"Is what strange?" I asked falteringly, knowing what she meant, but hoping she'd have the sensitivity to realize how uncomfortable the subject was for me, and take the opportunity I'd provided in order to revise her question.
But no, some things never change, and that apparently included Nurse Matsuya's perennial cluelessness to the moods of those around her. "Is it strange for you to be on Vulcan, knowing he's there somewhere?"
"It doesn't matter," I said in a monotone. "It's not like there's any chance I'll run into him. He's off in a monastery somewhere forgetting how to love."
"But that's not healthy," Miyuki said lamely after a moment.
"Maybe it's not healthy for a human, but he's certainly never tried very hard to be a good human." I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. I felt like I looked older or more tired whenever I thought about him, but I supposed that would go away over time. Ironic.
"Why did they have to send you to Vulcan, anyway?"
I sighed. "It's a valuable part of my medical training, and that's all Starfleet cares about. It's not their responsibility to ensure for the well-being of my love-life. They're paying for me to go back to medical school and my professional performance is all that matters."
Miyuki paused again. "What if you see him? What if he comes into your hospital?"
"No." Couldn't she see from my expression that I didn't even want to think about him? It opened up too many questions in my mind.
She was right. It was hard to be here, on Vulcan, and not think about Spock several times a day. But over time, I grew to recognize Vulcan as a planet, a place, and a culture in its own right, and not just the birthplace and civilization of the man I had spent three years loving by accident and without reciprocation. Most of the doctors training me were women, and in their company I grew to be strong. At first, I imagined that my new-found poise would light a spark of a chance with him, if he ever realized how wrong it was that he had gone to Gol. Then I grew independent in my own right, and reveled in my confidence apart from thoughts of Spock. And I encountered other gay Vulcans, and somehow the idea that Spock could have fallen in love with another man back on the Enterprise stopped being so unexpected and shocking for me.
Well, it obviously wasn't that that drove Spock into the desert and away from Starfleet. My instructor in Vulcan cardiology was a Vulcan man bonded to another Vulcan man, and nothing about his nature seemed particularly rebellious or unorthodox. His associates didn't pay any special attention to his alternative sexuality, and to be quite frank, I found his husband to be an incredibly boring man in the most Vulcan way imaginable.
So what happened? Spock wasn't a cruel person; he knew how much he was loved back on the ship, and I don't mean by me. But as soon as the mission was over, he turned tail and fled from one of the best friends he'd ever have. I couldn't have wished him a better mate, had I been so amiably inclined about the match back then. And I couldn't believe he wasn't intelligent or observant enough to know that for himself.
What in the world went wrong?
Well, he certainly wasn't here to breed. T'Pring and Stonn, ironically, are my next-door neighbors. They are one of those couples that like to have sex in the morning instead of before sleep, and let me tell you it is quite surreal to be getting dressed in my work clothes for the hospital while listening to their adventures. I'm thankful that she doesn't know who I am or whom I loved... I was there that day, in Sickbay, and I know the whole story. Leonard told me, and I've hated her since before I met her. I was bitterly jealous of the chance she threw away, a chance I would have given my legs for: to marry Spock, to be with Spock, to have Spock not be able to refuse me. But then again, if she hadn't done what she did, Spock wouldn't have ever found love, even if it didn't have anything to do with me.
Fat lot of good it was doing him now.
Spock isn't constantly in my thoughts anymore these days, so it came as a complete surprise when I received a message from Ambassador Sarek that he wanted to see me. Sarek! The man's name and official seal immediately brought to mind memories of his heart surgery, and how we all found out that he and Spock hadn't spoken as father and son for nearly two decades. That night, visions of his finger-touch with his wife, Amanda, had swum lazily through my mind, and I imagined that their silent, taken-for-granted devotion was Spock's and mine. Of course, by that time, Spock was with somebody else... but if you take away fantasies you become... not human, don't you?
