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IN THE AUTUMN MIST




A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys

Painted wings and giants' rings make way for other toys.

One grey night it happened;

--Leonard Lipton




The wilting balloon bouquet hit Spock squarely in the nose. It bobbed forgotten in the entranceway as he opened the door to their San Francisco apartment by the sea. The gaudy banner with the words "Good Luck" bobbed at eye-level. The retirement gift from Starfleet Command, an antique brass sextant precisely mounted on a shiny black base, had been tossed carelessly on a nearby table. The inscription read, "Presented to Captain James T. Kirk for forty-three years of inestimable service 2250-2293. May your guiding star always be within easy sight." Jim's uniform jacket, laden heavy with ribbons, lay crumpled where it had been abandoned on a lounger in front of the spotless fireplace. The apartment was cold and barren with no sign of Jim himself.



They as been together--about as together as any two individuals could be--for the better part of that forty-three years. The twenty-five since T'Pring had freed them had been the best. Given the strength of their bond Spock had all but forgotten what it was like to be alone, really alone. But over the past few weeks the sensation had begun to come back.



The closer the day of Jim's retirement had drawn, the farther away from it all, from him, Jim had seemed to drift. Now that it had come and gone Jim seemed as barely recognizable as the last speck of billowing sail seen before a ship drops away over the horizon.



So many times over the past weeks Spock had wanted to ask him what was wrong, what could be done to make it right. For better or for worse, any answer would be better than this vast, looming uncertainty. A Vulcan does not dodge the truth, not any truth. Spock would most assuredly have asked had there been any hope that Jim himself might have an answer. There was not, and so he did not.



Searching for clues, Spock surveyed the apartment. Everything else was just as they had left it this morning. The room was crammed with the memories of years and travels, so many things they had seen and done. And yet there remained so many more that they had not, so many more that they never would. Such was the terrible paradox of the infinities. So many possibilities and so very little time.



But Spock would take what he could. There was no other logical option. He would wring what he could from what time they had and savor every borrowed moment. It could never be enough, but it would have to do.



With a last glance toward the chronometer, Spock peeled off his uniform. Jim's Fleet retirement party had ended hours ago. Seeing no other logical recourse, Spock performed his nightly ablutions and laid himself down on the empty king-sized bed.










It was two days later that Jim came in the door. The balloons had been cleared away and the uniform recycled but the sextant sat proudly on the display shelf. It was centered in between the holo of their kal'i'farr and the framed titanium mission emblem of their first and famous five-year voyage. Spock looked up from the computer. "Welcome home, Jim," he said evenly.



With no hesitation Jim strode to the desk and sat down opposite. "We have to talk."



Spock swiveled and steepled his fingers before him. His face betrayed no trace of what his heart already knew.



Jim's speech rushed out in a raging torrent. With any luck the carefully manufactured momentum would carry him through before it could dissipate and leave him wallowing directionless once again. He said, "Without the fleet, this isn't my life anymore. It can't be. I can't stay--not like this." Jim squared his shoulders and bit the bullet. "I've made arrangements with Antonia Irsen to move out to the Blackfoot colony and raise horses. Something different... Who knows?..."



Jim smiled wistfully to himself. "She even said something about marriage, but I don't know; that doesn't sound much like my style. Can you see it?"



Spock replied levelly, "I can see you succeeding in any venture you choose to undertake." He inclined his head and kept his tone perfectly neutral. "While I would, of course, support you in any endeavor you wish to pursue, that remote location would present difficulties for my diplomatic corp activities."



Kirk raised his eyes, pained yet calm. He held his face still, oh so still as he spoke. "Yes, I know. But I wasn't thinking that you would be going with us. Like I said, I need a change."



"You are leaving me." One would think that such portentous words must be accompanied by a thunderclap, a squall, a quake, but it was only the ticking of the antique clock that echoed through the room.



"Yes."



In a burst of emotion, unforeseen even to himself, Jim sprang from his chair and paced to the fireplace. He kept his back firmly to the Vulcan. "I need to start over--something new--a fresh beginning.



"It's not you. I love you--my god, how I love you. Nothing will ever change that, but I can't stay. I can't." He spun around on the spot and pleaded, "Can you understand that?"



"Yes," Spock lied.



Jim shook his head gently. "No. No you don't." He paced back to the desk and sat restively. He leaned over and grabbed Spock's shoulders and shook him as if to break something loose inside.



"I know that look. Do you know how often in the course of a battle I would turn to you and read your face? I have seen resignation, conviction, support, unwavering loyalty. You would willingly follow me anywhere, no matter how wrong you thought I might be.



