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To some extent, Spock agreed with the captain when he said the ship was like a breathing organism. It buzzed with the same golden vitality, and the bridge was comparable to a beating heart. Spock always thought the bridge was more like a cell. The science, communications, and engineering stations were electrons and positrons circling a thriving nucleus, functioning as one complete being. Jim belonged in the center, thrived when everyone was watching him. He preferred to stand to the side and quietly assist when needed. Sitting in the captain’s chair would never feel right, not even when he knew Jim was safe.

“You should’ve beamed down, Spock,” the captain said over the intercom. Spock could imagine the wonder on Jim’s face, how he cupped the communicator while gazing over the new landscape with soft eyes. “The ship would’ve survived without you for a few hours.”

“There was no need for both of us to beam down, Captain. This is merely a routine mission to establish contact with a group of natives reported to be peaceful.” Everything Spock read indicated the Aurox were a peaceful species, and wouldn’t cause trouble during initial contact to join the Federation.

“Private communicator, Commander,” Jim ordered. Spock went to the science station and flipped open his own device. “Maybe I just wanted you with me.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Illogical.”

“You can’t fault me. I’m just a human.” He could almost hear Jim’s smirk, see the teasing light in his eyes. It was an unexpected side effect to entering a romantic relationship with the captain, an endeavor Spock didn’t think possible until it happened.

Static crackled over the communicator. “Captain, can you hear me?”

“Loud and clear. I…” Jim trailed off, and the static increased. Spock switched the transmission back to the ship intercom, but the static rang out across the bridge.

“Lieutenant Uhura?” Spock asked.

“Something’s interfering, Mr. Spock,” she replied, her brow creased. “It’s deliberate.”

The bridge door opened, and Scotty ran in, breathless and red-faced. “The landing party just appeared!” he exclaimed. “No warning, no nothing. Just appeared on the transporter pad like that! The captain’s not with them.”

Spock’s breath hitched, but he pretended it didn’t happen. The ship, the captain needed him at top efficiency - or at least 99.9%. “Lieutenant, reestablish communications with the captain. Mr. Scott, did anyone in the landing party communicate as to why they reappeared?”

“They were all dazed, sir,” Scotty answered. “Not a word out of the lot of them.”

“Attempt to locate the captain’s signal and beam him aboard.” Spock sat in the captain’s chair, leaning forward and pressing the communications button. “Captain, can you hear me?” Jim, he called across their mental link. Answer me. His mind generated thousands of fates for the captain and the probability of each situation. Ambushed. Injured. Kidnapped. Shot. Illogical, he reminded himself. The likelihood of the captain being completely unharmed outweighed the probability of any disastrous outcome.

“Receiving alien transmission!” Uhura called.

“Play it aloud, Lieutenant,” Spock ordered.

The static ceased. “Who is in charge of the U.S.S. Enterprise ?” a male voice asked.

“Captain James T. Kirk,” Spock said. “However, the captain is absent. You are speaking to the ship’s first officer. I am Spock.”

“First Officer Spock. I am Tanner,” he said. “We have Captain Kirk.”

A dull buzz rang in Spock’s ears, but he stood and drew himself to his full height. “I require proof. Allow me to speak to the captain.”

“He is indisposed at the moment,” Tanner replied.

Spock walked over the Uhura’s station and leaned close to her ear. “Attempt to locate the source of the communication, Lieutenant.” He folded his hands behind his back and strode to the captain’s chair again. If the situation was reversed, he knew Jim would be able to place their professional connection before their personal relationship. He couldn’t work to rescue Jim, but Captain James T. Kirk of the Enterprise . “Why are you holding the captain as your prisoner? Are you opposed to joining the Federation?” It was the typical motive of many who opposed them. All seemed to think kidnapping a prominent starship captain would solve all their problems when all it accomplished was gaining Starfleet’s fury.

“My motives are not political.” Tanner laughed, a bell-like, false sound. “I am not a high-minded individual. My followers and I are merely in need of an escape from this planet.”

“You are not Auroxian.”

Tanner laughed again. “I’m quite human. The citizens of Aurox are not fond of violence, and did not take kindly to our ransoming the crown prince. The rulers imprisoned us, but we escaped their prison and need a means of leaving. I demand a ship with fuel, sustenance, water, and medical supplies in exchange for the captain’s return. I assure you, you want to assist us.” His voice was monotone, the inflection of a man accustomed to using violence to achieve his every aim.

This man has Jim. He couldn’t betray protocol, though, couldn’t unleash a criminal on the galaxy. “Starfleet prohibits aiding criminals.”

“I figured you’d say something like that. You have twelve hours, and then I’ll cut off an arm. Twelve more hours, a leg. Do you get my intentions?”

Scotty stood up, face as red as his uniform, but Spock held up a hand to silence him. “Affirmative.”

“I also figured you would try to track the captain, his communicator, and the source of this communication. You will not succeed. Do not attempt to locate the captain, or I will expedite the timeline. I will contact you periodically. Do you understand?”

“Affirmative.”

The communication turned to static once again. All eyes turned to Spock. Not Jim. Captain James Kirk. Kirk. If Jim, no, Captain Kirk, ever needed a Vulcan on his side, it was now. “Lieutenant Uhura, attempt to trace the communication once again. Scotty, scan for any traces of the captain’s communicators. I will contact the Auroxian government.”

