DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc.  The story contents are the creation and property and is copyright © 1996 by Joanne K. Seward.  This vignette is rated G (or PG, I suppose, if you choose to see it as slash).  

Author's Note -- Although this was published in Kaleidoscope 5 (copyright 1996), a K/S anthology, the possibility of K/S overtones depends on the reader's predisposition.  You may interpret it as you choose (it was not written as a slash piece, if you're curious).  It was also printed in the Q.U.E.S.T.  (Quincy United for the Enjoyment of Star Trek) newsletter.

 

LEARN TO LOVE

Joanne K.  Seward

 

"Spock..."

Unhearing, the Vulcan maintains his course, like a sleepwalker or one entranced.

I reach past a security officer and lay a hand on his uniformed arm.  "Spock.  Over here."

He stares for a moment before recognition dawns.  "Doctor McCoy."

Inwardly, I wince at the blankness that is his face but I say nothing, merely gesture to the cordoned-off area where I stand, feeling like a zoo animal or a lab specimen.  "The principal mourners -- close friends, senior officers, family -- are supposed to wait here."  I don't bother to point out that in this case the three are one and the same.  "We're to enter the rotunda last."

Spock nods, seems to focus on his surroundings.  "Of course.  The standard Starfleet Memorial service."  He says it as though he'd made an earth-shattering scientific discovery.  "Where are the others?"

Again, I wince, actively concerned now for my friend's mental condition.  Though apparently Vulcan, Spock is half Human and I doubt the ability of a Vulcan healer to aid him with any difficulty he may be experiencing due to Jim's death.  Only the most broadminded of healers would be able to accept the essential dichotomy that is Spock.  That leaves only me, and God knows, I'm not ready to deal with his pain on top of my own.

I keep these troublesome thoughts to myself, however.  "Uhura joined Sulu on the Excelsior, remember?  They're somewhere out in the nether-reaches of Federation territory.  Starfleet is too busy covering its collective ass for the piss-poor shape they launched the 1701-B in to wait for their return..."

Spock nods vaguely at my explanation of bureaucratic finagling and I continue, "But Chekov is here, he stopped to talk to someone.  Scotty too.  I'm worried about him, Spock.  I think he may feel responsible for Jim's death."

As I say these last words I hope they may jar some reaction from Spock but he just nods again.  I consider mentioning that Carol Marcus won't be here -- she says she's not about to parade her relationship with Jim before the media yet again -- when Chekov and Scott appear from the crowd.  Scott's skin has a gray cast and he's lost weight.  Before Jim's death I'd been needling him to do so, but this wasn't what I had in mind.  He looks like a dry husk of a man.  Or a cast off snakeskin, take your pick.  Chekov, eternally youthful Chekov, merely looks ancient.

"Meester Spock," Chekov murmurs.

"Spock," Scott echoes.  Since Jim's death, everything about the engineer seems an echo of what it once was.

A youthful admiral bustles over, one I don't recognize.  I can't help wondering what he did to earn his stars.  Probably managed to keep his nose clean during that damn conspiracy business when Gorkon was assassinated.  There were a lot of empty slots after that mess and not too many warm bodies to fill them.

"Doctor McCoy, Captain Spock."  He turns, and I can see him mentally identifying Scotty and Chekov.  "Gentlemen.  The service will begin shortly.  If you would prepare to enter the rotunda.  Mister Chekov will lead, then Mister Scott.  Doctor, you're next.  Captain Spock will enter last.  The front row to the left of the aisle has been reserved for you.  You are to remain at attention until the C-in-C enters."

"We know th' drill, Admiral," Scotty says and though there's nothing inherently disrespectful in his demeanor, the unnamed admiral's eyes flash.  "We've been through it b'fore," Scotty adds.  "A damn sight too many times..."

The admiral throws a reproving nod in Scott's direction, letting us know he has him marked for a troublemaker then, casting his gaze at the carefully policed doors where a security detail monitors those entering the rotunda, strides self-importantly away.

I study the crowd tendering the special "invitations" issued by the C-in-C's office--members of the brass, politicians, bureaucrats, all of those who'd like to be able to say they knew Jim, all of those he most despised.  The media is here as well, their holocams recording every second of the charade that Starfleet insists on calling a memorial service.  Only the security detail standing at attention on the other side of our velvet cord keeps them at a reasonable distance from us.

"This is intolerable," Spock says, and I shoot a look in his direction.  Whatever happened to the old "I am Vulcan, I will endure" line, I wonder?

"Hang in there, Spock.  Once we make it through this media circus we'll go back to my apartment.  I have some Saurian brandy that's so smooth--"  I let the words peter out, as much from the thought of how odd it must sound to the young security officers surrounding us, offering alcohol to a Vulcan, as from the realization that Spock's attention is clearly elsewhere.  I turn to see what is distracting him.

"Please," I hear a young woman in a Starfleet duty uniform say.  "Please let me in.  I'll stand at the back but I have to be present for the ceremony."

The equally youthful security officer grins.  "Sorry, Lieutenant.  No tickee, no passee."

My temper flares at this inappropriate bit of drollery and my fists clench.

Apparently the young woman has a similar reaction.  It looks like she can't quite decide whether to deck the security goon or burst into tears.  I suspect decking him is gaining the upper hand, but suddenly Spock is at her side.

"Lieutenant, it is good to see you," he says, taking her arm and steering her toward our cordoned-off area.  I blink.  Spock seldom touches another being, yet here he is, guiding this stranger by the arm.

