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5x Spock melded w/Kirk & 1x Kirk melded w/Spock

Chapter Text

Jim draped an arm over Bones' shoulder, shouting at the top of his lungs as they walked, "There once was a girl from Orion, who found herself wanting some bourbon." Bones joined him on the word "bourbon," their drunken hollering finally drawing a protest from the fourth floor of their dorm building.

"But instead of the bourbon," Jim yelled even louder, "she just found a Captain."

Bones snorted in his ear. "Your rhyming sucks."

"Bitch, bitch, bitch," Jim complained just before they got stuck in the doorway when they tried to go through it side by side. There was a short scuffle that ended fast when Bones dug his fingertips into Jim's ribs and wiggled them around. Jim shouted with laughter and jumped away, leaving the doorway clear for Bones to get through. "Hey, not fair!"

Jim staggered into the building and caught up with him at the bank of elevators. The doctor was already leaning one shoulder against the wall between two elevators, eyes closed, arms folded across his chest. Jim used his ninja stealth skills to sneak up behind him, only to freeze when Bones said, "I can hear you, you know."

Jim sagged. "You're not as drunk as me."

"Sure I am; I'm just not an obnoxious drunk like you."

"Hey!"

The elevator lights pinged. Jim dashed for the doors, squeezing through in front of Bones. He oofed, however, when Bones' solid weight carried him forward and up against the back wall and just stayed there, holding him in place. Jim struggled a little, just for show. Bones really was kinda heavy (all muscle, Jim knew from sharing a room with him for the last two years) and in terms of pure physical strength he was actually stronger than Jim, but Jim had moves, and the few times they came to blows he came out on top. Although, in his more honest moments with himself, he could admit that he probably won the few physical altercations they actually got into because Bones was reluctant to damage his hands by hitting someone so he largely resorted to pushing and shoving. Which, for Jim Kirk, translated fairly directly to groping and fondling. Which, come to think of it, probably explained why he hardly ever actually hurt Bones when they did fight.

Two floors up he realized Bones wasn't letting up this time, so he wiggled around a little more, mostly with his ass. "Like that, Bones?"

"Like what? Your skinny ass digging into my side?"

"Bones?"

"Jim?"

"I think I'm going to be offended by that tomorrow."

"Knock yourself out, kid."

"Are you sure you don't like it?" He squirmed a little more.

"How many times have I told you I'm not interested?"

"Seven hundred and twenty-three," Jim answered promptly, if drunkenly.

"Add one more to that."

"Okay." Then, "Wait."

The elevator dinged again, and Jim was a mite disappointed when Bones moved away from him. Bones felt good. He staggered down the hall after him. "Bones, wait." He jumped forward, landed his arm across Bones' shoulders again, and started shouting, "There once was a-mff?"

Bones clapped a hand over his mouth.

Jim tipped his head back and to the side and started over, "There once was a girffh-"

"Jim!" Bones' hand over his mouth again stopped him again, and this time he bent his knees as he tipped his head back to get his mouth free.

"Bones! I'm singin' here."

----------

"Caterwauling, more like," McCoy snapped. He grabbed Jim's arm and dragged him down the hall to their room.

"You're cranky even when you're drunk. You're supposed to be happy when you're drunk."

"You're the happy drunk, kid. Not me." McCoy shut their door behind them and gave Jim a little push toward his bed.

"Bones, I wanna make you happy."

"Do ya, now?"

"I do, Bones. I really do."

Jim Kirk was a handsy sort of fellow, so McCoy wasn't too surprised or worried when Jim turned right around and pushed him back up against the door.

"Jim, stop it."

"Bones, doncha wanna be happy?"

McCoy narrowed his eyes at Jim. "What are you up to?"

Jim gave him a sloppy grin and clapped both hands to McCoy's cheeks.

McCoy laid his hands on Jim's sides and that was as far as he got before Jim leaned in and kissed him.

It wasn't a sloppy kiss at all and McCoy was startled enough that he froze for a good four seconds. And when his brain finally thawed from its total disbelief, he also realized that Jim was a good kisser. A really good kisser. Holy shit was he a good kisser.

Soft lips slid across his, teeth grazing lightly, carefully persuading his own lips to part. Jim's tongue played with his, the kiss deepening, and Jim groaned low, hips bumping against his.

Later, McCoy figured it was the noise that did it. He heard Jim's moan, low with desire, and he got the same reaction he did every time he had heard it before.

He shoved Jim away with both hands and followed up with a swift punch to the jaw and a ferocious "Dammit, Jim!"

Jim staggered back, fell to his bunk and grabbed his face. "Ow, fuck! What the fuck?"

"How many times have I told you? How many times?"

"Seven hundred and twenty-four."

"Yeah, and now it's seven hundred and twenty-fucking-five!"

"But you liked it."

"Well, bless your heart!"

"But you-"

"Sure, until you started making those noises you make when you – when you're – fuckitall, Jim! You're like my brother, or my son, or some crap like that."

"Relationships can change, Bones."

"No. Hell no. Fuck no. It feels incestuous."

"Eeuuuwwww."

"Exactly."

"That's gross."

"What I said."

Jim was silent for a moment, and Bones sat heavily on his own bunk.

"So am I a good kisser?"

Bones screwed up his face and snarled, "I'm not going to heal that for you if you don't shut up right now."

"That means yes!" Kirk whooped and pumped a fist in the air.

"Dammit, Jim!"

Chapter Text

That first meld with a Vulcan (the other Vulcan, not his Vulcan), after he got over the emotional barrage, after he'd had about three months to slowly absorb the experience, after he'd had about three months to start to get to know his Vulcan, had actually been pretty interesting, in retrospect.

He had learned several things in that first meld, the second most memorable being that it was impossible to lie during a meld. He found that beyond fascinating. (Okay, wait, was he already starting to talk like Spock? Spocks? The Spocks? Okay, whatever.)

The first most memorable thing he had learned was that Spock was interesting - other Spock, that is, but he figured it was a safe assumption that his Spock was at least as interesting, if not more so. And it wasn't just, "wow, he's a pretty interesting guy" interesting, but "holy fuck, this guy is fascinating and I really really really wanna do something for/with/to/on/under/at him" interesting. It was the sort of interesting that created sparks in the back of Kirk's brain and down his spine and somehow got his entire being to stand up and pay attention. And that wasn't even his Vulcan.

He ultimately decided that he had a favorable view of the entire mind-meld experience. Not only was it was an efficient way to transfer information, but there had been some undercurrent he still couldn't quite identify that, in spite of other Spock's grief, had ultimately made his time-moderated memory of the meld sort of all warmish and happy-feeling. No, not that sort of warmish; friend warmish. Friend-for-life warmish. Bromance warmish.

Okay, whatever.

Chapter Text

The second time he melded with a Spock (his Spock, not other Spock) was about three months after the first one, when they were planet-side on an away mission.

Kirk jumped in front of Spock (stupidly, yes, but before admitting that out loud he would cut off his own di—well, actually, no, he wouldn’t, but the point had to be made) when some freakishly spiny native creature had jumped at Spock. The stupid part was that Spock already had the creature in his phaser sights, something Kirk hadn't realized until he was mid-air in a wild leap.

The creature flattened Kirk, and Spock still managed to stun the beast with his phaser (and Kirk would never admit how spectacularly awed he was that not only had Spock not shot him mid-leap, but had the presence of mind to shift his aim and shoot the peculiar life-form after they hit the ground without including Kirk in the stunning), although sadly not before it had stabbed Kirk in about eighty thousand different places on his chest and arms and injected some sort of acid-like irritant (Bones later told him it was actually a numbing agent, surprise).

Once his away team got the thing off him (none of them having a bad reaction to the venom, of course), Kirk nearly went out of his mind from the pain of the burning punctures. Still hours away from contact and transport back to the Enterprise, he tried not to let it show (no need to worry the team, right?), but apparently Spock (his Spock) had gotten to know him well enough to tell. Okay, in all honesty, it was probably that and all the mostly silent (because there was just that one "Ow, fuck!" that managed to escape him) writhing around on his back in the dirt with clenched teeth he was doing.

Because Kirk could still breathe, Spock declined to administer the antihistamine that Bones insisted be included in every last medikit that went on an away mission with the Captain.

And because Spock was a vengeful bastard, he also declined to administer any sort of painkiller. Of course, his excuse was Kirk's one specific allergy to everything, but Kirk knew better.

He snapped, "Bones wouldn't send anything I couldn't take." And no, he didn't make that into seven separate sentences because it was so hard to speak without screaming.

"He certainly would. There are others on the away team who aren't allergic to the things you are."

"Orders," Kirk choked out, "you learn my drugs!"

Kirk thought he might have seen the edges of Spock's mouth curve up the tiniest bit, but really, in retrospect, it had to have been the tears that were clogging his eyes. No, no, not real tears. These were like the kind you got from being punched in the nose: involuntary. They weren't real tears so they didn't count.

"Captain, perhaps I can help."

"Yes."

"I would have to–"

"Yes!"

"You should know—"

"Yes! Now! NOW!"

And Kirk was surprised when Spock settled to the ground next to him and stuck his fingers on Kirk's face in what he knew was a meld position. But, he got over his surprise really, really fast and when he felt Spock's quicksilver presence slide across his mind he jumped.

Chapter Text

And Kirk was surprised when Spock settled to the ground next to him and stuck his fingers on Kirk's face in what he knew was a meld position. But, he got over his surprise really, really fast and when he felt Spock's quicksilver presence slide across his mind he jumped.

-----

Getmeouttaheregetmeoutgetmeoutgetmeout!

Spock gave a mental "oof" of surprise but caught and held him when he flew across the link, surrounding and immobilizing him. Kirk instinctively flailed against the trapped sensation, strong remnants of hurt still stuck in his mind propelling him to escape and he couldn't do that while he was trapped.

The mental grip holding him slowly eased until he felt he could mentally move, and by degrees he noticed that he was also surrounded with...comfort? Warmth? Something calming? Sheer lack of pain? It melted away the remnants of the hurt and okay maybe just a little panic, replacing it with...that thing he couldn't quite identify. It felt much the same as the warmth he had gotten in that other Spock meld. Only better. Wow. Lots better.

A little calmer now and not in pain, Kirk finally noticed his surroundings: everything rose to slow visibility through a saturated red light; there was dust that smelled red; rushing wind that sounded red. The color invaded and surrounded him until he tasted it, breathed it, felt it flow across his skin with fine, delicate strokes that settled into his bones.

The deep red light cleared to a warm, clear wash over everything; the red smell receded enough that he got the underlying scents of alien spices, plant life, dirt, animals, water. The spice in his mouth combined with the tang of copper and he knew he'd never forget that taste. He immediately loved this place. He loved it, adored it, it was instantly part of him and in that moment he knew this was something precious, something he wouldn't find anywhere else in the universe, and he would give his life to keep it safe. Then all the heat and fire and light infused him with a single-minded focus that punched every nerve he had into overdrive for a split second before fading slowly to a fizzy tingle then from there settling to a constant thrumming pulse barely perceptible off in the distance.

He had fallen to his hands and knees in that place, the intensity of whatever-that-was momentarily overwhelming him. "Fuck me," he muttered to himself as he shook his head and leaned back on his heels, hands on hips. Nothing like that had happened in that other meld. He opened his eyes and took a deep breath, dragging back his own senses.

He was in a jagged canyon.

It was red.

Pale red sand on the ground, red rock walls arching high above him on both sides, a sliver of reddish-yellow sky above that. Arrayed in the rock wall in front of him were a multitude of archways, all tightly sealed- no, shielded, his mind supplied.

His sense of curiosity zoomed into control and he got to his feet and went over there.

The arch right in front of him was a plain cutout into the rock wall that reached to about his shoulder height. He touched the shield with just his fingertips; it was warm, the surface smoother than it looked, and it made him feel good inside to touch it.

He moved to the next archway, rimmed with rough-cut stones, and placed his hand flat on the shield and immediately jumped back. Oh, so not good. This one reminded him of that one time on the bridge, the first day they met... But still, the first one felt good, so he decided to take a chance that the next one wouldn't be bad.

It wasn't.

And the one after that - well, before he knew it Kirk had his cheek, chest and both hands flat on the shield and he was inspecting the edges closely for hinges or handles. Sparks were shooting off in the back of his head and he could barely think through his hindbrain's sudden compulsion to get-in-there-right-now!

By the sakal of T'Khut and Kal Apton, this one felt good.

And then Spock was there right next to him.

That was weird. He couldn't see Spock as much as he just knew it was him.

Captain.

Commander.

Formalities over, Kirk turned his attention back to the shield. He shoved at it a little and wondered if there was a lock, and therefore a key-

Please don't do that.

Why not?

There is a protocol for what you are attempting.

Er...what?

Kirk reluctantly stopped groping the shield and focused on Spock until he could actually see him. Although he probably wasn't actually seeing him. But still, the mental distraction was immediate enough that he was able to get back control of his own body- his mind? And yeah, that was about enough mind meld philosophy for today.

He turned all the way around and was faced with something that wasn't the wall of the rock canyon that had been there just minutes before. The gently sloping terrain was thick with dark, rich dirt; young plant life and sapling trees were all identifiable to him as various ivy, shrubs and trees; all from earth. In the distance between the trees he could see a cluster of large boulders that were just asking to be climbed on. Water trickled slowly through a small creek bed; it spilled onto the red sand where the two landscapes met and soaked into a spreading puddle. He could feel hints of a cool breeze coming from the area, though the whole thing sort of shimmered, as if he was seeing it through heat waves coming up from hot pavement.

What the- where did that come from?

Then he noticed the single low stone archway inset into a mound of black dirt right at the dividing line between sand and dirt, a little ways off to the side. Another shield? Kirk went over and immediately poked at the shield with one finger. This one he got no sense of anything from it. It was like touching actual stone.

Captain, please stop.

Why?

That shield keeps your discomfort out of my mind.

Ohshit. Kirk backed slowly away, then turned and looked at the other side of the half-canyon again. He gestured at the stone arches. And these?

Those are my personal shields.

Really? Wow, you have a lot of them. How do they work?

Spock sort of just looked at him in there.

I wanna know, Spock. I really do. You know I can't lie in here.

Spock acknowledged that truth, though his mental voice was somewhat hesitant when he replied. Some of them shield my surface thoughts. Most of them shield my deeper thoughts and consciousness.

Why don't I have any of those?

You do have a natural shield that functions in a similar manner; are you able to sense it?

If you mean the way everything looks wavy, then, yes.

Humans are biologically different from Vulcans, which makes it difficult for you to separate your deeper thoughts, emotions and consciousness; they are usually intertwined, as represented by your mostly open and cohesive mental landscape. Most humans do not possess the ability to consciously separate, shield and control their thoughts as Vulcans do.

Huh. Wait, was that an insult?

No, Captain. Merely a fact.

Hey, I didn't think that one out loud.

If you focus, you will notice that your shield is thin. There is some bleedthrough when you concentrate.

Ok, fair enough.

Spock fell silent, and Kirk got the impression he was being observed, like a science project.

So, which are they?

Please clarify your inquiry.

Which shields protect your surface thoughts?

That is a very personal question, Captain.

Seriously? I'm here in your head, how much more personal can we get? Or are we in my head? Wait, no. No more mind meld philosophy. Crap. Too late.

We are somewhere in the middle.

That's not very precise. Spock was normally precise to about fifty decimal places and it was actually jarring to hear him be imprecise. And, did he really want to have this conversation?

There are many different types of melds, and as many different representations of the vau'thios.

While Kirk didn't understand the Vulcan word, he sort of caught the gist of its meaning: joining place.

So what sort of meld does this joining place represent?

There is no human equivalent to explain.

Then tell me in Vulcan.

To his everlasting shock, Spock did.

The few Vulcan words had a visible, physical presence in this place, and Kirk stretched himself to make contact with them. The instant he did they converged on him, and it was like that first nerve-blinding experience in here only there was a different method and focus. The words flowed through him, surrounded him and soaked into his brain, his body, his soul. He caught the gist of their deeper, true meaning, and he loved the sound and the feel and the texture and the taste of them. From the beginning of time he loved how they flowed across his mental skin like a hot breeze, dry and spiced and red and Vulcan and other and fierce and Spock and forever brother now touching belovedwarriorfriend...and there was one Vulcan word he couldn't quite grasp and Spock was keeping it from him and he didn't even care, he absolutely melted into the refractory halo the rest of the words created around him and submerged himself in it, trying to hold it to him to keep it from floating away.

Wow.

It felt almost as good as sex.

Then he caught a sort of feeling from Spock. Not a feeling, per se, because Spock controlled those ruthlessly, but more of an oops. No...it was an ohshit.

Then Spock was gone and Kirk was alone in the canyon again. And his floaty Vulcan starburst vanished along with Spock. That was disappointing.

He sighed. Yeah, ohshit had been the right one. Kirk was intimately familiar with that thought/expression/feeling himself so it was fairly recognizable to him, even through multiple Vulcan thought/expression/feeling filters.

Kirk waited for a while, slightly offended that Spock seemed to have done the equivalent of throwing an orgasm at him then leaving the room in the middle of it, but he ultimately opted for patience instead of offense (did that mean he was maturing?), even though he would be the first person to admit that patience was not his most accomplished skill. It wasn't long before he started poking at Spock's shields again, still wondering which was which.

Captain. Please stop that. Just the voice; distant now, distracted.

Kirk gave another mental sigh then leaned back against that one really great Spock-shield and mentally sat. He could see that the surface had changed, and because the compulsion to get-in-there-right-now had subsided he guessed that Spock had added a layer or two of security to that shield.

Still, it was warm and it felt like it liked him. And it felt a lot like the starburst words he had touched. He sank further back against it, trying to burrow into the stone just a little.

Captain. Just the voice again, a little sharper this time.

I can't help it if you're all warm and comfy.

I am certainly not—

Are too.

Spock very precisely projected a rush of cold at him and Kirk laughed. That was a Spock-joke. He was finally glimpsing the sense of humor he had been certain Spock possessed and it was yet another thing about him that made sparks shoot off in the back of Kirk's brain.

Kirk managed to contain himself for a while, but it wasn't long before he was shoving backwards against hard rock again.

Captain.

I'm bored.

Would you like to begin assembling your mission report?

This mission never happened.

Shall I give you some calculations to perform?

No.

Would you like me to read you a book?

Uh. No. Wow. Spock could read him a book in here? Cool! And weird.

Would you like to play a game?

No. Okay, and yeah, Spock's mental voice was getting just a tad condescending. Wait. What game?

Any game you are capable of playing mentally.

Umm...do you play chess?

Yes. Are you capable of playing mentally? It will only work if you are able-

That's insulting. I would hardly suggest it if I wasn't capable.

I disagree; I have observed you not only suggest but attempt many things of which you are not capable.

Trust me in this, I am capable. Kirk tried, not very hard, to keep the anticipation out of his voice. Mental chess games with himself had been one of his favored techniques as a child to get him through the really bad nights, and he liked to think he was pretty good at it. Plus, someone else to play with would be just dandy and if Spock was as smart as Kirk thought he was (and he was certain he was), he might actually get a challenging game for once.

Two-dimensions or three?

I'm out of practice in both respects so let's start with two.

A chessboard formed on the sand in front of him and he grinned.

Kirk waited out the rest of the time in fairly perfect contentment. Every now and then the stone shield at his back sort of trembled, softened. After a time he realized that it was reforming around him so he shoved himself a little harder at it, that pulse at the back of head jumping into an intermittent fizz each time he burrowed deeper.

The game moved along slowly because he took his time with every move, but it was peaceful and he was content and he didn't have to endure that blasted pain.

He was understandably just a little tiny bit disappointed when Spock showed up fully present again. But only a little.

It is time.

For beam up?

Already done. We are in sickbay.

Great. Kirk mentally stood, pushing with his hands and sliding as much of his back up against the shield behind him as he could mentally get to make contact. He had spent much of the chess game just drifting his fingertips across it. The warmth that seeped into his hands from it was just slightly different than the warmth from the other shields he had touched. It seemed to cling and stick to him, thin strands of clear-wrapped red stretched taut between it and his fingers.

He tapped his thumb and fingers together a few times, playing with the strands, then he caught the odd look on Spock's face.

What?

Spock shook his head, but he stared at Kirk, eyes wide and alarmed.

What?? Kirk intercepted another ohshit, only stronger, deeper and harder; more like...well, if he didn't know better...panic

Spock disconnected the link with a heavy-handed mental crack and Kirk only had time for a startled gasp before he was swamped with all the pain Spock had been holding at bay. Unbelievably (or not), it had gotten worse.

Kirk bellowed and arched on the biobed, flailing around for something to make him sane again. And he was furious at Spock for ejecting him like that and dumping all that ouch back on him.

"Dammit, Jim! Hold still!" McCoy, with a hypo. "Spock, hold him down!"

"Spock, you FUCK! I'mma fucking kill you, you fucking bastard!"

"Jim, let go of Spock! Let go, dammit! Orderly!"

"Reghleezme!"

"You fucking SHIT! Aargh!"

Finally, finally, McCoy made contact and for the first time ever Kirk was glad to get one of his shots.

Chapter Text

There were interesting conversations after that meld, which unexpectedly lead to a deeper understanding of each other.

The bruises around Spock's neck faded quickly under McCoy's regenerator, much to Kirk's relief, and they agreed they were now even on that attempted-strangulation issue. Spock politely thanked Kirk for his ill-advised save attempt; Kirk politely thanked Spock for not stunning him twice (and without a hint of his spectacular awe at that feat). They continued playing chess in the real world; during one of their early games Kirk had admitted to Spock that, yeah, his childhood really sucked and yeah, he'd had a frequent need for mental escape or distraction of some sort (because yeah, Spock had picked up on that stray thought during the meld).

During a later game, Spock had done his best to give Kirk a better translation of the Vulcan words he had said in the meld. It was a good translation, as far as Kirk could tell, and jived with what he had understood of the words. Spock had no explanation for why they had the effect on Kirk that they did, but Kirk knew Spock well enough by that time to know that he did, occasionally, if his motive was strong enough, lie. And he knew Spock well enough by that time that he could usually tell when he did; case in point.

The other word, though, the one that he had withheld from Kirk, he flat out refused to supply an explanation for. No lies there, just a brick wall.

Naturally, all that lying and brick-walling got Kirk's interest.

And that was okay; Kirk was nothing if not patient.

Or maybe persistent would be a better word.

Chapter Text

The third time Kirk melded with Spock, specifically his Spock, the other Spock being more-or-less out of the picture by this time, was on a starbase during shore leave about six months after the previous meld, and after a particularly horrific away mission.

Kirk had managed to slip his guards – well, really, just the security detail Spock simply insisted on sending with him just about everywhere these days, and seriously, on shore leave?? So not happening – and take off on his own. Really, what sort of trouble could he get into on a starbase? The bastard.

He followed his instincts to the dingiest, seediest bar on the furthest deck from the Enterprise's docking bay (and from Spock, because the whole security team thing had pissed him off just a little) that he could get, elbowed up to the bar between an Orion and a Lyssian, ignored whatever appendage groped his ass as he sat, and ordered a beer and a chaser. He gulped down the scant pint of beer (testing himself – yes, he could still get a glass all down in one open-throated swallow), did the same with the chaser, coughed once, ordered another shot, and swiveled on his barstool so he could prop both elbows behind him on the bar and check out the dive he'd wandered into.

The big ugly Orion sitting at the bar next to him laughed into his drink, then muttered in Orion just loud enough for him to hear.

Kirk snapped in response, "I am not a boy, and no, I will not deep-throat your dick." Then he muttered, "Stupid fuck."

The Orion turned, a shocked look on his ugly mug (yeah, yeah, Kirk belonged to that 100 Club of humans who understood Orion) then he gave Kirk a slow up-and-down that made Kirk feel just a little dirty.

Kirk responded physically, already feeling a little dangerous and a lot angry in addition to, now, dirty.

He shifted his ass forward on the barstool and dropped a foot to the floor, the move giving a little (okay, in the tight black jeans he was wearing, a lot) more definition to his crotch. He tipped his head back and looked up at the (gross) ceiling then at the Orion, eyes going half-mast and glazed over, and gave a low, groaning sigh. Then the same noise but close-mouthed. He bit his lower lip, arched his back a little and gave a nearly breathless cry of need.

He lifted one hand and ran it through his hair, making sure his really tight black t-shirt rode up enough to expose a wide line of skin (yes, including his treasure trail) above the waistband of his (super-low-rise) jeans. Another sigh, a stuttering "fu-fuu-uuuk m-m-meee" in time with a few sharp forward jerks of his hips, an "unngh" through clenched teeth. An "ohhh" when he grabbed his crotch, an "ahhhh" as he shifted his hips in an obscene grind against his palm, then another "unngh" when he tightened his hand visibly, a gasping pant, then another, and another, then a deep, powerful cry of pleasure that escalated in volume until the entire bar went silent.

He went as boneless as he could without falling off the barstool, made a satiated noise, breathing hard, and knew he looked about like he'd been fucked to within an inch of his life. He also knew he looked like sex come alive, and he knew any relatively humanoid being intent on getting laid would find Jim Kirk in that position making those noises to be irresistibly arousing.

So really, it all came down to being one great big tease.

Because while men weren’t at all outside his personal sexual comfort zone, Orion men certainly were. And that was saying quite a lot, because James T. Kirk had only ever hit the outside limits of his personal sexual comfort zone three times.

By the time he finished the Orion was staring, mouth open, eyes dilated, breathing heavily.

Kirk gave him a dirty look, the kind that did not indicate sexual interest, and turned his attention back to the other side of the room. There were a few chuckles as the other patrons realized what he had done, then conversation resumed and most of the attention drifted away from him.

Scanning the room, he got the impression, and he was practically never wrong about these things, that he was somewhere a Starfleet Captain would be less than welcome. Not only not welcome, but would be forcibly ejected if discovered. And also left with damages in order to make the and-don’t-come-back point explicitly clear.

Huh. Well, as much as he loved a good fight, he was glad he had changed into civvies for this shore leave. He might actually be a little out-gunned here. And he was proud of himself for recognizing that fact before he started something. He must be maturing. Or something.

He shoved back around and saw the bartender had already left his second round and returned his credit chit. The whiskey shot was rough and burned his throat, and he coughed twice this time.

He turned back to the room, feeling the alcohol start to blur the edges and the tension start to drain from his shoulders. Squinting into the dimness, he changed his perspective from overview to macro.

Only a few females were scattered among the men. Disappointingly, they all kinda scared him; not the good kind of scared, like, they might want to play with whips and chains, but the bad kind of scared, like, they might want to slit his throat when they were done with him. Which, upon reflection, was probably the only reason any of them were sitting here in the main room instead of off in a back room somewhere getting mauled by any number of the men here.

