"Ambassador Spock, I can't tell you how much of an honor it is to have you on board the Titan." Deanna Troi smiled warmly at the man who had just entered her office. "It would be impossible to serve on a ship called 'Enterprise' for as long as Will and I did and not think of you in legendary proportions."
"Thank you, Counselor," Spock answered, "I find it a distinct pleasure to be on a Federation starship after so many years in hiding on Romulus."
"Uniting Romulus with her mother planet is very important to you," Deanna mused.
"It has always been my belief that no quarrel need last forever," Spock answered promptly. "Perhaps the cultural differences that maintained the distance between the two societies can be dealt with in a more amiable manner in today's Galactic Age. We are no longer restricted to the belief systems of just one world."
"You must be excited about the upcoming talks," said Deanna. "We all are, but you especially, and with good reason. No single person did as much for this cause as you."
"I expect Tethok and Maveelis will perform well in the open debate," said Spock. "Their youthful fire exceeds what my aging intelligence can offer."
"Senator Donatra thinks highly of them as well," agreed Deanna. "Which is a good thing, too, or your entire endeavor might be jeopardized!"
"Senator Donatra is a good leader. She will bring Romulus into a new era," Spock said.
"And Vulcan as well?"
"Vulcan will learn to accept Romulan culture," said Spock. "This, I believe she can do. The Vulcan path of logic teaches us to put aside old prejudices and grudges so that we may embrace the future, Counselor. We have no reason to reject their friendship."
"Now that they are ready to offer it," Deanna interjected. "They have been through such turmoil."
"It greatly satisfies me to have succeeded in this mission."
Deanna Troi studied the face of Spock of Vulcan. The first thing she saw was the layer of politics, his immediate concern being the impending talks of reunification with Romulus. It floated on the thick layer of philosophy that lay beneath, logic and temperance, and love of science. Love of peace, and a desire for universal justice. All common enough, especially for a Vulcan.
Deanna suddenly blushed and looked at the floor. But it wasn't her fault--she hadn't meant to pry. Most Vulcans didn't carry such passion and deep feeling unless it was clutched tightly to the center of their soul, and she hadn't seen that far deep--had she?
When she looked up again she knew that Spock had guessed her thoughts. "I'm sorry." She shook her head, feeling like a teenager. "I really didn't mean to." She had allowed herself to forget for a moment that he was half a Human, and how easy it was to see into their hearts when not really trying. What pathos she had seen there! What solitude! She was momentarily choked up herself in its reflected intensity, and steadied herself quickly with mind-techniques.
What beauty she had seen there--what--
And that love was so alone.
"Counselor, I am fine." Spock's face was peaceful and beatific, its lines of age an ideograph for his wisdom and experiences.
He turned to leave. "Ambassador--" Deanna called after him. He paused, and lifted his eyebrows in question. "We have a holodeck on board," she continued sheepishly. "You're welcome to use it if you ever want to... be by yourself." What had she been about to say?
He dropped his eyelids in thought. "Thank you, Counselor. Perhaps I will take you up on that offer."
"Good luck, Mr. Spock." After the door closed, Deanna sat at her desk for a few minutes unable to move. Unable to conceive of the pain of loving someone for twelve decades, with all your very being, and never telling them.
She tapped the communicator on her chest with trembling fingers. "Will.... I need you..."
Spock walked calmly into the Starship Titan's state of the art holodeck. Lieutenant Cloud, the young engineer who had escorted him, hung back in the doorway as the aging Vulcan explored the gridded cavern. He wondered what Spock was thinking--probably the same as every other being who'd been alive before holodecks. *How incredible, how miraculous, how marvelous!*
Cloud, on the other hand, possessed no illusions about that most illusionary of expensive toys. During his years on starships, he'd specialized in holodecks and their often temperamental computer systems. He was even writing a book on their creative malfunctions.
But Spock wanted to see the holodeck, so see the holodeck he would. "You need any help in there, Ambassador?"
