Jim stretched awkwardly, his lower back achy and middle back stiff. A sharp, recurring but unpredictable pain jabbed at the base of his skull and his left shoulder was so tense his entire arm was slowly succumbing to numbness. His eyes itched and there was a faint soreness behind them that threatened a headache. His heart raced (and not in a good way) and his stomach hurt, embarrassment still immediate in the heat of his cheeks and neck.
“I’m dying,” Jim wheezed to himself. He almost hoped he was. The words ‘dig it in there, Mr. Spock’ rang through his mind, a mortifying reminder of his own idiocy on the bridge. These words would haunt him for eternity.
He could almost taste the pity in Yeoman Barrows’ worried frown. The woman had firm, yet gentle hands and a very expressive face.
“You’re exhausted, Captain,” Spock piped up as he walked into the ready room, making Jim jolt in his seat.
“And you’re starting to sound like Bones,” Jim shot back, covering his discomfort with a broad smile. It wasn’t exactly hard smiling for Spock. “What can I do for you, Mr. Spock?”
“Captain, I insist on your beaming down to the planet for shore leave.”
Opening his mouth to protest, Jim was cut off by Spock’s perceptive and unyielding gaze.
“You’re showing signs of stress and fatigue. Your reaction time is down nine to twelve percent, your associational rating norm minus three. You’re becoming irritable and quarrelsome, yet you refuse to take rest and rehabilitation. Were this the case for any other member of the crew, I do not doubt that they’d be sent ashore on your orders.”
Grimacing, Jim fully recognized that those numbers were not exactly good.
“Ah,” he mumbled, thinking his way around the situation.
His comm chirped and that was the perfect excuse to look away from Spock’s unwavering and unfairly lovely eyes.
“Kirk here,” Jim answered professionally.
“Declare me unfit for duty,” Bones ordered, a slightly manic snap to his raspy voice.
“Why would I do that?” Jim questioned, brow furrowed and mouth pinched in confusion.
“Because I just gave Alice directions to the white rabbit,” Bone’s replied, growing slightly more than slightly manic. “And the bastard was running late.”
Shooting up and out of his seat, Jim rushed off, eyebrows racing towards his hairline as he called out, “Spock, I’m beaming down. Run additional tests on the planet. Either Bones has finally lost it or this place isn’t what it seems. Based on our history, I’m guessing it’s the latter.”
- - -
Jim stomped through the tangle of plants, branches snatching at this uniform and scraping at his exposed hands. The sun above beamed down with unrelenting intensity, as hot and bright as any summer day on Earth.
“Perfect conditions for shore leave my ass,” he grumbled to no one. “It’s hot. There’re too many plants that I don’t know the name of. Freaking Alice and the white rabbit running around driving my CMO insane. Ancient revolvers under rocks. Sulu just shooting the damn thing because why not shoot an antiquated gun at some trees, that seems reasonable. Don Juans needing a serious lesson in consent. That son of a bitch Finnegan socking me like back in the academy. Unbelievable.”
Through all his complaining, Jim kept his eyes peeled. Something was going on and he wasn’t about to be caught unaware again.
After some time walking, the lush greenness of the glade transformed into a desert garden where aromatic flowers bloomed amongst an outcropping of rocks. Taking a moment to admire the admittedly beautiful flora, Jim allowed himself to pluck a single flower.
Jim blinked, looking up from the flame colored petals to gawk at his first officer. “Spock. What’re you doing here? Find something out about all this?”
Jim waved widely with the hand holding the flower, looking around him in bemusement.
“Yes, Captain.” Spock nodded his head demurely.
Jim regarded Spock with an enthusiastically expectant smile. “Well, don’t leave me in suspense.”
“It appears there is a fungus native to this planet that produces spores with notable hallucinatory effects on humanoid beings. The hallucinations are extremely realistic, but ultimately harmless.”
“Oh, nice, so we’re just hallucinating on some shrooms,” Jim hummed, hands on his hips. “Cool.”
“An…interesting reaction to a severe effect,” Spock allowed hesitantly.
Grinning up at him, Jim held out his comm. “Should we cancel the shore leave then?”
Spock looked off to the side, a contemplative line in the middle of his shapely eyebrows. “The science team has managed to synthesize a cure for those effected. As such, I see no reason to cancel the crew’s respite. Other than the spores, the planet has proven to be safe.”
