.oO Prologue: Licht und Sonnenschein Oo.
The water did not look as sapphire blue as it did on the beach surrounding the Hawaiian island. Rushing down in a little waterfall from a precipice 16 feet above his head, it plunged straight into the cool, calm darkness of the pool he had found in the middle of the rich, green vegetation.
James T. Kirk was sitting on the steep edge and let his feet dip in the cold liquid. The rushing of the waterfall to his left drowned out the exotic squawks of the colourful birds and filled his head until he got dizzy. It was a nice feeling. Kirk was no man prone to silences and he could think best, when there was noise around. It helped him and his sometimes painful intelligence to focus on what was important.
Right now he used this formidable intelligence, though, to try and fathom how deep this secret oasis was and if there was any chance he could take a dip and explore it, before Spock came back and scolded him for taking a swim – alone – in foreign waters. Kirk leaned backwards and braced himself on the dry ground. He let his hazel eyes roam over the juicy scenery around him. It was like being surrounded by a jungle; wild and untamed. One would not think, that there was a little village near them – not even thirty minutes by foot.
Hawaii was a truly awe inspiring sight. Even the fast way of life from all around the world had not managed to dispel the charm of this little paradise and Kirk had been only too happy to agree with Spock’s shy demand to go here and visit Lieutenant Uhura’s birthplace, since Starfleet hasn’t given them any orders after they had brought Prince Krohk and Princess Klena to their conference on Triton II. Since the planet had been near the earth’s solar system, the Enterprise had utilized the proximity and the lack of orders, to conduct a shore leave on their home planet and stock up on everything they needed.
Kirk still was not entirely sure why exactly Spock had suggested to take their leave on these islands, but from what he had understood, the Vulcan and the Communication’s Officer had invited each other to their homes... He had no idea, how that had come about, but oh well.
The human let his gaze wander into the sky. The sunlight was bright and blinding and he could not stand to look too long into the bright blue above. He was searching the vast expanse – quite illogically, he had to concede – for the Enterprise. The ship was way too far up in order to be seen, but they had been down on earth for three days now and he... he missed her.
Kirk needed the push and pull of his stressful, demanding position and when shore leave rolled around, he only managed to enjoy it for a couple of hours before restlessness started to settle in.
He would have thought it this time different, because of the fact that he was staying with Spock, but unfortunately they had slightly adverse opinions as to what would entail a fun shore leave.
When the Vulcan had said Hawaii, Kirk had nearly instantaneously thought of vast beaches, luxurious hotels and colourful drinks; and while all of that was indeed here, Spock had thought more of... exploring the island and its inhabitants with Lieutenant Uhura, who was only too thrilled to showcase the beauty of her home to someone else.
So that had left the Captain of the Enterprise the past two days rather lonely, scouring the area and looking for something to take his interest for more than a few hours. Spock had only come back late in the evening to the little house they were sharing with Uhura and her parents and he had been too exhausted from his long trips to really converse with his mate or do... other things.
Kirk felt his cheeks suffuse with a slight red tint and ground his teeth together.
‘Not that we would have done anything! The walls are way too thin!’ he thought in irritation. He would have loved to have his Vulcan all alone and start deepening their relationship, but... alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Since the more than memorable evening, where Spock had made a huge leap of faith and made love to his mate, there hadn’t been much development in this regard anymore... and that was over one month in the past now! Kirk was starting to get antsy again – like in the long month of their journey from Tchikon 5 to Triton II, where Spock had simply not managed to come over this magical threshold that seemed to hold him back every time their light petting started to become more invested.
He could understand Spock... to some degree. The gentle alien still was very much struggling with his vicious rape by the Andorians; but the fact that he had managed to overcome his crippling fear at least once had made Kirk think they would leave all those troubles behind...
‘Apparently not,’ the Captain thought idly and looked down into the darkness of the pool. He kicked a little more viciously with his feet and watched the white foam adding to the rushing of the little waterfall.
‘There has to be a cave down there somewhere... otherwise the pool would overflow,’ he thought idly, the thick muscles of his thighs twitching in his need to jump in and explore.
However, he had promised Spock to wait right here and he would not budge one bit. James T. Kirk was a man of his word. He had been pleasantly surprised, when his lover had woken him with a cool glass of water that morning and asked him, if he wanted to spent the day together.
“Well, duh, Spock. Of course, I’d like to! This is our shore leave, after all,” he had answered and had felt slightly smug, when the Vulcan’s dark eyes had shifted away in obvious embarrassment. So they had walked side by side in leisurely fashion towards this little oasis, until the call of some bird had distracted the Vulcan so entirely that Kirk had shooed him away to investigate.
‘He’s like a cat, sometimes,’ the Captain thought and was just in the process of deciding to shuck his Bermuda shorts and slide into the cool water, when the deep, velvet baritone of Spock caught him by surprise, due to the man speaking directly into his ear.
