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“Fuck!”

Kirk’s fist impacted his desk although he would rather it had been Admiral Fitzpatrick’s smug face. Staring at the now blank screen, he flexed his hand and winced in pain.

It was a relief to be able to vent his frustration here in the privacy of his quarters. He’d been working hard during the few short months of his command not to have those kind of emotional displays on the bridge and to generally behave professionally. It was hard, though. He didn’t have the benefit of having worked his way up the ranks where he might have picked up useful tips and techniques from his superiors, learning by trial and error and gaining a well-rounded experience. Instead, he’d gone straight from cadet to captain, thrown in at the deep end in the glare of the spotlight. Whatever he did, sink or swim, everyone would know about it.

So, he did the only thing he could do and fell back on his basic command training. They had taught him about shadow of the leader – your crew will follow your example. Be the person you want to see in them.

His mouth twisted into a smile – he had no doubt that the shadow cast across the science department by its boss would ensure it ran like clockwork, all staff at peak efficiency. With Number One deciding to leave with Pike, it had fallen to Spock to take over the role of first officer in addition to his science officer duties and as such, he was going to have his work cut out for him. At least StarFleet had recognized this challenge and had had the decency to promote him to full commander.

Absent-mindedly Kirk rubbed his sore hand and sighed, his mind back on his new orders. In a way, he could understand Fitzpatrick taking them off their patrol duty on the Klingon border – there hadn’t been any sign of their long-term enemies since the Narada had decimated their fleet. Not that he was complaining. Realizing there was little likelihood of any incursions into Federation space, he and Spock had turned their patrol into a shake-down cruise, devising scenarios to practice drills and procedures in order to get the crew shipshape, and it was already paying off. It had helped that they picked up some seasoned crew before leaving Earth, so they weren’t all wet-behind-the-ears cadets.

Because they were making such progress, it was even more galling that were sending them to pick up some Vulcan healer and transport him to the new Vulcan colony – he didn’t want milk-runs. He’d signed up for the excitement of exploring space and he’d been preparing his crew for that eventuality. When he’d asked the admiral, ‘may I know the reason for these orders?’ he’d gotten a curt, ‘no you may not’. Kirk had never been big on authority, and the irony of not just his expectation, but the necessity that his crew obey him, was not lost on him. Even so, Fitzpatrick’s rebuff had seriously pissed him off.

Reviewing his next step to fulfill his new orders, a thought struck him. He, Spock and McCoy had devised a drill scenario involving serious injury to an away team in a remote location, which was scheduled for the following day and would now have to be postponed. It was one thing running it when they were doing nothing more than drifting up and down some arbitrary line in space which formed the demarcation point between Federation territory and the Klingon empire. It was quite another to do it while on a mission. He was sure, being a straight-forward ferry, they’d have time to run it before getting to the colony, he just needed to figure out when would be a good time.

Meanwhile, he thought with a sigh, no doubt he would bear the brunt of the doctor’s irritation. They’d probably end up arguing over it until he was forced to assert his captainly authority – not that Bones took much notice of him even then.

For as long as he’d known the doctor, they’d bickered like siblings – often getting on each other’s nerves, but underneath there existed an unquestioned, brotherly love. In an odd way, Bones was far closer to him any of his family had ever been. Really, his own ‘flesh and blood’ had never really seemed like a family. Fate may have taken his father away, but in a way, it had taken his mom, too. Even when she wasn’t absent, she had never really been there.
Jim and his brother had quickly learnt to be independent, to rely on themselves. Sam had taken off as soon as he could and it wasn’t long before Jim did the same.

That day he’d met Bones in the shuttle and he’d shared his flask, the doctor set a precedent which he’d followed throughout their Academy days, looking out for Kirk and taking care of him when he needed it. In turn, he learned over time to channel his excess energy away from bar-room brawls which had always led to Bones cussing him out, but always fixing him up, switching instead to frequent sexual encounters.

His attitude to sex was ‘if it feels good, do it’, but he’d never crossed that line with Bones, not that the doctor had ever shown any interest in that direction, even at his most inebriated. He knew Bones considered him to be too promiscuous and didn’t think it was healthy. But it suited him. Not everyone was destined to find their One True Love as his mom had done – and that hadn’t lasted.

For all his faults, Bones was a loyal friend and he wouldn’t change him for the world. For that reason, he was quite prepared to patiently listen to the doctor’s inevitable griping when he let him know about his drill being postponed until further notice.

