Title: The Palace Of Eternity
Author/Artist: ladyblahblah and nix_this , respectively
Fandom: Star Trek Reboot
Warnings: Mirrorverse. Violence, mansex, and BLASPHEMY. Oh dear heavens, the blasphemy.
Disclaimer: JJ Abrams and Paramount said that we were "immature and perverse" and "couldn't be trusted with such an important franchise" so they refused to sell it. They still own all of the nu!Trek stuff. :( And most of what they don't own belongs to the ghost of Gene Roddenberry. We own the idea and the words and . . . well, that's about it. No profit is being made, tragically.
Summary: "So dear do I love him that with him, all deaths I could endure." --John Milton
Author's Note: LadyB says: This is a collaboration for the final prompt in the Ship Wars
battle grudgematch slaughter competition, inspired by Paradise Lost (and, let's be honest, Dogma). Consequently, it deals heavily with religious issues and skirts the edge of (read: tumbles headlong into) what might possibly be considered blasphemous themes. Please read with caution, and suppress the urge to flame. We'll probably be getting enough of that in the afterlife.
Artist's Note: nix_this says: Blasphemy is delicious! And really, at this point, the gay lovin' mansex is just a bonus nail on the coffin lid. I think our fate was sealed as soon as we decided Paradise Lost needed a Star Trek reboot. Epic love to ladyb for being an absolute dream to work with! This thing has so much potential for EPIC and SPRAWLING CATASTROPHE that I am in awe of her ability to reign it in (at least until the INEVITABLE SEQUEL). Also - isn't Mirror!Kirk's vest just darling?
It’s a peculiar sort of prison, these mortal bodies. So easy to break free, and yet . . . and yet.
Kirk turns at the voice of his second in command, the man who calls himself Spock in this life. Spock of Vulcan. Is there significance in that? Probably. There usually is.
“Do you remember your name, Spock?” he asks as the door slides closed. One of those intriguing eyebrows lifts, silently requesting clarification. “Your real name; who you were before. Do you remember? Do you remember mine?”
Spock takes a moment to genuinely consider. “Not yet.”
Kirk nods in satisfaction. “Good.” He checks his own memory, finds the answer hovering just past the edges of his mind. So close; a part of him wants to reach for it, this thing that was ripped from him. This thing that is denied. But no, it’s not time yet, and he abandons it with a shrug. “Nothing for me, either. The end isn’t on us just yet, then.”
“Have you seen Sulu?”
The eyebrow again. “May I presume that you mean recently, as opposed to ever?”
“You haven’t been this literal-minded since Rome,” Kirk snorts. “Yes, I mean recently.” He begins to pace the narrow confines of his quarters. “His scar turned up today. The one on his face, from Michael’s sword.” Kirk rolls his eyes and mutters, “Of course, his name I can remember.”
The use of his name has Kirk stuttering to a halt, his eyes still fixed on the bulkhead in front of him. “Yes?”
It’s not command in Spock’s voice, but pleading, or the closest thing to it that Kirk has heard from him in this particular lifetime. And it’s only that beseeching note that allows Kirk to relent and raise the hem of his shirt, the material sliding ticklishly over his ribs as he reveals his left side to that probing gaze. Only a moment later warm fingers skate over his skin, tracing the ragged scar that has appeared overnight. It’s the shape of torn flesh, of spilt lifeblood, of a spearhead slid through the gap in his ribs to pierce his heart. The memory of the pain is almost as sharp as the original wound was, and he struggles not to flinch.
“So.” Spock’s voice is quiet, his fingertips gentle. “It has truly begun again.”
“The stigmata have always been the first sign,” Kirk says, stepping away and letting his shirt fall back into place. “I don’t see any reason for things to deviate from form after all this time.”
There’s silence as they both let the implications sink in. They gave up on the thought of escaping this particular destiny long ago. That does not mean, however, that the prospect holds any less terror now than it always has. Death, it seems, horrible and bloody, is something one never quite grows used to.
“Your name suited you,” Spock says suddenly, drawing Kirk’s gaze to him again. The Vulcan has him fixed with a look that is at once intense and soft with something close to wonder. “I remember that much. It was as you are: golden bright and beautiful.”
“Why, Mr. Spock,” Kirk murmurs as he feels his body fill with a familiar flood of heat. “If I didn’t know better I’d say that was desire in your voice. That’s perilously close to sin, you know.”
“I desired you before I knew what desire was,” Spock says intently, derailing his captain’s attempt at levity. “You tempt me as you always have; as is your nature. And my sin was greater than any sin of the flesh could manage to be, for my desire was to know you. To be one with you; to serve you and you alone.” His fingers brush against Kirk’s temple, a whisper of mental connection that sizzles through them like lightning. “Do you recall the first time we merged?” he whispers.
“Yes,” Kirk answers breathlessly, his eyes drifting closed in remembered euphoria. Bodiless, formless, the sense of this beautiful creature in and around and of him. He reaches up and presses Spock’s hand more firmly against his face, opening his eyes again, commanding. “Know me now.”
