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When You Feel My Heat

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It isn't so much that Jim gets used to the heat, it's more that he learns the best ways to cope. Like staying inside all day and covering ever inch of visible skin when he has to get out. But it's horrible. Indoors it's scorching hot, so much so that he burns his hands when they brush the metal surface of his bench. Working on his latest project is out of the question. The tools are like glowing embers. It is 10am and he's already useless.

Vulcan sucks.

For as long as he's been here, Jim's been unhappy. Excluded. Alone.

It wasn't too bad on Earth. There it was all the fucking expectations that got to him. It was like, as soon as they figured out your IQ was above average, you were meant to be perfect at everything. And when they realised that little Jimmy Kirk was closer to 200 than 100. That's pretty much when he began to lose it.

Sure, he was smart. A genius by all accounts. He could work a compute like no one's business, speak several different languages, make anything from a few scrap parts and do maths in his head that would frighten the average person. Where did all that brilliance lead him?

Vulcan.

A fucking desert. Surrounded by desert. A desert of deadly sand storms, plants Jim was highly allergic to, and animals which wanted to kill you for simply excising in their space. And that was just the Vulcans. No one needed to get Jim started on the shit ton of other creatures which personally wanted him dead. The first time he'd heard a Le-matya call had scared him so thoroughly, he hadn't left his mother's room for the rest of the week. The first time he'd seen a Sehlat... well that was much too embarrassing to reminisce about.

The only good thing about this dust ball planet was the Vulcan Science Academy. It was the only reason Jim hadn't snuck onto a shuttle and gotten the fuck outta there.

And now all his hopes were riding on the shoulders of a group of old, strict Vulcan council members. All from their pure bloodlines and 'high families'. Who were the Vulcans kidding? If this wasn't a different configuration of royalty than Jim was an idiot. A seat on the high council was passed down, generation to generation. And the head of them all? T'Pau of the House of Surak. Only house which happened to have two seats.

T'Pau, Jim didn't mind. She was pretty cool. For a Vulcan. Scary as all get out but awesome. Possibly the only Vulcan who'd ever shown him any resemblance of respect. IDIC. What a joke. He knew of two, maybe three, Vulcans who actually tolerated Humans. T'Pau, her grandson and the Ambassador to Earth, Sarek and his son.

Spock. The most stuck up, asshole of a Vulcan Jim had ever met.

And yet, the very same week he'd arrived, he'd seen the pipsqueak take out three elder boys who called his mother a Whore.

Jim might hate the guy but he could respect him. And if he occasionally wanted to kiss, rather than punch, that obnoxious, handsome face well, that was Jim's business. It wasn't like he had much to chose from.

If Vulcans 'didn't' feel, Jim might even say his 'regard' was returned. But of course, Spock didn't have emotions. He didn't beat the ever loving shit -on more than one occasion- out of his peers due to feelings of anger. He didn't take three weeks off school when his sehlat died saving their lives because he was grieving. He certainly didn't call Jim the most illogical being he'd ever met when he was feeling frustrated.

And he totally didn't just tell the elders to fuck themselves -in a more polite, dignified manner- in front of every applicant to the VSA after they'd insulted Lady Amanda. And Jim, but he wasn't banking on that crossing Spock's mind.

The guy sure did know how to make an exit.

Jim looked up at the council members and caught Sarek's eye. The elder Vulcan tilted his head, just slightly to the left and Jim couldn't ignore it anymore. He pushed his way through the crowd, making as much ruckus as possible and exited after Spock.

And found him just outside, still seething in fury, as he leant against the smooth stone wall.

"Want to, ah, talk about it?" Jim was pretty sure he'd never been more awkward in his life. It was worse than the time his mother had gone away when he was 12. He'd gotten his first erection, freaked out and Amanda had to... explain. The thought of that particular week still made him flush. Oh gods, it had been almost a year before he'd been able to look her in the eye. When he'd finally plucked together his courage they had both burst out laughing. Spock had looked scandalised. Good times.

"I am aware that Humans may find comfort in speaking about their emotions, I am Vulcan and therefore do not." Jim frowned.

"You know, you didn't deny having feelings." A drawn out exhale, too short and soft to truly be a sigh, parted Spock's lips.

"Vulcans do feel, Jim. More than you could possibly imagine." Silence stretched between the two. Not awkward or crackling with tension as it usually did. Jim felt peaceful. Content.

"Wanna go book flights to San Fran?" Spock looked over at him, for once there was something in that gaze he'd never seen before. Something Jim couldn't put his finger on, swirling in those liquid chocolate eyes.

Chapter Text

Jim trudged forward, Vulcan's gravity constantly bearing him down. He was distinctly aware of his own body. The feel, the downward press as the planet tried to smother him. It couldn't be mentally healthy to be jealous, Jim decided, of the Vulcan strolling peacefully along beside him.

Jealous of a Vulcan. Look how far Jim Kirk had fallen.

A Vulcan with all that emotional repression and stupid freaking haircut. Were they trying to prove something? Did they actually have some sort of aesthetic bias towards the bowl cut? It was enough to make Jim shudder. The gods knew, he himself had a few rather unflattering dos but it really was God awful.

And he'd had to go through puberty here. With nothing but angry eyebrows and sleek bangs for as far as the eye could see. If one discounted Amanda and his own mother, of course. Which was a given. They were both... lovely women but not exactly his style. T'Pring was the closest thing to 'aesthetically pleasing' and she was a down right cold bitch. How Stonn put up with her, Jim would never know. And never cared enough to ask. Stonn was mostly a douche anyway.

Jim could admit that Vulcans had their own positives. The strength and endurance was actually really awesome. And they were so smart, sometimes Jim felt normal. Disregarding the guy next to him. Overachieving ass.

The telepathy, he was on the fence about.

On one hand, it was like a real life super power. Which was, well, it opened possibilities. On the other, he'd been in a meld before and it was kind of scary. Someone else being privy to everything. Having no power to shield yourself. At their mercy.

Of course, he'd also picked up things. They'd just been kids, after all. And the meld was accidental. Fingers simply happened to fall in the wrong place at the right time. Right place, wrong time? Right place, right - oh who cared? Point is, they fell, they melded, they flung themselves apart and decided that it, logically, meant nothing. What the old people didn't know, wouldn't hurt them. They'd been in enough trouble as it was. And I-Chaya. He hadn't made it.

So, they'd never spoken of it. Jim had gone back to being a recluse who didn't venture near the Ambassador's villa and the comfort of Amanda's soothing presence. Spock had been, well, Spock.

Which brought Jim right back to the present. Childhood anecdotes could wait.

Jim was turning his back on the VSA. Had already turned and was more than half way home, in fact. And he wasn't really sure why. The heat, the excitement of the day, was finally getting to him. It had something to do with Spock. And the council being bigoted assholes. But when, in the last ten years he'd been living on this rock, had Vulcans ever been anything else? They'd said something about disadvantage. Spock's Human disadvantage, despite him being the only candidate in history to ever receive full marks on the entrance exam. Better than centuries of full blooded Vulcans.

"My enemy's enemy is my friend." Jim murmured into the heat.

"You do realise that the man attributed to that proverb was later betrayed and decapitated by his own subjects."

"Has anyone ever told you, you're a ball of sunshine?" Jim said, raising a hand to cover his eyes from the harsh glare so he could, in turn, glare at Spock.

"My mother, once. In largely the same tone. It is a highly illogical statement." There was that look again. It almost seemed, teasing, maybe.

And then the shoe dropped.

"You know, you're way too smart not to understand Human colloquialisms. You've been making fun of me for a long time, haven't you?"

"I assure you, Vulcans do not joke. Nor do they 'make fun'. You are being most illogical, even more so than your usual. Perhaps the heat is negatively affecting your higher functions?" Jim squinted up at Spock's slightly widened eyes. Deceptively innocent eyes, more like it.

"Sure Spock." Jim stumbled, just slightly. Actually, it seemed like the heat was affecting him worse than he'd thought. Although, it wasn't a habit of his, to be walking around at midday.

A warm chest pushed against Jim's back as Spock bent slightly, hooked his arm under Jim's knees and lifted him up. Oh gods, no. This really was shaping up to be the most embarrassing day of his life. With Jim's poor luck, his mother would be home, waiting with a camera at the ready. And she'd call up Amanda and squeal over the comm about how they always knew it was coming and when the wedding was and when would they expect grandchildren. And Amanda would find that one photo of them curled up on I-Chaya from when they were seven.

Jim buried his face in his hands, his mind running through different scenarios faster than a starship at warp. He couldn't exactly escape Spock. The guy was strong. And fast. And Jim really wouldn't be able to make it much further in this dead heat. He couldn't reason with him. It was logical for Spock to 'assist' Jim to his residence when Jim couldn't do it himself. Especially when his counter argument was his own emotional well being.

Fuck.

And there was his house coming into view. And there was his mother, standing on the covered veranda with Amanda.

Oh look, he'd been wrong about that comm call. Maybe, no, he could see the photo album in Amanda's hand. The photo was here. It was days like these, Jim wished religion was still a thing. He really wanted someone to blame right now.

"Jimmy! Spock! We're so proud of you." Winona called out as they approached the stairs.

"Spock, your father called and told us what happened. I've told you before, but I'll tell you again, I'm so proud to be your mother." Amanda gushed walking closer and pulling them both into a hug. Jim took the opportunity to elbow Spock in the ribs. He wasn't let down. Instead, Spock followed Winona and Amanda inside and took his customary seat on the couch. His arm slipped from under Jim's knees and took the offered glass of water, handing it to Jim with infinite care.

Oh lordy may, the guy thought he had heat stroke again. You vomit on a guy one time, or several times in quick succession, and you never hear the end of it.

"I'm fine, I'm fine. Leave me alone." Jim complained as he untangled himself and pushed Spock's hands away. When their skin touched, that same sense of Spock, sparked under Jim's skin. He drew away from the touch quickly and Jim didn't mention it.

"So, I hear you're going to Starfleet after all..."Winona trailed off, something melancholy lingering in the air between them.

"Aaaaahhh. Yeah. I didn't meant to- I know you don't." Jim struggled to get his thoughts in place. This was turning out to be worse than the teasing would have been.

"It's alright Jimmy. You're father died doing something amazing. I know we don't talk about him and I know that we should. George was just as crazy, just as smart, just as incredible, as you are. I've never been anything but blessed to have met him, to have had you and Sam. Starfleet wont change that. You're still my baby boy. My Jimmy." Winona dabbed at her eyes.

For all the shit Jim gave Vulcans and their emotional suppression, his house had never been big on sharing their feelings. Winona was a military woman. She currently worked as an Ambassador but before, she'd been part of Starfleet. A Commander on a starship. Married to the Executive Officer. She'd been an explorer. A part time linguist, part time botanist. She'd been on more than a few First Contact missions, had been the first to speak previously unknown alien languages. She was Jim's real hero. Her approval meant more than even he'd imagined.

"Thanks mum. I don't know what to say. This isn't the conversation I imagined we'd be having." Hurt and guilt replaced the tears in Winona's eyes.

"Jim did not mean to imply that he expected anything other than your support." Spock spoke up from beside him. Amanda and Winona glanced at each other.

"What do you mean, Spock?" Amanda inquired politely, leaning slightly into their space.

"I do believe he expected a certain amount of ridicule. There was a 76.83% chance you would, I do believe the term is 'affectionately tease' us about our personal relationship, when I had to carry Jim here."

Amanda bit her lower lip in an attempt to stop the rapidly growing smile spreading across her face.

"Oh Spock, we wouldn't tease you about the adorable picture you made, walking up the hill and over the threshold with Jim in your arms like a new bride!" Amanda's eyes crinkled at the corners.

"Certainly not. I personally think it was all the hand touching and bedroom eyes which gave the game away, boys." Both women smiled and Jim began to squirm uncomfortably.

"You know Winnie, they might be travelling to Earth to elope."

"Oh, steamy romance! The father who doesn't approve! The cultural differences forcing them apart!"

Jim stole a look at Spock. His face was completely impassive. Which, in Jim's experience, was bad. There was always some level of emotion in Spock's eyes. Right now, they were blank.

"See how they can't keep their eyes off each other?" Jim blushed, caught out and both women laughed. It wasn't like what they said meant anything. Winona and Amanda just liked to poke fun at them. They didn't believe what they were saying. No one did. Except that one time Sarek had come home early. Amanda had explained that they were simply being illogical Humans but, Sarek looked at Jim differently now.

It didn't matter. He didn't like Spock. And Spock, Spock didn't like him either. Which was good. It would be pretty awkward otherwise. And now they'd be living together at the academy which would be weird enough. No one needed to add feelings to the mix.

Objectively, Jim could admit Spock was a good looking guy. With the whole tall, dark and handsome thing going on. Jim could also point out that both Amanda and Sarek were good looking people as well. It didn't mean he wanted anything from them. And he didn't want anything more than this weird frenemy thing with Spock. That would be stupid.

Wouldn't it?

Chapter Text

San Francisco, Jim decided, was a little stifling. The fog, smog, people, everything crowded every square inch of space. The buildings were behemoth fingers, reaching ceaselessly for the sky. The noise, the cars, shuttles, it was all so very chaotic. Which, in a way, was right up Jim's alley. It had just been so long since he'd been in suck a built up area.

Vulcan, for all Jim complained about it, was beautiful. The open deserts stretched for endless miles. The thinner atmosphere and lack of pollution, meant that the night sky was always available. Stars, constellations, galaxies were all so easy too see from his balcony. The mountains were awe inspiring for the way they dominated the otherwise stark skyline. Cliff faces, oases, everything was pure and untouched. Even the cities were breath taking. Instead of reaching for the stars, major Vulcan architectural pieces were built into the overhangs of ancient stone cliffs. Each building hanging down like a wasps nest.

Here on Earth there was life everywhere Jim looked. Humans and aliens, interacting in imperfect harmony. Rarely a Vulcan in sight. From Jim's vantage point, it seemed like the only Vulcan in San Fran was currently locked up in his room in the embassy, much too dignified to try out the nightlife. Probably meditating or calling his mother or something. Actually, knowing Spock, he was already starting his recommended readings. Nerd.

