A/N: I've decided that Spock Prime is the best thing out of the J. J. Abrams reboot. This isn't surprising. It's Leonard Nimoy as Spock. An older Spock. Drool.

Betas: SkyTurtle.

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek, (damnit), nor the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

What Once Was

Raven Ehtar

There had been a miscalculation. Just a small one, a single computation that had gone awry and it had led to the destruction of two planets, the vast majority of two intelligent, sentient species and the extinction of countless 'lesser types'. It didn't seem possible that so much pivoted on so little, but such was the nature of the universe at times. A more pressing matter was the question of how? How had such a vital miscalculation taken place, how had it managed to slip by some of the greatest minds, unnoticed, until the damage was irretrievably done?

Spock did not know how such a failure had occurred, but it evidently had, and the result of it, the destruction of first Romulus and his own home planet Vulcan… that was his. The guilt and responsibility of two planets lost was his to bear, which he did without question.

The planet he was on now, this ice world of Delta Vega that seeped the warmth from his very bones and stole his breath away, was as good a place to spend the rest of his days as any. The time was wrong, well wrong for him. He was a paradox in this time, and any change he might make would likely only exacerbate what he had begun. The timeline was hopelessly changed, and who knew what may happen to it should he attempt to repair it. He had dealt with fractured timelines in his long and varied life, and in that direction lay accelerated entropy. He had two planets and all their inhabitants on his conscience, he would not risk the universe as well.

So he made as best he could, this aging Vulcan, displaced out of time and space, only his memories and the few native life forms to keep him company, neither of which were particularly pleasant. There was a Starfleet outpost on Delta Vega, but it was small, out of the way, its communications unreliable at best. Had they been any better, he might have been able to warn his doomed planet, might be able to warn Earth, due to follow its counterpart soon. The outpost was run by two Starfleet members, one of which he knew, after a fashion, and might have provided him with some kind of company, but Spock kept away. This was not his time, nor would it ever be with the changes being wrought in it. The man he would have known would never be that man, and he had no claim of camaraderie on him. He held himself apart willingly, ready to live the rest of his life in the ice.

Doctor McCoy would have called his choice penance, pointing to an underlying, unacknowledged or repressed guilt he felt for events which he had little control over.

"How's that for logic, Mr. Spock?"

McCoy was – had been – a very abrasive individual, not allowing anything as inconsequential as mere politeness get in the way of saying exactly what he wanted, what was needed to be said. Spock understood that it was meant to be his way of showing concern, of 'shaking up' those that needed a little outside prodding, but it rarely worked on Spock. Most of the good doctor's attempts simply didn't penetrate his layers of distance and control. When it did, it was usually irritating rather than endearing.

Jim… Jim would have understood. He would have seen the turmoil under the calm surface of his Vulcan friend, known what Spock was doing for what it was, and would not have stood for it. In his frustratingly human way, Captain James Kirk would have been able to intuit just what needed to be done, what kind of 'shaking up' Spock needed to break him out of his current predicament. He always seemed to know how to press the buttons Spock was not meant to have, much to the Vulcan's private chagrin. And then the two of them would have gone on to face whatever challenges there were together, a united, unbeatable force. It was the way of things. They accomplished the seemingly impossible, over and over again, Jim the passion and drive, Spock the reasoning and analytical side of their force. Each man possessed elements of both, but the mix was always wrong when they were alone. Together, they were nigh indomitable.

Had they faced this together, Spock believed what had come to pass in this time stream would have been different.

Except Jim was dead, forever lost to him. There was no one here to take him out of himself. Without Jim, he was only half of what he was meant to be.

He would have been content enough to remain in his ice cave, his misguided part in the universe played out, until death visited him for the second and last time. In truth he was prepared and more than ready.

Over the years he'd been forced to watch as one by one the friends and comrades had all died, until only he remained. He'd always known it would be that way, of course. Humans were so short lived when compared to Vulcans, and even with his mixed heritage Spock was destined to live much longer than anyone else of the Enterprise crew. He knew it even as he grew close to them, and had made his peace with it long ago. Or believed he had, but the reality had proved to be so very different from the expectation. Living on without those he had come to consider a kind of family was at times difficult. There was no need to mourn unless a life had been lived in vain, and none of theirs had, yet it was still possible to be lonely even with that comfort.

