I realize I had this posted once before, as well as many other stories, but I pulled them feeling that it was the only thing I could do after unintentionally doing something that done with good intentions but wound up totally embarrassing myself and felt I need to take some time away from here, save for 'SCTH'. But after finishing the latest chapter of 'SCTH' I realized this story need to be posted again to help explain some of the things within that story for those who are following it.I did tweak it in a tiny way and you probably won't even notice it. But I hope for those who do read this it helps in some explanation for my other story. Thank You.

Takes place directly after the mission at Denevan in the episode 'Operation: Annihilation!'

And by the way I do not own Star Trek in any fashion. Although I am waiting to hear back from them after I offered a dollar down and a dollar a day deal. We'll see.

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A CONVERSATION BETWEEN STRANGERS

Standing in the doorway of his office Doctor McCoy silently watched Captain James Kirk at the same post he had been the last few hours. Sitting on the edge of a hard plastic chair, at the bedside of his nephew Peter Kirk.

He had already informed Jim that the boy was going to pull through without any complications from the Denevan neural parasites that had infected the youths body. Of course that didn't alleviate any of Jim's concern over his nephew's well being, McCoy understood. But the Doctor knew that more was tearing up the man than he cared to admit to anyone, including an irascible Doctor and a phlegmatic Vulcan.

Struggling to come up with the heavy and painful words to tell the boy of his parent's deaths

What made it doubly difficult in McCoy's mind was that he didn't believe Jim had let the tragic event begin to settle in his own mind and heart. A fact that made the Doctor wonder at the actual extent of the brother's relationship.

He had wisely refrained from questioning his friend on the matter, but he was aware that at some time the subject would need to be broached or it would eat him up inside. And McCoy could already tell that Jim had let that process begin and decided it was an idea to send the Captain off to his own bed.

"Jim. It's nearly three o'clock in the morning." Walking up to the foot of the bed, McCoy shot a glance at the readings over the boy's head. "Right now he's resting comfortably and I seriously doubt he'll regain consciousness in the next few hours. At this time I'm ordering you to your cabin and to bed. You're not going to be doing Peter, yourself or my nurse's nerves any good by perching on that hard chair all night long. Let alone what it would do to the morale of the entire crew if Spock had to take temporary command of this ship because you couldn't stay awake in your command chair. And I'm getting tired of looking at ya."

Looking up at McCoy, Kirk weakly attempted a small smile. "I was wondering how long it would take you to throw me out."

"Well if you weren't here for a legitimate reason, I woulda thrown you out the minute you walked in my door." Replied McCoy clasping his hands behind his back, a he watched Jim slowly rise from the chair. "So get your butt out of here and try and get some rest. I'll let you know when he wakes up."

Starting to turn away to go, Kirk hesitated long enough to glance back down at the pale face of the ten year old boy. For a moment he appeared to be on the verge of speaking again, but to whom exactly McCoy wasn't positive as he held his breath waiting for the words.

After a split second Kirk changed his mind pursed his lips in a contemplative line then caught McCoy's concerned gaze. Almost feeling caught, he forced a miniscule tired smile on to his face as he began to move away again.

Eyebrow twitching in uneasiness, McCoy glanced over his shoulder towards the door where Jim again hesitated. He had sensed the man's grief and anguish when the Captain had brushed passed him, what bothered the Doctor though was the startling ample amount of bitterness that was also brewing in the man. And he couldn't help but wonder at it's source.

Placing a hand on the doorframe, Kirk stared out into the deserted corridor briefly then halfway gazed back at McCoy. "When Peter wakes up...if he does ask about, I want to be the one to tell him."

"Right Jim." McCoy quietly said, deciding it best to keep his thoughts to himself about the request. "Get some rest."

Finding that he unable to find any words for a reply, Kirk gave a single curt nod and slipped out into the corridor.

Blinking at the closing door, a faint ruminative scowl emerged through the lines of McCoy's face. Shifting his pale blue gaze down at Peter Kirk, he speculated at his friends hidden anger unable to shake the suspicion that it had nothing to do with the boy himself and went farther back than the Captain had even realized until now.

Exhausted Kirk leaned heavily against the back wall of the turbolift and squeezed his smarting eyes shut but quickly snapped them open again. He kept seeing his own hand reach down and touch the shoulder of his lifeless brother's body when ever he did allow himself to close his tired eyes for the last day and a half.

The pain had struck him hard at the sight of Sam's face and realization that he was no longer alive. Maybe he had been aware of the fact before he laid eyes on him. Maybe even before they had beamed down, he had some sickening notion at the truth.

But he had blocked it away as quickly as it had hit him, when the surrounding emergency became more than evident to all. Followed by the death Aurelan from the same parasites that killed Sam and attacked Peter, then Spock during a surveying mission on Denevan's surface. It had been a blow and a blessing when Spock had been infected giving them the opportunity to find the answer, although it had cost the Vulcan a few hours of blindness. A fact that had caused more anxiety to his Captain and the Doctor, who had been near a full-scale nervous breakdown after the experiment the two men of science, had concocted to rid Spock of the parasites.