“I trust your judgement,” Jim told him honestly. He readied his comm to call for a beam up. “I guess I better get back up to the ship and start logging my report. Maybe call Bones and make sure he’s alright.”
“Captain,” Spock halted him immediately. “I do believe you’re to remain on planet for the duration of two days at least.”
Jim made a face, lips pursing. “When did I agree to that?”
“In your ready room,” Spock answered. “Before Doctor McCoy called you and requested to be declared unfit for duty.”
“It seems you and I remember events very differently,” Jim tried to dodge.
Spock sighed, a small expression of emotion he sometimes let slip. It made Jim want to smile, but he bit it back.
“Alright, Mr. Spock,” Jim told him placatingly. God, he really would do anything for Spock, wouldn’t he? “I give. Two days rest and relaxation. I’ll take my shore leave with the first landing party.”
“The logical conclusion,” Spock complimented, eyes smiling even as his face gave little away. “And if I may, perhaps I should join you?”
“Why, Mr. Spock, I’d be delighted,” Jim beamed, stomach swooping. It looked like Spock wasn’t holding his slip on the bridge against him. Even better, the half Vulcan might have been entirely oblivious to what that slip meant. A boy could dream. “I’m surprised. I didn’t think lounging around in nature idling the day away was your idea of fun.”
Jim expected to get one of Spock’s sassy retorts about Vulcans not needing fun. What he did not expect was Spock’s shy, barely there smile paired with, “No, Captain. But I derive great joy from spending time with you.”
Jim’s heart might have stopped. He needed a tricorder to be sure.
“Oh,” Jim choked out. “Um. Same.”
“Shall we sit?” Spock inquired politely, tipping his head towards one of the rocks. It was just flat enough to be suitable for sitting and just small enough that their legs would absolutely be touching. He walked over and sat down with a graceful deliberateness that had Jim sweating.
“Yup, totally,” Jim managed.
Planting himself down beside Spock, Jim both relished and felt extreme anxiety over the points of contact between their hips, thighs, and knees.
“Unless I’m mistaken, you’re not relaxing, Jim,” Spock pointed out.
The use of his first name had Jim laughing, reedy and nervous. “What? I’m always relaxed. I’m the fun captain. Just ask the admiralty.”
“The tension in your shoulders as well as the way you’re currently wringing your hands contradict your statement,” Spock observed. “Furthermore, I don’t believe ‘fun’ would be the preferred adjective from the admiralty.”
Glowering down at his hands, Jim considered what he did to deserve his own body turning against him. “Right.”
“If I may?” Spock offered, a hint of trepidation in the creases at the corners of his eyes.
Jim had absolutely no idea what Spock was offering. “Sure, Spock. Whatever you like.”
It was Spock. Jim was going to let him get away with anything so long as it didn’t interfere with the safety of the ship and their crew or important Starfleet matters. And even then the importance of Starfleet matters was debatable.
The blanket permission Jim granted Spock did nothing to prepare him for the hand that immediately wrapped around the nape of his neck. Or the strong, insistent kneading of Spock’s capable fingers. Or the gasp of shock followed by an embarrassingly loud moan that escaped Jim’s mouth.
“Oh my god,” Jim muttered, simultaneously humiliated and blissful.
“Relax, Jim,” Spock ordered, voice low and certain.
Jim might have died and gone to every single heaven like afterlife in existence.
Spock worked on his neck, hand perfectly seeking out the spots that held the most tension, including the dense knot of his shoulder. Jim slowly slumped into Spock, body going lax under his precise ministrations.
Eyes fluttering to a close, Jim let the warmth of Spock’s presence soak into him like sunshine as he breathed in deep. He drifted off, buzzing mind finally settling into something close to peace.
Jim’s eyes flew open.
He sat up rigidly.
He looked up at the serene Spock still massaging his neck.
Then he turned to look at the Spock who stood on top of one of the large rocks, beautiful features arranged in an unreadable expression.
Jim rose up cautiously and walked several paces away, body language stiff.
He put his hands on his hips and frowned down at his dusty boots, mind once more running overtime. He sighed. “Well, shit.”
- - -
It was an amusement park.
