Disclaimer: Star Trek and characters are Paramount's property, and I certainly don't make any money of my stories. Copyright 2004 by Lou Ellen Gooding. Rated PG. This is my second Star Trek story. And for me it's a short story. Thanks to Julie Harmer for betaing the story for me.


Aftermath - The City on the Edge of Forever

Lou Ellen Gooding


What a joyous reunion of three friends it should have been. As soon as Edith Keeler mentioned Dr. McCoy's name, I was running to find Spock. Then, I saw Bones standing in the doorway, even Spock seemed to smile and we all slapped each other on the back. I wasn't sure we would find Bones in this Earth of the past. I don't know what made me turn to look at Edith, I heard the truck, but I couldn't take my eyes off of Edith. I started for her but stopped when Spock yelled "No, Jim." Edith's eyes mirrored her curiosity but I thought I saw a pleading look, 'Don't let me die, Jim?' In that moment I hated myself and Bones for causing us to come here and Spock for telling me Edith had to die. I grabbed Bones and stopped him, every word he said to me was a knife through my heart. "You deliberately stopped me, Jim. I could have saved her. Do you know what you just did?" I pushed him away as Spock said, "He knows, Doctor, he knows."


The rest of the trip was a blur. Spock rushed us back to the room we occupied those weeks. Always taking care of details, Spock made sure we changed back to our uniforms. My mind only slightly registered the fact Bones was watching me as Spock dismantled the device he hooked up to his tricorder. When Spock commented, "We need to destroy this equipment," the chair seemed to materialize in my hands and I hit the board over and over until every tube was broken and the chair was in pieces. Did this help? No. The trip back through the Guardian was as instantaneous as before. I think Uhura and Scotty talked to me but I couldn't absorb anything more. All I could say was, "Let's get the hell out of here!"


We arrived in the transporter room with Dr. M'Benga and Nurse Chapel anxiously waiting for us. Spock briefly explained what had happened on the planet and with M'Benga's help, they quickly herded us to Sickbay despite the vocal protests of Dr. McCoy. Dr. M'Benga made sure the entire landing party was being examined. "Let's go, Captain. You're next." Dr. M'Benga was talking to me and then I registered the stares of the landing party. Ignoring everyone, I walked out of the sickbay. The stars, I need to be alone and see the stars.


Spock took control as Bones began demanding answers. "Dammit, Spock, what is going on? What is wrong with Jim? He has some questions to answer." Spock ignored Bones and gave Christine an order. "Nurse Chapel, follow the Captain and stay with him. Do not leave him alone." Christine gave Spock a questioning look but when he almost shouted, "NOW," she acknowledged his order and hurried out the door.


Bones made an attempt to leave the exam bed. "Dr. McCoy, you will stay here. We are not done." Dr. M'Benga pushed Bones back on the bed


"Damn you, someone tell me what is going on." The tension in the room was electric. Scotty and Uhura were at a loss to understand what had happened. The Captain clearly was upset about something and Bones was just furious. "Dr. M'Benga, you have a patient to see too, please do so." With these words, Spock went in an office area to use the intercom.


"Leonard, calm down, your blood pressure is spiking and that is making it hard to get accurate readings." Dr. M'Benga watched the readings and had the nurse draw blood to check to see if the cordrazine was out of his system. Thankfully, Bones had quieted down somewhat but he continued to mumble to himself.


Spock returned from the office area and motioned Dr. M'Benga to his side. The two talked quietly for a few seconds, then M'Benga grabbed a medical kit and followed Spock. He stopped at the door and addressed his comments to the nurse in charge of Dr. McCoy. "Dr. McCoy is to stay in bed until I return to check his test results, if he tries to leave sedate him and use restraints."


M'Benga heard the roar he expected. "The hell you will, not in my Sickbay ..." The rest of the comments were, thankfully, muffled by the closing door.


M'Benga hurried to catch up with Spock, as they headed to the observation deck. Spock had contacted Nurse Chapel and she had reported the Captain was watching the stars. M'Benga caught up with Spock as they approached the door to the Observation deck. "Mr. Spock, before we go in, please give me a brief explanation of the Captain's problem."


