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The Grass on the Other Side is Definitely Greener

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Chapter One

Commander Kirk finished her report on the defensive drills performance that the crew had been put through last week. She knew it was a day late but she'd also had to rearrange shift and crew rotations, finalize orders for shore leave tomorrow at Starbase Omicron III and fill out the requisition paperwork for security. They needed a whole new batch of standard issue phasers. Half of the last supply couldn't change settings from kill to stun and vice-versa.

She'd then needed to confer with computer maintenance and security since there'd been a security breach their last mission which resulted in a minor information leak (hope the Klingons like knowing how much soap they used) and she'd struggled with what to write in the condolence letter to Ensign Jaa'hras' family since Captain Spock deemed it was more appropriate for her to do it since she was her direct commanding officer as head of security.

Jim thought that was wrong and just plain cold but he was her superior officer despite her misgivings and she had to follow his orders. She was trying to make a relationship with him but it was becoming more difficult as time wore on. She wanted that epic friendship that old Spock had talked about but she just didn't see it happening the way things were going. As it was, they had have a strained professional relationship that created tension between the crew and the captain.

During the final phase of the Narada attack, Spock and her had seemed to reach some sort of understanding and mutual respect, working to compliment each other but it seemed that that incident was a one off. They seemed to be like two puzzle pieces that were never meant to fit together no matter how hard she tried.

She knew that it had been "strongly suggested" by the admiralty (read-ordered without the order) that they serve together but things just haven't meshed right with them.

She couldn't help the feeling of wrong when she put on her red uniform in the mornings and met with her security department for AM briefing before heading to the bridge to work with tactical. As first officer to Captain Spock and head of security, she had double the workload to do and it never seemed to be good enough for the Vulcan.

Quickly stopping by the restroom on the way to the bridge, she looked in the mirror, smoothing the fly aways from her blond hair that she'd pulled back in a bun. She straightened the red, long tunic and black leggings with her boots and she couldn't help rolling her eyes, the melancholy lifting slightly. There was a running joke in security that red had been chosen by command to hide the bloodstains. With how many times she'd been hurt on away missions, she believed them. She'd gotten more than one disapproving look and dressing down from the captain on the state of her dress as well as her "reckless behavior" and she didn't relish another.

For some reason, she desperately wanted to please him, make him happy, and it was becoming a major chink in her armor. Her confidence had started sinking the longer she served with him. She wondered if she was losing who she was by being his subordinate. Starfleet Command had effectively "clipped her wings" by placing her in this position. She'd definitely become a better team player by working as a head of a department and was closer with the crew since being a captain tended to isolate you from them but it wasn't easy maintaining a leadership role when your opinions were frequently dismissed or criticized by your commanding officer. Even HQ had started to notice crew efficiency and morale was down with the way things were and, as an attempt to bring things back to par, shore leave had been approved earlier than standard. The flagship just didn't stand out the way she was supposed to. They were basically a carbon copy of every other vessel out there.

Jim had always played close to her heart, only letting a select few people in but Spock? She wanted him there despite his animosity towards her and sensed that there should be something more but there wasn't.

During her time on the Enterprise she'd developed close friendships with the crew; Hendorff, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty, and many others. Bones had been her brother and confidant since the shuttle to the academy. Uhura was a hard one. They were amicable and professional but nowhere near close in friendship. Perhaps it was subconscious on Jim's part?

She'd been trying to stamp out her feelings for Spock for the past year. Ever since Khan and her death in the warp core, the Captain had withdrawn further and had made a habit to ride her harder and would frequently dress her down every mission when she suffered injury or when it was a failure. He rarely beamed down as regulation dictated the captain remained aboard ship but he still controlled and micromanaged everything.

The few times he joined them on away missions he would become incensed when she would do her damn job to protect him. It was her responsibility but she also couldn't bear the thought of something happening to him. She knew he interpreted her motives as something more than simple duty and he was right but she would never go for more. She couldn't do that to Uhura nor did Spock even show an interest in even being friends let alone anything more.

Sighing at her reflection, Jamison knew the burning pain every time she saw him kiss Uhura or turn her down for a meal together or a game of chess. She knew that he would never care for her in that way but she had hoped for at least friendship instead of the indifference and resentment. A command team needed to be in sync and work together to be successful and they were barely managing.

Admiral Baker had promised Jim her own ship, the Ulysses, after two years. They'd wanted her to get more experience and Jim had been forced into her current predicament. Fucking Starfleet politics. She only hoped that, once she received the assignment, that time and distance would heal her and kill her feelings towards Spock. The old adage of "out of sight, out of mind" might make things bearable. She'd said as much to the elder Spock (currently hiding behind the name of Selek). His eyes had shown his disappointment and heartbreak at the situation but he had conceded to the knowledge that this wasn't his universe. That things would be very different despite his belief that it should have been a Kirk as captain of the Enterprise with a Spock at their side.

Stepping onto the bridge, Jim stepped down onto the recessed portion of the bridge where Spock was sitting in the Captain's chair. For a second, her vision wavered and she swayed slightly. She saw herself sitting in the chair, Spock stood by her side with Bones but their uniforms were different. She was in command gold while Spock was in science blues, looking at her with...affection and respect. Blue and gold swirling together, perfect, a sense of rightness filling her. As soon as she processed what she was seeing, it started to fade and waver from her sight, almost making what was real and what she possibly was imagining cause a double vision effect with the two images overlaying each other.

Shaking her head, she held out the PADD to Spock who was watching her with narrowed, suspicious eyes. "Commander Kirk, are you ill?"

She snapped to attention, her face heating in embarrassment. "No, sir."

Spock looked her over from head to toe and she hated the scrutiny. She couldn't wait until the Ulysses. She chafed under his command and the feelings she harbored for him just confused her. Eleven more months. Just eleven more months.

"Very well." Taking the PADD, he quickly scanned the contents, typed in his own notes and scrawled his signature before handing it back. "Commander, in the future, I expect reports in a timely manner. Please adhere to standard Starfleet operating procedures with regards to submission of reports and requisitions."

Jim saw Hikaru shake his head slightly and blink in shock at the helm and she flushed again, this time in a volatile mix of anger and humiliation. She bit back her instinctive reply and just managed a stiff jerk of her head in acknowledgement.

The rest of alpha shift continued in silence punctuated only by the beeps of the consoles. Jim couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief when her replacement came to take over. The second she handed over her station she left the bridge as if wild dogs were chasing her and made her way to the medbay.

Bones was finishing turning an ensign who had turned purple from a roommate's prank back to his original human pink when he came back to find Jamison in his chair with it tilted back, feet up on his desk, and a mischievous smirk on her face just to irritate him.

"Bones! What's up, Doc?"

He moved towards her and shoved at her legs. "Feet!" He glared at her as she ignored him and tilted back further.

He stepped forward and pushed the chair forward. "Dammit, Jim. I do not need to have to fix a fractured skull."

"Didn't you always tell me I have a hard head?" Jim smiled as she was shoved forward and out of her perch by the irritated Doctor. Really, he was more like a marshmallow with cactus spines. Making her way around his desk, she made sure to bounce slightly. She knew she was successful in eliminating all potential anger towards her when she heard a huff of air from McCoy that was a small laugh.

She leaned a hip against the edge of his desk. "So, Bones, what are the big plans for shore leave?"

McCoy pulled out two glasses and poured a small measure of his Andorian whiskey. Really, Bones had the best liquor. She grabbed hers and sipped slightly, letting the liquid warm her mouth.

"Drink, ogle women, get turned down. The usual." He grumbled.

Jim's grin widened and she held out her arms dramatically for effect. "Ye of little faith, my friend. Your wingman is here!"

McCoy snorted into his whiskey, coughing when it went the wrong way. "Bullshit, Jim. I'd never get laid if I brought you with me!"

Rolling her eyes she took another drink. "I am the best wingman."

McCoy raised an eyebrow skeptically."You remember the Caitian twins?"

She definitely did. Who knew Catian women were do flexible...or so open to new things? "Oh, yeah! They were awesome."

"I wouldn't know. They went home with you." He growled.

"Sorry." Jim cringed sympathetically and threw back the rest of the whiskey. "So, you're abandoning me?"

"Yup."

"Et tu, brute." She scowled and nudged her glass back to her friend who huffed a laugh at her expense.

"It's not like I'm not gonna see you after we get back, kid. It's only a day's worth of shore leave. What are your plans?" Bones finished his own and leaned back in his chair.

She'd kind of been hoping to spend a little more time with her best friend since she'd been working almost 24/7 the past month.

"Eh. I don't know. We'll see where the wind takes me." She hints for another drink and McCoy fills her glass a little more. "Got any ice?"

Rolling his eyes at her he put away the bottle. "I'm a doctor not a bartender."

Jim threw her drink back, smiling at her prickly marshmallow friend. She loved riling him up.

xXx

Jim was having fun, her pain from Spock moved to the side in the chaos of her shore leave. It had been a long time since she'd been able to shove away that hurt even if it was for only a minute.

She was far on the other side of the base where Starfleet personnel didn't frequent as much. She'd actually been surprised by the lack of people on this end but pleased by the relative privacy it afforded her. Jim had had the fortune to run into a group of ferengi and it had taken a little effort but they started to become more fun as time went on. She fucking loved ferengi! They were awesome.

She was looking over her four cards while Nevok glared at his diminished Latium pile while she smiled from across the tongo wheel. "Your turn hu-mon. The risk is yours. Confront, evade, acquire, retreat."

Jim smiled, her white teeth shark-like. "Confront." She put her cards down and the four ferengi hissed at her and tossed theirs down. "Yes!" She laughed as she gathered the Latium strips from the spinning bowl in the center of the table.

She put five strips back and spun. "Opening risk is five strips of Latium. The purchase at three and the sell is eight."

She was just gathering her cards when she felt a chill run down her spine and the hairs on the back of her neck raised. Jim turned and saw Captain Spock looking at her and his eyes showing his displeasure.

"Commander Kirk, what is it that you are doing? You are aware that gambling is unbecoming of a Starfleet Officer."

The ferengis around the table glared and hissed at the newcomer and Jim's skin prickled in humiliation. She had nothing to feel guilt for. The station allowed the game and she was not on duty. Her usual haunts had held no appeal and she'd been sure she would have been able to avoid Spock but he seemed to be able to hone in on her as if she had a tracking device imbedded in her. She made a mental note to ask Bones. She wouldn't be surprised.

"I'm furthering inter-species relations?" She joked but the answering frown from Spock caused it to fall flat.

Turning back to her opponents she put her cards face down and collected her winnings. "Looks like I'm out boys. Thanks for the Latium."

Qol shrugged. "You play well for a hu-mon fe-male."

Spock was rigid as she walked up next to him. "Commander, there is a plasma storm which will arrive at our location in one hour. You are to report to the Enterprise to organize preparation efforts to ensure that the station and ships are ready to withstand the storm and then return to implement evacuation efforts. I will be speaking with the station commander to obtain station protocol procedures for such an occurrence."

Jim nodded and fell in step next to Spock. She couldn't understand his animosity towards her. She just knew that if he gave a little that they'd be an amazing team. She admired him for his skills and intelligence, but he definitely struggled with building a rapport with the crew. It was a difficult task for her to constantly smooth relations between him and the crew. Ever since they'd been flung together on their five year mission he'd become...almost cruel and cold. She wouldn't say that he'd become more Vulcan because she actually got along well with Ambassador Sarek and other representatives from the colony but he seemed to hold a special anger towards her.

Sarek and her had actually even had a few late night conversations when she needed advice on handling delicate negotiations as well as advice on dealing with his son. He almost seemed like he regretted something or was disappointed but she couldn't understand why. He was nothing but respectful and kind when they talked. She had even understood his subtle sense of humor. She wasn't sure if he and Spock talked but she suspected that they had some form of tension between them since Sarek would ask about him frequently.

Selek (aka old Spock) would call once a week and they played chess long distance. She suspected he cheated because he kicked her ass too many times but she still loved it. Often he would recommend a great book or help her with her trying to learn Vulcan or Andorian or Klingon and he showed such love and affection towards her that she couldn't help but feel so happy after their calls even though he called her Pi'Jim meaning little Jim. She was not little. Well, maybe a little short.

"I will be placing a demerit notation for this incident in your record, commander."

Jamison bit her tongue on her instinctual reply that she had been off duty during her 'offense', forcing it down and feeling hurt at the rebuke.

xXx

The storm was in full swing and the station shuddered around her as she guided the last of the station personnel towards the transporter platform. It was proving to be far worse than what their science department had estimated. They had been forced to evacuate the space station sooner than planned and rely on the other docked ships to assist in housing the people who lived and worked on the station. All of the ships had been ordered to disembark and move away to minimize the risk of damaging the docking pylons.

Bright sparks shot out from the transporter controls and the tech was thrown back into the wall, angry burns covering his hands.

"Shit." Running over, she helped the tech stand and pulled out her communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise. Do you read?"

Static filled the room but the voice of Lt. Uhura came through relatively clear. -"This is Enterprise."

Jim handed the tech off to one of the few remaining people and looked over the panel, groaning at the sight of the melted console that controlled three of the four transporter platforms. She could only transport one at a time.

"Enterprise, this is Kirk. We have a wounded transporter tech and will need medical standing by. The station transporter has been damaged by a power surge and I can only get one off at a time. Can you compensate?" She shouted and waited, hoping that they could cut through the interference alone. It had taken both systems working together but now it wasn't possible.

-"How many people are left?" Uhura asked.

Quickly doing a headcount, she sighed in relief. "Only four. Five if I include myself."

-"This is Enterprise. Lieutenant-Commander Scott advises against using our transporter without support from Omicron III." Spock interjected from the ship.

She cursed and clenched her fist. They needed to leave and it needed to be now. "Understood. Sending first person, now. Alert medical."

The injured crewman was assisted onto the platform by a young Bolian woman and he quickly disappeared in a glittering shower. She quickly ran through the sequences again to get the remaining people onto the Enterprise. The lights flickered as Jim sent the last person over.

She was activating the program to send herself remotely when she station jerked hard, knocking her into the panel. She had two seconds to see the sudden power surge and get her arms up to try to protect herself when the console exploded in her face and knocked her to the to the wall and she bounced back, smacking her face on the console.

She felt the bone snap in her wrist as she fell and screamed out in agony. Small shards of glass and plastic fell and cut her arms and shredded her sleeve. She couldn't see for the blood running down from her forehead. The side of her face burned and throbbed. Bones was gonna kill her.

Tearing off part of her shredded sleeve, she quickly pressed the fabric against her head in an attempt to stem the flow. Everything seemed disjointed and muted and she wondered if she'd hit her head. She looked at her left wrist and could see bone protruding through the skin and she giggled slightly, feeling as if she was drunk. Bones really was gonna kill her.

-"This is the Enterprise. Do you read us? Jim, I swear to god if you are dead I'm gonna bring you back to life just to be able to kill you again! Answer the damn comm!"

She stood on wobbling legs and picked up her communicator that she'd dropped next to the ruined console. "Yeah, Bones. M'here." Jim slurred.

The station shook and she ducked just as a piece of the ceiling crashed down next to her.

-"Dammit, Jim. What the hell is going on? We've been hailing you for over five minutes and your vitals are all over the place!"

The controls were a charred mess and the transporter pad itself was little more than smoking craters. The irony was that she'd been wanting solitude and now that she definitely had it by virtue of being stuck on the abandoned station was unbelievable.

"The transporter is completely ruined over here." She slurred and swayed, the wreck of the panel blurry in front of her.

A pause. -"Jim, are you hurt? You sound strange."

Jim giggled, feeling cold and tired. "My bones, Bones. Get it?"

Her makeshift bandage started to slip with the constant flow of blood from the stubborn cut at her hairline and she pulled it off, looking at it in a form of detached fascination.

-"Jim? Jim?!? Answer me, dammit!" McCoy shouted and Jim slid down the wall, clutching the communicator to her.

"Panel exploded." She grunted.

-"Commander Kirk, Commander Scott and I will be transporting you off the station." Spock's voice broke in.

"Aye-aye, cap'n" She mumbled and pulled herself up, swaying slightly and felt the telltale tingle of the transporter. She had a flash of seeing Spock's command gold and Scotty with a white-faced McCoy before they dissolved again before her eyes.

Her stomach lurched as she tensed upon rematerialization. Jim looked towards to controls and what she saw made her wonder if she'd hit her head harder than she'd thought.

She stepped back in terror and heartbreak. Captain Pike stood in front of her, whole and hale and next to him stood Spock but...he looked different. His hair wasn't in the traditional bowl-cut she'd become accustomed to. It was more of a human design with it parted on the left side and he was wearing science blues.

"-the fuck?" She slid down and fell on her butt, her focus switching between the two men in front of her. Spock looked at her but there was none of the irritation that she usually saw displayed on his face, instead, he looked increasingly worried. Pike kneeled down to her level and reached out to her.

"It's alright. I'm not going to hurt you. I'm captain Christopher Pike and you're on board the USS Enterprise. Can you tell me how you got here?" His voice was calm and low.

The moment he touched her she panicked and scrambled as far as she could. It was his voice, his face, even his expressions! It was Chris. It wasn't possible! "You're dead! Oh, God! Why are you here?" Her breathing became erratic. She just couldn't get enough air. Everything seemed to be pressing in on her.

There was a rushing sound in her ears muffling the sounds surrounding her. She saw the door open and Bones rushing in, his face grim as he took her in. He started asking her questions but she couldn't hear them. She shook her head as he started pressing a gauze pad to her forehead. A gentle touch to her arm from the imposter Pike and she flinched away from Pike and towards McCoy. "Don't fucking touch me! You're not real! You're dead! I saw you die!" He couldn't be here! Was she crazy?

With her focus on Pike she completely missed what was happening. She felt a sting on her neck and she saw McCoy dumping a spent cartridge and now ordering a new group of medical staff carrying a hover stretcher.

The lights grew dim as her world tipped sideways, blue and gold clad arms catching her and gently lowering her to the floor. Fingers, warmer than a human's touched her neck to check her pulse and she felt a small golden presence filter in, concern, excitement, and curiosity filling her from the foreign feeling and her mind reached out to it desperately to try and gain an anchor but it was quickly gone as her world went dark.

Chapter Text

Chapter Two

Commander Spock stood next to his captain and gripped the railing with white knuckles, looking over the unusual power surges their ship was experiencing as the Enterprise shook like a child's rag doll. Controls were sparking, shorting out, and, in the case of the communications console, a small fire had erupted. All over the ship crew members and engineers were desperately trying to find the cause and put an end to it. Chief Engineer Scott was calling to try and get answers from science while the science team was trying to get answers from them. It was as if they were experiencing some form of electrical or plasma storm but they were in calm space.

"Commander, any ideas as to the cause of this? Or does the Enterprise have a bad case of the hiccups?" Pike asked.

Spock sent a message to the Lt. Cmdr. but received a negative, and rather scathing, response when asked if there was an answer related to engineering. He scanned over ship's systems and raised an eyebrow in surprise.

"Captain, the energy spikes seem to now be focusing on transporter room two."

Pike frowned and started for the turbolift. "Well, Spock, let's get a closer look."

"Captain, I advise against you leaving the bridge. It could be dangerous."

Pike turned his head, determination lining his face. "I want to know just what or who's been shaking my ship."

Spock followed the captain as they made their way through the ship, his curiosity spiking as the lights from the platform started glowing at their arrival. Sparks flew from the transporter controls and the matter/energy pads. Spock instinctively shielded his commanding officer.

A young woman with blonde hair pulled back in a messy bun and in the red uniform worn by Starfleet security materialized on the pad in a shower of energy. He could see the rank on the cuff of one sleeve listed as a commander. Spock's breath caught at the blue eyes that focused on him in confusion.

She was holding her left wrist which he could see was at an odd angle with the bone piercing through the skin. Her uniform was singed and cuts littered her arms and a deep gash near her hairline was bleeding profusely. She had burns covering part of her face but the worst was on her arms and hands, her right cheek was starting to swell profusely indicating a broken cheekbone or eye socket. He stepped forward with Captain Pike at his side and he became increasingly concerned when her eyes landed on the captain and widened in confusion and terror. She quickly backed away from them.

"-the fuck?"

The blond slid down the wall, turning pale and shaking. Spock hit the button to summon medical. Captain Pike moved slowly towards the blonde as if he was approaching a skittish horse that might bolt at any moment. She was clearly terrified and in need of prompt medical attention.

Spock kept a slight distance to ensure he didn't overwhelm the blonde but his captain seemed to be affecting her more than himself. Pike reached out a hand towards the woman but stopped short when she flinched away and shook in clear fear and Spock was concerned that shock may be setting in.

"It's alright. I'm not going to hurt you. I'm captain Christopher Pike and you're on board the USS Enterprise. Can you tell me how you got here?" The moment he touched her she scrambled away from him as if his touch would burn her. "You're dead! Oh, God! What are you doing here?"

Pike shot a questioning look to him and Spock's brows drew together. He shook his head to show he didn't understand the meaning behind woman's words. She'd started to become more distressed as time went on, her breath coming in short staccato bursts. Her emotions battered against his shields and he felt a desperate need to comfort her and soothe her fears. She seemed familiar despite him never having seen her before. There was something about her.

He started edging towards her to see if there was a way to assist when the door opened to admit Dr. McCoy. He took in the scene and immediately went to their visitor. Spock knelt behind the doctor as he ran his tricorder over her.

"It's ok, kid. Can you tell me your name?" He put down his tricorder and pulled out gauze and pressed it on the deep cut on her head. He scowled as she didn't answer.

"Doctor, I do not believe she can hear or understand you in her current state of distress." Spock told him.

McCoy snorted and rolled his eyes as he prepared a hypospray one handed. "Yeah. I figured as much. Her blood pressure's falling and she's becoming tachycardic. She's going into shock. Help me lie her down."

The second Pike touched her it was like a live current had gone through her. The blonde flinched away and her body stiffened. "Don't fucking touch me! You're not real! You're dead! I saw you die!" She leaned towards the doctor but her focus was completely on the captain and his was similarly reciprocated.

"Captain, keep her busy while I give her a sedative. I need to get her calm and start treatment as soon as possible. Some of those cuts and burns are nasty and that break is definitely bad."

Pike nodded and talked to her in calm, soothing tones while McCoy seized the opportunity and injected the blonde. They only had a moment's warning before her eyes rolled up and she suddenly slumped into their arms.

Spock went to take her pulse and immediately sensed a golden thread from her mind reaching for him desperately. He felt an echo of his own curiosity and a brightness to her mind but there was pain as well. Her mind was dynamic and creative with quicksilver thoughts running through at speeds that rivaled his own. His katra felt as if it was home there in this stranger's mind. T'hy'la!

There was a tugging on his wrist and Spock jerked back to himself, forcing himself to break the small link his shields had failed to prevent and assist the medical staff in loading the unconscious commander onto the stretcher. It was only after she was taken away that Spock noticed how calm the ship was and Pike's own consternation over the situation.

It was then that Spock noticed that the Enterprise was no longer shaking and everything was returning to normal. It was...strange. Black burns scorched the equipment and the smell of smoke permeated the air but everything was still.

"I swear, if I didn't know any better I'd say that was a young Winona Kirk except the eyes are different. They look just like George's." His lips pressed into a thin line. "Get McCoy to do a DNA test to see if we can identify just who our guest is. The fates clearly wanted her to come here." He threw up his hands to emphasize the now calm ship.

Spock agreed.

xXx

Jim groaned and opened her eyes to the harsh glow of sickbay only to close them as the lights overhead assaulted her pupils causing the sensation similar to needles being stabbed into her brain.

A hiss and sting at her neck and her eyes snapped open, the pain quickly fading but, in its wake, she felt slightly fuzzy which signified painkillers. Stronger ones than what she was used to. Bones knew she hated those. It made her head feel as if it was too heavy for her neck to support.

"Ah, you're awake. How're you feeling, kid?"

Jim turned to her right and saw McCoy standing next to her and dumping the spent cartridge. She took stock of herself and saw her left wrist in a splint and her cuts had been healed, leaving new, pink skin in it's wake which would fade in a few hours or so. Her arm had a phantom ache which meant it had been treated with an osteoblast treatment and was on it's way to healing but she'd be out of action for a week. Her skin felt too tight around the right side of her face and she pressed her fingertips to it and felt the swollen, sensitive skin covered in the oily derma-gel used to treat burns. She was also in one of those stupid medical gowns.

"Like shit, Bones. What the hell happened?" She started to sit up only to have the doctor place a hand on her shoulder and, instead, raise the bed to a semi-reclined position. She frowned at the gentle behavior and wondered if she was hurt worse than she'd originally thought.

"Did I hit my head or something? I saw-" She swallowed down the lump in her throat and her chest ached as she saw the image of Chris dead in front of her when the Daystrom building was attacked in her mind. "-I saw Christopher Pike in the transporter room and Spock was there but something wasn't right."

McCoy frowned and started checking her over, his movements sure and steady as he scanned and poked and prodded at her. "Do you know where you are?" She jerked back instinctively as he shined a bright light in her eyes but he was faster and he gripped her chin to still the movement.

"Medbay. What's going on?" Jim looked around and noticed some differences to what she was used to. She saw a small boy, about five, sitting on a biobed near her having a cut on his leg being tended to by a nurse but she didn't remember any children being listed on Omicron III nor did she beam any aboard. There were more medical staff and the color scheme was slightly different. Something wasn't sitting right as she looked at her surroundings.

"Can you tell me your name?"

He'd started tapping on the monitor next to her head and a hologram of her brain appeared next to her, rotating and he scrutinized it. Normally, by now, she'd be getting the third degree from her friend or, hell, even jokes about her "hard head". He was treating her as if she was a complete stranger. He was kind but something didn't fit.

"What the hell, Bones? You know who I am." She frowned at him but something seemed different about him. His hair was slightly longer, not quite regulation length and his uniform was a darker blue than it usually was and it had short sleeves. He waited expectantly and she complied.

"Jamison Tiberius Kirk."

"Date of birth?"

Jim tilted her head, noticing that Bones was noting her information on a PADD with "New Patient" listed at the top. "January 4th 2233."

"I noticed some abnormalities on your scans but I'll get to them later." He placed the PADD on a nearby table and leaned back. "My name is Doctor Leonard McCoy."

Jo laughed nervously, her stomach tightening. "C'mon, Bones. What's going on?"

He frowned and picked up a neural scanner, placing it on her forehead and she saw a glint of gold on his left finger, a wedding ring. She pushed him away in a panic, her breathing beginning to speed up. This wasn't her McCoy! "Where the hell am I? And who the fuck are you?" Alarms started blaring as her heart rate increased.

McCoy, or rather this man who looked like her Leonard McCoy, put his hands out in a non-threatening manner. "Miss Kirk, I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to help. You're very hurt right now and I know you're scared but you're safe."

She was about to ask him again what was going on when the privacy curtain was pulled aside and Spock walked in but he wasn't wearing his command golds. He was wearing a blue science division uniform and the stripes on his sleeve listed him with the lower rank of commander. His hair was different too. It was brushed away from his face and forehead in an almost human fashion. He looked at her with curiosity bright in his eyes but also concern. It wasn't a characteristic she usually associated with her captain. Usually there was disdain or anger or even disappointment.

Then followed a ghost. She felt the blood drain from her face as she saw her mentor and father-figure walk up to her. It was confirmation that something was very very wrong. She scrambled off the biobed, moving to where the wall was against her back to put some distance between herself and these imposters.

"I'm Captain Christopher Pike and this is my first officer and science officer, Commander Spock." He moved closer, his eyebrows close together in a frown but it wasn't anger. It was worry. "How are you feeling? You look like you had a rough time and you gave us quite a scare when you appeared here."

Jim couldn't answer. Her eyes were glued to him. She wondered if she was dreaming but, at the same time, she could tell he was real. She wanted desperately to believe that he was there; that Khan had been some sort of nightmare and he had somehow survived his madness but everything seemed wrong. "What-what's going on?"

"You were somehow transported onto our ship, the Enterprise. Commander Spock is investigating the sensor readings we were able to collect but we were experiencing power surges and a lot of our systems were damaged at the time you arrived." He indicated the vulcan next to him.

He turned to McCoy and the doctor started talking after shooting her a worried look. "This is Jamison Tiberius Kirk. She appears healthy except for the injuries sustained from some unknown incident. Her blood pressure and pulse are high right now but that's understandable due to stress. DNA tests revealed a match as to her parentage. Mother Winona Jane Kirk and father George Samuel Kirk with a sibling of George Samuel Kirk Jr. Her DNA is almost identical to our James T. Kirk with the exception of an X chromosome where there should be a Y."

Pike turned his attention to her and moved closer. His expression changed to one of wonder. "You look just like your mother."

"-the fuck? What are you talking about? What the hell is going on? One minute I'm on Omicron III and now..." Jim couldn't help the feeling of panic threatening to overwhelm her. She shoved the visual evidence of it away but her heart continued to beat wildly against her ribs.

It was a strange mix of emotions seeing him alive. There was heartbreak but she was happy to see him. The only things she'd had left of him since he'd died had been her memories and pictures from her time at the academy, camping trips (yeah. Bones had hated that, citing every disease, possible accidents, and parasites that could kill them in "the wilderness"), when she'd graduated, and a multitude of other times they'd spent together. He'd become like a mix of a father and friend to her.

Black spots started appearing in her vision and she started to waver on her feet. Three sets of concerned eyes landed on her but it was Spock who got to her first, taking her arm in a strong grip to guide her back to the biobed and carefully lean her back into a semi-reclined position. She felt a jerking sensation in her stomach at Spock showing such care towards her.

He then laid his hand on her arm and she felt a sense of calm flow through her and her heart slowed. The thoughts that had been swirling in her head like a tornado turned into a gentle breeze and her vision cleared. She'd never been touched in such a gentle manner by Spock and that almost as painful as seeing her dead mentor suddenly alive and in front of her. Kirk pulled her arm away but a sense of hurt hit her and she realized it came from Spock.

Captain Pike continued. "We believe that you were somehow transported here from an alternate universe; an alternate reality where events unfolded in a different sequence or manner to our own.

In our reality, our Kirk was born James Tiberius Kirk. He died at age thirteen along with his mother and brother." Pike cleared his throat and was clearly struggling with something. Jim shuddered and immediately knew how he died. Tarsus IV. The difference was that in her timeline she'd been sent there alone. "George Kirk Sr died when the USS Kelvin was attacked by a Romulan named Nero. He saved the lives of over eight hundred crew members and civilians."

Pike's explanation made a strange sort of sense but she didn't have a science major. It seemed that there were a lot of similarities but just as many differences between their universes. Kirk's experience and knowledge was limited to the mandatory academy lectures and, even then, the theory hadn't even been broached since it had never been seen as a possibility until the Narada. Her forays into the advanced sciences were limited to computers, botany and genetic engineering with flora. She'd been one of the leads in the creation of quadrotriticale grain. Sulu had been ecstatic at the fact that they were both botany nerds.

She couldn't help staring at the three men. It wasn't that she wasn't used to crazy shit. She saw it all the time on her ship but this was definitely so far in a realm of weird that she was actually frightened. She had experience with the whole alternate universe theory. It was the leading scientific explanation for their own universe and to explain Nero as well as Vulcan's destruction at his hands. Hell, it had been pinpointed by the older Spock that the division had occurred the moment the insane Romulan had come through the singularity and destroyed the USS Kelvin.

God! What would Bones be thinking when she didn't show up on the transporter pad in her own universe? He'd be sick with worry or even grieving thinking she was dead! Would they even realize what had happened? She had friends and her family back home and she needed to get back there.

"We're currently working on a way to get you back to your own universe but we're limited so we're gonna need your help. I want you to work with Commander Spock as soon as Dr. McCoy clears you and you feel well enough to try and figure out a way to accomplish that goal." Pike explained, and maybe Jim was imagining it, but he looked regretful as if he didn't want to follow through with his duty. Her eyes trailed to Spock and his expression turned blank as his captain spoke of her impending return to her home.

"I'll try my best, sir, but my field of expertise does not lie in quantum physics."

Pike's lips quirked in amusement and his eyes softened. "I know. If you're anything like my version of Kirk I know you'll do your best. He was a veritable genius but science was never his strong suit either."

Nodding to Spock, the captain straightened and moved towards the privacy curtain. "I'll leave you in Doctor McCoy and Commander Spock's capable hands." With a nod he left.

Running her hands through her hair, Jim sighed. "Well, what do you want to know?"

Chapter Text

Chapter Three

McCoy stood in the transporter room, helping the last of the Omicron III personnel off the transporter pad, triaging and evaluating need of care, when he felt a violent jerk on the ship.

Transporter tech Stiles almost lost his footing but quickly regained it, tapping the comms.

"Omicron station, this is Enterprise. Do you read?"

No response. They try three more times, each time there's still no response. Pulling up Jim's readings on the wall panel next to him, McCoy's grip on his medical kit gets tighter. Her vitals are showing symptoms of pain and some readings are creeping into the yellow. An uneasy feeling starts to settle in his very bones at her silence and he steps up to signal him herself as Stiles contacts the bridge.

"This is the Enterprise. Do you read us? Jim, I swear to god if you are dead I'm gonna bring you back to life just to be able to kill you again! Answer the damn comm!"

-"Yeah, Bones. M'here." Jim slurred and McCoy's concern skyrocketed. Concussion.

More crashes sounded in the background and he prayed that none of them compounded any of the injuries she already had.

"Dammit, Jim. What the hell is going on? We've been hailing you for over five minutes and your vitals are all over the place!"

-"The transporter is completely ruined over here." She slurred and swayed, the wreck of the panel blurry in front of her.

There was a pause and McCoy felt panic bubbling at the thought of his helplessness; at being too far, and yet too close, away to help her. "Jim, are you hurt? You sound strange." He needed to keep her talking.

The ship continued to tremble under his feet and his eyes couldn't stop straying to the readings showing her stats. Her pulse was becoming tachycardic and her blood pressure was too low. She needed to be beamed out and it needed to happen now. McCoy was so focused on her that he didn't even notice Spock's arrival into the transporter room until he was stood right next to him.

An hysterical giggle sounded through the communication. Shock McCoy's mind unhelpfully informed him -"My bones, Bones. Get it?"

"Jim? Jim?!? Answer me, dammit!" McCoy shouted as the captain entered the transporter room, his posture straight and shoulders stiff from some unknown tension.

There was a burst of static and he had a moment of fear thinking that they'd lost the transmission when he heard her, her voice sounding far more tired than it should. -"Panel exploded." She grunted.

"Commander Kirk, Commander Scott and I will be transporting you off the station." Spock's voice broke in. Jim's vitals began to creep to the orange and he readied himself for whatever injuries she could possibly have.

"Aye-aye, cap'n" She mumbled.

He could almost imagine the lazy salute from his friend. He regretted not spending his shore leave with her thought back to their last conversation and how selfish he'd been. He'd known Jim had been having problems adjusting to being Spock's subordinate and dealing with his treatment of her. He'd known she'd been harboring a crush on the bastard for months and the constant rejection of even friendship had been driving her almost into a depression.

How stupid could he have been to not realize the kid had wanted to spend time with him and talk to someone who knew about it? She'd needed his support and he'd turned her away.

"Energize."

Both the Captain and doctor stepped away from the controls to wait for her return, Spock was almost as tense as him. Sparkles of gold and silver lit up the pad as the start of transport began and he saw the beginning of her form taking shape, taking note of the hunched posture.

"Captain! I'm losing her signature! Interference from the storm is getting stronger!"

Spock's head whipped around. "Reroute emergency power to the pattern buffers and focus on enhancing the signal!"

Stiles' hands moved frantically over the panel, his face becoming just as panicked as McCoy felt.

"I'm still losing her!"

McCoy watched in horror as Jim started to materialize only for her to fade as their eyes met, her own expression matching his.

"Captain, I've-I've lost Commander Kirk. Her signal's just...gone."

He was numb, his legs like jelly at the tech's words and they barely supported him. No! He had to be wrong!

"Explain." Spock snapped at the tech.

Stiles looked sick, as if he was about to vomit or faint or both. "I can't find her, sir. Scanners aren't picking anything."

The doctor's eyes drifted to the panel showing Jim's readings and what he saw was far too familiar. Flat-lines across the board. Memories of when he had scanned her after her death in the warp core and seeing what he was seeing overlapped each other. It had to be instrument malfunction from the plasma storm. She couldn't be gone!

Spock stepped behind the glass partition, performing the scan himself, his focus and movements calm and calculated but what he saw clearly confirmed Stiles' words.

"Computer, make a note in the log that Commander Jamison Kirk is listed as missing, presumed dead at this point in time."

Spock's calm delivery made something in McCoy snap and he jerked to full attention.

He watched, every movement of the captain searing into his memory, burning and painful. "Captain Spock to the bridge, set a course far enough from the station to ensure our safety from the storm."

McCoy charged, standing toe to toe with the Vulcan. "You're not leaving her behind, are you?"

Spock faced him, his body and face exhibiting calm but his eyes held an intensity the likes of which he'd only seen twice before. When he'd nearly killed his best friend on the bridge after the attack on Vulcan and when he'd dragged Khan's unconscious body into his medbay.

"Lieutenant-Commander, scans show no evidence of Commander Kirk and, therefore, there is nothing for us to transport. It is too dangerous for us to remain to locate what is not there so we must relocate to a safe distance for the crew of the ship as well as those that we have recovered from the station to ensure our survival." He paused, as if the words held little appeal to him and cost him far more than he was willing to pay. "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or the one."

He couldn't believe what he was hearing. The cold delivery and the lack of empathy at the potential loss of her.

"Doctor, I believe your services would be better served in the ship's sickbay as there are multiple beings who are injured and require your care."

McCoy's fists balled and he refused to move. "You can't just leave her behind!"

"I have a duty to the 487 people on board this ship and I will not risk their lives on the slim possibility that the commander is alive when scans show otherwise."

"You son of a bitch! You have a duty to Jim! She is just as important as the rest of us!"

Spock was unmoved by his emotional outburst. "This is an action that she would agree with if she was in the same situation."

"That is bullshit! She would never leave someone behind. If this was your goddamn girlfriend you would be trying harder! You always wanted her gone. You've treated her with nothing but disdain and indifference from the moment you became captain! You're happy she's gone!"

Spock raised a brow and he wanted to punch those from his face. "You are attempting to elicit an emotional response. You will not succeed."

"Of course I won't because you're just a green-blooded, cold, fucking computer and you don't give a damn about anyone or anything!" He hissed.

Spock's eyes narrowed at the accusation and McCoy could see the repressed anger. "Doctor McCoy, you are relieved of duty and confined to quarters. You are emotionally compromised."

"You're fucking right I'm emotionally compromised, you heartless bastard."

The intensity of the human's emotions battered against his shields, leaving him unprepared for the psychic assault but the wild swing of McCoy's fist was predictable. The captain smoothly stepped aside, avoiding the attack and watched dispassionately as the doctor crumpled to the floor as he applied pressure to the join between his neck and shoulder, performing a flawless nerve pinch to incapacitate the agitated man.

The ever-present shaking of the ship subsided to a calm he did not feel as the Enterprise moved away from Omicron III and his chance to save the blond woman who'd slowly become the central focus of his life.

xXx

Once the storm passed, Spock had locked himself in the computer labs, analyzing the scans and data they had collected. He didn't trust the competence of his science staff despite their impressive qualifications. He couldn't stomach the idea of losing her.

The electrical interference from the storm had caused considerably more damage than had been initially predicted and he was not able to retrieve many of the files that were needed to determine exactly what had happened. His hand gripped the stylus he had been using and it snapped under the pressure, his frustration leaking through as his shields began to fray. He had not been able to successfully meditate since her loss four days ago and his control was weakening.

