Chapter 15

Stardust Stories

Jim keeps her face impassive. She straightens, rubbing her finger over the fragile petal of the flower she was holding.

Flowers were such a waste, a hospital bedside tradition that faded out two centuries ago. But Pike was always about tradition, honour and sacrifice. And above all duty.

She misses him like a child who has just lost her father. He did his duty and left her behind.

She's running out of friends and making more enemies than she can afford to have. Jim had the love of the public but Starfleet was losing its reputation as a peacekeeping organisation.

First Marcus having a secret project and then Khan destroying the headquarters, killing more than half-a-million innocents. Tensions between the Federation and the Klingons were at their highest since the war.

The brass needed someone to be their face, their armour. Jim was compliant. She went with their PR plans. And Pike, their one voice of reason, was not there. She doesn't mind now, her crew was safe, her career was intact, everything that mattered was fine.

She watches her mentor in her seat next to his bed, clad in a simple black dress, almost as though she was going to a funeral. He looks peaceful with his eyes closed like he was having a really nice nap at her expense.

It's the first time she's visited him since she left the hospital.

She isn't sure what she's doing here, with mountains of paperwork to finish on her desk, an appointment with Bones, and a dress uniform to pick up. Her last one didn't fit so well anymore after she lost a few pounds during her hospital stay.

Maybe she was feeling sentimental. Not that she would ever have told the admiral that he was like a second father to her. It was too late for those things anyway.

"Kirk," Someone greets as they come into the room. Jim recognises the man as Philip Boyce, a doctor she had come across a few times in the Academy clinic.

She knew that he and Pike were close, and had guessed that their relationship went beyond friendship. He had patched her up after several bar fights when Bones was nowhere to be found in the ER. Nice doctor, though his bedside manner left something to be desired.

"Dr. Boyce," She says respectfully, "I see you've come to visit Admiral Pike too."

"Captain Kirk," He says almost curtly. "Good to see you again."

"Call me Jim," She says, out of habit.

"How long until he wakes?" She inquires after some awkward silence, even though she had already asked the doctors about twenty times or so since she got here.

"It's not likely he ever will," Boyce replies curtly, as if the man in a coma on the bed was just another patient and not a friend of many decades. "That was a heck of an injury even for him."

"I hope he will," Jim says, still holding the flowers. "Show those doctors wrong."

"Are those for him?" Boyce gestures to the lilies.

Jim shrugs.

Boyce's face turns sour. "He hates lilies. Said they reminded him of death."

She looks at the old man, really looks at him. He just seemed sad instead of angry.

Jim doesn't hesitate to make the offer. "Would you like to take a walk with me?"

Boyce rubs a hand over his face and glances back at Pike's comatose body wistfully before nodding once.

Jim puts on her glasses and wonders if it'll be enough to keep her from the hungry eyes of the press.

Outside of the hospital, Boyce seems to draw deeper into himself, and Jim speculates over just how deep his bond with Chris had run.

"Are you alright?" She asks in concern as they stride along a street, the crowd parting for them.

The doctor laughs mirthlessly, drawing a hand over his face. "Shit, Kirk, I feel like I should be the one asking you this."

"Are you?"

"I'm feeling like I'm speaking to someone who should technically be dead," Boyce replies stonily.

"If you're saying that we could use Khan's-" even saying his name sent a chill down her spine- "his blood, then you're mistaken."

"You got lucky that the attending physician was your friend, Kirk," He says. "Doctor McCoy was willing to break the Code for you, I've seen that press conference. He's one of the smartest surgeons in Starfleet, kid, if anyone can find a way to cheat death, it's him, He tested something unknown on you without hesitation, that sort of loyalty is not something you see every day."

Jim doesn't answer and walks up to the Memorial, placed in the heart of San Francisco, a daily reminder of all the lives lost to Nero.

She traces her finger along those names. The holographic images of men and women and others, the countless dead, flicker as her finger lands on their etched names. People who died, people she knew, and the names that were not there: people who survived.

Jim leans against the cool stone, a bittersweet smile comes onto her face. Death came eventually to everyone, and she could only hope that when her time came, she would not be alone.

