Longings, A Temptation in Song S/U, K/U [PG]

Image courtesy of Paramount

Disclaimer: The characters are Paramount's, their actions are mine.

You sing to him in the lounge -
A casual touch, a flirtatious smile, forbidden from most, yet with you he makes allowances.

Does he see the attraction between you both?Does he recognize the temptation you present to him?

Or is it I who am tempted?
Me, who wishes the smiles and the flirts were for?

Yes, I answer - if only to myself.
I would sing with you if it meant your interest turned to me.

But I can't and you don't -
So I sit here, pretending I don't see the light in both of your eyes.


Hallowed Blessings K/U, S/U [G]

Disclaimer:  I earn no riches from Trek other than my fantasies.

Image something Iddy is learning to do

I walk toward the mausoleum under the moon's orange glow.  The leaves crunch under my boots like the shattered souls of spirits trapped within the cold marble walls before me.  The sound is deafening in the silence of the late hour and I feel all the more like the trespasser I am.  Tonight, of all nights, I seek communion with the departed. Tonight, the hallowed moment when realm touches realm, I seek the blessing of one forever lost.

The gate creaks on rusted hinges as I enter the inner sanctum of Death's door.  It tolls my entry at the threshold of the netherworld and I once again question my sanity for coming here.  Why do I feel compelled to ask permission to pursue my life from one who is no longer alive?  Why do I seek your grace now when I never asked it of you in the past?

I step up to the row of bronze plaques and move to the one I could locate without the aid of the moon.  Yet, somehow, I find it soothing to see its faint light shining on your name.  I know the vault is empty, just as the one in San Francisco is; the shrine that Starfleet built to honor you.  I think your soul would prefer to be here, in Iowa with the remnants of your family, rather than the ostentatious structure that is as hollow and empty of your spirit as it is of your remains.

I touch the lifeless, raised letters before me, seeking a connection to our past and love of many years.  I look up at the brilliant stars that shine even through the swirling wisps of clouds in the sky.  Ironically, I sense you there more than I can beneath the nameplate my hand still caresses.

I laugh at myself, a strained and manic sound even to my own ears.  I have come nearly two thousand miles during this ancient holiday of the dead to commune with a spirit who had never 'been' of Earth.  Borne of Earth, yes, but the spirit within, the stuff of star-shine.  I feel ridiculous and sit down on the frigid marble steps and lean back against the nameplate of some ancient Kirk ancestor.  I hope he laughs with me instead of at me: the foolish woman who has come so far to seek out someone even further away.

"Ny, you could have stayed in San Francisco and looked up at the stars," I chastise myself, breaking the quiet of the evening.  Why did I sneak off in the middle of the night, beam to Riverside and take a cab to this cemetery to seek a connection I could have gotten just by stepping out on my balcony back home?

Because Spock was there and he was waiting for an answer, an answer that would mean a lifetime together.  Was that so different than the past several months we had spent in each other's company?  Since my last birthday and the letter Spock had brought to me from you?  Now, nearly a year later, I find myself sitting outside an empty vault, looking for guidance from the man who had been my strength for so many years.  Why am I scared to commit to Spock?  Why do I still feel I need the blessing of a dead man who had never claimed me as his own?

An owl hooting in the distance makes me jump and look around before I recognize the sound.  I sit back and will my heart to slow down, demanding calm even if I am sitting at the base of a tomb on Halloween night.  The absurdity of my situation makes me laugh again, this time perhaps with a bit more humor.  Leaning my head back, I look up at the stars that shine down on me and take a cleansing breath.  My exhalation becomes visible in the cold, shimmering before me like a wraith--but not the one I want to see--your ghost.  Just as you felt the need to speak some final truths to me, I need to talk to *you* now, to make my *own* peace.

"Okay Jim, I'm here.  Why? I don't know. Well--wait--maybe that's a lie.  I do know, but I don't know why it's important.  Spock has asked me to marry him and I couldn't say 'yes'.  Isn't that ridiculous? I just stood there, speechless, and left the poor man hanging.

"Yes, I know it took a lot of courage for him to ask me.  I know he's not one to broadcast his feelings.  Wallah!  It took over thirty years for him to even acknowledge he cared for me.  It took your letter to make us both see what we had been too blind to see for ourselves.  How did you know?  What clued you in?

"I'm not sure he would ever have told me if you hadn't "outted" him in your letter.  Thank you for that--because I know I would have continued to deny what I felt on my own.  You said you wanted my forgiveness for keeping me ignorant of his love, yet you gave his love to me.

"I guess I should be angry with you, but I'm not.  I was angry with you for dying, for leaving me.  And then, when Spock brought your letter to me, your final birthday present, I was angry you never told me all those things yourself.

