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Ann Zewen


December 10, 2267

"Beloved!" Sargon smiled into Thalassa’s sapphire eyes as he gently stroked her cheek with the backs of his fingers.

"Yes, husband," she whispered, her hands pressed flat against his chest, exploring its muscled expanse with a sense of wonder and adoration.

"No." He took one reluctant step backward, attempting to place some distance between them. "We have responsibilities to fulfill. There is no time for this now." Even as he spoke the words, his hands released her golden brown hair from its confining pins. His fingers threaded through the silken strands, then trailed down the column of her throat to caress the low neckline of her red uniform.

"There will be no time later, my beloved, not once our minds are encased in robot bodies instead of these splendid flesh and blood ones." Thalassa closed the small distance between them and slid her arms around his neck. "Kiss me, husband, as you did so many centuries ago."

Despite his efforts to control his own desire, Sargon was unable to resist her any longer, He bent his head and closed his mouth over hers, lips parting so their tongues could meet. They were alone for the moment, supposedly already at work on the robot bodies that would soon contain their minds. Henoch was in another laboratory, preparing an especially sensitive component of those forms. Soon, he would join them, and they would consolidate their efforts. But, for now, Sargon and Thalassa were alone...for the first time in half a million years.

Ignoring his own arguments, Sargon tugged at her uniform, loosening it and lowering the neckline to free her breasts. He traced the soft curves, exploring the hills and valleys in wonder. Long-forgotten ecstasy was reawakened in him as he caressed her. His fingertips tingled at the silky feeling of her smooth skin, and he watched with delight as her nipples puckered in response to his touch.

Thalassa reached for Sargon to return his caresses. Pulling up his tunic to bare the smooth chest, she delighted in the feel of his naked skin. Her fingers dug into his flesh, rejoicing in the flexing of real muscles.

She caught her breath when Sargon bent to nuzzle at her breasts. Thalassa arched her back, overwhelmed by the sensations she had thought forgotten long ago. But Sargon hadn’t forgotten how to stir her senses. Still suckling at her breasts, he moved his hands down her body, beneath the short skirt, tugging the tights down to expose the soft thatch of hair that hid her sex. His fingers brushed through the downy curls and caressed her. She gasped as he continued to stroke her, desire building from deep within to create a need only he could fulfill.

Lost in the passion Sargon had aroused, Thalassa slid her hands down his body to trace the outline of his stiffening organ through the fabric of his uniform pants. She fumbled at the fastening, unable in her eagerness to open it quickly enough.

Lifting his head, Sargon smiled down at his wife. "So eager?" he teased.

"Yes, oh, yes, Sargon, please, now," she begged. "It’s been so long, so very long."

"Yes," he whispered, lifting his wife onto the lab table. He opened his uniform pants to release the throbbing erection, the sensation of physical arousal an almost painful one now. Then he moved between Thalassa’s splayed legs. "Too long."

Thalassa reached for him with eager hands, and then they were joined. Tears sprang to her eyes. "So long," she whispered again, unconscious of the dual meaning to her words. Then she caught back a cry of ecstasy and leaned back on arms braced against the lab table, her back arching as the pleasure exploded within. Sargon managed to delay his own climax just long enough for her to reach a second, swiftly achieved, shattering orgasm.

And then it was over. Reluctantly, Sargon withdrew, straightening the uniform that belonged to the man whose body he wore. He closed the pants and pulled the tunic back into place, then paused, reaching once more to caress Thalassa’s face gently. "Come, beloved. We must hurry. Henoch will be here any moment."

Thalassa turned her head to kiss his palm, then allowed him to help her to her feet. In silence, she, too, rearranged her clothing, refusing to face him until she was once more chastely covered. Sargon took her by her shoulders and turned her to face him. He brushed the tears from her cheeks.

"Do not," he begged. "At least we had this last time together. Do not spoil it with tears."

"I am sorry, my husband. I never expected to know this joy again. I know I should be thankful for these few moments, but instead I am crying because they are gone." She gestured in distaste at the robot they were constructing. "Those things do not feel. I am not sure I can bear to give It up."

"Sh-h-h-h." He drew her into his arms, cradling her head against him, his fingers threaded through the tangled hair. "Do not," he said again. "We must be grateful for what we have had and accept its loss. It is time to turn our attention to the children who have so generously allowed us to borrow these splendid bodies. We must find the means by which we can help them. We have survived for half a million years so that we may give them a legacy of peace. Let us not abandon that quest."

"Yes," Thalassa agreed softly, eyes seemingly focused somewhere far in the distance. "The legacy. We can give them that which was denied to us." She paused a moment, then focused her eyes on the face that was, but was not, her husband. "Peace," she said, "and perhaps...something more."

"Perhaps," Sargon answered, and kissed her once more.

December 19, 2267

"Well, and what brings you to Sickbay, Doctor Mulhall?" Leonard McCoy approached the young woman stretched out on one of his diagnostic beds. She appeared tense, nervous.

Mulhall managed a small smile. "I’m not sure. At first I thought I had picked up some kind of a bug on that last landing party duty, but it won’t seem to go away."

"Hmmm." McCoy glanced through the lieutenant commander’s medical records on the comm screen, then turned back to her with his best bedside-manner smile. "Well, let’s see what the problem could be. Symptoms?"

She shrugged. "Intermittant nausea, and I seem to be tired all the time." She smiled again. "Kind of like a mild case of old-fashioned flu...except that I keep thinking I’m getting better only to have it start all over again the next day."

"Uh-hmm." McCoy switched on the diagnostic panels and ran through them quickly, routinely, then stopped at one reading. He frowned and pulled out his personal mediscanner, passing it over Mulhall’s body and listening to the coded signals it emitted. He looked up and across the bed at Christine Chapel, whose eyes had widened in reaction to the readings she could interpret as easily as the physician.

McCoy opened his mouth to speak, closed it again, turned away and back again. Taking a deep breath, he let it out in a heavy sigh, and sank onto a stool at the side of the bed.

"What is it, Doctor?" Mulhall demanded, frightened by his obvious reluctance to speak.

McCoy took her hand and carefully composed his face in its most paternal expression, something somewhere between comforting and stern. "Young lady," he finally began, "are you current on your contraceptive injections?"

Her eyes widened in surprise. "I am," she insisted, sitting up on the bed and retrieving her hand from the CMO’s clasp. "Doctor Tanaka administered the last one just two weeks before I joined the Enterprise crew, a six-month booster."

McCoy frowned in concentration and shook his head. "Then this shouldn’t be," he muttered while waving the mediscanner across her body again.

