Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount Viacom. This story is copyright © 1982 by Beth Carlson. Rated R. Previously published in R&R #17.
The Spoils of War
Editor's Note: The Federation is at war. Dr. Christine Chapel is Chief Medical Officer of the Copernicus, captained by Spock.
* * *
Christine's eyes blurred and she shut down the viewer, sitting back in her chair. 2100 hours. The lab was quiet and she was weary; it had been a long day; a long war. There was a garbled cry, Franklin, demolitions, only seventeen. He had been beamed back aboard as his shuttlecraft had been hit after the sabotaging of a Romulan repair base. The nurse spoke to him and he quieted. It would have been kinder to have left him there, Chapel thought, and rubbing her eyes turned on the viewer again.
She was getting hardened. Time was when she would have seen any life as preferable to death, but now she had seen too much. She'd cleaned out so many belly ruptures and crushed skulls, treated so many burns and lacerations that she saw them when she ate and when she slept. And that was all she did, all there was time for.
Time. How many men and women had she killed by lack of time? Would there ever be time again to... Strange. She had to think. To do what? She was so tired that she couldn't remember not doing what she'd done today, and yesterday, and the day before.
The ship took a random hit and buckled. She took a deep breath and held on to the desk, hearing Franklin screaming in pain. Something clattered to the floor, the klaxon blared, and Christine turned off the viewer, hauling herself out of the chair against the heaving of the ship and into the main Sick Bay.
Casualties came in thick and fast -- sixteen in all -- and after six hours, there were only nine alive. The jolt had also killed Franklin. He'd lived through eight days of hell and she was glad he was dead. 0300 hours.
She checked Spock's perscan reading and found it off. Good, the Captain had been jumpy lately. A smile surfaced. Jumpy for him, anyway. It was a combination of the inhuman pressure and responsibility on top of too many duty hours and not enough rest. Vulcan or no, even Spock had his limitations.
She notified twenty-year-old Dr. Andersen and headed for her quarters. She wasn't due back for her regular twelve-hour watch for four hours.
* * *
0700 hours. Christine walked into the Sick Bay still weary but alert; after awhile it began to seem normal to be exhausted. The four hours had been quiet. Two more had died; Andersen looked like hell. The irrelevant thought came to her that he was too young for war. Was there a right age? He shuffled out silently, hollow-eyed.
She checked Spock's perscan reading again. The sleep had done nothing for him. His neuro-muscular reading was higher, blood pressure higher, pulse faster. She frowned and checked payroll records for a readout of his dietary charges for the previous day. There were none. Checking further, she found that there had been no charges against his serial number for four days running.
Christine swallowed a fear that was coming up inside of her and summoned McCoy's previous logs on him. The fear was affirmed and the bile was there again, along with a sickening pounding somewhere above her stomach. She swore silently and rechecked. There had to be some other explanation.
The intercom startled her. "Bridge to Sick Bay," came Spock's voice from the speaker.
"Yes, Captain," she answered, listening closely to the voice.
"Dead are Mason, Artemus, Jensen, 5436, Arronson, Quan, Polnasky, E'ronin, and Teremeo. We also lost Franklin. Reese probably won't make it."
"Thank you, Doctor." The intercom went quiet.
He sounded lousy, his voice a level too low, his manner unusually formal.
Christine sat back in her desk chair in the silent little office, very glad for the moment of solitude. Why? Why now, when there was not a snowball's chance in hell of getting to Vulcan, and even less chance of getting back to their own space from their last offensive attack without him?
She damned that second major onslaught and every stinking result it had brought. The Federation had lost a tremendous amount of space in that attack. Entire systems were being pillaged and taken under the Alliance. And the Copernicus was cruising the blackness silently. Only their invisibility shield was keeping them from being totally blown away, and only Spock's experience would keep them in one piece if something went wrong with the shield and they were seen. The Romulan patrols in the area were already sure of their existence and were firing wide salvos of artillery in their direction.
She smiled a wry smile. The ship was being held together with what Mason had called "chewing gum and a prayer." Mason was dead. The wiry redhead had been their best engineering crewman, he'd also been a friend.
Her thoughts returned to Spock. In only hours, a few days at most, Spock would be in no condition to command and it would be her duty to relieve him of his command. Christine's stomach turned. He would fight it, especially now and who else was there? Jerry Nelson would be next in line: twenty-two, nine months in space, and the tactical experience of a melon. If it wasn't so pathetic, it would be funny, she thought.
The entire crew were frighteningly young. How could they expect children to war? And yet, the faces of the enemy on the screen haunted her. They, too, were children, some younger than their own, weaned on hate and fear propaganda. They were children killing other children. It was absurd, and it was very real.
Spock. She put her head down on her desk, a shadow of depressing realization seeping through both the haze of fatigue and the defensive meanderings of her worn mind. Spock. It wasn't as if she were a complete novice at sex, she told herself, at last facing her thoughts head on. But never had she been with a man in the state Spock would be in.
If he had not taken a mate during his time on Vulcan, that made it nine years since the last time. She sighed. It occurred to her that he had probably spent the last two years in dread of its coming. Her mind began to wander again.
In nine years, a strange combination of fact and rumor had circulated about why Enterprise had been delayed to the Altair 6 ceremonies, why the call from T'Pau for Enterprise to veer off with no explanations of her actions, Spock's behavior in those few days, the Captain coming back from the planet unconscious, Spock's orders to set course for the nearest starbase, and the catalyst for it all, the damning interaction between him and his Vulcan bride on the open Bridge.
The talk and the curiosity had run rampant for weeks following the actual events, and though the furor had calmed, there were still the curious, now mainly in the medical community. Christine had read the articles, sometimes laughingly, sometimes thoughtfully. She and McCoy probably knew more than any of them and she was just now realizing just how little she did know.
