I can smell the death on the sheets,
I can't believe
This is the end.
I can feel those sad memories,
Still haunting me
So many things
I'd do again.
But this is my deathbed,
Lie here alone
If I close my eyes tonight,
I know I'll be home.
I vividly remember the moment I knew my time was all but passed.
I was in the office of one of our last Vulcan healers, T'Remberale, who had been one of his only friends in primary school as a boy. If I had not had the suspicion I was not attracted to women, I would have tried to form a romantic attachment in our adolescence. I could not help but rejoice when I heard her younger counterpart had survived Vulcan's destruction, and I insisted on having her as my physician when I experienced neurological deterioration that did not correspond with aging.
"Brain cancer," she said. If I did not know any better, I would say her voice quivered as she delivered her diagnosis.
My lapse in control was far more noticeable.
"Vulcans do not develop cancer," I said after a state of shock lasting 1.29 seconds. I knew my proclamation was pointless the moment it left my lips. It had been years since I had recognized these denials for what they were - desperate attempts to fit into a world that did not accept me. However, the shock of the news caused old habits to return with a vengeance.
"No, but humans do," T'Remberale replied. "And despite your attempts to hide it, your scans make it clear you have human elements to your blood. Your condition is in the advanced stages, and the growth is in a location were excision would inevitably lead to death."
My old friend could not have been more clear. I was dying. "There is...nothing to be done?"
"I'm afraid not, Elder Selek.
My stomach tightened at the familiar name. Even after two years in this timeline, it still felt strange to hear this name in reference to me. From the moment I selected it, the name "Selek" was a constant reminder of what I had lost. When Jim vanished all those years ago, I realized I had spent a lifetime hiding who I was. For the first half of my life, I desperately tried to suppress my human side as well as my homosexual side. My love for Jim allowed for me to shirk both burdens, but I only realized how confining those burdens were after he was gone. Now, in this new timeline, I hid behind a generic identity so the present Spock could attain full glory. It was only when the young healer spoke my name in the context of a fatal diagnosis that I realized I was retreading the mistakes of my young adulthood.
I fought the urge to correct her and say that my name was Spock, and I had a long and illustrious career in Starfleet. I was the bondmate and husband of Captain James T. Kirk, and son of Sarek and Amanda. I fought the impulse out of deference to my younger self, but this was a harder battle than it had ever been. I knew then that I had not accepted the loss of my world and my identity as much as I thought.
"How long?" Was what I said instead, sitting a straight and stoic as any good Vulcan should.
T'Remberale paused before saying, "Two months."
I could not longer stay in the office. The time was to short - far too short. I cannot remember saying customary Vulcan salutations quicker than I had in that moment.
After a ten minute walk through the courtyard of New ShiKar's Capitol grounds, I reached my temporary quarters and stopped to catch my breath from the quick trek. The view of the unfamiliar landscape of New Vulcan was visible through a small window no more than two square feet, but the rest of the perimeter was made up of thin walls which shook even during the slightest dust storm. In the years I had resided here, I had eased my mind about the less-than-ideal arrangement by thinking about how my Enterprise quarters would shake similarly when the warp engines became taxed. This was not successful because even my half-human mind was too logical for such role play. The fact I even entertained the idea should have been the first sign my mind was weakening.
The apartment felt far too large, and at the same time confining. Never had the space felt lonelier than it had at that moment. As flimsy as the quarters had been, this had been my only sanctuary from the burden of being the last remnant of a dying race - the one so many looked to when there was no where else to turn. Today, however, it was a prison. Even meditation here was unacceptable. Staying in this place any longer would only make me feel the seconds ticking by all the more toward the inevitable end.
The thoughts of despair overwhelmed me and I collapsed in a chair. I put my face in my hands as I tried to calm the increasingly violent emotions vying mindlessly for my attention.
Once my coherence started to creep back, my first thought was that I should have been more prepared for death. I was approaching the age my father was when he died, and I knew my hybrid physiology would not allow me to go much longer than his 202. Now that my days were numbered, I saw what denial I had been in. I had already died once, and my experience of it was much like going to sleep. I had a few vague recollections of seeing through McCoy's eyes, but these were more like a dream than a true memory. That experience worked to my detriment, making death seem far less permanent in my mind and making me feel invincible. During our final five year mission, my impulsivity had started to match my beloved's.
