DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Joanne K. Seward and is copyright (c) by Joanne K. Seward.



A LITTLE MORE TIME

Joanne K. Seward



Captain James T. Kirk sat in the office area of his quarters, elbows propped on the edge of the desk, staring silently at the 'paperwork' displayed on the monitor in front of him. One well-shaped hand crept unnoticed to his brow and began kneading the skin over his right eye. He continued in this manner for several minutes. Finally, he ordered the screen off, then slumped back in the chair, head throbbing in counterpoint to his pulse.

Kirk sighed. The only time the captain of the Enterprise could remember feeling the way he did now was in the weeks immediately following his trip through the Guardian of Forever. The listlessness, the urge to do something--no, anything, if only he could find the energy, the almost subliminal pain in his head that would suddenly explode into an ache of epic proportions, all were the same. The same too was the sense of nearly overwhelming grief, though at precisely what, he wasn't certain.

The privacy tone sounded, and Kirk forced himself to sit up straight, running his fingers through his disheveled hair. "Come," he called, pulling a data pad in front of him and snatching up a stylus. Whoever was at the door, it wouldn't do for them to find him sitting, staring at nothing.

The door slid open with a sibilant whisper and Leonard McCoy, CMO of the Enterprise entered the room, a stack of data tapes in his hand. "I have those reports you wanted, Jim." McCoy held out the colorful squares. "Since there aren't many crews that have been together this long, I don't have much data to compare this crew to, but everything looks pretty good, given the length of time we've been out here."

Kirk accepted the tapes with a nod, placing them on the far edge of the desk. He had expected no less. He had a good crew. In fact, as far as he was concerned, his was the best crew in the fleet. "Thanks, Bones. That's what I thought you'd say." He turned his attention to the data pad he'd grabbed only moments before.

McCoy hesitated, blue eyes fixed on the younger man, unable to decide whether to accept the implied dismissal or remain and risk the captain's wrath.

"Was there something else, Doctor?" Kirk barely lifted his eyes from the miniature screen.

Again McCoy paused, then seeming to reach a decision, he said, "Well, yes, there was. You've been looking kinda down in the mouth lately--" Kirk raised his eyebrows at the description, but McCoy, having come this far, ignored the expression. "I thought maybe you'd like to talk to someone... A sympathetic ear, as they say."

Kirk's voice was curt as he said, "There's nothing to talk about, Doctor."

McCoy tried again. "Jim--Captain," he amended, taking in the forbidding cast of Kirk's features. "I've been your ship's surgeon and personal physician for four years now, and your friend even longer. If there's something I can help you with--"

"There's nothing wrong. I'm just tired. If you think it's easy dealing with Starfleet's nonsense day in and day ou--" Kirk reached out, accidentally knocking the tapes off the edge of the desk.

McCoy bent to retrieve them. He straightened up, returning the tapes to the desk, this time safely away from the edge. He forced his tone to remain light. "I don't know, maybe it's just sunlight deprivation, but something is definitely bothering you. Look, why don't you pencil yourself in for that landing party tomorrow. Maybe a day spent on terra firma will be just what the doctor ordered."

"Sunlight deprivation," Kirk echoed. "Have you forgotten 'fleet's newest guidelines on commanding officers' participation in landing parties, Bones? 'No commanding officer shall leave his ship unless said officer's presence is specifically required for the successful completion of the mission,'" he quoted. He laughed then, but it wasn't a pleasant sound.

McCoy ignored the ugly laugh. He did his best to likewise ignore the hurt Kirk's rejection caused him. "Log it as a medical order, Captain. That'll take care of Starfleet." He turned on his heel and strode through the door of the cabin, leaving Kirk to his own company.

* * *

"Glad you came?" McCoy asked, visually tracking the exuberant flight of a brilliant amethyst-and-crimson-plumaged songbird.

Kirk's only reply was a deep intake of breath.

McCoy grinned. "I hate to say it, but I told you so."

Kirk did his best to return the grin, hoping McCoy couldn't read the despondency even a walk on this paradise world was unable to counter.

