My Soul to Give
McCoy could hardly believe it, even though he had spoken the words himself.
Kirk was hunched at McCoy’s desk. He looked up from beneath dark brows at the office door. But McCoy knew it was not that door he was seeing, nor any other door. He was seeing an autopsy table and a young Vulcan laid out on it, a hole burned through his side Where any human could possibly have been saved by McCoy’s quick hands, it was a death blow for the Vulcan whose physiology put his heart out of place in comparison.
Kirk had not moved for a quarter of an hour. He had been sitting in the chair, arms braced on his knees, fingers threaded together—perhaps a little too tightly—concentrating on the door like he was willing Spock to make the universe a liar and walk through it like it was any other day in the fleet.
But McCoy could see the shoulders starting to tremble as reality forced itself in on them and battered at the last defenses Kirk had. He went to the cabinet behind his desk, pulled out a tall slender bottle, one glass, and filled it almost to the brim. He forced in into Kirk’s hands.
“Drink it,” McCoy commanded.
Kirk looked down at the glass absently, took a sip, but no more. McCoy swore under his breath and paced to the opposite corner of the room.
“Jim!” he finally burst out.
Kirk did not acknowledge him. He just stared down into the glass, trading it for the door in his avid attentions. But McCoy was sure that the amber liquid in the glass was only a pale substitute for the rich, dark, liquid amber of those deep within deep Vulcan eyes that had gazed out at both of them, so often quizzical, or curious, or with a certainty that was completely ignorant of its arrogance.
Kirk would see more. Had always seen more. He had been able to see that Vulcan heart that some said did not even exist. But while he may be able to see it, it would not open for him, and McCoy could not understand the single minded devotion Kirk kept toward the Vulcan.
“I’ve been here before, Bones.”
The statement was so quiet and so out of place that McCoy was not even sure he had heard it, much less heard it correctly, “Jim?”
“He was dying, and I couldn’t save him, couldn’t even touch him,” his voice was low, like he was chanting to himself, “but I got him back, Bones.” He looked up suddenly, and his eyes were fierce with just a touch of madness. “Will I get him back again?”
McCoy was frightened. Kirk was a sensible man. He had looked death in the face countless times and seen it through. McCoy had not realized until just this moment what an integral part Spock may have played in that iron ability to carry on. Spock had been stronger than any of them. There had never been a question that he would survive no matter what. Perhaps it had something to do with Spock Prime coming through the wormhole. Kirk somehow believed that because he had survived it meant he would survive. Spock was the one thing, the one person that Kirk believed the strong hand of fate could not take away from him. Like it had so many before.
And, now, he was dead.
“Jim, what are you talking about?” Bones asked slowly.
There had been many times over the last year and a half that Kirk and Spock had found themselves inside scrapes that were nearly impossible to escape and more than once they had wiped their feet on death’s doormat, and he hadn’t been home to answer the call. But not one of those times had Spock crossed the threshold to death so that they had literally stolen him back. Jim’s mind was a muddle with the shock of losing his friend.
“Jim, you need to rest,” McCoy said carefully, laying a hand on Kirk’s shoulder.
Kirk shoved at McCoy’s hands fiercely. The nearly full glass of brandy went flying across the room. “I’ll get him back!”
“Jim! Jim, stop!” McCoy tried to arrest Kirk’s frantic lunge for the door by grabbing him around the chest and pinning his arms to which Kirk responded by slamming them both into the wall.
The ruckus brought Nurse Chapel flying into the room.
“Christine!” McCoy bellowed.
She reached around the corner, grabbed a hypo spray, ducked a wild left hook from Kirk and jabbed it into the captain’s thigh. He attempted one more weakened punch before sliding down the wall and half pinning McCoy beneath him. Christine took his shoulders and enough of his weight that the doctor could free himself and then helped Christine drag Kirk to an exam bed.
Once they had him tucked in and restrained—as much as he hated to do it—McCoy took a step back and ran a hand through his hair. Christine looked over at him with frightened eyes.
“What do we do?” she asked in a tiny voice. Her gaze slid silently to the autopsy room door.
McCoy’s followed it. He knew what she was thinking, that Spock would have been the one to get Kirk to see reason, to calm him; but that wasn’t possible anymore.
Or maybe it was.
Christine saw the moment hope dared to glimmer in the doctor’s eyes. “Doctor?”
“We’ll call the one person who can make him see reason,” McCoy said quietly. “We’ll call Spock.”
Spock Prime woke to the low but insistent chirp of the communications console in his living area. He rose from the low bed cut into the stone alcove of the sleeping room and pulled on a loose tunic before seating himself in front of the console.
McCoy’s face came on the screen.
“Ambassador, I apologize for the late hour, but I have to tell you…” his voice drifted off, and Prime noted the dark circles beneath the man’s eyes and the way he swallowed convulsively as though he were fighting something back. “Spock is dead.”
“Pause,” Prime said sharply.
