me once; you love me still."
"Nothing wrong with your ego."
"My ego has nothing to do with it. Jim did you no favors sending you with me. I am not, in fact, sure what he was thinking."
"Well, that makes two of us."
He seemed to be studying her. "Your feelings for me aside, you are different than before. Your appearance, I mean. Such simple hair. Very little makeup. No artifice."
She shrugged. "What did artifice ever do for me?"
"You are more attractive this way." He pulled her to him, then stopped before they made contact. "Kiss me."
"You want me to kiss you?"
"Yes, I want you to kiss me. I believe it will make sexual congress easier for both of us if I am not the one to initiate everything."
It was logical if somewhat cold. She leaned in, touching down lightly, trying to make it the best kiss of her life. By the way he clutched at her, she thought she might have succeeded.
There was a collective sigh from the crowd. Chapel realized she was blushing deeply. Spock's lips curled upward.
"Don't you find this disconcerting?" she murmured.
"To say the least. An audience is not welcome. Kissing you, however, I do not find disconcerting."
'Are you going to do more?"
"Kiss you more? Or do more than kissing?"
"Yes." She smiled, could tell it was a silly smile. God damn it. A few great kisses and she was smitten again.
Right. Like she'd ever stopped being smitten.
"I intend to do both." He eased her top off. "I am sorry—you did not have a choice in this. I made the decision for us both."
"This is definitely preferable to being ripped apart."
His look grew serious, stormy almost. "I would not have let that happen to you."
"I know. Starfleet invested a lot in me. Wouldn't want to waste resources."
He was staring at her cleavage. "That is, of course, an excellent point. But that is not why I did it." Her bra followed her shirt to the floor.
"Are you preserving my modesty?" She smiled at the thought.
"Those watching us do not seem to mind that your back is to them." He buried his face in her chest, doing some extremely forward things given that this was their first real date.
She closed her eyes and rode out the sensations. She wasn't going to complain that he was rushing things.
The sound of their audience brought her back to reality. "Spock, this is too weird."
He took a deep breath and pulled away from her, meeting her eyes. "Given that they will separate us and potentially injure or kill you if we do not comply, I see no logic in not continuing."
She suddenly understood Sarek's comment about marrying Amanda. These boys could torture logic until it equaled sex every time.
"Still. With someone watching..."
His face seemed to get colder. "Doctors Handerson and D'Val do not count, I take it?"
She could feel the blush starting.
"Your friends at the conference. I saw you with them, Christine. It was very clear what was going on."
"You were with both of them, were you not? I am relatively certain that at some point during your activities, you were watched by one of them."
"What I did with them is none of your business."
"Agreed. Except that I find your argument about sex in front of observers spurious."
"There's a difference between sex in front of another lover and sex in front of a crowd of aliens."
"I will concede that point."
"And for the record, I don't do that kind of thing normally. I was upset and they made me feel attractive. Desirable."
"I have never said you were not desirable, Christine." Spock went back to what he'd been doing, small sucking noises accompanying the feel of his lips on her breasts and the gentle rub of his hands on her back. Her bare back.
She wasn't sure how to follow up his last statement, so she settled for, "You're overdressed." She was tired of being the only naked Starfleet officer in the zoo.
He mumbled something she took to be agreement, and let her pull off his shirt. She ran her hands over his shoulders and heard him moan softly. Much better.
She almost forgot they had an audience as he pulled her in for another kiss, as he eased her back on the cushions and drew off her pants and underwear, then shed his own.
"This is not how I pictured this," she said as he stared down at her.
He did not answer.
"You haven't pictured this even once, have you?"
He met her eyes. "Once or twice. During my Pon Farr."
"That thing you said? Protesting against our natures?"
"Yes. Please stop talking now." And then he was with her, in her, not hurrying despite the sounds coming from the crowd of aliens watching them. "Tune them out, Christine."
"Not that easy." She glanced toward the crowd.
He touched the side of her face, and she knew the contact would look like a caress, but she felt more from it as he settled on the meld points, initiated a light connection, then eased off again.
"I do not want them knowing we can do this," he whispered as he nuzzled her ear. "But if it will help you focus, I will risk it."
