He sat, his back against the clearsteel, until Scotty told him it was safe to open the chamber. Told him patiently, gently, more than once, until he understood it. Then he got up, bracing himself against the cold, smooth surface, and they did open it, and he went in. Alone. No one else would touch Spock if he could help it.
"Tell me, Jim." Spock kept his voice low.
"I can't." Jim swallowed. "Never. Never have."
"Surely, at the time . . ."
"No. Not much. There was a doctor, a therapist . . . I don't know. I wasn't paying attention."
The hazel eyes were peat-moss color, pupils dilated, gazing beyond the ship or the present. Even the anger Jim had shown some hours earlier was gone, and Spock felt its absence with what might have been regret if he were given to such irrationalities.
It was important to ask in the right way. Unfortunately, Spock did not know how.
Jim's gaze slid, very slowly and aimlessly, until it rested on Spock. Recognized him.
If Jim were Vulcan, Spock would have asked for his thoughts, touched his mind. But if Jim were Vulcan, this situation would never have arisen.
"I shouted at you earlier," Jim said, his voice soft and remote. "I'm sorry. You were trying to help."
"I am now, Jim. I am trying to help you now." Since Jim's attention seemed caught, Spock dared a little more. "And I am also curious."
"Yes. You would be." Jim usually smiled when he said that. Spock missed the expression.
"How long," Spock asked after another silence, "have you been sitting . . . thinking about this?"
"How long?" Jim's eyes focussed suddenly. "Why? Has something happened?"
"No," said Spock, "but am I correct in assuming that since you left the bridge you have been here? In this chair?"
"Where else should I be? This is my cabin."
The mess hall, to eat dinner. Sickbay, to talk to McCoy, nearly as concerned as Spock was. Even to the morgue, where Karidian-who-was-Kodos lay. Spock did not verbalize this list.
"Jim," he said instead, "I am asking you to explain to me what happened, what has happened today and what happened in the past to cause it. I have only the research in the computer. You were there."
"I was there." At first it sounded like an echo, but Spock saw Jim swallow again and then he went on. "He chose people to watch. Like he chose people to die. I was there to represent my age group. Like Riley? I think? Or maybe he really wanted to see Kevin watch his parents die."
"Yes," said Spock, and realized that as a comment, it made no sense; in any case, Jim was not listening to more than the sound of a friendly voice, if that much.
"Do the computer files still say it was painless?" A real question. Jim was looking at Spock.
"Yes," Spock said, a real answer this time.
"No. It wasn't. Anyway, think, how could it be? Even if the means of death didn't hurt, what about waiting for it? What about watching it happen to the people before you? What about knowing somebody else would see when it happened to you? . . . There are no painless massacres."
This, of course, was true, and logic allowed no apology for what Spock had said to McCoy about painless death earlier in the day. Jim had not heard it, at least.
"Four thousand people take a long time to kill. Kodos had them organized in squads, and before each group of people died themselves, they had to clear away the bodies of the previous group. Stacked them. Then Kodos left them there. I don't know why. A phaser cannon, and they'd be gone, much less to explain to Captain Issacs when the Constitution arrived."
Jim had run down, Spock decided after a few seconds of silence, and prompted him, "And then?"
"Issacs made the rest of the colonists look. Filed them past in a long line. And made Kodos' soldiers move the bodies. Issacs said, because they didn't remember."
"Ah, yes," Spock said, catching the Earth history reference.
"I didn't. Remember. Either. I looked it up again later."
"You were young."
Jim shuddered, a quick, almost furtive movement of his whole body. Spock wondered whether to touch him, but did not.
"That's what people kept saying. 'You are so young.'" He shook his head. "But I felt . . . older than any of those dead people were ever going to be."
Another pause. Spock was opening his mouth to prompt again when Jim spoke.
"The way they moved the bodies."
"You were there still?" Spock asked it without thought, then as Jim did not immediately respond, reproached himself, but dared not speak again.
"I looked at the record tapes later. Talked to Issacs. He said if I needed to . . . I should . . . if the doctor was with me while I watched them."
Another pause so long that Spock said, "What about the way they moved the bodies?"
And it was the right thing to do, he thought, because Jim's eyes found his again and looked for a long time, as if Jim needed to know that Spock was there listening and understanding, and Spock looked back, not worried by this silence.
And Jim spoke directly to Spock, as he had not so far. "I don't know . . . which is worse. I mean when I've thought about it since I still don't know. Some of the soldiers just pulled on whatever part of a body was nearest, dragged it along like a sack of something, just a thing. Some of them picked them up by the wrists, pulled the arms over their shoulders, like a kind of piggyback . . . like I carried the little ones . . . some scooped them up in their arms like children carrying dolls. It was shocking every time. I don't know why. Do you? Spock?"
