A husky voice roused Jim from his reverie. He tore his eyes away from the simple grave marker in front of him and met the coffee colored gaze of his first officer. He had not heard the man's approach; how long had Spock been watching him?
"Captain—Jim—I suggest that we not delay our return to the Enterprise any further." His taciturn features softened. "It is time to go home."
A muscle near Jim's lip twitched.
His eyes returned to the freshly dug grave that had captured his attention for the last hour. Laughing eyes and onyx black hair danced before his mind. She had been his home. His throat constricted.
"Call me Kirok."
"That is not your name."
Jim eyes flashed.
"It was my name."
Before he had shown up.
Spock shut his eyes, and rearranged his features into the usual impassive mask.
"Captain." His voice was clipped. "I recognize that humans have an inherent, emotional need to mourn their dead. However, necessity dictates that we return to the ship, as we have lost much time."
Jim said nothing.
"I am compelled to remind you that as captain, you have a responsibility to see to the well-being of your crew. They will be gratified to see their commanding officer again."
Jim scowled and raked a hand through his hair.
"Find Bones. Meet me back here in five minutes."
Spock nodded his consent and turned to leave. Jim watched the Vulcan's departure, vaguely noting the shuffling steps and slouched shoulders—definitely not his usual efficient grace. Had Spock gotten lazy during the Captain's absence? The thought was almost enough to amuse him. Almost.
A slight breeze stirred, gently sweeping over his face and ruffling through his hair. He closed his eyes, inhaling the tang of the pine trees surrounding him. How many times in the last two months had he repeated this ritual—content to simply sit cross-legged on the forest floor, absorbing the tranquility around him? Each time he did, his heart would pulse with gratitude, his joy unmatched, save for the moments when a pair of slender arms would encircle him.
Each time your arms hold me is as joyous as the first.
For weeks his mind had been enshrouded in a dense fog, the haze of his amnesia shrouding the memories attached to his knowledge and instincts. The days that had followed his stumbling out of the temple/asteroid deflector were bewildering and occasionally frustrating, but Miramanee's embrace had repeatedly confirmed the only two things he really needed to know: he was Kirok and he was home.
Less than two minutes and his new life, forged out of two months of trial, error and love, melted away like slag beneath the heat of a Vulcan mind.
He could still feel the pulsing aftereffects of the meld in his temples, as if Spock's slender fingers were still pressing into his skin. An echo of Spock's words still lingered in his skull:
Our minds are one.
Leave it to Spock to be filling his head, even as he sat at the grave of his newly dead wife.
He traced his fingertips along the soft mound of earth beside him, wishing his touch could penetrate both dirt and death and reach the still form that lay beneath. His mouth opened and he tried to form words of love and benediction—a fitting eulogy for his bride—but all he could manage was a broken apology.
There was too much to be sorry for.
The sound of feet scraping along the forest path alerted him to the return of his friends. Jim rose to his feet, wincing as his rock-battered body screamed in protests of pain. Salish and the rest of the mob had certainly been thorough enough in stripping him of his deity. McCoy and Spock took their accustomed places at his side.
"Are you ready, Jim?"
The compassion in Doctor McCoy's blue gaze threatened to peel away his paper-thin layer of composure.
McCoy didn't respond. Instead, he clasped a strong hand on Jim's shoulder, sending a small ripple of comfort and friendship through him. Jim managed a weak smile, grateful for the older man's support. .
Instinctively he glanced over at Spock—body erect, eyes forward, hands clasped neatly behind his back—business as usual for the Vulcan sentinel. You would think he was only returning from a routine planetary survey. Hard to believe this angular, stoic face was the one that had harrowed his dreams for weeks on end.
Hard to believe this angular, stoic face was the one that had harrowed his dreams for years.
He flipped his communicator open.
"Kirk to Enterprise. Three to beam up, Scotty."
Jim closed his eyes.
The familiar tingle of dematerialization enveloped him and Kirk/Kirok disappeared.
Miramanee's voice beckoned. He was running—faster than he he had ever run before, yet she continued to elude him, her moccasined footfalls barely connecting with the ground.
"You have to be faster if you wish to catch me!"
Kirok laughed in response and intensified his pace. Sweat dripped down his brow, stinging his eyes and blurring his vision. His bride was hardly more than a flash of a fawn-colored dress amongst the trees.
"You have to stop sometime, Miramanee!" he called out, "I can't run forever!"
"Not much of a god, are you?"
Kirok stopped to reclaim some of the breath that had deserted him.
