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The next time Jim woke up, the room was empty except for Spock, who was sitting by his bedside. Jim liked to think that he could read Spock pretty well at this point, but he was still thrown off by what he saw. Did Spock really look nervous?

“You don’t have to worry, you know.” Spock’s eyes jerked to his as Jim continued. “Bones said I’m gonna live and that there shouldn’t even be any major side effects. And I do trust him as far as doctor stuff goes.”

There was now confusion added to Spock’s expression. Still subtle, but enough for Jim to pick up on. “Excuse me, Captain?”

This was not the kind of conversation Jim wanted to have while lying down. He reached for the controls and maneuvered the bed until he was partially sitting up. “You looked worried. You don’t have to be; like I said I should be out of the critical range now.”

Spock nodded. “I am aware of that. And while I am grateful that you appear to be making a full recovery, that is not what I am preoccupied with.”

That threw Jim off a little, but he decided to roll with it. “So if me dying isn’t what you’re worrying about, what’s on your mind?”

“I assure you, your death with never cease to be on my mind.” Spock looked away and if he weren’t Vulcan (or half at least) Jim would bet he would have been fidgeting. “Perhaps it is inaccurate to say that that is not what preoccupies me, because that is related to it.”

Yeah, this seemed like a serious conversation. Jim sat all the way up. “What is it Spock? You’re not usually this evasive. You know that if something’s bothering you you can just tell me, right?

“I am aware.” Spock’s gaze dropped to his lap before returning to Jim, a new sort of determination there. “Prior to this…incident, when we were at the press conference about our mission, you were asked about your soulmate.”

“Oh god.” Jim closed his eyes and let his head thump back against the pillows. That felt like forever ago. “Yeah, what about it?”

“At the press conference, you avoided answering the questions.” Spock was trying to reach a point, Jim could tell. “However, afterwards you told the senior crewmembers that you were in fact aging.”

Jim cracked open one eye to look at Spock. “Yeah, and what I said was the truth. What’s your point Spock? You’re beating around the bush.” Before Spock could respond Jim held up a hand. “And don’t pretend you don’t get metaphors; I know you do.”

“Very well.” Spock sat up straighter in his chair. “Both at the press conference and when speaking to the crew, you stated that you ‘could not say’ who your soulmate was, not that you did not know.”

Damn Vulcan eidetic memory and attention to detail. Spock was onto him, Jim could tell. He closed his eyes again. “And?”

“Did you know who your soulmate was at the time?” Jim could feel Spock’s eyes boring into his face.

“Maybe.” Jim opened his eyes and looked at Spock directly. “Why? What’s got you so curious?”

“If you were aware of the identity of your soulmate, why did you not inform them of your suspicions?” Spock leaned in slightly; he almost seemed agitated now. “Why would you conceal it?”

Jim sighed and looked away from Spock. “There are plenty of reasons a person might not tell their soulmate. They could be unsure if they’re right about who it is, they could be unsure what kind of soulmate the two of them are, they might worry that their soulmate doesn’t feel the same, they might think that’s too much to drop on a person, they might think that it’ll screw up an otherwise good relationship…” He looked back at Spock. “Is that enough or should I go on?”

“What was the reason for you?” Spock’s voice was softer now. “Why did you not inform your soulmate?”

“Really?” Jim sighed and looked away again. “A mix of the reasons I said I guess. A lot of uncertainty about how the person would respond along with all those other things.”

“So you were aware and certain about who it was?” Spock’s voice was still so soft.

“Certain seems like a strong word.” Jim was still unable to meet Spock’s eyes. “I definitely had moments of doubt.”

“And you were concerned with their reaction.” Jim could feel it when Spock looked away. “That suggests that they are someone you are close to or see often rather than someone you rarely interact with.”

Of course this would happen when Jim was in the hospital and still unable to run away. “A logical deduction.” Jim looked back at Spock and felt something challenging slip into his expression. “You ever gonna reach a conclusion over there?”

“I have reached it.” Jim looked away as Spock leaned closer. “Captain… Jim. Why did you never tell me we were soulmates?”

Even though he’d seen it coming Jim still paused before responding. “I don’t know.” Jim crossed his arms, but not in anger, more in self-consciousness. “At first we just didn’t get along so I just wished I was wrong, but then I got to know you better and it was less about that. I just wanted you to be happy, and I figured if you were happy with Uhura who was I to interfere?”

“At first.” Confusion crossed Spock’s face before he leaned in again, the intent glint returning to his eyes. “How long have you known?”

Jim ran a hand down his face. “It was suspecting more than knowing at first. But...” He cautiously met Spock’s eyes. “The moment we made eye contact in the assembly when you called me out about the Kobayashi Maru. I felt something, and then right after than Bones got abnormal readings that were the start of me aging.”

[Continue: Spock tells Jim that he may have felt the same, but did not realize it b/c of all the shit that went down afterward; talk about how the alternate universe helped; Bones comes in at one point and gets grumpy; Spock tells Jim that he and Uhura have split up and basically asks if they should get together; Jim says no for now b/c he just died and feels like he has to figure things out some before he can do anything]

Spock waited until Bones had left the room to speak again. “Nyota and I are no longer dating.”

Jim could tell where this was going but continued the conversation anyway. “What happened?”

“Our relationship had become…strained during the visit to the alternate universe. The other you insisted on very physical public displays of affection in the name of maintaining our cover there, and I was perhaps more willing than I should have been to accept it.” Spock was almost starting to look a little green, but Jim couldn’t tell if he was blushing in embarrassment or something else. “Many of these gestures far exceeded what I had been willing to publicly express with her. Additionally, the other you spoke of us as soulmates and suggested that it may be true in our universe as well.”

