Sarek glanced at the night sky. To the naked eye, even one of enhanced vision such as all Vulcans possessed, the docking station orbiting Earth which held the recently refurbished Enterprise looked like a star in the sky. He squelched the distaste he felt at the thought of the Enterprise as soon as the emotion had surfaced.

It was a fascinating ship. Well crafted, well designed, capable of sustaining life for long periods of time, and capable of taking it. And soon it would be the home of his son.

It would be illogical to hold a non-cognitive object responsible for taking one's offspring away during a time when the separation would be the most… felt. But Spock was all he had left of her, the only living embodiment of Amanda's spirit and her grace, for Spock had certainly inherited both. Sarek found he did not wish to be parted from him again so soon after her loss, and the loss of his home, his people.

But he acknowledged that he did feel… irritated at the vessel nonetheless. Acknowledged it, and overcame it. It would not do well to dwell on circumstances that could not be changed.

He would not risk estrangement from his son again. Too much time had been lost already. Regrets were also illogical, one could not alter the past, but there was certainly logic in learning from one's previous mistakes.

Spock chose Starfleet for the second time in his short life. Sarek could not fault him that.

And yet…

"He has chosen the path for which he is the most suited," came a soft voice from the stillness of the Academy observation lounge, and Sarek felt a familiar awareness tug at his mind.

His son, but not.

Oh the elder Vulcan hadn't admitted as much on the few occasions the two of them had come in contact. Especially since the survivors of the Vulcan massacre had temporarily taken their refuge here on Earth. He didn't have to. Even if Sarek did not feel the tug of a familial connection that was very similar, but not exact, he'd recognize those eyes if he lost all other memory.

They were Amanda's eyes.

He did not know the specifics. Would love to understand the science involved in creating the possibility of it. But, he knew.

Spock, older, at peace with himself in a way that his own restless child had never been, and not of this plane.

"His path is not yours. This universe has diverged from the one you knew. Spock's future has yet to be written," he replied.

He would not have Spock's decision to explore the stars trivialized as a quirk of a fate.

"Certainly his future is his to determine," the elder Spock acknowledged, "I would not imply that Spock was not in full possession of freewill. But the katra, the spirit, remains the same, and it is following the path which will bring the most fulfillment."

Sarek turned to acknowledge this interloper thoughtfully. Despite his misgivings regarding Spock's choice, at the end of the day he was a parent - a parent who wished for his son to know contentment.

It might bring his own turmoiled spirit some peace, were he to be so certain.

"Show me," he requested simply, and stood stoic when withered fingers reached towards his face.

But when contact was made, images began flashing through his mind almost too fast to comprehend: that of Spock, that of Kirk, that of Kirk and Spock together. The deeds they accomplished, the way that together they were able to conquer time and space. Even death, itself.

…"The Timewarp, what did it do to us?"

"We've regressed in time, 71 hours. It is now three days ago, Captain. We have three days to live over again."

… "Interesting. Where would you estimate we belong, Miss Keeler?"

"You? At his side, as if you've always been there and always will."

…"Time has resumed its shape. All is as it was before. Many such journeys are possible. Let me be your gateway."

…"Jim... This... simple feeling is beyond V'ger's comprehension."

… "My father says that you have been my friend. You came back for me. "

"You would have done the same for me. "

"Why would you do this?"

"Because the needs of the one... outweigh the needs of the many."

Sarek of Vulcan gasped.

He would never admit it out loud, not if someone held a phaser to his head and gave him the choice between confessing all of his embarrassing secrets or death, but the relief Jim felt when Spock walked onto the bridge and offered candidacy for first officer was absolute.

Christ that had been a close call! Jim was a fairly good actor, if he did say so himself, and he did, but winging the fact that he wasn't as nervous as hell about taking command of a ship full of former classmates, having just graduated himself, was a little unnerving…. Okay, okay, a lotunnerving.

