The Captain of the USS Enterprise strode the length of the room in a frenzy. At the wall he spun and stalked back the way he came, looking like he was trying to escape from something, a mounting desperation evident on his face. His Science Officer, a Vulcan, regarded his Captain with a look of distinct worry on his face, an emotional display unusual for his species. To his left stood the ship’s Chief Medical Officer, his eyebrows furrowed, his lips turned down in a quizzical frown.
“Why in God’s name did you take him to the Bridge in the first place?” Doctor McCoy said, his tone full of the need to understand.
Captain Kirk stopped and looked at him with a pained expression. “I don’t know, Bones!”
“You don’t know?” the Doctor said, disbelief etched in every word, along with the evident conviction that this answer, from a superior officer, a Captain who did not usually make pointless mistakes, was entirely inadequate. “How can you not know?”
A look of defiance, of authority, of the assurance of his position, clouded and hardened Captain Kirk’s eyes. He moved right up to the CMO. His voice was cold when he replied.
“I said I don’t know. It seemed right at the time.”
Doctor McCoy looked unimpressed with this show of attitude. “Well, that’s just not good enough, Jim!” he said sternly. “This is a man’s life we’re –”
“Do you think I don’t know that?” Captain Kirk said furiously. “What other choice do we have?
The Doctor threw out his arms in a passion. “Any other choice, Jim, anything but this!”
Captain Kirk glared intently at his CMO. He breathed, slowly. When he spoke, it was in a more controlled, though extremely chilly, tone. “Give me an option, then,” he said. “Something, anything. If you have the solution, why don’t you go ahead and tell us what to do.”
The Doctor opened his mouth, closed it, and opened it again. He stood frozen for a moment, looking like he was determined to come up with something, some heretofore unthought-of, brilliant plan that would solve all their problems. It was evident that no such plan came to him. His shoulders slumped.
“We can’t take him with us, Jim,” he said finally.
“Well, he can’t go back,” the Captain said, his jaw set, “and we can’t stay.”
Doctor McCoy’s eyes widened, and he looked like he had just thought of something. “What about that kid of his? He needs to go back, so that he can –”
He cut himself off as he saw the Captain’s expression. “No,” Captain Kirk said, shaking his head. “His wife is already pregnant. His son will be born, with or without him there.”
“How in the hell do you know that?”
“We accessed her medical files.”
The Doctor merely blinked for a moment, as if the idea of violating someone’s medical files was preposterous to him. Then he sighed and crossed his arms in obvious dissatisfaction. “So it’s all just peachy then?” he said sarcastically. “Everything worked itself out so that –”
He was interrupted by the Vulcan, who, finally chiming in to the argument, had an edge to his tone not entirely compatible with his usual sense of logical detachment.
“I believe, Doctor,” he said coldly, “that the Captain’s decision in this matter is the only logical alternative.”
“Well, you would say that, wouldn’t you, Spock?” the Doctor replied scathingly.
“Furthermore,” Commander Spock continued, ignoring the CMO’s remark, “I hardly think any part of this situation merits the description “peachy”.”
It looked like it cost the Doctor quite a bit not to roll his eyes. The Captain looked at his Science Officer with gratitude evident on his face. It mixed with the sadness and frustration already present there, and made him look uncharacteristically helpless.
“Thank you, Spock,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. The Vulcan met his Captain’s gaze and, though no one feature was altered, his expression became instantly and noticeably warmer. The Doctor looked at them both in huffy exasperation.
“Fine,” he growled. “Don’t listen to me. But you can be sure Captain Christopher won’t be happy about your decision. And you can be sure he won’t come quietly.”
The Captain’s frown deepened. It sounded like the next words cost him quite an effort to say. “He will have to be detained.”
The doctor might have gasped. From his expression, it looked like he wanted to.
“Now, look here, Jim –” he started, but the Captain had apparently had enough.
“You’re dismissed, Doctor,” he said curtly.
“You can’t just –”
“I said, you’re dismissed.”
The two men stared at each other for an intense moment, matching looks of stubborn determination on their faces, then the doctor, glaring quickly at First Officer Spock, as if all of this were somehow his fault, turned and left, leaving an air of heavy disapproval in his wake. The Captain looked after him for a brief moment, then he turned to Spock.
“I need to … speak with Captain Christopher,” he said dispiritedly.
“I will accompany you,” the Vulcan offered. The Captain looked at Spock with well-worn love in his eyes and intense gratitude in the faint curve of his mouth.
“Thank you, Spock,” he said.
The two men left the room, both tense, though the Vulcan masked it more successfully than the human. Kirk led the way to Christopher’s soon-to-be permanent quarters, back rigid, face set. They stopped along the way to summon one of the ship’s security personnel, who accompanied them to Captain Christopher’s room. As they approached it, the door slid open, and they found an unhappy Christopher sitting on the bed within. He rose as they entered, and moved towards them with military rigidity. The set of his jaw showed his determination where his eyes, fiery despite everything, told that he knew all too well why they were here, and why there was suddenly an armed guard at his door. When he spoke, it was not to ask questions.
“So that’s it, then,” he said, with no small amount of hostility.
Captain Kirk made a slight, twitchy movement of his head, as if he would have liked to bow it forwards, but thought better of it. He looked at Christopher with deeply felt apology. The Vulcan was, as always, firm in his stance, his hands locked behind his back; through his eyes alone could you, if you were observant enough to see it, notice a steady display of sympathy. His gaze focused unwaveringly on his Captain.
“I am sorry,” Kirk said quietly. “You have to come with us.”
Christopher moved right up to him, and Spock made a slight movement, as if preparing himself to step in if it should prove necessary. Kirk didn’t so much as flinch, his need to retain a sense of professionalism apparently greater than his present shame.
“You brought me on board!” Captain Christopher said loudly, pointing an accusatory finger at Kirk. “You got me into this mess, and now you’re telling me you won’t let me go!” His face twisted in anger. “What kind of incompetent fool –”
“I’m so sorry,” Kirk said again. Christopher was understandably unimpressed.
“You’re sorry,” he said, his voice dark and foreboding. “Sure you’re sorry. You did this. You did this to me, to my family. Tearing me away from everything I know … of course you’re sorry. You should be sorry, you son of a –”
The comm. unit wailed opportunely, cutting Captain Christopher’s insult short.
“Engineering to Captain Kirk,” the voice of Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott chirped, his cheery Scottish accent seeming exquisitely misplaced in the oppressive atmosphere of Christopher’s quarters. Kirk strode over to the unit and pressed the button with a little extra, somewhat unnecessary, force.
“Kirk here,” he said.
“Scott here, Sir. Report engines at full power. We are ready to attempt time-warp on your mark.”