"In order to correct a change in history caused by Dr. McCoy entering a time portal, the Captain and I returned to Earth, circa 1930. Dr. McCoy prevented the death of a young woman which was the pivotal event in history, the Captain stopped McCoy from saving this woman. We had come to know her and I believe the Captain was deeply in love with her. In addition, the Captain may not be in his top physical condition, he did not eat or sleep much from the time we realized this woman must die."


Dr. M'Benga sighed, "You realize, Dr. McCoy is the better psychiatrist."


"I understand and as soon as he is cleared medically I will explain to him what occurred. We must see to the Captain and then we can discuss the situation with Dr. McCoy." Spock sincerely hoped the doctor would be able to help Jim.


* * *


The stars are so bright when the room is darkened, where is the Orion Belt, there it is to the left. I told Edith about the novelist who preferred the words, "Let me help." But, did I help her? No, I let her die. I stopped McCoy and let her die. I loved her and I let her die.


Jim did not appear to notice Christine in the background. Mr. Spock nodded to Christine as he entered the room and moved toward the Captain. "Jim?" Spock tried to get Jim's attention.


"...Spock?" Spock is here. Maybe he can help me. No, no one can help me. I could have saved her and I didn't.


"Jim, you must return to your quarters and rest." Spock braced himself for the flood of emotions and then touched Jim's arm. An overwhelming sense of despair and grief flooded his mind. He tightened his shields and was able to cope with the emotions.


"Yes, my quarters, okay." Jim allowed himself to be led from the room. Over and over, he said to himself, "It's my fault she's dead, I killed her."


Dr. M'Benga briefly gave Christine the same explanation Spock had given him. Again, Jim lost track of time and suddenly he was in his quarters. Spock steered him to his bed and it only took a slight push to get him to sit down. Spock was relieved to have the presence of Dr. M'Benga and Christine Chapel. Dealing with human emotional situations were challenging for him. Christine stepped forward to help with the Captain's shirt. He offered no resistance and Christine felt like she was undressing a child who was half asleep. Next, she removed his boots and they laid him flat on his bed. M'Benga pulled out a sedative vial and placed it on the hypo. He stepped forward and pressed the hypo to the Captain's neck and his eyes closed into blissful oblivion. "Christine, hand me the scanner." He ran it over Jim's body and checked the readings. "You are right Mr. Spock. The Captain is in need of rest and nutrition. I am also detecting signs of shock. Christine, call sick bay and have the portable diagnostic machine brought here, an intravenous nutrition supplement and IV fluids."


Spock tried to sort through the feelings forced on him when he touched Jim. The despair and guilt he felt were staggering. Would Jim be able to recover? As humans were apt to say, time would tell. Spock tried to pull his Vulcan mask back into place when he noticed Dr. M'Benga studying him. At that moment, the equipment arrived and Dr. M'Benga and Christine were busy hooking the Captain up to the IV's. "Mr. Spock, the Captain is in shock and with rest and nutrition he may snap out of it. We need to give him time and also discuss his treatment with Dr. McCoy."


"Very well, I suggest we return to Sickbay before the good Doctor puts his entire staff on report."


"Christine, stay with the Captain and continue to monitor him," Dr. M'Benga said as he exited the room.


When they entered the sickbay, they could hear Dr. McCoy berating his staff and demanding they locate Spock and M'Benga. "Calm yourself, Leonard. We are here."


"Where the hell have you been, M'Benga? You have a lot of explaining to do." McCoy was ready to lay into Dr. M'Benga but stopped when Spock interrupted him.


"Dr. McCoy, if you will shut up for one minute, I will explain to you what happened." For Spock, he was showing an amazing lack of control. Bones stopped and actually studied Spock's face. He could see lines of worry which had not been there previously.


"I'm listening, Spock."


"Doctor, do you remember going through the Guardian?"


"Barely, up to the point of waking up in Edith Keeler's mission, everything is very fuzzy. Were we really in the past, Earth's past?"


"Yes, we were. The Captain and I spent some time there as we waited for you to arrive." Spock gave them an account of their time on Earth. They laughed when Spock described the incident when Jim stole the clothes and his attempt to explain Spock's ears. As he explained their interactions with Edith Keeler, it dawned on Bones.


"He loved her, didn't he, Spock?"


