Yesterday: Prologue

for Sue Thomason

Yesterday
all my troubles were so far away
now it seems as though they're here to stay
oh I believe in yesterday....

by Jane Carnall

If youíve seen the episode "All Our Yesterdays", you donít need to read this prologue: go directly on to Yesterday.

They ran through the gate, side by side, and out into screaming cold. Ice, and a cliff behind them made of ice, and snow driven on a howling wind. No door back to the library, no door at all. "What is this place?" McCoy tried to yell above the wind.

"Yes -- and where is the Captain?"

They had followed his call to them through the door he had gone through. McCoy stared at Spock. "We were right behind him," and shouted "Jim! Jim, can you hear us?" As if through the cliff, they heard the familiar voice "Bones! Spock!"

"Captain!" Spock whirled to face the ice-wall. "We hear you but we cannot see you. Are you all right?"

"We must have missed each other somehow." Close to the cliff, Kirk's voice was clearly audible over the wind.

"Agreed," Spock said matter-of-factly. "Apparently they have all escaped the destruction of their planet by retreating to the past."

A woman's voice, terrified, screamed "Mercy on us! It's spirits -- " Kirk sounded as if he were soothing her, and then called more distinctly "Spock! Are you in the library?"

"Indeed not, Captain. We are in a wilderness of arctic characteristics."

McCoy was blowing on his hands and rubbing them together in an effort to keep them warm. "He means it's cold," he called wryly.

"Can you get back to the library?" Kirk asked.

"There is no library, Captain, at least not that we can see. We are at the base of an ice-cliff."

"Explain." Kirk sounded considerably crisper.

"Just before you disappeared, Captain, I was discussing a machine which Mr Atoz called the Atavachron."

"It must have been linked to the tape viewer, somehow," Kirk called.

McCoy saw Spock nod. "Opening time portals into the past. You crossed through into the period which you were viewing."

"I was looking over some material about their Ice Age," McCoy agreed, glancing round him.

"And I am here, evidently, because I stepped through at the same instant as Doctor McCoy."

"Yes..." Kirk's voice trailed off, and then he called "My friends are coming back with reinforcements."

This meant nothing to either of them, until another strange voice said suddenly out of the ice cliff, "We are the law and do require that you yield to us."

Kirk demanded "On what charge?" and the voice answered "Thievery and purse cutting."

"There's a mistake. I'm no thief."

Bewildered, McCoy yelled "What's happening?"

The strange voice almost screamed, "Lord help us, what's that?" sounding as frightened and surprised as McCoy would probably have felt if a disembodied voice had spoken out of a cliff, or wherever.

The woman who had spoken before shrieked "Spirits!"

"Away, away, spirits, and let honest men approach," the second voice called gruffly.

"Keep talking!" Kirk demanded, and Spock shouted "Captain!"

"They speak at his bidding!" yelled the second voice. "Stop his mouth and they'll quiet."

"You must be close to the portal," Spock called. Kirk was yelling "Keep talking now!" when they heard the sounds of a scuffle, and no more from him.

McCoy shouted "Jim! What's the matter?" but there was no reply, only the howling of the wind. "Jim sounded like he was in trouble," he said to Spock, who shook his head slightly.

"We may be in trouble ourselves." He set one hand on McCoy's shoulder, guiding him away from the cliff. "We must find shelter."

=@=@=

They were walking on snow that balled under the foot and required concentration not to slip. McCoy went down on one knee, twice, managing to pick himself up before Spock had to help him, but the third time he went down bodily and knew that he didn't have the strength to pick himself up.

Spock pulled him into his arms, pulling McCoy up to lie against his body, startlingly warm in the cold, and some shelter from the freezing wind. Spock, from a desert world, seemed to be better equipped to survive in this howling wilderness than McCoy, the human thought muzzily.

"In this severe cold we cannot survive much longer," Spock said evenly.

"Leave me here, Spock." Survival makes plain thinkers of us all. Unencumbered, Spock might survive, and McCoy did not want Spock to die.

"We go together or not at all," Spock said, still levelly.

