Title: The Boy Who Cast No Shadow and the Man of Golden Light
Fandom: Star Trek Reboot
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize.
Summary: Giidas: a guardian spirit Though they are usually tied to a single family line, if a giidas's breath is captured in a diamond vial the holder may command its loyalty.
Author's Note: My submission for Ship Wars Prompt 5: Fairy Tale. Based loosely off of selkie legends. Many thanks to xlcatloveress for the beta and the reassurance that it wasn't the crap I thought it was. XD
Once upon a time there was a girl who gave up everything she knew for love. She left her family and her planet and flew away to her husband’s land, her husband’s people. And though she loved him, he was often away, and she grew lonely.
One day the girl went walking, as she liked to do when her husband was gone. The desert air was heavy and hot, and soon she felt the need to stop and rest. A small stand of indukah trees provided shade, and the water that pooled around their roots was cool against her feet. Duf-krus-savas plants grew wild in the small oasis. The berries’ sweet juice eased her thirst; but it reminded her, too, of home, and she wept.
“Why do you cry?”
She turned quickly to see a handsome Vulcan man sitting next to her where there had been no one moments before. Startled, she answered without thinking.
“Because I miss my home, and I am lonely.”
“Why do you not return?”
“My husband is here. I have no wish to leave him.”
His glossy black head tilted in curiosity. “Have you no children?”
Tears threatened to rise, but she forced them back. “We can not conceive,” she said. “A Vulcan-Human crossbreed is impossible.”
She handed a segment of duf-krus-savas berry to the man, who took it with a look of open surprise. He stared at the fruit for a moment before his gaze lifted once more to hers.
“You shall have a son,” he said with warmth in his eyes, and before she could answer leaned forward to press his lips to hers. She jerked back in surprise; when she looked again he had disappeared.
Three months later the Healers declared that she had, without a doubt, conceived. The child was half-Vulcan, half-Human, a genetic mix of both parents, and impossible. But he was hers, and she loved him. And if, from time to time, she remembered what he truly was, it never changed her feelings. For he was her son, and that was all that mattered.
“You’re giving me . . .” Jim sat back in his seat, aware on some level that his mouth was hanging open but unable to do anything about it. “Did she explode?” was somehow the first thing he thought to ask, and Admiral Pike threw back his head and laughed.
“She’s hale and healthy, and we’ll expect her back in the same condition. You’ll have a week to put together your crew requests. And with that in mind . . .” He pulled a set of keys from his pocket and unlocked the top drawer of his desk. He withdrew a clear vial, the length of his smallest finger, and rolled it across to Jim. “I’m passing this on to you.”
Jim picked it up, startled to find that it was warm against his skin. “What is it?”
“Just a bit of air,” Pike said, his lips tilted in something that wasn’t quite a smile. “Keep it closed, and keep it close, and you’ll have yourself a hell of a first officer if you want him.”
Jim frowned, shook his head. “I don’t understand.”
“I don’t imagine you do.” Pike rubbed a hand over his jaw. “There will be times in your career, son, when you’ll have to make hard choices. Sometimes you lose no matter which way you go.” He took in a deep breath and let it go again in a noisy sigh. “I ever tell you about my time on the Potemkin? We had a run to Vulcan about ten years ago; only time I ever set foot on that planet.” His eyes met Jim’s. “I wish to God I never had.”
The boy cast no shadow.
The fact struck the soldier on the second day of the peace conference, and from that time on he could not ignore it. Whether natural or artificial, the light seemed to pass straight through him. The soldier, who knew something of the planet’s history, began to suspect. And when his tongue had been loosened by alcohol, he spoke to his captain of what he believed he had found.
“Bring him with us,” his captain had said. “He will be an asset, and if the stories are true then you know how to bind him.”
The soldier protested, but his captain insisted, and finally ordered. So late one night he took a diamond vial and stole into the room where the boy lay sleeping. As he sighed in his sleep, the soldier held out the vial and trapped his breath within. Immediately the boy sprang up, fully awake and furious, and demanded his breath returned.
