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“Goddamnit, Spock.” McCoy sounded more weary than angry, but the craggy face on the view screen twisted into its best scowl. “You need to quit hiding. You know damned well that Jim wouldn’t want you to spend Christmas holed up in your apartment, all by yourself. The Academy is closed for a month; come on down to Georgia and spend Christmas with us. Joanna will be glad to have you, and you haven’t even met my latest great-grandchild yet. He’s a pointy-eared mutt just like you.” Much to McCoy’s amazement (and secret pride, even if he did publicly bemoan the fact), his granddaughter Hayley had married a Vulcan scientist, S’Dar, and thanks to medical innovations largely pioneered by the Vulcan Science Academy when Spock was conceived, Hayley had now given birth to her third Vulcan-human baby, named (at McCoy’s insistence, although he’d deny it if anyone ever called him on it), Spock.

 

The baby had been born just two months ago, only weeks after Admiral James T. Kirk had died in a freak accident aboard the Enterprise-B, leaving everyone who knew him devastated. Bones knew that Spock (Jim’s mate, not McCoy’s great-grandson) was the most devastated of all. After all their adventures, after Gol and Khan and everything else in the universe that had tried to separate Jim and Spock, they’d finally been able to settle down together in San Francisco, finally able to be together all the time and enjoy their golden years. But then Jim had agreed to be the Fleet’s PR show pony one more time, and he’d died as he’d lived—saving a starship full of people. Now Spock was alone, terribly alone.

 

Spock shook his head. “Doctor, there is no logic in my celebrating a Terran holiday that has no connection to my cultural identity.” The dark eyes were steady, but Bones saw the shadows beneath them, and even through the small view screen, McCoy’s sharp healer’s eyes could spot the weight loss, the signs of long fatigue and grief. Spock was a mess; Bones didn’t need to have him on a bio-bed to figure that out.

 

“Spock,” McCoy said gently, “forget about chugging egg nog and decking the halls. I know you and Jim always celebrated Christmas; it was his favorite holiday. But if you don’t want to honor that, okay. Just—come down, have a change of scenery, visit an old friend. Jim would want you to…”

 

“Doctor, what Jim would want is no longer relevant,” Spock said, as close to open anger as Bones had seen him in decades. “Jim is—gone.” With that, Spock abruptly cut transmission, ending the call.

 

McCoy sat back with a sigh, rubbing his aching forehead. Sorry, Jim, he silently told his old friend. I tried.

 

 

 

In his San Francisco townhouse, Spock sat at his desk, head buried in his hands. He knew that he shouldn’t have ended the call that way; McCoy would be both angry and alarmed. The doctor was no fool—and he knew Spock as only a few others ever had. He’d easily read the signs of tension and grief, of a mind and soul lacerated.

 

I should have placated him. I should have told him I would consider his offer and then ended the call. Jim would be ashamed of my lack of tactical skills. As he had every hour since the Fleet chaplain had showed up at his door, official condolences in hand and a suitably somber look on his face, Spock fought down the savage, tearing pain, the pain of a wounded bond, that tore at his very katra. Their bond had not snapped; Spock had not been severed from his mate, his t’hy’la, the reason for his existence. Even knowing as he did that wishing was as illogical as hoping, Spock had wished, desperately, that the bond would snap, allowing him relief from pain, allowing him the peace and freedom of death. But his link with Jim, forged in the fires of so many adventures and tragedies, would not give way. He was irrevocably bound to a dead man, and even through the agony, he clung to that link, to the last remnants of Jim.  Spock had no desire to go anywhere, no wish for company. Here, in the home he and Jim had shared, the last place he had ever seen his beloved, Spock would stay and hold onto Jim, even if it drove him mad.

 

Slowly, crippled with the constant pain thrumming along every nerve, Spock rose and made his way to the main room, the living room, Jim had called it, ignoring the illogic of the name, since they ‘lived’ in every room of the house. However, this room had certainly been Jim’s favorite, largely because of the spectacular view across the Bay. Spock stood by one of the floor-length windows and stared blankly into the night, seeing the faint twinkle of multi-colored lights decorating the houses on the other side of the water. Christmas lights, a symbol of hope and joy in the darkness of winter. But there was no hope, no joy, not without Jim.

 

Oh, t’hy’la, why? Why did you have to leave me? Spock received no answer; he expected none. He turned his back on those lights and made his way to his cold bed.

 

 

 

“Spock.” The soft voice jerked Spock out of a restless sleep. “Spock, my kan-bu.”

