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not in the stars but in ourselves

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Jim's not sure why his door chime is ringing at this hour, but it must be important. Captain's privilege, he thinks wryly and pulls on his pants.

It's Uhura standing outside, looking nervous. "Captain, I-" She stops. "Sir, I need to speak with you urgently about a personal matter. May I come in?"

"Of course." He gestures her in. "What's going on?"

"It's Spock. He's acting very strangely. He's acting almost emotional. And he won't tell me what's going on - he just says that he will not speak of it and that there is nothing to be done. I thought he might have said something to you." Uhura doesn't wring her hands or fidget, just looks him square in the eye and waits.

It's a reasonable assumption. Jim and Spock have moved from adversaries and grudging partners to friends and steadfast backers over the course of the past year. If Spock were going to confide in anyone besides Uhura, it might very well be Jim. God knows they spend enough time with their heads together, murmuring in each other's ears and plotting to save the day, enough time testing each other's intellect with three-dimensional chess and those weird holographic puzzles. But Spock's said nothing to Jim that would account for his strange behavior.

"I've noticed it too, I think - it's like he's just on the edge of losing it, right?" Jim paces as he speaks. "And then he overreacts and goes all vacant. Hmm." There's something there, something niggling at Jim's brain. He cards through associations until he finds a set of memories that are in his possession but not his - Ambassador Spock's. Memories of a time of heat and hazy loss of control and a desperate, tearing need to return to Vulcan. To the place of koon-ut-kal-if-fee. Damned if Jim knows what that means, but perhaps Spock will explain if prompted by Jim's partial knowledge. Or perhaps more of the other-Spock's memories will surface.

These memories aren't clear like the other ones, though. The most desperate ones are full of lust and fire; some other, less panicked moments match the slip-and-retreat pattern Jim's just described in their Spock. What's true of all the memories is that they're tinted in a way that the other-Spock's memories never have been before. These memories don't want to be examined closely: they're shameful.

Jim comes back to himself and finds Uhura's steady gaze still on his face. "Captain?" she asks.

"I think I've got something, Nyota." She looks irritated at the familiarity, as though they haven't already passed a year of Jim taking liberties with her given name. "What? I think this situation calls for first names - you call me Jim, I'll call you Nyota, and we'll both call Spock Spock."

Nyota sighs. "Do you have something other than my name, Jim?" She leans on his name just like she still leans on the word "Captain" in all but the most serious situations. Jim is coming to gauge the severity of their trouble by the reduction in sarcasm from Nyota.

"I think -" He pauses. It's hard to speak of it, but the shame's not his, dammit. "Does 'pon farr' mean anything to you?" He's almost certain that "koon-ut-kal-if-fee" won't, but then again she's a xenolinguist. If he can't dredge it up, he might have to ask about that one too.

Nyota furrows her brow. "I saw it in the Vulcan manuscripts I studied at the Academy, but it's untranslated. I was told only that it was a private matter."

Jim searches the memories that are his and not his. This wasn't something the other-Spock was eager to share with his Kirk, but not because of the shame that accompanies the loss of control. The barrier here is cultural, the deepest type of taboo. It's not comfortable to voice what he knows - it feels like trying to talk about his dad, kind of, like the time Jim wrecked his stepdad's car and they only talked around the reasons why - but Jim pushes ahead. The taboo's not around grief but around sex, and Jim Kirk is more than qualified to shatter that one. "If I'm getting this right it's, maybe, like the heat that some Earth mammals experience. A drive to mate, I think. But only once every seven years. And" - here's the crux of the matter, he can feel it - "it's coupled with a drive to return home to the traditional grounds, at least for the first, uh, occurrence. Well, in the other universe that's what it is, anyway. And something about the old dialect of Vulcan. I'm having a strong memory of T'Pau speaking the old dialect, like maybe a ceremony. You remember T'Pau, right? The Vulcan leader who turned down a seat on the Federation Council."

"I saw that on the news. What would she have to do with Spock?" Nyota gives Jim a puzzled look, but he doesn't have any answers for her. She drops her eyes, considering. "I speak old Vulcan, at least. But Vulcan has been destroyed. How can any Vulcan return anywhere?"

