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“…the form, or I can approve leave to New Vulcan, but the choice is yours, Mr. Spock. Right now with the overhaul, I’m sure your parents will have enough time to arrange…”

“That will not be necessary, Admiral. But I appreciate your concern.”

Jim blinks, startled to hear Spock’s voice coming from the other side of the close door. The last time he and Spock had sent a Comm, his Vulcan XO was heading to Bayamón to visit Nyota’s mother and sister. In fact, Jim had spent what Spock had insisted was an inordinate amount of time teasing him about being stuck on an island, surrounded by water. Jim had laughed himself to tears, which of course had taken the edge off the burning jealousy in his gut because apparently coming back from the dead and remembering your Vulcan First Officer with his hand pressed to the glass and tears falling down his cheeks as he watched you die made him feel feelings.

Feelings which he’s trying to cool about right now since this will be the first time he’s seen Spock in months.

So…yeah.

This whole New Vulcan thing is no less intriguing than anything, but he figures if it’s important to the mission or the crew, he’ll be briefed by Pike before they take off again. Which, last time he was given any sort of communication about that, they had another month to go.

Jim steps back away from the door when he hears the little beep, and wooshing slide, and he clears his throat and throws on one of his best grins when Spock comes to a startled stop.

“Captain,” he says.

Jim rolls his eyes and reaches out to clasp him on the upper arm. “Neither of us are on duty, Spock. Though I didn’t realize you were in the city. I thought you were with Nyota.”

“Plans,” Spock says, then hesitates before he finishes, “changed. She will be in the city shortly before departure. If you’ll excuse me…”

There’s a shortness to his tone that Jim hasn’t heard in a damn long while, and it only makes the curiosity worse, but right now he’s got a sit-down with Pike and judging by the look on the Admiral’s face, it’s going to be a long one.

Still, he can’t help but turn and watch Spock’s well-formed ass as it strolls down the hallway, and eventually out of sight.

~*~

Jim’s halfway into a real-cooked, delivery pizza and a six pack of imported Bolian ale when his comm goes off in a series of buzzes. Jim half considers ignoring it, because it’s either Scotty drunk-messing him from some Irish pub he’s just gotten kicked out of, or it’s Bones drunk-messaging him after drinking his pain away from leaving Jo for the night.

Either way, Jim’s threshold for drunken nonsense—emotional or otherwise—is fairly low and has been since he, you know, pulled a Biblical Figure and rose from the dead. So to speak. It’s mostly Spock’s fault for a myriad of reasons that aren’t actually Spock’s fault, but right now he’s been a little caught up thinking about how Spock is not with Uhura and that’s well…

That’s a box he is so not ready to unpack.

Still, he’s Captain for a reason, and he needs to be the kind his crew depends on, so he picks up his Comm and promptly chokes on his own tongue.

Spock: Jim, I have an urgent matter I wish to discuss with you. Is it possible for you to attend me at my apartment on campus?

Jim’s entire brain short-circuits as about a hundred fantasies involving that exact message race through his brain. And damn it, he knows his friend isn’t propositioning him. So he quickly picks up his Comm and messages back.

Jim: Of course, Spock. Tonight?

Spock: If I am not interrupting plans

Jim: Free as a bird. I can be over in ten. Can you remind me your address?

He types that like he’s actually been invited to Spock’s place before, but sometimes he likes to let himself pretend they had more than just missions and the ship. The address comes through promptly, and Jim quickly calls for an aircar because he’s had enough beer that he can’t drive, though not so much that he wouldn’t trust himself around Spock right now.

Mostly.

He drinks two full glasses of water and then pees three times before the car arrives, just to be sure.

He also doesn’t, at all, check his hair and profile line in his full-length mirror a dozen times just to be sure because well…he’s a Starship Captain, he should always look his best, even when he isn’t in uniform.

Then, as he climbs into the car, he realizes that Spock might not be in uniform and he lets his head fall against the glass because oh fuck, he’s not sure he can handle that.

He makes himself go, though, because he’s a man of his word.

Spock lives in the Campus Staff Housing block which is on the far side of campus that faces the bay. It’s got amazing views, even from the first floor, and Jim wonders if Spock actually gives a shit about the views of water. He wonders if the alienness of earth makes it even harder to have lost Vulcan, even if he hadn’t been there in years.

Jim pushes all that away as he takes the airlift to Spock’s floor, six up, and then swipes his sweating hands on his jeans and tries not to look like a total dipshit madly in love with a man who will never love him back. He’s not sure he succeeds, especially when Spock answers the door in freaking Vulcan robes and Jim basically swallows his own tongue to keep from saying something ridiculous.

“Jim,” Spock says into the dead silence between them. He steps aside, and Jim walks past him into the sparsely decorated apartment. It’s mostly functional—a couch, a chair, a table. There’s a few recessed lights in the ceiling, no real means of entertainment, though there are a lot of books. A few photographs, too, of Amanda, Sarek, and young Spock which Jim is pretty sure Amanda is responsible for.

“Who keeps this place up when you’re off world?” Jim blurts. Like a moron.

Spock lifts a brow and clasps his hands behind his back, the motion making the black robe go tight around Spock’s shoulders and well. Fuck. “The Academy arranges for tenants in my absence, and a paid service when no one is available.”

Jim knows it was a dumbass question. But he hoards these personal little tidbits about Spock like they’re gold, tucked away in the secret spaces of his mind he reserves only for the Vulcan. Clearing his throat, he shoves one hand into his back pocket and tries to look casual. “So uh…what did you want to talk to me about?”

If Jim didn’t know any better, he’d think Spock actually looks nervous. The way his cheeks look faintly green—though it could be the lighting. But he twists his hands like he’s fidgeting, and then he gestures to the couch. “It would be best if we sit, so I can explain my current predicament.”

Jim’s eyebrows fly up along his forehead because Spock? In a predicament? That’s a sentence he was fairly sure he would never, ever hear. Just under the shock lies worry because to be frank, Jim has been worried about Spock’s obligation to New Vulcan since the colony announced it was recalling what remained of their people. And while Spock showed no indication of returning, the conversation he overheard in Pike’s office is making him second guess that.

“You know you can talk to me about anything, right?” He tries for supportive and Captain-y, but not too eager. He’s not entirely sure he hits the mark when he sees the curious expression flicker of Spock’s face.

“Indeed, Jim,” Spock says, and steeples his fingers together the way he does when he’s in deep thought. “It is why I have requested a discussion with you. There is a matter in which I must attend. I…” He pauses and now Jim is certain he sees a light green flush on his cheeks. “I know there is friendship between us, and that you have, on multiple occasions, insisted that I need not worry about propriety when we speak in private.”

“And I meant it,” Jim says in a rush.

Spock nods once. “Then I will be frank with you. This is a deeply personal matter, and though I am obligated to refrain from sharing all the details—as they do pertain to my people—I wish to convey as much as I can so you understand the necessity.”