He wanted this - the Enterprise, her crew - oh how he wanted it. And he knew he could do it, sure. But he'd be lying to himself if he didn't admit that the sight of the cool and collected Spock, with his experience and his intellect and this presence that all but said 'I will help you achieve the impossible, but I still and forever will think you're illogical, just for your information,'didn't bring with it something like… emotional security.

They, the two of them, could do this. The galaxy would not know what hit it.

They could do anything. Hell, besting Nero, with all his advanced technology, had proven that.

Now all they had to do was recapture that spirit again. And again. And again, for the…next…five…years. Jim didn't know he was clutching the armrests on his chair as tightly as he had been until his fingers started to burn with pain.

Right, so maybe twenty-five really was too young an age to be granted captaincy. There had to be a reason, after all, that no one else had done it before.

Jim started to feel a little queasy, the room, the bridge, his bridge, starting to distort through his panicked eyes as if he were in one of those mirrors in a carnival fun-house. What the hell was he doing in this chair, he had no experience - sure he had been confident taking on Nero, there had been no time to stop and think, no time to reflect, just do, do, do. He did doreally well, always had. But now...

The feeling of a strong, yet familiar, presence at his side shook him out of his soon-to-be scheduled full blown freak-out. He looked up into brown, brown eyes and felt the world click back from dizzying, to something resembling... okay.

"I look forward to serving with you, again, Captain," Spock said, in a voice that was monotone, sure, but also supportive and kind.

"Thank you, Commander, me too," Jim replied, when he really wanted to say, 'thanks for coming back, thanks for agreeing to be my First, I'm sorry for all the hostility upon our initial meeting, I just know the two of us are going to be awesome together.'

Yet somehow, maybe by the gleam in his eye, or maybe the tilt of his eyebrow, Jim knew Spock got it.

His excitement almost trumped his nervousness. Almost.

For all that he had worked diligently to earn it, the fact that he was finally captain, had finally earned his ship… and not just any ship, but the flagship, the Enterprise, filled him with an euphoria that could not be duplicated.

When the familiar whirl of the transporter had righted, and he stood aboard his ship for the first time, a mild dose of fear infiltrated the exhilaration.

He was now in charge of a constellation class starship, manned by a crew of 430 people. 430 lives now depended on his decisions, his ability to command. True, he had worked towards this one goal his entire Starfleet career, but at the end of the day he was still the youngest captain to be awarded this honor. Would the crew trust him? Could he trust himself?

"Captain on-board," a smooth, methodic voice announced, and while the crew members present stood to attention, Jim glanced up to meet a set of extraordinarily soulful brown eyes.

For a moment Jim found himself enchanted by them, marveling at the human quality to them through the mostly Vulcan façade.

His First Officer nodded in his direction, one sculpted eyebrow raised in inquiry at the stare, and Jim felt himself exhale.

He wasn't alone on this new journey he was embarking on. He had a seasoned and decorated officer as his second- in-command. It would serve them both to remember that. Together they would move mountains.

Jim was certain that they could.

It was a drug, Jim Kirk's mind. One Spock appeared to be most susceptible to. It was unique to find one so dynamic in any species, but exceedingly surprising to find it in this particular form.

His mother had often used the human phrase 'don't judge a book by its cover' when he had been younger. James Kirk was the definition of this phrase. The bravado his captain had always put on hid this- the sensitivity, the sharp edges held tightly in check, a keen instinct, and a mind whirling with layers and layers of profoundly intricate thought.

'Why hide, Jim. Do you not wish to be known for all you are?' his conscience asked.

'You of all people should know why one might keep some things close to the chest,' Jim's mind replied. 'Does anybody ever really know anyone else? I mean, really know them?'

'Some do,' Spock thought, more to himself than Jim, 'but they are few.'

But he understood. Oh yes, he understood.

This meld, their first, had been one of necessity. Jim's voice rendered hoarse from overuse during his torture at alien hands, and Spock needing the information required to navigate both he and his captain out of the building, and away from the site owners that held them hostage.

What he encountered then were vivid images rushing out at him like a starship in warp. It was both disorienting and exciting.