The march of time once again made itself known as I sat on the bedside of Leonard McCoy during the final days of his life. His daughter, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and even Mr. Scott were present. In those moments, I thought vaguely on who would be at my deathbed when I passed, and I then realized how fast my time was approaching. I was tempted to take Leonard's katra so he could be preserved somehow, but he refused. He wanted his soul to be free so he could see what was on the other side. Vulcans thought it illogical to allow ones experience and knowledge to vanish as if it had never existed, but I understood the human inclination to see what was beyond.
I watched one of my best friends pass that day, and I faced my remaining time with even fewer people to share it with. This made the decision to begin unification talks on Romulus much easier.
A stabbing pain in my head pulled me back to the present. I tried to control the pain, but such actions were becoming more difficult.
As if another were controlling my limbs, I walked to my dresser and leaned over the drawer I came to on a daily basis. Automatically, I opened it and pulled out a tattered old fashioned photograph from underneath my folded traditional robes. I had it on my person when I went through the wormhole, and it gave me strength as I watched my planet - and any hope of somehow getting home - disappear.
In my hands was Jim's official Starfleet portrait from right before the Klingon peace treaty. The ink was starting to fade from my constant handling of it, but I could not bring myself to care. I extended two fingers and touched the printed face.
"I should have been with you," I whispered, not for the first time. If I had only gone with him like I was supposed to...
Two drops of moisture landed on the picture, and smudged both the badge and the elbow of my beloved's image.
The ticking seconds weighed heavier the more I stood in the one spot. I needed to get out and do something, anything. I could not waste any more time dwelling on a past which likely did not exist anymore (my side clenched at the idea of this Jim being forever lost in the ether). I tucked the photo back in its hiding place and walked out the door. Muscle memory led me down the three hallways required to reach my destination, and before I could stop myself, I rang the bell on Sarek's office door.
"Come," I heard from within.
I entered to see the younger version of my father perusing his PADD while sitting at his desk.
Memories of the time immediately following my father's death clawed into my awareness, particularly the mind meld I initiated with Captain Picard. The first memory transferred was that of my father on his deathbed, shouting nonsense and betraying weakness. Although illogical, the image terrified me, so I immediately blocked it. I then saw his deepest regrets, the worst being that he never told me or my mother he loved us. This revelation brought me to tears in Captain Picard's presence, but instead of disdain, the younger captain sent understanding my way. Although regret was illogical, I could not contain my sadness at the part I had played in our estrangement. In my quest to be the perfect Vulcan, I became just as emotionally cut off toward him as he was toward me.
This version of Sarek appeared to be mending fences with Spock, and had allowed understanding to flow between the two. It was regrettable it took Amanda's death for such a thing to happen.
I looked up to see Sarek's fingers split in the ta'al. I mirrored his gesture, and murmured the traditional greeting.
"What is troubling you, Selek?" The younger man asked as he gestured toward the empty chair in his office. Even after two years, the second-hand furniture had not been replaced. They were not terribly comfortable for a man in his second century of life, although using it was preferable to standing.
"I met with our healer today," I said, trying to regain some of the dignity I lost during my earlier distraction. "She reported I have an inoperable form of brain cancer. In approximately two months, I will be dead."
Sarek's eyebrow twitched, but he otherwise did not physically react.
"I grieve with thee," he said after a beat. "However, I must urge you to seek a second opinion. It is not possible for Vulcans to develop cancer."
I fought the urge to sigh. The ticking seconds again echoed in my head, and pushed me to seize this opportunity. "It is quite possible for me, since I am half human."
"Half human," Sarek repeated. "According to your report, if your younger self survived, you would be 28 Earth years old in the current timeline. I know of no other hybrids of that age, with the exception of..."