She doesn't like to think of what had happened in the engine chamber of the Enterprise. Life sometimes hurt more than death.

She remembers her father, his desperate voice and final moments spent in silence. Jim hopes in this won't happen to her. The last thing she wanted was dying like him.

"Chris is a brave man," Boyce says, breaking the silence. "Saw the best in everyone, like your father did. He had faith in the people he trusted, including you, Kirk."

Jim lays the flowers in front of the USS Farragut stone and stares mournfully at a name written in Orion. Galia Vro.

"I'm sorry for your loss," Boyce murmurs.

"Me too," She turns back to Boyce. "He chose me, out of all those people, not exactly a good judge of character."

Boyce gave her a look that seemed to be half frustrated and half awe. "You're not as observant as they say you are, aren't you?"

Jim just chooses to smile mysteriously.

He continues. "Chris taught me a lot of things, the stuff he and your father would get into, dragging me along with them."

"Aren't most stories better told over a drink?"

"Nice try, kid," Boyce says. "You're not allowed to drink. Think of the state of your body."

It had been worth a try. "Coffee?"

"You paying?"

Jim calculates her bank balance in her head. She thinks it was at least in the high thousands now. "I think I can."

Boyce orders for both of them after Jim tells him that she doesn't really care that much about coffee. She probably wasn't allergic to it.

"Made with actual beans," Boyce says, a touch more warmly than he had been for the whole of their interaction as he hands the steaming cup to her reverently. "The good stuff."

She blows on it and takes a sip cautiously. The taste is not too bitter, but she had to get used to the richness.

"Not bad, huh?" Boyce smirks as he watches her face change from skeptical to one of content.

"You know the barista recognised you and wanted to give me the drinks for free as thanks for saving San Francisco."

"Did he?" Jim says nonchalantly. "Are these things on the house?"

"No." He says. "I thought you would like some privacy so I told him he needed to get his eyes checked."

"Thanks," Jim replies. "I appreciate it."

"People are inherently good," Boyce says. "Or that was what Chris stubbornly believed."

"Tell me something I don't know." Jim brings her hands around the coffee cup, savouring the warmth. Even in the San Francisco heat, she was still cold. "What was he like as a captain?"

For a moment there, Jim thought the older man wasn't going to answer her, but he did. "As captain of the Liberty, he annoyed me more often than not. Taught me a lot of things. How to play chess, grow tomatoes in space-"

Jim gives a small laugh, Boyce wonders if there had been something in his coffee because he could feel a half-smile tug at the corner of his mouth. "Don't laugh, kid, it's true. We had the best damn Italian cuisine in the 'Fleet- made us put on a couple of pounds each whenever Commander Marino turned a year older."

"Wow, we should do that too, on the Enterprise." The blonde replies with a smile of her own. "So chess?"

Boyce shudders and drinks his coffee before answering. "I've never won a game in my life. All these little geniuses running around onboard, with their overly complicated tactics, and Chris was still so young when he taught me. He and your mother, ya know, kept me running around in circles back when we served on the Kelvin."

Jim's smile fades. "My mother?"

Boyce nods, the air seemed to have gotten chillier in the span of two seconds. "Your father, George, may have been the smart one, but he was no good at planning ahead, Kirk. They were both older than us, sort of like seniors to us freshmen. Winnie- we always called Winona that, just to push her buttons- could win against Grandmasters in five moves, one hell of a mind."

Jim remembered reading about how babies get most of their intelligence from their mother's side, she could believe that. "A Grandmaster?"

"Just the one ambassador who managed to insult her sex and the Captain." Boyce's eyes glaze over at the memory. "Proved that arrogant bastard wrong in a minute and a half. George clapped and kissed her, right in front of everyone, and she flipped her opponent off in his embrace. Females are scary as hell."

"Damn right we are," Jim says and thinks about her mother, the defeated look in her eyes when she had called to her what seemed like years ago, and the hope in them when she had agreed to reconnect.

"You don't exactly have many fond memories of your mother, do you, Kirk?" He asks.

"Many is an overestimation, I have no fond memories of her," Jim admits matter-of-factly. "I never knew her for long enough to get close."