Were it mainly psychological, she would have nothing to offer, were it mental, again she drew blank. But if it was a combination of physical and emotional release, a common rutting instinct… She found herself smirking. I'm analyzing him like a new species in a zoological experiment, she thought. But isn't it? She laughed a strangled half-laugh. Animal husbandry; one animal, Vulcan, adult male, and... The intercom from the outer Sick Bay beeped.
"Yes," she answered, hearing defeat in her voice.
It was Med-Tech Ryan. "We just lost Reese, Doctor."
She considered going up in person to tell Spock about Reese but rejected the idea. It was one of the bad things about having known each other for so many years. Sometimes they read each other too well.
A genuine smile touched her face. They had gotten close over the last eighteen months. Having begun with a new ship and a crew of fairly competent and age-mixed personnel, they had come to this. The two of them alone were mature adults, the next oldest crewman had been Mason at twenty-three, and now he, too, was gone.
No, she would not come face to face with him until she knew what she was going to do. She touched the intercom switch. "Sick Bay to Captain."
"Yes, Sick Bay?" Was there irritation in the voice? Or was it just fatigue? She couldn't tell. "We just lost Reese."
"Very well. Thank you." She heard a palpable tightness this time.
She sat back again. Sex. Rape, Chris. At least call it for what it is. Be honest with yourself. Spock is more than three times your strength. Fear rolled over her like a wave. Is that what you really want? Scenes of rape trauma she had seen in the base E.R. assaulted her. Some of the worst brutality she had ever seen had been associated with rape.
But it would be Spock. He wouldn't hurt just to hurt. Not unless you fight him and anger gets the best of him. And could she be sure that she wouldn't panic and fight him? Could any woman be sure? Were Vulcan women so disciplined that they could be sure? Or were they as crazed by the cycle as their men? Her mind was boggled and cloudy.
In the end of her thoughts, she had to admit that it was the fact that it would be Spock that scared her most. Not his strength, but the risk of losing her image of him as a gentle and honorable man, of losing that deep respect she held for him.
The love. That would remain, no matter what happened. It had survived hurt, jealousy, anger, disappointment, and even the three years after the end of that first mission when she had really tried to stop loving him.
She was afraid most of all of harboring anger and bitterness towards him, of seeing him as hard and uncaring. She had stood beside him and watched him order the deaths of hundreds of men and women and not thought him unfeeling. Would this be any different? In those times she had felt in that place in her that knew him so well the crushing blow it was to him to take life.
Christine's face softened as she remembered back to a day when there had been killing and it had been by Spock's command.
It had been a long night. They had cornered a Romulan vessel in Federation space, bartered words, played tactical games, all of the time the Romulan ship hoping to catch the Copernicus in an error that would somehow allow them to escape. Spock was making none, relentlessly driving them further into captivity until they saw no further choice.
She watched him from time to time, his face a mask of passivity, his sureness and determination like a terrier after a rat.
"Ensign Dorpher, any further communication?"
"No, sir. None since their last refusal to be taken prisoner."
It was harder for him, Christine thought to kill the Romulans. Harder on everyone, really. The Romulans had a very different culture, but were not entirely without redeeming qualities. The offer to be taken prisoner always existed, but was taken by neither Klingons nor Romulans. The fact that Spock was driving them to captivity was equivalent to forcing death.
"Incoming Fire. Brace for impact." It hit with a jolt.
"Coming in now, sir. Negligible."
"Ensign, repeat beaming instructions."
"Repeating, sir. Still no answer."
"Sir, they're building power, coming -- directly at us. They mean to ram us head on!"
"Set and ready, sir."
Christine looked at him from the side of her vision. The face was calm, only the twitch of a jaw muscle decried his expression of nothingness.
"Fire." The tone was low and smooth.
"Fire." The voice of the helmsman preceded the ball of light by only seconds. The ship rocked but did not stop.
"Fire two." A burst of blinding light flooded the screen several seconds later. "Got him, sir." There was no triumph in the helmsman's voice, only relief as the screen showed a star pattern again.
A wave of pain touched Christine from Spock. It was so overwhelming that she laid her arm alongside of his on his console. He would move immediately, of course, but at least he would be reminded that he was not alone.
He had not removed his arm, she remembered with a smile, but had let it rest against hers for several moments, silently drawing from the companionship of her presence.
There had come the time months later when he, at a similar moment of overload, his great control worn thin by fatigue, had put his arm on the console, his hand a fist over its edge, and met her eyes with his. She had come the distance to him, placed her arm against his, and felt his muscles relax, his breathing slow. Those events had gone unnoticed by the others, unspoken of, and unacknowledged, but they existed; as their relationship existed, undefined.
Now, he needed her, really needed her. She had waited forever for him to need her, and now that it had come, it was not what she wanted, any more than Platonius had been. Not like this. She straightened in her chair and took a drink of cold coffee.
How different would it be? In the killing he had no choice and he regretted it. She could handle that in him. In this he would have even less choice. And if she wanted him to live, she had no choice either.
No choice. There was her answer. It didn't matter whether she hated him later or not. There were kids on this ship that deserved a chance to grow up; boys who only shaved every other day, Sherry Jordan, who at fifteen had not yet begun to menstruate. She covered her face with her hands as the visions of the base E.R. assaulted her again. No Choice. No Choice. "Spock." It came from her lips softly. It wasn't all for the kids. "I have to be honest with myself about that, too," she whispered. It was for him as well. No. Not "as well." For him first.
She began a tape of her proposed actions to protect Spock from himself should anything go badly wrong, which she could see as a distinct possibility. She outlined the situation and made it clear that she was under no duress to take the actions she had. She also outlined the physical basics of Vulcan reproduction and cultural influences as she knew them and signed with her identification information.
The decision made, she locked the tape in her drawer for safekeeping, made arrangements for Andersen to take the watch a little early that evening, and went out into the Sick Bay to begin her day. The tape would be found should the occasion arise for him to take charge of the Sick Bay.