“You’re leaving Starfleet,” Jim says flatly, unable to stop the words. His greatest fear—not just because he cares about Spock, but because he’s really not entirely sure what kind of captain he’s going to be without him.

Spock blinks, then says, “There was not a request for my return to Vulcan at this time. There seems to be…” Spock stops and glances away for a second, which sends Jim into another panic spiral, though he manages to keep himself calm on the outside. “There were unforeseen consequences after the destruction of Vulcan. As you know, we are a telepathic species, and those who survived felt the death of our race.”

Jim swallows thickly and wants to reach out and hug him, but knows it won’t be welcome. “Yes,” he says instead. “I grieve with thee,” in passible Golic as Nyota had taught him after he begged her to help him express his sympathies in a way the Vulcans would understand and appreciate.

Spock gives him a small smile, which for him is a blinding grin, and it makes Jim’s heart beat faster. “A few Vulcans have chosen to remain in their current professions away from the colony, and as such, those associated with Starfleet were asked to…” He stops again, this time looking distinctly uncomfortable. “Captain, have you ever been made aware of a Copulation Contract?”

Jim feels his own cheeks heat, because yeah, he knows about it. Every Starfleet Captain with non-humans aboard his ship are briefed on the Copulation Contract. Some species go into a heat which exudes pheromones which might affect the crew. Others are driven by biology which could make them volatile. The contracts are on a basic Need-To-Know basis, and entirely voluntary. But possessing one ensures that the biological reason behind the species’ need to breed will be covered by the volunteer, should the member of the species be too far from their homeworld or mate.

“I uh. Yes.” He kind of thinks he knows where this is going, but also he’s not entirely sure because he knows jack and shit about the Vulcan race. Do they seriously…

“I cannot give reasons why, Captain, but Admiral Pike has requested that I either enter into such a contract, or return to New Vulcan for…”

“Who’d you have in mind?” Jim blurts. Like an ass. He blushes harder and shakes his head. “Okay that was stupid. Obviously Nyota…”

“It is not Nyota,” Spock says, but offers no more than that.

Jim’s eyes snap up. “So do you have someone in mind? I mean, you have to, right? You’re not…you wouldn’t leave, would you?”

“It is not my wish to leave my position,” Spock says firmly. “However I do not have a designated co-signer, though Admiral Pike has provided me a list of potentially willing…”

“I’ll do it,” Jim blurts, and then freezes because what the fuck is wrong with his mouth today? Spock doesn’t look horrified though, or angry, or anything bad. He mostly just looks as blank as ever. Jim clears his throat and tries to salvage some of his pride by saying, “As your Captain, it’s my duty to ensure you, you know, remain safe and have everything you need. And uh, and if Nyota turned you down, I mean…not that I get why, since she’s your girlfriend and everything but…”

“She and I have ended our romantic association,” Spock says. He doesn’t meet Jim’s eyes, and there’s a vulnerability in his tone that Jim hasn’t heard since Vulcan perished. “I did not wish to…it seemed improper to make that request of her after our partnership was terminated.”

Jim bites the inside of his cheek, then decides fuck it, he’s going to sell himself because the very idea that Spock has a list of people he might get down to fucking in place of Jim makes him feel all kinds of things he just does not want to feel. “Listen, is this…I mean. Okay, I didn’t even ask if men are an option here so…”

“Gender is of no importance,” Spock says. “I am hybrid, and therefore cannot procreate naturally with either member of my species.”

So it’s about orgasms which…okay. That’s…well. Jim can think about that later. He clears his throat. “Okay so…so think about it. I mean, we’re close, right? You trust me, and I trust you. And it makes more sense to enter into something like this contract with a random ensign you don’t even know. I mean, I can’t imagine you’d be super comfortable in that situation. And if you can I can get through the whole, me dying thing…” He stops because that makes Spock visibly flinch and Jim hadn’t meant to be an asshole, but he is one sometimes. He swallows thickly, then moves on because he doesn’t think Spock will appreciate him trying to apologize. “We can get through anything. We’ve been through worse, right?” And yeah maybe that’s not the most sensitive thing to say, but he’s not exactly confessing his undying love here.

Spock watches him, his eyes considering and soft, and after some time, he nods. “If the time comes that the contract must be fulfilled, I will endeavor to explain to you what to expect. I…if you have some basic biological knowledge about mating cycles with other species, you can infer what might be required of you.”

“Yeah. Yes,” Jim says, and it’s painfully obvious how dry his throat is. “I’m cool with it. You know me, Spock. I’m not picky.” God what a shitty thing to say.

Only it does make Spock smile again, so that’s a win.

“I would like you to read over the contract and consider what you are agreeing to before you sign,” Spock says, and reaches for the PADD on the table.

And because Jim is an absolute dipshit who thinks nothing through ever at all, he just shrugs and uses his fingers to scroll to the bottom, signs, and hits send.

Spock watches him with open shock—eyes slightly wide, lips parted. Then he shakes his head. “Your inability to stop and think before you act…”

“It’s not binding,” Jim reminds him, because he at least knows that much. “If you and I end up hating each other, we can terminate it at any time.”

“I am aware,” Spock says quietly.

“But I don’t want to,” Jim insists. “Trust me, Spock, I can take it. Whatever you need to dish out, I can take it. I’d rather it be me.” It’s a loaded thing to say, but he lets it hang there because he knows Spock won’t call him on it or ask him to explain.

And he’s right. Spock doesn’t.

“You are correct in your assumption that I would not prefer to choose from a list of people I do not know, and hold no affection for. Regardless of this being a contract, it is still…intimate.”

“I get it,” Jim says. He bites his lip, then says, “Are you sure you can’t tell me like…why this is all happening? You weren’t required to sign this before.”

“I cannot,” Spock says, and at least sounds a little like he regrets that. “I can tell you that prior to the destruction of Vulcan, such a thing was of no concern, however things have changed and what’s left of my people have been forced to adjust.”

“Okay,” Jim says with a heavy breath. “I mean, what matters is you aren’t leaving. So…yeah. I’m cool. We’re cool, right?”

“It is approximately thirty-nine point four degrees centigrade in my apartment, as per Vulcan normal. It is far from what you might describe as cool.”

Jim gives him a flat look. “You know what I meant, Spock.” Then throws his head and burst into laughter at the sight of Spock’s smirk.

~*~

Jim wants to act cool—wants to believe he can just move on with his life and act like nothing has changed, but not only is he terrible at it, but the form has to be filed with Bones—something he didn’t really think about until they’re back on the ship and Jim’s sitting for his pre-departure physical.

Bones looks particularly annoyed, his hypo poised over Jim’s neck, and he’s huffing and Jim’s just waiting for it all to be over. Then he jabs it in and says, “You can’t have seriously signed your dick away to that Vulcan.”

