Chester Pennsylvania, September 12, 1777
Lafayette was safe.
Robert, was dead.
He said it now, and still couldn’t believe it. But there was no denying it. There was no denying the reality of his brother’s dying form in his arms, or the finality of the silent grave beneath the willow tree that he now faced. Jeremy Larkin reached up and ran a hand through his honey-colored hair. The wind was strong; its voice plaintive, mournful, as if it too acknowledged the passing of something great, which – if it had been granted time to reach maturity – could have been magnificent.
Jeremy stirred. He lifted an arm and struck the tears that unmanned him away with the back of his sleeve. The horror of the last few days was paramount. The Continental Army had been routed; its losses counted not in the hundreds, but in the thousands. But the redcoat’s had not known complete success. With Robert’s help, they had retaken the cannons. Though it would do little to halt the British push to occupy Philadelphia, General Washington’s men had rallied at the news and were far from demoralized. They had outsmarted and outlasted the well-oiled, precision-drilled machine of the British empire and thereby emerged from the Battle of Brandywine with the hope to carry on.
And was that not the most important victory?
Jeremy shook back his blond hair and knelt, touching the earth that covered his brother’s grave; clutching a handful of the finite stuff in his trembling fingers. It had not been all that long before that his father had stood here, along with a dozen others, including Major General Lafayette. Jeremy had known the Frenchman had comported himself admirably on the field, but when he had heard the full extent of his actions – braving the front line, riding in plain sight of the enemy, risking his life to stop the tide of terror that was Washington’s fleeing army – he had become acutely aware of the great loss the Cause would have suffered had he and Henry and Isak not rescued the young man. And of the loss it would have been to His Excellency. After they had rescued the Frenchman, on the road to Bethlehem, George Washington had finally found his young general. It was reported that His Excellency had ordered that Lafayette be treated as if he were his son.
There was something of greatness there, between the two of them; something that would work to the corporate good and the end of all things to come.
Jeremy laid a hand on his brother’s stone and leaned against it wearily. One year. It had barely been more than one year and there had already been so many losses, so much grief. How much more was there to come? Was the fight worth it? Did they dare to hope they might win? After all, how could they? England was the most powerful nation in the world. By comparison, they were nothing. They had nothing.
No, that wasn’t right.
They had spirit, and courage, and a desire to know liberty and to make it count for all. And for some reason – he couldn’t quite place why – he knew it was going to happen. Jeremy knew his brother’s sacrifice – the sacrifice of all the brothers lost in this conflict would not be in vain.
Jeremy rose to his feet. He let the clump of earth fall to Robert’s grave.
“Be at peace, Robert,” he whispered. “Your work is done.” Then Jeremy turned and looked back toward the now quiet battlefield; the place where so many brothers had made the ultimate sacrifice.
“Ours is just begun.”
The Starship Enterprise, Stardate 33.05.9
Jim Kirk stood with his hand raised above the intercom, hesitating outside his first officer’s quarters. He had just been released from sickbay and was heading for his own rooms when he had been seized by the need to talk to the Vulcan. Spock had been released the day before and they had not had a chance to discuss the events that had transpired. Still, it was late – more than halfway through the nighttime cycle of the ship. He knew Spock seldom slept the night through, but he might be meditating or whatever Vulcans did instead, and would probably resent the intrusion.
What was he thinking?
Weary, Kirk lifted a hand to his forehead to try and rub away some of the tension. It wasn’t often he had a headache, but tonight he did – and he had not been about to tell the good doctor about it, or Bones would have kept him confined another day. He didn’t think it had anything to do with his physical injuries. It was more a thing of the soul…. Time travel was a knot he had no desire to unravel and yet he had been forced, in a few short years, to confront it and its consequences at least four times. This misadventure had left him with a tangled problem – what to recommend to Starfleet about Sector 90.4 and the Guardian. The paperwork was laying on his desk, untouched. Paperwork always gave him a headache.
Maybe he’d let Rand do it in the morning.
The touch of his fingers on his forehead reminded Jim of the second part of the reason he had come here. He was still disturbed by the link he had shared with Spock. He could still see that beach and feel the sand beneath his boots; could hear the waters of the unseen fountain running fast and the tinkle of Amanda Grayson’s laughter. While it gave him some peace to know that Spock had such a place to retreat to, the power of its draw had been – well, in a word, alarming. He had felt it himself. The desire to go there and to stay.
The next time a crisis arose, would Spock have the willpower to deny her?
Jim, the familiar voice spoke in his head. Enter.
Sorry, Spock, he sent back. Did I disturb you?
The door to his first officer’s quarters whooshed open nearly silently. No. You are welcome.
Kirk took a moment to straighten his gold shirt and banish the look of pain from his face. Then he realized it was pointless. Spock already knew he was tired. There could be no hiding it. There was some…thread that stretched between them. Like the bonding of twins who often knew what the other was thinking.
“Spock,” he said aloud, “how are you feeling?”
The Vulcan was holding his lyrette. He placed it on the desk before him and locked his fingers together in his lap before replying. “Well. And you, Captain?”
“Physically?” Jim smiled. “Don’t tell Bones but I’m tired. Though I’m sure a good night’s sleep outside of sickbay will remedy whatever still ails me.”