“No.” The soldier held the vial tightly. “We have need of you.”
“I am spoken for. I am hers.”
Regret filled the soldier’s heart, but he held firm. He had his orders. “All children must leave home eventually,” he said, and turned to leave without another word.
Jim was still trying to digest everything that Pike had told him when he returned to his room that evening. He was looking forward to a quiet night, the first he’d had since their return, to sort through the thoughts running rampant through his head. Instead, he reached his door and found a visitor waiting for him.
“Spock. Hey.” Jim glanced around uneasily. Despite having lost most of the senior cadets in Nero’s attack, the Starfleet dorms were still fairly full, and this wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have around other people. “Come on in.”
He let them into his room and went through his usual end-of-the-day rituals, kicking off his shoes and tossing his books onto the bed. In deference to his guest he didn’t strip his uniform jacket off altogether, though he did unbutton the collar. When he looked back there was a part of him that half-expected Spock to have disappeared. The Vulcan was still standing there, however, and Jim tried a grin.
“They’re giving me the Enterprise,” he blurted out. “I’d sort of figured they’d give it to you; hell, I was ready to beg you for an assignment on her if I had to. I actually had several very logical arguments all planned out. But I guess it makes sense that they wouldn’t . . .” He faltered. “All things considered.”
Spock’s face was as impassive as ever, but his eyes were locked on Jim’s with an intensity that was very nearly frightening.
“You have it,” he said lowly.
Well, Jim thought, so much for leading up to things.
“You mean this?” He drew the vial from his jacket pocket, and any lingering suspicions that Pike had been winding him up were obliterated by the sharp, aborted move that Spock made. Jim watched as the other man stood, eyes locked on the slim vial in Jim’s hand, looking for all the world like he wanted nothing more than to rush forward and snatch it away. “So.” Jim took a deep breath and tried to readjust his thinking to a world gone suddenly mad. “I guess Pike is kind of a dick, huh?”
Spock blinked, his gaze flicking up to Jim’s face. His eyebrow twitched. “I believe that would be an accurate description, yes.” Spock studied him for a moment. “He has told you what I am?”
“A guardian spirit, right? A . . .” Jim trailed off, the word foreign and already half-forgotten on his tongue.
“Giidas,” Spock finished for him. “What you hold does not belong to you. Give it back to me.”
Jim considered him. “You’re stronger than I am. Stronger than Pike. Why not just take it?”
“I can not.” Spock’s jaw tightened so slightly that Jim never would have noticed if he hadn’t been watching for it. “Not while you hold it.”
“Yeah, that’s what he said.” Suddenly exhausted, Jim stepped back to sit heavily on the edge of his bed. “You wouldn’t have tried to get him back.”
“He hid my breath on this planet, so that I would protect it as my own. I felt no loyalty for the man who ripped me from . . .” His face hardened. “And without that vial he could not command it. I would have gladly seen him dead for what he did.”
“I should have been with her,” Spock snarled, no longer bothering to hide his rage and grief. “I was hers, and he stole me. I abandoned her, left her alone, and she died because of it.”
“Spock,” Jim said again, and rose to face him. “It wasn’t Pike’s fault, and it wasn’t yours. Tell me this, how could you have saved your mother if you had been there? If you hadn’t been on the Enterprise, would any of your Elders have survived?” Spock said nothing, but his gaze flickered away. Jim considered him for a moment.
“She’s gone now,” he said at last, as gently as he could. “And I want you to be my First Officer. You’ve been with Starfleet over twice as long as I have, and you have experience I haven’t had the opportunity to acquire. I need someone like that, someone I know I can work with.” He held Spock’s gaze. “Someone I know I can trust.”
“What of my people?” Spock demanded, though his voice was quiet. “They have need of me.”
