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 R.

It's in the Spaces Between That We Fall in Love

by Djinn



Part 6: How We Fixed What Was Broken and Broke What Was Whole


Between the meld with V'ger and his time at Gol, Spock feels utterly overwhelmed. Emotions pummel from one side, austerity and the near-eradication of all distraction that he has lived with as he studied resist on the other.


But there is Jim. Jim's hand on his was what made him feel as if he might be whole again. With his friend, who apparently forgives him.


Who seems to want him back.


And with his woman, who is on the ship, a doctor as she planned.


He walks to Jim's quarters. Jim wants to talk to him in private. It is like the old days, and he longs for that. Jim knows how to deal with emotions; Jim will be his guide as he rides this torrent of input from V'ger—and as he gets Christine back.


He has never forgotten her. As much as he wanted to. She and Jim, forever in his mind even if he pushed them so far back even the primary priestess could no longer find them and chide him for attachment.


He rings the chime, hears Jim say, "Come," and the door opens. He takes three steps in and then stops.


Jim is at his table. Christine is also there. The remnants of dinner are pushed to the side. Drinks—the same by the look of the amber liquid—in front of them.


They do not touch. They do not look at each other. But it is abundantly clear: they are together. And have been—this is not how new lovers look.


"Ah," he says, unsure if this was all Jim wants to show him.


"Sit down, Spock." Jim's smile is guarded. Christine does not smile at all, despite the way she greeted him when he first walked onto the bridge.


She was happy to see him, even if now she does not appear to be.


"Spock, please, sit down."


He sits.


"We have things to talk about."


"Your relationship with Christine, for example?" He will get in front of this; he will not be seen as the attacked.


"Yes." Jim's voice is gentle. He clearly does not wish to attack.


Spock feels a surge of relief. He fights back tears that V'ger prompts—when will this emotional barrage end?


"And I want to talk while you're open. Before you shut down and become the Vulcan I valued."


Christine says nothing, just sits and sips.


"Your hair."


"Is my natural color." She cocks her head, brunette hair shining when the lights over the table catch it. "Don't you like it?" She asks him the same way someone might ask if he prefers theoretical or practical physics. Interesting to know but ultimately meaningless.


"I do not." It is out before he can pull it back.


"You always did prefer blondes, Spock." Jim's voice is wry.


He is not wrong. Christine. Leila. Droxine. Zarabeth. There are no blondes on Vulcan. To him blonde hair represents the opposite. Warmth. Welcome. Intelligence tempered by love.


Christine only laughs at his statement of dislike.


He studies her for a moment, assessing and realizing she is probably more beautiful with her hair this dark color. But less approachable. Perhaps that is the intent?


"Can we move past Chris's hair?" Jim sounds amused but in a way that won't last.


Spock remembers that tone from before. "Of course."


"So, she had to tell me. What you did. The memories you stole."


"That was cowardly of me to leave that to her. And I regret the trespass—the hubris that led me to make those decisions for you. I have been told such trespasses are anathema."


"Told by whom?"


"My mentors and instructor at Gol."


Christine laughs, and the bitterness of the sound cuts him. "So it's only if Vulcans tell you it's wrong, that you believe it."


He expects Jim to shush her, to tell her to let him speak, but instead he leans forward and says, "She makes a good point. You aren't at Gol any longer. Do you still believe such a thing is trespass, now that you have embraced emotions again?"


He can tell his answer will determine if he stays on the ship. Would it be better if he did not stay? Starfleet will find him a new opportunity, perhaps one in science.


He hears her sigh and remembers the times before, her in his arms, sighing but in a happier way. He meets Jim's eyes and knows his place is at this man's side. "What I did was wrong. It will not happen again."


"Well, then that part's settled." He leans back and reaches out without looking toward Christine.


She takes his hand, their grip resting lightly on each other. Spock takes that as a worse sign than if they were clutching each other.


They are comfortable with each other and they have planned this encounter with him. To discuss his behavior toward them. As if they are parents and he the wayward child.


"Was there anything else, sir?"


"Spock, you know it's Jim in private."


"I know no such thing. I left you. I lied about my reason for going to Vulcan. I refused all your comms after my leave was approved, and I only came back because I heard V'ger's call. I did not come back for either of you."


He expects this to hurt Jim but instead he is smiling. "Yeah, you were a real son of a bitch. But I missed you. And I hated my job on Earth." He lifts Christine's hand to his lips and kisses it. "She's the only thing that kept me sane."


"And now he has the ship back. And all of us." Christine's voice is not as gentle as Jim's. "You are part of that."


"Do you wish I was not, Christine?"


She meets his eyes, hers hard. Angel had seen something in her so long ago that Spock never had except in their hardest moments.


Now he sees it is her steady state. Except, that is, when she turns to look at Jim and smiles. Her softness returns. "No, he wants you back, so I'm fine with it."


Jim smiles and looks up at him the way he used to at old adversaries. "Will you stay? Understanding that, for us, this is a trial period?"


"A trial period?"


"I don't know if you're the same Spock I knew."


"You have just indicated you did not like that Spock."


"Oh, no, I liked that Spock. I fucking loved that Spock. I just didn't like that he stole my memories and lacked the balls to tell me about it." He lets go of her and walks to him, gets closer than Spock would normally want anyone. "Do you know why I'm going to let it go?"


"I do not."


He takes his arms and squeezes, his smile gentle. "Because you did it out of love. Not malice."


"I did." The emotions are surging up—are his eyes wet again? "So I am welcome?"


"You are very welcome." He lets him go and smiles the way he used to. "Go get some rest."


Spock glances at Christine, who is watching them as if they are a lab experiment she is pleased with the results of. "Will you tell me to stay away from her?"


"Do I need to? Besides, it'll be like before. Only it's my quarters she'll be coming back to when the night is over."


"Seriously, Jim?" She is laughing, and it is the first time Spock can see his old Christine in this new version that belongs to his friend.


Jim walks to her, standing behind her, his hands on her shoulders and she reaches up to hold them, then tilts her head back so he can kiss her.


Spock's fists are clenched before he can stop himself. He forces his hands to relax before Jim looks back up. "I wish you both a good night then."


Jim smiles gently at him. "It's good to have you back."




Spock is in sickbay getting his final check from the meld with V'ger.


"Well, Spock, your hormones and neurotransmitters are finally Vulcan normal." McCoy is grinning broadly


He knows he is frowning.


"Something wrong with that? Thought you were tired of the horrible human emotions assailing you?"


"I was. I am." He gets up and nods. "Thank you, Doctor."


"Anytime, Spock." McCoy heads back to his office.


Seeing Christine in hers, Spock goes to the door. If he is free of the emotions V'ger flooded him with, then he should feel nothing when he talks to her.


She looks up, her expression cautious.


"May I sit?"


"Yeah. Of course." She pushes the padd she was working on to the side. "I didn't expect you to be here—on the ship, I mean. Not in sickbay."


"I did not expect to be here either. And when I came—though I probably did not show it—it was surprising to see you here."


"I bet. And maybe not a happy surprise. Well, Jim wasn't supposed to be on the ship, but he is, and I know we're both happy about that."


"Indeed." He studies her, the way she looks now with dark hair. Her skin looks paler, her eyes bluer.


"Are you still stuck on the hair?"


"Am I that obvious?"


"I know you, Spock."


"The brunette is growing on me. I think—I think preferring blondes was part of a rebellion, away from Vulcan."


"So you're over that?"


"I was on my way to being initiated into the highest order of the Kolinahr. Few apply and even fewer make it through the training. I now have no reason to consider myself any less a Vulcan because I am also human."


She smiles, and it is the first real smile she has given him since her hello when he first arrived. "You sound at peace."


He nods. "And Doctor McCoy has declared me free of V'ger's influence. So it is a peace of my own." He leans in. "I regret all that happened between us."




"No, of course not all."


She smiles again, her beautiful smile. "Just the bad parts, huh?"


He nods. "I am—I am sorry for taking your pain."


She nods, her face accepting and weary. "Could you give it back to me if I wanted?"


"I do not know. But if you want me to, I will try." He does not look away. He is sincere. If this is what she wants, he will attempt it.


"It's gone. I didn't ask for it to be gone—and if you'd asked me if I wanted it gone, I'd have said no. But I actually don't see the logic of putting it back just to prove a point. It hurts that you took it. It would just add to that hurt to put it back. There are no do overs in life."


"I agree." He can see she is about to tell him that she has work to do, so he asks, "You and Jim have been together long?"


He sees something in her face, something not altogether happy.


"I think I'd rather not talk about me and Jim to you."


"Of course."


She is looking down. She does that when she is hiding pain. "He and I are happy now."


He considers the way she has phrased that. She does not speak without purpose. She does not like to lie any more than he does. "Now."


She looks up and their eyes lock.


"Decker was to be captain. You were to be his chief medical officer."




"Jim was to stay on Earth. Where he was unhappy if I understood him last night. He said you were the one thing that kept him sane."


"Spock, please stop dissecting this." She has a hurt in her eyes that for once, he did not cause.


He decides to do as she asks. "I beg pardon if I was overly intrusive. I want you to feel you can trust me. And to know that I hold no ill will toward you. I would like to be friends, if we can do that."


"Can we just start with friendly associates?" Then she mumbles, "Who used to be lovers." She looks up at him, through the dark fringe of her hair, and she looks the way she did whenever he paid her a compliment in the early days. The shy, pleased smile.


"You know I heard that."


She nods.


"I will pretend I did not."


"Thank you."




Spock sits with McCoy in the lounge as Christine and Jim dance.


"Guess you know how I used to feel watching you with her, my friend." McCoy is watching Christine without a trace of desire. "Fortunately, I got over my unfortunate infatuation." He takes a long sip of his drink. "Did you, Spock?"


"We parted by mutual accord."


"Not what I asked."


"How soon after I left did they...?"


"Spock, I have no earthly idea how they happened. I was in Georgia. Happily retired."


"But surely you spent time with him—you are friends."


"We sure are. But after you left, I had to go and run my mouth about a desk job being the death of him. Which it was from what little I can get out of him or Christine." He turns to watch them. "I wish I could tell you more but I was as absent a figure in Jim's life as you were."




"Goddamned pathetic is more like it. How'd we all end up tearing off in different directions? We were a hell of a team, the three of us." He leans back, shaking his head. He is at the stage where his bourbon is making him as morose as it is talkative. "I regret how I acted. But I liked being on the ship. I didn't want to go back to Starfleet Medical."


"I understand."


"So this Gol place. They really make you purge your emotions?"


"They do not make you. Those who study there seek that out for themselves. To dedicate themselves to pure logic."


"Sounds like pure hell to me. What's life without love?"


"I will treat that as a rhetorical question." But he glances over at Christine. He should be happy for her, for the way she seems with Jim, the obvious connection they have. Dancing, the way she wanted to do with him, but he does not dance.


"You're watching her like a man still very much in love, Spock."


"She and I are over, Doctor."


"She loved you first, Spock. I certainly found that out the hard way."


"Yes, but I do not know that she loves me best. She and Jim seem highly compatible.


"I'm not saying to go cut in. I'm just saying it's okay if you love her. Eventually she wears off. Just give it time."


He has come close to purging all emotion and still he cannot help but watch her.


He does not think time will help.




He is sitting with Jim, playing chess. Jim is distracted and it is because Christine keeps coming up and showing him options for where they could go during their upcoming leave.


He has decided that if there was any sadness in Christine regarding Jim, it is long over and possibly not even there—something he wanted to see because he hoped she and his best friend are as loosely connected as she and McCoy were.


But they are not simply friends who have sex. They are partners.


"This one?" she hands him the padd and leans down as she stands behind him, snaking her arms around his neck, resting her chin on his shoulder.


"This one." He kisses her quickly then says, "Now go before Spock kills me. I'm trying to protect my king."


"God forbid I stand in the way of that." She laughs and says, "I'm booking it now" as she walks away to join Nyota and Sulu.


"I know I have not said this, Jim. But I am happy that you and she found each other."


"You practically pushed us together, Spock. Between your suspicion and then not telling me about what you did—leaving it to her to do it." He shakes his head. "For what it's worth, I didn't seek her out until after I understood what Gol meant—what you were doing."


"You are an honorable man. I believe you."


"You lucked out—not seeing me on Earth. I was...well, intolerable comes to mind. Angry. Drinking too much. Missing the ship. Missing you and McCoy." He meets his eyes. "McCoy wasn't around either."


"He told me. He regrets that."


"I know." He shakes his head. "I don't know why she's with me, Spock. The closer she got to leaving, the more of an ass I became. I was so angry that I was going to lose her too. Which is ridiculous. I supported her choice to take the CMO offer. I actually pushed her a little to take it. And then, later, I resented the hell out of her for it."


He leans back, play forgotten but Spock does not call him on it. He wants to hear this.


"We were over by the time she reported for duty. We hadn't bothered to actually break up but we both knew it. But then V'ger came and I saw my chance. The ship could be mine again. And Chris too."


"And you reconciled?"


"We did. We're really good here."


"It does appear so."