"I don't know." Jim shakes his head. The memory's receded for now, but maybe they've got enough to go on. "Let's go see Spock. You know where he is?"

Nyota nods. "I came here from his quarters. He threw me out - he's never done that. All I did was ask what he needed, and..." she trails off. Jim's never seen her look uncertain like this before. She turns away from him and starts off toward Spock's rooms.

They walk wordlessly through the corridors, lost in their own thoughts. It's not a long walk; Jim could wish for more time, but these memories don't feel like the kind of thing you want to dive into in front of the crew anyway.

Finally they're standing outside Spock's door, squaring themselves, when Nyota suddenly asks, "What is that smell?"

Jim looks at Nyota, puzzled.

"It's - it's me. I smell-" she pauses, sniffs. "Musky. Does this condition of Spock's affect humans?"

Jim laughs. It's inappropriate, and he knows it, but he can't help himself. "I don't know. I suspect the only one who could answer that question is Spock's mother." They pause, sadly. "She was quite a lady, but I'm not sure how we could have asked her, anyway. 'Ma'am, do you find that you become musky when -' well. Doesn't work."

Nyota gives him a soft smile. "I would have liked to have known her better. I met her once, you know. At the Academy."

"Yeah. Me too. She was touring classes. She popped her head into my diplomacy class. I thought our instructor was going to faint - the wife of the Vulcan ambassador, deciding to sit in! She told us something I never forgot. She said that you must never underestimate the power of an honest word and an open hand. And then she taught us how to curse in Yiddish, because the universal translator doesn't render it quite right - it's the best way to let off a little steam without getting yourself in too much trouble. I met her before I met Spock, actually. I imagine it was different for you." Jim grins at Nyota and is relieved when she smiles back.

"Spock introduced us when she came to have lunch with him one day after class. He called me 'the finest xenolinguist of the cohort,' and she pressed my hand between hers and said she expected great things." Nyota's face is still, her mind far away. Then she looks back at Jim. "She taught you to curse in Yiddish? I never knew she spoke Yiddish."

Jim opens his mouth to explain, but he's hit with a wave of memory that has nothing to do with Spock's problems.

He's looking at an other-Kirk with an older face and unruly hair, one his memory identifies as 'Jim' with utmost warmth, joking with a delicate silver-haired woman. They are laughing and exchanging guttural fricatives, completely at ease with each other and delighted by the company. He turns to the older Vulcan - Sarek, his father - and feels the edge of his mouth turn infinitesimally upward. Sarek lifts an eyebrow. He can almost hear the fond reprimand: 'An expression of amusement, my son? Or pleasure? And yet there are few who could withstand our lovely mates, so perhaps it is allowable.'

The corridor is too empty and too quiet when Jim surfaces. Anything would be, after the moment he just witnessed. The woman in it must have been Spock's mother, Amanda, as she would have lived to be. He leaves the memory-Sarek's imagined remark alone for now; he's not prepared to deal with the reference to "mates."

Nyota's looking at him, slightly concerned. "Jim?" She says his name like any other, no hint of sass or contempt - he must have really freaked her out.

"Sorry. Just remembering something. Anyway, she was a linguist - Spock's mom was. I think that's how she and Ambassador Sarek met, working on the translation protocols for Terran Standard to Vulcan and back."

"I wish I had known her better. I wish I had known that about her. Spock speaks of her so seldom, still." Nyota blinks rapidly.

Jim has to break the mood. "Wow, Nyota," he drawls, "I think we just had a moment there." She collects herself and snorts at him; Jim thinks Mission accomplished and adds, "Anyway, enough stalling." He rings the door chime.

No answer.

They stand there, awkwardly, as a minute stretches into two. Jim thinks about command codes, but he's not really here as a captain. So instead he turns to Nyota and mutters, "I don't suppose you know the override, do you?"

She nods and leans forward to key it in. The doors swish open; they exchange glances before stepping through together. The air is hot and dry, nothing like the soft, humid air of Jim's Iowa summers. It's so dark inside that it's disorienting, but Nyota knows where to go even in pitch blackness. Of course she does. The thought only stings a little, that this is a place she knows and he doesn't.

