Though the experience of opening his eyes to find himself in a location other than that which he had reclined himself in order to rest would have once alarmed him, he realized that he felt no such anxiety.
He did not recognize the ceiling – it was of a much smoother construction that his new home on a planet that could never have truly passed for his home, not really. But he had made due with it. He had no choice in that time but to endure in a universe that was not his own, around friends that were not his friends, around the people he knew yet did not know, and near his father who was not his father. He knew them all deeply, but he did not know them at all.
They were all so close, and despite that nearness he could not help but feel a longing, an emptiness. He missed his friends.
He missed his family.
He did not know how long he gazed up at the ceiling. Time seemed to remain still. But sound still reached him. Footsteps. Light footsteps appraoched his reclined form in a cadence he had not heard in what seemed like an entire lifetime. He lifted his head from the pillow, only a that moment realizing that he did indeed lie on a bed. He looked at the open doorway through which he expected to see the one responsible for the those footsteps at any moment. He never felt disappointment.
Even though her hair no longer shined with the shade of blonde that he most remembered, and there were lines by her eyes and mouth, he immediately knew her face. She had smiled much in her life. She smiled at him now. It still held the same welcoming affection with which he had grown accustomed from her.
This was all wrong. Christine Chapel had been put to rest many years ago. How could she be here, at his bedside? He shifted, trying to look around the room in which he had awakened. She gently touched his shoulder and pushed him down again. “You need to rest, Mister Spock,” she half-heartedly advised. “You’re probably experiencing a little stiffness in your limbs.” He watched as her eyes shone with tears. “It will pass soon.” She blinked and her smile struggled to remain amidst the tear-streaks.
Her claim proved correct. In an unexpectedly short time, he regained control of his arms. He reached out as he had so long ago, and touched his finger to a lingering droplet on her cheek. “Your face is wet,” he repeated the words he’d said to her then. But her response did not repeat as his words.
She smiled again, though this time she did not struggle to produce it. “You’ve lifted the souls of so many,” she whispered.
Christine Chapel had never spoken very cryptically before. Why had she started now? “I do not understand,” he admitted.
She nodded before stepping away from his bedside. “Come through that door when you’re ready, Mister Spock.” Then, she turned and walked through the doorway through which she’d entered the room.
It took him several minutes to control the majority of his body movements, but in time he managed to sit up. He knew his location. The layout of the room had made it obvious, and the bland colors sparked his memory of a place he had not seen in seemingly countless decades. He had been reclining on a bed in Sickbay aboard the Enterprise.
Or at the very least aboard a ship that strongly resembled the Enterprise.
Slowly, he managed to stand, expecting to hear his weary bones protest but they did not. They obeyed him. He turned to face the sterile-white bed from which he’d just stood.
“I should have known.”
“Known what? What should you have known?”
“Jim…This simple feeling…” his own, much younger voice, sounded in the empty room.
He could almost see the others around the bed as they had been then. He could almost feel the warmth, the soothing affection pouring into him from his captain’s hand clasped around his own. But when he looked down at his hand, there was no one holding his reassuringly. There was only him in the room.
He did not like this silence in which he now stood. Christine had directed him to the doorway, and so he slowly walked in that direction. He stopped as he caught his own reflection in a mirror mounted on a wall. The face staring back at him was aged, certainly, but the sickliness had vanished, his tiredness absent in his features, his burdens gone. He had become used to seeing his flaws and pains that he had forgotten what he looked like without them. The sight was not an unwelcome one, just an unexpected one.
As he passed through the doorway, he had expected to be still in Sickbay, but his suroundings did not follow his expectations. He quickly looked around and quickly realized where he stood. In his quarters aboard the Enterprise. But not his quarters during his later missions, when he had already been promoted to captain. These were his quarters when he had been the first officer to Captain James T. Kirk. He looked about, his gaze settling quickly on a familiar multilayered board.
“I’ll have you checkmated your next move.”
“Have I ever mentioned you play a very irritating game of chess, Mister Spock?”
The voice he had only heard preserved in his memory echoed in his mind. He ran his fingertips fondly over the pieces, not his own, but the side that his friend had preferred to control when they had played. He studied the board, touching pieces here and there in fond remembrance of the countless matches he had both won and lost against his captain.
The terminal on his desk spoke in a familiar yet unfamliar way. “How do you feel?” Startled, he turned to face it, his fingers that had lingered on the king not lifting away from the piece quickly enough. The King fell to the board, defeated. The words flashed at him on the screen. How do you feel? He stared at the four perplexing words as he had in his past. He still could not answer the question.
“What is it, Spock?”
He knew that voice. He had longed to hear it again for so long, and he never thought he would have the chance. “Mother,” he exhaled the word.
Her dressed swished gently as she walked. It had always been a sound he had associated with her. She stopped when she reached his side. However, that would never be enough. He needed to see her. He turned, faced her directly, and stood before her. She had barely changed since the last time he had seen her. Except her eyes. They had always contained boundless, limitless amounts of love for him, or they had contained frustrated tears – usually due to the strain she had been forced to endure because of a disagreement between her husband and son. Now, as he searched her eyes for answers, a habit from his childhood, he saw both in the depths of her eyes. He could see himself in her eyes from their shimmering tears, but even through that, her overwhelming love for him dominated her expression.