Now that the critical emergency had been successfully resolved with the placement of the final satellite around Denevan to expose the entire surface with intense light, the 'Enterprise' had been allowed a few days of shore leave. It also gave time for the reality and grief to settle back in with permanency. And the cold fact that he felt striking the deepest was a resentful guilt that felt like a piece of solid ice in the pit of his stomach.

Stepping out of the lift he slowly made his way to his cabin grateful for the late hour and the dim lighting of the corridor as he felt the exhaustion seeping into his already tired bones. He hadn't slept in what seemed likes weeks instead of only a few days and was aware that it was showing from the near slip back in sickbay.

He had come to close to a break. A break that he was sure that Bones had caught and at that minute was silently analyzing in his office. What was troubling Kirk was what he himself recognized as the cause to his unexpected reaction.

Entering his cabin he throw a glance at his computer, and toyed with the idea of checking in with the bridge, specifically to see who was on duty at communications. He had made the personal decision of wanting to notify the rest of his family as well as that of Aurlean's himself of their death's instead of letting Star Fleet do the task in their generically impersonal way. Now he just had to wait until they were in vicinity for a message that could be delivered in real time. Which would come sooner than he would be prepared for.

Immediately changing his mind about contacting the bridge, he slumped on to the edge of his bunk ordered the lights off and flung himself on to the immaculately made bed. Tucking his hands beneath his head he stared at the ceiling and forced himself to focus on some other matter long enough to fall asleep.

His mind drifted back and forth between things that lay ahead and what was left behind. The lives that would be changed and what it would do to their futures that they had planned. How many would be affected before it was over in different fashions. What emotions and ideas could be destroyed or built afterwards, when the anger and sorrow had settled with the dust.

-/-/-/-/-/-

"We're strangers, Jim. You and I." The glint in Sam's eyes was dark, faintly remorseful when he met his younger brother's perplexed stare. "If unintentionally in the beginning it seemed to have stuck enough for us to make it purposeful. Maybe we found it too comfortable. Too easy and simple to keep ourselves much farther than at arms length away."

Frown deepening Jim tried to read Sam's face but was unsuccessful. "I don't follow you Sam. What does this have to do with you and Rachael getting a divorce?"

Glancing out the viewing portal at the half dozen Star Fleet vessels temporarily moored at the Star Base, a corner of Sam Kirk's mouth twitched. "Everything and nothing."

"What? You're not making any sense Sam."

"Not now. In a few years it will." Murmured the older Kirk his eyes drifting over to the 'Farragut' that was only a few hours short of shipping out with a freshly graduated crew, including Lieutenant James T. Kirk.

Following his brother's stare out to the recently refurbished sleek starship, Jim couldn't hide his annoyance any longer when he spoke. "I've got to be reporting back to the ship in the next ten minutes Sam. It's not going to look extremely good on my record, if I have to report to Captain Garrovick on the first day to explain the reason that I happened to miss my first mission."

"When was the last time you and I had a genuine 'serious' discussion?"

Taken back by the odd sudden question, Jim blinked still looking at the white and steel blue starship just outside, then slowly slid his hazel gaze over to his brother again. For what could've been five seconds or five minutes the Kirk men regarded each other, one trying to come to some understanding, the other seeking out some hope of accord. It was a strangely tense moment, which made the younger Kirk uncomfortable to the point that he glanced back out at the docking bay.

"We've had a number of discussion's Sam over the years." He finally said unsure of what it was his brother wanted to hear.

"'Serious discussion', Jim. Name me one that you can remember."

Mouth pursing with growing irritation at the pressure of the question, Jim absently rolled a single shoulder as a small shuttle buzzed under the 'Farragut's' hull. This was the last thing he expected to be talking about when he received word of his brother's arrival at the base. He had expected it to be more of a celebratory meeting after his graduation and immediate assignment to the 'U.S.S. Farragut', instead of this abrupt walk down memory lane interrogation.

"You can't think of one can you?" Sam quietly said sounding less smug and more somber as he moved a half step closer to his brother. "Don't feel too bad, if you can't. Neither could I. On my way back here I tried thinking of a time when we ever did sit down and talk about our lives, hopes or anything for that matter. We never did. By the time you came along, I was on the verge of being a full-blown teenager and was just starting to absorb my studies. The last thing I was going to have is a baby brother tied to me in any fashion. Especially one who always seems to manage to belch up all the strained corn they could hold on my homework or dates or both. And that I could've tolerated, but for some bizarre reason the girl's always thought you always so cute when you bubbled all over the place."

"Some of us got it and some don't." A small attempt at a humorous smile barely found it's way on to Jim's lips suddenly realizing he was gazing at his own reflection in the window, and immediately shifted it over to the older man's image.

"Yea, but you tended to share it with everyone back then and from what I hear you're not doing too badly now either."

