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Captain James T. Kirk was a peacock. Everyone knew that.

Or so Nyota had informed Spock during one of their many conversations regarding the captain. The first time she’d ever met him, in a dive bar while visiting the Riverside shipyard, she was pretty sure he’d been more interested in how gorgeous he looked than in how she did. And for all the time he’d spent on his many conquests while at the Academy, he’d spent more time at the gym, lifting weights, running, then lifting again, sometimes sparring with a fellow cadet, though he always won. “I don’t think I ever worked out without seeing him there at some point, even if it was just coming or going,” she had explained, and Nyota had been no slouch herself. She had to stay strong and fit to make up for her slight size so as not to be considered a liability on away missions.

While she could not exactly fault the captain for a dedication to physical fitness – such a thing would be illogical, and one of the things that had drawn Spock to Nyota back when they were romantically involved was her highly logical nature, for a human in any case – it bothered her that she could not. “Sure, he lets everyone think it’s out of dedication to the ship. But you’ve seen him, Spock. He could maintain optimal shape without working out for an hour every morning and two more every evening. In fact, he’s probably less effective because he spends so much time in the gym. Aren’t you always helping him out with his paperwork?”

To be fair, part of Spock’s job as first officer was to take care of any overflow paperwork that didn’t make it into the captain’s schedule, assuming it wasn’t anything too high in importance that would specifically need his sign-off. But Nyota was also correct that the captain seemed to spend an excessive amount of time in the gym for a human of his age. He would not need to spend nearly so much time to maintain a level of fitness necessary for successful participation in away missions, especially considering his talents in sparring. Spock would not be at all surprised if the captain was actually wearing himself down with undue physical activity, which would serve no purpose beyond the pursuit of an aesthetic ideal.

And yet … there was something Spock could not objectively describe, a quality to the captain’s demeanor when he was in the Enterprise’s well-stocked gym. During Spock’s occasional morning runs, he had the opportunity to observe the captain on the treadmills; his technique was flawless, his stance serious. He did not seem to be showing off or, indeed, thinking at all about how he was being perceived by others. He had a single-minded focus in the gym, an air of grimness, almost, if Spock could trust his interpretations of the captain’s movements.

But the damage was done, and Spock could not look away from the captain whenever he chose to visit the gym. One evening, as he performed a series of crunches, he watched as Kirk settled himself at the bench press. A nearby security officer – Giotto, Spock was fairly certain – spotted as Kirk performed an impressive number of reps with an even more impressive amount of weight. His muscles moved under taut skin. Spock did not realize that he had stopped his own movements and was staring until Kirk’s gaze caught his own. The younger man did not look away as he flexed the muscles in his arms. He squinted his eyes, challenging Spock, and Spock remained frozen. Less than a second later the captain had turned away again, and Spock resumed his workout as though nothing had happened.

From that point on, despite judging that the interest was unhealthy, Spock could not help but wonder just what Jim Kirk’s inner motivations were. Did any of them really know the captain at all?

********************

“You are a moron.”

Jim smiled crookedly at his best friend and doctor as though everything was perfectly fine. As though this was a social visit, not that McCoy ever got those anymore. Jim was too busy trying to balance his workout schedule with the work of being a captain, and it left little time for McCoy … or resting as much as he should. Not even six months into their five year mission and he was paying the price.

“What’s the verdict, Bones?”

“The verdict is that you’re a moron,” McCoy grumbled.

“Oh, come on, you diagnosed me with that a long time ago. What else have you got?”

“Ok, the verdict is that you’re not to step a foot inside the gym for a week, and no running for another week after that.”

Jim’s face fell. “Bones, you know I can’t …”

“You can and you damn well will!” McCoy snapped. “You’ve sprained your knee and strained the quad, probably from trying to compensate for the pain.”

“But you can fix that right up, can’t you, Bones? I mean, you’re the best doctor in the fleet, and you’ve got all this fancy equipment.”

McCoy sighed. “It’s all soft tissue injury. There is no quick fix for an injury like that.”

“But Bones …”

“You better just be grateful I’m not making you stay off that leg all together,” McCoy threatened. “I could give you crutches, you know.”

“You wouldn’t.” Jim looked aghast.

“I will if you don’t listen to me.” McCoy narrowed his eyes at his charge. Sometimes dealing with the captain was like dealing with an oppositional twelve year old boy. “Now just hang on a minute, I’ll wrap it up and give you something to help with the inflammation and pain.”

“I don’t need something for the pain,” Jim groused. “I need to be able to get back to the gym.”

“Yeah? Well, deal with it. Follow my orders and I’ll have you back there as soon as I can,” McCoy replied. “When we’re done here, we can go down to the mess and get some dinner.”

Jim glanced down at his comm. “But, Bones, it’ll be after seven, I’m supposed to be …”

“I swear to God if you finish that sentence with ‘in the gym’ I will honestly sedate you right now.”

Jim stared up at McCoy with wide, not-innocent eyes, but he did not speak another word. It was an extremely awkward moment of silence.

“Well?” McCoy demanded.

“But you told me not to …”

McCoy growled in his direction.

For once in his life, Jim shut up. McCoy took pleasure in injecting a hypospray even more harshly than usual, then went about wrapping a compressive bandage around Jim’s leg. He took a moment to add a note to Jim’s ever-expanding medical file while Jim changed back into his command uniform before they left to get dinner. McCoy insisted on a slow pace: Jim may be able to fool other people, but McCoy was a doctor and he could easily discern the limp in the captain’s step. Unusually, Jim was quiet as they walked, thoughtful or more likely just down, and McCoy took the opportunity to reflect on his friend.

For as long as McCoy had known him, Jim had been obsessed with his physical condition. Even when he’d apparently been racking up a nice police record back home in Iowa, he had always, Jim once explained, made sure he was strong, at his peak. It had taken a long time for McCoy to discover why, whether it was Jim’s sense of aesthetics – and certainly the guy enjoyed beauty, whether it was his own or that of someone he was interested in – or something else. When he did find out, he almost wished that it was just an expression of Jim’s obvious arrogance. Because McCoy couldn’t really blame him for his obsession, but it sure made his job as Jim’s doctor that much harder.

********************

The planet was called Huquirion, or at least that was what Uhura had told him. Actually, Uhura told him that it was the closest approximation she could come up with so that the name would be pronounceable by most humans – and by most humans she meant Jim. He tried not to be offended, considering that he’d managed to learn a serviceable Klingon and Orion at the Academy and had picked up quite a bit of Romulan since then; he knew smatterings of other languages, like Vulcan and Andorian, but nothing elaborate. Jim figured it was better to know what his enemies were saying than his allies. If he was around allies, chances were there would also be someone around to translate, like Uhura, but if he was captured or attacked or separated while on a mission, knowing what a Klingon was saying might mean the difference between living and dying.

In any case, Jim still found the name awkward on his tongue, even with Uhura’s translation. On the other hand, interacting with the people of Huquirion was decidedly not awkward. They were a humanoid race, almost as close in appearance to humans as Vulcans were but with a very pale, lilac-toned skin. Jim found them pretty in an almost delicate way, though he did not voice his opinion – their race highly prized physical strength and to do so would have been quite insulting to their male leader.

But it wasn’t just their intriguing looks that made Jim reluctant to leave. It was the fact that the Enterprise had finally been assigned a mission where things had gone entirely according to plan. Jim, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, and two Security officers had been beamed onto the surface of the planet in the midst of a blooming courtyard. They had been greeted by a contingent of leaders from Huquirion who then led them inside with nary a negative word or threat of imminent attack, as they’d experienced all too often.

They had spent the next four days debating and finalizing the treaty that the Federation had proposed. Huquirion was not particularly rich in dilithium or other minerals in high demand, but they had an advanced range of plant life containing a richness of novel compounds that Jim knew Bones was itching to look at – and most likely Sulu would find interesting, too, though the away team had been packed enough with officers, and the helmsman had been left behind in charge of the bridge rather than joining them planetside. As had been predicted, there were only a few areas of contention, and quickly enough they had come to an agreement involving the Federation’s rights to the planet’s natural resources in exchange for emergency protection and better access to off-planet minerals.

