Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek or any of its characters. I'm simply writing this for fun, not profit.
Delta Vega was cold. Colder than Kirk had had any right to expect. Tucking his parka more firmly around his shoulders, he did his best to ignore the chattering of his own teeth as he pried his communicator out of his pocket. He didn't need to see the tiny viewing screen at the top of the device to know that it wasn't functioning. Extreme cold like this tended to short circuit most machinery, and even the solid uncomplicated devices succumbed easily to extreme temperature fluctuations. Still, the recording option lit up when he pressed on it, and he decided that, at that point, he had nothing to lose. If he could at least make Spock answer for his crime, then he might feel a little more vindicated if no less frostbitten.
He bit out the words, his anger fueling his rant even as his teeth threatened to chatter even more. Banishment was an acceptable method for dealing with unruly Starfleet officers and crewmen while on board a starship during a crisis, but marooning someone on Delta Vega was almost incomprehensible. Starfleet had classified it as uninhabited, but that didn't mean that the local wildlife hadn't flourished in their absence. Some of the quadrant's most inhospitable creatures dwelt in these caves: Kirk had been lucky that his pod had crash-landed in empty snow. Awakening one of the more ferocious beasts was not a way he planned to spend his visit, however brief.
At least the impact might have killed it. If he'd only awoken some slumbering giant from its lair, he didn't like to think what would have happened to him.
He was almost to the point in his rant where he demanded Starfleet put Spock before a council for proper chastisement when he heard a low, guttural whine. The hairs on the backs of his neck prickled as he whirled around, almost dropping the communicator as he hastily pocketed it. It sounded like a whale, a deep, sonorous noise that seemed to echo across the snow long before he could see the romping, terrible shadow of something lolloping towards him.
For a moment, it reminded him almost obscenely of one of Admiral Archer's beagle pups, bounding across the yard in eager anticipation of his arrival. He'd spent six months training those pups in repayment for a minor misdemeanor involving public intoxication, and he couldn't say that the experience had been altogether unpleasant. He'd enjoyed his time, and the pups were well-trained, coming to him on command and following his orders easily.
Except he wasn't in Admiral Archer's quarters, opening the back door to where the beagles were housed, and as the creature let out a jarring scream, he yelled and whirled on his heel, sprinting pell-mell across the ice.
It didn't want to support him, slick and smooth as it was, and he went down just as the creature loomed over him, mouth gaping in a terrible display of teeth as it reached down and -
A hengrauggi sprang out of the snow, snatching it mid-air and flinging it back across the tundra. The beast smacked into an ice pillar with a muted crunch, Kirk's eyes wide as he stared and stared and stared because shit.
Without another option in the world, he turned on his heel and ran.
He knew it before he'd made it even a dozen yards that he would lose. Hengrauggi were notoriously quick, and their long, heavy talons dug easily into the ice that skidded underneath his feet. If he lost, then he would be captured, vomited upon with acid, and slowly devoured, a painful way to die even with the cold numbing most of his extremities. In spite of the futility of it, he couldn't stop running. Self-preservation was too strong, and so he yelled and he ran, skidding across the ice as the creature screamed in response, bearing down on him.
For a moment, he was certain that he was dead. Then the ground dropped out from underneath him and he flailed as he hit the snow hard, once, twice, rolling downhill uncontrollably as the snow slug bleated a furious cry above him, opening its maw in a defiant screech as it roared after him. Kirk felt and heard the snow give way underneath it, its anger morphing briefly into terror as it was thrown unceremoniously after him, thud, thud, thud.
Kirk slid to a painful halt at the bottom of the ice formation, staring for one dazed moment at the pale gray sky before scrambling to his feet as the hengrauggi let out another scream, much closer than he'd anticipated. Dammit, he thought, too breathless and terrified to curse aloud.
Sprinting ahead, he almost collapsed out of sheer relief at a small cave-like formation, darting inside even as the hengrauggi crashed after him. No, he thought, as its whip-like tongue lashed out, snatching his leg out from under him and dragging him closer, its jaws quivering as it loomed over him, and Kirk had enough time to throw his arms in front of his face defensively before a spray of acid washed over him, cut short as the creature screamed, releasing him abruptly.