“Sounds like a real charmer.” Jim crossed his arms and thought back to his own experiences. “The other you was really forward too. We had to keep him and the others in the brig because he attacked me as soon as they beamed up and the others also seemed like threats, but that didn’t stop him from running his mouth.” Jim leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “He made it pretty explicitly clear all the things that the two of them had done.”

“If he made you uncomfortable—" Spock almost seemed angry.

“It’s fine.” Jim opened his eyes and leaned forward again. “If I couldn’t deal with a few inappropriate comments thrown my way I never would have made it as far as I did.”

Spock didn’t seem satisfied. “You should not have to deal with it.”

“I know.” Jim sighed. “But you don’t have to get all protective of me. I can handle this.”

“I believe recent events have caused me to become more aware of all the ways in which you can be harmed, psychological and physical.” Spock was avoiding eye contact now.

Jim sighed and uncrossed his arms. “Don’t worry; I’m a lot more immune to inappropriate comments than I am to warp cores. They’re not going to kill me.” At the somewhat alarmed look he got from Spock Jim smiled weakly. “Too soon?”

Spock’s expression was more serious than usual. “Your death will never be an appropriate subject for comedy to me.”

“We’re gonna have to work on that; comedy’s the closest thing I have to a healthy coping mechanism.” The joke expectantly fell flat and it was quiet for a moment. Jim decided to break the silence. “We were talking about you and Uhura breaking up.”

“Yes.” Spock’s expression shifted to something closer to his usual neutrality. “The alternate universe played a role, as did the events of our mission prior to our return to Earth. However, I believe my reaction to your death was the largest influence.”

Jim thought of what he’d heard of Spock’s reaction. The only other time he knew of that Spock had gone on a murderous rampage had been when he’d thought his mom had died.

Chapter Text

It had not been long since Spock had returned to Earth following the Enterprise’s victory over the Narada. Still, in that time he had not had much time to himself; there had been constant meetings, debriefings, press conferences, and other things that Spock was beginning to suspect were merely intended to make him crack under pressure and give up the captaincy. Still, Spock could handle the challenge and knew he would. He had his own skills as well as the knowledge of the older version of himself to aid him.

But there were times that he wished to escape it, which was how he was now in what was likely one of the seediest bars near the Starfleet Academy campus, which was truly an achievement on behalf of the bar. It seemed like a place that Spock would be unlikely to frequent, which was exactly why he went here to be undisturbed. The plan did not work out as anticipated, however.

“Well, well, well. If it isn’t the great Captain Spock, savior of the Terran Empire, if not his own homeworld.” The voice belonged to the person settling onto the barstool beside Spock with their back to the bar; they had spoken just loud enough to be heard by others, but Spock did not look over.

He did, however, shift the hand not holding his drink to the concealed phaser in his jacket. “I do not wish to be disturbed.”

“Aww, don’t worry, what I have planned is far from disturbing.” The person shifted so they were leaned in closer to Spock. “I have a proposition for you.”

Spock continued not looking directly at them, hoping the individual would understand. “I am not interested.”

“Oh, but baby you haven’t even heard what I have to say.” The voice was practically purring now. “You’ve got the chair, but what will help you hold it? That’s where I come in. James T. Kirk, about to graduate for security at Starfleet. We both know they don’t want a Vulcan in the chair, but I’ve got a feeling I could help keep you there anyways.”

Kirk. The name was familiar. George Kirk had been a heroic commander who died in service of the Empire, but his son’s skills, while still well known, were decidedly different. “From what I’ve heard of your reputation, you prefer your companions in bed to in chairs, captain’s or otherwise.” Spock’s curiosity was finally piqued enough that he glanced over, but Kirk was no longer looking at him. What he did see, however, was a profile and face that fit the reputation the younger Kirk had earned. Still, an officer whose only skill was in the bedroom was not an officer Spock needed. He looked back at his drink. “You would be better off offering your services elsewhere.”

“Oh, but I’ve already decided to offer them here.” He could tell that Kirk was looking back at him again; he even turned his torso to Spock. “Besides, my skills are so much more than in the boudoir, as fun as those ones are.” Spock could have sworn he saw the gleam of teeth out of the corner of his eye, but then there was a flurry of movement. Kirk leaned his full weight back onto his arms on the bar in order to kick his barstool at an oncoming attacker; they were hit in the chest and knocked backwards, but a second attacker was charging. Kirk quickly downed the second attacker with a phaser Spock had not noticed he had concealed before drawing a knife from elsewhere and quickly raising it to the throat of the initial attacker, who had gotten back to their feet and drawn a phaser. Kirk walked them away from the bar and Spock, pressing the knife to their throat with one hand and twisting the wrist of the hand holding a phaser with the other until the attacker was forced to drop it. Having now turned to view the fight progressing; Spock was able to take in the knee high black boots and tight black pants that framed Kirk’s shapely legs and posterior. His torso was obscured by a dark leather jacket which was likely where his weapons had been concealed, and above the raised collar Spock could see the blonde hair that was, according to reputation, the ideal length for grabbing to direct Kirk during…amorous activities. Kirk was threatening the first attacker, who was now disarmed with a knife at their neck pressing in just enough to draw some blood but not enough to seriously maim. By listening carefully, Spock could just make out the end of what Kirk was saying. “And you remember not to come interrupt me and attack my companion while we’re chatting, right? For now I’m letting you go so you can spread the word, but know that next time you won’t be so lucky, got it?” When the only response was frantic nodding, Kirk eased the knife back. “Good. Now scram.” A quick shove ensured that they were following Kirk’s orders as they hurried out the door.

Spock would hesitate to admit it, but he was impressed. That had been a remarkably efficient dispatching of the attackers, and Spock did need some security officers he could trust to act as bodyguards. Additionally; upon closer examination of his body the other…benefits Kirk offered appeared more attractive.

