Title: These Not-so-simple Feelings (6/6)
Characters: XI Kirk and Spock, TOS Spock; also, Generations-era TOS Kirk, Guinan
Universe: XI, with a small portion set in Generations-era
Word Count (this chapter) 6601
Summary: Five times Spock did something illogically dangerous for the sake of his captain, and one time his captain returned the favor. happy_trekmas fic for xlcatloveress.
Warnings: (this chapter) The primary warning is main character death, though it's off-screen and barely mentioned; you know I don't do death scenes. Speculation here about Spock Prime's eventual death being by Bendii Syndrome; that much isn't canon but I think is likely. Sheer unfounded speculation as to the ending (which I won't spoil) here, but I couldn't help but try to mend what the Generations and Rebooted destiny screwed up with TOS Kirk and Spock. Also, speculation about what really happened in Generations and the fandom theory that only a copy of Kirk left the Nexus with Picard.
A/N: And so it ends. I had no intention of this fic morphing into anything other than the second chapter, the mind-meld scene, but it took on a life of its own and ended up being half the length of my NaNo novel! I hope it was an enjoyable read, if a bit deviating from my usual.
A/N2: Note that the category has been changed to TOS/XI crossover, since this chapter is basically Reboot.
Have a merry Christmas, xlcatloveress and everyone, and a happy holiday season with whatever holidays you celebrate!
I. And one time Kirk returned the favor
The young ones – for so he had called them for years, and though they were in their late thirties now he could not so easily drop the habit – were not taking the news well.
While his young self excused his outburst of protests as simple 'regret that one of those few remaining of such a still endangered species should so casually disregard ancient custom,' he knew better, for he could read his own face and recognize the human emotion of worry and grief when he saw it.
And the young Jim Kirk was not speaking to him at all at the moment.
Pi'Jim (for he must distinguish them in his head at least, somehow, lest the memory of sha'Jim be overshadowed, even unintentionally) (1) had never, in his eventful young life, dealt well with the prospect or the reality of loss; such was common knowledge to those closest to him and such excused the human's reaction to the news.
Because Spock of Vulcan – the Vulcan of his original reality, not of this sad splinter universe which his actions had inadvertently created – was dying.
"This is the way of all things, Jim," he had remonstrated gently, when this young version of his dear captain had gone white and began firmly denying even the possibility.
He had continued to explain, in the most calm and clinical manner open to him, regarding the onset of Bendii Syndrome and its progression. A once fairly common affliction among his people with age, there were so few aging Vulcans who had survived the aftermath of Vulcan's destruction in this reality that the condition had become somewhat rare, and the treatments for the disease highly expensive.
"You are aware that our family is well capable of affording such, even having lost three-quarters of our fortunes with Vulcan's destruction thirteen years ago," his younger self had informed him through a set jaw.
"I am aware, and also am aware that you would not think twice about sharing those funds, young one," he had replied quietly. "But you must permit me to make my own choice."
"You're choosing to let yourself die months before you have to!" Jim had snapped, with more anger than he had ever heard directed at either version of himself.
This much was, in part, true from a certain point of view. There was no cure for Bendii Syndrome in any universe; it was a degenerative neurological disease, and a highly embarrassing and painful one which lingered for years, even decades, despite the most advanced of treatments. Without treatment, however, the patient would die in a manner of months, instead of possible decades.
But Spock was weary, so very weary. His work in this universe, what he could do in his age and without drawing attention to the paradoxes of his existence, was finished. And if he were honest with himself, he was weary of not belonging, of living with the knowledge that what he saw around him every day he had created, at the cost of all his dreams and hopes in his own universe. Romulus and Vulcan would never unite now, not in his own universe nor in this splinter universe. He had failed in his final diplomatic mission, one which had taken years of unending covert operations and effort, and while he could have done nothing to change events that did not negate the pain with which he lived every time he saw these gallant young versions of his former crewmates, trying to carve out the same life in a stunted universe.
He believed he could be forgiven the allure of freedom from that burden of guilt.