Kirk switched his focus from his fond musing back to the present and leaning forward, flicked a switch. “Captain Kirk to bridge.” He didn’t need to give his full title, but he did, just because he liked the sound of it. Eventually the novelty would wear off.

“Bridge, Uhura here, sir.” Now here was a model of efficiency, he thought, though he doubted very much it was anything to do with any example he had set. That accolade rested with the person currently occupying the captain’s chair. He pictured Spock in it right at that moment, not sprawled in the seat the way he tended to, but upright and professional. Aware that Uhura was taking a message from the captain, his body would be suddenly stilled and a little stiffer, his head slightly turned towards her, alert. He’d seen Spock do it countless times in the few months since they’d left Earth, when messages came in from StarFleet or when he himself came onto the bridge, waiting to hear what would be required of him. Kirk smiled, bemusedly, wondering when he’d become such a Spock-watcher.

Well, it was hard not to watch Spock. The Vulcan was someone he found both fascinating and frustrating, depending on the situation and whether he was getting his own way or not. When he moved he exhibited an almost feline gracefulness, and when coupled with his awesome strength and good looks, it was quite a heady combination. When Spock walked into a room, everyone noticed. Yet in the time he’d worked with his First, he’d come to realize that Spock seemed to be completely unaware of his own natural charisma. In that the two of them were poles apart – Kirk knew exactly what effect he had when walking into a room. That difference between them amused him.

“Patch me through to Spock, Lieutenant,” he said, his voice holding the smile he was still wearing, knowing her sensitive ears would pick it up. She would know, then, not to worry about the new orders she had earlier relayed to his quarters.

“Captain,” the deep voice came through.

“New orders, Mr. Spock. Urgent and high priority. Alter course to Gamma Castor III, warp 5. We’re picking up one of your compatriots and transporting him to the new colony.”

“Indeed, Captain. Acknowledged and understood.”

Kirk could picture the eyebrow lift in his mind’s eye. Having met both Spock the older and younger at almost the same time, one of the things he’d noticed was that although the ambassador’s face was so much more expressive than his younger counterpart’s, his first officer’s depth of emotional reaction could be measured by the degree of elevation of one or both of his eyebrows.

“Might I…have a word with you in my quarters, Mr. Spock?” He wanted to know more about whoever this Vulcan was who had been responsible for diverting an entire starship and her four hundred crew from patrol duties.

“Affirmative, sir. I shall be there after I have supervised the course change.”

“Very good, Spock. Kirk out.” He flicked the switch to ‘off’ and leaned back in his chair. He would have preferred a little less formality, but he knew that all intraship communications were automatically logged. At least he’d gotten rid of the protocol of crew members saluting him everywhere he went. It made walking down corridors and entering various departmental areas much more pleasant, to be greeted by ‘Good morning/afternoon/evening, Captain,’ rather than everyone stopping and snapping to attention. There were only so many times he could say ‘as you were’ in a day, before it got to be annoying.

He stared, unseeing at his desk and considered Spock. And Uhura. His sixth sense told him something was going on there. Something not good. He was unsure when he’d begun to notice a subtle tension between them, but he’d bet money on it, dating back at least to when they’d departed from Earth.

But…how to broach it with Spock? It wasn’t that he was prying, but as senior bridge officers, he wanted an assurance that any issues between them wouldn’t affect their performance. If he’d noticed something was wrong, he was damn certain others would have too. He shook his head. While he and Spock had spent a good deal of time the past few weeks working closely together on the drills and had spent at least every other evening in the rec room playing chess, when it came to learning anything of a personal nature, he knew he stood more chance getting a charitable donation from a Ferengi.

As for Uhura, there was no use approaching her. He knew she still didn’t trust him, and he couldn’t blame her. It wasn’t just having to try to erase three years of conditioning. She still hadn’t forgiven him for sleeping with her roommate, Gaila, and persuading her to give him the code that he used to hack into the Academy computer system; the code that had allowed him to change the parameters of the Kobayashi Maru scenario and win the battle.

While surrounded by bemused cadets in the simulator as he munched on his apple with a smirk, he knew by the look Uhura had given him in his moment of victory that she’d guessed what had happened.

She’d gone ballistic when she’d next seen him right before the hearing, telling him that Gaila had confessed everything to her under duress, no doubt confirming him in Uhura’s mind as the low-life she’d always believed him to be. But to protect her naïve friend, Uhura had held back the information from Spock so that Gaila would not have to go through a disciplinary hearing along with him, and possibly get kicked out of the ‘Fleet in disgrace.

