Last Breath

Kirk looked up, saw Picard's face begin to fade out, could hardly feel the rocky ground of Veridian III underneath him, could barely sense the winds whipping against his face. A wave of pain raged through him and he closed his eyes. Spock, he thought as he felt his last bit of strength give out. Spock...

The air was suddenly different, cool and humid, and the sun no longer beat down on him. He opened his eyes slowly, his pain was gone and he could see perfectly well in the dim light of the cave. Why was he here? Was this the afterlife? This dismal cavern, so deep underground he could feel the weight of the ground above pushing down on him.

A noise from behind him made him turn. It was Spock. He was alive. And not even aware that Kirk had come back...that he had come back just to die.

"Spock," he called but the words only echoed in his mind, didn't disturb the air in the nearly soundless cave. He stared, unable to pull his eyes away from where Spock lay covered with a threadbare blanket on the cold cavern floor. What was this place? What was Spock doing here?

Kirk moved to him, not walking so much as thinking one moment about being next to him and the next moment being there.

Spock turned in sleep, restless, troubled. He called out, in Vulcan, then in Romulan, but Kirk heard his own name mixed in with the other words.

Could Spock know? Had he sensed it when Kirk had come back? Had he felt it when he died again? Kirk knew Spock had suffered the first time, when the Nexus had taken him. Kirk too had felt the bond stretch, and then tear, leaving a gaping wound in his mind. As he had disappeared into the dreamworld that was the Nexus, he had felt a momentary ricochet of Spock's agony adding to his own, and then he knew nothing but the fantasy that Picard had found him in. The fantasy that he had rescued him from, had convinced him to rescue himself from.

Antonia. Kirk shook his head. Hardly the love of his life, but a woman who had brought him contentment at a time when that was what his soul needed. A time when he and Spock had fallen apart, needing time away, time with others. She had been good for him in life, and she'd been exactly what the Nexus needed to keep him docile because she didn't evoke any strong emotions, just calm and peace. In his haze of serenity, Kirk had forgotten Spock.

How could he have forgotten Spock?

He knelt down, reached for the meld points and watched as his fingers fell through Spock's skin. He tried again and managed to hold his fingers in place just above Spock's cheekbones. He could feel something. Not skin, more like energy. The energy of Spock's life, his mind, his heart, his very soul. He was dreaming, Kirk realized. Dreaming of the two of them. How happy they'd been before it had all ended. Before Kirk had taken that disastrous last trip on the Enterprise B. He hadn't needed to go...it was just pride that had made him show up. Pride and dislike for that idiot Harriman. He'd left Spock and never found his way back.

"Jim," Spock said.

There had been a time, after Antonia but before he and Spock had found their way back to each other, that Kirk had thought their split was permanent. It had taken time; they had circled each other like two wary dogs trying to decide whether to fight. But finally, they had dropped the defenses, let down the walls, and reached for each other again. And they hadn't let go. Not until he'd had to go gallivanting across the galaxy for someone else's launch and ended up being thrown a reality away.

Spock moaned low, "Don't go."

"Hold on to me, love," Kirk said as he tried to send Spock reassurance. Tried to let him know that he was there. He felt a strange sense of urgency and glanced behind him at the opening to the cave. Something was coming. He didn't know what it was, or how he knew. But he knew that it was true. It was coming...for him. He looked back at Spock, said gently, "You know I can't stay long."

"Jim?" Spock said again, and Kirk felt a quickening in the pathways where the bond had once flowed.

So much to say and no time to say it in. What would he say to this man, this gaunt and grizzled version of the man he had spent the best years of his life with. What do you say to the soul mate you left behind? The one you forgot? "All I wanted to say was I love you." The air felt less solid around Kirk, the mouth of the cave seemed to be filling with light. He didn't have much time. He sighed and whispered, "And I'm not afraid."

"Jim," Spock said.

"Can you hear me?" Kirk lay down, nestling against Spock, allowing his energy to merge into Spock's body. "Can you feel me in your arms? Holding my last breath."

Spock's breathing appeared to slow as well; he no longer thrashed and cried out. The bond again seemed to flow for a moment, a small spark of love flowing from one to the other. Just as it had flowed for all the years they had loved.

Kirk could remember them all, every moment they had ever shared. Nothing was hidden as he lay next to the man he'd always loved best. He could still feel the pain of those times when he'd thought that Spock would never realize how much Kirk wanted him. Times when Kirk had been too afraid to tell him how he felt. Then that day when Spock had come to him, to discuss something personal. The bliss, the terrible reckless joy that had filled Kirk when he learned that Spock wanted him too. He'd never been so happy and that happiness flooded through Kirk as he remembered. Those days he'd never forget...the first time they'd made love, and the last time. All the times. All the glorious times.