Jim walked through the door of the crowded nightclub, bodies instantly packing him in. He wiggled through the masses upon spotting the bar. He needed a drink.

An Orion brushed past him, sending a wink, attached to a very seductive smile, his way. He smirked in response and kept walking.

Finally, after shouting over the counter three times, his drink in hand, Jim took a swallow and made his way back onto the dance floor. Another gulp and the last remnants of the thick, green liquid slid down his throat. It burned down into his chest, warming him from the inside out.

A pretty brunette caught his eye from across the room. She looked him up and down, clearly decided she liked what she saw and beckoned him over.

Jim pushed through the grinding bodies, caught the girls light blue hand in his own and pulled her into the line of his body. Wandering hands mapped the lush curves of her body. Explored the soft plane of her belly. Ran along the edge of her tiny shorts to cup her firm ass. Her body undulated against him, delicious pressure against his growing... interest.

"Wanna take this back to my place?" She asked, her lips pressed against the point just below his ear.

 


 

Jim crept through the embassy, trying to avoid being seen.

He knew he still smelt of sex, of Amara, and that Vulcan's had very sharp senses. He wasn't quite sure why he was afraid of being found out. He'd never lied about his intentions. Spock could deal. He probably expected the illogical Human to do something worse. Like, flunk the academy. Or get himself pregnant. Or become addicted to drugs. What else did the average parent worry about?

"Jim, if you are currently attempting to avoid detection I would suggest not lingering in a common thoroughfare." Jim jumped at Spock's voice. He spun, feeling guilty all over again. Apparently his little pep talk hadn't changed much.

"Yeah, thanks Spock. I'll, ah, remember that for next time." Jim edged to the side, trying to slide through the wall. Spock simply inclined his head and watched Jim walk to his room. Jim could feel his gaze. Knew the look which would be in those dark eyes.

That really could have gone worse. Although, within a few hours, Amanda and Winona would be calling to check up on them. And Spock would tell them everything. Oh gods, whoever told Vulcans not to lie, was a real asshole.

Fuck.

Jim ran his hand through his hair as he stepped out of his pants. At least, if he had a shower now, he could try and talk to Spock. There had to be some way for the Vulcan to understand the concept of privacy. Or rather, for him to understand that Jim didn't want their mothers to know everything that he got up to.

Shampoo slipped into Jim's eyes and he jerked his head back, smashing it into the shower wall.

"Shit, ow! What the-" The door opened and through the stream of water, Jim could see a familiar shiny cap of hair.

"Jim, what it your status?"

"Spock! You can't walk into the bathroom when I'm in the shower."

"I apologise for my transgression, I heard you exclamation of pain."

"And you thought you needed to come in here and see for yourself?"

"You did not respond to my vocal inquiry. It was only logical to come in and ascertain your condition myself."

Jim blinked water out of his eyes, mind on standby.

"I'm fine, Spock."

"Fine has variable definitions, fine is-"

"Spock. Get in or get out."

"Why would I want to get in? Vulcans do not enjoy the feel of water. Additionally, I have already-"

"Leave, Spock. Just leave." Jim turned his back on the door and leaned his forehead against the tiles. What had he been thinking? Prepositioning Spock, of all people. Jim glared down at his arousal. How fucked up did his life have to get? He'd thought sleeping with a pretty girl would stop this. Whatever this was.

He was so screwed.

Chapter Text

One of the worst things about Spock? He was actually a decent person. They'd been on Earth for roughly a month now and apart from their usual mishaps, there hadn't really been a problem to speak of. They shared their space surprisingly well.

Most days, Jim got up just after ten, got dressed, replicated breakfast and talked over something nerdy, like quantum physics, with Spock. They'd then head out to some landmark or museum and spend the rest of the day in a fairly companionable way. They'd visited most of San Fran's tourist sights, gone on a historical tour, had three picnics in the parks across the city and headed out of town to visit the California Redwoods and hiked around a bit. It was, easy. Conversation was never really stilted. They did speak mostly in Golic. It was comforting, hearing someone else speak the language of their home. Gods, how weird to think. On Vulcan, Jim's loyalties lay with Earth. But now he was here, it didn't seem to matter where he was born -technically in Klingon space but let's not go there- Vulcan had somehow crawled it's way into his heart and the sentimentality wasn't going away.

The main difference between Earth and Vulcan though? The staring. It was like these people had never seen pointy ears and a bowl cut before. Wherever they went, people looked, whispered -which was totally negated by those very pointy ears- and were generally more rude than a Tellarite at a sports game. Or a diplomatic conference, according to some of Sarek and Winona's experiences.

Today, Jim had something a little different planned. And if the stubborn Vulcan would just stop being quite so heavy, he would be able to push him into the barber's without incident. But no, Vulcan density be darned, Spock was such a fatty. The guy either needed to lose a few hundred pounds or, preferably, walk into the shop himself.

"Oh come on, it's not like you've never had a hair cut. Just get. In. There." Jim huffed, exhausted as he threw his entire weight against the unmoving chest in front of him.

"Just turn around and walk in. It won't be bad. I promise."

"Jim, I do not see why-"

"Spock, all your life you've lived on Vulcan, been a good little Vulcan. Kind of. You're on Earth. At least try something a little Human. If you don't like it, we can never speak of this again." Spock seemed to actually consider the merit of Jim's argument.

"Are you not attempting to convince me to change to suit Human social norms due to your own feelings of embarrassment when we are seen in public together?"

"No. Screw them. I just think it would be nice for you to stop believing what those dickwads said about your mum. You are part Human. It's not a bad thing. It's what makes you Spock." They paused for a moment, just breathing each other's air.

"Very well." Jim stood, momentarily shocked, as Spock turned and entered the shop. That went better than he'd thought.

Twenty minutes later, a very different looking Spock walked out and Jim took the opportunity to take a snapshot and send it to Amanda. No doubt she would have loved to see this.

"If you have had your fill of enjoyment at my expense, may we proceed to the academy? I have to register my additional course load." Jim stopped chuckling and reached out to brush his fingers along Spock's forehead. He traced the faint creases, the only physical manifestation of Spock's ire, until his fingertips encountered Spock's eyebrow. Huh. He'd never noticed the slight dip in them before. Or how very thin and tidy they seemed. Vulcans didn't wax, did they?

Almost all at once, Jim remembered where they were. Who they were. He jumped back and lifted a hand to scratch at the back of his head. Why the fuck had he been touching up Spock's eyebrows?

"Should we just, go?" Spock raised an eyebrow. The same eyebrow his fingers had just been-. Oh gods, there was something seriously wrong with him. Had he come down with some sort of Orion flu? Maybe sleeping with a Deltan was a bad idea. Other than being allergic to their pheromones. What if he had Andorian shingles? He should really go see a doctor. The 'fleet medical did have free services, now he was a cadet.

Sometime during his internal freak out, Spock had grabbed his arm and begun to lead them the two blocks to campus. Which was thoughtful. He could have left Jim standing like an idiot on the pavement.

Had Spock always been this warm? Jim remembered reading somewhere about desert creatures having high internal temperatures to 'trick' their bodies into thinking it was cooler. Or something like that.

"Jim, you may let go of me now." Huh. When had he grabbed on to Spock's arm?

"Ah, sorry. Reflex?" Why did he pose that as a question? Now Spock really was looking at him funny. He just couldn't seem to help it. It was like his brain had shut down somewhere between seeing Spock with a Human haircut and taking the photo. The guy was attractive. He'd known that before. He just, hadn't really noticed how attractive. Pulling off a bowl cut should have been a pretty good indicator, one would think. Jim was torn. Should he curse himself for pushing Spock into the barbers or congratulate himself on such a nice sight?

Maybe he should just keep up with Spock as he made his way across campus.

"Hey you, blondie! Yeah, pretty boy, I have a bone to pick with you." Think of a Deltan and you'll get a Deltan. Or two. And a Tellarite. Shame Jim was more interested in women.

"Sorry guys, I'm kinda busy." Jim turned to leave and catch Spock when a hand grabbed his collar and yanked him back around.

"Off to sleep with someone else's girlfriend?" The Deltan who hadn't originally called out, hissed. His grey eyes flashed and Jim just couldn't help it.

"I thought Deltans took the Oath of Celibacy to attend Starfleet?" Foot in mouth disease, your victim, the one formally known as Jim.

"What a fucking smart mouth. You really think you can get away with-" The Deltan dropped to the ground at Spock's feet.

"It would be logical to take your friend and leave." No one moved. Jim watched as Spock let out a breath, very slowly. Was his left eyebrow raised? Yep. Ah, that was probably not a good thing. And it really shouldn't have made Jim feel as ridiculously bubbly as it did.

Spock's head tilted, just slightly, and they were off. Buddy forgotten on the grass at Spock's feet.

"Perhaps you should be more selective with your partners in future." With that, Spock walked away as if nothing had happened. Jim wasn't really sure why but, it felt like he'd been thoroughly chastised. And it kind of hurt. It hurt a lot more than Jim'd been expecting. His relationship with Spock had never been smooth. They agreed on little. Were fundamentally different people. Different species. Jim knew Vulcans didn't mess around. He knew they formed bonds with mental compatibility in mind. But he also knew they could, did, choose their own partners. Spock couldn't hold him to Vulcan standards. he wasn't Vulcan. Never wanted to be.

Jim tried to summon anger to cover his hurt and found that he couldn't. Not when he knew Spock was right. It wasn't about Jim's species. It was about Jim being a douche.

He ran across the courtyard and into the administration building where Spock was sitting on a bench, waiting.

"I'm sorry." Jim scuffed his toe against the polished concrete.

"Apologies are illogical."

"Shut up and tell me it's alright."

"What is alright?"

"Spock."

"It is alright."

"Thank you."

"Thanks are illogical."

"I hate you right now. You know that right."

"You are welcome."

Jim ducked his head and smiled.

Chapter Text

Up to a point, classes had been going well. Jim's home life was still, blessedly, stress free and although his social life was a bit lacking, he had made friends. He just didn't go out with them every weekend. He figured that at least some of his time had to be spent educating Spock. Jim called it 'How To Understand Your Highly Illogical Peers 101'. It had a certain ring to it. It was a catchy title for a catchy class. Or something like that.

It hadn't taken long to convince Spock that it was exactly what he needed. Just put forth a logical argument and any Vulcan was sure to support you. Or give you the eyebrow of doom and follow your illogical ass anyway.

So their 'extra curricular' lessons started with the more obscure colloquialisms and profanities and had since morphed into card games. There was something thrilling about teaching a Vulcan to lie. Or maybe, it was teaching Spock to lie. At first, he'd been terrible. Although his poker face was one of the best Jim had ever encountered, Gary, Phillip and Jose had nothing on him, the bluff part was... horrendous.

But Vulcans, Spock particularly, had a steep learning curve and the progress they'd been making was slightly incredible. Jim was kind of scared to move on to their next lesson: pool. With Spock's mathematical genius, he'd be a shark in no time.

And so, Jim had a focus for the weekends he wasn't spending with his three best mates.

When he wasn't with Spock, which was actually more often then not thanks to their accelerated programs and double majors, he was keeping busy with his own extracurricular activities.

In an effort to keep his brain from exploding, Jim signed up for swimming and martial arts classes. Movement had always been the best way to keep his thoughts quiet. He'd always considered it his own form of meditation. And it involved other people. Other people with facial expressions!

His martial arts class was where he met Gary Mitchell and Jose Tyler. Both of whom studied at the academy and both of whom wanted to be Helmsmen. Wherein Gary was majoring in navigation and tactics, Jose was a pilot. And a pretty excellent one at that.

They were fun guys to hang out with and the one time they'd met Spock, he'd approved. That was always a good sign. Actually, it was Spock who'd introduced them to the fourth member of their little clique.

Phillip Boyce was a 'fleet doctor. He was cool, five years Jim's senior, and quick enough to keep them on their toes. Which was actually kind of awesome. Having a doctor around, wherever Jim was, was always a good idea. Who knew someone could be so allergic to everything?

As it stood, Phil had already saved his life six times. They'd been friends for a month. That had to be a record.

"Hey, Jim, snap out of it." Jim blinked back into awareness to find the lecture theatre emptying. He threw Gary a quick smile and gathered his things together. The one good thing about attending a Vulcan school; Jim could multi task like no one's business. Perfect notes, every time.

"You're a real weirdo, Kirk." Gary ruffled his hair. Which Jim hated. It was patronising.

"Shut up, Mitchell." Jim pushed on his shoulder, tipping him off balance and ran down the stairs laughing.

"So, what's up with all your day dreaming lately?" Gary said as he caught up with Jim. It was the exact question Jim was trying to avoid. How could he explain his preoccupation with Spock?

It wasn't really a sexual thing. Not really. At the moment. Jim was just trying to assimilate all the different facets of his character. Like the incredibly dry sense of humour he was seeing more and more often. Or how smart the guy was. Seriously, it was borderline scary. And maybe a little sexy. Sue him. He was a sucker for a guy who could beat him at scrabble. In thirteen languages. Or the way his eyes were all chocolate in the morning, salted caramel in the afternoon and glinting amber across the chess board before bed. Anyone who'd ever complemented his own eyes clearly never met Spock. Effortless sex eyes. It was getting really distracting. Jim was on the worst losing streak of his life.

"I'm just bored in class. It's not exactly the most stimulating curriculum. I'm used to things being a bit more of a challenge." Jim laughed at Gary's facial expression. It was priceless. The perfect mix of shock and horror. The guy was smart but he didn't really put any effort into anything. Just the bare minimum. Enough to get by. The only thing Jim had ever seen Gary really focus on was magic tricks. He was pretty good. It was always a laugh.

"So that's why you're not getting any at the moment. Your nerd has come out, Kirk."

"Maybe I've got someone better in my sights?" Jim teased and winked. Gary looked at him for a moment, face impassive.

"I just remembered my appointment with Professor Dax. Rain check on lunch?" Jim blinked a few times, brain rushing to catch up with reality.

"Sure, no problem. I'll get some studying done." Gary smiled and rushed off, leaving Jim in the corridor. That was weird.

Jim shrugged it off and kept walking. He'd have to grab something from the cafeteria replicators before heading to the Cockrane library. He did have an essay due in just over a week.