 

Spock sat up in bed, noticing immediately that the room was not dark, as it had been when he’d retired. No, the room was full of a soft, glowing light, a light that seemed to have no natural or artificial source. And in the center of that light, concentrating it all upon herself, Amanda Grayson stood in the middle of Spock’s bedroom, smiling gently at her only child.

 

Spock slowly sat up, every instinct fighting the evidence of his senses. “Mother?” Amanda could not be here in this room. She was dead; she had died almost two years before, killed when her shuttle from Earth to Vulcan had disappeared. Spock knew she was dead; he’d attended her memorial service and grieved for her, but Jim had been with him, always by his side, openly slipping an arm around Spock’s shoulder as they placed his mother’s symbolic urn in the clan mausoleum, the human calmly meeting the occasional glare from Spock’s Vulcan kin with a level stare and tightening his embrace. Amanda could not be here. Perhaps the bond was breaking. Perhaps this was the madness that preceded death. If so, Spock refused to become upset because he was hallucinating. His mother was, after all, a beneficent spirit.

 

“Don’t be silly, sweetheart.” The apparition came closer and sat on the edge of his bed, reaching out to gently smooth Spock’s hair.

 

“You’re not going crazy,” Amanda told him. “And you’re certainly not imagining me; I’ve been popping in to check on you ever since I went away. You can just see me this time.” She gave her son another of those wonderful smiles. “You really didn’t think I’d forget all about you, just because we were separated.”

 

“But there is no logic in this,” Spock told her. “While scientific theory has proved that energy endures and cannot be destroyed, there is no evidence that corporeal spirits exist or that they can communicate with…”

 

“Sweetheart, I love you, but I never should have let Sarek get you that microscope for your third birthday. It ruined you.” Amanda patted his cheek, and he could feel her fingers, cool and soft as they had always been. Spock regarded her warily.

 

“Assuming that you do exist, which I do not specify to, why are you here?”

 

Her smile died. “Because you are in pain,” she said softly. “And you aren’t letting anyone help with the pain; you’re retreating into that Vulcan shell that Jim and I spent so many years prying you out of, and it’s heartbreaking to watch, sweetheart. You can’t keep doing this to yourself.”

 

Spock’s eyes burned as he heard the love and pain in her voice. “I am sorry,” he whispered, part of him feeling ridiculous for apologizing to a ghost, part of him grieved to know that she suffered for his pain. He bowed his head, feeling a single tear—the first he’d shed since Jim’s death—make its way down his cheek. He felt Amanda’s hand caress his hair again.

 

“I cannot do otherwise,” he said quietly. “I do not have the strength.”

 

“You have more strength than you know,” she told him gently. “And by using that strength to reach out to others, you’ll feel better, too. I know that’s not logical, darling, but it’s true.” She rose from the bed and bent to kiss his forehead. “I must go now,” she said. “I need to check on your father; I think he’s planning to court a new human wife, and he’ll need some pointers.”

 

“Spock looked up at her. “Must you leave?” His voice sounded like the child he’d been a very long time ago. Even if she was a delusion brought on by grief, it was comforting to have Amanda close once more.

 

“It’s all right,” she said gently. “You’re about to get another visitor—one that means more to you than I ever could. Good-bye sweetheart. Be well.” With one last smile, Amanda disappeared, as did the light. Spock found himself lying in bed in the near-total darkness, tears in his eyes and an empty ache in his heart.

 

“Mother,” he whispered into the darkness. Why did you leave me? Why does everyone leave me?

 

There was no answer. Of course, there could not be one. Ghosts were illogical. Spock stared up into the darkness until at last his weary body rebelled and he fell asleep once more.

 

 

 

“Ashaya.”

 

Spock jerked awake, heart pounding in his side. Once again, the room was full of light. Once again, there was a familiar figure.

 

“No!” Spock thrashed, fighting the sheets that were wrapped around his legs, trying to rise, trying to get away from this symbol of his madness. “Noooo…”

 

“Shhh.” Suddenly, Spock found himself wrapped in a pair of loving, familiar arms. “It’s all right,” Jim soothed, his cheek pressed against Spock’s, his hands gently rubbing knotted back muscles. “I know, t’hy’la; I know. But believe me; it’s not a dream. You’re not insane. Hush, love; it’s all right. I’ve got you.”

 

Logic fought with love—and love won. With a sob, Spock threw his arms around Jim’s figure, no longer caring who or what he was, only caring about the comfort of that embrace, those strong arms tight around him, those lips tenderly kissing his cheek, that beloved stocky body pressed close to his….

