Ragdoll (ragdoll987) wrote,
Ragdoll
ragdoll987

Breaking Points - Chapter Ten

Title: Breaking Points
Author: Ragdoll
Pairing: Kirk/Spock slash (pre-slash), mentions of Spock/Uhura
Rating: PG-13 (eventual NC-17)
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 – and leads to life-altering revelations for Jim and Spock. A story about growth, self-discovery, and new beginnings.

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine

Breaking Points
Chapter Ten

By: Ragdoll / Keshka

Summary: In all endings there are beginnings.


Jim fully intended to inform Spock, at some future point, that in the four hours leading to the Enterprise's arrival at the colony, he’d actually ended up taking two showers (three if you counted the one that hadn’t taken place in the fresher). He filed this vital information away to be shared at the most strikingly appropriate moment possible; maybe on the bridge. During an efficiency drill. While Spock was on ship-wide communication, relaying instructions. Yeah, that could work.

The events in the briefing room were vivid enough to provide an excellent, if momentary, distraction for Jim, but eventually the imminent completion of their mission intruded on his frivolity. He briefly considered not going to see the Vulcans off ship; Spock would already be there, after all, seeing as the passengers were under his purview. But then – there was the Ambassador to consider. In that much, at least, not going had never truly been an option.

He threw on a clean uniform, firmly shoving aside the notion of more formal dress. This situation was going to be tense as it was; the last thing he needed was another reason to feel like his neck was in a noose. Even so, he found that he couldn’t help pacing restlessly as the chronometer counted down the minutes with frustrating lethargy. It occurred to him that his time could have been much more profitably spent (though with a certain lack of, ahem, showering) if he'd allowed himself to be kidnapped again by his chief engineer. Oh well. Scotty was probably not in the best of moods anyway, seeing as Jim had checked his closet not an hour ago and found that his formerly leaning tower of possessions was now scrunched into an enormous and disastrous looking mess at the bottom of said closet. Jim reminded himself to be on the lookout for the hastily planned revenge that was probably already in the midst of being implemented. He just hoped it didn't involve more jefferies tubes.

The Enterprise was right on schedule (a phenomenon he futilely hoped would remain true of all their missions) and twenty minutes before they were due to reach orbit, Jim sent an internal missive to his First – labeled ‘urgent’ – that the captain would see to the Vulcan’s disembarkation, thus freeing Spock of his obligations to them. This rang decidedly of cowardice, especially since a verbal communication would have been easier, but Jim wasn’t too proud to admit that the thought of talking to Spock so soon after The Briefing Room Incident quite literally gave him goosebumps. And that wasn’t taking into account the Ambassador, either, whom his First may or may not be harboring a secret desire to throttle (Jim distinctly remembered that being throttled by the man was an experience that should be avoided). Visions of murder and verbal warfare danced prominently through his mind.

The chaos wasn’t quite as pronounced as it had been the last time Jim frequented the transporter room, but it was a close second. He’d half expected Spock to be present, in spite of his explicitly stated ‘take the night off, that’s an order’, but he wasn’t, and Jim took a moment to be ridiculously grateful for that. Both for his own peace of mind, and for Spock’s, because he once again couldn’t help but wonder what pain would be seething beneath his First’s perfectly composed exterior as he escorted two hundred of his people to the home he wouldn’t be joining them on. At least now he could go lick his wounds (don't think about his tongue, Jim reminded himself petulantly) in peace.

The procession of Vulcans that marched through the transporter room that evening was quite a sight to behold. It would have seemed truly remarkable if the very essence of it didn’t bring home the truth of their unfortunate mission to every Human watching the parade: these people were refugees of a dead world, shuffling with great determination, but little hope, to what would be their new one. Jim was more familiar than most with the particulars of it, and his natural compassion took a hard beating with each new group of faces that came and went. It shamed him to think of how eager he’d been at the start of the mission to see these people gone from his ship.

Some of the Vulcans he knew, some the Ambassador had introduced him to, but for the most part all of the faces that passed did so anonymously. He gave them the courtesy of his full attention and for each one a traditional Vulcan parting (which he was given to understand was the standard only after seeing the first dozen of them do it), except for the salute, which he botched – repeatedly and spectacularly.

"Live long and prosper," he told them, mostly.

"Peace and long life," he said, when the other one got boring. You really had to give the Vulcans credit, he mused. They certainly managed to express, in no greater than four words a piece, what might take Humans an entire conversation to convey.

He might have missed T’Sai altogether if he hadn’t been watching for her; somehow in the intervening stretch of days he’d forgotten just how young she was, and how very small and fragile she appeared. She came with Stolvik, and he wondered for a moment if this was the supposed guardian who’d assigned her punishment for her ‘misbehavior’. Probably better not to know, he reasoned. If he knew, he might be tempted to do something about it.

