“So… You really sure you don’t wanna come?” Jim Kirk says, stepping on the transporter pad.
“If I may, Captain…” Commander Spock replies, positioning at his left side, “I find there is a certain— inefficiency in constantly questioning me on something I have already made up my mind about.”
“Well, can’t blame me for giving it a shot. After all, my stubbornness has proven its point in more than one occasion, don’t you remember?”, the human returns with an allusive inflection to his tone.
The invisible thread connecting their minds twirls and thrums with glowing fondness as it channels the jumbled images and sensations triggered by the memory of their first night together.
“I cannot deny it” the Vulcan concedes, warm green suffusing his cheeks, and hearing that soft confession Jim falls in love all over again.
“And yet, we are both aware that this is something you have to handle on your own, and that my presence would be… superfluous.”
It is not me that he needs to see. The words remain unspoken, but they can hear them just the same.
A bitter smile, made in equal measure of affection and sympathy, twists Jim’s lips.
“Yeah… I know.” And then, clearing his throat, he adds: “I’ll contact you when I’m done. Are you meeting your father?”
“Affirmative. He intends to show me the progress made with the new VSA”.
“Great. Maybe I’ll try to join you later”. He turns to Lieutenant Kyle, “Energize.”
When the ethereal beam finally reassembles him and fades away, Jim finds himself in the middle of a paved walkway crossing what he guesses is the Vulcan equivalent of a well-tended, small garden: instead of rose bushes and grass, fine sand and perfectly-squared pebbles arranged on the ground so to form elaborate spirals. The hot, thin air caresses his nape, while a coppery sky, inflamed by twin suns and scraped with blood red scars, looms over him.
In front of him stands a detached house, as white and refreshing as snow, small circular windows and a triangular main door boring holes in its façade.
Jim covers the few meters left and rings.
Just a few seconds go by, and then he’s looking straight into a pair of sparkling, mahogany eyes and he feels like he’s coming home.
“Hello, stranger” he beams, flushing and trying to stop the corners of his lips from reaching his ears.
“Old friend” the resonant baritone whispers, sounding so knowing and intimate to the point that Jim is almost embarrassed. “You arrived in advance.”
“Um, yes. Finished the paperwork sooner than expected. I—I’m sorry, does it bother you? Are you busy? If you have something to finish I can, I don’t know, take a walk or something. I know I should have called—“
“Jim, remember to breathe every now and then.”
The human stops, and snickers. “Sorry.”
“There is no reason for you to be so apprehensive. You are free to visit me at any hour it suits you.”
“Aw, you spoil me, Spock.”
“I do not, as you are not an infant. Please, come in.”
It’s not a very big house.
There’s a small hall, facing a parlor and a kitchenette, and then a corridor, leading to the sleeping area and the Vulcan’s study.
Spock guides him towards the living room, and as soon as Jim enters, he notices that the holovid is on, showing a strongly-built man with a thick beard standing on a dark stage, wearing what he recognizes as typical western clothes of Terran XIX century; he appears to be looking at the sky, his eyes filled with anguished foreboding.
The mournful notes of a bleeding clarinet charge the air in the room.
“I would have never guessed you liked opera” he comments. “Isn’t this far too emotional for Vulcans?”
“I fear that after all this time spent surrounded by humans, I’m irredeemably corrupted. But I find that I do not care. To not appreciate beauty wherever one may find it is a crime, apart from being illogical.”
The man joins the clarinet, matched by the strings emphasizing the solemn harmony.
“E lucevan le stelle,
ed olezzava la terra…”
[ “How the stars used to shine there,
How sweet the earth smelled…” ]
“I know, I know. IDIC.”
“Shall I turn it off?”
“No, no, don’t worry. I’m not exactly an enthusiast, but I don’t mind listening to something every now and then.”
They sit in front of each other, on large, comfortable wicker chairs, but after just a second Spock tenses abruptly, as if pricked with a pin, the deep lines of his brow flattened in an expression of shock.
“Something wrong?” Jim asks anxiously, his alarms instantly going off.
“I—forgive my intrusion but… I sense that you have forged a link with my younger self.”
Now it’s the human’s turn to stiffen.
“Ah… Wh-what are you talking about?” he tries unconvincingly.
“Exactly what you think.”
“But… Gee, I mean, how did you find out so quickly?”
“You forget, Jim, that I had at my disposal more than thirty years to become attuned to your mental waves. When I am near you, I can perceive every change in your aura, even the slightest, no matter the universe. And to a telepath a mating link goes hardly unnoticed in any case.”
“Well, no point in denying it, I guess”, Jim sighs, running a hand through his hair.
“Yes, we have a link” he confesses shyly. “But we’re trying to be discreet about it, at least for now. You know, what with the brass and the regs and the crew and all that shit. Only Bones and Uhura know. Spock explained to me that it’s not a bond yet, though. He says that we better wait the end of the mission to complete it.”
“That… is wise” the elder murmurs, his voice cracking just a little, but the infinitesimal slip speaks volumes to Jim’s trained ear.