She said nothing as she cupped his cheek with her smaller hand. His mother had always had delicate hands, but they had carried strength one would not have expected by their structure. Tenderly, she stroked his cheekbone with her thumb. Then, she smiled at him. “Oh, Spock,” she sobbed the words, but the sound was not one of grief.
He reached for her then, mirroring her gesture and making certain that her tears did not fall far from her eyes. “Do not weep, Mother,” he urged her.
“Spock,” she whispered so quietly he almost did not hear her. “Do you know why you are here?” He shook his head. He did not have even have the full or partial knowledge of where here actually meant. She reached for him to rest her hand over his heart in his right side. “You have touched so many hearts so deeply,” she said, “in ways you may not yet understand or ever know. And because of that, you will live in the hearts you’ve touched in others, and it will comfort them that you are here now. That your pain has been healed. One day, they will understand and find peace.”
He was beginning to suspect something he did not wish to acknolwedge yet. It could not be so. Yet, if it were not true, how was it that he stood with his mother, who had long since left him? Unbidden, words she had said to him during the retraining of his mind came to him.
“The good of the one – you – was more important to them.”
He looked away from his mother. This could not be real.
“Because the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.”
Yet, it became more and more real by the instant. He shook his head to stop his thoughts from progressing too quickly, to keep them under control. “Don’t hide what you are feeling,” Amanda Grayson told her son. “Let that part of you come through,” she repeated words she had once said to him before. “As my son, you have them.”
He allowed himself a barely audible sigh.
“You entered my heart the moment I saw you for the first time.” She tilted his head up so that she could find his eyes with her shining ones. “And ever since that day, you never left it.” He understood what she didn’t say – that he did not leave her even past her own natural days. “And you never will.”
“Mother,” he sighed, blinking away his own tears determinedly.
When he had succeeded, and his own vision cleared, Amanda Grayson had vanished from his quarters. He looked through his rooms for her, but she had gone. There was nothing more for him to do. He did not believe that his quarters were his destination. This could not be the place where he was meant to remain, no matter how familiar. He strode to the door, his footsteps surer now than they had been previously. The doors hissed as they parted, and he stepped through them.
He froze as he took in his new location. Though his vision had been non-existent at the time, by the time Jim had arrived here, he would be able to recognize the place. It was the Warp Core section of the Enterprise. An Enterprise. He had been on several versions of that fine ship, but this one – this sleek, refitted vessel – he considered his home.
An image took shape before him as he gazed at the clear transparent aluminum walls and doors. It was himself, the only one trapped on the other side of the clear bulkheads. On his current side of the division was the crumbled form of his captain – at the time Admiral – James T. Kirk. He watched himself plant his ravaged hand against the transparent aluminum. “Live long and prosper,’ he said through a failing voice.
“No,” had been his captain’s, his dear friend’s response.
“I never thought I’d want to work on another warp engine again after that day,” said a man from behind him, in an accented voice he would never be able to forget.
“Mister Scott,” he greeted the unusually solemn engineer, who nodded slowly, gravely, at him.
“Aye, laddie.” Normally, and in days long past, he would have protested the term. But he had no desire to do so then. Montgomery Scott looked back at the now empty area near the warp core. “Do you know what I realized though?” He shook his head, knowing the Scotsman did not require an answer. “If I didn’t touch an engine again, especially a warp core,” he said as he looked directly at him. “Then I would be dishonorin’ your memory and your sacrifice.”
“You are an exceptional engineer,” he agreed.
Scotty glared playfully at him. “Aye, so I’ve been told.”
“By many, I am certain,” he continued to banter with the human.
“By hundreds, thousands maybe,” he confirmed, smiling, almost proudly. He had wanted to join in Scotty’s prideful smile, but the chance fled when the man’s solemnity returned. “I never expected to see you so soon, lad.”
“Nor did I.”
Mister Scott nodded to himself, before he forced himself to smile in joviality. “I’ve still got some aged malt whiskey – unopened. We should have a wee snit of it to mark the occasion.”
He did not try to conceal the tiniesy lift of one corner of his mouth. “Lead the way, Mister Scott,” he requested, following the man away from the warp core, his eyes trained on the man’s feet ahead of him.
He should have known that the moment Mister Scott walked through the doors, he would disappear, but he did not think it. Scotty had always defied the laws of phsycis. There was no reason why the engineer’s will should not defy them in this unknown place where rules did not seem to exist.
He looked up at the sound of a glass shattering on the deck. The look of shock and devastation he saw on the face of the man before him caused his own eyes to moisten involuntarily. He heard his own pulse pounding as he looked upon this man, a man he had known for many years and still not enough of them. “You’ve damaged your glass, Admiral—”
The other man’s gravelly voice cut him off. “You think I give a damn about that, right now, you green-blooded—” He stopped abruptly as his face twisted in pain. Before he could say anything else, he found the other man’s thin and frail body slam into his with a surprising amount of strength.
“Doctor,” he began.
“Shut up!” Leonard McCoy snapped into his chest. He obeyed the harsh command, but did not protest the doctor’s tight embrace. Even with the man’s face buried against his chest, he still could make out his words. “You’re early.”
“I was unaware that I had a designated time, Doctor,” he admitted.
Just as abruptly as he’d hugged him, McCoy pulled away and turned his back to him. “We all have a designated time,” he said quietly. He followed, determined not to let this particular friend out of his sight. If need be, he would prevent him from going through any doorway.
