"Put aside logic. Do what feels right." There was a pause between them. "Since my customary farewell would seem oddly self-serving, I will simply say, ‘Good luck.'"
He raised the ta'al to his older self in response to the gesture offered by the elder. It was only when he was lowering his arm did Spock take one step forward towards his retreating self. "Please, wait." His aged self did not turn but instead he looked over his shoulder with an almost knowing expression. "When you come from," the younger half-Vulcan began, "did you ever engage in a romantic relationship with Lieutenant Uhura?"
For a moment surprise registered on his older self's face. Then, he studied him. After another long moment, he seemed to come to a conclusion. "My answer is not relevant to the course of your life. The life I lived is very different from the way events have unfolded for you. Just as you must decide whether you wish to contribute your efforts to rebuilding the Vulcan race, you must also decide what the human part of you requires emotionally."
Spock winced at the word. He looked down to avoid the gaze of himself. When he looked up again, the older Spock stood before him, closer than ever before. "Spock, when I was young my mother said something to me that helped to guide me." Spock forced the image of his mother's death out of his mind. This older version of himself was blessed. He'd had many more years to live with Amanda. His buried his jealousy to focus on what words his mother had said to this other him, but would never have the chance to say to him in this universe. For a moment, he realized it was like receiving her guidance from the grave.
His mother was dead. The thought was still something to which he needed to adjust. He remembered how blank he was as the Enterprise fled the doomed and disappeared planet. Nyota had left her station after he'd fled the Bridge to speak to him in the turbolift. She had apologized, but...for what? She had never specified. He didn't even want to try to figure it out. He was suffocating. All he'd wanted to do was leave the turbolift and find somewhere to be alone. The Bridge was stifling, the turbolift even moreso.
She'd embraced him then, kissed him, stroked the nape of his neck. And he'd collapsed into the embrace. It was then that he realized he needed solitude. Did she realize he felt her emotions? He knew that she wanted to help him but had no clue on how to do that! How could he tell her that she would best help him by leaving him alone? Then, she gave him that very opportunity. She'd asked him what he needed - and he had assumed she'd meant from her - but what he'd needed was nothing she could provide. He needed to control the turmoil in himself. He needed to control the dangerous emotions in him that were raging out of control. He needed his mother.
But when she held his face between her hands and looked at him so sadly, he could not tell her not to disturb him, that he needed time to himself. And so he'd told her, "I need everyone to continue performing admirably." And he knew that she did not understand. When she hadn't heard what she'd hoped to hear from him, her expression crumbled in front of him. And she'd kissed him again. He allowed it, but inside his mind was screaming. He needed to be alone. When the turbolift signaled arrival, he'd practically fled. There was too much emotion from Nyota. She did not understand. And the only person who would have understood...
"She once told me that at times I must not be afraid of my humanity. Much later in life, after I had died-" Spock looked up at this older Spock in shock. "Yes, I had died. But I was granted the fal-tor-pan. The details are unnecessary in order for me to illustrate my point." The elder took a deep breath. "My mind required reeducation, yet there were only two people that I still knew instinctively because I loved them dearly. Both were human. I still knew my t'hy-my longtime...lover...and my mother. I remembered every experience with them." Then, he allowed a very small smile. "Yet, my mother said to me that I may not yet understand feelings, as I was undergoing reeducation in the Vulcan disciplines, but that regardless, as her son, I do indeed have feelings that will surface." The elder sighed. "You must find that balance between your Vulcan and Human blood. And unlike myself, do so before it is too late."
Spock looked at himself before he once again looked down to the floor. When he looked up, he did not see his other self anywhere in the hangar bay.
Nyota Uhura felt almost as she did before the disastrous mission to Vulcan. She was slighted by a certain half-Vulcan officer and professor. The first serious occurrence was when he failed to assign her to the Enterprise, because it may have been interpreted as favoritism. She rolled her eyes. Like it never occurred before in Starfleet. Apparently, Spock was ignorant to the concept of nepotism.
And again, he had failed to meet her when he said he would. With a sigh, she stood from her seat in the Academy café near the library and walked to the nearest personnel locator mounted on one of the walls. "Computer, locate Commander Spock."