“They have you. The other you, I mean.” Jim took a deep breath and pressed on. “The Enterprise is set for a five-year mission. Five years, that’s all I’m asking. You’re immortal; that amount of time is barely a drop in the bucket for you.”
“And at the end of those five years?”
“Then I’ll give this back,” Jim said, brandishing the vial. “And you can choose what you want to do next. Stay with Starfleet, go back to your people, whatever you want.” He offered his hand, and Spock grasped it after only a brief hesitation. “I promise you.” Jim did his best to project all of his sincerity through that single simple touch. “Five years, and then you’re free.”
Resigned to his fate, Spock endeavored to take what satisfaction he could from his new assignment. And as the weeks bled into months he found, to his surprise, that his captain was a man that he was proud to know.
Jim didn’t look up. He knew what he would see: Spock standing at parade rest, face carefully schooled into a perfectly blank mask. He’d seen it all before.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Spock?”
“I believe that you are perfectly aware—”
“Oh, I’m aware.” Jim tossed down his stylus and crossed his arms, looking up at last. “But those aren’t the steps to this particular dance. If you’re going to pull your Aloof Vulcan act on me, then you get Disinterested Captain in return. Your call.”
“It is not an act,” Spock said stiffly. “I am, in most ways—”
“Exactly!” Jim shot out of his chair. “So I don’t understand why you always get so—”
“You are not permitting me to perform my duties, Captain. It was my understanding that you desired my continued enrollment in Starfleet so that I could be an asset, to you and to the ‘Fleet.”
“And?” Jim demanded, crossing his arms again. “You’re a brilliant Science Officer; I have people trying to steal you away from me to run their own labs on a daily basis. And you know they’re calling you the best First Officer in the ‘Fleet. I’d say that pretty well qualifies you as an ‘asset’.”
“Yet you continually ignore the other ways in which I might be of service.”
Jim’s face went hard as stone. “I don’t want to hear it. If that’s all—”
“It is my duty,” Spock spoke over him, “both as your giidas and your First Officer, to ensure your safety. It is a duty that you are increasingly reluctant to let me perform.”
“Look, it was instinct, all right?” Jim rolled his eyes. “And it’s not like anything happened.”
Spock’s eyes flashed. “You were injured.”
Jim shrugged, ignoring the pull on his bandages as he did so. “I’ve been hurt worse than this before. Even Bones says it’s just a flesh wound, and you know how he fusses.”
“You should not have been wounded at all,” Spock snapped, and though he wasn’t exactly proud of it Jim couldn’t suppress his smug delight at having forced his First into an emotional response. “The Orion’s weapon would not have harmed me in any real way. Even if this body had died—”
“I said I don’t want to hear it.”
“—I would have remained with you in my true form. Given that I would be able to provide you with the assistance you require in either case, I fail to see the logic—”
“Because you’re a person!” Jim’s fist slammed against the desk hard enough to rattle the floor beneath. The blow seemed to carry his anger with it, and he was left simply . . . weary. “Because I think of you as a person. You’re real, and you’re alive, and you’re on my crew. I won’t stand aside and watch you die just because you’d still be useful either way, understand?” He sat again, exhausted. “I just won’t.”
“Jim.” The shock of hearing his name had him looking up again. Spock was staring back at him, inscrutable as ever, but Jim thought he saw a slight softness around his eyes. “I will not ask you to act in a manner contrary to your nature . . . provided that you extend the same courtesy to me.”
“It doesn’t feel right,” Jim said tiredly. “It’s not as though you chose this; you’re only here at all because I forced you into it.”
“Do you believe that my Starfleet oath holds less validity simply because of the type of being I am?”
“No! Of course I don’t—”
“Then you may have faith in the confines of said oath if nothing else. I have sworn to protect my captain to the best of my ability, to defend the Federation against any and all threats. You may place your trust in that, if not in me.”
“I do trust you, Spock.”
“I am gratified to hear it.” And yes, Jim thought, that was definitely a smile at the corner of his eyes. “It appears that we have an accord.”
