I don't own Star Trek.

To all my readers, new, old, finding this a year after it's been finished (don't laugh: it could happen) I'm glad you've stuck through this entire thing with me. It was the first real fic of mine I forced myself to meet my deadlines on and I'm glad I managed to do that. All of your support, from just reading it to those amazing people who actually reviewed, helped so much.

That's why I hope this ending is as satisfying to you as the fact that I was able to complete it is to me. After everything you've given me, I hope this fic is enough to repay your kind words, encouragement, and helpful advice. With luck, I'll become a better, stronger writer and I hope to do this again someday. What's more, I hope you'll join me for that too, when I eventually get there. Feel free to badger me to write any time you please.

Without further gilded words; Enjoy.

… … .. . .. … …

All anyone could talk about was the speculation of what next. The admiralty was clamoring for Jim to make another press statement. To make a big show of just how well he was and just how little the Klingons and Cardassians mattered to the Starfleet flagship and the poster child of hard work. Jim declined, informing them that it wasn't his job to represent Starfleet in those kinds of situations.

Rand found him eventually and forced him to sit down and get caught up on his paperwork. He wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh that there were forms he had to fill out for getting captured and tortured, or if he wanted to scream at the stupidity of it all. The paperwork being demanded was suspiciously light and he suspected that had something to due with Fitzpatrick's sudden and dubious retirement.

True to his crews form, no one resigned from his crew, though Jim had personal meetings with each and every one of them. There were a few statements of concern regarding their current direction and such, but by the end of the meetings, Jim had a better understanding of his crew and they apparently had a better understanding of him.

His command crew he ordered in for a personal meeting and briefing as an entire group.

Sulu, Chekov, Uhura, McCoy, Giotto, Scotty, and Spock were seated around a table, all eyes on him. Jim sighed, rubbing at his eyes a little and wondering why he decided he needed to do this one that day, rather than waiting for the next morning.

"I suppose I should start this off by thanking all of you." Jim fixed each of them with a serious look. "If you ever do something that stupid again, I'll put all of you in the brig."

A few small smiles broke out and Jim smiled at them. Everyone seemed to relax all at once. This was how his crew handled things.

"As most of you know, I've had the entire crew in and out of here the past couple of days, discussing their opinion on the ship and my job as captain." Jim crossed his legs, threading his fingers together against the desk. "Most of them are actually pretty confident in my ability to captain the ship; I've ordered the majority of them to speak with a therapist." There was a laugh through most of them, and he smiled tightly. "Seriously, though. I have. I think you guys probably should too."

"Vhy are ve being ordered therapies?" Chekov glanced around to meet equally confused looks.

"I want everyone to have at least one session to make sure they're alright. I've also ordered the civilians that were on my ship to speak to therapists." Jim smirked as Spock's eyes widened at the implication that his father would be speaking with a professional. "At the insistence of Admiral Pike, I'll be speaking to a therapist too. So if they assign you a new captain it's because they discovered I'm too crazy to keep."

No one laughed. Jim sighed, glancing over towards McCoy who gave him a supporting nod. He quirked his lips into a smile when he glanced at Spock.

"Now. I think it's time you all got to tell me what you think of me, don't be stingy on the criticism. I can take it."

"You're immature." McCoy replied almost before he finished.

Jim hung his head immediately, sobbing unrealistically. "That's it. I quit. You're so mean."

"You give up way too soon." Sulu added playfully, tone obviously not serious. "I just don't know if I can work for someone who always gives up and can't see anything through."

"I'm serious. I'm going to jump off a drill." Jim warned. "But not. I want real feedback."

"I believe it is important that you instruct the crew towards reporting to you immediately in the event of any concerns they have. A so called open door policy will encourage discussion and reduce the difficulties stemming from poor communication." Spock told him, to which he nodded.

"I also think it's important that you enact an open door policy of your own." Uhura told Jim, eyes flicking to Spock. "If there's something you want to say, you say it. If you have any reason to think what you have to say may be inappropriate or if you aren't sure it's alright for a captain to say, speak to one of the department heads first. The minute you start holding back important information because you aren't sure is the minute we start breaking down communications and failing to disseminate important information and opinions."

Jim nodded, glancing at the table before meeting her eyes. "I'll take you up on that offer to run things by you first. Even with all of the command classes I took, there are times when how I mean it and how it actually comes out aren't the same."

