Mary Lee Boyance
Jim Kirk felt old and beaten...and he looked it. His curly brown hair seemed to have lost its spring. There were strands of silver where there hadnt been any just a few days ago. His handsome face was creased with pain, the lines etched by a grief that he had never experienced before. He felt as though he had died inside, along with his dearest friend.
Hands clasped behind his back in unconscious imitation of his late first officer, Kirk paced slowly along the packed sand at the edge of the shore. After their departure from the newly formed Genesis planet, the Enterprise had rendezvoused with the Grissom at Regula One, transferred Saavik and David, and then began limping toward Earth as quickly as possible. With all the damage Khan had managed to inflict before they had succeeded in destroying him, it was turning into a lengthy trip, barely cruising at Warp Factor Two. Finally, about a week into the journey, Scott had warned him that if they didnt pull into the next starbase to give what was left of his crew a chance to jury-rig some repairs, he couldnt guarantee that the old girl would make it all the way home. Strong words coming from their resident miracle worker.
So here they were at Starbase 52. There wasnt a lot for Admiral Kirk to do while the engineering team got on with their makeshift repairs. After a few endless days spent alternating the sleep of exhaustion and depression with joining Doctor McCoy in utilizing his "strictly medicinal" supply of anesthetic, he had had to get off the ship for a while. Fortunately, this starbase orbited Pacifica, a planet that boasted warm breezes and tropical beaches. Hed authorized limited shore-leave (subject to immediate recall when Scott gave the word) and uncharacteristically put himself at the top of the roster. He wouldve preferred to be out on a boat, but a walk on the beach was the next best thing.
Spying a deserted bench ahead, Kirk made his way slowly over the loose sand above the tide line. It looked like the perfect place to think in solitude. Hed been avoiding coherent thought since seeing Spock slowly slide down the enclosure around the warp chamber. His mind shied away from every image it produced of his friends last sentient moments. McCoy would call it a protective defense mechanism. Kirk would love to talk to the doctor about what he was trying not to feel, but he was beginning to think hed lost his other closest friend as well. Something was terribly wrong with Leonard McCoy. He could feel his friends suffering. He wanted to reach out and make at least that all right, but he was simply too overwhelmed by all that had happened to be of any use to anyone...even himself. Perhaps when they got back to Earth they could all get a better perspective on what seemed now like a very bad and surreal dream...
Jim Kirk sat down on the bench and stared out at the waves breaking on the distant reef. It was a beautiful world. Spock would have appreciated its pristine grandeur. Spock...
Head down, Kirk let the images his mind thrust upon him play against the unseen backdrop of the sand at his feet... Spock as he was when they first attempted to forge a working relationship from their differences. Aloof, alone, unchallenged personally... And later, Spock, several years into the initial five-year mission of the Enterprise. Still Vulcan of course, but with a touch of his humanity showing through more and more. The influence of his friends, Kirk and McCoy (though neither the doctor nor the Vulcan would dare admit it) had begun to show him the occasional value of Human emotion... All that was undone when Spock had undergone Kolinahr, and the cold bastard had ridden to the rescue during the Vger crisis. Kirk had wanted to shake him just to see if he could make him mad enough to blow away the mask. But of course he hadnt. To love Spock was to respect his dignity above all else... Spock with a slight wry twist to his lips. After Vger had been taken care of and Spock stayed with the ship, he put to practical use the painful lesson the meld with the intelligent machine had taught him. He lightened up slightly and even gifted them with the occasional smile. He had learned that emotions were precious and was finally able to accept that while pure logic had its value, so too (on occasion) did those emotions he had tried to exorcise from his very being... The dying Spock. It would have happened in the arms of his devastated friends, if not for the deadly radiation that only he had been exposed to. Even amidst pain like hed never known before, the Vulcan had attempted to lessen his captains anguish. He had died with humor and nobility. Traits unique to his twin selves... The light show that was Spocks final moment in their lives...
"Excuse me. Do you mind if I sit here?"
Kirk looked up to see a woman waiting by the empty spot on the bench beside him. "Well, I"
"Thanks." The woman smiled gratefully. "My feet are killing me. They say walking barefoot over loose sand is great for the calf muscles. After four miles, Im ready to settle for not-so-great calves. What do you think?"