The words sounded hollow in Prime’s brain. He leaned back in his chair and stared at the haggard face of the young doctor on the screen. If McCoy was the one relaying this message, then he was certain that Kirk was either dead as well, or in no state to communicate, and both options were equally bad and had consequences that did not bear thinking about. Prime could not imagine his life without his Jim, nor what kind of man he may have without his influence. He had assumed that this universe had seen the same urgent necessity to place the two men together for the sake of events that could never play out without both of them.
“Continue play back,” he said slowly, his voice sounding brittle in his own ears.
“I would have followed the proper channels, but Jim needs you,” There was an edge of desperation to the doctor’s voice. “He’s losing his grip on reality, ranting about having lost Spock before and gotten him back. He can’t accept that he’s dead. Ambassador, please, I don’t know who else to call. This could ruin him; cost him his command if we can’t bring him back to his senses. He could lose the Enterprise.”
The screen went dark.
Prime folded his hands in contemplation. To lose the only other thing that meant as much to him as Spock would indeed be the end of Kirk. He was nothing without the Enterprise. There was a space in his heart that even Spock could not fill. His own Jim had been irritable and listless without her. He did not know if it was the ship herself that he craved so much or the places that she could take him. Being commander of her helm came with inherent dangers but also rewards that could be obtained nowhere else in the galaxy. The missions she took him on gave him purpose and made him feel that in a universe gone mad, he could make a difference, bring a measure of peace, save a life, and that in turn brought him peace, and sanity, and saved his life.
But as important as the Enterprise was to him, without Spock by his side, how much would all that mean to Kirk?
What bothered him more was Kirk’s sudden obsession with bringing Spock back from the dead. There was only one way he could know that such a thing was possible, even though it had not happened yet, not here, anyway. The implications of Kirk having such knowledge stabbed at Prime’s heart.
Those memories were never far away. I was not every day that one died, was born anew, and given back the raw elements of one’s mind and soul by ancient ritual. Spock had died. He had been dead long enough to know the pain of being without the other half of his soul. But Jim had found him. He had trusted himself, and he had found him and brought him back from the other side.
And somewhere in the freezing snow of the abandoned planet of Delta Vega, Spock Prime had instilled all those old memories into this young Kirk, and because of it, he believed his Spock could come back.
He stood up. The red glow of New Vulcan’s twin suns was cresting the northern desert bringing warmth and life and hope to a beleaguered people still struggling to cope with the loss of their world. Perhaps he could bring something of that same hope to Kirk.
Kirk was well aware Bones had tranked him. He was not surprised, nor was he upset, even to find that light restraints had been wrapped around his wrists securing him to the bed. He turned his head to the side to find McCoy slouched in a chair beside him. He worked his mouth a few times to get past the dryness there and croaked out,
McCoy was awake and alert in record time. “Jim?”
Kirk did not miss the cautious, questioning note in his friend’s voice. Vague memories of rushing McCoy and throwing him into a wall floated up through his still foggy thoughts.
“I’m okay, Bones. I promise.” Kirk said quietly. He tried to smile, knowing it came off as more of a grimace and held out his bound wrists to McCoy in a silent plea for release.
McCoy did not hesitate. He unstrapped Kirk and helped him into a sitting position, handing him a glass of water to help clear his throat and putting a hypo to his arm to help clear his head.
“Jim, do you remember…?” McCoy drifted off, unable to speak the words aloud for fear they might bring on another episode.
Kirk closed his eyes and leaned heavily on his arms, gripping the edge of the exam bed with white knuckled hands. The image of Spock being carried from the transporter room, already dead, but with McCoy unwilling to call it until he had exhausted all his options and himself, loomed up in his mind’s eye.
“I remember, Bones,” Kirk whispered hoarsely. “How long have I been out?”
It was his way of asking, ‘Is he still here?’
“Only a couple of hours. I haven’t had time to complete the final report and inform Sarek,” McCoy replied.
Kirk flinched at the mention of Sarek’s name. The man had lost so much in such a short time. His planet destroyed, his wife dead, murdered at the hands of some half crazed Romulan bent on revenge against Sarek’s own son. It was Kirk’s duty to contact the family after the death of crew member, and it was always hard. Kirk could not imagine how he was going to stand in front of Sarek and tell him that his only son had died…trying to save him.
And Sarek was not the only one who would need to be told. Spock Prime would need to be informed as well. Kirk wondered what kind of effect it would have on a person being told that your younger self had been killed while there you stood alive and healthy, a living paradox.
“Jim, you said you’d been here before, that Spock had died, but…you got him back. What did you mean?” McCoy asked carefully.
Kirk looked up. McCoy’s eyes were full of worry. He knew nothing of the mind meld with Prime on Delta Vega, not even Spock had known about that. Those horrifying and exhilarating moments were hidden away in Kirk’s mind. Prime had imparted knowledge of the future to him, events that would most likely now never come to pass, but it was not this knowledge of events that Kirk kept hidden. It was the knowledge of the relationship between Jim Kirk and Spock in an alternate timeline. Kirk felt like if he revealed what he knew, if he spoke it, then it would be lost to the changes in the timeline, just as all future events were now. And it was one thing he did not want to lose.
