DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2022 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
Hijinks Have Consequences
Chapel was at her desk in the office M'Benga had given her—even though it was supposed to be for visiting doctors—when she heard sickbay get unnaturally quiet. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly—she'd been expecting this.
She could only imagine the surprise on the faces of the med staff, now all back from leave and no doubt perplexed as to why a Vulcan goddess had chosen to walk in their midst.
Chapel debated whether to pretend to be busy but figured T'Pring would see through that. So she waited, watching the door with her most neutral expression.
T'Pring took her time but finally appeared. Damn, the woman was gorgeous. Chapel felt like an awkward lanky teenager again. The way T'Pring was studying her didn't help.
Finally Chapel waved her in and said, "Take a load off."
There was the slightest hint of a frown, but when Chapel gestured to the visitor's chair, she sat.
"What can I do for you?" Chapel asked.
"I believe you have already done it. Assisted 'me' in my duties." Her voice was even, neither grateful nor rebuking.
"Doing that wasn't my idea."
"This is not surprising." She leaned back. "Spock assaulted Barjan T'Or—in my body."
"You may lower your hackles, Nurse Chapel. I am not accusing you of anything."
"But, as you are surely also aware, I must now carry that on my record. An action I took. An action at odds with how I would normally carry out a mission."
"And you have no idea what really went down?"
"That is correct. And I will no doubt be questioned by my superiors for this break in logic." She leaned forward slightly. "Are you familiar with the Vulcan mind meld?"
Chapel nodded; La'an had told her how strange it was—how intimate.
"I wish to meld with you to observe the encounter." She said it like she was asking to borrow Chapel's class notes.
"Why not meld with Spock? He was there, after all. He did the deed." She leaned back and crossed her arms over her chest, letting one side of her mouth go up in what was—for humans anyway—the universal micro expression for disdain.
And then immediately changed it to a real smile. What was wrong with her? Why would she show this woman disdain when she was her friend's great love?
But she could tell T'Pring had caught it. "Spock and I have forged an equilibrium in our relationship that I find extremely satisfactory. I told him hitting Barjan was logical."
"No. It was emotional."
"So I guess logic doesn't equal honesty?" But Spock had told her Vulcans couldn't lie. "Or was it logical only for him, since you expect...less of him?"
T'Pring didn't answer, her face betraying nothing.
"But you don't want to rock your oh-so-balanced boat by making him show you what he did. He might realize you don't entirely approve." Before T'Pring could answer, she continued, "And he was too dumb to offer to show you."
"You are quick."
"For a human?"
"Or I just know he's not the brightest when it comes to dealing with you." It was a stupid thing to say but if she agreed to the meld, T'Pring might see her interaction with Spock in the restaurant—her advice. Was it bad to have bopped him? "So, this meld—will it hurt?"
"It should not."
Chapel laughed. "That's what I say when I know something I'm going to do is going to hurt at least a little. Otherwise you'd just say no."
"My estimation of you again rises. But in this case, I do speak truth. Generally they do not hurt. They are, however, at times unsettling for non-Vulcans."
"Well, let's find out how I do." Chapel stood and moved to the door, setting the privacy lock, then turned to her.
T'Pring stood and moved in, lifting her fingers to Chapel's face. "My mind to yours."
She couldn't help it. The moment she felt T'Pring against her mind, she resisted.
T'Pring's surprise was obvious. "I will not pry beyond the encounter." She gently pulled away. "You are not what you seem, are you? So confident on the outside—as if afraid of nothing. But that is a mask, forged, I think, by your past."
"We all wear masks; we all have a past."
"And yours is immaterial to me. Other than what happened with Barjan T'Or."
"So you don't care about my past—what about my present?" She thought she actually caught a small smile on T'Pring's face.
"You mean that you are developing feelings for my betrothed?"
"I would not—"
"It is my experience that what one would or would not do has little to do with what one actually feels." She tilted her head. "I know Spock holds you in esteem. I sensed it when you were helping us in sickbay, during the transfer."