As activity buzzed around him, Spock could only grip the sides of the captain’s chair and stare ahead at the blank viewing screen. This was supposed to be a routine mission. It had only been logical to believe Jim would be safe with a minimally armed landing party.

However, Spock realized, he should have known better than to think the universe would follow logic where James Kirk was involved. Ever since the beginning, Jim always challenged every preconception Spock held.

 

#

 

After Pike left the Enterprise , Spock waited to see who Starfleet would appoint. He wasn’t nervous. Definitely not intrigued. There were some higher-ups who yearned for their own command, men and women who waited years to be put on a vessel such as the Enterprise, all of whom would be practical choices. Spock reviewed every profile carefully, and had the pool narrowed down to two women and one man when he received the message that the new captain would be James T. Kirk. James T. Kirk, whose official photo showed a man, younger than anyone Spock reviewed, with golden hair and hazel eyes. James T. Kirk, who was praised for his inherent brilliance, leadership skills, and ambition to travel the stars.

James T. Kirk, who stood in front of Spock on the transporter pad in command gold with a broad, genuine smile and a twinkle in his eyes. From what Spock read, he was the perfect material to be an icon, of sorts, for Starfleet, primed for recruitment posters and advertisements. Men like that didn’t often make good captains.

Kirk scanned the room, his gaze landing on Spock as he stepped off the pad. “You must be my first officer,” he said, still smiling. “Commander Spock.” He fashioned his fingers into the ta’al, his smile widening when he successfully formed it.

Unthinkingly, Spock returned the gesture while his mind raced. “That is correct, Captain.”

“Good. Think you could show me around the ship? I’ve studied the layout, but if I get lost, I don’t want some poor ensign’s first meeting with me to be helping me find the bridge.”

“Certainly.” The captain continued to chatter about upcoming missions and different parts of the ship, interjecting intelligent questions every few minutes, and after the third inquiry about technical aspects of the ship’s engines, Spock was forced to admit to himself he may have judged at least the captain’s knowledge prematurely.

“Thank you, Commander,” Kirk said when they arrived back at his quarters. “I see I’ll be able to rely on you. A captain always needs a strong second.”

Spock still thought about his words a week later, standing on the bridge next to the captain during an alpha shift. Kirk had a distinct command style, different than Pike’s yet still effective. The ship ran at 98.6% efficiency, a statistic unachievable by most, and Spock noticed Kirk knew most of the crew’s names and a fact about each person.

Fascinating.

“Lieutenant Marks, I believe we should be heading east rather than west,” Kirk told Marks, the navigator, from the captain’s chair. “Please try to keep your directions in order.”

“Apologies, Captain,” Marks said. “We can’t all have computers for brains like Spock .”

Spock felt the muscles in his back stiffen. Marks, among others, seemed to find pleasure in commenting on his Vulcan heritage. It was nothing he hadn’t heard before, on Vulcan, at the Academy, or on the Enterprise. Pike never participated in the jokes, never treated Spock like anything less than a competent officer, but he often cracked a smile when Marks or someone else made a comment.

“What was that, Lieutenant?” Kirk asked, leaning forward slightly.

“Well, the commander has trouble feeling anything,” Marks said, like Spock wasn’t in the room. “He acts like a robot from one of those old horror films from the twenty-first. I think he’ll snap and carry out the kill orders on his hard drive one of these days.” The lieutenant laughed, unaware of the dark look that crossed Kirk’s face as he stood.

“Lieutenant,” he began. “I don’t know how your last captain ran matters, but there will be no bigotry on my bridge.”

Marks’ eyes narrowed. “Sir, it was a joke. Spock never says anything. He doesn’t mind.”

The captain’s eyes flicked to Spock before returning to Marks. “It always begins with jokes, doesn’t it? You’re relieved for the rest of this shift.”

“Sir!”

“I said you were relieved, Lieutenant.” Kirk settled back in the chair, his back ramrod straight and jaw clenched, as Marks left the bridge and another officer slipped into the navigator’s chair. Spock returned to the science station, unsure of what to say or think. I need to meditate.

A few hours after his shift, Spock encountered the captain when Kirk was leaving the exercise facility. “Mr. Spock!” the captain said. He wore tight red pants and had a towel slung over his bare shoulders. Spock resisted the urge to gulp. “My quarters, half an hour?”

“Certainly, Captain.” He watched as Kirk walked away, pretending he didn’t notice his broad shoulders or muscular back.

Spock tried to meditate in the short time, but he couldn’t achieve the optimal level of focus before he had to leave to go to Kirk’s quarters. He wracked his brain, searching for anything he may have done to dissatisfy the captain, or anything he could have done better, but couldn’t remember anything.

The door to Kirk’s quarters slid open after Spock knocked. He freshly showered and wearing sleepwear, but even without his uniform, Kirk radiated authority and competence. “Come in. I apologize for the mess.” The captain set aside a teetering stack of paper novels and a crumpled gold shirt before motioning to the chess set at his desk. “Do you play?”

Spock didn’t understand why the captain didn’t just ask him to one of the recreation rooms if all he wanted was to play chess, but he wouldn’t question him after only a week. “I do.”

Kirk was a skilled player, if unorthodox. He played with a focused determination, and unlike the people Spock faced on Vulcan, he couldn’t predict the captain’s next move.