Kirk’s face displayed something akin to relief. “Thank you, Scotty,” he said quietly. “Fifteen minutes. Kirk out.”
Captain Christopher visibly reeled. Kirk switched the button off and turned just in time to see Christopher falter. Kirk walked briskly over and grabbed his arm, which was violently pulled away from him. The twentieth century man looked like he was ready to commit murder. He made a forceful move towards Kirk, stopped midway, and seemed to deflate. He fumbled for a moment, his eyes bewildered, searching, then,
“Please,” he said, his voice cracking, “let me see them. Let me say goodbye, at least.”
He seemed to know it was no good before the words were out, but sometimes the desire to hang on to that last strand of useless hope is so much greater than the need for rationality. Kirk’s gaze was intense as he shook his head heavily.
Christopher let out a furious snarl. “You can’t risk!” he yelled, finally losing control. “You’re a coward, and a pathetic excuse for a human being! You all are!” He glared at Kirk, Spock and the security officer in turn. Only Spock seemed unfazed. The security officer looked visibly uncomfortable, and Kirk’s professional façade was deteriorating steadily. Finally, Christopher turned away, walked back to his bed, and sat down on the edge, clasping the covers in furious fists, as if he would use them to hold on to his present existence, as if they could ward off that inevitable thing, that tempestuous change, that he could not control. Outside the room the ship was buzzing with expectation, with excitement, with the longing to get home. Christopher’s eyes found the floor, and then they locked back on Kirk. Hatred was etched in every line of his face.
Finally, Kirk bowed his head. “Captain,” Spock said, his voice carrying in it a sturdy, reliable calm. “We are needed on the Bridge.”
His words seemed to snap the Captain out of a trance. Kirk lifted his head, his eyes moving to Spock’s, and he nodded, fractionally. Christopher said nothing more. He merely glared at them. When Kirk, Spock and the security officer turned and left the room, when the door was shut after them, he broke down into furious sobs.
The Bridge was alive with tense expectation. The very air seemed tangible, full of voices and preparations. As Kirk stepped off the turbolift, accompanied by Spock, he felt as if he had been hit by a tidal wave. He stopped for a moment, annoyed with himself for his poor composure, particularly next to Spock, the Vulcan’s back as straight as always, his manner all business. Kirk frowned slightly and mentally shook himself before continuing to his chair, sitting down and feeling a sudden and immense sense of relief. He would never forgive himself for what he had done to Captain Christopher. He would never stop regretting that one, senseless mistake. But he could not sit there and feel sorry for himself, or for Christopher. He had a duty, a purpose. He was Captain of a Starship, and that had to come first.
Straightening up in his chair, he put a finger to the comm. unit. “Lieutenant Uhura,” he said briskly. “Ship-wide frequency, please.”
Uhura pressed a few buttons on her console, and turned to the Captain. “Frequency open, Sir.”
Captain Kirk pressed the comm. unit on his chair with determination. “This is the Captain,” he said, knowing as he spoke that his voice rang around the entire ship. “We are about to attempt time-warp. If our calculations are correct, this should take us back before our ship was pulled in by the black star. If everything goes according to plan, we should be back in the vicinity of Starbase 9 in a matter of minutes. This maneuver has not been previously explored, and we want you prepared and alert for any and all eventualities. All stations stand by. Kirk out.”
As he finished his announcement, Kirk turned to Spock, and gave him a curt nod. Spock instantly bent over his console, entering the necessary components into the computer. His long fingers flew over the machinery. A short moment later he straightened up.
“All clear, Captain,” he said. “The required data has been submitted.”
Kirk nodded again. “Excellent,” he said, then he pressed his console once more. “Engine room, this is the Captain. Scotty, are we ready?”
“Yes, Sir,” Scotty responded instantly, “we are standing by for your mark.”
“Full power, then, Scotty,” Kirk ordered, and he felt the engines of his beloved Enterprise rumble as his command was obeyed. He turned to Sulu. “Full speed ahead, Lieutenant.”
“Aye, Sir,” Sulu said, with a grin. This kind of tricky maneuvering was, Kirk knew, Mr. Sulu’s favorite part of space flight. If Kirk could trust anyone to get his ship safely out of this, it was Sulu. And Spock. And Scotty.
Despite everything, Kirk couldn’t suppress a smile. He had a very talented crew.
Captain’s log, Stardate 3117.2. We successfully completed the time-warp, and are currently back in our own time. There is some small, structural damage to the Enterprise, but the Engineering department is optimistic that the repairs will be completed in a few hours. For now, we are at a stand-still. Report situation otherwise normal. No crew members injured.
“Situation otherwise normal?” Doctor McCoy eyed Kirk with obvious skepticism. They were seated in one of the conference rooms, awaiting Mr. Spock and Captain Christopher, who would shortly join them for a debriefing. Kirk rose from his chair and sauntered over to the door, thinking hard. McCoy was apparently far from satisfied with this silent statement.
“I think you may have left something out of that report, Jim,” he said sternly. Kirk turned to face him, frowning. “What are you going to tell Starfleet?”
Kirk felt his shoulders tense at the mention of Starfleet. McCoy, by now well-versed in Kirk’s many forms of bodily expression, clearly noticed.
“Jim?” he repeated, his face betraying a slight sense of foreboding.
Kirk sighed. Blossoming within his chest was a mixture of shame and defiance. A tense moment passed, and then comprehension dawned on McCoy’s face.
“You’re not going to tell them anything, are you?” he said, with a touch of exasperation. Jim lowered his gaze for a moment, and then met McCoy’s.
“You know what the administration at Starfleet are like, Bones,” he said, his voice tinged with the faintest color of plea, and he knew part of him, despite his command, sought McCoy’s approval. “They will run him through a million tests, and then try to incorporate him into the system. It’ll be impersonal, cold. He’ll be alone. He won’t stand a chance.”
McCoy shook his head. “Jim,” he said wearily. “You can’t just choose not to update Starfleet.”
Kirk’s pride flared up. “I can, Bones, and I will,” he said, with feeling, then his tone softened. “It’s safe to say that Starfleet has never had to deal with anything like this in the past. As far as our records show, no other Starfleet ship has ever successfully completed time-warp, which also means that no other Starfleet ship has ever had the chance to bring past life into the future. You know we will be obligated to hand Christopher over the moment we report this to the administration. There won’t be anything we can do for him then. I can’t – won’t – risk his future. No more than I already have.”
McCoy did not look convinced, but his tone was patient when he asked, “What do you plan to do with him?”
“Train him,” Kirk responded immediately. “I, we, can train him aboard the ship. He has military experience from twentieth century Earth. A good part of the elementary protocol has remained similar. In time he could become a member of our crew, and until that time, he will be a cadet, and a guest.”
“And what makes you think you have the experience necessary to instruct him better than Starfleet officials?” McCoy pressed on, arms crossed huffily.