Jim chewed on the information and the superior being’s offer. The crew did need rest and McCoy and Barrows seemed more than a little enthusiastic about remaining on the planet. Sulu too. When he gave the word, a collective relief spread among the crew already present. He was sure those on standby up on the Enterprise would be happy to hear their shore leave would go on as planned.
Jim smiled at everyone indulgently, happy to give an order that seemed to increase his crew’s happiness. It was a rare thing and he savored it.
But he refused to look at Spock, his first officer an unavoidable blue shirted presence at the corner of his vision. It went against his most fundamental desires, not looking at Spock, but he was afraid of what he might say, what his face might give away. What Spock now knew.
And he thought the incident on the bridge was bad.
He glanced off to the side when Spock made to speak to him and felt his stomach drop.
Standing there in the middle of the glade, highlighted by the sun that glinted off his dark hair, the manufactured Spock watched Jim with soft eyes.
Jim swallowed harshly and managed to choke out an order into his comm. “Beam me up, Scotty.”
There were some things Jim was willing to face.
This was not one of them.
- - -
“What happened to you?” Uhura asked as Jim hurried onto the bridge. Her gaze pinged from his dusty pants, to his dirt streaked face, and settled somewhere around the missing quarter of his shirt.
Pulling the flapping fabric up self-consciously, Jim grumbled out, “A doppelgänger of my academy bully kicked my ass.”
He wrote up an explanation of the planet for his crew and sent it out along with more detailed explanations drafted by Bones and the science team, signed off on a few PADDS, completed some of the more mundane tasks he needed to accomplish as a starship captain, and checked and double checked his orders with his crew.
“You had an academy bully?” Uhura’s lips tipped into a smirk, the sadist. “Color me surprised, Captain. Here I thought you were everyone’s favorite bad boy.”
“If I recall correctly,” Jim told her absently, looking over a request from one of the engineering teams, “you weren’t all that fond of me. Finnegan would’ve agreed with you.”
“Finnegan?” Nose scrunching in disgust, Uhura made a hissing noise of disapproval. “Please, do not group me with that idiot.”
Laughing down at the PADD, Jim glanced briefly up. “Noted.”
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Uhura asked, voice dropped down in genuine concern.
“Perfectly,” Jim lied through his teeth.
“Well, then you might want to change so nobody gets the wrong idea,” Uhura told him with a dry smile, chin jutting out in indication of his appearance.
Jim didn’t exactly need the reminder, his right sleeve having detached entirely from the rest of the shirt to exist as its own tattered entity. The top half barely clung to life, the stronger seams of his collar doing an admirable job of keeping his entire torso from being exposed. Maybe he’d recommend it for a commendation - an award for defending its captain’s dubious modesty.
Signing his last bit of administrative business with a flourish, Jim gave her a reassuring nod. “Will do. And as of now, I am taking two days leave. Plenty of time to have my appearance back up to standards.”
“Good,” she nodded, sincerely pleased. “Spock’s been worried about you. Will you be joining one of the shore parties? I can let Scotty know.”
Gut twisting, Jim didn’t need the reminder of Spock from his first officer’s ex. Yikes. “No, thank you, Lieutenant. I’ve had my fill of the planet’s offerings.”
“Staycation?” Uhura asked, a wry tilt to her head. Her ponytail swayed jauntily with the motion.
“You got it in one,” Jim answered with as much good humor as he could muster. “So I’ll be on ship in case of any pressing concerns.”
“I’ll make sure you won’t be bothered, Captain.” Uhura nodded sharply, an assurance and a dismissal all in one.
“Lieutenant,” Jim waved, finished with his business on the bridge.
He left with nods and waves for the rest of the bridge crew, head held high despite his building emotional breakdown and bare chest. As soon as he wasn’t in sight of any crew members, he picked up his speed to a near run.
He wasn’t sure if Spock was going to look for him, but Spock never held back his opinions from Jim before. The chance wasn’t nonexistent. Jim was pretty damn good at math and he’d mentally done the numbers. He only had so many minutes for his head start if Spock wanted to address the situation and he’d already burned through most of his time doing his due diligence before leaving to indulge in two days of sulking and drinking alone in his room. Maybe some sad masturbating if he was feeling particularly upset.
To be honest, there was no maybe about it.
So Jim was in a bit of a hurry.
Which made running into Bones just outside his quarters a bit of an inconvenience.