"Oh, suddenly, I'm unfocused?"
"Christine. I am inside you. We are having sex. Please stop arguing with me." He thrust a little harder than was necessary, as if punctuating the request.
Between his intensity and the focus provided by the extremely light meld, she managed to tune the crowd out more effectively, giving herself up to what he was doing.
Holy crap, sex with Spock was utterly fantastic. Even if she felt as if her heart was breaking in between the mind-numbing orgasms.
He held her as they both came down from the incredible heights he'd just taken them to, and she blushed furiously at how much noise she'd made in front of their adoring public.
"I am pleased I could satisfy you," Spock whispered in her ear.
She rolled so she was cuddled against him, murmured, "What about you?" She kissed his cheek, then let her lips stay pressed against him and heard him sigh softly.
"I am quite content."
"Good." She opened her eyes. "Content is good, right? That's not some Vulcan way of saying 'Nice try but no cigar,' is it?"
A small puff of air—the closest she thought he'd come to a laugh—was her answer. Then he pulled her closer. "Content is very, very good, Christine."
She didn't think she'd fall asleep, buck naked and mooning the crowd, but Spock was warm and his touch was soothing as he rubbed her back. She was gone in minutes.
He woke her a while later with some bogus excuse of keeping the natives amused. After her third orgasm, she decided not to call him on it after all.
Sex with Spock was amazing. Sex with Spock was frequent.
Any other time with Spock was boring the shit out of her.
Not that he was boring. Not really, she supposed. But he had managed to open up to her physically while shutting down even more emotionally. And she would have bet he couldn't get any more shut down.
Or maybe he was just making the best of a bad situation. Maybe he didn't find her of any interest when it came to talking about things that actually mattered.
Or sort of mattered.
Or didn't matter but might be interesting.
He'd started meditating their first full day in the enclosure. The aliens clearly expected it now, so if he'd wanted the freedom to sit and zone out for hours on end, this was a winning plan. Unfortunately one that left her twisting in the wind since meditation was not something she'd ever warmed to, and he clearly was not intent on sharing his bliss with her in some partners' meditation.
She decided to work on her stretching exercises since there was nothing else to do. Cardio would have been better for her stress levels, but there was the whole bounce factor.
The aliens had taken their clothes at some point their first night. Beamed them away, no doubt, and showed no sign of being poised to give them any kind of replacements.
Not even a fig leaf.
Spock was meditating again now. He looked very peaceful. She wanted to throw something at him, but she forced herself to ignore the urge.
Finally, he rose in one lithe movement and walked over to where she sat. He held out his hand.
He frowned, probably at the way she'd made sex sound like something utterly distasteful.
"I'm...not in the mood." She kept her face expressionless: a perfect Vulcan imitation.
His eyebrows drew together.
"This isn't right, Spock. We eat, we sleep, we fuck. Or we ignore each other."
"I...I am sorry?"
"Really? You know what I am?" She reached out, let him pull her up. "I'm bored."
"Sex with me bores you?"
"No, that's the one part of this that doesn't bore me. But sitting around the rest of the time bores me. You're here, but you're a million light years away."
"I am not."
"You are. You don't meld with me the way you did the first time. And when we aren't having sex, we don't talk."
"We don't know what intelligence the aliens might be collecting. This zoo may be for more than just onlooker amusement."
"We don't have to talk about work. My God, do you have no imagination?" She knew he did. He was a virtuoso in the creativity department when it came to ways to make love.
Make love? Is that even what they were doing? Having sex. Screwing.
Fucking. She should call it what it was.
He sighed. "We need to have sex. They expect it."
She sighed, then whispered, "I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be mean. I'm lonely and I shouldn't be, because you're right here."
He was especially sweet while they had sex. He kissed her gently. He stroked her cheek. He said he was sorry.
And then he went back to meditating.
And she wondered who she had to screw around here—who else, clearly screwing Spock was not going to get her anything—to get a drink.