"Yes, I believe he did. When I determined Edith Keeler was the focal point in time, Jim did not take it well."


"I'll bet not." Bones remembered his comments when he thought Jim had caused the death of Edith Keeler. With a groan, his words repeated over and over in his head. "Why isn't Jim in the sickbay? We need to check him out."


Dr. M'Benga looked up from his reports. "He's in his quarters, sedated and on IV's. We are going to need your expertise in helping him through this situation, but for now, I need to hook you up to IV's as your blood work indicates the medication is not clear of your system. By morning, you should be out of Sick Bay, as a patient that is."


"Are you sure Jim will sleep through the night?"


"Positive, Leonard, and Christine is with him with orders to keep a close watch on him through the night," Dr. M'Benga replied.


Spock left the sickbay satisfied Dr. McCoy now understood the situation. He stopped at the Captain's door and entered without buzzing. Christine looked up from the computer pad she was recording on. She started to get up but Spock waved her back into the chair. He walked over to Jim's bed and stood staring at his Captain and his friend. He checked the monitors and found the readings acceptable. It was not Vulcan but he wished he could remove Jim's pain, he knew he could not do this but he would stay close and help him as much as possible. Christine watched as Spock observed the Captain. His Vulcan mask was back in place and she couldn't read his face at all. She felt sorry for the Captain as obviously he was in pain from his experience in the past.


"Report any changes in the Captain's condition to Dr. M'Benga immediately."


"Of course, Mr. Spock." Christine watched Spock as he left the room and shook her head in confusion. She returned to her charting prepared for a long night.


* * *


Dr. M'Benga arrived at the Captain's quarters at 0800 to relieve Christine and check on his patient's condition. He buzzed the door and as it opened he heard Christine trying to keep her patient in bed. "Captain, let me call Dr. M'Benga and have him check you out and he can decide if you can be taken off the IV's."


"Well, Captain, I see you are feeling better since you are giving Christine a hard time." Dr. M'Benga approached the bed and checked the monitors.


"Dr. M'Benga, I have a ship to take care of and if you can get these IV's off me I can do my job." Jim didn't want to talk about what had happened over the past few days. If he was honest with himself, he couldn't even remember how he had arrived at his quarters.


Dr. M'Benga checked the readings and was satisfied enough to remove the IV's. Jim sat up on the side of the bed and wished for a long hot shower. "Well, Captain, you can rest in your quarters today and Dr. McCoy will be by as soon as he is released from the Sickbay."


"Bones is in sickbay? He's okay, isn't he?"


"He still had part of the drug in his system and we needed to flush it out, he will decide when you are fit to return to duty. Christine, you are off duty now. Get some rest. I will stay with the Captain until Dr. McCoy stops by." Christine gratefully left knowing Dr. M'Benga had his hands full.


"I don't need a nurse maid, Doctor. I just need a shower and then I can return to duty."


"You are on medical leave until we determine you are fit for duty. Can you tell me anything that happened to you after you returned to the ship yesterday?"


"That doesn't make any difference, as I'm fine now."


"I thought not, you were in shock yesterday and we had to sedate you. As I said earlier, Dr. McCoy will see you later."


Jim sighed and headed for the shower. He hoped if he stayed in the shower long enough, Dr. M'Benga would be gone. He was right, but Spock had replaced Dr. M'Benga. He sighed and headed to the dresser to grab a clean uniform.


"Good morning, Captain." Spock had promised to stay until Dr. McCoy came by.


"Morning, Spock. What's the ship status?" Jim was determined to only discuss
non-personal matters.


"All of the waves of time displacement have been plotted. We have moved further away from the planet to avoid any mishaps. Our initial record reached Starfleet and they are waiting for a final report on the planet, which will be ready to transmit as so as you review ..."


Neither of them heard Dr. McCoy enter the room until he interrupted Spock. "He won't be working on any reports until I clear him for duty."


Jim glared at Bones and pulled on his boots. "Bones, just release me for duty and let me get back to work."


"Not going to happen. Not until we talk about the events of the past few days." Bones grabbed the only chair in the sleeping area and had a seat.


"Captain, if you will excuse me, I'm on duty and should be on the bridge." Spock was out the door before he received a reply.


'Coward,' Jim thought to himself. "Well Bones, when are you going to let me get back to work?"


