“Have you been writing in your journal like we discussed, Mr. Kirk?” Doctor Chapel wants to know, and Jim forces a smile.
“Yeah,” he says. “Yeah. It’s been going great.”
Chapel puts her pen down; she’s old-fashioned, this one. A couch, a notepad of real paper, a pen with ink. He wonders if there’s a smoking pipe around here somewhere, and when she’s going to ask about his mother. “Really.”
He’ll say this much for her: she calls him on his bullshit.
“It’s a waste of time. It’s not helping.” Chapel says nothing. Maybe if he’s lucky they can spend the rest of the hour in silence, and then he can go home, and sit in his apartment, and hate how useless he is right now. “It’s not,” he repeats after a while.
“Jim,” she says very gently, “believe it or not, I’m trying to help you here. Starfleet requires this for a reason, you know, even if you hadn’t lost Admiral Pi--”
“That’s enough!” Jim says with a bit more force than he had intended, and before he knows it, he’s up and out of the office in Medical, off the campus, in a part of San Francisco where for just a while he doesn’t have to think about his crew or his ship or what he’s missing while he’s stuck here.
He’s sitting in the middle of Golden Gate Park, not drinking the coffee he bought half an hour ago. The warmth of it is slowly seeping away. It’s a shame, really; he’d missed real coffee in space, but now that he’s dirtside most things don’t seem to taste all that different than synths.
“Jim? Jim Kirk?” He looks up at the sound of a woman’s voice; red hair, Orion--it takes him only a few seconds to remember her name.
“Gaila!” He gets up, hating how he has to lean on his cane. He smiles when she envelops him in a warm, scented hug. “It’s been ages!”
“Right? She laughs, and they exchange painless pleasantries. Jim is eternally grateful she doesn’t say anything about the cane, or why he’s in civies. Maybe she’s heard the scuttlebutt, or maybe she just doesn’t care. “Are you planning on staying in town?”
“Nah,” he says ruefully. “I need to find some place cheaper. I can’t afford a place on my own with my pension, and apparently I’m a pain in the ass to room with.”
Gaila snorts good humoredly. “Would you believe that’s the second time today I’ve heard that?”
“Yeah? Who’s the first?”
Gaila looks at him with a sudden glint of speculation. “You know, I think you two might actually get on. You free?”
“As air,” Jim replies. “Lay on, MacDuff.”
He’s relieved when she doesn’t lead him back to the Academy, or to Command. Instead, they grab a cab to South Market, and to his surprise, Gaila leads him to a hospital. He’s not sure what he’s expecting after that, only that it’s definitely not to be brought to the morgue.
“Creepier and creepier, Gaila,” Jim says, but she chuffs softly and doesn’t answer.
Eventually they come to a lab of some kind; a room with a singular inhabitant whose attention is absorbed by a microscope.
“Leonard, I’ve brought--”
“An applicant for the apartment-share?” ‘Leonard’ looks up, his attention focused on Jim. The man’s a few years older than him, dressed in sober dark clothing, his cheeks sporting a few days’ growth of beard. His gaze is like a hawk’s--no, make that a turkey vulture. Jim has the distinct sense of being weighed up with every possibility of being eaten for dinner. “Well done, Gaila, you may have actually done it.”
Gaila expels a breath, and gives Leonard a fond look. “I’ve done my part. You’re on your own now.” She turns to Jim. “Yes, he’s always like this. Good luck.” And then, smart woman that she is, she promptly abandons him to his fate.
“How did--” Jim starts to ask, just as Leonard continues. “You were on Tarsus? You’ll have to remember to take your vitamin supplements, then, I’m not gonna do it for you.”
Jim’s jaw actually drops at that, and he looks after the departing Gaila just as she disappears down the end of the hall, wondering if this is some sort of hideous prank.
“Oh, she had no way of knowing that, either. Sorry about that,” Leonard asks, coming over and offering his hand for a shake. “Well, alright, not really. But it is important for you to take those meds--you’ll need them for two years more yet. Leonard McCoy.”
“Jim Kirk,” Jim says as he shakes it. He distinctly refrains from saying A pleasure. “How did you know why Gaila brought me, anyway?”
“Common sense, really. I mention this morning that I’m looking for a roommate and she shows up a few hours later with you in tow? Only makes sense, kid. How long are you back on Earth for? The lease is for a year.”
“I’m supposed to be dirtside for a year exactly.”
McCoy nods. “Makes sense. PTSD, of course. Standard for Fleeters. Your therapist tell you the leg injury is psychosomatic? Of course she did, why am I asking?”
“How the hell do you know all that?” Jim doesn’t know if he wants to punch the guy in the jaw or the nuts. “Who told you?” He knows even as the words come out that it’s all impossible; there’s no way Gaila could have known ahead of time they’d see each other, or comm ahead to tell her “friend.”
McCoy’s eyes are hazel, and they bore into his own. “I know you very well, Captain Jim Kirk. The walk gives it away--you’re Starfleet through and through, easy enough. You’re still adjusting to natural gravity--you’ve been in space for a while. Bags under the eyes, used to having your way--Command track. Gaila defers to you, obviously someone with rank. Now why exactly would you be back on Earth? Well the leg injury, for one thing. You’ve been in action, off-world. With the Klingons? Very likely.” He pauses. “You’ve lost someone, too. I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Thank you,” Jim says vaguely. He’s not sure what else to say. “You a telepath?”
“Hell, no. I’m a doctor--a damn good one, if I do say so myself,” McCoy says. He retrieves a leather coat from a wall hook nearby. “Look, I have an appointment. The address for the apartment is 17A Riverside Drive. Meet me there tomorrow at 4:30, if that’s convenient. Or even if it’s not convenient,” he adds as an obvious afterthought. “Nice meetin’ you, Jim.”
And with that, he’s gone, and Jim is left alone in the lab, wondering what the fuck just happened.
IDEK, you guys.
- I'm feelin': blah