He broke from his position next to the transporter console to go to her, catching her dark eyes when she turned up to him. He’d already knelt, bringing himself down to her eye-level, before he even considered how ridiculous this must look. Well, too late for it now. And worth it, he reasoned, as he shared a look with her of intensely solemn commiseration, the understanding only survivors could share. Here was a Vulcan child who would grow up understanding that life truly was as breakable, as transient, as the wisps of a dream, or the most fragile thread of glass. And everything that made life worth living, was worth hanging on to, by blood and teeth and unconquerable force of will alone, if that’s what it took.

He wanted to reach out and hug her, but he also didn’t want to embarrass her in front of her companions, those people for whom she tried so hard to maintain her devastating control. But he needn’t have worried. With all the quiet determination of someone graced with a very rare wisdom, she opened her small arms and pulled him close, in a quick but firm hug. He could feel the eyes of everyone in the room cutting into them, but he didn’t care. In fact, the thought of their disapproval spurred him to greater heights of sacrilege (disapproval had a way of doing that to him), and he wrapped his arms around her in turn, gently, squeezing hard once and then releasing her. She pushed him back, at arms length. When he opened his mouth to say something embarrassing, or uplifting, or he didn’t know what else, she shook her head, and the words died, stillborn. In the ensuing silence, she said simply:

“Thank you.”

It could have been 'I am grateful', or it could have been 'I appreciate' – but it wasn't. There were no rote phrases that followed. No scramble for distance. 'Thank you' was raw, and somehow intimate, and also – eminently appropriate. 'Thank you' was something, in that moment, that blended the best parts of Vulcan succinctness with Human freedom in expression.

“Thank you,” he agreed gently, because it might have been 'you're welcome', but it wasn't, and this parting could never have been anything else but a mutual acknowledgment of how they had touched one another. And then he stood, sending only the best of his wishes through the touch of his fingers, and left her to get back to his position next to the control console. He carefully didn’t look at any of the other Vulcans, half because he didn’t want it to seem like he cared what they thought, but also because he was a little afraid of the secrets his face would tell them.

Most of the people that came and went after that were a blur, but he knew when the last of the Vulcans arrived because the Ambassador was with them, and even before he entered the room there seemed to be some sort of energy displacement, like hair raising on that back of his neck, that told Jim he was approaching. Maybe it was instinct, maybe it was just that attunement that seemed to be at the heart of so much of this connection; whatever it was, it dragged Jim sharply away from the pensive state he’d been hovering in. He turned to watch the doorway, waiting.

He was wearing those same black robes, the ones that seemed at once entirely suitable for him and oddly incongruent. Jim couldn’t help but grin as he remembered that each time he’d glimpsed the man in them, something in his own life had shifted unexpectedly; he thought it might be developing into an unhealthy pattern.

He didn’t say anything at first, considering and rejecting about a thousand different catch phrases – anything from ‘don’t make it a desert this time’, to ‘don’t do anything with those elders that I wouldn’t do’, to ‘how about one last Vulcan mind whammy for the road’. All of them were lighthearted, and easy, and safe, and none of them were, of course, appropriate. The only things that might possibly be appropriate, full of honesty and vulnerability all seemed too big - too much.

A part of him rebelled at this absurd paralysis, the inability to reach out – he’d knelt before T’Sai, after all, in front of all and sundry – how could this be any different? But it was different; it was so much harder. How to tell a man who’d literally turned his world on its axis, torn up the parts of himself Jim thought he knew and remade them with his gentle words, and kindly advice, and endless depth of caring… How to tell him what he didn’t even have words to describe: how grateful he was to know him?

He watched as the Ambassador, unhindered by the thoughts racing through Jim’s mind, passed closely in front of him. Aside from the mad urge he had to reach out and just - touch him, confirm that he was actually real one last time before it was too late – Jim found he literally could not think of a single useful thing to say.

Good old James T., he thought to himself. Great at basically everything except telling the people that matter to you, sans bullshit, that you care about them.

Jim watched as Spock, the Spock who had touched his soul in so profound a way, stopped in front of him, coming to an about right face, until he had to crane his head up just slightly to meet the impassive eyes gazing down at him. Uncomfortable, desperately aware of several ensigns and the transporter tech standing behind him, he raised a hand in quiet inquiry, trying to convey through his expression alone how deeply this man had begun to change him.

“Sp –“ he caught himself. “Solkar.” Some private humor flickered through the other at this near breach, and Jim had a moment to wonder if in this other life he might have lived, he’d been the one to teach this Vulcan the necessity of a devilish sense of humor.

