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Chapter Twelve


Epilogue
2258 - Reboot Universe



There was a remarkable amount of work involved in preparing to live in the past of an alternate timeline.

One of the first things they had to do was register with the Department of Temporal Investigations, which had at least managed to procure identification for them. They decided to keep their own names -- both James Kirk and Spock were common enough names among their peoples, and keeping them made this universe feel a little less alien.

Besides, they very much intended to keep a low profile. No one should have reason to connect them to their younger counterparts.

And already plenty of people knew who they were. Jim hadn't exactly kept it secret, and Spock had only said they were already in an alternate timeline and therefore any possible changes they made would have no effect on the future of the timeline -- beyond the effect any individual being had, at any rate.

But even given that, they hadn't yet come to a decision about how much they would reveal about their own universe.

The destruction of Vulcan had changed the map of the timeline significantly. There were only about 15,000 Vulcans left from their own planet, plus the scattered millions of their few colonies, which meant it was highly likely most of the Vulcans from future generations of their own universe would never be born.

Vulcans were some of the greatest scientific minds in the galaxy. They had created numerous technological innovations -- innovations that might never now be discovered, or discovered much later than they had been in Jim's universe.

Jim and Spock had not yet been able to decide on their responsibilities regarding discussion of future events. Spock was inclined not to interfere, but he had to concede Jim had a point when he mentioned the future invasions of the Borg and the Dominion, and Jim's question of whether the Federation would be able to handle them as well without all of Vulcan's previous contributions. Putting the Federation's guard up now could help them significantly in the long run.

But Spock too had a point when he said they did not have the ability to tell the future and could not know if the Borg and the Dominion would even be an issue, and they could not know exactly what would result from warning the Federation.

They still argued about it, but they had time. They'd come to a decision eventually.

In the meantime, Spock had been looking for planets on which to establish a main Vulcan colony.

Vulcans were not the colonizing force humans were. They had a few, but ultimately Vulcans were very connected to their planet, in a way mostly spiritual but also partly biological. Pon farr had not been dependent on Vulcan, after all, but it had always been the urge of every Vulcan in his Time to return to the sands of his home. Even Spock had felt that urge, though they had not always been able to indulge it.

The Vulcans need a place for the Vulcans as a people to call home. The new planet would not be Vulcan, but as future generations were born, perhaps those children would grow up with a connection to the home of their birth. But they needed a place that would ground them better than to just be sorted into their already existing colonies.

Spock had even found a likely planet, and was organizing a joint Vulcan and Starfleet expedition to ascertain its suitability. Alpha Sigma II was of a comparable size and distance from its sun, and also primarily desert, though it also included some few oceans. Like Vulcan, though, it was primarily land rather than water.

They also spent a lot of time simply walking their old haunts in Starfleet Academy, which had once been home to both of them. They had a couple of times run across Sulu, Chekov, and Scotty, and once McCoy, who had looked entertainingly disturbed at meeting an older Spock.

But they had not yet seen their counterparts, and they had not yet seen Uhura. Jim was actually quite relieved about that last, since he had no idea what to say to her. He was also pretty sure that any interactions of his with Spock she observed would be a dead giveaway about the state of their relationship.

He'd confessed her revelation about herself and the younger Spock to his Spock a few days into their stay on Earth, still disquieted by it.

"Jim," Spock had said in response, watching him. "You are bothered by this, beyond the possessiveness even you know is irrational. I am yours, and I will always be yours. You even acknowledge my counterpart's right to make his own decisions."

Jim grimaced. "Yes, I know," he conceded. "It's not like I need another Spock when I've got my hands full with just the one." His expression eased when Spock raised an eyebrow at him. "But I'm not sure how to explain it."

"I will listen, despite your level of articulation," Spock assured him, and Jim made a face at him.

"Funny," he said. He paused, gathering his thoughts. "It's just...I don't know what I think about destiny. I don't know if it exists, or even if I want it to. I mean, I've always been one for self-determination." Spock nodded. "But I've also found it...sort of comforting. I mean, I've worked very hard for my command and for my relationship with you. They didn't just fall into my lap, a product of a nebulous destiny. But they've also...felt so completely and utterly right. Like this was how my life should go in order to be as amazing as it could be.

"You're so much a part of that, Spock. Honestly, you're even most of it. Even back during the first five-year mission, I was willing to sacrifice my captaincy if it would keep you safe. My feelings for you -- they've been part of my foundation for a very long time. So have your feelings for me. And it just...shakes me, a bit, to think of a Spock who's not in love with James Kirk."

"T'hy'la," Spock said, and Jim knew he used the word deliberately, "do remember our counterparts have only just met. Who knows what the future will bring for them?"

Jim nodded. "I know that too," he agreed. "But I mean...damn. It's just, when I think of how long it took you to accept your love for me, and I think of this younger Spock in a relationship so much sooner..." He shrugged. "It's disturbing. I'm not doubting the strength of your love for me, but..."

"As much as I might wish it otherwise," Spock said slowly, "for Uhura's sake if nothing else, have you thought perhaps it is the strength of the emotions that provides the difference? Do remember I once attempted a relationship with Leila Kalomi before I met you, though it ended very quickly when she grew unsatisfied with my inability to be demonstrative. But Jim, I also did not love her, no matter what she wished. I simply found her a logical choice for a relationship partner until it became clear I could not meet her needs. She was someone whose company I enjoyed and who was intelligent and a scientist. Nyota Uhura, though not a scientist, fulfills the other criteria. And I do remember there being an attraction between the two of us in the early years of our mission, though I decided against pursuing it." He gave Jim a fond look. "My captain consumed much of my time."

