He was pretty sure that he was supposed to be dead this time. Really dead, not sucked into a Nexus or playing an elaborate game of possum or being pulled into a parallel dimension. That bridge had collapsed on him. Even with his track-record for defying the odds, there wasn't much a man could do when several tons of rock came crashing down on his head. He was little more than a red smear on some dusty planet in the middle of nowhere now – not that that bothered him, particularly. He'd had a good run.
After years of traveling through space and seeing all manner of oddity, anomaly, and greater power, he wasn't quite sure what he was expecting when it all came down to this. Pearly gates? Fiery pits? Some giant, floating cloud of sentience in the middle of space which sucked him in? He was ready for anything.
Anything… except the darkness which greeted him. Black and pitch and deeper than the cold void of space, for it lacked even the pinpricks of stars and distant worlds. There was no temperature. No icy breath to freeze his skin – he wasn't even sure he had skin. He tried to look down, but his gaze was only greeted by further darkness. A trill of fear sang in the back of his mind. Was – was this it? Was this his eternity? Endless nothing?
Not a chance, he thought, feeling a rebellious spark ignite in himself. Oh no, he didn't go through all of that interesting living just to spend his afterlife in the most boring state imaginable. He tried to move, but found that he couldn't really tell if he succeeded or not. The darkness was so complete that it made it impossible for him to see. He tried to bring his hands together, to lace his fingers and affirm contact that way, but the effort didn't seem to accomplish much. He didn't know if it was because he couldn't feel, or didn't have anything to feel with. His body was gone now, after all.
He was halfway through the process of trying to turn around – and wondering if he was succeeding or not – when he felt it. A little tremor, like a tug. He halted his efforts and focused on the sensation. For a moment he was mildly alarmed, but then he decided there wasn't really much point to that. He was already dead. Well, as far as he knew. There wasn't exactly a lot left to fear at this point, was there? Except… if he had a face, it would be frowning. There was something familiar about that little tug. Something which pulled at a memory long buried in the haze of the Nexus, a bond which, at first, had nearly torn him apart when he was brought unwittingly into the vast 'paradise'. What was it? He remembered… he remembered pain. It had been so intense as the stars and light swirled around him, making him feel as though he were being stretched thin and long. Like he had left his hand in one room while the rest of him was being dragged out of a building. He'd tried to hold on… why had he done that? The memory of stark terror flooded through him, a sense of fear and loss which had nothing to do with death and everything to do with the stretching, shredding of that connection. And then it broke at last, severed by the swirling space around him, to be replaced by a gaping hole. A void which could not be filled.
I'm in that void, he thought with irrational certainty. It was how Picard had ultimately succeeded in getting him to leave the Nexus, little though the man himself knew it. While the space had wrapped him in comfort, had tried to distract him from the black wound it had created, he had always been aware of it on some level. It felt stronger when he was on his Silver Lady, and so the Nexus ceased to conjure the ship for him. It felt stronger, too, when he was alone, and so there was always some companion to fill his time, a warm face from his past that came close to his heart… and yet, never quite soothed him. Distracted him, yes. Engaged his mind and gave him as much fulfillment as possible, too, until the unreadable years had passed, and he had learned to look away from his internal disfigurement. But now it all came rushing back to him.
There was another tug, a sense of emotion carried along with it in a distant, faint fashion. Confusion, hope, wariness, and an intense, long-standing loneliness crept up to him. Now expecting it a little better, he found himself able to respond to the sensation. As he did so, something flickered in the void. A light. Silver and thin, like starlight. It trailed before him, and he reached towards it, twining pitch-black fingers against the strand. It reflected against the touch, and felt warm. Warm and so comfortingly familiar that he thought he might break apart against it, shatter like a fragile thing into dust and ash at the sudden intensity of feeling which welled up and made him starkly aware of a pain he had been repressing for so, so long that it had almost become part of him. His mind fought to put a name, a memory to the sensation.
Something lost and found many times over. Something he had been willing to run into the fires of hell for…
Blue. Green. Dark eyes and black hair, a steady voice at his side, a warm hand clasped within his own.
The darkness began to fail, falling victim to little flecks of gold and white which danced within the frame of his being as he remembered. How – how could he have ever forgotten Spock? But he knew the answer. Because Spock could never be duplicated by the Nexus, because his memory would have always compelled him to leave and drawn him away. An illusory paradise could not compete with their hard-won bond. It could not mimic it. So instead it had destroyed it, like a jealous artist faced with a painting of such incomparable magnificence that it could only burn it to avoid the impossible standard it set.
"Spock?" he called as the strand grew stronger, brighter, and he found himself lit up like a golden being from some alien mythology. He wasn't quite sure exactly what was happening, but again, that was hardly a new situation for him. In fact, this was an easy call to make – there was a big black void, and there was something which reminded him of Spock. It was no competition.
Closing his eyes, James T. Kirk focused on the flickering, half-broken bond with the most significant being he had ever shared his life with.
And he followed it home.