“Why aren’t you busy flirting terribly with Yeoman Barrows?” Jim asked without stopping, palming his door open and rushing inside.
Bones followed him.
“I was worried about you,” Bones grouched, brow furrowed in real concern. “You got out of there like a bat out of hell. Figured I’d make sure you were ok.”
Tearing his now dearly departed shirt off, his sense of modesty around Bones long put to rest if indeed it ever existed, Jim strode into the bathroom for a quick refresh, shouting his answers out to his friend.
“I’m fine! Go have fun!”
Jim covered his face with his palms and muffled a scream.
He strode back out in nothing but his briefs and a broad smile. Bones was completely unmoved, used to Jim, his underwear, and his fake smiles.
“Ok, what happened?” Bones immediately asked, voice solemn.
Jim dropped face first onto his bed and screamed again.
“TheplanetmademeaSpock,” Jim told the pillows as fast as he could. Best to get it done quickly.
“Sorry, what?” A shirt and lounge pants hit Jim in the back one after the other.
Rising up with a long, despondent groan, Jim started to slip into the clothes he’d been attacked with. “The planet. It made me a Spock.”
Bones blinked. “Well, shit.”
“That’s what I said!” Jim exclaimed. “This is a disaster.”
“I take it Spock saw.”
“You are correct.”
“What are you going to do about that?”
He was exhausted, but now that he was talking it over with Bones, his skin felt too tight for his body and he needed to move. He bounced up and off the bed.
Pacing across the length of his room, Jim chewed over his not so good options.
“Nothing. Avoid interactions with Spock except in a required professional capacity. Make some bad decisions. We’ve got that resupply at Yorktown coming up.”
Bones pinched the bridge of his nose. “Do I want to ask?”
“Remember the academy?” Jim asked, fully leaning into the strike of inspiration. The first of a series of planned bad decisions. “When I was all heartbroken over Ruth?”
“No,” Bones said at once, wagging his finger. “No, no, no.”
“Yes!” Jim jumped up and down. “Do you still have the shirt?”
“You gave me that shirt for a reason,” Bones cautioned him, frown deepening.
“Yeah, with the explicit instruction not to destroy it,” Jim countered. “In case of emergency.”
“This is not an emergency!” Bones shouted.
Jim leveled a serious look Bones’ way. “If Spock finding out about my giant, sappy, same sex love for him isn’t an emergency, I don’t know what is.”
“You could talk to him?” Bones grimaced.
“Pfft, no,” Jim dismissed. “Bones, I need the bad decisions sex shirt. And as my best friend you are morally obligated to return the bad decisions sex shirt to my possession.”
Shoulders slumping, Bones looked at Jim with a defeated scowl. “I hate that shirt and I hate you in that shirt.”
“I also don’t care for myself in that shirt,” Jim informed him lightly. “But needs must.”
“Ugh, fine.” Bones stalked off. “I’ll be back in a minute with your disgusting shirt.”
“It’s clean!” Jim protested.
“Physically, yes,” Bones allowed. “Emotionally? Not even close.”
“Love you, Bones!”
- - -
Jim continued pacing his quarters, teeth gnawing at the corner of his thumb. Lost in his thoughts and worries, Jim lost track of time until his door chimed.
“Enter,” he called out of habit, sparing a brief half second to wonder why Bones bothered with the equivalent of knocking. The door slid open and he began, “You better not have lost that shirt, Bones. I have emotions to repress and sex with strangers to plan and I need my bad decisions sex shirt to get in the right mindset.”
When Bones didn’t call him a name or grunt in disgust, Jim looked up from the floor and froze in horrorstricken silence.
“I am not Doctor McCoy,” Spock informed him, an uncomfortable set to his broad shoulders.
“Ah, yeah,” Jim drawled, brain screaming. “I can see that.”
They stared at each other in silence.
Clearing his throat, Jim avoided Spock’s gaze and tried, “Something I can help you with, Commander?”
Jim was seconds away from breaking out in a cold sweat, he just knew it.
“I came…on a personal matter,” Spock finally answered.
“Goddamn it,” Jim muttered, covering his face with his clammy palm. “Yeah. That makes sense.”
“Captain, I-” Spock uncharacteristically cut himself off. “Jim. Today’s events have led me to understand that you harbor feelings of a romantic nature for me.”
