A blond head of hair, cut just above the shoulders, bobbed in and out of view in the crowd in front of him. Jim knew that hair. In fact, the woman that was attached to that blond head of hair was exactly the reason he'd ventured into the academy's astrophysics labs.

Jim side-stepped a group of female cadets who craned their necks and began to whisper amongst themselves as he strode by. It was just over a month until the Enterprise's rechristening and the news had spread through Starfleet like wildfire. Captain James T. Kirk and crew had indeed been chosen for Starfleet's first ever 5-year deep space exploration mission.

Or maybe they were staring because of his reputation.

Either way, the young cadets were none of his concern today. His only concern was catching up with Dr. Carol Marcus who was already past the hallway and into the building's rotunda and approaching the bank of elevators on the far wall. If he had to wait for an elevator, Jim realized, there was no way he'd catch up to her.

Without thinking he called out, his voice echoing in the large open space. "Dr. Marcus! Carol!"

Carol stopped abruptly and turned to stare at Jim, her eyes wide and startled.

Jim grinned brightly and waved. Ignoring the gathering onlookers, he jogged across the rotunda and gracefully came to a halt within arms distance from Carol. He made a mental note to thank Uhura for pushing him over the last few months. The last thing he needed was to look like a wheezing moron that couldn't even handle a quick jog from point A to point B. "I'm so glad I caught up with you," he said attempting to hide any hint that he might be the least out of breath.

"Captain Kirk, what...what are you doing here?" she asked, her eyes wide and flustered.

Jim shrugged his shoulders. "I was looking for you."

"Me? Why me?" Carol asked glancing at the crowd of staring cadets and officers. Her cheeks turned a light shade of pink and she frowned. Quickly she reached for Jim's wrist. Tugging him along with her, she spoke over her shoulder, "Come on. We should go somewhere less in the middle of everything."

Jim followed her through a wall of glass doors on the far side of the rotunda and out onto a large concrete plaza dotted with tables, chairs, and only a handful of chatting cadets and officers. Here, no one was staring.

He had just opened his mouth when she turned on her heel, abruptly stopping them both.

"Captain, I'm sorry," Carol said suddenly.

"Sorry? Sorry for what?"

"For... Everything. If it wasn't for my father none of this would have happened. Kahn would never have been brought back, never caused the death of all those people in London, never attacked headquarters, never caused all this destruction in San Francisco..."

"It's not your..." Jim interrupted, but she continued, speaking over him.

"And I couldn't even tell you how sorry I felt, because I couldn't bare to look you in the eye after...after everything. But I'm sorry, and I wouldn't blame you at all if you hated me and everything that I remind you of." Carol was to the point of rambling, her words coming out of her mouth so fast she could hardly take a breath.

Jim gripped both of her shoulders in his hands. "Dr. Marcus. Carol. I don't blame you for anything." She looked up at him, her eyes wide again and her mouth frozen open in mid formation of a word. "You're not your father," he said softly.

Jim's hands slipped down from her shoulders and fell to his sides. Carol managed to regain her composure and tilted her head just to the side in curiosity. "Then why? You did say you were looking for me. If you didn't come seeking an apology, then why did you come here?"

"I came here because I'd like you to be a part of my crew."

Carol blinked slowly. "You want me? On the five year mission?"

"Absolutely," Jim answered, smiling sheepishly.

"But what about Commander Spock?"

"Spock doesn't have a problem with it. I believe there's room for one more science officer on my bridge."

"I...I'm not sure what to say," she stumbled over her words. "I, of course, had heard the Enterprise had been chosen for the five year deep space mission, but I never thought you'd have any interest in having me aboard..."

"Are you kidding?" Jim asked running one of his hands through his hair. "Say yes."

"Captain-"

"Call me Jim," he interrupted.

"Jim," Carol repeated, a small smile pressing at the corners of her lips, "thank you, but-"

"There's always a but..."

"But I need to think about your offer."

Jim thought for a moment and then took one of Carol's hands in his. "Look, I know you lost your family, you're father, while you were involved before with the Enterprise, but the thing is, the Enterprise itself is a family as well. And I can't see it as being complete without you."

"I'll think about it, Jim." She slipped her hand from between his.

Jim nodded, a little disappointed by the outcome of their meeting. He had hoped he'd come away with a definite yes. After all, who could really say no to Starfleet's biggest mission yet? But at least she'd said she'd think about it. At least she hadn't outright said no. "Just don't think too long. The ship will be rechristened in just over a month. I'll need your decision before then."

Carol twisted her fingers in front of her and smiled sweetly. "I won't, Jim. You'll know... Soon." With that she reached out and squeezed his left wrist and then turned abruptly and strode back to the glass doors of the astrophysics lab.