And the men were a sorry bunch of pirate types that looked as if they'd be more interested in sticking a gun up his ass than a dick.

Only a few years ago he actually would have approached at least one individual and taken his chances, but he had also thought that the angry, self-destructive drive that led him to this sort of dive was long gone, so maybe that whole issue was still a toss-up. He still wished for a regular alternative to his own hand in terms of personal gratification, but he wasn’t going to find an acceptable reprieve here.

Sighing, he spun back around on his stool and had to grab the edge of the bar to keep from falling over. The alcohol was really hitting him. Far quicker than usual, but maybe that was because he hadn’t kept up his Academy-fueled heavy weekend drinking since he'd been given command.

"Ya ok there, Jimmy-boy? Sure ya can handle yer liquor?" one of the bartenders asked.

"I'm not a boy, I'm –" Kirk blurted out and then stopped himself. WTF? Now the bartender was calling him a boy? And was he really just about to announce to the bar in general that he was Starfleet? And how did the creep know his name? He'd deliberately brought and used an anonymous credit chit.

The bartender raised a very human eyebrow and Kirk frowned. That was just not right.  Only Spock was- no.

The bartender moved off and Kirk stared down at his unasked-for third shot. When he put out a hand to push it away and missed, he knew for sure something was wrong. Definitely not the alcohol. Shit.

He shoved off the barstool and staggered to the restrooms. He was a little surprised he made it all the way without being accosted but happily stuck a finger down his throat and got rid of what was left of the drinks.

He leaned against the edge of the sink while he rinsed his mouth and face. His balance was off. He groped for his communicator before remembering he'd left it onboard. Shit! Spock was going to be unbearable after this. Double shit!

Taking a deep breath he straightened, forcing himself upright. He tilted, and had to grab the sink again. How was he going to get out of here? He couldn't run, and he sure couldn't fight. He could fake it. He was good at that. Yeah, faking it was always a valid option. No one else had ever picked up on how much he faked, not ever. Well, sometimes he thought Spock might know, but Spock wouldn't still be friends with him if he knew.

He met his own eyes in the mirror. Tangent. Get it together. Get out. Get back to Sp- no- the Enterprise. Safety. Home. Family.

 

Get going.

He turned and lurched out the door.

The Orion met him at the end of the dark, smelly corridor. He leered at Kirk, legs planted in a wide stance, shoulders stretched across the narrow hall to block his exit to the bar proper.

"Hey, pretty boy, you got just what I need."

Kirk forced back a hard rise of fury; this entire evening was fucked from the getgo and he was absolutely not pleased. At all. "Not interested."

"Or maybe I got just what you need."

"I sher—seriously doubt that." He smacked a hand flat on one wall and leaned hard while trying to project that he was in control of himself.

His options diminished by half when the Orion took a step toward him.

Kirk shifted tactics; he winked and smiled at the green giant and said as smoothly as he could with the walls pitching all around him, "Who let you out of your cage?"

There was a moment of blankness while the big guy tried to process what he recognized as an insult, even if he didn't understand it just yet. Kirk pulled himself together enough to take a wild swing at the monster, missed, spun, and was grabbed and lifted from behind by two meaty arms around his chest and waist.

If he hadn't already emptied his stomach, he would have lost it right then and there. He pried at the huge fingers while he kicked and pushed with his booted feet against the nearest wall, trying to get loose enough to get his feet back on the floor. He shoved them careening down the hall and back out to the bar proper but he was still trapped.

He finally twisted and belted back with an elbow and connected with something that crunched. The Orion dropped him and he landed off balance and staggered and windmilled for a few steps until he lost (and who was he kidding there?) all control and sprawled face-first on the dirty floor in front of the bar. He scrambled, trying to get up and get away at the same time, until a heavy boot stomped on the middle of his back.

The air left his lungs and stayed gone until he was just about sure he was going to pass out. He finally inhaled, didn't get quite enough air, tried again, failed again, then realized it wasn't the boot mashing down on him that was killing his oxygen supply. Allergies? Now?! Damn it all to HELL!

He knew he didn't have much time, the jeering and catcalls going on around and over him hardly registering over burgeoning panic. He still couldn't breathe, couldn't move freely and he got just a little desperate. He also got even more pissed off and cut loose with a sudden twisting shove that got him turned over. The Orion's boot slid off his back and the creep landed astride him. He reached around and grabbed out the knife he knew would be in the Orion's boot and simply stabbed it into the Orion's nearest calf, too weak to even sit up.

The Orion roared, bent down and covered Kirk's hand with his own, and pulled out the knife.

At the same time, the entire bar fell deathly quiet. Kirk looked up at the loose circle of strangers around him, took another desperate, gasping suck of air and followed their collective line of sight. He promptly jettisoned his own abject terror at the look on Spock's face (at least Spock wouldn't kill him) (probably) in favor of one last dig at the Orion.

"You are so fucked!" he wheezed. The Orion looked down at him, and Kirk's terror came rushing back. "No, sorry, no, didn't mean it, wait!"

Still covering Kirk's hand with his own, the Orion shoved the knife between a couple of Kirk's ribs.

"Ow! Fuck!"

And that was about the last of Kirk's oxygen. There was a little bit of a blur, lots of shouting and weird noises, he blinked once, saw Spock, eyes narrowed and hand coming toward his face, thought that couldn't be a good sign, and when the meld started he was ready and jumping far too fast and early and there was a mental screech like fingernails on a blackboard (and boy, was he going to have a headache from that tomorrow) and then he was in.

Chapter Text

Still covering Kirk's hand with his own, the Orion shoved the knife between a couple of Kirk's ribs.

"Ow! Fuck!"

And that was about the last of Kirk's oxygen. There was a little bit of a blur, lots of shouting and weird noises, he blinked once, saw Spock, eyes narrowed and hand coming toward his face, thought that couldn't be a good sign, and when the meld started he was ready and jumping far too fast and early and there was a mental screech like fingernails on a blackboard (and boy, was he going to have a headache from that tomorrow) and then he was in.

-----

And Spock had him contained a little too tightly and he was choking and drowning and the hot red canyon wasn't there to catch him as he fell.

Spock!

Don’t. Move.

Spock's command was colored with heat and violence and Kirk realized he'd better obey this time no matter how desperate or claustrophobic he got. He also felt a little weak and a little sick, and just a little fuzzy around the edges so maybe it was okay not to argue just this once.

It wasn't long before he got just Spock's voice. I have slowed your internal functions until we can get someone to the transporter to beam us and Doctor McCoy aboard. The violence was mostly gone from his voice now, though the heat was still all there.

The mental grip on him eased and their canyon slowly coalesced around him, though it was all a whole lot dimmer and smaller than he remembered. This time he just went mentally horizontal and sprawled on his mental face (Spock's red sand being much more comfortable and clean than the bar's floor), not having the energy to do anything else.

Except, Not allowed to use transporters on starbase.

Irrelevant.

Why?

Your life is in danger. The heat increased.

Oh. Somehow, he just couldn't muster up worry about that.

Do you not care that you are close to dying?

Sure, but you're here.

Spock was puzzled and tense and Kirk just couldn't be bothered to explain. Not that he was sure he could even if he tried. It was just that as long as Spock was close by he knew he would be safe. He knew Spock would move eternity to save his ass if necessary; this was a fact he had learned from that one shield, even if it had taken two months of dreams about the damn thing to come to that conclusion.

Can you make everything stop spinning?

There was a silent moment, his edges got a little fuzzier, and the rotation got a little slower.

How is that?

Little better. Thanks.

He used up a little of the energy he had remaining to move his hand over to that lust-worthy Spock-shield from last time, sliding his fingertips back and forth against it.

He felt that nicely static-electric-sticky connection, but the warmth wasn't there. Spock, he complained. I'm cold.

Alarm from Spock. Definitely alarm, with a sinuous twist of violence threading through it, though Kirk couldn’t tell if it was directed at him or elsewhere.

It was warm in here last time. Make it warm again.

Slowly, slowly his fingertips warmed. The mental surface under him warmed. His arm warmed. He made the tremendous effort to reach his other mental hand to the shield, and those fingers started warming also. He dug his hands into the shield, used the faint shadow of the shape of Jim Kirk remaining from the last time, where he knew the stone was malleable. He curled his fingertips into it and held as tight as he could and felt like if he didn't everything would slide away.

Then there was a drift of heat along his back like a blanket, which had him melting with relief.

The warmth energized him, and he got back a little rational thought.

Spock?

Captain.

Jim. Did you really tell security to stun everyone in the bar? Oh. That got him a spike of heat from that shield over there, and not the good heat he'd been getting from this shield here.

There was no time to distinguish those with good intentions from those with bad intentions.

Kirk snorted. Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out?

I did not have them killed.

No, no, just a human saying. Scorched earth policy and all that?

I am unfamiliar with that phrase.

I'll 'splain later.

Captain.

Jim. Yeah, Spock?

Why do you persist in ignoring your own safety?

Well, shit. Kirk had spent enough time during his life with various and sundry psychiatrists and psychologists, both in and out of Starfleet, that he was fairly well aware of why he behaved the way he did on these now rarer occasions, but there was still just no way he was going to have that conversation with Spock. Or anyone. Well, Bones sort of knew, mostly because he'd been there for too many of his nightmares when they were at the Academy. Also because he had the psychology training to figure out all the clues your average cadet wouldn't figure out, but Kirk had never officially told anyone and he had no intention of ever doing so.

Just having a little fun, Spock.

That was a lie.

Crap. Sorry. I forgot.

Answer me.

I take the Fifth. Because, oh yeah, also, he was still a little pissed about that whole security escort thing. Justified or not.

Another wave of heat from that one shield. Kirk mentally edged away from it.

Captain Kirk, your safety is no small matter.

It's a great big universe out there. Sometimes I'm gonna get hurt.

There is no need for you to instigate. Kirk was certain he heard a snarl in that last word. Weird.

Spock, I can take care of myself. Okay, wow, that was really the wrong thing to say. That other shield blasted heat, Kirk found the energy to shove himself away from it, and while he was pissed that he had to let go of his favorite shield to do it, he compensated by pulling handfuls of those sticky red-and-clear strands from that shield with him as he distanced himself. (And yeah, that was even weirder, because how the fuck did he know how to do something like that?)

What the hell, Spock?

It got hotter.

And the canyon wall above him started tilting over him.

And he suddenly realized that Spock was actually angry. No, not angry. Enraged. Furious. Barely in control. He could see that that one shield was thin, jerking and bending (stone? bending?) in a mental way that couldn't be good.

Shiiit!

Kirk's pathetic remnant of a self-preservation instinct actually kicked in and he shoved himself away and suddenly he was out of the meld, in Sickbay, staring up at dark eyes that fairly glowed with the force of unleashed Vulcan rage in the few seconds before Spock's eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he collapsed all over Kirk.

The familiar whine of the transporter got Kirk's attention after that, and McCoy materialized. He dropped a glass of something, staggered back into the wall, stared at Kirk, glared at Kirk, and then Kirk remembered he couldn’t breathe, and oh shit, everything hurt, and McCoy was shouting as he passed out.

Chapter Text

There were two conversations after that meld.

The first was short and to the point and mostly one-sided, and Spock ended it with a twenty-two point three four seven nine percent chance that they wouldn't have a similar conversation again; he allowed an unscientifically large margin of error due to the fact that James Kirk was simply the least predictable or manageable human he had ever met.

Kirk came away from it feeling as if he'd had his balls chopped off and handed to him on a plate with a side of fuck you. Who knew Spock could be so viciously savage (yeah, Spock was a peaceful Vulcan like James T. Kirk was a virgin) in the midst of his furiously controlled (because he was so furious even a tribble could have figured it out, and so controlled that Kirk very (very) briefly entertained the idea that he'd actually shoved a stick up his own ass) excoriation of Kirk's actions? Not to mention his explicitly detailed description of the consequences should Kirk disregard his own safety in such a manner ever again. Kirk had not one iota of doubt that Spock would follow through on every last one of those consequences if he ever gave Spock cause to believe he had instigated self-endangering actions ever again.

But Kirk sort of didn't mind because he also came away from that one conversation with the idea that maybe Spock actually cared what happened to him.

Not just because his thinly disguised threats – no, consequences - were entirely of a personal nature, but because Kirk had been threatened enough times by enough people to know when someone was just fucking around with him or trying to get into his head: Spock was doing neither.

And not just because the threa — consequences were entirely of a personal nature, but because Spock's consequences, although mostly of a non-permanent nature, were so specifically tailored to Kirk's own psyche that they lit a bonfire of terror in the back of his brain.

And best of all, to Kirk's mind, Spock didn’t threaten The Captain with his entirely personal and mostly non-permanent consequences, he threatened Jim. It meant Spock knew enough about Jim to effectively threaten him. It meant Spock was reacting on a personal level, not a professional one.

Plus there was that whole thing about Spock's anger shield practically breaking apart before his (mental) eyes; no one got that angry about something that didn't matter to them and it could only mean that Spock didn't want Kirk to get himself hurt again.

He hoped.

Kirk considered that progress in their relationship. Friendship.

Or whatever.

Anyway.

The tough conversation was actually the one with Bones.

It started with "You're a damn idiot" and it ended with shots of Romulan ale, and in between the two Kirk was run through McCoy's entire arsenal of insults and curses personalized just for him, plus he even learned a few new ones (which he considered a bonus but don't tell Bones that ever).

To say that McCoy had disliked the experience of being beamed off his barstool and materialized in his sickbay without any sort of warning was probably the understatement of the century. But the scene he had been reassembled to was simply unforgivable: Kirk laid out on the floor of sickbay, hand still wrapped around the knife sticking out of his ribs, passing out in front of McCoy's eyes, and the pointy-eared bastard unconscious on top of him.

However, it wasn't until the doctor got down to brass tacks that Kirk actually started to feel a little guilty. And stupid.

Apparently Spock had not only slowed Kirk's system and held it at a precise balance between coma and asphyxiation for those several minutes before transport to the sickbay, but at some level that warmth he had fed Kirk during the meld had been his own personal energy. Spock had gone into a Vulcan healing coma for about twelve hours after he passed out.

Worst of all, this had left the Enterprise without a captain or a first officer for those twelve hours, since Bones had kept Kirk in sickbay for forty-eight hours after fixing his punctured lung and clearing his system of the drugs he'd been given and also, by the way, gotten him breathing again. Not that there was much that could go wrong on a starbase, or that his senior officers couldn't handle anything that did come up, but the point was made (quite directly) and Kirk took it to heart.

Chapter Text

The third meld Kirk had with Spock (Kirk's fourth meld total, if you counted that one with other Spock), was after another away mission, about three months after the previous one.

Everything had gone right this time.

Kirk and Uhura had negotiated a contract with the colonists that gave the Federation some unique luxury goods and got the settlers some metals that weren't commonly found on their planet.

As occasionally happened, the colony's leaders offered their planet for shore leave, and Kirk was happy to oblige.

The away team beamed back to the Enterprise, Uhura heading off to coordinate the shore leave schedule with Spock. It would have to be short since they had already received orders for their next mission, but even a few hours off ship tended to release a lot of the tension that got stored up with about a thousand people living in close quarters.

Kirk stopped in at sickbay, looking for McCoy. He was directed to the botany lab, where he found him dabbing some pale pink gooey-looking stuff on Sulu's arm while a few other crew members gathered around watching.

"Eeuuw, what's that?" Kirk asked, not getting too close.

McCoy snorted. "The entire botany department caught something, including our intrepid volunteer, here. I just dropped in to make sure it's not any worse than we think it is."

"What about my quarantine regs?" Kirk asked menacingly.

Sulu spoke fast, "It's just poison oak. There was a small glitch in the sample identification system."

Kirk backed up toward the door really fast. "Hey Bones, uh, maybe you should skip this shore leave, you know, and get this stuff, like, annihilated before I get back?"

"That would be the botany department's responsibility," McCoy said without looking up.

"Okay, well, just make sure someone's on it, right? I gotta go."

Kirk turned and didn't run out the door but it was definitely a fast walk. He rounded the first corner and slammed right into Spock.

"Ow, fuck!" Kirk rubbed his chin where it had slammed into Spock's collarbone.

"Captain, my apologies."

"No, no, Spock, it's fine. I wasn't paying attention." They stared at each other for a second and Kirk got that bug-under-a-microscope feeling again. "What?"

"I have noticed that your speech patterns default to profanity when you are hurt."

Kirk blinked. Huh? "I never feel pain."

"That is not true."

"It was a joke, Spock."

Spock gave him that look that other people might have called exasperated, but Kirk always preferred his own translation: "You are an emotional, illogical, shit-magnet of a human but I will never say that to your face because you are my Captain." He especially liked the "I will never say that to your face" part; almost as much as he liked the "you are my Captain" part.

Kirk gave Spock his own version of the bug-under-a-microscope look, until Spock raised an eyebrow at him.

"There are other occasions I default to profanity," with a wink and a leer.

"Are there."

And by the very dryness of Spock's tone of voice he knew Spock knew he was fucking with him. He also knew that he could only win if Spock didn't know, so he let it drop.

"Walk with me."

"Sir."

"Do you have the shore leave schedule about ready? Cause I wanna be on one of the first coupla transports down. They're supposed to have an amazing sunset down there and I'd like to catch one while we're in the neighborhood. So to speak."

Spock looked sharply at him.

"What?"

"You wish to view a sunset?"

"Believe it or not, Spock, I do appreciate a beautiful sunset on occasion."

"Of course." Spock made a few notations on the padd he was carrying. "You are in the third group. Departure in twenty-eight minutes."

"What, no fractions or decimals?"

"I am attempting to approximate more frequently, since the use of a fractional level of accuracy does not seem to be of much use or interest to humans during casual conversation."

Kirk was actually struck dumb by that comment. He was also surprised at the little pain that shot through his chest. He stopped walking and grabbed Spock's arm, turning them face to face.

"Spock, no."

"Excuse me?"

"Don't do that."

"I do not-"

"Don't change yourself because of us."

"Captain–"

"I mean it, Spock. Look, be Vulcan, be human, be whatever you want to be, but don't be what you think we want you to be. Shit, did I really just say that?"

"Captain–"

"Orders, Spock: don’t change yourself for us. Only change yourself for you. Personally? I like you the way you are and I don't give a flying fuck what anyone else thinks. I like your fractions and your decimals and I already miss them, so if you want to make your Captain happy, and that had better be your only fucking goal in life, then bring them back until you get tired of them."

Spock tilted his head a little, just looking.

Kirk kept at it, suddenly finding it very important to make Spock see. "Do you understand me? Because if I hear any of that kind of nonsense again, I will fucking knock you down and beat some sense into your hard Vulcan head, don't think I can't if I want to."

It wasn't the bug-under-a-microscope look any more, but Kirk suddenly felt laid bare. He'd somehow said too much, revealed too much. Spock was looking at him as if he was seeing him for the first time. Or maybe really understanding him for the first time. Kirk wasn't often on the receiving end of that sort of look by anyone (he worked hard to keep it that way) and it never failed to make him twitchy.

He realized he now had both hands tight on Spock's arms, and slowly released them.

"I understand, Jim."

"Good." Kirk almost breathed a sigh of relief, though about what, he wasn't exactly certain. "And don’t you forget it."

He clapped Spock on the arm then turned to walk.

"So, what do you like best about me?

"Your fine ass. Sir."

Chapter Text

"So, what do you like best about me?

"Your fine ass. Sir."

-----

Kirk halted in his tracks, choked a little, then started coughing until tears leaked from his eyes and he was gasping for air.

Spock got the small twitch between his eyes that Kirk had learned to interpret as a frown. "Should I get Doctor McCoy?"

"Don't you fucking dare. Shit, Spock. I'm never going to believe you again when you say you don't understand human humor."

Kirk wiped his eyes, and this time when he saw the edges of Spock's mouth curve up just the tiniest bit he knew it wasn't the tears.

After that, Kirk jogged off to his quarters to change and barely made it to the transporter room in time.

He really did want to see a sunset. Preferably with a warm and willing body in his arms, but if not, he'd manage things on his own later. As usual, dammit.

He got directions to a restaurant situated on the edge of a river, with an outdoor dining area that faced the sunset. He spent a while in the bar, waiting for a table.

It was a far different atmosphere than the bar where he'd gotten stabbed by that Orion a few months ago. The restaurant was family-oriented, so the bar was spacious and well-lit. Kirk knew he wouldn't be groped as he sat, and he thought he could be reasonably certain his drinks wouldn't be drugged when he wasn't looking (and boy, hadn't that been a colossal piece of idiocy on his part; he had been operating under the assumption that his face was still unknown that far from earth).

He still remembered that last meld with Spock with complete clarity, and he could probably still recite Spock's subsequent threats word for word. He occasionally felt just a little whipped that he was terrified of his First Officer, but consoled himself with the thought that it was only on a personal level. Professionally, they had gotten past that awkward getting-to-know-you phase pretty quick, and now Kirk couldn't even imagine being on the Enterprise or an away mission - or just about anywhere, really - without Spock beside him. He knew Spock had his back no matter what and that was close to one of the best feelings in the universe.

He had still so far been unable to get Spock to fully explain why those Vulcan words had such an effect on him in that first meld. The translation Spock had given (friends/brothers/warriors-in-arms) didn’t sound like anything that should have made him go all gooey inside; the whole thing was just plain weird. And call him weird, but Kirk wanted to try another meld just to see if Spock could say something else to him in Vulcan and see if the same thing happened; it felt that good.

And then there was that one shield that felt so good to mentally touch. Spock had thrown up more defenses about that whole thing than he'd ever seen him use with anything else, so Kirk figured there was something really good going on in there and he wanted to know what it was. He had gotten the sense that there were slidey spaces in and around that one shield, cracks and crevices that he would be able to use to get through. Because he really wanted to know.

His fingers still itched to touch it again, to pry his way into it (and Spock's privacy be dammed, which was beginning to make Kirk a little uncomfortable with himself; he was beginning to think he was a little obsessed about Spock's shields). There were even nights he woke up with his fingertips warm and tingling and static-sticky and his arms stretched out on his bed, reaching, and he would swear he could see those strands he had wrapped around his hands and tried in his very human way to drag out of the meld to keep with him that last time.

Frankly, everything about Spock felt good.

Wait, that sounded wrong.

Mentally, he meant; Spock felt good mentally.

He loved the puzzle that Spock was. Every time he learned something new about him, he caught a glimpse of six other things to figure out. It was fun and entertaining and when Kirk had insomnia (usually after a disastrous away mission, though thankfully there hadn’t been that many of those) he could spend hours staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out ways to get a new or different reaction from Spock, or a stronger reaction, or get him to do the Spock equivalent of a smile or a frown.

Spock was steady, reliable; Kirk knew he could count on him with his life. Spock was scarily fearsome when he believed Kirk to be in danger, which Kirk generally interpreted in a favorable light, even if it pissed him off when he actually needed (wanted) to endanger himself. He somehow understood that Spock had let him inside most of the walls he kept up for just about everyone else, let Kirk see the off-duty side of him, and sometimes even his human side. That also had to mean something, and Kirk fully intended to make use of it if he deemed it necessary in order to get through those Jim Kirk-shaped cracks in that shield.

And he didn’t even mind when Spock kicked his ass at chess, because he absolutely loved the look on Spock's face when he turned the tables. It was awesome to be around someone who actually challenged him in every imaginable way: Spock was smarter than him about lots of things, which was practically unheard of and made for fascinating (there he went, sounding like a Spock again) conversations; Spock could kick his ass with two fingers, even if he mostly didn't; Spock even activated Kirk's innate protective instincts like no one else. He simply pulled Kirk to him like a Jim Kirk-sized vacuum. Truth be told, he considered Spock another best friend (don't tell Bones ever) and he talked to him about nearly everything, sometimes even running his mouth off about nothing just to watch Spock go from quiet dispassion to reluctant interest then appalled fascination or even bewildered participation in whatever verbal game Kirk happened to be playing.

Spock was just so much fun to play with.

Someone tapped Kirk on the shoulder, and he turned, shifting what he realized (to his extreme horror) was a goofy grin to a different kind of smile for the hostess.

"If you'll follow me, sir, your table is ready."

Chapter Text

Someone tapped Kirk on the shoulder, and he turned, shifting what he realized (to his extreme horror) was a goofy grin to a different kind of smile for the hostess.

"If you'll follow me, sir, your table is ready."

Kirk grabbed his drink and followed her out to the patio, stretching out in his chair when he got settled. The table was right at the edge of the patio, overlooking the river with a perfect view of the sunset. His clothing set him apart from the colonists, and there had been enough publicity about the negotiations that he figured he'd been recognized as ship crew and was being treated as a minor celebrity.

The conversation among the other diners was a few levels below rambunctious, but the river noises came through clearly.

He ordered after a while (Bones had already figured out what was safe for him), then leaned sideways and rested his elbows on the rail until the sun went down.

The sunset was as described: vivid colors, spectacular cloud formations, the whole shebang. While similar to earth sunsets, there was enough of a chemical difference between the systems that this sunset tilted more toward greens and purples than reds and oranges, and Kirk was glad he had the chance to see it.

His dinner came and he enjoyed the fresh food (as opposed to replicated food) as the sky slowly darkened, until he overheard a few words from the next table over.

A young boy, perhaps ten or eleven years old, was eating dinner with an older man, maybe in his late thirties.

Kirk only happened to glance over at the right moment to see a look on the boy's face that he had seen in the mirror too many times to count. He stared, looking back and forth between the man and child, disbelieving at first. His rage nearly boiled over when he got it, and he dropped his knife and fork to his plate with a clatter that got the man's attention.

Kirk simply watched the asshole, allowing him to see the angry, dangerous youth he had been less than four years previously. He let his red-hot anger show, and took a deep satisfaction at the man's fearful response.

Kirk slowly shifted his attention to the boy, evaluating for physical damage, then emotional. The boy met his gaze briefly then looked back down at his plate. In that short glance, Kirk saw everything he had ever seen in himself: abused, damaged, desperate. Lost.

Looking back at the man, Kirk this time put the full force of his position and power behind his anger.

The creep looked away and gestured for the waitress. Fucking coward!

While they checked out, Kirk tossed out enough spare credit chits to pay his own tab without having to wait. He waited for the pair to leave then headed out a side door.

Coming out the alley beside the restaurant, he watched them move down the sidewalk. Instead of catching a cab they continued to walk, so he followed them silently, using not just his Starfleet training but skills he learned far earlier in life.

He followed them until they turned off the main road the restaurant was on, and out of sight of most foot traffic. He deliberately scuffed a boot as he rounded the corner behind them.

The man turned fast and they were only yards apart when they faced off.

"What do you want?" the man said in a loud, aggressive voice. Kirk understood then that his fear in the restaurant wasn't of him but of the scene he might make in public.

"Are you that stupid?" Kirk said in his most coldly dangerous voice.

