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 up. He rubbed the nose of the bat door-knocker for good luck and headed out into the street toward the train station. The keys jingled a little in his.
He caught the train north into the city with no trouble. He nabbed his favorite seat on the seaward side of the car, even though today's fog hid the view a little. 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 blistering detail. He listened meekly.
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 beautiful house close both 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 estate agent, and magically a suitable house had been found in just the right area.
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 deck and enjoyed the pleasant California weather before heading off into inky space on their exotic assignments.
Last night it had been McCoy's turn to visit, sitting in the rope chair out in back, looking at 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.
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 bay 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 and Kirk had explored the small spit of land, and 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.
He had recognized the sounds straight off--the exhibit he had seen with Spock at the Aquarium where George and Gracie had first lived. They had passed by a plexiglas tank that replicated the environment of waves hitting the shore. The 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 exquisite marine creatures and brought them life. Spock, a man from a desert planet, had been mesmerized.
Kirk strolled along the dry path that led to the Wave Organ and mused on the strength this spot gave him. He hadn't thought of this place in a long time, but the morning had got off to such a strange start.
He'd flung back the shower curtain, grabbed a towel, and started to step out of the shower. He knew the house well, had restored substantial parts of it--and yet today, when he glanced at the mural painted on the floor, he had been certain he'd seen Spock's IDIC peeking out of the sand. The mural had flummoxed more than one guest, who thought the objects painted into the floor mural were things they'd dropped from their pockets. When he'd first exposed the old mural, Kirk had seen his cat staring at a painted-on fish and making a feline hunting noise.
He had half-reached an arm down to pick up Spock's brooch before he caught himself and remembered all the reasons it couldn't be there. Damn.
So it was time for a visit. He found the location always reminded him of Spock, and maybe it was better not to dwell on that, but every so often he had to visit--he didn't have much else. It was doubtful he would see Spock again, given present circumstances. Gol had a habit of keeping its own.
The fog was beginning to lift, and in patches the sun glittered on the water. A pleasant scent of eucalyptus and other aromatic plants floated across from the island opposite. He strolled down the few steps from the path onto the paved terrace of the Wave Organ. He especially liked to sit on this outer level, where he could hear the waves around him and watch the shuttle traffic heading for the Academy.
The smooth stone felt good against the backs of his legs, and he let himself slide into the calm scene around him. He leaned his head back and the weak sun warmed his face. His thoughts immediately ran backward to the blazing sun he'd known on Vulcan, during his wedding visit, his fight with Spock over T'Pring, other times. Those days were so long ago, and yet he still had to consider them some of the best he'd known.
After a time he straightened and looked around a bit. A pelican wheeled overhead, and where the path began a cloud of pigeons had been disturbed from their pecking. A dim figure was striding along the trail. Damn. He'd wanted to be alone.
But there was something about this person. He shaded his eyes with his hand against the sun's glare against the haze. The figure grew larger. Kirk could make out a cloak swinging from the angular shoulders.
Against all probability. Spock. Unable to process the information, Kirk watched him approach. His face came into view. Kirk could just see the soft Vulcan half-boots he was wearing, could recall the odd flexible taps that Vulcans affected, could hear the taps hitting the gravel of the path. Spock. In person.
"Greetings." Spock addressed him from a cautious distance.
Kirk broke into a trot and covered the last steps himself. Hardly speaking aloud, he replied simply, "You're back."
"You did not expect to see me, then?"
"Not on this side of . . . no. I knew you were being . . . released about now, but Amanda had said she thought you'd stay at Gol. That you were finding the regimen valuable."
"I did." Dark eyes studied green. Uncertainty.
"Come on, sit down here with me. I love this place. It's so---natural." Kirk gestured toward the inset seat that looked across to the main peninsula that was San Francisco.
Easily Spock relaxed against the stone, stretching long legs in front of him and crossing them at the ankles. Kirk tried not to stare at him, at the lean elegance he'd once known so well, then tried so hard to forget. Like he could forget how to breathe.
For a long time neither said anything. Kirk was almost sure he could hear Spock's rapid pulse. But probably it was some trick, some echo off the slabs that overhung their seat.
"My time at the sanctuary was well spent."
"I'm glad to hear it. Did you -- did you take up where you'd left off? I don't know much about how it works." Kirk found one hand was drumming impatiently against the stone. Good thing it was on the side away from Spock.
"Not precisely. There are several disciplines taught there, as well as some of the healing arts. It was possible to devise a scheme that specifically suited my . . . situation." That was as close as Kirk had ever heard him get to past events. "I had much time for reading and reflection. It was valuable work."
Kirk smiled at his friend, delighted. "I'm glad to hear that. I'm sure the others will be--would be--too. Ah, what's next, Spock? What brings you to San Francisco?"
Spock turned his head to the left, looked out at the water. He could hear Kirk's fingers but was not certain what that meant, anymore. He wavered.
"How is your work at the Academy progressing?"
Kirk was puzzled to hear Spock dodge a direct question. // not logical, // a tiny voice said in his ear.
At length he replied, "Pretty well, all in all, though the meetings go on forever. I never realized how much I enjoyed working with the small crew on the Enterprise--a couple of announcements on the comm channel, and we could avoid six weeks of meetings."