He moved his fingers away from Spock's face, dropped his hand and tried to nestle closer. "Safe inside myself are all my thoughts of you." As the words crossed his lips, Kirk saw the light again brighten at the mouth of the cave. "Sweet raptured light," he murmured, lost for a moment in the brightness. Then he wrenched his attention away from the glowing warmth. Spock seemed farther away, even though his body had not moved at all, seemed almost preternaturally still, as if sensing Kirk, sensing that the moment could not last. "It ends here tonight," Kirk whispered.

He thought of the house they had shared, up in the mountains. The same house Picard had found him in. The Nexus hadn't taken away the place he'd loved so, had only replaced the person he'd last shared it with. Antonia for Spock. She had shared it with him, it was true. For a time, they had been happy. But he had left her ultimately, to return to Star Fleet and to the chance to be with the man he still had loved. And now, when he thought of the place, it was not her face he saw in his mind. Not her he saw in his bed. He had loved her there as best he could. But his memories betrayed her, they were only of Spock. Of Spock helping him chop firewood, hiking out to the overlook to sit watching the sun come up over the valley below them. Of Spock kissing him in the snow, passion overcoming them both until they had finally risen half-frozen and run for the shelter of their house, the warmth of their bed.

That place. This man. It had been heaven. Why had he left it? He'd been a fool. He leaned in, tried to make Spock hear him. "I'll miss the winter. A world of fragile things." He thought of the time they'd found the Grizzly tree, where the old bear had gone to sleep in the early winter and died before spring could come. It had taken them all day but they'd buried her.

"Look for me in the white forest," he whispered. "Hiding in a hollow tree. Come find me." Kirk felt a wave of regret fill him, saw Spock break free from whatever had held him still. He was shocked to see that tears were falling slowly from Spock's eyes, running down his cheeks. He leaned in, tried to kiss the tears away. "I know you hear me. I can taste it in your tears."

The light was calling him now. Come to me, come to us. Everyone he'd ever loved that had passed over was calling for him. But the only person he wanted to be with was next to him, outside of the light, fading away even as the light gained strength. Kirk fought. "Holding my last breath," he said defiantly. Repeated what he now recognized as a promise, "Safe inside myself are all my thoughts of you."

The light was not so patient now. It called to him, pulled at him. Kirk wondered if it would tear him from Spock's side if he did not move soon. "Sweet raptured light," he thought, pleading, praying even. Let me linger. Just a bit. He turned back to Spock.

The Vulcan was staring at him.

"It ends here tonight," Kirk said gently, thinking that though his eyes were open, Spock still slept, still dreamt. He reached out slowly, ran his hand from Spock's forehead to cover his eyes.

Spock's eyes stayed open. "Jim?"

Kirk felt tears form, blinked hard and they fell splashing to the floor of the cave, leaving no mark.

Come to us, the light called.

"Jim?" Spock said again, reaching for him and finding nothing of substance.

Kirk shook his head sadly, a loving grin on his face as he reached down to try to touch Spock. There was a tingle as his hand went through Spock's. He closed his eyes tightly, knowing that he couldn't stop what was happening, but trying to let his will, his indomitable, monumental will turn the tide one last time. His words were clipped and hard as he resisted the light. "Closing your eyes to disappear, you pray your dreams will leave you here."

He opened his eyes, saw that he was no longer lying next to Spock, had moved halfway to the light. "But still you wake and know the truth."

Spock was trying to free himself from the tangled blanket, "Jim, no. Stay. Stay."

Kirk shook his head. "No one's there. Say goodnight."

Spock was up, running for him.

"Don't be afraid," Kirk whispered, unsure if he was trying to reassure Spock or himself.

"Jim."

Kirk felt the light overwhelm him. "Calling me, calling me, as you fade to black." He could no longer see Spock, could no longer hear him.

But somehow, just before the warmth and peace of the light could overwhelm him, make him forget about anything but moving on, Kirk felt the bond flare. He heard Spock's mind in his, saying one last time. *I love you.*

He couldn't send back words, but he laughed. He laughed with love even as his tears fell down. He fought the light as long as he could, but even Jim Kirk knew when it was time to give up.

He let go and let the light take him home.

FIN

The challenge? It's Lori's Evil Challenge, which mandates you must incorporate a song into a fic. Seema summed it up so well, I'll just repeat her words: The lyrics of the song have to be spoken as actual dialogue by one of the characters. The other characters can say whatever, but one person must speak *all* lyrics of the song as his/her primary dialogue. The song incorporated into this fic is "My Last Breath" by Evanescence.