Notes: My first Trek fiction in over twenty years. This story is for my partner Fortuita, hugs babe! Thanks to my favorite beta and pal Subrosa who always beats me bloody, but keeps me from doing incredibly stupid things. Also a big thank you to Maigret, boyd and Noon for cheering me on. The title sort of sucks, but I'm horrible at naming things, just ask my fish.
Warning! This is a death story, but a happy one.... Seriously! ;-)
The first time he saw snow, he was twelve, on his first visit to his mother's home planet. It amazed him. Each tiny bit of fluff so different, so beautiful. Cold and pale, it covered a landscape full of things he'd never seen outside of holovids, things he'd always secretly thought were no more real than the light and shadow they were made of.
He held out his hands to capture the tumbling crystals, only to be disappointed as they melted into his palms, the heat of his Vulcan skin an instant anathema to the lacy bits of ice. Illogically, he tried over and over until, frustrated, he dropped his outstretched arms and turned his face to the sky. The flakes raced toward him and for a moment he had a feeling of vertigo. It felt like falling toward the stars.
Amanda, stripped of the restrictions of Vulcan, played in the drifting mounds of white, giggling with abandon. She seemed a stranger to him. His child's heart was hurt and bewildered by the change.
"Mother, your display is unwarranted."
She embraced him recklessly, surrounding him with the scent of her cool human body and a swirl of brightly colored robes. "My 'display' is only what it should be, Spock. I love the snow and the cold. It has been too long for me."
Amanda's face glowed with happiness; she pressed her flushed cheek against his while he struggled to remain immobile in the unaccustomed hug. When he failed to respond, she pulled back, a fleeting pain moving across her features and he cringed inwardly. He wondered -- not for the first time -- what it was she expected of him.
Their time on Earth was difficult. The visit to introduce Spock to his human family was not a success. Amanda's family had never understood her love for the strange, aloof Sarek. It was clear that they had no wish to include the half-bred alien child in their ranks.
In later years, when reminded of it, he would recall only schismatic images, the awkwardness of his preadolescent body and the nervous silences that greeted him whenever he entered a room -- the distrust and thinly veiled hostility that discomforted him and outraged Amanda.
But he never forgot the delicate touch of the snow and the hidden delight it gave him.
The years weighed heavily upon him as he hobbled through the shifting desert sand. In the distance, Mount Seleyah loomed darkly in the predawn light. He'd waited patiently for the time of this pilgrimage, each passing year bringing it nearer.
He reached the end of his journey as the sun rose over the jagged peaks. Here amidst the broken rock at the edge of the desert, he set down the burden he'd struggled over long miles to carry.
Carefully, he unrolled the small rug, revealing the meager collection of keepsakes tucked safely inside. He settled himself as comfortably as he could, his body protesting as he lowered himself to the ground. With tremulous hands, he picked up the objects, one by one, caressing each reverently.
There was a lock of golden hair woven together with a ribbon of faded silk; the brightness of the strands had dulled over the years, but he was convinced they still held a hint of Amanda's scent. He lingered over a scrap of braid that marked his former rank, and ran his fingers over a tattered volume of humorous verse that brought remembrance of its sharp-witted owner. Finally, his gaze fell on the last item, a pair of antiquated, broken reading glasses. They seemed somehow out of place among the other objects, yet he lingered longest over them, exhibiting a gentle and deliberate care. With a bittersweet twist to his mouth, he set the bent frames aside.
His once graceful fingers were bent and gnarled now, the joints swollen and painfully arthritic. He hardly recognized them or the face he saw each day in the mirror. Touching his face, he traced the ridges and lines that creased his forehead and ran from nose to mouth and the loose skin that sagged along his jaw line. So many years, so much time had passed. The days since he reached his prime had flowed by inexorably, piling one upon the next, the months following years, following decades.
Now the passage of time, his time, was at an end. Where once there would have been sorrow or regret, there was only relief. His body was ready to lay down its burdens, his mind weary, and his soul -- his katra -- was exhausted.
Gripping the shattered lenses tightly, he faced the rising sun, closing his eyes to the brilliance. And he waited, still and silent. Slowly, the shadows shortened, heat shimmering off of the barren plain. Teresh-Kah circled high overhead, lazily riding the thermals, silver wings gleaming in the light.
He sighed. Impatience was only for the young, the illogical, yet he felt it nipping at him as he thought about the water flask he'd decided to leave behind. The heat was little bother to him, but a drink of cool water would be a relief. Only his training prevented him from touching his tongue to his parched, chapped lips.
Briefly he thought of his home. His housekeeper would surely be missing him, perhaps even guessing where he had gone. Would she set out an alarm? No, she was trustworthy and he knew that she respected his wishes. As his cousins refused to.