The computer's voice replied cheerfully, which irked Nyota. She was certainly not feeling as chipper as the computer. Then, she allowed a self-deprecating smile as she shook her head, remembering that computers can't feel chipper. "Commander Spock is in the Main Hangar Bay, located at..."
But Nyota did not wait for it to finish. She had already hurried away. She needed to speak to Spock.
Spock was looking around the main hangar for his counterpart. He knew that no being could disappear into the air without evidence of departure. But then, his homeworld had done just that - disappeared. He felt a fresh stab of pain at the thought.
He looked around and saw the crewmembers from the Enterprise were all busy with some sort of task. Many of them were assisting a Vulcan with finding his or her way to certain destinations, assisting a small group with trying to find family members in a growing database of the names of the remaining Vulcans, or doing a simple task such as bringing a small meal as they sat with a Vulcan who had lost everything and everyone.
He saw familiar faces among them. Pavel Chekov was sitting quietly with a Vulcan woman, gently urging her to the commissary. A little ways off was Doctor McCoy, who was running a medical scanner over one of the few remaining Vulcan Elders. Spock knew her well. It was T'Pau, his clan matriarch. McCoy seemed to have sobered since returning to Earth. His bearing was much gentler towards T'Pau, his expression compassionate. Hikaru Sulu was helping a distraught-looking Vulcan to one of the very few healers in the hangar. The male he was helping towards the healer, who had a rather lengthy line waiting to see him, was obviously suffering from a severed bond. Everyone in the line before the healer seemed the same. Hikaru allowed the Vulcan male to lean much of his weight against him as they waited. Spock looked on in sorrow. So many bonds broken. But of all of the familiar faces from the Enterprise, it was James T. Kirk that most surprised him.
At first, he seemed self-centered as he marched right up to McCoy and demanded a wrist bandage. Spock knew that the young human had injured his wrist during the mission. But to demand supplies from McCoy who was treating refugees was a little heartless. Regardless, McCoy gave it to him along with a pair of surgical gloves. Most likely to get him out of his way. With a smile, Kirk jogged away. Spock followed his route to find with surprise that Kirk stopped in front of a female child no more than nine years old who sat on a short cargo container. Kirk knelt before her and said something. She held out her wrist to him. Kirk handed over the bandage to her undamaged hand before he pulled the gloves on. Once complete, he reclaimed the bandage from her and proceeded to wind it around her injured wrist, speaking softly the whole time.
Spock's view of Kirk's actions was suddenly blocked by someone coming to stand directly in front of him.
"Spock." It was Nyota. Her posture and expression indicated displeasure, but her voice was soft.
He met her gaze. "Lieutenant."
She tilted her head, her expression of displeasure deepening. "You didn't come."
He remembered then that he was to meet with her that day. He took a breath. He swept his gaze among everyone in the hangar bay. "As you can observe I am needed here presently."
She stared at him, refusing to look elsewhere but at him. "Why didn't you tell me you had to reschedule then?"
He would not admit it, even now, but he knew the conversation was growing tense. "There was insufficient time to do so."
"Not even to send a simple notification?"
Spock turned his head away from her before shifting his gaze to the floor. "Would it please you if I were to reschedule for tonight?"
Her body language instantly relaxed and a tight smile appeared on her face. "Yes, it would."
Spock thought of his available time. There was not much of it left, but it would have to suffice. "I shall meet you outside of this hangar at 1900 hours."
"For dinner? My choice?"
He saw the hope in her eyes. He wished he could muster the same hope for himself. "As you wish," he conceded.
"Thank you," she replied with a smile.
Then, Spock turned away from Nyota. He could not explain it, but he knew that he was being watched. He looked up to see the eyes of his father across the hangar. Spock stopped in his stride as his father began to approach him. Sarek only spoke when he was very close to his son. "Spock, your mind needs quieting. Come. We will meditate together." Spock allowed his father to lead him away from the main body of the hangar. He took one last sweeping gaze over the figures within. He saw everyone he had before, with the exception of Nyota Uhura. She was gone.
"Then why don't you stop me?"
"Step away from me, Mister-"
"What is it like not to feel anger or heartbreak or the need to stop at nothing to avenge the death of the woman who gave birth to you?"
"Back away fr-"
"You feel nothing! It must not even compute for you! You never loved her!"
How wrong the human was.
