Good Night, Sweetheart
By Rabble Rouser
DATE: August 10, 2002
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The original draft was written for the Kirk FF in August of 2000 but never posted. Thanks go to Djinn both for convincing me it should see the light of day and for her gentle but thorough beta.
© 2002 Rabble Rouser
v v v
Good Night, Sweetheart, tho' I'm not beside you
Good Night, Sweetheart, still my love will guide you
Dreams enfold you, in each one I'll hold you.
Good Night, Sweetheart, Good Night.
v v v
Jim Kirk was a puzzle, and each piece, Edith Keeler thought, only scrambled the picture more. He knew of Hemingway and Faulkner but not of Garbo or Pickford. George Gershwin but not Fletcher Henderson or Irving Berlin. New York's Governor Franklin Roosevelt but not its Mayor Jimmy Walker. He could discuss Einstein and knew the principle behind the radio but seemed puzzled by an icebox. He was a man who could switch from a lie to a disarming truth and leave you wondering what it would take to get a straight answer from him again. A traveler from a strange land indeed.
And his companion Mr. Spock? If that man was from China, she was from Timbuktu. She hadn't seen the man smile once. Soon after they arrived, she had looked down at his hands and had seen fine scratches. Green scratches. She had found some old work gloves among the donated clothing and given them to him. "You should have asked me. There's some iodine in the cabinet to the left of the sink." He had looked at her gravely and taken the gloves without a word. She had almost convinced herself it must have been a trick of the light.
At every dinner at the Twenty-First Street Mission she would speak of the future to dull-eyed men too hungry to politely hear her out before digging in. It was, she knew, a selfish indulgence. She told them jokingly before she started that it was now time to pay for the soup. But it was no joke. Each day she needed some time spent with that splendid future so that she could deal with the grim present. That was her payment for her labors.
Each night she hoped to find an answering spark. She spoke of spaceflight and the atom and they all looked back at her as if she was spinning them fairy tales. As she spoke of a day when each man would find "hope and a common future," she would search their faces looking for an understanding she had never found. Until that night she saw Jim Kirk gaze at her from where he was sitting with more than understanding. It was recognition. It was as if her future was Jim Kirk's native country.
He had sought her out afterwards. "How do you know such things? How can you look around you and believe such things?" If he had smiled then, she might have been put on her guard. But those hazel eyes met her blue ones with disarming seriousness.
"My brothers used to tell me I read too much H.G. Wells but is it truly so hard to see? Just this year we discovered a new planet! Only a few years ago Goddard launched a liquid fuel rocket. I was born in the year the Wright Brothers invented the airplane and while I am still young a man has crossed the Atlantic in one. From there is it so hard to envision men landing on the moon in my lifetime?"
He laughed with delight. "Not apparently for you."
After that she had found herself wandering down to wherever Kirk was working in the Mission. She enjoyed watching him work. All his movements were energetic yet efficient. Sometimes she would catch herself looking at the bare hint of chest and collarbone revealed at the top of his shirt. She would flush when a twitch of his mouth upward would make her suspect he had caught her at it. She would think out loud in front of him and find him often completing her sentences.
"I think that one day they're going to take all the money that they spend now on war and death—"
"—and make them spend it on life."
She took to looking at herself in the mirror and wasn't happy with what she saw. Dark hair cropped into a short functional haircut. Just a touch of lipstick. Old nondescript clothing without a hint of glamour. Practical cloth coat and knitted cotton beret. Colorless.
Her apartment was a reflection of how she dressed herself. Oh, it was clean and recently painted. But the light from the only window was nearly blocked up by the fire escape. She had one shabby dresser and one old bureau that had been salvaged for her and repaired by Eddie Sykes. A plain, rather narrow bed barely fit lengthwise into her bedroom. In the living room was a threadbare couch. Her one indulgence was a wall-to-wall bookshelf Eddie had built for her that she had filled with books. Save for one item, it was hard to imagine anything beautiful or wondrous happening in her rooms.
The one spot of color was from the Tiffany lamp her sister had insisted on giving to her with the admonition she was not to sell it and give the proceeds to the Mission. The luscious roses and languorously twining vines in the stained glass reproached her with their hint of sensuality. It did not fit the rest of its surroundings any more than Jim Kirk did. She knew the man was a far more dangerous indulgence. All she had to do was think of him to feel something pinched close begin to open and feel a hot liquid rush. She had long decided she had room in this life for only one controlling passion. But it should have told her something that she couldn't bear to discard that lamp—any more than she could summon the will to dismiss Kirk from her thoughts.
