Jim Kirk practically exploded into Sickbay, prompting a startled Leonard McCoy to drop the nondescript beaker he had been transferring from the lab. The doctor frowned.
"What do you need?" Kirk snapped brusquely, still standing in the doorway, looking as if he would dart back through at any moment.
"Nice of you to drop by, Captain," McCoy drawled easily.
Kirks jaw muscles worked as he glared at the physician. "Bones, Im too busy to play games. You have a lot of gall ordering me to Sickbay when you know I have responsibilities on the bridge." He paused to catch his breath and glare harder. "Now, what is it?"
McCoy seemed to brace himself for a fight. "Captain," he began calmly, but his voice became progressively louder, "you wont be on the bridge if you dont submit to that physical. You promised"
"A physical?" Kirks hazel eyes blazed. "Thats what this is about? A physical?" He turned to leave.
McCoys shout stopped him in mid-stride. "Or a medical relief from command!"
The Enterprise captain turned slowly, gauging the seriousness of McCoys threat. "You would, too, wouldnt you?"
The compassionate blue eyes softened a bit, and McCoy shrugged. "Look, Jim, you need a break. I know it; you know it. Certainly the crew knows it."
"What does that mean?" Kirk growled.
"It means, Captain, that your mental and physical fatigue has been increasingly evident the past few days."
Kirks eyes narrowed, but he turned and walked back into the room. Silently, he waited for McCoy to explain.
Encouraged, the doctor continued. "Example one: Lieutenant Commander Uhura was two minutes late for her shift. You chewed her out, right there on the bridge."
"A crewmans responsibility to be prompt is"
"Did you know she had stopped to help Scotty repair a faulty communications circuit which, left unattended, could have shorted the entire ships system?"
"No, but, still"
"Example two," McCoy continued, ignoring him. "Sulu made an innocent suggestion about dealing with the upkeep of the botanical gardens, and you practically took his head off. Example three"
"Okay, okay." Still angry, Kirk hopped onto a diagnostic bed and stretched muscles which, the had to admit, felt tired and achy. "Get on with your physical, McCoy."
With what the captain perceived to be an ill-concealed smirk, the doctor waved the mediscanner over him. "You know, Jim, you can bum yourself out fast, the way you go at it. Stress, tension, they can all lead to medical problems. Its showing. Youre irritable, impatient, short-tempered. Look at the way you burst in here. If you keep it up, your performance as captain will suffer, if it hasnt already."
With a mixture of irony and ire, Kirk asked, "Whats your point, Bones?"
"A deal," McCoy offered. "You take a three-day shore leave, and I wont relieve you of command."
"Three days?!" Kirk barked. "Bones, thats an eternity. I dont have that kind of time."
The doctors eyes flashed. "Im serious, Jim. I cant allow you to go on like this. If you dont stop soon, your bodys going to stop you itself."
Realizing that McCoy did have a legitimate concern, and acknowledging, if only to himself, that he was exhausted, Kirk extended a compromise: "One days leave."
Smiling in victory, the doctor insisted, "Twenty-four hours, no less."
With a resigned nod, Kirk agreed. "All right, Bones. The first appropriate location we come to."
As a gleeful smile broke across his face, McCoy reminded, "Were dropping off medical supplies at Beta Carleon Four tomorrow. I hear its a spacemans paradise."
For a moment, the captain simply stared, eyes narrowed, lips pursed, at the broad grin of his friend and chief medical officer. He dared not openly admit McCoy was right, but he found the prospect of a needed rest quite inviting. Finally, as the doctors merriment expanded, Kirk allowed a brief smile to slip through his scowl.
He beamed down alone, leaving his tell-tale gold command tunic on the ship and opting for the civilian dress of the Beta Carleons, a simple green crew-necked pullover sweater and tapered, dark, full-length trousers. The only survivors of his uniform were a pair of well-worn boots. The ensemble was topped by a casually thrown cape, draped about his broad shoulders.
