22 10 2016


It was warmer than even the usual late summer night in New York City. Jim reached out and Carol took his hand letting him draw her close so that she could rest her body against his, the side of her face on his shoulder.

“Let’s live off room service in every grand hotel from here to Dubai to Oauhu for the rest of time,” he said and she recognized the sharp blend of earnestness and incipient excitement in his voice, his eyes.

But she chuckled happily at the thought. “Sounds like fun.”

“I’m serious,” he made clear for her. “We’ll travel every inch of the world and then one day maybe we can settle down, some place like an out of the way lobster cove in Maine or Juneau and I can write a book about my travels in space and what it takes — really takes — to captain a starship and you can start that research you’re holding back from really jumping in—”


“Or we’ll take possession of an island, somewhere in the Keys or off Belize or in the Indian Ocean. I’ll open and manage a bar with gambling, dancing, great music, food. You can sing that twenty-second century jazz you love- – you know, for fun. It won’t interfere with your studies!”

“I’m a rotten singer. I’ll send the customers packing—“

“You’re better than you think. And if we can’t find a place on Earth, there’s all kinds of available and open life-water on Kalieogigus. You can use your magic and make us an island, you’re always going on about using your modified torpedoes for terraformng. We’ll get Spock to dot the tees and cross his eyes—“

“Jim!“ She broke in. He was over-thinking at a clip, faster and faster, so much so that if she didn’t know him so well he’d seem almost manic. It was like a dream where someone’s speaking your language but you can’t make sense of it. She stroked his hair lovingly, gently. “Jim— listen to yourself, darling. You’re so…. messed up tonight.
What’s wrong?””

“What are you talking about?”

“You’ve been all on edge the moment I saw you this evening down in the bar.”

“How long were you watching me?” he asked, his hint of anger a pretense he’d know she’d read through.

“Long enough, ” she answered firmly. “What did that bitch, Parker, say to you? Really Jim.” Then she finally expressed what she’d worried about the moment that damn Admiral had summoned him shortly after they made Earth orbit, her words coming crisp and sharp…. “This layover isn’t the initiation of some bullshit enforced penalty leave? My god, my dad, he— ”

Jim started to wave her off, knowing how difficult it was even now to mention him, but she gathered herself with a small, firm shake of her head.

“He may have been a— a hardass but, hell, even if it hadn’t been me you risked your life for, he’d have made sure you received a special citation if not Reed’s Medal of Bravery. You, or me— we certainly wouldn’t have to put up with all this…. nonsense— It’s damn irregular!“

Jim looked down and away and Carol tilted her head, saw his turmoil. He was fighting his war again. Inside. Trespassers will be shot. He glanced back up at her with some version of his charming smile — this one clearly manufactured.

She would have none of it. “I do have some insight on how the Fleet’s Admiralty operates – – you know that. Their politicking can be absolutely Ouroborosian—“

Jim had genius level intelligence scores, Carol knew that ; he never let her forget it and always with a cocky glint in his blue eyes. She scored even higher and used that intelligence as a matter of course. The crooked smile Jim aimed at her now became pained more than it was his usual display of charm.

“They’re a snake eating its tail,” she explained distractedly, quickly. “Did they offer you something? Ask something of you to quell the Orion Oligarchy and call off the Syndicate? Jim? We’ve both gone over the White file on the Orions’ culture. The details of their so-called “pleasure trade.” I’m marked now. Clan Klimt’s property, in their godawful tradition. Their slave. Parker knows that. And she knows you did what you did to keep it personal and spare Starfleet- -“ My, gods, she thought as Jim took a step back and grabbed hold of her upper arms; who’s sounding nearly manic now—?

“Eleanor’s just being Eleanor. You know her better than I do. Spanked me is all, like we knew she would.” Carol pulled away from him, turning to him and taking hold of his jutting chin between a thumb and forefinger. Jim smiled inside, didn’t show it – – she always made herself very clear when she wanted the hard truth – – her Brit was coming on strong – – and wouldn’t be thrown off by his humor or bullshit, recognizing only his well-earned sense of command. “I told her it was wrong, Donneghy calling off the Enterprise off when Klimt’s attack ships ran their parade. We agreed to disagree. She wanted to let me know she’s going to be transparent for the Ad Astra holojournal interview. I told her I’d do the same; she suggested that wouldn’t do you— or me —any good.” Kirk shrugged as if to ask whether she was satisfied. She just stared at him, nodding just a little. ”What time did you tell your mother we’d be in Dover tomorrow?