The physician continued to wave a tricorder in a desultory manner, allowing the machine to automatically catalog nearby fauna. "Yeah, Jim-boy, this is what you needed. A walk in a garden. And this is no ordinary garden. Why, it's like God just finished with it. You almost expect to find him sitting on a hill, resting. Look at this 'grass.' It's like tiny shamrocks. Shamrocks, just in time for Saint Patrick's Day."

Kirk plucked one of McCoy's 'shamrocks,' his high forehead wrinkled in thought. It wasn't that he didn't believe in God, but he didn't expect to find him sitting around on a hillside. Maybe he'd had one too many run-ins with creatures who exhibited god-like qualities, all the while possessing feet of clay. McCoy seemed to be expecting an answer though, so he complied with a noncommittal, "Un-hunh." It seemed to satisfy the doctor, at least momentarily.

"Reminds me of an old song," McCoy murmured, then when Kirk didn't answer, he began to sing in a warbly, though not unpleasant voice. "Morning has bro-ken, like the first mo-orning..."

"Doctor McCoy! Over here!" The shout came from across the field where the remainder of the landing party was doing the actual survey. "Something you'd like to see, sir..."

Kirk made a mock grimace, then forced a smile. "Go ahead, Bones. It will save me from having to listen to any more of your singing. I think I'll wander toward that hill over there and see if there are any apples in this Garden of Eden."

McCoy smiled back. "Just watch out for snakes. You know how much trouble they caused Adam."

"You already told me there are no snakes on this planet, Bones." Kirk held his hands out, palms up and shrugged. "No snakes, no problems."

McCoy withheld a sigh. "Sure, Jim, whatever you say." The physician jogged off, leaving Kirk to continue his explorations on his own.

* * *

"Look, Doctor. Unusual, wouldn't you say?"

"--contradicts all of our previous knowledge..."

"--distinctly unusual--"

Listening with half an ear, McCoy scrutinized the delicate-looking animal held by the xeno-biologist. "Mmm-hmmm," he commented. He cocked an eyebrow toward Spock, who stood slightly apart from the clutch of babbling humans. "Fascinating," he said, imitating Spock's solemn delivery. In his own voice he added, "To coin a phrase."

Uhura ran a finger down the creature's slender back with an exclamation of pleasure. "Why, it looks like mother of pearl, but feels like fur. It's lovely."

"Frightened would no doubt be a more accurate description, Lieutenant," Spock corrected dryly. With a glance at the readings on the tricorder swinging from his shoulder, the Vulcan continued, "All metabolic activity has increased greatly. If the creature possessed a heart, it would no doubt be 'pounding.' I suggest you either place it in a proper receptacle or release it, Mister Dolittle."

"Aye, sir," said Dolittle, carefully installing it in a carrier outfitted to resemble the burrow where it had been found.

The animal immediately began digging its way into the soft soil and the landing party scattered, now that the excitement was over. Spock shot a darting glance in Kirk's direction, then turned to meet McCoy's gaze, a look of inquiry in his deep-set eyes. He walked a short distance and paused, waiting for McCoy to join him.

"I don't know, Spock." McCoy gave a limp shrug. He scanned the hillside, searching for the captain's form. He spotted him, about a third of the way up. "I'd tell you if I could."

"It is against regulations for him to set off unaccompanied," the Vulcan said.

McCoy's eyes sparkled in annoyance. "It's probably those same regs that are causing Jim to look and act like a man twice his age, Spock. Sometimes a man just needs to be alone, to take a walk and enjoy nature, to sort out his emotions."

"Perhaps," Spock responded, obviously not convinced.

McCoy followed Kirk's movement with his eyes. "Look. If you're really worried, maybe I should try to catch up with him."

"At the pace the captain is setting, it would be tomorrow before you are able to catch up with him, McCoy." The words were all the more scathing for their inflectionless delivery. The first officer considered for a long moment. "Very well. The captain has his communicator with him and he himself ordered all members of the landing party to report in regularly. As there are no dangerous lifeforms on the planet, nor have topographical scans indicated anything out of the ordinary, I am inclined to leave him be."