At the conclusion of a flurry of movement, Spock had Kirk pinned to a console by a terrifyingly tight grip on the human's throat. It was that contact of Spock's bare hand around the bare skin of Kirk's throat that they reached an unintentional stalemate. Spock may have physically pummeled Kirk, but it was Kirk that mentally pummeled Spock through his destroyed shields.
As the images and voices flooded the mind of the anguished Vulcan, the grip on Kirk's throat grew tighter. He did not even hear the choking, the desperate gasps for denied air. All he knew was what he was seeing that was tearing into him from the mind of the human he had pinned beneath him.
"Understand, Jim, I've spent a whole lifetime learning to hide my feelings."
"Because you need me to run the ship and I need him."
"Jim, when I feel friendship for you I'm ashamed!"
"You're not going to admit that, for the first time in your life, you've committed a purely human emotional act?"
"I have killed my captain..."
Then, from somewhere wholly unconnected came a shout from a voice he recognized. "Spock!"
Spock looked down at this Jim Kirk beneath him, who still struggled to breathe, with his hand clenching his throat, the cold metal of the console beneath him...
...but he saw a very different Kirk with his eyes closed in death, an ahn-woon wrapped around his neck, the sands of Vulcan beneath him.
Spock released Kirk and backed away slowly, knowing everyone's gaze was on him. He turned to look at his father, who looked at him with severe disapproval.
"...and my friend."
With a harsh gasp, Spock emerged violently from his meditation. Just like in his memory, his father looked back at him. Only this time, where there had been disapproval, there was only now compassion for his son. "You are still conflicted, Spock. Your mind has not eased since returning here."
Spock looked at Sarek. "I did not lie to you. I am as conflicted as I once was as a child."
"But not because of your mother." It was not a question.
"I did feel anger toward the ones who took her life. But it was not my only conflict. It was the dominant one, and now that...there was some sense of closure to that event, the secondary concern has taken precedence in my mind."
Sarek's gaze grew concerned. "What is that concern, Spock?"
Spock met his father's gaze. "I cannot share it. I must determine my own course of action with regards to that concern."
Sarek only nodded.
Spock was true to his word and met Uhura just outside the main hangar. From there, she had secured transport and reservations at a semi-private establishment which offered a wide selection of vegetarian meals. Both were things Spock appreciated.
Yet, despite the higher standard of privacy for each table visually, it did little to ensure privacy audibly. This was apparent to Spock from the moment they'd entered the restaurant. Everyone they'd passed began to whisper, and the whispering only increased with each step. The privacy of their table did nothing. He heard everything the others in the restaurant were saying, but he could not see any of them.
He stared uncomprehendingly at the menu before him. He knew a waiter had come, Uhura had ordered beverages for both of them, and the waiter had left again, but he saw nothing.
"I thought all Vulcans were hiding in their embassy."
"Tragic about that planet."
"Tragic about the race."
"Does anyone know where the Vulcans have decided to live now?"
"How many made it?"
"I'm not sure, but I heard on a reporting feed that Vulcans are endangered now."
"Shouldn't Starfleet be protecting the rest of them?"
"That girl doesn't look like security."
Spock suddenly realized that that particular person had assumed that Nyota was a security guard for him. His eyes darted up to hers. She looked at him with confusion. Surely she could hear everyone.
"Spock, are you alright?"
Then, he remembered a difference between Vulcan and Human senses - the former possessed much sharper hearing abilities. She didn't hear the whisperings that were closing in on him like the tension on the Bridge.
He couldn't respond to her. Not even to reassure her. He was suddenly aware of an increase in his rate of respiration. Was he panicking? Was he anxious?
"There's no need to be anxious. You'll do fine."
His eyes closed as his mother's voice from years ago filled his mind. His hands clenched on the surface of the table as he tried to keep his control, to restore his control.
"Didn't they know they were being attacked?"
"That's why they asked for help!"
"Still, you would think they would have left the planet way before Starfleet got there."
Someone snorted. "Yeah, maybe more would have lived."
Spock heard someone let out a very quiet sound of grief. It took him a moment to realize it was himself.
"Never liked Vulcans anyway."
"Spock!" Her voice came from a distance. Not because he was absorbed in his own thoughts, but because he had actually risen from his seat and was on his way out of the building.
