Jim stared at the email message, which announced the birth of Solkan cha Sarek, son of Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan and his mate, T’Saaria. The child had been born four days ago on Vafer-Tor, the new Vulcan home world.
Shit, Jim thought, staring at the cool green letters on the black screen. I can’t imagine this is going to make Spock particularly happy, and I can’t say that I blame him.
In the 17 months since the destruction of Vulcan and the assignment of the USS Enterprise to Jim Kirk, he had gradually, painfully, made friends with Spock, his half-Vulcan, half-human First Officer, a man who, according to a certain time-traveling old Vulcan who should know, was going to be the most important friend Jim ever had.
Jim had always been able to make friends easily; it was one of the few talents that had made his childhood anything less than one long chapter of Dante’s Inferno. People (well, most people; his dick of a stepfather had certainly been immune to Jim’s charm) just naturally liked Jim Kirk and he liked them right back. Once he’d ended up as Captain of a 480-person starship, Jim had discovered that his ability to make friends or at least friendly acquaintances, was at least as important as his ability to think on his feet, bluff a Klingon commander, and find dilithium crystals just before the engines shut down for good.
But making friends with Spock—that was a challenge. Spock simply didn’t make friends. He was polite and proper, but he kept very much to himself, even in his off hours. Some of it was Vulcan reticence; some of it (Jim suspected) was the product of years of being ostracized by his peers, most of whom had not been accepting of the half-breed in their midst. As a result, Spock learned to use solitude as armor, and the destruction of Vulcan hadn’t done anything to pierce that armor—except with Jim.
On two separate occasions, Jim had held Spock in his arms while the Vulcan wept for his human mother, Amanda, who had died on Vulcan, even as Spock tried to save her. Jim was pretty dammed sure that until Jim came along, Spock had never cried in anyone’s arms but Amanda’s.
After the second episode, which took place on the one-year anniversary of Vulcan’s destruction, Spock had—thawed Jim guessed he would have to say. He began to eat breakfast with Jim most mornings before their shift. He allowed Jim to persuade him to occasionally play chess in Main Rec. On two occasions, he’d even come to Jim’s quarters at the human’s invitation and watched old videos. The only time Jim had ever seen Spock smile was when he watched Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch for the first time. The smile had been faint, but it was real, and it had warmed Jim like the Tahitian sun. Then, twelve nights ago, Spock had buzzed at Jim’s door.
“Come in.” Jim kept an open-door policy most of the time; he wanted crewmen to be able to approach him. However, he was especially pleased to see Spock.
“Hey.” Jim set down his old-fashioned paper book. “Ship’s business?”
“No.” Spock hesitated just inside the door. “Captain—Jim—on my bunk—your grandmother’s quilt…”
Ah. “I suppose I shouldn’t have snuck into your quarters,” Jim replied quietly. “But I promise I didn’t snoop around; I just walked right to your bunk and right back out.”
Spock shook his head. “It is no matter,” he replied. “You are welcome to enter my quarters at any time. But you cannot mean to give me…”
“I certainly do,” Jim smiled at him. “You see, Selik told me that today is your birthday.” His smile died. “He also told me that Vulcans don’t celebrate those, and I think that’s a pity.” Jim and Selik both suspected that Amanda had not paid any attention to the Vulcan tradition of ignoring birthdays, but Amanda was gone. Jim rose and walked around his desk to face Spock.
“I want you to have that quilt,” he’d continued. “I want you to use it and enjoy it. You deserve someone remembering you today. You deserve to be treated as someone special, because you are.”
Spock had ducked his head. For the very first time, he looked—vulnerable.
“Thank you,” he’d replied softly. “Under these circumstances, I believe it would be churlish to refuse your gift.” He’d raised his head and met Jim’s eyes.
“Good night, sir.”
“Happy Birthday, Spock,” Jim had replied with another smile. Spock had left Jim’s cabin, and every night since then, Jim’s last thought before falling asleep had been of Spock, tucked warm and safe under Grandma Kirk’s quilt. The very idea had made Jim feel warm as well.