McCoy smiled gratefully. His gut told him a walk in the fresh air would do Jim more good than any medicine he could prescribe, and Spock was right. It would be tomorrow before he could catch up with the captain.

* * *

The terrain had altered. Somewhere, without his noticing, it had evolved from grassy slope to worn mountain, boulders erupting here and there from the rocky scree. Kirk clambered upward, his attention on the ground in front of him.

In the corner of his mind that was free for consideration of matters other than secure footing he had to admit McCoy had been correct, at least to some degree. He was feeling a bit better since he'd been on the planet. His calves, accustomed to the level surface of starship decks were beginning to ache and a light film of perspiration formed a veil across his eyes. The captain paused to rest, perversely enjoying the discomfort.

* * *

"The survey is progressing as expected, Mister Scott. If all continues in this manner, we will be ready to beam up in one point three five hours."

"Aye, Mister Spock. Noted and logged. We'll be ready for you."

"Has the captain checked in recently?"

"That he did. Said he was going to eat some lunch, then see if he could reach the top of 'Kirk's Peak.'"

Spock lifted an eyebrow, but all he said was, "Understood. Spock out."

"See," McCoy said. "I told ya so. All Jim needed was some time to himself."

* * *

Jim Kirk waited for his breath to even out and his chest to stop pounding. Finally, he pushed himself away from the boulder he'd been leaning against. He studied the ground ahead, then bent to search for a fallen limb to use as a hiking stick. Finding one, he snapped off a number of twigs branching out from it, then without looking back, continued his climb.

Time passed rapidly. The going was easier with the impromptu hiking stick and he made good progress. Only moments ago he'd entered a forest of the local pine tree analog. Dried needles made a soft carpet underfoot, and the air was hushed.

Now that walking wasn't taking all of his concentration, Kirk found his thoughts wandering. As had happened so often recently, he found his thoughts returning to Edith Keeler. Surrounded by the towering trees, the sense of loss was almost as keen as it had been immediately after her death. Kirk didn't know why. There had been other women he'd loved, other women he'd lost, women he'd left behind. Why he should be haunted by Edith was beyond him. He put her out of his mind, determined to enjoy this fine day on a lovely planet.

He emerged from the woods into a small clearing. Dazzled by the light of the afternoon sun, his foot slid into a crevice formed by two rocks embedded deep in the soil.

"Unh." Kirk grunted as he tried to pull his foot from the hole. Instead, it slid in further. "Damn," he muttered, trying to ignore the pains that shot up from his trapped ankle.

He reached for the hiking stick he'd dropped and worked it into the hole, attempting to enlarge the opening. Something gave and one of the rocks moved, at first ever so slightly, then suddenly the hole was growing and the rocky soil surrounding it was shifting, funneling into the opening. Kirk felt himself slipping downward. Unable to shift his weight, it was only seconds before he was plunged through the ever-increasing opening.

It seemed as though he fell forever, though reason told him it could only be a matter of seconds, a minute perhaps. Fiery pain radiated from the injured leg, as he tumbled and twisted, doing his best to shield his head in the wild ride. Then he was sliding again, friction burning through his uniform. There was a sudden impact, a decisive snap, then one final shooting pain before everything went black.

* * *

It seemed like forever before he regained consciousness, but Kirk knew that couldn't be true. He reached for his communicator, then gasped at the wave of pain and nausea that swept over him.

"Well, 'tis about time y'were waking up. Best be still, lad. Y've taken a bit of a bumping and y'r leg looks a wee bit odd. I'll not be thinkin' but what it's broken."

Kirk frowned, trying to place the voice. Not McCoy. The accent was wrong. That upward lilt... "Is that you, Scotty? What are you doing here?"

"Nay, lad. I'm no Scot. M'name is Patrick Fitzpatrick. A foolish name I know, beggin' my sainted mother's pardon, may she rest in peace, but 'tis the only name I have and so I needs must put up with it."

Slowly, Kirk turned his head, risking the pain that was sure to follow. He stared at the tiny being who sat on a rock nearby, legs pulled up to his chest, long arms wrapped around his shins. He wore an old-fashioned suit of clothing and a hat, the likes of which Kirk had never seen. There were bright gilt buckles on his high-tongued black shoes and cloud of smoke wreathed round the clay pipe protruding from his mouth.