Jim felt simultaneously lightened and burdened. If this were true, God, poor Uhura. But as much as Jim hated to admit it, Spock's reasoning made a lot more sense than the younger Spock being able to accept being in love at this point in his life.

But he was different. Jim couldn't forget that. Nero's destruction of the Kelvin had rippled out to affect the younger Spock, and who knew what kind of difference it had made.

Though this younger Spock, from what Jim had seen, didn't seem to find accepting emotion any easier than his own Spock had in his earlier years. The younger Spock was just not as good at repressing it.

Jim shook his head to dispel the thoughts. "I think I'm going to stop worrying about it," he decided. "I'll just depress myself, and give myself a headache, and those haven't yet been eliminated in this time."

Spock gave the twitch of his lips that was his equivalent of a smile. "A wise choice," he said. "You must think of your health."

"I have Bones for that," Jim replied, waving it off and grinning. "You know he sent me a message reminding me not to overexert myself?" The message had given Jim hope that Bones wouldn't always find him so disconcerting. His own Bones had often just needed some time to get used to strange new ideas.

"Dr. McCoy has always been very particular about your health," Spock agreed. "His behavior seems to be another universal constant."

Jim nodded, and they left the subject of their relationship and destiny behind. Jim couldn't help but feel cheered, though. If their entire core crew could meet seven years early and end up on the Enterprise together, and if the younger Kirk could end up meeting Spock on Delta Vega despite having had an entire planet to get lost in, and if the younger Kirk could still end up the captain of the Enterprise despite the changes in the timeline...

It didn't seem so unlikely the younger Kirk and Spock would be intrigued by each other, which already seemed to be happening. And from that, it also didn't seem so unlikely that their relationship would evolve from there until they possibly meant as much to each other as Jim knew he and his Spock did.

All he could do, though, was wait and see.

--

A few days after the younger Kirk's official promotion to captain, and after an afternoon spent calming Kirk's nerves, Jim hunted down Spock. He found him meditating in their garden, and a wave of fondness washed over him -- Spock could have been meditating in their temperature-controlled room, but instead he sat out there in the garden. In the wind, which was, of course, cold even to Jim.

Spock liked to test himself sometimes -- vary up the conditions under which he'd meditate. He also liked being out there among growing things, and said he'd grown accustomed to it from all the time he spent on Earth, which was certainly abundant with verdant plantlife.

But, Jim thought, he also sat out there because he knew it was the first place Jim would look for him. Jim didn't like spending too much time in their room at the Academy. The room was fine for when they slept or pursued intimate activities, but otherwise it was too small.

Jim carefully knelt in front of him, deciding to join him in meditation. He found the sense of Spock in his mind, and, taking a few deep breaths, matched himself to that sense.

Some time later, feeling very centered, Jim opened his eyes. He'd timed it well; Spock was also just exiting his trance. The smile appeared in his eyes when he saw Jim waiting for him.

"Jim. How was your afternoon?"

Jim made a noncommittal sound. "The kid wanted my advice on all the paperwork that comes with preparing for a mission. He had it well in hand when I left. I think he'll do okay, Spock."

"I am more than confident in his abilities. He is James Kirk, after all."

Jim laughed softly. "And people tease me about my ego! I'm going to have to send anyone who complains about it to you."

"I will certainly assure anyone who asks that I have it monitored carefully."

"Monitored for what?" Jim grinned. Then, while he still had the upper hand on Spock, he asked, "Did you do anything interesting today?"

Spock gave him a look that said he wasn't fooled, but he answered the question. "My younger counterpart sought me out earlier." He paused, and when Jim gave him an impatient look, he smiled slightly and continued. "He wanted advice on his future career path. I believe you intrigued him in your brief interactions."

"Oh?" Of course, that had been his purpose, but he was glad to hear Spock thought it fulfilled.

"Indeed. He said you assisted him in beginning to process his grief and anger."

Jim nodded slowly. "That's all well and good," he said, "but what, exactly, did he need advice on?"

"Whether to remain in Starfleet, or to resign his commission and join the rest of the survivors in building the colony," Spock replied calmly.

Jim frowned. For the younger Spock to leave Starfleet, and not serve on the Enterprise -- it just seemed wrong. But no -- Spock was too serene for that to have been the outcome of their conversation, and his eyes glittered with amusement.

"I assume you advised him to remain in Starfleet, then," Jim said.

Spock inclined his head. "I merely assured him you and I intended to join the colony," he replied. "He agreed it was not necessary to have two Spocks attempting the same work."

Jim snorted. "He was leaning towards Starfleet anyway, wasn't he?"

"Indeed. I did receive the impression he found the younger James Kirk...to be an interesting puzzle, particularly with you as another example. He seemed up to the task of deciphering the illogical behavior of a Kirk."

Jim smiled. "Then I wish him luck," he said. "The kid's going to need a competent first officer. Someone who will steady his impulses."

"And my younger counterpart will need someone to show him the value of intuition and instinct and its place in command, as well as the rewards of the emotional path."

"It does have plenty of rewards," Jim agreed. He held out his first two fingers, and closed his eyes at the buzz of love and joy that rushed through him when Spock's fingers met his.

He curled his fingers around Spock's, keeping them locked together. The Earth kept spinning, shifting towards night, and the air grew colder, but Jim barely felt it.

This was a brand new universe, and they would be all right.
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