"What shouldn’t be?" Mulhall demanded, refusing to even think about the possibility his words had aroused. It couldn’t be; it just wasn’t possible. "What are you talking about?" she demanded.

"I’m talking about..." He hesitated, then sat at her side again, once more composing his features into a comforting expression. "You’re pregnant," he said gently.

"But that’s impossible!" she blurted.

"I’m afraid these instruments don’t lie, and, unfortunately, contraceptive injections aren’t one hundred percent reliable—almost, but not quite." He shrugged. "So, you see—"

"No, Doctor," she interrupted, "you don’t see. It’s not just the injection." She gave a short, shaky laugh. "It takes two, remember? And I haven’t...had intercourse with anyone in...I don’t know exactly, I haven’t been counting the days. But it’s been a couple of months at least, and certainly not since I joined the Enterprise. And we both know I wasn’t pregnant then. So, you see, there has to be a mistake in your diagnosis." She smiled, secure in her logic.

He shook his head. "No, mistake. I’m sorry. Not in the diagnosis, anyway." He scratched his head. "You’re certain? About not...being with anyone?"

"I’m certain." She pressed her lips together. "I’d hardly forget that."

"Oh!" Chapel clapped her hand over her mouth to cut off the cry of surprise she couldn’t quite keep from uttering.

McCoy and Mulhall both turned to look at her. "Is something wrong, Nurse?" McCoy’s tone said he disapproved of her eavesdropping.

"No, Doctor, not wrong. It’s just...It suddenly occurred to...No, it couldn’t be." She shook her head. "I’m sorry. I’m just allowing my overactive imagination to run away with me."

"What are you talking about?" McCoy demanded.

"The aliens." When they both just looked at her blankly, Chapel continued. "Thalassa and Sargon..."

This time it was Mulhall whose eyes widened. "No," she whispered. "Oh, no. They couldn’t have...they didn’t..." She looked at McCoy, eyes begging for reassurance. "Did they?"

"I don’t know. I..." He shrugged. "I never thought about it. They were...alone at times." He shook his head. "It never occurred to me, but I guess it’s possible." He considered a moment. "It might account for the failure of your contraceptive. The accelerated metabolic rate—"

"How dare they?" Mulhall interrupted. "They had no right!"

"They were very much in love," Chapel offered in the aliens’ defense, smiling dreamily. "It was obvious, and so beautiful. The way they looked at each other, kissed...I..." She looked down in confusion. "I’m sorry, Doctor Mulhall. I keep forgetting it was you and the cap—" Again she covered her mouth with her hand.

"Oh, no," Mulhall said again, her anger dissipating as Chapel’s words sank in.

McCoy just frowned. Then he pushed her back down on the diagnostic bed. "You just lie there a minute while I make a couple of tests. Genetic," he added in answer to her unspoken question.

Anne Mulhall sat silently in the chair in front of McCoy’s desk, eyes focused on the hands clasped tightly in her lap. "What do I do now?" she finally whispered.

McCoy leaned forward on elbows that were propped on the desktop. "I’m afraid you have to decide that one for yourself."

"I...I guess I’ll have to leave the Enterprise."

McCoy nodded. "Yes, you will if you decide to go through with the pregnancy...at least until after the baby is born. If you decide otherwise, you can remain aboard. Doctor Sanchez can perform the procedure for you."

"Of course, I’m going through with it." Her voice was strong for the first time since she had finally accepted his diagnosis. "I couldn’t do anything else."

"Easy now," McCoy reassured her. "It’s your decision. You could return later, once the baby is born and you make arrangements for its care."

Mulhall shook her head slowly, as though she was considering the options as he raised them—considering and then rejecting them to reach her own conclusions swiftly but decisively. "No, I don’t think that would work. I don’t have any family, and I wouldn’t want strangers raising my child." She took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. "I never really intended to spend my entire life on a starship, but I expected to stay out here longer than this."

"What do you want to do? Where do you want to go?"

She shrugged. "I don’t know. A research facility, I guess, but I’m not sure where."

"The captain can arrange something, I’m sure. Decide where you want to go and tell him. He can probably pull a few strings and get you just about any assignment you want."

"No." Her gaze dropped to her lap again. This was one thing she was certain about. "I can’t ask special favors from him."

"Doctor Mulhall...Anne..." McCoy moved around the desk to take both her hands in his. "He’ll want to help. Trust me; I know him." The doctor ignored the little voice that warned him of the explosive anger that was certain to precede that desire to help.

"No," she protested again. "He...he can’t know."

"And just why the hell not?"

"It wouldn’t be fair," she insisted. "He’s not responsible; he shouldn’t be burdened by this."

"It’s his child."

"He had nothing to do with it," she countered. "It’s no more his than yours."

"Sorry, darlin’, but you can’t pin this one on me." The attempted joke fell flat, and McCoy lounged against his desk. "Listen, honey, you two may not have been in possession of your bodies when that baby was conceived, but biologically it’s still yours... yours and his. Those tests I ran prove it, he has a right to know, and I have an obligation to report it to him if you don’t want to tell him yourself."

She looked up with pleading eyes. "How can I tell him? What’s he going to think?"

"Do you want me to do it?" he asked kindly.

She hesitated a moment, considering the suggestion, then shook her head. "No, that’s the coward’s way out. I’ll do it myself." McCoy had to fight back the smile that threatened at the look of distaste on her face.

"Look, honey. Why don’t I send for him? You can tell him here, in neutral territory, so to speak. And I’ll stay right here with you while you do...for moral support or whatever. How’s that strike you?"

Mulhall managed a smile. "It all strikes me as a pain in the neck, but, thank you, Doctor. I could use that moral support, and the sooner I do this, the sooner it’ll be over with." She sighed. "Go ahead and call him."


"What’s up, Bones?" Jim Kirk strode into the doctor’s office, then drew up short at the sight of the woman sitting there. He assumed a more formal attitude immediately. "Excuse me, I didn’t know you had someone in here." He peered at McCoy. "You did send for me, didn’t you?"

"Yes, I did. Come in and have a seat."

Casting a puzzled look at Mulhall, Kirk shrugged and leaned one hip against the side of the doctor’s desk, ignoring the empty chair next to the woman’s and half-turned away from her. "What’s this all about?" he inquired.

"Doctor Mulhall will explain." McCoy nodded at the woman across the desk from him.

Kirk turned to Mulhall, confusion and curiosity clearly written across his face. Then he smoothed out the lines and smiled at her, a noncommital, captainly smile.

