Chapter 5

2258-Post Narada; Day 3, USS Enterprise

"Approaching Delta Wega, Keptain," reported Chekov.

Kirk scooted closer to the edge of his seat, as if that would get them there that much faster. It was an irrational move but he would be glad to pick up Keesner because it meant they were that much closer to Earth. Of course it could also be that he felt bad for the little alien being trapped alone on the God forsaken ice ball. "Lt. Uhura can you contact the station?"

"Aye, Captain." Although she didn't snarl outright as she had yesterday, she still wouldn't look at Jim. It was as if by not seeing him, she would be able to make herself believe he was someone else. "Connection established with the station."

"Good." Jim leaned back in the Captain's chair, his legs relaxing and spreading wide as he let himself relax. "Please let Keesner know that Scotty can beam him up from the station at his convenience."

Rolling his shoulders Jim glanced around the Bridge. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, all things considered. Jim did notice Spock watching him silently from the Science Station. The Vulcan had been acting weird since Jim had stumbled into him at the Mess this morning. If Jim didn't know Spock, at least a little, all the staring might freak him out a bit. Of course, it wasn't just the staring. Spock had taken to sniffing him every time he walked past Jim or stood close to him. It was weird…and a little exciting. It made Jim wonder if Spock was starting to figure out the truth. His sense of smell was obviously better than a human's, as he had picked up the scent of blood only hours after Jim had started his period.

Glancing again at Spock, Jim quickly stood up and tugged at the hem of his shirt. "Spock, you have the Conn. I'm going down to the transporter room."

Jim wouldn't admit it out loud, or even really to himself, but he wanted off the Bridge and away from Spock. Just for a while. He needed to figure out how to tell Spock about who he really was and about Gabriel. Sarek had told him to just pull Spock aside and tell him the truth. Jim wasn't sure he could do that. He was a little scared that he would freeze up and just start spewing out random information. Besides, they still had days they'd be stuck on this ship and if he told Spock, and Spock freaked out again, what was Jim supposed to do? It wasn't like he could hide indefinitely from Spock while trapped on the ship…well he couldn't do so at the Academy either. So for the time being, until he could work up the nerve, he would do his best to avoid Spock and the other two Vulcans.

The Transporter Room, when he got there, was in worse shape than it had been. Just the other day it had still looked in near mint condition, except for the broken spot where Sulu and he had crashed down. Now there were gaping holes in the walls where Engineering techs were carefully removing parts and replacing them with others. Burnt out parts and parts that still looked to be in working order were all over the place, on the floor, leaning against the walls, and on top of the control panel.

"What's happened," Jim asked, turning to look at Scotty who seemed perfectly pleased by the disorder.

"Just a wee bit of maintenance, Cap'n. Nothing ta worry about." Scotty smiled and slapped Jim on the shoulder.

"Scotty, man, you know you're supposed to be beaming Keesner up right now, right," asked Jim.

"Of course, Cap'n!" Scotty smiled and moved to take the seat behind the controls, brushing the spare parts off the consul. "I can beam 'im up now."

"As long as he comes up alive and one piece…"

"Aach, I canna believe you' be such a worry wart."

Jim gave Scotty another worried look and decided that he really didn't want to see what would happen when the transporter beamed up the little alien. "Okay, I'll trust you but if we have to send him to Bones' tender care I'm leaving you to explain what happened."

Scotty shook his head, not even a small trace of fear on his face. Jim wondered if the man had any sense of self-preservation. If Jim was in his shoes he would be running for the hills and trying to find the deepest cave to hide in. Bones was a scary SOB when he was on the warpath.

"Cap'n, you worry to much. Tis but a wee bit of maintenance. It won' hurt a fly."

Jim raised his hands in surrender and slowly backed towards the door. "All right, but if he ends up a girl, a cat, or with two heads, I'm denying everything!" Scotty laughed at him as Jim backed out of the room, the door closing in front of Jim.

Looking around at the mostly empty corridor, Jim paused trying to think what to do now. He didn't really want to go back to the Bridge where Spock was, but he couldn't just hover here in the hall outside the transporter room either. Bones was too busy in Sickbay to go bug and the few other people he knew onboard were all on the Bridge. Well…except for the Vulcans. He could go visit Sarek again but at this point Jim was sure he spent more time with the Ambassador than Spock did and they were sharing a cabin. Spock. He could go see the other, older Spock.

Deciding that was the safest course of action, Jim headed to the turbolift. He was a few decks away from where Old Spock's assigned cabin was but it wouldn't take more than five minutes to get there from his current location. If the Old Man was in, Jim was sure he could convince him to spend a little time with Jim while he hid from the Old Man's counterpart. Of course Jim wouldn't admit that he was hiding from Spock, especially when Old Spock seemed convinced that his counterpart and Jim were destined to be together, no matter the fact that Spock was obviously with Uhura. It made a warm spot grow in his chest knowing that at least one Spock knew how much Jim loved him, and that Jim's love was returned, at least in part.

The walk towards the refugee cabins passed the same as it had going to the Bridge. People kept stopping him to shake his hand and say their thanks, to kiss him and slap his back until he wanted to run. Then there were thee Vulcans nodding towards him and giving him the ta'al. Their quiet thanks hover around him like a warm blanket on a winter's night. It was strange but Jim found he greatly preferred the quiet thanks the Vulcans gave him too the more boisterous back slaps, hugs and cries that the humans gave him. The Vulcans seemed to respect his need for space and the obvious signs of his distress while the humans emotionalism overwhelmed him.

"Captain Kirk," one Vulcan said as they moved away from the wall, pressing himself between the mass of humans surrounding the Captain, using their knowledge of the Vulcans need for personal space to give the young man a chance to breath. "Might I request a moment of your time?"

"Yes," Jim wanted to pull the older Vulcan into a hug right then. The other people seemed disappointed but they stepped back further and allowed Jim and his Vulcan rescuer to slip away.

