Rocks fall; Kirk dies.
At some point, Spock reflects that he has never been more Vulcan – ruthlessly efficient in ordering McCoy to beam down with additional security, then taking charge of moving the boulders to find Kirk’s body, putting himself to the task of assisting, answering questions, assessing and reassessing – he has effectively shut down all emotion and it is unnatural to him, like he’s been halved.
Shock. There is a difference between the emotion “shock” and the physiological condition colloquially referred to as going into shock, in which circulation halts or slows to one section of the body, thereby depriving it of the nutrients it requires to function.
Is there a difference, now? Spock glances around as the security officers work, as McCoy approaches him, and he can’t – emotion isn’t reaching his brain. It’s all rushed out and pooled elsewhere, and all that’s left are automatic processes. If he needed to run advanced functions at this very moment, make ethical decisions, comfort a crew member because their captain was crushed by a landslide and they are standing on him right now, he would be completely incapable of it.
"How the hell did this happen?" McCoy asks as he climbs onto the rocks, keeping a safe distance from where Spock directs the excavation process.
"He laughed at something as I warned him," Spock says. He avoids McCoy's eyes as he calibrates and re-estimates where Kirk was standing when the landslide began. "I was not quick enough."
He bends down and begins lifting rocks again, and time passes. Something is wrong with his internal clock. He is dimly aware that they must find Kirk soon or he will die, and that they must find Kirk soon and avoid another landslide, and that they must find Kirk soon and begin notifying the entire galaxy that James T. Kirk is dead. They are simultaneously all possible and have all happened already. Did he read that in a story once?
"Spock, are you even listening?" McCoy asks.
"No, doctor," he replies automatically.
"I said, there's no life readings under the rocks," McCoy says.
"Then perhaps –"
"I'm seeing a Vulcan-Terran hybrid," McCoy says, "And the readings of each of these fine young officers are coming through nice and clear. But there's no lifesign for a 28-year-old North American Terran male with cornflower blue eyes, and believe me – I know what that lifesign looks like."
"If you would continue searching, doctor, and I will continue digging, we will eventually come to a conclusion," Spock replies. “And our tricorders are not so specific as to say cornflower blue.”
McCoy ignores him.
"I'm not getting a reading," McCoy says from next to Spock. More time has passed, but Spock can’t measure how much. A security officer has found a boot under a rock.
"Thank you, doctor," Spock says as he helps lift rocks and slowly uncover Kirk.
Spock finally sees Jim's face below his feet, his face turned to the side, eyes closed, no protruding bones, some light scratches on his face.
"Broken neck," McCoy says. Spock blinks and looks again at Kirk, wonders that he didn't notice the impossible angle from the first, the jagged rock where his neck landed.
"Stop that," McCoy growls as the security team hoists Kirk out.
"Doctor?" Spock asks, because he hasn’t spoken recently, has he?
"Nothing we could do," McCoy says. "If we'd gotten to him in five, maybe even ten minutes because it's Jim, maybe we could've, but more than an hour? There – we couldn't, Spock, so just stop it."
Spock informs the senior officers.
He steps inside the ready room and they quiet down.
"Good, you're all right," Sulu says. "Uhura was getting worried when there was that external interference on the captain's channel."
"It wasn't just interference," Uhura says with a roll of her eyes. "He must have dropped it down a – well, you can tell us," she finishes with a look to Spock.
McCoy and Scotty enter and take their place opposite Spock, against the back wall. McCoy's glare drills into Spock and Spock stares back blankly until McCoy looks away. He looks away, too, and settles for a distant point near the other end of the table – higher than the floor, lower than anyone's eyes.
"Mr. Spock?" Chekov asks. "Where is the captain?"
"Jeez, I told you," Sulu replies. "Only on an uninhabited continent could he get hurt." There are some laughs, but not enough – Sulu looks to Scotty, who is always the first to laugh uproariously, but Scotty was in the transporter room. Scotty knows.
Spock watches Sulu process the tension.
"Another six-foot-tall lizard try and take him out?" Sulu asks before looking from Scotty to Spock.
"There was a landslide," Spock begins, his hands clasped firmly behind his back. "The captain did not move quickly enough and became trapped under the debris. We found him, and Dr. McCoy diagnosed a severed spinal cord."
"Which is still something we can barely fix," the doctor interrupts. "If we'd gotten to him in time, maybe we could have gotten a chance, but there were just too damn many boulders, and –"
"It was imperative to avoid further compromising the already unstable structure the boulders had formed," Spock finishes, except – he's not finished. "With the result that Captain Kirk has died."
"Oh fuck I'm horrible," Sulu says quickly. "I'm so sorry."
"I can't believe it," Uhura says with her hands over her mouth. "I can't –"
They're too still (even Gaila has stopped looking around and moving, has simply bowed her head, palms flat on the table), too busy processing it silently, and Spock – this is too quiet.
"I will make an announcement to the crew," Spock says. "Once I have scheduled the memorial service."
If that's all, they'll have to leave the room and continue what they were doing – begin the process of moving on. Spock can't, in good conscience, stand there without purpose, not when he's clearly outlined his plan. He asks,
"Does anyone have any questions or comments?"
"Goddammit, Jim," McCoy swears. He stalks out of the room, but no one moves to follow.
Spock waits some amount of time before he says, "If you will excuse me."
"Yes, Captain," Chekov says. Spock stops. He knows that it's a test, testing out how Captain Spock sounds to all of them.
Not as natural as Captain Kirk, but that is to be expected.
He announces the death of Captain Kirk to the rest of the crew, and that there will be a memorial service tomorrow at the beginning of Gamma shift.
The ship continues to function.
He informs Starfleet.
They inform him he should have told them first, and would their communications officer submit a press release and thorough, updated biography to Starfleet Command at once?
He manages to reach Winona Kirk on his first attempt.
"Well hey there, tall, dark, and Vulcan," she purrs over the connection. "You dragged me out of my afternoon tea and bitchfest with the warp coil. Something wrong, or you finally making Jim a Vulcan princess?"
