DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. and Viacom. The passage quoted is from The Magus by John Fowles. The lullaby is my own. This story is rated PG.



In Mine

Everyone was so happy here, so determined in their quest to have fun, to live, to laugh. The sounds, the lights, were really too much. And that made Las Vegas perfect. The ideal place to come on this particular day. Just as she had chosen Carnival in Venice last year and Gravenok on Mars the year before. Better to be miserable in a bright and happy place then at home remembering that her only child had been killed on this day. Here she could leave the mourning behind and keep her home a place where she did not cry. Ever.

Nothing was the same since David died. He had been everything to her. Or nearly so. For most of her life, she had cared for two things: her son and her work, the two had been inextricably linked together from the moment he had first sat down next to her and asked to help. Now they were both gone. Not that she wasn't still gainfully employed. It was just that she had nothing as big, as exciting, as Genesis had been. And she had no partner as brilliant as her son. But even if there were a hundred more projects like Genesis, they wouldn't mean anything without David to share them.

She kept trying to chart the way she had lost him. To find a place to lay the blame. And it would be easier to do if she didn't keep coming back to herself. She'd tried to blame others. Star Fleet, that damn Klingon, Saavik, and especially Jim. But over the years some of the veil had fallen off her eyes, and she could see that she was as much if not more to blame than anyone.

A shriek startled her. Someone had just won a great many credits. She looked around the room. How impossibly young these beings looked. How easy in their diversions. David had never looked like that. Even as a child he had been serious.

-----------------

"David, where are you?"

A blonde head poked out of the bushes near her office. "Here, Mother."

She walked over to him. "What are you doing?"

"Watching the ants. Come see."

She crawled in next to him, finding the space a bit cramped. He sat easily, his five-year old body neatly folded over the colony he'd found.

"See, they're all working on the same thing." He showed her how the different ants all merged to accomplish their task. He was careful not to hurt any of them as he pointed with a small twig.

They sat in silence for some time, watching the small creatures. Finally, legs cramping from crouching too long, she began to crawl back out. "Ok, kiddo, time to go."

He followed her, not complaining as he made his way carefully around the ants. She didn't know what she'd do if he ever really argued with her. He had always been a worry-free child. But she knew that his placid temperament hid a formidable stubborn streak. Fortunately his desire to please her outweighed his need to have his own way. So far anyway.

She studied her son as he trooped beside her. His blonde curls and wide green-blue eyes gave him the appearance of a cherub. He looked up to smile at her and Carol's heart turned over. How she loved this child. She would do anything for him, anything. The fierce devotion she felt for him constantly took her by surprise.

"Can we have breakfast for dinner tonight?"

"We'll have whatever Gubby makes."

His voice was sweetly determined. "But I love breakfast."

"Yes, and you loved it last night. Gubby will have something tasty for us." Carol opened the front door to see her mother in the kitchen. "See, David, doesn't it smell good?"

"Not as good as breakfast," he muttered. His voice was pitched just low enough that his grandmother couldn't hear him.

Barbara Marcus smiled at them both. "Did you have a good day at the office, dear?"

It was their little joke. Carol's office was a small temporary lab she had set up behind her mother's house in Virginia. It was a good arrangement for them both. Barbara looked out for David, a duty that had brought her out of the funk she had been in since Carol's stepfather died. Carol remembered Matthew Quint with a fondness she had never held for her own father. Captain Joel Marcus had been the quintessential Fleet man, admired by his peers, worshiped by his crew. And hated by his daughter.

Carol could feel her palms start to clench as she thought of her father, how he would stride into the house after one of his long absences, scooping her mother up in his arms. Don't fall for his lies, she used to think as she watched Barbara laugh in delight.

She had never understood her mother's willingness to welcome him, not when the woman had been raising her daughter all but alone, doing everything herself. Even when he had been on Earth, her father had still been gone. She remembered her anger when he had missed her fifteenth birthday party because he was at a wedding for a young crewman.

"You love them more than us," she had yelled at him when he had finally come home. "You love that ship more than us."

"Carol," her mother had chided. "Your father has duties. He can't always be here."

"But he's never here. Never. What about his responsibility to us? When do we get to matter? When do we get to come first?"

Her father had just stared at her. She knew that to him she had been the eternal mystery. And she had never known him, never understood what drove him, what made him abandon them for a way of life she couldn't understand. When he had died the following year in a shuttle accident, she had not even cried.

Several years later, when Matthew Quint had begun to pursue her mother, she had welcomed the scientist with open arms. He came into Barbara's life just as Carol was preparing to leave her for university. His presence assuaged any guilt that Carol had felt at leaving her mother alone. She knew Matthew loved Barbara. And he was firmly established on Earth. He would never abandon her mother for the stars.

Matthew and her mother had enjoyed over a decade together. His death had left Barbara far more bereft than Joel's had. The price of depending on someone, of being able to finally lean on someone, Carol supposed. Matthew's death had come at a time when Carol's research was demanding more and more of her time. She had known that she was on the edge of a breakthrough, about to discover something that might someday change the world. All she had needed was the time to work on it. But David had required time from her too. And she had not been about to deny him that, the way her father had done to her.

When her mother had suggested that she could look after David when Carol was working, it had seemed like the perfect solution. With the lab just outside the house, Carol could take frequent breaks to be with her son. If he had a pageant, a project, or even just a need to see her, she could be there for him.

And now two years later it was still the perfect solution. She watched her mother and her son. Smiled as she saw the sweet way they had of interacting. David was good for his grandmother. Everything he did seemed to delight the other woman. Barbara even thought the way he mangled Grandmother to Gubby was adorable.

"I've made you a nice dinner," Barbara teased her grandson. "I bet it's just what you want."

"Bet's it not," he mumbled a bit sulkily.

Barbara shrugged. "Well, I guess I'll just have to throw your breakfast out then?"

"Oh, Gubby!" David wrapped his small arms around his grandmother's legs.

Carol shook her head. "You indulge him too much, Mother."

"And it's just ruining him," Barbara messed his hair affectionately. "Such a rotten child."

David beamed at her, his smile one of pure satisfaction. "I love you, Gubby," he said as he hugged her more tightly.

Barbara's eyes met her daughter's as she replied, "And I love you, Angel. "

---------------------------

Carol jumped as the clanging of a slot machine startled her back to the present.

All gone now. David, her mother, even Jim just this year. The news reports had said he died a hero. She wished she could have cried for him, or hated him still. But she felt nothing. Any particle of feeling that wasn't used to mourn her son was gone.

Sighing, she rose and went back to her room. It was quiet and dark and it sheltered her as the tears she had kept in, fell again at this, the appointed time. Always the same. She picked a place that was close. No more than one day of travel out and the same back. That left her one day to cry, to mourn, to be human, and one day to recover before going back to her work, to her empty little apartment, to resume what passed as a life. It had been like this for nearly a decade now.

This time, she had thought the head of the laboratory was going to try to cancel her time off. He had hemmed and hawed about "poor timing" and "making sacrifices." She had stared at him coldly until his resolve had shattered. She had not had to threaten him with her resignation, although she had been prepared to. He was afraid of her already. Everyone seemed afraid of her these days.

