The senior staff of the Starship Enterprise had planned on one last night together ... dinner in one of the finest restaurants in San Francisco, before they went their separate ways. When he arrived, he noticed that everyone was already there ... with one very notable exception.
He took his seat at the head of the table. There was a note on his plate. Lifting it, he saw that the flap was sealed with wax, embossed with the image of an IDIC. Pealing the wax back, careful to not distort the impression, he opened the note. It read:
Forgive me, Jim. My options for returning to Vulcan were limited, made more so by T'Pau's arrangement requiring me to rendezvous with T'Sala, my intended, in two days time. I will miss you, and our chess games. Live long and prosper. Spock.
'So that was that,' Kirk thought to himself, as he took his seat. He supposed that it was for the best ... but still, to know that he would never see his friend again was not an easy thing to take. Of course, the others had no idea about his feeling of 'loss' ... soon he was pulled into the jubilant conversation; Spock's absence almost forgotten.
All too soon, the party was over. Sulu and Chekov would be leaving in a week on the Endeavor ... Uhura had plans to teach at the academy for a term, and of course, Scotty was overseeing the refit of the Enterprise. Christine Chapel would be going back to Medical School, to finish getting her MD, while McCoy had a research position he was planning on taking, at least for the next year.
Kirk watched them all leave, smiling slightly as he noticed the 'couples' holding hands as they walked away. Sulu and Chekov had been very discrete aboard ship, but their relationship was well established. Kirk was glad they would remain together, and knew that their relationship -- both as 'partners' and as 'Captain and First Officer' -- would serve them well on their own five- year-mission.
Seeing Scotty and Uhura holding hands was more of a surprise ... neither of them had shown signs of being anything more than colleagues to each other, yet there they were, heading off into the sunset together, as the saying went.
Chris Chapel gave McCoy a friendly hug, and a kiss on the cheek, then followed Uhura and Scotty. McCoy had wanted to walk her home, but knew that Kirk needed someone to talk to, and who better than the only man present who had known him since he was a lowly Lieutenant. After all, there was nobody else, with the exception of Spock, who knew when Jim needed someone to talk to.
And from what McCoy had seen, Spock was the reason Jim needed to talk.
"How about a night cap, Jim?" McCoy said, dipping his head in the general direction of the bar.
"Sure ... but let's make it at my place." Kirk replied.
"Sounds good to me." With that, they made their way to Jim's apartment.
They sat in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. When the silence had lasted several minutes, McCoy sighed, then asked, "Aren't you going to tell me why Spock wasn't there tonight?"
"He's already on his way back to Vulcan." Kirk could see that his statement caught McCoy by surprise, so he added, "What, did you think he'd stick around for an emotional farewell, when he's got a whole new life waiting for him on Vulcan," he could hear the bitterness creeping in as he continued, "complete with a wife and, if all goes according to plan, children."
"What the hell are you talking about, Jim."
"You mean he didn't tell you?" Kirk was a bit surprised that McCoy didn't know, but then again, he and Spock had never been much for confiding in each other. Kirk finished his drink and poured himself another, before he continued, "T'Pau sent him a summons ... demanding that he return home, and take a wife. She has arranged everything, including providing him with a suitable mate, that will produce an heir." Kirk took another drink, then stood and began to pace. After a moment, he added bitterly, "God forbid he be allowed to do what *he* wanted. Oh, no ... he must do what's best for his people ... a people who have scorned him because he wasn't 'pure Vulcan' ... but he will nevertheless give up happiness, out of a sense of duty to *them*."
The pieces were beginning to fall into place. McCoy had watched Jim and Spock dance around each other for the past five years ... as an outsider, he had seen the bond that had formed between them, even if they hadn't. And even if they *had* seen it in themselves, it was doubtful that they would have acted upon it ... after all, Spock *was* Vulcan. After years of convincing everyone that he couldn't share an emotional bond with anyone, he had probably convinced himself of it, as well.
"Jim ... did Spock know you loved him?" It was a bold statement, but it served its purpose ... McCoy had his friend's undivided attention.
There were tears in Jim's eyes when he replied, "Yes ... and he loved me, too ... but it doesn't matter ... all those wasted years ..."