There had been no drama involving warring factions on the planet – all nations were united and the people seemed to be in accordance. There were no weird cultural ceremonies that they had been asked to take part in – something Jim was grateful for after they’d done some peacekeeping on Caucarian V and almost caused a diplomatic incident after refusing to participate in what appeared to be a giant orgy. Jim hadn’t even been allergic to a single food or drink they had offered, which was a first and probably only.

In any case, Jim was not at all disappointed by the ease with which the mission progressed. Their last mission had involved delivering supplies to support one faction on a warring planet. They had been lucky to get out of that one with no casualties. The number of injuries had been high – and for once, Jim hadn’t been one of them. The mission before that was an exploratory mission that Jim had been forced to sit out due to his injured leg. It had probably been a good thing – Spock had been nearly killed by a creature that likely would have finished the job on a somewhat weaker human being. But Jim had been oddly agitated by Spock’s condition upon return, so even though he’d been bored while forced to stay behind, he had been good and ready for something easier.

And, for once, Jim was disappointed to see the mission end.

Apparently, so was Kleios, the leader of Huquirion – there was no exact equivalent elsewhere in the Federation, though it was somewhat like king (for a planet with warp capabilities, the people were oddly at ease giving him such power). He seemed reluctant as he accompanied the Starfleet officers back to their beam-up point, placing a hand on Jim’s arm so that the captain fell to the back of the group to speak with him again.

“You enjoyed your time on our planet?” he asked using a small translation device that had been invented by his people and which Uhura had found fascinating.

“It’s a beautiful place. The planet and the people,” Jim said sincerely.

“I could say the same for your people,” Kleios said. “Although I doubt I will ever have the pleasure of visiting your own planet.”

“Hey, you never know,” Jim said, though it did indeed seem unlikely.

“It must be an exciting life, visiting so many different planets, discovering so many new things.”

“It can be exciting,” Jim agreed. “It can be nice to have a break as well, though. Our time here was very pleasant.”

“I suppose your ship will be taking off for other destinations?” Kleios asked, and there was something in his voice that threw Jim off.

“Yes, well, I don’t know what our next mission is yet. We probably have orders waiting for us back on the Enterprise.”

“You could not, perhaps … stay a night? Allow me to introduce you to the evening entertainments we enjoy on Huquirion?”

Jim’s mouth practically dropped open. He had met a number of political leaders on a number of planets who had appeared to admire him physically, but never had he so openly been propositioned by someone with whom he had just finished negotiations.

“Unfortunately, the Enterprise will most likely need to depart within the hour,” Jim said, trying to keep his voice neutral. “No time to waste. I’m sure you understand.”

“Of course,” Kleios agreed, the smile never leaving his face. “Can I expect to meet you again, Captain Kirk? Perhaps for a renewal of the treaty, or other research missions?”

Jim shrugged, uncomfortable. “Perhaps, but there’s no telling where the Enterprise, and I, might be in the future. You could as easily have a visit from any ship in the Federation.”

“Well. You cannot blame me for trying,” Kleios said. “I certainly can find no fault with your diplomatic skills, but I find your beauty astounding.”

“Ah, yeah, that’s … very flattering,” Jim said. He was glad he wasn’t a blusher. “I did very much enjoy working with you.”

“And you as well, James Kirk,” Kleios said. “Best of luck on your future endeavors.”

Jim returned the farewell, exchanging with Kleios the arm clasp that was their version of a handshake before joining the rest of the away party to be beamed back up to the Enterprise. He realized that they were staring at him, and wondered if they had heard any part of the exchange. He only had to wait the few moments it took for Scotty to beam them back up to the ship.

Uhura turned to him as they stepped off the transporter pad. “What was that all about?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” Jim asked, too quickly.

“Kleios,” she said. “And your mysterious little conversation right before we left. His body language was … off.”

Uhura was smart, and Jim was going to die of embarrassment if she actually figured out what Kleios had been requesting of him.

“He was just, you know, telling me how much he enjoying meeting with us,” he said.

“He would have said that to the whole group,” Uhura said, narrowing her eyes. “In fact, he did.”

Spock seemed intensely interested by the whole conversation, and it was at that moment that Jim remembered Vulcans had superior hearing. He would have been able to hear things that Uhura may not have been able to decipher. When Jim caught his eye, he realized his assumption was right, and made the split second decision to play the whole situation a different way.

If Uhura was determined to embarrass him, Jim would prove to be embarrassment-proof. “Ok, fine, you caught me,” he said. “Kleios just wanted to let me know that I’m basically the paragon of human beauty. Not that we didn’t all know that anyway.”

Uhura rolled her eyes spectacularly. “Get over yourself.”

“No, really. I didn’t want the rest of you to feel bad, but let’s face it: my gorgeousness got that treaty signed for us.”

This time Uhura made a face that indicated she might actually be physically sick. Jim knew it was just as much of an act as his own. He was pretty sure it was an act.

“On that note, I think I’ll go write my report and get started on these many, many translations,” she said.

“And I,” added McCoy, who had been silent during the exchange, “need to get these samples to my labs.” He held up a container of plants in stasis, his own personal supply that he refused to entrust with the larger sampling that was heading to botany.

Jim watched them go, then turned to Spock. “To the bridge? New orders will be awaiting us.”

“Indeed,” Spock agreed, falling into step behind Jim on their way to the turbolift.

He was being suspiciously quiet, even for Spock, and Jim couldn’t forget the look on his face when Uhura had been questioning him about Kleios’ motives. Deciding that he needed to get it out in the open now and let the tension abate naturally, Jim asked, “So you heard what he said to me, huh?”

“Indeed,” Spock repeated.

“Would you say something else?” Jim asked.

There was a pause. They entered the turbolift. “I found Kleios’ comments highly inappropriate. I thought you handled them well, all things considered.”

“Really?”

“I am not finished. I find it illogical that you choose to bait Lieutenant Uhura when you could have explained, truthfully, that you diplomatically refused Kleios’ offers. I am sure she would have been as … pleasantly surprised as I find myself to be.”

Jim smiled, then frowned. “Pleasantly surprised? Does that mean you expected I would have …?”

Jim couldn’t even bring himself to finish the sentence.

“Vulcans try not to judge, but in some cases there are logical conclusions to be made.”

The turbolift doors opened. Spock stepped out, leaving Jim standing there for a moment in shock. Had Spock just implied that it wouldn’t be unlike Jim to just have sex with some random acquaintance? What right did he have?

Then it occurred to Jim that this was exactly what he’d done the entire time that he was at the Academy. Sure, none of his random partners had been the head diplomat of an entire planet with whom Jim had just negotiated a treaty to join the Federation – that was some serious stuff – but in essence it was no different.

What really surprised Jim, though, wasn’t the realization that he had slept with so many near-strangers, or the fact that he hardly did so anymore. It was the feeling of disappointment, that Spock thought it was something he would do. When, exactly, did he start to care what Spock thought, anyway?

********************

“Mr. Spock.”

If Spock was startled by the sound of the captain’s voice calling his name, he did not show it. They had just received orders for a new mission, actually a detour from the mission they had been intended to start, and Spock had been engrossed in reading the briefing information. It did not appear to be a mission that would require his skills as the ship’s chief science officer, which made him wonder what the captain could want at this stage.

“Yes, Captain?”

“Alpha shift is almost over. Would you be interested in joining me in the gym to spar?”

Spock’s eyebrows jerked up, but they were back to normal by the time he had turned to look at Kirk. He was startled to see an almost feral look in the captain’s eyes, a tightness in the way he perched tensely in his seat.

“You wish to spar with me?” Spock found this surprising. While it wasn’t unusual for the captain to spar on occasion, he usually did so with a member of security. No one ever sparred with Spock; he was the only Vulcan on board and no one could match his strength, not even the extremely fit captain.

“Yeah, I do. Are you in or not?”

“I suppose I would be amenable to that suggestion.” Of course, he would have to hold back, as he always did when sparring with humans. He was used it to by now; it would not be a problem.