He stood by himself, a solid figure, not tall, but imposing nevertheless, with the natural air of command surrounding him, the slight wave of his sandy hair stirring gently in the light evening breeze. Scanning the crowds milling underneath gaudy, blinking neon signs advertising just about any pleasures a patron could desire, he became aware of a number of inquisitive eyes on him, mostly from rather well-rounded females. Prospects for a rewarding leave appeared promising.
"Can I interest you in this genuine piece of art, sir?" called a squat, shiny street peddler nestled between the flashing lights. He extended a hideous statue of three Orion women in various states of undress, all wound around a Phylosian. Kirk couldnt tell exactly what they were doing, wasnt exactly sure he wanted to know.
"No, thank you," he declined politely, pushing past the disappointed merchant.
Glancing around, he was surprised to glimpse a number of Vulcans apparently enjoying a raucous party outside one of the more notorious bars, one which, incidentally, came highly recommended by Doctor McCoy. He stared, open-mouthed for several moments until he realized, with considerable alarm, that these alien customers were not Vulcan at all, but Romulan. Of course, he knew that Beta Carleon was an open system. The Enterprise had cautiously approached the wide representation of ships in orbit, but Kirk had not anticipated coming into such close contact with his adversaries. Perhaps, he told himself gamely, the Romulan presence would add a touch of intrigue and excitement.
With a shrug, he pushed forward toward the cacophony of lights, music and scattering, boisterous people. It all reminded him of some of the more seedy outfits he had sneaked into during his first assignment out of the Academy, still wet behind the ears and eager for adventure. He could almost recapture that breathless anticipation again if he let his imagination weave those memories into the ornate spectacle of Beta Carleon IV.
Smiling at recalled images of the foolish antics of youth, Kirk selected a tavern which presented a somewhat milder personality than the establishments he had just passed, but when he stepped inside, organized chaos greeted him, with waiters and waitresses bustling from table to table delivering impossible varieties of beverages to the demanding consumers. He seated himself in the most inconspicuous corner he could find and ordered Saurian brandy.
As he watched the crowd, his hazel eyes sought out several attractive females, whose gazes flitted over him with little subtlety. Kirks personal policy on his ship excluded him from any romantic attachment to a crew member, at least, usually. However, he demanded no such sacrifice from himself on shore leave, and being a man of intense emotions and feelings, he found in such encounters great release from the tensions of command, not to mention extreme pleasure.
As he concentrated on allowing the mesh of sounds and sights to invade his mind, Kirk felt the stress in his tired neck and shoulders unknot and smooth, washing warmth and relaxation down his body. He could not suppress a contented smile at the sensation. This was exactly what he had hoped for. Suddenly, the Enterprise and responsibility seemed light years away. The music and colors of the tavern swirled into timeless blurs, and Kirks mind danced, not quite lingering long enough on one subject to force him jumbled thoughts into cohesion.
As he nursed his second brandy, a lean, lithe figure caught his eye from across the darkened room. He felt a familiar surge in his veins as he held two dark eyes with his. The figure rose, alone, a simple head scarf flung about the exotic face, and gracefully approached his table. Kirk caught his breath when his eyes touched the elegant curves of her face and the gentle sweep of her brow. As she eased next to him, a fragrance wafted past, reminding him of delicate lilacs and honeysuckle.
"Good evening," he said, voice carefully even, hands clasped around the brandy snifter casually. "Would you care for a drink?"
The woman smiled, an unusual, promising smile. Kirk felt an intense warmth radiate from her body. "I brought my own," she said, lifting a small, twisted carafe half-filled with a liquid which seemed to change from lavender to magenta with the shifting lights. "But, thank you, Mister?"
"Jim," Kirk supplied. "Jim is fine." He felt a twinge of guilt for being elusive, but realized his name was recognized across much of the known galaxy. He did not wish to be anything but anonymous on this trip.