Spock is seated in a meditation pose, eyes closed, but he senses their presence anyway as Nyota draws near. "You should not be here," he rumbles.

"Spock, we want to help you."

"Yeah, Spock, and you need it." Jim is pleased when it's his voice that gets Spock to lift his head and open his eyes. Now that he's adjusting to the dimness Jim can see how spartan Spock's quarters are - less to worry about if this comes to a fight.

"Captain. What is your part in this?"

Jim uses the smile that gets under Spock's skin as much as anything could and says, "I have these memories. From my mind meld with your other self. Spock, you're in pon farr, aren't you?"

Spock is angry and it takes all Jim's concentration not to step backwards as Spock flows to his feet and hisses, "You should not know of that. We do not speak of it with outworlders. We do not even speak of it amongst ourselves."

"Yeah, well, one universe over you did." The thrice damned shame paints everything Jim calls up from the other-Spock's memories, still, and it's not Jim's shame. He refuses to be held hostage to it. "And I got some of it, but you're going to have to do the rest so we can help you. I've got secondhand memories of what this was like for the other you, dulled by a lifetime's distance, and I still think it would drive me mad. What is it you need? To mate?"

Spock looks down, and if he were human Jim would say it was in shame. "Yes. It is a primal time, a return to the old ways. I am afraid I shall be reduced to little more than animal passion, rutting and snarling, until it passes."

"Spock, you know I'm always up for a little rutting and snarling." Spock and Nyota snap their heads around to look at him after that one. "What? You know what they call me. Skirt-chaser, short-chaser - what's one more 's' word between friends. I can be a Spock-chaser." Jim's not really surprised how appealing the prospect is, once he looks at it. It is sort of a surprise that it hasn't come up already; they've all served together for a year now, and Jim's not blind. Ghosts of the other-Spock's feelings chase through Jim's brain, deep affection and respect shot through with physical attraction. It's a weird experience, Jim's appreciation of this Spock underpinned by the other-Spock's feelings for his Kirk. His feelings. Jim can't think about it now.

"It is not that simple." Spock wrenches them back to the matter at hand. "I was - bonded - to a Vulcan woman when we were children. We were to be wed upon my first pon farr."

Nyota gasps. "You were- And when would you have told me about this?"

Spock looks desperate now; Jim's unnerved by the naked emotion that keeps showing on Spock's face. "I had hoped to be spared this. I had hoped my human side would keep this in check. I was in error."

Jim looks over at Nyota as she swallows and asks, "And where is this woman now? Who is she?"

"She was T'Pring. She died with the destruction of Vulcan." Spock pauses to collect himself, then says, "I cannot return to the traditional grounds of my family. T'Pring is gone. I must seek to control this through meditation." Spock holds up a hand before Jim can say anything. "It has been done, by a few. I cannot say more. I have said too much already."

Jim moves forward into Spock's space. "Dammit, Spock! Don't give me the 'outworlders' line - your other-self left memories of this time in my brain, so clearly another you has spoken of it with, you know, me. I want to help you, but I can't do that without your participation. Why meditation? It's not like you aren't in a relationship."

"Because I cannot trust myself in this state! There is no bond between myself and Nyota, not a telepathic one. I will not force myself upon her in any way." His voice drops. "I do not know how this can be endured without the ritual to guide me. Jim, I dare not involve her, or you."

"No bond? What-"

Jim cuts off Nyota before she gets the words out. Spock's mention of T'Pring conjures the other-Spock's memories up again and draws one to the surface. "It's a telepathic bond, Nyota. It's - 'always touching and never touched,' right Spock?"

Spock furrows his brow. "It is unsettling that you know this, but it is not forbidden to speak of such things - although we rarely do so. Yes, a light telepathic bond, a precursor to the permanent bond that may be assumed."

