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Of Sentinels and Anchors

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He is four years old, only barely cognizant of the solemn ceremony he has been made to attend. He is the tiniest soldier in a sea of black, his pale clammy hands bunched in dark silky fabric at his mother’s hip. There is a shaking hand upon him – sometimes smoothing his already immaculate hair, sometimes rubbing his back, sometimes merely holding him close.

His mind blindly seeks out hers for guidance, for explanation, but they are separated by layers of fabric between them and she seems unwilling to take his hand in hers. So he picks up threads of thought, of feeling from everyone around him. There are the sympathetic minds, the ones that whisper what a tragedy and his poor widow. There are the political minds, already leaping to the next step in the plan: T’Pau may offer to take his place and if Vulcan is to remain in the Federation… There are colder, more brittle thoughts surrounding the room, frozen minds locked in immobile faces so similar to his father’s. They project little, but he gets a vague sense of terrible justice from them, the idea that what has transpired is some kind of divine retribution.

He does not understand this strange human custom, but he does not know enough of his dual heritage to be able to correct it. He has another vague, frustrating sense of wrongness, that his father retains something within him that should be with his people, something they have refused to take. A foreign language ghosts over his mind, offers him answers like katra and Seleya – words that a deeper part of him knows, but that he cannot translate into any kind of meaning.

He is four years old. His father is dead, his father’s people glad to be rid of the traitor. He has only his mother and his mind, and both seem liable to break.

 

*******

 

He is six years old and he already has the look of this office memorized, he has been here so often.

He was placed into public schooling a year ago. Earth is slowly turning into a melting pot of alien cultures as well as human ones, and he is not the only alien child present; there is a Betazoid in another class and a tiny Andorian girl in his own. The instructors spent the first full week talking about the differences between humans and aliens and how their peaceful interactions have brought about the United Federation of Planets. Throughout the year there were lessons and worksheets and simplified data PADDs all pertaining to the coexistence of different species. He could sense the instructor’s earnestness, her firm belief in diversity and diplomacy.

He could sense the fear and the hate in his fellow students. He does not have to reach out with his mind here, because the thoughts flow into him unbidden: half breed and elf ears and what went wrong with his eyebrows? They do not understand him, and in their ignorance they default to tormenting him.

The first time he was taken to the headmaster for fighting, his mother was his fiercest defender, stroking the bandage placed where another student had attempted to remove the point of his ear. That child had been taken to the nearest hospital with several broken bones and a concussion.

When he is suspended from school for three days, he sees it as a retreat.

Only a year later, he has the headmaster’s office memorized. He knows the heavy footsteps, the knowing sigh of defeat, the look of resigned despair.

His mother no longer stands and shouts and defends him. She sits quietly, offers soft responses about the loss of his father and her inability to teach him about half of himself. The headmaster starts to develop a mantra of sorts in response to her, a long litany of phrases such as troubled and imbalanced and specialists.

He is six years old. He has several three-day retreats that year. The shadows grow under his mother’s eyes, and his mind feels as cramped in his skull as his feet do in his rapidly shrinking shoes.

 

*******

 

He is ten years old, and his mind feels stretched paper thin over a rapidly deteriorating frame.

Acquiring knowledge comes as easily to him as breathing. He has skipped several years of his schooling, in part because he has blown everyone away with his academic prowess and in part to remove him from the presence of his tormentors from year to year. He tears through books like he tears through meals, and every week there is a pile of several dozen data PADDs transferred back and forth from the school library.

These days his peers are anywhere from two to five years older than he is, and still they torment him. He is young, small, skinny, and brilliant, and his superior mind makes them uneasy.

He longs for the days when he had to reach out to hear another’s thoughts. He longs for the days when they bled into him at random. They are a constant screaming presence at the back of his skull now. He hears everything, not only their disdain for him but their disdain for one another, the unrequited crushes, the hatred of a rival, the apathy towards their instructors and their lessons. The pervading migraines from their insistent, battering thoughts have earned him his first round of medication: a small cerulean pill that lessens the pain, though it does nothing to shield his mind from theirs.

In between piles of homework (much of which he brings upon himself, because how can he be expected to write two pages about Klingon war strategy when even twenty pages would barely begin to cover their ruthless kind of genius on the battlefield?), he tries to talk to his mother. The shadows around her eyes are omnipresent now, her dark hair going silver at the temples. She still favors the long, heavy robes of her married life in the privacy of their home, and something about the roughness of the fabric makes him feel … calm, almost. Settled. Like his skin can stop crawling for a moment.

“Mother, is there a reason why some individuals can sense the thoughts of another and some cannot?” This has become the prevailing mystery of his existence. He cannot imagine why his peers would torture him if they knew his dearest wish was simply to be left alone. He does not want their friendship as they seem to sneeringly believe; he wants their silence.

“Oh, baby,” she murmurs, and he allows this. It is embarrassing, to be sure, but it is the only endearment he has, the only sweetness he ever hears from another, and he cannot bring himself to put a stop to it. “I’m so sorry you have to hear them all the time.”

“That does not answer the question.” But he doesn’t say it condescendingly, as if she were one of his fellow students. He reaches out a hand to her, needing the contact, needing her as an anchor.

He feels the sadness wash over him the moment her hand curls around his own, feels the loss and the loneliness. But he feels stability, too, likens her mind to his own sense of home, and he drinks in her love like he can’t ever get enough.

He can’t. He knows.

She sighs, and he almost hears the faint vibration of her thoughts as she tries to collect them. He sits patiently, waiting for her to speak. It does not occur to him that he could simply push forward and take those thoughts as his own. He knows he has the capability. He also knows he would never, never do that to her. “Your father could do it, too. He could reach out, like this,” she squeezes his hand gently, “and know what a person was thinking.”

“But he had to have contact to accomplish this?” he tries to clarify.

“With his own people he did. Vulcans are touch-telepaths. They’re usually trained to block their own thoughts from a very young age. They don’t … bleed thoughts everywhere,” she explains carefully, using the vocabulary he himself employs when he tries to explain why he’s in so much pain. “So because they keep those thoughts under lock and key, they have to touch each other to read them.”

He weighs his next question carefully. It is a careful, delicate kind of dance to get his mother to discuss his father. She still hurts too much. “Did he try to read yours?”

The shadows under her eyes shift momentarily, and for an instant he can see her perhaps as his father did: young, inquisitive, sweet. “He didn’t have to try. I think I used to bleed everywhere, too.”

He raises an eyebrow at her, tilting his head to the side. “I do not sense your thoughts as I sense others’. How have you managed to control them?” He knows of no other human who doesn’t encroach on his mind.

“Vulcans practice a form of meditation that allows them to center themselves.” She is falling into what Spock thinks of as her teacher mode, dark eyes brightening with the joy of imparting knowledge to others. “When we were first married, he used to bring me to his meditation room so he could show me how to do it. It’s calming for Vulcans. It’s … well, it stops humans from projecting their thoughts all over the place when they’re living with Vulcans. Apparently my brain was bothering them.”

He has to smile at the idea of his mother bothering anyone, much less the stoic, seemingly emotionless race his father came from. “Could you show me?”

She considers it for a moment, nodding slowly and reaching her other hand across the small table. He lets go of his work to tangle his fingers in hers, watching her curiously. “This won’t work if you’re watching me,” she informs him. “You’ll be too distracted. Close your eyes.”