"We were a pair, weren't we? Afraid to be together and afraid to be apart.  But I was never afraid when I was with you--and I guess that's why I'm here now--I need you to help me be brave one last time.  Spock wants me to marry him and that scares me to death.

"Silly, isn't it? I've known him for nearly forty years and he's the most gentle, caring man I've ever known.  You know that--I don't have to tell you what a special person he is.  Then why does the idea of becoming his wife terrify me?

"We've had some wonderful months together.  He's the perfect match for me and we both know that now.  So why am I sitting here talking to nobody when I have such a treasure back in San Francisco waiting for me to give him an answer?

"I guess I came because I want your blessing.  Somehow I feel like I'm cheating on you--but you're the one who put us together.  And yes, I know you're dead, but Spock died once too, remember?  Somehow, death doesn't seem so permanent to me now.

"You and I were closer than most married couples.  How many of my relationships crashed and burned because they couldn't stand comparison to you?  Oh, most of them weren't bold enough to say it to my face, but Billington did, and still you came and picked up the pieces once again.

"Who can I turn to now?  If Spock and I don't work out, who can I turn to when my life is a wreck?  I always had you before.  Now, I'm alone.

"Maybe that's a good thing, not you being gone, but me being alone.  Maybe now I have to deal with life all on my own, the good and the bad.  Maybe I've grown enough that I don't need a white knight to look after me anymore.  But I miss him--I miss you--your smile and your strength.  Those damn hazel eyes that could talk me into anything....

"I guess I came to tell you goodbye and ask you to wish us happiness. I guess I want to thank you for your love all these years and the chance at a life with someone who makes me deliriously happy.  I'm lucky--I've had two great loves in my life.

"Goodbye, Jim.  I'll always love you, but Spock is waiting for me at home right now and that's not something you can ever do again."

The wind gusts once more, making the leaves dance dervishly and tearing the clouds away from the setting moon.  The rusted gate flies open, pushed by the unseen hand of Nature.  Is it chance, the whim of the weather?  I prefer to think that I just got the blessing I came all this way to receive.  I smile at the stars--at you--and go home.


"Realizations" K/U [G]

Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek. I'm just writing this for fun and not making any profit

Lil ol me made the image...

Summary: Based on TOS episode " The Tholian Web ". A little scene between our communications officer and her captain.

Realizations of a Crowded Universe

Kirk stepped into the observation room, staring out the window.

"I thought you preferred a crowded universe?" 
Uhura offered from the corner. She walked over to him.

"I do." Kirk smiled down.

"There's one thing I learned while you were out there." 
Uhura motioned towards space.

"Will you share it with me?" The captain asked.

"I intend to. I realized how much I care for you. I know it's not proper, but I needed to say it out loud." She reached up and placed a gentle kiss on his soft, but startled lips, smiled sweetly and left him in darkness.


Crossroads K/U [R]

 Image courtesy of Paramount and moi

Disclaimer: I earn no riches from Trek other than my fantasies.

The lights were dark, not even the glow of emergency power broke the blackness that enveloped the room. Kirk's hackles rose as he stared out from the lift, viewing the lifeless bridge of his ship, years of red alerts screaming in his brain that something was terribly wrong. Yes, terribly wrong--his ship--his bridge--all quiet, the silence roaring in his ears more loudly than any call to battle stations.

"Computer, view screen on," he ordered softly, no need to raise his voice over the quiescence. The front screen lit with just a moment's hesitation, its shuddering flicker perhaps a symptom of surprise that it would ever be called to life again.

The view was as expected, a reassuring but unsatisfying image of Earth as seen through the cross hatch of girders that entombed Enterprise in her decommissioning berth. No interior mooring for her anymore, instead she was banished to the fringes--rejected, retired. Refused admittance to the light and glory as befitted a ship who had once again diverted disaster, a war with the Klingons, a war he might have once welcomed. It was not pretty, the bitterness that festered in his heart since David's death, but ironically, Gorkon and Azetbur had lanced his wound, allowing the pain to scab over in some semblance of healing.

His life was at a crossroads. His ship, too damaged to repair, was being mothballed. With no word of a new command being offered, did he join her? Or did he go back to the Admiralty and pick up the painfully mundane life he had endured on and off for years?

"Computer, viewer angle sixty degrees to starboard." He stepped to the Conn, needing the brilliance of the stars to comfort and soothe him as he said his goodbyes.

