The three men stepped out of the terminal and into the bright sunlight of San Francisco. It was a beautiful sunny day, not a visage of fog today. Jim drew in a deep breath of the pure sparkling air and looked around with pleasure at the familiar sights and sound of Terra. Earth seemed infinitely beautiful and precious to him, as it always did after a long time away. They quickly found an air cab and in ten minutes the driver dropped them off in front of the apartment complex. Few of Jim's neighbors were home at this time of the day, and they took the empty lift up to Jim's apartment. Jim keyed in his security code and the door opened soundlessly. As they walked in, he looked around in deep satisfaction. I'm home, he thought, happily.
In common with the rest of the units in the complex, the front room of the apartment was the living area. Jim had furnished it with a few good pieces of exotic wood furniture, a big comfortable sofa and two large arm chairs, a couple of excellent landscapes on the walls, and some warm earth tone throw rugs from the farm that his mother had sent him. It also had a wood burning fireplace, and the wonderful focal point of the living room, a huge and beautiful bay window which faced the Bay and the Bridge and dominated the west side of the room. A narrow half wall separated the living area from the big, light filled kitchen, which had, in addition to every convenience known to man, a remarkable dining table and chairs of unbreakable Deltan glass. The pale green glass glowed eerily casting a soft radiance on the room and its occupants.
To the left of a long hall were the two bedrooms which were spacious and airy, with high ceilings and large windows that let in both the light and the view. Both of the rooms had large twin beds, desks and chests of drawers, with wall to wall carpets for the chill San Francisco weather. Jim liked to leave the windows open when the weather permitted. Each bedroom had a bath with a sonic and water shower and a dressing area which adjoined the two rooms in the middle.
Jim's pride and joy, however, was to the right of the hall, the big room he called The Library. Here is where he kept his slowly growing collection of real paper books, lovingly encased in their protective coverings on the shelves, as well as his family holos, and his models of past and present Enterprises. The models which stood in specially designed display cabinets, were all made to scale and were exact replicas of the ones he had on board ship. All known ships named Enterprise were represented here: the first ship used during the American Revolutionary War, the WW II aircraft carrier, the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the first orbital space shuttle test vehicle, Enterprise NX01, and Jim's own beloved starship.
To the left of the door, there was a large sofa/bed where he often fell asleep while reading, and his rosewood desk and chair that had been a gift from his father and mother when he graduated from the Academy. In the corner stood an antique Terra globe, large and well yellowed with age. His brother, Sam, had given it to him on his twenty-fifth birthday. Jim would sometimes stand and twirl the giant globe on its wooden stand and read the legend in gothic script which said, "Here Be Dragons, " and think of Sam.
This room, perhaps, reflected best the curious duality of Jim Kirk's nature. His passionate love of space and ship, as well as his devotion to that anachronistic past he studied so often his historical books. The first time Bones had seen the Library, he had groaned with envy. Spock had merely nodded his head as if the room confirmed some previously held supposition he'd had about his captain.
Now in Jim's apartment, all three men were content to be someplace where they could relax and rid themselves of military responsibilities for however brief a time.
"How about some lunch? We didn't eat anything before we left the ship," Jim stated. "Spock will you program the food syn? I'll have salad and a chicken sandwich. Bones, Spock, you help yourself. We'll have to get some fresh food in for Peter's stay. My mother wouldn't like it if I just fed Peter food from the synthesizer. At the farm, he gets fresh food and milk every day, but then again Mom's a great cook."
"I'll have the same, Spock," McCoy told him. "You cook and I'll dispose of the dishes in the recycler. I never was a good cook."
"Undoubtedly, you cook as well as you do everything else, doctor," responded Spock.
McCoy opened his mouth for a comeback, but closed it again when nothing came to him. He frowned at Spock, unable to decide if he had been insulted or complimented.
Jim snorted and sat down at the table. "I stowed your gear in the bedroom. We can all unpack later. Right now let's eat, I'm starved."
Spock set the food down on the table and all three ate quietly, letting the peace of the early afternoon seep into their bodies. Jim finished his sandwich and yawned openly and hugely.
"I think I might take a nap," he mumbled sleepily to no one in particular.
"Jim if I might have leave to browse in your library and use the comm. unit to contact my parents."
"Feel free, Spock, my home is yours." He yawned again. "Bones what about you?"
