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When soul meets body

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On Stardate 2194.53, thirty-three years after the creation of the United Federation of Planets, a biotechnology company created a device that would count down to the exact day one would meet his or her soulmate. It has been called the next evolutionary step in computer matchmaking; the TiMER lets one know the exact moment when their perfect match enters their life. Inserted after the onset of puberty and powered by body heat, the TiMER monitors levels of oxytocin, the hormone of love. It zeroes out at midnight the night before, and the next day, it could go off at any second, and you meet your soulmate!

By 2230, it was estimated that over three-fourths of humans ages fourteen or older would have TiMERs. An independent study conducted that year revealed a 96% satisfaction rate among newly-zeroed out couples.

Initially, TiMERs were invented solely for Humans, however, they were later found to work on several other alien races, such as Orions, Tellarites, and Deltans.

However, several alien races were found to be ill-suited to TiMERS, or have not been tested due to their state of relations with the Federation. Some of these more prominent races are Vulcans, Andorians, Klingons, and Romulans.

For a complete list of those who are and are not viable for TiMERs, please go to information page of the TiMER's website.

---

He was nervous, and it was illogical, but he was nervous. The human man was supposed to have arrived ten point seven minutes ago, but he had not yet arrived. Spock's parents had given him the option not to get one- his father, and his father's race, of course, did not have them. They, among many other races, were not viable to TiMERs due to their superior control over their bodies. His parents and the scientists in charge of the TiMER development, including several from the original scientific team, were not, in fact, sure if Spock was even viable for a TiMER, but they had high hopes, since he was biologically half human. He felt compelled to get one by the chance to test their hypothesis, but there was something... more. There was a little part of him- very little, he assured himself- that belonged to his human side, that was irrationally hoping that there was someone out there for him, someone who would complete him.

"Spock!" his mother called to him, hurrying into the parlor, "He's here!" He started to rise, but his mother shook her head, "You don't need to get up, Spock, he's only going to have you lie down again, anyway. Your arm needs to be in a supine position in case you accidentally move it."

"I know, mother," he said, almost irritable. It had been a long day. "I have read of the procedure many times."

Amanda smiled fondly at him, "Oh, Spock."

At the door, the Matchmaker took off his coat, and handed it to the waiting servant.

"I apologize for being held up, Ambassador," the man said, out of breath, and sweating in the Vulcan heat. The temperature of the room did little to help; it was only lowered slightly from the average temperature that Vulcans found comfortable, so his mother would not suffer too much. "Security insisted they thoroughly look through my baggage."

"It does not matter," Sarek said. "If you would follow me." He led the man into the parlor after his wife, who was still fretting over their son.

"I'm Matchmaker Ron," the man introduced himself. He was a heavier, older human man, wearing the typical Matchmaker colors- red and white, despite his being thousands of miles away from the nearest TiMER store. Spock's parents had to specially request a Matchmaker be sent from Earth to implant the device, since there were only a few TiMER stores dotted across Federation space, and since Vulcans were not normally viable for TiMERs, there were no such stores on his planet. Normally, someone seeking a TiMER would have to make a trip to one of those stores on the nearest planet or starbase, because a Matchmaker would never travel such distances for a house call, but being an ambassador to Earth did have it's privileges. Amanda stopped trying to fix Spock's traditional robes, since he was rather uncomfortable with her fretting, and stepped over to her husband's side.

"This is exciting! Isn't this exciting, dear?" Amanda said, latched on to her husband's arm.

"Amanda..." Sarek said, and she smiled almost sheepishly.

"Sorry, Sarek. It's just been a long time since..." she turned to the Matchmaker, "Have you heard how we met?" He placed the case on the ground, and turned to the couple.

He shook his head, "I don't believe I have."

Amanda looked up at her husband fondly, "I got a TiMER when I was fourteen, back when they were only a couple decades old. It had several years on it, but when it went off when I was in my twenties we realized it was faulty, because it went off when I locked eyes with the Vulcan Ambassador. And as you know, Vulcans don't have TiMERs."

"I heard the device beeping from across the courtyard, and despite the appearance of the faulty device, it seemed logical to marry her," Sarek said, seeming cold and distant, but Amanda knew that was simply the way her husband was, and just patted his arm, holding out two fingers for the Vulcan kiss. Sarek reciprocated, and then turned his attention back to Matchmaker Ron.

"I certify you, Spock- erm- I'm just gonna say," Matchmaker Ron tried to read Spock's full name, but it was incomprehensible, "son of Sarek, are of TiMER eligible age, this being your fourteenth birthday, Earth standard, Stardate 2244.06." He unlocked the case, and took out the implantation device, a large bulky thing that hadn't been much improved on in the fifty years since they were invented, and placed the TiMER on the tip of it.

"Take a deep breath, honey," Amanda said, reaching over to squeeze Spock's shoulder.

The Matchmaker took ahold of Spock's dominant arm, and pressed the device into it lightly, before pulling the trigger, the device implanting the TiMER into Spock's wrist with a click and a little hissing noise, from the release of compressed air. Spock did not wince, but any Human would have.

Both Amanda and Matchmaker Ron leaned in to get a closer look at the device as it turned itself on, being powered by Spock's body heat. The device was sleek and slim, one-point-five inches long, by point-five inches, resting only slightly raised on his wrist. It was rimmed by blue plastic- Spock had been able to choose the color he wanted- but the interior, covered by clear aluminum, was white. It made a little clicking noise, as the light came on. At first the little letters appeared, d h m s, representing the units of time. After another two seconds, what should have been the time appeared. ----d --h --m --s. His TiMER was blank.

The room was silent. "Er, at least we know it works!" Matchmaker Ron said, with exaggerated cheerfulness. Spock found he did not like the man very much. Sarek led the Matchmaker to another part of the house, where they would discuss the standard fee for installation, and the monthly fee from then on, as well as the in-home installation charge.

For over an hour, Spock sat in the chair clutching his hand, doing nothing but staring at his wrist, even after the Matchmaker left and his father resumed his normal duties. Spock wasn't sure what he was feeling. Or if he were even feeling at all. He had to admit that part of him felt... relief. He had been exempt from bonding as a child, because his mother had been hopeful he would have a soulmate, one that wasn't picked for him. He wasn't sure if he were... ready to meet the one that was supposed to be destined to be his.

Amanda paused on her way past the parlor. She sighed, Spock was still sitting there. He didn't notice as she walked over and stood beside him, he was absorbed in his own thoughts. She perched on the armrest of the sofa, and put a loving hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry, Spock. It probably just means that they’re younger than you," she assured him.

Still looking down at the blank device, he told her, "It is illogical to worry, there are many reasons my soulmate could not have one yet," he said, and it felt... good, to say the word aloud. Soulmate. To say the word was assuring. "It is also logical to formulate the possibility that my soulmate is one of the many who choose not to get one, or that he or she may be killed before we meet."

She smiled down at him, kissed the top of his head, and told him, "Don't worry."

---

The first thing Jim did after hopping on his bike and speeding away from his mom's house for what would be the last time, was to head to the Riverside TiMER store. Most towns on Earth had at least one store, and the larger cities usually had several. Riverside was a tiny fucking town in Iowa that had a population of two thousand, and they wouldn't have had one at all, except the town had a Federation shipyard, and was one of the embarkation points for Starfleet Academy recruits. A lot of people from smaller towns on other continents that were recruited for their brains usually didn't have TiMERS, or couldn't afford them until they got their first stipend from the Academy, and wanted to splurge on a TiMER before going out into the black.

Jim's mom never let him get one. Didn't let Sam get one either, but that didn't stop him from leaving, too. She'd found her soulmate in their father when they were teenagers, and had been so distraught over the loss of George that she never let him get one, even when he begged her.

So as the first act of his rebellion, he stood in front of the only TiMER store within fifty miles. The store was very minimalist, with a glass front, glass doors, pictures of happy couples on either side of the entrance, and TiMER written on the door, the M being formed by two red stick figures holding hands. He took a deep breath, and pulled open the door. Inside, there were a few people- mostly Matchmakers, the people who worked there and did the procedures- but there was a couple talking to a Matchmaker, one browsing woman in the back, and one passed him on the way in, with a bag in hand.

He glanced around the store, suddenly nervous. He stuck his hands in his pockets, and tried to look inconspicuous, while reading the stories of happy couples on the walls. The store was mostly white, with hints of red, like the signs and decorations on the walls, probably reminiscing with the "traditional colors" of love

Jim stepped up to the counter, where a Matchmaker was typing something up on the computer. She looked up at him and smiled, "Hi! I'm Matchmaker Patty!" She was pretty enough, but in her late thirties, and had a TiMER on her wrist. She stuck out her hand to shake his.

"Jim Kirk."

"Welcome Jim! Ready to take the plunge?" she said as if she were thinking of her own private joke.

"Yeah, yeah I am," he said, looking down at his wrist.

She laughed, and mimed someone breathing in and out, and turned around, gesturing him to follow, "Come on back! I'll get you started." He followed her, glancing around at the rest of the store. She led him to behind a large room divider, where a large computer screen was on one wall, and a chair that reclined almost completely back was in the middle next to a normal chair, probably where the significant other would usually sit. She pointed to the reclining chair and he sat back in it, as she said, "So, Jim, I'm gonna need a photo ID and a credit card."

He pulled out his wallet and handed her both. She looked at his ID and sucked in a breath, "Ooh, sixteen, huh?"

"Well I've already graduated, so," he said, crossing his arms.

She smiled at him, and turned around and typed the information on the computer, and read it off as she went, "James Tiberius Kirk, sixteen, caucasian, bisexual. Personality modules- completed online. Perfect!" she said, "So we're having a special this month- 80 credits, that's for the installation, and the device, plus monthly charges of 2 credits. Kay? Now, sign the terms of use."

She handed him a PADD, and he glanced over it quickly. For the most part it said that he agreed not to ask for a refund if his wait for true love was too long or too short, or if he didn't like his soulmate. He frowned at the last one, "Aren't I guaranteed to like my One? Isn't that the point?"

She shook her head, "Oh, no. Not necessarily, not at first. Here's our pamphlet to the path to true love," she handed him the pamphlet, and Jim glanced through it as Matchmaker Patty said, "There's, of course, love at first sight. But we also have friendship blossoming into love, or enemies becoming lovers. Opposites attract, et cetera! See, the TiMER tells you the very moment that your soulmate enters your life; the rest will evolve naturally."

Jim took in a deep breath, and signed the release. He sat up, and pulled off his leather jacket, dumping it unceremoniously on the chair next to the reclining one. "Let's do this."

"Awesome!" she said, "Okay, Jim, which is your dominant hand?"

"Right," he said, and placed his arm on the raised platform. Jim glanced at the Matchmaker, who had pulled out the implantation device and stuck the TiMER to it.

"Now, you ready?" she asked, stepping over to his right side. He nodded and braced himself, gasping as she pressed the trigger. He looked down at his wrist with watery eyes, and watched as it came to life. The letters appeared- d h m s, and then seconds later, the exact time ‘till he met his one. 3240d 07h 14m 43s

"Three thousand, two hundred and forty days," Matchmaker Patty read.

"That's... a little under nine years," Jim said, breathing out for what felt like the first time. "I'll be twenty five," he said, still staring down at his wrist, the little numbers encased in a yellow rim. "He or she's... out there, living their life," he said in awe. "Someone who's my One." Someone who could love even someone as fucked up as him.

"Yep!" she said. "When you zero out, the moment you and your soulmate make eye contact that day, your timer will make three beeping noises like bleep bleep bleep!" she demonstrated for him. She hopped up, and said, "Come this way!" She led him out into the front, where she went behind the counter, and showed him a little red box. "It's all right here for you, and I hope he or she is everything you deserve!" She placed the box into one of the bags on the counter, and handed it to him. "Have a great day!"

---

The moment Jim's TiMER activated, Spock's TiMER clicked to life. He had come home from the Academy for the summer after his first year, and was asleep in his room, as it was the middle of the night on Vulcan, when he was awakened by a beeping noise. He rolled over and said, "Lights," with a cracking voice and his hand over his eyes. Lifting his hand off and opening his eyes to the bright light, he glanced toward his wrist, then sat up with a shock. The TiMER on his wrist, which had been blank for five years, had suddenly activated. 3240d 07h 12m 21s

Nine years.

---

After the bar fight at the Riverside Shipyard bar, and the cadets had exited the building, Jim sat across from Pike at a little table in the middle of the bar with two tissues stuffed up his nose and half a beer in his glass. Pike stared at him with a half disappointed smile on his face.

"You know, I couldn't believe it when the bartender told me who you are. "

Jim said, glancing up at him, "Who am I, Captain Pike?" with an air of defiance, and more than a little resignation, as he finished off his beer.

"Your father's son."

Jim turned to the bartender behind him, and waved his empty glass, "Can I get another one?"

"For my dissertation, I was assigned the USS Kelvin. Something I admired about your dad, he didn't believe in no-win scenarios," Pike said, glancing him over. Jim pulled the tissues from his nose, wiping it off.