Spock reached for him, not in the formal salute, but in a handshake. Like T’Sai, he seemed unafraid to reach for other customs where Vulcan ones fell so very short. They shook once, firmly, but the older man did not let go. Instead, he used the point of contact to pull him closer. Hyper aware of the people stirring with curiosity all around them, Jim forced down the flush that tried to rise in his cheeks. Amusement at his efforts sparked in the Ambassador’s eyes, and Jim had another moment in which to regret the possible sense of humor he may have bestowed on this man, and swear privately to withhold any such impulse in the future. His future, not Spock’s – not this Spock’s future. The other Spock’s future.

Right. Well, someone’s future.

“Some people spend their whole lives searching for greatness and glory, Jim Kirk,” the other said, in a voice pitched only for him. “While some others are simply great, and glory comes to them.” He didn’t point out to which half he thought Jim belonged, but his meaning was more than obvious.

A dozen vulnerable and poignant responses leapt to Jim’s lips, crowding into his throat and numbing it of all possible speech. But the one that finally tumbled out seemed to have no connection at all with his brain.

“Which category do you fall into?” 

The moment he said it, he wanted to take it back.  Shame burned at him, heavy beneath his collar and heavier in his chest. Flippant responses to emotional pressure were a reflex by now – but that was no reason to treat this man to the inappropriate, and undeserved, irreverence that Jim had spent a lifetime accumulating.

But Spock did not seem upset. If anything, the laughter hidden in his eyes brightened even further. “The latter, of course, old friend. You came to me, did you not?”

The choking sensation intensified, and the captain thought he might never understand this kind of faith being gifted to him so freely. Quicksilver filaments of a foreign mind tickled at his own and he dove toward them, reaching for an intimacy beyond this room, this need for verbal good-byes. Spock allowed it, meeting him halfway; not a meld, more a thin string of connection.

Do not be sad for this parting, dear one, the thought drifted into his mind like a ripple in a pond, merging fluidly and with barely a whisper of disturbance. I have known and cherished you in two lives now – and if my journey here has taught me anything, it is that no farewell is permanent. I have satisfied my selfishness and give you now, in gratitude, the greatest gift that I can. The greatest friendship that I have in me, that he has in him, to give you.

Jim opened his mouth to say something hopefully profound, and found he was still without words. So instead, over the pinpoint meeting of their thoughts, he sent everything he’d gathered inside of him in that moment, the wonder, the affection, and the gratitude, spiraling into the other, jumbled together and clumsy, but the closest approximation to a public declaration that he could come to.

If it was possible to send love, a whole lifetime of it somehow acquired in the span of just ten days, bottled up and condensed, that was what Jim did. And the flicker of tender acceptance that floated back to him more than made up for how utterly ridiculous he felt trying to send positive psychic vibrations to his friend.

Then the elder was disengaging their clasped hands and raising his in the traditional salute, fingers separated down the middle. Jim automatically tried to copy him (forgetting his unfortunate attempts from earlier) and ended up with some sort of convoluted hand gesture that he sincerely hoped didn’t mean anything profane, because that could be awkward.

If he noticed Jim’s difficulty, the Ambassador didn’t show it, speaking now in a natural, carrying tone. “I need not wish you long life or prosperity again, Captain Kirk. I believe that you will have them – in the fullness of time.”

“What about peace?” Jim asked, managing to find his voice at last. “You don’t think I could use some well wishes in that area?”

“Perhaps,” the Ambassador agreed. “However, I should point out that if tranquility is what you desire, your choice of career may make this lifestyle – difficult to maintain.”

Jim laughed, feeling some of that wretched tension bleed away, the awful feeling of impending doom fade just slightly.

“So in lieu of my customary farewell, I will simply say to you what I said to a mutual acquaintance of ours, not so long ago. Good luck.” A final projection, barely a whisper of thought, stretched to fill the gap between them, so softly that Jim couldn’t be sure he hadn’t imagined it.

Goodbye, T’hy’la. For now.

“Goodbye,” he said, they said, together. For now.

The elder moved back and away, looking composed for all that he’d just torpedoed about a dozen Vulcan mores, in front of an entire roomful of people. Not moments later he was stationed on the transporter pad, as serene and unruffled as ever.

Jim wasn’t sure where the words bubbled up from. Maybe they were a legacy of the connection that had flared so brightly between them, maybe they lingered from the entwining of their memories, or maybe they just happened to fortuitously pop into his head at that moment, in an ironic echo of their very first meeting on Delta Vega. But as the transporter controls began to whine with the beginnings of dematerialization, Jim found himself stepping forward clumsily, a sudden burst of urgency and rightness singing through him.