As Jim turned the corner, something unexpected caught his eye. A crowd of cadets were surrounding two people. One of whom was Spock, eyebrow raised and hands clasped behind his back. The other was a senior, Finnegan, whose life goal was to make everyone around him as miserable as possible.

Upon hearing the insults being hurled, xenophobic taunts about Spock's Vulcan heritage for once, Jim was decidedly confused.

Firstly, they were pretty pathetic insults. Especially to someone who was more than proud of his Vulcan heritage.

Secondly, like any form of bullying, it screamed of insecurity. Why would you make fun of someone with a high intelligence? Because you're jealous. Why would you make fun of their physical characteristics? Because yours are boring. Why would you make fun of someone for being uncomfortable with close contact? Because you're a fucking idiot who clearly failed Xenobiology.

Thirdly, Finnegan looked like a twit. Bullying someone who was roughly four inches taller and five years your junior really didn't work aesthetically. It looked wrong. Although, that might be something to do with all the years a tiny Spock, he was the poster child for late bloomers, stuck it to people twice his size.

"Hey Finnegan, I think I speak for everyone when I say, fuck off." If Spock wasn't going to stick up for himself, Jim would gladly take up the mantle.

"Well well well, if it isn't the academy whore." People parted, allowing Jim access. Finnegan just stood there leering, back turned to the now irate Vulcan. His third mistake. What a shame. The academy would surely miss such an outstanding student.

"If I were you, I'd be leaving. Post haste." Jim kept his eyes on Spock, trying to keep the Vulcan calm. Childhood tormentors had only ever gone to hospital after insinuating Amanda was... paid for sex.

"Oooh, so scary Kirk. Maybe I'll let you suck my dick another time." Before Finnegan had finished speaking, Jim was moving forward. He knocked the idiot out of the way and drew his fingers across Spock's meld points. Calm.

Suddenly bone weary, Jim just wanted to curl up in his blankets and sleep for a few days.

"How touching, I didn't realise you-" Jim punched Finnegan in the nose, cutting off his drivel. He grabbed Spock's wrist and pulled him forward.

"Etek bolau-tor variben." Jim didn't understand why he was so angry, he just was.

"Why is it that you'll stick up for me but not yourself? Am I so weak that I need protection?" Spock honestly looked like he'd been caught off guard.

"Jim, klee-taluhk. It is only logical." That wasn't what Jim'd been expecting.

"Spock, don't let them walk all over you. You're awesome, in a Vulcan sort of way." Jim inwardly flinched. When had he gotten so sappy? His mother was going to have a field day when she found out about this.

"Would you like to accompany me to the Xenolinguistics Club meeting? You may sleep in the adjacent room." Jim smiled so widely his cheeks hurt. It had been a while since he'd had the opportunity to meet other people with talented tongues. His schedule left no time for unnecessary subjects. Which was a real shame. Who knew studying both the Command track and Engineering, in only four years, would take so much time?


 

Etek bolau-tor variben: we need to talk

klee-taluhk: you're precious

Chapter Text

"So, do you know why Pike wanted to see both of us?" Jim peered up at Spock intently, as if he could somehow read the answers from the Vulcan's eyes. Well, he might not get answers out of him, but holy hell, did Spock always have gold flecks in his eyes?

"I am sure we will be enlightened upon our arrival." Spock continued forward resolutely, leaving Jim to catch up. That's what it was like now days. Spock striding forward and Jim floundering along behind, trying to keep within Spock's personal sphere.

"Well, what did he want you for last time?" Jim slid his tongue along his bottom lip, flicking absently over the roughened edges as his mind worked at breakneck speeds.

"He wished to inform me that Professor Roarke did not appreciate my presence and superior knowledge on his subject matter." Even after so many years, the things that came out of Spock's mouth still surprised Jim. It sure kept things fresh between them.

"You were back chatting a prof?" Jim tried to think through the faculty members and work out what subjects Roarke taught.

"I merely corrected his, numerous, mistakes." Ouch. Those were fighting words, coming from a Vulcan. And if Spock was up to sassing a teacher, it had to be Xenolinguistics. Which would explain the out of date information. Amanda's work on the universal translator was top-of-the-line, best-in-the-business, premium quality stuff. Between Amanda, Winona and living on Vulcan, they couldn't have had anything but the best education, possibly in the galaxy.

"Ok, well I'm clearly not being called in for that." Unlike some people, Jim knew how to keep his mouth closed. Occasionally. Like, once in a blue moon. But he hadn't been mouthing off, lately. Too occupied... thinking.

Jim snuck a glance at Spock, eyes focused on the sharp line of his broad shoulders. He liked the way Spock walked. It was graceful, intriguing. Every motion was calculated. Jim felt gangly and uncoordinated in comparison. He was still growing into himself, legs a little too long, head higher than he expected. There were bruises, purple and green splotches against unblemished hips, shins, elbows and knees. Jim's hand reached up and rubbed at a point of his forehead. Just a few minutes ago, he'd walked into a low hanging branch.

It wasn't just his body. Everything seemed to be changing around him. It was almost like moving to Earth had jarred Jim more than it had Spock.

To be honest, Spock was flourishing. He was the top in all his classes. Which was double that of every other cadet. He had fellow nerds who respected him. His name was consistently on staff and student's lips. He was exceptional, had always been exceptional but here, people acknowledged it. Vulcans didn't do emotions. They didn't get excited by genius. Humans did. Humans liked Spock. They envied him. They were slightly terrified of him -for good reason, in Jim's humble opinion. You couldn't help but admire him.

It was good. Really good. Better than good. Jim certainly wasn't jealous. And it didn't mean anything when he got this odd feeling in his tummy every time someone was brave enough to ask Spock on a date. He was allergic to almost everything. Indigestion was common. Heartburn was a non-romantic related thing, right?

He snorted to himself. Here ye, here ye, let it be proclaimed, Jim Kirk is full of bullshit.

So he had a monster crush on his -maybe- best friend of whom he couldn't stand being in the same space for more than ten minutes before wanting to kill him, slightly less than a year ago. It didn't change anything. Except all that ribbing their parents had been dishing for years. And those looks Sarek gave him. Oh lords, what if Sarek knew before Jim did? He'd never be able to live down the embarrassment. He'd have to self enforce banishment. Maybe catch up with Sybok on Altair V. See his wife and little girl. She'd have to be about nine by now.

"-im. Jim." Spock's face was suddenly right in front of his own. Jim could feel his cheeks heating and cursed.

"Are you feeling unwell?" Spock was so close, every exhale brushing against Jim's lips as he spoke.

"Huh?" Jim felt hot and confused and a little dizzy. He felt righteously excused for being less than eloquent.

"Over the past two days, I have noticed an increased loss of concentration, a spike in your body temperature, a-" Jim stopped listening. Since when was Spock monitoring him? Could his life get any more mortifying? Jim knew exactly why he was a little hotter and less focused than usual. He wasn't sick. Pretty much the opposite. Spock would understand in about a day, he supposed.

"I'm fine. Stop not-worrying." Jim pushed Spock's shoulder, separating their bodies and noticed they were in Pike's waiting room. The cute girl at the desk caught his eye and winked. Beside him, Spock stiffened. Jim could see his hands clenched on his lap.

Jim bit his lip and pushed down the wave of hurt.

Spock clammed up every time someone made some sort of flirtatious gesture at Jim. Jim could remember the first time it happened. He'd passed it off as a Spock thing. Or a Vulcan thing. Now he knew better. It was a reaction to Jim. Because Jim was a slut who slept with everyone.

Wasn't that just the funniest thing? That he hadn't slept with anyone for months, since that first spectacular screw up. Jim wasn't a homewrecker. He didn't make a habit of sleeping with attached people. So, he'd taken Spock's advice and backed off. Flirted a bit, took girls to lunch, helped them with their classes.

"Captain Pike will see you now." She didn't look up again and Jim was glad. Maybe she picked up on the tense atmosphere.

"Boys, have a seat. I'm sure you know Admiral Archer? Good." Captain Pike gestured to the seats in front of his desk ad tapped something off on his padd. Pike's brown hair was greying at the temples, the lines on his face giving him a 'well seasoned' look. In comparison, Jonathan Archer looked like he was pushing eighty. Jim knew he was older, medicine had come a long way in the last century but it was still a shock to see it in front of him.

"I bet you're wondering what we've called you here for." Jim nodded as Spock lifted an eyebrow. The Admiral didn't leave them stewing.

"Frankly, your results are the best Starfleet have ever seen. You've both tested out of Computer Sciences. The only two people to get 100% on that test." Archer's green eyes held Jim's own.

"We want you to collaborate on a project. A simulation for the command track." Jim frowned.

"Sir, I am on the command track. Developing the simulation would give me an unfair advantage." Archer huffed a laugh and looked over at Pike who shrugged.

"We can work around that. You'll have to take a different test." Jim still felt uneasy. Special consideration for one student was a lot of extra hours for someone.

"What exactly do you want from us? Sir." Across the table, Pike smiled. Archer nodded to him.

"Have you boys heard of the Kobayashi Maru?"

Chapter Text

Jim's fingers hit the screen with a harsh staccato. Stupid Vulcan and his stupid literal take on everything. Stupid Pike and his insistence that they were a 'packaged deal'. Screw him. Fuck the Admirals and their frankly ridiculous decision to let two first year cadets take over such an important part of Jim's own course. Did Starfleet not have anyone more qualified than two 18 year olds? They were the security of the United Federation. Did they really think Jim was dumb enough not to know this was some kind of test or set up or something?

His danger senses were tingling. Jim always trusted his gut. Sure, he'd disregarded it, gone into situations anyway but, he'd always known something was going to crop up.

Now, they were on full alert and he wasn't sure if it was the programming, Admirals or Spock they were trilling about. Could be all three. From where he was standing they were all hopeless.

Why wouldn't Spock listen to him? In the end, that's what it all crunched down to. His best friend didn't trust his judgement. Which meant he didn't trust Jim. Underneath all the anger and frustration it boiled down to the very real hurt and humiliation he felt. He wasn't good enough. Not for 'normal' people. Not for Iowa. Not for Earth. Not for Vulcan. Not for Spock.

The door hissed open behind him just as the screen changed and Winona and Amanda's faces appeared. He could hear the faint brush of Spock's slacks against the carpet, feel the abnormal body heat against his back. He missed this. He missed being close. Missed the minute upward twitch of Spock's lips and the way his eyes softened, ever so slightly. He liked their verbal banter, the hip checks in the kitchen, quiet, contemplative chess games. Two weeks of 'super Vulcan' treatment were wearing Jim down.

He'd be damned before he apologised first.

Testing a captain's responses under great fear and stress did not, in Jim's humble opinion, a no win scenario make. That was bullshit. It would be easy for them to create an incredibly difficult, soul destroying simulation without it ending in certain failure. Why would anyone bother trying to beat the thing if they knew they, their crew and everyone else would die anyway. People would just go through the motions and accept defeat. And out there in the black? Starfleet, Jim and Spock specifically, would have trained them to do exactly that. You get into a tight situation and it looks like you might sink? Fire at the baddies and then go down with your lady. Great message. Really inspirational.

"So, how're those grandchildren coming along?" Winona winked and waggled her brows suggestively. Normally, Jim would be blushing and wiggling as far from Spock as space allowed. Right now, he was too pissed to care. Three weeks of fighting, not speaking, trouble sleeping and a whole lot of glaring had left him emotionally worn down.

"I hate that asshole." Jim said, watching as both their mother's eyebrows rose. It had been a while since they'd been openly hostile to one another.

"Jim is being most obtuse." Spock spoke up from beside Jim and causing their mother's to share a certain look.

"Well, I guess Sarek did tell me not to get my hopes up." Amanda sighed, "I miss the pitter patter of little feet around here."

Winona nodded in sympathy, her arm snaking around Amanda's shoulders and squeezing her tight.

"No. Just, no." Jim couldn't take this. Not right now.

He ran through the house, grabbed his leather jacket and walked out the door. It was cold. Nights in San Fran generally were. Nothing like Vulcan. Where the air was freezing but, if you dug you feet just under the sand, it was warm. Toasty. Jim had spent many a night lying in the desert, watching the stars, feeling the planet spin. Alone to listen through all the thoughts in his head.

Tonight, he didn't want to listen. He wanted to forget. Ignore. Try not to focus on the ache in his chest. The weird sense of loss permeating his being. Spock would be a great dad. Enough of Amanda and Sarek to be truly awesome. It was something he'd been noticing more and more often and never letting his mind settle on for too long. Because, before the whole Kobayashi Maru debacle, things had been going well. Well enough for Jim to maybe hope Spock might like him. He'd started to see what everyone else saw. Two teens, living together, spending their free time together, looking after each other. Two very close people who complemented each other.

Jim slowed his pace and looked around the semi deserted streets. The hairs on the back of his neck rose as the prickly feeling continued. It felt like someone was watching him.

Jim frowned and kept walking, focusing on categorising each sound he heard. The rustle of rubbish on the pavement. Three people drunkenly staggering down the street. A women singing in one of the apartments. Further away, traffic noises. No footsteps trailing his own.

It had been a while since the last time Jim had been this uncomfortable walking at night. It was easy to forget that his parents were important people. That his own face was recognisable.

On the corner, the bright lights of a 24 hour store, shone on the street. Jim had never felt so relieved to see a convenience store.

He walked through the doors and found the closest security camera, smiling up into it. A nice, clean face shot. At the very worst, they'd have footage to work with. If anyone was following him. It was entirely possible that his over active imagination was getting ahead of itself.

Jim trekked up and down the aisles, looking over each item carefully. Now he was here in the bright, fluorescent lights, he really didn't want to go back outside. The poor kid at the counter looked like he was about to have a nervous breakdown though. Perhaps slowly walking up and down each aisle wasn't the best of ideas. It would make Jim's night if the kid called the cops because he was behaving suspiciously.

Grabbing the closest item, a family block of chocolate, Jim made his way to the counter and pulled his credit chip from his back pocket. Having made his purchase, Jim hesitated briefly before plunging back out into the night. Now he had to walk home the long way, through the park. Great. Best idea ever. But he couldn't go back the way he'd come. So, creepy park at night with possible axe murderer on his tail.

