Disclaimer: TOS Kirk and Spock belong to Gene Roddenberry, Shatner, and Nimoy. NuKirk and NuSpock belong to J.J. Abrams, Pine, and Quinto. They are not my characters.
Author’s Note: I’d like to dedicate this story to my friend Allison, who was a tremendous help to me as a beta. Also, I want to thank Kathy for all of her wonderful suggestions and support.
It should have been paradise, but something was missing. Ultimate bliss, unlimited energy, and utopian surroundings would have been enough for most, but for Captain James T. Kirk, it just would not do. Although the illusion of paradise was indeed powerful, the memory of his past reality overshadowed it, preventing him from losing himself to the fantasy world as lesser people had done. The temporal anomaly known as the Nexus could never fulfill his greatest wish. It could not provide him with an exact replica of his bondmate, as whenever he tried to meld with the imposter, the faux Spock was without his familiar soul. It was a problem without any foreseeable solution.
He never should have volunteered for the mission to map the energy ribbon, but Spock’s mind had been permanently damaged, and he needed a distraction from the truth. Kirk would never forget the day he was given the awful news that his Vulcan had become the unfortunate victim of a transporter accident. While the ambassador had lived, the neurons in his brain had become scrambled, causing him to enter a healing trance. This phenomenon caused a fracture in their bond, preventing Kirk from using their link to call him back. Six months later, Spock still showed no signs of coming out of the trance, or what the doctors now deemed a coma. So he’d accepted the dangerous mission, not caring if he lived or died since Spock was trapped in his own mind and there was nothing Kirk could do about it.
As Starfleet missions were wont to do, that one had ended with Kirk’s shuttle being sucked into the energy field while his starship and everyone on it barely escaped the magnetic pull. There within the Nexus, Kirk had resided for an unknown amount of time. He guessed it had been at least eighty years, but there was really no way to measure time inside the Nexus. Kirk lived in a log cabin in the mountains now, an image the Nexus had stolen from his mind. Every morning he would wake and step outside to pristine blue skies, crisp mountain air, and horse rides through his never-ending pastures. He wasn’t genuinely miserable, as his surroundings would not allow it, but nor was he content.
It wasn’t all disappointment - there were a few perks that came with living in the Nexus. One thing he did appreciate in particular about the energy field was that it recreated his image as he was in his prime days as captain of the USS Enterprise. He couldn’t complain about his appearance when he looked thirty-five, with his toned form and full head of hair. However, he could do without all the beautiful women the Nexus created for him to amuse himself with. They paled in comparison to what he truly wanted, but could never have again - the comfort of his bondmate.
But one day, the appearance of a most unusual being gave Kirk just the change he’d been longing for. It happened just as he had returned home from his morning horse ride.
“Hel-lo! You’re just like Captain Picard described.” Taken aback by the sudden manifestation, Kirk took a few cautious steps backward. He stared curiously at the strange man – or, at least he looked like a man - who towered over him. Kirk might’ve been intimidated by his visitor’s presence if it weren’t for the goofy medieval getup he was sporting. The flamboyant glittering purple robe and matching hat were a little much.
“Who are you?” Kirk asked, intrigued by this unusual new character the Nexus had dreamed up for him to interact with.
The character frowned at him. “I’m not a character! I promise you I’m quite real.” He slowly circled Kirk, inspecting him from all angles. “You may call me Q. I belong to a highly intelligent species known as the Q.”
“You sound like an imaginative lot. A Q named Q.” Kirk smirked at the man, who looked affronted.
“You should show some respect; it is an honor to be visited by one of the Q!”
“Right.” Kirk frowned, barely biting back his frustration. This man reminded him of another omnipotent being he’d once met in his travels by the name of Trelane. If he’d pegged him correctly, this Q fellow was really going to grate on his last nerves.
Q ignored that comment, pretending that Kirk had been delighted to meet him.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you too, Captain Kirk.” He stuck out his hand, but Kirk didn’t reciprocate the gesture. “How are you these days?” Q plowed on ahead. “The creators of the Nexus came to me when they heard you’d been having complaints.”
“I know, I should be enjoying my stay. But I’m missing my bondmate,” Kirk admitted.
“Ah yes,” Q recalled. “That Vulcan you always used to run around with.”
“Is he even still alive?” Kirk couldn’t help but check up on him.
“Alive and well,” the alien confirmed.
“Well?” Kirk’s expression was incredulous. “But how can that be possible?”
“Your doctor friend McCoy helped discover the cure for his ailment a few years later. He has since regained control of his mental and psi capabilities.”
“I don’t believe it!” Flooded with guilt, Kirk sank down onto one of the wooden benches he’d constructed in front of his house.
“Is this not good news?” Q asked, puzzled.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Spock regained his faculties,” Kirk said quickly. “But now I wish I’d never taken this mission at all – who knows what he thought of me when he found out what had happened. God, I miss him. “Without Spock, I’m nothing.” He paused, unsure how to convey the depth of his emptiness. “The Nexus has plenty of distractions, but they can’t fill that part of me where he used to reside. I’m stuck here, alone. Alone, and suffering the loss of our bond.”
“Humans are always suffering,” scoffed Q. “It must be what they enjoy most.”
“Hardly. Why are you here?” Kirk asked, massaging his temples.
“The realization of an impossible dream,” said Q. “I’m quite ingenious, you know.”
“You cannot give me what I want; you cannot replicate my bondmate here in the Nexus,” Kirk reminded him.
“You underestimate me, Captain. That I would be limited to the constraints of the Nexus is an insult to my powers. Infinite dimensions of the galaxy are mine to command!” Q stopped bragging to glance back at his audience. “But I am not so sure if I should waste my talents on you, especially if you have so little faith in me.”
“That’s not it,” Kirk amended. “It’s just, I know those like you.” He recalled the Gamesters of Triskelion, who captured him, Uhura, and Chekov, and had them train to fight each other so they could bet on who would win. Beings with such power often abused it, and he knew Q was no exception. “This is just a game to you, but for me, it’s my life! All your kind cares about is which life you can change for your personal amusement. If a few human lives get screwed up in the process, well, that’s all part of the sport.”
The alien’s face lit up like a supernova. “Did you say game?”
Kirk sighed. “Yes.”
“I love games!” Q grinned maniacally. “There is almost nothing better than a good sporting win against your opponent. The satisfaction! The glory! The-”
The former captain of the Enterprise cut him off. “Do explain what you had in mind, please.”
“I’m offering you a chance to be reunited with your bondmate, your real bondmate. You will have a shot at what you humans call ‘happily ever after’.”
Now he had Kirk’s attention. The former Starship captain leaned forward. “I’m listening.”
“It will not be a game with infinite time,” Q warned him. “You will only have a certain amount of time before your time is up, say seven days. If you are not successful, you will return here, to the Nexus to remain for the rest of your days. Is that reasonable?”
“I don’t know…” Kirk bluffed.
“Please?” Q tried.
“If I agree to play your little game, you must promise to return me to San Francisco on Earth as the starting place.”
“So specific a destination?” the alien pouted.
Kirk nodded. “As I said, I’ve dealt with your kind before. I’m not about to be tricked.”
“Pity,” said Q, but he didn’t look too disappointed. “Fair is fair, Captain. I will drop you off on Earth, per your stipulation. There you will commence with your search for your bondmate, who is 156 years old at this time. Good luck, and remember – you have seven standard days to locate him.” Q snapped his fingers.
Just like that, Kirk vanished from his home in the Nexus. He reappeared in the middle of San Francisco, on a street not far from the public library. His Starfleet training kicked in; the first thing Kirk did was take stock of his environment. Looking down at himself, he noticed he wore civilian clothes, jeans and a red plaid shirt. He would’ve preferred his uniform, but this would do for now. Next, he checked his pockets to find an ID with his picture on it. That was a start – he doubted he’d get far without some form of identification. It seemed Q was playing fair after all.
Across the street, a flashing billboard caught his eye advertising the new Nokia communicator, complete with texting package. Kirk frowned – in his day, communicators never had the capability to send messages with just text. That was what mail was for! Hovercars whizzed by overhead on the street. The distinct smell of exhaust was different than what he remembered, more natural. He began to inspect a hovercar that had broken down on the street – it was more sleek and advanced than he recalled. Had he lived in the Nexus for so long that he’d forgotten what his own universe had looked like?
But then he heard ear-shattering music blasting from one of the low-flying hover cars. He grinned, fondly recalling a certain incident involving Spock, time travel, a punk kid, and a bus. Youth listening to awful music seemed to be a constant in any universe. So his memory was a little addled – he’d always been able to blend in with his environment; there was no reason why he couldn’t put that skill to good use now.