He does as he’s told, falling into the insistent buzzing blackness of his mind. He startles a bit when he feels another sensation of skin on skin, realizes his mother has pressed her forehead to his, and he recovers from the brief surprise with another smile. “Stop thinking about your work,” she murmurs, and he wonders how she could possibly know about the essay he’s still crafting in a corner of his mind. “Stop thinking about the people at school.” And that seems an utter impossibility, but he tries to consciously block their faces from his consciousness. “Imagine a calm, quiet place.”

He himself is conjuring the image of the battered, secondhand sofa in their living room. It is a badly mangled thing of dubious origins, but the fabric is soft and the cushioning perfect, and he remembers falling asleep on it in the middle of many animated cinemas when he was a child.

But the image is unstable in his mind, the loud clashing greens of it fading to sharp, rustic reds and browns. The almost chilly temperature of their home gives way to a pervading heat that seeps into him and warms him to the bone. He tastes dust in his mouth and a light breeze against his skin, feels surrounded and claimed by a yellow sky and a rocky desert.

He realizes that this is his mother’s idea of a meditative place, realizes this place must have belonged to his father, realizes he can just make out the image of a tall, broad, imposing figure in familiar rough-hewn robes before it all fades, and he’s back to the insistent buzzing in his brain.

He opens his eyes and realizes his mother is watching him. The shadows have returned, but there is warmth in her gaze and some of the severe lines around her mouth have eased into a small smile.

He is ten years old, and the only sweetness and stability he has is the woman across the table and the desert in her mind.

 

*******

 

He is thirteen years old, and he has never been so humiliated in his entire life.

He is well aware of human physiology by now, as it constitutes half of his genetic makeup and as a hybrid, the responsibility of keeping tabs on his body is his and his alone. He has retained little of his human heritage in his construction, but he knows he has functioning tear ducts (not that he will ever inform anyone, even his mother, of the fact) and a useless organ he comes to learn is called an appendix.

And he has a human reproductive system.

There is almost nothing on Vulcan physiology in all the libraries he’s ever been to, but he’s found some information on basic anatomy – enough to know he does not share some of that basic anatomy. The Vulcan reproductive system is almost entirely internal, the males of the species possessing a retractable penis that extends during the mating cycle – and further research on what is meant by ‘the mating cycle’ produces nothing, and after weeks of trying to puzzle it out he finally decides it shouldn’t affect him anyway since his reproductive system is clearly that of a human’s.

He has never found himself even remotely sexually interested in another person. His peers have been a collection of inferior minds with superior affinities for cruelty, and he can feel nothing for them past a sense of faint disdain. But there is a girl, an excruciatingly shy human female, who doesn’t tease and jeer him as the others do, who occasionally sits with him in the library and studies quietly at his table. She does not speak to him – she speaks to no one, much like himself – but he catches little snippets of her thoughts from time to time, when they manage to break through the constant barrage of them from every sentient being in his presence. She is … not pleasing, exactly, as he cannot attribute the term to anyone but his mother. But she is inoffensive, and he allows himself a modicum of comfort in her willingness to associate with him.

He is standing in front of his small storage unit, trading out a set of data PADDs and gathering the research materials he will need for his next class when he feels a light tap on his shoulder. The girl is here, having somehow tracked down his whereabouts between classes. She has a gingery tone to her hair, a color his mother refers to as strawberry blonde though her hair is neither red like a strawberry nor truly blonde, but he dismisses this as another example of human logic he will never wrap his mind around. There’s a smattering of freckles across her nose fast fading into a blush, and her bright green eyes look at him almost fearfully. He cannot fathom her thoughts at the moment; they’re too jumbled up in the collection of them constantly waging war on him.

Then her hand is on his cheek and her lips are on his. It is a sweet gesture, if a short one, not insistent, not even all that physically intrusive. It is over in the matter of a second.

And in that second, something in his mind breaks.

He hears the sound of screaming, has the distant knowledge that it’s mostly him but also the girl who just kissed him. They’ve collapsed in a heap in the hallway, Spock clutching at his temple in agony as feelings and thoughts and sensations rip through him like a Klingon bat’leth. It is as though a mental block he was never aware of before now has splintered, shattered, showering him in a thousand shards of sensation and feeling and thought and dear god, how will he ever survive this kind of pain?

did the pointy eared bastard just faint from a kiss what the hell’s the matter with him oh look it’s the daily freak show she finally managed to man up and touch him and look what he does he must be a fag on top of a freak can you imagine if she’d tried to fuck him who’d want to anyway he’s nothing like us bet he can’t even get it up with his fucked up genetics kinda hope he dies we’ll finally get the grade curve straightened out around here oh shit here comes his mommy-

Amanda teaches ancient literature here although Spock isn’t allowed in her class. She’s tearing through the crowd of gathering students, all of them watching with a detached or even gleeful kind of interest, throwing herself into the pile of writhing, agonized teenagers on the floor. “For God’s sake, someone alert the medic!” she screams at the bystanders, wrapping her arms around the girl and pulling her to a seated position. “Melody.” Of course his mother knows the girl’s name. “Melody, look at me. You’re not touching him anymore. You shouldn’t be hearing him anymore.” There’s sobbing, and he can’t pick through the pain well enough to decide which female it’s coming from. Perhaps it’s both. “Melody, sweetheart, you have to calm down.”

Footsteps then, and distant shouting. His brain is still overloaded with the thoughts of spiteful classmates and curious or disgusted instructors. He can’t distinguish any of it, can’t even reach out and separate his mother’s thoughts from the crowd because she’s in too much of a panic to anchor him. But there’s the sensation of a figure next to him, a voice he knows. “Spock? Baby, you have to stop screaming, we have to-“

He does it without thinking, does it as an instinct for self-preservation. He knows next to nothing about his telepathy, knows only that she can usually calm it somehow, can sometimes introduce that desert to his brain and keep him stable. He needs that, needs a reprieve from the throb and crush of humanity in his skull, and he reaches out to touch three shining spots on his mother’s temple.

He is swept away in a maelstrom, in an ionic storm, in a supernova expanding so fast that he knows he won’t survive it, knows he’ll drag his mother right down with him. It starts in the desert, starts with two familiar sentinels guarding the only calm, silent place he’s ever known. And then they’re gone, the ground crumbling underneath their feet, and they’ve fallen into a black hole far below the surface. His blood is boiling, his skin is on fire, and he is pounding the ground relentlessly in an effort to get them back. But it isn’t the ground at all – it’s that quiet, gingery girl whose freckles are pouring off her skin in a river of red human blood, brain matter oozing out her ears as he mercilessly plunders her mind, her life force gushing over his thighs as he thrusts into her relentlessly, the terror in her green eyes doing nothing to sate the pure, animalistic lust that has taken over his body, his mind, his being. He is killing her and he doesn’t care, he has to do this, it is imperative to mate with her, and her body shudders, dies, cools, becomes rigid and unmoving underneath him, and still he doesn’t care, he is ruled by his inhuman genetics and his human anatomy, and still the screaming never stops-

Blackness. Sweet, blessed blackness, and he is floating in space for hours before consciousness returns to him.

His mother is there, pale and shaking and petrified, smelling faintly of vomit. He moves to touch her, reassure her in some way, only to find that he has been restrained to a biobed. His head feels hazy, obscured, as if someone has removed his brain and replaced it with cotton. For the first time in his entire life, he hears nothing in his head.