The Vulcan’s demeanor was impassive, but his dark eyes revealed something of his soul – and it was not at rest either.
“A little raw,” he said as he took a seat across from his friend. “Spock, that meld….”
“I apologize, Captain, for the fact that I was not able to shield you from my… emotions.”
Kirk’s honey-toned eyebrows climbed toward the tumbled locks brushing his forehead. Good God! The Vulcan had admitted he had them! He leaned forward. “Spock, are you all right?”
The angular face was stony. “I cannot lie. I have already said I am well.”
The starship captain snorted. “Where have I heard that before?”
“I beg your pardon, sir.”
The Vulcan was on his best military behavior. Not one ‘Jim’ yet. Probably a safety mechanism. Kirk leaned back and studied him. “Do you remember the old story about George Washington and the cherry tree?”
“I do not believe that was a part of the academy curriculum.”
“Not the Vulcan Academy, at least,” Kirk replied. “It seems young George Washington had a new hatchet. He wanted to try it out and decided to do so on his father’s cherry tree. When confronted by the older man, young George replied, ‘Father, I cannot tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet.’”
Spock was silent for a long moment. “And the point of relating this tale would be?”
“He cut the tree down. He knew it. His father knew it. But the myth continued that Washington could not tell a lie.”
“Does this have some bearing on whatever it is you came here to discuss with me, Captain?”
“Jim, Spock. My name is Jim.” He heard himself and he knew he was growing hot-tempered. “For God’s sake, we’ve been in each other’s minds, I would think you could at least call me by my first name!”
The Vulcan was silent for some time. His shoulders rose and fell with a sigh before he spoke again. “I am what I am. There is nothing more.”
Kirk shouldn’t have, but he countered that with, “There is that place of peace. There is that laughter I heard.” The look that overcame his friend’s stoic face made him regret it instantly. “God, Spock, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have….”
Spock held up his hand. For several heartbeats he said nothing. Then he rose and came to stand beside him. “With your permission. Jim. I would like to show you the rest.”
“Another meld, you mean?” He hoped his tone sounded less hesitant than he felt.
“Only if you choose it.”
Kirk thought about it a moment. He had to know. “Okay. Go ahead.”
The mind that touched his this time was strong, as it had been that day on Amerind when Spock had had to put him in touch with his memories – the one the planet’s obelisk-based deflector had robbed him of. Still, there was a shadow of something there, forced to the surface by McCoy’s jury-rigged anesthetic.
Suddenly, he was looking at the world through a pair of near-black, seven year old eyes.
Amanda, an ancient human woman said as she took her withered hand from the top of his/Spock’s ebon head and crossed the room to their mother’s side, you must stop crying, dear. If it is ended, it is ended. There is nothing you can do. You know he will not come after you.
Logic from a human, and from a human female, his combined self thought with a shock. Fascinating.
Their mother’s intense blue eyes were rimmed with red. Amanda had been flitting around the room like a wild bird caged, beating her invisible wings against the constraints of the life she had chosen. She had perched on the end of a lush, overstuffed sofa buried under throws and pillows. Beside her a wall of clear liquid ran, splashing over aesthetically arranged rocks, watering a shallow basin even as her tears watered her cheeks.
He/Spock did not know what to do. They understood their parents had had an argument, the result of which was their current occupation of the aged female’s domicile. It was a beach house, set on a long empty stretch of sand in what was known as the Chesapeake Bay. In spite of their best efforts, a scowl marred the perfection of their control.
Amanda did not miss it. Their mother looked at them and dissolved into another confusing wave of tears. After several minutes spent sobbing and fighting to master her emotions, the human woman rose and crossed over to him/them. Spock, she said gently, will you leave us? There are some things I need to discuss with your Aunt Catherine. Do you understand?
They did not, but they obeyed her anyway, moving out onto the wood deck and, from there, onto the long unending strand of sand.
Looking at the placid blue water lapping on the shore – the same water he had seen in the earlier meld – Kirk felt a sadness such as he had never known. He gasped and reared back from it, fearful that the meld had gone too far; truly terrified that Spock would never be comfortable with him again.
Wait, the Vulcan’s voice said. It is almost time.
Kirk walked with the boy Spock to the edge of the water. Together they debated the logic of pitching stones into it, deciding in the end that the permutation of the equation of how many ripples resulted from the action was worth it. As they watched the endless patterns form and dissipate, seeking to lose themselves and the crash of unacceptable emotions that threatened to overtake them like an incoming tide in the moving water, they heard a sound. A strange, wondrous forbidden sound.
Together they turned. Together, they ran to the beach house. As one, they mounted the steps that led to the sliding glass window that opened onto Aunt Catherine’s undisciplined and chaotic living space, and there they found their mother – in their father’s arms.
Still holding Amanda’s hand, Sarek of Vulcan turned and extended his other hand to his son. Drawing him in, they became one.
Kirk came to himself slowly. No sudden wrenching this time. No struggle to break away. When he had come completely to himself he realized Spock had retreated behind his desk – and the great wall of Vulcan again. His first officer and friend’s angular face was inscrutable.
“Words are not necessary…Jim,” the Vulcan said, an echo of that laughter coloring his usually flat tone. “I simply wanted to show you that I did not chop down the cherry tree.”