It had been ten days, ten days in Spock's arms. That would have been a fantasy of some kind back in the day—back when she thought that being close meant just that. That it meant knowing the person. That sex would open doors, not slam them shut. She shifted, suddenly feeling trapped as he held her, post-orgasmic bliss apparently fully functional for him but sadly lacking for her.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"I did not hurt you?"
She started to laugh, made herself stop. Yes, he'd hurt her. But not during sex.
He sighed. "Every day you are more distant."
"Me? I'm more distant?"
"That's a good one." She tried to pull away, was surprised when he held her fast. She considered an all out tug-of-war to get free, but decided not to give that to the aliens who still lined up to watch them.
He finally eased his grip when she relaxed.
"I just..." She swallowed hard. God damn it, what the hell was wrong with her? First laughter, now tears threatening. "I thought it would be different."
"This. Being with you. I mean...you chose me."
He rolled onto his stomach and looked down at her, then lazily stroked her hair off her cheek. "I saved you. And sex with you is certainly no hardship." His eyes changed, grew harder. "But, Christine. I did not choose you. I chose to keep you alive by making you my mate for as long as we are in here, but I would not have chosen you otherwise."
It should have hurt more, this brutal honesty, but it almost felt good as it tore through any illusions she might still have had. "And that's why you keep yourself apart? Even if we're joined so often physically?"
"It is." He looked away. "I am sorry, but there is a limit to what I am willing to offer."
"So this really is just sex?"
"Why didn't you say that from the start?" She tried to move away and he let her this time. "You were so sweet that first time."
"I wanted to make this easy for you. I do care for you, just not the way you want me to. And..."
"And I thought feelings might grow. I did not want to rule that possibility out."
"But they haven't?"
He shook his head.
"And tell me, Mister 'Feelings Might Grow' when were they supposed to blossom? Was that during your interminable and silent mediations? Or when you were sleeping? Or was it during the magical fucking that you were going to fall in love with me?"
He looked away. Her voice had risen too much at that last part; the aliens were looking intrigued.
"Everyone knows not to trust an 'I love you' delivered with an orgasm, Spock. Why don't you know that?" She took a deep breath, forced herself not to get up and pace but to calm and center. "You have to get to know someone to love them. But you didn't even give me a chance. Why?"
He seemed unable to meet her eyes.
"It doesn't matter. Forget I asked." She got up slowly, tried to make her leaving look as casual as possible. Her leaving that would only take her to the corner of their enclosure, barely enough room to catch her breath much less process this in private like she wished she could. "Give a holler when you want to fuck again."
He seemed to wince at that.
More days passed, then weeks. She and Spock fell into an uneasy coexistence, carving out privacy when and where they could, having sex or interacting in other, less interesting ways for the onlookers the rest of the time. At least they were clean now. Early into their captivity, they had woken to find their captors had installed bathroom facilities in a private corner and an outdoor shower with soap—perhaps their adoring audience had complained about the stench.
"How long has it been?" she asked softly as she lay in his arms, trying to ignore the crowd that watched them.
She rested her forehead against his chest, said, "They're not coming, are they? They aren't going to find us." She hoped the words were muffled, that he wouldn't know she was giving up hope.
He exhaled slowly. "I had thought Jim would have found us by now."
"You and me both." She met his eyes. There was a distinct lack of hope in his expression. Then again, he didn't tend to look all that hopeful most of the time, so what did she know? "He'll never stop looking for us, Spock."
"I know. But we may be hidden better than even he can find."
"There's something we need to talk about, Spock." She took a deep breath. "My yearly contraceptive is due for renewal in a month. Do you think—I mean if we're still here—that we should be worried about this?"
"You mean that you might conceive?"
"I have never had occasion to find out if I am sterile or not. I am a hybrid. It is possible we would not be compatible without intervention."
"You're half human and I'm human. Odds are pretty good that if you were going to get someone pregnant, it would be a human or a Vulcan." She smiled tightly. "Or were you trying to look on the bright side until it happened?"
He shrugged, something she was not sure she'd ever seen him do.
"I'm sorry I had to bring this up. But..."
She started to get up but he didn't let her go. "You want me to stay?"
"For a while. I am tired."