"I prefer to be alone, Lieutenant. But I appreciate your offer." Spock turned back around, still staring at the empty grid.
"You're welcome, Ambassador! I'm setting the privacy lock for one hour. That okay?"
Spock nodded. Cloud fiddled with the dials on the door, then left.
As soon as the door clicked shut, Spock began setting up his designer reality. "Computer, create for me the bridge of the original Starship Enterprise."
Within seconds, the black grid nonchalantly transformed itself into a perfect, living likeness of the Enterprise bridge. Spock stood dumbly in front of the captain's chair, staring around at his surroundings. How real it was! His Human half's emotions were quiet but stinging as he inspected it in detail.
Lieutenant Uhura was sitting at her station, one hand poised at the transmitter in her ear. How young she was! How beautiful and vivacious! Her hair was gray and her figure robust when Spock had seen her last, but the liveliness had never left her eyes.
Sulu was at his usual post at the helm. Dear Captain Sulu--Lieutenant, here, too--who eventually left to lead his own ship across the galaxy. His youth, too, struck Spock.
Spock realized that he was out of place here as an old man. "Computer, make me appear to be the age I was when I served as first officer."
His wrinkles melted away and a rich, sleek black flooded into his hair like ink. He looked down and, noticing his clothing, he added, "And place me in an appropriate uniform." He was satisfied to see the welcome blue velour soon appear.
Spock had noticed that the captain's chair was empty, so he surmised that he had the conn. Trying not to feel silly at the fantasy, he sat down gingerly in the chair made of computer code. He was almost surprised at how solid it felt.
"Computer, locate the captain," he said, without thinking.
"Captain Riker is in his quarters."
Spock exhaled, disappointed in himself at his mistake. "Computer. Within the boundaries of this fantasy, please locate--"
The turbolift doors behind him swished open and a familiar step danced in his ears. He spun around in the seat and was nearly immobilized at the sight of him.
Captain James Kirk.
Golden-brown hair in a dashing swoop crowned a hearty, tan face that grinned cheerfully at his bridge crew. He was so full of ~energy~, his step bouncing with a vigor that Spock had not felt himself in decades. Spock realized his heart was pounding, and his throat was dry. His biology reacted to this magical, unreal image of a human, but he was not ashamed.
By instinct he remembered to stand, and let the captain have his seat.
"Status, Mr. Spock?" he asked as he sat down. He looked up at Spock, big hazel eyes aglow.
"Situation normal, Captain," Spock said dully. He sucked one lip into his mouth slightly, thinking, then walked over to his "station".
How to proceed? Since he had an hour to spare, he was content merely to bask in Jim's presence for the time being, tinkering with the now-antiquated equipment at his old science console. He felt suddenly intimidated, just as before, just as in the old days--the same perversion of logic that had originally kept him from voicing his feelings.
"Captain," said Spock, turning, "will you accompany me to the debriefing room for a moment?" He phrased his words clearly so that the computer would create an accommodation to his request, sidestepping commanding it directly. He did not wish to remind himself even more how transparent this entire setting was.
It worked. With a curt nod of his head, Kirk rose again from his seat. Spock followed him to the turbolift and let the door shut them in together. They were alone--completely alone.
Spock calmed himself with the familiar meditative techniques that had served him for countless years. He could not, however, would not remind himself that this was not Jim. Reality might calm him but it would also drown him in despair.
"Something troubling you, Mr. Spock?" said Kirk in his smooth, flowing, innocently seductive voice. How accurate the computer was in recreating his lost angel...
"Jim." Spock took a deep breath, then faced this spectre of the man he loved so completely. "I--this is difficult. I am a Vulcan."
"I understand, Spock." Jim drew closer, and placed a concerned hand on his arm. Every nerve Spock had sang.
"All my life, I have treasured logic, and science," Spock began again. "But I have found that our friendship is more important to me than anything else. This would worry me, if I were not so firmly convinced of the logic of my devotion." He looked up at Kirk, who was smiling with shared affection.