Though there was no reason to protect it any longer. Spock was dead, and there was no more future with or without him.
“When Spock left me stranded on Delta Vega and Spock Prime found me, he did more than just get me back to the ship. He showed me the future he came from.”
“Showed you?” McCoy shifted uneasily from one foot to another. “How?”
“He melded with me.”
“Melded with you? A mind meld? I didn’t think Vulcans would do that with a human.” McCoy could not keep all the condescension out of his voice, and Kirk imagined he could see the ghost of Spock standing by McCoy and casting one of his patented sidelong looks that bordered on scornful.
“No they don’t. Not with just any human,” Kirk agreed.
“But you were special?”
Kirk swallowed hard. “I was to him.”
It took McCoy only a moment before comprehension dawned in his eyes. “In the other timeline you and he—I mean the other you and he—”
“—meant a great deal to each other as well,” Kirk finished. “It was why I wouldn’t just let Spock go curl up on himself and hide behind his damned Vulcan logic after everything was over. I knew what he meant to me—would mean to me, and what I would mean to him.
“In Prime’s timeline, he died, saving the Enterprise from certain destruction. But I was—that Jim Kirk was able to save him, to bring him back from the other side.”
“And you know this how?” McCoy asked.
“Memories.” Kirk closed his eyes again as he remembered that wonderfully agonizing moment Prime had touched his face, opened his mind, and poured himself inside. Kirk had wondered ever since how much Prime had actually intended to share with him as all of their subsequent communications had never again reached such a personal level. “During the mind meld his memories spilled over. I don’t think he meant them to, but he was upset and I think…relieved, to see a familiar face, especially one that meant so much to him.”
McCoy nodded slowly, trying to apply the word upset to the Vulcan he knew so well. It was an ill fit, but he supposed that Prime may have come to terms with his more human characteristics in a way that their Spock had not yet. Would not…
“So, how did they bring him back?” McCoy asked, hardly able to believe he was entertaining the possibility of bring a man back from the dead.
Kirk’s shoulders sagged, “I don’t know. I only know that they did.”
“McCoy folded his arms and looked down at his boots contemplatively. “Well, then I guess it’s a good thing I called the man who would know.”
“I sent a message to Spock Prime. He’s on his way to rendezvous with us in the Angulan system.”
Kirk scowled. “You said you hadn’t finished the report.”
“I haven’t,” McCoy admitted. “But you said you got him back. I wasn’t sure what you meant, or if it meant anything, but I was honestly afraid that losing Spock was the one thing that could break you, So, I called the only person I could think of that might be able to bring you around.”
“Now, well, maybe Prime will have some bit of Vulcan mysticism to shed light on those memories of yours and make them come true.” McCoy paused and let out a disbelieving breath, “All I know is that we’re way beyond the bounds of logic here…all of us.”
Kirk stood in the shuttle bay staring out at the black infinity of space while a silver speck in the distance maneuvered into a landing trajectory with the bay’s running light indicators. The speck grew larger quickly. It was a small long range shuttle of Vulcan origin that Kirk found to be an odd junction of linear and fluid. Normally, he would be in dress uniform to greet as ambassador, but given the circumstances Kirk had dispensed with the pleasantries, even the honor guard. He stood alone in the bay except for the on duty security and McCoy. McCoy had been willing to let him leave sickbay, but only under the condition that he not be alone, and by not alone, he meant with McCoy by his side every second.
The small shuttle glided into the bay under repulsor power only and settled in a perfect landing on the pad. The bay took a moment to re-pressurize and McCoy and Kirk stepped out from the airlock as the shuttle hatch opened up.
Kirk’s initial response to seeing Prime was shock. His breath rushed out in a sharp hiss. His step faltered, little enough that McCoy took no notice, but enough that Kirk had to right himself, to force himself to go forward. He had forgotten how similar they looked. The way he stood, the angle he held his head at, the fluid grace in every movement, identified this man as the same on that now lay dead in McCoy’s autopsy room.
“Ambassador…Spock,” Kirk greeted the Vulcan as he descended the short ramp to the bay floor.
“Please, Captain. Call me S’Tal. I have recently adopted the name—for obvious reasons—it is an ancestral name of my family. It will alleviate confusion and …hardship.”
Kirk swallowed hard. He had not anticipated compassion. His Spock had only just been dabbling with the nuances between compassion and logically right action given a specific value set. But he kept forgetting that while Spock was new to him, he was not new to Prime. This man had already lived his life in the presence of Jim Kirk and been bettered by him.
“Ambassador S’Tal,” Kirk repeated, “it is an honor to have you, even under these unfortunate circumstances.”
Prime did not answer him immediately. He instead turned to McCoy, “Thank you for your communication, Doctor. I trust the body has not been disposed of yet?”
“No,” McCoy answered a little uneasily. “I actually haven’t had the heart to cut into him for the autopsy.”
“May we go to sick bay, then?”
“Of course, Ambassador,” Kirk answered. He motioned toward the shuttle bay doors, and with a slight inclination of his head that made Kirk’s eyes burn at the rise of fresh memories, he preceded them out of the shuttle bay.