Word of the loss of Commander Kirk and of his action of leaving behind the small chance of rescuing her had spread through the ship at a speed beyond that of warp. Grief and resentment towards him permeated the atmosphere like an insidious cloud settling over the crew. His seemingly lack of emotion only fueled it despite his feelings on the inside.

"Spock?"

He ignored the voice behind him, instead continuing his desperate search. He'd begun to ignore his required duties as captain. He couldn't stop! He'd spent so much time trying to protect her, to keep her safe from harm, and trying to ensure she learned everything that she'd need to become a better commander (and eventually captain) so she would never come to harm.

He needed her to be safe but he could never allow himself to become close to her. He couldn't bear losing her again. She'd made herself a part of him early in their relationship and when he'd lost her to Khan it had very nearly destroyed him. The only thing that had stopped him murdering the augmented human had been when Uhura had shouted that Jim could be saved.

"Spock?" A gentle touch to his the bare skin of his neck caused him to recoil and he felt the hurt radiate off Nyota which turned to determined resolve.

"Spock, you need to rest and meditate. You can't save her if you're not at your best." Brown eyes swam into his vision as she knelt in front of him. "I know you worry about her but I'm worried about you. I love you. Right now you're hurting yourself and your crew. They need you." She paused, hurt at his lack of response. "I need you." She whispered.

Spock moved to embrace Nyota and rested his head on her shoulders, letting her weather the storm of his emotions. Her strength and calm permeated his being and he relaxed for the first time in days as she pressed a gentle and loving kiss to his forehead.

"I cherish thee, k'diwa, and thank thee for thy wisdom." He loved her but he felt such conflict in his thoughts and heart about the two women. Nyota was a perfect match that promised safety, security, love, and calm while Jamison was the embodiment of chaos but she brought forth the passions of his people that he fought to control but her differences only complimented him a way that Nyota could not.

She held him tighter and stroked his back. "I know. I know." She let his weight bring them down to the floor and held him until she felt his shaking from exhaustion subside. "You'll find her."

Nyota knew that emotions ran deep in his people and that they weren't the same as a human's. They were more focused, single-minded, and, at times, dangerous. She wondered just how deep his care for Kirk went and if she could only match it in the heart of the man she loved.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

Commander Spock had been shocked at the differences between his universe and Commander Kirk's. The thought of losing Vulcan and his mother to Nero had been disturbing. In his universe his parents had been off planet as Sarek had been negotiating a treaty for the planet Betazed to join the United Federation of Planets. Earth had been the planet that had fallen victim to the Romulan Nero's insanity in his timeline.

He had been forced to meditate to process the information that Jamison-no-Jim, had provided. On their end there had been no plasma storm and there was no base designated as Omicron III despite the coordinates matching their location. Scans had shown abnormalities in subspace but it was a puzzling enigma. He enlisted the help of Lieutenant Commander Scott in an effort to study their transporter to see if an attempt to simply artificially create the conditions that brought Jim to them to return her to her reality. So far, the results had not been promising. The test pods had come back smoking and the metal warped with unstable molecular cohesion. He decided to focus his search by utilizing the current and past theories in regards to the situation at hand.

Spock also, in deference to his human side, considered the possibility of fate. The philosophical debate of the universe attempting to correct a conceived wrong and, therefore, bringing a person or soul that should have been present here. There are the facts that there was no storm in their situation nor was there a deep space station so there would be nowhere to attempt to beam Jamison Kirk back safely and it would risk her life to beam her back as the circumstances here are vastly different.

Jim had been similarly disturbed when she had been told of the events in their universe. The fact that their version of Kirk and the mother and brother that she was genetically "related" to had perished on Tarsus IV during the massacre instigated by Governor Kodos as well as the destruction of Earth had greatly upset her. The death of George Kirk and the destruction of the USS Kelvin was where the similarities ended in regards to Jim's personal history.

Doctor McCoy had, at that point, forced him to leave citing emotional distress of his patient and that she needed her rest to heal. Spock had decided to limit her involvement in the project to prevent further emotional pain. It was only logical.

His thoughts drifted to the connection he had felt during their brief contact, the way her mind had automatically sought his to forge a link between them had been an experience he had never thought he would have with another being. It was a myth on Vulcan that the possibility of a bond like that, a t'hy'la bond, existed. It was considered a perfect connection signifying the other being was your soulmate, your other half, a perfect match, and it was revered by his people. He couldn't help but yearn to feel it again. His mind and heart ached at the loss he had felt when the connection had been broken. He did not want to lose it.

He wondered if what he was doing was the right thing by attempting returning her to where she had come from where his counterpart appeared to be indifferent to her. It was a selfish thought but one he could not place to the back of his mind.

He also was curious as to whether this other version of Spock from her home had experienced this connection. He had not been able to see far enough in their shallow link to determine if there was a bond between the two but it seemed unlikely. For that he would need to perform a full meld but his instincts told him that there wasn't a bond nor would a meld between herself and him be welcome so early in their association. She did not trust him and he had his alternate counterpart to blame for that. Had there been a bond then the strain that the separation from her own Spock would have been evident by her scans and she would likely be suffering from psychic shock as a psi-null being she would be unable to defend or shield herself from such an event.

Why would the Spock of this other universe choose to not complete this bond? Was he unaware of it? Was he indifferent to it or simply did not care to to have it? Despite Spock's combined upbringing on Earth and Vulcan he was well aware of the different bonds between Vulcan mates and any Vulcan, despite the universe they are from, should know about a t'hy'la bonds and the significance behind them.

Jim's conversations about her captain were generally limited to the professional aspects of their relationship and any further information was not provided by her. He could feel pain and sorrow emanating from her in waves when he lowered his shields slightly. It was surprisingly powerful. What had his counterpart done to cause this?

Captain Pike, also, seemed unusually curious about Jamison Kirk especially when she had revealed the friendship she had had with his own counterpart. His behaviors seemed almost...protective? It was similar to his father and mother's behaviors towards him.

Spock ran through his latest set of calculations to return Jamison home but his thoughts were disordered and chaotic. Perhaps he needed further meditation to center himself. Instead, his curiosity led him to seek Jim Kirk out.

He easily found her in the mess hall. Clearly the doctor had released her but with restrictions as he noticed the medical bracelet on her right wrist. She was eating a small bowl of soup but her attention was on the people in the room. She was still pale and there were still bruises adorning her face and swelling around her left eye and cheek. She had a brace on her left wrist but she looked well enough as she moved with minimal but sluggish behaviors signifying she was still on medication from medical. He noticed she was wearing Starfleet issued blacks but they only served to emphasize how pale and drawn she was. Despite the advances in medicine, it would still be a few days before the deep bruising would be completely gone and fractures healed.

He went to the replicator and typed in the commands for vegetarian lasagne and joined the blond. He noticed she flinched as if in fear of him when he sat down. It was an understandable reaction to the foreign atmosphere but it was still disconcerting. Just what had the other Spock done to illicit such a reaction?

"Commander, how are you feeling?" He asked.

The corners of her mouth turned down and she delayed her answer, stirring her soup. "I'm fine. Your Dr. McCoy is an excellent physician if a bit too friendly with the hypos. I guess it's a universal constant since mine is the same."

Spock frowned at the answer. "Fine has variable definitions."

Jim sighed in frustration and put her spoon down. She had clearly not been eating as the contents were still at a high level in the bowl.

"I'm freaked out, ok? One minute I was doing my job and things made sense and now?" She paused, as if searching for answers. "Now, I'm seeing ghosts, my home planet is gone and things are-they're different."

She held out her injured arm. "And my wrist fucking hurts."

Spock listened to her outburst with a raised eyebrow. "The former issue I am working to correct. As to the latter, perhaps the doctor was premature in releasing you and may assist in relieving the discomfort."

"No thanks. I'm already feeling too fuzzy with the meds he's given me." She glared at the bowl as if it had caused her problems. "I hate hypos and seeing a version of my best friend that doesn't know me and has never known me is painful." Jim looked away, her eyes shining with unshed tears.

Spock nodded in understanding. "I am gratified that you have confided in me."

Jim smiled, her eyes softening at him and Spock's heart skipped a beat. The young woman was an intriguing mystery. One Spock hoped to investigate and solve.

Jim pushed the bowl away. "I think I'm gonna go to my quarters and rest. I just need to process...this." She waved a vague hand around to show her meaning.

The commander pushed his own untouched food away. "I will escort you if you wish."

She smiled again, her countenance lighter and more relaxed and Spock hoped to elicit more of those responses.

"I'd like that very much, commander."

 

xXx

Jim spent the night going over available data in regards to universe multiplicity but quickly found her access limited to scientific articles rather than current readings and past historic Starfleet encounters that were public record of this type of occurrence as she wasn't a crew member. It was, to say the least, frustrating. She had then attempted to access the Enterprise's sensor data from the accident but was locked out for the same reason.

Jim thought back to her one experience of a person out of time and out of place in a reality that was not his own. The older Spock who had come through a singularity that was now trapped in an alternate reality. Considering the situation behind Earth's destruction was very similar to the massacre at Vulcan in her time then it stood to reason that there was more data and there was a possibility that a version of him was here or had been here as well but, once again, her access was locked. She growled in frustration. She debated hacking into the system to see it but ultimately decided to hold off and respect the hierarchy here for now.

She woke the next morning after only an hour or two of sleep with a blinding headache and her injuries seemed far more uncomfortable than yesterday. Her wrist ached and her face and upper body looked as if a rainbow had appeared on her skin. On the left side of her face she could see bags under her eye and both eyes looked slightly bloodshot. Jim considered the med bracelet adorning her right wrist. The knowledge that every function of her body was being reviewed and monitored constantly by medical made her squirm uncomfortably. She turned at the pile of hypos and grimaced, refusing to take one. She hated those things.

Instead, she just grabbed the PADD that had her limited info and her own calculations, determined to gain some answers and to try and provide her own input and assistance and was heading to the door when it chimed announcing a visitor.

Puzzled, she opened the door and saw Commander Spock waiting on the other side. "Commander Spock?"

His stance shifted and she had the impression that he was nervous? Maybe impatient or guilty? Eager? He almost looked as if he'd been kept from something that he had desperately wanted and had been forced to wait. This Spock was very different to her own. He was easier to read but, at the same time, harder due to her lack of familiarity. It was just different; a larger variety of behaviors and emotions than what she was used to. He seemed more...balanced. It was like he was a younger version of the elder Spock with his attitude but that he had been able to accept the balance of being both human and Vulcan far earlier in life than either of them. She wondered if her Spock would ever achieve that same peace and hoped that he would.

"I have not yet had breakfast and wished to know if you would like to accompany me to partake in your morning meal."

She looked him over and was surprised to find he was genuine in his offer. There seemed to be no ulterior motive. Again, the differences were so vast between the two Spocks that it caused a visceral pain in her to potentially have someone she might be able to call friend and then have to leave him because this wasn't her home. Bones, her mother, her brother, and her crew back on her ship needed her and she needed them.

"Sure." She smiled. "We can go over the sensor readings and research as well while we're eating to get me up to speed."

Faint lines appeared between Spock's eyebrows in a small frown but he still nodded and stepped aside to allow her the space to walk next to him. "Perhaps your involvement in the project to return you to your home this early may cause you distress or delay your recovery. Dr. McCoy was adamant that you rest and heal, both mentally and physically, to be able to absorb the reality in which you currently are in as well as to not tax you unduly with work. I would be remiss in my duties if I did not follow our CMO's orders."

The blond waved off his statement. "Nah. I'm good. something to focus on will help me to not go insane. I get restless when I have nothing to occupy my time." The frown lines deepened between Spock's eyebrows showing his displeasure.

"Very well. I will discuss some of the information but I will have to confer with Captain Pike as to the amount of what you may view due to security protocols with non-Starfleet personnel."

Jim clenched her jaw at the bald statement that she wasn't an officer but accepted that she was considered an unknown here.

They quickly gathered their trays and sat down. Jim looked around the mess hall and it was so strange to see entire families on board as well as crew members she knew from her own universe with so many differences. She saw Samuel Hendorff but he was with Thomas Wright holding hands, Hikaru Sulu with his husband, Ben, and their daughter Demora, Sally Henson with Uhura's yeoman Thae and many others. Everyone looked...happy and settled. It was different from the tense atmosphere that had permeated her Enterprise under Spock's command.

She pulled out the PADD and started to discuss the theory behind her own calculations to recreate the accident as well as known data about parallel universes which was, admittedly, limited.

"So," She spooned a bite of her apple-cinnamon oatmeal and started eating. "What have we got?"

Spock launched into an explanation, going into teacher mode and Jim wondered if he had been a Starfleet professor in this universe. If he hadn't then it was a travesty. He was amazing at it. "As our experience regarding these circumstances is limited we do not know what the shape of space-time is exactly but the prominent theory is that it is flat and can go on forever, however, it stands to reason that universes may, in some instances, be repeating themselves. The number of possible particle configurations in multiple universes could possibly be limited to 10^10^122 distinct possibilities to be exact. So, with an infinite number of cosmic patches, the particle arrangements within them must repeat and differ-infinitely many times over. This means there are many parallel universes with cosmic patches the same as ours containing someone exactly like yourself as well as patches that are different from one particle position, patches that differ by two particles position, and so on down to patches that are completely different from ours which will make it difficult to identify exactly which universe is yours." The Vulcan explained and Jim looked away, thinking over the answer. Physics was truly her weak point unless it involved tactics. She had taken the required courses at the academy but they never covered this possibility. She struggled to keep up with what Spock was saying.

"Any other ideas?" She asked, nervous about the answer.

Spock looked distinctly unhappy and she wondered if it was some misplaced belief that she couldn't handle it. She may not be the best but she could try. Jim's face fell slightly. She wasn't so sure of herself anymore but she pulled herself together and tried to shake off her self-doubt. She smiled but it didn't reach her eyes.

"There is also the possibility that the multiple universes can follow the theory of quantum mechanics, how subatomic particles behave, as part of the "daughter universe" theory. If you follow the laws of probability, it suggests that every outcome that could come from one of your previous choices that were differently acted upon that are independent and separate. There would be a range of data for each one. For example,if you had decided on a different career path or simply took a different road down the street and so on then each universe would be different especially as it would also be different due to the infinite number of beings that could or would also make different decisions and that would increase the difficulties immensely making it almost impossible to locate your home with the probability so minimal I would be unable to calculate it."

Jim pushed away her food at the discussion, the negativity that came from the clearly difficult process involved in returning her home. She no longer felt hungry. As the commander continued she felt a migraine growing behind her left eye. This was why she had stuck with tactics and command at the forefront of her studies at the academy.

The Spock in her universe didn't know about her skills in botany and she had preferred it that way. The few times she'd tried to engage him in discussion she'd been dismissed with a 'this would not interest you as you do not have the necessary skills or ability to comprehend the complexity of the subject' despite it being a topic she was infinitely skilled and qualified in.

She'd never been able to confide in him or trust him to let him know of her accomplishments or the reason behind them. Sulu knew of her skills, even going so far as reading her college and university research and thesis's. He'd seen the funding and results of her's and Thomas Leighton's research and development of quadrotriticale that had been completed under a simple anagram of her name next to his. Bones knew of her projects and of Tarsus. The reasons behind their work kept hidden from her records.

"There is also the added difficulty of recreating the event in the exact manner that brought you here. The situations between here and your home are vastly different and our readings were severely limited due to systems failing with power surges on the Enterprise. You may have to accept that you cannot be returned and, for that, I apologize." Spock looked at her with sympathy but she refused to accept even the possibility that she was trapped here.
A voice with a familiar Scottish brogue interrupted Spock. "Oh, aye, lassie. We'll get you home."

She jumped at the sudden intrusion and saw Lieutenant-Commander Scott join them, his plate filled with beans, toast, tomatoes and sausage. It was an eclectic breakfast.

"Montgomery Scott." He held out his hand and Jim shook it as he joined them, grimacing as the movement jarred her healing injuries. "But yeh can call me Scotty." She missed Spock's look of aggravation as the engineer sat down.

He pointed to Spock with his fork. "The commander here is the best and Ensign Chekov, as well as meself, are a dab hand at transporter technology so, between the three of us, we'll get you back." He gently slapped at her shoulder and she had to grit her teeth to stop crying out. She'd forgotten how tactile Scotty was.

"We will make an attempt, however, the possibility remains that you may not be able to be returned, Commander Kirk." Spock frowned and started to focus on his fruit salad that he had ordered.

"Psht. There's no need ta be so negative, Commander. If it happened once, it can happen again." He said through a mouthful of toast and beans.

Jim rubbed her temple with the fingers of her right hand, trying to dispel her headache and was about to ask if she could look over the data when she felt a sting in her neck and she whirled around to see McCoy tucking away a hypo with a glare directed at her. "What the fu-" She spotted a small child with brown hair and familiar brown eyes standing behind him. "-fudge." Jim finished weakly.

"Stop being a goddamn baby and follow my orders. Your blood pressure is through the roof showing you're in pain and your blood sugar is too low so your readings are practically a yo-yo right now."

"You know you're mean with those. They hurt!" She rubbed the spot on her neck and grudgingly admitted her headache and the various aches and pains were fading but now she only felt tired. The combination of lack of sleep, food, and the meds were making her eyes droop. She'd been using the pain to keep herself awake.

McCoy rolled his eyes at her protest. "Even my six year old tolerates shots better."

The little girl behind him giggled. The doctor pushed her forward and Jim saw a gap-toothed smile and mischievous brown eyes that matched McCoy's. She really was adorable. "This is Joanna, my daughter." He leaned down. "Jo-Jo, this is Miss Jamison Kirk. She'll be staying with us a little while. Did you want to say hi?"

"Hi!" Joanne waved and then her eyes drifted away from them and lit up. McCoy and Jim followed her glance and smiled. There was a Vulcan woman leading a group of children and teens of a variety of species and races to a larger table towards the edge of the mess hall.

"Did you want to eat breakfast with your teacher, Miss T'Para, and the other kids?" He asked and the small brunette nodded vigorously, hugged her father's leg and ran off before he could even say bye. The mini-McCoy said something to the teacher and raised her hand in the traditional Vulcan greeting. Jim swore she saw a hint of a smile on the woman's lips but it was gone the moment she took a closer look.

"Abandoned for a Vulcan. Can you believe it?" He shook his head but Jim could see the hint of a smile.

"Perhaps she prefers logic and order compared to your...chaotic behavior." Spock replied with a raised brow.

Jim laughed which rapidly turned into a cough when McCoy glared. "Sick patient, remember?" She fake coughed a few more times much to Scotty's amusement and prevent McCoy's ire at her reaction. She really couldn't believe it. Spock making a joke?

McCoy turned to Spock, his face turning red and he was about to reply to him when Jim saw Uhura, or rather this universe's Uhura, step up behind him and place a hand on his arm. He quickly deflated and turned to her, smiling and placing a quick kiss on her cheek. Jim had to stop herself from gaping at the sight. This Uhura had her hair short with curls and she was pregnant. Now that she looked closer she could see matching white gold wedding bands on both of their left hands.

She reached across the table and Jim shook her hand. "Nyota Uhura and ignore Leo." She introduced herself.

"Jim Kirk." Her eyes darted between the two and she just couldn't help her surprise at the fact that those two were together. He looked smitten if Bones'-no. Leo's expressions were anything to go by.

Jim yawned and went to pick up her coffee when McCoy's eyes zeroed in on her and he snatched it away. "Hey! That coffee was spoken for!"
The doctor rolled his eyes and smirked. "Spock, go bring my type-A patient some fresh oatmeal, fruit and a glass of milk and then she is going back to bed for a nap." He smirked and Spock left and quickly, returning with the items ordered.

"Low blow. Very. Low. I just need-"

"-to listen to your doctor and get some food, sleep, and heal. Don't think I didn't notice how tired you look this morning." He interrupted.

"But I need to get working on-" She started and Leo continued arguing over her protests.

"You've got the best people on the ship working on the problem and right now you look like you've gone three rounds with a nausicaan and are about to pass out in your food. I'm not about to be forced to put "death by drowning in oatmeal" in your file so eat and go to sleep, kid."

She supposed she could always go over everything when she got back to her-

He deftly snatched away her PADD before she could even finish her thought. "No. Don't even think about it."

God! Were all McCoy's able to read minds in any universe? Her newly acquired breakfast appeared under her nose and he chuckled at her expense.

Uhura laughed at her as she sullenly started eating and squeezed her husband's arm before moving away to get her own food. She got about halfway through her food before her eyes started shutting and her head started to do that annoying nodding motion when the doctor ordered Spock to take her to her quarters and put her to bed. "Did you put a sedative in that hypo?"

"No, kid, that's all you."

The commander assisted an increasingly exhausted Jim to her quarters and she tripped over her feet once they arrived. Spock said nothing and carefully took her arm to help guide her to her bed. Once she sat down he knelt and pulled off her shoes. "Why am I so tired? I've done thirty-six hour shifts and have never felt so beat."

"As Doctor McCoy would probably say 'it has been a long couple of days'."

"Don't you have more important things to be doing rather than taking care of me?" She mumbled sleepily as he guided her to lie down and pulled the blankets over her.

"No. I do not." A warm feeling spread through her at his words. He reached over and turned down the light and Jim must have imagined it but she swore she felt his hand caress her cheek and feelings of affection and fond amusement came through his touch but she must have been dreaming. "Sleep well, t'hy'la."

Chapter Text

Chapter Five

Jim sat and leaned back against the wall on the floor next to the room divider with her back to the door, feet flat on the ground and knees up as she tossed the red stress ball that she'd found. She watched as it hit the ground, bounced against the wall and deftly caught it with her right hand when it returned. She was finally starting to resemble a human again now that the swelling had started to go down thanks to McCoy's meticulous treatment regimen. Jesus, that man was a menace. She felt bad for Uhura who was likely being watched like a hawk and mother-henned by the doctor.

She tossed the ball again and watched it bounce back and gripped it as she caught it with a tight fist. She'd handed over her calculations to Spock and Scotty who'd been excited at her insight-well, Scotty had been excited and Spock's eyebrows had shot up so she interpreted it as excitement-but McCoy had forbade them to allow her to work with them until he cleared her, which Spock had annoyingly agreed with.

She wanted to go home despite her Spock treating her like shit. She understood things there, she had a place even if it wasn't what she was hoping for and she had Bones, her friends, and her family. She had her career and she'd have the Ulysses. She had to go home.

It was like a painful form of torture seeing a Spock who was kind to her and he acted affectionate even though he took McCoy's side in forcing her to rest. It was...nice. It was going to hurt when she went home. He seemed genuine in his actions and words. She caught the ball and squeezed it. Jim wondered if he would still be kind if he knew her past. Would he turn into her Spock and treat her the same? She wasn't always an innocent bystander in the wreck that had been her past.

She continued tossing and catching the ball when her chime went off. Jim groaned and ignored it. Leo (aka Dr. McCoy) had said he was going to be stopping by to "make sure she's sitting on her damn fool ass".

The chime rang again and Jim groaned and shouted enter without turning around. "I swear to god, Leo, if you are coming to give me another hypo I will shove it so far up where the sun don't shine that M'Benga is going to have to get it out."

"I'm glad to see you and my CMO are getting along nicely."

Jim's hand slipped and the ball went flying past her shoulder and right into her ghost's hands. Christopher Pike stood up from his crouch where he'd caught it and smiled, tossing the ball in the air and catching it again with a smirk.

"Captain Pike!" She started to scramble to stand but he waved her down.

"Don't get up on my account." He chuckled. "You'll bring McCoy's wrath down on me and then I'll be the one to develop a phobia of hypos."

Jim grinned. "It'd get his focus off me, sir."

He became mock serious and pointed a finger at her. "First rule of a starship? Never piss off the chief medical officer-"

"-or the chief engineer. They control the replicators." She continued. "I once had nothing but haggis to eat for a week."

"I've never heard that add-on."

Admiral Pi-er-Captain Pike," she cleared her throat and looked away, her chest tight as she thought of her mentor. "-I heard it from a friend."

The tension in the room thickened. Jim looked back at the double of her Christopher Pike. The differences were negligible. He was obviously uninjured and fit much like when they-no-when she had first gotten to know hers at the academy. Maybe he had a few more gray hairs and a few more laugh and worry lines but he was there.

It made her heart ache to see him. His last memories of her had been of him fixing her screw up on Nibiru when she had been disciplined for not following her captain's orders. Spock had been so determined to save those people even at the cost of his own life and she had refused to let that happen. She'd have done the same thing a thousand times over because she loved him despite his hatred of her and because he was her commanding officer. It was her duty to protect her captain at all costs. She hadn't been fast enough to do so for Pike.

Pike sighed and slid down to sit next to her. "The hurt when you lose someone you care about never really goes away, does it?"

"No. It doesn't."

"I was supposed to marry Winona."

Jim's head snapped up in surprise.

Pike's knuckles turned white as he squeezed the ball and he took a shaky breath. "I was a lieutenant on the Excelsior winding up a five year mission and we were headed to Tarsus. Captain April was dropping me off as a favor so it'd be a surprise for her and the kids, Jim and George Jr."

Jim remained silent.

"Winona was working there as an engineer in the colony. Her latest project was setting up an aqueduct system so that there would be a reliable source of water. I was going to be taking a year off. Starfleet was commissioning a new fleet of starships that could accommodate officers and their families. We were slated for the USS Andromeda."

His voice broke and he cleared it. "We had-we had planned everything from where the wedding was going to take place all the way to the flower arrangements.

We knew something wasn't right when we arrived at the Tarsus IV colony. There was no response to our hails and we could only find life signs for about half the expected number of colonists."

Pike's face seemed to have aged ten years as he told his story and Jim wondered if he'd ever talked to anyone about it before. Really talked about it. Not the bullshit you have to talk about with a Starfleet issued counselor.

"When we beamed down it was like something from a nightmare. There were pits of bodies and the smell-God! The fields were black and there was smoke and people were fighting in the streets over pieces of rotting bread but there was a group of a thousand or so behind a reinforced wall and they were healthy and fine unlike those that were starving." Pike grit his teeth and Jim wished for him to stop talking. Her own memories of Tarsus threatening to swallow her whole.

She could smell the rotting of the fields as the fungus took over, the sickly sweet smell of the bodies as they decomposed in the hot, unforgiving sun. Jim remembered the town square as Governor Kodos ordered their execution with an almost excited voice and she could hear the screams as her aunt and uncle and cousins were shot down. She'd only been able to save one of her family members, Heather, because she'd been so small that Jim had been carrying her, only six months old. She'd found stragglers along the way. Thomas, Kevin, Sara, Charlotte, Suzie, T'Mera, Skon, Alera, Gar. She hadn't been able to keep them all alive. Starvation had taken Sara and Kodos's men had taken T'Mera and Suzie when she, along with them, had snuck in and turned on the distress signal. Kodos's sick eugenics plan had come crashing down around him when Vulcan, Andorian, and Starfleet ships had arrived and he'd killed himself, burned to an unrecognizable pile of ash and bones so bad DNA couldn't be extracted. It had been a fitting death considering the way he'd burned the bodies of those he'd seen as unworthy.

"I saw her wedding dress, still hanging in the closet of the house." Pike turned to face her and Jim could see the heartbreak in his eyes, the gray somehow more intense. "I loved her."

Jim gripped his shoulder. "I'm so sorry." She shook her head. "We had Tarsus, too. My mom and brother weren't there, though." Jim inwardly cursed her slip of the tongue and she hoped Pike hadn't put it together but, if he was anything like her Pike, he likely had but was tactful enough to put the conversation on hold in that area.

"If I might ask, what happened to your Christopher Pike?"

Jim's grip tightened and she took a deep breath. "A madman killed him. We were in the Daystrom Building when an armed shuttle started shooting at us. I couldn't save him."

He looked hesitant. "Is-Winona alive where you're from?"

She wasn't sure whether to answer. Her mom was a difficult subject. She'd loved her and George but being a single mother had been really hard for her. She'd been forced to leave them with her brother for months when she had deep space assignments but it had come to a crashing halt when she'd found out about Frank's version of discipline.

"Yeah. She is."

George had opted to stay with their grandparents from their father's side after until their mother finished her last assignment until her ground posting on Earth to work on designing and building the ships at the yard and Jim had wanted to go to stay with her cousins from her dad's side on Tarsus. Winona had never let her out of her sight again after.

"Good."

Pike sighed. "I'd offer you a drink if I didn't think Leo would kill me. I think we both could use one."

"You're not wrong." She answered. Shrugging, she stood up. "What he doesn't know won't hurt him."

Pike stood, sobered by their discussion and led Jim to the captain's mess.

xXx

Pike leaned back in his seat observing the young commander in front of him. He still couldn't believe that she was a version of Winona's child. He wondered about the horrors she had experienced in her young life and could see them written on her face when she let her guard down.

There had been hints in her medical report from McCoy but with privacy restrictions he didn't know the full story nor would he unless it was necessary to the functioning of the ship. He was almost scared to know and he wondered why or how his counterpart had not been involved in her life.

He took a swig of his beer. "So, how did you and your Pike meet?"

She swallowed, looking thoughtful. "Mm. We met at "The Shipyard Bar" in Iowa. I was working as a bartender while waiting to defend my thesis and research on viability and possibility of genetically engineering grain to prevent fungal infections."

Pike's eyebrows went to his hairline. "You met at a bar."

Jim twirled her beer by the neck, remembering her last hours as Jim Kirk, troublemaking genius. "Yeah. It was the last night of freedom for a group of second-year cadets and I was hitting on Uhura at the bar, trying to get her first name. Just harmless flirting when another cadet, Hendorff, and his cronies, tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum, decided that since because I had breasts that I should take an interest in them instead and Hendorff grabbed my ass."

Pike leaned forward, interested. He'd known Ensign Hendorff for two years and the man had never done anything remotely like that.

"Well, you can imagine how a young, independent, angry woman who knows how to fight dirty would react, especially when they're ruining my best pick-up lines."

Pike shook his head in disbelief. "You didn't."

Jim huffed a laugh. "It was an epic bar fight except that Pike had to go and stop it." She looked at him sideways, her eyes sparkling with humor. "I wonder if you have as loud of a whistle as him."

He couldn't imagine meeting his Jim that way but he could see this version was a kick in the pants. "Probably."

Jim shrugged. "After he picked my ass up off the floor he dared me to do better than my dad and to join Starfleet. The rest is history."

Pike couldn't help the grin that appeared. "You joined Starfleet on a dare?"

Jim nodded, her long blond hair dislodging from behind her ears. "And I kicked ass." She swallowed down the last of her beer and stood.

"Thanks for the drink and the talk." She was at the door when she stopped with her back to him. "It wasn't my father that inspired me to join. It was Chris."

With those parting words she left.

Chapter Text

Chapter Six

It had been ten days, thirteen hours, ten minutes, and seven seconds since Spock had first set eyes on his t'hy'la and she was "driving everyone crazy". With Dr. McCoy's medical clearance granted five days ago she had been allowed to start work with the science and engineering team assigned to the Herculean task of getting her home. The main assignment currently was rebuilding, archiving, and organizing the damaged sensor readings that the Enterprise had managed to get during the incident.

Pike had decided to allow her limited access to the data and Enterprise schematics but Jim knew enough from her own Enterprise to make up the holes in the data in regards to the ship. Spock had watched with fascination as she worked diligently and with incredible focus on the problem, gracefully admitting when she was out of her depth and asking for assistance and clarification.

She had told Spock that she used to be far more impulsive, but after her mentor's death she had learned, the hard way, to curb her "leaping before looking" behavior slightly. He could see that she was telling the truth...mostly. She still managed to accumulate various burns and bruises when she became impatient and was attempting to put her calculations to practical applications and frequently incurred the wrath of their CMO.

Yesterday, transporter room two had been spewing green rotten egg smelling smoke to Spock's confusion but Scotty had written it off with a laugh and a smile. To Spock's consternation the engineer had proclaimed that they were close to a breakthrough. Spock was unsure how to feel about that announcement.

Spock looked up from his terminal in science lab two and his eyes strayed from lieutenant Jr grade Charon to Jim. His heart beat quicker in his side at the sight. Her blond hair sparkled and shone in the lights and a few small strands escaped her ponytail and were loose as she was bent over her own terminal working. She stood out from the other staff as she was not assigned a uniform but wore civilian clothing, a pair of black pants that hugged her curves with low-heeled ankle boots and a loose fitting blue tunic that matched her eyes.

As if she knew she was being watched, the blond looked up from where she was working and her gaze met him, her smile at seeing him seemed to light up the room and made his heart beat faster. She was breathtaking. Her fair coloring was rare in humans and considered exotic amongst his people but it wasn't just her looks that had him far more interested in her than what was normal. She was brilliant.

Her intelligence shone through in everything she did and, even with work she struggled with, she was humble and determined to learn. Her skills and stamina rivaled that of a Vulcan. The issue was that she simply had too much energy to spend her time solely in the labs. Even now her leg bounced in unspent energy.

She had taken to spending a lot of her free time in the ship's gym running, taking part in tactical simulations with junior crew members after receiving permission from the captain and sparring with others. Even Pike had shown admiration at her creativity in all of the things she did. Crew efficiency had gone up in several departments as she imparted knowledge that she had gained in her own timeline and introduced new things to the Enterprise crew.

The only crew member she had kept a distance from had been him. Spock could not help feeling a pang of jealousy at that and cursed his counterpart for causing this behavior.

Spock was determined to change this.

The commander noted the time that Commander Kirk had been absorbed in her work and was displeased to see that she had spent all of alpha and half of beta in the labs. He decided that she needed a break. Even though humans had the strange behavior of doing physical tasks during their periods of rest he did see merit in it. It seemed to calm and, at the same time, invigorate them. Jim seemed to be needing this right now.

Commander Spock went to the blond and stood next to her, hands behind his back projecting calm but he was unaccountably nervous about the possibility of rejection. Jim looked up, a nervous smile at his proximity.

"Miss Kirk-Jim," Jim's neck and cheeks flushed at his use of her first name. Fascinating. "I was wondering if you would like to partake in a sparring session with me."

Jim tapped her stylus and bit her lip. Spock, again, cursed his counterpart for instilling this behavior in his t'hy'la. She should not be afraid of him.

"Uh. Well? The last time I went toe to toe with a Vulcan I ended up with a broken hyoid bone, wrist, and cheekbone, and some cracked ribs. I'm not sure I'd be much of a challenge."

Spock stiffened in shock at her words. How could the Spock of her universe hurt her? "I would never deliberately injure you."

Her expression softened. "You know? I actually believe that." Stretching, Jim shrugged. "Ok. I'm due for a break anyway."

xXx

Jim was across from him dressed in shorts and a tank top, stretching on the mat, her lithe body sending Spock's blood rushing south at the sight of the carefully controlled power behind her movements. He had to employ several surakian techniques to control it.

Jim moved to stand across from him and he was intrigued as she was in a suus mahna stance, an ancient form of Vulcan martial arts. Jim twitched her hands to signal him to get started while her eyes took on a mischievous glint. "Don't take it easy on me, commander."

Spock prepared his own stance. "I will endeavor to provide you with an adequate challenge."

Jim bounced lightly on her toes with her taped hands carefully placed at her sides, waiting. He could see that her mind was calculating and planning her mode of attack and the possible moves he would make against her as well as her counter moves. It was invigorating and he felt that she truly would prove to be an interesting opponent.

Spock struck first, his right fist aiming for her head and Jim quickly dodged to the left and used both hands to push his arm down and away and, spinning on her front leg she attempted to kick at his kidneys. But Spock was faster and twisted behind her and swing low to sweep her legs out from under her.

Jim quickly rolled away and returned to an unfamiliar stance with her hands in claws, one higher than the other and she struck, tapping him firmly against his sternum and right above his heart which caused Spock to stumble back. She quickly took advantage and her leg shot out and caught him in the side but Spock caught it and twisted, spinning Jim around where she had to allow herself to fall to absorb the impact.

Spock moved fast to pin her but Jim's knees came up and pushed him off where she twisted and rolled away. "Had enough, yet?"

Spock's eyebrow raised at the challenge. The commander bounced, her hair had come slightly loose from it's tie and the edges framing her face were dark with perspiration but she was happy and vibrant as she playfully teased him.

Spock's lips quirked in a smile. "As Lieutenant Sulu would say 'Bring it on'."

Jim's answering laugh was enough to spread a feeling of happiness through him. They moved around each other, each attack and defense they launched against each other almost seeming like a choreographed dance.

Jim was quick, feinting right then blocking Spock's strike and returning it with a ju jitsu maneuver, hitting his lower ribs. Spock used her momentum against her and grabbed her right arm and spun on his toes to face her, pushing her to the mat with him on top, one hand on her shoulder and the other holding her wrist. He used his weight to keep her down.

Spock's breath caught at the sight beneath him. Jim's face was flushed from their activities, her pupils blown wide in excitement, and her pink lips were open as she breathed quickly. The fingers on his left hand brushed along her wrist and he could feel her pulse fluttering like small bird's wings beating against him. Lowering his shields he could sense the thrill she felt at the challenge, fierce attraction and...arousal? It was as if someone had turned down the sound in the room to where all he heard was the two of them breathing heavily, no one else and nothing else existed.

Spock moved his head lower to where his mouth was next to her ear and growled low enough for only her to hear, his breath hot against her neck and she shivered. "Do you yield?"

A sharp inhale from her and Jim's pulse increased. He felt her shift under him and he was so focused on the moment he didn't realize what happened until he was flat on his own back with Kirk on top of him and holding him down with surprising strength and agility, smiling triumphantly. She was magnificent. He would only need to lift his head a few scant centimeters to kiss her. "Do you yield, Mister Spock?"

Spock's mouth opened to reply when, suddenly, Jim's head snapped up and, like a switch being flipped, the sounds in the room suddenly returned. He heard gasps of shock and surprise, cheers, clapping, and sounds of groaning with sympathy.

Her face reddened with embarrassment and she scrambled off just as Spock managed a hoarse whisper. "I yield."

Ducking her head in embarrassment, Jim held out her arm to help him up which Spock gratefully took. He could see she was ready to flee but he selfishly wanted her to stay.

He cleared his throat, thanking his Vulcan physiology that he was able to stand especially since they had amassed quite an audience. "That was an interesting move earlier."

Shrugging, the blond rubbed the back of her neck ruefully. "Mok'bara. Klingon Martial Arts. It's called koH-man-ara." Her eyes darted to the crowd of, what Spock estimated to be, fifty crew members avidly watching their session. Jerking a thumb over her shoulder she started backing away. "I've uh-gotta run. Thanks for the exercise."

Spock didn't get a chance to return his thanks before she was gone. He scanned the room and saw several crew members exchange credit chits and Captain Pike watching him with a far too interested gleam in his eyes as he joined the commander in his effort to leave the gym in a speedy manner.

"I never thought I'd see the day when you were bested in a fight."

Spock raised an eyebrow in response, choosing to remain silent at his captain's attempts to "fish" for information.

"It's interesting, though." He paused, looking thoughtful and Spock wondered if Pike was showing true behavior or if he was bluffing.

"What is?"

"I've sparred with you and had you pinned before and you've never had a problem getting out of it. In fact, you've never lost a fight before."

"Perhaps it is because she has a different fighting style." He evaded but the other man looked skeptical.

Pike sighed. "She's a good officer and the crew seems to be quite taken with her, don't you think?"

A pang of sadness as the thought of her leaving hit him.

"Indeed"

xXx

Jim didn't change or shower, simply needing to get away. God! She was an idiot for accepting Spock's offer. She was letting herself get caught up in her feeling for him and she was absolutely mortified!

Remembering the way he moved, so graceful and predatory caused her to feel a thrill at his focus on her and only her; the way his muscles rippled and flexed as he moved. It caused her face to burn and her stomach to flip. She hated herself for these feelings.

