And just where do you go from here? Kirk asked himself, standing at the height of the Vulcan precipice. He didn't believe anyone was watching him. So he took a moment to bask in the desert of this alien world and wish it were his own. So wide, so endless--its ancient existence full of possibilities he didn't have.
You lost your bet, Jim.
He's still dead, and while I wouldn't take my actions back for the world because they did make him a little less dead, I can't deny that a word of memory isn't enough. One word--it simply isn't. It won't ever fill the void in my life, on the floor of the bridge where he used to stand.
Haven't I learned to live with that void now? Twice over, in fact?
Yes, he had. He'd proven that he could survive. He'd also proven how desperate that life was, and that he'd give it up in an instant for Spock if he could. If he could! That had been the foolish gamble from the start.
So where do you go from here, Jim? Where do you go?
A part of him wanted to get a new career, to make up for the old one which was all wrapped up in pain and triumph and regret. He could captain a trading vessel, maybe. If they didn't throw him in prison. No, they wouldn't throw him in prison. He could write books. He'd always wanted to write a book.
But it wouldn't feel right. Twenty years on a trader would be so much longer than five on a starship, but when he died, he'd die knowing that he was a starship captain. And that twenty years, the better part of his adult life, were a waste.
I could still write a book. But what about?
Another part of him just wanted to sit here, on what felt like the edge of Vulcan, forever. But that wasn't an option. Gotta keep moving, Jim. Gotta keep moving.
What is your path from here? Spock asked himself, kneeling in the sequestered depths of Seleya, in the cool hollow bones of the mountain. He thought about what he had to wield. A few facts, a bit of logic, and an overwhelming sense of--something, it must be emotion--which filled his mind like a vast cloud everywhere he turned, everywhere he went. It was not much to go on. The emotion did not seem to be directed at any one thing, nor was it identifiable. The computer asked him how he felt; he could not articulate. The immeasurable weight of the thing, whatever it was, defied qualification.
I might have turned to the kolinahru if this mental aberration does not dissipate. But I have learned that in a past life I attempted it, and failed. It does not entice me now.
I could become a scientist. Return to work aboard a Starfleet vessel. Yes, I could continue as though I have forgotten nothing. As though I am what I once was.
But he was not what he once was, and the knowledge ate at him.
Why do I believe there is something better? What holds me in stasis here, unable to extract meaning from myself?
"Why do you ascend the northern outcropping?" Spock quizzed the admiral once again, still seeking some kind of satisfactory answer. It seemed as though his future hinged on the answers of this nigh-stranger whose name alone was known to him. Was the rest of the truth somehow swept up in the storm of his mental cacophany? He did not know.
"It helps me think," Kirk shrugged.
Spock looked up and down the table, at the people eating dinner there. He could name them all. He knew their relationships to him. But no more than that. He did not understand how their minds worked, because they would not tell him. Perhaps none of them even spoke a language with words to explain the tides of consciousness. Only Kirk was a little open to him, and this made him curious, curious enough to ask something which might not even make sense to the admiral.
"I sense that... there is something better in the universe than this, for me. Why do I believe this?"
Kirk smiled lopsidedly. "I told you that once. That the world wasn't good enough for you, that you're--made for more than what it could give you. Maybe you're just remembering."
Spock shook his head. "I do not believe that I am too good for existence. That would be folly. I merely believe that there is some manifestation of existence better than this... uncertainty."
"Pity," Kirk said, shrugging. "So do I."
When they kiss for the somewhat-first time, it's because Spock is looking for that something better, not because he remembers. Kirk kisses back because he always does what's best for Spock, to the best of his knowledge.
Later, Kirk comes to stand in his doorway, leaning against the frame.
"Hi, Spock," he says, voice neutral.
"Hello, Admiral. I understand that you are planning to return to Earth shortly."
"Where you will stand trial."
"And most likely be convicted, but not imprisoned. Stripped of your rank and benefits."
"What will you do... after this?"
Kirk just looks at him and shrugs. And in that moment he seems undeniably fragile to Spock, which is a contradiction because Spock knows him to be strong.
"You do not respond."
"I don't know," Kirk says at last. "Maybe become a trader."
Spock gestures at the chair beside him, but when Kirk approaches he stops the admiral with a hand on his shoulder. Then he sits down and pulls Kirk into his lap, and wraps his arms firmly around the other man. There is no protest, which he takes as consent.
"I am lost," Spock admits. "I am not who I wish to be. Who is it that I wish to be, Jim? And why?"
"I don't know," Kirk says again.
"How can you not know? You are said to have known me well."
"You think I have all the answers," Kirk says. He runs a hand down Spock's shoulder, brushing the lint there away. Spock catches it.
"I shall stay with you."
"I shall go with you to testify; that is duty. After that, I shall stay with you, if you allow it."
"You? A small-time freight trader with me? No, that's not where you belong. You deserve better. A Vulcan Science Academy fellowship or something like that. You're brilliant, you know."
"If I cannot have perfection in this life, I would seek contentment," Spock replies doggedly. "I do not believe that I can have perfection. With you, I am content."
"You're not the same person I knew," Kirk says, as though remind them both. "You're wearing his face, but you're not the same."
"I am aware. I am young, I am alone. I am not the friend you once had, nor do I know him. But I ask you, treat me with the courtesy due one who awakens from a long unconsciousness with only the knowledge that he is happier with you than without."
Kirk looks at him, a middle-aged Vulcan with the narrow dark eyes of a young man: uncertain, seeking, cautious. He knew that young man once, even though that young man was not the friend he'd one day have. Then, as now, he didn't know the future.
I treated him as right as I knew how the first time around. I'll do the same the second time. And maybe, maybe it will get better.
"I think I can do that."
The next morning, Spock climbs to the precipice to watch Eridani rise.