Lead Me Home
Kirk gasped and fell away from Spock’s grip. His stomach lurched and his head throbbed. He floundered for a moment, finally grabbing onto a frozen outcropping on the cave wall. He closed his eyes and pressed his forehead against the freezing rock.
“I am sorry. Emotional transference is a side effect of the mind meld.”
Kirk heard the words and tried to assimilate them. His brain was still spinning with images that had crowded his synapses and overloaded his senses. He was reeling from the impact of a lifetime compressed into the space of a few seconds and shoved into his brain through a meld with a mind a thousand times more powerful than his own.
“Transference?” Kirk gasped. “That’s what you call this?”
He leaned harder into the rock face. He felt like he was going to be sick. His knees kept shaking and he finally gave into them and sank to the ground. Images still flashed against his mind’s eye. They were coming slower now and becoming more distinct. So many of them he couldn’t comprehend, places he’d never been, people he’d never seen; but there were an inordinate number that were centered around Spock. Spock when he was young, like he was now up there on board the Enterprise. Spock when he was older, like this Spock who stood across the cavern from him.
But what disturbed him even more was the pain in his chest when those images floated across his vision. It was agony! He clutched his chest and curled forward, sobbing in pain.
A hand glided over his shoulder, the heat of it seeping through his thick parka.
“God! What is this Spock? I can’t…” Jim reached blindly for Spock’s coat front, fisting his hands in the soft fur and pulling until he felt strong arms wrap around him, lifting him against a still strong chest, no matter how aged. Long fingers sifted through his hair, thumbs brushing against his temples.
“I am sorry. I am so sorry, Jim. I did not realize it would have such an effect on you. I assumed that a connection was already established. I did not intend to cause you so much pain.” Spock continued to thread his fingers through those golden waves. Tears threatened him. It had been decades since he had last been able to hold this man in his arms. He had convinced himself that the memories were enough, but having the man here, real flesh and blood, was awakening a pain in him that he had thought long ago put to rest.
“Connection?” Kirk gasped against Spock’s shoulder.
“Have you not already formed a bond with the Spock from this time?”
“N-no,” Kirks stuttered. He ground his teeth as he tried to gain control over himself. “You—you hate me, Spock!”
Spock’s heart twisted in his chest. Hate Jim! How could he?
“I do not understand, Jim.”
Kirk finally pulled himself far enough from Spock that he could look up into the older man’s face. He cringed as the memories threatened to overwhelm him again. More tears tracked down his cheeks. “You threw me off the ship and abandoned me here for mutiny.”
Spock had been struck dumb few times in his long life, but there were no words to describe the depth of sorrow in his soul as he realized the extent of the differences between his own universe and this altered one. He moved a hand to the side of Jim’s face and cupped it. The young man leaned into it, nuzzling absently, his eyes squeezing closed.
Kirk couldn’t stop himself. He pressed into the inhumanly warm hand and turned his cheek inward. More memories. He tired to breathe through the sudden stabbing in his chest. “I don’t understand this, Spock. Why am I feeling this? Why do I—love you!”
Spock’s heart lurched inside him. What had he done? The damage he had just caused, making the assumption that this young man already knew him…. He pulled Jim to him, holding him tightly, letting his hand drift up to the meld points again. He moved much more slowly this time, easing inward through the outer layers of Jim’s mind and then down deeper. Jim was too distracted and disoriented to fight Spock’s presence. He spoke soothingly as he carefully dulled the sensations of all those intense memories,
“You are feeling a shadow, Jim. You are feeling the shadow of the love that my Jim felt for me.” He paused, and concentrated, calling forth all the memories that had spilled over into this young man’s mind. He sifted through them and felt tears on his own face, and he once again saw himself through his lover’s eyes. It had been so long…
But this Jim was not his, would never be his. This Jim belonged to the Spock here, or he would, if the universes had any pity on them at all. He cast his mind out wide and gathered in the essence of his Jim and drew it back into himself. He felt the man in his arms relax and go limp. He could not draw it all out, but he could take enough that it would be only a dull ache left behind.
