A/N: The Enterprise is in her final adventures of the voyage. Much has happened and much has been learned.

Chapter Seventeen

Freedom from the Past

The Enterprise began their return trip to Earth. They were scheduled for two stops along the way. One was for a medical check up of a group of scientist and one to deliver much needed supplies from Starbase 12 to a small planet in the Orion belt.

Captain Kirk was having a tough time getting to sleep. Nights were the worst for his memories and loneliness to creep in. It was 0200 hours and he had been awake all night. He dressed quickly and went for a walk through out the ship. He knew every sound and creak that the old girl made. The few crewmen that were around would nod briefly and keep going. Word had spread that he roamed the ship most nights for several hours.

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Lucas had tossed in the bed all night. He didn't want to wake Joanna so he slipped out of bed and dressed. He left a note in case she woke up and found him missing.

He stretched before he left and went to the mess hall for a cup of coffee. No one was around so he went for a walk. He sipped his coffee as he went. As he turned the corner he almost collided with a body.

"Lucas!"

He looked up at his father who had coffee spilled down his shirt. "Dad, I'm sorry." He used his own sleeve to wipe him off and tried not to chuckle.

"What are you doing up at this hour?"

"Dad, I could ask you the same. I just couldn't sleep. You?"

"Same. Care to walk?"

"Sure."

They walked slowly as Lucas sipped what was left of his coffee. There was a quiet hum and the Captain asked, "Do you hear that?"

Lucas stopped and listened. "No, sir."

"That's the heat coming on. You'll hear the metal moan a little as it contracts and expands." They walk silently before he said, "You have to know your ship, Lucas, inside and out. Know how she moves and behaves. There is many a night Mr. Scott and I wound up searching for a particular sound that wasn't natural."

"Sometimes when I'm at the helm, I feel the same thing."

"You need to mention that to whoever is in command."

"Yes, sir, it's just that if I can't pinpoint it…."

"You're afraid of making a mistake."

"Yes, sir."

"It's those little things that the engineer or Mr. Spock may have been looking at. "Don't be afraid to speak up. Perhaps I should hold a meeting on the subject," he looked at his son with question.

"Maybe a question and answer session once in a while, sir."

They continued to walk and discuss a few things. Lucas asked, "Dad, what are your plans when we get to Earth?"

The Captain sighed and said, "Days and days of meetings, I'm afraid."

Lucas moaned for him. "Won't they give you some time off?"

"Yes. I'll probably go to the ranch, but Miriam has an aunt who lives in Old New York. I have a few of Miriam's things that maybe she'd like."

"I can go with you."

"No, you and Joanna need your time together."

Lucas stifle a yawn and said, "How long of a leave will we have?"

"I'm not at liberty to say. Top secret," he smiled.

Lucas chuckled and said, "I better get back and try to sleep, I'm on duty at 0600 hours. What about you, Dad?"

"Soon. It's been nice walking with you, Lucas."

"Yes, it has, Dad, and if you change your mind about me going with you, let me know."

"I will, good night."

"Better get a clean shirt, too. Night, Captain," he replied as two crewmen passed them.

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Several days later on the bridge the Captain noticed Mr. Spock seemed to be distracted. It did not interfere with his performance on the job, but knowing his First Officer as well as he did, he knew something was bothering him.

As he sat reading reports at the conn from different departments a request for a transfer came up. The name almost caused the Captain to jump out of his seat, Mrs. Christine Spock. He looked at his first officer and quietly walked up to him.

"Spock, is everything okay?"

He looked up from his scanner and said, "Yes, Captain, why do you ask?"

Kirk lowered his voice and said, "You seem distracted."

"I am sorry, sir if I am. I will correct my attention."

"That's okay. It's just if you need something, you will tell me, won't you?"

"Yes, Captain."

Kirk was irritated by the formalness of the conversation, but he could not bring up the fact that his wife was asking for a transfer, if he was not aware of it.

"Very well, then, if you're okay, I'd like to take a couple hours break. I haven't been sleeping and I feel a need to crash."

"By all means, Captain."

"Call me in two hours, Spock."

"Yes, sir."

The Captain slept through his wake up call. Spock gave him another half an hour and tried again with no success.

"Mr. Sulu, take the con."

"Yes, sir."

Spock went quickly to his Captains quarters. He was not alarmed because he knew the Captain was short on sleep. He buzzed and heard, "Come."

Spock walked in to see the Captain dressed and reading at his desk.

"Captain, you did not answer your wake up call."

"I know. I did so, on purpose."

Spock raised his eye brow and said, "If you needed my assistance, Captain, you just needed to ask."

"Have a seat, Spock."

"Yes, sir."

"This is personal, Spock, you don't have to be formal."

Spock nodded.

"I've been trying to decide whether to tell you about something, but by your behavior I have a feeling you already know."