* * *
1845 hours. Andersen arrived promptly and she left, making her way to the Captain's cabin. She opened the door, standing there for a long moment. The actual going in was hard; there would be no turning back from this point on. She took the step in and the door closed behind her.
The bed was made, the room orderly. More personal belongings than you would think, she mused, twitching her nose at the odor of the incense burning in the fire pot. She stood in the center of his cabin, tired and scared and feeling very small. How many times had she dreamed of being here? Of being with him? But not like this. There were none of the things that she had dreamed of, no relationship, no tenderness. She couldn't even feel desire for him, or respect for herself.
She took off her clothing, placing the things neatly on a chair, and went in to shower. Stepping out to dry, she smiled, tears coming to her eyes. His robe. How predictable. It was hanging beside the shower stall. She'd not noticed it before. She lifted it from its place and put it on, feeling comfort in its worn softness.
Spock was going to hate her for this, she thought, and closed her eyes, leaning her head against the bathroom wall. She pulled the robe more tightly about her. It's going to rip the hell out of his self-respect and pride. Her stomach turned with fear and dread as she pulled the pins out of her hair, letting it fall on her shoulders. No choice. She took a breath and came into the main room to wait for him. 1855 hours, five minutes more. She tried to calm her breathing, waiting each minute, each second.
An hour and sixteen minutes after the watch change, Spock entered the cabin. She stood to meet him, seeing first surprise, then realization, and anger cover his face. "Why are you here?" he snapped, his voice ragged.
"You need to ask?" She tried to keep her voice level, but failed.
"I didn't ask you to come! I don't want you here!"
She turned from him, unable to stand the anger his eyes were radiating at her and the things that she knew were falling apart inside of him behind that facade of strength.
Her head was pounding and she was tired. Tears welled up inside of her at his voice and she, tried to focus on the bulkhead, feeling his anger from behind her. "No one asked either of us if we wanted to be here, or if we wanted to have other people dependent on us." Putting the tears away from her, she let fatigue cover her, pulling her voice into weariness. "There is no provision here, Spock, for your sense of honor." She touched the bulkhead with one fingertip and dropped her hand. "Or mine." She turned back to him. "What happens if you make a wrong decision?" Her voice went hoarse. "You can't afford the luxury of being a person!"
The truth of her words bit at both of them, and now it was Spock that turned away, looking into the fire pot. Christine took several steps toward him, wanting to touch him, yet not having the courage.
His voice came from far away, building with bitterness. "And have you considered, Doctor, that I could kill you? Literally!" He spun on her so suddenly that she jumped, his dark eyes boring into hers. The pain in his face battled with the indignity of it all, spilling out into cutting sarcasm. "That I could do such damage to you internally that you would not survive it?" It was ugly and he painted it with the vivid colors of his anger..
Christine tried to ignore it but was full of her own indignity. "And this ship could get two-hundred-and-eighty-three kids home a lot easier with a twenty-year-old in Sick Bay than with a twenty-two-year-old in command." She was painting with her own reflection of his anger. "I'm a physician, Spock! I've seen rape trauma! Don't you think I know? It's all I've been able to see in my mind all day!"
Something inside of him came close to the surface but was plunged down and covered with cold control over pain and anger. His voice was sardonic. "You once told me that you knew I wouldn't hurt you," he reminded. Spock, the expert knifesman.
The reminder of that time cut her deeply. How could he? Her own wrath came to meet his as she looked into his face. "Maybe I'm smarter now!" she lashed between clenched teeth, aiming to cut back. "Why don't you just get it over with?!"
The rage that came over him erupted from the depths of his tormented being, and he caught her about the throat with his right hand, forcing her head back. She held perfectly still, not breathing, certain that he would kill her where she stood.
It seemed to Christine as if all of the anger in existence filled him at that moment and that it was never-ending. Her lungs begged for release but she could not grant it, and then there was a flickering in the dark, glittering eyes of awareness. Something close to bewilderment touched his face and finally turned to resignation, and then to shame.
His hand opened and trembled against her jaw as if to erase the action and fearing it would do further damage. He was badly shaken. "I'm sorry," he whispered almost voicelessly and his hand dropped.
Christine exhaled with a relief that almost dropped her forward. "So am I. I didn't mean it," she whispered back and turning away from him continued, "I'm just so scared -- and I'm angry, and tired, and embarrassed, and humiliated. And I don't see any other way." She turned back to him. "Do you?" Her last words were soft, and pleading, and he did not answer her but walked to the desk and toyed absently with a tape, staring at it intently.
"No," he finally said, very quietly. "I do not." He turned the tape over again and fingered it. "It is not yet time." He paused in thought.. "But perhaps now, before the fever, it would be easier -- for you." He let out an enormously defeated sigh. "I do not even know if it would be sufficient now. It might be totally useless." He damned his own lack of knowledge of this thing that would possess him. He looked up at her, but she turned away, taking a few steps toward the fire pot, unable to meet his eyes.
"Sexuality is a strange thing. It may just trigger it," she stated in the physician's tone, the safe voice to hide behind... She stared at the glow, feeling an ache rising in her at his concern for her safety and wanting very badly to be able to face him, to project comfort to him. But she could not.
There was silence. It was deathly quiet for a long moment.
"I cannot afford to let this go further." His voice was rough. "I have already experienced a degree of distortion of judgment.
Still she did not turn. "Then it must be now." At least she could assure him of her continued intent.
The voice from the other side of the room was low and strained. ."Yes. If there is a chance that it will remove the distortion more quickly."
Christine's heart skipped with fear and she stood quietly trying to breathe, knowing that he would now come to her. She heard his steps behind her and as his hands firmly touched her shoulders she jumped.
"Christine?" he said quietly.
