Chain Reaction by Djinn
There's a moment. Finite. When everything comes together. The terrain sloping gently downward, the people struggling to keep their feet, the rain that fell earlier making the footing hazardous.
And a weapon. Projectile, since this is a primitive world.
But still lethal.
When aimed at a human heart. Or a Vulcan one.
Three people, hurrying, a mission gone wrong, not all at once but in a series of small missteps.
The captain: he hangs back, looks behind him, trying to keep the other two safe. The woman he loves. The Vulcan who's like a brother to him.
The Vulcan who loves her, too.
When did this get so complicated?
The woman is not looking back. She's looking at the Vulcan, who is bleeding from a knife wound to the arm—one of those missteps. It should be a small problem only, but he fell on the slippery grass and has ripped the wound open more than it was. She is trying to run and regenerate his skin at the same time.
She is doing neither well. He finally tells her to leave it.
The Vulcan holds his torn arm shut, green blood pooling under his fingers. Green blood that will give them away, be the final misstep in this day of things gone not according to plan.
He sees the stand of rocks and trees before the woman or the captain do. Says, "Jim, over there."
He has started to move when a crack sounds.
The projectile. Somehow in his mind he identifies the sound. Kirk, the captain does, too. He kept too many ancient weapons on the walls of his apartment back on Earth not to know this sound.
The woman, a doctor, not regular Fleet, registers the sound but not its cause. So she has no warning before the bullet rips into her side.
"Chris," Kirk says as she falls, then looks at the Vulcan. "Spock, help me."
They pull her to the hiding place Spock has seen, and Kirk hopes that no one is already lurking in there, waiting for them. The day they've had, he would not be surprised.
"Damn it all," Kirk says as he pulls out the phaser he has hidden. He sees no one on the hillside, no movement, so he sits down and turns his attention to Chris.
Spock is already working on her, his blood flowing out from the knife wound as he tries to close where she was shot, the green and red blood merging into a sickly brown on her homespun outfit that was supposed to blend in with the natives—one more thing that has not gone right today.
"Did it come out the back?" Chris asks softly, she may not have realized it was a projectile weapon, but once the thing tore through her, she knew it wasn't an energy weapon. "The thing that hit me. Is it still inside me?"
Kirk lifts her gently as Spock continues to work and sees that she is bleeding freely on the ground. "It came out the back."
"That's probably good. Spock, if I'm bleeding worse back there, regenerate that spot first." Her voice is shaky, and she closes her eyes and bites back a groan as Spock eases her up to assess the exit wound.
Spock meets Jim's eyes, knows his are worried. He also knows he is not hiding his feelings for Christine from his friend, but Jim doesn't seem to mind. He goes back to scanning the hillside, leaving Spock to decide which wound—entrance or exit—needs his attention the most.
Jim trusts Spock with Christine. She opens her eyes, says softly, so softly Jim can't hear, "How bad is it?"
"You will be fine." He says it loudly enough that Jim can hear.
She shakes her head, clearly not believing him.
"You will be fine, Christine." He is not sure it is true, but if will alone could make it so, it would be.
"You can't use that phaser, Jim," Chapel says as she sees what Jim is holding as he looks out at the hillside as if hell itself is massing an attack.
"I'll mow down anyone who comes near us with the wrong attitude. We've played by the rules all day and gotten nowhere."
"They're primitive. The prime directive." She looks at Spock. "Tell him."
"I am, at the moment, engaged." He continues working, moving her a little too much, and she tries not to groan.
Kirk glances back. "Spock, first do no harm." He watches Spock work on her. Watches the care he takes, even if he does make her wince and cry out—can't help it given the nature of her injury—sees how gentle his eyes are, how firmly his mouth is set.
Spock will do everything in his power to save her.
"We need to get off this goddamn hill." He turns back to scan the terrain. Sees a movement, a flash of metal in the trees above them. A gun comes out, a long barrel—some kind of rifle.
No way Kirk can hope for any accuracy with a phaser at this range. But he can still do some damage. He sets the phaser on a setting that will burn, aims for the tree, and fires. The tree catches fire on the side visible to him first; it takes a while for the owner of the rifle to react, but then he yells and runs out, down the hill toward where Kirk and the others are waiting. Kirk adjusts the setting to stun and takes him out once he is close enough.
He wants to go get the man's rifle, but there may be others waiting on the ridge for him to do just that.