Jim chokes on air, and turns with wide eyes before he realizes that of-fucking-course a Copulation Contract would have to be filed with the CMO of the ship. His face goes immediately lava-hot and bright red, and he’s kind of hoping he can blame it on the hypo, but he knows he can’t fool Bones.

“That’s…not really any of your business,” Jim says.

“It’s entirely my business since half this physical is ensuring you’re physically fit to see a Vulcan through his mating process,” Bones says through gritted teeth. “You’re just lucky these exams aren’t as barbaric as they used to be.”

Jim blinks at him.

“They used to swab the inside of your dick with a damn cotton swab, Jim.”

Jim pales at that. “Jesus. Uh…”

Bones grabs Jim’s arm and begins to prep him for a blood draw. “Damn fool of a Captain. I can’t believe Pike signed on for this. Honestly, I don’t know what the hell you were thinking when he and Uhura…”

“Broke up,” Jim fills in, because Bones is his best friend and he can trust him. “They broke up, and all he had was a list of random ensigns who listed a willingness in their profile to be fuck-buddies with aliens.”

Bones makes a face. “That’s…”

“Yeah,” Jim says. “And it’s Spock, Len. It’s not a stranger, and if he couldn’t find someone, he’d have to leave the ship. I can’t…I need him.”

Bones’ face softens a little, even if he looks mildly annoyed. The blood-draw stings, but he’s being more gentle with it than the hypo. “You’re a damn fool.”

“You said that.”

“So is he,” Bones says, and swipes his arm, then shoves it away. “The two’a you are going to be the death of each other.”

Jim thinks that it’s probably the opposite, but he doesn’t feel like another Bones lecture right now. “It’s not like a guaranteed thing. This is a just in case.”

Bones makes a face, but instead of arguing, he just shrugs. “You’re free to go. If I find anything wrong, you’ll be the first to know.”

“I’m sure I will,” Jim says with a shit-eating grin, then hops off the table and heads for the bridge. He can’t keep the stupid grin off his face when he looks over at Spock working diligently at his station, either, so he fixes his gaze ahead, and when he’s given the signal, raises hand and says, “Takes us out, Mr. Sulu.”

The rush of leaving orbit never, ever gets old.

~*~

The contract hovers in the back of his mind. It exists in his periphery, only examined in the dead of night when he’s lying in his bed, Spock on the other side of their shared bathroom. He wonders what it will be like, if the contract has to be fulfilled. He wonders what in Vulcan biology makes it necessary for Spock to contract a mate. Will he enthrall the entire crew with sex pheromones? Will he become so needy and horny he’d be willing to fuck anything that walks by him?

Will he even truly want Jim?

That thought terrifies him, on a level he can’t really explain even to himself. The idea that he’s forced into having sex with Jim simply to save himself—or others—from potential danger. Jim has always been willing to take one for the team, so to speak, but this…

He wants Spock. He’s not afraid to admit it to himself when he’s completely alone and cut off from the rest of his crew. And he’s willing to take what he can get. This tentative friendship, this connection, the trust Spock has put in him that he’s willing to ask Jim for something so deeply personal instead of going with one of the xeno-fetishists on board.

But having him like this, knowing what he wants and it being given at the end of a contract feels…

He’s not quite sure, but the feeling isn’t a good one.

At the very least, he resolves to tell Spock about his true feelings about him because it’s only fair that Spock be able to make this decision knowing everything. He’s not sure when he’ll have the courage, but he’s determined to find it before it becomes a necessity, while Spock has time to find another potential mate if the idea that Jim wants him is repellant.

~*~

When the crew was back on the bridge together, Jim assumed there would be tension between Spock and Uhura, and there is some, but not anything that disrupts their flow. Jim even finds them sharing the occasional meal, and Nyota is smiling again when Spock says something particularly Spock-ish.

But not everything is sunshine and roses. Jim observes a quiet argument in the labs when he went looking for Nyota regarding a transmission they received from Neutral Space, and he doesn’t hear the words, but he can see the line of tension in both their bodies, and the hard way Spock sets his jaw, and the frustration in Nyota’s expression.

He makes his presence known, and they spring apart. Nyota gives him a nod when he tells her about the transmission, and she brushes past him as though she can’t get away quick enough.

“Spock,” Jim says quietly.

“Please allow me some time to myself, Captain,” Spock says, his tone neutral, but there’s something heated in his eyes.

Jim wants to grab him by the shoulders and tell him that keeping it all inside solves nothing, but that won’t endear him to his Vulcan, so he just nods and leaves. Nyota is back on the bridge, at her station, and she’s got the transmission playing in her ear.

Jim resumes his seat, and waits a while until she sends her report before getting up and walking to her side. “Are you okay?” he asks.

She raises her bows at him.

“I didn’t hear anything, but I saw you two…” He clears his throat. “I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”

Her lips purse, and her nostrils flare a little, and then she says, “Did you ask him that?”

“He dismissed me before I got the chance.”

She snorts a laugh and rolls her eyes. “Of course. The only one on the ship who can give the Captain orders.” It’s a little mean, and he can’t help a small flinch, which makes her look immediately apologetic. “That wasn’t a dig at you, Captain. Really. I…I appreciate it. Because I think you mean it.”

“I do,” Jim says, because regardless of his feelings for Spock, Nyota is an important part of him too. “Are you okay?”

“I’ve been better, but I’ve also been worse,” she says with a shrug. Then she sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. “Sometimes logic makes you a dumbass.”

Jim can’t help the laugh that bursts out of him. “Yeah. Yeah, I learned that one pretty quick.”

“He’ll…whatever. He’ll get over it. And so will I.”

“Is it…” Jim licks his lips with nerves and has to look away. “Are you two trying to work things out or…”

She laughs again, less harsh this time. “God, no. I mean, I love him. Of course I love him. He’s damn brilliant, and loyal as hell, and I couldn’t ask for a better commanding officer. Or a friend. But no. I think I’ve always known that what I could offer him was never going to be enough. And trust me, I’m okay with that. I just think sometimes he…doesn’t realize he’s worth what he’s worth, and that’s frustrating.”

It’s cryptic, and it also hurts Jim’s heart because the last thing he wants is for Spock to not understand his own worth. “I…”

“You know, he’s probably on the Observation Deck. And he doesn’t always say what he means.”

He understands the point she’s trying to make, and he lingers only half a minute when Scotty comes in to relieve him before he’s out the door.

Nyota isn’t wrong. Spock is seated in the window seat with one leg crooked up and looking such a strange mix of human and Vulcan. It’s something Jim has always loved about him, once he knew what to look for. Spock doesn’t acknowledge his presence, but Jim knows he’s aware of it. He also takes the silence as an open invitation to sit, because if Spock didn’t want him there, he would say so.

He also feels a bubbling desire to confess everything and maybe that makes him the galaxy’s biggest dick for taking this moment to dump even more emotional shit on Spock, but he also knows he has to take these moments as they come, because who knows when there will be another one.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Jim asks.