Never and always, touching and touched…
Spock poke deeply into Jim’s mind, leaving the trace of himself there. He could not risk that this young man go his whole life without knowing the pleasure and satisfaction of the kind of love Spock and his Jim had shared for so long.
I am, and always shall be, your friend.
Spock released him.
Kirk shook his head. He felt like he’d drifted off to sleep and then woken from a horrible nightmare. He was leaning on the cave wall gasping for air.
“There is a Star Fleet outpost a few clicks from here,” a voice said behind him. “We should hurry.”
Kirk stared at the older Spock, marveling at how he could still recognize those fiery eyes. But they seemed clouded, sad in a way that Kirk could not define. He held that dark gaze a moment longer until the intensity of it made him shy away. He shook himself and shrugged off the uneasy pain that nibbled at the base of his skull and followed after the tall gaunt figure as it disappeared into the depth of the cave.
Kirk lay on his bunk staring up at the dim ceiling cast in shadow from the active vid-screen.
He hadn’t been able to sleep in complete darkness since that night in the cave on Delta Vega with Spock Prime. It wasn’t fear that assaulted him when the lights went out, but a hollow loneliness that clawed at his belly and almost made him physically sick.
He rubbed at his eyes and sat up on the edge of the bed. It was no use sleeping. He’d been trying for over an hour and every time he closed his eyes, he felt himself sinking into an abyss of emptiness. He pulled on his black uniform undershirt and tugged on his boots. Maybe Bones would still be up in sickbay. The man seemed to live there.
Kirk moved through the quiet corridors of the ship that were awash in only a soft glow for ship’s night. A few night owls nodded at him, and junior officers on their way to and from their posts snapped off a quick salute even though he was not in his uniform.
He reached sick bay and found McCoy, as he had expected, in his office with a half empty snifter of Saurian brandy and a six inch thick medical text that looked about two hundred years old. He shook his head at the doctor’s anachronistic tendencies. The man loved his old books.
Kirk cleared his throat quietly.
McCoy looked up, “Hey, Jim. Can’t sleep?”
“Again?” At Kirk’s nod, McCoy held up the brandy bottle, “Care for a snort?”
He had to be on duty in less than five hours, but Kirk didn’t figure one small glass would kill him. “Just a bit, thanks.”
McCoy poured the green liquid and handed it over. He carefully pulled a thin ribbon down into the spine of the book he’d been reading to mark his page and then set it on the credenza behind him. He lifted his glass and sipped, watching his young captain stare blankly down into his own brandy.
“What’s got you so twisted around, Jim?”
“Huh? Oh, nothing. I just couldn’t seem to keep my eyes shut tonight.”
“Or any other night for the last two months,” McCoy offered. Kirk scowled and McCoy grinned over the edge of his glass. “Don’t think you can fool this old horse doctor, Jim. I’ve seen you wandering the corridors in the middle of ship’s night, and heard crewmembers chatting about how their captain never seems to sleep as he’s always working out, or studying in the library, or taking on an extra shift on the bridge.”
Kirk’s shoulders fell in defeat, and he dropped into a chair. “Okay, you got me, Bones.”
McCoy set down his glass and leaned across the desk, his expression grave. “Jim, if you need something to help you sleep, I can do that. I’ve got stuff that won’t affect your mental abilities, and it won’t addict you.” He paused and straightened up a bit, taking a breath as though to steel himself. “If you need psychiatric help, I can recommend you a very good doctor. She’s extremely discreet and very successful with trauma cases.”
The outburst that McCoy had expected at his suggestion that Kirk might need mental help did not come, which only served to alarm him more.
“Bones, I don’t need a psychiatrist,” Kirk said quietly. He sipped his brandy and then spun it in his glass. “At least, I don’t think I do. It’s not what you think. It’s—it’s so hard to explain. The whole Nerada thing doesn’t bother me. No, I don’t mean that,” he corrected. “Of course, it bothers me, but I realize that we all did what we had to do. I’ve mourned, right along with everyone else, and I can live with my actions. And Vulcan, that was a tragedy, but I’m not the one who’s going to suffer the most for that one.”
