Thanks to my betas, T'Aaneli and Greywolf for their time and effort.
Wood chips flew out in every direction. He heaved slightly, bringing his arm around swiftly, his aim precise.
He took a deep breath, resting a moment, leaning against his axe. The cold mountain air chilled his lungs, almost painfully. Sweat dripped from his forehead onto his work gloves. He lifted his face up towards the sun, grimacing from his exertion, letting its meager warmth shine down on him.
Placing another log precisely where he wanted it, he heaved and grunted, swinging the axe down.
The log fell down to the grass in two pieces. He stared at it for a moment, his chest rising and falling. He looked up suddenly, expecting somebody to come walking up the walkway.
He picked up another log and positioned it.
No one came.
He had been somewhere else just now. Where had he been? The memory danced on the edge of his vision.
He looked up from the counter and noticed it was snowing. When did that start?
In stocking feet, he shuffled over to the window, raised his cup of hot chocolate up to his lips. Too hot still. Blowing softly he looked out into the swirling whiteness.
He had to press his face against the pane to avoid the glare from the house lights. Grinning, he saw his reflection in the glass panes. The panes were cold and caused his breath to fog.
Padding silently over to the light controls, he lowered them, then padded back, picking up a blanket from the couch on his way to the window. Ah, much better. Now he could see the snow dusting the branches of the big tree that stood on that far off hill.
The big chair would do nicely. He pushed it over in front of the window and sat down. Spreading the blanket over his legs and chest he raised his legs up making sure his feet were covered. Not an easy task with a mug of hot chocolate in one hand.
Inhaling the deep rich scent, he hoped it was cool enough to sip. Tentatively, he extended his tongue and lips.
Damn. Still too hot. He rubbed his burned tongue against his teeth.
He froze. Who was that? Wasn't he alone? He thought he had been alone. The voice had come from upstairs.
He turned around, staining to see over the back of the big chair. Light was shining down the stairs. From where did he know that voice?
"Down here." He called out. To whom? Fear gripped him suddenly. He knew, as certain as he had ever known anything, he didn't belong here.
The butter crackled at him. Breaking the eggs swiftly on the edge of the counter, he poured them into the frying pan. Sizzling sounds filled the air.
His stomach grumbled. Hunger. It suddenly felt as if he hadn't eaten in a month of months.
Looking into the cupboard he found a plate. Bringing it down, he set it on the breakfast table. What else...Oh yeah, a glass and some utensils. A napkin would be good.
He busied himself as the eggs fried. Realizing he needed toast and orange juice, he searched in the pantry and found some fresh fruit. Honeydew melon. Perfect. Bones loves honeydew.
He brought it back to the counter. Removing the eggs from the fire, he scooped them onto his plate. Then he turned to serve the other plate only there wasn't another plate.
Wait a minute. Wasn't he having breakfast with McCoy? Bones had said he'd be over in the morning. He'd better set another setting for him.
Placing the pan back onto the stove, he turned back to the cupboard and found another plate. It slipped from his hands and smashed onto the floor.
Damn. He bent over and started to pick up the pieces. He was going to need the broom. Suddenly he dropped the shards. Blood dripped onto the floor. He had sliced his right hand.
He was mesmerized by the trails of red flowing down his hand. Looking up, out through the window, he expected someone to walk in. McCoy was coming wasn't he? Or maybe it was Spock.
His mind couldn't focus, and he knew he wasn't really here. Here wasn't really here. But then where was it?
The warmth of the room woke him. Lazily he stretched out in the bed, cracking his back.
It was warm. Getting out of bed, he walked over to the window and opened it, letting in the fresh morning air. He wondered what the time was.
A perfect day to go horseback riding. That's what he'd do today. The soft hills beckoned him, rolling into the distance. Who ever said retirement wasn't bliss? This couldn't get better. A nice sunny day, green green grass, and no end in sight.
He moved into the bathroom, stripping as he walked, and stepped into the shower. No sonics today. Today he was going to immerse himself in hot water.
It poured down suddenly, incinerating his skin. He moaned softly. God he loved taking showers. Too bad he was alone.
Wasn't there someone here though? No, he would have remembered that. Wouldn't he? He lathered liberally, soaping up every part of his body. Then he washed his hair. It ended all too soon.
Stepping out, he grabbed a towel and began to rub himself dry.
Was that a noise? He stopped, cautiously moving to the door, listening.
He shrugged it off and opened the door, walking back into the bedroom. The wind was blowing strongly through the window causing the curtains to flap loudly. That must have been it, the sound he had heard.
He walked over to the window and shut it. A picture had fallen to the floor, knocked over by the wind. He bent over to pick it up.
It was a picture of Bones, Spock and...Who was that? A woman; vulcanoid with long brown hair. Saavik.
Saavik. When had he met Saavik? At the Academy when he had come out of retirement and had returned to Starfleet. But that hasn't happened yet. He just retired. Last week as a matter of fact.
A door slammed. "Jim?"
Who was that? He suddenly realized he was naked and fished around for something to put on, finding a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. There were slippers next to the bed.
"Jim. It's Antonia. Are you decent?"
Antonia? Who's Antonia? Suddenly he remembered--tall, long red wavy hair, likes to go horseback riding.
He looked down at the picture in
his hand. Something was wrong here.
What had that man called it? The Nexus. With sudden clarity he realized that was where he was.
A soft knocking at the door. "Jim, don't tell me you're not up already?"
A small wave of panic washed over him. None of this was real.
The cool autumn air chilled the sweat on his brow. His back ached a little from the four hours he'd put in chopping wood.
He chuckled, remembering a small argument he had had with Bones over why he didn't just replicate the wood he needed.
He loved the slightly hollow sound of wood hitting wood. A dull tinkle.
Picking up another piece of wood and placing it on the chopping block, he quickly counted out how much he had left and how many more he needed. He estimated about another hour or so and then he'd be done.
Pausing a moment, he took his gloves off and reached for the bottle of water on the floor.
Looking out over his land, he thought he saw someone approaching. Spock said he would stop by sometime soon, maybe that was him.
No one came.
Putting his gloves back on, he gripped the handle of his axe. Bracing his feet firmly on the ground, he brought the axe around to his side.
Hadn't he just been somewhere else? A memory teased him, but he couldn't grasp it.