"A young relative," he explains to the security officer, and I blink again.  Whose relative?  Certainly not Jim's.  The Kirk family pretty much ends with Jim's death.  His own?  Well, that at least has the benefit of being true, if only in the broadest possible sense of the word.  After all, the young woman is evidently Human and Spock does have some Human traits.

"Sir, I'm sorry.  There is no mention of Lieutenant--"

"Lieutenant Valerie Kirk Hernandez," she supplies.

I blink yet again.  The security officer says, "Oh," or something equally intelligent then he taps a command into the specialized tricorder he carries.  "Lieutenant Hernandez, I have you here, but there's no mention of your relationship to Captain Kirk."

"There is no mention of the relationship because Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Hernandez wished to avoid any appearance of favoritism," Spock informs him.

"I see," the security officer says.  He studies Spock for a moment, then apparently deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, at least where legends are concerned, touches a button, adding Hernandez to the list of official mourners.  "Please wait with the others in the cordoned-off area, Lieutenant."

Spock's explanation may be good enough for Security but it doesn't satisfy me.  Jim never bothered to hide David's existence; why would he hide hers?

And there's certainly no physical resemblance.  Tall and slim to the point of waifishness, Hernandez has a piquant, triangular face, curly shoulder-length brown hair, milk white skin and blue, blue eyes.  She looks like a cross between a fairy queen and a pixie.  Most unlike Jim's easily tanned skin, even features and sturdy build.  Studying her, I'm forced to the realization that if she's related to any of us, it could only be me.  But I've been careful through the years about where I sow my seed and my daughter Joanna, safe and sound on Centaurus with her med-emergency company (unless she's on a job, in which case God alone knows her whereabouts) is my only offspring.

The question tugs at me through the entire ceremony.  The entire intolerable ceremony, I amend, thinking that Spock was correct as usual in his assessment.  Scott's skin grows grayer as the ceremony progresses and I fear he will pass out.  I've come prepared, however, and I slip him a tablet, directing him to let it dissolve under his tongue.  It works, bringing just the faintest hint of color back into his cheeks.

Finally it's over, and we file out behind Spock.  Today, in direct contrast to our days on the Enterprise, we're last in and first out.  I can't help wondering -- if Jim had followed that policy would he still be alive?  I shelve the thought as unproductive; lately I've grown almost Vulcan in my ability to put off unhelpful thoughts.

We pause on the steps of Federation Hall.  Lieutenant Hernandez faces Spock and I can see that whatever her motivation in attending the memorial, her grief, unlike that of the politically correct VIPs filing out behind us, is genuine.

"Thank you for your assistance, Captain Spock," she says simply, then turns and walks away.

I watch for a moment until she disappears into the crowd.  "Dammit, Spock.  Who the hell was that?" I demand.

"That was Lieutenant Valerie Kirk Hernandez," Spock answers.  I'm beginning to splutter when he adds, "She entered Starfleet Academy during Jim's final year on the faculty.  After his return to San Francisco she attended several of his seminars.  Jim had high expectations for her.  The similarity of names is coincidental."

"I see," I answer, and I do, as far as the explanation goes.  But it doesn't go nearly far enough.  "Spock, you lied to Security," I point out.

The Vulcan grunts, then meeting my gaze squarely says, "Perhaps.  But Ensign Hernandez was truly fond of Jim and he of her.  I saw no evil in permitting her to attend the memorial.  If misdirection was required for her to do so-- "

"Hmmph," I say.  Misdirection? That was a downright lie.  But I keep the thought to myself and we return to my apartment for the promised brandy.

Thinking about it later, I realize I saw three things today that I've never seen before.  The first of course was the lie.  Spock can call it misdirection if he chooses (another lie, this one to himself) but over the years I've become an appreciative fan of that Vulcan misdirection of his, using the truth to bury the truth.  I've seen Jim do it, even learned to do it myself on occasion, though with nothing approaching the skill Spock applies, but this was different.

Then there was the brandy.  Over the years, on very rare and special occasions, Spock has shared a drink with Jim and me but alcohol has never appeared to have any effect on him.  Or at least I've never spotted any.  I've always assumed it was his mostly Vulcan physiology.  Alcohol usually doesn't affect Vulcans.

But tonight was different.  Spock wasn't falling-down drunk.  He wasn't plastered or smashed or any of those other words we use to describe inebriation but affected, oh yes, he was certainly affected.

Which leads to the third thing.  Tonight, for the first time in all the years I've known him, I see Spock cry.  I hold him in my arms and feel his superheated Vulcan tears seep through my maroon tunic and olive duty shirt and onto my shoulder.

He doesn't sob, doesn't make a sound, but those tears, those hot, salty tears—

I lead him to the guest room, the room he sometimes occupies when he's Earthside and Jim isn't around, tuck him silently, gently into the narrow bed then return to the living room and the windows on the bay.

Standing here, looking out at the cold clear night, rare for San Francisco at this time of year, I realize that somewhere in the years Jim, Spock, and I have spent together, Spock has learned to love.  Learned to love, and now, like all of us, he has a choice: isolation--the shutting off of the lonely inner being -- or tears.  I recall the sensation of his tears, those hot, salty tears.  Though cold now from contact with the air, they seep into my skin, warming it, burning it, burning into my heart, my soul.  I feel his love and his loss.  His loss, my loss and I cry too.

THE END