Plastic bag in hand, Jim jogged across the road, slipped into the park and cursed himself for choosing this route. The tree canopy blocked the lights and made everything just that much creepier. Even the late night city sounds were muffled and faint.

He'd made it to the middle of the park before a hand clamped down on his shoulder. Jim jumped what felt like half a foot in the air and cursed.

"Whoa there princess, no need to be such a fraidy cat." Gary grinned and Jim caught his breath.

"Sorry, I just felt like someone was following me, is all. Creeped me out." Jim sighed, running a hand through his hair. Whatever he'd felt before was still there. It just felt like his mystery stalker had taken a step back. Gary's presence was a godsend.

"You sure you're alright?" Gary asked, eyes worried. "You look really pale."

Jim just nodded, not really trusting his voice. It had been a terrible evening and he really needed to get home. Next time he was taking him comm with him. Fight or no fight, Spock should at least be informed when Jim felt like he was in danger.

After a quick pat on the back, Jim was on his way, Gary's eyes on his back as he exited the park and turned down his street. The home stretch felt longer than it ever had before and Jim sunk to the floor once he was inside. He took a few moments to breath, collect himself. If Gary had noticed his unease, Spock surely would. He'd been there the last time something like this happened.

"Get a grip, get a grip, get a grip." Jim murmured, steeling himself for the journey to the kitchen. He needed a drink and Spock's spice tea would calm his nerves.

He pushed himself up off the floor and moved cautiously through the foyer, through one of the formal dining rooms and into the kitchen. His hands shook slightly as he unclasped the recycled bag and it dropped onto the counter. He leaned over the wide counter space, up on his tiptoes reaching for one of the higher shelves.

A hand reached past and grabbed the tea box, placing it and two tea cups onto the bench.

"Jesus, fuck. Spock." Jim leant, elbow resting on the counter, face in his hand, as he regained his breath. What was it with people and sneaking up on him?

"Jim?" Spock's hand brushed against his shoulder, tethering him to the present. It was ok. It was fine. He was safe. Spock was here.

"Can I have tea in bed?" Jim asked, looking down at his feet. He felt foolish now. He'd turned back into that little boy who needed Spock to save him. He was an adult for fuck's sake. An adult who wouldn't mind a warm body pressed against his own. Even if it was only leg to hip, drinking tea under his covers. They'd talk about the stupid Kobayashi Maru in the morning. Right now, he wanted his friend back.

Chapter Text

When Jim awoke, he was surrounded by warmth. If filtered through his aching muscles, right down to the bones. His duvet was pushed down at his feet, only the light green blanket rested lightly on his shoulders. It was heavenly. And oh so very warm. Like there was a furnace curled around his back. Or one of those heated marshmallows he saw in that old movie. Except, instead of being soft and squishy, it was firm. And there was something draped around his waist.

A puff of air blew down his neck and Jim's eyes popped open. His bleary gaze took in the walls of his room, the reflection off his computer terminal, the line of his favourite Andorian mystery novels.

Another breath brushed down onto his collarbones, snapping Jim's eyes back to his reflection. Two dark eyes stared back. Jim watched as Spock purposefully blew another breath across his skin, raising goosebumps in its wake.

"'s a little creepy, you know." Jim groaned, pushing his face back into the pillow. There was an itch on the tip of his tongue. Something was wrong.

"The fuck are you doing in my bed?" Jim pushed himself up onto his forearms and turned his face to Spock. The Vulcan held his gaze and looked like he was meant to be there. Like he had some standing invitation. Which, he totally did. Jim had simply never elected to tell him.

"You asked me to stay." Spock said as his eyes continued to flick across Jim's face. "You were... distressed."

Jim took a deep breath. He had to get out of this bedroom and away from Spock. Just long enough for his morning wood to go down. Maybe have a coffee. Wake up his brain a bit before they talked out their differences. He shuffled through his room and into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.

A few minutes with his head dunked under the faucet later and Jim was ready to face this conversation. He walked into the sitting room and sat on the couch across from Spock.

"No one has ever had a 100% success rate. It is impossible. That is one of the key components of the test." Spock said, opening the conversation.

"It doesn't have to be that way. We're rewriting it for a reason." Jim leaned forward as he spoke, carried away with his argument. "Between the two of us, barely anyone would be able to figure out how to win."

"You are still missing the point, Jim. The purpose is to experience fear, fear in the face of certain death, to accept that fear and maintain control of one's self and one's crew." Spock sat calmly opposite Jim, hands in his lap.

"Yes Spock, but don't you think that a certain number of cadets know they'll never win? They go in knowing they'll die. They give up. Their lives become meaningless and that, that is the opposite of a Starfleet Captain." Jim took a deep breath, it would do them no good if he lost his temper again. They'd already come further in the last few minutes then they had over the last three weeks.

"I know you choose not to believe in no win scenarios however, the reality is-"

"No, Spock, this is about perspective. My dad died to save over 800 people. He won, Spock. I'm alive. Mum's alive. He won." Jim glared over the coffee table separating them.

"You would die to save your crew and consider that a win?" Spock tilted his head, considering the possibilities. It wasn't even something Jim had thought of. Cadets would still face certain death, whether they 'won' would correspond with the number of lives their sacrifice saved.

Jim beamed across the oak table. Problem solved.

Chapter Text

Jim walked out of the computer labs feeling invigorated. There had been no more stalker incidents, he and Spock were getting along better than ever and the Kobayashi Maru programming was on track. Another month or so of tweaking, testing and rewriting and she'd be good to go cripple the senior command students. Another month and the academic year was over. Then it was either three months aboard a starship or, if Jim was accepted, a trip to one of Earth's new colonies working with supply runs and general volunteer work. It was something he'd been excited about for weeks. Time on a different planet, working out in the sun, helping people build new lives for themselves. It was a little romantic but so was Jim. It was also a great way to get away from Spock, take look at things from a new perspective.

He wandered down the hall, picking apart the pros and cons of his plan. He could be reading signals wrong and Spock had never been interested in him at all. Spock could find someone new, better, while he was away. Spock could realise how much he liked having his own space. Or, Spock would miss him. The distance could be enough to drive them that final step closer. It could be enough for Jim to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Spock was what he wanted. On a forever basis. Or not. Introspection, helping people, new experiences, change of scenery. Jim needed it all.

He stopped in front of an unmarked door and touched his student card to the scanner. The little light flashed green as the door hissed open. Jim stepped inside, blue carpet muffling his footsteps as he made his way to the centre of the room. His eyes scanned the area. He could recognise three of the nine people already present. All of whom were in his advanced tactics class.

"Welcome to Nerd Central." Jim mumbled under his breath, his voice catching the attention of the club's president.

"Jim." Spock's mouth twitched in his not-smile, calling forth an answering grin from Jim. He was so screwed.

"Have a spot for me?" Jim asked, his tone just a hair's width from teasing. It was easy to be like this with Spock. They just fit together. There was an intrinsic knowledge of how the other thought; how they reacted. Sometimes Jim wondered if Spock knew him better than he knew himself.

Jim's eyes flicked back over the room, taking in the comfortable chairs and low tables scattered throughout the space. People had already formed pairs, collected a board and its pieces from the open cabinet in the corner and found their own spots. Of the four games in play, one was well under way. Jim could see it would all be over in about six or seven moves. Two more were in the beginning stages, pieces only just beginning to make their way to the second and third levels. The last game, the one he was closest to, was more of a learning exercise. The player closest to them was clearly a beginner, possibly playing his first game if the constant reassurances and explanations were anything to go by.

"Come play with me." Jim whined, grabbing Spock's hand and pulling. Spock didn't budge, instead he looked down at their interlocked fingers, the skin over his cheekbones staining the lightest of greens. Jim could feel his own blush burning right up to his scalp.

He let go and took a hasty step backwards, rubbing at the back of his neck. Great move, just kiss him in front of the chess club. Nice idea.

"Ah, I'll just get the stuff. You pick a seat?" Without waiting for a response, Jim marched over to collect a chess set. It was just his luck. Unlike their peers, Jim grew up knowing about Vulcan hands. He had no excuse for his momentary blunder. He was such an idiot. After years of avoiding any touch, remembering all to vividly the loss of control, privacy and self involved in a meld, their recent level of contact had almost made Jim forget. Touch telepathy, if manipulated the wrong way, was a dangerous thing.

Jim rejoined Spock at one of the tables closest to the door. It made him feel wary, like Spock expected either of them to need an easy escape. He placed the board down, facing white towards himself. Whenever Spock got all Vulcan-y he always kicked Jim's ass. Didn't even allow himself to feel any of his usual smug satisfaction from it.

Just as Jim was resigned to certain failure, the door slid open and a girl walked in. She was pretty, in a petite, blonde haired, blue eyed sort of way. If Jim wasn't absolutely smitten with the tall, dark and handsome type, he might have seriously considered seeing her.

Her eyes searched the room, landing on Spock and softening with relief. Jim wasn't really sure if anyone, save Amanda, had ever seen Spock and felt such obvious relief. She made her way over to their table and smiled. She had a nice smile, Jim thought absently, all straight white teeth and nice shaped lips.

"Sorry I'm late. I got caught up in the biology labs." She smiled again, blonde bob curling just under her jaw and accentuating the sharp line of her cheekbones. Of course she was British, such a nice face had to be accompanied by a nice voice. And, as much as Jim hated to admit it, she certainly seemed like a nice person.

"Hi, I'm Carol Marcus." She stuck out her hand, something Jim was still getting used to after so many years of using the ta'al.

"Jim, Jim Kirk. It's always lovely to meet such a beautiful young woman." If his smirk was just a little on the side of forced, who would blame him. Spock had invited her to chess night. Chess was their thing. Had always been their thing. Now, all this, it felt wrong. Almost like he was intruding on something he'd never been invited to. The room felt too small, too tight.

Jim watched as Carol talked to Spock. She really was lovely.

Spock said something Jim didn't catch and she laughed, tipping her head back and everything. She awarded him with a bright smile. Her answer was quick and it was clear that she held Spock's entire attention. Something even Jim had trouble doing.

"Well, I guess I should be leaving. I know when I've been outclassed. Have a good evening." Jim stood up and indicated his chair, nodded at Spock and left, unable to stand any more of that. Whatever that was. Cause it felt a whole lot like replacement.

Jim wandered through the campus, lost in his own maudlin thoughts. Long grass pushed against the legs of his trousers. A click clack sound following his every move. This definitely sucked.

"Hey, Kirk!" Jim turned around at the sound of Jose's voice. He grinned when he spotted Gary and Phillip by his side. Gary waved him over and he couldn't resist. Maybe a night out was exactly what the doctor, he glanced at Phil, ordered.

"So, where are we headed off to?" Jim asked, grinning at each of his friends in turn.

"Sure you're not too busy with your Vulcan to come out with us mere mortals?" Jose teased, rubbing their shoulders together. Jim missed this. The last few weeks had been productive but, there was no time for fun and goofing off.

"Pfft, I'd rather spend a Friday night with you guys." He speared them with his patented Kirk Smirk. He knew this particular look made more than a few guys and girls weak at the knees. Blame the baby blues, if you must.

"Don't sweat it, Jim. We know you're busy." Phillip patted his shoulder and shot a glare at the other guys. They nodded and Gary mimicked Jim's the-world-is-unfair-and-I'm-cute pout.

"Aww, this your way of telling me you guys miss me?" He crooned as he reached out and pinched Gary's cheek.

"Shut up, Kirk." Gary scoffed and punched his shoulder. He already felt better. Maybe this was what he needed after all. No Spock. No gorgeous science student. Just him, his mates, loud music and a few drinks.

Chapter Text

Jim wiped at the sweat dripping down his brow. It was hot, the tight press of gyrating bodies, giving off enough heat to leave the building in a perpetual state of oppressive humidity. If this was what living on the equator was like, Jim would take Vulcan any day. If he was honest with himself -whenever he was tipsy he was honest with himself- he kind of, maybe missed ShiKahr. Not the stuffy pricks but, his mum and Amanda and the illimitable desert. Sehlats. Sash savas. Being doused in sunburn cream. Golic writing. The Seleyan temples. The Katric Arc. Underground stalagmite oases. What it lacked in friendly vibes it certainly made up in its picturesque beauty.

Jim looked up from the watermark he'd been staring at for the last few minutes. He sought out and found both Phil and Jose on the dance floor. Each was pressed up against a pretty girl. Jim rubbed a hand up his face and turned to the bar where Gary was talking to a tall guy, Jim was pretty sure he recognised from the academy. Someone Holt, maybe? It didn't really matter. They looked pretty chummy. It explained why Gary left more than ten minutes ago and still hadn't bought their next round of drinks back.

He squirmed. Would it be ok to go to the bathroom? Gary looked fairly occupied. He wouldn't be missed for the few minutes it would take. And he really needed to relieve himself. He squeezed his thighs. Yeah. He was going. Fuck whatever rule about breaking the seal. He'd just keep going to the bathroom all night.

Jim made his way across the space, the world only swaying slightly. Whatever Gary had been giving him all night was clearly working. His body felt faintly buzzed. Like, he was actually buzzing whilst being buzzed. Ha! That was pretty awesome. Why hadn't drinking been like this before? This was nice.

Jim stared at his hands, trying to catch them buzzing. The thought passed his addled mind that he should show Gary. Gary looked like he could still see straight.

Without looking up, Jim turned and walked back through the hallway. He didn't get far before he bumped into a hard chest. His lashes fluttered as he tried to blink away the jolt from his abrupt stop.

"Hey Jim, you alright? You don't look so good." Gary peered down at him. He certainly seemed concerned. About what, Jim wasn't sure. He felt fine. A little hot. Maybe he was wearing too many layers. He should lose some. Like his jacket. No one needed jackets inside. That was really silly.

Jim shrugged out of his jacket and held it in his hand looking down at it in confusion.

"Jim, you ok buddy? You've only had three drinks." Gary probed, staring at him funny. Was there something on his face? If there was something on his face, Gary should be a good mate and tell him. Or wipe it off. That was a good idea.

Jim grabbed Gary's hand and placed it on his face. It felt wrong. Like it was in the wrong place or something. Maybe if he just rearranged the fingers over his temple and cheek a bit. He sighed, that was nice. But, there was something different. Gary's hand must be wrong. He pulled it off and looked down, turning it over to inspect every angle. The fingers weren't long enough. And the veins were blue. Huh. That definitely wasn't right. Jim couldn't put his finger on what he was expecting. Just that this wasn't it.

