Disclaimer: Not mine, more's the pity.
Summary: When the Enterprise is asked to transport Vulcan colonists to their new home, Spock Prime comes with them. His presence changes everything – even the things Jim isn’t sure he wants to change.
By: Ragdoll / Keshka
Summary: Confrontations and unexpected meetings.
It took some doing to sneak down to the passenger quarters relatively undetected. This was one meeting for which he wanted no witnesses. Especially if it resulted, as he thought it might, in the death of a certain infuriating Vulcan ambassador. He tried not to feel like an intruder with a bulls-eye painted on his back as he lurked through the corridors of his own ship like a thief in the night.
When he finally arrived at Spock-Solkar-Spock-whatever’s quarters, he reached out angrily to stab the door buzzer, then paused as something occurred to him. Redirecting his hand, he tapped the button above the ringer, hooking in to the computer terminal.
“Computer, location of ship’s passenger T’Sai.”
“Passenger T’Sai is located on deck eleven, cargo bay four.”
He had a momentary thought about why a child would be in one of the cargo bays but quickly shrugged it off. There were maintenance and engineering crew all through there. If she got into something she wasn’t supposed to, they’d handle it. He had more important fish to fry.
He jabbed the door buzzer firmly, but couldn’t help jumping when it swung open almost immediately.
He had to give it to the old guy; the man really knew how to time his exits. Entrances.
They stared at each other over the threshold of the doorway, and Jim wondered if the other man had known he’d come here, because there was no sign of surprise in that face, not even a raised eyebrow.
Right, so that’s how he wanted to play it, did he? Thought Jim didn’t know the crap he’d pulled with that mind – thing, did he?
He opened his mouth to say something deceptively polite (the better to lure him into a false sense of security with) – how’s the weather look on your new colony, what rock did you find your new name hidden under, how can you expect Spock not to figure who you are if you’re on the same blasted ship he is – but what actually came out was, “Take it back.”
“I beg your pardon?” Gray-white eyebrows swept upward in a classically impassive Vulcan look of surprise.
“Whatever you did, whatever you scrambled in my brain, or what – whatever you left behind, take it back. I don’t want it.”
“I’m not certain I understand, Jim –“
“Just take it back!”
“I cannot take back anything if I remain ignorant as to what it is you are referring.”
Jim glared at him, sorely tempted to punch him in his irritating, puzzled, one-hundred-and-thirty-plus-years-old nose. “You did something to me on Delta Vega. That mind thing, when you touched my face, you – “
The heavy thud of a booted foot mis-stepping and coming down hard on the carpeted floor cut him off in mid-tirade. They both turned like puppets, to regard the openly curious, questioning countenance of his first officer, frozen in the act of striding toward them. Jim had a fleeting thought that he’d entered some sort of twilight zone where everything he did resulted in things spiraling even further into perilous disaster (wait, no, that was his regular life). Then he slipped seamlessly and automatically into recovery mode, straightened up decisively, and opened his mouth with absolutely no idea of what he was going to say.
“I mean – that’s, that can’t have been you on Delta Vega, can it? Wow, that’s weird. So anyway, it looks like I’ve taken up enough of your time, Solkar, I’ll just catch up with you another time about the – about your views on Vulcans’ new colony – which, by the way, I hear is going just great –“
“Jim,” the Ambassador interrupted, and Jim shut up before his mouth tripped over itself. “It is all right. My younger self is – quite aware of who I am.”
Jim gaped at him, absolutely flummoxed. What?! “What?”
“I took advantage of the opportunity to speak to him just before the Enterprise left Earth some weeks ago. It was – an interesting conversation.”
“But – you –“
“I implied to you that there would be some form of temporal catastrophe if you should mention my existence to my counterpart – yes.”
“Implied? I seem to remember –“
“I am aware of your efforts to conceal the nature of your return to the Enterprise, and am grateful for your dedication to your word. But it will no longer be necessary.”
“Now wait just a damn minute –“
“Perhaps this is a conversation better joined in private,” the older man suggested, gesturing inward with his arm, a sweeping move that gathered up both the sputtering Kirk and the frozen Spock, watching the by-play in fascination.
