Chapter 16: Epilogue

Jim sat cross-legged on the hardwood floor, watching the early spring sun slant through the thick glass in the front room. The light was amazing, turning the tongue and groove flooring a honey color and the walls, a warm mustard. He had laid out the color swatches for the new wall paint and considered his choices. Spock hadn't stated a preference other than a slightly embarrassed, "anything but white". Jim had chuckled, remembering the unrelenting starkness of the house in Sea Cliff, decorated by Nyota's uninspired hand.

He glanced idly at the framed pictures leaning against the walls. Some were his work, his particular favorite, a study of Spock in silhouette looking out on the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Others were chosen by both of them, impressionistic landscapes of Inverness in water color and oils, the warm jewel tones of the northern California coast appealing to Spock's increasingly educated eye.

Jim and Spock had chosen the old California bungalow in the Haight for its proximity to Jim's studio and Golden Gate Park. It had been spared the fires that had swept through San Francisco periodically and the earthquakes that had demolished much of the City's older architecture.

Jim supposed the house had been waiting for them through all those years, happy finally, to be restored. Spock considered Jim was being rather fanciful but treated the house's remodeling with love. They had modernized with an eye to keeping the bungalow's open floor plan while adding the technology to bring the house up to date. Each room was taking on their increasingly specific tastes. The house was truly becoming theirs.

A feline head pushed against Jim's knee and he gave Dundee a scratch under her chin. She chirped in gratitude and stalked toward the kitchen. Dundee had moved in shortly after Jim and Spock, without any introductions. A large marmalade striped cat, she had adopted them and more grudgingly, Panda, who had come with them. Nyota had been reluctant to give up Panda but finally acquiesced, knowing he would be happier with Spock and Jim's almost constant attention.

Jim heard the sharp clip of Panda's nails on the hardwood, followed by the thump of paws racing down the hall. Panda's whining concluded the brief chase; Dundee must have found a safe retreat on a counter.

It was an unrelenting domestic scene that met Spock when he came through the paneled doorway as evening fell. Jim had one elbow on his knee, holding up his chin, while the other dangled a pencil loosely between his fingers, as he stared out the front windows into the park across the street, the sunset painting the living room and its occupant in a rosy glow. It warmed Spock and he thanked whatever gods might be responsible for the unequivocal joy this being brought to him every day.

Spock cleared his throat. "I have pinot grigio from Napa, huntsman cheese from England and an avocado."

Jim looked up and grinned. "Well then, we have a meal!" He jumped to his feet lightly, making it seem as though gravity had no part in his world. He divested Spock of the bag of groceries and made his way to the kitchen, giving a surprised Spock a swat.

As the sun set, throwing the kitchen into twilight shadows, Spock turned on some jazz. His COMM chirped several times but he ignored it. Whatever it was, it could wait.

They bustled around the kitchen together, bumping into one another, scooping Dundee off of the counters as needed, and trying not to trip over Panda, who was determined to be underfoot.

Spock smiled at Jim's off key attempt to sing along with the old ballad. He hummed under his breath, most illogically, and swept Jim into his arms at one point, nose pressed against his ear as he waltzed him around the butcher-block island. Jim wheezed with laughter and wrapped his arms securely around Spock's tall frame, dipping him backward. Panda barked sharply at their antics as Dundee warily sauntered under the wood table. Jim pulled Spock upright and kissed him soundly.

Jim set the table and they sat down to eat. Spock lit a candle, setting it in the center of their kitchen table and watched the soft light play over Jim's well-loved face. His emotions were in play tonight. Jim could always bring them to the surface, his acceptance pulling them out of Spock, like threads, weaving them into a solid cloth that had become their lives together.

They spoke quietly, sharing details of their day, petty grievances discussed and dismissed, humorous moments turned over and enjoyed. Jim reached for Spock's hand several times, fingers brushing his knuckles in affection. Spock watched Jim's face, categorizing each expression and storing it away.

By the end of the evening, the bottle of wine had been consumed and dinner put to rights. Jim grabbed Panda's leash and was heading out the back door, just as Spock's COMM signaled again. With a sigh, Spock waved Jim out and picked it up.