"Offworlder," the man sneered.

"Starfleet Captain," Kirk snarled.

"Starfleet. You don't have authority here."

"I don't need authority here."

The man did a double-take, gave Kirk a more thorough once-over, then did the unexpected. He shoved the boy at Kirk, saying, "You can have him; he wasn't worth what I paid for him anyway."

Kirk went to one knee and caught the boy as he stumbled at him. He rested both hands on the boy's thin shoulders and whispered in his ear while he kept his eyes on the man.

"I'm gonna take care of this bastard for good. Go back to the restaurant and wait for me, or another offworlder. Run, now."

The boy nodded and ran; Kirk slowly straightened and gave the man the full force of his attention.

"Now. How about we try this with someone your own size."

The man sneered at Kirk, "Let's go, little boy."

And that was all it took.

Kirk launched himself at the man. He was a bit outmatched size-wise but he was pretty sure he would win in hand-to-hand because yeah, he was just good that way.

They went down in a tangle and Kirk knew the scrapes and bruises were going to hurt the next day but he didn't care. All he cared about was hearing the flat crack of his knuckles against the other man's skin; the sharp gasps of pain that weren't his; the crunch of bones and cartilage that weren’t his own.

Every hit was a flash to his own childhood, to Frank and the past that wouldn't stay buried.

He was so focused on delivering pain that his block to the short movement when the other man slapped his thigh was a fraction of a second too slow. There was a short sting that caught his attention. He paused, fists cocked, and a wave of dizziness rocked him back on his heels.

The man pushed Kirk off him, and he no longer had the strength to stop him or catch himself. The ground was hard and it hurt and he couldn't move, could barely blink.

The other guy kicked him in the ribs and he heard the crack, loud over the sound of his own labored breathing. The guy said something, kicked him in the leg, hard, then there were other noises. He ran from Kirk's field of vision, there was a series of dark flashes of movement and a hard thump.

He couldn’t move, could barely breathe, hoped the boy was safe, wondered if he was going to die alone on a filthy, deserted street; each thought was interspersed with a flash from his childhood, like an uncontrollable slide-show that dredged out all the ugly mess he tried so hard to forget.

Flash: "That's the last time you talk back to me, Jimmy boy!"

He took another breath, drawing for air as hard as he could against broken ribs and a slowly closing trachea.

Another flash: "Jimmy, you little shit! You have to come out some time!"

Another breath.

Another flash: "Your mother doesn't care about you, boy. Why do you think she left you with me?"

A pointless attempt to breathe.

Then hands were on him, shifting his broken ribs and he couldn’t even move to protest. One hot hand slid across his chest, stopped briefly, then lifted, falling back on his face.

Chapter Text

Spock finally finished the leave schedule, finished with his experiments for the day earlier than planned, and realized he was somewhat at loose ends. Not that that couldn't be easily rectified, but his thoughts were drawn to his Captain. Kirk had gone to the planet alone and that was something Spock had just never been comfortable with ever since Delta Vega. James Kirk alone on any planet's surface was bound to be...historic.

The captain had been gone for one hour and twenty-three point four two eight minutes with no word, making Spock – well, certainly not nervous. But perhaps uneasy might be a good word. Plus there was that faint unusual sense he seemed to be developing about James Kirk and the human's conditions.

For instance, right now he just knew that Kirk had tipped in one shocking moment from relaxed tranquility to blind rage. Tossing arguments around in his head like marbles, he finally just grabbed his communicator and cut in line for the transporter.

He beamed down to the same coordinates Kirk had used, a little surprised to find himself in front of the meeting hall they had used earlier for negotiations. Inside, inquiries confirmed that Kirk had asked after an appropriate restaurant; Spock got the same directions and went at a fast run, that unorthodox connection urging him to full speed.

At the restaurant he again asked after his captain. They recognized Spock's description of him, but he had left a few minutes earlier.

Spock went back out to the street, looking both ways. Something didn't feel right. And no, he wasn't admitting to having a feeling; with James Kirk involved it was reliably a fact. For the first time ever, Spock threw open his shields and focused inward to his sense of Kirk, of his existence, and tried to get a direction. The connection he had to Kirk's emotions was indistinct, barely noticeable unless he concentrated or they were overwhelming for Kirk. He suspected it was a terrible breach of Vulcan etiquette and human privacy to use it this way, but he also had never heard of anything like this connection happening before among Vulcans so he had no guidelines to follow. And, he could also tell now that something was frighteningly wrong and his concern superseded all rules.

He nearly fell over when a small boy barreled into his midsection. He caught the child around the shoulders, briefly swamped in fear and relief and adoration and fear before he could clamp down his shields again.

When the child actually pulled away enough to get a good look at Spock, he stilled. He reached over and pulled at the hem of Spock's uniform shirt, rubbed it, then looked up at him.

Then he said, "He's with the bad man."

"Who is?"

"The man like you. The offworlder. He said someone would come."

"Where is he?"

The boy pointed back the way he had come. "Four streets."

Spock pulled out his communicator and hailed the Enterprise. "This is Commander Spock, emergency code alpha-prime-four-seven. Security, team of four, emergency transport to my coordinates. Doctor McCoy and Lieutenant Uhura, emergency transport to same coordinates." He spoke to the boy again. "There will be four men with red shirts here in less than one minute. Please show them which direction to go." The boy nodded seriously. "After that, there will be a man and a woman. They must also come after me. Stay with the woman; she will keep you safe." The boy nodded again.

Spock ran.

He was in the middle of the second block when he heard the transporter whine behind him; a moment's pause then running footsteps after him. He was in the middle of the third block when he heard the transporter whine again, followed by McCoy's howl of outrage and the sound of shattering glass.

He rounded the third corner and nearly tripped over Kirk, who was sprawled on the walkway. He barely avoided slamming into the stranger standing over Kirk, then wished he had when the man viciously kicked the Captain hard in the thigh then turned and ran. Security rounded the corner and Spock waved them on while he dropped to his knees at Kirk's side.

Spock knew the tenor of that gasping breath, knew exactly what it meant, and fear and fury rose in him in equal proportions. He didn't stop to think or consider: Kirk's lungs were closing off and he had the strained look he got when he just couldn't get enough air (and wasn't it a bitch that Spock could recognize that look in an instant?). His eyes were still half-open and watching Spock but his pupils were blown wide, barely a rim of electric blue around the edges, and he was unnaturally still even when Spock unintentionally moved his broken ribs. And he was silent.

Spock shifted one leg for balance then reached over and melded with him.

There was none of the usual Jim-leaping-into-the-meld as Spock had come to expect. There was none of Jim's ordered and agile mind bouncing from thought to thought, poking and prodding and wanting to know. What he did find was a strobing chaos of light and sound and emotion.

Spock prioritized: get his system slowed and stabilized; get his body to make more efficient use of the little oxygen he could get; slow his blood flow to ease the burden on his heart. After the last time, when he had been forced to do basically the same things by sheer instinct, he had gotten himself prepared, wisely believing it would happen again. Doctor McCoy had given him a thorough run-down on the human systems that would be affected by this sort of event, what needed to happen and in what order.

Jim was worse this time. Last time he had been a little fuzzy around the edges; this time he was fuzz through and through. There was something else different this time; Spock was certain it was another drug of some sort and after he got Jim's systems under his control he tried to work out how the drug was affecting him. It didn't take him long to figure out that there were two parts to whatever it was. One part was a mild paralytic, while the other part worked on Kirk's mind.

He surfaced from the meld just enough to tell McCoy what he had learned, certain he would be there by now.

McCoy was there, examining Kirk's still form with a gentle hand, fingertips of the other wrapped carefully around a nearly lifeless wrist. He glanced up when Spock looked over at him.

"Oh good, you're out. What're the top three?"

"Mild paralytic. Also...hallu- hallucina...ribs. Leg."

"Okay. I need you to move so I can examine his other side. We also need to get him on a stretcher once we're back on the ship; we shouldn't transport him to sickbay without one. You're holding him together, right?"

Spock nodded slowly, but otherwise didn't move.

"You can move while you're in the meld, right?"

"Normally. This one...deeper...."

McCoy narrowed his eyes for a few seconds in thought. "If I help you move further away from him, can you still hold the meld?

"I believe...so."

"Okay. Gimme a second." McCoy carefully lowered Kirk's wrist. Spock released some of the controls for his own physical movements in such a way that his body was able to move simply in response to McCoy's careful guiding touches. Spock appreciated that McCoy also seemed to be attempting to shield his own thoughts when he touched him; the doctor's surface thoughts were focused clinically on Kirk's medical state and blessedly free of strong emotion.

Spock moved slowly, shifting the fingertips of his free hand to the ground between Kirk's side and outstretched arm for balance. Kirk's eyes followed him as he moved, but Spock wasn't sure what he was actually seeing.

"Spock, I'll have the medical equipment ready in the transporter room along with a stretcher and we can get started on him there before you end the meld. Also, his heart rate is too slow," McCoy said calmly. "Can you speed it up a little?"

"Define..."

"Can you get him up to forty beats per minute? Then come back out and talk to me in four minutes; we should be aboard by then and set up in the transporter room. If I have to touch you before then, don't hit me."

Spock went back into the meld and prompted Jim's heart. The response was sluggish, but there. He got the beats up, checked other systems and made a few corrections.

Then he went searching for Jim.

This time Spock focused on the flashes, trying to understand. An unfamiliar voice shot out of Jim's mind at him.

Flash: "Shut your fucking mouth, Jimmy, or I'll shut it for you!"

It was followed by disconnected waves of fear, despair, loathing, and then a silent movie of an older man, face twisted in anger, looming taller as he moved closer, then a hand lashing out and the picture cut to black.

Flash: "You're worthless, Jimmy boy. You're not good for anything but fucking, and you're not even any good at that."

Fear, self-disgust, heart-breaking pain, anger; the same older man, naked, retreating from a bed, covers dragged to the foot, red human blood visible on the sheets. The picture went dark.

Flash: "Did you enjoy last night, boy? Cause I'll be happy to do it again."

Fear as always, physical pain, revulsion and an abiding hatred that seared the memory. The same older man appeared again, standing with a canned beverage in one hand, other hand massaging his own crotch. Then blackness.

Spock finally broke from the shocked paralysis caused by the realization of what he was seeing.

This was Jim's childhood? This was...unspeakable. It was terrifying, appalling, detestable, reprehensible...and beyond that, yes, unspeakable. Spock was sickened and horrified beyond thought or comprehension. Even the worst days of his childhood would not compare with this.

Another flash pulsed by: "C'mere, boy. You want food, don'tcha? I know you got something to trade."

Hunger surged, and a sinking determination mixed with fierce protectiveness and white-hot hatred. A taller visual perspective from Jim; he was older. A different adult this time, filthy, armed, leering, holding out a small packet of crackers and gesturing toward himself with it. This picture did a slow fade.

And flashed into: "Grab him! He wants the food, he can trade for it!"

Resolve, desperate aching hunger, and that determined protectiveness ran alongside Jim's viewpoint of a group of heavily armed men surrounding him, shoving him from one to another within their circle, then the terrifying sensation of his shirt being ripped from his body.

The picture stuttered from view, almost as if the later memory had more stick to it, more presence, more power.

Another flash that Spock at first couldn't be certain was a different day, a different scene: there were no sounds except Jim's harsh, labored breathing roaring in his ears alongside the thunder of Jim's heartbeat, superimposed on a strange, brief grunt of surprise from someone else.

The visuals were even slower to form this time. Instead, the physical sensations were heightened. Spock felt cold mud and rocks under his knees through Jim's jeans; his bare toes dug into the mud, grabbing for purchase. Cold rain plastered his back, his head, his arms, and his toes were nearly numb with it. Jim's belly, thighs and forearms were marginally warmer; he straddled another body that was face-down, bigger than his, pressed against it with one arm wrapped strangely around it. Jim's other hand held something hard and his entire body was motionless except for deep, all-over shivering.

When it came, the visual strobed fast and sharp, almost painfully, several drawn out blinks, before it blurred then cut out. It took Spock several long seconds to tie the sequence of images to the sensations: blood-edged knife; swiftly reddening mud; Jim's own dirty fingers tightened on and around and obscuring the face of the body he straddled; the lifeless fall of a hand as it dropped to the mud; a stuttering glance up to a child sitting in the mud, feet nearly in the red and hands behind him on the ground poised for escape, face an endless mask of terror and relief that fogged into black.

Howling along behind the visual was grief and fear and guilt and desperation and hunger and cold and that tenacious determination to protect that never never never went away...and hate.

And as much as that scene alone nearly broke Spock, the next flash cut right through him and sliced his heart wide open: "Listen up, boy. Ragnan is next, then Tanzil. Make them happy and I'll throw in a few extra slices of bread."

A flashing view of a filthy bed, a sense of the tense sprawl of Jim's limbs, cold and unclothed, hands clenched into fists out of sight under a thin pillow, the sideways view of a larger man fastening his pants.

This picture was accompanied by nothing more than a numb determination to endure whatever it took to survive.

Spock was rocked by the surge of feelings that rose within him: he wanted to kill the perpetrators, every last one of them, and he wanted them to hurt from it; he needed to protect Jim from any bad thing that might happen to him ever again; a deep, aching grief on Jim's behalf saturated him. He was spectacularly awed that Jim had become the man he was with this shit (oh, yes, that human word fit this situation most precisely) clogging his brain and at that point Spock had to lock down the remaining emotions he wasn't at all willing to examine or endure.

He took a mental deep breath, gathered himself and met the still-oncoming snapshots directly. He wanted to expunge the memories and while he was faintly shocked at the strength of his own desire to do so, he wasn't surprised. He was barely able to stop himself from ripping them out at the source, but they weren't his to take. What he could do, however, was protect Jim from the damage they still caused.

Spock wrapped himself around Jim, easing the hurt, tempering the fear, sharing the heartbreak.  He shielded Jim from each memory as much as he could, trying to take the brunt of the vividly remembered assaults himself, to filter the raw brutality down to the status of distant memory. The sheer volume of these individual memories was almost debilitating to deal with and Spock couldn't grasp how Jim had not only survived the experiences, but become the strong, powerful individual he was.

At some point there was a surge in Jim's oxygen intake, a sudden increase in his heart rate. Spock knew McCoy must have gotten the paralytic neutralized so he released his controls over Jim's body, then focused all of his attention on Jim.

With the hatred Jim had buried, Spock interwove a statement of his own desire that Jim's love for his ship and crew not be tainted by the hate he carried. With the self-disgust that ghosted each memory, Spock fused a statement of the value, worth and regard that not only Spock, but the entire crew, held for Jim.

Remembering Jim's previous reaction when he spoke to him in Vulcan, he used the language again, speaking the sentences slowly, embedding them deeply. He phrased them with the words and rhythms any Vulcan would have used to speak to a beloved: a private, intimate tone, a pattern of speech that implied and assumed trust, steadfast affection, a constant bond. He hoped that using his native language would impart to Jim the seriousness of his intent. Jim wouldn't understand the words, but Spock knew he would discern the meaning, and that was what he needed him to know.

He locked the words into place with a final thought, and felt a subtle shift in the strands of the link between them as the words settled into place. That small slip in the meld had also happened in their previous melds; small adjustments that the meld seemed to perform on its own as Spock had worked to keep Jim alive. It was another thing he had never encountered before in a meld or any Vulcan lesson or text so he wasn't sure it was something that should happen, but the adjustments felt right so he had left them in place. This time, however, the alteration was less noticeable, which actually drew his attention more than the others; he made a mental note to investigate further at a later time.

The flashes began to slow. Jim began to emerge; the real Jim, the here-and-now Jim, the one Spock had grown to care for and considered not just a friend, but his best friend. Spock was immeasurably relieved when he finally heard Jim's mental voice.

S-Spock?

Captain.

Spock?

I am here. I will always be here – unbidden, and Spock shoved that (inexplicably emotional) thought back behind a shield very fast.

Whaaa? Still unfocused but definitely present.

You were drugged and beaten.

Jim gave a weak mental laugh at the dryness of Spock's comment (he had learned early on of that reliable method to amuse his Captain). He came a little more to life, though his thought processes were still slow and hazy.

...I win?

Decidedly not. How do you - feel?

...Not's bad 's'if...alone. The boy?

Lieutenant Uhura is working with the local authorities to locate his parents, and the man who had him has been turned over to the local law enforcement. Spock couldn't prevent the spike of satisfaction that arced across the meld.

Jim caught it, even in his altered state, and latched on to it. Whaaa happ'n...?

The man was inadvertently damaged by the security team when he resisted capture.

Jim laughed.

Against the horror they had just endured, Spock was utterly captivated at the pure, clean joy that Jim projected. He got that Jim wasn't laughing about the security team's actions (mostly), but at Spock's obvious delight with the results. He had never encountered anything so attractive, so seductive, and he felt another subtle twist in the meld that he didn't understand. It was logically alarming and he instinctively pulled back, and grew even more alarmed when he realized how deep the meld had become. They were meshed in a way Spock had never experienced or been taught or told about, and he was swiftly reaching the conclusion that his training with regard to mind melds had been deplorably insufficient.

I need to end the meld now.

Damn!

Pardon?

Don' I getta...feel you up?

Excuse me?

Tha' shield you have. Wanna play with...again.

Uh?

C'mon, Spock. You know I get...hard-on for anyone's smart'r'n me.

Spock's brain went blank.

Spock?

Completely blank.

Still here?

Frozen.

Spock?

Captain.

Shit, don' scare me...where'dja go?

I am here. I will always be here. Where did that come from? I am going to end the meld now.

Bummer.

Spock eased out, and he should have known to use more caution in the face of that sudden capitulation. He couldn't control an all-over shiver at the heated writhe of Jim's obscenely grabby mind against his as he pulled out.

Spock indulged himself again: fucking unmanageable human! Even half-drugged he'd somehow found a way to touch a few key areas of Spock's mind as he withdrew, dragging mental fingers against Spock in an arousing and provocative —

"Dammit, Spock, took you long enough!" McCoy snapped.

They were in sickbay, both of them somehow fitting on a biobed, Spock now straddling Kirk. He looked down; Kirk was looking up at him, his eyes still glazed but not quite so dilated as before and the faint curl of an unrepentant grin on his lips.

"You shi-" was all Spock managed before everything tilted.

Several nurses and orderlies caught him as he collapsed. The last thing he heard before he passed out was Kirk's slurred but indignant voice.

"Ow, fuuu..."

Chapter Text

Kirk hoped there wouldn't be any really tough conversations after that meld; he figured it should be pretty hard to give someone shit for rescuing a kid. Even Uhura got a little extra softness around her luscious mouth when she looked at him these days.

In this, he greatly underestimated the abilities of both his first officer and his chief medical officer to give him shit.

Bones called him and Spock into his office a week later and updated them together. Kirk flopped on McCoy's small couch next to Spock in a space-taking sprawl, accidentally banged a knee into Spock's knee, left it there, and grinned when Spock shifted but didn't actually move away. Spock was getting used to his touchy-feely ways and there were days when Kirk was certain there was a way he could use that to get Spock to meld with him again (maybe next time while he was conscious, or at least undrugged), even if he hadn't quite figured out the actual details yet.

McCoy opened with, "We can add the paralytic to the list of Things Jim Can't Have. Spock, I'll send you an information sheet on it later. Jim, I'd send it to you also, but I know you won't read it."

Kirk pasted a wounded look on his face. "Bones, I'm not that oblivious to my own safety."

Spock looked at him sharply and McCoy's face drew into an ominous frown.

Kirk shut up.

McCoy glared at him for another moment to make sure he stayed shut up, then continued.

"The second drug was definitely a hallucinogen, but people like Jim don't take it voluntarily."

Kirk would have asked "What do you mean, people like me?" just for the entertainment factor, but he had just realized his XO and CMO were both a little more on edge about the whole thing than he had believed, even if they weren't giving him (too much) shit (so far) about it.

Still, he couldn't let that go unremarked. "I'm right here, you know."

McCoy ignored him. "Even people who do take it voluntarily are very careful with it. It immerses the user in memories based on their emotional state at the moment they take it. It's also easy to slide into other memories if you're not extremely careful."

Spock nodded and said, "That explains what I saw during the meld".

McCoy looked at Spock, eyes narrowed. "How much did you see?" he asked Spock.

Kirk snorted. "Fucking everything," he answered for Spock. It came out a little more harshly than he intended so he amended, "No offense, Spock. If someone had to see all that garbage you're the person I would choose." He looked over at McCoy and added, "Because I know he won't get all sappy about it."

McCoy got an interested look on his face and looked back at Spock.

"Bones, don’t you dare. Spock, I forbid you to talk to him about what you saw."

"If it concerns your welfare, it would hardly be logical not to tell the Doctor."

"No. I forbid you."

"Captain. I am not your doctor, and you do not have the expectation of medical confidentiality with me."

Kirk ran the heel of one hand over the sudden physical pain in his chest that Spock's statement caused him. He said, "Maybe not, but I thought I had the expectation of privacy," and was horrified at the wounded note in his voice.

McCoy opened his mouth and Kirk held up a hand.

"Bones, we are not going there. We just aren’t. Never. It's not happening."

McCoy focused a look on him that he translated to "In a pig's eye" and because he knew McCoy so well he also added the codicil "You just wait until I get you alone."

Kirk repeated himself. "No. Absolutely not."

Spock joined the conversation again with "Captain, it is illogical not to address the issues."

"No." He stood. "Meeting adjourned." They both just sat there, looking at him. Shit. "No. Not happening."

Spock finally looked at McCoy. McCoy raised an eyebrow at Spock (so wrong!).

"Stop that," Kirk snapped.

"Captain, please sit down."

Kirk knew he was being unreasonable, but dammit, this was private. This was locked-in-a-vault-and-threw-away-the-key-ten-years-ago private. This was the stuff that still gave him nightmares and sometimes still made him hyperventilate and of course it made him angry sometimes and he wasn’t about to dredge it all up again just so they could lay it out and inspect it from all angles and fucking discuss it.

"No."

"All right, Jim," Bones said placatingly, and Kirk knew he was in deep shit now. That tone of voice meant the doctor had decided to pull out the big guns. His knees went weak and he dropped back to the edge of the couch, controlling his expression and posture as hard as he could but unable to control the adrenalin making his heart beat faster and his respiration rate increase and his entire body shake, and they both knew him well enough to see it as easily as if he had written it on a wall.

This was not good. No, this was so far beyond not good it didn't even inhabit this universe. They were probably right this second trapped in a reality overlap with some other hellish universe.

Trapped, of course, being the operative word.

McCoy looked at him for a long moment, noted his reaction, and continued in his take-no-prisoners voice, "As long as this doesn’t endanger yourself or the crew ever again, I will allow you to manage this on your own schedule, and you will manage it. But here are my conditions.

"One. I get to give you extra psych exams. I won't ask you for details, but I will do a general state-of-mind evaluation every month."

"Shall I bend over right now, Bones?"

"Shut up. Two. I'm putting you on a scheduled exercise program."

"Or maybe I should just open wide?"

"I said shut up. Three. Do you remember how you felt when you went to that bar where you got ripped apart by that Orion?"

"'Felt'? No, I don't recall any 'felt' going on that time."

McCoy stood in a rush and slammed both hands down on his desk, and his chair ricocheted off the wall behind him. His voice went to a low, grinding, dangerous growl that Kirk had only heard once before.

Oh, fuck.

He hadn't even realized that line was there to cross (in his defense, the last time he'd heard McCoy speak that way he'd been drunk off his ass (Jim was drunk, that is), and he'd been working really hard ever since to forget the whole damn incident).

"What did you feel, Jim?"

"Angry," he blurted out.

"What else?" McCoy asked in that same tone.

Kirk squinted a little.

"I know there was more. Give it your best shot."

Okay, good, a little sarcasm to lighten the mood. "Dangerous." He shrugged, but McCoy nodded as if it made sense, and finally sat down again. "And a little dirty, too."

McCoy raised an eyebrow. "I don't think I need—"

"The way that Orion looked at me was kinda...well, say you or Spock looked at me the same way, it woulda been hot. When the Orion did it, I just felt dirty."

The couch moved when Spock looked at him really fast but he kept his eyes right there straight ahead on Bones.

There was silence.

A really awkward silence, and the thought drifted through Kirk's head that perhaps what he had just said constituted sexual harassment. But nobody really seemed to be objecting.

Kirk finally said, "Your point being?"

McCoy's disgusted look turned into a glare. "Next time you feel like that, you come to me or Spock and you say something. And you stay with whichever of us you choose until you don't feel that way anymore."

And then the dam broke.

"You mean like a safe word?" His voice was hard and mean and he already hated himself for it.

"Dammit Jim! Fine. Fine! You want a safe word? How about 'I'm fucked up and I need help'. That work for you?"

"I'd really prefer something along the lines of 'I need to fuck or fight, which is it going to be?'"

"Oh my g—"

"Does your therapy extend to fucking the patient, Bones? Would you fuck my brains out really fucking hard until I can't hear his fucking voice in my fucking head anymore?" He was shaking with something, he didn't know what, but it was deep and vile and hostile and he wished it wasn't a part of him. "Think you could do that, Doc, because sometimes I get tired of hearing him and you could have your dirty way with me because I'd do just about fucking anything to make it stop."

"Jim."

"Or should I get Spock to hit me until I can't see straight, get him to pound me into the ground until I can't feel his hands on me, until it hurts so bad I can only think about right now instead of then?" His voice tightened to hoarse, shaking rage.

"Jim!"

"Maybe I can get him to lay bruises on me that will cover the ones I can't forget. Would you mind doing that for your Captain, Spock? Or maybe I can find another thing that will rip your heart out and then I can just lay back while you beat me into the ground."

"Jim!"

"Because when I feel like that, those are my only two options!"

"James Kirk!" McCoy roared.

"Oh, fuck ME!"

There was a tense, tangible silence, and Kirk hated the sound of his own harsh breaths, deep and hitching and they sounded like he was crying, which he wasn't. And McCoy was looking at him with compassion written all over him, and he couldn't look at Spock, he fucking couldn't do it, wasn't brave enough to face what he had probably just destroyed.

He fell back and pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes. He was shaking; even his fingers were vibrating, and the couch was shaking from the force of it. His palms hurt where his fingernails had dug in. His head hurt.

More than anything he wanted to break something. Maybe even himself. He lifted a foot and slammed his heel back against the front edge of the couch, his entire body jerking with the effort. It felt good, so he did it again.

"That was good, Jim." And it was Bones' very best you-are-a-good-patient voice; the one he only used with Kirk when he wanted to wind him up just for shits and giggles.

"The hell?"

"Congratulations on completing your first, second and third official sessions," McCoy said dryly.

"Fuck you."

"I thought the plan was to fuck you."

