Disclaimer: Siiigh. Paraborg owns all. Lucky bastards. Think of it as my
playing with their licensed, collector's edition action figures.
Summary: sequel to BEN TOR KATRA
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"Death did not really get him, did not have time to at all..."
Poem 13 of KALEVALA
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Death is like swimming inside your own dreams. Once in a while, you skim the surface and reach another's. I could feel Natira's presence against mine, and later, Joanna's. I felt Jim's first of all but it was a while before I knew what it was. He didn't exactly advertise himself, if you know what I mean. He's a sneaky piece of mischief sometimes.
**Jim...** My emotions worked just fine without a body to express them with.
**God, I missed you.**
Not that I was ever separate from him; even after Jim died--twice--Spock and I could still feel him. He was like the heat that comes off a sunwarmed rock after swimming in a winter ocean. But his spirit had been a silent thing; several times when I was in the biggest troubles of my life, I'd catch *something* that would guide me to a safer route, and Spock had been through the same thing. But
it wasn't the same as it had been when we were both alive, sitting at a table and mangling a card game or slaughtering each other's chess pieces over the board.
**We can talk that way, if you want.** Jim's voice smiled, and he sounded like he had when he was young--*young* young, not that slight graveled edge of age. So soft, that voice. But even Gorn had learned to respect it, and
even be a little afraid of hearing it.
I thought about his hand, and reached, and found it. He was warm and alive--alive of the spirit, which is so much more solid than flesh can be. But the body is for one plane of existence, and the spirit is for another.
**You'll be going back soon, Bones.** Jim's warmth was like the sun, only here, the need for hardness was gone. This was JIM, the REAL Jim, none of the Tiberius that he had shellacked on his soul the day Kodos slaughtered
half his family. **Spock needs you.**
I was confused a moment. And who knows how long that is in realtime? I had died. I had pretty good memories of it--my mind had been sorta wandering off without me while my body ailed (that's what being Celt will do to you, they even have a name for it--going bosky.) I remembered Luthor, my youngest grandson, sitting a lot by my side and Nary, mine and Natira's daughter, and Luthor had his new baby girl in his lap. I remember knowing just how mortal I was when I touched her tiny hand. I was cold. Old people
get thin skinned and blue. That little baby was hot next to me, burning up with life. And life was not something I had a lot of.
**S'natural you'd be confused, Bones. You're not completely dead. Spock brought you back.**
He did? How the hell? But as Jim spoke, I began to remember. It wasn't bits and pieces, so much as it was a slow regrowth of memory.
The KEEPER with its shore leave planet, telepathic machines. Well, nice for Spock if he could get along with the thing--irate playing cards, dragons, Nyotanapping chunks of metal, flying lizards with hostile intent and giant angry housecats--call me irrationally bent against that place. And let's not forget Black Knights.
Black Knights. The spearpoint. There must have been a hefty specimen sample on the end of it.
**I don't...think he should have done that.** What else could I say??
**It does set a bad example.** Jim agreed totally. **But no one else knows what he's done. Not even his disciples. So long as no one ever knows...**
No, Spock's need was something I had always worried about. It was why I'd forced him to leave, actually. I wanted him to forge new friendships, and hopefully, another bond so he wouldn't be alone when I left him.
And taking Spock's (limited) point of view, I could almost understand it. Spock was the last of us. Everyone else lived on in their families. In a way that was painful for him, to see a young Pavel or Janice, Hikaru's daughter at the Helm...like Steppenwolfe, he'd outlived his time. That was his price for choosing to live as a Vulcan among Humans. But his obsession with the Romulan people had driven him the way diplomacy had driven Sarek.
He was the last of the House of Sharien, and there would be no more direct heirs. Saavik was his child, more than anyone he could have fathered. And that should have been enough, but...
I knew things about Spock that no one else did. Things he would never breathe to anyone. All his life he'd been a symbol before he was a person, starting with his own name, "The Unifier", an emblem between two powerful
peoples. How could he not avoid feeling like a figurehead sometimes, or at worse, a puppet? Bad enough for that, but he was also a descendant of Surak himself, and Spock disliked being seen as the last genetic tie to the
closest thing Vulcan had to God. If he wasn't being seen as the Unifier, then he was being seen as Surak's Descendant. A legend, as T'Pring had said
so well. And Spock had not wanted to be a legend. He had wanted to be himself, unencumbered by history and the chains of tradition. He lived among humans because even their prejudices was better than the way his
father's people saw him. Humans only saw him as a Vulcan, and later, as Spock and nothing more. He earned their regard honestly, by his own merit, and not out of nepotism.