"I just...I just don't know what the future holds. Captains can only go on so long before the brass pulls them in or they retire. She's just starting her life as a doctor."


He can feel his friend is sincerely worried about this. "You know she first reported to the ship as a civilian. She had no interest in Starfleet until she needed it. I imagine she would leave it with as much alacrity if she wished to be with you. And her options are boundless—practical or research medical organizations will both want her.


Jim's smile is so open, so happy. Spock realizes it's the first time he's given him this special expression, the smile that says he trusts him, that he...loves him. "You're a good friend."


"I have not perhaps been. I know the missteps I made were grave."


"They're in the past." He sounds sure.


Spock realizes he has been forgiven.


But he also realizes that Jim and Christine's seemingly perfect unity was threatened. It explains the pain he saw in her.


Does she too fear the future when Jim returns to Starfleet Command?




Spock is scanning surrounding space, looking for the ship that has been caught in what seem to be distortion eddies. Short swirls of energy that disrupt their sensors as the ship blinks in and out of existence.


Finally it seems stable and Spock says, "Ship located. Sending coordinates to transporter room."


"You're with me, Spock. Chris is meeting us for beam out."


They hurry. There are fifteen emergency operations crew on the small emergency transport ship and twenty-seven sick and injured refugees they liberated from a conflict going on in an outer Federation world.


They arrive at the transporter room and Christine is waiting on the pad. In the spot Jim habitually uses, a carryall holds what Spock knows to be engine parts the transport needs for repairs. Jim picks it up and says, "Ready, Mister Aviid."


"This may be a bumpy ride, sir."


"Just get us over there in one piece and I won't complain." Jim grins at him and Aviid stands taller—Spock envies him that gift, how good he makes people feel serving under him.


"Aye, sir."


They land on a ship that is bucking beneath their feet and they don't land completely vertically. He fights to keep his balance and sees Jim grab Christine to keep her upright.


"Kirk to Enterprise. We made it in one piece. But keep this channel open. The ship is experiencing some kind of turbulence."


A marine major is waiting for them on the ship. He wears the emergency ops insignia. "Sirs, this way. This part of the ship phases first."


They hurry to get off the pad and follow him to the engine rooms.


There are people huddled throughout the room. Christine goes to them immediately, pulling out scanner and regenerator and getting to work.


Suddenly the turbulence stops.


"Shit," the marine says as the commander working on the engine says, "We're in phase again."


"Kirk to Enterprise."


There is no response.


"They cannot hear us, sir. We have disappeared from sensors." Spock is looking up at the view screen: the Enterprise has disappeared from theirs as well.


"The intervals are coming faster and getting longer, sirs," the commander says as he keeps working on the engines. "And our location is increasingly variable when we reemerge."


Spock has noted this also.


He goes to help the commander, who has stopped and is staring into the console with a look of defeat.


He sees that while the new parts were fitted in appropriately, they appear to be in the same condition as the rest of the console. "The phasing is impacting ship's systems."


"Yes, sir. We've lost transporters and navigation. Comms are gone other than from our personal communicators. I've diverted most power to life support."


"We'll have to beam you all out." Jim opens his communicator and stares up at the screen, clearly waiting for the ship to appear.


When it does, it is farther away and in a different location than Spock expects.


"Kirk to Enterprise."


"Scott here, sir."


Spock long ago decided it is never a good sign when Mister Scott takes over the transporter on a routine rescue mission.


"We're having a devil of a time tracking you."


"We need to beam these people up."


"I can barely read you, sir. Transporters have a fix but only strong enough to beam a single person up at a time."


"Scotty, there are forty-five of us here."


"I can beam more but not all of them will get here."


Jim sighs. "Understood. Have medical teams standing by."


"Aye, sir. We need to start beaming now. The ship is getting more difficult to track."


Jim gestures for Spock to come with him and they go to Christine. "You heard?"


"We all heard."


Spock looks at the people staring up at him.


"Pick the one who needs to go first."


"The woman in the red jacket." She is moving on to another patient.


They help the woman to an outside corridor and Jim tells Scott to beam her up.


She disappears and the ship phases out again almost as soon as she is gone. The cessation of turbulence is both welcome to his vestibular system and daunting since he knows they are invisible again to the Enterprise.


They return to the engineering room and Christine tells them to get a man in a black coat ready. The phase takes longer. When they appear again, the Enterprise is merely a speck on the viewscreen.


"Kirk to Enterprise."


The ship gets bigger as Scott tracks them, but Spock does the calculations in his head for the rate the phase is increasing in both frequency and duration. The change in location and how it will likely grow. He does not know the limit of the distortion field's range. Will the ship eventually be moved to a place where the phasing stops? And how far away and in what direction will it be by then?


Christine has joined them, and she looks at Jim and him without saying a word. Jim, too is somber. They have both apparently done the math—not to the level he has, but they are too intelligent to not see the problem.


"How soon will we be out of communicator range." Jim keeps his voice low.


"I estimate we can get sixteen more people off the ship before we lose contact and it becomes..."


"A wild goose chase." Jim is, as he so often is, on the same wavelength. "With no way to contact the ship until we get close enough—and if we're going the wrong way..."


"That's twenty-eight people who you might never find," Christine says softly. "With diminishing power to sustain life support."


"Yes." Spock meets her eyes. There is a way to track them—or more specifically her. But he will not be the one to suggest it.


But she is laughing as she gives him a knowing look. Albeit a very hysterical laugh, but still, she is smiling. "You called it. All those fucking years ago."


"I am not suggesting it."


"But it's the right thing to do. If it were just me, then no. I don't want it. But for these people...? What is that saying you have?"


He nods for he also has been thinking of that saying: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one."


"That's it. This surely fits."


Jim is watching them initially in confusion, then Spock sees him catch on. "You could find her from a bond?"


"I believe I could. But it will require an opening of...old feelings and less old wounds. The emotion must be powerful."


"Would it work with me instead of her? We both know she never wanted this."


"I know, Jim. And I am truly uncertain. There are bonds of many kinds that a pure Vulcan can initiate. With family. Close associates. But I have limited familiarity with those types. And the bonds I did have—that were placed by T'Pau or my father—were burned off in the training for the Kolinahr final ritual. I have no mental blueprint for a bond other than a romantic one, which I do know how to do." He looks at both of them. "I assure you, once we are on the ship, I will try to break it. And if I cannot, I will shield Christine from my mind. This does not have to mean anything for your future."


"Except for during the Pon Farr." Jim murmurs.


"Not necessarily. She will experience little of it if I leave for Vulcan in enough time to avoid opening up to her fully. The distance will mitigate the effect on her as the burning happens. And for me, there are alternatives there to care for unbonded individuals or bonded ones whose mates are too far away to return."


"We're good to go," the marine shouted and he escorted the man in the black coat to the hallway.


"Chris, this is your choice."


"There is no choice. I took an oath to help people. The man with the yellow shoes should go next, and then the woman in the pink dress." She grabs Spock's hand. "Come on."


They find a corridor near engineering and lean against the wall facing each other.


'I am deeply sorry, Christine. I know you do not want this."


"Just do it."


"The emotion I mentioned...we must be open to each other"


"Fuck it," she says as she pulls him to her. Their kiss is full of everything that was right between them, and everything that was wrong too.


He puts his fingers on her meld points, feels her mind opening to his the way it did when they melded during sex. She has no reservations. She knows why she is doing this. She will live with the consequences because it is the right thing to do.


He has never loved her more.


He begins the bond, and unlike with T'Pring, Christine does not have to say the words, it is more as if she is drawn after him, an echo of her voice as he speaks the bonding, as the connection goes from a spark of light to an intense blaze.


They both sink to the floor, breathing hard, and he can barely tell where she starts and he ends.


It was not like this with T'Pring. This feels more like how it was when Christine and he had shared consciousness. No barriers.


He is suddenly unsure if he can shield her once they are back on the ship—she is everywhere. Everything.


"Christine," he says, reaching for her hand and she squeezes his tightly as she says, "I know. I feel it too."


She is looking at him, her eyes unfocused, then she stands and pulls him up. "This is so much. I thought it would be like a flashlight in the forest. But it's like a whole forest fire from space. I could find us with this in play."


He laughs. "Yes, I think perhaps you could."


But it is not amusing, and he should not laugh. This will be hurting Jim, even if he too will not question its need.


"Go." She pushes him and they run back to engineering. Jim is leading out the woman in the pink dress as they turn the corner.


"Spock, I need you on the ship or what you've done will be for nothing. Chris, can he go before Mrs. Amiret here?" Jim sounds as if nothing has happened. As if his woman has not just—perhaps irreversibly—bonded with her ex-lover.


His admiration of his friend has never been greater either.




Spock moves to the spot and nods at both of them.


"Kirk to Enterprise. Go."


The transporter takes him and Spock rushes to the sensor at the transporter, routing the information he needs to the station.


"We're going to be out of communicator range soon, Mister Spock."


"I know. But we will still find them." He can feel her and she is correct: it is as if he is in the old Earth space station, watching as an immense forest fire travels across the planet.


"Kirk to Spock. Do you have her?"


"I do, sir."


"Let's hope that continues. And for the record, I'm not leaving her until everyone else is off. I know she has to be the last one off, but she won't be alone long."


"Understood, Jim."


Twenty hours later, Jim beams over. He stands behind Spock and Scott.


"I don't know how Mister Spock is doing it, sir, but he's never lost you once."


"But you did, Scotty?"


"Oh, aye. I'm afraid if it was up to me, we'd have lost you quite early."


"Then this was necessary," Jim says with what sounds like relief as he moves around to stand next to Spock. "Let's get our doctor home, gentlemen." He looks at Spock, his expression unreadable.


"I will not intrude," he says softly.


"Later. Just bring her home."




Christine is busy in sickbay, helping McCoy with the influx of patients they've brought in.


Spock sits on the bridge, the sensation of her pulsing at him, and listens as Jim discusses with Starfleet what to do with the transport. They finally decide to destroy it and the Enterprise will stay in the area to map the eddies so warning buoys can be put up for future traffic in this area—or they will launch drones that will follow the disturbance if it ends up not being fixed in location.


Spock is working so hard to shield Christine from what he is feeling that he is almost too distracted to work. He pretends to be studying the readings, but he is instead meditating—or trying to.


He hears Jim coming, his familiar beloved step, then Jim puts his hand over where Spock has clenched the edge of his station—when did he do that? "Do you need to be near her?" he asks so softly only Spock can hear him.


He shakes his head.


"Spock, your captain has asked you, not your friend."




"Is she similarly distracted?"


"I do not know. I am shielding her. But it would be easier to do if I were near her. It is not logical but it is, I think, true."


Jim turns and says, "Mister Bariola, take the science station." He whispers to Spock, "Go."


He does not wait. The lift seems to take forever to arrive, then forever to arrive at the deck, for the doors to open, for him to hurry down to sickbay.


He stops before he gets there, composing himself, pulling in on the bond as much as he can to shield her. But even doing that, he is feeling better because he is physically closer to her location.


She walks out and turns to him, seemingly without effort. "I felt you just now."


"Have I distracted you?"


"A little. Not badly." She walks up to him and scans him.


He stares at her hands as they move around him; she has such beautiful long fingers.


"Oh, Spock. Whatever you're doing isn't good for you."


"I am trying to prevent this bond from distracting you and endangering patients."


She takes him by the arm and eases him down the corridor, away from sickbay, to a briefing room that is not in use. As the doors close, she pulls him into a hug, the kind of hug that started this.


And he lets go, of his physical rigidity, clutching her to him the same way he did all those years ago. And of his mental distance, feeling her flood into him like diverted water back to a parched desert.


He is shaking violently. "It will not always be like this. It fades. But..."




"But it was never this strong with T'Pring. I do not know if it is because we shared consciousness or if it is because I love you."


"Maybe both. Shouldn't it be past tense though: loved?"


"You can feel that is untrue."


"But for Jim's sake. Shouldn't it be loved?"


He buries his head in her hair. "Yes. Yes, it should be. I do not love you, Christine."


"And I do not love you," she whispers, even as the regard he thought he would never again feel from her surges against him in the most comforting way.


"I am so sorry, Christine. I know this is not what you wanted." He pulls away enough to look her in the eye. "If I were to die..."


"Hey, no. No with the dying talk." She puts her hands on either side of his face and shakes him gently. "We will figure this out. I know why I did it. I'm actually glad it was an option because I would never have left those people, and we would all have died without the bond to lead you to us, wouldn't we?"


He nods.


"And Jim wouldn't have left me. So he'd be gone too. So no, you do not apologize. You did not in any way force this on me. It was my choice."


He touches her cheek. He wants to kiss her—needs to.


But he lets her go. He backs away. "I believe proximity is needed. If I could work from the spare office, I think I can minimize the distraction to you and maximize my own potential to work on mapping the disturbance. If it will not bother you to have me near?"


She scans him again. "Even if it did, it's medically necessary. Look, mostly normal now."


She is medically necessary to him at this moment. He is not indulging his own selfish desires—and hurting Jim—by being here.


He finds great relief in that as he settles into the spare office. A moment later, he hears the familiar footsteps of McCoy.