The impulse to stand and leap over McCoy's desk and tackle him to the ground was almost more than Kirk could withstand and he shuddered from the force of it, only in small part because he knew that Bones would be the world's best fuck if he actually ever let him in his pants. Bones behaving like this meant he wasn't going to budge from his position on the more immediate issue. At all.

Kirk let loose an angry growl. He couldn't stop shaking. This was exactly why he didn't talk about this shit.

He took a few deep breaths, forced himself to remain still, waited for the silence to go from damaging to simply tense. He shifted forward, put his elbows to his knees and his forehead in his hands, fingers strung through his hair. Gradually the shuddering eased.

They gave him time, and they gave him the silence, and eventually it became something less than strained, although far more than calm.

"Fine. I'll do it," he finally mumbled. He didn’t worry about Bones understanding his words; he knew him well enough to hear the concession in his voice. And Spock, well, he still didn't want to look over there for fear of his reaction. He finally sat up and leaned back again. This time he didn't sprawl, but he had to look over when Spock laid a hand over his immediately after it came to rest on the cushion between them.

Spock looked back, his head tilted just that little bit that meant he was uncertain.

"This is a comfort to you, is it not?"

Kirk didn't trust his voice, so he just nodded. Swallowed a few times, got just that little bit more of control. "I'm sorry, Bones," he said quietly.

McCoy waved a negligent hand, though his voice was a little shaky. "Don't worry about it, kid."

"Spock, I'm sorry."

"Apology accepted, Captain."

Kirk felt a flood of relief that he hadn't completely wrecked things with Spock. There was no way Spock would be touching him if he had broken things that badly.

Spock's fingertips skated slowly over the back of Kirk's hand as he pulled away and something hot unfurled at the back of Kirk's mind, spreading forward and outward fast and deep, easing his shakes and warming his hands and somehow making him feel not-alone and secure and...huh...cherished? Hard to tell, since he was pretty sure he'd never actually felt anything remotely like that before. Weird, but that was the story of his life these days.

He took a deep breath, held it, exhaled, then sighed.

"If I may ask," Spock said quietly, "what is a safe word?"

McCoy let out a strangled, choking sort of noise and the stylus he had been idly toying with went spinning across the office. Kirk looked at Spock, saw he was genuinely curious, and finally started laughing.

Kirk also saw that any explanation McCoy offered would include the words "baseball" and "home run", so he explained to Spock about safe words (and wow, he was going to remember forever the look on Spock's face when he got that piece of information about human sexual practices), then he told Bones he needed a nap. Not an untruth; this emo shit always gave him a fucking migraine.

Chapter Text

McCoy shooed Kirk out, then his own hands finally started shaking. It was always the aftermath that got to him. He reached for the whiskey he always kept within easy reach of his desk and poured a shot.

"Spock, just let me know if you'd like a drink, too."

"I will advise you should I wish to partake."

McCoy slugged back his first and poured his second.

"Glory be," he finally sighed. "I wasn't sure that would work. What are you still doing here?"

"I have some questions, Doctor, which I hoped you would be able to answer."

"Ok, shoot. Scratch that. Ask away."

"Why did you require my presence for this meeting?"

"Seriously?"

"Why would I not be serious?"

"Okay, whatever, Spock. Just..."

"You could just as easily have sent me the information via intraship communications."

"The information I needed you to know was better delivered in person."

"I fail to understand the difference."

McCoy sighed. "Would you have seen all that if I'd emailed you the data sheet?"

"All what?"

"Oh for the love of...all that." McCoy waggled a finger back and forth between himself and the couch.

Spock's eyes narrowed a little.

McCoy spoke slowly and with exaggerated enunciation. "Jim's behavior just now."

"You wanted me to see that?"

"Yes."

Spock thought some more.

McCoy added, "In part."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps you could clarify further."

McCoy sighed again. "That was Jim Kirk backed into a corner."

"A corner?"

"Means I forced him to do something he violently objects to doing. He gets kinda intense when he feels trapped."

A look of dawning comprehension on Spock's face. Faint, Vulcanish, but there. McCoy laughed quietly into his second shot.

"His behavior was very similar..."

"Yeah. I'm sure he apologized about all that stuff he said during the Narada thing, but it helps to know he really didn't mean it personally, doesn't it? It was something he believed he had to do and his complete objection to doing it made it worse for everyone. Jim Kirk backed into a corner is a mean, vicious, unpredictable, dangerous thing and quite frankly, that's the other part of why I wanted you here."

Spock might not have had a perfect understanding of human behavior but he was no fool. An eyebrow shot up. "You mean I was here to protect you?"

"Yep, you were."

"I find it hard to believe the Captain would attack his CMO–"

"No, but Jim would attack me."

Vulcan disbelief – that eyebrow again. McCoy was about ready to apply some Botox to Spock's forehead.

"Spock, we roomed together at the Academy. We studied together, ate together, and once in a blue moon we partied together. Naturally, we fought together. And he always kicked my ass. Well, except for that one time. Anyway, it's not uncharted territory for us, if you catch my drift." McCoy downed his third shot then put everything away. "This whole thing," he waggled a finger again between himself and the couch, "wasn't Captain and CMO and XO. This was Jim and Len and Spock. That's why I wanted you here."

"I fail to understand the dynamic."

"This was personal. Not professional."

"But–"

"I'm done talking now. Figure it out yourself, or get Nyota to explain it."

Spock got a Vulcanly thoughtful look, so McCoy added, "And if you value your pointy little ears, you'd better act as if you and Jim have medical confidentiality. This whole thing," he waggled his finger again (if the hobgoblin could do it with eyebrows, McCoy could certainly do it with fingers), "was directed at me; all you got today was collateral damage. However. One peep out of you about this to anyone and I can guarantee he'll focus on you."

McCoy learned that Spock also did "offended" very well for a Vulcan. "Doctor, I do not "peep"."

----------

Kirk was absurdly relieved to get out of McCoy's office with nothing more than a few promises. Not that he didn't intend to keep them, but there were far too many ways to avoid or work around them. Probably. Bones hadn't been kidding around, though, that was certain. Well, time would tell.

The deal with Spock, though, he could have done without. Spock had started on the first consequence on his list of Jim Kirk's Consequences for Self-Destructive Behavior.

Spock had given Kirk about two hours alone after the meeting with Bones, then come to his cabin (waking him from that very necessary nap, no less) and cut loose on him. Kirk had argued and bitched and threatened to the limits of his power and abilities but Spock had been unyielding. Kirk's primary argument, that he had been saving a kid, got efficiently obliterated with only a few narrowly focused questions from Spock.

"Why didn't you call ship's security?" was the first one. Kirk's argument that it wasn't their jurisdiction got a narrowing of Vulcan eyes that Kirk knew he could interpret as a disbelieving snort. And the follow-up question to that, "Why didn't you call the local authorities?" had him wincing because that really hadn't even crossed his mind, at all, ever, so even though he normally thought fast on his feet, he totally wasn't even prepared for that question (okay, so sue him, calling the authorities for anything was not exactly his first (or eighth, or twelfth) reaction during volatile situations, illustrated, thank you very much, by his successful career as a starship captain) and before he could muster up any sort of vocal response Spock had moved on.

Spock's third question, "Did you consider your own safety at any time?", actually left him speechless, and then only because he managed to clamp down on the pathetic "well, but" that tried to escape. It was embarrassing, really, how easily Spock demolished him.

The only concession he got was Spock agreed to only invoke this one consequence (as a warning?), saving the others for the next incident. Kirk got the impression that Spock was perfectly happy with that compromise because he fully believed Kirk would behave stupidly again and then he would have both reins back. Kirk had to allow the possibility, him being James Kirk and all, but Spock's version of consequences just sucked and he had no desire to encounter them ever again.

Thus, Kirk was now getting his ass handed to him on a regular basis while Spock taught him what Spock called suus mahna and what Kirk called fucking Vulcan death.

Even McCoy got into this game of Spock's, keeping track of Kirk's progress. In Kirk's medical file, no less.

Kirk kept himself sane during their every-other-day sessions by plotting ways to get into another meld with Spock (but without the consequences) so he could have another go at that one shield he was beginning to think he had a crush on. He thought he was getting the hang of the whole meld thing – humans and Vulcans weren’t so different upstairs after all.

And the look on Spock's face when Kirk had dragged himself across Spock in those places while Spock was distracted with ending the meld (how Spock thought he could keep them a secret from James Tiberius Kirk was just a mystery to him) had been absolutely priceless. He still snickered about it at odd moments.

Although never when he was getting slammed to the deck by Spock's far too heavy and far too strong and really hot body.

At one point, several weeks into the whole thing and not entirely sure he even wanted to know, Kirk asked, "How long do I have to do this?" In retrospect, he shouldn't have asked while they were actually working out.

Spock took his time replying, finishing the full sequence of the suus mahna technique he was demonstrating (on Kirk) in a confounding burst of speed and power. Kirk ended up once again crashed against a hard surface, but at least this time he was vertical.

Still, he grunted in surprise and his head banged against the bulkhead just hard enough to give him an instant headache.

"Ow, fuck!"

Spock grabbed his wrist when he raised it to rub the back of his head, and held it to the wall.

"What?" Kirk tugged, not trying very hard to get free but sort of puzzled.

"You are not damaged."

"Well, no, but—"

"Cease your complaints."

"Eh?" Spock's tone of voice hadn't altered one tiny little bit on that last sentence, but somehow in the back of his brain he picked up irritation.

Instead of answering, Spock grabbed Kirk's other wrist and lickety-split had both his wrists held against the wall over his head.

"What—"

Spock clamped his other hand (wait, other? OMG, the Vulcan bastard was holding both his wrists with one hand?) over Kirk's mouth. Kirk tugged downward, still a little half-heartedly; he knew Spock wouldn't actually hurt him.

Then again, Spock was looking rather miffed. And determined. And he was really close; like, Spock never voluntarily touched anyone (aside from their mandatory contact from working out) (oh, and that handsy thing he had offered during Kirk's not-quite-a-meltdown in Bones' office that one time) and it had taken him half a year just to get Spock used to his own casual touches without flinching, but right now they were touching and practically touching and he was saturated with heat from Spock's body and Spock was close enough that Kirk could see the flecks of gold in his dark brown irises and shit, that was about enough of that!

Kirk wrenched his arms, twisted his head to the side, jerked up a knee (no, not really trying but there was just the smallest hint of apprehension blossoming in the back of his brain), kicked a little, swore a lot (although that was pretty deflating with Spock's hand firmly over his mouth) and with each movement he made, Spock re-positioned just that much closer, effectively eliminating his last bit of leverage. Every attempt was thoroughly countered with only the slightest shift of balance on Spock's part.

Kirk finally wore himself out and stopped wrestling and glared at Spock, breathing hard through his nose. Bastard. Dirty rat bastard.

"We will do this until you can either defend yourself successfully against me or you begin to consider your own safety off-ship."

Kirk rolled his eyes.

Spock shifted even closer (which put them into full body contact, Kirk couldn't help noticing) and if he didn't know better he'd swear Spock growled at him, "You would not call this a no-win situation?"

That kinda pissed him off. He let Spock see him think about that one, then he shook his head. Well, as much as Spock gave him room to move.

"Captain—"

Kirk parted his lips just enough that he could run his tongue sloppily across Spock's palm.

Spock actually gasped and jumped back, releasing Kirk in the process.

Kirk lowered his arms and got out of Spock's immediate reach and laughed just a little. "No, Spock. I'd call that a win-win situation."

Spock stood speechless, eyes wide, slobbery hand outstretched, the rest of him sort of twitching. Or shivering. It kinda reminded Kirk of his reaction during that one meld when he'd found all of Spock's special places upstairs.

Before Spock could gather himself enough to clear out of the gym (Kirk was certain he was just trying to re-connect the shorted out part of his brain), he went back over and (very carefully, because he knew by now that Vulcan hands were basically sex organs, and how awesome was that!) grabbed Spock's hand and wiped the palm lightly (and sloooowly) a few times down the front of his own sweaty t-shirt and thereby over his defined chest and six-pack abs (because working out with Spock on a regular basis sort of required that physique if he expected to have the slightest chance of holding his own with the vicious bastard). Kind of drying it off. Sort of. In a very gropingly suggestive manner. Heh.

Spock gave an all-over shudder and his cheeks flushed green. So did the tips of his ears, and Kirk grinned wider. "Better now?"

Spock jerked his hand back and stiffened. Then he reached out and placed his hand flat on the middle of Kirk's chest. Kirk yelped out a "Hey, wait!" when Spock simply started walking forward, pushing until Kirk ran into the bulkhead again, then held him there. Again. With one hand. Dammit!

"Define your use of the term "win-win"."

"Means we both win."

"Be. More. Precise."

"Uh...I got free. Win for me. You got, what, a hand job?" Kirk snickered. "Win for you."

Oops. Spock's fingertips dug into his chest briefly.

"Captain—"

"Jim."

"Captain. I fail to see the humor in the situation."

"Spock, if you're going to manhandle me this way, the least you can do is use my first name."

Spock glared at him. Which meant that his eyes narrowed just the very slightest bit in conjunction with a barely perceptible eyebrow lowering.

On the whole, Kirk preferred it when Spock's eyebrows went up because that always meant something interesting was happening or shortly about to happen. In fact, he would even go so far as to admit he liked it when Spock's eyebrows went up; it had actually begun to give him a little adrenaline rush lately, they were that reliably accurate. Spock's eyebrows going down was not interesting. It was kind of scary and Kirk was suddenly reminded of the Orion Incident and the look on Spock's face when he had appeared in the doorway of the bar and just that look had silenced everyone in what was arguably the most lethal establishment Kirk had ever frequented.

"Gah! Okay, Spock. I'll behave."

Spock dropped his hand and got closer, and Kirk tried to bury himself in the bulkhead.

"Define 'behave'."

"Well, I – wait, whaddya mean?"

"Under what conditions will you 'behave'?"

Kirk's eyes went wide. Holy shit! Since when had Spock gotten him that figured out? He defaulted to truthful snarkiness.

"When you aren’t in danger, when my crew isn't in danger, when my ship isn't in danger, when Bones isn't bitching at me, when innocent children aren’t in danger, when I'm not having a bad day because I had to charm yet another spoiled rotten pain-in-the-ass princess, when tribbles stop multiplying like fucking tribbles, when Uhura stops looking at me like I'm something the cat dragged in, when..." he took a deep breath then exhaled slowly, running out of steam. "Wait, I retract the part about Uhura."

And, why did he always end up saying too much to Spock?

Spock blinked. "You are saying that you will never behave?" His voice was a little cautious.

"Of course not, Spock. I'm just saying it's extremely unlikely."

Spock tilted his head a little, thinking. "Very well. I shall modify my earlier statement about the conditions of this consequence. We will continue this until you are able to successfully defend yourself against me and until you consider your own safety at all times."

Kirk gaped at him. Did Spock just up the ante? "Did you just up the ante?"

"I don't understand the context of your question."

"Negotiation usually involves both sides giving in a little. You didn't give in at all and you just increased the stakes for me."

"I see. I will clarify for you. This is not a negotiation, and yes, I did up your ante."

"Son of a bitch!"

Chapter Text

Kirk's fourth meld with Spock wasn't his fault.

Even Spock and Bones admitted there was no possible way it could be his fault. Although he suspected there was some reserve about that on Spock's part.

Kirk had finally managed to convince Spock to go planetside with him on shore leave, for once before Kirk required his singular abilities to keep him alive. He'd also managed to drag Bones along, and the trio was currently sitting around a minuscule table at a dingy bar (still nowhere near the caliber of lethal as that one bar where the Orion Incident had taken place, what, almost a year ago now?) in the small district they had been allowed to visit for shore leave. Kirk and McCoy had both opted for a local whiskey (vetted first by McCoy for potential allergens, of course) while Spock had mineral water.

Kirk had been both pleased and irritated when McCoy and Spock had finally seemed to bond over the consequences of the Orion Incident. While that was generally good (he thought it would have made him far too uncomfortable had his two best friends disliked each other for real), it also had its downsides (Spock was apparently perfectly comfortable now with physically dragging him to sickbay when the nightmares got too bad and he couldn't sleep for days, and other shit like that).

Kirk leaned back in his chair, finally feeling the tension leach from his neck and shoulders. He grinned when Bones said something silly and grouchy and irreverent, then the doctor got up to get another round.

Kirk felt a slight wheeze on his next inhalation. Two breaths later it became more than that, and less air. He straightened and looked over at Spock, who returned the glance with a raised eyebrow.

Kirk grabbed Spock's wrist, hard, not wanting to waste air on speaking, and sucked hard.

Spock instantly stood, rocking their table; he grabbed his communicator with the wrong hand, allowing Kirk's hand to remain on his wrist. Kirk heard the flat chirps that indicated no signal. Spock tugged upward just a hint with the arm Kirk had wrapped his hand around and Kirk stood, understanding his intent. He gasped for air again, forcing down his body's instinctive panic.

Spock switched their grip, all too easily detaching Kirk's death grip and wrapping hot fingers around Kirk's wrist, then pulled his captain after him. Kirk concentrated on the heat of the Vulcan fingers around his wrist, using it as a lifeline.

Spock tapped McCoy on the shoulder as they went past the bar at a fast walk. McCoy turned in time to see Kirk's face and instantly ran after them and out to the street.

Spock tried his communicator again, and still got the no signal chirps.

"What the hell? We had perfect signal when we came in," McCoy protested while he dug through the tiny medikit he always carried when he went off-planet with Kirk.

Spock managed a little one-handed fine-tuning of his communicator then glanced from McCoy to Kirk. "I believe there is a signal blocker in the vicinity."

"How did that happen?"

"I believe the relevant question would be "How far will we have to travel to escape it"."

"Dammit!" McCoy watched Kirk for a moment, who was still managing to get a small amount of air. "I checked everything in there."

"It is possible he is reacting to a new compound we have not yet encountered."

"He's never leaving the ship again," McCoy snarled.

Kirk shook his head in protest, but his command look was severely undermined by a whistling inhalation.

McCoy pulled out a hypo and loaded it with a small ampoule. Kirk shook his head again and took a step back, but Spock simply kept hold of his wrist and held still and McCoy gave Kirk the injection.

Kirk clapped his free hand to his neck, gasped twice more, then inhaled, and swore, "Ow, fuck!"

Spock looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

McCoy said, "Shaddup, you."

"We should endeavor to escape this communication blackout as quickly as possible."

"Oh, c'mon, Spock. We were just starting to have fun."

"Jim!"

"Fine, fine. Whatever. Spock, did you happen to load a local map on that tricorder?"

"I did."

"And?"

"Please clarify which piece of information you require."

"Dammit, Spock!"

"Bones, it's fine. He's right, I didn't clarify. Spock, what is the most likely fucking location of that fucking signal blocker?"

"Jim!"

Spock made a few more adjustments on the tricorder then frowned.

"What?" Kirk immediately asked, remembering how much he disliked that frown. He hadn't seen it in quite a while.

"We are not at the correct beam-down coordinates."

"Someone beamed us down to the wrong coordinates? Or were we given the wrong coordinates?"

"It is not possible to know with the information we have at this time."

McCoy groaned. "So we're likely on the wrong side of the railroad tracks?"

"I do not understand-"

"Never mind that," Kirk cut in. "What's the most likely location of that signal blocker?"

"There are several possibilities."

"Which one is most likely?"

"I do not have sufficient informa-"

"Spock, don't make me pull your fucking teeth out. And don't give me that look, you know damn well what I mean. I'm ordering you to guess."

Spock straightened just a bit more than usual and his eyes narrowed just the very slightest bit. "One point one three four two nine five eight six miles, origin point being twelve point four two seven three three degrees negative from your twelve o'clock. Sir."

Kirk grinned, trying really hard not to let that spark in the back of his brain show on his face but probably failing spectacularly (Spock irritated was just about as much fun as Spock playing). "See? That wasn't so hard, was it?" He flipped out his own communicator and tried to contact one of the other crewmembers also down on leave. Still got the no signal chirps, so he re-holstered his communicator. "Keep your eyes peeled; if anyone else got beamed down to the same coordinates, we’ll collect them as we go. Spock, you're on point; I'd probably lose a few decimal points on the way and land us in Timbuktu or the arctic or some other shithole."

Spock turned and led the way at a fast walk.

"Slow down, Spock," McCoy immediately snapped. "I don't want Jim to overdo it.

"Yeah, Spock," Kirk chimed in, "slow down."

McCoy smacked Kirk on the back of the head. "You! Quit instigating or next time I'll let you suffocate and pass out before I give you your shot. Damn children."

Spock and Kirk took turns checking their communicators every block. They didn't see any other crew on the streets, nor in any of the establishments they took a quick look into as they passed. They quickly left behind the several blocks that encompassed the entertainment zone and entered what seemed to be a business zone. There had only been a few pedestrians on the streets in the entertainment area, but now there were none. The buildings were dark and silent, and the only lighting consisted of small spotlights at each intersection.

They got about a mile from their starting location before Kirk felt the tightening in his chest again. He slowed his pace, hoping it would help but not really believing. There had to be something in the atmosphere here.

"Captain?"

Of course, Spock noticed right away.

Kirk waved a hand and kept moving; which meant, about three more steps before he gave an audible wheeze.

"Jim, stop." McCoy pulled him to a halt and carefully pulled out another ampoule. This time Kirk held still for the injection. "I only have one more dose after this."

Once the antihistamine took effect, Kirk stood with his hands on hips, evaluating the situation. "Okay. Something here is fucking with my system. We can't contact the ship yet. So. If I need that third dose and we still haven't made contact, I'm guessing we're not gonna reach it in time."

"Don’t talk like that."

"Whaddya want me to say, Bones? Spock can only do—" His attention was caught by a huge flare of light back the way they had come. "Wha—" Then the roar washed over them, the ground shaking beneath them. "Holy shit!"

The three of them staggered, grabbing one another for balance.

"What the hell was that?" McCoy asked no one in particular.

"That was about one mile away," Kirk answered anyway.

Spock added, "If the explosion occurred at the same moment as the light flare, then it occurred in the immediate vicinity of the bar we were frequenting."

Kirk and McCoy were speechless for long moments.

"Okay, that's weird," Kirk said quietly. "And strangely coincidental."

Spock favored him with that look; Kirk was pretty sure he was focusing on the "you are a shit-magnet" part.

"It's not my fault!" Kirk couldn't help blurting out. "I had nothing to do with that."

"I did not say you had."

"No, but you were thinking it!"

"I was merely contemplating the possibility—"

"Stop it! Seriously, it's like freaking junior high around you two." Then McCoy muttered something else that made Spock glance at Kirk and flush to the tips of his ears.

"What??"

"Nothing," McCoy and Spock said at the same time.

Kirk blinked.

The wail of emergency vehicle sirens rose in the air; several of them by the sounds of it.

"We need to go back and help." Kirk took a step back in the direction of the explosion and ran into McCoy's hard hand in the middle of his chest.

"No!" McCoy snapped.

"What? Bones, we have to help."

McCoy shoved Kirk backwards hard (and since when had Bones started working out??) and his back banged into Spock's chest when he fell. Spock's hands wrapped around his sides, steadying him as he fought for balance, and he knew his eyes were wide with shock.

"They'll have things well under control by the time we could get back there. Plus, they have plenty of emergency responders by the sound of things, and if they're anything like the ones on earth, they won't want us interfering."

Kirk straightened, his hands covering Spock's and removing them from his ribcage.

"My crew-"

"We've already figured out that there are no crewmembers in the area."

"Well, it's not like we're untrained in emergency procedures." Kirk didn't really notice that he hadn't actually distanced himself from Spock. McCoy noticed; he also noticed the utterly bemused look on Spock's face.

"We don't understand their procedures and we would be in their way. And it would take too long to explain ourselves."

"Well-"

"Damn it, Jim! I'm a fucking doctor and yes, I want to go help, you know I do, but my priority is you, asshole. Stop making this harder for me than it already is; quit arguing and follow Spock."

Kirk hated it when Bones got all logical. Hated it.

"Fine." Kirk turned and slammed into Spock, and at the same time realized his right hand was still wrapped around Spock's right hand. This put him in the awkward position of trapping himself with his own arm behind his back and Spock's fingertips somewhere near his ass.

"Uh." Kirk let go as fast as he could.

Spock raised an eyebrow.

Kirk stepped back as fast as he could.

McCoy grumbled behind him and even though Kirk couldn’t understand what he said, something about the tone made him flush.

There was another flare of light not far from the first, and even before the shock wave hit them McCoy had bodily moved Kirk away from Spock and given him a good hard shove in the right direction.

Kirk scowled at McCoy, took one last glance at the clouds of smoke rising fast into the atmosphere, and motioned Spock to start walking. "Spock, I thought signal jammers were fairly localized."

"Generally they are. There seems to be a different technology at work here."

"Of course." Kirk tried not to think about how wide an area could be covered in a blackout caused by "different technology".

They had moved through a multitude of business and shopping districts, all dark and closed, and seen no other moving vehicles, even on the streets. Neither had they encountered anything that resembled public transportation and the thing that had really started weirding Kirk out was the fact that after the first several blocks around the bar, they hadn't seen another living being on the streets.

There was probably a curfew in effect, but he was starting to get the creeps.

Spock stopped in front of a square, dark building that looked the same as every other one on the block.

"This it?"

"I believe it is."

There were no signs of life anywhere, including this building.

"Spock."

"Captain."

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Perhaps if you enlighten me as to the nature of your thoughts, I will be able to answer with an acceptable degree of accuracy."

"You two!"

"I need a rock. A big rock. Or a brick."

"Then I was not thinking what you were thinking."

"Really? What were you thinking?"

"Dammit, Jim!"

"I was considering the possibility that my tricorder might be rewired to function as an electronic lock pick."

"Sorry to disappoint you Spock, but you were thinking what I was thinking."

"I certainly was not."

Kirk waved a negligent hand. "Semantics. Same idea, just different methods." Kirk grinned. "Both illegal."

"Fucking co-dependent delinquents."

"Bones, quit muttering. If you have something to say, just say it."

McCoy raised his voice. "I am so going to hypo your ass into next week the second we get back to the ship!"

"Promises, promises." Kirk shoved open the waist-high gate and strode up to the main entrance, Spock and McCoy following. He inspected the door closely, looking for wires, connectors, sensors, anything that might indicate an alarm system. Of course, tripping an alarm system would likely get the local law enforcement here, which might get them a ride out of this blasted communications blackout, but then there'd be all the fallout from that to deal with, not to mention the inordinate amount of time these colonial law processes always seemed to take (not speaking from experience, at all). Bones was already snarly enough with worry (it was telling that he had escalated from "dammit" straight to "fuck", with no "shit" in between) that he decided it would be better just to get themselves back to the ship without any delays.

"Huh."

Spock looked up from his tricorder calibrations and raised an eyebrow expectantly.

