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Familiar, So Familiar

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1. Kirk meets I-Chaya at the Academy

 

The strangest sight to be seen on the Starfleet Academy campus was that of a sabre-toothed teddybear lumbering over the grass, a straight-backed figure striding along in its wake. Commander Spock and his daemon could not have been more unlike each other, the one straight lines and full of purpose, the other shaggy fur and aimless in the way she moved.

 

They were often the butt of Gary Mitchell's jokes. The young man, laying in the grass, did not seem to pay anything much attention now. His only movement was an occassional lazy swat at Jim Kirk, who was stroking a blade of grass over his bare belly. “Bully and the Beast at three o'clock.”

 

Kirk followed the Commander in instructor black with half-closed eyes. “He failed you for a course when you couldn't be bothered to show up, butt-head. That's hardly bullying.” Because while Kirk was determined to blow everyone who looked down on him away by messing up the grade curve, Mitchell took pride in being a fleet brat and used it to his advantage.

 

Mitchell's snort was accompanied by a harder swat, aimed at Kirk's backside this time. Since Kirk was sitting against a tree, Mitchell's thighs over his lap, that meant Mitchell hit his hip awkwardly. “O augh, see what you did, you made me hurt myself. You've swallowed so many books, soon there'll be no flesh left anywhere on you.” He let his hand flop around in mid-air.

 

“It's called muscle, you lazy arse. You, you'll be swimming around in your own fat soon, you only get out of bed to eat or to party.” Kirk flexed a bicep in demonstration before returning to the antique paper novel he had in his other hand.

 

“Big bookcase.”

 

“Couch potato.”

 

“Stacks on legs.”

 

“Lazy fleetbitch.”

 

“Right back at ya.” Because for all Mitchell's faults, he had never regarded Kirk with pity, derision or worship for being George Kirk's son. Instead he hauled him along on a self-proclaimed mission to cure him of his bookishness, never mind Kirk's stories of his escapades before he signed up. “I'm keeping you from overcompensating now you're trying to be a good boy,” was what Gary had told him, halfway through their first and only group project, which had become Kirk's project and a free passing grade for Mitchell. “You'll be swallowed up by the library, seriously, because you're trying to be this overblown stereotype of an ideal cadet because you've got a man-crush on Pike.”

 

McCoy took care of Kirk. Mitchell took care to corrupt Kirk. Between them, they ensured Kirk stayed sane and didn't feel like he'd lost himself in trying to live up to his own ambition.

 

Kirk was woken from his reverie when he saw a smirk overtake Mitchell's face. Last time that facial expression had signalled the start of a heap of trouble that had landed them both in jail for a night, drunk off their arses. “Gary... what the hell are you pulling?”

 

He held up a round orange stone. “What's that?”

 

Mitchell only continued to smirk. His daemon Alvilda, a gopher, was burrowed into his neck, resting in his body's shadow. “It's this soft stone from Vulcan, and, so I've been told, a sehlat's favourite chew toy. I've put a little sleeping aid on it.” Daemons did not eat, but they did interact with items. It would knock her out, Kirk knew.

 

“Gary-” But it was too late, because the daemon had lifted her head towards them, sniffing. It came over at a clip. Spock remained where he was. She put her nose right over Mitchell's hand, before backing away a step.

 

Mitchell's mouth fell open and he sat up. The daemon had not accepted the stone. Kirk felt relief curl around his spine. “Why didn't she take it?”

 

“Despite the fact that my daemon does not speak to strangers, Mr Mitchell, he is not unintelligent. Undoubtedly there is something unsuitable about the treat you wish to offer him.” Spock had approached. He tilted his head, as if listening to something they could not hear, before continuing. “Ah, I was correct. I will not condone you administering drugs to my daemon, Mr Mitchell. This is your only warning.”

 

“You know what she thinks?” Kirk blurted, the last word a squeak.

 

“Indeed, Mr Kirk, Vulcans are telepaths. So are their daemons. For future reference, my daemon is a male.” Spock had turned fully towards Kirk. “Should you not be preparing for your third attempt of the Kobayashi Maru?” he asked. Kirk wondered how much the grapevine was buzzing with it if even the resident Vulcan recluse had heard about it. “You may not want to fail as blatantly as you did last time.” Ah, so someone had blabbed about the disaster his last run had been.

 

While Spock spoke, his daemon had approached Kirk and was now sniffing him. He lifted his head and looked Kirk straight in the eye. Kirk froze.

 

There were some laws about daemons that were never, ever broken.

 

You did not touch another's daemon unless you were lovers. You did not speak to another's daemon unless you were friends. You did not even acknowledge or make eye contact with another's daemon unless given explicit permission. People interacted with people, daemons interacted with daemons.

 

Vulcan daemons were especially untouchable. No non-Vulcan had ever heard one speak.

 

The daemon brushed one of his paws against Kirk's bare foot.

 

Hello, the word was delivered straight into Kirk's head.

 

“Son of a witch,” Mitchell exclaimed.

 

“That observation is accurate,” said Spock, whose mother was a witch, and whose left eyebrow had launched itself up his forehead.

 

Mitchell snarled and made to stand, which jostled Kirk's feet. His contact with the sehlat was broken.

 

I-Chaya. Somehow he knew the daemon's name and his species. That had been downloaded into his brain along with the greeting.

 

Without another word, Spock and his daemon left.

 

2. Kirk talks to Spock after he cheats, ahem, creatively reinterprets the purpose of the Kobayashi Maru.

 

No one ever asked why Jim Kirk's daemon was nowhere to be seen. His file was sealed, but he was in every vid about Tarsus IV, all skin and bone but standing straight. Instead, they chose to question everything else, because it wasn't just Kirk's absent daemon that was... odd. His actions defied logic. 

 

“I do not know,” Spock said when a fellow observer asked how Kirk beat his test.

 

He summoned the cadet to his office. His argument would have to stand up to Vulcan scrutiny, but as I-Chaya had said, “The acquisition of information must precede action.” The daemon used Surak's maxims for his own purposes often.

 

Kirk came, red uniform pristine and daemon nowhere in sight. Reportedly, only the cadet's roommate McCoy has ever seen it. “Come,” Spock said and, “Sit.” Social niceties were superfluous.

 

Kirk sat. “Sir.”

 

“I have summoned you here so you can clarify why you changed the parameters of the Kobayashi Maru test.” Because humans sometimes needed clarification, he added, “You cheated.”

 

“I didn't.”

 

Humans needed reminders. “You are addressing a superior in a professional context, cadet.”

 

“Respectfully, sir, I did not.” Aside from the emphasis, the cadet did not become emotional, which worked in his favour. Spock's shoulders became a little less tight now it seemed no emotional outburst was forthcoming.

 

“Enlighten me.”

 

“The test itself is a cheat, sir. It's unbeatable, isn't it?”

 

“Your reasoning precludes the existence of a no-win scenario.” I-Chaya had sat up on his haunches from his bed to the side of the desk, his head going back and forth between the speakers.

 

“I do not believe in no-win scenarios, sir.” Kirk lifted his head, blue eyes as free of expression as a Vulcan's. Spock found that an expression of emotion would have been preferable. Humans were not made to be without it.