"It's not right. Your hand is wrong." Jim pouted as he thought. "It's 'posed to tingle." Maybe there was something wrong with Gary. That's why he was wrong.

"Jim, we're gonna go sit down, that ok with you?" Gary asked softly. His voice was unexpectedly gentle. Like when people spoke with baby animals. Did that make Jim a baby animal?

"I don't wanna sit with you. I want- I want," Jim could feel tears starting to trickle down his cheeks. They tickled but, not in a good way. His throat felt tight. He didn't like it. He didn't want to be a baby animal. He wanted to be sitting, playing chess with Spock. He wanted to be pretty and smart and nice and interesting like that girl. Maybe that was why Spock didn't want him.

"Do you think I'm pretty?" Jim asked, employing his widest, most innocent eyes. Gary looked decidedly uncomfortable.

"Uh, you're a handsome guy." Gary was looking around like he wanted to find an escape. "Where's your comm? I'll call Spock."

Jim patted his pocket and waited until Gary sighed and put his hand into his pants. Ha, Gary was in his pants. He laughed and laughed, so hard his sides hurt. It felt nice to laugh. Refreshing. Distantly he could hear Gary talking to someone. He wanted to dance. To get lost in the writhing mass of bodies and never come out. It felt pretty nice when Gary touched him. Not tingly but still good. Maybe someone in that crowd could make it feel all tingly.

"No, Jim, come back. Spock's coming to pick you up." Gary was frowning. Did he make him angry? He didn't want to make anyone angry. He was always making people angry. Cause he wasn't good enough. They all thought he was someone else. Captain George Kirk's son. Ambassador Winona Kirk's son. The genius boy. But he was just Jim. And Jim was never good enough. And that made people angry. They expected too much. And Jim could never give it to them. Always buckled under the pressure.

Jim slid out of the seat, twisted from Gary's grip and stumbled into the crowd. It didn't take long for an arm to wrap around his waist. The body holding him felt like sweat and cheap deodorant. He was pulled into a hard chest and another hand knotted in his hair. There was still no tingling but at least he felt wanted. He melted a little into the embrace, not all together minding the roaming lips on his neck. At least until they parted and teeth dug into his collarbone.

"Let. Go. Of. Him." That gravelly voice sounded familiar and something in Jim automatically crooned towards it. He opened his eyes enough to see a pale hand grab the man holding him and break his grip without effort. The force knocked Jim out of the crush of bodies. Gary caught him whilst staring over his shoulder.

Spock looked pissed. Like, really pissed. Worse than anything he'd ever seen. It made Jim remember what he'd learned about Vulcans in his history sessions. Spock definitely looked like a warrior out for blood. His dark eyes promised retribution.

The fight was over before it began. The guy didn't stand a chance. One snap of Spock's wrist and he was out cold. No nerve pinch required. Just a straight punch to the solar plexus.

Gary led Jim away while Spock stood there, clenching and unclenching his fists. Gary's arm was shaking slightly. It was always a little scary to see a Vulcan lose a little of their famed control. To be reminded in such a violent way, of their brutality. Their superiority. The violent, bubbling abyss of emotions buried under the stoic masks.

"Jim?" He turned and gazed up at Spock. A frowning Spock. Not that his facial expression had changed, not really. It was his eyebrows. And his eyes. They looked upset. Jim was a disappointment. He'd pushed Spock into losing control again. It was his fault.

"I'm taking you home." Spock's hand replaced Gary's. "Thank you, Mr. Mitchell."

Gary just nodded stupidly and let them walk out into the night together.

Chapter Text

When Jim woke up, his head was killing him. He rolled out of bed and somehow managed to stumble the three metres to his ensuite before hacking up his guts. Mostly in the toilet. It wasn't his fault he happened to be incredibly talented at projectile vomiting through his nose. The excessive force of each heave left Jim's body aching in a decidedly unpleasant way. It was enough to seriously consider never drinking again. Or never trusting whatever Gary was bringing him. A hangover had never been this bad.

Jim flushed the toilet and looked at the mess he'd made. Life sucked. Just seeing it made him feel like vomiting. How did parents deal with sick children? It made sense now that his mother used to insist he and Sam look after their own messes despite the nausea she knew it evoked. Humans were gross.

He groaned and turned on the cold water, cupping his hands and scooping it into his mouth to wash away the disgusting taste. Jim forced himself to repeat the action a few times before sucking the water in through his nose. There was little worse, in Jim's opinion, than having muck up your nose and in the back of your throat. It burned and having chunks of god knows what where it really should never venture was horrid. The water was only marginally better. More often then not, Jim managed to breathe in too deeply. Which would usually start a coughing fit. Which would led to some impressive heaving. And he'd vomit all over again.

Once he was done in the bathroom, Jim wandered back into his room. Saturday mornings were generally a peaceful time in the embassy. Spock had a twice monthly morning meeting with Captain Pike and a few professors. He'd explained that they were thinking of writing up a series of optional short courses for students. Something about dealing with telepathic or empathic races. Spock and the Betazoid professor, Dr. Elbrun were collaborating with some of the medical staff to write the curriculum. It was taking longer than expected to compile all the necessary information. Bonds were held in an almost sacred, secret regard to most telepathic species. No one was willing to come forth and offer their personal insights. Additionally, there was currently only one Human who experienced contact with Vulcan telepathy on a daily basis. Spock was more than a little uncomfortable questioning his mother about such an intimate act. Even if Vulcans never experienced such a thing.

Jim looked at his bed with a lost expression. He wanted to go back to sleep. But he knew he should eat something, get a drink of water and try to distract himself until the nausea cleared up. Until then, he was going to just end up hurling with only the slightest provocation. Including, but not limited to, loud noises, bright light and sudden movement. What a great beginning to the weekend.

Jim munched on buttered toast so as not to upset his precarious stomach. Today was not going the way he wanted. Sure, he'd been meaning to catch up with the guys, since he and Spock had been spending all their free time programming the Kobayashi Maru in secret. He wasn't planning on getting off his face, black out drunk. He could vaguely remember bumping into some guy before they'd found their booth and Phil and Jose went off to dance. Gary had been asking him questions, weird questions Jim needed more alcohol to answer truthfully. Gary had gotten another round, they'd talked a little about the academy and whoever had the latest claim to Jim Kirk's growing number of made up sexual escapades. The sort of shit people made up about him. Their glasses had emptied and everything else was blurry.

"Jim?" Spock asked, walking into the room wearing a silver sweater his mother made him. It was hideous but somehow Spock made it look charming. How that worked, Jim had no idea. Probably had a whole lot to do with the proverb linking love and blindness. And good genetics. Those cheekbones could cut glass.

Jim just grunted in response, choosing to lay his head down on the table to stop the room from spinning. Gentle fingers stroked through his hair. He hummed like a contented kitty. Or contented sehlat. I'Chaya had this one spot, just behind his whiskers...

The tingling feeling Jim associated with Spock's telepathy was nice, easing away his headache.

"I have read that the most effective way to get rid of the lingering effects of alcohol consumption is to 'sleep it off'." Spock murmured, hands still carding through Jim's sun bleached strands. It felt so nice. On both a physical and emotional level. Jim felt loved and protected. Cared for in a way he hadn't thought possible. Not for him. Not with such a gentle touch.

"Mk. I'll sleep in a minute." Jim trailed off, feeling himself losing the battle to stay conscious while Spock kept up his relaxing ministrations. He felt strong arms pick him up and he snuggled into the soft warmth of Spock's sweater. Spock smelt nice. Jim let himself drift off.

 


 

The next time he woke, it was already early afternoon. The afternoon sun slanted in through the crack in the curtains. Jim turned and spotted Spock sitting on his rug, deep in meditation.

From his vantage point, Jim watched the Vulcan. He was completely still, face relaxed in a way Jim hardly ever saw. Spock's lips were slightly parted, accentuating the pretty bow shape so often hidden by his non-expression. The creases on his forehead and between his eyebrows were absent, reminding Jim that Spock was only three months older than himself. It was easy to forget, despite years of knowing one another. Spock had always been so far above everyone else, smarter, stronger, more mature. It kind of hurt to see just how different he was, when he wasn't holding himself up to some unrealistic expectation.

"Captain Pike wished to inform you that you will receive a summons to see Admiral Archer, sometime today." Spock spoke up without opening his eyes or changing his breathing pattern.

The sudden noise startled Jim and he let himself fall back on his pillows. He truthfully didn't even realise that Spock had noticed that he was awake. Which meant he'd known Jim was staring. Awkward.

"Do you know where my PADD is?" Jim asked as he stretched. It appeared that the nap had done him good. He felt refreshed, albeit a little slimy. Apparently he hadn't had a shower when he got home last night. Which was strange. Normally he hated going to bed without showering. Call it a leftover from living on a desert planet. And he was wearing his pyjamas, rather than the black shirt and red dress pants he'd definitely been wearing at the club. He let himself wonder where his uniform ended up while searching fruitlessly for the missing device.

"You left it on the desk." Spock replied, blinking his eyes open and arching an eyebrow. The PADD was clearly in direct eyesight of the bed. Oh. Maybe Spock always looked so uptight because he was constantly surrounded by such illogical Humans.

Jim sighed and grabbed the PADD, electing to sit on the floor next to Spock rather than sit back on the bed. The Vulcan watched him as he went through his emails, deleting anything he deemed unimportant and flagging the two messages from Gary to read later. After he'd procrastinated enough, Jim tapped the Starfleet insignia and quickly scoured the short message. The message didn't contain any reason why Archer wanted a chat, only that he had, Jim glanced at the time, just under two hours to get there. Wonderful.

Jim jumped up, a little too fast, and scurried into the bathroom, stripping down in record time and entering the cubicle. At least sonics were good for something. It might not be as invigorating as a water shower but, they were fast.

"Hey, did you clean the bathroom?" Jim shouted as he tied his towel around his waist whilst trying to brush his teeth.

He ventured back into his room to find it empty, the door sealed tight. Jim shrugged, ignoring the flare of disappointment and dropping the towel. He grabbed the closest clean pair of pants and a blue t-shirt and managed to dress himself without serious injury. Between putting on his shoes and packing his PADD back into his bag, Jim managed to brush his teeth and put on deodorant.

Slipping out of his room, Jim ran down the hall and out into the summer air. His feet pounded down the stone stairs as he rushed out of the house. He had just over an hour to make an hour and a half walk. Some days Jim was sure the universe was out to get him.

Just as Jim reached the gate, the garage doors opened.

"You are aware we have the use of a hovercar, correct?"

Jim could just about kiss the smug bastard.

Chapter Text

Jim looked up at the clock again, cursing his luck. He'd been waiting in Admiral Archer's office for the last 20 minutes, after his afternoon dash through the city. Living in the embassy was great but it still left much to be desired. Like the travel time. Or the inability to entertain guests. It was still an official Vulcan diplomatic building. He and Spock mostly stuck to their bedrooms, the kitchen or lounge. Sarek depended on them to show visiting diplomats around the city and uphold the Vulcan image.

Jim smirked at the thought. Growing up, he'd never thought he would end up on Earth trafficking dignitaries and acting like a 'good Vulcan'. Not that people expected him to. Most of their guests left finding his attempts amusing. A Caitian Ambassador had even said that he was 'perfectly charming and Ambassador Sarek was lucky to have him'. Clearly people liked the juxtaposition between Spock's emotionless façade and Jim's exuberance. It was refreshing, after so many years on Vulcan where nothing he did was good enough. He just didn't fit into the Vulcan mould. You know, being Human and all that.

Leg bouncing in nervous anticipation, Jim tried to focus on his breathing. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't more than a little anxious about this meeting. The last time they'd spoken, Archer seemed like an alright guy. And Jim had read up a little on his achievements. It was hard not to be a little starstruck. The man was Captain of the original starship Enterprise and, if rumours were to be believed, another was being designed in his honour. To celebrate over 100 years in the service, or something. Regardless, Jim really wanted to see her. One of his engineering TAs, Scotty, had been throwing round hints in their tutorial. If she really was being constructed in the Kirk Shipyard, he was so there. Jim would face all of Riverside and the old family farm for a chance to swoon over her. A new flagship.

"James Kirk, Admiral Archer will see you now." The man behind the desk smiled and gestured to the door before turning back to whatever mundane paperwork he'd been busily filling out for the last half an hour.

Jim pushed open the door and stepped inside, sitting himself down on one of the two high backed grey chairs. The room was sparsely furnished, just a desk and three surprisingly comfortable chairs. There were a few pictures on the walls. Mostly of beagles. One, rather old snapshot of Archer's command crew, T'Pol sticking out like a sore thumb.

Now, she was a Vulcan Jim could look up to. Nice lady, too. Smart, strong, a service record that made Jim drool. Who wouldn't be in awe of her?

"Afternoon cadet. Want to hazard a guess as to why you're in here?" Archer asked, eyes still focused on the PADD in front of him.

"Ah, not really. Sir?" Jim cursed himself for making it a question. If Archer wanted to play cat and mouse, he could. Jim just wanted to be out of here, relatively pain free.

"Did you know your name has a red flag attached to it? No? Well, someone's been accessing your files." Archer finally looked up at Jim. Sharp green eyes pierced through him. It was enough to make anyone tense and Jim was already pretty highly strung. He was just about bouncing in his seat.

"Is this a bad thing, sir? Something I should be worried about?" Jim chewed on his lower lip, trying to come up with a reason for someone to be interested in him. He got straight A's, had a few friends in each of his classes, knew everyone in medical... There was nothing particularly important or different about him. Except their side project but Archer was more than aware of that.

"Think back to when you were ten. I personally recall reading something about a bomb." Archer prompted. Oh. Yeah. Jim remembered that night. He would never forget that night. Even after all these years, he still had the occasional nightmare.

"I rewired my respirator into a bomb." Jim supplied, breathing a little uneasy.

It had been a diplomatic mission. Just a simple, routine event. He'd already been to a fair few.

There was dinner, a ball, general schmoozing and the children had all been corralled into one room. Supposedly to play games and make friends for the future of the Federation or something.