“It isn’t the quality of the training we’re debating,” Kirk answered, “though I think we have ample resources amongst us that should more than cover the basics. I’m concerned with the personal aspect, Bones, the humanity. Haven’t we often enough experienced that Starfleet is more concerned with protocol than with individual human life? That is what worries me. I don’t want to risk exposing Christopher to Starfleet’s brand of modern military tactics.”
McCoy heaved a defeated sigh. “Very well, Jim,” he said. “Have it your way. I still think we made a huge mistake in bringing him with us in the first place. But I know no one listens to me, so I might as well –” He cut himself off with a shrug just as the door to the conference room slid open, and Spock and Christopher stepped in.
Spock looked impassive, as always. Christopher was pale, his face set in a determinedly stiff expression, his back straight.
“Captain,” Spock greeted as he walked towards Kirk. Kirk’s attention was directed towards Captain Christopher.
“Traditionally, this would be the part where you say ‘Welcome to the 23rd century’,” Christopher said tonelessly, “followed by a meet-and-greet with some green men. I suppose since you had a green man accompany me here, we’re halfway there.”
If Christopher hadn’t spoken in a tone so utterly devoid of humor, Kirk might have laughed. Spock looked displeased, but he made no sound.
“I think we’ve already established that I’m sorry –” Kirk started, feeling annoyed despite his pity.
“Yes, and obviously an apology really makes everything better, doesn’t it?” Christopher interrupted rudely. Kirk bit back his intended reply and turned instead to his First Officer.
“Mr. Scott reports repairs are proceeding according to schedule,” Spock said without needing any further incitement. “Mr. Sulu is monitoring the Bridge. Lieutenant Uhura has contacted Starbase 9, and they await our arrival.”
“Good.” Kirk turned back to Christopher with an attempt at his usual authority. “I have decided, given the circumstances, that you should remain here for the time being.” Christopher gave him a silent glare by way of a response. Kirk continued. “We felt it would be best to avoid mentioning you to Starfleet” – both McCoy and Spock looked mildly disapproving, no doubt at the inclusion of themselves in that “we” – “and I wanted to give you some training, here, so that you can adapt before –”
Captain Christopher moved forwards in a rush of violent movement. “Training?” he growled, his shoulders tensed, his eyes livid. “You took me away from my home, my world, my … my time!” His hands clenched into fists at his sides as he made another movement towards Kirk, who remained still, feeling Christopher’s pain as something tangible within himself. The other man’s brow contracted into a steadily deeper frown. “What about that kid you talked about?” he said passionately. “My son? What about him? Wasn’t he supposed to matter in some way?”
His last words were spoken in desperation, as if he hoped that he could, somehow, make it all go back if he could only convince them of their error. Kirk lowered his gaze for a moment, desperately sorry that this couldn’t have been done differently, and desperately unhappy for the next thing he knew he would be forced to say.
“Your son,” he started, carefully directing his eyes back to the unhappy Air Force captain, “he … that was a problem. But –” Kirk hesitated, tried to find a way of softening the blow this was sure to be, failed, sighed “– we discovered that your wife was already pregnant.”
Christopher regarded him with large eyes. “She –” he started, but he seemed for a moment too angry, or shocked, for words. His body literally shook where he stood. He looked from Kirk to Spock to McCoy and back again. His skin had become deadly pale. Kirk made to put a hand on his arm, but thought the better of it. When Christopher finally spoke, it was in a voice that was dangerously soft, impossibly calm, and unbelievably cold.
“My job was done then, huh?” he said, and he made another move towards Kirk. Spock, who had been sitting at the table, stood up, silently and swiftly. “What about that kid? She’s going to raise him all by herself? You’re making that boy, my boy, grow up without a father?”
“I’m sorry,” Kirk said for what felt like the millionth time that day, sincerity still etched in every line of his face.
Christopher’s eyes seemed to flash in their anger. The two of them stood, movement suspended, feet apart. Kirk breathed slowly. Then, without warning, Christopher grabbed a hold of Kirk’s command shirt and shoved him bodily into the wall. Out of the corner of his eye, Kirk saw Spock move decisively towards the other captain, his hand moving. Kirk shook his head a fraction of an inch. Spock, looking a little wary, stopped and stood behind Christopher at a distance that would allow quick action. McCoy gazed at the three of them with a mixture of worry and exasperation. Kirk moved his eyes to his assailant.
“Hit me if you think it will help,” Kirk said, quietly, calmly, putting permissive authority behind his words. “I am truly sorry for taking you away from your family. None of this happened according to our intention.”
For a moment, Captain Christopher looked very much inclined towards accepting Kirk’s offer of punching him in the face. Several tense seconds ticked by. Then, slowly, Christopher loosened his grip on Kirk’s uniform. With a last show of violence, he slammed his fist, hard, into the wall, just to the right of Kirk’s head, and let out a snarl of fury before turning away. He placed both hands, palms-down, on the table and leaned forward, head bowed towards the surface, as if he wanted to smash his head into it. Kirk moved forwards and placed a hand, gently, on Christopher’s shoulder.
“What am I supposed to do?” said Christopher, through gritted teeth.
Kirk looked at Spock, searching for an answer, for confirmation, for something, but the Vulcan’s gaze was fixed stoically on the hand on Christopher’s shoulder. As he noticed Kirk looking at him, his eyes moved to the Captain, and he raised his eyebrows, as if to say that he didn’t have an answer. He seemed oddly passive, and Kirk felt a twinge of annoyance. He turned his eyes back to Christopher.
“You have experience,” he said, “you have skills.”
Christopher, still bowed over the table, turned his head in Kirk’s direction, his expression hard.
“From my time, yeah,” he said. “I don’t know anything about yours.”
“You can learn,” Kirk pressed, tightening his hold on Christopher’s shoulder. “We can teach you. I can teach you.”
Christopher straightened up, and Kirk’s hand fell to his side. The other man’s face betrayed barely controlled pain, desperation on the verge of overpowering him. His eyes were intense, his mouth a thin line as he fought to maintain his dignity.
“I’d like to return to my quarters now,” Christopher said finally, and Kirk, deflating a little, nodded his head.
Christopher instantly turned and walked to the door. He gazed at it for a short moment.
“Do you …” Kirk hesitated. “Do you know the way?”
Christopher said nothing for a moment, immobile, three feet from the door. Then he shrugged.
“Bones,” Kirk said quietly. McCoy nodded.
The two of them walked briskly forwards, the doors slid open to let them pass. Spock glanced at the door, then came towards Kirk with a frown on his face.
“Might it not be advisable to send a security officer with them?”
For some reason, the question annoyed Kirk. He looked at Spock and felt strangely angry.