McCoy crossed the room, and placed his arm around his friend, leading him back to the sofa. He held Jim close, soothing him, as the tears fell. "Sh ... it may not be as bad as it seems. As Spock is fond of saying, 'There are always possibilities.' Who knows, things may not work out for him on Vulcan ... "
Jim had composed himself somewhat, and straightened up, a bit embarrassed by his outburst. His smile was uncertain, as he said, "Thanks, Bones ... I appreciate your efforts. But I also know Spock, and he will do what he must. The House of Surak must continue, and he is the last of that line. If nothing else, his sense of duty to his House will keep him on Vulcan, no matter how much he, personally, would like to be elsewhere."
"Hmmm .... I hadn't realized. No wonder his father was so upset when he joined Starfleet." McCoy had always known that Spock was important to the Vulcan people, but he had never realized just *how* important.
"Yes, that was my reaction when Spock told me, too." Kirk looked at the chronometer, then to his friend, "Look, it's getting late, and I don't know about you, but I have a shuttle to catch in the morning. A few months at my cabin will do me a world of good ... and who know, my next first officer might just be good enough for me to forget all about Spock."
He was trying hard to keep a smile on his face, but McCoy could see the strain in his friends eyes. He downed the end of his drink, then stood and walked to the door. They hugged, and McCoy said, "You take care of yourself ... you hear?"
"I always do, Bones. Give me a call when you get settled in ... you've got the comm frequency for the cabin, right?"
"Yes. I'll call in a few weeks." The two long time friends hugged once more, then McCoy left.
Kirk crossed the room and poured himself another drink, throwing his head back to drink it in
one shot. He deliberately put the bottle away, knowing that it would do no good to get drunk.
Time alone would ease his pain ... and the eventual return to command.
The solitude of the cabin was exactly what he had needed. Spending his days hiking in the woods, exploring the land which he owned, left him feeling more alive than he had felt in years. When he felt like companionship, he made his way into town. Dinner once a week in the local restaurant had become his routine, after his initial two weeks of complete isolation ... as had his visit to the local theater/concert hall for some entertainment. Occasionally, one of the patrons of the restaurant would also be going to the show, and they would go together.
But nearly five months had passed, and he was getting restless. His occasional communications with Bones had been his only contact with his life since he had arrived. He hadn't even received his orders yet for when he returned to Earth ... although that was just a formality. He had been assured that once his leave was over, he would oversee the remainder of the Enterprise's refit, in preparation for assuming command.
These were the thoughts running through his mind as he lay in bed one morning, contemplating the day ahead of him, when there was a knock on his door. He couldn't imagine who would be knocking at his door at the crack of dawn, but he quickly got out of bed, and grabbed a robe before going to answer it.
As the morning sun was rising above the horizon, it backlit the figure standing before him ... but even in the uncertain light, Kirk recognized him. "Spock?" he asked, although there was no doubt about it in his mind.
"Yes Jim, it is I," came the gentle reply. When Kirk made no move to step aside, Spock asked, "May I come in?"
"Of course ... of course," Kirk said, as he realized he had been staring, open-mouthed at his friend. He stepped back, gesturing to Spock to enter, as he said, "Spock ... I didn't expect ... I mean ... what the hell brings you here?"
"Forgive me if I am intruding," Spock said, apparently taking Kirk's question as a reproach. "If I have come at a bad time ..." his gaze fell on Kirk's robed figure, then shifted to what could only be the bedroom door.
Kirk smiled. "Don't be silly," he said, and was pleased to see Spock's brow rise slightly at the suggestion. "I was just surprised to see you ... to be honest, I really didn't think I ever would again." He then looked down at himself, and realized that his hastily tied robe was open partly, and he pulled it together as he added, "and in answer to your unasked question, there is nobody in there. It's just that it's only 5:30 in the morning."
"Forgive me, again ... I did not realize it was so early." Spock turned, and added, "I will come back at a later hour, if you wish."
"That's not necessary, I was awake already, just trying to decide what to do with myself today. Believe me, you are a welcome distraction from the tedium of my days." With this he winked and added, "I never thought I'd miss the everyday paperwork involved with running a spaceship, but I do. Come on, make yourself comfortable while I get the coffee going. Would you like some ... sorry, I don't have any tea on hand at the moment."