"In between the screams?"
"Vulcans are excellent at multitasking." She reached for Chapel's face again. "Prior to this time with Spock, I might have viewed such esteem negatively. But I know his regard for me is authentic—and powerful."
"He loves you."
"As I said. We all have others in our lives with whom we interact. They are significant in a multitude of ways. But they are not our true mate."
"I'm not really a true mate kind of gal, so that's fine." She pushed into T'Pring's fingers. "Can we get this over with?"
T'Pring found the encounter with Barjan quickly, but she replayed it six times. Chapel could feel her focusing on first one thing, then something else. And she spent as much time assessing the conversation Chapel had with Spock before they went to Barjan as the actual encounter.
Chapel couldn't read T'Pring exactly, but she could feel something, an emotion that felt alien in expression but also like uncertainty, and then T'Pring saying, "I remain skeptical" and Chapel was somehow sure it was Spock she'd said it to.
Finally T'Pring pulled away. "I thank you for your openness." She seemed about to turn but then met her in an unflinching gaze. "Spock is mine, Christine."
What happened to not being bothered by her? What had T'Pring seen in the meld to make her lay claim this way? Chapel didn't feel like just rolling over and showing her belly. "Yeah, but which Spock? The Vulcan or the human? Will you ever accept them both?"
"How do you know I do not?"
"Because I do accept them both. And I know what that feels like. And I don't think that's what I was getting from you in the meld." As T'Pring seemed about to say something—no doubt cutting but entirely logical—Chapel held up her hand. "I'm not criticizing—well okay, technically I guess I am. But I think you need to see—really see—who he is. And this meld should have been with him, not me. He deserves that."
"It is fascinating. You humans are so quick to instruct me on how to understand Spock. You tell me how exceptional he is. And for you, I imagine he is. Because you are with him. But I am not. This is the most time we have spent together since he left for Starfleet. I will make my own assessment as to his character and potential—provided I am given the time and space to do it."
"I'm sorry. I was out of line."
"No, you spoke your truth. As did Chris. I wish that I also had the certainty of such truth."
"You've known him since you were a kid."
"Children change. They grow up."
"They grow away?" She put her hand on T'Pring's arm, knowing it was a huge violation but feeling she needed to do it. "That's what you fear? Not that he's not good enough for you but that he'll...outgrow you."
"My concerns are my business." She jerked her arm away, the first non-graceful motion Chapel had seen her do. "And you will not discuss this with him." There was something in her voice, something threatening but also almost...desperate.
"As a random person you're talking to, I can do whatever I want. As a nurse, however, what is said in this room stays in this room. In fact, if necessary, this encounter never happened."
T'Pring seemed to understand immediately and pulled her hair up to reveal a slight rash behind her left ear. "Starfleet linens lack refinement."
"Which is why I brought my own." She smiled as gently as she could. "That should go away once you're back on decent thread count. But I'm glad you consulted me on it. One never knows."
"Thank you." And there was actual emotion on T'Pring's face. Gratitude. But more. Relief.
"He's a lucky man. And you're a lucky woman. And I'm very jealous." She grinned to make the last part as innocent as it could be.
"I appreciate the sentiment." She indicated the door. "Could you...?"
Chapel knew T'Pring could easily have unlocked it herself. She was giving her this power. The power to dismiss.
She reached over and hit the switch. "I hope we see you here again."
"I believe that I, too, would find that pleasant." And then she was gone.
M'Benga came in a few minutes later. "Interesting visitor."
"A consult, actually. Female problems."
"Understood." And he clearly did, but she knew he would respect the almost lie. With a silly grin he motioned her out. "Now, I've been thinking about other uses for that sea urchin paste."
Chapel was watching Erica pile an amazing amount of food onto her plate in the mess. "Where do you put it?"
"Hey, driving this bus is hard work." She motioned over at Uhura, who was looking for a table. "Who for dibs?"
"I say Caruso."
"Nyah, Baker. Baker's stupid into her. Drinks are going to be on you."
