He’d always trusted his gut instincts. He trusted them now. He continued speaking. "This captain’s crew—they were all cadets. So very young. They all looked up to him, trusted him. And then the unthinkable happened."
A remote curiosity appeared on Spock’s austere face.
"To save his crew from certain death he sacrificed himself. The effects of the radiation…. He must have known the consequences. And yet he made that choice." Kirk cleared his throat against the roughness in his voice. "It was the right choice. He saved the lives of all those cadets, but at tragic cost to his own."
"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few," Spock intoned.
"Yes. Quite logical. As officers we know we may be called upon to make those decisions, those sacrifices." That was all by the book: Terran, Vulcan, what did it matter? The needs of the many. The needs of the one. "I looked at the starship captain’s ruined body. And then he—somehow—stepped outside himself. And then there were two of him. One man was collapsed, destroyed. The other stood there—healthy. Whole."
Spock was studying him as if he were a representative of some newly discovered species whose behavior had not as yet been catalogued. Was there anything in those eyes which might be intrigued by the unexpected, the disorderly, the illogical? But the brown depths revealed nothing. Perhaps those eyes concealed nothing at all.
"The starship captain looked directly at me. He said, ‘I have a message for my friend. For Spock.’"
One of Spock’s eyebrows twitched upward. The gesture lacerated Kirk with hope; he leaned forward, desperate for more evidence that his friend lay somewhere buried beneath that blank surface.
"I am acquainted with the facts of my death." Kirk shuddered at this bitter marvel, that Spock’s voice could remain uninflected even when discussing the impossible. "I had assumed you were speaking of that incident."
"No." The word escaped Kirk, a slight breath of air released into the stillness. "No." The man in his dream smiled at him, crystal blue eyes filled with fire and joy. "I dreamed of Christopher Pike. He wanted me to give you this message. He said, ‘Tell Spock it’s been good visiting with you. I’m enjoying our conversations. But it’s time for you to go home.’"
Spock folded his hands together and looked at Kirk with no trace of expectation in his eyes. "There is no logic in dreams."
"No." Kirk spoke past the stone in his heart. "Of course not."
"Fleet Captain Pike is dead. The Talosians sent word to Starfleet Command on Stardate 1101.06."
"Yes. I know."
"Admiral," Spock said carefully, his baritone voice and utterly precise pronunciation cutting through Kirk like a laser. "There was a full complement of cadets and personnel on that ship, all of whom survived. Captain Pike did his duty."
"And all those lives are valuable. Precious. How much we honor the sacrifices of good people—and how little we truly understand what it means. I lost too many good crewmembers over the years." He found he had to look away from Spock’s indifferent gaze. "Until I finally lost myself."
The silence stretched out for a moment, two. Kirk swallowed against the obstruction in his throat and looked up. Spock was watching him with clear puzzlement, but no understanding.
"Do you remember when you took Captain Pike to Talos IV?"
"I recall the incident."
"Do you remember what you did? What you were willing to sacrifice to save him?"
"Do you remember how you felt?"
Spock went very still, eyes blank, and Kirk was suddenly reminded of the hesitation in a computer when it was processing large amounts of unknown data. A sudden stab of pain flashed through him, images passing in his own mind, almost too fast to process.
—Rayna’s face, startled, just before she fell. "I…was not human. Now I…love…."
He had destroyed Rayna with emotion. He suddenly, desperately, wanted to take back what he had just said. I want to awaken you, not destroy you.
But Spock had focused his attention on Kirk again, and Kirk could see by the lack of expression on Spock’s face that nothing had changed.
"Negative," Spock said flatly.
"I remember how I felt." Kirk’s fingers curled into fists. He consciously relaxed his hands again and wrapped them around the tea glass, which was wet with condensation. Spock was not a machine. Spock was flesh, blood, bone, and inside him, somewhere, were the seeds of who he had been before. Making him feel wouldn’t destroy him; Kirk was certain of it. "But it’s hard to explain what I felt, then. I felt too much." He studied Spock’s face. "But I came to terms with all of that, in the months that followed. Because, you see, I realized how much you were capable of feeling for another. You were willing to give up everything for Pike—your career, and quite possibly your life. It could easily have gone that way, you know."
"I recall that I did calculate the odds that Starfleet Command would not accept my actions. As you recall, I did not confide in you. It would not have been logical to expose you to the risk of the death penalty."
"That’s when I began to understand why you did what you did. But your logic was flawed."
Both eyebrows rose slightly. Encouraged, Kirk continued, "Despite what you said to me at the time, it wasn’t logical to do what you did for Pike. I already knew you concealed so very much beneath your calm exterior. I hoped that you would come to feel much more for me. And you did. Then, there was no need to talk to you about Talos IV. No need to tell you how jealous I was of Captain Pike."