"Don't be a fool," McCoy rasped. "My hands and face are frostbitten, I can't feel my feet. Alone, you have a chance. Now do what I say, go try to find Jim."

"We go together," Spock repeated.

He was killing himself, and it enraged McCoy. "You stubborn, thick-headed Vulcan -- " he was half-sobbing with bitter fury at Spock, at his own weakness.

A fur-clad figure, hooded, appeared out of the thick-falling snow. Only for a moment, and McCoy barely saw it, and then it turned and walked away. Spock heaved McCoy to his numbed feet, practically carrying him, with McCoy's right arm about Spock's shoulders and Spock's right hand gripping hard at McCoy's wrist, and Spock's free arm wrapped around McCoy's chest, all that was holding him upright and tight against Spock's side.

It wasn't far; if they had died where McCoy had fallen, it would have been not ten metres from warmth and safety from the wind. A limestone cave, blissfully warm, with signs of long occupancy that Spock did not bother to observe closely. There was a bed of furs in a niche in one side of the cave, and following the figure, Spock laid McCoy gently down on it, his hand curving around the back of McCoy's skull as if it were eggshell, preventing him from falling back until Spock had neatly removed medical kit and phaser. He pulled off the boots carefully; McCoy's feet were cold. "He is suffering from the severity of your weather. Unfortunately, he is the doctor, not I." Spock's practical experience of first aid had been learnt on Vulcan, and had never included remedies for frostbite. He swung McCoy's legs up onto the bed -- the other man seemed to be unconscious, which was probably just as well. Another fur lay loosely on top of the bed; Spock picked it up and tucked it round McCoy, sitting down beside him to do so. The tricorder from the medikit seemed to indicate no serious damage. "I'll avoid giving him any medication at this time. Perhaps, if he is kept quiet and warm, he may recover naturally."

A slight movement caught the corner of his eye; their host was pulling the hood of the long fur robe back. She was smiling; she had a pleasant face. "What are you called?" she asked.

Spock was staring, fascinated, not thinking about it. "I am called Spock."

She grinned, warm and open. "Even your name is strange. Forgive me -- I have never seen anyone who looks like you."

He caught himself, and turned back to McCoy, disquieted. Reaching with one hand, he touched the human's neck, feeling the living warmth. Their host had walked around him, still looking at him, visibly fascinated. Deprived of an excuse, Spock looked back. "Why are you here?" she asked. "Are you prisoners too?"

"Prisoners?" Spock asked.

"This is one of the places Xarkon sends people when he wants them to disappear." Spock only stared, and the woman asked after a pause that seemed long, "Didn't you come in through the time portal?"

"Yes," Spock said slowly, "we came in through the time portal, but not as prisoners. We were sent here by mistake."

"Oh...." She seemed to need to think out what to say before she said it, as though she were unaccustomed to talking aloud. "The Atavachron is far away, but I think you come from some place further than that."

"That is true. I am not from the world you know at all. My home is a planet millions of light years away."

"Ohh..." this time the pause seemed not bewildered, but struck through with awe. "How wonderful! I have always loved books about such possibilities." Another hesitation -- her eyes, exploring his face, suddenly grew fearful, something Spock had not seen in her before. "But -- they are stories. This -- isn't real. I -- I must be imagining all this.... I'm going mad!" Her voice rose in terror that reached compassion in Spock, and, forgetting McCoy in this moment, he stood up and took her hands, clutched against her throat, in his. "Listen to me. I am firmly convinced that I do exist. I am substantial. You are not imagining this."

Her eyes were fixed on his, drawing confidence from them. "Oh, I -- I've been here for so long, alone." Living with the fear that loneliness would drive her insane, in time. "When I saw you out there, I couldn't believe it."

Spock was tightening his grip on her hands, feeling something he did not want to define, when he remembered McCoy, and glanced down. He lay still and white and scarcely breathing; Spock disengaged from the woman, sat down, and touched a hand to McCoy's chest under the furs. He was still breathing; a steady, faint, rise and fall.

"Is he dying?"

Spock glanced sideways at the woman. She looked concerned, genuinely worried. At losing half her newly acquired company, no doubt. "No. I believe that he will live. He is asleep." He remained a long moment looking at her, absorbing the sight of her. "I do not even know your name."

