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Rob Morris

July 14th 2295
U.S.S. Excelsior

Captain Sulu sat down opposite Doctor Noel. If he somehow had not needed these sessions in the past, Demora’s sudden and tragic death had changed that.

The ship’s psychologist took note of the datapadd held by her commanding officer. "Anything I should be made aware of?"

Sulu did not seem upset by whatever the contents were, and actually handed it over. "It’s a letter of condolence from a former patient of yours. He has his uncle’s way with words, and the foresight to start out by saying how little words mean, at a time like this."

Noel smiled. "Peter Kirk is one of a handful of bona fide successes we had at Tantalus. We always did all right, mind you. But once he bought in to what we were offering, in terms of help, it brightened the entire staff. On occasion, I even asked him to calm some of the more nervous patients."

Sulu took back the padd when she was done. "He attached his correspondence with Demora. They wrote each other constantly. It’s like looking back to the days of longhand-written correspondence. Almost nothing is held back. She even told him about that...Academy entrance...incident I mentioned. Peter’s surprisingly blunt about his mistakes. Helen, I almost wish he hadn’t sent it. I feel like I’m intruding."

She shrugged. "Then delete it. I’ll write Lieutenant Kirk on proper correspondence etiquette."

He chuckled. "Ha-ha-ha-ha. I mean, I’m glad he sent it along. But it’s so blasted intimate. The only thing he gets vague about is his three-month visit to Serenidad. Demora actually asks if he saw Princess Teresa skinny-dipping. There are things in here that make me uneasy."

Noel leaned forward. "Things...about you?"

He nodded. "And about Captain Kirk. And Pavel. Hell, they both think the world of Pavel. No, all that is just the usual anti-grownup talk, so to speak. I’ve found nothing I’d call hateful, and I’d be surprised if I did."

She waited a moment, then the doctor spoke. "So wherein lies the problem? And don’t tell me there isn’t one. We’ve talked a lot about Peter Kirk this session, and I doubt he’s the real topic at hand."

Used to her approach by now, Sulu did not get angry. But he did counter her. "Now that’s where you’re wrong. This is all about Peter, and has been for a long time now."

A bit surprised by that statement, Noel crossed her legs for the long haul. "All right. I’m listening. Just how does a young man you’ve likely spent one day total time with in the past thirty years tie into your present grieving process?"

Sulu took a moment, and found the words. "You’re right. In many respects, I barely know him. But I’ve always known of him. Captain Kirk mentioned he had three nephews early on. It was like he was the kid down the way. You never saw him, but you may have heard his voice as you walked down the hall. Then came Deneva. You couldn’t help but feel for a kid who’d lost almost everyone he’d ever known, and his mobility as well. I remember the captain gave him a golden Starfleet tunic and a tour of the bridge. His misery fell away. He looked around at all of we were gods. I thought then about how nice it would be to have someone look at me like he looked at Jim Kirk."

Noel gave a look that indicated he should go on.

"I never thought much about the kid again after that, of course. He wasn’t mine. Even when Deneva’s citizens’ long-term health problems were in the news, I certainly didn’t think of Peter Kirk. I may have seen him when the Enterprise returned from the first five-year mission, and I’m almost sure I saw him after the Serenidad Tragedy. I recall hearing he was going into the Academy."

Doctor Noel cut in. "So far, I’m not hearing about why Peter Kirk has any relevance to you beyond this letter."

He raised a finger. "I’m getting there. After the Tanith Brok affair, his life at the Academy had officially become a nightmare. His fellow cadets had very casually turned on him, kicking him when he was down. I heard that things never really got much better for him. When the pranks finally stopped, they tried isolating him. But again, he wasn’t mine, so I stopped paying much attention pretty quickly. I did wonder about Jim’s hands-off policy. I don’t care what anyone says about making things worse."

He looked up at the ceiling. "The next time I heard of him, I was well into being a long-distance father. Dianas. Everyone was so shocked by what he did."

"But you weren’t?"

"I was disappointed and ashamed for him. But shocked? No! You can’t ask a kid to gladly suffer so many wrong turns, and not have them take one themselves. I told the captain and Pavel such, and they didn’t like it one bit. So the kid down the way went to prison in total disgrace. Was he combative when he arrived?"

Helen Noel bit her lip, then spoke. "No. He had given up. He no longer knew how to be anything but angry, and now he was scared of what his anger could do. He spent a lot of time in his cell, just sleeping. Hikaru, besides being off-topic, this kind of thing is confidential. I shouldn’t even have said what I just did. And I’m still not catching the connection you spoke of."

He now looked at the floor. "That comes now. I visited with Demora not long after hearing from Enterprise about the Dianas mission. She told me she wanted to go to the Academy. I tried like hell to talk her out of it. She took it the wrong way."

Noel nodded in partial realization. "Because of what Peter had gone through."

He finally looked at her. "Helen, I saw the system allow a bunch of hooligans crush a good, strong kid for kicks, all because they resented his last name, or something. Even as an absentee father, how could I send my baby to face that possibility?"

Noel raised an opened palm. "Hold up. Peter Kirk made a lot of his own bed, Captain. Even so, the traumas he suffered were quite unique to him. God knows, the pranksters and bullies didn’t help him any. But even he admitted early on it was also a matter of how he approached things. Demora’s fate at the Academy had nothing to do with Peter, or his life."

Sulu seemed to concede this point. "That’s what I told myself, when she eventually made it in. But I dreaded the day that I would hear someone call about an ‘incident’ involving Demora and some people who didn’t like the crew of the Enterprise for some bullshit reason."

"And did that day come?"

He actually smiled. "It did. We were winding our way around the quadrant, just before the Gorkon conference. Pavel called. It was all my worst fears confirmed. Three cadets had tried very hard to pick a fight with her, solely because she was my daughter. But Pavel also told me, and Penda seconded him, that a young lieutenant had stopped the fight before it started, and deflated the massive egos of the bullying cadets to boot. That lieutenant was a kid down the way who had once been an inmate at Tantalus, and who had turned his life around. He hadn’t even known who she was. History repeats itself as Kirk rescues Sulu."

The doctor began to smile, perhaps with a tinge of pride in her former patient. "You must have been very happy."

"I was. All my fears for Demora were put aside by the one who had, without meaning to, started them. It all came around, then. Like completing a loop. That kid down the way was also the last person my baby was with. She thought the world of him, and these letters bear that out. Now, Peter’s also given me a unique insight into a daughter I’m certain I never knew well enough."

Noel looked at her chronometer. "Next time, we don’t discuss Kirks, McCoys, Sarek, or Pavel Chekov. Agreed? And may I suggest that maybe you write back? Maybe it’s time you walked down the hall and said hi to that kid down the way. He’s a good, living connection to two people you held very dear to you."

"Doctor, you drive a hard bargain. See you next week."

Once in his quarters, and seeing that Doctor Cord was asleep, Sulu began to write the first of many letters to Kirk.

" let me know how this reporter is doing. I have to doubt he loved Demora quite as much as I—as we did, Peter. She actually did write me about the day you taught her class...."

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