"And then there would come a moment when a wild chance paid off, the impossible became reality, we again triumphed over all your logic and odds and predictions and then...then I would see the understanding dawn in your face. I would look at you and I would see the great gift that I had been granted and I would know that I alone would always be able to reach some secret place within you where no one, where nothing else could go. "



Jim's face took on a far-away expression and his voice dropped several notes. "One day when you too have more days lined up behind you than in front of you, I think that you will understand and that look will be there again." Jim's eyes sparkled with an unnatural light and then his voice did break. "But on that day, I won't be there to see it, will I?"



"Jim--"



Jim shook his head fiercely. Something fell away and he could see again. He sprang up from the chair and paced to face the picture window. The sky glowed in brilliant hues of pink and red as the sun drifted down below the hills of Marin County. Long shadows played over the ground before him. "No, it's all right."



He cleared his throat. "We don't close on the ranch for three weeks, but I think we're going to take a little time first and talk things over. Make plans. Maybe in Caracas. I've never really thought about anything like this before, you know."



Something warm and sweet brushed his shoulder. Jim jumped to realize Spock had moved up silently to stand behind him.



"Jim, I have been and always shall be your friend. You have been and always will be my only love."



Spock pulled Jim back against his chest. He went willingly. "Spock, I never meant to hurt you."



The Vulcan's voice was even but full as he spoke. "Jim, it is inevitable. Grief and joy are but opposing sides of the same concept. One cannot have one without sometime facing the other. I accept the pain of the loss as fair exchange for the joy that out time together has wrought. As I would not sacrifice the happiness, I will not rue its end."



Jim spoke to the window. "So, you don't want me to stay?" His voice bounced flat off of the pane.



Spock shifted his weight against Jim's back. His arms encircled his body. "There is nothing of a personal nature that I desire more, except for you to follow your heart, for that course is true and has led you back to me in times part. If that course is now to lead you elsewhere, it is not logical for me to protest, and I would not keep you from your happiness."



Jim laughed bitterly. "My happiness. That's a laugh. Without my ship... my command..." He started again. "I can't stand the idea of watching Starfleet...watching you go on.... Not without me."



"If that is your primary dilemma, I would willingly resign my commission. Starfleet is not my focal concern."



Jim shook his head. "Or mine.



"How long do Vulcans live Spock? How long will you live? I'm old, but you're just hitting your prime. You can do so much; you will do so much and I am so proud and so thankful for that--but I just can't watch it right now. I can't. It hurts too much."



He composed himself. Spock felt some of the tension dissolve away beneath his hands. Jim said, "I need to try something different. How can I decide what I want until I know what's out there?" While Spock watched, the face reflected in the window broke into that familiar jaunty grin. "But I'll likely be back. After all, how long do you think I can stand chopping wood and baling hay?"



Jim turned in his arms and a most peculiar note entered his voice. "Spock, I just don't know. I need to think. I need some time. I don't know anything right now. I know that this sounds so selfish, so if I do come back and you aren't here--"



"Then my father will know how to reach me," Spock finished smoothly. "You will contact me if you find that you need anything?"



Just a glint of the old humor worked its way into the laugh. "Of course. It's been so long since I've thought to do anything else that I wouldn't know how."



Jim fell in towards the chest and rubbed his cheek over and up the soft pile of the Vulcan robe. He tilted his face to look into Spock's eyes. "I do love you, you know. Don't ever doubt that." He raised one hand, knuckles to the jawline and gently ran the length of Spock's chin.



Spock caught his wrist and, raising his hand to his mouth, reverently kissed the knuckles. Jim stiffened, but Spock's pull was strong. His most sensitive finger was drawn into muscled lips and just the tip of a tongue flicked longingly around. Against his will or better judgment, Jim felt his penis begin to swell and grow. He groaned, "Spock--"



Spock released his finger, and gently, beneficently, bestowed an absurdly chaste kiss upon his hand. "You demur?"



Jim exhaled. A typhoon of emotion welled within him as the words spewed jumbled and tumbled together. "No, no, of course not. It's just that...I will still have to go." Jim looked up into his face vulnerable, utterly resigned to accept what ever blows may come. In this way must the martyrs have faced the lions.



Spock nodded, his head heavy, as though his neck would no longer hold it up. He swallowed, dry tongue scraping drier throat. "I know." There are those who have said that Vulcans have no emotions. They would be people who had never heard those two words uttered so. "Will you come to bed with me?"



"Of course." Jim smiled.