As I waited in my flat for Sarek to arrive, I nervously checked my reflection in the mirror. My hair was finally back to its natural brown, and pulled behind my ears into a French braid. I was glad that I was beginning to look more professional now that I felt more competent; all my old hairstyles seemed so frivolous for a woman who was about to become an intergalactic doctor. I tugged on a stray thread on my smock and wondered what Sarek could possibly want from me. I pushed unrealistic ideas about Spock's breeding future back down into the more childish parts of my psyche from whence they'd come.
The door chimed. "Come."
The door opened and Sarek cha'Skon stood in the doorway, looking dramatically imposing as usual in his dark native robes and stern, calm air. I held up my hand in the Vulcan greeting, and he did the same. "Ambassador Sarek. It's a pleasure to see you again. Please, come in."
He nodded to me. "Lieutenant Chapel."
"May I get you something to drink?"
"Yes, thank you. Water will be fine. It has been a long day for me."
I led him to the sofa, where he sat down as I poured us both tall glasses of water and placed a spring of mint in each one.
"Thank you, Lieutenant." He took the glass from my hand. "Doctor, soon, isn't it?"
I nodded. "Yes, sir. I'm nearly finished with the Vulcan portion of my medical training, and after that, all I have to do is finish up on Betazed."
"Betazed," he observed. "Very different from here."
"Yes," I said, barely breathing. His presence was making me nervous, and I was afraid I was completely aware of the reason. So many years of loving Spock and paying attention to his every nuance had made me extremely aware of certain... endearing mannerisms. Now I felt like I was programmed for male Vulcans, even though this had never happened before and I'd been studying on this planet for nearly a year. I wondered how a woman in her late thirties had been "imprinted" like a baby duck--because Sarek was sitting here next to me on the couch and suddenly all I could think about was how deliciously powerful his arms would feel around my shoulders, how deep his voice was, and how male he smelled.
The part that scared me the most was that it seemed even more so than it was with Spock. They're not kidding when they tell you that confidence is sexy. This Vulcan sitting next to me on the couch knew exactly who he was and liked it that way, and it suddenly dawned on me that his self-assuredness was far more attractive to me than Spock's vulnerability over his identity. I was at a time in my life when I was outgrowing my own "issues", like a snake shedding her skin, and I found Sarek's gestalt refreshing.
I found my mind wandering back to that time we'd operated on him in Sickbay. As a nurse, I'd had the opportunity to see the ambassador naked, and I sat there listening to his conversation with half my thoughts wandering around under his robe, trying to trigger my memory and strip him in my head.
"On Betazed, emotion is celebrated and shared," Sarek was saying. "Vulcans usually expect me to be more at ease with Betazoid customs since I bonded with a human woman, but dealing with strangers is entirely different from interacting with my bondmate."
Slap. Well, shame on you, Christine. Thinking about Spock this way had been dopey enough, but now this was a married man who I suddenly wanted to tackle.
And suckle my way across his neck, down over his chest...
I eased my mind slowly. Watch it, girl, they're telepaths and you never know what's going on behind that poker face.
Titillation and trepidation were my companions as we continued to talk about my education and my career. In the back of my mind, I could tell he was making human "small-talk" as best he could in order to put me at ease before he brought up the real topic of his visit, whatever that was.
"Lt. Chapel," he finally asked after a pause. "I come to you with a particular difficulty. Some months ago, as you know, my son Spock left for Gol deep within the desert. He seeks 'Kolinahr', the discipline that is the pursuit of total logic."
I didn't say anything, but I knew my expression betrayed that yes, I knew exactly what he was talking about.
"You are probably not aware of this but Spock never informed his mother or myself of the reasons for his departure," said Sarek.
I shook my head. "No, he never said anything about it to any of us either. As... as far as I know." I faltered over whether or not to mention him, the one creature, the one human who probably at least had an idea of why our colleague had fled from kindness. "Why do you ask? I don't think I can help you, but I know of someone else who... might be able to." I hoped I wasn't opening a can of worms.
"I desire an unbiased opinion," explained Sarek. "Humans are already emotional beings. Speaking with that one would only evoke more. And you, an uninvolved observer, are here on this planet and he is not. You are the logical choice."
I imagined running my hands up and down his powerful arms. "I see." Uninvolved... well, yes. Unbiased? That's another story.