One day she went to look for Kirk in the basement. She had wonderful news and her first thought was to share it with him. She heard Spock's voice in the stairway and froze.
"Captain, you must accept the necessity."
"You've only seen two futures. The original undisturbed timeline and the one created when Bones came through. Neither is a clear guide to what we bring to the equation. Neither option you're giving me is acceptable. I want that third alternative. She's the key. If I can change her mind, even if I have to stay with her—"
"You cannot divert a river with your bare hands. The risk is unacceptable."
"Is it? If I can manage to turn her aside before Bones gets here, perhaps you can return alone while I stay behind."
"We know so little of how the Guardian works. We arrived together; we may have to return together."
"There might be other possibilities…maybe we can—."
Edith crept back up to where she had been working. She had never been the sort who lowered herself to listening in on other's conversations. Kirk soon found her back at her office and she started at his entrance.
"Keeping any guilty secrets?"
"Are you?" she answered coolly. He moved to stand so close that heat rose up her face as if she were too near a furnace. She stepped back and he stood his ground, unnerving her with a smile. "I've had a letter from the secretary of Eleanor Roosevelt—the Governor's wife. They've heard of the work we've done here at the mission. She'll be coming for a tour."
She saw his face go blank and thought he just didn't understand. "She's not like other politician's wives who go to cut ribbons. She's very important—a true partner of Governor Roosevelt. If I could gain her ear..."
"I know," he said tersely.
"And he will be the next President of the United States. I am sure he will do great things."
She saw a shadow pass over his face at that and his lips thin into a forbidding line and felt disappointed. Was he then just like all the other men she had known? Thinking it mannish for her to concern herself with politics and vain to think she could have any influence. John had left her when he found she had no wish to limit her "charity work" to a sedate social activity and quaint hobby.
"But I'm sure you think I'm prattling away at what will turn out to be two ladies playing at—"
He reached out to take her arm, and she quieted at the touch. "Edith, no. Don't ever think I don't take you seriously. I've just had…bad news."
"Can't I help?" He shook his head mutely and his hand gripped her arm tightly then he slowly released her as if loathe to let go of her.
She had asked him once if he had done something, if he was afraid. Had asked for him to let her help. He had put her off in his whimsical way, pointing to Orion's Belt as the home of a novelist a hundred years hence who would put the three words "let me help" even above "I love you." Latter he gazed at the night sky and rather wistfully commented that there seemed so few stars to see. It had struck her in that moment that he puzzled her the way she puzzled her captive audience each night at the Mission. It was an eerie feeling of alienation and connection at once. Yet he hadn't seemed afraid then. But now she saw him swallow and heard a coiled tension in his voice.
"Won't you at least share the news with me?" she asked.
He looked then at her speculatively as he tipped her face up to meet his eyes. "It isn't news if it hasn't happened yet," he said slowly. "And with you of all people I shouldn't be afraid of the future."
"Is Spock some sort of spiritualist?"
"'Two futures' is what I heard. I didn't mean to eavesdrop but I came down…"
His face went blank again for a moment and then he laughed. "Spock does believe some strange things. I try to humor him."
"No doubt his Far Eastern heritage is at work," she said dryly.
"I just came to get you because we were having trouble with the old boiler. If you could just show us again…" He drew her away so smoothly with a hand at her back she didn't think she could complain of being humored or diverted.
Over the coming days she would worry at those words, overheard and spoken to her, trying to make them take a shape that made sense. From that time she had seen a coolness settle in between Kirk and Spock. It hurt to see it. The two had the ease of long acquaintance together with the kind of communication that took just a look or a slight nod to settle things between them. The kind she had seen from those who had seen each other through a war. Surely Kirk couldn't have been much above twenty when the Great War ended? She had heard Spock call him "Captain" and had asked him about it. Kirk would only say they had "served together."
Since the overheard conversation, Kirk had changed toward her as well. She felt she was under attack on two fronts—mind and body. He was not crude. That she could deal with. But he was relentless. Always just in reach tantalizing her with his closeness. Or brushing against an arm or punctuating a point by leaning forward towards her. His eyes always seemed to follow her, inviting her to return the intimacy, daring her to say something.