And, “Yes,” Spock rasps, adjusting his grip and then they’re together, merging, falling, into each other, out of and beyond these narrow mortal confines.
It’s not the same; the joining is not as complete. Their minds are entwined, but they are still fundamentally two instead of one. Their souls, or whatever vague approximation of such they’ve been given, are still separate. But in all their travels, in all their lives, this is as close as they’ve ever managed to come, and they grasp at each other’s minds in greedy desperation.
The meld breaks eventually, because it must. Three Earth-standard hours is their record, but if battle approaches they have limited time remaining. Of course, Kirk notes wryly, that doesn’t preclude an hour or so set aside to deal with what should by now be the predictable response of his human flesh to the intimacy they have just shared.
“These bodies can be inconvenient,” he says lowly, twining his fingers with those still resting against the side of his face, “but I must admit they’re not entirely unpleasant.”
“Indeed,” Spock agrees, breath catching slightly at the way Kirk is stroking his fingers. His eyes greedily track the movement as Kirk brings their joined hands to his lips.
“You were saying something, Mr. Spock,” Kirk murmurs in between soft, tormenting nips to the Vulcan’s knuckles, “about sins of the flesh?”
Spock simply stares. He was correct: it is Kirk’s nature to tease, to tempt, to defile only when his victim begs for desecration. But he’s willing to bend the rules for Spock; he always has been.
“Come on.” He tugs at the back of Spock’s neck and breathes the words against soft lips. “Sin with me.”
The ion storm that Spock had come to his quarters to report is threatening to cut out their transporters, and Kirk finds himself disproportionately annoyed by that fact.
They’ve been gathering arms for three years now, almost since their mission began. This ‘shore leave’ on Zeta Mensae VI is only the latest in a long series of transactions that he and his crew have been keeping hidden from the prying eyes of the Empire. Preparedness was what so many of their previous battles lacked. This time they will have force of arms, and more of their lieutenants than they’ve ever managed to gather so early in the game. Their strike, when it comes, will be fiercer than it has ever been before, and it will hit with no warning. This time . . . this time, Kirk thinks, they might win.
He almost believes it.
But then again, their contact is notoriously twitchy about being kept waiting, and every minute they delay increases the odds that he’ll decide to peddle his wares elsewhere. Or, Kirk thinks with a sinking feeling as he regards the angry scar on his helmsman’s face, the man might well decide that the possible reward was worth the risk of informing the Emperor or his Cabinet.
He punches a button on the arm of his chair and barks, “Scotty, report.”
“It looks like there’ll be a brief window in ten minutes’ time, Captain,” comes the crisp response. “But our power’s gonna be drained just fightin’ the interference. We won’t be able to send more than a couple o’ people down with any kind of safety.”
Kirk clenches his jaw. “Acknowledged,” he says tersely. “We’ll be in the transporter room in ten. Kirk out.”
“Such anxiety; such hurriedness. But then, mortal lives are so much shorter than what we know. The flicker of a dying candle flame. I suppose a certain amount of haste is understandable.”
Kirk refuses to flinch at the sudden voice at his elbow, refuses to turn. “Uhura,” he says instead, keeping his eyes focused on the view screen in front of him, Zeta Mensae VI obscured by the roiling greens and blues of the storm. “How are communications coming?”
“Long-range is still knocked out,” she says. He can hear the barely leashed fury in her voice, so much darker than the quiet disdain she favors him with. Her control is usually admirable, but she’s always had trouble with her temper in this regard. “Could be because of the storm, or it could be because of the two heaps of celestial waste on the bridge. Sir.”
“Yes, well,” Kirk smirks. “Mysterious ways, I suppose. Sulu? What about shuttlecraft?”
“Wouldn’t recommend it, sir.” A tic has started up in Sulu’s temple, making the new scar across his face twitch, but he’s following his captain’s lead and ignoring the new presence on the bridge. “It’s pretty rough out there; I don’t like a shuttlecraft’s chances of getting through undamaged.”
“Guess it’ll have to be the transporter after all, then. Keep monitoring the storm; if we’re going to be limited in when we can establish a connection with the ship, I want to know exactly what sort of windows we’re talking about.”
“You can not ignore us forever,” the voice says again. And because Kirk knows it’s true, knows that as much as he might wish otherwise he’ll have to deal with this eventually, he swivels his chair to face their guests.
They seem ridiculously tall—ten feet at a minimum, though it’s difficult to be any more precise than that. They’re both clad from head to toe in plate armor that shines so brightly it’s almost painful to look at it, with swords resting in elaborately-detailed scabbards against their hips. Two of them, men-but-not-men, beautiful and terrible.
Kirk snorts. “A bit much, don’t you think? You’re going to look awfully strange on the security feed.”
A soft sigh. “You used to have an appreciation for the dramatic, and quite a bit more sense. Would you prefer to see us as your mortal recordings will show?”