The ship was empty, the crew gone save a few, those finishing with the initial shutdown procedures before leaving on the last shuttle. The captain was superfluous to such duties but required by tradition to be the last person to leave. Sitting in his command chair for the last time, Kirk was not sure if all of him would ever leave. His ship was home, a safe haven, his rampart of protection from both without and within. He had been forced away before but it had never left him. Why would this time be any different? What or who did he have waiting for him downside?

He had no real answers. Starfleet was schizophrenic in their reaction to his and McCoy's rescue from Rura Penthe and their thwarting of the plot to assassinate the Federation president.  In one camp they were ecstatic that war and chaos were averted. The other camp was chagrined that one of their own was the leader of the conspiracy and a ship gone rogue had been their only salvation. He became their proud embarrassment again, the prodigal who kept returning home just as they thought to give him a hero's farewell. He came back, inadvertently painting their failures for all to see.

Kirk was unsettled when thinking of his own personal future but too much an officer to deny the Corps. He expected to be retired, a gilded thank you for years served and services rendered coupled with a hurried handshake and a firm shove out the door. Could he fight them? Did he even want to anymore?

The opening of the lift doors broke his reverie. Uhura hesitated for just a moment, giving her eyes a chance to adjust to only star shine before stepping onto the bridge. "We're almost done, Admiral. Mister Scott wanted me to tell you he would be finished and in the shuttlebay by 1900."

Kirk glanced at the chronometer embedded at the base of the view screen and realized he had barely forty-five minutes to say a lifetime of goodbyes--to his crew, those who gave their lives for him and those who made it home, to all the ships he had served aboard, from the Farragut to this reincarnation of his best Command. It was definitely an ending but possibly a beginning. He turned his chair in order to squarely face Uhura, her dark outline barely distinguishable from the bulkhead behind. The apparent merging of her and the ship no stranger to his thoughts.

"I'm not sure I like that smile." Whether she could really see it or not, Uhura knew it was there by his body language: a tilt of the head and his forward posture. She made her way to the foot of the Conn, trashing the professional facade normally maintained between them when aboard ship.

"Oh?" Kirk's smile widened, focusing his interest on the woman before him rather than the ambiguity of his future.

"I expected you to be sad but instead I find you giving me 'the look'". Her hands came down against either side of his on the chair arm consoles.

"Maybe I'm just happy to see a beautiful woman that I know won't morph into a grizzly bear." His grin was colored with just a tinge of real embarrassment; McCoy had wasted no time in telling tales once the excitement was over.

"You've just never caught me--" She leaned in for emphasis, daring him.

"Perhaps," his hands covered hers, holding her in place, "maybe I need to remedy that."

She eased onto the platform, meeting his lips as he sought hers. "You realize the video log was discontinued when we officially logged into this berth... ."

"You are a wealth of knowledge," he whispered against her neck, his hands sliding up her thighs, pushing the fabric of her skirt up as he pulled her astride his lap.

"Yes, I am. Just like I know that the computer will still respond to your voice command if you order it to lock down the lift." Her own hands were busy making short work of his jacket before moving down to address a particularly uncomfortable belt buckle.

Leaning back, Kirk spoke to empty air, "Computer, secure the lift and lock out the bridge exit. Advise before acknowledging any request for communications. "

"Sounds like you covered all the details." The sound of ripping silk and a flagrant toss was her only answer.

Uhura laughed, feeling no shame for the several hundred regulations she was sure they were breaking. She lowered herself onto him, glorying in the feeling of completion as he pulled her head down, kissing her deeply as his hips thrust against her thighs. It was brief, it was fiery, it was a fitting farewell. The idea of a symbolic menage a trios was not lost upon either of them. What the Enterprise thought she kept to herself.

Resting her head against his shoulder, Uhura questioned, "Were you saying your goodbyes to me too?"

Kirk turned his head, scanning her face for emotion before looking solemnly into her eyes. "I was once accused of holding you back, keeping you from advancing. I don't want that to ever be true--but I don't have a ship anymore; I have no promises left to keep."

Uhura's eyes crinkled from the melancholy smile his words invoked. Her mind filled with memories of a promise made a lifetime ago: to keep her safe, to keep her close, to keep her at arm's length. It had nurtured her all these years. Was she ready to let him go?

"You know, since you don't have a ship to run or some crisis demanding attention, I think it's time we took my brother up on that offer to go sailing." Her eyes told him she did not care about promises or goodbyes--just the now.

His face shed years of worry as the corners of his mouth curled up into that little boy grin, the idea of tomorrow gleaming just a bit brighter as he answered, "Sounds like fun."



Then Please Let Me Go K/U [PG]

Image courtesy of Paramount and Me!

Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek. I only own my fantasies.