Bellowing in pain, Kirk clawed frantically at the snow, pressing both forearms against the ice as he heaved in deep, disbelieving breaths. He'd made it. He'd made it, he was alive, but the pain was terrible, he couldn't breathe, and -
"Jim." A soft, oddly familiar voice was at his side, bright yellow light crowding into his space. "Allow me."
Kirk couldn't see straight with the acid setting his arms on fire, shock and adrenaline washing over him before he managed to shakily nod and let the stranger (How does he know my name?) tug him off the ice. He cried out at the change in temperature, almost missing the soft, "Hush," as warm, clever fingers freed him from his coat. His forms were already blackening in uneven clusters, brilliant red marks ringing the circles. "The pain will pass," the familiar voiced stranger said softly, sounding relieved even as Kirk bit his lip so hard it hurt, feet threatening to drum on the floor from the overwhelming scorch of fire, fire, fire. "There should be no permanent damage. It did not reach the bone."
"Small mercies," Kirk panted, breathless and overwhelmed. "What the - hell is in that stuff, anyway?"
"Hengrauggi venom is extremely dangerous," the stranger replied, leading him gently by the shoulder deeper into the cave. Kirk considered protesting but realized that he had no where else to go, unless he wanted to face the hengrauggi for a second round. The thought alone was enough to dissuade him, the burning in his arms further echoing the sentiment. "In large quantities. I am sorry that I could not intervene sooner; your entrance startled me. Nevertheless, your arms will be fine. In small quantities, the venom will cause excruciating pain, but it will not result in permanent disfigurement if it does not reach the bone. Unfortunately, your jacket appears to have been ruined."
It was only then that Kirk realized that he was shivering, violently. He huddled closer to the stranger's unnatural warmth instinctively, and he knew that something should have clicked - Vulcan. He's a Vulcan - as he was tugged into a round honeycomb-like cave.
The wind whistled outside, soft and muted, and Kirk relaxed infinitesimally as he staggered to an ice block, sitting down heavily. There was a low-burning fire crackling near the center of the room, but Kirk paid it little attention, staring at the stranger in blank bewilderment. "Who are you?" he asked, quiet and curious, as the stranger tended to the fire, carefully grooming it towards a fuller flame.
The stranger looked up at him - definitely Vulcan - and almost smiled, his lips twitching minutely. "An old friend," he replied, "one who is remarkably pleased to see you, especially after the events today." His expression darkened, then, shielding emotions too great to address in words, a tiny head shake confirming the suspicion. When Kirk continued to stare at him incredulously - who is this guy? - the stranger squared his shoulders and said simply, "I am Spock."
A beat passed. Two, three. Kirk stared, waiting for the punchline, before -
Yet not-Spock only smiled, actually smiled in amusement, as he kindled the fire and warned, "You'll want to put some burn cream on those wounds once you're back aboard your ship."
"It's not mine," he blurted, and not-Spock lifted an eyebrow. Damn. The resemblance was uncanny.
Not-Spock didn't seem to notice anything amiss as he replied, "You were aboard the Enterprise, were you not?"
"It's Pike's ship," Kirk corrected, standing and pacing closer to the fire, soaking in its warmth. He shied away from not-Spock when he stepped closer, stilling after half a step and observing silently once more.
"You are not the captain?" Incredulity layered not-Spock's voice. Kirk shook his head, a weak laugh escaping him. Captain.
"No," he replied simply, shaking his head. "I'm not. You're - " he jabbed an almost accusatory finger in not-Spock's direction as he added, "you're the captain. Pike was taken hostage."
Not-Spock's expression clouded over once more as he said quietly, "By Nero."
Kirk froze, retracting his hands from the fire and looking up at not-Spock seriously. "What do you know about him?" he asked, wary, uncertain, but starting to believe that there was more to this guy than it seemed. Less crazy, maybe.