"She tells me you're here for a reason she can't go into right now."


"Please do not pry, Doctor. I am sure she will tell you in time."


"Or you will. Or will it be Jim who tells me?"


As always, McCoy is irritatingly perceptive. "Whoever tells you, Doctor, it will not be until they are ready."


He throws up his hands. "Fair enough. Just wondering why you're loitering in sickbay when you have a perfectly good station on the bridge."


"As I have also wondered about your constant presence on the bridge."


"Ah, there's the Spock I know and love. Guess whatever it is that's happened, your sarcasm is unaffected."




Spock sits across from Jim, Christine between them. They are in Jim's quarters and the two of them are again drinking what he has deemed is scotch.


"Okay, so we're logical people." Jim swirls the liquid in his glass, staring down into it as if it holds the answer to all. "How do we work this?"


"First, I should try to break the bond." Even if everything in him screams not to. "The newer the bond, the easier to break."


"Will it hurt her?" Jim hurries to add, "Or you?" I'm sorry, Spock. I'm a little...thrown."


"We all are." She touches Jim's hand, lets her hand settle and Spock cannot help but fixate on that. Until she slouches down so her face is near their hands. "Earth to Spock."


He refocuses. "If it works, it should not hurt. It did not hurt when T'Pring and I did this."


But he has told her this is not like the bond with T'Pring and by the way her lips narrow, he can tell she is remembering that.


"Then try," Jim says.


Spock moves his chair over and she pulls hers out so she can face him. He touches the meld points and is instantly in her mind, enveloped in her, drowning—but not unpleasantly—in her.


He hears her moan then the sound of Jim taking a deep swallow from his drink.


Then he is moving, deeper into her mind, looking for the connection, the spark that is their bond.


But there is no spark, there is a conflagration. He can no more extinguish this than a person with a fire extinguisher could put out a forest fire.


Christine? he does not know if mind-to-mind talk will work, is not particularly skilled at it.


Spock?" he gets from her but nothing more.


He is aggressively aware of her all around him and he could speak if he did not wish to spare Jim what he is thinking: that whatever Sargon did to them to allow him to reside in her mind when Henoch destroyed the vessel, it changed them. Or perhaps just her, as the host.


But he cannot break this. He gently disengages the meld.


She meets his eyes and he sees she already knows.


"No luck?" Jim sounds profoundly disappointed.


"I believe that Sargon may have had to modify her mind—or perhaps both of ours—to effect the sharing of consciousness." He looks at her. "It is as if he made your mind the perfect home for my katra."


"So we didn't end up switching places like you did with T'Pring. Because whoever was in that vessel was going to die. So he made it so we would share the spot."


"Precisely." It is intriguing to think that Sargon took a basic Vulcan ability to share katras that way and modified it. It is also embarrassing to remember his and T'Pring's lack of control, so he moves on. "I will be able to shield the further away in time we get from this moment. But, for now, my efficiency will be impacted if I do not spend time with Christine."


"What kind of time?" Jim sounds as if he suspects it is sexual time.


"Any time, Jim. Just being near her is soothing, but conversation if it is just the two of us worked today. And the effect is at its strongest now. We did not need romance or sex earlier for me to regain control, so I see no reason it would be required as the intensity abates and I learn to shield us from each other."


For the first time Jim smiles, a genuine smile. "So, you're not going to steal her from me?" He reaches over for her but appears to realize Spock is watching where his hand goes very intently. "Although you seem to want to right now."


"It is dissonance at its most basic, Jim. The part of my mind that controls the bond believes she is mine. My intellect understands that she is not. My emotions are unfortunately also engaged and feelings have resurfaced as I said they must for the bond to be strong enough for me to find her. It is a war inside me but perhaps fortunately, I am accustomed to this being a steady state." He lets himself smile slightly at Jim. "I will do my best to not trespass. But I do not know what will happen if she is intimate with you before I have learned to control this."


"You're saying I can't have sex with the woman I love?"


"I am, Jim. You saw what I became when deep in the blood fever. I do not know if that would happen. And it will not be for long. I will work diligently to block my sensation of her mind. Of her emotions and desires."


Jim sighs and nods. "Fine, no sex, darling." He gets up and walks to the viewscreen.


She glares at him. "Are you going to go cave-Vulcan on us if I walk over to comfort him?"


He shrugs helplessly. "Perhaps I should go. I think not knowing what is happening will be a large step toward not caring about it."


"Good thought. Bye."


He tries to send her the regret he feels, how he knows he's made this unbearably awkward for her.


She looks up at him in surprise.


"You felt that?" he mouths so Jim won't know what's happening.


She nods, and her look is not a happy one.


He speaks aloud this time, "I will research shielding techniques. Some may be things you can do from your end to block me. Give you power in this."


"Thank you." She gestures to the door. "Now, git."


He stands and looks at Jim, his back resolutely turned as he sips his drink. "Goodnight, Jim."


"Goodnight, Spock."




They settle into a strange new normal. He is in his quarters researching intervention techniques. Jim has him slotted as on a special project for three days so he can fully focus. He occasionally calls Christine to him to try a new meditation he has found or he goes to sickbay to get his dose of being close to her.


He is more successful at blocking himself from her than he is at blocking her from him. But if the control has to be one way, this is the better one for her and for Jim.


He is finally able to tell Jim to take her to his bed without worry and that night sits in his quarters after dinner, waiting.


He has done enough to keep her mundane emotions and reactions away so he does not feel when they start to make love. But when she climaxes, he falls to his knees, breathing hard, murmuring, "I am in control. I am in control."


It is all he can do not to storm across the corridor to Jim's quarters and claim her. He finally goes in the bathroom, sits in the shower fully clothed, and lets cold water pelt him until his allotment for the month is expired.


By the time he puts his uniform in the refresher and pulls on dry sleep clothes, he has regained control and his hands no longer tremble.


"She is not mine. We bonded for logic's sake. She is not mine. She is my friend's woman. She is my friend's woman."


It becomes his new mantra: she is my friend's woman.


Until he can almost pretend he believes it.




Months go by, and he falls into a routine. When he sees Jim and Christine look at each other in a certain way, he goes to his quarters and begins the meditation that will take him deep into his own mind.


It does not block out her orgasm, but it does prevent him from feeling so deeply when they happen. He is not so fortunate when Jim and Christine rush off for what she calls "quickies" and he hasn't the heart to tell them what they do to him.


He feels the snap of her pleasure, but he knows his crewmates on the bridge have no idea of what is going on inside him. He has mastered himself more completely through this than he did through the Kolinahr. And this time it is not because he is running away, it is out of regard and care, out of wanting to protect what his friend and the woman they both love have together.


He imagines some might say there is a sort of karma to this, but he does not believe in such things. He does however believe in the path of action and reaction, action and consequence. And that he has a choice in how he deals with what life has served him.


The irony—that it is only now that he does not have Christine that she willingly bonded with him—does not escape him.


For her part, she is careful with him. Not guarded, but trying to prevent harm to him. The sweet smile he remembers is back, as is the gentle teasing he missed so much once it was gone. She never speaks of the bond, but it is to spare him, he thinks.


To spare them both. Because when he is close enough to her, he can feel her love. And he imagines she can feel his.


Jim often sends her on landing parties that he is in charge of when Spock does not come or ones that Spock leads alone. When both of them are on the mission, he includes McCoy instead. Spock appreciates the trust but he does not understand why he has not included her on several missions where she would have been the more appropriate subject matter expert.


One night, when they are playing chess, he asks Jim about it.


"You don't even see it, do you?" Jim smiles in such a rueful way Spock is concerned.


"Have I acted improperly?"


"No, Spock." He stops the game clock. "I trust you. I trust you both. It's why I send her down with your landing parties."


"Thank you, Jim. For your trust."


"It's not completely selfless. I know she's potentially safer with you than anyone. Even me. You'll die for her and you can find her if she's hurt or taken."


Spock concurs with a nod.


"And obviously I like to have her to myself on my own landing parties." He grins in what McCoy calls his "so sue me" expression.


"But when we are together. That is when I do not see something...?"


"She takes a sip of a too-hot beverage, and you both flinch. You trip and she makes a grunt. When she and I are alone, and she does some weird thing, I can pretend it's just her, just how she is. But when I see you both doing it..." He takes a deep breath and lets it out. "I don't like being reminded that you're in her head. And vice versa." He shrugs. "It's petty, I know."


"It is not. It is understandable. This is difficult for both of us." But not for her, he hopes. He is trying his best to keep her shielded from him. He cannot stop the unexpected things, such as an injury or misstep. But he no longer masturbates. He does not wish for her to feel his climax, to realize if she can feel his, he can feel hers. He does not want to come between her and Jim any more than he already has.


He realizes Jim is speaking. "I apologize. I was distracted."


Jim hits the game clock. "Good. Maybe it'll affect your play. And I was saying that your father asked that we rendezvous with the Symmetry tomorrow. No explanation other than Starfleet Command approved the request. Do you know what he wants?"


"I do not."


"Are you two talking now?"


"Not as such. He did not approve of my choice to go to Gol. He felt I was going from one extreme to another."


"He was right."


"Yes, in this case, he probably was. I will not, however, tell him that when I next see him."


"I believe it'll be in about twelve hours. He's on the Symmetry."


Spock lifts an eyebrow; he has no idea what his father is doing. "Most curious."




Spock sits in the briefing room with Jim as his father lays out what Vulcan intelligence has found.


Hellguard. A planet used by the Romulans to run experiments on Vulcans. No doubt to see the differences over time between their two peoples, perhaps in order to infiltrate Starfleet.


The place was abandoned by the Romulans over a year ago but the captured Vulcans who still survived and the offspring—many of them half Romulan—were left behind. The Symmetry is a small medical relief ship. It has enough room to render care for those who need it but not to carry all these people back to Vulcan for assessment.


Assessment both medical and of temperament. Some may end up at Ankeshtan K'Til, and the new director of that institute sits next to Sarek.


She does not avoid his or Jim's eyes, despite what she put them through. T'Pring apparently thrives on Vulcan, does not molder as Stonn's property as the old ways might have required.


His father has explained how they will work together and now he looks at Spock. "My son, your expression would indicate you have an objection."


"I question the ethics of subjecting individuals—especially children—who have undergone torture to conform immediately to Vulcan norms."


"Would you rather they be outliers all their lives?" T'Pring asks. "Time on Ankeshtan K'Til is not solely for those who have lost their way. There are Vulcans who enter the programs of their own accord. To grow."


He wants to ask her if that is how Sybok ended up in her care, but he has never told her or his father that he knows Xaverius is his brother. Not after he made discreet inquiries and found he had been moved to a separate facility, location unknown.


What had his brother done to deserve this?


"Children will not thrive in such a place," he finally says. "Surely there are more suitable locations to reeducate them."


"Not re-educate, Spock." His father's voice is the one of old, when he thought Spock had not been paying sufficient attention and was irritated but would never admit it. "Educate. They were given none as far as the scout team could tell."


"I understand that. But remedial learning is a skill all cultures should be ready to employ."


"Their age is not in sync with their educational levels." T'Pring's voice is stern, as if he lacks basic intelligence. "They do not speak Vulcan in some cases. And their capacity for violence is that of a Romulan child. They cannot be integrated into existing classes."


"I am not suggesting they be integrated. I am suggesting you create a special class for them."


"Which we will do. At Ankeshtan K'Til. Each of them will be educated at the level and speed appropriate to the individual." She looks at Sarek, who is suddenly very busy with something on his padd.


Perhaps his father is not pleased to be working with the women who humiliated his son? It would be novel to feel he came first with his father.


Jim says, in the voice that brooks no argument, "Federation leadership has asked us to medically vet each individual once they are on the ship."


T'Pring cocks her head, the way she used to just before delivering a withering retort. "And will Nurse Chapel be assisting in those? It has been so long since we have talked."


"Doctor Chapel will be, yes. Doctor McCoy will be leading the effort."


T'Pring looks at Spock. "I would like to inspect the rooms where they will be housed. You can show them to me, Spock." She has not phrased it as a question.


"You don't want the man you tricked into being your champion to do it?" Jim's voice is hard. "Don't ask for any favors while you're here. You won't get them."


"How human of you to hold a grudge."


Jim smiles in his version of the "gotcha" retort. "I would think you are the human one—planning your revenge for all those years."


She has no answer for that. Spock nearly smiles.


"Let's just get there and help those people. Spock, show T'Pring the rooms." He looks at her. "You'll find we've removed anything that can be used as a weapon."


"I doubt, Captain, that you could imagine what a child might turn into a weapon."


"Spend time on Tarsus IV during a famine and subsequent massacre and then tell me that. I think you might find I'm quite creative in making weapons out of nothing." His voice is as hard as Spock has ever heard it.


T'Pring actually nods her head in what, for her, is acceptance of his truth. "My apologies."


Jim stands. "Ambassador, I have a coded message from Starfleet Command for you. Shall we leave these two and find a suitably secure location for you to read it?"


Sarek stands. "As you say. Spock, T'Pring, our goal is working together. Your history is irrelevant."