Feeling as if he’d been punched right in the gut, Jim squeezed his eyes shut and wheezed, “Have they?”
“Yes.” Spock hesitated, a frown on his face. “Jim, I-”
“Alright, here’s your filthy porn star shirt,” Bones declared as the door slid open. He stomped back into Jim’s unlocked quarters, stopping short with a blink when he saw Spock standing there. “Spock.”
“Doctor,” Spock responded tersely.
Jim sent a pleading look at his oldest friend. “Bones.”
“Jim.” Bones’ gaze scanned them with all the perceptiveness of a tricorder. “I’m leaving.”
“ Bones ,” Jim begged, feeling on the verge of tears or a panic attack or both.
“I’m leaving and you two are talking,” Bones ordered, already turning back to the door. “And I’m putting this evil shirt in the garbage.”
“No, I need it!” Jim wailed, chasing after Bones.
“No, you don’t,” Bones barked, sidestepping him.
“The doctor is correct,” Spock added with a severe expression. “You do not need it.”
Jim blinked and turned to make eye contact with Spock for the first time since he entered.
“Doctor, if you will excuse us.” Spock’s request sounded more like an order.
Bones strode out, hand waving Jim’s sex shirt like a flag. “Don’t want to know, don’t want to hear about it. Congratulations.”
He left the two of them to stare at each other - Spock’s expression intense and Jim’s wide eyed and appropriately freaked.
“I actually do need that shirt though,” Jim tried, eyes darting to his closed door. “So I’m just going to go ahead and-”
Mouth dry and heart racing, Jim grimaced. “Yeah?”
“The evidence suggests that you are interested in me romantically.” Calm and reasonable though he seemed, there was the faintest trace of concern in Spock’s eyes and voice. “Am I correct?”
Shuffling over to sit on the edge of his bed, a slumped and defeated curve to his spin and shoulders, Jim sighed. “Yeah, Spock. You’re correct. Aren’t you always?”
Head in his hands, Jim felt the collective burden of all his stress, tension, and anxiety.
A weight dipped the mattress at his side and a hesitant hand came to rest on his back.
Every muscle in Jim’s body tensed.
“You should rest,” Spock suggested, hand warm and heavy and now more certain where it pressed against the space between Jim’s shoulder blades. “I have reviewed the schedule and you are currently on leave.”
Jim tried to respond, but all that came out was a garbled noise he immediately stifled.
Spock started to stroke Jim’s back, reassuring and calming in his movements.
“Spock,” Jim rasped. “What are you doing?”
Jim wrapped everything he was feeling - the heartache, the longing, the yearning, the fear, love, and want - around the most important single syllable he could ever utter. “Spock.”
Hand pausing for a brief moment, Spock took in a deep, meditating breath. “I feel similarly,” he whispered.
Jim choked out, “I didn’t know that.”
Another pause as the hand on his back started to knead at the base of his neck.
“I took great care to ensure you wouldn’t.”
“Oh.” Jim’s throat bobbed as he swallowed thickly. “Me too.”
“I…regret that course of action.”
Spock’s hand slid upward, fingers pushing through the shorter hair at the back of Jim’s head.
Jim shivered and leaned into him.
Spock’s other hand gripped Jim’s shoulder as he gently guided Jim down the bed.
Allowing himself to be set on his side, Jim gulped as Spock slowly and carefully set Jim’s head in his lap.
“You require rest,” Spock reiterated in a soothing, tender voice.
His fingers carded through Jim’s hair, scratching lightly at his scalp.
Safety and comfort replaced stress and concern. Heart rate slowing, breaths coming more evenly, Jim felt more at peace than he’d been in…ever.
“I wished to provide the comfort you desired,” Spock murmured.
“Comfort definitely achieved,” Jim assured him, eyes drifting to a close. “But if you’re up for some other stuff when I wake up, maybe stop Bones from tossing that shirt and I can show you a wild time.”
The hand in Jim’s hair tugged at the blonde strands, the suggestion of a reprimand.
“I believe any activities we engage in when you wake will be vastly improved by the absence of clothing, not the addition of it.”
Jim laughed into Spock’s thigh, immensely interested but too tired to do anything about it - yet.
Jim breathed in deeply.
When he fell asleep, it was with Spock’s hands raking through his hair and a smile on his face.