He never saw Nyota's expression as she watched him leave her, nor did he know that she made a move to follow him only when he'd left through the doors of the building and exited into the streets of San Francisco.
Spock walked along the streets of San Francisco, but his mind was not on his task of returning to his apartment just off of Starfleet Academy grounds. He was again emotionally compromised. He was unstable. He was doing what felt right in the moment, and what felt right was leaving that restaurant before he did to many of the patrons what he'd done to Kirk - throttle them. He had to leave, and so he did. He left them behind.
He left Nyota behind, the woman with whom he was supposed to be in love. What did such a phrase even mean? His pace halted briefly for only a step as the thought occurred to him. What did it mean to be in love? The only example he could reference was his parents.
"You suggest that I should be completely Vulcan, and yet you married a human."
"He has to be himself-"
"I married her because I loved her."
"-and that means occasionally being human!"
"Which is precisely when reason must guide his actions."
"I want him to embrace Vulcan. You know that."
"Marrying your mother was...logical."
Would he be capable of doing with Nyota what his parents had done? Could he defy Vulcan traditions and customs and marry a human? Could he turn his back on his species and reside with her on Earth and never contribute to the development of the colony? What were her feelings on this? Did she want to commit to anything? She was in Starfleet, a ranking officer. It was not something he envisioned her leaving only for him. In either situation, Spock was sure to lose. He would either lose Nyota, or he would lose what remained of his Vulcan heritage.
He was facing his own private version of the Kobayashi Maru.
A no-win scenario. It had been proven on the Bridge of the Enterprise that he was unsuited for command by the very same cadet with whom he'd verbally sparred in front of thousands before everything he'd known, everything he'd loved, was lost.
"You were the one who said fear was necessary for command."
"To accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one's crew."
He had already failed the very real version of the test he had programmed for years. He had never taken it until that mission. And Spock had failed. He did not maintain control of himself. Instead, he'd nearly strangled someone to death. He did not maintain control of his crew. If he had, Kirk would never have needed to reveal his emotional torment to everyone on the Bridge, risking his own life in the process simply to demonstrate that Spock was unfit for command. That he was unfit for Starfleet.
It seemed that he had made his decision after all.
Spock would prevent such a burdening decision from resting in Nyota's hands. He would resign his commission as soon as possible. He would gather his few belongings from his apartment and depart for the colony. He would focus his efforts to rebuilding his race. He would choose the logical course of action.
But if that was the logical path, why did this reasonable decision hurt?
He was only one block from his apartment when his personal communicator chirped at his side. Spock reached down to activate the audio to alert him as to the identity of the caller. An electronic voice spoke, "Kirk, James T." As though reflexively, Spock silenced it. He did not desire to speak to an incarnation of a man haunting his mind. He did not know if he ever would be able to look at the young human and search for a person that he could never be.
As he thought of this other Kirk, his image filled his mind. Only his image. He smiled at him as he laughed. And despite not knowing this Kirk, Spock knew that both the smile and the laugh were genuine.
Another image took shape in his mind. His other self must have just woken up in that moment. But at his bedside, in what he assumed was Sickbay, stood Kirk holding his hand. In another instant, the human closed his free hand over Spock's, subtly stroking the back of the Vulcan's hand as he offered him a soft smile.
Spock blinked and in his mind was another image. A seated Kirk at a desk. It was a simple moment. The only thing Kirk did was blink and avert his eyes from the Spock to whom this memory truly belonged. But Spock found that even this simple movement - and simple moment - was stunningly beautiful.
He realized that he was at his building. He entered his access code to the main doors outside without thinking them. His mind was elsewhere. The doors slid aside and he entered his building. He did not notice that another figure slid through the doors just before they shut again, trailing him.
Spock walked through the main floor of the building, mindful that other residents could walk by and see him in this slightly disturbed state, but he did not care. He was still thinking about Kirk - the Kirk his mind kept showing him. He looked down at his communicator. The name "Kirk, James T." flashed up at him. Kirk. The one person to repeatedly take the worst situations and force them to work for the better. The only person in all of Starfleet to beat the no-win scenario. The person who battled his Vulcan accuser in front of the majority of Starfleet. The person who could hold his own in an argument against him in front of the entire Bridge crew. The person who was willing to grant his enemy mercy when Spock would never have been able to bring himself to contemplate such an offer. The one person who could elicit a dangerous emotional response. The person who fought with him flawlessly in sync without having ever been in a combat situation together.