"Well, Jim," the woman said, her velvet voice caressing his ears and pulling a charming smile across his lips. "Is this your first visit to Beta Carleon Four?"
"As a matter of fact, it is."
"Youll find it an exciting place." Her eyes burned into his. There was a familiar air of confidence surrounding her. Kirk recognized a kindred spirit.
"I already have."
The woman shifted closer to him, and he felt the heat leap from her. "Here on business or pleasure?"
Kirk smiled, a boyish, contagious smile. He liked the invitation in her dark eyes. "Oh, most definitely pleasure. You?"
"The same. Im trying to forget work for a while."
"Oh? What kind of work do you do?" He swirled his colorful drink skillfully and took a sip as she answered.
Her reply remained fiercely casual. "Oh, I guess youd call it...public relations. My... company sends me around the galaxy to represent them. But," she continued smoothly before he could respond, "there are more interesting things to...talk about." She extended her hand. "Im Ilya."
At her touch, Kirk was even more aware of the warmth of her skin. It radiated as if she had a fever. Suddenly, the suspicions which had nagged him since she sat down surfaced. Slowly, deliberately, he extended his hand and lowered the scarf from the dark head, revealing a stunning beautiful face graced by delicate, upswept brows, black eyes...and the characteristic point stretching the tips of her ears.
After an uncertain moment, he smiled at the Romulan, a dart of recklessness from his novice days whispering encouragement. Why not?
"Disappointed?" she asked, suddenly not as smooth anymore.
Kirk grinned. "Not at all," he said, and he meant it.
She seemed relieved. "What do you do, Jim?"
"Oh, Im with one of the ships here. Nothing very exciting, really." He waved a casual hand.
"Ill bet it is. What is your position?" Her voice was colored with genuine interest.
Kirk cleared his throat quickly. "A little bit of this, a little bit of that. General flunky." Before she could probe further, he turned the topic of conversation to another matter. "Its too loud in here, dont you think? Ive heard Beta Carleon Four has two beautiful moons. Would you care for a stroll to view them?" He offered his arm, and she took it gently, gazing up into his eyes as they walked past the lights and sounds of the city and found their footing on the soft grass of seclusion.
Kirk allowed himself a deep breath, drinking in the sweet oxygen which touched their skin like droplets of fresh rain. He glanced at his companion and noticed that her dark eyes reflected the rising moons. His own gaze traveled across those soft features, straight nose, high, angular cheekbones, firm jaw and full, inviting lips. Realizing she was aware of his stare, he forced his attention upward, wondering if he might catch a quick glimpse of a persistent beacon moving steadily across the star-filled heavens. He shoved the thought away, stifling an illogical feeling that he was betraying that waiting woman somehow.
"Ilya," he said, and his voice was pitched low, sensuous.
She gazed expectantly at him. "Yes?"
"Have you traveled much?"
To Kirk, it almost seemed as if the curve of her lips angled in a sly slant. "Enough," she answered evasively. They walked on for a few moments in silence.
When he finally spoke again, his voice held a timbre which was generally reserved for discussing the most sacred of feelings. Ilya listened, her eyes intense, searching his own for something. "Sometimes, when Im out there, I feel like Im the only one in the universe. The only one at all with every star and every planet just waiting for me to touch it, discover its secrets and wonders." He broke off, embarrassed that he had revealed such a personal detail with a virtual stranger, but Ilya only smiled and reached a hand up to trace across the hard line of his jaw.
Kirk again felt the heat of her body. He closed his own hand over hers and brought it to his lips, brushing it softly.
"Your relationship with the stars is not exclusive, Jim," she breathed. "My dreams are entwined in the heavens, too, but dreams are no good unless they are shared."
Ilya took a quick breath as Jim turned her in his arms, his hands resting gently on her shoulders, his hazel eyes piercing her black ones. In slow motion, he lowered his mouth to hers, again aware of her heat as his body pressed close to hers, his arms encircling her. He felt her surrender, her heart rate accelerate as without apparent volition, her body respond to his, her lips returning his kisses, hands caressing his chest, arms, the wavy hair at the nape of his neck. They were both breathless when he raised his head, supporting her still at the shoulders as she drew back a bit.
