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In Any Universe

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     The stun beam had hit him while he was standing on the beach looking out at the rolling alien surf, the soft sand and the crash of water muffling the other’s approach. And now the salty scent of the sea hung in the room, along with the damp heaviness of humid air, and Spock perceived that the ocean was nearby, perhaps steps outside of this place.

     The silence around him was filled with psionic vibrations: seething, powerful, unabashed emotion that flowed over Spock’s nerves and seeped through his shields. There was raw power here, lurking in the darkness beyond the blindfold over his eyes, and it was disconcertingly familiar. He had the sense of significant alignment of his own mental energies, something he had only felt once before: standing in his own presence after the Battle of Earth, looking into his own aged face. But this, this was harsher, more immediate, more frantic, and, combined with the immoveable restraints securing him to some kind of flat, unforgiving surface, was resulting in a sharp rise of emotion, despite his controls.

     Spock heard a low chuckle from his right side.

     “I can smell your fear.”

     The voice was also familiar, and Spock heard movement, the shift and crunch of sand grains against the floor, as the other stepped towards him.

     “Taking you was almost too easy; I had anticipated more of a fight.” A huff. “Perhaps my ego misinformed my expectations.”

     Spock kept silent, sensing desperate eagerness and excitement over a background of roiling grief and bitter determination. Nothing was hidden: emotions were projected as if the other couldn’t control, or simply didn’t care to do so. Spock felt the other’s hand smooth down the front of his black tunic, picking up an odd spicy scent from the other’s hair.

     “You are prettier than I. Tell me, Spock, do you kneel in service to your t’hy’la’s whim, or does he to you?”

     That archaic term caused an involuntary turn of Spock’s head and the other man chuckled again, dryly.

     “He was not with you; a situation on the ship, no doubt. When do you expect to meet him?”

     Spock strengthened his mental shields, sensing the almost casual probe that snaked towards his mind. In this proximity he could feel the discipline behind the other’s action. No android, this, and no lazy attempt at duplication. This person sounded and felt and smelled Vulcan.

     “You will tell me, of course. I’ve always wondered—.” The voice trailed off, and Spock suppressed a gasp as his tunic was pushed up, exposing his torso to chilled, damp air. The hand that had moved down his chest now pressed against his side, over his heart, and a flood of touch-sense crashed against his shields along with inescapable knowledge. This was him: himself from another universe. Spock had the startling impulse to laugh in the face of this unbelievable situation, an impulse that was stifled as he felt the cold blade of a knife slice into his skin.

     The cut wasn’t deep enough to seriously damage, but it would certainly leave a scar, and as Spock felt the delicate, macabre design continue over his chest and upper abdomen, he drew careful breath, finally speaking.

     “Why are you inscribing those particular words into my flesh?”

     The cuts did not stop as the other replied evenly, “You should carry the mark of your t’hy’la. When he is taken from you and you bare your chest to the winds before taking your own life, this claim shall be evident to the gods. Perhaps they will forgive you for failing your warrior-bond even if he will not.”

     Spock swallowed. “I am not thusly bound, and decidedly not to the one you so indicate.”

     The last cut finished with a deep flourish, and Spock felt the warmth of his own blood trailing over his skin.

     “I beg your pardon.” The voice was low and dangerous. “You presume to lie to me?”

     “Vulcans do not lie.”

     A snort. “Indeed?” There was silence, and Spock could feel the other’s scrutiny. “Is it possible you do not yet know?”

     The mental attack came without warning, and now Spock did cry out as relentless fingers pressed against his face, a powerful force battering his shields. It was fierce and multi-faceted, changing tactic and approach, and Spock fought back, employing all his discipline, all his considerable talent and the strength of his formidable gift: his gift, which this other also possessed.

     The onslaught was vicious and determined, and the barriers between them thinned as the other pressed, attacking without restraint. But the knowledge that the other was interested somehow in Jim galvanized Spock, and he pushed back, striking deep and causing the other to release him and step away, breathing hard.

     “Perhaps my…ego…was not falsely inflated after all.” The other stepped backwards again, and Spock heard the odd shuffle of feet, as if he moved unsteadily. There was a small metallic noise and the footsteps returned, and Spock could sense the other’s malice and anticipation mixed with distorted lust.

     “Your shields are resilient, but they are based in simple physical being: nerves, electrical impulse, flesh. And though the spirit may be strong, the flesh is weak.” The other chuckled darkly. “So weak.”

     The cold press of metal came again, but this time just beneath his collarbone. This new object was small and blunt, and the immediate flash of pain radiating from its location was overwhelming. Spock gasped, feeling his body convulse against the cutting restraints. He couldn’t get enough oxygen, and he felt a burst of coppery blood in his mouth as he bit the inside of his cheek, keeping himself from screaming. He would not be heard, this other would have seen to that, and he would retain some semblance of dignity even in the face of this. Everything was white, everything was pain, and he struggled to remember the mind rules, seeing nothing but… .

     The agony stopped abruptly, and Spock heard the other chuckle tightly, feeling a finger swipe across his bloody chest.

     “I can now understand why my captain enjoyed watching my own suffering so much. The way my body must have moved, like yours does now: involuntary, so primal, thrusting, bleeding. He would take me like this, sating himself while I screamed. As you will scream for me, now.”

     Spock could sense the lust pouring off of the other chased by the sudden bite of sharp grief and managed one deep breath before the device ignited his nerves again. And again. And again.

     The final round lasted interminably, and Spock felt tears wet the blindfold, felt his muscles spasm and, finally, he couldn’t help screaming, his voice coming raggedly.

     The first thing he felt as the pain ended was the press of fingers against his face, a hovering force poised for attack, waiting until Spock was fully aware, wanting him to feel everything, to be cognizant of everything. He could barely move, feeling what was left of his shields as bare, wispy filaments, his limbs still shivering with aftershocks from the device.

     The fingers pressed harder, bruising his skin, and Spock was helpless against the assault as it forced its way into his mind. The other didn’t even bother to shield himself, and Spock saw where he was from, saw how he had engineered his presence here, saw who he had come for and why.

     Jim… .

     Yes, the other hissed, he is your t’hy’la and you did not even know. You can feel the link now, though, can you not? You can reach and feel his mind now, can you not? I can, and I will, and I will do other things that you would never dare.

     Spock could feel Jim, a small, latent link now shoved open by the other’s brutal mind, and as he felt the other push, sliding through and widening the link, pouring towards and into Jim’s mind, he began to struggle again.

     Surprise and grief and anger ricocheted into Spock’s thoughts as the other probed the captain’s unknowing subconscious. So, he cares for you as you care for him? How poetic. I will make him believe and then he’ll come to me willingly, and this bond shall be mine. He shall be mine. And then he shall return with me and I will have my James again, my t’hy’la.

     “No!” Spock heard his own cry as a distant thing, echoing over the burning mental landscape.

     The other’s dark laughter felt like fire against his thoughts. You should be thanking me. This is mercy: to take him now, before you experienced what could have been. To have it ripped away from you after that realization would only lead to insanity.

     A vicious mental push.

     And though insanity suits me, my counterpart, it would destroy everything you are. This is mercy, Spock; for the first time in my life, I am merciful.