It was no wonder that Jim Kirk was a master chess player, to the point that he had even bested Spock on numerous occasions since their mission had started. Jim weighed all outcomes two steps ahead of what was happening now. His mind a whirling maze of possibility and probability, dancing and twirling around until he decided on one outcome, usually the one most surprising.

'Keeps our enemies on their toes,' Jim's mind teased.

'Keeps your crew on their toes,' Spock corrected, both of them hearing an echo in Jim's mind, with the voice of McCoy, calling 'you'll be the death of me'.

'And by crew,' Spock continued, 'I meant, First Officer.'

Jim's mind lit bright in laughter - the laughter like lightening in the sky, sharper, brighter, than anything else.

It was beautiful.

It seemed Jim was so used to predicting outcomes, that he actually became thrilled when something happened to surprise him. When something became... unpredictable.

'Oh come on, you had to know that much,' Jim's mind teased. 'The unpredictable is... fun.'

The explorer in Spock screamed 'yes.'

The meld had worked. They had escaped the Klingon run compound on a world that was supposed to have been neutral, Spock's world suddenly clearer than it had been before.

His captain had actually grinned through his pain as they escaped, Jim leaning on Spock for support as he announced in a strained, hoarse whisper:

'Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam… ach luqbe' (today is a good day to die… but we will not).

It was in that moment, for the first time that Spock could remember in his life, that it took considerable effort to hold back a smile.

It was… fascinating. The human, his captain, had won. Spock couldn't help but stare at the chessboard in muted disbelief long after Jim had been called away.

And it wasn't that, so much, which left a mystery in its wake, though yes, it had been a great while since Spock had lost a game, and never to a human at that.

No, the true puzzle was the manner in which his captain had accomplished it.

The moves he used were unprecedented, illogical, and surely more than a few of them had skittered on the edge of acceptable, rule-wise. Though they never quite teetered over into blatantly wrong territory in a way that Spock could legitimately call afoul.

Spock continued to eye the chessboard with a raised brow, as if prodding it to reveal any hidden secrets it might possess in explaining how the events of the past 2.5 hours were possible.

It was clear that his new captain liked to take risks. His dealings in various scrapes they had encountered thus far taught Spock that, even if Jim's extraordinary game of chess exemplified that point quite adequately in and of itself.

And these moves were effective because they were… surprising. New, inventive and bold.

There was so much more to this human than a pretty face and ambition. Oh yes. With anticipation he found rather surprising, Spock found himself very much looking forward to the next five years serving with James T. Kirk.

Clearly there was much yet to learn.

"So, when you said, 'I have been and always will be your friend' back when we first met, after you had saved me from becoming giant snow lobster chow… you didn't mean in the 'let's meet once a week for a beer, and exchange the occasional greeting card' sense by that, did you? Is there more to it than that?" the young Jim Kirk inquired, giving no forewarning to this rather personal line of questioning, and Spock had to bite the inside of his cheek to stifle displaying any reaction to the nostalgia of it.

Such a Kirk move, engaging in surprise tactics, taking his opponent off-guard, using whatever advantage available in his unending arsenal of witty repartee. Inviting Spock here to trap him into admitting something he didn't feel it necessary to divulge.

The Jim and Spock of this timeline, both exceedingly stubborn men, maybe even more so than he and his own Jim had been, knew too much already simply by knowing that he existed. He had interfered with this new, troubled timeline more than he probably should have as it was... Too much interference would only lead to resentment.

He knew Jim, any Jim, that well.

Well enough that he should have suspected that young Jim would seek him out again, eventually. The man, in any incarnation, simply didn't like to be kept in the dark. Some personality traits really were indigenous to the DNA.

The constant drive for knowledge, leave no detail unturned, had been one of the things that made Jim Kirk such an effective captain.

"That is a pretty… extravagant conclusion to come to based on one uttered, albeit deeply meant, phrase. Care to explain your reasoning?" Spock asked, though Surak help him he knew, and it filled him with the combined hope, amusement and bittersweet regret it always did when he contemplated where his life had brought him. Here, in a universe not his own, where a younger version of himself and his T'hy'la were currently running around on a ship bearing a familiar name, manned by an equally familiar crew.