********************

It was a problem. Spock was unsure as to the captain’s true reasons for wanting to spar with him, but whatever they were obviously they distressed Kirk greatly. From the moment they had begun, Kirk had come on too aggressively. His technique was excellent – as good as Spock had ever seen in a human – and his physical strength and stamina made him more of an equal than Spock had expected. Though he tried to control his own movements, to mirror his captain so as to provide a challenge without over-utilizing his advantage, Kirk’s ferocity made it nearly impossible to control his baser instincts to fight and to win.

His control slipped only for a moment – this was what he told himself afterward, to no avail – but it was a long enough moment to leave Kirk sprawled on the ground, an expression of agony gracing his features.

“Fuck!” he yelled through the gym. A small crowd was gathering. “Spock!”

Spock fell to his knees beside the injured man. “Captain! It was not my intention to cause injury.” He was unsure whether Kirk heard him or processed what he was saying. “Someone call medbay. Get Dr. McCoy up here now.”

“No, don’t do that,” Kirk said. “Just … help me up, I can walk there.”

Spock glanced down at the lower half of Jim’s body. “While your legs may be uninjured, it is best if you do not try to move. Your arm is quite badly broken.”

Kirk glanced over at the appendage which must have hurt terribly. It was stretched out to one side of his body, and about a third of the way up to the elbow from the wrist it was twisted away at a dangerous angle.

“Wow,” Kirk said, staring at it. “Shit. I think I might throw up.”

“Look away from it,” Spock ordered. “Look over at me.”

Surprisingly, Jim obeyed him, and yet from the look on his face it didn’t appear to be helping. Spock decided to take another approach. He reached out and grabbed ahold of the hand on Kirk’s uninjured arm. It was an unusual sensation, cool in temperature against Spock’s own and yet oddly warming. There was an initial jolt of thought, Bones is going to kill me, and then Spock worked to block out Jim’s thoughts, sending calmness across the connection they temporarily shared.

“Breath, Captain,” Spock ordered aloud, trying to prevent him from moving.

Miraculously, the connection with Spock and the Vulcan’s quiet tone seemed to sooth him, although he remained tense for the entire 4.1 minutes it took the doctor to arrive.

McCoy was carrying a med kit and was followed by a nurse with a stretcher, though he paid her no mind. He had eyes only for the prone form of the captain, immediately locking onto the twisted limb.

“Jesus, Jim, what did you do this time?” McCoy glowered, kneeling down on the other side of Kirk where the injury was.

“It was my fault, Doctor,” Spock interjected. “The Captain asked me to spar with him and I forgot my control for a moment. It was long enough.”

The doctor looked over at him sharply. He seemed to glare at Spock, but that was the normal expression he directed towards the Vulcan, so Spock did not let it concern him. Then the doctor glanced down at their clasped hands.

“I was attempting to keep him calm so he would not exacerbate the injury,” Spock explained, feeling an unwanted flush in his cheeks.

“Bones,” Kirk interrupted then. “Hurts.”

“Yeah, I know it hurts, you dumbass. What were you thinking, sparring with the hobgoblin?” he asked, his focus back on the captain as he ran a tricorder over his arm. Jim opened his mouth to speak, but McCoy interrupted. “Stop it, I already know what you were thinking. Should have found you right away, but I didn’t think you’d do something this stupid this soon.”

Spock had no idea what the doctor was talking about; the captain seemed to, but he did not elaborate.

When McCoy spoke again, his voice was infinitely softer. “Ok, Jimbo, I’m going to give you something for the pain, then I need to stabilize that arm. It’s going to hurt, but I need you to try not to move it, ok?”

Kirk did not respond verbally but nodded, the motion jerky. McCoy applied a hypo to his neck, then pulled out a stabilizing arm brace, working efficiently but gently to move the bones back into alignment. Kirk let out a small groan and grasped tightly to Spock’s hand, which was still in his grip, but otherwise gave no indication that it was uncomfortable.

“Good job, Jim, you’re doing great,” McCoy encouraged as he strapped the brace into place. “Now we’ve just got to get you on the stretcher and we can get you to medbay.”

“Don’t need a stretcher,” Jim said. Spock stared at him, but didn’t say anything. “I can walk.”

McCoy actually laughed out loud. “Like hell you can.”

As he finally let go of the captain’s hand, Spock wondered if the protest was all for show because Kirk did not try to fight it as McCoy and the nurse transferred him onto the stretcher and then stood to leave the gym.

“Thanks for keeping him calm, Spock. I’ll let you know how he’s doing once we’ve had a look at his arm,” McCoy said as he passed by.

“That would be appreciated, Doctor,” Spock said, watching him lead Jim’s stretcher out the door towards the medbay.

It was only then that Spock noticed the sensation in his hand. It was foreign to him, and he glanced down at it, but nothing was amiss. Nothing, except for the fact that some illogical part of him wished he was still holding onto Kirk’s.

********************

Spock entered the mess hall 21.4 minutes later. He had gone back to his rooms to shower and had received a communication from Nyota asking if he would like to join her for dinner. Spock assumed this meant that Mr. Scott was still down in engineering working, but he could not get the events of the previous hour out of his mind so he took her up on the offer. After obtaining a salad and a bowl of Plomeek soup – Spock felt an inexplicable desire for the dish he had most preferred as a child – he slid into the table across from Nyota.

She was in the middle of chewing a bite of food, but quickly finished chewing and swallowed when he arrived. Her eyes widened as she waved her fork in the direction of a table of ensigns nearby. “Is it true?” she asked.

“To what do you refer?” Spock asked, already knowing the answer.

“Some of the ensigns are saying you broke the captain’s arm!”

“It is unfortunately the truth,” Spock admitted.

“What happened?” Nyota asked, louder than she normally would have been with him.

“As you heard on the bridge, the captain invited me to spar with him. Unfortunately his level of enthusiasm and … aggression led to a short loss of control on my part. It was unintentional.”

“Well, of course it was unintentional,” Nyota replied. “Is he ok?”

“It was a severe fracture, but Dr. McCoy is more than skilled enough to fix it,” Spock stated, wondering if he had made the right choice in coming to eat. Gossip had spread faster than he had expected.

“Of course, McCoy will have him better in no time,” Uhura agreed. She seemed to realize she had been upsetting Spock, and turned the conversation to other matters, avoiding talk of the captain altogether.

Yet as much as Spock was grateful for the reprieve, he could not allow himself to become entirely engrossed in the conversation. Thoughts of what he had done to the captain were running through his head, thoughts of Dr. McCoy’s comments as he had stabilized the captain’s arm on the gym floor. Why had Kirk requested to spar with him, when he was well aware of Spock’s strength? And what was McCoy aware of that had influenced the captain’s irrational behavior, of which Spock was entirely unaware?

********************

“Dr. McCoy.”

“Admiral,” McCoy replied, voice cold.

“I’ll take it this isn’t a social call then?” Pike asked, frowning. “What’s wrong with him this time?”

“What’s wrong with him is the new mission we’ve just been assigned, and I think you know it!” McCoy growled. “How can you ask him to do this?”

Pike sighed. McCoy noticed how weary he looked and felt slightly bad for his gruff tone. “Trust me, Leonard, I didn’t want to do it. But you know I can’t get him out of it.”

“Testifying? He really has to do it?”

“There’s nothing I can do,” Pike said. “And thus it only makes sense that the Enterprise be the one to deliver him there.”

McCoy wanted to yell, very loudly, but Pike didn’t deserve that. It was out of his hands. “He shouldn’t have to do this.”

“I know that,” Pike agreed. “Is he ok?”

“Of course he isn’t!” McCoy snapped. “All of an hour after he got the mission assignment he was down in the gym sparring his Vulcan first officer. Managed to snap his damn fool arm right in half!”

Pike’s eyes widened. He appeared exceedingly alarmed.

“Oh, he’ll be fine,” McCoy sighed. “He’s just finished the first round with the osteostim. I was waiting until he’d fallen asleep to contact you.”

“Well, thanks for giving me a head’s up,” Pike said. “As much as he pisses you off … take good care of him, will you?”

“You know I wouldn’t have it any other way,” McCoy agreed.

There was a long moment of silence between the two men. Any other areas of possible discussion were ignored as both were preoccupied thinking about Jim.