Sullen, Jim stomped into the modest quarters, followed closely by his first officer, and scrambled to marshal his arguments in the small ensuing silence.
“What,” he gritted snidely as the outer door shut behind the three of them (two of them? one of him, two of them? God, this was awkward), “was the point in getting me to keep my mouth shut when you fully intended to reveal yourself anyway? Do you have any idea what I had to do to convince Spock – not you, the other one – the younger one – this Spock, first officer Spock –“
He gesticulated wildly, stabbing his finger toward the blue-clad Vulcan emphatically. “Spock! What it took for me to convince him I knew what the hell I was talking about?”
“I have some idea,” the Ambassador said dryly, observing his antics with what looked suspiciously like amusement. “And interestingly enough, my younger self posed a similar question to me upon our first meeting. And I will tell you what I told him then: the mission could only have been completed by the two of you finding a way to work together, in the same manner I once worked with my captain. And I have always had great faith in your – persuasive abilities, James Kirk.” Were those solemn eyes twinkling at him?
Incensed, he glared at them, certain that both Spocks could be held accountable for this. Somehow. “Well, that’s just great. Who the hell else knows now? The entire Enterprise bridge crew? Starfleet?”
“No. We three in this room are the only other beings currently living in this universe to know the truth of my existence.”
Well, that made him feel a little bit better, at least. A very little. “Great. Fine. All right then, since we’re all in the know, the hell with the rest of that conversation, and back to my original concerns. Take it back.”
“Jim, if you would explain to me what it is you wish me to take back, I shall do so – assuming it is possible.”
Casting a wary glance at his science officer, whose absolute silence was beginning to make him nervous, he hesitated, wondering by that frozen visage if he was about to commit some political faux pas by even talking about this. What the hell did he know about the telepathic customs of Vulcans? Maybe the entire thing was like some species-wide cultural taboo. “On that planet, when you were – explaining to me who Nero was, who you were, and why you were here. You touched my face, did a mind – thing, meld. Whatever. It’s – whatever you did, I need you to take it back. I can’t keep tripping myself up every time one of your memories jumps up and bites me.”
“What?” Both Spock’s spoke loudly, identical expressions of alarm on their faces. Jim fought down the insane desire to laugh.
“I don’t know the first thing about Vulcan mind whammies, but I know when things are real and when they aren’t. Believe me, I’ve gotten drunk enough times to tell the difference. And whatever you left behind in my head is screwing up my sense of reality so badly that I can’t trust myself to talk to anyone without checking first that they’re the person I think they are. Look, I’m not angry – okay, no, I’m pissed, but before we get into that maybe you could just, oh, I don’t know, fix this before it drives me up the damn wall?”
The Ambassador’s face bore a very peculiar expression of fascination and doubt. "Do you mean to say that you are experiencing episodes of memory overlay? Situations where your perceptions of reality seem to differ from the established facts?”
“Yes! Yes. It’s like I keep getting lost in a dream – like the weirdest sense of déjà vu you can imagine. It’s driving me crazy – so do me a favor and make it go away.”
“Captain,” the younger Spock interrupted, and they both turned to look at him, having conveniently forgotten he was there. “I am uncertain as to the reasons behind your delusional episodes, but they cannot be the residual effects of touching minds with a Vulcan. The mind meld simply does not work in the way you are implying.”
“I don’t care if you don’t think it works the way it’s working Spock – because it is! You shouldn’t even be part of this conversation, you’re not the one who reached into my brain and fried it –“
“Jim.” And maybe he was experiencing more of those altered perceptions of reality, because being caught in a debate on the merits of inter-species telepathic contact with two versions of the same person had to be the most bizarre situation he’d found himself in to date. And considering Nero and the events leading to his captaincy, he had a lot to pull from. He turned to regard the older Spock.
“Ignore him, all right?” He said, tossing a thumb in his First’s general direction. “Believe me when I tell you that no matter how far-out this sounds, that is exactly how this meld thing is working.”