Looking over his shoulder at Spock, Kirk placed just the fingertips of one hand on the door and gave a light push. The door swung open on old-style hinges.

Spock's other eyebrow went up.

Kirk grinned.

"Jim, don't."

Kirk stepped through the doorway.

Chapter Text

Kirk stepped through the doorway.

----------

"Oh, fuck me!" McCoy shot through the doorway after Kirk, determined to stay close enough to hypo the living daylights out of him if necessary. Although a right hook might actually work just as well as a hypo, he mused. Maybe even better. Certainly more satisfying.

----------

Spock observed for a moment longer then also stepped through.

The interior of the building was darker than the outside.

"Lights, ten percent," Spock said quietly.

A slow glow started in the ceiling, providing just enough light that they wouldn't run into anything large.

They were in a large reception area.

"Spock?"

"There is a slight energy disturbance above us."

"Can you tell how far above us? These buildings look about seven or eight stories high and I'd rather not have to search every floor."

"Negative. Unless you still wish for me to guess, in which case the answer is 'seven or eight stories'."

"Shit."

"Captain, there is a high likelihood that-"

"I am aware, Spock. However. If this was a big operation, someone would have made an appearance by now. I'm betting this thing is either unmanned or only has one or two people guarding it. Where're the stairs?"

"No way. That's too much for you right now."

"We're not going to announce ourselves by taking the lift."

McCoy ground his teeth and fairly vibrated with rage.

"Bones, we are not taking the lift. I promise we will go slowly up the stairs and I will not break a sweat. And I can stop and breathe real shallow while Spock checks out each floor just to make sure we're alone. Okay?"

McCoy grumbled fiercely and followed Spock and Kirk to the most likely-looking door for stairs.

Since this was a mostly human colony, the building functionality still followed expected norms: the stairs were behind the most likely-looking door. They went quietly (and slowly) up to the second floor, guided by small lights inset into the wall at the front edge of each step. Spock opened the stairwell door, staying behind the doorframe until he was able to get a clear view, since his vision was better in the nearly black-hole darkness of this place.

Spock scanned the large open area with his tricorder then quietly closed the door. He sat next to Kirk on the bottom step of the next flight of stairs and leaned close. Kirk couldn't help but be momentarily distracted by the heat of Spock's body so close to him. Something about it always put him at ease, gave him the sense that everything was as it should be.

"-not on this level," he surfaced in time to hear Spock say while he pointed at the lines on his tricorder readout.

"Okay, onward and upward then."

They quickly established a pattern. Spock went up the stairs at speed and scanned the next level while McCoy kept Kirk from running up the stairs behind him; Kirk rested for a few moments while Spock reported; repeat, repeat, repeat.

On the sixth repeat, Spock found it. And just in time, too, because Kirk was about to deck Bones for keeping him from having fun.

There were no life signs on the floor, but the energy disturbance was there.

They exited the stairwell into yet more darkness and quietly spread out against the wall, Kirk and McCoy following Spock. Kirk heard the faint whirring of Spock's tricorder, then Spock said, "Lights, twenty percent."

The large space emerged into visibility.

There were a few cubicle walls placed randomly around the area, along with some abandoned-looking desks, chairs, bookcases and filing carts, but that was about it.

Oh, yeah; plus the monstrous black box way off in a corner. It nearly reached the ceiling and took up about a fourth of the entire space.

"Aww, shit! Do I ever get a break?"

McCoy snorted. "You? No."

"What is that fucking thing? Spock?"

"I believe it is the source of the communications blackout."

"Talk about low tech. We need a phaser. Why don't we have a phaser? Why don't we take phasers on shore leave? I'm going to make a new rule-"

Kirk stopped abruptly when McCoy slugged him in the arm.

"You? Drunk? With a phaser? You'd start an interstellar war. Not to mention what Scotty would do with a phaser when he's drunk."

Kirk snickered. "Scotty'd probably convert it to a cloning machine and find some really hot chick who'd let herself get cloned."

McCoy gaped at him. "Was that a double entendre?"

"A what?"

"Oh, for the love of Pete. Quit the playacting. Spock and I both know you're smart and there's no one else here to blab."

"Okay, okay. Actually, I think Scotty would just find a way to use his phaser to somehow get all the sandwiches in the universe right at his feet."

"Okay, yeah, now you're talking."

"Captain."

"Spock."

"It might behoove us to attempt to de-activate the machine."

"Behoove? Seriously? Did you really just say that?"

Spock visibly sighed. McCoy blinked at that. Kirk decided he'd better stop using sarcasm as an outlet for his tension and irritation.

"Sorry, Spock. That was totally uncalled for. Do you have any recommendations?"

"Perhaps a close visual inspection would suffice." His voice was full of frigid invitation and Kirk got a sudden visual of Spock grabbing him by the back of the neck and slamming him face first into the side of that thing. Yeah, that sounded like an arguable definition of the "close visual inspection" thing.

And judging by the bark of laughter McCoy let out, he got the same visual.

"Uh...okay." Kirk took the long route, avoiding Spock's reach just in case.

They stood around and stared at the huge metal box for a few minutes while Spock scanned it close up. There were half a dozen hatches on the thing but no sense blowing themselves to kingdom come if it was wired. When Spock gave the all clear, Kirk immediately stepped up and started poking at one of the hatches.

Spock moved to another side of it and Kirk could hear his tricorder chugging away. McCoy watched Kirk until he found his shoulders tightening from the scrutiny.

"Bones, ya wanna help out here?"

"Oh, sure. Maybe I can use your last anti-histamine on this thing."

"Okay, we're done being sarcastic right now." Kirk lowered his voice to a whisper, "Spock's gonna go over the edge pretty quick here if we don't start behaving."

"We?"

"Yeah."

"We?"

"What I said."

McCoy made that grumpy noise Kirk had never been able to imitate and stalked off to Spock's side of the box.

Kirk made a few more attempts to get the stupid hatch open; he had tried sliding it in all directions, pushing it, even tried to pry up the edges with his fingernails (ouch), with no luck. He glanced around the corner opposite Spock. There was a little more than a foot of space between the machine's casing and the wall. Just enough space that he could wiggle in without feeling like he was going to get stuck. The further back he went, the darker it got. He figured he must be pretty close to the corner when it got too dark to see the floor.

"Hey, Spock," he called over his shoulder, "you got a flashlight app in that tricorder? It's getting kinda dark back here."

It got darker when Spock blocked the entrance.

"Perhaps the viewscreen will provide enough light."

"Okay, maybe."

Kirk fidgeted for the whole thirty seconds that it took Spock to reach him and hand over the tricorder. He toggled the screen and turned it outward to shine into the corner. The other side of the box was closer to the wall; not enough room for him to actually get back there, but he could see a little ways in and if he had to he could probably get half his torso in.

Okay, yeah, he was gonna have to. He turned back to tell Spock, inhaled, and wheezed.

On the exhale, he said, "Shitfuck!"

Spock immediately started backing out of the narrow gap. Kirk followed him, trying as always to force back his body's panic response. The thirty feet seemed to take forever, and he finally just grabbed Spock's wrist again and sagged his knees and forehead against the metal wall.

"Captain, we are almost there."

Kirk shook his head and sucked for air. Really hard.

He heard Spock and Bones yammering, then Spock hypo'd him in the neck.

After his two obligatory desperate, sucking inhalations before the antihistamine took effect and a faint "Ow, fuck!" after, Kirk looked sideways at Spock. "Et tu, Spock?"

Spock raised an eyebrow.

Kirk sighed.

"Jim, you okay?"

"Yeah, Bones. Fine again."

"That was the last one."

"Yeah, I remember," Kirk muttered.

"My point being, don't overdo it. And hurry up and figure out this damn box."

"Yeah, I already did that."

"What?"

"It's plugged into the wall back there. Probably just gotta unplug it."

There was total silence.

"There's a plug?" McCoy finally asked.

"Yeah. The trick is gonna be reaching it."

Kirk slid back to the corner and played the light over the plug. It was going to be a tight squeeze. He handed the tricorder back to Spock. "Can you aim this over my shoulder so I can see? I think I've barely got the reach for it if I squeeze tight."

"Perhaps we should scan it first to ensure there are no explosives attached."

"Awww..."

"Considering the apparent lack of other defensive mechanisms, it would be logical to protect the power source."

"...shit. Fine. Give it back." Kirk changed a few settings then aimed it at the wall plug. He squinted at the tricorder, then changed a few more settings and aimed again. "Spock, back up just a foot or so. I've got to get closer which means I gotta get on the floor."

Spock slid away, Kirk frowned at the unaccountable nervous twinge that ran through him at the separation, at the loss of heat, then got to the floor.

The corner was awkward to maneuver around and it took him a few tries to find the best position. He ended up barely balanced on one knee, that knee shoved back into the narrower gap, his free hand flat against the other side of the machine for balance, and the other leg drawn up, toe of his boot against Spock's boot as a stop block. He got the tricorder as close to the plug as he could and ran another sequence. Okay, at least he got results this time.

Trying to change the settings for the next sequence, he flailed his arms around and banged the tricorder and his fingers a few times against the cube over his head before finally transferring it to his other hand and holding it out to Spock.

"Here. Next sequence, please," exasperation clear in his voice.

Spock took it, made the change, handed it back. Their fingers brushed and Kirk nearly jumped when he felt a stab of combined amusement and fear that wasn’t his own.

He got the tricorder in position then murmured, "Your shields are getting transparent."

He heard and felt Spock stiffen.

"My apologies, Cap-"

"That wasn't a complaint."

Spock fell silent, and Kirk grinned. There were several ways Spock could interpret that, but truthfully? He liked it.

He handed the tricorder back to Spock. "Next one."

Kirk knew Spock would be meticulous about avoiding skin to skin contact this time so he went out of his way to grope around when Spock handed it back, actually managing to brush his fingertips across Spock's inner wrist in the process.

This time they were muted: the fear had lessened; the amusement had lessened, although there was the addition of exasperation; and something else flickered and disappeared too fast for him to identify. He grinned into the dark space in front of him.

The tricorder did its thing and he handed it back to Spock. "How many more scans?"

"Six."

"Oh for fuck's sake."

"Jim?"

"I'm fine, Bones. Just bitching a little."

"Might help your lungs if you quit jabbering."

Kirk ground his teeth and hissed a little. "Hey Bones, you're still trying your communicator, right?"

"Yeah, Jim. I'm not stupid, ya know."

"Here, Captain," Spock said firmly.

Spock held out the tricorder and Kirk couldn't help being a little amused. Spock was rarely put in the position of refereeing for Kirk and McCoy, the way Kirk did for the pair of them, but he managed just fine when he had to.

Kirk shifted the tricorder again and moved into another repeat repeat repeat sequence.

"Only two scans remaining, Captain," Spock said quietly, obviously in response to Kirk's increased fidgeting.

"Shit, Spock. If these idiots were stupid enough to plug this thing into the fucking wall, why the fuck are we worried about explosives?"

"Because of our past experience with other parties who did not behave in a predictable manner."

Kirk got that Spock was including him in that group. He laughed.

Then wheezed.

Then the tricorder beeped.

"Fuckitall! Spock!" No, that wasn't desperation in his voice. And it wasn't fear. And it wasn't anger, or regret, or grief. He slammed his free hand flat against the side of the machine. "Not enough...time."

"Captain, please remain calm."

"Fuck...calm!"

Then Spock lifted him by the arm (ow) and dragged him out of the corner far enough to force him down on his side (using a suus mahna technique Kirk was far too familiar with to speed up the process) while he commanded, "Jim, get down." Kirk obeyed and allowed it only because he trusted Spock.

Kirk had both hands wrapped around Spock's forearms and somehow there was room for Spock to crouch over him, although his shoulders were turned sideways.

"Jim, this one is going to be different. Please remain calm and do not resist."

"Wha...?" What did that mean? Kirk barely had time to realize he was going to find out when Spock stuck his fingers all over Kirk's face.

Chapter Text

"Jim, this one is going to be different. Please remain calm and do not resist."

"Wha...?" What did that mean? Kirk barely had time to realize he was going to find out when Spock stuck his fingers all over Kirk's face.

This one sure was different.

Kirk caught a flash of that psychic space they usually (usually!) occupied as it blew past and he knew they landed in his own mind, which suddenly gave him a context and a frame of reference for the shared space, but then ow.

Fuck!

Do not resist.

Not...

You are. Jim, do you trust me?

I do.

And he did. He did trust Spock. He trusted Spock with his life and he trusted Spock with his death, so he gave up fighting and resisting and he gave up control of himself and control of his life and control of his death utterly to Spock.

And then it was like tendrils of Spock sliding through his brain, through him, searching, connecting, tying things together, sticking things to other things. Kirk followed Spock's presence, watched what he did, and came to understand that some of the things getting stuck to other things were parts of Spock getting stuck to parts of Kirk.

His innate curiosity came to the fore as Spock took control of his breathing, slowed his internal systems (shouldn't he be used to that sensation by now?), and he drifted over toward Spock's side of things. He found that shared space, decided that it felt as much like home as the Enterprise did. The greenery from his side had grown, expanded, flourished, taken over most of the sandy space between them, taking on a graduating reddish tinge the closer it got to Spock's side of things. The trickle of water had turned into an inviting creek that ran down the center of the middle area, shaded in places by some of the larger trees from his side. Kirk spent a few precious moments admiring this space they had created together, then he turned his attention to Spock's side and found that shield that he liked and spent a little time running his mental fingers over it.

He saw cracks in it; stuck his mental fingers in the cracks and discovered that he fit perfectly into them. And hot damn, did that feel good! Thinking about the whole meld thing some more, he made himself get sort of vaporous and foggy, then plastered the whole of himself against the shield. In this form there were more cracks that he hadn't been able to see or sense while in the other form, and he filtered himself into them; they all fit as if they were made just for him.

Of course, Spock finally noticed. Kirk protested strongly when Spock mentally pried him off and shoved him back to his side.

Jim. This meld is much different from the others. I must concentrate or I may make mistakes.

I'm not stopping you from concentrating.

You are. Stay here.

It was a command. Kirk wasn't good with commands; Kirk hated commands; but Spock, he would obey. For as long as he was able. He settled in, observing. And obeying.

After a while (and it was really weird, but somehow he just knew it had been twenty-eight point three nine seconds), Spock left the meld. It was hard to figure out, because Spock was also still there in the meld; Kirk could feel him still running things kind of in the background.

Spock?

Be patient, Jim. His voice was all echoey and distant.

Kirk twiddled his mental thumbs for as long as he could stand it, then went looking for that shield again. It was interesting, the convoluted pathways that could be found in the mind. The route he had followed before didn't take him to the same place this time.

He vaporized himself again, reaching outward, searching. He found some of the sticky parts within himself and investigated closer; there were shining clear blue threads stuck to him that led to Spock, which he recognized from Spock's recent actions. Then he found other threads, darker red twined with clear blue, which looked and felt less visible, more embedded, older, stretched between them from different sources. As he got closer to that shared place he saw that the older-feeling less visible threads were inlaid into the landscape, curving and crossing and twisting, becoming a part of the structure of it. He followed the lines, sensing more than seeing, running fingertips along them as he went, liking the depth they had, the sense of maturity, until he reached that place and that shield.

Home!

The strands that went from him to Spock all came from or led to that one shield. And he still couldn’t get to the other side. He couldn't follow them that far. He didn't push, not wanting to distract Spock, but moved slowly, carefully, taking his time. He was nothing if not patient.

It was somewhat like hacking: hide yourself; mask your actions; misdirect; mislead; find the back doors; don't get caught.

OMG, Spock had about a million back doors, all shaped like James Tiberius Kirk. Well, fuck if this wasn't the most fun he'd had in years!

He probed cautiously here, reached out a tendril there, insinuated himself into this spot, pried that crack just a little wider. It was an intellectual exercise that offered more challenges and rewards than anything in his entire life to this point.

Sliding against the shield was another experience entirely. It felt like parts of his soul touching parts of Spock's soul. He felt the laughter Spock kept contained; he felt the love Spock kept contained; he felt Spock's fear of losing him, and the joy Spock got from their chess games. He felt the red desert heat that permeated every part of Spock, every thought, every action.

But they were muted.

And he wanted so much more. He wanted to feel them without the barrier of that shield. He knew without a doubt that every part of Spock he was feeling here was a match for some part of him.

He figured he was about three-quarters of the way through that shield before Spock realized what he was doing.

Jim!

What? Who, me?

Kirk recognized all the mental shoving Spock was doing and grabbed at the shield, pulling at individual strands and sticking them to himself at full tilt, the same way he had seen Spock do it. He wanted those ties (compulsion?), he wanted to keep them with him all the time (obsession?) and he dragged them with him as Spock impelled him out of the link.

And he was out, in sickbay, on a biobed, Spock standing next to him (interesting change from the usual on him), shaking fingertips just leaving Kirk's face, and this time Spock was uncontrollably furious.

"Uncivilized punk!" Spock snapped.

The sickbay instantly fell silent; Kirk could still feel the pieces of Spock inside him and mentally tugged, trying to drag them over to his side and lock them into place. Spock's eyes widened. He swayed and grabbed at the biobed, his hands landing on Kirk's leg and arm and tightening enough that he knew he would have bruises shortly.

"You will cease your actions immediately!"

Kirk mentally tugged again. Knowing he was running out of time (and air), he twisted, yanked, pulled as hard as he could, and he felt a mental snick as something locked into place.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" Spock snarled as he stretched a shaking hand out again toward Kirk's face.

Someone (Chapel?) gasped into the silence.

Then Spock toppled, unconscious, and Bones was yelling and Kirk thought it might be a good time to vacate the premises, and passed out.

Chapter Text

Soooo...Kirk was a little unwilling to be alone with Spock after that meld.

He kept getting sideways looks from Spock on the bridge and in the mess, and not the good kind, like, "What shenanigans are you up to now, that I can assist you with?" or "Captain, that hot chick over there is asking for a three-way with us." No, it was more like, "You fucking asshat, I'm going to kick your ass into next month, you human shit-magnet," or, "Come over here so I can beat you into submission, you round-eared fucktard!"

Okay, granted, Kirk was putting his own spin on the insults, but seriously? Spock was pissed. And Kirk knew it, even if Spock was somehow managing to hide it from everyone else. Because when he concentrated, when he really stopped and shut everything else out and concentrated, he could feel those strands somewhere in the back of his brain, and when he tried even harder he could feel Spock's raging (though non-murderous) fury through them. Faint, for sure, but definitely there. Fury. Yep.

Still. Kirk had faced down how many angry romulans? And survived? There surely had to be a way to get back into Spock's good graces without getting murdered. Figuratively.

On his second day back on the bridge, Kirk bit the bullet and asked Spock if he wanted to play chess after their shift. At the very least, they would be able to discuss things in private.

Spock assented, Kirk expressed satisfaction, and Spock took it a step further, with "I greatly anticipate whipping your ass, bitch."

There was a collective snap as the entire bridge crew focused their attention on Spock.

Kirk was certain his mouth hung open in an unattractive manner but he was unable to correct, his brain was that shorted out.

Spock raised an eyebrow and said with all innocence, "Was that not the correct colloquialism?"

There was total silence until Uhura said faintly, "No, that wasn't the correct colloquialism."

"Then I must apologize," Spock said, looking directly at Kirk with dark eyes that told the real truth, "for my verbal misstep."

"Yeahhh," Kirk finally drawled. He took it as it was meant: a perfectly explicit threat. Vulcans are unemotional and don’t lie? He turned his unintentionally verbalized "Hah!" into a feeble series of coughs and spent the rest of the shift trying to figure out a way to retract his offer without looking like a complete coward.

At the end of shift he still hadn't come up with a reasonable or legitimate way to cancel. Of course, no Klingons had popped up to demand their immediate, total and lingering attention, the fuckers; never there when you needed them.

And he really wasn't pleased when Spock got into the lift right on his heels and held up a warning hand to prevent Sulu and Chekov (and everyone else) from boarding with them.

As soon as the doors closed, Kirk called out their deck and backed up against the far wall. And when the lift moved, Spock moved.

He prowled until he was mere inches from Kirk, until Kirk could feel the alien heat over every inch of his body, until he was so flat against the wall that if he got any closer it would take Chekov or Scotty and a transporter to separate him from the metal.

Kirk had both hands on the safety rail that ringed the lift, and he almost-but-not-quite flinched (maybe he would allow that it was a twitch) when Spock brought up both hands and placed them flat on the wall at either side of his shoulders. Then leaned in a little more.

Kirk swallowed. "S...Spock?"

"Captain?" Spock tilted his head in just that way and Kirk got a little afraid of what might happen if Spock possibly noticed his burgeoning hard-on. Damn thing had a mind of its own. Probably gonna be the death of him some day.

"Uh..."

"Do you wish to say something, Captain?"

"N...uh...yes?"

Spock remained where he was.

Kirk swallowed. Hard.

"Do proceed."

"I...well..."

Spock moved an inch closer.

Kirk felt his hands start to shake, and he gripped the rail even tighter. Fear and arousal weren't playing well together for this go-around; his body was having a hard time deciding which way to go because, shit, Spock's eyes were fucking gorgeous. If scary.

"I..."

There was a really awkward silence.

"Continue," Spock said in that quiet, hard, expectant tone of voice he used when someone was digging their own grave and he was perfectly willing to let them bury their idiot self.

"Sh...shit, Spock."

The lift stopped and the doors opened, and Kirk was never so glad to see three crew members pile onto the lift before, until he realized that Spock wasn't moving.

"Spock, this is our deck."

"Is it?"

"Yeah, uh. How about we get off and we can continue this discussion in..." Kirk's quarters? Not! Spock's quarters? Uh, really not.

"You want to get off?"

Seriously? Spock was using innuendo? Now? At this hugely inappropriate time? In that explicitly threatening manner that Kirk had only recently (like two hours ago) discovered that Spock was shockingly good at (uunnnf)? Kirk glanced at the other three in the lift; they were not-looking at the pair with a level of discomfort that Kirk really didn't want to see. Shit. Shit.

He slowly raised one hand (it seemed best not to make any sudden movements) and used just his fingertips in the middle of Spock's chest to push him away. Spock let him, and Kirk didn’t breathe a sigh of relief. They exited the lift, and he tried hard not to let his shoulders rise with the visible tension of letting Spock walk behind him.

When they reached Kirk's quarters, Spock pre-empted Kirk and punched in Kirk's access code.

"Hey!" Kirk objected. "You used my code."

"Of course I did."

WTF???

Kirk stared over his shoulder at Spock, dumbfounded, until Spock placed his own fingertips at the small of Kirk's back and pushed him hard into his own quarters.

Holy fuck!

The heat from that small amount of contact went straight to his groin so he kept walking right to his desk, giving himself barely enough time to wrench back control of his own body. It was ridiculous the way his body reacted around Spock lately, as if he was a teenager again. Even Spock's one hundred percent effective objective to intimidate him didn't stop the reactions. And what did that say about him? He didn't even want to contemplate that whole topic.

He sat behind his desk, folded his hands in front of him, and looked at Spock expectantly.

Spock didn't sit; he stood in front of the desk, arms stiff at his sides, hands fisted and ohshit that could not be good. That was like Spock shouting at the top of his lungs; kinda like him swearing in the sickbay.

Which was also kinda interesting in its own way.

"You really do know how to utilize profanity, you know that, Spock? No matter how much you deny it, you proved it. In sickbay," he clarified, just in case. Then he added, "Oh, and contractions. I heard everything, you know."

"Captain," Spock said harshly, "My use of Standard is not the topic of this discussion."

"Okay. What is?"

"Your actions in that meld."

"Huh. So, you're pissed?"

"Do I appear 'pissed'?"

"Yes."

Spock narrowed his eyes and Kirk powered through a spike of fight-or-flight adrenaline without doing either.

"Um...how about you tell me what I did wrong."

Spock frowned, and it took everything Kirk had not to leap for the bathroom and lock the door behind him. As it was, he couldn't stop himself from grabbing the arms of his chair and tensing.

"Really, Spock. What did I do wrong?"

Spock looked thoughtful, and his rage seemed to recede a little. Then he put his hands behind his back and Kirk let out a small sigh of relief. Spock wasn’t going to murder him today.

"In the meld..."

"Sure. That was fun. That one shield you have is fasci—"

"Enough!"

"Huh?"

"I should have realized. You do not understand what you did."

"Well, no duh. Not a clue. As I may have mentioned six times already: what did I do?"

Spock visibly sighed, and Kirk felt the tension in his shoulders return. He raised a hand to rub at the back of his neck. Spock was going to be the death of him at some point. If his own dick didn't get him killed first.

"You do not have the requisite frame of reference to understand any explanation I might offer."

"Several melds with you are not an adequate frame of reference?"

"Captain-"

"Jim."

"Captain-"

"Spock."

Spock hesitated, then, "The few melds we have shared are nowhere near adequate in terms of giving you an appropriate frame of reference."

"Try me. I'm smarter than your average delinquent, remember?"

Spock inclined his head in a slight, slow nod. "Very well. That last meld was different from the others. The links needed to be deep enough that I could control it without physical contact, but shallow enough that it didn't become permanent."

"Okay, I'm with ya."

"In previous melds, you remained in vau'thios and I only accessed the areas of your mind that were necessary to manage your physical reactions."

"Still with ya."

"This time I accessed a different area in your mind to create the links necessary for us to remain in contact at a distance."

"Like Wi-Fi?"

Spock blinked and looked at him strangely. "That is an inaccurate but sufficient analogy."

"Okay, still following."

"That area of the mind is very sensitive and can be very difficult to manage."

"Even mine? I think we all know I'm not very sensitive. Although I might be difficult to manage."

"You are not difficult to manage at all."

"Hey!"

Spock ignored his protest. "However, this area of your mind does operate within the expected parameters."

"What does that mean?"

"It means that while I was able to create the links within the meld in such a way that they could be easily released, what you did was permanent."

"Whaddya mean, permanent?"

"As I said, permanent."

"How permanent?"

Spock narrowed his eyes a little and Kirk flinched.

"You mean permanent? Really permanent? Like, forever?" And the part of him that was jumping for joy at that, yeah, he squelched that real fast. He stared at Spock, running through the ramifications. "I only made one connection. You said you made links, plural."

"That is correct."

"So one link by itself should be weaker than multiple links, right?"

"Not necessarily. It depends on the location and the method used, in addition to several other factors."

Kirk could feel his shoulders knotting up. Joy on his part, yeah. Spock distressed, no! He realized his fingers hurt and forcibly released his grip from his chair, then flattened both hands on top of his desk.

"Each link I made was to a different location for a different purpose," Spock continued.

"What was the location and purpose of the one I made?"

Spock suddenly looked distinctly uncomfortable.

"Spock?"

"You did not know what you were doing."

"Yes, we've established that," through clenched teeth.

