Spock repressed his frown at his captain's demeanor upon entering the bridge. He knows that Jim...Captain Kirk had spent the night with his counterpart, but there were no obvious signs of copulation. No bite marks or bruises...not even that bright "just-fucked" smile Jim wore after a particularly enthusiastic night. His captain was just...relaxed.

Spock finished his duty shift in silence, as did the rest of the crew. They would be arriving at Starbase Four in 35.23 hours, and all were looking forward to the shore leave ahead.

Spock silently left as his shift ended, heading towards his quarters. It hurt every time he had to remind himself that he now lived alone, and the captain's quarters were no longer also his own.

"Spock," his counterpart greeted him as he enters his quarters.

"Ambassador," he replied stiffly. "How did you manage to gain entrance to my rooms?"

"You forget, Spock, that I lived upon the Enterprise for many years. She has few secrets from me. Only Jim and Montgomery Scott knew her better," the elder Vulcan responded, a tone that can only be described as wistful in his voice. "But that is not what I wished to speak of."

"Oh?" the younger questioned, his tone even.

Dark brown eyes pinned him with a fierce glare. He had no reason to fear physical violence from this man - from himself - but he now understood why some humans would cringe from him when he was particularly angry.

He did not look like a being to be crossed.

"You are a fool," his elder counterpart declared evenly, his tone not matching the fierce anger apparent on his face. "An utter fool. To have something so...so beautiful - and instead of valuing and treasuring him, you demean him and throw him away."

"Ah, you are speaking of the captain," Spock replied, managing to keep himself calm using standard Vulcan meditation techniques.

This man was himself - it would be hard not to lose control if he pushed. For who knew him better than himself?

"I am speaking of Jim," the elder Vulcan replied, emphasizing the last word. "Your friend. Your brother. Your lover. Your t'hy'la."

"He is not my t'hy'la," Spock denied. "Our association has been terminated due to his licentious behavior."

His elder self chuckled bitterly, and the sound shocked him to the core. There was so much expression in it.

"His licentious behavior?" the ambassador said hollowly. "What proof do you have of this?"

"The captain's history is well-known. I had endeavoured to conduct a romantic association with him despite this, but he was incapable of maintaining a monogamous relationship. He did not bother to hide the evidence of his exploits, and logically I took this to mean that he no longer wished to conduct such an association with me."

"Logically," the elder Vulcan echoed bitterly. "You should have trusted him. Instead, you made perhaps the largest mistake of your life. I would let you deal with the consequences unhindered had you not further harmed Jim in the process."

"The only mistake I made was allowing emotions to cloud my logic and engaging in an illicit relationship with my commanding officer," Spock replied stiffly.

The elder Vulcan looked upon him with shrewd, judging eyes.

"I am glad you think so, for then you will not mind when I relieve you of said commanding officer. Jim deserves someone who will treat him right - trusting and loving him unconditionally," the ambassador told him, heading for the door.

"He is not your captain!" Spock shouted angrily, not able to keep control at the thought of his elder counterpart stealing the captain away. "He is not the man you knew in your own timeline."

"Jim's mind is as familiar to me as my own. I have melded with this Jim twice - I know their differences and similarities more intimately than you can imagine," the elder retorted calmly. "And I love him just the same, no matter what form he may take. He is still t'hy'la. And you will still regret jumping to conclusions without proper evidence. He would never have given up on you so easily."

The ambassador exited the room, leaving Spock with more questions than answers.

Perhaps he needed to have a discussion with his captain...

*****

Jim sighed, packing up the last box of his belongings.

There wasn't much.

He had started Starfleet with just the clothes off his back, and he had acquired very little during the Academy. Over the two years as captain of the Enterprise, Jim had picked up a few souvenirs from some of the planets he had visited.

But his entire life fit into four boxes, and he had already written up his letter of resignation - all that was left was sending it to Admiral Pike.

And talking to Bones.

Bones - his best friend and confidante - the one man that would stand by him through everything.

If Jim let him, that was.

But Jim had been avoiding his best friend since his...since the negotiations concluded with the Romulan colony's ambassador. One scan of Bones's tricorder over his body, and the doctor would have known exactly what really happened.

Jim didn't want to see the pity in his best friend's eyes - and he didn't want Bones to cause a diplomatic incident by killing the ambassador, either.

They needed that dilithium.

Jim sighed, stacking the boxes on his desk and heading for the door.

Bones deserved to be told that Jim was leaving, after all - and Jim was fairly certain that he could avoid the tricorder for the duration of the conversation.