Remembering the clock was ticking, Kirk decided to put his memory concerns aside for now and head for the library. He used his ID to gain entrance, found an empty com station, and selected the operator. There was one place for certain where he would find friends who would help him locate Spock.
“Patch me through to Starfleet Command, please.”
“Starfleet Command,” the female operator answered, materializing on the viewscreen. “Please state your name and purpose.”
“Good afternoon, m’am.” Kirk smiled at the young brunette. He noticed she was sporting a uniform he’d never seen before, but chalked it up to his faulty memory. “My name?” Kirk blinked, confused. “You mean, you don’t recognize me?”
“Should I?” came the cool reply.
“Very well.” Kirk decided to humor her. “My name is Captain James T. Kirk. I apologize for appearing out of uniform, but it couldn’t be helped. Patch me through to the acting captain of the Enterprise.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but you cannot be Captain Kirk,” the girl said firmly. “The Enterprise is not scheduled to arrive back home for another three hours. And besides, you don’t have his dreamy blue eyes.” Shocked by this admonition, Kirk couldn’t believe that he had a different eye color in this, what appeared to be an alternate reality. He recovered quickly.
“Fine. I wish to contact Ambassador Spock.” The communications ensign checked the system.
“We have a Commander Spock serving on the flagship, but as I said before, it won’t return for a few hours.” So he had located Spock, but it was the wrong Spock. It wasn’t his Spock. Damn. Q wouldn’t have made it that easy – he should’ve expected that.
“How about Dr. Leonard McCoy?”
“Sorry, he’s still on the Enterprise.”
“Captain Christopher Pike?” Perhaps there was a chance this universe’s Pike had met a different fate than his counterpart – Kirk could only hope.
“We have an Admiral Christopher Pike. Is that who you’re trying to reach?” The girl looked rather desperate to pass the com off to someone else.
“Yes!” Kirk sighed with relief. In any universe, he was certain Pike would help him. “Please tell him his old friend James Kirk wishes to speak with him.”
“Hold, please.” A few moments later, Pike’s hardened face graced the screen. With gray hair, he appeared to be at least a decade older than when Kirk had seen him in the Talosian illusion. He showed no signs of his accident. His facial features were undistorted; he actually looked healthy!
“Chris! Chris, I’m so glad to see you!” Kirk exclaimed, thrilled to have made contact with one of his old acquaintances. “I’ve had the strangest day. I have many questions for you, first is about the Ent-”
“Quiet,” Pike barked. “What did you say your name was?” Kirk frowned.
“Chris, it’s me! It’s Jim, Jim Kirk.” Pike glared at him.
“I happen to know for a fact that James Kirk is twenty six years old, and you look over thirty. Now, I don’t know who you think you are, but if you’re trying to capitalize on the anniversary of George’s death-”
“George Kirk died?” Kirk gasped at the news. His father hadn’t died until the ripe old age of ninety-nine. What else had changed in this parallel universe?
“Where have you been?” Pike raged. “George made a great sacrifice, died a hero so that others from his ship could live. You have a lot of gall calling me today and drudging up memories of my mentor and friend.”
“I’m sorry,” Kirk apologized. “That was not my intent. I just need information on Ambassador Spock of Vulcan. Please. He served the fleet for many years-”
“Ambassador?” Genuine confusion appeared on Pike’s face. “We have a Spock in the fleet, but he is much too young to be an ambassador…”
“Very well. I’ll just have to contact his father on Vulcan. Sarek will not be pleased when he hears-” Pike coldly interrupted him.
“Vulcan was destroyed a little over a year ago.” Kirk couldn’t believe his ears. No Vulcan? What was going on here? If Spock wasn’t here, and he wasn’t on Vulcan, he could be anywhere in the galaxy!
“Please, Chris,” Kirk begged. “He’s my dearest friend.” He didn’t dare say more, as he was not certain he could trust this Pike with such personal information. The Pike of his universe had been informed of his relationship with Spock, and had heartily approved. But he was not about to take any chances with this one.
“I don’t care who he was to you-”
“Listen to me!” Kirk thundered. “Spock served as your First. He saved you, brought you to Talos at great risk to his own life. If you don’t believe me, look up his serial number. It’s 3423699.”
Pike just stared at Kirk. While it was true he’d asked for Spock to serve as his First, it was only for the duration of the Nero incident. And the Vulcan certainly hadn’t saved his life!
“Sir, whatever your name is, you need professional help. I hope that you seek it,” Pike advised. “Do not contact me again or else I’ll trace your com and have you arrested.”
The admiral’s image winked out of focus, leaving Kirk with a sinking feeling of dread in his stomach. His only contact hadn’t recognized him! Q had failed to mention that he’d be stranded in some sort of alternate universe, where Vulcan was destroyed and his father had died before he’d been born. How am I supposed to reconnect with Spock now?
This was, assuming that his Spock actually could be found in this strange universe. Kirk wasn’t sure how that could be possible. How could there be a young Spock and an Ambassador Spock, his Spock, living in the same time period? Then again, he’d seen stranger things during his deep space missions with the ‘fleet. He decided to continue to assume that his Spock was there in this universe, until it was proven otherwise. But now that Starfleet hadn’t recognized him, who could he contact to help him?
Lost in thought, Kirk stared into the computer screen. A few minutes later, the logo for the United Federation of Planets popped up on the blank screen and floated around. Yet another tiny difference from the computers of his universe…
That was when he realized he was going about this all wrong. He realized there was someone in this universe who wouldn’t refuse to help him. Smiling, Kirk punched up the holonet. He had some research to do!
Four hours later
Captain James T. Kirk entered his San Francisco apartment for the first time in over a year. He’d just returned to Earth on shore leave after successfully completing an important diplomatic mission. He should be feeling proud of his accomplishment. After all, he did convince the Gamosians to join the Federation. But instead, his thoughts were in turmoil.
Stormy blue eyes stared back at him in the mirror, and he swore under his breath. Even though he’d been captain of the flagship for two years, he still looked like that cocky kid attending the academy. His eyes were drawn to the pattern of tiny scars that marred his left cheek. He could remember the circumstances in which he’d received them like it was yesterday. But when he’d finally gotten up the courage to discuss the darkest part of his life, no one wanted to hear about it. Okay, that wasn’t exactly true - Bones would’ve listened - but he was spending shore leave with his daughter. What was ticking him off was the one friend he wanted to share this with had completely shot him down.
Jim had hoped to steal Spock’s ear for the evening, but that wasn’t going to happen. His First had turned down his invitation for dinner, claiming he had work to do. But they were on shore leave, for fuck’s sake! The point of shore leave was to relax. If anything, the work could at least have waited until the next day, and dinner with Jim should have taken precedence.
The young captain tried not to dwell on the fact that his moping was eerily similar to the few times that girls had rejected his advances. He might as well admit it - he had a crush on Spock about as large as a major starbase, and he didn’t see it fading any time soon. All he wanted was to further his friendship with Spock - it wasn’t like he was going to seduce him. Much.
As the Vulcan was occupying his thoughts, it was not surprising that Kirk was scared out of his wits when he stumbled upon an intruder in his closet.
“Okay, who are you and how the hell did you get in here?” Jim asked, his phaser drawn as the man advanced toward him. This man seemed vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t quite place him - perhaps he was a long lost relative. It turns out this wasn’t far from the truth.
“I’m you,” said the intruder.
Jim’s eyebrows flew up to his forehead. “Excuse me?”
“I’m you with… minor discrepancies.” The man continued to advance toward him with his hands up.
Jim noted that the intruder was dressed in standard civilian clothing, nothing to suggest that he’d been a starship captain. “Really, who are you?”
“My name is Captain James T. Kirk. I hacked into the computer system by choosing your password. Good thing we both had the same dog growing up.” James wondered if his younger alternate counterpart would yell at him, but Jim just laughed.
“That’s a good one! Did Bones put you up to this?”
James shook his head. “No. I was brought here by an omnipotent being who decided to give me a chance to… reunite with my bondmate.”
Jim’s eyes lit up at that, and he immediate lowered his phaser. Interesting – this version of him seemed to have some insight into his personal history.
“Oh. You’re him! You’re the other Captain Kirk!” He heartily patted James on the back. “Have a seat!”
“Thank you.” Crossing his legs at the knee, James settled comfortably on his counterpart’s couch.
“Selek won’t believe it, especially since you look so young!”
James’s expressive eyes clouded over in confusion. Selek was a Vulcan name. Hadn’t Spock had a cousin by that name? “Selek?”