Realization dawned in Sarek's eyes. He looked at me with a Vulcan approximation of awe. I had the sudden urge to tell him all the things I had not told my own father, but I knew this was my counterpart's place, not mine. The Sarek before me was a different man who had raised a different Spock.
"Your name is not Selek." It seemed below my father to say such an obvious observation.
"No. As you have surmised, it is Spock, son of Sarek."
Sarek rose from his chair and came from behind his desk. I rose to meet him face to face, although it required more effort than usual. Sarek extended his hand toward me, silently asking for our minds to touch.
It felt like hours before our minds broke apart. Sarek was breathing heavily, as if he had climbed one of Old Vulcan's highest mountains. Although I was careful to only show what would prove my identity, I was not entirely successful. There was a lump in my throat and a wetness in my eyes. Recalling instincts from my youth, I turned my head slightly to hide this state from my father.
"Your world is...different," Sarek said, now breathing normally.
"Not in all ways," I croaked. As usual, his tone did not betray what he was thinking. He shielded his own thoughts in our meld, although I did see glimmers of sadness when I showed my mother and him growing old together. I also sensed happiness when he saw the relationship I had formed with Jim. My own Sarek did not approve, at least outwardly.
"We must make final arrangements," Sarek said, his stance again regaining full composure.
I sniffed and returned to my chair, my knees shaking from over exertion.
Sarek's features softened as he said, "I...realize you do not have family here, but there is little I can offer in the way of...comfort."
"It is illogical to seek...comfort upon death."
"Spock," I jumped at the use of my name. I could feel tears brimming again and held them back with every ounce of my decaying controls. "I have been far more tolerant of a dying man's logic since everything I knew has been destroyed."
I nodded, but did not answer. I felt his pain. Even though I had not grown up on his Vulcan, I nonetheless felt great sorrow as I saw the planet vanish. I would not have the comfort of dying in my ancestral house. I would not be buried in the tomb of my clan. Even if the planet had not been destroyed in this timeline, I could not bring myself to use these comforts. They belonged to another Spock. My life, and all I had accomplished, was gone. Destroyed with a misplaced black hole and a vengeful Romulan. Everything that had given my temporary existence significance was erased. I was a man with no accomplishments to my name despite toiling for years to make a difference.
"Selek, you are crying."
I immediately wiped my face with my sleeve. "I am aware of this, Sarek. Forgive me. My controls...they are..."
"Do not apologize," my father said with compassion in his voice.
As I avoided Sarek's gaze, I realized how old habits were hard to break. I did not know what I was accomplishing by sitting here besides making the leader of the Vulcan High Council aware of the loss of a great asset.
"Please, tell me if there is anything I can do for you."
I was initially going to refuse any help, but I found I could not. I could no longer stand to be on this unfamiliar planet as my body deteriorated. I wanted - I needed - to go to the only place I felt comfortable calling home.
"Sarek," I said. "Would it be possible to die...on the Enterprise?"
As the familiar transporter room materialized, the first face I saw was that of my...of the captain. Jim stood in his command gold, a smile spread across his face, and his hand formed in the ta'al. I knew this man well enough to see the emotions hidden behind his electric grin. Today, I detected sadness - the same sadness I saw in its raw form when I told him of my condition over comm link two weeks ago. Since I still looked relatively healthy at that time, I knew Jim was shocked at my current appearance. I was in a wheelchair being pushed by T'Remberale, and I had lost so much weight from my inability to keep food in my stomach that my clothes could have fallen off if I stood up.
"Ambassador," Jim said as he approached my chair. He knelt on one knee in front of me before saying, "I'm...happy you chose the Enterprise to..." The captain hesitated. "...spend your final days."
I lifted a corner of my mouth, amused at Jim using his diplomatic tone in front of the modest crew present in the room. "Thank you, Captain," I said in my much weaker voice. I lifted one of my hands to grasp his shoulder.
Jim covered my hand with his own and squeezed, shirking his previous formality.
Our relationship had grown deeper in the two years since he had taken command. We tried not to broach the subject of my counterpart, or the blossoming friendship between the younger men, because we thought we had already cheated fate enough. However, this changed when Jim called me in a panic. He had suddenly realized he was in love with Spock, and needed to know if I had been with my Jim. I could not contain my joy for the other man in that moment, and it was difficult to not reveal more than the basic facts of my story.