This young, fiery version of James Tiberius Kirk did not see things in that light, however; and how could he, not having known the Past.
He had, in final desperation, appealed to his younger self's logic, pointing out the lack of necessity in prolonging his existence only to eventually succumb to the disease as all did who contracted it, and explaining his reasons for declining treatment.
And his younger self, he ruefully realized, had lost some of his icy logic over the last thirteen years. Jim Kirk was a corrupting influence, and that coupled with his young self's pride in his human heritage due to his deceased mother had made this Spock a far less conflicted being than he himself had ever been. Ordinarily, he was grateful for the difference, which would not take Gol and V'Ger to make clear to a torn mind – but now, the whole-hearted embracing of all this young Spock was, both human and Vulcan, was only annoying.
He should have known, however, that any Spock would side with his Captain, right or wrong.
"I have made my choice," he finally interrupted, with quiet severity, and the two voices on the other end of the live communiqué fell silent, stunned, "and it will be abided by. I am…sorry," he finished in more of a whisper than anything else, for he knew what these two did not – that within weeks, he would no longer recognize either of them, nor even realize he ever had known them. The last remaining lights which had for years guided him through this horribly dark universe would no longer be visible to him.
Perhaps it was better that way.
"We'll be in the vicinity in ten weeks, it'll take at least eight right now to get back from where we are – can we come see you then?" Jim finally asked, his voice shaken, lost.
He bowed his head. "You must understand that I may not recognize you, but…even so, I believe your presence would not be unwelcome," he replied quietly.
"…Okay. Okay. Just…" the young man – not so young anymore, he must realize that; were it not for those blue eyes, he could almost see his Jim Kirk at his youngest captaincy age – swallowed, and raked a hand through his blond hair, more controlled now than it was in his younger days but still chaotic nonetheless. "Just hold on, all right?" Jim finished helplessly.
He nodded, recognizing the wordless plea for what it was – please don't die before we can get there to say goodbye! – and knowing he might not be able to answer it. "I shall endeavor to do so," he answered, and saw those intense blue eyes sharpen instantly, recognizing the non-committal as such.
"Mere endeavors in that area will be unacceptable, Ambassador," his younger self spoke up, adorably serious, from behind his captain's shoulder, and he felt the urge to laugh – another indication that within weeks his condition would deteriorate so far he would not be able to even predict these impulses, much less resist them.
He bowed his head, partly to calm the distraught pair before him and partly to hide the fact that due to his lack of control he was only seconds from tears; for he knew that this would be the last he saw of either of them, the last memory he would have of them while he was still in control of his faculties.
"Spock?" The young one sounded worried, concerned, and he could hear the tension vibrating in the tone even through the mechanical distortion of a subspace communication.
He must terminate this conversation, before one or more of them said something which under other circumstances they might regret. But one thing he had learned, and that they had learned in this darker, harsher reality, was that one never knew the future, and that tradition and principle must be adjusted to allow accordingly.
His Jim had gone off on the Enterprise-B's maiden voyage with a smile and a cheerful farewell; Spock had merely nodded and had given in to human tradition so far as to wave as the man's face appeared in the window of the shuttle before its takeoff. His now-retired captain had beamed at the simple gesture, and had waved in return as the shuttle lifted from the ground.
Jim had never come back.
And he had been grateful, for over a century now, that he had made that tiny concession to human custom.
He only wished his Vulcan upbringing would have permitted him to say something, anything, which his captain could have recalled in his dying moments to comfort him before he died – even a quiet "Be safe," as humans flippantly called out to each other before launching into dangerous situations, would have been preferable to the quiet banter they had engaged in before the shuttle boarding.
But he had said nothing, not knowing it would be his last opportunity, and for over a hundred years he had lived with that knowledge, lived with the knowledge that Jim's last words to him had been "Take care of yourself, my friend," and his own had been a mere "I will see you upon your return, Jim." The former a loving admonition; the latter, as it turned out, a lie.
His last words to his captain had been a lie, unintentional though they had been.
He had never quite forgiven himself for that.