He sits tight.
Chapel watches him, asks softly, "Did you kill him?"
"Of course not."
She smiles. "Just checking." She reaches over, takes his hand, and he squeezes hers gently.
"How you doing, sweetheart?"
Of all the endearments he uses, that one is her favorite. She smiles as she closes her eyes. "I feel woozy."
"It is due to loss of blood," Spock says, and she smiles again.
"I knew that, Spock." She swallows and says the words she does not want to say. "You realize that you are wasting valuable time fixing me up? We are here for a reason. You should leave me and go finish the mission."
"No," the two men say as one. And she imagines it is for the same reason.
She breathes out in relief. She would let them go and be brave, but she would rather they didn't abandon her here. Does that make her a coward?
Besides, the way their day has gone, the mission is fucked beyond all reason.
Spock finishes with the regenerator and leans in, studying her. "I can feel you are in a great deal of pain. I can help with that. A meld. Jim?"
"You don't have to ask me if you can ease her pain, Spock. Just do it."
Spock touches her face, fitting his fingers to the psi points. Her emotions are chaotic. She thinks they should leave her; she wants them to stay with her. She loves Jim—she loves...Spock. He meets her eyes and she makes a face that he can tell means, "Please don't make too much of that."
She has always loved him. He could have had her and he did not take what was offered, and now it is too late.
He presses into her mind, blocking pain receptors, easing panic, telling her it will be all right, that they will never leave her—that they love her.
That part is undoubtedly gratuitous. He cannot stop himself. He eases away, sees that she is more relaxed, her eyes half lidded.
Jim looks over, smiles at Spock, then nods at his arm. "Finish healing that wound. I need you at one hundred percent." He stares at Chris, knows his look is a little bit helpless. She is right, after all. They should finish the mission.
They will, just not right this moment. They'll find another way to get the mollinium they need. There is no way they are getting to market today. And the next market isn't for three days.
"As soon as it's dark, we get off this hillside and find some decent shelter. We have a rendezvous call with the ship in six hours. We'll have a new plan by then."
Darkness seems to take forever to fall, but fall if finally does. They take longer than any of them like to get down the hill, but it is slow going in the still slippery grass, with Kirk checking for spotters, with Spock listening for movement, and with Chapel trying not to let them know that while Spock efficiently healed both the entry and exit wounds of the projectile's path, he did nothing for the damage it did inside her.
There was no time for him to fix the inside part, so she didn't mention it to him and did not offer him her scanner—and it is no doubt a testament to how rattled he was that he did not think to ask for it.
He loves her. She thinks it has taken seeing her with Jim for him to realize it. That and perhaps a giant nudge from V'ger.
She has not told either man that she is more injured than they know because they will stop and try to heal her, and the mission is more important than she is. A small amount of mollinium will create worlds' worth of anti-virals for a plague ravaging two star systems. What is she against that?
Spock is watching Christine as she navigates the hillside, and he reaches out and steadies her when she slips.
Pain floods him at the contact. Too much pain. He realizes there is more wrong with her than she has let on, knows too that they cannot stop: the needs of the many. He has never hated that tenet more.
He hopes there is lingering resonance from the meld he used to ease her pain, tries to send her strength and sees her turn to look at him.
For a moment, her eyes are panicked and she shakes her head. He knows what her message is: do not tell Jim. He nods ever so slightly.
This is their secret.
He hates that, too.
Jim sees movement in the trees just beyond them, tells Spock and Chris to get down and fires, hoping it's not an innocent, but beyond caring at this point.
Starfleet will have his nuts in a sling when this mission is over.
A man falls out of a low branch, carrying a rifle just like the other man's. He's close enough that Kirk can run over and grab the weapon. He searches through the man's clothes until he finds the spare ammunition and puts it into the pouch he carries. He finds a knife, is surprised when Spock asks for it, but gives it to him. They take his water carrier and what food he has to add to their own. Then he moves the stunned man back into the trees where he won't be seen.
Fixing the rifle over his shoulder with the carrying strap, he says, "Let's go."
"Don't I get a weapon?" Chris asks, and something is off in her voice.
He studies her, but she is giving nothing away, so he looks at Spock, trying to read his expression in the murk. Spock turns away.
Shit. Something is wrong.
They can't afford to stop, so he presses them onward, trying to find terrain that will both give them cover but not test Chris too much. Finally, they start climbing again and come to an area riddled with caves. He picks one that's off the main path and seems defensible.