Spock did not betray any emotion and was quiet. Kirk swallowed deeply and said, "Spock, are you and Christine, having problems?'

"Jim, that is between she and I."

"Not anymore, Spock. I just received a transfer request from her."

Spock was slow in checking his reflex. "I did not know she went through with it."

"Spock, you know I can't okay a transfer and split up a married couple without reason. I can't okay transfers willy nillly."

Spock remained quiet and looked down.

"Spock?"

Spock stood and paced the room slowly. "I should have come to you sooner, Jim, but you were having your own troubles."

Kirk stood up and went to his friend, "What is it, Spock?"

Spock's eyes shimmered and it caused Kirk's stomach to flutter.

"I don't really know, Jim. Of late, she's been moody."

"Moody?"

"Yes, crying for no reason. Throwing things around the room and always complaining about how hot she is. I've tried to get her to talk, but she refuses. She said, 'I wouldn't understand'."

"That hardly sounds like, Christine."

"No, Jim, I've wondered if she has an ailment of some sort, but when I bring it up she,…."

"Yes?"

"Asks me to leave our quarters."

"How long has this been going on?"

"Off and on for months."

Kirk turned from him and sat at his desk. "Spock, how old is Christine?:"

"Sir, what would her age have to do with anything?"

"Hear me out, how old is she?"

"She will be 46 this July."

"Yes, that's about the right age."

"Sir?"

"She may be entering her time of 'change'."

"I am unaware of what you're talking about."

"No doubt you are. Spock, human women around the ages of 40-50 go through a physiological change. It involves their hormones. Similar to your Pon Farr, but not as extreme. They usually can not have children after this time."

Spock cocked his head and sat across from his friend. "Jim, why would she want to leave me?"

Kirk sighed and said, "We need Bones to come in this conversation. I only know the basics. Do you mind?"

Spock thought for a minute, "If he can help get my wife back, I will let him do what he must."

Kirk smiled and said, "Good." He reached for the inter-com and said, "Dr. McCoy to the Captain's quarters, please."

"On my way, Jim."

Kirk and Spock sat in silence. McCoy was at the door in seconds.

"Come," Kirk answered the buzz.

"Well, having a coffee klatch without me, boys?"

"Have a seat, Bones, Spock has a few questions about Christine."

"You mean, why is she so grumpy? Why is she throwing things and generally scaring the young nurses to tears? The other day I just looked at her and she got up, crying and left her post."

"We were just discussing the same thing. I'll let you continue, Spock."

"Dr. McCoy, Jim tells me that women go through a change between their forties and fifties. Christine will be 46 this July."

"Ah, I thought, this may be the reason. Spock has she talked with you about it?"

"No, she just says, 'I wouldn't understand'. And quite frankly right now I do not understand."

"Bones, she's put in for a transfer."

"What! She can't do that, she's my best nurse. Besides, they're married,…."

"So you see, we have a problem."

"Yes, Jim, I see. I can't bring it up with her as her boss."

"But if it's interfering with her job you can." Kirk said.

"Yes. I can wait until something else goes flying across the room and talk with her. Likely it will be today, she's not much better than yesterday. Spock, she knows there are medications, safe medications that help women in this time. I guess it's hard for them to face the fact that they are getting older, but I won't say anything if you'd rather try."

"Dr. McCoy, it is not proper for another man to bring this up with another man's wife. However, I give you my permission, if the occasion arises."

"Alright, I'll try. Spock, in the meantime, I'll prepare a tape on the changes that females go through at this time in their life. It will be very helpful. You need to know the physiology and psychology of the situation."

Kirk spoke up, "I'll return to the bridge Spock. You can pick up the tape and go have a look at it. In the meantime, I will deny her transfer until she comes and speaks with me."

McCoy and Spock left. Kirk splashed some cold water on his face and said out loud to himself, "Women, we can't live with 'em and we can't live without 'em, but I'd give anything to have you back, Miriam."

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Mr. Spock retreated to his quarters and studied the tape that Dr. McCoy had prepared for him. He came away with a much clearer understanding. He also knew his wife and she would be furious if Dr. McCoy said the wrong thing to her. He made haste to sick bay.

When he entered he heard yelling going on down the hall. "I said, no, Dr. McCoy!" It was Christine's voice he heard. Nurses were acting like they were busy as he made his way down the hall. He stood in the door way and saw his wife leaning over Dr. McCoy's desk ready to start arguing with him again.

Sternly he said, "Christine."

She looked up in surprise and said, "I don't want to talk to you, Spock."

"I need to speak with you, my wife. Now. In our quarters." He stepped aside and held his arm out pointing the way down the hall.

Christine collected herself and looked at her beloved friend and boss and said, "I apologize, Dr. McCoy."

"It's quite alright, dear."