Once they were far enough away from the crowd Jim turned to look at the Vulcan. He was tall and lean, as it seemed almost all Vulcans were, but his skin was a rich dark mocha color, so very different from the pale skin tone of Spock and his family. This Vulcan's hair was clipped short in tight little black curls and Jim couldn't help but wonder if he had some African blood, even though he knew Spock was the first Human-Vulcan hybrid. Perhaps it was just the shock of the difference of seeing a dark skinned Vulcan, or maybe it was the way he moved. It reminded him of a leopard, all smooth grace and stillness. It was a way of moving that no human he had ever met could mimic. Was it just that Vulcans could control themselves so well that all the wasted movement that came with a humans bubbling emotion could be easily controlled or was there something else? Jim supposed that in the long run it didn't matter.

"Thank you."

The Vulcan arched an eyebrow at him and Jim couldn't help but smile. The eyebrow lift must be genetic then. "Thanks are illogical."

Jim shook his head and smiled at the other man. "I felt like I was going to drown in their gratitude back there. If you hadn't interrupted them, I'm not sure what I would have done."

"It is no issue." The other man look away down the corridor where a pair of red shirts quickly dashed off around the corner after being spotted. "You have done much for our people."

"Well, thanks all the same." Jim watched him for a moment longer as they started to approach the spot where the red shirts had been. "I'm Jim, by the way."

"I know." The Vulcan's eyebrow twitched as if it wanted to raise up but was being forced not to. "I am Torik Cha'Tuvin."

"Well, it is nice to meet you, Torik."

Torik nodded his agreement. "May I inquire as to your destination, Captain Kirk?"

Jim smiled. "I was going to visit an old friend."

"Ambassador Sarek is not quartered in this area."

Jim laughed and shook his head. "I'm not looking for Sarek. I'm actually looking for an older Vulcan. He goes by the name Selik."

A light of understanding blossomed in the Vulcans dark eyes and Jim realized that this man knew who Selik really was. No more was said on the matter, and Jim understood it wasn't meant to be rude, just that like Jim, Torik understood this wasn't something that should be discussed where anyone might overhear. There was too much danger in anyone finding out that someone from the future survived and was onboard. There was too much risk that someone might try to harm old Spock in order to get the secret of Red Matter or some other technology from the future.

Torik walked beside him the rest of the way, quietly protecting Jim from the mass of grateful people onboard. Jim was pleased by the comfortable silence between them and gave Torik the ta'al as he brought Jim to Selik's door. Torik returned the gesture and waited for Selik to answer the door before he turned to leave.

"Jim," Selik's voice, was warm with his affection as he stepped back, allowing Jim to enter his quarters.

"Hey, Old Man," Jim smiled widely at the warmth in the old Spock's eyes. "Thought I'd drop by and see how you were doing."

"I am as well as can be expected." Selik guided Jim further inside, silently offering him a seat. "I am pleased to see you today, Jim, but your eyes tell me this is not just a social call. Something is troubling you."

Jim cursed under his breath and smiling tightly, glanced away from his K'diwa's counterpart's knowing gaze. Fiddling with the sleeves of his borrowed Command tunic, Jim sighed. "I told Sarek and T'Pau about Gabriel. They even got to talk to him when I had my turn at the COMM link."

Selik frowned. "Did they not accept your child?"

"No, it wasn't that. I think they're both kinda smitten with him. Sarek especially." Jim let a small smile stretch across his lips. "It's just…it's Spock." Jim practically jumped up from the seat as he began pacing around the small room. "Sarek and I were talking and it looks like someone at the Consulate has been blocking communication between all of us, so I don't think Spock really knows the truth about what happened nine years ago, like I originally believed. I know that I have to tell him, but what if he," Jim swallowed the lump forming in his throat. "What if he decides he doesn't want me or Gabriel? How am I supposed to explain to Gabriel that his father doesn't want him? That he's going to bond with a woman who hates me and is actively trying to keep Spock and me apart?"

Selik stood and moved to Jim, calmly placing his hands on Jim's shoulders. "Try not to let it worry you, Jim. It will make you sick."

Jim nodded and let Selik pull him into an embrace. Selik rested his head against the top of Jim's, drawing in deep breaths. "If there are any similarities between our two realities, Jim, it is that my counterpart and you are destined companions. He can never be whole unless he is at your side. A part of him is aware of it, and in time, he will realize who you are and who you were to him. I cannot promise that it shall be a smooth transition, but he loves you and no force in this galaxy would be able to keep him from your side."

"How can you know?"

Selik smiled, and Jim could see the loneliness and grief in it, which tore at his heart. "Because my Jim did the same for me. I died for him, for our ship, he chased my katra across the stars, ruined his career, and destroyed the Enterprise to bring me back to life. He traded it all, though it cost him greatly, he told me countless times that he would do it all again to ensure I was at his side where I belonged."

Jim took in a trembling breath and pressed his face into Selik's shoulder. He could feel the tears prickling at his eyes, falling down his cheeks as he closed his eyes. "You loved him."

"I still love him and I shall love him beyond the end of my days. Take strength from that, Jim. Your counterpart was not so different than you are now and Spock is not so different from myself. He will understand the truth once you point it out to him. He is even now starting to figure it out."

"And Uhura?"

Selik was quiet for a long while. "She is quite different from the Uhura I knew. Perhaps it is simply that she is much younger. I did not meet Lt. Uhura until she was in her late twenties."

"Did she love you like the Uhura here loves my Spock?"

"No. She was attracted to me but she never loved me. She and I never participated in a romantic entanglement, although she did later on marry one of the men we served with aboard the Enterprise."

"Really? Who?"

Selik gazed down at Jim, reaching up to carefully wipe away the tears lingering at his eyes. Blue eyes. So very different from the hazel eyes of his counterpart. Yet Selik could see the similarities in the soul staring at him from their depths. "I cannot tell you that as it could change the future for those two."

