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The Gift


Beta Thanks: To JSC for her fantastic editing and inspiration.

Disclaimer: All things Star Trek are owned by Paramount, I'm just borrowing them. No money being made, no copyright infringement intended.




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We agreed to meet at a hotel in San Francisco. Not the finest of hotels either, but a small Victorian relic down by the wharf that had seen better days and a higher class of hookers.



I made my way down the narrow, sloping street, dodging the prostitutes and the shabby transients who clutched at their brown paper bags as if their lives depended on it. And they probably did because these lost souls have little else to live for besides their cheap liquor and illegal drugs. Yeah, we're supposed to live in a world without these reminders that the system isn't perfect. With our stable global economy, rehabilitation programs and social safety net, these men and women shouldn't exist. But they do, as they always have and probably always will. Hard core cases that turn their backs on convention, avoid any assistance, and live as best they can by their own rules.



The odor that greets me upon my arrival at the "Rose Garden Hotel" is anything but fragrant. The smell of dead fish washes up on the cool evening breeze from the seafood market at the end of the street. It assaults my nostrils like a slap in the face with a wet mackerel. 'Gut-wrenching stench' doesn't even begin to describe it. A light fog coming in off the bay partially obscures the huge refrigerated bins, filled to capacity with the catch of the day. Alley cats fight for the scraps that lie scattered on the ground while gulls screech angrily overhead, dive-bombing to steal what their feline competitors miss.



I can't help wondering why he would pick such a place to stay. Surely with his wealth, position and fame, one of the five-star hotels downtown would be more, dare I say, "logical".



Perhaps he had 'lost it'. That was the rumor that had been making the rounds for years. That's why I was here. Had Spock, the legendary Vulcan of the Starship Enterprise, intergalactic Federation hero, really succumbed to a level of emotionalism that had driven him to madness? As far as I knew, he wasn't even supposed to be on Earth.



I stop at the gray, weathered gate, which might have once been white washed, and look upwards at the windows facing the noisy street. In one, behind the dirty pane of glass, I see the silhouette of a man. I squint, trying to make out facial features, but the curtain drops back into place.



Within five minutes, I'm standing at the door. Room 8B. The smell in the hall is less offensive than the one outside due to the air-purifying system, but it still smells stale. Except for the muffled sound of voices coming from somewhere down the hall, it is quiet, a refreshing change from the din of the street.



I buzz and wait. I buzz again. Just as I am about to reach into my pocket to double-check the number, the door unlocks and slowly swings open.



Standing in the doorway is The Vulcan himself. I breathe a sigh of relief. So this isn't a joke. The communication that I received this afternoon was genuine. He does want to speak with me—to "set the record straight" as the text message said. To set "what" straight was unspecified, and his reason for choosing me is a mystery. As a junior reporter on a small weekly paper, I was much less experienced than most of the hacks in this town. Heck, this was San Francisco. We had top news people in this city who’d sell their own kidneys for this opportunity.



We'd never met before. He had not, to my knowledge, been on Earth since before I was born. But I had seen enough archived vids and pictures of him to recognize him instantly. Of course, he was much older now, but he was still tall and slim with a smooth cap of dark hair that shimmered with gray. He observed me silently with one elegant eyebrow slightly raised. He was dressed in a simple black robe, his appearance poised and refined. I, on the other hand, was attired in a wrinkled T-shirt and ripped jeans. I looked like a poster-child for a charity-clothing drive. I had rushed over in such a hurry I didn't even have time to shower or shave. I couldn't help wondering if his raised eyebrow was directed at my sorry state of grooming or at the fact that I was standing there staring at him and hadn’t even introduced myself.



"I'm John David," I said, extending my hand.



He raised his own hand, fingers parted. "Peace and long life. Please come in."



My hand hung in mid-air for an awkward moment before I had the good sense to pull it back. Strike two. I should have remembered that Vulcans don't shake hands.



"Thank you," I replied, hoping my lopsided smile hid my embarrassment. He stepped aside and motioned me to enter.



"Would you care for a refreshment?" he asked as he shut and locked the door.