Spock and Christine walked in silence to their quarters. Christine was a jumble of nerves and on the verge of crying. Spock softly touched her hand as they walked. He stepped aside and let her go in first. She went through their outer office and stood in their private quarters not sure what to do.

Spock got them a large cup of Vulcan tea. He knew the conversation would start out serious. He chose to start at their table in front of their window.

"Come, dear."

He allowed her to sip her tea for a short while. He whispered, "Christine, I hope you know that I love you."

At his soft words she wanted to cry, but she grew tense instead, bracing herself for his calm disappointment.

"I have spent a good part of the morning reading medical studies about women, Human women to be exact."

"Spock, I can't….."

A little firmer he said, "You must listen to me."

She nodded her head but would not look at him.

"I learned that women your age go through a difficult time of change. It involves your hormones, but all of this you are very familiar with. My questions to you are, why would you keep this from me? Why would you choose to leave me without discussing this?"

Christine swallowed some tea and began, "My mother went through 'the change' many years ago. She was brutal, Spock. She berated my father and he stood there and took it from her. I tried talking to her, but she refused to get help. She said she had tried medications and it didn't help her. I am afraid I have the same genes as her. I could not stand to put you through what I saw my mother do to my father. That's why I put in for a transfer. It sounds so silly now." She looked into the dark brown eyes of the only man she ever loved and started to shake.

Spock stood and came around to her side of the table, "Christine." He lifted her from her seat and held her in his arms. He tucked her head under his chin and closed his eyes. Her body continued to tremble.

At last the tears flowed from her eyes. She choked out, "Spock, I am so sorry."

Spock rocked her gently in his arms. He stroked her hair and like a fallen child, he picked her up and went to their couch. He sat with her on his lap and held her until she could cry no more.

She reached up and stroked his masculine jaw line. Spock leaned down and with a strong desire he kissed her. First, her lips, her face and he held the palms of her hands against his. She leaned back on the couch and he caressed her until they could no longer hold back. He took her to their bed where they would be more comfortable.

As he laid next to her he said, "I will never leave you, Christine."

She held his face in her hands and cried, "I could never leave you, Spock. I love you."

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After some trial and error, Christine was able to find a medication that was suited to her body.

One evening as they were reading in their quarters Spock looked up at Christine and said, "My wife?"

"Yes, Spock."

"I recall being sternly told by someone in this room that I should feel free to tell her anything about the Vulcan species that she needed to know, without fear of being embarrassed."

Christine looked up and said, "Yes, dear, I believe I remember that conversation."

Spock stood up and pulled her to her feet. He placed her arms around his neck and looked in her eyes, "It works both ways, young lady."

She tried to respond, but Spock's kisses were too demanding. His caresses led to other pleasant sensations and the reading was set aside.

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The first stop was at Starbase 7 to pick up the supplies needed for the planet Delta Orionis in the Orion belt.

"Mr. Sulu hold before we orbit."

"Aye, Captain."

"Lt. Uhura, please open a channel to Starbase 7."

"Yes, sir. Channel open."

"Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise requesting permission to negotiate a general orbit."

"Permission granted, Captain and welcome."

"Thank you, Kirk out."

"Ensign Spock, plot the course for entry."

"Aye, sir."

"Sulu, take her in. Slow and easy."

"Yes, sir."

"Mr. Spock and Mr. Scott will you join me in beaming over?"

"Yes, sir," they answered.

"Sulu you have the con."

"Aye, sir."

"Lt. Uhura, contact shipping and have them prepare for incoming items, and tell Dr. McCoy to meet us in the transporter room."

"Yes, Captain."

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The four top officers gathered in the transporter room. "Just a short lay over, gentlemen. I thought we'd check out the area."

McCoy said, "You mean check out the nearest bar."

"Now, Bones, that's for you and Mr. Scott, Spock and I have bigger fish to fry."

"Captain, you never said we were going fishing."

Mr. Scott smirked and the Captain said, "A different kind of fish, Spock." He turned to Scotty and McCoy and said, "One hour gentlemen, and no trouble."

"Hardly enough time to taste a drink," Bones mumbled.

As they beamed aboard Kirk chuckled at his friends comment.

Scotty and McCoy left to investigate the local pubs.

"Captain, which fish shall we fry?" Spock asked.

"You know, Spock, I think you have more of a command of the English language than you let on."

Spock simply raised both eye brows and remained silent.

"We're meeting with Commodore Randal. He has an interesting group of scientists who would like to study on Earth while we are laid up. The three scientists are from Vulcan."

"Vulcan, Captain? What field of science?"

"That I'm not sure, but I thought you could interview them and see what you thought," the Captain stopped and paused, "Spock, I wondered if you would like to see more Vulcan's on the ship?"

