Disclaimer: Star Trek and characters are Paramount's property, I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. Any original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. Copyright 2005 by SterJulie. Rated PG.
After the Credits – The Paradise Syndrome
Spock adjusted the buffalo hat he wore before he beamed back to the planet. He had done a brief research of the plains dwelling tribes of North America and had chosen to don the persona of a Lakota Wise Man. The black band of paint from Spock's eyes to his hairline hid his slanted brows, white the buffalo hat covered his ears. Spock had found the process of painting his face to be conducive to meditating, so he revisited his mindmeld with the captain.
At first, Kirk's thoughts had been a jumble of fear and confusion over the storm, over what was happening to him, clouded by pain from the stoning. Beyond that, he was full of concern for his beloved wife and tenderness for the child she had been carrying.
Automatically, Spock slipped into a Vulcan death chant for the woman and her unborn child. By the time he had finished applying the white paint to the lower part of his face, Spock had completed the chant. He tucked under his arm the costume of a Mohawk Medicine Man for Doctor McCoy who had stayed behind with the captain. Both Spock and McCoy acknowledged their friend's need to mourn his wife of these past three months, to close the circle on that brief relationship. The two officers decided to stand by Kirk in his time of need, doing for him whatever needed doing.
* * *
Spock found Miramanee's female relations washing her body and wrapping it in skins and blankets. "Kirok?" he asked quietly. Goro, beside himself with grief for his beloved daughter, directed him outside silently and pointed towards the glade.
Spock followed the path until he heard the sound of trees being felled and wood being shaped into poles. He found Kirk building a platform with a subdued Salish assisting him. McCoy was nearby braiding cord for lashing the poles into place, looking very out of place in his blue uniform.
McCoy gasped when he finally noticed the astonishing sight before him. It took him a few moments to even register that the person standing before him in such startling face paint and headdress was actually the first officer.
Spock handed McCoy the bundle of buckskin clothing and moved to assist Kirk as the doctor changed.
Pain and loss radiated from the captain, and the psychic nimbus of it hit Spock even from several feet away. When Kirk turned toward him with bleak, wet eyes, he found his grief echoed in Spock. Arms opened and closed briefly around one another in support and in gratitude.
"I came to offer assistance," Spock said quietly.
Kirk could only nod. Then he stepped back and looked his first officer up and down, raising his eyebrows.
"Lakota Wise Man," Spock whispered.
"Ah," Kirk replied softly. "Do you know what we're doing?"
"Yes," he replied in a low voice. "I did some brief research on North American First Nation burial rites. Do you need me to cut more lumber?"
Kirk shook his head. "No, I find that very therapeutic," he said bleakly.
"Then I will help Salish set the poles and lash the frame together," Spock replied as he gently squeezed Kirk's leather-clad shoulder.
* * *
When the platform was ready, the men walked back to the camp to collect the body. Kirk insisted on carrying Miramanee's body the entire way back, despite his injuries, but halfway there, McCoy forced him to stop and allow Spock to carry her to the burial site. Kirk did so, reluctantly, but he couldn't stop bending over Miramanee's face and planting gentle kisses as they walked.
Kirk climbed to the top of the platform and took Miramanee's body from Spock as he lifted it up. Kirk settled his dead wife on the platform just so. He tucked small tokens into the blankets and skins that covered her -- feathers from their joining robe, a small rattle and dream catcher for their baby, one of the lamps he had taught her to carve so that she would not know darkness ever again.
It was when Kirk bent to kiss those sweet lips one last time that his grief broke through in earnest. Goro pulled himself up to gently cover his daughter's face and bring his grieving son-in-law down. He nodded to the drummers who began the farewell chant as he held Kirok in his aged arms. The plaintive cries of the men rose and fell in counterpoint to the ululations of some of the women. No matter how many lamps they made, the tribe would always know darkness now, for Miramanee their light was gone.
The people eventually moved back to the village, leaving the three Enterprise officers, Gora and Salish behind. Kirk took his leave of his father-in-law and thanked him for all his kindnesses. He then removed the Medicine Man's headband and returned it to Salish. He clasped Kirok's forearm warrior-style.
"Take care of Goro," Kirk said softly. "Take care of the people."
"I will do as you say, Great Kirok," Salish said respectfully.
Kirk shook his head. "Not so 'great,' Salish," he replied bleakly. "Just a man."
Waiting until the natives were out of earshot on the path back, McCoy moved closer to Kirk.
"What say we head over to the lake and let Spock wash off his face paint before we beam up?" McCoy suggested softly. "We could all change back into uniform then."
Kirk looked at the doctor suspiciously. "Wash my hands of this place?" he accused, his eyes flashing. "Make a clean start?"
McCoy shrugged, "Something like that."
Spock was already calling the ship, requesting the other bundles he had left in the Transporter Room to be beamed down. Presently, four bundles sparkled into existence beside the trail. Spock held a wash kit and a stack of clothes to Kirk and tucked the other under his arm. He waited for the captain's response.
Kirk got a hold of himself and took another good look at Spock in the afternoon light. He chuckled weakly.
"We had better let Spock change down here," Kirk said. "Otherwise, he'll frighten the Beta shift."
* * *
Spock found that washing off the paint, while much faster was also conducive for reflection. He found that he was leaving more than paint and grime in the waters of the lake. Also sloughing off was the residual, overwhelming emotions he had encountered here, as well as his own self-recrimination for abandoning Jim to this planet for so long, his frustration for failing to divert the asteroid in the first place, and his exhaustion from long, long hours of study of the obelisk.
Hearing a great noise, Spock looked up in time to see Kirk hit the water and swim fast and furiously across the lake. In the center, Kirk pulled up and treaded water for a few moments before screaming as loudly as he could. Whether Kirk had screamed his dead wife's name or even formed any other words, Spock couldn't be certain. He stood by, ready to jump into the lake himself and pull Jim out if he thought he was in danger. Soon enough, he saw Kirk start to leisurely swim back to shore.
McCoy, back in uniform, wrapped Kirk in a large towel. The captain quickly toweled off then struggled his damp skin into his uniform. The doctor was pleased to see that the captain's uniform fit him better. Obviously, Kirk had been getting proper food and exercise these past three months.
"Are you ready to back, Jim?" Spock asked quietly.
Kirk looked around him one last time, taking in the sight of the lake, the village on the other side, and, behind him in the glade, the platform that offered the bodies of his dead wife and child to the Grandfather.
"Let's go home."