"I think I'll watch the news and wait for Peter and Uhura. I'd like to catch up on what's been going on with Peter, Jim. How he's adjusting; all informally of course."
"Good idea, Bones. Mom said he's generally been doing fine, but sometimes he still cries at night and he still misses Sam and Aurelan terribly. I do too," he sighed.
"Perfectly normal, for both of you. Don't worry, Jim. He's a strong little boy and he's bounced back very well. Loosing one's parents is about the worse thing that can happen to a kid, so it's a good thing for Peter that he has your mother and he's here with you now. He needs your companionship and love," McCoy added.
"It's good for me too, Bones. I've missed him a lot these last six months. It's been hard to be away from Peter and Mom when I know they're grieving." He didn't say anything about his own deep grief. He sighed again. There was never enough time to lay down the cares of command. Even family and grief must come second to his responsibilities to his ship and his crew. He thought again of Sam and with difficulty, wrenched his mind back to the present.
Kirk looked up to see Spock's eyes on him across the table. "Well, Spock, what do you think of Peter? As I recall you didn't get to see as much of him as some of the other crew members when he was on board the ship. You were also recuperating for part of that time."
Spock rose from his chair with his usual cat-like grace, and looked down at his captain with a slight smile. "Setting your family prejudices aside, Captain, and taking into account the limited amount of time I spent with him, I find your nephew to be well-behaved, intelligent, and quite charming. As a matter of fact, I have noted a remarkable similarity in looks and personality to his uncle. Now, if you will excuse me, I will be in the library," said the unruffled voice.
Jim and McCoy stared wide-eyed at each other. Then Jim chuckled. " Well, well, what do you know about that. Peter got to him, Bones."
McCoy grinned wickedly. He was really going to enjoy this. Let that rabbit eared Vulcan deny that he liked the child all he wanted. McCoy would eventually pry the admission out of him. It sure was gonna' be fun doing it too, thought McCoy gleefully.
"I think I'll go take my nap," said Jim. "For some reason, I can't seem to keep my eyes open. Don't do anything too energetic Bones, or you might wake me up," Jim told the sprawled figure on the chair.
"Sarcasm is unbecomin' in an Officer and a Gentleman," murmured McCoy, not moving an inch.
The apartment became a haven of peace and tranquility. The gentle sound of snoring came from the far bedroom and the Library was also suspiciously silent. In the living room, McCoy's head nodded as the voice of the news commentator droned on the holo screen, and the afternoon shadows lengthened on the wall.
Uhura keyed in the security code at the door, and she and Peter walked into the apartment. It was so quiet and still that Uhura put her finger to her lips as she and Peter tiptoed past the recumbent McCoy and into the kitchen. They giggled quietly at the sound of Kirk's snoring coming from the bedroom.
McCoy started and slowly came awake. He heard the stifled laughter coming from the kitchen, stretched luxuriously, and smiled to himself.
"Nyota and Peter, what are you up to?" he called softly as he walked into the kitchen.
"Hi Dr. McCoy," Peter whispered loudly. "We're hungry, we didn't have time to eat lunch. We shopped so much my feet hurt," he added plaintively.
"Did you find what you needed?" He patted Peter affectionately on the shoulder.
"Yes we did. We had a great time, and you should see what we bought for everybody." Peter's eyes sparkled, and he and Uhura snickered as their eyes met.
It was clear that these two had become fast friends and conspirators during the afternoon's shopping expedition.
Spock, walking in quietly behind them, asked, "I trust the afternoon's labor went well?" He sat down at the table beside McCoy. "I, too, will have some of that fruit juice you are pouring out if you don't mind, Doctor."
"Hi Mr. Spock." Peter sat down across from Spock, put his elbows on the table, and fixed his hazel eyes on the Vulcan. "We bought a lot of stuff." He looked straight at Spock, his eyes alight, but a little uncertain. "I bought something for you, a present, I hope you like it."
"For me?" The Vulcan was visibly startled. He quirked one eyebrow. "Is this an earth custom with which I am not familiar? I know about the exchange of gifts at birthdays and Christmas, but it is not my birthday and I know it is not Christmas."
"Oh, no, Mr. Spock." Uhura smiled at him. "Peter saw this item on display and he thought it was perfect for you to wear for the party tomorrow night, and as I whole heartedly agreed with him, he bought it for you. Go get it, Peter."
The child brought in the package and presented it to Spock with a slight flourish. "If you don't like it, you may return it Mr. Spock," Peter told him.