And it was Baker who got up first and waved her over, but Uhura ignored him and Caruso too and walked over to where Spock was sitting alone.
"Who wins in this case?" Chapel asked, assessing Spock's body language. The gentle way he let her join him.
"Well, not Baker or Caruso, that's for sure." Erica laughed. "And you know damn well this was not about who she picked. It was who called dibs. I win." She frowned. "I think she has a crush on him."
"Could be." She nudged her to move up in line. "He thinks of her as a sister though."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, he's too relaxed to be interested."
"Also he's got 'she who did not challenge you with a lirpa' to focus on."
"She's just going by T'Pring now." She grabbed a water and followed Erica to a booth that opened up just as they needed it.
"You ever going to tell me what she wanted to talk to you about—alone?"
Chapel pretended to zip her lips.
"Damn medical shit."
"It sucks, it's true." She glanced over at Spock's table to see what was happening and was surprised to see Uhura looking back at her. She smiled. Carefully. Uhura returned the look the same way. "Er, what do you think of her?"
Erica held up a hand as she focused on eating. Her lunch break was a lot more regulated than Chapel's so she couldn't just sit and shoot the shit. Finally, she put her fork down and said, "She's smart. She's made an impression on the right people. She probably saved our lives with that comet. I mean I think she's grand." She studied Chapel. "Why?"
"She thinks I'm Spock's girlfriend."
"Well, that'll teach her to sit in boring negotiations and miss the actual girlfriend."
"She really is nice. Get to know her some."
"But she'll be gone soon, right? I mean how long will a cadet stay?"
"You still might try getting to know her."
"But why? What are the odds we'll even be in each other's orbit in the future?"
"What are the odds you and I will be? Yet you got to know me."
"Because you and I just...get each other." Although sometimes she saw something in Erica's eyes. Something that if she didn't love her so much as a friend—didn't want to keep her as a friend—she might explore.
"Give it a try, okay? For me?"
"I mean you hang out with La'an." Erica made the face that never failed to make Chapel laugh even if she didn't agree with it in this case.
"La'an is like Number One Junior. Where fun goes to die if Number One fails to fully kill it."
"I think they both have layers."
"Yes. Non-fun ones." She started to laugh. "Okay fine. I'll continue getting to know Nyota and you can do whatever you're doing with La'an."
"I'm her friend."
"Uh, huh. Just be careful. Because being chased by her with live phaser fire would be terrifying, not entertaining."
Chapel saw a message from Spock come up on the terminal in her quarters. "If you have a moment, I would appreciate your analysis of a project I am working on. I am in Science Laboratory Five."
She typed out "Be right there," threw back her whiskey, and headed out.
Lab five was near the visiting officer's quarters. So a short walk but it also meant that as she turned the corner, she saw Uhura walking toward her. They both stopped outside the lab door.
"You're not fleet. You don't need to call me that."
Wow. Little one was going on the attack. "Fine. Nyota." She waited to see if Uhura would bristle at the familiarity, but she actually smiled.
"That's nicer. I never see you much, Christine. And we're on the same deck."
"I've got my project. But maybe we'll run into each other more." She gave her the most genuine smile she could, trying to do what Erica had said and be nice. Then she turned to the lab door.
"Oh, that's Mister Spock's lab."
"Really? The entire lab is his?"
She nodded. "He doesn't like to be bothered."
"And you know this because you bothered him in there?"
"Yes I did." She made a grimace that really was adorable. Damn it all.
"Okay, well, he won't mind if I go in."
"How do you know?"
It was all she could do not to say, "Because I'm his girlfriend" but she resisted and just said as gently as she could, "He asked for me."
"No by cup size."
For a moment Uhura was frozen, but then she started to laugh. A great laugh. "Erica said you were funny. I wasn't sure but...that was a good one."
"Thanks. Okay, I'm going to go in now. If that's okay?"
"No, yeah, of course." She was still standing there. "Hey, do you think I could pick your brain about what it's like being an independent contractor the way you are?"