In the week after the call, I talked with Jim every day to help convince him to reveal his feelings. Once he finally did, his demeanor was completely different. It was as if he had discovered the secret of life and all the goodness within. The rest, as humans say, was history. In the month since, I watched their relationship blossom from afar, and last I heard they had started discussing possibilities of marriage. Seeing what these two men had only made me ache all the more for my own Jim, and regret all the time we wasted denying what we felt for each other.
"Spock wanted to be here," the captain said. "But...it's still kind if weird for him."
I nodded. The communication with my counterpart was much more limited than with his captain. While getting to know him would have been fascinating, I understood his position. I would have been tempted to reveal his future, and he was unsure if he wanted such an insight while trying to cultivate his own identity.
Jim nodded to T'Remberale and wheeled me thought the hallowed halls to my guest quarters. Once inside, I saw my younger self setting up a small table with a tea set. Based on the smell, the pot was a special Vulcan tea infused with the pain relieving properties.
"Captain," Spock said in a once he saw our entrance. "I was not expected you so soon."
Jim chuckled. "You know, I'm not always late, Spock."
My counterpart's eyes glimmered with mirth in return. "Since the human term 'always' is so imprecise, your record of 95.4 percent tardiness could easily apply."
I let out a single weak laugh, which forced Spock to cease ignoring my presence. "Selek," he said, looking me in the eye, although his demeanor showed he wanted to do anything but. The thin layer of discomfort had always been present between us, but now it was amplified. True, a crew member walking down the hall would not notice the tension, but I knew myself better than anyone.
"Hello Spock," I croaked, feeling somewhat self conscious at my breathy voice. "I apologize for not offering my congratulations to you in finding..." I stopped when I realized the sacred word for their future bond would be too strong to use at this stage in their relationship. "...happiness."
"Thank you," Spock said in a tight voice. The alternate word appeared to be discomforting despite my correction. "I have been told you played a key part in urging the captain to initiate romantic interactions."
"My part was not as...vital...as..." I was interrupted by a violent muscle spasm. I could not pinpoint the exact location since pain shot through my entire torso at once.
"Here, lets get you into bed," Jim said as he carefully scooped my shaking body into his arms and placed me into the bunk. Spock helped him pull the replicated Vulcan silks to cover me, and then propped me up on the pillows to make for easier breathing. He then handed a steaming tea cup to me and I sipped, allowing the aroma to flow into my nostrils and soothe my discomfort.
Jim leaned over me wearing a concerned look. "Do you need me to get Bones? Will you need pain medicine?"
I looked up at him once the voice registered, and I felt the rush of love I had not known in years. He looked so much like my Jim, and I temporarily forgot where I was and who I was talking to. I lifted a trembling hand and tenderly stroked his cheek. Reality crashed down on me once I saw the shocked look on his face. I immediately withdrew and felt my cheeks burn in embarrassment.
"Not right now," I said, staring at my hands. The captain did not comment on my lapse, but it was only a minor comfort. I knew this was only the beginning.
Later that night, Dr. McCoy came to evaluate me. After a brief scan, he reported my Vulcan healer might have been too optimistic about how long I would live.
"Do you want me to be blunt, Ambassador?" The doctor asked.
I thought back to the final time I saw my Leonard McCoy alive. Not a day went by since when I did not wish to hear his blunt opinions again.
"Please, be honest," I replied. I glanced toward Jim who continued to stand guard by my side despite our awkward encounter earlier. I did not remember where Spock had gone, although I was sure my affections toward his lover did not improve our cool relations.
"Selek, I don't see how you will last through the week," McCoy said with a sigh. "The tumor is pressing on your brain stem, and it seems to be growing larger by the minute. I'm not familiar with this particular strain of tumor or how it's gonna affect your physiology, but I can't imagine your brain will be able to send signals to your organs for much longer."