She looks up at him as if she cannot imagine what he is talking about. "Of course."


Spock merely inclines his head. With a last look at them, Sarek leaves with Jim.


"So you failed at Gol." Her expression is amused.


"Is that what you were told?"


"I surmised."


"You surmised incorrectly. I was on the verge of being inducted into the community when I left. I did not fail."


"My error." She stands. "And now you are here with Chapel again."


"My relationship—or lack thereof—with Doctor Chapel is none of your business."


"As she was the thing that drove us apart, I disagree. But please, let us inspect the quarters so I may return to a Vulcan ship."


"Yes. I would not want you to be contaminated by other species. It might actually open your mind."


She turns, her look almost an angry one. "I was the epitome of open minded when we were young, Spock. What did it get me?"


"A high-ranking position at an esteemed correctional facility. A Vulcan of sufficient means to keep you comfortable and in the public eye, who possibly still cares for you. And the good will—or if not good, then neutral will—of my father, who is willing to work with you despite the way you brought dishonor on our house. Have I missed anything?"


"I have three children. Two boys and a girl." Her face actually softens.


He is tired of fighting. "Congratulations. I mean that sincerely."


"You and she have no children?" This time her tone is conversational, not combative.


"T'Pring, she and I are not in a relationship. We were, briefly, before I went to Gol. But we are not now."


"Ah, your captain's immediate correction suddenly makes sense. So another woman has chosen your friend over you." Her eyes are almost dancing, the way they used to. "Your success rate in relationships is most dismal, Spock."




"We have found something we agree on. How pleasant."




Spock watches as Christine nearly effortlessly manages to never be in the same spot as T'Pring as they prepare to beam down. He can tell it is frustrating T'Pring, who no doubt has conversational grenades prepared.


Once on the planet, McCoy and Christine join the Vulcan healers assessing the adults and the smallest children.


There are four older children who are proving more difficult to round up. The oldest appears to have some status among the children.


"Her father was the man who ran this place," Sarek murmurs. "She speaks both Vulcan and Romulan fluently. She also appears to understand Standard."


"She appears in better shape as well. Why take the time to care for her and educate her to such an extent unless...?"


"My thoughts exactly, my son. She may have been planted for us to find."


"It will not matter as she will come with me," T'Pring says.


"No, she will not," Sarek says. "Starfleet Command and the Federation Council have given me specific instructions on this matter. She will stay on the Enterprise for further assessment. As will any others we deem suspicious."


"There is no logic in that."


"Whether I agree with you or not is irrelevant. Their orders supersede yours."


"Well," T'Pring says with a verbal sneer, "You will have to catch her first." She walks away.


"She does appear to be quite fleet of foot," Sarek says, his voice the tiniest bit hopeless as yet another member of the team fails to catch her.


Christine comes out of the tent and she and T'Pring finally cross paths. Christine does not smile but she seems to be politely conversing with her, then she leaves her and walks over to where he stands with his father. "I haven't said hello, sir."


"There has not been time, Doctor. It is a pleasure to see you again."


She smiles at him, her manner genuine and informal, and for a moment Spock sees how it might have been if she was his. How she might enhance his own relationship with his father.


But she is not with him so this is nothing more than an indulgence—or wallowing.


She looks out where now all but the oldest girl have been captured. "What do you say, Spock. You think that girl can outrun me?"


"You are an excellent runner. But she is probably stronger than you, even at that age."


"Then come with me." She laughs and is off, loping easily.


"Go with her, my son. Although I would not doubt her ability at managing the child. She was exceptionally capable at making me do what she wanted when I was in her care."


"She is skilled at that." He leaves his father, jogging after her. He does not enjoy running the way she does, knows she goes for many kilometers on the treadmills in the gym.


The girl takes off, leading them out past the settlements, into the forest. He catches up with Christine and she talks as if she is walking, rather than running. "This reminds me of where we used to run cross country. She's going to be disappointed if she thinks she can lose me over a few logs. I just wish I had my running shoes on and not these boots."


And then she puts on a burst of speed and leaves him behind, but not too far. He wants to be there in case the girl has a weapon.


They run for longer than he is comfortable with. The girl and Christine are both smiling in a way he does not understand. Even once Christine catches up with her, the girl is smiling.


He puts on speed and manages to get close enough to hear them if they talk.


The girl has a knife at her side, but she has not reached for it. She is just leading them on a run he finds exhausting, over rotted logs that give way as he steps on them rather than leaping them the way the two of them do. Up trails of only scree and then back again, the two of them sliding with matching expressions of what he can only call glee.


They run across a stream, the rocks slick, and do not falter, but he slips off, turning his ankle as he lands, and falling into the water.


Christine stops immediately and the girl does too after a few steps, then walks back to stand next to her. "He's hurt," Christine says to her. "His ankle."


"You're bonded?"


"Yeah, it's a long story. He's not my boyfriend."


"They did that to the Vulcans here. Bonded them with one person, made them mate with others. It was a form of torture."


He heartily concurs.


"We need to help him out of the water."


The girl doesn't argue, just follows her saying, "No one has ever kept up with me."


"Same here. Do you want to do it again once we get him back to the camp?"


"They won't let us. They're going to take me away."


"Like fuck they are."


He closes his eyes. It has taken Christine less than five minutes to teach the child to swear.


They splash through the water and haul him up. "My name's Christine," she says to the girl as they help him limp to the grass and sit down. "What's yours?"


"Saavik. Who are you?" she asks him and he sees nothing but a charming child who is breathing no harder than Christine is, not the weapon the Federation and Starfleet fear her to be.


"I am Spock."


The girl ignores him after that, turns immediately back to Christine as she checks his ankle, then tears pieces of her pants off to make a supportive wrap. "You're not Vulcan or Romulan. Are you human?"


"I am. Are you Romulan and Vulcan?"


She nods. "The pure Vulcans hate me." She glances at Spock. "He will too."


"No, he won't. He's half human."


Saavik gives him a wide smile. "You're like me sort of. Only not as strong."


"I am stronger than you are at the moment, I imagine."


"Except you're hurt and on the ground."


He cannot argue with that.


"There's another trail, with a waterfall," she says to Christine. "It's really easy until you have to run past the c'vaara hives."


Christine looks at him for translation.


"Bees, I think."


"I love bees," she says with a grin. This is news to him. Then again they have never discussed insects so perhaps she does.


"So we can run that? Once we get Spock back to the others?"


"Yes. I can't wait. Hopefully our shoes will be dry by then. Or I can have the ship beam us some dry ones down. Running in wet shoes and socks is my least favorite thing to do. Running in wet boots is even worse—and it's not great for your feet either."


Saavik nods sagely, as if this is the greatest wisdom anyone could dispense.


Spock finds himself utterly charmed by their rapport.


Christine smiles and he realizes she feels it, how much he is enjoying this moment. How much he enjoys her.


And how surprised he is at her way with this child no one else could get near.


He understand now the full nature of his trespass when he took the sadness over her child, and sorrow fills him.


She tilts up his chin. "Did I hurt you?"


"No. I was thinking of something sad."


Saavik gets up and leaves them, disappearing into the woods. He starts to get up, but Christine stops him.


"But she is escaping."


"No, she wants that run too much to escape."


"How do you know?"


"Because I want that run just as much. You don't know how rare it is to find a person who can keep up. She's extraordinary and she's so young. When she's older, she'll be elite level."


She is already planning this child's future.


"What was so sad?"


"That I deprived you of your sorrow over your child when it is clear you would have been an exceptional mother."


He can feel everything she is feeling, her hand is on his foot still. Her smile is gentle even as an almost overwhelming mix of emotions flood him. "I forgive you for that."


"I am not sure I forgive myself for that."


"You should." She nods, her eyes gleaming with tears he knows she will not shed. "We're good, Spock."


Saavik runs back, and in her hands are purple berries. "They are excellent. Not deadly—I left those on the bush." She eats one to show him. "Not for you, Christine. I do not know if humans can eat them."


She pulls out a scanner and says, "Should be okay."


"Then we can share." The child is smiling in a way Spock almost envies. So free even if that freedom came with such horror.


"I look forward to getting to know you better, Saavik," he says as he eats his share of the berries he thinks the child brought simply to cheer him up.


She nods, but mutters, "Okay but only after our run."


He shares a small smile with Christine.


"Told you," she says with such satisfaction he gives up trying to understand. Runners are their own special breed.


They help him up, and assist him on the more difficult areas, and as he limps in with them to the camp, Sarek notices them and hurries out.


"My son, you are hurt?"


"He fell." Saavik looks up at him, not at all in awe of the man who sometimes terrified him when he was her age. "You're Spock's father?"


"I am. My name is Sarek."


"Hmmm." She looks up at Christine. "My shoes and socks are still wet."


"Mine too." She holds out her hand. "Communicator, Spock?"


He reaches for it and takes a bad step as he walks to her. Pain shoots through him and he winces.


And so does Christine.


Sarek's eyebrow goes up precipitously. "My son, was there something you did not inform your mother and me of?"


"It is a long story."


"And we'll be on a long run," Christine says. "I'm sure you can tell him the tale." She walks away with Saavik, comms the ship, tosses him the communicator as soon as she's done, puts on a pair of the running shoes that the ship has beamed down and figures out which of a selection of sizes will best fit Saavik, and then the two of them are off.


"Where are they going?"


"For a run." He looks at his father in the most earnest way he can. "Please do not tell mother of the bond. It is not what it seems. And she will be disappointed to learn it is there but not meaningful to our family."


"In what way is it not meaningful? She is part of our family now."


"It was done for expediency's sake. The needs of the many. She and I are not together. In fact, she is with the captain."


"But you were with her, before you went to Gol."


"Yes, but that is irrelevant."


"My son, even I can see you still have feelings for her."


"Father, please. T'Pring is coming. I do not wish her to know about this."


"And she will not, for it is none of her business. She rejected our family when she rejected you. She would not be here if her position did not make it necessary. Try to not limp as we walk past her."


"Are you hurt, Spock?" she asks. "And where are Chapel and that child going."


"My state of health is of no consequence. And the child is not your concern, T'Pring." Thankfully. He does not think T'Pring would have had the same success bonding with the child that Christine has.


His father has not slowed so they leave her in the field, and Spock tries hard not to limp.


He fails and his father actually slows to accommodate his injury.


"An interesting child, Spock. Do you think she is a weapon?"


"Not based on what I have seen. Romulans embrace emotion. This child is charming. If her father indulged her, I imagine it was out of affection."


"Still, you must run checks. And meld with her—it is possible she is a sleeper agent. That whatever she might have been left to do will be triggered unconsciously at some future date. Look carefully."


"I will, but I find myself hoping she is not a Romulan spy. Is that the human side of me, Father?" He has never spoken so openly with Sarek.


"No, my son. Anyone who fails to be moved by the horror here, who would want more pain to be heaped on a child, would be a being with whom I would not wish to associate."


"If she is not a spy, she must not go to T'Pring. She will drive everything that makes her unique out of her."


"Is that fair, Spock? At one time, T'Pring indulged you to an incredible amount, in my estimation."


"Yes, but she is no longer that woman."


Sarek nods thoughtfully. "If you determine she is an innocent, you will adopt her and she will live with us, just as Michael did. Your mother bemoans the lack of a grandchild so far. Why do we not give her one? But I will not inform her until you have made your assessment."


"You would do this?"


"She has clearly bonded with your bondmate."


"Father she is not my bondmate."


"For now, my son. For now."




Spock sits at the desk in Christine's office as she explains to Saavik that three different people are going to meld with her.


He tries not to take it personally that his father decided he should also meld—he knows he only wants to forestall any objections that Spock might miss things because of a more trusting human component in his make-up.


Neither of them expected T'Pring to also request the right to run an assessment on Saavik's general temperament per the evaluation criteria of Ankeshtan K'Til, or that someone on the Vulcan Council would have an ally on the Federation Council who would ensure it would be approved.


That someone was, of course, Stonn's father. Who is no fan of Spock's.


And this is without T'Pring knowing Sarek's plans for the child. If she did know, she would no doubt be putting obstacles in the way of any sort of adoption or legal guardianship.


Christine was livid when he told her. "Three people are going into her mind? When she's already afraid of Vulcans?"


"That is why you will be there."


As she is now, explaining gently, making sure Saavik is not fearful of what will come. Promising runs on the treadmill as enticements for cooperation.


Although he does not think she needs to do that. The child sticks close to her even when running is not on the schedule.


She trusts her in a way she does not trust him yet.


Spock hears Jim's characteristic footsteps and gets up, meeting him by McCoy's office.


"She's checking out medically?" He is asking McCoy, not Spock.


"She is. We have more tests to run of course."


"Of course." He turns to Spock. "She'll be off the ship soon though?"


Jim has made no effort to get to know Saavik. When Spock told him what Sarek intended to do, expecting his friend would find that a good solution, he instead said, "Do you think adoption is wise? You won't be there for her."


Jim still has not told Spock much about his own son. And Christine and Spock do not talk about her relationship with Jim so he cannot ask her about it. But he can see that it's hurting him that Spock will now have a daughter.


