Third in the Conversation series. Twenty years removed from Operation: Annihilation.
Yes, I have no rights to Star Trek or Paramount. But I do have bananas...or is it that I am bananas?
A BOY'S UNDERSTANDING
The rain had tapered off to a fine drizzle when Peter Kirk arrived at the open gate of the deserted cemetery. Readjusting the collar of his coat he slowly made his way up the paved path that lead through the two column's of well aged chestnut trees, past the small groundskeeper's office then paused at the crest of the hill to gaze at the dozens of antiquated headstones.
Scowling as a droplet of water managed to find it's way down the back of heck, he stepped off the path sinking ankle deep into grass and water. Making a disgusted face at the thought of walking around in wet sock and shoes for the next few hours, he passed several neglected, weather damaged graves heading for the giant blue spruce located at the rear of the grounds,
Three weeks short of twenty years of his first trip up here and strangely he remembered it had been raining that day too. At that time he had been too young and caught up in his own bereavement to even notice it or care. But now he couldn't help but be a little bitter at the odd chilly rain that would suddenly appear in Iowa in the middle of July whenever he found himself being pulled back. It symbolized his feelings and the events of what brought him back. And made the solitary sojourn coldly solid to him.
Shoving his hands into his coat pockets he glanced up at the enormous spruce as he drew closer and a corner of his mouth tugged back into half a smile. He had wanted to plant the tree for his father taking care to make sure it was a blue spruce, remembering it had been his favorite color. For the most part though he wanted the tree to cover the grave itself, recalling his father going on and on about the heat of the summer in Iowa and wanting some type of shade if he was going to spend the rest of eternity laying under it's skies.
Even now, he remembered more of what his father had said or tried to tell him in the ten years they had had together, than he did nearly anything else during that time. No doubt it was because he had forced himself to break down those months, weeks and days, over the next two decades to keep alive the man within himself.
Halting only inches from the navy blue marble stone covered with the clumps of dead cut grass, he gazed at it with a deep thoughtful expression, then glanced over at the twin. His mother's family never hesitated in agreeing to letting Aurelan being buried alongside her husband even with her own home world being dozen's of light years away from this spot. They were trying to be sensitive for him, giving him one place to grieve instead for separating his parents when it was decided he would remain on earth instead of returning with his mother's family. A choice he had made and made with surprising firmness to both himself and the two families, save for one person.
Squatting down in front of his mother's grave, he removed his hands from his coat pockets and began to pull off the debris, tossing it off to the side. When he had scraped off the layer of dead grass and taken the time to clean the chiseled lettering he moved to the side and started the same work on Sam Kirk's grave.
Ten minutes later with a satisfied grunt, he stood up and stared down at the stone while wiping the stray wet grass from his hands. A number of thoughts faded in and out of his mind from twenty to ten to five years ago, and all were some how ultimately connected back to his father. Every decision he had found himself struggling with in his life, the answer he chose went back to his father.
He chose to remain on earth. He had made the decision to attend the Academy, where he consumed himself in ever biology class they had to offer. After graduating in the top ten percent of his class, he surprised his classmates by striking out on his own for the few years to get the feeling of what he was and what he wanted. In that time he managed to find his way back to both sides of his family and make a few ties out side of blood that he would never question.
Now he was thirty and tomorrow he started out on his first mission for Star Fleet. A mission that they had approached him about out of the dark star field sky when he had found himself in San Francisco a month earlier. When he first heard the proposal offered him, he nearly choked on his drink on the verge refusing until he listened again to what they were asking. He accepted partially because of the plans but mostly thinking of what his father would say with Star Fleet 'asking for him'. This was closely followed by what would be the differing reactions of the two other men that had come to be representing something in his life. One he had never met. The other he had come to share an understanding with. An understanding that he found himself questioning from time to time.
Corn had never been his favorite. Spinach, broccoli and asparagus he could tolerate. Even enjoyed it when the mood suited him, which was rare but he could tolerate it. But corn...corn was created just to cut short what free time he could've had between dinner and bedtime. A savage blow to any ten old child and any other given time he would've been contemplating how to dispose of the noxious yellow kernels without anyone noticing. Tonight was different. Like it had been for the last dozen nights or so.
Pushing a stray kernel around his plate, Peter glanced around the cafeteria with a bored expression. Not that he was actually bored. He had always dreamt of being able to wander around a Starship and basically be treated like a king, well a prince atleast. Which he was, but it didn't help the fact of why he was there to begin with.
Letting his fork slide through his fingers until it rested flat on the plate, he slumped back into the plastic seat and gazed across the table at the man finishing off a cup of coffee. For a second he narrowed his eyes and really focused on the man that he knew as Captain James T. Kirk and then as Uncle.