"I told you we need to talk about this mission."


"What's to talk about? We traveled to the past, fixed history, saved you and returned home." He managed to recite this litany without letting any emotion show.


"It wasn't so simple. Spock gave us the shortened version. When are you going to tell me what happened with Edith Keeler?"


"Bonessss! Just drop it and clear me for duty." So much for controlling his emotions.


"Jim, I know I hurt you when I didn't understand why you allowed Edith to die. Tell me what you are feeling?"


"Tell you what I'm feeling. I let a woman die. An innocent woman who did nothing but dream of a better world in a situation that would have broken most people." Jim stood up as he talked and started for the door but he almost fell on his face and Bones helped him back to the bed.


'Well that was a great start,' Bones thought. "Jim, stay put and rest. I'll give you some time to yourself but this discussion is not over. One of the nurses will be by every hour to check your vitals, so don't go anywhere."


Bones left and headed to his office and pulled up the report Spock had left on his computer. Bones noted it was from Spock's personal log and not the one which would be transmitted to Starfleet.


He was interrupted by a call from the bridge. "Dr. McCoy, this is Spock, will you be free to meet with me in twenty minutes?"


"I'll be in my office, Spock," Bones replied.


Spock entered before Bones had completed the report. "Doctor, it is necessary for me to transmit the final report of our mission as soon as possible. I would prefer to have the Captain review the report before sending it to Starfleet."


"Very well, Spock. I'll let you show it to him." Spock turned to leave when Bones stopped him.


"Spock, let me know how it goes."


"Understood, Doctor."


Working on the computer was not helping Jim keep his thoughts in the present. He continued to think about Edith, the softness of her skin and the faint smell of perfume. The buzzer pulled him out of his brooding. "Come."


"Captain, Dr. McCoy gave permission for you to review the mission report so that I can transmit it to Starfleet, we have received several inquiries for more information." Spock handed Jim the data pad.


Jim took the pad without comment. He started reading the report and even though Spock had written it from a detached point of view, he was having trouble concentrating. He began to remember his time with Edith. The image of holding her in his arms and the feel of her hands caressing his face was more than he could take.


"Captain. Jim, are you okay?" Spock knew Jim was not reading the report as his eyes were focused on the far wall.


"Uh, yes, Spock. Go ahead and transmit the report as it is."


Spock searched for a way to pull his Captain back to the present. "Jim, would you care for a game of chess?"


"No, not today. I need to get out of this room for a while. I believe I will go for a walk. I need to stretch my legs."


"Jim, would be you like company?"


"No, Spock, I don't think so. I'll talk to you later." Jim stopped at the door to ask one more question. "By the way, did you download your tricorder with the Guardian information?"


Spock raised his eyebrows at the rejection of his company. "Yes, will there be anything else?"


"No, Spock, I just need some time alone." Jim left and headed for the Observation lounge.


Spock stood in the hallway for a few minutes and watched Jim walk down the hall. He noted the sagging of his shoulders and the lack of his usual vitality. Spock decided to call the Doctor from his quarters to let him know the results of his visit with Jim.


"Thanks for trying, Spock. I'll track him down in an hour or so, I want to give him a little space but he should also get some rest."


"Keep me posted, Doctor." Spock steepled his hands as he contemplated how to help his friend and Captain. Spock wanted to help but he was at a loss of what to say or do.


Jim retreated back to his quarters before he reached the Observation Deck. He appreciated his crews welcome home wishes but he wanted to be alone. After four or five encounters with his crew he decided to make his visits to the Observation Deck during the third shift when fewer people would be about.


* * *


The Enterprise continued to circle the Guardian planet as Starfleet ordered them to stay in orbit until they could send a research team and other ships to guard the planet. All references to the coordinates of the planet would be purged from their computer. Starfleet could not allow this information to leak out. Jim wanted to get as far from this planet as he could but resigned himself to staying until the ships arrived.


During the day, the nurses or Dr. McCoy checked on him and in the evening Spock made attempts to engage him in conversation or a chess game. The nights were the worse as he lay awake and thought about Edith. The dream was the same every night. Edith was walking with him to a movie. She was so beautiful and her hair was soft and framed her face. The touch of her lips and the beating of their hearts was overwhelming. Every time he started to doze off he would hear the screeching of the tires and Edith's scream. He would wake to the image of Edith accusing him of killing her. Drenched in sweat, he often gave up trying to sleep.