As months bled into years, he discovered that they had become friends.
“So what . . .”
He shook his head. “None of my business, sorry.”
Spock raised an eyebrow and captured one of Jim’s pawns. “If you have a question, you need only ask.”
“I was just wondering . . . you were compelled to leave Vulcan, to enter Starfleet. I pulled you back into space with me. But you chose your mother of your own free will.” He moved a rook and glanced up. “Why? I mean, why her?”
Jim was horribly afraid that he had overstepped his bounds. His blood was pumping fast through his veins, his fingers trembling with a sudden rush of adrenaline as Spock studied the chess board silently. Finally the Vulcan moved his knight to threaten Jim’s queen.
“I was unattached; my former klashau-veh had reached old age and died with no successors. He was the last of his clan. I was waiting in the desert when she came.” Jim leaned forward, fascinated by the faraway look in his friend’s eyes. “She was sad, and so strange looking. I had never seen a Human before,” Spock explained. “I spoke to her, and she offered me a piece of the duf-krus-savas berry she was eating.”
Jim waited, but Spock seemed to have finished. “Was that all?”
“She was not the first that I found. But she wore her loneliness as though there was no shame in it, and . . . Logically, I knew that she must simply have been unaware of what I truly was. But no one had ever offered me food before with the simple thought that I might be hungry.” His gaze faltered. “No one else had ever treated me as a person.”
Jim’s heart thumped hard, once. “So you became one for her.”
“At the time it seemed . . .” Spock’s lips twitched in his version of a smile. “Logical.” He glanced pointedly at the chessboard. “It is your move, Jim.”
“Hmm? Oh.” Jim looked down and slid his rook across the board. “Checkmate,” he said, almost as an afterthought.
And as the years wore on, their friendship grew deeper, until Spock could no longer imagine a world without his captain in it.
“Jim. Jim, answer me.”
“Hey, Spock.” It was difficult to concentrate on anything besides the pain, but Jim tried his best. “Think I really screwed up bad this time.”
“I am most severely displeased. You have behaved in a manner that was stubborn, illogical and reckless.”
A weak laugh made its way past Jim’s lips. “Human, then. Spock?”
“It’s getting dark. Did the sun go down?”
There was silence for a time, and when it came again Spock’s voice sounded less than steady. “Dr. McCoy will be furious that you require medical attention yet again. Perhaps he will lend his support to my proposal to keep you from taking part in future away missions.”
“Now, that’s just . . . low . . .” Jim was getting cold, despite the humid heat of the jungle around them. He felt Spock’s hands on him, pressing hard against his stomach, but couldn’t feel the heat that usually radiated from the Vulcan’s skin. “Think it might be a moot point, though.”
“It will be nothing of the kind,” Spock said sharply. “You need only hold on until we can be beamed back up, and Dr. McCoy will have you on your feet again in a matter of hours. I, meanwhile, will have to draft a letter to Starfleet Command alerting them to your disturbing habit of placing your subordinates’ safety above your own.”
“Not subordinates,” Jim said, his voice weak. “You know I don’t act this stupid for just anyone. No more pretending, okay? I don’t have enough time left for it.”
“I do not care to hear you speak—”
“Yeah, well, I’m dying, so tough. I’ll speak however I want.” He tried to laugh again, but something clenched painfully in his chest when he did and the sharp tang of blood suddenly coated the back of his throat. “Here.”
It took all of his focus to lift his hand and tangle his fingers in the thin chain around his neck. A determined tug had it sliding up through his shirt collar until the vial fell into his palm. Its heat was undiminished, and he took comfort in the feel of it for a moment. Then he held it out to Spock.
“Think this is yours.”
He heard a sharp intake of breath, and the hands on his stomach trembled. “Our mission is not yet over, Captain.”
“Don’t think I’m likely to be around by the time it is. Never really felt right anyway, forcing you to come along.”