Summary: A short story in my "Realizations" K/U series. Takes place during the last six months of the original mission. Kirk distances himself from Uhura because of his continued attraction to her, but Nyota grows tired of rejection.


She looked up from her stroll along the surf and saw him standing on the rocky promontory. His body was outlined by the waning sun, its golden death weeping rays of honey around his still form. She had known he would come and that both angered and excited her. It was exactly the reason why she had chosen to request a transfer away from Enterprise, and away from him.

They were in limbo, not lovers, but more than Captain and Lieutenant. Friends? Not in the normal sense; friendship implied communication and sharing, two things he had forgotten how to do--at least with her. Yet sometimes, from across a crowded room she would catch him watching her, his look full of longing. But that very sense of yearning made him distance himself from her, made him hide behind his command persona.

She kept her pace steady, not acknowledging his presence by quickening her step. She was on leave and her time was her own, regardless of who watched. He could wait.

The breeze freshened and she leaned into it for balance. The splash of the surf raised goose bumps on her skin, but she did not hurry. She looked across the gray water, trying to ignore the figure that did not bow to anything--not the wind, and not to her.

As she reached the bottom step cut into the rocky outcrop, she finally looked up and made eye contact with him. His eyes were shuttered, no anger, no hurt, no emotion at all leeched from his visage. Why did he do that? Shut down all expression when she needed it most? He stared at her, still unmoving, as she climbed to his level.

At the top, she stood before him, his position blocking her path back to the resort. He stood quietly in the quickening breeze, the wind making a mockery of his stoicism by dancing through his hair. Unnerved but unwilling to show it, she lifted her chin, quietly daring him to give ground--if not within his heart, then at least along the pathway. He did not move, instead he spoke.

"Why did I have to hear it from Spock?"

"How dare you ask me that? You, of all people should know it was the proper thing to do. I followed the chain of command." Her tone was cold, belying the heat she felt at his play for guilt.

"Is that why you're leaving? Because I've kept my distance?" He asked, surprised.

"Distance? Sometimes you treat me as if I don't exist. I can't take that anymore." She wasn't able to keep the hurt out of her voice; she didn't want to, she wanted him to know how invisible he had made her feel.

"I know you're there. I always know," he answered her in a rough voice full of halting regret.

"Then it hurts all the more. To be ignored when you know I'm right in front of you is too much to ask of me." She challenged him with a hard look. It had taken all her will to actually submit her transfer request; it would take more than a sweet admission to change her mind.

"I want you to stay," he pled softly, a wistful look finally breaking the surface of his eyes.

"Why?" She snapped, not making it easy on him. He would have to dig deep and confess feelings she knew he would deny if he could.

"I need you." That was not the confession she was looking for.

"Palmer does the job as well as I can." It was true, but she knew it was not the point of his request.

"I need someone who cares more than just about the job," he danced around the subject, saying just enough to keep her from brushing past him.

"You said you'd respect my decision if I ever chose to move on with my life," she pushed back; tossing words in his face from a night long ago, a night of healing from one cruelty, only to feel the first prick of a more insidious wounding of her heart.

"I said I would respect and support you following your dreams. You're running away, not advancing yourself with this transfer--you're hiding. Don't leave now, the mission will be over in six months." He spoke quickly, as if he were suddenly sure of his footing and seeking to capture her with her own words.

"You say you need me, but what about my needs? What do I get--more of the same?" She tossed the verbal grenade at his feet and watched as he backed up and reconsidered his tactics.

"I can't be someone I'm not. I treat you like everyone else because it keeps you near me and above reproach. Do you want to be called the captain's whore?" He lobbed his own bomb back.

"I don't deserve that," she spat out in barely contained fury.

"No, you don't, but it won't stop some from calling you that if I treat you differently. I'm not allowed a personal life on the ship. She *is* my life." He spoke softly, but in earnest, trying to press past her anger.

"You have other women in your life. I'm supposed to just stand by and watch you have affairs with them?" No, her anger was just beginning.

"They're not crew, or even Starfleet. Sometimes I have to use whatever is necessary to get the mission done." His tone was clipped; she had drawn blood.

"That's the most honest thing you've ever said--you use: strangers, friends, crew, even yourself--whatever the cost." Her eyes glittered as she cut him again. They would have to bleed out the poison between them before any healing could hope to begin.

"If that's what it takes. I have a job to do, lives depending on me." Fire lit in his own eyes; she was trampling dangerous ground and she knew it. How much further could she push?

"So, I was just a part of the job." It was not a question, just a statement of cold fact.