Spock thinks it also bothers him immensely that the child looks to Christine for so much. But Spock had nothing to do with that.


Christine charms on her own initiative.


"I am not sure when she will be off the ship. My father may wish to keep her here even once she is cleared of any suspicion of being a plant. To prevent T'Pring from somehow wresting control of the girl."


"If she's cleared, Spock. Not once. Are you sure you're objective in this?" He glances at Christine's office. "She's been sleeping in the child's room."


Spock knows this, of course. "She is very good with her."


"Everyone falls in love with Chris, eventually, huh?" He meets Spock's gaze with one that is not happy, even a little cutting. "Are you...are you using this child to get her back?"


He knows he is not hiding the surprise on his face. "No. In fact, the child may not even like me. If Christine and she have formed a bond, it is one that does not, as of yet, include me."


"As of yet." He sighs and sort of waves Spock away. "Well, I'll let you get back to it."


"Jim, I meant only that Saavik does not look to me for comfort, not that Christine and I..."


"Yeah, it's fine. I'm just having a shitty day." He turns and leaves.


McCoy comes out of his office. "Jim found out Nogura's retiring in a few months. He's been his champion when it comes to keeping the ship. He's worried that once he's gone, they'll want him to come back, sit at a desk, and be an admiral. If he's cranky today, that's why."


"Thank you, Doctor. That does put things in perspective."


Although he wonders why Jim could tell McCoy these things, but not him.




Spock watches as his father finishes his meld, and T'Pring gets ready to take her turn.


"No," Christine says, getting between her and Saavik. "She gets a break."


"I want to see how she is. Now, when she is stressed. Get out of my way, Doctor."


Sarek very gently moves Christine out of the way. "She must be allowed to do this."


Saavik looks up at Christine and smiles. "I'll be okay."


He sees Christine swallow visibly but she says in her perkiest voice, "Okay, sweetie. Then we'll go on our run, yeah?"




T'Pring touches her face, and Saavik stares up at her. "I can tell you don't like Christine. So I don't like you."


"Liking me is irrelevant, child."


"You're jealous. I know that emotion. Lots of the kids were jealous of me because I was allowed to run free." Her smile turns dangerous, even on a ten-year-old's face. "He loves her," she whispers.


Spock does not think Christine heard her. But clearly all the Vulcans in the room did.


"Hush, child. Silence is required." T'Pring takes a moment, then proceeds.


Spock expects, after her baiting of T'Pring, that Saavik will resist. But she does not. She submits easily, a strange smile on her face.


When T'Pring finally eases away from her, Saavik looks at Christine and says, "I was running the waterfall path with you in my head."


Christine smiles gently.


T'Pring motions for Sarek and Spock to follow her into main sickbay, they walk to the far end, away from Vulcan/Romulan ears.


"She was indulged. She can be violent but it is not, mercifully, her first impulse. She was taught much—she may be ahead of her peers instead of behind in the areas Romulans emphasize. She embraces emotions and will resist the Vulcan way. Ankeshtan K'Til is the best place for her if you wish her to succeed in Vulcan society."


"We disagree, T'Pring." Sarek says in the voice that used to cow Spock. "And Starfleet security wishes to debrief her as to what she had access to, what she saw during her time on that planet, so you cannot take her. The rest of the group is cleared so you and the Symmetry can be off. We wish you well with their reintegration."


She studies both of them. "You are both so transparent. This is just as when you took Michael in. And Saavik is like you, Spock, only half Vulcan. You must, of course, see yourself in her." She cocks her head and gives an almost shrug. "Make of her what you will, then. She will be the latest experiment in the house of Sarek."


He can tell his father is winding up for a retort, but she spins on her heel and walks out of sickbay.


Sarek looks surprised.


"She has always been a master of the dramatic exit, Father."


"So I see." His expression lightens when Christine leads Saavik out. "You did very well, child."


"I didn't let her see the bond Christine and Spock have."


Sarek actually lets out a puff of air—for him a huge laugh. "Very well done, Saavik."


"I don't like her."


"Nobody does, my dear. Now, you have some people to talk to when we get to Earth. Then we would like you to live with us. Spock's mother and I. On Earth and also on Vulcan. Would you like that?"


"I'd rather live with Christine."


Christine crouches down. "I'm staying here. They don't let kids stay on ships. But I'll be on Earth sometimes—it's where I'm from. I'll stop by and see you whenever you're there. I promise."


"Can we go on runs?"


"We can."


"Can we go on one now?"


"Sure." She looks at him and Sarek. "Unless you guys weren't done...?"


"We are finished for today," Sarek says with a look of indulgence he used to reserve for Michael.


Christine leads Saavik out of sickbay, no doubt to go change into their running clothes for the gym.


"She will be an excellent mother for the girl."


"Father, I have told you—"


"Yes, my son, you say many things about how Doctor Chapel is not yours, but she cares deeply for the girl. Your captain has not been here—a mistake, I believe. He could have been part of her regard for the girl but instead he keeps himself removed. It may not bother her consciously, but subconsciously..."


"Father, please. Stop trying to break up Jim and Christine."


"Well since you will do nothing, I must."


"I want your promise. You will not make trouble. You will not say small things that will fester in Jim's mind. You will not interfere in any way."


Sarek looks very disappointed in him; it is an expression Spock is extremely familiar with. "Very well, my son. But mark my words: it is only a matter of time."




Spock eases off the bed, closes the padd he was reading to Saavik from, and joins Christine as they watch her sleep. Christine wanted Spock to read to her; he imagines because she hopes Saavik will begin to transfer her affection to him and by extension his parents.


"I don't like the idea of her having to deal with security." Christine glares at him as if he is to blame for security's request.


"It will be all right."


"You don't know that. A child, with no family, found alone—wait, what am I feeling from you?" She moves closer. "You're amused and—no way, is La'an back on Earth?"


"She is. She is quite high up in security and has—as you can imagine—taken a special interest in this case. She will handle the debriefing."


She hugs him and laughs, "I love you."


For a moment, the bond between them is pulsing and open, and happiness is flowing into him.


Then the awkwardness descends. She pulls away quickly. "Shit. Forget I said that."


"You love me as a friend, Christine. There is no discredit to you for saying it."


She just shoots him an annoyed look.


"I will, however, not tell Jim what has happened."


"Thank you." She moves her chair back so they are not sitting quite so closely together. "Your father was far from subtle. He told me I'm his daughter now. Even if you and I never cohabit. That I have certain rights, if I ever need him I have only to call. Etcetera, etcetera."


He sighs. A true sigh. His father often brings them out of him. "I am sorry. He is convinced we will be true bondmates eventually."


"He understands I love Jim, right?"


"I have made that clear." Or rather he asked him to leave Jim alone. He forgot to ask him to do the same for Christine.


He did not think he had to, to be honest.


"Do you think I should come tomorrow, when we get to Earth? Jim said there will be some downtime because of upgrades."


"Yes, we will have three days. I think it would ease Saavik's transition. But I also heard Jim making plans for a trip to Idaho—for both of you."


"I know but I can join him later. I don't even like horses. And he just gets mad when I say I'll run behind him." She sighs.


"Christine, Saavik is not your child. Jim is your partner. Do you wish to put what you have with him at risk?"


"He'll get over it, Spock. Or he's not the man I love." She shakes her head as she looks at Saavik. "I haven't shared much of my childhood with you, and I know you've always wondered. I don't share it with anyone. It was full of people who said they loved me but didn't, who promised they'd be there but weren't. Love, for me back then, was this thing that people used as a way to get out of being in trouble for letting you down. 'I love you, Chrissie. Be a big girl and don't cry.'"


Her face is open, and he sees the pain from so long ago written there. Moreover the darkness is pulsing into the again open bond. And he suddenly understands why she might fear commitment, why the bond was so unattractive to her. If promises meant nothing. If love only hurt.


"I won't do that to her." She tucks the blanket up a little around Saavik. "I know she's not mine. But she's chosen to love me, Spock. I know how much I'll hurt her if I only show up when it's convenient for me."


Her relationship with La'an suddenly makes more sense too. How on the surface they appear so different but underneath, they were both damaged.


"I know La'an will want to see you."


Her smile is beautiful. "I miss her, Spock."


He does not miss her because he has never had the type of friendship Christine enjoys with her. But he nods and lets his eyes go as gentle as he is capable of.


"Let's let her sleep."


They leave and make their way back to the senior crew deck. Jim is coming down the corridor and he stops and seems to be waiting for them.


"So everything's set for tomorrow." He smiles at Christine, but it's a wary smile.


"I need to see Saavik off. And it's a friend, who'll be debriefing her. One I haven't seen in ages."


"We only have a few days, Chris. It's not like you're going to be part of the girl's life after this." He looks at Spock. "Or is she?"


"I promised her we could go running when I'm on Earth. One day, Jim. That's what I'm asking. A day each trip to spend with her and show her that someone who loves her won't abandon her the way her father did—and her mother, whoever that was, poor soul."


"So every time we're here, you're going to see her."


He feels compelled to jump in. "She will have a tutor initially, be free to come and go with my parents, Jim. So she may be on Vulcan when we are on Earth."


He doesn't look mollified. "She'll forget you, Chris. If you let her. You'll be in space most of the time. How fair is that to her? Let her love Amanda."


"Now you sound like Carol, Jim." She turns and walks into their quarters.


Jim's lips are pressed tightly. "You get to have a daughter, Spock, while my son may not even know I'm his dad. Do you have to take Christine with you on this?"


"I am not taking Christine anywhere, as you well know. She does as she pleases. She always has."


Jim closes his eyes and nods. "Sorry, didn't mean to take it out on you."


"Do not take it out on her either." He wonders if Jim knows about her childhood? He has his own trauma from his teen years—perhaps it is a shared bond.


But he says nothing because he does not wish to betray Christine's confidence if she has not shared with Jim.


"Don't really need relationship advice from you, Spock."


"As I lost her, I might be exactly the person to give you that advice." He keeps his voice as gentle as he can.


Jim has been acting edgy all week. This thing with Nogura retiring has made him afraid, Spock thinks. Afraid he will end up back in a job he disliked the first time he had it.


"I better go make amends for being a shitty boyfriend."


"She cares deeply for you, Jim. Just do not make her choose between you and this child."


Jim nods, clearly deep in thought, and Spock leaves him. He can feel nothing now from Christine's end of the bond; she has completely shut down.


But he remembers the connection between them just now and it calls to him. As much as he tells his father Christine will never be his, he fervently hopes he is wrong.


Even if getting her back might hurt Jim.


He loved her first. That is his other mantra: He loved her first.




Spock walks with Christine, Saavik between them as they head to security. Saavik does not appear scared—to the contrary, she is looking over everything with curiosity. She has started asking him questions too, and as he meets Christine's eyes, he knows his lips are ticking up slightly in reaction to her smile.


La'an is waiting for them outside security and she pulls Christine into a tight hug and they proceed to spin around for a moment.


"What is that called, Spock?"


"The greeting?" At her nod, he says, "It is simply La'an and Christine. They have their own way of being."


Then La'an is crouching in front of Saavik. "Hi. I'm La'an. I'm going to be asking you lots and lots of questions, but you're not in trouble in any way. Okay?"


Saavik nods. "Do you like to run?"


"Only from the Gorn." She winks. "I'm a dancer, not a runner."


"Romulan dances often are derived from battle moves."


"Would you teach me some?" La'an appears to mean it. "After we're done, I mean?"




La'an stands and grins at Christine. "Are you going to be here overnight? We can take her to the wharf or the park. Get to know each other. That way, when you're both away, and Saavik needs a break from Vulcans, she can call me." She touches Saavik's shoulder gently.


"You're very pretty."


"You're very pretty, too, young lady."


"And fierce." She pulls La'an down so they are face to face. "You are too. I can tell."


"You're not wrong." She looks up at Christine and murmurs, "Please, please, please stay the night."


"Let me comm, Jim."


She steps away, pulling out her personal communicator, and Spock can hear her as she talks to Jim. Clearly, he is not happy she will not be joining him until tomorrow. Finally, she says, "It's for a child, Jim," and hangs up on him while he's still replying.


"Okay I'm good to go for tonight. Can I crash with you?" she asks La'an.


"Or you could stay at the Embassy. My father will welcome you and you can spend time with my mother."


Christine smiles but the expression does not go to her eyes. "I only want to piss Jim off so far, Spock. Staying with you would be a bridge too far."


"Besides, she asked me, not you. Who wants to stay at the stuffy old Vulcan embassy when they can share my bed?"


Spock concedes with a nod—also he has never been entirely sure of the exact nature of her relationship with La'an. Although he does not think she would cheat on Jim with La'an.


Even if the idea is somewhat titillating.




Saavik is off the ship, Christine sleeps once more in Jim's quarters, and things have gone back to how they were before the child's appearance other than that he comms her every night to see how her day has progressed. Even if it is only to leave a message, he wants her to know he will never forget her.


She asks often about Christine. He probably tells her too much, but the child knows they are bonded but not together.


If Jim and Christine were having problems the day Spock and she and Saavik spent with La'an, they are over now. They appear as happy as they ever were.