"Sure learned his lesson."

"Well, it depends on how you define winning. You're here, aren't ya?"

"Thanks," Jim said, as the bartender placed another beer on the table in front of him. Jim kind of shrugged at Pike, who was still looking at him with an almost disappointed look on his face. Jim didn't know what he wanted- well, yeah, he did, but he didn't know what he wanted from him. He didn't fucking know Jim, just because he knew his dad.

"You know, that instinct to leap without looking, that was his nature too, and in my opinion, it's something Starfleet's lost."

Jim chuckled as he poured the beer into the glass, "Why are you talking to me, man?"

"'Cause I looked up your file while you were drooling on the floor. Your aptitude tests are off the charts, so what is it? You like being the only genius-level repeat offender in the midwest?" Jim blinked up at him, still hazy from the fight. Pike had that damn look on his face again.

"Maybe I love it," Jim said half-heartedly, and gave a little shrug.

"Look, so your dad dies. You can settle for less than an ordinary life. Or do you feel like you were meant for something better? Something special? Enlist in Starfleet."

"Enli-" Jim laughed, shaking his head, "You guys must be way down in your recruiting quota for the month."

"If you're half the man your father was Jim, Starfleet could use you. You could be an officer in four years. You could have your own ship in eight. You understand what the Federation is, don't you? It's important. It's a peacekeeping and humanitarian armada."

Jim looked down at the table again, taking another swig of beer. Pike just looked at him, and he didn't know what the guy wanted him to say. Sure? I'll join first thing tomorrow? Yeah, right.

Pike sighed, "Your TiMER’s got what, two, three years on it?" Jim glanced down at his wrist. 1001d 00h 37m 15s. "I met my wife in Starfleet. Your parents served together in Starfleet. Forty-seven percent of married officers have met their spouses while employed by the 'fleet."

"What if I don't want someone in the 'fleet?" Jim said, taking another drink from his glass.

"You don't have a choice, kid. You signed up for the damn thing."

"We done?"

Pike shook his head, getting up, "I'm done. Riverside Shipyard. The shuttle for new recruits leaves tomorrow oh-eight hundred," Jim saluted him with his glass. Pike looked down, "You know, your father was Captain of a starship for twelve minutes," he looked at Jim, who barely refrained from rolling his eyes, "He saved eight hundred lives, including your mother's. And yours. I dare you to do better." After giving Jim a long look, Pike turned and left, leaving Jim alone at the table.

Jim picked up the salt shaker shaped like the Kelvin and turned it over, letting the salt pour out onto the table. On his other wrist, his TiMER counted down the seconds. Two years, eight months, twenty-eight days.

---

As the sun rose over the Iowan plains, Jim rode his bike toward the shipyard. Pike knew exactly what to say to him to get him thinking about it, that fucker. The past six years he'd spent doing everything- and nothing. Nothing that mattered.

As he neared the shipyard, he stopped in front of the Enterprise. She'd been being built for the last few years in the Riverside Shipyard, and would be finished in two and a half. Jim might even serve on her one day. There were gaping holes in the hull, and the engines weren't complete, but she was beautiful. A hint of a smile played on his lips as he took her in. For a few minutes, Jim just sat there, thinking about what exactly he was getting into. An exploratory and peacekeeping organization, searching the stars for new life and civilizations.

As the sun rose higher, he sped towards the construction zone, past maintenance workers and a last few cadets in red, still not on the shuttles. When he pulled up to the shuttle, Pike was just boarding. He turned around when he heard the bike approaching.

Jim stopped in front of the shuttle, as an engineer walking in front of him said, "Nice ride, man."

Jim turned off the ignition, and started towards the shuttle. He tossed the man the keys as he said, "It's yours." The man looked from the keys to Jim, confused, as Jim walked past Pike. Walking backwards onto the shuttle, he said, "Four years? I'll do it in three."

Once on the shuttle, Jim glanced around to all the other recruits. They were all in cadet red, a couple of them wearing caps. He grinned, and as he turned, he whacked his head on the beam. "Ah-" he said, and sighed, placing his hands on the beam to steady himself. A couple of assholes said, "Nice!" And "I saw that."

Jim passed the guys he got into the fight with the previous day, mock saluting them with two fingers, "At ease, gentlemen." They watched with narrowed eyes as he passed.

Walking around to the rear of the shuttlecraft, Jim ducked under another low beam and spotted a couple of empty seats, dropping down into one next to a cadet. He tugged on the seatbelt, giving half a smile to the guy next to him, and pulled it on. Looking around at the cadets, he spotted the girl from the night before. He almost laughed, just his luck. She rolled her eyes at him. "Never did get that first name," he chimed.

Still grinning, Jim heard one of the officers, a woman, say loudly, "You need a doctor." Jim turned his head towards the noise.

Another voice, gruff and annoyed, said, "I told you people, I don't need a doctor! Damn it, I am a doctor!"

The officer said, firmly, "You need to get back to your seat."

"I had one, in the bathroom, with no windows," he pointed out.

"You need to get back to your seat, now!" she yelled at him.

"I suffer from aviophobia!" he told her. For the first time, Jim got a good look at the man. He was scruffy, and looked more than a little bit crazy. He was probably in his late twenties, meaning he was older than most of the kids in the shuttle, "It means fear of dying in something that flies!"

"Sir, for your own safety, sit down or else I'll make you sit down," she said finally, full authority in her voice.

"Fine," he said, waving her off.

"Thank you," she said, before moving away. Jim looked after her.

Over the intercom, Pike said, "This is Captain Pike. We've been cleared for takeoff."

Jim was still looking at the guy, who'd picked the seat next to him, wearily. He was buckling his own seatbelt when he looked over at Jim, "I may throw up on you."

Jim eyed him, but said, "I think these things are pretty safe."

"Don't pander to me, kid. One tiny crack in the hull, and our blood boils in thirteen seconds," he turned to Jim, "A solar flare might pop up and cook us in our seats. And wait 'til you're sitting pretty with a case of Andorian shingles. See if you're still so relaxed when your eyeballs are bleeding! Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence," he said, almost disgusted.

"Well, I hate to break this to you, but Starfleet operates in space," Jim said, glancing towards the guy.

"Yeah, well, got nowhere else to go. The ex-wife took the whole damn planet in the divorce. All I've got left is my bones," he glanced down as he said the last part, and took a swig from a flask. He turned to Jim and offered it to him, which Jim took. The guy showed Jim his wrist. It was blank, and he didn't have any scars to show a TiMER had been removed. So he got married without the assurance of a TiMER. Lots of people did it, but it usually didn't turn out well. "She wanted to get one, said something about it proving we were meant to be together," he went on, and Jim got the feeling that the guy would have told just about anyone in particular, he just wanted to get it off his chest, "but she just wanted to confirm what she already knew about our marriage." Jim got the picture.

"Jim Kirk," he said, raising the flask, before taking a drink.

"McCoy, Leonard McCoy."

---

[THREE YEARS LATER]

"Why are you so happy?" McCoy asked Jim, almost petulantly, as they hurried down the steps of the Academy. Around them were hundreds of other cadets and teachers milling around in the early summer sun.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said, almost grinning. He was excited about the test, because this time he knew he would pass. And maybe it had a little thing to do with the device on his wrist, too.

"No, I don't suppose you do,"

"Hello, ladies," Jim said, turning to a pair of girls to his right. Turning back to his friend, "I'm taking the test again."

"You gotta be kidding me," McCoy said, frowning at him.

"Yeah, tomorrow morning and I want you there," he said seriously.

"You know, I've got better things to do than to watch you embarrass yourself for a third time," he lectured Jim as he flirted with various other cadets. "I'm a doctor, Jim, I'm busy."

Jim stopped in front of his friend, leaning in closely, "Bones, it doesn't bother you that no one's ever passed the test?"

"Jim, it's the Kobayashi Maru. No one passes the test, and no one goes back for seconds, let alone thirds," he told him as Jim just smiled at him, squinting in the sun.

Jim clapped him on the shoulder, "I gotta study," he said, turning away.

"Study my ass," McCoy said, shaking his head.

---

"Ahh.. Jim, I think I love you," Gaila moaned, as he kissed her neck. She smiled up at him as he paused over her.

"That's so weird," he said, making a face.

"Lights," Gaila said, mood thrown.

An automated computer voice said, "Lights On." As the lights came on, she pushed him off.

"Did you just say 'that-'" she started but stopped suddenly. "Jim!" she said, grabbed his wrist, after getting a glance at his TiMER, suddenly all anger lost. She squealed, and said, "Your TiMER's about to go off!" 0003d 06h 49m 16s. Orions have this whole different idea of what love is to them, but they were the species with the second highest number of TiMERs. Gaila had one too, but it was blank. She always got really excited about Jim's, and well, from what he could tell, everyone whose TiMER was about to go off.

"I know!" he said, joining her in her excitement. They looked down at his wrist, as the device counted down. He opened his mouth to protest them stopping, because it was exciting, but it wasn't about to go off right then, they could celebrate by finishing what they started! But he shut it as he heard the door open. Both of them turned towards the door.

"Oh, that's my roommate," Gaila said.

"I thought you said she was gone for the night?" Jim asked.

"Well, obviously, she's not," Gaila said quickly. "Quick, you've got... get under the bed!" she said, panicking.

"Under..." he said, scrunching up his face, thinking it was ridiculous.

"Look, just get under there!" she said, pushing him to the side of the bed as he protested.

"C'mon!"

"She can't see you!" she whispered furiously, glancing towards the door.

"Why not?" Jim said as he climbed off the bed, looking down at her.

"Because I promised her I'd stop bringing guys back to the room," she said almost sheepishly.

"Wait, how many guys have you...?" Jim said, as Gaila hushed him, and waved him down. Jim himself had slept with his fair share of girls, guys, and, well, aliens, in his lifetime. He wasn't judging her or anything, he was mostly just curious, after all. He wasn't one of those 'sleep only with your one' type of guys, especially since he originally had to wait nine years to meet him or her. He wanted to do it while he could, because Jim Kirk was a lot of things, but he wasn't a cheater.

"Down, just down!" Gaila said, as she pushed him down.

---

Overseeing the Kobayashi Maru sim the next morning, Spock stood behind the glass and watched as the cadet celebrated the victory with his friends below. Later, Spock was going to launch a formal investigation on how he beat the test, but for the moment, he was oddly drawn to the cadet in the sim below... Next to him, rolling her eyes, was Nyota. Spock glanced down at his own wrist. 0002d 14h 12m 08s. They were to break up in two point five-eight days, but for now they were to enjoy the time left to them, while they could.

---

That night, McCoy took Jim out to celebrate, and they stumbled home half drunk. They'd both learned years ago that coming drunk when they had class in the morning usually made them late and hungover- even if there were hypos for the latter- and that usually didn't impress their teachers too much. They'd shared a dorm for the past three years, since nobody else really wanted to room with McCoy at first, somewhat due to his grouchy behavior and odd hours he kept to be at the hospital. Jim may or may not have done something about the situation. McCoy learned not to ask. Even though he usually did anyway.

Jim shed his leather jacket- the same one he'd owned for years- as he turned his PADD on, and checked his emails. He had a message from the Academy, addressed to all cadets, about a hearing set three days later. "Hey Bones," Jim called, not looking up from the PADD, "Did you get one of these messages too?"

McCoy walked out of the bathroom in his boxers and a white t-shirt, toothbrush in his mouth. He grabbed his PADD from the top of a pile of books by the bathroom door, and swiped it to check his email. He nodded, reading the message.

Jim looked at his own again, "Oh awesome, it's set the day I zero out, maybe it's one of the admirals," he snickered.

Bones looked at him over the top of the PADD, toothbrush still in his mouth, "Shut up, you’d better hope it’s not an admiral." He tossed the nearest pillow at Jim's face.

---

The night he would time out, Jim wanted to stay up till midnight to watch it go off, dragging Bones up to wait with him.

"Stay up with meeeeee," Jim moaned, rolling over onto McCoy, who was trying to read from one of the medical textbooks. McCoy shot him a look, which would have been a lot scarier had they not both been in their underwear.

"Jim you're not even gonna meet him or her till tomorrow," he said, when Jim took the book away from him, "can't I just follow you around all day?"

"Yeah you can, but you have to wait up with me now!" Jim pleaded, giving his friend his best doe-eyed look. He could practically feel Bones giving in, with his southern gentleman inner turmoil written all over his face.

"Damn it, Jim, we have class in the morning," McCoy sighed, almost resigned.

"C'mon, Bones! I'll stay up with you when yours goes off!"

"I don't have one!"

"Bonessssss," Jim said, "please?"

McCoy sighed, and rolled off the side of the bed. Jim sat up, confused, "Wait, where are you going?"

McCoy squatted down in front of one of the cabinets, and rifled through it for a moment, before he found what he was looking for- a bottle of whiskey. Standing up, he said, "Well if you're gonna make me stay up, I might as well enjoy it." He grabbed himself a glass, and started to pour himself some. He tipped the bottle towards Jim, and said, "Want some?"