But for now, business; there would be time enough for the rest. "I have left final instructions with Sarek, young one," he informed his counterpart, and saw the younger Vulcan's eyes soften at the endearment; for they were not so young anymore. "I have asked that my katra be released, rather than preserved in the Katric Arc."
"You cannot be serious," his younger counterpart spoke at the same horrified instant Kirk did, both of them realizing the significance of his decisions.
"I am," he replied with serenity. "It is my wish, and my right."
"Your right," the young Spock said flatly, a dangerous edge in his tone. "Your right, to deny our yet endangered race the benefit of your katra for future generations."
"Spock," he said, reprovingly. "This is not my universe, nor will my katra directly benefit anyone. Your traditions have blinded you to this truth; that the katra is a living essence, a soul, all that one is – and I do not wish to become absorbed into the Vulcan mental collective for all of this universe's eternity. This is not my Vulcan, and that is not my destiny."
"Wait, wait just a minute," Jim interrupted in irritation, and waved a hand back and forth between the two. "Let me get this straight, you want your soul just let loose to wander like Scrooge's ghost for all of eternity?"
"Your literary reference is not entirely apposite, but in essence, that is correct, Jim."
"Isn't that…a little illogical?"
"Highly so." His younger counterpart's tone was distinctly frosty. "The purpose of Vulcan katric rites is to leave a memory, an essence and instruction, for one's followers and families. To deny a struggling culture that is both unorthodox and unVulcan."
The words did not sting as they might have to another, for he was Spock, and understood the young one's fierce loyalty to his endangered race. But this was his decision, for he knew what he must do to attain that one last hope he clung to, had clung to for over a century now.
"You may call it that if you wish, young one," he said quietly. "But my decision stands. I do not expect you to comprehend my reasoning – however, I expect you to honor my wishes."
Pi'Jim was giving him a calculating look, and he knew that the human had somehow vaguely grasped what Spock had not. A long look passed between them, and he permitted himself to smile just slightly. The captain nodded at last, and placed a placating hand on his younger counterpart's blue sleeve.
"It's okay, Spock," Kirk said softly. "He knows what he's doing."
For a moment, he thought the young Vulcan might protest, so filled was his expression with pale fury, but after a moment Spock calmed, and finally relaxed with a reluctant nod. Obviously Jim had learned how to share mental perception through contact and was exerting his influence as any Kirk would – shamelessly.
A whistling sounded across the channel, and Spock moved out of sight for a moment to answer the comm. Jim looked back at him, and his heart broke a little more to see the grief filling those stunningly blue eyes. "You're not going to recognize us by the time we get there, are you?" Jim asked with the bluntness that always described their interactions.
Prevarication was useless; this version of his captain and he had always been more mentally attuned than he would have thought possible – possibly because of the mind-fusion on Delta Vega – and Jim could sense more from him even at a distance than his younger self even could.
"The probability is stronger that direction, yes, Jim," he answered sadly.
"Tell me, one more time, why you won't agree to the treatments, Spock." The young captain's face was filled with grief, and pain, and the overwhelming look of betrayal. Kirk moved forward in his seat, reaching out toward the screen as if to touch his conversant. "Why do you refuse it, Spock? You could live another few years at least, and life is precious to your people – so why won't you take the treatment?"
"Jim," he murmured, unable to stand the hurt he saw in the younger man's face. "Oh, Jim. Can you not understand?"
Tears shone, angrily unshed, in the young man's eyes. "Understand what?"
He looked up, met the gaze with his own longing one. "I must find my captain, young one."
Jim blinked. "Come again?"
"I did not feel his death, so long ago, Jim," he explained. "Captain Picard informed me that he had died…and yet, I felt nothing. The mystery is inexplicable to me. I felt your presence as soon as you had entered the cave on Delta Vega, Jim – and in the same manner, if my…my Jim, had truly died on Veridian III, I would have felt it, even on Romulus as I was." He shook his head sadly. "I cannot explain how I did not, except that perhaps his soul did not die along with his body. I shall spend eternity attempting to find him, if that is the case."
"You're not in that universe, Spock," Jim reminded him, terribly blunt.