About halfway through the game, Kirk leaned forward. “I wanted to ask you about Marks. He’s done that before, hasn’t he?”

Spock moved a knight. “Yes.”

“And you never said anything?”

“Vulcans are not emotional beings, Captain. I saw no need to create conflict when one was unnecessary.” He said nothing of the dull sting he would’ve felt if he was still a child, half-human, half-Vulcan, fully unsure of where in the world he belonged.

“You’re a good man, Spock. Marks’ comments went beyond friendly teasing. Bigotry spurred wars, and is unacceptable, especially where you’re concerned.” Jim chuckled when Spock raised an eyebrow. “Like I said, you’re a good man, and a great officer. Believe me when I say Marks will not speak about you like that again.”

Spock searched for an adequate response, but could only bow his head in acknowledgement. When the game ended, though, he turned to Kirk and said, “I found this to be a productive use of time.”

Kirk gazed at him and smiled, soft and knowing. Even though their game was over, Spock felt like Kirk was making a different kind of move. “Jim,” he said.

“Pardon me?”

“I go by Jim. You can call me that when we’re off-duty, if you’d like.

Spock nodded and folded his arms behind his back. “Goodnight, Jim.”

 

#

 

Not Jim. Captain Kirk. Spock closed the communication channel with an Auroxian ambassador, a kind woman who apologized profusely and deployed resources to locate Jim. Jim. After that first chess game, the night Marks insulted him for the final time, Jim and Captain Kirk became two distinct halves of one person, able to be pulled apart and joined at will in Spock’s mind. Captain Kirk was brusque, did whatever was necessary to save his crew, whether it be manipulation or sacrifice, and leapt into action. Jim was quieter and held the weight of the actions he took as a captain. His two sides intermingled, mixing together neatly.

Jim , he called in his mind. Answer me.

Nothing.

Jim. He reached out again and was met with nothingness. He gripped the sides of the science station. “Please,” he murmured. Illogical , he instantly reprimanded himself. What good would whispered pleas do? If his calls in the bond weren’t being answered, saying it aloud wouldn’t elicit a different response.

He tightened his grip until his knuckles bleached. Jim was out there.

The bridge door slid open to let in McCoy, whose mouth was set in a grim line. “Now where’s Jim?” he hissed. Spock clasped his hands behind his back and braced for the barrage. When McCoy was concerned about Jim, he took it out on anyone around him, typically Spock. “You were in constant communication with him, and the ship lost him?”

Spock walked to the captain’s chair, watching Uhura talk to Starfleet in a low voice. It was preferable to watching McCoy bounce on his heels and grimace. She sat hunched over, her brow furrowed. In a few minutes, she would have answers on Starfleet aid, but it felt infinitely longer, like he could cross the universe and return before they received anything definite.

“Are you even listening to me, Spock?” McCoy snapped. “Do you give a damn about -”

“If you are suggesting Jim’s abduction does not concern me at all, you do not know me, Doctor,” Spock responded with coolness he didn’t feel. “I am merely unable to summon the captain at will.”

McCoy’s face softened. “It was wrong of me to storm the bridge, wasn’t it?” He folded his arms and stared at the viewing screen. “Of course you care about Jim. After your little moment in my sickbay, I’m surprised -”

“I would ask you not to finish that sentence.”

“I would not listen. I’m surprised you aren’t down there getting him yourself.”

Spock met McCoy’s eyes for a moment before looking at the floor. He considered it. It would be easy, and effective, but there was no telling what Tanner and his people would do to Jim. He assumed they monitored the comings and goings of the Enterprise , regulating activity to judge Jim’s fate. “I fear the repercussions.”

McCoy guffawed. “Fear sounds very human.”

“I do not feel human emotions.” He clenched his hands tighter. Sometimes, when he held them too tight, Jim would gently unfurl Spock’s fists, letting his touch linger. “May I remind you that I am Vulcan?”

“Not fully. Nobody would think a thing of it if you showed a little concern for the captain. He’s your -”

“Thank you, Doctor.” He strode to Uhura’s station. If his heartbeat increased at her worried eyes and thinly pressed mouth, only he would know. And Jim, if he could sense it through their link. After, he would do everything short of banging metaphorical pots and pans, as the old Earth saying went, to create enough noise to get to Jim. “Lieutenant, do you have news?”

She exhaled. “Starfleet says under no circumstances are we to give in to Tanner’s demands. He’s wanted on four different planets for various crimes.”

“And of negotiating to retrieve the captain?”

“Spock,” she murmured. Since she transferred onto the ships, after him but before Jim, they had an easy friendship. He respected not only Uhura’s technical skill and mastery of her post, but her sociability and innate ability in connecting to anyone on board, himself included.

“Lieutenant, it would be much more efficient for you to tell me the direct truth instead of delaying it.” The words nearly didn’t leave his mouth, but they were necessary. Logical.

“We are not supposed to make active efforts to retrieve Captain Kirk, only delay them. Starfleet is deploying a vessel that will arrive in two days for formal negotiation.” She swallowed hard. The implications of her statement did not have to be explicitly stated. She was intelligent enough to realize as much. “We don’t have to listen, Mr. Spock.” Her dark eyes glittered. “You haven’t hesitated in disobeying Starfleet before. Not when Jim - the captain’s life is on the line.”