He lets Spock get Chris settled, sits at the mouth of the cave, and opens his communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise." The six-hour mark was thirty minutes ago, but there is no indication that Scotty tried to contact him. "Kirk to Enterprise."
He senses rather than hears Spock come up beside him. "I'm going higher. Maybe there's interference down here. Some mineral or other."
Spock nods. "Be careful."
"How is she?"
"I will tell you once you have talked to Mister Scott and have a new plan."
Kirk knows what that means. She's bad, bad enough to compromise the mission if they take the right amount of care of her—or maybe there is no right amount of care. Is that what Spock is going to tell him?
He goes. The climb is easier now that it is just him. He tries the communicator at three different elevations. Nothing. He goes as high as he can. Nothing.
He nearly looses his footing in his haste to get back to Chris. Spock is waiting at the entrance.
"I can't raise the ship."
"Then the mission is over until we can. You are the only one who does not have blood—my blood in particular—on your clothing, and you cannot complete this mission alone since the traders in the market do not trust solitary travellers."
"Yes, because we've done so well as a traveling unit." Jim sighs.
"Those were bandits. We are in the outer provinces. The law is more difficult to enforce here. We are not used to such primitive conditions or we would have anticipated this. At any rate, the cause of our present condition is moot. We are going nowhere if we cannot raise the ship." Spock sees Jim process this. "We must attend to her. Her condition is quite serious." He leads Jim back to the spot he has chosen for Christine. It is around a bend in the cave, where any light they use will not be seen from the outside.
He has built a small fire, sees Jim smile. "Aren't you the boy scout?"
"She was cold." It is quite warm in the cave; he sees that Jim understands the seriousness of his statement. "And we will need to be able to see. The regenerator has its own light source but some ambient light is also necessary."
Spock looks down at Christine. She lies shivering and is half dozing. "Christine. You must tell us what to do to help you."
She opens her eyes. "No, you have to finish the mission."
Jim leans in and touches her face gently, frowning, Spock imagines, at how warm she is. "Mission's gone to pot, my love. Can't raise the ship. Your clothes and Spock's are a mess. We need to be resupplied before we can safely stroll into the market to get the mollinium. So in the meantime, we save your life instead of just twiddling our thumbs. Doesn't that sound like a good plan?" He is trying to sound light, but there is a desperateness in his eyes that Spock remembers from their time on Earth, when Kirk knew Edith was going to have to die.
Christine does not have to die. Spock will not let her die. "Christine, tell me what to do."
"I'm bleeding internally. There's a scanner in my pouch." She smiles when he realizes he could have used that before.
"You withheld the scanner from me?"
"It would have wasted time. Mission first." She closes her eyes for a moment. "The problem is that you will have to go quite deep. And it will hurt. I won't be able to—I may scream. And we can't have that. Not if we want to stay hidden."
"I can meld with y—"
"You can goddamn gag me is what you can do." She is looking at Jim not Spock when she says it. Spock watches his friend's face, cannot believe he will gag the woman he loves, but Jim finally nods.
"Meld with her after we gag her. She's right. We have to be sure. But make her as comfortable as you can with the meld before you start the surgery. Hopefully the gag won't be needed." He swallows hard. "I'm sorry, Chris."
"Don't be sorry. It's my idea, Jim. I will not be responsible for getting all of us captured. It's just a piece of cloth. Preferably a clean one, if any of us have such a thing." She tries to smile, reaches out for both of them, feels them grab onto her as if she is the strong one, and they are the ones who will soon have someone digging around inside them.
She pulls Jim down to her, kisses him softly. "I love you. I'll be fine." He nods.
Then she pulls Spock down. "Here's what you do." And she details how to find the damage, knows he will remember every word. He is so serious, nodding and asking questions. But he is clenching her hand almost too hard. "Okay, you got it?"
He looks over at Jim. "She is not Edith, Jim. I will not let her die."
Jim is watching Spock with a strange look that she can't read. Then he looks at Chapel and smiles. "Give him a kiss for luck, unless you think it'll rattle him more than he already is."
She meets his eyes, and he gives the gentle nod that means he's serious. She holds his hand tighter as she lets go of Spock's hand and pulls him down to her.