God, though! She had enjoyed it! The raw power he exuded as he pinned her and her turning the tables. His eyes were like pools of dark brown chocolate but when she had been under him they had been blown black, a thin ring of brown surrounding them and she had liked it! She had loved it.

What had she been thinking? What if he had read her emotions? He would have been disgusted at her thoughts. She knew it. It was inappropriate for her to be attracted to him and she would be leaving him soon. She needed to shove them away and back into a box where she wouldn't let them interfere with her work. She couldn't feel these things. They would destroy her when she left.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid!"

She ended up at the ship's botanical gardens and immediately felt a sense of calm in the small amount of nature aboard a ship full of technology. It was a small area that helped provide supplemental oxygen to the ship but the arrangement of the trees, flowering vines, and grass gave the illusion of a small forest.

It was the epitome of the United federation of planets, a mix of all things Terran and alien were present in the carefully tended gardens. Flowers from Betazed, trees from Caita, grass from Earth and even a small Vulcan section with Vulcan vines from the more temperate regions of the planet were present. There were plants from all over the quadrant that made the garden more beautiful than she could imagine.

It was late evening on the ship and the dome above simulated this, providing the "forest" with an ethereal glow that instantly relaxed her. The golds, reds, and orange color suffused the garden and Jim walked to the center and off the path. She lay down and looked up at the "sky" just breathing in the cool, moist air and letting it help her to relax from her previous tense feeling.

She had always loved going to the gardens, enjoying a form of meditation to soothe the hurt when her Spock would berate her or cause her to feel sick with pain at his words and behaviors. She had to always put up a front of professionalism and respect towards him despite the fact that he was losing it rapidly in her eyes. He just wouldn't work with her as a team.

Now? Now she was using the garden to try and push aside her growing affection for this new Spock. He had shown nothing but respect and care for her and it was confusing to her. It was as if she was torn in two. Here she had a Spock that she was rapidly becoming attached to and a Pike who had been so wonderful. It was what she had dreamed of. Seeing a version of the two men who she cared for deeply but she could build a relationship with them and get to know them as new and amazing people, working and personal, but her best friend was not here. Her family that she had made on her Enterprise and her biological family was a universe away.

She was selfish and wanted both, the best of two worlds, but she could never have it. This wasn't her home. It never would be and she had to accept it.

A sudden rustling to her right caused her to shoot up into a tense sitting position but she quickly relaxed when she saw a small, brown-haired, gap-toothed Joanna McCoy sneaking through the Bolian tharassa bushes.

Jim smiled at her and Joanna returned the gesture, seeming to relax. "What are you doing here without your dad or Nyota?"

The child shrugged and scrunched her face. "Nyota wanted me to eat Brussel sprouts ! It's gross so I left when she went to the replicator to get it."

She chuckled, understanding the plight of the mini McCoy. Even as an adult she despised Brussel sprouts. Jim patted the grass next to her and Jo joined her as they lay back to watch the ceiling change from sunset to a beautiful starscape.

"Aren't your dad and Nyota looking for you?" She asked

"Probably." She sighed and sat up, picking at the grass and finding a Terran daisy. She twirled it in her fingers and her lip came out as she pouted. "You're not gonna tell on me, are you, Miss Jim?"

Jim sat up and started to pick a few daisies herself, joining the stems in a chain and raising her shoulders in the negative. "Nah. They'll find you eventually and I hide from your dad all the time since I got here, too." She shuddered for effect and Joanna giggled.

The small brunette watched in fascination as Jim worked the flowers into a small circle and placed the daisy crown on top of her head with a flourish. Joanna's smile at the simple gift made it worth it.

Jim considered Joanna's problem and came up with a possible solution. "What vegetables do you like?"

Joanna's nose wrinkled in disgust and Jim sighed. "You have to like at least one."

She let loose a put-upon sigh in such a dramatic fashion that and Jim shook her head at the sight. Doctor McCoy was gonna have one hell of a teenager when she grew up.

"I guess green beans, carrots, peas, and cauliflower. I dunno what else but I hate Brussel sprouts a lot!" She glared at her as if it had been Jim that had provided the offending item.

"How about you ask your dad and Nyota if they'll make a deal."

Joanna looked curious. "A deal?"

Nodding, Jim plucked a piece of grass. "Yeah. I did the same thing with my mom when she tried getting me to eat something I didn't like. Tell them you'll eat the veggies that you like and you have to eat them so you'll get your vitamins and minerals but they have to agree to not give you the gross ones."

Joanna's head tilted in thought and she frowned before quickly smiling. "Okay."

Soft footsteps came up from Jim's right and Nyota came up to them, hands on her hips and her belly on display in front of her. It was weird seeing this version of Uhura.

"Joanna Eleanora McCoy! Your father and I have been looking for you and were worried sick! Where have you been?"

Joanna lowered her head looking properly chastised. "I was just talking with Miss Jim." She took off the daisy crown and held it up. "She made me a flower crown. Would you like it?" Her brown eyes sparkled. "I think you'd look pretty, momma Nyota."

Oh, she was too cute and really smart. Uhura deflated and accepted the flowers only to place them back on Joanna's hair. "I think they look better on you." Joanna's face lit up and Uhura became serious but her lips twitched in a small smile. "You'd better get home before your dad has an aneurism."

"Okay!" Joanna waved to them and bounced off, far happier than when she had first come in.

Uhura whirled to face Jim, moving far faster than any pregnant woman should be able to and had placed her hands on her hips again. Jim cringed as Uhura represented every bit the mother she was with Joanna and was going to soon become again with her baby.

"Hey there! How's it going?" She asked carefully.

"Leo is gonna kill you but I think-" Her expression turned to one of kindness and Jim relaxed slightly. "-what you did was amazing. Thank you."

"For what?" She asked.

Uhura carefully sat down next to her on the grass and bumped her shoulder against Jim's. "For cheering JoJo up. I think she needed it today." She told her.

Shrugging, Jim leaned back and looked at the "stars" but they were a poor substitute for the real thing. They were pretty enough but she wondered just what stars her friends were under right now. Looking over, she smiled at Uhura. "What can I say? I'm a sucker for brown eyes."

Uhura gave a knowing smile that made her squirm. God damn it. Looked like she could read anyone like a book by body language by virtue of her skills as communications chief. Fucking universal constant. "I can see that. In fact, I saw it earlier today in the gym."

Jim shrugged, faking nonchalance. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"I think you do."

She laughed, unnerved at being read so clearly and stood up to leave. "Nope. Not doing the whole girl talk thing but thanks for being cool about Joanna hanging out with me."

She got about five steps away when Uhura shouted from behind her. "I think he has a weakness for blue eyes, too."

Jim stiffened and knew just who she referred to. She was wrong and, even if there was a slim possibility she was right, Spock would lose interest soon enough and move on. Her Spock had made her inadequacies damn clear. "I've gotta go."

Uhura shook her head sadly. "Oh, Jim. Just what happened to you?" She whispered.

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven

Hikaru Sulu carefully pruned Gertrude, the Beauregard Weeper that Jim and he had received as a goodwill gesture from the people of Zeta Reticuli A almost six months ago. Ever since she had gone missing the plant no longer trilled and purred regularly. It's once bright pink petals had faded to a pale imitation of their former glory. He'd been trying everything to get Gertrude back to what she once was. Soil samples, scans, and even spending more time talking to the plant seemed to make no difference. He suspected that the plant knew of Jim's abrupt departure and, in it's own way, was grieving the loss of the commander. Jim had raised that plant from a small seedling.

The general atmosphere on the ship seemed to match that of the Beauregard Weeper. There was a dark cloud that seemed to hang around on the ship. Every department had interacted with Jim and every crew member always saw and talked with her at least once a week even if it was a quick 'hello' in the corridor.

The young helmsman had noticed the emotions varied between sadness, resignation, and anger. Word had gotten out that the commander had asked for the Enterprise to use her transporters to evac when the station's own systems had become too damaged to do multi-person transports and some felt that if they had tried sooner then she wouldn't have been lost.

Sulu had been having to do damage control and Spock's attitude was not helping. The Vulcan had been almost reclusive, spending his off-duty hours in the Enterprise's science labs and, when he'd expressed his concern, the captain had countered with the fact that Vulcans required less sleep than that of humans. Sulu knew this just as he knew that Spock clearly felt guilt over what had happened despite him saying Vulcans do not feel guilt. He'd made sure that those he talked to were aware of the ongoing search and rescue efforts.

He'd seen Chekov practically asleep walking back to his quarters and Scott had actually passed out in the mess hall. Every person that stood a chance at helping to return the Commander to them had been working on it but the answers remained elusive. Many weren't even sure she had survived, let alone be alive in some form. There were speculations that her energy pattern still existed in some form in the plasma storm while other theories were that she had been transported to an alternate universe. The latter theory seemed to gaining speed if the rumors were to be believed.

The sound of the doors to the hydroponics lab opened and Sulu was surprised to see the Captain. Spock looked, for lack of a better word, like shit. His pallor was paler than Gertrude's petals and under his eyes were dark circles. He wondered just what was going on in his mind.

"Lieutenant-Commander Sulu."

He straightened and saluted as protocol dictated. "Yes, Captain?"

Spock acknowledged his gesture of respect with a nod. "At ease." His eyes drifted over to the Beauregard Weeper before quickly settling back to him. "I have just received new orders from Command."

"Sir?"

"It has been determined that we are to continue with our mission and cease our efforts to locate Commander Kirk. She has been declared missing in action, presumed dead. You have been appointed as Acting First Officer based on your skill set and the duties you willingly took on in her absence despite not being ordered to." He paused and took a deep breath. "It was...appreciated."

Sulu stood there, shocked and dismayed. He just couldn't believe that the admiralty was moving on so quickly. Their actions seemed cold and ruthlessly efficient and his ascension in rank seemed...wrong. Almost as if it was some form of consolation prize and not something he had rightfully earned.

The captain seemed to collect himself and continued, his voice no longer betraying his emotions and thoughts behind the orders given to him. "You have been assigned new quarters as your position entitles you to. You are to move into Commander Kirk's former quarters by Alpha shift tomorrow where you are to take on the duties as my XO."

A sick sensation settled in the pit of his stomach and he was forced to press his lips together to stop himself from throwing up.

"Congratulations Commander Sulu."

Without another word Spock turned on his heel and left him there. The young Asian didn't know what to do.

xXx

McCoy carefully handled Jim's prized books, the leather spine and pages showing wear from frequent handling but the cover smelled of the conditioner she lovingly rubbed into it to keep it from cracking. She'd started her collection at the academy, her first volume of "A Tale of Two Cities" gifted to her by her mentor, Christopher Pike.

It was a duty he'd never thought he'd undertake; packing away the parts of his best friend. It was the finality of it that hit him the hardest, the reality that they were having to give her up as lost. He'd had to sign the papers listing her as presumed dead earlier that morning and he'd asked Spock that he be the one to inform Winona of the loss of her youngest daughter.

The woman had been devastated and Leonard couldn't blame her. He understood and shared her pain and they'd spent hours talking about her. It had been doubly hard because Jim had resembled her mother, except for her eyes, and he'd had to cut the connection when it became impossible for him to continue.

He was holding her reading glasses (Damn kid was allergic to Retinax V) when the chime sounded. He almost ignored it, wanting to grieve in private, but he allowed entry.

Sulu, Scotty, and Chekov entered, looking somber, their eyes taking in the multiple containers and McCoy. He knew he looked like shit. M'Benga had taken him off duty when he saw him having to fill out Jim's death certificate. 'Compassionate Leave' they called it.

McCoy squeezed the glasses in his hand, feeling the plastic bend and twist as they cut into his palm. He welcomed the pain. It distracted him.

Scotty was the first to approach him and he looked at the engineer with a critical eye, noting that he looked just as exhausted as How are yeh doin'?"

McCoy violently shook his head and clenched his jaw, unwilling to bare his broken spirit any more than he had. He'd followed Jim into the black and now, without her, he felt lost. Her bright spirit had made it fun, an adventure, and it was as if space was now truly darkness and silence that was pressing in on him without Jim to light it up.

He startled when a hand carefully pried Jim's reading glasses from him and McCoy looked up at Chekov's serious face, understanding etched onto his features making him appear far older than his years. "Let us help you."

"Yeah." His throat tightened at the support. "Thanks, kid."

Chekov gave him a small smile and the crew spent the next two hours carefully packing what Jim had left behind. McCoy had laughed when he saw his Ol' Miss shirt, soft and slightly frayed from age. That little shit had known he'd been looking for it for months and she'd stolen it. He placed it with her belongings to go into storage. It somehow felt right that it should remain with her things.

Sulu had managed to unearth an old fashioned photo album while Scotty opened an eight year old bottle of scotch that he'd brought with him. The four of them, relaxed and warm after a few drinks, spent the night reminiscing over the immense picture collection that Jim seemed to have somehow acquired. There were some of when they were at the academy, shore leave pictures, birthday parties, and even ones when the McCoy family had had a reunion and Jim had officially been 'adopted' as his little sister.

McCoy had never realized just how many memories Jim had managed to capture and archive. No crew member or friend was placed above another in importance.

"I had forgotten about Yeoman S'Parva sparring with Jim!" Sulu pointed at the candid showing the young Katerian quadroped on all fours, teeth bared in a smile with the blond underneath laughing.

McCoy snorted. "Jim got her ass gift wrapped and handed to her and she still went back for seconds." S'Parva had laughed about it for two weeks and it had gone a long way in making her feel welcome when she'd first come on board the ship. The yeoman had been the first Katerian to enroll in Starfleet and Jim had helped her to come out of her shell.

He turned the page and came up on the last picture. A still shot of the bridge, filled to the brim with Enterprise personnel with Jim in the middle of them all, her smile the brightest and her arm slung over his shoulders as he'd stood next to her. It was a fitting final picture.

He choked on the deep emotions that picture evoked in him and it took a few minutes for him to compose himself. He made a mental note to distribute copies of the relevant pictures to the crew.

"We will find ze commander, Doctor. I heff hope, sair." Chekov reassured him and Scotty nodded.

"We're not going to give up on the lass no matter what anyone orders." The redhead raised his glass. "To Commander Kirk who we all know is kicking arse wherever she might be and may she come home soon."

The others followed suit and, before long, they started to make their way out. Chekov, to McCoy's amusement, was supporting Lieutenant-Commander Scott who he'd drunk under the table rather spectacularly. His explanation had been that 'scotch was inwented in Russia'.

McCoy was stacking the boxes feeling that a small amount of the weight of grief and worry he'd been carrying had lightened. He turned and saw that Sulu remained near him, hovering and uncertain.

When he didn't say anything right away, the brunette indicated they sit on the small couch and leaned back, preparing to wait for him to talk.

"I've been promoted to first officer."

Ah. So that was it. He understood the helmsman's discomfort at the idea of being promoted in the way that he had. When no more words were forthcoming, McCoy leaned back, crossed his arms and raised a brow. It was a look he'd usually give Jim to force her to talk. It clearly was effective on Sulu.

"It's too soon and I don't think-"

McCoy threw up a hand. "Now stop right there. You wouldn't have been promoted if you didn't deserve it and you would have been Commander soon anyway."

His eyebrows drew down in confusion at McCoy's words.

"Jim was slated for promotion to Captain of the Ulysses and you were her pick for her replacement on the Enterprise. I only know about it because I was going to follow her. If you don't trust yourself then trust Jim. She knew you were the best and clearly the 'Fleet admirals and the Captain think so too."

The newly minted Commander deflated in relief but still looked unsure. McCoy stood and went to the first box he'd packed, pulling out a large binder filled with paper. Jim was old-fashioned to a fault. He handed it Sulu who took it and opened it.

"It's Jim's latest thesis she was working on to get her PhD. She was working on a way to adapt her original work on quadrotriticale to safely genetically engineer disease resistance into the grain and still make it safe for humanoid consumption. She'd only gotten partway into the theory."

His eyes widened as they skimmed through the first pages of her arguments and the accompanying charts supporting them. "I didn't even know she was working on this." He looked up in surprise. "When did she find the time?"

Pouring himself another drink, McCoy settled into his seat. "She believed that you should never lose yourself in the job. It's unhealthy and I agree with her. I think you should finish what she started. She'd like that."

Sulu smiled and held the binder closer to him and he felt a sense of peace at the thought of some part of Jim continuing in her absence.

"How is it she never went into the sciences? I know of her work only because she told me." He frowned. "I don't think Spock even knows."

McCoy harrumphed. "He never asked. He just assumed Jim didn't know anything and she didn't correct him." Only McCoy knew of the reasons behind Jim's obsession and her secretive nature about it.

Sulu nodded. The bulk of the crew knew of the difficulties between the captain and first officer but they had followed Jim's example to be the best in their chosen fields and show respect. Spock was a good captain but he wasn't a great one. McCoy had a feeling that many of the people on the Enterprise would have followed Jim to her new posting had she not been...lost.

McCoy threw back the last of his drink, relishing the burn and clasped his shoulder. "You're gonna be a damn good XO."

"Thank you, Doctor."

McCoy watched the kid leave and sighed. "Dammit, Jim. Get your ass home."

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight

Jim had upped her avoidance of Spock and he did not like that at all. She had started working on the task of getting herself into the labs during the later half of beta and gamma shift so the commander had been unable to catch her even when he elected to utilize his ability that he needed less sleep than humans. She seemed to have an uncanny ability to anticipate when he would be visiting the labs and would be "unavailable" and absent when he arrived. It was...upsetting.

It has now been eighteen days since her arrival and he knew that she had increased her attempts to get home and she had been less than pleased when the Enterprise had been forced to continue their mission and leave the area she had arrived in.

He had heard about Jim's excitement when she had encountered Ensign Gaila Vro and admitted jealousy when she had taken to spending a good deal of her free time with the young Orion and other members of the crew other than him. Had he misinterpreted her feelings towards him and just read himself somehow echoed back to him? Unlikely but there was a slim possibility.

She had become almost a member of the ship's crew despite her lack of rank and her duties only being her working with engineering and the science department on the task of returning her to her own universe. She fenced with lieutenant Sulu despite her continuously losing to him which she brushed off with amusement. She played chess with Ensign Chekov and the two appeared relatively evenly matched, played poker with Ensign Hendorff and the doctor, and even spent time learning different languages and cultural aspects of different species with Nyota. During his informal meetings with the captain even he had experienced displeasure at her avoidance of the Vulcan for unknown reasons.

The few times that he had caught her he could see that she was afraid and forcing distance between them. Nyota had taken to playing 'matchmaker' with mixed results. Each time Spock believed he was making progress with Jim, she'd pull away from him. Nyota had grumbled something about 'locking them in a room' while McCoy suggested 'knocking their fool heads together'.

Each smile Jim gave him he treasured. He continued his efforts to win the blond over. To date, he had been able to have two meals with her and Nyota had ensured they sat next to each other during a 'movie night'. She'd fallen asleep on his shoulder for thirty-seven point six minutes and the warm weight of her resting on him had been calming. Jim had woken at the end when the lights came on and had stammered, red-faced and practically ran away from him before Spock been able to reassure her that he had not minded being her support.

Currently, the Enterprise was being dispatched to the planet Sarpeidon as their star, Beta Naiobi, was due to go super nova in approximately one month. Multiple federation ships in the area had been put on standby. Thankfully, at last report, they only had a small colony of ten thousand. They are, or were, listed as a warp capable species but no evacuation efforts from the planet had been detected. Their mission was to discover the reason for this and provide assistance if requested.

"Spock, I've been thinking." Captain Pike addressed him as he moved his queen one space to avoid Spock's current strategy.

"Captain?" He asked.

"Chris." He corrected. "Come on, Spock. You've known me for five years, now."

The use of personal titles informed him that this was an informal discussion and he nodded in acknowledgement. "Chris."

Spock carefully restructured his mode of attack on the chess board and Chris frowned in thought. "The admiralty and I have been discussing Commander Kirk and the possibility of her remaining here if we don't succeed in our efforts to return her to her home."

Spock straightened, suddenly very interested in the conversation.

"Her skills and aptitude tests are off the chart. She's also shown skills that she could have only learned at Starfleet Academy and, since Nero, we are always in need of qualified officers." He told Spock in a neutral tone.

"Indeed." He continued to play despite his focus no longer on the game and he could see the captain knew this. "What, may I ask, was their decision in regards to this unusual situation?"

"Well, they thought that she should retain her former rank, with limitations, and giver her a sort of test run." The captain moved his bishop and took Spock's last pawn. "The current mission we are undertaking seems to be a good idea to put her to the test."

"Fascinating."

Chris moved his King and Spock tipped his over in defeat. His interest in the game lost as he contemplated the upcoming mission that Jim and he would take part in.

The older man leaned back in his chair. "I'll let you tell her the good news. I think a change in pace is a good idea from the commander, don't you think?"

"I agree."

The conversation between himself and the captain had been...intriguing. Spock made to leave. "Thank you for the game. I believe the commander will likely be off duty and I will inform her about the upcoming mission."

xXx

Spock searched the ship and struggled to locate Kirk. She truly was skilled at avoidance and Spock felt sympathy towards Doctor McCoy as he had yet to perform a full physical, only being able to do the minimum of care necessary to deem her healed from her injuries and fit enough to be able to perform her duties but Spock knew that the doctor had questions that Jim had managed to skillfully avoid.

He had been told from the multiple low risk areas that she was permitted to be in that she had always just left. Sighing, Spock decided to try her quarters.

He made his way to deck five and pressed the chime only to be met with silence. He pressed a second time, again met with no response.

"Computer, please scan quarters 51c. Are there life signs present?"

The computer beeped as it performed it's task. "Affirmative. One humanoid life sign."

Spock was concerned with the lack of response and typed in his override code and stepped into her quarters.

The lights had been lowered to ten percent and he moved around the room, checking the bathroom and the small sitting room area to find no hint of Jim. Spock quietly moved around the partition and gained the answer as to why there had been no response to his requesting entry.

On the double bed Jim was curled up, asleep on top of the blankets and hugging a pillow. He stood watching her as she slept. Her long blond hair spread on the pillow resembled a golden halo and the lines on her face were smoothed away in slumber. He could smell vanilla sugar and saw a small bottle of lotion on her nightstand along with a small paperback book open with one hand resting on it while she slept. It had to have been borrowed from another crew member. They were extremely rare since Earth's destruction.

Moving closer, he carefully picked up the book and turned it around to read the title. "Alice in Wonderland". A small smile appeared on his face and a warm feeling spread in his chest. His mother had read this book to him many times in his youth despite his questions about the passages being illogical. She had told him that that was the point. That the illogic was the point and it ignited the imagination; that it taught one that sometimes the world may not always make sense and that you must come to learn to accept that.

He opened the book and saw that she had only just opened it but must have fallen asleep before truly reading it as she was only a few pages in, barely finishing Alice's fall through the rabbit hole.

A rustling from the bed drew his attention and Jim turned onto her back, her eyes opening in confusion at the sight of the Vulcan standing in her room and Spock felt a sense of guilt for watching the young woman as she slept.

"Spock? What-what are you doing here?" She asked, her voice thick with sleep. She frowned in confusion and Spock's reasons for entering her private quarters disappeared like smoke on the wind.

Spock's grip on the antique tome slipped through numb fingers and he dropped it. Her attention flicked to the book, now on the floor and pages bent slightly at the fall and Jim sat up, her expression now one of curiosity and a small amount of nervousness. She crossed her arms across her chest with her hands on her shoulders as if to protect herself from an attack from him. She had no reason to fear him. He would never hurt her but it hurt him at the unspoken accusation.

"I see you are reading "Alice in Wonderland"." He said dumbly.

An eyebrow raised and clearly she was not expecting his response. "Uh-yeah."

"In an outdated method."

She shrugged but did not remove her hands from their protective location. He wished to touch her to convey his intentions but restrained himself.

"Yeah. I like the feel of the paper in my hands, the smell, and it's as if I have a closer connection to the author and the story. It makes it tangible." She gave a self-deprecating smile. "I know it's stupid but I enjoy the old-fashioned ways sometimes. You don't fix what isn't broken and it's just as effective as a PADD but more fun." She explained.

"May I ask why this particular book?" He was genuinely curious.

Jim seemed to relax at his curiosity and her eyes warmed, becoming a darker blue.

"The symbolism behind Carroll's writing has always intrigued me."

Spock tilted his head. "Symbolism? I must confess that I sometimes struggle with interpreting human behaviors and emotions, particularly if they are in written form. The meanings are sometimes lost on me."

She bit her lip as the thought about her answer and carefully worded her response. "'Alice in Wonderland' isn't just a children's book, but it can be interpreted as a testament to the powerlessness of individuals in a society that is always in flux-the rules in them. Wonderland's rules and the environment changes almost as soon as Alice comes to accept them. There are no universal truths in Wonderland, nor is there a common way in conversing with or dealing with characters. Each has their own individual realities which are made up entirely of their own codes, signs, and language. Social ideals and rules no longer apply-they are made fun of and completely misunderstood in Wonderland.

Alice's journey brings her face-to-face with a whole host of new ideologies beyond the very specific set she has been taught as a little girl brought up in the 19th century." She smiled ruefully. "And besides, I enjoy the illogic written in the novel. It's fun."

Spock's lips turned up at her answer. It was intelligent, well thought, and something his mother would have said. "Well put." He praised her and she smiled a small smile.

The symbolism of the novel almost seemed appropriate in Jim's current predicament. As if she was Alice who had fallen through the rabbit hole and into a universe that she was struggling to interpret.

She snorted inelegantly. "You would have made one hell of a professor."

"I was." He answered seriously.

Her grin widened. "Nice ego, Mr. Spock."

"I did not mean-" He protested but she put up a hand.

"I'm messing with you." She shifted to stand to be on even footing.

Spock bent down and picked up the book, handing it back to Jim. As she reached out, Spock carefully brushed his fingers against hers and a warmth spread up his arm at the small connection. Jim's eyes widened in surprise and she cleared her throat, her face turning pink. "Thanks."

"If you are interested in antique printed volumes I do have a small collection in my quarters from various worlds including Earth."

Jim blinked rapidly in shock at the, clearly personal, invitation but her expression quickly turned to one of sadness. "I doubt I'm going to be here long enough to even finish this book but thank you."

Spock did not like that answer at all. The reminder that her time was likely limited was unpleasant, as well as the fact that she was still actively trying to avoid him, especially since their match the other day. Spock was unsure how to make his intentions more clear to the human.

He wanted her in all ways. He wanted to know her, to understand her, to stand by her, and to be able to love her if only she would let him. She was proving to be a formidable challenge. Thankfully, he excelled in all things, challenges included.

Holding the book to her chest as if it was something precious, she addressed him. "I doubt you came by to discuss the merits of 19th century English literature so what are you doing here?"

Spock shifted his stance, placing his hands behind his back as if in parade rest. "Captain Pike has spoken with the admiralty in regards to your current predicament." He told her and Jim's interest peaked.

"Oh?"

"They have determined that it would be advantageous for you to take on more responsibilities in the role of an officer, at least temporarily." He explained

Jim's mouth turned down. "But my research..." She started to protest.

Spock had hoped she would have been excited considering they had seemed to hit a dead end on their work despite their best efforts. He could not help but admit some happiness at the stalling of her being able to leave him-the Enterprise he mentally corrected.

"We would still be working on returning you to your reality. Your temporary lack involvement would have no affect on the work."

Jim threw up a hand. "No! I'm happy to be a part of the crew in more than the capacity that I've been in lately. It's why I joined Starfleet. The excitement of seeing new worlds and new civilizations. It's just I-" Sighing, Jim picked at a nonexistent thread on her sleeve. "I miss my friends and family and it'll be hard for me to leave because I'm becoming attached to all the wonderful people here."

She wouldn't meet his eyes and Spock's heart beat faster, illogically hopeful that she meant him in that admission.

"The captain requests your presence in our next away mission to the planet Sarpeidon where the sun, Beta Naiobi, has been estimated to go super nova in four weeks, three days, and seventeen hours."

"No minutes or seconds in your estimate?" She teased.

"I am endeavoring to answer in a more relaxed fashion, however, if you would like a precise estimate..."

Jim's eyes lit up in humor as she seemed to shed the last of her melancholy like a cloak falling from her shoulders. "You've got some serious sass there."

"I believe it is a skill I inherited from both of my parents." He bowed slightly and left to the sound of his t'hy'la's laughter.

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine

Jim tightened the strap holding the tricorder, small medical kit, and stuffed her phaser in her belt and nervously bounced on her toes in the gold uniform dress of command track officers. She was excited at the prospect of leaving the ship and happy at the opportunity to do more than just theory. She'd been hitting a brick wall with her's and Scotty's work. They just seemed to be missing one element to make everything work to get her home.

Spock's visit last night had caused the small box in the back of her mind that held her feelings for him to start to open. She had tossed and turned the entire night, unable to focus or distract herself from the thought of her with Spock-this Spock who seemed to like her in more than one way.

Every interaction between them had always been instigated by him, never her. Even when she hid from him, trying to avoid her growing feelings for him, he sought her out. He worked to engage her in activities that they both would enjoy and seemed to welcome the idea of touch between them if last night's brush of his fingers was any indication. She knew Spock, any Spock, would never have been so careless with their touch. So, what did it mean?

It was getting harder and harder to reign in her feelings towards the Spock of this universe as time wore on here and she felt torn in two between wanting to go home and staying here. At first she had wondered if it was simply a case of her transferring her feelings from one Spock to another but it wasn’t. He was so different and he was making it hard for her to keep away. Jim was afraid. In the short time she’d known him she knew she was falling in love with him.

She didn't have much longer to think about it before the object of her thoughts walked up and stood next to her on the transporter. She tamped down her surprise and managed a professional greeting. Their beam down was delayed when Dr. McCoy couldn't make the away team because of a yeoman going into labor.

A frazzled young female trill came running in, her long blond hair loose around her shoulders in artistic waves. Jim tilted her head in appreciation and slight jealousy at her curves and how they fit perfectly into her blue medical division uniform showing her as a nurse. Jim's uniforms had never fit quite right.

Jim's head tilted in curiosity as she struggled to remember something. This ensign seemed very familiar. She also wondered just how far those spots went down.

Spock straightened just as the thought crossed her mind like a piano wire, taut and stiff, and Jim wondered if he could read her thoughts. He practically growled as he ordered the ensign to the transporter pad. It had scared her to the point of dropping her own medical kit.

"Jim Kirk." The blond commander smiled and held out a hand while the woman fumbled with her equipment and shook it.

"Emony Dax." She put the strap over her head and smiled at the greeting. "Uh-I'm coming in Dr. McCoy's place."

Jim's glare at Spock forced him to calm somewhat and she gave an apologetic look at the woman. They all finally assembled and the transporter chief went through the checks.

"Commanders, there's some solar flare activity that is giving off EMP pulses because of the late stages of the star's life that might affect electronics and transporter abilities." He told them.

"Understood." Spock replied and stood still in preparation. "Energize."

They materialized in a large storage facility with silver discs and drawers holding them carefully organized. Jim's eyebrow raised in curiosity. Next to her Spock pulled out his tricorder to scan the area. "I detect no life forms."

Jim frowned in confusion. "Well, that confirms the Enterprise's scans."

"Where is everybody?" Emony looked around one of the rows and jumped as a balding human looking man appeared in front of her with a frown.

He came far too close to the ensign which had Jim immediately placing a hand on her phaser.

"What are you doing here? You're very late!" He scolded them and Jim's eyebrows reached her hairline in surprise. That was not the greeting she was expecting at all.

"Please. You need to hurry and use the library to choose your era of interest. There isn't much time." He ushered them all forward and was suddenly gone, as if he'd disappeared into thin air. Jim spun on her heel in alert when the same man came around the corner.

Spock moved to stand in front of them and Jim rolled her eyes at the protective gesture. "My name is Atoz and I am the guardian of the library. You must choose your era. I will assist you."

Spock and Jim both shifted their stances to prepare for any sudden moves.

"You're a very agile man, Mister Atoz. Just what are you talking about? Where is everybody?" Jim asked very carefully.

Atoz's head tilted at the question, looking at her as if she was mad. "I am afraid that each person's chosen era is confidential however, I am here to assist you. I am the librarian."

Spock relaxed slightly but remained on alert, allowing the women to move forward. Emony spoke first. "No. We mean people in general. Where is everybody?"

The man walked around them towards an archway with a computer terminal next to it, gesturing with an impatient hand. "Come! Come! You must choose your era. There isn't much time!"

Spock rose an eyebrow in confusion and Jim had to stifle her 'what the fuck?' comment.

Mr. Atoz pulled a box of silver discs out from underneath and scrutinized Jim closely which was really unsettling.

"I see you like adventure, young miss."

She contemplated slapping him at the misogynistic title he gave her but she really didn't want her first away mission with Pike to end in a diplomatic disaster.

Atoz picked up a disc and placed it in the terminal and, in the doorway, an almost American style western seemed to be playing as if it was a movie. She turned to him.

"I'm not a big fan of westerns, Mr. Atoz. Just what are you trying to show us?"

He looked disappointed. "Perhaps something more...exciting? The library has a large selection and the atavachron can help you get there."

Emony picked up a disc, scrutinizing it closely and placed it in the adjacent terminal and an arctic climate appeared in the doorway, replacing the western scene. Jim shivered, remembering the nightmare that was Delta Vega.

"Fascinating choice, miss. The Sarpeidon Ice Age, approximately seven thousand years ago." He indicated the doorway showing the era with a flourish.

Behind her Spock was surreptitiously scanning the man while he was talking to ensign Dax. Spock must have noticed something interesting since he moved forward.

"Mr. Atoz? You are a hologram?"

At Spock's question the image of him flickered slightly and the hologram frowned. "Of course, sir. All of Sarpeidon bar yourselves has left to safety and it is my duty to ensure everyone on the planet is relocated. There is little time left as the library is due to power down permanently in a matter of hours."

Jim had a bad feeling. As the 'librarian' continued talking to them he seemed to become more agitated at their, seemingly, lack of cooperation.

"What do you mean 'safe'? Where is everyone?" Jim asked.

Atoz started typing on the terminal and turning dials. Jim's eyes drifted to Spock as she slowly moved her hand to hover over her phaser and he mirrored her movements in perfect sync.

"The atavachron relocated them to the past where they can live out the remainder of their lives to escape the death of Beta Naiobi. My creator, the original Mr. Atoz left three days ago to join his wife and children." He finished what he was doing and turned back towards them. "You three are the only ones left that my scans have detected."

"We do not need relocation, Mr. Atoz, as we are not from here. We came to assess if our assistance was needed or wanted to the people of Sarpeidon due to our own scans showing your sun going super nova." Spock explained but Mr. Atoz started moving towards them and they started moving backwards, away from the hologram.

"My duty as librarian is to ensure all the people on the planet have been relocated safely. You will be happy in your new home. It will be different but you will enjoy the excitement of the past." Another Atoz appeared behind them and the hairs on the back of her neck raised. Adrenalin started to flow, igniting her fight or flight response. Jim and Spock fell into line, back to back, protecting Emony who had started to trip over her feet in her attempt to get away from the advancing holograms.

"No, thanks." He head spun from one Mr. Atoz to another. "Look, dude, we aren't from here. We don't need your 'help'." Jim pulled out her phaser as both holograms pulled out a silver tube-like device. The holograms flickered again and a third, the fourth, appeared, making a hole in their defenses.

The holograms surrounded them completely and, even though their motions were hostile, they showed concern and irritation for them. "We understand your fear of leaving the present but it is not safe. You are out of time to even select a different era disc. We must do our duty as our programming compels us."

"Ensign! Call for a beam up!" Spock ordered.

Emony's hands slipped on her communicator and she dropped it. The trill quickly snatched it up and her voice shook with fear. "Enterprise! This is the away team! We need an emergency beam out! Now!"

-"Enterprise here. Beta Naiobi is putting out huge waves of gamma rays. It's interfering with transporters. We can only beam one at a time. Remain still for transportation!"

Fuck. This was just their luck.

Jim heard the telltale whine of the transporter and she didn't even need to turn to know Ensign Dax was gone so it was just her, Spock, and the crazy holograms at a standoff. She breathed a sigh of relief that the ensign was on the ship instead of in danger.

"Please do not make this difficult on yourselves. We are only trying to help to keep you safe." The hologram to her right told them.

"I think we're good, Atoz." Her head turned slightly to address Spock but her eyes remained on the holograms. "We're good. Right, Spock?"

"We are 'good'." He replied and Jim smiled and shook her head slightly at Spock's acceptance of her humor.

-"Commanders Spock and Kirk."

Their comms went off and Spock pulled his off his belt, one hand still aiming his phaser, his focus on the alien holograms in front of him. "Spock here."

-"Sir, the solar flares have kicked up and transporters are down."

No. This was just their luck. God damn Murphy's Law.

"Understood." Spock replied tersely and he snapped his communicator shut with more force than necessary.

"Son of a bitch!" Jim cursed.

"My sentiments exactly." Spock said in a sotto voice and, if the situation hadn't been so dire she would have laughed.

They needed to get away and get away fast from their 'saviors'. The image of the frozen wasteland was still in the doorway and Jim didn't particularly want to be a Jimscicle.

Jim took aim and pressed the trigger on her phaser but all that came out was a pathetic squeak. She looked closer at the weapon, shook it, and tried again only to not even get a squeak the second time around.

"It would seem our phasers are out. It is likely due to the sporadic EMP pulses from Beta Naiobi." He, unhelpfully, supplied.

"Ya think?" Jim snapped.

The hologram Atoz to her left moved closer, raising the silver tube-like thing. "You must be relocated. The library will shut in-" he flickered and rematerializated. "-ten minutes."

Jim held out both of her arms. "Hold up! I thought you guys said we had several hours?"

Spock shifted closer to her, his body a warm presence against her back. "I believe that the solar flares are damaging their programming."

"Shit." Jim hissed. She looked up to address Atoz. "Can't we talk about this?"

"No."

At least he was concise.

"Okay." Jim threw her phaser at the closest hologram where it forced him to duck out of the way and she twisted her body to run while Spock did the same but, even though they distracted two of the holograms, there was still the third and fourth. She had a momentary vision of the silver tube pointing straight at her face and then...nothing.

xXx

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten

Spock struggled to keep up with the pace in which he was working. His duty to the ship was placed slightly aside in favor of his determination to return the Kirk that belonged in their universe. He still acted appropriately as captain but his attention was divided. He could not help the desperation he felt nor could he stop the fear that resided when he was unable to be at her side to protect her. His concentration was weak but, still, he worked.

He knew he had been defying the orders given to him and the Enterprise crew to abandon the search but he found he did not care. She may have not been his intended or his mate but she was still...important to him.

The agony when he had lost her to Khan had destroyed his controls, his ability to think logically. He had never felt such strong emotions. They had been more terrifying than when he had lost his mother. Something had snapped and he did not wish that to happen again. Even now he felt broken as if the commander-no Jim was an integral part of him and the fact that they were not close was a crime against nature but he had to remind himself that it was because of him. He had chosen to distance himself to keep her away because he knew she loved him and he could not let himself love her.

Spock shook his head and focused on his work. His calculations showed failure and the screen blurred as fatigue crept up on him. Vulcans could go days without rest but he was half Vulcan and his stamina was, therefore, weaker.

The captain shut down the transporter schematics and codes to ensure his work is unable to be accessed by others. Despite the orders given to him he would continue to search but he was did not want to risk the careers of his subordinates unless it became impossible for him to complete the task alone and unaided but it was rapidly becoming evident that he would need help.

Nyota had her suspicions about the time he spent in the science and engineering labs but she refrained from commenting frequently about it, only expressing her concern in regards to his health. Her presence and calm acceptance of his behaviors was a soothing balm to his psyche. She was his match, his soon-to-be intended, and her strengths helped him. She complimented who he was and that was what he needed especially right now.