Echoes of laughter played across her memories. David's as a child, then older. But another's voice too. Jim's. James T. Kirk. The father of her child. Her lover at one time. And she had loved him. They had been an incongruous pair from the start. Poorly matched, she used to laugh to her mother, as she prepared for what she always assumed would be their last date. But they had a chemistry that burned hot and furious for longer than anyone expected. She could still see Jim as he had been when she first met him. Cocky, just hitting his prime. She had fallen for him hard to the amazement of her family and friends. Jim and she had been polar opposites in so many ways. He was the cowboy with his head in the stars. Odd company for someone who so resented Starfleet for taking her father away. She had always said she wanted someone who had his feet firmly on the ground. But Jim had been the perfect counterpoint to her serious and often dark outlook. His enthusiasm for life and love had freshened her own spirits. His sunniness had been infectious and his arms the warmest place she had ever rested. He had accepted her as an equal from the start, pushing her to succeed as firmly as he did himself. For one year they had been happy together, for another they had tried to make it work.

She hardly remembered what started their problems. They had both been under enormous stress working on assignments that mattered more than anything...even each other ultimately. There had been no clear escalation, no increase in arguments leading up to the end, no precise time she could look back on and say "that was the moment it all started to go bad." It just happened. Somewhere along the course of their relationship, she could no longer deny that she detested the ship she felt she was sharing him with. All the old feelings that she had experienced with her father began to surface again. She had known it was unfair of her; Jim had been in Starfleet when she had met him. She had known what to expect. But that didn't stop her from suggesting he take a planet-side assignment. He had looked at her incredulously. As she had known he would. She wanted to work it out, but the hurt child inside her remembered only the pain that she had gone through every time her father left. Carol began to spend more and more time in the laboratory. Run, hide, protect yourself, the little girl had whispered. And she had done it. It had been the simple solution.

Jim had not let go easily. He had truly loved her. Had wanted to fight for her, in a way that he had not felt able to fight for Janice Lester when their relationship had ended so nastily just a few years before. But he hadn't been able to do what Carol wanted. Could never make the decision to abandon the stars, and the career that was shooting him quickly into the upper echelons of the line. Yes, he had loved her but he couldn't choose her. And he wouldn't play second fiddle to a laboratory when she began to abandon him for her work. He followed her example, and began to stay away even more.

It was a vicious cycle that neither had seemed inclined to stop. They had started to let go of each other, and, with no one holding on, love had slipped away as easily as it had appeared.

It had been harder than she expected, being alone again. She had missed him terribly. But she had her work. And then she had David, this baby that had managed to find his way into the miniscule percentages of contraceptive failures. She had intended to keep him a secret from his father, hide the pregnancy and the child until enough time had passed that she could say he was another's son. It would have worked, if Jim had not been in town while his ship was in for emergency refits. If she had known that he was on Earth, she would have taken more care to stay clear of the places he was likely to show up. But she had not known. It wasn't that she hated him. Far from it. But this child was not community property. She wasn't going to share him the way she'd had to share Jim, and her father, with Star Fleet. This baby was all hers and she would guard him. Jealously.

---------------------

"Carol?"

The sound of his voice stopped her cold. She didn't turn around, afraid to show him a swelling abdomen he may not have noticed. She put all the coldness she could muster into her voice. "I can't stop, Jim. I'm late."

"Yeah. By quite a few months from the look of it." The hurt wonder in his voice took the sting out of his comment. "Why didn't you tell me?"

She didn't stop to think. Her first impulse was to lie. "It isn't yours."

"Bull, Carol. I can count back as well as you. And you're a bad liar."

She finally turned to him and let him see her fully. "So, you're the father. So what?"

He winced at the ice in her tone. "So what? For God's sake, Carol. That's my child you're carrying. Did you think I wouldn't care about that?"

She softened her tone. "Of course I didn't think that, but what was I supposed to do?"

"Call me," he suggested quietly. "Tell me."

"Why?"

"Because I'm the father."

She could hear his frustration, felt her own rise. "And?"

He pulled her to a bench at the end of the corridor. It gave them more privacy as he took her hands in his, his eyes solemn. "And that means a lot. Do you think I've forgotten what you've told me about your father? How he was never there for you? This can be different."

"How? Are you going to give up the Lydia Sutherland for me?"

His expression hardened. "It doesn't have to be that drastic, Carol."

"Yes, Jim, it does. We both know what it is like to have an absent father. I haven't forgotten that conversation either."

She remembered when he had first told her of his childhood. The hurt had been clear when he recalled for her the man that had drifted in and out of his life, that had left his eldest son and namesake in charge of caring for his wife and his younger son. George Kirk had abandoned them, first in a failed career in Starfleet, then later as he had chased one crazy scheme after another. He hadn't been a cruel man, just a directionless one. But Jim had grown to hate him. Had even refused to call his brother Georgie anymore, started calling him Sam. Soon everyone did, much to his father's anger. Jim hadn't cared.

"Carol, we can do better than they did. Because we know how not to do it." He looked again at her abdomen, his expression softening. "What do you want me to do?"

And in that simple question, she realized that he was actually offering up everything he had, every possibility. For their child. But not for her, not for them. It wasn't right to ask that of him, or of herself. Her resolve was clear, as she said evenly, "Nothing. Do nothing."

"You can't be serious!"

Anger erupted. Her voice was sharp. "Fine. You want something to do? Do this. Stay away."

His face fell.

A part of her knew what a bad decision she was making, but another stronger Carol hushed the voice. "Just stay away from us."

She turned and walked away hurriedly. But not fast enough to escape hearing his whispered, "Stay away?"

--------------------------------

He had done it. Stayed away from them. Left them alone. But not at first. He had believed he could talk her out of this, win her over. His campaign had started the next day when he had showed up at her door, wanting to talk about it. He had been sure they could work it out. He wasn't her father, or his own, he had tried to argue.

It hadn't mattered to her. She had made her mind up long ago. When she was fifteen and she had insisted that her cake not be lit until her father arrived. She had grown angrier and more resentful as she sat for hours. She had decided then and there that she would never, ever, go through what her mother had. So, in the end it hadn't mattered what Jim did, or said. It didn't matter that she had loved him, or that he had loved her.

He had pressed her. Tried every argument. Held her. Yelled at her. Nothing had swayed her. Eventually his ship was ready to go. He had showed up one more time at her door. Had said one word. "Reconsider."

"Resign," she had countered.

The chasm between them had been too wide to cross. And neither of them had been good at building bridges.

"All or nothing, Carol? Is that really how you want it?"

"It really is."

It had not occurred to her to wonder what the cost would be to him. She frankly had not expected him to dwell on it once he accepted the situation, once he moved on. And he did move on. First to Janet Wallace. A person so like herself she almost laughed when she heard it. Would have laughed, if her heart hadn't been breaking at the thought of him with someone else. He and Janet lasted a year. She had been happy when she heard they had broken it off. He had moved on to Areel Shaw, another icy blonde, or at least on the surface. But this woman, for all her fine breeding and education, had been able to put something back into Jim that the three women before her had drained away. A love of life, an enthusiasm for the future. From what Carol had understood, Areel had never tried to hold him, and that relationship had ended without acrimony.

And once he had been offered the Enterprise, he really had been lost to her, to any woman. And so she had raised David on her own. Had moved on with her own life and assumed Jim had moved on with his. It had been easier to think that he never thought of them, never asked himself what might have been. And she had been able to believe it till that day in the Genesis Cave, when she had seen the wonder in Jim's eyes the first time he met David as an adult. She had had no idea how much it would hurt to see his initial pride in the son she had raised. Even his censure had been mild, so filled with longing that she had felt regret rush over her.

