by Helen Sargeant

The change in bridge personnel signaled to Kirk that he was off-duty. He kept his eyes on the floor.

“Mr. Sulu, you have the con. I’ll be in my cabin if anything comes up.”

He forced himself not to look up at the library console One of the cadets was there now, horribly aware of whose place she was taking.

‘Everyone could still hear the howling cries of Scotty’s bagpipes echoing around the Enterprise. And Kirk – he could hear every note.

He dreaded his off-duty hours. There was nothing to do but think. But no amount of wishing or thinking could bring Spock back.

The turbo lift deposited Kirk near his cabin. He ducked inside quickly, hoping no one had noticed his trembling lower lip. That always happened near Spock’s cabin.

The door whooshed shut behind him.

“No,” he said aloud. “Not near Spock’s cabin. Near my cabin. Mine!”

He realized it was time to make a conscious effort. Not to play down his grief, or even to hide. Merely bring other things into focus. There as his own existence to think about. And that of his family. He sighed.

“Not that you’ve paid much attention to them over the past few days.”

David kept well out of his way, preferring the company of some of the young cadets. And Carol? He had seen little of her. She kept to herself, staying in her cabin a lot.

No one wants to talk to the Admiral. And then he snorted at the truth. Everyone was scared of the hurt, sad look in his eyes. Even Bones kept out of his way. Usually he made himself a punching bag. Made such a nuisance of himself, trying to cheer everybody up that their hostility was transferred to him. Then he dealt with it and cleared it away.

But not this time. The good doctor seemed to be slightly off balance this time around.

Kirk sighed again and decided to think only about a shower. And then perhaps a meal, some music and sleep. For once he did not set the shower on its hardest setting. He was tired of being beaten into the floor for trying to rid himself of guilt and grief.

He had a nice, mild shower and emerged pink and only slightly tingling. He was halfway to donning a dressing gown when he heard a noise.

“Don’t tell me Spock’s going to clang about in there again!” he muttered, then froze.

Spock was dead.

But.... he swallowed and ran a hand through his hair. But the noise came from Spock’s cabin.

Who would dare? What ghoul was in there?

There would be no time to run around to the door of the other cabin. No time to even put on a uniform.

He shrugged quickly into the gown; fastened it securely. And then hesitated. It would mean going through the alcove. Seeing that chess set. Kirk had not brought himself to pack it away, yet.

No time, James. He fumbled with the old fashioned door handle for a moment and then opened the door.

He actually gulped.

“I believe it is your move, sir,” said Saavik. She sat at the table, gesturing towards the three dimensional chess board. She had made her opening play. Reasonable, but not brilliant. Kirk could easily counter that, and...

“Now just a minute,” he boomed, as much to shake up his thoughts as to answer Saavik. “Just what are you doing in here? I gave no permission.”

“Spo– Mr. Spock gave me permission, sir. I had complete access to his room.”

Kirk did not know what to do first. Desecration. Insubordination. Too many ‘-ations’ to think of.

Saavik watched him carefully. As he going to strike out or yell? Would she go on report? Did he know his dressing gown was gaping a little?

Kirk calmed himself a little by concentrating on the chess board. Almost absentmindedly, he made a move.

“Why did you come here?” he finally asked. He had realized that he had seated himself and was watching Saavik advance her attack.

“It seemed... the logical thing to do,” she said. She paused. “I, too, grieve for him. But it is no good to leave a place untouched. The old memories echo too loud. It best to create new memories.”

Kirk moved another chess piece. “I see. Did you know Spock’s quarters were off limits?”

“Yes.” Saavik considered a number of moves in her mind. “Are you going to discipline me, sir?” She moved a pawn.

Kirk licked his lips. Perhaps she was not such a middling player after all.

“No, but I am ordering Spock’s quarters sealed from now on.”

“Then where will we play chess?”

“Rec room.”

Saavik made to speak again, but Kirk held up his hand. He was concentrating on the chess board, trying to outguess her. Saavik allowed herself some satisfaction. If chess was what it took to salve the wounds, then chess it would be.