"Who are you and what is this place?"

"What, don't y' remember lad? That bump on y'r head must be bigger than it looks. M' name's Patrick Fitzpatrick, as I just finished tellin' y', but you can call me Paddy, and as for t'other, y' came tumbling through my ceiling a while back without so much as a by-your-leave. At the moment, y're in what y'could call m' living room. P'raps I should thank you for the skylight. 'Tis much brighter now, though how I'm goin' t' keep the rain out is a mystery to me."

Kirk shook his head then wished he hadn't as nausea washed over him again "You can't be real. Not here. Spock's scans showed no higher forms of life."

The little man looked miffed. "Well, lad, I'm here, and beggin' your pardon, but 'tis real I am. As for those who don't believe in leprechauns--"

"Leprechauns..." Kirk smiled wryly. "Now I know I'm delirious." Biting his lip in determination, he struggled to sit up. Strong abdominal muscles contracted, pumping tear-bringing bile into his throat. An icy sweat dotted his forehead.

Forcing himself to ignore the discomfort, Kirk reached for his communicator. All he could feel was the shredded fabric of his uniform slacks. He tried again, searching for the holster patch that should have held the device firmly in place. It wasn't there. No little box clinging neatly to his hip, no patch, almost no pants either. All must have been lost in his unceremonious tumble. He looked around the cave, for cave it was, fully aware of his predicament for the first time.

"I have to get up!" he said, grunting in pain as he tried to rise.

The little man was at Kirk's side in a flash, tiny hands pressing his shoulders back. "Best not try it, lad," he cautioned. "That leg looks uglier than Beelzebub's backside and your color is like raw wheat dough. Best just lay there and rest while I fetch y' a wee drop o' the creature. 'Tis so smooth, tis like mother's milk, and it has a kick that'll knock the pain right out o' your mind."

"You don't understand. My friends, they'll be looking for me, but they won't--"

"Don't y' fret lad. They'll find y'. That's a promise. Now just be still and I'll get that whisky and some pillows to make you comfortable." The little man rose and headed for another part of the cave.

Kirk watched incredulously, wondering how his mind had conjured up that bouncing walk and those twinkling blue eyes. Of all the things he could have invented, why a leprechaun? And one named Patrick Fitzpatrick, no less... He shook his head. It was definitely strange, even given the likelihood of concussion.

He put the question behind him, resolutely closing his eyes. Spock would be looking for him, but without the communicator it might be a while. In moments he had drifted off again.

"Here y' go, lad."

Kirk felt his shoulders being lifted and something soft tucked under them. A blanket, spun fine as spider silk was laid over him, imparting a comforting warmth to his chilled body, then something hard and cold touched his lips. Given the setting of this fantasy, it should be an earthenware mug, he thought, not opening his eyes.

"Here, take a sip. Just a wee bit, now. Y' don't want it coming back up."

Obediently, Kirk swallowed. Irish Whisky. A distant part of his mind was amused that he could create the taste and texture of the spirit, as well as its burning progress into his gut.

"Tell me, lad. What were y' doin', that you managed to fall in through the ottebut's burrow. Either y'r mind was way, far away, or y'r mighty clumsy."

Kirk smiled wryly at the question. What had he been doing? Certainly not acting like a Starfleet officer. "I was thinking. I guess I didn't see the ottebut's burrow," he replied with a slight question at the odd name.

"Deep thoughts, they must ha' been. A woman, no doubt. A comely lad like you, it must ha' been a woman."

Kirk opened his eyes, still amazed at how real Paddy looked, even though he knew the leprechaun was a creation of his mind. "You're right," he said.

The little man sucked on his pipe. "Aye, I knew it. Unrequited love. 'Tis the very reason I settled here, though in my case t'was not so much unrequited as impossible."

"Not unrequited in my case, either." Kirk said dryly, wondering in his heart if he was correct. Could Edith have loved him the way he thought he loved her? "There was a little matter of time," he said, thinking of the centuries that intervened between his and Edith's lifetimes. "The years just got in the way."