The person who complimented him in every way.
The pain he had begun to feel was now becoming unbearable. His respiration was increasing; he was having difficulty breathing. Spock touched the wall console for the lift as he replaced his communicator. There was a pleasant ding and he stepped inside and signaled for his floor. Another person entered the lift, and when he looked up he saw that it was Nyota. She looked up at him with the same expression with which she'd looked at him in the turbolift of the Enterprise. Spock knew that once again, she wanted to help him, but she did not know how.
Her face shifted before him into the face of the Kirk his other self had known. He looked down at this Kirk, who was holding onto him desperately. He was terrified for some reason. Then, slowly, Kirk's eyes shifted up to gaze into his and the human's tension began to disappear as hope appeared in his hazel eyes.
Then, Spock saw Nyota in front of him instead of Kirk, looking up at him helplessly.
Spock suddenly realized with stunning clarity exactly why his decision to leave was hurting him. It was not because he did not want to leave Nyota. It was because he did not want to leave Kirk. The revelation made him breathless.
"Nyota," he gasped, unable to draw in air. He turned his gaze away from her to look at the lift's progress. They would never reach his floor in time.
Then, Spock felt himself crumbling to the floor of the lift. Before he lost all consciousness he heard Nyota call his name once, and then heard her voice shaking in terror into a communicator. "I need transport for a Vulcan immediately. He's barely breathing! I'm in Apartment Complex-"
Spock knew nothing more.
Spock knew he wasn't awake. He realized that he must be in a medical facility, however, by the vital monitor beeping rhythmically. He could hear things, but it was what he was feeling that he was most aware.
Spock opened his eyes to see Jim at his bedside. He took him in for a moment before he slowly lifted his hand to grip his captain's forearm. He shook his weakly. "Jim." Then, with their eyes still connected, Kirk released Spock's shoulder to instead grab Spock's hand that had been on his arm.
Someone was holding his hand.
Spock shook their joined hands as he spoke.
"He's about to wake up." Spock did not recognize the voice, but he knew it was a doctor. The other person did not respond, but he felt his hand shift as the person holding it shifted. "Vulcans are a private race. He would not wish for anyone to witness how a Vulcan must be brought to consciousness. It's a process that can seriously alarm those unfamiliar with it." Spock knew the doctor thought he would have to strike him in order to use pain to bring him to full alertness. It was something he had no desire to endure at that time.
Spock's hand felt colder instantly when the other person released it. He distantly heard footsteps leave the room. When Spock opened his eyes, he was disappointed to see a doctor he did not recognize.
He had wanted to see someone else.
It took very little effort to convince the doctor that he was adequately functioning. It was an advantage when undergoing treatment from a doctor unfamiliar with his physiology. He did not hold any fondness for medical facilities - even the ones run by Starfleet.
Spock was on his way towards the exit of the building, intent on finally returning home, when he was brought up short in his steps. There in front of him, leaning on one of the sterile-white window frames that overlooked the bay stood the newly promoted Captain of the USS Enterprise, James T. Kirk.
Spock felt a tightness in his chest at the sight of him and wondered if he had been too hasty to leave this hospital. Perhaps he should have his respiration checked once more.
"Captain!" he heard the voice of his older self whisper in astonishment. Then he saw the memory that had audibly begun. He took Kirk's shoulders in his hands and spun him around, with an ecstatic exclamation of "Jim!" Spock felt pure happiness as he saw the smiling face of Kirk.
"Spock!" He was suddenly face to face with the man that might have been his captain, who was smiling at him just like the other Kirk smiled at his other self. "I'm glad you're okay." Then, his expression turned to nervous in an instant. "You are okay, right?"
Spock looked at him for a long while searching for the smile that has vanished. He could not find it and he was disappointed. "I am well, sir."
Kirk smiled a little, but it seemed to lack the sincerity of the Kirk in his thoughts. Again, Spock was disappointed. Was he hoping to find a man that did not exist in this James T. Kirk? It seemed so.
"I, um...I'd tried to comm. you a little while ago." He shifted on his feet. This Kirk before him seemed to lack all of the confidence that the other Kirk had in abundance. Kirk bit his lower lip.