But if she had it to do over again, she wouldn't change a thing. She had not lied about wanting her son in her world, not in Star Fleet with his father. She would have done anything to keep him, had done much to poison David's mind against Star Fleet and those who sailed the stars for her. Jim Kirk, as Captain of the Fleet's flagship, had been a natural target. In time, David's hatred and mistrust had grown with hardly any work on her part. But at first, it had been a delicate operation planting that initial seed.

-----------------------

"Mother, look what Gubby got me."

She turned to see David in a miniature Star Fleet uniform. Her reaction was visceral. "Take that off!"

David looked at her startled.

"Now!" She had never taken that tone with him, but he looked so much like his father that her fear made her harsh.

His eyes shone with unshed tears as he backed away from her, then ran into his room.

Barbara passed him as he rushed by. She met her daughter's angry eyes calmly. "It's just a play uniform."

Carol shook her head violently. "It'll never be just a toy, Mother. Not with Jim Kirk's blood in his veins. Or my father's. Never just a game."

"You can't tie him to you forever, Carol. Someday the boy will have to make his own way."

"And that way might be in Star Fleet?"

"Might be, yes."

"No. Never." Carol rose.

"Where are you going?"

She looked grimly at her mother. "To make up with my son."

"Carol," Barbara started warningly.

"He's my son," Carol interrupted her before she could finish. "There will be no Star Fleet for him. Do you understand?"

Her mother stared at her as if she were crazy. She had never shared Carol's resentment of the Fleet. Had never truly understood the anger her daughter still held toward Joel Marcus. "Your father was just doing his job. Kirk too. You have to let this hatred go."

"Do. You. Understand?" Carol put all the menace she was capable of into the question.

A moment later, Barbara nodded slowly. Her expression was shuttered, but Carol could sense her disapproval. So be it, she thought as she made her way to David's room.

The uniform was in a crumpled heap on the floor. David, dressed in pajamas, lay on the bed sobbing, his six-year old heart broken.

"David, sweetheart, don't cry."

His sobs just got louder.

She gathered him into her arms. "Shhh." She rocked him until he quieted.

"Is it bad?" His little voice was earnest. "The uniform. Is it bad?"

Guilt overcame her, even as she didn't hesitate to answer, "Yes, darling, it's very bad."

"But all the other kids have them. That's why Gubby got it for me."

"Maybe the other children don't know the truth. But you are too smart not to know. I'm going to tell you some stories about Star Fleet, David. When I'm done, you can decide if you want to wear the uniform, ok?"

He nodded solemnly.

Again she felt a rush of guilt. She had never planned this, but she had to keep him with her. She was ruthless as she continued. The stories she made up were full of an evil military pretending to be good but actually hurting innocent people, robbing worlds of their wealth, killing their animals if it would further the cause.

"Even cats like Neutrino, and dogs like Gubby's friend Mary has, and like the ants?" He was outraged.

"Even them."

His face resolved, he crawled out of her arms and picked up the costume. "I don't want it anymore," he said as he carried it to the recycler.

-------------------------------

It had been a simple matter to keep his hatred active till it became second nature to him. As he got older, she had made sure he just happened to find the site of an anti-Star Fleet group. The reports he read were derogatory about anything Star Fleet and paid special attention to the important individuals. Jim's name figured prominently.

One day she had come in while he was reading a report protesting an action taken by Jim on a recent mission. She had looked over his shoulder as she leaned in to kiss his cheek.

"Jim Kirk? I knew him," she had remarked casually.

The comment had led to a spate of questions, as she had known it would. It was common knowledge that she had spent time with Jim Kirk. Two years of her life. It would have been stupid to think that David wouldn't hear about their relationship somewhere. She had wanted the first time to be from her. She told him that she had loved Jim deeply, but that he had felt a greater duty to Star Fleet than to her. Her sadness had not been an act for she couldn't help but feel guilty even as she had watched her poison take hold within her son. Soon Jim Kirk had come to signify everything David hated about Star Fleet.

It had been a fine line that she had walked. Much of her own research had been funded by Star Fleet and she had known that David would someday find that out. She had been candid with him about her need for grants. Had impressed on him her resolve to go ahead with her work but her equal intention to keep it out of the hands of the military. She had managed to paint herself the hero, or perhaps the victim. It wasn't her fault she needed Star Fleet. In a perfect world, brilliant scientists such as she wouldn't need to find sponsorship for the important work they would do, should never have to get in bed with the villains of Star Fleet. David had believed this. She remembered a conversation they had after the Reliant went to check the latest planet for suitability for Stage 3 of the Genesis Project. She had been worried.

David had teased her. "Well don't have kittens. Genesis is going to work. They'll remember you in one breath with Newton, Einstein, Surak."

She had laughed. "Thanks a lot. No respect from my offspring."

It was an old argument. "Par for the course." He had turned serious, "Teaming up with me for bridge after dinner?"

"Maybe," she had teased. She always teamed up with him; he hadn't even needed to ask. But the look on his face had startled her, "What is it?"

"Every time we have dealings with Star Fleet I get nervous. We are dealing with something that could be perverted into a dreadful weapon. Remember that overgrown boy scout you used to hang around with? That's exactly the kind of man I'm..."

She had interrupted him, amused despite his concern. "Listen, kiddo. Jim Kirk was many things but he was never a boy scout."

And she remembered what happened later, when all the paranoia she had planted in David had come out in a loud argument. The staff had been discussing the sudden change of orders that Chekov had relayed. None of them could accept that Star Fleet expected them to just turn over Genesis.

David had been angry. "We're all alone here. They waited till everyone was on leave to do this. Reliant is supposed to be at our disposal, not vice versa." He had listened to the others for a moment then continued, "I've tried to tell you before. Scientists have always been pawns of the military."

She had been forced to defend Star Fleet, had not thought anything of doing it even when she had seen the look of betrayal on his face. "Star Fleet has kept the peace for 100 years. I cannot and will not subscribe to your interpretation of this event."

Everything had been all right between them afterwards. Even throughout the terror of trying to flee the Reliant, beaming what they needed to hide most down to the Genesis Cave, waiting for those who would come after them. It had been awful but somehow it was all right because it had still been she and David against the world. But all that had changed when David met his father.

--------------------------

The pursuers were finally there. The sound of their voices rang through the cave as they examined the Genesis Device. Carol edged a bit more into the shadows, but her movement brushed a loose piece of metal. The sound was loud. She could hear the voices turn to her position.

Then it was all confusion. She heard David and stepped out to see her son trying to stab one of the strangers. She couldn't see the other man's face, but David could, was staring at him in fact.

"You!" he said accusingly.

"Where's Dr. Marcus?"

She recognized the familiar voice. Couldn't believe it.

David's reply was full of rage. "I'm Dr. Marcus."

She walked forward, oblivious to the others that stood around. "Jim."

He walked away from their son, stood in front of her. "Is that David?"

Even as she tried to explain she was drinking in the sight of his face. So many years and he was still so handsome. So many years and he was still in command. "He..."

David interrupted her. "Mother, he killed everybody we left behind."

She turned to her son. "Oh of course he didn't." Her eyes were drawn back to Jim, the joy she felt at seeing him shook her. "David, you're just making this harder."

