The minute Jim heard Khan say his name, he knew. For the past year, he’d been struggling with the emotional transference that had come along with the mind-meld Spock the Elder had performed.
Sometimes he wondered how he functioned. His heart shattered into tiny pieces every time he saw Spock and Uhura (he still didn’t have permission to call her Nyota) kissing in what they thought was an abandoned hallway.
He escaped to his room on the ship and gasped as memories hit him. Of looking through Spock’s eyes out onto his own face, though with hazel eyes. Of seeing himself break down and cry, knowing that Spock was going to die and there was nothing he could do about it. Of knowing that his t’hy’la was going to be left alone and there was nothing Spock could about it either.
Except, Spock had done something. But that was no guarantee this Spock would do something about it, like leave his katra in Bones.
Well, this time, there was something James T. Kirk could do about it.
It could have been hours later, or only minutes, Jim didn’t know. He felt the radiation hit his body and it triggered another memory of Spock feeling the same thing—in another lifetime.
“I’m scared, Spock.” I’m scared. I’m dying the exact same way you did in the other universe, Spock. But at least you can live long and prosper. You and Uhura can have gorgeous children, and fuck! This hurts! Spock, it hurts. It hurts so bad. I wish you could hold me. I wish I could have told you how I feel about you. I know what it feels like to have a Spock in my head. I just wish that it was you. That you would have seen how I was looking at you and—fuck! Oh god, I’m dying. “How do you not be scared?”
As he looked at Spock’s Vulcan salute pressed up against the glass, and at his tear-stained face, Jim Kirk knew. T’hy’la was a universal constant. Spock was his other half, and he was Spock’s. He vaguely heard himself say something about why he saved Spock from the volcano. He heard Spock’s reply. “Because you are my friend.”
Yeah, but that’s not—ow!—it. Ow, oh god, Spock, it hurts! Ow, ow, ow!
He closed his eyes and felt nothing. No pain, no sadness over the fact that Spock didn’t know how he felt.
He was nothing, floating in a sea of chocolate brown like Spock’s eyes.
Jim whirled around. When did he get a body again? “Who’s there?” he called. He looked around, not knowing what to think.
“It’s me, kid.”
Jim spun around, and saw a face he had only ever seen in memories. “You’re me…”
James T. Kirk, chubbier than Jim had ever been and with hazel eyes, stood in front of himself. Kirk chuckled. “Yeah. I am. Well, actually, you’re me, because I came before you.”
“But…” Jim said, blinking. “I’m dead. I should be, anyway. I fixed the warp core. So Spock wouldn’t die. Because he…”
Kirk nodded. “Yeah. And it was incredibly brave of you. Also incredibly stupid. Do you know how much destruction an angry Vulcan can bring down on someone? Even an augmented human?”
Chairs and tables, set up like his quarters on the Enterprise, appeared and Kirk obtained a drink. “Tea?” he asked his younger counterpart when it became clear Jim wasn’t going to answer.
Jim nodded dumbly, sitting down in the chair that Spock normally occupied during their infrequent chess nights. Kirk sat opposite him, and handed Jim a mug. “Drink. It’ll make you feel better.” They stared at each other for a few minutes. “You really love your Spock, don’t you?” Kirk asked, taking a sip.
Knowing it was pointless to lie to yourself, Jim just nodded, not letting blue meet hazel.
Kirk frowned. Had he ever been so stupid? “You do realize that your Spock could have done the exact same thing mine did?”
Jim stood and started pacing. “But he wouldn’t have! He would have died, leaving Uhura alone, leaving me! He was prepared to leave me because of that stupid volcano! Uhura could have grieved more publicly! But me? I would have had to mourn a crew-member, but not someone I love!”
“So is that why you gave your life up?” Kirk asked, sipping his chamomile tea. “So that Spock could live?”
“Good. Okay. I want you to tell my Spock something. I know he’s where you are. Taluhk nash-veh k’dular, t’hy’la*.”
“I’m dead. I can’t tell him anything.”
Kirk smiled, almost a little sadly. “Yes and no, kid. You aren’t as dead as you think you are. Notice how cold the room is?”
For the first time, Jim noticed it. “Yeah.”
Kirk pressed some buttons on a now visible panel. Something that looked like a holovid popped up. He watched Bones bark orders, and saw himself being placed in a cryo-tube. The two men watched as Spock and Uhura marched Khan—son of a bitch that he was—into the medbay. He saw Khan react to seeing his still-slumbering men. “I am Vulcan. That does not mean I am heartless,” Spock intoned.
Bones took vial after vial of blood from Khan. They watched as he measured out the amount of blood Jim’s body would need.
The screen shifted to what seemed to be a later date. Uhura stood in front of Spock. “I don’t know if this is going to work out, Spock,” she was saying. “You didn’t care about your own life and how ending it would effect me. Yet the minute Kirk was dead, you went of a rampage I didn’t even see from you when… when your mom died. You care about him, on some level, more than you care about me.” She paused, tears in her eyes. “I will always love you, Spock. But this? This is goodbye.”
Kirk waved his hand, and it closed. He looked at his wrist. “Oh, look at that. It’s almost time for you to wake up, kid.”
Jim stared. There was only thing he could ask. “What were our parents like?”
That caused Kirk to hesitate. “Dad was… Dad was great. He loved Sam and me to bits.” He gave Jim a weird look. “Didn’t you know what Mom was like?”
Jim was in the middle of a shrug, when he heard Bones voice talking to someone.
“That’s your cue. Remember what I told you.”
Jim’s eyes opened, and Bones turned around. “What happened? I thought I was dead.”
“Don’t be so damn melodramatic. You were only slightly dead.”
Jim stared. He could recall every little detail from his time with his counterpart spent in limbo. He could recall every damn detail from Spock the Elder’s life. He shuddered.
Once he was alone, he sent an email to Spock the Elder, detailing what he had seen in limbo, and passing on the message.
He had received a frantic transmission from the Vulcan elder not ten minutes later.
And if Jim used those words, to bring Spock back to himself six months later with the Horta, that fact stayed purely between Spock and Jim.