Spock was becoming more and more disappointed by the second. Kirk sighed heavily. "If you will excuse me," Spock said as he began to walk past him, "I must leave to gather my-"
"Spock, will you be my first officer?" Spock stopped immediately and looked back. He finally saw that confidence in the human, now, as he walked purposefully toward him. "I could use someone who can keep me in line and who can tell me whenever I violate some regulation or other." He offered a smile. "As you've already noticed, I simply ignore them sometimes." He sighed. "And besides we worked really well together so I thought-"
Despite the strange tightening in his chest increasing, the odd sensation of an increased heart rate, and the odd feeling of pleasure, Spock interrupted him. "I apologize, but I cannot."
He had expected Kirk to withdraw and deflate in this rejection of his offer, but Spock was surprised when the human maintained eye contact and nodded slowly. "Okay."
With another smile, Kirk simply turned and began to walk away from him. Spock watched him go in confusion. Why was Kirk giving up? Kirk was not the type to give up in any fight! Or was it that Spock was simply not worth fighting for? He had to know. "Why did you not ask for my reasoning?"
Kirk turned as though he wasn't expecting another word from him. "You don't need to tell me why. I know you like your privacy, so I won't ask you for a reason you might not be willing to give."
Spock saw his expression. It was compassionate and filled with an understanding that seemed to surprise Kirk himself. "Jim, I wish to give you my reason."
The human stared at him with what Spock could only describe as a sort of surprised and awed pleasure. "You don't need to. You had a duty to your people long before Starfleet. You have to help them. I understand that." Then, he chuckled softly. "The needs of the many, right?"
As Spock stared at Kirk's expression, the features seemed to morph into that of the other Kirk. They had the same expression in that moment. He saw them both in the same image. Where he had seen nothing of similarity between these two Kirks earlier, they were now merging into one. Earlier he had thought that when he looked at this Kirk of his timeline that he would be forever searching for the man he could not be. Yet gone was the brash and arrogant cadet from their first meeting at the human's trial. Spock did not dare to breathe as he stared at the young man in front of him. He would never have to begin the search for similarities between these two Kirks. The Jim Kirk he knew was already as beautiful as the one his older self had known.
"Where did you hear that phrase?" he asked.
"From a Vulcan I met recently."
Spock began to smile. "Does this Vulcan answer to the name of-"
"Spock!" His question was interrupted by the arrival of Nyota through the doors toward which he had been heading. "I didn't know they released you!" Her pace was quick as she came to him. It was only as she was about to pass Kirk in the hallway that she noticed him. She stopped, matching the distance between Kirk and Spock to be equal to that between herself and Spock. "I'm interrupting, aren't I?"
"You are not." At his contradiction, Spock saw Kirk's head jerk up to look at him sharply, though the Kirk said nothing.
Nyota seemed to only listen to Spock's words and took them as permission to go to him. "Are they making you have someone go home with you?" She reached up and wound her hand around the back of his neck, urging him to rest his forehead against hers.
Spock saw the expression on Kirk's face. If he had allowed himself to display what he was feeling at that moment, he was certain they would have been identical. He was surprised and thought her behavior was quite inappropriate. "They are not imposing such a requirement." Then, he noticed that Kirk looked away.
"Do you want me to go with you anyway? Make sure you get back safely?" She brushed her hand down from his neck until it rested at his chest. He looked at her, but he did not fail to notice Kirk look back at Nyota with an expression that Spock could not place.
"I am well and able to return to my apartment safely without an escort. I trust that you are also capable of the same."
She blinked at him in what he believed to be disbelief and offense before her hand fell away from him and she swallowed. When she turned to leave she looked at Kirk with a strange expression. Kirk seemed discomforted by it by his reaction of averting his eyes from her. She slowly began to walk away from them. "Goodnight, Nyota," Spock offered as farewell. She replied similarly.
Spock noticed that Kirk turned his gaze back to him. Then, he cleared his throat. "I - uh - I should...go." Without another word, Kirk nodded to himself and followed the direction of Nyota's departure.
Spock silently watched him leave. When the doors slid shut again after Kirk had walked through them, Spock closed his eyes and wondered if he'd made a mistake somewhere.
