Epilogue


Planet Aeternus, Surface
Stardate 3959.3

"That, I will admit, is one thing I most certainly will not miss regarding this century," came the disgusted mumble of the English physician as they materialized on the surface of Aeternus.

Sherlock Holmes only grinned indulgently at him, and cast a curious eye skyward as if to take one final look at the Enterprise. Unfortunately, Scott had been forced to beam them down and then retreat for the duration of about a half-hour, due to temporal disturbances growing worse and tossing the already-crippled ship about more than she could take at the moment.

The Captain was already conversing with the head Federation scientist, gesturing toward the Portal as he spoke. The silence of impending departure fell heavily in his absence, until the shrill whirring of McCoy's tricorder broke the silence.

"Doctor, do you mind?"

The CMO ignored the First Officer's protests, batting away the remonstrating hand but careful to touch only the blue sleeve. "You look like one more gust of wind'll blow you halfway to this planet's moon, Spock."

He received an exasperated look, or as close as a Vulcan could come to one. "I am perfectly in control of both my mind and my surroundings, Doctor, and have no need of your mothering."

"You might as well give up, Mr. Spock," Holmes interjected sagely, stabbing a finger at Watson. "If he is anything like his Victorian counterpart he will worry himself into a sickbed himself over trifles."

"What happened up there was no trifle," Watson whispered, and the Vulcan shot him a look of complete understanding. "I shall be very glad to not remember that."

"That brings up the point, for we never did settle it – how much of this will we remember?" Holmes asked. "If memory reverts, as you say, when we pass through the Portal into a time in our pasts, what will happen if this Guardian places us, say, three or four days into our own futures? Will we remember everything?"

"That's part of what we all beamed down here to talk about, Mr. Holmes," Kirk added his voice to the conversation as he returned, hearing the last sentence. "We need to…explain a few things to you both."

"You are worried that we may remember everything about our visit here, and that that knowledge could change our future actions," Holmes supplied, blinking in wonder as the wind blew a peculiar swirling cloud of purplish dust by their little group.

"Exactly." The Captain shifted uneasily, and cast a quick glance at his First Officer. Spock held the look for a long moment, raised an eyebrow, and then nodded almost imperceptibly.

"Y'know I hate it when you two have conversations without lettin' the rest of us in on 'em," McCoy grunted irritably, accenting the words with an angry snap of closing tricorder.

A thin smile tweaked Kirk's lips, and the lines in his forehead softened. "Sorry, Bones. Mr. Holmes, Doctor, we must have the Guardian replace you in the week where you disappeared."

"If you return prior to our arrival, our arrival simply will never happen," Spock explained further. "If after our arrival, then you will most likely retain all memories of your time spent here. We cannot allow that."

Watson looked vaguely alarmed, and the Captain held up a placating hand, indicating he should let the Vulcan finish.

Spock continued. "While you both are obviously trustworthy, you can still appreciate the risks we would all be taking in permitting you both to return with full knowledge of what has happened here. We cannot permit that to happen, and therefore you will be returned to your time period somewhere in the week before our arrival. You may possibly lose a day or two of your lives; that cannot be helped."

"And you won't remember reliving the days, anyhow," McCoy reminded them more gently. "You'll never know anything was different, and you won't remember Moriarty, or what he did, or how he died, or anything else that happened here. It's probably best that way."

"Then," Holmes frowned, his eyes contracting intensely, "then by that strain of reasoning this means that we will not remember anything – we will not remember any of you, for you will not come to Baker Street on that morning in the near future."

Kirk smiled, a bit sadly. "Yes, that's right. We'll remember you, of course – but you won't remember anything about us."

Open dismay flooded the English doctor's face, and even Holmes looked considerably upset by the realization. "But I for one want to remember," Watson murmured, casting a helpless look at McCoy. "To go through all this, and not remember it ever happening…"

The CMO winced; common enemies make quick friends, and in the week the Englishmen had spent aboard ship they had all become quite close. He for one didn't want to see the two leave and he'd bet his last bottle of Saurian brandy that even Spock didn't like the idea of never seeing them again (not that he'd ever admit it). "It can't be done, Watson – there's no way to let you remember, and we can't give you some sort of record of the case because, well, you know what could happen if it fell into the wrong hands."

Again Kirk glanced at his First, and Holmes's sharp eyes did not miss the slight nod and communication that seemed to pass between them. "Captain?"