Not-Spock sighed, saying, "I know that he is a particularly troubled Romulan." He closed the feet between them in seconds, one hand extended. "Please, allow me."
"Wait, whoa, whoa," Kirk said, ducking back, heart thudding a little more rapidly in his chest. "What are you doing?"
"Our minds. One, and together."
Kirk stared at him, stared so long that not-Spock reached forward, resting his fingers against his brow and cheekbones. There was an instant where Kirk was utterly frozen, mesmerized by this not-Spock, and then he was transported, flying across time and space until he could see the the supernova on the brink of explosion. He witnessed the lengthy negotiations in barely a second, heard the heated chatter of dozens of voices, countless conversations. His mind spiraled out of his own control as he followed Spock deeper and deeper into the realm of the unknown, his own heart racing as the star began to morph, growing as Spock worked frantically to finish his red matter, sinking as the unthinkable occurred: Romulus was destroyed.
It seemed, in some twisted corner of Kirk's mind, poetically just that Nero had come back to their timeline to destroy Vulcan as well. Vulcans and Romulans shared a common ancestry. The destruction of their races had almost been meant to be aligned.
But it didn't stop the pain.
Kirk gasped as he resurfaced, eyes glassy and breathing heavy in his chest even as Spock asked him to forgive him. Spock. This is Spock.
It was unreal, impossible, and yet the truth stood before him, undeniable, incomprehensible. He'd lost everything and everyone, yet somehow he still stood, still resisted the wave of defeat.
It was not a pain that Kirk could easily forget, however, and he felt it twisting in his gut, the aching loss of life. "So you do feel," he managed, after a countless period of time.
Spock - Prime, he supposed, Prime because he came first and they were only secondary, he had lived before they had even been conceived and the thought was dizzying - inclined his head. "Yes," he said, watching Kirk as though he'd grown a second head. The metaphor washed over him and he almost laughed - I'm not the one with another Kirk running around. He recognized the tinge of hysteria that it would have had and instead shook his head, watching him closely.
Spock didn't seem to notice his distress, instead handing him back his jacket. "There is a Starfleet outpost fourteen kilometers from here," he explained. Kirk carefully donned his jacket, saying nothing. "From there, we will be able to reach the Enterprise, a ship we must return you to as soon as possible."
"Wait." The world felt heavy in Kirk's mouth, and his head was still buzzing from the mind meld, but - "Where you came from . . . did I know my father?"
A flash of pity crossed Spock Prime's face, and Kirk almost closed his eyes and cut him off, rebuffing the reply. Spock Prime gave him a moment before echoed simply, "Yes. You often spoke of him as your inspiration for joining Starfleet." A pause, then: "He proudly lived to see you become Captain of the Enterprise."
"Captain." The word was soft. Gentle. Unreal.
"Come. We have little time," Spock Prime rebuked lightly, preventing him from making any further inquiries as he hurried to keep up.
His back was already stiffening and his hands ached, but he followed dutifully at the elder Spock's heels, his mind spinning. He couldn't shake the images, nor the sense that Spock Prime had abandoned something more precious than his own life, an entire universe, an entire world that he belonged in and could never return to. Kirk stared at Spock Prime's back and wondered how much he knew about his life, how much he could tell him about the man that James T. Kirk became.
I wouldn't be the same, Kirk reminded himself, treading lightly after him, not wanting to rouse any more wildlife. I can't. I'm not that Kirk.
Still, curiosity gnawed at him, and a quarter mile in, he found himself asking, "What is he like?"
Spock Prime froze mid-step, resuming his steady trek after a moment.
Kirk debated pressing the point before silently resigning himself to a lack of answers. Spock Prime didn't have any obligation to help him, but he wanted to, and Kirk supposed that it was only right for him to assist his younger, alternate self, even if Kirk was only a catalyst for that process. Old friend, he reminded himself. I'm not just some stranger to him.
