Kirk took a long pull from his glass, grimaced at the burn in his throat. He abruptly stood and glanced around him. He began to move about the apartment, picking up an item here and there. He returned to his desk and made two stacks. The left held his boxed medals, a hip-flask of Romulan ale Scotty had given him, and the wedding holopic of himself and Spock. Also the ten credits he owed McCoy after the last hoverball series they'd watched together.
The right stack was smaller. It held only his copy of "A Tale of Two Cities," a curious ornamental knife taken from its hangers by the chimney, and a carved wooden box.
He slumped into his chair and reflected on the two groups. He knew McCoy would enjoy the ale; he hoped that he 'd enjoy having the medals and the holopic. No one else, really, to give them to, since he had no heirs as such. And Sarek and Amanda had their own pictures from his joining to Spock....
Kirk wondered whether Spock would remember enough to comprehend the items he'd receive. His memory was so goddamn spotty it was hard to tell. There was the book Spock had thoughtfully given him, at a point when he'd needed help dealing with the passage of time. Easy for Spock to be comfortable, of course, with a life span nearly twice as long.
The knife he'd used to kill the giant snake on Deneb, the cruellest blade he owned, the one made of the best steel, able to pierce the beast's thick hide and reach one of its hearts. Lastly, the box in which Spock had brought their rings of joining, the laissahra. What joy he'd felt when he saw them for the first time, when he knew that they would finally, finally be able to lead their lives together, acknowledge their feelings, address the complications their situations and ranks posed. Spock had taken his ring from the box that night, not waiting for the ceremony. He'd placed it on his t'hy'la's finger and...
No. That life was gone, lying in the past. No reason to reflect on it. Half the bond was dead already, better to finish a bad job and be done.
Kirk rummaged in his desk and found pen and paper. He quickly scribed two torn slips "Bones" and "Spock," and labeled the stacks. He took a fresh sheet and began to write.
'Spock, dearest Spock. For once in my life, I'm walking away. I told Bones I need my pain, and I do, for this. This is the no-win scenario. Life without you is unimaginable. When Sarek told me we could get you back, I thought he meant *completely.* What a fool I was--I never thought there were other possibilities. Well, t'hy'la, this is the end. You're everything to me. I can't go on like this, with you but without you. So I'm doing this while I can. Some will say I'm weak, that I've given up, but I like to think that I'm just changing the conditions of the test.
'I must say it surprises me a little that this will be my exit, after all those near-misses we had in space. I doubt this is the way that Star Fleet likes its flag officers to depart. But they've already told me I'm not worthy to be an admiral any more, and I don't quite feel worthy to be captain of the Enterprise, not in this condition. And clearly you feel I'm not worthy of you.
'Fine, that's fine with me, we all make our own choices. As you once said, "if there are private hells, then we all must live in them." But I won't. I refuse. Here's my response to that philosophy.
'McCoy has all the codes and combinations you'll need, if you've forgotten those too.
'Parted from me, and never parted.
Never and always touching and touched.
Never and always touching and touched.
I remember when I believed those words.
'Yours, always. Always.
He put down his pen and folded the paper exactly in two. He wrote Spock's name on the outside with firm strokes. Briefly he rested his head on his folded hands.
Kirk rose and headed for the bathroom. He took up his razor, foamed his face with precision, and with minute attention removed the day's growth of beard. He washed his razor, shook it, and hung it to dry.
Reaching into the shower, he twisted the knob and set the water temperature just right. He stripped quickly and stepped into the stream. Turning his mind forcibly away from memories of what they'd done together in that cubicle, he lathered himself up and washed his whole body in minute detail. Careful soap, careful scrubbing, clean head to toe.
He stepped out and dried his body and then his hair with a large white towel. Smoothly he combed his damp hair back from his forehead. He folded the towel with attention and hung it on the rack. He stared at himself for a moment in the mirror, but saw nothing he recognized in the eyes that looked back.
Still nude, he walked through to the bedroom that they had shared, the one green-lit with the glow from the k'lin. He had to stand on a low stool to reach one end of the fabric, but once it was in his hand, he had only to walk around the bed to rip out the simple moorings on the ceiling. Meters and meters of fabric glided downward across the dark blue of the bedspread, creating green hills and valleys around the room, with rivulets and streams of silver and gold paint where the words of the poems stood out.