He looks at the Vulcan then, and he sees unshed, decades-old tears burning in those deep eyes, joy and grief and relief and loneliness and other hundred unnameable emotions clashing against each other, like dissonant elements in a raging orchestra.
“Spock… what’s wrong?”Jim questions faintly, sitting on the edge of the chair, ready to go to him.
“Svanì per sempre il sogno mio d'amore…”
[Now, my dream of love has vanished forever…]
Spock blinks once, hard, and hangs his head, as if in shame.
“I—I apologise, Jim. I’m merely a nostalgic old man.”
The romanza reaches its climax. The strings tense, the man shouts.
“L'ora è fuggita, e muoio disperato!
E non ho amato mai tanto la vita!”
[“My last hour has flown, and I die, hopeless!
And never have I loved life more!”]
A gnawing sob. Jim will never know if it came from Spock, or from the singer. The recording stops, and the following silence pounds unbearably against his ears.
“Spock… it’s… it’s for the link?” He hesitates. “I thought you had one with your own Kirk.”
“… Yes” the Vulcan finally sighs, raising his head, but not looking at the human, letting his gaze wander out of the window instead.
“Yes. We eventually developed a bond. But it took us so much time… We were both blind, and terrible things had to occur for us to acknowledge the truth. And it was already too late. It always was.”
He stops, and when he resumes speaking, his eyes are unfocused and his voice seems to come from light years away.
“This universe suffered inestimable damage, it is true. But I beg you to believe me when I say that in this precious, insignificant regard you and my younger self are much more fortunate than we were.”
And Jim can’t take it anymore. He rises, with such a sudden violence that the chair almost falls over, and puts his arms around the Vulcan’s neck.
“Jim…” Spock starts, trying to back away.
Jim tightens his grip, leaning his forehead on Spock’s shoulder.
“Please, let me… Please. Just for a moment.”
Some unending seconds elapse, before the human speaks again, his tone a spark trembling in the wind, steel plate harboring molten lava.
“Gods, Spock, I’m so sorry. I feel so… You’ve lost everything and, and…”
“Don’t be so distressed, Jim” Spock interrupts him putting his hands on the small of the human’s back. “I was offered the miracle of meeting you once again, at a time when I had resigned myself to never more be touched by your light. I have the opportunity to help my people during one of the darkest moments in our entire history…”
“But Spock!” Jim cries, rising to meet him, wanting to shout, to punch something, to turn the universe upside down. “All your life, you’ve been an outcast, constantly feeling inadequate, worthless, out of place. And now, in the end, after everything you’ve done and endured… This is what you’re getting?! It’s not fair!”
Spock touches his face then, strokes the curve of the strong chin with his fingertips.
“All that really matters is inside my heart. For the time being, it is enough” he says quietly, desperately wanting Jim to understand.
“No. No, it’s not! You were the first who trusted me, when nobody else did. You helped me when I needed you most. Without you, I would have never saved Earth. There must be something more. Please, tell me there’s something I can do for you.”
“Old friend, you have no duty…”
A heavy sigh, oozing with all the heartache of the broken lovers in the galaxy.
“You’re not changed in the slightest. Neither have I. As usual, I cannot refuse you anything.”
“I’m still waiting” Jim hisses, and for a second Spock’s sure he will drown in the cobalt blue of those impossible eyes. He actually swallows, his hand closing in a loose fist.
“I plead with you… Allow me to touch your thoughts” he asks at last, the admission feeling almost like a liberation, bittersweet surrender, a thorn twisting in his side.
His voice sounds like the fatal melody of a deadly-wounded blackbird, seeping inside Jim’s chest and making his heart cry tears of blood.
Jim doesn’t waver, not the least bit.
“Then do it already. They’re yours to take.”
The Vulcan raises his hand, not even bothering to hide his shaking.
His palm. How beautiful his palm is, Jim muses vaguely…
… and then they’re joined.
Your mind. A temple.
Your spirit. My lighthouse.
Stretching beyond the horizon line
With no end in sight
Shaped by the ocean of life.
This inner landscape.
A gentle wave wakes Jim up;
He reaches the beach and walks through the wasteland until…
… he finds the house.
The orchard gate creaks
And footsteps lightly crease the sand
And Jim comes in
And falls in his arms.
Through years, decades, centuries
People died and planets exploded
Through the madness, through the death and the tears:
We’ll still have each other for a million years.
This. You. We.
This, Spock. Never forget.
I could never.
||And I will always love you.||
The light of the setting suns finds them embraced in the wicker chair, the human hidden in the folds of Spock’s robe, weeping silently through the dimming waves of his breakdown, the Vulcan holding him reverently, brushing the sandy hair in an attempt to soothe that exhausted mind.
Maybe a hour, maybe a minute, maybe a year elapses before they separate.
The rest of the afternoon goes by serenely, as if nothing happened, an almost ultramundane peace coming with their words and their movements.
Then, it’s time for Jim to go.
On the threshold, he turns around, takes Spock’s hands in his, brings them to his lips, and kisses them tenderly, finger by finger, charting every knuckle, every wrinkle, every nail.
“See you soon, t’hy’la” he murmure at last.
“Live long and prosper, Bright One.”
“I’ll do both. Thanks to you.”