“Disobeying direct orders is never the objective, Lieutenant Uhura.” Even as he spoke, he calculated Jim’s state after two days. The result was in no way desirable, nor was it feasible for Jim to be alive after that period.

A flash of red drew Uhura’s attention back to her station. “Mr. Spock, Tanner is sending a pre-recorded message,” she announced.

“Project it onto the viewing screen.” Spock braced himself as Tanner appeared. He was a young man, perhaps in his twenties, with sharp, pale features and white-blonde hair. McCoy joined Spock, standing to his left, his shoulders tensed.

“First Officer Spock,” he said with a ruthless smile. “You did not follow my rules in contacting both the Auroxian government and Starfleet. Your captain shall suffer for it. Rather than six hours, you have three hours to fulfill my needs. Since you are so desperate to see your captain, you may see his face as a reminder.

McCoy gasped as the video panned to Jim, moving closer to the viewing scream with swear-punctuated steps. Spock merely set his jaw and stared, his mind as empty and disorganized as it was during pon farr. Jim laid in an undignified heap, unconscious, blood trickling down his temple and a bruise blooming across his skull. Someone struck him. He wondered if Jim cried out when he was hit, or if he merely fell to the ground and stayed in that position. There was no deciding which scenario he desired it to be, for neither was not an option.

The video feed returned to Tanner. “Three hours, First Officer. Will you leave him to suffer?” It flickered and shut off, leaving silence on the bridge.

“Spock!” McCoy finally exclaimed.

“You can’t listen to Starfleet,” Uhura said.

Spock returned to the science station and gazed at the captain’s chair. Jim? Can you hear me? It was illogical to ask.

Then, faintly, like music played from another room, fuzzy, muted, he heard, Spock?

He exerted every ounce of control he had not to gasp in relief. Jim. Where are you? Only static. He waited, breath bated. Where are you?

The sand is blood, Spock . Nothing else. He felt Jim leave like one would feel a final heartbeat.

“The sand is blood,” he repeated aloud. Uhura and McCoy stared at him in wonder, so he said it again. “All departments must research that statement in relation to their specialties.”

It wasn’t much, barely a sliver of rope to keep them from falling, but Spock knew that with the correct catalyst, a situation could change in seconds.

 

#

One moment, he stood next to Jim at a diplomat’s ball on an alien planet, holding a glass of wine with no intention to drink it. The captain smiled and nodded at passing guests, and Spock couldn’t help but notice how his dress uniform emphasized flecks of green in his eyes. He accepted his attraction to Jim like one would accept the rising sun. It was an untouchable presence in his mind, shrouded by layers of impossibility yet brushing against his every mental construct.

The next moment, an explosion rocked the ballroom like a meteor hitting a starship.

Spock didn’t think before leaping to cover Jim. The wine glass shattered between their torsos, and Spock grunted as fragments imbedded themselves into his chest. Rubble rained down on him, dusty and fatal. He feebly moved his arm to cover his face, but chunks of the ceiling pinned his legs down, making any chance at an easy departure hopeless.

Jim, with only a cut on his forehead, escaped the rubble. Spock glanced at his shirt, soiled with deep red, and resisted the urge to cry out. He’d failed, he’d failed and Jim -

“Spock! Can you hear me?” Strong hands tapped his face. Hazels eyes betrayed relief when Spock met his gaze. “It’s only wine. It’s only wine on my shirt.” His stare became worried when he saw Spock’s pinned legs. “We’ll get you out of -”

Gunfire interrupted his sentence. From his position on the floor, Spock could see a human male standing in the center with a primitive weapon in his hands and a sneer on his bloodied face. “Damn the Federation!” he shouted. “Damn the Federation and everyone in it!”

“Captain,” Spock gritted out. He could no longer feel any sensation below his waist. Blood seeped from his chest. “It would be logical for you to -”

Jim wiped sweat from his brow and crouched down beside him. Their faces were inches apart, close enough to see the muscles in Jim’s jaw strain as he watched the shooter. He’d envisioned this before, but without the gunfire. “Mr. Spock, if that sentence ends with leave me behind, I will have you removed from your position as first officer.”  

“I am half-buried by rubble; surely he will think I am already dead.” Run, he wanted to urge Jim. He wouldn’t be able to watch helpless as the captain was thoughtlessly gunned down, reduced to a nameless casualty to a crazed gunman.

“And if he doesn’t?” Jim shook his head, his lips pressed into a thin line. “I’m going to stop him.” Something seemed to linger on his lips, but he gripped Spock’s shoulder for a moment before creeping to the side of the gunman.

Spock struggled to free himself, but he only succeeded in driving the glass deeper into his chest. “Captain,” he exhaled, coughing up a mouthful of green blood.

The gunman swaggered toward Spock. “What do we got here?” he spat, cocking the gun. “Starfleet’s most famous Vulcan. I’ve heard of you. Where’s your captain?”

Jim sprung out from behind a chunk of ceiling and tackled the gunman. Spock watched, helpless, as Jim wrenched the gun from the man’s grip and hurled it across the wrecked ballroom. The gunman landed blow after blow, but with one final shout, Jim delivered a knockout punch to the man’s face. He hadn’t hit the ground before Jim rushed back to Spock’s side, communicator in hand, shouting for McCoy and a security team.