The silence is more terrifying than he would have imagined.

The world is stained in shades of white around him, sheets pulled up around his waist for modesty rather than for warmth, and a tremor spreads over him. He can’t distinguish whether it’s from cold or fear.

The movement startles his mother and she reaches out to him. He closes his eyes and awaits the familiarity, the comfort of her, when he hears the sound of human flesh on flesh. “Don’t. We don’t know if he’s stable yet.”

He waits for his mother to fight the individual like she always does, waits for her quiet but firm defense. It doesn’t come. He opens his eyes, sees the series of bags around his head, the series of tubes pushed into his veins. “Mother?” he croaks, and his voice sounds like another person, like a dead man.

Like a monster.

Strange hands on him then, and though he flinches out of habit he realizes he hears nothing. He can’t even hear his own thoughts, whatever those may be. There’s murmuring, some kind of affirmation, and finally his mother’s fingers are in his hair, caressing his ears, framing his face. “I thought you were dying,” she whispers. There’s something else in her voice, fear or disgust, something that taints the worry. He doesn’t have to read anyone’s thoughts to know the taint is his doing.

“How much did you see?” he rasps.

“Until you were sedated,” she returns. She is nothing if not honest with him.

“I’m sorry.” And god, he sounds like he’s four all over again, stuck in that room with those strangers and his father in a casket and knowing something’s wrong that he cannot fix.

But he isn’t four. He is thirteen years old, and he has destroyed the only safe place he’s ever known.

 

*******

 

He is seventeen years old, and his life is no longer his own.

His mornings are ruled now by a series of hyposprays and medication, a ten minute ritual of sharp stings in the side of his neck and the horrible aftertaste of bile he gets after swallowing the half dozen pills he has to take to remain stable. In its own twisted way, though, it’s helped him get into the militarized routine he must follow in order to fit in here.

Starfleet contacted him shortly after he earned his diploma, the remainder of his schooling years spent as a self-taught hermit in his mother’s home. He couldn’t return to the site of his telepathic breakdown, and no other school wanted to admit an unstable mind reader who could go off the bend at the slightest touch. His mother even went so far as to contact Sarek’s family to beg for help, but the Vulcans wanted nothing to do with the half-blood abomination. So he spent two years hiding in his room, riding out the side effects of his medication and fighting his way back to academic brilliance. It’s harder now, with the far-reaching tendrils of his mind forced into chemical submission; he can barely sort through his own thoughts, they’re so muffled. But for two years he battles his way back to some semblance of normalcy – or what passes for normalcy when you’re a half Vulcan hybrid with no sense of control – and when Starfleet saw his academic record they enlisted him immediately.

There are rules, of course. He is not allowed a roommate, for which he is grateful. The morning ritual works to prevent him from telepathically assaulting complete strangers, but he never knows if another mental control will break. He has to check in with a medic once a week to ensure he is taking those medications. He has a case worker assigned to him who checks up on his living conditions randomly to ensure he isn’t starving himself, tearing his quarters apart, or having wild telepathic sex to sate his chemically controlled needs. He’s not quite sure how the case worker keeps tabs on that last requirement. Possibly she searches his room for condoms or tinfoil hats.

And here is something else he’s realized about himself after a few weeks of being here: he’s bitter. He knows his potential, knows his strengths. He knows he is intelligent enough to blow ninety percent of this school away – but the pills and the hyposprays keep him fuzzy enough to stay at a maddeningly mediocre level. He doesn’t speed through his courses the way he did as a child. He can’t inhale information like he used to. He is dizzy all the time, feels lost more often than he’d like, and so much of his mental capacity is suppressed that sometimes it’s a hard-fought battle just to remember to brush his teeth before he goes to bed. He should not require an army of Starfleet staff checking up on him like an errant child, but he does.

He is better than this, but he cannot let the better part of himself free.

So he throws the mediocre part of himself into Starfleet’s bureaucratic hands. They mold him to their specifications, encourage him to follow both the command and science tracks, though he can’t imagine they actually want the resident freak show in command of anything more sophisticated than an outhouse. He halfheartedly follows the command track and throws himself headfirst into the science track, and he carves out a path of acceptance amongst the staff of Starfleet if not amongst its students.

Here, too, he is not the only alien present. There is an Orion girl in the engineering track who constantly gets in trouble for hacking the system and making it hiccup in various entertaining (to her, at least) ways. There is a collection of Betazoids who keep to themselves and give him sympathetic looks whenever he enters the mess hall. He hears rumors of a young Klingon cadet trying to overcome human prejudices, but he’s never actually met him. There is even a pair of Vulcans here, full blooded and imposing.

They do not so much as glance at him. Even here, he is an abomination.

But there’s a young Kenyan woman in communications who seems to take a liking to him. He almost ruins the tentative friendship when Nyota tries to speak to him in Vulcan and he can only snort in disdain at her. He later stumbles over his explanation that he doesn’t know the language, and the snort was in no way intended to be a slight upon her accent. She teaches him a few phrases in Vulcan, and a part of his soul seems to shift back into position after seventeen years of being out of place. In return, he helps her pass her history courses, and they settle into a strange kind of friendship. She gives him an accusing glare whenever he flinches away from her touch, but she learns in time that it’s just part of who he is, and as much as he would like to touch her shoulder or brush back her hair or even indulge in a human sense of comfort by embracing her, he can’t.

It makes it difficult to help her when she’s raging at him after a bad day, though. Her human friends squeeze her hands or give her a quick, affectionate hug around the shoulders, whereas he can only sit and listen. There’s a new cadet working through their program, a brash and cocky young man he knows to be the son of the famous George Kirk. His son is nothing like him from what he has heard, and Nyota is furious at him for starting yet another fight in the chemistry lab. This appears to be his modus operandi, the brawling and the drinking and the flirting. Nyota can’t stand him, and though the chemicals keep a tight leash on both his mind and his emotions, he decides he can’t stand him either, if only to create a united front with the only friend he’s ever been able to make.

He meets James Kirk for the first time on Starfleet grounds. He is walking Nyota to her choral practice when a grinning young man with piercing blue eyes approaches from the opposite direction. “Uhura!” he shouts with an air of genial familiarity he knows she does not share. “Y’ever gonna give me that first name?”

“Are you ever going to stop badgering Jason into breaking laboratory equipment with you?”

“What, Cupcake?” Spock blinks at the nickname. “Can’t help it if I like beating the snot out of him.”

“Big words from someone who had to have Captain Pike rescue him the first time you picked a fight. And the second. And the third.” Nyota snarls, gesturing towards Spock. “C’mon, let’s get out of here.”

As they pass the arrogant young man, Spock notices a shift in his stance. He’s suppressing so much of himself that he’s never sure afterward how he managed it, but two seconds later he has Kirk’s wrist in his grip, a bare inch from where he was trying to cop a feel of her backside. He feels bones shifting in his hand, scraping against each other unpleasantly, and those piercing blue eyes meet his in complete shock.

It’s the first time he’s touched someone other than his mother in years, the first time he’s allowed himself skin to skin contact with someone he isn’t related to. The fog in his mind clears for one brilliant moment, his anger and displeasure shining through the haze with crystal clarity. “You will refrain from touching unless given an invitation,” he rumbles, his voice a low purr.

