By Rae Trail
KFF: Standing Down K/Mc; NC-17; CD, Rae Trail,email@example.com, Part of the Kirk-fuh-q-Fest. Summary: The terrible trio is stranded on a strange planet. Hankie alert. Not my usual at all, folks. Disclaimer: All these characters are owned by Paramount/Viacom, and no infringement is intended. I make no money from this. Please don't shoot, I'm unarmed.
"Standing Down" -by Rae Trail
James Kirk stood outside the door of the little shack, staring up at the stars in the clear night sky. It was cooler than it had been for several days. A cold front had moved through and cleansed the air with rain, and dropped the temperature to a comfortable 26 degrees.
Comfortable for me and Bones, he corrected himself, feeling a stab of guilt that he found the temperature such a relief. Inside the shack a fire was crackling, keeping the one room warm for their sick Vulcan. Sicker every day now. If rescue didn't come soon he'd be gone, Bones had warned, in a days, maybe less. Cold would just hurry it along.
/Why doesn't rescue come?/ Kirk thought tiredly, a litany of months now. Spock in sickness was heartbreaking. Calm and quiet and uncomplaining, his belief in possibilities gone. Whatever the virus was that had attacked him, leaving Jim and Leonard helpless and healthy, it was slowly whittling him away. /Lord knows, his diet was poor enough before he got sick. Couldn't stomach any of the local proteins, only a handful of plants he could manage. He didn't have a hope of fighting off a virus, already half starved./
The door creaked behind him and shut softly, and Bones stood quietly beside him. "Where are they, Jim? Where the hell are they?"
"I wish I knew, Bones." Despite himself he glanced hopefully at the doctor. Naked as Jim himself was, their tattered clothes discarded as pointless in this heat, later stitched together for a sheet for their stricken friend. "Any change?"
"Not for the better, Jim. I'm sorry. He hasn't much longer."
Kirk nodded, and turned back to his perusal of the sky. Before Spock had become ill they'd worked out which stars were which. He knew he was staring right at Antares, and wished vainly that he could build a bonfire large enough to be spotted.
"He started talking about his katra again, Jim," Bones said softly. "I... don't get me wrong, I still wish for rescue, for salvation for him. But I don't think it's going to happen, and I think he wants to go. This talk of his katra is his way of asking your permission. I think he's had enough."
"God." Jim raised his hands and scrubbed his face. "I can't, how can I? I love that man like a brother, we've been through so much. To lose him again, how can we let it happen?"
Leonard sighed and set one strong hand on Jim's shoulder. "It's not something we're letting happen, Jim. It's just something that's happening. You know that. Will you come in and talk to him?"
Jim heard the crack in Bones' voice and turned to see tears streaking the beloved face. "Oh, no, don't Len. I can't bear it," he husked and gathered the other man in his arms, his own tears held back through sheer force of will. Len sobbed against his shoulder and Jim hugged him close. "Is it... you're sure that's what he wants?"
"You know that once he transfers his katra to us he'll go," Len replied. "How can we refuse to help him?"
Jim struggled against the agony in his soul. He wasn't ready to let Spock go, but he knew he would *never* be ready to let Spock go. Any more than he would ever be ready to let Len go. It wasn't until Len pulled away that he realized he'd voiced the thought aloud. Len looked at him, the blue eyes swimming in the starlight with more tears. "You would, you know. If it was me in there, hurting and tired and ready, you'd help me. You would want me to be at ease. You'd want me to go."
"I'd follow right behind you," Jim replied, and both men knew it was nothing less than the truth. "Spock... is leaving us both behind."
"Yes. But that's his right. Will you let him die unremembered, and leave his katra scattered on the air of this place?" Leonard's voice grew calm and strong again. "I think we both know what we have to do. Can you see it through?"
Strange thing to ask a star ship Captain who'd braved dangers for years, saved the universe, traveled beyond the imaginations of most beings. Yet he swallowed noisily and took a long minute to wipe the tears off of McCoy's face before responding. "It's the hardest thing anyone has ever asked me to do," he admitted finally. "I've never been... I've always fought death. Fought and won. To sit and watch Spock go, to give my, my *blessing* to it..." His voice cracked and he blinked furiously against the tears.
"It's alright to cry, Jim," McCoy said softly.
"If I give in to it now, I'll never be able to go in there and..." He shook his head. "No, I'll cry later. If you're sure, if Spock's sure, I won't stand in his way. But you have to help me, Len."
"You are the bravest man I've ever known, Jim. We'll help each other." He took Jim's hand and kissed the palm gently. "Shall we go in?"