Mulhall didn’t return the smile. Hands clasped tightly together, she faced him steadily. "I...I don’t know how...what to say. This is a little difficult." And then she did smile, but wryly, as though at some joke he didn’t see.

Kirk frowned. "Go on."

"I need a transfer." She sought refuge in the request, unable yet to face the more personal part of the conversation.

"A transfer?" Kirk repeated, eyes narrowing in concern. "Why? You haven’t been on board more than...what?...two, three months. Regulations don’t permit another transfer that soon."

"Except in extenuating circumstances, Jim," McCoy interjected.

Kirk glanced quickly at him, then back at Mulhall. "What kind of circumstances?" he asked.

She looked up at him, then quickly away, her eyes pleading with McCoy for help. "It’s a...sort of a family matter," McCoy offered.

"Family matter?"

"You could say that," Mulhall muttered, a wry twist to her mouth.

"Excuse me?" He didn’t quite catch her comment, but he waited in vain for her answer.

Finally, unable to bear the silence himself, McCoy supplied the pertinent information. "She’s pregnant, Jim."

"Oh." It wasn’t the first time Kirk had been forced to deal with that particular problem among his crew. "Congratulations...at least, I think that’s appropriate." He couldn’t remember hearing any ship’s gossip about Anne Mulhall and wondered idly who the father might be.

"That’s not all," Mulhall said, interrupting his train of thought abruptly.

"What else?" He saw that wry smile again.

"I don’t really know how to say this, but...it seems that you’re the father," she finally blurted.

"Me?" Kirk straightened up suddenly in surprise. He caught the look on McCoy’s face and suddenly remembered the feel of this woman in his arms, her lips moving beneath his. He lowered himself blindly into the chair he had refused earlier. "No," he whispered the denial.

"Yes," McCoy nodded. "Sargon and Thalassa."

Kirk slumped in the chair. "You’re sure?"

"Positive," McCoy answered. "I ran a genetic scan. There’s no question of it; you’re the father. Since Doctor Mulhall assures me you two haven’t..." He discreetly allowed the sentence to end there. "Well, since you haven’t, then they must have."

"Yes, I guess they must have." Kirk ran one hand through his unruly hair. He was confused, not yet certain he believed any of it."I’m not sure where that leaves us," he commented warily.

"It leaves me pregnant." The corners of Mulhall’s mouth twisted in something that wasn’t quite a smile.

"Yes, I suppose it does." Kirk gave her a rueful smile, unsure what to say to her. "Would it help if I said I’m sorry?" he finally offered.

She shrugged. "I’m not sure I am, Captain Kirk," she countered.

He blinked. "You want it?"

"I’m not sure," she repeated and forced a smile. "It doesn’t matter much anyway. I’m going to have it, whether I want to or not, so I might as well accept the idea."

"You wouldn’t consider—?"

She shook her head. "I couldn’t."

Kirk nodded, whether in agreement or acceptance wasn’t clear. "Where do you want to transfer?"

"I don’t know. A good research facility somewhere, so I can continue my work as much as possible."

Kirk nodded again, considering the options.

McCoy was relieved that they were talking rationally now, even if it was an unreal kind of rationality that indicated they were both still reeling from the shock of this unexpected situation. At least they weren’t fighting. That was a good sign. The doctor returned to his chair and leaned back, watching them a little smugly.

"Research...astrobiology...How about Aldebaran Three?" Kirk finally suggested.

"I...That sounds like a good idea, Captain, but can I have a little time to think about it?" She forced a smile. "Things are happening a little fast right now, and I really need to get my thoughts together before I make any important decisions."

"All right," Kirk agreed. "Take a couple of days, but Doc...er, Anne..." He felt funny calling her by her first name when they were practically strangers, but it seemed even more bizarre to call her ‘Doctor Mulhall’ under the circumstances. "I’ll help you in any way I can," he finished, "you and the baby."

Mulhall nodded, not really believing him, but knowing he believed it himself...at least for that moment.

Kirk looked at McCoy. "Do you know what it’s going to be?" he asked.

McCoy glanced at Mulhall, and she nodded her approval. "It’s a girl, Jim," he said.

"A daughter," Kirk breathed, mouth widening in a slow, pensive smile, and then she did believe him. He took her hands and squeezed them. "I’ll get to work on the preliminaries for that transfer." With a last smile, he left the room and then Sickbay.


Kirk retrieved his dinner from the slot and turned to search for a vacant table. Locating one, he started across the room, then stopped when he spotted someone sitting alone at another table. He hesitated a moment, then walked to her side.

"May I join you?" he asked with a friendly smile.

"Captain. Please." She returned his smile a little self-consciously.

"Jim, please. It seems kind of silly for us to stand on ceremony."

She lowered her gaze a moment, then raised her eyes to meet his again and gave him a droll grin, patting her flat stomach. "You’re right. Under the circumstances, it is silly." She picked up her fork and resumed eating.

"How are you?" he asked, and she knew it wasn’t just idle chit-chat.

"I’m fine." She laughed at his disbelieving look. "Really, I am. Doctor McCoy gave. me something for the nausea, and I feel absolutely great now. More energy than I’ve had in years." She lowered her voice. "I think pregnancy agrees with me."

"It certainly agrees with your looks," he said with complete sincerity. "I’ve heard that pregnant women have a glow about them. In your case, it’s the truth."

"Why, thank you, sir. That’s a very lovely compliment."

"An honest one," he told her soberly.

"That’s what makes it so lovely." Her answer was just as serious.

Feeling more awkward than ever, Kirk picked up his fork, and they ate in silence a moment. Then he set the fork back down again. "Look, Anne. This is uncomfortable for both of us, but it doesn’t have to be. We may not have, well..." He stopped, realizing that he was blushing.

Mulhall grinned. "There’s no need to be embarrassed."

He forced a smile. "I know, but I can’t seem to help it." With the admission, the smile turned genuine. "Anyway, whatever isn’t between us, there’s still the child. We have her in common. Can’t we just agree to be friends and share our concern for her?"

"I’d like that very much."

The conversation lagged again, and they ate in silence once more. Finally, Mulhall spoke. "I...I’ve made my decision, Jim." He gave her a questioning look. "About my transfer," she explained. "I’d like to go to Aldebaran."

He smiled at her. "A wise decision. Their facility is among the best in the Federation. I’ll make the arrangements."

"Thank you."

They finished the meal in silence.

January 15, 2268

Kirk strode swiftly down the corridor toward the transporter room. He paused briefly before the sensor that would open the door, then stepped forward and into the room.