His kiss is nothing like the one they shared in front of the Platonians. There is nothing reluctant about it. It is as if he has been granted one gift and he will enjoy it—but he is not flaunting it. He is gentle with her and the kiss does not last long. And when he pulls away, he turns to Jim and says, "Thank you."
Jim shrugs, and the look on his face is impossible for Chapel to figure out. He lets go of her hand and rips a strip of fabric from the bottom of his shirt. "I think I've got the cleanest one."
She nods and turns to him as he fashions it into a gag, knotting the fabric into a balled shape. Before he puts it in her mouth, he leans in, kisses her again. "I love you. Do not die."
"I won't." She tries to smile, but it comes off shaky. She opens her mouth and he eases the gag in, then ties it around her the back of her head.
Her voice is muffled. He tells her to go a bit louder without straining anything. Still there is very little noise.
"That's fine." He touches her cheek. "Are you okay?" When she nods, he turns to Spock. "Now the meld."
Spock moves in, finds the psi points, and she feels him move easily into her mind. He is not trying to hide his feelings for her in any way, and it is almost overwhelming how much he wants to help her, how...driven he is.
And his drive is not just on her behalf. Much of it is for Jim.
Their relationship is beyond complex.
She suddenly feels as if she is floating, like she has injected herself with a hypo full of anti-anxiety meds. He ups the feeling and she can barely feel her body, is not so aware of the gag.
"Jim will hold your hands during the procedure," Spock says as he slips out of her mind, leaving her as peaceful and numb as he can. "If the pain becomes too much, squeeze his hands three times in quick succession, and I will meld with you again if I can stop what I am doing. Can you remember that?"
"If you squeeze his hands any other way, it will not mean anything other than you are working through the pain. Understood?"
She nods again.
"If you could sit here, Jim—hold her hands above her head so she cannot interfere with my work. She will not mean to, but she may try."
Jim moves where Spock told him to, hating that he has to do this. The gag, holding her down—he hates bondage games. He's been tied and chained up too many times for real to find it fun to have it done to him or do it to someone else.
Chris suddenly squeezes his hands very hard and he looks down at her. She winks at him, and he wonders how the hell she always knows when he's gone to one of his dark places. He squeezes her hands back gently.
"I will begin," Spock says, and Chapel feels him opening the entrance wound with the knife Jim took off the man he stunned. It is the other reason they needed the fire: sterilization.
It doesn't hurt as much as it should, but tears still fill her eyes without her consciously thinking about crying, and she is afraid she will break Jim's hands she is clenching so hard. A moan comes out, but the gag catches it, keeps them safe.
She can hear the scanner, forces herself to mentally keep up with what Spock is doing, knows that will distract her somewhat from the pain.
The pain that soars up like a living thing when he reaches the area that is torn and bleeding. The pain that is suddenly the only thing in her world. She desperately squeezes Jim's hand three times. Help-help-help. Stop-stop-stop.
"Spock. Spock, stop." Kirk can hear the panic in his voice, but it is nothing compared to the frantic three-step Chris is doing with her hands.
"I cannot stop right now," Spock says, and he hears the deepest regret in Spock's voice.
Chris screams. For a very long time, but his gag catches most of it, what escapes is nothing that will give them away if anyone is outside looking for them.
And then she loses consciousness.
"Tell me she's still alive," Kirk says as he lets go of her hands, moves around to look for the rise and fall of her chest.
"She is still alive." Spock meets his eyes. "If you help me, I could go faster."
"Tell me what to do." He's afraid it's pulling the pieces of skin apart so that Spock can work, and that's exactly what it is. He does it, trying to keep his stomach from doing unhappy cartwheels at all the blood and innards. He's not generally squeamish, has seen his share of gore over the years, but it's not usually his lover's bloody bits he's looking at.
"There." Spock sounds satisfied and picks up the scanner with bloody hands and checks. "Yes, the rest is sound. I will just repair the way I came in and she should be fine. Weak, however. She has lost a good deal of blood."
They wash up, and Jim takes the gag out of her mouth, throws the thing into the corner, turns his phaser to incinerate, and destroys it. He'd have preferred to see it burn slowly in the fire but it would have smoked too much, possibly given their position away—or run them out of the cave, and Chris is in no shape to walk, much less run.
She opens her eyes, and he lies down next to her. Spock takes the phaser from him and heads for the cave entrance, taking the first watch without being asked—they have left the entrance unguarded too long as it is.