“Negative.” Spock curls his arm a little tighter around his leg, pulling it closer to his chest. Then, surprising Jim, says, “But thank you.”

Jim flushes. “Can I…” He reaches up and rubs at the back of his neck as he follows Spock’s gaze out to the stars. “There’s this thing that I’ve been wanting to talk to you about for some time. And I didn’t think…I wasn’t sure I’d ever have the balls. Metaphorically,” he adds when Spock looks over at him and raises his eyebrows. Jim smiles and rolls his eyes a little, then looks back out at the stars. “We’re close to New Vulcan, aren’t we?”

Spock frowns. “Affirmative. Is that what you wished to…”

“No,” Jim says. “No I just…realized it, for some reason. I wanted to tell you that I ah…that.” He clears his throat, feeling like a teenager confessing his crush to the popular kid and preparing to be laughed at. “That contract…”

Spock pales, then green blooms on the apples of his cheeks. “I understand. I can submit the termination papers and…”

“No,” Jim says, a little too loud, too quick. “No that’s not…no. Jesus. I just need to tell you something before you decide you want to keep it.”

Spock drops his leg and turns to Jim to show with his whole body that he’s paying attention. “You may tell me anything, Jim.”

It says something that Spock uses his name since he tends to refrain if they’re on a public deck, even off duty. Jim nods. “I like you.” He waits, but Spock doesn’t show any visible reaction, so he decides he should probably clarify because yeah…he’s going all in. “I have feelings for you. Romantic, platonic, affectionate…I don’t even know how to qualify them,” he says, and lets some of his frustration slip through in his tone. “I was jealous when I thought you were with Nyota over the leave, and when I offered to sign the contract, it was purely for selfish reasons. Because I can’t stand the thought of someone else having you.”

There. It’s all out there.

Spock has yet to react, to say a word, to show a change in expression. Jim’s stomach sinks and he’s just about to dissolve into utter panic for being an epic fuck-up when Spock lets out a breath that trembles. Jim freezes—swears for that moment he stops breathing.

Then Spock carefully raises his eyes and looks at him. “I was hoping it would be you, Jim. When I was presented with the choice between the contract and New Vulcan, I wanted it to be you.”

Jim’s breath catches in his chest, and he reaches out, but the movement is aborted when Spock’s comm sounds and Scotty’s voice rings out, “Mr. Spock, I have a message on the bridge for you from New Vulcan.”

The flush green in Spock’s cheeks disappears in an instant, and he rises. “I will be there presently, Mr. Scott. Thank you. Spock, out.”

“Can I…would you like me to come with you?” Jim offers, desperately wanting Spock to say yes.

Spock considers him for a moment, and then nods his head once. When he rises, Jim takes note that Spock’s hands are shaking right before he clasps them behind his back, and Jim opens his mouth to comment, but isn’t give the chance as Spock strides forward, his pace making no exceptions for worried captains.

They arrive on the bridge moments later, and Spock approaches the Captain’s chair, resting his hand along the back as Scotty pulls up the view screen. Jim hangs back—he’s off duty and doesn’t want to undermine Scotty’s authority while he’s in charge. He leans against the wall near the door as a woman appears on the screen.

She’s gorgeous—so gorgeous it’s almost like a punch to the sternum to look at her. All sharp Vulcan angles with high brows and pointed ears, and bowed lips which are set in a straight line. Her eyes are far less human than Spock’s—something Jim often forgets until he’s around other Vulcan’s. They dart from side to side, and take in the crew before locking into Spock and her hand raises, parted fingers in the ta’al.

“Dif-tor heh smusma,” she says in a husky but strangely sweet voice.

Jim does not miss the way Spock stiffens, though raises his own ta’al. “Sochya eh dif. Parted from me, and never parted. Never and always, touching and touched.” The words themselves make Jim’s head spin, but he can’t read the tone or intent behind them.

“I have been made aware it is your time,” she says, and Jim perks up because…what? Could that mean… “You are within range of New Vulcan.”

“Affirmative.”

She nods. “I await you.”

The viewer goes black, and then Scotty says what they’re all thinking, “Who is that? She’s a fair bit gorgeous, isn’t she?”

Spock doesn’t look at Jim—a pointed thing—when he says, “She is T’Pring. She is…my wife.”

If Jim hadn’t understood the phrase, pull the rug out from under me, before well…he certainly does now.

~*~

He supposes it’s petty anger that keeps him in his quarters and not answering any summons. At least, not until a tired voice says, “It’s Nyota.”

Jim can’t help himself from standing and letting her in, and he takes note that she seems more resigned than furious, which surprises him. “Did you know he was married?” he demands as soon as the door closes.

She sighs and puts both hands on the back of one of his kitchen table chairs, giving him a flat look. “He’s not married.”

“He said…”

“I know what he said, but you also have to know that not everything can be accurately translated from Golic to Standard, and Spock wasn’t speaking Standard on the bridge right then.”

Jim blinks, startled. He never really does consider the universal translator—especially since half the time it doesn’t translate the Vulkhansu shit Spock says. “So…you knew about her?”

“Spock wouldn’t enter into a relationship with someone and not tell them about his bondmate,” she says, more patient than she probably should be. She pulls out the chair and eases herself into it. “Make me some tea, will you?”

Jim doesn’t really know how to thank her for giving him something to do other than sitting and wallowing, so he just obeys, and soon enough puts a mug of masala chai in front of her which she curls both hands around.

“I figured you’d be sulking, because you’re as fucking subtle as a bull in a china shop.”

Jim flushes and looks away as he sits. “Yeah, well… Not that it matters considering he’s got a damn wife. Which is more confusing since he told me he wanted me to sign that damn contract.”

She shakes her head and sips her tea for a minute. “You’re both idiots. I mean, you know that, right? Unbelievable idiots.”

“I don’t,” he says, fighting the urge to accuse her of insubordination in spite of him being off duty. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Yes you do,” she says flatly. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to him, and frankly I’m an idiot too for how long it took me to figure that out. But that’s not really what matters here.”

“I just…why the contract? If he had her, why would he…”

“This mostly needs to come from Spock. I just wanted you to know that T’Pring isn’t competition. She’s convenient.” When Jim opens his mouth to protest because he was there and he saw how beautiful she was, Nyota reaches over and puts a hand over his, silencing him. “It’s not an insult to her. That’s just how bondmates are chosen. It’s just…Vulcans. I’m not sure what’s happening now, but Spock is…it’s his time. She made contact, so now we’re going to fucking New Vulcan and they have to deal with this the Vulcan way.”

Jim groans. “What does that even mean?”

At that, she laughs. “Your guess is as good as mine. But you really want to understand, you have to go talk to him.”

Which sounds like the worst idea on any planet, but Jim knows she was right. At some point he’d have to be an adult about this, and if he really wanted to be worthy of Spock—assuming that anything was still on the table—the sooner he sucked it up, the better.