I nodded, unsurprised by the prognosis. On a deep level, I sensed my deterioration was happening faster than it should, but hearing it from the doctor made it a stark reality. The ticking seconds were so loud now, I might as well have been within the large Terran clock in London Jim had called "Big Ben." Although the passage of time previously spurred me to action, I knew I was to the point where there was little I could do with my remaining time except ease my discomfort.
"I want to stay with him," Jim said to McCoy. There was a muffled conversation I could not make out due to a sudden ringing in my ears. Once it passed, Jim was alone and holding my hand.
"But...Jim...you're the Captain."
"Technically, so are you." At my surprised expression, he said, "Don't give me that look. You know I saw your future promotion in that meld. 'No desire for command' my ass."
In another time, I would have corrected him to protect my perceived honor, but I instead basked in the warmth of Jim's humor. It could very well be the last time I was coherent enough to appreciate it.
"Besides, I've already talked with Spock. He's gonna take the conn while I stay with you...until the end."
Tears once again brimmed in my eyes, and I realized I had likely cried more in the past month than in my entire life before. I turned away from the captain. I still harbored the need to be strong for him, although it was now moot. To my surprise, Jim used his fingers to guide my face so it was facing him again.
"I'm sorry this happened to you," he said. "You should be in your own time, with your own family."
I wanted to agree with him, but I realized I would not have anyone to go back to in the other timeline. True, my race would be intact, but they had never truly accepted me to the point I would be comforted by their mourning of me. In this world, those I loved had been returned to me.
"I am...where I am supposed to be," I said. "Jim, I would like to sleep now." When the younger man's eyes widened, I squeezed his hand. "Not forever."
Jim blushed then nodded. He ordered the computer to turn the lights down, and did not let go of my hand as I drifted to sleep.
Two days had gone by, and I did not feel any much different from when I arrived. Yes, the headaches were getting worse, but they were easily managed through medication. Dr. McCoy also gave me drugs to stay afloat mentally as long as possible. I used the extra time to use every second I could to absorb bask in the presence of the captain.
Today, though, Jim had to attend to a crisis involving a potential Federation planet that insisted on speaking to him personally, so he had to leave my side for about two hours. I was pleasantly surprised to find his lover reluctantly taking over the vigil.
I did not blame my counterpart for his avoidance of me. I could only imagine what it would be like for me to see an older version of myself while in the prime of life. Now that I was dying, it must have been all the more disconcerting.
His discomfort showed as I pretended to be engaged in a Federation news feed. Spock sat in a chair beside my bed on his own PADD and occasionally glancing at the portable monitors. I could tell he was frightened to look at me. I only asked for reading material to not make these hours harder on him by feeling the need to keep my attention. I was struck with how relaxed he looked, despite the tense situation he now found himself in. Then again, it likely had little to do with current circumstance.
In my own life, repression of my homosexuality was a constant burden. While Starfleet accepted same-sex relationships, my specific clan did not. I spent many meditation hours convincing myself that I would be content with T'Pring as my wife due to only needing he every seven years, but there was always a part of me that would not shuck the discontent at the arrangement. When I was my counterpart's age, I was nearly immobilized with insecurity over both my humanity and my homosexuality. However, this Spock was in a healthy relationship with the captain, and our clan's convictions eased due to near-extinction. None of the tension I had carried burdened him, and it was clear in the way he carried himself. I knew without a doubt that Spock was on a path to seeing reconciling with his human half far sooner than I did, and all thanks to the captain intervening earlier. I could not help but feel envious.
I soon realized I was not able to tolerate tension as well as I used to, so I resolved myself to speak. "Spock." I said in a whisper.
The younger man flinched as if he had been slapped, the PADD almost falling from his hands.
"Selek," he said, closing his eyes and gripping the PADD as if it would fall apart if he let go. "I...do not know what to say to you."
"I surmised as much," I replied. "That does not mean you do not want to speak."
"This is...true. I hope you realize how...unusual it is for one to know me as well as you do."
I nodded in understanding. "Fright is an understandable emotion."
"I did not say I was frightened."
"I do not have to. You forget I used similar words at one time.