“Jim’ll be ok for bridge duty by the day after tomorrow,” McCoy commented.

“His arm will heal that fast?” Pike asked, confused.

“No, but if you think he’s going to stay on medical leave for a whole week you’re crazier than I am,” McCoy said.

“To be fair, I probably am crazier than you,” Pike commented. “But even I know Jim won’t go for that.”

“His arm will have to stay braced, but he’ll be ok to sit on the bridge and call out orders and approve requests,” McCoy said. “By the day after tomorrow. That’s when we’re picking him up, right?”

“Yes,” Pike confirmed.

McCoy paused. “I’m going to offer to keep him on medical leave until the day after that. If he wants me to. Just so you know.”

“He won’t do it,” Pike said.

“No,” McCoy agreed. His friend was a glutton for punishment. “I wish he would, but then he wouldn’t be Jim.”

********************

Spock stepped into the medbay approximately halfway through alpha shift the next day. Dr. McCoy was standing over an ensign who had received a burn down in engineering. When he saw Spock coming in, he paused and jerked a thumb in the direction of the private rooms in the back. “Room 3,” he said, as though Spock would have needed directions. His captain was no stranger to medbay, and McCoy always made sure he was out of sight of the general crew.

Kirk lay awake in a biobed with his right arm ensconced under an osteostimulator. His arm was still, but the rest of him fidgeted around as much as it could in the small space. He lit up when he saw Spock.

“Thank God, someone to talk to,” he said. “McCoy’s got me back here stuck under this thing, not even a padd to keep me busy.”

“You should not be worrying about work right now, Captain,” he said. “Relax and allow your arm to heal.”

“Easier said than done.” Kirk sighed. “Is everything all right with my ship, Mr. Spock?”

“Everything is fine. I came to see you for a more personal reason.”

Kirk’s eyebrows shot up. “Go on.”

“I came in hope that you would accept my apologies for my actions yesterday,” Spock said. Jim didn’t appear to be angry with him, but Spock knew his actions had been reprehensible.

“What do you mean, Spock?”

Spock stared. “I broke your arm yesterday, Captain.”

“This?” Jim waved his left arm towards the right. “God, Spock, it’s not like you did it on purpose. It was as much my fault as yours. That move’s dangerous with someone who doesn’t have three times your strength. I can’t fault you for adequately defending yourself.”

Spock couldn’t believe Kirk was trying to accept the blame for his own injury. “Sir, as your First Officer and a Vulcan, I should have known better than to engage …”

“Spock, just stop. I’m not blaming you no matter how much you seem to want me to, ok? If it’s my forgiveness you need, then fine, you have it.”

“I do not see how you can be so flippant about –”

“Spock!” Jim interrupted, nearly laughing. “Honestly, it was an accident. Now, if you’d managed to land it on my face, then I might be singing a different tune here.”

“Captain?”

“It’s an expression, Spock. It means if my nose had gotten smashed in one more time it might not come out straight again, and that would be a real tragedy.”

Spock’s eyebrow twitched, but he did not otherwise respond. He could not tell if the captain was being entirely serious, but it seemed so. Perhaps Nyota was right about him.

“Now, I’m sick of talking about me. I want to hear all about what’s been happening on my ship.”

“You have only been out for half of a shift,” Spock reminded him.

“I don’t care, Mr. Spock. Tell me everything.”

So Spock obliged him.

********************

“Captain, we’re in orbit around Abraxas II.”

Kirk pulled his attention away from the padd he’d been perusing at Sulu’s announcement. He turned to Uhura. “Hail the planet, let them know we’re ready for transport whenever they are. We’ll beam up the prisoner and two guards. Our own security will join them to escort him to the brig, and then the guards will beam back down. Should take half an hour, tops.”

“26.4 minutes,” Spock added, to be precise.

Jim glanced over at him, and held his gaze. “Obviously you know about what’s happening than I do,” he said, and before Spock could reply he continued. “Why don’t you go down and oversee the transport? I’m in the middle of some reports here; this way I won’t have to be interrupted.”

Spock stared at him for what was clearly too long.

“Do I have something on my face, Commander?”

“No, sir.” Only that Captain Kirk would never miss an opportunity for paperwork to be “interrupted” by some other task – any other task. “I will go down to the transporter room now.”

“Very good,” Kirk said, nodded at him and then looking back down at his padd.

Spock paused for one moment longer, during which Nyota looked over at him with a raised eyebrow. Spock looked back at her to acknowledge that he had seen the question, but he did not otherwise respond. Instead, he stood and walked off the bridge to the turbolift, his thoughts racing.

Was his captain feeling unwell? It was possible considering his injury, but besides favoring the immobilized limb, Kirk had not seemed out of the ordinary. Was it something about this prisoner in particular? Spock himself felt disgust at the man’s actions, but nothing so overwhelming that he could not face the mass murderer; it was not in Kirk’s nature to avoid such confrontation. So what could be wrong with his captain?

The turbolift doors opened onto the transporter room. The Enterprise’s security detail had already arrived, and Spock exited the lift to join them, setting thoughts of his captain aside for the moment.

He needed to focus. He wanted to be ready for the arrival of Kodos the Executioner.

********************

Spock woke early the next morning. After an unsatisfactory session of meditation the previous evening and a shortened night of sleep, he felt groggy and decided that a run in the free time before breakfast would serve to awaken him further.

As he dressed for exercise and made his way through the halls, he wondered if there was something going around the ship. Even after Spock had seen Kodos secured in the brig and returned to the bridge, the captain seemed to retain his odd mood from earlier in the day. After alpha shift, the captain had disappeared from the bridge quickly and had not been seen since, not even in mess for dinner, though it was certainly his prerogative to use the replicators in his quarters if he sometimes wished.

This was why, however, Spock was shocked to enter the gym and find another figure already utilizing one of the treadmills. Kirk’s arm was braced but it was moving vigorously back and forth as he jogged at a rather harsh pace. Spock was sure that the movement had to be painful, and it was not a good idea medically to be putting stress on his body at all as he healed.

Kirk did not even notice Spock until Spock climbed onto the treadmill next to his, setting it initially for a brisk walk to warm up.

“Are you feeling well, Captain?” he asked as he settled into the pace, feeling that he must say something.

“Feeling great,” Kirk replied. He seemed more winded than Spock normally observed, but this was not unexpected considering his condition.

“Your arm is not causing you any pain?”

Kirk shrugged one shoulder. “A little bit of pain’s good for you,” he said. “Makes you stronger.”

Spock’s brows shot up. “I am not sure that scientific research supports your conclusions on the matter.”

“Well, then, I guess it’s good that you’re not the one in any pain right now, isn’t it?” Kirk asked.

“I am merely expressing concern for your well-being, Captain,” Spock replied.

He kept his tone neutral though he felt anything but. He could not piece together his captain’s strange behavior, but it was becoming more and more alarming and Spock was not entirely sure how to respond.

“I appreciate that, Mr. Spock or … well, no, I don’t. Why don’t you save your concern for someone who needs it?”

“Understood, Captain.”

And Spock did understand, but the person who mostly certainly needed Spock’s help was Kirk himself.

********************

Kirk was half an hour late to the bridge that morning. When he did arrive, his arm was held against his body by a sling, no doubt forced upon him by Dr. McCoy.

“Keptin on the bridge,” Chekov announced.

“Not for long,” Kirk said. “Sulu, you have the conn. Mr. Spock, my ready room, please.”

Kirk seemed calm, but Spock could sense the anger bubbling beneath the surface of his façade. Spock followed him in, allowing the door to shut behind him before bracing himself for the captain’s tirade.

“You went to Bones?” he exploded. “You seriously had to go tattle to the doctor? Are you kidding me, Mr. Spock?”

“No, Captain, I am not ‘kidding you’. I am most serious about your health.”

My health, Mr. Spock, is my business.”

“And Dr. McCoy’s, as he is your CMO.”

“And Dr. McCoy’s, when it is relevant,” Kirk corrected. “There was nothing relevant going on this morning in the gym. I was just running.”