“Who died and made you admiral?” is the cocky response, followed instantly by a wince when Spock increases the pressure on his wrist. “Okay, okay, damn. No more touching. Now piss off.”

Spock releases him, the fog in his mind returning the instant he no longer has contact with the other man’s skin. Kirk rubs at the bruises forming on his wrist, looking up at Spock with something resembling respect.

Spock says nothing, turning on his heel and marching towards the theater, Nyota almost scrambling to keep up with him. She waits until they’re well out of Kirk’s earshot before speaking. “What the hell was that?”

He raises an eyebrow as though unsure of her meaning.

She isn’t buying it. “Don’t give me your innocent act, Spock. It doesn’t work on me. You never touch anyone – what possessed you to break his wrist?”

“He is relatively unharmed aside from the bruising. I did no lasting damage to him.” At Nyota’s glare, he continues. “He intended to touch you in an inappropriate manner. I chose to stop him.”

“Well next time, don’t. I’d much rather have the satisfaction of kicking him in the balls myself.”

His face eases into a reasonable facsimile of a smile. “Noted.”

He is seventeen, and though he does not have the control over his life that he might wish to, it is at least less miserable than it once was.

 

*******

 

He is twenty years old, and his life has clearly gone to hell.

In his final year at the Academy, Captain Christopher Pike takes him under his wing. He has long since given up on the command track but Pike seems to see something in him that Spock is blind to. And though he doubts his ability to lead – hell, doubts his ability to get himself out of bed and properly medicated some mornings – it feels good to have a distinguished captain interested in him, so he concedes to be molded further.

A distress call from Vulcan sends them on their first tour of duty. He is assigned to the USS Enterprise along with Nyota and, distressingly, Kirk. Somehow in the chaos he is advanced to acting Captain when Pike leaves the ship, and Kirk is advanced to his First Officer. They watch together as Vulcan implodes on their viewscreen, and Spock wants to gag at the irony of Kirk with tears in his eyes at the sight. He should feel something about this turn of events, should feel a loss or a pain of some sort. He feels nothing.

He feels nothing.

And he continues to feel nothing for three solid days. Forty-eight hours into the fray he finds himself the target of Kirk’s rage, finds himself unable to think not because of the haze clouding his brain but because of Kirk’s insistent shouting. He tries to piece together a plan to deal with the insanity of the Romulan captain, tries to conceive of some kind of strategy he can pull together with what remains of the fleet. His mind is clear but his thoughts are everywhere, the yelling and raging driving him to distraction. He finds himself ordering Kirk to be removed from the bridge, finds himself watching with a kind of faint glee as the escape pod plummets to Delta Vega.

Finds himself face to face with their new CMO, who quietly but furiously informs him that he has skipped his first round of medication since being forced on them seven years ago.

He hastily gives the conn to the pilot, retreating to his quarters with undignified speed, tossing pills down his throat so quickly that he doesn’t have the opportunity to experience the vile aftertaste before he’s injecting himself with a dozen different hyposprays. He still feels nothing, but now it’s a foggy kind of nothing, free of the clarity he experienced on the bridge before removing Kirk so unceremoniously from it.

He sits on the edge of his bed, trying in vain to make his brain work the way it should. It hasn’t, not for the past seven years at least if not his entire life, and though he knows he is better than this, knows the capability to think through this disaster is in his power, he knows too that it is impossible in his current state. He wants his life back, wants those wide-ranging tendrils of other people’s thoughts back, wants to know what everyone around him is thinking because perhaps between the lot of them, he could think of something to save them all.

More than anything he wants his mother and the desert in her mind, the one he hasn’t seen since he was an adolescent. He wants those sentinels, those guardians, wants the security and peace of being whole once again, knows he will be broken for the rest of his days and that the desert is no longer accessible – he cannot bring himself to enter his mother’s mind after the last horrifying image he placed in it, and the physical area she used to produce for him is nothing more than debris now.

He sits there for at least an hour in a shallow parody of meditation. His mind goes blank not because he wishes it, but because a sudden blast of chemicals rushing through his blood make thought utterly impossible. He is devoid of emotion, a blank canvas, a black hole in space.

He is, quite literally, Vulcan. A great mass of possibilities reduced to utter nothingness.

An irritating chirp rouses him, tells him his presence is required on the bridge again.

He isn’t surprised to see Kirk there, but he wouldn’t be surprised to see anyone there right now: Kirk, Captain Pike, Amanda, or even Spock’s long-dead father. He has no capacity for emotion right now, just as he has no capacity for thought. He cannot even spare a glance toward the soaked new friend Kirk apparently managed to make in his two hour stint of being marooned on Delta Vega. He simply stares at Kirk, defeated before the man even opens his mouth.

Shockingly, he doesn’t. He’s known for running his mouth at the worst possible times, but he doesn’t. He steps forward and presses a hand to either side of Spock’s face, fingers pressing in at his temple. Spock cannot initiate a mind meld, can’t even muster up the strength to try when his mind and his blood are being forced into submission by a cocktail of drugs and artificial hormones. But somehow Kirk pushes his way through, clears his mind long enough to leave the bare impressions of thought.

I’m so sorry I have to do this please don’t kill me I know you could if you wanted to but I need you to not kill me right now so I can be Captain please just trust me I have to be Captain right now and you’re in no state of mind to do it yourself please please don’t kill me I nearly got killed twice down there and I’m kind of tired of it please just let me do this for you please Spock…

There is that feeling of clarity again, the one he’s never had before – not when his mother is producing the Vulcan desert for him, not when he’s left to his own unmedicated devices, not when he’s sedated and his consciousness scattered to the stars. He feels unbroken, like the mind surrounding his own has managed to pick up the pieces and sort them back together, like there’s a safe border around his mind that allows him to feel, to goddamn think. “Captain’s Log,” comes a voice, and he recognizes with a start that it is his own, “Acting Captain Spock steps down to allow First Officer Kirk to take command.” Distantly he hears Kirk confirm the message and add the stardate, those frozen hands still keeping his head in place, stopping his skull from shattering.

He clamps down on the urge to whimper when Kirk steps aside, his fingers falling from Spock’s face. The invisible border around his mind seems to dissipate instantly, but he doesn’t fall to the floor screaming as he did when he was a teenager. The border is no longer in place, but that clarity and sense of self remains, and he stations himself next to the Captain’s chair to reap the benefits of his newly-found anchor.

The next few hours are more chaotic than the previous forty-eight, and yet he feels more at peace than he has all his life. He insinuates himself into Kirk’s plans seamlessly, follows him into the Narada, doesn’t hesitate to destroy the Romulans aiming for his Captain, feels an easy trust in Kirk’s ability to protect him when he moves to attempt his first mind meld on an opponent. With Kirk’s free hand resting on top of his own, he manages to delve into the Romulan’s mind just deeply enough to find the source of the red matter as well as Captain Pike.

It is the first time he experiences another’s mind without ripping it apart or going mad. He feels an almost euphoric pride.

There is, of course, the matter of the futuristic ship that somehow manages to recognize his voice and address him by name. There is the necessity of removing the red matter from the hands of the Romulans – from the hands of every sentient being in the universe, if possible. There is the distinct possibility – indeed, the extreme probability – that the plan to dispose of the red matter will kill him.