“I’ve got our shuttle tickets for two in the afternoon. I spoke to Mir; she’ll pick us up,” Carol mumbled, her thoughts regarding his bouts of moody, self-imposed loneliness elusive; she realized he’d hope to cause her to move off from the darkest mood she’d ever seen him sunk into…. sitting surrounded and alone at the bar earlier. “Jim, let me help,” it was more than a request; it verged on being a plea. Kirk pushed her chin up firmly, nuzzled her throat. Damn, she thought, he really wants to throw me off my game…. and knows just how to do it…..

It’s hot,” he said., a weak distraction that was hard to disagree with.

“Oh, god, yeah.”

“How about we have a cool…. refreshing…. shower?”

“Make it a warm-ish bath,” she said. “We’ll take our time.”

Kirk puled away a little and now there was nothing forced about his grin. “If I know you, Doctor, you’re going to fall asleep if the bath is just warm enough — and I’ll have to pick you up…”

“Dry me off…”

“Lay you in bed.”

“That’ll probably wake me up again…” She returned his grin. “And if you don’t get it right, I’ll be doing the spanking.” Her grin grew more mischievous. “Actually, whether you get it right or not…”


Jim ran his hand under the water pouring into the deep tub, finding just the warmth that he knew, from experience, was hers. As he worked on his drink, he concentrated on just the whoosh of water and there was no Eleanor Parker or any other Admiral, or any JAG office or Orions or the headless body of their corpulent, criminally hedonistic gang boss – – there was just Carol Marcus. Only Carol. Carol who, knowingly or not, had helped make him a man who’d had – – even with the support and disagreeability of Spock and Bones and Nyota – – a hard enough time discovering he was truly an explorer and leader, someone also capable of simple honest desire, emotional truth and even, occasionally, outside of command, selflessness. He sprinkled the running water with the bath salts that provided a healthy, alive but sleepy feeling.

And as the granules fell and floated and were swirled into patterns reminding him of distant stars and nebulae in deepest space, there were a tumble of images he couldn’t pretend didn’t exist…. from an Admiral’s den on the Presido across the continent and only hours old…. the third and heaviest tumbler of McCutcheon’s in his hand….. Eleanor’s thin, drawn face darkening in his mind into something like a skull as she laid out just what killing Klimt had really done, the details tangling but the inevitable outcome…. ominous…. her promise to see that Carol would not fall into either enemy’s hands but that the Enterprise would likely fight its way into the thick of things without him, her Captain…. and a hasty decision to take on a mission essentially alone…. a mission he could barely understand now, only that it would accomplish…. what had she said? Salvation? He’d shaken her hand – – nothing would be written down or input – – and she poured yet another round….. and there were documents, plans, codes to memorize on a chip that would purge itself clean in twenty-four hours, and holographic blueprints – – the target was a monster, surely beyond the enemy’s current technology but perhaps that explained the Orions’ involvement – – she assured him would be updated before he left in a few weeks time as complicated pieces fell into place…. a few weeks, only with Carol… only a few weeks with her whom he’d sworn not to speak a word of what he had committed to ensuring she was kept safe…. Carol, whom he….

“How’s it going in there?,” he heard her call to him.

“You know me, lady. Gotta be just right when it comes to you.”