"I haven't got much to say." Giotto shrugged. "I already communicate quite a bit with my department and we like how much attention you give us. It's been a while since you've come down to the individual departments though."

"Ah think ye have a really good ability ta come up with things that'll change the Federation." Scotty told him. "Yur always getting a new idea in your head. From now on, ye have all of us ta run them by. Ye can'naught be holding back those ideas in embarrassment."

"It is being important that you are taking wery good care of yourself." Chekov scolded. "Ve are needing you to be vell. If you are being sick and collapsing then you can not be kommanding."

"Alright." Jim nodded.

"I think we all know I call you out on your bull and will keep doing it." McCoy snorted. "If you would actually listen to me though, we might not have as many problems."

Jim grinned. "Got it. I'm listening."

"I highly doubt that." Spock deadpanned.

Jim smiled across the table at him and McCoy threw up his hands, rolling his eyes. "I'm dismissing myself."

"You're all dismissed." Jim nodded absently, eyes never leaving Spock.

They vacated the room quickly, eyes darting between the two momentarily as they left. Jim coughed uncomfortably when the door shut. It was the first time he'd been alone with Spock since the last time he ran away. The fact that they had acknowledged they were in love with each other didn't make it easier to be around each other.

"So…" Jim scratched at the back of his hand, staring awkwardly at the table. "Uh…Any criticism?"

"I believe I have already discussed everything I feel will assist your command, at this time." Spock tilted his head to the side, a morose look hinted at in his eyes. "Jim, I believe we should discuss how we will handle our feelings for each other."

Jim winced. "Didn't we have it worked out? Just…Weren't we going to make it easy? Take it slow?"

"I am not averse to 'taking it slow', however it would be dishonest to inform you that I do not wish for our relationship to progress at all. I simply wish to establish proper boundaries now, so that we will not have further misunderstandings."

Jim nodded awkwardly, shrugging a little. "I don't even know where to start though. I mean…what's a good boundary? Are there milestones?"

Spock quirked an eyebrow. "None that I am aware of. However, I believe it would be most productive if I were allowed to woo you with my own discretion. If at any point you were to feel disquieted by my actions, you would of course inform me and I would desist at that time."

Jim flushed a little. "You mean…like a normal relationship?"

"Yes Jim." Spock smirked ever so slightly, fleetingly. "Normal. Or in as much as we can ever be, together."

"I think I'd like that."

… .. .

"We have you here because we need to discuss what you want to do as the captain of the Starfleet flagship." Archer leaned back in his chair, watching Jim and Spock sitting at the table opposite the admirals. "You won't talk to the press, but you need to talk to us. What do you honestly think is going to happen next?"

Jim frowned, sitting up straighter in his seat. "With all due respect, don't you have people who it's their entire job to make these decisions? Isn't it your job?"

Every admiral stared at him a moment, meeting defiant blue eyes and wondering how they could have ever thought that cadet would have been cooperative. There was a fleeting suspicion that they understood exactly what bothered Fitzpatrick so greatly. This wasn't at all aided by the purely unsympathetic look his first officer was giving them, almost mocking them for thinking this would be easy.

When he received no immediate response to his statement, Jim leaned back in his seat, crossing his legs Archer, Barnett, and Pike exchanged three quarters of a glance. With a slow and most definitely exasperated breath in and out his nose, Pike returned his gaze to Jim. The other Admirals were wisely silent, sending messages across their PADDs.

"Believe it or not we usually take our captains opinions into account." Pike drawled, looking over his PADD. "We want to know your gut feelings on this Kirk. You were the one out there, dealing with this first hand."

Jim scrunched up his nose, glancing at Spock. "I would point out I was unconscious for most of that."

"Not what I meant." Pike rolled his eyes. "What's the feel out there? And don't start with comments on how you haven't been out. You know what I'm saying."

… .. .

"I want to go into space."

McCoy glanced up from where he was reading an article, lounging in the observation deck with Jim. "I don't know how to break this to you, Jim, but you're a Starfleet captain. That's all you do."

Jim rolled his eyes. "That's not what I meant. Milk runs, visiting New Vulcan, which is admittedly going to be much better now that I've got friends there, patrolling borders, that isn't space. That's no better than being stuck planet side."

"Then what exactly are you looking for?"