“Did you, Mr. Spock, happen to notice the man who was just in here?” he said coldly. Spock’s eyebrows twitched downwards.
“I fail to understand –” he started, but Kirk, his anger flaring up, cut him off.
“Didn’t you notice his misery?” he exclaimed, taking several, quick steps towards his First Officer. “Or are such feelings too much of a mystery for your logical, Vulcan mind?”
Kirk spat the words, which, though normally not an insult, could not, given his tone, convey otherwise. He witnessed Spock’s rigid demeanor falter, just a little; for a moment, he looked confused. Kirk, all his sympathy momentarily invested in Christopher, continued, relentlessly,
“You are my First Officer. I expect, and demand, your support. You just stood there, you said nothing!”
“Jim,” Spock said, quietly.
Kirk shook his head. Later, he would not remember precisely what it was that had enraged him, he only knew that Spock’s lack of passion suddenly frustrated him to such an extent that he wanted the Vulcan to feel, something, anything. It was a wish he would soon regret.
“You’re dismissed,” he said forcibly.
Spock seemed to take a moment to process this abrupt discharge, then he frowned once more. Kirk was uncharacteristically pleased to see that his friend’s eyes were just a little narrower, his eyebrows just a little more contracted, than usual.
“Forgive me, Captain,” Spock said, his tone even, though slightly strained. “It was not my intention to cause you any irritation.”
He turned and left. Kirk, fuming, slammed his hand down on the table, achieving nothing but a smarting pain in his palm and increased frustration.
An hour later found the Captain entering the Bridge, his mood abated, though he was still significantly stressed. He cast a glance at his Science Officer, who, bent over his station, did not acknowledge him. Sitting down in his chair, he pressed the comm. button and hailed his Chief of Engineering.
“Engineering, this is Captain Kirk,” he said briskly. “Scotty, how are the repairs going?”
He wanted to get out of here. Standing still in space was doing nothing to improve his temper. They were only minutes away from Starbase 9, and the sooner they got there, the sooner they could continue their mission. Unexpectedly, the Scotsman’s voice came across the comm. sounding unusually optimistic.
“Scotty here, Sir,” he said. “The time warp created a flux in the main dilithium reactor, but it has been locked down and repairs are almost finished. I estimate full power in about fifteen minutes.”
Kirk looked sideways at Sulu, who was regarding the Captain with a slightly incredulous look. He imagined his helmsman, like him, had expected to hear of some additional and heretofore unseen difficulty that would halt repairs and force them to stay here indefinitely. Kirk found himself grinning. He turned back to his comm. unit.
“You have no idea how happy that makes me, Scotty,” he said gratefully.
There was the sound of a faint laugh from the Engineering Department. “Oh, I believe I do, Sir,” Scotty said good-humoredly. Kirk chuckled appreciatively.
“Well, excellent,” he said. “Alert me the moment we have full power. Kirk out.”
Switching the comm. unit off, he turned towards Spock, hoping for a sign of acknowledgement, but the Vulcan kept his back turned. Kirk felt a slight sense of shame at his earlier outburst, but put it aside for the moment. Turning instead to his Communications Officer, he said,
“Lieutenant Uhura, please signal Starbase 9 and alert them that we expect to arrive in approximately half an hour.”
Uhura turned to carry out her task, hesitated, turned back to Kirk. Kirk raised his eyebrows expectantly, convinced he knew what she was about to say.
“Sir,” she started carefully. “We are not to update Starfleet on our current condition?”
“Of course,” Kirk replied, though he understood that by “condition” she meant Christopher. He stood up and walked over to her. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Spock cast him a sideways glance. Uhura turned her eyes up at him.
“Naturally, I want you to make a complete report, Lieutenant,” he repeated, quietly, “but I would appreciate it if you didn’t mention our unexpected passenger.”
Uhura looked away, and frowned slightly.
“Sir –” she started hesitantly.
“I understand if it makes you uncomfortable,” Kirk said softly. “It’s not an order. Just a request.”
Uhura hesitated another moment. “But – why, Sir?”
“I want to train him aboard the Enterprise,” he replied quickly. He noticed that Spock had finally turned around and was obviously listening to their hushed conversation, a pensive expression on his face. From the looks of the rest of the crew, they had enough with their own preparations.
Kirk continued. “I believe his best chance is with us, Lieutenant. It’s not that Starfleet wouldn’t do a sufficient job, it’s just that –” he paused for a small moment, considering his words “– they tend to have more cause than personality. Christopher needs human contact. And I have to help him.”
Uhura looked at Kirk for another moment, a sympathetic expression on her face. Then she nodded.
“Very well, Captain,” she said.
Kirk placed a grateful hand on her shoulder, and turned to meet a Vulcan gaze, which, had he not been so preoccupied, might have shown him at least as much concern and sympathy as Lieutenant Uhura’s.
They were underway in the allotted time, and reached Starbase 9 that evening. Kirk checked his calendar. It was Tuesday. He wanted to stay at the Starbase as short a while as possible. The longer they remained, the greater the possibility of Christopher’s being discovered. He alerted his crew of their stay, and that he hoped to be shipping out in two days time. Those that wanted to take a Space Shuttle down to Earth for some brief shore leave were given the appropriate forms to fill out, and were ordered to be back by midday, Thursday.
When the ship was safely docked, Kirk dismissed the majority of his Bridge crew, allowing them some rare, well-deserved, time off, and proceeded down to Captain Christopher’s quarters, hoping to find him in a more receptive mood.
He was predictably disappointed.
Christopher wasn’t angry anymore. The truth of his situation seemed to have become painfully clear to him, and he was utterly dejected. When Kirk entered the room, he was lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling as if in a trance. Kirk moved forwards, carefully. Christopher didn’t make any movement to indicate he had noticed Kirk’s presence. Only when Kirk was standing right next to the bed, did the other man’s eyes flicker in his direction, briefly, before they once more found the fascinating spot of ceiling they were apparently so riveted by.
“I think it would be meaningless to ask you how you’re doing,” Kirk said quietly. Christopher closed his eyes in response. Kirk experienced a sudden urge to take his hand, hold it, comfort him. He didn’t. “I don’t want to bother you,” he continued, “but I thought I should inform you that we are currently docked at Starbase 9, and –”
“We’re staying here two days, and then heading out,” Christopher said unexpectedly. “I heard the announcement.” He sat up, slowly, and turned his head towards Kirk. “Are you here to tell me I’m confined to my quarters?”
Kirk was slightly taken aback by this direct reference to the very thing he had come there to say. It didn’t make the subject any less uncomfortable. He retained his professional stance as he replied,
“Yes.” Christopher rolled his eyes. “I’m sorry,” Kirk continued. “Seeing as we’re in such close proximity to Starfleet –”
“Yeah, sure,” Christopher cut across him. “You’re not afraid of ignoring protocol, are you?” He looked at Kirk with a mixture of disdain and apathy. Kirk frowned.
