So I'm trying to kickstart my brain and I'm not getting hardly any reviews on my other TOS story at the moment, so here's this. It won't be long, like two or three chapters probly, but anway. I seem to have fallen off the gen fence for the moment-and onto the not-as-popular side at that. But Spock is Spock and I love him and Leonard McCoy is the kind of intelligent southern gentleman I want in real life! So what am I gonna do?

Anyway, please do let me know what ya think. I needz reviews to be motivated. ;) Thanks so much ya'll!

Of Could Have Been

It was over. Leonard McCoy knew it was over—he was a doctor, after all, damnit—but he refused to accept it.

"They'll find the communicators! We'll have you back to the ship soon. Just hold on you stubborn, pointed-eared—"

The plea fell flat. Usually he said green-blooded, but he couldn't now. There was too much green blood on his hands as he tried to staunch the blood flow from the wound in the Vulcan's side. It was too close to his heart. Too close. He was dying. And it had only been minutes since their party fought off the ambush and retreated into the cave they were using for cover.

Where was Jim? Where were the communicators?

Damned Vulcan anatomy. A human might have survived longer, after a knife through the ribs there. Long enough for Jim and his team to get back with their stolen equipment and signal the ship and beam up and get him to sickbay…

They didn't even have a medical kit. They had nothing. They'd escaped the native population that imprisoned them, but been unable then to find their things that had been taken from them. Jim and a small group had gone back after the stuff, hoping the smaller number of them would be able to slip back into the city unnoticed. Maybe they were disguised, but the larger number of them there had been escaping had still drawn too much attention. They'd barely gotten out. There were other injured here in the cave, but they were stable. They would be fine.

Spock would not be fine.

The Vulcan was stronger than any human; stronger than anyone on this planet, then. It was why Jim had left him behind to command the half of their party that didn't go back into the city. He was a good commander, and more than able both intellectually and physically to protect their wounded and the others that remained behind. And he'd done it.

But he was going to pay for it with his life if Jim didn't get the hell back here in about the next two minutes.

"You…are in command, now…until the captain returns," Spock managed, through a throat filling with blood. "Do not allow…anyone…to do…anything rash." It was solid advice, but Leonard knew it was directed more at him than it was about anyone else.

"Now just hold on a minute. I'm not in command of anything. You're not dead yet, and you're not going to be if I have anything to say about it."

"Means…little now…"

The doctor repositioned his hands over the wound, trying to apply pressure well enough and in the right place. Spock shuddered under his touch and groaned. His eyes were already becoming distant, and he seemed to fight to bring his focus back.


The Vulcan reached up weakly, and McCoy knew what he was doing. They'd discussed it, shortly after they were married little over a year ago. What would have to be done if anything like this were to happen. If Spock were to die. He'd apologized, then, for not explaining that and many other things sooner, but then again the bonding hadn't precisely been…planned. Certainly they hadn't planned to marry so soon after becoming involved, but the Pon Farr had taken care of that for them, hadn't it?

Leonard took his bondmate's hand and held it to his face, leaning closer too, because Spock was too weak to hold up an arm.

Letting him do this didn't mean he was giving up. If Jim made it back it could always be reversed. It didn't mean—

Spock brought their minds together. McCoy felt something; something moving into his own mind and staying there, protected. Spock's katra. The Vulcan soul. The essence of what he was. All of his knowledge and memories. If Spock died here, on these cold stones, this essence would be carried with his body to Vulcan and preserved.

It was done, but Spock did not pull away and Leonard held his hand there against his cheek. I love you so, Spock's voice echoed in his mind. There was so much more there, but there wasn't time for the words. He felt it all, instead.

Leonard's jaw clenched, and he choked back a sob. "I love you," he whispered aloud. Don't leave me. Don't do this to me. Not now. How can you leave now?

The doctor leaned over his bondmate and pressed a fervent kiss to his lips. He had to pull away when the Vulcan coughed. Blood seeped from the corner of Spock's mouth, and his eyes glazed with pain and impending darkness.

Leonard stayed close enough, leaned over him, that Spock could still see him as his vision dimmed. He wanted his bondmate to know he was there. He stroked the Vulcan's hair and kissed his forehead, and he didn't care if any of the others were watching. It didn't matter now. Jim wasn't here. They weren't going back to the ship. It really was over, wasn't it?