Jim scoffed and looked away. "I think it's already been changed. Uhura has already made it plain that she and Spock are a serious item, despite the fact that their relationship will get them dishonorably discharged from Starfleet. He has been her instructor and advisor since she started the Communications track."

"Does that not seem out of character to you, Jim? Would the Spock you know risk his career and the respect of his colleagues, his family, for her?"

Jim thought about it and thought about the Spock he had known all those years ago and realized that if Spock could leave him, his K'diwa, behind because he was not ready to risk losing his Father's respect, then he surely would not do all of this with Uhura. "No. The Spock I know wouldn't risk it."

"Exactly." Spock smiled and waved Jim back to the seat he had occupied when he first sat down.

Something inside Jim loosened and for the first time since he saw Spock at the hearing, Jim felt like he might have a chance to get back everything he had been dreaming about since Spock drove away from the farm house.

Rec Room 3, USS Enterprise

Talking with Selik had been more helpful than Jim had thought it would be. It wasn't simply a way to escape Spock and the responsibilities suddenly thrust on his shoulders…it was fun. Bones, Jim was sure, would say that it was a necessary step in his continued mental health. And if talking with Sarek or Selik kept Bones from hassling him into speaking with the ship's counselor, well, it was all the better. Jim had spent almost an hour talking with Selik about Spock, Gabriel, and everything else that had happened in the last nine years. Afterwards Selik had convinced Jim to go to the Rec Room to play a game of chess. They had played each other for over an hour until Jim was forced to admit defeat. Selik had a lifetime of playing against his own James Kirk and was able to anticipate most of Jim's strategies.

While they were in the Rec Room, they had gathered a rather large crowd of people to watch their game. Jim and Selik had both been convinced to play the watchers. Selik was currently playing against a science officer that Jim vaguely recognized from around campus, and Jim was seated across from Sarek. Jim was a bit more prepared to play against Sarek than he had been all those years ago. There was something soothing about playing against him, just as there had been when he played against Selik. Maybe it was because they knew Jim, and seemed to understand him in a way that only a few others ever had. Of course Jim loved playing against him no matter what the reason, but he was even more amused to see that Torik was waiting to play the winner of his game with Sarek. Having Sarek introduce Torik as he aid had made Jim burst out laughing as he realized why the darker Vulcan seemed to know more than he should. As Sarek's aid he must have access to a great deal of "classified" information.

"Bridge to Captain Kirk."

Jim set his pawn down before standing and moving to the closest COMM. Punching the button he answered, "Kirk here."

"The USS Washington has arrived, Captain. Captain Williams is asking to beam aboard."

"All right." Jim glanced back at where Sarek was sitting, quietly studying the board. "I'm on my way. Contact the transporter bay and have Captain Williams' party beam over. Let Captain Williams know I'll be right with him. And please have Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy meet me at the transporter bay."

"Acknowledged, Sir."

Jim released the COMM button and walked back towards Sarek. "I'm afraid that our game will have to be delayed. The USS Washington has arrived." Jim paused. "Would you like to join me, Ambassador?"

"Very well." Sarek stood, and like before, Jim was amazed by the economy of the movement and his fluid-like grace.

Spock confirmed the request to meet the Captain in the transporter room. Rising up from his station, he gave the CONN to Sulu before exiting the Bridge. It would take five minutes to get to the Transporter Room from the Bridge, and seven to get there from Sickbay. It should give him enough time to speak with the doctor in regards to the scent of blood that lingered around Acting Captain Kirk. It was worrisome that the scent was so strong and that it had such a strong effect on him. No one else seemed to notice it but then humans had a substandard sense of smell in comparison to most other races within the Federation.

Convinced that this was the wisest course of action, Spock made his way to the correct corridor to intercept Dr. McCoy on his way to the transporter. He would not have long to explain his concerns to the doctor and as such it was vital that he intercepted the man as quickly as possible to increase the amount of time available to him in order to give the doctor as much information as necessary to aid Captain Kirk. Spock let his pace increase as he cut through the crowded hallways, deftly avoiding contact with the other crewmembers and refugees in his path.

He could hear Dr. McCoy complaining in his normal fashion before he spotted him among the slowly thinning crowd. "Dr. McCoy."

"Shit." Leonard jumped and spun about, catching sight of Spock standing patiently still among the hectic flow of people. "Stop sneaking up on me with your little cat feet, ya' green blooded hobgoblin!"

Spock let one eyebrow raise up at the illogic of the doctor's statement. "I do not have 'little cat feet' as you claim, doctor. My feet are of an average size for a Vulcan of my height and build and in no way resemble that of a terran felines."

"Lord almi…" Leonard sighed and pressed his hand to the bridge of his nose, shaking his head. "What do you want, you blasted Vulcan?"

"I wish to speak with you in regards to the health of Acting Captain Kirk."

"Jim," asked Leonard, confused by the sign of concern in the Vulcan's expression. "What's wrong with that blasted boy now?"

"Although I do not see any physical wounds on his person, I have been picking up the scent of fresh blood on him since yesterday. He assures me that he is uninjured but that scent of the blood is quite strong."

Leonard's brows creased, dropping as he tried to figure out what kind of wound he could have missed. He had gone over Jim with the medical tricorder, and by good old fashioned sight and touch, looking for any wounds that may have been hidden by the clothes he had been wearing for the last few days. According to the tricorder and his own sense, which he trusted far more than any piece of technology, Jim had no open wounds or any other type of injury that should be bleeding enough for Spock to pick up the scent of blood. "I checked him over thoroughly before releasing him from sickbay. There isn't anything wrong physically with him."

"And yet the scent of blood is still there."

Leonard sighed, rubbing at his eyes before looking Spock over. The Vulcan was serious, that was for certain. Leonard also realized that Spock seemed upset that Jim was injured, or that he at least believed Jim to be injured. But men didn't just bleed for no reason despite what kind of foolish things Spock might be imagining.

Suddenly a little voice in the back of Leonard's mind whispered the answer. 'Men don't bleed without a wound but women do.'