 

He did not ask for further enlightenment, when the human declined to comment after an extended silence. Instead, he decided to indulge his curiosity now he had the opportunity. “Tarsus.” The human flinched, his gaze now averted over Spock's shoulder. “It is said you went through an experience similar to the Vulcan ritual known as kahs-wan.”

 

Kirk was silent for a long time and Spock almost thought he would leave, when the human made eye-contact again. “You'll have to tell me what kahs-wan is.”

 

At this, I-Chaya came around the desk and settled himself against Spock, whose hand went to the sehlat's head. “Before the onset of puberty, a Vulcan child will go into the desert alone for ten days without water or food, in order to survive there. After the first three days, their daemon must be left behind.” A growl rumbled through the room, like a far-off thunderstorm. “The child must walk away, so that the bond between person and daemon is stretched.” His eyes flicked to I-Chaya. “In our case-”

 

<('-')>

 

“Commander-” Kirk made to interrupt. A single shake of Spock's head interrupted him.

 

“Personal information must be traded for equally personal information in the interest of fairness.”

 

I-Chaya had bared his teeth, presumably at whatever was shared between them telepathically. For a moment, Kirk felt jealousy grab him around the throat. If Hayfever and he shared such a bond, he would at least know how she was when she wasn't with him. He pushed it down. This was not the time.

 

“I-Chaya did not leave me behind. It proved fortuitous, because he was able to save me from a vicious predator, a le-matya. However, he was wounded, and taken home. I was ordered to return into the desert, to complete the ritual, in spite of this.” The sentences came out in staccato.

 

“Right... so, you can separate yourselves?” Kirk asked. Spock nodded as if he meant to slice the air with his forehead. “Yeah... that's about... Hayfever and I, there was, like, a procedure meant to sever us, but... we escaped.”

 

Of all the questions Spock could ask after that less than coherent sentence, Kirk did not expect it to be a disbelieving, “Hayfever?” I-Chaya shook himself, as if his fur was wet. Kirk snorted at the sight, huffed, and started to chuckle. “Cadet...are you attempting to make a joke? Vulcans do not become amused.”

 

That sounded like a dare to Kirk, but he shoved that away for later thought. “I... ah... yeah.” He exhaled the last of his amusement. He was repeating this part of the conversation to Bones. “It...it's sort of a nickname. I grew up on a farm, but I was kind of banned from the barn because, well, I was allergic to about twenty things inside it. My brother, when he was like eleven always told his friends I had hay fever when they asked why I never helped out with the animals. And well, it was a running joke that if they asked me if I really had hay fever, I'd hold her up and tell them yes, that was her. And so she came to be called Hayfever.”

 

“I see,” Spock said, but didn't.

 

Kirk rubbed a hand through his hair. “So...not to be rude sir, but what's the verdict? Should I pack my bags.”

 

Spock put his hands together in front of his face. “You are hereby warned of the hazards of the creative reinterpretation of orders. People less willing to listen to your reasoning might have caused you trouble. Please keep this in mind in the future, cadet, and exercise caution.” By the time he stopped speaking, Spock was looking into the face of a grinning human.

 

“Yes, sir!” Kirk jumped up, snapped a perfect salute and ran out the door before Spock could return it.

 

I-Chaya huffed. The conversation became personal. I told you it would. He is your t'hy'la, you cannot help it.

 

Spock deleted the request to put Kirk on academic probation from his PADD. Patience must be exercised. Mother has informed us that humans undertake sexual exploration with several partners before they mature, find their mate and settle down. He is not yet at that stage.

 

That does not mean you must ignore him.

 

<('-')>

 

Outside, Kirk ran to his room and jumped on top of McCoy, who was taking a nap on his bed and woke up cursing when he was suddenly assaulted by two hundred pounds of enthusiasm. “Get off, you insane idiot!”

 

“Bones, Bones, Bones, I got off with a warning.”

 

The thundercloud on McCoy's brow was large, and only eclipsed by his confusion. “You what? Did you feed the Iron Prince a love potion and make him fall in love with you, or something? No-one gets off with a warning for an offence that big, not with him. Not even your silver tongue can help you there.”

 

Kirk deflated “Seriously, Bones, I wonder what nonsense your momma fed you when you grew up. Love potion?”

 

“You have another excuse?”

 

Kirk flung himself back onto his own bed, and scowled when he landed on a PADD he'd left in the middel of it. “We just talked.”

 

“Yeah, I have my doubts. D'you see that goblin and his grizzly? All the softness in that pair is in that daemon's fur. The Vulcan's as cold as can be. The only thing they have in common is that they can bite your head off at a moment's notice. Which is not a bad thing.” Where other men showed appreciation for another guy's conquests, Bones liked to compare the size of his grouch to that of others.

 

“Uhuh.” Kirk lay on his back more slowly now, and had barely put his hands behind his head when the alert sounded that summoned all cadets to the ships.

 

3. Kirk and Spock make your fur turn gray.

 

Kirk's assignment to the Enterprise was last-minute, made when Pike found out Spock declined to put him on probation. So he found himself in the bowels of engineering, running checks on the squeaky-clean and brand new but untested engines. He almost didn't hear Chekov's announcement, and when he did, he ran for the bridge, pulling Uhura along.

 

He succeeded in convincing Pike they would be running into a trap when they arrived at Vulcan and Spock backed him up eventually. He was wrong, they warped into a graveyard, but when the remains of the Farragut floated across the viewscreen, he spared only a thought for Gary and Gaila.

 

No time for tears.

 

Pike turned away from the screen after he promised to give himself up to the Romulans. He called for volunteers for a risky mission: small daemon and experience in close combat required. Sulu and Olsen were selected. Kirk wanted too. “That cat won't fit into your suit, cadet,” Pike told him.

 

Kirk shrugged. “She doesn't need to.”

 

“You sure you can be that far from her?”

 

“I wouldn't volunteer if I wasn't, sir.”

 

Spock stepped in front of Kirk. “Sir, if the cadet is going, it is only logical I go as well. I-Chaya is not required to accompany me.”

 

Pike shook his head. “No can do, Spock. I'm making you acting Captain.” They had started walking through the corridors towards the shuttle. “Kirk here'll be your first officer for however long it's necessary. Keep her safe for me, Spock. She's a good ship. Come and get me and when all else fails, rendezvous with the fleet in the Laurentian system.” His black-tailed jackrabbit hopped after him into the turbolift and they were gone.

 

<('-')>

 

When Spock returned to the bridge, I-Chaya was waiting for him by the captain's chair. Thank you, my friend, he told him.

 

I-Chaya lay down. Chekov resumed breathing. His Macaque, Abrek, loosened his death grip on Chekov's curls. Our t'hy'la is taking large risks. I am allowed to worry in your stead.

 

“Sir!” It was Uhura, who had been trying to restore communications with anyone she could find. “The drill's interference with communication seems to be on purpose sir. Only external communication is blocked.”

 

“How is this helpful, cadet?” Spock asked.

 

She beamed at him. “The space-jumping suits register as part of the ship, sir, it's a different signal. We'll be able to hear them as they go down.”

 

He nodded. “Well done.”

