Spock was not surprised that the Enterprise had been chosen to convey the surviving Vulcan High Council to their new settlement. Not only had the Enterprise saved what remained of the council, but this would be a high profile maiden voyage for the newest and youngest captain in Starfleet.
Admiral Pike had referred to it as public relations gold, adding it helped that the trip was likely to be uneventful. Spock had merely nodded at the admiral's statement. The James T. Kirk of his timeline did not make uneventful trips and, no matter the changes, it was a predilection evidence suggested this timeline's Kirk shared.
It had pleased him to discover that this Christopher Pike would walk again as a result of nothing more miraculous than physical therapy and dogged determination. For the sake of his control, he was just as glad they'd had so little time to speak outside of official functions before he'd had to depart.
It had turned out to be impossible to keep his identity a secret. He'd offered to remain in his quarters but Captain Kirk had smiled and given him free run of the ship adding, "It became a whole new world twenty-five years ago, I doubt there's anything you can fuck up. Just don't gang up on me with yourself and you're good to go."
This Enterprise was not quite Spock's Enterprise -- the layout was similar, but the details were not. Changes in the timeline after the destruction of the Kelvin had resulted in new features, new technology, more… shine. She sounded the same though, felt the same, even smelled the same, strangely enough. Reaching out, he could touch what his Kirk had insisted, against all empirical evidence, was her soul -- that immeasurable something beyond computers and warp drives that made her more than just any ship, that made her uniquely herself. Such a belief was neither rational nor scientific but Spock had long ago stopped arguing against what he knew he felt and this new Enterprise was as strong and as beautiful as he remembered.
Her most overt changes were in engineering where the design, if not the technology, seemed to have slipped slightly… sideways.
"Mr. Spock." Computer interface on his lap, feet up on the desk, Montgomery Scott had already put his mark on the office of the chief engineer. There was, fortunately, no sign of the tribble, but otherwise the desk and environs were remarkably similar to what he'd had at the station on Delta Vega. "I don't suppose you've come by to tell me that future me came up with a way to keep microscopic particles out of my dilithium chambers?"
"I am not aware of it if you did. However, I have no doubt that you will find a solution."
"You have no doubt?"
"I do not."
"Well, thanks. So, what can I do for you? You're not hiding out from your younger self are you?" Spock lifted a brow as Mr. Scott leaned forward and continued, "Because, just between you and me, he can be a bit pedantic at times."
"I am not hiding. I have come to bid you farewell."
"You're not leaving now, we're still in warp."
Mr. Scott's grin was familiar, so like the grin that belonged to one of the few men Spock had called friend that he had to take a moment before he could reply. "No, but soon. And I doubt we will have time for a personal leave taking once we reach the settlement."
"Ah. Expecting you to pull a miracle out of your ass and save the Vulcan race are they?"
"See, you say not exactly and I hear a little bit." Scott's grin broadened and his eyes crinkled at the corners. Spock couldn't remember if his Montgomery Scott's face had ever fallen into a similar expression. The time since his death had blurred the details. "Don't let them get too dependent. You save the day once and all of a sudden it's Scotty can you give me a bit more and the hell if the engines canna take any more. Right?"
Spock stopped trying not to smile. "More right than you know, Mr. Scott."
"Well, if it's goodbye then…" The bottle pulled from the lower drawer came as no surprise. "…we'd best raise a glass to calm seas, old friends, and willing women."
"About that matter…"
"It is possible that some day in the future, during a leave on Argellius II, you will meet a dancer named Kara."
Mr. Scott raised his glass. "I like the sound of that."
"Do not go with her into a fog-shrouded alley. You will be accused of killing her."
No Montgomery Scott in any timeline would waste scotch. He managed to swallow before choking out, "I will?"
"Yes." Spock savored the familiar burn of the whiskey.
"Okay." Mr. Scott refilled his glass and extended the bottle. "Thanks for the warning then."
"You are welcome."
He found Mr. Sulu and Ensign Chekov in the gymnasium, stripped to the waist, the helmsman training the young Russian to fence with wooden practice swords. Although, a closer observation forced Spock to admit a more accurate description might be that Mr. Sulu was beating on Ensign Chekov with a wooden practice sword.
When Chekov finally yielded, he muttered something in Russian under his breath.
"What?" Sulu demanded, picking up a towel and rubbing at the sweat on his chest.
"He wishes to engage you in Greco-Roman wrestling where he could, I believe the translation is, pin your ass to the mat. Or did you intend that to be a surprise?" Spock added as Chekov blushed.
Not even superior Vulcan hearing could pick the details of the younger man's reply out of the rapid mumble. Sulu stepped forward before Spock could ask Chekov to repeat himself. "Were you looking for someone, sir?"
"I was looking for you. For you both." He had not been particularly close to the two young officers but… "We served together for a long time, your counterparts and I. You were not quite so young as this when we first met but still, I watched you both become fine Starfleet officers, the kind of men that history will call heroes. Given what you have both already accomplished, I will watch your further careers with interest. You honour the men I knew."