Commander Kirk was the opposite to him, a strong counterpoint which brought forth it's own challenges. She was the omega to his alpha and it was comforting in it's own way but she elicited such strong emotions that he had struggled to contain even with hours of meditation. It had proven to be very confusing to him. His desire to have her near was a strange thing and he knew it to be an unhealthy need but he could not understand it nor could he control it but he refused to act on it. It was only logical for his choice to be Nyota rather than one who brought out such shameful and volatile behaviors.

Spock's continuous critiques to the blonde seemed to be read by her incorrectly and he did not know how to fix it. He only wished for her to be a better officer and safer by following procedure. Since the Khan incident when he had lost her he had made the choice to distance himself but he felt a subconscious desire to protect her. He limited her from attending dangerous missions and attempting to protect her from danger, even if it was from herself, was an arduous task that was frequently seen as cruel and stifling on his part and it frustrated him to no end. He would NOT allow her to die again. She was his shield mate, a fellow officer and warrior despite her not being his bondmate.

Sighing, the Vulcan made his way to his quarters. Spock stiffened, a sudden thought coming to the forefront of his mind. He required assistance from someone else, someone who had experienced life in a different universe despite it not technically being known as one. It had been an altered past but the comparison was apt. There was one thing though that he had to do. He could not contact him in this state. He needed a clearer head. He needed rest and to center himself if he was to be appropriately functional for alpha shift.

Spock arrived at his spacious living space to be greeting with quiet with Nyota being on gamma shift to complete the required Starfleet hours and training to gain the qualification needed to allow her to be in command should the situation warrant it. He promptly removed his uniform, replacing it with the heavy black meditation robes of his people and the weight of the fabric comforted him. Spock then moved his office chair to reach up to the small ventilation window high in the wall and pulled out a black, wooden container.

It contained a soft throw blanket of Jim's, it's scent of the blonde long gone, but the simple presence of the item provided a sense of calm that he felt he currently needed. It was not logical to keep this item but he found did not care. Memories should be sufficient but the physical reminder assisted him in ways that were needed.

He took the blanket, a small sense of guilt that he was betraying his intended by keeping it a secret and indulging in this ritual filtered into his mind, but it was...comforting to have it.

Spock lit his usual incense sticks and meditation pot, settling on the mat he frequently used and lay the blanket across his lap to allow his hands to rest upon the fabric. Closing his eyes, he found peace.

xXx

Lieutenant-Commander McCoy stood outside the conference room, his frustration and anger at the captain a palpable thing. The listed title of the briefing was about their mission to Selus, an advanced planet with a lower gravity than that of Earth and, as such, additional training would need happen to ensure the health and safety of the officers that would be attending the meetings with the planet's representatives.

He felt as if they were giving up on Jim ever returning to them and were moving on. Clinically, he knew the stages of grief and he was firmly stuck in denial; believing that there was definitely a way to get her home. He would never accept that his best friend would not return to them. She had to return to them because a life without Jim Kirk in it wasn't a life he wanted. He doubted he would remain in Starfleet, or, at minimum, remain on the ship where they had served together and the ghost of his best friend would haunt the corridors, destroying the good feelings and memories he had associated with the Enterprise.

Sighing, the doctor walked through the door and he saw that he was the last to arrive. The senior officers all looked to be in the same state as him but they were slightly more composed. McCoy knew that he was not in the best state of mind to be on duty but he had the training to push aside his feelings and do his job if need be.

Spock stood and called the meeting to order and McCoy looked him over with a critical eye, noting that he seemed to have lost at lost three kilos since he had seen him last and his posture was so straight that it looked painful. He made a mental note to have M'Benga examine him before week's end. Maybe the loss of Jim was affecting him more than he thought.

Turning his gaze to Nyota, he could see she was in a stressed state as well. She was watching Spock with eyes that seemed to scream heartbreak, sadness, and concern. He knew that they were still together and that they were soon to be betrothed but she was clearly very worried about the vulcan and, as much as he hated him, McCoy was concerned as well, albeit in a more professional capacity.

"This meeting is off the record in the fact that it does not pertain to the mission to Selus. It is listed as a mission briefing and it is in a way."

McCoy's interest peaked and he straightened in his chair as Spock continued.

"As you all know I have a counterpart from the future. You all saw him during that battle against Khan and Admiral Marcus."

Nods around the table from the senior staff greeted his words.

The captain sighed. "Due to the loss of the commander I felt it prudent to contact the Ambassador to see if an accident, such as this one, occurred in his own timeline and was surprised when I learned that it had happened." Spock paused and McCoy felt a sense of foreboding at the action of the captain.

"When his Kirk had been transported, the parallel universe in which he had arrived was a distopia. It was a violent and dangerous place where murder was used to advance in rank, the people were ruled with an iron fist by an emperor, and cruelty was frequent and seen as acceptable. It is a strong possibility that the same thing has occurred and our own Kirk was sent there. I believe it to be a logical assumption due to our past incidences bearing remarkable similarity to the Ambassador's own past as well as the fact that the manner in which she was lost is almost identical to the events from the Ambassador's timeline."

McCoy felt a frisson of fear lance through him at the Captain's words. With the possibility of Jim arriving in such a place, would she even be alive? What state would she be in and, if she was rescued, would she even be the same person or would she be so traumatized that she would never recover? Horrible 'what ifs' played through his mind and it made him feel sick. Good God!

His dark eyes looked upon each of them, radiating anger and fear. McCoy knew the bastard could feel but he had never seen him so...passionate. His behaviors towards Jim had always been indifferent, angry, and cold but there had been a determination that had always set the hairs on the back of McCoy's neck on end. He had seemed obsessed with the commander, always seeking to remove her from situations where she was in a position to be forced to use her combat and tactical skills and, as a result, she never felt able to prove herself, never able to flourish to show her talents. Some would see the Vulcan's actions as protective but most saw it as a show of lack of trust and respect.

"I have secured the Ambassador's assistance in returning Commander Kirk to her rightful place. It is limited help as he is not as knowledgeable in our technology nor does he know this Kirk as well as he knows his own but he does have theories which may be useful to our cause."

He pulled up a holographic screen to show the schematics of their transporter as well as their scans of the plasma storm that affected the rescue of Jim. He reached forward and pulled up the timestamp and video of the transporter at the moment Jim had started to disappear. McCoy's breath caught in his throat at the picture displayed. The blond was semi-transparent, her face forever frozen in fear.

Adjusting the screen to place that information on one side, he pulled up the scans that had been continuously going. He enlarged a small portion that showed a spike in the readings. It was so slight that it seemed insignificant.

"I sent the information to the Ambassador and he determined that this moment was a minute glance into the parallel universe into which the Commander was deposited." He explained. "I analyzed the information and biosignatures detected by our sensors. I believe that those are of the people inhabiting that parallel universe and that they were slightly different to our own which creates the possibility of our locating Commander Kirk as her own will, logically, differ from those of that universe." He looked to the doctor and it was obvious that he was suffering from exhaustion.

"The knowledge that we may be able to detect the anomaly and several locations creates possibilities due to her signature being different than that of the other individuals in that universe and that will assist us in locating the correct parallel universe. We need to focus our abilities in locating a match to these scans to determine her location and adjust our equipment to detect and retrieve her which should be possible despite us having a low probability of success. For this to be possible, I will require assistance from Doctor McCoy to gain access to the medical records and in depth scans of Commander Kirk to attempt to get a baseline for a match as well as help from Ensign Chekov who has the abilities to modify our sensor equipment to detect Jamison and Lieutenant-Commander Scott who has unparalleled skills in transporter technology to adapt it enough to retrieve her." He sighed. "This is something that cannot be done on the record nor can it be done during our shifts because it is not sanctioned by Starfleet in any way, shape, or form. If you feel that this is...that you feel discomfort in not following the order to abandon the search then I ask that you do not speak of this meeting. I must remind you that it is a court martial offense to undertake this task."

He placed his hands behind his back and stood tall, waiting to hear objections but none came.

Scott stood, smiling and excited. "I think I speak for tha entire crew when I say that we will help in any way we can. We will nah leave our lass behind."

Spock jerked his head in acceptance as the rest of the crew smiled and nodded their assent, the air turning electric with excitement and hope but McCoy's eyes were on the Captain. Something niggled at the back of his mind despite Spock's speech. The words were right, the tone encouraging, and his efforts showed true care and interest but something was...off.

McCoy had never trusted that green-blooded bastard ever since he had marooned Jim on Delta Vega, let alone that stunt he had pulled on the bridge. Ever since Khan, he had had a strange relationship with his friend and it was damn weird. He would act concerned when she was hurt, as if he cared for her, but the moment she woke, he would go back to his cold, detached persona and it always hurt her and made her feel worthless. There had actually been several moments where he had strongly considered an official recommendation that Jim be either transferred to another vessel where he would follow her or ensure separate shifts from Spock and have the captain seek a mind healer as well as have a talk with him in an attempt to curb his behavior.

He had suggested these actions to Jim only to have them dismissed. Her reasoning had been that it would appear unprofessional if she was unable to work past these problems. McCoy had been conflicted, medical duty and his professional judgement based on the mental state of the Commander or him wanting to help spare Jim from any further pain. Ultimately, his friendship had won out but it had been a close thing.

The meeting had been dismissed, his crew mates leaving with smiles and excitement causing them to practically float out except Uhura who was watching her boyfriend with the same level of concern as McCoy. He wondered what she was thinking and resolved to speak with her the next chance he got. He needed to gain a better understanding of the Captain's mental state and he hoped that she would help him.

He turned to leave but not before seeing Spock's eyes soften as he regarded the woman and they brushed their fingers together in a gentle caress. Nyota's face relaxed and she smiled at him, the tension leaving her body.

McCoy left to allow them this private moment and he hoped that his worries and concerns about the vulcan were unfounded.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven

Jim woke with a mild headache to the sensation of extreme cold and snowflakes falling and melting on her face. She saw clouds drifting above her and a white landscape surrounding her. Ice and snow everywhere with colors ranging from a deep blue signifying ice to a blinding white. Behind her there was a large cliff face but no hint of a doorway back to the 'library' or any form of civilization so there didn't seem to be an obvious way back. Turning, she saw Spock laid out next to her still unconscious and he was a sickly yellow-green pallor due to the cold. She needed to get him out of the cold now! They needed shelter and fast.

"Dammit!" She cursed.

Jim pulled herself up and noticed they had been put on a pallet-type piece of equipment and strapped next to them was a veritable hoard of supplies. She spotted a large, fur lined winter coat and a bag of winter clothes. She quickly took stock of their supplies. There was a large crate that contained about ten days of rations for them both, her medical kit as well as a much larger one underneath, another box of supplies that included survival gear. There was rope, tether hooks, thermal blankets, fire-starter kits, snow shoes and boots and warming heaters with plenty of fuel. There were lanterns, sleeping bags designed for cold weather, and a lot of other things carefully, but clearly, packed in a hurry.

Jim quickly set to the task of putting the coat on the unconscious Vulcan and moved him off the pallet, thankful that the wheels had a quick release mechanism that turned it into a make-shift sled. She pulled him back on, cursing how heavy he was due to his higher bone density, and secured him with the rope. She pulled on the snow boots and shoes, which were a little on the large side but fit well enough, as well as a few of the winter thermal wear items but the pants didn't fit her and she didn't have time to search for better options right now so her legs were still bare in her Starfleet uniform. Fucking sexist bastards at Starfleet. She made a mental note to write a very pointed letter to the people in charge when she got back.

It took quite a few tries to get the sled moving but, once she did it slid easily but only if she kept moving which was hard to do in the deep snow when her feet still got stuck every few steps.

She'd been walking for what felt like forever when she spotted a cave in the distance and a flare of hope that they would survive surfaced. She disconnected the rope that had her attached to the sled to get a closer look but her left foot suddenly slipped on a piece of rock, twisting at an unnatural angle and she cried out in pain. Her world tilted sideways as she fell, her arms pinwheeling in an attempt to right herself and she felt a burst of pain as her head connected with the rock, hot blood rushing from the back of her head. She had a second to think about the fact that Spock was going to kill her before her world went black.

xXx

Spock knew something was wrong with him the moment he had regained consciousness on the sled. His emotions were closer to the surface than he'd ever experienced. He carefully lifted himself from the sled and experienced an uncharacteristic moment of panic that he was alone and it only worsened when he located Jamison near him. She was so still-too still and lying on the snow-covered ground.

The sight of Jim in the snow with blood under her head staining the pure white snow crimson had caused him to feel so much fear it had nearly crippled him. Immense relief flooded his body when he had felt a pulse on her neck and anger quickly replaced it when he realized she had neglected herself to protect him by providing him with the more substantial cold weather clothing rather than herself.

Scanning the horizon, he quickly located the cave she had appeared to have been heading towards and scooped her up, placing her where he had previously been and bundling her in as many of the supplied blankets as possible before pulling Jim and their supplies to shelter.

Upon arriving at the cave he ignited a light stick and he noticed it showed signs of previous habitation but it had clearly been many years since it had been occupied. There were animal furs and enough preserved supplies to last them at least a year, if they were careful, that had been clearly cultivated from the Arctic environment.

There was a warmth to the location that indicated hot springs and, possibly, an environment complete with vegetation that could provide a source of food other than the obvious mammals that likely inhabited the planet which would provide meat.

A thick layer of dust covered everything but the supplies from themselves and it appeared the previous inhabitant, or inhabitants, were clearly well organized. Spock quickly set himself to the task of caring for Jim.

He wrapped her in a large fur and covered that in a silver thermal blanket as he set her ankle and bound it, thankful she was unconscious. He repaired the cut with a dermal regenerator to the back of her head but could do nothing about the large bump underneath as he would need a deep tissue version. He then carefully washed the blood from her soft, blond hair, marveling at the softness of it in his hands.

He shook himself from his inappropriate thoughts and scanned her with the tricorder from the medical kit noting that her body temperature was still far too low for that of a human. There was a large supply of wood carefully stacked behind a small gated fence-like structure, likely constructed by the previous resident, and he started a large fire making the cave far warmer and providing more light.

He contemplated the warming packs in the first aid kits that would assist in warming her. It would be logical to use them but he remembered that using combined body heat was just as effective and it would, after all, save them using their limited supplies so that they could be utilized for a more urgent time. Yes. That was the reason.

He shook the dust from what appeared to be a bed made of furs and lay a sleeping bag on top for more cushioning. As he unwrapped Jim, he gazed upon her and he knew he loved her. With shaking hands he revealed her body to him as he removed her clothing. There were scars along her back which caused him to growl at the thought of someone hurting his Jim. He would keep her safe while she healed.

He removed his own clothing barring his undergarments to get as much skin to skin contact and slid in behind her, covering them with the multitude of furs and blankets and pulled her to him and hoped her temperature would stabilize quickly. He ran his hands along her body, feeling the soft, far too cool skin under his fingers. He nuzzled her neck and inhaled her, smelling the vanilla sugar lotion that she used. His Vulcan blood sang at the contact. He wanted to hold her forever, to be at her side and her at his. He wanted to join her mind to his and build a home there, never to let her go.

He would keep her safe. No-one would ever take her from him. She would never want to leave him and he would make her happy. Spock placed a finger on her temple and sensed she was in pain despite her lack of consciousness and he reached out next to him and grabbed a hypo, carefully depressing the button and delivering the dose of medication to ease her distress and he could sense her relief through their shallow link. He, once again, placed his fingers on her face, initiating a slightly more substantial link, easily breakable, but strong enough that he could monitor her. He wanted more but he forced himself to hold back. There would be time enough to forge a bond between them. They could not leave this place. By now the library had likely been shut down. This was their home now.

He fell asleep with her mind joined to his and felt a sense of peace. She was his t'hy'la, his perfect match and they fit together in a way he had only dreamed of. He felt a strange sense of freedom here and it was wonderful.

xXx

Jim woke to the sensation of incredible, amazing warmth and softness under her, a firm pillow rising and falling under her head and her body held comfortably in place by warm bands. Her head throbbed in pain and her ankle felt compressed and immobilized.

She moaned in pain, confused and the bands holding her body in place released her. She suddenly realized she was naked save her underwear and she was laying on a similarly nearly naked, very warm, firm body. She jerked away but immediately regretted the sudden movement when a spike of pain from her ankle and head stopped her. Gentle hands pushed her down and the familiar sting of a hypo caused her eyes to fly open.

A warm flood of medication caused her to relax back against the body as it rearranged her back into place. Hands carded through her hair, carefully poking and prodding but also gently stroking. Jim practically purred in pleasure and closed her eyes again.

"Mmm. S' nice." She slurred and kept her eyes closed as she basked in the offered comfort as those arms reattached themselves to her.

"I am relieved to see you are concious." A deep voice told her and Jim shifted, the arms of her 'pillow' reluctantly loosened their hold but didn't fully release her.

Spock's face was close to her and he seemed far more relaxed than she had ever seen him before. He almost seemed...happy?

"Spock? What happened?" She pushed herself upright and he let go but his hands still touched her, fingers and palms stroking her back in a way that made her shiver but not from the cold. Jim swayed slightly from the sudden change of position from lying to sitting.

Running a hand over her face to try and clear her head she saw that they were in a cave, flames from a large fire flickering on the walls and turning them orange. Their supplies were placed against the wall and she was in nothing but her underwear next to, a mostly naked, Spock!

"What happened?" She asked, her tongue heavy in her mouth and her thoughts slightly muddled and fuzzy from a mix of medication and her head injury. A sensation of relaxation and comfort seeped into her thoughts and compelled her to lay back down and rest. She wanted to move away from him and start to work on a way home but something was encouraging her to move closer and snuggle.

A canteen with a straw was pressed to her mouth and she drank gloriously cool water which soothed her parched throat.

"It would appear Mr. Atoz used the atavachron and succeeded in transporting us into the past."

"I know that but what happened after? The last thing I remember-" Her nose scrunched as her thoughts seemed far away but she concentrated hard. "-I remember walking in the snow, pulling you and then-nothing."

The fingers on Spock's right hand gently ran down the side of her face and Jim sighed in pleasure. It felt wonderful. Warm sensations of happiness and love slowly entered her. Something wasn't right but the thought was distant and at the back of her mind. Shouldn't she be freaked out? Upset at the fact that they were trapped in the past?

"You disconnected yourself from the sled and slipped, hitting your head and fracturing your left ankle. You were suffering from moderate hypothermia when I discovered you lying in the snow." His deep voice rumbled under her ear as she listened.

"I located the cave you were heading towards and brought you here. I treated your injuries and determined the best course of action was to use combined body heat to regulate your temperature." His hands roamed along her back, sending sparks along the skin and she moved closer, warmth spreading to parts of her body that had nothing to do with 'regulating her body temperature'.

"I could not allow my t'hy'la to come to harm." He murmured and pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

Her carefully constructed box of emotions regarding Spock was wide open. "Why do I feel this way? I'm so tired."

"Shh. Just rest, my shi'masu. I will care for you." He pulled her closer and Jim's eyes closed, feeling far more tired and relaxed than she should in this situation. She just didn't seem to care. Jim fell asleep to the feeling of a heartbeat under her hand placed on his side and love in her mind.

xXx

The next time Jim awoke Spock was sitting next to her, his eyes closed, deep in meditation but he had a hand on her arm. She took stock of her injuries now that she had a clearer head. The back of her head ached and she reached back to feel the damage. Jim hissed in discomfort as she felt a good size lump. She flexed her arms and legs and only felt some bruises except for her left ankle which was carefully splinted and hurt but not terribly so.

She'd just started shifting to sit up when she felt the hand on her arm tighten slightly and release her. Turning, she saw Spock's eyes open and he looked her up and down as if to search for further injury that may have appeared suddenly.

"How do you feel?" He asked quietly.

She looked down and saw she was still only in her underwear and she clutched the blankets close, her face burning in embarrassment. It was stupid. He'd already seen her when he'd cared for her but she felt far more vulnerable now that she was clear headed and he was clothed.

"Fine. I'm fine."

Spock frowned slightly. "Fine has variable definitions."

Jim only refrained from rolling her eyes because it'd give her more of a headache. "I'm a little sore but I'm ok." She pulled the blankets a little tighter around herself. "Do you think I could get some clothes now?"

He didn't move. "Are you not more comfortable how you are? You need to rest and heal for now."

Jim pursed her lips at the statement. Yes, she was comfortable but she felt too exposed. "I might want to walk around and I don't want to 'offend your delicate Vulcan sensibilities'." She joked but Spock simply raised a brow in what Jim interpreted as the equivalent of a vulcan eyeroll.

"I assure you that you will in no way be offensive to me." He shifted and got up, moving near the fire and collected a bowl, spoon, and cup. "It may also serve to encourage you to remain where you are and rest."

Jim snorted and shook her head. "Trust me, Spock, nothing keeps me down."

"Now that I do believe." He detoured by their supplies and collected a set of thermal underwear pants and sweater.

"Smartass." She griped but Jim was smiling at his humor.

He returned and handed her the bowl and Jim was surprised. It contained a hot savory stew. "Thank you." He nodded in acknowledgement as she placed the bowl next to her and pulled on the top, which would be skin tight on Spock but hung loose on her smaller frame. She started to put on the pants under the blanket, trying to keep herself covered but cursed as she got to the splint covering her lower left leg. Knives seemed to be stabbing her as she tried shoving the splint through the too small hole but she was determined.

She grit her teeth and got it halfway over the bulky splint when she felt a sting in her neck that distracted her from her task. Slapping a hand over the spot, she turned and glared at Spock who gave her an unimpressed look. "Acetaminophen." He explained and he moved around to her front and pulled down the blanket, flourishing a pair of medical scissors and proceeded to cut the leg of the pants just enough that her splint would fit through easily.

Her pain quickly faded with the acetaminophen and she smiled. "Show off."

An eyebrow raised at her unusual version of a thank you. "Perhaps if you learned to ask for assistance you would not injure yourself as frequently." He admonished her.

Shrugging, Jim finished dressing. "Growing up I learned that I only had myself to depend on. I guess I still haven't broken the habit."

Spock found that information disturbing but remained silent.

She took a bite and started eating, suddenly ravenous. "Gotta love a man who can cook." He seemed to be pleased at her response but Jim focused on her food and missed the smile on Spock's face.

"I'm fine, Spock. And, anyways,-" She swallowed her mouthful and returned her attention to him. "-we've got to find a way back home."

Spock suddenly became focused on the fire, not looking at Jim. "There is no way back, Jim."

Jim laughed incredulously and put down her half-eaten stew. "There was a way here so there has to be a way back, Spock."

Sighing, Spock came to sit close to her. "Jim, there is no doorway. It has been many hours since we arrived and the library is closed. Our chances at returning to our own time are less than-" He paused, calculating. Jim had never seen Spock, or any Spock, have to stop in the middle of a sentence to do any calculation.

"-1 in 364,532." He finished.

Jim started to laugh as the ridiculousness of the situation hit her full force. So now she was stuck, not only in an alternate universe but, in the past as well. Fate must be up there laughing his ass off.

Spock tilted his head at the unusual response. "Jim?"

"So, you're saying we're stuck here?" Her laughs tapered off and reality sunk in.

"Negative. I am saying our chances at returning are slim to none. It would be more beneficial for us to accept this and use our time here to ensure our survival rather than attempting to return as we have no ability to return without the appropriate equipment." He stated matter of factly.

Jim's eyes narrowed as a hot ball of anger bubbled up. "I refuse to accept this. We don't know exactly what Mr. Atoz meant when he said that the library was closing. It could mean that it was simply powering down for the night. It could mean that the archive portion was being turned off. There are a lot of possibilities."

Spock placed a hand on her shoulder and Jim realized she was shaking. "Jim, there weren't any Sarpeidons present. If it was a matter of the library being shut down temporarily then do you not think that there would have been at least one that returned? The likelihood that every member of the planet was happy with their chosen era and never wanted to return or return to change to a different era is slim to none. It is also likely that Mr. Atoz ensured that there was no way to get back to the 'library'. It was his programmed duty to remove all beings from the present to 'save' them from the planet's eminent destruction. Logically, that would be interpreted as him removing the ability to return in any form."

"What about if the Enterprise attempts a rescue? We need to be near where the doorway was to get back through if they manage open it." She explained, barely keeping her hysteria at their situation at bay. She knew that Captain Pike would never accept the loss of two crew members and he would do whatever it took to get them home. It would be what her Pike would have done.

"It is unlikely. The library may have even self-destructed to prevent this possibility or other beings from tampering in Sarpeidon's past. Captain Pike knows the temporal prime directive and he would not violate that law."

Her body started shaking more, her breathing coming faster. They couldn't be stuck here alone forever in an ice hell.

"I refuse to accept that, Spock." She snapped.

"You must." He told her, his voice in a deep growl.

Her head snapped around to face Spock, her hands balling into fists as she gripped the blanket tight enough that the fibers were probably permanently embedding themselves into her skin. "I won't!"

She needed to get out of here; to get them both out of here and if that meant she'd have to leave to get help alone and return for him then that's what she would do. She had to try! She started to rise but Spock then placed both hands on her shoulders and stood, firmly keeping her sat down and Jim started to fight in earnest, attempting to pry his fingers from her but vulcan strength was topping her. The blanket fell and she kicked out, crying out in pain when her injured ankle connected with Spock's leg. The Vulcan pushed her to lay flat on her back and situate himself in between her legs but she only fought harder.

"We are trapped and you must accept this fact! Even if we weren't, it would be wise to remain where we are to be able to be located with ease for a rescue attempt. The environment is harsh and you are too injured to make the journey. We MUST survive." He almost shouted. Spock's eyes were black with anger and fear and his grip became painful as he held her down to stop her.

Her eyes widened in realization. Something was very wrong with Spock. He would never just give up. If he wasn't going to help her or himself then she needed to do it herself for the both of them. She needed to get him help

Jim kneed him in the balls and his hands came away as he stumbled back, clutching himself, his face flushing green in pain. She used the opportunity to roll away and she got to her feet, stumbling as she put weight on her injured limb.

Adrenaline flooded her system and she didn't feel the pain as the splint broke with her chaotic movements. She grabbed the coat and started to pull on shoes and she got a foot away from the entrance to the cave when she felt warmer than human fingers touch the join between her neck and her shoulder. Jim was too slow to avoid him and she tried to twist away but he was faster. He squeezed carefully and she fell into his arms as her world went black once more as he applied the nerve pinch, effectively and efficiently stopping her escape.

xXx

Spock held Jim in his arms, unhappy that he had been forced to resort to rendering her unconscious to prevent her leaving. He could not allow her to leave. He knew of no way to return and he did not want her to leave him. He needed her and she needed him for more reasons than just survival in this harsh environment. She had to accept this.

He looked down and saw that she had re-injured her ankle. He sighed, hefting her into his arms and returning her to their bed. He pulled out the medical tricorder, wincing as the readings showed that the bone had ground against itself and the fracture had worsened in her attempt to escape which only would increase her forced convalescence.

Lips thinning in irritation and worry, Spock reached into the medical kit next to the bed and administered a sedative to keep her down longer. He re-set the bone and placed a new, sturdier, splint. Heading to the entrance, he collected snow and ice and bagged it. He placed his bounty on the injured appendage to assist in preventing swelling. He couldn't help the hot feeling of anger that coursed through his very veins.

Jim had tried to leave. She had tried to leave him! She had been desperate enough that she had even injured herself. Was he so terrible that she would do this? Did she not trust his assessment of the situation? He needed meditation but the simple thought of what had happened enraged him. He picked up the bowl next to the bed, throwing it as hard as he could at the wall, shouting in anger at her noncompliance. The satisfaction he felt as it shattered helped him far more than meditation. His control was failing. Why was his control failing?

Spock clutched the sides of his head in frustration. "I am both Vulcan and human. I am a sentient being, not an animal. I am in control. Emotions are of the mind and I can control my mind." He whispered to himself.

Taking a cleansing breath, Spock knelt next to Jim and started to try meditation. He needed to calm himself, to find his center. He had to keep her safe. She must not come to harm.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve

Spock had attempted to mediate but he had only succeeded marginally. He had used his limited success to focus on solving the mystery as to why his control was failing. He knew Vulcans were joined in a low-level telepathic field. It was faint, like background noise, but there.

The answer to his failing control came to him during his third attempt to fully calm the chaos of his mind. Vulcan of old was not the Vulcan he knew. Seven thousand years into the past his people had not encountered Surak and had not learned to temper and control their emotions through teachings. The man had not even been born yet.

During that time, pre-reform Vulcan, his people were a savage, almost primitive, war-like race where their passions ruled. It had been considered a shameful time period but Spock currently found it to be liberating. His father had once told him Vulcan emotion ran deep, far deeper than that of humans, and Spock had not believed him, his youth and ignorance denying this fact. However, he now had no choice but to admit his father's truths.

Spock explored the caves where they were staying. It had a small network of tunnels in which Spock discovered a small waterfall which provided safe drinking water which would still require boiling or purification from the carbon filters which had been thoughtfully provided from Mr. Atoz. He continued his exploration and was further pleased when he found a veritable paradise of trees, unfamiliar fresh fruit and vegetables surrounding the waterfall. It appeared the leaves were able to photosynthesize via bioluminescent rocks as well as small holes that led to the surface where patches of sunlight bled through like stars in the night sky.

He had also come across several pools of water that were heated from hot springs deep in the earth which served to heat the caverns above as well as provide them with warm water in which to bathe and relax. Small furred mammals, similar to Terran rabbits ran through the plants that inhabited their underground layers which appeared easy to catch and would provide much needed protein for the two of them. Even the abhorrent thought of eating meat did not seem to disturb him in his altered state.

It was fortuitous that these things were close enough to sustain them during their time here so outside excursions would be rare except to kill larger game. He spent a short time finishing his trek and came across a small patch of grains that closely resembled earth durum wheat, clearly planted by an individual as well as a series of primitive traps that were likely used to catch the small mammals. They had vines and weeds covering them and were brittle with age. Spock estimated them to be over a century old.

If he had any lingering doubt of them not being the first to be trapped here these signs were enough to dispel that thought.

He knew that Jim would be waking soon and he made his way back to their new 'home'. He knew that she would be angry with him and may possibly attempt to leave again, likely injuring herself further, and Spock may not be able to repair the damage a second time. She will need his help to survive and he may need hers.

Upon entering the cavern, he inhaled a cleansing breath to prepare himself for the inevitable argument that Jim would likely instigate and seated himself to watch her so he would be prepared when she regained consciousness.

He watched her sleep, secure in the knowledge that his actions were justified. She slept on, unaware of her audience and Spock felt his emotions, unable and unwilling to control them more than what was required to prevent himself from becoming as savage as his ancestors. He'd never controlled them to the degree that those on his home world had, preferring to embrace both his human and Vulcan heritage, but he still employed some practices. Being here made it...difficult.

Jim was magnificent in repose. Her long, wavy blond hair shimmered in the light of the fire and her skin was sun kissed despite her years aboard starships as if the stars themselves had accomplished this rather than the suns that warmed the many planets she had visited during her time in space. Her body boasted strong, lithe muscles but, also, soft feminine, curves. He longed to see her cerulean eyes that sparkled and shone in the light and the intelligence behind them; to feel her thoughts that fit and complimented his own.

In contrast to her intelligence, she seemed fearful, unwilling or unable to see his love for her-yes, he did love her. He also knew she loved him. Her feelings for him weren't simply because he shared his face with his duplicate. They had started out that way but her care for him had changed in the short time they'd known each other. He had sensed this when he had been holding her through his touch telepathy. It had only been a few times he had had the fortune to experience her true self when he had been able to place his hands on her smooth, soft skin. He longed to feel it again. Her mind was addicting, much like a drug that he needed and wanted. He longed to meld with her and wrap himself in her thoughts.

It was not long before the object of his thoughts began to stir from her slumber, groaning and shifting beneath the furs from the animals that likely inhabited the icy landscape outside of their current 'home'.

She slowly shifted onto her side and her gaze found his, full of anger with fire in her eyes. She abruptly turned away from him and a spike of anger lanced through him at her clear rejection.

"I will not apologize for my actions. They were warranted and necessary for your protection. I will continue to keep you safe from the dangers on this planet and, if needed, from yourself."

She did not even turn when she deigned to give him a response. "Fuck. You."

Spock mourned the loss of the progress he had made with her on board the Enterprise and did not appreciate the discord currently between them. He was hopeful, however, that it would end at some point. It would be a long eternity on this planet with only the two of them as company if they remained at odds with one another. Even if she hated him forever he would still care for her and love her for she was his t'hy'la.

She spun around abruptly to face him, her face twisted in her anger at him. "How dare you!"

"How dare I what?" He asked, knowing the answer but wishing for her to state it to make her understand so that the ensuing argument may be put to rest so that they may move past this issue. Every possible avenue of return had been explored and dismissed as impossible in his mind. There simply was no way back to their time.

"How dare you stop me." She snapped.

"As Doctor McCoy would say 'It was for your own good'."

"For my own good? I want to go home and I know you want the same."

Spock sighed and looked away, searching for a suitable response. "There is no way home and there may never be."

She laughed humorlessly. "You won't even try! There has to be a way."

"There is not." He stated simply. "You must accept this."

"There has to be a way. The doorway cannot be sealed forever. If it can be opened once, it can be opened again." She explained her faulty logic and Spock could understand her optimism but he could not understand her determination to want to want to believe in what was not true.

"That possibility is unlikely."

"Unlikely but not impossible. There's also the possibility that since we are not from Sarpeidon that our physiology is different enough that we might be able to get through." She argued.

"Our biological differences are not vast enough for that." Spock explained, willing her to accept their situation.

"I will still try."

"Very well." He brought himself to his full height despite his sitting position. "I order you to remain here."

"Oh, you order me?" She said the words, her voice thick with sarcasm. "We're the same rank."

Spock's eyes found the ceiling at her tone and he faced her, struggling to maintain his calm. "I do order you by virtue of the fact that I do possess seniority due to the fact that, not only have I been a commander for far longer than yourself, but your appointment to commander was also on a trial basis and you are not from this universe therefore, your status was probationary and I, officially, remove your appointment."

"Well, tough shit. I'm not following that order. We're not on the fucking Enterprise." She shot back.

"I believe you are emotionally compromised."

"You bet your ass I am. I'm leaving." She threw away her coverings and tensed, ready to flee, her injured limb beginning to move towards the floor.

"I cannot allow you to do that." Spock made to stand, moving to put himself between her and the door that led to the chamber which housed the entrance

"You can't allow me? What are you gonna do? Tie me down?"

"If the situation calls for it. I would, however, hope that it does not escalate to the point that I would be forced resort to more extreme force." He growled.

Jim's body tensed, ready for a fight which Spock knew he win. "You wouldn't dare!" She hissed.

"I would do so to prevent your injury or death. I will not allow you to come to harm."

She looked at him closely through narrowed eyes and Spock did not appreciate the scrutiny from her, the judgement from her. "There's something wrong with you, Spock. You need help. Normally you would never give up so easily. What the fuck?"

"Perhaps there is but the fact remains that we cannot leave." He admitted.

"I won't give up. I don't believe in no win scenarios." She continued her argument and Spock was done arguing.

"Then you are not thinking logically." He snapped and Jim tilted her head, her blue eyes watching him carefully.

"You're the one not thinking logically and are emotionally compromised. Why do you want us to stay? Why are you giving up so easily?" She asked suspiciously.

"Because I know we cannot leave."

"How? How do you know we can't leave?"

He took a calming breath. "The available evidence shows me this."

Jim threw up her hands in frustration. "What fucking evidence?"

Spock sighed. "The fact that it was explained to us by Mr. Atoz that those transported to the past could not return and there is also proof all around us that there was even a previous inhabitant in this very cave."

"That is not conclusive proof that we cannot return. It just shows that we weren't the first."

"I have explained the evidence of this. If you are unwilling to believe this I will have no choice but force you to."

"Fuck. You."

"I am sorry, t'hy'la." He moved close to her and knelt, gently carding fingers through her hair but she pulled away, lying down and facing away from him. "Don't fucking call me that, whatever it is, and don't touch me."

Spock's hand closed into a fist at her rejection, hurt flowing through him as his heart squeezed in his side. He closed his eyes and sighed, walking away to the fire to give her some time to absorb what happened.

"I am truly sorry but the sooner you accept these facts, the better off you will be."

xXx

A sense of betrayal settled in her mind, thick and insidious, at Spock's actions, or rather, lack of action. Both. Whatever. She just couldn't believe it. It was as if the universe was laughing at her, throwing her into impossible situation after impossible situation. Not only had she been transported to another universe, now she was in another time and with the one person she was struggling to not love and fight against her feelings.

She wanted a way out. She wanted to push away what she felt so her heart could and would not be broken when he discovered her past and who she was and become disgusted with her and reject her like the Spock in her own universe or when she was eventually transported home and away from him. She would not be able to handle it a second time.

And now? Now, she was well and truly stuck with the one person that she loved, yes-she couldn't delude herself any longer. Jim loved him. She tried to push everything away. She couldn't let him know. She wondered how long she would be able to stop this feeling because she could only hold out so long and being here with him and only him was making it harder.

The hard part? The hard part was staying angry. She knew at a base level that he was protecting her. His behavior towards her had been nothing but kindness and, dare she say it, love. It was more than him simply doing his duty to protect a crew member.

She also suspected that the planet or time period was, in some way, affecting him. His behavior seemed unusual, different from what she had seen on the ship and that made her nervous and unsure. She didn't remember much of what had happened when she had woken the first time around but she remembered the exquisite feeling of being surrounded in so much love that she was sure she would drown in it. It had been powerful and all consuming and she wasn't sure if it had been nothing more than a dream.

She spent the day refusing to acknowledge Spock even when he brought her food, only moving from her place on the makeshift bed to use the "restroom" which was little more than a hole in the ground a good distance away from the cave. Every movement was done under Spock's supervision and assistance but she never said a word to him and pretended he wasn't there other than her use of him as a crutch and only because he had demanded it and she had been in too much pain without it.

At night they shared the bed and Jim clung to the edge but every morning she found him wrapped around the her like an octopus. Nightmares that had plagued her since childhood never appeared and she always woke to a feeling of calm. He didn't mention it and neither did she.

It was three days before she decided to break the silence, her anger thinning in the face of Spock's continuous diligent care.

"I think I'm gonna teach Ensign Dax a few basic gymnastics moves. Maybe get her into it when we get back." She told him, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge their forced imprisonment in the past.

She was thankful when Spock chose to follow her example when he answered. "Are you certain? She is quite accident-prone."

"The clumsy ones are usually just clumsy because of nerves. I bet she'd be amazing once she learns confidence and I think she'd be great." Jim poked at the fire with a stick causing embers to fly up. "Besides, in my universe, Emony Dax wasn't a nurse nor was she an ensign. She was a gymnast known all over the Galaxy. She'd won hundreds of competitions and was the most graceful being I've ever seen. She was so confident that she'd put me to shame in the academy." She laughed at the memory. "She also had an ego the size of her home planet Trill and with good reason. She was the best." Jim smiled at the memory of seeing her Emony in action. The graceful way she had moved through her sets, flying and twisting in the air, only to land with almost no sound.

"You had a sexual relationship with her." Spock growled and the thick stick that he'd been using to tend the fire snapped in his hands.

A hot flood of anger filled her and Jim's grip on her own stick tightened. "No! Bones did. Not me. I was their wingman. I'd set them up." She turned towards the fire, stabbing it viscously, the height of the fire mirroring her emotions as it increased. "And, even if I had, it's none of your damned business." She snapped.

"It is my business, Jamison!" He snapped.