"Coffee would be just fine, thank you." Spock said, as he removed his heavy cloak and sat. Kirk disappeared into the kitchen for a minute, then returned saying, "I'll just be a minute," and went into his bedroom, only to return a minute later dressed in faded jeans and a flannel shirt.
Kirk watched as Spock looked him over from head to toe. It was clear to him that his months of leisure and hiking had been good for him; he was in the best physical shape he had been in for years ... and the slight smile that touched Spock's eyes made it clear that he had noticed the improvement, as well.
Spock, too, had gone through some changes since Kirk had seen him last. Physically, there was little difference, as Spock had always maintained a certain level of 'perfection' ... but there was a 'softening' to his appearance. Since leaving the fleet, he had let his hair grow out; the longer length was quite becoming.
Kirk disappeared into the kitchen briefly, then returned with two mugs of coffee. Handing one to Spock, he then sat in the chair beside the sofa, and said, "So, what brings you here?"
"A Vulcan Long Range Transport," Spock said deadpan.
There was a sigh of exasperation, as Kirk said, "That's not ..."
"I know what you meant, Jim," Spock interrupted, with a slight smile. The moment of levity broke the tension between them, and when Kirk smiled, Spock continued, "There is a matter of grave importance that I must discuss with you ... and I felt it was best to do so face to face."
Kirk sipped his coffee, unsure of what to say. Finally, he settled for asking, "Your wife doesn't mind being left alone so soon after your marriage?"
"I am not married," Spock said without any elaboration.
"But I thought ..." Kirk hesitated, then continued, "T'Pau had arranged everything."
"Yes, she had ..." Spock agreed, then continued, "and I had accepted her arrangement, unable to see any other option. T'Pau was so sure of her position within the family, and the authority she wields, that she assumed that I would not question her decision." The slight smile returned to Spock's eyes as he continued, "However, she did not account for T'Sala ... she is a remarkable woman who reminded me that there are always possibilities."
"Well, since you are here, and not married, I guess I'll have to thank her, if I ever get the chance," Kirk said, adding, "may I assume that your visit here has something to do with those possibilities?"
"That would be correct." Spock sat back, sipping his coffee, watching Jim's expression ... there was so much hope reflected in his eyes, and something more ... something he had seen there before, but had not known how to interpret.
As the silence lingered, Kirk's expression changed yet again ... his impatience was clear, as he asked, "Well, are you going to tell me what T'Sala said, or do I have to guess, while you sit there staring at me?"
This time, Spock's smile touched his lips, as well as his eyes. Jim smiled, too, then raised his brows in a questioning manner. "T'Sala proposed a way for you and I to be together, and still produce an heir to the House of Surak," Spock stated as he continued to watch Jim's expression.
Kirk once again let hope rise, as well as the love he felt for Spock. Then a thought came to him, and he said, "I don't know about you, but I do not intend to become pregnant."
"I assure you," Spock said with a raised brow, "neither do I. T'Sala is proposing surrogacy."
Spock could see the confusion and suspicion in Jim's eyes as he asked, "Why would she do this? I mean, she had agreed to an arranged marriage ... that is the Vulcan way, after all ... and the prestige of being your wife ..." his words trailed off as he saw Spock shake his head.
"T'Sala is not like that," Spock said, then added, "it is true that she agreed to T'Pau's arrangement, but 'prestige' and 'position' were not her motivation. As I said, she is a remarkable woman."
"Tell me about her," Kirk said, as he sat back, sipping his coffee.
And so, Spock sat back, and started to tell his tale.
A quick perusal of the ships schedules convinced me that she had planned the timetables of each, so that I would have no choice but to do as she said. Both ships were on the tightest of schedules, with critical missions ahead of them. The only other option would have been for T'Sala to continue on with her ship, returning to Vulcan at the missions conclusion ... T'Pau made it very clear to me that she would not consent to a lengthy delay.
So I resigned myself to the inevitable, trying to convince myself that it was for the best. We had said our farewells, and doing it again, in such a public place, would have been far to difficult for both of us.
T'Pau had supplied me with virtually no information about T'Sala. I knew she was a scientist, who had been working on a research project on one of Vulcan's colony worlds. She had lost her bondmate when he had died aboard the Intrepid; they had no children.