"No, thanks. Where would you like me to set up?" I was more than a little anxious to get started.



"I have arranged two chairs by the window. Will that suffice?"



"Yes, that's fine. I've brought lots of disks. Feel free to talk as long as you wish."



The room was clean and surprisingly comfortable, although small. Two double beds separated by a side table occupied one wall, and two chairs and another table were positioned in front of the window. High tech it wasn't - it lacked most modern conveniences - but I suppose some would call the old-fashioned decor 'charming'.



I turned to survey the rest of the tiny apartment. A small galley with a food replicator had been retrofitted into a corner, near the narrow door that must have led to a washroom. On the kitchen counter, a pot of tea wafted a scent of mint into the air, providing welcome relief for my offended nose.



Spock walked into the galley and pulled a cup from under the counter. "If I may?"



"Oh, sure," I said, and he poured the steaming beverage into the cup, then joined me by the window.



"Nice view," I said. The curtains were now drawn back, the sky outside streaked in ribbons of ruby and ebony as twilight turned into night. From this height, I could see over the rooftops to the bay and Golden Gate Bridge. At the wharf, the last of the fishing boats was docking. The water looked black now. The fog changed the waves into hazy charcoal where they caught the reflection of the lights on the pier.



He remained quiet, and we both stared out the window until the mournful sound of a tugboat's horn reverberated from somewhere beyond my line of vision.



"Please sit," he said finally, taking his own seat, and cupping his drink in both hands as if to warm them.



I sank into the chair, pulling my recorder out of my pocket and placed it on the table between us.



"Before we begin," he said, "I have one request." His dark eyes fixed on mine, and I was suddenly aware of their intensity. I found such direct, concentrated eye contact to be more than a little unsettling. Most people tend to look you in the nose or mouth, avoiding the eyes. I tried not to flinch under this imposing scrutiny.



"Sure, anything. I'm very grateful for this opportunity."



Regardless of the rumors, he did not seem unbalanced or irrational, but extremely controlled. On closer inspection, he did look tired; a pervasive weariness was etched into his face. But whether this fatigue was a normal consequence of the incredible life he had led, the insurmountable obstacles he had overcome in space exploration, I wasn't sure. The farthest I'd had been from Earth was one of the orbital space stations in my senior year of college. For all I knew, maybe space just did that to people, even Vulcans.



He seemed to be weighing my response, almost evaluating whether I could be trusted.



"I shall speak of things that have remained unspoken, of events that transpired that are deeply personal. This information must remain unpublished until my death. After that, you may do with it as you wish."



"I can't publish this interview until after you die?"



"Correct."



I'm ashamed to admit that my first thought was "Oh, fuck!" Vulcans have twice the lifespan of humans, and Spock looked like he had many years ahead of him. This interview could make my career, catapult me into the big league. Hearing that I might have to sit on it for decades was worse than taking a sucker-punch to the solar plexus.



"You are young," he said. "This is one reason why you are the logical choice. Absent any fatal accidents, the odds that you will survive me are 2345 to one. I consider that acceptable."



"Two thousand, three hundred and forty five?"



"To one."



I found myself grinning and wondered if I could calculate the odds of surviving the interview without using my pocket calculator. "I see. And the other reasons are?"



"Your writing sensitively portrays the predicaments of individuals without disregarding the facts, and without personal bias. You seek to inform without sensationalizing, a quality generally lacking in the Terran publishing media."



"You've read my articles?"



"Obviously. I systematically researched possible candidates before making my decision."



"But why grant an interview about your personal life now? You've refused all requests for interviews for decades." Then I couldn't help adding, "Why the cloak-and-dagger routine?"



His eyebrow quirked up as if I had amused him.



"There was a time when I would not have understood that phrase, 'cloak-and-dagger.' I have learned much from my association with humans." I could see there was something deeper behind that statement, something that had nothing to do with clichéd phrases.



He paused to sip his tea. I had begun to notice that all of his movements were fluid, almost feline in their gracefulness. Precise, effortless—an innate characteristic of his species? I watched his fingers caress his cup as he continued: "The reason for my reticence will become clear if we proceed. Will you grant my request?"



