Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Characters: Christine Chapel
Prompt: After the death of her fiance, Roger Korby, Christine struggles with her choices in life and her position aboard the Enterprise.
Spoilers: What Are Little Girls Made Of?, Star Trek VI, Vulcan's Heart (novel)
Summary: The ways you move on, and the ways you never can.
Author's Note: I really, really hope you like this.
The sight of him, of his last moments: those last lost moments that were never his, that belonged to something else, something not quite Roger... the memory of it haunts her in the middle of the night, in those quiet moments during the day, even in the brief darkness of blinking.
She finds things to do to try and forget. The annual physicals, arranged even though they aren't due for another month. A review of the sickbay quarantine procedures. That paper on the possible applications of sodium metachloride that Doctor McCoy keeps encouraging her to write.
It's all nonsense; or worse, hollow, as if it no longer matters. Five years she's missed him, and the hole it's left behind in her is black and all-encompassing. She wonders sometimes if she believed him dead, just denied it to herself. If that would have been easier than seeing what he'd become.
She has to believe the transfer to the android body corrupted him, somehow. That perhaps five years alone with only machines for company would drive anyone to do, to say, to think those things. The alternative, that she loved the man she watched die in Andrea's arms, is just too painful to be real.
Maybe she's denying that, too.
Leaving the Enterprise was the most awful moment of her life since losing Roger for the second time. That she didn't choose it didn't make it any easier: that the ship has hung here, in drydock, all this time, has made the time away no less full of longing to be back home.
And it is home. Behind the pristine new bulkhead panels and state-of-the-art machinery is the indefinable sense of belonging here, to this ship with this crew of people. So many she still recognises - how many have waited on dull, slow solid ground just like her, doing things even less useful than a doctorate, just for the chance to come back here? It's that waiting, she knows, that got her the assignment. She's not at all ashamed.
When they pull out of orbit and she feels the pulse of the warp engines under her again, it's like finding her wings all over again.
The sound rattles through her constantly now: she fully expects to hear it in the moment of her death, which doesn't feel very far away at all. The wind is ripping at her hair, even though she's inside; she's soaked by the rain, deafened by the hiss of vaporising salt water and sickened by its stench, and over it all is the sound. The sound that's killing not just them, not just Starfleet, but Earth.
Her patients have long since been handed off to others. She wishes she had them now, wishes she had something that concrete to deal with, wishes this was all as simple as a broken bone and not as impossible as a shattered planet. It's hard to coordinate relief efforts when there's so little relief to be had, although she hasn't given up trying all the same. She can't give up, or she'll have nothing left to do.
She doesn't think about her regrets. She doesn't have the time.
And then just like that the noise stops - the sound and the hiss of water, the wail of the wind, all of it, so suddenly gone that for a moment she's afraid to have actually gone deaf.
And then there's just the rain. Deep, thundering rain, thicker than any storm she's ever seen, as if the oceans are falling back to Earth.
"Kirk," someone whispers, praise to a demigod for a miracle, and she feels those twin stabs of loneliness and pride in the very same moment.
Excelsior will never be the Enterprise, but she's a good ship all the same, and good ships have a way of sneaking into Christine's heart ever since that very first moment on Kirk's first Enterprise, when she looked out into space and saw all the stars like possibilities scattered all around her, waiting to be caught in the palm of her hand.
Excelsior is also her first assignment as Chief Medical Officer, which even after six years is enough to make it something slightly special. And even though this morning is her earliest physical in a while, the entire sickbay peacefully deserted around her, it doesn't dampen the feeling. Really quite the opposite.
"Hello there," she says quietly, and smiles down at her newest patient.
A birth on board a starship is a rare thing: most expectant mothers in the Fleet still choose home leave, and in those six years, it's the first time she's held a baby in this sickbay. Ghe're Hrexxa't' is a small, wriggling bundle of chestnut fur in her arms, tiny porcine nose wrinkled up at the injustice of being woken without the decency of his mother's milk to soften the blow.
Yes, she thinks, rocking gently back and forth, Excelsior really is as special as the Enterprise in her own way.
The bonding ceremony is as elegant as she might have expected of Vulcan, and might well have brought the light sting of tears to her Human eyes even if she weren't aware of how long it's been since she saw some of these people. Painfully aware, as well, of those who should be here, denied by the passage of far too much time.
"That was beautiful," she says softly to Nyota as they're finally dispersing. Uhura smiles at her.
"Your first Vulcan bonding, Christine?"
"I still don't seem to know many Vulcans," she says, smiling back, and it shocks her to realise it's been over two years since even they last talked.
"Not many Vulcans who'd invite so many Humans to their bonding."
"Spock isn't just any Vulcan," she says. Uhura laughs, and it's as rich a laugh as it ever was, and she blushes: even now she can't help the hint of infatuation that she still hears in her own voice.
She hasn't thought of him for so long. Her mind wanders so these days that that is, in itself, almost surprising.
It's the newscast that brings him to mind. Sentient android discovered on Omicron Theta, the bioresearch journals say, and for a moment she's struck with the memory of him, so many years back, so clear it could have been only hours ago - and oh, still so sharp, that pain.
Maybe it's the pain that piques her interest after all this time. She's always hated retirement, can't remember why she let them talk her into it. Leonard would never retire. She wishes she had his damned stubbornness. She's bored, restless, tires too easily and does too little.
The article is still front page when she goes back to her journals the next day; there are even others starting to creep in, brief schematics and wild theories. And the articles keep coming; less prominent, smaller, more engineering than medical, but she keeps track, hardly notices she's doing it. The android has a name, is properly male, is incredibly advanced, is ruled autonomous, is going to join Starfleet.
So even androids can join Starfleet, she thinks, and imagines the world Roger had in mind. No matter what the journals have to say, it still makes her shiver.