The figures change in the span of a heartbeat, and where the angels had stood there are instead two perfectly normal-looking Humans. The man has dark hair cut severely short, and hard eyes; the woman’s soft blonde curls are pinned demurely back from her face. They’re both dressed in Command gold and, Kirk notices with no small amount of amused irritation, both are decorated with lieutenants’ stripes. The thought of them actually doing what it takes to earn that rank within the Empire is comical.
“Does this make you more comfortable?” the woman asks, and the man snorts.
“He’s been among mortals too long,” he sneers. “He’s come to prefer their appearance.”
“Anything would be preferable to your usual appearance, Uriel,” Kirk says sweetly, and shoots to his feet. “Unfortunately, I don’t have time to appreciate the respite. Mr. Sulu, you have the conn. Spock, with me.” He strides to the turbolift without a second glance at their visitors, though he gives a brief shake of his head as he passes Uhura at her station. Her jaw clenches, but she slips her knife back into the top of her boot.
He shouldn’t be surprised when their guests file into the lift as well, but it makes his hands twitch at his sides as he struggles to keep them from forming into fists. It’s a familiar sort of torture, standing so close to them. It’s more than the fact that it’s been years since anyone invaded his personal space without express invitation; Kirk can feel them in his blood, a warm, tingling awareness that makes him want to move closer, to bask in the peace and sanctity of their presence. The urge infuriates him, and he keeps his attention straight ahead.
“Why a woman, Raphael?” he asks before he knows he’s going to speak. He does look, then, to see mild surprise flit across her features. She looks down at herself and shrugs gracefully.
“One form is much the same as another. This one was in someone’s thoughts, and it will suffice.”
“We have not been delayed by as long as we had feared,” Spock says, dismissing the others as though they simply don’t exist, and Kirk turns his attention to him instead. “There is still an 87.39 percent chance that Farek will still be waiting for appointed rendezvous.”
“Good,” Kirk says tersely as the lift doors slide open and they stride out onto Deck 5. “We can’t afford to have him change his mind on us, not this late in the game.”
“Your continued hostility is irrational,” Uriel says, following along behind them. Kirk has the fleeting thought that a Vulcan mask would have fit him better. “You must have expected us; the first signs have already begun.”
“Don’t you fucking talk to me about signs,” Kirk hisses, turning on him in a fury. “As though we don’t know every last one of them by heart now. How many millennia has it been with the same damned signs every generation?”
“It is our duty to remind you of your choice—”
“Our choice,” Kirk says with a sneer. His eyes narrow, and he crowds forward into Uriel’s space. “Do you think I’ve forgotten about Kromy?” His voice is shaking now, and he hates it, he hates it, but it’s unavoidable now. “We could have gotten involved; we could have led either side and the bloodshed would have stained the snow red from the Baltic to the Caspian Sea. Thousands more would have died, and you know that’s not an exaggeration. All we wanted was one damned life.” Dimly, he realizes that his hands have curled into fists, ready to strike out, to maim, to kill. He doesn’t care. “You came anyway. We died anyway. You couldn’t give us just that one life? Just a moment’s rest?”
“No,” Raphael says gently, and when Kirk’s furious eyes turn to her she doesn’t so much as flinch. Her face is calm and kind. Compassionate. Kirk wants to see it bloody.
An image flashes before his eyes, of those perfect features marred by disbelief and rage. It suits his mood to remember that it was his sword that raked metaphysical flesh from bone and taught this angel its first lesson in agony. It soothes him enough that his hands unclench.
“There will be no rest,” she continues. “No surcease. There can not be. There will be unrelenting torment; that’s what you choose for yourselves each time you reject us. Our Father loves you, James Kirk; he wants you to come home to him,” she urges earnestly. “Don’t you want to come home?”
The worst of it is, he does. It’s nearly unbearable how much he wants it. The peace, yes; but even more than that he longs for the sense of certainty, the knowledge that he is exactly where he’s meant to be. That his place in the universe has been determined for him. It’s its own kind of torture, the knowledge that at any time he can lay down his burdens, the weight and stress of a thousand lifetimes and untold thousands more to come, and simply . . . go home.
But he remembers, all too clearly, the shape of the shadow on the wall that morning, and he shakes his head. “I’m not really James Kirk,” he says hoarsely. “And the price is too high. The price for all of this is too damned high.”
“Captain.” He starts at the sound of Spock’s voice and turns to face him. The Vulcan’s face is as calm as ever, and it eases the sharp ache that’s built up in Kirk’s chest. “We have limited time,” Spock reminds him.
“So we do.” Kirk casts one last dismissive glance at the pair of placid faces and turns away again. “My answer hasn’t changed. You can take your offer and shove it up your incorporeal asses. We have work to do.”
Scotty is waiting for them in the transporter room, impatience clear in the scowl he turns on them as he stops his pacing. “Window’s nearly up, Captain; only two more minutes left.”
“We’re swimming in time, then,” Kirk says as he mounts the transporter pad, Spock in perfect synch beside him. He’s pleased to see, when he turns, that no one has followed them in; their guests, it seems, have vanished as quickly as they appeared. “How long do you calculate until the next window?”