"I beg your pardon?" Spock asks, because this is only the fourth time in his life he's ever spoken to Winona Kirk, and the first time without either or both of her sons present. "Commander Kirk…"
"You look more uptight than usual," she interrupts. Spock notes her sudden interest – she genuinely has no idea –
And then she gets the idea.
"What's wrong?" she asks slowly.
"Your son died in a landslide earlier today," Spock replies without hesitation. "Dr. McCoy tells me he died instantly due to his broken neck. Where would you like his body shipped?"
"Ask Sam," she replies, her easy smile gone. "Thanks, Spock. You doing all right?"
"All right" – "fine" – what are these vague terms and why is it so important he be either of them?
Did he take too long to answer? Winona suddenly leans forward and extends a hand off screen.
"Thanks again, Spock. I'm sorry for your loss."
His side of the feed goes dead – is terminated – shows static – and he stares at the static before opening the channel again to contact Sam Kirk.
He will send out a shuttle with Kirk's body to Earth Colony II when they are near the Alpha Quadrant again.
"I am told it will be about three weeks," Spock says.
"…about? Like… an estimate?" Sam asks. "Are you…"
"Thank you, Dr. Kirk, and I am sorry for your loss."
He calls Admiral Pike.
"A landslide?" Pike asks. "Like… rocks? Just falling?"
"He laughed," Spock says. "And that disturbed the precarious balance of the rocks above. We –"
"Spock, are you seriously telling me Jim Kirk laughed himself to death?" Pike leans on his hand in a move to shield his eyes from Spock and laugh. "Hell, Jim. Fuck." He inhales deeply and looks at Spock again, the rims of his eyes bright red now. "Thanks for letting me know."
"You were very invested in him. I thought it fitting."
Pike stares at him and asks, "But are you all right? I can read through that Vulcan calm pretty well, you know. Feel I should ask."
"Please explain the nuances I am missing in the phrase 'all right'," Spock says, and he just barely stops himself from saying because my two primary sources on the subject, who I would consult in this matter, are now dead. If he were Jim – he could hear the sarcastic inflection that would follow, too bold for himself, he thinks: thanks, MOM, thanks JIM, for NOTHING.
"It's a tricky phrase," Pike begins. "Depends on its context. Sometimes people are just being polite and don't want you to answer truthfully – usually, you say 'I'm fine', and they won't press."
FINE, again – who designed this language?
"And sometimes people – like me, right now, speaking to you when your captain has died, a man who I think you were pretty close to, Spock, closer to than anyone – they really mean it, and you answer after some serious consideration of your emotional state."
That is like a blow to the solar plexus. Spock stares for a minute, feels nothing (feels the void of something and negative something is not 'nothing', scientists discovered that centuries ago – feels somewhere inside himself "dark matter" as they called it, taking up space and weighing him down with its extra density but still nearly immeasurable by his faulty, limited instrumentation), and he replies to Pike, "I'm fine," before leaning in as Winona Kirk did and shutting off the viewscreen.
Spock sits at the desk in his quarters and stares at a wall.
That white noise, that negative space that is there and heavy but unquantifiable, takes over and he can't move from his seat. He stares at the blankness of the wall and, after a while, becomes aware of what he's doing.
Staring at the wall.
He is vaguely aware that it's time for an evening meal, which in itself is odd – if Jim were here – this is about the time Spock would seek him out and go to the mess for dinner with the other officers, or take their food to a smaller rec room and play chess and eat and talk, and Spock knows, somewhere in his body, that he's hungry and he should go eat.
That hunger spoils in the pit of his stomach when he thinks about sitting in the mess, alone; sitting in the smaller rec room at their usual table, alone; or worse, sitting in the mess with their crew, attempting to – to deal.
Deal with it, Spock, was the mantra of their first year on the ship. Accept the unacceptable and move on to things that one could actually have an effect on.
He allows himself a deep breath and rises from his desk to find dinner and people.
He would have had Delta shift on the bridge that night, but passes it on to Scotty. Spock will take Alpha shift, his first as captain for the remainder of their mission.
He will meditate – he even slips into the meditation robe he never has time to use, centers his mat in the middle of his quarters, sits on the floor, and tries, tries so hard to –
What are you trying to accomplish? he asks himself.
What about Mother?
Then, I dealt with her loss – she was no longer there. Vulcan was no longer there. Vulcans were nearly wiped from the galaxy. I had no one – I dealt with loss.
And the words come out of his dry mouth, his throat choked with the realization:
"And here I never had," he says to no one, to himself. "He was never mine. I was never his. We were everything to each other and yet –"
He dimly realizes he has gone from cross-legged to kneeling, bending over, curling forward, hands palm-down on the floor, rubbing his eyes against his knuckles, his breathing labored, chest tight, and how stupidly, horribly illogical of him, to mourn something he simultaneously had too much and not enough of.
His first act as captain during Alpha shift:
"Mr. Scott, as Second Officer of the Enterprise, I now –"
"Actually," Scotty begins. "Could I – would it be very bad if I stayed second?"
"Mr. Scott, you are aware of the hierarchy –"
"Mr. Spock," Scotty replies, "I would make a terrible First."
"Very well," Spock says. "I –"
"How about Mr. Sulu, sir?" Scotty asks.
"I second it," Uhura chimes in.
"All in favor?" Chekov asks the bridge crew.
"Excuse me," Spock interrupts. "This is not an Academy student council election and this starship is not a democracy – I will accept your input, but I will make the final decision. Are we clear on that?"
It was something Kirk never had to say.
"Mr. Scott," Spock begins again, "I will agree with your self-evaluation and that your talents would better serve the Enterprise if your primary responsibility was to Engineering."
Everyone finally looks to Sulu, who looks – not surprised.
"Mr. Sulu, I am naming you First Officer," Spock says.
"Okay," Sulu replies. "Do I have to get you coffee?"