He watches them now as they sit together on a patio in front of a lake on this world that is hosting diplomatic negotiations. Their heads are together, he has his arm around her. They are more tactile than usual.


"Would you like to try this?" The chef at the house that hosts the Federation delegation offers him something in an ornately scrolled glass.


It is the local drink—both Jim and Christine said it was delicious. "I do not drink intoxicants."


"Oh, it is only the juice part of our famous cocktail. I thought you might like it in a nice glass, though." He smiles and leaves the drink.


Spock scans it, and it is free of anything considered intoxicating to Vulcans so he drinks. Delicious. He drinks more and turns to watch Jim and Christine.


They are kissing. He wants to walk down and take her from him. Instead, he walks away, down a path that takes him toward one of the guest villas that surround the main house. A woman he does not recognize says, "I was watching you today."


She looks a little like Droxine. "You have me at a disadvantage."


"I'm providing statistical support, a sit-in-the-back kind of role so I had an excellent view of you." She holds up a glass of what looks like the same kind of juice. "This stuff is amazing but not when you're alone." She moves closer. "You're incredibly handsome. I've never been with a Vulcan."


"And I have never been with a statistician." Wait? What is he doing? He scans the drink again and sees that while it is not an intoxicant for any known species, it is an aphrodisiac for humans. And he is half that.


He is far more than half aroused though. He tries to move away, but her hand on his cheek stops him. So soft and he is reading desire from her—desire that he suddenly wants to take advantage of.


"It doesn't have to mean anything more than right now," she says. "I'm just so horny."


He pushes her into her cabin and for the first time since he bonded with Christine, he lets himself go, lets himself feel pleasure, buries himself in her willing body.


Over and over again.


When they lie sated, she says, "I have some work to do. I'm so sorry to kick you out but my boss'll kill me if I don't get this done before the meetings start back up. If you want to come back tomorrow..."


He realizes he does not know her name. "I think perhaps I will avoid the juice in the future."


"Well, that's a damn shame. You're amazing in bed." She gives him a mischievous grin even as she's reaching for her padds. "My name is Dawn, by the way."


"I am—"


"Please. Everyone knows who you are, Commander Spock."


He is unsure what to say—does one thank a casual sexual partner? But she says, "That's your clue to go, my friend. Thank you for your help with our mutual problem."


"You are welcome." And he leaves, taking his glass with him so he can drop it off at the dining area.


Christine is there, pacing, and when she sees him, she is clearly angry, advancing on him as if he is the enemy. "Where is she?"


Jim stands—Spock realizes he has been sitting in the shadows. "Yes, Spock, where is she? Chris certainly seems pissed that you found a paramour."


Spock realizes she has felt his climaxes through the bond; it is the first time she has had to face that her bondmate is with someone else.


A part of him is tempted to welcome her to his world. But another part simply holds up the glass and says, "It is an aphrodisiac. Which I found out to my dismay when I could not say no to a very accommodating young woman. I surmise you and she have also been drinking this?"


"With their version of tequila, yeah."


"Ah, yes the alcohol would lower inhibitions and the shields I have tried to teach Christine. She no doubt felt my...activities through the bond. Without the juice, it would not have happened."


"She's this pissed just because of some juice?"


"The juice in combination with alcohol. Which I, of course, did not have. Hence my relative equanimity."


"Also you just got laid," Christine says, glaring at him. "By whom?"


"It is of no concern. The juice will wear off if you take her to your room and make love, Jim. As I found out."


"You made love to her?" Christine sounds sad now, not angry.


"I was projecting what you and Jim would be doing. In my case, I was simply relieving urges." He sends a silent apology to Dawn the statistician. Under different circumstances, he might want to see her again. He looks at Jim as helplessly as he can. "Jim, please, can you take her?"


It is exactly the right thing to say. His friend is up and saying, "Yep, I sure can," and he's leading Christine away.


Spock is thankful his room is not next to theirs. He hopes Christine can move her focus off him and back onto Jim.




He sees Dawn at breakfast and debates joining her. She looks up and nods, but it is not an overly friendly look so he believes she expects nothing from him.


He sees Jim and Christine at a corner table but does not go near them. They had a very busy night, and the bond was more open than usual. He did not sleep.


He finally takes his tray outside and enjoys the morning sun.


A while later Jim comes out, and he starts to get up. "No, Spock. Stay and eat. I have to go up to the admin hall. There's some kerfluffle about the agenda. I have no idea why they need a Starfleet captain to figure it out but hey, I live to serve." He gives Spock the kind of smile that says he and Christine are just fine.


A few minutes later, Christine comes out and sits down next to him. "I'm not here to give you shit about having sex."




"I'm here to ask you if you could feel me the way I felt you—last night and all the times before?"


"It was the juice, Christine."


"The juice does not explain the times I startle awake when you do—after what I think was a wet dream. But I never feel you touch yourself—are you not doing that because of me?"


"A Vulcan does not—"


"Spock answer the damn question."


"Which one? There have been several."


"Can you feel me when I come?"


"For now, yes. I hope in the future the immediacy of this sharing will diminish."


"I wanted to kill her, Spock. That wasn't the juice."


"If I were sexually active, which I generally am not, you would learn to control that urge."


"Because you had to?" Her voice is full of compassion—and some horror.


"Yes, because I had to."


"Is there something I can do to make it less intrusive?"


"Stop having sex." He lets her see he is teasing her. "You and he share a passionate physical connection. I did not tell you about this because I want the two of you to prosper. Please know that it does get better in time."


"So you no longer want to kill him?"


"I do not." It is the truth. He does however wish to take her away from him whenever he feels it—that has never gone away.


"I'm not asking you to stay celibate or whatever you call what you're doing. If you have someone you want..."


"I do. Her name is Christine. I had her and I lost her." He is not teasing this time and she looks down. "But perhaps this is my penance."


"There's no need for penance."


"I am not sure—"


"Spock. Listen to me. There's no need for penance. I told you: we're good." She gets up. "I have to brush my teeth and mainline some more caffeine before this sleepfest you call negotiations resumes. I'll see you at the venue."


He nods and watches her go until she is out of sight.




Months go by. Months where they work and he and Jim play chess. Christine seems to be avoiding him and he lets her.


Especially since, when they got back on the ship after the incident with the juice, she sought him out in his office and said, "You need to be able to touch yourself without worrying about me. I'll learn to deal."


"I do not need to do that as much as you seem to think I do."


"Okay but I think you believe you shouldn't do it at all. And I don't want that. I want you to live your life. Maybe see someone—you know that Ny has a huge crush on you, right?"


"She has since she was a cadet."


"Well, then, why not...?"


"Because she is not you."


"But no one will be. You can't just live your life alone from here on out."


"I can if that is my path." He was resolute and she finally left him in peace.


He does occasionally masturbate, at night when he thinks his pleasure might get lost in the noise of what she is doing with Jim. He does not know if he is right since she has not brought it up.


They have brief stopovers at Earth. Jim never spends the first night in town unless he has meetings, but Christine always does. She takes Saavik somewhere exotic to run and then the two of them come back and she has dinner with all of them at the embassy and then goes to stay at La'an's. The next day she joins Jim. Often in Idaho even though she has not grown any fonder of horses. Other times somewhere exotic.


Nogura retires and Jim is on edge for weeks. Spock and McCoy tread carefully around him, but Christine seems to be able to calm him. Spock knows how good she is at making hard things make sense.


They pass the two-year mark for the mission and Jim is not reassigned and he relaxes. They all do. This is where he belongs, and Spock knows all of them want to stay together.


"I'm sorry," Jim says to him one night over chess. "I really thought they were going to take her away from me."


"I know. Two years would have been the time."


Jim laughs bitterly. "But so is three years, and four. I'm afraid, Spock, that I'm going to be a bit of a bitch every year at this time."


"The cause is sufficient. And you know you can talk to me, yes?" He is doing less of that, but Spock is not sure if that is simply because he has Christine now to pour his feelings and worries out to, or if the bond stands between him and his closest friend.


It does not matter because he will not ask. They still have this: the nights over the chess board. They still have their ability to operate nearly as one person on a mission. If a woman has come between them to some extent, that is just life.




Spock sits in the mess hall, irritated that everyone is talking so loudly. An ensign drops his fork on the floor and he wants to yell at him.


Someone calls over to a friend to join her and he clenches his fists and almost gets up.


He smells a scent that Christine once wore and gets up, looking around for it almost desperately.


His heart is pounding. His hands are sweating. He feels as if he will come out of his skin.


He closes his eyes. No. Not yet.


He gets up quickly and leaves his tray on the table, seeking out a place on the ship that is not so loud, not so full of people. And then, when he finds one, he opens his mind to his bondmate and calls her to him.


But no. He must not. He tries to shut down the near-alarm cry he has sent, but he can feel her, feel her panic. His communicator goes off, and he answers it. "I am sorry, Christine. I am sorry."


They are so far from Vulcan. And he had no warning. Just like last time, he had no warning. A pure Vulcan knows for a week that is it coming. But he thinks his human half mitigates the warning signs until even he must see what is happening.


"Where are you?"


"You must lock me up, Christine. The brig." No, not the brig. He can get out of the brig. "You must sedate me until I die."


"Where are you?" Her tone is clipped, more Vulcan sounding than human.


"I am on deck three. Room thirty-five." It is a mostly automated floor. No voices to batter at him.


She finds him and scans. "There's no time. We're too far away from Vulcan—Spock you should have told us."


"I did not know. I did not know." He must steal a shuttle. He must steal a shuttle and pilot it far away, then disable the engines. Drift until he dies so she can be finally free of this—of him.


"I am sorry, Christine," he says as he pinches her neck and catches her, lowering her gently, wanting to kiss her but no, she is Jim's.


She is Jim's, she is Jim's, she is Jim's.


He keeps repeating that as he makes his way to the shuttle bay, knowing that alpha shift will not start for an hour, that he—or she—will not be missed until he is gone.


It is ridiculously easy to take the shuttle, to create a false flight plan and fly the opposite way, to disable the engine, to turn the environmentals up so much hotter than the ship ever is.


He will die, but he will die finally warm enough.


He does not have much time. He must send messages before he is too far gone.


To Jim he says, "I did not know it was coming, Jim. You must believe me. I promised you she would not have to deal with this and I am keeping that promise. Your friendship is the most important one of my life. Please keep her safe. Please be gentle with each other."


To Christine, he only says, "I am sorry. I love you. You are free now."


Then he sends the messages and disables the comms, the navigation, anything he might use to get the shuttle back up and headed to her.


To his woman.


To his love.


He paces for a long time, calling her name, cursing himself for making it impossible to get back to her.


He needs her. She is his. He should not have left.


Then the blood fever takes over. He sits, head down, fingers steepled, and waits for the challenge that will never come.


His mantra is now "She is mine. She is mine. She is mine." Even if it is not true.


He will die with the lie on his lips.


Until he feels her, close. Then she is there, on his ship. "Jim's not going to let you die, Spock. I guess we're doing this here."


"Anything you need?" It is Jim's voice and he wants to rip the communicator away from her and tear it apart with his bare hands.


She is checking the stores. "We've got water. And food." She moves to life support, which he has not touched. He will die the way of the Vulcan, not because his air ran out. "Computer turn temperature down fifteen degrees."


Immediately cool air begins to flow. "No!" he says. This is all he has. His comfort. She is here and he cannot have her. She is here taking his comfort and offering nothing.


"Comm me if you need anything."


"I will. I'm sorry."


"Just help him, Chris."


She moves slowly, as if he is dangerous, as if he would ever hurt her. The bond opens between them and he is up and to her, kissing her, holding her the way she used to hold him. "You are mine."


"For right now, yes." She touches his cheek and it inflames him.


She kisses his neck, and fire burns from his chest to his groin.


She says, "These seats fold down, right?"


He shows her, making a bed for them, their bed. It has been so long since they had a bed.


"I love you, Christine."


"I love you, too, Spock. I wasn't going to let you die either. And I'm really pissed that you knocked me out. It hurts."


He pulls her to him and kisses where he pinched. Licks and sucks and slips her uniform off as he tries to take away the pain he has caused her.


Then he takes his own uniform off and lies down on their bed and pulls her on top of him. "We will be one. The way we should have been after the bonding."


And he starts a meld, the bond becoming so big, so strong, pulsing like their hearts, fire erupting all along it just as when they first bonded.


She moans and moves, taking him into her, kissing him feverishly. The blood fever is in her now too. And she wants him.


She wants him so much.


They do not talk for hours. There is only flesh on flesh, pleasure folding into more. He brings her water and they share the bottle, then he pours some onto the dip of her belly and licks it off her.


He knows what she wants. He feels what she feels. He takes her hard but never too much because he can tell when it hurts and when it doesn't.


Finally, they lie together, sweat covering both of them, and she rolls into him and starts to cry.


"I am sorry, Christine. I am sorry that you had to do this."


"That's not why I'm crying. You left me. To what? Die alone? Spock, no. You can't do that."


He holds her as she cries, strokes her back the way she liked him to do the first time they were together.