“I’m not afraid of doing what it takes,” he replied, his tone hardening.
“Where I come from, we base our service on loyalty.”
“Well, I prefer to place the cause above the organization.”
Christopher raised his eyebrows. Then he shook his head, letting out a short, mirthless laugh. “It baffles me that you could ever have made the rank of Captain,” he said scathingly.
Kirk was quickly losing patience. “I’m good at what I do,” he said curtly, then, “You will be allowed to leave your quarters once we are underway.”
He turned to leave. He wanted to get out of there before his temper ran away with him. From behind him, he heard Christopher stand up, and a moment later, there was a hand on his shoulder. Kirk turned back around. Christopher looked at him with a mixture of defiance and apology – it was a very strange blend of emotions. He opened his mouth, hesitated for a moment, then said,
Kirk, feeling instantly pacified, and a little surprised, shook his head. “It’s fine,” he said quietly. “You’re entitled to your anger. I just hope –” He paused considering how best to phrase what he wanted to say. “I hope you can make life work here. I know you can,” he amended. “You’re more than qualified. But I realize you’ll need some time. Take it. We’ll be here to help you when you’re ready.”
He turned to leave again, and instantly turned back. “Oh,” he said, “if you need something, just press your comm. unit. I have a meeting with Starfleet in an hour, but after that, I’ll be here.”
Christopher frowned. “Do you usually attend to these matters yourself?” he said questioningly.
The corners of Kirk’s mouth turned up in a half-smile. “I think the present situation deserves my interest,” he replied.
Christopher raised his eyebrows. Kirk had the sudden urge to stay there indefinitely. He shook his head slightly, nodded at Christopher, and left the room feeling strangely winded.
Within another hour, Kirk was entering Starfleet Headquarters, in his dress uniform, feeling decidedly jittery, but maintaining a calm, focused exterior. Spock, whom he had asked to come along, stood beside him, ever the essence of composure. Seeing him helped Kirk to concentrate. It felt almost like he could channel some of the Vulcan’s tranquility through himself.
They were admitted to the Admiral’s office, and they both walked in, straight-backed, Spock with his hands placed firmly at his back, Kirk’s hands hanging limply at his sides. He was intensely thankful that Spock had agreed to come along. Kirk knew very well that his First Officer did not take to deceit lightly, and as his Vulcan half forbade him any direct lies, he would have to be very cautious with his words. Yes, Kirk was extremely grateful to him.
The Admiral’s office was large, and lavishly decorated. Relics from all parts of the universe littered the room, whole shelves filled with everything from plants to ancient religious symbols. The walls were a clean white, hung with sundry artwork, though nothing seemed particularly affected by personal taste. The entire floor was covered in a deep-red, smooth carpet. It felt vaguely like walking on a lake of blood. A large desk, shaped like a crescent, dominated the space, placed dead center. A sturdy, high-backed chair, trimmed in the same, red material as the carpet, sat behind the desk, and in the chair, sat Admiral Bryant.
He was a large man, heavily built, and looked like he would perform well in a wrestling ring. He would have seemed oddly misplaced behind a desk had it not been for the air of authority he constantly exuded. His hair, black and cropped short, was sleek, his eyes were green and intense. His red Admiral’s uniform was spotless. He stood up as they entered, and seemed instantly to take up half the room.
“Captain Kirk!” he said jovially, his deep voice ringing through the room. “Commander Spock! Welcome.”
Kirk and Spock traded a brief glance. Spock quirked an eyebrow superciliously. Admiral Bryant came towards them, and approached Kirk first, hand outstretched in greeting. Kirk took it with a smile. The Admiral turned to Spock and nodded amicably. Spock returned the gesture.
“I’m very happy to have you here,” Bryant said, smiling at both of them in turn.
“Thank you,” Kirk replied, his eyes roaming over the impressive form of the Admiral.
Bryant had only been appointed to the admiralty a year and a half ago. Kirk remembered him as a co-professor of Interspecies Protocol at the Academy, where he had been known for giving unconventional lectures that always exceeded their time limit. Kirk was very thankful that Bryant had been chosen to handle their case. He had always been very friendly, not to mention very unbiased.
“So,” Bryant said, after spending a moment in fond surveillance of the two of them. “You’ve had quite an exciting adventure, I hear!”
Spock raised his eyebrows. Kirk grinned. He could imagine “adventure” was not a term frequently used in the Vulcan’s vocabulary. Kirk, for his part, responded in the positive.
“Yes,” he said lightly, “it was definitely an experience.”
Bryant motioned with one, big hand towards two chairs that stood before his desk. They looked like they had been brought in for the occasion; they didn’t really fit the overall décor of the place. Kirk and Spock sat down as the Admiral moved to his own chair.
“Well,” he said, when they were all settled to his satisfaction, “tell me what happened. Starfleet is understandably intrigued by this incident. Time travel – it’s revolutionary, Kirk!” He revealed a set of brilliantly white teeth as he smiled. “I always did expect great things from you – you were such a promising young cadet.”
Kirk felt distinctly embarrassed at the exaggerated flattery. He shook his head a little, and then inclined it in Spock’s direction.
“I think the praise would be more rightfully directed at my Science Officer, and my Chief of Engineering. They pulled off a little miracle.”
Bryant looked slightly surprised for a moment, and Kirk believed that the Admiral’s comment had not meant to exclude the efforts of Kirk’s crew. A moment later, Kirk’s assumption was confirmed.
“I did not mean to indicate that your junior officers were not to be praised, Captain!” he said, with a slight smile. “Only that the Enterprise, under your command, has survived more trials than any ship before it, and I think this entitles me to direct some congratulations your way. Or, what say you, Mr. Spock?”
Spock raised his eyebrows, cast a brief glance at the Captain, and said, “Yes, Admiral. I quite agree. Captain Kirk is a very capable leader.”
Kirk turned his gaze on the Vulcan and couldn’t stop his face from breaking into a bright smile. All of a sudden he felt rather elated. He turned back to the Admiral, who nodded, looking satisfied.
“See?” he said happily.
Kirk rearranged his face into a more professional expression. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Spock looking at him. He had to work very hard not to start grinning again.
“Let’s call it a combined effort, then,” Kirk said conclusively, and Bryant nodded his approval.
“So,” the Admiral continued, at once more business-like. “Tell me exactly what happened.”
Kirk started to explain the events of their sojourn in the past. He got as far as their orbit of past Earth, and the pursuit of the one-manned jet plane, before the Admiral stopped him.
“You were seen?” he said, frowning slightly.