“I hate when you’re right,” he groans.

She laughs and pats him on the cheek. “I know, baby. But you also love it.”

Well…that too.

~*~

They’re hours away from New Vulcan, and Jim was on the bridge for his shift before he gets the chance to speak with his First Officer—who, apparently, has been put on medical leave after he shouted at Christine, and threw Bones out of his quarters.

Bones isn’t saying anything, but he’s looking particularly put out about the whole thing which tells Jim Bones knows what’s coming, and either isn’t allowed to say anything, or is refusing to teach Jim some sort of lesson. Either one of those is entirely feasible.

Whatever the case, Jim can’t prod at Bones or bother Spock in his quarters because he has to fly the damn ship even though it’s basically on auto-pilot and there’s nothing standing in their way between here and New Vulcan.

It hits him not long after this that he’s probably going to have to face Spock’s parents too. The last time he saw them, their entire family was in mute shock from the loss of the planet, from the near-save with Amanda—something Spock had taken quite some time getting over. Amanda had taken him aside and given him soft thanks once everyone regained their bearings, but before Jim could really get to know the human woman who had birthed his infuriating First Officer, they were gone and shit hit the fan with Nero.

Jim feels a weird rush at the thought of seeing them again, and it’s distracting enough that he doesn’t think too much about Spock’s absence until Sulu announces their arrival in one Standard hour, and then Scotty arrives to relieve Jim.

He ignores the pointed look from Nyota, mostly because he knows already, and he is going to be a big boy about this and go see him. He’s a little on edge from everything he’s heard from Bones and Christine, but he forces himself to make the journey, stopping at his own door first and considering using their joint bathroom as an excuse to poke his head in.

Then he pulls himself together and stands on the other side of Spock’s door and buzzes. It takes what feels like forever for Spock to answer, and Jim’s startled by how dark his quarters are, and how hot. It’s almost overwhelming, and he’s struck with a sudden desire to pull his shirt off and strip down just to withstand it.

Instead he folds his arms over his chest and gives Spock a very pointed look. “So.”

“Captain,” Spock says, and his voice trembles the way his hands do.

“Do you want to explain now? I mean, Nyota already gave me a sort-of run down with this T’Pring business, but I would have appreciated knowing you were freaking married before I made a total ass of myself.”

“I did not think,” Spock starts, then stops, and Jim wonders if more was supposed come after that. It works either way—and it’s pretty damn obvious Spock didn’t think.

“So this whole…” he waves his hand up and down Spock’s body, mostly to indicate the way he’s sweating and shaking. “This is what the contract was for?”

“Affirmative,” Spock says.

“Which you don’t need anymore,” Jim clarifies, trying to ignore the sharp pang of the truth in his gut.

Spock swallows thickly. “T’Pring has requested my presence for koon-ut-kal-if-fee.”

Jim desperately wants to ask what that’s all about, but he doesn’t think it’s the time. Plus he’s pretty sure he’s going to find out in about an hour. “Alright. I get it that all this is a big deal for your people. I just wish I understood what…”

“Vulcan biology is…primitive,” Spock says quietly, and Jim doesn’t even allow the sound of breath to interrupt him. “For all the logic we have embraced, we have not been able to quell our most base instincts.”

“To breed.”

Spock’s jaw twitches with tension. “Even those amongst us who are incapable, it seems, are not free of those desires. It is so ingrained in us, that should my people ignore it we…” He stops and holds out his hands so Jim can see the way they tremble. “Eventually we burn. And we die.”

The plainness of the words hits Jim hard enough to knock him back a step. “Tell me you’re not going to die. Spock!” He fights the urge to grab at him. “Spock, tell me that all this is going to avoid…”

Spock shakes his head. “I cannot promise that, Jim.”

Jim’s jaw tightens and he takes a step toward the man he loves. It’s easy to admit that now, when faced with his mortality, and he wonders if that’s why Spock allowed himself to cry. Or if perhaps he just couldn’t shut it all off in the moment. “I’m going with you.”

“Jim…”

“No,” Jim says, and decides in that moment it’s his damn right as Spock’s captain, and his friend, and the recipient of his fuck-buddy contract, and he tells him as much. “I won’t take no for an answer.”

“As you wish,” Spock says, and Jim knows those words mean far more than that, but he doesn’t ask. Not then.

He merely lets himself out and heads to medbay to tell Bones to get ready.

~*~

Being on New Vulcan surrounded by delegates and strangers, the refugees—the survivors—it’s unsettling to say the least. They all look sad and tired, and defeated, and yet they stand tall and proud like the warrior race they descended from.

Spock is in his uniform, but has been adorned with a belt, and his eyes have glazed over. His trembling hands are steepled in front of him, and Jim is all but pressed into Bones’ side as he waits to find out what the hell all of this is about. Bones’ body is a hard line of tension, his eyes narrowed and suspicious as he eyes the Vulcan delegates, and T’Pring—who looks cold and beautiful and like she’s merely waiting to pounce. Nyota is with him, too, surprising Jim that she insisted on coming down, but her hand brushes his occasionally.

Jim feels irrational jealousy because Spock has stopped speaking for himself, and Jim knows it’s all part of this mating thing, and he thinks that if T’Pring chooses to keep Spock, she’ll be allowed to. And with Spock’s current state, he’s not sure Spock would argue. Or want any different.

All hell breaks loose shortly after when T’Pring announces that she’s choosing the challenge—whatever the hell that means. Which apparently is Spock fighting Jim as she walks up to him and points a long, pointed nail at the confused Captain.

“No.” The growling word comes from Spock, guttural and desperate. “No.”

T’Pau—a Vulcan whose prestige Jim knows well—holds up her hand, and Spock suddenly goes rigid and turns and walks away. Jim is poised to argue, but T’Pau turns to Jim. “You are not of our people. T’Pring chooses you for the challenge, but you may decline as you are not bound by our laws.”

Jim blinks at her. “With all due respect,” he says, and hopes he sounds like he means it, “what exactly is the challenge.”

“It’s a fight, Jim,” Bones says resignedly. “She’s choosing you to fight.”

Jim eyes the Vulcan who has been standing very close to T’Pring looking murderous. “Who? Him?”

“Spock,” Nyota says quietly. “You have to fight Spock.”

“What?” Jim all-but cries. “Wait…I have to…” He drags a hand down his face. “What if I say no? What then?”

“Then T’Pring will choose another,” T’Pau says simply.

Jim watches T’Pring’s eyes as they glance back at her companion—a man who looks like he could easily kill Spock when Spock is out of his mind and compromised. Then he watches then flick over to Nyota and Jim panics.

“Okay. I’ll do it, I’ll…”

His words are cut off when Bones grabs him by the arm and shakes him. “Are you out of your damn mind? This is a fight to the death, Jim.”