They walked in silence until they reached the relative privacy of the turbo lift where Prime turned to Kirk,
“Captain, may I ask how it happened?”
Kirk had been dreading this, the moment he would have to recount the details to Prime and admit to himself all over again that Spock died because of him.
The turbo lift came to a stop and Kirk stepped off first, deliberately dodging Prime’s inquiring gaze. He did not wait for them to follow. He covered the dozen or so yards to sickbay and made straight for the autopsy room. McCoy and Prime entered a moment later to find him standing there at the open door, rigidly at attention.
Prime came to the door and stopped. Kirk raised his gaze and looked him straight in the eye,
“It was my fault. He died because of me.”
Kirk had wanted the words to come out strong, a clear admission of guilt; but, instead, they came out on a whisper, ragged around the edges.
“Jim, no!” McCoy protested fiercely. “If it was anyone’s fault, it was mine!”
Prime held up a hand between the two men. “Please. Tell me what happened.”
Kirk’s shoulders sagged and he hung his head, turned away and found the nearest chair and sat down. He had hoped for fury, for anger, something that could fuel his own temper and let him defend himself. But with Spock—Spock Prime—he should have known better.
“It was nothing that hasn’t happened a dozen times before. Something went wrong when it could least afford to. Communications were out. We couldn’t get back to the ship. Their weapons were inferior, so we were relatively safe, but someone got stupid trying to be clever and got shot.
“I couldn’t leave a man out to die on an alien world. So, I went out to get him. Spock covered me…literally. They got a bead on me, and he tackled me to get me out of the line of fire. He moved so fast…we were rolling…they never should have been able to hit him.” Kirk drifted off. He looked up at Prime, his eyes open wide and burning with rage. “I couldn’t talk to my ship! He didn’t tell me! And I—I didn’t know….”
Kirk’s outburst died on a broken whisper and Prime turned to McCoy for further explanation.
McCoy sighed and said simply, “Vulcan physiology differs from human. Jim didn’t know Spock had taken such a lethal hit, especially when he didn’t stop moving until he had Jim and the landing party back to the ship.” McCoy paused and grimaced at the memory of everyone stepping off the transporter. “He just dropped. Right there on the transporter pad. I tried to resuscitate him, but by the time I figured out what happened and how long he’d been wounded…it was too late.”
“I see.” Prime stepped inside the small room that was empty of everything except the covered body of his young self and the instruments necessary to the purpose of the room. McCoy and Kirk followed.
“Could the body be repaired?” he asked.
“I—I could have saved him. If I’d gotten to him in time,” McCoy answered cautiously, not entirely sure what the Vulcan was asking.
“Be sure, Doctor, that I am not trying to place blame, nor do I question your knowledge or skill,” Prime assured. “I apologize that my questions may appear odd in origin, but please tell me to the best of your ability: can his body be repaired fully so that it could sustain life?”
McCoy scowled. “Yes. The damage is repairable, and the stasis field will have kept the tissue and cellular structure from degrading, but—”
“You are certain?” The tone in Prime’s voice brooked no room for doubt of any degree.
“Yes! But what would be the point?!” McCoy nearly shouted.
“Thank you, Doctor. Now, if you will please give us a moment.”
McCoy ground his teeth audibly, cast a look at Kirk and then stomped off to his office.
Kirk slumped against the wall, staring at the body on the table, those few crucial seconds playing out again and again in his mind’s eye. “It should have been me,” he said in a dull voice.
“There is no blame to be placed, Captain. Spock did as he chose, and he made the logical choice. As First Officer of the Enterprise, it is his duty to protect you and see to your safety and that of the rest of the crew.”
“He was more than First Officer of the Enterprise!” Kirk shouted, pounding his fists back against the wall. “He was—he was my friend.”
Prime nodded slowly. Had Kirk had the heart to look he would have seen the sheen of tears in the old Vulcan’s eyes. Prime felt like a parent who had outlived his only child and was forced now to live with the painful what-ifs and could-have-beens. But it was not only Spock he mourned, he mourned for Jim Kirk as well. The vibrant man that Kirk would have become was dissolving into the ether, stolen away with Spock’s life.
“He brought you back,” Kirk said into the stillness. “How?”
Prime raised and eyebrow. “Why do you say that?”
Kirk gulped back an involuntary sob as those Vulcan nostrils flared in subtle surprise and the chin dipped in that familiar way Spock had when he was taken off guard but would not admit to it. “Please, tell me how.” He came to the side of the table and gripped the sheet. “Tell me how to get him back.”
Prime turned away and took a few steps to the end of the table. His worst fears were true. He had not been careful enough on Delta Vega. He answered in a low voice,
“The place it was done, and the one who did it are no more. But I have come in hopes of bringing another solution.” He came back to Kirk and slowly lifted his hands to the other’s face. “I am so sorry for the burden I have placed upon you. I had no right.”
He stood a long moment with Kirk’s face framed tat way in his hands before he dropped them and went to the door. “Tell the Doctor to repair Spock’s body. Make it whole and living, and perhaps we can find a way to save what is lost.”