Spock narrows his eyes slightly and Sulu gives a grimace that, perhaps, could be called a smile.
"Take us out of orbit, Mr. Sulu," Spock says.
He arrives in the larger rec room for the memorial service five minutes before Gamma shift.
“Mr. Sulu,” he calls out when he arrives, because hundreds of crewmembers are there already.
“Nice of you to join us!” Sulu calls out as he weaves through the crowd.
Spock motions silently to the room’s decorations. “I am not the expert on Terran mourning practices, but – I was not aware that balloons are an integral part of the process.”
Spock suddenly notices the banner high above the crowd: JAMES T. KIRK MEMORIAL LUAU.
Spock says, “Explain this.”
“It’s something he made us promise him a lot,” Sulu says as Uhura, Chekov, Gaila, and Scotty sidle up to him. “Like, every time we were out drinking together.”
“I thought he was joking,” Spock begins.
“Could have been,” Scotty says. “But this is more – in the spirit of the captain’s memory, don’t you think? More than a dirge and tears –”
“And Scotty said he can’t play ‘Amazing Grace’ on the bagpipes –” Uhura begins.
“Nor do I own any bagpipes, you stereotyping – wonderful, intelligent, beautiful woman,” Scotty says when Uhura glares at him.
“– So the luau seemed like the least objectionable alternative,” Uhura adds.
Spock looks at her the longest because she jokes with him the least, and then nods.
“All right,” Sulu says, and wanders off to – of course, to find a table to stand on and whistle for the room’s attention, because their modern technology allows for nothing else and the pineapple his First Officer drinks out of is rather large. “HEY. Now that we’re all here – celebratory dance party!”
Spock stands in the doorway as the music begins and, after only a slight, general hesitation, the dancing – he – it’s gratifying, he supposes, all this joy for Kirk, though he wonders if he should be concerned at the first song being something entitled “Womanizer”.
McCoy approaches him and then walks past him out of the rec room.
“Doctor,” Spock calls down the hall because – the doctor is human – he could enjoy – shouldn’t he enjoy –?
“Night, Spock,” McCoy calls out without looking back. Spock watches him walk away with his hunched shoulders, his bowed head, his hands passing through his hair, and finally disappear into the turbolift at the end of the hall.
Spock lies in his bed, turned on one side, arm folded under one pillow, and he can feel the impossible – Jim watching him from somewhere, evaluating him, and thinking: yeah, I don't know what to do with you.
That critical Jim in the back of Spock's mind is nothing like – like the last time they were together, there in the small rec room.
Spock was about to win a game of chess and Jim was losing horribly. For all that Jim played his 'I don't believe in a no-win scenario' horn loudly for all to hear, he had no problem losing to Spock at chess.
That last night, Spock had moved his queen and Jim leaned on his hand, upper body splayed across the table, fingers of one hand digging into his hair and supporting his head while the other tapped impatiently on the edge of the table.
"Dammit, Spock," Jim laughed. "You've got me in two moves."
"Yes, it’s unavoidable," Spock replied.
"Don't have enough pieces for an effective, illogical sweep that'd mess up your whole game."
Two moves later, Jim's king was toppled and they sat at their table in the rec room.
Spock was thinking, reviewing everything that he still needed to do before retiring for the night, everything that had to be done tomorrow, what they needed to discuss and act on with regard to their latest mission –
And then Spock saw Jim, still leaning on his hand and watching him intently, an expression on his face warm enough to –
He could make a metaphor, compare it to Vulcan-that-was, but that wouldn't do. It was warmth he saw, not searing heat – comfort, adoration, amusement – and, yes, that sly crinkle that Spock often saw in Jim's expression, the one that left no doubt in his mind that Jim was imagining what Spock's mouth would feel and taste like if he could just lazily explore it with his own – the one he had denied for so long because – it didn’t fit into the paradigm he had developed of Jim Kirk, that he could possibly – could want Spock?
It was enough to push Spock to the illogical, and stop his planning for the next day, his brain function instead devoted to wondering how long they could safely remain in that room alone, relishing the tension and the power of possibility between them. Spock, who had been given his first PADD at the age of three and his first lesson on a supercomputer at the age of four, who had been inside the engines of starships, had studied extensively what made them go and how – but he had never felt such probability and possibility before that moment.
That he could be so much in the presence of a man – of anyone.
And that pushed Spock to sit up straighter in his chair, then lean forward, his eyes locked on Jim's, and cover that other, outstretched hand with his own, have his thumb slide along and then underneath it, clutch Jim's hand, eyes unwavering.
Neither of them flinched and Spock, lowering his shields just slightly, expected to have all of Jim Kirk swung into his face and knock him into a stupor he would never recover from again, kill his mind and everything he was with the force of all of him seeping through and build it up again as –
It was just warmth, affection, and wanting that waited for him in the connection formed between their hands. Jim's unwavering eyes, a little more amused when Spock felt and shared the shock of being so – so wanted – so constant. That Jim could remain like this for him – with him – burning steadily like a matter/anti-matter reaction, when nothing else about him was steady.
Spock breathes shallowly in the darkness of his room, staring again at the wall across from his bed, feeling acutely that what he had that once, so briefly, he would never have again.
It’s another hour before he gives up on sleep and walks down the hall to the doctor’s quarters.
“Yeah?” McCoy asks when the door slides open finally.
“I was about to check sickbay,” Spock says.
“Well, lucky you didn’t,” McCoy replies. “Since I’m here.”
Another pause, and then: “Come on in.”
Spock enters and stands in the middle of the doctor’s quarters, which are bare and – so very unlike McCoy, as he expected. When he thinks of McCoy, he thinks of sickbay, of him and Jim laughing and, inevitably, of alcohol.
“Can I offer you a drink?” McCoy asks.
“If you are having one,” Spock replies.
Unsurprisingly, that had been Jim’s first lesson in getting Spock acclimatized to working and living with so many humans – don’t let humans drink alcohol alone. Point blank: don’t let humans be alone for too long.