Jim had been sitting alone, hands clutching a special machine to help him breathe. He'd seen something moving outside and gone to investigate. As any child with half the inquisitive mind that young James Kirk would have done.

Spock had seen him and followed, no doubt aware that Jim was probably going to get himself into some sort of dangerous situation. He'd kept quiet though. Not a single logical argument or reprimand. Maybe he'd been curious too.

After minutes searching they'd found nothing and unanimously decided to turn back. That's when they heard the sound of breaking glass. Spock had reached out and tugged Jim behind a pillar at the last second.

They'd watched, silent as a prowling le'matya, as a small group of unknown aliens walked up behind the people looking after them and shot them down. Pandamonium ensued. Children were screaming and the mercenaries were going to just slaughter them all. It was, Spock explained, an attempt to forge war between Sorrel, the host planet, and the Federation.

So Jim had done the only thing he could think of. He opened up the respirator, swapped a few wires around and threw it as hard as possible.

The blast killed six people. Most of the children present had been both physically and emotionally scarred. Negotiation talks ceased and by order of the United Federation, Jim's actions were hushed up.

Of course they'd be in his sealed file.

"Calm down, son." Archer spoke gently, hand reaching across the desk and landing in Jim's hair, ruffling it a bit.

"You're a good kid. What you did was very brave. Not just anyone would be able to make that call." Jim relaxed, if only slightly. He'd never been praised for his actions before. Too many angry parents. Amanda had thanked him but, he and Spock hadn't been in immediate danger. If it wasn't for Spock risking himself to shield Jim, he wouldn't have gotten hurt at all.

"Why would someone be looking into...that?" Jim asked. He didn't get it.

"I think the real question is," Archer said, "What are they planning to do?" He looked troubled. He clearly had some idea of what was going on. That really didn't bode well for Jim. The bad feeling he'd had since they'd been given the Kobayashi Maru to play with was back with a vengeance.

"Sir, is there any chance this is going to get dangerous?" Jim questioned. His mind already churning through possibilities and contingency plans. He had to make sure Spock was safe. And his friends, his mother.

"I think it already might be." Archer got up from his desk and walked to the windows, staring out across the harbour. The water was choppy, the sky an ominous grey.

"Well, I think that's enough melodrama." Archer turned and smiled. "I called you here to offer my congratulations."

"Huh?" It was not one of Jim's most eloquent moments. Apparently Archer's moods were more mercurial than Jim's own. It was a shame he'd changed track. Clearly, he'd worked hard to create the ambience.

"You've been accepted as part of Captain Sisco's crew. In just over three weeks, you'll be heading out to one of our newest colonies." Archer said, sliding back into his chair and tapping away at his PADD. Jim's beeped in his bag, signalling a new message.

"All the information you'll need is in that memo." Archer smiled as Jim bounced up and down. He was just so excited.

"Which colony is it?" he asked, unable to stop bouncing around like a puppy. Maybe that's why Archer seemed to have a bit of a soft spot for him. Jim reminded him of his prized beagles.

"Tarsus Four."

Chapter Text

Jim buried his face in his hands, feeling the urge to scream in pure frustration. The wooden bench beneath him listed to one side on its uneven legs. Or maybe it was the ground which was uneven. Somehow blaming the bench for the movement didn't feel right. Which, Jim knew, made almost no sense. He was sitting in a park surrounded by happy families with their happy laughter and carefree expressions. For the moment, their worries were put aside to enjoy the freedom of being outside and the joy of a loved ones presence. The sun was warm. The sky was clear. It was a picture perfect moment.

In contrast, Jim had just escaped yet another warning lecture from his supposed friends.

For the past few days, Spock and Gary had put aside their differences to gang up on him. He wasn't sure why they felt it necessary to constantly bombard him with ill warnings and lectures on the possibility of death in space. He didn't get it. For ages, Gary had been a little jumpy around Spock. And for the life of him, Jim couldn't figure out why. Spock was the least threatening person he knew. Well, outwardly threatening. But most species were pretty shallow and Humans didn't often realise what a mature Vulcan was capable of.

So Gary had been avoiding him a bit. Jumping when Spock stealth-walked up behind him. That sort of thing. But then he'd mentioned his acceptance on the Tarsus mission and both of them instantly banded together to what, discourage him? Lately they'd been spending more time with each other than with Jim.

And no. He was not jealous. That line of thought was ridiculous.

Though honestly, it hurt. He'd thought his friends would be supportive of his decision. Possibly even proud that he'd been chosen for such a mission at the end of their first year. It was the best of both worlds. One month on a starship to get to the Tarsus system, two months on planet and then another month back to Earth. He'd be getting invaluable experience. And he wouldn't even be alone. Phillip was assigned the same mission. There was always demand when one was a doctor. Or so he'd been told.

What pissed him off most though was that neither Gary, nor Spock, were going to be on Earth regardless.

Gary was off on a different planet based mission. It was about 16 hours away, a lot closer to Earth, but why would that even matter? Jim wasn't exactly planning to fuck up and get sent back.

Spock, on the other hand, had been accepted into a special training program of Archer's. From what he'd managed to squeeze out of Spock, it would be diplomatic and survival training in a remote, alien location. Apparently it pushed every participant out of their comfort zone.

For Spock, Jim mused, it would probably mean a lot of water and group interaction. Served the bastard right. Not that Spock had any real trouble with water. The guy was in the campus surfing club. He spent more time in the water than Jim. And swimming was his own personal favourite exercise. Seeing Spock in his boardshorts had nothing to do with it. Maybe. Although, he was quite partial to the rolled down wet suit look...

And he wasn't feeling the slightest bit insecure, knowing that Carol Marcus would be there too. It wasn't like he noticed the way she was always watching Spock. He didn't feel jealous when Spock seemed to enjoy her company and ask her over more often. It was only logical as they'd be spending a lot of time together in the near future. Without Jim around. It didn't make him feel queasy. Not at all.

He really needed to stop lying to himself.

Maybe then his supposed friends would tell him why they were set against him going to Tarsus. What was the worst that could happen?

 


 

"No mum, I'm fine. Just a little tired." Jim paused, holding the comm away from his ear as his mother's shrill voice shouted to someone in the background. "I've just had trouble sleeping. No big deal."

Jim picked up the duffel bag, navy straps contrasting with his tanned skin. He slipped it over his shoulder and glanced around his room one last time. His other hand still held the comm pressed to his ear. His mother was crying on the other side. Telling him what a beautiful baby he'd been and what a wonderful young man he was and how proud she was and how handsome he'd grown up to be and on it went.

Jim was mildly concerned that his mother didn't appear to need oxygen to continue the litany of praises.

"Yes mum, I love you too, okay? I have to go now, Spock's waiting. Yes mum. I will. Okay. I'll comm you once a month. Yes, Spock set up a secure channel. Yes, I'm going to be contacting him regularly. Okay, I'll tell you if anything happens. I'd rather not be the centre of another diplomatic incident. Yes, mum. I love you. Bye." Jim snapped the comm closed with a little extra force, earning him an upraised eyebrow. He ignored Spock, moving around the Vulcan to set his bag in the trunk.

Since he'd run away -to a park for god's sake- he'd been studiously ignoring his house mate. At the time he'd simply not wanted to deal with 20 questions and a lecture. Now, he was feeling more than a little upset Spock didn't try to get him to talk. He barely understood it himself. That was perhaps the crux of the problem. Jim didn't know why he was so upset. He just was. Until now he'd never understood the need for someone to run after you when you walked away. It had always been a 'girl thing'. Now he got it. He needed something from Spock. Some sign that he wasn't alone in this, whatever this was.

It appeared that he'd be leaving without it.

Maybe Spock was eager to get rid of him and spend four months with his pretty British shadow.

Maybe Jim was being petty and pathetic, two things Vulcans couldn't stand.

Spock parked the hovercar in a space designated to diplomatic vehicles, closest to the terminal. The slight breeze shifted the clan flags. The vicious le'matya looked ready to leap from the luxury material. It reminded him of T'Pau the last time he'd seen her. She was a scary woman. Reminded him of her grandson, actually. A dichotomy of logic and empathy, intelligence and keen instinct. Somehow it blended together to create two individuals with a sense of humour drier than the Sas-a-shar desert where they'd first met.

Jim's door opened and he stepped out, taking the bag from Spock and just standing there in awkward silence. It made Jim twitch. He wanted to say something, do something stupid, anything to fill the oppressive silence.

"Jim! Jim!" Gary shouted from across the car park, hurrying over and waving his hands frantically. "Please don't go. Please. Something terrible's going to happen, I know it. I just know it." Gary looked into Jim's eyes imploringly, begging for his warnings to be taken seriously. It made Jim feel a little off. His friend hadn't stopped the barrage of warnings. He simply claimed to have a really bad feeling. And although Jim was one to take 'bad feelings' more seriously than the average man, he couldn't put his life on hold for them.

"Gary. Everything will be fine." He said, carefully enunciating each word to convey his conviction. Beside him, Spock stiffened at the words and shared a loaded look with Gary. There was something they weren't telling him. Jim just knew it. And he hated it.

"Jim, I too feel... uneasy about your assignment however, having known you significantly longer than Mr. Mitchell has, I know you will not reconsider." Spock seemed to struggle for a moment with what to say before continuing. "If you miss a check in, for any reason, I will not hesitate to inform your mother." The threat hung in the air between them, charged with the knowledge of the total clusterfuck Winona -and by default, Amanda- would rain down on the poor Tarsus system.

"I get it. Check in, follow my gut, don't do anything illogical and don't take candy from a stranger." Jim huffed, silently glad Spock was talking to him again but too proud to show it. Maybe things wouldn't be so terrible after all.

However the twin premonitions refused to leave his mind.

Even in space dock, changing into the first of many gold shirts and then taking his place at his station, the words stuck with him.

It was true. In all the years Jim had known him, Spock rarely acted on instinct. Spock did consider both instinctual response and logic before making a decision. Jim had led him into more than a fair few disasters. If he only considered the logical course of action, Spock would have stopped following him years before he did. Or attempted to incapacitate or restrain him. However, a Vulcan would never admit to it. And Gary was known for his uncanny ability to know things, feel things, before anyone else did.

Jim's fingers tapped over the screen in front of him, inputting his data and calibrating the system to his preferred settings. The console beeped as a hand closed around Jim's shoulder, startling him.

"Holy Seleya Phil, don't sneak up on people like that." Jim sighed, hand over his rapidly beating heart. His older friend just laughed and leaned back against Jim's workspace.

"Gary get you jumpy?" Phil asked with a chuckle, drawing the attention of the communications officer to Jim's left. Jim smiled at her apologetically before turning to glare at his friend. How the other man had managed to weasel his way out of Gary's constant badgering was beyond him.

"It'll be fine kiddo, I have your back." With that, Phil walked over to the centre of the bridge and spoke in hushed tones to their captain. Jim watched the two interact for a while, noting the familiarity between them. In that instant he realised he hadn't spent as much time with Phil as he should have. He knew almost nothing about the man. A few months should be enough time to fix that.

For the moment, Jim could forget about the ominous cloud which had descended over their mission.

 


 

The Sas-a-shar desert is known to offworlders as the Vulcan Forge.

Chapter Text

Life on a constitution starship was more fun than Jim had expected.

He was realistic when it came to Starfleet. He knew, from his mother's stories, that long stretches of time travelling between assignments was the least fun. Red alert, that was more her thing. It was probably going to be Jim's thing too. The apple never fell far from the tree. But, the longer he spent in space, the more Jim liked the relaxed atmosphere. The lack of scurrying between decks to try and salvage their lives was nice. The time it gave Jim to get to know his fellow shipmates was nice. And the extra time spent in the gym was well worth it.

Every other day he sent a group message to Spock, Gary and his mother to keep them from turning grey. Every time he sat down at the comm unit he felt a stab of unease. It only served to remind him to be wary and for hours afterward he'd be withdrawn. If Phil noticed anything was wrong, he never said anything. Which Jim was more than grateful for.

Actually, his friendship was Phil was probably the thing which was blooming the best. For the first time, Jim was found in med bay of his own free will. They went to the gym together, took meals together and met up in the recreation lounge once a week for poker night. Mostly, Jim liked to spend the overlapping hour of Phil's shift and his break quietly reading in the corner of his office. Phil had even set up a little replicator which Jim fiddled around with until the coffee tasted half way decent.

Getting rid of the lingering cardboard aftertaste was a work in progress. It was something he was lucky enough to be working on with Scotty. The engineering department liked to joke about their lofty goal but close to every other officer on board had already managed to thank Jim for their progress. He supposed that if they put their genius together there was nothing they couldn't achieve.

And having a close friend and comrade in Engineering was great. Without Scotty, who was quickly becoming one of his favourite people on board, he would never have access to the engineering decks. They liked to spend their time tinkering, exploring and fixing the problems less experienced ensigns left behind.

It felt like everyday Jim was meeting someone new; one of the best joys of such a large crew. There were only seven students from the academy accepted for the Tarsus assignment and Jim couldn't have been happier. It was refreshing to talk to adults. People who didn't know, believe or care about the rumours travelling around campus. Here, he wasn't the school slut. He was an adult like any other, with a job like any other. The only distinction came from his age.

At eighteen, Jim was the youngest person on board. And sometimes he got treated like a kid or a little brother. It let him get away with more so he was pretty ambivalent about it. On one hand, he wanted to be treated with respect. On the other, he liked all the attention. Either way, in two days almost 300 people would be left planetside.

Tarsus was so close Jim could almost taste it. He was excited to be out and about. Sunshine was something he missed more than he'd thought possible. He was hyped about helping people set up their homes, schools, offices, hospitals, everything they needed to make their lives really thrive on their new home. And he wasn't the only one.

Although he wasn't staying, Scotty was looking forward to the three days USS Reliance was in orbit. That time would be spent unloading the supplies and beginning to set up temporary accommodation. Scotty had the tedious job of overseeing the building process. Governor Kodos had set aside a large unpopulated area, about ten minutes from the main settlement, for their use.


 

Once they arrived everything started moving in hyper speed.

