Notes: the epilogue, and this is over. With thanks to all of you for your feedback, good and bad, and for sticking with such a momentous project: lows, highs, update delays and all!


21st July 2012

Spock was – there was no other term for it – shattered.

He rarely visited Tokyo, having little to no fondness for the place or the people, but his father's heart attack had caused his mother to put her foot firmly down about their estrangement and insist, if not order, that Spock return.

It had been a three-week visit, and not once in those three weeks had he been able to relax. Between his father's condition and his mother's still-simmering anger over Spock's decisions in his own life, there had been unspeakable tension. His only highlights had been brief conversations over Skype with Jim, and even those had been few and far between thanks to the time difference and Jim's responsibilities and work patterns.

The stale, recycled air of Des Moines International Airport had never felt so good.

The airport was busy, clustered with young families and elderly couples with oversized luggage, and he moved through them in a daze, letting their noise and smell and weight flow around him like a vaguely unpleasant but not turbulent sea – until a shrill, piercing whistle snapped through the hubbub and caught his attention.

Jim stood, all biceps in his white shirt and uncombed fair hair, just inside of the doors. His leather jacket, probably still unwashed, hung over one arm lazily, and his jeans were both falling apart and attempting to fall down, and this was all topped off by the fact that he was, quite obnoxiously, wearing those excuses for sneakers that Spock had banned from coming into his personal space as they were quite obviously a biohazard…

He looked obnoxious, slovenly, arrogant and offensive, with the set of his shoulders and the smirk and the fact that he refused to move around the other tourists…

He had never looked more beautiful.

"Hey," Jim's drawl sounded thick after the clipped, hushed whispers of Japanese and his mother's fractured mix of Oregon accent and Japanese language, and his arms felt heavy as they came up to wrap Spock into a weighted hug.

His skin burned – from the heat of the car in July, perhaps – and Spock moulded himself to it gladly.

"Welcome home, gorgeous," Jim murmured, squeezing him tightly. "I have fresh sheets on the bed, vegetarian panaeng curry in the microwave, and absolutely no floral arrangements anywhere in the house."

"Floral arrangements?" Spock asked, still not disentangling himself.

"Yeah, a helpful tip: the flowers for the wedding reek," Jim said, and chuckled. "I advise that you sit at the back of the church tomorrow."

"Noted," Spock said, and Jim stepped back, squeezing his shoulders once more before taking his suitcase. "How is Sulu?"

"Panicking," Jim said flatly. "I left him with a paper bag and the seating plans for the reception. I'm not sure if he thinks Janice is going to leave him at the altar, or whether he's going to leave her."

The brilliant sunlight of a July afternoon was warm, unlike the harsh ricochet of sun off glass walls in downtown Tokyo, and some of the tension finally began to leech out of Spock's neck.

"How did it go?" Jim asked quietly.

"It…went."

"Is your Dad okay?"

"He is recovering, yes," Spock said, glad to be speaking of something…tangible. "He required surgery to repair a faulty valve, but he is recovering at home now."

"Good," Jim reached for his hand and squeezed it as they approached the car, which looked like it had sat in the path of a tornado in Spock's absence. "And your Mom?"

"…She is still…displeased."

"Oh," Jim sighed, wrestling briefly with the trunk to open it, before turning and giving Spock a rueful smile. "Oh well. Not much we can do about that."

"Nothing, in fact," Spock said.

"She'll come around eventually," Jim soothed, slamming the trunk again. "It might take ten years, but…eventually."

"It was…"

When Spock trailed off, Jim paused and reached out for his hand again, barely touching him but to stroke clumsy fingers over his skin. "It was what?"

"It was not home."

Jim's face did some sort of strange, spastic twitch between a grimace and a smile, and he stepped forward into another heavy, grounding hug that wrapped muscle and tendon and blood – sheer humanity – around Spock's frame and increased the pressure until he buckled into the hold shamelessly.

"Welcome home," he repeated quietly, his voice little more than a murmur in Spock's ear. After a moment more, the heat became too much – July in Des Moines was offensive to Jim's sensibilities, even after a quarter of a century living in the same state, and he backed down with a brief kiss. Someone in the parking lot, from some distance, yelled some jeer, and Jim's returning, "Fuck off!" was almost cheerful. "Come on," he added. "Panaeng curry. I even made that weird watermelon sorbet thing you like."

"It is not…"

"It's weird," Jim said flatly, waiting until Spock had opened the passenger door before throwing himself into the driver's car and coaxing the flailing engine into life with a gritty roar. As he settled, the last fraying thread over his left knee snapped and left, finally, a complete, perfectly circular hole.