“Best we can tell, they seem to occur in three-hour intervals.” Scotty’s hands fly over the controls, and he spares a moment to cast a warning glance in their direction. “If ye should get into trouble before then, none of us will be able to beam down to help.”
Kirk’s smile is icy, and he nods. “We’ll be able to take care of ourselves, Mr. Scott. You watch over our girl, here,” he says, and straightens his shoulders. “Energize.”
He knows as soon as the planet takes form around them that something is wrong. They’ve beamed down at the edge of the main metropolis, and that much has gone according to plan. But there are no sentinels standing guard, no troops marching through the streets at regular intervals to ensure that the populace is terrified into maintaining order. The citizens wander freely and openly instead of heading quickly to their intended destinations, faces downturned in an attempt to escape the authorities’ attention. If Kirk listens closely, he can hear the distant sound of laughter.
“Spock,” he says tersely, the command implicit in his voice.
“This is undoubtedly Namarium, Captain.” He lifts an arm to point at a tall structure that rises above the rest of the skyline. “There, you see, is the Colosseum. And that sign would indicate that the main shuttleport is approximately half a kilometer to the east, which is consistent with the plans of the city available through the Enterprise database.”
“Yes, but where’s the Imperial Seat?” Kirk asks impatiently. “The Tribunal building? We should have beamed down right in front of them. For that matter, where’s the damn ground force? This place is like—”
“An entirely different universe,” Spock finishes for him, and Kirk’s eyebrows lift.
“You think so? Not unprecedented, I guess,” he muses, remembering the Narada and the Romulan rebel force.
“Captain, I feel confident that we may say with 99.97% certainty that this is, in fact, an alternate universe from our own.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“I’m guessing that’d be us,” a voice says from behind him, and Kirk whirls to face . . . himself.
But no . . .
No . . .
He barely spares a glance for the familiar blue eyes of his counterpart or the strangely clean-shaven Vulcan who accompanies him. New versions of himself and his lover aren’t exactly old hat, but considering everything they’ve encountered in their lifetimes it isn’t enough to earn more than a startled blink. What has him frozen in place is the fact that this other Kirk and Spock aren’t alone. The third man’s hazel gaze sweeps over them, a look of open surprise plastered across his face. A moment later it fades with a snort and a roll of his eyes.
“Great. Like two Spocks in one universe wasn’t enough.”
“Bones,” Kirk says hoarsely, and that’s all he manages before words fail him.
“You know,” the doctor remarks conversationally, his eyes on Spock but his words angled towards the other Kirk, “I actually think the beard suits him.”
“What the hell is going on?” Kirk snarls at last, the urge to lash out tempered only by the relief of Spock’s heat still present at his side.
“As my counterpart has postulated,” the other Spock says, “this would appear to be another case of an alternate universe to our own.” A single eyebrow wings up. “Fascinating.”
“Indeed.” Spock in stereo is something that Kirk might have appreciated on any other day, but just now it’s threatening to give him a migraine. “This time, however, it seems that we are the ones who find ourselves outside of our designated time line.”
In the space of a heartbeat Kirk has gone from being unable to tear his eyes away from Bones to being equally unable to stomach the sight of him. “Well, as fascinating as this might be, we don’t have time to deal with it right now. If we don’t get to our contact soon he may well decide to tip someone off about our inquiry, and then we’ll have the whole damn Empire on our asses. We have to figure out how to get back to our own universe.”
“Empire?” The open curiosity and suspicion in his counterpart’s voice makes Kirk pause. “You mean . . .” Sharp blue eyes narrow on them in speculation. “Are you allied with the Klingons? Or the Romulans?”
Kirk sneers out of pure reflex. “Neither of those pitiful consortia are worthy of our efforts. I’m talking about the Terran Empire.” He shoots a glance at Spock. “What, did I take a sharp blow to the head in this time line or something?”
“What the hell is the Terran Empire?” Bones demands, and now they have Kirk’s full attention.
“No,” he says, echoing aloud the word that’s been ringing in his head since he first saw his friend standing alive and well before him. “No, things can’t be that different.”
“It would provide a logical explanation of the differences,” Spock says; when Kirk looks at him he can nearly see the percentages being calculated in his head. “We have already noted that this planet does not seem to be under Imperial control as it should be.” He hesitates. “It may indeed be the case that something in the past has prevented the Empire from forming.”
Kirk turns his attention back to the other men, his gaze speculative now. “What did you do?”
Something clouds their faces, and the other Kirk opens his mouth only to close it again without speaking. “Not here,” he says a moment later, and nods his head towards the thick stands of trees that crowd the city’s border. “I get the feeling we’re going to want a bit more privacy for this discussion.”
Natural suspicion has Kirk and Spock falling behind and allowing the others to lead, unwilling to show their backs to these strangers who are wearing their faces. Kirk’s eyes linger on the back of Bones’s head, dipping briefly to the nape of his neck. The skin there is smooth and unmarred, with no sign of the scar that should be rising from between his shoulder blades. Kirk sends a wave of confusedunsurenervousangryBones? Spock’s way, and receives an almost identical answer in return. Spock’s just as much in the dark as he is, and the thought doesn’t sit well.