At that point Kirk turned around, and Spock took the opportunity to properly survey his torso, which did appear well toned through the tight shirt Kirk wore under his open jacket. “So.” Spock’s eye was drawn upward by an arm wiping across Kirk’s face, likely checking for blood even though it was unlikely to be his own. “Do you want to hear me out?”

At that Spock’s eyes scanned over plush pink lips (another aspect of his reputation that seemed to be proving true) and finally to a pair of brilliant blue eyes, which met his.

At that moment Spock felt a peculiar but not unpleasant sensation; while he had never experienced it before and could not truly classify it, he knew beyond any doubt that the human before him was his. Kirk evidently felt something was well, because as Spock’s eyes passed over him with renewed interest he seemed to shiver slightly.

Spock met his eyes once more, enjoying the electric blue. “I believe it would be best if we continued our negotiations in private.”

Kirk’s lips curled up into a smirk. “Sounds good to me.”

Chapter Text

Nyota took a deep breath as she sat down in the hallway and buried her head in her hands.

She should be grateful for getting to see Jim at all. Len was keeping the list of people who were allowed to visit pretty short, and she knew that most of the crew wanted a chance to check in on Jim, but for now it was just the senior staff and those who knew him best who could.

But seeing him like this…Nyota dropped her hands to her lap but didn’t look up. It was tough. The monitors said he was stable, and he looked healthier than when he got beamed onto that biobed for what would have been his autopsy…

But he was still too still. Jim was supposed to be more dynamic, always messing around with something or getting up to do laps around the bridge. His chest moved with his breathing, but that was still so small a movement…

Then there was Spock. By his reaction to Jim’s death, it looked like there might actually be something to them being soulmates. Plus he’d barely left Jim’s bedside unless forced, and she could have sworn she saw him Vulcan kiss Jim a few times, maybe even a little more intensely than he’d done with her when they were together…

It was for the best that they’d split. He and Jim were probably soulmates, and she’d needed the time to process what she’d done in that alternate universe anyways. Carol was surprisingly helpful with that; Nyota had started talking to her more, and when she’d brought up feeling like she’d had to be involved with all the violence of her father’s missile projects despite not being especially interested, Nyota found that she could relate.

So they’d been talking some, but if the way Carol and Len were looking at each other was any indication the Enterprise had a new soulmate pair. So they had each other, Jim and Spock had each other, Hikaru had Ben, Pavel had whoever he was chasing after this week, and Nyota…

There was still Gaila. They’d been spending more time together again since she and Spock split, but Nyota still felt like she was missing something. Like it was right there in front of her and she only needed to find it...

“Need a pick-me-up?” Since she was still looking down, the first thing Nyota saw were shoes, then some very long legs, which belonged to a person in nursing scrubs. A person with a nice face framed by some pretty blonde hair. And a nice smile. “I was just about to head down to grab some food since my shift ended, and you looked like you could use some company.” A slight pause. “I’m Christine Chapel, by the way.”

The name sounded familiar; she was pretty sure she’d heard Len mention a Nurse Chapel. He said she was helping with Jim. Nyota sat back to look at her more clearly. “I wouldn’t mind a little company. Nyota Uhura.”

“I know.” Chapel’s hand slapped onto her forehead. “Sorry, that sounded creepy.” She looked down at Nyota and smiled bashfully. “I swear I’m not a stalker or anything, but like most people here on Earth I’ve followed the Enterprise’s adventures some. So between that and Dr. McCoy commenting on everyone coming and going, I kinda knew who you were.” Chapel paused. “That probably didn’t sound any less creepy.” She started to turn away. “I think I’ll just go before I put my foot in my mouth more. Sorry again.”

“Wait.” Before she could fully think it through, Nyota was grabbing Chapel’s wrist. “It wasn’t weird or creepy.” She smiled up at Chapel, who still looked a little embarrassed. “Being from a crew with such a following, we kinda get it all the time.” She dropped Chapel’s wrist when it looked like she was going to stay. “Having people consider how it could be weird and apologize is less common though; thanks for the courtesy there.” She smiled.

Chapel visibly relaxed some. “I’m glad.” She looked back at Nyota, still a little nervous but more confident now. “Still want to grab some food? The café on the first floor isn’t bad.”

Any distraction sounded good right now, and it didn’t hurt that she was cute. “That sounds great.” She accepted Chapel’s offered hand and let her pull her up and lead the way to the turbolift.

That was how Nyota found herself sitting across from a pretty nurse at a little table in the first floor café at Starfleet Medical. Once they were settled in, they chatted about mundane things for a bit and enjoyed their food and drinks. After a little while, there was a lull in the conversation. Chapel took a sip of her coffee and looked at Nyota seriously. “So, what was bothering you up there?”

Nyota took a deep breath then a sip of her own drink before looking back at Chapel. “Jim—Captain Kirk. It’s just so unnerving seeing him like that. On some level I know he’s getting better, but when I see him he just looks so much like when we pulled him out of the warp core.” She looked down at her food, pushing it around the plate but not making any move to eat. “It’s weird because a few years back I could barely stand the guy, maybe grew to tolerate him or appreciate that he had his moments…but now I can’t even consider the thought of losing him.” She dropped her hands to the table.

“Hey.” Chapel put her hands over Nyota’s and waited until she looked up. “Your captain is strong, and although he may not seem like it now he is getting better, little by little.” She smiled, small but encouraging. “If he made it through that kind of radiation, he’s gotta have something going for him. Despite how much Dr. McCoy frets, Kirk’s tough. And with a support system like he’s got, he’ll make it through.” She squeezed Nyota’s hands.