Jim lowers his head and his voice in spite of knowing that every sensitive Vulcan ear can pick up what he’s saying. “Spock isn’t going to kill me, and I’m not going to kill him.” He shoves Bones off and turns to T’Pau. “I accept the challenge.” Because he believes that. With his whole heart, he believes that Spock could not hurt him. Never mind the incident on the bridge, where Spock nearly had killed him, rising to the front of his mind. Because things are different now—Spock is different now.

Bones huffs and tries to argue, but T’Pau raises her hand. “Thee excepts the challenge. Thee will fight.”

A gong sounds, and Jim feels Bones slide right up to him and shove a hypo in his neck. He cries out and shoves at the doctor, but Bones is ignoring him, explaining to the Vulcan delegates, “He’s human, and not acclimated to this atmosphere. I’m giving him a tri-ox compound so he’ll be on even footing with Spock.”

T’Pau doesn’t seem bothered by this. She just waves her hand, and the rest of the Vulcans are ushered out of the circle, and Jim has a belt similar to Spock’s tied around his waist. And he’s being frog-marched to the center of the circle, and then he sees Spock approaching, looking wild—nostrils flaring, cheeks flushed green.

Jim glances out at the audience and there. He sees them. Amanda with her hair and ears covered by a veil, and Sarek at her side looking stoic and expressionless as ever. He realizes that they have come to watch one of them die—that in other circumstances, they could be losing their son.

But as much as he knows Spock won’t kill him, he knows he couldn’t really raise a hand to the man he’s fallen for.

He takes a moment to curse how close they were to New Vulcan—how if they’d been in deeper space, they wouldn’t be here right now, and Jim would be holed up in Spock’s quarters riding this out—probably literally, and in the best way. Then suddenly another gong sounds and there’s a strange weapon shoved in his hands, and before Jim can actually react, Spock takes a swing at him.

Jim feels the blade slice through the front of his shirt, right into his skin. It burns fiercely and he almost drops to his knees—mostly out of shock. His cry doesn’t do anything to Spock except encourage the attack, and Jim starts to feel panic because he didn’t consider what Spock’s state of mind might actually do to him.

He has one option—and that’s to win and subdue Spock because there’s no way in hell anyone is getting killed.

If only Jim was less of a dipshit. If only he actually thought things through and considered because Spock is faster, and stronger, and now they’ve changed weapons but Jim feels sluggish and tired. He’s bleeding from several different places, and Spock seems to be gaining on him, and Jim’s knees start to buckle.

Spock is on top of him after that. Jim can feel his hot breath against his face as they struggle in the red sands, and Spock’s fingers are scrabbling for purchase. Jim chokes when the ahn-woon wraps around his neck, and he meets Spock’s eyes, but there’s nothing there. No human, no Vulcan—just something primitive and angry.

Jim’s eyes roll back in his head as he feels blackness closing around him. His lips try to form Spock’s name, but nothing comes out.

Then…it’s over.

~*~

Jim wakes in medbay, and sits up with a gasp, grabbing for his neck. He feels sore, but he can breathe, and he’s a hundred percent sure that’s everything to do with Bones’ quick treatment of him. He’s not entirely sure how he survived, but he knows he’s about to get an earful because Bones is at his desk giving Jim a flat, irritated look.

“Can we do this later?” he tries.

Bones snorts, sits up, places his hands on the desk to lean toward him. “Do what later? You mean me ripping you a new asshole for being the biggest dumbass I have seen this side of Jupiter? Or you mean the fact that your First Officer is currently resigning because he thinks he killed you.”

Jim panics and tries to scramble off the bed, but Bones is there to stop him. “I can’t let him resign! I…Bones, you told him that I’m alive, right?”

“Didn’t get the chance,” Bones says, which Jim knows is Bones for, ‘I wanted to let him stew in it for a while.’ He crosses his arms and glares until Jim sits back down, and then huffs. “You keep that ass planted on that bed, and I’ll let you know when you can get up. Meanwhile I’m going to have a chat with our formerly feral Science Officer and current commander of this ship.”

“What?” Jim demands, then realizes that if he was technically dead, Spock was Captain for a bit. Though… was he technically dead? “Did I…”

Bones rolls his eyes. “No, Jim. This time you weren’t even barely dead. It wasn’t a tri-ox compound. I knew that green-blooded goblin was going to wipe the floor with you and kill you, because it’s biology, and you weren’t going to listen…”

“She would have made him fight Nyota,” Jim argues.

Bones’ eyebrows go up. “How do you…” He shakes his head. “Never mind, and I know that Nyota is smart enough to turn him down.”

“Then he would have fought the other one. The one who actually wanted to kill him,” Jim insists. “I couldn’t risk it. I didn’t think he’d…”

“You thought Spock was strong enough to fight billions of years worth of biology that strips away all reason?” Bones challenges.

“He wanted me,” Jim murmurs.

Bones sighs and perches on the bed next to Jim. “He did. He’s about as subtle as you are, Jimmy, but that ain’t gonna hold a candle to biology, and he and that Vulcan woman were bonded.”

Jim winces. “Yeah. I…yeah.”

“If he’d been able, he would have chosen you.” Bones hesitates, then sighs. “He did choose you.” Jim blinks at him in total confusion, and Bones lets out a deep sigh as he runs his hand down his face, then rolls his eyes up toward the ceiling. “He rejected her. He won, and she was his, and he rejected her. Biology should dictate otherwise—he should be holed up with her for days after that but…” Bones shrugs, and Jim let it all sink in—the truth of it, what Bones was telling him.

“Where is he?”

“On the other side of that door,” Bones says, jutting his chin at the closed door. “I need to tell him the truth.”

Jim nods, says nothing because it’s all a lot to take in, and he’s not exactly sure what any of it means apart from that fact that his own arrogance and lack of understanding Spock nearly got himself killed. And it was simply because Bones knew what was coming that he was able to save Jim’s ass, and Spock’s in the process.

The door slides open, and Bones walks out. Jim hears their voices, Spock’s dull, defeated murmur, and Bones trying to get a word in edge-wise. Jim hops off the bed and he wonders for a moment if the elder Spock ever went through this. If he digs deep enough, he might actually be able to find the old memory if it’s there, but he doesn’t like to look in the spaces that the elder Spock left inside of him.

It’s not his world, not his Spock, not his timeline.

He walks toward the door just as Spock is tendering his resignation and surrender to authorities and Jim clears his throat. “I’m not sure your Captain wants to give up a First Officer of your caliber, Mr. Spock.”

There’s a pause, and then Spock whirls around, and his face does something strange and complicated. But it lasts only a moment and then Spock is smiling and crowding Jim up against the door and his hands are holding his face and he’s whispering, “Jim,” like it’s something precious. He clears his throat, but he doesn’t step back, even though Bones is watching. “You’re alive.”

Jim curls his hand around one of Spock’s wrists and squeezes. “I’m alive.”