At that moment she would have told her son everything. Would have told him the truth. But Terrell bought her time. His betrayal obviously surprised Jim. She stood confused but aghast as the other officer fought someone's control, finally shooting himself instead of killing Jim. Then Chekov fell to the floor, a hideous creature oozing from his ear. She thought it was over when Jim taunted the opponent, this Khan. But it wasn't. Genesis was stolen from her. She watched her former lover try to goad Khan into coming down and making it a real fight, but it was no use. Khan was gone, taking Genesis with him. And they were stuck on the planet. Forever probably.

She was surprisingly sanguine about that possibility. A lightness began in her body as she thought of the Genesis cave and all it had to offer them. She watched as the young Vulcan officer tried to raise the Enterprise but failed. "They're still jamming all channels." Saavik's voice sounded surprisingly dejected. Perhaps she was not fully Vulcan, Carol mused.

McCoy spoke from Chekov's side, "If Enterprise followed orders, she's long since gone. If she couldn't obey she's finished."

David's voice was bitter, "So are we it looks like."

She ignored him, turned instead to Jim. "I don't understand. Who's responsible for all this? Who is Khan?"

"Well, that's a long story."

"We appear to have plenty of time," David replied dryly.

Jim's tone was light as he changed the subject. "Is there anything to eat? I don't know about anyone else, but I'm starved."

McCoy sounded disgusted. "How can you think of food at a time like this?"

"First order of business. Survival."

Carol realized he was trying to get some time alone with her. She owed him that. He would want answers. "There is food in the Genesis Cave. Enough to last a lifetime. If necessary." Again she felt a little trill of happiness at that thought. She refused to analyze it beyond attributing it to shock.

McCoy sounded surprised. "We thought this was Genesis."

"This?" Carol tried and failed to keep the amused scorn out of her voice. "It took Star Fleet corps of engineers ten months in space suits to tunnel out all this. What we did in there, we did in a day." She saw Jim turn to study David, saw her son notice and stare at his father defiantly. "David, why don't you show Dr. McCoy and the Lieutenant our idea of food?"

David protested, "We can't just sit here."

She was surprised to see Jim slip on some eyeglasses, then look at his chrono.

"Oh yes we can," he offered unconcernedly.

David was irritated. "This is just to give us something to do, isn't it?" In frustration he turned to McCoy and Saavik, "Come on."

McCoy left a dozing Chekov to follow him, but Saavik hung back. "Admiral?"

Jim's tone was gentle. "As your teacher Mr. Spock is fond of saying, I like to think that there are always possibilities."

Saavik nodded and followed the others into the cave.

Jim looked over at Carol.

She felt several emotions at once, shame, love, desire, anger. She looked down unwilling to meet his eyes.

His voice was broken. "I did what you wanted. I stayed away. Why didn't you tell him?"

She looked up, content that anger had found its way to the forefront of the emotional storm she was feeling. "How can you ask me that? Were we together? Were we going to be? You had your world, and I had mine. And I wanted him in mine. Not chasing through the universe with his father."

She saw her words strike home. Guilt began to fill her. She rose and grabbed her jacket. "Actually he's a lot like you in many ways." She walked past him, thought he would follow her but he sat like a stone. She felt her heart break as she watched him. He looked so lost. "Please tell me what you're feeling?"

"There's a man out there who I haven't seen in fifteen years who's trying to kill me. You show me a son who'd be happy to help him. My son. My life that could have been and wasn't. What am I feeling? Old. Worn out."

Her voice was soft; she wanted only to be gentle with him. "Let me show you something that'll make you feel young as when the world was new."

He glanced at her, then turned to look down the hall where the others had gone. But he made no move to rise.

She stepped closer and held out her hand to him, watched as he took it, let her lead him down the hall. As they got closer to the cave, and the smells and sounds began to reach them, he quickened his pace, began to pull her down the corridor. He stopped just behind where David lounged on the wide railing near the few steps that would take them to the viewing ledge.

"You did all this in a day," he asked in wonder.

"The matrix formed in a day. The life forms grew later at a substantially accelerated rate."

McCoy looked up at them. "Jim, this is incredible! Have you ever seen the like?"

She leaned in to look over his shoulder. "Can I cook or can't I?"

Some time later they sat scattered over the ledge. It was quiet except for an occasional crunch as Jim ate an apple-like fruit. He seemed in no hurry to find a way out. That surprised her. Somehow she didn't think that he was contemplating the possibilities of an enforced exile in quite the same way that she was. No, he looked much as he had the time he had planned the surprise birthday party for her. The same look of quietly satisfied anticipation. She looked down to hide her sudden grin. He had something up his sleeve. She was surprised to find no disappointment at the idea that rescue was just around the corner. She almost laughed out loud. Her heart was ever the contradiction, even to her.

Saavik spoke softly. "Sir, may I ask you a question?"

"What's on your mind, Lieutenant?"

"The Kobayashi Maru, Sir."

"Are you asking me if we're playing out that scenario now?"

Saavik's voice was solemn. "On the test, Sir, will you tell me what you did? I would really like to know."

McCoy chuckled. "Lieutenant, you are looking at the only Star Fleet cadet who ever beat the no-win scenario."

"How?"

Jim's reply was nonchalant. "I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship."

Saavik's whispered "What?" held horror.

David laughed scornfully. "He cheated."

The reply was curt. "Changed the conditions of the test. Got a commendation for original thinking. I don't like to lose."

Saavik was thoughtful. "Then you never faced that situation. Faced death."

"I don't believe in the no-win scenario." He pulled his communicator out.

So now it begins, Carol thought. Now he pulls out the ace he's been hiding all this time. She looked at the doctor. His unconcerned air was that of a man who had faith in Jim Kirk. In fact, it looked like he was getting ready to rise.

"Kirk to Spock. It's two hours, are you ready?"

To Saavik and David's surprise, the communicator chimed into action. "Right on schedule, Admiral. Just give us your coordinates and we'll beam you aboard."

Carol did not think she had ever heard him sound more satisfied then when he replied, "All right." He looked at David, challenge in his eyes. "I don't like to lose."

They walked down to where Chekov lay. McCoy helped him up, supported him as the transporters took them. She could hear Saavik arguing with Jim even as they beamed up. As the Star Fleet officers changed their jackets for uniforms, Jim said, "Spock, you know Dr. Marcus?"

His reply was pleasant. "Why of course."

"Hello, Mr. Spock."

McCoy herded them off the transporter. "I'm taking this bunch to sickbay."

Carol felt David reach for her arm as they followed the doctor. She looked up at him and saw his answering smile. His gaze was so warm, just for her. That would have to end. It was time for the truth. She sensed that McCoy knew who David's father was. Now it was time that David knew. But she had never wanted to do anything less in her entire life.

"What is it?" His voice was so full of affection she nearly choked.

"Nothing. Just glad to be rescued."

"You didn't look very worried down there." He studied her. "Why weren't you afraid?"

Truth, she reminded herself. "I could never be afraid when Jim is around. He always takes care of things, David."

"Sure he does. By cheating."

The sickbay door opened as she tried to think of the best way to tell him. She watched McCoy fuss over Chekov then followed the doctor into his office. David stood just inside the door. She smiled at McCoy, but she could feel her lips shaking as she did so.

His eyes narrowed for a moment, then he rose slowly and walked around his desk. "I have few tests to run on Chekov. Feel free to use my office. It's very private."

She nodded gratefully and watched the door close behind him. She could see him through the walls but the sound from outside was muted completely.

She began to pace the small room. She could sense David's eyes upon her but didn't want to face him. Not yet.

"Mother?"