Jim's focus turned towards the Vulcan at the uncharacteristic behavior and she scrutinized him closely. His face was flushed green with spots of color high on his cheeks, his eyes seemed to be dark and almost predatory as they were trained on Jim and she shivered at the intense focus aimed directly at her.

Shifting closer to him, she reached out a hand to check his temperature, suddenly very worried. "Spock, are you feeling ok?" She asked and his hand shot out, gripping her wrist in a hard, unrelenting grip. She winced in pain as the delicate bones ground against each other. He suddenly released her and stood, scrambling to move away from her and looking at his hands in a sort of detached horror.

"I am well, commander. I...apologize. I am in need of meditation." He started to move away to the adjacent chamber.

"I'll say." She mumbled.

He turned back to her, almost angry. "Do not move from your position and rest your ankle. I will know if you do not listen." He snapped and Jim bit her lip and frowned, now very concerned about him. This wasn't like him.

She watched him leave and decided to heed his words, hoping that by giving him space he'd return to his original state soon. She turned her wrist, noticing ring shaped bruises the size of his fingers already appearing. Something was very wrong here.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirteen

The next day dawn broke bright and cold and Jim and Spock almost seemed to be performing an elaborate dance around each other after the events of last night and the previous several days. It was yet another thing that was not spoken about by either party but Jim saw how Spock's eyes, every so often, would drift towards the ring of bruises when her sleeve rode up as she'd reach for something or when she became warm and had to take off the sweater. He looked so ashamed that it broke her heart. There were too many things that they needed to talk about. It was driving her crazy.

She seized the opportunity during breakfast which she prepared before Spock woke. Normally, she wouldn't get the chance but she hadn't been able to sleep with her thoughts continuously falling to the forefront of her mind.

With her ankle injury she felt as if she'd been hobbled and could never move fast enough. Even though Spock and her weren't really talking he still would do everything for her before she even had a chance to try and it only served to frustrate her. She'd always been independent and self-sufficient and, with no real modern technology to heal her break or a proper cast or even crutches, she was reliant on his assistance.

Spock had shown her the caves that housed their water supply, the edible vegetation and small mammals, and the amazing hot springs. She had to grudgingly admit it was a beautiful sight and the feel of the hot springs when she had tested them out had been heaven against her sore body.

She'd just plated up a set of the sweet potato-like vegetables and cut up fruit when Spock came out from their 'bedroom', his eyebrows shooting up in surprise but, just as quickly, coming down in a frown directed at her. Jim rolled her eyes at his concern and held out a plate for him. She despised being a burden on anyone.

"I'm fine, Spock. I used the walking stick you got me and sat down to cook."

Spock still scrutinized her to tell if she was lying and, seemingly satisfied with her condition, accepted the plate of food. "I apologize for my behavior. I have noticed, over the course of your time here, that you tend to minimize and hide injuries as well as pain. It is rather unsettling."

Shrugging, Jim took a bite of her food before she replied. "Habit."

"A habit I hope you will break." He murmured and Jim sighed, not replying.

She missed the friendship that had been developing between them that was now strained. She moved her fork around on her plate, deep in thought at how to start the conversation. She decided to do what she did best. Just wing it.

"Spock?"

Her companion glanced up from his own food, waiting. "Yes, Jim?"

"I..." She took a deep breath, steeling herself for this conversation. "I think we need to talk."

Spock's face became blank, as if shutters had suddenly fallen and blocked out any hint of him. "About?"

"About this!" She waved around the room and then pointed between themselves. "About us!" Spock remained quiet. Jim rubbed her forehead, exasperated by his lack of response. "About everything."

"First off, I need you to back off." He opened his mouth to interrupt but Jim put a finger up to forestall him. "I'm not an invalid and I can do things on my own."

"I beg to differ due to your current state." His eyes drifted pointedly to her injury.

Jim stabbed her potato thing with more force than necessary. "Well, smart-ass, right now I'm not able to be fully independent but I can still do a lot of things on my own."

"Very well. I will attempt to reign in my instincts in regards to your need for help." He told her primly.

"Thank y-Hold on. Instincts?"

"However, I will still deny or assist you in certain areas as I see fit." He interrupted.

Jim ground her teeth but gave a jerky nod. She supposed it was a good thing to compromise...maybe. She'd see as time went on. It might make them have a better working relationship when they returned to the Enterprise.

And they would. She refused to believe otherwise.

"Instincts? I thought Vulcans no longer reacted to primitive instincts."

Spock took a bite of his breakfast and chewed slowly, as if pondering how to answer her. "All mammals have instincts to protect those they deem important to them." He eyed Jim pointedly and paused to let Jim absorb the words. "Even those that have evolved to sentience react to their natural instincts. It is logical and necessary."

Jim swallowed a bite, her throat dry. She was important? Did he really think of her that way?

Now came the more...awkward part of the conversation. "I also wanted to-" Fuck. "-let you know that even when I'm mad at you, I still-" love? "-like you."

Spock's eyebrows raised nearly to his hairline which had started to grow longer than usual despite their short time here and was uneven due to his attempts to cut it but it was still pushed back and he still was handsome even with the mess. "You 'like' me." He said in a flat tone, an eyebrow raised in disbelief.

Jim frowned in confusion at his tone. "You think I hate you?"

His body language shifted to something different, something almost dangerous at her refusal to admit the truth. "No. I think that you are feeling a far different emotion towards me."

She began to feel a thrill of fear and excitement, her heart leaping into her throat. He couldn't know. How could he know? She'd been so careful. "And what feeling is that, Mister Spock?" She she said, her voice strained.

He slid towards her, his movements graceful and very predatory. She felt like trapped prey being hunted. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end and she shivered in response but it wasn't an entirely scared sensation. It was more like anticipation.

"It is one that I feel myself." His voice was smooth as silk and his pupils dilated and darkened, a knowing smile gracing his lips.

She scooted back, stumbling off her seat and fell onto her back and he climbed on top her her, carefully holding his weight above her but trapping her just as effectively. Her breathing sped up and she could feel the heat of his body seeping through the layers of their clothing. He was close. Far too close. She was scared but excited. Did he truly want her or was the planet affecting him? Would he still want her when they got back?

"Spock, you don't want this. This planet is doing something to you." She said hoarsely. "You don't want...me."

"Don't I?"

Jim placed her hands against his chest to halt his movements. It was painful for her. Here he was, wanting her and she was stopping him out of chivalry. She couldn't let him do this. "Spock, I'm...I'm not what you want. I've done things. Bad things. I'm.." Her voice caught as memories flooded her, her past that she wanted to keep hidden. Tarsus and the things done to her there, her time in Iowa and the many bar fights and low-level crimes she had done to try and get attention from her mom that eventually worked, when she had been at the academy and experimented to just simply feel something, and her shore leaves when she had been on her Enterprise to make the hurt of rejection from her Spock simply fade away but it never worked.

Watery blue eyes found chocolate brown ones. "I'm broken."

He lowered his head, gently nuzzling behind her ear and Jim trembled and her arms slackened slightly. "No. Never broken. Simply fractured but always perfect."

He lifted one hand, gently stroking the side of her face, leaving trails of warm fire in it's wake. Spock's head dipped down, his nose brushing her cheek. "I know your mind. Your wants." He whispered, his breath hot in her ear and Jim shivered, her blood pooling lower as she groaned. "The cravings and emotions you feel in regards to me that are strong enough to break through my shields." His tongue traced a path up the side of her neck and Jim's breathing sped up.

"Spock?" She protested again weakly, trying to get him to see reason. She couldn't take advantage of him. "I'm not what you want. I'm-" Jim paused. "-damaged."

"As am I but you are perfect. What you see and regard as damage, I find them to be a part of you and it does not matter as I want to know all of you, not just parts." He murmured and Jim's resolve to keep him away began to crumble. Would he hate her when they got back? When he was back to normal and saw what she really was? She wanted him so bad that it hurt and her hands drifted down to his arms, letting him in even though Jim knew it would hurt when they got back but at least she would always have this moment, this memory, to hold onto forever.

"Your desires swim in your blood." His hands stroked her shoulders as he put his weight on his knees and situated himself in between her legs that fell open to accommodate him. "The feelings you will not acknowledge and that you hide so deep you may not even know the depth of them yourself."

His head moved lower as he started to mouth at her collarbone, his right hand cupping her breast and Jim felt a familiar tightening in her belly as his left hand stroked her belly.

"Are you saying you read my mind?" She asked breathlessly. Jim could see his control wavering but he seemed calmer with her letting him in, as if he was...at peace with the physical proof of her caring for him. Her own control shook and fell.

His hand wandered under her uniform dress and stopped just under the waistband of her underwear, Spock's nose nuzzling her neck. "The first time was unintentional but what I had seen could not be forgotten. Your mind called to me like a siren song, deadly and beautiful."

His hand moved lower and she felt herself become wet in anticipation as she panted, her body flushing pink down to her neck. "I know your mind, your feelings, your wants." He moved lower and she fisted her hands in his shirt, not knowing whether to push him away or pull him closer as his hand snaked lower and he started to touch her. She gasped, arching into his touch. Teeth grazed her shoulder as a finger dipped inside and Jim's legs spread wider.

"Taluhk nash-veh k'dular. I love you, my Jim."

Those words broke her and she surged up, grabbing his head and kissed him as his hand cradled her the base of her skull and a thumb stroked her clit. His hips thrust downwards and she felt a hardness against her. She moaned into his mouth as his fingers penetrated her.

"I will not have you on the floor." He growled low into her collarbone.

She whimpered as he suddenly pulled away but he didn't go far. He scooped her up and carried her to the next room, placing her gently on the bed as if she was made of fine china. No. As if she was something infinitely precious to him.

He settled, once more, in between her thighs and leaned back, pulling off his shirt and revealing a toned chest. Spock surged forward, taking possession of her mouth and Jim melted into the kiss, allowing his tongue to caress hers.

Deft fingers found the hem of her uniform dress and she arched to let him pull it off. His pupils were blown wide as he touched the revealed skin and opened the front clasp to her bra, her nipples hardening as her arousal ramped up in the coolness of the room.

His hot mouth descended onto her breasts as he kissed and licked them, finding her nipples he sucked and gently bit them and Jim held his head in place and gasped as he worshipped her breasts. His hands moved lower and gently petted her sides, settling on her hips and he moved lower, kissing every part of her body he could reach.

He sat back on his haunches and held the elastic of her underwear, silently asking for permission and Jim nodded. He carefully peeled the garments from her and touched the insides of her thighs, gazing at her reverently.

"I love you, Jim, my ashayem. I will no longer deny this. I will show you this every day that we are together to prove this to you. I want you to be mine."

Tears welled up in her eyes at his words and his image blurred slightly as he stood and removed his own pants and underwear, revealing his hardness to her. Jim quickly wiped the tears away and Spock moved to lay on top of her, his member rubbing against her and his hand dipping low to rub her folds, a finger dipping in and his thumb, once more rubbing her clit as he panted against her neck, his breath hot and moist.

Jim's breathing sped up as a second finger was added and a coil inside her started to tighten as she ground down against his hand urging him to keep going. His movements sped up and he gently started to thrust against her hip. She pulled him to her, opening her mouth against his and his tongue entered and they fought for dominance that he easily won. She began to flex and tense and try to close her legs as the feeling intensified but he wouldn't allow it and she felt her orgasm fast approaching and he continued his pleasurable assault on her. She screamed into his mouth as it overwhelmed her.

As she shook in pleasure, he pushed into her, filling her and she sighed, hooking a leg over his hip. He stilled, tension filling his frame and his face screwed up as he worked to control himself as he felt her tight walls encompassing him and fluttering after her orgasm.

"Tell me the words." He ordered, his voice tight and strained.

Jim shook her head, hiding her face in his neck and pushed her hips up, earning a gasp for the Vulcan.

"Tell me!" He growled and gave one thrust, shoving her up slightly and Jim bit her lip, fighting to keep silent but Spock persisted.

"I know your thoughts but I want you to say them. To admit them!" He held her with one arm as the other, once more, moved back down, tracing where they were joined.

"Tell me." He whispered in her ear and he pulled out an inch and pushed back in, forcing himself to remain still. She could feel it in the way he was shaking and her arms flew to his shoulders as she arched her back, pressing her breasts against him. She could no longer deny it.

"I love you, Spock." She whispered.

He thrust again, just once. "Say it again."

"Say it again!" He ordered.

Her nails scraped down his back as she held on. He started thrusting harder, holding her tight to him. "I love you! I have loved you from the moment I met you and I know I will always love you!" She shouted and that seemed to be the only permission he needed as he thrust in earnest.

Her body clamped down on him as her second orgasm rapidly approached and Spock sped up his movements.

"I need-" He groaned and shook. "I need-"

She knew instinctively what he wanted and needed and she was going to give it to him, to submit to the man that she loved. "Do it! Take it!"

His hand flew up and connected to her meld points as she exploded in pleasure, his unchained Vulcan emotions overwhelming her. Love, lust, longing, possessiveness, everything she had ever wanted flew into her mind, filling every part of her as if he had always been, and always would be, there. She heard him roar as he pulsed inside her, filling her and penetrating her mind far deeper than her body. Her world filled with vibrant colors and thoughts, exciting her and amazing her at the same time and she grabbed at them and him greedily, desperate to hold on forever.

It seemed like hours or years before she came back to herself, wrapped in unimaginable love and held close to a warm body that cradled her. Gentle kisses to the back of her neck caused her to push back against Spock and he held her close. She hoped that he would never let her go but, right now, she didn't ever want him to.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen

Jim lay facing Spock after, yet another, round of lovemaking, this time she had taken control, riding Spock slowly and nearly driving him insane. It had been the most amazing sight she had ever seen, Spock powerless in the throes of passion and the fact that it was because of her had been intoxicating. The strength he possessed had been no match for her skills.

Spock reverently traced her jaw, touching her psi points and sending her his love through his touch. She could never have imagined this. Being with him. His emotions ran far deeper than she had ever thought possible and they were all for her. Her heart ached at the thought of being forced to leave him when they would return to the Enterprise and discover a way to send her home. It would destroy her but, for now, she took everything she could, choosing to live in the moment and keep it for herself to last forever deep in her heart.

He held her hand, kissing her knuckles and positioning her hand so that her first two fingers were straight where he rubbed his own up and down them. A feeling of warmth and affection spread up her arm and directly into her mind. "This is how Vulcans kiss." Spock shifted and pressed his lips to hers. "And this is how humans kiss. I intend to explore both sides of my heritage in regards to you." He took possession of her mouth, his tongue tracing the seam of her lips and Jim opened her mouth to allow him entry and his tongue traced the contours of her mouth, exploring and twisting to rub against her own. Jim melted in his arms and Spock's arm wrapped around her, pulling her to him where she wrapped her left leg around him and pressed herself against his growing hardness.

"Oh, God. Spock!" She hid her face in his neck, her eyes screwed shut in anticipation.

He pressed inside once more, sliding deep inside her and he thrust carefully and slowly. He took his time, lazy and perfect as they made love once more. She sighed, feeling him stiffen as he came inside her, filling her with his seed as his fingers pressed against the side of her face and encouraged her to her own orgasm through her mind. She gripped his biceps and tightened her leg, drawing him deeper inside her as she pulsed around him, wanting him to stay in her as long as possible. She loved him and he loved her.

He stayed hard, shocking Jim, and Spock smirked as he turned her onto her stomach and gripped and encouraged her to lift her hips. She pushed herself onto her knees, hips up in the air and her front pushed down as he moved behind her, his hips snapping and pushing her further up onto the bed with every thrust. She moaned in appreciation and he lowered himself, one hand gripping her hips to still her forward momentum caused by the power of his thrusts while the other held her breast and pinched her nipples.

"Mmm...I love you. I love what you do to me." She moaned and tried to thrust herself back onto his cock but he refused to let her move, wanting to take control for this round and it only made it more intense. She willingly submitted to him and it was perfect. She felt the vibrations from his chest as he chuckled and started to run his nose against her neck, gently biting her and running a tongue along the shell of her ear.

"I love how you feel. How you surround me. How your body was made for me and your mind is my perfect other half. You are shi'masu, my oasis and you are my t'hy'la, my everything." He murmured the words, branding them into her very skin. His forehead pressed on her lower neck as he moved faster, his hot breath coming in pants as he moved inside her forcefully and skillfully, hitting every spot inside her that made her toes curl and Jim became frustrated at him limiting her participation. She moved a hand to touch herself and her fingers grazed his cock, causing him to pause and shudder.

Jim shook underneath him as she began to rub herself as Spock impaled her, only adding to his pleasure as she tightened and loosened around him as she hunted for her own orgasm. Her legs trembled as she squeezed his member and she felt the familiar tingle and sparks of her impending orgasm, more noticeable as he pushed in and out of her forcefully. She couldn't get there. She needed more and her tormentor seemed to know this but it was the best kind of torture.

His hand moved from her hip and joined hers to work her and he played her body with incredible skill. She screamed as she came and Spock went one, two, three more times before he roared as spent himself once more inside his t'hy'la.

He rolled them onto their sides and stayed in her as long as he could until he softened and slipped out. She turned her head and kissed him, reaching her hand down and stroking the fingers that held her and Spock groaned and tightened his hold around her body.

"I will never let you go, my t'hy'la. You are mine."

The words should have frightened her but they didn't.

xXx

Spock held Jim as she slept. He couldn't believe that he finally had her and she had him. It went both ways. She was his and he was hers. He gently rested his fingers on her face and letting her thoughts and feelings flow into him. It was perfection and his Vulcan blood sang.

He could already feel the small threads of a weak link forming but only accessible via touch and easily breakable with time and/or distance and he pulled her flush to his body, tilting her hips as if they were puzzle pieces to fit together and wrapped his legs around hers to hold her in place. He fell asleep, calm in the knowledge that he was joined to her in body and mind but wanting more.

Spock felt his mate, yes-his mate, stir in his arms and he realized, with sadness, that they had separated slightly in the night. He could sense her hunger through his touch and her need to go to the bathroom.

He did not wish to let her go but he restrained his instincts in the face of her needs. He needed to provide for her and care for her until she healed. She was so strong but she needed him right now.

Jim spun him his arms and winced at the movement, her face lined with pain that seeped into Spock's mind and he did not like that at all. Her hair was a tangled mess, strands falling into her eyes and Spock tucked a small section behind her ear to better see her face. He smiled at the beautiful sight before him but Jim frowned. Worry was rapidly replacing her happiness and placing her pain to the back of her mind.

Spock's smile fell and Jim touched the side of his face, but not with affection so much as worry. "Spock? I think something is wrong with you. You're...you're not behaving the same. You're starting to become...different."

Spock pushed away and stood, unashamed at his nakedness and pulled on his pants, deciding to forgo his underwear for speed. He had just gotten to the entrance when he heard a scuffle and a cry of pain.

He spun around to see the blond had fallen to the floor but was trying to stand, her legs wobbling under her weight. There were love bites and small bruises littering her body but it was her unsteady legs and her ankle that caused her to stumble, likely from their activities.

Hot guilt filled the pit of his stomach and he went to her, wrapping her in the furs from the bed and locating her clothing. He helped her to dress and was reaching for a hypo to ease her distress when she stopped him, her expression full of love. "Spock, it's not a horrible thing that's happening to you but it does worry me." She looked away and he could see tears forming in her eyes. She screwed them shut and they fell in lines down her cheeks. "What if you weren't in your right mind when we-" shaking herself, she faced him, her lips turned down and a line forming between her eyebrows. "What if I was taking advantage of you and it wasn't true consent?"

Fear began to take over and Spock could not allow her to think and feel these things. He swiped a thumb across her cheek, taking away her tears and looked her in the eyes where blue met brown, and willed her to believe him.

"I have been affected but my feelings for you had already been present and were simply brought to the surface. I loved you from the moment my mind touched yours on that transporter pad." He raised himself higher on his knees and kissed the tears away on her other cheek. "Why do you think I pursued you so persistently on the ship?"

She closed her eyes in relief but more tears leaked out. Spock moved his lips higher and kissed the lids of her eyes and Jim let out a shaky breath, her body relaxing at his ministrations. "Ok. I trust you."

She started to stand, only to fall back with a wince. "Maybe you can help me up?" Jim asked him, embarrassed by her current state.

He reached towards her and she smacked his hands away. "Oh, no. You are not carrying me!"

She shifted and Spock rolled his eyes and moved quickly, administering the hypospray before she could protest. He wished to have joined her mind and removed her pain telepathically but he knew she might not be comfortable with the full extent of his abilities just yet.

The pain lines on her face smoothed and she stood on shaking legs and leaned heavily on Spock as she hobbled to go to the restroom and make her way to the fire so she could eat.

Spock felt a small sense of smugness when Jim grumbled under her breath about Spock causing her to have to walk bow-legged. "Stop smirking, Mister Spock. You know this means that you're cut off for a little while."

Spock's mouth fell in disappointment.

"We can still do other things though." Her smile was full of promise and Spock's hands trembled at the possibilities and a strong feeling of lust that flowed through his mind as he tried to focus on making breakfast. Oh, the things he could and would do to Jim...

xXx

Jim started to cut up a root vegetable and asked Spock to get a small section of the meat that they were storing in their make-shift refrigerator, ice carefully stacked in the small stone cube. He quickly procured the requested items and, by the time he had returned, Jim was squeezing a citrus fruit over the vegetables, tossing in a salt tablet, and closing the lid on the pot creating some type of stew.

She was becoming creative with their limited selection of foodstuffs and had suggested possibly trying to grow herbs and seasonings from the packaged supplies Atoz had provided to see if they would grow from the cuttings. The idea had merit and Spock trusted it since Jim was quite skilled at botany.

He handed Jim a tuber-like vegetable and she started to cut it into small cubes, putting on a separate pan and off to the side. She wiped her hands off with a wet washcloth and sat, staring at the wall. Spock could see she was deep in thought, her teeth worrying her lip and her eyes not focused.

He sat next to her and stirred the contents of the pot, waiting for her to start the conversation. He started to grow concerned when ten minutes passed and she still had not moved. He started to cook the meat over the fire in the pan and it was only when the smell of their food started to permeate the cave that Jim seemed to come to herself.

She wasn't smiling but she wasn't angry or sad. She just seemed determined. "Spock, I want to see where the doorway was."

Spock clenched his jaw as he divided their food and put it onto plates. He had hoped that she would accept the way things were and couldn't understand why she wanted to continue to put herself through this. It would be a fruitless and dangerous endeavor.

She would never be able to mourn the loss of their former way of life if she continued on the path she was carving. It would only cause her more pain. He had not been successful calculating the odds and numerical statistics, his mind had been clouded since they had arrived and it was difficult to concentrate on anything but being with her...with Jim. His baser instincts had been overriding his grasp on logic and it was an unfamiliar feeling.

Jim didn't take the plate, instead she fixed him with a determined stare. "I need to do this." She shook her head and closed her eyes, clearly fighting back tears. "I can't just give up on ever getting back to the Enterprise and I want to visit the doorway every day."

Her jaw jutted out with stubbornness and her blue eyes turned a darker cobalt as she prepared for a possible fight from Spock. "I have to do this, Spock, and I will do this with or without your help but I'd prefer it to be with your help."

Spock understood the five stages of the human grieving process. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Right now, Jim was trapped in the first stage. Spock sighed. If allowing Jim to visit the cliff where doorway had deposited them would assist her in moving through the stages of grief then he would do so. He would do anything for her and he knew that she would be far safer if he went with her rather than her being alone and sneaking out. Her injury would put her at extreme risk in the hostile environment. He knew Jim would venture out there whether or not he wanted her to go so he would help her.

"Very well. We will make the trip tomorrow-" The smile that lit up her face and made her eyes glow made all the risks to her that Spock knew were out there faded away.

It may have been her request and idea but he still would not allow harm to come to her. "However, you will ride on the sled since your leg is broken and we will not remain at the cliff for more than an hour. The risk of hypothermia is too great and both of us are highly susceptible as this is not our natural habitat."

"Thank you." She took the plate from Spock's hands and started to eat with enthusiasm, planning their trip in detail and Spock was pleased to hear her thoughts. He was also surprised at the detail in which she had planned everything. It was...annoyingly efficient.

xXx

Jim scowled at the back of the Vulcan who was pulling the sled. He had wrapped her in so many blankets and furs she wasn't sure she would even be able to stand up, much less breathe under their weight. Thankfully, Atoz had included tinted goggles which decreased their chance of snow blindness from the reflection of the sun on the white and, in some cases, blue landscape surrounding them.

She was impressed with Spock's strength as he pulled her and their supplies. She knew that she would not have done as well on her own and was a little grateful that Spock had prevented her leaving without him but she'd never admit it even under threat of death.

They traveled for two hours before the ice cliff began to loom over them, dark and foreboding as if they weren't meant to ever return to that place. She fiddled with the cuff of her sleeve, unsure and feeling guilty at practically forcing Spock to take her here. Just what did she hope to accomplish? They had no communicators, no tricorders other than those in the medical kits, no tools, and nothing that could potentially open the doorway to their time.

She just wanted to see it for herself. She wanted to guarantee that there was no way to return home. Maybe something would happen, maybe nothing would happen but they would never know unless they tried.

They reached the wall of rock, snow, and ice and Spock began to set up a small area that sheltered them from the icy wind. She moved to help him but he forestalled her motion and began to take out the heating lamp, plastic tarp and the food that Jim had prepared in anticipation of their journey.

He helped her maneuver out of her seat and ensured that they were both ensconced in their small tent. "This is the area that we come through, Jim. There is nothing and nobody here." He touched the rock face. "The entrance is sealed and-"

In the middle of Spock's dialogue, Jim heard a faint beeping that had no place here. "Shh-"

Spock opened his mouth to argue but she threw up a finger to silence him and she heard it again. "Do you hear that?" She whispered.

Spock's eyebrows drew down and he looked as if he was ready to bolt and drag her away from the place with him, far away and back to their cave. His body became tense and his hands closed into fists. She tilted her head and strained her ears to hear the noise again but it was silent. She almost cried in devastation.

She flung off the blankets and furs and pulled herself up with incredible difficulty to get to the rock, determined to hear the sound again, to try and figure out what it meant and if it was their salvation. Spock gripped her waist and she couldn't tell whether it was to pull her away from the cliff or steady her but she pushed forward and started pounding on the rock frantically, her fists and wrists bruising with the effort.

"We're here! We're here! Can anybody hear me?" She screamed and screamed, hoping and praying that somebody would respond.

She almost collapsed in relief when she heard Chekov's voice through the rock face. "Kommander? Iz zat you? Ken you hear us?"

Jim sobbed into her hand and had to use the wall to support herself as her legs grew weak in relief. "Yes." She croaked and cleared her throat. "Yes!" She shouted. "I hear you!"

She turned her head to see Spock had backed away from her, his face blank of all emotion. "Spock?"

He jerked his head in a 'no' to her but reluctantly moved forward to stand next to her, pressing his hands against the rock wall.

She had no warning before it dissolved in front of them, her weight that had been being supported by the wall disappeared and she fell straight into Captain Pike's arms.

The sudden change in temperature caused the sensation of needles piercing her skin and Jim grimaced against the wave.

"Jim? Jim!"

Pike started to panic at Jim's silence, his gray eyes searching for the medical team that he had ordered to beam down the second they had heard her voice.

Hazel eyes suddenly filled her vision and the whir of a tricorder, far too close to her, filled her with a sense of panic. The sudden influx of sound was over stimulating for her and she batted the offending objects away and began to seek out Spock, her worry for him consuming her. She saw him on a hovering stretcher, unconscious and his skin tinged green as his body adjusted to the sudden temperature change and Dr. M'Benga began barking order to the staff surrounding him. He was still, far too still and she began to fight the hands holding her down.

"Spock! Spock!" She couldn't stop the panic that tightened her throat and made the food they had eaten earlier threaten to come up. She needed to get to him, to make sure he was alright but Enterprise staff restrained her and forced her onto her own stretcher.

God! No! What if she'd killed him by forcing him to return when he clearly hadn't wanted to. What if he'd had some kind of psychic connection to the planet and it was hurting him because they'd left so abruptly that he'd had no time to even prepare. She would never forgive herself if something happened to him. She loved him more than the world itself!

Another sting to her neck and she went limp. Her head lolled on the stretcher and the worried faces of Pike and McCoy hovered above her. She didn't want to see them. She had to get to Spock to make sure he was ok.

"I fucking hate fucking hypos." Jim muttered and she still struggled to rise but Pike's relief at her response was palpable.

"I know, Jim. I know." He laughed and stroked the top of her head. Jim saw tears in those gray eyes and, just for a moment, she knew he loved her like a daughter just as her own Pike had.

McCoy started removing her coat, wrapping her in a warming blanket and stabbing her arm with an IV. He was in his element as a Doctor and caregiver but Jim ignored it all, her focus on Spock and angry that she couldn't be by his side.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen

Captain Spock gripped the stylus so hard it snapped in half in his hand. His ability to modify the Enterprise's sensors to detect Jim's-no, Commander Kirk's biosignature had been unsuccessful yet again. It was the beginning of gamma shift on board and he was working alongside Ensign Chekov. The young ensign's face was pale with exhaustion and so was his. He was close to ordering him to rest. Spock pulled up the duty roster and changed Ensign Chekov's duty shift to beta.

They have been working on a way to return the blonde to her natural universe now for several weeks and crew moral was beginning a slow descent into concerning numbers.

As a possible second rescue option, Spock had assigned Acting-Commander Sulu to work with Lieutenant-Commander Scott to also attempt to have the Enterprise enter the alternate universe. There was a chance that the walls separating them would be weak enough to break through. Scott came up with the theory to use the deflector dish to send a modified pulse beam to open a small window to the desired location. So far, they had been met with utter failure. The few tests they had conducted via the transporter had shown extreme molecular instability of the test canisters containing live cellular samples.

The doctor had also been tirelessly working to ensure that the medical scans of the commander were as accurate and detailed as possible to assist in locating the correct Jamison Kirk. Again, they had been unsuccessful.

His ship had the best minds that Starfleet had to offer and they were rapidly running out of ideas to try but Spock knew that they would be successful. They seemed to have an uncanny ability to beat the odds despite logic telling him that it was impossible.

It had been the most difficult six weeks that Spock had ever experienced during his time as captain during the five year mission, only narrowly coming second to when Jim had sacrificed herself and it had taken six months, seven days, and fourteen hours for her to heal enough to be cleared for active duty.

It was the uncertainty that caused him disquiet. Not knowing if she was safe and uninjured. Spock had vowed to himself not allow her to come to physical harm and he felt he had failed in his responsibility. Typing in the code to shut down the terminal, he breathed a tired sigh. He had a mission to complete in the 'morning' to assist the inhabitants of Selus. The warring factions had requested the Federation act as a neutral party in an effort to end their civil war. It would be an arduous task that will require a great deal of patience and work so Spock needed to be well rested.

xXx Alternate universexXx

Jim woke to the feeling of blessed warmth.

"Ah, you're awake."

She turned to her left and saw Dr. McCoy-not her Bones-but still a caring alternate version of her friend. Kind brown eyes looked her over as he stood from his chair next to her bed. "How're you feeling, kid?"

She quickly took stock of her body and knew that Bones-NO, damn it!-McCoy had healed her. There was only a minor ache in her ankle.

Looking around, the blonde saw that she was alone and Spock was nowhere to be seen. Oh, God! Had returning killed him? "Where's Spock? Is he ok?"

McCoy's lips thinned slightly and his shoulders fell. Jim recognized that look. It wasn't good. He lay an arm on hers. "I need to see him."

The doctor nodded and helped Jim into a wheelchair where she was positioned next to Spock. He looked as if he wasn't even alive and that scared her more than anything. If it wasn't for the monitors above him displaying active vital signs she would believe that he was dead.

 

"He's ok for the most part. Some moderate hypothermia and a few bruises but the real problem is his brain activity levels. The spike and waves on his EEG are erratic and he seems to be in a deep healing trance but it's different from those that I've seen before. I won't lie. I am concerned enough that we may have to call in a Vulcan healer to help him."

Jim's hand automatically found his and she held it tight, uncaring at the social faux pas and the implications that followed the gesture. Had this been the true reason he hadn't wanted to leave? Had he known this would happen?

Her throat constricted painfully as she tried to swallow away the pain and fear. "Thank you, Leo, for trying to help him." She told him.

A warm hand fell on her shoulder, squeezing it for support but Jim's focus and attention was on the man lying so still and pale before her.

"Kid, you need to rest. Spock is stable for the moment and there's nothing you can do right now."

She shook her head, her eyes burning and vision blurring as she fought and lost her battle against the tears that fell down her cheeks. "I can't. I can't leave him." Jim turned to face the doctor. "I need to be here next to him." She implored and McCoy's eyes softened in understanding.

"Okay." He patted her shoulder and moved away. "But no longer than an hour otherwise I will have no choice but to ban you until you're cleared medically to leave."

"Thank you." She told him meaningfully and she lay her head down and refused to relinquish her grip on Spock's hand. Jim knew that she would have to be physically dragged from Spock because there wasn't a chance in hell she was going to leave him. She strongly felt that her place was here.

xXx

Nyota Uhura waddled into sickbay. If anyone ever commented on her waddle she'd introduce them to her booted heels but people were generally smart enough not to. As she made her way into her husband's territory she saw Jim practically lying on Spock's chest as if she was trying to fuse them together and she felt a painful spike of sympathy for the poor woman. She knew that she'd be doing exactly the same if the situation was reversed.

"Nyota? Is everything ok? Is Jo-Jo alright?"

Uhura turned her attention to her husband who was leaving his office, tricorder at the ready, with a speed that unnerved her but warmed her at the same time. She loved this man so much. "No. Nothing's wrong, Leo. I just wanted to check on Spock and Jim to see how they're doing and maybe get her away for a break to eat some dinner with me." She glanced over at her, her eyebrows drawn in concern. "The bridge just isn't the same without Spock and everyone here misses Jim. She's become a part of our family and seeing her hurting and afraid is affecting the crew. We want to show her some support."

McCoy followed her gaze towards the couple. "Mmm...good luck with that. I had to sedate her yesterday to get her to sleep on an actual bed and Pike only managed to pull her away for thirty minutes to eat." He sighed. "Even then she only managed a few bites before throwing up due to stress. She hasn't left his side, except when forced, for two days. If she keeps going the way she is then I'm gonna have to place an IV and admit her."

He shook his head and continued. Nyota could hear the worry in the tense tone of his words. "It wouldn't make a difference though. She'd still be here. She's here so long that she's practically living here."

She turned towards her husband. "Has she slept with help?"

The corners of McCoy's lips turned down in disapproval. "No. Either I have to use a sedative or she passes out due to exhaustion. I'm getting close to confining her to quarters."

"Is Spock showing any signs of waking?"

"No. Not really." He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "Maybe. M'Benga seems hopeful but I just don't know."

Uhura reached out and squeezed McCoy's hand in support and gratitude for his diligence and care. "Can you help me get her to come with me. Just for a bit?"

"I can try. The last time she left him though she came back in a panic, afraid that something had happened in her absence." He returned her grip. "She's terrified that this is her fault even though the captain and I have explained that it isn't."

Nyota nodded in understanding. She'd pretty much gotten that impression in the blond's behaviors.

Walking to the bay that housed the couple, she saw just how exhausted the woman was. She was far too pale, the dark circles under her eyes stood out looking like bruises. The tenseness in her frame, even though she was dozing, looked so painful. Just what had happened on that planet to cause this level of guilt and problems?

Leo prepared a hypo and she looked at it questioningly.

"Anxiolytic. It might help her to be calm and receptive enough to eat and, hopefully, sleep somewhere that isn't here." He administered the medication gently enough to where Jim didn't even respond to the shot.

Discarding the cartridge, he made an encouraging motion towards Nyota. "Maybe after, or if, you get her to eat something then you could take her to Spock's quarters. I'm hopeful the location might soothe her enough to get six or eight hours of sleep."

"I'll try."

"That's all I can ask, Ny."

She waited for him to leave before beginning the arduous task of getting Jim's attention. She hoped that she might have more success because she wasn't a medical staff member or a person in a position of authority ordering her to leave.

Nyota shook her shoulder and cringed at the bunched muscles under her fingers. That had to be agonizing but, according to Leo, she never once complained about it and put her worry for Spock before her own health. If Jim didn't start taking care of herself she was going to make herself sick and land herself in a biobed next to Spock. Uhura almost wondered if that was her goal so she would not be able to leave his side.

"Jim? Jim?"

She bent lower to try and get her to rouse and suddenly she jerked up, her eyes roving over Spock and then at the monitors above his head, her blue eyes were wild with fear but seemed dulled, likely due to the medication her husband had given to her. She could see why he had. There would have been no possibility of her leaving Spock without the help. At least now there was a chance she'd come willingly and maybe calmly.

"Jim, will you come with me to eat something?"

Jim's mouth turned down and she started to brush Spock's hair off of his forehead in a tender gesture. "No. I haaave t'stay. "She slurred.

Uhura sighed. "Spock is going to be fine." She reassured her and a sudden thought came to her. Maybe if she implied that the dinner wasn't about Jim but it was about helping her. The poor woman always seemed to put others first.

"I need you to help me. Being in the mess hall-" She paused, trying to think of a valid excuse. "Being in the mess hall with me being this big people tend to stare and it makes me uncomfortable and feel isolated. I would really appreciate someone to be there so I don't feel so alone." She tried.

Nyota could see the inner battle waging in the other woman's mind and she was relieved when Jim stood and pressed a kiss to the unconscious Vulcan's forehead, murmuring reassurances that she'd return.

"Okay but jus for little bit."

Uhura immediately linked arms with Jim to encourage movement away from the medical bay but to also provide physical support.

"Thank you."

Jim moved with an unsteady gait and Uhura knew it wasn't just due to Leonard's meds. It was the likely spasming muscles and exhaustion taking it's toll on her. She needed to get her fed and into a real bed as fast as possible.

They made it to the mess hall and Nyota forced Jim into a chair. She didn't trust the poor woman to not drop her tray. She moved as quickly as she could in her condition and returned with tomato soup and grilled cheese with a large water for Jim and chicken stir fry for herself.

Jim just stared at the tray and her heart broke at the guilt plaguing the blond. "Eat, please." She smiled and hoped it was encouraging. "If you don't hurry and eat then I might just steal it." She smirked. "After all, I'm eating for two."

Jim laughed at the gentle teasing and she was pleased to see a bit of light in her eyes as she started to eat.

They passed the time in comfortable silence but Nyota was disappointed about the amount Jim ate. She'd only managed half of her food but it was better than nothing.

It wasn't long before Jim's eyes started closing and she knew that she had to move fast before the poor woman fell asleep in her chair or face first in her food so she cleared the trays and guided her to the deck where officer quarters were listed.

"Where we going? Sickbay's on deck five?"

Jim leaned heavily on Uhura as they made their way to Spock's quarters. "Leonard and I want you to sleep in a proper bed and we figure that this will help you to relax."

Jim frowned in confusion at the door as Uhura typed in the access code. She was very glad that Jim was wearing scrubs so all she had to do was take off her shoes to get Jim resting.

Once inside, a blast of warm air hit them carrying the faint scent of Vulcan spices from Spock's incense. Jim's body practically melted in comfort and Nyota smiled.

"I like it here. Spock lives here." Jim told her and Nyota's smile grew.

"I figured as much."

Jim halted in her steps. "But I need to go back t'sickbay."

She tugged Jim harder to get her to the bedroom. "I know but you can go in the morning."

"But what if Sp-"

"Spock would be pissed if he knew you were running yourself into the ground with worry. Just rest this one night and I won't bug you again." She interrupted.

"It's jus that it's m'fault he's sick. He wanted t'stay."

"It's not your fault. Both of you needed to come back and Spock will heal. He's strong and he will come back to you."