“He wants me to do what?” McCoy said incredulously.
Kirk flattened his palms on McCoy’s desk and leaned down. “He wants you to repair Spock’s body. You said you could do it.”
“To an extent! I can put him on life support. I can make his body function. I can heal the wounds.” McCoy stood up and came around the desk. He put a hand on Kirk’s shoulder. “It won’t change the fact that he’s dead, Jim.”
Kirk nodded. ‘I know. I know.”
“What’s he doing? Does he think he can raise the dead?”
“I don’t know, Bones, but if there’s any chance, any chance at all,” he looked up into McCoy’s eyes, his own alive with the infant embers of hope, “wouldn’t you take it?”
McCoy could not answer. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. “Nurse Chapel!” he bellowed.
Christine hurtled around the corner a moment later looking half frightened.
“Nurse, get me a full life support unit, whatever stores of Vulcan blood we have on hand, and scrub up for surgery,” McCoy ordered.
Christine looked confused, “Doctor?”
“Don’t ask any questions, Christine. Lord knows, I’m not. Just get the stuff ready. Please,” McCoy said in a slightly softer tone.
“Yes, Doctor,” she answered and disappeared again.
McCoy turned back to Kirk. “I’ll do this, Jim. I’ll do it for you, but he better be able to do what he thinks he can…because I don’t think you’ll make it if he fails.”
Kirk stared at McCoy’s retreating back, his last words emblazoned in his brain. He was right. If Prime really was going to attempt to bring Spock back and he failed, Kirk was not sure he could survive this loss twice. There were those who would say he was trying to cheat fate and that no man could do that and win. But losing was not something he accepted and death was not something he could allow. He and Spock had found solutions to impossible questions time and again, cheating fate out of her prize. He could do it again.
Prime looked out the forward viewing port of the officer’s lounge into the blackness of deep space. The Enterprise was cruising at impulse though the Angulan system, a lost child drifting through the dark, uncertain of her future with no captain at her helm and her first officer dead. He imagined he could hear her mourning cry in the soft thrum of her engines.
He had come here with a blind purpose to offer himself in Spock’s place, and he had given little thought to the means or consequences. He did not even know how to do what he hoped to accomplish. He had died once before, and while the universe had seen fit to regenerate his body, his mind was nothing without the Katra he had entrusted to McCoy. When it had been returned to him on Mt. Selea through rite and ritual not practiced since the elder days, Spock had come back to himself. But death had changed him, and while he was allowed to walk among the living, death never released its grasp completely. He had felt forever after that the bond between his soul and body was…less insistent than it had been before.
“McCoy says he should be ready in a couple of hours,” Kirk said quietly from the door. He took a few steps in and came to stand by Prime. He looked out into the vast darkness and then up at the sharpened Vulcan profile. “What’s he going to be ready for?”
Prime remained silent for a moment, and then lowered his gaze to focus on his folded hands. “For what I am about to attempt, Captain, I must have your permission. It has never been done before, there is no precedent, nor is it likely anyone but I might be able to do it.”
“What?” Kirk asked. “What are you going to do?”
“I am going to attempt to put my soul in Spock’s body.”
Kirk’s eyes widened. “What?!”
Prime turned away and took a seat on one of the nearby couches. “You asked how I was brought back.”
“Yes?” Kirk sat slowly down across from the Vulcan.
“I knew I would die going into that chamber, so I left the imprint of my Katra—my soul—in Dr. McCoy’s mind. The events following are of little import here and now, suffice it to say that my body was retrieved in repaired condition, and my Katra was returned through an ancient method known only to the High Priestess that can only be accomplished in the Temples of Selea.”
“Selea on Vulcan?”
“But Vulcan is gone,” Kirk protested.
Kirk took a breath, trying to follow Prime’s logic. “Then how can we help Spock?”
“I have been dead. My soul has been…loosened, from my body, and it may be again. There are techniques available to us—to Vulcans—that might separate a soul that is already familiar with the path it must travel to the other side.”
Kirk leaned forward, arms propped on his knees staring into the empty space between them. Finally he asked,
“Why do you need my permission?”
“It will be me in his body,” Spock Prime answered. “I will spark the life that was there before and all that remains of him will be there, but I will be there as well. All of my memories and experiences will be inside him.”
“But he’ll still be himself?”
“Then he’ll have what I do,” Kirk said.
The eyebrow rose.
Kirk lifted his gaze to Prime’s. Amber, a liquid river of warmth. That’s what those eyes were. He had looked into them so many times over the past months through the memories of another man and wished that they could look back at him with the same familiarity, the same need, the same…love.
“When I’m with him,” Kirk began haltingly, “part of me knows him as a colleague and loyal first officer, but another part knows him as a friend and something more. I can see Spock through his eyes, through your Jim’s eyes. All the memories that he must have shared with you, all the times he must have opened his mind to you to try and get you to see how extraordinary you are, how much you meant to him; it all came through that meld.” He involuntarily reached out and took fierce hold of one of the long fingered sinewy hands still so graceful and powerful even after two centuries. “I want him to be able to look back at me with the same certainty of what I feel for him.” He paused, holding Prime’s unresisting hand flat between his own and looking hard into that bottomless gaze. “Yes, you have my permission.”