Paddy understood immediately. "Time travelin', were y'? Tis bad enou' when the little people take to time travelin'. When humans get involved..." Holding the bowl of the clay pipe, he waved the stem around in the air, shaking his head all the while. "Well, then, 'tis bad, bad business."

Kirk had been watching the little man carefully, taking in every detail of his appearance, from the homespun fabric of his suit, to the little flap of skin on his neck that jiggled as he spoke, from the red veins in his eyes to the slightly pointed tips of his ears. As fantasies went, Kirk mused, this one was a doozey. He would swear he could even smell the rich smoke issuing from the pipe.

"Be that as it may, y're here," Paddy continued, "and like to be for a while. P'raps it would soothe y'r spirit to tell the tale."

Pain-brightened hazel eyes grew wide and sandy brows rose, then Kirk nodded. After all, what harm could it do? He could never bring himself to speak of Edith to Spock or McCoy. They had both been through too much themselves on that trip through the Guardian. Talking it out might help, and after all, Paddy, for all his seeming solidness, was a figment of his own imagination.

And so he 'told the tale,' starting at the very beginning, on the bridge of the Enterprise. He described how Sulu had been injured and how McCoy accidentally injected himself with the cordrazine. He recounted how the landing party had discovered the Guardian, how McCoy had gone through it and how he and Spock, his first officer and friend, had followed the doctor into the past. Kirk recalled in detail his first meeting with Edith, how he had been drawn to her, how there always seemed to be a special, soft glow about her, almost an aura or halo.

For the first time, he spoke aloud the events of that fateful day hundreds of years in the past. He described the ancient vehicle, the smell of its internal combustion engine, the sound of inadequate brakes squealing on the oily pavement, the anti-climax of the actual impact. He recalled McCoy's accusation and how Spock had replied to it, the Vulcan's voice even, yet somehow shaken. Finally, he told how he had been unable to look back, unable to look at the mortal remains of the woman he loved, before the Guardian transported him and his officers back to their own time and place in history.

All this he recounted, accompanied by sips of the whisky in the earthen cup. An odd, un-connected portion of his brain commented on what McCoy would have to say about mixing alcohol and head injuries, but Kirk ignored it. How dangerous could imaginary whisky be, after all?

Now, feeling cozily fuzzy, the pain in his head and leg reduced to a dull throb, Kirk looked up at Paddy. "If only there had been more time... Just a little more time." Then his eyes fluttered shut.

"Aye, lad. It's understandin' I am." Paddy gently tucked the blanket closer around him, then moved back to his earlier position on the rock.

* * *

"Why, Mister Kirk!" Edith Keeler looked up at him, her eyes shining in the dim light of the dance hall. "You know the strangest things. You don't know how to Charleston, but you do know how to waltz."

Kirk smiled back at her, enjoying the feel of her slender body in his arms. "Just say I like dances where there's some physical contact with my partner."

Edith's blue eyes widened, reflecting the revolving lights of the mirror ball overhead. "There are some people who might consider that statement highly improper, sir," she said archly.

"Are you one of them?" Kirk asked in his silkiest tones, holding her closer still.

"Well, no, but--"

"Good. Me either, and I refuse to lie to you. I like the way you feel, the way your body fits against mine." Kirk lowered his head, placing his warm lips over hers.

* * *

Edith moved the wicker picnic hamper further into the shade. "Haven't you ever been to Central Park before?" she asked, opening out the old green-plaid blanket she'd packed.

Kirk helped her spread it on the grass. "Well, yes, but--" How could he explain that although the park he knew was the same, it was different too. Luckily Edith didn't wait for him to continue.

"I love it here." She dropped to the blanket. "A day in the park is almost like a trip to the country," she said, smoothing her skirt. She cocked her head, looking up at him through dark lashes as she added, "Sometimes I just sit on a rock and think. Does that seem odd to you?"

Kirk's eyes smiled back at her. "No. No, it doesn't. Not in the least."

"I'm glad. Some people think I'm rather odd."