"Actually…there is one way in which you might be able to remember us, but not our technology – people, not events," the Vulcan replied slowly.

McCoy blinked. "Do what now?"

Spock inclined his head, and took a step closer to Holmes. "The mental abilities and capabilities of my race do not surprise you, understandably," he began, and the detective nodded readily. "Then you may possibly find it easier to believe that we have some minor ability to…not alter memory patterns in others' minds, in those exact terms, but more to control those patterns, guide them into the channels we choose."

Watson's eyes grew wide. "Isn't that…dangerous?"

"Only if done without consent," Spock reassured him. "Normally the technique is only used in small children – to aid them in remembering their very young training, or to forget non-Vulcan behaviors." The dark eyes closed for a moment, and from the corner of his vision Holmes saw Kirk step forward, a dangerous and worried frown forming upon his face. But a moment later the Vulcan continued, looking to Watson to include him in the conversation. "To use the technique on an adult takes slightly more concentration but is in no way dangerous, nor invasive under usual uses. It is not a mind-joining, merely a channeling of thought patterns."

The Englishmen looked unconvinced, but Kirk suddenly entered the conversation. "He's right, Watson," the captain said quietly. "It's not in any way…disturbing, I can testify to that."

Holmes shot him a pointed look of skepticism, and after a quick glance at the increasingly uncomfortable First Officer Kirk gestured for him to continue.

"The Captain was plagued by an unpleasant dream of extreme vividness, for several nights running, in the past," Spock explained.

"The last time we used this Portal," Kirk murmured, glancing up at his silent CMO, who moved closer to him with a nod of empathic sadness. "He helped me forget the dreams and what happened in them, every night for eight nights running…and they finally went away."

Both Victorians were obviously too well-mannered to ask further questions, for which they were all grateful. Holmes cleared his throat awkwardly to break the silence. "Then what exactly are you suggesting by all of this, Captain, Mr. Spock?"

"I could, if you consented, alter your memory patterns of these events," the Vulcan explained slowly, and with painstaking care that the humans would fully understand before consenting. "You would remember us, as friends, if we were to return to your time period and visit you again."

"You would do that?" Watson asked eagerly, eyes alight.

"I dunno about you, but I've got shore leave comin' to me in about five months," McCoy drawled from behind the more sober group. "Wouldn't mind spendin' a week or so in London goin' to ancient medical lectures."

The Captain grinned. "You bet we'd come back, when we could."

"And when we did," Spock continued patiently, as if the emotional humans had never interrupted, and no that was not a minute eye-roll, "you would then remember us, and believe instinctively that we are from your future – but you would remember nothing of this mission save innocuous events and conversations; nothing of our technology, nor would you feel the compulsion to ask questions or seek further information about us. The knowledge would be…dormant, would be your closest approximation, in your minds until we appeared again in your timeline."

"Positively fascinating," Holmes muttered, tapping a thoughtful finger against his thin lips.

"Oh, Lord, and here I thought one of 'em was bad enough," McCoy snorted, while trying not to laugh at Spock's expression.

The detective's head raised, and he cocked a quizzical eye at his companion. Watson looked highly uneasy, but slowly nodded. "I would prefer to not completely forget you – any of you," he said pensively. "We owe you all too much for that."

"That condition, Doctor, is mutual," Spock replied solemnly.

"Will it be painful at all?"

"Not in the least, Doctor."

"Wait a second," Kirk interjected quickly, looking worried. "Spock, you aren't even up to half mental strength yet according to McCoy – can you handle this so soon?"

"Affirmative, Captain." A quick nod, and the look held for a minute as the human glared, searching the austere features for the truth. "I am able, sir."

"I don't like it, Jim," McCoy said sharply.

"Doctor, your preferences have little bearing on the matter at hand. And, if it will reassure your melodramatic tendencies to exaggeration, I will promise you that this ability takes very little mental energy; it is by no means a process of the depth of mind-joining."

"I'll be the judge of that," the physician growled, unsheathing his tricorder with all the ferocity of a duellist pulling a weapon.

Kirk cast one last dubious look toward his First, but finally gave a curt nod of consent. "Be quick about it, Mr. Spock," he ordered, folding his arms and going to stand by McCoy, who was fiddling with the instrument and swearing under his breath about 'fool Vulcans.'

Holmes stepped forward, and cocked an eyebrow at his future descendent. "I shall go first," he declared with an air of finality.