She brushed back his hair, which was longer than he'd ever allowed it to get on the ship. "You're tired of being here, you mean? Tired of being trapped. Tired of me, I imagine."
"I don't know that the last part is true."
"Which means you don't know that it isn't." She curled against him. "I used to have fantasies about this kind of thing." She laughed, a bitter sound. "You and I trapped alone, forced to do this. I thought it would be...romantic." She kissed his cheek. "I was an idiot."
"Perhaps with a human it would be. Perhaps even with a different Vulcan it would be."
"You mean if I was with someone who actually cared about me." She put her finger over his lips when he seemed about to try to answer. "Don't. I don't want you to lie, and I can't bear the truth."
He nodded, and she lifted her finger, moved it instead to trace along his cheek. He closed his eyes, was soon asleep, and she wished she could follow him into slumber but it was far away.
She settled for watching over him—it was so rare that he let his defenses down like this and really allowed himself to sleep.
Chapel was sitting at the edge of the enclosure. By her count, her yearly contraceptive should have run out forty days ago if Spock's count was accurate, and she had no reason to think it wasn't. It was a menstrual suppressant as well. Her period should have started at least two weeks ago, but so far it had not.
And she'd thrown up breakfast. She never threw up.
She heard Spock approaching, got up but couldn't meet his eyes. "I'm sorry."
"For what? For giving me a child?"
"Hardly the mother you'd have selected."
"Scarcely the point at this juncture." He put his arm around her, led her back to the cushions. "We need to tell the aliens."
"Yes, we do. There's a whole list of things I'll require as a human. Are there special nutrients a Vulcan baby will need?"
She started to laugh. "When I was with Roger, he wanted a whole house full of kids. I never did. I'm not cut out to be a mom, Spock."
"I have seen you care for others. You will be an excellent mother."
"What if I'm not? We're all our child will have. Stuck in this god-awful place. With us." She sighed. "What kind of sick life is that?"
"We did not choose this. And there was no way to prevent it. Other than to not have sex and if we had done that, they would have separated us. This is..."
He actually looked appalled. "This is our child, Christine. Unfortunate is not a word I would apply to him or her."
She felt her face grow hot, looked away. "I didn't mean it that way."
Spock turned them away from the crowds, toward the back of the enclosure where food and water appeared. He put his hand on Chapel's belly, said softly, "Captors, here me. I know you listen to us. I know you watch us. She is with child. It is a high-risk birth. We will need supplements, additional nutrients."
A padd suddenly appeared before them. On it was written, "Detail your requirements. We are pleased by this news."
"Yay," she said, staring at the padd as he began to list what they needed. "They are pleased. We breed well in captivity."
He ignored her, kept listing items.
"Put down that as the pregnancy progresses I'll require additional items. That we'll need a padd each day to detail these changing needs."
"That may be pushing it."
"You tell that to angry pregnant me when I'm eight months along and can't see my own feet and want ice cream."
Spock added the additional note, then he set the padd down and it disappeared. He rubbed her back gently, then left her to go meditate.
She stared down at her stomach, trying not to cry. What the hell had they done to deserve this?
Chapel lay curled on the cushions, trying not to throw up, her back to the crowd that was watching. Spock came over with water and sat down next to her.
"I wish they would go away."
"You have wished that for the last two months." He let his hand drift from her side to her belly, his face going still, in a way it only did when he was touching her this way.
He already loved his child more than he would ever love her. She swallowed hard, tried to not let that hurt—tried to not let that taint her feelings for the child.
He lay down next to her. "The morning sickness will pass soon."
She nodded. "First trimester is the worst. That's what the textbooks say. We never had much call to use those textbooks on a starship though."
"You need to teach me what to do."
"We have time." She leaned in, kissed him slowly. "This was an old fantasy, too. I never factored in the nausea."
His lips ticked up. "So many dreams quashed."
"Yep." She put her hand over his where it lay on her belly. "Can you sense anything from it?"
"No." He put his other hand over hers. "It gives me pleasure to do this. A rather primitive pleasure, I have to admit. You are mine and the way your stomach swells is evidence that my child is inside you."
Once upon a time, that would have thrilled her beyond words. Now she just nodded and closed her eyes. "Tell them I want mango."