Spock fell silent again.

Kirk wondered what the hell he could have done to make Spock so uncomfortable. There were only about two possibilities he could see, and frankly, neither of them were making him all that comfortable either.

"You created a...the only way I can describe it is, human bond."

"Is that code for illogical or emotional?"

"Code, Captain?"

"When you say 'human'," Kirk said very clearly and precisely, "do you actually mean illogical and or emotional?"

"That is approximately what I mean."

Okay, that was somewhat of a relief. The lesser of the two evils, thank goodness. Sort of. Then Spock continued.

"I believe there is another aspect to this that we also should consider. During our most recent melds, I have begun to notice some...events. The melds were creating links without my conscious direction or compliance."

"Whoa."

"Since I was not directing the changes, that left only the possibility that you were creating the links, but aside from the fact that you are a human without the knowledge or experience to perform such an act, it would be close to impossible for you to form them without my compliance."

"How close?"

"It is difficult to quantify."

"C'mon, I know you can do it: give me decimal places. You know I get a hard- a hard-on when you do that." That didn't quite come out right but by the time his brain caught up with his mouth in the middle of his sentence he decided to just go with it. That statement had always been generally true, but in the moment he said it he realized it was specifically true. And besides, he'd already told Spock the same once before and he hadn't died so...

Spock's voice got hard again. "There is a point zero zero eight four seven nine two percent chance that you have the ability to create such links with my compliance. Which you clearly do not have."

Kirk blinked and took a stuttering breath. "Hohshit."

"Precisely."

"I'm- you- I'm assuming you have a theory?"

Spock sighed, and Kirk tensed. Dammit.

"I have several. The most statistically likely theory is that our minds are simply highly attuned to each other."

"Er..."

"Our minds appear to be capable of interacting in ways that are not typical."

"And what I did would be an example of that?"

"Correct."

"And these other, uh, links? Those are an example of that?"

"Also correct."

"Huh. So, my link- uh-" he stopped at the look on Spock's face. "What?"

"You did not create a link."

"You just said I did."

"No. I said you created a bond."

Something unfurled in the back of Kirk's mind when Spock said that word this time; something about how he said it, all reverent and warm and shit. And some sense of it came to him from back there: warmth, home, life, light, belonging, something more than affection, something heated, something...forever. Kirk felt the blood drain from his face. He got really cold all over and if his hands weren't trying to strangle the flat surface of his desk he knew they'd be shaking.

"A- a- uh, bond?"

Spock inclined his head.

Okay. Okay... "Spock, I'm going to hyperventilate for a while now. Please don't kill me when I pass out."

Spock blinked. "Captain, I would never-"

"Spock. Please. You would probably be within your rights to kill me if we were on Vulcan, right? Right? I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I never intended to make the- that- whatever it is, that bond. Honestly, I didn't know, it's just that when we're in a meld I don’t ever want to leave and those things, whatever they are, it's- they're- you're- it's sort of...addictive, and I only wanted to always be able to feel how it feels in there. It was almost like I didn't have the option of not making it, like it was something beyond me. I mean, it was me, but it felt..." Shit! Kirk gave up then on explaining and squinted at Spock, poised to run (because really, there was no defending against Spock when he switched to berserker mode, Kirk had seen people try that before and shit got ugly real fast that way), and trying to see if he was going to die before he finished hyperventilating.

Spock merely looked puzzled.

"Yeah, I don't understand it any more than you do."

They were silent for a few minutes, then Spock said, "Addictive?"

Kirk snorted before thinking. Three whole minutes of thought and that was the best Spock could come up with? Then he replayed it, that one, single word, and heard the undertones: disbelief; insecurity; apprehension, hope, and his heart twisted. "Spock. What I said in that one other meld, when I was half out of my mind, that people who are smarter than me turn me on? That was true, and that applied to you one hundred and ten percent. You fascinate me, if I can borrow your own word. I like you. I care about you. You and my crew are my only- the first family I've ever had. I'm terrified of losing you and when we meld it's indescribably awesome and I'm always afraid it’s the last time we'll ever get to do it so I don't want it to end." Shitshitshit! He fucking hated this emo shit, but he'd do it for Spock. He'd do anything for Spock, even if the words were so completely inadequate to describe what he felt that he couldn't even tell if he was getting his point across.

Spock blinked.

Kirk said, "I think I have a headache now."

"Captain..."

"Yes, Spock?" Kirk said after Spock didn't continue.

Spock swallowed hard. "I- your words- they also apply for me."

Kirk blinked. Then he blinked again. "No shit." Hoping was one thing; getting concrete, verbal proof was another thing entirely.

"No sh- yes, sir."

Kirk took another minute to allow his pulse rate to get back to normal.

"Spock, I am sorry for making a permanent bond. I never intended to do anything like that. If you want it to be broken, if there's a way, you have to tell me."

"I understand, Captain. It was not something any Vulcan would have expected a human to have the ability to create. You and I are simply more attuned than is normal and this appears to have facilitated your efforts."

Kirk took a deep breath and hoped it wasn't terribly obvious how relieved he was. "So, in practical terms, what does that mean?"

"I need to examine the bond further; I have not had time to meditate since it happened so right now I only know that it exists and that it is permanent. It is not a normal bond of any sort that I am familiar with."

Kirk grinned. "As you said before, it's a human bond."

Spock's features finally relaxed. "I will understand more after I meditate tonight."

"All right." Kirk clasped his hands together and flexed his fingers a little, thinking about everything Spock had just told him. Finally, he took a deep breath. "So, we're good?"

"Captain?"

"You and me. We're good? You're not mad at me anymore? You don't want to murder me?"

"'Mad' is an emotional response, Captain. Furthermore, were I inclined to murder you, I would hardly make you aware of that fact in advance."

Kirk laughed then. That right there was Spock screwing around with him and it meant everything was going to be okay. "Awesome. So, you still wanna play that chess game?"

"Certainly, Captain."

"Spock. We're bonded. The least you can do is call me Jim."

Spock inclined his head again. "Jim."

Ninety minutes later: "Don't forget I'm a hacker at heart."

"To which topic is that relevant?"

"You have more back doors in your shields than Starfleet has in their entire network."

"I certainly do not. My shields have been thoroughly inspected and tested my entire life. They are stronger than average."

Kirk grinned. "Then I was right."

"About what?"

"Your back doors. They're just my size."

"That is not..."

"I figure I was about three-quarters of the way through that shield before you realized what I was doing, and you probably only figured it out because we were back on the ship and you were coming to get me anyway."

"That is not..."

"Your shields are not secure against me."

"That is not..."

"You're repeating yourself." Kirk leered just enough that Spock would see it. "I theorize that you must really like me if it was that easy for me to get that far into them."

Spock flushed.

"Spock, I like you too. You're one of my best friends and I care about you. Nothing wrong with that."

"That is an emotional-"

"Okay, how about you get emotional about this instead: checkmate."

Chapter Text

Kirk's fifth meld with Spock was totally his fault.

Within a few days of that one really scary conversation, Spock reported back to Kirk that while the bond Kirk had created was permanent, it would ultimately function as not much more than a locator of sorts.

-----

Spock neglected to mention that other strange little link of sorts that they had, which allowed him to access Kirk's emotional state. That was a different conversation for a different day; perhaps after Spock was able to track down the source of that link, something he'd been unable to accomplish thus far.

-----

That was fine with Kirk (with his away mission record, a personal GPS connected directly to Spock was probably a good idea), until it dawned on him that Spock was not asking or hinting or otherwise demanding that they change the link – deepen or remove - or their relationship, or anything else. That left him sort of empty inside...unfulfilled? He wasn't sure exactly how to describe it because it was another one of those things he'd never experienced before. Spock was reliably proficient at making him feel new things and Kirk wasn't sure yet how he felt about that, much less about the things he actually felt.

He also got a certain level of emotional bleedthrough from Spock when he really focused, and he'd gotten enough out-of-the-blue reactions from Spock to have a high level of confidence that Spock somehow got his emotional bleedthrough in return.

Plus, Spock liked him. Liked him a lot, if that bleedthrough was anything to go by (Vulcans don’t have feelings? Yeah, he was all over that particular Vulcan lie and to be perfectly honest, getting rather tired of hearing it), although he couldn't quite tell what "a lot" meant to Spock. Still, it was all very...well, fascinating, if he had to put a word to it.

So.

He was determined.

And persistent.

And while he slowly moved through horror, lust, peace, fear, lust, confusion, lust and confusion (with constant underlying themes of fascination, curiosity and compulsion) and then plowed directly through wide-eyed adoration to Machiavellian conspiracy, it all worked on him as a sort of lead-in to the final outcome.

Which he may have...incited.

Because instigate was such a harsh word.

----------

About three months after that last meld, Kirk was lying awake after a particularly horrific away mission. He wondered when he had begun marking time against the last meld he'd had with Spock. Then he wondered why melding with Spock was important enough to use it to mark time. Then he wondered why the potential, with Spock, for complete emotional transparency didn't have him running and screaming for cover like it had every other time in his life. Of course, that led him to wonder what it was about Spock that he liked the most.

List: Spock's smile (and seriously, was he the only person on his ship who could see it???); Spock's eyebrows (when they were going up); Spock's dry, sarcastic sense of humor (that, if Bones would only just give himself the chance to hear the things Spock really said, he'd fall in love too), Spock's really hot bod (yay, consequences, which gave him hands-on Spock every other day); relaxing over chess with Spock (although he had to admit, relaxed wasn't his normal state by the end of those evenings and he generally ended them with a nice hot solitary shower); intelligent conversation with Spock (more nice hot solitary showers); seeing Spock all Vulcanly excited about his latest experiment (which meant his eyes lit up and he talked faster and used words with more syllables than usual and Kirk tended to have to drag him back to his cabin when he knew Spock had gone too long without sleep) (oh, and more nice hot solitary showers); the pure knowledge that Spock had his back no matter what—

Wait, what?

Love?

Love??

No, absolutely not, no love going on here.

Wait.

Friendship love. Bromance love. Had to be that. Something like that. Anything like that. Because any other kind of love was doomed.

Shit.

He was Jim Kirk.

He was doomed.

----------

Three months after that world-bending realization.

He awoke with a hoarse shout that he bit back as soon as he realized where he was.

Shit, what a nightmare! Frank chasing him down from one side, some damn princess from the other. Neverfuckingending.

He threw back the covers and sat on the edge of his bed, gripped the edge of the mattress and waited for the shaking to stop.

"Lights forty percent."

It was always better with light. Even if the forty percent was enough to blind him with his eyes shut.

He stood, wobbled, and sat.

Spock tapped on the bathroom door.

"Come." Before Spock could say anything he held up a hand, palm out. "Just another nightmare." Spock remained silent, and he squinted up to see what visual cues he might be missing.

Well, shit.

His heart rate had been slowing, but now it rocketed again. Spock was dressed in low-slung black sleeping pants and a black t-shirt that fit decidedly better than their uniform undershirts. How had he never before seen Spock dressed for bed? Fucking sex on wheels, that's what Spock was.

"Oh my g—" He managed to shut his mouth.

Spock raised an eyebrow.

"Myeyeshurt."

"Lights ten percent."

Kirk's cabin dimmed to nightlight status and his eyes widened inversely.

"Holy shit," Kirk whispered. He couldn't stop staring. Then he whispered some more, "Holy shit. Oh my fucking-" Still staring, so he blinked. Then he blinked again, and Spock tilted his head a little. Kirk somehow managed to choke out, "Ok, I think the worst is over. You can go now." And hurry, before this impending hard-on makes things any more awkward than they already are.

"Are you hallucinating?"

"No!" Spock right now was seductive in a way so far beyond Kirk's wildest imagination– this was no hallucination. Instead of his usual at-attention pose with hands behind his back, he was nearly slouching against the doorjamb, hips canted, arms folded across his chest and holy fuck his biceps-

"Jim. The aftereffects from your nightmares never dissipate this quickly."

"Ungh..." No shit, Sherlock. They'd never had to compete with the sight of his hot First Officer in pajamas.

"Jim?"

Kirk dragged together enough brain cells to toss off the first denial he could think of. "Must not have been as bad as it seemed." Lame!

Kirk rubbed a hand over his face then dared to look at Spock again.

Patent disbelief all over him.

Great.

He sighed. Felt like the shakes were mostly gone so he forced himself to get it together and tried to stand again. Wobbled just a little, got the rest of himself in order, then went to the bathroom to get a glass of water. Except. Spock was still in the doorway and he wasn't moving. Kirk nearly ran into him before he jerked to a fairly clumsy halt, hands flailing for balance just centimeters from Spock's folded arms and itching to touch.

He could feel the heat coming from Spock's exposed skin, so close. He could smell the dry spice of Spock's skin, so close. He flashed to a memory of that shared space: the alien heat that had surrounded him; the dry sand that was now a part of his soul; the saturated red of everything that he could see or sense, even spreading across to color his part of the landscape of the meld.

It made him hard again just thinking about it and he didn't dare look Spock in the eyes, for fear of what he might expose. And Spock still didn't move. His knees wobbled again just a little and his hands clenched into fists of their own accord.

"Spock?"

"You are not well."

"I'm fine, just the adrenaline leftovers." Kirk heard the faint shake in his own voice. That sucked.

"The physical effects from your nightmares do not resolve this quickly. Why are you denying this?" Spock slowly straightened it took everything Kirk had not to fall forward.

"Well...I don't want to bother you."

"That has never stopped you before."

Ouch. And, true. And, Spock was tenacious, dammit!

"Okay. I'm getting a glass of water then I'm going back to bed, and if it makes you feel better you can hold my hand while I fall asleep. How about that?"

"That is an acceptable plan."

Well, shit. "Fine."

Spock moved into Kirk's cabin and Kirk dawdled over getting a glass of water as much as he ever had when he was a kid and trying to delay bedtime. Plus it took him that long to get his own body under control. Again. Dammit.

When he finally couldn't avoid it any longer, he went back out and slid under the covers and asked, "Why are you doing this?"

"Doctor McCoy has indicated that you may manage stress better if you are not left alone after high-stress incidents."

"I shouldn't be left alone? I'm not a child, Spock."

"No, you are not a child. But you are young and you regularly operate at unprecedented levels of performance with attendant levels of stress. It is entirely logical for you to accept the support your friends can offer you during these times."

"Aaargh!" This into his pillow.

"By that I presume you recognize our reasoning?"

"Yes." Then, "You don't actually have to hold my hand."

"That was your plan. I will proceed with my plan."

"You– you–" Rotten stinking liar! Vulcans don't lie? Yeah, he saw through that one months ago, he didn't know why it still surprised him. And yet...Spock had been playing with him. It melted something inside him a little more every time.

"Yes?"

"Nothing. I'm going to sleep now."

"Very well."

Kirk shifted under the covers. He flailed around a bit until they all came untucked, and wrapped them closely around himself. Then he stuck a foot out the bottom because he was getting warm with all the activity. After that he counted to three (because that was about the extent of his attention span right now). Then he counted three of Spock's breaths, which took longer than just plain counting. It was also much more interesting, though don't ask him why that was. And Spock was closer than he had realized because-

"Are you settled in now, Jim?"

Kirk jerked and unwrapped his head enough to look at Spock. Who was crouched right next to his bed. "Whaahuh? I thought you were going to just sit on the couch and keep me company or something. Maybe a bedtime story?" he added hopefully.

Spock sat on the bed with a lithe movement that made Kirk tense. He shifted away just enough that they weren't actually touching. That could be dangerous, Spock being a touch telepath and dressed in sexy black jammies and Jim Kirk being doomed and all.

"Doctor McCoy has a theory about you."

"Just one?"

"You are correct. He has several. Please turn onto your stomach. I am speaking about one theory in particular."

Kirk turned over, punched his pillow a few times, got his arms and legs arranged and stilled again. "Which one, in particular?" he asked.

"If you will allow me?"

"Sure, whatever, but hurry up cause now I'm really curious."

Spock pulled the covers halfway down, and Kirk looked over at him. Spock pushed his head back down to his pillow.

Kirk grumbled a little but allowed it. Then he nearly jumped out of his skin when Spock's hand came down on his bare shoulder. He looked over at Spock again. "You're shielding, right?" He was pretty sure, because he wasn't getting any of the drift he got when Spock wasn't careful while touching him, and he also wasn't getting any bleedthrough from that weird iffy sort of other linkBond thing they had going on that Spock wouldn't talk about, but no sense in taking chances. His name now actually being James Doomed Kirk, and all.

"I am naturally shielding, but since you asked, I have strengthened my shields by fifty percent." The unsaid being that Spock could read between his lines perfectly and so understood that he was thinking thoughts that shouldn't probably be shared. Spock gently pushed his head back down to the pillow. Again.

"Uh?"

"Doctor McCoy has noticed that you offer much physical contact to the crew."

"Yeah, so?"

Spock's hand came down on his shoulder again and this time he was ready for it.

"That is a benefit to the crew. It keeps them connected to you, makes them feel part of a team."

"Mkay."

"Touch also works on humans to assist in the dissipation of stress."

"Mmm hmmmm..."

"So the Doctor also wanted to know: who touches you?"

And here, Spock's hand drifted along Kirk's arm, from his shoulder to his wrist; heavy enough not to tickle, light enough to soothe. Then from his wrist to his fingers, Spock's hand covering his briefly, then sliding to his shoulder again.

"Humans require touch for emotional health and well-being. Doctor McCoy is also of the opinion that you require touch more than most humans."

"Hunh."

"Who touches you, Jim?" Spock's hand curved intimately around the back of Kirk's neck, paused, moved slowly down his spine, stopped at the waistband of his boxers, then went back up.

"Ser'sly?" Kirk was beyond proud of himself for stopping his hips from rising to meet Spock's hand at his waistband.

"Yes."

"Well, Bones, sometimes. You, when you're trying to kill me with those Vulcan death techniques."

Spock's hand paused.

"That was a joke."

Resume. "That is not adequate for optimum health over time."

Spock's hand moved to his shoulder blade, paused, then moved down his back in parallel to his spine; hit his boxers again then back up.

"Don't get me wrong here, but humans generally prefer to get most of their touching from their significant other. You know?"

"Doctor McCoy and I are in agreement that you are in a particularly singular situation, in that you normally confine your personal activities to off-ship. This leaves you with few options in that regard."

Oddly enough, Kirk felt something begin to relax inside. Spock's touch was very personal but not invasive in any way. It was just firm enough to do what it needed to do, and nothing more.

He closed his eyes. "I'm sure I'll survive whatever. I've made it this long."

"We don't want you to just survive, Jim. We want you to thrive."

Spock leaned over to reach his other side, hip and thigh pressing into Kirk's side. Vulcan heat felt good; it always felt good. Kirk relaxed and drifted, and if those hot fingers traced along his temple as he fell asleep, who really cared? It felt good.

----------

Two months after that experience.

Kirk was lying awake after having failed to escape the clutches of yet another spoiled native princess, after losing two of his security team who gave their lives to protect him, after Spock charged in, kicked ass and didn't bother taking names, and got him the fuck out of there.

His mind was churning worse than usual, and he couldn't get his brain to shut down.

He tossed and turned for probably an hour before he gave that up. Getting out of bed, he set up the chess board and played himself long enough to know that wasn't going to help.

He read a book for about ten minutes before giving that up.

He drank a cup of bedtime tea (frikkin Uhura and her bright ideas) and had to piss three times in fifteen minutes.

Dammit.

Only one thing left.

He hopped into a hot shower and proceeded to jack off.

It took far longer than usual. Possibly due to the fact that he refused to trot out his very favorite fantasy that didn't really exist. Nope, not at all. And most especially didn't exist ever since he realized Spock was getting his mental bleedthrough.

By the time he got things wrapped up, he had a feeling it was going to be one of those nights where he couldn't sleep, couldn't concentrate, couldn't anything.

And, by the time he got out of the shower, Spock was coming in to find out why he'd been in there for so long, not to mention at the ship's equivalent of two in the morning.

If Kirk had any inhibitions at all, he would have been embarrassed to find his fully uniformed (darn, no sexy jammies tonight) (shit, it was a Good Thing he had just jerked off) XO waiting for him when he stepped stark naked out of the shower stall. As it was, he simply grabbed his towel and started drying his hair with a muffled "Did I take too long again?"

"Yes."

He looked out from under the towel at that answer. There was a little bit of a bite to Spock's tone.

"What's wrong?"

"You do not normally take so long in the shower unless something is bothering you."

"Rough day. You know that." He finished drying off and went back into his cabin, rummaging for clean boxers.

"Even so."

"Whaddya mean?" He glanced over his shoulder at Spock, not quite following Spock's meaning.

Kirk was surprised, and even Spock looked startled (his eyes widened just a hint) when he said, "I was concerned."

"Huh?"

Spock tilted his head and narrowed his eyes a little. Meaning, do you need an interpreter for what I just said?

"Ohhh. You were concerned."

Spock got that other look: exasperated, as most would describe it.

"Spock, it's just one of those nights. I've had them before, I'll have them again." He got his boxers on and also dragged on a pair of pajama bottoms in rare deference to Spock's sensibilities.

"Would it help to play a game of chess?" Fair question; it had helped on occasion, though Kirk was less inclined to think it was the chess that helped and more inclined to think it was just being with Spock that helped.

"Probably not. But maybe if you wouldn't mind hanging out for a while, might help me get my mind off things."

"Of course, Captain."

"Jim."

"As you wish."

"Don't give me that shit. Call me Jim."

"Yes, Jim."

Kirk snickered, strangely enjoying Spock's barbed compliance. He flopped on his couch, feeling not at all guilty about keeping Spock away from his own bed. Spock had lorded it over him plenty of times about the Vulcan need for sleep being much superior to human requirements.

Kirk propped his feet up on the low coffee table, crossing his ankles atop the couch pillow he tossed over there. "How about you update me on your latest experiments," he said as Spock sat at the other end of the couch.

Spock did, and Kirk leaned his head back, closed his eyes and listened to Spock's measured exposition. He forced himself to follow, asking questions when Spock got deeper into the explanations than he could keep up with, and learning more than he always expected to learn.

At some point he yawned mightily, stretched until his joints popped, and looked over at Spock. "Mind if I get into bed while you finish? I think this is working but I really want to hear the rest of this one."

"Of course not."

Kirk slid under the covers, wrapped himself up, then realized Spock was too far away for easy conversation.

"Spock. You need to come over here." He moved over and patted the side of his bed. "I'm a deaf human and you need to get closer so I can hear you."

"Indeed."

He chuckled at the faintly disbelieving tone. "Honest. Please?"

"Very well. But only to finish my explanation of the one experiment. Then you must sleep."

Kirk got that funny surge of warmth in his chest that he usually only got whenever Spock played with him.

"Spock, you have the very best bedtime stories," he said in a smarmy tone of voice.

"Jim." Repressively.

Kirk laughed a little. Spock sat on the edge of the bed and Kirk shifted closer until he was not quite touching him; almost curled around him but not quite.

Just close enough to feel the heat coming off him. That was all he needed.

"Okay, go."

Spock launched into the rest of his description, and Kirk drifted happily, following the explanation from ever more distant reaches.

He was pretty sure that the floating strokes along the back of his hand didn't have a whole lot to do with his mental slow-down. Even if they were more relaxing than a lullaby.

He couldn't quite decide if the fingers sliding through his hair were real or if they were a dream, but real or not, they soothed the jangled edges of his mind, and finally, he slept.

Chapter Text

One month later.

It wasn't the Worst Mission Ever, but it sure wasn't going on Kirk's memory wall, that's for damn sure. Two of his crew were recovering nicely in sickbay; no permanent damages to either of them.

No one died.

That was the best thing he could say about it.

The eighteen- eighteen! Bloody fucking hell in a fucking warp core- eighteen children they had rescued from the slavers on the colony below were safe-

He didn't even bother with his bed that night, knew it would be useless from the start. He wandered the bowels of his ship until the early morning hours, worked himself past exhaustion in the gym, then returned to his quarters and took a long hot shower.

Kirk was honest enough with himself to acknowledge (if only to himself) that he was relieved to find Spock waiting in the bathroom when he stepped out of the shower. Spock had cottoned on fast that middle-of-the-night showers were his last resort in an attempt to get some sleep on the really bad nights.

He glanced into warm dark eyes, gave a slight nod of acknowledgement, then dried himself off on the way into his quarters. He got boxers on then crashed on his couch in a wide sprawl. Spock stood stiffly on the other side of the low coffee table, but his eyes were relaxed.

"C'mon, Spock," he patted the cushion beside him. "I'm getting cold."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I'm cold."

"There are blankets on your bed."

Kirk sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Spock. Please sit with me."

After a long pause, "Of course, Jim."

Spock sat, and Kirk kept his eyes closed, focusing on the tempo of Spock's breathing. After a minute or two, he noticed his own beginning to sync. It calmed him, oddly enough.

"So," he finally said as he looked at Spock, "are you in the mood for fucking or fighting?"

By the slight rise of Spock's eyebrow, Kirk knew his comment had been thoroughly anticipated. He grinned. Spock tilted his head just so, and Kirk immediately quit grinning and crossed one leg over the other.

"Perhaps tonight you would prefer speech to action."

"Hmmm. Perhaps. Perhaps I could be persuaded."

Spock continued to look at him silently, expectantly, and Kirk watched him back until something in the air between them shifted, altered. He looked down at his hands, fingers interlaced hard enough to make his knuckles white from the pressure. He forcibly parted his hands, splayed his fingers in the air and stretched them, then let them fall flat to his thighs.

"Children, Spock."

"Yes."

"Eighteen. Fucking eighteen of them!"

"You saved them all, Jim."

Kirk nodded, thinking about that. "How could they get so many from one small colony? Why didn't the colony inform the Federation what was happening?" He looked at Spock. "What about all the ones they took before? Where are they?"

"You have done all you can. The colony has already lost its charter and most of the adults there will spend time in the penal system."

"But what about the ones they took before?"

"Jim, this is not about the ones you could not save. There will always be some you can not reach."

"That's unacceptable."

"That is reality."

"Not mine. Not my reality. I don't want that reality."

Spock turned sideways on the couch, facing Kirk. His pose was more relaxed than Kirk had ever seen him and that alone calmed the outer edges of his tension. He dropped his head to rest on the back of the couch and watched Spock.

Those dark eyes roamed his face, his bare chest, traveled his legs, then back up.

"You are human."

Kirk snorted a laugh. "You're Vulcan."

"That was an exclusionary statement."

"Meaning?"

"You are not a god. You are not all-powerful."

"I'm not?"

Spock reached over and carefully, so carefully, brushed a lock of Kirk's hair back off his forehead. Kirk was stunned enough to let it happen, then happen again, then he had to prevent himself from leaning into the light, lingering touches.

"Jim, I understand that much of your reaction today sources from your own experiences."