Amusement and total understanding glinted in the Vulcan's eyes. "The process is entirely harmless; you will not feel my presence at all, Mr. Holmes."

"Be that as it may, I still would prefer to be the first."

"Understood," was the quiet reply. "You must clear your mind, and endeavor to think of nothing at all…"

--

"You've got exactly six minutes before the cycle reaches their time period in the week that matches those calculations of Mr. Spock's, Captain Kirk," the scientist informed them, as they watched the mists of time swirl through the centuries in the gateway of the Guardian.

"Thanks. Well, gentlemen, this is it I'm afraid. We'll be back this way in about six months, and we'll hop back and see you if we can," Kirk said with a smile, holding out a hand to first Holmes and then the Doctor. "We'll care for Moriarty's body," he added in a quiet undertone to the detective, and received a grateful nod.

"Do, please, return and see us," Watson replied, answering with a firm shake and then turning to the CMO, who was shuffling awkwardly – he hated goodbyes even under normal circumstances, and this was anything but. "It has been a pleasure to work with you, Doctor McCoy; I wish I had more time to learn more, or the opportunity to take your knowledge back with me."

The physician grinned companionably at him, but quieted with a more sober undertone of voice when he spoke. "You'll have to just be content knowing that someday most of the diseases you know will be totally obliterated, Watson. It has to be that way."

The Englishman nodded somberly, a sad light guiding his eyes into the distance for a brief instant. "I know it."

"Oh, I almost forgot," the physician added suddenly, groping in his pocket and coming up with a metallic object. "Your stethoscope," he continued with a smile, offering the instrument back to the man.

Watson smiled in return. "Keep it; I have others. Unless it will change history somehow?" he added with a good-natured laugh.

"Only in that for the next five days the Doctor will be so enraptured with his new plaything that he leaves the rest of the crew complement in peace for the first time since his arrival aboard the Enterprise," Spock intoned dryly. "No further change to history, Doctor Watson."

Kirk hid his snickering behind his hand as the physician lit into his Vulcan friend with the latest insult of choice, and turned to Holmes. "I probably should apologize to you, for my initial attitude toward you," he said lightly.

"But you are the Captain of a – what do you call them, starships? – and as such apologise to no man, eh?" Grey eyes twinkled in amusement as the other blushed slightly. "You were in your rights, Captain Kirk, and I too wish we had spent more time getting to know one another better. Possibly we could have more in common than meets the eye. Mr. Spock," the detective added as the First Officer stepped slowly closer to them. "I am pleased to discover that there is a race in our future who regards logic as dearly as I."

The Vulcan inclined his head in respectful thanks. "Your legacy is a long and impressive one, sir." He raised one hand in the Vulcan salute. "Because we are all aware that you shall live long, and prosper," and there was the slight not-really-smile again the detective had noticed before, "I shall follow the human traditions of your day and heritage and say, Au revoir."

Kirk cocked a surprised eye in his direction at the French, but then remembered that Holmes's file had indicated French ancestry. "Good luck, Holmes, Doctor," he added his sincere wish to his First's, and nodded a last farewell to the English doctor, who had come to his friend's side. "One minute, thirty seconds until return, gentlemen."

Watson stood, somewhat hesitantly, and finally looked up at the silent Vulcan. "I must thank you again, Mr. Spock," he said after a few moments.

"And I you, Doctor," was the kind reply.

"One minute," Kirk called from in front of the Guardian. The Englishmen turned to leave.

"Doctor Watson."

Watson paused and turned back, Holmes hesitating close behind. "Yes?"

The Vulcan stood at attention, looking intently at the Englishman, for a long moment. "Doctor, you are aware that in the course of this mission I have seen into your mind."

A wary look. "And?"

The cool voice warmed slightly. "I know your deepest fear, Doctor – and you need not hold to that any longer. You both will, if you remain as you are to and for each other, lead fulfilling lives. There will be no more tragedy in your life, Doctor."

A look of wonder filled the hazel eyes, and they blinked for a moment in surprise. Then, "Thank you, Mr. Spock," the physician answered softly, and he nodded once.

"Time, gentlemen – thirty seconds. You must go back through together," Kirk reminded them briskly, indicating the Portal. "Goodbye, and good luck – and we'll see you on the other side sometime in your future," he added with a grin.

"Make sure there's a decent lecture in town when I visit, Watson," McCoy called cheerfully, waving at the two men as they nervously prepared to re-enter their own time.