“Which places undue stress upon your body,” Spock pointed out. “Physiologically speaking, even if you could keep your arm perfectly still, which you were not, and avoid pain in it, which you were also not and which suggests further injury was being done, running, especially for the duration of time you spent on the treadmill, forces your body to send the majority of oxygen and other key nutrients to the muscles you were using not only during the interval of exercise but also as the body rebuilds those muscles for hours afterward. Right now, it is your arm which requires these nutrients in order to rebuild itself. Therefore, it was, in fact, Dr. McCoy’s business.”

“Fuck!” the captain swore. He did not seem to regret it. “Spock, I don’t care about any of the physiology stuff. I get it, ok? But you don’t seem to get that I’m an adult! I’m the captain of this ship and I think I can judge what I need and what I don’t need!”

“Your actions of this morning clearly contradi –”

Jim let out an incomprehensible noise that was, as far as Spock could tell, a cross between a groan, a yell, and a sigh. Spock understood its meaning. He closed his mouth. The captain did not speak either.

“Are you waiting for an apology, Captain?” Spock asked.

“Not specifically, but it would be nice,” Kirk replied. He seemed weary, placing his free hand down on a table and leaning on it.

“I am sorry,” Spock said, “but I cannot apologize for my actions.”

Jim narrowed his eyes. “Do you understand what an apology is? Or don’t Vulcans have those?”

“We have apologies, sir. I simply do not regret my actions and thus would be lying if I apologized. And Vulcans do not …”

“Lie, yeah, I get it,” Kirk said bitterly. “Look, I can’t deal with this right now. You do something like this again and I’ll write you up for insubordination.”

“I hope it does not come to such a thing, Captain,” Spock said.

“Agreed, Commander. You’re free to go. Perhaps you should take the opportunity today to see to some of your responsibilities in sciences?”

Spock paused. Kirk was angry with him, perhaps even livid, and even so Spock could not come to regret his actions if it meant that the captain was healing quickly and properly. Kirk had dropped his gaze to the desk in his ready room, seemingly just to avoid Spock’s, and for some reason this one action made Spock wish that he could force the captain to look at him, to see that Spock’s supposed betrayal had been done only for his own good, because Spock cared for him …

As quickly as the thought had come, Spock knew that it was true and that it had been for quite some time. But he could not deal with such a realization here, with the captain so close and so annoyed by his presence. Spock lingered no longer. Outside the room, rather than taking the conn from Sulu, he took the captain’s advice and walked straight past the science station, straight past the captain’s chair, and off the bridge. He would be able to think better while in his labs.

********************

Jim faced Kodos, trying with everything inside him to keep his face as neutral, as unreadable, as Spock’s. He would never succeed; he could never be anything like the Vulcan. He was Spock’s antithesis, and though he always let others know that was a good thing, though it was what had gotten him promoted to captain over the highly-competent Commander Spock, sometimes he wished he could change it more than anything in the world.

“James Tiberius Kirk. You’re not supposed to be here, you know.”

“Kodos. How terrible it is to see you again.”

Kodos ambled up to partition, to be closer to Jim. “Won’t you even respect an old man with a handshake?”

Jim did not crack a grin. “You know better than to think I’ll fall for that, old man.”

“I just want to congratulate you,” Kodos said, sounding sincere in all of his madness. “You’ve won, haven’t you? You’re the captain of this … astounding starship. And I’m the one who’s about to be sentenced to death.”

“Is that all you wanted?” Jim asked. “I can go now? Your congratulations are appreciated but as you’ve pointed out, I’m the captain of this ship. I have better things to do with my time.”

Kodos laughed. “You think you’ve won.”

“Nah, I’m not winning,” Kirk said. “But I am way ahead of you.”

“Do you think so?” Kodos asked. “Then why are you still afraid of me?”

Jim wanted to laugh, he wanted to so badly, but he would not give anything away. “What makes you believe I have anything resembling fear towards you?”

“Oh, not me specifically,” Kodos said. “I’m just a feeble old man now, that’s what you’re thinking, is it not? And yet you were not there to see to my transport, as a captain should have been. It took threatening one of your security guards to get you down here to so much as talk to me. And you still you will not oblige me with that handshake.” His eyes flickered downward. “Not that it would be a very good one.”

Jim’s gaze immediately went to the brace that covered his arm. He’d removed the sling but he should have known Kodos would still go for the dig. He hastily folded his arms behind his back.

“A weakness, Captain. Tsk, tsk. Your enemies will take advantage.”

“What is it that you wanted, exactly?” Jim asked. “What was so important you had to take a hostage to get me down here?”

Kodos seemed to ignore his question. “I don’t really think you’re scared of me, not physically. You’re certainly not the boy you once were.”

“State your reason for demanding my presence.” Jim really wasn’t in the mood to play games.

“But you are utterly terrified of what I represent. You still wonder if I was right about you, if you really are one of the weak ones who should have died. As I said, you’re not supposed to be here now. I think we both know that, don’t we? You should be dead along with the rest of your miserable family. Seems they all find a way to die, somehow, and you’ll prove to be no different in the end.”

“Bullshit!” Jim yelled, slamming his uninjured hand up against the glass by Kodos’ face.

Kodos stumbled backward, startled, but the look on his face a moment later made it clear that Jim was the one who had lost in the exchange.

“That’s bullshit,” Jim said, quietly, trying to save face. “You said it yourself, you’re one who’s about to be put to death. I’m the starship captain. I’m the one who’s saved the world. I am the one with the power over you. Still think you had it right on Tarsus?”

Kodos’ eyes turned stormy. “I will never regret what I did.”

“And that’s what makes you a monster,” Jim told him.

“If that makes me a monster, perhaps men must more often sacrifice themselves to the beast inside if we have any hope for survival in this universe!” Kodos roared, seeming to forget momentarily where he was.

“Do you still believe that delusion? That you were some sort of saving angel for the colonists of Tarsus?”

“It is not a delusion –”

“That you swept in with your superior intellectual and moral capacities and made a decision the rest were too weak and too stupid to make? You saved half of the colonists from certain death, and at the cost of just four thousand others!”

“You say the words, but you do not understand.”

“But it’s all well and good because you did your homework, and you made sure it was the weak ones, those that would die because of the famine either way, who were gathered like lambs for the slaughter and put out of their misery.”

“I did!” Kodos cried. “You speak as though it was a tragedy, but –”

“It was a tragedy!” Jim yelled. “You were – are – a madman and the fact that anyone would believe you or follow you is insane enough, but the fact that they helped you murder all of those people … it makes me sick.”

“You forget that it worked. After I took actions there were no deaths. Was I wrong to save those who survived?”

“At the cost of those you murdered? Yes,” Jim hissed. “Starfleet was there a month later.”

“A month too late.”

“A month. How many more of those colonists would have survived?”

“And how many might have died? How many might have died had Starfleet never appeared?”

“The ends do not justify the means! It wasn’t your choice who got to live or die! You aren’t God!”

Kodos laughed, deep and guttural. “There is no God, boy.”

“I’m well aware,” Jim said. “But there is science.”

“What does science have to do with it?”

“Isn’t that how you selected those who would live and die? By their genetic strength?”

“So you understand …”

“What I understand is that all is takes to destroy your theory is one piece of contradictory evidence,” Jim said. “And here it is, Kodos, standing right in front of you.”

“Is that … arrogance I detect?”

“If you were right to choose who should live or die, then how am I still alive? Not only did I survive your damn population cleansing I survived it for a month, hiding from your men and taking care of kids younger than I was. If your actions were correct, then I would be dead right now.”

“You think this proves anything?” Kodos actually smiled.

“I think it proves everything. I survived, Kodos, and I went on surviving. I saved the whole damn world. If that’s not survival of the fittest then I don’t know what the hell is.” Jim smirked. “Well, and this face. How could anyone think that this is less than genetic perfection?”

********************

The incident occurred not long after lunch. From reports, Spock gathered that one of the Security officers guarding Kodos had been giving him lunch. Although he had no means of escape, a crazed Kodos rushed the young man, holding a blade that he must have had hidden on himself since his arrival (the supposedly expert penal institutions on Abraxas II would be hearing from Spock) to the ensign’s throat and demanded not release (even Kodos was not crazed enough to think he’d make it to the shuttle bay and be given an escape pod on a ship such as the Enterprise with the help of only one small blade) but to “have an audience” with the captain.