Whether it was because of Sulu's occupying the guest room overnight in adherence to some bizarre custom of not seeing the bride before the wedding, or whether it down to having been busy in the last three weeks in the run-up to said wedding, Spock neither knew nor cared – the fact remained that Jim essentially took the scenic route, avoiding the major roads and thoroughfares and winding the car through back roads and narrow tracks under a blazing, and slowly sinking, Iowan sun.

The car smelled of him – it smelled of heavy, dark leather with a faint underlay of engine oil and the standard shaving cream that cost fifty cents from the gas station store. The dashboard was sticky and dark with Pepsi stains, and the passenger window clanged fully down halfway into their journey and refused to be coaxed back into life. The car juddered, its suspension long since sacrificed to time and overuse, and the radio sputtered into life only twice. The leather on the seats was cracked and printed creases right onto Spock's pants, flaking off black smears onto his shirt – and he melted back into the heat and mess of it, contented.

Two and a half weeks in Tokyo, and these were the things he had…

"I have…"

Jim glanced at him quizzically, and made a prompting noise.

"I have…missed you."

Jim's face twitched again, but he said nothing for several more minutes, until the car rumbled upon a field entrance and he pulled over, hugging the fencepost and tucking them out of the way before unbuckling his seatbelt and twisting sideways, leaning right over to kiss him.

This, too, Spock had missed. Not the kissing but the – love. The way that Jim kissed him, out of nowhere and as though it would tell him, all over again, what they had. As though eighteen days in Tokyo could have induced some memory-loss; Jim kissed him with everything, and as intently as the first time.

"I love you," Jim whispered, his voice almost throaty – swollen with something – and his eyes too big and too blue from here. "I just…I have to…"

He shifted, drawing himself round to sit fully sideways. He leaned back some, but took both of Spock's hands in his, curling his rough, workman's fingers around them as though they were simultaneously precious and indestructible.

"Thank you," he said.

"For what?"

"For everything. For giving me a second chance. For being so in love with me that you had to. For learning to trust me again. For taking that leap of faith in the first place. For forgiving me, even though you shouldn't have done. For coming back."

"Jim..."

"No, hear me out. I can't believe I got lucky enough to get you back. I can't believe that I ever managed to turn that around. And it was the hardest damn thing I've ever done, but it was worth every minute of it. And it's still the hardest damn thing I'm doing, and it's hard because it'll never go away, and when we argue or we have a fight and I just…I just remember, and it hurts – and then you're still there. You're still here. And I can't…I still can't believe that, so when I want a drink, I just have to look at you and suddenly, I don't want it any more. You just have this power – you make me better, without even trying, and I can never thank you enough for it."

"You do not have to thank me at all," Spock said quietly.

"Yes, I do," Jim disagreed. "Every time I'm tempted and you're right there to stop me, and the way you don't even have to do anything to stop me. And every time I wake up and you're asleep in the same bed, and every time you come down for the weekends, and when you agreed to let me whisk you off this year for your birthday – I have to thank you. Because you could have said no. Maybe you should have said no, but you didn't, and I'll be grateful for the rest of my life for that."

Spock's fingers twitched involuntarily at the – not the words, but the tone, and Jim brought them up to kiss the knuckles.

"Hear me out?" he whispered against the skin.

Spock nodded once.

"I love you," Jim said flatly. "I love you even when you're being sarcastic and pedantic. I love you when you're too tired after the drive down to do anything but doze on my couch. I love you when you have bed hair and morning breath. I love you when you're sick. I love you when you're irritable and touchy like a cat with its tail trodden on. I love you when you leave messages on my phone complaining about that woman at work. I love you when I get to wake up next to you and just hear you breathing. I even love you when you snore, and when you deny it. I love you when you're here, and I love you when you're not, and I even love your scars. I just...I love you – and I think I always will, so..."

He broke off, popping open the glove box and catching the lid before it hit Spock's knees with its broken grace.

"I had this all planned out," he said. "I was going to…tomorrow night. I was going to – but…but right now…you just, you're just…"

He fumbled with something – it clinked – and then a flash of gold caught Spock's eye, and his breath caught somewhere between his lungs and his throat.

"Would you do me the honour of moving back in with me?" Jim breathed, turning the gold in his fingers until it sat in his palm for Spock's inspection – for his approval.

Or his rejection.

Slowly, Spock drew his own house and car keys from his pocket, took the keyring from Jim's fingers, and slotted the two expertly together, the golden key to the Kirk house clanking as it fell to hit the car key.

"Yes," he murmured, and Jim surged to kiss him, kissing awkwardly around a face-splitting grin and the workings of his throat that hinted at either a cheer or a sob, clumsily trying to convey everything without a language in which to express it.

"Let's be traditional," Jim whispered into the barest millimetres that separated them.

"Alright?"

Jim cupped his face and beamed at him, overwhelming joy seeping out of every inch of his expression. "My name is Jim Kirk. I have been sober for over a year and a half – and my life is just about perfect."

END.