She hardly had the breath for that—he was constantly questioning her. Why did she believe this? What was her reason for that? Didn't she think you could draw from history such and such a lesson? She wasn't sure what to make of him. Did he engage her in questions of philosophy to get near enough to put her body through this curious little dance? There was something that in the very grace of his act that told her it was calculated—or at least he wasn't unconscious of his effect. Nevertheless she felt the opposite—as if he was using all his physical charms as one weapon to probe her beliefs and rouse her to enough of an emotional pitch to shake her loose at her foundations.
It was exciting, electric to discuss things with him. Even his arguments against her spoke of how he took her seriously. He seemed a master at the question that cut and the touch of poetry that could sweep you away with its elegance with even the timbre and rhythm of his voice catching you unexpectedly. If he sometimes went where she could not follow, was that not what she asked of others everyday?
One night, after he took her to the movies, they had lingered at her door. He put his arms around her and kissed her lightly on the lips. The barest of touches.
"It's been a long time since I've been kissed," she whispered.
He shook his head and said something she didn't catch and tilted her chin up to kiss her again, deeply this time. She felt the tip of his tongue insinuate itself between her teeth and curl itself around her mouth until she was left breathless. When they broke apart, she found she couldn't stop trembling.
"You're cold" he said and began chafing her hands. The rubbing becoming a caress and then lengthened as he began running his hands up and down her arms. She could feel her heart racing. She colored as she saw Mrs. Davis staring at them with a disapproving look as she passed them in the hallway.
"You're ruining my reputation," she said lightly.
He smiled and she felt her breath catch in her throat. "Well, as long as it's ruined already, how about we give them something to really talk about."
She grabbed his hands and held them away from her. "I can't think when you do that," she said huskily.
"Then don't think, Edith. Don't think."
He moved to close the distance between them and she stopped him with a hand against his chest. She could feel a heat rise up and diffuse through her from where she touched him and fought a silent battle for control. She so wanted to slip her hand underneath the collar of that shirt.
She turned to the door to her apartment but found it hard to get the door open under his gaze, fumbling with the lock until he gently took the keys from her hand and opened the door for her. He put the keys into her hand and closed her fingers over them absently rubbing her wrist.
"Good Night, Edith."
Only today he had saved her from falling down those steps. It occurred to her that she could have died today without her ever having known his kiss. He hadn't quite let go of her hand when suddenly she grabbed his other hand and pulled him inside. "Stay."
This time she initiated the kiss. She entwined her fingers in his hair pulling his head down to hers. She kissed him hard, hungrily, pulling away only to breathe. He crushed her against him and she couldn't keep herself from pressing herself against the length of him.
Kirk lifted her up in his arms and carried her to her bedroom, laying her on the bed. When had he gotten her blouse off she thought dreamily? She felt the rest of her clothing drift off her and felt too languid and relaxed to care. "God you're beautiful," he whispered. Something inside her was tearing loose at his touch and she fought to suppress her moans. Suddenly she felt tears streaming down. He bent down and kissed the track of her tears then touched her closed eyelids with his lips. "Let it go, just let it go. It'll be all right, just let it go." He held her close and rocked her back and forth. She wasn't sure when the comfort turned to something else and she shifted in his arms.
His practiced touch brought every nerve ending alive and for once she let herself live in a world of sensation. He was doing what he wanted to her and it was what she had wanted all along without knowing it. She wrapped her legs and her arms tightly around him and opened herself in every way she knew only to find him teaching her new ways she had never dreamed of. She felt herself stretch and expand until a pressure in her broke. She buried a scream against his shoulder as she shuddered against him. It was only when he gently untangled himself from her than she felt cold and exposed. "Don't leave me," she cried and bit her lip appalled at the naked plea in her voice.
"I'm not going anywhere. Not tonight and not ever if you'll have me." He held her and even though she didn't want to sleep, to put a period on this most miraculous of nights, she drifted off so smoothly she didn't feel the transition from the dream of reality to the dream of sleep. She woke only a few hours later to a dark room to find him sitting up in bed staring down at her.
When he saw she was awake, he began to trace circles in the back of her neck that drove her crazy. He took a deep breath and gave her a look like someone about to wager all he had on this hand.