"I can't be who you want me to be. I crossed that line once to keep a promise, but I can't live a lie or a relationship of half measures." His tone was bitter, angry at her for pushing him to this point and angry at himself for admitting how he felt. "Yes, I want you. Is that what you need to hear? That sometimes I lie awake at night and it's all I can do not to come to your quarters? That I plot Chekov's course corrections before he does in order to distract me from your presence on the Bridge? If that's what you want to hear, then I'm telling you, but it changes nothing."

"I want you to smile when you look at me, not hide behind your captain’s bars. I'm not asking you to be more than that--I've accepted it's not possible--but I'm tired of being out in the cold. You used to joke and have fun with us--with me. Now, all I get are status requests and mission briefings. If you can't at least treat me like the rest of the crew, then please let me go." She did not cry. She was past tears; she just wanted the ache in her heart to go away.

At her ultimatum he looked away, staring into the dregs of the sun as it melted into the jagged horizon. His voice became very hushed, as if he yielded a great secret. "Please stay until the end of the mission. After that, I'll free you to whatever star calls your name."

"So, it's true?" She asked simply, knowing his answer before he spoke.

He sighed deeply, not surprised by her question. One of her many talents he depended upon--knowing secrets and keeping them. "It's been offered. Whether I have a choice remains to be seen."

"Isn't it what you want?" She asked, unsure if she really wanted to know his answer. What would space be like with him shackled to a desk back on Earth?

"Maybe--someday. Right now I'm focused on getting us through the rest of this mission and back home. And to do that, I need my best people beside me. I need you beside me." As the last of the sun vanished, he turned his gaze back upon her--a kaleidoscope of emotions flaring to life in his eyes--regret, exhaustion, frustration--yet what moved her most was the vulnerability he finally allowed. At last the immovable object gave ground.

"If I agree to withdraw my transfer request, will you try to let it be like before? I won't be branded with a scarlet A just because you smile at me or sit next to me during a briefing." She tendered the question carefully, uneasy about staying within the realm of a man who could hurt her so easily.

For the first time, a fleeting smile crossed his face. "You would be if they knew what I was thinking."

"If one were judged by what one thinks as opposed to what one does, everyone would be branded. We have done nothing wrong and have nothing to apologize for. One day I hope you won't feel guilty for being there for me. You were a friend when I desperately needed one. God knows that and Starfleet need not." She reached out and touched him tentatively, a gentle caress along his cheek.

"Now, do you promise to let me fight my own battles about my reputation? I'm a big girl and perfectly capable of handling such scandal as being seen eating dinner with my commanding officer. Or worse yet, being seen in his company on Movie Night in the rec hall." She pretended to be shocked and appalled at such licentious behavior, lightening the mood between them.

"Have I really been that bad?" He asked sheepishly, unable to look her in the eye because he knew it was true.

"Yes, you have." She answered honestly, sparing him nothing. While she could tease with him now, the pain he had inflicted was very real.

"You could have come to me, you know, told me how you felt without putting in for a transfer," he scolded mildly, an edge of a pout in his voice.

"Because you're so easy to talk to when you've made up your mind about something, right?" She chided drolly.

"Fine, point noted,” he admitted with a gentle huff.

"Good. Now, buy me dinner? I'm still on leave and I shelled out astronomical credits to make this one memorable." She dazzled him with her most winsome smile, waiting to see if he could once again relax with her in public.

"Tapped out are we? I think I might be persuaded to buy you a burger or something. I mean, as a show of gratitude for all your hard work." His eyes glittered in humor this time, quite aware of her game and dragging it out.

"I was thinking more along the lines of dinner and dancing. The restaurant at this resort *is* five star…" she upped the ante, waiting to see if he would bid or fold.

"You're really testing me, aren't you?" He laughed, taken aback, yet impressed by her boldness.

"Me? Test you? Why Captain, that would be behavior unbecoming. No, I just hate to pass up a wonderful dance partner," she grinned back at him in impish delight.

"Well, I guess I'm really the one guilty of behavior unbecoming, but please tell me it's not a disco," he groaned in amused resignation, shaking his head as he turned her toward the twinkling lights of the resort complex.

"Okay, I'll tell you that. Does it have to be true?"

A beleaguered sigh was absolutely no competition for the giggle that followed.



The Future Is Worth Living K/f K/U [PG]

Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek. I only own my fantasies.

Image courtesy of Paramount; tweaking by me ;-)

Kirk sat in his command chair, watching the Guardian planet disappear in the blackness of space, wishing he could lose himself in the same void. Three weeks seemed an eternity as the Enterprise waited for research vessel, Newton, to arrive as relief. An eternity--a life--neither appeared of consequence to the Guardian, who offered a doorway to the past too vast and terrible to consider. His mind and body ached; sleep a courtesy his conscience denied him. His heart still clenched in spasm, no absolution given for restoring the timeline. No pardon granted for the taking of one life while saving countless others. The bridge was a haze of worried faces he chose to ignore. He would not acknowledge the compassion that stared back at him, the pity that scalded him with its gentle touch.