Captain Sisco had the unloading done within sixteen hours of their arrival. It was a marvelous effort. One that left everyone boneless and limp in their temporary lodgings. Scotty lay across Jim's mattress and the floor, one hand over his eyes. Phil had come by only recently, scanned the Scottish man and given him a hypo for his sore throat.

"You know laddie, it doesn' get dark for another two hours." Scotty spoke up, "We could always do some explorin'."


 

Governor Kodos was a strange man.

It could have just been Gary and Spock's words, but Jim felt uneasy in his presence. The man's eyes watched everything and he took a special interest in Jim straight away. They talked maths and electronics, physics and philosophy, ethics and biology. Kodos was a smart man but some of his views were a little radical. Jim made the mistake of mentioning a Surakian principal and Kodos changed it. He twisted the words until it no longer matched its peaceful intention. He didn't seem to understand that 'the few' were part of 'the many'.

He gave Jim the heebie jeebies.

And he wasn't the only one. Phillip tried his best to stay as far away from him as possible. It was a fairly useless effort. As the highest ranking medical officer, Phil was expected to work closely with Kodos. Apparently he was rather invested in the health of his citizens.

Once they'd finished setting up, Phil and the other thirteen doctors sent by Starfleet, were escorted into the town to begin thorough medical checkups of each and every member of the colony. They had to report everything back to Kodos. Every allergy, hereditary condition or disability. Anything which set them apart from the perfectly healthy population.

It was a weird request. And when he told his mother, she'd agreed. It didn't exactly point to him being the threat Jim had to look out for. Perhaps he just wanted to be informed and really cared about everyone.

Spock said it sounded like he was interested in eugenics. Jim couldn't disagree.

Jim found a counterpoint to Kodos' creepiness in Hoshi Sato. She was just about the coolest person on Tarsus IV. And quite possibly the eldest. Jim spent as much time with her as he could. She was an elderly lady and loved having a 'cute young thing' around. Jim was pretty sure he was a little bit in awe of her. He liked the way she told stories of her time aboard the Enterprise. He liked the way she stroked his hair off his forehead like a loving grandmother. He loved reading with her. Real books from all over the universe. His favourite had to be the collection of Andorian fairytales. It reminded him of home, when Amanda would tuck him into bed with epic tales of Vulcan warriors and their gods. Ironically enough, it had been an Andorian who wrote the book which let outsiders in on Vulcan's violent past.

"Excuse me mister, can you help me find my mamma?" Jim looked down to see a seven year old staring back up at him. He was rather cute and just the picture of innocent trouble. The scrapes on his knees and leaves in his hair adding to the mischievous air.

"Sure kiddo." Jim held out his hand for the boy to take. "I'm Jim, what's your name?"

"Kevin! I'm Kevin. Are you in Starfleet? Do you fight space pirates? Are you staying in the big camp thataway?" Kevin chirped, pointing in roughly the right direction. He was so excited, his brown eyes practically lighting up.

"Yeah, I work for the 'fleet. While I haven't fought any pirates yet I'm always on the lookout." Jim paused, uncertain of what to do. The only experience he'd had with kids was on Vulcan. Vulcan children were very different to Humans. They bounced less, were a lot more reserved and rarely clung to anyone they'd only just met. Once they knew you though, then you were fair game. Like kittens they'd climb into the closest lap and doze for hours. Under the right circumstances they would even play. Which all changed after the age of four when they were expected to follow the principles of Surak.

"Where might your mum be, Kevin?" Jim finally settled on asking. The faster he got the kid back to his parents, the faster he was back at the 'settlement' and he could send Spock his daily message.

"My mamma's a scientist. She had to go to a meeting with the big boss man but she didn't come back out before lunch. So I went to get a bun but they were all out and when I got back there were some scary men coming out and I ran really really fast. Mum told me all about bad men and that I should run away and find someone nice to look out for me and get me back to her and daddy." Kevin's rambling came to a sudden halt when he finally took a moment to breathe.

Jim had a bad feeling about this. A really bad feeling. If this is what Gary and Spock were warning him about then he should get the kid back to settlement. Under a unanimous decision, they'd decided to stay as separate from the town as possible. Now that might just come in handy.

"You wanna see the Starfleet base up the road?" Jim asked, trying to keep his tone light. It could be nothing. It could have just been a little kids imagination running away from him a little. But, if it wasn't, he needed to keep Kevin safe.

Hand in hand, they walked up the wide dirt track. Jim made sure to keep them in the shadows at the side of the road. If anyone came by they could easily jump into the undergrowth and hide in the deep forest lining either side.

When they came to the final bend in the road Jim diverted them off the track. He hid Kevin three metres in, on the first branch of a large tree. The uneasy feeling of before was now full blown dread. They were so close but he hadn't been able to hear any sound coming from camp. There was always noise. People talking, cooking, giving instructions, cleaning, complaining, walking about in groups.

Jim carefully threaded his way through the forest, close enough to see the road. He came to the edge of the forest and froze.

Chapter Text

Without another thought, Jim dropped to his hands and knees. Hidden by the thick bushes, he watched as guards with fully charged phasers stormed through the camp. Nothing was left untouched. Any food, clothes, electronics they found were piled by the edge of a deep hole. His eyes scanned the area, searching for any sign of his fellow 'fleet officers. He couldn't see any of them.

Like a moth to a flame, blue eyes drifted back to the hole. Foreboding permeated every fraction of his being.

Cautiously, oh so cautiously, he moved in closer. Once he was free of the cover of the forest, he ran to the edge of the rubbish pile. He snagged two partially broken PADDs and tucked them into his shirt. They were sure to be useful, some way or another.

Dread pooled low in his gut, Jim stalked forward as quietly as possible. The smell was horrible. This close to the trench, he could hear the flies buzzing. Jim's breakfast threatened to come back up. He couldn't help the reaction. In his mind's eye, he could already see what was waiting.

Bodies, some charred from phaser fire, some little more than bloody mush. They filled the depression, arms and legs tangled. Some were dressed in full uniform. Some were totally nude. It was horrifying. He was going to be sick.

Without looking back, Jim turned and ran. He didn't stop until he reached the safety of the forest. There, he sunk to the ground. Tears ran down his cheeks. Sob after sob rumbled through his chest. The sounds held in by the palm he slotted between his teeth. It wasn't long before pain bloomed behind his eyes and along the length of his throat.

Shakily, he backed up against a tree. Hands trembling, Jim brushed back his fringe. There were so many bodies. Too many bodies. Had anyone survived?

He slumped in the dirt, mind racing in a million directions at once. Gary, Spock, Kodos, doctors, medical checks, eugenics, electronics. One by one each puzzle piece slid neatly into place. On his way to Hoshi's, he'd heard people complaining about the food shortage. Starfleet officers relied on their own food sources. They'd brought everything they needed to sustain themselves for the mission. But then, his mind worked through the maths, he'd only been gone 15.48 hours. How could so much have changed?

Who else was in danger?

Jim's eyes widened as the realisation tore through him. If it wasn't for the weight which pressed against his back at that precise moment, he would have given his location away.

A hand covered Jim's open mouth, dirt and bits of debris finding their way onto his tongue. He wanted to retch. The feel of dirt -or sand- against his teeth had always been something which disgusted him.

"Delta-oh-one-epsilon-one-five." The man atop him whispered before removing his hand. This was a game Jim knew. He could do this.

"Gamma-em-seven-iota-four-two." He replied, mouth moving on autopilot. The body above him relaxed and shifted its weight. Starfleet's mandatory classes did come in handy, from time to time. Good to know.

"Glad to see you alive, Jimmy." Phil positioned himself to the side and turned to watch the soldiers. Jim could feel questions bubbling up but decided it was best to stay quiet. If Phil made it out, so had others. It was enough to give him hope. He could already feel, in the pit of his stomach, that it was too late for the townspeople. The needs of the few no longer mattered. They were long gone. Kodos' fucked up ideals played on repeat through his mind.

Had he cottoned on earlier, maybe he could have done something. Maybe not. Either way, it was too late now. Kaiidth.

"Come on kiddo, nothing good here. We need to rendezvous with the others." Phil started to squirm away, keeping low to the ground and almost totally silent. Jim had to give his friend some credit. He'd never known he could be so sneaky. When they got back to Earth -because there was no way they wouldn't make it back. Jim refused to believe so- he'd have to get the old man to teach him a few of his tricks.

"Wait! There's a kid. I can't leave him." Jim hissed, already turning away from Phil and rushing back for Kevin. He'd left the little tyke waiting for long enough. The poor thing was probably scared by now. Or even more scared than he'd already been. One could only keep pretending that bad things weren't happening around them before the facade came crashing down.

Jim pushed through branches and vines, carefully stepping over roots and fallen trees. As he walked, he spat out the dirt and detritus left in his mouth and ran his tongue along his teeth. If Kevin survived then there would surely be other children needing help. He couldn't just leave them to fend for themselves. History could attest for the vile things that happened to women and children during political unease.

"Kevin? I'm back. Come on, we have to go." He called into the growing darkness. The silence of the forest unnerved him. Weren't there usually animals scampering about?

"J-Jim?" A little voice called.

He followed the sound until he could see the boy. Kevin was exactly where he'd left him. The sight brought a new round of tears to the corners of Jim's eyes. He was all this brave little boy had left now. At least until he got them out of there. He was sure Kevin would have anxious family members waiting for him.

"Hey Kevin, come here." Jim cooed as he reach out his arms. "That's a boy, I've got you."

Holding the boy close, Jim jogged back to where Phil was still waiting. The older man looked Kevin over before nodding and silently leading the way. Jim had a pretty good idea of where they were going. Before the Reliance left, he and Scotty had spent a day rock climbing in the foothills. They'd discovered a number of sandstone caverns which branched out and interconnected. A giant, underground stone maze. Or just a normal tunnel system but maze sounded more mysterious. They'd even mapped quite a bit of it before they'd had to head back. It would be the perfect place to hide out in.

Dark, quiet, safe from the weather, hidden entrance Jim had literally stumbled upon. And they'd only told a select few about it. A few of the science nerds, two engineers and Phil.

 


 

By the time they arrived, Kevin was fast asleep in Jim's arms. The extra use of the ship's gym and then all the heavy lifting and running around on planet hadn't been a waste of energy. Jim was glad. He would do anything and everything he possibly could to keep Kevin as safe and happy as possible.

He shuffled through the dark caverns, careful to keep quiet. The poor boy looked like he needed some rest. And food. His hips dug uncomfortably into Jim's side.

Eventually, they walked into a large central room. Another doctor, Amelia Stratford, rushed forward and took Kevin into another room. Freed of his burden, Jim was quickly led into an adjoining chamber. Here, Commanders Abbey and Xverjabdene were sitting at the head of an assembly of 25 people.

"Lieutenant, good to see you back. Report." Abbey signalled for them to stand at the raised end of the hall.

"Kodos' men have ransacked the base. Anything they can use is being taken back to the town. Everything else has either been destroyed or buried with," Phillip paused, eyes glassy, before regaining himself. "With the others."

A low murmur moved through the room.

"No other survivors?" Xverjabdene rasped, throat clicking over the Standard words.

"Only Ensign Kirk and a local child." Phil said, stepping aside.

Abbey dismissed them and ran a tired hand through his short ginger hair. He shared a look with Xverjabdene. She tilted her head, silver eyes glistening. Something passed between them.

"It'll be another month before Starfleet checks in. Two before they can get here with enough forces to make a difference." Abbey announced as he straightened his spine, face pale.

Jim looked around the room. Every face he saw, paled at the time frame. It would be more than a month before the USS Reliance came back for them. In that time, who knew what could happen. How many of them would be left. They had minimal supplies. A lot of their friends, workmates and fellow officers had been killed right before their eyes. Despite their military training, the people around him were fidgeting. Whispers arose and frustrated, hopeless tears fell.

"If I may?" Jim asked, standing back up. He'd had a plan for this. "The Tarsus system is over 50 light years from Earth, correct? That makes it just over 30 from Vulcan." Jim thought over the figures, double checking his maths. If the high council were to give the order, Vulcan could lend aid within two weeks.

Noticing the multitude of confused faces, Jim sighed. Sometimes the secrecy surrounding his home planet was more than a little inconvenient.

"The Vulcan Sciences Academy has been working on an advanced warp core system for, well forever. Over generations they've redesigned and developed a system that's at least twice as efficient as anything else in the Federation." Jim said. He bit his lip, unsure of the next part of his 'brilliant' idea. The plan would only work if Spock petitioned the council and they agreed. A vote from Sarek was guaranteed, Amanda would see to that. T'Pau was a given. If they argued the logics of it, she'd follow. Spock and logic were her two favourite things. The other council members however, they were the problem. And getting a message to Spock. Jim may have missed his check in but no Vulcan would act without direct proof.

Well, no Vulcan besides Sybok. But that was a whole new kettle of fish.

"We need to open communication..." Jim trailed off. If Scotty was still here they'd be able to do it, without a doubt. The man was a crazy genius. But so many people were dead. Jim could only see three familiar faces from Engineering. Six from Science.

"If we were to build a transmitter and bounce it off the 'fleet subspace channel. It could work." Lieutenant Damherns spoke up. She waved a green hand thoughtfully. "We'd need to hack into it though."

"Subspace is guarded by the best of the best. There's no way we can hack into it, especially without-" Rogers angry tirade was cut off by Phil of all people.

"Leave the hacking to Jimmy. I have the feeling he might have done it once or twice this mission alone." Phil said from his position against the wall, signature smirk firmly in place.

Jim blushed at the attention. It was true. Since the Reliance had left, he'd been using supspace to bounce his signal.

This stupid, crazy, desperate plan could work.

And in the meantime, Jim would find any survivors he could and keep them safe. He owed it to Kevin and everyone who'd been hurt by Kodos.

Chapter Text

They set to work straight away. Anything salvaged was brought into a chamber closer to the surface. Here, cracks in the walls provided lighting during the day. Not much, but enough for Xverjabdene's silver eyes to work on their device. The former Science officer was truly the best woman for the job. She had a way with machines that left the engineers feeling a little jealous. Mostly it was the fact that her kind could move electrons to their will. Jim was pretty sure it was covered in advanced xenobiology. Which was something he would be taking next year. When they got off this forsaken planet. Which they would. Simple.