She had been starting to smile, but at the hand squeeze Nyota couldn’t help her slightly startled expression. When Chapel looked alarmed and started to withdraw he hands, Nyota grabbed them again. “Sorry! It’s not you; my last boyfriend was Vulcan, so with the setting and the hands and having just met I guess I was a little surprised.” Chapel seemed to close off a little at the mention of ‘boyfriend’; did she think that… Was she trying to…? Nyota had to fix this. “And before that the closest thing I had to a stable relationship was with an Orion girl, so…” She trailed off, not quite sure how to go from there. She smiled sheepishly, pulling back her hands some. “I guess I need to relearn human intimacy a bit.”

That got a smile from Chapel. “Well, if you’re interested I wouldn’t mind helping you with that.”

Nyota was glad she read this situation right; she felt the smile spread across her face. “I might just have to take you up on that, Miss Chapel.”

“Christine. But you can call me Chris.” Chapel—Chris smiled back at her and then looked around. “I think step one should be a proper first date; I don’t think the hospital café counts.”

“Alright.” Nyota smiled at her. “As my guide to this, I’ll let you work out the time and place. Although I have to say, this wasn’t bad for a pre-date.”

“Yeah?” Chris’ smile widened. “Just wait til you see the real deal.” She held out her hand. “Give me a way to contact you and we’ll work out a time; I’ll plan everything else and see if I can sweep you off your feet.”

“Setting the bar high.” Nyota handed over her communicator and watched as Chris pulled out her own and got them set up. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Chris smiled, more earnest and not subtly cocky like before. “Me too.” With her plate clear and her cup empty, she reluctantly stood up. “Well, I think I better head out.” She smiled again. “I’ve got a very important date to plan.”

Nyota really liked the way her eyes seemed to be sparkling with excitement; it’d been bad enough before with just the scrubs drawing out their pretty blueness. “I think you’ve got pretty good odds of success.”

“I hope so.” Chapel gave a little wave. “I’ll see you soon.”

“See you soon.” Nyota watched her walk away, smiling each time she looked back over her shoulder. She felt happy; this felt good, right. Maybe things were looking ok for Nyota after all.

Chapter Text

Winona was furious. She’d trusted Frank with her boys, the only real thing she had left of George and also her own damn flesh and blood, and this was how he repaid that trust? Honestly, he deserved what he had coming to him.

If she was being honest though, she was also mad at herself. How had she not noticed? Of course Frank would treat the kids better when she was there or called to check in. And now Sam running away made a hell of a lot more sense…

Why the hell had he not just been honest with her? It could have saved them all a whole lot of mess. Still, going off of how shaken up Jim had been when he’d finally told her everything, it seemed like Frank had done a number on them. And they were just kids after all; that made what was happening all the worse.

But now Frank was under heavy stun in the trunk of her aircar (thank god or whatever for the tech her “side job” got her), and she’d deal with him later. For now, she’d put on an old holovid and grabbed something to drink; as much as she wished it were something strong, she needed her wits for later.

Another reason for staying sober (or at least clearheaded) was coming down the stairs now, if the clear attempts to avoid the creaky steps were any indication. “Ma?”

God, she hated how scared his voice sounded. “In here, Jimmy. I’m watching one of your dad’s old favorites; come join me.”

There was another step, then what must have been Jim freezing. “Is Frank there?”

Yeah, her resolve was getting firmer every minute. “No, and we won’t be seeing him ever again.” Too ominous Winona, cover yourself better. “I’m divorcing him.” Good enough.

Jim cautiously crept in, as if he didn’t fully believe her (and really, who would blame him if he didn’t?), but he still accepted it when she held up an arm for him to come sit with her. He leaned against her side and she wrapped her arm around him. He might be getting too old for this in the eyes of some, but her poor kid needed some comfort. She tried to contain her rage as she saw the bruises and scrapes on his face and arms and wondered what was from the cliff and what was from Frank. She took a deep breath; it wouldn’t do for Jim to see his remaining parent getting mad.

After just sitting and watching a while, Jim quietly spoke, so far from the confident boy he once was that it made her heart clench. “Is Frank really gone?”

“He is.” Winona nudged her son. “And look me in the eye, ok?” She waited until he did. “You can trust me; I’m not gonna lie to you. We’re gonna be honest with each other from now on, got it?”

“Yeah.” There was a little guilt in his eyes. “Ma, I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you about Frank sooner, it’s just that he—”

“Hey. No. Don’t blame yourself.” Winona pulled Jim into a hug. “People like Frank make you think that you can’t tell anyone about what they’re doing, right? And it’s not on you if you believe that; they use every trick they can to make you think that. But it’s not your fault. He’s in the wrong here, not you. You’re gonna be ok Jim. I don’t care what he told you; you didn’t deserve any of it. You’re a good kid, Jim Kirk.” It broke her heart to hear her kid sniffling against her chest at that, but she understood that Jim probably needed a good cry right now. Still, as she wrapped her arms tighter around him she knew she wouldn’t have the same luxury. But she’d be getting all the catharsis she needed later tonight.

She stayed with Jim until he fell asleep, at which point she carried him upstairs and tucked him in. It wasn’t as easy to carry him as she remembered, even if he was still on the small side thanks to his stay on that horrible planet. God, her kid had been through a lot. But he was getting better. He was growing up; even with that chunk of stunted growth he was so big already. But that was just a sign of the years she’d missed. Of everything she’d missed…

Once Jim seemed settled, Winona went out to the aircar. She brought her phaser, half wishing she had something worse at her disposal. It would be fitting to make him suffer…

But she just drove and didn’t stop until there were nothing but fields around her. It was late enough that she probably wouldn’t be disturbed, but a little privacy never hurt.

Frank was starting to stir as she hauled him out of the trunk; it was good she’d tied him up.

She tossed him on the ground and pulled out her phaser, putting it on the highest setting. She waited for him to get up as much as he could; he was on his knees with his hands tied behind his back. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill you, and it better be damn good.”