He embraced the material as it embraced him. His mind ran back to the first time he'd seen it, the first time he'd seen the written record of his vows to Spock and Spock's to him. An emotional statement thirty meters long, burning heartfelt passion. The echo of Spock murmuring in his ear, arms wrapped tightly around him--"For I, except you enthrall me, never shall be free, nor ever chaste, except you ravish me..."
He gathered the soft silk in his arms and sat down hard on the edge of the bed. He ran its marvellous texture through his fingers, smoothed it against his cheek. Soft. So soft. So long since anything felt like that on his skin. He sagged back on the bed and rested his feet on the edge. His hands began to wander, rolling the silk here and there, drawing it across bare skin, then up, then down... After a time he groaned softly, and a tear slid from beneath a closed lid. His hands crept downward, stroking and pulling, offering comfort, stimulation, arousal. Fingertip and thumb met, formed a gateway to release.
An eternity passed, or a short moment, he wasn't sure which--when abruptly he found his fingers coated with hot, viscous goo. It shocked Kirk a little: he gazed at his hands as though they belonged to another man.
Without moving, he shifted his eyes to the framed portrait of Spock that stood on the dresser. Though it was official Star Fleet, it nevertheless had caught the Vulcan's spirit as he gazed directly out at the viewer, confident in his red captain's jacket.
Slowly, not taking his eyes off the picture, Kirk wiped his hands deliberately and thoroughly on a trailing end of the k'lin. The thin silk was not absorbent, and he found he had to use a surprising area of fabric to clean his fingers. An old joke of Carol's floated into his head, //"saving it up for a special occasion?"//
A little dazed by the clash of memories and emotions, he sat up. Piling the k'lin in a shining heap on the corner of the bed, he put his palms together and bowed toward the fabric with closed eyes.
Standing up, he measured with his arms and found the approximate middle of the material, then centered it on his back. He pulled it around to the front, tied a cruel knot in the delicate fabric to bind it closely to him. Now with enormous wings of green silk, he headed for the balcony on which he and his chief medical officer had been drinking just a few hours before.
He stopped briefly and tapped a few buttons on the music console. The words of the dirge McCoy had played began to slide out of the speakers, and with a rapid finger he keyed up the volume. The lighted bar reached five, then ten, then fifteen, as the cups in the cabinet below began to rattle.
Desperado, why don't you come to your senses
you've been out riding fences for so long now
Kirk drew himself upright, closed his eyes briefly. The floor beneath his feet trembled with the weight of the bass line.
oh you're a hard one, but I know that you got
these things that are pleasing you can hurt you somehow
The words washed laboriously over him, draining him of thought. The song's volume covered the *snik* of the front door opening, the pause as someone entered, and the soft tap as the door shut.
don't you draw the queen of diamonds boy...
Slowly he turned and gazed out at the balcony. Briefly he wrapped his arms around himself, making himself warm under the yards of glimmering silk.
In the foyer his visitor stood, puzzled at the racket the music was making, and wondering where the apartment's occupant was. It had been a risk to come--an emotional risk, he'd finally admitted to himself--and now that he was here he was having second thoughts.
now it seems to me some fine things have been
laid upon your table
but you only want the ones that you can't get
Desperado, oh you ain't gettin' no younger
your pain and your hunger they're driving you home
Kirk stepped onto the balcony. He ran a hand across the back of the chair McCoy had used, smoothing a nonexistent wrinkle. "G'bye, Bones," he whispered.
Then he pulled a chair against the table next to the railing. Shoulders squared, Kirk stepped onto the seat. And onto the table. The noise of the furniture legs grinding on the stone terrace caught the sensitive ear of the guest, who in slow motion turned his head toward the balcony on the far side of the apartment.
Kirk moved his arms a little, to free the silk flowing onto the floor behind him. For a moment he stood, gazing at the Promenade. The long bench, where Spock had first... They had begun their journey as a bonded pair just there, by the breakwater.
The past was so close he could almost touch it.
freedom, o freedom, well that's just some people talking
your prison is walking through this world all alone
He closed his eyes, then leaned forward into the soft evening breeze. The rich green billowed around him. It rose and fell like waves on the sea. James Kirk leapt outward, soaring in a graceful swan-dive, seeking the pavement twenty-three floors below.
In five long steps Spock sprinted through the living room. The dark Vulcan hands frantically grabbed at the flying silk, which was pouring through his fingers like water. Just when he thought he had a hand-hold, the silk unexpectedly turned wet. His fingers slipped on the damp, and Jim was gone.
The k'lin rippled around James Kirk's head. It cracked and snapped in the wind, sounding for all the world like 'spock'--the last word in his mind before he hit the ground.