“Yes,” Kirk answered immediately. “The ship pursued us, we evaded it, and it had to resort to a somewhat violent emergency landing.”
The Admiral raised his thick eyebrows. “The pilot?” he said by way of a question.
“The pilot was unharmed,” Kirk stated, carefully avoiding specific mention of Christopher, and his trip aboard the Enterprise. “However, the craft, as we later discovered, carried recording devices, and we were forced to retrieve the footage from the US Army. We were successful, and there is no permanent record of our voyage to the 1960s.”
The Admiral leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his stomach. He seemed to be contemplating.
“What about the pilot?” he said, leaning forward again after a short pause. “Didn’t he see you?”
Kirk considered his words for a brief moment. “We think he might have,” he replied, carefully. “But you know there were many reported sightings of so-called UFO’s during the course of the twentieth century, and they were mostly dismissed as fictional. According to our research there haven’t been any immediately noticeable changes to our time, which leads me to believe that they’re either so tiny we can’t see them, or that we got away clean.”
The Admiral regarded him with a scrutinizing expression. He seemed to be considering whether or not he was going to accept Kirk’s explanation. Finally, he merely asked Kirk to continue.
Kirk did, describing their journey back to their own time in as much detail as he thought necessary, always avoiding mention of their unexpected passenger. When he explained the idea behind the whiplash effect that sent them into time warp, Bryant turned his attention to Spock with a deeply impressed expression. Spock responded to the look with his usual, impassive demeanor.
“You have a very resourceful crew, Captain Kirk,” Bryant said, turning back to Kirk.
Kirk felt an intense sense of pride swell up within him at the thought of them all, and had to try very hard not to look too pleased.
“I wouldn’t disagree with you there, Admiral,” he said, once more sparing Spock a quick look. He thought he saw a corner of the Vulcan’s mouth twitch.
Their meeting was concluded ten minutes later. Admiral Bryant seemed to accept the story as Kirk had told it. There had been a tense moment when Bryant had applied to Spock for the verification of Kirk’s statement, strictly protocol of course, but it had nonetheless made Kirk’s heart pound with unnecessary force. However, the Vulcan had confirmed it immediately, and Bryant, apparently satisfied, stood up, and walked with them out into the hall.
“It was a pleasure seeing you again, Kirk,” he said informally, grabbing Kirk’s hand in goodbye and looking very much like he meant it. “You too, Mr. Spock,” he added. “I hope to see you again soon, though I suspect the Enterprise has better things to do than hang around here!”
He laughed good-naturedly, and slapped Kirk on the shoulder. Spock regarded this gesture with confusion, and Kirk imagined he could see Spock’s brain working furiously to try to figure out what on Earth the logical explanation could be for hitting someone with whom you were apparently friendly. Kirk smiled at him. Spock raised an eyebrow skeptically.
They returned to the ship shortly after, where everything was unusually calm and quiet. Given that they didn’t know when they might be back in this sector, a lot of the crew had chosen to go down to Earth, visit family, friends, take a break. Kirk could understand them. For him, however, the Enterprise and its crew were his family. Everything he truly loved was here.
Kirk looked at Spock as they moved down the uncharacteristically empty hallways towards the nearest turbolift. They walked side by side, Spock on Kirk’s left, their hands so close they were almost touching. Kirk wondered what would happen if he just moved his fingers an inch to the left, touched Spock’s hand. He felt a sudden, intense urge to try it, to initiate contact, consequences be damned … But, as always, his self-control won out.
“Spock,” he said suddenly, coming to a halt. The Vulcan stopped too, and turned, slowly. “I wanted to apologize,” Kirk continued. “I was … unfair to you, earlier. I was frustrated, and I took it out on you. It was … wrong of me, and I’m sorry.”
Spock looked at him for a moment with his trademark unfathomable expression. Kirk often wondered about all the things Spock might be thinking, behind that inexpressive façade. Then his friend’s face loosened, and he gave Kirk one of his rare, warm smiles. Spock always smiled more with his eyes than anything else, but when they smiled, they sparkled. Kirk felt his breath catch in his throat, despite himself.
“It’s quite alright, Jim,” Spock said lightly.
They stood, frozen, eyes locked, for several, long, moments, then Spock inclined his head towards the turbolift.
“Shall we go to the Bridge, Captain?” he said, and Kirk felt strangely disappointed, as if he had been hoping for something that he knew would never happen.
“Yes … Spock,” he said, his voice low.
The next morning several things happened at once. Firstly, Kirk awoke in a frenzied sweat, with a pounding headache and labored breathing, and could only conclude that he had come down with something. Cursing his abysmal immune system, and thankful that there were no people about, he made his way, somewhat laboriously, down to Sickbay, where he promptly ran into Captain Christopher, who had, apparently, been receiving a medical examination courtesy of Doctor McCoy. Christopher took one look at him before raising his eyebrows and offering helpful testimony that “he did not look good”. Kirk muttered something or other in response, he couldn’t quite remember what – at that point he was on the verge of fainting – then McCoy, no doubt hearing his voice, came out, took one look at him, and immediately guided him forcefully into a bed.
“Damn it, Jim, what now?” he growled, and Kirk shook his head to indicate that he had no idea.
It felt like his entire body was on fire, and yet he was shaking with cold. His clothes were drenched and stuck to his body uncomfortably. McCoy, having left his side for a moment, came back with a fully loaded hypospray, and promptly administered it with somewhat unnecessary force. Christopher, meanwhile, out of curiosity, or whatever else, had approached the bed, and was now standing over Kirk and looking at him with an expression so devoid of concern that it left Kirk feeling even colder than the fever he was doubtlessly running.
McCoy ran his medical scanner across Kirk’s shivering form, and rolled his eyes as he interpreted the results.
“Go figure,” he muttered. “You’re down on twentieth century Earth for all of an hour, and you somehow manage to catch the flu.”
Kirk raised his eyebrows in surprise. “The flu?” he said incredulously, then groaned, as a wave of pain travelled up his spine.
“Yeah,” McCoy said, looking exasperated. “A particularly nasty strand, too. You’ll need another one of these.”
Kirk twitched as McCoy administered another, unexpected, hypo. He turned his eyes to Christopher, and found him looking almost amused.
“You think this is funny?” Kirk said, somewhat testily.
Christopher couldn’t hide a slight smile curving the corners of his mouth. “It is a little amusing,” he said.
“Well, I’m glad to see that my pain brings you so much pleasure,” Kirk said feebly. His attempt at sounding condescending was thwarted by a wave of nausea.
Just at that moment, the doors to Sickbay slid open, and Spock strode in. His gaze focused ahead, he did not notice Kirk lying in the bed until he was halfway through his sentence.
