I stood so long at the door of his apartment with no response I began to believe he had no intention of opening the door. I had been told he was there. That he had nowhere else to go, nowhere he was allowed to go, at least not yet, unaccompanied.
I had a sense he was watching me out the peephole which was at eye level. Trying to decide, no doubt, whether he wished to be bothered by an elderly version of his first officer.
The door finally opened a crack, just when I had considered turning away and leaving. A huff of breath.
“It’s you.” The words came out deep and raspy, his voice perhaps ill-used.
Since it was obvious it was myself, I knew no logical response to that and so left it unanswered.
He opened it just wide enough to allow me entry. “Come in then.”
Not the warmest welcome I’d ever had but acceptable.
When I had entered the apartment he closed and locked the door, peering through the peephole as he did so, rather suspiciously.
“I assure you I came alone.”
His blue eyes flashed toward me, electric in their intensity. His blond hair was messy as though he’d just risen.
“Did I wake you?”
He shook his head, looking plainly miserable.
Which caused me to take several step towards him. “Are you in pain?”
He started at my approach, as he once had many months ago now. “Not exactly.” His tongue came then and traced along his lips. For a moment he raised his arms like he intended to hug me, but then they dropped to his side like he had recalled himself.
I glanced around, noting that the lights were very dim and in some spots in the apartment not on at all. “You are living a mole’s life now?”
“What?” He stared at me. Very slowly he nodded. “Oh. Right. Lights fifty percent.”
The lights brightened instantly making the apartment look much cheerier than before.
“With just me it doesn’t seem to matter.” He gave me a slight smile. The first real sign of life, actually. He stepped around me and headed for the kitchen and I followed him there. On the counter was a bottle of alcohol. Rum from the looks of it. He had a glass next to it which looked so far untouched. “Want a drink?”
“I do not regularly consume alcohol,” I replied. “But if you have tea that would not be unwelcome.”
“Yeah, sure.” He lifted the bottle and removed the top and went to pour it into the glass, but suddenly paused. To my surprise, he lowered it without pouring from it. “Maybe I’d better have tea as well.”
I watched as he turned away and located a teakettle which he filled with water from the tap.
“This apartment seems nice,” I said, conversationally.
“It suits a purpose.”
His shoulders tensed as he placed the kettle on the stove and turned the electric burner on. “It’s weird, isn’t it?”
“What is weird, Jim?”
“I don’t know. Everything? I didn’t expect…I mean…I guess I don’t know.”
I had a sense of what he struggled with, what he found difficult to deal with, but I wanted him to voice his concerns himself, rather than supplying him with it.
Instead his gaze slid away from me and he went to the cabinet to take out teacups.
“This place came furnished,” Jim told me. “Even with the dishes and stuff. I mean, I guess, eventually I’ll be up in space again, right?”
“I would assume so.”
“There’s no point then in getting and furnishing my own place.”
“Probably not,” I provided the agreement he seemed to require. “I was surprised you did not choose to room with Dr. McCoy or Spock.”
“I want to live on my own.” There was the barest tick of muscle in his jaw. “God knows Bones is here enough anyway.”
“Do you get many visitors?” I asked casually.
Jim’s lips curved ever so slightly at the corners. “I’m fairly sure you know I’m not allowing any visitors. Except Bones, and since he’s my doctor, I have no choice.”
“You have allowed me.”
“Don’t make me regret it.” He leaned against the kitchen counter. For all he’d been out of the hospital a mere three days, during which he’d been recovering from his ‘demise’ as he’d charmingly put it in the hospital when I’d gone to see him, Jim looked quite healthy and robust. He seemed taller than before though I knew he was not. He wore a navy colored V-neck t-shirt that molded to his body and managed to accentuate his toned biceps and go with his incredible eyes all at the same time. He wore low slung blue jeans which were indecently tight.
“I would not dream of making you regret it,” I replied honestly.
The tea water whistled and he straightened from the counter to pour steaming water into the two cups. He added clear tea pouches which showed tea leaves, dried fruit and spices.
“Have you eaten?”
“No. It was my intention to eat with you.”
The uptick of the lips again. “Good. I could use the company.”
“I am quite certain you would have any number of visitors if you would allow it. Several members of your crew expressed interest when I revealed my plan to see you.”
“I’m not up to being on display,” Jim said softly. “There was enough of that at the hospital.”
“I am certain crew members do not view it that way.”
He handed me my now steeped tea. “You mean Spock.”
I acknowledged such with a tilt of my head. “He did express disappointment that he was among those you refused to see.”
“Vulcans don’t feel disappointment.”
“And we both know, you and I, that is not at all true.”
Jim shrugged. “Anyway, I think refusing is overstating. I’ve just expressed a reluctance to see him. It’s not the same thing.”
“Very well. Your reasons are your own, of course. But I do urge you to reconsider because he is concerned for your welfare.”
