“Shields are at 13% and failing!”
“Decks four through eight on the starboard side are losing structural integrity.”
“We’ve rerouted auxiliary power, sir, but we can’t take much more of this.”
The urgency of the crew’s callouts was amplified by the blare of red alert alarms. Jim sat on the edge of the captain’s seat, reading consoles over shoulders, calculating his next move.
“Chekov, divert all power aside from life support systems, engines and sickbay to shields.
Mr. Sulu, anything you can do to get us the hell out of here?”
“I’m trying, sir, but the gravitational pull of the planet is too strong. With the hull in this state, the ship will tear apart on entry if we try to land it”
Quietly cursing, Jim sat back in his chair. He turned to face Spock, giving him a look Spock knew to be Jim’s plea for guidance. But there was nothing he could tell Jim that he didn’t already know.
They shared a brief moment, staring into each other’s eyes as if they could read one another’s thoughts. Spock watched as Jim’s expression morphed from one of worry, masked fear and desperation, into a face of remorse and determination.
He asked Spock for something like forgiveness with an expression Spock didn’t understand, before turning to face the view screen, and his crew.
“Sulu, set the ship on the slowest course that will enter the atmosphere. Chekov, shift from red alert to evacuation protocol. Uhrua, send out a final distress signal to any ships in the quadrant, and contact Starfleet. Tell them the Enterprise is abandoning ship.”
At this, the crew turned to stare at their Captain, and then Spock, as if they hoped to see that he disagreed. Spock remained at his Captain’s side, physically and metaphorically as Kirk continued, not letting their horror phase him.
“If you haven’t received orders, you are to evacuate immediately.”
Those with orders turned back to their stations in a state of shock to carry out the Captain’s wishes. The rest of the bridge crew slowly filed out, saluting their command team, their voices frail.
Once again Jim turned to face him, and Spock saw the uncertainty written all over his face.
“Captain,” Spock spoke at little more than a whisper, “You should accompany the crew aboard the shuttles. I will-”
An outraged glare silenced him.
“Commander, once the remaining crew has finished their tasks, you are to escort them to the shuttles and ensure that evacuations are successful. You are to evacuate with them,” Jim’s voice softened as he continued, “Please, Spock, are you with me? I need you with me on this.”
“Captain, you cannot expect-”
“There are lives at stake. No matter how hard it gets, I need you to stick with me.” Jim gave him an apologetic look. “Please.”
After a moment of conflict, Spock made his choice, even as his chest tightened with the words.
Tension bled through the next two minutes, interrupted only by the sound of Uhura calling mayday in various languages to anyone in the quadrant who may be listening.
The remaining crew had completed their assignments, but they sat at their stations and stalled in hopes that the Captain would change his mind and order them to try some outlandish maneuver to lead their ship out of certain destruction.
Their hopes shattered as Uhura ended her transmission to Starfleet and sat back, staring numbly at her console.
For a moment, the bridge was silent as they listened to each other breathing between wails of the evacuation alarm. It was a collective unspoken fear that once this moment broke, it may be the last time they heard one another breathe.
So they sat, for far too long, sharing nervous glances and wiping at traitorous tears. It was Jim who finally broke the silence, obligated by both circumstance and rank.
“Commander Spock, Lieutenant Uhura, Lieutenant Sulu, Ensign Chekov, thank you for your loyalty and service to this ship and her crew. Your sacrifice will not go without reward, and you have risked your lives enough, you are to evacuate immediately.”
“Jim, surely you don’t think we’ll leave you here? We can’t just-”
“Sulu, please,” Jim’s voice threatened to break. “You know that I’m out of options. I’m sorry, truly, but you need to leave. All of you. As your captain there is nothing else I can do but order that you get to safety. As your friend, I am begging you to.”
Protest left unspoken gleamed in Sulu’s eyes, but he bowed his head in submission to his captain's words as tears began to fall freely.
“Yes, sir.” He choked on forced laughter, before pulling Jim into a crushing hug, “Thank you, Jim. And I’m sorry- Just, thank you.”
Uhura and Chekov followed suit, hugging their captain tight, sobbing thanks and apologies and painful goodbyes into Jim’s shaking shoulder. The three of them all slowly withdrew from Jim’s personal space as Spock abandoned his post beside the captain’s chair.
“If you would please give us a moment of privacy, I will report to the shuttle bay in a moment.” Spock’s request was barely audible, but carried immense weight. Each of the officers gave Jim another hug, muttering various farewells and weak jokes in an attempt to preemptively soothe the wounds of their last moments with their captain.
The trio began towards the lift, walking as if their feet were made of lead, desperate to remain in their commanding officers’ presence for even a second more. As they crept from the bridge, they could only watch, and wish for the willpower to look away.
Spock stepped closer to Jim, his hands wrapping around Jim’s waist as Jim clung to his shoulders. A shaking hand ran reverently through Jim’s hair, pushing it away from his eyes as he tucked his head into the crook of Spock’s neck.
They watched as their captain openly wept in Spock’s embrace, hearing the heaving breaths as he choked. They couldn’t turn away, as their commander’s tears mingled with the dull shine of Jim’s hair.
Over the sound of Chekov whispering orders to the computer, they could hear Jim muttering sweet, empty comforts.
The lift doors spared the three from further heartbreak, closing as Jim pulled away to brush away Spock’s tears with a watery smile on his face and pure adoration in his eyes.
Spock stared blankly at the approaching planet as Jim clung to him.
“You are not your father.” He spoke into Jim’s hair in a tone so hushed and weak, it was hard to believe he had spoken at all. “It is not fair that you should follow in his footsteps.”
“Yeah?” Jim gave him a weak smile. “At least I was captain for more than 10 minutes, huh?”
