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.


by Djinn



Secrets. We all have them. La'an, Number One, M'Benga. The little cadet—although she spilled at the captain's dinner—and Ortegas if you get her drunk enough to drop the devil-may-care attitude and open up. Even Spock and Pike probably have their share.


As do I.


I'm hoping, as I ring for admittance to Number One's office, that they aren't about to come to light. But the commander's quick and bright—and more importantly used to lying. She'll recognize it if I do. I'll have to play this carefully.


"Chapel. Come in. What's your poison?" She's got the false face on. The one that makes me so nervous. It's like the one Roger wears when he's about to catch someone taking a shortcut he didn't approve. The apparent joviality switching to a smug simmering anger. He's not given to outbursts; his silences are far more terrifying.


"Rye," I say because it's the truth but also because no one ever has it. "But bourbon will do in a pinch."


She smiles, her eyes almost mirroring her lips. "I have rye." She slides open a door of her shelving unit and reveals what is probably most accurately described as a shit-ton of bottles. She laughs at my expression. "People bring me bottles when they're on home leave. I have three ryes right now. You want Maryland, Virginia or Kentucky."


Is she testing me? Is there a right answer? "Surprise me." She hasn't told me to sit, so I don't. She also hasn't given me permission to explore the various art around her quarters, so I don't do that either. "Aren't gifts to a commanding officer a conflict of interest?"


"They are. If they're over a certain amount and I don't log them in. Which these aren't, and I have." Her smile is gone; we're playing for real now. "Sit, Chapel," she says as she hands me the drink. There's ice in it. It's how I like it, but she didn't ask and it's not how she likes it because she's drinking hers neat. "I do my homework, Christine."


"So I see, Commander." I know better than to call her Una. "Or you simply noted it while I was in the lounge with La'an."


"Same difference." She takes a sip and closes her eyes. "I don't usually drink rye."


I decide not to try to decipher this and just drink. It's actually not very good. Barely has any spice. I guess where it's from: "Kentucky?"


"Right in one. So smart. As you love to tell us."


Wow. Okay. "I like triumphs. Especially my own."


"There's a fine line between cocky and arrogant, Chapel."


"I'll keep that in mind." I won't. This is who I am. M'Benga likes it and as a civilian from Starfleet Medical, I don't answer to the regular chain of command when it comes to my evals. Although I'm sure Pike and Number One will get to weigh in if they so desire. "Am I here to discuss my attitude?"


There is a moment of respect in her expression; I always take her by surprise when I attack head on. "No. We're here to talk about how you were one of the last ones standing."


Okay. Shit. But I don't let my expression change. "Just lucky I guess."


"Bullshit." She takes another sip but her eyes don't leave mine. "Clearly augments can slip through Starfleet protocols."


"Clearly. A bit disconcerting actually."


"I've always found it so. It was a constant dissonance not to tell someone."


"I imagine so. Since that might out you."


"Yes. But this will probably get back to them. And they will make changes. And if you're an augment and haven't owned up when I'm giving you the chance—"


"I'm not." I rattle the ice around in my glass, framing the narrative as fast as I can. You'd think I would have been prepared for this. But Roger was always so sure...


"One of my professors had a process he was working on to boost the immune system. It straddled the line between genetic therapy and augmentation. We all believed it stayed safely on the therapeutic side. But when he put in his grant request for the phase one trial, he was denied by the ethics panel."


She sits back, some of the tension falling away. This is truth and she knows it.


"We couldn't see such promising work die. There were enough of us working on it—so we became the trial."


"Ah." There's a note of deep satisfaction in her voice. I will remember this: how soothing the truth is to her.


"We eventually all moved off to different projects. He encouraged us to do...do you know what a challenge study is?"


She nods.


"I spent holidays volunteering on relief efforts during virus outbreaks instead of going home." My parents didn't understand. Our relationship suffered.


Roger, however, loved my dedication to his project.


"And you never got sick?"


I shake my head. "I didn't even bother turning my PPE on if I was alone in a ward. We were dealing with horrible diseases and I was immune—I felt...superhuman. Until..." I take a deep breath. "During my nursing training, they had a segment where as a group we were exposed to a relatively benign common cold virus. It was designed to –well, never mind what it was designed to do. The thing was: I got sick. And I mean truly sick. I was quite the baby after years of not being sick." I laugh softly then take a sip of my drink. "So I didn't know what would happen with this virus. The efficacy of the enhancements are clearly waning but I have no idea how fast. And it's not why I'm here so it doesn't matter to me, not really."


"Will it matter to your professor?"


I react before I can think better of it and she smiles gently.


"You let him change you, Christine. You risked your life for his project. Over and over, right? These challenges?"


I nod.


"Does he know it failed for the cold?"




"Did he want you here because of the novel viruses you might find while we're exploring? An extension of his trial he could never achieve without someone on this ship?"


I let my expression show how I'm feeling about why Roger wanted me on this ship. It's the same expression I would have if what she asked were true. And actually, what she's asking is true—if incompletely articulated.


She doesn't ask me anything else about that. Just gets up and refills our drinks and takes us to a less fraught conversational space.