"I don't think you're odd." Kirk inched closer, enjoying the scent of her inexpensive perfume. "I think you're a woman who is ahead of her time." He put his arm around her and gently pulled her to him, ready to withdraw at the slightest rebuff. He could feel her heart pounding through the thin fabric of her blouse, but she didn't resist. Instead, she turned her face toward his, eagerly accepting his kisses.

Several minutes passed before they broke apart, breathing heavily. Edith pushed back a strand of hair in her familiar gesture, then began rummaging in the hamper as she worked to regain her composure. "I'm beginning to feel quite hungry."

"Me, too," Kirk replied, trying to hide the fact that his hunger was of a different sort. He took a huge bite of the sandwich she offered. "Mmm. Delicious..."

* * *

"Ohh!" Edith sat up, the sheet clutched self-consciously to her breasts, the simple gold band Kirk had placed there only yesterday glowing warmly on her fourth finger. "My locket--" She held up the delicate piece of jewelry that she always wore, its fine chain dangling from her fingers. "The chain broke."

Jim smiled at her modesty after the events of the past night, but he was careful to maintain a similar decorum. "Maybe I can fix it with those tools Spock borrowed." His lips turned up even more on the word 'borrowed.' "Let me see."

Edith handed the locket to him. "Do you think you can do it, Jim?"

"Jim," a voice from far away echoed, calling to him. "Jim?"

"No," Kirk replied hoarsely.

"What is it?" Edith asked, seeing the abstracted look on his face. She was careful not to push. She'd only known Jim Kirk for a short time, but she'd learned to give him the space he required.

"Captain Kirk." A different voice, deeper, and equally inexorable.

Kirk recognized that voice, too. He pulled Edith to him, crushing her to his bare chest, the forgotten locket biting into his palm.

"I love you, Edith. Remember that. I love you."

"I love you, too, Jim." Her eyes locked onto his, confused by his sudden vehemence, then they were drifting apart. The bedroom was dissolving, time itself shifting in a dizzying manner.

Kirk felt himself being drawn to different, lonelier reality. "Edith?" His eyes fluttered open and he stared up at the person kneeling next to his impromptu bed. "Edith..."

Two men in Sciences blue exchanged concerned glances, then one of them spoke up. "It's me, Jim. McCoy. Spock is here too. Your leg is broken and you have a concussion, but you're gonna be fine."

Kirk surveyed the lined face hovering over him. "Bones...It's you..." he said, stating the obvious.

McCoy nodded. "That's right, Jim. Bones." The doctor removed a hypospray from his kit, checked the contents then injected them into Kirk's arm. "That should relieve the pain some."

The words didn't seem to register. Kirk was looking around the barren cave as though he hadn't seen it before. "Where is Paddy...and Edith?"

"There's no one here but us, Jim. You, me and Spock. The three musketeers. One for all and all for one." Speaking in a cheerful tone, the doctor ran his hand-held scanner over the injured man. "We're going to beam you up now. Just try to relax." He jerked his head in Spock's direction.

Kirk nodded, unable to prevent his eyes from once again drifting shut.

The Vulcan had already flipped his communicator open and was speaking into it. "Three to beam up, Mister Scott. Please have an anti-grav gurney standing by."

A slightly tinny "Aye," issued from the tiny speaker. In moments the dank cave was filled with the windchime-whine of the transporter effect, then they were taken by the beam.

* * *

"Doctor."

McCoy checked the readings over his sleeping patient, then turned to find Spock wearing the most emotion-filled 'unemotional' mask the doctor could recall seeing in some time. He knew without asking precisely what information the Vulcan desired.

"He was feverish, Spock, and a bit out of it. Delirious. You should have heard the tall tale he told me while I was repairing that leg and patching all those scrapes. It was all about leprechauns and whisky and...well..." McCoy hesitated for a second before he said the name. "And Edith Keeler. The concussion, laying on that cold, damp stone for hours, the untreated fracture, any and all of them could have caused the delirium," McCoy continued, the words coming out in a rush. "That was quite a tumble he took."

