The party goes on behind him, in the room beyond the doors that he has slipped through. He hears the scattered conversations. The laughter, the revelry.
He keeps walking until those voices and that laughter become a memory. He turns right at the end of a corridor, and walks down another, all the way to the end, and through another set of double doors and out into the night.
There is a chilly breeze as he stands at the railing of the oversized balcony. It’s the kind that steals your breath and makes your cheeks sting. What he’s wearing isn’t nearly warm enough for this kind of weather. A dress uniform only, any outer attire discarded earlier and he’s forgotten where he put it.
Midnight will arrive soon and he’ll miss it. The kisses and the exchanges of a wish for good fortune and health in the New Year.
But he will miss a lot of things. His life has changed forever. And it cannot go back to what it was, no matter how he might wish or dream.
Off in the distance, he sees fireworks and knows it is midnight even before he hears yelling and screaming from all directions around him.
He smiles to himself.
“Happy New Year.”
There is no answer, of course, for no one stands with him, and he tries not to think of that as more than literal and not as metaphorical, but it is a near thing.
For in that moment, he feels as alone as he used to feel all those years ago in Iowa, dreaming and wishing for an escape. He feels that same resentment, for a brief time, he felt toward Sam, as his brother walked away from that farm, from him. For the freedom his brother obtained that in many ways he never could.
He wonders, as he often does at reflective times like this, whatever happened to that boy who left him behind. He never got to know. Never heard from or about Sam again. Perhaps he’d experienced the ultimate freedom and they’d just never been notified. But at least he had not experienced Tarsus, and in that, he was lucky.
He shook his head, to dispel those melancholy memories that held no sway for him now. Too many years ago.
He leans his head up, to look up at the stars, at the planets. He thinks of his boyhood dreams and his dreams now, and realizes they are not that far off from each other.
Somewhere up there, he’s too lazy and too buzzed from Champagne to consider it too closely at the moment, is New Vulcan. And on New Vulcan…Spock.
He turns to face the ensign, the security guard, who has ventured out in this cold, frigid night air. Sent to locate him, no doubt.
“Doctor McCoy is looking for you, sir.”
He smiled. “Okay, I’ll go inside in a minute.”
The ensign nods to acknowledge the dismissal and hurries back where it is much warmer. He doesn’t entirely blame the guard either.
He reaches inside his pants’ pocket and pulls out the ring and small holo pic he’d brought with him. The reason, the hope, seems stupid now. He glanced down at the photo of the two of them together. But never really together. That was, as the old saying goes, a pipe dream.
The picture drifts from his fingers and off the side of the building. He thinks briefly of letting the ring go, over the railing and out of his life forever, but he can’t quite make that happen.
He is about to turn to go back inside, to reassure Bones he has not lost his senses or whatever Bones will think, when a star shoots across the sky. He’s long past wishing on a star. And yet, it gives him a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. And a longing he’s tried to suppress but failed.
Shaking his head, he turns around. Gasps.
Spock stands there, dressed in somber dark robes, his eyes somehow more dark and somber.
He doesn’t know what to say or do so he doesn’t act at all. Just stands there numb and freezing.
Somehow, he’s surprised when Spock takes the steps toward him, instead, for it always seems as though he pursues Spock, even in this small way, but here Spock takes steps to reach him and when he does, for a moment, neither of them do anything at all.
Then, “Spock”, is stolen from his lips and deposited into the air before he can stop it.
“Jim,” is the soft response.
Then his arms open wide, Spock’s, not his, and before he can stop himself from this action, either, he steps into those arms and allows them to close around him, pulling him against his former first officer in an embrace so warm it cut through the numbing cold.
“I didn’t think you were coming back,” he mumbles into the robe at Spock’s throat.
“I will not leave again.”
The hope bursts back, unbidden and unwelcome, because if Spock does leave him again, ends everything between them, as before, it will destroy him the next time. But perhaps not. Perhaps he is strong enough to withstand even this abandonment.
If that is what he is to face. It’s hard to trust anyone. Spock most of all.
“You are freezing, T’hy’la. Let me take you back inside.”
He isn’t very aware of his own movements, but somehow Spock gets him back into the building without releasing him from the warm embrace. Spock’s hand slips down his arm and to his own hand where he has curled his fingers around the ring. Spock uncurls his fingers and stares down at the ring, battered and scratched from being on his finger through too many battle injuries.
Those dark, somber eyes meet his gaze and he takes the ring from his shaking hand and slips it back on Jim’s ring finger where it once belonged. He doesn’t know if it does now.
Exhausted, he sags against Spock, who holds him almost impossibly close. The bond is open, from Spock’s side, anyway, and it feels like heaven in a way it has not for a long time.
“What changed?” he asks.
“I do not want to be alone.”
Pain stabs his chest. “To come back to me just so you don’t have to be alone—”
“No,” Spock says, quickly, urgently. “I made a mistake. I thought it would be better to reject all emotion, to…”
Spock nods. “It was…torture in a way that I had not anticipated. Jim, I will fall to my knees and subjugate myself before you if you deem it necessary.”
He closes his eyes and shakes his head. They both know he would forgive Spock anything. Always has.
It is a new year and a new chance perhaps. And perhaps, this time, he will not be disappointed. Abandoned yet again.
“T’hy’la.” There were tears in Spock’s eyes and he knows Spock has gotten his thoughts, the bond, aching and burning with pain as it is, has opened on both sides, his too.
He only wishes he knew if Spock’s tears were for him or for Spock.
He’s held closer still, warmth enveloping him, but his heart remains cold.