"Youre right. Dreams are for sharing," he whispered hoarsely, lifting a hand to caress her rich hair.
Ilyas eyes looked up at him, silently answered his unspoken question. With only a moments hesitation, she took his hand and led him further into the towering trees, the darkness hiding them with understanding. Without a word, she knelt before him, her slender body reclined invitingly. Jim felt the pounding in his chest, knew the familiar breathlessness of arousal as his eyes raked over the exotic Romulan, her hand extended toward him in invitation.
Ilyas fingers ran light trails along Jims back as he made love to her, easily, sensually. Romulan men, he knew, paid little attention to their womens needs, demanding only their own satisfaction, but he was determined to show Ilya that Humans were different. Slowly, he caressed her body, delivering fire with every touch, ecstasy with each kiss, allowing her response to guide him. He drew her into their coupling, propelling her to heights of bliss and knew that he had guessed right about her less than satisfactory previous experience when he heard her catch her breath and saw her eyes widen with obvious surprise and pleasure.
She moaned softly as his hands, strong and gentle at the same time, traveled over her, and then it was his turn to gasp with pleasure when she began to return his caresses, first tentatively, and then in increasingly bold experiments that elicited from him a ragged shudder. Her breathing labored as they moved together, abandon growing until finally they cried out together, each so wrapped up in their own ecstasy that they were only vaguely aware of the others. Energy torn from their bodies, they lay entwined for long moments after.
Their muscles slowly relaxed, but instead of withdrawing as he knew she would expect now that his needs had been satisfied, he smiled down at her, lifted a hand and gently caressed her cheek, kissing her brow softly, his lips moving to her smooth neck and those alien ears. He watched her bite her lip and saw the hesitation on her face as she seemed to fight against some untrusted emotion. And then he saw her abandon her fight as she cuddled closer to him, responding to his touch as a once-shy but now tamed kitten would.
Finally, exhausted but reluctant, they dressed against the chill of the night air and settled back into each others arms, drifting into a sound sleep under a crisp night sky, Ilyas dark head snuggled against Jims shoulder.
A stirring in his arms brought a still sleepy Jim Kirk out of his sound slumber the next morning, and he smiled hazily at Ilya. After allowing himself the luxury of a slow kiss, he sighed ruefully and lifted her to her feet. They returned to the pubs and taverns, now bereft of their wild chaotic masses and slumbering serenely on the deserted streets. A small cafe provided breakfast.
"I have responsibilities on the ship," Kirk said with regret. "I wish my leave were longer."
Ilya smiled and rested a slender hand on his arm. "So do I," she said softly, "but I have my own responsibilities. Last night was...memorable. I will not forget you." Her touch danced across his arm and entwined strong fingers with her own. "Think of me sometimes," she entreated, dark eyes meeting his and reminding him of the fire. He drew a quick breath at the sensation.
"Yes," he promised, then grinned. "If I dont go now, well have a few more memories to add." He placed a hand firmly about her waist and walked her to the transporter station.
Turning for one last look, he gathered her into his arms and lowered his mouth to hers. The passion and heat met, crackled between them as she arched against him, her arms locked about his neck for a long kiss. With a sigh, almost a groan, he released her and stepped through the portal. He turned back at the last minute for one more glimpse of her and saw her blinking back hot tears from eyes that flashed at him in sudden anger at having been caught in a moment of despicable weakness for a Romulan. Without further sign of farewell, she spun on her heel and stalked away from him.
Leonard McCoy greeted Jim Kirk as the captain strode onto the bridge, energetic, refreshed and smiling. The doctor grinned knowingly at his old friend.
"Well, Jim. Enjoy your liberty?"
"It was all right, Bones," Kirk said casually, but the gleam in his eye betrayed him.
