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Confession Before Living
Mother, T'Pring, Ston, T'Pau, all the thousands and millions, dust of my dead - forgive me. And all the destiny and doom of that other future which here has faded into dreams of false prescience, I ask that you, too, forgive me. Your loss shatters me. But I know it will never shatter me enough. Never as much as your true worth deserves. Forgive me for being happy, even as I mourn.
I confess it: I am happy.
It is no easy thing to live long enough to see your greatest dreams pass away, you see. Harder, to know that ultimately you failed: in public life, in private life. No honor won, no wisdom wrestled from life or death could make up for the slow certainty that my friends were dead and the future they had dreamed of somehow more tarnished and tawdry than the past we had lived in. Jim died, and Bones; the team was scattered. And I, more and more removed from that one clear, bright time of my life, tried to carry the dream alone into a future that seemed not simply darker than it once had, but dimmer and … dingier. Until, at last, I came to suspect that my memories of a time more brightly lit were themselves at fault.
Forgive me, for as I stood in that ice cavern and saw the past come back, brighter, younger, fiercer than ever, I could not bring myself to do the logical thing - to tell the truth in all respects, allow myself to be transported to the Enterprise with Jim reborn. Instead I gambled all just for the dream that, somehow, somewhere, we would all be together again, and perhaps this time we could get it right.
After all, Vulcan was already destroyed. And Earth: I have helped save Earth so many times, I think perhaps I am owed a single decision to gamble with its future. Not so great a gamble, after all, putting it in the hands of Jim and his friend, Spock. They have proven in other times and other lives to be reliable - have they not? Why not gamble to ensure another try, and the chance to live and see it once again, guide it, perhaps, ever so slightly?
My first lives were good and yet, in the end, so empty. I am old, with all my family gone and no new family waiting for me: only silent obligations to ideals handed me by those who went ahead of me. Jim's life? No wife, son dead, honors earned only to be regretted, recovered from the Nexus only to die again too soon. Bones? He settled into age as though he had been dreaming of its embrace all his life, a surly old man before his hair began to go gray. He seemed to find comfort in it: but perhaps finding love and keeping it would have served him better? He had a daughter. In all the years I knew Leonard McCoy, she and I never met. Nor she and Jim.
I go down the list of old friends and I find myself thinking that each could have lived more fully. And if we had lived more fully perhaps the future we brought into being would have been as bright as the past we shared. Brighter if only for the love and joy retained.
The past that was is gone. The future that would have been still exists, but a quantum probability from here. I am no longer accountable to them. Here and now I could not save Vulcan, and am too old to convince myself that its death was only my fault: I have learned to ration guilt somewhat more logically than I would have as a young man. And I have seen myself, young again, and ripe with possibilities I never had in my own lives!
So much I have learned - from gossip, from talking to our father, and, yes, from just that short, short time with…me. He has been given such gifts! What would I not give to have been given permission by Father and by life, so young, to accept my humanity as well as cherish my Vulcan heritage? To have found that precious family of friends a decade sooner than I would have before? To see Captain Pike live, and eventually recover? To have found…
I was a fool, in my first lives. To have valued Uhura so deeply, and yet never presumed to consider that there could have been more…
And that young fool who might have become me as I am was willing to give it all up for a bit of genetic contribution he can make with a test tube of frozen sperm? Or with a DNA sample McCoy could prepare in less than an hour? Or that the boy could allow me to provide, by whatever means I choose? Did he think, somehow, that he alone was the answer to the survival of our people?
It is more than a touch disturbing to recognize my own self in that young man's self-sacrificing follies. I was just such a fool, wasn't I? Fascinating…but there is no reason to demand a replay. Once was enough.
And so I have chosen, as he has chosen. I will not battle to return to a version of the universe that will continue on quite well without me. There is little reason for me to return, and great reason for me to remain here, not least being that even I have no idea how to navigate to a precise plane of existence whose coordinates are unknown and inexpressible. Let that Borg-wracked future carry on without me.
I have chosen, too, to meddle. Why not? Destiny, or the Q, or the very demands of the universe itself have ensured that all things would come together, all people gather at a time and place beyond the odds of statistical logic. If the universe itself calls out for this to come to pass, why not aid it where I can?
I cannot make a perfect future, but I can make a better one. I have already inserted information into the databases of the Federation, given knowledge to my father to use in his diplomatic efforts. I have salted new, faint memories in the mind of young Jim Kirk. I have willfully manipulated my young self, and I have committed myself to rebuilding a Vulcan race on a new world…and I will continue to cheat gladly to ensure that all these things lead to a lively, new future.
Think of it, my beloved dust. I could not save you here, but you survived there. I owe you nothing but cherished memories and honest mourning. But in this time, and this plane of existence? This place that will give me a new purpose, a new community, and, most precious of all, my oldest, dearest friends again, if only watched from a distance?
Ah, Mother. Vulcan. Do not begrudge me this: I will not live and die alone. And, once again, and in both my present lives, I am happy.