“I’m not, actually,” McCoy says. “But thanks for your... cultural sensitivity, even if it reeks of Jim all over.”
McCoy stands by the room’s synthesizer and Spock by the desk that comes standard in every room on board. He –
Yes, he finally understands humans, he thinks – he wants to ask that question and gauge how, in fact, McCoy is doing. How he is coping, is he “dealing” – has he handled this the same way Spock has?
“Come on, ask it, everyone else has,” McCoy says as he pinches the bridge of his nose. “I know you want to.”
“Several people have asked me as well,” Spock replies. “I did not handle the question well. I did not understand it until Admiral Pike explained it.”
“Jesus,” McCoy laughs dryly. “What about after Vulcan? After your mother? I thought you’d get that every minute of every hour of every day after that.”
Spock thinks back to that time and replies, “No, not quite so often.” Spock considers it and adds, “Humans are strange in that way – you find it easier to understand the death of one than the death of a million – or six billion.”
“You can’t blame us for that,” McCoy replies.
“Why should anyone be blamed?” Spock asks. He relaxes slightly and takes a few steps around the room, feeling the tension in his shoulders loosen, though McCoy still stands by the synthesizer, like an animal backed into a corner. “It would be like asking a human to calculate the time to down the picosecond without using of external instruments – unreasonable, considering their lack of training.”
“What do you want, Spock?” McCoy sighs.
Spock looks at him carefully and asks, softly, “How are you, doctor?”
McCoy laughs and finally steps away from the wall. He crosses his arms over his chest and smiles, which isn’t confusing or unexpected – he had seen Kirk react similarly to painful developments.
“I miss my best friend, Spock,” McCoy says. Spock is no doctor, but he can note the physiological changes in McCoy’s expression: his throat moves as he swallows, his eyes become shinier, he shakes his head and hair falls into his face, his hands tighten so as to grip his sides and (literally-emotionally?) hold himself together. “It’s only been a day – day and a half – but I miss him and I can’t do anything about it.”
“I was given to understand there were elaborate rituals –”
“Did your rituals help you?” McCoy snaps. "Your ritual is logic, and did that help with your mother?”
“It did not,” Spock admits as he holds McCoy’s eyes steadily.
“Didn’t help with my dad, either,” McCoy says, looking away. “Didn’t help when my loving, beautiful wife died and some bitchfaced harpy took her place and ruined my life. Nothing helps – we just need time to get over it.”
“Deal with it,” Spock says.
“Yeah,” McCoy says with another short laugh. “Thanks, Jim, for that.”
They remain quiet until McCoy inhales deeply and exhales even louder.
“Thanks, Spock,” McCoy says. “I think we drink now. No libations to the carpet, though. What can I get you?”
“Whatever you choose to have,” Spock replies. “And tell me again, how you met Jim.”
“Oh no,” McCoy says as he pours. “I’ll tell you about the first time he ever described you to me.”
“Oh?” Spock asks. McCoy hands Spock a glass (he sighs every time, thinking about the archaic term for something that hasn’t had ‘glass’ in it for at least a century) and they sit across from each other at the desk. McCoy holds his glass out and Spock remembers he should ‘clink’ their glasses together.
For the record, liquid camaraderie still tastes disgusting.
“The day was 2258.42,” McCoy begins.
“Oh no,” Spock says as he, yes, laughs quietly.
“And this snotty little Vulcan commander just brought my best friend to trial for ‘cheating’ or something –”
“He cheated! He changed the conditions of the test! I should also note that I am taller than both of you.”
“We’re the same height, and he wouldn’t have been able to cheat if you had predicted that someone –”
“That someone would cheat on a test of character?”
“Anyway, and there was Jim, and the first thing he says to me: ‘who was that pointy-eared bastard?’”
Spock looks down into his glass and wonders at the smile that managed to form at the corner of his mouth.
They sip from their glasses simultaneously and McCoy finishes his, returning it to the desktop with more force than strictly necessary – more in line of issuing a declaration than anger.
“Going to sleep,” McCoy announces. “Tomorrow I go back to healing people, and maybe I can start contributing to science instead of just fixing Jim every other minute of the day.” He glares at Spock and says, “You better not be a reckless bastard, too.”
“Only if there is no alternative, doctor,” Spock says.
Back in his room, he’s ready to attempt to sleep again – something feels settled, and Spock isn’t sure what. McCoy helped shove something into place and as Spock rests on his side again, arm tucked under his pillow, staring at the wall again, he –
Life will not be as Ambassador Spock told him it would, but it would be tolerable, and – perhaps that was all he was going to get.
* * *
Rocks fall; Spock dies.
No – he’s not – oh fuck shit fuck fuck fuck where’s Spock.
He leaps up and grabs his communicator as he climbs on the rocks, trying to figure out where Spock was last standing.
“Hey, Bones! I need you, M’Benga, and another security team to get down here and join the party now, okay, now,” and he shuts the communicator, vaguely registering Bones’s voice in his back pocket calling his name and asking what’s wrong.
“Come on, come on!” Kirk yells at the security team just beginning to climb on the rocks. “Start moving rocks around here – there’s still a chance he’s okay. Come on, dammit, move!”
Bones, M’Benga, and more security officers arrive after Kirk is already sweaty from rushing around and moving more boulders than his weight training in the gym prepared him for, goddammit.
“Jim,” McCoy begins, “I’m not seeing –“
“Our tricorders are pieces of shit, Bones,” Kirk replies. “Remember that day me and Chekov rigged them to show all the women on board as Gorn?”
“All right, Jim, yeah, our tricorders don’t stand a chance against your 12-year-old sense of humor, but they do the bare minimum, which is showing lifesigns,” McCoy replies.
Kirk steps over some rocks to stand next to McCoy, glance at the tricorder, and scoff. “It says my eyes are hazel.”
McCoy is about to snap at Kirk again when one of the security officers calls out – a boot.