The last words he spoke lower, and McCoy detected a hint of pain edged in sorrow. He reached out across the desk and covered Kirk’s hand with his own where is had come to rest beside his glass. The younger man did not pull away. In fact, McCoy thought he detected a fine shudder in those broad shoulders.
“Jim, talk to me.”
“I don’t know how to describe it, Bones. It’s like a hole inside me,” Kirk pressed a fist into his belly and the look on his face was one of real pain as he did it. “It’s never been there before, and I don’t know how to fill it. I feel like I’m—” he stumbled, trying to find the right words, “—like I’m dying, Bones!”
McCoy got up and came around the table quickly, fear gripping his gut at the note of desperation in Kirk’s voice. He squatted down in front of Kirk and put his hands on the other man’s shoulders. “Jim, listen to me. We’ll get through this. Let me give you something to help you get some sleep tonight. You can even stay here.” Kirk shook his head fiercely and tried to pull back, but McCoy wouldn’t let go. His captain had broken out in a sweat and his face had gone pale. “Jim. Jim? Talk to me!”
Kirk slumped forward, wrapping his arms around himself, “I think I’m going to be sick, Bones…”
“Dr. McCoy, have you seen—”
“Spock!” McCoy snapped as the Vulcan came through the sick bay doors. “Get over here and help me!”
The Vulcan moved with a speed and grace that McCoy could only dream of achieving and was at his captain’s side in less than a second. “What has happened, Doctor?”
“I don’t know. Just help me get him to a bed,” McCoy replied as he lifted one of Kirk’s arms and motioned Spock to his other side. They lifted him and guided him to a bio bed in the other room. McCoy laid him back and switched on the scanners. He gave them a cursory inspection while Spock stepped out of the way and waited patiently. McCoy frowned.
“I don’t understand. All his readings are normal. His serotonin levels are a bit off, but he said he hasn’t been sleeping well lately, and his temperature is a bit high…but other than that he seems all right.” McCoy smoothed back Kirk’s hair, damp now with sweat. “Jim?”
“Bones…please. I just want to…” he drifted off.
McCoy’s eyes shot up to Spock’s. The Vulcan was frowning. His eyes were dark and stormy. His fingers were flexing at his sides like they wanted to reach out and touch. He took a slow step forward to the bed.
“Spock?” McCoy was watching the Vulcan closely. He had never seen such a fierce look on that blank face, not since Kirk had shoved him over the edge on the bridge after Vulcan had crumbled and imploded before their eyes only moments after Spock had watched his mother plummet to her death during a failed transport.
Spock’s hand lifted ever so slowly and drifted a fraction of an inch above Jim’s bare arm, up to his shoulder, and then to the side of his face. Jim gave an involuntary cry, but turned in toward the hand. McCoy grabbed a hypo from the tray behind him and poised it over Jim’s arm.
Vulcan reflexes were renowned, and McCoy got to witness them firsthand as the long, thin fingers clamped around his wrist in an unshakable vice.
“Not yet, Doctor.”
Spock closed the distance and let his hand touch the side of Kirk’s jaw.
He sucked in a sharp breath and waivered on his feet.
McCoy’s trapped hand rotated in Spock’s suddenly loosened grip and grabbed the Vulcan’s arm to steady him. “Spock? Spock, what’s wrong?”
Captain. Captain, can you hear me? Spock called quietly through the makeshift link his touch created, ignoring the doctor’s urgent queries.
Spock?! Spock please help me!
Spock shuddered under the impact of Kirk’s agony. It struck him like a fist in the gut. He curled inward on himself and felt the doctor’s hand tighten again on his arm. He withdrew his hand from Kirk’s face and took a calming breath. He carefully extricated himself from the doctor’s grip.
“Spock, damn it, answer me. Now!” McCoy shouted.
Spock looked down at Kirk, his eyebrow arched severely, his face as close to awe as McCoy imagined a Vulcan’s could ever get. “He has been marked, Doctor.”
“Marked? What the hell! By whom?”