Carol had her long legs curled under her in a fat, heavy easy chair before the open doors of the balcony as she sipped the third martini he’d poured for her…. or was it the fourth — the only way she could, for now, allow the satisfying natural pleasures they found in each other to blot out the pain he would not share. For now. She took a long drag of the health-weed and blew into the warm night… that goddamn woman, Eleanor Parker; Ellie, her goddamn fool of a father called her from the start- -! Damn her, her hard done by sense of moral certitude . Carol had hated the bald ambition of the officer growing up and never understood her dad’s enthusiastic mentoring. She also hated the fact that experience now made her at least, to a degree, understand Parker’s decisions made in regard to her kidnapping and Jim’s fevered reaction; that despite her status in Star Fleet, Parker had to answer to the leadership in the Orion sector and, likewise, influential cliques within the Federation Council whose refusal to explain their political maneuvering to either her or Jim amounted to probably more than the old adage about bullshit rolling downhill. No, as her Captain likely suspected and she felt certain of, he was being temporarily busted for his exquisite soldiering in mounting her rescue — a ballsiness of individualism being currently frowned upon at Academy Command School. The old guard, she was sure, was unnerved by Admiral Parker’s commonplace joke that every young man wanted to be James T. Kirk and every woman… also wanted to be him as well. Carol had no doubt that he’d eat well and make the best of a desk in Annapolis but even if it took a week or two longer than his mates first feared, he’d soon be back in the Chair, Spock and Leonard on either side of him and Carol diligently at post. That is if what she was keeping from Jim – – her secret – – could be handled just as well…

Months earlier, on a lark, she had submitted to the Federation’s Science Council a bare bones project proposal from her private research. She was more than surprised, when it became known that Enterprise was returning to Earth for computer analysis, to be contacted by Deborah Daystrom, Dr. Richard Daystrom’s sister and Operations Executive. In all that time, Carol had shaded the truth from Jim, who knew, as a scientist, her mind was always busy and her research was just likely busy mindwork, nothing too serious. She hadn’t shopped and lunched with friends in Baltimore as she’d told her man but, rather, Daystrom had provided transportation to their facility at M.I.T. Duotronics. She was disappointed Dr. Daystrom himself was unavailable but Deborah made his wishes known; that her weapons systems could be applied to her nebulous theories about planetary development, population freedom and food production and that once her tour aboard the Enterprise ended, she was more than welcome to develop these ideas with the Institute. In fact, Dr. Daystrom was willing to silently have her transferred to his team based at the Aldebaran Colony as soon as she wanted and he’d make certain she kept her Star Fleet credentials and service record active. Carol told Deborah she was honored by the offer and looked forward to discussing the project with her brother in depth and face to face, though she needed more time to prepare something worth his interest; in point of fact, she had no immediate interests or plans about leaving the Enterprise – – not after what she’d just been through and felt the need to prove Jim instincts the right ones. Nevertheless, she was elated when she arrived at the Cochrane Arms’ fashionable, old-styled saloon— and then she saw him. And the utterly ghostly look of despair that now painted his normally handsome look of good cheer as he stared through the holo’cast of an NYC NFL game and knocked back the hard drink. She’d seen him drunk before, and angry, even almost self-loathing and full of hate but never bleak as he clearly seemed now, lost. Parker clearly had attacked what he cared about most, his command, his ship, maybe even her. Whatever they’d done to him, and the opportunity the Daystrom Group offered her, and her choice, would affect an already roller-coaster of a future.

They’d joked about that future — the everyday married things a couple of space heroes would have to deal with — but when they treated that future seriously and living together, sharing a cabin, they were stuck with having to get the permissions of various anonymous protocol officers. Getting married? Possible but, at present unlikely, and they’d each be transferred to different starships by old-fashioned tradition and practicality.. And both had problems with the idea of marriage, as well with having children as their own pasts, different in the details, were strangely similar in their dysfunction. Still she imagined the curly haired adventurer who’d pop up in her dreams, of a boy or girl Jim would find joy with in sport fishing for Red Gar on Denobula, a kid who would impress married Spock and Uhura and eternal bachelor Uncle Bones at Christmas parties with a four year old’s understanding of both symbiosis and the basic battle principles of a deceleration. A child who would make their love whole, give it shape and a laugh. Their love… had she ever said that to him, outright plain and simple, as he recently had taken to, though she felt she’d always been quicker in demonstrating it. Had she ever just said, “Jim Kirk, I’m in love with you and I think I always will be.”?


They were in the tub for over an hour. Carol laid back against him, the hand holding her drink resting on his upraised knee. Jim moved his hands up and down her body, lingering wherever she made a soft sound. She didn’t quite remember him sweeping her up in his arms and drawing him against the cut of his strong body in the water then out of the tub. “I really do love you…” Her words, like her wakefulness, drifted in and out – – were barely words at all – – as she reached and curled a hand against the back of his neck and the last thing she saw was his profile as he stretched her out on the big bed, sat by her and stared hard and lonely into open space.




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