"Then I can't exactly tell you after it's been four years that I'm truly sorry for what happened to Winona Morris," Boyce tells her with something like sadness in his voice. "She was an amazing woman, lit up whenever she got her point across, glowed when she got pregnant."

"Morris? She never took my father's name?" Jim inquired. This was new.

"It was her identity, and she never stopped using her own last name. George loved her too much, and didn't really care, even after they got married," Boyce explains, looking at something beyond Jim. "She was her own person."

Her voice sounded weak to her own ears. "But in all the books and articles-"

"Her last name was Kirk because she didn't have any say in it," Boyce looked indignant on her dead mother's behalf. "She didn't correct them, instead becoming just another supporting character in a hero's tragedy, only remembered in history as his young widow with a newborn child. Winona lost some fight in her when she came back to Earth. His death hit her where it hurt. She didn't like to say it, but they were closer than anyone else onboard that ship."

"She didn't even stand up for herself? His death couldn't have been the end of the universe, she should've loved her children even more after that. Winona could have stayed."

"Chris and I, we told her that she couldn't just run away from you and your, uh, brother, was it?"

Jim nods and he goes on. "She tried, really did, stayed for the first year, you probably don't remember that, but we babysat you when she was off doing press," Boyce says. "You were really quiet as a baby, had the worst allergic reactions to food I had ever seen though, and I'm the grandfather of four kids and friends with Chris Pike."

Jom finishes her coffee and glances around the cafe. There are people sneaking looks their way and some looked torn between standing up and looking away. She thinks one of them takes a picture when she makes eye contact with him.

She frowns. "We should go somewhere else."

"I think so."

"Where was I?" Boyce asks once they are out on the street.

"You and Chris, babysitting me."

"You and Sam," He says after a moment of thinking. "I recall your brother saying, and he was six or seven at the time, that you were the prettiest thing he had ever seen when you were finally asleep after trying to bite his nose off when he held you. Never a dull moment with him."

"Sam," Jim says with a crooked smile.

"I watched your mother give birth you know-"

"Okay," Jim cuts him off, making a face. "Too much information."

Boyce looked too amused for his own good and Jim thinks that he would gladly go into detail if he thought it would embarrass her. But he doesn't, and she's grateful.

"Winona was fine for the first few months, acting strong in front of everyone, played with you and Sam when she came dropped by Iowa," Boyce says. "But I saw her looking at you, after she had had something to drink, wouldn't let anyone near you. Of course, nobody thought it was off at the time since it's normal for a mother to be overprotective after such a traumatic experience."

Her legs are moving of their own accord, as they walk towards an unclear destination. Why had nobody ever told her this?

"It was only when you were nine months old when we started to notice the problem." He paused. "Your eyes had just turned blue, rather late for your age, but space babies are usually different from others. They were the spitting image of your father's, Sam had inherited Winnie's eyes, green through and through, but yours were blue and quite large, so it was impossible to look away- believe me, everyone tried. Number One took pictures constantly."

Jim had never seen any pictures of herself in the first year of her life, besides the ones of Winona Morris walking out of the shuttle after her father's death with her in her arms, and had always assumed that it was because nobody cared to take any.

"Winnie came home one day, looked at you, and started to cry," Boyce says. "Chris told me that when he was still doing his dissertation on the Kelvin, I had a patient at the time so I couldn't be there for you."

"Chris said you reminded her too much of George, his colouring and all that." He continues, shifting to let a group of friends look at Jim for a moment, eyes wide, before moving on. "Winona Morris' first love had been your father, and then Sam, and then it should've been you."

"You have to remember she was twenty-seven when she had you, a widow, and a mother of two," Boyce says. "The pain of George's death was so great, she turned it into a drive to provide for you two. And when your eyes turned blue, well…"

Boyce looks away, his mouth pursed. "Well let's just say she ran away."

"Nobody stopped her?" Jim says, stopping in the middle of the street.

"No one could. And your mother, lovely woman as she was, caught the eye of some man." Boyce looks at her brilliant blue irises, and sighs, rubbing his eyes. "Some conversations really are best carried out in private over drinks, aren't they? I'm too sober to deal with your daddy issues, kid."

"Don't call me that."

