Disclaimer: Star Trek and the boys belong to Gene Roddenberry, who I am not. I am only borrowing them with the greatest respect, and promise to return them in pristine condition.
He is not his Jim Kirk. Of all the feelings that are twisted amongst the landscape of Spock’s emotions, it is this that dominates, even over his encompassing grief. When he melds with this Jim who is not his Jim, he cannot help but look for glimpses of this young Jim’s life as he is projecting the moments of his own that are relevant to why they are both here, in this world that is familiar but not. And although it is Spock who possesses the knowledge of why this universe is different, it is Jim who holds the knowledge of how it differs, and it is this knowledge that Spock seeks, because this is Jim, whose appeal has always been more than Spock could resist, even if he is not his. Perhaps, after all the years he has suffered without a Jim in his life, he doesn’t even try.
The mind he finds is terribly familiar and yet strange; Jim but not Jim, like a blackboard that had once held the secrets of the universe and was erased, leaving only the faintest impression of its secrets behind. He sees, in the moments that could be hours that they are linked the Jim that he remembers; the man who will become the honourable Captain he served under, the friend he never dreamed of having, his t’hy’la. And then he sees the inconsistencies, the consequences of his failures carved into the psyche of this ever precious being.
He sees a little boy, golden even as he weeps, watching his mother leave for space, knowing she is leaving to try and escape the memories that looking at his face brings. He sees a man, his face as red from yelling as the blood from the boys split lip on his knuckles, and later, a car painted in the same terrible red hue gleaming in the sun as it flies over an endless cliff where the boy clings to the edge, and wonders, for only a second if letting go would free him. He sees flashes of skin, a rainbow of colors both male and female, writhing in pleasure against the teen’s sun bronzed skin, and feels the now too old young man’s satisfaction at finding something he can excel at, that no one can take away from him. He sees this Jim, not much younger than he appears now, bent over a toilet as he violently retches in the aftermath of his first Kobayashi Maru, eyes full of tears he refuses to let fall and mind full of resolve that he will beat this test because he is not his father and he refuses to believe in no win situations.
And then, in a flash of light that is not light Spock sees himself, who is not him, standing at a podium and hurling words like daggers at this Jim, who refuses to let anyone see the wounds they have inflicted, glaring defiantly instead out at the crowd and this pointy-eared bastard who can’t even comprehend the pain he feels. He sees the sorrow on Jim’s face as the Spock that is not him appears on the transporter pad, reaching desperately for the mother he cannot save, and feels this Jim’s terrible grief because despite his anger he never wanted anyone else to truly know this pain. He sees this Jim on the bridge of their beloved Enterprise trying to make Spock see that if he does this the world will end and why can’t he see, and Jim’s panic bleeds into him, and for a moment before Spock reaches up to his neck and drops him, he feels Jim’s hate and Spock Prime pulls away abruptly because he cannot bear to feel such an emotion from Jim, any Jim, and wonders what has he done to this world to distort it so terribly that James T. Kirk and Spock of Vulcan could hate each other.
The cold of the cave rushes into him abruptly, replacing the warmth of this Jim’s mind, and the expulsion of Jim’s breath, verging on a sob, breaks the silence. Spock Prime rushes to explain, to ease the pain, hoping that his words will chase that terrible hate away, hiding behind his Vulcan mask when Jim looks searchingly at his face with his amazing perception, as if asking what Spock received from their “emotional transference.”
It is in that moment of uncomfortable silence that an idea begins to form in Spock’s mind. This universe has a rip in it, a rend caused by the malevolent presence of The Narada and Nero’s terrible desire for revenge, and Spock can only wonder, something that likely would have shocked his long gone doctor friend, because there are no calculations, no logic that can serve in a matter as emotional as this, if returning this Jim to the Enterprise and to his Spock and letting them see what they can become might form a bond strong enough to even mend space and time. He looks at this Jim again, watches as he tries to conceal his shivering, tears of sorrow for a stranger who cannot cry them himself freezing in the corner of his eyes, and believes for the first time since he heard of his own Jim’s supposed demise on the Enterprise-B that everything will be alright.
After the dust has settled and the reigning heroes have returned to the planet that would no longer exist without them, Spock Prime walks through one of the many hangers of the now nearly deserted Starfleet headquarters sedately, revelling in the simple relief of still having the ability to do so. It is here, making preparations to depart for what will become the new home for the remainder of his people that he has the truly literal experience of confronting himself. It could be, and perhaps should be a disconcerting experience, but Spock is wise enough to realise that this younger self is not him, just as the young Captain Kirk of this universe is not his Jim, shaped differently by their diverging experiences. This young Spock has been thrust into a new, vivid world of emotional awareness by the pain he has been forced to shoulder, the loss he has been forced to bear. But as he observes his young counterpart Spock Prime finds himself not feeling despair for him and what he had lost, but the slightest tinge of envy for what he might gain in return.
It is in the truly small amount of effort that it takes him to convince his younger self to stay with the Enterprise; with Jim, that he sees the understanding that this premature pain has brought his younger self. It is an aura that seeps around him; a heat in his eyes at the mention of the young Kirk’s name, the tiniest smirk of promise and contentment upon his younger self’s face when Spock Prime wishes him good luck, noticeable only because he is expert at reading his own face, that indicate an awareness of the desire that he had not recognized in himself until after the loss of his own Jim, rendering him too late to make use of the knowledge and alone, mourning the t’hy’la he never truly had. But this Spock has time, given to him like a gift from the universe as an apology for the loss he has endured, and he has a James Kirk, golden and beautiful to explore, who knows his pain and can match what is found in his soul, and so Spock Prime knows his younger self will never be lonely.
They are more damaged than he and his own Jim, but they are not broken, instead fitting together in a way that their chipped edges connect almost flawlessly, forming something truly beautiful that was never given time to form in his own universe. And so, as he watches the Enterprise depart with its golden captain and its serious Vulcan first officer to boldly go where no one has gone before, Spock Prime smiles.
He is not his Jim Kirk and this is not their life, but he thinks that his Jim would have approved.