 

“Yeah, I haven’t lost an ounce,” Jim chuckled.

 

“Beloved, I…” Spock stammered, but Jim just laughed and held him close.

 

“It’s okay, ashaya; my vanity is the one load I have shed,” Jim assured him. Spock closed his eyes and buried his face in Jim’s shoulder, not wanting to look or think, not wanting to do anything that would make this delusion disappear. For a minute or an hour, he clung to Jim, storing up every possible sensation like a miser storing gold. Finally, Jim spoke.

 

“I’m so sorry, t’hy’la, sorry I didn’t come before. I had to figure out the rules of my new existence, and it took some trial and error.”

 

Spock made himself lift his head, made himself look into those golden eyes. “I…I do not understand,” he said. “How can this be?”

 

Jim gave him that smile, full of humor and wonder. “Damned if I know, love. I’m not dead—not exactly, but I’m not on the same plane as you, for lack of a better term,” he said. “There’s a place—it’s like a fold in the universe. I’m there, ashaya; I landed there when the Enterprise-B blew out that bulkhead. Your mom’s there, too, along with some other people from various times and places—people who disappeared in space. It’s nice—but it’s lonely without you, t’hy’la. Once I figured out how to come here, I had to come.” Now Jim grinned ruefully. “Amanda and I have both been here dozens of times, but this is the first time either of us has gotten through, the first time we know you can see and hear us too.”

 

“None of this can be true,” Spock whispered.

 

“Well, then maybe…maybe it’s a Christmas miracle,” Jim said softly. “I don’t know; I never was as smart as you, beloved. But it feels real, and that’s good enough for me.” He leaned forward and kissed Spock gently.

 

“I can’t stay for long; I feel whatever it is pulling me back. But Spock, please promise me you won’t give up. Promise me you’ll live. Our bond’s alive; I can feel it. Use it, t’hy’la; try to find me. If anyone in the universe can, it’s you. Please, ashaya. Promise me you’ll try.” Jim hugged him close.

 

“And…until you can find me,” he whispered, “please, don’t lock yourself away. let your friends help you, Spock. Let them in. We’ll meet again. I know we will. You’ll find me, or I’ll find a way back to you. Hold onto that, ashaya. Hold on.”

 

“I will, Jim.” Spock wrapped the human in his arms, once more hiding his face in Jim’s shoulder. “Jim….”

 

“Hold on,” the voice whispered. “Hold onto our bond….”

 

 

 

Spock woke. It was dawn, the first light coming through the windows. The pain was gone. Spock’s bond with Jim once again hummed within him, a shining rope of silk and gold that bound him to a man who existed somewhere in the universe. And as long as Jim existed, Spock would find him. But first, he had a promise to keep.

 

 

 

It was a beautiful day for December, the sun warm as it shone through the glass roof of the three-season porch on McCoy’s home. Bones looked at his guest, who was occupying the other rocking chair, his dark hair, silvered at the temples, shining in the sun. He held a small bundle in his arms, and Spock cha’S’Dar looked up at his namesake; the blue eyes intent as if the infant could see more than a middle-aged Vulcan scientist.

 

“You could have knocked me over with a feather when I opened the door and found you standing there,” McCoy said.

 

One eyebrow went up, and for an instant, Bones was once more on the bridge of the Enterprise.

 

“I see no logic in striking you with the horny outgrowth of a bird’s…”

 

Bones burst out laughing. “Oh, my God, nothing ever changes.”

 

“Perhaps not,” Spock allowed. For a few moments, they sat and rocked, looking out over the lawn, Spock gently rocking the baby in his arms.

 

“Why did you come, Spock?” Bones asked at last.

 

Spock turned and looked at him. “Because…it is Christmas,” he said. “And I have been reliably informed that I should not retreat into my shell but should be with my friends instead.”

 

The keen blue eyes blinked back tears. “Damned noonday sun,” Bones grumbled.

 

“Indeed.” Spock closed his eyes, feeling the warmth, the same warmth he’d felt three nights earlier in Jim’s arms. After the holidays, he would begin his task, begin to seek the other end of the cord that bound him to Jim. Somehow, he’d find this mysterious fold in the universe, and when he did, he’d find his t’hy’la again. But today, for the last time, he would enjoy the company of his old friend.

 

“Merry Christmas, Leonard.”

 

“Merry Christmas, Spock.”

 

 Merry Christmas, ashaya. I am coming for you.

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