Of course it would be just like Jim to start his menstrual cycle now of all times. And of course Spock would be the one to notice the change in Jim's pheromones, and pick up the scent of the menstrual blood, which always had a stronger odor than normal blood. "Just ignore it as best you can, Spock. The bleeding isn't anything dangerous and in a couple days he'll be fine."

"Then you are aware of what has caused the bleeding?"

"Yes, so stop worrying already. Jim'll need you to be focused so that we can get all this mess resolved."

"I do not understand why you are not concerned. I have not heard of any medical condition that would cause bleeding for multiple days that would not be cause for concern."

"Then you should be reading more about Human anatomy." Leonard rolled his eyes, trying to hide his smirk as he started walking toward the transporter room again. Spock followed behind like a little duckling.

"I have studied human anatomy, doctor. I have found no reference to the Captain's condition."

"Then yeah haven't been paying enough attention, but just forget it Spock. Trust me when I tell you Jim Kirk isn't gonna drop dead from this."

"Very well, doctor." Spock was not pleased by the doctors reaction but he could do nothing more than he had. He did not know Acting Captain Kirk well enough to confront him directly about the blood. If Dr. McCoy was unconcerned that his friend smell of fresh blood then Spock should be content that whatever was causing the smell was not life threatening. And yet he was having a hard time not thinking about it. There was something about the scent of the blood that was very familiar, as if he had smelled it before. Perhaps he had scented it in the Academy gym? All cadets had to go through unarmed combat training so he could have picked up the scent of James Kirk's blood in the gym. But no, that wasn't right either. Something about the scent reminded him strongly of Uhura and other female cadets. Their pheromones changed throughout the month, affecting their scent. Something about that felt correct, as if that was the right path to begin studying.

Did Human men bleed as well as a sign of fertility? It would be strange but not unheard of. The Zzcathi from Atros Prime bled a pheromone rich blood from their groin for a week prior to their mating season. Perhaps Humans males did something similar. But why would that not be listed in the books on Human anatomy and reproductive biology? Were the males ashamed of the side effects of mating as Vulcan males were? That seemed out of character based on other information in regards to common Human behavior. Perhaps it was not out of character. Humans were a very complex species. Their social behavior and private behavior confused many Vulcans as well as other species, even though Humans were widely accepted to be one of the more easy going members of the Federation. Did they go into rut as so many other Earth mammals did, losing control of their bodies and minds? If so then it was quite understandable why both Acting Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy seemed unwilling to speak further on the matter, and why they both changed the topic any time Spock tried to address the matter.

"—so the blasted medication we've been using on those blasted sabertooth kittens of yours are turning out to be problematic."

Spock blinked as he realized that he had been contemplating the problem of Captain Kirk's health and Human biology so completely that he had stopped listening to Dr. McCoy, who had changed topics again and was now complaining, something he did quite frequently, about the tranquilizer used on the L'Matas.

"The tranquilizers apparently sent two of the females into labor and we had to dart them with the antidote after moving them to separate holding cells." Leonard growled and waved his arms about in jerking, angry motions, nearly hitting Spock in the face on two separate occasions. "Now we have twelve more L'Matas than we did this morning. Don't suppose you know anything about the blasted things? We need someone to work with Zoology to monitor them now that we can't drug up the females or the cubs."

"I do not. However I will speak with my father and see if any of the refugees have the knowledge you require."

"Good. Good," Leonard mumbled lightly as they reached the doorway to the transporter room. "I hate these things," he said, scowling at the transporter as they entered. "Can't figure out why any right-minded person would agree to let himself or herself be disintegrated at whim. Creepy things transporters."

Spock did not reply.

"Bones, Commander Spock, glad you made it." Jim grinned at them eyes full of mischief.

Bones snorted but stepped up next to Jim. Sarek stood on Jim's other side, with T'Pau next to him. Spock nodded to his Father and Clan elder and took his place between Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy, who only grudgingly moved over for Spock. Bones glared at Spock as the Vulcan forced him to step to the side. He didn't particularly like moving from Jim's side for Spock. Leonard didn't think that Spock really deserved it after abandoning his friend for nine years, then charging him with academic dishonesty in front of the entire graduating class, and later marooning him on a fuckin' ice moon. No Leonard didn't like it at all, but he would step aside for Jim and Gabriel's sake.

"We all set, Scotty?"

"Aye, Cap'n. Ready when you are."

"Good." Jim took a deep breath and glanced at Spock out of the corner of his eye. "Energize."

"Energizing now, Cap'n."

In front of them the golden light of the transporter began to swirl into the shape of four figures. Jim wasn't sure who the others were. He assumed two of them were Captain Williams and either his security chief or his XO. The other figure looked to be an adult based on size, but the forth figure was much too short. A child or maybe a species like Keesner that was naturally shorter?

"Huh." Jim tried not to reach up and rub his eyes at the sight of the people now fully transported onto his ship. The man in front, dressed in gold, was obviously Captain Williams. Jim had to fight not to smirk at the shorter man. Captain Williams was maybe all of 5'7" at most, but he was broad shouldered, with a well muscled physic that stretched out the chest of his shirt in a very pleasing manner. His hair was blond like Jim but with a touch of gray at the temples, and neatly slicked back. There were dark circles under his eyes and it looked as if he hadn't shaved in at least two days, but Jim couldn't help but stand at attention. The man had presence.

"Captain Williams. Welcome aboard the Enterprise," Jim stretched his hand out and smiled all the wider as Captain Williams took it easily, squeezing with an equal pressure to Jim's own grip.

"It's good to be here. I hear there are some people in need of a bit of assistance."

Jim laughed and found himself smiling more warmly. "That there is. This is my first officer Commander Spock," Jim waved at Spock as Captain Williams raised his hand in the ta'al. "This is our new CMO, Leonard McCoy, this is Ambassador Sarek and Lady T'Pau."