“Would you like to resume our walk, Jim?”
The human shuddered as the hot breath of his mate tickled his ear and he could feel his nipples tighten in response to the goosebumps rushing along his arms. He was still – even after two months of finally admitting him being attracted to another man – in awe that his body could react in such a profound way to something simple as breath on his ear and a deep – oh so deep – voice speaking to him. He suddenly felt vulnerable, his body on open display due to him only wearing shorts and he snatched quickly his airy shirt from next to him.
While he struggled to his feet and shrugged hastily into his garments, he said with a little too much enthusiasm, “Of course, Spock!”
Kirk looked at the other man. Spock’s facial expression was as grave as always, the long, face with the strong jaw and slightly too long nose looking hard and unyielding – except for those soft, chocolate eyes, that were looking upon Jim with a mix of amusement and uncertainty.
Spock wore simple, light linen trousers and a similar shirt. It made him look somehow even more exotic than the regulation clothes issued from Starfleet. Or maybe Kirk simply thought so, because he knew Spock almost exclusively in those garments.
The defined lines of the long, slender body were almost hidden in the wide clothes and Kirk only knew from experience that it was just as angular and hard as the face of the man. Quite the opposite from Kirk’s own frame – shorter and softer due to thick muscles rounding the edges and making him look less forbidding than this creature.
He was slightly startled out of his reverie by Spock holding up his right hand. It was shivering ever so slightly. Mint green, long scars were to be seen on the back of the hand – a visible reminder of what Spock had been going through four months ago. The long, slender pointer and middle finger were extended, while the alien reluctantly asked, “I hope you are not... put out by my exploration with Lieutenant Uhura these past days. I thought I detected some... resentment in you.”
Kirk looked from the extended fingers towards the Vulcan and saw all those shifting emotions in the soft, chocolate eyes. His pale pink lips stretched into a kirkian grin and he let his own two fingers slip against the offered ones, while saying, “No, Mr. Spock. I’ve been content.”
And suddenly, he really had been.
It was strange, really. Kirk had thought about it, since they had left Vulcan and since Spock had told him of this mysterious bond, that was supposed to connect them. T’hy’la. What a silly, little word.
Spock had not been able to explain the concept in a way that would make sense to a psi-null human, but it had been apparent by the excitement shining in the gentle eyes, that it was something very special indeed. They had not had time to delve deeper into the whole concept and somehow it made Kirk nervous – both in a good and a bad way. Spock seemed a little more at ease, more prone to gingerly touch him with fingertips upon his bare skin, when they were alone.
At the same time the human had the feel of getting into something that was way bigger than him. It seemed daunting and inexplicably ‘too much’ for him. From what he had understood, this bond was something very intimate. Something connecting the two men on an ethereal plane to one another – connecting their souls.
And how could James T. Kirk, formidable Starship Captain and secret monster, allow Spock into his head – into those deep, shadowed places of his past?
It was true... Spock looked forbidding and stony and cold, but Kirk knew from experience, that that was not at all what the half-Vulcan was. Spock was the most compassionate, fiercely intelligent and gentle being the human had ever encountered.
He himself, on the other hand... he looked bright and warm and easy going... but he was not. Not really.
He could not allow his own vileness to put marks upon the innocent light that was this creature.
Kirk flat out refused to even consider the idea of him simply being afraid to commit his whole being into a relationship – and maybe get refused.
“We’ve been walking for a while now, Spock.”
“Exactly 4.4 hours, Captain.” There was amusement in the inflectionless voice, Kirk was certain of it. He turned his head towards the man walking easily at his side through the thick vegetation around them and eyed the big linen bag slung over Spock’s back.
“You need help with that? I could carry it, Spock,” he ventured. Spock turned his head slowly and looked upon the human at his side, shaking his head in slow deliberation.
“There is no need. I do not feel fatigued. It will only be a little while longer, Jim.”
The man was intrigued. A light sheen of sweat was making his face glisten, but he was in good shape and he enjoyed the company of his lover, so the long walk had been no hardship, but... he would like a rest, nonetheless.
“Where exactly are we going, Spock?” he inquired. The hand of the alien brushed against his own as if by accident and Spock inclined the dark cap of his hair.
“It’s a surprise.”
The trees and shrubbery very abruptly gave way to a warm beach and when Kirk and Spock stepped out onto the fine sand, the sun was directly in front of them; her light was in the process of turning orange and it made the vast expanse of oceanic water glisten enticingly. The Captain’s light brown eyebrows drew up in astonishment, while looking up and down the long, white beach. They were not alone – hundreds of people were gathered around, standing in little groups together; it was eerily silent.