He doesn’t care. At least he will die with his sanity intact. He follows Kirk’s plan to the letter, destroys the drill, pilots his ship to a collision course with the very heart of the Narada. And in the heartbeat before he prepares to destroy himself for the greater good, he’s back on the Enterprise, the shock of actually surviving plain on his face when he turns his head to take in the cocky grin of his Captain, Pike leaning heavily on his shoulder.

He simply exists through the last few hours of chaos, his life and that of the entire crew in the hands of Captain James T. Kirk, and he finds the notion calming in a way he never could have imagined. Kirk is a brash, ridiculous, loudmouthed idiot covering up a sympathetic genius he was never aware of before now. Dimly he is conscious of the ship’s predicament, even more dimly conscious that they’ve managed to escape more or less intact. He can’t even remember the last leg of the trip as they limp the Enterprise back home, because McCoy herds him to his quarters so he won’t miss a second round of medication in a row.

He’s foggy again when he falls into bed, still foggy when they arrive home and disembark. He’s foggy when he sees his mother in the huge welcoming crowd in front of the Academy. He’s being hailed as a conquering hero, his mother almost squeezing him hard enough to knock the breath out of him, but he can’t feel anything, at least not enough to really internalize it.

Kirk appears then, giving him a friendly smack to the shoulder and saying something about a job well done and thanks for not killing him. He doesn’t hear the exact words, but the fog lifts enough that he can feel the warmth and pride emanating from his mother in sweet, clear waves.

He is twenty years old, and for the first time in all those twenty years, he feels like he could maybe, possibly, perhaps manage not to be miserable forever.

 

*******

 

He is twenty five years old, and he kind of regrets never taking the opportunity to strangle James Tiberius Kirk.

They are at the tail end of their five year mission, the one where Spock made lengthy, impassioned attempts to claim the position of First Officer under Captain Kirk. He went into his professional hearing with a load of reasons compiled into a data PADD detailing why he should be stationed with Starfleet’s youngest captain ever. Kirk should, by all rights, be stationed with an officer who has decades of experience. Technically, so should Spock. They’re both of them rookies thrust suddenly into real life, and in any other situation they would never have been allowed to serve together so early on in their careers.

But three quarters of the fleet was decimated in Nero’s attack. There are almost no new captains to be found other than Kirk himself. And Spock, for the first time in his entire academic career, is starting to feel his mind clear, is starting to show off his true potential for brilliance the more he interacts with Kirk. He can process information more quickly, analyze it more efficiently. Formulas and patterns spring forth in his mind without having to put so much exhaustive effort into it. He feels as if he is returning to himself.

And there’s a not-so-mysterious Vulcan ambassador working behind the scenes to ensure that he’s put back on the Enterprise. He knows exactly who that ambassador is, even if he can’t fathom ever being quite that normal. His older counterpart is calm, logical, the epitome of the stoic Vulcan, and his exact opposite in so many, many ways. The elder Spock feels a sense of loyalty to his race in a way the younger never will, because the elder has never felt that sense of abandonment by his own people that Spock does. Spock sympathizes for the plight of the race without ever feeling like he is a part of it, so he is content to know his counterpart is helping in the recolonization efforts without feeling the need to take part in them himself.

So here they are, almost finished with their first five year mission, most of them hoping to be sent on another as soon as possible. He has spent those five years at the right hand of the man he has learned to call Jim. While he never explains his exact predicament, Jim seems to understand Spock’s dependence upon him, and whenever they aren’t on duty together they can generally be found in the mess hall sharing a meal, or the rec room playing a game of chess, or even on one of the observation decks chatting easily.

Their relationship pushes the usual boundaries of that between a Captain and First Officer. Jim likes to ignore regulations when they don’t suit him, and Spock lets him because it usually works to his advantage. Jim takes him along on nearly every planetside mission they’re sent on, and as a result the persistent fog clouding Spock’s mind begins to dissipate more and more over the course of their first five years together. He progresses so well with Jim that he’s even able to convince McCoy to taper down his medication, easing the doses back a bit so he doesn’t feel so disoriented when he isn’t interacting with Jim. They are never removed from his system entirely – Spock himself is too terrified of the consequences, even if the CMO would consider it – but they’re reduced enough that he starts to feel … well, he starts to feel.

And then Jim drags him down to Kaelas VII, and Spock regrets that he never had the opportunity to strangle him.

Kaelas VII is a Class M planet with an atmosphere similar to Earth’s and a planet-wide temperature several degrees cooler than Earth’s. And it doesn’t matter how many times he tries to remind Jim that he’s a Vulcan – that despite his human mannerisms and preference for human company, he is physiologically mostly Vulcan – the Captain always, always insists that Spock beam down to every desolate frozen wasteland in the universe. It’s an argument they’ve had countless times, starting with, “But you weren’t raised on Vulcan, so you should be used to this.” And then, “I was raised in San Francisco and even that was cold.” And then, “But you should be acclimating to new environments!” And then sometimes there is snarling and the doctor has to roll his eyes and punch one or both of them in the arm until they shut up about it, already.

In short, Kaelas VII is yet another frozen wasteland that causes them to have yet another discussion about a Vulcan’s preferred internal temperature, and yet another discussion about it not taking that long to deal with the matter at hand, and yet another instance where Spock accompanies the Captain against his better judgment.

And, of course, yet another occasion when Scotty does something to the transporter controls and shorts them out, “Just fer a few hours, Captain – she’ll be up and runnin’ again in no time!” Spock’s fingers twitch at the lost opportunity to crush Jim’s windpipe for this.

They find shelter in a surprisingly dry, rocky cave, Spock burrowing into his Starfleet-issue parka, his face uncovered just enough to impart a heavy dose of glaring in Jim’s general direction. Jim tries valiantly to ignore it, walking around their shelter and using his phaser to heat the rocks littering the floor, using his boots to push them closer to Spock in a kind of silent apology for making him do something stupid again.

A few hours bleeds into an entire day. Starfleet requires that every planetside mission be undertaken with a full supply kit, regardless of the integrity of their equipment or the relative safety of the worlds they visit. As a result, they have enough food and water to last at least five days before the situation starts getting dire.

But they do not have Spock’s medication.

After their first twenty four hours in the cave, Spock wonders if he even needs them anymore. He can perhaps see the wisdom in retaining his migraine medication for emergencies when he cannot bear the brunt of his crewmates’s incessant thoughts. But everything else he takes is a suppressant of some kind, and being in Jim’s presence seems to render their effects null and void. He feels neither the crushing pressure of others’ minds, nor the oppressive fog of the medication when they are together. Something about Jim negates the ill effects of his poorly-controlled telepathy.

They fall asleep thirty hours in, and Spock’s head winds up on Jim’s shoulder quite by accident by the time he awakes. He has a moment of panic, wondering what kind of images he’s allowed to bleed into Jim’s subconscious as he sleeps, but he seems none the worse for wear when he eases back into consciousness. He even goes so far as to ruffle Spock’s hair and in an irritating singsong voice says, “Good morning, sunshine.”

Spock rolls his eyes and digs through their pack for their breakfast rations.

Forty-eight hours in and Jim’s just finished yelling at Scotty about the damned transporter. Spock starts feeling … twitchy. Uncomfortable. Hot, which seems impossible given the circumstances. He pulls the hood back from his jacket hoping to alleviate the problem, and when that fails to work he also unfastens the front, breathing out a sigh of relief when the frigid air surrounds him.