Spock turned his head as they came in holding hands. Jim knew the ravages of grief on their faces told him what he wanted to know, for the Vulcan sighed. His eyes were huge in his thin face, and his breathing barely lifted the fur that covered him. Jim felt the stab of pain that came every time he looked at Spock these last days. He couldn't weigh more than 60 kilos, he who had been so strong and vital and *powerful* scant months ago. Jim felt his own vitality like a betrayal. How dare this place be inimical to Vulcans, and leave Leonard and he so damned healthy?
He settled on the edge of the bed, and lifted one thin hand. Leonard pulled the stool up close and took Spock's other hand. Their eyes met, and then Jim cleared his throat.
"Len tells me that you're thinking of leaving us, old friend," he began, and the tears suddenly choked him. He gave up and let them fall, and felt the weak pressure of Spock's hand in his.
"Please, Jim," the voice was a mere whisper. "I do not wish to make you sad."
"Sad doesn't quite cover it, Spock," he choked out. "But don't you worry about me. I'll be okay, I have Len to look out for me. Let's talk about you. What do you want? How can we help you?"
Spock was quiet for a moment, and Jim cursed anyone who said that Vulcans lacked emotion. Spock's whole soul was shining out of his eyes. "I am dying, Jim."
"I would have you and Leonard take custody of my katra. And when the time comes, do with it as you see fit." He closed his eyes, a sudden fit of trembling coming over him. When it passed he squeezed Jim's hand again. "Will you do it?"
Blue eyes met hazel again, and Jim leaned over and kissed one withered cheek. "Yes, Spock, we will," he whispered. "You have our permission to stand down, Mister. Just tell us what to do."
Spock seemed to rally with Jim's acceptance. He drew a steadying breath. "It will be different than it was for Len. More intense. You will feel as if I am living inside you. Which I will be, after a fashion. Thus I ask you both to share..."
"Ah. So that neither one of a couple feels left out of our friendship. Is that it?"
"You will understand better once you carry my essence within. And, if it seems good to you, you may carry it as long as you wish. Or take it to Vulcan at once when you are rescued." He shivered again. "I could chose no one better. You two have taught me more about myself than I could have ever learned without you. And your love for each other has taught me the value of love. I would say... I love you."
"Oh, Spock." Tears dropped freely from both humans' eyes. "You know we love you too," Jim answered for them both, Len nodding fiercely. "Tell us what to do," he said again, and Spock nodded weakly.
"If you move me over, you can join me on the bed. I fear I am too weak to do it myself."
They shifted him carefully onto the centre of the bed, then lay one on either side of him. He felt furnace hot as Jim snuggled up to him, on his side, gazing into the face that seemed as familiar to him as Len's, even in this extreme. "And?"
"Help me to find the meld points, Jim, Leonard."
Each man took one fragile hand and held it to his face, and slowly they felt the gentle contact of Spock's mind on their own. With a shock like cold water Jim realized that the powerful brain, the best part of Spock, was ticking over with all the force it ever had, that is was in no way wasted as was his body. "So beautiful, Spock." Through the light touch he could even feel Leonard's agreement.
It made it easier. This was no feeble, weak creature, seeking death as a refuge. This was a strong man who calmly accepted that this vessel would soon cease to contain him, and was making the proper dispositions. Jim's grief was no less, but his new understanding helped him to bear it. /Yes/ Spock's response came. /I am, as I always was. Death cannot diminish me./ There was a long, floating communion, each man sharing his feelings for the other, a mingling of spirits almost without thought.
Then the moment the humans had been dreading. Spock seemed to rally, and the hand on each face pressed more firmly. /Remember,/ Spock ordered. /Remember/
And Spock was there in Jim's head, gathering himself, creating a place in Jim's mind for himself. /Like moving house/ he thought wonderingly, and felt Len's amusement and agreement, and Spock's dry humour. Then Spock was gone, but still present, a quiet unobtrusive expression of himself deep inside Jim's consciousness.
/Remember/ came the order again, and both humans felt their agreement and acceptance of Spock's wish. Then the hands fell from their faces, and they opened their eyes and stared at each other in wonder.
"Spock, that was..." Jim looked down and stopped. There was no mistaking that look, he'd seen it on too many faces in his life. "Len!"
McCoy lifted a hand to the side of Spock's neck, then met Jim's eyes across the still form. "He's gone, Jim."