“A boot,” Kirk echoes as he steps over rocks. “Come on, guys, come on!”
It’s only a boot knocked off Spock’s foot – the search continues.
He’s trying not to look at his chronometer or at the movement of the sun’s position above them – like time matters to any of them. Like they haven’t all been brought back long after they should have been dead, like that’s not what they do.
But Kirk feels scared: real fear of not finding Spock in time, or finding there was nothing they could do even if they had found him seconds after the landslide, or – a lot of things that, in all those other death-defying situations, he just didn’t think about. He always knew they would get through whatever – they’d reattach Sulu’s hand, tuck in Chekov’s intestines and stitch him up good as new, rescue Uhura from that bounty hunter, stop those crazy people from making Scotty and McCoy their kings and having them seal it with male pregnancy, stop Gaila from –
Actually, no one stopped Gaila from blowing up the Orion compound where she had been held prisoner by a warlord when she was a kid, and she said every second of skin regeneration after the explosion was worth it, and would be worth it ninety times over.
And now it was Spock’s turn, Spock, who told them (Sulu) not to stick their hand in the synthesizer during a big dinner order, and not take a phaser blast when they (Chekov) weighed 95 pounds, and not pick up that guy in a bar because, yes, that verbal particle could mean ‘sexually desirable’ but it could also mean ‘commercially desirable’ (i.e., ‘I would like to fuck you and then sell you’) with the right tonal inflection, and not ignore the art on the way to the palace because so much of it featured pregnant males, or –
Yeah, again: no one was going to stop Gaila.
Now it was Spock’s turn – he did something stupid like push Kirk out of the way, so he had to be rewarded by being alive, and then they could have thank luck and medicine and the universe (in that order) that you’re alive sex for the very first time, and –
“No,” Kirk exhales. “No, come on – Bones! M’Benga! Come on, found him!”
“Don’t move, Captain,” one of guards warns him. “You might disturb the surrounding area.”
“No shit, Benson, thanks,” Kirk snaps as McCoy carefully steps next to him.
“Jim,” McCoy says slowly as Kirk climbs among the rocks with another guard to evaluate Spock’s position. “Jim, his neck.”
“Yeah, I’m not gonna move him, I just wanna see –“
“See what? Are you even looking, Jim?” McCoy snaps. “His neck snapped like a twig on that rock under him.”
Kirk looks up at McCoy, who’s biting the inside of his lower lip and staring intently at Spock.
“He’s dead, Jim.”
Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty march out of the transporter room and towards the ready room adjacent to the bridge. Kirk speeds up so he’s two steps ahead of the others, but that doesn’t help clear his head.
What’s he going to tell them? The fuck is he going to tell them?
Sooner than he’d like (truth be told, he wishes he didn’t have to make this trip at all – fuck wishing, how the hell is that going to help anyone now?), he’s there and everyone is waiting for him.
“Hey guys,” Kirk says as he enters. He grimaces inwardly because that was too casual, even for him. McCoy and Scotty follow him in and stand at the opposite wall, suddenly remembering their five seconds of ‘military’ training and they might be standing at casual attention or whatever – Spock’s pose but Terran, with the hands clasped behind his back and –
“Did you break Spock’s communicator again?” Uhura asks.
Focus, Kirk thinks, but his eyes travel down to the table everyone else is sitting around.
“There was some awful static coming through,” she continues. “Figured it was another demonstration of… whatever. Your excellent communication skills.”
“Ha, yeah, except this time he tried to stop him,” Sulu laughs. “I never thought I’d hear anyone plead like that for a communicator. Is Starfleet tightening their belts again? They’re pretty cheap for the non-profit arm of a government that doesn’t have its own currency.”
There are some light chuckles around the table, but not from himself and not from Scotty, usually the universal humor barometers, in good taste and in poor. Kirk crosses his arms over his chest and stops looking at the table.
Okay, he stops looking down at the table, but he looks near the other end, lifting his head a little but not enough to make eye contact with anyone.
“I didn’t throw Spock’s communicator anywhere,” Kirk begins. “He was yelling at me – he pushed me to get out of the way.” Kirk pauses and swallows what’s built up in his throat before he adds, “There was a landslide and it took him down. Spock’s dead.”
Kirk takes a sharp breath and finally lifts his head. He closes his eyes for a moment and shifts into Captain Mode. When he opens his eyes, he looks at Sulu and says, “Sulu, you’re First Officer now.” He looks to Scotty, his ranking second officer, and says, “I’m screwing with the hierarchy to save us all a lot of passive-aggressive fucking up of paperwork and ‘oh shucks, Captain, you know I’m no good at this bureaucracy nonsense,’ okay?”
“Yes, sir,” Scotty says. “No complaints.”
“I’ll do my best,” Sulu adds.
Kirk nods at Sulu and then looks to Uhura. “Before you notify Starfleet, dig up my last few logs and get Spock’s most recent commendations that they’re sure as hell not denying him now – add a paragraph to his recent bio noting them. I want to approve it before you submit it to Starfleet Command.”
“Yes, sir,” Uhura says.
“Gaila,” Kirk begins. “Find a time within the next 36 hours to hold a memorial service for Spock, okay? Once you do, make a general announcement to the crew.”
Kirk looks to Chekov, who’s staring at him with wide eyes, begging not to be left out.
“Chekov, get our next destinations from Starfleet and figure out when we can drop by the Vulcan colony – the sooner the better – and then get us out of here.”
“Yes, Captain,” Chekov says.
“If that’s all,” Kirk says.
There’s no response, and no one will meet his eyes.
“I’ll be in my quarters notifying people, but I should be back on the bridge in an hour, maybe two,” Kirk says. “Sulu, you have the con.”
He takes another moment to glance at McCoy, who’s leaning against the wall and staring at him, and shit, he can’t read him right now. Is that ‘go eat, Jim’ or ‘slow down, Jim’ or ‘fuck everything, Jim, we’re gonna get drunk’, or a whole new McCoy entirely?