The information he wanted to know about Edith was in his computer. Day after day he sat at his desk hoping to gain the courage to look at the file. And even though he wanted more information, he dreaded reading her obituary. Finally one day, he punched in the code needed to access the Guardian information. It took several minutes before he punched in Edith's name. He stared at her picture and lost track of time until someone buzzed his door. "Come."


"Took you long enough," Bones said as he entered the room and leaned against the wall with his arms crossed.


Jim quickly punched a button to remove the picture of Edith from his screen. He swiveled his chair to face the good doctor. "Bones, how about releasing me for duty?"


"You are persistent if nothing else. We still haven't talked about Edith. You can't grieve properly for Edith until you talk about her and your feelings."


"Damn it, Bones. What do you want from me?" Jim banged his fist on the desk as he stood and paced the room.


"I want you to talk about Edith." Bones did not leave his spot leaning against the wall.


Jim stopped pacing and turned to face Bones. "No, get that through your thick skull, I will never talk to you about Edith." Jim was yelling now and Bones could see the veins bulging on his neck.


Keeping his voice calm, Bones said, "Fine, Jim, then talk to Spock or M'Benga but you have to talk to someone soon. Before the stress eats you alive."


Jim wanted to scream at Bones to get out. But he knew Bones wouldn't leave till he was ready so Jim headed to the door. As the door opened, Jim nearly ran over Spock, he mumbled something incoherent and brushed past Spock.


McCoy moved to stand next to Spock in the hallway. "Spock, let's go to my office to talk."


"Indeed, Doctor." Spock's acute hearing had picked up Jim's raised voice.


Bones closed and locked the door to his office to avoid anyone overhearing their conversation. As Bones rounded the desk to his chair, Spock asked, "Doctor, I am uncertain how to help the Captain and I have little experience with human grief. Can you explain the human grieving process?"


"You're asking me?"


Spock raised an eyebrow. "If you prefer, I can ask Dr. M'Benga."


"Don't get your shorts in a knot." Bones knew Spock was looking for a way to help Jim. "I'm sure Vulcans grieve logically, but that is not the case with humans. It is generally accepted there are several stages to grieving. The short version states the stages are: denial, numbness, shock, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. A person can get stuck in one of the stages for a short time or for weeks. Stages tend to change and overlap. We can't always tell which stage a person is in as emotions become overpowering or seesaw. I would say we have seen the gamut of these stages with Jim except acceptance. I will not let Jim return to duty as he will bury this hurt deep inside. If he doesn't deal with it now, it will resurface later and most likely at the most inconvenient time."


"How can we help the Captain?"


"Well, we can make sure he eats, gets rest and some exercise wouldn't hurt."


"Ummm, exercise. Thank you, Doctor." With that comment, Spock left the office and headed for the Observation Deck where Jim could usually be found.


"Captain?" Jim turned to look at Spock. "I am heading to the gym to work out and I wondered if you would be interested in learning the ancient Vulcan combat movements we discussed last week."


'Some exercise, maybe that's what I need.' "Sounds like a good idea, let's go."


After changing into exercise clothes, Jim and Spock entered a workout room and set the privacy lock so no one would interrupt them. They completed stretching exercises before starting the combat moves. Spock was pleased Jim participated with some of his former vigor and enthusiasm. Jim's timing was slightly off and he was not able to prevent Spock from throwing him. Not being prepared caused him to land badly. He literally saw stars as he lay on the mat. Suddenly he was back with Edith and they were walking down the street. Again, he was running to meet Spock and Bones. No, Edith, this time do not cross the street. Stop. Edith, don't leave me. "Edith!" Jim's eyes were open but he wasn't seeing Spock as he was still reliving the past.


"Jim, are you okay? I called the Doctor." Spock was unprepared for Jim's attack. He had never faced an opponent as angry as Jim. Spock was knocked to the mat and Jim jumped on him pinning him down. The blows came with such force and anger that Spock was in danger of being seriously injured. He did his best to ward off the blows but would soon have to injure Jim to save his own life.