The trek was even longer than Kirk had thought it would be, a blizzard descending over the landscape until he could barely see the cracks in the ice in front of him, keeping close to Spock Prime as darkness threatened to shroud them completely. With less than a kilometer to spare, he was feeling the exertion, his breath coming in soft pants as he hiked the collar of his jacket a little higher over his face.
Thankfully, Spock Prime paused on the summit of a hill in front of him, looking down at something intently. Kirk dragged his feet the last few meters separating them and followed his gaze to the Starfleet outpost, relief coursing through him. They'd made it, and the short trek downhill seemed to pass in mere seconds before he was hauling the heavy metal door behind him.
It didn't get less strange from then on - an alien that he'd never seen before greeting them, beady black eyes swiveling back and forth between them as Spock Prime looked coolly back at it - but Kirk didn't question it as much. Even the discovery of a stranded engineer didn't surprise him, his mind too overwhelmed to absorb any new surprises. He trusted Spock Prime; he had to.
Regardless of his other doubts, Kirk had to believe that Spock Prime didn't mean him harm, and so he listened and he piped in that he wasn't from the future, even if Spock Prime was. Montgomery Scott looked between them, perplexed and somehow, amazingly, calm, as he asked, "Do they still have sandwiches there?"
Kirk laughed, and Spock Prime almost-smiled again, and from then on, it really did seem like it was going to be okay.
. o .
Kirk was almost falling out of his command chair when a soft voice said, "Captain."
He turned. It still surprised him that his own Spock hadn't vanished with Spock Prime's appearance. A reassuring fact; he didn't want to think about what would have happened if Spock had, in fact, disappeared. It wouldn't have boded well for him, given that they were from the same timeline. Hell, it might have made the entire universe collapse, until only Spock Prime remained, back in his own universe with his own crew, his own Kirk and Sulu and Scotty and Uhura, his own team.
How many are still alive one hundred and twenty seven years from now? Kirk wondered, head throbbing dully as Spock told him that he had neglected to report to Medical Bay for a physical following the traumatic events.
"I'm acting Captain, Spock. I have to look after the ship," he had told him before, hours before, when Spock had first proposed the query. Spock had accepted it then placidly, understanding what he had needed to do, but he was more insistent, now, standing firm, and Kirk sighed as he swiveled gently in his chair to face him.
Pointy eared bastard, he mused, testing the identity out and finding that it fit, somehow, but in a more . . . affectionate way. Spock and he had made it through it together. They had beaten Nero and rescued Pike and even saved the Enterprise. It had seemed impossible, but they had done it.
Yet there was something dark and unreadable in Spock's eyes, and Kirk knew that he couldn't escape it even as he rose carefully from his seat. The bridge was surprisingly dark; the bright lights of the alpha and beta shifts had been muted for the short gamma shift that would cover for them before delta, a night crew of sorts. Chekov and Spock were still there, but Kirk hardly recognized the lieutenants that had filled in for the others, Sulu and Uhura's seats occupied. Even Bones hadn't made an appearance in almost three hours, and Kirk belatedly realized that even he had to take a moment to rest if he was going to be able to tend to his patients.
Their projected arrival was still days away. Space docks were common throughout the quadrant, but they were far apart, and without warp capability, the Enterprise moved slowly, drifting somnolently through space.
Repairs were ongoing in engineering, patching leaks and decontaminating compartments, checking every minute detail that might lead to catastrophe if unattended. It was slow but soothing business. The ship ran as she was meant to, but she'd been battered and bruised in the fights, cracked and crushed by gravity. She needed more care than they could provide, but what comforts they could, they did, easing the stress on her engines. Scotty was in his element, working among the crew, designating command among the remaining engineers and even working out a shift system with Kirk to ensure that each of them received at least eight hours of rest for every sixteen that they were awake.
"Captain," Spock said again, more clearly, and Kirk realized that Spock wasn't about to leave him alone, not this time. He stood as a silent sentinel at his shoulder, awaiting command or acknowledgment. Kirk gave neither, instead rising slowly to his feet, a soft groan escaping him in spite of himself. It was barely audible to the rest of the crew over the whirs and blips of the machinery, but one of Spock's eyebrows ticked up in unspoken surprise as he fell into step beside the captain, refusing to be easily deterred.