At the sound of the door whooshing open, Anne Mulhall paused with one foot on the transporter platform. She turned her head, saw who had entered, and smiled. Stepping back down, she turned to face him and waited as he approached her. Kirk returned her smile, and she noticed the small box he was carrying.

"All ready?" he asked in a soft voice when he was close enough for her to hear but no one else. It didn’t matter that only McCoy and Scott were in the room; this was private, between just the two of them.

Mulhall nodded. "Yes, sir. My transport’s waiting. It was lucky that we could arrange this rendezvous so easily. I didn’t want to disrupt the Enterprise any more than necessary."

Kirk nodded soberly. "You haven’t." He fell silent, uncertain what to say next. Then he remembered the box in his hand and held it out to her.

"For me?" she asked.

"And the baby," he qualified. "I’d like...Life’s so uncertain out here, and no matter what might happen, I want her to at least know what her father looked like, in case we’re not able—"

Mulhall lifted her hand to place two fingers across his lips. "No," she said. "You’ll see her ...when you can." She withdrew her hand abruptly, suddenly flustered by the familiarity of her gesture.

Kirk grinned at her and took her hand, placing the box in it. "Thank you," he said, "and let me know when..."

She nodded. "I’ll let you know." She took one step backward. "Goodbye, Captain... Jim." She took her place on the platform, then smiled across the room at McCoy. "Goodbye, Doctor, and thank you...for everything. Mister Scott, I’m ready."

"Aye, lass," the engineer acknowledged, and activated the controls.

Aldebaran Three
April 18, 2268

Kirk hesitated a moment before pressing the buzzer next to the apartment door. He felt obligated to make this visit, but he wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. He had been uncomfortable around Anne Mulhall when she was on board the Enterprise, and he feared the awkwardness would be compounded in the Aldebaran apartment she now called home.

Increasingly nervous, he half turned, as though to leave without seeing the woman he had come to visit, then he turned back. It was too late to back out; he had already messaged her he was en route. Besides, he silently acknowledged, he had an obligation to fulfill, and James T. Kirk had never been one to shirk his duties. He pressed the buzzer.

After only a brief moment, the door slid open, and Anne Mulhall smiled at him in welcome. "Come in, Jim," she said politely, as though to a stranger. "It’s good to see you again."

Hell, we are strangers, Kirk told himself. Aloud, he said, "Hello, Anne. You’re looking well." Mentally, he grimaced. His words sounded as falsely friendly as hers.

Mulhall laughed, and Kirk realized she was as nervous as he was. "I’m looking fat," she protested. "Fat and clumsy, like a pregnant cow."

"You’re barely even showing, Anne. You look beautiful," he countered, and realized it was the simple truth. Her face, eyes, and hair all glowed with the radiance of good health and happiness.

She nodded her head in silent acceptance of the compliment and led him into her living room. The outer wall was solid clearsteel, providing a spectacular view of the nearby shoreline and the white-capped blue-green waves that crashed ashore. Kirk walked to the wall-sized window to better enjoy that view.

"Can I get you some coffee or tea?" Mulhall asked. "I’m afraid I don’t have anything stronger." She patted her slightly rounded stomach. "I can’t drink it, and since I don’t often have company, I haven’t bought any intoxicants."

"Coffee would be fine," he said, then waited while she retreated to the kitchen. Watching a flock of pale pink sea birds cavort above the waves, he told himself he was pleased that Mulhall had found such a pleasant place to live. If one had to live planet-bound, a good view certainly helped.

"Here we are," Mulhall’s voice recalled him from the window, and Kirk sat on the sofa. He accepted the mug she handed him then watched her take her own cup of herbal tea and settle in a comfortable chair placed at a right angle to the sofa.

Kirk took a sip of the fragrant coffee, then smiled at Mulhall. "I don’t think I need to ask how you’ve been. It’s obvious that you’re doing very well."

"I feel wonderful, Jim." She returned the smile. "I’ve heard all the old wives’ tales about how miserable women are supposed to be during pregnancy even with the modern miracle drugs to control nausea and other unpleasant symptoms, but I’m convinced they’re just a pack of lies designed to make men feel guilty. In my case, at least, it’s simply not true. I’ve never felt better in my life."

"I’m glad. I’d hate to think of you...suffering in any way. It’s...bad enough that you had to change your career, your entire way of life. It wouldn’t be fair if—"

"Don’t," Mulhall protested.

"Don’t? Don’t what?" he asked in confusion.

"Don’t blame yourself for this. It wasn’t your fault. If I’m a victim—and I hate to think of it in those terms—then you are, too. You’re not responsible for what Sargon and Thalassa did."

"Maybe not directly," he conceded. "But I should never have agreed to his request. If I hadn’t allowed—"

"We all allowed," she chided gently. "But it was my responsibility."

"Please, Jim..." She set the teacup down on a table and leaned toward him earnestly. "Stop thinking of it that way. Neither of us planned this; neither of us had anything to do with it. But I’m not sorry about it. I’ve had time to adjust, and I’m happy, really happy." She glanced down at the floor, then back up at him again. "My parents died when I was very young," she confided. "I don’t even remember my grandparents, and I have no brothers or sisters. For the first time in a very long time, I’m going to have a family—my very own family."

"Not exactly a conventional one."

"So what’s conventional these days?"

"A husband and wife—then children."

Mulhall leaned back in her chair again. "You are so old-fashioned. I’ve managed without a husband this long, thank you. I think I can get along fine on my own now."

"But the baby," Kirk protested. "She deserves a father."

"She has one," Mulhall said quietly, her eyes meeting his steadily. "She has a father who is welcome to visit her whenever he can, a father any child could look up to and call ‘Daddy’ with both love and pride."

Kirk blinked a few times, then stood up and walked to the window-wall to stare out at the view again. After a moment, he cleared his throat. "Thank you, Anne," he said softly, then turned. "I’ll be as good a father to her as I can—under the circumstances."

She joined him. "I know you will. And don’t worry. We’ll be fine, both of us."

"I’m sure you will." He smiled at her. "But promise me you’ll let me know if you ever need anything, anything at all. If there’s anything I can do..."

She took his hand and squeezed it. "I will. I—Oh!" She broke off, a surprised look on her face.

"What is it?" Kirk demanded.

Mulhall laughed, a little shakily. "Nothing serious. Your daughter just decided to take up soccer is all."

"She kicked you?"

"Not really. I feels a little like popcorn popping, I suppose." She laughed again. "There she goes again."

His eyes softened. "Can...can I...feel..."

Meeting his gaze, she nodded. He reached out toward her rounded stomach, then hesitated, unsure exactly where to place his hand.