"Space, Bones. I'm looking for everything out there. I want to see it all and I can't do that confined to a couple thousand square light-years." Jim sighed, flopping back. "How about you?"

"You know I'm going where you're going."

"But what do you want? More time near Earth so you can see Joanna? More time away? A signed approval for a relationship with Chapel? Or Uhura? I think you'd have to compete with Scotty for her though…"

"And you had sounded so mature for a minute there." McCoy snorted, never looking up from the PADD after that initial glance. "I don't really know what I want. I figured some time off in space would help me sort it all out."

"Space is not that helpful."

"Just because it gave us you?"

Jim sat up, leaning forward on his knees. "My therapist wants me to comm. him every week. I think I might actually do it. Some of the other captains actually talked to me for the first time the other day, told me how they couldn't have handled it as well and how they have to talk to the therapists just for the deaths of security crew members. I'm nervous that I'm going to get people on my crew hurt. So far I've been told that's a good thing."

"I think I like this therapist of yours." McCoy smiled to himself, hiding it behind the PADD. "Lord knows the one they sent me to has a hornets nest up their-"

"I wouldn't recommend you finish that sentence." Sulu snorted, finally drawing himself out of his book. "It's like they know when you've said something about them."

"What about you?" Jim glanced over at him. "What do you want?"

"Same thing as everyone else on this ship: to explore space and to serve with you." Sulu kicked him lightly as he stretched out on the couch they were all sharing. "Come on, this is the Enterprise, the greatest learning vessel to ever be created."

"That's what I told Pike." Jim admitted.

"You were talking with Pike?" McCoy asked absently.

"All of the admirals."

"So they actually made you do something with that captain's position other than fill out paperwork?" Sulu grinned, even though he wasn't really paying attention anymore.

"You guys suck. I'm going to go play chess with Spock."

"I thought you both hated chess." They said at once, exchanging a glance of confusion.

Jim grinned salaciously. "That is half the fun."

"I just missed something." Sulu announced.

"I just don't want to clean up the mess." McCoy sighed. "Behave."

"Yes sir." Jim said sarcastically, waving over his shoulder as he wandered off to find Spock.

In truth, they were most likely to spend the time in one lesson or another, or meditating. The only reason it wasn't quite work was the fact that these meetings were considered free and open for flirting and discussing their pasts. Jim was already learning, through sharing with Spock, that he had some really good points to his childhood. Both of them did. He hadn't ever really noticed that before and he suspected Spock had not realized it either.

Spock was being surprisingly receptive of Jim's random interruptions, too. There had already been a couple incidents where Jim called Spock for no real reason other than to hear him, completely interrupting the work he was trying to do. Spock took it in good humor, though he refused to 'talk dirty' citing not only that he was working but also that Jim would not be as receptive of such discussion. Jim sheepishly admitted he was probably right and proceeded to talk his ear off for an hour and a half.

… .. .

"I'm just saying, none of you are going to tell me, but I have a pretty good idea of what happened." Uhura dropped the smile she had been wearing previously, turning the discussion more somber in a second.

"Then you also understand why this is a private matter." Spock fixed her with a serious look, warning her not to say anything.

"I do." She agreed. "And if you need any help with how to progress in a healthy relationship, I'll do what I can. I think you and I jumped in to fast, it wasn't good for either of us."

"I appreciate your offer and will consider your advice." Spock's tone of voice, in direct contention with his words, clearly told her to mind her own business.

She laughed. "So do I need to start giving you date ideas that won't end in sex?"

Spock flushed a little. "I believe I am quite capable of not leading our relationship in that direction."

"I know." She teased. "But I don't get the chance to gossip and giggle very often. I'm still an earth girl. I like getting to plan out which outfit to wear on a date and just how close to get to a kiss before heading inside and leaving them gaping at the door. It's fun. Only Chapel does that with me and up until now she was hot for you."

Spock decided to delicately avoid the majority of that comment. "I admit I am curious as to what you told her to persuade her that a relationship with me would not be possible."

Uhura grinned. "You don't want to know. Just…be aware that she is most definitely…ah…in favor of the relationship now? But try not to do anything romantic with Jim in front of her for a while. You might overload her brain."

He quirked an eyebrow, leaving her hyperbole alone. He could hypothesize what she may have implied or said to the over enthusiastic nurse. That was not the immediate concern. He had the chance, now, to confide in someone he trusted deeply and, it occurred to him, she may have some idea of how a normal relationship was supposed to progress.