“Ambassador,” he said.

The eyes, beginning to whiten with the glow from the transporter field, looked up and caught his own, with an open and enduring expression of perfect trust.

“I have been, and always shall be, your friend,” Jim told him. “In all walks of life – and all those to come.”

Though Jim thought it might just be a trick of the light, he’d be willing to bet with all his intuition behind him that in the last moments before the transporter whisked Spock away to the colony, the Vulcan actually smiled at him, a bright, toothy smile, right there, in full view of anyone who cared to see.

Jim left the transporter room shortly after that, without a word to anyone, and dreamt that night of a friendship that had spanned time and bridged universes. And his own terrible, personal loneliness, so deep that he had cause to wish that the Human solution to grief was half as effective as the Vulcan one.

~*~

They left orbit the next morning, their duties discharged, and headed out for their next assignment. Scotty, free at last to see to the Enterprise without the fracas of two-hundred extra bodies crowding her, began immediately upgrading the engines to his own personal specifications (“only get’n them in simple workin’ order, cap’n”). Jim was rightfully leery of this, being as Admiral Archer’s beagle had still not been found, but he also had a sneaking suspicion that Ambassador Solkar’s, ahem, not-bribery was at least partially responsible for it. He gave Scotty the thumbs up, even going so far as to give him permission to pull from other departments; Jim personally avoided being drafted into helping by a very narrow margin. He was beginning to grow wise to his chief engineer’s tricks, even though the man seemed determined that his captain was more than due for the greasiest, dirtiest maintenance work he could find. Maybe Jim shouldn’t have stacked that pile of junk in his closet quite so high.

But, in the interests of inter-ship peace, the captain gladly (and desperately) gave Scotty a few of his bridge crew, to use as he saw fit. Chekov had not been at all pleased, and Jim told himself that when the kid’s birthday finally came around, he’d make it up to him.

The following week was very odd for Jim. He wasn’t exactly pining for the friend he’d left behind, but he wasn’t being blasé about the separation either. What he noted most was how strangely awkward he felt now that the shockingly natural routine that had settled between him and the Ambassador – the dinners in the evening, the candid conversations – had disappeared. It didn’t make any sense, really, considering the small amount of time he’d had to settle into that routine, but there it was, all the same.

The end of the workweek was a welcome relief. He was slumped against the inside wall of a turbolift, heading for his quarters for a quick change of clothes before he went hunting for Bones, when serendipity crashed into him, quite literally, and not for the first time, in the form of his first officer. Jim hadn’t straightened up when the turbolift came to a smooth stop to pick up a second passenger, but he did jerk in surprise when the even, almost-but-not-quite reproachful tone of his First reached his ears.

“Good evening, Captain.”

“Spock,” he said blankly, thrown. He and Spock hadn’t been avoiding each other – that would be rather difficult seeing as they worked the same bridge shift, and Spock was, after all, second in command of the Enterprise. But they certainly hadn’t gone out of their way to make any overtures, either, both of their (or Jim’s, at least) thoughts firmly not focused on the events of a week ago. This was the first chance they’d had to speak outside of duty in that time, and of course, it just had to take place in a confined, closed in, completely private space.

Where was a massive intergalactic incident when you needed one?

The turbolift doors swished closed behind his First, but neither of them made any move for the controls, and the silence was so thick Jim doubted he could have waded through it with an environmental suit.

“Um,” he said, (intelligently, he thought), “where are you headed?”

The Vulcan seemed to realize belatedly that he had, indeed, been heading somewhere, and reached out with an unnaturally stiff motion to key in a destination. “It is my habit to take a late meal on the days my scientific duties occupy me past the more regular dinner hour. In general I prefer to dine in private, but for the sake of expediency I had thought to visit the mess hall before returning to my quarters for a rest period.”

“You seemed to like the pasta the other night well enough,” Jim said, as the lift began to move. He was a little disappointed that Spock’s voice gave no indication of discomfort, or something else, at their unexpected solitude, though that pause when he’d first seen the Human had been – interesting. “But I guess that was more my choice than yours. What do you normally like to eat when left to your own devices?”

“As I was provided mainly Vulcan cuisine in my youth, my tastes run particularly to those foods; however, I often enjoy vegetable dishes or salads from the more Earth-based menu. Pasta is a rare, but pleasant, indulgence.”

“Ah,” Jim said, trying not to feel too ridiculously pleased to hear that, “that’s – good. Logical, and all that.”

The turbolift slowed as it approached the correct deck, the doors parting again, and he was treated to the sight of his first officer’s back as the man exited with only a polite nod of farewell. Jim, abruptly realizing their short conversation was about to be cut even shorter, found himself stumbling after him, calling “Spock!”