He was certain Uhura would have gotten over it if compromising her relationship with Spock in that way had been all there was to it. But Kirk knew Uhura’s secret. Far worse for her was the burden of guilt she carried. Had she spoken up, Gaila would have been grounded along with him, and she would still be alive.

The Inquiry had resumed after they’d returned and he’d done a backroom deal with Pike to tell them how he’d hacked into the system if they would drop all charges. The Admiral had quickly agreed – too quickly, he’d realized almost at once. He hadn’t known then, they’d already decided to give him the Enterprise.

A side-note to the hearing which continued to cause him amusement, had come after they’d dropped charges against Bones for smuggling him on board. The big surprise – and up to then he’d have sworn that Spock was a stickler for the rules – was when they’d questioned his First’s last-minute decision to switch Uhura from the Farragut to the Enterprise. On hearing this news, he’d been unable to hold back a smirk which Spock had caught. This had elicited a slight furrowing of the brows, which was about as big an emotional reaction as the Vulcan normally allowed himself when he wasn’t losing it and strangling the shit out of him, and it had pleased him immensely. Naturally the explanation that had followed had been entirely logical, and Spock had studiously avoided looking at him and his ever widening grin.

Kirk was still smiling at the memory when his door chimed.

“Come.”

Spock stepped in and paused just inside the door as it closed.

“Take a seat,” he said and indicated the one on the other side of his desk.

The Vulcan gracefully sat and made eye contact. There was something he enjoyed about Spock’s company. The past few weeks of working closely together had been productive and enjoyable. There were no games, no bullshit. He could be himself and as long as he wasn’t being unprofessional, Spock didn’t judge him. They were still feeling their way around each other and on occasion they still butted heads, but they were getting there. But there were quite clearly delineated boundaries too, and Kirk knew that he was about to cross a line and was more than likely to be rebuffed. Still, it was in his nature to push.

As soon Spock sat, Kirk jumped up and began pacing, thinking how best to open this conversation. He stopped and looked at his first officer, the wariness he could sense immediately putting him on the alert.

“Do you know why StarFleet has made picking up this Vulcan healer such a priority?” Kirk knew that Spock had been receiving regular updates from Sarek, so if anyone knew, his First would.

There was an infinitesimal pause, and Kirk spotted it right away. In that moment, he knew Spock was going to be evasive and sighed inwardly, anticipating another one of their confrontations.

“I believe, Captain, that surviving Vulcans will have need of many healers in the months to come.”

“Yes but…” Kirk stopped himself, not wanting to say anything that could cause offense by implying he was unconcerned about the fate of Spock’s people. He ran through several responses in his head, discarding each as condescending, incendiary or just plain insensitive. “Can you explain it to me? I don’t understand the urgency – the majority of the survivors weren’t anywhere near Vulcan when…I mean…they weren’t injured.”

“Not physically, Captain.”

He sighed. Pulling teeth must surely be easier. “Then…?” Kirk watched as Spock tensed almost imperceptibly. The subtle body language wasn’t something the average crew member would pick up, but he’d gotten quite good at reading it lately. “Help me out here, Spock,” he pleaded.

Spock looked at his hands clasped in his lap. “I…cannot.”

Standing beside him, Kirk looked helplessly down at him. There was something in the Vulcan’s tone of voice that left him feeling he could hit him and hug him: hit him out of sheer frustration, and hug him because he’d lost so much. Every now and again, he glimpsed a vulnerability behind the composed façade that brought something out in him that he’d spent most of his miserable life burying beneath his carefully cultivated devil-may-care image – that he cared.

“Cannot, or will not?” Kirk asked. Spock had a way of keeping his head level and looking up with just his eyes in a way that somehow gave the impression of both insolence and menace. When his First remained stubbornly silent, Kirk felt his anger rise. What the hell was such a big secret?

Since his persuasive technique was failing miserably, he decided to play his trump card. “What if I order you to?”

When Spock remained silent, Kirk snapped. “Starfleet,” he began through clenched teeth, “has ordered an entire ship of four hundred crew off patrol to pick up one goddamn healer and all I would like to know is why.”

Spock stood up abruptly, invading Kirk’s space and he recognized the intimidating tactic for what it was. It was Spock’s way of telling him to back off when words failed. “Only one in every six hundred thousand of my people survived Nero’s genocide and you begrudge them the assistance needed to rebuild their lives.”

Spock’s inference really pissed off Kirk, because he knew the Vulcan was aware of his own feelings on the matter and was disregarding them just to be deliberately obstructive.

