Chapter One: Heads Up

Disclaimer: I didn't create these characters, and I make no money spying on them.

The knock on the door is so quiet that at first Spock thinks it may be someone at the apartment next to his. A moment later a second knock, marginally louder, confirms that someone is, in fact, at his door.

He considers for a moment whether or not to respond.

0134 is late by human standards—or at least, late for knocking on the doors of strangers.

Access to the apartment building is restricted to people with key cards—or someone inside can unlock the exterior door via the intercom. Sarek and Nyota are the only two people who have key cards besides Spock—and since Sarek is off-planet and Nyota is here in the bed with him, the person at the door is most likely a neighbor.

Twice since he has lived in the faculty housing, Spock has been approached by neighbors who have somehow locked themselves out of their apartments. Both times he was able to open their doors with a simple reprogramming of his own key card to allow universal access—an elementary bit of coding that nevertheless seemed to astonish his neighbors.

Spock shifts his shoulder gently and experimentally—twenty-three minutes ago Nyota's breathing had deepened and slowed as she slipped into the first stage of sleep, her head on his shoulder, her left hand on his chest.

Her response now will determine whether or not he will answer the door. If she doesn't wake when he pulls his arm free, he will answer it. If she stirs, then the hapless neighbor will have to find someone else to help him.

In the two weeks since the Enterprise returned to Earth after the Battle of Vulcan, Nyota has more than once stayed all night in his apartment, something they had rarely dared before. Even now they are cautious about being seen—he is, after all, still technically an instructor and she a cadet—though classes have been canceled for the rest of the term, and Starfleet has decided to make the battlefield promotions official.

More importantly, two months ago Spock had been formally—though mildly—reprimanded for his involvement with Nyota. Starfleet's expectation was that he would end the relationship after his disciplinary hearing—and he did not disagree.

Nor did he agree.

If Starfleet interpreted his silence as remorse or acquiescence—well, he could not be responsible for the misunderstandings of others.

The Academy is the least of Starfleet's priorities at the moment. The catastrophic loss of much of the fleet—and more importantly, the loss of personnel, including the majority of this year's graduating class—has thrown the brass into a whirlwind of shock and motion. Daily memos coming from Headquarters discuss bolstering Earth's security forces with other Federation help—indeed, at the moment, Sarek is on Andoria negotiating the redeployment of two ships and crew for planetary defense.

Nyota sighs and slides her hands under the pillow but does not wake as Spock pulls away and then stands up beside the bed. As he leaves the room he grabs his black tee and slips it over his head, padding down the hall toward the door.

Just before he turns the knob, he taps the pad beside the door to turn on the outside light. It casts a warm glow through the glass insets in the door, and Spock can make out a tall shadowing figure standing there. Sarek? He couldn't be back already—unless the Andorians have refused aid. That seems unlikely—unless they are reneging on their commitment to the Federation charter.

Spock tugs the door open and takes a sudden intake of breath.

There is his future self—the Spock who had challenged him to stay in Starfleet despite the urgings of the Vulcan elders.

They have not seen each other or spoken since meeting in the hangar deck shortly before Starfleet promoted Jim Kirk to captain of the Enterprise and began making plans for a shakedown cruise.

Spock assumed that Ambassador Spock had left Earth for New Vulcan already. Apparently that assumption was in error.

"Were you sleeping?" the older man says, his eyes sweeping from Spock's tousled hair to his bare feet.

"I was not," Spock says, stepping back from the door.

"Then," the Ambassador says, "may I come in?"

Spock motions with his hand and turns to lead the way to the sofa and chair in his spartan living area. The older man follows and they both sit at the same time.

For a moment neither speaks, and then they both do.

"Would you care for some—" Spock says.

"I apologize for interrupting you—" the Ambassador says.

They fall silent, and Spock stands up.

"Some tea," he says. It is not a question but a statement of intent, and he notices the Ambassador nodding as he walks to the kitchen.

Making tea is the kind of diversion Spock needs to regain his composure. From the other room he hears an occasional rustle as the Ambassador moves about, obviously looking at the few holovids Spock has on display.

When the tea is ready Spock pours two cups, balancing them carefully as he walks to the side table beside the sofa. The Ambassador stands with his back to the sofa, his hands clasped behind his back in an attitude so familiar that Spock can't help but stare.

Finally the Ambassador turns around and Spock is startled to see his face convulsed with emotion.

Sorrow, or something deeper—grief, and longing, and something else, too, something almost wistful or pleased.

The older man does not try to hide his expression—and that, too, surprises Spock.