Arrested by this address, so infused with emotion, the Vulcan turned to face him, curious. Jim raked a hand through his hair absentmindedly.

“Yes?”

“I –“

I, what? He thought, searching his mind frantically for a plausible reason to keep Spock with him, conceiving and discarding a dozen ideas in as many seconds. Most of them settled into two categories: those built from the basis of duty, or those built from a more personal appeal.

The ones stemming from duty – I could use your help finishing up preparations for our next mission; I have a few official matters to discuss with you – were a little distasteful, and dishonest to boot. Why should he elicit Spock’s company under false pretenses?

The more personal ones – I could use a friendly ear; come back to my quarters for a chat (oh, his inner devil purred, sounding disturbingly like Bones, we’re calling these things chats now are we); have you given any thought to the merits of various shower-related eccentricities – seemed boorishly presumptuous. Although they, at least, had the merit of being completely honest. And anyway, Spock had had two days to settle his affairs; surely that was long enough? Part of Jim was aware of the utter absurdity of that thought, but most of him was busy ignoring that part, and the rest of him was busy saying oh, the hell with it, it wouldn’t work out anyway, so I might as well get this over with.

But even as he lifted his head to regard his First, mouth opening to deliver a cliched and unworthy invitation, all his desire for a quick solution – regardless of how underhanded – fizzled and vanished into smoke. It was only the sting of separation that was hounding him, he knew. It was his own innate need to drown out the loneliness with connection that was making him feel as though he should grab onto Spock with both hands and not let go, lest he lose him. The irony, of course, being that grabbing at him in that manner would just about guarantee that he would, in fact, lose him.

“Captain? Are you all right?” Spock gazed at him quizzically, the tilt of head expressing honest concern for the Human’s welfare. Jim smiled weakly.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Fine. I just –“

Dammit, Jim thought. This would all be so much easier if all he wanted from Spock was sex. Then he could continue with his (doubtlessly) insulting proposition, Spock could turn him down in stoically stated disgust, and Jim would be entirely in the clear. Entirely free to take that rejection for the immutable distance that it would no doubt turn into and go back to his life the way it had been before it was ripped up by the roots and replanted, upside down. Before he’d found out about the possibility of a relationship that had the potential to reshape his entire future. Perhaps reshape it into something greater than it could be otherwise.

He came within a hair’s breath of abrasive crudeness of the sort he knew would send Spock as far away from him as it was possible to be and still stand in the same small space of the turbolift. But he hesitated, the words already half-formed in his mouth, and in the hesitation, purpose set in. He could make that choice; he could choose to throw it all away, to save himself the possible burdens waiting in the wings of a relationship like the one he knew he and Spock could have. Or he could choose to take that possibility on, fight for what he wanted, choose to see the glass as half-full instead of half-empty. He could choose to risk parts of him he’d never even known existed to endanger.

But what decided it for him, in the end, was the memory of childish arms wrapping around him tightly, defying protocol, custom, and even dignity to share in a moment of honor and remembrance. And her voice saying simply, thank you, because Vulcan traditions were all well and good, but sometimes it took bending the rules a little to really get things right, to open up all the possibilities inherent in one pivotal moment. Jim determined that he didn’t like the idea that a child, even a Vulcan child, could be braver and more willing to put herself on the line, than he was. It was the ultimate gamble, really, the gauntlet thrown down, the most insidious sort of provocation.

I dare you to do better.

He never had been able to resist a challenge.

“Jim?” his First prompted, beginning to look just a little irritated (in that un-irritated Vulcan way of his), and the use of his first name, without prodding, filled Jim with a small feeling of victory, a sense of triumph, and the beginnings of what could have been hope. Hope for them? He didn’t know. Hope for something.

“If your plans aren’t set in stone, how about joining me instead, for your late meal? I haven’t managed more than a few bites at lunch today.” And if Spock accepted the invitation, Jim wasn’t sure he’d manage any more at dinner. The tension stretching through him took up more space than he seemed to have room for in his body.

Spock was looking at him, and there was so little to actually interpret in his face that Jim had to almost physically wrestle down the feeling of panic trying to climb up into his throat.

“You are extending another private dinner invitation?” Spock asked, not eagerly, not disdainfully, just – asking.

Jim forced himself to smile, forced his mouth to hold the shape of it without falling. “Dinner and perhaps a game of chess, Spock. A mutual acquaintance mentioned to me that you played the game.”