"And if I say no?"



"Then I will ask forgiveness for wasting your time and our meeting will conclude now."



The opportunity of a lifetime was about to throw my sorry ass back on the street. I back-pedaled quickly.



"All right, then I agree to your terms. Do you want me to sign a contract?"



"Your word is your bond. If I believed otherwise, you would not be here."



I was flattered, even though I had always heard that Vulcans did not give compliments, but stated facts. He had done his research well. I had once served jail time for refusing to reveal a source, but my incarceration had not been well publicized.



"May we start?" I asked, reaching to turn on the recorder.



He nodded, but turned to stare out the window. It was dark now, and faint pinpricks of starlight penetrated the indigo veil of the sky.



I waited patiently for him to begin. A minute passed, then another. His silence was beginning to rattle me. Had he changed his mind?



"Should I ask you a question to start the ball rolling?"



"I prefer to state what I need to say without interruption," he said, still looking out at the stars. "Please realize that this…this is difficult for me, for any Vulcan. To discuss such subjects with outworlders, those not intimately involved, contradicts the principles on which I have lived my life."



He glanced at me again, his eyes clearly reflecting his discomfort. He raised his hands, interlocking the fingers, steepled the index fingers, and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, he seemed calmer and more focused.



"I shall not waste your time or mine by reiterating my background or a chronicle of my career. They are on record. Nor will I speak of those people that have no bearing on the…" He paused as if searching for the right word, "…the friendship between Captain Kirk and myself. It is of him and me, and the intimate bond that we shared, of which I wish to speak."



I was so stunned I couldn't stop myself from blurting: "Captain Kirk? He's been dead for almost 70 years, destroyed by the Nexus."



Did Spock flinch or was the light playing tricks with my eyes?



When he finally spoke again, the timbre of his voice was so deep that at first I wasn't sure that I had heard his response correctly.



"Did you say, 'When he died, a part of me died as well?'"



Spock nodded slightly. "I could not bear the pain of his loss. I longed to be free from it, to be released from the pain of living."



"I hadn't realized it affected you so strongly."



"For many years, I was consumed with grief."



A tiny muscle in his jaw twitched. On such a stoic face, the movement was as shocking as the first note of an air-raid siren. "I considered ritual suicide, a practice still honored on Vulcan, but in the end, another course of action prevailed. If I were to sacrifice my life, I would not stain his memory with my own failure. Instead, my life must serve to honor all that he was, all that I became because of him."



Spock lowered his voice again, almost reverently, or perhaps tenderly. Either way, the affection in his voice seemed incongruent with his Vulcan persona.



"It began here, in this very room, the bonding that would join us mentally and physically."



I was barely able to stutter, "You and James T. Kirk were lovers?"



My mouth suddenly went bone dry and I must have been staring at him in astonishment, for his eyebrow quirked up again. I felt like a kid who had been just told there wasn't any Santa Claus. I was relieved to finally hear the truth—and shocked to learn that the most famous team in Starfleet, perhaps in the entire Federation itself, had actually been sexually involved. The media portrayed Spock and Kirk as macho heroes, their 'buddy' image exaggerated almost to the point of caricature.



Of course, as with any close friendship between two famous men, people had speculated about whether or not there was some homosexual hanky-panky going on. But such gossip had always been dismissed or denied by Kirk as well as Starfleet. Spock had simply refused to comment. No one in the press corps could ever find one piece of evidence to prove the rumor true, and after Kirk died, the conjecture had faded into obscurity.



Now Spock sat here, some 70 years later, confirming something that would change his public image—and Kirk’s—forever.



The light in his eyes softened, and I realized that I was seeing the Vulcan smile.



"He was my beloved, yes, but 'lovers' is a somewhat parochial concept. It cannot express the depth of our bond. We achieved fusion - a true mind-link that binds two beings into one - a complete sharing of knowledge and sensory capabilities while retaining separate identities. It is a rare accomplishment, even for full-blooded Vulcans who are mated."



I slumped back into the chair, letting out a heavy sigh that came out sounding more like a grunt. I tried to wet my lips, but I had no saliva.