"Captain, Vulcan's or not, it depends on their qualifications. Are you asking would I feel more at home with more Vulcan's on board? Jim, I assure you, the Enterprise is my home."

"I know how you feel, Spock."

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Mr. Scott and Dr. McCoy entered the first pub they found. The lights were bright and the music low. They had a good view of the room and they could hear themselves talk.

"Maybe we're getting older Scotty, but I find dark, loud bars not enjoyable anymore. This is much better."

"Aye, Lad, it's better to see the ladies looking at us from over the other side of the room, too."

"Too bad, we can't stay longer. Uh, here comes a couple," McCoy said softly.

A dark haired lieutenant said, "Afternoon, gentlemen, do you mind if we join you?"

Scotty answered, "Aye, lasses, have a seat. This is my good friend Dr. Leonard McCoy, and I'm Lt. Commander Scott, Scotty to me friends."

"This is Lt. Lisa and I'm Lt. Mary from the USS Franklin."

"The Franklin, we just lent you three pilots for some training exercises several months back."

"Yes, we saw them in the mess room, several times. Too young and uninterested in us, but you two will do just fine."

McCoy was sure he heard her purr. His inner longing began to stir. A long conversation began on the merits of each of their ships. Scotty kept buying drinks all around and McCoy lost track after four.

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After meeting with Commodore Randall and the three Vulcan scientists, it was agreed to bring them aboard and take them to Earth for short term studies. Starfleet would decide after that if they would join the Enterprise on her next two year leg.

The Captain sent Mr. Spock with the Vulcan's and their gear to beam aboard the Enterprise. The three were travelling light, so in no time they were ready.

"Spock, I'll see you later, I'll try and find Scotty and Bones."

"Yes, Captain."

Kirk pulled out his communicator but was unable to reach his two officers. He mumbled to himself, "How many bars will I have to go through to find those two?"

He started from where they beamed down and after twenty minutes he walked into a pub and knew he had found the correct establishment.

A voice heavy on the Scottish side was telling a long tale of his supreme courage to a couple of pretty women. McCoy had long since dropped his head to the table.

Kirk walked up to his officers and said, "Sorry to interrupt your afternoon gentlemen, but we must return to our ship."

"Ah, Captain, may I introduce you to Lieutenants Lisa and Mary from the USS Franklin. They are in orbit on the other side of the station."

Captain Kirk said, "Good afternoon, ladies, I hate to break up the party, but we must be on our way. Scotty, help me collect the good doctor here."

Scotty was well known to be able to drink any man under the table and walk away as if he'd been sipping a summer tea.

"Aye, Captain, I'll help ye."

The dead weight of his ship's chief medical officer made it difficult to maneuver. "Nice meeting you ladies, good day." Scotty said.

When Kirk got outside of the pub he growled at his friend, "Scotty, I ought to throw you in the brig."

"Captain, I dinna do anything, wrong."

"I left you two alone for a little over an hour and look at your condition. Jeez he's heavy."

"The good doctor, dinna know how to hold his liqueur. Oh, Captain, can ye hold on a sec?"

"No, Mr. Scott, get back here." Kirk tried to hold up the doctor. He finally let him slide to the ground and pulled out his communicator.

"Kirk to Enterprise, prepare to beam three up."

"Ready when you are, Captain."

Mr. Scott return with a slight bulge in both back pockets. He helped to stand up the doctor and the Captain said nothing about what was in his pockets.

"Energize," the Captain said.

Mr. Scott helped to get the doctor to his quarters. Christine gave the doctor a shot and a disgusted look to go with it. "Don't worry, Captain, we'll keep an eye on him."

"Sorry, Christine, he got away from me. Mr. Scott to my quarters, please."

"Aye, sir."

Scotty stood at attention in the Captain's quarters. The Captain paced in front of him several times trying to think of the right thing to say to his favorite engineer. He finally stopped and held out his hand.

"Oh, Captain, are ye sure?"

"Yes, Scotty."

He pulled out one bottle of brandy from his left pocket. The Captain took it and held out his hand again, "The other one, Mr. Scott."

"Captain," he moaned.

Mr. Scott pulled the other bottle out of his right pocket.

"You're dismissed, Scotty, but confined to quarters for the rest of the day."

"Aye, sir. Sorry, Captain, I hope we dinna cause too much trouble, sir."

"No, Mr. Scott, carry on."

"Aye, Captain."

The Enterprise finished their journey after doing medical checkups on the scientists at a secluded outpost. They entered orbit on Earth and began an eight week at home shore leave. Afterward distant lands waited to be explored by the Captain and his crew.

Freedom from the Past:

Here is the key to being free from the stranglehold of the past: learn the lesson and forget the details. Gain from your experiences but refuse to roll over and over in your mind all the details. No matter what your past may have been, your future is spotless.

Max Amstutz, Chaplain

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