Now, however, Jim shivered as he read the birth announcement. He’d know that Sarek had re-married; Spock had made a very casual (too casual) reference to the fact some months back. It was the ambassador’s business, of course, but Jim thought it was just a bit callous. Yeah, the remaining Vulcans probably wanted to re-populate the species as soon as possible, but still…Jim couldn’t imagine that Spock was going to be thrilled about Sarek basically replacing his entire family, with an all-Vulcan edition this time to boot.
Jim sighed. I wonder how Spock’s going to handle this. I wonder how I’m supposed to handle it. Do I have to send a pair of booties? He opened his email file and began to compose a message to one Selik of Vafer-Tor. Thank God I’ve got my very own expert on Vulcan etiquette—and on Spock.
Spock’s door chimed. He clicked off his viewscreen, with its hateful image of the birth announcement. “Come,” he called. He was not surprised when the door slid open to reveal Jim Kirk.
“Hey,” Jim said. “Can I interrupt for a minute?”
“You are not interrupting,” Spock assured him. “I was simply taking care of some personal correspondence.”
“Yeah, I had some of that too,” Jim replied, sitting down in the other chair. Spock looked at him, catching on at once.
“My father sent you a birth announcement?”
Jim nodded. “Yeah, and I came by because…well, I’ve got some leave time coming, and I’ve checked into transportation. Sarek invited me to the naming ceremony, and I’d like to go, see how they’re doing, spend some time with Selik. We can catch a private transport from Starbase Twelve.”
Spock hesitated. “I….had not planned to attend.”
Jim regarded him gravely. “Look,” he said at last. “I don’t want to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.” He gave Spock a wry smile. “And given my family history, I’m the last person to advise someone else how to handle their relatives. But…you’ve already lost so much, Spock. I think that you should at least try to be a part of your father’s life.” Jim didn’t know if he should say this, but he decided to go ahead. “And…I think Amanda would have wanted you to reach out to Sarek. I don’t think she would have wanted you to cut yourself off because he’s chosen to try and move on.”
Spock looked at him for a long moment, nothing showing on his features. “There is a certain logic to your position,” he said at last. “I will attend the ceremony. However, you are not obligated to, captain.”
Jim shrugged. “I was invited, and besides, I’ve never been to a Vulcan party before. It might be fun.”
“I think you will find that ‘fun’ is not part of the equation.”
Jim grinned. “Then we’ll just have to change the equation, won’t we?”
Vafer-Tor was a class-M planet located approximately six light-years from the original site of Vulcan. Like the original home of the Vulcan people, Vafer-Tor was a largely dry and hot planet, although it did have more water than Vulcan had possessed, making agriculture easier. However, there was still plenty of desert, and the new capital, Uzhau, a Vulcan word meaning “renew,” was built on the edge of the largest desert. A small house on the outskirts of Uzhau was home to an elderly Vulcan named Selik. He had offered his hospitality to Jim and Spock while they were on Vafer-Tor, since Sarek’s house was crowded with other guests. Now, their first evening on Vafer-Tor, Spock was attending a family dinner, and Jim and Selik were sitting on the patio that overlooked a Zen-worthy rock garden, surrounded by a low wall of golden stone.
“Thanks for having us,” Jim said.
“It is my pleasure,” Selik replied, looking fondly at his young friend. “You look well, Jim. Command obviously agrees with you.”
Jim chuckled. “I’m not sure the brass would agree, but so far, I’m managing to keep from blowing up the ship.”
“I have no doubt you will continue your successful career,” Selik replied fondly. They sat together, sipping cold sa’ava juice, watching the sky slowly turn colors as the sun began to sink.
Jim looked down into his glass of fruit juice. “There’s….there’s something I want to ask you,” he said at last. He looked up at the old Vulcan waiting patiently. “You don’t have to answer me if you don’t want to.”
Selik inclined his head. “I hardly think you will tie me down and torture me for information,” he agreed gravely. “What do you wish to know, Jim?”