Why did he have to call her that? It brought to her all of the dreams that she had had of there being a loving relationship between them, dreams that were being mutilated by this situation. Yet, what else was there to call her when he was about to take her to his bed? Miss Chapel? Commander Chapel? Doctor Chapel? It was absurd. The pressure in her chest reminded her that she had not breathed, nor had she answered him. "Yes."
"Christine. I am in control now. If I can maintain control, I will not hurt you."
Her face contorted and she was glad that he could not see it. A tear slid down her face. "I know." She swallowed. "Spock?"
The heat of his hands was soaking into her shoulders and she could not say it. "Nothing."
He turned her to face him and she saw great tenderness and reaching in his eyes. "I accidentally 'read' you -- picked up your thoughts. I'm sorry. You were going to tell me that you would be here, even if the only thing at stake were my safety." She turned her face away and he gently brought it back to his, looking into her eyes. "I know that." He paused, gathering his thoughts and-words. "The last time, you came to me then, too." A faint echo of a smile touched his lips. "Even after I had thrown you out of my cabin. I reached for you, I needed you then. I wanted you. You couldn't have known how much. But you did know I wanted you, and still you told me about the course change to Vulcan. You did it out of respect for me and my feelings about myself." A troubled look crossed his face and then left as he watched his hand smooth a stray lock of her hair back. His hand came to rest on her cool neck and his eyes studied hers again. "I have known you were there, Christine. And I have…" He paused, searching for the word. "I have valued it."
She closed her eyes, tears sliding from beneath the lashes, and felt him fold her into his arms. He held her close against him and buried his face in her hair for a long moment, straining to calm himself and the pounding pressure inside of him. "It is hard," he said at last, "for me not to pick up your thoughts. Harder almost than physical control not to come into your mind," he admitted quietly, still holding her firmly against his body, wondering desperately whether being so close to her physically was helping or just making it all worse.
"I am here for you. For all of you. Come," she answered as quietly.. She had no more false illusions, no secrets she wished to keep from him. She knew only that she was frightened, and that she was in his arms. Nothing could ever change or erase what was happening, and she was not sure in herself that she could cope with her brave offering.
She felt a little dizzy for a moment. //Christine?// He was there.
//You don't need to speak. You're very tense. Relax.//
//I'm trying. I'm scared.//
//I know. I am still in control.// He buried his face in her hair again, keeping his hands still, the friction of her back against his palms almost undoing him completely. //It feels good to hold you.// Pain washed through her at his words. //I'm sorry that hurts you.// She felt concern from him. //There is a compelling ache in me to be near you, mentally, physically. But I don't mean it to hurt you.//
She felt regret in him and held him tighter. //It feels good to me, too,// she admitted, allowing herself to rest into his embrace and feel the warmth of his body against hers. //There is no way it cannot hurt, Spock. I am in love with you. You cannot love me. It is hard to know that it is only your reproductive cycle that allows you to be close to me. That I will never be with you again after this time. That it could as well be any other woman.// Resentment began to gnaw at her and her thoughts bubbled out. //That my needs for you don't count because they're not life-threatening. That… I'm sorry. It's hard not to think. I know it's not your fault.//
//It is not any other woman in my arms now, Christine. It is you. No other woman has come to me. You have. I have never been as close to another woman as I am with you -- as honest, or as open. You have given to me in your silence, in your respect for my values beyond your own desires, and yet you have been there for me in these months when I have needed not to be alone. I have never had that from a woman before.// He smoothed her hair again, relishing the sensation of it, and drew her head to his shoulder. //This is not an easy time for me, and you are here, and I, for your sake, should not be glad. But I am. I have needed no one as I need you now.//
//But it hurts,// she thought before she could stop it.
//More than I have ever realized. Christine. It is the first Pon Farr that I have mated. It will never happen again, the first time. It will remain between us as something special, as your coming to me has been.// And that hurt, too, his trying to give her a sense of celebration when he had none for himself.
She held him, letting her hands memorize the muscles in his back, trying just to relax and not think too much, yet feeling the sense of urgency of time that was such a part of all of them. She was terrified that something would happen, a klaxon go off, the intercom buzz. Please not now, just give him this time. Please. She felt a gentle quelling of tension coming from outside of her own mind and she tried to remain pliable to him.
//Spock, if you can feel my pain, then you can feel my love for you as well,// she said when the silence had become long.
//Yes. It is unfathomable to me. How do you warrant placing such value on me?//
//I don't know. If I knew, I could stop it.// She raised her head from his chest and looked into his eyes. //No. I would not change it if I could.//
//It causes you pain.// His thought held incredulity.
She smiled a gentle smile at the confusion in him and put her head down again. //Yes. But it also causes great joy. Joy and pain are very much related.//
//That is confusing. I feel it in you, and yet I cannot understand it.//
//I don't understand it either, Spock. I have never tried to. My emotions have always just existed in me. I have never expected to understand them.// There was another silence. //Spock.//
//You say you can feel my emotions. What is going on in you? I feel almost nothing from you. Is it because I am not telepathic? Or are you keeping to yourself?//
He rubbed his hand firmly up and down her back and took a deep breath, holding her tighter for a moment. The breath came out as a sigh. //You are empathic. Many people in medicine are to a degree.//
//I'm what?// She pulled away to look at him and he raised an eyebrow at her. Embarrassed, she put her head back against him.
//Empathic. Sensitive to the emotions of others.//
//I know what the word means. But -- //
//Have you never wondered how you have known me so well? You seem especially sensitive to me, to my feelings. I have been trained all of my life to shield my thoughts, not to let emotion rule me or be visible in me. But I have never had to shield the emanations of my feelings. It was a totally new experience to me. It has taken years to learn to block from you the thing I have most wanted private, my personal emotions. It is still difficult to do. You have truly not known?//
//I only knew that when you hurt, I hurt. When you were tense, I knew. When there was joy in you, there was joy in me. I never wondered why I saw, only why others didn't. I have always thought of empaths as the girl you met in the Minarian system, Gem. Or of people destroyed near birth by their feeling of the pain of those around them.//
//There are differences and variances in every gift. You have been my personal empath.// He crushed her to him with an affection that he had never allowed himself to feel. //And thorn.//
She almost laughed aloud. It had never occurred to her before, but now it all made such sense. How hard it must have been for him these years. How invaded by her he must have felt. //I'm sorry it's been hard for you.// She had grown serious.