"Actually, I dont"
"Its okay. I dont really need a second opinion. Im pretty good at making up my own mind. Comes with the territory when you live alone. You know, you dont look so good. What happened? You lose your best friend or something?"
"Now that you mention it, thats exactly what happened. So if you dont mind, Id like to be alone. Its nothing personal. I just have a lot to think about." Kirk really hoped shed do as he asked. Wishing he could talk it over with Bones McCoy was one thing, but he had no intention of spilling his guts to a stranger.
"Oh, hey, Im sorry." The woman lost her bantering tone and looked at him. with him with such compassion that he felt like weeping. "Ive lost close friends a time or two in my life. When it happens you just want to close down and die with them. But thats not the way it works, you know. You have to go on and do your damnedest to accomplish all the things youd dreamed of together. That way they stay fresh in your mind and heart, and, if youre lucky enough to realize some of those dreams, its like theyre right there, laughing with you."
Jim Kirk couldnt resist smiling a bit at that. "My friend didnt do a lot of laughing. He was a Vulcan..."
Without making a conscious decision to do so, Kirk found himself telling this strange woman about the special friend to whom hed so recently said goodbye. For several hours, he talked on and on, telling a story of conflict and friendship, of loss and regaining, of trust and honor, and of losing again. The woman sat quietly, somehow absorbing some of his hurt as it poured from him. When he finally ran out of words, all he could do was stare out at the sea and let the tears trickle down his cheeks.
"He sounds like the kind of friend everyone wishes for but few ever know. I wish I could have met him."
"So do I." Kirk smiled wanly into the wise eyes in the ageless face before him. "He would have enjoyed your stillness. Too few people have that quality. I dont know how to thank you. I guess I needed to talk about him more than Id realized. Youre a very good listener."
The corners of the womans eyes crinkled as though she were enjoying some private joke. "So Ive been told. Maybe it comes from being a bartender. I run a little place just down the beach. I was on my way back there when this bench tempted me to rest my feet."
"Im glad you gave in to temptation."
"Its not always a bad thing. How about you come back with me and let me buy you a drink?"
Her warm smile made the offer very tempting, Though he was a long way from being over Spocks death, he could feel that the healing had begun. "Thanks, Id like that..."
"Hey, Jim." His acceptance was cut off by a hail from Doctor McCoy as he hurried across the sand toward the bench.
"Whats the matter, Bones? The ship getting to you too?" Frankly, Kirk thought the older man could use some fresh air. He just didnt look right. His eyes had a haunted look. Like he was seeing things and hearing voices that nobody else could see or hear. Kirk was beginning to wonder if the strain of the battle with Khan followed by Spocks death had snapped some unnamed something inside his friend. He was going to have to see that the doctor got some help when they got back to San Francisco.
"Well, yeah, you could say that, but thats not why Im here. Scotty sent me to tell you the repairs are nearly finished, and we should be ready to pull out in about an hour. Everybody else has been recalled, and most of them are back on board. I dont know why he bullied me into coming down here in person. Im a doctor, not a messenger boy. It is not logical." McCoy delivered that last sentence with an all too familiar inflection.
Kirk looked at his friend with open concern, but kept his tone mild. There was no use in starting a scene here. "He probably thought youd enjoy a breath of unrecycled air before the last leg of our journey."
"Yeah, I guess." The doctor sounded skeptical and looked ready to argue further when he suddenly deflated and changed tack. "Arent you goin to introduce me to your friend here?"
"Sorry, Bones. This lady has been a lifesaver, letting me rattle on for hours about Spock. Doctor Leonard McCoy, allow me to introduce...you know, after all this time, I dont even know your name." He looked to the woman who had helped him so much.
She was already standing, ready to head back to her bar. With a friendly smile, she held out a hand to McCoy. "Its a pleasure to meet you. My name is Guinan."
Turning to Kirk, the woman called Guinan looked deeply into his eyes and said simply, "Safe sailing." With a wave of her hand, she walked away from them down the beach. Kirk linked his arm through that of his friend. "Come on, Bones. We have a ship to catch."
"That sure was an interesting woman, Jim. But did you get a load of that hat?" With a crooked smile McCoy pulled his friend back toward their life.
Free counters provided by Andale.
Return to the index of ORION ARCHIVES --
Return to the index of ORION ARCHIVES On-Line Fiction.
Click Here to Return to the Orion Press Website