He gazed around the room that looked to be McCoy’s personal quarters, at least what he could recall of the layout. He had not had many occasions to enter the doctor’s rooms, he thought with regret. McCoy didn’t even bother to clean up the shattered glass and spilled liquid from the floor. He went straight to the cabinet in the wall to bring out two extra glasses and a hefty bottle of what he knew to be Saurian Brandy – their captain’s favorite. McCoy filled both glasses and handed one out to him. “Might as well make this official,” he grumbled. He didn’t even wait for a response before he tipped his glass back hard, swallowing the majority of it in one go. He merely sipped from his own glass. The doctor lowered himself into a chair without once taking his eyes off of him, like he couldn’t believe what he saw before him. “I guess it’s you and me, now, hmm?”
He could only nod in reply.
McCoy set his now empty glass on the desk in front of him. “Listen, Spock,” he said as he began to refill his glass. “You’d think after everything we’ve been through we’d be able to talk about some things, but—”
He decided to finish the thought with his own. “It appears that some things do not change with time.”
McCoy’s tension evaproated, and he flashed his charming smile at his old friend. “Isn’t that the truth?” he drawled, raising his refilled glass and then taking another long sip from it. He stared compassionately at him. The doctor’s often hidden compassion was always a trait that Spock had to actively search to find, concealed as it often was by cynicism and contradictory words, but it was one of his preferred qualities of his long-absent friend. “Since we both aren’t the best talkers, what do you think of a different kind of communication?” He did not understand. His confusion must have been apparent. “Is your Vulcan mind-voodoo still kickin’?”
Surely McCoy did not truly mean that. It was only his own hope that caused him to interpret his old friend’s words. He defaulted to his familiar though rusty style of response to the doctor. “Vulcans do not engage in activities such as—”
In normal exchanges like this, McCoy would have shouted at him in frustration. To his own surprise, he only smiled and leaned back in his chair. “I meant, Spock, do you know if you can still mind-meld?”
He saw no reason as to why he should be unable to enter into a mind-meld. “You wish to join minds, Doctor?” The unexpected request filled him with a warm satisfaction. The only times that McCoy had been a participant in a mind-meld had been two incidents involving himself – one of which was an alternate, bearded version of himself – and both had not given him a choice in the matter. He looked at the man making this astounding request, stunned that he would be comfortable enough with him to pose the question. “You are certain that this is what you wish?”
McCoy shook his head. “I’m not sure if it’s a good idea, either,” he confessed, pausing long enough to sip the golden liquid. “But you and I haven’t always been the easiest of conversation partners without Jim.” He shrugged. “Figured this would be the best way to get us talking, don’t you agree?”
He had never thought this prickly human to be a lacking conversation partner. In their missions, they had often traded barbs and argued good-naturedly for the sake of arguing. But there had always been Jim with them – at least in almost all cases – to inform one of them, or both of them, that their playful jabs at each other were about to cross the line between friendly fire and antagonistic. Jim was not here now. It truly was just him and the doctor. “It seems the most efficient and logical approach.”
McCoy nodded sagely. “I’m glad we agree on that, at least.” He nudged the other available chair in his direction, clearly indicating that he should make a move to occupy it. He did. “I want to know everything that you and your pointy-ears have been up to since I had to leave, and there are a few things I just—” He swallowed hard. “—even after all this time, can’t quite say out loud, but I want you to remember.” He grinned and then tapped his temple with his index finger. “Remember?” His fond smile did not fade as those lighter eyes looked into his own. “You owe me one, Vulcan.”
He could not deny that. He reached out his hand towards McCoy’s meld-points on the side of his face. Where the first time he had melded with the doctor, he had administered a neck-pinch, and thus forced the man to accept his katra, he wanted McCoy to have the choice to withdraw at any time. He would not force a meld on this dear friend again. Never again. “My mind to you mind,” he began, hesitantly. As he felt McCoy’s facial muscles relax under his fingertips, his own voice grew steadier. He closed his eyes. “My thoughts to your thoughts.” For both of them, it was as though everything happened at once, the images perfectly preserved in each man’s memory – to be shared with the other.
“Jim, when I feel friendship
for you, I’m ashamed.”
A very young man frutratedly gestured.
“We’re not friends, at all, you hate me.
You marooned me here for mutiny.”
Spock stared down at an irritated
Kirk, who was seated before him.
“My personal business—”
“Is my personal business when it
might interfere with the smooth
operation of this ship,” Spock countered.
Kirk rose. “You think that happened?”
“It could happen.”
“I don’t like anyone meddling in my
private affairs. Not even my second
McCoy knew then it was time to step in.
“Jim, Spock’s simply trying to—”
“I know what he’s trying to do,
and I don’t like it,” Kirk spoke over him.
“It’s his job!” McCoy shouted, then he
stressed, “And you know it.”
This clearly surprised Spock.
“Mutiny? You are not the captain?”
“Does your logic find this fascinating,
Mister Spock?” McCoy asked.
“Fascinating is a word I use for the
unexpected. In this case, I should think
interesting would suffice.”
This very young man shook his head,
in an irritated yet patiently amused
gesture. “No.” He pointed to Spock.
“You’re the captain.”
“A starship also runs on loyalty to one
man, and nothing can replace it or him.”
When the human’s eyes lost the tightness
around them, Spock knew his words had
successfully comforted his captain.
Spock turned around, the torch he held
cast its light on the tired young man
crumbled before him. He did not need
to ask his name. He knew his name the
moment he saw him. “James T. Kirk.”
