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The Night Before

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Spock had not intended to watch them. He had only been at the dock because he had been unable to resist the temptation of seeing the Enterprise again, as illogical as that was. This was not his timeline, hence this was not 'his' Enterprise, not the ship that was the closest to 'home' he had ever felt outside of his mother's house, where he had served first Captain Pike and then the man who had shaped his life so dramatically. Captain Kirk. Jim. And there was the other reason Spock had found himself on the observation deck in the middle of the night before the Enterprise left for her first mission under her new captain: He had known, with utmost certainty, that Jim Kirk would be there, too.

And although Spock knew, knew as only someone who had shared his mind with the other person could, that this Jim Kirk was not the same man he had met all those years ago, he had felt the need to see him again, just once. Over the years Spock had learned to accept that his own needs were not always rational, logical, and that giving in to them did not lessen him. He had no intention of approaching the young man in the brand-new gold uniform, he just wanted to see him, alive and well, and remember the friend he had lost, so Spock stayed where he was, hidden in the shadows of the empty observation deck, and watched Jim Kirk in the loading area, checking and re-checking lists that had already been checked and re-checked by a number of much more qualified people. 'His' Jim Kirk had done the same, the night before every new mission, as if he had to see with his own eyes that the Enterprise was truly ready. It was a human trait that Spock had always understood, although if prodded, for example by one particularly aggravating doctor, he would have insisted that his own re-checks were the result of his being the most qualified person for the task.

It therefore should not have surprised him when his alternate self entered the loading area. After all, despite the changes in the timeline, they were the same person, for the most part. When Spock had spoken to his counterpart earlier, the biggest variances seemed to stem from the difference in age. This was logical, as Spock's own past had been much less directly influenced than Kirk's by Nero's maneuvre. So he should have expected the younger man to go over the lists of provisions for the Enterprise. After their talk Spock was reasonably sure that his words had achieved their goal and the First Officer's name on the official maiden voyage of the Enterprise would be Spock. As it was supposed to be. However, obviously Kirk had not yet been informed of this fact, or maybe Spock's younger self had a two-fold reason for coming and wanted another confrontation with Kirk before deciding whether or not to follow Spock's advice. In any case, Kirk looked up in surprise when Spock approached.

"So, what brings you here? I thought you'd be on your way to the new Vulcan colony by now, or maybe ear-deep in plans how to make up for the sudden lack of cadets..." Underneath the flippant tone Kirk sounded tired, and it occured to the observing Spock that grief for his fallen classmates might have been keeping him up as much as the prospect of his first command. It was obvious, however, that the younger Vulcan had not yet learned how to decipher all the nuances of human speech.

Spock could remember a time when Jim Kirk had been a most confusing mystery to him, and he could feel his facial muscles twitch slightly when his alternate self cocked his head and raised an eyebrow: "Captain Kirk, I am not familiar with the term 'ear-deep', unless you are attempting to simultaneously tease me about my Vulcan ears and my commitment to the Academy. Which strikes me as juvenile in the face of the many deaths."

The younger Spock obviously had still a lot to learn about humans, and particularly about James T. Kirk, whose face darkened dangerously in reaction to the Vulcan's words. But then he seemed to force himself to relax: "We'll just pretend you didn't say that, Commander, or our very young friendship would already be over before it got started."

"That would indeed be regrettable, or so I have been told by Ambassador Spock."

Kirk gaped for a moment before stammering: "You... you met him, I mean, you, I mean, him? Damnit, I thought that wasn't possible!"

"It appears that he lied in order to further his own agenda. Probably a result of too much proximity with humans." Vulcan features relaxed into the approximation of a smile, as the hidden observer noticed with satisfaction. Certain things had already begun to develop as they should.

Kirk barked out a surprised laugh and grumbled good-humoured: "As Bones would say, 'blast the pointy-eared matchmaker'!"

"I assume you are referring to Dr. McCoy? He does seem to enjoy a rather... colorful idiom at times. However, I do not get your meaning. I was under the impression the term 'matchmaker' refers to someone who arranges marriages or other relationships of a romantic nature?"

Noting Jim Kirk's suddenly flushed face, on the observation deck Spock began to feel something like embarrassment. Unlike his young counterpart he was aware that the term was not without relevance - but he had not intended Kirk to know. It must have slipped through during the mind-meld, he figured. After the double shock of having just witnessed the destruction of Vulcan and finding himself face to face with a man he had not seen alive for almost a hundred years, certain rather more personal images must have found their way into what was supposed to be a simple passing on of information. Spock was rather grateful that Vulcans didn't blush when he admitted to himself that a number of his most precious memories of the original James T. Kirk, the ones most likely to have surfaced as he was touching the young Kirk's mind in the icy cave, featured moments of intimacy, of mental and physical closeness shared over the years of their relationship. They had never bothered to define it, had not even refrained from taking other lovers at times, yet Spock realized that maybe 'marriage' was not the most inaccurate description.

In the loading area, his younger self was obviously drawing his own conclusions from Kirk's continuous silence and the emotions clearly visible on his face: "Captain, do you mean to imply that our alternates were involved romantically? This does not strike me as very likely, as evidence suggests that both of us are mainly attracted to females."

This caused Kirk to look up and chuckle drily: "No shit. But, regardless, I know what I saw, and it was... unmistakable. And, before you point out that we're not them, don't tell me you don't feel it, too, that connection." The look in his eyes held a challenge that the watching Spock recognized all too well. "Because then you'd be the one lying."

The Vulcan caught in the fierce stare seemed to consider for a moment before bowing his head slightly, a gesture of consent or defeat. "No, I have been aware of it for a while now. Since the moment when you goaded me into losing control in order to get me removed from the bridge."

Reacting to the calm words, Kirk moved a few steps closer but refrained from actually touching the man in front of him. His voice was equally quiet: "I'm sorry for what I said there. It was cruel. And, even worse, I knew it was a lie and what it would do to you."

"A necessary lie. One I suspect Ambassador Spock initiated because he knew my - our - weakness. Do not trouble yourself." Vulcan and human eyes locked, and Jim Kirk touched Spock's shoulder. Spock cocked his head again. Then he closed the gap between them and pressed his lips against Kirk's, testing. For a long moment neither man moved, then something seemed to break and they clutched at each other with ferocious hunger, claiming each other over and over. When they finally separated Kirk was slightly wild-eyed and breathing hard. Spock looked at him, then down at his own fingers which were still twisted in Kirk's uniform shirt, and lifted a surprised eyebrow: "Fascinating."

On the observation deck the older Spock began a silent retreat. "They will be alright, old friend," he whispered into the empty air.