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“I love you,” he said.


“You want another?”


Kirk gives the bartender a blank look. There's a pause. Grunting, the Tellarite pushes a double-shot in front of him, and leaves without another word.


“More than anything. Anyone. God, you know – you must know...”


“Yes,” Spock said. “But I do not know why you've found it necessary, now, to speak of it.”


“Hey,” says a Risan, bumping into him, giggling. “You're that starship captain, right? Kim, Kevin, Karl...”


Kirk twists around in his chair.


“...Never mind,” she mumbles, and disappears behind a crowd of friends.


“So... you don't...”


“Jim. Surely you must know – if I returned nothing of your sentiments, they would not be a problem.”


“Yeah!” A man at the end of the bar raises his fist into the air. “This is the best night of my life!”


Kirk clenches a fist around his glass.


“Spock...”


“Jim. I can't.”


“They say that alcohol helps you forget all the troubles of the world,” says a man on Kirk's left.


Kirk tilts his head, and examines the amber liquid glinting back from his glass. “Really?” he asks. “Because they lied to you, then.”


“You've never said...”


“This complicates matters.”


“Why. Tell me why. Please.”


“Because it is harder, to have the option; and I am not that strong.”


Kirk drops a few credits on the table. The bartender seems relieved.


“You've never seemed weak to me.”


“Perhaps that is the problem.”


Kirk slips on his jacket, covering the telling Starfleet insignia on his shirt. Lowering his head, he moves outside.


There's a fight going on, and he observes for a moment. Two Andorians and a Tellarite are all-out brawling. Blue and red blood sluices onto the pavement, frothing purple in the mud. People laugh drunkenly from the windows.


Kirk watches for a moment. Fingers the spots on his sleeves where his captain's stripes should be.


Then he turns and walks away.


“I have to leave.”


“Leave?!”


“I cannot stay... Jim. I am sorry.”


Kirk turns on the computer screen as soon as he arrives back on the Enterprise. Nogura seems surprised to receive his call.


“Something you want, Jim?”


“Yes.”


“I'll always -”


“I know.”


“I want to accept the promotion. On Earth.”


“Will I see you again?”


“No. Never again -


"It is for the best."

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