Most of us experience life as a linear progression, just like this. But this is an illusion because every day, life presents us with an array of choices. [...] And each choice leads to a new path. To go to work. To stay home. And each choice we make creates a new reality.
– Walter Bishop in Fringe, "The Road Not Taken"
Spock once told you that the universe is made up of parallel worlds, that every choice you make creates two branches on the crooked line of your life. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, you can't remember who you are, where you are. In dreams, you are other James T. Kirks who make different choices, and have different lives.
One thing is always the same: you are born in time to hear your father name you, in time to escape before the Kelvin explodes, in time to hear your mother's tears.
In one world, you decide to steal your step-dad's car. He pisses you off, and you want to piss him off. It's easy enough to grab the keys when he's not looking. When the top goes flying off with the wind from your speed, you don't even care. Speed feels good. It feels like something.
When the cliff appears before you, you leap from the car. The sky calls to you, vast and open with its tempting stars. A moment free of gravity. A voice inside you -- maybe your father's -- says: Live. And you do, your sneakers scrabbling at the dirt and the rocks, your jeans your only armor, torn.
Or: when the cliff appears before you, you think the rocks are beautiful. The distant earth calls to you. It says: Come. And you do. You become one with metal. One with gravity. One with the sludgy water coursing over the Iowa stones. And the world goes on without you.
In another world, you decide against stealing the car. Instead, you run away. And you run out of money. It seems logical to hold up convenience stores. It's not like you planned to land your ass in jail. But at least there's a roof over your head, and there are regular meals. You know how to defend yourself, and no one touches you. You've been there a year when you decide to hack into Starfleet's database to access your father's records. It's not like you expected Starfleet to send a Vulcan to have a little chat with you.
You steal the car. You leap. You live. At the hearing, you choose juvie, where it turns out that everyone smokes when the staff aren't looking. The girls barf in the bathrooms after meals. One of them just had her fourth abortion, and she's only thirteen. There's all kinds of sex the adults don't know about. All kinds of sex. And you do it, too. You learn.
You don't steal the car, but you stop talking because no one understands you, even when you do talk. You play music that makes your mom vacuum to drown out the noise. You start sleeping in the backyard so you don't have to listen to your step-dad yelling. You look at the stars, and you wonder what your real dad was like. At seventeen, you can't take it anymore, and you join Starfleet because that's all you have left of him besides your brother. Your father believed in Starfleet. You don't. But you want to believe.
You steal, you leap, you live. At the hearing, you choose Tarsus, because you've always wanted to go off planet. If that's the punishment for stealing a car, you plan to steal cars more often. The military-style camp sucks, but you build up some muscles. You think about impressing girls. Then the shit hits the fan, and all you think is: water, food, weapons. All you think is: cold, soldiers, death. All you think is: one more day, one more hour, five more minutes.
The theft, the leap, the living. After juvie, you're used to it. You make enough to survive, giving BJ's in bar bathrooms. There's a kind of freedom. You wander. You end up in San Francisco. That's where you meet him. He has been dragged to the bar by some fellow cadets. He is curious about Human social customs, he tells you, misunderstanding what you are offering. At the hotel-by-the-hour, he wants to talk. You think he's crazy, but you talk. You tell him things you've never told anyone. After all, he paid you.
You steal, you leap, you live. You choose Tarsus. Governor Kodos captures you. He gives you a choice: he can protect you...for a price. You choose to fight. You choose to run. You nearly die living on grass and dirt. You nearly die saving four others. You nearly die. But you don't. When you come home, you spend a lot of time drinking at a bar in Riverside. You don't want to move. You don't want to do anything. You like the burn of whiskey, and the forgetting. You like when someone hits you in the face because it dulls the other pain.
You don't turn away when Kodos beckons you. You have always been pretty. You don't run. You close your eyes and think about the food he'll give you afterwards. You don't run. You turn off your mind. You don't run until he tries to kill you. You make it off planet with a couple of Cardassians who've patched up a defunct ship they call the ISS Enterprise to mock the Federation ships that never came. You pick up other passengers, including a Vulcan who doesn't seem like much until he saves you from a paranoid, bloodthirsty Cardassian with a knife.
You steal, you leap, you live. You fight on Tarsus. You come home broken, and take up drinking. In a Riverside bar, you meet Chris Pike. He tells you about your father. You tell him to suck your dick, but he just looks at you like he's seen a thousand kids like you, and he isn't impressed. He's a little like how you always pictured your father. Like how you always imagined his voice saying, Good job, son. You always heard that voice in your mind and wished it was real.
In the bar, you meet Chris Pike. You throw a punch, and he throws one back. You drink a few more. You wake up face down in the alley behind the bar. Your wallet is gone. You think Pike was right about one thing: you should get off this fucking planet. You stow away in a transport, and end up working for a group of Ferengi mercenaries. While you are stealing medical supplies from a hospital on Vulcan, you are caught by a Vulcan scientist who you later learn is half-Human...
You meet on Earth. You meet in space. You always meet. Some things don't change.
You are on Altair on shore leave. You are in a cabin designated for diplomats, and he is adding logs to the fire. You have come to negotiate a peace treaty. This part of Altair is densely wooded, the air like nothing you've smelled since you went camping in Yosemite. You breathe that sweet air. You are on the ISS Enterprise, and he lies beside you, awake while you sleep, in case someone should come to kill you. He is always by your side, the only one you can trust. You are on Vulcan, and the air is hot and still. You are considered an exceptional Human, though highly emotional. You can discuss your science projects with the others, but only he will talk to you about your past, his past, only he will lie beside you. You are on the USS Enterprise, her engines humming. In your first days as Captain, you saved one planet, and lost another. You fought with him, you got used to one another, and now --
You wake up.
You wake up.
You wake up.
You wake up.
You wake up.
You wake up.
You wake up.
You wake up.
And this is the same. You wake up, and he's beside you. You're hot because he made you pile on more blankets. You're hot because he's pressed up against you, one leg between yours. You're hot because you can feel his mind, and it makes you tingle with want. You're hot. And he wakes when he feels your desire. He says your name clearly, like he hasn't been asleep. He says your name, and you say his.
In the worlds where you die, he is alone. In the worlds where he dies, you are.
You imagine him old, grieving in the field where you died, but he feels what you're thinking, and he says, "You're alive."
You're lying in a room full of stars. You sense a thousand yous on the other side of the thin fabric of time and space. You can almost touch them with your hand, with your mind. You wonder what it would take to tear through.
Then his fingers press your cheek, steadying you. And you know him. And you know yourself. You know who you are. In this world, there are two of him. It's the best world. You like it. You made the right choices, even if they didn't always seem like it. You're here. He's touching you in your mind. And you open to him. You open to his fingers. Here. And there. In the darkest places of your body, he touches you. In the darkest places of your mind, he sees you. He tastes you. He pushes inside you. And you writhe.
You can see the thousand worlds, like images flickering across a screen. Things you could have been. Possibilities. Not now. Now, your hands bunch the sheets. Your mouth opens on the pillow. His hands grab your back. In the worlds where you both live, he is with you. You know this. You know.
And he says, "You."
And you answer, "You."