 

<('-')>

 

They destroyed the drill, but were unable to prevent the red matter from being shot into the planet's core. After Chekov beamed them back up, Sulu and Kirk watched Spock come into the transporter room, I-Chaya on his heels. A look from Spock prevented the sehlat from climbing onto the platform with him.

 

While they waited for him to return, I-Chaya spotted a cat, fur wild, wedged in a corner, trying not to be noticed. Her eyes were fixed on Kirk, scanning him for injuries. The sehlat walked over to her, and pinned her with a paw so she could not escape and he could talk to her. You are Hayfever. I am I-Chaya.

 

The cat only snarled in response. Kirk had his attention on them now, a hand pressed to his chest as if he could feel the paw that pressed the cat to the floor. He likely could.

 

You can speak to me like this. I-Chaya showed her the way to communicate telepathically. Hayfever's first message was a sense of puzzlement and a wish to be freed. No, I-Chaya told her. We are t'hy'la. I will comfort you. He started to wash her head with his tongue. This is how cats comfort their young, is it not? Almost against her will, she began to relax.

Kirk was now openly staring at them, hands by his side but twitching, as if wanting to grab his head where he'd feel a ghostly tongue rubbing over his hair.

 

Hayfever took a few seconds to verbalise her indignation. Am not worried.

 

The evidence is to the contrary. You do not have a telephatic connection to your human, so you could not know his status. You came to this room for visual confirmation. I-Chaya huffed over Hayfever's head. It made her ears flick back and forth.

 

Finally, she rubbed her head against his paw. I know he is not alright. I am his daemon. I feel what he feels. He is in pain. I am here to look pathetically until he gives in and visits Bones.

 

I-Chaya's answer was forestalled by Spock's hail for the Vulcan elders, his parents and him to be beamed up.

 

<('-')>

 

Even a Vulcan may be excused from not remembering crucial facts in an emergency. So Spock called for the Enterprise to beam everyone up once the elders were outside.

 

He did not understand why his mother turned to him with a small, sad smile. “I love you, sweetheart.” He did not know why she turned to Sarek with tears in her eyes, whatever message she had for him transmitted over their bond. He did not understand his father's sharp intake of breath.

 

Only when the light of the transporter started to whirl around every Vulcan and she remained untouched, did he remember: transporter technology could not detect witches, because they were not entirely corporeal.

 

“Mother!” He stretched out a hand towards her, but she was out of reach. He was looking at the wall of the transporter room.

 

He stared ahead of him, sightless, while Vulcan began to cave in on itself and the parental bond with his mother snapped in his mind. Not even witches could escape a black hole.

 

He felt something on his shoulders, on the back of his head, but no one touched him. He turned to I-Chaya. A cat was sitting on his back. He wondered if his eyesight had become unreliable.

 

No, you are not hallucinating. It is Hayfever. She insists that since I offered her unrequested comfort, she is to aid me now that we are in distress.

 

That did not compute, so Spock focused on something else. What course of action do you advise we take? He found himself unable to formulating one.

 

Ensure everyone receives medical care. Our t'hy'la hurt because Kirk is wounded. The elders will need to be checked as well. As do you.

 

I do not require assistance. But Spock ordered the rest of them to Sickbay. He went to the bridge, putting his own state out of his mind. He was acting captain now, he had responsibilities. Nevertheless, the echo of a tiny cat tongue he could feel licking across his left ear felt... pleasant.

 

<('-')>

 

White static in his head inhibited his decision making. Still, Spock estimated he functioned more efficiently than any of the inexperienced cadets present.

 

When Kirk argued with him, he did not wish to consider going after Nero. Pike had given them an order. When Kirk openly questioned him, he attempted to remove him from the bridge and finally nerve-pinched him.

 

What are you doing? I-Chaya asked over their link. He was in the science officer's quarters with Hayfever.

 

Kirk did not accept my authority over him. He will be going to the Starfleet outpost on T'Khut. And because he could be honest with his own daemon, he added, He will be safe there.

 

The last part made I-Chaya pause. Safe? The faint taste of cat slid over Spock's tongue. Their safety is of the utmost importance. Where has Kirk been taken?

 

Spock made Uhura check. He ignored both her and her nightingale's glare. He relayed the location to I-Chaya. Hayfever is also unconscious. I will bring her to him. He will not be truly safe unless they are both off the ship, the sehlat answered.

 

<('-')>

 

Kirk landed on an ice planet. Kirk was chased by a monster. Kirk was chased by a larger monster. “This is not your day, or mine,” Hayfever gasped while they slip-slided across a stretch of ice. It was a bad sign if your daemon could run longer and faster than you, Kirk thought, especially considering said daemon was much smaller.

 

They tried to lose the monster in a cave, but the cave was too big for that. The mass of red legs and gigantic jaw nearly succeeded in pouncing on Kirk when a streak of fire went with a whoosh over his head.

 

He was saved by a stranger with a burning stick, like a damsel in distress on a second-rate holo. Wonderful. The stranger turned around and intoned, “James T. Kirk,” as if he was handing out a medal to Kirk for failing to be monster chow.

 

“Yeah, that's me. Who are you?”

 

The Vulcan lowered the hood of his coat.

 

“I am Spock,” the grey-haired man said, and indeed, I-Chaya walked up right behind him. Hayfever made a whine.

 

“How can you be here?” she asked. “That's impossible.”

 

Spock answered the question. “Jim, you and I, we have done many impossible things over the course of our lives. We have been, and always shall be, friends.”

 

It was hard to argue with Spock, even a gray-haired one, when he had the correct daemon standing right beside him. Kirk remembered how they had theorised the Narada had travelled through time. It seemed the Romulan ship was not the only one. “How can you say you are my friend?” Kirk asked instead. “You threw me off the Enterprise just now, you know.”

 

Spock's eyebrows went up. “I committed mutiny?”

 

“No. I did, and the brig wasn't good enough for me. I got a whole planet for the duration of my punishment.” He rose with the help of Spock. Hayfever was sniffing I-Chaya, but backed away.

 

“You are not the same.” I-Chaya seemed disappointed at this, because he fell down in a huff in front of the fire.

 

To Kirk's shock, Spock lifted Hayfever by the scruff of his neck and started to stroke her, one arm below her in support. He could feel the warm hand all the way down his spine. He could feel a warm chest against the entire front of his body. When his eyes locked with Spock's, his eyes contained more soul than he'd ever seen in a Vulcan.

 

“No, we are not, Esperanza. When Nero travelled back in time, our realities split apart.”

 

Kirk perked up at this. “What do you know about Nero?” he demanded.

 

“He is a particularly troubled Romulan who was seeking to avenge the death of his planet and his wife. Come. I will show you. It will be easier.” He held up the hand that had been stroking Hayfever in a peculiar claw, and put it on Kirk's cheek and temple.

 

Memories flashed through his head, and showed how Spock had tried and failed to save Romulus. Nero blamed him, wanted to hurt him. He succeeded.

 

When Spock broke contact with Kirk, he felt tears stream down his face. He stumbled away so he could lean against a cave wall. “Oh...” was all he could say before he was squashed by a mountain of fur. I-Chaya was leaning against him. Kirk buried his face in the daemon. Somewhere, Spock had resumed stroking Hayfever. Kirk thought he could get used to the feeling of those warm hands all over him.