Shift over, he gave Spock the Conn and bolted toward the lift, the most energy he had exhibited all day. Holding himself painfully erect, he entered the lift, standing rigidly still until the doors closed, sealing him away from everyone who cared. The sanctuary of his quarters called to him but he knew it to be false hope, their quiet dimness just another cruelty inflicted as his brain flashed the image of a dead Edith against his retinas.

"Deck five," he ordered, a soft sigh escaping his lips as he reached up to rub his throbbing neck.

"I'm worried about you, sir. Is there anything I can do to help?" The voice was tentative, unsure of its boundaries but determined to make itself heard.

Kirk twisted sharply to his right, caught completely unaware by Uhura who had also entered the lift. Her eyes widened, realizing his startlement, subconsciously taking a step back. "I'm sorry, sir, I thought you saw me get on."

She caught a flinch of his eyes, eyes that no longer sparkled. What had happened inside the Guardian? None of the three officers chose to discuss their time in the past and the reports they sent to Starfleet were encrypted prior to her receipt.

The slump of his shoulders was driven away by her presence, the pretense of everything being normal resurrected to ensure distance was maintained. "I'm fine, Lieutenant, thank you." His answer was brief, and even couched in courtesy Nyota knew it to be a lie.

"No, sir, you're not fine. I don't know what happened inside the Guardian, but something obviously did. Please let me help." She knew she was skirting insubordination but her concern for Kirk pushed past any worries for herself. Over the months and years they had served together she thought they had finally found something more than the chain of command. It remained unspoken but still she felt a closeness between them, a shared smile, a considering look, intimate yet so far wholly within regulations.

And now she saw his eyes tighten again, as if he was feeling pain but holding himself in check. His irises all but disappeared as his pupils dilated and the muscle along his jaw ticced in barely suppressed anger. "Nothing for you to be concerned about, Lieutenant. We were successful; now if you will excuse me--" The lift doors opened and Kirk attempted to exit but found himself stopped by Uhura's hand pressed against his forearm.

"I'm available if you ever need to talk about it, Captain." She matched him look for look, scared yet impressed that she could stand up to him.

Kirk's eyes glanced to where she held his arm before moving back to focus on her face. Did she feel a tremble run through him? For a moment she thought he would snatch his arm from her grasp, anger and a tempest of dark emotions threatening to erupt before being shuttered behind his command persona.

"I'm fine, Uhura." His voice was calm with false patience, using her name his only concession to her show of concern.

"Goodnight, sir." She smiled hesitantly, trying to channel some happiness to him before releasing his arm, knowing she would gain nothing but a reprimand if she pushed him further. It was still early but she knew he would not venture into any of the common areas later. Since returning to the ship each day was the same: a quiet but emotionally draining shift on the bridge followed by a hushed evening--the crew somehow sensing and reacting to the Captain's brooding mood. Even Spock and McCoy rarely interacted with the crew anymore. Were they sequestered with Kirk or locked away in their own private Hell?


Kirk entered his quarters, desperate for solitude and found--Edith.

"Good evening, Mister Kirk." She greeted him, primly sitting in the chair on the other side of his desk.

"Who are you?" Kirk looked at the figure dressed as Edith was the night of her death, but showing no sign of her later trauma. He fought the urge to run to her and take her in his arms. She could not be real.

"I'm Edith Keeler." The look, the voice, they all seemed real.

"Edith is dead--I killed her," the declaration and confession symptoms of his anger and guilt.

"Indeed I am, Mister Kirk, but a lie is still a poor way to say hello. I died but you did not kill me."

Kirk looked at the figure before him, finding himself caught up in her soft voice, long-lashed eyes and demure smile. Deciding to play along, he sat down in the chair across from the image of Edith and waited expectantly. "Okay, Edith, you have my attention."

"Flippancy, Mister Kirk? Is that all I am worthy of now?" She stared at him, raising her chin in the same way Edith had done when she felt her authority being challenged.

"You're asking me to carry on a conversation with the dead--a ghost. I think I'm entitled to a bit of skepticism." He softened his words with a slight bow of his head.

"We still speak the same language, don't we--of the stars, a better world? Where is your curiosity, if nothing else?" She smiled at him, daring him to play her game.

"Maybe it died along with Edith. Maybe I find your using her image to talk to me offensive." His voice was flat with anger. He didn't like her game.