I let my guard down. Some. And the half hour we spend getting to know each other better passes pleasantly.




I comm Roger as soon as I'm back in my quarters and have sucked down some antitox—do not want to deal with him even slightly tipsy.


He doesn't look happy and I'm pretty sure there's someone in his bed. "Christine, do you have any idea what time it is?"


Of course I do. I just don't care. But I already feel myself falling into my old patterns with him. Giving ground, making excuses before I've even made my point. "I lost track of time. You know how I get."


"Yes, we've discussed this."


Actually we haven't. I'm always on time. I don't forget appointments or special days. That's his gig. But I let him sit with his illusions, just like always.


The thing is, if I stay up to make sure that I'm only comming him once he's showered, shaved, and fed, he doesn't give a rat's ass how tired I might be going into my shift. What kind of mistakes I might make.


"What's so important you had to wake me up?"


"We had a viral event."


He perks up and points his index finger up in his "hold that thought" way. I don't watch as the walls lurch by while he leaves the bedroom and moves to his office. "Tell me," he says once he's seated.


"Well, I was immune. But...someone noticed. Someone of relevance here. Someone who understood the significance of me being immune." I'm stumbling a little over my words. I hate that I'm doing that.


"Tell me you did not inform this relevant someone of the truth."


"I can't tell you that."


He becomes very, very quiet.


"There's something else I haven't told you. When I was in nursing training, I came down with a cold."


"Why would you keep that from me?"


"The only reason you supported me being on this ship was for the project. If you knew it was potentially failing..."


"Failing?" He hates that word—he'll find a way to blame me. Make it so I failed, not his process. "Well, the others are fine."


"Not all of them. Ask Brownie about his adventure with Lyme during his camping trip." I shouldn't have said that. It's not fair to out Brown—not when he told me in confidence. Even if I'm pretty sure it's him in Roger's bed. "Ask the others. Tell them they're not the only one and I'm sure they'll open up."


He's staring at me as if he doesn't recognize me. "You wanted to get your silly little project off the ground, even if it meant lying to me."


"It's not a silly project. It's been used so far with good results." Barring Spock, of course. Why do I think he'll always be my problem child?


"It was nothing more than camouflage for my project. We agreed."


"No, Roger, we didn't." I feel something growing within me—I hope it's a spine. "I never agreed to use this crew as your next phased trial."


"You agreed that your ability to manipulate the crew's genome would be the perfect cover for accomplishing my procedure without their knowing."


"I did agree it would be. I never agreed to actually do it though. It would be criminally unethical."


He sits back, the same way Number One did when I told her the truth. But I can see it brings him no comfort. "You lied to me."


"You never supported my work beyond what it could do for you. I let you believe..."


"You're trying to make yourself sound noble, but you wanted out because you couldn't have me all to yourself." His expression is mocking. "I've told you. We're not monogamous creatures."


"And I've told you I understand that. You're free just as I am. Loving you has nothing to do with my personal ethics." I want to give him something—something to make this easier to take. "And I've got amazing data coming from my project. I've sent you the first batch. It's fascinating and I'd really appreciate notes."


"I'm afraid—especially in light of what you've told me—I don't have time to spend on your little hobby. I'll have Andrea look at it and give me the highlights."


He's choosing her on purpose. Of any of them, she's the one I hate sharing with him the most.


"She won't understand most of it." Only she will. Of course she will. Only the best and brightest get to work with Doctor Roger Korby. "Roger, I'm sorry. But the process isn't durable. Even if I wanted to give it to the crew—to do that for you—I couldn't, not knowing it's not viable long term."


He says nothing, and for once I don't feel the familiar sense of not measuring up, the need to start babbling about ways to make it up to him or ideas to fix what's gone wrong. With his fucking project. Mine is doing great.


Let him stew on that. "I need to go."


"This is so disappointing, Christine."


"I agree." I cut the channel before he can see I mean dealing with him, not the failure of his project.




I head out before he can call back, not that he's likely to unless he truly believes I might slip the leash. But when have I ever? I leave; I come back. I take lovers—but Roger is...


It sounds so pathetic to say soulmate. And surely I wouldn't be so unsure of myself around my soulmate, if such a thing even exists.


But I love him. So much.


Or do I only love what I can never really have? He gives so much and no more—to any of us. We all love him. We'd all die for him.


Are we all fools?


"Miss Chapel?"


It takes me a minute to process that someone is talking to me, that the someone is Spock, and that he's standing with a tolerantly amused—for a Vulcan—expression. "Sorry, woolgathering."


"I very much doubt that. If you were lost in thought, those thoughts were no doubt interesting."


He is so kind, without even trying. Accepting—and he seems at peace in ways I'm not used to seeing in people who've had to synthesize dual natures. "That's sweet. But really I was just having boy problems." See what he does with that.


"Perhaps you should upgrade to men. Boys can be cruel." There is something in his expression I can't read, some long ago hurt maybe?


"Or go for a woman."


"Yes, that too might be better. I believe I am headed in the same direction. May I walk with you until we get to the science lab?"