"Are you not allergic to mango?"
"I am. I guess the baby's not, though." She frowned. "How do you know that?"
"I am unsure." He sighed. "Perhaps I overheard you at a party?"
"Probably. I doubt you went through my personnel file to find out my likes, dislikes, and allergies. Unless you were planning to off me in a nice safe way—get rid of your stalker once and for all."
"I was not."
She smiled slightly. "I didn't really think you were." She closed her eyes. "Do you think I could eat it if the baby wants it?" As a doctor she knew the answer; she just wanted to see what he'd say.
"I think it best you do not risk it."
"Because you care about me as a person or only as the incubator of your son or daughter?"
He seemed unsure how to answer that.
She laughed, an expulsion of air that held a world of bitterness in it. "Never mind. I already know the answer to that."
Five months into her pregnancy, the sickness had finally passed, and so had the cravings for things that might kill her. Chapel settled down next to Spock, began to nuzzle his neck. New kinds of cravings filled her and he sighed in what she was learning was a sound of good-humored puzzlement.
"Mmm-hmmmm." She moved so she was nibbling on his ears, something he seemed to enjoy rather a lot—until it became too intense and he had to pull her away. Like right...now.
She laughed as he pulled her around and kissed her.
"You are beautiful."
"I think you like me better pregnant than not." She kissed him softly, to show him it was okay if that was the case.
"It is not just that you are carrying my child"—he ran his hand over her belly—"it is that you seem happy for the first time."
"Happy in here?"
"Happy with me."
She brushed his hair out of his eyes. "I love you."
"Loving me does not automatically translate to being happy with me." He ran his fingers down her cheek. "There are times I wish it did."
"I bet there are. I'm not the little doormat you thought I was, am I?" She laughed and caught his lip between her teeth, not biting down hard, but holding on.
He held very still and she let go. "I never thought you were that. I just thought you were more..."
"Oh, because one of us has to be cheerful?" She kissed him, let him turn her so she was facing away from him as he pulled her onto his lap. "Maybe if we weren't in here, I'd be cheerful. But if we weren't in here, you wouldn't be with me."
She leaned her head back, rode him as he moved her gently. He was always careful now, indulging her but never losing control. He reached around—soon she would be too big for him to do that—and sent her over the edge, following her a moment later.
As she lay against his chest, she felt their child begin to kick. She reached for his hand, put it on her belly. "Do you think our baby is objecting?"
"I highly doubt it. Given that it is our child and we enjoy doing it. Although it is possible we woke him or her up, and these are protest kicks."
"Little terror." A particularly strong kick seemed to confirm the label. "We haven't talked about names, Spock."
"It is time we did."
She nodded, started to get up but he held her against him. "Aren't I too heavy?"
"No." He kissed her neck. "I am content this way."
"I have been thinking about the names. Would it please you to combine traditions? To honor your parents but follow Vulcan naming practices? Mix the two?"
"It would be nice to honor the lost. I miss my parents. Our children will never know them." She laid her hand over his. "They were rushing to get to work. Always rushing to get to work. That was what I grew up with Spock. I came home from high school and they were gone. They picked the wrong flitter." She was seventeen, had to successfully appeal for emancipation—from dead parents—so she could be her own guardian for the five months until she was of age. "I was alone."
"You felt lost. Abandoned."
She nodded. "You've never felt that way, have you? You always had your parents."
"Yes, they were always there. But..." He took a deep breath. "What I wish to tell you about is not spoken of in my house, Christine. It is forbidden."
"I had a half brother. Sybok. A brother I admired greatly. He believed in embracing emotion and was disgraced and exiled from Vulcan. Never to be spoken of again in our family—a thing of shame. I missed him when he was gone. He was a buffer between my father and me. Once he was gone, all of my father's hopes fell on me—hopes I continually disappointed."
"I'm sorry." She squeezed his hand gently. "We'll do better with our child." She felt the oddness of that statement. In this zoo, of course they would. But outside? They wouldn't even be parents if they'd never been in this place. And if they ever got out? Would Spock even stay with her once the child was born? This might be the longest conversation they'd ever had.
