Kirk was moving on autopilot. It was the only way he could keep going. Too much had happened, and too much was waiting to happen. He had to go back to Earth and explain all the events that had led to his first officer’s …
Kirk halted. Spock had climbed this very ladder a few days before, he realized. He forced himself to keep climbing, but the thoughts nagged at him.
“I can’t,” he muttered to himself and shot a glance over his shoulder, hoping that no one had heard the captain talking to himself in the Jefferies tube.
His words didn’t help. The memories kept flooding back, and Kirk wondered if this was what McCoy had warned him about; that he had to stop and think and let the grief come out, or he’d lose it eventually, at a time when he couldn’t afford it.
“Well, Bones,” Kirk mumbled wryly. “I’m sure climbing down a ladder wasn’t the scenario you had in mind.”
Was he losing it now?
“No, I can’t. Not now, Spock.”
But Spock wasn’t there to listen, and that really bothered Kirk.
When Spock had last climbed through this passageway, he had still been strong, capable – and alive. He had climbed it to reach engineering, to stop the warp core breach in progress.
Now, Spock was gone forever. Kirk swallowed convulsively, and repeated the words in his mind.
It still didn’t feel real. It couldn’t be. The words felt like a falsehood, like a bad dream.
He tried again, moving along the ladder, stepping down at the bottom. He reached out to open the hatch, halted and straightened his back.
“Spock is dead, lost forever. He exists no more,” Kirk said aloud. The words echoed calmly through the Jefferies tube, unfeeling, and they still felt awkward, surreal. It just couldn’t be true. The universe could not be that cruel.
A dry laughter crawled up his throat, sounding more like a sob.
It was true, and this galaxy was a cruel place, crueller and colder than anything. He of all people should know that. He’d lost so much to the universe. His father, his brother and his family – and now Spock, who had been his brother in all things that mattered. Kirk winced. He should have known that he would not be able to deal with this.
He’d said as much to Spock once. After Deneva.
“I can’t lose you.”
Spock had looked at him calmly and said,
“If I have the power to prevent it, you will never lose me, Jim.”
But Spock hadn’t had the power to prevent it.
Kirk backed up, and grabbed the rungs of the ladder so hard they cut into his fingers. He needed them to hold himself upright. The truth of what had happened was finally catching up with him. Leaning his forehead against the cold metal, he fervently wished that he could turn back time. He’d do anything to get Spock back, but there wasn’t anything – anything at all – that he could do.
Spock was dead. Dead.
Kirk pushed himself backward, and turned around. He climbed determinedly through the hatch, moving toward the observation deck. He wasn’t going to lose it.
Flashes of what had passed flew though his mind. Before his inner eye, he saw the chaos on the bridge, the charred metal, the sparks flying through acrid air, and remembered his own preoccupation with the crisis at hand. He remembered his anger when he had realized that the Enterprise was in fatal danger.
But most of all, he relived the horror he’d felt when he saw the empty chair on the bridge. The memory was so vivid, and real to him, that he felt nauseated even though these events had taken place days ago. Kirk swallowed hard to fight it. His realization of what Spock was doing had made his heart all but freeze in his chest.
He was losing it.
The doors to the observation deck slid apart and he stepped inside. Was it empty?
“Computer, engage privacy lock.”
Spock – his friend? What a lie. Kirk drew a deep, unsteady breath. No, not a lie – an understatement.
The one you love, insisted a voice in the back of his head.
Spock … sacrificed his own life to save the Enterprise and her crew. To save him. Kirk’s eyes stung with unshed tears. He needed to allow himself to grieve, but he didn’t know how.
I feel young.
The words he had uttered on the observation deck the day before suddenly felt like mockery.
“Yeah, Spock. I feel young – like a child left alone.”
Abandoned, by Spock perhaps, by the universe for sure. He hated himself for feeling that way, for feeling like Spock had gone back on his promise to never leave him. It had not been Spock’s choice, but Kirk felt abandoned all the same.
And suddenly, the truth was right there with him. He would never see Spock again. He would never see those dark brown eyes watch him with patience, hear the deep baritone voice utter the words “Fascinating” or “Illogical.” He would never be able to ask Spock for information on a spatial phenomenon and receive lightning quick responses. He would never …
He would never be able to tell Spock, “I love you.”
This story was written because I never really bought the line "I feel young" from Kirk. How could he feel young when his best friend and most loyal and competent officer had just died? I don't buy it.