"Personal Log, Stardate ... Computer, fill in stardate on logout.
"I still can't sleep. It's been ... two days. Um, two days, uh ... seven hours and, uh, some odd minutes...." Kirk snickers. "Spock wouldn't approve of my imprecision." He rubs his forehead. "Strike that. Irrelevant." He sits for a long time before he remembers to get up and move.
Just as he is wondering, yet again, when he'll get over his kidnapping, there is a buzz at the door. "Yes," he hisses, delighted that there's something to do. "Come!"
The door swishes open, and Kirk notices all its sounds. He shakes himself out, unable to force the experience out through his ears.
Kirk looks up. He knew it was Spock. He's always known. At least that's familiar. Maybe. "Spock?"
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Why do you ask?"
"Doctor McCoy suggested that you might be in need of ... conversation."
"And he sent you to get me?"
Kirk blinks. "He sent you to talk to me?"
Kirk forces himself to laugh. "You make it sound like a funeral! You don't have to converse with me, Spock." He wipes the laughter away. "Unless the Enterprise is at risk. What's going on?" This, he knows how to do. He can be encyclopaedic and detached. It'll—
"Nothing, Captain, other than the good Doctor's concern about your state of mind."
"And your own," says Kirk, knifing through the crestfallen feeling.
"And my own," says Spock.
Kirk can't help smiling. "Have a seat. Want some brandy?"
Spock cocks his head, hands behind his back. "Yes," he says, at last. "Thank you."
Kirk's smile won't disappear. "You don't have to, you know."
"I would like a brandy." Spock sounds like he's being mentally strangled.
Kirk shakes his head, rather than shaking with laughter, and turns to his cabinet. "One brandy, coming right up." He pours it, hands it to Spock, pours another for himself and doesn't move pointedly to his desk. Instead, he lifts his glass and looks Spock in the eye. "Cheers."
As expected, Spock hesitates. Unexpectedly, he touches his glass to Kirk's, their fingers brushing for a nanosecond. "Cheers."
The tingle persists in Kirk's fingers as they drink – just a sip each – and make eye contact. "What do you think we should talk about?" Kirk's voice sounds husky in his own ears, and for a moment, it feels as though he has a cavern echoing in his head.
"The fact that you have not slept for two days."
"Two days, seven hours and....?"
"Thirty-seven minutes and fifty-three seconds."
"Why so vague, Spock?"
Spock's eyes shift ever so slightly in what Kirk has come to recognise as a visual sigh.
"Sorry." Kirk feels the loss of something and realises that he needs to sit. "Every time I fall asleep I hear her."
"Yes." He can feel the pain reaching for infinity.
"From what vantage point?"
Kirk looks up from his desk. "Such a clinical question." He cuts himself off with a drink before he can complete out loud the thought: asked so gently. "What do you mean?"
"Do you hear her in her voice or yours?"
Kirk nods before realising that it could be taken as an answer, rather than the fact that he'd expected Spock's qualifier.
"I see," says Spock.
"You see what, exactly?"
"When Vulcans meld, we ... hear as ourselves and the being with whom we choose to meld."
Kirk focuses on his glass. "Does it go away when you're finished?"
Kirk looks up at Spock's murmur.
"When the meld is brief and does not recur."
"Are we bonded?"
"But you'd like us to be."
The horror present in Spock's slight tensing as he sips his brandy is palpable.
"You held my hand."
"I b—" Spock swallows. "I beg your pardon?"
"When I was in the brig – in Janice's body – you held my hand. I ... heard you. Felt you to the bone." Kirk takes a drink so he won't take Spock's hand. "And now I can't stop hearing Janice ... laughing at me." He downs the rest of his glass. "Telling me, 'I told you so!'" He pours himself another brandy.
"What, exactly, did Doctor Lester tell you?"
"That I—that you were in love with me."
"How did she convey it to you?"
"During the mind transfer. She, er, 'said' you'd always been in love with me. She said ... so many things. So much ... feeling. Turmoil. I couldn't get anything straight for ... I still can't grasp time."
Spock nods. "Sharing consciousness can be ... disturbing."
"We didn't share consciousness, Spock, she kidnapped me!"
There is a long, uncomfortable silence. It is not made any easier by the fact that Kirk can feel Spock's discomfort radiating at him – through him – even without looking up.
"I'm beginning to see why McCoy registered me unfit for duty for ... a week?"
Kirk soaks up Spock's calm delivery. This, too, is familiar. "I'm sorry I yelled at you."
"The cause was—"
"Sufficient. Yes, but it was hurtful."
Spock raises an eyebrow.
Kirk shakes his head. "I never say stuff like that. I'm talking like a woman."
"Not necessarily. Is there something wrong with being female?"
"No! Of course not! But I've always been male."
Kirk winces and pushes his drink away. "I thought when I switched back to this body that it would all be gone."
"I'm not just hearing Janice Lester, I'm thinking like her."
Spock's eyebrow climbs again. "I do not perceive that problem in you."
"Then maybe you need your perceptions checked."
"I do not believe that to be the case."
"Sorry, Spock. I was r—out of line."
Kirk huffs. "Thanks, though I probably don't deserve it." He shakes his head. "See? I'm thinking like her!"