They stared at each other in silence.
“Very well,” Prime extricated his hand very slowly, almost reluctantly, “then I will prepare.”
Kirk nodded and rose, ready to leave Prime to his meditative silence.
Kirk stopped at the door, but did not turn. “Yes…Spock?”
“He never said it. He could not without betraying himself. I always knew it, but he did not say it.”
“Then I’ll change that,” Kirk promised softly. The doors whispered shut behind him.
“He’s stabilized, Jim,” McCoy announced, leaning tiredly into the doorframe of the patient bay.
Spock had been moved from the autopsy bay to a bed equipped with full life support. The stasis field had done its job and preserved him almost to the moment of his death. McCoy had done the rest in repairing the physical damage.
“There’s no brain activity, you understand,” McCoy cautioned, balling up the towel that he had used to wipe the sweat off his face and neck and twisting it in anxious hands. The last couple of hours had been long and intense, and Kirk knew he was going to owe his friend some sort of explanation soon.
“I understand, Bones.” Kirk looked down on the now breathing body of his friend. It was very eerie having seen this same body lifeless on an autopsy table only a few hours ago, having seen the light leave its eyes only minutes before that, and to see it now as though he were only sleeping.
McCoy cleared his throat. “Jim, I’m feeling a little like Frankenstein here. Will you please explain to me why I’ve done this?”
“I’m not sure I can explain it, Bones. I’m not sure I even believe it, and I certainly can’t tell you how he’s going to do it,” Kirk answered.
McCoy opened his mouth, hesitated a moment, and then asked, “Do you remember anything?”
“Only that he didn’t understand it either.” He paused, thinking about what Prime had said. “He was never sure if he got back the same man that he had lost. That was why he never told him.”
“Never told who what?” McCoy asked.
Kirk moved his hand along the sheet until it came to rest on Spock’s arm. He curled his fingers around the length of dense bone and ripcord muscle as if the mere act of touching him might bring him back to life. Blood ebbed and flowed through the veins beneath his hands, and Kirk found it was easy to delude himself into believing that the body lived. Because he wanted to believe it, and he promised himself that if this worked, he would not make the same mistake the other Jim Kirk had made. He would tell Spock what he felt and then they would both know.
“Jim, you’re not making any sense. Now, tell me what in the hell is going on here!”
“Perhaps I can be of assistance, Doctor,” a voice said from the doorway.
“Well someone damn well better!” McCoy snapped at the Vulcan. “I’ve just spent the last three hours patching a corpse back together, and I want to know why.”
Prime approached the bed, looked at Kirk across the body. “Doctor, you have never held sway with Vulcan mysticism. There was too little explanation to suit your science.” McCoy only harrumphed at the comment. “But I will say that your trust in our methods never flagged, especially in the most crucial of moments; and it is that trust I must ask from you now. Will you give it?”
McCoy was struck momentarily dumb by the intensity in Prime’s voice. He knew that the Vulcan was speaking to future events that may now never happen and he was humbled by the certainty and respect in his words.
“Yes,” he answered. “Yes, I wil.”
“Thank you, Dr. McCoy,” Prime said earnestly. He turned to Kirk. “Arrangements have been made and instructions have been sent.”
“But what if it doesn’t work? Shouldn’t you have waited?”
“If I fail, I cannot re-enter this body. It will die either way.”
“Hey!” McCoy interrupted. “I’m not having any more dead bodies on my shift! What are you talking about? What’s going on?”
Kirk grabbed McCoy’s arm and planted a firm hand on his chest before he could fly into a rage at the Vulcan. “Bones, relax. Relax! He knows what he’s doing,” Kirk assured, feeling little of the confidence he was trying to convey. “Bones, if this works, we’ll have Spock back, body and soul, but the ambassador will effectively be dead.”
“What do you mean ‘effectively’?”McCoy hazarded.
“What’s left of him will be inside Spock. He’s going to use his own soul to ‘jump-start’ Spock.”
McCoy pondered this for a few long seconds, his eyes flicking warily from one man to the other, until, finally, he said, “You’re right. I don’t understand. And I don’t buy it. But I do…trust you.”
Spock Prime nodded his grateful acknowledgment. He stepped away from Spock’s bed and discarded his black ambassador’s robe, leaving him in only a plain black tunic and leggings. Kirk went to his side,
“Is there anything you need?” he asked.
“No,” Prime answered as he sat down on the adjacent exam bed and swung his legs up.
“Should I do anything?” McCoy asked. “How will we know if it’s worked?”
“He will be alive,” Prime answered. He turned his attention to Kirk, lowered his voice, and held up his hand. “If I fail, promise me that you will let him go. He made a choice to save you. Do not dishonor it by trying to cling to an empty shell.”
Kirk felt reduced to near tears again. He slowly took the old Vulcan’s hand in his and squeezed hard.
