Kirk slowed as he approached Ambassador Spock's house-- or Selek's, or whatever else he was calling himself these days to keep the Temporal Police off his back-- and furrowed his brow. Were those raised voices he'd heard? Given how much more acute Vulcan hearing was than human, it would have to be a really stringent argument for him to hear it all the way out here.
He debated with himself for a moment about whether or not he should let Selek know he was there before he overheard anything he shouldn't-- these days, he tried to at least nod in the direction of responsibility before acting-- but the benefits of doing so weren't appealing enough for him to go through with it. Instead, he slowed to a halt before the clay-brown door, glanced around to make sure no one was paying him any attention, and pressed his cupped hand and ear against its surface.
"--wrong reality again," a distressed voice-- a female voice?-- was saying. She sounded seriously upset, and suspiciously human. What was she doing in the half-Vulcan's quarters? It almost sounded as though she was another interchronolinear refugee, but how the hell had she got there?
"Your distress is understandable," the rumbling, empathetic voice of Selek replied. "I, too, experienced a considerable degree of dismay when he perished in my timeline, in much the manner you have described. However, this timeline is not without its merits; he is young again, here, some few years younger than yourself in fact, and much the same in spirit as he ever was."
"But he won't know me," the woman said, irritably, as a chill crept up Jim's spine. Were they talking about him? Was this some woman who'd been important to him in the other world?
--Did he really even want to know? He'd decided, early on in his dual friendship with the Spocks, that he couldn't allow himself to be bound by the echoes of the other Kirk's personal life that he'd picked up in that catastrophic meld on Delta Vega. He wanted to appreciate things for what they were, and for what might be possible in the here and now, not what they might have been for yet another heroic Kirk whose preserved as perfect image he couldn't possibly live up to.
Before he could make up his mind on the issue, Selek continued. Jim kept listening, fascinated despite himself.
"And perhaps that is for the best," the Ambassador soothed his unseen conversational partner. "Though the transporter error that exchanged your forms did leave you and the Captain Kirk of my time with a profound understanding of one another's fundamental natures, establishing such a connection without first exploring the mysteries of social interaction in a more organic manner can in fact prevent the type of deeper acquaintance you appear to desire."
"Speaking from personal experience, are we?" the woman replied, suddenly wry. It was starting to really itch at Jim that he couldn't see her, and had no idea what her facial responses were, but he was risking Selek discovering him just standing here. The jig would be completely up if he tried to so much as crack the door open or find a window to spy through.
He could perfectly picture Selek's side of the conversation, though. For example, the eyebrow that would climb his forehead with the answer: "I have no comment on the matter."
"I just bet," she grumbled. "So what are you saying, here? You want me to go away? I'm not just here because of him, you know; I got used this century, and trying to go back to the twenty-first after six years in Starfleet was the kind of fun that's really not. I've got my amulet; I can always try again, and find out whether you're right or not about whether we would've got along. 'Cause I'm really not all that inclined to just take your word for it and move on."
"Can you not consider remaining in this timeline and explore the possibilities available to you afresh?" Selek asked, carefully.
"But why should I?" she demanded; and pretty reasonably, Jim thought. If he had some kind of magic reality hopping device, he would-- well, not use it to change permanently, because even with all its faults he was kind of attached to the timeline he lived in, thank you very much-- but he might like to at least get to meet his father, or exchange professional tips with a Jim Kirk who'd actually been prepared for his job. Of course she'd be as attached to the reality she'd actually lived in as he was to his own. He might expect his Spock to have trouble understanding that, but Selek really should know better after all his time around humans. They were a pretty possessive species.
"I am aware that this line of argument may hold very little weight for you," Selek tried again, "but I would greatly prefer it if you did not. The sequence of events that led to this new reality is fragile enough as it is. Should you alter the destiny of my... of the Jim Kirk that I left behind, it would be impossible to predict the effects on the reality in which we currently exist."
Or-- maybe Jim was wrong, and Selek understood human possessiveness after all. He spared a brief moment to wonder what it would be like to be the focus of all that half-Vulcan intensity-- because he wasn't ever likely to feel it first-hand, not with Uhura quite rightly taking up the center of his Spock's life-- then shook his head and decided he'd heard enough. He stepped away long enough to tug his gold tunic back into order, then announced his presence with a knock.
There was a sudden silence inside; then the door swung smoothly open.
"Greetings, old friend," Selek welcomed him, as had become their habit. The little smile-that-wasn't-quite-a-smile he usually wore had been replaced by something else, though; but not worry or irritation or any of the other emotions Jim had been expecting. Instead, there was-- anticipation?
She must really be something else, he thought warily as he nodded in reply. "Good to see you too," he said, gaze slipping past Selek to search the rest of the room for its other occupant. "The Enterprise is here for a couple of days with some new equipment for the colony, so I thought I'd stop by and say hello."
"Indeed," Selek said; and there was the not-a-smile, appearing as he stepped aside.
"You've got to be kidding me," the other voice muttered-- and then Jim saw her.
Short, was his first thought; at least a head shorter than he was. Blonde; hair about the color of his mother's, but straighter, pulled back in a ponytail. Green eyes, narrowed at him; a cute face, though made more serious by a really firm set to her chin; a nice if petite figure under a uniform vaguely similar to his own. Red fabric, though; if that meant what it did here, she would be support staff of some kind. Security, maybe, given her leanly muscled build.
"Jim, this is Ensign Buffy Summers," Selek introduced them, voice firm. "Ensign Summers, this is Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise."
Yeah, no; after all he'd heard, Jim wasn't going to do the dance of diplomacy with this one. "So, another temporal refugee with an axe to grind," he said cheerily, smirking at her. "Want to come up and see my ship before you try and rewrite us out of existence?"
She blinked, disrupting the glare she'd had going. "You heard us arguing?" she asked, sounding surprised. Then she snorted and shot a wry, sideways glance at Selek. "Of course you did."
"You will not regret it," Selek informed her, tone softening.
"I guess you would know about that, too," Summers volleyed back, raising an eyebrow of her own. Then she sighed and turned her focus back to Jim. "Why the hell not. I've never got exactly what I wanted before, why should this be any different?"
Really something special, he thought again, impressed by the force of personality in her stare. She was practically daring him to disappoint her. Honestly, if she'd known 'him' at all, then she should know better...
Jim grinned suddenly, better understanding Selek's anticipation, and braced himself for a challenge.