//And it has not been for you?//
//You said you think many medical people are empathic. What about Leonard?// Curiosity sparked in her.
//Yes. To a lesser degree. He usually could tell when something was wrong, but was oftentimes at a loss as to what it was.//
//So what are you feeling right now?//
//Come. Lie with me.// He led her to the bed and pulled her down with him, taking her into his arms warmly. She fitted well in his arms, he thought. A flicker of the thought, though undirected to her, touched her awareness, but it did not hurt her this time. She basked in knowing that she fitted well against him, and that he knew it.
//Good,// he commented, his eyes closed, his arms firmly around her. //That will make it easier.//
He opened his eyes and looked into hers thoughtfully. //Your body is changing, preparing itself.// The errant wisp of hair was once again smoothed back by a very warm hand. She buried his face against him, embarrassed. It was true, her body was responding to the nearness of him, but she wished that he had not known, or at the least not said anything about it. He lifted her face to look at her with mild surprise. //That embarrasses you. Why? Is that not a perfectly normal functioning of your body?// His fingertips stroked her throat gently and she trembled.
//Yes. I suppose so.// She grasped his hand. //You are avoiding my question. If I'm so sensitive to your feelings, then you must be shielding them, because I'm feeling almost nothing from you that you are not openly projecting.//
He looked at her with indecision in his face. It was one of the few times that she had ever seen it there. He said nothing but leaned to kiss her, pulling her to him with a strength that shocked her. A hand came to rest at the back of her hips, the other against the back of her head as the kiss grew full and urgent. Years of wanting him exploded inside of her and she moved against him, returning the kiss with a hunger for him that surpassed anything she thought herself capable of.
Suddenly there was a blinding flash in her of Spock's being. For a moment she was Spock. There was light and confusion and emotion and physical desire that had passed the point of actual desire and into the realm of intense pain. She felt herself shuddering.
There was a wrenching sensation, a strange tearing apart, and the brightness began to dim. It waned until it became only a tiny, aching flicker within her and they broke from the kiss. His face was buried against her neck and hair again as they both strove to collect themselves. She was still trembling when she heard his voice near her ear. "That is what I am feeling." His hand stroked her face and the tingle of dizziness touched her again for a few seconds. //And what I am shielding you from.// He was back in her mind. He had broken contact with her momentarily to control himself, she thought. Guilt and humiliation radiated from him.
//Spock.// She kissed the side of his face. //I am not repulsed by it in you. I love you.// She said it as if it were an explanation, he thought. //But how do you bear it?//
There was a touch of bitterness in him. //I bear it because I must. It takes all of my energy to fight it, to keep it at bay. And in the end, it will control me.// He felt a wave of fear from her. //I don't mean to frighten you. I should not have let you feel it. Forgive me.//
//No. I'm glad you did. I can understand better now. And, Spock, I'm feeling things from you again. I feel that you are afraid, too. Afraid of losing control, afraid of hurting me -- and shame, Spock. I am not ashamed of you. You are a Vulcan man, what is happening to you is normal for you. I love you.// His eyes betrayed his lack of acceptance of her words. //What we are doing is what I want as well. No one is forcing me. I need to be here for you. Call it masochistic, or stupid. I don't know. But I need it, to be taken, and utilized completely and totally, to be for you what no one else can be.// She leaned and touched her lips to his warmly, feeling his hunger meeting her, his mouth seeking, opening against hers and his body responding.
He jerked away suddenly, a look of terror in his eyes. Again, the touch of his mind was lost to her. She took his hand and placed it against her cheek. He took a few shallow breaths and the dizziness touched her again. //It is coming. I can't -- // He struggled to relax, but his body was no longer obedient. //Feeling your desire for me is beginning it.//
She began to move away from him to ease his pressure. //NO!// he roared into her mind, crushing her back against him. And then more gently as he gained some small degree of control, //No. Don't go. Please.// He touched her face tenderly with a hot, trembling hand, his pain-wracked eyes holding hers. //Don't -- pull away from me. Not now.//
All that he was depended on her in that moment and she felt a tremendous wave of tenderness and love for him fill her. His eyes were naked and full of panic and pain, and through all of it, he was trying desperately to fight the savagery that was rising inside of him. She kissed him lightly. //No. I won't leave you,// she assured him. //Here. Let me help you.//
Tears of tension and humiliation began to stream down his face as they removed his clothing. He was all but blind now, a raw mass of pain and frustration, still fighting it and still losing at an unbelievable speed. She could feel his own respect for himself crumbling. //I cannot even--// came a garbled thought. She kissed him to distract him, no longer able to bear his battling it. He had to give in to it now. //I'm here, Spock. It's okay. Come to me. Now, Spock. I love you.// And seeing him still struggling to control, she opened the robe and moved against him, kissing him fully, breaking the last defense from his reach even as he grasped for it. She found herself beneath him, wrists pinned to the bed, his knees brutally spreading her legs. No one could move that fast. But he had and she felt impotent panic turn to tears.
* * *
It had been as Spock had predicted, as Christine had only begun to imagine. He had been volcanic, animalistic, totally closed off from her and lost in his own throbbing heat of insatiability.
Finally, after several hours of his uncontrolled passion, when Christine had been sure that she could no longer endure the aloneness beneath his desire, the sense of violation, the pain of being with a man that was no longer any part of the man she loved, he had calmed.