He'd made the decision long ago in his bones not to have children. I doubt he was consciously aware of that for years. He didn't want Vulcan to judge any of his children on genetic pedigrees. No doubt he would have liked to
stay away from the planet altogether, but the Racial Mind was a presence he couldn't escape from. Not when the Blood
Fever called him to the sands, not when his katra called me to S'leya. And God, how he resented that! And here he up and adopted Saavik, forcing traditionals to admit that she was his heir, his Keeper of the House of Sharien. A half-human turning the Clan of Surak over to a half-Romulan. What kind of gesture did that make to the Galaxy?
A grand one, I hope. Being an Admiral, I was aware of the snickers all the way from the wrong end of the Neutral Zone. Spock had gone out with a bang, all right, turning over the most revered of families to a living relic of
racial animosity between two very similar species. No wonder he high-tailed it to Ch'Rihan! I would too! And Sarek, that crafty old sonuvagun, he'd not known what Spock was up to, but nor had he been surprised, either. More
alike than either could admit...
Spock had plenty of reasons for leaving anyway. He was still hurting from what his counterpart had done to me. Sharing his mind so often, I could see his view of it; the Mirror Universe was a Parallel Time, after all. A real
and present horror to any Surakian Vulcan. We were all different in some way, but our core personalities, our very beings, remained the same. The experience in a way answered the age old question of are you the victim of
nature, or nurture? I knew Sulu as a kind, sweet, cosmopolitan, but in THAT world he'd learned (most likely by harsh treatment and abuse) to channel himself into a fight for power and control. The Spock I knew was gentle,
always aware of his strength--and defensive as hell about his parents when younger. But his Mirror Self had been under a severity of harsh life, inured to the sight of torture as commonplace, and in that place, it was considered "good parenting" to "prepare" your child for the "real world." I'm sure you know what that means: Come back with your shield or on it!
Spock had to face that it was in his nature to reach out and cause pain to someone simply because they were in his way. The young man who gravely counseled no mercy to Romulans *because* they were an offshoot of his
people, had only suspected the reality of passions that lay underneath. And that was hard for him. He'd always been harder on himself than anyone else I'd known. Harder than even Jim could be. And nothing I could say could convince him.
I always get scared when someone says they need me. And even now, I could feel how lost Spock was. He was confused and needing direction. Jim's presence helped him, but even that wasn't enough. He needed more than his t'hy'la's unconditional love and support and admiration. He needed someone who if need be, would unabashedly rip his figurative head off and tell him when he was being stupid.
He sure wouldn't get that among his Romulan Disciples, where they tended to copy everything he did.
**Never let it be said Spock settles for small fantasies.** Jim commented humorously.
Nope. If Spock's crazed, disaster-waiting-to-happen dream of Unification came about, there would be a lot fewer deaths in the Galaxy. And two wounded halves would be reunited. Vulcan would learn to treasure emotion. Romulans would learn to value objectivity.
Taken in that prospect, I guessed I could stick with this. At least for a while.
Jim laughed, a laugh I felt inside myself. **That's my feeling exactly, Bones. It's worth a bit of sacrifice, isn't it?**
**I guess. I shouldn't be all that surprised, should I? He risked execution for Christopher Pike, his career to save you I don't know how many times...oh, me, I guess I'm in the club now.**
**Which club? The one that Spock will protect with his life, or the club of people that die and come back? Either way, you're in.**
**Jim, you are *such* a smartass, you know that?**
Jim laughed again.
For all the ribbing, it was going to be a huge sacrifice on my part. Spock could make me live, but he couldn't keep me alive if I preferred to be in this sea of love with my kith and kin. Everyone was there; Jim, Natira, Joanna, Tonia, Emony...I could feel the softer, subtler presences of those
who hadn't died yet, the way you could feel a shadow of someone passing by you: Scotty, Nyota, Pavel. Sulu. Christine, who I hadn't seen in far too long. I couldn't talk to them unless they developed psychic powers or I
found a helpful Rigellian medium with an ouija board. It was one big cosmic family reunion. To pull away from that, to lose my ability to sense that...that wasn't going to be easy. I'd craved this kind of peace all my life.
**Yeah, I know. I died twice too, remember?** Jim was blending with me, or my awareness of him was spreading. **Just remember we're all here for you and Spock. All of us. And we'll never leave you.**
**You didn't really die the first time, Jim.**
**I kinda did. Same difference if I couldn't be with you guys.**
Point. Never argue with Jim Kirk.