Spock mused, "Yes, the Enterprise had its good points. Many good points, in fact. Though the quarters were somewhat small to start with. I found the firepot needed careful tending to avoid smoke."
"Yeah, I remember the time I came to see you . . ." Kirk broke off suddenly, remember the *full* scene. He'd been to see Spock, about his wedding on Vulcan. He'd noticed the firepot was smoking, just as Spock had told him . . .
Gently Spock said, "I too remember, Jim. The healers did wonderful work, in the end, restoring my full recollections of past events, information, and so forth."
"Aha. I see. Then you remember . . . "
Spock interrupted him. "I remember everything." Dark eyes again sought green ones. "Jim."
Jim. A feral hope began to claw against Kirk's ribcage trying to get out. Maybe, maybe.
The Vulcan continued. "I remember our bonding. I remember your visiting me on Vulcan, after the accident, and trying to nudge my recollections into better order. I remember . . . everything." Spock's face was shadowed by the overhang. Kirk couldn't read his face, couldn't tell whether he was showing any reaction. Any anticipation. Or fear.
The human turned a little, to face the other. He simply said, "And?" Spock gave no reply. After so long, after so many fruitless and bitter words, the Vulcan just raised a hand. Two fingers erect, two fingers and a thumb folded. A year passed, a decade. They sat like stones. It seemed to Kirk they were back in the engine room of the Enterprise, Spock before him, untouchable, dying. A wall between them then, a wall between them now. Spock had never seemed more alien.
Slowly Spock raised his other hand, and Kirk felt himself flinch, draw back from those fingers that had raped McCoy's mind. But Spock merely rested a hand on his arm. They gazed at each other. Kirk noted Spock's hair was now shot with grey, much like his own. Neither was young any longer. They had spent their adult lives together, one way and another. Spock had atoned for his crime, had drawn together the threads of his life. All but one.
Almost by instinct, Kirk brought up his own hand, two fingers and two, the knuckle of the thumb angled out. As slowly as a ship on thrusters alone, he moved his hand to reach Spock's. The pads of the fingers touched. Then the tips of the nails. His thumb came to rest against the other's. He could feel the heat spring across, could feel his hand grow warm with alien heat. For a moment neither moved. Then by millimeters Spock began to move his fingers against Kirk's. Oh so gently he slid his fingers downward. He caressed the outside of Kirk's index finger, noting how the human's eyes widened as he did so. He felt how the skin had roughened. This was no longer a young man. Both had been through much, lost much.
Downward the lean fingers went, following the curve where the thumb met the fingers. Then Spock moved his hand up again and let the fingertips rest together. Kirk was breathing harder, and he could feel his own heart pounding madly against his ribs. It had been an eon, a lifetime or three since they had touched with such care, such caution.
Suddenly uncertain, Spock blinked and lowered his hand. Kirk jumped a little. A second passed, and another. Kirk reached for Spock's hand and re-formed the fingers. He touched his fingertips again to Spock's and knew that it was right. The Vulcan could read the answer in his eyes and bridged his fingers around Kirk's hand in a kind of cage. Easily, softly, he slid two fingers into the circle made by Kirk's thumb and folded fingers. Firmly Kirk grasped the inserted fingers. Their flesh met, matched, knew acceptance.
Choosing his words carefully, Kirk said, "When we transported Miranda Jones and Ambassador Kalos, you and I talked about beauty and goodness."
"I remember. I remember your saying to me . . ." But Spock could not form the words. His heart pounding in his throat was choking him. It had been that evening when he realized he could love James Kirk, body and soul.
"Spock, to me you were always 'the good and the beautiful', united in one body."
Kirk's companion looked away, took his hand away. "I am neither, now. If I ever was."
The former captain of the Enterprise got to his feet and began to walk back and forth. He looked toward the city, not wanting to see what emotions were playing across the face of his former mate, whether they were supposed to be there or not.
"Maybe none of us are. Maybe I was young and stupid, to put that burden on you. But any way I look at it, I've learned that I will always see you as a good person, a moral person. I've learned I'll always be linked to you, no matter what happens. During this--time, I could have killed myself any number of ways, I could have stayed with McCoy, or taken yet another lover. But I learned that I am yours, I will always be, whether you'll have me or not. In a way it doesn't matter any more whether we're actually together. I learned that some truths hold no matter what happens. Maybe we were paired in a previous life. Or maybe we will be in a life to come. Any way I look at it, all I see is that our--souls, our katras, belong together."
With an act of will, he turned and looked at Spock. The Vulcan was watching him steadily, had an eyebrow quirked at a familiar angle. Kirk's heart turned over.
Spock patted the stone seat next to him. "I agree."
As he took his seat again, Kirk said, "Maybe that's all we need. Maybe we've made our lives too complicated. I am always yours, Spock, no matter what happens. I am yours, if you'll have me."
Spock reached for Kirk's temple with one hand, and this time the human did not flinch. No words disturbed the seagulls floating overhead. And if they heard a heartfelt sigh of acceptance, they thought it was the sound of the sea meeting the shore.