She was lying curled in a ball away from him when he finally was able to clear his head and move. The mind touch was broken and he longed to renew it to know how she was. He reached out to touch the pale shoulder, seeing the beginnings of the imprint of his hand forming there; his stomach turned.
"Don't! Please." He began to move his hand, but she covered it with her own, holding it against her shoulder. "I don't want you in my head right now." They were silent for a long moment, Spock feeling no right to speak, Christine preparing herself to face him.
She turned to him slowly, carefully. The pain in his face touched her and she reached to stroke his cheek. "There is a lot of bad stuff in my mind right now, things I don't really mean, I don't think. I don't want you exposed to it, okay?"
He nodded. "Are you badly damaged?" he asked, stroking her thigh gently.
"No. I don't think so," she said, grasping his hand from the redness there and trying to shift to a more comfortable position.
"I am relieved." His voice was quiet.
"And you? I was concerned for you. You were in trance for a long time. Almost half an hour. I've been lying here listening to you breathe. Are you well?"
"Affirmative. The worst is over. I shall be able to handle the rest."
The words suffocated her. He was gathering his pride to himself and she would be shut out again. Her breath caught with the pain of it. "I love you," she blurted in a sudden breath, touching his face, then forced herself to calm. She would not stay if she were not wanted. She would not renege on her respect of his need for privacy. Not now, when he was so very vulnerable. "Would you like me to leave now?" she asked quietly, her heart tearing and her voice managing not to sound pitiful, somehow.
He frowned at the situation of her pain and opened his arms to her. "I won't read you. I promise."
The sound of held-in tears made a sudden noise in her throat and she fell into his arms, pressing against the heat of his body. She made a short and valiant attempt not to cry but failed, and he held her as he wept. She cried for the aloneness, anger, pain, and frustration she had endured, cried for the joy of being in his arms.
At last she quieted. "May I?" he asked, touching the side of her head. "Please." His eyes were full of tenderness and she was reminded of his need to be close to her. She nodded and he came into her mind gently.
//Christine.// There was heartsickness in him at her discomfort. //I'm so sorry. Let me help you.//
//What did you do? It stopped burning.//
//I'm blocking the discomfort.//
//Does that hurt you?//
//Just a little. I want to.//
//Spock, open up to me again. You're shielding. How are you feeling about all of this?//
He resisted for a moment and then, putting his head against hers, relented. There was, as she had expected, much guilt and self-reproach in him.
//It was my choice, Spock.//
//You could not have known what you were getting into.//
//I was not expecting the isolation of it, of being cut off so totally from you. And I was unprepared for your suffering. But I knew it would hurt, knew it would be frightening.// He remained unconsoled by her words. //Spock, if I remembered something, could you visualize it with me?//
She showed him some of the gore that she had seen in the E.R. where she had done legal rape examinations. //That is something of what I was expecting.// She could feel waves of nausea washing over him, and almost anger.. //Spock, you were out of control, you're strong, but there was no cruelty in you. You weren't out to hurt me purposely.//
Again the anger seemed to flare. No, she decided, not anger; frustration at not being able to grasp something. //I don't understand you. If you were expecting that, and I did not know what exactly to expect, then why -- ?//
//You're not supposed to understand me,// she cut in. //You said that the worst is over and yet you are still highly stimulated. Explain to me.//
//There will be no more plak tow. I am no longer in mortal danger. I will continue to be extremely uncomfortable and feel the intense need for sexual activity, but aside from the distraction of being uncomfortable, my judgment will be unimpaired. In short, I will control, and I will survive, though in the next days I may have cause to wish I had not. By the eighth day, it will abate.//
//I will be treated and sufficiently healed by tomorrow. May I come to you?// She felt silence and shielding from him, and then confusion.
//I do not understand you!//. There was the frustration again, even closer, now, to anger.
//I did not ask you if you understood me. I asked you if I could come to you!// She reached out and smoothed her hand down his stomach and inner thigh. //DO YOU WANT ME?//
//Yes!// he said with an intake of breath and pulled her mouth to his, his body enclosing hers. //I want you very much.// The kiss was wet and hungry, and he swept her away with his desire into the depths of her own unsatisfied needs. Suddenly she knew that she could not wait for tomorrow, nor could he. For a few moments, breathing became incidental, as did the long-forgotten pain that he was still blocking, and the knot of blankets beneath her back. He lifted on his hands, not breaking from the kiss as she slid beneath him.
"Captain to the Bridge," came the intercom and they broke away, Spock coming to rest on his right hip. She saw his hands ball into fists of frustration and then force themselves to relax. Her own breathing was hard and she struggled to control it, biting her lip firmly as he rolled off the bed to press the audio button, his eyes on the desk before him. The burning had returned to her.
"Spock here, Mr. Nelson. What do you have?"
"Those cruisers are acting strange, sir. Like they're picking us up somehow. I think you'd better come and take a look.
"On my way." He let up on the button and turned to Christine. "Will you wait for me?" There was frustrated desperation in his face that matched her own feelings.
She smiled. "If I can."
He pulled on his clothes and ran a brush through his hair quietly. "I'll try not to give you any more patients," he promised.
"I'd appreciate that," she teased with a smile and watched him leave.
Less than five minutes later there was another Red Alert. Christine forced herself up and went into the bathroom cleaning up and dressing hastily, ignoring the burning in her body.
She came into the Sick Bay along with six casualties. Damn war. DAMN! It roared in her ears as she scrubbed, hearing the pitiful cries of shocked and bewildered children in pain.
They took a second hit, and a third. DAMN WAR! DAMN WAR! DAMN WAR! It welled up in her. The tension of the day and night, the fatigue and anger of forever seemed to be riding on her shoulders. Two doctors, and four kids needing immediate surgery, damn war. She grabbed the young woman who was the most valuable to them and put Andersen on a kid from Engineering. The other two would have to wait. Calling instructions to the techs, she opened the young woman. DAMN WAR! DAMN WAR! DAMN WAR! she raged as she worked. It didn't do any good. WHY?!!