Jim opened the door to exit, and came face to face with Spock.

And he did not mean the ambassador.

Spock raised his hand to the chime on his captain's doors, but it was unnecessary.

The door opened as Ji...Captain Kirk attempted to exit.

"Commander," the captain greeted blankly, no sign of emotion on his face or in the tone of his voice.

As if they did not know each other at all past their professional relationship.

Spock regulated his breathing, pushing his emotions down. This was not the time for illogical actions - it was the time for answers.

"Captain," the half-Vulcan responded. "May we have a discussion?"

The captain gazed longingly past his shoulder, sighed, and stepped aside to let him in.

"Of course, Commander," the human said.

Spock walked into the room, stopping dead when his saw the boxes stacked on his captain's table.

"May I inquire as to why you have packed your personal belongings, Captain?" Spock asked stiffly.

Jim sighed again, closing his eyes and sitting on the edge of the bed, gesturing for Spock to take a seat at the desk chair.

Spock remained standing.

"I'm resigning, Spock," the captain informed him hollowly, defeat lining every inch of his body. "When we arrive at Starbase Four, I'm turning the Enterprise over to you and joining the ambassador in his diplomatic endeavours."

Spock needed to have engineering check the inertial dampeners - he experienced a distinct sensation of nausea and lightheadedness.

"Captain..." Spock trailed off, unsure what to say to convince the human that his presence was needed on the Enterprise.

He got a small, sad smile in response to the hint of plea in his voice.

"The Enterprise will be better off without me, Spock," the captain stated seriously. "The crew doesn't respect me, and that can get us all killed. You'll take care of her, I know - better than I ever could. Maybe you'll even stop her from getting into illogical and dangerous situations. And besides, I need some time to work through...some issues."

The captain stiffened after that last admission, as if he believed he had said too much.

"Captain..." Spock tried again, intent on changing the man's mind.

"No, Spock," the other interrupted strongly. "I have made my decision. My resignation will be tendered to Admiral Pike as soon as I inform Dr. McCoy of my intentions, and you will assume control of the Enterprise as soon as we dock on Starbase Four."

Spock tightened his hands into fists behind his back, barely restraining himself from striding forward and shaking some sense into his captain.

He knew that would not change the stubborn human's mind.

"Why did you terminate our association?" Spock asked, managing to keep his voice level.

If Jim was going to leave anyway, he might as well get the answers that he needed to purge the emotions the man stirred from his being.

"That was your choice," Jim responded, just as levelly.

"You know that Vulcan's prize monogamy!" Spock accused, unable to contain himself from the hint of anger in his voice. "As soon as you let another touch you, you ended our relationship."

"So you admit it was a relationship now?" Jim asked bitterly. "And there was no 'letting' involved."

Spock stopped dead at that, a conclusion that he did not wish to acknowledge forming in his mind.

Because if he was correct...then his older self was right - Spock was a fool, and he had made the biggest mistake of his life when he had not given Jim the benefit of the doubt.

"Jim..." Spock whispered softly, finally allowing himself to speak his captain - his lover - his t'hy'la's name out loud. "Jim...what happened?"

Jim looked at him levelly, pain and sorrow and self-loathing apparent.

"Starfleet wanted the dilithium - no matter what the cost," Jim told him with a blank look on his face. "And the ambassador...well, he decided that a forcible trade would be necessary to conclude formal negotiations."

Spock knew that the inertial dampeners were not truly damaged.

But the bottom had just fallen out of his world.

"Jim," he whispered, pain and sorrow and self-loathing apparent as he reached for his t'hy'la.

His t'hy'la, who flinched from his touch as if it would burn him.

And Spock had no one to blame but himself.

Spock hesitated, his hand reaching for Jim but afraid to touch him - afraid to hurt him more than he already had with his cruel words and his cold actions and his unforgiving logic.

"Jim - why did you not tell me before?" Spock asked, desperately looking for a way to make Jim forgive him - and failing that, looking for a way to share the blame.

It was not logical - and it was selfish - but it may be all that Spock had left.

"You didn't let me," Jim replied.

And it hurt even more that there was no blame in Jim's voice.

No blame - just acceptance.

"And my elder self did," Spock said dully, wanting to accuse Jim of turning to his counterpart for support.

But he could not be that selfish, no matter how much he may want to be.

It was his own fault, after all. He had taken his love away, and Jim had looked for comfort elsewhere.

Jim's eyes went hazy, as if he was looking far away.