Spock’s eyebrow arched even further, if that was possible, and he shook his head slowly as though he himself could not conceive of the answer. “By me, Doctor.”
McCoy’s temper flared sharply. He came across the bed, grabbing Spock’s shirt front and shaking him. “What the hell have you done to him!”
Spock took hold of the Doctor’s hands and firmly set the infuriated man aside. He straightened his shirt and stiffened his shoulders. “I have done nothing to him, Doctor. I believe, however, that my older self left behind a marker, deep in the layers of his mind. Most humans would not detect this, but our Captain is extraordinary on many more levels than one, as you well know.”
“You mean Spock Prime did this?” McCoy asked.
“I believe so.”
“Why? Why would he do such a thing?” McCoy rested a hand on Kirk’s shoulder as he tossed in his half conscious state, not asleep, but not awake. His eyes were wide and staring, but they saw nothing save whatever private nightmare was playing out inside his mind.
Spock seemed unsettled when he spoke next, “To determine that, I would have to meld with the Captain’s mind.”
“Is that safe in his condition?”
“I think it would be less safe not to.”
McCoy nodded grudgingly and took half a step back.
Spock leaned in over Kirk’s restless body. He rubbed his hands together slowly and then placed them at temple, cheek, and jaw on both sides of Kirk’s face. He took a deep and slow breath and then closed his eyes.
He slipped easily past the first few layers of Kirk’s consciousness, unhindered because he was trusted here, but here was not where the problem lie. He eased slowly downward, sinking into deeper and deeper levels that became darker and darker. He felt Kirk tense beneath his hands and was barely aware of McCoy taking hold of Kirk’s torso to keeping him from thrashing himself off the bed.
I must go deeper, Captain. It is the only way I can help you.
No! Kirk cried out in the dark.
Spock tried to move forward, but was met with an iron wall. It was not of Kirk’s making. He was not telepathically gifted enough and not strong enough to create such a barrier. This barrier had been put here. By someone else. But why?
Kirk thrashed in agony and it bled into the meld. Spock gasped at the force of it. If he tried to continue, he risked doing physical harm to this man. But how could he leave him like this? He had to get through the barrier. Spock steadied himself and opened up his mind, offering himself to Kirk, in an effort to gain a deeper trust, a trust that might let the barrier fall.
The barrier dissolved before Spock’s eyes.
Images poured into his mind before he could shield himself. Images and emotions on such a magnitude that he nearly passed out from the intensity. There was loyalty, undying and unquestioned. There was friendship, deep rooted and everlasting. And there was love. Love so great, so intense, so all encompassing, that it superseded even the will to live.
Spock stood inside the whirlwind and shuddered, his own personal mental barriers beaten to dust.
“Jim…” Spock gasped as he came out of the meld like a drowning man searching for air.
He opened his eyes to Kirk’s only inches away from his face. The younger man’s hands were knotted in his uniform shirt, his knuckles white with the force with which he held on. His eyes were red, and tears stained his face.
Spock reached out, working on an instinct that he could not completely understand or comprehend, and gathered Kirk in his arms. He wrapped him tightly, lifting him, holding him close, and rocked him.
McCoy stepped back and then stepped back again. Kirk had reached for Spock and clung to him, and Spock had allowed it. What was more, Spock had reached back. McCoy stood dumbfounded, his jaw hanging open.
“Spock,” Kirk whispered, not lifting his face from Spock’s shirtfront.
“Hush…Jim. It will be all right. I can make it better.”
“I don’t want it better!” Kirk clung harder. “I want—I want…you.”
Spock breathed in once, still trying to settle his own mind adrift in the roiling emotions that had opened up and poured out from the depths of Kirk’s mind. “Please, Captain. Try and relax.”
“No! No, Spock! Don’t leave me.” Kirk huddled deeper in Spock’s arms. “Please, don’t leave me.”
“I will not leave you, Captain—”
“No, Spock…Jim. Please. Jim.”