“Jim, now is hardly the time-”
“I know, Spock, trust me, I know, just... Let me have this moment with you?”
With that, Spock let Jim pull him into a suffocating kiss. It was all clashing teeth and wet lashes brushing against the other’s cheeks, vicious and tender. Jim’s hand tugged at the barely long enough ends of Spock’s hair, begging for him to come closer, desperate to memorize this feeling. Spock responded by pulling his hand from around Jim’s waist and resting a finger against his temple, the apple of his cheek and his jaw. The murmur of the mindmeld incantation faded with the whine of alarms and sensors, leaving only the soft hum of Spock’s mind.
Waves of love, preemptive grief, regret and longing washed over Spock. Jim, having melded with Spock before, was then quick to project all of the love and calm that he possibly could. There was a rush of colors and sounds, as Jim pushed forth a slew of memories.
Spock watched himself from Jim’s perspective as he first learnt how to ice skate. Saw himself in the blue-green light of holovids in Jim’s quarters, overwhelmed by the affection flooding from the memory, as he saw himself get pelted with popcorn.
There were memories of Risa, where everything was blurred at the edges by the alcohol and saturated with nothing but utter infatuation as Spock watched himself, sober and impatient, lead a totally wasted Jim back to the ship. Their first joint shore leave came into focus, full of comfortable silences, longing gazes and hesitant gestures in a quaint little cabin on some paradise planet. To accompany this memory was their first night together, clumsy and unsure, but so tender and gentle. Spock saw himself debauched and vulnerable, he felt Jim’s joy and contentment as he knew just how deeply he loved Spock as they laid in bed later that same night, one of Spock’s hands in his hair and the other holding Jim against his chest.
The feelings of joy and content stretch over a long span of briefly visited memories, quiet games of chess, stolen kisses in sickbay after away missions gone wrong, and long nights laughing with his crew, as Spock and Uhura would perform for them.
It all mounted on the night of their elopement. Spock saw himself in Jim’s memories, stood nervously at the end of a dock at Sulu’s childhood home in San Francisco, with Bones walking him down the aisle, grumbling in his ear about the fog as he delivered Jim to the makeshift altar. There was bubbling excitement, a bright happiness, despite Scotty’s nonsensically ramblings about marriage, as Jim stood across from his soon-to-be husband in front of his senior crew, who all looked on with misty eyes and cheesy grins.
Spock was quick to reciprocate, sending forth his memories of Jim, asleep with his hair tousled, reading glasses slipping from his face after a double shift, a PADD sliding from his lap.
Jim sat in the living room of his childhood home on Vulcan as his father and mother met his bondmate, then he and Amanda laughing together in the kitchen as the chatted mindlessly. The fluttering feeling in Spock’s chest when Jim would laugh and place a hand on his shoulder, playfully squeezing.
The anxiety and relief that came in cycles every time Jim was wheeled into sickbay and cautiously discharged a week later. Undeniable love, an unbreakable bond Spock acknowledged on the beach of their cabin on shore leave, where Jim timidly asked to kiss him.
The bounding of his pulse at the sight of Jim’s omnipresent smile accompanied by a dark blue suit on their wedding day. Jim’s deep laughter as Spock smeared icing on his face at the reception. The late hours of their wedding night spent laying on the deck of Sulu's antique sailboat, as they stared at the stars, and each other, totally in love.
The frustration of assembling flat packed furniture in the apartment they bought together in between their five year mission and new assignment. Endless nights of takeout food, because Jim hadn't realized that the apartment didn't come with appliances. Nights that all ended with one reading a lengthy dissertation to the other, which they would criticize for entertainment, because he also hadn't thought to buy any sort of holovid player.
Their friends all gathered around their dining table for Jim's birthday and the light of candles dancing with the joy in Jim's smile, a smile aimed right at Spock as Jim mouthed, ‘thank you.’
These memories stewed in the painful reality of their situation, a bitter aftertaste to five years of love, in addition to three years of bonding and marriage. Spock slowly withdrew from Jim’s mind.
As their eyes met, both found the other with fresh tears brimming.
“You’re everything, you always have been.”
“Ashayam, you are all I could ask for, friend, brother, lover.” Spock’s hand fell from Jim’s face, resting against his chest.
“For you, always.”
“Thank you.” Jim pulled Spock’s hand up, squeezing it in his before he lightly kissed it.
Spock leaned into Jim, their foreheads pressed together, as they took it all in.
Finally, Jim brought their lips together in a kiss that said everything their meld already told them. Their lips parted after a soft moment as the navigation sensors began to loudly warn of the ship’s entering of the upper most atmosphere. Reality could not be escaped, as is the basis of all tragedy, and they were forced apart as Jim pressed a final kiss to his lover’s lips. Spock looked on as Jim took a seat in front of the console and prepared to steer the ship away from the cities below.
“Go help our crew.”
Jim turned to face Spock, a deep pain etched into the lines of his face masked only by a small, forced smile. In a voice heavy with grief and burdened in acceptance, Jim urged him on.
“It’s okay, Spock.” He gave a weak quirk of his lip. “I’ll be okay, love.”
Without a word, Spock nodded. He turned towards the lift, steeling himself. He couldn’t go back now, if he did, he’d never leave this bridge. He’d die alongside his bondmate like his whole being begged to if he glanced back now.
Even so, as the lift doors began to slide closed, he couldn’t help but look back.
Jim was looking back from the navigation station, a horrific image of forced acceptance and contained anguish. But still, he gave Spock the most reassuring look he could manage.
“Live long and prosper, Spock. I lov-”
The doors closed before Spock could hear Jim finish the phrase. Still, Spock echoed the sentiment.
“Peace and long life.” He whispered harshly to the empty lift.