He pressed his forehead to Spock's, and found the Vulcan's hand and squeezed it. Spock's eyes found his and there was a final rattle. Beneath him McCoy felt his husband's body shudder, and then Spock's last breath was gone.

For a moment Leonard didn't move. When he finally sat up again he was still clutching the Vulcan's hands in his. There was still so much blood there. He didn't know how long he sat there like that.

"Spock, Bones, we've got it! All of it! And there a party of hostiles barely half a klick away we almost couldn't slip past. Let's get the hell out of…here."

Jim's voice, at the cave entrance and coming closer, trailing off over him. A small dismayed sound.

"Oh god."

How fitting it was raining outside. It was coming down in torrents now.

Eight Months Later

Blood. Wheezing coughs. The light dimming in dark eyes.

Leonard McCoy woke with a gasp and lay there for a while, trying to remember where he was.

His quarters. Not a cave he hadn't seen in months. Not in Orion's past, either.

They'd just come from Orion's past. He, Jim, and Lieutenant Erikson, an officer from the Enterprise's history and anthropology department. They'd just returned from an observation assignment in Orion's past—via the Guardian of Forever. Quite frankly McCoy didn't agree with using the thing at all, even for observation, but orders were orders. They'd come back only hours ago, and Leonard had returned to his quarters and dropped into bed.

God, it had been a while since the nightmares were that vivid. Maybe it was the mission. Spock would have loved it. The chance to see living history, of anywhere…

The pang in his chest made him grimace, and absently he let his arm drop over the side of the bed and he searched for the storage box under it. Most of Spock's things—the things he still had that hadn't been brought home to the Vulcan's parents—he kept there. McCoy didn't want them hidden away as far as the closet, but the only thing he could bear to have out was the lyre, on the shelf where Spock had always kept it. That and a holo or two.

His fingers met with nothing, and he frowned. Well he'd probably just pushed it farther under the bed than usual last time. He leaned bodily over the edge of the bed, then, to look for it.

There was nothing under the bed. No box. No nothing.

Leonard got up quickly and turned in place, calling to the computer for lights. Had he left it out somewhere? No. There was nothing here. He went to the closet and dug through it, but the familiar shape of the box was nowhere to be found. Near panic, he cast his eyes about his quarters again—what had been their quarters—and realized that the lyre wasn't sitting where it should have been either.

In fact, his quarters just looked wrong in general. Something was off. The books all seemed to be in the wrong order. Some of them were on the wrong shelf entirely. His holos…half of his pictures were missing. The ones of Joanna were still there, but any that had contained Spock were no longer there on the wall where they should be.

It was the middle of the night, but he didn't care. McCoy ran to his computer terminal and demanded it link him to the captain's quarters.

A groggy Jim Kirk answered eventually, squinting at him through the visual link. "Bones? What's going on? It's late."

Leonard realized immediately that is wasn't just his quarters that were off. He swallowed. "Jim, did you move the chess set?"

Jim blinked in confusion. "What? No. What's wrong with you, Bones? It's right behind me…" He glanced over his shoulder, but there was nothing on the shelf where the three-dimensional chess set that his former first officer had left to him should have been. "What the…" He looked around from his seat, confused.

"Everything gone," McCoy told him anxiously. "Everything of Spock's I had. Any holo with him in it. Everything. What the hell is going on?"

Jim, though still half asleep, was apparently already thinking faster than he was. "Oh my god. You don't think we changed anything…?"


"Briefing room. Now."

Lieutenant Erikson and the Enterprise's first officer of eight months, Andorian Commander Thalin, met them in the briefing room.

"Commander Spock, sir?" Thalin was saying to Jim as Leonard came in. "I'm not certain to whom you're referring.

"My first officer before you, Thalin. You replaced him. Eight months ago."

"Sir, I have been your first officer since you took command of the Enterprise…"

"With all due respect, Mister Thalin, no, you haven't," McCoy cut in. "Jim, what the hell?"

Erikson, bent over a tricorder and looking through computer records at the briefing room's console all at once, was shaking his head. "It doesn't make any sense. I remember Mister Spock, too, but Commander Thalin doesn't have any idea what we're talking about. And I can't see anything that we might have changed while we were back there…"

"Well we must have changed something," Kirk said adamantly. "And if we did it's our duty to fix it."

A search of the computers told them what was different here. Not only was Spock dead, but now he'd died at the age of seven. Sarek and Amanda had separated after it happened, and Amanda was killed in a shuttle accident on her way back to Earth to live. It was a nightmare. Spock's things were gone because, whatever they'd done, in this timeline he'd never been here.