Jim shook his head, and moved to his own bed, "I'm too nervous."

McCoy rolled his eyes, "That's why I offered."

An hour later, Jim was on his stomach, reading a book- an actual book, not one of those ebooks on his PADD but he couldn't help but glance at his TiMER every few minutes. 0000d 01h 04m 56s.

0000d 00h 51m 18s.

0000d 00h 42m 01s.

When he glanced up from his TiMER, McCoy was on his back on the other bed, his PADD over his eyes, the bottle of whiskey and the half-drunk glass on the side table. He groaned, "Is it midnight yet?"

"You wish," Jim said, and turned back to his book.

Forty-one minutes later, Jim glanced back to his wrist, and sat straight up. "Shit!" he said, making McCoy sit up.

"What happened, kid? We miss it?"

"No, but almost!" he said, hopping off his bed to go sit next to McCoy. "Lights to eighty-five percent," he said, and the computer repeated his command, turning the lights up brighter. Jim held out his wrist, which only had a few seconds left. "Ten, nine, eight- c'mon Bones count!"

"Fine," he grumbled, "six, five, four," they counted, "three, two, one!"

"Midnight!" Jim said, grinning down at his wrist. The TiMER counted 0000d 00h 00m 00s for a brief moment before flashing blank, and then the zeroes re-appeared, continuously flashing as the TiMER let out a happy tune.

"Did you see that?" Jim said, in awe, looking to McCoy.

"Yeah, kid, I did," he said fondly, but exhausted. He’d been up since four AM, since he had a shift at the hospital. He patted his friend on the shoulder. "Can I go to sleep now?"

"No!" Jim said, but he wasn't really paying attention to McCoy anymore, "He or she could be out there, right now, staring at their wrist!"

"Or they could have slept through it," McCoy grumbled.

Jim was beyond excited- not only because he beat the Kobayashi Maru two days before, but because he just zeroed out and he was supposed to meet his one tomorrow, and he's so fucking nervous, because what if they meet at the thing that was called in the morning, or at the bar later that night, or what if-

"Go to sleep kid," McCoy grumbled, "I can hear you thinking from here. You aren't gonna meet 'em in our dorm room."

Jim took another long look at his wrist before climbing into bed, and shutting off the lights.

---

All cadets were informed of the hearing over the loudspeaker, the day of. When Jim arrived at the hall, McCoy was already standing on the steps, a couple of rows down. Most of the other senior cadets had already arrived, as well as several instructors. Jim had only been a little later than they said to arrive, since he'd been trying to make eye contact with everyone he could. He knew most of the senior cadets, and a lot of the underclassmen, but he still stopped and searched the room for anyone else who might have been looking around. He caught the eyes of a couple of girls who giggled, but no one struck him as his One, and his TiMER never made a sound.

He tried not to be disappointed, but it must have shown on his face, because McCoy looked at him sympathetically, and said, "Still haven't met your One?" He shook his head. "Cheer up, kid, you're gonna meet him or her eventually."

"Yeah," he said, resigned. "I guess we should take our seats? It looks like they wanna start." They made their way to a pair of seats, and sat down. Jim leaned over to McCoy, and asked, "Any idea what this is about?"

McCoy shook his head as the hearing started.

"This session has been called to resolve a troubling matter," Admiral Barnett said, breaking the newly found silence. "James T. Kirk, step forward," Jim looked towards the admiral, and thought oh fuck. He took a deep breath, "Cadet Kirk, evidence has been submitted to this council," he glanced at McCoy, and stood up, heading towards the podium in the front, "suggesting that you violated the ethical code of conduct pursuant to Regulation One-Seven point three of the Starfleet Code. Is there anything you care to say before we begin, sir?"

Jim took in a breath, looking down, before speaking up, "Yes, I believe I have the right to face my accuser directly."

Jim turned around to face the audience, as the commander stood up. They met eyes, and suddenly, Jim's world was spinning. The room was silent for a brief moment, until the sound of loud, cheerful beeping echoed around the room. Jim let in a breath, and looked down at his wrist, where the zeroes were flashing. His One.

Jim watched him process the information. The commander was attractive- but Vulcan, which wasn't a problem, Jim just didn't think they could even get TiMERS. He was a he- which also wasn't a problem, Jim liked guys after all- but, he didn't look pleased. He almost looked... almost like he thought it was a mistake. Jim swallowed. He was a Vulcan. He probably looked like that all the time, he reasoned, but the silence stretched on longer. Jim's heart beating quickened, and he almost wanted to say something. He opened his mouth, but the look on his One's face stopped him.

Everyone else seemed to be just as shocked as the two of them. The courtroom was still completely silent, when Barnett, looking between them, cleared his throat, and said, "... In light of this unexpected turn of events, Commander Spock, would you like to dismiss the trial, or reschedule until another commander can be assigned to review his case?"

Spock tugged his outer jacket down, and said, "That is unnecessary, this will not affect my judgment."

Jim knew he looked stupid, but his jaw dropped. He hadn't taken his eyes off the commander, who looked away as if Jim weren't worthy of even meeting eyes with him. The cadets, and even a few instructors, started whispering among themselves, and from what Jim could hear, it was mostly, "That's so heartless, and cold!" "He's a Vulcan, don't you know they don't have feelings?"

He took his eyes off Spock for a moment, and caught Pike's eye. Pike just sighed and shook his head. He spotted Uhura a few rows back, and she was biting her lip, and it almost looked as though she were biting back tears, although Jim didn't know why.

Barnett cleared his throat again, effectively silencing the room, "Then step forward, please," he said. Spock started down the steps to the podium opposite Jim, not taking his eyes off of him. "Commander Spock is one of our most distinguished graduates. He's programmed the Kobayashi Maru exam for the last four years," Spock reached the podium, and looked towards Jim, who met his eye, "Commander?"

"Cadet Kirk, you somehow managed to install and activate a subroutine to the programming code, thereby changing the conditions of the test," Spock said, and god, he just sounded so- arrogant.

"Your point being?" he said, glancing at the other man, hands clasped behind his back.

"In academic vernacular, you cheated," Barnett said, looking straight at him. Uhura looked at him like she expected as much, rolling her eyes.

"Let me ask you something, I think we all know the answer to," he said, almost chuckling. "The test itself is a cheat, isn't it? You programmed it to be unwinnable."

"Your argument precludes the possibility of a no-win scenario."

"I don't believe in no-win scenarios."

"Then, not only did you violate the rules," Spock said, looking at him, "you also failed to understand the principle lesson."

"Please, enlighten me," Jim said, turning towards the commander.

"You of all people should know, Cadet Kirk. A Captain cannot cheat death," Spock said haughtily, and the courtroom broke out into furious whispers. Jim glanced at the other cadets, and then back at Spock.

"I of all people," he said, taking in a breath, and looking down at the podium.

"Your father, Lieutenant George Kirk, assumed command of his vessel before being killed in action, did he not?" Spock said, still with his arrogant tone, and unwavering gaze.

"I don't think you like the fact that I beat your test."

"Furthermore, you have failed to divine the purpose of the test."

"Enlighten me again," he said, once again making eye contact with Spock.

"The purpose is to experience fear. Fear in the face of certain death. To accept that fear," Jim looked down, "and maintain control of oneself and one's crew. This is a quality expected in every Starfleet captain."

The doors to the courtroom opened, and an aide walked in, handing a PADD to Barnett. "Excuse me, sir."

Everyone, Spock included, turned to Barnett, watching him read what was on the file. Spock had turned away, when the admiral spoke.

He took a deep breath, "We've received a distress call from Vulcan," Jim turned to Spock, who was looking at the admiral with a blank look on his face, "With our primary fleet engaged in the Laurentian system, I hereby order all cadets to report to Hangar One immediately. Dismissed." All the cadets and faculty rose, and started exiting the courtroom. McCoy stepped down beside Jim, and clapped him on his shoulder.

"That pointy-eared bastard is your One, huh?"

Jim looked down and swallowed, "Yeah."

"Sorry, kid."

Jim looked up, and said, "Don't wait for me, I'll meet you in the hanger." Before McCoy had a chance to respond, Jim had taken off after Spock. He glanced right, but nearly missed him. He spotted Spock, and hurried after him.

Swallowing his anger, Jim caught up with Spock, who barely acknowledged him. He tried to keep up with the commander's brisk pace, while introducing himself, "I'm Jim Kirk," he said.

Spock didn't hardly pay him any attention, taking a PADD from a passing yeoman, signing it, and handing it back. He said, "I know who you are."

"Um so you're Commander Spock, right?" Jim said, struggling to keep up. Damn, those Vulcans were fast.

"Affirmative," he said, as if he were already tired of Jim's presence.

"So I guess we're soulmates, huh?" Jim said lightly, but Spock stopped abruptly, and turned to him.

He said, "We will discuss this at a later date, Cadet Kirk." Before Jim had a chance to reply, Spock turned down a corridor, leaving Jim in the mess of people.

After a moment, McCoy caught up to him, yelling, "Jim!" When he stood beside Jim, he asked, "How'd it go?"

Jim looked out in the direction his soulmate had gone, "He called me 'Cadet Kirk.'"

"Ouch."

---

Uhura walked quickly over to Spock, who was manning one of the stations in shuttle bay, passing Kirk and McCoy, shortly after the commander informed her she was assigned to the Farragut.

"Commander, a word," she said, stopping beside him.

"Yes, Lieutenant?" Spock said, not looking up from the screen.

"Was I not one of your top students?"

"Indeed you were." He finished on the computer, and started walking at a brisk pace toward the shuttles with Uhura in tow.

"And did I not, on multiple occasions, demonstrate exceptional aural sensitivity, and I quote, 'an unparalleled ability to identify sonic anomalies in subspace transmission tests?'" she fired off, following him to the shuttle.

"Consistently, yes," he said, stopping in front of the Enterprise shuttle.

"And while you were well aware that of my own qualified desires to serve on the USS Enterprise, I'm assigned to the Farragut?" she said, furiously.

"It was," he said quietly, glancing around at the passing personnel, "an attempt to avoid the appearance of favoritism-"

"No, I'm assigned to the Enterprise," she said, not breaking eye contact with him.

After a moment, he looked down at his PADD, pressing a few buttons, then looking back up at her, "Yes, I believe you are."

"Thank you," she said smugly, turning away. She stopped herself and grabbed Spock by the sleeve, as he made his own attempt at leaving. He turned back to her with a questioning look on his face, eyebrow raised. She put on her happiest face, hoping he wouldn't see right through it, as she said, "So you and Kirk, huh? I wanted to congratulate you," she said. "So I guess this is it for us? I mean, I've known the day's been coming since we met, but now that it's here..."

"Not necessarily. It is not logical to end a relationship based solely on this device. Furthermore, I believe the company has made some sort of mistake," he said.

She looked at him, shocked, "You can't be serious. He's right there! Even he doesn't deserve that!"

"It is no consequence what he does or does not deserve. He is a cheater, and possesses an extensive criminal record. He is not what I desire in a mate. It would be logical to seek someone with intelligence and initiative, someone like-"

"Just like him?" she said, pointing a finger at his chest, "Come on, Spock, you can't tell me you haven't read his files. He may be an asshole, but he's a genius asshole, and if it had been anyone but you proctoring that exam, they would have given him a commendation for initiative and creative thinking!" She took a long look at him before saying, furious and blinking away tears, "I love you, and I think part of me will always love you, but..." She stuck out her arm, and pulled up her sleeve, showing him her wrist. In the place where smooth skin used to be, a TiMER was in place. It only had a few hours left on the device. She didn't have one when Spock had seen her the day before, so she must have gotten it the previous night, "and he's right there," she pointed in the general direction she had last seen Kirk. "You believed in this stuff right up until that moment, because his record made you stop. Now go look at him, maybe he'll make you start believing in it again."

She stormed off onto the shuttle, away from Spock and Kirk and heartbreak, choosing a seat directly between Christine Chapel, who was one of her friends, and knew her well enough not to talked to her when she was pissed, and some ensign woman who wouldn't care enough to.

---

"Mister Spock," Pike said, as Spock stepped aboard the bridge, exiting the turbolift, and heading for his station.

"Captain. Engineering reports ready for launch," he said.

"Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, the maiden voyage of our newest flagship deserves more pomp and circumstance than we can afford today," Pike stepped around the various stations, before stopping in front of the Captain's chair. "A christening will just have to be our reward for a safe return. Carry on."

When the captain sat and gave his order, everyone turned back to their positions. As Chekov turned back to his station, he briefly made eye contact with the helmsman sitting a few feet from him. Chekov had pointedly been avoiding eye contact with everyone he met that day, simply because he was not sure if he were ready. He was only seventeen, what did he know about love? He had only gotten the TiMER because it was very popular in America and he just wanted to be like the other kids- despite the fact he was only a kid when he came to America to go to the Academy. His TiMER had zeroed out the previous night, and he'd stayed up watching it go off, to his roommates displeasure.

