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Once Upon a Time (A Fairy-Tale Love Story)

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Jim's thumb paused over the buttons on his cell phone as Winona's voice drifted in from the kitchen.

"…No, George, that wasn't the deal. You said you'd take him for Christmas… I don't care that you have other plans with Pike's family—I had plans, too... Bullshit!"

Sighing, he reached out for the remote and turned on the TV. That terrible series—Pleasantville or something—was on, but he didn't bother changing the channel. Anything, even this stupid show, was better than listening to his mom trying to get rid of him for Christmas, of all things.

His lips twisted. She probably didn't want him to ruin her perfect Christmas with Frank and his asshole son. Now it was just down to which one of his parents would lose this argument and would have to bear his presence for Christmas. His bet was on Winona. Jim was half-tempted to tell them to flip a coin. He was even more tempted to tell them to go to hell and that he could spend Christmas somewhere else, but it would make their lives too easy.

"No, I can't bail you out—I told you, I have plans, too!... What? And you have the gall to say that Christmas is a family celebration? I'm supposed to do 'the right thing' but you can ditch your son on Christmas Eve for Pike's sister's wedding—and who gets married on Christmas Eve, anyway? How self-centered must a person be to think that their wedding is more important than Christmas?... I don't care, George. I already have plans! Also, you have to talk to him—I'm fed up of dealing with his constant screw-ups. You know how often the principal has phoned me over the past few weeks? Seven. Your son is just like you: irresponsible—"

Jim turned the sound up. Pleasantville played at an unnaturally high volume.


"Honey, I'm home," a man says, entering the front door and hanging his hat on the coatrack.

A woman enters, untying the back of her apron. She crosses to her husband and kisses him on the cheek. "Hello, darling," she says softly. "How was your day?"

"Oh, swell. You know, Mr. Connel said that if things keep going the way they are, I might be seeing that promotion sooner than I thought."

She gives him an adoring look. "Oh, darling, that's wonderful! I always knew you could do it. Have you bought Christmas gifts for kids?"



What a stupid show.

Jim turned the TV off and returned his attention to the text he had been writing to Gary, trying to ignore the conversation in the other room. There was a big lump in his throat that wouldn't go away.

"No, Sam's isn't coming home for Christmas, he's staying on campus… No, Jim can't go to him—I don't have that kind of money, and Sam doesn't want him there anyway...All right, fine. He'll stay with me for Christmas, but you owe me one, got it?"

Jim’s mouth curved into a crooked smile. Holy shit, what a loving family he had. Who would have guessed that, once upon a time, his parents actually did give a fuck about him? That felt like ages ago.

Well, fuck them. He was happy on his own.

 

 



~~*~~

 

 


Gary cackled, watching Mark and his nerdy friend. "Shit, he's so pathetic. I can't believe you're related to him, Jim—"

"I'm not related to him," Jim snapped, looking away.

"Dude, he's like your stepbrother and stuff, and he—"

Jim gave him a look, and he added quickly, "I just mean, he's a tool. You're much, much cooler."

"He isn't my stepbrother," Jim said through his teeth. "My mom sleeps with his dad. It doesn't make him my stepbrother."

Gary raised his eyebrows. "But he lives in your house."

Jim's jaw tightened. "Still—"

"Hold it. Look who’s coming over here, man," Rick interrupted, nudging him. Jim looked up.

Jessica Hawkins, the school's resident hottie, was walking in their direction, followed by her usual entourage of girls. She was wearing a short skirt and a low-cut top under her jacket, her blonde hair blowing in the wind.

Jim stared at her dumbly for a few moments, wondering how she wasn't freezing her ass off in weather like this—it was snowing—before remembering that he was supposed to be excited about it.

Putting on a grin, Jim pulled away from the wall he had been leaning against. "Let's go say hi?"

Rick and Gary smirked and followed him.

The two groups came to a halt several feet from each other. Jim smiled at Jessica, giving her a quick once over. "Hey."

She smiled a little too brightly, batting her eyelashes. "Hey."

"Hey," Rock and Garry said to Jessica's girlfriends.

They smiled.

Shit, this was awkward—and kind of hilarious and stupid. Suddenly, an idea came to Jim and he smiled even wider. "Hey, Jess, do you wanna come to my home tomorrow night? We can watch TV and do stuff."

She blinked. "But tomorrow is Christmas Eve."

"So?" Jim said with a lazy smile, cocking his head. "Surely it can't be more important than me."

She blushed, giving him googly eyes. "Um, okay. If you think your family won't mind, I mean."

Jim's smile grew sweeter. "No worries, they won't. They'll be delighted, Jess."

"All right, then," she murmured. "I'll come around six?"

"Cool," Jim said.

She smiled at him. Jim smiled back, and then both groups turned around and walked into opposite directions.

Gary and Rick patted Jim on the back. "Man, you were really cool! A date with the hottest girl in school!"

Jim smiled, thinking of just how delighted  his mom and Frank were gonna be.

 

 



~~*~~

 


Standing at his bedroom window, Jim watched Christmas lights on McFarland's house flicker on and off.

"No, Gary, I've gotta go downstairs," he said into the phone. "Jessica will come any minute now… Sure, buddy. Of course I'll tell you how it went."

He hung up, and straightening his sweater, went bounding down the stairs and made a beeline for the couch. He almost didn't notice Mark, who entered the room from another direction and was hurrying through it.

They hit the coffee table and reached for the remote control at exactly the same moment. Both of them froze, looking up at each other.

"What are you doing?" Mark said with a glare, tugging at the remote.

Jim glared back. "What are you doing?"

Neither of them moved. They were still clutching the remote.

Jim scowled. "Mark, cut it out. Jessica Hawkins is gonna be here in five minutes!"

"Gelvin starts in five minutes!"

Jim laughed. "What? You think I give a damn about it?"

Mark shrugged. "You think I give a damn about your stupid date? Go watch TV upstairs."

Jim looked at him in disbelief. "Upstairs? It doesn't have any stereo! And who the fuck are you to tell me what should I do?! It's my fucking house, and you're a nobody here!"

Mark sneered. "This is my house more than yours. You’re the nobody here—"

"Shut up," Jim growled, feeling his cheeks heat up. He yanked at the remote; Mark yanked back.

Before they knew it, the remote went flying out of their hands, crashing onto the hardwood floor. Its surface cracked, making a couple of the buttons fall out of the casing.

"Shit, shit, shit," Mark muttered under his breath, sinking to his knees and scooping it up. "It's your goddamn fault! I’m gonna miss Gelvin because of you and your stupid date!" He looked like he was on the edge of crying. "I've been waiting a year for this! And I'm totally telling Winona that you did that - I bet she'll ground you for a year!"

Jim huffed, rolling his eyes. "I'm already pissing myself, buddy. And sorry to disappoint, but I'm gonna be eighteen in a few months and I’m gonna get the fuck out of here. And stop stressing over nothing, you baby! We can, like, turn it on normally—"

"No!” Mark wailed. “It's a new model; it doesn't work without a remote!"

The doorbell rang, and Jim sighed. "Fuck, she's already here."

Running a hand over his clothes, he walked to the door and swung it open. Jessica flashed him a bright smile, dressed in flattering heels and miniskirt despite the cold.

"Hey."

"Hi, come in," Jim said with a halfhearted smile and stepped aside, letting her walk into the foyer. Closing the door, he led her to the living room, hoping that Mark was already gone to his room.

But nope; the fucker was still sitting on the floor next to the smashed remote.

"Um, that's Mark," Jim said to Jessica with an awkward smile. "You probably know him from—"

Mark snorted, staring at the floor. "Don't trouble yourself, Jimmy boy. She's here just to get laid anyway—"

"Mark," Jim said through his teeth, feeling his face grow hot. "Shut up."

Mark snorted again. "Oh come on, like it's not true! She probably doesn't give a damn about watching TV." He scowled. "You should've just taken her upstairs like I told you, and then everyone would've been happy! She's got nice tits, I'll give you that."

Jim took one look at Jessica, who was flushed with embarrassment, and stepped up to Mark, jerking him to his feet. "I'll be back soon," he said to Jessica as he dragged Mark out of the living room, pushing him into the next hallway over.

"Let me go!" Mark yelled, trying to get free of his grasp, but it was pointless—Jim was much stronger than him. Jim slammed the door shut behind them and turned to Mark.

"What the hell is your problem?!" he shouted, glowering at him.

Mark glowered back. "My problem is, because of you and that brainless girl, I'm missing the show I've been waiting for the whole year!"

Jim rolled his eyes. "Mark, come on, who cares about that stupid show—"

"I do!" Mark shouted, his eyes red and his hands clenched into fists. "Yeah, sure, who cares about what I want when Mr. Popular here wants to watch TV just to get into the panties of some dumb blonde!"

Jim tilted his head, narrowing his eyes. He laughed harshly. "You’re just jealous  of me, admit it. You're jealous that I'm popular, that everyone loves me, and that I have lots of friends while you're a nobody."

Mark snorted. "What should I be jealous of -- those jerks you call friends? They'd leave you the second you stop being popular! Maybe I have only a few friends, but they're real—they give a shit about my life and me! And it's better to be a nobody than to be a fake somebody!” He rolled his eyes. “You know that half of the school hates your guts? No one really loves you, Jim! No one -- not your mom, not your dad and definitely not your brother -- he got out the second he could and doesn't even call you! No one gives a fuck about your pathetic ass! Even your mom loves me more than you!"

Jim stared at him, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides. His throat was constricting, like something was lodged there and he couldn't get it out.

"Shut up."

"Why? It's true!"

"What's going on here?" the familiar voice said sharply, and they both whirled around to face Winona. Her hair was pulled back in a bun and she was wearing an apron. Had they been so loud that she heard them from the kitchen?

"Jim broke the TV!" Mark blurted out before Jim could say anything.

"What?" Winona said and fixed a hard gaze on Jim. "Do you have any idea how much it cost?"

"I didn't fucking break it," Jim said, letting a breath through his teeth. "It's just a remote, and if anything, it's Mark's fault, not mine. He's a fucking liar!"

"James Tiberius Kirk, you will cease this at once," Winona snapped. "Mark never lies."

Sticking his tongue in his cheek, Jim snorted bitterly. He couldn't even say that he was surprised that his mom took Mark's side. "Of course not. I’m always the lying one, right, Mom?"

Winona narrowed her eyes. "Don't talk to me like that, young man. You're grounded, Jim. Go to your room!"

Jim looked from Mark's smirking face to his mom's angry face—and, suddenly, he'd had enough.

"No," Jim said.

Winona's eyes flashed dangerously. "No?"

Jim set his jaw. “No,” he spat. "I'm sick of this house, of Iowa and all of you. I'm getting the fuck out of here. Merry Fucking Christmas." He turned and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

The living room was empty. Jessica had left. Not that Jim could blame her.

He stared at the smashed remote on the floor, his eyes burning.

I'm fed up of dealing with his constant screw-ups.

No one really loves you, Jim! No one. Not your mom, not your dad and definitely not your brother… No one gives a fuck about your pathetic ass! Even your mom loves me more than you!


Screw them all.

He stalked out of the house.

It was already dark outside. His sweater did nothing to protect him against the cold December wind, but at least it wasn't snowing anymore. Jim walked down the nearest snowy path, Mark's words ringing in his ears. Before long, he was shivering. Jim wrapped his arms around himself and looked up.

A few bright stars winked at him through patchy clouds and Jim smiled slightly. He always liked looking at stars; he liked to imagine what was up there in space.

The sky was illuminated by lights, and Jim's lips twisted. Well, Merry Christmas to me. God, I hate this life. I want another one; want to have someone to love.

Jim chuckled out loud at his thoughts. Shit, he was pathetic. He should just go back home; maybe tomorrow his life wouldn't seem as shitty as it felt right now.

"As far as Christmas wishes go, this one was somewhat interesting, James Kirk," an unfamiliar voice said and Jim stopped in his tracks. His gaze darted around and stopped on a man.

Jim frowned. He could have sworn that he was alone seconds before, but now a middle-aged man stood before him. "Who are you? How do you know my name?"

The man smiled at him pleasantly. "Didn't you just make a Christmas wish on a star, Human?"

Jim's mouth fell open. "What? Who the fuck are you?"

The guy shook his head sadly. "Kids these days. So rude."

"Who. The fuck. Are you?"

The guy flashed him a sly smile that sent creeps down Jim's spine.

"You can call me… ‘Santa,’" he said in an amused voice. "I'm here to make your wishes come true."

"Not fucking funny,” Jim snarled. “I'm asking you for the last time: who are you?"

The guy narrowed his eyes dangerously, his lips curving into an ugly smile. "Don’t speak to me like that, Human. You're lucky I'm in a good mood tonight – really, you should be grateful that I'm here at all. You know how many trillions of pathetic wishes you humans make on Christmas Eve? I chose yours only because it was somewhat worthwhile.” His smile widened. “Also, you're kind of hard to ignore, kid; I wonder what your psi-rating is. Compared to other humans, you're very telepathically gifted. That's most unusual for a psi-null species."

Jim let out a laugh. "Are you seriously saying that you can make wishes come true? What have you been smoking, buddy?"

The guy shook his head with a smile. He smiled too much. It was kind of creepy. "You don't believe me, of course. You humans never do. What if I tell you that I know what you wished?"

Jim chuckled, certain that the guy was bullshitting. "Sure, let's hear it."

The man smiled. "You hate your life and you want another one and want to have someone to love."

Jim's mouth fell open.

"Huh, you look like you're freezing. I can fix it," the guy said, and snapped his fingers. Immediately, Jim felt very warm.

"Who are you?" he managed. "Or, what are you?"

"My name won't tell you anything," the guy answered, sounding bored. "And it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that I can make your wish come true — if you really want it."

"What do you mean, if I really want it?"

The guy snorted. "I've been doing this job for two thousand twenty-eight Earth years. You have no idea what I've seen, Human. Compared to some shit I've seen, what you’re going through is just some teenage phase. It'll pass, believe me. Your life in this universe isn't half bad, James Tiberius Kirk."

Jim frowned, his mind reeling. In this universe? What did that mean? Who the fuck was this guy—this creature? Because there was no way it was human.

Before Jim could ask, the guy continued, "There are many parallel worlds in which your life is much worse than in this one. At least here, you have your father, mother and brother alive, right? Admittedly, it's not the most loving family in the world, but, you know. Details. Who cares?"

Jim eyed him for a few moments before saying, "Strangely, I care. Even if what you're saying is true—even if parallel worlds exist, and there are worlds in which my life is much worse - there must be others where my life is much better, right?"

The guy hummed in agreement. "Well, yeah, but my point is - you're not selling yourself on the streets of San Francisco, you're not being beaten to death by your stepdad, and you're not starving on Tarsus IV. Overall, though, yeah, you're right. In most of the universes you have a happy long life with lots of close friends, happy family and a lifelong relationship with the love of your life. Happy now?"

"No," Jim said, looking down. He kicked at the snow with the toe of one boot.

The guy went silent for a while. "Look, kid, I told you that your life would get better. It really will. Sure, you won't have a happily-ever-after, but not everyone has a happily-ever-after, damn it! You’re gonna have two cute kids, a wife you don't hate, a steady income—"

Jim snorted. "A wife I don't hate? What happened to 'the love of my life'?"

"That person doesn't exist in this universe."

Jim's lips twisted. "Of course." Sighing, he looked up at the creature. "Why are you even here? If you wanted to convince me that my life doesn't suck so much, you're doing it wrong. You're a shitty Santa, no offence."

The guy smiled slyly. "Oh, I'm not here to convince you of anything. I told you that I can make your wish come true."

Jim stared at him incredulously before laughing a little. "Really? And how can you give me another life?"

The stranger shrugged. "It's pretty easy for me. I can put you in another universe, and you surely will have a very different life. But I can do it only if you really want it. Meddling with parallel universes is a tricky thing. I have authorities that would have my head for doing that kind of thing to an unwilling person, which is… sucks. Shit, I'm so sick of all these pointless restrictions and rules. Can't wait for my sentence to be over so I'm free from this stupid job. I'm not a fucking fairy— What?"

Jim is staring at the… whatever it is. "You really can give me another, better life?"

The guy smirked. "Sure, I can give you another life. But the thing is, I can't promise you a better life—I simply don't know. I told you that meddling with parallel universes is a tricky thing. Since you are from another world, you would destroy the natural flow of events in a chosen universe, so it's impossible to predict anything. You can die within an hour or you can happily live a hundred of years—it's all in your own hands. Also, I can send you only to a universe where James Kirk originally never existed, so don't expect to have the perfect family with a loving mommy and daddy you're craving. Maybe you'd be better suited in your own universe—"

"I want it," Jim said, his heart hammering like crazy. Adventure.

The guy regarded him for a little while.

"You really want it?" he said finally. "You're really ready to leave your life here, your family? I'm asking you for the last time, boy."

Jim licked his lips. Some part of him still couldn't believe that this was really happening. Some part of him was still wondering if this was some elaborate joke or a very vivid dream. Did he really want to leave his family—no matter how shitty it was—for something unknown?

Maybe the creature was right; maybe he was just an ungrateful greedy shit. But knowing that his future consisted of "a wife he wouldn't hate" and "a steady income" didn't make Jim particularly excited about the prospect. He didn't think he could settle for an ordinary life. It wasn't what he wanted. Maybe it was naïve of him, but Jim always felt like he was meant for something better, something special, and something more exciting—something that wasn't a white picket fence and 2.5 kids. The American dream was way overrated.

"You know, I think I like you, James," the guy said suddenly. "Something like this takes guts; therefore I'll give you a ticket back. Just in case." He handed something to Jim.

Jim took it warily and examined the thing - a big silver medallion. "This is a simple time-turner," the guy explained. "If you regret your decision and want to come back, open the medallion and we'll talk—if I feel like talking, of course. If I decide that your reason is good enough, you will be returned to this exact moment. But the thing is, the time-turner would work only for a limited period of time—after that, the medallion would be useless."

Jim raised his eyebrows. "Why?"

The guy shrugged with one shoulder. "Time-travel is a tricky thing, James. If you spend a certain amount of time in a parallel universe, you can't return back to your original universe without creating an alternate timeline—and there's no way in hell I'll be responsible for creating one of those. That's why I'm giving you a simple time-turner that will stop working when time shifts become irreversible."

Jim wrinkled his noise. Parallel universes, alternate timelines—weren't they essentially the same thing?

"How are alternate timelines different from parallel universes?"

The guy chuckled. "Damn, I hate smart kids. Yes, all alternate timelines are parallel universes, but not all parallel universes are alternate timelines. There are different types of parallel universes. I’ll send you to a trans-dimensional universe. I'm warning you: trans-dimensional realms are very different from each other, so you’ll end up in a parallel universe that is very different from yours. Trans-dimensional universes weren't created because some person decided to drink a cup of coffee instead of tea—those would be quantum realities, one for every possible outcome of any event that occurs.

“Alternate timelines can be considered as parallel universes, too, but alternate timelines are different versions of asingle universe and the result of unintentional—or intentional—temporal interference. I don't want you to create an alternate timeline by intentional time-travel, got it? Those are frowned upon. That's why I gave you a time-turner that would work only while you can return back into your own timeline without creating another one."

Jim stared at him, his mind reeling from the flood of information. "Yeah, I think I get it. But won't I create an alternate timeline just by leaving this universe and going into another?"

The guy heaved a sigh. "Didn't I explain it already? Alternate timelines are different versions of a single universe; they're still similar to each other. For example, there is a prime universe in which you're a starship captain and—"

"Really?"

"—And, in most of the alternate timelines of that universe, you're still the captain of the same ship, even though many circumstances are different. This was an example of alternate timelines of a single universe. I will send you to a completely different trans-dimensional universe on another dimension where Jim Kirk doesn't exist. You won't create an alternate timeline—you'll just change the current one simply by existing in it."

"Like a new baby can change it when it's born, right?" Jim said slowly, beginning to understand.

"Exactly! As for your own universe, you'll just disappear, which happens all the time to people."

"And where are you going to send me?" Jim asked, starting to get really excited.

"Hmm, let's see," the guy mused, and some strange device appeared in his hand. Out of nowhere. (Again, who was that guy?)

"Hey, you aren't God, are you?" Jim said tentatively.

The guy smirked, but didn't tear his gaze from the device. "Oh, you can call me God if you want; it won't be too much of a stretch. I don't even know how to explain to you what I am. It's amazingly ridiculous that in this reality you humans still think you're the only sentient beings in the universe."

Jim stared at him wide-eyed. "There are aliens out there?"

The guy laughed out loud. "Aliens? Yes, there are aliens out there. Plenty of them. And, technically, I'm an alien, too, even though I've been stuck on this planet for thousands of years."

Jim's mouth fell open. He made a step back, looking at the guy—alien—warily. "You're an alien? What are you doing here?"

"I was sentenced to this job because I… Well. You won't understand anyway. My punishment will end in one thousand twenty-nine Earth years, and then I can return home."

Wow. An alien. And an immortal one at that.

Honestly, Jim found it hard to believe. The guy didn't look alien at all. Weren't aliens supposed to have gray skin, very large heads and narrow eyes?

"And where's your home?" Jim asked curiously.

"Q Continuum," the guy muttered absentmindedly, looking at his device. "Shit, it's hard to find a trans-dimensional universe you don't exist. You’re, like, everywhere."

Jim smiled. "I'm just awesome like that."

"You're just a pain in the ass like that," the guy grumbled.

"You sound so human, you know."

"Don't insult me... Found it. Finally."

Jim bounced on his feet, excited. "Really? What kind of a universe is it?"

The guy smirked and looked up.

Jim didn't like that smirk at all. "What?" he said, licking his lips. The guy was an extremely powerful alien. Aliens could be nasty, right? "Tell me you're not sending me to a barbaric world or something."

The guy smiled. "Oh no. I'm not gonna tell you anything. It will be…a surprise. A Christmas present."

Jim laughed. "What? Are you kidding me? I'm not going to walk into it blindly! You think I'm stupid?"

The guy narrowed his eyes. "You know, I'm seriously starting to regret I chose your wish among billions. You're an ungrateful little brat. It would've been easier—and much quicker—just to give the kid from next door a puppy he wants so much."

Jim gave him a 'please' look. "But it would've been much more boring."

The guy sighed. "Can't argue with you on that one. You have no idea how boring this stupid job usually is."

"See? Come on, you've got to tell me something about that world!"

The guy sighed. "Fine. In that universe, the Milky Way is under the control of the United Planets of Vulcan Kingdom. The Vulcan Kingdom has been a major interstellar power for over seven hundred years, encompassing the Vulcan people and their subject worlds and species. The Vulcan Kingdom is ruled by the King and The Council of Houses—of 144 Houses."

The alien rolled his eyes. "But it's only on paper. The matriarch of the First Royal House does the actual ruling. Hmm, what else… Vulcans conquered Earth in 16th century, and Earth has been a part of the Vulcan Kingdom ever since."

Jim frowned. "We're enslaved?"

"Not anymore. About a century ago, humans were granted freedom and rights. There's no slavery in the Kingdom anymore—well, there is some, kind of, but only for non-dangerous criminals. Criminals might be sentenced to years of forced labor and given to Vulcan Houses for service. Usually they work as servants."

Jim waved his hand impatiently, not particularly interested in criminals. "I can still keep my name, right? Are you gonna fake my background, put in some illusions and stuff?"

The guy started laughing. "Wow, you have a rich imagination, kid. Yes, you can keep your name and you can tell everyone the story of your life—I don't care. It's all in your own hands. Well, are you ready?"

Jim stared at him. "What? I'm going right now?"

The guy raised his eyebrows. "Sure. I don't have all night, Human. Or maybe you changed your mind?"

Licking his lips, Jim glanced back to the house at distance. "No, but… I need to take my things with me? Clothes and—"

"You don't need anything. Everything will be given to you."

Jim narrowed his eyes suspiciously, feeling a nagging doubt at the back of his mind. "Where are you sending me?"

The guy flashed him a smile that sent shivers down Jim's spine. "Like I said - it's a surprise."

Jim looked back at the house that he'd lived in for most of his short life. He still could change his mind. It was crazy. The whole thing was crazy.

"Remember, if you don't like the other universe, you have a ticket back," the guy reminded him with a sly smile.

Jim looked at the medallion in his hand. Right. He’d sort of forgotten that he could return any moment, which made things easier. In the worst-case scenario, it would be just an adventure. Who else had ever had the opportunity to see a parallel universe with aliens and space travel?

He might even like it there enough to stay.

"Remember what I told you?" the guy reminded him. "About the person who is the love of your life in many universes and who doesn't exist in yours?” He paused. “What if I tell you that this person exists in the other universe?"

Jim's gaze darted to him. "Really?"

The guy inclined his head slightly, his expression unreadable. "Really. But since I can’t meddle in the natural flow of events even more, naturally, I can't tell you who it is."

Jim snorted. "Naturally. And how am I supposed to find that person? If I want, I mean."

The guy smiled oddly. "Oh, you don't necessarily have to. The universe has ways to right itself. You’ll be surprised, but you two manage to find each other in practically every universe against all odds."

Jim raised his eyebrows skeptically. "Are you talking about destiny? I don't believe in destiny."

The guy threw his head back and laughed. "Then you're a fool, Human."

"Everyone is the creator of their own destiny."

"Not truly. There is a fixed natural order to the cosmos. The different courses of action people take may still lead to a predetermined destiny. We’re all just little pawns—even such beings as me. I'm not saying that everything is predetermined — if it were the case, there wouldn't be billions of alternate realities. But some things are, and no matter the universe, history repeats itself. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, believe me. All right, I'm tired of chatting. Are you ready?"

Jim looked down at the medallion before putting it around his neck. "Yup."

The guy grinned. "Merry Christmas, James Kirk," he said, and, putting a hand on Jim's shoulder, closed his eyes.

The next moment  Jim felt himself literally thrown. A warm feeling took hold of his body, his vision went yellow and reddish, and soon all he saw was darkness as he felt himself lose consciousness.