There was a fatherly tone to those last words causing Jim to grimace inwardly. "I like to refer it to as gaining a knowledge of the differing cultures that I will be working alongside of as well as dealing with in my new assignment."

A disbelieving snort came from the elder Kirk as he braced a shoulder along the high polished window. "You've been practicing that line for Mom, in case she ever paid a surprise visit at the Academy right. Next time try cross cultural diversity and educational exposure. She always liked it when I used it. I don't think she ever believed me, but she never said anything."

"What about Dad?" The smile did come through faintly at the thought of the woman who had a tendency of knowing when it best not to say anything, although you knew you were caught red handed.

"I don't recall him ever coming around enough to have to worry about it." He sighed while his rust colored stare narrowed into sullen slits. "It's probably the only lesson I ever took away with me when I left home."

Not liking the sound of deep resentment that weighed down his brother's voice, Jim fixed a concerned look on the man. "This goes back to you and Rachael."

"Me. Rachael. But mostly the boys. And I never realized it until now." Running his fingers through his hair, Sam appeared to become lost in his own thoughts for a minute, then returned to his surroundings with an even more surly expression. "Actually it goes back to you and me and undoubtedly farther, once you let yourself think about it Jim."

An eyebrow rose a few centimeters over a perplexed hazel eye. "How do you mean?"

The corner of Sam's mouth jerked again. "I was never close to Dad. We never had a...'bond' of any kind. And if we did have any kind of tie, we both did our share of carving it up when I chose to do what I wanted instead of enlisting into Star Fleet. He always believed I chose against him intentionally no matter what Mom or I would tell him. Finally I gave up trying to tell him anything. It wouldn't have matter. Ever. And I take some of the blame for what happened after I left between you and him. Part of it was already there with him."

When his brother paused Jim struggled to find something to say in an attempt of reassurance that there was nothing to feel any guilt over. Then stopped himself wondering if it would help the situation at the time or not, still uncertain what this was leading up to.

"He was too hesitant to hand over all of his hopes on you after I let him down so thoroughly. That's why he kept his distance with you. I don't know if he was too hurt or disgusted or ashamed or what? But he wasn't about to let it happen to him again and pushed you away as well for his own safety. Even when you did make it into the Academy and seemed pretty well settled into its life, I don't think he was convinced." Hesitating to release a long tired sigh that sounded as if it had been held since he had left for his trip to see his brother, Sam gazed around at the thousands of light's illuminated the docking bay. "But I don't think he was convinced of himself let alone of his two sons for the most part. Unknowingly, he passed that tradition on to me. Keeping my two sons at a safe distance from myself. I never saw it until she took the boys and headed back to earth. And at this point I doubt I'll have a chance to rectify that."

"They're still young Sam, surely she'll let,..." Began Jim only to be cut off by a soft but jaded laugh.

"Both of them are well on their way to be being teenagers Jim. And speaking of young. Next time you practicing shaving take a good look at yourself. You still have a long road ahead of you, that's the reason I wanted to talk to you at least once as an actual brother to you. We may never find another time for ourselves again."

Straightening up from the window, Sam leveled a hard, pointed stare on his younger brother who without realizing it stiffened ever so slightly, when he unexpectedly saw a shadow of his father in the man standing in front of him. He was tired and disheartened but unlike their father, there was also a glimmer of faith underneath it that flared to life when he placed a hand on Jim's shoulder and fixed his stare dead on with his young brother's.

"I may...'may' still have a chance in my lifetime to correct things or possible by sheer luck, be given a chance to try again. Hopefully I've gained enough to know it when it does happen to me. You on the other hand Jim. You've got it all ahead of you. Don't make the same mistakes that Dad or I did. Don't let yourself become a stranger. If you do manage to find people who you care about in any sense, don't turn your back on them. Or are fortunate enough to have a son or a daughter or anyone from our family that is willing to break an ugly custom. Do it. Don't become like Dad or me. Don't let yourself become a stranger to those around you. Or to yourself. You lose those around you and you'll find you've lost yourself. And I have a feeling that universe isn't going to be to able afford that lose. Do you understand what I'm saying Jim?"

-/-/-/-/-/-

"Doctor McCoy to Captain Kirk." The voice had all the calming quality of sandpaper across a new chalk board, when it crackled to life in the cabin. "Jim. I thought I'd let you know the boy is starting to wake up. Jim?"

Eyes snapping open Kirk stared at the ceiling barely listening to the continuing rampage of the Doctor's as he tried to capture the last of the words his brother had tried telling him thirteen years earlier. But he was unable to as he felt a stinging sensation fill his eyes followed by a warm tear sliding from the corner of his eye and dropping silently on the pillow under his head. It was followed by a second and then a third as he finally let himself go and let his grief over take him.

For several minutes he let himself weep for the boy who wouldn't have a chance to know what kind of a man his father truly was. For the brother he only seem to know after it was too late. And for the man who may have waited too long to take the advice of a stranger.

FIN

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