He looked terrified. Good. “Winona I—I’m so sorry; we can work this out—”

“Sorry won’t undo what you did to my kids, you bastard.” She fired a shot just in front of him. “Try again.”

He was really breaking down now. “I—I don’t know why I did that. I would get so lonely with you gone, and the kids could be so tough—”

Another warning shot. “Stop blaming everyone else! What’s next, your parents? Learn to be better than your damn upbringing! Don’t inflict it on others!”

Frank sniveled one more time. “Clearly you just don’t understand.”

“I don’t.” Winona was practically growling. “I don’t get how someone can be violent to goddamn children. But violent to monsters like you? That I get perfectly.” She fired one more shot; this time it hit its target perfectly. Frank fell to the ground without another sound.

Winona loosened her grip on the phaser, not realizing how much she’d been white knuckling it. She stepped forward and placed the device she’d been given on Frank’s chest. She pulled out a communicator. “The device is in place. Transport with the widest possible scatter, as far away as you can go.” There was an acknowledgement on the other end, but Winona ignored it in favor of watching Frank disappear for good. She almost didn’t notice the sound of a transporter behind her. Almost. “What do you want?”

“Just to remind you of your obligations.” It was Marcus, the smug bastard. Of course. Winona turned to face him. He smiled, all smarmy charm. “We’ve done a favor for you, now you’ll have to work to repay that favor.”

Winona ignored the small part of her that whispered that it was all worth it. “Whatever. I already accepted the terms; just give me some time to sort things out with my kid and I’ll be ready for the next level of training or assignment or whatever.” She walked past Marcus, intentionally bumping him with her shoulder as she went to the aircar.

“A kid huh?” She could feel Marcus’ eyes on her back. “How old? Anything like you? We’re always looking for new recruits.”

Even though she knew it was an intentional move to provoke, Winona couldn’t help the fire in her eyes as she turned around. She pointed to where Frank had been with her phaser. “Touch him and you’re next. The organization’s got no rights to him; he doesn’t know anything.”

Marcus held up his hands placatingly, but his expression didn’t waver much. “Just making small talk. I’m a father myself, you know.”

Winona slammed the trunk shut, probably failing at making her voice level instead of snarky. “And I’m sure you’re a great one.” She turned back to him, regaining control some. “But our conversation is done now. I won’t tell my kid anything, and you’ll have no reason to so much as know his name.”

Marcus still looked smug, but he beamed away without another word. Winona sighed in frustration; that slimy bastard might even make it to the admiralty one day, and she’d be one of the few who knew why.

But she’d keep that why to herself, especially since it was Jim (and maybe Sam too, if they found him) on the line. As she settled into the aircar, Winona sighed and rested her head on her hands on the wheel.

She’d just promised Jim she’d be completely honest with him. But here she was, having to lie. Winona took a deep breath and sat up and started the car. Better to lose his trust than his life. Her baby had already dealt with enough monsters, ones that she either couldn’t protect him from or failed to protect him from. Like hell was she letting another one get him when she could protect him this time. She’d find a way to keep him safe; she’d take him with her, set him up some of George’s friends here in town she could trust, or even make Sam take him in if she had to, not that Sam was doing much better than an emancipated minor in the Federation could do (which was admittedly pretty good).

Her boys would survive. She’d make sure of it.

Chapter Text

Jim stretched, his back popping. He was still a little more than comfortably sore in certain places, but experience told him that it would all heal up soon enough. He was a bit older physically and chronologically than when they’d done this last, but not quite as much of a gap between the two as Spock had now. But better to not think of that, and instead focus on the fact that the rumor about Vulcans’ pon farr’s getting stronger with age might just be true, or maybe it was just that the separation that added to it...

His younger self had certainly had a smoother go of finding out than Jim had had. No Spock awkwardly trying to explain his biology while already starting to lose himself to the fever…

The memory made Jim laugh to himself. They’d been so young physically and chronologically when they rolled together on those hot Vulcan sands. Now they were concerningly close to middle aged bodily and so much older chronologically. Interestingly, their physical ages now probably matched what their chronological ages had been around the time they got together…

Jim was drawn out of his train of thought as warm arms circled around him from behind and a familiar face tucked itself into his neck. Jim smiled and let one hand rest over the folded ones on his middle and the other tangle in familiar dark hair. “I thought your Time was through. Still don’t want to let me out of your sight?”

Spock pulled his face away from Jim enough that his voice wouldn’t be muffled. “It is not my Time but my disbelief that makes me seek you out.”

“Aww.” Jim pushed Spock back enough that he could turn around and rest his hands on Spock’s shoulders. “Like Edith said so long ago, we’re meant to be side by side. The universe just wants us to be together.”

“Perhaps.” Spock leaned in so their foreheads rested together. “Whatever the reason, I am grateful.”

“Me too.” Jim leaned up for a kiss, deepening it for a second before pulling their mouths apart. “But while I also feel like I can’t bear to separate from you right now, I think you need a real shower. Following me in when I was freshening up during your Time doesn’t count, especially since what you ended up doing just got both of us dirtier.”

Spock’s cheeks took on a slightly greener tone. “I could not help it. Vulcan biology—”

“I know all about the biology of Vulcans.” Jim smirked. “But I can feel though the bond that you’ve lost that excuse; now go freshen up before I have to make it an order.”

“As we hold no current posting and both left Starfleet with the rank of captain, I fail to see how you could order me to do anything.” Spock paused, looking thoughtful but Jim recognized the playful tickle coming through the bond. “In fact, it is possible that my time as an ambassador has put me in a position to give you orders, not receive them from you.”

“Just go.” Jim lightly slapped Spock’s side and pulled away, but let their hands meet in a quick kiss. “I’ll still be here when you get out, I promise.”

“I do not doubt your word.” With one last lingering look, Spock turned toward the bathroom unit near their bedroom.