"What are you thinking about?" His hand pushed a little harder into her belly.
"Sad things. I'll stop." She took a deep breath. "So, names? How would you spin Samantha into Vulcan?"
"T'Samra would be the closest equivalent. If our child is female."
"That's pretty." She started to laugh. "Good luck with Lloyd for a boy's name." She turned to look at him. "If our child is a boy, we could call him Sybok. Then your family would have to speak of him."
"It is an appealing thought. But perhaps not wise. I will consider ways to make Lloyd work."
"Whatever you think best." She decided not to say that odds were against Sarek ever knowing he had a grandchild, much less what he or she was named.
Chapel paced the enclosure, trying to resist the urge to kick Spock where he was meditating. She was in active labor and he was goddamn meditating?
Never mind that she'd told him to. Did he really think she'd meant it?
She moaned as another contraction came right after the last one.
"Christine, I am having no success in this exercise. Are you sure there is nothing I can do?"
"Yes, there is something you can do. Get up and help me."
He got up but once he got to her, he was clearly at a loss as to what to do to assist. She didn't have many suggestions either as she paced. He tried to take her arm, but she shook him off.
"Just walk with me."
He began to murmur words of encouragement that she was pretty sure he must have picked up long ago from some Starfleet officer training class. "Excellent work. Your progress is remarkable. You are a wonderful example."
"Spock, shut up."
He seemed grateful to stop the affirmations.
Suddenly, another contraction rocked her and she stopped, let him support her as she slipped to a crouch, then sat back.
The crowd watching oohed and ahhed.
"I hate them so much right now."
"Ignore them." He eased her to the side, so she was facing away even more from the onlookers. "You said you could not push until dilation reached ten centimeters, correct?"
She nodded. "I really want to push. Can I push now?"
"I do not think so."
"You do not think so? You figure everything to the fifth decimal place, Spock. Am I dilated to ten centimeters or not?"
"Damn it." Another contraction shook her and she yelled at the ceiling. "In our hospitals, if you're going for realism, we have drugs. Really good drugs." She looked at Spock. "I want some drugs, Spock. No one should have to do this without drugs."
He pitched his voice very low. "I would meld with you but I do not know what that would do to the child."
And God forbid he think of her if their child might suffer. Oh shit, she didn't mean that...exactly. It was just—would he meld with the child if it would harm her? Somehow she didn't think that would be such a tough choice.
"I hate you, Spock," she said as another contraction tore through her and she ripped at the grass. "Can I please fucking push?"
"No." He held on to her knees, squeezed gently. "Try the breathing exercises you had us work on."
"You try the breathing exercises I had us work on. I'm in agony here."
"Christine, please." He actually started to pant the way she'd shown him and he looked so stupid doing it she had to join in.
For a moment, there was some relief, and then another contraction started and she gave up panting, said, "Please, please, please, please."
"Now, you can push now. Go gently."
She pushed, trying to remember to use her lower body, not her upper, moaned when she felt the baby finally moving.
She met his eyes, could not tell what he was feeling. "Is the head clear?"
He nodded. "The neck is free of the cord. You can keep pushing."
"Make sure the nose and mouth is clear."
"The baby is fine. You are doing very well, Christine."
The rest of the delivery went quickly, and Spock handed her the child, said softly, "We have a daughter, Christine," as she put the child to her breast and prayed the baby would figure out what to do because she was too exhausted to help her.
Her child had one hell of a survival instinct. Nursing was not the blissful experience Chapel had imagined. But she closed her eyes and smiled at Spock. "T'Samra?"
He nodded. Then he let her nurse in peace, rubbed her stomach gently the way she had shown him until the placenta was expelled and let her see it to make sure nothing had been left behind.
"I should be okay." She handed him the baby, cut the cord with the instruments the aliens had left them—instruments she knew would be gone again soon—and waited while Spock cleaned T'Samra up and wrapped her in the diapers Chapel had insisted the aliens give them and the swaddling blanket.
They might have to run around naked, but she was not going to be peed and pooped on willy nilly. And somehow she had gotten that through to the aliens.