"I think I'll accept that drink after all…"



Spock rose from his chair, picked up his cup and walked to the galley. The pot was still hot, and he filled two cups to the brim. Returning, he handed me one, then took his seat. I was so rattled that I forgot to thank him. We drank in silence, my eyes never leaving the rim of my cup. I could feel him watching me, waiting for me to digest not only the beverage but this new, startling information. I drank to the very last drop, and then some.



With the tea gone, I could suck idiotically at an empty cup, or I could say something incredibly profound and sensitive.



"Good tea," I blurted. "Is it Vulcan?"



So much for professionalism. Strike three. Was I out?



"It is a Terran blend from Indonesia. I've become rather fond of it."



He placed his cup on the table. "I am concerned that my confession has made you uncomfortable."



I glanced up. "No. I mean, I'm a bit stunned, that's all. You must realize what this will do to your reputation, and his, even after the fact?"



"I am aware of the repercussions, the need for humans to apply labels to people, to analyze and categorize relationships based on their own perspectives and morals. IDIC, infinite diversity in infinite combinations, is a philosophy discussed more than practiced. On this planet and even my own, there are still those who believe that any sexual relationship between members of the same sex or even of different species is unnatural, even abhorrent."



"Then why the confession, why now after so many years of silence?"



"All of those close friends that knew of our relationship and protected our privacy have passed away, beyond the reach of the cruel or malicious. Only I remain. When I am gone, I desire that those that come after us, both human and Vulcan, and those of other species will understand that love is not bound by rules that no longer apply. The meaning of existence, the very meaning of Jim's and my union is that two different cultures or life forms can combine, and offer something of value that is greater than the sum of two parts."



"How did it happen, when did it happen, and why here?" I glanced around the room. It wasn't exactly the most romantic honeymoon spot I had ever seen. When I looked back at him, he fixed me with a stare that could freeze molten lava.



"Is it not enough to know that it did happen, and leave it at that?"



My stomach knotted, and for a moment I almost panicked. Spock and James Kirk had found something that had eluded me all my life. Love—a total and complete love that I might never experience. All my relationships had been disasters that had left me emotionally battered. I was one of the walking wounded. That another girlfriend had walked out of my life only weeks ago, taking my heart and half my furniture with her was foremost in my mind. I was no longer motivated to hear the full truth as a reporter—I wanted to hear it for purely selfish reasons. I desperately needed to know how such a love was possible.



"I-I need to know," I faltered. "Not for the article, not for mass consumption, but for me and me alone. Please. You have my word that this will remain completely confidential. I'll turn off the recorder."



I was grasping at straws, one miserable step above pleading. I reached over and turned off the recorder.



"I have not spoken of this to anyone," he said slowly. "It was an experience shared only by Jim and me, and we did not discuss it even with our closest friends."



"Sometimes confiding in a stranger is easier than confiding in a friend. Please tell me what I can do to convince you that my reasons are sincere."



I'm not sure if it was my earnestness or my awkward attempt at groveling, or something else that persuaded him to reveal to me exactly what transpired. Perhaps he had his own reasons apart from mine. Maybe he realized that this would be the first and last time he would permit himself to speak of that which he held so dear.



"I am a logical man," he said, "And yet my logic fails me when I permit myself to remember. So many emotions..."



He rose out of the chair, and, pushing it aside, he stood at the window. He placed his hand upon the glass, fingers spread, as if feeling for something that wasn't there. Did the gesture have any significance? I didn't know.



I waited, hardly daring to breathe. Slowly, he pulled his hand away, leaving the impression of his palm on the dusty surface. I could see the reflection of his face in the glass imposed over the smudged outline from his fingers. It was a surreal image that I would never forget.



When he finally spoke, he did not turn around, and it seemed that he was speaking to himself, as if I wasn't even there.



"I had never met anyone like James Kirk. As my commanding officer, he was a man I admired deeply. To say that I would have laid down my life for him is accurate. It is not accurate that I would have done so only out of duty. Friendship is a difficult concept for Vulcans, for it is based on emotion. By its nature, friendship demands a level of openness, affection, and sharing of personal information that is alien to my species. And yet, in spite of our differences, the fact is that James Kirk and I did become friends.