"The katra, the soul – whatever you prefer to call the essence which lives on after death – is not a dimensionally-bound entity, Pi'Jim." His voice quieted, the solemn promise lingering with clarity in the air between them. "I shall find him, if it takes me until the end of Time to comb the multiverse to do so."
By this time, his younger counterpart had returned to the comm, in time to hear the end of that conversation. Jim looked as if he were about to cry, and the sight broke his heart.
His younger self looked directly at the comm, assessing, and he saw the moment when acceptance registered across the younger man's features. Spock raised a hand in the ta'al, bowing his head in respect. "Then we wish you peace, and success in your quest," his young self spoke quietly, respectfully.
He reciprocated the gesture. "I thank thee. And if, due to this condition, we do not meet again, know that I…"
"I can't do this."
He barely had time to hear the choked interruption before Kirk turned quite white and bolted from his chair, leaving sight of the viewscreen. The hiss of an automatic door indicated he had not only fled the conversation but had fled the room as well.
His young self looked after the human in undisguised concern.
"Go after him, young one," he said quietly.
"And you?" Spock asked, his eyes somber.
"Do not fear for me." His voice had softened, far too much to be acceptable by Vulcan standards, but then again he could be excused the blatant show of affection and longing for he was under the onset of Bendii syndrome.
Spock moved uncertainly, halted, and turned a questioning look back toward the screen. "What shall I tell him?" he asked softly.
"Tell him…" he smiled. "Tell him I am content – for I have had the best of both James Kirks. It is more than I deserve."
His younger self's lips quirked slightly, the gesture a gentle acquiescence. "I do, indeed, wish you success…and as the humans would say, luck, in your search," he said.
The sincerity was obvious, and he appreciated the gesture. "I do not believe I need remind you to cherish that which you have, Spock."
The younger man nodded solemnly. "I shall, as you say, 'take good care of him.' Do not fear for us."
"I shall not. Now go to him, Spock."
He watched his younger self offer him the ta'al once more in a final gesture of respect. "Peace, and may you find that which your soul seeks," Spock said quietly, and then was gone, leaving him looking at an empty captain's cabin for the few seconds before the monitor registered non-communication and shut itself off.
When that happened, he turned slowly from the screen, his mind strangely at peace despite the knowledge of his condition.
As he slowly stood to return to his work, the reassuring solidity of a small pendant thudded against his chest, safely protected within his meditation robes.
And he was not afraid.
The service was not even that, for Vulcan tradition was shrouded in katric rites and mysticism; for an Elder to deny one's katra to the collective was anathema. Due to this and to the fact that Ambassador Spock (he had chosen the alias of Selek for those few occasions when he must converse with one not initiated into his secrets) had remained outside any public sphere of influence, known only to a few Vulcan colonists within the Council, the burial was a private, almost overlooked affair.
Two figures stood in the shadows, the evening sun glinting off the gold trim and braid of Starfleet dress tunics, and those few Elders in attendance watched in wonder as a human, a young human with a Vulcan shadow, wept for an old man whom they had scarcely known.
Something wasn't right.
It wasn't that he knew something had happened after that Captain…Picard, wasn't it? had left with a copy of himself to save the universe or whatever it was they had done. That was the beauty of the Nexus; he wasn't about to follow some random person out of his afterlife just on the man's say-so that his ship and crew and the world were in danger. A copy would do just as well, and he could remain perfectly calm and peaceful in his paradise – that was what he deserved after death, right?
But then why this horrible, sickening feeling that something was wrong?
"Probably, because something is," a low, calm voice spoke from behind him, and he turned in his seat to see a woman standing there; tall, dark-skinned and eyed, and quite beautiful…but with the aura of one who has seen far too much and can never forget it. (2)
"And you are…?" he asked, somewhat uneasily, for even though this place had a habit of conjuring up interesting people to acquaint one's self with it never lost that disconcerting edge which reminded him of that Shore Leave planet…wait, shore leave planet? His memory was flaring again, bringing up bits and pieces of things he didn't understand…
"Names aren't important, not in this place," she said, moving gracefully across the clearing, easily skirting the stumps and logs strewn about. "What is important, is this feeling you have. Want to tell me about it?"