She is not his. No matter how much it feels like it right now.


She is Jim's. His friend sent her to him. His friend would not let him die.


"The burning is over, Christine."


"Shut up. I just want to lie here." She cuddles closer but is no longer crying. "What would I have told Saavik if you died?"


"You would have found the words. And she loves you. Far more than me at this point."


She buries her head in his chest, then pushes him to his back and climbs onto him. Before she can settle onto him, he stops her.


"This is betrayal, Christine."


She reaches for the scanner she has kept close, with the water they drank frequently. "No, your numbers are still off."


"Nevertheless, the burning is over, Christine. This is betrayal."


She reaches down. "But you want me." And he does. How much he fills her hand is testament to that.


"Please, Christine. If I have you now, I will not be able to let you go. I will have to leave the ship to find any peace at all."


"No." The word comes out broken, high and cracked. She climbs off him and shuffles back. "Don't leave. Everyone leaves."


He reaches for her hand, takes it when she finally reaches back. "I will not leave you, but we must not betray him any more than this already has. I will be all right now." He helps her off the bed, gets her dressed, and then himself. He knows they smell of sex and sweat. But there is no shower on the shuttle.


"Spock to Kirk." He uses her private channel.


"Spock, are you all right? Is Chris?"


"We are both all right, Jim. You did not have to do this."


"I damn well did. I'm not losing you, Spock. Not when there's an easy fix." His voice breaks at the last.


This is not an easy fix, and they all know it.




"I'm here. I'm fine, Jim. I just want to come home."


"Home it is. You're going to catch hell from engineering, Spock, over what you've done to Scotty's favorite shuttle. Stand by for tractor beam. Kirk out."


There is the jerk of the tractor beam latching on, and he steadies Christine by instinct.


"You were right. Doing it again would have been wrong. Thank you for stopping me." She meets his eyes. Hers are bleak. "Are you going to tell him?"


"No." He touches her cheek. "Some things are secrets only we share."




Spock is not sure how to act around Jim. He knows he did the right thing, stopping Christine from continuing sex beyond when it was necessary, but he is not sure it matters.


Something has changed and he thinks his friend no longer trusts them.


Christine is no longer assigned to a landing party Spock is leading. Jim has her on his own or on missions that he leads and include Spock.


And Spock gets the distinct feeling he is being watched—that they both are.


He understands this is hard for Jim. But on the other hand, he did everything he could to protect Christine. Jim found the shuttlecraft; Jim sent her to him. Why is Spock suddenly suspect when he tried so hard to prevent this?


Or is it Christine Jim doesn't trust?


He does not follow up with her to see if she too feels under surveillance. She is avoiding him and he understands why. The bond has resisted being shut back down after such unrepressed sharing. It is easier to stay away and feel it from a distance, then be close and have to constantly be vigilant that something they do or say does not upset his friend.


He considers transferring off, leaving the service even, but the memory of Christine, scuttling away from him, her face broken, her statement that people leave her, stops him.


Not just because he wants to protect her but because, at the deepest part of himself, he does not want to leave her.


This goes on for months, everyone being too careful. Everyone afraid of what a wrong step will mean.


But no one willing to leave.


He sits now with Jim, chess still something that holds no taint, and concentrates on the board, not on Christine who is with a group of people celebrating a birthday.


Not on what she is wearing, or how her perfume smelled as it wafted past him as she gave Jim a kiss before joining the others.


"That comm I got today, that I had to take in my office?" Jim is staring at the board. "It was Command."


Spock studies him but is unsure what to say so he just waits.


"They wanted to discuss options with me. Options—like anything off this ship is something I'd want. Like they aren't going to yank me off her and pretend it was my idea." He grabs his drink and downs it.


"Did they say this? Did they say you had to leave?"


"No, and I turned down every one of their goddamned options. But it's just a matter of time." He finally meets Spock's eyes. "You're the most likely to get the ship, you know?"


"I have never wanted my own command."


"Not even with Chris here all to yourself?" He does not look away, his expression one Spock has never seen given to him for real—challenging and angry. The way he looked when they pretended to be at odds for the benefit of the Romulans to get the cloaking device.


"She is yours, Jim."


"Says the man with the kid she can't get enough of."


"We have never talked about the burning, Jim. Perhaps you are holding in anger and—"


"Holding it in? What the fuck was I supposed to do? Let you die?" He pushes the board out of the way. "She was going nuts, by the way. And I don't mean just worried—I mean at an elemental level."


"I would apologize if this were a case of me ignoring the signs. But, Jim, I had no warning. Even less than the first time. It was most unexpected and most unpleasant. I did have plans in place to get off the ship. I just had no time to execute them."


"So killing yourself was the next best option? You didn't trust me? Or her? To make sure you were okay? You thought you'd just send some goodbye notes and we'd let you die?"


Spock does not know what to say. "If I had stayed, I would have taken her from you."


"You think you didn't do that by leaving?" He stares down at the table. "You think I don't know that something's changed with your bond? She's reacting more to you. And you to her. I see it on the landing parties. You're constantly looking out for each other."


"It is the role of a Starfleet officer to look out for their crewmates."


"This goes way beyond that and we both know it." He leans back, his look so full of animosity Spock is shaken.


"Do you want me to leave the ship, Jim?"


"No, because I don't know if she'd go with you." He waves over the crewman playing bartender even though table service isn't generally offered. Despite that, the crewman hurries over with a fresh drink. "Also because I'm just so pissed off about everything but I can't take it out on a bunch of fucking admirals, so I'm taking it out on you."


Spock expects him to drain this drink too but he only sips it.


Jim shakes his head and laughs, but it's a sound devoid of humor. "I told you I'd be a real bitch when they start looking at other assignments for me."


Spock knows he should let him take them to safer ground, let him blame what he's just said on the uncertainty and his almost pathological desire to stay aboard the ship. But he does not want to. "Do you really believe she would leave you? She loves you, Jim. Do you think I cannot feel that? Do you think I would let you keep her if I did not think she loved you best?"


"Let me keep her?"


"She is my bondmate. At my most fundamental Vulcan level, I believe she is mine. But I also respect you—care for you—and will push that part of myself down. I will let you proceed without interference."


"You fucked her for hours—you don't call that interference? Or Saavik? Keeping her so entwined in that child's life?"


"We knew the pon farr could be an issue. I had hoped it would not be, but that hope was dashed. I cannot apologize for that—for a choice you made. I went away—you could have had her to yourself forever, Jim." He takes a deep breath, centering himself.


He can see Christine look over; she is undoubtedly feeling his hurt and anger. "As for Saavik, that is Christine's choice and doing. She charmed the child, as we both know. If she chooses to be faithful to a promise she made to her, then that is her call. If you do not like it, perhaps it is your own feelings about your lack of interactions with your own son that bother you, not Christine's with my daughter."


"I think we're done." Jim gets up, takes his drink, and walks out of the lounge.


A moment later Christine takes his seat. "What the hell was that?"


"He wanted to fight." It seems to be the right answer, for any irritation on her part seems to fade.


"Yeah, with me too. The brass called."


"So he said." He meets her eyes and holds them with no regard for what is proper. "He is jealous."


"I know."


"He no longer lets me include you on my landing parties."


"Oh." She looks down. "I thought you were leaving me off." Then she laughs and like Jim's laugher, it holds no humor. "He let me believe that."


"It was not my choice." He reaches over and takes her hand and she squeezes his. "Should I leave the ship, Christine? Will that make it better for you? For him?"


"I don't know if it will. He needs you. And...and I don't want you to go."


"I do not wish to leave you."


"Well then. I guess that's your answer."




Spock avoids Jim except as work demands, trying to not add fuel to an already emotionally laden fire. He focuses on his work, is often in his office since it is time for crew evaluations and he has to comment on many of them, so he can stay off the bridge unless called.


He is in his office when Jim comes in and sits. "I'm sorry, Spock."


He pushes his work aside and focuses on Jim.


"I am jealous. I have friends who tell me about David. What little they see since Carol keeps him pretty much in her orbit."


"May I ask what is perhaps an overly intrusive question?"


Jim smiles. "You may."


"When you were on Earth the first time as an admiral, did you reach out to her?"


"I did. She was off world. Working on some terraforming project. Said it would be impossible to get together. But maybe if I was still there in a few years, we could talk." He closes his eyes. "And then I was back on the ship so we did not talk."


"I am sorry."


"Yeah, me too. Seeing you with Saavik—seeing Chris with Saavik. It's just bringing up a lot of things." He gets up and walks to the viewscreen. "This is how I was all the time when I was on Earth, Spock. This is what Chris was constantly saving us both from—pulling me out of my bad moods. But now..."


"But now I am in the way." He gets up and joins Jim at the viewscreen. "If you wish me to transfer off...?"


Jim doesn't look at him but he reaches over, grasping Spock's upper arm almost desperately. "I don't. We'll figure this out, Spock. It's just hard. I thought...I thought she was going to be the one who was all mine. But that was stupid because she loved you first." He lets go.


"For whatever it is worth, she loves you as much if not more than she did me."


"But you have the bond with her. And the child she loves. I'm just the asshole she sleeps with."


"Jim." Spock shakes his head and Jim laughs. "Would it be easier if I was on beta or gamma shift?"


"I like how we work together, Spock. You know that, right?"


"I do." He can hear the unsaid "but" in Jim's statement.


"But yeah. Gamma, I think. You'll be captain of Gamma. Good for your resume."


"And good for our various relationships." He touches Jim on the shoulder. "When would you like me to start on that shift?"


"In a week. I know it's evals time. Finish those and then we'll make the switch. Thank you, Spock."


"You are my friend, Jim. If I can help, I wish to."


Jim puts his hand over where Spock's sits on his shoulder, then eases away and leaves.


A strange sense of relief fills Spock even as the basest part of him is already protesting being on a different shift than his woman.


She is not his woman. And this will be the best thing for everyone.




He falls into the rhythm of Gamma shift. Sees Christine from time to time but makes no attempts to create new moments with her.


And he still feels her, although less and less now and he wonders if his sacrificing time with her by moving to this shift has closed something he was keeping open. That perhaps they both were.


It is, however, a little lonely, which surprises him. Not just the lack of Christine and Jim. But the others on his shift he has grown close to.


Too close to? Is it worth getting to know others as well as he has these people to then have them leave, seek new opportunities, leaving him to start over yet again?


He does not reach out to anyone on Gamma, wishes M'Benga were still on the ship but he is CMO again on another ship.


He begins several science experiments to occupy his time, thinks one might be fruitful enough to get a paper out of. He has chosen a lab Christine does not use. He is honestly trying to give her and Jim a chance to fix whatever is wrong between them.


Although in his lonelier or more rebellious moments he thinks perhaps their only problem is that she is with the wrong man.




After almost a year getting used to Gamma, coming to like it, Spock is now on Alpha again. Jim needs him and while it is nice to be needed—and wanted—again, Spock misses the autonomy he enjoyed on the least popular shift.


But he is glad to be with his friend again, and Jim's smile is his normal, genuine one when he and Spock play chess—not the hard, bitter one of before.


Jim and Christine seem to be on better ground as well, although Spock stays away from her unless mission needs dictate they interact.


"Thank you, Spock. For giving me time. I missed you. I really did."


"And I you, Jim." He gestures to the game board. "And our games."


"And Saavik? She prospers?" It's the first time Jim has ever asked about her. Spock's surprise must show for Jim says, "I mean since Chris has pulled away."


He is unsure what Jim is talking about. While it is true that Christine did not see Saavik the two times they were on Earth during his time on Gamma shift, it was because Saavik was on Vulcan. He knows she has not pulled away. They will be on Earth in a few weeks, and Saavik is excited to see her; they have a challenging run planned in the Pyrenees.


He decides to simply answer Jim's original question. "She does prosper, Jim. My father is most impressed with her ability to catch up to her peers and my mother very much enjoys having a young person in the house again." She is studious and sweet natured, but has retained her streak of loyalty to those she loves and complete disdain for those she does not.


"That's great." He seems sincerely pleases.


"She wishes to go to the Academy."


Jim smiles. "The next generation, Spock. I often wish David would somehow defy his mother and end up there. But she has him wrapped too tightly into her world. Science and hating the military."


"Perhaps when he is older, you can reach out."


"And say what? 'Sorry I missed every important milestone you had? But hey, better late than never.' I think I'll just leave him alone, Spock. It is what it is."


"Very Vulcan of you."


"Don't I know it."




He is sitting with Saavik waiting for Christine to arrive.


"She's never late, Spock." Saavik is trying her best to sit quietly, to not let her voice rise, not let the emotion show. She has learned so much so quickly but he can hear the concern in her voice.


"She will not break her promise, Saavikaam. Of this, I am sure."


He feels her before he sees her; deep anger pulsing out of her. Anger she pulls in even as he tries to read her, as she walks into the Embassy and is passed through by the guard.


He knows Saavik wants to run to her as she used to do when she was first with them, but she does not.


"Look at you, kiddo. You're growing like a weed. Is it okay to hug you? I know decorum is important."


Saavik laughs softly and flings herself at Christine. "I thought you weren't coming."