“Yeah.” Jim grinned. “His people can’t know that he’s really an older Spock. Also, that would confuse him with my Spock, er my first officer…” He trailed off sheepishly. “It’s just easier to refer to him as Selek.”
“I see. Did he explain to you about our relationship?”
Jim nodded, his gaze a bit wistful, but soon masked it with a smirk. “I saw it.”
James looked affronted. “He melded with you?”
Jim held up his hands in defense. “Hey, don’t look at me like that. His planet had just imploded and you weren’t there! I was the next best thing. Trust me, he would’ve preferred you.”
“Spock…” James whispered, turning away from his alternate self. He stared off into space, imagining what it would’ve been like for Spock, who had strong mental ties to several Vulcans, to lose his entire planet. “I should have been there.”
Jim shifted on his feet uncomfortably. “Not to be nosy or anything, but where the hell were you all this time?”
James explained as briefly as he could about the Nexus, Q, and the game. “…so I only have seven days, to find my Spock, or else I’ll be transferred back to the Nexus,” he concluded, expectantly glancing at Jim.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you to Selek in seven days if I have to die trying,” Jim promised. He regarded the older man closely.
“Why are you still staring at me?” James didn’t mind the attention, he was just curious if he ‘measured up’ to this Kirk’s standards.
“That must be one powerful energy field you’ve been hanging out in; it certain explains why you look so young.” Jim gave him the once over. “You - I - look hot!”
James chuckled at his counterpart’s appreciation. “It is rather unsettling at times; I’m not used to feeling quite this thin.”
Jim made a face. “I guess I really should listen to Dr. McCoy about those steaks, then.” Then his expression grew mischievous. “So I’m guessing you wanna contact him, huh?”
“If it would not be too much trouble.” The older man gave him a wry smile, his hazel eyes sparkling with anticipation.
“Wait here, I’ll send a transmission to New Vulcan.” The young captain was gone for about five minutes.
When he returned, James jumped up from his spot on the couch. “Well?”
“Selek’s in a meeting, but I’m sure he’ll get my message when he returns to his home. I told him to contact me right away, that it’s important.”
Jim stared awkwardly at the man who he guessed was about ten years his senior. Although he was secretly intimidated by this man’s true confidence, he did want to help him in any way that he could, especially for Selek’s sake. He cared for the old Vulcan a great deal. “Listen, uh, I can arrange transport for you to go to New Vulcan if you want.”
James tried to mask his grief at the reminder that Vulcan had been destroyed. “I would appreciate it.”
Jim nervously ran his hands through his hair. He didn’t know how much he should interact with this man – he didn’t want to accidentally learn too much about his future or something. But still, could it really hurt just ask a few personal questions? It wasn’t every day he had this opportunity. Besides, he doubted his future would turn out exactly the same as James’s – their lives were too different for that to happen.
James closely regarded the younger man. “Is there something you would like to ask me, Jim?”
Good to know I’m still perceptive in any universe, Jim thought to himself. “Well, yeah. I wanna know everything about growing up with my father. You were so lucky to have him raise you instead of Frank!”
Jim cut him off. “But what I really want to know is how you got Spock to like you.”
James hid a smile. He knew that look of longing in his counterpart’s eyes well. It seemed it was destined for Kirks to pine after their Spocks in any universe. “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t have to. He was always devoted to me, right from the start. We were friends practically from day one.”
“Oh.” Jim looked away.
“Is that not the case for you and your Mr. Spock?”
Jim gave a little snort. “Not exactly, no. We first met in court at the academy, where he accused me of cheating on his test.”
“You’re joking!” James frowned. “I didn’t find out that Spock designed the Kobayashi Maru until years later when we were assigned to the Enterprise. He later told me that he’d been impressed with my ingenuity.”
“Yeah well, my Spock was less than pleased with my original thinking.” Jim shook his head, remembering how Spock had thrown his father’s death in his face during the trial. Although they’d long since moved past that incident, it still stung. “We had a rocky start, but managed to build a pretty solid friendship over time. But he’s never shown signs of interest in me as more than a friend.”
“Are you sure?”
Jim rolled his eyes. “I’m pretty damn sure.”
James regarded him quizzically. “What’s with the profanity?”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Jim snorted. “You don’t swear in your universe?”
“Not unless I have to in order to fit in with my environment.”
Shaking his head, Jim muttered under his breath, “yeah, because ‘double dumbass on you’ is fitting in.”
James’s cheeks colored. “He showed you that?”
“Obviously. I can’t believe I was so straight edge in another universe!” Jim groaned. “My Spock would never believe it.”
“Perhaps that is why he’s not attracted to you,” James slyly suggested.
“Hey! Watch it!” was the young captain’s indignant reply. “No, he’s not into me because he’s attracted to women. He went out with Uhura until recently.”
“That’s strange,” James mused. “Spock and Uhura were only colleagues in mine.”
Jim glared at him, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Again - lucky you.”
James frowned. “I do not appreciate your attitude, mister.”
“Sorry. It’s just – you got everything. My father, Spock…”
“Could I help that?”
“No, but you shouldn’t have cheated on Spock and forced him to consider undergoing Kolinahr!” Jim thundered. “I would do anything to experience my Spock’s affection and devotion. That meld that Selek and I shared was the best moment of my life, even better than being appointed Captain of the Enterprise. How could you just throw that all away?”
“Would you have known what you were missing if he hadn’t melded with you?”
“There you have it.” James folded his arms across his chest. “My Spock was just trying to help. He wanted to spare you from making the same mistakes that I made, and you would have made them.”
“No way,” was Jim’s stubborn response. “I never would’ve done that to him. I know a good thing when I see one.”
James decided it wasn’t worth the argument. “Have you and your Spock ever melded before?”
“Only in the line of duty. It was just a surface meld, nothing like the one I had with your Spock on Delta Vega.”
“If you want, I… can try to help you and your Spock get things moving.”
Jim’s azure eyes widened at the kind offer. “How?”
James’s blinding smile lit up his visage. “Here’s my plan…”
About ten minutes later, Jim’s communicator beeped. “Kirk here.”
A familiar voice sounded on the other end. “Captain, I am right outside your door.”
Jim grinned at his counterpart, who winked at him.
“Come on in, Mr. Spock. There’s someone I’d like you to meet.” The Vulcan immediately entered Jim’s apartment and stood at attention, his hands firmly clasped behind his back. James was astonished by Spock’s striking beauty – not that this one could hold a candle to his own bondmate – but he hadn’t expected the Vulcan’s aesthetic exterior to be so pleasing. Spock barely glanced at James, his attention focused solely on his captain.
“Thanks for coming on short notice, Spock,” Jim said warmly.
“What is it that requires my attention, Captain?”
James smiled Spock’s use of the title, remembering the old days on the first Enterprise. It took some coaxing, but he’d eventually convinced his future bondmate to bend that regulation. By the end of the first month of his captaincy, he’d had Spock calling him Jim. But for some reason, this Spock was still stuck on the formalities. It was something he’d try to remedy.
“Jim, Spock, Jim!” Young Kirk insisted. “Remember, we’re off duty.”
The Vulcan raised an eyebrow. James had missed that eyebrow. While he still wished to be reunited with his bondmate right away, he would enjoy this unique opportunity to observe this Spock. He was certain he’d find any Spock to be fascinating.
“Very well, Jim,” the Vulcan acquiesced. “I will ask again, what is it that requires my attention?”
Jim motioned to his guest. “I need you to meld with this man, to find out if he is who he says he is.”
Spock’s eyebrows furrowed ever so slightly. “And who does he claim to be?”
“I do not need to meld with him to be certain that he is not you.”
Jim sighed. Must his Spock take things so literally? “No, but he claims to be the other me.”
“Jim, might I remind you that the other you would be-”
“Dead, I know,” his captain interrupted. “But he said he got here through some sort of time travel. He’s looking for Selek.”
Spock nodded at his captain, and moved towards James. “Will you permit a mindmeld, sir?”
James graced Spock with one of his blinding grins, and the Vulcan’s posture softened considerably. Jim knew he hadn’t yet perfected the art like his counterpart had, and wished that his grin would have the same effect on Spock. There was much he could learn from this man...
“I look forward to it.”
Jim frowned as he watched Spock arrange his fingers along his counterpart’s meldpoints. Hopefully James would remember to shield the thought that he, Jim, had wanted Spock since practically the first moment he’d seen him. He was worried, not jealous. Sure.
They were joined for only a brief moment before Spock relaxed his fingers. James calmly came out of the meld, while Spock looked as if he’d just watched an Andorian mate with a Gorn.
“Is he who he says he is?” Jim pretended to sound concerned.