He eyed her suspiciously as she sat beside him, but finally shrugged. "I thought we weren't supposed to feel anything but peace and happiness in this place," he began, leaning back to watch the sunlight filter through the trees, sending pollen and dust motes scurrying about in dancing clouds.
He slid the woman a sidelong glance, which she only returned, blinking calmly. "Then why do I feel like something's wrong, that I'm not supposed to be here?"
"Maybe because you aren't supposed to be."
He snorted. "Don't be ridiculous. This is the afterlife; I can have whatever I want whenever I want, do anything I want in any place I want."
"What about the people you want?"
The question momentarily stymied him. "What?"
"I said, what about the people you want?" she repeated, sharp eyes scanning his face. "Have you ever been able to conjure up any of the people you used to know, to meet them here, to have them here with you?"
"People I…used to know?" For the first time, open doubt flickered through his mind. People he used to know…but…he could not even recall anyone he used to know. No names, no faces, nothing…
He did have friends before he came to this place, didn't he?
"Something isn't right," he breathed again, rubbing his temples with both hands. "Why am I…no longer content here?"
"Captain Picard was smart enough to figure it out, with a little help," the woman replied kindly. "You are every bit as iconic a figure in history as he; I'm not surprised you can sense the truth."
"Then he was right – this isn't heaven, or whatever you want to call your version of an afterlife," he muttered. "It's an illusion."
"No, it's real enough," she replied quietly. "It's as real as any other location in the universe; you really are in paradise."
"'How thin the veil that lies, between the pain of Hell and Paradise,'" he whispered, and then realized he had no idea where the knowledge of the quotation had come from.
"George William Russell," the mysterious woman supplied calmly.
Fists clenched on his knees, he finally turned to face her, intent upon getting answers. "What's happening to me?" he demanded. "Why me, why now – what is it?"
"I can't tell you what you want to hear, Captain." The title startled him slightly, but she gave him no time to show his surprise, only continued. "I don't have all the answers; I'm only a copy, myself."
"But you know something," he responded, leaning forward in his intensity. "Tell me!"
She sighed, and spent a moment arranging her skirts. Then, "You won't believe me, you know," she said, looking up at him.
"That you should leave this place – for good and for real, this time. Not a copy – you."
He recoiled, horrified. "Leave this place? Are you insane?"
"The farthest from it," she replied, unruffled. "I did say you wouldn't believe me."
Vaguely unsettled, he ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "Please explain."
"You do not belong in this place, James Kirk, not within this multi-dimensional paradise. Your destiny lies elsewhere."
"Where?" And more importantly, why did he have the gut reaction to believe that she was telling the truth?
"Among the stars…and with someone you have forgotten."
Her eyes were sad, sympathetic, but his heart went icy at the idea that he had forgotten someone important – more than important, if her reactions were anything to judge by.
"Forgotten?" he asked numbly.
"Completely forgotten. This place does that, you know – because remembering those outside the Nexus will only bring uneasiness or grief or any other emotion which does not belong in a perfect world." Dark eyes regarded him with knowing sympathy. "You don't remember him, but your soul does – that's the reason for your unease right now."
Her eyes softened, and a slim hand came to rest on his arm. "He died this evening, in his Time and Universe. Even in this place, even though you don't even know why, your soul felt it, and acknowledged the loss."
A sick feeling spread from his stomach up to his throat, confirming what his mind refused to credit as truth in a paradise.
"Well when will I be able to forget all this, to go back to the way things were before?" he asked, massaging his temple.
"Soon," she replied, shrugging. "The feeling will pass, and you will forget if you permit yourself to do so. But…"
"Never mind." She stood, obviously prepared to leave, and some small portion of his soul screamed a warning, for him to not let her until she had finished.
She stood, stately and calm against the fiery sky of sunset. "Yes, Captain?"
He rose as well, and paced a few feet away before whirling and returning to her. "Please finish," he requested uneasily.
