‘Don’t you think about her?’
Spock looked up from his reading, his eyes momentarily seeming to see through her before they focussed on her face. He was reading fiction. She loved that about him; how when he read fiction he always seemed to take a moment to come back to reality. She loved to think of him becoming lost in a vibrant, emotional world outside of his own mind. She loved that momentary darkness of his eyes, when he was somewhere else entirely.
‘You may have to supply me with more information, Christine,’ he said patiently.
She smiled, a small smile that just moved the corners of her mouth. Of course he would need more information. Just because he could access her thoughts didn’t mean that he was presumptuous enough to do so without invitation.
‘Leila,’ she said.
She didn’t like to say her name. It was illogical, of course, to have a fear of a name. It was illogical to doubt Spock’s love and commitment to her. It was hard to find a person more capable of commitment than a Vulcan. Still, she feared to say the name. She knew there had been an array of women in Spock’s past; or, at least, an array in Vulcan terms . Leila, Zarabeth, Droxine. There had been something similar in all of them. Blonde or light hair was the most obvious, but it wasn’t physical characteristics she was thinking of. It was a certain kind of vulnerability. A fragility mixed with strength. Spock seemed to favour women who appeared capable and intelligent, but who, ultimately, needed protection.
Leila. She had seen her when she was on the ship. She had been entranced for a moment by the beauty of her. So much blonde hair. Eyes that were almost violet, rather than an ordinary blue. Broad hips and a slim waist, even in those awful brown overalls. She had reminded Christine of a kitten. It was the blue of her eyes, the expression of them, that had been kitten-like. And there had been the one thing they had shared, Leila and Christine. The ability to love a man who protested that he could not possibly love them back.
There was a slight furrow between Spock’s eyes. He was regarding her with a piercing look.
‘Is there a reason why I should think of her at this time?’
Christine huffed a little in frustration. Sometimes she couldn’t tell if Spock were being deliberately obtuse, or if he really didn’t understand the motivations behind her questions. Of course, it was she who had been thinking of Leila, mulling for no reason while Spock was lost in his book.
‘Don’t you ever think of the people you’ve been with in the past?’ she asked. ‘I think of Roger. You know that.’
Roger. That still made a little spear of pain in the core of her body. She hadn’t left Roger. Roger had been torn away from her. She had joined a starship almost entirely out of her hope that she would be able to find him someday, even though he was almost undoubtedly dead. To have him suddenly come back to life, so to speak, only to find out that the real Roger Korby, the human Roger Korby, was long dead, had been a pain almost too hard to bear.
Spock was still regarding her with an expression of interest.
‘There is no logic in being jealous of my past relationship with Leila Kalomi,’ he said steadily.
She knew him better than that. She knew him well enough to catch the slight alteration in the timbre of his voice when he said her name.
‘I’m not jealous,’ she admitted finally. ‘I’m – insecure.’
His mouth quirked a little. He put his book down carefully on the desk and got to his feet, stretching himself out subtly as he moved, coming over to stand behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. She leant into his fingers as he massaged lightly over shoulder s and neck. He was so good at that. She felt the slight probing of his mind as he touched her, and let him know he had her consent for that light touching of thoughts.
‘You have no reason to be insecure,’ he promised her.
‘Did you know she’d gotten her doctorate?’ Christine persisted. ‘She carried on her research after the evacuation.’
Of course, that was why she’d been thinking of her. She hadn’t connected it. That report she’d been reading on a new treatment for Andorian anaemia. It had been Leila’s name there, as part of team which had done the research on the plant extracts used in the treatment.
‘No, I did not know that,’ Spock said.
There was no sharpness of interest in his voice. No, he didn’t know that, and now he did. That was all.
‘Are you jealous of Leila’s doctorate?’ he asked her perceptively. ‘Is this the seat of your insecurity?’
She sighed lightly. ‘Maybe. Maybe I am,’ she said.
He bent to kiss the top of her head. ‘It cannot be that you’re insecure about my feelings for Leila. No, I have not thought about her recently. I don’t believe I’ve thought about her in some years. I do, however, think frequently about you , Christine.’
‘We both had to fight to win you,’ she murmured.
‘True,’ he said reasonably, ‘but you didn’t have to use alien plant spores to claim your prize.’
She smiled properly at that, and leant into the touch of his hands. No, she hadn’t had to use plant spores. She hadn’t had to cause him to revert to a time before his people mastered their emotions. She hadn’t needed to be the only woman within hundreds of miles or hundreds of years. She hadn’t needed to be a work of art.
‘Then, you have no reason to be jealous of my feelings for Leila,’ Spock said, and she knew that through the light touch he was feeling more of her thoughts than he had before. ‘My earlier question still stands. Are you jealous of Leila’s doctorate, Christine?’
She sighed. ‘You know I was going to train as a doctor before Roger disappeared. You know that’s why I settled for becoming a nurse, just so I could get on a starship as soon as I could.’
‘I know,’ he told her.
‘Well,’ she said.
She felt suddenly deflated, tired, and his hands moved a little more firmly on her shoulders, digging more deeply into the tight muscles and releasing the tension. There was magic in his hands.
‘This is not the end, Christine,’ he told her softly. ‘You are aware of that, are you not? You could easily retrain as a doctor.’
The feeling of despair must have flooded into his mind through his touch. She felt a kind of ricochet, him receiving those feelings and recoiling a little.
‘It isn’t easy, Spock,’ she protested. ‘Nothing about it is easy. It would mean leaving the ship!’
‘Yes,’ he said.
‘It would mean leaving you.’
His hands stilled. They rested on her shoulders, warm and broad. She felt safe under those hands.
‘Yes,’ he said again. ‘For a short time, at any rate. I believe some of the training can be carried out on board under the supervision of Dr McCoy, although the majority of it will have to be done away from the ship. Don’t you think it would be worth it?’
‘Leaving you?’ she asked. She almost whispered the words.
‘For a short time,’ he replied.
He moved back around her chair, coming to face her. She stood up, looping her arms about his torso, feeling his arms mirroring the movement to hold her in a warm, solid hug. She had dreamt about this for years; about being able to embrace him, to hear his heartbeat, to be able to claim him as her own. The thought of letting go of all of that was like jumping from a cliff.
‘For a short time, Christine,’ he repeated. ‘Long enough for you to train. And then you will return to the ship as a doctor. It is worth it, if it’s what you desire in your heart.’
Perhaps it was worth it. Perhaps it was. But she stood there with her arms about him, feeling the slight shudder of his heartbeat against her chest. She knew better now than to expect to hear his heart, but she could feel it. It would be hard, to let go of him. A starship was not always a safe place. She could not always rely on being able to find her way back to him. Space could swallow men up. She knew that by experience. Perhaps it was worth it. But she was afraid.