“Jim,” the elder said, spreading his hands in a curiously Human gesture of helplessness. “We touched only briefly to transfer an enormous amount of data in a timely fashion. There should have been few, if any, residual effects –“
“Then tell me how I know things about people that I shouldn’t know,” Jim demanded, growing angry. “Tell me why sometimes when I look at my crew I don’t see their faces as they are now but how they’ll look years, decades, from now. How I know that Chekov has a ridiculous love affair with claiming all things Russian, or that Sulu will be a captain of his own someday. Tell my why I’m absolutely certain Uhura has a great singing voice – even though I’ve never heard her sing! Or how I know Scotty either has, or is in the process of collecting, an enormous stash of illegal hooch that I’m going to help him horde away and that we’ll laugh about for years to come.”
“Or how –“ his voice petered out momentarily and he had to take a shaky breath to continue, “how when I went to message my brother Sam the news about my promotion, all I could think about, all I could see, was him lying dead on the ground, with his wife Aurelan next to him. And how sometimes when I look at you, either of you, and think about what you said, about friendship, I feel like my heart is about to pound its way out of my chest, like every cell in my body is burning from the inside out, and I think – no, I know – that I’m dying, or that I’m dead, or that I know what it is to die –“
Hands on his face, gentle hands, and wizened eyes staring into his, and a sudden calm, projected overtop of his growing panic, a panic he hadn’t even allowed himself to look at until just now, confronted as he was with the depth of the crisis plaguing him. This was a problem he didn’t know how to deal with, which couldn’t be controlled with Starship weaponry, diplomacy, or his own indomitable will. He didn’t want to feel as though he was dying every time he looked at Spock, either Spock, in an unguarded moment. He didn’t want to feel like old age was waiting for him around every corner. He still had his life to live, his own life that he wanted untouched by these ghosts from a future that would never be his. The Ambassador had to take it back; make it stop.
“I thought I was imagining things,” Jim rasped out, needing to impart some sort of understanding, even though his own clarity of thought escaped him. “These past weeks – I couldn’t tell Bones. What could I say? That I was seeing things, hearing voices? They’ve taken away command from people for less. I thought it was the result of some – I don’t know, lack of sleep, excess of drink, bad trip – whatever. It wouldn’t be the first time. I thought of a thousand things to explain it, each one more stupid than the last. But it’s not any of those things, is it? It’s real. This is all – very real.”
“Yes,” the other murmured to him, nothing but compassion in his eyes, his voice. “These things that you have seen, the dreams that come to you – they are real.”
“I can’t live like this,” Jim said thinly, pressing his eyes tightly closed. “This isn’t my life. Take it back.”
“Yes,” the elder said to him, fingers lying in a comforting, cradling path along both sides of his face, and Jim had to close his eyes on the relief that leapt into him, lest he have an unintended emotional breakdown in front of his First, still frozen and silent somewhere off to the side. That would have been too embarrassing for words. “Relax Jim. Be easy. Be calm. I will take it back.”
It was an impossible feeling to describe for a Human, for whom mental contact was as foreign as green blood and pointed ears. At first Jim was alone in his head, only his own thoughts to guide him, and then there was another, flowing toward him and around him, the same other that had touched him so easily on that planet of ice. And Jim was initially wary, and then grateful, very grateful for this one moment in time when he could let go of this seemingly impossible dilemma and allow someone else to worry about it.
That feeling wasn’t him, he thought absently in the tempest of activity crowding his mind; that sudden bliss at handing over control, abdicating responsibility, that wasn’t him. It was an aberration, brought on by the surrealism of this experience, of having hidden his own worries even from himself these past weeks. He thrived on the challenge of living down to other people's expectations; he would never truly want to be without control of his own life. So it was especially strange to feel just slightly – liberated – at the notion that for a few timeless moments in the meld (oh, he thought, that is what it’s called), he could stop fighting, stop pushing. Stop determinedly not-caring about admonitions from tired mothers, or disappointment from long-dead fathers. Stop blocking all those voices in his head that assured him he shouldn't bother trying, that he wasn't fast enough, or good enough –
Easy, the presence whispered to him, like liquid honey dipped in heat, sweet and untroubled and pure. Easy Jim, old friend; dear one. You have always been good enough. More than good enough. And your father would be proud of you.