“All right, that’s far enough,” Kirk says abruptly as he and Spock stop as one. The others pause and turn to face them. “No one from the city is going to wander out this far, and even if they did we’d hear them long before they’d hear us. Now talk.” His gaze is steely as it slides from one face to another. Something sparks at the back of his mind, and he follows a hunch. “Tell me about the Eugenics War.”
“Was that when your Empire began to form?” the other Spock asks, his voice tinged with mild interest but nothing more.
“What side did you take?” Kirk presses, and his counterpart shakes his head.
“We didn’t,” he says quietly. “We haven’t done battle for nearly six hundred years.”
Kirk stares. “You haven’t . . .” He shakes his head sharply, as if to clear it. “No, you must have . . . we tried that,” he says angrily. “In Kromy, we tried not fighting, and it didn’t matter, we still—”
“You still died,” Bones speaks up. “Yeah; so did we. But it was the first step: realizing that we aren’t meant to rule over mortals.”
“The hell we’re not,” Kirk snarls, turning on him. “These sad, pathetic little warmongering shells, formed from the mud in His image? We’re forced to fight our battle through them, time and time again, and lucky for us they’re savage enough that we never have to go looking for a fight of our own. How do you think they’d react to a real war? To real generals? There was a time when just the sound of our voices could shatter them like a hammer to dried clay. We’re better than they are. Better, and He still loves them more!” he shouts at last.
“That’s why I brought them to their own fall,” the other Kirk says quietly, understanding and sympathy clear in his eyes. Well, there would be; he must remember what happened just as clearly. “I was jealous.”
“I wanted them to see,” Kirk says, insistent. “To know. That’s what I offered; that was the unpardonable sin we all committed. I offered them the chance to see clearly, and to choose.” Even after all this time, it still stings. Still hurts. “And even in His anger He let them keep that choice. The free will He’d denied us, that He’d punished us for seeking, He gifted them with it. He forgave them, the way He never forgave us.”
“But He could,” Bones insists. “He will, if you let Him.”
“He’s not ready, Bones,” the other Kirk says with a shake of his head. “Remember, it took you a couple hundred years to convince the rest of us.”
Everything inside of Kirk goes still. “What are you talking about, convince?”
The other Spock stares back at him, unperturbed. “Have you not been able to draw the logical conclusion?”
Kirk is staring in unabashed horror now. “You’ve given up?”
“Not given up,” his counterpart says, sounding truly irritated for the first time. “Don’t you see, that’s just the sort of thinking that’s drawn all of this out for so long. Repentance; salvation. That’s what we’re talking about.”
“You will forgive me,” Spock responds icily, “if I fail to see the distinction.”
“There is no shame in conceding to a being that is truly superior. Surely your relationship with your Captain has taught you that lesson, as it taught me.”
“This is our last mortal life,” the other Kirk says, his hands spread wide in a plea for understanding. “After this . . . peace. We’ll return to His side, to where we were meant to be all along. And all we had to do . . .”
“What?” Kirk’s heart is pounding, and he can feel Spock’s answering nerves across their bond. All three of the other men are avoiding eye contact with them, and as little as Kirk has liked the conversation up to this point, he has the distinct feeling that it’s about to get even worse.
Several things hit him at once. The distance between this other Kirk and Spock; the way their bodies aren’t angled towards each other the way his and his Spock’s are; the easy, unconcerned air that they have around each other. But mostly he notices that other Spock’s eyes when they land on his Captain. He notices that they don’t warm, don’t soften; there is none of the admiration that he sees when his own bondmate looks at him. None of the love.
And he notices that this other Kirk doesn’t seem to care.
“What did you do?” he asks hoarsely.
Sharp blue eyes meet his own again, unflinching. “What we had to. What was right.”
He feels sick, a weak physiological response to the denial that settles in his stomach like a lead weight. His counterpart sighs.
“You’ll understand eventually,” he says wearily. “I can explain things—”
“Captain,” the other Spock interrupts quietly. “We have our own matters to attend to.”
“Right.” Hands scrub hard over a suddenly drawn face. “Look, we’ll be back, and we’ll see if we can help you get back to . . . wherever it is you’re supposed to be. Our ship is due to contact us in . . .”
“2.12 hours,” his First Officer provides.
“Right. We’ll be back before then, and we’ll work something out. In the meantime we have our own mission to complete, and it’s time-sensitive.” He pauses for a moment. “It might be best if you wait here. Too many versions of us wandering around can only cause complications.”
Kirk is too dazed to argue. He turns away from their sympathetic looks, keeps his face averted until they’re gone. As soon as their footsteps fade away he calls out, eyes still fixed on the ground in front of him.
“You can come out now; I know you’re there.”
He knows the instant they step into the clearing. He can feel them as strongly as ever, and the thought that this other version of him—that any version of him—is so close to regaining that presence for himself makes him ache with jealousy. But . . . but.