Jim looks at him as though he were sitting there naked. “You’ve got to be shitting me. I’m human and I’m frozen solid. You’re gonna catch hypothermia.”

“I assure you, I am quite warm.”

“You better be. I’m not beaming back to the ship just to have Bones bitching at me for not keeping an eye on the resident Vulcan.”

The mention of the name sends Spock’s slowly expanding mind into a series of familiar images: the doctor jabbing hyposprays in Jim’s neck when he’s been particularly irritating, the two of them sharing drinks of dubious legality in the CMO’s private office, Jim with an arm slung over McCoy’s shoulder when they get enough of a buzz going to start singing loudly and off-key in the middle of the mess hall. He senses small threads of brotherhood, loyalty, friendship, and devotion.

His blood simmers with something akin to jealousy, and he slides his arms out of the parka.

“Spock, put your damn jacket back on. I mean it. Bones isn’t going to kick my ass just because you’ve fooled yourself into thinking this is a beachside getaway.”

“It is too warm to justify keeping it on,” he insists, feeling off-balance and dizzy. He expends just enough energy to roll up the sleeves of his uniform before leaning back against the frozen wall of the cave, grateful for the icy sensations seeping into his forearms.

“It’s not. Spock, something in your body must’ve busted, because we’re lucky if it’s anything above freezing in here. Put your jacket back on, and that’s an order.”

“No,” he says quietly, and the logical portion of his brain tells him he’s committing mutiny by refusing a direct order. It’s fast being squelched by a deeper level of his mind, something instinctive and raw. There’s an odd sensation traveling down his spine, and he realizes it’s a line of sweat trickling down his back. The heat is bubbling up from deep inside him, his mind expanding ever outward as his internal temperature rises. “Jim,” he says, and his voice is surprisingly similar to a purr, “contact Doctor McCoy. Ask him if he knows of any illnesses on this planet that may affect Vulcans.”

Jim’s gaze is glued to Spock’s face as he opens the communicator. “Kirk to Enterprise. Get me Bones.”

“Call him Bones again and I will surely break your neck.” The statement is calm, composed, and it takes Spock a moment to realize he is the one who made it. His mind picks up on sensations of worry, anxiety, confusion, and he is hit with the sudden notion that he is feeling Jim’s mind encroaching upon his own. Jim has always been a source of telepathic silence, something for which Spock has been endlessly grateful, and it seems a dire warning that he can suddenly sense the man now.

“McCoy here. Jim, what the hell did you do to him?”

“Bo- McCoy,” Jim corrects himself, “You know anything about Vulcan illnesses?”

“For the love of – of course I know a thing or two about Vulcan illnesses. How the hell do you think I got assigned to this ship anyway, by blowing my way to the top?”

Spock lets out a growl at that particular mental image, and the anxiety in the room spikes.

“Okay, stop talking about sex right now,” Jim orders. “I need to know what to do with a Vulcan with a sudden case of heatstroke and rage.”

“Well there’s a pair of symptoms you never see associated with hobgoblins. Give me a minute to do some research.”

Jim uses the moment of silence to rummage around for the water. He grabs a thermos and hands it to him, watching as Spock gulps down a full day’s worth of their water supply in a matter of seconds, his fingers shaking slightly as he screws the cap on and hands it back. Their fingers brush together for the barest second during the transfer, and Jim watches in mingled wonder and shock as Spock’s pupils dilate.

Spock can’t quite comprehend what’s happening to him. The logical part of his brain has all but disconnected from his body, and his body is engaging in a series of reactions that are entirely foreign to him. His pants seem to have shrunk several sizes at the brush of Jim’s fingers against his own, and he realizes that he’s gone hard for the first time he can remember. He has a sudden, searing image of the gingery girl at school, of her blood coating his thighs, and he groans helplessly at the nauseating notion that he has the capability of doing that to his Captain.

“Faster would be better, Bones,” Jim rasps into the communicator, and Spock’s blood flares up at the too-familiar nickname, a snarl falling from his throat before he can even think to suppress it.

There’s the familiar chirp of McCoy having picked up his own communicator back on the ship, but there’s also a pause before he says anything. “Spock? You there?”

“I am here, doctor,” he grunts through gritted teeth.

“You have any of your supplies there?”

He senses Jim’s confusion rather than watching it pass over his face. “I have none.”

“You think this is a side effect? Withdrawal, maybe?”

“It is a possibility. However-” And here he has to take a moment to inhale sharply and try to keep his baser instincts under control. Jim has crawled closer to him so his voice will carry through the communicator, and the scent pouring off of him has sweat cascading down his spine again, his fingers twitching and digging into the surrounding rocks. “However,” he continues, his voice raspy and strange in his ears, “the symptoms would suggest a condition predating the need for my supplies, as you call them.”

“What supplies? McCoy, what-?”

“Shut up, Jim.” There’s no temper behind the words, just the steely calm the doctor employs when he’s in the midst of a true disaster. “Spock, what do you need?”

He tries to speak. Opens his mouth to make the attempt. But all he sees in his mind is the dream image of the poor teenage girl whose mind he nearly tore apart after his first innocent brush with sexual experimentation. If he felt the urge to destroy her from a simple, chaste kiss, what kind of horrors would he inflict on the Captain in his current state? He closes his eyes and shakes his head, even though he is dimly aware that the doctor can’t see it.

The voice comes through the communicator again. “Jim, I need you to listen to me and for once in your life do everything I say, you got that?” He doesn’t wait for a response before he barges on. “Spock’s got some problems that require a lot of medication. He hasn’t needed them as much these past few years because he’s depended on you as a kind of … hell, I dunno, a touchstone maybe. He calls you an anchor. We’ve been able to ease down the strength of everything because he seems to even out just fine when he’s around you. So you’re gonna have to ask him what he needs. And for God’s sake, no matter how crazy his suggestions are, you have to follow them to the letter. No matter what he asks you to do, you do it. Is that understood?”

Spock senses the moment the anxiety makes a sharp turn to true fear. He hears the sound of Jim swallowing before he speaks. “What if I can’t?”

“Then you’re looking at the possibility of replacing your First Officer when we get back to Earth.”

“Because he’ll be too fucked up to function?”

“Or he’ll be dead.”

Spock feels rather than sees Jim’s eyes on him, and he nods almost imperceptibly. McCoy may not know exactly what’s wrong with him, but he can sense the truth in his words. If he doesn’t find a way to dissipate the searing heat in his blood, he knows it will overtake him and eventually destroy him.

“Kirk out,” he says weakly, closing the communicator and tossing it to the side. They sit in tense silence for several minutes, their hoarse breathing the only sound in the cave. Spock hears him reach for the water again, hears the sound of several panicked gulps before the silence blankets them again. “What do you need?” Jim finally asks him, his voice stronger despite the fear surrounding them, a faint sour taste in the air.

“I need you,” Spock says slowly, deliberately, “to find our phasers. I need you to set them to ‘kill.’”

“The phasers are busted,” is the immediate response, the lie blatant between them.

“They are not. You used them to reheat the rock formations when we awoke.”

“Fine. But I’ll break them myself if you think I’m going to use one against you.”

“I recall our Chief Medical Officer ordering you to do as I say.”