If he’d been in his physical body, Jim would have pulled back immediately; thrown up every defensive shield he had, hid behind sarcasm, biting wit, disdain and anger. But there was nowhere to hide in the meld, and no will to try and find such a place. There could be no falsehoods here. Whoever else he might doubt, whoever might flatter his ego without meaning the words, Spock meant them – the Spock who’d known him in another life, who knew him now so intimately in this life, and believed, in a way that was impossible to fake, that he was worth something. Worth – everything.
If it was possible to cringe on the inside, where no one but wandering telepaths could see it, Jim tried not to do that. He wasn’t that person. He didn’t crave the approval of others; he didn’t need to be patted on the back for a job well done. He was his own person, and he needed no one. And that was the way he liked it.
Such pain, my T’hy’la. Such doubt in yourself. I can only hope that one day, soon, my stubborn counterpart sees that which burns inside you, what I saw in my own beloved captain. Be still now, and allow me to undo what I have done.
The meld stretched endlessly, relative time falling away until Jim had no idea of how long he basked in the presence of such unconditional acceptance as he’d never known before, a brilliant radiance of affection and, yes, love, that he never would have suspected lay beneath any Vulcan exterior.
Whatever else might come after, the future he’d never have, or the one stretched out before him, he had this moment to carry him through it, this instant in time where he knew, above all else, that he was cherished.
And the best part was that, being as it was conducted entirely in the privacy of their two minds, he need not ever admit to having it; thus, his image as the hard-ass, loose-lipped Starfleet Captain was completely safe. Hallelujah.
Watching that powerful mind at work was like seeing events happen from beneath the thin surface of a lake. Everything seemed very muffled as he observed the determined presence run mental fingers through the points in their memories that lay connected, separating them with care, as an experienced jeweler might separate shards of crystal into unique piles of gemstones. The process seemed long, but it could have been anywhere from seconds to hours. It had only taken them a few minutes last time to convey all the information that needed to be told, with an additional side dish of unexpected transference. Now Jim watched as, in reverse, information that shouldn’t be his was removed, and he had a fleeting thought that he hoped this Spock knew what he was doing, or his already alcohol-patchy memory was going to be seriously screwed up.
It is not as difficult as it might seem, Jim, the thought floated to him from one part of that vast consciousness, while most of the rest of it continued with its work. There is a certain texture, you might call it a flavor, to the thoughts and feelings of one mind when compared to another. The process of removing my – contamination – from your memories is relatively simple. I need only scan it for evidence of my own thought patterns, which are quite familiar to me, and then separate them from your own.
That was easy? Jim considered that. Hell, if this was easy, he wondered what a Vulcan with this much experience and discipline under his belt might consider hard.
The equivalent of mental laughter buoyed him up, and it was such a strangely compelling and fascinating sensation that he couldn’t help but be drawn to it, watching the proceedings with greater interest.
When at last it seemed done, he felt the older man taking one last look, like someone sweeping their hand over a blanket to smooth out all visible wrinkles, and then he began to withdraw. Jim surprised himself by stumbling – in his completely inept, Human way – after him, some part of him distantly not wanting this all-encompassing contact to end.
The presence paused in silent contemplation, then touched him, and there was the sensation that time was almost physical. No, it was physical – it was the feeling of aged hands on his face, of his own eyes opening, regarding the other, the last of their connection fading away – and stretching between the two of them was a very pivotal and revealing moment of a horribly keen sense of loss.
Jim had never before had a chance to appreciate how terribly lonely it could be inside his own head.
“Captain? Captain, are you all right?”
The wrinkled hands fell away, moist with the sweat that beaded Jim’s brow. He struggled not to reach up and wipe the stickiness away. Somehow in the face of this unimagined ache of solitude it seemed a terrible vulnerability to show even one more sign of weakness.
He turned to his First, who had asked the question and was even now watching them intently. His hands were raised as though he wasn’t sure whether it would be wiser to interfere or to let events run their course.
“Fine, Mr. Spock,” Jim said wearily, and forced himself not to look at the older counterpart, just beginning to step back into his own composure. “I’m fine.”
“Fine is, by its very definition, an inexact and unacceptable descriptor, Captain.”