Jim nodded in agreement and she breathed a sigh of relief, pulling her new friend to the bed and getting her covered and comfortable. "I love him so much."

Uhura's heart clenched in her chest at Jim's naked honesty. "I know, sweetie, and he loves you. That's why he's going to be fine. He will come back to you."

In moments, Jim was sound asleep. Nyota paused at the sight. The stress lines that had marred her face faded and she looked so vulnerable in sleep that Nyota just couldn't leave her to wake up alone. She quickly commed Leo and let him know she was going to stay with Jim and snuggled under the blankets next to her.

Jim slept for twelve hours straight. Six hours later, Spock opened his eyes and saw his t'hy'la next to him as she cried in relief.

Chapter Text

Chapter Sixteen

Since their return to the Enterprise, Spock had noticed Jim had become more subdued which had surprised him. She still engaged in activities with the crew and spent a large portion of her off-duty shifts with him but she seemed quiet a lot of the time.

He attributed some of her behavior to guilt despite the fact that what happened upon their return was in no way her fault. When they had returned, Spock's mind had been forced to reassert itself to its previous state which had resulted in him entering a deep healing trance for three days due to the sudden severed telepathic link to his ancestors. So deep and unlike a normal healing trance where he would be aware of his surroundings. He had been plunged deep into his mind.

He'd woken to a red-eyed, terrified, and over-emotional Jim sitting next to his biobed. He'd discovered, from his inquiries to the medical staff that she had not left his side except when chased out by Dr. McCoy or when Captain Pike would drag her out to eat and she then would sneak back in as soon as her path to him was clear.

The time they spent together, despite his t'hy'la's subdued demeanor, was still the most fulfilling of his life. Her mind, when joined to his, was like the dawn, warming him from the feeling of his mind being the cold of night and exploding in bright and vivid color in his mind like the sky at the break of dawn. Every joining was like a new beginning. Her mind and body seemed to be made for him to worship. Her eyes were like pools of the bluest water that he wished to dive into despite his desert-bred physiology. He constantly marveled at her strength and intelligence. Everything about her was perfection.

Jim lay next to him, her body glistening with their exertions and a hand on his side where his heart beat under her hand. It seemed to soothe her and he indulged her. Jim's surface feelings flowed into him. Happiness, love, but it was tainted with guilt. This was puzzling to him. She had no reason to feel this negative emotion.

"Jim?"

"Hmm?" She mumbled and moved closer.

Frowning, Spock covered her hand and gently stroked his fingers over her's in Vulcan kisses. "What bothers you? Speak your mind."

She pulled away and Spock immediately felt cold at the loss of her feelings and touch. Jim ran her fingers through her hair and Spock wished for a permanent bond between them to have a better gauge of her emotional state.

"I...I'm scared that I took advantage of you when we were on the planet. You were vulnerable and compromised." She cringed, her body curling in shame. "I love you so much but what if this isn't real? What if you're still suffering from the effects of Sarpeidon?"

Spock could never let her think this. He turned her and pulled her into his arms and she relaxed in his grip as he spooned her and gently touched her, using his touch telepathy to allow her to feel the love he felt for her. "It is real. I can promise you that." He curled himself around her and held her tight, the physical contact providing the comfort they both needed. "When we were in Sarpeidon's past I was affected. That part is true but only in the manner that my emotions were closer to the surface. It may have not been the way that either of us expected to come together but it did assist in us acting on our feelings. I will never regret what happened and I will treasure those memories for as long as I shall live."

Jim's eyes closed in relief and she settled in his grip. "Thank you."

He nuzzled against the soft skin behind her ear, inhaling and committing the scent of the apples and cinnamon from her soap to his memory. "There is nothing to thank me for. Taluhk nash-veh k'dular, ashayem."

"What does that mean?" She asked drowsily.

"I cherish thee, beloved."

Jim's face turned into the crook of his elbow and he could feel the smile pressed into his skin. "I love you, too."

xXx

It was late in gamma-shift and Jim was asleep in his quarters. He had woken as he watched his mate sleep peacefully in his arms, heartbreak causing a sick and wretched feeling as he thought of the progress his science team had made in their recent work to return Jim to her former home. A sudden burst of insight had him leaving the warmth of their bed for the computer lab.

xXx

He was inputting his latest calculations to the program to send her home when the computer screen showed a positive result. His latest addition had finally shown that Jim could return to the alternate universe she had come from. Due to her different biosignatures which matched her to her former home it would be near impossible to get her back if she changed her mind. He'd never find her again unless he was lucky.

His very being fought him at the knowledge that she could now leave him with this new information. The temptation to defy his captain's orders began to overwhelm his sense of duty. He never wanted her to leave. His fingers hovered over the touchscreen and, Spock made the decision that he would fail in this task. He would not lose her. He could not lose her.

Spock carefully encrypted a subroutine into the program to remove his latest work and prevent a repeat of a positive result if anyone else ever came up with the same solution Spock had. He buried his work under lines of code, typing in failsafes to redirect anyone who attempted to continue the work further and he felt a sense of relief when he finished. Lieutenant-Commander Scott was an engineer and did not possess an A-7 computer rating. His tampering would never be detected.

Spock shut down the program and rebooted the system to ensure the subroutine would take effect. Pleased at the results of his work, Spock stood and started to leave the computer lab but his presence did not go undetected. He was halfway to the door when Mr. Scott entered unexpected.

"Commander Spock? I'm a wee bit surprised to see you here so late." The Scotsman tilted his head, suspicion and confusion evident in his features but Spock blanked his face and refused to show his guilt at what he had done.

"My meditation provided me with a possible solution to our current problem in the calculations we have been using but it was unsuccessful in the desired task." He omitted the fact that the 'desired' task was his t'hy'la returning home. A Vulcan never lied.

Scott smiled sadly. "Aye. I don't want the lass to leave but I know that she has to."

Spock jerked his head and refused to agree with his statement. "I shall see you at the start of Alpha shift."

Spock left, guilt burning hot in the pit of his stomach but he pushed the emotion away with difficulty. He could not lose her.

xXx

Spock arrived early on the bridge and relieved the officer on deck. He arrived at the solution that he needed to convince his captain of the 'futility' of the task of returning Jim home. This was her home now. She was his home.

He calculated a 74.3% chance at the captain accepting his explanation of it being a strain on resources to continue their work. Spock waited, his anxiety having to be forced aside with his Vulcan training.

Alpha shift officers slowly arrived on duty and Spock greeted each one. Nyota struggled to fit in her seat due to the fact that she was now only a month away from delivery but she managed with a grace that few could match. The recently promoted Chekov slid into his customary place next to Sulu and they chatted amiably at their stations. The second Captain Pike's presence was announced he removed himself from the command chair and stepped up to meet him.

The captain appeared surprised at Spock's unusual request for a private audience but acquiesced and led him to the ready room. Spock stood stiffly at attention as Pike sat behind the desk with his customary coffee, his gray eyes searching him for an answer but he trusted his first and Spock knew this.

"Commander, at ease."

Spock shifted his stance and placed his hands behind his back to hide their shaking.

"It's too damn early for formalities, commander. What's so important that it couldn't wait for me to have my first cup of coffe?"

Spock straightened at the gentle rebuke. "Captain, I do not believe that it is currently possible for Commander Kirk to return home. The time and resources used are decreasing crew efficiency and causing resources to become limited due to the science and engineering staff being used to complete this task. I believe that enough time has been allowed in our efforts and it would be more logical to relocate the crew members to their original positions to complete our mission of exploration and relief efforts." Spock knew he was abusing his captain's trust but, right now, he did not care.

Pike sighed and ran a hand over his face, as if he could rub away his own guilt at failing to accomplish the goal. "I guess you're right." He faced Spock a with a regretful smile. "She's a damn good officer and, despite the circumstances not being ideal, Starfleet will be happy to have her and so will I."

Spock agreed with the sentiment. "Would you prefer me to inform her of your decision?" He hedged.

Pike leaned back and his shoulders straightened, every bit the commanding officer Spock had come to respect. "No. I think it'll come better from me. Thank you." He stood. "I appreciate your counsel and don't know what I'd do without it."

A twinge of something unpleasant hit him but he nodded respectfully and heeded the unspoken dismissal. He just hoped that Jim would accept her situation.

xXx

Jim woke to the soft beeping of the alarm and stretch lazily, muscles she was not used to using ached but in the most pleasant of ways. Spock was a creative and enthusiastic lover, constantly challenging and delighting her in every way. She rolled over to his side of the bed and hugged his pillow close to her, inhaling the scent of his shampoo and she relaxed for a moment and simply enjoyed the knowledge that, for now, he was hers.

The alarm beeped more insistently and Jim groaned and proceeded to get up and ready herself for her shift. Today she was working a double. She had been tasked with the duty of running an emergency evacuation drill, sharing her research with the science and botany department about her creation of quadrotriticale since no-one had created it due to her not existing here, and then returning to her and Scotty's work on returning her home.

Her heart wasn't in it, though. She didn't want to leave but, at the same time, she did. It was confusing to her and she didn't like being unsure. She'd always been confident in everything she did but this task tested her limits.

Ever since she and Spock had returned it had felt like her time here was limited; as if time was a finite thing and not the endless line that she'd always been taught. It felt like there was a clock counting down her final seconds one by one as it wound down.

When she had forced Spock to return with her, she'd felt incredible guilt and sickness. He'd been so happy and the sight of him lying on that biobed with monitors stuck to him, not knowing if he was going to wake all because she'd made him return had almost killed her. It made her think of what would happen when she left. He was still happy, just not as visually evident due to most of his controls returning. Would he move on easily and consider her simply a good memory? Or would he break as surely as she would when the time came? She hated having to make the choice between family, her reality, her ship and Spock.

She'd just started working with security when she received a summons from Captain Pike. Curious, Jim made her way to the bridge. Uhura nodded her head towards the ready room and Jim frowned at the unusual quiet that seemed to permeate the air. She looked to her left and noticed that Spock wouldn't meet her eyes. It was unnerving.

She passed the chair and couldn't help the feeling that she should be there. Jim shook it off, dismissing it as an inappropriate fantasy and pressed the chime to Pike's ready room. She pulled her gold uniform down to straighten any wrinkles and entered the moment she was granted access.

Chris was sat behind his desk, a grim expression darkening his features and she knew she wasn't going to hear something she'd like. She snapped to attention and he quickly waved her down.

"Take a seat, Jim."

Now she knew something was wrong.

She slowly lowered herself into one of the chairs on the other side of the desk as if by stalling she could put off this conversation.

Pike sighed, looking far older than his years.

"It's been decided that we need to put the project of returning you home on a back burner for now. There hasn't been any progress for a while and the Enterprise needs her crew focusing on the original mission at hand."

It was as if she'd been punched in the chest. She was conflicted and didn't know how to react. The thought of never seeing Bones, her family, her friends was devastating to her. She'd never even get to say goodbye if she chose to remain or vise-versa.

On the other side of her feelings, the knowledge that she wouldn't have to leave Spock, whom she loved, Pike, and the crew of this ship that she'd come to respect and care for, made her feel extreme happiness.

The choice was being taken away from her.

"Why? We're so close. Just a little more time and we'd have the solution." She tried and Pike shook his head, regret practically emanating from the man.

"I'm so sorry." He told her.

Jim slumped in the chair and put her head in her hands, struggling to fight the tears that had started to burn her eyes. She ached to see her family, to see Bones, to be able to talk to them and tell them of her time here.

A warm hand rubbed her back and Jim surged up and clung to Pike, not caring that it was unprofessional. Pike accepted her and wrapped his arms around her as she cried into his shoulder, her grief spilling over.

"I'm so sorry."

He gripped her biceps and leaned back to look her in the eyes but Jim didn't want to meet them. She was angry, sad, happy. So many emotions and she just didn't know which to feel. "Look. I know that this isn't an ideal situation and it's unusual but it could be a great opportunity for you. We need officers of your caliber. You can accomplish so much here."

He shook her to get her to lift her head and she complied. Her face was blotchy and her eyes shining but Pike met them and showed nothing but understanding. "Already you're creating a legacy here. Your knowledge and gift of the quadrotriticale grain is going to potentially end famine. You have helped this crew become better with your unique command style and Spock is more settled than I have ever seen him."

He grinned bright. "You've also gotten McCoy off my back."

Jim laughed and shook her head. "It's only because he's now torturing me and Uhura."

Pike laughed. "True but it works to my benefit. I never said it was a good thing for you. I was simply stating fact."

Jim rolled her eyes and a small smile appeared but it was half-hearted at best.

He became serious and released her except for a strong grip on her shoulder. "It's going to be alright."

"Yeah. I know."

Pike's brow furrowed in concern but it was gone quickly as he straightened into his captain persona. "Take the rest of the day off. Take some time to process everything and let me know if you need more time."

Jim straightened and saluted him. "Yes, sir."

She left with her head down and her mind and heart too full to think.

xXx

Jim spent the next three shifts avoiding everyone and everything, hiding in the observation decks when Lt. Cmdr. Scott warned her that McCoy was on the hunt for her (this McCoy didn't like the reminder of being in space any more than hers did) and secluding herself in the Jeffries tubes when Spock searched for her, allowing the sound of the Enterprise to calm her thoughts and give her the privacy she needed to grieve. Her heart swelled in gratitude at Scotty's understanding.

It seemed like the entire senior staff knew of Jim's situation and wanted to talk to her or offer words of comfort but no mere words could ever take away the pain of the loss that she felt. She might be gaining so many amazing things here but she was losing just as much by being forced to remain. She didn't even have anything to remember them by other than memories.

Jim thought back to something her mother had told her after Tarsus when she'd held her as she'd cried for hours one afternoon. Jim had found a picture of the cousins she'd been staying with that she'd lost to Kodos' insanity in the attic when she'd been snooping around in a fit of curiosity. It had been like she'd been stabbed in the heart and her mother had heard her cries of anguish clear down the stairs.

Winona had held her youngest child, her only daughter, and rocked her while she'd stroked her hair like she'd done when Jim had been a small child. She hadn't hushed her. She hadn't tried to silence her. She hadn't told her everything was going to be ok because the older woman had known it never would be in regards to the loss of Tabitha, Marcus, Michael, and the many others that had perished on Tarsus IV.

She'd told Jim that it was ok to hurt, that it made her human and that the people that they loved and who loved them in return never truly left them when they died. She whispered to Jim that they would always be in her heart and mind and live forever as long as they are remembered. It had been the one thing that had helped Jim far more than the mandatory therapy that had been forced upon her by the fleet medical staff that had been part of the rescue party on the USS Saratoga.

Even though Jim's mind understood that Bones, her family, her crew, and even Ambassador Spock weren't dead; her heart had it confused because she knew she would never see them again. She'd lost them forever.

Seeing crew members that resembled her own people in appearance did nothing to alleviate that pain and it seemed to make things worse. They weren't her people. They were unique and completely different; their own separate individuals but it still burned.

Jim's eyes watched the stars outside the observation window without really seeing them and ignored her rumbling stomach in the face of her pain. Her face had dried tear tracks on her cheeks and her uniform was rumpled but she couldn't bring herself to really care. She felt as if she'd used up a lifetime's worth of tears.

Scrubbing the grit out of her eyes, Jim sighed and leaned back, shivering in the cold air of the observation deck. She debated going back to her quarters but decided against it to continue her self-imposed exile. She had nothing but time to think and she wasn't sure whether it was what she needed.

Jim sat up suddenly, a thought hitting her at warp ten. "Computer, how far away are we from the planet Vulcan?"

"Distance from USS Enterprise to Vulcan is 700.531 light years." The computer's feminine voice answered.

She pulled herself up on stiff legs to access the wall terminal to view the ship's current course. She saw a wide arc that seemed to cut relatively close to the red planet. "Computer, is the Enterprise scheduled to dock at Vulcan any time soon?"

"Negative."

"Is the Enterprise going to pass within shuttle distance to the planet?"

"Affirmative."

Jim's heart sped up as she asked her next question. "When?" She croaked.

"At current speed and barring any unforeseen incidents, the USS Enterprise is scheduled to pass within shuttle distance in two point three standard days."

She wasn't sure if she wanted to ask the next question but she had to. "Computer..." She swallowed, her throat suddenly dry. "Is there any record of an Ambassador Spock?"

"Negative."

She cursed and slid down the wall, her stomach sinking.

Jim stopped suddenly and wondered if the older Vulcan had taken on the same name as his counterpart. "Computer? Is there any record of an Ambassador Selek?"

Worrying her lip with her teeth, she held onto a small amount of hope.

"Affirmative."

Her breath left her in a rush. "Computer, can you pull up a file on the ambassador and route it to observation deck three's access terminal so I can view it?"

"Affirmative."

It seemed to take the computer an age to pull up the requested data but Jim knew it was only seconds but her mind tricked her because of her anticipation. She almost started crying once the picture came up. It was the older Spock. Not hers that was trapped in her own universe but a Spock all the same. She needed to see him. If anyone understood what she was going through and help her to move past her depression it would be him.

Scrolling through the small amount of data that wasn't classified above her clearance level, she breathed a sigh of relief when she saw his listed residence of Vulcan in the city of Ski'Kar. Jim quickly wiped the evidence of her computer inquiries and shut down the terminal. She knew that if Pike and Spock found out what she had been researching they would never approve her request. She needed this. She needed his help to understand, to be able to learn to accept what has happened and help her to achieve peace.

Chapter Text

Chapter Seventeen

Spock had been surprised at the unusual request of shore leave on Vulcan that Jim had made and more surprised at Captain Pike's approval of said request. The reasons listed were confidential and limited to the minimal phrase of 'beneficial to the health of an officer'. The captain had not seen fit to inform Spock of the full reasons behind Jim's shore leave and neither had Jim when he had confronted her.

He had been growing concerned since she had started secluding herself from everyone and everything upon being informed of the cessation of the attempts to return her to her former home. Her efforts at avoiding him, bar their one argument when she wouldn't disclose why she was leaving the ship, had been irritatingly successful and had been aided by Lt. Cmdr. Scott who was quite skilled in his knowledge of the Enterprise.

When Spock had nearly ordered the man to tell him where she was he had responded by telling him to: 'Leave the lass alone. She will come out when she's ready. Sometimes, ya need a ship's company to help rather than a person's. Something that is unchanging and will nah judge yeh and to allow you to just be rather than having to consider what others may make of your feelings and words.'

Spock did not understand the illogical reasoning behind his answer but chose to accept it for the time being.

Spock decided to send his own request for shore leave on his home planet to accompany her. His research into human behavior had shown him that support from other individuals was a necessary factor in the healing process for humans. There was also a large amount of guilt he felt.

He calculated a high probability that it would be approved due to the fact that he had thirty point seven standard days of time off accrued as he had never requested shore leave before. He also wished to offer Jim shelter during her respite. His parents lived just outside of Shi'Kar and their home offered a serenity that Spock had frequently appreciated in his youth.

He received approval for a two week stay thirty minutes after his submission with an additional message from Captain Pike to 'keep an eye on Jim'. He fully intended to. Now, he just needed to make the final arrangements.

xXx

Jim packed the small amount of clothing and belongings she had collected during her time here. It was a pitiful amount but she had never needed much. In the past twenty-four hours she had been visited by Uhura who had told her under no circumstances was she to disappear and if she tried then she'd hunt her down. Jim believed it. That woman was scary and fierce.

Sulu and Ben had been by to demand her return as well when her leave was up because they wanted her to help them finish their research and development of the quadrotriticale grain but she knew better and understood that they cared about her and didn't want her to leave.

Chekov explained that she still needed to complete their argument on the achievements of Russia versus America in inventions and discoveries. Scotty had wanted her insight into perfecting his still while Hendorff insisted she owed him thirty credits from their last poker game. Cheating bastard.

She knew that each excuse was an unsaid request for her to stay a part of their family and Jim was touched. She really was but she needed this time away for just a little while.

She'd just zipped up her small toiletry bag when her chime went off again and Jim sighed. She almost wondered if the crew was purposely delaying her to try and keep her on board so she'd miss her departure time.

"Come." She shouted over her shoulder while she continued to shove items into her duffel bag.

"You know, Jo-Jo was mighty upset about you sneaking off the ship without saying good-bye."

Jim's grip on the straps tightened slightly at the voice that was so much like her best friend's that it hurt like a physical thing. She gathered herself enough to face McCoy.

He was leaning with his arms crossed and scowl firmly in place against the dividing wall between the sleeping alcove and the living room area.

"Dr. McCoy, I just need this, ok?" She pleaded.

McCoy winced and looked hurt. "It's Leo. I've told you this, kid. Why is it that you yo-yo with me? You start to accept a friendship then you shift away faster than green grass through a goose."

McCoys and metaphors. A multi-universal constant.

"It's just-" Jim sat on the bed hard and ran her hand through her hair, squinting her eyes at McCoy and forcing herself to see through the vision of her best friend to see this McCoy. She cared a great deal for him but, right now, it was like seeing a ghost since she knew she'd never see her Bones again.

Blowing out a deep breath forcefully, Jim answered. "Imagine if you had been sent suddenly to another place and everyone you knew and loved had been left behind but in this new place you see identical looking people that are them but, at the same time, are not them." She gestured at the doctor with her hand. "In my world, Dr. Leonard H. McCoy was my best friend. He'd been my best friend, my confidante, my brother, and my doctor all in one package for over four years. My Bones was the closest friend I ever had and now he's gone."

She lowered her hands and clenched them into fists, her nails biting into her palms and her eyes started to burn. "And then I see you. You look like him. You are a Leonard McCoy but not my Leonard McCoy and I feel like I'm betraying him if I allow myself to get close to you.”

The corners of her mouth turned down. “I don't know if I can be your friend and not wonder if I'm being your friend because of you or because of him." She squinted at him through her blurry vision. "Does that make sense?"

McCoy's shoulders lowered and hazel eyes showed understanding at her explanation. "Yeah, kid. It does." He walked over and gave her a shove to be able to sit next to her. "Why don't you tell me about him, kid."

Jim smiled and relaxed as a weight that she hadn't realized was on her chest lifted. "Well, we met on a shuttle to the academy and his first words to me were 'I might throw up on you'."

McCoy snorted in disbelief. "Sounds like a friendship made in heaven."

Jim's grin widened as she remembered her curmogeonly, prickly, marshmallow Bones. "It was."

xXx

Jim scrambled to reach the shuttlebay. She felt lighter after her long talk with McCoy-no. Leo. He had forced a bottle of bourbon on her as well as about a million hypos that he believed she'd need during her stay on the 'hotter than blue blazes planet’. Jo-Jo had also loaned Jim her favorite stuffed rabbit since Jim was sad to keep her company but she had to promise to bring it back so she now had two duffel bags rather than the one she had originally planned on bringing.

Jim had tried reaching Spock before she left but he'd been unavailable. It had stung and she wasn't sure what that meant for them. Maybe they just needed some time apart? He hadn't even said goodbye. Maybe he was mad about their fight when she wouldn't tell him the full reason for her visit to Vulcan?

She'd just reached the Galileo and stowed her bags when she turned and saw Spock walking up the ramp with his own duffel. "Spock? What are you doing here?"

He quickly shoved his own belongings next to hers and took a seat at the pilot's chair. "I have been granted shore leave and intend to take it on my home planet. It has been thirteen months and five days since I have seen my parents." He turned to face her and Jim almost melted at the love shining through his chocolate colored eyes. "I also wish to accompany my t'hy'la and provide her with support."

Jim's throat felt tight with emotion at his explanation and, even though she had wanted solitude and an audience in private with the elder Spock to learn how to handle her grief, she still appreciated Spock's gesture. Maybe she needed his help, too.

She joined his side in the co-pilot's chair and started the pre-flight checklist. "You never told me what that means. You called me that on Sarpeidon."

Spock smiled and held out his fingers for a kiss and Jim met them, enjoying the feeling of love that slowly wound it's way into her mind and heart. Spock held her for longer than usual. "It is a term of endearment that can barely encompass everything that you are to me but it is the closest approximation I can express. There are no terran words that can fully translate it's meaning but I will attempt to explain soon. You are my everything, Jim, and I would do anything for you."

Jim's cheeks hurt with the smile she had on her face and her heart swelled almost too big for her to breathe. She loved Spock so much. How could she ever compare this to anything she'd ever had in her past life.

"Spock, you romantic bastard." She scrubbed her eyes with the heel of her free hand and gave Spock's fingers a squeeze, hoping he could sense just how much she loved him. Judging by the softening of his eyes, he could.

"Your proclivity for using vulgar words is impressive." He joked and then his pupils dilated and a strong feeling of lust shot through their contact that made her gasp in shock. "I look forward to eliciting such language in a more private setting and for quite a different reason." He smirked.

She leaned down and whispered in his ear. "Spock, you filthy bastard."

An eyebrow raised, his face showing amusement. "I can assure you that my parents were married at the time of my conception and birth."

She couldn't help the laugh that escaped and shook her head at Spock's sass. He gently released her and the shuttle lifted and left through the open bay doors and started it's journey towards their destination. Jim had just done a loop de loop to say goodbye to the Enterprise which responded by flashing their running lights to wish them well on their journey which her vulcan found 'fascinating' and he promptly locked her controls to prevent any more 'unnecessary maneuvers'. Jim had found it impressive that he'd been able to keep a level voice when his face had practically turned green.

They had just received permission to land in Shi'Kar's transport hub when Spock dropped a bomb on her that caused her to nearly hit a wrong button when her hands jerked.

"My parents are greatly anticipating your arrival. I believe the expression is 'they can't wait to meet you'." He continued to type in the landing maneuvers as if he'd just asked for milk for his tea. Jim stuttered, her mind going blank.

Jim had had a relatively good relationship with the Sarek of her universe but, as she had come to learn here, the people here were in no way the same people that she knew previously. They had similar mannerisms, almost identical looks, and had some of the same life experiences but they were different. This Sarek still had his wife, had not experienced the loss of his home world, and had a far closer relationship with his son so there was no doubt as to his being different from her own Sarek.

The blond had also never had the experience of meeting her partner's parents. She'd come close when she and Gaila had been in a relationship for two years during her years at the Academy but the circumstances weren't the same. Gaila's mother had escaped from the Orion Syndicate with her daughter after Gaila had been slated for sale when she'd hit her early teenage years. Jim had had a sort of hero worship of both women. Gaila and her had been together for far longer than any relationship she'd ever had and she'd been prepared for meeting her parents (as much as one could be) by virtue of hearing so many stories about the woman but their chance of a meeting under those circumstances had been destroyed when Gaila had been killed in the Battle of Vulcan.

They'd been so close and Gaila had understood Jim's discomfort with the words "I love you". An Orion's concept of love was far different than that of a human's and Gaila had been trying to accommodate Jim's human heritage when she had tried out saying the words. Jim had seen the wreckage of love lost every day of growing up with her mother and had always feared allowing someone to get close. She'd never wanted to be as heartbroken as her mom. Her mom still grieved even more than two decades later.

She had known she loved Gaila despite never saying the words and it had taken a long time to come to terms with her loss. Gaila's mom, Nailli, had ambushed Jim after the memorial service and had shocked her by hugging her like a daughter. They'd spent hours talking about the vibrant redhead and it had helped them both to start the healing process despite there still being a Gaila shaped hole in both of their hearts.

Jim was afraid. She also knew that Amanda was the most important woman in Spock's life. What if Amanda hated her? What if both Amanda and Sarek hated her? Spock still didn't know of her past and she didn't have the courage to tell him. She needed more time and she needed some time to handle the loss of her old life.

Jim was also hoping to connect with the older, alternate version of Spock and she wasn't sure how hers would react so Jim didn't really want him to know. "Uh-" She hesitated and Spock looked confused. "I'm not sure about the whole 'meeting the parents thing'."

Spock frowned and turned towards her, facing her directly. "I was informed that 'meeting the parents' was an important factor in the development of a relationship."

Jim's lips thinned and she forced down her panic, turning her focus to the landing of the shuttle. She considered her reply as she finished landing procedures and got permission from Vulcan to disembark. Sighing, she returned her attention to her boyfriend? Lover? Significant other? She wasn't sure what to call him but she knew she loved him mire than anything and she desperately wanted to make him happy but was she good enough?

"I'm not...I'm not sure if I'm 'meeting the parents' material."

"I consider you to be." He countered and a flush of pleasure filled her at his statement.

She bit her lip, thinking. "Can you give me a week? Just a week to get things straight and then I'll come."

He looked disappointed and she hated that she put him in that position.

"Very well. Where will you be staying?"

She told Spock the location of the room she had booked and he seemed appeased. He took her hand and kissed the back of her hand, pressing his lips on her knuckles.

xXx

Jim shifted from foot to foot, nervously bouncing on her toes in front of the large double doors of the listed residence of a Selek. She was clothed in the traditional Vulcan garb for women complete with a hooded robe and a head wrap hiding her blond hair. The only difference was that hers had been modified to assist in regulating her body temperature, designed for humans rather than the desert-bred species usually clothed in this attire.

She started to garner stares from the people walking by her and Jim decided it was now or never. Jim walked up to the door and steeled herself, knocking with an ancient knocker that was made from some type of metal that resembled brass.

An older Vulcan woman answered the door, her hair tied up in an intricate knot on top of her head with silver accenting the edges. Jim wondered just how old she was. 100?, 150? Judging from the shrewd look she received from her Jim believed the older age was probably likely.

"State your business." She snapped.

So much for pleasantries.

"I'm here to see Ambassador Selek. I request an audience with him."

"Do you have an appointment?" She looked Jim up and down, disapproval practically radiating off of her.

Jim had faced Klingons, Romulans, Tholians, and many others but this woman was a force to be reckoned with. "No, I do not. However, I am confident that the Ambassador will see me."

Jim drew herself to her full height and refused to be intimidated. "Just tell him that I need to see him. I've literally traveled across universes."

The woman glared. "The ambassador is a busy man and will not see visitors without an appointment."

She started to shut the door and Jim stuck her foot in to block it. "I refuse to leave without seeing him and I will wait here for however long it takes until he grants me an audience."

She sneered at her and, for a species that rejected expressing emotion, she sure showed her true speciest colors.

She could feel the heat of anger rising in her cheeks and face. "Look, lady. Stop being a bitch and just give the ambassador this message verbatim. "I have been and always shall be his friend". He'll see me. I guarantee it."

The woman pursed her lips and her eyes blazed but her face remained blank but she could see that she was struggling with her control. "Very well. Come in."

Jim gave her her best 'fuck you' smile and followed her into the entry room, staying in the corner where she indicated. Jim lowered her hood and pulled off her headscarf, shaking out her long, wavy blond hair. Even though her clothing was designed to keep her cool she was still sweating. She longed for a glass of water and somewhere to hang her robe so she could cool off but the Vulcan woman who had let her in had offered neither, probably expecting Jim to be turned out immediately.

It was mere minutes that she was gone when an older male rushed out with the woman trailing behind him. When he turned in her direction, Jim's grin split her face. It was him! Surprise and curiosity lit up his brown eyes and the corner of his lips were turned up in a small smile but he looked like he wasn't sure what to call her because of her gender despite him knowing instinctively who she was.

Jim immediately lifted her hand in the traditional Vulcan salute. "Dif-tor heh smusma, S'haile Selek."

He returned it, albeit a little slower. "Sochya eh dif."

The elder Spock turned to the Vulcan woman. "Cancel my meetings for the rest of today and tomorrow, T'Sal." His eyes locked with Jim's, happiness brightening them. "I will be spending time with an old friend."

She looked like she'd swallowed a lemon and Jim smiled sweetly at her. "Ha, Osu."

Spock lifted an arm and led Jim back to an ornate sitting room where he took her cloak and forced her to sit while he fetched fruit and tea for them. Jim noticed his hands shook slightly as he placed the tray on the table and she wondered if it was due to nerves or age.

He sat next to her, his eyes drinking her in with wonder as if he was a man dying of thirst and she squirmed, nervous at the scrutiny. "James T. Kirk...or is it Jane? Joanne?"

She accepted the teacup. "Jamison but my friends call me Jim."

"How did you find me?" He asked.

She smirked, feeling relief and peace at the sight of him. "Would you believe I just happened to be in the neighborhood?"

Chapter Text

Chapter Eighteen

*Jim's Original Universe*

Dr. Leonard McCoy finished his shift with a feeling of frustration and a heavy heart. The work that they had been doing seemed to be going somewhere but they were still a long ways off. They had been able to determine the parallel universe that Jim was in and had had an almost successful test with the biological sample container. The cells had come back in the original condition and alive but the cellular cohesion was still weak and the container survived but the biological matter had broken down after several hours. It was still far from safe with live tests.

The other difficulty was the likelihood that Jim was still at the same location was too low of a probability so they were being forced to find her but it was like locating a needle in a haystack. There were, literally, millions of light years she could be located in and they were working on a way to be able to find and track exactly where she was to get her within transportation range. It was proving...difficult.

Crew moral had sunk to an all time low with Jim's absence and the seeming lack of empathy from the Admiralty. She had officially been declared dead two days ago and her memorial service that they had earlier that day had only exacerbated the negative atmosphere on the ship. The news feeds were going nuts with the news of one of the 'heroes' of the Battle of Vulcan being lost in action. They showed footage of flowers and vigils throughout the federation and it gave Leonard a warm feeling in his heart at the outpouring of love and respect that people of all races, species, and planets showed such care for his best friend.

Winona and George Jr. had given multiple interviews telling the people of the Federation about the bravery Jim had and the type of person she was with short stories and her many achievements. Spock had watched one of the programs and McCoy had felt a sense of morbid satisfaction when the vulcan had been shocked at the knowledge of Jim's contribution to the science community with the development and her thesis's on the quadrotriticale grain. He'd had had no clue about her creation of the vital grain that was being used to end universal hunger and famine since she'd gotten her PhD in Botany and Genetic Engineering of Flora along with a masters in Starship Engineering that she completed in the academy.

The crew had no idea of the work that the senior staff were doing to attempt to get their commander back and, as a result, crew efficiency and moral was at a dangerous low which caused the 'Fleet to send a team to evaluate the Enterprise crew and try and figure out how to improve it. They'd been granted an early shore leave which had improved things but at a level that was still far too low for Starfleet standards. It was dangerous for a crew to have a level that low. It led to complacency and mistakes. Sulu was doing an excellent job but he had some pretty large shoes to fill.

They were currently being ordered back towards where Vulcan had been lost because of unusual sensor readings by the probes that had been left there to monitor the area due to the fear of the potential return of the Narada. They had believed it to be destroyed by the Kelvin before and caught off guard when it had returned to destroy the planet of one of the founding species of the Federation. They would not be caught off guard again despite the evidence showing the ship had definitely been destroyed in a sense of poetic justice when it had been pulled into the black hole caused by the same red matter that had destroyed Vulcan.

McCoy headed to his quarters and was enjoying a few fingers of bourbon when his door chimed. He didn’t feel like company. Jim’s service had wrung him out and the fact that he had been scheduled for a shift right after had made him bitter about the whole thing. The admiralty had also scheduled a public service for Jim when the Enterprise would be 'conveniently' nearby after their survey of the Vulcan system.

“Come.” He snapped.

The door opened to reveal a very nervous Ensign Chekov. He walked in wringing his hands and dark circles ringing his eyes so dark he almost looked like a raccoon.

At nearly twenty the young man looked closer to forty in his current state. His heart squeezed in his chest at the sight.

“Aw hell, kid. Come in and take a load off.”

Chekov sat across from the doctor and he poured him a small measure of the bourbon he had been nursing moments ago, pressing the glass into the navigator's shaking hands. McCoy wasn't surprised when the kid threw it back but he was surprised when Chekov showed no hint of discomfort. In fact, it looked as if the kid had just drank water. He poured a second glass and leaned back while Chekov rolled the glass between his hands, his gaze a million miles away.

"I did not know ze things you said about ze Kommander in ze memorial service nor in ze interwiews. She is wery impressive."

McCoy hummed noncommittally, preferring to let him talk. Sometimes you had to really listen to someone to get a good handle on the situation. He noticed how Chekov used present tense language, his hunched, defeated figure, and the way his eyes couldn't meet McCoy's and were riddled with guilt. He'd only seen this side of Chekov twice before. Once, when he had lost Amanda Grayson's transporter signal and the second time had been when Jim had allowed herself to be taken prisoner in his place and had been subsequently tortured right in front of the entire away team.

Chekov finally looked up. "She kept lots of secrets, da?"

"Because she was an idiot."

Chekov looked shocked at his blunt answer and the doctor sighed and rolled his eyes.

"She did keep a lot of secrets. She liked to play things close to her chest. If people got the wrong impression of her then she felt it was their fault. I never judged her or thought of her as anyone but Jim and she let me in when she saw that I didn't give a shit about her past, cared about her present, and had hope for her future."

The Russian blushed. "I knew she vas smart and talented but she vas scared?"

"Mmhmm. She'd only just started talking to people and trusting them."

He looked deep in thought. "Did she not trust us?"

Sipping his brandy, he thought about how to answer that question. "It wasn't a question of trust. It was more of a fear of rejection, of the crew not believing her because of past rumors and her father's accomplishments overshadowing her achievements. She couldn't get over that because it'd either be 'oh, she slept her way through to the top' or 'I always knew she'd do well because she's George Kirk's daughter'. It'd never be just because of her."

He nodded in understanding. "I feel zis, too. Back home in Russia, my father was genius engineer. Anything I did, he could do better and I was considered failure so I left to join Starfleet vere I vas not known and could make friends and do things on my own. I vas happy."

Now, that was interesting. Many people on board had questioned why their navigator (and senior staffer) had joined so young. It had just been assumed because of his brilliance. "And you're not now? Happy, I mean."

"Nyet."

"Why?"

Chekov took a sip of his drink, seemingly to fortify himself with liquid courage. "Iz my fault ve lost Kommander Kirk just like it vas my fault we lost Keptin Spock's mother."

Angry fire burned in McCoy's body at the guilt that he was projecting. "No, it damn well wasn't." He snapped.

"It is! I lost Ms. Grayson's signal! I wasn't fast enough! And I recommended not beaming ze Kommander vith our transporters until it vas too late! Vhat if she has been stuck in ze mirror uniwerse being tortured or dead? Ve vould ne-wer get her back or she could be hurt bedly!" He protested vehemently and McCoy gripped his shoulder in a tight hold to reassure the young man.

"It isn't you're fault. With Ms. Grayson, you were fighting incredible odds, against an imploding planet, at even getting one of those people beamed out. With Jim, you followed orders and procedure and, yes, we might have lost her but at least we have found out that she's likely still alive. You did what you were supposed to do. Had you not it would be guaranteed that she would be dead. Even if she is in the mirror universe the Ambassador told us about, at least we stand a chance to get her back."

Chekov slumped further into the small couch. "Zat is if she is ever found, yes?"

McCoy pulled the kid closer to him in a brotherly hug.
"It is a small chance but it's still a chance. She'll be found. You are going above and beyond the call of duty," He smiled and gripped him harder, a feeling of warmth and camaraderie filling him. "above and beyond the call of friendship to get our girl back."

Chekov smiled. "I just ne-wer thought ve vould lose her again. After Khan-" He swallowed the bitter and painful words.

"I know, kid. I know but we haven't lost her, yet. It may always seem the darkest before the dawn but the dawn does come."

Chapter Text

Chapter Nineteen

Spock walked up the long, dusty road on his parent's estate, enjoying the feel of the sun beating down on him that seemed to warm the perpetual chill of space from his very bones. He enjoyed his career and it was a trade-off that Spock had deemed appropriate when he had chosen his self-imposed exile from his home planet. In Starfleet, he had the opportunity to utilize his skills in a far more practical manner than he ever would have had he accepted the offer from the Vulcan Science Academy where their focus lay more in the theory rather than the practical. The diversity of species also was an unexpected boon that made him feel more at home as it was similar to his experiences in his youth being the son of an ambassador whose homes had been split between the places of his dual heritage. He was simply more accepted with his alien ancestry among those in Starfleet than he ever had been had be only lived among his people and his parents had always supported his choice.