 

Friends, huh, he thought to himself.

 

Amusement filtered into his mind, foreign but friendly. Among other things.

 

<('-')>

 

They travelled to the outpost, Kirk and Spock wrapped in their coats, Hayfever buried as deeply into the long fur on I-Chaya's back as she could get. Spock filled Kirk's head with stories of his captaincy in the other universe.

 

They recruited Montgomery Scott, engineering genius and exiled to this outpost for experimenting on an admiral's beagle, to get Kirk back to the Enterprise.

 

“Pike made you captain, here,” Kirk said.

 

“Yes, but it is your destiny. You must convince him to step down.”

 

“How? Can't you convince him?”

 

Spock shook his head. “Under no circumstance should my counterpart find out I exist. Otherwise...” I-Chaya snapped his teeth in demonstration. “You alone can do this.”

 

“Over your dead body?”

 

“Preferably not.” Spock told him of regulation 619, which hadn't been taught in any of Kirk's command classes. It would be so easy to abuse. “You must show I am emotionally compromised.”

 

“How? You're a Vulcan! You don't do emotions.” Although the old man's dive into his head had come with a storm of grief so heavy Kirk had only once felt its equal.

 

“Jim. My planet is dead. I have just lost my mother. I promise you, I am emotionally compromised.”

 

“Ready? Time's a-wastin'!” Scott yelled from inside a half-dismantled shuttle. Jim looked at the door opening. He was supposed to make Spock, future friend-among-other-things, hurt so bad he broke his Vulcan control?

 

Well, he'd done worse things. He gave Spock a kiss on the cheek and ruffled through the hair on top of I-Chaya's head, and stepped onto the transporter, Hayfever under one arm.

 

4. The largest of the senses is touch.

 

Minutes and eternities later, Kirk was Captain and telling Spock to steal the ship from the future with red matter and go. Perhaps never to return.

 

“The chance of succes is-” Spock stopped speaking when Kirk grabbed him by the ears and kissed him on the lips.

 

“Spock. It'll work,” he told him, and was gone. Spock stumbled back until he was sitting in a chair, that started turning until he faced front.

 

Kirk's anxiety over him, surprising after he'd abandoned the man on T'Khut, had crashed through the three points of contact. His ears still felt warm.

 

And here was a ship from a future Vulcan Science Academy, which Kirk seemed to have been anticipating.

 

He was missing several key details in order construct a scenario that covered all the facts.

 

“Fascinating.”

 

<('-')>

 

Pike was rescued. Earth was saved. Nero was destroyed. The Enterprise would need to travel to Earth on impulse power.

 

After Kirk had given the order to Sulu, he gave Spock the bridge and left to receive medical attention. Spock settled back in his chair and let the last two days, seven hours, fifteen minutes and forty-nine seconds percolate through his head.

 

Below a film of rationality waited an ocean of grief. He would need to meditate extensively, but also find appropriate means of expressing his grief, because meditation would not be sufficient.

 

Of primary importance were the arrangements for the refugees from Vulcan present on the Enterprise. He spent two hours seeing to their need for sleep, food and silence. It would do.

 

The ship would need repairs, but Montgomery Scott had already informed them “not to worry laddies, that's what I do, and if ye try t'do it, ye'll be in me way. So shoo. Ye'll hear from me if I have need of ye.”

 

It would take several weeks to be within range of Earth. The transfer of wounded and supplies would not be a consideration for another 1.83 days, when a ship diverted from the primary fleet in the Laurentian system would be able to reach them.

 

More personal concerns slipped into Spock's mind while he sat on the bridge and looked unseeingly at the crack in the viewscreen.

 

Sarek had loved Amanda. He had shared the memory in a meld. It was strange to have a suspicion, always denied by his father and laughed off, if gently, by his mother, confirmed. It seemed a state of emotion was to be taken into account, not denied, in logic.

 

It offered... space. Space to grieve she who he had loved above all others, the mother who was supposed to be powerful and immortal and never, ever die. The mother his peers had insulted. The mother his elders had denigrated.

 

Space, also, to let this connection between him and this human grow. James Kirk. A man to whom Spock had opened up in their first conversation, when normally it took years. Who was, I-Chaya insisted, his other half.

 

You think too much. You need to stop, Spock, I can feel your exhaustion from the other side of the ship. I-Chaya.

 

What is your location? he asked, telling Sulu he had the bridge.

 

Sickbay, of course.

 

But Spock never did go down, because there was too much to be done.

<('-')>

 

When Kirk entered Sickbay, he had quite a few wounds from fighting, rolling down a cliff and two near-strangulations. McCoy had him on a biobed and strapped down so he “would make no fool escape-attempts while I finally give you the treatment you need, dammit. Why did you wait so long before coming to me? Who knows what sort of infections you picked up in the meantime, scampering over strange planets and ships.”

 

He continued his rant all the way through treating Kirk, punctuated by growls from I-Chaya, who had parked himself beside the bio-bed and bared his teeth every time Kirk so much as turned his head.

 

“Can't say much for the hobgoblin,” McCoy said, “but his daemon makes a good guard for you, kid. Stay still, or I'll tell him to lie on top of your chest until you've rested your damn-fool head.” I-Chaya signalled his agreement by shifting closer.

 

Kirk closed his eyes and focused on the peaceful darkness. He fell asleep. McCoy put the hypo with a sedative away with a smile.

 

The rest of the biobeds were also occupied. McCoy checked the status of each patient. Aside from Pike's hours of surgery, there were no serious wounds, mostly burns, broken bones and flesh wounds to be treated. Of the body at least. The wounded souls of these people were a different matter.

 

After checking each patient, he retreated to his office and started on a treatment plan for the hundreds of refugees that would need counselling in the upcoming weeks, unemotional pointy-ears or no. He did not hear Chapel sneak up behind him with his own hypo.

 

His world went black. She put him on the couch in the office and pulled a blanket over him.

 

<('-')>

 

Kirk found Hayfever where he had started his trip on the Enterprise, below a console in a part of engineering that was quiet because of the amount of delicate equipment. Engineers who came here knew how to respect the ship, and were respected for their skill. “Hey you.”

 

She let him pick her up. “They do not make a sound.”

 

“Who?” He relished the opportunity to speak to his daemon, so often absent, so he sat down and hugged her to him.

 

“The refugees. They don't scream. Don't even cry. I thought, after -” she shivered. “I thought screaming was the worst, but this absence of noise is just creepy. It's like they're all in denial.”

 

Kirk turned her over to scratch her belly. She put her claws into his sleeve so she could hold onto him. “I wouldn't be surprised if they are. Denial and shock are part of grief too, the quiet part.”

“He doesn't seem to care,” she whined.

Now, he didn't have to ask who. A barn cat, all messy fur and wary eyes, riding on top of a six-foot-long sehlat, had become a common sight, the first few days of their journey back home. “He's a Vulcan too, love, daemon or not. They handle their emotions differently.” Spock had not spoken to anyone, even Uhura, outside of the line of duty.

 

“It's not healthy.”

 

“I agree with you there.” And neither of them were slouches, and McCoy had practically ordered him to talk about this same issue with Spock, so Kirk stood, cat on one arm, straightened his gold shirt, freshly replicated, and went.