He was drawn from his musings by his communicator going off. "Yes?"

"Hey, Spock." Jim's voice filtered nervously over the air waves.

Uhura sat up straight, eyes widening and grin going big and pleased. Spock tried to ignore it.

"Yes Captain?"

"What'cha wearing?" Jim's voice was teasing.

"I am currently dressed in the regulation uniform for science personnel." Uhura rolled her eyes, throwing a pillow at him.

Jim chuckled though, sounding genuinely pleased. "Mm. Love it. Want to meet up?"

Spock quirked an eyebrow at the communicator, momentarily neglecting to account for the fact that Jim could not see it. Uhura slapped her hands over her mouth to stifle her giggle.

"Say 'fascinating'." Jim ordered before he could respond. "You always do that eyebrow thing when you say fascinating and I just know you're doing it."

If possible, Spock's eyebrow hitched up a little higher. "Fascinating."

There was a choked laugh. "God you're amazing. Why do you humor me so much?"

"I believe you already know the answer to your question Jim." Uhura was mouthing the word 'flirt' at him, a teasingly disapproving look in her eyes.

"You know, I'd ask you to slip into something sexy and meet me at my quarters, but I think it has more to do with you than the outfit. Everything looks great." Jim purred.

Spock flushed, watching Uhura bury her red face in her pillow, dieing from amusement. "I believe you made reference to a meeting of some sort?"

"Yeah." Jim's tone went almost, almost professional, though it still held a playful, charming note. "I have important ship business to discuss with you. Highly important. I need a safe and unassuming way to usurp Bones of his position as my best friend and I thought you might like the position."

"I feel I must inquire as to what would be the requirements of this position you are offering me."

"Mm. Long walks on the ship, late nights on the observation deck gazing at the stars…" Jim's voice dipped a touch deeper. "Alone time during shore leave."

Spock's eye very nearly twitched involuntarily. "Am I to believe you shared such things with the Doctor previously?"

"Oh my god." Jim laughed. "I was flirting with you! I'd never-not like that! Not with Bones. You jealous Vulcan. I was amending the position a little."

Spock straightened in what was most certainly not indignation. "I see."

"Seriously though…" Jim gulped audibly. "I…I was wondering if…maybe…if you weren't busy…or…anything…if you'd…like…to go on a date with me. Our…first…date…"

Uhura's eyes softened and she nudged Spock at the unsure tone. She promptly shook her head and pointed to his clothes in exasperation. He glanced down and furrowed his brow before looking up at her questioningly. She mouthed something at him and he nodded.

"Uh…you could answer any time buddy." Jim said nervously and Spock realized he had not responded.

"Forgive me, I was contemplating something." Spock replied quickly. "I would appear I will need to change, if we are to have a casual outing. However I would be inclined to accept your offer."

"Great. I'll see you soon."

… .. .

The news was all over the Federation, flooding every channel. The Cardassians were nowhere in sight. The Klingons had fled back to their territory, though they made no official withdrawal from the war. And the Enterprise…

The Enterprise was to continue their five year mission, searching out new life and exploring the unknowns of the universe. The celebration had been monumental, greater than even when Nero was defeated. They all knew each other, cared for each other and had come to be something of a family together.

Jim smiled as he watched his crew, his crew, celebrate.

"How is it you can make the worst of disasters work out in your favor?" Winona threw her arms around her son's shoulders. "This shouldn't have been a win for you. Not even with the way it turned out."

"I'm just lucky." Jim knocked their heads together lightly, smiling softly. "Luckiest guy in the universe."

"Mm." She smiled into his shoulder, shaking her head. "I don't know what's going on between you two, and I don't think you'll ever actually tell me everything, but you should know that his father and I are planning your wedding."

Jim snorted, terror not clutching at his chest like it would have before at the mention of him and Spock. "I thought you wanted grandbabies?"

"You haven't heard?" Winona leaned back, giving him an amused look. "Sam has a fiancée now. She's lovely."

Jim grinned. "I'll have to meet her someday."

"You aren't protesting our planning out your whole ceremony?" She let go, slapping his shoulder. "I thought you'd be all 'stay out of it' or 'I don't have feelings for him' or something."

Jim shook his head, eyes finding Spock in the crowd, where he was conversing with Uhura, McCoy, and Scotty. "I'm starting to figure out that maybe there's more to this whole 'love' thing than hating the world around you."

