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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