 

He acknowledged each salute and “Captain” with a nod, even when he grew tired of all the crewmen snapping to attention.

 

When they came to Spock's quarters, he buzzed the door. “Commander Spock, open up.” No reaction. “I know you're in there, you're off duty and supposed to be resting.” He waited five minutes. “Computer, locate Commander Spock.”

 

“That function has been disabled.”

 

“...alright. Locate any half-Vulcan life-signs on the ship.”

 

“That function has been disabled.”

 

Kirk cursed while the door opened. No Spock inside, but I-Chaya, sitting on his haunches. His tusks glowed in the half-light. “Uhm...” But Kirk went in, because passers-by were looking at him in askance.

 

Once he was inside, I-Chaya circled around him and prodded him in the back until he was sitting on the bed. “But – wait – what – where.” Every time he started to talk, a forehead pressed against his back.

 

I-Chaya pawed at his shoes until he asked, “You want me to take them off?” The daemon huffed, so Kirk deposited a silent Hayfever beside him. His socks were pawed at as well. One ripped on a claw. “Hold your horses.”

 

As soon as his feet were bare, I'Chaya put a warm paw over them, covering both. Lie down. The order echoed so strongly in Kirk's head, his muscles obeyed before he had time to think. I-Chaya climbed on top of him, most of his bulk on the open side of the bunk, so Kirk was trapped between the bulkhead and I-Chaya, one paw and his head on top of his chest. The tusk curled harmlessly away from where it lay on Kirk's midriff, although it would only take a turn of the sehlat's head to rip him open.

 

His unease was washed away when he realised he had an open connection to the sehlat, who had a continuous stream of safesafesafesafesafesafesafe running through his head. Two cat ears rose over the top of I-Chaya's head, and Kirk realised Hayfever had climbed on top of the sehlat.

 

After several minutes, the sehlat's mind became quiet in satisfaction. Safe. Oh that's nice, Kirk heard and he felt, together with the sehlat, how wonderful it felt to have an ear nibbled on. A wordless suggestion that Kirk work on the other ear made Kirk smile. He put his left hand on the sehlat's nearest ear and scratched it like he would Hayfever's head.

 

Affection.

 

Contentment.

 

Surcease from grief, finally, echoed between the three of them. Kirk's smile widened when he felt an echo of Hayfever's mothering instincts rise. It tasted of her nagging after Tarsus, when she'd talked him into eating every meal.

 

Not that this isn't good, Kirk thought eventually, taking care to continue his scratching, but what's with the cuddling?

 

I found myself in need of comfort. Spock is keeping himself busy in the lab.

 

Ah. I was looking for him. Kirk flattened his hand and stroked it over a brow, the length of the sehlat's noze, stroked his muzzle. After he'd explored the sehlat's face, he returned to scratching, this time in a spot he'd discovered just below the sehlat's right eye, while he worked his right hand free to start on the chin.

 

You are very good at this. The sehlat paused, then continued almost slyly, He will return here eventually. You can wait here, like this. He resettled so he was lying a little further onto Kirk's chest, his hind leg large and soft on Kirk's lower legs

 

Kirk laughed. “You'd like that, wouldn't you?”

 

Yes. A pause. Hayfever asks why I am acting like a Vulcan.

 

“Hm. We worried you weren't... coming to terms with what happened, if even just a little.”

 

I am not a human. I lick my wounds in private. It is natural for me to retreat in order to rest and dream of what has happened. Sehlats often hibernate during drought or after their mate dies. In difficult times.

 

“Sounds lonely.”

 

I do not experience it as such, although I crave the company of those close to me. Spock. Hayfever.

 

Kirk frowned. “Why? Not family?”

 

Sarek broke his parental bond with Spock when he left for Earth. He is his sire, but not his family. A little lower. Kirk moved his right hand a little lower, to scratch at I-Chaya's neck. Hayfever had moved on to massaging the back of the bigger daemon's head with her front paws. Hayfever and you are t'hy'la. You are family.

 

“What does that mean? We're like, brothers, friends?”

 

In part. More, too. Glee, unrelated to what either Hayfever or Kirk was doing, rose in I-Chaya, and the thought that whatever he was doing was appropriate.

 

“What are you doing?” Kirk asked when I-Chaya moved forward and started to lick his throat.

 

What is right. My family must smell like me.

 

“I'm not a cat! If you want to wash someone, go wash Hayfever.” Kirk stopped trying to push away the big head, and when he tried to grab the tongue, the only result was a wet hand. “I am NOT a cat!” he yelled.

 

She already smells like me and she has already marked me as well. A sehlat's glands for scent-marking are in their mouth. We lick what is ours. While a paw kept Kirk pinned, I-Chaya's head rose, inserted the tusk ever so carefully into Kirk's neckline, and ripped his shirt down the front. The newly exposed skin was also washed.

 

“Argh! Get off me.” Never mind that he'd fantasised about Spock doing this, this was just... yuck.

 

I-Chaya heard his stray thought, because he responded, Spock is not willing to mark you yet. He must be convinced.

 

Kirk heard the door hiss open and hid his face in I-Chaya's cheek , because whoever had entered was going to cause him major embarrassment before this was over. If it was McCoy, he'd remind him of this for the rest of his life. If it was Spock...

 

The lack of cackling identified the person as Spock.

 

5. Two souls joined together.

 

Several of the refugees were botanists. They had taken samples of Vulcan flora with them. It was crucial that they were cultivated. The Enterprise's journey home had created an opportunity for him to do so on board. Crew had moved plants from hydroponic garden C, so that it could be set to a desert climate.

 

Two dozen refugees aided in setting it up and maintaining it. More than was necessary, but less than were searching for a way to occupy themselves. Spock coordinated, when he was not busy with his duties to Starfleet.

 

He only retired to his quarters to sleep. He found that I-Chaya's wish for comfort stifled him. Spock could not accommodate him. From the occassional press against his neck, it seemed Kirk's daemon offered the necessary support.

 

Contact with other crew he had minimised. Too many had sought him out to offer unwanted sympathy. He did not wish for people to feel sorry, or to show it in frowns, even aborted attempts to put a hand on his shoulder. Nyota especially had been insistent in touching him. In this her upbringing overruled her xenocultural sensitivity, she spoke in touch even more than in the many languages she had mastered. It only felt invasive to him. In this, he was Vulcan.

 

He had succesfully restricted access to himself from the world until it did not threaten his shielding. It was tentative without the support of telepathic connections from his people. The betrothal link to T'Pring had been severed. His parents were gone from his mind, one by death, one by choice. The link to his clan mother was narrow from disuse. I-Chaya remained, but Spock's grief was echoed and strengthened if he opened up to his daemon.

 

So he had chosen to isolate himself in order to remain functional. It was a succesful strategy.

 

That was, until he felt a sensation of warmth all along his front. It broke his concentration, and he paused in snipping cuts from a plant. His hands trembled. It banished his task from his mind. He put down his tools. His neighbour, a middle-aged woman, stared at him while her hands continued her own work, inserting the cuts in tubes of water enriched with minerals and putting them on a tray.

 

Scratching around both his ears. I-Chaya. Someone was touching his daemon.