The next evening, Spock was once again trying to find his center in his meditations. His difficulty in finding peace was still elusive to him. He found his mind filled with memories from his older self.
It began with the simplistic beauty of Kirk just blinking in a chair before averting his gaze.
It then became the scene he'd witnessed while unconscious in the hospital. He'd opened his eyes to find Kirk at his bedside, holding his shoulders and asking him, "What should you have known?"
Then, Kirk released Spock's shoulder to instead grab Spock's hand that had been on his arm. Spock shook their joined hands as he spoke. "This simple feeling..."
He was brought out of his meditation by the repeated and rather annoying sound of his door buzzer. He unfolded his legs from their position and rose to his feet, tired and insufficiently rested from the interruption to his meditation. He walked to the door and pressed the command to open it.
There on the other side was Nyota.
It was a moment filled with hesitation and uncertainty. "I-" she began then choked on the words. "I noticed you aren't listed for the crew."
Spock waited until she was looking directly at him before responding. "I will not be aboard the Enterprise when it is launched tomorrow."
She bit her lips and blinked furiously. "Why?"
"I have a responsibility to my people. I must do what I can to help rebuild my race."
She set her lips into a firm line as she inhaled through her nose. "They aren't your race, Spock."
"You're neither Human nor Vulcan and therefore have no place in this universe."
"You said that Earth was the only home you had left. Why are you leaving?" she finished.
He ignored the question. Spock was still startled at how similar Nyota sounded to the older boys that had tormented him as a young child. "Nevertheless, it is what I have chosen." He saw that she was about to speak angrily again at him, and he chose to speak before she could. "I wish you well in your career, Nyota. I am certain that you will advance quickly with your skills and that you achieve much."
Then, her hard expression shifted to sadness. "Is this goodbye?"
"There is nothing else that it can be." He raised his hand and separated the fingers into the ta'al. "Live long and prosper."
Her mouth fell open in disbelief.
He did not wait for her reply before he activated his door again, creating a wall between them that effectively shut her out. He did not wish to make his goodbyes more difficult than that. He was always skilled at building walls.
Captain James T. Kirk would have wagered that Spock would have said it was fascinating that both times he was aboard a shuttlecraft en route to dock on the Enterprise he had ended up sitting next to Doctor Leonard McCoy. "You gonna throw up on me, Bones?"
"Good God, Jim, I hope not."
"Well, I won't throw up on you if you don't on me."
McCoy looked at him with knowing eyes. "Joking won't fool me, kid."
Jim sobered instantly. Then, he sighed. He knew what his friend was trying to discuss. "He needs to help his people."
"You mean the ones that don't think he's really one of them?"
Jim winced. "Bones," he sighed. The shuttlecraft shook as it lifted off and began the journey to the waiting Enterprise. "He's still a Vulcan."
"Maybe to humans he is, but the Vulcans won't want him to help them repopulate because he's got some human genes in his green blood. To Vulcans trying to get as many pureblooded of their kind in action as fast as possible, they won't want Spock and his humanity tainting them."
"Stop," he bit out in a deadly whisper. "He chose to leave Starfleet and that's his decision no matter if it's best for him or not."
"Or best for you, you mean?"
Jim looked up at his best friend with a weak glare. McCoy's expression softened. "It's why you haven't picked a first officer yet, Jim. I don't know why you like that hobgoblin so much, but...let it go."
"I will, Bones."
They were silent for a few minutes as the shuttlecraft completely left Earth and entered the darkness of space. This time, the moment had passed without McCoy beginning to sweat nervously. It was likely due this time to the fact that he was watching his friend rather than the window. "You need to name a first officer before this mission really starts."
Jim nodded, his face turned away from the window. "I was thinking of Sulu. I'll name him as my first as soon as we leave spacedock."
McCoy nodded, then shifted his attention to the window of the shuttlecraft. He was greeted with a view of the ship on which he was about to serve for the next five years, looking brand new thanks to the repairs it had undergone. "There she is, Jim. Your ship. You ready for this?"
He felt more than saw Jim lean toward the window to stare at his ship, as it grew larger and larger the closer their shuttlecraft got. He was convinced that his friend was ready.
It was the quiet, "yeah," beside him that told him that Jim was not as convinced.