“Affirmative, Jim.” Spock could not bring himself to look at this other Kirk. He looked at his captain instead.
“What’s wrong?” Jim asked softly, placing a reassuring hand on the Vulcan’s arm.
“This man has been bonded.”
James grinned at the incredulity in Spock’s voice. “I was meaning to ask you about that. I can tell my bond is not broken, but there is a barrier there preventing me from contacting my bondmate via telepathy. Any ideas?”
Spock slightly shook his head. “I do not understand how this could be.”
“How what could be?” Jim innocently wondered.
“Do not feign ignorance with me, Captain.” Spock growled softly. “You were not surprised to learn of his bond with Selek.”
“Fine, I wasn’t surprised.” Jim shrugged. “But that isn’t important. What is important is that we get him to Selek, as soon as possible.”
Spock disagreed. “I am not certain that is a logical idea.”
The Vulcan glanced back at James, not wishing for him to listen to this. “May I speak with you outside for a moment, Jim?”
“Of course.” They stepped outside into the hall.
“Alright, what’s the problem?”
Spock stood up a little straighter. “I believe we should keep him here for a time because based on my observations he is rather loquacious and could bring unwanted attention to himself. We do not want to have to explain to Starfleet who he is and how he got here - it could have disastrous consequences on the outcome of history.”
“I, I mean, he wouldn’t do that!” Jim exploded. Spock ignored the emotional outburst, as he was used to them by now.
“Perhaps not intentionally. But our timelines are very different – he was not aware of the destruction of Vulcan until very recently. There are plenty of other important events of which he is not aware. I would highly suggest that we keep him here for a few days and allow him to adjust to this universe. We would also need to put in a request to borrow a shuttle, as the Enterprise is being serviced at the moment. When we are cleared for shuttle use, he can travel to visit Selek.”
“Admit it - you just want to observe him yourself,” Jim goaded.
Spock looked affronted. “I assure you that is not the case.”
“Whatever you say, Spock. I guess you do have a good idea,” his captain relented. “He can stay with me until we can get our hands on a shuttle. At maximum warp, New Vulcan is only a day from Earth. As long as he gets to Vulcan within the next six days, everything will work out.”
“I appreciate your accommodating him,” said Spock with a tilt of his head. “Since he is staying, may I invite you both to dinner tonight?”
Kirk snorted at Spock’s offer. “I thought you said you had work to do! But once you met Alternate-Universe-refined!me, you suddenly jump at the chance to spend time with me? Er, us?”
Spock raised an eyebrow. “You are mistaken. I do not believe it would be wise to leave you two alone with each other until a rapport is established.”
“Uh huh,” Jim said knowingly. “And just where do you want to take us for dinner?”
“I believe I will ask him.”
They re-entered Jim’s quarters together. Jim couldn’t help noticing that Spock was unconsciously gravitating towards his alternate self. I will not be jealous of myself, I will not be jealous of myself!! he thought.
“James, do you have a preference in cuisine for dinner?” the Vulcan asked.
The young Kirk watched warily as his counterpart beamed at Spock.
“How about Italian? I love Italian – and so do you.”
“Interesting,” Spock mused. “You are correct. I have not ingested authentic Italian cuisine since the death of my mother. She used to make exceptional fettuccini.”
“I’m sorry, old friend.” James placed a hand on the Vulcan’s shoulder. “She was a remarkable woman in my universe. I believe that would be a constant in yours.”
“Wait, you got to meet your Spock’s mom?” Jim cried.
“Many times,” James reported. “She was rather fond of me.”
“Of course she was,” Jim muttered under his breath as Spock regarded James in a new light. He did not appreciate how his older self once again turned his charm on the Vulcan. Not that he blamed him, of course. But wasn’t James supposed to be here for Selek? He didn’t need to hit on his Spock as well. Jim gestured towards the door.
Over the next three days, James learned the history of this universe, beginning with the attack on the Kelvin. He was quite impressed that his younger counterpart had become captain of the Enterprise at such a young age, even younger than he’d been. Jim admitted that there had been a lot of luck involved, and that Selek had given him a push in the right direction. But still, he had to be a competent officer if he was still captain of the flagship.
Naturally curious about this time, James was quite keen on meeting this universe’s Dr. McCoy. Jim decided it would be a good idea to com Bones and see if he could get a transport to San Fran to give his medical opinion on his counterpart.
Bones didn’t disappoint – three days later he returned the docked Enterprise’s sickbay to find another version of his best friend waiting for him. He’d been told this Kirk was older, more mature, and actually thought decisions through before acting. It figured he’d gotten stuck with the more reckless version of Jim.
“Bones! It’s good to see you. You look so young!” James jovially greeted this dark-eyed version of his friend, patting him on the back. A wary McCoy gave him the once over. Jim had explained to him that this was James Kirk from the other universe, but that didn’t mean McCoy had to like it.
“Now what am I supposed to call you?” McCoy scowled at James. “Hazel eyes?”
Kirk cleared his throat. “Just James will be fine.”
“Alright, James. Have a seat.” The doctor motioned over to the examining table. “I’m under orders to give you a complete physical.” He waved his tricorder around, proclaiming that James was indeed a human, and not a shape-shifting alien spy. Chapel came in to draw blood, in order to run a DNA test. The last thing McCoy did was run a brain scan on James, in hopes that he could learn something by comparing it to Jim’s last scan.
James waited on the bed for what seemed to be hours. Finally, McCoy returned with his chart.
“You have the body of a healthy thirty-five year old man,” McCoy reported. “I can’t understand it; you should be as old as Ambassador Spock.”
“I know it sounds medically impossible,” Kirk said, his eyes apologetic. “My Bones would’ve had hard time believing it too. But the Nexus can make almost anything possible.”
“It’s unbelievable - your DNA is almost an exact match with the Kirk of my time, yet you’re very different.”
James was surprised by the doctor’s insight, as they’d only known each other for twenty or so minutes. “How’s that?”
“You’re not insane.”
James chuckled. “The McCoy of my time would beg to differ with you on that.” He regarded McCoy closely, and decided he could trust him. “Doctor, while I’m here, I wanted to ask you about Spock and Jim.”
McCoy’s eyebrows rose. “What about ‘em?”
“Have you noticed…anything, err…interesting going on between them, doctor?”
McCoy snorted. “Who hasn’t?” The doctor stated it like it was the most obvious thing in the world, and perhaps it was. James certainly hadn’t been subtle when he’d flirted with his Spock, and he doubted that this Jim was subtle either.
“So this Spock’s attracted to Jim?” Kirk mused, pleased.
“Not that the stubborn hobgoblin would admit it,” said McCoy, shaking his head. “He certainly admires the captain, even if he does not openly say so. They have come to depend on each other, and are a fine command team. Best in the ‘fleet, in fact, if you ask me.”
“Then what’s holding Spock back?”
The doctor sighed. “The ordinance issued on New Vulcan. It was his reason for breaking it off with Lieutenant Uhura – all Vulcans must be bonded in heterosexual pairs to conceive and raise at least three offspring.”
“And yet Spock remained in Starfleet.”
“At the ambassador’s urging,” Bones agreed. “But I do not truly believe this is what’s holding him back. He’s just hiding behind regulations, afraid of what he could do to Jim if he gave in to his emotions. On their first mission together, that Vulcan bastard almost choked him to death on the bridge, you know.”
“I was not aware of that,” James said, his voice grave. “You know, I believe I will have a talk with young Spock. He seems to like me well enough.”
McCoy snorted. “Somebody needs to. Thanks for saving me the trouble.”
“It’s no problem, Doctor.” They shook hands, and James left a stumped McCoy to ruminate in his office.
Although he saw Commander Spock quite a few times over the next three days, James never could quite find a moment to talk to him one on one. More pressing matters were on his mind, such as why it was taking so long for Starfleet to issue them a shuttle.
Jim had apologized that it was taking longer than expected, but there had been a Klingon attack on Starbase 12, and most of Starfleet’s forces was involved trying to clean up the mess. As a result, paperwork was backlogged. Even a request from Captain Kirk was considered unimportant when civilians and Starfleet personnel alike were hurt from the attack. Especially when Starfleet advised against space travel for the next week or so, just in case the Klingons decided to attack again.
In order to put James at ease, Jim promised that he would take the matter into his own hands. He had a few buddies on backwater planets who owed him a favor. Unfortunately, only one of those buddies bothered to call him back, and it was to inform him that he’d left the shipping business for good. This left him no option but to come crawling to Spock to ask him for help. He cornered him after the Vulcan played his daily afternoon chess match with James.
“I would be honored,” Spock said calmly after Jim made his request. “I will obtain a shuttlecraft posthaste.”