“I have enjoyed my time on the Enterprise. I am . . . glad to have met you.”
Something in Jim, some weight that he had carried in his chest for the past three years, lightened and lifted away. “Good. Now take this.” He reached down and managed to grasp the fingers of one of Spock’s hands, tugging it up. Jim ignored the slippery wet feeling of his own blood and closed Spock’s hand around the vial. “Time to do what you want, Spock.”
His eyes were too heavy to keep open any longer. He was tired, and he was cold, and he was ready. Jim breathed in, wondering if it would be the last time, and the air tasted warm and dry and faintly spiced. He hardly had the time to realize how odd that was before his body was seizing, convulsing in a strong grip. Then suddenly, blissfully, darkness . . .
. . . until his eyes opened to the bright lights of the Enterprise Sickbay. He blinked, disoriented and confused.
“Well, it’s about damn time.” Jim looked up to see McCoy approaching his bed. “Thought you were gonna sleep the whole day away.”
“Bones?” Jim looked around. “What . . .”
“Got a bit banged up down on the planet. Do you remember the rock slide?” McCoy stepped up to shine a penlight in Jim’s eyes, and he jerked his head away irritably.
“Yes, I remember. I got knocked into the crashed shuttlecraft, and there was some torn plating . . .” His hands drifted down to his stomach. There was no pain. “I was dying.”
“Don’t be so melodramatic,” McCoy said, switching off the light and rolling his eyes. “You were a little scratched, but it was nothing serious. Must’ve hit your head—you were passed right out when we beamed you up. No lasting damage, though; not so much as a concussion. I swear, Jim, you’ve got more lives than a cat.”
Jim sat up, astounded when he was able to do so with not so much as a twinge. McCoy let him, which was nearly as much of a surprise as the lack of pain. “What about . . . Spock . . .”
McCoy rolled his eyes again. “Kicked him out of here the third time I nearly tripped over him. He’s fine, but you’re both on medical leave for the rest of your shift and I don’t wanna hear a damned thing about it.”
Jim barely remembered how he got from Sickbay to his quarters, only knew that his door was sliding open and he was staring at Spock in confusion but very little surprise.
“What are you doing here?”
Spock indicated the chessboard set in its usual spot on Jim’s desk. “As we are both to be forced into official inactivity, I thought that you might be amenable to passing the time with a game. I hope that I have not overstepped myself.”
“Not in my quarters; on the ship. What are you still doing here?”
“Where else would I be, sir?” Spock asked placidly, hands linked behind his back.
Jim took a deep breath. “I was dying,” he said again, and Spock nodded.
“I gave you your breath back.” Jim’s hand lifted, pressed to his chest where he could no longer feel the familiar weight of the vial against his chest. “I let you go.”
“Yes, sir,” Spock said, inclining his head.
“So what are you still doing here?”
“You set me free, Jim. For the first time in thirteen years, I was able to do as I wished. And what I wished,” he said, taking a step closer, “was to remain with you.”
Jim’s heart stuttered, thumped, and began to race. “You . . .” His mouth had gone dry. “What happened? Why didn’t I die?”
“I shared my breath with you.”
“You what?” Jim’s eyes widened, and Spock took another step forward.
“The breath that had been saved, the breath that bound me; the breath that you returned. You gave it to me, and I gave it back again.” His eyes dropped to Jim’s lips. “It is a part of you now, as I am. As I have been for some time.”
Jim remembered a rush of warm air, dust and desert spices. “What does that mean, then?”
“It means that I am mortal,” Spock said plainly. “I will age and die. And you, ashayam . . .” His hands came forward as he stepped to meet Jim, and their fingers brushed. “You will live.”
Once upon a time there was a man who gave up everything he knew for love. His power, his immortality, his home. He sacrificed it all to save the man he loved, and found, in doing so, how very much he was loved in return. Bound together by his final breath, they made a new home among the stars, content in a mortal life together.