“You are my superior officer. You
are also my friend. I have been, and
always shall be, yours.”
This Kirk stared in total lack of
comprehension, confusion, and shock.
They sat in front of the fireplace in
Jim’s apartment, surrounded by the
antiques that the Admiral had collected
throughout his life. “Jim,” McCoy said,
“I’m your doctor, and I’m also your friend.
Get back your command. Get it back
before you turn into part of this collection.
Before you really do grow old.”
Kirk just continued to gaze at the fire.
Kirk needed to understand and quickly.
“You alone must take command of your ship.”
Or everything would be lost.
“You came back for me,” Spock needed to
understand and try to put the pieces together.
Kirk kept himself outwardly calm, but his
eyes revealed the deep anxiety he felt within.
When he answered, his voice was steady and
sure. “You would have done the same for me.”
Would he? He did not know that for certain.
“Why would you do this?”
Kirk’s answer came immediately. “Because
the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.”
That did not make sense. Spock turned away,
unable to connect the information he received,
his mind frantically trying to grasp anything he
could recall. He thought of this man, who stood
apart from the rest of the group, who looked at him
worriedly. This man was important to him, deeply.
Profoundly. Then, a phrase ignited his mind. He
tested it hesitantly. “I have been and ever shall be
“Yes,” Kirk answered, then his voice grew stronger.
“Put aside logic. Do what feels right.”
He hoped that his younger self would
learn this faster than he ever had.
McCoy had gone back to help free his trapped leg,
despite his protests. By the time they’d all reached
the interior of the shuttlecraft, and he had given
the order to Mister Scott to take off, he thrust an
angry finger at the doctor. “I told you to lift off!”
“Don’t be a fool, Mister Spock,” McCoy returned
just as heatedly. “We couldn’t leave you out there!”
The images came quickly. “I promised
the Romulans that I would save their
planet.” A blinding explosion. “The
supernova destroyed Romulus.” A small
canister being ejected into the chaos, only
to result in a blackhole that took him far
away from home, and into a universe that
was not his own, yet with painful images
of those he knew but who did not know
him at all. No one to understand his pain,
his guilt, his burden. “Billions of lives
lost, because of me, Jim. Because I failed.”
“It is a depiction from ancient Earth
mythology,” he explained to Valeris,
patiently. “The Expulsion from Paradise.”
“But why keep it in your quarters?”
“It is a reminder to me that all things end.”
“Going back in time changing history…”
Kirk leaned forward, taking in the aged
Vulcan with an intrigued, fond expression.
“Kirk,” Captain Styles’s hardened tone
threatened loudly. “You do this, you’ll
never sit in the captain’s chair again.”
Kirk turned and lowered himself in his
chair, his expression steel as he ordered,
“Who is the keeper of the katra?” the regal
Vulcan priestess asked this group of foreigners
standing before her.
He tried to keep the nervousness from his voice.
“I am. McCoy, Leonard H., son of David.”
Then, the priestess’s gaze pinned him where he
stood. “McCoy, son of David, since thou art
human, we cannot expect thee to fully comprehend
what Sarek has requested. Spock's body lives.
With your approval, we shall use all our powers
to return to his body that which you possess.”
Her voice changed then, into a warning. “But
McCoy, you must now be warned. The danger
to thyself is as grave as the danger to Spock. You
must make the choice.”
They’d come this far, lost so much. If he had to
Be one of those losses, then so be it. He straightened.
“I choose the danger.”
Spock thought back to the Jim Kirk he knew
– so different and yet not at all different
from this younger version before him. He
could not prevent the nostalgia from being
evidently heard in his voice as he replied,
“A trick I learned from an old friend.”
Kirk looked at McCoy, a strange expression
on his face. “Now you’re sounding like Spock.”
McCoy became amused and unimpressed. “If
you’re gonna get nasty, I’m gonna leave.”
It achieved its goal and made Kirk smile.
“Did you defeat him?” his counterpart
questioned. He had hoped that this young
crew would not repeat some of the voyages
from his timeline, but it seemed that
certain foes were an inevitability.
He was distantly aware of being asked
a question. But his mind was elsewhere, on
someone else. “I’ve lost a brother.”
Spock had no idea how he knew before the call
had arrived, but he knew that this reality’s
James T. Kirk had perished far too young.
He staggered on the walkway and threw his arm
to the side to brace himself on the nearby stone
wall. By the time his comm went off, he had been
seated before it awaiting the call he most dreaded
to hear for the last three hours.
Kirk opened the book and began to read.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst
He closed his eyes. “At great cost. Yes.”
“I lost a brother once,” Kirk said, pausing until
Spock opened his eyes to look at him. “I was
lucky I got him back.”
“I thought you said men like us don’t have families.”
He didn’t like to admit to it, but in this case, he did
not mind the correction from McCoy, nor did he
mind amending his previous statement. “I was wrong.”
“Jim, I just lost my planet. I can tell
you I am emotionally compromised.”
That he could even speak was a wonder to McCoy.
“Of my friend I can only say this. Of all the souls
I have encountered in my travels, his was the most—”
He choked on his emotion, but had to finish speaking.
Not for himself, but for Spock. “Human.” Bagpipes
played then. McCoy spoke the words to the tune in
his head as Scotty continued to play the song that
ushered the torpedo casing bearing their dearest friend
away from them. He looked to Jim after the torpedo
disappeared from sight. Jim stared forward, but they
were unseeing, as though his eyes were closed.