They've done this before - an overtone on this thought suggests the other-Spock's wry feeling that surely Jim would say 'a hundred times' although he knows it to be many fewer than that - many times, more often than could ever have been expected. The meld between their minds runs along well-established paths. It is satisfying to fit their thoughts together in this more permanent fashion. More than that, it is comforting. Now they will never be disentangled. Dire circumstances resolve themselves and pon farr fades away, but no longer will the end of danger mean the withdrawal of this beloved counterbalance. Jim's mind is bright, joyful and quick against his where his own is cool, measured, but no less swift. The emotional flood is known and expected, as is the love. He sends back his own love in return.

Jim is getting sick of these snatches of memory ambushing him. He sets his jaw and looks Spock in the eye. "Bond or no bond, I want to help you, Spock."

Nyota pushes her way forward, past Jim. "We want to help you," she says firmly. And then she slips into the old, old Vulcan dialect, the one Jim can hear T'Pau using in his memories. "I would please thee, Spock." Jim is amazed to find that although he couldn't speak old Vulcan to save his life he knows what Nyota is saying, maybe because other-Spock's memories of this time are so strongly laced with this dialect. She continues, "I would be with thee. We would be with thee."

Jim's double take at Nyota's plural would be funny if anyone were watching, but no one's attention is on him. Spock has lifted his eyes to Nyota's face with an intensity of focus that Jim's never seen on him before. Nyota's got two fingers out in the traditional Vulcan gesture; something in Spock must snap because he completely ignores her fingers to lunge at her face, locking them in a hungry kiss. Nyota gets right with the program, one hand mussing Spock's perfect hair and the other sliding down his back to cup his ass. Jim sees one of Spock's hands slip from Nyota's face, heading down to her breast, and then the roaring in his ears rises and he's lost in another memory that's not his.

Heat and passion and terrible need, need to mate or to kill, all of it filtered through the sound of his own blood pounding. Dimly he hears T'Pau speaking with Kirk, explaining that he - the other-Spock - is deep in the plak tow, the blood fever. That he will not emerge until he has purged it through sex or combat, or he will die of it.

This Spock rips Nyota's uniform from collarbone to hip, exposing that prim white underwear that she evidently still chooses, and Jim shakes his head to clear it. He shifts his weight, tries to subtly adjust his pants, and wonders if it's wrong for him to be so turned on. He'll blame the implanted memories if anyone asks. Nyota's holding her own, backing Spock inexorably toward the bed, and Jim swallows and brushes his knuckles lightly over the bulge in his pants. He groans; he can't help it.

Spock turns toward Jim. His eyes are rolled back in his head, only the whites visible, but he sniffs and he must smell Jim's arousal because he flings a hand out in just the right direction. Jim can't resist. He steps forward and places his hand in Spock's, rests his other hand on Nyota's back, and for a moment they press their three foreheads together and breathe each other's air.

Then it's Jim in one of those devouring kisses with Spock. He's not sure how Nyota survived this experience, but it would be a good way to die so he's not complaining. Sounds filter past the consuming slide of Spock's tongue against his - a zipper's clicking, stressed fabric giving way, harsh panting breaths. When Jim opens his eyes again he sees that Nyota, beautiful resourceful Nyota, has torn her uniform the rest of the way and removed Spock's pants to boot. Jim grins at her and murmurs, "I guess I'm overdressed." He steps back to attend to that, to give her access to Spock again.

Spock's fingers, hot on the pressure points of his face, stop him. They've done this, the other-Spock and other-Kirk, and Jim's melded with the other-Spock, but he and his Spock have never. Spock's other hand is on Nyota's face - a three-way meld. The other-Spock's memories rise up, this time not from that first terrible pon farr but from later ones, the loss of control no longer terrifying and uncertain but instead a relief. The mind meld, the mutual pleasure, the seeking of joyous release with one's mate. This is what they were and are and will be in that other universe, the other-Spock and Jim's own other-self: mates, bonded for life, touching and touched and two-made-one in a way that Jim can only imagine. It scares him for a moment.

What Spock's doing now isn't a permanent bonding though. Jim knows in his soul that Spock would never do that impulsively. A mating requires contemplation, time, stability, and above all the informed and willing participation of all parties. This has to be a temporary meld to see them through this pon farr only. Still, Jim realizes that this will change them all; he and Nyota will share the most intimate experience of Spock's life. Somewhere, Jim is sure, the other-Spock is pleased.