“You know damn well that’s not what’s motivating my question—”

“Then desist with your prying.” The voice held a quiet intensity.

Spock’s face was no more than twenty centimeters from his; close enough that he could feel the Vulcan’s hot breath gushing across his face, and got a feeling of déjà vu, to that time during the Narada crisis. He knew how to get under his First’s defenses in a way no-one else could, including McCoy, whose relationship with Spock was so stormy.

Just from Spock’s behavior, Kirk was certain his First knew more than he was letting on and it galled him. Refusing to be intimidated, he tried his own form of controlled aggression. “I just want to know what so special about this one fucking Vulcan!

Spock remained outwardly calm, his voice quiet, but at some subliminal level, Kirk knew he was breaking through the armor. “You will cease to speak of Soveran in such a manner.”

Bingo. He’d not mentioned the healer’s name. It was hard for Kirk not to show triumph, and with Spock’s face so close to his, the Vulcan’s realization of his slip showed in the slight widening of his eyes.

“So it’s ‘will not’, then,” Kirk said quietly. Now he had confirmation of what he’d guessed all along.

He had one of those insane thoughts that sometimes pinged into his head, that he only needed lean forward a few centimeters and he could kiss Spock. Now that would get a reaction.

As if sensing what Kirk was thinking, Spock moved back a step and Kirk was momentarily captivated as he watched the Vulcan regain his deadpan expression and then turn his attention to some unfocused point in the distance. “Captain…Jim,” he said, quietly, “do not ask this of me. There are some things which transcend the discipline of the service.”

Now, what was that supposed to mean? Kirk knew he had no real right to push Spock, that he was under no obligation to explain, especially after the Admiral had also refused his request for more information.

He waited, giving Spock a chance to add to his statement, but finally gave up when he was certain nothing more would be forthcoming. While he may not have gotten his answer, he basked in his minor victory of having made Spock slip up, and decided to let the matter drop. His First might not be willing to spill the beans, but he had one more source he could tap.

He sat back down at his desk and decided to give the other thing on his mind a shot.

“What’s with you and Uhura?” No point in beating about the bush. Vulcans, he’d learned, preferred directness.

“Captain?”

Kirk could see the carefully composed quizzical look for the evasion it was. He pressed on. “Things have been tense between you two since we left Earth.”

“Are you implying that either I, or the lieutenant are not functioning efficiently?”

‘The lieutenant’. Interesting that he didn’t use her name, Kirk noticed. And Spock was trying to deflect the questioning again. God he could be hard work, sometimes. Actually, a lot of the time. He sighed inwardly.

“Not at all. I’m inquiring purely on a personal basis–”

Spock opened his mouth to interrupt, but Kirk put his hand up to stall him. “I hope by now,” Kirk continued, leaning forward, “we’ve at least set the foundations of a friendship, Spock. Friends confide in each other when they’re in trouble. You know you can trust that anything you tell me will remain confidential.”

Spock’s lips thinned. “Confiding is not the Vulcan way, Captain,” he said, tightly.

Kirk sat back and crossing his arms, regarded the stubborn Vulcan silently for a minute, wondering what, in that moment, was going on in that super-intelligent brain of his. He was making an effort at friendship with Spock, he really was. He’d actually come to like the Vulcan and to enjoy his company, more than just because he stimulated his intellect. Spock had a dry sense of humor that popped out at the oddest times, delivered with that deadpan expression of his which always made him laugh that much harder.

What bothered him, though, was that most of the time it felt so damn one-sided; like he was doing all the running. It was the lure of what Ambassador Spock had told him – a life-time friendship that would define him – and he had seen as much in the meld, that had stopped him from giving it up as a waste of time. Of course, he’d die before he’d admit he wanted that kind of closeness with anyone; not fiercely independent Jim T.

He sighed audibly. No point in trying to hide his frustration. He suspected Spock could read him like a book anyway. Right now, he honestly didn’t have the energy for another head to head which he was certain he’d lose, so what was the point? He’d let it go as long as it didn’t affect the smooth running of his ship. But if he saw anything, anything, he’d nail his ass to a bulkhead, just to prove a point.

“All right,” he said finally. “Dismissed.”