"Still not sure you belong here? Or did the negotiations do you in?"
"They were really interesting."
"You have to say that." She winked at her. "Sure, we can do that. Lunch maybe? Unless you're too busy eating with Spock?" Another wink and Uhura grinned.
"Lunch would be great. Tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow and the next day are bad." They weren't, but she didn't like to give ground this early. Uhura could be awesome or she might be like the intern that had followed Chapel around like a dopey puppy for an entire year at Stanford. "The next day though if that works for you."
"That'd be great." She smiled in a way that was more awesome than puppyish, and hurried off.
Chapel palmed open the door to the lab. When Spock looked up, she asked, "Do you tell people this is your lab?"
He had the same look as when he had teased her. "Only those with potentially unwelcome romantic interest."
"I see. What if I'm one of those people?" Oh shit, did she say that out loud? She should not have finished the whiskey.
"I trust you will comport yourself appropriately despite any longing you might have for me." Again the lightness in his face—it charmed her.
She wished it didn't. Or at least not this much. "So what's the what?" She pulled up a stool, then took the padd he handed her and read for a moment. "Oh, wow. This is...novel."
"That was said in a pejorative way." He did not sound surprised though.
"No, it's just, the approach is unorthodox."
"I know. I thought you might ensure I do not cross any lines."
"Spock, you're Vulcan. You probably made the lines."
"Nevertheless, I would appreciate your insight."
"You've got it." She smiled and their eyes locked, and it was just like in sickbay, after the katra switcheroo. The intensity as he looked at her. The intensity she worried she was giving right back to him. "So, speaking of science, biology specifically, I guess I sort of got to see the super-secret Vulcan mating process, huh?"
She knew what she was saying was intrusive—even rude. She was doing it on purpose. To cut whatever energy was sizzling between them.
But he didn't appear offended, only amused. "You did not."
"No? But I thought you and she got...close? Really close."
"I would not—what is the saying my mother uses? Oh yes, 'Kiss and tell.'"
"Of course not. I just thought, there are closely held theories among certain geneticists, that there's a cycle. Mating takes place then." She knew she was blushing. "Damn, will my mouth ever close?" She touched his hand, and he stared down at it with such a strange look that she slowly drew it back. "I'm sorry."
"You did not offend me just now. With your touch. But..."
"But you're engaged and madly in love with T'Pring. I know. It's fine. I'm tactile. You know that. I bopped you, after all."
His look didn't change. "You also helped me. Twice. And I came to you. I trusted you." He stopped talking and looked down. Nodding, as if working something out. "I value you. I want to...protect you." He met her eyes. "It was in large part why I hit Barjan."
"Yes." He took a slow, deep breath, audible and a bit ragged. "The reason geneticists have to theorize is that Vulcan mating is deliberately shrouded in mystery. And I am not going to tell you secrets that are something my entire culture has worked so hard to keep obscured."
"Spock, that's fine."
"No, let me finish. There is sex and then there is mating. One is done with no compulsion other than desire and affection. The other..." He sighed. "T'Pring and I were not mating."
"You were having sex."
"And sex was nice?"
She studied his expression. How tightly he was holding himself. "But mating is...scary?"
"I must speak around this, Christine. I fear I will only confuse you further. When the betrothed couple are in close proximity, there is nothing to fear from mating. It is ritual. It is tradition. It is ceremony. And it is inevitable for a full Vulcan male. But I am half so I may not undergo it. Because hybrids are often..."
She could tell he didn't want to say the word so she whispered, "Sterile. But not always. And even if they are, that doesn't mean there's no sex drive."
"I have taken us off topic. Perhaps deliberately. But I owe you more even if what I can tell you is limited. I am of the age when..." He met her eyes.
She nodded. "When mating occurs."
"Yes. The drive can be...non-specific."
"I don't understand."
"I might reach out to someone of interest within proximity if, for example, we were far from Vulcan." He laid his hand on hers. "It would ultimately mean nothing. The betrothal is virtually unbreakable. If I ever ask you for something, you must not do it."