“I hate asking on such short notice, but I figured you’d be willing to ask your dad for money or connections since it had to do with his safety.” Jim nodded at his counterpart.
They watched James in the next room over, studying a database on the computer where he was still catching up on current events.
“I have noticed that James’s hair is beginning to gray,” Spock observed.
“Huh, that’s weird,” Kirk muttered. “I wouldn’t mention it to him though, you might hurt his feelings. Humans don’t like to be told that they are aging.”
“Then I will endeavor to not mention the matter.”
Jim sighed, wishing to breach a subject that had been on his mind for some time now. “Spock, I have to ask, do you see any similarities between us at all?”
“Yes. You are both brave yet stubborn individuals who have the best interests of others at heart.”
Jim laughed, relieved that the Vulcan could see some of him in James after all. His feelings of inadequacy began to melt away.
“Although, I must admit, I have observed that James has a unique speech pattern,” said Spock. “You do not pause in the middle of a sentence for no apparent reason. It is an illogical quirk, but it suits him.”
“Yeah, I noticed that too. Who knows, maybe my dad did that, and I don’t because I never grew up around him,” Jim hypothesized.
“You do not have to compare yourself to him, Jim,” Spock said softly, picking up on what was running through the younger Kirk’s brain that very moment. “You are my captain, and you are the one who has earned my loyalty and trust.”
With that, Spock took his leave. Jim’s eyes followed him, glowing from the highest praise he’d ever received from his First. Perhaps there was hope for them after all…
The next morning, James awoke bright and early on his fifth day in this strange alternate universe. It was the day he was scheduled to depart for Vulcan, and he was very much looking forward to reuniting with his Spock. But at the same time, a wave of anxiety hit him. What if something went wrong? What if Jim hadn’t managed to find them a shuttle? Then he’d never reach Spock before Q’s deadline. He couldn’t let that happen, not now when he was so close to seeing his bondmate.
As he rose from bed, an old back injury flared up. Frowning, James couldn’t recall that bothering him in his early command days. He’d aggravated it after the refit of the Enterprise, in his early forties.
Plodding into the bathroom, James took a quick shower, and when he tried to put on his uniform, he found it was impossible to close his pants due to his expanding waistline. How did that happen – I know I didn’t eat that much last night… Thankfully he was able to replicate himself a new uniform, leaving plenty of room in the waist just in case it decided to grow again without permission. He left the bathroom feeling eager to meet the challenges of the new day.
“Morning!” Jim greeted him with breakfast. Over replicated bagels and orange juice, they discussed how the day would go.
“I finally received a reply from the Vulcan High Council,” Jim informed him between bites of doughnut. “You’ve been cleared to see the Ambassador. You ready to see him again?”
“I’m more than ready,” the elder captain said.
“Also, Selek just sent me a vid message marked urgent, but I didn’t open it because I thought we should watch it together.” Jim took this moment to really examine his counterpoint’s gaunt face. “You don’t look so good. Did you sleep okay last night?”
“I’m fine,” the older man waved him off. “Or I will be, once I see my Spock.”
But the twenty-something captain wouldn’t stop staring.
“Are you graying?” Jim gasped.
Thinking his host was joking, James was surprised by what he found in the kitchen mirror. Sure enough, he was on the sides. Scowling at his reflection, James turned away. He supposed the magic of the Nexus had to wear off sometime – it was a pity it couldn’t linger until he saw his Spock, though. “I can’t take the suspense – I need to see that damn com!”
Shrugging, Jim punched up his messages on the com console and played the one from the ambassador. The wizened Vulcan materialized on the viewscreen, dressed in his formal black Vulcan robe. Immediately, James’s expression changed from grumpy to awed.
“Spock…oh, he’s beautiful!” James stared at image of the elderly Vulcan, who was once his mate. “It figures he would age well.” They both watched in silence as Selek spoke.
“Jim – forgive me for not delivering this message in person, but I believe it is easier to say goodbye this way. I am entering the cycle of Pon Farr, and have no bondmate to help me survive.
“Pon farr?” James gasped. “Oh no. Spock!”
Jim shushed him.
“I shall go out into the desert wasteland and die in peace. Do not grieve for me, Jim. My life of 156 Earth years has been long and prosperous. Soon I will be with my t’hy’la again.” The Ambassador’s face grew wistful. “I wish you and your Spock every happiness that I had with my bondmate, and ask that you will not take each other for granted. Once I lost Jim, I knew he would not return to me.”
“Spock, I’m here!” James cried, touching the screen. But it was useless gesture, as it was just a one-way recording. Jim was taken aback by the emotional response.
“Goodbye, old friend. I have been, and always shall be yours. May you live long and prosper.” The image winked out on the screen.
“No! Not again… please not again. I won’t let him die.” Jim’s eyes grew wide as he recognized the depth of this Kirk’s feelings for Ambassador Spock. James was practically on the edge of hysterics as he fought against Jim’s sudden embrace. It was a little strange hugging yourself, but it was the only thing Jim could think of to do at the moment to comfort the guy.
“James, we’ll find him; trust me.” Kirk the younger reassured the frantic captain, who finally stopped his struggles. “My Spock is looking for a shuttle right now. As soon as we get one, we’ll- ”
Suddenly, McCoy burst into the apartment.
“Jim, we’ve got to get your friend to New Vulcan, and fast! I finished analyzed his blood samples and…” McCoy trailed off, staring at Jim’s counterpart. “Jim, look at his face! Dammit.” The doctor was right to be alarmed. Within the last few minutes, tiny wrinkles had spread over James’s face.
“Shit!” Jim gasped, fully comprehending the seriousness of the situation. People just didn’t age that quickly, especially not in the 23rd century. “Bones, what the hell’s wrong with him? Is he sick?”
The doctor waved his scanner over the pallid form. James’s forehead was sweating, he was breathing hard, and reaching out for someone who was not there.
“Rapid aging,” the doctor muttered. “But I don’t know what could’ve caused it!”
“Can you reverse it?” Jim asked, worriedly looking from the doctor to James.
“I don’t know. We’d better get him to New Vulcan, just in case the worst happens.” Jim didn’t know if he could handle delivering a dying James Kirk to Selek, but decided it would be better than not delivering him at all.
“Spock!” James moaned, as if he concurred with the doctor’s suggestion. “I must be with my mate.” At that moment, Spock the younger chose to walk through the door.
“Along with the time-travel induced rapid aging, he may also be experiencing the side-effects of his bondmate’s pon farr,” the young Vulcan deduced. “You are correct, Doctor – we do not have much time.”
“You don’t have to tell me that!” Jim cried, picking up his counterpart and heading for the door.” “Dammit, we should’ve gotten him to Ambassador Spock sooner.”
“The fault is mine, as I convinced you to keep him here for observation.” Spock volunteered.
“I could’ve disagreed with you, though. I thought it was a good idea at the time,” Jim groaned. “Your logical arguments had me convinced. And then there was the whole shuttle mess.”
“Forget whose fault it is - how are we going to get him to New Vulcan?” McCoy reasoned. “Starfleet still hasn’t cleared that shuttle for us.”
But Spock was way ahead of him. “Captain, I have a vessel standing by.”
Jim’s eyes danced with admiration for the Vulcan. “That’s my First.”
They followed Spock to the spacedock, where he opened the hatch to a modest shuttle with warp capabilities. Kirk stopped in his tracks in front of the entrance, noticing the name and the lack of the familiar insignia on the door.
“The Pleasure Slave? Uh, Spock, I’m pretty sure this isn’t a Starfleet vessel or one of Vulcan design.”
Spock raised an eyebrow, as if to say, ‘obviously’. “Affirmative. There was not enough time to fill out the necessary paperwork, so I borrowed this one from an Orion.”
Jim’s jaw dropped. This was Spock’s equivalent of proclaiming he’d robbed a bank. He knew what it had cost the Vulcan to compromise his strict moral code, and was grateful Spock would do so for him. “Borrowed? As in threatened?”
“I may have let it slip that I was entering pon farr,” was Spock’s innocent reply. “It technically was not a lie, as my alternate self is indeed experiencing the mating cycle. The Orion was rather agreeable to lending his ship to me after he heard that.”
“Spock, I didn’t know you had it in ya,” Jim huffed as he heaved the still-aging captain into the back seat. “Fuck, he’s getting heavy.”
“He’s probably approaching sixty-five now,” the doctor guessed as he jumped into the back and ran the tricorder over the elder Kirk. “This is why I tell you to eat your vegetables, Jim.”
“Now it not the time, Bones!” The young captain protested as he settled down in the co-pilot’s seat. He quickly plotted and laid in the course for the Vulcan colony.
