Many thanks to my beta - secret_chord25 on livejournal.
Since TOS and Reboot use different stardates, I've gone with the latter (mainly because they actually make sense). And, in an attempt to make things slightly less confusing, NuKirk is Kirk and Kirk Prime is Jim. Kinda wish I could do that with the two Spocks.
If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because he was he, and I was I.
– Michel de Montaigne
Spock stands on the bridge of the Enterprise. Generally passengers are not allowed on the bridge, but Kirk had insisted on making an exception for him, and Spock is glad of it. To be on the bridge of the original Enterprise again is a gift without measure, even if it is tinged with pain. It is difficult to watch the younger versions of his friends go about their duties; difficult not to react whenever someone makes reference to 'Captain Kirk'.
The ship is a curious blend of the familiar and the unfamiliar. In another lifetime, he had served on the Enterprise for many years - first under Captain Pike, and then under Jim. Over the years he has seen many changes to the ship, but it has never looked like this. Several times now he has found himself in the wrong place because he was relying on his memories rather than learning the new floor plan. This Enterprise is less than a year old, whereas the one he had served on for so many years would have been thirteen years old by now. As a result it is much more technologically advanced, but of course nowhere near as advanced as the other ship named Enterprise he had been on, briefly, 129 years in the future.
He watches the bridge crew go about their business. They are currently en route to Babel, where Spock will take part in a conference to decide the fate of the new Vulcan colony. Even after everything that has happened, he is still an ambassador.
He had weighed the decision about whether to reveal his true identity, and had decided that he would not be able to keep it a secret indefinitely – he has spent too much time around other species to control his emotions to the extent that other Vulcans are used to. At some point they would doubtless have discovered that he is half-human, and there would have been no non-time-travel explanation. He has vowed not to make any major changes to the timeline, but there is little he could do that would affect it more than what has already occurred.
It has been 8.9 months since Nero's destruction of Vulcan. Spock wonders sometimes if the loss affected him to the same extent as the others. He had grieved, of course, for the billions that were lost, and slowly attempted to deal with the illogical guilt that he had, however indirectly, caused such a tragedy. But unlike the other survivors, he had not lost family or loved ones; had lost a planet, but not a home. In his own reality, Vulcan had not been his home for decades; Spock is not convinced it ever had been. It had ceased to be his home so thoroughly that when he had gone to them asking for help with averting the destruction of Romulus, they had very nearly not allowed him back.
Presumably Vulcan still exists in that timeline, but Spock mostly avoids thinking about it. There is no way to get back to his own reality, and even if there were, what would be the point? Either way, everyone he cared about is gone, and he is alone. It is difficult to accept that this is where his quest to reunite Vulcan and Romulus has led: in one timeline, Romulus destroyed; in another, Vulcan. He had been so close, and now the two races are about as far from unification as it is possible to get.
Spock suddenly feels very old and tired.
Being surrounded by these young versions of his old friends makes everything a little harder. He studies them, these people who, in another lifetime, had willingly risked their lives to save him. Even half-Vulcans live a great deal longer than humans, and he had watched as all of his crewmates aged and died: McCoy; Sulu; Uhura; Chekov. Montgomery Scott had been the last, 4.7 years before Spock had travelled back in time.
But it is Jim, of course, who is the hardest. Jim, who had left one day to tour the new Enterprise – B, promising to return soon, and had never come home. Jim, who had left a hole in Spock's life, and his heart, that has never fully healed. Over the years the pain had faded, but it had all come flooding back when he had rescued a young man on Delta Vega, and found himself staring into a face so familiar that for a moment he had wondered if he were dreaming.
Later, he had calculated the odds of their unexpected meeting, and had not been surprised at the improbability of it. If it had been anyone else, perhaps he would have been, but the two of them had always been able to find each other, even against all odds. This is a different James Kirk, but the principle is the same.
He regrets, sometimes, that it had become necessary to meld with the younger Jim. If it hadn't been, he thinks he could have fooled himself, even taking into account the startling colour of the human's eyes. But once their minds had touched, he had known instantly that although the young man before him was James Tiberius Kirk, he was not Jim; would never be Jim.
He can still remember what Kirk had said to him when they had first met. If you really were Spock, you'd know we're not friends. At all. You hate me. The idea of a Jim Kirk and Spock who hated each other was so foreign to everything that he knew, and he had wondered what could have possibly happened to have set them against each other.
There is a common belief that Vulcans do not lie. Half-Vulcans, however, have more freedom than most. Spock had learned well, over the years, how to deceive without ever speaking an untruth, and it was a skill he had put to use in an attempt to heal the rift between the Kirk and Spock of this reality. And, it seems, it has worked.
He does not wish to influence the path of the younger Jim and Spock's relationship; he does not have that right. He had promised himself that convincing this younger Spock to stay with the Enterprise would be his last act of interference. Perhaps he should not have done even that much, but he could not allow his counterpart to live a life that did not include James Kirk. He has no way of knowing, of course, whether his younger self's relationship with Jim Kirk will mirror his own – it had, after all, taken him and Jim years to reach that level of intimacy – but even if it doesn't, they need each other. This, he is certain of.
He watches them, now; captain and first officer, just as before. He cannot help but remember Edith Keeler's words from a lifetime ago. You? At his side, as if you've always been there and always will.
One thing he did not expect is his counterpart's relationship with Lieutenant Uhura. In his own universe, Nyota Uhura had been a valued colleague and trusted friend, but never more than that. He had not bothered to think of such things while he was still bonded to T'Pring, and once he had been free to choose, he had chosen Jim. But this universe is different; T'Pring is dead, lost with the planet, and so the younger Spock is free in a way he himself had not been.
He ignores the voice in the back of his mind that tells him it isn't meant to be like this. If it is meant to happen, it will happen, and if it is not meant to happen, his interference will not help. He had told his younger self to put aside logic and do what felt right – a sentiment that his old friend McCoy would quite possibly have fainted from shock to hear him express – and if that leads him down a different path than Spock himself had chosen, he will not interfere. His counterpart must be free to make his own choices, and his own mistakes.
But it is difficult, when he looks at them, not to remember another universe where they had been everything to each other.