"Ambassador." Captain Williams lifted his hand in the ta'al again. "It's good to see you again. I wish it could be on better circumstances, for all our peoples."

"Indeed." Sarek nodded gravely. "How is your daughter, Captain?"

Captain Williams laughed loudly. "As excitable as ever, I'm afraid. She's starting a pre-college program on marine biology right now." Captain Williams glanced at Spock, a small smile stretching his lips. "I'm glad to see your son survived. Your wife?"

"Did not survive the destruction of Vulcan."

Captain Williams let his eyes close, a look of grief passing over his features. "I grieve with you. She was an amazing woman."

"Indeed." Sarek looked over the others standing behind the Captain. "I admit I was not expecting to see T'Pring with you, Captain."

Captain Williams glanced back over his shoulder at the tall, regal looking Vulcan woman standing by his CMO, her daughter standing beside her still. "We were surprised as well. As far as we were aware, no ships made it off planet, but as we got into this sector we have already crossed paths with at least a dozen ships ranging in size from a private transport to a small cruise liner. The good lady's ship was damaged and was loosing life support so we beamed her and the children onboard." Captain Williams looked back at Sarek. "You know each other, then?"

"Indeed. At one time T'Pring was to become my daughter-n-law as you Humans say." Sarek looked over at T'Pring, taking in the sight of the young girl standing close to her and T'Pring's obviously swollen belly. "You are with child."

"Yes. The conditions of our escape have caused no medical danger to the child I carry," T'Pring replied.

"Well," Captain Williams glanced back at Jim. "This is the Lady T'Pring and her daughter T'Cena, and to my right is my CMO, Dr. Bergman."

Jim smiled at the Asian man standing awkwardly beside T'Pring. He had a warm face and was nearly the same height as the Captain but softer in form. "It's good to have you here, Dr. Bergman. Dr. McCoy could use the assistance. We suffer an unfortunately large loss to our medical crew during the attack."

"Oh, well." Dr. Bergman pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Perhaps we might be on our way, Doctor?"

"Please. All this nonsense isn't gonna get my patients out of my hair any faster if I sit here listening to this group yammer on like a bunch of old Aunties." Leonard gave Jim and Captain Williams a quick wave of his hand and sped off out of the room like a pack of angry cats were on his tail.

"Oh…" Dr. Bergman glanced back to his captain.

"Just go, Max. I'll find you later." Captain Williams laughed and look back at Jim. "Quite the character your Dr. McCoy."

"Oh yeah." Jim smirked. "But the best damn doctor you'll find anywhere in the Federation. That I guarantee. So…you left your second back onboard?"

"Yeah. We don't need any further damage done to your ship and my First Officer, our Tactical Officer, Commander McGarrett is a bit of a pyro. Don't ask me how but the man has a collection of antique military weapons from the twentieth century in his cabin, and at least one grenade in his uniform pocket at all times."

Jim whistled. "Wicked. Not sure I'd be comfortable with someone armed with antiques like that onboard right now. Anyway," Jim turned to face T'Pring. "If you are in need of rest, ma'am, I can show you to a more comfortable location?"

"I am not in need of rest at this time. If possible I would prefer to speak with Ambassador Sarek and Lady T'Pau."

"Of course." Jim stepped forward and stretched his hand out as T'Pring stepped forward, her legs shaking beneath her. "Careful."

T'Pring blinked at the feel of the strong hand that gripped her arm as she stumbled. Looking up, she took in the startling blue eyes, her mind touching the edges of the human's. "Perhaps I was in error."

"No problem. I can have a Yeoman show you to the dinning hall or the one of the recreational lounges? Or if you prefer some place quieter-"

"Do not bother, James," interrupted T'Pau. "As she has come to speak with me and Sarek, we shall guide her to a more restful location."

"Very well." Jim kept hold of T'Pring's arm until she had gotten her feet back under her. "If you require anything just give me a call, okay?"

The edges of T'Pau's mouth twitched ever so slightly. "As you say. Come T'Pring, T'Cena. We shall acquire some tea."

"Very smooth, Captain." Captain Williams smiled. "I don't think I've seen T'Pau warm up to anyone like that before."

Jim blushed and rubbed at his nose with the back of his hand. "I didn't do anything."

"Sure." Captain Williams chuckled. "Well, why don't the four of us find a spot to sit down and start working out the plans to get some of the Vulcan's moved onto my ship? I'll have my engineer beam over some extra supplies for you as well."

"That'd be great. Scotty here can take care of that."

Captain Williams blinked and turned to look at the man manning the transporter console. "Well, I'll be damned! What rock did they find you stashed under?"

"Delta Vega," Scotty replied with an irritated scowl.

Captain Williams whistled. "You really pissed off Archer, didn't you?"

"It woulda' been fine if that wee little cadet didna put in the wrong equation." Scotty looked away and Jim tried not to laugh at Scotty trying to lie through his teeth. Scotty knew now that it had been his mistake as the older Spock had shown him the correct equation back on that God forsaken moon.

"Of course. Well, Lt. Kelly is my Chief Engineer. He'll be waiting to beam the supplies and give assistance if needed."

Scotty scoffed. "I do'na need any o'sistance from Kelly. I can keep my own engines jus' fine."

"All right, Mr. Scot." Captain Williams turned away to look back at Jim. "Well, Captain Kirk, show me the way."

"Just call me Jim, I'm still just a cadet," Jim said, yet another blush turning his cheeks pink. Damn hormones. Damn Captain Williams for being attractive. Damn the universe for him not having been laid in far too long.

"Jim, then." Captain Williams smiled, "Call me Danny."

"All right." Jim licked his lips and looked over at Spock and Sarek. "We'll use the conference room by the Bridge."

"Very well, Captain." Spock watched Jim for a moment and Jim fought not to squirm. "Shall I request a Yeoman bring some sustenance?"

"That'd be great, Spock. Thanks." Jim smiled at Spock and for a moment he could almost imagine that it was just like it had been before all those years ago.

