One of the downsides to the powers-that-be picking San Francisco as the home of Starfleet Headquarters and Starfleet Academy was the weather—far too cool and damp for a Vulcan. Commander Spock had adapted, of course; he always adapted. He’d learned a very long time ago that the universe did not arrange itself to suit his desires, and there was no logic in assuming that it ever would. So he had adapted to San Francisco, knowing that if it became too unbearable, he could always swallow his stubborn human pride and go home to Vulcan, where the red sands and burning heat of the sun would wrap around his very soul as warmly as the quilts his mother had sent with him when he’d insisted on going to Earth.
Except Vulcan wasn’t there anymore. The red sands were microscopic particles of radioactive dust, floating forever through the icy vacuum of space.
It had been thirty-four days since the destruction of Vulcan, thirty-four days since Spock’s people had been all but wiped from the universe—thirty-four days since his mother had died. There was no logic in thinking about that. It was now in the past; it could not be changed.
This world, including cool, damp San Francisco, had almost suffered Vulcan’s fate as well, but Nero, the madman who had crossed space and time to wreck a terrible vengeance, had been stopped by the crew of the USS Enterprise, including Spock and an infuriating but brilliant human named James T. Kirk. Now Nero was dead—as if that mattered. The Enterprise and its crew were legends—as if that mattered. And they had returned to Earth, to San Francisco, to be debriefed, to tell their story again and again to every possible combination of military and civilian authorities. They had spent the last week doing so. Now everyone knew everything what had happened—as if that mattered. Nothing mattered, not anymore. Spock’s mother was dead; six billion of his people were dead, and he was walking across the campus of Starfleet Academy in the rain. Under normal circumstances, Spock would have sought shelter from the rain, but nothing was normal. Nothing would ever be normal again. He kept walking, the raindrops increasing in frequency, soaking his clothing, his bare head, trickling down into his collar. Spock walked, head down, deaf and blind to his surroundings.
The voice was incredulous—and vaguely familiar. Spock looked up, to see Jim Kirk on the path in front of him. The human was dressed in rain gear, which some disinterested part of Spock acknowledged to be a sensible precaution. Spock had not seen Kirk since the Enterprise had limped into Spacedock. As the de facto captain of the ship during the battle with Nero, Kirk had spent all of his time in even more debriefings than Spock had been forced to endure. The two of them had barely spoken since Nero had been killed. There was nothing to discuss. Kirk had done what Spock couldn’t—he’d saved his world.
“Spock, what are you doing out in this?” Kirk asked. Odd, some disinterested part of Spock thought. He sounds as if he is actually concerned.
“I am walking.”
“I cans see that, but you’re soaked—and chilled.” The human’s eyes caught the shudder that went through the Vulcan’s frame. “Come on.” He actually reached out and laid a hand on Spock’s arm. “My rooms are right over there. Let’s get you in out of the rain.”
Some disinterested part of Spock wondered why it made any difference to Jim Kirk if Spock drowned, but the hand on his arm was warm, and the voice was—insistent. Spock went along with Kirk. There was no reason not to.
“Here.” Jim stepped out of the bathroom with a pile of towels and a set of gray Academy sweats. “These will be too short on you, but they’re better than those wet clothes you’re wearing. I jacked up the heat a bit; I’ll go see if there’s some tea in the kitchen.” He set his burden down on a chair and disappeared into the tiny kitchenette that was part of the senior student suites at the Academy. Jim could have requested more lavish quarters, but by staying here, he felt somehow closer to all the classmates he'd lost. In a few moments, he returned, steaming mug in hand.
“Here; it’s green tea, not black, but it’s hot and…” Jim broke off as he looked at Spock, who was still standing in the middle of the room, water dripping from his hair and clothes, face empty, eyes blank.
“Hey.” Jim set down the mug and crossed the room to Spock’s side. “You need to get dry. You’ll catch your death.” Jim took a deep breath and reached for the fastenings of Spock’s tunic.
“Come on,” he said, keeping his voice calm and matter-of-fact. Spock's reactions were strange, but then, lately, everything had been strange. “This can’t be comfortable.”
Some disinterested part of Spock wondered why his comfort mattered to anyone, but he allowed Kirk to remove his tunic and throw a large bath sheet around his shoulders. Spock felt Kirk’s hands pressing the absorbent cloth against his torso, drying his skin and then setting the towel aside and putting the zip-front sweatshirt around him. Spock felt the human’s fingers, curiously warm, take his elbow and guide him forward.
“Here,” Jim murmured, spreading another towel on a chair. “Why don’t you sit down?” He guided Spock to the seat and then picked up the stoneware mug, placing it gently in Spock’s hands, holding on until he saw the Vulcan’s fingers curl around it. Jim got another towel and, greatly daring, stepped behind Spock, gently rubbing the dry towel over the thick black hair, removing the worst of the rain water. Finally, Jim slung another towel around Spock’s neck and took a seat opposite the Vulcan. He looked at Spock, who sat there, perfectly silent, raindrops still visible on his face.