Sitting there on the bridge, his TiMER made the same beeping noise as it had the previous night, only louder, as he made eye contact with the helmsman. Sulu, he thought his name was.

He wasn't sure what the expression on his face was- shock, probably- but he felt it turn into a smile as the man across from him- his One, Sulu- offered him a hesitant smile.

Their moment was broken, when Pike said, looking between them, "... Well, today has been eventful. I saw three more time out on the way up here. Congratulations, men. You can talk when this is over." The two of them nodded, turning to their stations, sneaking little looks at each other and grinning when they met eyes. Pike pressed the communicator, and said, "All decks, this is Captain Pike, prepare for immediate departure. Helm, thrusters."

---

A few minutes later, after reaching maximum warp, Pike turned to the navigator. "Russian whiz kid who just zeroed out, what's your name? Chenko, Chirpoff?"

Chekov spun around in his chair making sure Hikaru, he'd just learned- Hikaru, it was foreign to him, but he liked it- heard him, glancing at him out of the corner of his eye, "Ensign Chekov, Pavel Andreievich, sir."

"Fine, Chekov, Pavel Andreievich, begin shipwide mission broadcast."

"Yes, sir, happy to," he said, turning around. He typed in his authorization code, and said, lacing his hands together, "Ensign authorization code nine-five-wictor-wictor-two."

The automated computer voice said, "Authorization Not Recognized."

"Aye," he said frustrated, leaning over the console, pronouncing the words much slower and more clearly, "Ensign authorization code nine-five-vwictor-vwictor-two," he repeated. Sulu was watching him out of the corner of his eye, and thought he was just so cute the way he couldn't pronounce the words.

---

"Captain!" Jim yelled, running onto the bridge, with both Uhura and McCoy chasing after him.

"Jim, no!" McCoy yelled.

"Captain Pike, we have to stop the ship!"

Pike stood up, "Kirk, how the hell did you get on board the Enterprise?" Behind him, Spock stood up from his station, wondering what wrongdoing his One was going to do now, to embarrass both Spock and himself.

McCoy stepped in front of Jim, placing his hand out in front of them, as if it were going to make them forget Jim was there, "Captain, this man's under the influence of a severe reaction of a Melvaran flea vaccine, completely..."

"Bones, Bones-" Jim said, trying to silence his friend.

"...delusional," McCoy finished, "I take full responsibility-"

Jim started to talk over him, "Vulcan is not experiencing a natural disaster. It's being attacked by Romulans," he said, looking Pike in the eye.

"Romulans? Cadet Kirk, I think you've had enough attention for one day," he turned to McCoy, "McCoy take him back to medical, we'll have words later."

"Aye Captain," McCoy said sincerely, nodding. He grabbed Jim as he made an attempt to get closer to the captain.

"Look, sir, that same anomaly-"

"Mister Kirk..." Pike said.

Spock stepped forward, "Mister Kirk is not cleared to be aboard this vessel."

"Look, I get it, you're not happy I'm your One, you didn't get what you asked for, and you're a great orator. I'd love to do it again with you too," he said, looking towards Spock.

Spock stared to speak over him, "I can remove the Cadet-"

"Try it!" Jim yelled, "This Cadet is trying to save the bridge."

"By recommending a full stop mid-warp during a rescue mission?" Spock said, turning to him.

Kirk turned to Pike, "It's not a rescue mission, listen to me, it's an attack," he said quietly.

"Based on what facts?" Spock said loudly.

Jim stopped for a moment, taking in a breath. He didn't know what it was about this guy, he was just so- infuriating. "That same anomaly, a lightning storm in space that we saw today, also occurred on the day of my birth. Before a Romulan ship attacked the USS Kelvin," he turned to Pike, and said, more calmly, "You know that, sir, I read your dissertation." Jim turned back to Spock, and resumed his former tone, "That ship which had formidable and advanced weaponry was never seen or heard from again." He turned back to Pike, saying, "The Kelvin attack took place on the edge of Klingon space, and at seventeen hundred hours three days ago, there was another attack. Forty-seven Klingon warbirds destroyed by Romulans, sir. It was reported that the Romulans were in one ship, one massive ship."

"And you know of this Klingon attack how?" Pike said, as Jim glanced to Spock. He turned to Uhura, who was standing behind them.

She sucked in a breath, and said to the captain, "Sir, I intercepted and translated the message myself. Kirk's report is accurate."

After that, Spock only half listened, watching his soulmate act with surprising intelligence. Jim looked over at him, and half smiled, before turning back to the conversation.

"Arrival at Vulcan in four- three- two-"

---

"Without transporters, we can't beam off the ship, we can't assist Vulcan, we can't do our job," Pike said, leading Jim, Spock, and Sulu into engineering. "Mister Kirk, Mister Sulu, Engineer Olson, will space-jump from the shuttle. You will land on that machine they lowered into the atmosphere that's scrambling our gear. You'll get inside. You'll disable it, then you'll beam back to the ship," Spock's eyes briefly flitted to Jim, "Mister Spock, I'm leaving you in command of the Enterprise. Once we have transport capabilities, communications back up, you'll contact Starfleet, report what the hell's going on here. And if all else fails," he said, stopping in front of the lift, turning to the crew, "fall back, rendezvous with the fleet in the Laurentian system." He met Jim's eyes, addressing him directly, "Kirk, I'm promoting you to first officer."

"What?"

"Captain?" Spock said, turning to Pike with brows furrowed, "please, I apologize. The complexities of Human pranks escape me." Jim felt a stab of hurt, not for the first time that day. His One seemed to have absolutely no faith in him, despite he had almost completed the command track in three years.

"It's not a prank, Spock. Give the guy a break, he's your One, after all. And I'm not the Captain, you are." He turned to Sulu and Jim, "Let's go." Jim paused momentarily, maintaining eye contact with Spock before following him into the lift.

Once inside the lift, Jim asked, "Sir, after we knock out that drill, what happens to you?"

"Oh, I guess you'll have to come and get me." He looked out at Spock, "Careful with the ship, Spock. She's brand new."

---

Standing on the edge of disabled drill after watching the object fall from the ship into the hole on Vulcan, Jim yelled into his communicator, "Kirk to Enterprise. They just launched something at the planet into the hole they just drilled. Do you copy, Enterprise?

"Yes sir!"

"Kirk to Enterprise, beam us outta here!"

"Standby, locking on your signal," the technician said from the transporter room.

The drill suddenly was knocked out of place, being pulled up towards the ship. Sulu was standing near the edge of the platform, and while Jim was knocked forward onto his knees, Sulu was knocked off the platform completely.

"I can't lock onto you. Don't move. Don't move!" she said in a panicked voice. Jim was gaping down at Sulu's falling body.

"Kirk!" Sulu barely managed to tell before he disappeared over the side.

Jim didn't stop to think before yelling, "Sulu!" and taking a running jump over the side.

Jim maneuvered his body to where he was falling face-first in a more aerodynamic way, trying to catch up with Sulu. He yelled, "Sulu! Hold on!" He barreled into Sulu, knocking them both off their original path towards the ground. "I got ya! Now, pull my 'chute!" he said as they contributed their free fall towards Vulcan.

Sulu pulled the shoot open with a grunt, the shoot popping open and temporarily slowing their fall. After a few seconds, the straps broke, and they were falling towards the ground at a rapid, unstopping pace. As they fell, all he could think about was how they'd just met their soulmates- someone on the bridge had told Jim about Sulu and Chekov earlier.

"Kirk to Enterprise! We're falling without a chute! Beam us up!"

"I'm trying. I can't lock on your signal, you're moving too fast!" the transporter technician said.

---

On the bridge, Chekov had been monitoring their frequencies, when he looked to the console, realizing what was going on and that he knew what to do, pointing to it, saying, "I can do that. I can do that! Take the conn!"

"Aye, sir."

Chekov frantically ran from the bridge to the transporter room, yelling, "Move, move, move, move, move!" as he nearly ran into a science officer, "I can do that, I can do that! Move, move, move move!" he flew into the transporter room yelling, "Give me radio control, I can lock on!" The chief transporter technician jumped out of the chair to give Chekov room to work.

"Beam us up!" Jim yelled over the comm. "Enterprise, where are you?"

"Hold on, hold on!" he said, frantically trying to triangulate their position.

"Now, now, now! Do it now! Now, now, now!"

"Don't move! Hold on! Computating gravitational pull and... gotcha!"

Jim and Sulu slammed into the transporter pad, still wrapped in each other's arms from the fall. They groaned and rolled off each other.

"Oh! Yah-my-oo!" Chekov said, jumping up, grinning.

"Gah," Jim groaned, pulling himself up to his knees.

"Thanks," Sulu panted.

"No problem," Jim said, out of breath.

Jim looked up as Spock walked into the transporter room, and stepped onto the pad. "Clear the pad. I'm beaming to the surface."

"The surface of what?" Jim said, stepping off the pad, as Spock buckled the phaser holster, "What, are you going down there? Are you nuts? Spock, you can't do that!"

Spock glared at him, saying, "Energize," as Jim yelled, "Spock!"

Behind him, Chekov bounced over to Sulu, and said, "I am glad you are safe."

Sulu said, "I was, uh," he said, still out of breath, "hoping you were thinking of me."

Chekov nodded, smiling.

---

Sitting in the captain's chair, looking out the front view screen, but not really seeing, Spock belayed the events of the evening into the log, "Acting captain's log, stardate twenty-two fifty-eight point four two. We have had no word from Captain Pike. I have therefore classified him a hostage of the war criminal known as Nero. Nero, who has destroyed my home planet and most of its six billion inhabitants. While the essence of our culture has been saved in the elders who now reside upon the ship, I estimate no more than ten thousand have survived. I am now a member of an endangered species."

When Spock finished dictating the Acting Captain's log after the death of his mother and subsequent destruction of his planet, he stood up abruptly and made his way to the turbolift. Uhura, who had been watching him, stood up to follow him, but Jim, who'd just finished getting his hand bandaged in sickbay and had just arrived back on the bridge, chased after him instead. She bit her lip, and sat back down, watching as the lift doors closed behind them. She knew it was no longer her place to comfort Spock now that he had Jim, regardless of how awfully Spock was treating him- Jim was relentless. And especially now that she had her own TiMER ticking down the last few hours on her wrist...

Inside the turbolift, Jim pressed the 'All Stop' button, and turned Spock, reaching for him. Spock stepped backwards, and Jim dropped his hand.

Jim looked at him sincerely and said, "I'm so sorry, god, Spock-"

Spock, who had previously been angled away from him, turned to Jim and snapped, "You knew nothing of her. Simply because this device," he grabbed Jim's wrist and held it in a crushing grasp, before releasing it, nearly throwing it back towards him, "deems you my 'soulmate' does not make it true."

Jim flinched away, his self worth dropping to nearly non-existent. He looked to the ground, not meeting Spock's eyes, "Yeah, okay, whatever," shuffling around.

Spock felt almost smugly about it, getting some almost perverse pleasure out of making him- anyone else- suffer. As Jim turned away from Spock, Spock pressed the button again to resume the lift. In a few moments they reached their destination. Spock walked out of the lift, pausing at the edge of the hallway as to where the lift doors would not close again as he stood there. With his back to Jim, he informed Jim, much more calmly, "As soon as this mission is over, I would like for you to accompany me to a TiMER store to discuss the devices with the Matchmakers. Our match is unacceptable. You cannot possibly be my soulmate, there must have been a mistake."

Taking Jim's silence as consent, Spock exited the lift, and headed down the hall. Jim stayed in the lift, in shock, even as the doors closed. He'd thought- he'd thought his one was unhappy with it, yeah, but he'd never have thought his One was serious enough to- well, try to get a different soulmate. Not that that could ever happen, but-

He'd never have thought that the guy who was supposed to be his soulmate, who was supposed to be able to love him, would just say he was a mistake.

It was too much to hope for that the TiMER systems would find someone who thought he was worth it. He wasn't even good enough for his soulmate. Of course he wasn't. He'd never been good enough before- he hadn't been enough for Sam to stay, he hadn't been good enough on Tarsus, he'd never been good enough for anyone to love him before, why did he always think that it was going to be different this time? It never had been before.

---

Shortly after that, Jim was back to his usual self, pressing down all those feelings of worthlessness, sitting in the captain's chair on the bridge with fake cheerfulness.

"Have you confirmed that Nero is headed for Earth?" Spock asked Uhura.

She spun around and answered, "Their trajectory suggests no other destination, Captain."

"Thank you, Lieutenant," Spock said, hands laced in front of him, as he walked towards the front of the bridge.

"Earth may be his next stop, but we have to assume every Federation planet's a target," Jim said.

"Out of the chair," Spock said, almost indulgently. Jim pulled himself out of it.

"Well, if the Federation is a target, why didn't they destroy us?" Chekov said, looking towards Sulu, who was leaning on his console towards Chekov.

"Why would they? Why waste the weapons? You know... we obviously weren't a threat," Sulu said, turning to Spock.

"That is not it," he dismissed, "He said he wanted me to see something. The destruction of my home planet." He stopped in front of the main view screen, hands clasped behind his back.