The captain had been called down from the bridge. Once there, he had ordered everyone out of the surrounding area. Kodos released the young security officer, who was also ushered out of the area and sent immediately to medical to be checked out physically and mentally. Kirk came out ten minutes later looking pale and disturbed. He refused to relate what had been said, indicated that the admiralty would be informed of any pertinent information, and had been led away by Dr. McCoy and not seen since.

Spock had first heard about this near the end of alpha shift, when whisperings of the incident came along through his crew in the labs. He gained more information from the preliminary reports from Security and then from Nyota in the mess hall.

Spock desperately wanted to check on the captain. It was all he could think about at dinner. He had been worried about the captain before; now that he knew Kirk had spoken to their prisoner alone, he was more worried than ever about what was going through his mind. But Kirk was already upset with Spock, and his company would not likely be appreciated.

Unable to focus on any work, however, Spock was the one who found himself in the gym after dinner, pounding out his frustrations on a practice dummy, unwilling to hurt another member of the crew if his control slipped away. He spent over an hour there, and the halls were nearly empty as he made his way back to his quarters. His door had just opened and Spock was about to enter when the door twenty meters down from his opened. Spock watched curiously as McCoy exited and then waited for the doors to close again. Only then did he look over at Spock.

“Dr. McCoy,” Spock said, nodding his head in greeting.

“Mr. Spock,” McCoy nodded back. They had come to an unlikely truce that morning when Spock had gone to him about Jim.

“How is the captain?” Spock asked.

“He’s … he’ll be fine, Spock,” McCoy said. “He’s dealing with a few things, but it hasn’t affected his performance, and I think it’ll pass soon enough.”

McCoy looked like he might say something else. Spock could admit that he was disappointed when the doctor did not continue.

“I do hope that he will come to understand why I informed you of his activities this morning.”

“He’ll forgive you, Spock. Just leave him alone for a day or two.”

Spock did not point out that he was not seeking Jim’s forgiveness … not exactly.

“I will endeavor to do so.”

McCoy nodded. “I’d better be going. Haven’t gotten anything done all afternoon, and I still want to check up what M’Benga thought about that ensign from security. Wasn’t about to leave Jim in with that madman and no backup.”

Spock nodded. “Good night, Dr. McCoy.”

“Night, Spock.”

Spock felt no compunction to pause in Dr. McCoy’s presence. He entered his quarters swiftly, then, and knelt down to meditate. He sorely needed it.

********************

The hour was so late by the time he had finished meditating – or perhaps given up on meditating would be more precise terminology – that Spock did not think to knock on the door to the shared bathroom as he went to perform his nightly ablutions. Later, he considered that he simply had not expected the bathroom to be occupied at such a late hour, but this was not an entirely logical explanation considering that the captain sometimes woke in the night and needed to use it. However, Spock could not think of a better excuse for his lapse.

As soon as the door opened and Spock realized the light was on and the captain was inside, he reeled back. “I am sorry, Captain, I did not think …”

And then he cut his words off as his mind fully comprehended the picture before him. The sink was running and Kirk was standing above it. He was leaning over onto his left arm, staring up into the mirror with bloodshot eyes, and banging his right arm repeatedly against the edge of the metal counter. Every time it collided, Kirk let out a nearly inaudible groan of pain through gritted teeth.

Spock was horrified by the picture, and could not stop himself from rushing forward.

“Captain! You must stop this at once. Captain! Captain! Jim!” How many times had the captain asked Spock to call him that when they were off duty?

Kirk froze suddenly and turned slowly. He did not seem to have realized the door had opened and Spock had entered until that moment.

“Spock,” he said, and his voice broke on that one syllable.

Spock felt a strange pang in his side at the captain’s obvious distress. He remembered that Kirk had felt some measure of comfort from the contact of their hands when he had been injured, and with that thought in mind he reached out and place a hand over Jim’s left forearm.

He was not expecting a violent reaction. Unexpectedly, Jim tore his arm away from Spock’s grasp, backing away from his first officer until his back hit the opposite wall - not far away – and he clutched his right arm to his chest with the left. He stared at Spock with horror in his eyes.

“It’s my fault, Spock. What if that security officer had died?”

“He did not die, Captain, and he would not have. No one on the ship would allow that to happen.”

“But he could have. Kodos could have slit his throat before anyone even reacted, sliced right through the jugular. They couldn’t have gotten him to medbay fast enough if that had happened. He would have bled out.”

“I do not understand this line of reasoning, Captain,” Spock admitted.

Kirk stared at him. His pupils were wide with pain and … something else. Spock would not violate his captain’s mind, but he desperately wanted to know what the other man was thinking.

“He could be dead, Spock, and it would be my fault.”

Spock became aware that Jim was slowly sliding down the wall. “How could the actions of a madman, a mass murderer, ever be your fault? You are being –”

“Illogical?” Kirk asked. He let out a single, dark laugh, sliding all the way down to the floor.

“Yes, Captain, I –”

“I was there, Spock!”

“You were where?”

“Tarsus. I was there.”

“You …”

Spock could not finish his sentence. He could not finish a thought. He could not fathom it … his captain … Kirk … Jim … had been on Tarsus IV when Governer Kodos had executed four thousand colonists in a depraved bid to save those deemed worthy. Jim had been there, and had survived, but it had broken something inside him, if something very small, and that something was now the only thing Jim could feel.

So he did the only thing he could think of. He dropped down on the floor next to Jim and offered comfort. Jim was curled up in himself by then, arms held tightly at his chest, knees pulled up towards his arms, but Spock did not care, he simply reached his whole arm around Jim’s shoulders and pulled him in close. Jim stiffened for a moment but even more quickly melted into the warmth that radiated from Spock’s body. He did not speak, and neither did Spock. They stayed like that for 17.4 minutes, and in that time Spock did not think about anything but Jim himself, until Jim broke the silence.

“I shouldn’t be here,” he said.

What did that mean? Did he mean that he should not be in Spock’s arms? Spock had to stop himself from tightening his grip on Jim’s shoulders.

“Where?” he asked simply.

Here,” Jim said, as though this clarified things. “That’s what he said, and he was right. I shouldn’t be on the Enterprise, the captain of the Enterprise. I shouldn’t be anywhere. In this universe.”

Jim.” Spock did not know what else to say. Jim sighed and tipped his head, allowing it to rest on Spock’s shoulder.

“I was one of the ones who was supposed to die. My aunt and uncle saved me.”

“I grieve with thee.”

There was a pause. “Is that something Vulcans say?”

“Yes,” Spock answered.

“I like it,” Jim said.

“Jim. You are supposed to be here. You are exactly where you should be.”

Jim shifted then, fidgeting almost, but Spock did not release his arm around Jim. He was not sure he was capable of doing so at the moment. Jim would have to ask if he wanted to be free.

“You mean here on the Enterprise? I’m supposed to be captain?”

“Yes, I believe you are meant to be the Captain of the Enterprise,” Spock assured him. “You are better at it than you think, if you believe otherwise.”

He felt rather than saw Jim’s nod, and then he felt a growing tension, though he was not sure of its source.

“I thought maybe you meant right here,” Jim said. A pause, then he felt Jim’s body squeezing into his side more tightly. “Here with you.”

It seemed as though Spock’s heart skipped a beat, though he knew that was not the case. He realized in that moment that although he had not consciously thought it before speaking, this was exactly what he had meant.

“Yes,” Spock said. “That is also what I meant.”

He reached his left arm across his body and allowed it to rest against Jim’s bare skin. The energy he felt upon contact was like nothing he had ever imagined.

“Feels good” Jim said.

“It does,” Spock agreed.

Through the connection, Spock allowed Jim to feel everything he was feeling – contentment, surprise, joy, lingering fear – and then he felt all of what Jim was feeling, the comfort, the doubts, the uncertainty, the peace from Spock’s touch, and then the pain. It was radiating from Jim’s arm. Spock recalled that only minutes ago he had been purposely knocking the injured limb again and again. He wished he had not remembered.