“Don’t tell me he sent you here to be his champion?”
“He did not,” I replied. “He has not spoken to me directly about you at all. However, as he is my younger self I feel certain I can declare his thoughts with some certainty.”
Jim shook his head. “You and he are different. In so many ways. Just as I’m different than your Kirk.”
“Yes. And no.”
Jim picked up his own teacup. It looked dainty and fragile in his big hands. He took a sip. “I’m grateful for what Spock did for me. Bones and Uhura, too. But I need some time. To…process all of this.”
“I can understand that,” I advised. “But in doing so I would urge you to refrain from shutting everyone out.”
“I’m not. I mean.” He paused and flashed me a full blown grin. “You’re here, aren’t you?”
I resisted the smile tugging at my lips in response. It had always been difficult for me to resist James Kirk in any timeline or universe. This one was certainly no different. He was beautiful and had an incredibly appealing vulnerability.
“I am indeed,” I replied by way of acknowledgement.
“What do you want to eat for dinner anyway?” Jim asked. “I don’t have much here. A little bit of ground meat left from the hamburger I had last night. Bones screamed at me for that for about an hour.”
“He is concerned for your health.”
“Hmm. A couple of eggs, maybe some potatoes. Oranges.” Jim shrugged. “There’s a market just on the corner. Or we could go out or order in.”
“Let’s order in,” I said. “There is an Italian place not far from here that delivers.”
Jim gave me a quizzical look. “You like Italian food?”
“It is a taste I acquired from my time with Jim.”
Jim ended up ordering spaghetti with marinara sauce and garlic bread. I answered the door myself when I saw him reach for his phaser. It was a strange reaction to be sure when he had placed the order himself, but then Jim had died. It was a strange experience, as I knew myself.
I said nothing as I brought the container of spaghetti marinara to the table together with the bag of garlic bread. He had placed plates and forks on the table with tall glasses of iced water.
“How long are you staying on Earth?” Jim asked as he wound spaghetti around his fork.
“I specifically came to visit with you,” I explained.
“So you could go back any time?”
I got the sense he both wanted and dreaded for me to leave.
“I am in no special hurry to return to New Vulcan. Everything is currently stable there.”
Jim nodded and ate several bites before he spoke again. He had just chewed a bite of the bread, when he said, “Where are you staying?”
“A small place provided me on the campus of Starfleet headquarters.”
Jim pursed his lips. “Is it comfortable?”
“It is acceptable. It includes a bed and a bathroom.”
“No kitchen or anything?”
“Negative.” I put on my most mournful Vulcan face. “It is adequate.”
Jim drummed his fingers on the table for a few minutes. He ate the rest of his garlic bread without further comment and for a moment I thought perhaps I miscalculated. He took a sip of the water in front of him and carefully wiped his mouth.
“There’s another bedroom here,” Jim said slowly, reluctantly.
“Are you offering for me to use it while I am on Earth?” I asked, wasting no opportunity.
Jim gave a little sigh. “Um. Yeah. Sure. Okay.”
I tried not to show how pleased I was. “If you insist.”
He blinked at me. Shook his head. “I insist, yeah.”
“I will go and get my things after dinner.”
He frowned. “You don’t want me to go with you, do you?”
Since he looked as though he’d rather arm wrestle a Klingon, I graciously replied, “That will not be necessary, Jim.”
My meditation was interrupted by one of the most awful cries I had ever heard. I scrambled to my feet from my 'too old to make it quickly' knees. I rushed from the second bedroom in Jim’s apartment to his bedroom and opened his door without a moment’s hesitation.
The room was dark but I think I could detect his body sitting up in bed.
“Lights to full,” I declared.
The room burst into full brightness. Jim, bare from the waist up, was sitting up in bed, gasping for air. His eyes were wide, frightened, and large in his pale face. I could see the sheen of sweat on his forehead.
I went to him in an instant. “Jim? Jim? It is I.”
His gaze remained unfocused, his whole body shook. I gave his arm a little pat.
With a shake of his head, he suddenly turned his head toward me, his blue eyes at last regaining focus on my face.
“Are you in there?” I asked gently.
“Spock,” he whispered.
He swallowed, his tongue came out, then he looked away. “I hate sleeping.”
“Do you recall it?”
“I die. In flames. I feel it on my skin.”
I reached out to put my hand on his shoulder. He tensed at my touch, but he did not move away. “You do not like to be touched?” It was the opposite of my Jim, who always craved touch.
“No,” Jim replied. “I do. I did. Before. Now? I both dread and crave it. It’s…I can’t explain it.”
“You are fortunate in that you have before you someone who knows exactly what it is like to die and be revived.”
His gaze flew to mine, his lips parted in shock. The words seemed stuck in his throat. He opened his mouth several times to ask, but he seemed to be unable to do so.
I nodded. “Indeed.”