“Spock,” he whispered, hands drifting over his chest. His gaze was wide as the members of the fresh landing party materialized around them, but he didn’t move his eyes from Spock.

Pain radiated through Spock’s body. His vision blurred, and Jim became a blur of red, gold, and green.

“Spock.” McCoy snapped in his face, mouth pressed in a grim line. “We need to get that green blood of yours back in your body.”

“That will not matter, doctor, if you cannot remove the rocks from my legs.”

“Any sensation?” McCoy asked.

“Negative.” His brain short-circuited. He needed to see the captain, see that he was alright, alive, ready for a command.

“We’ll fix you up, Spock. You’re too stubborn to die.”

“What can I do, Bones?” Jim murmured.

“Hold him steady.”

Jim kneeled behind Spock and shifted his head into his lap. Spock stifled a cry, and Jim shushed him, as soft as a wind blowing on a gentle alien planet. Calloused hands carded through his hair, pushing his sweaty hair from his forehead. Feelings of fear and dread ambushed him, but something stronger accompanied them, something like loyalty, perhaps devotion. Spock didn’t know if the sensations were his own or Jim’s, yet there was no time to ponder the matter.

Bones surveyed the rocks and bounced on his heels. “We’re going to lift those rocks off in a moment, Spock. Nurse, be ready. There will be blood. Jim, brace him.”

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Jim murmured, his lips close to Spock’s forehead. Heat from his breath radiated toward Spock’s face, a welcome feeling. “We’ll get you back to the ship. You’ll be fine, Spock.”

“I cannot feel my legs, captain,” he replied.

“You’ll be fine,” Jim repeated. He continued to brush his hands through Spock’s hair, methodical and comforting. His hands trembled against Spock’s skull. “That’s an order, Commander.”

“One, two, three!” The team hefted the weight from Spock’s leg, and Jim curled himself around Spock, protective, shielding.

“Jim,” he whispered as the corners of his vision turned to black. “Jim.” Help, he wanted to say. He could never ask for help, though, never admit his emotions were spiralling. All he could say was the captain’s name, over and over until he was nearly unconscious.

He heard snippets of voices as he was drawn into strong arms.

“... heart rate dropping!” Bones.

“We don’t have enough blood for a transfusion.” Chapel.

“I can’t lose him, Bones.” Jim. Jim didn’t want to lose him, and he could never deny him anything. He clawed his way through the pain, through the dark void separating him from consciousness, and opened his eyes.

He laid in a sickbay bed, chest and legs heavily bandaged, a blanket carefully tucked around his body. Managing not to wince, Spock turned his head to see Jim slumped in a chair by his bedside, asleep. The captain was unshaven, and wearing a uniform shirt that hadn’t been changed in 3.2 days and hung loose on Jim’s typically full frame. One tanned hand rested across Jim’s stomach, but the other laid on Spock’s bed, their fingers barely an inch apart.

Before Spock could draw any conclusions, Jim stirred and groaned. He rubbed his eyes, but Spock knew he couldn’t rub away the prominent dark circles. “Jim,” he croaked.

The captain froze, slowly removing his hands from his eyes. He looked at Spock as if he couldn’t quite believe he was real. “Spock,” he murmured, soft enough to be a thought. “Spock.” He grasped Spock’s shoulder and squeezed, closing his eyes as his fingers curled in, then opened them and stared at him with his captain’s glare. “What went through that head of yours? We’ve been through this before. I have legs. If you shout, I can move out -”

“Human bodies are significantly more fragile than Vulcan ones. If you would like the exact statistic, I shall provide it,” he replied.

“You like to forget you’re half-human when it’s convenient, don’t you?” Jim sighed. Spock could tell the captain was withholding information, or perhaps formulating a sentence. As much as he acted on instinct, Jim did not often deliver important words without consideration. He folded his arms and leaned back in his chair. Spock waited. “You were out for a week. I think you cost me a year of my life.”

Spock’s mouth went dry. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe the captain just wanted their typical conversation, just to see if Spock was alive and effective. “I think by pushing you out of harm’s way, Captain, I prolonged -”

“Seven days, Spock.” Jim’s voice trembled for the first time. “Bones had to restart your heart twice. He thought you were in a coma. I thought…” He trailed off, waving his hand and looking away from the bed, then stood up and began pacing. Ten steps, turn on left heel. Ten steps, turn on right heel. Repeat. “I thought…”

Spock struggled into a sitting position, exhaling as pain stabbed his chest. Jim’s pacing stopped. A dark look crossed his face as he stalked to the bed and grabbed both Spock’s shoulders in a tight grip.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” he asked, lowering Spock back onto the pillows. He didn’t remove his hands, but leaned over the bed, biting his lip as he stared at him. Once again, Spock felt fear and worry, though less so than before. Warm sensations, all felt by Jim, flooded his perception. Gratitude. Devotion. Hopefulness. All stemmed from one four-letter root, something unspeakable in his language but fundamental in everything humans created. It was as present in Jim as Spock’s own rising sun, the untouchable  one he watched every day.

He hadn’t dared to hope Jim watched the same sun.

“Jim,” he murmured.

Jim surged forward and kissed Spock. It was gentle and bruising. Freeing and possessive. Tender yet full of desire. Do you see now? Spock heard Jim think.

Spock did not know how he could be so acute in his words when all he could think was, t’hy’la.