Kirk sat up abruptly. "No. We're not going there."

"What I saw in your mind-"

"Don't!"

"-was appalling, it was horrifying beyond belief-"

"Spock!"

"-and I could not understand how you survived-"

-Kirk made some motion, something telling, something he wouldn't have done if it wasn't Spock he was with, or maybe Spock just knew him well enough to anticipate, and then Spock's hand was around his wrist and immovable and Spock kept throwing those knives at his soul-

"-to become the smart, strong, caring man you are."

"Stop!"

"All I can conclude is that you are stronger than I am capable of comprehending. You have a depth of willpower that moves mountains-"

Kirk jerked his arm uselessly. "Stop this."

"-and saves worlds-"

"I failed!"

"-and lives-"

"I failed!"

"-and children."

"I failed."

"Jim, I recall one memory of yours, it was difficult to piece together-"

"Spock."

"-but you saved a child. You took a life to save him. Am I correct?"

Kirk couldn't look at Spock, couldn't face the memory, just...couldn't. He shook his head. "He died. Later."

"But at that moment, you saved him."

He finally looked up at Spock, glaring at the warm brown eyes, pouring every last bit of fury he possessed into that glare.

"Will you think about that memory for me?"

"Fuck no!"

"Jim, please."

There was something quiet in Spock's voice, something low, something intimate, and Kirk literally felt a resonation strike up in the back of his mind. His fury and despair failed him in that instant and he sagged, tension bleeding from him and leaving a black ache inside.

"I understand this is asking much of you, perhaps too much, but I want you to tell me what happened. How it happened. What happened after."

"Spock," he pleaded. "It is too much."

"Jim, I am with you, as I told you in the meld. I will always be here. I would shoulder this burden with you. Not for you, but with you, by your side. Let me help you, as you have helped me so many times."

Another knife to his soul and his conscience, and Kirk looked down to where Spock maintained his grip on Kirk's wrist. His First Officer knew him well enough to know that the fight was not won until it was over, and sometimes even then it wasn't won. He laid his other hand over Spock's, thumb absently rubbing at the back of Spock's hand.

He considered Spock's words. Spock was right. They were friends. It was a two-way street and he hadn't held up his end of the deal at all. Perhaps, in part, from fear of losing his sanity. He didn't want to revisit those memories, never did, didn't now. He didn't like what he'd been, what that past made him, what it had done to him. Remembering those things hurt.

But his friendship with Spock meant more than anything, and if he could look past his own hurt far enough to recognize that, perhaps he was far enough past his own hurt to share some of it. Or at least, let someone else see it, up close and personal; get dirty in it with him.

"It was on Tarsus. A few of us went into town to forage for food. One of the guards tracked us back. Most of the other kids got away, but Ehsiu was too weak and he couldn't run as fast." Comforting heat uncurled at the back of his mind, spreading determinedly down his spine and through his body. He glanced up at Spock.

His First Officer, his friend, watched him with nothing but human warmth in his eyes. A barely-perceptible inclination of the head: continue.

Kirk took a deep, shuddering breath and stepped into the fray. "The guard caught up with him." The heat didn't dissipate; it suffused every inch of his skin and remained there, heating his cold limbs.

"He crouched, trying to draw Ehsiu in, make him feel safe." Faint sparks started tripping through to the front of his brain, shooting off at the corners of his vision, turning into a pale rainbow inside his head.

"He was off balance enough so I jumped him. From behind. I only had a knife." The sparks turned into a familiar-feeling starburst. He looked at Spock, then he heard the words and he stared at Spock, silently listening.

Dungi to sahrafel? Then, ki'nam-tor nash-ve heh kwon-sum dungaunam-tor t'hai'la t'du, and an unexpectedly warm and lighthearted Khart-lan, khart-lan t'nash-veh.

More Vulcan words spilled into his mind, flowing through the memory with boundless affection and an intimate, caring presence. And...love? The words and the sparks and the meanings suffused the memory, supplanting the horror and misery. No, not removing it, but layering it, insulating it.

"This...you did this?"

Kirk saw the first moment of doubt in Spock's eyes, and a slow nod.

"Why?"

Spock opened his mouth to answer, then paused, then spoke. "I could not allow you to continue to suffer alone. I had the ability to help, and I did not believe you would object."

"You didn't have to do that."

"You are correct. I did not have to do it, in the same way you did not have to help those eighteen children."

Kirk leaned back a little. "I'm not helpless."

"I had no choice. I find I am not capable of standing aside and watching you rip yourself apart without attempting to help."

Vulcan words still flipped through his head, settling deeper and slowing down, so that he now understood the tone of voice: low, intimate, reverent.

"I'm not that." He referred to the tone of voice, knowing that as long as Spock held his wrist he would understand his intent.

"Why do you think not?"

"I'm...Spock, I'm broken."

"In what way?"

Kirk stared at him for a long moment. "I've done things. Things have been done to me. I can't take any of that back."

"Have I asked you to?"

Kirk opened his mouth, then closed it.

"I am pleased that you did what had to be done to survive."

"I'm not! It sucked, every last second of it."

"You would prefer to be dead right now?"

"I- no."

"It is part of what makes you what you are, who you are. Without those experiences, would you care so much about these children? Would you have defied orders to stay and find them? Would you have risked your own life to save them? Would you have risked the Enterprise to capture their abductors?"

"Sure."

"I doubt that. Without your past experiences you would not have understood the horror awaiting them. You would not have understood their fear, their pain, their desperation. You would have lacked the intimate understanding of their circumstances that gave you the motivation to stand and fight for them. Without your singular past experiences, all eighteen of them would surely have died."

Kirk stared at Spock, his brain in a freefall.

"Must I repeat myself in Vulcan?"

Kirk still stared. He tried to speak but couldn't muster a single word.

"What would you say if I told you one of the children you rescued had managed to exterminate one of their captors prior to their rescue?"

There. He got his words back, even though he saw the trap immediately. He snarled, "I'd give them a fucking award."

"What makes them different from you, and worthy of praise for doing what it took to survive?"

"I..."

"You deserved to survive, Jim. Just like they deserve to survive. You did nothing wrong by surviving." His words were echoed again in Kirk's head, but in Vulcan.

"Spock, this is..."

"Jim, you are precious beyond the telling of it. I would find this universe a far lonelier, uglier place without you in it, and I fear I would not wish to remain were you not also here."

Kirk's heart was racing and he realized he was gripping Spock's hand too tight, and he forced himself to loosen up. He looked at Spock again. Dark heat simply oozed out of his Vulcan. Deep, unseeable strength. Unshakable will. All directed at him, for him. There to catch him when he fell, for fall, he would. It only wanted his trust.

He took a deep gulping breath, then another.

Spock still held his wrist firmly, but he sat forward and brought up his other hand to curl around the side of Kirk's face and focus his attention. "Jim. I am here for you, in whatever capacity you need me. That is my word and my promise." He tilted his head just a little. "Know that I will not be frightened away by the antics of an emotional human."

"Okay, now you're just being insulting."

----------

Three weeks after that.

Kirk woke up from the best sleep he could remember having, surrounded by heat, swamped with that sleepy lethargy that came from total relaxation.

He shifted to stretch, and froze when he felt the heavy arm draped over his waist and large hand splayed across his stomach. Plus, there was a really hot body plastered all against his back and legs. Hot temperature-wise, that is.

Inventory: that was not a female arm; he did not remember going to bed with anyone; he did not have a hangover.

The arm tightened slightly.

He almost didn't want to look, but seriously, if he could face down a dozen angry Romulans, what couldn't he do?

He looked over his shoulder.

Spock? "Spock?"

That arm resting across him pulled back, and was it just him or did it take exceptionally long? And was there a slight increase in pressure before Spock's hand breached the curve of his ribcage? And no, it wasn't his imagination when Spock's fingertips halted momentarily on his waist and then slid to his hip, and from there moved down across his butt dimples to his spine.

And yeah, then they moved right up his spine. He couldn't stop a delighted shiver and that scared him enough that fight-or-flight kicked in and he flailed at the blankets until he toppled over the side of his bed.

Spock's voice was husky with sleep. "You seemed to require touch last night."

"Hungh?"

"I could not awaken you from a nightmare last night. The only thing that seemed to work was touching you."

"Quit fucking with me, Spock. What the hell?"

He heard Spock shift, then his face appeared over the side of the bed. Rumpled and relaxed and verging on a smile.

"Do you require more?"

Kirk flushed.

Spock tilted his head (playing!) in that way that always made Kirk get just that little bit interested.

"Oh—" He got up and ran for the bathroom.

----------

Two weeks later.

Kirk had managed to keep Spock at bay from any more touching, and he sometimes got just a little tiny bit hysterical at himself about the whole thing. Everything had been fine until he realized he was falling for his XO, like for real, like, everfuckinglasting love, then it all just fell apart.

Before, it had been fun to manhandle Spock just to see him jump, fun to mess around, fun to think about what might be, but now he was afraid to touch Spock for fear of exposing what he felt about him. Friendship was fine, bromance was fine, and yes, he really did love Spock that way. And yes, he was also in love.

But he was also thinking Spock was the one person in the universe who could keep him interested for the rest of his life. And who could also actually make him toe the line when necessary, which was mind-boggling on so many levels. And critical; because he knew he occasionally carried the captain thing over into his personal life with a little too much enthusiasm (really, he loved being Captain that much) and he knew someone had to call him on that once in a while or he'd really get out of control.

Shit, they were already like a married couple, bickering on the bridge (only when there was nothing critical underway, of course), snarking at each other in the mess hall, and Kirk could bitch up a storm when Spock laid him out in the gym without showing a proper amount of effort. They had gotten to the point where they spent more evenings together than not, and when they weren't together Kirk's primary desire was getting back to Spock.

And Spock could freeze Kirk in his (usually Machiavellian) tracks when necessary, the frightening part being that he generally seemed to be the only person in the entire crew who could tell when Kirk was up to something. And even more frightening than that were the times Spock didn't stop him in his tracks but actually participated, because those were the times Kirk's insides turned to mush because the entire Universe knew how much he adored it when Spock played with him.

The flip side to all that was that he had gotten instantly addicted to Spock's touch. He was calmed by Spock's presence. After Spock saw that shit in the back of his head he hadn't run away; he had, in some respects, taken things to another level.

Kirk knew from bleedthrough that Spock liked him, in some way more than liked him, and definitely found him attractive. Had Spock been human, Kirk would have known ages ago exactly where he stood and exactly how to proceed. With Spock, he had just enough uncertainty that he wasn't quite willing to take that last step, make that final push across the invisible line.

And now he kind of didn't know what to do about the whole thing. At a loss for one of the few times in his life, he decided that for now he would just have to try to keep a lid on his thoughts during any sort of physical contact with Spock until he could figure this out. Maybe a solution would come to him in his sleep.

Or something.

----------

One week after that.

Kirk was in the mess, absently chewing at the end of a stylus while he studied the latest mission reports on a padd, when he got hit with the hardest flare of lust he'd ever experienced. He nearly doubled over from the intensity of it and if he wasn't in the main mess hall he would have rolled around on the floor groping himself and moaning for a while then followed up with a nice hot solitary shower as soon as he could get upright.

As it was, he hunched over his padd (nearly breaking it because if he didn't grab his padd he was going to grab himself and that might actually be something that would embarrass him) and hoped no one would notice the flush creeping up his face and ears. He glanced around the room to see if there was suddenly something weird going on in general (not that unusual on the Enterprise, to be perfectly honest). His eyes met Spock's, black and intense and focused and somehow hot and they spilled more heat directly down his spine and Spock fucking smiled at him until he finally managed to blink and then Spock was talking to someone else and it was over as if it had never happened. And Kirk was left thinking, WTF?

----------

Five days later.

They were on the surface of an unexplored M Class planet. Blue-green skies, brown prairie grasses, tall purple mountains, crystal clear water.

Paradise.

The instant after he thought that word Kirk knew there was something wrong. He said a quiet alert to his team and then watched in horror as nearly half of them dropped before they could get to cover, burned by phaser shots from the nearby line of trees. The remainder dropped to the ground for cover and the firefight that followed was bloody and horrific.

Kirk had the presence of mind to rip open that link Spock normally wouldn't talk about and send a bloodcurdling (because Spock told him so later) yell for help across it.

Kirk awoke the first time head down, thrown over a painfully armored shoulder, bouncing through the woods. Since his hands were tied behind his back, he was pleased to find he was unable to prevent himself from throwing up down the back of whoever was carrying him.

He awoke the second time when they threw water on his face. He stayed awake only long enough to find out there were Klingons mixed in liberally with the natives, and that they intended to torture him for some sort of knowledge he supposedly had (Starfleet really needed to stop giving Captains so much critical information).

He awoke the third time to see and hear the sucking chest wound of the Klingon leader fade out as he died. He managed a satisfied smile when he saw Spock standing over the Klingon, breathing heavily and him and his knife both bathed in lavender blood, then drifted off again.

He awoke the fourth time to see Bones above him, muttering and growling. He was surprised to recognize they were still on the planet and may have communicated some of that surprise to McCoy, because the doctor looked down and frowned. "You idiot!"

"Huh?"

"I'm sorry. I meant, you fucking idiot!"

"Whaaa?"

"Don't move. Not a finger, you hear me?"

"Whuuuhhaahh?"

"What happened? You got your ass kicked. Again. Asshole." McCoy went back to fussing and muttering, Kirk heard a hypo hiss against his neck (shouldn't he feel that?), his vision went oblong, and then Spock wavered into view.

"Captain?"

"He's gonna pull through, Spock, get back."

"Spohhh..."

"Shut up, Jim, I swear. Spock, if you don't stop breathing on my neck right now-"

"Doctor McCoy, you will cease your vocalizations this instant."

"Spock- what?"

"To be more precise, shut up."

Wow. Kirk snorted, or he would have if that pressurized oxygen mask Bones had just slapped on his face didn't prevent him from doing things like that.

"Now see here, you crazy-"

Kirk managed to make a noise that got their attention and did his best to roll his eyes at them. It probably didn't come off that well but it was good enough for them to get his meaning.

They both stopped talking.

McCoy did some more stuff, then Kirk could feel Spock holding his hand. Spock's grip verged on painful without quite crossing the line, and Kirk squeezed right back. Spock looked at him sharply.

"Doctor, he moved his fingers."

"I should damn well hope so, the fool idiot. Okay, he's stable enough to move now."

There was a painful and disorienting blur of movement and then sky and decking and Spock and Chapel and sickbay and McCoy and at some point he threw up again and then his world narrowed down to the hot, strong hand he refused to let go of.

The next time he awoke his head hurt, his eyes hurt, his skin hurt, his teeth hurt. Everything hurt except his hand, where Spock was still touching him.

"Mmmnngghhhh," he gurgled.

Motion over there, then Spock stood over him, still gripping his hand. He looked a wreck, awash in dried purple blood, hair dried askew with great streaks of it, uniform hanging by threads. Kirk raised his eyebrows because that last attempt to speak had really hurt, but even raising his eyebrows hurt.

"Starfleet was unaware of the presence of Klingons on the planet."

Kirk sort of rolled his eyes; it hurt, but maybe not so bad as his eyebrows did.

"Their presence here is no longer a matter of any concern."

Kirk raised his eyebrows again, testing: ow.

"Lieutenant Uhura has discerned that the natives far prefer a peaceful alignment and is currently in negotiations with them. Yes, she has a full security squad with her."

McCoy appeared, looking over Spock's shoulder. "Told him everything he needs to know, Spock? Good, now get out. I won't have the stink of Klingon blood in my sickbay any longer, you hear me?"

"Doctor-"

"Spock, I have a hypo here with your name on it." He held up a hypo and Kirk could see it was fully loaded. McCoy wiggled it when Spock didn't move instantly. "Your choice, Commander. Vertical or horizontal? Myself, I'm leaning toward horizo-"

Spock beat feet and Kirk giggled weakly until McCoy snarled "I lied," and stabbed him in the arm with the damn thing.

"Ow!" Fuck. Fact: talking hurt the most.

"When you're better, we're gonna have a little chat, you and I."

"'Bout whaa?" Ow, dammit.

"About you and your fucking berserker Vulcan, that's what. He went completely bonkers trying to get down there and I saw what he did to that Klingon! That wasn't nice clean Starfleet fighting going on, that was fucking vengeance, Jim. You need to get him under control, you hear me?

Then a few important things finally fell into place and Kirk started laughing, and he laughed and hurt and laughed until McCoy gave him another shot and he finally just passed out.

Chapter Text

Eight days later (because Bones, the hard-assed bastard, put him on restricted duty for a whole fucking week after that last incident).

Kirk finally lit on the bright idea of asking Spock to meld with him so he could learn the last technique in the suus mahna series he was learning. He still couldn't defend himself against Spock to save his life, and Spock insisted Kirk's form was atrocious (too much meditation involved and his mind always wandered during that part, which naturally caused him to miss large portions of Spock's expositions on form), but Kirk had found himself instinctively using several of the moves during away missions (most recent one aside) with great success. There was also the added benefit that when he was in just the wrong mood (disastrous away mission) and he knew Spock was in just the right mood (disastrous away mission), he could (had) already use the physical parts of their training to completely fuck with Spock via that awesome Vulcan hand telepathy thing.

It invariably meant the sort of workout that left him sore and bruised for the next three days (yes, he'd prefer to fuck, but he'd be the first to admit that fighting worked just dandy in a pinch), but that was usually when he needed to feel that way the most.

Or, you know, he just needed to burn off a little energy because he hadn't been allowed to lift a finger for a whole damn week.

Case in point.

Kirk grunted when his ass hit the mat, then again when Spock plastered him full length.

He shoved at Spock's shoulders, and trying to move a Spock who didn't want to be moved was like trying to lift a fucking redwood with your pinkie. He strained, groaned, panted, realized his legs were also trapped so he had, like, zero leverage, and shoved harder.

Still not getting anywhere.

"Shit!"

Okay, time for a completely new tactic, plus he was going to have to modify his original plan just a little.

Spock took advantage of Kirk's switch from shoving to gasping for air to twist both of his hands down to the mat. It was another of their brief wrestling matches somewhat reminiscent of what the rest of the crew called "thumb wars" and Kirk worked really hard to get their hands palm to palm before they hit the floor. That was probably the only reason he was able to accomplish it: he wasn't actually trying to escape. And as always, he hated that little slam of power Spock threw in at the last instant before whatever of Kirk's body parts Spock was focusing on hit the deck.

"Ow, fuck!"

Spock shifted up and sat on Kirk's stomach, still holding his hands to the floor. The look on his face held just the slightest hint of smug triumph and Kirk really wanted to change that look to something else...

"Hey Spock, wanna know what that spoiled princess did to me after dinner last week?"

"No."

"Well, since I've got you trapped here, I'm gonna tell ya anyway."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "You have me trapped?"

"Sure. You let me up, that means I've successfully defended myself against you, so I win, and I don't have to do this anymore. Therefore, you are trapped."

Spock got that cautious, wary look that never failed to amuse Kirk (when it was directed at him); sparks fired off as his brain got all excited about how much fun this game with Spock was going to be. Kirk grinned up at Spock, delighting at what was about to happen to his oh-so-buttoned-up XO.

"Your logic is unsound."

"I'll explain it."

"I am sure you will."

"Actually, what I'll do is show you."

----------

Spock had a sudden freezing moment of panic. He knew that look on his Captain's face. He knew that look intimately. He knew, in the human vernacular, that all hell was about to break loose and that the eye of the storm would be James Kirk.

Who was currently lying compliantly on his back under Spock.

Kirk did something with his hands, shifted them slightly, and of all the things Spock thought Kirk might do, what he did next was not even in the same universe as Spock's list of Things Jim Kirk Might Do.

----------

Drawing on his limited understanding of how Vulcan telepathy worked, Kirk gathered up a few select images, closed his eyes, focused, and immersed himself in an experience. Then he pushed the experience through the chinks in Spock's shields that he had found before, using the bond he had created, the link Spock was pretending didn't exist, and a whole lot of intuition.

---------- 

Spock watched Kirk close his eyes in concentration, realized it was now or never, and then it was too late.

Lust flooded through him first, sharp, tangible, needy. He inhaled quickly, fighting to shield against it, but it was always harder to expel a thing than prevent it from entering in the first place.

He shoved at it; it evaporated wherever his mind touched it, and still it surrounded him, infused him.

It centered fast and hard in his groin and heated outward, shot to his fingers and toes, curled through the back of his brain, colored his vision a flaming blue, melted every attempt to force logic into the situation. His heartbeat increased and the heat climbed even to the tips of his ears; every breath scorched his lungs.

He had enough time to register that the memory wasn't actually from last week but from many months previously, then he was lost in it. He heard light feminine gasps, Jim's low murmurs, then other noises that Spock shied away from identifying. It was too intimate, too irresistible, feeling Jim like this, being Jim.

There was the sweaty slide of skin against skin; the scent of her perfume, almost cloying in the press of their bodies; He felt the smooth texture of her skin under Jim's fingertips, against his chest, arms, legs...elsewhere.

Images followed in a rush, primarily Kirk's perspective of his own hands and arms intertwined with that of the young woman, their bodies slick and sliding in an erotic dance; her face tense, distant in her pleasure.

He felt what Jim had felt: physical desire; physical pleasure; lust, arousal; the rhythmic movement and hardening of his body as he tipped over the edge into orgasm, and the deceptive euphoria that faded faster than the physical effects.

The focus changed, from physical to emotional, and Spock felt sorrow, loss, underlying the visuals. There was a disconnected loneliness, a longing for something – someone else, that manifested as a soul-deep ache.

And from one breath to the next it stopped. Spock was staring down at his captain, who looked – surprised?

Spock was appalled to realize his arms were shaking and he was breathing hard. And he was more than a little erect.

"Uh. That was...umm...how...oops?" Kirk looked faintly embarrassed, a relatively uncommon expression for this human.

"I do not know." Spock was furious. He didn't know how Kirk had done what he just did; it should never have been possible. Even with Spock's telepathic abilities and even with that strange link between them that he couldn't seem to prevent from growing stronger by the day, he shouldn't have gotten any more than the feelings, maybe an impression of the physical sensations. Certainly not the images.

There was a way to combat this; prevent Kirk from ever trying something like that again. Without thinking, without analyzing, Spock acted. Reacted.

He placed his fingers swiftly in the meld position, wondered why Kirk's eyes suddenly dilated, and then he was in. Kirk jumped eagerly into the meld as usual but this time Spock didn't bother with too much finesse other than making sure not to harm him. He held Kirk in position mentally then went searching.

----------

Kirk saw Spock's wrath written all over his body, had a moment of panic when he realized he was in a hideously vulnerable position, then Spock was sticking his hand on Kirk's face in the meld position and Kirk was suddenly much more interested in the proceedings.

He jumped into the meld and got the mental breath knocked out of him when Spock slammed into him, roughly locked him into place with a thought then left.

He barely had time to realize that Spock was diving through Kirk's own brain when he got hit.

White hot pleasure stabbed through him, jacked up his heart rate until he could hear the blood rush through his veins in sharp counterpoint to the steady surges of incandescent lust that ripped through him.

He knew he was sucking air from nothing more than shock, but there were spots in front of his mental eyes and it felt like his heart was going to jump out of his chest and he was shuddering through an orgasm that fast.

Shiii...

Spock didn't give him time to finish or recover; the pleasure ratcheted up again before his body was done with the first one and he went mindless with the hedonistic bliss. Another orgasm almost before he could figure out what was happening.

Sp-aaah...

His brain was shaking, his body was shaking, and shit, that was the best orgasm of his life, and there was another one coming, oh, shiiiit!

Kirk groaned through it, utterly surrendering to the sensation, loving it, immersed in it, grabbing the curls of heat and wrapping himself in them, then another one, spiking from the back of his head, down his spine, straight through his dick and he shoved with his hips, searching for contact but even the lack there didn't matter because it was so good.

Another one, and he reached blindly with his hands, wanting contact, needing contact, needing a connection that wasn't there.

Another orgasm, wrenching through his mind and his body and his dick, and then Spock wasn't holding and manipulating him as much as he was driving him hard and he saw that shield that he loved and he dove for it, grabbed it, and this time he wasn't letting go through another orgasm that ripped him from head to toes and he arched his back and threw his head back inside and shouted his pleasure at Spock and there was something different – better – about it with his hands buried inside that shield that yielded only for him so he shoved more of himself in and the white heat shot down his spine and sent him to his mental knees in another one, and seconds later there was another one.

More followed, one after another, violent in their intensity until he was breathless, wasted, until all he could do was ride them out, his brain blurring around the edges, the pleasure wracking his body until he could no longer move except to hold on.

And in the one gasping moment Spock finally allowed him between orgasms, he actually wondered if it was possible for there to be too much of a good thing and then (and there was just no other word for it) Spock pounced.

The orgasms stopped, but nothing else did. Heat surged through him, lust still sparked and fired throughout his body, desire still pulsed in time with his heartbeat and he wanted to come so bad but Spock wasn't letting him have it and he knew his entire body was shaking with need and desire and want and shit he was going to die from this.

Whaa...

Spock held him there, at the brink, hovering.

Spock. He actually managed a cohesive thought.

For that, he got pushed closer to the edge and held there.

Unghh...

Another push, even closer to that sharp edge between orgasm and not, holding there, pulsing closer and back with every heartbeat and he tried to force himself across it and over the edge and when Spock pulled him back again he groaned his longing, his craving.

He couldn't take it anymore.

Still on his mental knees, shaking mental arms buried in that shield, he rested his forehead against the shield also and gathered the few brain cells he had remaining and brought pictures into that place with him.

He supposed his brain was so hazed with pleasure that he kind of grabbed the wrong fantasy, or maybe it was one of those Freudian slips. Either way, the one he brought in was his utter favorite. He kept it locked in the far dark recesses of his brain because it was just too dangerous to let loose, but he was surrounded by Spock and inside Spock and Spock was inside him, and fuck him if Spock wasn't the only thing on his mind right now.

He rolled through his favorite jacking off fantasy, making the images as clear as he could with his diminishing resources.

He pictured him and Spock in one of their beds (it never mattered whose bed), Kirk on his back, legs wrapped around Spock's waist, their fingers intertwined on the bed as Spock leaned over him, and Spock was pounding into him hard enough to send him into next week and the heat of him inside and out was addictive and necessary and the flush on Spock's face and ears was beautiful, and the fierce, uncivilized passion in Spock's eyes as Kirk watched him come apart made him want to cry because he loved that look more than anything in the universe.

Everything stopped.

Not just stopped, but stopped. There was a pause of blank nothingness, long enough for Kirk to catch his breath, long enough to for him to begin to wonder, then everything slowly re-formed.

Kirk's favorite shield was gone.

No, not gone. Altered.