"Christine... may I have your thoughts? I must know why my son has done this to his life. My wife is destroying herself over the issue, and I came to you hoping I might find some answers." He paused, letting me absorb his words. His use of my common name only served to further mesmerize me. "Even if you do not realize it, your unconscious perceptions might yield some clue to his actions."
"You want to... you want to use my mind? You want to mind-meld with me?" I sat there, my brain racing. If he went poking about in my mind he'd find my fantasies about Spock, although I had an idea that, as a Vulcan, he'd discreetly leave them where they lay. Oh no, and he'd find out what I'd been thinking about him too, wouldn't he?
But how could I refuse his plea, for I knew that his solemn request for intimacy with a stranger was as close to a fervent plea as any Vulcan would allow himself. And I thought of poor Amanda, torn with grief and full of questions that she had much more of a right as a mother to ask than did I.
And truthfully, I also knew, in a deeper part of my consciousness, that a mind-meld was a little bit like sex for a Vulcan, and that the idea of Sarek's hot hands on my face appealed to me.
"I promise that I will be gentle," Sarek said. My sexuality twitched at his words. I think he was speaking of privacy, but you know what it sounded like.
I gulped, nodded, and closed my eyes.
One finger brushed my face and stayed; another came to rest beside it; a third below. With each touch of his hot fingers on my skin my pussy grew more and more interested in what was going on. But I forced myself to think about Spock, and his interaction with what was probably the only soul he had ever loved romantically.
Through my thoughts I showed Sarek Spock's secret smiles at the man, smiles he probably thought no one else would ever see. He hadn't counted on the immaturity and obsessiveness of my crush, of course. But at least now it would help Sarek to see why I, too, did not understand why in the world Spock had left.
"Spock fell in love with a human." Sarek's voice came from inside my head. "I have seen this with my own eyes as well, during the voyage to the Babel conference. It is a difficult thing for a Vulcan man, but not insurmountable."
"Maybe he didn't understand that," I said out loud. "He seemed to think that love was against the rules."
"Then he still has not truly understood what it is to be Vulcan," Sarek said, continuing to talk inside my head. "One cannot have a sense of satisfaction when one controls one's emotions if one does not know how to have them in the first place."
I didn't know what to say to this.
"If he fled to Gol because his emotion of love was too great..." Sarek began.
"...then he was still letting his emotions control him after all," I realized triumphantly. Then it occurred to me that I was speaking inside the meld.
"You have adapted well to the Vulcan ways," said Sarek in my mind.
"Thank you," I said. "Will Spock... ever... realize that he's making a mistake?"
"Spock must find his own way, in time," said Sarek. "But at least now his mother will have her answer."
"Sarek... you've raised a wonderful son," I blurted out suddenly.
"Thank you," he said. "You loved him, and I am sorry. You would have been worthy of his affection."
I shook my head. "No, not as I was then. I've changed since I've been here on Vulcan. I can't even believe how foolish I used to be."
"It would not have mattered. It was not your fault Spock did not return your love."
"I suppose not, not in this case." We sat in silence for a moment, letting the your son is gay thing dissipate.
"Sarek," I suddenly said, "I wanted to tell you how touched I was by your relationship with Amanda. You seem to trust each other's love so much. I've always wanted something like that for myself."
"Amanda is a remarkable woman. And the intimacy of which you speak is characteristic of the Vulcan bonding. She is always aware of my consciousness, even when we are with other people."
"With other people... what do you mean?" I asked dumbly.
"Vulcans do not believe that physical union is reserved for one's lifemate alone," Sarek explained. The thumping desire in my body returned. "Amanda seldom has interest in other partners herself, but she enjoys hearing about my various... experiences."
I digested, and wondered.
"You are considering proposing intimacy with me?" Sarek broke through my reverie.
I was too startled to fib. "Yes," I said abruptly.
"That would be agreeable to me also," said Sarek, "if you are still interested when the meld is finished."