 

“I require meditation,” was all he said.

 

He paused to remove his gloves and clean his tools, putting each away separately, at a third of the speed he would normally have used because he felt a small hand roam over his face and it drove him to distraction.

 

It took eight minutes to return to his quarters, because he received requests to sign off on something, or to assist a cadet in a task they should have learned during the Academy. The last stretch of corridor to his quarters he crossed with uncommon haste.

 

What did I-Chaya's intend by distracting him so? Because this could not be done without the daemon's consent, certainly considering the fact that the taste of human male had filled his mouth for the last two minutes. The sehlat was licking someone.

 

His last three strides brought him through the doors and towards the bed, where I-Chaya obscured all but an arm and the mop of hair of who-ever lay on the bed. But since Hayfever was sat on the sehlat's back, the human could be no other than, “K-kirk?” he asked after several seconds.

 

The human dropped his flushed head back on the pillow. “Uh, hi Spock.”

 

Explain.” The order was directed at his own daemon as much as the other man. I-Chaya stopped all motion and put his head down on the human's chest, rolling his eyes up to look at Spock, so they increased in size.

 

Kirk's gaze was fixed on the ceiling. “I'm not sure if I can.”

 

I-Chaya, what is the meaning of this? Spock released his anger so it could lash at the daemon. He had broken so many rules he had to be severely unbalanced. This behaviour needed to be corrected immediately.

 

The sehlat closed his eyes and whimpered. It must be done. Earlier, comfort had trickled down their link, but it was gone now, only a sense of bleak determination remained. We suffer. He snuffled into the crook of Kirk's neck. He is t'hy'la. The sentences, short, almost childish, were inextricably linked as problem-solution in I-Chaya's mind, and he pushed them and that relationship between the thoughts into Spock's mind until Spock desisted in radiating disapproval at the daemon.

 

Spock collected himself mentally and surveyed the situation again, realising that to Kirk and Hayfever, he'd been staring at them angry and silent for a long time. Kirk's head had turned red now, and his one visible hand had been balled into a fist by his side. Tension radiated up the arm. Hayfever echoed it, sitting straight as an egyptian cat statue on I-Chaya's head, ears in his neck and tail swishing.

 

Spock locked his hands behind his back and shifted to stand at attention. “It is abnormal to touch another's daemon without permission.” Hayfever hissed, and Kirk hushed her.

 

Kirk finally made eye-contact with Spock, blue eyes glowing like a cat's, piercing gaze included. “Spock. Vulcan's gone, we fucking well have hundreds of refugees on board so traumatised I don't even know where to start with listing the ways this clusterfuck has messed them up and not a single one of them is even talking about it to the resident doctors. Including you. And when I'm trying to find you to ask why, I discover you've disabled the computer from locating you, that's how badly you've clammed up.” He pursed his mouth. “The only normal part of this is actually I-Chaya seeking comfort, you know.”

 

“Captain.” Spock paused to formulate the sentence in a way that Kirk would understand. “Touching in this manner is intimate. You are, as you would say, 'feeling me up'.” He looked at his hands, of which he'd lost control when the warmth of a body suddenly slithered all over him and his mouth was flooded with the taste of this man without his consent.

 

In his distraction, he did not notice Kirk pushing against I-Chaya, rolling from under him and standing. Only when he felt two hands on his upper arms did his attention return to the human, to a mind that could be sensed even when there was two layers of cloth between their skins. “I'd much rather feel you up for real,” Kirk said, and there was inappropriate amusement in his voice. Spock's head snapped up to glare at him but it did not daunt the human.

 

Kirk's strength was not sufficient to pull Spock forward when he didn't want to be moved, so instead Kirk moved one arm up around his neck and one down around stiff arms and straight back, standing on his toes. “Spock.” A hand slid into his hair. “C'mon, Spock.”

 

It was another attack of pity, like Nyota's, like the rest of the crew had perpetrated. He should put a stop to this. But when he gave his body the command to retreat, it did not, and his mind, alonealonealone, reached out to the human's mind when it brushed against his. Fingertips touched his scalp and a cheek touched his jaw. “This is not... I cannot... Vulcans do not.” His ability to articulate what he must say was impaired. He stopped his attempts to speak.

 

“Spock. Someone has to start,” was the last he heard before his mind snagged on Kirk's and they coalesced because two meld points had touched each other. Bones was telling me none of the Vulcans will accept counselling they all sit there stoically Jim what should we do? And I worry because I haven't seen you over the last few days when you're not playing superVulcan science officer at your station and I thought we had something going on here and aren't you feeling this this attraction. So I came to find you but I could not and then I came in here and your daemon kind of overwhelmed me because apparently you've been neglecting yourself and him and you're two sides of a soul you know so you must be feeling the same sadness as him so let me comfort you. The licking was kind of gross but it's good to touch someone and you are something special. Those warm hands when older you touched Hayfever felt so nice can we do that again. I don't know what to do I'm human you're Vulcan how do Vulcans grieve and how can you even begin to mourn the death of a planet?

 

Spock could not help but think that he did not know either he was all alonealonealone and it was all he could do to keep his attention on his job as science officer and first officer and I must liaise between Vulcans and crew am the only one with real experience in command. You are doing well as a Captain but even you are inexperienced and require advice Captain Pike never woke up after surgery and needed to go to Starfleet medical so I am the onlyonlyonly one left to help you. I cannot give in to this feeling must seek a distraction must control must keep away from invasions of feeling, pitypitypity from the humans. Can they not see I am Vulcan so alonealonealone in my mind they do not understand. It was all going so well found a nicenicenice future mate still immature but t'hy'la mother might like him. Mother is no longer immortal but deaddeaddead, howhowhow. Transporter could not beam her up and she and my planet and all those people are deaddeaddead. Howhowhow do I begin to cope. Must remain functional. Functional. Control. Control. Control.

 

Control shattered. Shields fractured into a thousand pieces.

 

In Spock's quarters a Vulcan soul tortured beyond endurance roared in anguish so that it was audible even in the corridors. Free from its chains, it let loose all the pain that had been circling inside, building on itself when it found no release, roaring out through Spock's mouth.

 

I-Chaya, feeling it all and unable to bear it, howled at the ceiling.

 

Hayfever, still on top of I-Chaya, felt the pain rush up from his paws and it unlocked all the memories she had been running from since Tarsus, roaming the continent and hiding from contact, even from her own human most of the time. She yowled.

 

Her pain doubled back on I-Chaya down the link with Spock through his connection with Kirk and washed around old memories of horror and new thoughts of grief and human Vulcan daemon hurt until they were one pain in two souls in four bodies.

 

Pain laid waste to the defences built around each beaten heart. Bare, they saw each other for who they were.

 

T'hy'la, a sehlat daemon thought.

 

Friends-among-other-things? a human asked.

 

Friends, brothers, a cat confirmed.

 

Lovers, soulmates, a Vulcan whispered.

 

A link formed, firmed. In the comforting presence of another soul, katra, pain ebbed until it was bearable.

 

A human hand was stroking a Vulcan ear. A sehlat had a purring cat caught between two paws, nosing around her belly. Kirk chuckled when goosebumps rose over his belly.