But still Spock was troubled. He has said these sort of words before, and they had shared conversation of how much they meant to each other. It was not depth Spock sought to traverse here in this computerized twenty-third century, it was.... breadth? Scope?
"I feel the same way about you, Spock, you know that." Kirk's words were meant to reassure, but their sweetness only served to inflame Spock's mind further.
"You are beautiful," Spock blurted out suddenly. He realized once the words were said that he hadn't given the computer any instructions on how Kirk was to respond. He might reject him, even in a fantasy world. He was programmed to accurately reflect the real James Tiberius Kirk...
Jim shifted his head slightly to the side and gazed up at Spock through slightly lowered lids. "Speak for yourself," he murmured wickedly.
"You find me attractive?" Spock asked the hologram.
"Well, I didn't at first, but once I got to know you--" Kirk joked. "I just think we belong together!" He placed one hand lightly on the center of Spock's chest, drawing his fingers across the fabric of his uniform. "Whaddya say, wanna give it a try? You're already my best friend."
"Jim, I cannot 'try'," Spock found himself saying, illogical as it was in a universe that would only last another thirty-five minutes. His next words hurt to say. "I'm in love with you." I've been in love with you for a hundred and nineteen years, he added to himself. My love for you seeps in and fills up every crack in my brain--every nook where air might flow, you exist instead.
"I do understand, Spock," Jim told him. "And I think I *could* love you. What am I saying, I already love you!" He ran a hand over his hair, thinking. "Spock, kiss me!"
Spock parted his lips and leaned closer. Jim's hands clutched at his shoulders as his face neared, the way they had a hundred years ago on the bridge of the Klingon ship. Jim had expected to be killed that day, by either the false God or the Klingons, but instead Spock had come for him and saved his life. A debt well repaid and not begrudged. And he had approached him, there on the bridge of the Bird of Prey, as if armed with a kiss. Why had Spock stopped him there? Fear? Of his own desire?
He knew this wasn't Jim, wasn't really the mouth of that dearest man. This was a computer-generated being, ones and zeroes configured to look and smell and probably even taste like Jim. But suddenly he found himself too practical to find out.
"Computer, remove Kirk simulation."
The hologram blinked away and Spock was left standing there in the imaginary turbolift, all by himself. All alone in the universe. He touched the wall where Jim's face had been, remembering the last day he had seen him. They'd had dinner, and then Spock saw Jim off for the Enterprise-B launch. Together 'til the end... he was glad to have been with him up to the last moment possible, but his heart was heavy at the years without.
He had heard the story of how Captain Jean-Luc Picard, once-again hero in the Romulan matters, had, together with Spock's beloved, saved a planet from destruction some years ago. Jim had died, again. Lost twice. Lost three times, if he counted that nightmarish day when he'd twisted the life out of him on the golden sands of Vulcan.
These thoughts were destructive and counter-productive. Spock resolved to meditate upon returning to his quarters.
The synthetic turbolift stopped at the previously mentioned destination near the debriefing room, and the doors slid open impassively. Spock paused a moment, feeling suddenly very old, before walking out into the hallway.
Passing the debriefing room, he wandered farther into one of the deserted rec rooms. He pulled up a chair and sat down, steepling his fingers before his tired face.
"Computer, restore my age and attire."
Once again he was older than a century, and his black Vulcan robe hung from his bony shoulders. He couldn't bear to talk to the phony Kirk, but he didn't want to leave this well-known warmth either. The original Enterprise had been the first place that he'd ever felt truly at home, and he had twenty minutes left inside of it, dammit.
Steps at the door made him look up. He blinked in surprise to see James Kirk standing there, this time sixty-three years old and wearing most of a Starfleet uniform from 2293. White shirt, red vest, black pants... Kirk's hair was graying, and he weighed considerably more than he had in the other simulation.
What was the computer playing at?
"Computer--" he started to say in a broken voice.
"Spock?" Kirk spoke uneasily, and was looking at him with almost the same incredulous, frightened expression that he was sure he was wearing himself.