"When the mission ended, I returned to Vulcan and he remained on Earth, promoted to Admiral. He chose one path, I another. We did not communicate with each other for two years, not until V'ger endangered our galaxy. What occurred during that event is well documented. What occurred after, when we returned to Earth, is not.



"Three days after we arrived in San Francisco, Jim invited me to join him for dinner at the wharf. This in itself was not unusual; we had dined privately together many times in the past. The restaurant he chose was small and intimate, overlooking the water. It was late, and we were the only patrons in the establishment. The food was excellent, the atmosphere pleasant, but I could sense that something was bothering him. Throughout the meal he was quiet and pensive. When we had finished, he suggested a walk on the beach, and he purchased a bottle of wine and took it along. I reminded him that consumption of alcoholic beverages in public places was against the law, but he just grinned and stowed the bag under his jacket.



"The breeze off the bay was cool that night, blowing in clouds from the Pacific that threatened rain. We had not come properly dressed, and within a short time, I was feeling the effects of the cold. I did not complain, for the opportunity to be in his company was worth the discomfort. But he must have noticed, because he put his arm around my shoulder as we walked, and said, "This should warm you up a bit." Vulcans do not generally like being touched, but over the years, I had found myself accepting, even enjoying his physical contact. I can admit now that I took pleasure in his closeness, although at the time, I kept such observations strictly to myself.



"We stopped at the end of this street and sat in the sand. The beach was deserted, with only the lights of the city and the lapping of the waves to keep us company. We shared the wine, and I found that it conveyed an inner warmth and reduced the shivering of my chilled muscles.



"For a long time, we didn't speak. I was about to suggest that we proceed indoors again, when he suddenly said, 'You've changed.'



"I had not expected such a remark and it caught me off guard. 'Can you be more specific?' I asked, more than a little puzzled.



"'You're not the person that returned from Gol, not even the Vulcan I thought I knew so well when we first served together. I can't stop thinking about seeing tears in your eyes when you talked about V'ger on the bridge.'



"At first, I thought him rather insensitive for bringing up my failure to control my emotions during that time. I was about to remind him that my lapse had been a momentary aberration, brought on by immense stress and physical strain, when he said, 'Do you always have to be on the verge of death before you can show your feelings?'



"His words shocked me. I could not think of an appropriate answer.



"He turned to look at me, his eyes searching mine. 'We both know you have them: feelings, emotions. I've never asked this, and I never will again, but what do you feel for me, Spock?'



"'I am and always shall be your friend,' I responded without reservation.



"The hopefulness in his eyes instantly vanished. It was obviously not the reply he had wanted. I could feel his deep pain even without telepathic contact. He broke eye contact and glanced away.



"'Have I said something inappropriate?' I asked.



"'No, most appropriate.' His words weren't angry, but touched with melancholy, which was highly unusual for him. He got up, brushed the sand from his pants, and then walked a few feet towards the edge of the water. Without turning around, he said, 'It's just that my feelings for you run a lot deeper.'



"I began to shiver again, but now I was not cold. A dozen logical reasons sprang to mind why I should leave, change the subject, or ignore the situation—and only one reason made me ask, 'Jim, please explain?'



"The simple fact was that I had to know. I had changed. Our two-year separation and the mind-meld with V'ger had made me realize that my feelings for him had become stronger and more intimate. I could no longer deny that he had become my *t'hy'la*, which means 'brother' or 'partner.' It can also mean 'lover', but I had never dared hope that he could desire me as I desired him.



"When he did not reply, I got up and walked to where he stood. He took a deep breath, and I could see that he was shivering as well. In the distance, a flash of light illuminated the rolling clouds, followed by the low rumble of thunder.



"'Once in a lifetime,' he said, 'there comes a moment, a single moment when a man is prepared to risk everything—his pride, his career, his reputation, all that he is, in the slim chance that his feelings might be reciprocated. This is that moment.' He turned to face me.



"'Jim…' I began, but he placed his finger lightly against my lips.



