A/N: I had this idea at nearly 1am and wrote it in like... 2? hours. It's just random and different enough from what I usually do that I dropped what I should've been working on and stayed up way too late to write it. I hope you like it!
In one universe, their worlds never meet. Zefram Cochrane's first warp flight fails, and the T'Plana-Hath passes by his war-torn little world.
Nearly two centuries later, Nyota Uhura is born to a very different Earth. It has never known the touch of alien life, and humanity toils along much as it did in the twenty-first century, obsessed with material possessions and abusing a dying planet.
Amanda Grayson does not marry here. There is a space in her heart that is never filled, a spark that is never lit. Perhaps they would have been filled and lit by the husband she never knew existed, or the son she never had a chance to bear. Regardless, she dies alone, a quiet death that leaves ripples in the children she taught and the orphans she fostered, but her life never touches Nyota.
Thus, she feels the same emptiness. The same unlit spark.
Neither woman can ever describe the feeling.
In a second universe, Spock does not leave Vulcan.
He decides to endure the bullying, the racism, the discrimination. He aligns with his father's wishes and joins the Vulcan Science Academy.
He feels the emptiness. The unlit spark. He does not search for a meaning, or a way to describe the feeling, or a way to fill or light it.
Instead, he achieves kolinahr with single-minded determination. He commits fully to the Vulcan way of life, never to accept that he could have found love.
Many light years away, in the moment he seals his emotions off forever, Nyota sheds a tear for a loss she cannot put into words.
In another universe, Spock is raised on Earth, entirely rejected by the Vulcans. He is angry, and has his ears surgically altered to appear human. His hair is shaggy, and he hates that his eyebrows slant. Amanda tries to convey the beauty of his heritage to him, but just as they rejected him, he fiercely rejects everything Vulcan within himself.
Spock and Nyota meet in this universe. They serve together, as first officer and communications officer, and they are drawn together. But this is not a Spock that can find love, not a Spock that can make a relationship last. Nyota tries, but he refuses to let go of the anger that has fueled him since birth, and she cannot stay. She leaves with the promise that they will remain friends.
Two months later, he is killed. His rage overcomes him, he makes a reckless decision, and he pays the price.
In this universe, Nyota knows what she lost when she cries for him.
In yet another universe, Nyota is the reason they cannot be.
She lives out a troubled childhood. Her father is killed when she is young. Her mother is abusive. Her uncle tries to save her, but he is soon taken by one of the few incurable illnesses that remain in their century.
Nyota learns not to love. Learns not to care. So she takes her intellect and devotes it to a life of crime.
When they meet, it is as Starfleet officer and infamous pirate, each staring down the barrel of the other's gun. She is dressed in dark leathers, her hair swinging around her in cornrows braided with blood red highlights, and for a moment, despite the shadows she wears like a favorite cloak, Spock allows himself to think that she is familiar. He cannot describe how or why, but he feels he should know the curve of her lips, the sharpness of her tongue, the strength of her mind, and in a manner far softer, far more intimate than the quadrant-wide manhunt he had been ordered to embark on to find her.
She survives being stunned.
He is killed by her shot to his heart.
There is one universe where they are almost perfect, but their timing is off.
They attend Starfleet Academy, but at separate times. He does not teach her, and they serve aboard separate ships for the beginnings of their careers. By the time they come together under the command of James T. Kirk, they are older and wiser, and the loneliness of leaving home has long since faded, replaced by confidence in themselves. They have found friends and family and developed a devotion to their work that eclipses the allure of romance. It is them and their crew and the stars, and it is that life they fall in love with.
There are moments. Moments where the spark is nearly lit. A concerned touch on the bridge during an emergency. A special harmony when he plays his lyre and she sings along. An extra warmth when they hold a personal conversation.
But he is her superior, and they are not brash young cadets ready to break the rules for something that likely will not work. Their friendship grows, strong and unbreakable for the rest of their lives, yet they are content to never explore where those sparks could lead.
In this universe, they savor their friendship, and that is enough.
All told, there are countless universes where they do not come together. There are countless universes where their lives brush but their lips do not, and still countless more where their romance begins in brilliant flame but ends in tear-stained tragedy. To tell the tale of each would take an equally countless number of lifetimes.
But there is one. One universe in all of infinity where they are perfect. They meet at the perfect time. They grow together in perfect sync. They think as one, breathe as one, and live as one, even when they are apart. She loves him, and he loves her, and it is perfect.
This is not to say that their journey is perfect. As with all things, there are bumps in the road, forks where they take different paths. But they ride out the bumps together, and when they diverge, they are drawn back together. Anything and everything that life throws at them, they survive it through each other, and their trials make their love burn brighter.
Here, they memorize the touch of the other's lips. Here, their favorite moments are spent together. Here, they grow old together, serving out their Starfleet careers before retiring to a comfortable life on Earth. Here, they build a family, and here, they are bonded, parted from each other and never parted, forever and always touching and touched.
This universe is fraught with pain and loss, but it is in this universe that they carve out their forever home in each other's hearts, and they would not trade it for infinite happy lifetimes apart.
A/N: I'm like. Lowkey (read: highkey) obsessed with the imagery of that dark!Nyota scene. I WISH I COULD DRAW