Spock's subconscious was very active that morning. His mind was bombarded with overlapping images and sounds. Many of them he could not distinguish, but others he could. He saw an Enterprise that was not quite the same ship, but the general design was so similar it could not be anything but the Enterprise. "Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels..." A shared glance between himself and Kirk in the turbolift. Spock taking Kirk's shoulders in his hands, spinning him with a energy that could only come from unadulterated happiness, which was reflected back at him in Kirk's smile. His own hands upon a conference table as he shook with sobs as his head lowered towards his hands. "...his was the most..." Kirk supporting Spock as he half-leaned against the corner of a wall in a corridor, as the human gazed at him with such open concern as his fingers kneaded the muscles in his upper arms. Kirk teasingly glaring at him. Spock approaching the figure of a slumped Kirk who leaned against a wall, knowing what it meant to truly feel concern and a desire to help. "...human..."
Standing at Kirk's side as the captain was in his place in the command chair. "As if you've always been there and always will."
He was looking at an older man now, older than the other incarnations in earlier memories. The human had been wounded, and looked as though he'd gone through a great deal in the recent past. "You came back for me. Why would you do this?"
The human did not hesitate. "Because the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many."
Then, he knew. This man before him who gazed at him with such hope. He suddenly remembered who he was. "Jim. Your name...is Jim."
Jim nodded, and he looked relieved, happy, and overwhelmed as he replied quietly, "Yes."
As he sat up in his bed, he heard the voice of his older self from several days ago when they had spoken for the first and only time. "My mind required reeducation, yet there were only two people that I still knew instinctively because I loved them dearly. Both were human. I still knew my t'hy-my longtime...lover...and my mother." Unexpectedly, the answers fell into place for Spock.
He thought of his mother. Spock had loved her dearly. If he had not, he would not have risked his life and gone back for her. If he had not loved her, he would have left her behind.
"You came back for me. Why would you do this?" Spock now understood. Kirk had come back for him for the same reason that Spock had gone back to Vulcan for his mother. Love.
Jim Kirk loved Spock.
"I still knew my t'hy-my longtime...lover..."
It took him only a moment, but when he realized what his other self had almost said, Spock was horrified at his own stupidity. T'hy'la. One of the most sacred words in the Vulcan language. Friend, brother, lover. Had he thrown away his t'hy'la? The thought was devastating.
He turned to look at one of the few items he kept unpacked - the chronometer. Was there time? Was he too late?
Then, the memories of his other self gave him exactly what he needed.
"There must be some part of me in you, some part I still can reach."
Spock had never quite heard that voice but he simply knew instinctively the voice of his mother, even at an age she would never now reach.
"A feeling is not much to go on."
"Sometimes a feeling, Mister Spock, is all we humans have to go on."
"That's not a dirty word. You're human, too. Let that part of you come through!"
He trusted his mother. Even now she was guiding him.
Only one hour later the doors of the turbolift opened aboard the Enterprise revealing the Bridge to him. He stepped forward but did not enter the Bridge. His eyes met those of Jim Kirk, who seemed to not quite believe his eyes. "Permission to come aboard, captain?"
Then, Kirk smiled softly at him. "Permission granted." Only then, did Spock step onto the Bridge.
When Spock ended up in the turbolift with both Jim and Nyota after the first shift of the five year mission, he understood the concept of irony a little better. What made it easier was his position standing between them. It was tense in the confined space. But it was Nyota who spoke first. "I'm glad you came back, Spock."
Spock did not even need to look to know that Jim had stiffened on his other side.
"Now that you're back, would you mind if we continued our less-"
"Lieutenant," Spock interrupted her. "It is often considered inappropriate to arrange plans for an evening in the presence of someone you do not intend to include."
He did not miss Kirk inhale sharply.
The turbolift stopped and Kirk practically fled. Spock stepped forward to prevent the doors from sliding closed again, then turned back to look at Nyota. "I did not return to this ship for you, Nyota." Then, he turned away from her and left the turbolift.
As the doors hissed close, Nyota had just enough time to see Spock quicken his pace as he called Jim's name, saw the other man turn and smile brightly at Spock. Spock had slowed his pace as he neared and was speaking quietly to him.
The last thing she noticed was a look on Spock's face that he had never displayed when with her. Spock looked content.