The words sounded hollow now, phony. Jim Kirk picked up the half-full glass and stared at the amber liquid a moment, swirling it around before taking a small sip.
That was absolutely the most ridiculous response he could have given Carol. And yet it had been the truthat that moment anyway. He had felt young, as though the universe was alive with possibilities. Spock was dead, but
And now the emotional see-saw on which he seemed to have been living lately was on the ground again. Once more, he felt old, worn out. Spock is dead, he thought. I have to get used to that fact, accept it...
But he wasnt ready for that, not yet. It was as though some part of himselfa better parthad been ripped away, leaving him cold, empty, less than he had been a day earlier.
He sipped the brandy again and reached for the book he had left on the table yesterday when his unsuccessful attempt to read it had been interrupted by Davids visit.
David. His son. The thought brought a smile to his lips, the first real smile he had felt in what seemed like a very long time. At least something good had come out of this mess. For the first time since David had been a child, he had a chance to get to know him, to be...if not a father in every sense of the word, at least a friend. David might not love him yet, but he had accepted him. That was a major step. He would have to go carefully, but
The door chime interrupted Kirks thoughts. Just as well. "Come," he called, and the door slid open with a pneumatic hiss. Carol Marcus stood in the threshold, hesitating, as though unsure of her welcome. Kirk smiled slightly at the realization. "I said to come in, Carol," he reminded her gently. "I meant it."
"That was before you knew who was here." But she smiled back at him, tentatively, still a little unsure of her welcome.
He stood and held his hand out to her in open invitation, a visual echo of her gesture deep inside the Regula planetoid a lifetime ago. "I still mean it."
Marcus smile broadened, and she stepped forward, accepting his hand. She looked into his hazel eyes and saw the welcome there, and something morethanks?
"David said he came to see you."
Kirks smile turned into a true grin. "Yes, he did. He"
"He said he was proud, he..." Kirk let the words trail off and gave her a questioning look. "Does that bother you?"
She shook her head slowly. "No, Im glad. Ive had him all to myself all these years, molding him, teaching him my own beliefs and philosophy. But hes a man now, Jim. Its time he made his own decisions, and that includes whatever role he wants you to play in his life."
Kirk took her shoulders between his hands and held her gaze with his. "Even if it means following me into my world?"
Marcus caught her breath, then let it out slowly. "He told me you offered him a chance to go back to the Genesis world, to study it"
"The same offers open to you."
Again she shook her head, then turned it away from him without moving out of his loose clasp. "No, Im not ready for that. I dont think I can face it quite yet."
"Carol?" She turned her gaze back to his. "Youve devoted your entire adult life to this project. You cant just"
At that she did pull away. "Oh, yes, I can just." From a safe distance of a few steps away, she faced him. "Yes, I have devoted by adult life, my professional adult life to this, and much of my private life, too. I told myself it was worth it, that someday our achievements would be recognized throughout the entire scientific community and beyond. But..."
"But what?" he prompted.
"But what price glory?" Her mouth twisted wryly. "I read that somewhere. You were always fond of quoting famous sayings. Well, I can come up with one or two appropriate ones on occasion. And that one seems particularly apropos."
"No, Jim. Let me finish. Genesis works. Weve seen the evidence of that with our own eyes. David and I and the rest of our te" Her voice caught briefly before she continued, "...our team will be recognized for one of the most important breakthroughs in scientific history." She sat down. "But at what cost? The rest of our team is dead...and so is Spock."
Jim Kirk sat down, too. "Yes," he whispered.
"Is the fame, is the satisfaction of scientific success worth their lives?" she demanded.
"So," she waved her hand in a dismissive gesture, "Im not ready to study the fruits of my labor...not until Im ready to deal with the rotten pieces."
"What are you going to do?"
She shrugged. "I dont know. Go away somewhere and lick my wounds a while."
"Carol, this isnt all your fault."
"No, not all of it. Some of it can be blamed on you." He winced at her words. "But I have to shoulder a good bit of the blame. Even if Khan was out for revenge on you, I gave him the weapon to use. And, God, was it a powerful weapon."
"Not a weapon, Carol. A tool"
"A weapon, Jim. David said it: Genesis could be perverted... And Khan perverted it. And if he hadnt, someone else probably would have."
"Your intentions were good."
She laughed, hollowly. "Isnt there another one of those famous sayings about the road to hell?"
"Stop beating yourself up over it," he ordered.
"Isnt that what youve been doing?"
He paused a moment, thinking, then nodded slowly. "Yes, I have." He gave her a twisted grin. "We always were too much alike for our own good, werent we?"
She nodded back. "Yes. If either one of us had been a little less determined, a little less stubborn, a little less obsessed, then things might have worked out between us."
"No." Her answer came quickly...too quickly. "Yes," she added in a whisper, gaze fixed on her hands clasped tightly in her lap. "Sometimes."
He stood, approached her chair and squatted down in front of her, taking her hands in his. "Good. Im glad Im not the only one."
Her eyes met his again. "Jim?"
"Shhh." He stood, pulling her up with him and into a gentle embrace. "Enough recriminations, for both of us."
Carols arms crept around him, and she turned her head to lean it against his shoulder, resting in his strength while he stroked the soft strands of her hair. After a moment, she lifted her head and leaned back a little to look into his face. "Jim"
He shook his head. "No, Carol. Dont say anything. Not now. The time for talking is past."
He shook his head again and placed one finger over her lips, then removed it when he was sure she wasnt going to speak any more. He studied her face for a long minute, lingering on her slightly parted lips, then lowered his head to close his mouth over hers, gently, tenderly, coaxing a response with easily remembered familiarity.
"Are you sure?" Jim Kirk asked Carol Marcus as she prepared to step up onto the transporter platform, the disappointment obvious in his voice.
Marcus placed one palm against his cheek. "Yes. This sabbatical is what I need right now; something to take me completely away, both physically and mentally, from all thats happened."
She hesitated a moment, then nodded. "Everything." Turning her hand, she brushed his cheek with the backs of her fingers. "Im not ready, Jim...not to face Genesis, and not to face you. We cant simply go back to where we were twenty-odd years ago."
"I know," he acknowledged. "But we could begin again, as we have the last few days."
She smiled gently. "These past few days have been wonderful: comforting, healing. A perfect interlude from the pain and responsibilities of our lives." She patted his cheek and stepped back, out of his reach. "But the time for interludes is over, Jim. We have to get on with our lives."
"Does that have to be apart?"
She smiled. "For now. I need some time to myself, to figure out whats right for me. Later," she shrugged, "I dont know, Jim. Well just have to see...if you..." She let the words trail off.
Doctor Marcus took her place on the platform and nodded at Montgomery Scott manning the transporter controls. "Im ready now."
Scott nodded back and manipulated the controls.
"Goodbye, Jim," she whispered, and disappeared from his sight.
"Goodbye," he whispered back, then turned and left the room without another word.
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