"We shall not soon forget you, Captain, thanks to your Mr. Spock," Holmes answered with a satisfied smile. "Goodbye, gentlemen."

"Five…four…three…" the Vulcan intoned the seconds, lifting a hand in a final farewell. "…two, and now, sir."

An instant later, only the wind whistling around the massive ruins broke the silence. Then the Guardian shimmered, its deep intonation ringing across the sands. "The Travelers have returned to their own time."

"Then that's that," McCoy said quietly, looking down at the archaic stethoscope he held.

Kirk clapped him on the shoulder lightly. "We all did what we had to, Bones. And we'll be back, you know. Someday."

"Mmhm. Well now." The mood shaken off for the present in the light of more pressing matters, the physician folded his arms and gave their companion a calculating look. "That was some pretty emotional stuff, Spock. Sure you're 'fully functional', or are there a few loose wires up in that motherboad you call brain tissue?"

"If there are, Doctor, then it most certainly is due to your ineffective medical treatment of my case," came the aloof reply, though the Vulcan did look as if another strong gust of wind could blow him over, so pale had he become.

"Scotty," Kirk emphasized pointedly into his communicator to avoid an argument; much as the return to normality was good to hear, he really wasn't in the mood and Spock probably didn't have the strength. "Three to beam up as soon as you're in range again."

"Aye, Captain. Two minutes, sir. And Nurse Chapel said t' tell Dr. McCoy that he's needed in Sickbay immediately soon as he's aboard."

"Tell her both Mr. Spock and I will report there at once," the physician called into the communicator and smirked at the dismay evident on the First Officer's face.

"Doctor, I –"

"Spock," Kirk remonstrated quietly, eyes worriedly fixed on the slightly-swaying figure but knowing better than to offer physical support unless absolutely necessary. "Just…don't argue with him this time, will you please?"

The faint protest finally gave way under the weight of what had not been said. "Aye, sir," he replied quietly, and received a grateful look in return.

"Thanks."

"In range now, Captain," came Scott's cheerful voice through the communicator.

Kirk glanced at his two companions, on either side of him out of long habit and already in place for transport. Casting one last glance at the now-silent Guardian of Forever, he smiled to himself.

"We're finished here, Scotty," he answered, and meant it. "Beam us up."


221B Baker Street, London, England
June 2, 1894

"I say, Watson, if you do not cease that infernal dawdling we shan't even make the intermission, much less the opening curtain!" Sherlock Holmes's voice rattled the painting hanging upon my bedroom wall as I finished straightening my clothing before the bureau looking-glass.

Resisting the urge to shout back something equally juvenile, I snapped on my cuff-links and after retrieving my gloves met him on the landing below. He tossed my silver-tipped stick at me (narrowly missing my left eye), plopped my hat upon my head, and then bolted down the stairs in a flapping tangle of coat-tails and long legs to ascertain the status of our cab.

I followed at a more sensible pace, though I could not but smile at his antics; both of us were unhealthily excited about the prospect of attending the theatre together after over three years, and so exuberant had Holmes been about the matter he did not even mind that I had picked the drama, a popular operetta by Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan.

Holmes was in fine form, and so positively chirpy that it bordered slightly on manic, but I was scarcely less enthusiastic myself and so did not mind his carolling out the cab window in the least.

We were nearly inside the theatre when I reached into my pockets to retrieve our tickets (oddly enough, purchased with money from my American sale of The Adventure of the Final Problem), and stopped, puzzled.

"Mmf." Holmes grunted as he was jostled into me by a passing couple decked in London's most expensive finery. "What is it, old fellow?: he asked, seeing my mystification.

"My stethoscope, Holmes - someone must have lifted it from my coat!" I exclaimed, scowling at the very idea. "I put it in my pocket this afternoon after seeing to that urchin down the street, the one who tripped and hit his head on the kerb; it's no longer here."

My friend shrugged in his easy, insufferable fashion, and threaded his arm companionably through mine. "Well, Doctor, with any luck, you shan't be needing it much in the near future," said he mysteriously, and smiled into the night with the air of a man well-satisfied with himself...

~FIN


I apologize for the wait on this, but my life has been crazy lately and I had to re-write this last scene three times due to LJ being very, very nasty to me and eating the scene (plus all the edits to the first part) before spitting error messages back in its place. No, evidently I don't learn from my mistakes. (sigh)

At any rate, thank you to all you wonderful people who stuck with this wild ride! *hugs*