"She could've been a good mother if she had had George by her side to share the burden if that Romulan ship had never entered this universe. She might not have left. And she did try to come back, but they wouldn't let her."

"Who?" Jim says, starting to walk again.

Boyce's wrinkles his forehead. "She wouldn't tell any of us, not even when we asked. Must be some real important folks though, she could never get out of those events she had."

Jim's suspicion is piqued. "What kind of events?"

The other man shrugs. "Winnie never said. Dropped off the grid almost completely. We just hoped she wasn't off drowning herself in drink somewhere, alone, ruining her liver."

"I hate blue sometimes," Jim says, veering off-topic suddenly. "Wish I'd been born with brown eyes."

"I can't imagine that."

"I've thought of changing the colour temporarily, just to get a feel of it. I could try hazel brown or a nice shade of green." Jim replies. "But I never seem to be able to find the time nowadays.'

"Blue's a good colour on you. Looks more natural that way," Boyce says, as they near the end of a street and stop before a parked holo-car. "And here's my ride home."

"Thanks for the talk, Boyce," Jim says genuinely. "Wanna get together for that drink next time I'm on leave?"

Boyce doesn't exactly say no outright, but he does give her a look that reminds her a bit of Bones, when he's being particularly nostalgic about Georgia. "Maybe, Kirk."

"Call me Jim, please," She says, softly.

"Stay safe." He just says.

And he leaves, moving with remarkable speed for an old doctor, into the crowd.

Jim's thinking about doing some belated spring cleaning in her quarters when her comm chimes. She's grateful she changed the ringtone to a softer sound rather than the original wail in her ear.

"Kirk here."

"Captain." Sulu's voice reaches her ears.

"Lieutenant." Jim immediately jumps to conclusions. "Is everything alright?"

"You haven't been answering your calls."

"I left my PADD in the apartment." Jim doesn't like bringing her Starfleet issued PADD along with her when she was on a walk. "And I was just speaking with a friend of Pike's."

"You should note that the Admirals have asked you to speak at the Enterprise's rededication ceremony next month. Repairs are nearly finished."

"I remember Scotty being really excited about that. I'll reply as soon as I get back." The blonde says, running a hand through her hair. "I got the memo days ago, is there something else you wanted to find me for?"

"I'm just back at HQ to grab some files during shore leave. I bumped into some admiral, Hunter I think, who told me to tell you to reconsider his offer."

"Hunter?" Jim tried not to sound too annoyed. "He told you his name."

"Yeah, he recognized me. Does he know you somehow?"

"We've met," Jim mutters. "He didn't tell you anything else, did he?"

"No, he didn't." Sulu's voice was firm. "Is there any reason why he might? Anything we need to worry about?"

"None at all. You should go home, get some rest. Word on the street is that you have-uh, found a man here, have fun with that guy."

"I shouldn't be surprised that you know," Sulu says, sounding amused. "Some of the crew are getting together in that new club- The Poison, downtown. Nine o'clock tonight. Do you want to come?"

"Must be that club Chekov was talking about going to. He's finally drinking." Jim muses, the curly-haired ensign had just turned eighteen onboard the ship. "In public that is."

"Bet you five credits that he's not as innocent as he pretends to be." Sulu laughs.

"I'll take that bet gladly," Jim says, laughing along.

"Still, you coming?"

"Hell yeah," Jim says. "I haven't had a concentrated drink in ages."

And by concentrated, she means vodka with an alcohol content of 40%.

Against the flashing and spinning lights, Jim can see with blurry eyes two Beta shift ensigns passed out on the floor, with Keenser gleefully taking pictures of Scotty snuggled into the tablecloth.

"Zdorovye!" Pavel- she can properly call him Pavel now that it was clear that he was winning the drinking contest- cheers as they knock back their shots. The kid was drinking her under the table.

Jim was starting to feel sick after the eighth shot. Pavel didn't even seem to be affected and slams the shot glass down onto the table harder than ever.

"That's it. You win." Jim groans. There are some whoops and cheers in the crowd of watchers as credits change hands. She isn't and will never be as drunk as the night she had on Andor, but she surrenders all the same.

She gets to her feet, trying to remember how to walk. Jim trips and someone manages to hold her up.

"Thanks…" She peers at his face. "Sulu?"