Everyone knew him as Captain Kirk of the 'U.S.S. Enterprise, the young boy had surmised after the last time he had seen the man. It was shortly before he took command of the 'Enterprise' when Sam had decided to take 'all' of his family to see the new Captain off on his mission.
Peter recalled he hadn't too thrilled about that trip for the reason of having to make it with his two older stepbrothers. Both did their share of being beyond cruel towards him whenever their father wasn't watching them. He usually did his best to ignore them when it was possible, believing his father was right that they were angry yet at the divorce and at the thought of being replaced. An explanation he took as the truth and put his attention on the man they had come to see.
Even then he sensed that his Uncle was uncomfortable with finding himself faced with the sudden appearance of his family. Not that he really didn't appreciate their support, just that he wasn't sure of how to conduct himself with them. Not cold or unfriendly just that he acted like he wasn't sure what sort of reaction he was going to receive from his brother.
He had the same feeling now, as he wiggled in his own seat when the Captain set his empty cup down and looked over at the boy. This time it was uncomfortable feeling from lack of a connection between of them on both their parts. Other than their grief.
A half hearted attempt at a smile was all that Kirk could manage at first when he noticed that he was being scrutinized by his nephew. Once again he found himself at a loss of words as he cleared his throat glancing down at the half-empty plate in front of Peter.
"You sure you had enough?" He finally asked gesturing towards the plate.
"Yes sir." Was the quiet response as Peter sat back up in his chair, pushing the plate a few inches from him with the tips of his fingers.
Watching the boy's still slightly pale face, Kirk felt himself cringe inside believing that the two had hardly come to terms with anything other than they were both hurting from the death of Sam and Aurelan. And that was being dealt within themselves not together as it should have been.
"Well then, I suggest we finish packing the rest of your gear before we get to Starbase 12." He said pushing himself up from the table, picking up both his tray and Peter's as the youngster also moved from the table to follow him across the cafeteria.
"I already finished it this morning." Replied Peter watching the Captain place the trays into the tray disposal slot of the food processor unit.
Slipping the second tray into the slot, Kirk shot a glance down at the boy from the corner of his eye. He wasn't positive, but he had a feeling from the sound of the younger Kirk's voice that he had something on his mind and was trying to determine what to do about it. It left a tight apprehensive knot in the Captain's stomach.
"Okay." Mind racing for something to say, Kirk glanced at his chrono then up at the one built into the food processor. "I've had Mr. Scott take everything else down to the transporter room. Everything will beamed directly over to 'U.S.S. Hood' and that just leaves the gear in your cabin. Between the two of we should be able to manage what luggage you packed."
He had carefully refrained from mentioning the transportation of his parent's bodies, although he figured that Peter was more than aware of what would be happening. He had seemed to be more aware of what was happening around him that Kirk had been prepared for and that was probably half the problem for him on how to treat the ten year old.
Walking out of the cafeteria Kirk glanced at the time again, automatically heading for the lift with Peter shadowing him along the corridor. Stepping into the lift he started speaking to the computer but caught himself before blurting out bridge when he caught sight of Peter again and instead quickly ordered for level four.
There was less than an hour and a half until the 'Enterprise' arrived at Starbase 12 and Kirk doubted in that little time he could manage to find some way to improve the rapidly disintegrating relationship. And right now the two were all they had to share their private sorrow if either expected to even begin to deal with it.
"How much longer until we get to the Starbase sir?" Peter asked in the same quiet tone he had been using since he had received the news of his parent's death.
"Over an hour yet." Replied Kirk looking from the lift control panel toward Peter, trying to force another smile on to his face. "There's no reason for you to keep calling me sir, Peter. You can call me Uncle...Jim or James...whichever you feel more comfortable with.
Meeting his Uncle's hazel gaze, the boy's face looked doubtful. "Yes sir."
'Okay, so that hadn't worked out' Kirk thought with a defeated sigh as the lift came to a gentle stop followed by the doors snapping open. But then nothing he had tried the last few days had made much of an impression on Peter, or frankly, himself.
Bones had made the suggestion that two Kirk's should spend what time Peter had onboard together, using it as a cathartic therapy for their grief, the same morning that the Captain had broken the news to the boy. He was strongly hesitant for several reasons but was incapable of winning any arguments with the Doctor who knew that the ship wasn't scheduled for anything more than a couple of milk runs for the next week or so. And, one of the more annoying habits of McCoy's, seem to suspect that Kirk had already been struggling with his emotions before arriving back down in the sickbay, then decided this might help him as much as Peter.
If it did help, it was with Peter that it had any effect on Kirk thought as they paused in front of one of the V.I.P. cabin's and deactivated the lock. He had noticed over the days that Peter had been watching him with an expression that at the beginning was empty then shifted to fearful sorrow and now worry. A worry that wasn't for himself, but for the Captain.