“What you must do is get me to show it.”
Spock saw the same veil of determination
come over this his face as it had always
done when Kirk received a mission. For
a man like Kirk, failure was not an option.
He opened his eyes, and saw Jim’s face. He felt the
fierce grip of the man’s hands at his shoulders,
keeping him from slipping into unconsciousness.
“Jim,” he said as he reached up to grasp the human’s
forearm, shaking his captain. Jim understood. He
released his shoulders and brought their hands together
as firmly as the gazes they locked on one another.
“This simple feeling…is beyond V’ger’s comprehension.”
And Jim smiled at him, offering a nod in understanding.
Spock answered his younger self’s
question, trying not to laugh at him.
The reason why he had not come aboard
the Enterprise himself to explain the
situation was obvious. But then he recalled
that those in this reality were far younger
than he had ever been by the time he had
served with Jim Kirk and Leonard McCoy.
Perhaps the answer seemed only obvious to him.
“Because you needed each other.”
Taking a step forward Spock asked, “Where
would you estimate we belong Miss Keeler?”
The speed in which she answered surprised
Him. “You, at his side, as if you’ve always
been there and always will.”
And thus, he chose to enlighten himself. “I could
not deprive you of the revelation of all that you could
The flames in the firepit crackled and the
atmosphere between the three of them was
contemplative. McCoy shifted position.
“It’s a mystery to me what draws us together.
All that time in space, getting on each other's
nerves.” A smile grew on his face. “And
what do we do when shore leave comes around?
We spend it together.”
“…of a friendship that will define you
both, in ways you cannot yet realize.”
“They were humanitarians and statesmen,” Kirk
spoke, his passion for what he said growing with
each second. “And they had a dream, a dream
that became a reality and spread throughout the
stars. A dream that made Mister Spock and me
Garth clapped his hands together once before
quickly making his way around the table to stand
in front of his two guests. “Mister Spock, you
consider yourself and Captain Kirk brothers?”
“Captain Kirk speaks somewhat figuratively and
with undue emotion,” Spock replied smoothly.
“However, what he says is logical, and I do, in fact,
agree with it.”
“You’re coming with us, right?” Jim’s
alternate self asked him hopefully.
“Course heading captain?” Chekov asked.
He watched from the observation balcony
as James T. Kirk received the rank of captain
at an age far younger than the Jim with whom
he had grown so close. He did not attend, he
was not even certain if he would have been
permitted on the lower levels. But this
observationbalcony had been accessible. Jim
shook hands with the wheelchair-bound
Christopher Pike, then turned to face those he
would very likely come to captain as members
of his crew. He only swept his gaze over the
gatehred crowd once before his surprisingly blue
eyes looked high and found him at the balcony rail.
Spock felt a an ache in his side as he realized that
both Jim Kirks had identical smiles. “Thrusters on
full,” he muttered, allowing himself to imagine being
on the bridge again, but knowing he never would be.
Kirk did not answer Chekov immediately.
“Second star to the right,” he said finally,
taking a deep breath, then permitting a
bittersweet smile. “And straight on til morning.”
He did not wish to say the words, but he had
to do so. “No Jim, that is not my destiny.”
Jim turned back to gaze out at the newly forming
planet. McCoy watched him closely. Only seconds
had passed, but in that time, it seemed that Jim could
not bring himself to speak, as though he struggled to
voice every word. “It’s a far, fer better thing I do
than I have ever done before. A far…better resting
place I go to than I have ever known.”
“I have been—”
“I've always known I'll die alone.”
“—and always shall be—”
“I’m gonna tell you something that I never thought
I’d hear myself say, but it seems I’ve missed you.
And I don’t know if I can stand to lose you again.”
He withdrew from their meld to discover that his fingertips were wet with Doctor McCoy’s tears. Silence reigned between them until it seemed stifling. Then, a choking sob tore free from McCoy’s throat, “Damnit, Jim.” He swiped his knuckles along his eyes until he became comfortable enough to look up at him. “All of that happened in the reality you were living?”
“Yes, Doctor,” he confirmed.
“And Jim, he—”
He knew what McCoy couldn’t say aloud. “But our counterparts saved him.”
McCoy pulled his bottom lip between his teeth, worrying it. He looked decidedly uncomfortable. “You know, Spock, I – uh – I never…All those years knowing each other, going planetside on missions, and all the scrapes and trouble we got into.”
He inclined his head graciously. “I believe the majority of our incidents resulting in capture were due to the Captain.”
McCoy grinned. “No statistics this time?”
He shook his head. “They no longer matter.”
The human nodded. “It’s just not normally like you to ignore specific figures like that.”
He agreed, but there remained a significant factor. “Our current situation is not normal.”
McCoy scoffed, then smiled. “Maybe not for you, Spock, but this has been my normal now for many years.” At the mention of time he grew somber. “Well, what I was trying to say just then was ‘Thank you.’”
He did not consciously raise his eyebrow. “For what, Doctor?”
“For all those times you saved my life.”
He searched for a trace of sarcasm. None presented. He nodded in acceptance of McCoy’s gratitude. “You are welcome.” He swallowed, unaccustomed still in the words he wished to say to this man, one of his dearest friends, even after all this time. “I would have placed my medical care in no one else’s hands but your own.”