"These—" the Ambassador motions towards the holovids on the bookshelf—one of a garden on Vulcan, another of Spock and Amanda, the third of the Vulcan landscape.

Spock says nothing but waits for the Ambassador to continue. Instead, the older man closes his eyes briefly and lowers his head before moving slowly toward the sofa to sit.

"Thank you for the tea," he says, reaching out to take one of the cups from Spock.

Leaning back on the sofa, the Ambassador says, "These pictures—they are your life, not mine, and yet—"

Instantly Spock knows what the older man is asking.

"Would you care for copies?"

"I would be most grateful."

For several minutes they sip their tea in silence, neither man making eye contact with the other.

And then from down the hall Spock hears a slight noise, softer than a sigh and full of sleep and dreams. He looks up from his teacup and sees the Ambassador's dark eyes on his own.

"Forgive me," the Ambassador says, setting his cup on his saucer and leaning forward to put them both on the side table. "I did not know that you had company. I would not have intruded."

Putting his own cup on the armrest of his chair, Spock stands and holds his hand up.

"Just a moment," he says, walking quickly down the hall toward his bedroom. At the door he pauses and listens—Nyota's steady breathing is the only sound—and he softly closes the door and returns to the living area.

The Ambassador is sitting on the edge of the sofa as if he is about to rise, but Spock waves him back as he himself takes the chair.

"I thought you were on the way to the colony," he says, surprising himself. This is not what he had intended to say—"Why are you here?" had been on the tip of his tongue, but the words had twisted themselves into something less direct. A human proclivity? He will have to consider the implications of this tendency when he has time.

If the Ambassador is aware of Spock's internal musings, he gives no indication.

"Indeed," he says, "the Elders thought the same. However, I have other things I must do first."

At once Spock casts about in his imagination for what the Ambassador may find more pressing than re-establishing a Vulcan homeworld. Would the older man resent his question as an intrusion? Spock himself might if the situation were reversed.

The Ambassador turns and looks down the hall for a moment, and Spock is startled once more this evening—this time by a wave of anxiety. He has no idea what the Ambassador might say about his relationship with Nyota—nor does he want to be questioned about it.

But the Ambassador says nothing—just places his hands on his thighs and takes a deep breath.

"You must be wondering why I am here," he says, and Spock tilts his head slightly—an assent. "I am here to give you what humans call a heads up—a warning."

At once Spock is alarmed, but the Ambassador does not seem to notice his slight flush.

"And to ask for some help.

"The Elders," the Ambassador continues, "are petitioning Starfleet to release you from duty. You need not be unduly concerned," he says, meeting Spock's gaze. "Starfleet will be reluctant to release a valued officer, particularly now.

"The Elders do not factor individual desires or plans," he says. "I do not fault their logic—but I do not share their belief that every Vulcan is needed on the colony. As I said, I have other plans as well—and the Elders are not pleased with me, either.

"If this is what you want," he says, looking again toward the hallway, "then be ready to defend your choice."

His words crash around Spock's ears. To Spock's dismay he feels a rush of anger that mounts to fury.

He sees again the High Councilor years ago, hears again the comments about his human heritage—and now the Elders are presuming to dictate his future for him?

He looks back at the Ambassador and is gratified to see a reflection of his anger in the older man's eyes.

"Yes," the Ambassador says, "I know. You and I could fill many conversations with our similarities."

He stands then, and Spock does, too.

"I do not intend to return to the colony as of yet," the Ambassador says, "and that is where you can be of assistance."

Gathering his breath, Spock waits.

"I need to charter a ship," the Ambassador says, and for a moment Spock is nonplussed. Surely he has access to any necessary transport—

"I have approached the Federation Council and they have refused," the older man continues. "Apparently in both our times the idea of the Neutral Zone is so entrenched—"

"You are going to the Romulans," Spock says, suddenly understanding.

"Indeed," the Ambassador says, his eyebrows raised. "I have no choice. I failed once, Spock. I must not fail again. Romulus is still in danger, but the Federation is more concerned about violating the treaty than about saving a people. This time—"

"If you cross the Neutral Zone, you will violate interstellar law."

"I have violated interstellar laws before."

"You will be stopped," Spock says, and the Ambassador nods slowly.

"That may happen," he says, "unless you help me."

A/N: A little slow to start, perhaps, but now we're off—

This story should stand on its own. However, in my corner of the Star Trek universe, it comes after my story "Truth and Lies" and before "Once and Future." The other stories in my timeline are listed in my profile.

Thanks to StarTrekFanWriter!