She took it, placed it in the right spot. Kirk bent his head and stood absolutely silent a moment, waiting. Then Mulhall felt the baby move again, and Kirk lifted his head to grin at her. "I felt her," he said in wonder. "I felt...her." The final word was little more than a whisper. Their eyes met and held for a long moment. Then Kirk lifted his right hand to brush a strand of golden hair back from her face, while his left hand remained possessively on her stomach. "Anne..." he whispered, then bent his head to kiss her gently.

Mulhall stood there, completely still, as though afraid to move. Her mind replayed the memory of the last time Thalassa had inhabited her body.

"Oblivion together does not frighten me, beloved," the alien woman said, smiling at her husband while his hands gently clasped her shoulders. "Promise we’ll be together."

"I promise," Sargon answered. "...beloved."

"Together forever, " she said.

"Forever...beloved," Sargon promised. "...forever." And he kissed her, drawing her close and threading one hand through the long strands of her hair. Thalassa’s arms slid around her husband, right hand caressing him, stroking his back sensuously.

And then they were gone, and there was only Jim and Anne, his hand in her hair, her hand on his back, and their lips moving together...

Anne Mulhall’s lips clung to his now, just as they had for those few seconds after the aliens had departed their bodies, leaving them still in each other’s arms. Unlike the earlier encounter that had undoubtedly resulted in the conception of the child Mulhall now carried, the final one had taken place with the full awareness of the host bodies’ minds. Although Sargon and Thalassa had been in control, Jim Kirk and Anne had still been there, seeing, hearing, feeling all that the others did.

And that was the knowledge that made them so uncomfortable together afterward: the remembrance of the passion they had felt...and shared so briefly, and knowing that it was just a small echo of what must have happened before.

Mulhall felt it again now—not the depths of a half-million-year love, but desire at least...and something more, something she couldn’t quite define. There was compassion, respect, admiration, and a genuine liking. It might not be love, but right then, right there, it was enough.

After a timeless instant, their lips parted again, and once more their gazes met. Kirk smiled, a slow, crooked smile that set her heart racing, and then he gathered her in his arms and kissed her again.

"Jim..." she sighed when that kiss, too, finally ended and he bent his head to nuzzle at her throat.

"I want to love you," he said huskily.

"Oh, yes," she whispered, then withdrew from his arms and led him to the bedroom.


Kirk lay quietly, watching as Aldebaran slowly appeared above the horizon, sending early morning fingers of orange streaking across the aquamarine ripples of the ocean. He felt the woman next to him stir and tightened his arm around her, drawing her back against him. He breathed the clean fragrance of her tousled hair, then let the breath out in a sigh. His hand softly caressed the slightly rounded mound of her bare stomach, marveling at the thought that his tiny daughter slept peacefully beneath his hand, still now, allowing her mother some much needed rest.

He played with the silken strands of Mulhall’s hair and allowed himself to drift backward to the passion they had shared just a short while earlier.

Anne lay on her side, facing him, smiling silently as his hands traced gentle patterns on her naked skin. He cupped her breasts, molding them to his hands, and then allowed his fingers to skim feather-light across her stomach. He bent forward to kiss the tip of each breast and a point midway between, and then he sketched a line of kisses all the way to her navel.

She held his head between her hands, caressing him, guiding him, urging him on. And then she arched her back and cried out softly when he found the center of her sexuality. He teased and tormented her, igniting the fires that raged uncontrolled. And, again, she cried out, and then was still.

Slowly, gently, giving her ample time to recover, he kissed his way back up her body until they were once more face to face. He smiled at her again, then carefully helped her turn over in the bed until she lay facing the wall that here. too, was open to the sea. As they lay there, curled together spoon-fashion, watching the stars reflected on the waves, he parted her legs and eased her back closer, tighter against him until they were no longer two separate beings, but one, bodies joined, rocking together in a gentle rhythm.

Kirk smiled in the ever-lightening room. It had been good, not a wildly passionate coupling, but a quiet, gentle sharing that had brought him both peace and contentment. For a brief moment, he allowed himself the illusion that this would last forever. He basked in the thought of sleeping in this bed every night and waking each morning to find this woman in his arms, their child sleeping happily in an adjoining room.

It was an enchanting fantasy that enticed him, beckoning him to cavort on the beach outside. And then he looked up, at the sky, where the twinkling stars were disappearing in the early morning sunlight. He imagined he could see one light, brighter than the rest, moving steadily across the azure firmament, and he allowed the fantasy to dissolve.

Gently, he smoothed Anne’s hair back from her face and placed a feathery kiss on the lobe of her ear. She stirred, sighed, opened her eyes, and turned her head to meet his soft gaze.

"Is it evening already?"

"Uh-hmm," he said, trailing his lips across her cheek to capture her mouth in a light kiss.

"You have to leave," she said when their lips parted, and it wasn’t a question.

"Yes," he answered, already withdrawing from her and sliding from beneath the sheets. "We break orbit in less than an hour," He smiled at her a little sadly. "I’m sorry I can’t stay longer. We’ve got a mission to make first contact with an alien race."

She smiled at him brightly. "I’m just glad you came."

He grinned back. "Me, too."

And she blushed.

He dressed in silence, then returned to the bed, sitting at her side, suddenly serious. "Are you sure you’re going to be okay?"

"Yes, Jim," she answered. "I really am."

"You’ll send for me if you need anything?"

"Would you come?"

He turned toward the window, then back, meeting her gaze steadily. "If I can."

"Yes." She nodded her head. "I believe you would." She took his hand and squeezed it. "Don’t worry. It won’t be necessary, but I hope you’ll come back anyway, when you can, at least to see your daughter."

He smiled again. "It’s a promise...just as soon as I can. And, Anne, you’ll let me know... when..."

She smiled back. "I’ll let you know; that’s a promise, too."

He kissed her one last time. "Until next time..." he whispered, and was gone.

"Until next time..." she echoed, and allowed her smile to fade.

September 2, 2268

Kirk and Spock were deep into a game of Tri-D chess when the message came in. "Bridge to Captain Kirk."

Kirk sighed and stood, crossed to a nearby intercom and flipped the switch. "Kirk here," he said, his gaze and mind still on the chess game as he tried to determine a strategy that would get him out of the corner into which he had played himself.

"There’s a message for you, Captain," said the second shift communications officer. "From Aldebaran Three, sir."

Kirk lifted his head, suddenly alert. "I’ll take it in my quarters, Ensign. Kirk out." He turned back to Spock. "We’ll finish this later."

"As you wish," the Vulcan responded. "Perhaps it would be best to declare this game a draw, however, and begin again another night."