He knew he shouldn’t be angry, but as the door slid shut cutting off his view of Spock, it reminded him metaphorically of the barrier the Vulcan seemed to have erected between himself and most of the rest of the galaxy. His own frustration at the intractable Vulcan made him want to throw something. Preferably Spock himself. Out an airlock. The anger stemmed because Spock wasn’t playing the game. Wasn’t meeting him halfway. Not that Spock knew he was supposed to – he hadn’t had access to his older counterpart to know what they could have. He wondered how Uhura had managed to do it. And if she could, then he damn well could.

Kirk felt frustrated at himself, too. For maybe expecting too much of Spock, and maybe of himself in this. For even wanting this as much as he did and not really knowing why, when he’d been a free spirit pretty much all his life, never needing anyone, never trusting anyone but himself. His friendship with Bones had crept up on him, and he grudgingly accepted the place the doctor had in his life. He’d kind of put that down to maybe growing up a bit and having a steadier, more structured life than he’d ever had.

But Spock. Maybe he pursued it so relentlessly because getting under that skin of his was such a challenge. Since leaving Earth he’d spent more time in Spock’s company than anyone else on the ship, including Bones. Even after that, he still couldn’t figure out the implacable Vulcan most of the time and his First seemed to have an unerring ability to bring out the worst in him. And also the best. And that was the crux. He could so clearly see the potential they had to balance each other.

He wasn’t usually given to deep analysis, as it generally messed with his head. Easier to take things at face value and each day as it comes. It’s just that Spock was making him ignore all his own rules. And that really pissed him off. He thought about moths and flames but decided that particular metaphor was way too self-destructive. He didn’t think it was that bad.

Taking a deep breath, he opened his awareness to the almost imperceptible vibration of his ship through his feet, and counted to ten.

His ship. The beautiful vessel that had given his life meaning. The one he had watched being built at the Riverside Shipyard, a manufacturing plant which itself had been moved from San Francisco over 20 years earlier in honor of his father. Full circle.

It was time to turn to the one other person who might be able to furnish him with information that would solve the mystery of this healer.

=_=_=_=

Ambassador Spock was asleep when his comm. unit chimed to alert him of an incoming call. After all his years in Starfleet, the sound brought him awake instantly. Switching the lights on, he rose and picked up a thick, dark robe, wrapping it around himself in case the call was on visual – it wouldn’t do to answer it naked. Smoothing his hair as he crossed the room he gracefully folded himself into his chair at the desk.

When he saw the call sign on the console, he noted an involuntary increase in his heart-rate in pleasant anticipation. In Humans, such a physiological reaction was a reflex, but all Vulcans mastered their bodies, and despite his hybrid physiology, he was no exception. Yet, when it came to James Tiberius Kirk – seemingly in any universe – his desire to quell this autonomic response vanished. To speak to Jim was to experience the bittersweet feeling of joy and pain combined, a feeling that, despite having kept in touch since their meeting on the planet known as Delta Vega in Standard, T’Khut in Vulcan, had not lessened. He reached to touch the display on the screen to answer.

“Spock!” Kirk said with a wide smile and Spock’s heart thrummed even more wildly. Would he ever get over seeing his bondmate’s younger self, so alive and so vibrant? he wondered. Unlikely, he acknowledged as his temple throbbed in reminder of his severed bond. He would likely require a period of meditation for the remainder of the night following this call. He lightly clasped his hands in his lap.

“Captain Kirk,” he responded, quirking his lips, allowing his delight at hearing from his ‘old friend’ to be evident.

“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” Kirk began.

There was no need for Kirk to know it was the early hours of the morning. “No, Jim. What may I do for you?”

He saw Kirk’s eyes narrow in the same way his own Jim’s used to when he’d just reached a correct conclusion. “What time is it there?”

He was not surprised at the captain’s perceptiveness. “No matter, Jim. I require little sleep. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

After so many years with a Human bondmate, he had no difficulty using emotional terms, having long ago reconciled both Jim’s and his own need to express himself in this Human way, despite his Vulcan heritage and training. His experience with V’Ger had taught him, in the most graphic way possible, that to live without emotion was to be a barren and empty vessel. The insight had opened him up to new possibilities and had paved the way to the most satisfying relationship of his life.

“I’m after information,” Kirk began, “and my first officer is being more tight-lipped than an Aldeberan shell-mouth. We’ve been taken off patrol of the Neutral Zone and we’re now en route to Gamma Castor III to pick up a healer. I’m guessing you know why it’s been made high priority.”

Spock caught his breath. He was aware a request had been made to StarFleet to have Healer Soveran transported to the colony urgently, but they had yet to be informed which ship was bringing him. The thought of seeing young Jim ‘in the flesh’ again was a gift beyond price.