Spock eyed him, the sort of quietly contemplative stare he’d come to expect from his First, and Jim couldn’t help the feeling that something momentous was being decided beneath the stillness of those brown eyes. Maybe it was his own sense of breathless anticipation, the feeling of waiting on tenterhooks; maybe he was projecting that onto the other man. But he doubted it.

“I appreciate the invitation, Jim, and I would be pleased to accept. But I do not know if it would be wise – considering our difficulties two days previous,” Spock admitted quietly.

Jim fought back the flush trying to crawl up his neck. “Well, that was a pretty intense situation all around. One where we both made – overtures – that might have been a bit, ah, premature. It won’t happen again without exclusive permission from both of us. I’ll keep my hands to myself. Scout’s honor.” Unless you don’t want me to, he didn’t say.

“I find it highly unlikely that you were ever involved in anything as wholesome as boyscouts, Jim.”

He grinned, thinking of about the million and one summer camp jokes he had stored away that Spock would probably love to dissect, a good many of which had been spawned in boyscouts. “I might surprise you.”

“You often do.”

Jim waited, because Spock was worth waiting for, and because he’d never known another person he was so content to stand in silence with. Spock grounded him, gave him closure and peace where normally Jim would be moving in about five different directions even while having this conversation.

He opened his mouth to say something of that nature – fighting not to make it into a joke, because that’s what he did when emotional situations like this cropped up – but whatever words he’d managed to cobble together slipped soundlessly away. Somewhat further down the hall from them, partially hidden by the curve of the walls, the mess hall doors opened, spilling laughter and noise into the corridor, and two people walked amiably out of the raucous, deep in conversation. The one talking was his chief engineer, who he should be hiding in fear from, anyway. The one listening was his communications officer. Uhura.

Though he was probably doing himself more harm than good, Jim found that he couldn’t take his eyes off her. She looked just a lovely as he’d always thought she did, usually a concept he was more than willing to share with her, in as obnoxiously complimentary tones as he could manage. But tonight, her appearance did more than earn her an appreciative once-over from her captain; it drove the breath from his lungs, albeit for entirely different reasons.

Guilt was a terrible beast of burden to bear, Jim thought, made more terrible for the fact that in this, at least, he absolutely knew that he was in the wrong. How could he not be? To have what he wanted, he would indeed have to fight for it – fight a beautiful woman who deserved better than to have some upstart cadet-slash-captain steal her lover out from under her (…now there was a mental image). But the tremendous desire to have this, to take this, to grasp at this possibility with both hands, was pounding in Jim’s veins. He wanted this; he wanted Spock. Wasn’t he, too, allowed to reach for what he wanted?  The indecision was like pain, as foreign to his nature as fire was to water.

Spock half-turned in the direction of the mess hall, and the complicated pause that resulted when he saw Uhura standing just outside the door, was very – telling. Jim waited, energy slipping from him slowly as the most likely result of this conversation presented itself: Spock would go to Uhura. He would go to her and Jim, left in the cold, would have to toddle off, licking his wounds of embarrassment, to carry out his original plans of hunting down Bones for a stupefying night of drinking and revelry. He waited, quite resigned, for his First to pronounce the sentence, neither eager to hear it, nor hopeful of its deferral. It seemed inevitable.

But Spock regarded Uhura for a very long time, longer than was strictly necessary, as she chattered amiably with the chief engineer with her back to them, and when he turned back to his captain, the look on his face was one that Jim found absolutely impossible to decipher.

“I told you that I have many personal issues for which I have yet to find closure. That remains true. Nothing has changed in this past week.”

“Nothing had to,” Jim assured him, with an ironically weak grin. “You know how I feel. But the ball’s in your court Spock; you give the word and I’ll follow it, no questions asked.” He grinned in an attempt to lighten the mood. “Your every wish, Mr. Spock, is my command.”

“I have many wishes,” Spock said, in a clear, careful voice, which surprised Jim, because he’d thought his First’s innate sense of propriety would have forced his voice to a murmur. “My greatest, as yet, is only that whatever choices are made here, the best solution is reached by them. I have found that our association has opened many new doors to me, Jim. Though the process has been unusual and fraught with conflict, I would not change what has occurred to bring us here, nor do I regret the reality of my new – perceptions. Even though it may have ultimately been easier and less burdensome not to have them.”

“I told you Spock, you and me – we’re not easy. We’ll never be easy. That’s what makes it so interesting.”

“Indeed. It does not surprise me that you would say this; it seems that taking the simple and less exacting path is entirely contrary to your nature, Jim.”

The Human grinned, in genuine good humor and approval. “I did tell you that we were getting to know each other, didn’t I?”

“Yes. We are getting to know each other. Learning what – defines one another. In ways that we cannot yet realize.” This seemed a little contemplative for Spock, almost nostalgic, and unusually forceful. Jim blinked at him, wondering if there was a hidden message in there that he was being asked to find.

