The light dust had an annoying tendency to stick to his boots, Kirk noted. He'd forgotten that about this place. It had been a year or more since he had last looked out on the Bay from here, and longer since he'd actually walked the shore. A few things had changed here and there.
In some ways he was more settled than he'd been in a long time. He had a house near the Bay, a new office at the Academy, his friends stopped in to visit him. But in other ways--he was unsettled indefinitely. He had never imagined life without Spock, either time. On the first occasion he had so quickly become involved in retrieving Spock that he never really grieved for him. And on this occasion, circumstances were so peculiar--
He had put off this task as long as he could--he didn't ask himself why. But he'd promised Sarek and Amanda he would do this, and a promise was a promise.
The spit of land curved a little to his left and as he crunched along the dried weeds and grasses brushed against his legs. Rosemary, he idly observed, and fennel. Something that looked like a dead jade plant. Finally he was at the top of the short beach looking across at Angel Island. An ironic name, he mused, for an island that had been hell for its captives.
Mostly he tried not to think. Especially not about people who left their homeland behind to begin a new life in San Francisco, as many of the first people on the island had done.
He averted his eyes and got to work.
Sitting down on a boulder he pulled a printout from his pocket. He set a latched container at his feet and began to read.
It hurt less, now, to read the burning words. The first time he'd seen them, he was leaning on the Galileo's nacelle in the hangar deck. He'd read them and nearly followed Spock into the blackness of space. They'd had to hold him back from the void, as they'd done the other time he'd learned Spock was dying, dead.
For an eternity he knelt on the floor of the hangar deck, soundlessly staring at the words. It was Scotty who suggested a scan to see if they could locate the body, or what was left of it after full exposure to the vacuum of space, unprotected. Few had walked off the end of a starship without an enviro suit, and none had lived to talk about it.
Scotty. He'd been a good friend to Kirk this last year, though both had quietly pretended otherwise. From the moment the engineer had seen the emergency light blinking on the main panel, to the moment he'd seen the personal padd lying on the ramp of the Galileo--Scotty had somehow known what had happened, and what lay ahead. Khan's destruction of his beloved nephew Peter gave him a notion of the hell Kirk--and McCoy--were in.
Kirk read the words again, though he had them drilled into his soul. He found the matchbook in his pocket and struck a small flame. A corner of the paper ignited, and he held on until the last possible moment. He watched the white paper turn black, the black ink of the words turn metallic, then all fade from view. Flaming shreds fell on the wet sand and were reduced to atoms by the incoming wavelets.
Finally he stood. He studied the shore around him and made sure he was alone. This last duty he wanted to do in solitude and silence. It was the least he could do for his bondmate, who had always hated a fuss. Kirk drew back the jade pin and let the lid fall open. Silver and black shards stared at him from within the fragrant container. His hand shook a little and the breeze took a few light fragments as he watched.
He stepped forward toward the water and held the box aloft. As the wind began to sift through the fragments, he jerkily pulled the box to him, cradled it against his tunic. He bowed his head and rested it on the lid. After a little he straightened, pulled his shoulders back. He again opened the box, and gently touched one minute flake. It shone on the end of his finger. It winked at him in the sun. Instinctively he touched his finger to his tongue, a final and permanent joining with his t'hy'la. Somewhere in his mind a dark voice echoed. parted from me, and never parted
Now stronger, he set to his task. Confidently he lifted his left hand, the box open wide to the elements. Kirk tilted the container and the wind took up its cargo, wafting the ashes out into the brilliant blue of the harbor. Here and there, the bits glittered like stars and went out, as they met the water and were quenched.
"It wasn't a simple love, was it, Spock? But worth it." His lips hardly moved.
Kirk closed the box and latched it. He took a few steps back up the slope of the beach, and hefted the square chunk of sandalwood in his hand. Then he began an odd sideways run, as if he had a javelin in his hand. Just shy of the waves' edge he released the box and hurled it far out into the water.
Briefly it floated, turned on end, sank.
Kirk stared for a bit at the spot where the box had last been visible. Then he shook his head once or twice, shrugged his shoulders as if he were cold, and turned away.
He headed back to the Academy, where a desk full of work awaited him. There was nothing else to do.