Spock's knuckles turned white even thought his face remained impassive. There was no hiding from me, and this was causing distress. "Vulcans are not frightened of death."
"You sound exactly like I did at your age," I replied. "I tried so hard to be the perfect Vulcan...to prove I deserved to be among my race. I did not control my emotions, I suppressed them. I tried to pretend they did not exist. This was not the way of my people, but I had to pretend..." I was interrupted with a tightness in my chest which turned into a violent coughing fit, proving my lungs were getting weaker. Spock was by my side at once, helping me sit upright and secure an oxygen mask on my face. Once my faculties were restored, I noticed the fear and sorrow from my younger self flowing through our physical contact.
Despite having fewer burdens, this young man had been through so much more than I had. He no longer had a home, and all but a handful of his race was gone. His mother was gone, and she never get to see him find love, or finally make peace with his emotions. I remembered how overjoyed Amanda was on my wedding day, and how she responded to my message of "I feel fine." The Amanda of this world never saw such things. All she knew with regards to her son was worry and sorrow.
Thinking on my mother threatened to derail my already tentative grasp on my emotions, so I refocused my thoughts to what brought my joy about Spock's experience. He had his emotional controls tested in more ways than I could imagine, but I nstead of retreating like I had on so many occasions, he had risen to the challenge and embraced both sides of himself to do it. He was growing into a man with an outstanding career and a loving mate. Whatever new challenges this new timeline brought, there was no doubt he would face them bravely.
I again looked him in the eye and I saw his expression become more transparent by the second. I slid my bony hand to grip one of his arms that held me upright, trying to project all the pride through the simple touch.
This would have been sufficient if I were Vulcan, but I was also half-human. The moment would not be complete without words.
"I am very proud of you, Spock. You are such a fine young man who would have made our mother...so proud. I do not need to know your future to know you will be a great man...a source of pride for both the Vulcan and the Human race."
I should have expected the sob, but I was nonetheless startled. The proximity to a dying Vulcan was likely having a negative effect on my counterpart's emotional control, especially when his own emotions were so chaotic on their own. I expected him to seperate from me immediately, but he again defied my expectations collected me in his arms.
"You have done so much for us," he said with a shuddering voice. "You brought me to Jim. You have helped restore our race. I do not...I am in awe of you. I do not know how I could ever..."
"Shh," I soothed. I tried to return the hug as best as I could, but could not lift my arms enough to mirror his actions. I settled for burying my face in the crook of his neck.
"Do not try to be me" I said, letting his tears soak my clothing. "You are enough. You and your t'hy'la will..." I froze when I realized my lapse, but Spock did not flinch. I realized then that my counterpart already knew what it took me more than a decade to accept. I felt joy at the long and wonderful life open to this man and his lover...brother...friend...soulmate. Soon enough, Spock's tears were joined with my own.
Although it was difficult to explain, something in me felt a sense of completion at this knowledge - as if I was finally absolved of the damage I had caused in my violent entrance to this dimension. Spock knew my thoughts, and held me closer in response.
My time sense had been long dead, so I did not know how long Spock held my wasted body. The last projection I felt before he pulled away was his bone-deep exhaustion from the emotional onslaught. He laid me gently against the pillows and stood up, taking several deep breaths to get himself under control.
"W-who do you plan on imparting your katra to?" He asked me once his stiff parade rest returned.
I closed my eyes at the question, knowing the young man would not like my answer.
"I do not plan on giving my katra to anyone," I replied.
Spock's eyes widened minutely. "But...you will be lost."
I sighed in resignation at Spock's distress, but my mind was made up. I had already given my katra to Leonard McCoy once, and I did not plan on finding another vessel. Even if I did have someone in mind, and even if the Hall of Ancient Thought still existed, I would not be utilizing the ancient Vulcan way. I had resolved a long time ago that when I died permanently, it would be in the human way.
I realized the idea of "storing" my katra in the shrine like bytes on a hard drive was confining and impersonal. It also would be a resolution to never see my Jim again. Vulcans traditionally did not find it logical to risk the loss of everything a katra had gained in a lifetime on the slim chance there was a final destination beyond the physical plane. However, I was not considering odds when contemplating an afterlife. I knew my soul would continue elsewhere, and I knew my t'hy'la would be waiting for me.