More difficult now with the knowledge that, in this time stream, all of those who had died were still alive somewhere. Unless more had changed than he knew, somewhere there was another Doctor Leonard McCoy, another Chekov, Sulu, Uhura, Chapel, Scotty – whose whereabouts he was well aware of – another, younger version of himself… and Jim. Somewhere out in the galaxy, still in the Academy if his sense of time was correct, was his t'hy'la, alive and well. Something inside the old Vulcan ached with the knowledge, and it was almost enough to draw him out, for that chance to look on his friend again.

Instead he remained in his cave. A creature whose natural habitat was one of deserts and hot winds, the cold and snow worked on his aging body more harshly than it might a human's, and while he couldn't simply lay down and await death passively, he did little to slow it down.

He did not belong in this time, and he was ready to depart.

And then, that face. From nowhere, that face as familiar as his own in this place he had chosen to die. Familiar, but so young!

Spock was tossed back in time all over again, awash in a thousand memories, a thousand tiny remembered looks, touches, thoughts… This tomb he had chosen, its ice had leeched from him all heat, and with it many of the memories of his youth. He had welcomed it, only too glad to be rid of the pain they caused. Now warmth suffused the old Vulcan and he was, in an instant, who he had once been so long ago – young, driven, whole.

The ice that had crystalized around his aging heart melted, and he felt the rush of youth, of vitality sing in his veins.

His friend – his t'hy'la – was alive!

But there was no recognition, no lightening of those familiar eyes, no welcoming smile tugged at his lips. The old friend was a stranger, and the chill returned to his very marrow, leaving only another lingering memory of warmth. The cold and the emptiness rushed in; he was a hollow old man once again.

It was Jim, and yet it was not. It was Jim as he had been before taking command of the Enterprise, before he, Spock and the rest had come to know each other, had become friends. It was the same kind of devil-may-care attitude wrapped around a keen intelligence, fiery spirit and unbendable sense of what was right. He was still rough in his youth, less refined than the man Spock had come to know, still burning bright and rebellious in his beliefs and ambitions, before he'd become more comfortable in his skin, sure in his abilities. How tempting it was to give some kind of assurance, some confirmation to this young Kirk that he was indeed a remarkable individual, who would go on to achieve unbelievable things.

It took every bit of Spock's control to not reach out and touch him, to confirm with his hands what his eyes perceived. It was so implausible that Jim be here with him after all that had happened, out of all the places he might have ended up, that madness or fevered dream seemed a more plausible alternative.

But no. He was here, his Captain but not his t'hy'la, so close and yet so far. And there was something wrong, something more than just being a younger, earlier version of his old friend. Nero had done something, something before Spock had made it through the rift that had affected Jim's past, all the way back to his childhood. His father had died, leaving a young Jim Kirk to learn some important life lessons the hard way, and leaving some rather significant, if subtle, changes in his personality. The fire within him wasn't just the need to prove that he could make positive change in the universe, but to prove to himself in defiance of expectations. He felt he had to prove everyone wrong, that all of those around him expected him to fail or to come up short, and it was his job to not only go beyond what was expected, but beyond what anyone could even dream of expecting. This kind of self-doubt was different from the Jim Kirk Spock knew, something that stemmed from the changes Nero and the Narada had wrought.

Then this, too, was something laid on Spock's conscience. He had hurt his t'hy'la, had hurt him from the moment he was born, and in countless moments throughout his childhood with his failure.

Sitting at the fire with his old friend and Captain, the flames and the young man's presence made Spock remember, on some primal level, how things had once been. That indomitability, that deep down knowing that as long as he had this other man with him, any challenge could and would be conquered. It may not be easy, it may be painful and compromises might be made, but they would still come out ahead. His body remembered even if his mind protested, it remembered those long ago adventures well, and was awakening with the promise of one last venture, one last chance to defy death and odds.

And he came to believe it, perhaps more quickly than logic would have allowed for, that Kirk and Spock could once again set to some right the great evil that had come to pass.

But – not him. Whatever he might believe, Spock knew he was out of place. He didn't belong in this time, and certainly belong next to this man sitting so near him, however much he might illogically wish it were so. No, there was another in this time who fit that role. Spock might crave to be beside Kirk once again, but he had already lived that life, had outgrown it, could not force himself there again. Now there was another version of himself, a young, inexperienced Spock who was meant to fit this Kirk, and together they would become what he and his Kirk had once been. They would be able to defy the odds, to defy death, to defy the very universe and make the change no one believed possible.