"You're welcome, Jim." Her helmsman replies, sipping from a green drink, his grip loosening on her arm. "You should really stop drinking."

"I'm fine." She slurs. "'M not a lightweight."

Sulu laughs. "No one said you were."


"Huh?" Sulu blinks. "Did I just hear-just hear you right or did you just say tomatoes?"

"You have an interest in botany, right?"

"Well yeah."

"Think about growing edinble-" Jim frowns, creasing her forehead. "Edible plants in space."

"That actually sounds like one of your not-so-bad ideas. You can open a lab for gardening."

"Aren't all my ideas good?"

The lines around the man's eyes crease as he smiles. "Keep telling yourself that, Jim."

With that, he finishes the drink and sets her against the wall. "I've gotta stop Chekhov before someone takes a shot at him."

"He's Ruuuuusian." She points out. "Should be fine. They're fast because they're always rushin'."

Jim laughs at her own pun, while Sulu looks less than amused. He looks around and his eyes light up with relief when he sees someone coming their way.

"I'll leave you with him."

She twists her head to see who it was, nearly slipping in the process.

"Woah, watch it, Jim." Bone's familiar Southern drawl echoes from the left. "You've had some hard liquor."

"Boooones!" She draws out, leaning against her best friend for support. "What brings ya here on this fine night?"

"Promise of good whiskey but all I get is this." He holds up a blue-tinted drink with some neon swirls in the liquid. "Scum of the earth."

"Those are niiiiice," Jim says, drawing out her words. "Now why don't you be a gentleman and get me one of those?"

"You're not supposed to drink. Your body isn't ready for this sort of stimulation."

Jim wrinkles her nose, her head was pounding. "I've just had a couple a' needles and some kinda custard cream and those shots with Chekov. I'm fine."

"As your personal physician, I think you're well on your way to getting alcohol poisoning. Didn't you read the list of rules I wrote?"

"My personal physician, you say?" Jim wraps her arms around his neck. "You'll always be my doctor, Bones."

"Please stop immediately," Bones is edging away from her, trying to pry her off him. "You're drunk. You should've read the rules."

"Boring!" She declares, flailing her arms gracelessly. "No one tells James T. Kirk what to do. What are you, a genius?"

"You're the genius, Jim."

"Awwww..." Jim trails off, putting a warm hand at the nape of Leonard's neck. "I'm smart, aren't I?"

Bones snorts in disgust, shakes Jim off of him, and drags her by the arm into a more secluded corner of the bar.

"You know I didn't plan to come." He says, staring down at her, Jim was wearing heels but he was still just a bit taller than her. "You missed an appointment today, with me and three specialists who specially asked to see you."

"Mhmm." Jim isn't there, tracing patterns onto the table beside them.

"You aren't paying attention, are you?" Bones sighs. "I'll get a drink."

The blonde immediately perks up at the prospect of a drink. "Go get one. Or maybe two. I'll be waiting for you, Leonard."

The doctor shudders at Jim's suggestive tone and walks off, leaving her making swirls on the table.

He comes back after Jim had taken off her shoes and placed them on the table, rubbing her sore feet.

"Were you raised in a barn? Put your shoes on."

"My feet hurt."

"Then you should've worn something sensible."

"But I look good, Bones." Jim is fluttering her eyelashes. "Don't I look good?"

He doesn't answer and instead sets a single drink onto the table. One glass of scotch.

"Tell me who this Hunter fellow is and you get the drink."

Jim turns half-sober at the name. "He's a nobody."

"Nobody doesn't send a man who claims to have been an assassin after a good ol' doctor like me. What does Hunter have to do with you?"

Jim knows the man would have been Alpha 2.0, to think that he seemed like an alright guy at first. "Did he threaten you?"

"No. He just pointed a phaser at my head." Bones' voice rises a pitch or so. Jim winces.

"You should've called me when I was sober to deal with this." Jim snaps. "I'll take care of it. Where did it happen?"

"Who's Hunter?"

Jim doesn't budge. She's fully awake now, if only the room would stop spinning. "Nobody important. This matter does not concern you, Bones.."