Nyota looks at Jim through the corner of her eye, uncertain but trusting. He holds his hand out to her, low and subtle, and then they both feel Spock's mind sliding into and between theirs. Jim can feel the waves of gentle love between Spock and Nyota, exasperated affection rolling from Nyota to him and his own respect for and attraction to her answering. Between himself and Spock is something familiar and foreign, something that resonates with that other universe. It is everything in the meld, love-exasperation-respect-affection-attraction, and more: a rightness, a fit Jim's never felt before, save for in those strange and telling memories the other-Spock left behind. There's no room for surprise in it, just recognition. Nyota's eyes close, a little sad, and Jim squeezes her hand. Can't fight destiny, he thinks.

Spock removes his hands from their faces, but the bond remains. Other-Spock remembers this and so Jim knows what is coming: pleasure shared will be pleasure tripled, between them. He thinks that if he were Vulcan, this would be worth waiting seven years for. Hell, as a Human it's probably worth waiting seven years for.

Jim leans in to kiss Spock, get this party re-started, and the ghost sensations layering over his own senses make him moan out loud. It gets better when Spock reaches for the button of his fly, his zipper, and Jim can feel the brush of Spock's too-hot fingers against his belly and the cool metal in Spock's hands. When Nyota slides Spock's forgotten shirt up to place her slender fingers all over his torso, Jim squirms in pleasure, seeking more sensation. Spock draws back from the kiss to quirk an eyebrow and whisper, "Patience."

Nyota's on him before Spock can say anything more, and Jim's almost glad of the break to undress himself; he's not sure he could handle ghost fingers, his and not-his, easing his cock out of his pants and dropping his underwear to the floor. It's a relief to do it himself, kicking off his boots and stepping out of the puddle of clothing. He pants through the phantom kisses, peels off his shirt and shivers in the heat. Spock has his mouth to one of Nyota's breasts and if watching him tongue her nipple wasn't hot enough the link between them sends a bolt of arousal straight through Jim. He'd always known that women like their nipples played with and now he can feel exactly why.

The back of Spock's legs hit the edge of the bed and he sits down hard, tangled in the remnants of Nyota's dress. Thank goodness Spock had been barefoot when they came in or he'd be trapped now, pants around his ankles and no focus left to fix it. Jim steps forward and eases Nyota's dress off, unclasps the bra that Spock has left askew and watches it fall gracefully down her arms. She's still wearing her panties and those amazing black boots - God bless Starfleet uniforms, Jim thinks - and now she's pulling Spock's shirt over his head. Jim just wants them all naked, now while he can still figure out how to unzip a boot. The sensations of clothing sliding off are a gentle susurration on his skin, her skin, their skin.

Once her boots are gone Nyota shucks her underwear and, to Jim's amazement, Spock reaches out immediately to work a thumb over her clitoris. The analogue in Jim's body feels like a firm hand stroking the full length of his dick in a way that some how runs deeper, back into the cradle of his hips. Nyota smells fantastic, and Jim clearly knows now what she'd meant by "musky" - her arousal is, as Spock might have said on any other day, olfactorily apparent. She joins Spock on the bed in a controlled fall. Spock takes advantage of the movement to slide a finger into her with a slick sound; Jim thinks that at least naked he'll be saved the indignity of coming in his pants.

He still might come without anyone's hands on him, though. Spock obviously knows Nyota's body well. Jim gasps along with her as Spock crooks his finger just right and sensations reverberate from Nyota through Jim - evidently through Spock too, judging by the way his balls draw up. It's a weird sort of orgasm when it happens. Neither Jim nor Spock do more than leak a bit in outward sign of Nyota's pleasure, but Jim feels some of the familiar bonelessness come over him. He unlocks his knees and falls to the bed where Spock and Nyota are, three lines parallel and yet touching nonetheless.

He cannot get enough contact with Jim, can't possibly kiss every centimeter of this dear man's body in time, although in time for what he could hardly say. A Human life is so short next to a Vulcan one. It is illogical to allow this to distress him - facts cannot be anything but themselves - so he does not allow himself to anticipate what will come. The fact of now is all that matters, here in this moment of release. He lets himself be driven forward by hormones and need; he leaves aside his logic and trusts that it will be enough. Every touch of his lips on Jim's skin blooms on his own as well. The bond between them thrums with pleasure.