"It's necessary. Oh, Jim, don't be like this. Being dead gives me infinite insight. I had to die--I see that now. My view of the future still happened. It just happened without me. Man did reach out into space--he did find hope. It really is a future worth living for." Her eyes were lit from within, the passion of her long ago dreams shining through with the same brilliance he remembered.

"But you died." The answer was ugly and unavoidable.

"I don't want you mourning me. I've been dead for three hundred years and it's time for you to move on with your life." Her tone was the same one she used when preaching to the masses back in the soup kitchen.

"Maybe it's been three hundred years to you, but it's been barely three weeks for me."

"Don't waste time on the dead, Jim. You will have more than enough time to do that when you're dead too."

The words sent a shiver along his spine. "Are you here to hurry that along?"

"Oh no, you won't be joining me for quite some time yet. No, I came here to correct my own issue with the time line."

"If you're dead, how can you change the time line? Why does it even matter to you anymore?" In for a penny, in for a pound, McCoy would say. He waited patiently for Edith's ghost to answer him.

"Perhaps because I *am* a do-gooder and I insist that you survive, Mister Kirk. My death has hurt you deeply and caused you to retreat within yourself." She fairly glowed with determination.

"I'm grieving. Isn't that normal?" With her he could acknowledge the truth. Her loss made his pale in comparison.

"Yes, I'm afraid so, but you're pulling away too much, pushing out those who care the most about you. That's a path you don't want to follow much further or it will become a way of life."

"I can't talk to McCoy or Spock about it right now. McCoy feels guilty in his own right and Spock just accepts it as logical--"

"Jim Kirk! You don't believe that! Mister Spock is greatly aware and saddened by my death and the pain you're suffering because of it. He's just not experienced in voicing it--and Doctor McCoy will forgive himself when you do. But there is another person you can talk to, someone who's offered to listen."

Kirk froze, knowing exactly who the image of Edith meant. "No."

Sensing many layers to his denial, she pushed even harder. "I once told you that Mister Spock was meant to be at your side and always would be. I was wrong. Now I know neither he nor Doctor McCoy will be, but Uhura *can* be. She *will* be if you but give her a chance."

"It's not allowed. She's a part of my crew--my bridge crew." He glanced at the door, pulling away emotionally from the conversation.

"What better position to be in? She can be at your side without concern for duty or propriety. As a part of your command team her comings and goings are of no particular interest." She made it sound so simple.

"The crew would know. Command would know." He still refused to look at her.

"The crew would accept it because you would be discreet. Command would turn a blind eye as long as the ship ran smoothly. They have done it for others; they would do it for you."

"What does any of this have to do with the time line?" Finding the courage to look at her again, he turned the conversation back to what had been its point.

"Before McCoy's trip through the Guardian, you had come to notice Ms. Uhura, and even more importantly, she had noticed you. Now, that's trying to change. My death has made you wary of attachments, of allowing yourself to love someone again. I see years of failed relationships and casual dalliances. You won't subject Uhura to something so meaningless but now you're afraid to risk more.

"I've come to you tonight to protect you from that Fate. Don't let your grief for me extinguish your ability to love. The days and years ahead are worth living for." The earnestness of her speech was etched across her face.

"How 'Dickensian' of you."

Undeterred by his sarcasm, she continued, "Scoff if you like, Jim. You know I am right. She's in the arboretum right now, sitting next to the koi pond."

"And what am I supposed to say as I just happen upon her?" The absurdity of getting pick up points from a ghost was not lost to him.

"How about 'I'm sorry'? You've said it to me thousands of times since I died; now go say it to someone who's alive."


Kirk raised his head from where it rested on his folded arms and found himself still sitting at his desk. He looked around the room, startled by its emptiness. Standing to look through the room divider to see inside his sleeping alcove, the stiffness in his legs and back suggested he had been sitting for a very long time. A glance at the chronometer confirmed it.

"I'm losing it..." he mumbled to himself, trying to rub the grit of sleep from his eyes. He looked around the room, trying to see some evidence that his visitor had been real. Nothing. Everything was just as he had left it that morning. Had Edith really been here? Was it her ghost? Had it been some alien life form using her image to make contact? Most likely she was the byproduct of fried neurons and frayed synapses attempting to repair themselves during exhausted sleep.

It was still several hours away before going up to the bridge would not raise suspicion. McCoy used eyes on all shifts to report 'unusual' captain sightings. Knowing he would never go back to sleep, Kirk considered where he could go and not be seen by the doctor's underground network. The arboretum seemed like the perfect place.