"'Don't speak. Listen.' With his other hand, he reached down, took my hand and placed it on his chest, against his heart.



"'With every beat, with each breath I take, I love you.'



"We stood like that, not moving, his hand pressed over mine, both of us feeling the rhythmic beating from within. It was as if time stood still. Small droplets of rain began to fall, followed by a sudden downpour. Within moments, we were drenched to the skin. Water ran down our faces. The shower cleansed us, washed away all but the purity of the love that we felt for one another. Even if the sky had opened up and reached down to devour us, we would not have moved an inch. As I look back now, I see that it was a baptism, a rite of purification, a new beginning that would join us not only in body but in spirit.



"I cannot be sure how long we stood there, but I remember kissing him, taking him into my arms, holding him as if I would never let go.



"Somehow, we made our way to this hotel. We were cold, we were wet, our clothes were covered in sand, and we were happier than we had ever been in our entire lives. This room was our temple, these four walls the only witnesses to our bond. This dilapidated dwelling with its threadbare furniture was, for us, a palace beyond measure. To me, it is more sacred than any holy place."



Spock paused, then said softly, "I may have been born on Vulcan, but I was reborn here."



I heard him exhale deeply, and as I thought of his loss, the endless years that he had spent alone, the sound of that weary sigh tore me apart.



Suddenly, I realized that my eyes brimmed with tears. I reached up to brush away the moisture, embarrassed at my reaction. God, how I envied what he and Kirk had shared. I desperately wanted to tell their story, to shout it from the rooftops, to show the world and the galaxy the beauty of their love. But I had made a promise, one that I would honor no matter how long I had to wait.



I stood up, but I didn't know what to say.



It was not I, but Spock who broke the silence. "I must depart Earth within the hour," he said without turning. "I hope that my memories have been of value to you."



"More than you'll ever know. Thank you. I only wish that I could tell the whole truth—your love for each other is nothing less than inspirational."



"Then I will leave it to your discretion to write the article as you see fit."



I picked up my recorder. He had given me a huge gift and I wanted to repay him somehow. "Can we meet again at some point? Over dinner perhaps? I can always travel to Vulcan..."



"I shall not return to Vulcan, and this will be my last visit to Earth. My grief can be best assuaged by helping others achieve their own unification for that too is a fusion, a bond where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This will be the final legacy that honors Jim's memory."



I stood there for a moment, not wanting to leave, but knowing I had to go. I wouldn't impose on his grief any longer, or shorten the time he had left to reminisce in this room that meant so much to him.



"Live long and prosper," I said. I had never expressed any wish more fervent than those four simple words



"Peace and long life," he replied, turning to bid me farewell.



That is the last I ever saw of him.



I'm an old man now, but I can see him clearly in my mind's eye—standing alone at the window in that place where he had been reborn. He had come back to say goodbye, to spend a few final hours reliving his memories. That I had a small part in that still fills me with awe.



The "Rose Garden Hotel" is long gone, torn down years ago when they redeveloped the area. On demolition day, I found myself there, staring up at the boarded up window of room 8B. When the implosion-pulse phaser ripped through the building, I had to turn away. I just couldn't bear to watch.



I salvaged the sign that hung over the gate, though. It hangs in my office now, a reminder of the day that I too was reborn. I had walked out of that interview a changed man, and within a year, I had found the love of my life.



The "H" has faded almost completely so it reads, "Rose Garden otel". No one understands why the president of one of the largest publications in the hemisphere would keep such a thing, why I treasure a tattered old sign from a fleabag hotel. And I don’t tell them. Even after all this time, I kept my promise. And now it's fulfilled.



His obituary sits on my computer along with this article. Spock died as he had lived, with dignity, with compassion and with an unprecedented respect for the power of love in whatever shape or form it comes in. It's not just his story, or their story—it's our story. It's for male and female, gay and straight, human and alien—anyone who loves, has loved or wants to love. And that means all of us.



That was Spock's and Kirk's gift to the galaxy.



I keep asking myself—how do you thank a man for that?



The only answer I come up with is that you have to pass it on.





THE END


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