EPILOGUE:

"They selected a new First Officer for me…" Jim said as he straightened his gold tunic, looking at Carol in the mirror of the bedroom that they had been sharing for the last week before his departure.

"Do you know them?" She asked curiously, standing in the doorway. The baby was cradled against her, a bottle balanced in his mouth as he greedily grunted and drank from it.

"I don't know her. She comes highly recommended, apparently…"

"Her…" Carol said dubiously.

Jim laughed and turned from the mirror to approach her. "Don't worry, I can be professional."

She quirked a brow at him. "As professional as you were with me?"

"You started it."

"We'll debate that another day. You're going to be late." She nodded at him, unable to push him with her arms full.

Jim paused to look at the docile infant, whose eyes were clear and nebulous, gleaming more green than the other colors swirling in there.

"You sure you're going to be okay here?" He felt compelled to ask.

"Of course," she smiled. "I still have work to do and two lovely boys. David's been a wonderful help with the baby."

"Guess he's got a brother now."

Carol laughed. "He won't stop reminding me…"

"Maybe he'll get another one some day…" Jim ventured to lift his gaze to her again.

"Maybe not…." She replied coolly. Just when the response began to sting, she smiled. "He might get a sister instead."

She sealed it with a kiss and Jim suddenly really didn't want to go. He was finally leaving someone behind who would be waiting for him to come back. To say nothing of the fact that the bridge would feel empty without Spock. He didn't want to be there.

Jim pulled her in as close as he could with the baby between them, pressing his cheek to hers to savor the moment. He didn't know how long it would be before he was home again, or indeed if he would ever make it home again.

"You'll be late," she said softly at his ear, but didn't push him away.

"Ship can't leave without its captain… They can wait…"

She chuckled and finally gently pulled away. "Not very becoming of a starship captain to leave his crew waiting."

He stole another kiss and he could feel her smiling into it before she urged him away again. "Go! You'll be late!"

He groaned like a child. "Fine."

Walking out of the bedroom, he found David sitting on the floor, eating a bowl of cereal on the coffee table, staring intently at a PADD that was lying flat in front of him. He was watching some science program made for children.

"Time for me to go, buddy…"

David looked up and dropped the spoon into his bowl as he clamored to his feet. Jim dropped to a knee to catch him and pull him in tight.

"Bye, dad!"

"Standing orders, take care of your mom for me."

"Aye aye, sir!"

"And help her take care of Dante."

"Aye aye, sir!"

Another quick goodbye and he was out the door with his duffle bag, his heart pounding in resistance to leaving home.

When he took the shuttle from Earth to the spacedock, something changed in him to see her again. The Enterprise had been refitted and floated majestically in her moorings, the sun gleaming off her silver curves and fresh paint. She was ready for war.

Seeing her again reminded him of the things she had always provided for him and his crew. Possibility. For the flicker of a moment, a highly illogical thought crossed his mind but gave him all the courage he needed.

I'll find you, Spock. Even if it takes the rest of my life.