"Are you certain you want me to?"
"Yes," he whispered. "There's something else, isn't there."
"There is," she agreed. A gentle hand on his arm, and she guided him back to their seats. "You are not meant to remain here, James Kirk. Though you will never remember how you arrived here, I can tell you it was by accident; you are meant to be elsewhere."
"You were saying something about my destiny earlier, being different somehow from this," he responded, looking about at the paradise he had created for himself here, all that he ever wanted and loved.
"It is. Can't you remember?"
The gentle words prodded at his subconscious, and for one fleeting instant he heard a voice, a new voice, saw a faint blur of a vision before it faded from memory's view.
"My first, best destiny," he whispered breathessly, though how he remembered the phrase he did not know, for it was slipping away like mist in sunlight.
The woman nodded, teeth flashing in a beautiful, pleased smile. "Exactly. You're not supposed to be here. And," here she looked him square it the eye, and he shivered at the sober intent there, "you need to go back."
"No," was the quick, terrified rebuttal, and he moved back on the bench in horror at the idea. "Why would I want to leave this place?"
"Because it is a lie," she said quietly, gently, but with a razor-sharp firmness that made him instinctively accept it as truth. "This isn't paradise, Kirk – this is just a location outside of time and space, something the Nexus provided for you without knowing what, deep down inside, your very soul truly needs. This isn't an afterlife. It's a lack of existence in reality."
He swallowed, unable to deny the unreasonable fear which flooded him at the idea.
"I know it doesn't seem like it makes sense to leave this place," she said. "But your destiny isn't here."
"I'm not going to gamble paradise over someone's insistence that I have a destiny somewhere – and anyway," he snorted, "if I leave this place then I'm dead in the real world, aren't I?"
"You are," the woman agreed coolly. "To leave this place, you must be willing to die physically, to be reduced to your purest form, the human soul."
"Well then! I'd be a fool to give this up!"
"'A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a –"
"'…wise man knows himself to be a fool,' yes I do at least remember my Shakespeare if nothing else," he chuckled.
The woman tilted her head slightly. "How about your Dickens? It is a far, far better thing I do…?"
He felt the blood drain from his face, as his heart clenched for some reason he could not understand.
"So you do remember, or at least your soul does," she said quietly. "How can you doubt it?"
"I – I don't know," he stammered, more unsure of himself at this moment than he had ever been aboard ship. Wait, aboard ship? Picard had convinced him of his own history, but this was the first time the knowledge had come back to him without his consciously thinking about it. But he was tired of beating around the bush. "Why – tell me, give me one good reason why I should listen to you, why I should leave this place?"
The woman stood, and gave him one last, sad smile. "Because someone's searching the entirety of the combined universes for you, and he won't stop until he's found you. You may wait for all of eternity to give up this illusion you believe to be paradise, but until you leave this place, he will never stop looking for you. In every universe, in every time, for all of time, he will search until he's found you. It's your choice, Captain, as to how many years – centuries, eons? – you make him scour the galaxies and universes searching for you."
Before his stunned mind could truly process this, she had vanished into the twilight.
Shaken and sick, he sank down on the bench, and put his head in his hands.
It took him several months – or so he thought; according to Picard, time was relative in the Nexus and it was possible that it was only hours – to make the decision, but he could not seem to escape the sudden sense of longing which had embedded itself into his very soul, stealing the joy and contentment from this place of so-called paradise, and beckoning him like a deadly siren toward non-corporeal-existence.
But, he finally realized after yet another pointless day, he was James Tiberius Kirk, captain of the Federation flagship Enterprise, and he had never backed down from a challenge if his gut told him he was in the right.
That, and the idea that somewhere in the multiverse, someone was so intertwined with his very soul that he would spend his entire afterlife searching for James T. Kirk…the idea floored him with awe. Giving up the illusion of paradise was a small enough thing to ask in return for that kind of devotion.
As this was only a paradise of his own making, no preparations were necessary; he simply sent out a fervent prayer to the deities of the universe to guide him on his way…
…and in true Captain James Tiberius Kirk fashion, took the plunge without looking back.