"Captain, I feel it necessary to point out that even disregarding your errors concerning how she might think, Doctor Lester is insane. You are not."
"I'm beginning to wonder about that."
Kirk's eyes widen. Then he nods to himself. "This is something I should be discussing with McCoy. He can deal more easily with feelings."
"Jim, I have served aboard the Enterprise for fourteen years. I am accustomed to dealing with human feelings."
"Yes. Yes, you are." Kirk shakes off the wave of warmth that overwhelms him. "I just don't know if I'm accustomed to feeling things like this."
Spock draws back a little, folding his arms.
"So ... immediately. I ... can't shake it off like I normally do. It's...."
"There is research that shows that oestrogen can make emotion more accessible in those who take it, whereas testosterone tends to do the opposite."
Kirk waves a hand. "Not according to my friend George. When he started taking T, he said everything came into focus. Stuff he couldn't let himself feel before was suddenly at his fingertips." Kirk reaches again for his brandy and takes a swig, regretting the decision as he swallows it slowly. "Smoooth...."
"Are you reconsidering your gender?"
Kirk chokes on the brandy fumes. "No!" Maybe.
"It is permissible, under Article—"
"I know, Spock!" Kirk coughs some more, largely to delay having to talk about it. This is also familiar, though without the coughing. Male, male, male. I'm—
"I would give my highest recommendation to Starfleet that you retain your captaincy."
"Thank you, Spock, I—"
"So would Doctor McCoy."
"Um, yes, I—"
"So would Lieutenant-Commander Scott, Doctor M'Benga, Lieutenants Uhura and Sulu, Ensign Chekov—"
"Thank you, Mister Spock! It's good to know I have so many worthy recommendations from which to choose, should I require sex reassignment." Kirk sighs as something clears. "I'm male, Spock. I've always been male. Even while I was in Janice's body.
"And how did that even happen? We didn't exchange brains, so how the hell did my conscience migrate to her body? And why am I having these feelings for—that I can't control when my actual brain wasn't bathed in strange hormones? Can you tell me that, Science Officer?" It is only as he finishes that Kirk realises he's gesticulating from the other side of the room.
"Fat lot of help that is," Kirk mutters.
"I regret that I cannot provide you with the information you seek. The technology has yet to be studied, and there is nothing in the current state of Federation science that can explain what happened to you."
"I know, Spock. I'm sorry. I just ... hate not knowing what's going on in here." Kirk pokes at his skull.
Spock nods. "I, too, have experienced such disconnection."
"On Deneva. And with Kollos. And during Pon Farr?"
"Very much so."
Without thinking, Kirk squeezes Spock's shoulder. As he passes behind, the smallest patch of his finger drifts across the smallest patch of skin on Spock's neck.
The result is electric, and Kirk finds himself across the room again. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to—"
Spock is out of his chair, backed up against Kirk's desk, the chair tipped over onto the floor. "How long have you felt this way?"
"I should be asking you that question."
There is a standoff that lasts for aeons. They stare at each other. It is hot and horrible.
"Doctor Lester was correct," Spock says, at last.
Kirk nods, too discombobulated to do anything else. "I ... never let myself pursue anything I felt for you." He swallows. "Would you prefer it if I were female?"
Spock shakes his head. "I always assumed that you had no interest in males."
"Never assume. It makes an ass out of you and me." Kirk swallows, only then realising that his hands are behind him, all but clutching at the wall.
"Assonance as axiom? Trite, but effective." Spock straightens, his upper body edging towards Kirk. "Why did you not allow yourself to explore your interest in me?"
Kirk unlocks a hand from a section of wall. "I thought you were asexual."
Spock looks stonily at him.
"And then I thought you were heterosexual."
Spock lifts an eyebrow.
"And then, after our first meld, I read the regulations on fraternising every night for a year." Kirk's other hand slips off the corner it had been pretending to grasp and he has to straighten up. He tugs his shirt hem down. "It didn't help as much as it should."
"You, too, huh?"
"I recite it during every meditation."
Kirk very narrowly avoids saying, 'Well that explains a lot.'
The look on Spock's face tells Kirk that he has failed to keep the quip to himself.
Kirk relaxes a little, but then the cloud of doubt passes over him. "Spock ... why did you hold my hand?"
"Because everyone in your immediate vicinity was larger and more physically fit than Doctor Lester's body and I did not wish to lose you."
"Would you have expressed your interest in me if I had remained in that body?"
"I believe I did."
Kirk laughs. He's not sure if he stepped towards Spock or Spock came to him, but they're face to face and he's searching Spock's eyes. "I'm not sure I'll ever be quite as fully male as I thought I was again. Can you deal with that?"
"I believe that I have already answered that." Spock holds out his right hand, palm up.
Kirk contemplates the gesture. He could grasp it in his right hand for a handshake – much more than a colleague, definitely an equal, but not a lover. He could take it with his left – close friend, very possibly a lover, not as equal. He could curl his right hand around it, pulling Spock close for a warrior-brother embrace, but that would separate them by sinew and bones.
In the end, he takes Spock's hand between his own, caressing it as he would the man who owns it.
Kirk dissolves inside and comes to himself when he feels Spock's left hand wrap around his right.