The lights were dimmed low in an approximation of night. Plants needed rest just like animals did to ensure a healthy biological clock. Kirk walked down the manicured path, his footfalls cushioned and muffled by soft moss. His course took him toward the koi pond, although he pretended not to notice.

Uhura was sitting exactly where Edith said she would be. A small focused light shining against a stacked rock wall made the water that flowed gently down its irregular face shimmer and glisten on its journey to the tranquil pool below. A brush of her long fingers against the dark surface formed ripples that traveled the length of the pond. A closer look made Kirk realize Uhura was not playing in the water; instead she was feeding the koi. The largest of them was practically eating from her hand.

"I wouldn't let Mister Sulu catch you doing that," he warned lightly, knowing of the erstwhile hobbyist's affection for his fish.

"What?--Oh-- sir! You scared me--" Uhura stammered as she tried to stand at attention and hide the bag of fish food all at the same time.

"At ease, Lieutenant. I'm not Sulu and I'm impressed you've gained their trust like that." He made his point by sitting on the ledge that surrounded the pond, watching the koi dart back into the cover of lily pads and deeper depths.

"It's nothing special, sir, just a little patience, attention and reward." She smiled, suddenly at eye level with Kirk as he rested against the pond's raised outer wall.

"You make it sound so easy." The sudden bleakness in his tone made Uhura realize they were no longer talking about the koi. "But what happens when the patience runs thin, the attention is too much and the reward is not enough?" The light that highlighted the wall allowed her to see deep into Kirk's eyes, eyes no longer shuttered, eyes welling with pain and hurt so like tears.

Moving slowly and methodically, just as she once did to befriend the koi, Uhura answered him. "Then I sit down," by example she sat down right next to him, "and calm myself so they can recognize the attention is well meant--" She reached out and brushed her fingertips gently across his cheek. He did not pull away as she thought he might."--and wait for them to come to me."

His lips were warm and tender as they gently, tentatively, brushed hers. "The reward is always worth waiting for," she whispered against his mouth, feeling his arms encircle her body as he moved to deepen the kiss.

The embrace ending more abruptly than it started, Kirk raised his head, his eyes finding hers with a hungry, searching look that quickened her pulse. "I should be sorry for that."

The taste of him still on her bruised lips, the scent of him still in her nostrils, it would be easy to lose herself in the moment but Uhura kept her senses. Instead, realizing she held a needful soul, she offered a coy smile. "I'm glad you're not."

Like flint against steel, his eyes flashed briefly at her words. Failing to ignite the tinder she knew lay within, Uhura watched his eyes again surrender to the dark. "Can you talk about it now?"

"I let her die--" He spoke without seeing.


"Edith. She was the focal point in time. McCoy saved her once--I had to stop him." She let him talk, no longer interrupting for fear of shutting him down once again.

"Spock was able to get the tricorder working. We saw headlines of Edith leading the peace movement--It allowed Hitler to win the war. McCoy saved her from being hit by a truck and the timeline changed. When we got there I held him back until it was too late." He could still hear the screeching tires, her scream cut short by an eternity of silence.

"And you loved her." It was not a question.

"I loved her."

"I'm sorry." The confession broke her heart.

The tenderness too much, he backed away, a rueful smile finally making a home for itself on his face, "I came down here to say that to you."

"For what?"

"For acting like a jerk in the lift today." A sheepish shrug of his shoulders gave credence to his sense of embarrassment.

"I understand now. I can't make the pain go away but I can tell you that the future is still worth living." Her smile was lit with encouragement and hope--something he desperately needed at the moment.

"I seem to be getting this lecture a lot lately." His eyes were glazed, focusing on an image only he could see.

"Then pay attention to it, sir. Wise words they are." She willed him to believe she was saying more than platitudes.

"I'll try, but it's going to take some time." Suddenly coming to the present, his eyes were only for her.

"Yes sir, it will, but it will come." She seemed so sure something better was in store for him.

"What will come?" Latching onto her confidence, he asked with some semblance of hope.

"Happiness." The time was not now, but it would come.

"I look forward to it." Attempting to walk away, he pulled himself up short, turning to ask, "Oh, Lieutenant, do you come here often?"

"Right now I do when Mister Sulu is on gamma shift rotation. I actually have permission to feed his koi so they stay on schedule." It was better than an emergency beacon in making her whereabouts known.

"I might come down here again sometime--perhaps to see if you can teach me that trust thing." His face was as ambiguous as his words, waiting to take her lead on possibly something more between them in the future.

"Somehow I think you'll be an apt student." If her expression was not totally innocent she would be forgiven.

A smile, slight but genuine, lit his eyes, easing the sadness from them as he left her to the koi.