Oh god.

Leonard dragged Jim out into the corridor, and he realized he was shaking. "We haven't left orbit, have we?"

"No. We were supposed to leave in the morning. But we can't leave, now. Not until we know what's going on."

"We have to go back down there in the morning. Maybe the historical team down there can help us figure out what the hell happened." McCoy swallowed. "We have to fix this, Jim."

His friend took his arms for a moment, trying to comfort him. "I know, Bones. I know. It'll be all right. We'll fix it."

Spock was already gone. Fixing this wouldn't bring him back.

But it would bring Amanda back. And Leonard couldn't live in a world where he'd never even met the man he'd loved.

They figured it out. When they returned in the morning they discovered that while they were gone the historians had been scanning recent Vulcan history through the portal. There had been information of Sarek's family and Spock's early death, but once it was recorded without any reaction the timeline was already changed. Perhaps Spock or one of them should have been there to realize that something was wrong.

But none of them had been there. Spock was dead and McCoy and the captain had been in Orion's past.

Leonard noted the date, and he remembered his bondmate telling him a story of his childhood. Even after they were married Spock didn't tell him much about that time, but the story of the day his older cousin saved his life in the desert was one of the few he did share.

So it was supposed to be Spock. Spock should have been here to note the change and realize what needed to be done. He should have been here to go back to save himself. That had to be it. And if he should have been here…

"Something was changed," Leonard challenged the Guardian. He felt an irrational, sudden hope. "Spock should have been here, to be able to save himself. Otherwise he never would have existed in the timeline that myself, the captain, and Mr. Erikson remember. He should have been here. Doesn't that mean something is wrong? That Spock of Vulcan shouldn't have died eight months ago?"

No. That is not what has been changed. It is only his premature death that should not be.


The timeline where he is not dead at this time is already in existence, and it is not this one

"That's ridiculous! How can this timeline be repaired without him?"

In this reality YOU know of what occurred. You can prevent the boy's death. But if Spock of Vulcan's later death were erased entirely, this timeline would become that one. It would cease to exist. Nothing else can be changed in repairing this timeline but that which should not have occurred on Vulcan thirty years past.

"I don't care! I—"

"Bones," Jim said quickly. He took the doctor's arm and gently pulled him back a step. "The Guardian is right. What happened to Spock eight months ago had nothing to do with any time travel or time tampering. We can't just…erase it because we want to. It doesn't work like that."

Leonard swallowed hard, trying to calm himself. "Then…that's it, then? All we can rescue is a memory?" he questioned angrily. "All of the power this thing or being or whatever it is possesses, and all we can get back is what we already had?"

"I'm sorry, Bones…I'm sorry. I hate it just as much as you do," Jim told him with difficulty. "I cared about him too, you know. He was the closest friend I had other than you."

"Damned Vulcan. Why'd he have to go and get himself killed?" McCoy choked quietly. He stumbled a bit and Jim caught him, and for a while they just stood there, the captain still clasping his arm to keep him steady.

Finally the doctor pulled away and nodded. "All right…all right, I…I'm going. I have to go. I still have to put this right."

"You don't have to be the one to go if you don't want to. I can handle it if you don't think you can."

"You could, but it's better if I go. I know Sarek and Amanda better than you do, and I know Vulcan customs a little better, at least. I wasn't married to one for long, but it was long enough I'm sure I know more than you do. There may be plenty of human travelers on Vulcan, even thirty years ago, but it'll be easier for me not to draw attention to myself than you or anyone else on board."

Jim nodded slowly, and called up to the ship for the clothing and documents McCoy would need to pass for a legal human traveler on Vulcan in 2238 and anything else he'd need. Within several minutes everything had been replicated and prepared and sent down in a bag.

"Are you sure you'll be all right?" He paused. "You're going to see him. He'll be a child, but…"

"No. I'm not sure I'll be all right. But I don't have much choice, do I?" Leonard deadpanned. When Jim frowned at him in worry he sighed. "I'll be fine, Jim."

The captain rested a hand on his shoulder. "All right…just be careful. And good luck, I guess I should say."

Leonard stood in the Vulcan desert looking down over the city of Shi'Kar—the home of Sarek's family—and it occurred to him that the last day or so had all happened very quickly. It seemed as if minutes ago he'd been asleep in his quarters, his problems nothing larger than nightmares and memories and pain, and now here he was.