Jim rolled his eyes, wondering if Spock had done that on purpose, because the irritation centered him where uselessly kind and pedantic words wouldn’t have. “All right Spock, I’m great, I’m grand, I’m just dandy. Does that satisfy your need for verbal correctness?”
“Somewhat, sir. May I ask what happened?”
That was a good question; that was a ‘just dandy’ question. Jim turned to the older Spock, letting his inquiring expression speak for him.
The other smiled at them both, a small smile to be sure, but nonetheless startling. “It appears that I made an error in my original estimation about the level of information I transferred to you during our last meld. In my haste, it seems I accidentally left behind – traces… perhaps it would be more accurate to say, shadows, of memory that did not belong to you, Jim, but rather, to another man I once knew who bore your name.” They watched as he paused a moment, closing his eyes in contemplation.
“I have never before heard of an instance quite like this. Transferring memories from the mind of one man into the mind of the same man – although years younger – has never been tried, to my knowledge. Due to impossibility, of course. I have no doubt the experience was quite disconcerting for you – I imagine it could be likened to feeling as though your sense of self was being subsumed in another.”
Jim frowned. “But – I thought the memories I was seeing came from your mind.”
“To some extent they did, Jim, but not in the way you believe. The problem seems to stem primarily from the fact that in melding us, I appear to have inadvertently given you access to memories from – you. Rather, your other self.”
“You melded with my – er – counterpart, in your timeline?” Jim demanded, not at all sure what feelings that thought was spawning, but certain that he didn’t like any of them. Surely that wasn’t envy eating away at him?
“Of course,” the elder said, looking contemplative and, in a word, wistful. “Many times. Often in the line of duty, but not always. We shared a vivid connection, which resulted in my carrying the memories that have caused you such trouble. We were – very close.”
“I can see that,” Jim muttered, thinking that for him to rely on another man enough to entrust them with his memories would take a very great deal of ‘closeness’.
“I cannot,” his First interrupted, and if Jim didn’t know better he’d say that the man looked on the verge of – anger. A very powerful anger, from the looks of it. “It is highly uncommon for Vulcans to meld with others outside of dire emergencies or familial relation. What you are suggesting is in direct violation of the Vulcan tenants of privacy regarding telepathic contact with psi-null species –“
“That would be true,” his other self agreed, “But as I said, James Kirk and I were very close. If it is more acceptable to you to think of it in that fashion, you may consider that he and I were the equivalent – with all that the definition and distinction entails – of family.”
His First was struck speechless; even his mouth gaped open just slightly, and Jim had to stifle the urge to laugh. He imagined that insulting the man now might never be forgiven, considering the very personal nature of the conversation taking place here. Spock had no one to blame but himself for his astonishment – if he hadn’t been eavesdropping around the corner he’d never have even heard them talking –
That brought Jim up short. “What are you doing here, anyway?” He demanded, eyeing his First in irritation. “What were you doing in that corridor? I specifically left you in command of the bridge today.”
The younger man turned to him, looking the height of Vulcan irritation. “I was – concerned at your abrupt transfer of command this morning, Captain. I contacted Dr. McCoy to ascertain whether he had been given any information on your absence, and he was singularly uninformative on the matter. I inquired with the computer as to your location, and ascertained from the response that you were intending to see to a matter pertaining to one of our guests. Since you have appointed me responsible for relations with the current contingent of passengers, I thought it only fitting that I should be made aware of any difficulty involving them. I see now that my assumption was correct.”
“Oh?” Jim said dryly, wishing he could imitate that eyebrow maneuver to better mock the seriousness of his First’s facial expression. “Expecting to find this, were you? Vulcan mind melds and all?”
“I admit that that has caught me somewhat off guard,” Spock said stiffly, and turned to regard his older self with an implacable expression. "Please explain how and why you deemed it necessary to initiate such a – foreign – experience with my captain, which has so obviously resulted in danger to him. I assume that this took place before his rank was made official.”
“Indeed,” the Ambassador said, watching the by-play between them with acute interest. Jim told himself that squirming beneath his gaze was juvenile, and to stop it at once. “I had been, at the time, a stranded inhabitant on Delta Vega when your captain, in a similar circumstance, was driven into my cave by a wild animal that would likely have devoured him if not for my interference. Not, I am forced to point out, one of your more logical decisions, Spock.”