The bond I felt with Jim had been severed for years, but there was always a slight glimmer in the back of my mind that seems to indicate his continued existence. Other Vulcans experienced this and resolved the continued existence of the katra in the Hall of Memories was the reason. However, my own experience showed otherwise, and my meld with Captain Picard proved my father felt the same glimmer after Mother died. Logically, this shows the glimmer was something other than a continued connection, but to me, it was proof that somewhere out there, my Jim still existed...waiting for me.
This tiny glimmer was the only indication I had my Jim did not disappear, nor did the other timeline which produced him. It was the only hope I had that my life and accomplishments still meant something in another universe. Although this glimmer was nothing I counted on when I was in better health, now I clung to it with all my might.
"I will not be lost," I said with confidence. "I have someone to find."
Spock looked like he wanted to sigh, but was holding back. "There is no reason to believe you will be reunited with your Jim," he insisted. "To allow all of your valuable knowledge and experience to be at the mercy of the universe, especially with all the katras we have lost...I cannot allow it."
"I know what might be at stake," I said, nodding. "But I must ask you to respect my wishes. I am tired, and I...I want to be free. Please, Spock. This is what I want."
Spock looked like he was going to cry again, but this time he expertly pushed away the urge.
"Since you have clearly made your decision, I will do as you request, but I must remind you this will be a grave loss to our endangered race."
"I thought you were above emotional manipulation, Spock," I said with a small smile.
"I am doing nothing of the sort."
"Of course not," I replied, smile still on my lips.
A few seconds of silence passed before Spock said, "I do not know if I can bear to be by your side when the time comes."
Again, I nodded. I would be in the same position if I were him.
"I owe you an explanation as to why."
"No explanation is necessary, Spock."
"No, I must tell you. I...you will need Jim with you in your final moments. And...I do not trust myself not to feel jealous and angry."
This was something I did not expect. "Jealous?"
"Jim has been...different since he found out you were dying. Through our bond, I am sensing a psychic need to be with you - one which resembles the pull one bondmate feels toward the other when death is near."
I became confused. "The Jim of this universe and I are not bondmates. When I melded with him, there was no bond formed. You are his t'hy'la, not I."
"I know, but the facts remain. Jim is an emotional creature. I cannot predict how he will react when you pass."
I could feel the pain emanating off my younger self at this admission. I could think of no logical reason why Jim would be having these reactions toward me. There was no real telepathic or familial connection between us. I knew Jim would grieve due to our closeness, but I did not consider Spock seeing it as a threat.
"Jim loves you, not me," I said. "You know this, as does he. If there is any feeling between us, it is nothing like what you both share."
"I realize what I have just said is illogical, which is why I am voluntarily extricating myself from the situation. I cannot risk projecting negative feelings in your final moments due to these...feelings."
It was hard to believe this was the same who was crying on my shoulder minutes ago. I remained optimistic about his future, but he clearly had a long journey ahead.
"These feelings grieve me," Spock continued. "Because I...will miss you. You have been important to me and my people, even of others did not who you truly were. You have allowed Jim and I to come together. This has brought me more joy than I can describe."
"You do not have to," I assured him, comforted by his acceptance of grief. "I have felt it before."
The next day, my organs started failing, but of this brought as much pain as the failure of my mind. My spells of incoherence were intermittent, but I still feared I would be a blubbering invalid in my final moments of mortality. Auditory and tactile hallucinations made me believe large bugs were invading the room, and my lapses in memory caused me to forget where I was and why could no longer use the restroom or lift my head on my own. The stress from these spells caused my vitals to reach dangerous levels at least three times.
All through my thrashing and screaming, Jim was there. He held my hand and used a warm cloth ease the fever now coursing through me. I had been coming in and out of coherence, and every time I saw him after a spell ended, I saw my own Jim and grabbed at him to protect me. Once I came back to full awareness, I could barely look at Jim, especially after what Spock had told me earlier. It was difficult enough that this young starship captain was now cleaning up my excrament like I were an infant. He also had to endure this same invalid pawing at him like he was another man.