“Doctor McCoy. It has come to my attention that –” He stopped as his eyes found his Captain. “– Jim?” he said, and had Kirk not chosen that particular moment to become slightly delirious, he might have heard the Vulcan’s voice soften noticeably.
As it were, medicine and disease were now fighting a vigorous battle throughout Kirk’s system, and he heard the rest of the conversation as if through a dense fog clogging his brain.
“What is ailing him, Doctor?” Spock asked.
“Apparently, he has the flu.” It was Christopher’s voice that answered, and Kirk heard McCoy grunt a confirmation from somewhere to his right.
“The flu?” Spock sounded slightly disbelieving.
“He must have caught it when he was down on Earth.”
“Bit ironic, really,” came Christopher’s voice.
There was movement of feet, and then Spock’s voice said, sounding atypically harsh, "I think you you need to return to your quarters, Captain."
The rest was obscured by a vast expanse of darkness, and Kirk could only assume that he had lost consciousness. He awoke what felt like several hours later feeling much better, though upon attempting to sit up, he was met with a strong hand on his chest, which forced him back down. Kirk, expecting to see McCoy, was surprised when he discovered Spock, sitting by his bed, looking at him with obvious concern on his face.
“You need to rest, Jim,” he said quietly.
Kirk had no concept of how long he had been lying there. He wondered whether Spock had been sitting there the whole time.
“How long was I out?” he asked.
“You have been unconscious for approximately three hours and fifty-four minutes, Captain,” Spock replied instantly.
Kirk raised his eyebrows. He battled with himself for a moment, the question he wanted to ask fighting his desire for professionalism. Probably due to exhaustion, his curiosity won out.
“Have you been … sitting here all this time?” Kirk said, somewhat hesitatingly.
“No, Jim,” Spock replied calmly. “Nurse Chapel has been here with you. I have been making myself acquainted with known planets and systems along our forthcoming heading, as well as overseeing preparations for departure.”
“And?” Kirk said, recovering himself quickly, though feeling very foolish that he had even considered the possibility of Spock’s sitting there for hours beside his unconscious form. Even if Spock had played the role in Kirk’s life that Kirk wished he would, he was still second in command, and with Kirk incapacitated, would need to see to the Captain’s duties.
“Preparations are progressing according to schedule,” Spock said, and if he noticed Kirk’s embarrassment, he didn’t make any indication of it. “There are a multitude of different systems along our impending course, many of which are already a part of the Federation. There is a Romulan Neutral Zone which borders on a few areas of unchartered space, to which, I understand, we hope to travel. We should be able to avoid it with ease.”
Kirk nodded, satisfied. He moved to sit up again. This time, Spock, apparently satisfied that Kirk wasn’t at death’s door, didn’t stop him. Kirk sat on the edge of the bed, took a quick look down himself, and almost started when he realized that someone had removed his shirt. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to him; his fever had been extremely high, and he vaguely recalled his shirt being drenched with sweat. But, for some reason, the realization that his torso was bare caused him a flush of embarrassment. He couldn’t understand why, until he remembered where Spock’s hand had been just a few, short moments earlier.
Kirk took very great care not to look at Spock as he stood up. He took two steps forward before the world started spinning. He put a hand to his forehead as his extremities went numb, but a strong, firm hand gripped his upper arm and kept him from falling. Kirk lifted his head, slowly, and Spock was standing in front of him, holding him steady. He felt a warm, tingling sensation run down his arm from the point of the Vulcan’s touch. Gradually, his head settled. When he stopped seeing double, he pulled his arm gently away from Spock, afraid his friend would see the reaction his touch had elicited. Kirk was sure his face must be burning.
“Perhaps you should lie back down,” Spock suggested, but Kirk waved a dismissive hand in his direction, still not making eye contact.
“No, thank you, Mr. Spock,” he replied, curtly. His eyes briefly scoured Sickbay, and he frowned. “Where’s Bones?”
“He is overseeing the transfer of new medical equipment from Starbase 9 to the Enterprise. He left as soon as he was satisfied that your condition was not critical. I believe he was hoping to be back by the time you awoke. I am sure he will wish to examine you.”
Kirk rolled his eyes. “And force another couple hypos on me, I bet,” he said, finally meeting Spock’s gaze. The Vulcan was frowning. Kirk shook his head, smiling slightly.
“I’m fine, Spock,” he said. Spock looked skeptical.
“Forgive me, Captain,” he said, “but I believe you were about to lose consciousness just a short moment ago.”
“Well, I feel much better now,” Kirk said, then, as Spock’s concern clearly wasn’t settled, added, “I’ll wait here until McCoy comes back, if it will make you happy.”
Spock raised an eyebrow, and locked his hands behind his back. “I do not believe it is my happiness we are discussing, Captain,” he said flatly, though his eyes twinkled, “but it would lessen my concern for your wellbeing if you allowed Doctor McCoy to make sure the illness is out of your system before exposing yourself to further stress.”
Kirk raised his eyebrows, and a corner of his mouth turned up in a warm half-smile. “Well, Mr. Spock,” he said. “To lessen your concern, I will stay here until Bones comes back.”
Spock looked like he was about to tell Kirk that he was missing the point, but McCoy chose that moment to return to Sickbay, and, upon seeing Kirk out of bed, he immediately went into an angered frenzy, pointing his finger accusatorily at Spock as he approached the two of them.
“You were supposed to keep him in bed!” the Doctor said huffily. Spock arched his eyebrow. Kirk tried not to let Bones’ formulation tickle him too much.
“I’m feeling much better,” Kirk said, flashing McCoy a smile. McCoy was obviously far from convinced. He crossed his arms in a show of frustration, and turned to the First Officer.
“Spock?” he said, the one word clearly demanding a confirmation of Kirk’s statement.
Spock looked from one to the other. “The Captain … is recovering,” he said vaguely.
McCoy rolled his eyes and stalked away, returning immediately with a loaded hypo and a medical scanner. “Sit down,” he ordered, and Kirk, sighing, sank back down onto the bed. He hated being incapacitated. He thrived on activity, above all things, and did not appreciate being pampered.
“Well, your fever’s down,” McCoy said, after a moment of careful examination, “the contagion is out of your system and your pulse is returning to normal, but your blood pressure’s low and your musculature’s still a little weak. I would like you to stay here for at least another hour, to make sure –”
“Bones, is that really necessary?” Kirk said. He took great care to keep the plea minimal, but present, in his tone.
McCoy responded with one of his trademark exasperated looks, one eyebrow raised, the other furrowed as he regarded the Captain.
“Well, since you’re not infectious, or technically sick anymore, I can’t force you to stay,” he said reluctantly. Kirk instantly rose.
“I’ll report back to you if anything feels unusual, ok?” he said. He turned his head, first left, then right, searching. “Where’s my shirt?” he said after a moment’s vain hunt.