“I don’t take orders too well. Maybe you’ve noticed.”

The fact that Jim is trying to ease the tension with queasy attempts at humor settles a more animalistic portion of his brain. He can’t bring himself to smile, but his rigid muscles relax somewhat. “I ask this to give you a way to defend yourself when I am no longer able to control my actions.”

There’s a pause where Jim seems to be considering this. “You call me an anchor?”

It’s not what Spock was expecting him to say. He was expecting more of an argument over the phaser, realizes Jim has switched tactics to get him to forget about it. He allows it momentarily. “Yes.”

“Meaning what?”

His blood has eased down to a faint simmer again now that the doctor’s voice is no longer hovering between them. He can try to collect some semblance of his self-control, try to breathe through the worst of the urges trying to rule him. “How much do you know of Vulcan telepathy?”

“I know it’s nothing like what you do.” Something about the flippancy of the remark scrapes at him, and Spock’s eyes fly open and fix on Jim’s face. He seems unaware of Spock’s shift in mood. “I had an older Vulcan do the … mind reading thing once. I think Bones called it a meld.” At Spock’s snarl, Jim’s temper frays. “Look, I can’t help it, it’s just what I call him. Anyway, an older Vulcan did a meld on me a long time ago. But it was a really specific thing, a way to give me the information I needed without taking up hours of trying to talk through it.”

“Then it was thought transference only? No emotions bleeding through?” Perhaps he is more of an abomination than he realized.

“I wouldn’t say that. He was thinking about how Vulcan was destroyed. And I could definitely feel…” He trails off and Spock forces himself to look at him again. There’s a sorrow in the blue eyes and he’s shaking his head. “He was grieving. It came through.”

Spock doesn’t want to discuss this. He would have been quite content to spend the rest of his life popping pills in secret and living in Jim’s shadow. But he can feel the heat rising in him again and his pants are still uncomfortably snug. Better to talk about it so Jim has some kind of warning. “My father passed away when I was very young. His people never approved of my mother, and as a result I was raised on Earth with no Vulcan influence in my upbringing. Most Vulcans are trained in the use of their telepathy from childhood, but I was never given that opportunity. As a result, mine is … faulty.”

“Seemed to work out okay on the Narada. And you could hear me in your head when I beamed back from Delta Vega.”

“You are an aberration. It appears that when I am near you, my telepathy is easier to control. Among others…” He shudders suddenly, and it sure as hell isn’t from the cold. “Among others, it is dangerous.”

Jim moves closer to him and reaches for his hand. Spock panics, tries to force his body to flinch away, tries to clamp down on his own wandering mind. Before he can utter a protest there are fingers curled around his own, and he moans helplessly at the sensation.

Jim raises an eyebrow, squeezing his hand gently. “Okay?” he asks.

Spock stares up at him. “You are … you are unaffected by this?”

He has the audacity to chuckle at him. “Spock, I’m holding your hand. Worst thing that happens is you squeeze too hard and break one of my fingers.”

Part of him is tempted to do it just to wipe the smirk off his face. But the rest of him – his whole body, in fact – is virtually humming with sensation. The fingers curled in his are a tease, somehow, his body overly sensitive and almost vibrating with want. “There is something wrong with me,” he whispers. His body isn’t functioning properly. His crewmates don’t react to being touched this way.

“There might be,” Jim agrees. “But whatever it is, we’ll fix it.” The hand never leaves his, a solid comfort as well as a source of newfound sensitivity, and suddenly there’s another hand pressed over his cheek. “What do you need, Spock?”

His dark eyes fly to meet sincere blue, his mind connecting with Jim’s before he can stop himself.

worry concern frustration what’s wrong with him how do I fix it won’t pick another First Officer won’t do it need him too much to ever replace him please let me help you I won’t lose you to this

He tries desperately to pull back from that enticing mind, snarls with the effort needed to pry his thoughts away, the sound dissolving into something like a sob. He needs this, needs Jim. Needs to thrust into his mind and devour it, consume it, destroy it, needs it like he needs air.

“You don’t mean literally eating my brain, do you?” He sounds amused, and the darker part of Spock wants him to bleed for making light of the situation.

And then he realizes… “How did you know my thoughts?”

“You were pretty much forcing me to hear them. I couldn’t help it.”

“I did not engage your mind purposely.”

“Looks like you don’t have to, if you get desperate.” The hand moves from his cheek, brushing along the short hairs at the back of his neck, motions that both soothe and arouse him. “You didn’t answer my question.”

He takes a shaky breath on an inhale and feels like his lungs will implode. He can’t get enough air, can’t get enough touch, can’t get enough anything. His whole body is trembling, shuddering, and he wonders how long it’s been happening without him noticing. “I consume… Jim, there was a girl…”

And he can’t verbalize it, but he must be projecting the images again because Jim’s face goes tense and frightened for a moment. After a hesitation during which he must be watching the scene play out behind his eyes, he whispers, “No. You couldn’t have killed her. It would have gone on your record, and your record was clean.”

“I very nearly drove her to insanity,” he returns just as quietly, his mind straining to capture Jim’s. He feels too stretched, too thinned, too widespread to control himself much longer. He notices a hand digging bruises into Jim’s hip and understands after a moment that it’s his own doing. He can’t even make the hand unclench, he’s so far gone. “I ripped into her mind like it was paper. I could have destroyed her. It took her weeks to recover. All she did was try to kiss me.”

“She didn’t try. She managed. And you weren’t prepared for her.” Those calloused fingers rub against his own again, and he emits a faint keening noise when he feels himself harden further. “You’d never felt her mind before. You’ve felt mine. You’ve been able to touch me without going crazy. And you called me an anchor.”

“I will not risk this,” he snarls, but his treacherous body arches towards him, belying the words. “I will not be the death of you.”

“I’m pretty sure you will someday,” comes that infuriatingly easy retort, and he snarls again, scrapes his fingernails over bare flesh where his hand has wormed under Jim’s shirt, feels skin breaking underneath him. Jim doesn’t even wince, his hand cradling the back of Spock’s head. “I’m not afraid of you. Never have been. And I know I can help you with this. So tell me what you need or I’ll have to make my best guess.”

His mind is stretched to the limit, sweat trickling over his forehead and down his temple. This is it, the moment where he needs Captain Kirk rather than his Jim, needs him to think logically for the next ten seconds before he destroys the both of them. “Get. The phaser,” he gasps, his thoughts going wild, scattering in an inner storm he can’t control.

“You suck at this, Spock,” Jim mutters. And then kisses him.