After almost twenty minutes of work Christine came onto an area of mass damage that had been concealed beneath a muscle wall. She slumped. It would take hours to repair. And it would almost certainly cost the lives of the two kids remaining on hold. She made an unavoidable choice. "Get Jennings in here," she ordered. The nurse left and she continued to work. A few moments later a young, sandy-haired med-tech came in. "I've got to quit on her, Del. You want her?"
His face furrowed with the responsibility of decision. He'd had some limited surgical experience. "You don't have to. It's not your responsibility," she assured him.
He smirked. "What the hell. Okay. Why not? Can you hold her till I scrub?"
"Sure. But move it." She went back to work.
Her second patient was already half-gone by the time she got to him. Andersen finished the engineer and began the fourth patient within minutes. DAMN WAR! The pressure built in her. It wasn't fair. Not for the kids, not for her, not for the sixteen-year-old med-tech trying to do a surgery he was not in the least prepared to try. DAMN WAR! Her patient's heart began to fibrillate. SHIT! YOU CAN'T DO THIS! DAMN YOU! She grabbed for the equipment behind her.
"I just lost her, Doctor," came Jennings' voice from the other table. She swung around in time to see the boy on her own table go completely sour. She just stared, scalpel in one hand, equipment in the other. She didn't even try to revive him. It was too late. She put the equipment down slowly, staring at the boy on the table. I should have stayed with the girl. "DAMN WAR!" she raged at the top of her lungs and hurled the scalpel at the wall with all of her strength.
The techs and nurses stood stock still in their tracks. Only Andersen remained unaffected and continued to work. She was glad that the O.R. was soundproof. She took a breath and let it out, putting her hands up. "Uh, look, I'm sorry, kids. You did fine, Del. Thanks." Stripping off her gloves and gown, she tossed them onto the open incision. "It's been a rough day for all of us. It's gonna be okay." She turned and walked out of the room. It was 0400 hours. She had another five hours before her next watch. "Damn war," she whispered wearily to herself as she came into the main Sick Bay and entered a cell to treat her own injuries. She was exhausted.
* * *
0410 hours. Christine headed toward her cabin, but as she came near it veered off for Spock's quarters. She did not really expect him to be there, but she wanted to see him. If he were not there, she would go to the Bridge. She rang and the door opened. He was in the robe she'd worn. Taking her by the hand, he drew her in and the door shut behind them. "Come."
There eyes met and she came into his arms. "What happened?" she asked.
"Our power failed and the shield flickered. Helm's phaser work got us through. We destroyed one and disabled the other enough to lose him."
"Patched together again. I do not believe I fully appreciated Mr. Scott until he was no longer there," Spock said, rubbing her back as they spoke. They both wondered if Scotty on the Cordova and Jim and McCoy on the Enterprise were still alive. The Copernicus had been out of radio contact behind enemy lines for almost three weeks. In that time, anything could have happened.
"How long before we get out of here?"
"At warp two point one, eleven more days. If we sustain more damage and have to go more slowly to keep up the shield, longer."
It was maddening to know that they were only hours away from their own lines at warp seven or eight; and that they could not risk it. In truth, the Copernicus could no longer sustain more than warp three in anything but a maneuvering thrust and they crept along invisibly at a snail's pace, nursing power into damaged engines, trying to stay alive long enough to get home.
"And in Sick Bay?" he asked.
She filled him in on her experience there, including her temper tantrum. "I thought poor Jenny Randall was going to drop her teeth." She shook her head. "They go through a lot, too. They don't need me yelling." He did not comment.
"How are you feeling?" he asked at length.
"Pretty good, now. There was no real damage. A lot of bruising, swelling, and some tearing. I could take care of most of it."
His arms dropped from her and he turned, walking away. She felt much humiliation from him and anger with himself. Coming from behind, she put her arms around him, her hand sliding against his chest beneath the robe. "You once told me that when I had made a decision, there was no point in dwelling on it. That feeling guilt over something that was already past and unchangeable was counterproductive. I made a decision. A choice. I would make it again. It was the right choice. Your choice was right as well. And it is over."
She came in front of him, placing her hands on the sides of his face. "We could have all been dead by now, you know."
"Yes." He took her hands from his face and drew them around his waist, then took her into his arms and kissed her gently. He looked into her eyes for a moment and held her close. "May I?" he asked, touching her head.
//You are better.//
//You thought I would lie to you?//
//Perhaps a half-truth.// He felt her mind wandering.
//What do you think they'll do with us when we get back?// she asked.
//There are rumors that they had the Hood almost ready to go out again. If there is truth in that, and she is ready, we may be transferred there with that crew. Her manifest is even lower than our own. Captain Stuarts will not be able to command for another six months at the least.//
//The Hood has a medical officer, more experienced than I, and a man. I will no doubt be grounded for the next ship of less experienced crewmen and put on a border patrol.// Her heart ached.
//No.// There was force behind the thought.
//Why not? It makes good sense to put the more experienced crews together and use them on the front and put the kids in as backup. Not that there are much else but kids.//
//It may seem logical in theory, but it does not work that way in reality. No matter how hard they try to put the young crews to the rear of the action, they still use whatever is fully loaded and most readily available when there is a sudden need. It is the nature of the situation that the ships which have seen the least action are the best equipped. Statistics would show that the ships are rotated quite evenly. Come. Rest. You're worn.//
She was not going to argue Spock on statistics, though Starfleet seemed to do whatever it pleased arbitrarily, despite reality. She allowed him to lead her to the bed, his arm around her. They lay quietly facing each other, holding hands.