They entered the turbolift together, Kirk closing his eyes briefly after he pressed Deck E, letting the darkness soothe some of the ache in his skull. It was one thing to come to terms with the fact that Nero had come from an alternate universe; it was an entirely different concept to realize that there was another Spock as well.
Another Kirk, a small voice within him reminded, but he pointedly shut that voice aside as the turbolift began to descend.
"I would like to formally submit an apology," Spock said aloud, stiff and quiet in the silence. "My reaction before was inexcusable."
"We're even," Kirk corrected smoothly. When Spock opened his mouth slightly to protest, Kirk folded his arms and said simply, "My actions before were inexcusable."
To that, Spock had no ready answer. Good. It was disarming enough, attempting to actually like the guy. Worse so when he knew that Spock had tried to strangle him mere hours before. Showing them compassion may be the only way to earn peace with Romulus. It's logic, Spock, I thought you liked that?
Well. If he could extend an entreating hand towards Nero, the same Romulan that had killed his father so long ago, then he could extend the same generosity towards Spock.
As the doors open, he stepped smoothly out of them, repressing a sigh as fatigue pulled him down, making every ache more potent. His throat burned. His neck hurt. His back hurt. His ribs were throbbing, and he was fairly certain that his brain was attempting to beat its way out of his own skull. Still. Busy to attend, people to placate, work to be checked, things to be done.
He was Captain. And they needed him.
It took him a moment to realize that his feet weren't carrying him down the corridor towards Engineering. Another moment before he realized why: a firm hand on his shoulder steered him in the opposite direction, towards the command quarters. "Spock," he protested, voice raspier than he would have liked as the half-Vulcan ignored him. He sighed, letting himself be guided along until Spock released him in front of his door. He coded in the password, breathing in the cool, fresh air of his untouched quarters. Pike's quarters, he mused, feeling the familiar grip of terror and relief that Pike had been taken hostage and tortured but they'd gotten him back, he was theirs, and they weren't going to let him go again without a fight.
Until Pike was out of Medical Bay, these would be his quarters. After all, he was acting Captain.
"Thank you," he told Spock, who watched him with those dark, dispassionate eyes that Kirk could never read nor, oddly, fear. Spock's rage had been incredible, and Kirk couldn't deny that the same gentle predecessor (ancestor; impossible to say, really) had been the same half-man facing him when Spock had unleashed the full extent of his fury. His ribs were still giving him hell for that. His neck, too.
"You are welcome," was all Spock said, stiff and formal, as the doors slid shut behind him.
Shaking his head, Kirk turned and padded over to the untouched bed, pulling back the sheets. Toeing off his boots and carefully slinking underneath the covers, he was out before his head touched the pillows, snoring softly in the silence.
He dreamed of two Spocks, back to back, eternally facing away from each other.
But when a quiet voice called out Kirk?, he turned and shivered as another Kirk, an older, wiser, gentler Kirk smiled at him, extending a hand with quiet authority.
Kirk took it, and when he awoke several hours later, he did not forget the soft, Take care of him, that echoed through his thoughts.
Spock might have marooned him and almost killed him, but . . . he'd also helped save the ship. He'd followed Kirk's orders and even accompanied him to the Narada. He'd risked his life. He'd put everything that he had left to lose on the line, and he'd succeeded. And between infinity and nothing stood Spock, then, :quietly triumphantly.
Spock was dangerous and difficult to understand and alien, in some uncategorical way.
But he was also half-human.
And Kirk was suddenly, irrevocably determined to understand that side of him, too.
Author's Notes: Inspired after re-watching Star Trek for the dozenth time.
Just some thoughts about Kirk's encounters with Spock Prime and then Spock. May be explored more in future one-shots.
Let me know?
Thanks for reading!
(Also, I know that Kirk wasn't actually injured by the hengrauggi in the movies, but I wanted to change it somehow so it wouldn't be the exact same scene.)