"You mean like relationship advice, or my thoughts on your project, or help with a Vulcan criminal, or..."
"If I ask you to make me soup."
"I don't cook."
"Christine, please listen to me. I value you. Your character, your intellect, your willingness to help. These things attract. And I would not want to harm you."
"Emotionally, you mean?"
"Or...physically." He looked down. "This is a dangerous conversation."
"No. It's a conversation we've never had. You asked me in to look at your project. We didn't talk about soup. Me making it. You asking for it." She pulled her hand out from under his but left it close. "But, you realize you just told me you're attracted to me."
"I do realize that. I do not know if it is the human in me or if a full Vulcan could also feel attachments simultaneously. And for all that I do find you desirable, I will not act on it. T'Pring is the mate I desire."
"But still you appear sad."
"It makes me sad that you can't just be Spock wanting more than one person—that you have to break it down into human or Vulcan. We all have people we love, just at varying levels, right?" She frowned. "Not that you love me. I know you're not saying that."
"I understood what you meant."
"I would never try to get between you and T'Pring when you're this happy, this connected." Because she could tell he did feel that way: totally committed—and she thought T'Pring wanted to feel that way too.
But what if they weren't happy? Time could change things. If he asked for soup then? Providing she could find the thing on the synthesizer menu, would she bring it?
"What are you thinking?"
She laughed, as breezily as she could. "Silly things. Pay me no mind."
"That would be impossible." He turned back to the padd and highlighted a section. "This, I think, will be the most problematic aspect of my approach. Do you agree?"
His look was gentle as he steered them to safer—and much less confusing—ground.
La'an found her in the lounge a few hours later, sitting alone at a table in the section the crew had dubbed "Leave Me Alone Ville." She nursed some tonic water as she tried to make sense of the conversation she'd had with Spock.
"Didn't expect to find you over here—where fun goes to die," La'an said as she sat.
"Sorry about that."
"No, it actually led to some fun. But why do you look so pensive? Dever not show up or something?"
"He did. I broke it off. Not much story there."
La'an waited. Then she leaned in and said softly, "What are you not saying?"
"It was just kind of a weird leave. Poetry and commitment talk I didn't expect." She bit each word off too sharply, not meeting La'an's eyes.
"Why are you lying to me?"
It would have been easy to snap back, but this was La'an. She didn't want to. "Because I have to. It's not my secret to tell."
La'an studied her for a long time, and Chapel didn't look away. None of this would have happened if Spock hadn't been so fucking bad at relationships. And while his relationship wasn't a secret, the body switch was.
"I'm not lying, La'an. It's need to know."
"Can you tell me how you had fun with Number One?"
"No. It's need to know."
"We all have our secrets, Christine. And mine would get more than just me in trouble." She wasn't glaring anymore. Her eyes were dancing.
"Oh, wait, You're serious. You mean you...broke a rule or something?"
La'an pretended to zip her lips.
"You got that from me."
"I know. That's what makes it perfect." She stood and held out her hand. "Let's go blow off steam."
"How? Enterprise Bingo?" She rolled her eyes,
"No, a new weapons simulator showed up with the repairs. It's. So. Fun."
"I don't shoot."
"You don't? Or you never have? Because, it's a good skill to know." She leaned in. "Come on, a new blaster rifle and a great story to follow as you shoot."
"Oh fine. But I'm going to hate it."
She was wrong. She loved it. They had to give it up to another duo much too soon.
When they were kicked back in the security lounge, beers in hand and arguing over how much of a handicap La'an should have to give her, she noticed La'an had done her braids differently.
She ran her finger softly down one of them. "I like this."
"I can't decide. But I thought I should try new things."
"Oooh, this could be fun. Where to start?"
"Baby steps. I can work with that." She leaned back and studied the braids.
"Stop it. You're making me self conscious."
"I like this look, but I prefer your other braids. More you."
La'an was clearly pleased. "Yeah, I think so too."