Suddenly she turned to him. The speed of her move, and the desperation in her voice took her by surprise. "Have I been a good mother, David?"

"No, you've been terrible." His teasing tone faded as he watched her face. "What kind of question is that? Of course you've been a good mother. You've been the best mother."

"And we've been happy, haven't we?" She could still see the little boy playing outside her office when she looked at him.

"Very happy." He took her in his arms, hugged her. "We're going to make it. As much as I hate to say it, Kirk probably will get us out of this."

"Oh he will. Never doubt that."

"Then why are you shaking?"

"Because I don't want to lose you." Her voice was ragged.

"Lose me? Lose me how." His arms tightened around her.

When did he get so tall, so strong? Where did the little boy that she used to envelope in her arms go? "Lose you when you find out the truth."

"Truth?" His voice was confused. "Mother, you're making yourself and me crazy with this kind of talk. Just tell me what's bothering you."

"You met your father today." There, she'd said it. Not as direct as she should have. But it was out there. It would lead to the truth.

His arms were not so tight around her. "What did you just say?"

"Your father. You met him. You looked at him." She laughed bitterly. "You even tried to kill him."

He let her go completely. His eyes were steel as he stared at her.

"It's true, kiddo. Jim Kirk is your father."

"But you told me..."

"I told you lots of things. Most of them lies, David. This isn't a lie. For perhaps the first time in your life, I'm telling you the truth. That man, that good man, is your father."

He didn't move. He just stared at her. Then he looked down. Processing. Probably trying to deny. And looking just as his father had in the cave when he had said he was feeling old. They were so very alike.

She found herself asking David the same thing she had asked Jim, "Please, tell me what you're feeling?"

He turned on her. "What I'm feeling? You want to know what I'm feeling?"

She cringed away a bit.

He saw it and his anger seemed to fade. "You lied to me. You've been lying to me for my whole life and you ask me how I'm feeling? How do you feel, Mother? How the hell do you feel?"

She couldn't stop a tear from slipping down her cheek. "Ashamed. Sorry. Afraid, very, very afraid."

"Just tell me why? Did he not want me? Is that it?"

It would have been so easy to lie to him again. And she sensed that he almost wanted her to do it, to put it all back the way it had been, without this new person in the mix. "No. He wanted you."

His face fell but he walked to her, brushed her tear away. "Then why?"

"He had his own world, David. The one here, in the stars. It didn't include me. Never included me. I wanted you in mine."

"But later, when I was old enough to understand that. Why didn't you tell me then?"

She shook her head helplessly. "I was afraid you'd want to be with the stars too. I'd lose you to his world. And I just couldn't stand that."

"I worked with you, I would never have left you." His voice was hurt.

"You might never have chosen to work with me if you had known the truth, David."

He stepped away from her. "I guess we'll never know, will we?" His tone was neutral.

"What are you feeling, David?"

"Like I need some air." He walked out of the room.

McCoy came in a second later. "Can I get you anything?"

She laughed bitterly. "A time machine?"

"To do it differently?"

She thought about it. "No. To lie a few minutes ago when I had the chance to keep my son."

He shook his head. "You did the right thing, Doctor. You know it. And David will know it too, maybe not right away but he will."

"Anybody ever commend you on your bedside manner, Doctor."

He just laughed. The ship suddenly rocked. He looked up. "They're firing."

David rushed in, his old habit to look after her overruling his anger.

She smiled at him, but he just stared at her.

He grabbed his sweater and wrapped it around his shoulders. "I'm going up there."

"That's not a good idea."

His look stopped her from saying more. "Perhaps not. But I have a sudden need to be with my father. I'm sure you can understand that?"

She nodded helplessly and watched him walk away from her. I've lost him, she thought mournfully. I've really lost him.

She sat with McCoy through the bulk of the battle. Then he left to go to Engineering and she was alone. He had a channel turned to monitor the bridge. She could hear Jim's voice. So calm. So reassuring. Then she heard David's telling his father the Genesis Device had been started. She felt real panic. She ran to be with her son. But she ran the wrong way, wasted precious minutes finding the lift, getting to the bridge. On the way there she felt the ship kick into warp, then the lift opened onto an amazing sight.

Jim's voice was awed. "My god, Carol, look at it."

She looked at David. He was standing to the side, a look of quiet pride on his face. She wanted to go to him, but stood frozen in uncertainty. He reached out his hand to her and she walked to him slowly, their hands intertwining without thought as he pulled her close. And they stood there in wonder, not understanding the terrible note in McCoy's voice when he told Jim to get down to engineering. Not realizing that Jim Kirk was losing his greatest friend. Not knowing until it was too late.

The funeral was awful. It hurt so much to watch Jim struggle through the ceremony. She wanted to hold him so much as he fought the tears that threatened. David didn't understand, he didn't know his father enough yet to hurt with him. But she understood. And she ached for this man that she had walked away from.

She knew when David went to him. She knew enough of her son to realize what he would say. That this was the end of her exclusive hold on him. But he had forgiven her with the same open heart he had always had as a child. He still loved her. And for that she was grateful. She would share him with a thousand Kirks if it meant she never had to feel that dreadful loneliness she had experienced in sickbay when she realized her world might no longer contain the light that was David. She had learned her lesson.

-------------------------

Carol shifted in the overly soft bed in the Vegas resort. Looking back, it was ironic enough to make her laugh. She had returned from the Genesis disaster prepared to try to include Jim in her own life. To perhaps forge something from the ashes of what she had burned. She had known she still had feelings for him the minute she had seen him in the Genesis Cave, had felt those feelings grow during the long voyage back to Earth. And she had sensed that he had felt the same. She knew that it had not been her imagination. There had still been something between them. She had even indulged in daydreams of them being a family.

But those fantasies had ended when she had been denied access to Genesis. Only one man could do that to her, had a reason to do that to her. Jim Kirk. He had not been so forgiving as his son after all. In keeping her from both the work she loved and the son she adored he had found the perfect vengeance and had left her with nothing.

For the first time in years, she and David had not been working together. She had thought she would be joining David on the Grissom, had made plans to join him until she had found herself barred from the project. She had called her son frantically. He had been angered and said he would work to get her back. But that had not happened.

The only consolation she had known was that his father wasn't with him either. David had been on the Grissom while Jim had returned a crippled Enterprise to spacedock. And she had been on the ship too, having agreed to come back for the debriefs. David had convinced her that she, as senior member of the team, was better prepared to deal with Star Fleet than he. She had wanted to please him, to have his approval, so she had agreed. And then had found herself with no way to get back to him.

Genesis had eluded her from that moment on. She had blamed Jim for years. Thought he had asked the brass to pull her access. But it had not been him. He had never been a vindictive man. And she had seen how he understood her passion for her work. She should have known better than to blame him. Had she been logical she would have asked herself who had the most to gain by getting her off the project. Or the most to lose if she remained. Had she followed that avenue of exploration to its logical conclusion, she would have realized it could yield only one answer. The last person she would ever have suspected. David. Her son. Her colleague. Her partner. David had kicked her off the project. In hindsight, it was all so clear, but at the time it had never occurred to her that he was involved, much less responsible for her banishment. If it hadn't been for Saavik's visit just a few years ago, she might never have known the truth.

---------------------

"Excuse me, Doctor Marcus?"

Carol looked up from the pad she was working on. It took her a minute to recognize the young woman that stood before her.

"Lt. Saavik?"

"It's just Saavik now. I left Star Fleet."

