Taking the keys from his pocket, Kirk locked the wooden door behind him. He snicked the lock softly into place so he wouldn't wake Bones. He rubbed the nose of the bat door-knocker for good luck. He headed out into the street toward the train station. The keys jingled a little in the pocket of his jeans.
He caught the train north into the city with no trouble and nabbed his favorite seat on the seaward side of the car. He'd come to love this area, to accept seeing the stars only at night. Though McCoy never spoke of it, Kirk was aware that the doctor did not miss being in space and had had no trouble getting used to being on Earth again.
Neither spoke much about their transition from the Enterprise to duty at the Academy during the last year or more. The Fleet psychs had consulted with the panel that had been assembling to court-martial Spock, and all agreed that this would be the best. McCoy and Kirk elected reassignment to the Academy. Spock in the end had agreed to resign and accept healing treatment at Gol, instead of suffering through the first-ever court martial of a Vulcan officer. It had nearly broken Sarek, but he could not stop himself from stepping in and trying to save his son. The alternatives Spock had faced were unthinkable, for a Vulcan.
In the end, all had agreed it was the best plan. Gol for Spock, reassignment for McCoy and Kirk. Supreme rationality ruled the day. Kirk would have laughed at the irony of it all, in other circumstances.
It had been a great shame, in the private views of their friends, that the Fleet had seen fit to get Spock appropriate counseling only after he had snapped. Uhura had complained bitterly to Sulu that anyone could see Spock had been in need of help, of guidance beyond merely retraining him in scientific and rational disciplines. And too much reliance had been put on McCoy, in her opinion, considering how involved he was in the situation. It was preposterous, and she told Komack so in scathing detail.
Perhaps it had been Commander Uhura's influence that had secured for McCoy a relatively cushy post at the Academy. Certainly her influence enabled Kirk to find a fine house that was close to the base and to the areas that meant the most to him. Not that Uhura put it that way, of course. But she had a quiet word with the housing agent, and magically a suitable home had been found in just the right area. Close enough to the Academy, close enough to the Bay, in a calm cul-de-sac of antique houses.
All Kirk's former crew, especially those who were passing through the area, had found their way to the house on Hall Street. Quite a few had joined Kirk on the slatted deck and enjoyed the pleasant California weather before heading off into inky space on their Fleet assignments. Scotty had marveled at the ancient wiring system and quietly fixed some bizarre connections. He'd been blissfully happy when he happened on a centuries-old tube amp as he was fiddling. For their part, Sulu and Chekov had helped fix the peculiar holes in the wall material. "Like there vere giant voodpeckers," Chekov had muttered.
Last night it had been McCoy's turn to visit, sitting in the rope chair out in back, looking toward the redwoods standing at the foot of the yard. McCoy had been delighted by the hummingbirds that drank from the arbutus by the study window. He had entertained Kirk with bird stories and flower stories and generally anecdotes from the natural world. Kirk hadn't seen him so happy since the evening that Sybok had taken away his pain, and Spock had immediately replaced it with a new one. But they didn't speak of that.
Well, almost didn't speak. They'd been drying the dishes, and McCoy dropped one on the floor, boom. He stood staring at the fragments and said with sudden rage, "The worst was how irrational, how nonverbal he was. Like I was an animal, just something in his way."
"Bones," said Kirk gently. "He wasn't himself. You know that. He always admired and respected you."
"Respected me? I'm not so sure, Jim. You probably don't remember all those dozens of times he attacked my work, my knowledge of people. He pretty steadily ridiculed my work in public. Chris asked me once or twice why he was always so antagonistic toward me. She knew him better than I ever did, that's for sure."
They'd moved into the living room for coffee, and for a while McCoy had played the baby grand Kirk kept there for him since he had the larger living quarters. Bach, he'd played first, then a few of Chopin's preludes, then finally Khatchaturian. All respectably old, respectably dead. But even in the Bach Kirk could hear his friend's suffering.
After a while, in the middle of a fugue, McCoy had stopped abruptly and said, "It was just his hands, you know. He really only used his hands against me, and part of his mind. Like I used to do on my patients. When I thought . . . when I realized, that sometimes I must have felt that way to patients--in emergencies, in primitive conditions . . . I couldn't go on praticing, Jim. I couldn't. To know . . . To know, even to *think* I'd ever made a patient feel so invaded . . . "
Kirk's train pulled into the station, not far from his old apartment on Marina Boulevard. Kirk never went there now, never felt tempted to go look at the spot. Nor did he look much toward the Golden Gate Bridge--another haunted place.
No, his destination was nearby, an oddity that Sulu had shown him one day when they had been visiting Angel Island out in the Bay. Sulu had been telling him about the immigrant Chinese who had been interned there some centuries earlier, and how they had left their impression on the land. Sulu had pointed across the water to a truncated little peninsula not far from the Golden Gate Bridge.
It turned out to be an ancient site with a modern sign reading "Wave Organ." Big blocks of marble and basalt helped retain the sand--they were chunks of elegant refuse from the 1906 earthquake. Architrave blocks, inscribed blocks, fine marbles whose weight had almost crushed San Francisco. Sulu had shown him how the waves crashed against the hollow pipes buried at water's edge. The sound of the waves was carried up and amplified around the seat set in the stone wall. It was surprising at first, but Kirk quickly warmed to the liquid, roaring tones.