Jim smiled and watched him go before looking around their home. It was small and somewhat impersonal in its construction, but that was a fact of colony building, especially with so many people to house on such short notice. He supposed it was logical to just do prefab, easy to assemble things.

Personal touches could be seen here and there, and Jim knew he’d only add to it. Perhaps it was a bit of Spock’s feelings slipping through the bond from his relaxed state, but this place already felt more like home than when he’d arrived.

But it was messy, as was typically the case post-pon farr. Thankfully even in the throes of it they were fairly mindful about cleaning up bodily messes (except for while in bed; they might need a trip to the industrial recycler and replicator for that, if only for new sheets), but the place was disordered. Years of Starfleet training and bunk inspections had Jim moving almost automatically to set things right.

He was snapped out of it when he picked up a padd from where it had somehow ended up on the floor and noticed a blinking message notification; assuming it must be personal because Spock had blocked all work messages from his colleagues at the New Vulcan Science Academy for the duration of his Time, Jim picked it up. Spock was still using the same access codes he’d had for years, so Jim was in easily enough. He opened the message, seeing it was from the younger him:

Old men: (Jim objected to that even if he understood it)
Spock’s family knows about you. They don’t know who you are necessarily (i.e. that
you're us) but they know that there’s another human-Vulcan couple living on the colony
and Amanda expressed interest in meeting you. Figured you could use the heads up.
Happy pon farr,
Young Jim

Jim chuckled at that. Looks like they’d need to work out a cover story, and soon. If Jim knew Amanda, it wouldn’t take her long to find them. This was a woman who’d been willing to relocate to a planet where the climate was mildly inhospitable to her and the people were more than mildly inhospitable, and all because she’d been in love; not much could stop her when she put her mind to it.

Still, Jim wasn’t expecting it when the door chimed. He peeked at the screen in the door and saw the different but still recognizable face of this universe’s version of his mother-in-law.

Deciding that there wasn’t much use keeping her waiting, Jim sent a mental message to Spock to let him know what was going on before opening the door with a smile. “Hello.”

“Hello.” Amanda smiled at the sight of him in a way Jim recognized as a grin tempered for a Vulcan environment. “I didn’t believe it when I’d heard there was another human bonded to a Vulcan living on the colony, but you certainly don’t look Vulcan to me.”

Jim smiled and stepped aside to let her in. “I’m not; my husband’s the Vulcan of the pair.”

“Same for me.” She stepped in, looking around at their surroundings. “It’s good to meet you; I’m Amanda, wife of Ambassador Sarek.”

“I know.” Jim mentally kicked himself a moment before regaining his composure. “Even living off world like we did, the story of you and your husband was hard to miss.” Jim smiled, hoping he’d covered well enough. “I’m Jim; my husband Selek is freshening up since he just finished his Time.” He was glad that he remembered Spock’s fake name, even if it was easier since he’d used it before. He only hoped that his own first name was common enough to not attract suspicion and that she wouldn’t ask for a last name.

Thankfully, she latched on to a different bit of information and nodded in understanding. “I know how important that is.” Amanda looked around. “Your home is remarkably tidy all things considered; Sarek and I would usually leave the children at home and go elsewhere during his Time to avoid having to deal with that.”

Jim smiled and really tried not to get mental images of his in-laws, alternate universe versions or no. “Thankfully you’ve caught me post-cleaning.” He gestured to the sitting area. “Take a seat; do you want anything from the replicator?”

“I’ll take some tea; whatever you have will be fine.” She sat down, eyeing him carefully. “Have we ever met before? You seem familiar, although I don’t think I can place it.”

Jim smiled politely and got two cups of Spock’s favorite tea from the replicator, glad that his alternate had different colored eyes to throw off the resemblance some. “Maybe in another life; I can’t say I’ve met you before.” True enough.

Amanda looked at him closely a moment before shrugging it off. “Must be one of those faces.” She smiled in thanks as she took the tea. “So what do you do?”

Best not to mention Starfleet. “Still deciding. As you may have heard, I’m recently reunited with my husband and new here, so I’m going try to find some way to contribute.” He settled in, putting his cup on the coffee table. “What about you?”

“I don’t know.” Amanda set her tea down and leaned back, deep in though. “Sarek’s diplomatic work has kept us busy, but I still feel like we should be doing more.” She paused, thinking it over. “I wouldn’t mind having some children.” Jim’s eyebrow’s must have gone up, because Amanda quickly sat up. “Not like that; I’m probably too old to have children that way at this point, and it was a pretty rough process just to get Spock.” She relaxed a little, smiling. “But I wouldn’t mind taking in some of the orphans who don’t have a good home. Sarek and I definitely have a bit of a habit of collecting strays, and we seem to do alright with the ones the rest of the Vulcans would consider misfits, even if they don’t quite turn out the completely proper Vulcan way.” She smiled sheepishly.

“You’re a fantastic mother.” Jim again spoke without thinking and scrambled to cover himself. “I mean, your work speaks for itself. The Enterprise transported me here, and I met Commander Spock briefly and was quite impressed by him.” Putting Jim’s idea of Spock mildly. “His accomplishments and demeanor speak of a good upbringing, and that’s only one child.”

“Thank you.” Amanda smiled and took a sip of her tea before looking up in surprise. “This is my favorite type of Vulcan tea.”

“Oh? It’s my husband’s too. What a coincidence.” Jim had forgotten that Spock’s taste in tea was one of the many things he’d gotten from his mother.

Amanda, however, didn’t respond because she was too busy staring over Jim’s shoulder at Spock, who had just come into the room. She had that look on her face like she definitely thought he was familiar but wasn’t quite sure what to say.

Spock, for his part, remained calm as he walked over and sat at Jim’s side. “Hello, you must be Amanda.”

“I am.” She looked at him closely, scrutinizing. “You look very familiar, especially in the eyes. Have we met?”