"I am...sorry," I said after yet another spell.
Jim pried off the latex gloves he had used to dispose of the sheets I had soiled while frightened. "It's what I signed up for. I said I was here for you and I meant it." Jim returned to my side and brushed my tussled bangs away from my face. My hair had long since grown out of the traditional bowl cut and likely looked uneven and unkept, not to mention oily from lack of proper cleaning.
I tried in vain to pull away from him. Jim should not be asked to shoulder this burden at so young an age. Like other Vulcans, I should have been surrounded by children and grandchildren - not this human.
"You should...go," I gasped out. It was becoming harder to breath as the seconds continued ticking by. "I do not..."
"Jeeze, you're just as stubborn as your other self," Jim said playfully. "Trust me, I'm not going anywhere."
At that moment, Jim left his chair and crawled into bed with me. He took me into his arms and guided my head to rest in the crook of his neck. My mind was screaming that this was wrong, but my body offered no resistance. I knew then that I had wanted this from the moment I received my diagnosis. In fact, I likely wanted from the time I saved this man's life in Delta Vega. Again, my side clenched at desiring another intended.
"You are Spock," Jim said, as if he had heard my thoughts. "Whatever universe you are in, you are Spock. My ashayam."
Not for the first time that day, I cried. My hand had long since lost the strength to grip, so I simply placed my palm on his chest, feeling his heart. He in turn, placed his hand over my side, to feel my weak, irregular heartbeat.
Again, I felt my mind slipping. I looked up and saw the wrinkled face of my own Jim smiling back at me, just like he had when we laid together in another Enterprise. Overwhelmed with love I felt for him, I leaned forward and kissed his lips. In turn, the kiss was returned, and a cool hand laid on my cheek.
I did not want to come back to myself. I was in heaven again. I was with Jim, after so long. Then, like a hammer to my skull, I realized where I was, and who I was with. I pulled away as quick as my failing body would allow. I closed my eyes, unable to face the man who had given me this amazing gift.
"I..." I could not say I was sorry again, because it would have been a lie. I was not sorry. For a moment, I was with my beloved. Even if my soul did dissipate and my consciousness died, I would be happy with this moment being my last.
My eyes shot open as I heard my name said in a breathy, drawn out manner my Jim had used for so long. I remember it irked me at first, but later it became my fondest memory of him. In front of me, I saw the same young man who had been there all the time, but somehow, I knew it was not the same man.
"Jim," I said, my eyes wet again. I placed my hand on his cheek and wiped tears from my beloved's cheeks. I kissed his forehead. "You have returned to me."
I received no response, only a kiss on the cheek, and then on my chin. I then felt his fingers entwine with mine in the kiss of my people.
We stayed like this for what felt like hours. I felt my heart flutter more than was normal, and a signal flared in my mind, warning me of the impending end.
This was it. I was finished, yet the fear did not come. None of my existential contemplation returned. All I felt was peace. I was ready. I looked toward my beloved and said simply, "It is happening."
Jim's lip trembled, but he nodded. He kissed my lips once again, deeper this time. He then took my hands and kissed them as well.
"I have been, and always shall be...yours," I said through failing lungs. I heard sobs from beside me and held Jim's forehead against mine.
The last memory that registered with my physical body was a pair of voices.
"It took you long enough, you green-blooded hobgoblin. We've been looking for you across two universes."
"Bones, stop. It wasn't his fault."
"Well, this is what you get when you wine and dine with Romulans. If I had still been around at the time I would have told him that."
"Not that it would have made a difference. Since when has Spock ever listened to your friendly advice?"
"Since I told him to get off his ass and tell you how he felt."
"Well, here he comes. You ready, Jim?"
"Do you even have to ask?"
"I figured. Go off and be happy, you two."
"We will, Bones."
"Yes, Doctor. We will."
Now this was my deathbed,
Died here alone.
When I closed my eyes tonight,
You carried me home.