"How the hell did they do that, by the way? Where did the Romulans get that kind of weaponry?" McCoy said.

"The engineering comprehension necessary to artificially create a black hole may suggest an answer," he turned around, "Such technology could theoretically be manipulated to create a tunnel through space-time."

"Dammit man, I'm a doctor, not a physicist. Are you actually suggesting they're from the future?"

"If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

"How poetic."

"Then what would an angry, future Romulan want with Captain Pike?" Jim asked, looking at Spock.

"As Captain," Sulu said, looking from Jim to Spock, "he does know details of Starfleet's defenses."

"What we need to do is catch up to that ship. Disable it, take it over, and get Pike back."

"We are technologically outmatched in every way. A rescue attempt would be illogical."

"Nero's ship would have to drop out of warp for us to overtake him," Chekov said.

"Then, what about assigning engineering crews to try and boost our warp gear?" Jim suggested.

"Remaining power and crew are being used to repair radiation leaks on the lower decks..."

"Okay, alright. There's got to be some way-" Jim started talking loudly over Spock.

"-we must gather with the rest of Starfleet, to balance the terms of the next engagement," Spock said, raising his voice to meet Jim's.

Jim had come down to the front of the bridge, in front of the navigation and helm consoles, to stand next to Spock, "There won't be a next engagement. By the time we've gathered, it'll be too late. But you say he's from the future, knows what's going to happen, then the logical thing is to be unpredictable."

Spock stepped closer to Jim, "You are assuming that Nero knows how events are predicted to unfold. To the contrary, Nero's very presence has altered the flow of history, beginning with the attack on the USS Kelvin, culminating in the events of today, thereby creating an entire new chain of incidents that cannot be anticipated by either party."

"An alternate reality," Uhura said, stepping away from her station.

"Precisely," Spock said, as though her words meant far more than what Jim would ever say. Spock turned from Jim and walked towards the chair, "Whatever our lives might have been, if the time continuum was disrupted, our destinies have changed” he said pointedly to Jim, “Mr. Sulu, plot a course to the Laurentian system warp factor three." Spock sat in the chair, as Jim stepped up on the platform and towards him.

"Spock, don't do that. Running back to the rest of the fleet for a, a, a confab is a massive waste of time-"

"These are orders issued by Captain Pike when he left-"

"He also ordered us to go back and get him. Spock, you are captain now! You have to be-"

"I am aware of my responsibilities, Mister Kirk."

"Every second we waste, Nero's getting closer to his next target!"

"That is correct and why I am instructing you to accept the fact that I alone am in command."

Jim yelled, "I will not allow us to go backwards-"

McCoy yelled, "Jim!"

"-instead of hunting Nero down!" he finished, Spock standing up to face him. Jim tried to reason with him, "Listen to me! I’m your one, you should trust me! There's a reason that it paired us together!"

"Some faulty science," Spock bit back. "Will you never cease with this nonsense? Will you never give up?"

"No! I won't! I've been waiting for this my entire life, for you, and you're being a stubborn ass!"

Spock met his eye, before turning to the security personnel, and saying calmly, "Security. Escort him out." Spock sat in the chair as two red-clad officers grabbed Jim's arms. He started to fight them off, knocking them off him, and trying to wrestle a phaser away from one when he stood back up.

"Hey!" the officer yelled.

"No, Jim!" McCoy yelled.

Spock stepped towards him, and grabbed his shoulder, performing the Vulcan nerve pinch. Jim collapsed, unconscious, to the floor.

Spock looked up at the officers, "Get him off this ship."

---

Being marooned in a freezing escape pod wasn't the worst thing to have ever happened to Jim, which said something about Jim, and was more than a little disorienting. He blinked awake, and pressed a few buttons on the computer before saying, "Aggh. Computer, where am I?"

The computer replied, "Location: Delta Vega. Class-M planet. Unsafe. There is a Starfleet outpost fourteen kilometers to the northwest," it said as Jim unwrapped the bandages, removing them from his hands, "Remain in your pod until-"

"Oh, you've got to be kidding me."

"-you have summoned authorities."

Jim pulled the escape hatch, pulling himself up out of the pod. He grabbed the duffle containing supplies, and started climbing out of the recess that was created by the falling escape pod. When he pulled himself to the surface, Jim looked around, seeing almost nothing but a sea of white. He dropped the bag, mumbling, "Some fucking soulmate I've got, marooning me, stupid fucking soulmate, I want a refund, HEAR THAT TiMER COMPANY I WANT A REFUND." He kicked the ground, spraying himself with snow. He plopped down on the ground, and started to go through the bag.

---

Having just been chased down a hill and into a cave by two different beasts that wanted to eat him, Jim lay on the floor of the cave, panting, as he gaped up at the man who's just saved him. The man turned around- and he was a Vulcan, probably nearing two hundred years old. As he looked at Jim, a look of recognition crossed his face.

The man seemed at a loss for words. Then he said, "James T. Kirk."

"Excuse me?" Jim said, still gaping from the ground.

"How did you find me?"

"Whoa- whoa whoa," Jim said, getting up, "how do you know my name?"

"I have been, and always shall be, your friend."

"Wha..." Jim chuckled, looking down, "oh, look... uh, I don't know you."

"I am Spock."

Jim glanced down, then back up at him. "Bullshit."

---

"It is remarkably pleasing to see you again, old friend," Spock Prime said, poking at the fire, as Jim warmed his hands by it. "Especially after the events of today."

"Uh," Jim stood up, "sir I appreciate what you did for me today, but, but if you were Spock you would know we're not friends at all. You hate me, you marooned me here for mutiny."

"Mutiny?" The old guy seemed genuinely surprised.

"Yes," Jim nodded.

"You are not the Captain?"

Jim sighed, "No, no. Umm... you're the Captain," he pointed to Spock Prime, before dropping his hand, "Pike was taken hostage." Jim paced back and forth in front of the fire. He was restless.

"By Nero," Spock Prime said. Jim turned to him.

"... what do you know about him?"

"He is a particularly troubled Romulan. Please, allow me. It will be easier."

Spock Prime reached out his hand towards Jim's face, and Jim stepped back, "Whoa, whoa. What are you doing?"

"Our minds. One and together," he said as the Vulcan place his hand on his face.

---

Jim gasped as he was pulled from the meld. He was sweaty, and crying, and shit, how did that happen?

"Forgive me. Emotional transference is an effect of the mind meld." Jim broke away and stumbled a couple of feet, before bracing himself against one of the cave's walls, gasping and eyes watering.

"So you do feel?" Jim asked, gasping. It just- he'd felt the entire grief of Spock- the guy who his soulmate was supposed to be in two hundred years.

"Yes."

"Going back in time, you changed all our lives," Jim panted.

"Jim," Spock Prime said, and Jim turned to him, "we must go. There is a Starfleet outpost not far from here." Spock Prime walked past him towards the cave's exit.

"Wait," Jim called. Spock Prime stopped and turned to Jim, "Where you came from," Jim paused, "did I know my father?"

Spock Prime paused, then said, "Yes. You often spoke of him as being your inspiration for joining Starfleet. He proudly lived to see you become Captain of the Enterprise."

"Captain?"

"A ship we must return you to as soon as possible," Spock Prime said, and continued to the exit. Jim looked at the fire for a moment- thinking that he knew his dad in the other Spock's universe. He hurried after Spock, who was just about to leave the cave.

"Wait-" Jim said, and grabbed Spock's wrist. The man seemed to know what Jim was doing, because he indulged the action. Jim turned his wrist over, and on the Vulcan's wrist was a TiMER, a little aged by the years, but the exact same one he had seen on his own Spock's wrist. "You guys too, huh?"

Spock nodded, "We had many happy years together. However, we met at a much later date than the two of you appeared to have. I wonder how that will affect your relationship..." he trailed off. Jim had seen probably a little but more than Spock had intended in the meld, because he had a few faint, but happy, feelings about the two of them. From Spock's memories, of course.

"You really miss him, don't you?" Jim said, after a moment.

"Yes."

---

"You wanted to see me?" McCoy said, stepping up to the captain's chair on the bridge.

Spock turned to him, "Yes," he stood up, and walked over to McCoy, "Doctor. I am aware that James Kirk is a friend of yours."

"And your soulmate," McCoy huffed.

Spock paused for a moment, as they were walking together, but continued, "I recognize that supporting me as you did must have been difficult."

"Is that a thank you?"

"I am simply acknowledging your difficulties."

"Permission to speak freely, sir."

"I welcome it," Spock said, stopping as they walked around the bridge.

"Do you? Okay, then. Are you out of your Vulcan mind?" McCoy leaned in, whispering furiously, "We all thought you were cold when you contributed the trial- but you're a commander, that's your job- but goddamn marooning him? Do you have no heart, man?" McCoy shook his head, making a disgusted sound, "You know, back home we got a saying, 'If you're gonna ride in the Kentucky Derby, you don't leave your prize stallion in the stable.'"

"A curious metaphor, Doctor, as a stallion must first be broken before it can reach its potential."

McCoy looked at him, the bastard looking smug, "My god, man. You could at least act like it was a hard decision."

"I intend to assist in the effort to reestablish communication with Starfleet. However, if crew morale was better served by my roaming the halls weeping, I will gladly defer to your medical expertise," Spock looked behind McCoy to see that his father had entered the bridge. "Excuse me," he said, and passed McCoy.

"Green-blooded hobgoblin," McCoy said, shaking his head, "You two deserve each other."

---

Jim threw open the outpost's door, having traveled more than a few kilometers to reach it. The two men stepped inside, out of the storm, and Jim pulled the door shut again.

"Ah," he panted, turning back to Spock Prime. Down the hall from them, they heard someone speaking an alien language." Hello!" Jim called. They heard tools being dropped, and an alien- a Roylan, Jim thought- ran out. He quickly ran up to them and pulled off his safety goggles, looking at them. He led them down the hall into a larger area, where there were tons of engineering projects littered around. The Roylan led them to a desk, where a man had his feet propped up, and was reclining in his chair.

The Roylan hit the man, who said, "What?" He looked at the Roylan, and then to Kirk and Spock.

"About time! Now, which one of you is my soulmate?" he said, sitting up. Shaking his head, he said, "I asked for a lady, but can't be picky- six months I've been here, living off Starfleet protein nibs," he grabbed the bag, and threw it, scattering the stuff on the table and floor, "and a promise of a good meal."

Jim and Spock looked at each other, and Jim held up his wrist, "We're both spoken for."

Scotty cursed, "This damn thing went off last night while I was stranded out here, I was startin' to worry that Keenser here might be me one!" Keenser made a weird little noise that Jim was pretty sure was hurt, and he blinked.

"Fascinating," Spock Prime said, not taking his eyes off the officer.

"What?" Jim said, looking at Spock Prime, and back at Scotty.

"If you're not here for my TiMER, then I'm sure you're just doing your job, but could you not come a wee bit sooner? And I know exactly what's going on here, okay. Punishment, isn't it? Ongoing, for something that was clearly an accident."

Spock Prime said, "You are Montgomery Scott."

---

Jim wasn't going to give up. Spock Prime- Spock Prime was pretty cool, and Jim had no idea how the guy went from his Spock to that guy, but Jim liked that guy. And according to him, they were supposed to have many happy years together, and Jim- Jim wanted that. So he wasn't going to give up on Spock. Not yet.

But now he was going to have try his damnedest to emotionally compromise the guy, and if that didn't hurt him, then...

Cupcake and a couple of other security members led Jim and Scotty to the bridge, phasers armed. Spock walked over to the two of them, furiously.

Looking to Scotty, he asked, "Who are you?"

"I'm with him," he said, looking to Jim, at the same time Jim said, "He's with me."

"We're travelling at warp speed. How did you manage to beam aboard this ship?" Spock said tightly.

"You're the genius, you figure it out," Jim said loosely.

"As Acting Captain of this vessel, I order you to answer the question," he said, looking Jim in the eye.

"Well I'm not telling, Acting Captain. What di- What, now, that doesn't frustrate you, does it? My lack of cooperation. That, that doesn't make you angry."

Spock turned to Scotty abruptly, "Are you a member of Starfleet?"

"I.. um.. yes," he nodded. "Can I get a towel, please?"

"Under penalty of court martial, I order you to explain to me how you were able to beam aboard this ship while moving at warp."

"Well-" Scotty started, but Kirk interrupted him.

"Don't answer him."

"You will answer me," Spock said forcefully.

"I'd rather not take sides," he said, looking between them.

Jim stepped forward, getting close to Spock, "What is it with you, Spock? Hmm? Your planet was just destroyed, your mother murdered, and you're not even upset."

"If you're presuming that these experiences in any way impede my ability to command this ship, you are mistaken." Jim could tell- he was already furious. He'd won. But that didn't bring him any more pleasure, oddly enough.

"And yet you were the one who said fear was necessary for command. Did you see his ship? Do you see what he did?"

"Yes, of course I did," Spock's voice was full of emotion, and if he'd been human- Jim was sure he would have broken down by then.