“I should call Dr. McCoy,” he said.

“Please don’t,” Jim requested. “He already worries. He left a hypo for the pain, if I needed it.”

Spock pulled away only slightly, so that he could look Jim in the eye. “I will not inform Dr. McCoy if you make me a promise. You will come to me next time you feel this way. You will not aggravate or cause yourself injury.”

Jim nodded. “Yeah. I can agree to that.”

“Then let us go find that hypo,” Spock said.

********************

The room was dark. Spock stood next to Jim’s bed where his friend – more than? – lay with his eyes squeezed closed, one hand clasped with Jim’s left. He had initiated the contact 7.3 minutes ago, after gently administering the hypospray of pain medication Dr. McCoy had left, though Spock was sure he would not have left it had he known what Jim would do to require it. He could feel the swell of pain slowly start to ebb, and slowly other thoughts began to creep into Jim’s mind, doubts and questions.

“The pain is diminishing well,” Spock commented.

Jim’s eyes opened, shining through the low light. “How did you know?”

Spock gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “I can feel it.”

“Oh,” Jim said. He tried to pull his hand away, but Spock held on.

“You have no need for embarrassment,” Spock told him. “I only wanted to ensure that the medicine worked. I would not want to leave you in pain for the rest of the night.”

“No,” Jim said. “No, I’m good. I guess you can … go … if you need to.”

“Jim?” Spock said, sensing a question in Jim’s thoughts.

“What? Nothing. It’s nothing,” he said, then just as quickly added. “You could also stay. If you wanted to.”

“Would you like me to?”

Jim looked away, down at the bed. “It feels … better when you’re here. But if you need to go back to your own bed, it’s ok.”

“Jim. I will stay.” Spock realized that this was what he had really wanted. It was why he had stayed in the first place, instead of absenting himself as soon he had gotten Jim into bed and given him the pain reliever.

Jim paused for a moment, then he lifted the blankets on his bed a little ways. “Will you?” he asked.

Spock did not even have to hesitate. He had been barefoot since beginning his meditation, and though he did not normally sleep in the robe, he also did not normally sleep in Jim’s relatively cooler rooms. He slipped into the bed with as little fuss as possible, not wanting to disturb Jim and in particular his arm, and pulled the blankets back up over himself and his captain.

Once in the bed – larger than a normal bunk on a starship, but still not entirely large enough for two grown men – Spock experienced a moment of uncertainty, of awkwardness. Just how close did Jim want him to be? He would quite happily entangle their bodies, but perhaps Jim simply wanted his presence. He reached out a tentative hand and placed it on the slant of Jim’s hip. Immediately, the captain reacted to the touch, burrowing himself back into the warm folds of Spock’s body. Spock’s arms wrapped around Jim in response, and it was like this that Spock fell asleep faster and slept more deeply than he had since his mother was lost with Vulcan.

********************

They would be arriving at Ceti V the next day and Kodos would be transferred to Federation custody there. His trial would begin in two days, during which the Enterprise would be doing absolutely nothing. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. The crew of the Enterprise would be doing, for the most part, exactly what they’d been doing for the past three days: catching up on a backlog of reports, completing ongoing ship projects depending on department, and otherwise enjoying the opportunity for a relatively easy day. Being the Fleet’s flagship, they didn’t get days like that very often.

Jim, too, figured he would be doing exactly the same thing he had been doing all day: thinking about Spock and the awkwardness that had been their morning, thinking about Kodos and his trial since it honestly seemed a better option than dwelling on the embarrassing memories from the night before, thinking about Tarsus because he’d been thinking about Kodos, and then having to get up and violently pace, or visit Bones, or get about his hundredth cup of coffee so he wouldn’t be stared at by his bridge crew for violently pacing.

He honestly didn’t know how he was going to survive two more days of this.

And then Spock stood and walked to stand next to the captain’s chair. Jim realized that alpha shift was over. Uhura was logging off her station in preparation for her replacement on beta shift. Chekov and Sulu were walking together into the elevator, Pavel laughing and Sulu looking so fondly at his companion that Jim wondered if there was something going on there, and if so, how someone as earnest as Chekov managed to keep it quiet. Even Uhura, whose privacy was rivalled only by Spock’s (it had taken Jim more than four months into their five year mission to learn that the two had ended their relationship on mutual and amicable terms), hadn’t been able to hide the fact that she had a new beau, but then again, Scotty wasn’t nearly as private as Spock had been.

“Captain,” Spock said as Uhura breezed past them toward the turbolift. “Will you join me for dinner in the mess?”

And because Jim absolutely couldn’t go to the gym (after the treadmill incident, Bones had apparently set the computers to alert him if Jim so much as stepped inside, and then had Spock place the controls behind a firewall even Jim couldn’t manage to crack – it sucked having a first officer with better computer skills than you), he accepted. There were replacements coming in – Jim’s appeared a few minutes later, and together he and Spock stepped into the turbolift. Once inside, Jim knew he had relative privacy to speak his mind, but he really wasn’t sure he wanted to.

“Captain,” Spock spoke for him. “Jim. Is there something bothering you?”

“I just …” Jim started then stopped.

“You do not have to dine with me if you do not wish,” Spock said when Jim never spoke again.

Normally, Jim couldn’t read any emotion into his first officer’s statements; Spock was usually so cool, so clinical. But for some reason, in that moment, even though Spock’s facial expression was exactly the same as it ever had been, Jim could hear the anxiety bleeding through. There was something … longing in Spock’s voice, and something inside Jim reached out to that longing.

“No, Spock, I want to,” he said. “But I hope you’re not asking because you think I’m going to do something … stupid.”

Spock seemed to realize what Jim was referring to. His gaze was so intense that Jim felt frozen under it. “Perhaps we should skip the mess,” Spock said. “The replicators in our quarters will provide sustenance and we will have more privacy for a discussion of this nature.”

“Yeah,” Jim agreed. “Ok.”

He allowed Spock to redirect the turbolift, and when the doors opened it was onto an empty corridor that led almost directly to their rooms. They entered Jim’s – Spock’s was likely too hot for Jim. Both stood when they entered, neither speaking for a moment.

“Should I procure dinner, and then we can speak more openly about what is bothering you?”

Jim shook his head. “I’m not really hungry.”

Spock cocked his head to the side. “You would prefer to speak first?”

Jim did not know how to answer that question. He didn’t know what to do, or what to say. Here he was in his quarters, standing in front of Spock, so close to Spock Jim could reach out and touch him He didn’t know how to apologize for what Spock had witnessed last night, or for asking Spock to stay with him as though he was a child who could not stand to sleep alone. He didn’t know how he was managing to stand there and not simply die of embarrassment.

Jim had never been comfortable with anyone seeing anything resembling vulnerability in him. Bones was the only one allowed, and only because Bones had seen him when he was incapacitated, ill or drunk or injured, and Jim couldn’t control what he may say or do in those circumstances. After last night, though, Spock had been allowed to see it, too, except Spock wasn’t his friend, not like Bones was. Jim didn’t want Spock to be his friend the way Bones was because he wanted Spock to be so much more, and God now that he admitted that to himself it was horrifying and exhilarating all at once.

And there was Spock, still standing there with his head ever so slightly bent, his eyes locked on Jim, waiting, waiting for Jim to make some sort of move, to say something, to give him some clue, and in the absence of anything he could possibly say to Spock without sounding completely insane and moronic, Jim fell back on old habits, and he made his move without thinking, without stopping to consider the consequences.

His body seemed to lurch forward of its own accord and he found his torso practically colliding with Spock’s even as his lips crushed the Vulcan’s. For a moment, Spock didn’t move, even his lips didn’t move, and Jim’s lips just pressed against his because, as usual, Jim had committed one hundred percent to something he wasn’t even sure about and now he was physically incapable of moving away. But then Spock’s lips shifted, settling into the negative spaces of Jim’s, locking their mouths together. His hands came up to grip Jim’s biceps, to give him leverage, and his mouth parted ever so slightly, his tongue darting out to rub against Jim’s, and it was so good and …

Jim pulled away. He pulled away so hard that the loss of Spock’s support on his arms made him stumble backwards, and there he stood, half hunched, face red from the passion of their kiss.