"Spock! Is that you?" Sulu's voice was reedy and he sounded out of breath.

"Since it is my COMM, I would expect it is. Mr. Sulu, we are just retiring. What can I do for you?"

"Ok, Spock, you might want to sit down."

Spock made an impatient noise. "Get to the point, please."

"I don't know how to tell you this, but Jordan Simon escaped from our facility in London and we believe he is heading to San Francisco. Spock, he blames you for his capture and incarceration. He's coming for you!"

"How would he know where to find me? There are no records tying either Jim or me to this house."

Sulu was silent for a moment. "Two days ago, there was a security breach of our systems."

"Why was I not informed immediately?"

Unseen, Sulu still winced. "Unknown. We think it might be an inside job. No one realized right away."

Spock was silent for a moment; anxiety washing over him and ruthlessly pushed it back down. He wasn't afraid of Simon but he was afraid of what he damage he could wreck on the life and love Spock had created in this home.

He gathered himself. "How long ago?"

"Six hours. He could be there already. G'hed and I are on our way but our ETA is about one hour. Spock, Alhamisi has been informed as well, Nyota is in Kenya and he urges you and Jim to come as well."

Spock didn't even have to consider this. "I will send Jim ahead and meet you here. Spock, out." He didn't hear Sulu sputtering when the COMM closed but he could imagine. Dealing with Simon might be troublesome but nowhere near as difficult as getting Jim to Kenya. His bond mate would not want to leave him. He understood but it made no difference, Spock was trained to deal with assassins, even if he was the target. Jim was very competent but not ready to face that kind of danger.

Spock turned to a control panel on the wall, one of several throughout the house. He entered the code only he and Jim knew. He would engage the force field that would blanket the house only when Jim was safely inside and then set up a site-to-site transport for Jim. Technically, they could sit out a war beneath the technology he and Montgomery Scott had developed. He didn't want to test it.

Jim was taking too long with Panda, no doubt taking their favorite trek down Stanyan St., skirting the park. Spock went to the front door and stepped out onto the wide porch. Jim and Panda stood beneath the streetlight on the sidewalk in front of their house, talking to a man.

Spock read Jim's body language, half in shadow and realized it was too late. Simon was already here. Simon's features were indistinguishable but Spock could see him gesture for Jim to go down the path toward the house. Spock waited for them to come up to the porch and raised his hands. He glanced at Jim, who shook his head minutely; he was well and quite aware of the danger they were in.

As the two men stepped onto the porch, Spock had a chance to evaluate Simon. He was thinner and paler than he remembered. His eyes were different though. Simon had been greedy and dangerous before, now he was just dangerous and perhaps, insane.

Jim stopped and without turning asked, "I'm going to drop the leash. The dog will just go inside."

A smile twisted Simon's face. "No, I think I'd prefer to keep you together. Maybe Spock will enjoy watching both of you suffer. Shall we go inside? Spock, you first."

Spock turned and walked through the open door, noting Simon's weapon was trained on Jim's back. Once the three men were inside, Simon kicked the door closed behind him and gestured toward the living room. Spock was happy to move into the large room, he needed the space to put his plan into motion.

Simon whistled through his teeth and tisked, his eyes never leaving Spock. "What a sweet love nest you built, Spock. I never would have guessed you had it in you. Quite illogical, I'd say."

Spock was in no mood for banter. "What do you want, Simon?"

"Why Spock, you of course. I have been imagining this moment for years, really. I plan on destroying you bit-by-bit, inch-by-inch. That way, the monster will finally get what he so richly deserves."

Jim was about to speak, but a glance from Spock quelled him. Spock needed Jim to be invisible, the focus needed to be on him.

"I do not understand human emotions, Simon. Your hatred of me is most illogical. We do not know each other. I hardly think your capture, inevitable as it was, merits your vitriolic anger."

"No, we don't know each other. I don't hate you, I am repulsed by you, your very existence is a sin against humanity. You will be eradicated, exterminated like the repulsive vermin you are. You see, it is not just that you are one of a race of aliens that see yourselves as our overlords, keeping humans from achieving the glory god intended, you are the disgusting product of their scientific experiments. I know what your government intended in creating your ilk."