Kirk waits another second and then leaves, taking long strides to the turbolift down the hall.
He calls Sarek and god all mighty he does not want to tell Sarek that his family is completely gone now.
No. Not true. There’s Sybok. But – Sybok’s not Amanda’s, is he?
Why does he know so much about Spock’s family, again?
Sarek appears on the viewscreen and Kirk, as always, sits up a little bit straighter, tries to look the part of a starship captain.
“Ambassador,” he says, holding up his hand in the ta’al.
“Captain Kirk,” Sarek says, returning the sign. He folds his hands and just as Kirk is about to open his mouth, Sarek says, “I know my son has died.”
Kirk folds his hands, too, and looks at Sarek’s face. He supposes it’s – it makes things easier for him, maybe.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Kirk says. “He did it to – there was a landslide, and he pushed m –”
“His last thoughts were of you; this I know,” Sarek replies. “The bond between a Vulcan parent and child provides an exceptionally clear channel in extreme circumstances such as these.”
“Oh,” Kirk says, and he doesn’t – of course Spock would be thinking of him. Spock was task-oriented and detail-oriented, and he had just pushed Kirk out of the way, so of course he’d – be thinking of him – as he died.
“I’m sorry,” Kirk repeats. “My navigator is charting a route to take us to the Vulcan colony, and we can bring you his body then. I’ll let you know when it’s been approved by Starfleet Command, and when you can expect us.”
“My thanks, Captain Kirk,” Sarek says. “You are a man of good character.”
“Thanks,” Kirk replies. “So was your son.”
He calls Admiral Pike.
“Wait, Spock died?” he asks.
“Yeah. There was a landslide. He pushed me out of the way.”
“…the hell, Spock,” Pike mutters to himself.
“Just thought you should know,” Kirk replies.
Pike looks disturbed so Kirk sticks around, except then he gets those probing you’re-damaged-and-I’ll-be-gentle eyes on him.
“You all right, son?”
He must look like a wreck if Pike’s calling him son.
“All right like…”
“Like I think you just lost someone real close to you and that stiff upper lip is getting a little heavy, don’t you think?”
“I’m fine,” Kirk says, because the last thing he needs is another line on his record, noting some new emotional scarring that might make him a liability to those cocks at Command who still doubt he’s, surprise, a good captain. “Everyone knows becoming part of the mission’s body count is a possibility.”
“Spock’s just another notch, huh?” Pike asks.
Kirk stares at him dead on for a moment and then snaps, “Okay, what’s the game here? Do you want me to break down in hysterics or keep captaining my ship? Are you my admiral or my father figure right now? I don’t know what you want, sir.”
Pike looks at him some more and Kirk is about to, metaphorically, bust a fucking nut when he just asks, calm as can be,
“How do you feel?”
“Just. Fine. Thanks. If that’s all?”
“I’ll be around,” Pike says. “You know where to find me.”
Kirk nods, hoping that nod conveys his apologies for being a total unbalanced and yeah, completely emotionally compromised asshole, and shuts off the screen.
He heads back to the bridge automatically and works there (goddamn, dead people need a lot of paperwork) until McCoy touches his shoulder and, eventually, shakes him.
“What, Bones?” Kirk asks, his eyes focused on the PADD in front of him.
“You really think I’m falling for this diligent captain bullshit?” he asks. “Come on, time for food.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Fuck you, I’m your doctor and I say you eat and socialize now.”
Kirk sits up straight in the chair and looks ahead at the window, readings on the sidebars but mostly darkness and distant points of light. The view from this far away stopped being inherently fascinating about two shifts into the five-year mission. Getting close is fun, but from here? Black cloth with lights poking through. Boring.
“I really can’t… can’t sit in the mess with everyone right now,” Kirk says slowly, “And eat my goddamn soup and make small talk, and listen to them whisper about how fucked up I am.”
“Then let’s eat in your room.”
“What, and talk about my feelings?”
“If you want.”
“Shit,” Kirk says. He leans on his hand, on the arm of his chair, and swivels a little towards McCoy so he can look up at him. “I just – I really can’t, actually. Not right now, okay? Please?”
McCoy watches him and finally Kirk has to look away, back to the PADD in his lap because it’s getting harder to see, strangely enough. He thinks his dust allergy has gotten worse since the landslide, which would make sense, all that dirt being kicked around and shit.
“I’m bringing you a tub of soup and crackers, and I’m going to sit right here until you finish it all,” McCoy declares.
“Nice talking to you, Bones,” Kirk says as he leaves the bridge.
He needs to call old Spock. Ambassador Spock. Selek. Whatever. Guy who told him he and Spock were going to be friends (“friends”) and fucked with his mind – guy who fucked with Spock’s mind and told him (which Spock then told Kirk) that they were going to be friends and their friendship would define you both in ways you cannot yet realize – which, what the hell does that even mean? What the fuck does that mean? They had three years of being friends, good friends, best friends even, and now, at the end, what did they have to show for it? Sixty new planet profiles, forty new civilizations applying for membership to the Federation, big prices on their heads in the Klingon Empire, and Kirk was pretty much a wizard at chess now, having been taught some new moves by Federation tri-d grandmaster Spock.
Talking to Ambassador Spock could wait until they get to the Vulcan colony.
McCoy doesn’t offer him sedatives, and Kirk wouldn’t have taken them.
He sleeps. It’s dreamless. He wakes up without an alarm and arrives in time for his shifts.
He functions. He’s fine.
Gaila organizes Spock’s memorial to Kirk’s exact specifications – Gamma shift, tropical theme, lots of alcohol and dancing, and an entrance requirement.
The senior officers are the first ones there and Kirk takes his place at the door to the big rec room, Chekov and Scotty blocking the door with homemade lirpas (some pipes and plates glued together – it’s cute and they checked with the other Vulcans on board to make sure they were accurate and culturally sensitive.)