Spock placed his bag on the ground and had just raised his hand to knock on the large double doors when they opened. His hand was still in the air when his mother rushed out and enveloped him in a hug that knocked the air from his lungs. Her happiness filled his very being as it poured from her through their contact and the faint parental bond they both shared.

Spock absorbed the feeling and it was even more pleasant than the sun that had previously warmed him. His telepathy embraced the love his mother projected and he clung to it tightly. His father joined them and his own emotions joined that of his wife's. He had been fortunate that they were not on another world in the middle of negotiations with another planet and species.

Spock closed his eyes in pleasure and sent his own thoughts and feelings towards them and he knew that he had been successful when his father had placed a hand on his shoulder and his mother squeezed harder.

"Aduna, allow your son a moment to collect himself. He has had a long journey." Sarek gently admonished his wife but he failed to follow his own words as he did not release his son either.

Amanda slowly leaned back but did not remove her hands, still holding onto his biceps as she scrutinized him from head to toe. "You have lost weight, do they even feed you on that ship of yours?"

Spock's eyes went heavenward for a moment but he allowed a small smile at her motherly concern. "Yes, mother. I have actually gained one point three seven kilograms but it has been in muscle despite the lower gravity on the Enterprise."

She snorted through her nose in disbelief and her eyes darted to look behind him as if he was hiding someone behind his person. He knew what she was searching for. "Where's this Jamison that you’ve told us about?" Sarek's brow lifted as he asked the same question without voicing it aloud.

"Jim has recently suffered the loss of her former home and is spending time to find her balance. She has requested solitude in order to grieve and find inner peace." He told them.

"Logical." Sarek said simply but Amanda pursed her lips, showing her displeasure at Jim being alone and at being denied the opportunity to meet the woman who was rapidly becoming the center of Spock's life.

"Well, I still expect to meet her before you warp off away and we never see you again."

Spock sighed at the overdramatic statement. "I will not 'never see you again'." He reminded her and he was pleased when she smiled with fondness at her son.

She gave one final squeeze of his arms and led him inside. "You'd better not." She warned.

"It would be wise to follow the words of your mother." His father agreed.

"It is logical to heed the wise words of your elders." He told them and his mother smacked his arm at his sass.

He followed them into the sitting room at his mother's insistence and Sarek went to collect refreshments, instinctively knowing that his wife was too excited to do so. Once he returned he sat next to his wife and both of them fixed their son with penetrating stares. The kind that would make Spock confess all when he was a child.

"Tell us of this human that has captured your attention." Sarek ordered but not unkindly.

"And your heart." Amanda added with a playful shove to her husband.

Spock considered his words carefully. He needed-no. He craved their approval of his choice. "She is my everything." He said with meaning and his mother's brown eyes, which matched his own, softened in understanding.

"How did you meet Jim?" Amanda leaned forward.

"She was transported onto our ship by an unprecedented transporter accident and was injured. She was frightened and I went to help her.” He paused to carefully consider his words. “The moment I touched her I knew her mind. It broke through my shields and touched my own, perfect in every conceivable way."

That had been the moment he knew. It mattered not whether she was male or female. She was perfection in mind, body, and soul.

"And at what point did she return your regard?" Sarek enquired.

Spock frowned. "It was not an immediate thing. It was quite a challenge to gain her favor due to her tendency to shy away from those she may become close to. Once she was willing to acknowledge her feelings towards me then we were able to move forward."

Sarek nodded in understanding. "Humans are notorious in their skills at providing a challenge." He turned towards his wife, affection clearly evident in his expression and Amanda's cheeks colored a bright pink. "It does, however, make the reward of besting the challenge worth the effort."

Sarek and Amanda continued to question Spock about Jim and about his current interests and recent experiences. He told them about it all and was pleased that he had been able to take the time away from his duties and visit with his parents. It may be considered illogical to visit one's family in person to relate tales that could be communicated just as efficiently via subspace communication but, to Spock, this was a far more preferable thing.

xXx

"Where did you learn vuhlkansu?"

Jim sipped her Vulcan Mocha (extra sweet) and pushed the last of her ameelah around on her plate.

"I learned Vulcan because, in my own universe, I had been hoping for a closeness-a friendship with my own Spock but he didn't want anything to do with me." She took a bite, it's sweet, sugary, banana flavor tasting bitter on her tongue at the memory of her universe's Spock's treatment of her.

The older vulcan's eyes flashed in anger. "To reject one's t'hy'la is a crime against nature and he would be ostracized among his people if they became aware of it." He growled.

"Maybe we aren't t'hy'la in that universe. Maybe it's just here." She refused to meet Selek's eyes, pain blossoming in her chest. This line of questioning wasn't a pleasant one and she didn't particularly want to continue it.

"Negative. James T. Kirk is James T. Kirk no matter the gender, slight physical variations such as eye color, or variation of the name. Your soul is, at it’s core, the same. Your katra is meant to be joined with Spock’s, with any Spock, and this Spock's chance at being with his mate had been ripped away when his Kirk had been murdered as a child. His heart, his mind, his soul, and his very being would have recognized you for who you are and what you are meant to be.”

Selek leaned forward, but it was far from a relaxed position. His eyes darkened and Jim shivered despite the warmth of the room. “The Spock of your universe should have done the same but he foolishly rejected his perfect match. He rejected you." Selek's voice became low and the hairs on the back of Jim's neck raised in a primal instinct of self-preservation. She knew that Selek would never hurt her but she also knew of Vulcan anger and he was definitely beginning to show it.

"If I was to encounter him I would be unable to contain my emotions and I would rip him to pieces, rend the limbs from his body and leave his corpse for the le-matayas to feast upon in the desert, his blood would soak the sands of Vulcan, turning it from red to emerald." He growled and his mug shattered in his grip, dark brown tea and bright green blood mixing together as the shards of ceramic cut hit palm.

Jim gasped in shock and backed away from the table. "That's so...violent."

Selek froze and looked at his injured hand and the mess on the table. He looked up and saw Jim's fear etched on her face and he closed his eyes to compose himself.

"I...apologize. Vulcans feel deeply. Their unchained emotions are strong and powerful and, when it comes to the protection and instinctual love of and for their t'hy'la, it brings out these things. He is fortunate that my counterpart in this universe seems to have a level of control that I apparently do not have in regards to the mistreatment of our t'hy'la. I did not intend to frighten you."

Jim shook herself irritably and glared. "I'm not frightened. It was just...unexpected." She snapped but immediately quietened. "I just don't get what's so special about me."

Her focus drifted towards him and her eyes widened. "Your hand!"

Jim rushed from her seat to the adjoined bathroom and fetched a towel and was lucky enough to have found a first-aid kit under the sink. She quickly returned and stopped Selek from his adorably sad attempts to clean the mess and pulled the injured appendage towards herself and wrapped it in the towel, apologizing when the older Vulcan tensed in clear pain.

Jim shrugged her shoulders and slowly unwrapped his hand. “Like I said, maybe I'm not that to the Spock of my universe." She mumbled and knelt as she set to work cleaning his wound, carefully dabbing at the cuts and inspecting it for pieces of ceramic in the wounds. Thankfully, it wasn't too deep and she was able to start the healing process with the home regenerator and didn't need to call for a doctor.

She had just finished sealing the cuts and was putting away the scanner when Selek stopped her and put his fingers on her chin, forcing her to meet his eyes.

"It would be impossible that you are not. You do not understand. You are t'hy'la."

Jim shook her head but Selek's grip remained tight and he refused to allow her to hide from him.

"If the Spock of this universe, as well as myself and the older Spock of your universe recognize this, then it is so. A Vulcan who has found his t'hy'la should and would do anything to have a bond with them for they are the other half of their soul. It is a level of perfection that few are fortunate to have. You are shi'masu, an oasis, so rare a thing that a Vulcan would spend a lifetime searching for on a desert planet that, once found, should be cherished with all that they have. You are like las'hark, the very sun that provides life to planets and would provide life to the mind of your mate especially in the throes of Pon Farr." He told her and, even though Jim didn't know what t'hy'la fully meant or what Pon Farr was, she believed him.

His hands drifted down and he held her hands in his, willing her to understand.

"That Spock is a fool and, as a result, this one is fortunate to have found you for you will complete him in a way that no other ever could."

Jim's heart swelled at his kind words and she gave him a watery smile. "Yeah. I got lucky." She shrugged. "I just wish I could have had a chance to say goodbye to Bones and my family, though."

A line appeared between Spock's eyebrows. "You regret your choice to remain?"

Jim's head jerked back at the strange statement. "There wasn't a choice to make. There wasn't a way back but I wouldn't regret it if I had chosen to stay here because I have Spock and I love him. I also have come to know so many amazing people here. I just miss the ones I left behind."

Selek nodded solemnly. "I understand your loss. Tushah nash-veh k'du. I grieve with thee."

"Th'i-oxalra. Thank you."

xXx

Ambassador Selek, as he had now chosen to identify himself to those he did not know, Ambassador Spock to those he did. Selek had been most surprised at Jim's sudden appearance. It had been a welcome thing to know that there was a Jim Kirk in this universe and that he had had the fortune of seeing her had granted him a sense of peace in his old age.

However, something about Jim's story made him feel ill at ease. His James T. Kirk would say it was a 'gut instinct'. Selek knew something was not right and he was determined to find out what it was.

Jim had appeared fatigued due to the emotional strain from she had been under and he offered her his guest suite. Keeping her close seemed to provide a sense of comfort to them and their shared experiences brought a kinship that helped them to connect.

Spock used his ambassadorial status and had been successful at obtaining the records of Jim's sudden appearance and the work that had been done by the Enterprise crew to attempt to find a way to return her. He had nearly completed his research when something caught his eye. A familiar code sequence that only he would be able to detect.

He spent the next two hours breaking through the code and opened the file showing Spock's successful calculations and modifications to the transporter and sensors that would allow Jim to return home.

"Oh, Spock, what have you done?"

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty

It had been three days since his arrival in Shi'Kar and he and Jim had spent the time 'dating' when she was available. His mother had said it was 'cute'. He had pressed her to meet his parents and she had finally agreed on their last meeting when he had spent the night at the room she was renting.

Jim was currently laying on her stomach, naked save the sheets pooling artfully around her hips and reading something called "Brooklyn" by the author Colm Tóibín. Jim had explained it was about an Irish immigrant, Eilis Lacey who had gone to the US in search of a better life. That her new home had been so foreign to her but she had found her happiness and it had become more her home than her previous one. Spock had found the plot to be a fascinating (and hopefully prophetic) one.

Her excitement every time she found something new was intoxicating and Spock wanted to be there for every discovery she made. He ran his fingers along her back, feeling sparks with every touch as he lowered his shields slightly. Her skin glowed gold in the morning light and he lowered his head, running his nose along the back of her neck. She smelled of lavender and vanilla, a rarity since the loss of Earth.

"Mmm..." She hummed and turned over, the sheet pulled carefully to cover her. "I'm reading, Spock."

There was no more beautiful sight than what was before his eyes. Jim's blue eyes shone like sapphires and the bridge of her nose and cheeks had started to show freckles from her time in the sun. Her smile was what Spock lived for and he longed to kiss her forever.

He leaned forward, pulling the book from her fingers and placing it on the floor. "You can read later." And his mouth met hers. His fingers cradled her head as he started to kiss her in earnest, his mouth moving down her neck, tasting the soft skin, to the delicate collarbone and lower. She gasped his name as his other hand found hers, their fingers twining in a Vulcan kiss.

He'd just pulled the blanket low to expose her to him when his comm started to beep insistently at him. He ignored it in favor of continuing his exploration but it continued to beep at him and he stopped, closing his eyes and almost groaning in irritation.

Spock pushed himself up above the blonde who was flushed a bright pink, her lips swollen from their kisses and he briefly considered-his comm went off again, interrupting that thought.

Jim licked her lips and shrugged. "It's gotta be important."

He rolled off and glanced at the ident on the comm and raised a brow in surprise. Why would his older counterpart be contacting him?

"Spock?"

He turned back to his bedmate who had covered herself but remained close. She looked hesitant. "Thank you."

Spock frowned in confusion at the unusual statement. "For?"

A corner of her mouth pulled back in a shy smile. "For giving me some time. I appreciate it."

His shoulders relaxed and he reached out two fingers which Jim met and he could feel her gratitude and love through their contact.

"I must attend to this but I will see you tomorrow when I collect you to take you to my parent's estate?" He told her-asked her?

Jim bit her lip, worry creating lines on her forehead. "Yeah. Sure."

He bent down, running a finger down her temple, sending her calming thoughts and she sighed at the touch. "Do not be overly concerned, ashayem."

"I'll try."

He illogically wished he could stay and kiss away the lines on her forehead and spend the day showing Jim that she was his and there was no reason to feel anxiety but a call from his elder counterpart had to be important.

xXx

Spock reached the Ambassador's residence where he was quickly led to Selek's study by a young aide. He had just shut the door when-

"Foolish young one."

Spock's hand stilled on the doorknob.

"I am unsure of what it is you speak of. Clarify." He spun around to face the older Vulcan and placed his hands behind his back. The moment he saw the elder Spock he knew that he had discovered his tampering.

The ambassador openly glared at him, anger and disappointment radiating off the older man in waves so strong it hammered at his telepathic shields.

"Do not disseminate. You forget that I know your mind just as well as I know my own as we are one and the same, S'Chn T'Gai Spock, Son of Sarek, grandson of Skon of the house of Surak." Spock was forced to spin in a slow circle as Selek walked around him. "I reviewed the records and found your work showing it was easily possible to return Jim to her natural universe but you hid the equation and put in a code to prevent anyone else from attempting the same resolution, thereby, ensuring a continuous negative result. You gave her no choice and are keeping this information and your tampering from her. She is your equal. Jamison Kirk is not a child that needs her decisions made for her and should not be treated as such.” He spat the words.

Spock remain silent, gritting his teeth at his counterpart's harsh words. He respected and admired the man but with his existence it created a feeling of inadequacy and insecurity at seeing the older man's achievements...and a fear of his failures. He wondered if he was doomed to repeat them and he resolved to not do so. He forced himself to remember that they were different people with different experiences. Already, his life was far different than that of his counterpart just as it was with the Spock's of Jim's former home. He remained silent, neither confirming nor denying Selek's accusation.

Selek spoke in a low warning tone. “I understand your reasoning but do not agree with it. Our people have passions that rival a human's that we hide beneath a thin veneer of logic. Our deep desires to have a bondmate which means life for a male Vulcan as well as companionship and, dare I say it, love. It is a strong instinct to fight to keep a mate. To have your t'hy'la in front of you is a temptation that is impossible to resist but what you have done is wrong." Selek moved forward and his robes swirled and fluttered around him. He came almost in touching distance but far enough away that Spock could not.

Spock's eyes flashed dangerously. "How? How is it wrong? The Spock of her universe does not love or want her." He gesticulated wildly behind him, forgoing an admission of guilt. Selek knew of his trespass but he refused to back down in front of him. "He regards her with little more than disdain and refuses to acknowledge the gift in front of him, his perfect match and all that can be, but here? Here she can have happiness and so can I."

Spock stepped forward and closed the distance between them. "I love her with the power of a thousand suns. I crave her more than life itself and would lay down my life for her. My chances of finding my t'hy'la were ripped away from me by a tyrant when James T. Kirk was murdered by Governor Kodos!" He spat.

Selek shook his head sadly, understanding his reasoning but clearly not agreeing with it. "Oh, Spock. I know. However, how will you know if this is truly meant to be? How will you feel confident that she would choose you and choose to be completely yours when you made the choice for her? When you took away everything from her for your own selfish reasons?"

"I beg to differ. It was not an act of selfishness but an act of love and kindness and I know she would choose to stay."

"It may have been an act of love and kindness but it was still a selfish one as well. You must tell her the truth. She must be able to make the choice." He implored.

Spock straightened. "I cannot."

"You cannot or will not?" Selek challenged.

"I cannot. She has known such suffering in her own universe and I cannot stand by and do nothing. I will not add to the it by making her have to make the painful choice of either leaving her old life where her friends and family were or leave here where she is beginning to find happiness."

Selek brought his hands together and steepled them in front of his mouth. "Her experiences made her into the person she is today. You must have faith that she will choose you."

"Then it is the answer of I will not." He narrowed his eyes at the older man. "Can you, with honesty, admit you have never done what may be considered as an amoral act to protect your t'hy'la?"

Selek thought back to when he had removed his own Kirk's memories of Miramanee to spare him the agony of when he had lost her. It was wrong and a severe crime to have entered his mind without informed consent and alter his memories but he had done it nonetheless.

His silence was enough for the younger Spock to interpret his answer correctly.

"You have."

"The situation was vastly different."

Spock did not care. Selek had still committed just as wrong of an act to his t'hy'la for their own wellbeing. "Kroykah! You dare to judge me when you have committed committed a trespass of your own against your mate!"

"My actions were not to take away a choice and hide it from my mate. It was to take away pain and not to benefit myself." He hissed, desperate to make the younger Vulcan understand.

Spock moved closer, his nose almost touching Selek's, challenge clear in the lines of his body. "Your logic regarding my actions is flawed. Our actions were one and the same."

"Negative. What you have done is NOT the same." He growled low and narrowed his eyes. "Do not force my hand, young one."

"I will not comply. I refuse to do as you request."

Selek's face fell and he moved away. "Then I have no choice. I refuse to allow your actions to taint what could be by keeping secrets and removing her free will. Everything that could be accomplished and gained by a partnership between yourselves. A relationship-a bond is meant to be built on trust and honesty. You do not show trust or respect to your potential mate to let her choose you over her old life nor is there honesty when you deceive her."

"I trust her implicitly but I do not wish to see her agonize over this task. I am sparing her unnecessary pain."

The elder sighed. "You must do this or I will have her taken from you. She will never forgive you if you do not admit this and James Kirk or rather Jamison Kirk in this instance, in any universe, has intelligence beyond that of an average human. The longer this deception is not disclosed the more it will poison what you could have and destroy a bond that may or may not happen between you two." His hands darted out and gripped Spock's biceps. Selek shook him to emphasize his words. "Admit your wrongdoings and have faith in Jim! A human's capacity to love and forgive is boundless and you must do this. You must give her this choice to ensure-“

"I...cannot."

Selek's hands fell and Spock knew he had failed a test for the first time in his life. He hung his head in shame.

"Then I apologize for I have no choice."

Spock's head snapped up. "Allow me twenty-four hours." He begged.

Selek straightened to military parade rest and placed his hands behind his back, his expression disbelieving. "Very well but, understand this, young one. I will not sit idly by and allow this charade to continue."

Spock jerked his head in a nod, his anger only controlled by the teachings of his people but the frisson of fear and doubt that lanced down his spine could not be shoved away as easily.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-One

Spock pulled up to his parent's home in their rented hovercar and Jim fidgeted in her blue dress and was reconsidering her attire. She knew the importance of this meeting and was unsure that it would be successful. She also knew that Amanda and Sarek's opinion meant a great deal to Spock. Hell, the Spock in her old universe had very nearly killed her from her insults against his mother.

The pain of losing her past had started to fade with Selek's help but it was still a raw wound that scarred her psyche, barely healed and Jaime hoped she was ready for being able to be around other people and moving on so soon. Selek had aided her in learning meditation to process and accept the emotions that she was struggling with but she was still a long way from being fully healed. He had explained that it would take a lifetime, and then some, to ever recover. She was looking forward to returning to duty and filling her life with new purpose.

They had just began the long walk up the dusty path when a large, brown-furred animal resembling and Earth bear with saber tooth-like fangs came barreling towards them. Jim stopped suddenly and her jaw dropped at the sight of this thing coming at them. Her heart jumped into her throat and her hair stood on end as her fight or flight instinct came into play.

Her eyes darted towards Spock who had clearly not seen the danger and it was about twenty feet away. Heading straight for Spock. Jim dived at Spock, shoving him out of the path of the monster and hoped it would give him enough time to flee. She wasn’t fast enough to get away herself though. Well, that was one way to get out of meeting the parents.

Large paws hit her in the chest and she landed on her back. The air left her lungs as she landed on the ground and large teeth filled her vision. Jim cried out in fear and she couldn't move her arms since the creature was pinning her down. She cringed away and waited for the searing agony of teeth and claws as it ate her and yelped in shock when a large, wet tongue licked her from her neck and up to her face and covered her in drool. Maybe it wanted to taste it’s food first?

"I-Chaya!" Spock shouted at the beast and it refused to back down, continuing it's assault with it's tongue and a cold wet nose huffed hot air on her vulnerable throat. Crushing weight made it nearly impossible as it laid down on her but it definitely wasn't it's full weight and vibrations caused her to giggle in disbelieving hysteria. It was...purring?

Jim tried to shake her head away from the tongue licking her and the cold, wet nose smelling her but every effort only earned her more stern licks and she trembled with laughter as the animal's fur started to tickle her and it then started to lick at her hair, cleaning her like a cat would clean a baby kitten. She was powerless against it's weight and determination. Jim felt a jerking motion and she knew Spock was attempting to pull this 'I-Chaya' off of her but he wasn't having any luck because of it’s determination to 'clean' Jim.

"Oh, my god!" Higher pitched laughter than that of Spock's was at her right but Jim couldn't see who it was because she had been forced to close her eyes.

"Sarek!" The woman shouted and running feet came towards them as the beast scooted down her body and effortlessly flipped her onto her stomach and started to lick at her upper body, moving to sniff at the sides near her belly, the back of her neck and head, soaking her and pushing her hair up over her head. Each time Jim tried to crawl away she was gently, but firmly, pulled back by the creature grabbing her dress with it’s teeth and pull her back underneath, much like how a mother cat would pull it’s kittens by the scruff of their necks. After three attempts I-Chaya simply kept her arms pinned to prevent her from getting away from it's ‘parental duties’.

“A little help here?” Jim squeaked as a particularly persistent swipe of the tongue caught her under her armpit. The animal pushed her face to the side to ensure that any dust that collected on her cheeks was promptly, and repeatedly, cleaned away.

It seemed like forever before it was pulled off of her and smaller, more delicate hands helped to pull her into a standing position. Jim had lost her shoes in the melee and swayed on her feet at the sudden change in position. Jim looked around and saw a struggling and whining bear...thing fighting to be released from two Vulcan men who were pulling it away with limited success.

To her left was a red-faced woman who was clearly trying to stifle her laughter behind her hands. This had to be Spock's mother, Amanda. Her soft brown eyes were exactly like Spock's but they were shining with tears of mirth. Jim just realized that the hem of her dress hand been hiked up to almost her underwear and that her hair was sticking up in places. She was soaked in drool and covered in dust. She quickly pulled her dress down and mustered as much dignity as she could. She. Was. Mortified.

She held out her hand. "Hello, ma’am, my name is Jim Kir-ahhh!"

She was promptly knocked to the ground again on her back, this time large, soft paws scrabbled at her arms to keep her still. I-Chaya's nose sniffed at her belly and nuzzled her, scenting her much like a cat would.

Jim gave up and just lay still, hoping and wondering if it was possible to die of mortification. She pushed herself up and onto her elbows. "Jim Kirk." She introduced herself and she was rewarded by a long lick down her leg that caused her to try and jerk it away in reflex but large paws continuously repositioned themselves and forced her to still as it carefully held itself on over her with enough weight to stop her from moving an inch. Hot gusts of air caused the bottom of her dress to lift slightly as it huffed and gently continued it's 'work' and Jim tried valiantly to preserve what little was left of her dignity.

"Ama-" The brunette stopped her efforts at trying to hold herself back and doubled over in laughter at the ridiculous scene. "Oh, my god! I am so sorry! I-Chaya hasn't ever done that to a guest! She's only done that to her stubborn cubs!"

Sarek and Spock moved to stand in front of Jim, both of them had matching raised eyebrows but she could see the amusement in both of their eyes. Jim just glared at Spock but she was smiling.

I-Chaya started to become quite disappointed when she was unable to remove Jim's dress without hurting her and had settled for scenting her quite thoroughly, focused on her abdomen where she had sniffed and nuzzled, quickly settling her head there and Jim had tried to push away, laughing uncontrollably when I-Chaya's fur tickled her but she was having none of it and had Jim stuck, helpless and immobile.

"Perhaps it would be best to allow her to finish. We are unable to stop her from her..." Sarek cleared his throat. "...motherly behavior."

“Can I die, now? Please?”

Amanda’s answering snort of poorly concealed laughter made Jim collapse in mortification.

xXx

It had been a further ten minutes before the sehlat had deemed Jim 'clean' enough but she had still refused to leave Jim's side and had followed her to the sonic shower where she had been able to clean up and put on a set of Amanda's pants and a top.

Well, that was one way to meet the parents. She figured that was definitely an ice-breaker if ever there was one.

Jim stepped out of the bathroom to see Spock standing in the bedroom. "I...apologize for my pet's behavior. I-Chaya has never-"

Jim chuckled as they went into the living room. "-yeah. I know. She's only ever cleaned her cubs with that much enthusiasm." She gently ruffled the sehlat's fur in affection and moved forward towards Spock but the sehlat was having none of it and bumped it's head against Jim's hip to keep her away.

Spock tilted his head at the strange behavior. "She has also never been this protective except-"

Jim sighed and heeded I-Chaya's clear orders. "Yeah. Her babies. I get it."

Spock gestured to the doorway and Jim went through, stumbling slightly as a big head nudged her along.

The sitting room was very similar to one you would find on earth but there were Vulcan artifacts, tapestries, and a lyre accenting the walls. It was very artfully designed and Jim suspected that Amanda had created the oasis, a blend of human and Vulcan that was perfect.

Sarek and Amanda stood as she entered and Jim raised her hand in a Vulcan salute. "T'nar pak sorat y'rani."

Sarek returned the gesture. "T'nar joral, Jamison Kirk."

Sarek was so similar in appearance to Spock but his jaw was slightly more square and his hair was peppered with silver but it was in the traditional bowl-cut that she associated with Vulcans whereas Spock's style was decidedly more human. His eyes darted to the sehlat still standing between them which growled when he had moved forward and he remained what he clearly deemed was a safe distance with a raised contemplative brow as he watched his let's strange behavior.

Amanda's features were more delicate. Her short brown hair framed her face in a pixie cut and she smiled warmly at Jim. Jim could tell where Spock had learned a lot of his behaviors. He was a perfect blend of both of his parents. It was truly IDIC, the Vulcan philosophy of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination.

The look that both of them gave their son was nothing short of absolute love and affection and Jim was surprised when it was also directed at her.

"Clearly, if I-Chaya deemed you to be a-" she cleared her throat and chuckled. "-a part of the family."

"I'm really glad to meet you." Jim looked down warily and was promptly and gently pushed by the aforementioned animal to sit. "I just kind of wish it had been a bit of a less enthusiastic greeting." Jim smiled at the pair and worked to fight the blush that colored her face but Amanda waved her words away.

"Don't worry about it. It's a good thing." She became serious but looked at the protective 'body-guard' with a curious but thoughtful expression.

Amanda offered Jim some plas-savas juice and Jim had to carefully maneuver to accept it. It was shockingly sweet on her tongue but pleasant.

"Tell me of your intentions regarding my son."

Sarek's blunt words nearly caused her to choke on her drink but Jim recovered swiftly. "I-uh-love him and care for him very much, sir."

"You understand his dual heritage?"

Jim did very well and loved him all the more for it. It made him him. "Yes, sir." She told Sarek as she smiled at Spock.

His brow lifted at her vague statement. "Then you will bond with him in the Vulcan way and marry in the human way."

Jim really did choke. "Uh-it's a bit soon to-"

"It is the next logical step in the natural progression of your relationship. Why would we wait when the inevitable is going to happen?" He told her in a calm voice as if he was simply discussing the weather.

"Uh-well-"

"Do you truly love my son?"

"Yes but-"

"You say you care for him. Is this statement true?"

"Yes but-"

"Do you wish to remain a part of his life forever?"

"Yes but-"

"Then it is settled."

"Uh-"

"Sarek!" Amanda scolded. "Stop scaring the poor girl!" She turned to Jim. "I'm so sorry. Sarek tends to be-" she glared at him. "-rather...direct when it comes to Spock. It's a common trait with the men from the house of Surak."

She looked apologetic. "It's ok if you want to wait. I did with Sarek but he was...rather convincing." She laughed quietly at what was clearly a private joke. "He's a very skilled diplomat."

Sarek almost seemed to puff out his chest in pride and Jim's eyebrows raised and she hid a smile behind her glass as she took a sip.

"It is only logical to prepare for future events and it may be some time before our son is close enough for us to be present for such an event." He explained his reasoning and Jim gulped. She'd just been strong-armed into marriage by Spock's father. She wondered if Vulcans were more like humans than she had originally thought because it almost seemed like he had just initiated a shotgun wedding.

"I-uh-ok?" She stammered.

Sarek nodded and calmly sipped his tea, watching Jim and almost daring her to contradict him. "I will contact the members of our clan and make arrangements. I believe two days should be adequate time to prepare."

Jim's mouth became as dry as the deserts of Vulcan and her tongue refused to comply with her brain. Amanda was hiding her face in her hands and Spock stiffened next to her.

Fuck.

xXx

"Sarek! I cannot believe you!"

He merely looked up from his current task of pulling up the necessary clan members and sending out the requests for their attendance at the ancestral grounds for Spock's joining. It was not ideal as he was not in the throes of his Time but needs must. He did not have a preliminary bond with a mate to protect him to ensure survival of both parties. He felt relief that he had found a compatible mate and she was his t'hy'la which was unprecedented. A t'hy'la bond had not been seen in over three centuries and Sarek was thankful as it would prevent any challenge against the joining from the clan matriarch, his grandmother T'Pau.

"It is only logical to ensure our son's survival when he enters his time and to ensure his happiness. There is no point in delaying what is to happen anyway. I could see that they were t'hy'la and it is far safer for them to bond in a controlled environment with a skilled mind-adept than to risk damage by an incorrectly formed bond if they were to attempt it on their own."

Amanda sighed at her husband's overprotectiveness and infallible, if forceful, logic and rolled her eyes. "I know that but did you have to terrify that poor girl?"

"Yes." He told her simply. "It is a skill I learned as a negotiator to ensure compliance by 'throwing one's opponent off' to ensure compliance and they cannot form or state falsehoods if they do not have time to prepare them."

"So, you approve of Spock's choice?"

"Of course, Amanda. I did do my research on her and found her to be a worthy mate. I saw the way she protected our son even though it was against I-Chaya. I also observed our son's behavior around her as well as hers towards him and saw that they were a compatible and agreeable match." He explained and turned back to the task he had started, finished with the discussion as it appeared to have reached it's logical conclusion.

"So, you like her?"

Sarek paused. "Yes."

"You know, Sarek? I-Chaya did behave like this once before." She paused, unsure but daring to hope. "You don't think-?"

Her husband paused in his work and considered his wife's words. "It is possible."

She shook her head, a small huff of laughter escaping. "Do you remember? She wouldn't let you near me for three months!"

He raised his hand, fingers outstretched and she met them, affection and hope flowing between them. "I remember quite well, my aduna."

He leaned over and pressed a gentle kiss to her temple.

"Should we say anything?" She asked.

"I believe that the surprise would be more enjoyable if they discovered it themselves."

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Two

Nyota Upenda Uhura was no fool. She could easily see the toll that the loss of Kirk had taken on the crew, Spock and McCoy most of all. She would frequently spend evenings and entire nights alone while Spock worked obsessively on a way to get her home and she knew that he felt incredible guilt at the fact that it was his order that was the one that may have been responsible for the accident that resulted in Kirk not rematerializing on the transporter pad. She also knew that it had caused flashbacks to when he had lost his mother in the same way. He may not admit it but it did cause both of these things.

Nyota also knew that he cared for the commander in a way that went beyond that of a co-worker. She just didn't know what exactly it was that he felt for her. It was complicated. She'd seen the way that they worked seamlessly together in a crisis situation and that he would spend hours by her bedside when she was injured. She also had seen it when Kirk had died in front of him and he had lost all focus and had gone on a rampage to avenge her death, only stopping when Uhura had screamed that they needed Khan and could save her.

Then she also saw the strange and unnatural 'proffesional' distance that Spock forced and had become worse after her 'death'. It was evident that it was taking a toll on the blonde but Uhura couldn't figure out the reason behind it. Spock's criticisms were similar to when he had been a professor demanding the best from his students but it was colder.

Kirk was a buffer between the captain and the crew, a human bridge to ease the command style Spock had. She was often curious how things would have been had Kirk gotten command rather than Spock.

They were currently on gamma shift and it was, yet again, another night that Nyota was left alone with the only company being her thoughts. She'd taken to frequenting the observation decks to watch the stars and wonder if Kirk was among them in some way. She looked at them and hoped that, wherever she was, that she was ok despite the animosity that they had. She did care about Kirk even though they weren't friends. She was among the best and an impressive commander. She had a skill that was second to none when it came to working with the people under her command. She inspired those around her to be better and built relationships that only made the crew stronger. She worked hard, perhaps too hard and Spock tended to push her.

Pulling the quilt her grandmother had sewn tighter around her to ward off the chill of the deck, the communications officer felt her own guilt at not being a better person and accepting the overtures of friendship that Kirk had offered. Maybe it was too late. Maybe they would never get her back and she wouldn't be able to try. Had her insecurities about her relationship with Spock made it to where she couldn't foster such a relationship? It was likely but there also seemed to be something else. An almost missing thing between the two and that there should have been at least the friendship and that was why it bothered her.

It was strange not having her here. Now that she was gone it was like a dark cloud had descended on the ship and that the energy and warmth that had been present when Kirk had been there was gone. The crew seemed almost broken and poor Sulu was forced to pick up the pieces and glue them back together but the cracks were still there.

As Nyota gazed out at the black, the stars staring back without the twinkle they would have had they been on a planet with the atmosphere causing the visual phenomena, she felt more alone than she ever had. She had friends on board the Enterprise and she had Spock but, right now, in the quiet of the night, she felt alone and isolated in a way she had never felt before. She may have had Spock with her physically but he really wasn't there in person and it worried her. It seemed as if the universe was at odds with itself with Kirk gone but there also seemed to be something missing when she had been here. They needed her back, if only for a short while, to bring peace to those whose lives she had touched.

"Nyota?"

She jumped at the sudden intrusion into her thoughts at the sound of Spock's voice. She hadn't even heard the door open.

Smiling at the fact that Spock had sought her out, she turned and offered her fingers in the ozh'esta which he returned and moved to sit next to her on the floor. A warm and grateful feeling suffused her at the touch and she knew it was Spock projecting. She simply unwrapped her quilt and beckoned him to come closer. Spock shifted and, together, they tucked themselves into the small piece of home she had and stared at the stars together.

It was moments or hours later before she spoke, her curiosity getting the better of her. "Spock?"

"Yes?"

Biting her lip, she couldn't help but ask. She had to know. "Do you-" She shook her head. "-what do you feel for Jamison Kirk?"

Spock sighed and Nyota's anxiety ramped up a notch.

"It is...complicated. I feel concern. I feel a connection with her that I do not understand and fear of becoming close to her as even a friend as I could not bear to lose her again."

Nyota stiffened at his words. "Do you love her?"

Spock's shoulders slumped. "I did not have friends as a child. I was seen as an abomination due to my dual heritage. To have a friend and have that friend die when you have built a strong connection would break me once more."

He turned to face her and she could see the pain and exhaustion in his eyes. "You are one of the few who accept me for what I am and so was Jamison. I am...broken where she is concerned and to lose her again damaged me. If we were to get her back, I would not be able to handle her loss once more. I create a distance to prevent a closeness between us. I project indifference to keep both of us safe because she would die for my person and I cannot allow that anymore than I would want you to do the same."

His words pierced her and she could understand but she also didn't. "But you're losing her emotionally and by not accepting her as a person."

"I would rather that than her die needlessly."

Nyota pressed her lips together to silence her objections and worries. "Is that why you push her so hard?"

"Yes."

xXx

Spock stood immobile on the bridge. They were due to make their way to Earth in three days for a public memorial service for Commander Jamison Kirk but were currently in the Eridani 40 star system, or rather the Vulcan system cataloging, scanning, and investigating the unusual energy fluctuations that were detected by probes that had been permanently placed by the Starfleet Science Corps. The admiralty had decided to award her the Starfleet Medal of Honor posthumously for her dedication to the rescue of the station personnel at the cost of her own life. The entire affair left a sour taste in the mouths of the crew. It was little more than a propaganda and photo-op by Starfleet PR. If they had truly cared for the Commander they would have sent a scientific team to attempt to retrieve her from wherever she ended up at. The resources Enterprise commanded were impressive but they were not a science vessel.

"Sir?" Ensign Grax visibly trembled and it immediately put Spock on alert. The young betazoid man had been the first of his species to join Starfleet and was among the best in the field. He never spoke up unless it was important.

"The sensors aren't showing it but I can sense millions of minds. It's almost as if a planet was nearby but there isn't one that sensors can detect."

Spock frowned and lowered his own telepathic shields, sensing nothing out of the ordinary but a full telepath like a betazoid had skills and strength that surpassed his own. "Elaborate."

Grax closed his eyes and his eyebrows drew together in concentration. "It's almost as if-" He paused and seemed to be struggling for the correct word. "-they're muffled. Like they're there but behind a fluttering veil." Opening his eyes, his met Spock's. Dark, serious almond shaped orbs seemed to draw the Vulcan in. "I can't explain it, sir, but it is there."

Spock straightened and he turned his attention to the viewscreen, the familar constellations he had known in his youth no longer provided the comfort they once had. Nero had taken that from him. "Scan on all frequencies." He ordered tersely.

Grax's hands flew over his board while the rest of the bridge crew followed his example. Nyota stiffened, her grip on her earpiece tightened. "Captain, I'm detecting variable tones on multiple frequencies. They're faint and indistinct but they have a regular pattern."

"Sir, a program has become active that I've never seen before! It's showing a positive result for some sort of biosign." Grax almost shouted.

Ensign Chekov and Spock moved to his station with an undignified speed, hoping against hope that it was their program. The one they had set on a continuous scan for Commander Kirk's signature.

Spock's breath caught and the young ensign whooped in joy at the flashing green positive lighting up the screen.

"Ve haff found her!"

"Ensign Chekov, report to transporter room three and run program Spock Alpha One and transport that signature." He watched as the gold-clad man ran for the lift and left. "Lieutenant Uhura, contact Mr. Scott and order him to assist the ensign. Also, contact sickbay and inform Dr. McCoy as to this development."

His instinct to follow was nearly overwhelming him but he had to remain in control. His duty to the ship chained him to the bridge and he had never hated it more. He kept his speculations to himself as to the possibility that they may get the Commander back. He could not raise hope only for it to be dashed.

But he did hope.

Minutes stretched like hours and he could feel the metal of the command chair's arms warp under his tense grip but he could no more stop than he could extinguish the intense feeling that they had indeed found Kirk.

"Captain, transporter room three is signaling the bridge." Uhura's voice was tense with emotion and Spock knew. He just knew that they had gotten her.

"Let them through."

Chekov's voice was loud and excited and none of the careful control trained into a Starfleet officer was present.

-"Yo moyo! She iz here! Transporter room to bridge! Keptin! It vorked!"

Spock almost tripped in his haste to get to the turbolift, Uhura and Sulu hot on his heels. The trip took far too long but it was only moments before he stepped through the doors to utter chaos.