“What is happening?” Kirk whispered, not daring to break the spell of the strange atmosphere permeating the air. Spock was not answering. The human could feel his companion move at his side, but was preoccupied with watching the people around them. They were wrapped in the colourful garments that were so inherent of the peaceful islands; however, Kirk could see that the humans around him were an eclectic mass of not only the residents, but also quite a lot tourists.
They had mixed in the groups, standing side by side and watching the sun slowly sink further towards the water, seemingly being swallowed by the vast body of liquid.
There were also children – some running around, but most just standing there, looking awed and kind of timid in face of the strange mood. The Captain could not determine, if the people around were happy or sad. Looking in their faces, contorting every once in a while into strange grimaces, he had the feeling that they themselves did not know.
The humans had very little with them – mostly only the clothes on their bodies and... Kirk blinked a few times. They had strange little contraptions with them.
He glanced surreptitiously towards a couple in there proximity; they, too, had one of those strange gadgets. It was very simple – a smooth plate of wood on which a paper square was sitting. It was opened at the top and Kirk thought that it probably was a lantern. There were symbols and writing on the flimsy paper, that was rustling ever so soft in the slight breeze surrounding them.
“Spock...?” he whispered again and turned towards the Vulcan, only to be presented with the same little boat-shaped item. It looked even more exotic in the long hands of Spock, due to their alien verdant hue.
Kirk looked down at their feet – he could see the empty linen sack lying between them. Spock obviously had produced the lantern out of it.
The human raised his hazel eyes again and looked directly into the soft, brown depths of his mate. The corners of Spock’s mouth tilted minutely upwards, but were straightened again quickly. He inclined his head and raised his hands with the boat a little further towards Kirk in a clear offering gesture. Overwhelmed, the Captain accepted the ... gift?... and looked at it. The flimsy paper was stretched in an arch above the wooden plate – a tube that had been cut in half. On its surface were intricate patterns that the human had never seen before. They were woven into one another and looked exotic and beautiful.
While he slowly turned the little boat around in his hands, looking in awe at it, Spock stepped closer and started explaining in a low voice, only designed for his human’s ears, “Today is the Taa yaliyo sherehe. The lantern floating ceremony. Lieutenant Uhura has spoken of it in the past two days and I thought it’d be perfect for us to celebrate. It is a long standing tradition of these islands, designed to remember, reflect and offer gratitude to those, who have gone before us. It brings people together – as you can see. We are in our joy, as well as in our sadness... one.”
Kirk stared upon the boat. His throat felt strangely tight suddenly and he cleared his throat with masculine brusqueness. He was happy that Spock was standing behind him and could not see the moistness in his eyes – although he had the niggling feeling, that the alien knew of it already.
“They are Vulcan writings.”
“You have designed this?” Kirk whispered. He could feel the heat radiating from the lean body at his back, although Spock was not touching him. He virtually never did in public – hell, he seldom did, when they were alone.
“Yes. It has been one of the reasons we haven’t seen each other often,” Spock answered. They were silently looking upon the boat in Kirk’s hands, until the Vulcan spoke up again, “Would you like to celebrate it with me, Jim?”
The Captain was silent for so long, that the people around them started, as if reacting to a silent signal, moving towards the water as one. He nodded slowly, feeling like he was in a dream.
Spock solemnly handed him a thick, black pencil.
After Jim had written something onto the crackling paper, they had made their way towards the water. Already hundreds of lanterns had been sent out – they were lit with little candles and glowing like huge fireflies in the thick, warm evening air. Spock felt the waves of sadness and awe radiate from his companion. He had felt them the second he had explained to Jim the purpose of this ceremony.
The Vulcan wondered – not for the first time – what was pressing the ever cheerful man down; what dark secrets were lying hidden in his depths.
When they kneeled down into the moist sand of the beach and gingerly placed their own boat amidst the other ones – each holding the wooden plate in one hand, he could see the words Jim had scrawled onto the creamy paper.
They righted themselves and stepped back, looking out onto the ocean and watching their own offering to the departed gently hobble away over the little waves. Around them people were staring as well, turning towards each other, drawing strangers into their arms and hugging them fiercely.
The two men just stood next to each other, not moving for the longest time.
Spock closed his eyes slowly, when a broad, calloused hand slipped into his own long, slender one and started gripping at it like it was his lifeline. Normally he would not have indulged in such a blatant display of emotion amidst so many people, but the emotions lapping at his mental shields, radiating from the strong man at his side, made him curl his own long fingers around the tanned skin in his grasp.
He held on and spent comfort as much as he was able to and thought for the first time in his life about repeating the phrase, Jim had said only once to him – 1.4 months ago, after he had given himself over to his Captain.
‘I love you.’
He didn’t say it, though. A calloused thumb rubbed over the back of his hand; once, slowly, firmly.
Kirk knew already.