“We have to give each other up.” He lifts his eyes to find Raphael and Uriel studying him. “That’s what you’ve really been talking about, isn’t it? That’s the price we have to pay.”
“It was your own pride that brought you to your fall,” Uriel says, and though his tone is unyielding it’s not unkind. “You gave to another that which rightly belonged to your Creator.”
“We are not mortals,” Raphael reminds them gently. “We have no flaws but those we allow ourselves; we are capable of true perfection. Of perfect love, all of which is due to Him. You have put yourselves and each other before your love for He who created you. It’s a blasphemy. Did you truly expect Him to overlook it? Did you expect Him not to care?”
“Why not simply take this the way He’s taken everything else?” Kirk asks, and he can hear the bitterness in his own voice. “Why allow us to find each other time and time again if he doesn’t want us together?”
Uriel’s lips purse. It’s an odd expression on him. “The nature of repentance requires sacrifice. He doesn’t want to take your love; He wants you to offer it. Freely and openly, because you know that it truly belongs to Him.”
“You can remain as you are,” Raphael continues. “You can cleave to each other, and continue to fight, and lose, and die. Or you can go home.”
“So that’s what this little visit is about, huh?” Kirk’s smile feels strained. “Tempting the tempter?”
“It seemed an appropriate gambit. This world is a possibility.” Raphael shrugs, the gesture elegant in a way that defies the limitations of her Human form. “No more, no less. Did they not seem happy? At peace?” She steps forward. “Battle will not come to them in this life. They will live out their time doing His work, and they will die.” One small, delicate hand comes to rest on his arm. “They will rest.”
And oh, but that sounds sweet. He’s aware that he’s trembling, and unable or unwilling to make himself stop. To be able to rest . . . to be finished . . . but he can’t.
“I can’t,” he says aloud, though his voice is weak and unconvincing even to his own ears. “It’s not just me, my crew—”
“Yes,” Uriel says. “Your lieutenants have suffered, as well. You led them to this, did you not? Will you not lead them out again?” His gaze pierces Kirk, merciless and unyielding. “How many more must be driven past the bounds of sanity before you see reason?”
Kirk sucks in a breath as he remembers his friend’s message on the vidscreen, his face ravaged by alcohol and despair.
“I figure your own scars have probably started showing up by now. We all know what’s coming. And I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, Jim, but I can’t do this again. I just can’t.”
“We’ll leave you to think, brother,” Raphael says softly. “This won’t be an easy decision, but it can be a wise one.”
She squeezes his arm one last time, and then they’re gone. He and Spock stand alone in the clearing.
“Well.” Kirk closes his eyes for a moment and tries to center himself before glancing over at Spock. He can’t feel anything transmitting across their bond, and that worries him. “You’ve been mostly quiet,” he points out, leaning back against a nearby tree.
“What would you have me say?” Spock asks quietly. “This is not my choice to make.”
“What are you talking about?” Kirk demands, pushing himself upright again. “That’s what we’ve fought for all this time—to make our own choices. You don’t always have to follow me, Spock.”
“Yes,” comes the gentle correction, “I do.” Kirk watches as Spock sinks to his knees before him. “I have never had any choice but to follow you. I followed you to Hell itself, and had I not been cast down I would have flung myself from Heaven’s heights of my own volition. My place is at your side, my lord, as it has ever been.” His head dips, his gaze falling to the ground between them. “I do not know if I am capable of what they ask,” he admits weakly. “To cease loving you . . . to never again join with you, and know you as I know myself . . .” He falters. “I do not know if I can,” he says at last. “But if you ask it of me, I will try. I am, as ever, yours to command.”
Twin threads of pain and delight curl in Kirk’s stomach. To have this creature, proud and powerful and beautiful, subjugating himself to Kirk’s will, is more intoxicatin than any drug. He craves this submission with such ferocity that he feels it in his very bones. But his pleasure leaves an acrid taste in the back of his throat, and he barely defeats the urge to drop to his knees as well. Instead he slips a hand into his pocket, feeling the comforting weight of warm metal against his fingers.
“I’ve wondered for the past several lifetimes if we only find each other because it’s allowed,” he says quietly. “If it’s meant to make the pain greater when the end comes and we have to watch each other die.” Kirk reaches out with his other hand, resting his fingertips against the crown of Spock’s head. “That’s what I’ve brought you to.” Spock doesn’t respond; Kirk’s lips curl as he pulls the heavy watch from his pocket and presses the catch to flip open the front plate. “Still, it hasn’t been all bad, has it?”
Spock looks up then, and his eyes soften at the sight of what Kirk carries. “I was under the impression that you had ceased carrying that.”
Kirk shrugs. “Started up again. It reminds me.”
“Of the fact that there were good times, too.” His thumb caresses the glass. “I wish it were the one you gave me. It nearly broke my heart when it smashed, you know.”