The younger man, looking chastened, lowered his eyes in deference. “At the time, it seemed the only acceptable alternative. The ship was at high alert, and Mr. Kirk was on the verge of mutiny. I had thought to put the safety of the crew, and their united efforts, before the safety of an individual.”
“Then I suppose we must all be thankful that your reasoning resulted in the serendipitous meeting between Jim and myself that has since led us here. Doubtless, it would have been quite an ignoble end for our friend if that creature had managed to catch him for the dinner it so obviously desired. Nevertheless, in answer to your question, after ascertaining the identity of the individual I had saved, it became apparent to me that something was very wrong with the timeline I currently found myself in, and the most expedient method of communication that lay between us was, of course, the meld. Time was of the essence. It seemed prudent at that moment. But I see now that in my haste I have placed the safety of your captain in jeopardy. For that, James Kirk, I offer my most sincere apologies.”
Startled to be addressed in the ongoing conversation between these two men (and to be honest, he’d been a bit distracted comparing the two of them as they spoke; he was almost disturbed by the similarity of their speech patterns), Jim looked at the older Vulcan, askance. He found that, inexplicably, the anger that had driven him here so forcefully was – not gone, but severely diminished. “Oh. Well, I get the feeling jeopardy is going to be a fairly familiar state for me by the time my command of the Enterprise is over. Don’t worry about it.”
The older man inclined his head at this easy forgiveness, and Jim locked eyes with the younger one, noting the two eyebrows raised in a show of surprise. “Fascinating,” his First said, looking again to his other self. “His acceptance of both your explanation and of the meld seems atypical of normal Human behavior. Can you explain?”
The Ambassador considered them both. “No, Spock, I am afraid any explanation I could give you would be too flawed for accurate comparison. I have never understood certain aspects of the unique personality of James Kirk, certainly not well enough to describe its many nuances to another; not even to my younger self. That will simply be something you will have to discover on your own, in time.”
The two Starfleet officers eyed each other, both in dubious contemplation, and each could see similar thoughts running through the other. Discover personality quirks between them? Possible. But assuming things didn’t change – unlikely.
“In any case, I have removed the remaining fragments of memory from your mind, Captain Kirk, and you are again yourself, free of outside influence. It seems that my presence aboard ship for the last few days has been aggravating the condition; if you were more aware of it since my arrival, that likely accounts for it. I hope you do not let this experience cloud your expectation of future communications in this fashion. It was my own unique form of – clumsiness – which led to your unfortunate discomfort.”
“Like I said, don’t worry about it. The need was pressing, and –“ he hesitated, wondering if he should perhaps keep the next bit to himself or maybe just share it at another time when his First wasn’t listening to his every word, but oh, the hell with it, “I found the experience – fascinating, to coin a phrase.”
“Indeed.” The Ambassador inclined his head, but he wasn’t looking at Jim, and the captain glanced over to see his science officer regarding him with a look that, on any other, might be termed astonishment. “In that case Captain, I will bid you good morning, as it is still quite early, and invite you to join me tomorrow night for dinner. I find that, seeing as circumstances appear to be conspiring to throw us together, we may as well make the best of the situation. And… I wish to be certain that when it comes to the end of this short voyage I will retain, to borrow a Human phrase, ‘no regrets’ about my actions for the duration of it.” He turned to Spock. “You are welcome to join us, my younger self, though you may find the experience somewhat – disorienting.”
“No,” Spock said, blinking solemnly. “No, but thank you. I must decline.”
“Very well. Tomorrow, Jim?”
“Tomorrow,” Jim agreed, wondering what he was getting himself into, and he and his First let themselves out, both of them staring at the elder’s door as it shut quietly in their faces, finding themselves alone in the corridor beyond.
Oh, Jim thought, realizing that this now left him and his First alone together in the corridor. Oh, damn.
“Well, Mr. Spock, I think that’s enough excitement for one night, ah, morning, don’t you?” He tried to edge his way down the corridor towards the turbolift, but Spock was having none of it and stepped directly into his path of flight before he could make a run for it.
