Just so you know, I'm planning on writing a sequel to this at some point, but it'll likely be a while - I've been working on this fic since November. There's a reason I generally stick to oneshots. :)
Jim stands on the bridge of the Enterprise. His counterpart had asked if there was anything he could do for Jim as a sort of 'thank you', and this was the only thing he could think of. "I never thought I'd be here again," he says, glancing up at Spock.
"I am gratified that you are," Spock replies warmly, and Jim gently brushes their fingers together.
He turns back to survey the bridge crew; he and Spock watch for a few moments as the younger versions of themselves and their friends go about their duties. "It's strange. Everything's so different, and yet so similar."
"It is a fascinating experiment into the relative roles of nature and nurture," Spock responds, and Jim grins. Ever the scientist.
"Y'know," he remarks, "you once told me it was my destiny to be captain of the Enterprise. I guess you were right."
And it is my destiny to be at your side.
They both watch their counterparts interact for a moment, continuing the conversation via telepathy. Do you think they'll be okay?
I would like to believe so. I don't think their path will be an easy one.
Harder than ours?
Different from ours. They are different people.
Jim watches as Kirk's hand rests on the younger Spock's shoulder for just a fraction too long. Not that different.
Do you envy them?
The question is unexpected, and Jim has to think about it. Sometimes I wish we'd figured it out earlier, but no. I don't envy them. Their counterparts may have got there a lot faster than he and Spock had, but they have already run into trouble because of it.
Spock seems satisfied with that answer. We will arrive at Babel in approximately 1.87 hours.
Jim watches as he rubs absently at his temple. Are you all right?
You worry too much, Jim. It is merely a slight headache. He can feel Spock's annoyance and affection. You would know if there was anything seriously wrong.
You can't tell me that if it'd been me, you wouldn't have been just as worried.
As he'd thought, Spock has no answer to that. Jim can remember times when it had been him, and, in his opinion, Spock had been much more worried and protective.
"I must gather my belongings," Spock says out loud. "You are welcome to stay here."
Jim considers it for a moment. "I think I will. I'll come down in a little while." As Spock turns, Jim grabs his arm. "Try to stay out of trouble."
His bondmate's eyes light up with amusement. "I believe that is usually my line."
Jim watches him leave, then turns back to the viewscreen, letting the familiar sight wash over him. He stands there for a long while before it occurs to him that if he wants to speak with his counterpart alone, now is the perfect time.
He steps down to stand next to the captain's chair. Kirk looks up at him expectantly. "Can we talk?" Jim asks.
Kirk looks surprised. "Yeah, sure." He stands. "Spock, you have the conn. I'll be back shortly."
The younger Spock looks up. "Understood, Captain." Jim notices the same undercurrent to the word 'Captain' as his own Spock had used.
In the turbolift, Kirk turns to him with interest. Jim takes a deep breath, and begins to speak quickly.
"Right. Don't tell Spock, but there are two things I need you to know. Number one: don't let Sam go to Deneva." He holds up a hand as Kirk begins to speak. "I can't tell you why, just keep him away from there. And number two; if you ever meet a man called Khan, lock the bastard up and throw away the key." Jim's hands clench involuntarily into fists. He is aware that he shouldn't be doing this, had promised that he wouldn't, but he can't bring himself to care. Those two situations had robbed him of the people closest to him, and he cannot, will not, watch as it happens again. "Promise me."
Kirk looks slightly confused. "Okay; if it's that important."
Job done, Jim relaxes. "That's all I wanted to say." He smiles. "Well, that, and good luck."
His counterpart smiles back. "Thanks." He sighs. "I might need it."
The turbolift doors open and Jim claps him on the shoulder as he steps out. "You'll figure it out." He turns and raises a hand as the doors close again, then heads down the corridor to find Spock.
- - - - - -
They arrive at Babel a little over one-and-a-half hours later. Jim and Spock walk down to the transporter room together, and Jim hopes that he'll have a chance to visit this Enterprise again someday. It isn't his ship anymore, but it's still the Enterprise.
Their younger selves have come down to see them off. Jim watches as they exchange glances.
Kirk steps forward. "We wanted to thank you."
Jim grins. "Happy to help." He holds out a hand. "Take good care of her," he says warmly, letting his gaze wander around the room.
"I will," Kirk promises, and Jim recognises the shine in his eyes as they shake hands.
They turn to see the two Spocks exchanging Vulcan salutes. "It won't always be easy," Jim says quietly. He loves Spock, but there are times when he could have cheerfully strangled the man. "But you have my word that it'll always be worth it."
Jim and Spock take their places on the transporter platform, and the last thing Jim sees as they dissolve into particles of light is their counterparts touching fingers in a Vulcan kiss.