“I am honored to accept your invitation to dinner, Jim. And I would enjoy the opportunity to play a game of chess with you.”

Jim tried not to let his delight show through too obviously. “Yeah?”

“Indeed. I imagine the man who planned and implemented the sabotage of a complex computer imaging program, such as the Kobayashi Maru, would have a very particular and intriguing manner of strategy when it comes to chess –“

“Hey,” Jim interrupted, wondering if he was being teased. “I have it on good authority that you’ll pick up some of your best tricks from my particular and intriguing manner of strategy, with or without the chess board. And for the record, it wasn’t sabotage. I didn’t remove anything from your existing program, I just – altered the parameters a bit, to allow for an additional subroutine. That’s not sabotage; that’s innovative genius.”

“As you wish,” Spock said wryly, his very tone suggesting just what he thought of that. Jim beat back his own smile. “Nevertheless, I would be interested to see how your – assumed – genius serves you in a more interactive format, such as chess.”

“Mr. Spock,” Jim said, struggling to contain his animation, tamp it down into something less intense and more acceptable. “I would be delighted any day, any time, to teach you the finer points of losing chess to a superior opponent.”

The dark eyes regarded him with solemn, but definite, pleasure. “You may, of course, try, Jim.”

Jim wasn’t sure why he did it, what made him stick his hand out in the traditional Human method of sealing a bargain. Maybe it was because the Ambassador had done it, or maybe it was because it seemed that every time he managed to touch Spock, everything began to make sense, even when moments before it had all seemed endlessly confusing. Whatever the reason, when the impulse struck him he didn’t resist it, letting his intuition guide him where rational reasoning seemed to abandon him.

Still, he hadn’t been expecting much from the gesture, even with his instincts prodding him. So he was very surprised when Spock reached out immediately, before he could take even a moment to consider pulling his proffered hand back; more than surprised when the Vulcan clasped it tightly and shook it once firmly and – did not let go. There was a wealth of possession in his grip, a sort of proprietary need that Jim recognized from the recklessly dangerous moments of emotion that had flared between them this last week. The feel of it, the flashover of energy meeting between them at even this, so brief a contact, made the urgent need for more slither through Jim like a sly, fickle serpent.

It was wrong to think this, to consider this; he knew that. Spock had already as good as told him that things couldn’t move beyond this point until a proper balance of choices and consequences was reached between them, and yet…

Taking a chance, he slid the length of their palms closer together, until they weren’t so much clasping hands as holding them, until the guarded tendrils of presence hovering at the edge of his perception sharpened into a tangible depth. He gathered what felt like, to him, the roots of the hope and affection and desire that this conversation had given him, and sent it across the bridge of their contact. Then he waited, to see if Spock would pull away.

Spock did not pull away. He didn’t return the gesture, either, physically or mentally, but then, he didn’t have to. The absence of withdrawal was enough. More than enough. Vulcans don’t like to be touched, after all, Jim thought, smiling.

Vulcans don’t like to be touched – except by those they want to touch them.

“Come on Spock,” he said quietly, trying to bury his sudden feeling of euphoria and fairly sure he failed miserably at it. “Let’s go see what friendship between Humans and Vulcans looks like. The rest will come… (how had the Ambassador put it?) …with the fullness of time.”

And Spock smiled at him – smiled! – just slightly, the smallest turning up of lips, and it was such a familiar expression from his older self’s face that it made Jim stare in slack-jawed amazement.

“I would enjoy the opportunity to share that time with you,” Spock said.

~*~*~

Uhura, watching them reenter the turbolift together, in perfect harmony and perfect agreement, wasn’t sure that she could have let them leave if she hadn’t seen the depth of their connection right then and there. She hadn’t been privy to their entire conversation; only half, maybe even less than that. But her hearing was acute; it had to be, in her profession, and they’d been standing in a relatively empty corridor, not terribly far from the mess hall where she was contentedly listening to Scotty wax poetic about his beloved engines. Her hearing was at least as proficient as a Vulcan’s; Spock knew that, had commented on it more than once as one of her instructors at the Academy. He had to have known that she couldn't be ignorant to the fact that they were there.

He might have even, she thought, used this opportunity to give her a clear path of insight into what was happening here. It was the sort of thing Spock would do – give her a gracious way out, ease her into understanding without directly telling her a word, because once he decided on that word, it would be quick and firm and unbending. Even if he was still considerate.

What she had heard was fairly innocent – but, of course, more than enough to fill her in on certain salient facts about the situation at hand. And Jim Kirk was more lucky than he knew that Nyota didn’t believe in violence, or the Enterprise might have been short one Captain by as early as tomorrow morning.