“You and….Jim, the other Kirk. I know you were shipmates; I know you were friends.” Jim blushed slightly. This seemed like an incredibly intrusive question to ask this dignified individual. “Were you…anything else?”
“Yes,” Selik replied calmly. “We became lovers two years, four months, and eighteen days after we met. Six months and four days after that, we were bonded on Vulcan. We remained together until Jim died, forty-seven years, three months, and eleven days after we bonded.” Selik closed his eyes, feeling the quick bite of pain that still hit him, even after all these years, when he remembered the day Jim died. He opened his eyes again when he felt the warm hand cover his.
“I’m sorry.” Jim was leaning forward, glass set aside, eyes on Selik’s face.
“I’m sorry,” he said again. “I didn’t mean to bring up old pain.”
Selik shook head. “It is a sweet pain,” he replied gently. “I will remember my Jim until my dying breath. He was my world, my reason for being. No time or distance will ever change that.”
“So that’s why you like me so much.”
Selik’s eyes smiled at the young human. “I think I would be fond of you under any circumstances,” he assured Jim. “However, you are quite right that being who you are draws me to you. If I traveled to a thousand universes, each with its own James Kirk, I believe that each would speak to my soul.”
Jim hesitated. “So do you think…are Spock and I…”
“I do not know,” Selik replied. “Everything in the universe is not an exact copy of the reality I knew. And there would be no logic in my trying to force you and Spock into a pattern that discomforts you. I was always certain that you were destined to be friends. Beyond that, I do not know.” Now it was Selik’s turn to hesitate. “I suppose the appropriate question is, do you wish for there to be more between you? Do you….love him?” He saw the immediate response in Jim’s eyes.
“Yes,” Jim breathed. “Oh, yes.”
The naming ceremony for Solkan cha Sarek had been performed, and Jim and Spock had stayed for a reception afterwards. However, after a few hours of mingling, Spock had excused himself and returned to Selik’s house. He sat on the garden wall and looked out into the countryside, thinking about the day’s events.
Spock had been prepared to be indifferent to his small half-brother, but he had found he could not. Solkan was more than a baby; he was a symbol of this new world and the renewal of the Vulcan people. Spock still regretted the fact that Sarek had re-married so soon, but when he saw his father holding his newborn son in his arms, Spock saw the newfound peace in Sarek’s eyes, and he realized that Jim was right—Amanda would have wanted this for her spouse—and for her son.
Spock sighed. That peace still seemed elusive for him. Even surrounded by other Vulcans, Spock still felt very alone. Indeed, he realized, he had always felt alone among his own people. Oddly enough, the Enterprise, with its mix of humans and other species, had become more of a home than either Vulcan or Vafer-Tor had ever managed to be. If only….Spock shook his head. There was no logic in thinking that way. He should be grateful for what he possessed, not longing for something that could never be.
“Credit for your thoughts.”
Spock stiffened at the sound of that voice. “I doubt they are worth that much."
Jim stepped down the flagstones and perched next to Spock on the rock wall, staring out over the countryside. “You know better than that,” he replied gently. “After more than a year working together, you must know I value your thoughts.” He leaned back, bracing his hands on the wall, and turned his face up to the sun.
“It’s nice here,” Jim said thoughtfully. “I think your people will make a good world.”
“It is not Vulcan,” Spock said very quietly.
“No,” Jim replied, equally quiet. “It’s not. I’m sorry, Spock.”
The Vulcan turned and looked at him, surprised. “You have no reason to apologize.”
Jim shrugged. “I was there,” he said. “I tried to stop Nero, and I failed. If I’d been faster; if I’d come up with a better plan…”
“Jim, do not do that to yourself. You bear no responsibility for the loss of my world.”
“No, I suppose not, but I can’t help but wishing things were different,” Jim said. “Just like you do.”
“There is no logic in wishing for a different outcome.”