When he looked at the man, and noticed his eyes welling with tears, he knew that Doctor McCoy understood. “Who’s going to keep Jim in line, then, with both of us gone?”
He could not answer. He would not answer.
McCoy stood from his chair then and threw on a light jacket. “You coming along?”
Where would they go? Every time he had gone through a doorway he lost his companions. “It’s okay, Spock,” McCoy said gently. “I’m not going anywhere. The others didn’t stay with you because they knew you would want to see everyone that departed before you. But the difference with me is, I have something to show you.”
He stood and followed Doctor McCoy, fully expecting the man to vanish as soon as he stepped through the doors that led into the corridor. The path was not entirely familiar anymore, but it was certainly reassuring to be there aboard the Enterprise. They reached the door for the turbolift. McCoy called it and they waited in silence for it to arrive, but it was a comfortable silence. His longtime friend rubbbed the ring that encircled his left pinky finger. It had been a habit McCoy had developed later in his life, but he remembered it as something the man would do when he could not decide if he should say something or not. He looked down at the base of the door of the turbolift, though from the corner of his eye he could see McCoy still rubbing his ring. McCoy stopped only after several moments of his observing the action. Apparently, he had come to a decision.
“Isn’t it strange how one person you know can change the way your life will go?” he asked, in a hushed tone nearly too soft to hear.
Before he could answer, the turbolift door slid open. Even after over one century, he could not conceal his shock and complete speechlessness when he saw the male awaiting him on the turbolift. He had never expected to see him again, or specifically this version of him.
“My son,” his father, Sarek of Vulcan, said softly. He closed his eyes, allowing the sound of his father’s voice to wash over him like the warm rains that very rarely fell on the Vulcan Colony. “Spock,” Sarek breathed his child’s name as though he could not believe that Spock stood before him. Sarek reached out his hand to him. He ignored the arm extended to him, and instead reacted in the emotional way that Doctor McCoy had met his arrival. Spock came forward and embraced his father tightly. He did not care if his father reciprocated the gesture or not. He let his head fall forward into Sarek’s shoulder, slowly inhaling the scent of his father that he had not genuinely experienced. The alternate Sarek was not the same. There were subtle differences, but noticable enough to him to remind him that the younger Sarek could never be his father. But this Sarek was his father, he sounded like him, he carried his scent, and he looked like the father he remembered. He had missed him terribly.
He stiffened when Sarek encircled him in his arms and held him against his body, repeating his son’s actions and breathing in his child’s distinct scent. “Welcome home, my son.”
Had Sarek not spoken, he would not have remembered how distasteful his father had found such openly demonstrative displays offensive and inappropriate. The other version of Sarek chose to be much freer in his actions and speech. Summoning what little now existed of his Vulcan control, he steeled his face into stoicism, stepped back, and raised his hand in the ta’al, as his true father would have expected. Since the destruction of Vulcan, the alternate version of Sarek had relaxed his rigid following of Vulcan tradition. He suspected it had been due to the loss of his beloved wife so early, but he had never confirmed it. “Live long and prosper, Father.”
Sarek did not raise the ta’al, nor did he give the proper verbal response. His father’s words stunned him. “You have successfully done both.” He stepped back a pace in the turbolift. “Come with me.” His gaze slid to McCoy. “You also, Doctor, if you would.”
He only realized after the turbolift began to move that no one had given it a destination. It was pre-programmed? Or it simply did not need instructions fed into it. “Where are we going?” he asked, unconcerned if Sarek or McCoy chose to answer him.
“To observe a reality,” Sarek answered.
He stared ahead as the turbolift came to a halt, uncertain as to what he should anticipate on the other side of the doors. He did not wish to face this. He closed his eyes just as the turbolift doors hissed open. He did not move. But when a hand gently touched his arm, he started. “It’s okay, Spock,” McCoy assured him gently. “You are the reason we’re all here.”
He turned to look at McCoy. “Where?”
McCoy’s smile was wet with emotion. “Where we belong.” He nodded to the open turbolift doors. Finally, Spock turned to look.
The bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise was different than he one he and the doctor had spent their years. It was sleeker, brighter, smoother. McCoy led him out of the turbolift by his elbow, leaving Sarek of Vulcan behind within. Spock didn’t even hear the door closing after they entered the bridge. There were crew members he did not know, but there were also some very familiar faces to be seen. Working at a station to their left stood the version of Montgomery Scott that he had met on the frozen surface of Delta Vega. He looked much different, much less ragged, and closer to the Scotsman he had known during his service aboard a ship with this name. It must be the bright red shirt he wore now as Chief Engineer.
Spock swept his gaze through the bridge, searching for another familiar figure who wore red while on bridge duty. He found her quickly. Nyota Uhura, with her receiver in her ear and her attention focused on her duties. She seemed much more delicate that the woman whose station had been adjacent to his own. He fleetingly wondered if she sang.
“Is that Chekov?” McCoy asked, as he brought the two of them a little further onto the bridge. Spock realized that no one on the bridge could hear them speaking. It both comforted and discomforted him.
“I believe so. He is at the appropriate station and he looks remarkably young in comparison to the majority of the crew.”
McCoy scowled at him. “He looks like he’s twelve, Spock.”
Spock chuckled softly. “We are all very young in this reality, and you and I are considerably older than these officers.”
McCoy nodded at the man who could only be Sulu. “He’s found his spot already too.”
“They all have.”