"You may." I grin at him. "I miss science labs."


"You are always welcome. I have been most impressed with both your primary project and your quick synthesis of the Illyrian virus."


I wait to see if he's going to ask why I wasn't affected, but he was stuck on the planet. He may not realize just how not affected I was. "Thank you."


"One does not thank truth."


"Well, the truth is my primary project hasn't worked out that well for you."


"This is true. You are welcome to gather more data on me when you pay a visit to the lab. I do not relish the idea of experiencing the pain I felt on Kiley 279 again."


"I'm sorry about that."


"I know failure was not your intent."


"No. Failure is bad. My advisor drilled that into me."


Spock actually frowns. "A short-sighted attitude for one of science. Failure often teaches us more than success."


"I don't disagree." Now that I've had time away from Roger, I find I vehemently don't disagree. We are nearing the lab so I stop. "I tend to be flirtatious."


"I have noticed."


I laugh at the expression on his face. So wry—but not uncomfortable. "If I ever go too far..."


"I will tell you."


"I haven't yet?"


"Not by my estimation. I...enjoy the repartee. You remind me of someone on my home planet."


"Someone you like, I hope."


"Yes, someone I enjoy spending time with." He has the look of a man talking about someone he cares for deeply. All of this expressed in Vulcan terms though—a human who wasn't so focused on the minutia of changing someone's appearance might not notice the nuances of Vulcan expression. But I do notice and I see whoever he's thinking of brings him happiness.


I don't think I've ever looked like that when I think of Roger.


"Goodnight, Miss Chapel."


"You can call me Christine."


"I will consider it." He turns and goes into the lab, leaving me with a wry look. Why can't I fall for this guy?


It's a short walk to La'an's quarters. I have to ring twice before the door opens. La'an is sitting on her bed, knees pulled up to her chest.


"Are you okay?"


She laughs and it's a bitter sound. "Shouldn't I be the one asking you that? I did knock you out."


"Yeah, well, it happens." I grin. "You weren't yourself. You don't normally knock out random crew, right? "


"Right, but you're not random."


I make a motion for her to move over and amazingly she does, adjusting so she's leaning against the wall and I can sit next to her. "Are you okay? I mean about Una."


"I don't know. She was the one person I knew would never betray me."


"She didn't betray you. She just kept a secret. One that would have taken her out of your life if she'd shared it."


"I would never have joined Starfleet if not for her. This was her dream, not mine."


"Okay, so maybe you imprinted a bit. But what if she wasn't the one who found you? The one who mentored you? What if someone else, someone who played games and had iffy ethics and made you feel small and insignificant found you?"


She starts to laugh. "We are definitely not talking about Una anymore." She leans into me, putting her head on my shoulder. I lean my head against hers, enjoying the connection. "Who is she?"




"Oh, so you do go both ways. I should definitely be worried about Spock, then." But her tone is light.


"I wouldn't do that to you. Play with your heart like that. Not if we were serious."


She pulls away and turns my face to hers, studying me in a way that with anyone else would give me the creeps. "Your mentor does that to you?" When I nod, she whispers, "I'll kill him for you."


I burst out laughing and she does too.


"And what's this not serious crap, Chapel? You think I let just anyone sit on my bed and interrupt a good wallow?"


"No, actually, I don't. Except maybe the woman who's causing the wallow. She loves you. In every way that matters, La'an, Una loves you. So she didn't tell you one little thing. Does it change anything that really counts?"


It takes her a long time to answer. Finally she whispers, "No. But I'm going to have to get used to it. You don't know what life was like for me."


"You're right. I don't. And you don't have to stop being mad tonight." I settle my hand on her leg. Somewhere between the caress of a lover and the support of a friend.


She puts hers over it. "Are you lying to me about anything that matters? Because I don't think I could stand that."


I think over what I've told her. What I can't—won't do for Roger and his goddam project. Why I'm really on this ship, which is for my project, not his. So, no lie there. But I don't want Number One telling her my secret superpower. "It's a very long story but I may sort of be umm temporarily immune to disease."


She starts to laugh.  "Uh, that's super boring. Unless that's your way of telling me you're an augment too?"


"Nope. Pure human."  More maybe about why I decided to leave Roger and the team I loved—even if it's only for a while. "I told you I wasn't free."


"I remember."


"He doesn't believe in monogamy."


"Do you?"


"Yeah, I do. Is that stupid?"


"No. And if you were mine, you'd better believe I'd slice through anyone who thought you were up for grabs."


I laugh. "If I were yours, I'd feel the same. But...I'm not."


"Right. Not yet anyway." Her expression and tone are incredibly light—she's making this easy on me. "Maybe someday we'll both be in a place where that makes sense." She tightens her grip on my hand. "I won't share you with him."


"I got that with the slicing rivals bit."


She laughs. "Good. Wouldn't want to be unclear about that." She shifts so she can lay her had across my lap. "Play with my hair?"


I'm glad to do it. Glad to lose myself in this simple pleasure.


"You may not be mine, Chapel, but I'd die for you."


"Same here, sister. Same here."