"Whatever you say, Spock." Kirk didn’t comment on or even seem to realize the fact that Spock had just thrown away a certain victory. "I’ll see you later."

Kirk hurried through the corridors to his cabin, almost knocking down Leonard McCoy in his haste as he exited the turbolift onto Deck 5.

"Whoa, there, Jim. What’s the hurry?" the doctor asked as he caught his friend by the shoulders to prevent the imminent collision.

"A message," Kirk tossed over his shoulder as he continued rapidly down the corridor. "From Aldebaran Three."

"Anne?" McCoy called after him in speculation, then grinned as the captain disappeared into his quarters without answering. The doctor abandoned his plans to visit the rec room, and instead headed for his own cabin. "I know l have an excellent bottle of Saurian brandy in there somewhere," he muttered as he went.

Kirk sat at his desk and carefully composed his features before activating the comm console. "You can send that message through now, Ensign."

Anne Mulhall’s face appeared on the screen. She looked tired and a little pale, but she was smiling. "Hello, Jim."

"Hi," he responded cheerfully, then fell silent, unsure what else to say.

Mulhall’s smile broadened as though she realized his nervousness. "You’re looking well," she told him, eyes twinkling.

"So are you," he answered, telling himself it wasn’t really a lie, but wishing he could see more than just her face so he would know...without asking...

She laughed softly, then took pity on him. "Would you like to see your daughter?"

Kirk let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. Blinking rapidly and grinning at the same time, he just nodded, unable to speak.

She took a step back from her BellComm unit, allowing Kirk to see the tiny bundle she held in her arms. He stared, transfixed, as she drew the blanket back to show him the flaxen-haired infant. Neither spoke for a moment, then—

"She’s beautiful," he whispered.


"Is she...everything okay? And you?" he added hastily.

"We’re both fine, Jim. It was an easy, routine delivery, just like my pregnancy. I’m a little tired, and a little sore, but otherwise, I feel wonderful."


"Last night. I placed the call as soon as they would let me. I wanted to do it myself."

"Thank you." He couldn’t stop smiling. "Have you...have you named her yet?"

"Not officially. I wanted your approval first."

"My..." He blinked, as though surprised. "What did you choose?"

"Well..." She paused. "I like to think of her as a gift...to us...from Sargon and Thalassa." Kirk nodded, and Mulhall continued with more certainty, "So I decided to name her Dorinda. It means ‘beautiful gift.’" She stopped and waited for his reaction. When none came, she continued, "We can call her Dory, and that’s appropriate, too, since she’s so adorable..." She stopped again, unsure what else to say.

"Dorinda..." Kirk said the name slowly, experimentally. "Dory." He grinned at her. "I like it."

Mulhall let out a sigh of relief.

"What’s the rest of it?" he asked.

She smiled, more confident now. "I thought instead of giving her a middle name, as such, I’d combine our surnames and name her Dorinda Mulhall-Kirk...with a hyphen. She can use just Dory Mulhall while she’s little. It’s not so hard to say and will save on confusion; people will expect us to have the same last name. Then, when she’s older, she can decide for herself how she prefers to be known...if that’s all right with you."

"It’s fine, Anne." He was blinking again. "I...I’m proud that you wanted to give her my name, too. You didn’t have to do that."

"I know, but I wanted to. She is your daughter."

"Thank you." The conversation flagged a moment, then Kirk spoke again. "I...don’t know how soon I can get to Aldeb. It may be months..."

"It’s all right, Jim. I know you’ll come when you can. We’ll be waiting...both of us."

"As soon as I can," he promised. "I—"

"I have to go now, Jim," she interrupted him before he could expand the pledge. "It’s been a long twenty-four hours."

"I’m sure it has. She’s beautiful, Anne. Thank you."

"Thank you," she countered.

He grinned. "Maybe we both should thank Sargon and Thalassa."

She grinned back. "Yes, we should. Goodbye, Jim."

"Goodbye, Anne. I’ll see you...as soon as I can. Till then."

"Until then." She broke the connection.

Kirk sat there a moment in silent contemplation, then turned away from the comm unit to stare at the empty cabin. He felt a sudden need to share his news and rose to his feet, starting for the door. The buzzer sounded before he was half-way across the room. He stopped. "Come."

The doors slid open, and McCoy and Spock stepped into the room. McCoy held a curved brown bottle in his hand and was grinning from ear to ear. Spock looked...like Spock.

"Her name’s Dory," Kirk told them. "Dorinda."

Spock’s eyebrow rose. "Beautiful gift," the Vulcan said.

"Yes, how did—" began the captain.

"Hell, Jim, you know he always knows everything." McCoy pounded the captain on the back. "Congratulations, Jim-boy." He waved the bottle. "Bring out the glasses. We’ve got some celebratin’ to do."


The bottle was empty, and Kirk stretched out on his bunk, fully dressed except for the boots Spock had thoughtfully removed, when the others finally started to leave the captain’s cabin. McCoy stumbled, and Spock slid a supporting arm around the doctor.

"Bones...Spock..." Kirk called softly after them. Spock stopped and turned them both back around, waiting expectantly.

"Her full name," Kirk said sleepily, "is...Dorinda...Mulhall... Kirk," and he fell asleep.

Aldebaran Three
December 11, 2268

Anne Mulhall shut off the BellCom, and walked out of her office into the living room. "Oh, damn," she muttered in dismay as she stared at the mess. "Damn, damn, damn!"

Dorinda had scattered her toys around the room, spilled a dish of ice cream Anne had left safely—she thought—on a table, overturned a plant in the corner, then fallen into an exhausted nap in the midst of it all. Anne groaned. She knew better than to leave Dory alone for more than a minute, but that was all she had intended. She had merely gone into the other room to check a bit of data in the computer concerning her latest research. Then she became so engrossed in the project that a minute stretched into ten, thirty and more.

From the look of things, it must have been closer to two hours since she had gone into the office. Anne shoved a wispy lock of hair back from her forehead and sighed, thinking again that she shouldn’t have left Dory alone in the living room. But she just couldn’t get used to her daughter’s recently acquired talent for getting into anything and everything in sight. As curious as her father, Dory had to explore whatever she encountered. Unfortunately, now that she was crawling so well, she encountered a lot, and usually managed to overturn it, spill it, or otherwise make a mess of it if she wasn’t watched closely.

Her father. Anne groaned again. The BellComm call had been from Jim Kirk. The Enterprise was in orbit, and the captain eager to pay his long-overdue first visit to his tiny daughter.