That was the extent of my knowledge of her. I had, like you, assumed that she was looking to make a connection with my family for the prestige it would bring her. Of course, my experience with T'Pring undoubtedly affected my judgment, and when I realized this, I decided to do my best to remove such preconceived notions from my mind. In order to do this, I spent the majority of the two days before our rendezvous meditating.
When the time came to actually meet T'Sala, I had thought that my emotions over the situation were well under control ... however, she picked up on my discontent instantly. She was also at a loss as to why I was displeased, since T'Pau had told her that I had been seeking a mate for some time, and was pleased with the match.
The only conclusion she could come to was that there was something about herself that I was displeased with. I assured her that there was not ... and that, as potential mates went, she would do adequately. My reaction to her was hardly what she had expected.
The shuttle was a rather small craft, but there were facilities for private conversation. After moving her belongings to her quarters, we availed ourselves of one of these conference rooms, using the hours ahead of us to learn more about each other.
She knew far more about me than I did her ... not through any information given her by T'Pau, but simply because of who I am. Through our conversation, I learned that we had much in common. Besides our shared interest in the sciences, she also enjoyed music, in all its various forms. I was taken aback when I learned that she had studied the piano, although it had been many years since she had had the opportunity to play. I told her that my mother had taught me, and that there was an old spinet in my parents home. The first time I saw her smile was when I mentioned playing duets with her.
The journey from the rendezvous point to Vulcan took less than a day, but nearly a week went by before the subject of our impending marriage came up again. She was hesitant at first, trying to determine if it was imperative to expect our bonding to happen soon, or if we had time to get to know one another better. It was obvious to me that she was trying to discover if my Pon Farr was imminent, without coming out and asking ... I assured her that there was no need to be hasty.
It was then that she asked why I had allowed T'Pau to find me a mate, if it was not an immediate need. She quickly assured me that she was not complaining, for she was honored to have been chosen, but she also recalled my expression when first we met. She told me that she would understand and step aside if there were someone else that I preferred.
I must admit, I tried to prevaricate ... I had already told her about my failed bonding with T'Pring, and how that, of course, would make me hesitant. But I am Vulcan, and male ... there are certain needs that are beyond my control. In the end, I talked around the subject, letting her know that T'Pau had made arrangements without asking me first. What I failed to tell her, at that time, was that T'Pau would have never accepted my choice of a bondmate.
As a matter of fact, it took me yet another week to tell T'Sala that ... and when I did, she surprised me by saying that she had assumed as much.
As I said before, she is a remarkable woman. Apparently, she had read a great deal about our missions, and through the reports were photographs and film footage ... she had noticed the way you and I interacted. Apparently, our 'love' for one another is quite obvious to anyone who cares to read our body language. At least, that is what she told me.
It was then that I asked her if she knew this before or after she had agreed to be my wife ... and much to my surprise, she said before. When I asked her why she accepted T'Pau's proposal, she said it was because I would most likely prove to be an undemanding husband.
She fully understood T'Pau's desire for me to produce an heir to the House of Surak, and she was willing to be the mother of such a child, but she would not keep me from pursuing my career, or continuing my 'friendship' with you.
Apparently my relief was quite apparent, but I also insisted that my career was no longer an issue. I had resigned from Starfleet, and I would not be going back. Of course, that meant that I had also severed my ties to you. It was then that T'Sala asked if you would ever consider a post on Earth.
I must admit, I cannot see you tied to one planet for the rest of your life, but I admitted that if
there was enough incentive, you may consider it. Especially if you were in a position to travel
through space occasionally. So, this is the proposal that T'Sala and I wish to make to you ...
would you be willing to give up command of a starship, to become a teacher at the Academy,
occasionally going out on training cruises, in order to be my bondmate? Would you accept
T'Sala as surrogate to our children, whom we would raise together, both on Earth and Vulcan?
He looked at it, without opening it, then dropped it to the table. He sat next to Spock on the sofa, turned to face him, and took his hands in his. "Yes," he said, and brought Spock's hands up to his lips and kissed them. "I will be your bondmate, and raise your children with you, as if they were my own."
Spock smiled, as he pulled Jim to him, and they kissed for the first time. "t'hy'la, I love you," he said between kisses.
"And I love you, too, Spock."