"Aren't there...other things we could be doing instead of playing chase?"
The sound of giggling trickled through the trees. A light finger tapped him on his shoulder. He spun around, blinking in confusion at his bride, who was supposed to have been ahead of him. Miramanee smiled coyly at him.
"What other things do you desire?"
Kirok gripped her gently by the shoulders, pulling her closer. He gazed intentionally into her sorrel-colored eyes.
"How much do you desire me?"
Kirok ran a finger up and down her arm, toying with the tassels on her sleeve.
"More than anything"
"More than anyone?"
He enfolded her in his arms, inhaling the familiar scent of woodsmoke that clung to her hair.
"There is no one else in my heart or mind."
Although he could not see her face, he could feel the muscles of her cheeks lifting into a smile against his bare chest.
Miramanee slid her hands up his back and interlocked her fingers at the back of his neck. She stood on her tiptoes, tilting her chin towards his mouth.
"Show me there is no one else."
Kirok closed the gap between their lips.
The kiss was light and sweet, a slight, unpretentious pressing of two mouths. A surge of affection swelled up inside Kirok. He drew back, anxious to search her face and find the open, almost reverent adoration that lit her features whenever she looked at him.
Instead, he saw stony detachment.
Kirok blinked in confusion.
His only response was an arched eyebrow.
He stepped toward her again, and wrapped his arms around her slender waist. The body heat emanating from her was surprising. And compelling. He brought his mouth to hers in a second kiss, increasing the pressure of his lips on hers.
She didn't move. Didn't respond.
His pulse quickened. Strange how her behaviour was affecting him. Normally such passive resistance would sound the death knell for his passion, but it only served to inflame him further. He pressed his body closer, gripping the back of her head. He would MAKE her respond. His tongue darted between her lips. A tiny hand traveled up the small of his back in response, gliding along his spine and up his neck until coming to rest on the top of his head. Her fingers spread apart, lightly clamping his temples. Disengaging from the kiss, she pressed her lips to his earlobe and whispered,
"Our minds are one."
The voice did not belong to a woman.
Kirok's eyes flew open. It wasn't Miramanee!
Instead of his nubile, bronze-skinned wife stood a tall, sallow-looking man in strange clothing—similar to the clothes he had worn after his awakening at the temple. Clearly he was not one of The People; his pointed ears and slanted eyebrows made that much obvious.
A trickster spirit? A god?
The being stood motionless before him, waiting. For what? Although his bone-pale face was set in neutral lines, something about the dark, steady gaze that unsettled him. Challenged him. Stupidly, he raised his fists. Amusement flickered in the somber eyes. The being spoke, his voice barely above a whisper.
The strange word pulled at some primordial instinct within him.
And suddenly, Kirok was kissing the tall stranger as if his life depended on it.
Shock. Fear. Desire. Urgency. The whirlwind of emotions threatened to blow him into oblivion—all he could do was cling to this stranger with every last fiber of strength in his possession. No longer under his mind's command, his body danced frantically t o the song his blood cried within him—hands grasping, legs entwining, lips demanding. The man matched him, kiss for kiss, answering his need with a fervor of his own, until Kirok couldn't tell when his own body ended and the other's began. By all rights Kirok knew that he should not be having this reaction, but he could not bring himself to care. The absurdity of the situation was easily eclipsed by the rightness of it.
Until the first stone collided with his flesh.
They were surrounded. Salish, the Elder, every man woman and child from the tribe—all holding rocks in their raised fists--glared at him with collective hatred.
"You are no god!" Salish roared. Triumph blazed in his eyes.
Kirok raised his arms in front of his face to deflect another stone. He heard a sharp intake of breath beside him. The man with pointed ears buckled slightly as a rock collided with his kneecap. Rocks and accusations rained down on them, pelting them on all sides. The two men crumpled to the ground.
"Kirok!" A woman's voice rose above the din. Kirok raised his face. Miramanee! She stood slightly apart from the crowd, her mouth trembling. Tears streaked her face.
"You said there was no one else! No one else in your heart and mind!"
Feebly, Kirok stretched an arm toward her. She took a step backwards, shaking her head wildly.
Kirok struggled to get to his feet. A hand gripped his wrist. The man with ponted ears pulled him back to the ground with surprising strength. Feebly, Kirok reached for his wife, only to have his hand caught in a tight grip. The man with the pointed ears leaned over Kirok's face.
"Our minds are one." he whispered as his lips descended upon him.
Miramanee's anguished sob ripped through the forest.
And Jim bolted upward in his bed.