As if ferrying supplies to New Vulcan in preparation for the NVSA's annual hosting of the Galactic Scientific Awards ceremony wasn't boring and tiresome enough, he was not at all happy to be woken from the first sound sleep he'd had in several days by his First Officer – good friend or not, that was just not done – barging into his room through their adjoining bathroom without requesting entrance and shaking him awake.
Literally shaking him awake. I mean, come on. After thirteen years, you'd think Spock'd know better than to bother him after a day from hell like he'd had unless the ship was blowing up or something.
"This had better be good, or t'hy'la or not I'm kicking your Vulcan butt into the hallway and I don't care what kind of rumors start because of it," he growled, half into his pillow.
"I believe you will want to see this, Jim."
He cracked an eye, registering the weirdness that was Spock standing over him in his science-blue pajamas (seriously, duochromatic much, Spock?) and calling him by his first name without being asked to. The Vulcan's nose was inches from a live streaming news-padd, the glow of which turned his hair a midnight blue and lent a weird tint to his skin…kind of like an Andorian vampire...
Okay, so he really needed sleep. Raising himself on one elbow, he glanced down as Spock dropped to one knee beside the bed and shoved the padd under his nose. "What is it?"
"The scientific phenomenon of the year, apparently."
Spock's eyes were glinting with geek-happiness, he could see that much, and so out of respect for Team Science he sighed and tried to focus on the news articles and pictures. "…Okay, so they've discovered a new star where Vulcan used to be?" He finally gathered that much from skimming through, and was glad they could talk about the destroyed planet without the sharp pain of years gone by.
"Not a new star, Captain. A new binary star." Spock's eyes lit up. "Both stars are precisely equidistant from the location of Vulcan's core and are orbiting the site of the former planet."
Okay, so that got his attention. "That's weird, don't you think?" he asked, sitting up and scratching a hand over his eyes.
"Quite," was the succinct response, as Spock settled on the edge of his bed and clicked through the pages to a few photos. "More unusual, is the fact that stars do not simply appear in the sky, of course, and that there have been no indications of the gaseous beginnings of star creation in this sector nor even of the residual black hole gravitational force being powerful enough to draw in any type of celestial body. These stars simply came into existence with no scientific processes behind them. Also, the fact remains that binary stars contain a larger primary and smaller secondary star, whereas this binary inexplicably consists of two stars of equal size. But that is not why I believe you will be personally interested in this unusual phenomenon, Captain."
That wasn't enough, magically-forming stars and all that scientific jargon? "Why personal interest?" He stifled a yawn in the blanket and peered at the padd again. "What's so special about these two stars?"
"One is a yellow star. One is a blue."
Spock ducked his head slightly, in a gesture he recognized after all these years to be that of shyness. It never ceased to make him want to squee like a girl, it was that cute.
"Come on, spill it, Science Officer," he coaxed, leaning back with his arms folded behind his head. "Dazzle me with your explanations for these magic stars."
Spock shot him the look that clearly said you are an idiot. Sir. but answered readily enough. "It is not magic, but…possibly legend," he said, obvious hesitation in his voice.
"Negative; Vulcan legend."
"Now this I have to hear – you guys have legends and myths? Isn't folklore a bit sentimental?"
"Do you wish to hear the explanation or not?"
Ooh yeah, Spock was ticked. "Please," he answered, sincerely enough.
"Such legends date back to the Ancient Ones," the Vulcan spoke quietly, reverently, with that sad tinge that always characterized his talks about his destroyed planet and culture. "It is what is said of those who refuse to become a part of the katric collective, choosing instead to be released to follow one's t'hy'la or bond-mate into the universes and Time-Space itself."
Okay, he was interested now. "What is said?"
Spock looked down at the padd and its images of the two newly-formed stars. "It is said that they will have their place in the skies for all of eternity, a dual impossible miracle for the worlds to see, to view in wonder."