“Indeed Captain. I am wholly prepared for a quiet conversation between us that will hopefully entail none of your usual ‘excitement’.”
“Conversation?” Jim asked weakly, wondering what Spock would do if he turned tail and ran as fast as his legs would carry him in the opposite direction. Probably tackle him to the ground and sit on him with his superior strength until Jim conceded and agreed to tell him everything. Either that, or security showed up, and somehow he thought they might be more apt to believe in Spock’s innocence than his. What was the ship coming to when a captain couldn’t even rely on his own security force to believe him over his second in command?
Jim sighed. “Alright, Spock,” he said, resigned. “Lead the way.”
The way, it seemed, was not, as Jim had expected, the nearest private airlock or open public doorway. Instead it was down the corridor and up the turbolift three decks to the crew quarters, when he was escorted (frog marched) to the first door of the single occupancy rooms and motioned inside after Spock keyed in his access code. The code itself Jim secretly filed away in case of emergency, or if he ever needed it to pull a particularly cunning prank. And it would have to be cunning to have a snowball’s chance in hell of pulling one over on Spock.
Abruptly distracted at the notion of getting to see a place he wasn’t sure anyone on this ship had ever been privy to (maybe not even Uhura), he trotted inside, looking around with interest as he did. The room was mostly bare, he was disappointed to note, but there were several ornate looking statues of what Jim assumed were historical or mythological figures from Vulcan’s ancient past. For a moment, the thought of all that history wiped away with the loss of Vulcan, the monumental destruction of not just a race of people but an ideology, a way of life, struck him very suddenly and very hard.
Had he ever even expressed to Spock his condolences over the loss of his entire race? Had he apologized for his part in the, ultimately necessary, plot to remove Spock from command of this ship? He couldn’t remember. He didn’t think so. Turning, he saw Spock key the door closed and open his mouth to speak, and suddenly it was very important for Jim to be able to say this first.
“I’m sorry,” he blurted, before he could think better of it. Spock looked at him blankly, obviously having no idea what he was referring to, and Jim backpedaled, reorganizing his thoughts.
“I mean – about your planet – about Vulcan, your mother, that scene on the bridge when… I didn’t mean it, you know. I know that you care about the fate of your species, that you’d have traded yourself in an instant if it would have saved even a fraction more people down on your planet.” God, he was babbling; he didn’t even know what he was saying, he just knew he had to saying something.
Spock looked like he was at a loss over what to say also. “Captain – Jim – it is all right, it –“
“No, Spock, of course it isn’t. It isn’t all right. But I just needed to tell you – I just needed you to know that… of course I knew everything I was saying on the bridge was bullshit. Of course you care. Of course your species matters to you. And,” he paused, aware that this topic was highly volatile, and as likely to get him killed as not. “And of course your mother mattered to you. I know that you loved her. Very much.”
Spock stared at him, utterly without words, and he’d never seen his First look so uncomfortable in his own skin, not even after he’d nearly strangled Jim to death on the Enterprise bridge. He waited on tenterhooks, ready to dodge to the right quickly if an unexpected fist should swing his way, and ready to offer more words of explanation if they seemed necessary.
“I –“ Spock blinked, closing his mouth, then dropped his eyes and took a deep, cleansing breath. Jim was sorry to have put him in such an emotional state, but not as sorry as he’d have felt afterwards thinking about all the words he could have, should have, said to this man.
When Spock opened his eyes again, there was a peace there that Jim could never have anticipated, and the beauty of that quiet, tragic acceptance made his heart ache in unexpected ways. “I thank you,” Spock said softly, looking very grateful indeed. He hesitated, as though debating the merits of saying something further, and Jim tried to give him as encouraging a look as he knew how. “While I appreciate your words, I do have one question.”
“Anything,” Jim promised brashly, and meant it.
“We have not spoken of that – discussion – since the time of its occurrence, and I would like to know – that is, I would be grateful if you could tell me how…”
Utilizing the insight that would no doubt serve him well as Captain in the years to come, Jim intuitively leapt to the reasoning behind Spock’s verbal hesitance. “Since we’ve never talked about it further, how can I know for certain that you loved your mother?”