“No,” Jim agreed gently. “But wishes aren’t logical.” They sat together in silence for a time, soaking in the warm sun. Spock gradually found himself relaxing, feeling warm for the first time in what seemed like years. Jim was right. It was pleasant here. Despite all the pain and grief, despite the fact that this world could not replace Vulcan, his people were making a new life for themselves—and new life was coming to them, including his tiny half-brother, who would help the Vulcan people rebuild.
“Thank you,” Spock said at last. “Thank you for coming here with me.”
“No problem,” Jim replied. He grinned. “Not only did I get to attend a Vulcan christening bash, but I had a chance to spend time with Selik.”
“You….you are very fond of him.” There was an odd note in Spock’s voice, and Jim looked at him sharply, seeing Spock sitting very still next to him, looking out over the hills, his body stiff. Hmmm. I wonder…..
“Yeah,” he said gently. “I am…because he’s so much like you.” Greatly daring, Jim let his hand inch over until it covered Spock’s.
“You know, I’m really out of my depth here,” Jim continued quietly. “I suppose you’ve heard about my reputation, with women, I mean, and men, for that matter.”
“I…do not listen to gossip,” Spock said after a long pause. “However, I could not help but….”
“Yeah.” Jim gave him that grin that always tugged at something deep inside Spock. “Well, about 90 percent of it is garbage. I’m not going to pretend I’m a blushing virgin, Spock, but I don’t just sleep with everyone who crosses my path.” He took a deep breath.
“And I don’t make promises I don’t mean.” His fingers tightened on Spock’s.
“Of all the people I’ve ever met,” he said softly, “there’s only one I can see myself spending a lifetime with—and that’s you. I’m probably going to be sorry I threw myself at you like this, but….you’re so lonely, Spock. I can feel it; I can see it in your eyes. And….and you don’t have to be, not if you don’t want to.” Spock was silent. Jim sneaked a glance at his profile, reading nothing in his expression. His heart sank.
“I’m gonna stop talking now,” Jim said, feeling hollow. “I just wanted you to know, but I’ll never bring it up again; I promise. I’ll always be your friend, and…” he drew in his breath as Spock’s hand turned over and wrapped itself around Jim’s. He turned to look at his captain, his friend, the man who had stood by him for all these long, weary months.
“Jim,” there was a note in Spock’s voice that Jim had never heard, “a few minutes ago, you asked me about my thoughts.” Holding Jim’s hand, Spock gently rubbed his thumb across the human’s palm. “Would you like to hear those thoughts?”
Jim nodded, hardly daring to breathe. “Yeah.” His voice was hushed. “Yeah, I would.”
“I was thinking about my family,” Spock replied. “I was wallowing in self-pity, sorry for myself because Sarek has found love again, found a family. But then I realized—I was not just pitying myself, I was envying my father. And when you came and sat down by me, I realized why.” Spock folded Jim’s hand in both of his.
“I am not the ideal partner,” he said. “I am too Vulcan to be human, too human to be Vulcan. I will no doubt disappoint you at times, not respond the way you expect. I know nothing of courtship, nothing of….love.” Spock’s voice dropped to a whisper. “But, if you are willing, I would very much like to learn.”
The smile that broke over Jim’s face was brighter than Vulcan’s sun at midday, and every bit as soothing.
“I’m more than willing to teach you,” Jim whispered. He freed his hand and reached up to lay his palm against the side of Spock’s face. “Let’s start with the basics,” he murmured, leaning forward until their lips met. He felt Spock’s arms go around him, felt Spock’s lips part beneath his own. They kissed for long moments until at last Jim drew back, breathless, and smiled into the chocolate-brown eyes that for the first time he could remember held no hint of pain.
“I don’t think you need to worry about being a good partner,” Jim murmured. “I think you’ll do just fine.”
From his living room window, Selik watched the two figures on the stone wall, seeing the moment they drew together. He closed his eyes, feeling deep thankfulness that at long last, the universe was going in the direction it should.
“They will make it, t’hy’la,” he whispered to that presence that was always near. “They will find their way together.”