 

#

 

Spock couldn’t think like that. Not Jim. Not t’hy’la. Captain Kirk. That distinction was all he had to hold; that brief lie that if they lost the captain, he would only be losing a commanding officer. It would sustain him long enough to return to Vulcan, where healers would be happy to stamp out any lingering emotional ties, long enough to delude himself into thinking he could forget the captain, long enough for his father to give him the Vulcan equivalent of an I-told-you-so.

But he couldn’t give up so quickly.

Jim. Answer me. He’d come to expect the following silence. So long as he could feel Jim’s presence, the silence wouldn’t bother him as much as one would expect. The loss of the solid contact from the captain’s thoughts would spell out doom.

“The sand is blood,” he repeated for what felt like the millionth time.

“It could be a reference to a variety of literary works,” Uhura suggested. “The captain is a well-read man. I just don’t see how it has to do with Aurox.”

“Keep searching, Lieutenant.” Spock ground his heel into the ground to keep from pacing. The sand is blood. The four words would torture him as the clock ran by. Why can you not contact me. It took a powerful device, or a powerful presence, to block a mental link.

Could Tanner have a shield?

With new energy, he pressed the intercom button. “Mr. Scott, report to the bridge.” He turned to McCoy. “I believe Tanner has the approximate of a shield. The captain could be anywhere, but we would not know because Tanner has given him something to block his life signals and location.”

“So what do we do, Spock?” McCoy prodded.

The doors slid open, and Scotty walked in. Spock turned to him and nodded. “Mr. Scott, what do you know about cloaking signals?”

“I haven’t had much work with them, sir, but I’d give it my best,” he replied.

“I believe Tanner is using a similar device on the captain. If we can discover -” The sentence was left unfinished. A searing pain ripped through his brain, smashing any semblance of order. His human side cried out for mercy, but the Vulcan in him forced him to stay upright, to stay dignified and in-control as he was supposed to be. “Scan the entire planet,” Spock gasped. “Find his life signals.”

Scotty leaned over the engineering station. Spock gripped the sides of the captain’s chair, but didn’t allow himself to lean forward. His heart thudded against his side as the fiery pain in his head ravaged forests of thoughts. He was burning, and worse, Jim was burning, perhaps already ashes, and he was stuck in space, helpless to do anything partake in the deadliest sin known to Vulcans: feelings roaring to escape, to scorch a landscape and the surrounding population.

“I can’t find him!” Scotty exclaimed.

The fire burst through. “Mr. Scott, is it not your job as Chief Engineer to locate life signals?” Spock didn’t realize the sharpness of his tone until everyone stopped working to stare at him. McCoy cleared his throat. Scotty bit his lip. Uhura avoided his gaze. Spock folded his hands in his lap. “Mr. Scott. Please attempt to locate Captain Kirk again.”

“Spock!” McCoy hissed. The doctor approached him, his mouth set in a grim line. “What has gotten into you?”

“Doctor, there is nothing inside of me but blood and organs. You wish for me to feel something, but the instant you deem that I am doing so, which I am most certainly not, you propose an illogical inquiry. Do you have another question, or would you just like to continue to hinder me in locating the captain?”

McCoy didn’t back down. “You’re feeling something, and you don’t know what to do.”

“Any loss of life is regrettable, and I wish for the captain to return so he can continue to run this starship, as it is his job to do so.”

“I thought Vulcans didn’t lie, Spock.”

T’hy’la. Spock walked back to the science station, not caring if McCoy followed. The numbness in his mind spread, signalling pain and loss. He couldn’t keep it under control for long. “If you must know, I believe the captain to be dead.”

McCoy’s eyes widened. “How would you know?”

Spock glanced down at the floor. “A partner knows these things, Doctor.”

“Your link…”

“I am capable of deducing the logical source of the pain in my head, Doctor. According to human customs, I will attempt to find his body.” Jim , he called one last time. Please, t’hy’la. After experiencing what he had with the captain, he couldn’t go back to how he used to live.

 

#

 

After the incident with the explosion and gunman, everything and nothing changed. To the outside eyes, Spock’s relationship with the captain was stronger than ever, but typical. Their gazes weren’t attuned to see lingering touched, nor Spock slipping into the captain’s quarters when they both completed their shifts.

They fell into a routine with more ease than Spock thought possible in a new romantic relationship. Each meal was taken together, often times with McCoy, who noticed the change after barely a week. They worked together, more efficiently than ever, played chess more nights than not, and returned to one of their quarters to talk, sleep, read, do work, or participate in other activities Spock found to be pleasurable, at the least.

If Spock was human, he would say he was in paradise. As a Vulcan, he would admit nothing. As someone of both world, a identity Jim encouraged, Spock could admit he was content, particularly in moments like these, in which Jim lounged on the bed, shirtless with his head in Spock’s lap. Yes, I can say I am content.

“What does it mean?” Jim asked suddenly. He crinkled his nose, his telltale sign that he was about to dive headfirst into something unfamiliar. Spock learned to read it as clearly as he could read a map. Sometimes, it forecasted daring and brilliant maneuvers. In other instances, it was the sign of a plan so wild nobody would dare suggest it worked until it did. “ T’hy’la ?”

“Friend.” Spock traced his rounded jawline. “Brother.” He brought two fingers to Jim’s hands, his nerves tingling with the sensation.  “Lover.”