“Yes,” Spock said softly, gazing at him intently. It made goosebumps break out all over Jim’s arms for no apparent reason. “Quite.”
Jim shrugged, not knowing quite how to explain it in terms a logical Vulcan might understand but – “No one hits someone that hard or that many times for accusing them of something unless it’s either A) completely true or B) completely untrue.”
“And how do you know that it is not –“
“Spock,” Jim said gently, because even he knew better than to be an insensitive ass with his Vulcan first officer’s raw emotions. “You don’t need me to answer that. But, since you asked – I saw you transport down to your planet and put this entire ship at risk of the singularity’s gravitational pull. If that’s not love Spock, then nothing is.”
Rather than be reassured, Spock flushed a pale verdant green, something that Jim watched in utter fascination, and said, “I had not – I knew that we would make it back in time, that the ship was in no immediate danger –“
“Spock, I didn’t say that because I thought you made the wrong decision. I’m telling you because I know you made the right one. I’ve never doubted that you did what you thought was necessary. But do I think it was a decision unmotivated by emotion? No.” He stepped closer, reached out hesitantly for the first time and touched the reticent Vulcan on the shoulder. “Never doubt that you loved her. I know you did. Believe in that, if you ever start to wonder.”
Spock drank in his words as though they were wisdom from the Gods themselves. Jim felt vaguely uncomfortable at being under such sharply devoted scrutiny, but he let that pass. And he didn’t remove his hand.
“I shall attempt to do so, Captain.”
“Jim,” Spock agreed quietly.
“Okay then,” the Human said, taking his hands back and dusting them off as though shaking away the emotions themselves in two quick motions. “Now, time to get down to business; I’m completely bagged after the morning from hell. What did you want to ask me?”
But Spock, gazing at him, didn’t appear to be in any rush to begin an interrogation. He did look thoughtful, but in a sort of internally focused, distracted way.
“I originally intended to ascertain that you were in good health, and that the second meld had not harmed you in any way. However, I think I need not say anything more to you to confirm that.”
“No,” Jim agreed, splaying his hands wide as though to say, ‘no one here but us perfectly healthy chickens’. “I’m definitely all right. Much better, I should say, than how I was yesterday.”
Looking startled, Spock regarded him closely. “How long has this been affecting you, sir?”
Jim rolled his eyes. “Oh God, not you too Spock. Ask Bones if you’re that interested; tell him I said it’s all right for him to discuss it with you. Oh. And while you’re at it, could you do me a huge favor?”
“Ye-ee-s. Uh, when you talk to McCoy, can you give him the bare bones of what the Vulcan mind meld entails, and why I certainly won’t be needing that physical he was threatening to skin me alive with? You know, without mentioning who, exactly, our mutual friend is, in detail.”
“I shall endeavor to explain the situation to Dr. McCoy to his satisfaction without revealing the true identity of my future self.”
“Thanks, Spock. That’s a load off my back. Anything else you wanted to ask me about? This is your last chance. I’m beat.”
Jim rolled his eyes. “Tired, Spock. I’m very tired. And I’m certainly too tired to reiterate the fact that I’m tired. So. Questions?”
“No,” Spock said slowly. “I had wondered what could have motivated my other self to – cultivate such a close familiarity with your counterpart, but… I begin to see that answer without further input from you, Jim. I suggest you return to your quarters and get some rest.”
Was that a compliment, Jim wondered. Was that like the Vulcan equivalent of, I get what he sees in you now?
And that thought was just a little bit scary, and thoroughly enough to make him want to hide his head beneath his pillow. Right about – now.
“All right then. Good night, ah, morning, Mr. Spock.”
“Good morning, Captain.”
The Vulcan watched him go long after Jim had left behind only silence and the blank face of the automatic doors. In the ensuing quiet, Spock had rather the unusual thought that he now had far more questions than he had answers. And somehow he could not remember a time when he had been quite as content to know so little.
End Chapter Three.
A/N: I've noticed a couple people wondering/commenting on the fic like it's complete, so I should just say - it isn't. There are eight chapters in total. *editing as she speaks*