She smiled brightly at him. "Look at you, all grown up. Your father would be proud."

Jim caught her hand, squeezing it gently. "All that matters now is, are you?"

"Yes." She whispered, words catching in her throat. "I'm so proud of you baby."

Jim glanced sideways, throat feeling tight. "I've been talking to a therapist. I really think I can do this. And…I think I'm going to be alright. I have an amazing crew, amazing friends, and all the opportunities in the universe."

"You've really grown up." Winona sighed, regretful smile in place. "I just wish I could have been there for it."

"You're here now. And I've still got a long way to go." Jim smirked. "Now tell me a little more about these wedding plans. It might just give me a goal to work towards."

She chuckled.

Across the room, Chekov rocketed against Spock, the third such since the announcement. He'd tackled Jim five times. Sulu cackled, racing up and slapping Scotty on the shoulder.

"Hey guys. Uhura." Sulu beamed. "What do you think, now?"

"Now?" She quirked an eyebrow. "But it isn't done."

Sulu snorted. "It'll never be done. But that's the whole fun in it. Come on. Now would be the perfect time."

"To what are you referring?" Spock glanced at McCoy, seeing that he was just as bemused.

"Alright." Uhura sighed, dropping her shoulders. "Go ask the Captain."

"Da!" Chekov detangled himself, hurriedly looking the room over until he spotted Jim. "I vill be doing!"

He was off like a bolt and Sulu careened after him, dodging personnel and laughing heartily. Spock winged up an eyebrow, glancing at Uhura. She just shook her head, promising to be back shortly as she started towards the stage. McCoy sighed, glancing back to where Jim was speaking with the pair…and Scotty…before turning to Spock.

"So do you two have everything worked out now?"

"Jim has agreed to allow me to court him in a traditional manner." Spock nodded once, amusement coloring his voice ever so slightly. "We are…taking it slow, I believe he said."

"That's good." McCoy nodded. "If you still love him in five years, he's worth it."

Spock raised both eyebrows in mock surprise. "You would have me believe it is possible to stop loving him?"

McCoy snorted. "I wouldn't want to get your hopes up by implying that. I think you two might just be stuck with each other."

"I am not adverse to that." Spock watched as Chekov careened past, nearly striking him in his haste, Sulu and Scotty, who he had not seen leave, racing after. "This ship is often quite stimulating. I believe our new implementations will prove quite successful."

"I can't believe you made my Sickbay into a learning hospital." McCoy growled playfully, watching Uhura light up as the boys talked to her. "A bunch of medical interns on this ship."

"I believe that the best possible internship they could serve would be under you."

McCoy's eyes widened and he turned to call him out on his compliment when Uhura called for everyone's attention. Eyes swiftly turned to Jim and then her. She sighed exasperatedly, smiling.

"Over the last month or so, a select handful of my staff, and the selected few of the other Starfleet ships have been working on a special report at Captain Kirk's request." Uhura started, earning a hush over the room. "We have a long way to go, but we feel that it's time to share now just what it is Jim has us doing. You see, our captain decided to embrace everything the Federation stands for in this order."

"Just tell them already!" Jim yelled across the room, voice carrying easily.

"Loud mouth." She snorted into the microphone, earning raucous laughs. "Alright already. Alright. The report we've composed, that we will be releasing in the next few days and will continue to update as we gain more information, is all about-"

"Seriously." Jim groaned. "Is this going to take long?"

"Do you want to come up here and do it yourself?" Uhura placed her hands on her hips, glaring playfully at his banter. "Because I can step aside you glory hound."

"You're my communications officer, isn't it your job?"

"How the hell are you so loud?" She whined. "You don't have a microphone. We'd already be done if you stopped interrupting."

The room rippled with laughter and she sighed, smiling. Jim certainly knew how to get a crowed in the mood he wanted. With amusement hanging in the air, she pulled her hair from the bun she had tied it up in, giving in to the casual feeling. There was a wolf whistle, sounding distinctly like Jim, and she shook her head.

"Alright. Now if all present captains are done…" She grinned. "I'd like to welcome all of you to read our report on the cultural trends of friendship and the accepted standard ways to indicate a desire for friendship in different cultures. We're fighting to stop misunderstandings and make it so everyone has a chance to have friends no matter where they're from."