Officer's Mess, USS Enterprise

"It has been eight years, three months and 6 days since last we conversed," stated T'Pau.

"Indeed, elder." T'Pring guided her daughter into a seat at a table in the back of the officer's mess, out of the way of the Starfleet Officers moving about between tables.

A Yeoman came over to them and relied their requests for tea and cucumber sandwiches to the chef. T'Pau had been introduced to the sandwiches by Captain Kirk when he found her perusing the catalogue of vegetarian foods that could be prepared by the onboard chef. The majority of the vegetarian food offered was Human, which was not unanticipated given that the vast majority of Starfleet officers were Human. The sandwiches he had suggested were an acceptable meal with tea and James had explained that it was in fact a traditional snack with tea. He had also recommended she try several different Indian meals, which had also proven to be quite nutritious and pleasing of taste.

"Where is your bondmate, Stonn," inquired T'Pau as the Yeoman set down the tray of sandwiches along with a teapot and two cups on the table in front of them.

T'Pring allowed her eyes to close for a minute as she got her heart back under control. "He was on Vulcan."

T'Pau nodded, not needing to say anything in response. There were very few that had been on the planet and had survived. The majority of survivors had been off planet for one reason or another. The likelihood that Stonn had survived was so small as to be insignificant. "It is good then that his children and you survived to continue on his family line."

T'Pau reached for the teapot and carefully lifted it, pouring the steaming, fragrant tea into T'Pring's cup and then her own. The tea was a unique blend that James had introduced her too. It was a combination of Raspberry Leaf Tea and Caitian Sweet Leaf Tea. The scent was quite rich and the flavor was most pleasing. The sweet leaf was the first flavor followed by the flavor of the raspberries. It was far more palatable than most human teas as far as she was concerned.

"It is indeed fortunate." T'Pring lifted her own cup toward her lips and took a moment to breath in the scent before taking a sip. Her eyebrow rose and she found herself taking a longer drink. "I do not recognize this blend."

"James Kirk, introduced me to it yesterday. It is a blend of Human and Caitian teas. It is far more flavorful than most Human teas."

"Agreed." T'Pring waved to the Yeoman and requested another tea cup for her daughter. They continued to speak of inconsequential things as the Yeoman returned and T'Cena tried the tea. An hour passed easily as T'Pring began to explain why she and her children had been off planet at the time. T'Pau explained what they had learned about what had happened including the truth about the time traveling Romulan Nero, the Kevlin incident, the destruction of Vulcan, and the near destruction of Earth. By Human standards it was not a comfortable conversation but neither woman was Human nor inclined to react in a humanesque manner.

"Acting Captain Kirk appears to be quite competent for a Human," remarked T'Pring.

"He continues to prove me wrong about many things I thought to be true of Humans." T'Pau watched T'Pring, knowing that the younger woman was trying to lead the conversation around to something. T'Pau was too old and wise not to realize that the conversation T'Pring wished to have was about James Kirk. And perchance it even had to do with her former sa-kugalsu, Spock.

T'Pring carefully set her cup down before looking up at her elder. "This Acting Captain Kirk…He is the young woman that Spock went through p'pil'lay for." It was not a question. T'Pring had known the moment that James Kirk had touched her arm. His mind was the same as the one she had felt through her mind-link with Spock.

"He is she who is Spock's K'hat'n'dlawa," T'Pau confirmed.

Bridge Conference Room, USS Enterprise

Jim watched as Sarek and Captain Williams left the conference room, still talking. It had taken almost two hours to get it worked out how many injured were bad enough off that they would need to be transporter over to the USS Washington, and how many the other ship could accommodate. Sarek, along with Bones, would be working with Captain Williams to get the injured transported over safely. Jim would have gone with him, but for the first time in days he had Spock alone. He had the chance to tell Spock the truth. To tell him about Gabriel.

"Spock," started Jim.

"Yes, Captain?"

"Uh." Jim blushed and looked away. God this was so much easier to do in his head. Licking his lips, Jim glanced back at Spock, taking in his open posture and curious gaze. How long had it been since he had seen that look? "I…uh, well." Jim coughed into his hand, stalling.

"Captain," Spock was watching him again, eyes following every move and twitch of Jim's body. "If the matter is not urgent, there is much that needs to be attended to."

"No…uh. It's not urgent, but well, it's important." Jim looked up at Spock, still a little miffed about Spock being taller than him, but also strangely excited by the thought. "It's about what happened nine years ago. In Riverside."

Spock, who had started to turn towards the exit paused and turned back to look at Jim, an expression Jim didn't recognize on his face. "What are you talking about, Captain?"

"Nine years ago you and your parents got stranded in Riverside. You stayed with a girl who called herself Jim."

Spock said nothing but the look on his face had changed. It was a more recognizable and Jim felt the pounding of his heart calm a bit. He could do this. "You told her you loved her. The two of you, you…uh, you had sex. A lot of sex."

"What we shared is not of your concern. I do not approve of you digging into my past, Captain." Spock spun around to face the exit again. "If that is all I must return to my duties."

"Spock! You have a son," Jim cried out.

Spock froze and spun to face Jim a look of shock on his face. "What?"

"Commander Spock," a shrill voice yelled from outside the door.

"Spock," Jim started.

The door whooshed open and a panicked Yeoman stood in the doorway, her hair mused and chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath. "Commander Spock! You're needed in the science lab! There's been an accident and one of the machines has exploded," the Yeoman gasped.

Spock looked between the Yeoman and Jim, obviously trying to decide what to do. To ignore the problem and his duty to his Science department or to face the startling revelation that he had a son. A nine year old son.

Jim sighed and let his shoulders slump. Duty was more important right now. Gabriel could wait another day. "Go, Commander. Duty calls."

Spock stood a moment longer before nodding and walking around the Yeoman speed down the hall to the turbolift that could take him to the Science Labs. Watching Spock leave again, Jim slumped down into one of the chairs. It seemed like he just wasn't going to catch a break.