On one level it warmed his heart, kept him going, gave him comfort when the nights were cold and the memories of times past could not be kept at bay. At other times it made him want to indulge in an undignified, and entirely unsanctioned, emotional outpouring of grief.

"Are you going to answer the question?" Jim asked, undeterred, his eyes… pleading. And Spock fell victim to them, as he always had whenever his own Jim had looked at him in this particular way.

"I do not think that an answer to that particular question is truly what you seek," he answered honestly, hedging his way through this minefield the best he could.

Jim nodded, as if expecting an answer, looking equal parts relieved and disappointed at Spock's ambiguity.

"May I ask why it is so important to you to know," Spock inquired when his companion failed to explain his motive, however unnecessary.

"I wanted to know if this one thing was mine," Jim muttered, his voice uncustomarily distant and partially… uncertain? The only time he had seen his own Jim uncertain was when his captain had finally admitted... ah, memories, they were more precious to him than any possession.

Spock took a sip of his tea to still his mind, the hustle and bustle of the starbase café he and Jim had prearranged to meet in, just to 'catch up' Jim had said, and held back his grin… just.

"Ah," he replied simply, quite certain he was successful in hiding his blatant amusement.

He waited a bit, took another sip of his tea, pointedly did not look knowingly in the other man's direction and waited for it…

"Obviously Spock is not the first male I've found attractive," Jim announced when he became too repressed by his own silence.

It was considerably harder to hide his grin this time around. It was most beneficial that he had decades of experience when it came to rules of engagement with a James Kirk.

"Of course not," he intoned simply, thanking all of his forefathers for Vulcan discipline.

"I mean, you can't just turn sexuality on and off," the frazzled young man continued.

"I find this to be true in a great many sentient life forms, yes," Spock readily agreed.

"But I don't believe in destiny," Jim said then, with a fervency that temporarily took Spock off guard. "I think the idea of a foretold romance is both unhealthy and sets false expectations on how a relationship should work. And I don't like that I find myself questioning whether I've fallen for Spock because I've fallen for him on my own, or because I picked up on the idea that you and the Jim Kirk you knew were a little more than friendly compadres. I mean that look in your eyes when you first realized who I was..."

Spock had known Jim would feel this way, of course, were he to assert any sort of prevalence over fate in the young man's presence. Which was why he hadn't done it. Or thought he hadn't. Seeing a young incarnation of his lost love on that ice planet, after so many lonely years... well, he didn't doubt he did exhibit strong emotion in that instant.

His Jim had also been a fiercely independent creature, obsessively thus. Telling him things ought to be one way was a surefire way to get him to 'dig in his heals' as humans so charmingly put it.

… "What does God need with a starship?"

Oh Jim, if you could watch this with me.

It had taken so much, through poor decisions on both of their parts, before he and his captain to come to terms with the fact that destiny wasn't necessarily the worst fate to befall a man, or a Vulcan struggling to become one. That even destiny came with choices. And compromise. And lessons to be learned.

He wouldn't trade lessons he had learned with Jim for anything else in existence.

"The Jim Kirk of my universe was my t'hy'la, his katra, what you would call a soul, sang to mine, it still does," Spock announced, making the decision that perhaps this information wasn't so detrimental to divulge, not when this young incarnation of Jim had reached his own conclusions already, and was so obviously grappling with them.

"And what, you're finally fessing up because you feel that my Spock and I are destined for a similar path? Oh I wish I could believe that. Really, really wish I could. Spock is pretty amazing, more than amazing, he's awesome. I'd consider myself pretty damn lucky if he felt the same way about me. But this whole thing about destiny and 'soulmates', I just don't know," Jim admitted, shoulders tense. "I mean, it's a fanciful idea, this concept of a perfect relationship just unfolding in your path like that, without putting any real work into it. This 'don't worry about finding a partner, fate's got you covered' mentality. That's kind of a… passive approach to life, you know?"

"I do know. And I agree. Particularly if you defining the term 'soulmate' utilizing that ideal," he agreed, amused anew when his young companion blinked at this admission.