Jamison was on the transporter pad, practically smothered underneath Scott, McCoy, and Chekov. She was dressed in a cami top, very short shorts and her long, blond hair was damp and curled. Her skin was tanned a golden brown and she looked whole and hale but when she turned her eyes to him the healthy glow of her skin faded to a sickly white.

The men reluctantly released her as she attempted to stand, only to fall down to her knees. "No! Nonononono!"

She started to become hysterical, her breath coming in pants as she shook her head violently. The action confused and concerned Spock as well as the doctor who turned his focus back to the blond.

"Jim?" He asked.

"Send me back!" She pleaded with Scotty and everyone frowned at her reaction. It did not make sense. Why would she wish to be sent away from her home?

"Jim? It's ok, kid. You're safe. You're home, now." The doctor spoke in calming low tones and gently touched her arm in an attempt to ground the woman but she jerked violently away from him, shaking her head and refusing to accept the touch. Jamison had always been a tactile individual and Spock had never seen her refuse the comfort from her friend before. This was not the reaction he had predicted upon her return.

"I'm not home. This isn't my home anymore!" She spun to look at Mr. Scott with wild blue eyes who exhibited fear at her strange behavior.

"Send me back! I don't belong here!"

"You do belong here! What the hell are you talking about, Jim?" McCoy's hands slowly inched towards his medical bag, likely searching for a sedative. Had they gotten the wrong Kirk? The biosigns matched. Ensign Chekov's head turned rapidly to each officer as if he was watching a tennis match and trying to make sense of the scene unfolding in front of him.

Perhaps she needed to hear a calm voice. This was where she belonged. The universe she had been in was not hers and they needed her. "Commander Kirk, welcome home."

"This isn't my home anymore!" She shouted and Spock looked felt she'd slapped him but he recovered quickly and frowned. Uhura gripped his bicep hard in shock.

"This is your home." He argued. They could not lose her again and they would protect her even if it was from herself.

"No, it isn't!" She snapped and pulled herself up.

The doctor's face flushed a vivid red in anger. "What do you mean this isn't home?"

"I don't belong here anymore." Tears started to well in her eyes and spilled over.

McCoy tried to touch her hands and Jim hit at them to get him to stay away. "Don't." Her breath started to come in pants as she panicked.

Spock reached towards her with a gold clad arm and Jim snarled at him. "Don't you dare touch me!" Spock's hand drew back at the harsh reaction. She had never spoken to him in that way before. It was pure hatred.

Jamison became more agitated as time wore on and McCoy, Scott, and Spock determined she needed to be restrained to prevent her injuring herself but it only seemed to make things worse as she fought them, clawing and kicking at them.

"Jim! You need to calm down! Breathe!" McCoy told her. Sweat beaded her brow and her pallor was gray. She was rapidly going into shock and the doctor could not get to his bag without releasing the struggling woman. He felt the psychic assault hitting his shields. Distress and fear from the blond hit him hard and caused him to flinch away. Spock felt an urgent need to calm her and try to understand just what was causing her to act in such a manner. She was home. There was no explanation that made sense as to why she would be in this state.

He reached between the men holding her and placed his fingers in a familiar position on her face. He had never melded with Jamison before, his fear at performing such an intimate act with her and becoming close to her was overridden by his extreme worry.

Images of the past two months she had been gone ran like a movie on a mix of rewind and fast-forward. She saw an alternate Christopher Pike, alive and well, visiting and talking with her in her quarters, a version of Doctor McCoy and Nyota, her belly round and heavily pregnant but she was kissing the doctor and played with a small brown-haired child. There was the Commander placing a losing hand of cards onto a table but smiling as Lt. Hendorff lays down his and pulls all of the poker chips towards himself with a grin. Then he saw something that shocked him. Jim being licked and pinned by I-Chaya, a version of his mother doubled over in laughter with soft brown eyes full of affection as she watched the interaction. Pain lanced through his heart as he saw her.

The images slowed and he felt shock at what he saw next.

He was watching her from the corner of her eye in the mess hall-No-not him. A different Spock. The differences were subtle but there. He had on science blues with the rank of commander showing on his sleeves. His hair was different. It was parted on one side and brushed back and he was showing far more emotion than he ever had and he seemed...comfortable with it, with not behaving as a full Vulcan should. Jim's emotions spiked at this image and Spock had difficulty controlling his own as deep, all-consuming love filled her. This Spock who she loved who was showing a hint of a smile as she becomes jokingly overdramatic at her losing to him in chess, this Spock breathing hard beneath her when they sparred and she had him pinned, Spock kissing her, Spock hovering over her as he made love to her and whispered Vulcan words of adoration and love into her ear, Spock calling her...t'hy'la...

"GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" Jim screamed mentally and kicked out hard. The film screeched to a halt as she fought against the intrusion and she violently pushed him out of her mind. Spock couldn't stop the surprise at her mental skill and strength and shock at what he was seeing. The emotional transference caused him to gasp in agony and he was breathless. He had not meant to go so deep or complete a full meld to this degree. Her mind was too compatible with his. It was...perfect and it frightened him.

Jamison became even more violent than moments ago and bruises were forming on her arms from their attempts at restraining her. Spock had no choice. He reached out to the join between her shoulder and neck and pressed his fingers together to the bundle of nerves. She went limp instantly.

McCoy sighed in grateful relief and pulled her close to him. "Thank you, Spock." He reached behind him and pulled out a hypospray and several ampoules. "Hell if I know what happened to her." He looked unsure and turned to Spock. "It is her, right? We didn't get the wrong Jim? Only she would never act like this."

A medical team arrived with a stretcher and Kirk was lifted and placed on the hovering device. Spock pressed his lips together in a grim line and contemplated his answer. It was their Jim but it wasn't. The world in which she was found was not what they had expected and Spock needed time to process the images he'd seen.

"Yes, Doctor. It is her."

McCoy brushed a strand of damp hair from her face and closed his eyes in pain. "Just what happened to her over there then?"

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Three

Jim paced in her rented room. She had been unable to sleep the night before, Sarek's words had spun around in her head. Married? Bonded? It was too soon! Sure, she had wanted to but it had been a far away thought. She had thought she had time and it caused her to nearly hyperventilate. What would Spock think when he discovered her past from Tarsus IV-the things she’d done to survive? What about her promiscuous past? What if she wasn’t good enough in his eyes? He’d be stuck with her! His mind would be linked with hers and it'd taint his mind-possibly damage him. She remembered just how sensitive he’d been when they had been rescued from the Sarpeidion ice age and she never wanted to see him like that again. Maybe she should leave to keep him safe.

Spock had tried to calm her and reassure her but his words went unheeded in the overwhelming knowledge that in two days she could be fucking married? Bonded? Both?

"I had not anticipated the scenario that took place at my parent's home. I apologize, however, we will likely be unable to avoid them and/or the ceremony as there is no route for escape since the Enterprise is not due to return for another ten days."

Jesus! She ran to the bathroom, her empty stomach heaving and her throat burned as nothing more than stomach acid and bile came up.

She leaned her head on the toilet, the cool porcelain soothing to her overheated face and Spock knelt behind her, stroking her back in a futile effort to calm her. "I hope this knowledge may assist in alleviating your discomfort. In Vulcan culture most bonded pairs are joined in a preliminary bond in childhood, more than an engagement but less than a marriage, and typically do not meet again until the bond is finalized. It is an arranged marriage between clans rather than a joining because of love or affection. Ours would be different."

"No that doesn't help." She snapped.

At least Spock's parents apparently liked her enough that they wanted her to marry their son she thought wryly and she started to laugh hysterically.

Spock paused in his ministrations. His eyes widened in concern at her strange behavior. "Jim? Do I need to contact a doctor?"

His words only caused her to laugh harder. Like a doctor could stop her panic. She thought sarcastically.

He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her to face him. "Jim?"

She wrenched herself free and threw up again.

Spock suddenly looked unsure. "Do you-do you not wish a bond with me?"

He looked so vulnerable in that moment and Jim's heart broke a little at the thought that Spock would doubt her love for him but it was so soon into their relationship. She'd not really had enough time to truly get to know him but she did know that he was her heart and her everything. "I didn't say that."

Spock let out a loud breath of relief but suddenly froze as if a terrifying thing was creeping up on them and he wanted to hide away. "I must-I must also inform you of Vulcan customs and...biology as we are soon to enter into a bond."

"I'm pretty sure I know about the birds and the bees, Spock, so you can skip that part." She told him in a hoarse voice.

Spock's ears turned green and he looked away. Was that shame? "The birds and the bees are not Vulcan."

She sighed, suddenly very tired. "What are you talking about?"

"Once a Vulcan reaches full maturity, which I am close to doing, they enter what is known as Pon Farr, the time of mating. It is a shameful part of our biology where we are forced to bond and mate...repeatedly and over several days with our chosen." Spock refused to meet Jim's eyes and clenched his jaw. She could see just how much this admission was costing him so she remained silent, allowing him the time to speak.

"We are stripped of our logic and become little more animals. If the mating urge is not satisfied we will die in the blood fever- the Plak Tow." His fists tightened to where his knuckles went white with the strain.

She reached over to touch him but he shied away from her as if he thought of himself as a poison to her. How could he even think that? It was the other way around!

"During our 'Time' we join with our chosen mind, body, and soul to make us one...if no challenge is raised. A preliminary bond, the one usually done in childhood, assists in making the joining easier as our hindbrains will see them as our mate rather than a stranger or challenger. Our bodies change slightly to ensure the mating is a successful one even if the female, or in some cases male if the couple is a pair of men." He swallowed, looking sick.

Jim turned that thought over in her mind and she could understand why such a thing was kept private. To a proud race such as the Vulcans, being forced to lose their logic simply because of a biological urge must be devastating. If humans were forced to go through something like that she was sure they would have the same reaction.

"The urge is only satisfied until the male believes conception occurs or the fever may also be sated by the male's instinct that their mate will not be able to easily break their bond and won't leave them. It is more challenging when there are two males rather than a male and female but not an uncommon occurrence as mental compatibility is the most important factor."

"Oh, Spock." She whispered in sympathy.

"I am unsure as to why my father believes this matter is so pressing and had not expected our joining so soon.” He looked at her apologetically. “I had wanted the time to inform you of these things to allow you the chance to make an informed decision as to whether or not you wish to accept..."

She suddenly surged at him and wrapped her arms around Spock's neck and pushed his head to her chest. She refused to let him feel alone in this. It was a part of him and Jim had promised that she would accept everything there is to him. Jim kissed the top of his head and just held him there. "Spock, I would do anything for you. I know that you would never hurt me and I would never hurt you. I love you. I will stand by your side and bond with you."

Spock deflated and collapsed boneless against her in clear relief. She murmured unintelligible words of comfort in his hair and stroked his back until her back hurt and butt was numb from the cold of the tiles but she didn't care.

Spock eventually crawled up and tried to kiss her but Jim pulled away and scrunched up her nose. "I told you I would do anything for you but grossing you out with my gross mouth after puking is one thing I won't do."

His 'almost smile' appeared and he pressed a chaste kiss on her lips. "I do not care about your 'gross mouth' but I will allow you your effort to protect me from this supposed harm."

Jim leaned back against the wall. "Thank you for telling me about this." She sighed. "I think I'm the luckiest woman in any universe that you don't keep any secrets from me."

Spock seemed to tense in her grip but Jim never noticed, her focus being on reassuring him.

xXx

Jim had just exited the shower when she heard a knock at her door. She knew Spock would answer and so she spent a little longer getting ready. It was when she heard arguing that she sped up and pulled on her shorts and a cami. She ran a hand through her wet hair and opened the door to a Vulcan face off between her Spock and his elder counterpart. They were both tense and facing each other in aggressive stances, their hands almost resembling claws. Jim was scared that they were about to kill each other and she quickly stepped in between them hoping that they wouldn't risk hurting her to get her out of the way so they could fight. She'd only seen the look on a face just like her Spock's once before. It had been right before the Spock of her universe had attacked and tried to kill her on the bridge of the Enterprise during the Battle of Vulcan.

"What the fuck is going on here?" She looked between them but they didn't move or even acknowledge her.

"Have you told her?" Selek growled.

"I have not yet had the opportunity."

"You have had your twenty-four hours." He snapped and said something that sounded a lot like a Vulcan insult or some kind of swear word that Jim didn't know.

"It is not your place." Spock snapped.

Jim's head darted between the two in a type of tennis match between the two. She started to become frustrated and angry as they slipped into a form of high Vulcan that Jim didn't understand.

"What the fuck is going on?" She shouted above their argument and they both finally looked at her. They acted as if they hadn't even realized she was there!

Selek spoke first. "Jim, there is-"

"No!" Spock tried to interrupt and Selek's head spun towards him, his eyes dark and dangerous. Jim felt true fear from them and edged away.

"-something you need to know." He continued and his eyes drifted back to her. His entire countenance shifted to one of almost sadness. Jim relaxed slightly but still remained on guard, at the ready if she needed to intervene between the two men.

"Spock has been deceiving you."

Jim laughed in disbelief at Selek's statement. "Spock wouldn't do that." She glanced over and Spock looked away before she fully faced him. "He would never-" She trailed off at her Spock’s expression and she suddenly knew that Selek was telling the truth. The air rushed from her lungs as betrayal and hurt started to creep into her. "Spock?"

She kept her eyes on him but addressed his elder counterpart. "What do you mean when you say he is deceiving me, Selek?" She asked him carefully.

Selek sighed and he felt far older than his years. "When you came to see me and told me that you could not return to your universe I knew that statement to be false as I had encountered a similar phenomenon in my time when my own James Kirk had been transported to a parallel universe. I had been able to bring him back and this same problem was reported several more times with other Starfleet personnel during my lifetime. Each situation was resolved."

Jim started to feel sick once more but it wasn't nerves this time. She didn't want to hear any more but the old man kept talking.

"I was able to gain access to the research and testing that the Enterprise conducted and discovered a subroutine carefully placed within the system. It was one that had a very familiar style; one which I recognized immediately. It was of a style identical to my own. I successfully located the time stamp for when the program had been tampered with and I accessed the video surveillance of the computer lab. I saw the commander enter the lab, input the sequence and see that the calculation could return you, then Spock programmed a subroutine, encountered Mr. Scott for a short conversation and left."

Jim started shaking. It couldn't be true. Selek had to be the one lying!

"This subroutine, once activated, would make it to where every time a new calculation was entered the simulation would always show it as a failure to remove the chance and the possibility of you being able to leave here. I further researched and uncovered information deep in the computer banks which was partially corrupted due to an attempt to delete it. It was a successful simulation test entered in by Commander Spock."

Selek's faced her with an expression of absolute sadness and regret. "I tell you this not to hurt you but to give you the knowledge and respect that you deserve to make an informed choice. Secrets kept can create an insidious poison that damages bonds and relationships over time and I cannot stand by and allow this to happen."

"Spock?" She asked in a small voice as her throat tightened. "Is this true?"

"Yes." He whispered in a hoarse voice that didn’t even sound like him.

She backed away from him, shaking her head. Her world seemed to narrow until all she could see was Spock, his head lowered and looking broken. How could he do this to her? Why would he do this to her? How could he let her believe that she had failed in her work and take away her past without giving her the option?

"Why?" She breathed.

"Because-"

"Look at me-dammit!" She shouted at him. Jim needed to see. She needed to understand. Did he think so little of her that he would do this and not even look her in the eye as if she was not his equal?

Spock slowly lifted his head and he cringed when he met her gaze. He looked small and defeated like a stray cat expecting to be turned away but Jim wasn't giving an inch. She needed to understand why the man she loved would do this.

"I did not want to lose you nor did I want you to have to make the painful choice between your family and friends or your life here. I wanted to spare you the pain of having to choose but I was also afraid you would not choose me."

Jim tore her eyes away from him. She paced five steps then spun and paced five more, needing to try and dispel the hurt but it only multiplied and morphed into anger. Jim gripped her hair and pulled, facing the Vulcan she loved. "But it was my choice! Not yours! Did you for one instant think that maybe had I had a choice that it might have helped me to accept this life easier? Or that it might have helped me to grieve? Or that I needed to have some form of control over my own destiny?" Her hands came down to her sides in fists. "How could you even think that I wouldn't choose you?!? I love you, you bastard!”

She felt a sensation almost like someone had run a finger down the back of her neck and she shivered in response but continued to focus on Spock. "Who are you to decide for me?"

She narrowed her eyes at him. "I was so stupid to ever think that anyone would ever be fully honest with me or even treat me with the respect that I am due as a person!"

Her eyes burned as furious tears fell down her cheeks. "How can I bond with someone I don't trust?"

Jim felt a yank to the scruff of her neck and it stopped what she was about to say. "What the-?"

Both Spock and Selek looked at her, their fight forgotten.

"Something's wrong." Now it was as if she was being enveloped in a painful and forceful hug around her middle and pulled away.

"Jim?" Spock's arm reached towards her and Jim started to reach back but the world dissolved before her eyes in shimmering lights as a transporter beam ripped her away.

xXx

Jim blinked in shock and her legs collapsed under her. One minute she had been fighting with Spock in her room in Shi'Kar and now? She squinted against the bright white of the transporter room surrounding and blinding her.

"Aye! I told yeh it was gonna work!"

"Yo moyo! She iz here! Transporter room to bridge! Keptin! It vorked!"

"Goddammit! Let me through!"

Jim's eyes finally focused. She was on the Enterprise. But they were still more than a week away on a mapping mission. Why the fuck was she here?

Scotty and Chekov were at the controls, whooping and celebrating and...crying?

Jim's vision was suddenly filled with blue fabric and then worried hazel eyes as Leo's face was there and way too close. She pulled away but his hands gripped her face and refused to let go. McCoy's brows were drawn down in worry and his face was scruffy, as if he hadn't shaved in at least a week. There were dark purple bruises under very red eyes as if he hadn't slept in a month but she'd only been gone a few days. Had something happened to Nyota or the baby?

"Jim? Jim! Say something!" He shouted and shook her.

"So loud." She whispered and the sensory overload caused her to cringe.

McCoy pointed to his head. "You see these gray hairs? Your fault! Every single goddamn one!"

Jim huffed a laugh but was still confused. McCoy started scanning her furiously but Jim noticed his eyes strayed to her far too often for him to be able to properly absorb the readings. It was as if he was reassuring himself she wouldn't disappear on him or as if he simply didn't believe that she was even there. "What's going on? Why am I here?"

McCoy stopped scanning and frowned at the readings. He started to prepare a hypo-

"Oh, no you don't! You promised me! Gah!" She glared and rubbed her neck.

"You have no idea how much I missed that sound!" He laughed, a wet and heartbroken sound escaping his mouth.

"Sadist."

"Baby." But there was no heat in his words. He dragged her to him in a crushing hug and he started shaking in her arms. "Leo? What's wrong?"

He frowned on confusion at the moniker and only squeezed her tighter and Jim didn't think he could hear her. Her shoulder became wet and Jim suddenly realized that was shaking because he was crying. She rubbed her hands up and down his back in an attempt to comfort him but it seemed to make him cry harder.

Scotty and Chekov joined them on the transporter pad and both of them seemed to have aged since she saw them last. Scotty had matching bags under his eyes and Chekov looked far too thin. Something wasn't adding up.

"Oh, lass! We thought we'd never get yeh back!" Scotty pulled everyone together and enveloped them in a group hug. A creeping suspicion started to settle in her mind. They never hugged. A slap on the back, a fist bump, and a shoulder nudge but a hug? She'd only ever been hugged by Bones and, even then, they were very few and very far between.

She started to wriggle under the combined weight of the three men but they refused to move, only holding her tighter which prevented her from moving. "Uh, guys?"

The pneumatic hiss of the door seemed to startle them into releasing her and Jim's heart clenched painfully when she saw Leo trying to wipe his eyes without anyone seeing.

Jim started to stand only to fall back down when her eyes saw who had come through the doors. "No! Nonononono!"

Lieutenant Sulu, a thin, not pregnant, long-haired Uhura, and a bowl-cut, gold clad, Captain Spock stepped through the door. Strangely, there was relief on all three faces but Jim wasn't feeling any form of relief. She was back in her universe. She'd been taken away from her Spock, Pike, Jo-Jo, Leo, and everyone back there.

She was supposed to be bonding with Spock in a few days! Amanda and Sarek had been harassing her for her formal robes to be fitted. She wasn't supposed to be here! She'd just started to come to terms with losing her old life and now she'd lost her new one!

McCoy's head turned to where Jim was staring in horror. He turned back, his face screwed up in confusion and worry. "Jim?"

"Send me back!" She pleaded with Scotty and everyone frowned at her reaction.

"Jim? It's ok, kid. You're safe. You're home, now." He talked to her in a voice one would use with a small, wounded animal and he carefully touched her but Jim jerked away and shook her head. "I'm not home. This isn't my home anymore!"

"Send me back! I don't belong here!" She told Scotty who looked almost scared at her reaction.

"You do belong here! What the hell are you talking about, Jim?" McCoy's hands slowly inched towards his medical bag.

Spock looked thinner as well and there were lines on his face that hadn't been there before but Jim didn't care right now. She just knew that she needed to get back to her Spock.

"Commander Kirk, welcome home."

Jim had never realized just how...cold this Spock sounded.

"This isn't my home anymore!" She shouted and Spock looked like she'd slapped him but he recovered quickly and frowned.

"This is your home."

"No, it isn't!" She snapped and pulled herself up.

Bones-she still couldn't believe that it was him-Bones's eyes flashed in anger. "What do you mean this isn't home?"

They didn't seem to understand. Why didn't they understand? "I don't belong here anymore." Jim's eyes burned and her vision blurred as tears started to well and spill over.

McCoy tried to touch her hands and Jim slapped at them to get him to stay away. "Don't." Her breath started to come in pants as she panicked. The walls seemed to be closing in on her, her friends from her former life were too close. Why was she here?

Spock reached towards her with a gold clad arm and Jim snarled at him. "Don't you dare touch me!"

There were too many hands trying to hold her and Jim couldn't cope. She'd lost him! She'd lost her Spock! They'd taken her from him.

She fought like a wild woman against the people who were now holding her. "Jim! You need to calm down! Breathe!"

She wasn't breathing? Jim sucked in a ragged breath. She needed him! She felt a warmer than human touch on her cheek and a small nudge in her mind urging calm and she recognized the touch but, at the same time, she didn't.

Images of the past two months started to spin behind her eyes like a movie on a mix of rewind and fast-forward. She saw Pike when he'd visited her in her quarters, Leo and Nyota, her belly round and she was glowing as she played with Jo-Jo showing her how to make a whistle from a blade of grass. Jim groaning as she tossed down her cards but smiling as Hendorff lays down his and pulls all of the poker chips towards himself with a grin, Jim being licked and pinned by I-Chaya, Amanda doubled over in loving laughter with her beautiful brown eyes so much like Spock's. The film slowed. She saw Spock watching her from the corner of her eye, the Spock she loved who was showing a hint of a smile when she becomes jokingly overdramatic at her losing to him in chess, Spock breathing hard beneath her when they sparred and she had him pinned, Spock kissing her, Spock hovering over her as he made love to her and whispered Vulcan words of adoration and love into her ear, Spock calling her...t'hy'la...

"GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" Jim screamed and kicked out hard. The film screeched to a halt as the fought against the intrusion and pushed him out of her mind. It was private. He was hers and she was his. She felt this Spock's surprise at her mental skill and strength and shock at what he was seeing.

She felt those same fingers touch her neck and then she knew nothing.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Four

Jim opened her eyes and she knew instinctively that it hadn't been a-a dream? Nightmare? Right now, she just felt numb. There was soft beeping to her left and she turned her head to look and saw, not the machine, not Leo but, Bones.

He was slumped half in a hard plastic chair next to her bed and half on her bed, his head so close to her hand that the short, soft strands of his hair tickled the side of her palm. The shadows under his eyes looked far more pronounced in the bright light of the medbay and the stubble on his face hadn't been shaved. He looked as if he was fifty rather than the thirty-six she knew him to be. She ran her fingers through his hair and he sighed and relaxed into her touch but didn't wake.

Her heart squeezed at the sight of her best friend looking so haggard. The last time she had seen him this bad had been after Khan's rampage.

"Oh, Bones." She murmured.

He had to have been beyond exhausted for him to have not woken up. He had always been so sensitive to his environment especially when in the medbay. The smallest change on a monitor would always have sent him from sleep to Doctor mode in seconds. It'd always been a major pain in her ass when she'd be sneaking into their shared dorm after a night out.

"The doctor was quite concerned with your reaction upon your return."

Spock's voice to her right caused her to stiffen and her hand froze in it's motions. It wasn't the same as her Spock's. Whereas his had been soft and soothing, this one's was harsh and clinical. It literally sounded like the computer that Bones frequently would accuse him of being.

She replied without turning, childishly hoping that if she didn't see him then he didn't exist.

"Well, it was a bit of a shock to go from one universe to another with no warning."

"Indeed, commander." A shift of fabric and the air next to her moved. She knew he had sat in the chair on her other side. He wasn't going anywhere.

She turned her head and stared at him balefully. "What do you want?"

He was exactly the same as she remembered. No. He was thinner, his eyes held a haunted look but they were focused on her with an intensity that she had never seen before and-and he looked tired.

Her scrutiny continued as she looked at him. He was so different from her Spock. The bowl-cut hairstyle was present without a hair out of place rather than the more human brushed back style she had become accustomed to. He was still wearing the gold command colors that just didn't look right on him and he was unnaturally stiff and straight-backed.

"I am here to receive a debriefing from the commander of my ship and to check on the health and welfare of said crew member."

Jim snorted. She knew exactly why he was here. "Cut the bullshit, Spock. I know you're here because you want to know if what you saw in my mind was true."

Spock's posture slumped and he placed his joined hands on the bed as if he needed it for support to keep himself from collapsing. "Yes." He whispered and it was like the word had been forced from him.

Jim's jaw clenched and she had to take a deep breath to calm herself to prevent the monitors on the bed from beeping and waking Bones. "It's true."

Spock closed his eyes as if in pain. "You had a romantic relationship with the Spock of that universe?"

"Yes."

"And you met...my mother?" He asked in a small voice.

"She's not your mother." She grit out. "She's his."

His eyes opened at her harsh words and they narrowed. He frowned in a mixture of confusion and anger. "And you wish to return to that other reality."

"Yes."

He stood up and tugged his uniform top to straighten it. He was hiding behind the persona of captain and it only served to anger Jim. "That will not happen as this is your home, commander. We cannot tamper with other universes and timelines. You have seen what happened in our own universe. It can have devastating consequences." She knew he was speaking of Nero and the destruction of his home world. She understood his pain and reasoning logically but she couldn't accept the loss of her place-her home that she had made in that alternate universe.

"Why can't I return?" She frowned and tight bands seemed to squeeze her chest at the thought of losing the man that she loved. "You know as well as I do that this is no longer my home and it's not like my being there caused any harm. It was my removal from there that is likely causing harm." She was worried about how her Spock was handling her abrupt departure and couldn't help her concern at just how far he would go to get her back considering the lengths he had gone to to keep her with him. What if he inadvertently tore the fabric of time and space itself to return her to him? What if it destroyed him completely? If her love for him was as strong as his for her just what would he do? She needed to prevent it. Jim couldn't let that happen.

She glared, her eyes turning from their usual blue to a cold steel gray. "It's not like I'm going to destroy worlds or start wars. I was happy there and so was my Spock." She threw up her hands in frustration. "Hell, even I-Chaya liked me."

"You have no knowledge of how your appearance in that other timeline could affect future events. This is where you are supposed to be and my word is final, Commander Kirk!" He snapped.

Bones snorted in sleep and turned his head away from them. Spock took a deep breath and calmed slightly. "The doctor, as well as the crew, worked tirelessly to bring you back here. They did not...function well without your presence. You were..." He hesitated as he thought of the best word. "...missed a great deal."

Jim wondered if what he was saying also encompassed him. She shook herself, dismissing that thought. It didn't matter if it did. He had made his opinion of her very clear.

"They would have survived without me." She sighed and remembered her own efforts to return. "I tried to get back, too." She told him softly. Her guilt at abandoning her work had almost destroyed her but she'd had support to move on and she'd stupidly hoped that her friends and family would have to. Jim had had no idea of the love that they'd had for her, her pain from this Spock's rejection had severely clouded her judgement and had made her feel unworthy of such devotion.

"Indeed?"

She laughed but it was bitter and tasted sour on her tongue. "I did."

"Then you understand the extreme efforts involved and should appreciate the work that the crew did to return you home." He told her.

"I do." She bit her lip. There was guilt and she really did understand. She had had the same exact feelings. She loved them but she had come to accept the loss of her old life and she had thought that they would have done the same. "The longer I spent there and built relationships with the people there the more I became torn between staying and going. It was a battle between duty and responsibility on one side with potential love and happiness on the other."

Her eyes started to burn and she blinked back the tears that threatened. She would never let him see her cry. She wouldn't allow herself to be weak in front of him. Ever. "Did you know that my Spock had actually sabotaged my work to keep me there?"

Spock's eyes widened in surprise. "No. I did not."

She smiled in sadness. She had been so angry and her last words to him had been so awful, designed to hurt him and she regretted them so much. Would he even look for her after what she'd said? "He loved me."

Spock's brows drew down and his jaw jutted forward. "He is not your Spock. You would do well to remember this. You will not be returning to that existence."

Jim opened her mouth to argue but he clearly deemed the conversation to be over. Spock spun on his heel but Jim sure as fuck wasn't done. "He is my Spock!" She shouted at his back and he froze.

"He. Is. Not. Stating a falsehood repeatedly does not make it true. You are not naturally from there. This is your home and this is where you will remain." He bit out and refused to face her, his back and shoulders angry and tense.

Jim's breathing sped up and her heart beat a violent tattoo in her throat. She couldn't stay here! "He is t'hy'la!"

Spock turned and stormed to her side. He gripped the rails and Jim saw the metal bend and warp under his fingers. "Do you even know what that word means? That universe is not your home and I forbid you to return there!"

How dare he! "I know exactly what it means." She whispered low and dangerous. She knew she was playing with fire and she wasn't afraid. Jim may not know the exact translation but she did instinctively feel what it was. The way Spock would say it to her with such reverence and awe let her know it's definition. "It means I am his and he is mine. It means that we are meant to be. It means that we are soulmates and he is my everything. He is my other half in every way. I will go back whether or not you forbid it and I can promise you that!"

Spock's eyes darkened and she could feel the tension crackling in the air. "Do you not care for this crew or for your friends and your family? Do you feel nothing what they went through at the loss of you? Do you even realize how hard they worked to get you home and how their grief consumed them when it seemed all was lost? If you leave it means that everything they worked for was for naught and that you do not value them as they do you. I will not allow you to return to that universe and I will do all in my power to stop any efforts that you or anyone else may undertake to make that happen." His voice was harsh and cold and she knew that he would go through with his threat. After all, a Vulcan never lies.

Jim's jaw hurt from clenching it so tight and her hands fisted tight enough that her nails cut into her palms enough to cause stinging pain. "Why? Do you enjoy seeing me suffer? I was happy, you son of a bitch!" She hissed at him.

"No. It is not that. I do not enjoy your suffering but you are not his."

"Then who's am I because I certainly am not yours! You've made that pretty clear over the past year when you wouldn't even be my friend." She argued back and Spock's eyes narrowed dangerously.

"You understand nothing!" His face blanked but his eyes still held the anger that he had shown moments before. "You would do well to accept your position and circumstances, commander."

"Aye, Sir." She spat his title as if it was an insult and she knew he heard asshole clearly. She rolled away from him and curled up in a fetal position to dismiss him. Footsteps receded behind her as he left and Jim closed her eyes in pain.

xXx

Jim sat still and silent, staring straight ahead with blank eyes as Bones ran his tricorder over her body. Spock's words spun around in her head creating an insidious, poisonous anger.

She'd heard that the crew had been trying to visit her through Nurse Chell and she had refused to see them but she couldn't escape her best friend. The sound of metal clanging snapped her out of it and she flinched away. She turned to see a very angry Dr. McCoy facing her.

"God damn it, Jim! Talk to me! What the hell was that on the transporter pad?" He threw up his hands. "What happened to you?!? Talk to me!" He pleaded with her and she could see he was close to breaking. His eyes were still red-rimmed and his, normally steady, hands were shaking. When had he last slept properly? She'd known her disappearance would have been hard on him but this was extreme.

She reached out and gripped them, squeezing his fingers and pulling him to her in a hug which he returned fiercely. "Oh, God, Bones. It's ok. Everything's ok." It wasn't but he clearly needed to hear the lie.

His hands twisted in the fabric of her blue medical scrubs. "We thought we'd lost you. I had to write your death certificate."

She had to swallow down the hard lump of guilt that had settled in her throat. Was she selfish to want to leave them and to leave Bones without a second thought? Here was the painful proof of just how much she was loved. They had literally gone to the ends of the universe and into the next one to find her.

"And then Selek told us where you might be and how awful that mirror universe was and we were so horrified at the thought of you staying there. What if we were too late?" She rubbed soothing circles on his back and waited for him to calm.

It took a further ten minutes for him to release her and pull back. His hazel eyes, still bright with tears, met her blue ones. "Were we too late?" Hands, far steadier now, gently brushed her hair away from her face and moved to grip her shoulders as he fixed her with an intense look. "What happened over there for you to be so traumatized on that transporter pad?"

She couldn't answer. She wasn't ready. She turned away and focused on the wall in front of her, mute and expressionless. Spock was going to force her to stay. What was it with the Spocks of any universe deciding what they wanted for her and not asking her? The sensation of helplessness made her feel almost dead inside. She was once again faced with an impossible choice. Where should she call home?

McCoy moved to get in her line of sight and carefully touched her hands. "Jim? Kid? I need you to talk to me." Jim slowly looked down. Bones was scared at her silence. "There's something I found when I examined you that I need to tell you but I need to know..." Her friend closed his eyes in pain for a minute and when he opened them Jim could see his worry etched on every line of his face. "Did they hurt you? Were you forced-" He couldn't finish. He swallowed looking sick and Jim suddenly gripped his hands.

"No. God, no!" What had he found? "What are you talking about? No one hurt me!"

McCoy looked skeptical and she knew that he was adding everything up and coming to the wrong conclusion. "Now, Jim, I saw that you had two separate fractures on your left leg that had been healed, a broken wrist, cracked ribs, burns on your face and hands that had were deep enough that the evidence is still detectable with a deep tissue scan and a recently broken cheekbone." He swallowed, looking sick. "It looks like you were tortured and then there's one more thing."

"Bones-" She knew what it looked like but most of those injuries had been from Beta Sigma and the rest were from Sarpeidon. What had he found?

"I need to know, as your doctor and your friend, what happened over there!"

Jim's stiffened and pulled away. "What the fuck? Bones, no one hurt me! I promise!"

Bones put his hands up and his voice became a level, calm, steady thing that she'd heard him use with traumatized crew members and small children. "Now, Jim, I know that you might believe that but it makes sense. The injuries and your desperation to return to that place even though you're now home and with your friends, and-"

Jim threw off the blanket and stood up. This was really not fucking happening! "I don't have Stockholm Syndrome! I was happy there! That's why I wanted to go back! I got hurt from Beta Sigma Starbase when that panel exploded on me and I broke my leg on an away mission when I was over there, ok?"

McCoy's entire demeanor changed but he still looked skeptical of her answer. A nurse poked her head in at the noise but he waved her away to give them privacy. "I need you to tell me what happened, kid."

Jim sat back down heavily on the biobed and told him everything. A few times her friend balked at her story but he mostly remained silent and let her talk. It felt good to unload. He didn't judge her. He didn't say anything other than to ask for clarification on her injuries. He just listened.

Jim wasn't sure what he thought about her relationship with the Spock of that other universe. She hoped he didn't think it was wrong and that she'd simply transferred her past feelings for the captain to him and she prayed he understood. She loved that Spock. She loved him and it was because it was him and he was different. It felt alien here now that she'd been over there. It was almost like the world was muted and the colors dull and she knew it was because she didn't have her Spock with her. He was her home.

"That would explain everything and-uh-" He paused and looked guilty.

Jim narrowed her eyes. "What?"

"You remember when we were at Xthalanu and you got hit by that spear?"

"Ye-es?" She prompted.

McCoy ran a hand through his hair, his bangs falling onto his forehead. "You were due for a shot."

Jim snorted. "With you, I'm, apparently, always due for a shot. I think you like it a little too much. Maybe Dr. Dehner in psych can help you work on that."

He raised an eyebrow at her sarcasm. "Smartass."

"You know the other Leonard McCoy was the same. It kind of scares me that even across universes all of you enjoy stabbing me."

He rolled his eyes and Jim had to admit to herself that she had missed seeing that more than anything. She had missed him.

Jim shifted on the bed. "So, what does an away mission injury from four months ago and some shot I missed have to do with something you picked up on a medical scan now?"

His brow furrowed and he looked really guilty now. "Well, in all the chaos that resulted your exam got shoved to the side. There was the emergency surgery, the infection-"

Jim raised an eyebrow telling him to get to the point.

"It was your bi-annual birth control shot."

"Shit."

And then it really hit. What he was telling her. "That Vulcan son of a bitch! He knocked me up!" Her eyes narrowed at McCoy. "I thought men had birth control, too."

He threw his hands up. "Hey, he's not my responsibility. He's this 'Leo's'." He even added quotation marks complete with hand gestures. "And there is such a thing as condoms."

"It's a bit late for that, isn't it?" She snapped.

McCoy chuckled at her expense. "I'll say."

Jim winced. "Well, it was in a cave. We didn't exactly have prophylactics on hand."

McCoy shot her a distinctly unimpressed look. "A cave."

"And there was a fire."

"A fire." He repeated and tilted his head.

"And animal furs." Jim sighed over dramatically and smiled mock dreamily. "It was all really hot."

That got the reaction she'd been hoping for. Bones looked mortified. "Good god, woman! It's like a scene from a bad porno! I don't need to know all that! You're like my sister!" He shuddered. "I'm gonna need brain bleach! Gah!"

Jim glared. "Serves you right!" She jabbed a finger in his direction. "This is all your fault!"

"My fault? I wasn't exactly there cheering you and Spock on from the sidelines."

"Birth. Control. Shot." She reminded him and McCoy returned her wince.

Jim lay a hand on her still flat belly. She was pregnant. And alone. With her Spock's baby. She didn't know what to think. She was happy even though babies had definitely not been in her life plans...ever, but she didn't have Spock to do this with her. If she never got back then he'd never meet his son or daughter.

"He didn't know."

"Who didn't know what?" He asked.

"My Spock. He didn't know about the pregnancy." She murmured and an arm wound around her shoulders.

"Ah, kid. Nobody knew. It's early. If you spotted then you may have just thought it was just a light cycle." He gave her a squeeze and Jim leaned towards him and lay her head on his shoulder.

Jim suddenly straightened, remembering her visit to Spock's parents and I-Chaya's strange behavior. Had Sarek known? Had that been why there had been so much pressure for her and Spock to bond? It really was a damn shotgun wedding! Vulcans were sneaky bastards!

"I think Sarek and I-Chaya knew. Probably Amanda." Jim laughed. "I think he wanted me to make an honest Vulcan out of his son when he was planning our ceremony."

McCoy snorted. "I don't think he was ever that honest and pure if what you told me you two did in that cave was any indication."

Jim smirked and wiggled her eyebrows and he rolled his eyes.

His arm tightened and he yanked her back to him. "I am sorry, kid."

Jim shrugged and let her prickly cactus marshmallow friend do what he wished.

"You do know when I said I wanted to go back it wasn't a case of me choosing him over you. I love you. You're my brother from another mother." He snorted to hide a laugh but she heard it just the same. "There was just a peace there that I'd never felt before and I loved him, too."

"Yeah, kid. I know."