Entering the large luxury cabin, Kirk glanced around the room and noticed the two small suitcases sitting next to the bed. Other than that there was no other trace that anyone, especially a ten-year-old boy, had been occupying the cabin for the last week or so.
Hearing the door shut, he turned towards Peter and found the boy staring at him with a look that was remarkably mature and serious. His navy blue gaze was meditative and concerned when it leveled with the hazel stare, instantly making Kirk recognize his own mother in that face. A realization that hit a little too close to the Captain than he liked and he felt himself become tense while trying to control his initial reaction.
"Do you miss him?"
Blinking at the sudden and innocent sounding question, Kirk felt himself release some of his anxiety catching himself before taking a staggering step back.
"Yes. Yes I do Peter." He softly said the weak tired smile just barely making it to his lips. "But I should've felt long before he died. Maybe he and I could've been closer if I had. Maybe you and I might be more closer."
Nodding slowly, Peter took this in consideration as if it was he expected to hear. "I think he wanted that. He wanted all of us to be closer."
Somewhat stunned by his nephew's honest directness, Kirk glanced around the cabin briefly then moved over the bed and slowly sank down on its edge.
"I know Peter. He tried explaining that to me some time ago." He murmured thinking back thirteen years earlier to another conversation. "I was apparently either too naive or too smart to listen then."
Moving across the room Peter sat down along side of his Uncle on the bed, the two staring off into their own collective thoughts for several seconds before the ten year old spoke again.
"He understood, you know."
"Understood?" Repeated Kirk still not believing the gentle compassionate tone to his nephew's voice.
"Yea. Being a Star Fleet Captain. He understood." Peter said with a sigh as he folded his arms in front of him and slouched slightly. "Everyone has a path they have to take at some time. He took his and you took yours. And someday I'll have to take mine."
Looking down at Peter, Kirk could hear Sam coming through just as clear as if they were standing in the viewing room staring out at the 'Farragut'. This time however, the words were making their marks.
"What else did he tell you?"
With another more tired sigh, Peter blinked at the tears that had come to his eyes. "He said he believed that you tried evening things out with yourself. He said that's why you had the best ship and crew in the Fleet."
'Damn.' Was all that could come to Kirk's mind as he felt his own tear's coming back.
"You sort of unknowingly tried to pick up some of the things you lost of yourself on that path, is how he explained to me." Biting his lip to keep himself from completely crying, Peter wiped at the tear that ran down his face with the back of his hand. "People lose themselves too easily when they don't pay attention to what they have around them."
Finding nothing to say right away, Kirk let the words sink in that a ten year old seem to grasp better than he had when he was twenty one. Regret and shame began to mix in with grief, at his lack of caring enough to even to try and listen to the words of experience Sam had tried to give him.
With out warning Peter stood up, walked around to the foot of the bed grabbed one of the suitcases and laid it down on the bed. Deactivating the small locks he flipped it open and began to rummage around in it until pulling out a small object from a side pocket. Resealing the suitcase, then setting it back down on to the floor he walked around to face Kirk and took the Captain's right hand in his own then laid the object in his palm.
"You take this now. Maybe it'll help you find what you lost."
When Peter removed his own hand, Kirk stared for a silent moment then carefully opened the lid and gazed at the worn face of the compass. After a few seconds he snapped it shut again and glanced up at the boy standing in front of him wondering how much he really grown in the last weeks.
"Peter, I can't take this." He murmured flipping it over in his hands and noticed the inscription scrolled on the back.
"It's a part of Dad that he gave to me. Now it's a part of both of us I'm giving to you. You can use it find your way back." Explained the boy sitting down beside Kirk again staring fondly at the brass compass in his Uncles hand.
Looking from it back over to Peter, the smile finally broke through as he placed an arm around the boy's shoulder. "Let's just hope I do before my time gets too short."
A stray beam of sunlight broke out overhead splashing over Peter Kirk, causing him to look up from his father's grave to gaze at the overcast sky that was beginning to break apart. Maybe it was a sign he speculated sliding his hands back into his coat pocket's as he glanced around the desolate cemetery.
Feeling the warmth along his face growing, he gazed back down at the grave wondering if he had guessed wrong. He hadn't yet, but as the saying went 'There's a first time for everything'. And maybe today would be that time.
Watching as the sunlight began to spread over one blue marble grave then the other, he shifted his gaze forward the slowly looked over his shoulder in the direction of the small crest.
It took a moment the two, before the figure started appearing moving up along the crest following the same path that he had. As the figure moved closer the front of his jacket brushed back from a gentle gust of wind. As it did the broadening rays of sunlight glinted off the gold Star Fleet insignia on the front the dark red uniform then disappeared under the jacket lapel again.
A smile grew on Peter's face as he glanced once more down at his father's grave, then began to turn towards the approaching man.
His father and uncle. He had come to understand them both.