"And you have a different definition?" Jim asked. And though the man's general nature leaned more towards rebellion, Spock saw in him the same open curiosity he'd seen in his own Jim when it came to comprehending philosophies that might be new to him.

An open mind – a necessary trait of any explorer.

"It was Plato, was it not, that introduced the concept of a souls being split in half?" Spock asked in lieu of answering Jim directly.

"You know, yes, I believe it was Plato," Jim mused, the edges of his lips quirking into a grin as he contemplated the fodder for wit evident in this particular girth of knowledge, putting the urgency of this situation aside temporarily and teasing in a way that squeezed Spock heart like nothing else could. "Bastard. If he only knew the sheer number of cheesy films, over-the-top novelizations and sappy greeting cards that would follow in that particular wake."

"Quite," Spock agreed, not bothering to hide his grin this time around. "But did not Plato also define an entire soul as being composed of separate, shall we say, character components?"

"He did," Jim affirmed, nodding, donning an expression that clearly said 'and this is important be-cause?'

Spock didn't leave him hanging, didn't see the point in it. "Certainly, you possess all components of Plato's model of a soul. But one, I believe, is dominant…" he trailed off. Jim was not so unaware that he wouldn't know immediately to what Spock was referring.

"Spirit," Jim answered after giving it thought. "Love, honor and victory, all the way," he finished with a grin.

"I agree, though you neglected to mention the largest virtue of the spirit: courage," Spock added for him.

"That's why Pike recruited me," Jim said by way of agreement. "And I suppose that is true, I believe letting fear rule you is just an excuse to hold back."

That answer resulted in another pang flashing through him at a philosophy so similar to the Jim he knew… by Surak he missed his t'hy'la, so much at times he thought it might consume him whole, it took considerable will to carry on through the remembrance of it.

"And your First Officer?" he asked, refusing to allow a lapse, refusing to give into the sorrow.

"Well, that's a no brainer. Rational," Jim shrugged, his demeanor all but proclaiming 'well, duh.'

"Hmmm," Spock agreed, nodding, "the Jim Kirk I knew once told me that I was the one for logic and you were the one who went where angels feared to tread."

"I said that?" Jim asked, surprised. "Well, you know, sometimes, occasionally, even youhave to agree that I can have a point," he finished with a pleased grin, eyes flashing in the intimacy of a shared joke, and Spock felt that pang anew.

Yet it was clear that Jim was open to the point that Spock was trying to make, to coming to understand his meaning.

"Spirit and rational, two concepts that can often be at odds with one another, certainly. But when they learn to work in tangent, when they manage to not only coexist but thrive off of one another?" he asked, closing his eyes at the full comprehension out in the open now to befall his young companion.

"Unstoppable," Jim whispered, excitement clearly dawning in this revelation, and it's potential.

"Friend, brother… lover, not just one or the other, but all three," Spock finally answering Jim's question directly, nodding at the young captain with so much potential, with such an amazing future ahead. "That is my definition of the term. How many of these universes it happens in is immaterial, the point is that it does."

And Jim Kirk smiled, genuine, full of beautiful white teeth, and a charisma so potent it could light the night's sky.

"I do like your definition better," he announced.

Sarek looked towards the sky, wondering at which point he would be able to spot the vessel which carried his son, and his son's intended, home, even if only temporarily.

He did not turn when he felt a familiar presence beside him.

"They are to bond," he announced, though he was aware that the news might possibly be redundant to this particular set of ears.

He felt rather than saw his companion nod.

"Does the idea distress you?" the older Vulcan asked.

"Not at all," Sarek answered, finally turning to meet the older Spock's gaze. "It is most gratifying to see my son so… content in his match. As content as I once was in mine."

At that his companion smiled, and Sarek started slightly at the sight of it. "They will never be content, not fully. They will always want more. More of each other, more time, more of the stars they travel… more of the thrill of discovery. But they have known, and will continue to know, love."

"It is enough," Sarek agreed, and turned once more to gaze at the sky.

The End!