"I'm so sorry, Chris." He kisses her forehead softly. "I'm so very sorry."
"Just tell me he fixed everything."
"Looks like." He wishes there were something he could do for her. "Do you want some water?"
"Yes, but I can't have any yet. I could have ice chips but we're fresh out." She smiles, a game smile, and he loves her for it. "I've never been in that much pain." She turns her head, buries her face in his chest, and he moves closer so she won't have to strain to reach him.
"You did great. He did great."
"You did great, too." She holds her face up to him, the way she does when she wants him to kiss her and she doesn't want to do any work.
He smiles and indulges her, kissing her gently, over and over.
When he stops, she lies back, a happy smile on her face. Then the smile fades. "Why did you want me to kiss him?"
"He loves you. He's in love with you. If you died..."
"If I died, you wanted him to have that?"
"I couldn't tell what you were thinking afterwards. Your expression was strange."
He doesn't answer.
"It's not every day you watch your best friend kiss the woman you love. I'm not sure I know what I thought—what I felt." He runs his fingers over her lips, remembers watching as Spock's lips descended down to hers, his mouth opening slightly, not too much but enough to not make it a chaste kiss. "You love him, don't you?"
She nods. "But I'm with you. I love you. I don't want him."
"Is that it? Or is it that you don't want him more than you do me?" He smiles. "This is confusing. Next time you are on death's door and Spock is going to operate, I am not going to let him kiss you."
She laughs and immediately groans.
"Oh, sweetheart, I'm sorry. We'll stop talking about funny things like how my best friend wants to have sex with you in the worst way."
"Wait, how'd we get to sex? We were just talking about a kiss." She turns to meet his eyes. "Jim stop thinking about this, okay? He's like any other guy. He wants what he can't have and he only recognizes a good thing once it's gone."
"Fair enough." He can see that her eyes are drooping, and he strokes her cheek and says, "Go to sleep, Chris," until she drops off.
Then he gets up, joins Spock at the cave entrance, and tries to raise the ship.
Spock watches Christine sleep. Her temperature is down, her blood pressure back up to levels approximating human normal, her pulse stronger. She is out of the woods as Leonard would say.
He sits next to her, takes her hand in what he knows is a foolishly indulgent gesture—and an ironic one. She used to do this for him years ago when he was wounded or sick. He does not think she was ever as shaken as he feels now. Shaken by the pain he caused her, pain he felt through her skin as he worked, through the resonance left from the meld, through the shrillness of her muffled scream. He wanted to stop and help her, but he could not.
It was a mercy she blacked out. For both of them. For all of them, Jim was not unaffected, either.
Jim. Why did he let her kiss him? Spock is relatively sure, were their situations reversed, he would not have done the same.
His friend is generous. He has always known that.
But is there more to it than that? And how can he explore it—does he want to explore it?
He is holding the hand of a woman who belongs to someone else. Of course he wants to explore it. He should be honest, if only with himself.
He puts her hand down gently and gets up, leaving her in peace.
Jim hears Spock coming, thinks he was in with Chris a little longer than was necessary to "check on her" but decides he's not in the mood to talk about that. He looks up as Spock comes out, holds up his communicator and says, "I'd really like to know if we aren't getting through because of some interference at our end or if they aren't there to receive us."
Spock nods. "I have my communicator. We can test to see if we can communicate with each other from a distance."
Jim starts to get up, but Spock stops him.
"I will go, Jim. You have climbed the hill once already tonight."
"But you're wounded."
"My arm is fine now. And I am Vulcan."
"Half Vulcan. Half human. With human desires." Maybe they are going to have this conversation.
"Yes. Which in no way affect my climbing skills. I will comm you in four minutes provided I am in the clear."
"Copy that. Keep going if I don't reply. You can climb for about ten minutes at your speed, I imagine, before you run out of hill. About fifteen at mine. Try comming every four minutes or so."
Spock looks like he thinks he'll climb the hill faster than Kirk's estimate.
"I'm allowing for you not stressing a wounded arm. There are parts that require pulling yourself up. It's not a competition, Spock."
Spock nods. "Understood." And then he is gone.
It's not a competition. Kirk thinks that's what Spock is thinking: what if it weren't a competition, this thing with Christine? They were united tonight more than ever because they both love her. They will both still love her tomorrow. Can they both be united then too?
Or is he reading too much into this?