“James, can you hear me?” The doctor laid a reassuring hand on the elder Kirk. “We’re taking you to New Vulcan, so you can relax.”
“Spock…” James moaned. “He needs me. Must…find him.”
At that moment, young Spock slid into the pilot’s seat. He wasted no time in firing up the engines and contacting the dock controls to open the space doors. “Disengaging inertial dampener,” said the Vulcan. He glanced over at his captain, who was twisted around in his seat so he could observe the ailing James. “Jim, we are ready for departure.”
“Go, go, go!” Jim yelled, this feeling of urgency stabbing him as he watched his counterpart convulse. “Warp seven, Spock.”
The Vulcan brought them safely out of space dock, and soon the stars were sailing by them. McCoy gave James a sedative to counteract his symptoms of Ambassador Spock’s pon farr, but it would not last forever. The symptoms would likely worsen before they reached New Vulcan. While Kirk piloted, McCoy and Spock placed the rapidly aging man on the single cabin bed the shuttle had to offer, allowing him to rest.
When James woke up twelve hours later, he found himself face to face with not-his-Spock. Kirk and McCoy were nowhere to be found, therefore he assumed they were in the cockpit.
“It is good to see you are awake, sir.”
“Barely,” James rasped, blinking the sleep from his eyes. His head was pounding, but the all encompassing need for his mate had abated, for the moment. Slowly, he pulled himself up to a sitting position in bed.
Spock waited for the man to orient himself to his surroundings before stating, “The doctor said that you wished to speak with me, but hadn’t had the chance before.”
“Yes, that’s right.” James smiled at Spock.
“Did you perhaps have any questions for me about the destruction of Vulcan and the effect it has had on our timeline?”
Kirk shook his head. “No… that was explained well enough. I wished to speak to you about Jim, actually.”
Spock sat up a little straighter. “About the captain?”
“Yes. How do you feel about him?”
Spock rattled off the standard answer. “He is a fine commanding officer. Starfleet is lucky to have him-”
“No no, you misunderstand me.” James gently interrupted. “I meant, how do you feel about him personally?”
“We are friends,” was Spock’s cautious reply. “He is a formidable opponent in tri-dimensional chess.”
Jim smiled as another constant was brought to his attention. “Good. Our friendship was legendary in my time as well.” James leaned in a little closer. “It is obvious to me that he cares for you very much, Spock.”
The Vulcan shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I am aware of this fact.”
“And do you care for him?”
Up went the Vulcan mask. “My personal feelings are not your concern.”
“Spock.” James looked at him knowingly. “If you cannot discuss your feelings for Jim with another Jim, who can you discuss them with?”
“My feelings are irrelevant. Even if I was attracted to him, all Vulcans must be bonded with in heterosexual pairs to raise children in order to repopulate the species.”
“You’re half Vulcan, you could get around that easily enough,” James chided. “Why don’t you tell me what’s really holding you back?”
Spock’s dark eyes could no longer hide the pain he’d been concealing, the longing for a deeper connection with his captain.
“He is able to emotionally compromise me against my will. I would not wish to injure him again,” was Spock’s soft answer. “Next time, if I am not careful, I might manage to accidentally kill him, especially if I was experiencing…” He looked at James, pleading that he would understand.
Spock nodded. “I could never forgive myself for that grievance.”
“Also, as you know, a Vulcan bond is a serious agreement. I could not ask for any less than total commitment, nor would I wish to tie him down against his wishes.”
“I believe you have answered your first stipulation with your second,” James recalled. “If you are bonded to him, you will be able to control the depths of your emotion with his help through your mind link. Spock and I experienced several pon farrs together, and while I’ll admit I was roughened up by the time it was over, I enjoyed every minute of it.” He winked at the Vulcan, whose cheeks colored a faint green. “I cannot imagine your Jim would feel differently.”
“No, he would not.” Spock looked vaguely exasperated, but fond at the same time.
It was an expression James recognized.
“Jim is a very passionate being,” the Vulcan continued. “He enjoys taking risks and living a full life, whereas I prefer to err on the side of caution. Regardless of the attraction between us, we are not a logical pairing.”
“Let me ask you something. If you were assured that Jim wanted to commit to you, would you still have the same doubts?”
“It would be easier if my Jim was more similar to you in temperament. Yet, even if I were certain of his fidelity, I would be hesitant to enter into a union with a human. I would not wish to lose my Vulcan sensibilities as Selek has.”
James chuckled. “Spock, he still has his Vulcan sensibilities – he only adjusted them over the years. His personality has been affected by his time spent with me, just as mine has been affected by my time spent with him. When we were bonded, we grew together. I began to see the appeal of logic, and Spock found he didn’t need to always ignore his emotions. It’s a wonderful side effect of sharing minds for so long.”
“That is not exactly what I meant, although your claims have merit,” Spock clarified. “You are more courteous than my Jim. You do not swear, you do not employ excessive use of the human device known as sarcasm, and you are not arrogant to the point of frustration.”
“Jim’s just trying to compensate for his lack of experience,” James explained. “He will eventually grow out of those behaviors as he gains confidence in his abilities. I too was prone to those devices in my youth, although not quite to his extreme. This was not a problem for my Spock, as I did not meet him until I was more mature. Perhaps that is why, unlike you and your captain, we did not have trouble cultivating a friendship right away.”
“Perhaps,” Spock mused.
James leaned closer to the Vulcan. “If you truly feel for him, Spock, you will find a way to work through the petty differences. He is capable of more love than you realize.”
“I did underestimate his abilities to play chess,” Spock admitted, considering the matter. “It is possible I may have underestimated his ability to commit to a monogamous relationship.”
James nodded, hiding a smile. “I hope you will give him a chance. After all, you can be certain of your relationship working out in another universe. Why couldn’t it happen in this one?”
“Thank you, James,” the Vulcan whispered. “Your advice was most illuminating.”
Spock excused himself then, realizing he had much to meditate on.
McCoy slapped the Vulcan out of meditation hours later, explaining that he needed Spock’s expertise with James. Spock quickly came to his senses, and thanked the doctor for letting him know. With the ship on autopilot, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy crowded into the small cabin which housed the now-elderly human in the midst of the throes of pon farr. The man cried out for his Spock, much like an addict would beg for his drug of choice.
Spock could not just stand there and allow James to suffer. Against his logical judgment, he took James’s hand in his, wishing to provide some sort of comfort the Ambassador could not at this time. The human’s soft fingers slid across his skin like the finest silk. Spock swallowed, keeping his own reactions to the intimate gesture carefully in check.
“James, might I suggest that you telepathically contact your bondmate?” Spock suggested.
The aging Kirk continued to stroke the Vulcan’s fingers with his own. While Spock didn’t return the gesture, he didn’t pull away either. He knew it was what James needed at the moment.
“He’s…blocking me.” James sputtered. “I cannot… reach him.” He took a few large gulps of air. “No…he’s dying! He’s letting himself gradually slip away.”
“What’s wrong with the bond?” Jim wondered, alarmed. “Spock, why can’t he communicate with Selek?”
But it was McCoy who figured it out. “I’ll bet the old hobgoblin refuses to believe that his bondmate still exists,” McCoy mused. “He must think he’s imagining his presence in his mind.”
Jim groaned. “He would deem it illogical that his Kirk could exist at this time. No wonder James can’t communicate properly!”
“Spock! I… I ache for him.” James cried, clutching Spock’s hand to the point of causing the young Vulcan to wince. “Please… please! I burn for thee.”
“Jim, soon I will not be able to help him,” Spock warned.
Jim understood him loud and clear. “Bones?”
Without further instruction, the doctor gave his patient a hypo full of strong sedative, double the first dose. “There,” said McCoy as James’s form went slack. “He should sleep until we arrive.”
James finally let Spock’s hand go as he dropped off to sleep.
“You okay, Spock?” Jim whispered, resting a hand on Spock’s forearm.
“Yes, Jim.” Their exchanged glances did not go unnoticed by the doctor.
“Thank you for helping him,” Jim said quietly. “I know that had to be awkward - you went beyond the call of duty.”
“I found it was necessary,” was all that Spock said.
The trio watched as the wrinkles deepened as James slept. “Now all we can do is wait,” Jim declared.
The Pleasure Slave touched down in the capital city of New Shi’Kahr five hours later, or five point seven six hours, according to their pilot. Spock disembarked to discuss their dilemma with T’Pau. Luckily, she had made herself available to the heir to the House of Surak. Spock quickly explained their situation to T’Pau, who gave them the last known coordinates of Ambassador Selek and wished them success. Sure enough, the old Vulcan had gone off into the unmapped desert. Thanking the Vulcan matriarch, Spock returned to the ship, plugged in the coordinates, and began his search.