Simon's face was flushed with rage; spittle staining his lips and chin. He was rapidly becoming overwhelmed by his emotions. Spock decided to pour more fuel on the fire.

"You are correct. I am an experiment and by virtue of my success, one that will be repeated. You humans are too weak to govern yourselves. Look at you, furious, shaking with emotion. You are not capable of taking your place in the Galaxy unless it is under our heel. Where you will stay, kept like ill mannered pets."

Simon looked like he might have a stroke, his phaser no longer pointed at Jim's back. It waved in the air as Simon screamed back.

"I knew it. I KNEW IT! I will kill you all. First, your dog, then your lover, finally, when they are bleeding at your feet, I will pull you apart with my hands."

Spock glanced down at Panda, hoping Jim understood. Responding to the silent signal, Jim dropped the leash and threw himself to the side, out of the way. Spock whistled one low note and the room exploded into motion. Spock moved with speed, hitting Simon low while Jim's foot kicked Simon's legs out from underneath him. Simultaneously, Panda launched himself at Simon's hand, clamping down on his wrist. The phaser flew out of his hand, clattering across the floor. Spock had just enough time to grab Simon's shoulder, sending him into unconsciousness.

Jim staggered to his feet, holding on to the wall for dear life, and stared in wonder at Spock and Panda.

"Oh, my god." Jim laughed, somewhat hysterically and reached for the living room COMM. Before he had a chance, G'hed and Sulu barreled through the front door, armed and ready. They skidded to a stop at the scene greeting them.

"Well, I guess you didn't need our help." G'hed looked abashed.

Spock raised an eyebrow and hid trembling hands behind his back, which did not go unnoticed by Jim. Panda sat by Simon's unconscious body, panting.

Sulu muttered something into his COMM and checked Simon's coat. He slapped a transponder on Simon, who promptly disappeared into a transporter beam.

The men walked silently into the kitchen and wordlessly sat at the table. Jim reached behind him and pulled out a largely untouched bottle of Romulan Ale from a cupboard while Spock swept water glasses into the center of the table. Even Spock drank deeply of the bright blue liquor, reaching for Jim's hand periodically as if to reassure himself he was still present and in one piece. Jim pulled Panda close, stroking his silky ears, murmuring quietly to him about his bravery and brilliance. Panda closed his eyes in bliss, having already forgotten his unlikely defense of his humans.

Finally, Sulu cleared his throat. "You know, Simon's phaser was set to kill."

"I am aware." Spock's face was expressionless.

"And he had some interesting tools in his coat."

"I suspected."

"You could have waited for us."

Spock closed his eyes for a moment. When they opened, they were blazing. G'hed and Sulu both flinched.

"I could not."

"Gentlemen," Jim felt compelled to make peace. "What's done is done. Just tell me this can't happen again."

Sulu fidgeted with his glass. "There was a mole, an OEM operative at headquarters who has been identified."

"And contained?" Jim asked hopefully, he was beginning to get the hang of the vernacular.

"Ah, no. But rest assured, Alhamisi is on it. You know, he'll never give up until this is completely resolved."

"No, I imagine he won't. I'd hate to be on his bad side. In fact, I'd hate to be Simon right now."

Spock turned to Jim. "Alhamisi's reputation is well deserved but he is not a cruel man. He will get the information he needs from Simon, find his operative and I suspect they will both find themselves on a mining asteroid, for the remainder of their lives."

G'hed snorted. "If Simon had harmed you or Jim, I guarantee Alhamisi would have found a less hospitable environment for their short lives."

"If Simon had harmed Jim, I promise Alhamisi's solution would have been far less painful than what I had in mind."

Jim and Sulu looked at Spock with alarm while G'hed simply shook his head. He could imagine exactly what kind of revenge Spock would employ; Vulcans could be very successful predators, after all.

"Enough." Jim pushed away from the table and stood. "Gentlemen, it is well past our bedtime and I for one have had enough excitement for tonight."

Sulu and G'hed nodded and made their way out, noting Spock enabled the force field once they were on the sidewalk.