She smiled. "Zarabeth."

=@=@=

The main cave outside the niche was clearly Zarabeth's main living quarters. The walls were covered in a fabric that evidently trapped heat, which explained partly why the place was so warm. It glowed in patches, evenly scattered over the ceiling of the cave and some parts of the upper walls. Past the niche a narrower cave led downwards into darkness. Spock went over to the entrance, covered with a sheet of the fabric, and down the short, twice-bending tunnel that cut off most of the wind. It was still snowing, Spock noted, and turned back.

Zarabeth had removed the thick robe and was unwinding the bindings of her leggings. She looked up as Spock approached. "You said that you were brought here as a prisoner. May I ask -- " he stopped, unsure how to say it, with her eyes on him.

"Why?" she finished, and smiled. "My crime was in choosing my kinsfolk unwisely. Two of them were involved in a conspiracy to kill Xorkon."

"I remember that name from the history tapes in the library," Spock interjected. "Xorkon the tyrant." The ruler of half the world, and virtual owner of the other half, in only ten years. He had ruled for six bloody and efficient decades before a more efficient assassin ended his life. That had been more than a century before the Enterprise had come to this world.

"It was not enough that he execute my kindred. Xorkon determined to destroy our entire family. He used the Atavachron to send us places no one could ever find us."

Spock took a deep breath. "Zarabeth. We must return to Mr Atoz and the Atavachron. We will carry Doctor McCoy and you must come with us. I will send you and the Doctor to the ship and I shall search for Captain Kirk."

"I can't go through the portal again. If I do, I will die."

Spock shook his head. "We cannot go back?"

Zarabeth looked him full in the face. "None of us can go back. When we come through the portal we are changed by the Atavachron. That is its function."

McCoy was stirring under the furs, coming back to consciousness, but Spock did not notice. He was remembering with terrible clarity Mr Atoz explaining how the Atavachron was connected to the time portal, and its function in making necessary changes in the physiology of travellers. Necessary, irreversible, changes. And then Jim Kirk had called for help, and he and McCoy had run through a doorway that led to this. He barely heard Zarabeth say "Our basic cell structures adjusted to the time we enter. You can't go back. If you go through the portal again you will die by the time you reach the other side."

"Spock -- " a far more familiar voice said hoarsely. Spock looked up. McCoy was leaning against the wall of the niche, looking none too fit to be on his feet yet. "Where are we?"

Zarabeth had followed him over to the other man; Spock grasped at McCoy's shoulder, hoping to keep him on his feet, furious with himself for having let McCoy wake up alone. "You are safe here, McCoy," Zarabeth assured him.

"Yes," McCoy said slowly, "I remember you."

Spock took hold of McCoy's arm with his free hand and began inexorably to guide him backwards. "Come, Doctor -- back to bed." He had McCoy safely down on the bed, forcibly putting his feet up (they felt warmer already, Spock was relieved to note), and sitting over him, one arm either side of his body, ready to tuck him up under the fur again, when McCoy demanded abruptly, harshly "Why are you still here, Spock? Why aren't you looking for Jim?"

"It is impossible to look for him, Doctor. We cannot go back."

McCoy almost tried to sit up again, but Spock did not let him. "What do you mean, impossible?" the other man rasped. "We've got to get back!"

"Zarabeth explained it to me." Giving McCoy as full an explanation as Spock had was probably the best way to get him to lie still and rest. "When we came through the time portal, it altered our physiological structure. If we attempt to return to the library, we shall die."

"Are you tryin' to tell me that we're trapped here?"

Spock reached for the fur blanket. "Yes, Doctor. We are trapped. Just as Jim is trapped, wherever he is." He seldom used Kirk's first name, even to McCoy; but the other man was still deeply exhausted enough not to question, but to sleep, even as Spock's hands tucked the fur around him.

=@=@=

McCoy woke, he was not sure how much later, this time to find Spock seated on the floor beside the bed. After a moment, Spock lifted his head and met McCoy's eyes. "Are you rested?"