 

Spock relaxed and caught two hips in his hands, let himself lean against Kirk. Is this love? Spock asked himself, because he could feel none of the warmth that he'd always felt around his mother.

 

“No, it's a start,” Kirk said, when he heard him. Even when he retreated a little, the connection between their minds remained.

 

Spock felt Kirk poke his father's first lecture on how to meld with another mind and retrieved the human from his memories. Please do not invade my mind without permission.

 

That was your memory? I wondered why Mrs Abernathy suddenly had a bowl cut and robes. Kirk dribbled the impression of a lavender-scented be-spectacled female human telling him Vulcans are telepaths over his mental ear, followed by the feeling of a boy with a cap and freckles giving him a hesitant kiss on his cheek during lunch break. That was middle school, Kirk told him. Oh, I'd almost forgotten I was dating Gregory back then.

 

We must separate our minds.

 

Kirk was still holding him loosely, but he was not touching any skin. Shouldn't we be separated already? You're a touch telepath, right, don't you need to be doing the claw-thing on my face? An elderly Vulcan touching his cheek and temple flitted across his mind's eye.

 

Correct, Spock was confirming, when he saw the mental image and unconsciously tightened his hold on Kirk. Who touched your mind?

 

Kirk hesitated. Then, Wait, you saw him, right? Spock confirmed that. Then... uhm... the universe was sort of meant to explode right now. Spock told Kirk that puzzled him in the extreme. That was you. From the future. A different future.

 

The memory of a ship welcoming him as an ambassador crossed Spock's mind. I see.

 

Yeah. The memory of the elderly Vulcan returned, but now he was holding Hayfever, calling her Esperanza and stroking her. Stroking that Kirk felt and liked. Felt like he felt Spock's arms now and I-Chaya's paws gathering Hayfever even closer to his chest.

 

The sehlat was pushing the cat into the longer fur growing from his chest, where he would normally shelter his young, thinking mineminemine. Hayfever allowed it, which was kind of a miracle since she avoided even being seen, normally. Although, Kirk realised, she'd taken to touching the sehlat from the first, that time back in the transporter room.

 

Kirk opened his eyes when he felt Spock disappear. Huh? The daemons remained. When something tried to obscure their presence in Kirk's mind, he resisted. No!

 

Spock's eyes opened too, and let his arms fall from around Kirk. They were the same sort of brown as the old oak from the farm's front yard, Kirk realised. “We seemed to have formed a link between us. It is imperative to raise shields against unwanted contact between our minds.”

 

Kirk snorted. “You assume the contact is unwanted. I didn't hear anyone complain, you know.” He bit his lip in consideration. When Spock's eyes followed the movement, an idea started to form in his head. He needed to play to his strengths.

 

He let his own arms fall and stepped back, towards the bed. His shirt still hung open where I-Chaya had ripped it. He pulled it off. “I mean, your daemon jumping me was a bit much,” he said, but lowered his voice and kept his eyes on Spock, who was standing as rigidly to attention as when he'd entered the room, but with an entirely different look in his eyes, not angry, more... poleaxed.

 

“At the end of exhausting day, too,” Kirk said, and slumped back on rumpled sheets, one bare foot still on the ground, hands behind his head. Oh yeah, he crowed in his mind when Spock's eyes slid lower still.

 

He could use some reaffirmation of life after that rollercoaster of negativity. He backed up until he was fully on the bunk, stretching as if he really was tired. He closed his eyes and waited a few seconds in that darkness.

 

He almost thought he had miscalculated when he felt hesitant fingers whisper over his chest. “I can still taste you,” Spock whispered. “When I-Chaya...” Another stroke, this one over Kirk's throat.

 

He smiled. “I wished it was you, y'know.” He locked his hand around Spock's wrist. “Keep doing that.”

 

The mattress dipped beneath him when Spock kneeled next to him, hands on either side of Kirk's head. It stretched Kirk's arm above him, and Spock's eyes took in every muscle, zigzagging as if he was reading his favourite story. Kirk whoofed when Spock let his weight fall onto him.

 

“Careful.” He fit his hands around a narrow waist, rubbing until Spock relaxed and felt less like sharp angles poking him and more like a heavy blanket pinning him to the bed.

 

“I apologise,” Spock whispered, as if they were sharing a secret.

 

“'s alright.” Kirk touched Spock's lips lightly with his own and when no protest came, again, and again, until something between a rumble and a growl escaped Spock and he opened his lips, pressing his mouth more firmly to Kirk's grin. Even better, his mind opened again, and several stray thoughts on tasting Kirk filtered down their link.

 

“Go ahead,” Kirk whispered, and laughed all the way through Spock's carefully taking a lick of his cheek, nose, throat, as if he was taking a sample of each.

 

“You are not the subject of an experiment,” Spock said when he caught the thought.

 

Everything is an experiment to you,” Kirk responded, because he knew it to be true, he could read it in Spock's mind. These undercurrents he was catching to Spock's claim were, in a word, fascinating. Apparently, Vulcans could not lie, but be selective in sharing their observations.

 

Another rumble from Spock, another kiss, meant as a distraction, but distracting Spock from distracting Kirk until they were simply kissing, open-mouthed now and pressing their tongues together and Spock's warm hands on Kirk's back which were much, much better than the ghost of sensation he'd felt back in that cave and Spock was in his head and smug at that thought because releasing one's controls during sex was logical because it was with a mate and intimate and a way to let go and wow.

 

Kirk would love this Vulcan mind the same way he loved roller coasters, he realised. Way bigger than his own and billions of layers to every thought, all subtle nuance in a way Standard couldn't even begin to express. Kirk dived into the twenty kinds of delight Spock found in exploring his teeth and revelled in them, rolling them up and knotting them together until he felt a Vulcan plucking him from among them It will take too much time to separate them during meditation if you keep doing that and that wasn't good because that was time spent not kissing.

 

Kirk released Spock's mouth to breathe and laugh and feel silky hair beneath his fingers. He turned his head to the side. I-Chaya was lying on the floor, eyes closed, head on his paws. Hayfever was hidden in the hair at the front of his chest, her head resting on one of his paws, against his face.

 

Spock bit him in the earlobe. Forget about them, they are having their own conversation.

 

Yes, sir. He tilted his head when Spock trailed down the side of his neck and bit down. Marking me? he asked when Spock started to suck. That is not really below the neckline of my shirt.

 

We are not breaking regulations.

 

Fingers made trails of fire over the other side of his neck, up his cheek, until they rested in a familiar claw-hand against it. Spock stilled, nose still against his shoulder. I wish to meld us... connect our minds.

 

Aren't they already?

 

Not fully. This... what we formed is known as a betrothal link, formed by a healer or between very compatible minds. What I would do would connect us fully, irreversibly.

 

Longing slithered through Kirk's mind, wound up his lust until it was choked under a wave of need more fundamental, of a Vulcan mind that was used to more connections, used to centering itself on a collective subconscious barely noticable, but always, always present. It was lost and it needed an anchor and it had found one sososo beautiful, Jim, you don't even realise but you are.

 

Kirk felt a tear stream down his face, but tried to collect himself to ask what does it mean?