“I have begun a search based on the ambassador’s last known coordinates,” the Vulcan informed his shipmates as he skimmed the planet’s surface.
“That’s all very well and good, Spock, but how are we supposed to find out where the ambassador went from his starting place?” McCoy asked. “He could be halfway across the desert by now.”
“James will be able to sense when his bondmate is near,” Spock said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “I would suggest that you wake him up, Doctor.”
“Jim, did you know he’d be able to sense the old Spock?”
The captain smiled sweetly. “Yep.”
McCoy rolled his eyes. “Of course you did. You probably researched every kind of hobgoblin text you could get your hands on just to-”
Jim sent his friend a warning look. “Just wake up James, will ya, Bones?”
“Fine.” Scowling, the doctor stepped into the back.
Spock couldn’t help wondering if the doctor’s statement was correct. What if Jim really had learned all he could about Vulcan culture, and if so, what was his motivation behind said act? Was it due to the tragedy he witnessed and a sense of responsibility to an endangered species? Was it to improve his working relationship with his Vulcan first officer? Or was it because he was considering the possibility of committing to a relationship with Spock? He hoped it was the latter.
McCoy soon reappeared with a white-haired, feeble Kirk at his side. Turning away from his counterpart, Jim mouthed ‘fuck, I’m old’ at Spock, who quelled an illogical burst of amusement. True, Jim could be vulgar at times, but it didn’t bother the Vulcan as much as it originally had.
“Physically, he’s approaching ninety, Jim. The effects of the pon farr have quelled for the moment.” The doctor locked eyes with his friend, and shook his head. Jim knew the portly man didn’t have much longer to live if he continued to age at this rate. He was going to ask his alternate self if he’d sensed Selek’s presence, but Spock beat him to it. The Vulcan once again took James’s hands in his.
“James, can you feel your bondmate nearby?”
The aged Kirk closed his eyes, and reopened them after a minute. He let go of Spock’s hands, feeling in violation of touching another when his mate was near.
“Yes! He’s much closer. But you need to head in a starboard direction.”
Jim immediately adjusted their course, and continued to do so at his alternate self’s directions. About twenty minutes later, they spotted a small figure off in the distance.
“Spock! It’s him!” James cried, as they approached the Vulcanoid figure laying in a fetal position on the dune. “Oh, please hurry.”
“We are travelling as fast as we can,” Spock reminded him. “I cannot exceed this spacecraft’s capabilities.”
James chuckled at that.
“Uh. Jim, you might want to prepare him,” McCoy prodded him as they swooped down toward the ailing ambassador.
“Me?” Jim protested. “Why me? You’re the doctor.”
“You’re him.” McCoy did have a point.
“Fine, Bones – you win.” He turned to his counterpart. “Hey, James?”
“Jim. I am glad you are here with me.” The elderly man placed a hand on his shoulder, and Jim copied the action. “I owe you everything – you have brought me to see my bondmate.” The dreamy gaze in the old man’s eyes touched Jim to his very core. He was still madly in love with his Spock all these years later – it was a beautiful sight to behold.
“Yeah, you get to see your Spock again,” Jim affirmed. “I’m really happy for you; I just want you to be aware that if you continue to age like this, you might only have a few more minutes left with him. You need to be ready for that, to say goodbye.”
“It doesn’t matter how much time I have left,” James croaked. “Just spending one more second with him would be enough.”
“I don’t understand,” Jim said softly. And truly, he didn’t.
“You will,” said James, glancing over at Spock, who looked away. “Hopefully, you will someday.”
A moment later, Spock carefully eased the ship down on the desert floor. The shuttle shuddered on impact and then went still. In a move that reminded McCoy of his Jim, the elderly man bounced on his heels, impatiently waiting for the hatch to open.
James was calling for his bondmate before the hatch touched the floor. Even when blasted by the desert wind and heat, he bounded down the ramp, only to wince as his back spasmed. Instantly, Jim and Spock were there, supporting him on each side. At turtle pace, they trudged toward the Ambassador, following James’ urging.
McCoy exited the ship soon after them, trying to ignore the blazing heat beating down on him from all sides. New Vulcan’s sun shone bright, and he had put a hand over his eyes just to see straight. The blowing sand didn’t help matters either. But he was determined to find Selek, and used his tricorder to locate the ambassador not far from them. Eyes stinging from the swirling sand, he ran past the slowly shuffling trio towards the old Vulcan’s position. He closed the distance until he was only about ten meters away, hoping against all hope that the elderly Vulcan wasn’t too far gone.
When McCoy arrived, he found Selek moaning softly, his burning form shaking with need. Against his better judgment, the doctor slapped him back to consciousness. Approaching a Vulcan in the madness of pon farr – I must be going senile, McCoy thought, relieved when the ambassador began to wake.
“Dammit, you old fool, snap out of it.”
Opening his eyes, Selek groaned as he regained his senses. The Vulcan struggled to pull himself up to a sitting lotus position. He must meditate if he was to control his raging emotions around this human.
“Doctor, I wish to die in peace. Do not come any closer – I may perceive you to be a threat. I do not wish to harm you. ”
“Dammit, man, your bondmate is here!”
The old Vulcan frowned. “Jim? I believe you are mistaken – he is not mine to claim. Besides, I already bid him farewell.” McCoy wanted to bury his head in the sand and not come out for days.
“Not my Jim! Your Jim… but he’s sick,” McCoy quickly added. “Please, Ambassador - use your mind to contact him. Ease his pain!”
“It is just an…illusion,” Selek said through gritted teeth. “My Jim has been dead for decades.”
“I swear to you, he’s here!” The doctor insisted.
But Spock just shook his head. “I cannot believe you.”
“You stubborn hobgoblin!” McCoy exploded. “He traveled through time just to see you again. You owe it to him to try to communicate one more time.” The expression on old Spock’s face was truly heartbreaking, as if he wanted nothing more to believe that by some magical means his Kirk had come to save him, but knew it was an illogical wish. He bowed his head.
“You know how to wound me, Doctor.” But his human side finally won out. The elderly Vulcan closed his eyes and steepled his fingers, attempting to contact his bondmate with his mind. McCoy watched him anxiously, hoping the Vulcan would somehow sense James’s presence. He soon noticed an increase in the Vulcan’s breathing, and hoped it was a good sign.
“Jim…I have need of thee.” The Vulcan’s eyes snapped open and caught the doctor’s. “Fascinating. He is but meters from me.” McCoy couldn’t resist an ‘I told you so’.
“Take me to him, Doctor,” Old Spock ordered. “Quickly. He is fading fast.”
McCoy wasted no time in helping the Vulcan to his feet, and supporting his weight. They slowly began to trek across the desert in the general direction of James. The ambassador heard his bondmate’s faint cry before he saw his form materialize.
“Spock! Spock, can you hear me?” The elder Spock tried to answer, but his throat was too dry for his voice to carry. The Vulcan’s pace quickened considerably after that, and soon McCoy spotted the trio in the distance.
“That’s them! Just a little bit farther, Spock.”
“I believe I can take it from here, Doctor.” McCoy relented, allowing the Vulcan his dignity. He silently vowed to stay close by his side in case he needed a hand. Across the way, he watched as James asked the same of young Kirk and Spock.
Both halves of the bonded pair advanced slowly across the sand towards each other, pulled by an invisible force far greater than gravity. McCoy was shocked by the pure joy that surfaced on the old Vulcan’s profile as he walked towards his mate. He noticed the same expression was reflected in Kirk, as well. The old captain stumbled once, and nearly fell, but quickly righted himself. McCoy saw that it was Spock who flinched when Kirk almost took a tumble. The doctor couldn’t believe he was witnessing a scene that might possibly convince him to secretly believe in the power of love again. Gradually, the distance shortened between them. Soon only ten steps remained between them, then five, then three, two, one…
“T’hy’la!” Both Spock and Kirk exclaimed, carefully embracing each other in the midst of the lonely New Vulcan desert. Their two human and one Vulcan audience silently watched the happy reunion, touched by the sincerity evident in both parties.
“I thought I’d lost my chance to see you,” Kirk cried, caressing his bondmate’s face.
Spock closed his eyes, leaning into the familiar touch. “You came back for me during my time,” the Vulcan whispered. “Jim.” The human buried his face in the Vulcan’s chest and released all of his emotion in choked sobs. Spock held him for a bit before making a suggestion. “Here, ashaya, let us sit.” Spock anticipated Jim’s shaky legs giving out, and he carefully eased his bondmate into a sitting position on the desert floor.