Leonard knows he isn't going to get an answer out of her any time soon and downs the scotch in one gulp, the liquid scorching down his throat.

He feels something inside him that wasn't right, because goddammit he wasn't a real Ole Miss graduate if he couldn't recognise being poisoned immediately.

Jim is looking at him, mouthing words he can't understand, her face is so tense, so open with fear, and it's the last thing Leonard sees before he passes out.

Alpha feels Delta before she comes. A figure in a dark coat down the empty street.

After all, she had proved to be a brilliant tracker on past missions. He could sense the boiling anger under her skin as she nears, making the hairs on his neck stand, seething and barely controlled.

He's heard stories of her loyalty, a fatal flaw if you asked him, Delta would let the world burn to save her loved ones.

He did look her up, the gaps in her profile were strange and he had dug deeper until he saw James T. Kirk for who she truly was. "You never said you had PTSD. Where did you get it?"

"Don't go off-subject," Her voice is edged with steel. "Did you do it?"

"Do what?" He turns to face her, a condescending smile on his face.

"You know what." Delta is humouring him.

"Is it because Hunter met with Mr. Sulu a few days ago?" He says flippantly. "Or with Mr. Spock the week before?"

"Don't play games with me. Don't ever believe you're capable of that," She hisses. "Why did you poison Dr. McCoy?"

"I didn't. None of us did." Jim knows he is telling the truth. He was looking right into her eyes, solemn and knowing. "If anything common sense suggests that the poisoned drink was intended for you."

"This doesn't make me feel any better, Alpha."

"But if this was all it took for you to seek us out directly, Delta, we would've done it a long time ago."

The blonde's face is empty of emotion, Alpha knows he said something wrong and it's too late to backtrack now. Her gaze is as cold as liquid nitrogen. He expects the punch before it comes, hard and strong.

There's blood pouring out of his broken nose and he sets it with a grimace. Delta is quivering with rage as he wipes the blood off his face.

He chuckles at Delta's angry expression. "Direct that hit at someone else, because Section 31 is not responsible for the attack on Dr. McCoy's life."

"You pressed a gun to his forehead, don't you dare say you weren't responsible," Delta exhales deeply after that, pinching the bridge of her nose. "I'm getting so damn anxious these days. It's your fault you know."

She doesn't apologise. Alpha shakes his head slightly at the comment. "You were already a screw-up before you came to us. I'm only doing my job."

"You don't even have a real job." She snorts, preparing to leave. Alpha stops her with a hand on her arm.

Surprisingly, Delta doesn't struggle and instead fixes him with a piercing look that would've sent fear into hearts of lesser men.

"Hands off." She says lowly.

And he takes his hand off her arm.

"We could give you a lead." Alpha launches into the sales pitch. "The bartender."

"You don't think I haven't checked her out already? I'm not making a bargain with you bastards anytime soon." Delta says cooly, though he senses her interest. "But I will come back to work."

Alpha smiles, baring his teeth. "Good."

Then she has him by the collar and is pushing him up against the wall, applying pressure to his windpipe. He thought she was still in a recovery period- there was no way she could be this strong.

"But under no circumstances will Hunter ever lay his filthy hands on any of my crew. Or I will rip him apart." Delta presses harder, her eyes bear a promise of retribution, and Alpha chokes, struggling for air. Perhaps it was a bad time to notice how she had excellent form. "You tell him that word for word."

"You tell him that Jim Kirk always keeps her promises."

Author's notes:

Title inspired by FOB's Centuries.

Finally have the time to update this fic. Just kidding, I have AP exams in less than two weeks, but I've had this bit in my head for a while now. Question: Where is Kodos? I don't know, chilling on some planet, sipping a glass of wine, watching the world burn, I guess.

So Bones has been poisoned, which sucks for him, and Jim is out there trying to find the culprit (kicking names and taking ass). Question: Who did that? Answer will be revealed in the next update.

In the meantime, thanks for reviewing, following, and favoriting this story! :)

Update (Nov 11, 2018): better grammar, more story(?). Also I passed AP English lang with a 4, which is fine.

Update (April 26, 2020): I hope everyone is safe. Noticed some misuse of commas when I reread this chapter, so I made minor amendments. Will try to actually post the next one soon.