Carol was genuinely surprised. "Why? You seemed like a perfect fit."

"I believe that I would have been successful had I stayed. But it would have been for the wrong reasons." Saavik saw the puzzlement in Carol's eyes. "I would have been doing it to please someone else. Life is too short not to find something that brings you full satisfaction. David's death taught me that."

Carol flinched at the mention of her son. Her coworkers knew not to bring him up and her friends...well she didn't really have any of those anymore. She had left them all behind, first to work on Genesis, then to find some other life without it or her son.

"I have caused you pain."

"I don't talk about David."

Saavik seemed to consider this. Finally she spoke, her voice regretful. "Then perhaps you will not wish to hear what I have to say about him."

Carol wanted to agree with her. She did not want to discuss her son with this woman, with anyone. But there was something in Saavik's eyes that told her she should listen. "Did you seek me out, Saavik, or is this a chance encounter?"

"I looked for you. I am leaving Earth soon. Going to see if I can find my own way on a planet that I've been told is a good place for new beginnings. I may not be back for a very long while."

"And so you want to get something off your chest? Something about David?"

"You know that he gave his life for me and for Captain Spock?"

Carol nodded. Jim had told her this when he came to her after his exile on Vulcan. He had tried to hold her, to comfort her, but she had pushed him away. She had known he was in pain over David's death but she hadn't cared. She'd ordered him out. She was good at that.

Saavik continued, "David died bravely. With honor. It is an important fact."

"To you perhaps, but to me all that is important is that my son is dead. How it happened doesn't make him any less gone." Carol knew her voice was beyond bitter.

"Of course. But it is important for another reason." Saavik paused for a long time, as if considering carefully what she was about to say. "Do you know what happened to the Genesis Planet?"

"No," Carol said simply. Jim had not told her this. She had asked him when he had first called her from Vulcan, but he had pulled the 'you're not authorized for that information' card. How it had infuriated her. Now this young woman was going to tell her what the father of her child would not?

"It was unstable. It tore itself apart."

Carol took that in. All the implications of that. "And David?"

"His body was on the planet when it blew up."

That was as Jim had said. Or nearly. He had said that David's body had not been recoverable because of the explosion. She had assumed he meant the one on the Enterprise. Although the details of the mission were closed to her, even Star Fleet Intelligence couldn't hide the fact that their flagship seemed to be missing.

Carol thought back to the few facts she knew. Spock was alive, due, she'd always assumed, to his torpedo coffin landing on a still forming Genesis Planet. She had thought that if he prospered the planet must have also been doing well. She had supposed it to be covered with eager settlers. To hear that it was destroyed was staggering. Damn Jim for kicking her off the project. "Unstable," she repeated as she tried to wrap her mind around the concept. "How? Why?"

Saavik again gave her a considering look before answering. "David used protomatter."

"Impossible. I'd know."

"He kept it from you. He knew you would not have approved."

"No," Carol moaned, disbelief fading while what little remained of her world crumbled around her.

Saavik let her process the information before continuing quietly. "You were going to lose the grants. You needed results. Protomatter worked when nothing else did. In small areas, like the Genesis Cave, it was stable. On a whole planet though...a disaster."

"Are you defending his actions?"

"No. What he did was wrong. But why he did it may have been less so."

"His pride? That makes it ok?"

Saavik shook her head. "There's that. But there is also the fact that he loved you. He didn't want your life's work taken away from you."

Carol did not respond.

Saavik continued undaunted. "He didn't want it taken away from you...and that's why it killed him to then be the one that ensured that you never had access to it again."

Carol was not sure she had heard correctly. "What did you say?"

"I said that you were barred from Genesis because David wanted you off the project. As soon as he ran a scan of the planet, he saw it was already destabilizing. He couldn't bear for you to find out what he'd done, so he made a call to Star Fleet, told them some half-truths about not being able to trust you. Said that your goals for the project were suspect. He was apparently quite convincing."

"All this time I thought it was Jim."

Saavik nodded. "David knew you would think that. Perhaps he even encouraged it?"

Carol felt anger and hurt surge through her. But she couldn't help but appreciate the irony. It was the same game she had played all those years ago.

Saavik said quietly, "I am sorry to have to be the one to tell you of this. But I thought you should know."

"So that you could rest easier?" Carol asked meanly.

"So that David could." Saavik gave her an enigmatic half smile, then left the office.

The door had barely closed behind her before Carol ordered the computer to lock it. Her world was being destroyed just as surely as the Genesis Planet had been. It was not something she wanted anyone else to witness.

----------------------------------

The pool water was cool as she waded in. It felt good, especially after her turbulent night. She allowed herself to float, content to let the sun of Las Vegas beat down on her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a man watching her. She had seen him last night too, at the casino, in the bar at the front of the restaurant she had eaten in. He was definitely interested. She ignored him.

How long had it been since she'd had a lover? There had been men, but they had served a different purpose. She'd certainly never categorize them as lovers. Jim was her last real lover. What was even more pitiful was that he had also been her first real lover.

Not that she had been inexperienced when she met him. With her blonde good looks, she had always found it easy to attract men. But keeping them had been another matter. In most cases she hadn't even wanted to. But sometimes there had been some potential, something different, larger than just sex. But it had never lasted. She supposed her serious manner, her refusal to not be the brilliant scientist, had not helped matters. Before she met Jim, the men she had attracted had fallen for the outside package and had seemed disappointed that there was actually substance within.

After David was born, her devotion to him had put off any man who had been at all inclined to share in their lives. She had not been willing to split her time any more than it already was between her work and her son. An extra person had frankly seemed more trouble than he was worth, especially when, if she felt the urge, she had several male acquaintances that offered sex without strings.

To those who worked with her, she probably seemed as sexless as a eunuch and that was fine. It really wasn't one of her priorities. But there was a time when it had been. If you were involved with Jim Kirk, it became a priority. Not because he had been oversexed and demanding, as so many who didn't really know him seemed to think. But rather because Jim poured his passion into everything he did. When he was with you, he was totally with you. Every action, no matter how inconsequential, was sex. If he poured you a drink, listened to you talk, or just watched you while you worked, he was making love to you. It was that personal, that intimate.

It had been his very intensity that allowed her to finally understand her mother's devotion to her father. Before Jim, she had never understood what if felt like to drown in someone. Until she had been with him, she had never wanted anyone that much, had never been that dependent on anyone. But these feelings had been alarming as well as enlightening. With Jim, she had felt a degree of neediness that had panicked her. She wanted him with her all the time. Yet she knew that he couldn't be, wouldn't be. He was a Starfleet officer. His place was in the stars. And she had picked him. Gone against all her instincts and allowed a man just like her father into her life, into her heart. For a while she had been able to ignore it, but finally the strain of too many goodbyes had taken their toll. Their final farewell was ugly.

------------------------

"Carol?"

She looked up, startled to see him at the door to her office. He never came to the biomed building.

"Were you planning to come home tonight?" It was an innocent question that spoke volumes.

"I'm sort of in the middle of something, Jim."

"Can it wait until tomorrow?"

"Why should it?" Her voice was ice, and she didn't care.

He stepped into her office and closed the door. "Carol, I know you haven't forgotten what tomorrow is."

"Let's see? Hmmmm. Oh wait, sure. I know. Tomorrow would be the day you ship out. Again."

"I'm in Star Fleet, Carol. It's what I do. Space is where I work. I can't stay here if I want to work there. We've been lucky so far. We've been able to spend a lot of time together. But we both knew that being together wouldn't always be the norm."