"What do you think Spock really would have done if Simon had gotten to Jim?"

G'hed glanced at Sulu and laughed out loud. "I think reality would be far worse than our imagination."

That night, Spock made love to Jim with a fierceness Jim hadn't experienced even during his pon farr. When Spock finished, Jim held his trembling body and brushed tears off his face. It wasn't like Spock to weep; he eschewed such rampant displays of emotion. Jim held him closely and when he asked, Spock's only response was that the cause was sufficient.

Jim opened the cherry wardrobe, listening to the creak of the three hundred year old doors. He was almost overcome with the scent of cedar and pulled out the dark gray frock coat and pinstriped trousers. Spock had picked the suit out, appreciating Jim in an old fashion but stylish alternative to a tuxedo. Spock's personal tailor had insured it was meticulously fit, adding the illusion of height to Jim's broad shouldered frame.

Jim reached for a white French cuff shirt, medium starch, carefully folded on the top shelf, a gray striped ascot and a pair of black leather Stamford loafers. His prizes in hand, he carried them to the bed and lay them carefully on the bronze duvet. Standing in front of his dresser, he pulled out black over-the-calf socks, a dark belt and ivory silk boxers.

Stepping into the boxers, he dressed himself to the left and sat briefly on tall bed and pulled on his socks. Coming to his feet, he shrugged into his shirt, tugging down the French cuffs and carefully buttoning the front part way. He stepped into the trousers, tucking in the shirt.

Jim faced the mirror, turning up the crisp collar and tied the ascot's complicated knot. Bones had lent him the ascot and he handled it with affection. He slid his arms into his coat, finally buttoning the last collar button. He stretched his arms out, tugging on the cuffs and secured the dark pearl links at his wrist. They had been a gift from Spock almost one year to the day. Jim rubbed a finger over the studs and smiled at the memory.

Turning to the side, he brushed his sleeves with the whiskbroom in the direction of the warp and weave of his suit. Jim took great pains to insure minimal animal hair clung the coat, but then realized it was a losing proposition. He leaned toward the mirror, running blunt fingers over his face, checking for errant whiskers. Satisfied, he straightened and sighed, he was ready.

A husky voice made a noise of approval and Jim spun, facing Spock. He wore traditional formal robes, black, cut with deep purple gussets, silver script running down the front. His hair was shorter than he normally wore it, trimmed into a sleek cap, reflecting light from the overhead fixture.

He crossed the room and tugged at Jim's tie, bringing long fingers to caress the sides of his face. He smelled of incense and something indefinable. Jim reached up to readjust his tie, and took his hands in his and kissed each palm.

Spock's dark eyes sparkled with humor and something else. He knew Spock wanted to kiss him but he wouldn't until after the ceremony. He smiled and let affection show in his eyes. He stepped back, dropping Spock's hands.

"See anything you like?"

Spock tilted his head to the side. "Why, yes, Mr. Kirk, you should make an excellent addition to the House of Surak." He feigned seriousness for a moment but couldn't maintain it, laughter dancing in his eyes.

Spock held out his hand, his sleeve sliding back to reveal the black shirt he wore under his robes. Jim almost appreciated him more in the tight shirt, trimmed in purple, sitting untucked over his black trousers, than the robes which hid his slender body. Bowing to tradition, Spock had agreed with T'Pau's suggested attire, knowing appearance in this case was important.

Jim took Spock's hand and they left their house, walking almost in step to the park across the street. Alhamisi had almost had a heart attack, insuring the ceremony in the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park was secure. Eventually, and only after many assurances, he'd left the details to Mr. Sulu and G'hed. He assumed, correctly as it turned out, that they would take extreme care of the new Vulcan Ambassador to Earth and his soon to be husband.

Jim and Spock walked hand in hand through the park. They had decided to make the trek alone, meeting the attendee's at the Conservatory. They had become familiar with the push of beings vying for their attention since Spock had accepted his appointment. They both tolerated it, Jim with humor and Spock with his innate dignity. Taking a long walk just prior to their wedding ceremony gave them time to consider and appreciate the day.