"Edith. Marry me."
She bolted from the bed at that and started putting on her clothes. She wouldn't have such a conversation while giving him a chance to weave a spell with her body.
"I could enlist in the service. The pay isn't much I know but we could make a go of it."
"Marry you? You know nothing of me if you think I could be happy as the wife of a military man. How can we have a future together when you won't trust me with your past? Tell me, Jim who are you really? Where does Spock fit in? Who is 'Bones'? Who is the 'Guardian' and where do I fit in all of this?" She threw him his clothes. "Please get dressed. I'm finding looking at you like this—distracting."
Kirk grinned and started to get dressed. She found even his smile clouded her mind. "Bones, like Spock, is an old friend we've both been looking for. You—you fit with me. More than that I can't tell you."
"Won't tell me. Am I supposed to fold my tent just like that for a promise of wedded bliss? And you give up nothing."
"I'd be giving up more than you know," he said soberly.
"I suppose you think I'm pretty arrogant to think anything I could do would make a difference. Enough difference to put it before our happiness."
He shook his head. "Edith, if I could set out the future for you like a map. Explain how Hitler will gain absolute power in Germany."
He gripped her arms compelling her to listen. "If I told you how he will set up concentration camps first to imprison, and then later destroy, those he sees as enemies. If I told you that he would break every clause of the Versailles Treaty—remilitarizing the Rhine, entering into a pact with Stalin and then invading Poland and touching off another world war. If I told you all this, and it came to pass, would it change things?
"No, it wouldn't. I cannot believe that war can solve anything. Many said that the Great War would be the war to end all wars. All it ended was millions of lives while leaving a peace almost as bitter as the war. I lost two brothers to that war and a third will never be the same again. You really have no concept of it here in the states—it barely touched you. Europe is a graveyard. It is why I could not bear to stay in England. I won't stand by and watch it happen all over again if I have the power to do something about it. Mohandas Gandhi has shown another way. He—"
Kirk sighed and rubbed the space between his eyes with one thumb. "Edith, the British Empire is not the same as Na—it's not a dictatorship. What if we had to deal with a country unprecedented in its brutality? That considered its opponents less than human and was arming to destroy all that stood in its way."
"A war takes two. I refuse to be anyone's enemy. In time if we show people another way—"
"Peace also takes two. And often war takes just one with a will to destroy. First people need to survive and then they need to have the freedom to choose another path. That freedom isn't free—too often it has to be fought for."
She sighed. "So the ends justify the means." She laughed wearily. "The 'just' war? Ultimately, whatever people say, I believe the means you choose gets you the ends you obtain. War begets only war. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword—and take far too many innocents with them. Someone must return love for hate if that is to end—and if you tell me 'not yet' I will reply 'then when'?"
She found herself out of breath at the end of her speech as if she had run a mile—away from the beloved stranger across the room and far too weary to cross back. But he walked back and took her hands in his, waiting for the quiet night to calm the passion called up by their words.
"What if I asked you to come with me to a place where the future you dream of is a reality?" She felt a shiver go through her. Something told her he wasn't speaking rhetorically. She shook it off. Jim Kirk had that kind of intensity.
"But I'm already there. As long as I keep faith with it." She tugged at his hand. "Come with me. I want to show you something." She led him out of the apartment, up the stairs, and onto the roof. It was one of those clear, cloudless nights New York City is sometimes gifted with in the early Spring and the moon had already set leaving the stars to shine alone.
"Thank you," he said. "It's still like a sketch, only a thin outline of the full night sky."
"Yes, but even below in the glare of city lights and grime—even there on a night with a full moon you can see the North Star. That star can always help guide you on your way as long as you keep your eye fixed to it and don't let yourself be diverted."
"I think I understand you."
"Jim, I am trying to steer toward an uncharted land and my only guides are my principles and my hopes. I can't give them up for anyone. Not even you."
He came to her and enfolded her in his arms from behind. "Neither can I." She heard a catch in his voice. She wondered that an issue like this could be drawing them apart.
She looked at him as he gazed up at the night sky and her heart ached for him. She lifted a hand and began to trace the line of his jaw. "We needn't dwell on it now, love," she told him. He tightened his grip around her and she twisted around to pull his head down into a kiss. They were so close. He shared so much of her dream already. Surely the rest would come with time?The End
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