"Yes." He was still tired, but not exhausted, and he felt considerably less frost-stricken.

The woman (Zarabeth, had Spock said?) looked up at the sound of their voices and asked, "Are you hungry, McCoy?"

He felt anything but, and shook his head. "You must eat," Spock said inexorably. "Zarabeth, can you bring him some of that soup?"

She came over in a few moments carrying something in her hands that smelled wonderful; a large drinking-cup with no handle full of a dark clear broth. McCoy discovered that he was hungry after all; Spock stood up and helped him sit up, cross-legged, on the bed. Zarabeth handed him the mug and squatted down to watch him drink it.

A little embarrassed at the attention, after two wonderfully warming and flavourful mouthfuls, McCoy grinned and said "Zarabeth, you are a beautiful cook. Have you ever been told that?"

She grinned, warm and bright. "Not recently."

"Oh, well, you'll find that Spock is quite delinquent in these natters." He glanced up at Spock, expecting to meet one raised ironic eyebrow at his gallantries, and met with nothing. Spock was looking straight ahead, arms folded, at Zarabeth, who was smiling. "I hadn't noticed it."

"Oh...." McCoy looked sharply at Spock, still catching no glint in the eye, no flickered eyebrow. Something was very wrong. He forced a grin. "Well, now I'm feeling better, you'll notice a distinct difference in our approach."

"Really?" And that was not like Spock. Cold and grim and distant, no saving grace of humour anywhere.

Spock was enduring a most peculiar set of feelings. McCoy's gallantries, he knew, were simply a way of keeping women at arm's length. Zarabeth's open smile, he knew, was born of loneliness. Nevertheless, the root of the unpleasant tuggings inside him was in that smile, directed at someone else, and those gallantries. Suppression did not seem to work.

Zarabeth appeared not to have noticed. She was smiling at McCoy again, and if it lacked unconsciously a degree of the warmth of her smile at Spock, that was the least of his worries. "It's something to look forward to," she said cheerfully. "I think you must be well enough, McCoy, to try the few delicacies this climate has to offer."

"Not yet," McCoy said briefly.

"At your rate of progress, it will be soon, I can see."

"Doctor McCoy is making excellent progress," Spock said unemotionally. He might have been commenting on the weather.

"And Mr Spock has been practicing medicine without a licence." McCoy managed a brighter grin at Zarabeth. "Now don't let him doctor you. I'm the doctor around here."

"And known as the worst patient in the entire crew of the Enterprise." In a different tone of voice, that might have been one of the familiar jibes. Said coldly as an assessor, it was not.

"Wonder where she is," McCoy mumbled.

"Five thousand years in the future," Spock said bleakly.

McCoy handed the bowl back to Zarabeth. It was two-thirds empty, but he could have drunk no more. "Thank you." She went away; and Spock turned as if to follow her, ignoring McCoy's questioning glance.

"I wonder where Jim is." Kirk mattered more than McCoy; it might jolt Spock. But he still stood with his back to McCoy.

"Who knows? We can only hope that he is well, wherever he is."

"What do you mean, we can only hope? Haven't you done anything about it?"

"What was there to do?"

"Locate the portal, it can't be too far."

Spock turned, his face uncommunicative. "We've been through all that, Doctor. What's the point of rehashing that subject? We can't get back. Wasn't that clear to you?"

"Yes, that was clear to me."

"Then perhaps you were too ill to understand what 'can't get back' means."

"I don't believe it, Spock. It's just not like you to give up trying."

"Then I'll repeat it for you. Get this through your head." Spock was approaching the bed where McCoy still sat, something in the very stillness of his face, the control of his walk and voice, almost frightening. "We can't get back. That means we are trapped. Here. In this planet's past, just as we are. And we'll stay here for the rest of our lives." He lifted an eyebrow, coldly enquiring. "Now do you understand?"

"Yes, I understand," McCoy snarled. His accent was getting stronger by the moment. "I never thought I'd hear it. But I understand. You want to stay here. As a matter of fact, you're highly motivated to stay in this forsaken waste!"

"The prospect appeared quite attractive to you, a moment ago," Spock said flatly, turning away.