McCoy looked around the bridge. They were coming around behind the captain’s chair, but the man standing just forward and to the right of that seat was a man McCoy could make a guess on his identity. “Is that?” He looked at the rank stripes on the sleeves. Lieutenant Commander. That lined up. Tense posture. That supported it. Then he saw it. The brown-haired, blue-shirted man bore a ring on his left pinky finger. Everything else didn’t necessarily indicate the man as his counterpart. But the presence of a ring on that finger was all of the proof he needed. “That’s me.”
“Indeed, Doctor,” Spock confirmed.
“Was I ever that young?”
“I am certain that at one point in our lives, we were all that young.” Spock noticed that the younger versions of the familiar bridge crew conducted their duties in silence, not a sound was heard. No beeping, no whispering, no conversation. Silence. He did not understand the reason for this. He supposed that in their circumstances, they moved about other worlds as nothing more than ghosts. A silent bridge under the command of James T. Kirk made Spock uneasy.
But McCoy was still transfixed by his counterpart. “But we weren’t on the same ship yet. Not for years.”
“You forget the circumstances surrounding this reality. It is because of my presence that our other selves have been promoted at younger ages. Many members of Starfleet perished when they responded to the distress signal from Vulcan. Even my people are now endangered because of Nero’s attack and destruction of the planet. I have altered destinies, lives, paths others were meant to tread, and extinguished some lives that should not have ever ended.”
McCoy stared at Spock in concern. Then, he gestured about the bridge. “But without you, do you think we all would have ended up on the bridge together like this in this reality? I’d bet the rest of that brandy I have in my quarters that we wouldn’t have all found each other if you hadn’t been here.”
In her seat, Uhura turned toward the viewscreen and said something McCoy and Spock could not hear. But she looked directly to the center of the room. McCoy and Spock followed her gaze to the center chair and the young man seated there.
“Good God,” McCoy muttered aloud. “That can’t be—”
Spock nodded. “James T. Kirk.”
“Can’t believe they gave him captain at that age.”
Spock laughed in the back of his throat and allowed McCoy to lead them to stand directly in front of the captain’s chair. “And you believed that our own Jim had been promoted young.”
“He was.” McCoy stared in disbelief at the much younger Captain Kirk. He could see some of their Jim in his counterpart, the way he sat in that chair, his easy comfort in command, the way he flung one leg up over the other as he sat. The way he fiddled but didn’t actually activate any of the control on the chair. He could see a great deal of the Kirk he knew, his essence, but on the outside, this Kirk just seemed so very young. He looked back at Spock and saw the obvious fondness in his eyes. “You like them, don’t you?”
Spock, no longer mindful of maintaining Vulcan stoicism with his very human companion, did not hide his doting smile as he looked at the counterparts of the bridge crew with whom he and McCoy had served long ago. “Having spent some time with them, particularly with my alternate self, your counterpart, and this younger Jim, I have come to think of them as something akin to family.”
McCoy’s eyebrows rose. The human had not been expecting that. “Oh? Any sort of familial relationship in particular?” Spock had been about to answer him when the younger captain spoke.
“Spock,” Kirk called from the center chair. “Come up here. This is probably for you more than me anyway. Send it to my comms padd, Uhura.”
Spock wondered why they could now suddenly hear their counterparts, but he did not dwell on it. He watched his own counterpart leave his science station and come to stand to the right of the captain’s chair. It had been his own preferred place on another bridge in another time. At his elbow, McCoy laughed through his nose. “Well, this is a little more familiar.” McCoy’s younger self had come around to the left of the captain’s chair, a place McCoy had often lingered aboard their own Enterprise, mostly because Spock had claimed Kirk’s right side. Many times, they left it as an unwritten and unspoken agreement. McCoy’s attention roamed over the picture that the three younger versions of the captain, the doctor, and the scientist made as a whole. Spock’s gaze stayed with the young Captain Kirk, who held his padd in both hands, tilting it to get a better angle for himself, smiling to himself in his joyful mood.
A hint of confusion registered in his browline. Spock watched his blue eyes go back to the beginning and reread it. As Jim’s smile slowly disappeared, Spock knew precisely what information the padd contained. When Jim slowly brought his hand to wrap around the younger Spock’s forearm gently, supportively, he knew for certain. “Spock,” Jim whispered, barely able to find his voice.
The younger, more volatile version of McCoy snatched the captain’s padd from his slack grip and scanned over the information quickly. Unlike Jim, he had only to read it once before the hardened, cynical aura evaporated into compassion. “Oh, Jim,” he sighed.
Spock looked down at Jim’s hand curled around his arm curiously. “Captain?”
Jim stared straight ahead of him, and for a moment Spock believed that he could see them. But by the pure shock plain on Jim’s face, he knew that the man was likely seeing very little in actuality. His eyes were open, but he saw nothing. He tilted his head back a little bit, but it was enough for him to have met Spock’s eyes had Jim truly been capable of seeing him. McCoy had grown still at his side. He had to have figured out what his younger self had also read on Jim’s padd. McCoy was always perceptive of other’s emotions, for all of his cantankerous behavior and words, Spock knew that Doctor Leonard McCoy remained a man of intense compassion. A tear ran down Jim’s cheek that he did not bother to brush away. “They just found out, didn’t they, Spock?” McCoy asked him.
Spock could not answer this time. He watched as the young Jim before him lowered his head for only long enough to furiously blink his tears from his eyes. Spock saw them fall regardless. Jim looked up at his Vulcan crewmember, at his Spock. “Spock,” Jim choked on the name.