Or they would, if they could just be fused into the team they were destined to be.

It was just another one of those changes that occurred as a result of Spock's mistake. Here Jim Kirk and Spock had not become quick friends, but were in fact well on their way to becoming rivals. That had to be corrected. That was one small thing Spock would attempt, and from that he could hope, he could have faith that the power of their partnership would do what he could not, and some of the damage he and Nero had done would be undone.

His aged fingers lay over Jim's smooth, young face naturally sought out those psi-points that would connect their minds, familiarity with the procedure and with this man in particular making it second nature. A pair of young eyes gazed up at him in confusion, apprehension… and trust. The warmth coming off this young, brightly shining sun flowed through Spock's arm, lit the dark corners of his mind. Spock allowed himself a moment to savor the sensation before giving back to Jim a memory he did not yet have.

It was hard, so very hard not to share more than he should during the meld, to only give what was needed so Kirk could function, do what was needed. There was the assurance of who he was, where – or rather when he was from, what had happened. Romulus, Nero and the Narada, the red matter, his failure… and then, just a taste, an almost subconscious glimmer of what Spock and his Kirk had once shared. So subtle young Jim wasn't even aware of it, but he would feel it. It was in his mind now, and it would act as a guide when he and the young Spock met up again.

Cheating? Yes. It was something he'd learned from an old friend, and it was a lesson he felt no shame in using to set right a wrong.

The trauma was past, and now it was time to heal.

Ambassador Spock still did not belong in this time stream, but there was no way to get back. There might have been a way to fling himself forward in time – he'd done it often enough now to know it was more than possible – but at this point there was no way to know which future he would end up in. His own, where he was an Ambassador, where there awaited an empty space where there should be an elderly Vulcan known as 'Spock'? Or the future of this new reality, which his younger counterpart was still creating? If he wound up in the latter, then he would have less of a place than he did already; the universe didn't need two elderly Spocks, each with different memories of how their lives had passed.

Better, then, that he remained where he was. In his own future he was respected, listened to in council, even revered by those familiar with his career, but not irreplaceable. Certainly not so much as he was here. In this time he could lend his experience to his decimated people.

Ambassador Spock offered his assistance in rebuilding what had been lost, and was immediately and gratefully accepted. It was good work, necessary work to ensure the survival of his race. There was the small issue of his identity, but it was quite minor. In the wake of the destruction of Vulcan, there had been a huge knot of relative disorganization. Displaced citizens, family lines broken and scattered, records lost, children flung afar and parentless and visa versa; it was only because Vulcans were one of the most organized races known that it hadn't all disintegrated into a complete nightmare.

But while Vulcans may have been the best example of efficiency around, they were allowed some disorganized leeway in the aftermath of the disaster. Information was lost, shuffled, confused, and one elderly Vulcan with no readily available records caused no comment. He was obviously in command of himself, and there were others not so well equipped to tend to first.

So Spock worked diligently, lending his expertise – and a certain advantage of foresight – in the selection of a suitable planet for colonization, in giving his voice on matters of construction, supply distribution, relief for those most in need, in the finding and matching of foster homes for the children left alone…

Over the course of it all he had come into contact with many of his people face to face, and while he kept himself professional and at the peak of efficacy, there was a ghost he could never quite expunge whenever he looked into the eyes of another world-orphaned Vulcan. He shared in their grief in all that was lost, all that could never be recovered. Restrained though that grief may be, it was still deep and biting. In those cases where the emptiness of their gazes reached out to him, the overwhelming sense of responsibility swept over him, threatening to smother him.

None ever accused him, not in words nor in looks, for none knew that it was through his failures they were now displaced, an endangered species. None needed to, as Spock's own sense of accountability would flare to life whenever he saw those haunted shadows flicker across their faces. This suffering, all this death, through whatever medium and whether those who suffered knew it or not, was his doing. He felt it looking back at him in every pair of eyes he met.

Yet he stayed, he did not hide himself away, and he continued the work despite the discomfort it caused him. He even spoke with his young counterpart, giving advice when it was asked of him, even though to do so brought him so close to Jim, the man who was and was not, would be and never could quite become his t'hy'la.

All his old friends, now long dead, would have had something to say about his behavior.

McCoy would have called it penance. Jim would have called it simply doing the right thing.

A/N2: There'll probably be more Spock Prime in the future. I'm expecting it.

Thanks for reading, everyone!