"Jim?"

Jim looked up as Old Spock stepped into the room. "Hey Old Man," Jim said with a strained smile.

"Did things not go well?"

Jim chuckled sadly and leaned back further into the chair, staring up at the bland white ceiling. "It could have gone worse." Jim shook his head again leaned forward in his chair, looking at the older, gentler Spock. "All I managed to do was blurt out that he had a son. I didn't get to explain anything." Jim groaned and pushed his hands through his hair. "I can't do this."

"You can."

"I can't. Every time I try to tell him, something happens to screw it up. It's like the universe is trying to tell me not to say anything. Not to tell him how badly I miss him."

Spock arched an eyebrow. "While I have seen many unique things in my lifetime, I have never come across any evidence that would support such a deity who would be considered the sentience of the Universe. As such it is unlikely that the Universe is trying to tell you anything, much less not to explain to my counterpart the truth about what happened between you and about his son."

Jim let out a gusty sigh. "I know. Christ, if it's not Mr. Freedman telling me that, it's Sam and Aruelan and now Bones, Sarek and you."

"Indeed."

Jim glared at the wily old Vulcan. "Really? That's all you're gonna say? Is that like your default word when you can't come up with something more reassuring?"

"Perhaps." The corners of old Spock's lips twitched as Jim groaned and dropped his head onto the tabletop.

Observation Deck, USS Enterprise

Spock had come to realize that of all locations aboard the USS Enterprise, the Observation Deck on the portside of Deck 17 was the most likely to defy the odds of having someone you do not wish to meet up with actually meeting up with you. He did not know what created the flaw in the odds to skew it in favor of people locating him in this room more easily than in any other on board, but he decided that a study into the phenomenon would be required at a later date.

"T'Pring," he stated without turning away from the transparent aluminum window.

"Spock," she replied, voice soft but firm.

For nineteen minutes and twenty-three seconds the two of them simply stood side by side, staring out the window. The view outside was of the USS Washington, which had yet to head back to Earth. It would not leave for another 1.25 hours. Captain Williams had assigned several of his Engineering crew to assist in repairs while the transfer of injured passengers and crew was conducted.

"You are with child."

T'Pring let her eyes stray from the window to look at her former sa-kugalsu. "I am. There is two Vulcan months left until the child is due."

Spock looked at her, letting his gaze linger on her swollen belly. Had Jim looked like that when she carried his son? Was the Captain even telling the truth? But then what reason did he have to lie to Spock? To say he had a son if he didn't. "Have you been told the child's gender?"

T'Pring let her eyebrow raise briefly before dropping down again. "The doctors are 97.753% certain the child is male."

"A son."

T'Pring tilted her head to the side, watching him, studying him as she had when they were younger. "You desire a child?"

Spock jerked his gaze up from her abdomen. "I…I have been informed that I have one."

"The student of yours, Uhura?" T'Pring arched a brow at him. "I heard rumors among the crew on-board that you have initiated an illicit affair with the human woman. Should the rumors be true, you are aware that Starfleet shall pursue a dishonorable discharge for both her and you?"

"I did not take you for the type of person who listens to the rumors of illogical Humans."

"I did not take you the type of man who would abandon his ko-kugalsu for another woman."

Spock's eyebrow twitched. "I did not abandon you."

"I was not speaking of myself." T'Pring reached down, gently stroking her hand over her belly, feeling the child inside moving. "I was speaking of your t'hy'la, Jim Kirk."

Spock's eyebrows dropped and he shifted his head, watching her with a look of confusion. "I have no such relationship with the Acting Captain. I have only known him for three Earth days."

"You lie to yourself as if you were as Human as our classmates always said." T'Pring turned back towards the door, stepping away from Spock. "Think back, Spock. You know the answer even if you will yourself to blindness, out of some illogical Human emotion. As the humans say, X marks the spot to the buried treasure. Perhaps you should follow the path laid down for you, if you are not smart enough to see the truth already before you."

Not looking back, T'Pring moved to the door, which whooshed open before her. Calmly she stepped through, allowing the doors to close behind her.

Spock watched her go, as thoroughly confused by her as he always had been. She was a most unusual woman. She acted as if she disdained his very existence and yet she never resorted to the adolescent bullying that their classmates did. Even if she did not stand up for him, she had been willing to address the bullies' own emotional failings in their desire to provoke him. She had even released him from their fledgling bond upon his request. And now she was attempting to give her advice. Romantic advice none-the-less. She impressed him and he could not help but try to sort out why such a woman would have chosen a man like Stonn as her bondmate.

"When you said you had a fiancée, I assumed it was a woman. Jim Kirk isn't a woman," Uhura said as she stepped out from the shadowy corner of the room. "Apparently you were willing to give that woman up for him, but you'll use him as an excuse not to date me, when we are obviously more suited for each other."

"Cadet Uhura." Spock blinked. He had not been aware of her presence in the room. "Your information is not whole. My fledgling bond to T'Pring was broken by mutual agreement as she had found a bondmate more suited for her. My current fiancée is female. She is the one most suited for me."

"So this other woman, is better than me? Do you even know your fiancée's name?" Uhura strode forward, halting just outside of Spock's personal space.

"Her name, the name she chose to go by, is Jim."

"Jim Kirk," Uhura scoffed out the name like the most derogatory of words.

"Perhaps. The Jim I knew, the Jim to whom I am bonded, is female. I believe she chose the name Jim because it was the name of a family member. A brother or cousin. She stated she had a brother. One older than her who ran away."

"So, what? She wasn't willing to give you 'her' real name? She just made one up." Uhura tilted her head watching him. She had heard so many different things about the famous Kelvin baby and his family growing up. Had thought him a prince and had even had a crush on him before she met the real Jim Kirk. Rumors, whispers of things not spoken of out loud, lies all of them, and now this. "You mean like Kirk does. He has an older brother George Samuel Kirk. Ran away from home years ago. It was all over the news for a while." Uhura scowled and looked away from Spock. "You have no idea who 'Your Jim' is do you?"