He reached out, grazing it with his fingertips. The sticky warmth was there, warmer and stickier than before; magnetic, almost. Pleasure rippled through his fingertips and he almost pulled away (because right now pleasure kinda sorta hurt) but reassurance followed the pleasure. He pushed against the shield and this time there was no resistance; his hand went right through and he almost mentally fell over because he was expecting the resistance.

He got up and walked through, and it was like walking into Spock. Through him. Inside him. He was all heat and light and logic and curiosity and humor (yes!) and damn, sexy as hell. And standing right in front of him. Kirk felt himself expand in that space, saturating it with himself, and he knew without a doubt that every part of him was also being infused with Spock. This was what he'd been missing, what he'd wanted, what he'd been looking for; what he needed. Spock had seen his darkest corners and still, still, surrounded him with heat, with love, with acceptance.

He would never be able to get enough of this; he would never get enough of Spock.

I want this.

You want what?

I want you.

Ah.

Obviously I haven't scared you off.

It would take more than a masturbation fantasy to scare me.

How about a bondage fantasy? Kirk snickered just a little then yelped when he found himself mentally on his knees with his wrists bound behind his back.

I fail to see what is scary about this. Perhaps once again you forgot your safe words?

Kirk laughed. He knew Spock was just fucking with him now.

Spock released the image.

I love you.

I know.

Don’t be a shit, Spock. Humans generally like to know if their affections are returned.

They are.

Kirk opened his mouth to bitch a little more, but he got walloped with heat – it was the good heat, the one he'd always felt from that one shield, but like it had been multiplied to the nth degree. It surrounded him, and in that place it saturated him, and he knew it would always be there.

He slowly grinned.

The warmth dissipated but left a strong, bright thread that he knew would never go away even outside the meld, Spock made that little face that Kirk knew was his version of a smile, and then Kirk had to make himself stop grinning before things got too sappy.

He looked around a little more, happy to learn his instincts about how good it was behind that shield had been correct, even if they didn't get the full picture. This was awesome. Spock was awesome. He didn't ever want to leave.

Not ever?

Nope. Not ever. And you know I'm not lying.

How will you run your ship from in here?

Kirk felt that rush of warmth somewhere in the region of his heart. Spock was playing with him...in here!

I bet you've got a way to make it work.

Like so?

They were still in the meld, but Kirk was also back in his body and his physical senses were back. He was looking up at Spock, whose eyes were hugely dilated, his cheeks flushed, panting and trembling.

Kirk flexed his fingers and Spock jumped a little.

"Uh." Spock said.

Glancing down, Kirk saw that his hands were wrapped around Spock's hips.

"Oh." Kirk said.

Kirk tightened his grip a little and got a sense of Spock's pleasure/pain from the bruises he'd already laid in. He moved his hands a bit then gripped again and this time he got just pleasure from Spock.

He looked back up with a grin. "That's pretty awesome." He shifted his hips a little, discovered he was still hard as a rock, and wet. "Ugh! That's not awesome."

And pleasure ripped through him again, heat licking at his brain, shooting through his body. He writhed up, shoved Spock's hips back (because Spock let him) until he got blessed friction and pressure and heat. He arched, closing his eyes and groaning in bliss.

"Look at me."

"Yunghh."

"Eyes on, Jim." It was a command, not to be ignored, and reinforced through the meld.

Kirk looked, and he saw in Spock's eyes everything he had imagined in his own fantasy only more, because this was real, and honest, and it was right in front of him and on him and in him and...

It was enough to send him over the edge. He reached, inside the meld, for something to hold onto, to connect with, to keep him from flying apart, and this time he found it just as the orgasm exploded through him. Every muscle in his body tensed and jerked, his fingers tightened on Spock's hips, his back lifted from the floor, and whatever was coming out of his mouth was making Spock's lips twitch. He kept his eyes on Spock through it, even though he wanted to let them roll back into his head, or cross, or something, anything; but keeping focus through the best orgasm of his life somehow made it all that much better. Not having to hide this part of him, letting Spock see what he felt added dimensions to this that he had had no clue even existed.

He gasped through the last few spasms, his hands tightening again, loving the heat, the lean, dense musculature so different from human, the weight, the scent...

And fuck if that wasn't the hottest thing he'd ever seen when Spock came just from watching him come.

Watching him come apart was everything he had imagined and still more. He loved the unrestrained thrusts of Spock's hips against one hand, the hard length of his erection against the other palm. He loved Spock's quiet gasps of pleasure, his moans low and deep. He loved those allover shudders that wracked Spock uncontrollably and he loved the dark flush of his skin and he loved Spock. And he especially loved it when Spock wrapped him in k'diwa inside the meld, in just that reverent tone of thought that, if Kirk hadn't already come about twelve million times, would have had him doing it again.

Spock's weight settled back on Kirk's hips, his arms shaking as he still held himself upright, trying not to let all of his weight fall on Kirk.

And the fact that Kirk could feel Spock's pleasure though the meld was such an awesome bonus, he felt like the luckiest guy in the universe. "Fuck me," Kirk finally breathed.

Spock's voice was low and rough when he finally responded, "I am pleased that you finally remembered your safe words."

Chapter Text

"What was that word?"

"What word?"

"The one in the meld."

"I recall many words in many melds. Can you be more-"

"That last one, Spock, the one where I melded with you. Or at least I got things started."

"Can you be-"

"Okay, fine. Fine. The meld where I first said I love you. That one. Do you remember that one, Spock?"

"I do recall that meld."

"And?"

"And what?"

"What was that word?"

"What word?"

"Spock, I'm gonna- you can't- Spock. Spock. In that meld, there was a word you kept from me. I'm pretty sure it was in Vulcan. What was it?"

"I-"

"Don't-"

"-do-"

"-you-"

"-not-"

"-dare!"

"...very well. Tonight."

"Wha- oh, very fucking well, Mr. Spock. Our quarters, twenty hundred hours. And don't be late."

"Yes, Captain."

-----

Kirk walked into their quarters and came to a dead stop. Then he had to take another step in so the door would close. "Spock?"

Spock opened his eyes, but didn't move from his meditation position on the floor in the middle of their cabin. He had his meditation mat out but he was still uniformed, which was not normal.

"Spock?"

There was a warm, gentle tug at the back of his mind, through their newly-forged bond; not a compulsion, but a request. Kirk slowly walked over in response. He sat across from Spock, and waited.

"I believe it will be easier to show you what the word means, than to attempt an explanation."

"What, like in a meld?"

"No, not in a meld."

"Oh." Kirk was baffled.

Spock blew out his meditation lamp and set it aside with controlled, measured movements that made Kirk's skin heat with lust. The memory of how those very gestures felt against his body rushed through him, and he bit his bottom lip hard against his rising want for Spock, forcing his attention to stay above their waistlines. This was serious, he could feel it through the bond, and because of that it was also important to him.

Spock picked up a small, intricately carved stone box and set it in front of himself, between them, then lifted the lid. Kirk leaned forward to look, but got a push-back through the bond. He grimaced, but straightened. Spock withdrew a small barbed spine from the box and carefully positioned it on the meditation mat he had left in place. "Doctor McCoy gave me this after our first meld."

"Ohshit no-"

"It is neutralized."

"What the hell, Spock?"

"He suggested it might be kept as a souvenir."

Kirk's initial terror flipped to humor and he snorted a laugh. Leave it to Bones to think of something that...human. And then get a Vulcan to buy into it.

Oh, wait.

"You really kept it."

Spock raised an eyebrow at him.

"Well," Kirk said defensively, "that's kind of not really a Vulcan thing to do. Is it?"

"No, it is not."

"So why..."

"I am not certain. But I could not bring myself to dispose of it."

"Okay."

Then Spock looked up and met his eyes. "Perhaps because when I look at it I am reminded of our first meld. It was then that I first saw that while your actions and speech were frequently confusing, if not completely incomprehensible, your mind was far more ordered than I ever believed possible. I saw that your ability to analyze and understand, and then react to new and previously unknown situations, lay in your ability to somehow connect seemingly unrelated facts, to place them into a context that allows you to tacticalize them, something at which you excel."

Kirk felt an inexplicable flush creep up his cheeks. Possibly because this was Spock fangirling at him, rare enough in any situation. He said faintly, "I don't think 'tacticalize' is a real word."

"It suits."

Spock reached into the box again and pulled out a mid-sized knife. It almost looked more like a shiv than a manufactured knife, but there was definitely a small hand guard between the wickedly curved matte black blade and the darkly stained leather-wrapped handle.

Kirk let out a low breathy laugh as Spock gently placed it next to the spine. "McCoy?"

"Yes. He suggested that as I had previously accepted the spine, I may as well accept the knife. His exact words were "start a collection"."

"I'm going to have a chat with him."

"I cannot imagine what you would expect to gain from such a conversation."

"He- oh. Good point."

"This knife reminds me of when I became aware of your complete absence of the normal human fear of death."

There was a bit of a bite to Spock's voice and Kirk grinned. "Only because I knew you would come for me."

"How could you know that?"

Kirk shrugged. "Because by that time you always did, even if we didn't really know how you were doing it back then."

"It also reminds me of your strange inability to correctly assess certain situations – typically when you are in a drinking establishment."

Kirk laughed. "You gotta admit I've gotten better at that."

"You have improved somewhat."

Kirk snorted. "Percentages, please."

"Twelve point six three two."

"Oh hell no, I've gotten a shit-ton better-"

"It also reminds me of the utter terror I experienced when I realized what you had gotten yourself into. That was when I knew my regard for you had surpassed what humans would call 'friendship'."

Kirk blinked. "What, the meld gave you feeeeelings?"

Spock narrowed his eyes just a fraction and Kirk pushed a little teasing warmth of his own through the bond.

Visibly relaxing, Spock reached back in the box and pulled out a small flat disc, carefully avoiding the short, thin needle set perpendicular into the center. He placed it next to the knife, pointy side up.

"I really don't like this one. Why are all these things so sharp? And dangerous?"

"I also hold no particular affection for this one. However, the resulting meld did provide me with great insight into your personal motivations and challenges."

"Fuck that. I still don't like it."

"You have overcome events that most humans are unable to comprehend; you did not allow those events to define who you are, but instead, you used them to become a better, stronger person."

"Yeah, I'm a regular bionic man," Kirk grumped. Spock stared at him, and Kirk started to flush again. "Sorry, not mocking what you said, I just hate it." Kirk fidgeted when Spock remained silent. "Okay, I was mocking what you said. But that doesn't make what you said untrue."

Spock nodded slightly.

Kirk ran a palm over his forehead. "Man, are we having a relationship conversation? Cause I'm getting a headache and that's usually what happens when I'm involved with one of those."

"We are. However-"

"No no, don't stop now, things are just starting to get interesting. What else you got in there?"

Spock raised an eyebrow and the side of his mouth lifted slightly, then he reached into the box and pulled out a shot glass. Kirk nearly choked on nothing but air.

"Bones stole a shot glass?"

"Inadvertently, I am sure."

"And he got you to hold his ill-gotten goods for him?"

"I do not believe-"

"Yeahokaywhatever. Whaddya think about when you look at this souvenir? Aside from how empty it is. And what a useful object it is. Good for daily use. Multiple daily uses."

"I remember how bitchy you can get when you are apprehensive and do not feel in control."

Kirk gaped. "Spock?"

"It was also when I began to understand the full extent of your feelings toward me."

"Um?"

"During that meld, your faith in me was complete. Even among Vulcans, that level of confidence is almost unheard of."

"Percentage."

"It happens among approximately two point zero four zero one three percent of the population. The relationship engendered by such trust is a revered and safeguarded relationship. If Vulcans were capable of such a thing, you might say that most Vulcans only dream of having such a relationship in their lives."

"Shit."

"We became friends after that first meld, did we not?"

"Yes." Kirk watched Spock pick up the souvenirs with all due caution and place them back in the box.

"You might even consider us brothers?"

"Erm...in a non-incestuous way, sure."

"In the old languages of both of our worlds, we might be called warrior brothers, or brothers-in-arm, correct?"

"Yes."

Spock set aside the box and stood. "On Vulcan, before the time of Surak, the warriors of each clan traveled most of the year to hunt and conquer." He held out a hand and Kirk took it, using the controlled pull to rise to his feet. "Most warriors fought in pairs. An extra set of eyes and ears, an extra weapon at your back."

"With ya."

"Most of the pairs were bonded; a warrior bond, which requires deep friendship and a very high level of trust." Spock nudged Kirk back a step through the bond. "Imagine how advantageous that connection would be in hand-to-hand combat."

Kirk stared at Spock, awed at the simple logic of the entire setup. "You're saying we have that?"

"Are you saying we do not?"

"What? No, of course we have that, I mean, remember how we operated on Rigellius III, that was awesome! But I didn't know it was – like, it was a real thing."

"It is a real thing. But there is also a deeper bond." Spock tugged him back through the meld and Kirk decided he liked that game so he also pulled, until they were close enough again for him to kiss the amused curve of Spock's mouth.

He licked into familiar heat, nipped and bit and tasted until Spock gently separated them.

"Hey Spock, our bed is right over there and we're both off-shift."

"I am aware. Perhaps this discussion can wait."

Kirk actually needed to think about that. Both of them off-shift and not otherwise occupied at the same time was a rare enough occurrence that he had to make sure his priorities didn't need to be re-aligned. "How long do you need to finish explaining?"

"Less than one minute. Assuming no interruptions."

Kirk let his hands fall to Spock's waist and leaned just far enough away to make eye contact without his eyes crossing. "How long with interruptions?"

"Naturally, that will depend on the nature of the interruptions."

Kirk slid one hand under Spock's loose shirt, and he closed his eyes to better enjoy the sensation of smooth skin over hard muscle. "How about this: you ignore any interruptions I make."

"I will certainly try, but based on our past experiences there is a ninety-eight point seven six three percent likelihood that your efforts will result in success."

There were no words for that. Kirk could only move his other hand to the back of Spock's neck and plunder his mouth. Hot lips parted against his, and the small, hungry noise Spock made as their tongues touched flooded Kirk's body with heat, made Spock feel almost cool to the touch under his palms.

He slid his hand from Spock's side to the small of his back and pulled, groaning his own noise of pleasure as their hips met. Heat and pressure and contact, his Vulcan, his, through the meld, mine.

For no particular reason beyond a strangely lucid epiphany, Kirk broke the kiss and leaned his upper half back again to make eye contact. "Fuck me...where did you learn to kiss?"

"From you. Of course."

"Shit, I love myself. You need to start talking right now or I'm never going to find out what that fucking word is."

"Are you certain?"

It was intended as a tease, but in less than thirty seconds his friend, brother-warrior, lover, whatever, everything, had turned him inside out and he didn't know how much longer he could hold out. Seriously. He tightened the hand he now had on Spock's ass and pulled and fucking hell, pressure and friction and fucking fireworks going off in his head- "Yes." He saw the glimmer of humor in Spock's eyes, and it stabilized him a little. Gods, but Spock was so fucking fun to play with!

"There were some warrior pairs who didn't simply love each other, but were in love with each other."

And that just completely grounded him. "Oh wow. Gay Vulcan warriors. Hey, next time we role play-"

Spock clamped a hand over his mouth. "I had thought you wanted me to finish the explanation." He removed his hand.

"I do, keep going."

"The inclusion of sex into the warrior relationship changed it from a warrior bond to a t'hy'la bond."

Kirk felt Spock's warm reverence through the bond again, and recognized it this time. It was what he felt every time they melded, every time he reached for Spock through the meld. "You're saying that's what we have? T'hy'la? Did I say that right?" And shit, but all those Vulcan words Spock had given him in the last year or so, plus all the Vulcan he had been secretly (well, he figured it was an open secret between them) learning over the last six months came to the fore. He truly understood the meaning of the term, the depth of regard Vulcans held for that type of bond, the awe and reverence and the actual purity of such a connection. Brothers, warriors, lovers. Everything he and Spock were - individually and to each other and together - they were t'hy'la.

"Yes, yes and yes."

Kirk couldn't resist. "So we're gay bonded Vulcan warriors?"

Spock came as close to physically rolling his eyes as Kirk had ever seen. "Essentially, yes. Although you would hardly qualify as a Vulcan warrior."

Kirk's heart turned over. "Open for me?" he asked.

He got all of Spock's attention, and then Spock dropped his shields.

Kirk pushed everything to Spock, everything he felt for Spock, everything he understood about t'hy'la, everything he was, gave it all to Spock, opened every last dark corner of his soul to Spock.

Spock welcomed him, surrounded him, infused him, and the bond they already had, the one that Kirk had thought was all of him, all of them, became even more. The joy of it, the belonging of it, the truth and visibility of it...

Spock was kissing him, teeth and tongue, holding him tight, biting, licking, trembling, pushing and grabbing and reaching in the meld, and Kirk had fistfuls of Spock's clothing and hair and one leg wrapped around Spock's thigh, and really, he needed so much more.

"Spock," into Spock's mouth, against his lips, speaking with his body and his soul.

Spock's hands moved to Kirk's thighs, lifted, and a breath later they were falling to the bed and Spock's heat and weight pressed him into the mattress, held him there. Kirk writhed to get Spock's shirt off, only managing to get it pushed up to his armpits before grabbing him to haul all that solid body back against him. He groaned an incoherent complaint against Spock's neck and Spock pushed back to his knees. He stripped his shirt off posthaste and somehow – how? – got his pants off without leaving the bed.

Kirk dazedly watched him strip for several seconds before he remembered that he had far too many layers on himself and his hands flew to his waistband, fumbling impatiently because ninety-eight percent of his attention was focused on Spock's bared skin right there in reach so close-

Spock hauled Kirk's boots off with efficient movements and when he fairly dove at Kirk's waistband, Kirk arched and writhed to get his shirts off. Sadly he lost the race, but at least he did have two intact shirts, if not pants, by the time he got naked and why was his shirt suddenly incapable of ripping from his body at the slightest provocation but then who fucking cared-

His hard and focused Vulcan dropped back on top of him, between his legs, the bare skin a welcome, mind-blowing shock – chest to chest, dick to dick, Kirk's legs wrapped around hard thighs that he wanted his mouth on except that there was a hot Vulcan tongue already in his mouth so that was okay, until Spock buried his face in Kirk's neck and bit a stinging trail from his earlobe to his shoulder while Kirk grabbed blindly for whatever he could reach and pushed up with this hips, strained for more contact, found Spock's ass and when Spock's teeth reached his left nipple his hips stuttered uncontrollably-

"Fuck me, Spock, just, fuck me, I can't..."

Spock lifted his beautiful mouth from Kirk's chest then rolled his hips against Kirk's groin and Kirk inhaled from the pure pleasure, and then he moved, wrapped his legs tighter around Spock's thighs while he pushed at Spock's chest until he could get a hand between them and around both of their dicks and pumped. Once, twice, his legs tightened even more around Spock's, then his Vulcan shuddered, his head fell, and his heaving breaths were all Kirk could hear until...

"Jim."

Everything, in that one, wrecked word.

"Spock, I'm ready, I got ready before, I'm- dammit, just fuck me!"

Spock's head lifted fast, his eyes endless dark pools of nothing but love and desire.

Kirk let go of him and stretched, reached for the top drawer of the bedside table, his fumbling made even less accurate by the sliding imprint of Spock's hand as it went from his hip to his chest, but he managed it. He flipped the cap open and squeezed a dollop into one hand, tossed the tube aside and grabbed Spock's dick. Spock sucked air and froze, his expression a clear indicator of the level of betrayal he felt when the cold lube hit his really hot cock.

Kirk grinned and started stroking and Spock calmed down – or rather, heated back up - and then Kirk let go and sent an order through their meld.

Spock glanced up, gave him one of those looks, and then he leaned back far enough to hook one of Kirk's knees over his forearm and he pushed in. Kirk nearly whited out at the explicit pleasure of Spock's entry into his body and into his soul. Spock sank balls deep, then stopped. Kirk panted through the slight burn as his body accommodated, then he tilted his hips enough to indicate he was ready for more. Spock pulled out just far enough to create friction then pushed back in.

"Spock!" Spock did it again and Kirk gasped, his heart racing, his body moving in ways he had no idea he could, no control over – desperate, begging. "Spock." Spock pulled out again, then pushed in, the delicious tease sending his mind spiraling into vau'thios as he reached for control; he was too close to the edge too fast. "Please..."

Spock brushed his face, his meld points, and everything blended and sharpened both inside and out. Spock's control over his own respiration was fading, his already fast heartbeat thrumming through Kirk's body, centered at his dick with a mind-blowing, control-breaking vibration. Spock's skin was like satin and fire, his lithe form masking hard Vulcan musculature that never failed to engage every last one of Kirk's senses. Spock's desire washed over and through him and Kirk reached and caught one of Spock's hands in his own, using vau'thios to intertwine their fingers and Spock pushed their hands back to the bed. Kirk felt the spike in Spock's pleasure at the contact, fingers and palms adding to Spock's sensation, Spock's enjoyment. He wanted to give Spock more of that and he grabbed at Spock's other hand. The remains of the lube made their palms slide, their fingers slick as they locked together, and Kirk knew the moment Spock lost control.

Spock's eyes widened, his entire body froze, and for an instant Kirk struggled to think through the red-hot pleasure that swamped everything they were, then he surrendered.

Spock moved, hips snapping, burying his cock to the hilt with every thrust and through the meld Kirk knew he was targeting Kirk's prostate. Kirk arched into the thrusts, one leg wrapped around Spock's waist, the other around a thigh, gasping, shuddering with each precise drive. His hands clenched around Spock's, and as much as he wanted his hands free to touch Spock, Spock's desire to keep him pinned, keep him in place, to appease his own hungry desire, was stronger. Kirk got enough leeway to meet Spock's thrusts and that was all, and it was almost enough, all of that mine/must/now soaking through vau'thios, drenching his soul, diffusing into his skin and making everything he felt doubled and mirrored.

Kirk got both sides of it: the hot, hard slide of heavy Vulcan cock against and into his hole, filling him with a blindingly precise fit, and the rough press of Spock's groin against his balls each time he slammed home; at the same time he felt the explicitly pleasurable drag of friction against his dick as he pushed against cool human skin and seated himself in the warm grip of mine/now/taketaketake, and the unfamiliar pleasure of fingers and palms slick and sliding that was so deeply different and new and so fucking erotic all he could do with that was let it take him over and it didn't go to his dick, it went to his brain and hung there, firing through his head in counterpoint to Spock's thrusts, to every small movement he made with his hand against Spock's.

It pushed him up to the edge, all that sensation, all that input. He writhed, begged, pleaded silently with his body and his mind, until Spock lowered his head and whispered, "I want to feel you lose control."

"Spock, I'm...please..."

Still Spock moved over him but now, their bodies pressed together and Spock breathing hot and fast against his neck, there was friction on his cock, just enough contact with the hard planes of Spock's stomach, just enough that when Spock kissed him, thrust his tongue into Kirk's mouth and then withdrew to bite sloppily on Kirk's lower lip, scraping teeth and tongue there again, it was enough, just enough.

His orgasm started at the base of his spine, his balls tightening almost painfully against the measured press of Spock's body against and into him, his ass clenching hard around hot dick. He arched against Spock as it shot up his back, stiffened and groaned, gasped aloud – "Spock...Spock," – as it shuddered through his body, beset his mind with the acute power of it until he blanked out to everything but the endless spiraling pleasure and the hazy vision of Spock watching him fall apart, moving on him and in him and pushing him and with him and catching him, catching him.

And as he slowly came back to himself he felt Spock's immeasurable pleasure with him, for him, easing and supporting him in the meld. Spock's possessive satisfaction was like a drug, washing through him and making Kirk feel as if he had just done the most amazing and impressive thing Spock had ever seen – which maybe he had, because, truth in the meld...

Kirk had nothing left, his limbs limp, his mind blank to everything but Spock. His legs slid further down as Spock continued to move, Spock's unfulfilled pleasure still lighting up the meld. Kirk moved his hips a little, trying to meet Spock. His thighs shook weakly with the effort but the renewed push of erotic pleasure through the meld was worth it. He said softly, aloud and in the meld, "Come for me, t'hy'la."

Spock's eyes widened once more and Kirk felt that word strike home for Spock like an arrow, and that was all it took.

Spock drove into him desperately, like a man on the edge of eternity. His face and ears flushed beautifully green, lips parted as he panted, eyes glazed with passion but looking only at Kirk, his whole being focused on Kirk. Kirk felt the rising tide of Spock's orgasm in the meld, the mental crack of Spock's last bit of control, and then the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen, was sure he would ever see in his life. Spock's grip on his hands tightened, his driving thrusts became suddenly urgent, his rhythm lost in a stuttering search for completion. His teeth bared in a silent growl and all of those beautiful muscles that Kirk practically worshipped were visible, clearly defined under smooth skin as he moved over Kirk, pounding hard and just this side of too much.

Everything in the meld turned red and rough and frantic, Vulcan words spinning through the air and through the meld and while Kirk had thought the mine/take/now from earlier had been possessive, it was nothing compared to the unrestrained drive to dominate, the need to seize control. Safe in the meld, knowing utterly and without a doubt that there was no way Spock could or would ever harm him, Kirk gave him control, surrendered it with total trust.

His world turned into a red haze of driving pleasure as Spock's orgasm overtook them both. Kirk fought for consciousness against the overpowering sensations, if only so he could watch this, watch Spock fall apart for him, because of him. Spock tensed, his hips jerked again and again, his eyes wide with awe and still on Kirk's as he gave himself over to the sensation.

As the waves of passion and pleasure slowed, returned to levels that Kirk thought he could actually cope with, Spock dropped, his entire body shaking, and buried his face in Kirk's neck. Kirk grunted at the weight, but when Spock disentangled their hands he wrapped his arms weakly around Spock's torso to keep him in place.

Spock whispered, "Jim."

"Spock?"

"You are conscious."

"Shouldn't I be?"

Spock got an elbow under himself and lifted up. "I had doubts that you would remain so. You constantly surprise me."

Kirk grinned. "Get used to it, babe."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "'Babe'?"

"Would you prefer 'sugar-buns'?"

"No."

"So, 'babe' it is."

"It most certainly is not."

"Okay, okay, only in private."

"That is acceptable."

"Great. So...was it as good for you as it was for me?"

Spock narrowed his eyes and lowered some of his weight back onto Kirk.

"Oof, hey...just kidding!"

Spock kissed him, gently, and Kirk grabbed a handful of Spock's hair because that was swiftly becoming a necessity when Spock's mouth was on his, but then he was appalled to find his arm still shook from that small effort.

Spock raised his head and the side of his mouth curved just the slightest. "You humans are rather...delicate."

Kirk grinned back. "Hey, I never lost consciousness. I'm not that delicate."

Spock kissed him again, this time hard and fast. "It is one of the many reasons my t'hy'la is so exceptional."

"I think I like that word."