“I too make the choice,” Prime answered Kirk’s unshed tears. “Do not grieve for me…Jim.”
He let go of Kirk’s hand and lay back on the bed, closing his eyes. He reached across the small distance and laid his hand over Spock’s. Kirk backed up a few steps and leaned into the wall. Prime had not said how long it would take, but something in his memory told him there were long hours ahead. McCoy came to stand by him but said nothing. Kirk knew he was frustrated, but there was little to be done about it. So, together they stood in silence and watched.
It was indeed hours. McCoy checked both men’s vital signs regularly and came and went a few times. He eventually settled into a chair by Spock’s bed with an old medical text in his lap. Kirk would not sit down. He hardly moved but to shift his weight every hour or so. His gaze panned slowly from one man to the other and back again, looking for even the tiniest sign that something—anything—was happening.
Every once in a while he would allow himself to close his eyes and dive deep into the memory of his other self, where he would find hope enough to open them again and continue to stand vigil. He had so few memories of his own with Spock: a quizzical look, an eyebrow raised in annoyance, a bright flash of anger in those dark eyes. There were barely a handful with any edge of warmth and only then the warmth and care that Kirk had assigned them: a brief touch, the sound of his name in those mellow Vulcan tones, a glance that lasted a moment longer than necessary. He wanted these things back so that one day he could call all those other memories his own. As the hours dragged on, that was what gave him the strength to wait.
Midnight came and went. Finally, McCoy rose from his chair and came back to stand by his captain. He looked at the men lying across the room and pulled in a deep breath.
“Jim, I don’t think it’s going to work,” he said gently.
Kirk gave a fierce shake of his head. “It will, Bones.”
McCoy stared down at his boots. “Jim, he said not to—”
“We wait,” Kirk said flatly.
Kirk would not bend to him as a friend, so McCoy pulled the only card he had left. “Captain, as this ship’s physician, I recommend this procedure be halted for the sake and safety of the patients under my care.”
Kirk flinched and glared at McCoy, recognizing his reprimand that Kirk was forgetting he was Captain of the Enterprise, and he was putting his personal needs above his ship and crew.
McCoy saw the weight of his responsibilities settle back on Kirks shoulders and then drag them down, and he wanted to kick himself. But this couldn’t go on. “Jim, let him go. Like Prime said, he made his choice…and it was you.”
“And I have to live with that,” Kirk murmured. He glanced at McCoy, his eyes shining bright with all the pain and loss that waited like a hungry tide to overtake him. He nodded once.
McCoy retrieved a hypo spray from the cabinet and approached Prime’s bedside. He positioned the hypo at the familiar juncture between neck and shoulder. He glanced up at the vital readings, frowned, and hesitated.
“What is it?” Kirk demanded, shoving off the wall.
“I’m not sure. I think—”
The indicators above Prime’s head suddenly dropped to zero and a low alarm sounded.
“Damn it!” McCoy swore and pressed the hypo against the Vulcan’s skin.
“No!” Kirk grabbed his wrist. “Wait…” His eyes were glued to the indicators above Spock’s bed that registered brain activity. Seconds ticked by and the indicators did not move. Then suddenly the machine twitched and registered a sharp rise. The Vulcan chest expanded out of sync with the life support unit and one long finger twitched against the sheets.
Kirk dropped McCoy’s hand and leaned in close over Spock. “Spock? Spock, can you hear me?” he whispered. He took the angular face between his hands. “Please. Spock.”
I am here…Jim.
Kirk yanked his hands back.
The voice had been in his head. He looked down and saw dark amber eyes staring up at him. He felt McCoy beside him, reaching around to shut off the life support.
Spock took a few more experimental breaths, mentally evaluating his current condition. “How, Captain?” he finally asked.
“I don’t really know, Kirk lifted his gaze to Prime’s now lifeless body
Spock turned his head to follow the gaze and nodded slowly. “I see.” He attempted to sit up, but both Kirk and McCoy pushed him back.
“No, you don’t!” McCoy said. “You’re staying right where you are until I’m satisfied you can go. And if you don’t, I’m going to pump you so full of tranquilizers you won’t wake up for a week.”
Spock seemed to consider this a moment, then quit resisting and lay back. “Very well, Doctor.”
McCoy scowled his grudging approval. He cast a glance from one man to the other and then over to the body of Prime. “I’ll just go see what instructions he left,” he said in a softer voice and excused himself.
“Bones,” Kirk called out as McCoy stepped out the door. He smiled lopsidedly over his shoulder, “Thanks.”
McCoy nodded once and left them alone.
Kirk rested his hands on the bed, a mere inch from Spock’s bare arm. “Spock, are you…you?”
“Should I be otherwise, Captain?”
“No. No!” Kirk nearly laughed. The hysteria of relief was setting in and his body and mind were beginning to register their distress with him after such long hours of abuse under tension. “I just wasn’t sure that whatever he was doing would affect you, and I didn’t know if it would be you or him looking back at me. Or both! Or—” Kirk let out a shaky breath and sagged against the bed. His whole body was trembling. “Spock you have no idea…” He couldn’t finish. His throat closed around the words with all the pain and fear and loss that had built up but not been allowed to be expressed.