"So, are you afraid or aren't you?" Jim was mere inches from Spock's face, talking in a rational tone.

"I will not allow you to lecture me about the merits of emotion."

"Then why don't you stop me."

"Step away from me, Mister..." Spock was radiating fury. Everyone was watching them in tense silence.

"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?" Jim spat.

"Back away from me..."

Jim yelled, "You feel nothing! It must not even compute for you! You never loved her!"

Spock lost it. He punched Jim in the face, knocking him backwards. Spock pulled him from the arms of the security officer he'd fallen into, and threw him at a console. Jim tried to fight back, but he was no match for superior Vulcan strength as Spock best down on him. Jim's arms were raised above him, trying to defend himself, but Spock brought his own arms down on Jim's, knocking the Human backwards and onto the helm. He was thrown on his back, gasping for air. He tried to sit up, but Spock advanced forward and hit him again, knocking him over to the other side of the helm, onto his back. Spock followed after him, his hand on Jim's throat, nearly strangling him. The crew watched in horror as Spock took his fury out on his One.

"Spock!" Sarek said, but Spock continued to choke Jim.

After a moment he seemed to realize what he was doing, and took his hand off of Jim's throat, reeling back in horror. Jim watched him, choking and gasping for breath on the helm.

No one spoke. Spock looked to his father, almost in a daze, he stumbled towards the captain's chair, and then to Doctor McCoy. He glanced to Jim, but didn't meet his eye, ashamed of his actions.

"Doctor," he said, swallowing, "I am... no longer fit for duty," he was breathing heavily. "I hereby relinquish my command, based on the fact that I have been emotionally compromised. Please note the time and date in the ship's log." Spock's breaths were shaky, and didn't meet anyone's eye as he left the bridge, followed by his father.

No one had spoken, other than Spock. A few people were looking around, but for the most part, everyone was staring in horror. Scotty looked around, hands still up from being escorted to the bridge.

He grinned, "I like this ship! You know, it's exciting."

Everyone's eyes were on Scotty. He was grinning, and looking around, when he met eyes with Uhura. TiMERS forgotten, she gasped when she heard Scotty's and her own go off. She glanced to her wrist as he did the same. The zeroes were flashing, and when she looked up at the Scotsman, he was grinning at her. She'd just met her One, and she was sure he was wonderful, but there was still a feeling of shock in the air, and she didn’t feel happy.

---

Spock walked in a daze to the transporter room, as Jim spoke over the conn. He stood in the steps of the pad, hands clasped behind his back, staring at the place where his mother would have stood.

He heard the doors open behind him.

"Speak your mind, Spock," his father said.

"That would be unwise."

"What is necessary is never unwise."

"I'm as conflicted as I once was as a child."

"You will always be a child of two worlds. I am grateful for this. And for you," Sarek said.

Spock turned to him, "I feel anger for the one who took mother's life. An anger I cannot control,"
Spock said.

He stepped forward, onto the platform, and stood eye to eye with Spock, "I believe, as she would say, do not try to." Neither of them spoke for a moment.

Sarek eventually said, "He is your One?"

Spock did not try to feign ignorance to who his father was talking of, "Yes. However, I believe them to be erroneous-" he said, but his words had lost their previous heat, and came out almost tired.

"You asked me once why I married your mother."

"You married her because it was logical, and her TiMER went off when she saw you," Spock said, almost childlike.

"I married her because I loved her."

---

Chekov was doing calculations on on the board near the rear of the bridge, trying to find a way to get near the Narada without Nero and his crew spotting them. Near the front of the bridge, Kirk was arguing with Doctor McCoy, "Whatever the case, we need to get aboard Nero's ship undetected."

Chekov smiled. He had it! He dropped the stylus, and headed around to the other side of the board.

"And just go in there guns blazing, Jim. Not with their-" McCoy said, as Chekov ran around the bridge, to where the captain, CMO, the comms officer, and his One were standing.

Sulu said, "I'm telling you the math doesn't support..."

Chekov said excitedly, "Keptin Kork, Keptin Kork!" tapping Jim on the shoulder, till he turned around.

"Yes, Chekov," he said, almost exasperatedly, "What is it?" He turned to Chekov, as Uhura did as well. McCoy and Sulu stopped arguing behind them, and turned to the two men speaking.

"Based on the fastest course from Wulcan, I have projected that Nero will travel past Saturn. Like you said, we need to stay inwisible to Nero or he'll destroy us. If Mister Scott can get us to warp factor four, and if we drop out of warp behind one of Saturn's moons, say, Titan, the magnetic distortion from the planet's rings will make us inwisible to Nero's sensors. From there, as long as the drill is not actiwated we can beam aboard the enemy ship."

"Aye, that might work," Scotty said, finishing drying himself off. He'd changed into a red engineering shirt and uniform, looking much better than he had while on Delta Vega. Uhura knew it wasn't the time for that, but he looked good. They'd talked a little earlier when she'd volunteered to show him where he was going to stay while they were on the Enterprise, in a yeoman's stead. She liked him well enough, and he seemed to think she was just perfect, and they'd agreed to talk later about the fact they were soulmates. She was still in shock about the whole past two days. Her boyfriend was now the One of the guy who'd obnoxiously hit on her, that guy was now her captain, Gaila, Gaila was more than likely dead, and Vulcan was destroyed, with it’s several billion inhabitants. If she stopped to think about it for even a moment, she might break down, and she couldn't let that happen, even though she was sure that Scotty, as he told her to call him, would have held her. So she'd dropped him off in his new quarters- the chief engineer's, now that Olson was dead- to shower, get changed, and replicate himself a new uniform, which he did.

"Wait a minute, kid, how old are you?" McCoy asked, turning to Chekov.

"Seventeen, sir!" Chekov said proudly.

"Oh, oh good, he's seventeen," McCoy said to Jim, as if the entire thing was Jim's fault.

"Doctor," Spock said, having just stepped back onto the bridge. Everyone turned to look at him. "Mister Chekov is correct. I can confirm his telemetry." Spock stepped down towards the group, "If Mister Sulu is able to maneuver us into position, I can beam aboard Nero's ship, steal back the black hole device, and if possible, bring back Captain Pike."

Jim shook his head, meeting Spock's eyes. "I won't allow you to do that, Mister Spock." I won't lose you. Even if you don't give a damn about me.

Spock looked at Jim, "Romulans and Vulcans share a common ancestry. Our cultural similarities will make it easier for me to access the ship's computer to locate the device," he said, glancing towards the computers, speaking smugly. He paused, and then said more sincerely, glancing to the rest of the crew, before saying, "Also, my mother was Human, which makes Earth the only home I have left."

I'm not going to let you go alone. "I'm coming with you," Jim said, eventually, stepping closer to Spock.

Their faces were only a few inches apart. Spock glanced down, and for a moment, Jim thought that Spock was looking at his lips, but then Spock met his eyes and Jim stopped himself from thinking. "I would cite regulation, but I know you will simply ignore it."

"See, we are getting to know each other," Jim said with a self-deprecating chuckle, and clapped Spock on the side of his arm. At least Spock looked less inclined to murder him this time. Jim didn't notice when Spock turned to watch his retreating form.

---

Spock, Kirk, and Uhura walked swiftly into the transporter room, where Uhura turned to Scotty and stood behind him. She said, leaning over his shoulder to look at the controls, "How are we, Scotty?"

He glanced behind him at her, "Unbelievably, darlin' the ship is in position." He turned to Jim, who gave him a nod.

Jim turned from the pad to the controls, and pressed a button, leaning on the console, "Whatever happens, Sulu," he paused, "if you think you have the tactical advantage you fire on that ship even if we're still on board, that's an order."

"Yes sir," he heard Sulu reluctantly say over the comm.

"Otherwise we'll contact the Enterprise when we're ready to beam back."

"Good luck."

Jim jogged over to Spock, who was watching Uhura and Scotty with a curious expression. Surprisingly... he didn't look mad. Well, Jim might have been surprised if he had looked mad after the incident earlier, since he wasn't likely to lose his control again. Jim guessed Spock hadn't heard that Uhura's TiMER had zeroed out yet, but he probably guessed it then. Uhura looked up at Spock through the glass a little guiltily, her mouth pressed in a thin line.

"I'll be monitoring your frequencies," she said to Spock, then she looked at Jim, and gave him a little smile, "Both of you."

"Thank you, Nyota," Spock said softly, and she smiled at little bit in acknowledgement that she heard him.

"Okey-dokey then. If there's any common sense in the design of the enemy ship, I should be putting you somewhere in the cargo bay. There shouldn't be a soul in sight," Scotty said. Uhura put her hand on Scotty's shoulder, leaning over him as if to get a better look as they disappeared.

"Energize," Jim said. The pad flashed red and then disappeared in swirls of light.

"Keep them safe," Uhura whispered, almost sad, and kissed Scotty's cheek quickly.

He turned to her, gaping, before finding his words, "Will do, darlin'."

---

Jim and Spock appeared in the middle of what was definitely not the cargo bay, and Jim was starting to wonder if he should have put his trust in a guy he'd literally just picked off an ice planet in the middle of nowhere who accidentally lost a beagle. Well, not seriously reconsider. But he hoped that beagle turned up.

As soon as they reappeared, they heard shouts in Romulan. Jim didn't speak much Romulan- mostly cursing and sex stuff- but he did know what they were saying wasn't good. They barely had time to duck and run as phaser shots were fired. They fired a few themselves, but they mostly ran for cover. Jim killed two Romulans, and then another two, ducking between consoles- this couldn't be their command center, could it?- before eventually dropping down behind a series of large tubes. Spock immediately dropped beside him, the two of them firing off at the running Romulans. Jim switched his phaser to stun, and shot one of the men. He stepped forward another couple of feet, Spock following him. He either had a lot of faith in Jim, or he had a lot in Jim's Starfleet training. Which, he should. Either way.

Spock crouched down behind Jim, Jim not looking behind as he said, "I'll cover ya."

Spock looked at him, "Are you certain?" And there went that trust.

"Yeah, I got ya," Jim switched his phaser back to kill as Spock ran ahead of him. Spock looked around the wires and tubes, and saw that no one was nearby, before hurrying over and kneeling next to the unconscious Romulan. Spock placed his fingers on the man's face, and melded with him, searching the man's thoughts. A Romulan ran out, and Jim shot him before he could shoot Spock. Jim stepped over the body and knelt beside Spock, looking around in case any more Romulans decided to show.

"Do you know where it is? The black hole device?" Jim glanced from Spock to the various corners of the room they were in.

"And Captain Pike," Spock said, getting up, Jim chasing after him.

---

They ran across the ship, until Jim spotted what he knew to be Spock Prime's vessel. It looked pretty weird, but it was from the future, and likely highly advanced. They paused for a moment, then contributed running towards the ship, Jim turned around to make sure they hadn't been followed, as Spock ran aboard.

The ship's interior was highly advanced, all bright lights and things Jim didn't know what to do with. But from the looks of things, Spock didn't either.

"I foresee a complication. The design of this ship is far more advanced than I've anticipated," Spock said, walking around the area that held the ship's red matter in a large clear cylinder.

When Spock spoke, the computer's voice said, "Voice print and face recognition analysis enabled. Welcome back, Ambassador Spock."

The two of them looked up, and then Jim turned toward Spock, almost in awe, "Wow, you're gonna be an ambassador one day?"

Spock seemed to ignore him, so Jim stepped aside, moving to the next part of the ship, as Spock said, "Computer, what is your manufacturing origin?"

"Stardate twenty-three eighty-seven. Commissioned by the Vulcan Science Academy." Spock glanced down, calculating what that meant. He then turned and followed after Jim.

"It appears that you have been keeping important information from me," Spock said, walking over to the command chair- the only seat that he could tell was on the vessel- standing only a few inches from Jim as he turned around.

"You'll be able to fly this thing, right?" Jim asked, eyes meeting Spock's intensely.

"Something tells me I already have," Spock said, and was Jim going crazy or had they gotten even closer? Yeah, he had to get out of there.

"Good luck," he said, before breaking eye contact and turning away.

"Kirk, the statistical likelihood that our plan will succeed is less than four point three percent," Spock said, stopping Jim from leaving.

"It'll work," Jim turned to leave again.

"Jim," Jim snapped his head up, and Spock was looking at him with an indeterminable expression on his face. He had a lot of those lately. For a moment, Jim though Spock was going to- to apologize, or something but he said, averting his eyes, "In the event that I do not return, please tell Lieutenant Uhura that she was right?"

Jim looked down. Of course. There was a bitter taste in his mouth. Of course, in what could possibly be their last moments, Spock thought of her. He didn't meet Spock's eyes as he said, with a sigh, "It's gonna be fine."

He looked up to see Spock had taken another step towards him, almost as if he were going to reach out to Jim. Jim took a long look at Spock before turning and leaving the ship. Spock watched his retreating form for a moment, then turned to the command chair, and sat down. It began to turn around, and Spock said, "Fascinating," inclining his head.

He started the ship by pressing the correct buttons, and the computer said, "Startup sequence initiated."