Spock put the baby on the mattress, then brought a fresh towel over to Chapel, cleaning her up gently before lifting her in his arms and carrying her to the mattress. He put the now sleeping baby in her arms, made a nest of pillows under her so the baby wouldn't fall if she fell asleep, and Chapel smiled at him.
And she saw something in his eyes, something she wasn't sure how to classify.
"You're good at this daddy thing."
He touched her cheek. "Go to sleep. You are exhausted."
Chapel couldn't say she was one of those women who took to motherhood overnight. While she felt the bond she'd heard so much about with T'Samra, she still was aware of how very "other" her baby was, how much she didn't know about what to do with one. She'd never had any siblings, never babysat when she was young, and taking care of T'Samra seemed like learning everything by doing it wrong.
Fortunately the baby was a solemn little thing who seemed only interested in nursing, sleeping, and pooping and wasn't much interested in crying all the time. Maybe that was the Vulcan quarter of her.
Spock on the other hand, seemed to take to fatherhood like it was a new science discipline. He would take the baby from her, walking around the enclosure, speaking softly to T'Samra in Vulcan—so softly Chapel's universal translator couldn't make out the words. On good days, Chapel pretended he was telling their daughter nice things about her. On not so good days, she thought his conversations were more like, "That, T'Samra, is your mother. She is of substandard intelligence and beauty. If we ever escape this place, I will endeavor to locate a more appropriate maternal figure for you."
He was good at changing the baby, good at bathing her. He'd probably be better at nursing her, too, if he could only lactate. Chapel wouldn't mind a break; her breasts were aching and she felt fat and unattractive. She knew post-partum depression was common, knew that their surroundings didn't help her state of mind, but found it difficult to find a happy place.
When Spock came sniffing around for sex, she didn't find it hard to turn him down. He let it go, but gently made overtures the next week, and the next.
"They will expect us to resume," he finally said, a month and a half after the birth.
"Too damn bad. I'm not ready."
"Are you all right? Are you still sore?" He began to knead her stomach, his look worried.
She pushed his hand away. "Stop it. You'll get some when I'm ready."
"Christine, I am merely concerned that you may be suffering adverse effects from delivery."
She closed her eyes, forced herself not to break down in tears, which is what she wanted to do. It was just new mother blues. She had to ride it out. "Hold me," she whispered.
He drew her into his arms, then eased her down onto the mattress, till they were lying next to the nest she'd made for the baby, where T'Samra was sleeping happily. He lay behind Chapel, running his hand down her side, and she finally felt herself relaxing, possibly for the first time since she'd gone into labor.
He kissed her neck gently, not a sexual kiss, just affectionate, and she stretched a little, so he'd have more of her to kiss. He took advantage of that, touching down gently, murmuring that he had missed holding her.
The baby began to fuss slightly and they froze, then Chapel laughed silently as the baby went back to sleep, as Spock went back to kissing her neck.
Chapel studied her daughter, really looking at her. "She's beautiful, isn't she?"
"She is. She looks like you."
"I think she looks like you."
"She has your eyes. And your lips."
"Your ears." She smiled when he nipped her. "And eyebrows. And skintone."
"Our features come together most agreeably on her."
"They do." She turned in his arms, slid her leg over his, smiled when he lifted an eyebrow.
"Do you want to...?" he asked. "I thought...?"
She nodded and leaned in, kissing him gently, and he kissed her back the same way, keeping their touches easy and sweet. It wasn't until her kisses became more passionate, that he reached between them, touching her the way she liked, getting her ready. She shifted and he moved and then they were together.
"If anyone watching wakes up the baby, I'll kill them," she whispered as they moved slowly.
"I will help you," he said, his eyes half lidded.
"I'm sorry I've been distant. I've been..."
"Sad. I know. I've sensed it. Is it the baby?"
"Not her. But having her. It happens for some humans." She could feel herself beginning the long slow climb and she closed her eyes. "I'll try harder."
"I will try harder, too. You are not alone." He kissed her as she came, and she returned the favor for him.
They lay together, gently nuzzling each other until she fell asleep in his arms. She slept until T'Samra woke up and demanded to be fed.