* * *
Captain Kirk left the command chair, happy that his shift had almost ended. With a proprietary glance, he surveyed the bridge of his ship, taking note of the efficiency of his crew.
HIS ship. HIS crew. And he was proud of them both! The captain had missed them, especially since he thought he had lost them due to the aging effects of the radiation poisoning at Gamma Hydra IV. Kirk looked down at his hands and flexed his fingers. Those same fingers that he had been unable to move just the day before now complied swiftly, all the pain and stiffness caused by arthritis gone. All was back to normal.
//You traitorous, disloyal...!// The memory of his words made both his hands curl suddenly into fists. Not all was back to normal, not yet. Turning around, the captain found himself in the center of his science officer’s attention.
//...and one almost irreplaceable Starfleet member...// The Vulcan had also suffered of aging but his physiology had made it less noticeable compared with the effects showed by his human crewmates. Spock was at his station, completely recovered from Dr. McCoy’s treatment. But that was not the only rough treatment he had received.
//...you stab-me-in-the-back-first-time-you-get!// Yes, James T. Kirk had things to fix and then all would be well again. Wouldn’t it?
Caressing the rail that separated him from the communication and science stations, Captain Kirk walked slowly towards his First Officer.
“Mr. Spock.” He said softly. The Vulcan tilted his head slightly towards him, making no further attempt to eye contact. “Would you care to join me for a game of chess and... a talk?”
//I never want to look at you again!// Pain clutched the captain’s heart when doubt crossed Spock’s face. Surely his imposed incapacity was no excuse enough for the harsh words he had said to his loyal friend. He could only hold his breath while waiting for the polite yet curt refusal.
* * *
Spock sensed when his captain left the command chair yet remained standing at the center of the bridge. He could almost feel the human’s contentment as Kirk reveled in what was undoubtedly his natural environment.
Spock watched with the corner of his eye how the pensive man carefully moved his finger, making the Vulcan ponder in concern that perhaps Kirk was still in pain. He turned his chair to offer his help.
//Are you crazy?// The memory intruded loudly into Spock’s mind, making him stop before he could say a word.
//I am 34... I’m 34 years old// The image of a confused and senile Jim Kirk imposed itself on Spock’s view of his captain, substituting the young and strong man who was opening and closing his hands, as if to make sure he was completely restored and fit for duty.
//...as second in command of the Enterprise, the responsibility is mine.// Duty. Spock knew there had been no way to avoid the “competence hearing” that had declared the captain unfit. He had tried, but Commodore Stocker was too eager to have himself delivered at Starbase 10 and had quoted regulations to asume command. Spock had had his duty painfully outlined for him.
// I order you to take command!... Are you refusing a direct order?// Jim. Jim had been more angry with Spock because the Vulcan had not taken command. Furious at having to step down, but madly enraged because his ship was in the hands of a “paper pusher” instead. Jim thought Spock had double-crossed him.
Spock noticed that his captain was approaching his station. Vulcan eyes looked at human fingers as they moved over the metallic rail, hardly touching it as in a soft caress. He saw the smooth skin, the implied strength of those once more young fingers. Humans' lives were so short in relation to the Vulcans' lifespan! Had they not found the cure, Spock would still be aging -- but what about his captain? Few hours more and the brilliance of James T. Kirk's spirit would be no more; And Jim would be gone feeling betrayed by his Vulcan. But there was nothing Spock could have done! Was there? Spock hesitated, running over the events in his mind to arrive at the same conclusion as before.
HIS Vulcan. Spock almost allowed himself a sardonic smile at the thought. He had fulfilled his duty to Starfleet but, would he pay a price for it? Jim had been uncomfortable in Spock's presence since then. Spock assumed that they would have to talk about changes in their relationship and he discovered amazed that the thought saddened him. And now he heard Jim asking, as had been expected, for a game and a word.
// I never want to look at you again!// Sadness? It was pain! His mind found appropriate to flog him with another memory and he accepted it, resigned to what the future would logically bring. A distancement from Jim.
Knowing he had to answer the captain, Spock raised his gaze to meet Jim's. The Vulcan saw hesitation and his eyes narrowed. Was Jim uncertain of wanting to meet him? No. There was hurt, yes, and a pain equal to his own. Perhaps the captain doubted that Spock would want to join him?
"Certainly, Captain." Spock offered slowly. "Will my quarters be appropriate?"
Spock found the ship's environment warm up at least 15 degrees when Jim Kirk gave him a delighted smile.
They were still a team and everything was well again.