“I feel as if the ambiguity could get non-Vulcans in a bit of a twist.” He smiled a half-smile and outlined the scars left by the shattered glass on Spock’s torso. He often touched or kissed those long-healed wounds, and whispered, Never again s, often accompanied those actions.

“It is used to describe the deepest of bonds.” The most important aspect of my life. He felt as if Jim heard, for he stiffened, then relaxed once again. Their mental bond was strengthening, growing bolder and brighter than anything Spock could have imagined. They would have to address it at some point, but the feeling of Jim’s thoughts alongside him brought a warmth he didn’t think possible.

“I like the ambiguity,” he murmured, eyes fluttering shut. He turned his head into the crook of Spock’s neck, his breath tickling his collarbone. “It makes it special for us. Just us.”

In a life where the captain had to worry about presenting himself as a professional, composed individual in every aspect, Spock could see the appeal of having a private connection, something unexplored by the common being who passed in and out of his life. Their relationship was theirs alone - barring McCoy, of course, whose perception passed any expectations Spock held.

T’hy’la, ” Jim repeated, this time more confident. He yawned and pulled the blankets to his chin. Seeing the captain like this, curled up like a cat, unguarded, languid and sleepy, was a privilege Spock never thought he would have. When he slept, the crease between Jim’s browed eased. It was illogical to derive pleasure from another’s rest, much less feel any emotion whatsoever about sleep, but Jim was different. Always different, always rewriting the rule book to suit his intentions. Spock was happy to follow new rules so long as Jim was the creator. He would follow Jim to the corners of the universe.

T’hy’la, ” Spock whisper in response.

“I’ll have to report you, you know,” Jim murmured, opening one eye. “For being illogical.”

Spock ran his fingers through golden hair. “Illogical?”

“Waxing poetic about how you would follow me everywhere in the universe. I know about Vulcan bonds, Mr. Spock. Don’t think I can’t hear your thoughts popping into my head.” When Spock stiffened, Jim cracked a sleepy smile. “I’m not complaining. I like having you with me. We’ll never be apart.”

“Parted from me and never parted.” He moved the blankets to cover the captain’s bare shoulder. “Sleep peacefully, Jim.”

#

 

McCoy stared at him. “Recover his body?” He shook his head and grimaced. “You don’t get to declare the captain dead because you have a headache.”

“Doctor, it is more -”

“Which one of us went to medical school, Spock? Jim is not dead.”

“Your emotions and denial of the obvious are -”

“Illogical, not productive, ineffective, finish that sentence any way you want, as long as you’re trying to reach Jim again. We know he’s in that desert somewhere. You need to find out where, Mr. Spock.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “I never knew you were one for command, Doctor.”

A self-satisfied smile split across McCoy’s face. Spock always had mixed feelings when McCoy smiled. Typically, it meant he was feeling self-congratulatory or had recently won an argument - he assumed both were the cause in the current situation. “Someone has to keep this ship running.”

“Yes, the engines and Mr. Scott.” Spock sat down in Jim’s chair, head still throbbing.

“Receiving another video message from Tanner, Commander,” Uhura announced. “This one is live.”

Spock set him mouth in a thin line. Most likely, the criminal wanted to gloat, to display Jim’s body like one would showcase a trophy. He didn’t feel as if Tanner was a clever man, only one who wanted control over everyone he met. To lose Jim to someone like that hurt more than anything. “Project the feed onto the viewing screen.”

Tanner appeared, his eyes smug. “Mr. Spock, I believe you discovered my shielding system,” he said, confirming Spock’s suspicion the criminal had tapped into the Enterprise’s auditory systems. “How clever. I can assure you the captain is too valuable to die immediately and painlessly. Have you made a decision?”

“As I stated before, Starfleet does not negotiate with criminals.” Spock scanned the background for any clues of location. Only finding a nondescript black room, he looked to Tanner himself. The young man wore a red-stained white tunic. Dried blood crinkled the color, as well as something granular. Spock clenched his fist. Sand. Could Jim have only meant the sand was red? He beckoned to an ensign. “Research places on Aurox with red sand with Mr. Scott,” he murmured before turning back to the screen.

“That is a shame for your captain.” Tanner leaned forward. “He called out for you multiple times in the hours. Are you close?” When Spock didn’t answer, the criminal just laughed. He didn’t see the shadow approaching behind him, something raised in its hands. “Is he left or right handed? I suppose he could command a starship with one arm, but not if blood loss kills him.”

“I don’t plan on dying anytime soon, Mr. Tanner.” Jim stepped from the shadows and into the light, haggard but holding a large lead pipe. Tanner crumpled to the ground when Jim slammed the pipe against his back with a determined grunt. “Mr. Spock?” the captain asked, wiping his hands on his torn shirt. “Do you have any idea where I am? I’m surrounded by red sand.”

Spock stood, speechless for a moment. “Mr. Scott was conducting research, captain.” Of course. Of course Jim was all-casual, flippant almost, about being kidnapped and nearly dismembered. It was his trademark style that earned him the captaincy and Spock’s respect in the first place.

“There’s only one desert on Aurox with red sand, sir!” Scott exclaimed. “It’s uninhabitable except for one building. I assume you’re there, and I can lock onto your signal.”