He was luckier still that Uhura was, first and foremost, a sensitive and compassionate soul, and that she was wise enough to see that in the quiet spaces between the captain and the first officer, there was something unique expanding, growing in the energy between them. Something rare and intense and passionate, and she wondered how the old Vulcan had known, how he’d seen this coming when she hadn’t, and truly if she would ever find it in her heart to forgive him for what she suspected he'd encouraged.

But of course she would.  Eventually. Because in the end, a relationship that could be had by holding something caged that must be free to make its own choices – that wasn’t part of any life she wanted to live.

They’d been friends before they were lovers; they’d be friends again, of that she had no doubts. They’d be respectful about it, amicable, and even reasonable – they were reasonable people. She was grateful she hadn’t had time to fall in love with him, though she did love him – enough to let him go, if that’s what he needed.

She had, after all, promised herself that she would never ask for more from Spock than he was willing to give her.

~*~*~

On a colony far behind the Enterprise, a similar line of thought was echoing through another man's mind as he turned his head to scan the skies for one last sight of a ship he knew, rationally, was beyond his scope of vision. The Enterprise was long gone by now, taking the people aboard her far beyond the reach of this planet; and the thought of it was both terrible and wonderful at the same time, exciting and yet – bleak. Memories trickled through his thoughts, memories of an old friend long gone, a love preserved, the ashes of a world that was never meant to die. And in the midst of chaos, as had always been their wont, two men who, against all odds, had found their way amongst entire universes to each other. With perhaps just a tiny kernel of help from a certain Vulcan Ambassador.

What irony, the elder thought, that in this new universe it is I, not Jim, who understands the various consequences and vagaries of emotion and is fluent enough in that language to know when to act on that clarity.

They would never know, he mused. They would likely never even suspect that for the second time in this reality (and hopefully this was not to become a habit) he had implied something that was – untrue. Or not – completely true.

They would never understand, and he preferred it that way, that in giving them this push toward a love, a joining, that could be tremendously, exquisitely right, he’d given them something he’d never even dreamed of having – until the opportunity for it was gone. To ignore such potential for joy in the passing of time, in the complacency of believing there would always be a tomorrow to take that final step, was an illogical and unconscionable waste, a mistake – one he had paid for, dearly, for all these many long years. He would take great consolation in knowing that in this strangely compelling other life, he’d set things on the path they’d always been meant to travel, even though he would never know the wonder of having walked it himself.

It was right, he decided. And one day, perhaps, it would not hurt so dearly, but for now he accepted that pain often results from new beginnings, and that the path slowly unfolding from his actions was too amazing and incredible a thing to mourn, or even to envy.

He had Jim again, in friendship (a friendship he intended quite fiercely to keep), as he always had – and so did his younger self, even though that having was to be vastly and delightfully different. How could there be mourning in that?

Both sorrow and joy were, as James Kirk had so long ago taught him, meant to be shouldered together, the burden shared, always. So he pulled the child, T’Sai, against him, in as Human a gesture as his old friend could ever have wished, and they turned, united, to face their future. He walked forward into it, and knew that though it seemed grim, one day, closer for some and further for others, it would be a bright and wondrous thing.

End Chapter Ten.

A/N: For the people who’ve been wondering, I hope Spock Prime’s motivations for being a meddling yenta are now clear. This was my line of thinking:

A lot of the Reboot fandom is based on the idea that the Prime’s were lovers, but what if that wasn’t true? What if they were just beloved friends who never took that chance on each other until it was too late? What wouldn’t a man in a position to change his (own – alternates – whatever’s) past, to fix the regret of a lifetime, do to see that possibility made reality? So sometimes Prime was subtle, and a lot of times he was over-the-top – that was deliberate. I wanted this to be a man in a very precarious position; the position of being able to give his other self the love he’d never had, but having to deliberately break a few eggs for that omelet, and feeling badly enough to care that what he’s doing will have consequences – but not enough to stop him.

So, without further ado, here is the EPILOGUE. Do not pass go! Do not collect $200! Read on!

Tags: breaking points, fanfic, star trek
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  • Moving Fanworks

    This is an old journal, and an old place for stories, but nonetheless! :-) Since Livejournal has basically gone the way of the dodo, just wanted to…

  • Time Immemorial - 3/3

    Part 2 "Enter," Spock called. Jim stepped into the Vulcan's quarters slowly, ponderously. It was times like this that really…

  • Time Immemorial - 2/3

    Part 1 They left the Ze'brak system two days later with orders to proceed to Starbase 16. In those two days, Jim set a task for himself to…