Spock's eyebrow began its ritual ascension. "Whisky and leprechauns? That sounds most unlike the captain."

"Yeah," McCoy shrugged. "Well, falling through an ottebut's burrow will do that to you."

The eyebrow inched a bit higher. "An ottebut?"

"Yeah, that's the name of the animal that lives in the burrow, according to Jim." McCoy shook his head as he led the Vulcan away from the captain's bed. "Damn, but he's got one hell of an imagination!"

"Is 'ottebut' the name of the species, or a personal identification?"

McCoy looked at the first officer to see if he could possibly be joking. "Spock," he explained patiently, "Jim was delirious. Out of his mind. Loco. There's no such thing as an ottebut." He chuckled. "Next thing, you'll be asking what kind of tobacco the leprechaun had in that clay pipe of his!"

"It is interesting that you know he had a pipe, though, is it not?"

"I told you. Jim has one hell of an imagination."

Spock nodded. "Indeed... When will I be able to speak with him?"

McCoy had been waiting for this one. He fielded it ably. "Not for a while yet. I'll call you when he's awake."

"Very well, Doctor." The Vulcan strode out of Sickbay.

McCoy watched him go, then he walked into his office and dropped heavily into the chair behind the desk, a perplexed frown decorating his mobile features. The fact of the matter was, Kirk's story had been incredibly detailed for mere feverish imaginings. And there was more. McCoy hadn't mentioned it to Spock, but he could have sworn he smelled liquor on the captain's breath when he was examining him in the cave.

He could be mistaken, of course. The breath of an injured person was seldom sweet, that was a fact. Still, he knew what to expect. What he had smelled when Kirk said his name wasn't what he had been expecting. McCoy sighed. This whole business was very odd. "Damned odd," he muttered, peering at the object Chapel had pried out of the captain's hand when she cleaned him up. With another sigh, he poked a finger at the record toggle and began dictating his report on the captain's injuries.

* * *

Captain James T. Kirk sat in the office area of his quarters, elbows propped on the edge of the desk. He stared silently at the bit of gold McCoy had taken from the small safe in his office and handed to him just before he released him from Sickbay.

His fingers trembling, Kirk touched the catch. The locket popped open and something fluttered out to land on the surface of the desk. Kirk picked it up gingerly, recognizing it at once as a dried blade--if that was the correct term--of McCoy's 'shamrock' grass. He placed it on the desk, then studied the inside of the locket itself. A old-fashioned, sepia-tinted portrait of an impossibly young woman with raven-colored hair and an equally young man, whose hair could have been anything from blond to medium brown, smiled radiantly up at him from the tiny gold frame. There was an inscription on the other half of the locket, and he held it carefully under the light, struggling to read the words engraved there through the tears that had come, unbidden, to his eyes.

"When on earth we are parted, in heaven we will meet."

The locket rested in his cupped hand, the broken chain glinting in the light over the desk. This can't be, Kirk thought, rereading the inscription, staring at the portrait. He had never had his picture taken with Edith. It would have been a direct violation of his and Spock's careful attempts at anonymity. And yet, here it was, safe inside a gold locket, warm from contact with his skin.

Kirk drew a shuddery breath. He gently closed the locket and pressed it to his lips, his hand trembling. He thought back to the dreams he'd had in the cave. He'd thought he'd been delirious, McCoy had said he was delirious, but the dreams had been so real, and now this--

His face wet, Kirk opened the safe behind his desk and removed the case bearing his Starfleet decorations. He placed the locket tenderly in the case, resolving to have another one made for it alone. He carefully returned the case to the safe, locking it under voice code, treasuring the memories of the time he'd shared with Edith in the 'dreams.' It was impossible, but--

"Y' asked for a little more time, lad. Well, all things are possible. Sometimes it just takes a little leprechaun magic..."

Kirk sniffed, then smiled. He could swear the air of his cabin was scented with the fragrant smoke from a certain clay pipe. If he turned around, he might be in time to spot a pair of high-tongued shoes with gilt buckles as they bounced out the door. Instead, the captain remained just as he was and slowly, slowly, the scent faded to nothingness.



The End

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