The young Vulcan did not wait for Jim to recover. He held out his hand towards the human on the other side of the chair. “Doctor, please give me the padd.”
“No,” Jim wept, grabbing the padd from the younger McCoy and clutching it desperately to his own chest. Spock watched as his grip on his first officer’s arm tightened. He knew why. Jim wanted to be certain that his Spock was there at his side. “Spock,” he sobbed.
To his surprise, his counterpart lowered himself to his knees at the side of the command chair. “Captain,” he started, but then amended his word choice as the blonde flinched. “Jim, what has occurred?”
Jim lifted his head just enough to see his second in command’s face. Tears poured from his eyes, but he ignored them. The first time he tried to speak, he only sobbed. The second time he tried, he choked. Finally, he managed three succinct words. “Grandfather Spock’s gone.” It was like saying the words made it true for Jim. He did not attempt to contain his grief, no matter what he sounded like or looked like.
Spock looked at the chief medical officer, who’d planted a firm supportive hand on Jim’s shaking shoulder. The younger McCoy only nodded at Spock. It was enough. Spock brought his attention back to his young aggrieved captain. Jim’s grip on Spock’s arm had tightened until his fingers barely seemed to have color. Surely Spock was in discomfort or even pain, but he did nothing to attempt to dislodge Jim’s hold on him. Instead, Spock rested his free hand over Jim’s, not squeezing or applying pressure. Simply there with him. “Jim,” Spock said softly. “S’ti th’laktra.”
The McCoy at his elbow asked, “What’s that – Vulcan?”
“Well, what the hell’d he say?”
“He said, ‘I grieve with thee.’” Spock noticed his own vision beginning to blur. But it was not because of his counterpart’s actions, or his sentiments. What caused his eyes to moisten was that Jim had looked at Spock with such open and vulnerable emotion and obvious gratitude. The younger Spock did not wait for a verbal response from his captain. He simply nodded and tightened his loose grip around Jim’s hand.
Spock and McCoy watched their younger selves grieve with Jim for an immeasurable amount of time in silence. The three companions gathered around the captain’s chair did not often speak to each other, but they took comfort by each other’s supportive presence. Other members of the bridge crew were also quietly saddened by the news received by the captain, yet they did not try to disturb the fragile balance between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy and they did not ask any of the three for help in anything at that time. After quite some time had passed, McCoy glanced at him from the corner of his eye. “So, Grandfather Spock, hmm? You care to explain that?”
“It is quite simple, Doctor,” Spock began. “When I arrived in this reality, and encountered this Jim Kirk, I made him aware of my identity. Later, after he had met this universe’s Sarek of Vulcan, Jim had concluded that I am, in fact, older than my counterpart’s father. He then proclaimed me Grandfather Spock.”
McCoy whistled. “You’re getting lax in your old age for allowing it,” he grumbled.
Spock narrowed his eyes at McCoy. “I permitted him to address me as such under one condition.”
McCoy crossed his arms over his chest. “And that was?”
“That I would be at liberty to designate him, or anyone else who considered me their Grandfather Spock, as my Grandchildren.”
“You can’t be serious,” he drawled.
“As you should be well-aware, Doctor, that Vulcans do not joke.”
McCoy started to laugh. “You let Jim call you Grandfather Spock?”
McCoy pointed to the grieving Jim. “And he let you call him—”
McCoy had opened his mouth but his younger counterpart had begun to speak to his human friend, and McCoy was very interested in the similarities between him and his other self. The younger McCoy had gone to stand beside the younger Spock. The three men made a triangle, the rationale and gut-instincts at the base, and the compassion and empathy at the pinnacle today. “Jim, I was thinking,” the younger McCoy said, his voice lowered in solemnity, “that he’s really not dead, you know.” As Jim craned his neck to look up at his friend, and seemed about to argue that, McCoy continued steadily, “As long as we remember him.”
Renewed tears fell from Jim Kirk’s eyes. “Thank you, Bones.” McCoy squeezed Jim’s shoulder. Jim reached up and curled his hand around McCoy’s forearm like he had to Spock’s. He held on to the support of his two friends until his tears began to slow, but he didn’t release his grip on his friends – as though fearing that if he did, they might disappear from his side. With his face still streaked with the remnants of his tears, and the rawness of his emotion, Jim offered his friends a brittle smile.
The captain turned his head to the forward viewscreen. He knew that Jim could not see him, but his position in front of the younger man had placed him in such a location that Jim would have made direct eye contact had he truly stood before the young captain. Spock knew though, that Jim looked out at the stars, seeking their comfort or inspiration, or maybe trying to find the newest glow in the heavens. Jim could not know that he was already looking directly at that. He gazed at the stars, at Spock, long enough that the younger McCoy and Spock, arms still held by their captain’s grip, also lifted their eyes to the stars ahead. Jim drew in a long breath and summoned from the depths of his soul the inevitable, though reluctantly admitted, acceptance. A small smile broke through his tears. “Sleep well, my dear friend.”
They would be okay, he knew. This ship’s crew that is not the one he had known was still so much like that which he left behind. Spock concluded that he had become proud of them, of these familiar alternate faces, of his honorary family, both for who they are and who they would become. He knew just by watching them that they would be kind to one another, and that they would make the world a better place.
But that would not keep him from looking in on them occasionally.