Jim was practically biting his tongue to not point out that she’d seen those eyes in the mirror and that they’d definitely met, but thankfully Spock was better at this. “I spent many years away from Vulcan and as I understand it you have spent much time away from the colony, but it is not impossible that our paths have crossed.”

Amanda hummed in acknowledgement but was still looking at him closely. “If you don’t mind my saying, your eyes almost seem…human. Maybe that’s why they seem familiar.”

“I do not take offense to the comparison.” Spock took a sip from Jim’s now abandoned tea. “I have been told they are like my mother’s eyes.”

“Hmm.” Amanda continued staring at him, but dropped the intensity to something more casual. “I do remember meeting a distant member of Sarek’s clan named Selek when Spock was just a boy, but even with Vulcan aging you couldn’t be him.”

“No, I could not.” Spock kept his eyes on Amanda but mentally shushed Jim deciding to tell their counterparts about the Guardian so they could avoid that bit of timeline trouble. Still, Jim smiled at Spock’s little eye smile at the thought.

Amanda didn’t miss it. “If you don’t mind me saying so, you are remarkably expressive for a Vulcan.”

“I do not mind.” He let his hand rest on Jim’s knee. “I believe it is the influence of my bondmate.”

Jim grinned, dropping his hand over Spock’s. “I’m a bad influence.”

Amanda laughed. “I’m sure you just bring out the best in each other.” Her smile softened as she watched the look that passed between them, and she set her tea down on the table before looking between them. “So I heard you lived off planet. Anywhere exciting?”

“A little bit of everywhere.” Jim squeezed Spock’s hand just slightly. “We traveled the stars together, but unfortunately we got split up in the process.”

“But you found each other again.” Amanda smiled again before taking another sip of her tea. “So traveling all over. Was that with Starfleet?”

She was good. “A bit, years ago. I actually met him through Starfleet.” Was that giving away too much? Jim smiled. “But like I said, years ago. We’re older than we look.”

Amanda raised an eyebrow at that. “We?”

“I have my Vulcan genes to thank, and as you have likely discovered with Sarek, being soulmates with a Vulcan seems to slow the aging process for humans.” At least Spock was smooth.

“Of course.” Amanda looked back between them and then to her tea. “You know, my son tells me a lot, especially since we nearly lost each other. He even told me Starfleet has concrete evidence of things like time travel and alternate universes.” She took a sip. “Can you believe it?”

“If Starfleet science does, there is likely substantial evidence.” Spock was remaining calm, and Jim was thankful he could draw on that calm though the bond.

“Substantial evidence like people who have time traveled or come from alternate universes?” Amanda watched them closely.

“That would certainly prove it.” Jim tried to stay nonchalant, but Amanda seemed to have a better poker face.

“True.” She looked at Spock. “And what do you think, Spock?”

“My name is Selek.” Jim couldn’t help but crack a smile at the mix of amusement and concern and too many other things to name swirling through Spock’s mind.

“Come on.” Amanda set down her tea, a smile of amusement with a dash of triumph crossing her face. “I may not exactly be your mother, but I still kindof am.”

Selek let a bit of a smile slip across his own face. “I suppose that is true. But how did you know?”

“Well,” she brought her tea up for another sip before looking at them. “It helps that you do have a bit of a resemblance to my Spock, even if it’s just my eyes.” Amanda smiled wider as he ducked his head. “Plus, he and his Jim were just here, and they couldn’t quite follow Vulcan norms on showing affection either.” She cast a pointed look to their still-joined hands on Jim’s knee.

“I suppose that is true.” Spock made no move to move his hand. “I must ask one favor, however.”

“Anything.” Amanda set down her tea.

“Please do not tell Sarek; I am still deciding the best approach.” Spock used his free hand to drink some of his own (formerly Jim’s) tea.

“Hmm.” Amanda sat back. “That could be difficult; I’m sure you two know how difficult it is to keep secrets when bonded.”

Jim was about to express his understanding, but before he could Amanda spoke up.

“But it will also be fun, so I’m in.” She smiled at them before leaning forward again. “Now, tell me all about yourselves.”

Jim grinned. “I think that’s a fitting price to pay for some secrecy.”

Spock restrained himself enough to not grin, but his eyes were warm as he looked between them. “Agreed.”

Chapter Text

Jim nervously ran his hand through his hair and smoothed down his button up shirt where his jacket was open. He wasn’t sure why he was nervous really; he’d been to dinner with Pike and Number One at their place plenty of times.

“Jim, please relax.” Spock used his free hand (the one holding not the appropriately non-chocolate dessert they’d pricked up at a bakery on the way over) and took Jim’s. “The evening will be fine.”

“Yeah, I know, but…” Jim smiled. “It’s weird. The whole formal dinner, meet the parents thing. I haven’t really done it with anyone I was seeing, and god knows my first impression with your folks was not great.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “You are aware that my parents’ opinion of you is not what it initially was. Additionally, this is not the situation you describe; Admiral Pike and his wife are not your parents, and I have met them before as I served as science officer on their last mission as captain and first officer together.”

“I know.” Jim smiled nervously. “It’s just a little odd. I definitely never saw myself as the type of guy someone would bring home to their parents, and I never saw myself as the person who’d ever end up bringing someone to meet their parents, for a number of reasons.”

“You are worthy of the things you did not believe you could have.” Spock gave Jim’s hand a squeeze and he felt himself relaxing. “I am honored to be the person you have this with.”

Jim felt more of his nerves melt away, and he brought Spock’s hand to his lips to plant a kiss on the back of it. “You’re the best, babe.”

Before Spock could respond, the door opened and they both looked to see Pike there. He smiled at them. “Jim, Spock, come in!”