It is not logical, thought Spock, as he took the package, to feel such pleasure at the child's thoughtfulness.
"I am sure whatever you chose will be esthetically pleasing and," he paused, "of course I shall…. like it."
He slowly opened the parcel to find a finely woven tunic of some silken material. It was so soft that it slipped through his hands as he touched it. The color was a rich, deep, dark brown, with embroidered motifs of gold, rust, and orange threads, at collar and cuffs. Its rich hue was reminiscent of the magnificent Vulcan mountains as the sun set behind them. It was very beautiful, the workmanship intricate and inspired. Spock looked at it silently for a long moment.
"Don't you like it Mr. Spock?" The soft childish voice was a little anxious.
McCoy sat watching Spock silently. Jim, coming in, saw the little silent tableau and glanced quizzically at the doctor. McCoy caught the glance and shrugged.
Spock looked at the child's anxious hazel eyes, his fingers gently caressing the fabric. He spoke very softly. "Yes, Peter, I do. I like it very much. It is very beautiful, I will treasure it always and I shall be honored to wear it tomorrow night to the Captain's party."
Peter nodded and gave Spock a relieved smile. He was well pleased at the reception of his gift.
McCoy cleared his throat noisily and glanced at Jim. For once he was at a loss for words. He coughed and tried again. "Well, I like that. Spock gets a present and I don't?" he looked at Peter with mournful eyes. "What am I chopped liver or somethin'? Don't I get anything?" he asked sadly.
Peter grinned and looked at Uhura whose brown eyes were dancing with mischief. "Of course you do, Dr. McCoy. I bought something special just for you. Look at this." He reached down into a shopping bag and brought out a small, comical looking brown bear wearing Star Fleet doctor's garb. On the front of the bear's tunic it said, 'BEARLY A. DOCTOR.'
"Very appropriate," murmured Spock.
Jim laughed at the expression on McCoy's face. "And what about me?" he asked Peter, "after all, I do have some rights, I am the The Uncle of record around here, or has everyone forgotten that important fact."
"Oh yes, " Uhura chuckled, "don't think for a minute we would forget you, Jim. We found something very special just for you. Look." She brought out another bear, this one very solemn and dignified in appearance. It was absolutely naked except for a tenne Star Fleet Sash which had printed on it 'A. BEAR, CAPTAIN' in big bold letters.
They all laughed at Jim's expression and even Spock quirked an eyebrow in amusement.
"I think that Spock got the best of this deal, don't you, Bones?' Jim asked ruefully.
McCoy, fondling his little bear, grinned and nodded.
"I bought one more thing, Uncle Jim." Peter said. From the shopping bag, he took out a small chess set and put it on the table. "I thought one of you could teach me how to play. I'm old enough to learn now," He looked at his uncle expectantly.
Jim's eyes questioned Spock. Spock nodded. "I shall be honored to instruct you, Peter. We can begin this evening with the names of the pieces and the first rudimentary moves," he said. "I do not think it will take you long to master the rules of play and some opening moves."
They had a quiet dinner at the apartment with Spock again acting as chef. Afterward, Jim lit the fire in the fireplace and Peter brought out his new chess board and set up a small table in front of the hearth. Uhura got out the lyre she had brought with her and Jim poured some brandy into the coffee he set out for her, Bones and himself. He drifted over to the window, listening to Uhura's soft lovely voice singing an old Irish Ballad.
"I am a young maiden and my story is sad
For once I was courted by a brave sailor lad.
He courted me strongly by night and by day,
But now my dear sailor is gone far away.
If I was a blackbird I'd whistle and sing,
And I'd follow the ship that my true love sails
And on top of the riggings I'd there build a nest,
And I'd pillow my head on his lily white breast."
Jim looked out at the magnificent view. Golden Bay Bridge was lit with tiny iridescent pearls that glowed like fireflies in the distance. He looked up at the sky searching for the running lights of his ship, although he knew he would not be able to see her through the haze. Then he turned his gaze back to those in the living room. Bones, coffee cup in hand, his blue eyes alight in the glow of the fire talking softly to Uhura; Spock and Peter deep in concentration over the chess board, their voices a soft murmur; Uhura, darkly beautiful, looking down at her lyre, her lashes casting mysterious shadows on her cheekbones. Spock looked up and caught the glance and Jim lifted his cup in a silent toast, smiling. He was utterly content.