Burning from the unusual sarcasm, but having got Spock's attention determined not to lose it, McCoy snapped "Now, you listen to me, you pointed-eared Vulcan -- "

Spock spun round, closing the distance between himself and the bed in two strides. He grabbed the front of McCoy's tunic and yanked him to his feet, holding him there, face to face. "I don't like that," Spock grated. "I don't think I ever did. And now I'm sure."

McCoy could only stare, shocked at the anger, the violence. At last he whispered, "What's happening to you, Spock?"

"Nothing that shouldn't have happened long ago." Spock let go of him, almost throwing him down, and McCoy dropped back to the bed, managing to push himself up on his elbows to still watch Spock, who turned and stalked away, his shoulders thrust forward, visibly angry. He paused a moment to look back, almost as though to say something, but went on out into the main room.

"Long ago," McCoy murmured, letting himself gingerly down onto the bed, confirming that he was in one piece. He was still tired, too weary to move, but just before he drifted off again, logical connections seemed to suddenly fit together in his mind. "Of course," he muttered. "Long ago."

=@=@=

Zarabeth was very peaceful to be with. She was sitting over by the device she had used to heat McCoy's soup. A pan with the other half of the food she had cooked earlier still stood on the edge, sending out uncomfortably meaty smells. Spock went over to her from the other side of the room where the bed niche, and McCoy, were, and sat down beside her.

She smiled at him. "I can't pretend to be sorry that you are here, though I realise it is a misfortune for you. I am here, against my will, too, just as you are."

"I'm sorry," Spock said, liking her honesty. "I know of no way to return you to your own time."

She shook her head. "It's not that I wish to return. This is my time now. I've had to face that. But it has been lonely here. Do you know what it is like to be alone, really alone?"

"Yes," Spock said, remembering a time three years and more ago. "I know what it is like."

For a timeless moment, their eyes met and held. "I believe you do," Zarabeth said softly. It was too strong an instant to sustain, and she glanced away as he did. "Have something to eat, please."

"If it pleases you," Spock heard himself saying aloud. That too was too strong, too soon. He looked down at the metal tray. "This is animal flesh."

"There's not much else to eat around here, I'm afraid."

"Naturally, because of the climate. What is the source of heat in this shelter?"

"There's an underground hot spring."

"Excellent. Then it will be possible to build a greenhouse of sorts. Meanwhile, this will have to do, as the only source of nourishment." He took a reluctant bite and began to chew determinedly.

Zarabeth watched with relief as he took a second, absent bite, and said, to distract him from what he was eating, "There aren't many luxuries around here. Xorkon only left me what was necessary to survive."

"But he evidently intended that you continue living."

"Yes. He gave me weapons, a shelter, food. Everything I needed to live. Except companionship. He did not want it said that he had me killed; but to send me here alone, if that is not death, what is? A very inventive mind, that man." Her smile was wry, for the first time since Spock had first seen her.

"But insensitive," Spock said, looking at her. "To send such a beautiful woman into exile." He heard himself and did not understand himself. "The cold must have affected me more than I realised. Please pay no attention, I am not myself." Pushing himself to his feet, he turned away from her. "I am behaving disgracefully. I have eaten animal flesh, and I have enjoyed it. What is wrong with me? I tell you you are beautiful." Spock turned again, looking at her from shadowed eyes. "But you are beautiful. Is it so wrong to tell you so?"

"I have longed to hear you say it."

Spock was approaching hesitantly; standing close, he touched her face, gently, knowing their minds matched, feeling the flow. She felt it also and looked at him in wonderment. He bent to kiss her, and briefly flinched back, memory of the first kiss he had given and taken blinding him a moment. The next moment he did not flinch, and the kiss was wonderful. He wrapped her up in his arms, pulling her closer, the touch of her skin against his pleasure, warmth, wonderment. He picked her up and held her cuddled against him as they kissed and drew back a moment. "You are beautiful," he said wonderingly. "More beautiful than any dream of beauty I have ever known." There was the fur covering she had been sitting on. He set her gently down, and lay down beside her, still holding her. She pulled his head down to hers and they kissed again.

on to Yesterday.