“Well then, Mr. Scott,” the captain said, his tired voice enveloping the bridge like a wave crashing against a shoreline. “I would very much like to be beamed aboard. Starfleet will deal with Tanner and his little operation.”

Scotty sprung to his feet. “Right away, Captain.” Spock followed the engineering officer through the corridors, reminding himself not to remain in control when the captain beamed aboard, McCoy on his heels. He was Vulcan, after all, half-human, yes, but raised on Vulcan.

Vulcan.

Yet when the captain materialized on the transporter pad, miraculously whole, miraculously alive and smirking despite Tanner’s threats, Spock’s control slipped.

“Jim!” Suddenly aware of every pair of eyes watching him, waiting for an emotional scene, Spock cleared his throat and folded his hands behind his back. “Captain,” he restarted. He wondered if Jim ever desired a partner who had less emotional control, if Jim wanted to be swept off his feet after returning from situations like me. “It pleases me that you are unharmed.” Relatively, his brain supplied. He constructed the confrontation by cataloging Jim’s injuries.  Bruised jaw. Someone struck him. Multiple times, most likely. Split knuckles. He hit back. Torn shirt and shredded pant legs. Someone scratched him, but he got away. Dried blood on his temple. Nothing irreparable.

“Mr. Spock.” Jim grinned, dually teasing and knowing. Spock remembered the captain’s perceptive and clever nature. Jim didn’t enter their relationship to be showered in emotional outbursts - he provided enough for the both of them. He stepped off the transporter pad, nodding at Scotty and clapping him on the shoulder before he joined Spock. “Walk with me?”

“Jim!” McCoy insisted. “You need to go to sick bay.”

“Tomorrow, Bones.” Jim clapped the doctor on his shoulders. “I’ll live for tonight.”

They left the transporter room, and as soon as they turned into an empty corridor, Jim threaded his arm through Spock’s. “I have to say, Spock, you are a sight for sore eyes.”

Spock cocked an eyebrow. “Captain, I do not see how -” A pair of warm lips cut him off. Illogical. Yet he could not find the words to tell Jim so. Instead, as Jim slipped his hands around his back, Spock returned the kiss. If he was human, he would have delighted in feeling Jim’s solid chest under his hands and hearing his soft exhales. “Jim,” he murmured. He can be Jim again. T’hy’la.

One corner of the captain’s mouth curled up slightly, like a sunflower wanting toward the sun. “Emotion, Mr. Spock?”

“I digress. I only said your name.

“You did, didn’t you?” Jim looped his arm through Spock’s once again, that knowing smile back with as much force as one of the ship’s engines. “It sounded like much more.”

Perceptive.

“I believe that’s checkmate.” Jim leaned against his cabin door, hands resting against his narrow hips. He once called chess a romantic game, citing hundreds of royal fairy tales and old legends. Although Spock didn’t personally agree, he could recognize the logic behind the captain’s argument. There could be a romantic element in protecting one’s beloved, something that crept into their lives much too often. Even when they weren’t sitting at a board, they were always playing chess.

“So it is.” A heartbeat, and Spock rested his forehead against Jim’s. The captain exhaled, shuddery and tired for the first time.

“I thought…” Jim murmured. He didn’t finish the sentence, but grabbed Spock’s arms and ran his fingers downward until their hands were joined. “I could hear you. The entire time. I fought, but I couldn’t reply. Was it logical to keep trying, Mr. Spock?”

Spock opened the doors to Jim’s quarters, then guided him to the bed and a sitting position. There was no need to answer that question. They both knew Spock would’ve tried until Jim’s body was in his arms, and Jim would’ve done the same for Spock. It was an unwritten hypothesis proved by multiple scenarios with a rotating cast of variables. Spock would’ve loved to draw a conclusion and never test it again, but with their positions, it was inevitable.

He walked into their bathroom (shared, since the beginning of the mission; it always drew them to each other in the early hours of the morning) and filled a pitcher with water before grabbing a cloth. On Vulcan, water was a luxury, but Jim used it liberally and enjoyed it.

Jim studied his bruised knuckles, running his fingers over the ridges and valleys of his hands. Spock lingered in the bathroom door and watched before he returned to the bed to kneel before him. He dampened the cloth and used it to wipe away the dried blood crusted in Jim’s hair. When he wrung out the cloth, the water was stained pink. His hands trembled as he went to wipe away more blood. If Tanner swung harder, or if he’d used a different weapon, or missed and hit Jim’s next, it would’ve been a very different night. Thinking like this, he could hardly stand to look at Jim. Logically, he should’ve hated him. He should’ve hated how he writhed through his defenses and turned decades of Vulcan training ineffective. He should’ve hated his illogical intelligence and how he could be either Captain Kirk, Jim, or t’hy’la or all three at once. It was inconvenient, ineffective, illogical.

But when Jim took his wrist with one hand and tilted Spock’s chin up with the other, all those arguments disappeared. Spock saw kindness and love, companionship and understanding in his eyes, and it was akin to the entire universe.

T’hy’la ,” he whispered. He pressed his lips to Jim’s as if to tell him everything he just thought, and from the wetness on Jim’s cheek, he believed he understood.

“Emotion, Mr. Spock?” Jim asked. He laid down and closed his eyes. “You know there are worse evils in this universe.”

Spock exhaled, laid down, and let Jim hold him. “So there are, Jim.” So there are.