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I think it was several days' travel in Spock's ship before my mind began to break out of its disorientation. Spock could put food in my hands, but there was a while when he had to make sure I knew it was there, or I'd get burned or just let it slip and fall. Have you ever heard of the Golden Dawn aesthetic who got so deep into meditation he accidentally bypassed his automatic responses and spent three days trying to remember how to breathe again? I'll have you know, its not just a story. It can happen. Spock
must have figured that if *I* didn't know what to do with coffee, there was no prayer for me. He was relieved when I finally remembered how to swallow.
I don't know how to describe it, except it was something like Spock's disorientation after fal tor pan; only more drastic. I was like a starship on Beta shift: lights were on, but very low lumen. And very little activity going on.
Spock was careful of me. Not that I could blame him. I didn't recognize myself in the mirror. I hadn't minded getting older--gray hair and crows' feet beat the hell out of being a babyface at 42! That was the big reason why I finally grew a beard when I left the Fleet. I just couldn't stand it anymore. And now I was looking at a half-familiar, way too young (babyfaced again!) stranger---kind of like the way Demora is half-familiar because she does things that reminds you of Hikaru.
I was familiar and half-familiar with myself, and it was wading molasses to sort everything out.
Spock grabbed what sleep he could as he headed back behind the Neutral Zone; he wasn't exactly taking the direct route back to his latest hideout. But he was a careful planner by nature. Even his cooked up last minute schemes can be as intricate as a Daystrom algorithm. When he could put the ship in a safeway, he would see to it that both of us got some kind of closure to endless hours of being awake, and rest.
That was the time I needed. Even a casual touch was like a dead battery getting jumped by a livewire. If I'd been isolated, I might have forgotten myself right out of a body again. And Spock needed it as much as I did. He knew that most of me was "in there" which eased his worries about what he'd done. I was just needing time. Can't say I was competent. My head was still drifting off, like a boat tethered to a dock. I'd drift so far, then something would jerk me back. Then it would start all over again. Despite
having an honorary nutcase for company, he made a ritual of normalcy by making sure I ate what he produced (and Spock's cuisine was as dreadful as I remembered), picked up the booktapes or music wafers I'd absently scattered around, and scrub the feel of the stale, recycled air off our skin and put us in bed. There were plenty ofnights when he was "skif-weary" to use a Vulcanism (whatever a skif is). I
remember waking up many a time realizing I couldn't move more than an eyebrow because I'd be wedged between the wall, and one passed-out-cold Vulcan who had his arms deathlocked around me to make sure I didn't get up and wander.
I think it took several weeks in all. By that point, I was starting to have lucid spells that lasted longer than five sentences. Spock tells me I had some kind of deepseated need to criticize his cooking. God, who could blame me? I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain to eat algae chowder. He did tell me that I told him that "vegetarian" was just Primitive Man's word for "lousy hunter."
We were close to the Old Romulan Border (the line forged before the first war with humans and Romulans) by then. I was starting to come to (again) while in the shower. Spock was wasahing my hair. It was a water shower, which Vulcans normally reserve for special moments. Anything that isn't a sponge bath is special to them. They love water, but a human sweats in a month what a Vulcan will drink in a year. That's how much they conserve. When I realized what was going on, it slowly dawned on me that every night
ended with water, not sonic bathing. Decades of reminding that hardheaded elf that the recyclers wouuldn't waste so much as a soap bubble had finally taken.
Let me tell you, its not as grand as you might think, sharing a bathroom with a Vulcan. Spock's idea of soap comes in liquid form and reeks of a ten-foot rosemary bush with a jug of juniper thrown in on top. That was my main gripe when we were living together, and I found it simpler to have my own bathroom on the other side of the house. I only used his stuff when I was fighting sinus blockage. And *he'd* complain that human soaps all carried the same bland scent, be they lavender, fir needle, peppermint or
vanilla. An outright lie if you ask me, but you can't expect a Vulcan to smell like a human. Scent depends on moisture, and Vulcans didn't evolve with much of that.
Other than the resinous fumes (and he actually had toned it down so it wasn't like bathing in Mace), the experience was pleasant and tactile. This was one of the first times I could feel myself be interested in what was going on. Spock had been too restrained. I wasn't actually aware of
myself, the way a newborn sits in a fugue when it doesn't get much contact with humans. We're every bit as touch-sensitive as Vulcans are. The way Spock was touching me was conveying a lot of what I'd felt while I was in
the Sea. Warmth.Caring. Concern. Gentleness. It was that similarity that moored me to the floor and I began to focus on what was going on.