---

"Ambassador Spock, you are on a collision course. Incoming missiles. If the ship is hit, the red matter would be ignited."

Spock acknowledged the computer's warnings, "Understood."

The ship continued towards the Narada. As they got closer, for a brief moment, Spock was worried that the Enterprise would not lock onto him in time, even as he felt himself being pulled by the transporter. His last thought before being beamed aboard the Enterprise was Jim.

---

The three of them- Jim, Pike, and Spock reappeared on the Enterprise's transporter pad, mostly intact. Spock glanced at Jim as soon as he realized where they were, but then looked forward before Jim could see him looking. Jim, who was holding up Pike, grinned, panting. He looked over to Spock, before Spock stepped off the pad to help Jim.

"Nice timing, Scotty!" Jim said, as Scotty let out a laugh and threw up his arms.

"Ha ha ha ha! I've never beamed three people from two targets," he held up two fingers, then switched to one, "onto one pad before." He swiveled the chair around as Jim hobbled down the steps, awkwardly supporting Pike, as McCoy and other medical officers flooded into the room.

"Jim!" McCoy yelled.

"Bones!"

"I've got him," McCoy said, taking Pike from Jim as Nurse Chapel came at him with a tricorder.

Uhura had run into the room after the medical personnel, and fiercely hugged Spock. Just as quickly as she'd latched onto him, she released him, and went after Jim, who looked surprised to even have her near him. She released him quickly as well, and then pulled the both of them towards the bridge at a running pace.

"That was pretty good!" Scotty called out to them, pointing behind him as everyone ran out of the transporter room.

---

"Keptin," Chekov said cheerfully, turning towards the three of them as they reentered the bridge, "the enemy ship is losing power. Their shields are down, sir."

"Hail them now," Jim said, as he and Spock jogged down towards the viewscreen, and Uhura headed back to her station.

"Aye."

Nero appeared on screen, the image flickering on and off the screen, lights flashing and the signal was constantly blurred and interrupted.

"This is Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise," Jim said, voice full of authority. "Your ship is compromised. You're too close to the singularity to provide assistance, which we will provide."

Spock was silent for a moment, before turning around and inclining his head towards Jim's, "Captain, what are you doing?"

Jim turned to him, inclining his head to where their heads were bowed together, he whispered, "I'm sorry, Spock, about your mom, and your planet. But," he said, "You show them compassion may be the only way to earn peace with Romulus. It's logic, Spock. Thought you'd like that."

"No, not really. Not this time." Any other time Jim would have laughed, but Nero interrupted.

"I would rather suffer the end of Romulus a thousand times. I would rather die in agony than accept assistance from you," he spat.

A hint of a smile played on Jim's lips as he said, "You got it." He and Spock split, Spock heading to the science officer's station, Jim heading up to the captain's chair on the right, saying, "Arm phasers, fire everything we got."

"Yes, sir," Sulu said, programming the data into the helm. The phasers were fired at the Narada, decimating what was left of it as it crumbled into the black hole.

"Sulu, let's go home!" Jim said, gripping the armrests of the captain's chair, as a warning flashed on the screen.

"Yes, sir!" Sulu yelled. He and Chekov typed frantically as they neared the black hole.

"Why aren't we at warp?" Jim yelled.

"We are, sir," Chekov said, not taking his eyes off the viewscreen.

"Kirk to engineering. Get us out of here, Scotty," Jim said into the conn.

"You bet your arse, Captain!" he yelled, "Captain, the gravity well has got us!"

"Go to maximum warp. Push it!"

"I'm giving her all that she's got, Captain!"

Nearing the black hole but pushing against the strain, the Enterprise started to tear apart under the pressure. Cracks started forming in the bridge, everyone looking around wildly.

"All she's got isn't good enough! What else you got?" Jim yelled.

"I- okay, if we eject the core and detonate, the blast could be enough to push us away! I cannae promise anything, though!"

Everyone looked towards the viewscreen as cracks started forming in it, the warning symbol flashing dangerously.

"Do it, do it, do it!" Jim yelled into the conn.

"Go!" Scotty yelled.

Everyone on the bridge watched with bated breath as the warp cores were ejected and pulled into the black hole. They suddenly detonated, sending a bright shock wave that knocked everyone nearly out of their seats, and clear out of the range of the black hole.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, Uhura full back into her chair, Jim slouched forward, panting. He spun the chair partly around, and met eyes with Spock, who had turned to look at him with an approving expression, as Jim grinned at him, and turned back to Sulu, who'd met his eyes and grin. Sulu turned his chair back facing the viewscreen, and turned to grin at Chekov who returned the smile wholeheartedly, before glancing back at his own station, not quite dropping Sulu's gaze. Jim laughed at the sheer recklessness and awe of it.

---

They arrived back at Earth a little over six hours later, most of which Jim spent volunteering wherever he was needed- engineering, med bay, sciences- rather than sleeping like Bones thought he should.

He dismissed all but the bare minimum of the men and women on duty, leaving only a skeleton crew in their wake. Uhura refused to leave her post, saying she'd be needed to intercept Starfleet's messages when they finally started answering the Enterprise’s distress signals when Starfleet got their shit together on Earth, and sent the ship that would be needed to tow her in after they lost the warp cores. They were running on impulse power, and could go on nearly forever at their current speed, except it would take them a couple years to get back to Earth. So Jim gave her the conn. She looked weirdly like she was gonna cry, and maybe hug him, so Jim left quickly after that. Sulu and Chekov volunteered to stay as well, and Jim didn't want to interrupt them, so he left them alone. They had turned their chairs towards each other and were leaning towards one another, whispering, and occasionally laughing at something one of them said.

Most of the crew hadn't had time to let the events of the past day sink in; everything had happened so quickly, and they were trained to deal with mass destruction and devastation with a clear head and the appropriate actions. But they were cadets. Nearly everyone aboard was twenty two or twenty five or even younger, they hadn’t even graduated from the academy yet. Once the Enterprise was out of any perceived danger, Jim witnessed more than a few people having breakdowns in the hallway when they realized their best friend, or sister, or husband that was on the Farragut, or the Neutral, or the Antares, was never coming home. Jim had lost people too- hell, he didn't know anyone who hadn't lost someone on one of the other ships- but he had to stay composed for the crew. He politely smiled at more than a few exhausted officers he passed in the hallway, and gave them little words of encouragement that they looked incredibly grateful for. He had no idea why. He himself was just a kid.

He was in Engineering helping Scotty- whom he really liked, the guy might have been crazy, but he was Jim's kind of crazy- when Uhura comm'd them to tell Jim that Starfleet was sending out a rescue vessel to tow back the flagship, and would be expected to arrive in the next hour. Scotty couldn't stop talking about Uhura for the next hour- even though he'd only met her a few hours before- and Jim just rolled his eyes and listened. It took his mind off of his own situation.

Hours later- four, to be precise- the Enterprise reached the spacedock near Earth, and the young crew disembarked the ship onto shuttles taking them back to Earth. No one could quite believe that they attended classes at the Academy only yesterday, it felt like a lifetime ago. Everyone was exhausted, yet they all managed to plaster smiles on their faces once they were paraded in front of the media. Starfleet really seemed eager to cash in on the surviving heroes of the day, especially the Captain- James T. Kirk- past transgressions apparently forgotten. No longer was he the son of the tragic hero, George Kirk- now he's Jim Kirk, savior of Earth. Same with the rest of the crew, he noticed. Spock of Vulcan, savior of Earth. Nyota Uhura- he finally got that first name, under the worst possible circumstances- savior of Earth. The list went on. And on. And on.

Nearly as soon as they stepped off the shuttles, they were accosted by reporters. Civilians weren't allowed in shuttle bay, but they were hounding outside the doors, and even though there were protocols for that kind of thing, Starfleet seemed to be turning a blind eye on it in the name of free press, especially towards their heroes. Heroes meant ratings and recruiting numbers went up, to combat the sheer number of cadets- nearly an entire generation of Starfleet personnel- lost to the carnage. Jim had really hoped to be spared all the media parading, and just sneak out the back, but they were all strictly told by the instructors to head through those doors right there and head to their assigned hotel rooms.

Starfleet wasn't totally heartless, and they weren’t making anyone stay in the dorms with the echoes of their former classmates for the next few days, at least until Starfleet sorted the whole incident out. All classes were cancelled for the next week, and possibly the rest of the year. They were going to be informed via comm or email when the memorial service for the lost officers would be held. They weren’t even going to have a funeral for them. There were no bodies to bury.

Jim was too tired to really put up much of a protest. Once the adrenaline wore off somewhere approaching Earth, Jim realized he was exhausted, and merely stumbled after Bones, who led him through the crowd, pushing away any cameras that got too close. He didn't smile once. Jim tried, grinning at a few, but it was much too much of an effort. After they left the bridge, Jim and the rest of the crew split up, and he hadn't seen any of the rest of them since. The only reason he was even with McCoy was because Bones had spotted him across the bay and stalked over to him, manhandling him onto a shuttle and stabbing him with a couple hypos. He thought he saw Sulu and Chekov board a different shuttle together, but there were so many people he couldn't be sure.

Jim hadn't slept in he didn't know how long- days. Once they reached the hotel, and Jim found his way to his room, he collapsed on the bed, not even bothering to take off his uniform. When he woke up, he wasn't sure how long he'd slept. It had been dark when he fell asleep, and it was mid afternoon when he woke up, and somehow he still felt exhausted. It was like a weight had been placed on him that he just couldn't shake off.

He checked his communicator, and found that he had fourteen missed calls, and thirteen messages. Several messages were from Starfleet, and Jim decided he was going to check those last, if at all. They were probably just going to tell him when the memorial was going to be. Two were from Bones, wanting to know if he needed him to come over with any hypos or various medical equipment, and then to inform him that Joss had been so relieved that he was alive that she was flying all the way out to San Francisco with Joanna so that McCoy could see her. That was a really, really big deal- Joss never let him see his daughter, and barely even let them talk on the phone. She was nine now, and McCoy had only seen her once since she was six and he’d joined Starfleet.

One was a group message from Chekov asking if anyone wanted to go out to eat with him and Sulu for lunch, but since Jim had slept through that, he ignored it. His stomach growled, and he realized that he hadn't eaten in... days, probably. He hadn't had time. He rolled over to the other side of the bed and typed in a combination for soup in the replicator, and then checked the rest of the messages as he ate. The rest of them were from his mom, except for the last one, which was from Sam, which he ignored. The fucker hadn’t tried to talk to him since he got back from Tarsus and wouldn’t speak to anybody.

His mom had tried to talk to him over the years, but he’d never really forgiven her for not being there. For letting him go to Tarsus without nearly a fuss. For not trying harder. He listened to her messages, which sounded increasingly more desperate when he didn't pick up, but towards the final one she mostly sounded frustrated.

Jim heard her sigh as he finished listening to the last of the messages, “Jim, just... call me back when you get this. I’m worried about you, and sometimes I don’t think you believe that, but I do. I’m your mother, and I love you. And Frank,” she sighed, “he wanted to let you know he cares about you too.” The message beeped and clicked off, and Jim stared down at it. Then, for the first time in years, he called his mom.

He used the hotel room’s built-in computer screen, which was a couple years out of date, but it did the job. A few moments after he was done typing in his mother’s code. It rang for a couple of seconds, and Jim started to doubt whether his mom was even going to pick up. But the screen cleared, and his mother’s face appeared. She looked pretty much the same as he remembered, only with a couple more strands of grey hair and another wrinkle or two.

She was peering at the screen, tendrils of hair falling in her face. Her eyes lit up, and her mouth widened with a grin when she saw who’d called, “Jim!” she said. The picture wasn’t the greatest quality, getting pixelated in a few spots, but for the most part he could see her pretty well.

He smiled almost sheepishly, his overall exhaustion bleeding through, “Hi, mom.”

Winona frowned, expression quickly changing from happy to disapproving mother, “James Tiberius Kirk, what were you thinking? I haven’t seen or heard a word from you in years- and the first time I see you is on the news last night when you tried to be a hero and somehow ended up as captain of the Enterprise! I don’t even want to know how you managed that- and I wouldn’t have even known you’d joined Starfleet except Chris has sent me the occasional update!” she nearly glared him into submission, her stern motherly look was way too effective after so many years.

He didn’t even bother to try to explain. He looked her right in the eye, and said, “I had to.” He glanced down, “It had to be me.”

Neither of them spoke for a few moments, until Winona said softly, “What’s wrong?”

“So many people died, Mom, so many people I knew,” he said, not meeting her eye. “Most of the cadets are dead, and we would be too if Sulu hadn’t fucked up the inertial dampener,” Jim said, shaking his head, almost chuckling. “And Gaila- Gaila was this amazing Orion girl who worked in the computer labs, and she died mad at me because I used her to get the codes for the Kobayashi Maru sim. She had a blank TiMER, mom,” he said, looking up at her. “Now I think it’s because it knew she was going to die before she met her one,” he said bitterly.