But Spock put up no resistance to the kiss. No evidence of surprise. No looking at him with an "Are you sure?" Chris looked at him to make sure but Spock didn't, he just dove right in. And thanked him for it after. Like he'd shared his...what?
Does he want to share?
Does Chris want him to share her? That's what's really driving him. He's been watching as Spock falls deeper and deeper into the feelings he has for Chris and has imagined a thousand scenarios where Chris leaves him for the man she really loves—the man she's always loved.
He's not used to worrying that he's just a diversion for someone, but that's exactly what he's obsessing about.
His communicator beeps softly. "Spock to Kirk."
"Kirk here. The problem's not at our end. Come back down." He sounds angry. He doesn't mean to sound angry. It's just that he's not ready to have this discussion. He needs to know what Chris wants. It was one stupid kiss he let Spock have when he thought she might die—that she gave Spock without much prodding. Any prodding. Did she enjoy it?
Shit. He has to stop this.
He is not going to panic—that is not the Jim Kirk way.
Spock is still on the comm line. "Are you all right, Jim?"
"Just dandy. Kirk out."
Spock is down very quickly and sits next to Kirk at the entrance, studying his communicator as if it is the holy damn grail. "I feel—"
"Pretty sure I don't want to talk about feelings right now."
"As you wish."
Kirk hears Chris calling him.
Spock starts to get up. Kirk slams him back down—hard, much harder than he meant to. Spock looks up at him, clearly startled.
"Your hearing is too good for you not to have heard her say my name, not yours."
"She may need medical attention."
"If she does, I'll come get you." He leaves Spock sitting, another objection no doubt spooling up, but Kirk moves too fast to have to hear it.
"Hello, sweetheart," he says as he comes into view.
She tries to sit up. She woke in the cave, in pain, and at first could not remember where she was. Then she moved and pain spread over her and she remembered and only wanted one thing. "Jim."
"I'm right here. Should you be sitting up, Doctor? Is it medically advised?" He smiles as he supports her as she stops moving, and she frowns and lies back down. "Didn't think so." He kisses her forehead. "What can I get you?"
"Five cc's of calhydromine." She'd sell her soul for some decent painkiller.
His face changes as he asks, "Would another meld help?"
"If I say yes, are you going to be mad? Because you don't look happy." His face looks even less happy after she says that, and she waves him off. "It's okay. I'm all right."
"No, it's not okay. It's not okay for you to suffer." He leans down, sighs, and meets her eyes. His look is haunted, in a way she's never seen before. "If you ever get tired of me, you'll tell me, won't you?"
"Why would I get tired of you?" She's in so much pain she's probably not really thinking straight, but even on a good day he wouldn't be making sense. "Sweetie, please go get Spock."
"Right." He's up and gone, and a moment later Spock hurries into the space.
"What did you say to him?" she asks as he lays his fingers on the meld points. "Did you say something to him?"
"What do you mean?" He waits to start the meld and she murmurs, "Forget it, just do it," and then he is inside her mind and pushing the pain away as quickly as he can.
She moans, and regrets the sound as soon as it comes out. If Jim heard it, it probably sounded like—
Goddamn it, why is she thinking about what she sounded like? She's in pain from being shot through the middle and having anesthetic-free surgery. Her pain is being taken away. Anyone would moan happily. Why is she even worrying about this?
"Christine, please try to relax."
"Oh, shut up."
She senses a wave of uncertainty coming from him. But he does shut up and he doesn't stop the pain relief part of the meld, so she decides not to worry about his feelings, either.
Kirk is sitting next to Spock, watching the sun come up over the hillside when his communicator sounds, the discreet click he's set it on since more overt hails are problematic.
"Ah, Captain, sorry for abandoning you like that." Scotty sounds both harried and triumphant.
"Let me guess. Uninvited guests?"
"Aye, sir. Klingons. Seems they had a wee bit of a problem with our doing some drilling on the seventh moon."
"Why were you drilling there?"
We found a vein of mollinium that Doctor McCoy thought might work better than what was on the planet. He needed to test it first so he didn't want to stop your mission until he was certain it would be suitable. It is a higher grade, and we don't have to rely on the planet's primitive refining processes and all the related impurities. So you're off the hook. That's my good news, sir."
"Ah, so there's bad as well?"
"Aye. We had to discuss our differences with the Klingons a bit aggressively."
Kirk can picture his ship, limping around the planet in orbit. "How bad is it?"