Spock moved a hand to the base of Kirk’s head and threaded his fingers into the thick waves. Memory washed over him, his own memories, he was sure of it. But he had never touched Kirk like this. He had never held this man in his arms, to comfort him, to love him, or to…pleasure him. Yet he could feel the memories fitting into place, like they had been missing, but were finally being reconnected. He flexed his fingers in the silky hair and breathed in slowly. Earth. Kirk smelled of fresh earth, birthed in the foundations of the mountains and containing all their innate strength.
Spock slowly brought his lips down to the top of the warm silken head and then turned and settled his cheek there. “Jim.”
The body in his arms shuddered in relief and slumped against him. Spock kept holding him, kept rocking him. He had never felt this. He had never known such peace at such a deep level of his soul. He wanted this. He wanted it more than anything. Right here, right now, he was accepted and loved. He had never had those things.
“Spock? Spock what’s happened?” McCoy spoke softly, afraid to jar either man from whatever this was.
Spock did not move but to gather Kirk closer to him before he spoke. “I believe that Spock Prime left us a message…left me a message.” He kissed the top of Kirk’s head again, softly, sweetly. “I am only sorry that Jim had to suffer so much in order to deliver it.”
McCoy did not miss Spock’s use of his captain’s first name, but he did not acknowledge it. “What message, Spock?”
“That in any universe, in any time…this man is my soul mate.”
“Oh, Spock…” McCoy whispered. He swallowed against the lump in his throat. “Will he be all right, now?”
Kirk lifted his hand to touch Spock’s cheek with his fingertips. Spock inhaled sharply as Kirk’s touch rippled across his memory and sent waves of heat throughout his body.
“Yes, Bones. I’ll be fine,” Kirk replied quietly. “Everything will be fine now.”
Kirk turned in Spock’s arms and sat up slowly, keeping his hand on the Vulcan’s strong jaw. He lifted his other hand, and framed the face before him. He let his fingers graze the sensitive meld points at the temples and then drift upward and back to the sharp tips of the ears. Spock trembled beneath his touch and grasped Kirk’s hands in his own, bringing them slowly back down to rest against his chest.
“I’ll just leave you two, shall I?” McCoy said quietly. He backed toward the door and closed it on his way out.
Kirk sent up a silent thanks to Bones for his sudden attack of discretion, then he looked up into Spock’s eyes for the first time that night.
“Spock, I don’t understand this. I don’t remember him doing anything to me,” he paused to take a shaky breath, “but if this hurts you…if he’s tricked you…I don’t want that. I don’t want you to give me anything that isn’t of your own free will.”
Spock stared down into Kirk’s eyes. “It is of my own free will.”
“But how will you know, Spock? How will I know that it isn’t some false memory making you feel that way?”
Spock dropped his gaze and brought Kirk’s hands down between them, turning them over so they were palm up. He rubbed slow circles there with his thumbs and felt sharp sparks of heat shoot through Kirk’s body from the contact.
“I went to your quarters.”
Spock continued the slow circles, more to focus himself than anything else. “I went to your quarters tonight. I wanted—wanted to be with you. But you weren’t there, so I came here…looking for you.”
Kirk took a shallow breath. “You came looking for me. Why?” He knew the answer. He knew the price he was asking for Spock to speak it out loud, but he had to know. He had to hear the words, to know that Spock Prime was not forcing his own Spock into something that this universe, this timeline, had never intended.
Spock trembled again and widened the circles, stroking the tender underside of Kirk’s wrists at the top of the curve. “Ever since that moment on the bridge, when you forced me to look at myself, I have felt…differently toward you. What you did, it was dangerous and foolhardy—and the bravest thing any human, any man could ever do. You put your life at risk forcing me to acknowledge my loss. That was a sacrifice you could have refused to make.
“I could have killed you,” Spock whispered, “and when I realized that, I also realized that I could not have lived without your presence…without you.”
Kirk could not speak. He turned his hands over and lifted Spock’s to his lips, kissing each knuckle gently, warmly. “You have me, Spock. All of me. You’re home now.”
He turned his face upward and met Spock’s warm mouth with his own and whispered against it, “Home with me.”