"Ready to go?" McCoy asked.
Jim didn't look up from the terminal at his desk, his fingers flying across the keyboard. "Just a second."
The uniform pulled at him, forcing him straight-backed. But he didn't let that deter him. He finished the last sentence of the last letter and hit the send button. It would arrive with a privacy code at the personal terminal of the wife of Lt. Vi'Ann. He took a moment to look at the blank screen. Fifty-eight letters in fifteen days. He had dreaded the duty, but once he'd finished his first letter, he felt more at peace, as if he too needed the closure. Though each letter had been difficult to write, he hoped the people reading them would also feel the same sense of closure, and would someday find peace in the loss of their loved one.
He turned to see Bones standing in the living area of his apartment in full dress uniform, pulling with irritation at the tight collar. Jim smiled.
"What?" McCoy asked, running his hand self-consciously over the tunic.
"Nothing," Kirk said, shaking his head. "I've never seen you in full dress."
His smile broadened. "You look nice." He stood, relishing the fact that he could do so without pain, and automatically smoothed his uniform in place. His Commendation Medal hung from his left breast. He was required to wear his medal for the ceremony. "You look positively morose, Bones. I'm the one who's going to be on stage."
"I know." McCoy eyed him. "You gonna be okay with this, Jim?"
"It's a little late to ask that," he said in good humor, moving to retrieve his hat. He had spoken to the President of the Federation two weeks ago, and had told the old man that he would receive the Medal of Honor only on behalf of those who had lost their lives. The President had agreed. Still, it was strange to be getting a medal for saving lives on the day he had finished writing condolence letters.
He caught his reflection in the mirror as he turned and stopped. His hair had been neatly trimmed; the sideburns sharp the way Starfleet liked. He was still pale, but not nearly as much as when he had left the hospital. He'd put on a few kilos and that had helped to flesh out his face so that he wasn't as drawn, but he still looked ill, and had not yet been cleared for duty.
The medal hung noticeably from its ribbon, catching the light and standing out against the gray fabric. The last time he'd been in dress uniform had been the day Pike had died. He'd missed that funeral, as well.
"Jim?" McCoy's voice was close behind him.
He pulled his attention away from his own image and turned to meet his friend's concerned gaze. He had asked for a small ceremony, only a few of his friends. Of course there would be media, and Lt. Purcell's sound bytes.
"You okay?" McCoy asked.
"Long time since I've been in dress." He smiled faintly to put his friend at ease. "It hasn't gotten any more comfortable."
"That wasn't what I was asking."
He knew what McCoy was asking, had been asking for two months, and for the first time he could answer honestly. "I'm good, Bones."
The hazel eyes stayed on him and he remained patiently in place while his friend made an assessment. He couldn't quite keep the humor out of his eyes, wondering if Bones would ever stop worrying. He had been sleeping through the night more often than not, the nightmares less frequent.
"They'll stop when you get what you need out of them," the counselor had told him. "There's information in everything you experience. Learn what you need to learn and your subconscious will stop playing with you."
The counselor had been right.
Finally, McCoy nodded, satisfied.
"Come on," Kirk said to McCoy. "Spock's waiting."
They walked toward the door.
"I hope they don't drag this out," McCoy said. "You haven't been cleared for duty, yet."
"So, you keep reminding me."
They entered the hallway.
"Repetitiveness is not wasted on you, Jim."
They rode the lift down to the ground floor. He was nervous about being in the public eye so soon. The slight tremors had lessened as he regained strength, but they still plagued him when he got tired. Both Tir and Bones had assured him that they would continue to diminish as he gained stamina. At least now he could eat without throwing up, and he'd gotten much of his appetite back.
They stepped outside into the sunlight. The breeze off the ocean smelled fresh and pure, alive. He took a moment to breathe it in, feeling the same aliveness within him.
"Just take it easy today," Bones said from his side. "I won't be clearing you for full duty for another five weeks at least."
Suddenly, he heard Pike's rich voice in his head and saw the kind features of the man who had been as close to a father as he had ever had. He could think of the man now without sadness, with…love.
"I dare you to do better."
He smiled and turned to his friend. "Five? I'll do it in three."
A/N - Thank all of you for joining me in this little journey. I am very honored to all who have followed and those who have given this story a favorite. It is always my pleasure and privilege as a writer to make others think and feel. It's time now for this story to end and for Jim to have another adventure where he can think and feel. Blessing and joy to all.