Spock swept him off his feet and into the bedroom.



Within minutes they were both naked on the bed. Spock stroked the body before him as if to memorize every muscle, every angle, every curve. Their mouths locked hard and impassioned. They kissed and touched with the patience learned of years mingled with the frenzy of the closing bell. As the condemned man lingers and relishes every spoonful, every bite, as if the clock must stop and wait until the last precious morsel has dissolved away, so did they bide their time.



But as it always has been, in the end, the fervor of mere carnal flesh overruled the higher motives of the mind. Jim's pelvis rocked rubbed itself against the hard ripples of Spock's lower torso. A warning ooze spread between their bodies; the delicious friction abated just a little. Jim twisted on his back as if to force his penis into the haven of the waiting valley of Spock's groin, but Spock moved first.



Straddling Jim's thighs with his knees, Spock arched his body and pinned Jim's hands neatly to the bed beside his head.



Jim thrust his pelvis fruitlessly against the empty air. "Come on, Spock, I'm so close," he groaned. His arm bucked and rippled with the futile reach for his own member, but Spock's strength held him fast.



Spock shifted his grip to encompass both of Jim's wrists with one hand. Beneath him Jim's body stretched tight and glowing with sweat. With conviction, Spock reached for Jim's straining penis. Slowly, purposefully he stroked from base to rim and back again. In long measured strokes he worked the shaft, stopping each time as the familiar cues from Jim's body told of impending climax. Jim's penis leaked almost continuously in the futile effort to relieve a portion of the pounding ache threatening to tear his balls apart. Denied for the fifth time, Jim arched himself and held until the tension in his body could hold no more. He sank back against the cloying sheets.



"Dammit, Spock, what are you trying to do, hold me here forever?"



He opened his eyes to find the dark one's fixed on his intently. Recrimination would have been far easier to face than the tender resignation that he found there. Wasting no more time, Spock expertly led him into an orgasm that shattered him body and soul.



Almost as soon as he regained his breath, Spock turned him on his stomach. "Oh, yes," said Jim and pulled the sweaty pillow in under his hips and welcomed him eagerly. Murmuring something unintelligible in the ancient tongue of his birth planet, Spock took his release leaving the warmth of his seed deep within the body of his mate.



They lay together in the moonlight. Strong arms held him from behind. The veil of Morpheus descended fatally blunting the carefully erected defenses between his mind and his fears. "Spock," he said, more asleep than awake, "are you sure that you won't resent me for this?"



The words rolled through his mind. "How could I resent that which I love so well? That would not be logical." But in the morning Jim no longer knew whether to categorize it as a memory or as a dream.



The first rays of the morning sun had just fallen upon the carpet when Jim emerged from the closet. He looked up to find Spock still naked on the bed, following his every move with his eyes. Absently Jim wondered if he would ever have the opportunity to see him like this again. Banishing these thoughts from his mind in favor of new frontiers, he grabbed his jacket and shrugged it on to his shoulders.



"I'm off to meet Antonia for a week on Arcturus VI." He glanced ruefully around at the cluttered apartment burgeoning with antiques and memories.



"Don't worry about this junk. I'll send a crew to pack what I need. It won't be much. Can't make new wine with old casks. Keep whatever you want; the rest they'll ship to Riverside, to my museum."



Spock just stared at him, his face frozen, unmasked but unmoving.



It was Jim who melted. "Spock, don't look at me like that. We are still 'us'. The bond is permanent, right? I mean, when you look at it that way, what does it really change?"



Spock's face never altered. Jim cleared his throat and tried a new tactic. "The Enterprise-B is launching in ten days. I've got to be back for that. I'll come over to pick up my stuff and see you then."



Spock stood and stepped up to stand before him, his hands, along with whatever quaver might affect them, locked safely behind his back. "Regrettably, I will be leaving for negotiations on the Klingon homeworld in five days and will not be returning to Terra until after the launch."


Jim grinned. "No problem. I'll wait for you. We're in no hurry. And I'd never leave without saying goodbye."



Jim glanced at his chronometer. "I've got to go." He stood up on tiptoe to kiss Spock's heavily lined forehead. He regarded him wistfully and brushed back his bangs with a finger. Improbably, he winked.



"Don't look so sad, Spock; it's not like it'll be forever. I'll see you after the launch."



In one smooth motion Jim turned, picked up his duffel and fled though the bedroom door. Spock looked after him until he heard the final click from the front latch. Then he walked slowly to the window and closed his eyes against the stabbing glare of the still brilliant September sun.
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