Fuck, Spock, I’m so sorry. Dammit, I’m such a fucking …”

“Jim.”

“… moron. I came in here to apologize for last night, and what do I do but ..”

“Jim.”

“… fucking kiss you, as though you would ever want to after …”

“Jim!”

Jim’s mouth snapped shut, and he was left standing there staring at Spock, taking in the Vulcan’s fierce eyes and green-tinged cheeks. He still had no idea what he really should be saying.

“What?”

But Spock didn’t say anything either. Instead, he crossed the space that had formed between them when Jim had pulled away. He replaced his hands on Jim’s arms, and then suddenly Spock was initiating a kiss between them. This time, Jim didn’t pull away. He let himself give into what he wanted from Spock. When they finally broke apart – when Jim felt literally weak in the knees, even if he would never admit that aloud to anyone, ever – Jim spoke again, this time softly.

“Fuck. Spock.”

“Jim.”

“It’s a good ‘fuck’ this time,” Jim told him. He looked up into Spock’s eyes. “I think it is.”

“It had better be,” Spock said.

“You really want this?” Jim asked. “Even after seeing what a fucking mess I am?”

“I don’t see a mess anywhere,” Spock replied. “And I am quite sure of what I want. I am a Vulcan, after all.”

Suddenly, Jim didn’t need to feel embarrassed for what Spock had seen the previous night. He didn’t need to apologize for it, and he didn’t need to explain why he had just kissed Spock. He didn’t need to explain why he was going to kiss him again, and again, and again.

All he needed to do was lead Spock over to his bed and write over the memories of the previous night. And so he did.

********************

Later, as they lay in bed, curled together, legs entangled, Spock kissed the side of Jim’s neck, and allowed his hands to freely roam the hard planes of Jim’s body.

“You are perfect, Jim.”

“Don’t tell me you only want me for my hot body,” Jim said.

Below the cockiness was an undercurrent of uncertainty. Spock could see this now. “I want you for everything you are,” Spock said. “Your body is only a small part of that.”

“Mmm, so you do think it’s hot,” Jim said, smirking.

“It would hardly be logical to argue otherwise.” Spock paused to kiss Jim’s shoulder. “This is not why you spend so much time toning your body in the gym, is it? To appear attractive to those around you?

Jim’s eyebrows quirked. “What? No, of course not. What would make you think that? I mean, I know I sound vain sometimes but I’m just being sarcastic.”

“Your sarcasm often eludes me, especially when you use it while speaking the truth, however unmodestly,” Spock told him. “But it was Lieutenant Uhura who originally suggested the idea. I believe she referred to you as a peacock.”

Spock was somewhat relieved when Jim’s reaction was a deep guttural laugh.

“That’s rich coming from her,” Jim said. “But no. I go to the gym so much because … well, it’s hard to explain. But I guess, ever since Tarsus, I’ve felt like I have to be as strong and invincible as I can be. I vowed that I’d never let anyone have power over me the way Kodos did, and part of that was making sure I was able to physically defend myself from anyone.”

Spock found himself tightening his arms around Jim.

“What?” Jim said. “You’re not saying anything.”

“I apologize,” Spock said. “I become angry when I think about what you experienced when you were still just a child.”

“Spock. You know I’m going to have to testify against Kodos in two days.”

“I am aware now,” Spock said, pulling back on his emotions.

“I’m probably going to flip out again, like I did last night,” Jim said. “You’re not going to hate me then, are you?”

“I will never hate you,” Spock assured him.

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

“I will never hate you,” Spock repeated. “I would bond with you, if that is what it takes to prove this to you.”

“You’d bond with me?” Jim asked. “Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

Spock realized he was serious, as serious as he had been about anything in his life, and he looked quickly into Jim’s face for signs of his opinion on the matter. Whatever he had been expecting, the wide grin was not it. It made Spock unspeakably pleased.

“You know you smile with your eyes,” Jim said. He touched Spock’s lips. “Even if you won’t do it here. It’s a gorgeous look on you, by the way.”

Spock ran his own finger over the corner of Jim’s upturned lips and traced it down to the center. It sent a shiver down his spine.

“This is a gorgeous look on you as well. Even if you already know it,” Spock said, and Jim laughed. “This does not matter. What matter is that you are mine.”

********************

6 months later …

Had they really used up their allotment of peaceful missions after Huquirion? At one time, Jim wouldn’t have cared. He would have relished the opportunity to beat a Gorn into the ground. But this time, when he felt something snap as the Gorn launched Jim a good ten feet away, all he could think about was how pissed Spock was going to be. The damn Vulcan had taken to withholding sex every time Jim got injured, as though it was his fault there was a Gorn on Aurelius II.

It was just supposed to be a drop-off mission. They’d picked up a scientist at Starbase 10 and brought him to join the research facility on Aurelius II. They had also been assigned to check up on the facility itself, ensure that things were going well, which was why Jim, Spock, and Uhura had beamed down with the new scientist. That was when hell had broken loose.

Not only were there Orion pirates attempting to loot the place – probably of both people and equipment – but they had a Gorn working security for them. And while Spock was busy apprehending the Orions, or as many of them as he could, it fell to Jim to keep the Gorn from attacking Uhura, which seemed to be his new goal once he spotted her.

Groaning past the pain of what Jim figured was another broken rib, he scrambled back to his feet, determined that the Gorn would not get the better of him. So help him, if Spock had to come to his rescue. It was bad enough that the crew all knew by now what a sucker he was for his Vulcan; he wasn’t about to become the damsel in distress.

Thankfully, once Jim had a chance to think of a strategy, he managed to subdue the Gorn – after receiving a couple more blows to the abdomen, a punch to the eye socket that would give him a massive shiner at the very least, and possibly another broken rib. Still, it was with great satisfaction that Jim managed to give the Gorn a good enough whack to the head with one of the lab’s fire extinguishers that it finally came to a stop at his feet.

After a moment or two of gasping for air and making sure the Gorn wasn’t about to get back up, Jim looked up and into Uhura’s wide-eyed gaze, just as Spock appeared next to him, looking concerned and angry. And then, he smirked his all-purpose, Captain James T. Kirk smirk.

“By the way, this,” he said, indicating the enormous, green alien, “is why I work out so much. Not because I’m a peacock.”

Uhura’s eyes grew wider than before, at risk of popping right out of their sockets. Then her face twisted in what Jim could only assume was embarrassment. She turned immediately towards Spock.

“You told him?”

“His mind is connected to mine; I could hardly hide it from him if I tried,” Spock said, knowing full well it wasn’t their bond that had informed Jim of the descriptor Uhura had used to label him.

Uhura groaned and turned away. Now that the fighting part was over, Jim knew he could count on her to check on the staff of the lab and record damages done and the like. Thank goodness for that, because he was really starting to feel the broken ribs and the blow to his head.

“You are injured again,” Spock said.

“It wasn’t my fault,” Jim protested. “I couldn’t let it attack Uhura.”

“No, you could not have.”

Jim sighed. “I suppose we ought to get to things wrapped up down here.”

“I suppose that you ought to beam back up and get yourself to medbay. Lieutenant Uhura and I will take care of the situation here.”

Jim stared at him for a moment. “That’s it? No stern admonishments this time?” Spock didn’t like it when Jim referred to what he did as “yelling.”

“I believe I will leave the lecturing to Dr. McCoy this time,” Spock said, and Jim knew this was just as bad. Spock pulled out his comm and connected with Scotty. “Mr. Scott, one to beam up. The Captain needs medical attention while I deal with the situation down here.”

“Aye, sir, one to beam up,” Scotty agreed.

Before separating so that he would not be beamed along with Jim, Spock took his right hand – aching a bit from hitting the Gorn’s dense bones – and rubbed his right fingers along Jim’s. Jim could feel all the deep love and concern that were dominating Spock’s feelings. At the last moment he stepped back and Jim could swear he was almost smiling.

“Do be certain that Dr. McCoy fully repairs your eye, Jim,” Spock said. “I would find it very troubling if anything were to mar your beautiful face.”