Sulu ducked his head, the gesture familiar. "Thank you, sir."
"Mr. Spock, may I…"
Spock watched with interest as the ensign's cheeks darkened nearly enough to mask the freckles.
"…may I ask you a question?"
"Are we in an alternate universe or are you?"
Spock smiled then. "I believe we are in it together, Ensign Chekov, Pavel Andreievich." He nodded, turned to go then paused. "Mr. Sulu."
"There is an old Earth song, I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen; do you know it?"
Lieutenant Uhura was in her quarters but age, Spock felt, gave him permission for certain liberties he might not have otherwise taken.
She took a half dozen steps back when he asked if he might enter, a silent acquiescence. "This is weird," she said when the door closed behind him.
"There will come a time," he told her, "when this will not even register on any scale of weird you might use."
She did not look much like the Nyota Uhura he had served with, so much thinner, her hair longer… then she smiled and he saw the woman he had known. "You're not him, are you?"
"No. I am myself."
"And he won't be you." When he raised a brow, she grinned and raised an answering hand. "I'm not saying that's a good thing, that he won't be you. I'm just saying that he too, will be himself."
"Yes. He has chosen a path that was not mine."
Her brows dipped down. "And you don't approve?"
"My approval is neither necessary nor relevant. However, since you ask, the Uhura I knew was beautiful, intelligent, strong, wise, and courageous. She was one of the few people I called friend."
"But it can not be easy for you."
She folded her arms. "Anything worth having is worth fighting for. The Spock I know is handsome, intelligent, strong, wise, and courageous. And maybe it isn't forever, you of all people should know there are no absolutes, but, right now, we have what we have."
He bowed his head. "He is lucky to have you."
The familiar smile returned. "True. But you didn't come here to tell me that."
"True. And while it is also true that your future is not my past, should there come a time when circumstances throw you and the captain together…"
"Oh, I don't think so."
He ignored her interjection as he was intended to. "…he will understand."
"He will? Spock will? My Spock?"
"Yes." He stepped back into the proximity field and the door opened. "Good bye, Nyota Uhura. I am truly happy to have met you again."
"Spock." She stopped him with a word but then, words were her tools. Standing where he had left her, she examined him through narrowed eyes. "How do you know he'll understand?"
Smiling, he told her as much as he was able to and possibly more than he should but then in this, at least, he had never been particularly wise. "Because I did."
Sickbay looked different but smelled the same. He was not surprised to find Dr. McCoy waiting for him.
"That memory transfer thing you did," the doctor growled the moment the door to his office closed, "it left a few extra memories behind. Seems you strayed a little from the facts." His gesture sketched abstract distances in the air.
"It is as much an emotional meld as a factual one," Spock admitted.
"I thought your people didn't do emotions?" Dr. McCoy's visible hand had curled into a fist, the knuckles white. "You keep it all bottled up and corked with logic."
"It is illogical for you to be angry with me." Spock sat in the other chair and laced his fingers together. "The James Kirk I knew, is not the James Kirk you… know."
"He dreams about you."
He was tempted to ask if Dr. McCoy had received that information as the captain's physician but he was not here to prod the doctor into bluster, even for old time's sake. "I am sorry for that. Seeing him again…" His Jim Kirk had been dead and buried for fourteen years. It was very likely, had he not gone through the singularity, that he would have had to live another fifty years in a universe without a Jim Kirk. "My control was not what it should have been and the meld went deeper than it should have. The impressions will fade in time."
"How long? Because he looks at you, the other you, and…"
"I have absolute faith in Lieutenant Uhura's ability to keep that from escalating."
Dr. McCoy opened his mouth and closed it again, his expression clearly stating he had not considered that factor.
"And for what it is worth, I dream about you."
The shudder was impressive. "Oh, I didn't need to know that."
"The Leonard McCoy I knew kept a bottle of bourbon in the lower right hand drawer of his desk. And if you can not use a drink, I can, as this conversation has reminded me of the imposed memory pertaining to how Jim used positive reinforcement to cure you of your astrophobia…"
"I seemed to me that your fear was not so much of flying, but of flying in space, although," he added thoughtfully, "I admit I was distracted by Jim's unique methods of…"
"You don't need to be distracted by that!" Dr. McCoy snapped, reaching for the drawer, his cheeks flushed. "The last thing I need is to have some pointy-eared, emotionally impaired hobgoblin with access to my… positive reinforcement. As if things aren't complicated enough already. Every time I look at you -- him -- I'm going to know that you know, even if he doesn't know. And another thing…"
Spock let the familiar voice wash over him, the south growing stronger as the doctor became increasing impassioned, and felt more at home than he had for a very long time.
He could not say goodbye to Jim. Not again.
Standing on the transporter pad, surrounded by the surviving members of the Vulcan High Council, Spock reached out with his mind and, for possibly the last time, touched the steel and star-bright lady James Tiberius Kirk had loved more than any man or woman of mere flesh and bone.
As the transporter effect drew lines of light across even his inner eye, he murmured, "Take care of him for me."