She bent back to her work. "So you leave. Fine. See you."

"I have to go."

"Uh-huh. Bye." She didn't even look up.

"I may be shipping out, but I'll be back. You, on the other hand, appear to have checked out."

She looked up and met his eyes. "Meaning what?"

"Meaning you're running away from me, from us."

There was a charged silence as he held her gaze. Finally she looked away. "So what if I am?"

His tone was incredulous. "So what? So damn what? My god, Carol, I love you. You love me or at least you used to. What the hell has happened to us?" He reached over, touched her cheek tenderly. "I'm not your father, Carol. It doesn't have to be the same."

She forced herself to face him, to not look away. "How else can it be, Jim? I'm tired of this life. I lived it as a child, and I hated it then. Now you want me to do it again. But I can't. I just can't." She pulled away from his touch. "I'm tired of feeling that if you leave I'll die, and if you come back I'll die too. Of thinking that one person can be that important to me. I'm sick of worrying about you, and of feeling guilty when I forget to worry about you. I'm tired of it all. Us, you, all of it."

"You can't mean that."

"I do. I really do." She was in full attack, the thought of backing down never occurred to her. "In fact, I've got a great idea what you can do with your last night. Use it to pack up your stuff and move out."

"Carol," his voice was ragged, "What the hell is wrong with you."

She saw his pain and felt her own heart breaking as it pleaded with her to tell him she didn't mean it. She silenced it ruthlessly. "What's wrong with me? You. Jim Kirk. You're what's wrong with me."

He just stared at her.

She forced herself to ignore him, to go back to work. When he did not move, she spoke without raising her head. "Either you leave this room or I do."

His boots barely made a sound as he turned and walked out of her life.

She counted to one hundred before she allowed herself to weep.

----------------------

Had it been for the best? Leaving him, running as she had. Ultimately she'd never really left him. He still owned her heart...even from the grave. She may not have allowed herself to cry for him when he died, but last night her tears had not all been for her son. Some had been for the only other man she had ever loved.

She rolled to her stomach in the water; saw the man from last night again eyeing her speculatively. In your dreams, she laughed to herself as she paddled around the pool. I've had James Tiberius Kirk. What would I want with you?

She recognized her strange mood from the years before. It had always come after her night of tears. Some kind of lustful nostalgia for the man she had thrown away. Desire for him and a love that had never faded combined into a powerful mixture. In the past, she'd had to fight with herself to not contact him, not tell him all those things she should have. In the past. How devastatingly simple those three words were. Because now they meant 'not anymore.' For the first time since David died, there was no Jim Kirk to call, to blame, to love still. He was gone. Her memories, her love, were no longer dangerous. And that meant that she wouldn't need some other random man to help her maintain her resolve to stay away from Jim. So, you, she thought as she climbed out of the pool and passed her admirer, are just plain out of luck. Timing really is everything.

Carol lay back in her chair and sank into her memories. She'd never allowed herself to do that before. It had been too risky. If she had opened the door to the past, everything she'd worked for would have been in danger. But now there was nothing left to lose.

She allowed herself to doze. And as she did, snippets of her life with Jim played out, rushing to the surface as if a dam had finally been breached.

-----------------------

"Is this seat taken?"

She looked up into the most gorgeous pair of hazel eyes she'd ever seen. "Taken?" she repeated stupidly.

"If you're saving it for someone just say so." He looked around the crowded Starfleet Command lunchroom trying to spot another seat.

"No. I'm not. Saving it." What was wrong with her? She usually had no problem expressing herself in full sentences. "Please sit down."

He grinned and she felt her heart skip a beat. She also felt herself grinning back. The muscles in her face protested at this unfamiliar activity.

He held out his hand. "I'm Jim Kirk."

She noticed he left out his rank, but his uniform told the story. He looked awfully young to be a lieutenant commander. Obviously on the fast track. Just like her father. She took his hand. "Dr. Marcus. Carol."

"Carol." He repeated her name. The sound was a caress. She felt that she was in danger of becoming lost in his voice. I don't think so, flyboy, she thought firmly as she turned back to her book.

"What are you reading?"

"I was just taking a break from the project I'm working on."

He smiled; her attempt to divert him seemed to only make him more interested. "That's not exactly what I asked."

She shrugged it off. "It's just an old favorite that I'm rereading."

"Yes, I can tell that it's old. Real books usually are." He held out his hand for it. "Can I see it?"

Their eyes locked and she felt as if they had declared war. His hazel eyes seemed amused at the tension. Finally yielding to his request, she handed the book over slowly.

His smile grew broader as he saw the title. He rifled through the last few pages till he found the line he wanted.

"The final truth came to me, as we stood there, trembling, searching, between all our past and all our future; at a moment when the difference between fission and fusion lay in a nothing, a tiniest movement, betrayal, further misunderstanding." He closed the book. "I always loved the potential that Fowles gave that one moment. I think that was the true power of 'The Magus'."

"But how do you think it ends?"

"But that's the point isn't it? It doesn't end. Not really. Or if it does it is because you or I, the reader, decide how it must end to make us happy. It is a frozen moment. Where everything that could happen, might happen."

"Schroedinger's cat." She offered. "At least until we open the lid."

He looked up, clearly delighted. "Yes, exactly."

She found herself grinning at his enthusiasm. Tried to make herself cut the conversation off. Found she didn't want to. "You never know what might have happened to them."

"He loved her. But it was all up to her." He seemed lost for a moment in the past.

"You think she left him?"

"It's been my experience that women do that."

The sadness in his eyes touched her in a way she didn't expect. "Any woman that left you would be crazy." Why had she said that, she wondered, suddenly embarrassed. But his hearty laugh put her at ease.

"Well maybe you could tell my last girlfriend that?" He handed her back the book. "So what else do you read for fun, Carol Marcus?"

It was the shortest sixty minutes she had ever known.

-------------------------

His breathing had slowed and she studied his face, glad of the opportunity to watch him when he was not aware. She tried not to let him see this side of her. The side that wanted to possess every inch of him. She smiled as she looked at the man that shared her bed. He was so handsome, so brilliant, so good.

It took her a minute to realize that his eyes were open and he was watching her as she watched him.

"Care to share what you're thinking?" His voice was husky, affecting her as it always did, even as she tried to close down her heart.

"I was just thinking what a beautiful man you are." She traced his features with her fingertip. She felt tears threaten from nowhere, blinked quickly.

He smiled, then pulled her close. "You're really fighting this, Carol, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why?"

"Fighting what?" She tried to make her voice innocent.

"Loving me. Being loved by me." He pushed her back a bit so he could see her face. "I see it when we make love, I see it when we meet up after a long day. Your face lights up, then you clamp down on it. Why?" When she didn't answer, he whispered. "I'm not Joel Marcus, you know."

"I can't help it if I'm serious by nature," she responded, sorry now that she had ever told him about her father.

"Serious is one thing. But unwilling to feel, Carol, that's another."

"Maybe I'm part Vulcan," she said as she began to move against his body, hoping to distract him from that line of questioning.

"No Vulcan does that, you devil." He pulled her nearer and began to kiss her. "And I know what you're trying to do."

She snuggled closer. Her lips found the sensitive spot on his neck below his ear. She felt him shiver. "Is it working?"

He laughed as he surrendered to her.

------------------------------

"Carol?"

She looked up to see him standing there. She finished fastening David's jacket then rose and picked the toddler up.