//I will keep my crew intact,// he told her. //They are young, but they are learning. And I will keep you. Surely it is my right and a necessity that I have a Chief Medical Officer that knows me well and that I can trust.//
//And if Starfleet doesn't see it that way?//
//Then I will bring it to their attention.//
She smiled at him, touching his jaw with the backs of her fingers. //You, Spock? Bucking orders?// She felt only determination from him, and a fullness that he might want to deny. //I believe you would,// she said, answering her own question.
He reached to touch her face and sliding his hand behind her neck kissed her. Her arms came around him as she came into his embrace. She could feel desperate passion rising in him and she tried to respond. His caresses were gentle but confident, his breathing deep, his kisses full and searching, but her body refused to respond. She tried to relax and let herself drift with what she knew should be filling her with desire for him but was not. It was no use. //Oh, Spock.// She began to cry. //I'm so tired and keyed up I can't even want you. You go ahead.//
He continued kissing her face and neck, undressing her. //I will wait. Now let me get you undressed and under the covers. We seem to be doing a lot of undressing.// He paused and then, almost as if to himself, //And precious little else.//
She laughed through her tears and allowed him to remove her clothing as she rested. Realization touched her and she sat up. //I can't sleep here.// She stopped his hands.
//Why not?// He pulled his hands from hers and stroked her side, kissing her throat, only half-listening.
//It's not exactly regulations.// She maneuvered her mouth to his, enjoying his kisses.
//Show me someone who's in their own bed on this ship. In stress, sexual modesty and taboos are the first to be discarded by humans.// His passion was barely bridled as they kissed, one kiss blending wordlessly into another.
//And with Vulcans?// she asked, pulling back to look at him.
A faint smile touched his lips. //We hold out a bit longer.//
//What about the Sick Bay?// She needed to know that his head was clear and that he had taken everything into consideration.
His mouth came against hers again, his hand in her hair holding her head against his kiss. //If there is an emergency, I will be the first to know it. If they need anything else, they will call me when they cannot find you and I will happen to find you for them.//
Christine's thoughts smiled as she returned his kisses. //You have this all figured out, don't you?//
//I am the Captain. Now get this off and get into bed,// he ordered, helping her to pull aside the covers. Then, shedding his own robe, he came beside her, his mouth traveling her throat and collarbone for a moment, his hands enjoying the cool velvet curves of her body. It took a great deal of discipline for him to force himself to stop. She needed rest.
They lay quietly, touching, their bodies entwined, Christine feeling the great desire in Spock and he feeling the heaviness of fatigue and tension in her. His heart ached at the bruising on her wrists and shoulders and the hot swelling over her pubic bone and ribs as he caressed her tenderly. //Sleep,// he said into her thoughts.
//I can't,// she said, feeling too much his frustration.
He toned down the physical stimulus she was feeling from him. //Is that better?//
//Umm-hmm,// she answered and turned over. He curved his body around the coolness of hers and stroked her head, using his mind to relax her. Finally, she slept, and he allowed himself to drowse, forcing his body into submission to his will as best he could.
* * *
0543 hours. Christine awoke in his arms, her leg bent across his hips, her face against the hollow of his shoulder. His breathing was quiet as he slept. Whatever happened now, she thought, there would always be this between them. They could never again be strangers. He would keep the crew together, somehow, and there would be time to be close, even if it were never as close as now. A pain filled her at the thought and she gently moved her hand through the hair on his chest, her fingertips touching the soft green areola of his breast. He stirred and his hand flexed against her thigh, then relaxed again in sleep.
She smiled. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew that she was there and that he was safe with her, no need to awaken yet. After these few days there might be no further being in his arms, making love with him, touching him. But there was now and she would not waste it by worrying about her feelings later. She rose in his arms and kissed him fully, feeling him awaken into the passion he had so well controlled for her only hours ago. His mind came into hers without hesitation. //It is almost watch time,// she said as she felt him there. His mouth was against hers, his hand caressing her body intimately.
//We have an hour,// he assured her, a single-mindedness in his touch and manner. She felt the long years of hunger for him rising in her once again as he touched her, and the sensations reverberating in her body as it became willing and ready to be one with him.
A thrill of joy ran through her and she broke from the kiss to bring her lips against his face and neck. //But do you want me?// she teased perversely.
His mouth captured hers again and he engulfed her with his presence and desire. She responded voraciously, overcome by the violent sexuality of him as it permeated her mind and senses. //As you will want me,// came the answer in a hot flow of disjointed thought and searing passion.
And then, she felt something pushing at her mind. It was a strong -- something -- and she could not identify it by any association she knew. It was different from her contact with Spook before, and blurred with the sensuality he was creating in her body. She strove to identify the difference, to classify the quality as it pushed at her. But he was touching her, kissing her, demanding with his body that she follow him, and her own body was rising on crests of sensation to a point of overload. Still, there was that all-encompassing pressure in her mind -- and the need to know. The hunger to be at peace with it and let it overcome battled with the instinct to understand and be independent.
What was it?
//Stop analyzing it and relax!// he ordered with an authority that expected to be obeyed -- and she did obey, realization and trust in him giving her resolution.
As she forced herself to relax she felt parts of herself she had not known existed before this moment, exploding, felt herself yielding to it -- to him.
There was a frightening feeling of loss, of collapsing backwards into nothingness, and then, the blinding heat within her. She was not alone, and yet, for one terrifying moment she could not find him. The heat progressed and coalesced, and she was aware of him again, pulling her into the depths of himself and into his own reality where there was nothing but the devouring heat and pain of wanting. Nothing but the cry for release and the consuming overbearing pressure, that surpassed all else, to give life. Pressure that would be met and eased, or continue until it killed.
A strangled cry of intensity filled her throat, and then the room, as she arched blindly to meet his invasion, the pain of the violent entry overcome by the pain of instinctual hunger. For this moment she was as much his woman as any woman would ever be; for this moment she knew what it was to be Vulcan. And this moment was all that existed.