His eyes bugged, sleepiness forgotten. "And…you think that…"
Spock nodded solemnly. "It would seem unlikely to be coincidence, both stars in perfect orbit around the site of the former planet Vulcan –"
"One gold, one blue," he added, impishly tugging on Spock's blue sleeve. He was grinning from ear to ear, and didn't even care; it was just too freaking awesome. "You really think they found each other?"
Spock's lips curved upward ever so slightly. "I believe so, Jim."
"That's awesome. You guys have, like, the coolest mystical BFF-ness in the galaxy, you know that right?"
And yeah, nobody did smugness like a Vulcan, he could definitely attest to that.
"The New Vulcan Science Academy has been granted the permission to name both the stars," Spock ventured after just a moment of preening (yes, he did preen, Jim swore he did).
"I take it you will wish to inform them of our theories regarding the stars' existences?"
"Well, yeah!" He beamed, bouncing a bit on the bed until he was in a comfortable position again. "Even if they don't believe us," he added more seriously, "we'll still know the truth. Won't we."
"We will," Spock agreed.
"What would you want to call them, if you could? You can't really just name them after us," he grinned.
Again, the adorable little shy fidgeting, it could kill a guy from cuteness. "I…had considered the matter, briefly."
"Of course you did, Mr. Spock. Quite logical, given that you are the Vulcan science officer." So he wasn't as good at hiding his smirk as he thought he was, because Spock glared at him. Ah well; win some, lose some. "Out with it, then."
"I had considered variations of t'hy'la or k'war'ma'khon," Spock murmured.
Jim blinked, trying to remember his rudimentary grasp of Vulcan nuances. "Extended family?" he hazarded.
"Close; the true definition is one who is as close as family, but not genetically related."
"Aw, I'm your crazy step-brother, aren't I?"
"You are at least half correct."
"You, my friend, are a Vulcan snob."
"You said 'had considered'. So what're you considering now?" He really was curious, despite the levity.
"You've got me there."
"It is literally translated as journey's end," Spock replied.
"Halan-shahtan," he attempted, and cringed at the wreck he made of the pronunciation. But Spock looked pleased, and so he smiled, placed a hand on the blue sleeve that rested beside him. "I like it. Tell them if they don't let you name it they're not getting their conference supplies."
There, he'd been missing that eyebrow. "I highly doubt Starfleet will approve of your tactics."
"Since when is that news?"
A longsuffering look, and then Spock rose. "I shall leave you to your sleep, Captain…my apologies for awakening you."
The poor guy looked a little embarrassed, and so he waved a hand to easily dismiss it before burrowing back under the covers. He cast one more look at the glowing images on the padd before smiling up at his First. "I'm glad you did, Spock. I think I'll sleep better now, knowing…knowing everything's right with the universe again. With both universes."
"Agreed," the Vulcan admitted, pausing before the door to lower the lights again, which had brightened upon his entrance. "Sleep well, Jim."
He planned to, but before he did, he lay awake for a few minutes, recalling even after these many years the memories he'd seen in those hasty few minutes on Delta Vega, seeing the pain and loss and longing and utter loneliness that had so haunted the old man for so many years – over a century – since his Jim Kirk had been lost to the Nexus, and apparently dying so many decades later without ever seeing him again.
I am content – for I have had the best of both James Kirks.
The old man had been such a wonderful friend to them both, a mentor and a guide and someone who had always – even during those days when he least deserved it – had trusted him completely, wholly, unconditionally, and would have followed him to the ends of the galaxy and beyond if he wished it. Now, he knew his own Spock would do the same, and maybe more; they weren't the same person, and yet they were, and he wouldn't trade his Spock for the world. But just the same, he was so happy the old man had finally found peace that he could actually cry himself to sleep from joy.
Halan-shahtan, old friend, and thank you so much.
(1) Pi' is the Vulcan prefix with a diminutive meaning; sha' is the one meaning of one's self. So literally, XI Jim is Small (or Young) Jim and TOS is My Jim.
(2) Most likely I'm butchering Guinan's voice, but I really don't feel her character much or even really like her, to be honest, so bear with the blatant plot devicing here. :P