The child's studied the stranger inquisitively.

In this light, she realized their eyes looked the same color.

David's solemn face did not alter as he reached for the finger that Jim held out to him.

Carol yanked him back. She saw identical expressions of hurt bewilderment on their faces.

"I just thought..."

She was quick to cut him off. "I don't care what you thought. You made your choice. You're no part of this. Not now, not ever. David is mine."

"David." Jim's eyes again met the child's. Something seemed to pass between them.

Carol snatched up her work satchel and with a glare at Jim, walked away quickly.

She didn't slow until she put three corridors them. Then she sank down on a bench and pulled her confused child in close. She had to fight an urge to weep and a stronger desire to run back down the halls till she found Jim and let him back into her life.

"I'm sorry, David. I'm so sorry."

--------------------------

Carol shifted in her chair, remembering life without Jim in it. It had been just she and David and that had been all right. He had been such a sweet child, eager to please her, able to entertain himself. He was interested in the world around him just as she had been at that age. She had loved him more each day.

Then had come the time she had come home and found her mother waiting for her at the door.

"He asked."

Carol had felt her heart drop. She had prepared for this moment nearly from the minute he had been born. She had known that the day would come when he would ask about his father.

She had gone into him, had let him express his uncertainty. And in the end had given him the most simple of the explanations, the lies, she would use over the years. "Your father is dead."

Over time it had progressed to: "We were never married when he died." and "Your father and I couldn't stay together. He moved on. As far as I'm concerned he might as well be dead." Eventually, as the story continued to change, he had quit asking. She had been relieved.

What a shock it had been to have Jim turn up again in her life. As the man who she at first had thought was taking Genesis away, then the man that had saved them from it, and from Khan. Telling David that the overgrown boy scout was his father had been the hardest thing she had ever had to do.

But it had been just as hard to have to feel those emotions for Jim all over again. It had been jarring to her world. She thought she had closed down that part of her heart, but just a few minutes in his presence and he was battering down her defenses without even trying.

Everything had changed at that moment. And it had all happened so fast. One minute she and David had been together the way they loved, working on a project that would change the world. The next moment too many people had died and they were looking at the fruit of their labor. And her son was looking at something else too. She couldn't help but notice the glances he had been giving Saavik. She recognized them. They were the same looks she used to give Jim. A Marcus didn't fall in love easily, but when they did, they fell hard.

She had understood that she would be sharing him with two people now. His father and this young woman. She had accepted that. But then she had been cut off from the project. And then David had died. Any acceptance within her had died with her son. There was nothing left inside of her. Nothing except hatred.

--------------------

"Dr. Marcus? You have a visitor."

Carol could tell by the awed look in her new assistant's eyes just who the visitor was. "Show the Captain in."

"Yes, Doctor." He scurried away.

So finally you come to me, she thought angrily. It had been several weeks since Jim had been exonerated in front of a Federation tribunal. Weeks that he had not contacted her.

She heard footsteps. One set quick and eager. The other heavy, holding back. I just bet you don't want to have this meeting, she raged. Her anger had festered, nursed by her unwillingness to let go, to break down. She was full of emotion and she would let it express itself in one way only...rage.

Better run for cover, she thought to her aide. As if reading her mind, he ducked quickly out of the room.

She stared at her former lover. He met her angry gaze with a weary sorrow.

"So," she said hoping to see him squirm, "You finally show up."

"I would have come sooner if there had been a way."

"Oh, but you were busy saving Earth. Again. You can keep an entire planet from being destroyed, yet you couldn't preserve the life of one young man."

"That's not fair, Carol."

"Just like pulling my accesses wasn't fair, Jim. How does it feel?"

His surprise was evident on his face, "Pulling your accesses? I didn't..."

"Oh save it," she ordered harshly. "I'm really not interested in that now. What matters is David. His death." She fixed him with a hostile stare. "His murder."

He moved closer to her, tried to reach out to her, but stopped when she flinched away. "I didn't kill our son."

"He followed you, into space. He died because of you."

"He died because of Genesis. On a planet he wouldn't have even been on if you hadn't pulled him into your life's work, your great project."

"So now I'm to blame?" She grew angrier with him when she realized this thought had already occurred to her.

"Neither of us is to blame. David's death was a terrible tragedy, but not one that we caused."

"Khan came because of you. The Klingons came because of you."

He shook his head. "The Klingons came because they wanted the secrets of Genesis."

"Things might have been different if I'd stayed on the project!"

His voice was gentle as he asked, "Then why did you leave? Why not stay? Why leave it all up to a boy?"

In a flash her hand was up to slap his face. His hand was even faster as it caught hers, preventing the blow.

"David gave his life for others, he wouldn't have wanted this for us, Carol."

She pulled her hand roughly out of his, stalked away from him. "You don't have any idea what David would have wanted. You didn't know him. Not the way I did."

"No. Not the way you did," his voice was still calm. "But I was starting to know him."

She kept her back to him. "I have nothing more to say to you. Now get out."

"Fine."

She could hear him move to the door.

"He said something that never made sense to me, Carol. He said that he went wrong. But I don't know what that means. Do you?"

"I have no idea." Her mind had shut down; it refused to analyze Jim's words. "Just get out."

He tried one last time. "Please. Now should be the time that we help each other through this. Not shut each other out."

Her words were clipped as she fought back overpowering rage. "I help you? You knew him for what? A few weeks. I knew him his entire life. How the hell are you going to help me with that?"

He sighed heavily. "Goodbye, Carol. I'm sorry I couldn't keep him safe for you."

So am I, she thought wearily. Oh god, so am I.

---------------------------------

Life had gone on, Carol reflected as she waited her turn at the Las Vegas transporter pad. Yes it had gone on, but it had never been the same.

Her home had been quiet without David's presence. Her work had seemed dull without his quick mind to share it. She had missed him every day but forced herself to hold in the grief. When that first anniversary of his death had approached, she had known that she needed to let some of the pain out. But she had been afraid to be too alone. So she had booked herself into a crowded resort in the South Pacific. And thus had begun her tradition.

One day to cry, then one more day. A day supposedly to recover, but really to miss Jim and, before this year, to find some stranger that could help as she tried to resist her former lover's siren call.

At this point in her life she felt as if she would mourn them forever. But maybe someday she would cease to feel the immediacy of David's death, and of Jim's.

Maybe. Someday. Such nice words.

In the meantime, there was her work. Not Genesis true, but important in its own right. And there was her reputation. She had taken Federation terraforming further than it had ever reached before. Maybe in time she would resume that search for life.

Maybe. Someday.

She wished there were grave markers somewhere for her son and her lover. Some sort of place that would say 'they rest here.' But they were both out of reach, bodies scattered by cataclysmic energy. Just so much space dust.

She laughed at the irony of it. In death, Jim had hold of David as jealously as she had ever latched onto their child in life. The two would sail the space winds together, forever. In Jim Kirk's world.

Just as she would stay alone in her own. Deprived of the one man she had ever, would ever love. And of the son who meant more to her than any living creature. Neither would stay in her world now. Not even for a little visit.

It was just like the song that David's Gubby used to sing to him after they'd put him to bed.

"Oh lay me down

in the dark night.

Let me sleep,

Let me dream.

For someone walks

On the other side

Let them play

Let them laugh.

For we can never

See their face

But they're there

Yes they're there

When dark comes

They will sleep

As I wake

As I rise."

FIN