When he looked up, his mother was looking at him softly, “Oh honey,” she said, a look of concern settling on her features, “I know this is hard. You’ve never lost men before, have you?” He shook his head. “It never gets any easier, Jim,” she said, smiling gently “You just have to be the best captain you can, and try to prevent as many of those deaths as you’re able to. Your father would be proud of you,” she looked as if she wanted to hug him, which would have been impossible since she was in Iowa, and he was in California, but he probably would have tried to hug her back. He got his clinginess from somewhere. Even if she hadn’t always been around.

He wasn’t sure what to say. He hadn’t really been thinking of what he was planning on saying when he called her. He just wanted someone to tell him it was going to be okay, even when he knew it wasn’t going to be. Moms are great at that. Even the really shitty ones. “Chris told me you got a TiMER, which should have gone off around now. Tell me about him or her?” she prompted gently.

Jim sighed, looking down at his wrist, “His name is Spock. He’s a Vulcan.”

He looked up, and she didn’t look surprised, “You were always a different one, even as a kid.”

Jim gave her a smile half heartedly, “He’s an asshole, who thinks that I have an IQ below forty, and he thinks he’s so much better than me. He thinks this was a mistake. Did I mention how we met? He called a hearing to court martial me for cheating on the goddamn Kobayashi Maru,” Jim said. “But I like him. We work well together, and according to Spock- the older one Spock-” she shot him a questioning look, but he just shook his head, “I’ll explain later, but long story short, he’s my Spock from an alternate universe where Nero never came through the black hole, and Dad never died- and he said that we had many happy years together in his universe. But our universe’s Spock won’t even give us a chance.”

“Oh honey,” she said, her eyes teary. “Your father and I were soulmates, you know that.” Jim nodded, but didn’t interrupt her. She rarely talked about his father, he didn’t want her to stop, “I met your father when I was fourteen, I’d just entered high school, and he was a junior, and sixteen. I fell in love with him at first sight,” she sighed, fondly, “And he was such a sweetheart. He joined Starfleet when he graduated high school, and we got married as soon as I turned 18. When I graduated, I joined him. Sam was born a little over a year later, and then you were, four years later.”

“He won’t even give us the chance,” Jim groaned, miserable.

She smiled at him sadly, “You aren’t required to love him, Jim,” she said with a sigh. “You don’t need a TiMER to fall in love. Frank and I love each other even though I’m not his one. You know he got it removed shortly after we got married, don’t you?” Jim shook his head. It gave him a slightly higher opinion of the guy, who hadn’t been the greatest step dad ever, but then again, Jim hadn’t been the easiest kid, either. Winona glanced down at her wrist, which still contained her old TiMER. “I still have mine, because it reminds me of George, and the two wonderful sons he gave me.”

Jim wasn’t sure what to say, but he was saved, when he heard Frank bellow from behind Winona, “You’re talkin to that brat?”

Winona turned behind her, a grin on her face, “Yes!”

Jim snorted, “He still hasn’t forgiven me about the car?”

Winona turned back to him, smiling sheepishly, “It was his baby.”

They talked for a little while longer, although Jim couldn’t remember for the life of him what it was about, later. He couldn’t stop thinking about what his mom had said, about how he didn’t need a TiMER to love. It wasn’t like he was going to take advice from Frank, but he knew Frank loved his mom, and it wasn’t true love, maybe, if he even believed in that, but it was something. Something a hell of a lot better than what he had.

When they signed off the call, with a promise to actually keep in touch, Jim had already decided that he was going to get his TiMER removed. It didn’t really mean anything, it didn’t mean that Spock wasn’t his soulmate, because he so painfully was, it just meant.... Jim didn’t even know. It meant something symbolic, like he didn’t need Spock. And it came with the added bonus of having Spock’s TiMER go blank, and it would give Jim the satisfaction of having Spock think he’d been hit by a bus or something, because then he’d feel bad about the way he’d treated Jim. Jim wasn’t acting petty because he was bitter or anything, he really wasn’t.

Jim checked his communicator one last time for any messages before shutting it off. Some of his things had been delivered to the room from his dorm, and Jim was grateful for that. He quickly changed into his favorite pair of jeans and a worn t-shirt, and then left the room, heading down to McCoy’s to talk to him.

---

Spock had left the bridge once they had gotten to safety, to check up on his father, and the welfare of the other survivors of Vulcan. When he arrived back at the bridge, Jim was already gone, and Uhura transferred the conn back over to him. He didn’t see Jim again that day, although he could have if he’d really tried. He found he was... hesitant, to speak with him. But by the time they had docked and the shuttles departed, Jim was already gone, and Nyota had abandoned him to go find her One. He was... pleased, that she’d found her One. Days before, he would not have been, but with the sudden appearance of Jim Kirk in his life, although it had been a coming event for the past eight years, he found his mind no longer occupied with her. He found he longed... for Jim. Jim Kirk possessed much more intelligence that he had originally assessed, despite the high IQ he was said to have. From the rumors, and what Spock had seen on Earth, Jim Kirk was a womanizing, immature cadet who had somehow managed to stay at the top of his class, completing the normal four-year course in only three. However, in action, the cadet possessed a cleverness that Spock had rarely seen. His actions were illogical, yet they produced the desired result, and he was a very capable leader, and a trustworthy man.

Very much unlike Spock’s initial assessment. He realized that Jim Kirk, was, in fact, a very good match for himself, and that, on this occasion, he had been wrong. And he was going to inform Jim of that immediately. However he did not see Jim that day, once they reached earth, or that next morning.

He wasn’t... avoiding Jim, that would have been illogical. He was simply compartmentalizing, sorting the most pressing needs to be dealt with first. But by mid afternoon, he found he could no longer avoid the conversation that was imminent. He had not stayed in the ‘Fleet-paid-for hotel like many of the other members of the Enterprise, instead he chose to stay in his familiar apartment near the Academy, and then head to his office to complete his paperwork in the morning.

Knowing that he couldn’t avoid it any longer, Spock logged onto the computer and searched for the student directory, knowing he would find Kirk’s personal comm number there. One he found it, he dialed the number on his own conn, and waited for Jim to pick up. He didn’t, and it went to voicemail immediately. He tried once more, before surmising that Jim had turned off his mobile device. He didn’t know why it gave him an uneasy feeling.

The next logical step was to contact someone else who might know the location of Jim. He located Doctor McCoy’s number, only hesitating a moment before dialing the number. After a few moments, the doctor answered with a gruff, “Hello?”

“Doctor McCoy, this is Commander Spock. I have tried to contact James Kirk but he is not responding."

Bones said, snorting, "Of course he isn't. He probably turned his damn communicator off so someone wouldn't try to talk him out of it. What did you wanna talk with Jim about?"

"Talk him out of what, exactly?" Spock said immediately. The uneasy feeling had returned.

"You didn't answer my damn question!"

"Neither did you, Doctor. But if you insist. I- it is illogical,” Spock paused, “but I... feel as though something were wrong, and I would like to speak to Jim immediately.”

"Yeah, but about what?" McCoy sighed.

"This is a personal matter."

"Well it's gonna stay a personal matter- between you and yourself, if you don't tell me."

Spock sucked in a breath, "Very well," he paused. "After inflection, I... have come to realize that Jim is indeed my soulmate."

"Damn straight he is, couldn't you two see how well you worked together? After you were done pissin' on each other, it was like you could read each other's minds!”

"... In addition, I have realized that I made a grievous mistake in allowing Jim to believe that he is not desired, and I intend to rectify the situation immediately. I had intended to inform him of such while on the Jellyfish, and then aboard the Enterprise, but there was no correct time. I also wish to ask of him that he consider my request of a relationship with him."

The line was quiet for a moment, before Doctor McCoy spoke, "Listen here, Spock. Jim is my best friend, and he's been waitin' for you to come along for as long as I've known him. I'm gonna tell you where he went, because I think he's actin' stupid. Now if you ever treat him like you did aboard the Enterprise again, then you might just find yourself unfit for duty, with me to answer to."

Spock paused, inclining his head, contemplating whether it would be appropriate to inform the doctor of which regulations he was breaking by threatening a fellow officer, but decided against it, since it would likely be counterproductive. "Understood."

McCoy sighed, "He went to get his TiMER removed. Said some bullshit about how it reminded him too much of something he was never gonna have." In the background of the call, there was knocking. "Oh shit, that's probably Joss- I gotta go Spock, the ex is bringing my daughter to see me. Now go find your goddamn space Juliet."

---

Jim stood in front of the TiMER store, one that looked nearly the same as the one he stood in front of nine years before. He glanced down at his wrist, and pushed the doors open. It was still light out, and they were hours from closing, and the store was packed. Jim guess almost having your planet destroyed made you rethink a few things. Well, it certainly made him rethink a few things.

When he walked up to the front desk, the woman at the desk looked up and froze, dropping her paperwork, gaping at him, "You're Captain James T. Kirk!" she said loudly, and everyone looked towards them, god, his face must have been plastered all over the news. A couple people started clapping and he half heartedly smiled at them, but he just wanted to get it over with, he’d had enough praise and recognition to last him a lifetime. The woman leaned over the counter, and grinned, saying, "Here to get a TiMER? Earth’s hero looking for love?"

He mumbled, "Already found him," and then held up his wrist, "I'm actually here to get this removed."

Her formerly flirty face went from cheerful to shocked, “Removed?” she said, making sure she heard him clearly. “Removed forever?”

“Yeah.”

“Have you given up?” she said, looking concerned.

“Moving on,” he said, trying to look confident. “So, can you pop this thing off, or what?”

“I- I don’t know, I’ve never done a removal before,” she said, taken aback. “I’ll have to talk to my manager.”

---

“Are you sure you want to make this mistake?” the manager said, a scruffy guy who looked about Jim’s age. He and the other Matchmaker were sitting together in the chair, looking down at Jim on the reclining chair with concern.

“Yeah. I’ve already zeroed out, so it’s not like it matters, or anything.”

"Removal is, ah, more painful than implantation, one of the many reasons why we advise against it," he glanced back at the other Matchmaker, "You are aware there will be a noticeable scar, unless you see a doctor," he gestured to his own wrist, where there was a timer.

"No problem," he said.

"Now, you do realize once the device is removed it damages the sensory area irreparably," the female matchmaker said gently.

"What does that mean, exactly?"

"It means you can't get another TiMER, your other wrist isn't a viable option. One shot's all you got."

"Oh, well, that doesn't matter since I've already zeroed out anyway."

He took one long look at his TiMER, and thought about the life they could have had together- working together aboard the enterprise, becoming admirals, searching the stars, and growing old together- and he knows it doesn't really change anything now that he's met Spock, but its a reminder of what they were never going to have together.

The manager got up, and left the little cubicle. the female Matchmaker stood up, and started to get the removal device ready, when Jim said, staring down at his wrist, "Hey... can I ask you a question?"

She turned to him, "Sure!"

"There isn't... There isn't anyway someone could get a different soulmate if they didn't like the one they got, is there?"

"Oh, no," she shook her head. "Your One is your one!"

He shook his head, looking down at his wrist, "I wasn't thinking about me."

“Hey! Hey, you can’t go in there!” Jim heard someone say loudly. He and the Matchmaker both turned towards the entrance to the cubicle, as- Spock stepped in?

A flustered Matchmaker chased after him, and apologized profusely, "I'm so sorry! I couldn't stop him!"

“Spock-” Jim started, jumping up, but Spock stopped him. He looked determined to say something, so Jim just stood there, arms crossed, and let him.

“Jim, I had make a mistake in assuming that simply because you had a less favorable reputation about your personal life at the academy-”

“Sp-”

“-that you did not possess the intellect or maturity to be a suitable match for me. I was wrong.” Jim looked as though he were about to protest, but then shut his mouth, stunned. “Furthermore, I acted poorly towards you based on this assumption. I apologize for my actions, both on Earth, and aboard the Enterprise.”

“Is that all?” Jim gritted out. Okay so the guy came all the way there just to apologize?

“No,” Spock said, and then leaned forward and kissed him. Okay, not just to apologize. Jim was surprised, but slowly started to grin, throwing his arms around Spock’s neck and kissing him. The Matchmakers started to coo, and Jim breaks their lips apart, arms still around Spock’s neck, and Spock’s hands on his waist. He grinned happily to the Matchmakers, who sighed and leaned on each other. Spock, on the other hand, glared at them, and it made Jim laugh. He pressed his forehead to Spock’s, and then kissed him again.

"Jim, you are my One, and I know it will not change if you get the device removed, but..." Spock looked down, "I find myself not wanting you to remove it. It is illogical, but I feel as though... it has meaning. And we... are destined to be together. It seems that is a constant in many universes."

Jim eyed him, "What are you saying?"

“I want to be with you,” Spock said firmly, looking him in the eye.

"I- are you sure?" Jim said, breathlessly, looking up. It was hard not to be hopeful.

"Yes."

"We probably need to talk about this, don't we?"

"That would be... correct."

Jim grinned, "But you don't want to, do you?"

“No.”

Jim laughed and kissed him again.