There was a moment of stunned silence before cheers of sheer exuberating filled the air. Spock turned back to stare a Jim, eyes wide. He winked across the room, blue eyes dancing with mirth. It seemed he wouldn't need it anymore. He was going to be sure that the first thing on that list, no matter who was speaking to whom, was that every party involved make sure they were one hundred percent sure about what was being discussed. Poor communication kills, more than just what they told him in the academy.

The party returned to its full swing and McCoy patted Spock's shoulder absently, murmuring something about talking to someone. It was intentionally vague, Spock could tell, as more of an excuse to give Spock the chance to speak to Jim.

Jim was grinning wildly at his as he made his way over. "What do you think? Am I shaping up to be one of those mature people everyone keeps telling me about?"

"Indeed." Spock gripped his hands at his back, both eyebrows raised ever so slightly. "I admit I am somewhat astonished that no one has before put forward the idea of such a massive cultural report that could very well be the most valuable resource the Federation will have in future interactions."

Jim shook his head innocently. "You'd be surprised how often we don't put together full, easily accessible reports on the simplest of things. Even our information on most cultures is spread out over many different reports and books, never putting them all in one straightforward place."

"Perhaps no one has considered the practical applications of such things before."

"I know I can't be the first."

"Yet you are singularly capable of undertaking what would be deemed an impossible task to even approach by any other being."

"My communication crew, and several other communication crews, handled it, not me."

"For one who was once so unfettered in his boisterous nature, you are making it exceedingly difficult to complement you." Spock furrowed his brow in annoyance.

Jim smiled sheepishly, flushing. "Oh."

Spock quirked an eyebrow at him. "Are you feeling well, Captain?"

"Better than ever." Jim grinned. "You do know our parents are planning our marriage, right?"

Spock raised both eyebrows in amused surprise. "Affirmative. I was not, however aware they were willing to discuss it with us."

Jim laughed heartily. "How did you figure that out?"

"They became exceedingly close to one another after their initial meeting. It became apparent that they were conspiring in regards to us shortly after I discovered they were discussing their own youths with one another. Specifically, they were comparing the events associated with Vulcan and Terran weddings."

"See, I'm going to stop getting hurt because I miss all the fun."

"That would please me greatly Jim."

"You know it isn't actually going to happen, right?"

"I do not suspect as much, but I will continue to…desire…that this is the case."

"I'll put you in an early grave." Jim promised. "You're going to die of worry some day. It'll be a heart attack or something."

Spock quirked and eyebrow at him, clearly conveying just how illogical that statement was. He made an offhand comment about Vulcans not feeling worry. Jim just smiled, shaking his head affectionately.

… .. .

"Take us out Mr. Sulu." Jim nodded, glancing sideways at Spock.

"Another successful first encounter, Captain." Spock nodded to him, eyes smiling, warm swirls of chocolate and ebony.

"I think I'm getting better at these first impressions." Jim's eyes practically sparkled as he turned a gleaming smile on his First Officer.

"Affirmative." Spock stood, walking over to Jim's side. "With the exception of a number of highly unusual encounters, your record as Captain is nearly flawless."

"That didn't sound much like a compliment." Jim told him, pouting.

"I do not suspect anyone could handle the atypical nature of some of our more extraordinary missions as well as you have, Jim."

Jim grinned wildly, offering two fingers in a kiss. Spock greedily pressed their hands together, perfectly composed with the exception of the pure adoration and love in his eyes. Jim's smile softened at that, more natural, more affectionate, his eyes reflecting his own reverence and adulation.

"For god's sake get a room you two." McCoy grumbled.

The bridge laughed, but Jim stood from his seat. "Sulu, you have the conn. I'm taking lunch with my boyfriend."

"Yes Captain." Sulu smirked, glancing at Chekov.

"Shall we?" Jim offered his hand.

Spock immediately took it, the corners of his lips twitching in pleased amusement. "Of course, Jim."

They walked off the bridge together, hand in hand, sharing a look that spoke volumes of how far they had come together. And they knew that they would meet the future together, ready for anything. Sometimes, it would get rough, but they'd take it one step at a time. And they wouldn't fall anymore, but lead each other into love one sure foot in front of the other. The great unknown was in front of them, and they were ready to explore it.

… … .. . .. … …

So there you have it. Something like four weeks short of a year later.