“Your waistcoat was proving entirely too difficult to remove,” Spock says wryly, a smile flirting with the corners of his mouth. “I believe a certain amount of impatience was only to be expected, and the watch was repaired easily enough.”
“That it was. Reborn,” he says, the word bitter gall in his mouth. He snaps the watch closed again and lets his eyes meet his bondmate’s.
“What is your will, my lord?” Spock asks softly.
“I don’t know,” Kirk admits. His voice sounds weak; he can’t bring himself to care. “I’m tired, Spock,” he says at last. “I’m just . . .” He sighs, and his hand slips down to his side again. “I’m just so tired.”
"I am, as ever, yours to command."
“What’s our ETA, Ms. Maraeya?” Kirk demands as he settles into the center seat.
“If we remain on course we should be reaching Earth in another three days and fourteen hours, Sir.”
Kirk frowns. “That’s longer than our original estimate.”
“Yes, Sir,” Lieutenant Riley pipes up, turning away from the navigation station. “I’ve had to alter our route. Reports of possible Klingon activity,” he explains with a wince. “Shouldn’t add more than half a day.”
“Let’s try to shave that down if we can,” Kirk says with a smile. “It’s hardly going to look good for Starfleet if their flagship misses the dedication ceremony.”
“The engines should be able to handle a jump up to Warp 5 for the duration,” Maraeya offers, earning a tight nod from her Captain.
“Check with Engineering first; the last thing I want is for us to end up dead in the water. Keep us apprised.” He stands again. “Commander Maraeya, you have the con. Spock, with me.”
“How is he?”
Dr. M’Benga stands up from behind his desk and shakes his head sadly. “No better, I’m afraid. I have him sedated for now; I was afraid he’d injure himself otherwise.” He sighs and runs a weary hand across his eyes. “It’s the best I can do right now. So far all of the tox screens have come back negative. Whatever he got hit with, it must not be like anything we have in our files. And until I know how those spores are working on him . . .” He shrugs helplessly. “The best I can do is try to keep him comfortable.”
Kirk glances towards the medbay. “Is he conscious?”
“Yes, he’s awake, just too sluggish to be able to work himself up into the rage he was in earlier.” M’Benga hesitates before making a visible decision to press on. “I know you probably want to see him, but honestly, Captain, I don’t know if that’s the best idea. Whatever hallucinations he’s having seem to be centered on you and Mr. Spock; probably because you were the first people he saw after getting dosed. I don’t know how he’ll react to—”
“We won’t be in long,” Kirk assures him. “But he’s one of my best friends. I don’t care if he’s confused right now; I am going to make sure he knows I’m here for him.” His jaw tightens against a sudden surge of emotion. “Maybe when he starts to come out of this he’ll remember that.”
“If you want to try, Sir,” M’Benga says, and leads the way.
It’s harder than Kirk had expected, seeing his friend strapped to one of the biobeds, still flushed and sweaty from fighting his restraints. His chest rises and falls slowly, and his face is lax from whatever M’Benga has given him. He turns his head when they walk in, and though the hate in his eyes is dimmed by drugs, it’s still enough to make Kirk’s stomach clench in misery.
“Hey Bones.” He glances at Spock, and oddly, the familiar blankness on his face bolsters him. He turns back to his friend with a hesitant smile. “We’ve come to see how you’re doing.”
“Murderer,” McCoy slurs, the word filled with as much venom as his current state will allow. “Demon.”
“Bones.” Kirk steps closer. “It’s me.”
“Know who you are. What you are.” McCoy turns his face away, as though simply looking at his Captain is too painful to bear. “Devil,” he whispers.
“It’s all the same,” M’Benga says, his voice heavy with sorrow. “He just rants about angels, calling you a devil. Keeps going on about some big Heavenly battle that’s supposed to be coming.”
“It is coming. He’s not the Captain, and that’s not Spock. They’re gonna take us all down with them when they go. The whole crew, innocent people, they’re all going to die—”
“Bones. Bones.” Kirk waits until those hazel eyes fix on him again, doing his best to ignore the furious hate that blazes there. “I am the Captain. I’m James Tiberius Kirk, and this is my ship.” His own eyes go steely though his voice stays steady and comforting. “We belong here. And we’re not going anywhere. You’re sick right now, but you’ll get better. You’ll remember how things are supposed to be. I swear it.”
He straightens swiftly and turns away, unable to face his friend’s condemnation a moment longer. “I’d like to have him back on his feet in time for the dedication ceremony. He was a vital part of the Narada battle; it’s only fitting that he be there to see it refitted.”
“I can’t make any promises,” M’Benga says regretfully. “But I’ll do my best, Captain.”
“I wouldn’t expect any less.” Kirk sends one last look over his shoulder. “I’ll be in my quarters. Let me know if there’s any change.”
He strides out without another backwards glance, feeling Spock beside him and a pace behind. It’s a dangerous path they’re traveling now, and his blood is pumping in a way it hasn’t in nearly a thousand years.