They wrap themselves around each other in a hot press of torsoes, hands exploring and skin dragging stickily as they shift. Spock is everywhere at once, driven and just shy of frantic. His hands are on Jim's hips with crushing pressure as he moves Jim along the bed. Nyota groans along with Jim as Spock inhales deeply and takes Jim's cock in his mouth. She refuses to be neglected, though, leaning over Spock to kiss Jim and letting her breasts fall in to his waiting hands. Jim's concentration is shaky at best, but he wants to give her more of what he felt earlier so he slides a thumb over her other, neglected nipple and marvels at the sensation that races through him as it tightens.

There's a distracting sense of pressure on the inside of his cheek, weight on his tongue - Spock's mouth filled with Jim's dick reverberating through the meld, as is Spock's obvious pleasure in his activity. Nyota's making a mewling noise and Jim's surprised to realize that his other hand is on her other breast, massaging gently and sliding his palm across the already erect nipple there. Spock pulls off of Jim's dick to moan with them, and Nyota - where does she find the presence of mind? - reaches down to tweak Spock's nipples and make him arch up off the bed. Jim is beginning to feel seriously cheated on the personal nipple-sensation front, although this second-hand situation is working out well for him. He pinches his own nipple, just to try, but it's nowhere near what he gets from these two.

Nyota's smiling at him when he looks up - she's noticed his experiment - and she tilts her head toward Spock's face before leaning over and grasping the base of Spock's dick in one hand. Jim took xenobio at the Academy, just the one required course, but still enough to know that Vulcans have green blood. That doesn't stop it from being at least a bit surprising to see that Spock does indeed have a green penis, a green tinge to his hardened nipples, and even a green flush on his cheeks. Cupping one of those cheeks, reveling in the echo on his own face, Jim bends to kiss Spock's open mouth. There's a phantom hand on Jim's cock and the puff of his own hot breath over his face. Jim cannot tell whether his lips or Spock's are dry, so he laves both with his tongue.

Spock's hands are stilling; he seems less desperate, as though he knows that they've got him. He's flat on his back and subject to two of Starfleet's finest, fisting one hand in the sheets and dragging the other from Jim's head to Nyota's and back again. Jim thinks Spock must be close to the edge. He almost loses it himself, though, when Nyota lifts herself up and slowly takes Spock into her. There are no hands on Jim any longer, but the phantom sensations are more than enough - penetrating and penetrated, he feels them both as she moves. Every time the head of Spock's penis hits Nyota's g-spot Jim feels it in the head of his own cock and right behind his balls. It's fantastic. Jim throws his head back and gasps as Nyota orgasms again, around Spock this time, and Spock comes at last. It takes the edge off the drive, finally. Jim feels as relieved as if he'd had the best orgasm of his life, even if he is slouched on Spock's bed with his erection waiting unattended. It's not a shock any more to feel the tendrils of other-Spock's memory twine through his brain.

They have long practiced this, in the heat of pon farr and the cool leisure of their daily lives, but every time is still as satisfying as the ones before it. He forces himself to go slowly for Jim's sake, sliding one slick finger into him and stroking for the prostate, adding another when Jim gasps and pushes back for more. The stretching is almost meditative; he distances himself from his own need and thinks only of Jim's pleasure and its echo in his own body. Jim groans and throws him a look when it's time; he can feel that now the moment is ripe and so he concurs, unable to wait any longer, sliding his lubricated penis deep into Jim. He moves swiftly, smoothly. Jim's tight heat wraps around them both, the firm length of him fills them both; it does not matter whether the sensation is immediate or relayed. At his age the pon farr is less overwhelming and so the urgency does not entirely drive him to sacrifice finesse. He can afford to move slowly at first, gradually hastening until he drives into Jim hard and fast. The bond will ensure that it remains pleasurable for both. When they reach their shared climax at the end of the long build, he pulls out of Jim and lays himself down. Jim's body is thickened with age, his hair shot with grey and his face lined; these things do not matter. Jim is no less his because time has passed. He lifts two fingers in the age-old gesture and traces the lines of Jim's face, transmitting wordless love and gratitude. It is not expected that a Vulcan should experience and share such things with a Human. It is unthinkable that he could forgo this.