“Hey!” In such an informal setting, Jim was comfortable enough bending down to give Pike a quick hug. He straightened up and gestured to the box in Spock’s hands. “I hope you don’t mind that we brought dessert; there’s a bakery that uses all real, non-replicated stuff near here and we decided to stop by and grab something.”

“Sounds good.” Pike accepted the box and took a peek inside before setting it on his lap and wheeling further into the house. “Come on in. I’ll put this in the kitchen; I’ve already finished cooking, so Number One was just setting the table and should be around here somewhere.”

Jim stayed in the entryway a moment as he took off his jacket and Spock took off his cloak. “What’re we having?”

Pike turned around and smiled at them. “I made steak and roasted vegetables, plus plenty of salad for our resident vegetarian here.”

Spock nodded, his now-removed cloak folded neatly over one arm. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” Pike turned back around and kept moving to the kitchen. “I’ll be right back out.”

Jim and Spock settled into the dining room as much as they could when they weren’t sure of their seats. Jim was just about to ask Spock where he thought they should sit when a voice came from the doorway opposite where Pike had gone.

“Captain, Commander. Good to see you.” Jim turned and smiled at Number One. At first he’d been a little put off by her formality and worried she didn’t like him, but then Pike explained that was just how she was. Jim figured it might have to do with the culture of wherever she came from, but he’d never bothered to ask since she didn’t talk about it much.

“Hey Number One.” Jim waved but didn’t bother to hug her like he did with Pike. “How’s command treating you?”

“Well.” She gestured to the table. “Please take a seat; Chris and I were planning on taking the ends, so you two can sit across from each other in the middle.”

“Sounds good.” Jim looked to Spock and they moved to their seats, settling in as Number One did the same.

Spock turned to Number One. “You are currently captaining a research vessel, correct? What are your teams currently studying?”

Jim zoned out a bit as they slipped into scientific discussion; he almost thought about making a joke about how Number One wasn’t allowed to steal Spock away from him, but he knew Spock would say it was impossible. So he sat there half listening in, smiling at how Spock lit up when he was interested in what Number One was saying.

They stayed like that until Pike came in with the food and Jim jumped up to help him set it up on the table. They served up and settled into more easy conversation while they ate.

-----

As dinner was wrapping up, Pike wiped his mouth with a napkin before looking around the table. “Jim, why don’t you and Number One go get dessert ready. I want to talk to Spock for a minute; we’ll all meet back up in the living room when we’re ready, ok?”

Jim paused, glancing at Spock as if to check if it was ok. “Alright.” With one last look at Spock, he got up to help Number One clear the table and headed to the kitchen.

Spock stood and followed Pike to the other room, but he paused in the doorway. “If you are planning to give me what Dr. McCoy referred to as the “shovel talk,” I should inform you that Commander Kirk has already done that.”

“Yeah?” Pike raised an eyebrow and chuckled, pouring himself a drink. “While I would be upset if you did somehow break Jim’s heart, something tells me that won’t happen, and I’m not sure if I’m really in enough of a parental role for Jim to actually be making those kinds of comments.” He took a sip. “Plus, whatever Winona would have in store for whoever hurts her baby is probably way worse than what I could come up with.” He held out the decanter to Spock. “Want any?”

“I am alright.” Spock cautiously advanced further into the room, sitting down so he and Pike would be more easily at eye level.

Pike sat back, eyeing Spock. “I suppose now I’m supposed to ask about your intentions, if we really are doing the meet the parents shtick.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “Jim is my soulmate and t’hy’la. I intend to bond with him when he is ready and become bondmates when the Time comes.”

Pike nodded and sipped his drink. “Good enough for me.”

Despite himself, Spock felt a little relived. “I would never hurt him.”

“I know.” Pike smiled at him. “That means we’re just into the fun part of the evening where Number One and I embarrass you both by sharing Jim’s awkward cadet stories and stories about you as an ensign.”

Spock sat up straighter, but before he could respond Jim and Number One returned. Jim sat down on the other side of the loveseat Spock had sat down on, close enough that their thighs touched, and kissed him on the cheek as he put a plate with a slice of the fruit tart they’d purchased on his lap. “Here you go, Spock.”

“Thank you.” Spock let his hand brush Jim’s and restrained himself to a small smile as he took in Jim’s profile as Jim eagerly began to eat his own slice.

Pike looked between them and smiled. “So Number One, want to tell Jim about that incident with Spock and the science labs during his first week serving with us?”

Spock stiffened, but Jim leaned in eagerly next to him, and Spock found even if he would rather not repeat that particular incident he could not be upset with Jim that happy next to him.

While Spock knew experience could not change the passage of time, he understood the human idiom of time passing more quickly during enjoyable activities; it felt like it was not long before the evening came to a close, Jim holding his arm and leaning on him more than was usually necessary because he had accepted Pike’s offer of alcoholic beverages at dinner and afterwards.

Still, Spock could not help a slight smile at the pink tint to Jim’s face or his relaxed demeanor, and it was no struggle for him to partially support Jim’s weight with an arm around Jim’s waist and one of Jim’s around his shoulders. “I believe you are intoxicated.”

Jim’s smiled widened, but stayed soft and relaxed. “Just a little buzzed. Maybe I just want an excuse to cuddle you in public.” Jim leaned against him a little more, letting his arm slip to Spock’s waist and under his cloak. “Love you babe.”

Spock considered responding in Vulcan as he sometimes did, but thought that in Jim’s minorly impaired state it would be best to speak in a way Jim could understand. “I love you as well.”

Jim smiled a little more at that, and Spock allowed him to bring their faces close enough for a brief kiss on the lips. Spock also noticed Jim’s free hand sliding to his on Jim’s side.

After a moment, Spock pulled back enough to separate their mouths, but let their bodies stay close. “We should get home.”

Jim grinned, lazy and open. “Sounds good.”