The off-duty science officers arrive first in a sulking cloud of blues, which they could change out of on their free shift but – apparently they (jointly) decided against it. Kirk greets them with a smile and tries to ignore their looks of confusion, bafflement, and outright amusement at the tropical decorations inside, the lirpas in front of them, the captain’s smile and bright eyes.
“So for admission into the Commander Spock Memorial Luau,” Kirk announces loudly for everyone waiting, “All you need to do is tell me a story about Spock. Not to be written down or recorded, but just to be told. Can’t get in without a story, so start thinking.”
First in line is his new Chief Science Officer, Lieutenant Commander Megan Tylor, who, like a great science officer, lets what he says roll off her back and gives him a tiny smirk from the corner of her mouth.
“First time I fucked up an experiment,” she begins and Kirk swoons a little in his knees because she swears, “Commander Spock looked at my notes and said, ‘This is a stupid mistake, and you are not stupid. If you will make mistakes, ensure they are worthy of your intelligence.’”
“A little too long for a fortune cookie, but I’ll take it,” Kirk says, and she passes through the raised lirpas into the room. “Next!”
“He walked into the room on our first shift ever,” a shaky male Ensign says, “And asked for our names, ranks, and specialties – and he never forgot mine.”
“And who are you, Ensign?” Kirk asks.
“Ensign Paulo Fortino – gravimetrics.”
“Come on in.”
And it goes on like that and Kirk really doesn’t get tired of it, and his grin gets bigger and he laughs at most of the stories.
McCoy, surprise, is last.
“This oughta be good,” Kirk says as the music blasts behind him and he rubs his hands eagerly. “What’s your Spock story?”
McCoy gives him a wry smile and says, “How about the time you and Spock got married on Castor II?”
“It was a friendship binding ceremony!” Kirk laughs back.
“Was it?” McCoy asks.
“Uhura translated for us and she –”
Kirk slowly turns around and sees that Uhura is looking off elsewhere, sipping her drink.
“They’re a Federation planet now, Uhura! We’re married in the Federation!”
“All because of your show of good faith,” Uhura replies and she has had way too much of that pineapple booze. “The Castians were honored that you finally consummated your love of so many years with them as witnesses, and –”
“How many other planets have I married people on,” Kirk laughs/moans, really too – too everything to be upset.
“Look at it this way,” Sulu suggests. “Maybe you get his pension now!”
Too soon too soon too soon too soon, but Kirk is nothing if not a master of bullshit. He smiles slowly at Sulu and nods. “Yeah, maybe, if he hadn’t signed all that away because he’s a rich bitch Vulcan princess.”
“Like you wouldn’t just turn around and give it to the Vulcan colony anyway,” McCoy says.
He knows he’s smiling sadly, he can feel it, the tilt of his mouth that’s a real effort to keep up. Kirk shakes his head and motions to the room, filled with his crew and their dancing and talking and maybe a little too much drinking for a school night.
“Go on, all of you,” Kirk says. “I’ve got all the stories, so now it’s time to drink, am I right?”
They get to the Vulcan colony in three days (imagine that, Starfleet letting them delay the start of their next mission so they can pass off the body of an ambassador’s son – how generous of them!)
Kirk, McCoy, Uhura, and Spock’s body take a shuttle down to the surface of the Vulcan colony. Sarek is waiting for them when they climb out, and they run through some pleasantries.
Then Kirk sees him and shit gets real.
“Hey, Ambassador!” Kirk yells across the distance between them. He runs the however many feet, yelling the whole time, totally unaware that he might look like a crazy person to all the Vulcans who have stopped to watch. “Hey! Hey!”
He reaches Ambassador Spock, Selek, old Spock, ice planet Spock, whatever, and looks up at him, stares him down a little, then shoves his hand firmly into his chest near the shoulder.
“You are dead, did you know that?” Kirk asks. “You died. Just five days ago. Rocks fell, and you died, but you pushed me out of the way first. Isn’t that just so convenient?”
“Jim – ”
“Jim what? Jim what? You fuck, do you know how quiet it’s been without you? You don’t even talk most days and I notice that you’re not there – every time the goddamn door to the bridge opens, I turn around. Every time – no, it’s not sinking in for you, is it – every time. And it’s never him.” He keeps shoving the ambassador in the shoulder, in the chest, in the collarbone (that makes him wince, so he goes for that a little more often), making his punctuation goddamn felt.
“And he ruined dinner for me – like, he’d come in an hour before and make up some bullshit excuse about reports or chess or whatever, and then make up another bullshit excuse to lead me to the mess, and some more bullshit excuses to grab stuff from the synthesizer I’d eat, and I’d eat, like, meals, and they wouldn’t turn into shit in my mouth like they have since Tarsus – and now what? I have Bones – remember Bones, and how he’s subtle like an iron sock full of lead? -- just dragging me to the mess and force feeding me like some kind of goose.”
Now, shit, now it’s starting, now he’s looking lower, looking at the ambassador’s chest and sleeves and anywhere but his eyes because Kirk’s eyes are just – this planet had to be dusty, too, didn’t it, it just had to be, and it’s so irritating.
“And just who do you think you are, just coming into our lives and telling us -- telling us we were supposed to mean something to each other?”
He feels McCoy’s hand on his shoulder and flails a little, hits behind him blindly and then goes back to shoving at the old Vulcan, and if he shoves a little harder, he will become dust and that’s just fine with him.
“Stay out of our lives,” Kirk hisses. “I don’t care who you are or where you come from – I don’t care that you had like, fifty years with someone who looks just like me –”
“Jim, I --”
“I’m sorry, did I say you could talk?” Kirk leans in again and gives another good shove. “I said stay out of our lives, okay? Because you’re dead now and –”
Suddenly he’s breathing into a solid chest and the soft material of a Starfleet uniform. Arms wrap around him, a hand moves firmly in his hair, and a voice whispers incessantly and directly into his ear, “Jim, come on, Jim it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s gonna be okay.”