I guess it's a tribute to my personal growth here on Vulcan that I didn't immediately ask him why in the world he'd want to have sex with me. I'm intelligent, and not bad looking, and my body's athletic. But I also knew that back when I served on the Enterprise as a nurse, he wouldn't have looked twice at me, the way I used to carry myself. Wow, I thought to myself, a Vulcan finds me fuckable. What an honor to my mind, more than anything else.
He gave me the answers I hadn't asked for. Within his mind he showed me his memory of me in Sickbay, and let me experience, through the meld, his emotions of gratitude for my gentle touch and courtesy for Vulcan ways. Through his memories I saw myself as a beautiful face that had reminded him that he had, after all, survived the surgery. I was so consumed with his illness and my own feelings for Spock that I probably wouldn't have even noticed his reaction to me back then.
He pulled out of my mind then; I guess that's something he reserves for Amanda alone. Well, that's all right. I'm not in love with him and I want to keep my pleasure from this all to myself, since he's going to get to share with his wife later.
I leaned towards him on the sofa, placing my glass on the coffee table. His was already there, empty. He didn't kiss me; he didn't kiss me at all the entire time, as a matter of fact. What a lesson in culture this was turning out to be.
Instead, he lifted his hands to my forehead and in parallel motion, let them trail a path as delicate as dust down over my face and my neck. His hands didn't stop at my chest, and when they reached my breasts he paused for a moment and held them with his hot fingers.
I was shivering and moaning, frozen in place feeling like I'd short-circuited from pleasure.
He unbuttoned my smock and pushed it aside, regarding my pink satin bra from under heavy-lidded eyes. As he reached again for my breasts I extended my arms and touched him, placing my hands flat on his chest like I'd been wanting to do since I'd first handed him his drink. I rubbed him hard through his robe, and then pushed it aside.
Speaking of cultural lessons.
His beautiful bare body greeted my eyes, which immediately focused on his arousal. I didn't see it and think of Spock, and how his penis was also double-ridged. This was the first time I was seeing a double-ridged Vulcan erection in real life. I saw it and thought about how magnificent it looked, glistening with its own natural lubricant, and how much I couldn't wait for Sarek to fuck me with it.
Spock? Who's Spock? I don't know any Spock.
"Are you prepared?" Sarek purred sensually but still businesslike.
"Do you mean am I wet? I don't want to wait much longer," I murmured in response. I'd already been turned on for a long time, and the things his fingers were doing to my nipples, teasing them through the satin, teasing them with his fingernails, pinching them slightly... if he didn't let me have it soon I was certainly going to leap on him.
"Then we are both ready," Sarek said, and took me by the shoulders. He helped me down across the sofa and then positioned himself on top of me, breathing heavily over my shoulder. He helped me get my skirt up around my hips and take off my underwear, and then I felt him fumbling at my crotch for a moment, guiding his penis. It nudged my entrance, and I whimpered a little with want.
And then he slid inside me quickly, all the way. I groaned wantonly.
He held my body tightly but slightly guarded, as if afraid he'd crush my delicate human frame, as he pumped into me. He took me right there in my living room, but I was taking him right back. I angled my body so that he hit that place deep inside (incidentally which he was much better at than Roger, not that it matters).
One of his hands snaked between us and gripped my pelvis unevenly. With those same hot fingers I'd been noticing all evening he efficiently tapped my clitoris and eventually brought me to a convulsive climax. The contractions of my body in ecstasy finished him off, and he collapsed across me, crushing a mass of my hair that had come undone between his fingers.
It wasn't awkward when he left. He thanked me for helping him with Spock and for our encounter, which he said he hoped was "mutually pleasurable". I assured him that it was and to give my regards to Amanda, and to Spock if he ever saw him in the near future. He nodded, and with a show of the Vulcan salute, he was gone.
After that day, Spock didn't even seem remotely attractive to me. Yes, Vulcan males are sexy... some of them. But Spock belongs to somebody else now, and he's really not suited for me anyway. I was glad that he came back from Gol to be with us all again, but more because now I knew that he was finally back with the one he loves.
And as I watch him, sitting there in his version of the horrible gray jumpsuits they've got us wearing now, sharing life with his new husband, I take pleasure in my own positive emotions and complete lack of jealousy, and silently thank Sarek for setting me free.