The last time he'd been to Vulcan was for Spock's second memorial service; the one held there once his body was returned home. Held here.

He knew where he had to go. He knew where Spock's family home was, because he'd been there more then once. He knew where he would find the boy he had to keep a close watch over for the next two days. He had come back the day before the recorded date of death for the boy Spock of Vulcan.

After his bondmate's death, after he had taken leave of Sarek and Amanda, McCoy hadn't been sure he would ever want to return to Vulcan again. Now he was here, and he knew he'd been right. He didn't want to be here. It hurt far too much.

Spock, I'm sorry. I couldn't save you. I'm so sorry…

The Guardian had said there was another timeline. In truth there were infinite timelines, so of course there were those where Spock was still alive in his time. Leonard wondered if in those timelines Spock was alive because he'd never been hurt on that planet, or because that McCoy had been able to save him. He wondered if it was really his fault, or if he were only being illogical.

Illogical. Logic. Damn that Vulcan and—and—

But really he didn't mind. When he began to think of something in a way his bondmate might have it reminded him of what they'd had. It reminded him Spock had existed. He still existed. He always would. In memory.

It was that memory McCoy was here to save.

He took a deep breath, drawing himself up and glad he'd taken that tri-ox compound before jumping through the portal. It helped. He hadn't wanted to simply appear in the middle of the city—which might have been troublesome—so he had a ways to walk now.

He was about to set off when there was motion behind him; footsteps in the sand and then a voice.

"Doctor? What are you doing here? I assure you that I am quite capable of undertaking this mission on my own, and indeed, I must admit to confusion. When I saw you last you did not, thanks to the altered timeline, even know who I was."

Leonard spun at the familiar voice and was left speechless and staring as the figure beside him finished speaking. "Wh…?"

It was Spock. Not only was he standing there, alive, but he also wore Vulcan clothing similar to the civilian garb McCoy wore now himself. As if he were here for the same reason. What he said seemed to indicate the same thing.

But it was impossible.

"What…?" He tried again, and didn't get much farther.

"Are you well, Doctor?"

Other timelines…timelines where Spock wasn't dead…

He swallowed. "I uh…I'm fine. I…Spock…" It felt strange to say the name again to someone who was more than a memory. "I-I don't think we came from the same place." The Vulcan raised an eyebrow. "I mean…where I just came from you weren't…there. You couldn't have been the one to come back here to save your younger self."

Spock blinked. "I see." He looked thoughtful for a moment, and then his eyebrows went up again as if something had occurred to him.

Leonard just watched him, and it was painful but he wouldn't have traded it for anything.

"Fascinating," the Vulcan said finally. "It must be that we are from timelines that are very similar. They are different, but they share at least some portion of their past. Wherever they diverge, it is after this point. Therefore, we came backwards in time from different realities but have converged here, together."

"Right…makes sense, I guess." Not really. He still didn't understand all of these things, but it made sense enough that he didn't need to ask any questions.

"You are welcome to return to your own, time, Doctor. As I have said, I am more than capable of seeing this out."

"No," McCoy said quickly. "I mean…who knows if the Guardian would even let me return before we've fixed it. And besides, I'm here anyway; I might as well help."

Spock looked at him for a moment. "I had planned to introduce myself as a distant cousin of my father's family. I suppose it would not be outside the realm of possibility for such a cousin to have a human traveling companion."

"There. See?"

He had to keep a hold of himself. This wasn't Spock. Not his Spock. This one had been referring to him only as 'Doctor,' and while his own Spock had continued to use that moniker in public, right now they were alone here. If this Spock had anything with his McCoy, he would have said something else before he realized it wasn't his McCoy he was meeting in the desert.

"Very well. Follow me. I doubt if you are aware of where my family resides."

"I know where you live, Spock," Leonard grumbled.

The Vulcan raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. He turned to go, but McCoy couldn't stop himself from catching his arm.

"Spock…" The Vulcan turned back to looked at him. "It's good to see you."

"I do not understand, Doctor. Have you not seen me recently in your timeline?"

"No…not recently."

"Am I no longer assigned to the Enterprise in your reality?"

At least the Vulcan seemed troubled by that. "Not exactly." He let go of Spock's arm and shifted uncomfortably. "Sorry, I uhm…I'm sorry."

"It is all right, Doctor. May we be on our way now?"

"Right. Yes. Let's go."