 

Instead of an answer, a memory rose in Spock's mind that he shared over the link. His father's memory was telling him how his father had explained all the logical reasons that his mother should come with him to another planet, that she was a beneficial presence in Sybok's life, that she helped him immeasurably in his career, that she had an excellent character, that she was an agreeable companion, that she had told him he was the same to her, that they held deep affection for each other. That she had waited for him to continue while he waited for her to answer, until she had finally told him that seven hundred years on Earth had meant she expected certain traditions to be upheld, like an offer of marriage when one wanted share one's life with another. He had declared koon-ut-so'lik while he stared over her shoulder and his ears turned green. She had laughed and kissed him on his chin until he turned dark eyes on her, quiet joy dancing in their depths.

 

Kirk thought about that for a few moments. Sometime during the memory share, I-Chaya and Hayfever's minds had come out of their own conversation and were focusing on them. Kirk imagined them sitting on a balcony, like a pair of old-man muppets. Hayfever meowed mournfully at him. He's always saying stuff like that, she said to I-Chaya, which was true, but they had mostly been sharing stuff like that before she'd run wild and he'd rebelled against his family, his schools, the world. She sent him a sense of encouragement.

 

Peace.

 

Someone to depend on.

 

It would settle them too. They fit in this respect as well. Puzzle pieces.

 

Yeah. A forgotten well of self, dammed off in self-protection, never opened, bubbled and broke and exploded into his mind. Yes. Something tasting like sweet surrender and a roar of triumph echoed in his mind. Yes!

 

Marry me? Or uh, koonertslick me?

 

Rather than answer, Spock joined their minds together.

 

<('-')>

 

Great bridges were built in months of complicated work and complicated plans and negotiations around material and lifting beams dozens of feet long that had to fit together to the millimeter. This was nothing like that and completely like that because they were the personalities of sentient creatures that had decades to grow into complicated crystals, a pair, because they were one soul in two halves, and where one crystal had a dent the other had a bump and this shouldn't have fitted as easily as that but it did. Some patches were already stuck together, but now Spock connected them across the entire surface, one molecule after another, until they were one rock made of two materials or one plant completely grown together with another.

 

But there was no negotiation, nothing lost, no effort in this because they were made to be like this and it was easier to connect than it was to stay separate after the work had started.

 

Somewhere out in the physical world, two daemons were glued to each other while two humanoid bodies crawled together until clothes had been discarded.

 

A hand pink and shining with sweat lay splayed against a green-flushed back that shifted on the tide of their first mating. Vulcan arms supported the human below, flushed head thrown back in surrender and blue eyes closed in elation. Teeth had bit back down in bruised skin and almost broken through it. Legs tangled together while hips shifted up and down, up and down, one pair of leggings still stuck around pale ankles and two bare human feet braced against boots that were still on.

 

In two hours, Kirk would wake up and laugh at the sight of a naked Spock in black boots, but for now he was not even aware a world existed outside of him-Spock/katra-daemon-soul-daemon. In eight hours, when he tried to make a Vulcan compound word out of that, Spock would tell him no more than three words could be combined in that way. Kirk would put the PADD down, walk to the bed, grab the pillow and beat Spock over the head with it before Spock would call him infantile and confiscate the pillow. They would drink tea together and talk about how they could finally begin helping the Vulcan people recover before they needed to start in recovering their society on a strange planet somewhere. They would.

 

For now, Kirk let out a quiet moan nothing like his usual stream of curses upon orgasm and Spock bit down on where his neck and shoulder joined, so that it did bleed and leave a scar because it was not treated in time with a dermal regenerator. Their bodies stopped dancing, shuddered and slumped together, while they fainted.

 

In a short healing trance, the bond would be finalised.

 

I-Chaya went to sleep content and showed Hayfever how they could dream together, so Hayfever could show him how to chase mice in Iowan corn fields.

 

<('-')>

 

In the end, neither Spock nor Kirk discovered how to reach out to the refugees.

 

It was Uhura, communication genius. Her nightingale sat quietly on her shoulder, testament to her great-grandmother's legacy, clanhead amongst the witches and worshipped as goddess. Uhura.

 

She worked quietly in sending the tens of thousands of names of family members of the refugees to Starfleet Command, so they could begin searching for them. Vulcans were no different than humans in wishing to check if their family had survived, and many did not have the mental strength to check for intact links amongst the wreckage of their mind.

 

She sent every name personally. More practical tasks, such as negotiating accomodations on Earth for them, she left to other communication officers.

 

While she worked, she hummed, and Etriquilan would sing a few notes in accompaniment sometimes. She noticed that Vulcans paused, just a second or two, in approaching or leaving her when she worked. After two days, she realised they were listening to her song.

 

So on the fourth day, when she finally had a moment to herself, she rang the buzzer to Spock's quarters. “You play a ka'athyra,” she said.

 

Kirk sat on Spock's bed like he belonged there, but she did not comment. Their daemons had been seen together a lot, after all, and Uhura could read signs, both subtle and not.

 

<('-')>

 

One of the first purposes ascribed to art is catharsis, the release of emotions through simulation. Music was the art that most easily translated across cultures, both on Earth and throughout the galaxy. Almost all sentient species had developed some form of it. Some communicated in it exclusively.

 

Spock and Uhura conversed in it often, when they needed to speak about emotions, because Spock could not put them into words and Uhura did not easily let anyone into her mind.

 

They entered the mess unannounced at a time that many Vulcans were eating there. Most paused to watch them settle in the middle, Spock kneeling to play, Uhura standing, feet planted on the deck at shoulder width.

 

She started on a long, high note, until all Vulcans had stopped eating to listen to her. Etriquilan harmonised. Spock started to pluck the strings.

 

Their performances lasted half an hour. There was no applause. Their only reward was a slight lessening of the lines around dark Vulcan eyes and, from a few that passed, the observation that “a repeat performance would not be unwelcome.”

 

They returned each day around the same time. Each day, the mess was slightly fuller.

 

Emotion shifted like a tectonic plate, but at the end some of the grief had been lifted, serenity in its place. The change amongst the Vulcans affected the crew, in that invisible ways atmosphere does, who became more upbeat, which influenced the Vulcans.

 

Spock and Kirk, one with more peace in his gestures and the other with more confidence in his smile, became a symbol of that new relationship.

 

They put in a joint request for a commendation for Uhura.

 

+1. The cadet refuses to believe in no-win scenarios, unlike Spock. Or like Spock.

 

“Spock, it'll work,” Kirk assured him before he left, against all reason, against all logic. Spock considered it for a fraction of a second before he remembered what his human mother told him once.

 

Spock, as long as you believe nothing is impossible, everything is possible.

 

He sat in the chair, in the ship from the future that did not exist any longer, which was owned by an ambassador with his name. Someone who was him. There were two of him in this universe now, another impossibility. Or improbability?

 

He turned the new idea over in his mind.

 

If their mission was only improbable, but feasible, that would make Kirk's statement logical, because he would do what he believed he must, and succeed, because the mission's apparent impossibility would not deter him.

 

“Fascinating.”

 

They saved Earth together.

 

<('-')>

 

He followed Kirk back onto the Enterprise months later, as his first officer, while he also went to the new colony to aid his people in their time of need.

 

Apparently, this universe needed two of him, and a second Spock had been provided. Improbable, but true.