“I took the liberty of getting you a fresh one,” McCoy answered, flinging one of Kirk’s green, V-necked shirts at him unceremoniously. Before Kirk could do any more than catch it, McCoy was at his side, administering a hypo to his still-bare shoulder. Kirk jumped and snarled, though he should have been expecting it. He looked at McCoy with narrowed eyes.
“Do you always have to do that?” he said, torn between frustration and amusement.
The Doctor grinned devilishly. “Let’s call it payback, Jim,” he said, “for never listening to a damned word I say.”
Kirk looked slightly sheepish as he replied, “Fair enough.”
He pulled on the shirt, smoothing the creases before straightening up, ready to be back in action, Captain once more. “Well, gentlemen,” he said, addressing himself to Spock and McCoy, looking at each of them in turn. “I have work to do. We ship out in –” he checked the time “– approximately twenty-seven hours. Mr. Spock.” Kirk turned to him. “If you would continue monitoring the Bridge for the time being – I have some business to take care of.”
Spock raised two eyebrows in a knowing expression. “Captain Christopher?” he said simply.
Kirk nodded. He was too preoccupied to notice the line of discontent shaping Vulcan lips.
Without further ado, he exited Sickbay, as always when he had been sick or injured, extensively happy to be out of there. He walked down the hall to the nearest turbolift, pondering Spock’s hand on his chest as he stood there by himself. He felt the corners of his mouth turn up reluctantly. The lift doors opened, and he walked briskly to Christopher’s quarters, feeling the strain of the exertion just a little more than normal, and looking very much forward to being completely healthy again.
The doors to Christopher’s quarters were locked when he arrived there, so he knocked, waiting and listening for a reply. The guard that stood outside the door informed him that there had not been any unusual activity, so after a minute’s wait, Kirk knocked again. This time, footsteps were heard from within, and a few moments later, the door slid open with a faint whoosh.
Christopher’s expression was devoid of emotion as he observed his visitor. “You look better,” he said unenthusiastically. His military training was evident in every syllable he spoke. It was a very interesting spectacle.
“Yes,” Kirk replied. “I have an excellent CMO.”
He didn’t wait for an invitation, but stepped past Christopher into his quarters. He wasn’t going to waste time. He had made a decision while lying semi-conscious in Sickbay, and though most decisions made in states between waking and sleep aren’t generally considered to be the best, Kirk had a feeling this was the right one.
“I realize I’ve been treating you unfairly,” he said to Christopher, who promptly raised his eyebrows in a show of undisguised surprise.
“Did you have some sort of insight while you were battling the flu?” he said, a touch of sarcasm present behind the rigid tone.
Kirk ignored the remark. “If you want to inform Starfleet of your presence here, you are free to do so. And I’ll get rid of the guard. I was only trying to do what I considered to be in your best interest. But I realize that it’s not my decision to make. So you are … free to do what you like.” He looked at Christopher, who was wearing a look of reluctant incredulity. “My offer of training and employment aboard the Enterprise still stands,” Kirk supplied. “You have until tomorrow at four o’clock, which is when we ship out. If you want to stay behind, you can. If you want to come along, I will do my best to make you feel at home here, though I know the idea of this century as “home” is very far from your thoughts at the moment.”
There was a moment of tense silence, before Christopher spoke. “So … I can go, then?” he said, hesitatingly, but with that tinge of unshakeable pride that seemed to be embedded deeply in his person.
Kirk inclined his head. Christopher didn’t move. It looked like he was trying to figure out precisely what kind of trick this might be. There was a muscle working furiously in the set of his jaw, his eyes were alive with skepticism, his brows drawn together in a frown. Kirk regarded him with patience, letting him contemplate in peace, watching, waiting. He was confident that Christopher would make the decision to stay, yet the silent interval filled him with a kind of worry he couldn’t quite define. And Kirk realized that he wanted Christopher to stay. He wanted him there, wanted to get to know him better. He wanted his approval, and respect. He wanted his friendship. And he knew giving Christopher a choice was the only way to accomplish that. So he waited. And finally, Christopher said,
“You would train me, if I remained here?”
Kirk responded in the affirmative, stressing his earlier point – that he would do his utmost to make absolutely certain that Christopher was able to adapt and form a new life for himself, aboard the Enterprise, and eventually wherever he wanted.
“What would I do?” Christopher said wearily, and he looked resigned now, unhappy, but resigned.
“You would start out as a cadet,” Kirk said. “I know that’s a huge step down for you, but you need to start from the beginning. We would train you, teach you about the ship, its functions, about space travel, about everything from diplomatic relations with other planets, to our own planet’s history.” Kirk frowned. “It will be hard work, but I don’t think you’re a stranger to that.”
Christopher sighed. He walked over to his bed, and sat down on the edge. “Cadet …” he said, putting a hand to his forehead and rubbing it gingerly, as if the word caused him physical pain.
Kirk walked over and stood in front of him, feeling great sympathy for this man, and simultaneously, a sense of elation. He had succeeded now, he knew that. Christopher would stay. And Kirk would make sure he kept every one of his promises. Christopher raised his head, his hand moving down to partially cover his mouth. Then he let it fall.
“Ok,” he said simply. He shook his head tiredly. “I guess you’re my best option.”
He stood up again, evidently making an attempt at his usual professionalism. His back straight, his expression blank, he said, “When do we start?”
“As soon as you feel ready,” Kirk replied.
“I’m ready,” Christopher said instantly.
Kirk frowned. “Are you sure?”
“I need to do something other than sit around and feel sorry for myself. I’m going to go insane if I don’t … do something.”
“We can start tomorrow, if you like,” Kirk said.
Christopher looked at him for a moment, and then nodded. He looked exhausted. Kirk gave him a small smile, and left him to rest.
As he walked down the halls, he suddenly felt very tired, too. It took him a moment to remember that he had spent half the day unconscious, and that his body was still recovering from the flu. He had forgotten. He smiled again. He was still smiling when he entered the turbolift.
They left on schedule the next day, Kirk fully recovered from his bout of illness, Spock at his usual position at the Science Station, Scotty making the Enterprise purr down in Engineering, McCoy on the Bridge to assure himself that nothing exploded on their way out of the dock, Sulu grinning as he gazed out on the endless expanse of starry sky he would soon be navigating through, Uhura monitoring communications, Christopher, silent and resigned, by the turbolift entrance, regarding the entire spectacle with an interest he could not disguise. Kirk turned his eyes, briefly, to him. Christopher returned the gaze, and Kirk smiled reassuringly.
They cleared the docking area, and Sulu turned to the Captain. “Heading, Sir?” he said.
“Heading three-oh-two, mark four,” Kirk said, looking out into the universe with excitement. “Warp factor one, Mr. Sulu. Steady as she goes.”