How to explain his desire for release to them? To pass from this life into whatever awaited him, without leaving his katra behind? It was un-Vulcan to not consider bequeathing his knowledge and experiences to those who would come after. Now, at the end of his life, he gave himself over to an unexpected selfishness and the ever growing longing to follow where his companions had gone before.
It had been a very long time since he'd let himself think of that word; the pain of separation was too deep, the loneliness too much of a burden to bear. Logic was a cold companion when your soul longed for the only thing that would give it ease. . . .
He granted himself the small solace of bringing the image of his beloved to mind, only to find the pain had not lessened over the years. It did not matter so much now, not now when he knew he was so close to being free from his burden.
It was a surprise to notice that the heat of the day was long past, the lengthening shadows marking the coming darkness. Where was the release he had come seeking? Was he fated to wait out the coming night, too?
With majestic grace, the great circle of Las'hark sank beyond the horizon, its lingering orange radiance painting Seleyah with a dull vermillion glow. He hunched against the coolness of the air -- it would be hours before the night was truly cold, but already his body shivered in revolt. Was it age or his half-measure of human blood betraying him? After living for so many years among humans, in temperatures best suited to pure Earth stock, why could he no longer could bear even the slightest decrease of temperature?
He ached from the position he had maintained during the long day of meditations and recollections. Awkwardly, he eased himself down until he was lying facing the sky. The stars overhead gleamed in cold bright fury, more abundant and radiant than he had seen for many years. A bit of memory intruded and for a moment he was a child again, tall and thin -- all knees and sharp elbows.
Snow. How cold and pure and wondrous it was. . . .
His heart leaped in his chest. Fearfully, he turned his head toward the whisper. There, bathed in the soft glow of starlight, stood the one he'd feared never to see again.
"T'hy'la . . . ." His voice broke and for a moment the apparition wavered as he blinked away sudden tears. The unimaginable had happened. He could not breathe -- the joy so sharp it felt like pain.
"Yes, Spock. It's me."
Struggling, he fought the resistance of his too rigid body, to sit upright. Then Jim was beside him, lifting him, his touch a benediction.
"Jim -- "
"Shh, I know. I've missed you too. It has been a very long time."
He tried to speak again, but his throat was too tight for the words to escape.
"You should have known I would come for you."
"I hoped. I wished it beyond all things...." His T'hy'la was as he had been the day of their first meeting, young and vibrant, radiating vitality. Unable to resist, he reached out to caress the beloved features. He hesitated in sudden fear that his fingers would meet empty air, that his effort would leave him as disconsolate as the child he had been, unable to capture the snowflakes in his hand. Breathing, he completing the movement and found the touch as vital and comforting as he remembered
"Are you ready to come with me?" Jim's mouth pulled itself into the familiar cocky grin.
"Wherever you choose to lead, Captain."
The reply brought a bark of laughter. "Bones was so wrong. He just never understood Vulcan humor."
"I did not mean to be humorous. Maybe it is you who does not understand?" He found himself enfolded in a tight embrace, breathing in the cool, almost forgotten honey-sweet human scent. Yielding to the enclosing arms, he rested his head on Jim's shoulder.
"You can lie to yourself, but you can't lie to me. I know you
"Vulcans do not lie."
This brought on another chuckle. "But there's always the human side of you. . . ."
"If that is what you choose to believe." He raised his head and arched one eyebrow, waiting to see what response it would bring.
"We can stay here and argue if you want. But it really is time to leave." Kirk released him and stood smiling, holding out a hand.
He hesitated, taking a moment to collect himself. Standing would be difficult. Another laugh from his T'hy'la gave him impetus and suddenly they were standing side by side. Looking deeply into the dancing hazel eyes, he felt his mouth curve upward into a smile.
"Ah, there it is. I was wondering how long you would keep that hidden." Jim rested his palms on Spock's face, tracing his lips with a thumb, and pulled Spock forward into a gentle kiss.
Pulling back slightly, Spock touched his forehead to Kirk's. "It was also waiting for you." He fingered the soft wave of hair that dipped over the broad forehead. It took him a moment to realize that his hand no longer moved stiffly and painfully.
"Jim. . . ?"
"Don't question, Spock. Just come with me."
He smiled again, the unfamiliar movement pulling at unused muscles across his cheeks. Something -- perhaps it was a sigh -- brought his attention back to the ground where he had lain waiting. A dark form sprawled there -- an ancient with wasted limbs and haggard features. The rheumy eyes were open, blank and staring.
Just as recognition would have dawned, he was drawn away from his perusal. "Spock . . . T'hy'la, we have to go now."
He reached out and took the hand that was held out to him. After so many years the touch was still familiar. Even more familiar was the gentle touching of minds.
Suddenly he was moving upward. The distant memory of vertigo returned, but it wasn't snow falling toward him; this time he really was falling toward the stars. Laughing in exultation, he held Jim's hand tightly as they slipped free of the bonds of Vulcan and journeyed once again into the vastness of space.