“So,” Jim said quietly. “I haven’t seen you much since we got back. I saw you going into a couple of conference rooms at Headquarters; I suppose the brass has been grilling you like they’ve grilled me. I've told the same story to about five hundred people.”
Spock nodded his head. Kirk’s statement was accurate; there was no reason to elaborate on it. He set the mug of tea on a side table; he felt no thirst.
“I never really had time to thank you for everything you did.”
Spock blinked as his mind processed those quiet words. He’d thought he understood Standard; after all, it was the language of his….Spock’s mind stopped before it went over that cliff.
“Thank me?” His voice was hoarse, almost a whisper.
“Yeah,” Jim replied. “I couldn’t have stopped Nero without you, Spock. I told the brass that.”
“But…I tried to kill you.” Some disinterested part of Spock felt shame as he remembered the feel of his fingers wrapped around the human’s neck.
Jim shook his head. “You did no such thing,” he replied quietly. “You were hurting, and I poured salt on the wounds. I haven’t had a chance to say it, but I’m sorry for that, sorry for what I had to do. You had the worst day of your life, and I hate the fact that I added to it.”
“You were right.” Spock’s voice was still flat. “I was compromised. You made the right decision.”
“Yeah, but I’m still sorry.” Jim’s voice was gentle. They sat in silence for a moment, Spock’s eyes fixed on his folded hands, Jim looking at his unexpected guest.
“It’s none of my business,” Jim said at last, “but why were you walking in the rain? I’m pretty sure I remember from my xeno-cultural classes that Vulcans aren’t fond of rain.”
Spock raised his face to Jim’s. Much to the human’s surprise, there were still raindrops sliding down his face—or maybe it wasn’t rain at all. Jim’s breath caught as his mind finally told him what he was seeing. Spock nodded.
“The rain—no one could see….” He broke off again as those crystal drops came faster, suddenly rivaling the rain outside. He buried his face in his hands. The human mustn’t see this. He mustn’t offer the empty words that did not heal; he mustn’t…
The arms around him were warm and firm, the sudden feel of Jim Kirk was shocking to Spock’s senses. There was no empty pity here, no superficial regrets. Instead of Spock’s raw mind and heart flinching away from the human, he found himself cradled by Kirk’s very soul, as if the human had the ability to wrap a warm mental quilt around the cold agony that had haunted Spock for thirty-four days. The crystal drops slid down Spock’s face at an accelerated rate, but they weren’t cold now; they were warm, almost soothing as they washed away an infinitesimal amount of the pain before sinking into the fabric of Jim’s tunic. Spock felt a gentle hand smooth his damp, disordered hair, and the memory of his mother doing that when he was upset ripped through him, yet he drank in the contact as Jim knelt by his chair and held on.
“Just cry,” Jim whispered. “I know it won’t fix it, but just cry. You’re not alone, Spock. You don’t have to be alone.”
Jim woke to a flood of sunshine coming through the window of the dorm room. He was lying on the tiny sofa and he raised his head, seeing the bed empty and neatly made. Jim sat up and put his head in his hands. For a moment, he wondered if he’d dreamed the entire night, but no. The towels he’d used on Spock were neatly folded and lying on the nearby chair. Jim remembered that he’d held Spock until the tears had finally ceased and then tucked him into bed before curling up on the sofa and watching until Spock had fallen deeply asleep, for what Jim suspected was the first time in a month. Now the day had come, and Spock was gone.
Jim wondered if he’d ever see him again.
The Enterprise was repaired, re-crewed, and re-provisioned, ready to set out on a tour of duty. Captain James T. Kirk, now a real captain, not just a lucky repeat offender thrust into the position, sat in the center chair, reading and signing off on the last of the endless paperwork needed before the ship could go out into space and kick some ass. He’d just reached the final crew roster when he heard the lift door open and shut behind him.
Jim spun around in his chair and looked up. There was Spock, neatly dressed in a blue Science uniform, hair a neat shiny cap of black silk, and his eyes warm as they met Jim’s.
“I have been informed by Command that the USS Enterprise is still lacking a Science Officer,” Spock said quietly. “I would ask that you consider my application for the position.”
Jim felt the smile that he fought to keep from turning into a grin. “Consider it considered, Commander,” he said. “Welcome aboard.”
“Thank you, sir.” Spock inclined his head and moved towards the Science station. Then he stopped and took a step down onto the Bridge, stopping by Jim’s chair.
“For everything,” he said, very softly, his eyes meeting Jim’s. For an instant, something passed between them. Then Spock was gone, moving to his station with precise steps, as Jim settled back into his seat and nodded to Sulu, who took them out of Spacedock. There was a big universe out there, and a soon-to-be legendary team would see it—together.