Jim did not hear Bones use his override to enter the room. He still had Spock pinned on the mat when Bones surveyed the scene. "Jim, stop it, you're hurting Spock." Bones grabbed Jim's arm and tried to pull him off of Spock. Jim threw Bones across the room and it was enough to give Spock the leverage to shift his weight and flip Jim so that he could pin him to the mat.


Bones scrambled to help Spock hold him down. Jim wasn't able to move but he continued struggled for a time and then relaxed. They lessened their hold and when Jim did not try to attack again they let him go. "Jim, are you okay, I did not mean to throw you so hard."


Jim sat up and held his head in his hands. At first he did not respond and then his shoulders shook as he grieved for Edith. Bones put his hand on Jim's back but he did not respond to the touch. After a time, Jim looked up at the two closest friends he had and his face was wet with tears. "I'm so sorry I lost control. I was with Edith walking on the street. She was so beautiful and then I heard the screech of the tires. Then, she was on that dirty street, broken and dead. Oh, God, I knew she had to die." Jim covered his face again. When he looked up again, he checked Spock for injuries.


"Spock, are you okay? Did I hurt you?"


Spock knew he would have a few bruises but no serious injuries. Bones pulled out his scanner and ran it over Spock. "He'll be sore for a few days but he'll make it, Jim. Are you okay?"


"I think so. It was so real, I thought I was on Earth with Edith. When she died, I was so angry with myself, with you Bones and you Spock and with fate which brought us together just to separate us. Why did I have to meet her only to have her taken from me?"


"Jim ..."


"I know, Bones, there is no answer to my questions. She lived and died more than three hundred years ago. But, we were there and she is, was as real as anyone on this ship." Jim continued to talk to his friends about Edith. Once he was able to talk about her, he couldn't stop. Spock and Bones just listened and were relieved Jim was able to discuss Edith and his feelings. A couple of hours passed as they sat with their friend and listened. When Jim ran down, he decided to return to his quarters for a shower.


Bones grabbed Jim's arm, "Jim, are you sure you're okay? Do you want us to stay with you a while longer?"


"I need a shower and some sleep. You take care of Spock's bruises and make sure that's the only damage I've done."


"I assure you Jim. I am quite well. The Doctor's ministrations will not be necessary."


"Go, Spock, let Bones earn his keep. And, Bones, I need some time alone. I'm fine." As Jim walked away his step seemed more self assured and more like the Captain they knew.


After Jim took a shower, he sat at his desk and stared at the computer screen. The downloaded Guardian files were still on his computer, he punched in Edith's name and when her picture came up he scrolled down to her obituary. It reported Edith Keeler, born March 1, 1901. 'So, she was twenty-nine years old. I wondered, but even in the 23rd Century you don't ask a lady her age.' Edith Keeler ran the 21st Street Mission for the past six years. She was the daughter of Franklin and Elizabeth Keeler who left her a small fortune when they died in an automobile accident in 1923. 'Edith could have lived a life of ease but she chose to help others.' Miss Keeler used her fortune to help those in need. 'Why did she spend her time at that mission when she could have been far from that life? Because, she wanted to help others. There are very few people in any time who are as selfless as she was.' Her remaining fortune will be used to continue her work at the 21st Street Mission. 'So like Edith to always think of others first.'


Jim downloaded the information to his data pad and moved to his bed. He had to admit to himself he was exhausted. He pulled off his shirt and boots and stretched out on the bed, he fell asleep as he looked at the picture of Edith. Spock and Bones stopped by later and Bones used his medical override when Jim did not answer the buzzer. They found Jim sound asleep and obviously due to his exhaustion he had not woken at the sound of the buzzer.


Bones picked up the data pad and saw what Jim was reading. "He is making progress at recovering from his grief."


"Is there anything else we do to help, Doctor?" Spock inquired.


"Just continue to be available to listen when he wants to talk. It will take time but I believe he will recover. If he continues to improve, I will return him to duty." Bones yawned and rubbed his eyes, it had been a long day. "I think I will follow Jim's lead and get some sleep," he said as he left the room.


Spock continued to observe his Captain and ponder the trials love caused humans. He moved the data pad onto the nightstand and pulled a light blanket over his friend. Spock left the room satisfied Jim would recover in time.