“Captain?” Spock’s tone was concerned. He carefully covered one of Kirk’s hands with his own. “Jim.”
“Oh, God, Spock, don’t—” Kirk turned his burning eyes to the ceiling, “—don’t say it unless you mean it.”
Spock was silent a moment, then, “Jim.”
Kirk shoved away from the bed violently. He paced an uneven circle around the room and then slammed a fist into the wall in a fit of temper. He slumped there, leaning into his hands, breathing erratically against the still threatening storm of emotion.
“This is what I wanted,” he said finally. “God, how I wanted it! I wanted you to feel the same, to suffer the same as me. But now,” he turned just enough that he could see that calm visage staring back, “I would give you up all over again just to have you back…just the way you were.”
“I have not changed, Jim.”
Kirk smiled sadly. “He—you—would never have called me that.”
Spock pondered this and slowly pressed his way up into a half sitting position against the pillows. “I see. So, you do not believe men can change?”
“Not like that, Spock,” Kirk cast a pained glance at the still form on the adjacent bed. “He’s inside you, Spock. Everything he was is what you are now, and I thought it would be better. But I haven’t earned it, Spock. I haven’t earned anything that you might feel right now. You’re for him now, for the man I might have been.” Kirk’s head dipped in defeat, and he started toward the door.
Kirk turned back. Spock’s hand was stretched forward on the sheet beside him like he wanted to reach out, but the fierce darkness in his eyes said that his Vulcan blood would not permit him his human feelings. Kirk came slowly back to the bed and set his hand down beside Spock’s.
“For the good of the one…you,” Spock said softly.
Spock lifted his hand, held it above Kirk’s, and let his fingertips trace across the back of his hand and down his fingers to the very tips, where he once again flattened his hand to the sheet and gently pressed his fingers between Kirk’s. He sat there staring at the contrast of pale folded against dark olive.
“You are my Captain, and it is my duty to keep you safe above all else, myself included.” Spock felt Kirk start to draw away, and he pinched his fingers together, holding him captive. “But in the moment that you would have died, it was more than duty that drove me. I found that…I could not imagine being without you, and if that meant dying so that I would not have to suffer your loss, then I could make no other choice.
“He is here,” Spock put two fingers to his own temple. “His experiences and memories are all here. It is a gift beyond compare, but it is just that—a gift for me to use of my choosing. He is the spark of my soul, but the fire of life is mine.”
Kirk was speechless. If he had wanted more proof than that, that Spock was himself, he would not have know what to ask. He starred down at their cantilevered fingers. What a pair they were, like fire and ice. But even ice could burn. He moved his fingers to cover Spock’s hand. Spock turned his hand over and lifted Kirk’s to the side of his face, holding it there.
I am here.
Kirk shuddered at the voice inside his head. Spock was still looking at him, intently, holding his hand securely trapped between layers of alien heat. He was warm, so warm, Kirk thought. Everything about him, from his logical mind, to the aloof angle of his chin and the sharp cut of his jaw said that he would be cold and hard to the touch. What a contradiction that he should be the opposite.
“We are hot blooded, with passions that burn as fierce as any rising sun,” Spock answered Kirk’s thoughts softly. It takes great strength to endure our love. Can you accept the challenge?
Yes, Kirk answered without hesitation.
He was not aware of closing his eyes, but he must have as all of sickbay, the Enterprise, space itself, and even his body, seemed to fall away. He felt like he was being lifted, wrapped in blue on blue starlight and flown to heights immeasurable. His mind spiraled free of all physical constraints and a field of crystal blue stretched out before him into eternity, and he glided over it. He was himself, but more powerful, not alone in the deep sweeping curves he took over the landscape.
Here is where I keep you, deep inside myself, with space enough to be free forever.
Spock’s voice vibrated across the crystal fields and moved through Kirk like the shock wave of a distant supernova, all power and possession. He had never been owned. He had vowed long ago to never be the possession of another man’s soul; but here inside the vastness that was Spock’s unbreakable love for him, he felt that any other life than to belong here as the center and focus of the Vulcan’s mighty passions would be pale beyond comparison.
Then here is where I will stay, Kirk replied simply.
He could feel himself sinking then, slowly, gently falling back to his body. When he could feel his hand once again pressed between Spock’s hand and face, he opened his eyes. For just an instant he could feel the power of a racing heart beating inside himself in harmonic rhythm to his own; and he could see himself, or someone who looked like him but was all bright fire and golden perfection casting a warm glow across the rest of the world around him.
Me? Kirk asked in awe.
It is how I see you, Spock answered.
Slowly the world came back to them.
Kirk felt his hand released, but he could still feel the shadow of heat and the echo of the fast beating heart. He looked into Spock’s eyes and found them open wide to him, down to the depths of his heart and soul. There would be no more doors for them now. He covered Spock’s hand with his own.
“I have always loved you,” Kirk whispered.
Spock nodded slowly, the barest smile curving his mouth. “And I have always known.”