"Oh, our girl's fine, sir. We've just got a few systems down. Transporters being the main one. So we can't bring you home just yet. Are you somewhere safe?"
"For now. But Doctor Chapel is injured. In stable condition, but I'd prefer to get her home sooner rather than later." He glances over at Spock, sees him looking back. They both know that Kirk would also prefer to get her away from Spock and his pain melds sooner rather than later.
"I estimate about seven more hours, sir. I assume you don't want to chance a shuttlecraft?"
"No, Mister Scott, indeed I don't. The after-action report on this mission is going to be a fun one as it is. Keep me posted."
"Aye, sir. Scott out."
He stands. "I'm going to tell Chris the ship is back."
"You can't have her, Spock. Okay?" Frustration fills him. He wants things back the way they were before this mission. With his friend in one box and his girlfriend in another. Not with all of them sitting in the same one, with him feeling as if it is getting too small and he'll be the one to be pitched out.
"I did not say anything, Jim."
"I don't know what I was doing with that kiss. Forget it happened."
"But it did happen. You told her to kiss me. And she did."
"Technically, she let you kiss her."
"She kissed me back, Jim." Spock tilts his head, the way he does when he is essentially saying "was so."
"Well then forget that, too." He stalks away, rounds the corner and sees Chris sitting up, drinking some water.
She rolls her eyes at him. "Voices carry in here, sweetheart." She thinks he doesn't realize he is running his hand through his hair the way he does when he is stressed, that he is tapping his fingers against the side of his leg—his sign of impatience. "Come here."
He sits next to her. "Did you kiss him back?"
"You told me to kiss him, Jim."
"But why did you do it?"
She sees he's struggling with the idea. That he seems honestly threatened. She leans against him. "Jim, I was in pain. I was slightly delirious. I just wanted him to get the surgery over with. You were telling me to kiss him. If you'd told me to kiss the rifle, I probably would have if it would have gotten the ball rolling."
He starts to laugh. "The rifle? That's the best you can come up with?"
"Well there are not a lot of funny options in this cave." She sighs. "Why are you so upset over this?"
"Because I don't want to have a threesome with Spock." He says it low, almost hisses it at her.
She whispers back, trying not to laugh. "You think I do?"
"No." She does laugh and immediately clutches at her side. "God damn it, Jim. Quit being so stupid. It should be painful for you, not me. A threesome?"
"You really don't want that?"
"Why in God's name would I want that? He had how many years to have me? Now he wants me? Well, too fucking bad. Excuse my goddamn French."
He smiles. He is so relieved he wants to take her right there but if laughing hurts, he knows sex is going to be off the menu for quite a while. But he grins, a real grin, the first real grin he's probably given her on this godforsaken piece-of-shit planet that he can't wait to get beamed off of.
And she grins back. She leans in, whispers in his ear, "Don't rub it in when you go back out there or he'll cut me off the pain melds."
He laughs, loudly enough he knows it must carry out to Spock.
He turns and kisses her as gently as he can while still making it a very, very good kiss. "I love you, woman."
"You're an idiot. But I love you, too." She shifts a little and a grimace crosses her face.
"Do you need him?" He can ask that this time without feeling the massive surge of jealous insecurity.
"I do. And I'm not going to say I'm sorry for it."
"There is no need." He gets up, walks out to Spock. "She needs you, old friend."
Spock studies him. "You seem in a different mood."
"Like I said. You're not going to have her." He holds his hand out, pulls Spock to his feet. "And thank you for taking such good care of her. I know you love her. I trust that can downshift into like when we're back onboard the ship."
Spock feels a surge of disappointment but it is short lived. The probability of Jim inviting him into his relationship with Christine was low. And he is taking this all with good humor. He is still treating Spock as a friend.
And, most importantly, he has sensed in the melds with Christine, that while she loves him, she is not particularly interested in doing anything about his growing interest in her. "You snooze, you lose," was the sentiment he has gleaned from her.
Spock nods. "I will adjust my expectations."
"Good." Jim rubs his forehead. "I cannot wait to get off this hellhole. I have a splitting headache."
"After I get done with Christine's meld, I could help you."
Jim laughs. "I think I'll wait and let Bones shoot me up with something. But thanks." He shakes his head, and goes back to guarding the entrance.
But as Spock heads around the corner to Christine, he hears Jim mutter, "You sly dog."