Spock didn't. It was obviously an emotional issue, and he wanted very much to say a helpful thing, but all he could do was NOT say that the difference was logically nonexistent, that the shock was not truly about the visual input, or any similar statement. Jim's pain existed. Spock wanted to acknowledge it even if he could not alleviate it. But he did not know how.
And Jim, strangely, laughed a little and leaned forward and touched Spock just briefly, on the arm, and said, "Of course you don't," in a voice Spock had heard before. A voice Jim used to reassure Spock.
And it did, not only because it meant that Jim was essentially back in the present, but because Spock knew that if he said a less than helpful thing, Jim would know it was inadvertently so. "Jim, they were already dead," he said then. "They could not know how they were moved."
"You know, it seemed like they did. The tendons shrink, I don't know if you've seen it, and that makes the elbows and wrists bend, and the mouths open. Afterwards I looked it up and found out what I had been seeing, but still . . . They look like they're reaching up. Like they're screaming. Yes. I know. Illogical."
Spock said nothing. Jim smiled, his mouth barely stretching but his eyes finally lifted, focussed, lighter.
"Tell me it's illogical."
"It is," Spock said, not a judgment.
Jim looked down at the desk and his lips curved farther. After a few seconds he took a deep breath and looked up at Spock again. And of course Jim had not forgotten, and would not forget, but Spock knew that the paralysis of will was gone now.
"OK," said his captain and closest friend, "let's get dinner and then I'll let McCoy know I haven't lost it."
He crouched down beside the corpse, shifted his feet slightly until he was well braced, and then slid one arm around Spock's back and the other under his knees. The flesh was still warmer than his own but inflamed and soft in a way Spock's living body had never been. Jim took a fetid breath and knew it would not get easier and stood with a heaving motion that made him stagger backward, where McCoy, who had followed him in against orders, steadied him, and they stood for a little while as Jim got his physical balance, feeling as if the deck was moving downward like an elevator at enormous speed. Spock was very heavy, and smelled bad. The limp head had rolled onto Jim's shoulder, into his neck, and the skin clung to Jim's, and Jim felt nauseated but stood firm, getting ready to walk.
Jim had not had to think about how to carry him. There was no other choice than this one.
They had brought a gurney up to the door but Jim kept moving, walked past it, and McCoy gestured and everyone fell back to make room, eyes wide. Jim thought he probably should say something to them but did not. Walking was hard enough. He really wasn't strong enough for this but meant to do it anyway. Spock had made his body obey him, and Jim could do the same.
Still, after all his resolutions, after the victory of each step, he stumbled as he moved through the Engineering door. It felt almost like a ledge though there was none, and he went a step or two in an uncontrolled and grotesque kind of dance, and both Scotty and McCoy caught him, caught them, held them up while the gurney moved past, and McCoy was talking, saying words Jim couldn't make out but knew from the tone were about letting go. Put him down.
"Jim, put him down, lay him on the gurney."
Jim did. He felt the dead skin sticking and then parting from his own. The impact with the gurney pillow made the head bounce a little and the eyelids moved, one opening all the way and the other about half, and the eyes below were dark globes, all green with blood. Death stared Jim Kirk down and he could not meet the gaze that was no longer Spock's. He picked up each arm and arranged them, straightened the legs, and then stood back while the medics strapped Spock down as if he might hurt himself or struggle. McCoy's hands were on Jim's shoulders again, gripping hard, and the gurney moved but Bones held him still.
"They'll take him to - Sickbay," Bones told him.
Jim knew where they were really going.
"Come on, Jim, we have to get you cleaned up and checked for radiation yourself. Come on, Admiral, move."
And he did. Away. After two steps Bones let go. They walked together. They didn't speak. For the time being Jim felt he would not be able to find words again, though he knew it was not so, that in fact he needed to think about a funeral service, another one. Peter Preston's body was coming back to Earth with them, but Jim knew he could not take Spock to the alien soil of Earth, or even to Vulcan, which had never been Spock's true home. Here. They'd leave him here. He would say the last words he could say to Spock and let him go as he had put him on the gurney and that was all he could do.
It was illogical to wish for more, but there was nobody to say so.
Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
Many thanks to Islaofhope, Rabble Rouser and T'Aaneli, who betaread.
The Jewish prayer of Kaddish is traditionally said for eleven months after a death and on its anniversary thereafter, by designated mourners. Kaddish translation is from http://www.ou.org/news/article/kaddish