His unconscious mind knew the sounds well: similar ones had come from a big exhibit during his visit to the Aquarium to locate the humpback whales. He and Spock had passed by a plexiglas tank that replicated the environment of waves hitting the shore. The sudden crashing of water in the display had surprised him, and Spock too, but both had enjoyed it. The Enterprise had nothing like the beautiful silver water that gushed over the marine creatures and kept them alive; Spock, a man from a desert planet, had been mesmerized.
Kirk was on his own today. He hadn't paid a visit to the Wave Organ in quite a while, and he thought it might be just the thing for the restlessness that had been bothering him. Kind of like an itch right under the skin. He didn't seem comfortable anywhere, had slept badly, had no idea why. Maybe he needed a change of scene. The sound of water always worked wonders, or a visit to the shore.
He strolled along the dry path that led to the Wave Organ and gazed peacefully at a passing boat, its sails set wing-and-wing. Beautiful, if a little slow, running that way. Himself, he'd run close-hauled.
He moved down the few steps from the path onto the paved terrace. He especially liked to sit on this outer level, where he could hear the waves around him and watch the airborne shuttle traffic heading for the Academy.
The cool of the stone felt good against the backs of his legs, and he let himself slide into the calm scene around him. He watched the day's shadows tilt and slide around him as the moments rolled past him. It was always good to have McCoy visit, but an invisible barrier often went up between them whenever they were alone together. Probably something to do with how they each knew Spock, but Kirk was leaving it to the shrinks. Not his kind of problem.
He leaned his head back and let the sun warm his face. His thoughts tried to run backward to the hot sun he'd known on Vulcan, during his wedding visit, his fight with Spock over T'Pring . . . best not to think about Vulcan. No profit there.
His ears made more sensitive by his closed eyes, Kirk could hear footsteps coming along the path, no doubt heading to the halfmoon of beach beyond. He kept his eyes closed so he would not have to deal with the newcomer.
Another time the footsteps might have reminded him of someone, but his heart had long since learned not to notice such things.
Without warning a dark voice broke the silence. "Admiral."
Nothing like a swift jab to the solar plexus to get attention. His eyes snapped open and he rolled to his feet. Spinning to face the newcomer, Kirk breathed out one word. Spock . . .
Command training had its uses. He pulled himself together. He dusted his hands on the back of his jeans and reached out to take the hand Spock offered.
They gravely shook hands. Kirk looked his visitor up and down. "You seem well."
"And you. I came to . . . bid you farewell."
"How'd you find me?"
Spock gazed at him silently for a moment. Finally he said, "McCoy told me." He flinched at the name. Kirk knew Spock must have called the house, trying to connect with him. He wondered what they'd said to each other, after so long. After Spock's penance.
The newcomer continued. "Starfleet Command has agreed the best use of my skills would be in diplomatic work rather than in the crew of a starship."
"Why do they think so?"
"I believe their sense is that my abilities are more suited to a less confining atmosphere."
"I can believe they'd conclude that of nearly all of us, Spock," Kirk tried to add a forced chuckle to his reply. Quietly he was calculating that this was Komack's way of stashing Spock in an area with fewer humans, or at least humans he wasn't quite so involved with. After the fiasco with Sybok, Starfleet had come down pretty hard on them all, pointing out that Spock's shocking conduct was the kind of situation they were seeking to avoid by limiting personal relationships between senior officers.
"Indeed. As it happens, I am leaving in two days, if the ship departs on time."
"Departs to where? Can you tell me?"
"I cannot relate the actual destination, but--I can tell you that the senior staff believes it is time to talk more usefully with the Klingon High Command. Beyond that I do not know myself. But it seems that there have been developments, interesting developments . . . "
At the mention of the Klingons, Kirk's face hardened, as Spock had feared it would. Still no forgiveness there, and perhaps for good reason. Having never had a son, Spock could not say.
"Well, I wanted to tell you . . . in person. I considered sending a message, but it did not seem appropriate. I wanted to . . . thank you, for -- all you've done." Spock again held out a hand to Kirk, apparently ready to take his leave.
Kirk stuck out his own hand, thinking Spock was beginning to let his human half take control, once in a while.
But Spock took his hand and pulled him forward. Kirk stumbled and Spock caught him. Held him in both arms and squeezed tight. They stood together for a second, for an eternity. Then Spock lowered his head and found Kirk's mouth. The human stood shocked to stillness. Spock's lips pressed gently against his, Spock's tongue softly outlined curves, top and bottom. A dark hand twined in Kirk's hair, fingers splayed against his shoulder burned a Vulcan handprint through the cloth. Just as Kirk was getting his wits back, Spock straightened and moved away.
Puzzled, Kirk stared at his former mate. "It is likely to be a dangerous mission, Jim. I could not leave without--I had to say goodbye. Too much has passed between us to do otherwise."
"You don't think you're coming back," Kirk said with crude emotion.
"Perhaps it would be for the best if I didn't. If I do, it would likely be to ask your help. And McCoy's. And that would be a hard thing to do."
"Do you know the expression 'Sufficient unto the day the evil thereof'?"
"No," replied the Vulcan.
"It's a good idea. You may find it useful." Unconsciously Kirk pulled himself into a more military carriage. "So this is goodbye, then."
"Yes, it is." They gazed at each other without speaking. There was so much to say, and so little. In the end, after years of reading thoughts, interpreting a raised eyebrow, a hand gesture--in the end they relied on mere words.
"Live long and prosper, Spock."
"And you, Jim. And you."
Kirk watched Spock turn and walk away. His eyes followed the angular form until it vanished in the haze.