"Jim?" Spock studied this new Jim scientifically, from head to foot. This was how he had looked on the Enterprise-B. And how he must have looked--
"Spock, do something, I have to know if it's really you or if this damn paradise is still playing around with my mind," Kirk cried out in bitter anguish.
"Computer, end program," Spock barked in a quiet, clipped voice.
Nothing changed. "Computer. Transform this table into a flock of geese."
No geese. Kirk started to chuckle. "Geese, Spock?"
"I--I do not understand," Spock stammered, gazing into his face. "But I had to be sure--"
"I think you can be sure, Spock." Kirk stepped around the table quickly to his side. "This isn't a wild goose chase."
Spock blushed. As usual, he hadn't meant to be funny. "Jim, you must understand--I do not know if you are real." He felt ridiculous.
"I understand completely--I mean, I feel the same way! You could be just another--another dream! This place is full of them." Kirk gestured wildly.
Spock decided he had to test this once and for all. He stood up, and purposefully narrowed the distance between Jim and himself. Slowly, almost calculatingly, he placed his hands on Jim's face and pulled it close to his.
Through his fingers he felt Jim's mind, his life, his essence. The real Jim. Jim that he had loved, did love, would love.... it was not a meld, but it was enough.
Spock kissed him.
They wrapped their arms around each other and clung together tightly, not wanting to let go. Their lives had kept them apart even as they were close... now it was time to embrace. "I love you," Jim gasped, his eyes closed to keep the tears in. He couldn't help it. It was finally *real*. Spock was here with him, his Spock. He had wished for it hard enough, and whatever power that drove the Nexus had reached far out into space to fulfill his yearning.
Or maybe it was that Spock was finally ready to leave, himself.
"Where are we?" Spock asked when they finally broke the kiss to catch their breaths.
"I don't know," said Kirk. "I was on the Enterprise-B, and then suddenly I was--here! Anything I want will come true, but none of it's real. It's just a fantasy. I have no idea how it works. I had fun with it at first, but after a while it just got depressing and I wanted--I wanted the Enterprise back, and I wanted ~you~ back."
"So this," Spock gestured around himself, "is the Enterprise fantasy you created?" Kirk nodded. "And not the holodeck on the Starship Titan?"
"A... holodeck?" Kirk asked.
"Basically what you have described, but computerized."
"Oh. No, this isn't run by computers... unless it's far beyond any technology I've ever seen."
Spock had to say it: "Fascinating."
Jim slipped one hand into Spock's and squeezed tightly and lovingly. "Come on, Spock, I have to teach you how to play in my playground!"
And, as always, Spock followed him into the next adventure.
Back on the Starship Titan, Lieutenant Cloud's state of panic was rising by degrees. "Cloud to the bridge," he barked nervously into his communicator.
"Bridge, this is the captain."
"It's Ambassador Spock, sir." Cloud took a deep breath. "He's missing."
"He's not here, sir! I've turned off the entire holodeck! He's vanished."
"Maybe he left the room before his time was up."
"I've tried that!"
"Try again, Lieutenant!" Riker did not sound amused.
"Computer, locate Ambassador Spock."
"Ambassador Spock is not on the Starship Titan," the computer replied in a courteous tone.
Riker heard it over the comm link. "Lieutenant Subrahmanian, have any shuttles or escape pods left in the past hour?" he asked the communications officer on the bridge.
"No, sir," said Subrahmanian.
Riker slammed his fist down on his armrest. "Cloud!!!"
"Will," said the communicator on his chest out of nowhere.
"Deanna, I can't right now. Spock's missing."
"Will, calm down, he's with Captain Kirk."
"Deanna, what the hell are you talking about?"
"Just... trust me." He heard his wife sigh on the other end of the link. "I don't know how he did it, but he did. They say Captain Kirk could do anything."
"I sense him. I'm sensing him, and he's happy now. Something was weighing very strongly on his mind before when we spoke, and I felt his pain even after he left. But now I feel a peace, and I know it's from him. From *both* of them. Together."