"He came to me, and he listened, and he opened his arms and just...he just held me. And then he told me it wasn't my fault, and that he'd support me in whatever I decided. That he'd find a way to punish the ambassador without hurting anybody else - not Starfleet, or the Romulan colony, or me. That I was - am - everything," Jim finished, a light blush coloring his cheeks as he realized just how much he revealed.

'Why did not I think of that?' Spock could not help but think, looking at his t'hy'la.

His t'hy'la, who he had pushed away and into the arms of his other self.

His t'hy'la, who had been held down and violated and made to feel ashamed.

By both the Romulan ambassador's actions and Spock's own.

"Jim, I will resign," Spock offered, wanting to find some way to redeem himself. "You care deeply for the Enterprise and her crew. I will not allow you to resign, when it is I who has made a mistake."

Jim glared at him, standing up.

"This conversation is over, Commander," he said sharply. "Until we dock at Starbase Four, I am still your superior - you do not have the ability to allow or not allow me to do anything. And the Enterprise chose you."

And then Jim left his room - with Spock still standing in the middle, looking at the bed where the captain had just been sitting.

Looking around at the empty room and the empty life that would soon be his.

*****

"Bones," Jim greeted his best friend as he walked into sickbay.

"Jim," the doctor responded, raising his eyes from the padd in his hand. "You didn't come see me after the last away mission, so I figured that you managed to escape without injury for once. I should have known better. Let me grab my tricorder."

"Stop," Jim requested softly. "I'm fine."

Dark hazel eyes narrowed at him, observing him closely.

"You're pale and you have bags under your eyes the size of Texas. You've been crying and not sleeping."

"I've slept," the blonde protested.

The doctor looked at him measuringly.

"You didn't deny crying," he pointed out.

"Spock broke up with me," Jim responded, both giving an explanation and changing the topic away from his health.

"I know – it was all around the ship seconds after he moved his stuff back into the First Officer's quarters," Bones told his friend.

Jim nodded, and an awkward silence fell between them.

"Do you want to tell me why he moved out?" Bones asked after a few seconds.

"Not really," Jim sighed. "But I will."

Another awkward silence fell between them.

"Well?" the brunette prodded.

"He thought that I was incapable of maintaining a 'monogamous association'," Jim said blankly.

" 'Thought' – as in past tense?" the doctor asked.

Jim swallowed thickly.

"Past and present," he corrected himself smoothly. "He moved out, and the bridge crew and everyone else sided with him without knowing the story."

"Just wait until their next physicals," Bones grumbled to himself. "They are going to get so many hyposprays, they'll become pincushions!"

His best friends grumblings managed to quirk a smile from Jim's lips.

"I'm resigning and joining the ambassador on his diplomatic mission," Jim finally announced, no longer able to continue dancing around the topic. "I've already written up my resignation – I just wanted to let you know before I submitted it to Admiral Pike. You're the one person who's stood by me, and I felt that you deserved to know before it became official."

Bones stared at him for a few seconds, uncomprehending.

"What really happened?" he growled. "You wouldn't abandon the Enterprise just because that green-blooded emotionless hobgoblin left."

Jim swallowed, closing his eyes.

Bones knew him too well.

"The bridge crew trusts Spock over me. It's not good for crew morale, and it's not good for their individual careers. Rather than write them up for insubordination, I'm going to remove myself from the equation," Jim told him.

"Bullshit," the doctor replied with a glare. "The truth, Jim."

"Star Fleet gave me a mission…" Jim sighed, unwilling to explain what really happened. "I can no longer work for them with a clear conscience."

Bones examined him with a critical eye – it was clear that he did not believe that was the full story, but he did not want to push.

At least, not right now.

"I'll tender my resignation along with yours," the doctor said instead.

Jim opened his mouth to protest, but Bones cut him off with another glare.

"You're the only reason that I'm on this godforsaken ship in the middle of space. Without you, there's no reason for me to be here. I'll join you on your diplomatic mission – lord knows you'll piss off enough people to need a personal physician. And besides, I'll get to be planetside a lot more often – away from deep space and transporters and the dangers of new civilizations," Bones explained.

Jim could help himself – he darted forward to envelop Bones in a quick hug.

For all that the doctor grumbled, he really was just a big teddy bear – at least when it came to Jim.

"I'm sure the ambassador will be glad to have you along," Jim beamed.

Bones just grumbled a bit, a pale blush covering his cheeks. Jim smiled, so relieved that his best friend was coming with him.