Jim's half wanting Spock to do him as that scene fades from his mind's eye, and half afraid that they wouldn't make it to the good part at all before he lost it. He sits there, thinking, and it feels like he was under for hours in that other universe where he and Spock - the other-him, the other-Spock - have done this countless times. It can't have been hours, though; he can't even have sat there for very long before Spock raises his head, calmer but still unsatisfied. Jim knows at once that they've done the right thing, doing this as three rather than two. Nyota's fallen back, exhausted for the moment, but Spock is moving forward like a great cat and pressing Jim down under his body. They kiss sloppily, necking rather than dueling as they had earlier, and Jim can't say whether he's more surprised to feel Spock's erection rising again to rub along his or to note that his Vulcan First Officer is giving him a hickey. There won't be any hiding this one, either - it will bloom right over his pulse point, well above the collar of his shirt. Nyota rubs the corresponding spot on her neck in sympathy and mouths "Small price." Jim has never found her more brilliant.

Spock finishes his work on what will surely be the largest hickey ever to grace Jim Kirk's body and reaches down to wrap one hand around both their dicks, stroking firmly and perfectly. They're all on the edge of orgasm; Nyota's breath is coming quickly, in time with the resonances of sensation from their bodies. There must be something left in Jim's mind from the memory that passes over along with the physical affects, because Nyota's suddenly sneaking up on them. She has her fingers in her mouth, and when she takes them out they're covered in saliva. They're lubed in saliva, Jim thinks, just in time to catch a glimpse of her over Spock's shoulder as she leans down and slides one slim finger into Spock. Nyota rubs her clit with one hand and hits Spock's prostate with the other. Jim can't say if it's actually possible, but the cacophony of pleasure, tripled between them, seems to feed back on itself. The intensity of it all makes him white out as Spock gives a final firm pull on their cocks and Nyota presses down on her clitoris, shuddering into another orgasm.

Jim feels wrung out in the best way when he finally comes, his semen and Spock's mingling on his chest before Spock collapses heavily onto Jim. Nyota slumps at their feet, grinning as Spock buries his nose in Jim's neck and shoulder, inhales deeply, and then falls asleep. All the remaining tension leaves his body at once. Jim can feel that same tension seeping out of his shoulders; he can't tell if it's a ghost of Spock's felt through the meld or if it's his, but it doesn't really matter. Nyota moves to help him roll Spock off him, and they slip off to the bathroom to clean up. She wets a cloth and wipes down his chest, kissing him softly as she finishes. Jim rinses it out and goes to clean Spock off as well, dropping the same kiss on his cheek. Spock's snoring.

Nyota's clothes are totally destroyed, and Jim's not sure where his are. On balance, it seems easiest just to stay where they are. None of them are expected on duty for another two shifts, and Spock's bed is big enough for three if they squeeze. Nyota curls along one side of Spock and Jim takes the other, Spock's sleeping form a solid pressure against his side. The sensations of the meld are fading, Jim notes with relief and regret. Surely that means the dangerous part of all this is over.

He remembers this, too, from the other-Spock's memories. The quiet aftermath, the sure knowledge of one's best beloved close by, reckless passion tucked away for another seven years. By all rights these things should belong to Nyota alone in this universe; Jim had them for a lifetime in that other time. Perhaps that means that this is for him in this universe too. The other-Spock seemed to feel that an element of destiny was at work, and Jim's experience in the meld bore that out. Like a dislocated shoulder snapping back into place, his mind and Spock's fit smoothly together. All the accumulated pieces of the past year together assemble inevitably to this.

Jim turns his head to look across Spock and sees Nyota gazing back at him. Not a shoulder, he thinks, maybe, but a triangle. He smiles at her, tired and pleased, and she lifts one hand to stroke his face. In the morning, Jim thinks, they'll see what the shape of this is.