Anne put him off for half an hour, but she realized now that wouldn’t be nearly enough time to clean up Dory, the living room, and herself. Sighing again, she woke her sleeping daughter and carried her into the other room to clean her up and put a new playsuit on her. Jim Kirk wanted to see his daughter, and Anne determined to have her ready for him.

Twenty minutes later, the bathroom was as messy as the living room, and Dory was only half-dressed. Clad only in her diaper, the baby laughed up at her mother, seemingly more interested in playing than dressing.

"Dory, please! Anne begged. "He’ll be here any minute and—"

At that moment, the door chimed. "Oh, damn!" Anne moaned. "He’s early." Swinging her half-naked daughter onto her left hip, she picked her way through the mess in the living room to the front door. She ordered it open and found herself looking into a pair of warm hazel eyes.

"Hello, Anne," he said simply.

"You’re early," she accused.

"A little. Sorry." He grinned. "I just couldn’t wait to see you bo—"

"I told you I needed at least half an hour," Anne interrupted. "Oh, damn it, Jim. Why couldn’t you have given me a little more warning? Everything’s a mess—the apartment, Dory, me..."

"Hey, hold it," Kirk placed a gentle hand on her arm. "It’s okay. I don’t care how messy things are." He smiled again. "I just wanted to see you...you and Dory, and I couldn’t wait any longer." His gaze shifted from Anne to the baby in her arms.

The child was staring up at him with wide, green-flecked golden eyes. She blinked at him, then held her chubby little arms out, gurgling softly.

Unable to resist, Kirk accepted the silent entreaty and took her from Anne, who offered no protest. "You take care of whatever you needed to do," Jim suggested, making his way through the obstacle course. "I’m going to get acquainted with our daughter."

Doctor Mulhall stared at him a moment, torn between a desire to laugh, an equal one to cry, and a third to scream at him. Finally, she just sighed yet again and began picking up the mess.

By the time Anne had finished clearing the living room, Jim had Dory bouncing on his knee. She clutched at his uniform tunic with both hands for balance and giggled with delight. Anne choked back the sudden jealousy that arose in her throat, unsure exactly who she was jealous of. Stiff backed, she stalked into the bedroom, the sounds of her daughter’s meaningless babbling following her.

When Anne returned to the living room, Jim and Dory had gravitated from the sofa to the floor. Jim was lying on his back, with Dory on his chest, his hands holding her loosely, but steadily. Giggling and babbling, she crawled up his torso to lean over his face. She patted at his cheeks and touched her nose to his.

Anne squelched another pang of jealousy and headed for the kitchen, only half aware of the sounds Dory was making. Suddenly, she stopped and swung back around to stare at man and child.

"Anne!" Jim called, barely repressed excitement in his voice. "Did you hear her? She said, ‘Da-da’."

"Yes," Anne breathed her response, moving slowly toward them. "I heard." Kneeling at his side, she reached a hand out to caress Dory’s head. The child turned to her with a bright smile.

"Da-da," Dory repeated clearly, then patted Jim’s cheek again.

"How?" he asked. "How did she know?"

"The holo," Mulhall said. "I show it to her all the time and..." She paused controlling an urge to blush. "...tell her about you."

"Why?" Kirk asked, clearly surprised.

"Because I want you to be real to her," Anne answered softly. "I want her to grow up knowing she has a daddy, and I want her to love you and know you love her."

Jim blinked rapidly a few times, then sat up, settling Dory in his lap. He reached out and cupped Anne’s cheek in one hand, then slid his fingers through the long golden strands of her hair. He leaned forward and placed a feather-light kiss on her mouth. "Thank you," he whispered. "You don’t know what that means to me."

Anne merely smiled at him, then leaned forward to rest her forehead on his shoulder. Jim slid one arm around her, drawing her close in its circle while he continued to cradle Dory in his lap with his other arm. He swallowed convulsively, then drew a breath and let it out in a long sigh, allowing the peace and contentment to wash over him in waves, refusing to consider the fact that soon it would end and he would have to leave them behind once more. For now, he was here with them, and that was all that mattered.

Jim stood over the crib, smiling down at his daughter. "She looks like an angel," he whispered.

"She is an angel," Anne said, then added with a wry smile, "when she’s asleep." She paused. "Joking aside, Jim, she’s usually a delight, like tonight. But sometimes she can be a holy terror."

Kirk grinned back at her. "Like me." It wasn’t a question.

"Yes," Anne agreed soberly. "She’s a lot like you—willful, stubborn, demanding..." Her voice softened as she continued, "...funny, loving...as I said, a delight."

"Like me?" Still smiling, he put one arm around her shoulders and drew her nearer.

"Mmmm," Anne responded non-committally as she slid her arms around his waist and turned into his embrace. Jim hugged her close, then took her chin between thumb and forefinger and tipped her head back. He gazed into her eyes a moment, then bent his head and kissed her.

He tightened his arms and deepened the kiss, then broke it to touch his lips with featherlightness on the tip of her nose, her right eyelid and brow. He shifted his hand to brush long strands of golden hair behind her ear and kissed the lobe, his warm breath brushing across the cavity to send a shiver of delight down her spine. After nuzzling at her ear a moment, he placed a trail of kisses along her jaw line to her chin, then closed his lips over hers again.

Anne sighed softly when that kiss, too, ended and then buried her face in the crook of his neck. "Let’s go to bed," she suggested.

"I thought you’d never ask," he answered, hugging her once more before releasing her and taking her hand to lead her from Dory’s room to her own.

Jim stopped Anne just inside the bedroom door. With both her hands in his, he held her in front of him while his gaze swept down from her face to her toes and back up again. While he had played with Dory earlier, she had showered, then debated over what to wear. Torn between a desire to appear seductive and an intuitive compulsion to be demure at the same time, she had finally settled on a long, flowing gown that covered her from neck to wrists to floor. The shimmering, multi-hued fabric was opague, hiding the figure beneath while its soft clinging texture caressed and outlined the gentle curves of her body.

As she saw the gleam of desire ignite in Jim’s eyes and watched the golden orbs change to an almost-emerald green, Anne knew the dress had been a good choice...as had been her decision to forego any undergarments.

Jim Kirk dropped her hands and placed his at her sides beneath her arms. His palms slid foreward until his thumbs could graze across the tips of her breasts, teasing the sensitive nipples to an erect hardness. She drew a deep breath, then let it out between slightly parted lips in a long hiss. Her eyelids drooped heavily over her sapphire eyes as his hands skimmed down her sides to rest on the curve of her hips. She held her breath and bit her lip as he slowly gathered the fabric up, lifting the gown inch by interminable inch until his warm fingers brushed against the satin smoothness of her bare skin.