Bones was the only reason that he would have remained – he knew that if his best friend had pushed hard enough, he wouldn't have been able to leave him behind. He would have stayed on the Enterprise for Bones – no matter how much it would have hurt.

He was glad Bones was supportive enough that he didn't have to.

"Thanks," Jim told him seriously.

Bones just waved it off with an embarrassed "Don't worry 'bout it, kid."

But Jim knew that as soon as they docked in Starbase Four, he was going to leave the Enterprise and Star Fleet behind to heal with his best friend and his - whatever Ambassador Spock was to him – by his side.

So he should probably tell Bones what happened, now that he knew his best friend was going to be staying with him.

Maybe another time…for now, Jim just contented himself with joking around with the doctor in sickbay, until Bones grumbled and ushered him out with a "Goddammit Jim – I do actually have some patients, you know! And paperwork to finish before we dock!"

But Jim wouldn't have had him any other way…

*****

Meanwhile, Spock was still in the empty captain's quarters, contemplating his complete and utter foolishness.

The door opened with a chime, and Spock turned to greet the captain – to greet Jim.

But it was not Jim – it was his elder counterpart.

"Did you speak with Jim?" the older Vulcan asked him, not bothering with greetings or small talk.

That would be illogical.

"Yes," the younger Vulcan replied with a small nod.

"And he explained what happened?" the elder persisted.

"Not in detail," was the curt response.

The ambassador looked at the Enterprise's first officer and future captain, scrutinizing him thoughfully.

"He allowed me to meld with him and view his memory of the attack," the elder stated simply. "And all the while, he was worried for me – worried that I would experience negative emotional transference due to his pain and confusion and shame."

Spock swallowed, his throat dry – what could he say to that declaration?

"But I reassured him that I would be careful, and he let me in," the ambassador continued. "It took every fibre of my self control to remain by his side and not regurgitate my last meal before ascertaining your location and forcing a meld to show you exactly what happened, and exactly how much you had hurt him in addition to the pains he never should have been forced to suffer."

And again, Spock had nothing to say in response to that declaration.

"You smelled the Romulan ambassador's stench on him – did you not smell the blood?" his elder self questioned. "For all your logic – all our logic – did that not raise questions about the circumstances of the coupling?"

"The captain…" Spock trailed off, before correcting himself. "Jim…sometimes appreciates violent intercourse."

"Enough to make him bleed?" the ambassador asked with a raised eyebrow.

Spock gave a curt nod, and the elder Vulcan did not bother to hide his incredulous expression.

"In all your time together, have you never melded with him?" the elder asked.

Spock could not meet those dark eyes – his eyes – that could pierce to the very essence of his katra.

"If you had, you would realize that Jim does not derive more satisfaction out of couplings so violent that they draw blood," the ambassador informed him. "It is precisely when he is at his most wild that you should be at your most gentle. And then, when the Time comes, he will pay you back in kind. Or he would, had you taken the proper actions."

Spock believed that his elder self was – as Doctor McCoy would term it – 'rubbing it in'.

As if Spock could not already comprehend the enormity of his folly.

"You will regret your actions – your assumptions – for the rest of your life. What is, is – but that will not prevent you from looking back on your mistakes with tears in your mind, if not in your eyes," and with that parting shot, the ambassador left his younger self to the emptiness and darkness of the captain's quarters once again.

Spock knew that these quarters could be seen as a symbol of his new life – his new and empty and dark life, without Jim.

Without his captain – his friend – his t'hy'la.

*****

And so that was how it ended – with a whimper, rather than a bang.

Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise submitted his official letter of resignation to Admiral Christopher Pike, and he was shortly followed by Chief Medical Officer Leonard McCoy. First Officer Spock became Captain Spock of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and Ambassador Spock of Vulcan requested that he become the liason for Terra, due to his mixed blood.

Jim, Bones, and Spock Prime settled down in San Franscisco, where Jim shook up Star Fleet Academy and Bones worked in the research department of Star Fleet Medical – following up on all the weird medical maladies he discovered in his few years of exploring deep space.

The Romulan ambassador resigned from his post and disappeared into the sands of time, with Star Fleet satisfied with the dilithium trade and sweeping the unsavory details of that trade under the carpet.

And if Jim never quite told Bones about those exact details, and if Captain Spock of the U.S.S. Enterprise was waiting for his elder counterpart to die…

Well, nothing truly ends – not in a bang nor a whimper – and those are stories for another time…

*****