His mind stretches past the breaking point for a heartbeat in time, long enough to feel the relief of cool lips on his, of cool hands pressing against heated skin, of the brief emotions of worry and affection. And then it snaps beyond his control, his blood roaring in his ears as his consciousness races to find another’s, all thought obliterated from his mind as it reaches out and ensnares Jim’s, wraps around him in tight coils, consumes all that he is. There are words echoing deep within him, words he recognizes as Vulcan but cannot grasp the meaning, knows only that they search, devour, entangle, claim with a power beyond his imagining. He floods, overflows with memories that are not his own, drinks them in like a dying man-

your father saved eight hundred lives I dare you to do better Jim sweetheart this is Frank I may throw up on you you get your ass home now his bail is listed at one thousand credits juvenile delinquent what a waste youngest starship captain in the fleet hey baby what’s your first name relax Cupcake I have to be Captain and you’re in no state of mind to do it yourself please Spock I can help you oh…

His own thoughts begin to bleed together with Jim’s, an incomprehensible mass of memories and emotions he can’t begin to untangle, can barely begin to try because his body is on fire, his blood boiling, his voice hoarse from howling, his body stretched and tortured beyond his limits. There’s a plague breaking him to pieces, something fierce and feral taking him over, and he cannot sense Jim anymore, can’t pick him out of the chaos, can’t cling to his anchor because it has shattered into a million pieces and scattered over his consciousness-

he is four years old and his father is dead has been dead since he was born thank god he has his mother his mother who left him on this planet and married an alcoholic asshole his mother who gives him the desert in her mind who pays him no mind whatsoever who defends him from his tormentors who boxes his ears for egging them on who looks over his biobed with a mix of love and fear and loathing why doesn’t she ever see me why does she always see my father the traitor whose people abandoned him abandoned me trapped me in a body I can’t control in a mind I can’t distinguish from my own

The memories twist around him, images flashing through his mind faster and faster until they’re nothing but a blur, until there’s nothing but the sensation of movement, until there’s nothing but light, until there’s nothing but-

He comes explosively with a cry like an animal, dragging breath into his lungs, his eyes squeezed shut and tears streaming down his face. He can’t open his eyes, can’t look, can’t see the dead look in his Captain’s eyes, can’t bear to know what he has done-

Damn, Spock, hold it in for a second, would you?

Jim. Jim! You aren’t, I haven’t-

Spock. Shut up. Please.

He manages, with the greatest effort it has ever cost him, to blank his mind. He concentrates on the image of a yellow sky, red rocky cliffs, desert heat searing into him. He opens one eye just enough to see his Captain sprawled over him, hips pressed up against his flank and one hand in the swiftly cooling mess in his pants. There’s a wet spot against him where Jim is apparently in a similar predicament, fingers curled in his hair, shaky breaths being expelled against his shoulder. “Are you … damaged in any way?” Spock forces himself to ask.

“Got a rock digging into my ass. And my head kinda hurts. But you’re not screaming in it anymore, so that’s a plus.”

He is coherent. That alone is enough to produce a dizzy sense of euphoria, Spock’s head falling forward and burrowing into the short brown hair. “You haven’t gone mad,” he says softly.

“Well I just had crazy telepathic sex with a half Vulcan who doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing, so I dunno if I’d say that.” There’s no bite in the words and no regret in the emotions swirling over his mind, and Spock can’t help but try to move closer when Jim pulls his hand out of his pants and throws an arm over him instead. There’s a faint humming sound in the air, almost musical, infinitely pleasing. “Izzat you?” Jim mumbles into his shirt.

He concentrates on the sound, tries to follow it to its source, head jerking in realization. “It is not… I am not its sole producer. It stems from both our minds.”

“Mm. Neat.” Cool lips press a kiss into the prominent vein in his neck, and he feels a faint sizzling sensation under his skin. “You’re still twitchy,” he murmurs.

He can’t deny it, and he knows if he tried that Jim would sense the lie. “Perhaps if we separated it could be controlled…”

“Who said anything about controlling it?” He spares a glance downward, met with Jim’s face splitting grin. “I dunno about you, but I’m up for a round where I can actually feel what we’re doing instead of just thinking ourselves to orgasm. Really unsexy having your mom in my mind when I come, by the way. Could do without that next time.”

“I was not the only one considering my mother,” he returns with more dignity than he thought he could manage at the moment. He sobers quickly. “Jim…”

“I’m not an idiot, Spock. I know what just happened here.” The cocky grin has dissipated to something softer, the hand in his hair stroking him in a gentle soothing motion. “You said I was your anchor. You just made sure that was a permanent arrangement.”

“You are, and I did.” He doesn’t verbalize his apology, but it must come through the newly formed bond with an intensity he doesn’t realize, because Jim winces and presses his forehead to Spock’s shoulder.

“Stop that,” he orders weakly. “I’m not sorry so you shouldn’t be either. Do you have any idea how I spent the first two years of this mission?”

The image comes to him, unbidden, of Jim on a dozen different planet scapes kissing a dozen different alien women. Jim laughs and punches him on the arm affectionately. “Yeah, okay, fair enough about the first year. How about the year after that?”

He remembers thinking Jim had started to mature a bit, started to deal with the females on newly discovered planets as sentient beings rather than trophies. That was the year their working relationship had started developing in such a way that he was able to start tapering off his medications, the year Jim turned to him so often for advice that he felt justified for turning to Jim for companionship. Their friendship had blossomed that year and he’d never felt quite so settled in all his life.

“I stopped sleeping around,” he explains. “Actually for awhile I was waiting to see if you’d jump me first, but Bones told me I was being an idiot because you’d probably never jumped anyone. So I waited for an opportunity where you wouldn’t be able to resist.”

Spock eyes him evenly. “Did you tamper with the transporter controls?”

Jim pretends to think about it, which is ludicrous because Spock’s brain has already produced the image of the Captain opening up the control panel and crossing some of the wires when no one is paying attention to him. “Might have done,” he says casually. “Couldn’t get you to jump me on all the other frozen wastelands, so I thought I’d give you a little more incentive. You'd think a guy with your kind of brains would recognize the need to share body heat, but no, you had to make things difficult.”

“You-” he starts to launch into a lecture about having a death wish and his inability to think before jumping into a situation and what would he have done if Spock’s mind had ripped him to pieces, but he’s cut off with another kiss, and his blood sizzles again.

He is twenty five years old, and yes, he’d still really enjoy strangling James Tiberius Kirk.

 

*******

 

He is thirty-two years old, and he isn’t sure how he managed to stumble on his little piece of perfection, but he is profoundly grateful for it.

He wakes up every morning to the feel of a long, solid body pressed up against his own. Each time he drifts back to consciousness, his thoughts settle easily alongside his mate’s, and the embrace of minds is almost sweeter than the embrace of bodies.

Every morning, as soon as they’re up and dressed, Jim hands him the only pill he has left now, the small cerulean one that prevents migraines. Every morning, Jim pushes his collar aside and administers a single hypospray, one designed to help him keep his thoughts to himself while they’re on the bridge. The mind link has served them well over the years, has saved their lives more times than they can count, but it can get distracting when they’re at their separate stations and the hypospray keeps the link banked for their hours of duty on the bridge.

Every day brings the constancy of his Captain, his anchor, his Jim. Every day there are fingers tangled with his, cool hands pressed to his shoulders, filthy fantasies whispered in his ear to see if he’ll blush green in front of the crew. Every day he works with a group of people who not only understand what he is, but who embrace it, who treasure their friendships with him. Every day Nyota gives him another piece of his language back, and the greatest gift she ever gives him is the word t’hy’la for his thirtieth birthday.

He is not, perhaps, what he should have been. There are parts of him that are lost that will never be recovered – he has only to speak with the elder ambassador to see how different he might have been. He does not have the capacity for logic without feeling, can’t perform a mind meld on another person unless Jim is present to help him keep control. He doesn’t feel that inner sense of belonging with other Vulcans, doesn’t really feel it with humans either. He is a child of no world at all, his own person, something unique in a vast universe.

But he is thirty-two years old, and he would not change who he is for anything.