Anne moaned, and Jim slid his hands around her back to cup the rounded globes of her buttocks and draw her close to him until she could feel his hard maleness pulsing between their bodies.

"Please, Jim," she begged finally. "It’s been so long, and I need you...now!"

He smiled into her eyes, then took one step backward and swept the gown over her head in one smooth, quick motion. He gathered her close for another lingering kiss, his uniform brushing roughly against her bare skin to bring it to a tingling sensitivity. Then he quickly undressed and led her to the bed.

Anne lay on her back while Jim stretched out at her side, leaning over her to caress her gently, tracing a trail of fire from her collarbone, between her breasts and across her flat stomach to brush along the edge of the downy golden curls between her thighs. He bent further to search for the tiny lines that bore witness to her pregnancy. When he found them, he caressed them lightly with his fingertips and then placed a gentle kiss on each mark he discovered.

Anne trembled beneath him and moaned again. Finally, unable to stand any more of his delicious torture, she tugged at his shoulders until he lifted his head and met her beseeching gaze with a gentle smile. Without additional urging, he moved into position to unite them once more in their quest for completion.

An eternity later, he lay cradling her in his arms, gently caressing her damp skin until they slowly drifted off to sleep.


Anne awoke after a couple of hours to find Jim gone from her bed. She turned over and saw him standing in front of the window-wall, staring out at the ocean with a melancholy expression on his face. She arose from the bed and crossed the room to his side, suppressing a sudden concern at the realization that he wasn’t even aware of her presence until she placed a gentle hand on his arm.

He turned to face her then, allowing her to see the profound sadness in his eyes for a brief moment before submerging it once more and drawing her into his arms.

"What is it, Jim?" she asked, but instead of answering, he just tightened his arms with a desperation that only added to her alarm. "Jim, please," she begged. "Tell me what’s bothering you."

After a lengthy pause, he finally spoke in a voice heavy with emotion. "Do you have any idea how important you are to me?" he asked. "You and Dory both."

"I think so," she answered a little hesitantly. "I know you love Dory, and you...care..." She chose the word carefully. "...about me."

"There’s more," he whispered. "A lot more."

"I don’t understand."

"No, I don’t guess you do." He paused. "I have a son."

"A son? Who? Where?"

"He’s back on Earth, with his mother." Jim sighed. "It’s a long story. I’ll tell you someday, but right now, I just wanted you to know he exists."

"I still don’t understand...what has that to do with Dory and me?"

"His mother won’t let me see him; she says if I can’t be a full-time father, I can’t be a part-time one either."

"Oh, Jim!" Mulhall hugged him tightly. "That’s so unfair."

"I’m not so sure." He leaned back so he could look into her face. "Am I being fair to you or Dory by dropping in whenever I’m ‘in the neighborhood’, and then going on my merry way when it’s time for the Enterprise to warp out of orbit?"

Anne narrowed her gaze. "Completely," she answered. "After all, I’m the one who invited you." She took his face between her hands and held him steadily while she looked into his eyes. "You’re the only father Dory has, Jim, and I won’t deny her the opportunity to have whatever you can give her. I won’t deny myself either. Someday, that might not be enough. If so, we’ll end it." She didn’t have to explain what it was. "But you’ll always be Dory’s father. Nothing will ever change that."

Jim returned her gaze a moment, then turned to look out the window again. "Just before Dory was born," he began, speaking even more softly than before, "after I came to you that first time, we visited a very special world." Anne was puzzled by the sudden change in subject, and even more by the incredible weariness in his voice. "Something... happened to me there, and I was...stranded for more than two months. I didn’t even know who I was or where I belonged." He stopped and remained silent for so long that Anne began to think he wasn’t going to continue.

"What happened, Jim?" she finally prompted.

He turned back to face her. "I met a woman, a very beautiful but primitive woman." Once more he looked out the window. "I married her. She carried my child."

There was a lump in Anne’s throat, but she managed to speak. "Where is she now?"

"She was killed...by her people...stoned."

"And the baby?"

"Never born."

"Did you love her very much?" Anne couldn’t keep from asking the question, although every instinct screamed at her not to do so.

"I don’t know; I thought I did." Jim faced Anne again, and his eyes finally focused on her face. "I think I was mostly in love with the idea of loving her, living in peace and happiness, with no decisions to make, no battles to fight, no crewmen to lose. She was a symbol of the idyllic beauty of that place and of something I know I’ll never have, and then even that turned ugly. It was nothing but an illusion the entire time."

Jim lifted one hand to brush a thumb across Anne’s left cheekbone, his eyes studying her so intently she wasn’t sure whether he saw her...or the other. "Remember the night we first made love...you and me, not Sargon and Thalassa?"

"Yes," Anne whispered, unable to speak any louder for the ache in her throat.

"When I woke, I just lay there, holding you and watching the sun set over the ocean. For just a little while, I pretended that every day would be like that...you and me together, only with Dory sleeping in the next room instead of beneath the hand I had pressed to your stomach. And then I remembered. The Enterprise was due to leave, and I had to go with her."

Anne blinked her eyes rapidly, desperate to hold back the tears that threatened.

"I won’t lie to you," Jim continued. "I wanted to go. I belong out there, Anne, not here, or on Earth with Carol or on that planet with Miramanee. I know I couldn’t live my life any other way, and I don’t really want to, but...sometimes, especially when I’m very tired, I wish it were different."

Anne slid her arms around Jim’s neck and pressed her cheek against his. "It’s all right," she whispered. "I understand."

"Do you?" he asked softly, stepping back from her embrace. "I wish I did."

"We all want things we can’t have," she explained. "Accepting that we can’t have them, and learning how to live without them is part of growing up. But even knowing we can’t have them, and might not know what to do with them if we did, doesn’t stop us from wanting them or hurting because of it."

"You’re very wise." He offered her a tentative smile.

She shook her head. "No, I’m just a grownup."

"I’m not sure I am." His smile broadened.

She grinned. "Neither am I, but you’re grown up enough for me...at least for now."

His smile died. "And when that changes?"

Anne shrugged. "Like I said, there’ll always be a place for you in Dory’s life, and I hope we’ll always be friends at least, even if we can’t always be lovers."

His smile returned. "Who said we can’t?"

She took him in her arms again, pressing her naked body against his. "I have no idea," she whispered, nibbling on his ear. "We’ll check into it later. For now, why don’t we just go back to bed."

"Best idea I’ve heard all morning," Jim Kirk said just before he kissed her.

He left the next morning for Starbase 15...

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