Spock was running his hands over the last traces of soap, trying to rinse it all away before it got in my eyes. He was starting to catch on that I was pulling to consciousness. It took concentration for me not to drift off. This time I was showing signs of staying in reality for a while. That made him get his hopes up. When the water eneded he skipped the warm air for a towel. That was even more tactile. I could feel myself getting introduced
into my body again. I even looked down and held out my left hand, staring at it.
I heard Spock stop breathing, but couldn't pay attention to that too.
"Emony's ring." I heard my voice rumble deep in my throat. It sounded like a tidal roar.
Spock hesitated, and told me the truth. "The computer did not replicate you...wedding ring." I hadn't expected him to use the w-word. He always said "bonding" was a far better one. "I can...fashion another."
If I wanted to wear it. I could see his uncertainty, and I didn't know how to explain it to him. Maybe later, when I could understand how to express again...and I wasn't certain. Emony's ring had been a part of me since long
before I knew Spock. I'd toldLuthor that anything I had by way of personal effects could go to his daughter. It was possible he had included that ring for Malika's adult life.
Just wrestling with that issue (if I'd been myself) wouldn't have taken more than a few seconds. But the way I was, it was like gripping thorns.
"No." I said finally. "It doesn't...matter." Because Emony was someone else now. She wasn't even Jazdia anymore...I didn't know who at this point. Funny form of immortality, but it made a hell of a lot more sense than
what I was experiencing.
Spock caught my gaze, and nodded. Beats me what he saw in there. It hurt (mentally) to focus. But it was starting to finally happen. When I pulled on the sleeprobe he handed me, I paused and studied the sleeve. There was something familiar about the black and blue colors I couldn't place. Yet.
"Jim said you needed help."
Who can blame me for forgetting that people don't normally relay conversations with the dead? I had a lot on my plate. Spock started like a horse over a yellowjacket burrow.
"Jim..." He repeated hoarsely.
I sank down on the edge of the sleeping berth, arms on my legs. He was still standing there, staring at me.
"I can't remember everything." I apologized. It was like gripping on to sand with both fists. "He said you needed help; that's why you brought me back."
Later, I understood why he looked that way. The fact that I'd been talking with Jim's Katra had thrown his loop clear out of the park.
But it takes a lot to permanently floor a Vulcan. Spock slowly sat down next to me, and I heard him stop breathing. He lifted two fingers, and waited.
It seems like such a small gesture to make, but it's like saying "I love you" among humans. No matter how often the first person offers, you would never refuse to return the move unless things were terribly wrong.
When I reached up and touched his with mine, he went limp all over. Relief. Knowing that I remembered what was between us. He'd been careful of instigating a meld this whole time, not wanting to confuse me. The one time he'd walked into my unprepared psyche, nearly killed us both.
"Spock." I whispered. "I remember." He stopped breathing again, and though it was hard to turn my head and focus past our hands to his face, I managed. I was tired of having a clouded brain. I was back and I wanted to
stay that way.
"I remember us." I sounded like I was reciting a program. "I remember you bringing me back." I thought some more, watching those black eyes pull me in like the maelstrom. "And Jim...Jim sends his love."
That last bit nearly did him in. I saw his control waver with the urge, and let it ride, keeping my gaze locked in his.
"Ben t--" Spock stopped himself. He knew I preferred to stick with *one* name, thank you, the one I was given at birth. "Leonard." He whispered.
I had to smile. "You'd better get used to calling me by my rightful name." I told him. "It's not gonna fit where we're going."
"No...no it will not." Spock shook himself. "I missed you." A very human thing to say, not Vulcan at all. The closest a Vulcan can get to saying, "I love you" and they would never put those words to profane language; they say
it with their minds, where there can't be any dishonesty.
I heard it ripple through me as his fingers pressed against my tips; a Vulcan tightening of an embrace.
And because I always did something human for every one of his Vulcan gestures, I slung my arm around his neck. That's when the stress and worry and exhaustion hit him. He began to shake and my other arm went around him, trying to hold him together as he let it go.
"S'ok, Lover." Now that sounded odd coming from me. A Vulcan in the middle of his life, and a human who looked in his 40s but was now physcially less than a month old. What kind of dynamic was this going to be? At least if I lived to old age, it would be at the same rate as him this time. Should we be so lucky; and we'd been lucky enough not to beg any favors.
"Welcome...back." He murmured in my neck.
"Thank you." I said in his. "It's good to be home."