“Spock.” The Vulcan pulled Jim into his lap, and wrapped his arms around him. Their forefingers easily sought the comfort of their mates. “I’m so sorry I took the Nexus mission,” Kirk gasped out. “I was wrong to leave you in the hospital.”
“Do not concern yourself with that now. I understand why you did. I was dead to you.”
Jim twisted around to face his bondmate. They locked eyes, and finally Jim felt free of this burden he’d carried for so many decades. His lips automatically sought Spock’s and they shared a soft kiss. They rested their foreheads together, and Spock’s right hand snuck up to Jim’s face to perform a light meld. Both human and Vulcan alike shared an expression of absolute ecstasy as their minds brushed and Spock gently repaired the damage their bond had withstood when Kirk had entered the Nexus. They came out of the meld, breathing hard.
“You are still very beautiful to me at this age, Jim,” Spock declared, feeling his bondmate’s worrisome doubt.
Kirk laughed with pure delight.
He hadn’t felt this confident and alive since he’d entered the Nexus. Nothing about this moment was replicated – not the jagged desert landscape, the flecks of sand nestling in his hair, or the whining whistle of the wind as it encircled their joined forms. There was no illusion in the warmth of Spock’s body pressed to his, or in the strength of the Vulcan’s heartbeat. Their shared tender gaze reignited long dormant feelings of passion within him. James Kirk was surprised, awed even that he could feel this alive in such a weak and aged body. In retrospect, he shouldn’t have been. Reconnecting with the missing part of his soul dulled the aches and pains that came with old age. In fact, if anything, he felt young.
“Still? Spock, you don’t have to flatter me. You know I’m already yours forever.”
“Oh.” The Vulcan feigned confusion. “Then I must inform you of your resemblance to a shriveled old prune. It is fortuitous that I also resemble a prune, as we make a logical couple.”
“What a pair we make! You know, your mind is still the same as it was before,” Kirk said in awe. “I’m only sorry I won’t be around much longer to enjoy it.”
Spock’s eyebrows furrowed. “What do you mean, Jim?”
“I’m rapidly aging thanks to some side effect from being trapped the Nexus. I’ll probably be dead by morning.”
Spock’s eyes softened even more. “It does not matter. I am grateful for one more moment to share with you.”
“But I don’t want to leave you again, not after I just got you back!” Kirk’s hazel eyes pleaded with his bondmate, begging him to understand his sorrow.
“You will not. If you die, then I shall gladly follow you down that path,” the Vulcan proclaimed. “I shall fuse our katras together. Where you go, I go. That is the way it will be.”
“I’m afraid not!” A new voice interrupted. Q appeared in front of the couple, dressed in a sparkling silver robe this time. Spock tensed, ready to protect his mate from a potential threat.
“Captain Kirk, you somehow managed to win our little game,” Q scowled.
“Spock, it’s alright,” Kirk whispered. “He’s not a threat - I know him from the Nexus.”
A dubious Spock relaxed, but only slightly.
“I’m honor bound to let you remain here with your bondmate for the rest of your life, as that was the terms of our agreement,” Q informed them, sounding bored. “Only, you must stay in your ninety year-old form.” Kirk nodded – it made no difference to him now that he had his bondmate’s reassurance. Now they truly could grow old together!
“Thank you, Q,” Kirk said, his expression genuine. “You have truly given me happiness here with Spock.”
“Humans and their obsession with romantic love,” Q said in disgust. “It is a strange concept.”
“It is indeed,” Spock agreed, pulling his mate close. “I must offer my thanks as well, for keeping my bonded safe.”
“Yes, well… it’s been enlightening.” The alien turned up his nose at them. “I believe I prefer Captain Picard – I think I’ll go bug him for awhile. See you around, Kirk.”
Q bid them farewell. He disappeared without a trace, leaving the young Enterprise crew members to wonder if they’d just imagined the whole thing.
“Well, that was strange,” Jim commented, exchanging glances with his Spock and McCoy.
That was when the ambassador realized he had yet to acknowledge their young counterparts. “Greetings, Jim and Spock.” He held up the ta’al with his right hand, with his left still securely holding on to his bondmate. “It is good to see you again.”
“I apologize for the short notice, but I am afraid my bondmate and I have need of your shuttle.” The Ambassador’s eyes twinkled with mischief as he glanced back at his eager bondmate. “Do you mind if we use it for the next few days?”
“Not at all.” Jim smiled and winked at his Spock, who blushed green. “Just go easy on him,” he said, nodding at the old Kirk. “He’s not quite used to being ninety yet.”
“I shall endeavor to do so,” Spock said seriously. “The re-establishment of our link will help.”
Dr. McCoy helped Spock move James back towards the Pleasure Slave, an apt name for the vessel as it would house the elder Spock and Kirk’s pon farr. While McCoy went to get them situated, Jim was left alone outside with his Spock.
“So…” Jim began.
“So what, Jim?” Spock observed that his captain’s neck was drenched in his own sweat. The salty smell was most appealing to his senses.
“I was just trying to start conversation!” Kirk glared at his First. “You know, sometimes I think you’re being obtuse on purpose.”
Spock tried to look innocent, but he didn’t fool Jim for a second. “Perhaps I am.”
Jim nodded, his expression growing wistful. “Great job stealing the ship and everything. I’m glad we were able to get those two together. They really mean a lot to each other.”
“Indeed.” The Vulcan and his captain locked gazes. Jim decided just to go for it, as there would be no better time. McCoy would join them soon, and he wanted to ask Spock about this in private.
“Spock, what do you think about us?” He said in a rush. “Do you think we might possibly-”
“Just because they were bonded does not mean that we must be or even should be,” the Vulcan interrupted, afraid of where this conversation was headed. His posture grew stiff again. “After all, we are from different universes.”
“It’s still us, though,” Jim insisted. “Although we’ve had different life experiences, our souls are just the same as theirs.”
“Tell me you don’t want this, and I’ll never bring it up again,” Jim said, his eyes fierce.
Spock said nothing.
“That’s what I thought.” A small smirk materialized on the captain’s face.
“It would be illogical,” Spock said softly.
“The nature of love itself is illogical,” Jim countered. “All I’m asking is for you to give it a try – give us a try.”
“But Vulcan law-”
“Screw Vulcan law! You’re human too.”
Spock couldn’t argue with him there. “Our friendship may suffer.”
“Our friendship will only grow stronger,” Jim corrected him. “I won’t stop being your friend if we’re f-”
Spock cut him off. “I believe I get the point.”
“So you’ll give it a try?”
“Give me your hand,” was Spock’s response. Kirk did, and they pressed their palms together, completing the circuit. A pleasant current shot through their arms, giving them just a taste of what they could share as a bonded couple.
“Most agreeable,” said the Vulcan. “You would be content with just me as your mate?”
“Uhh, hello!” Jim shot him an are-you-kidding-me? look. “You’re smart as balls and you don’t put up with my bullshit. You also share my asphyxiation kink and distaste for xenophobes. Best of all, you’ve got the nicest ass in the ‘fleet. What’s not to love?”
But Spock knew from their hand contact that he meant far more to Jim than his offhanded comments might suggest.
Kirk nodded. “It’s what I want more than anything,” he added in a whisper barely discernable to Vulcan ears.
“Very well.” A tiny smile graced Spock’s lips. “If you are certain, then it would be illogical to deny what is between us. Do you believe in destiny?”
The human looked back at their shuttle, where the elder Kirk and Spock were undoubtedly quelling the fires of pon farr together.
“I believe in choice.” And Spock chose to kiss Jim right then and there, the human way. Their lips gently brushed each other, as they began to acquaint themselves. Jim’s hands came up to cup Spock’s head, sealing their mouths together.
As the kiss grew heated, Jim and Spock were so wrapped up in each other that they did not notice McCoy exiting the ship.
“Hey Jim, since the lovebirds are using the shuttle I brought us some camping supplies…” He trailed off, shocked by the blatant public display of affection between his captain and commander. The doctor took one look at the embracing couple, blanched, and quickly averted his eyes. From the looks of it, he was intruding on something that was meant to be extremely private.
Finally! He thought. But did it have to happen when I have no way of avoiding them? Knowing Jim, he’d probably planned it that way. Still, he wished his friend had given him some advance notice. Since he’d only brought one tent for them from the shuttle, where was he supposed to sleep tonight? He was stuck in the desert with two pairs of twitterpated Kirks and Spocks, and there was no place for him to go to escape the love fest.
Shaking his head in exasperation, McCoy couldn’t prevent a slight smile from surfacing on his lips as he watched Spock pin Jim against a large boulder.