"Gone..." Jim swallowed, and the grief welled up in full bloom, overwhelming him. He let his head fall onto Spock's chest and sobbed, barely aware of Leonard's hand stroking his hair, Leonard's soft voice consoling him. Aware, somehow, that Leonard's tears fell as freely, but somehow didn't poison his soul.
/Shhhh, love. Shhh, he's not truly gone./
Jim's head jerked up in astonishment, and he stared across at Len's face. Tears still fell, but there was a surprise on the other man's face. "I heard you. I *heard* you!" Kirk hissed, his amazement short-circuiting his pain. /I heard you/ he tried, remembering how he'd communicated with Spock the few times they'd melded. Len's face brightened, then saddened again.
/Probably it will fade,/ he sent. /A byproduct of the transfer. Do you feel him? Inside you?/
Kirk straightened and turned his attention inwards. As a non-telepath, and a man with a healthy mind, he was very rarely aware of the workings of his own thoughts. But there was something different, something peculiar. /A sort of warmer place/ he sent, and felt McCoy's acknowledgement. /Let's use this gift, then, until it fades. A last gift from our friend./ Tears began again, but gentler, not tearing his soul with every breath.
Len nodded. /Yes. Let's... let's do what is necessary for him now. He wishes his body cremated/ he sent, and both felt slightly shaken. Neither had discussed Spock's wishes for the disposal of his mortal remains, but the certainty was unmistakable.
/He really is still here, somehow, in some way./ Kirk looked down and straightened Spock's arms, folding them across his chest gently. /I'll miss him./
"We'll both miss him," Leonard replied. /Let's get to work/
The pile of wood outside was already large. Kirk had spent most of the last week gathering wood for the Vulcan's comfort, throwing himself into the labour to try and avoid the growing awareness of Spock's mortality. Now he and McCoy surveyed the tidy pile by the light of the stars. /Enough for a pyre/ McCoy acknowledged /in the centre of the clearing/
/At dawn/ Kirk responded, with the same calm certainty that McCoy had shown about the cremation. Despite the presence of grief the two men grinned at each other. /You know, I suspect he might get the last word after all/
/That doesn't surprise me at all/ McCoy responded, his mind voice as dry as his vocalization would have been. It took most of the rest of the night to build the pyre, carry Spock's body on the wooden bed frame out to it and perch it carefully atop. Kirk had to stop frequently, knees weakening in a sudden surge of grief. Each time Leonard would stop his own labour and hold the other man close until the spasm passed. He would kiss the tears away, smile softly, and continue with the work. Kirk felt Leonard's love through their strange new link, like a salve on an open wound.
The night was still deep, dawn a pale wrinkle on the horizon, when they felt their work completed. They sat in the quiet dark, on the grass, gazing at the sharp pale profile of their friend atop the pyre. Leonard felt a sudden, sharp desire for his lover, and Kirk turned to him in surprise, the emotion coming down their strange new link. /That's a little unexpected, Len/
/It's actually pretty common,/ Len replied, honestly./You'd be surprised by how much sex goes on during wakes and funerals. The survivors wishing to reaffirm their life through the most intimate, and lively, act of all. But if you feel it's inappropriate, Jim.../
/Lord, you sound like Spock!/ Jim actually smiled, leaned over and kissed Len, letting the kiss linger and deepen. /I can't think of a more fitting tribute to him than to express our love/ He took Len's shoulders and pressed him back, onto the grass. /You, or me?/
It was the question they always asked one another. This time McCoy shook his head. /Just face to face, love. I just need to feel you close, to feel how alive you are./
Jim's tears started again, and fell onto Len's face as he leaned over him and kissed him. /I do understand. I need that too./
There was no exploration, no teasing. They lay on their sides, arms wrapped around one another, legs entwined, mouths hungry. Their erections pressed together, hard and real and aching, as they moved slowly together in the dance as old as life itself. Kirk thought an orgasm was a lifetime away, but when he felt the slickness of precum on his lover's cock easing his way his own desire flared, and he felt at once hopelessly aroused and helplessly sad.
They moved together, moaning into each other's mouths, their tears mingling freely, and when Leonard tensed against him Kirk came with a shout that echoed around the small clearing.
And somewhere, deep in the minds of both, a warm affirmation of life, the knowledge that Spock was, on some level, loving right along with them.
When they were spent and eased, McCoy slowly untangled himself and sat up. Kirk wept, lying on his side, but the tears were mingled grief and joy. McCoy gazed up at the sky as the first arrow of light came over the distant mountains.
"It's time, Jimmy," Leonard said gruffly. "It's time to light the pyre."
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