Spock’s eyes close, and there’s pain in his expression, and his voice is tight to the point of a near whisper when he says, “I thought I had lost you a second time. Jim. I cannot…” His voice cracks and Jim feels something warm welling in his eyes.

“Maybe the two of you want to take this somewhere private. Scotty has the conn and as CMO I’m placing both of you on medical leave for at least twenty-four hours.”

Spock’s jaw tenses like he wants to argue, but his dark eyes are locked on Jim’s face, and eventually he nods. “I concede to your recommendation, doctor.”

Jim swallows thickly and lets Spock take his hand and pull him out of medbay.

~*~

He’s surprised by the invite into Spock’s quarters, but less surprised by the way Spock fusses and makes him Vulcan spice tea which Jim hates, but drinks to be agreeable. Mostly because Spock looks like he’s busy tearing himself to shreds on the inside.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Jim eventually says, breaking the silence between them. “You know that, right?”

“My actions, though illogical, were biology and therefore I understand I had no control,” Spock tells him. “And T’Pring’s choices were made through pure logic, and I understand them.”

Jim’s eyebrows rise up high into his hairline. “How’s that, now?”

Spock sighs as he holds his own tea mug, looking at Jim with an unreadable expression. “She did not wish to be bonded to me.”

Jim can’t help his snort. “Really? So there wasn’t a better way to go about not being bonded? I mean, first of all I don’t understand why she wouldn’t want you…”

Spock flushes but interrupts to say, “T’Pring wishes to participate in the rebuilding of our species. I am not a preferred mate seeing as I would not produce a full-blooded Vulcan, and the intervention it would take could not guarantee offspring.”

Jim clenches his jaw, then pinches the bridge of his nose. “Yeah, but forcing you to fight to the death?”

“It is the way of our people,” Spock says, and before Jim can argue, he continues. “It is not always logical. It is primitive and it can be cruel, and I believe my father is drafting a petition to ban the koon-ut kal-if-fee.” Spock glances down at his hands which are still curled around his tea mug. “There is no logic in the potential loss of yet another Vulcan when our people are so few.”

Jim swallows thickly, wants to reach out to him, but he’s not sure Spock would welcome it. “They’ll have to see the logic in that.”

“One can only hope,” Spock says, and there, there’s that small grin Jim had been missing since they left medbay. He looks into Jim’s eyes and says, “I regret the actions which led to the challenge. There is nothing worse for me than the idea that I might have hurt you.”

Jim rubs at the place where the lirpa had carved into his skin—healed though twinging from the fresh grown skin. “I’ve had worse.” Not a lie, though it does make them both wince. “So the uh…your time…”

“Pon Farr,” Spock offers.

“It’s over now? Or…”

“It seems the extreme emotional distress I suffered when I thought I had…” And it’s obvious Spock still can’t really say the words. “It seems it overrode my biological impulse to mate.”

Jim nods, and he feels strangely cheated out of something he could have had. “So the contract…”

“Now that I am unbonded, it is even more necessary that I maintain one. I understand if you wish to terminate your end…”

“Spock,” Jim interrupts, waiting until the Vulcan looks at him. “That’s the last thing I want, okay? I meant what I said, before we got to New Vulcan. That hasn’t changed.”

The little breath Spock lets out is trembling, and it reminds Jim of when he first noticed something changing about Spock. “Thank you,” he finally says. “Our mating cycles are typically every five to seven years, but things have changed since the destruction of Vulcan, and they have become more frequent and more difficult to predict.”

“Well I’m here for it. No more of this fighting to the death shit.”

Spock gives him a flat look, but there’s a light in his eyes that was missing before now. “You should rest, Captain. You have been through an ordeal.”

“I’m not the only one,” Jim chastises him, and feels strangely triumphant when Spock nods. He pushes up from the table and sets what’s left of the tea down. “I’m just on the other side of the door if you need me. Okay?”

Spock nods again, but gives no other sign to acknowledge Jim’s leaving.

When the door slides shut, Jim feels strangely alone.

~*~

He’s not sure when he wakes. The lights are at two percent, and he’s not even sure what brings him around until he becomes aware of the rhythmic knocking. Which is strange, because knocking? He realizes it’s coming from the bathroom door, and he shoots out of his bed, stumbling over his tangled blankets and discarded uniform until he’s at the door.

He slaps the palm panel on the wall three times before it reads it and slides open, and he sees Spock there. The lights in the bathroom are low, but bright enough that Jim can make out how Spock looks more sallow than usual, and his hands are shaking, and there’s a wildness to his eyes he’s seen before. When Spock had him splayed out on the red sands of New Vulcan.

“Spock,” he murmurs, and reaches out.

Spock eyes the offered palm like it’s a venomous creature, then suddenly shoves into it, his face nuzzling Jim’s hand like a cat. He crowds into Jim’s space and shoves his face into Jim’s neck, breathing him in with huge gulps of air.

“Spock,” Jim says a little more firmly now, curling his hand around the back of Spock’s neck and trying to urge him up. Spock will not budge. “Hey, Spock.”

“Ashayam,” Spock says with a slight whimper, and his hands curl into the sides of Jim’s sleep shirt and tug him even closer so their bodies are a tight, firm line against one another.

Jim isn’t sure what the word means—yet another Golic that the translator doesn’t fully pick up, and briefly Jim wonders if maybe Spock rigged it so people won’t actually know what he’s saying on purpose. He’s about to say something else, but then he feels a dry, rough tongue against his neck and he realizes Spock is licking him.

“Oh my god,” he whispers. This time he gets ahold of Spock by the collar and tugs, and Spock lets out a growl but this time lifts his head. His eyes are still wild, but Jim can see him struggling with himself to reach cognizance. “It’s happening, isn’t it? Spock?”

Spock swallows thickly once, twice, a third time before he can make himself speak. “I…have miscalculated,” he says, the words strained. “I believed your…apparent death to have quelled the blood fever.”

“Pon Farr,” Jim says.

Spock swallows again, then nods.

“So you need…”

“T’hy’la,” Spock whimpers, and paws at Jim so hard it forces him to take a step back. He gets his hands around Spock’s wrists and holds him.

“Please wait.”

Spock blinks almost like he’s been slapped, then looks horrified and takes a step back. “Jim I am…I am sorry,” he gasps. “After the events on New Vulcan, I cannot assume you would…”

“I’m still on that damned contract,” Jim bites out, and reaches for Spock to draw him close again. “I don’t entirely know the details of what I signed up for, but I know the gist of it and I didn’t take it back. I told you, I’m in. Just tell me what to do.”

“Need you,” Spock murmurs, and dives right back in, licking at Jim’s pulse point again. “Please, Jim…”

Jim isn’t entirely sure what Pon Farr needs, what Spock’s looking for, but he’s willing to give anything—everything—whatever will satiate the need in him that has his skin burning like fire. Jim allows Spock to crowd him backward, to push him onto the bed, to begin a thorough and efficient stripping of their bedclothes until they’re both naked.