'Sam. Jim said her brother's name was Sam,' Spock thought, remembering back to his time with his K'diwa.

"Tell me, Spock. Have you ever read any of the papers by Dr. Phlox? He put out a paper a few years ago about Subject X. A man who was temporarily turned into a girl through a chemical accident. The paper doesn't say where the man was from but about nine years ago, the good doctor spent an unusually large amount of time in Riverside, Iowa." Uhura looked back up at Spock and stepped closer inching into his personal space. "Tell me, Spock…Do you want to be engaged to a liar? A man who said he was a woman just to get you in bed? Just to be able to add another alien race to the notches on his bedpost?"

Closing her eyes Uhura drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly as she tried to pull back on the raging emotions inside her. She didn't want to alienate Spock. She just wanted him to understand who Jim Kirk really was. She didn't want him to fall into the same trap she had with Kurt Rosenstein in High School, and then with Gary Mitchell during her first year at the Academy. Why couldn't he understand that she was trying to protect him?

"I am a much better option for you, Spock. I'm the logical choice. I am smarter than Kirk. You and I share the same hobbies. I am clean of all types of STD's. I doubt very much Kirk is. I wouldn't cheat on you." Trying to soften her eyes, Uhura made the final step into his personal space and reached up to lay her hands against his chest trying to implore him through body language as well as words to understand that he was making a mistake giving Jim Kirk his heart over her. "Kirk can't keep his hands and dick to himself. You know… he was fucking my roommate. Fucked her just so that he could use her to insert his subroutine into the Kobayashi Maru sim. He used her like he used you. Choose me, Spock."

Spock looked down at her, felt her vulnerability, her emotional weakness, her desire to protect him, and be proven right. To vindicate herself and prove herself superior to a man in every way. Everything was being projected at him through the hands caressing his chest. Reaching up he took her hands in his, trying not to winch as her emotions and thoughts bombarded him. She was suddenly hopeful, and he hated to crush her, but he could not let this continue any further. Carefully, he pushed her away, releasing her hands as he took a step back. "I cannot. Even if you were the logical choice, I cannot choose you. I cannot be the partner that you desire me to be. I cannot give up my career for you."

"I'm not asking you too! We can serve together!" Her eyes were wild as she reach out for him making Spock step back further away from the gently hands that were now looking like claws to him.

"We cannot. Have you forgotten that should we engage in the relationship you propose, we would both be dishonorably discharged for Starfleet? You are still a cadet and I am still your instructor. Even if that were not the case, our ranks are too different for Starfleet to allow a romantic relationship between us. I am not willing to sacrifice all that I have worked for simply to ensure you get what you desire. I have no emotional attachment to you beyond friendship. I am not capable of feeling for you beyond that."

"And Kirk? You'd risk a dishonorable discharge for him? You feel that for him? For the man who kept your son from you? Who slept and cheated his way through Starfleet? The man who stole your Captaincy out from under you? You want him?" The question came out on a sob. How was this her life, that the only men ever interested in her were the type of men no sane woman could love? How was it that none of the good ones could love her? A burning shame surged and danced with the anger in her belly, pouring up and out of her like a raging volcano. "I can't blame you. He's a handsome devil. But that's all he has going for him. Fuck him all you want, Spock. And when you catch some disease from him that he got from one of his alien trollops, I will be glad to say I told you so."

Stepping further away from her, Spock couldn't help but grieve the loss of yet another important person in his life. "Despite your words, I know the woman I chose has been loyal to me. Weather she is Captain Kirk or not does not matter. We are bonded. She is mine as I am hers. That will not change."

"Maybe I am wrong about you. You don't care, do you? You don't care if it's some idealized memory of a girl you met when you were 18, or if it's Kirk. It just has to be some human tramp who goes by the name Jim." Tears streaming down her cheeks, Uhura allowed her hands to form white-knuckled fists at her sides. "He fucked Galia. He probably fucked Dr. McCoy. Hell, he's fucked most of the girls on campus, and probably Pike too. Why else would Pike let him join Starfleet after he assaulted Cadet Giotto and his friends back in Iowa? I hope the two of you are happy." Turning away so that he wouldn't see her finally break apart completely, Uhura tried not to sob openly. "I hear Kirk gives excellent head."

Spock remained standing by the window as another woman left the room. He was never sure what to make of women, especially human women. He had only half understood his Mother, until he had met Jim; Jim who had completed him in a way no other ever had. Who made their differences into a strength rather than a fault. He had understood then that that was exactly what his parent's relationship was. Strength and love built on their differences. His Mother, T'Pring, Jim, and Uhura had all at one time been females whose existence in his life was of great social and emotional importance. This mission had caused him to lose his Mother and his closest friend, but perhaps he had gained an ally. For he had most certainly gained some insight into who his K'diwa was. Things that had been teasing the edges of his consciousness since he had first laid eyes on James Kirk now became clear. He only wished Nyota could have the chance to have such clarity in her life as well.

- - - TBC - - -

AN: So this chapter is much shorter than originally planned but it turned out to work better to have the chapter essentially cut in half. Hope you all enjoyed it anyway. I am sure some of you recognized who the crew of the USS Washington were. And yeah, I am aware of how much of a geek I am but Star Trek XI and Hawaii Five-0 (2010) are my two current obsessions. So yes, the Captain was Danny Williams, Steve McGarrett is the First/Tactical Officer, Chin Ho Kelly is the Chief Engineer and Kono Kalakaua is a Tactical Ensign, training under Steve.

Translations:

sa-kugalsu – fiancé; a man to whom a woman is engaged to be married.

p'pil'lay – divorce; the severing of a mind-link between bonded couples

k'hat'n'dlawa - one who is 'half of my heart and soul in its deepest sense; became unfashionable after Reformation because of its emotional connotation