Returning his thoughts to the captain’s statement, he schooled his face to a more serious expression as he nodded. “Indeed, however—”

“Don’t tell me, you can’t say,” Kirk interrupted, frustration evident in his tone.

He regarded the young man calmly. Jim in any universe was so easy to read and his many years with his own lover had provided him with insights on the best way to deal with him in most moods. “However,” he continued as if there had been no interruption, “for personal reasons, this is not something I am prepared to discuss over subspace, Jim. I would prefer to speak with you face to face. Will you have time to pay me a visit while you are here?”

He could see Kirk was intrigued. “I can do more than that, Spock. I haven’t been given any further orders, so I’ll request we’re given time to help out on some of the projects you’ve got going, if you want it. You may as well make use of us while we’re there.”

His reaction was automatic as he allowed himself to smile. “Your offer of assistance is greatly appreciated, Captain. I will encourage StarFleet to comply with your request by making a similar one myself direct to Admiral Nogura. Only he and Admirals Pike and Komack in StarFleet Command are aware of my true identity, for security reasons. You know that of your crew, Mr. Scott is cognizant of my status as time traveler, although I withheld my name from him. However since you will be visiting, I should inform you that I also had the opportunity to meet your First Officer, Spock—”

Kirk’s eyes widened. “Spock?” I thought—”

“I apologize, Jim,” he interrupted. He had not wanted to deceive Kirk, but he believed the end justified the means. “It was necessary I imply that my counterpart and I could not meet in order for you to work together. You would not have achieved the result you did, had I been there.”

He waited patiently while Kirk digested that information. “So when did he find out about you?” he asked finally.

“I encountered him briefly after you returned to Earth. I am prepared,” Spock continued, “to discuss this further when you are here, should you wish to.”

Kirk nodded, and the ambassador was under no illusion that the matter was closed. Jim in any universe was a tenacious individual. “I’ve briefed Scotty to keep quiet about what he knows,” Kirk assured him. “When I told him that you’d not only be hounded by everyone in the Federation, but could potentially be targeted by our enemies, he got my drift.”

“Thank you, Jim. Your discretion is appreciated. Here on the colony, I am known as Sepak.”

“Do they know about you there?” Kirk asked.

“Negative, with the exception of the Council of Elders, of which there are eleven including me and my...father.”

Kirk smiled at that. “That must be pretty weird for Sarek.”

“Indeed.” Spock allowed his lips to curve up into a small smile. “It is ‘pretty weird’ for me, too.”

Kirk grinned as Spock knew he would. His own Jim had been no different, delighting in the times when, in private, he had occasionally spoken more colloquially.

“My own father died many years ago and for much of my early life, we were estranged. I have appreciated having the opportunity to learn more about him. However, he does not readily seek to spend time with me, despite my being one of the few surviving members of our clan. Perhaps this will change in time, as he adjusts to all that has taken place.”

“Yeah, it must be a lot to take in,” Kirk said thoughtfully. “Hell, it must have been even more strange for you to talk to a younger version of yourself.”

Kirk’s curiosity was clear. No doubt, now he knew they’d met, he’d be wondering how his own first officer had found the encounter. “It was a fascinating experience. I was at an advantage in that I have previously been his age and recall what I was like at that point in my life, while Spock was looking at me and seeing his own future before him for the first time.”

Kirk smiled. “Maybe when I think I might get a straight answer from him, I’ll ask Spock about it.” The expression on Kirk’s face, as the ambassador had witnessed on his bondmate’s on many occasions in the past, transformed from friendly to business-like captain in a moment. “I won’t take up any more of your time, Ambassador. We’ll see you in seven days and,” he smiled warmly, “I hope we’ll get our request granted.”

Spock unselfconsciously returned the smile. “Indeed. Goodnight, Jim.”

The screen went blank and the ambassador sat back in his seat, taking a long, deep breath. To see the man who had been such an important part of his life, alive, young and vibrant was both cruel and pleasurable. His body might be old and ravaged, but inside he – his consciousness – had not changed and felt no different now to when he was Jim’s age. And that was the issue. His severed bond called for re-completion because his katra, unaware of the difference between universes, simply recognized his bondmate’s unique signature and sought to reconnect to it.

He would have to find a way to master his control before Jim arrived. It would not do for him to inadvertently come between the friendship he wished to assist in building between captain and first officer, no matter what. He would need to spend the rest of the night in meditation. But for a while, he remained in his seat and allowed himself to recall another time and another universe.