Jim is unfamiliar with Vulcan anatomy apart from the fact that most of what he’s seen of Spock in shared showers and missions gone strangely wrong and weirdly naked, he’s mostly humanoid. He knows there’s a genital pocket which holds the penis now standing hard and proudly from a thick thatch of dark curls, and he sees the green nipples pert and almost begging for his mouth.

Jim licks his lips hungrily and Spock seems to catch the motion because he dips his head in to taste Jim’s lips. His tongue is still dry, but it’s incredibly erotic, the way it drags along his own, softer, wetter tongue. He opens himself to it, legs spread to let Spock crouch between them, body pliant as Spock’s hands roam over his flush-warm skin.

Spock’s head moves down, suckling at Jim’s neck, at his sternum, lingering along his upper left pectoral like he’s feeling Jim’s thrumming heartbeat with his mouth. “T’hy’la,” Spock says again, and Jim wants to ask, but he doesn’t. Not when he’s getting everything he’s fantasized about for far too long now.

Spock’s hand dips between them, and Jim can feel the motion of Spock stroking himself, and then suddenly there’s fingers prodding at him and Jim knows exactly what’s about to happen. He worries, because lube and tearing and he’s pretty fucking sure Bones will not appreciate him coming to have a dermal regenerator used on his torn anal cavity. But Spock’s finger slips in easily and so wet, and Jim realizes maybe there’s yet another benefit to having an alien boyfriend.

Or well…fuck buddy. Designated Fuck Buddy, as per the contract.

So even if Spock won’t want this on the regular—and that thought makes something painful and hollow twist in Jim’s chest—at least he’ll have it again in a few years.

It doesn’t take long before Spock is repositioning him. Jim sort of expects to be taken on his hands and knees with how primitive this whole thing is. He takes a moment to imagine Spock crowded over him, pounding into him, teeth biting into the back of his neck. Kinks upon kinks he hasn’t even begun to explore.

But no. Instead, Spock tenderly pushes Jim’s legs up, and at first he feels nothing but the curve of Spock’s pelvis. And then slowly Spock’s penis begins to extend again, pushing in slowly, pulsing—almost vibrating in a way that feels so good Jim’s eyes actually roll back in his head.

Noises slip out of his mouth, grunts and groans, and he’s being fucked hard and rapidly, but Spock’s hips are still, and the only motion is from his penis which thrusts in and out with a motion Jim almost wishes he was capable of.

It’s strange, to be held down, held still, and staring into those almost-human, deep eyes which won’t look away. Spock’s hand hovers over Jim’s temple and it takes him a moment—too lost in pleasure to be really paying attention—before he realizes what it’s for.

“Do it,” Jim gasps.

Spock seems to be more himself now that he’s fucking Jim—fucking the man he chose as his own champion. He licks his lips, then carefully puts his fingers on Jim’s face, hitting the echoes of the older Spock—only this time better. This time, so much fucking better. “My mind to your mind,” Spock says, and it’s the last verbal words Jim processes before something else happens and suddenly they’re joined.

It’s pleasure upon waves of pleasure. Jim feels like he’s having ten orgasms all at once, piled on each other, and he’s pretty sure his body is contorting into shapes it wasn’t meant to make. It’s too good, and it’s terrifying, and everything is whited out except a bright gold thread that he can see wrapping him and Spock together.

And then, it’s over. Not abruptly, but a slow withdrawal—first of Spock’s mind, and then of his body. He doesn’t go far, but not having his mind full of Spock leaves him feeling hollow and lost until a hand comes to rest on the center of his chest.

“I am sorry if my parting overwhelmed you, but I am not gone.”

Jim realizes what he’s saying after a moment, when he feels the echo of Spock still there. No, not an echo, but a small, buzzing presence, and the gratitude of not being empty suddenly is so much he bursts into tears. He feels instant humiliation, because he’s James T. Kirk and he doesn’t cry after sex, and yet here he is…

He turns on his side and forces his face into the pillow, but only a moment passes before Spock is curled around his back and holding him. He says nothing as Jim tries to compose himself, but he feels a gentle, pulsing comfort in his mind that soothes him better than anything ever has.

“I don’t know what that was,” he confesses after a few moments, swiping his hand under his nose.

“I believe it is normal to feel emotional transference after a meld, and for those emotions to be intense,” Spock says.

“You’re not crying,” Jim points out, and he tries not to think about how he did this the first fucking time, too.

Spock huffs, almost a laugh, and noses the back of Jim’s neck. “That does not mean I cannot feel it, Jim.” His hand comes to rest on Jim’s naked hip, and the weight and warmth of it is everything Jim needs right then.

“What was that? Can you tell me? I mean, are you good now, or do we go again or…”

Spock huffs again, and then Jim feels a dry, soft kiss pressed to the back of his shoulder. He’s not brave enough to turn yet, mostly for fear he’ll see Spock tell him that this is all he needed and they should go back to their previous relationship. “The plak tow is sated,” Spock murmurs, and keeps holding him close. “You are my chosen, and you have gotten me through my time.”

Jim closes his eyes softly. “Okay. That’s … good. Right?”

“It is,” Spock confirms slowly. His hand begins a gentle moment, tracing a pattern Jim doesn’t recognize on his leg, swirls and circles and lines and dots. He thinks it means something—he feels intent from Spock in his head.

“Is this going to last?” Jim reaches up and taps his temple. “Feeling you here. Will it last?”

“If you wish it,” Spock says. “I would not force a bond on you. You are human, and therefore it is not natural to you.”

“But if I wanted it…”

“I would be honored to call you bondmate,” Spock all-but whispers. He kisses the back of Jim’s shoulder again, and this time—finally—Jim turns.

It’s awkward with their naked limbs trying to rearrange themselves, but Jim won’t settle until he can look into Spock’s face and see for himself that he means it. When he finally gets a look into Spock’s eyes, he sees the same honesty he can feel in his mind.

“I want it,” he tells him.

Spock’s eyes close, a slow, heavy blink, and when he opens them again, his gaze is light and his mouth curls up at the corners. He gently lifts his hand, two fingers extended, and nods at Jim who mirrors the gesture. Spock presses the pads of his fingers to Jim’s, and Jim feels an explosion of—something, he can’t even name it—racing up his arm.

“Taluhk nash-veh k'dular,” Spock murmurs, and though Jim doesn’t understand the words, he can feel the meaning.

It is I love you.

It is you are everything.

And he feels the same. Instead of answering, he surges forward and captures Spock’s lips in a slow, lingering kiss. Spock’s hand drifts to Jim’s face, brushing over his psi-points before settling down to cup his cheek. When they part, Spock is flushed green again, and looking the most open and expressive Jim has ever seen him.

“So. You chose me,” Jim says.

“Affirmative,” Spock answers.

Jim gives him the biggest, shit-eating grin, and says quietly, “So…when do we tell your parents?”