Jim had selected the Conservatory for the ceremony; the old wood and glass Victorian greenhouse was one of his favorite spots. It rose like a sugar confection, sparkling white against the lawns and trees surrounding it. Once inside, it was warm and fragrant, hosting plants from all over Earth, each room distinctive and lovely.

By the time the building came into view, the milling of many beings surprised them. Jim suddenly experienced doubt. Bones was the first one to greet them, cresting the hill a mint julep in his hand.

"Well, Jimmy boy, it's about god damn time. I was afraid I'd have to propose to Christine just to keep the riff raff satisfied!"

Spock raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Since we are ten point six minutes a head of schedule, your criticism has no merit. However, if you wish to make a 'honest woman' of your paramour, please feel free."

Jim smiled at Spock and cuffed McCoy on the shoulder. "Bones, looks like you invited half of San Francisco. What part of an intimate ceremony didn't you understand? There's no way everyone will fit in the Orchid Room." Jim scanned the crowd, only slightly concerned.

"Don't be ridiculous. This is the pre-reception. You get hitched in front of friends and family, and then the party really gets started. Mind you, I've had offers of real credits from people who want to be at the ceremony." Jim looked like he was going to protest, but McCoy waved him off. "No worries. I resisted temptation, though I probably could have paid off a few loans if I'd agreed."

Jim shook his head, laughing now and guided Spock through the crowd. They stopped and spoke to friends and associates along the way, finally making their way to Alhamisi and Anza holding court at the entrance. Jim found him engulfed in Anza's warm hug and Alhamisi patted him rather gingerly on the shoulder. When Anza and Alhamisi turned their attention to Spock, Anza touched the side of his face with her open hand, eyes suspiciously bright. Alhamisi straightened and bowed respectfully. Jim felt Spock tamp down a swell of emotion through the bond.

An hour later, they were married according to the customs of Earth. Surrounded by friends and family, they said their vows in English, the language Jim had been raised with and Spock had learned at his mother's knee. Having bonded in the Vulcan way over a year earlier, they had decided to come full circle, acknowledging all aspects of their joint heritage.

After the guests had left for the reception on the lawn, only Anza lingered at the doorway for a few seconds. She watched them as they faced each other, hands clasped, gazing at each other as only lovers would.

Anza remembered the boy she had met all those years ago, alienated, alone, stubborn and strong. Now he was a man, a soldier, a diplomat, a husband. She felt pride in what Spock had become. And Jim, she had come to know him well over the last year or so, spending lazy evenings with him, talking about art, history, and philosophy. It wasn't so much that he had changed, she hadn't known him as a youth, but he had become more of who she suspected he was meant to be, confidant, loving, full of trust. He'd returned to his roots, his paintings soaring with joy and warmth, and when they turned dark, there was always a spark, a touch of hope.

These two men had become her family, the sons she would never have. A Betazoid valued such a relationship beyond any other. Anza smiled and slipped out of the room, leaving them alone.

Spock gazed at Jim, loving him with every fiber of his being. When they had bonded, joy had filled every corner of his heart. Jim had teased him that their joining had been predestination. That might well be true, but on their wedding day, they had chosen to be with each other for the remainder of their lives. Spock believed, perhaps illogically, that even had the bond not existed, they would have found each other somehow, becoming one together.

Jim felt the bond throb inside him. Spock had become so precious to him. Their lives had merged into a rich tapestry, filled with love, humor, occasionally disappointment and frustration. It was everything he had ever imagined or wanted from life. Jim had always feared death because he'd feared living his life. Now he realized, at the end of his days, he could look back and be satisfied. He must have done something right to be able to share it with Spock.

Jim reached up and placed both hands on either side of Spock's face. Spock's eyes closed as he covered Jim's hands with his own. For a few moments they merged into one being, Jim's aura blending into Spock's katra.

Somewhere, sometime, through all the drifting dimensions that made up each life, each timeline, their joining was repeated once and again through infinity, binding their life forces together. On the Enterprise, on Earth, on Vulcan, on Uzh-Ah'rak, in the Nexus, Jim Kirk laughed and kissed Spock, pulling him into his arms for an eternity.