"Sure," chuckled McCoy as Kirk settled into the command chair.
"Spock?" Kirk turned toward the science station to face his first officer.
"Thank you for minding the ship. Any problems?"
"None, sir. Although several vessels are in orbit here, we encountered no difficulties. Both Klingons and Romulans, and even Orions have kept their distance."
"Captain?" Uhura called from communications.
He swirled around with renewed energy to look at her. "We are being hailed by the Rumali, a Romulan warship."
Kirk frowned. "What do they want?" He had been uneasy orbiting with so many sworn enemies, but had not expected actually to talk with any adversaries.
"The commander simply wishes to convey regards, sir." Uhura seemed puzzled.
Kirk sighed warily, then shrugged. What can it hurt? "All right, Uhura, put him on."
"Her," the chief communications officer corrected.
"What?" But before she could answer, the screen waved into the image of the Romulan commander. Kirks jaw dropped as his eyes roamed over that exotic face, upswept brows, gracefully pointed ears, full familiar lips. The burnished hair was swept back now, but those locks which he had brushed intimately only hours before were unmistakable. His breath caught in his throat, and he realized he half stood.
"Captain?" Uhura questioned softly, concerned. "Are you all right, sir?"
Suddenly, Kirk became aware that everyone on the bridge was staring at him, including Spock and a frowning McCoy, who stepped toward him with a medical scanner. With impatience, Kirk waved him off and eased back into his chair.
Swallowing to gather some semblance of control, the captain addressed the screen. "Commander," he acknowledged, as evenly as he could.
"Captain," returned the velvet voice. "We are leaving orbit and felt it most discourteous to retire without sending our regards." Her smile revealed that she was wickedly amused by his shock.
He recovered quickly. "Indeed? Well, we certainly appreciate that, Commander." He felt the curious gazes of his bridge crew and could only hope they did not hear his heart slamming against his chest.
After a beat, that alien face assumed a coy expression. "General flunky, Captain? I hardly think so. I have heard that everything you do, you do...quite well."
Kirk felt a hot flush creep across his cheeks at her pointed remark and did not dare look from the screen. "I try," he said meekly.
The commander gazed back intensely. "Goodbye, Captain Kirk." Her eyes sought his and, for a moment, softened. "It was truly a pleasure. Perhaps we shall meet again."
She faded before he could find his voice to respond. For a long moment, he simply stared ahead, then, shaking himself, he threw a calculated, challenging glare around the bridge. Heads snapped back to their consoles, feigning intense interest anywhere but the center seat.
Only McCoy remained oblivious to Kirks silent threat. "You know her, Jim?" he asked, all innocence.
"Who?" Kirk answered absently, and immediately regretted that response when he saw the quick glance his way. "Oh, the commander?" He struggled with nonchalance. "I believe she and her crew were on the planet yesterday. We...exchanged pleasantries." He fixed warning eyes on McCoy, who refused to be intimidated.
"Ill just bet you did," the doctor said, as he leaped for the turbolift doors and out of the captains reach. Spock, observing the conversation, responded with an eloquent lift of his brow.
"Not a word, Spock," Kirk warned quickly, and the Vulcan possessed enough tact to return to his station without uttering a sound.
"Mister Sulu," Kirk said loudly after a painful silence. "Take us out of orbit. Ahead, Warp Factor One."
"Aye, sir," the helmsman replied.
If James T. Kirk heard a repressed chuckle behind that, he chose to ignore it.
As the Enterprise burst into warp, Kirk dismissed his crews amusement and allowed his mind to linger over a slender form with sensuous eyes, dark slanted brows, ebony hair, fiery lips and a fascination with the stars which equalled his. A smile tugged at his mouth as he gazed, unseeing, at the viewscreen, totally missing the understanding twinkle in Uhuras eyes when she chanced a glimpse at him. For the moment, he shared the same memories that a certain Romulan commander held in her mind and stored the hope that perhaps, one day, on another liberty, they might add more.
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