"Hey." Christine tips her chin up. "I will always come. And if some emergency makes it impossible to come, you better believe you will get a call as soon as I know. I will not make you sit on a couch waiting for me."


She pulls her in again and meets his eyes.


"Are you all right?" he asks.


She mouths "Later," and says, "Let's go get into our gear. We're going to this trail that's so amazing. A friend told me about it and I know you're going to whip my ass going up."


"But you'll whip mine going down."


Apparently, Christine has less natural caution than Saavik, which he finds not altogether surprising.


They go up to change and he goes to the room near Saavik's that he's been given to use whenever he's on Earth. He leaves the door open so Christine can come in if she wants to.


She does come in and walks to the window and says, "Jim actually thought I was going to just abandon her."


"He mentioned something about you backing away from Saavik during one of our games. I decided it was more prudent to let it lie than inform him he was wrong. Why did he think that, though?"


"I knew she was on Vulcan the last two times. It just seemed easier not to bring it up, not to piss him off. He's been such a fucking grouch lately." She closes her eyes. "He apparently has bought some horses. Got me a really gentle one despite the fact that I have no desire to ride and thought I had made that clear. The trails are amazing and I love running them. Do I have to like horses to be there with him?"


He does not know what to say so he says nothing.


Saavik walks in and the two of them turn as one, Christine tugging at her ponytail, then straightening Saavik's jacket.


"See you later," she says turning back to him with a sweet smile.


"Enjoy your run."




He startles awake, feeling Christine's hurt and anger. It feels as if she is in the next room but her location-finder on his padd places her in Idaho.


Whatever is happening there, it is not good.


He knows he must not go. Is not even sure where this place Jim seems to love so much is. But even if he did, this is between Jim and Christine. They must solve it.


He tries to close down the feelings pummeling him to no avail. Finally they settle but it is an uneasy type of peace. One that feels like it could explode again at any moment.


He almost expects her to show up at the embassy, but she does not. He looks for her as soon as he is back on the ship and finds her in her office.


"I'm sorry," she says without turning around. "That had to be horrible—I was so mad."


"It was not all anger. It was also pain." He moves into the office. "Do you wish to tell me what caused it?"


"He'll just get mad if I do."


"Very well." He turns to go.


"That wasn't me saying no. That was just a fact. He's mad all the time anyway." She sighs loudly. "Sit."


He does and waits for her to tell him whatever she needs to.


"So since La'an was out of town, I didn't spend the night like I usually do. I went to Idaho after dinner with the family."


He loves that she refers to his family as if they are hers.


"His uncle had a houseguest. Beautiful woman. Like T'Pring level pretty. Jim and she were having dinner on the patio when I arrived—his uncle was out playing bingo. They looked very cozy."


"It was just dinner, Christine. You were, after all, just having dinner with me, as well."


"Yeah, but you don't hold my hand during dinner, Spock. You don't get me alone later in our room and tell me how this woman actually likes to ride horses, can keep up with you, makes you feel special. How she loved the horse you got for me. So I don't have to worry about it because he fucking gave it to her since her husband took all her horses in her recent divorce."


"I am sorry."


He can tell that she is trying to keep her emotional level down. That she knows he is being pounded with her feelings. "Spock, I'm sorry. I don't know how to control this."


"You do not need to. Feel what you feel, Christine. I do not mind."


"He swears it was nothing. That he loves me. But I don't know. Since the pon farr, everything's been different."


"Yes, it has. Between him and me as well."


"You and I barely even interact anymore. What more does he want? That I just leave Saavik and never see her again? That I become crazy for horses just because that's what he wants? That's bullshit." She is crying now and he wants to comfort her but he remains where he is.


The tears do not last long, and she dashes them away angrily from her cheeks.


"He is afraid, Christine. That he will lose the ship."


"You think I don't know that? How many times do you think I've talked him down?" She glares at him as if it is his fault. "Other people survive on solid ground. What makes him so special that he can't?"


"I do not know. And I did not see him last time."


"Thank your lucky stars." A message pops up on her terminal and as she stands, she says, "Duty calls. Thank you for checking on me."


"I will always do so if I am able."


With a very sweet smile and a soft touch on his hand, she leaves him.


What is Jim doing? Is he really going to throw away what he has with Christine. Something Spock has gone to great lengths—and no little pain to himself—to ensure? If he no longer wants Christine then give her back to Spock, let her be a true mother to Saavik.


He feels the beginning of anger and resolutely pushes it down: Christine does not need that right now.




Spock stares at the note on his terminal. Starfleet would like him to teach at the Academy. It might be the solution needed for Jim and Christine and him. Off the ship for a job he is being told is his if he wants it. How can he refuse?


Also it would be interesting. Dealing with young minds might re-energize him. He has never been like Jim: happy so long as he had his ship.


He closes the message and resolves to think about it while they are at Jim's uncle's ranch. Christine has convinced Spock to bring Saavik and stay at the place. She thinks it would be good for all of them to get to know one another.


He thinks Jim has had ample opportunity to get to know Saavik and has simply not wanted to. But the break from the city sounds pleasant, so he has agreed that they will go.


Suddenly he feels her distress and searing white-hot anger. Then she is in his office, slamming the button that will close the door, pacing back and forth like a caged animal.


A moment later the chime rings and Spock says, "Computer, who is it?"


"Visitor is Captain James T. Kirk."


"Let him in."


"I knew you'd be in here," Jim says as soon as he sees her.


Spock holds up his hands to forestall the annoyance Jim clearly feels and wants to pile on him. He was minding his own business when she walked in.


She turns to glare at Jim. "We planned this trip."


"Yes and my uncle couldn't say no to the Carmichaels."


She seems to freeze, the expression on her face one Spock often saw at the end of their relationship. "Wait, Spock and Saavik can't come because Antonia is going to be there?"


"And her cousins, yes."


"But we had dibs."


"Not the way my uncle saw it." He has his arms crossed over his chest—a clear air of impatience. "Chris, there's room for you."


"But not Spock and Saavik. So how about this? You come with us and we'll go somewhere else. You can live without horses for a weekend."


"Oh, like you can live without a run every first day of our leave?"


She gets close, right in his face, and says, "Fuck you," with such venom Spock is almost surprised it doesn't burn Jim's face.


"I'm going to Idaho where there are people who understand horses and actually like me. Spock, she's all yours." And he walks out.


Christine sits down heavily in one of his guest chairs. "Why wouldn't he just change his plans and come with us?" She shakes her head. "Is this tit for tat for the pon farr?"


"I do not know."


"Did he just break up with me?"


"I am not sure about that either."


She closes her eyes and says, "I'm not ready for this to be over. I'll have my run with Saavik and then I'll go to Idaho. If my spot in the bed is taken by Antonia, then I guess I'll know I've been broken up with."


"A logical approach."


"But one that's going to hurt like hell if I have been." She stands. "Fuck."


As soon as she is gone, he sends in his letter of interest for the position.


An hour later he receives the formal acceptance. They have an immediate need and he will be reporting for duty in two weeks. HR will notify Jim and the rest of his chain of command, but he is free to tell Jim now if he wishes.


He does not wish; he thinks it altogether best to leave Jim and Christine very much alone right now.




Spock sits in Jim's office, listening to what can only be called a rant.


"I had to hear it from HR, Spock? I guess this is better than running off to Vulcan without a heads-up but not by much."


"You were not in the best of moods the day I found out." However, Christine did not return from Idaho upset, so he believes they have repaired their relationship. "Can you really say that you do not want me off your ship? You and Christine can go back to what you were."


Jim sits down heavily. "You don't have to leave."


"This is an excellent opportunity for me. I will be working with cadets in the science track. There are many Vulcans in this year's class."


"And you can be a real father to Saavik."


"Jim, just because I am not there with her does not mean I am not a real father. I comm her each night—although I am beginning to think that might be too much. She is not a child any longer but a teenager."


"You're right. Sorry. Does Chris know?"


He shakes his head.


"Well, don't let HR be the one to tell her, okay?" He rubs his eyes. "I'm so damned tired of being afraid they'll take the ship from me."


"Would it be the end of the world if you were on Earth?"


Jim's eyes are bleak. "Yeah. Yeah, it would." He got up. "I'll miss you, Spock."


"And I you."


"I don't suppose you want a goodbye party?"


He shakes his head.


"Yeah, didn't think so."




Spock finds the Academy a stimulating place to be, even if he comes home truly exhausted from the interaction with so many.


Saavik is thrilled to have him there at the embassy and he is proud of her—she has come so far. And she is a pleasure to interact with. He remembers T'Pring's prediction and is glad she was wrong.


The bond with Christine grows less open each day. Not that either of them are trying to close it off the way T'Pring did to him. But with distance, with her efforts with Jim and Spock's schedule, there is less urgency surrounding it.


He no longer feels her orgasms. He feels heated emotions or drastic pain, but not everyday things. A fact he is glad for. Let her be—let her live with the man she has chosen.


He has taken to exploring the Academy building and when he rounds a corner one day he runs into a familiar face. "Dawn the statistician."


She laughs. "Is that how you think of me."


"Well, among other things." He studies her: she really does look like Droxine. "If you are free later, I would love to learn more about you."


"Oh, sweetie, you are years too late. I got married. Kid on the way." She laughs at his apparently not subtle glance at her abdomen. "My wife is carrying it, not me."


"Ah, my loss then. And congratulations. I have a daughter. They make life worth living."


"You're such a nice guy, Spock. Who knew?" She glances at her chrono and says, "I have to split. Gotta get these slides up to Admiral Nonio. It was good seeing you."


He watches her go and then turns, heading back to his classroom. He assesses how he feels: while it would have been nice to reconnect with her, he thinks it's very possible his heart—as his mother would say—was not in it.




A year goes by, then another. He finds he enjoys the position far more than he ever expected to and eagerly accepts an offer to move to being in charge of the incoming Cadets Fourth Class. He finds the Plebes particularly engaging—they are so eager but not always for the right reasons. He remembers how Nyota was unsure if she would stay, how capable she is and how long her tenure. It reminds him not to judge anyone who expresses reservations.


He is finishing up his class one day when he feels Christine. Very close. But he can't read the emotion he is getting from the bond.


Then it grows very strong, and he feels happiness. He looks up and sees her standing at the top of the lecture hall by the doors, smiling the smile he likes the best.


"I will be right up."


"No rush." She turns and starts to look at the pictures he has put all over the walls the way she used to on the ship.


As he gets his things together and joins her, she asks softly, "Do you still have the pictures?"


"I do. And this wall was inspired by you. Everyone is invited to put class pictures—providing they are not unsuitable—here. However they wish—they have chosen randomly, as you can see."


"Does it bother your sense of order?"


"I am learning to be flexible." He studies her. "Is Jim with you?" It has been months since he last commed him.


"Jim has retired and moved into a house in the mountains with Antonia. We gave it a good run but he never let go of her and I never let go of you. Not really." She looks down. "There I go assuming you even care how I do or do not feel about you."


He tips her face up, gives her an actual smile, and then pulls her to him for a deep, satisfying, long-overdue kiss.


She wraps her arms around him and he pushes her back against the wall.


"Commander Spock, I forgot to ask you... Oh, shit."


He eases away from Christine. "Yes, Mister Finley. What did you forget to ask me." Finley often annoys him, especially at this moment.


"It can totally wait." He starts to smile in the most foolish—and a little bit malevolent—way. "The class is not going to believe this."


"Yo, Fin-Fin." Christine is walking toward him with a great deal of threat—Spock thinks she is channeling La'an or else Saavik has been teaching her to walk like a Romulan. "There will be no telling of the others."


"Uh, why?" Finley has attitude—sometimes annoying so—but today there is also alarm in his eyes.


"Because I've just been assigned to Starfleet Medical and I can make your life a living hell. So many tests. Embarrassing tests."


Spock has missed this—this is the Christine of old, the one he first fell in love with. So he just stands back and watches her go.


"Ma'am, mum is the word. In fact, I don't even know the word, because the word has ceased to exist. I saw nothing. At all. Ever. I'm blind. Not really but for the last five minutes—I was blind." He is actually sweating.


"Just so we understand each other, kid. I am talking tests you cannot even imagine."


Finley looks at Spock who nods as if she would actually do this.


"Okay, see you next week." And he is gone, running, possibly actually blind because he trips when normally he is very athletic.


"You have terrified him."


"Go me." She grins at him. "So, am I staying at the visiting officer's quarters?"


"You are not. You are staying with us. Saavik will be so pleased." They moved out of the embassy and into an apartment a year ago and she is in a preparatory school for the Academy early admission.


"And how long will I be staying?" She moves closer.


He walks to the door, closes and locks it, and then pushes her against a different wall, one that cannot be seen from any of the windows. "For as long as you want." He kisses her and soon she is pulling down his pants and hers and he is hiking her up.


There is nothing romantic in what they are doing but he knows neither of them care. It feels so good to be together again finally. The bond opens fully and nearly drowns him in sensation and he feels her reeling from it too.


"I never stopped loving you, Spock."


"Nor I you, Christine. Nor I you."


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