“Fuck, Bones, fuck,” Kirk says into his chest, his arms tightening around McCoy and his hands clutching his shirt, “How’s it gonna be okay? How’s it gonna be okay?”
* * *
Rocks fall; everyone –
“Move!” Spock yells.
And then they’re running – he and Kirk sprint from the base of the mountain while the rest of the away team goes in the other direction.
Eventually, they stop sprinting and scrambling to get away and settle into a hard run, and then a run, and then their hands join when Spock puts one hand on the tricorder slung across his body and his other hand in Kirk’s (he thought for a minute that it was to pull Kirk along faster, but they are so far from the mountain and danger at this point, and they’re keeping an even pace, and isn’t it about time he just – accepted that?)
They slow to a jog and Kirk stops before Spock does, and tugs hard on their joined hands to bring Spock back to him, settle his hands bruisingly hard on Spock’s waist and bring Spock in for a viciously possessive kiss that Spock returns as his hand digs into Kirk’s hair and the nails of his other hand dig into Kirk’s back.
Spock reflects, when he has adjusted to Kirk’s urgency seeping through their skin-to-skin contact (could have been you could have been you no it couldn’t don’t ever let it be you), that this is a far cry from the gentle handholding they had allowed themselves the night before, and perhaps this was what they were waiting for – all that hesitation, the terror of risking their friendship and work relationship, the broken regulations, the ethical questions – it’s been trapped under those rocks and this was what survived. This fervent need, and if it had been one of them under there, the other would have been well-adjusted – normal – fine – and not much else.
Spock pulls away to take a breath and keeps his face centimeters from Kirk’s as he whispers,
“When I yell ‘move’, you run, do not –”
“And when I run, you follow,” Kirk interrupts.
Kirk captures Spock’s mouth again before either of them can argue or amend.
The debriefing meeting back on board the ship is recorded as the shortest in Enterprise history, possibly in all of Starfleet’s history:
Kirk and Spock enter.
Kirk announces, before Gaila can hit on someone, Scotty can settle against the wall, Sulu crack a stupid joke, McCoy bitch about something, Uhura… be Uhura, “Rocks fell; no one died.”
He adds, “Spock and I ran like, six miles to get the hell away from the landslide, so we’ll be back on the bridge in an hour after a breather. Klingons or imminent destruction: those are the only circumstances under which an interruption doesn’t end in a court martial and/or public embarrassment. No questions? Great!”
They enter Kirk’s quarters and the room is barely locked before Spock grabs at Kirk again and moves with him to the foot of the bed, standing and exploring the topography of his body slowly with his hands. They undress and learn every bump and curve, change in texture, scar and mole and bone through the skin –
“Remember the first time you were on me like this?” Kirk asks as Spock settles between his legs. “When you beat the shit out of me on the bridge?”
“What?” Spock asks, and Kirk laughs to himself because he can see Spock valiantly trying to multitask.
“The day of the Narada,” Kirk begins, “When I compromised you – you punched me in the face, kicked me, threw me on the console, and then you – you like, surged up against me and I really thought for a split second before you started to choke me that you were going to fuck me to death.”
“Why would you –?”
“Because you were about to kill me, right, and you forced my legs open and were totally up on my cock – and then I realized it was just so you could get a better grip on my throat while choking me.”
Spock cradles Kirk’s head in both his hands and kisses him, closed mouthed and apologetic and gentle.
“We had to do what we had to do,” Kirk replies. “Now fuck me until I don’t know my name anymore.”
After a moment of consideration, Spock says, “I can do that.”
Spock could do that, because Kirk will look back on that first time with paradoxical clarity and haziness – he had expected that, after nearly a year of doing the “do you like me (carnally)” dance around each other, the first time would be all slow and exploratory and laughing at each other and talking and –
And they will have times like those, of course, but that night –
No, Kirk will remember his face pressed against the sheets, his body jackknifed in a way that should have killed his knees, but what do knees matter when Spock was driving into him all protective and possessive and other P-words with lots of syllables that Kirk couldn’t think of at the time –
Will remember Spock coming in him and Kirk needing to close his eyes because – because it was all too much – the sight of his plain blue sheets and the plain white wall and the plain white nightstand in his line of vision was too much to handle – and then there was Spock’s blisteringly hot hand wrapped around his cock, and Spock’s other hand on his shoulder, pressing him into the bed –
And Kirk will remember collapsing in the wet spot and needing to be pushed out of it because what the fuck he had been fucked stupid, and he kind of thought at his age and after his years of sleeping around that it would be impossible for that to happen again, but look at that – Spock going, boldly, where no one had gone with such mastery in a really long time –
He’ll remember lying there, horizontal on his bed, boneless and dead to the world, saying something he can’t remember, and Spock asking if he was all right, and Kirk wondering if he would ever regain use of his cock or asshole again.
“If you broke me, you bought me,” Kirk says when words work in his mouth again.
Maybe Spock was just as out of it, because he wasn’t talking – just had an arm draped across Kirk’s chest, his chin on Kirk’s shoulder, projecting calm and rest and I’m not listening to you, Jim.
One hour turns into three, four, maybe the rest of the shift, the rest of the stardate, and Kirk pages McCoy once or twice, says he’s alive, Spock’s alive, just “dealing with a near death experience” – no, they don’t need his trauma counseling, but thanks for the offer.
“Need extra condoms?” McCoy asks the third time he pages to see if they’re alive.
“Um,” Kirk says.
“I’m gonna stop asking questions now.”
“It’s for the best, really. Kirk out.”
“Kirk is out – out of his mind.”
He shuts the communicator and rubs Spock’s hipbone – something about that part of his body makes it completely believable – that they can have this – that they do have this.
They grind lazily against each other when movement becomes possible again, just to buy more time where they’re sated and not thinking, content to stay in that fucked-out haze for a while longer, before all the shit outside Kirk’s door starts permeating their lives again.
The universe does them a favor, and maybe it wants this for them, too, because there’s no imminent destruction or Klingons threatening their ship for like, a whole day.