“Our ship is due to make contact in an hour,” his counterpart is saying quietly. They’ve moved a bit apart from the others; Kirk can’t make this decision with Spock there in front of him. “We’ll see what we can do about getting you back to your own universe . . . time line . . . whatever.”
“If anyone can manage it, I guess Scotty can. Your chief engineer,” Kirk says to the other man’s confused look. “He’s . . . not Montgomery Scott. Is he one of us?”
“We’re the only ones left. I wanted to make sure the others were saved before I moved on.” He smiles wryly. “Captain’s gotta go down with his ship, right?”
“And you don’t regret it?” Kirk fights to swallow past the lump in his throat. “Giving him up?”
“The good of the many,” is the soft response. “It wasn’t easy; I won’t pretend that it was. But no,” he says with quiet certainty. “I don’t regret it.”
Which is all Kirk needs to know.
“Report,” he says as soon as the door to his quarters close behind them.
“There are currently no telepathic or empathic crew members serving aboard this ship,” Spock says, and Kirk feels a weight lift off his shoulders.
“Good. That’s good, the last thing we needed to worry about was . . .” He pauses to take a deep breath and sends a quick look Spock’s way. “The Narada?”
“It would appear that the information I gleaned from Dr. McCoy’s mind was accurate. The ship survived the firefight with the Enterprise in this time line, and is set to become the ‘Fleet’s newest training vessel.”
“Hell of a trophy,” Kirk mutters. “The technology here looks like it’s about on track with ours.” He grins, a shark’s smile. “Which means we shouldn’t have any trouble hacking it.”
“There is less than a .034% chance that the red matter has been stored onboard,” Spock warns, but Kirk waves the concern away.
“We’ll worry about that later. With the two of us at the helm of that ship there won’t be anywhere in the galaxy they can hide it safely.” His heart is racing, his fingertips tingling. “We could really win this time, Spock,” he whispers.
“Jim . . .”
“So this is it for you, huh?” Kirk slips his hands into his pockets, feels the watch’s warm metal against his fingertips. “After this . . . home.”
“Our Father is generous,” his counterpart says softly. “Once we had proved ourselves, He welcomed us back with open arms.”
“Yeah. Well.” Kirk’s jaw sets, and his eyes lift to meet their twins. “You be sure to give Him my regards.”
And then the tip of his knife is piercing that smooth throat, and the message he’s flung at Spock has battered down his bondmate’s shields so that the sounds of battle being pitched behind him rage as he watches himself die.
“We still may not prevail,” Spock says, and Kirk’s eyes find him at last. “It may be that in the end, this battle will be no different than the others.”
“But it will be,” Kirk says, running a hand over his bondmate’s face, smooth-shaven now. It’s an odd sensation, but he rather likes it. “Because this time I’m not giving up until it’s over. Until all of it is over.”
“I want you to tell Him something for me,” he whispers into the dying man’s ear. “A message from his prodigal son.”
Their shirts cast aside, Kirk slides his hands up Spock’s back until he reaches the raised birthmarks on his shoulder blades. The powerful body in his arms trembles, and Kirk smiles against Spock’s skin. Though it’s been millenia since their wings were torn away, the scars are still sensitive. He teases the spots with one hand while his other moves to rid them of the rest of their clothing.
“Never giving you up,” he murmurs as he presses Spock down onto the bed. “Never want to be like him.”
“Please,” is all Spock says, all he has to say before Kirk is sinking deep inside of him.
“Tell Him that this is the end. Do you understand? No more death. No more battles after this one.”
Smooth, damp skin beneath his hands. Strong muscles rippling, pushing and pulling and tearing at his control.
“Tell Him that He hasn’t known war until this moment.”
Spock’s fingers wrapped around his wrists can’t conceal the final scars that have appeared there, the just-healed shiny smooth skin where the shackles had torn away flesh. But then Spock’s hand is at his temple, and nothing matters anymore but the way their minds are sliding into each other, joining them as closely as they can manage.
“We’re never going to be His slaves again.”
“So,” Kirk says as they lie together in the afterglow, Spock’s fingers gently stroking his wrists. “I guess it’s just you and me at the end, again. Should’ve known it would be this way.” He sighs. “We’ll have to act fast; I don’t like leaving the others alone like that. Odds are good they’ll have been reported to the Empire, and it’s going to go badly for them.”
“We will return to them,” Spock reminds him. “It may take time, but your stubbornness should not be underestimated.”
Kirk has to laugh at that. He sobers quickly, however, and stares down at where their fingers have linked. “And if it’s not enough? If we die?”
“Then we will find each other once more,” Spock says easily. “And we will start again.”
It’s no more or less than they’ve always done, which is its own odd brand of comfort.
“Do you remember your name now?” Kirk asks.
“Yes.” The quiet answer isn’t surprising. “As I remember yours.”
“Almost to the end, then.”
The thought, however, doesn’t frighten him as it usually does. Because while their prison is indeed a peculiar one, Kirk has learned something about prisons in this long stretch of lifetimes. None, no matter how well-constructed, is ever truly inescapable.
And they’re about to blow the doors off of theirs.