Spock’s brows contracted into the tiniest of frowns. "Jealousy. An emotion often associated with sexual possessiveness. I never had sexual relations with Christopher Pike. You had no cause for that emotion. I do not recall being aware of any such emotion on your part during the years in which we engaged in sexual relations."
Kirk felt like a fist had slammed against his chest. You remember everything, don’t you? And yet you remember nothing. "Emotions are more complicated than textbook answers." It must have been an errant breeze from the air conditioning unit then that brushed against Kirk’s shoulder, feeling for an instant like the touch of another’s encouraging hand. And then, for an instant, the sensation of someone whispering in his ear: Tell him everything.
He shook his head. "There was more to the dream. I realized we were seated at a conference table. You, Captain Pike and myself. And then I looked around and saw the table wasn’t in a room, but set in the middle of a forest clearing. We were surrounded by tall trees, giant ferns. We weren’t alone. A sehlat was sitting a few feet away, watching us. And Aaron Grayson was also seated at the table."
"Aaron Grayson, born Stardate 1026.06, died Stardate 1102.57. Last position, Dean of Multi-Species Ethnology at Starfleet Academy, San Francisco division, Earth. Most noted for—"
"Your grandfather." Kirk interrupted Spock’s data flow. "Do you remember the last time we saw him?"
Spock’s brow furrowed into the faintest trace of a frown. "Stardate 1102.01. We had dinner at his residence. We discussed the interdisciplinary approach to xeno-anthropology and xeno-pharmacology—"
"That, among other things. We sat by his fireplace and enjoyed a fine wine. You had a glass, as well."
"The consumption of alcohol is an illogical act."
"You commented on the fine bouquet and flavor."
"That is true."
"In my dream, Aaron raised a glass in toast. Captain Pike and you raised your glasses as well. I looked for my glass, to join the toast, but I couldn’t find it. I realized we’d been in the middle of a conversation. But it was as if I’d suddenly woken up and realized I’d forgotten what I was supposed to be saying. And you and Pike and Aaron—the three of you kept talking. You all turned to me, clearly waiting for me to say something. But I got up and walked away. I walked into the desert. But it got too hot, and I turned back. Pike and Aaron were gone. Your sehlat was gone. The table was gone. You were standing, surrounded by those giant ferns, those tall trees of Genesis. You were naked." And as young as you were when I first met you, Kirk thought, and whole in a way you never were in those years. Whole, as you were in those years we shared after V’ger.
Spock was watching him intently, brown eyes filled with puzzlement as Kirk continued, "You stood there, utterly unself-conscious. You smiled at me."
Kirk caught his breath at his memory of Spock’s dream smile—natural and free, without any attempt at Vulcan dignity, propriety or concealment. "You smiled at me…." That glorious smile, unguarded, open, joyous. "You’ve smiled like that in the past, but rarely. I’ve treasured each and every one of those smiles."
Spock stared at him.
"You held out your hand to me. I tried to reach you. But I was standing in the desert and couldn’t cross over to where you were. There was something between us, some invisible barrier I couldn’t pass. The dream ended there."
Spock’s eyes lost their focus. "You always leave gardens." The words, flat and disassociated, escaped his lips on a sigh. He blinked once, then focused back on Kirk. Now there was a trace of recognizable expression on his face. Confusion.
"If there were only some further place I could take you where you could be whole." There wasn’t enough room in Kirk’s words for his pain; his throat closed before he could say any more. He picked up his glass and took a sip of the unsweetened tea.
Spock stood up. "It is clear that I require further lessons." He turned. He walked away, back into the sunlight, his sure mechanical strides taking him rapidly to Amanda’s doorway. And then inside.
Kirk found he was standing, with no memory of getting to his feet. The glass, slick with condensation, slipped through his fingers and fell.
Unbroken, unshattered, the glass hit the floor, its contents spilling in a quick stain on the tiles, then rolled out past the demarcation of shadow and light. Kirk stared at it without conscious awareness of time. The moisture that clung to it quickly vanished, evaporated by the unforgiving Vulcan sun.
Amanda was with him again. He didn’t recall her approach, but he allowed her to settle him back into his chair. A tremulous smile tugged at her lips. Her small hand took his and squeezed it tightly.
"He remembers more every day. Learns more."
"It’s like programming a machine."
"You had so much more of him than I—" Amanda bit off her words. He squeezed her hand, in implicit forgiveness for her bitter words. She smiled at him ruefully. "What we’ve both lost…."
"He’s alive. That’s what matters. He’s alive."
He stared back at the house, at that firmly closed door. Spock would be back inside, back at his computer, back to the comfort of facts and figures, his logic untainted by anything as difficult to categorize as love.
"That’s all that matters," he whispered again.
Continued in Part 3: