Spock looked at his older counterpart and could scarcely believe what he was hearing. Certainly he did not hate Kirk, but he could not see such a friendship between them as his counterpart was describing.
"I do not understand why you would believe this timeline should be the same as your own," Spock said haughtily, allowing some irritation into his voice.
"Spock, I was once as you are, young and proud," the old Vulcan smiled easily. "I embraced the ways of Vulcans and eschewed emotional displays. But then, someone taught me the beauty of embracing my Human side." He pulled a pendant strung on a cord from around his neck. "I have kept this with me for a long time. Perhaps it is time for someone to realize the dream we never could." He put the chip in Spock's hand, closing it into a fist with both his own. "I have every faith that you will make the correct decision. Do not make the mistakes I did, Spock." He squeezed the hand in both of his before stepping back. "I was once taught by a great man that nothing is permanent, nor is it ‘set in stone'. The rules and laws of the universe are only laws if you allow them to be. There may be difficulties and dire consequences to changing the past," he smiled wryly. "But the future is yours to shape. Do not take the path you are told to take, take the path you feel you must take."
"How do I know which is correct?" Spock asked as the old man turned away.
"You will know," he assured him, not turning around. "It will all become clear to you."
Spock watched his counterpart go before looking at the pendant in his hand. He realized it was a holo-emittor. Spock pushed the button and an image materialized in from of him, accompanied by the singing of the song ‘Happy Birthday'. He recognized both the face and the voice, although they were both marked with age.
The older Kirk finished his song and looked sheepish. "I know you'll say it's illogical to celebrate your birth because you had nothing to do with it, but I don't care. It's your birthday, and I‘ll sing you a song if I want to." He looked sheepish for a moment longer before continuing. "I wanted to congratulate you on making Ambassador, Lord knows you're the most diplomatic person in the world; you put up with Bones all this time." The holo-Kirk grinned. "I wanted to congratulate you and say... I miss you, old friend. I miss you more than I can say..."
Spock saw the man heave a sigh, and noticed a small tear growing in the corner of Kirk's eye. Spock was not sure why, but he had a sudden urge to cry as well. The obvious sorrow on the man's face was contagious; Spock felt himself grieving for the man who so obviously missed his friend.
"I guess I always thought we'd retire and grow old together," the hologram continued with a dry laugh. "I should have known you'd never do something so ‘illogical'. You'd want to make yourself useful to your dying day. I just... I miss having you by my side, Spock. I can't help but feeling like this can't be the end; you once told me that to travel the stars was my best destiny, and that to do anything else would be a waste. Well, do you remember when Edith Keeler told you that you belonged at my side always? I think she was right, Spock. It feels so empty without you here."
Spock watched the tear roll down Kirk's face.
"I guess what I'm trying to say is, I can't believe it's over, I want another go," the hologram continued. "I sit here watching cadets graduate, and they get to go off on these wild adventures while I sit here on the ground. I know you'll probably say it's their turn now, we've had ours but, I don't want it to be. I want my turn back. I want to venture back out there. I feel like it's my duty. They say only 20% of space has been explored by the federation, and I think that's a crime. I want nothing more than for you to come with me so we can explore the stars together, even though I know it'll never happen. I have to face it, I'm an old man now, it's time to sit back and let the young ones go ahead."
Spock felt a tear well up in his own eye and he touched the wetness in confusion.
"Spock, I don't know how to tell you how much you mean to me," Kirk continued. "Even when you aren't with me, I feel like you are the only stable, reassuring thing in my life. I'm lost without you with me to keep me in line," the hologram gave a watery chuckle. "I guess the basic gist of the message is I miss you, Spock and I wish you were here with me. But there is one more thing I wanted to say..."
Spock felt himself taking a deep breath with the hologram, as though his whole future resided on the hologram's next words.
"I love you Spock. I love you like I've never been able to love anyone else," Kirk looked thoughtful for a moment. "That old word you used once, T'hy'la. I figured out what it means. I know that's what we are... why didn't we see it when it mattered? It feels like we wasted a lifetime."
"I'm going on the maiden voyage of the Enterprise B in a few days. I thought it might be nice to see her off, Chekov and Scotty are coming with me. After that, I'm boarding the first shuttle to Vulcan. I have to see you again; I know it's not too late for us. I've got some time left, and I want to spend it with you."
The holo-Kirk paused for a moment and smiled. "I hope to see you soon, but until then, remember..."
Spock held his breath as the hologram's last words entered his sensitive ears and he broke down completely. The four words outline everything his counterpart had lost and Spock could scarcely believe he survived it. Spock had thought such strong bond as the fabled T'hy'la Bond was a myth, but he could now see it was not. With those four final words, the tears and all, the hologram Kirk was able to convince Spock it was real. He knew what he had to do. He was not going to make the same mistakes as his counterpart.
He closed his hand aroung the emitter and the words replayed themselves in his mind.
"I love you, T'hy'la."