Meanwhile, Jim and a select number of officers, began taking small trips into the forest. They had multiple objectives. Sourcing essentials, such as food, water and materials to be made into blankets and insulation were a top priority.

The nights were steadily getting longer. The temperatures dropping to below freezing. It wouldn't be long before snow set in. Jim could see it in the clouds already.

It had been almost twelve years since he'd last seen snow in Iowa. It was something he'd hoped to introduce Spock to. A Christmas trip to the old farm could be alright. Snowed in, warm fire and a cosy position on the couch. Huddled up for warmth, of course. Marshmallows, soft fairy lights, a Christmas movie for Spock to logic over. He'd try and seduce Spock into drinking from his hot chocolate. Spock would give him a lecture about substance abuse they'd all gotten before witnessing the horrors of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. What a delightfully terrifying experience that was.

Before the cold set in for good, Jim wanted to head to the outskirts of town and find out what happened. Phil had explained what happened at camp. The screams to run, the way security officers stayed behind and tried to hold them off. How people banded together to let the youngest survive. How the doctors and biologists figured out what was happening too late. Everyone personally blamed themselves. Survivor's guilt had settled in thick.

Jim glanced behind, checked that everyone else was thoroughly occupied, before pushing through the ferns. Working his way from the group, Jim searched the forest floor for any signs of life. He knew that Kevin couldn't be the only 'accidental' survivor. He also knew that most people would head into the lush vegetation and not stray too far from their old homes. Humans were creatures of habit, after all. Young ones especially.

Creeping through the dense foliage was harder than it looked. Under his feet leaves crunched and fallen branches snapped. All around him, branches grew, some covered, some bare. Vines had to be gently pushed aside. Puddles stepped over or walked around. It was arduous travelling but it was worth every scrape, bite, bruise and blister to finally find three small faces.

They were hidden in an alcove created by the roots of a giant tree. From the relative safety of their position, the eldest, a girl who appeared no older than thirteen, assessed him. What she was looking for, he had no idea. She seemed to find it or deem him safe or something because a second later, out she popped. She ran a hand through her knotted saffron hair and cautiously came forward. Jim stayed very still, crouched as he was, opposite their tree.

In truth, he'd simply been admiring it, in awe of its size and age. The shape reminded him of the oasis trees on Vulcan. The seeds would bury themselves deep in the sand until they hit a hidden water source. Then the tree would grow bringing the water up with it. Soft mosses, flowers and other small plants would eventually grow in the shade of it's willowing branches. The thick leaves created a dome which little heat permeated and just enough sunlight breached. It was a tree which gave life, very much like this one.

Behind it, Jim could hear the tell tale rushing of a small river. It would explain where this titan got enough water to support itself. It was fortunate that the kids came across it.

"Hey there sweetie, my name's Jim. Would you three like to come with me?" Jim tried to keep himself as unthreatening as possible. If these children had escaped the violence in town, an unfamiliar adult would do little to make them feel safe. Not if they'd seen even a fraction of the horror Jim had.

"Why should we trust you? You're with them, with Kodos. I hate you. I hate you!" A little boy, perhaps ten or eleven, screamed, running at Jim. His little fists rained blow after blow to his chest while Jim waited for it to pass. When he tired himself out, Jim would offer him comfort and a slightly safer, warmer place to stay before the 'fleet got them all out.

"Shhh, I've got ya. You're safe now." Jim murmured into his sandy brown hair, the kid's tears and snot working into his shirt. The little body shuddered in his arms, pulling at his heartstrings. They were like little, cracked porcelain dolls.

"I'm Zayra. Thomas, David and I decided not to go to the hall when everyone was summoned. We were playing in the park and we heard screams. We ran toward them and the doors started to buckle. It looked like a monster was trying to escape." Zayra bit back a sob, her face contorting in agony.

"We borrowed some food and blankies." A voice perked up. Jim watched as a little boy wiggled his way from between two particularly close roots. Dirt was smeared over his clothes and cherub face. Everything about him made Jim want to pinch his little cheeks. Including the filthy blanket, clutched tightly in his right hand.

"Are you going to hurt us?" Big green eyes stared up at Jim. The hope and yearning in those eyes stole Jim's breath away. How anyone could hurt children was beyond Jim.

"No, I was hoping I could maybe look after you. I've already been looking after another boy. Maybe you know him. His name is Kevin?" Jim asked, looking at the three.

The reactions were instantaneous. Zayra's eyes began to water, David's cherub cheeks turned pink and he giggled in delight. Thomas shifted his gaze.

"If Kevin Riley thinks you're alright, I guess." Thomas huffed. Jim stifled a laugh. He guessed this was what he was like as a kid. Divine retribution for all the premature grey hairs he'd given his mother.

The bushes behind their party rustled and then three figures stepped out. The tallest made his way straight over to Jim and whacked him upside the head.

"Of all the stupid, selfish things you could do. What were you thinking, walking off on your own? I have half a mind to send you to the naughty corner since you're acting like a child." Phil ranted while Damherns tried to muffle her giggles. She failed, spectacularly, and the irate doctor turned his wrath on her.

Meanwhile, three small, traumatised kids watched with wide, frightened eyes. When Phil moved closer to Jim again, Thomas shot up off his lap and in front of him, like a little guard. Zayra joined his side, long hair turning dark with her mood. David managed to squirm his way into Jim's vacated lap and watched with innocent, wide eyes.

"Fascinating. Look how the colour changed." Phil examined the kids standing between them. "You must be Lilinian."

Zayra continued to scowl at Phil. They reminded Jim of sehlat cubs. Cute but vicious and very territorial. It seemed like he'd already won his way into their hearts.

"Don't worry about Phil. He's just a doctor. He gets a bit scared when he can't just see Jim." Damherns said, sticking out her hand to Zayra who shook it lightly. Slowly, her hair faded back to it's soft flaxen colour which seemed to be the signal for Thomas to relax as well.

"Come on Jim, Verjabadene wants you back." With one hand, she pulled him to his feet while the other curled around Zayra's waist and lifted her up.

"Xverjabdene." Jim corrected without thinking, repositioning David and holding his free hand out to Thomas. He figured the older boy would prefer to save his dignity and walk rather than be carried.

"You're lucky you're cute Jimmy." She said, flipping her curly hair over one shoulder and walking back the way they'd come.

"I guess we'll just bring up the rear." Phil muttered as he and another sciences lackey, followed along behind them.

 


 

Entering what Jim liked to affectionately call High Command was nerve racking. Beside him, Xverjabdene explained how she'd turned three PADDs and a few scraps of replicator into a transmitting device.

The smooth clicks and sharp hisses of her language were settling to his frayed nerves. It had only taken her two days to get the device up and running.

In that time Jim was subjected to major disapproval by several of his peers. They either didn't believe he had the skills to pull off such a feet, were planning on reporting him for hacking a secured subspace channel or possibly worst of all, couldn't fathom why anyone would be interested in believing him.

"Worry not, brother of blood. Ignorance breeds fools." Xverjabdene patted his shoulder and took her seat at the front of the hall.

In true Starfleet fashion, they were opening a debate as to whether Jim should be allowed to hack into Starfleet's channel. Never mind that this was an emergency. Never mind that people were dying. Had already died. Never mind that they were in the hands of a mass murdering psychopath. Everyone wanted to argue on a plan they'd already agreed upon. It was good to know that some things never changed.

"The room is now open to discussion. One person at a time, please." Abbey called out. Murmurs broke out across the room. Eventually, Rogers stood.

"If Kirk can get a message out, why would the Vulcan High Council help us? They hate Humans and the stuck up-"

"Hate is an emotion. To be 'stuck up' would be an emotional reaction to perceived superiority. You're petty, xenophobic conclusions don't become you." Jim ground out, hands balled at his sides. He resorted to repeating Surak's tenets, anything to stop the seething rage boiling in his blood.

It was hypocritical, he knew, but he couldn't help it. They might just be assholes to anyone who wasn't green blooded and pointy eared with scary awesome IQ's -and some who were- but that didn't mean they weren't Jim's people. If Vulcan was home then even the High Council was family.

"Okay, calm down everybody. I don't need to separate you two, do I?" Abbey asked, looking between them. Rogers was glaring like his life depended on it. Unfortunately for him, Jim was used to glares. And Vulcans were much better at it. T'Pring practically made it an art form. When she was seven. The secret was adding a little disgust in with the hatred.

"With all due respect," Phil spoke up from what had quickly become his spot at the back of the room. "Jim's significant other is Vulcan royalty."

The doctor closed his eyes and looked the picture of ease as if oblivious to the shitstorm he'd just summoned, the bastard. Jim knew he just liked to watch him squirm. If Phil didn't have a large pile of lollipops waiting back on Earth, Jim would maybe not talk to him for half a day. Or something. He'd figure out a suitable punishment.

Questions began to bounce off the walls. People shuffled and tried to get a better look at Jim. All the attention made him feel a little ill. Sure, he liked being the centre of everyone's universe every now and then but not like this. He'd learnt long ago that any attention was not good attention. Right now, people were looking at him like a le'matya circling an injured aylak.

"Are there anymore concerns regarding our current plan of action?" Xverjabdene had a way of making the largest of rooms fall to silence. She clicked her tongue twice, a sign of impatience, and when no one else stepped forward finished the meeting.

"Come, brother. Together we shall make noise." Xverjabdene led Jim out of the hall and into the halls leading to the surface. They scrambled over the lip of the entrance and climbed up to the ledge overlooking the forest. From the position of the sun, the single satellite in orbit around Tarsus V should have been roughly in line with their position.

Jim's fingers flew over the screen. He worked his way into Kodos' system, bounced his signal off the satellite and entered the server. The message, pre-recorded with footage of the ruins of camp and statements from Kevin and Zayra, was in Spock's capable hands.

Now they just had to wait.

 


 

Xverjabdene comes from an alien warrior species. Blood brother is the closest translation to 'fellow soldier whom I trust and respect'. It's a high honour for Jim to be her 'brother'.

Chapter Text

Jim shifted from one foot to another, waiting impatiently for Xverjabdene's signal. They were on the outskirts of town, a secret 'recon mission' to asses Kodos' standing, how the remaining population were doing, and to find any additional survivors or supplies.

Things back at HQ weren't going so well. Military training could only come so far and many of the remaining personnel were becoming despondent. Arguments erupted in the halls. Hidden xenophobia was drawing the few remaining non-Human crew members apart. Abbey, for all he was a nice guy, was pretty hopeless when it came to dealing with insubordination and Xverjabdene was taking the brunt of his responsibilities. And since she wasn't Human, well, it was safe to say that it wasn't going all that well.

People were afraid, tired, hungry and temperatures were quickly reaching boiling point.

Which was the main reason Jim and Xverjabdene were out, in the dreary cold, trying to find anything to bring back and lift everyone's spirits. It didn't matter that they'd gotten the least sleep out of anyone. Or that they were dividing their rations to keep the kids fed. Or that they'd allocated a separate sleeping area for the six of them. Six, which just last night, had become seven. Damherns had finally given up appearances and joined them. She'd even given them permission to use her first name. Jim did, with pleasure.

Nidiss was a great addition to their little family. As an Orion and Starfleet member, she was more than willing to protect her 'precious little babies' while he or Xverjabdene were unavailable. Jim hoped they didn't need such extreme measures, however there was talk.

Jim's instincts told him not to leave them alone. So, he didn't. If Tarsus had taught him anything, it was to listen to his gut.

Xverjabdene's head popped through the bushes to his right and she beckoned him to follow. He did so without question. She was probably the only person he'd served under whom he trusted. If she told him to run weaponless into a firefight, he would.

He kept his eyes on her hairline. The few dark curls which escaped her tight bun catching his attention. Her hair was almost black but had a blue sheen to it. Actually, all her features did. Silver eyes with the slightest touch of blue. Pale skin with a tint of blue. He'd never noticed. Maybe he'd ask when the cavalry arrived and they didn't have to only think about their survival.

They stopped with the river to their left and the town to their right. Light frost still covered the ground, breaking under their 'fleet issue boots. Jim's toes curled as he tried to keep as warm as possible. He didn't need another lecture from Phil. He knew the dangers of venturing out here. Frankly, staying put seemed the more dangerous option. They needed supplies, like, last week. Another day or so and their food would run out. There was barely any firewood left. Jim didn't have time to be worried about freezing his toes off when they'd all be freezing in a few nights.

"This way, follow quick. Voices ahead." Xverjabdene said, turning towards the town and skirting some of the larger trees. They stayed close to the bases, darting between cover and always scanning their surroundings. Jim's ears may not have been as naturally sensitive as Xverjabdene's however, years of training with his mother made him pretty sharp. For a Human.

It was this which saved them as Jim sprinted forward and dragged Xverjabdene against his body. They leaned against a tree, his breathing clouding just in front of them as the adrenalin pumped through his system.

A few feet away, someone swore under their breath. There was only one voice. Survivor, townsperson or guard?

Jim chanced a look. Single guard. One weapon on the ground beside him. Another strapped across his back. Without really thinking about it, Jim darted forward. He moved quickly, silently, until he was directly behind the man.

It wasn't hard to swipe the phaser from the ground. When he'd retrieved it, Xverjabdene came out from her hiding spot. Directly above the guy.

She dropped to the ground in front of him with barely a sound. The guy's eyes went wide. She struck him, once in the throat and once over the heart. She moved with deadly precision, swiping the phaser from his back and shooting him with it. His corpse fell to the ground with a thump.

"Teach me." Jim whispered in awe. That had to be the coolest thing he'd ever seen. Well, not the dead guy bit. That would be riding on his conscience for a while.

"That was already set on kill right?" Jim asked. Xverjabdene raised an eyebrow and nodded. Okay good. Now they really needed to hurry up and never mention this again.

"Walk in my shadow." She finally said, moving North-East again.

Jim followed without comment. Slightly shaken by the bloodshed even though he didn't want to be. His actions had caused death before. He didn't regret them. Not when so many lives were at risk. This was just the same. If the guard was alive, he'd kill them and then tell Kodos about the 'fleet presence. He was probably out here looking for people like Zayra, Thomas and David. If they'd stunned him, he would have died from the cold. It was the best option.

Maybe if he told himself that enough, he'd start to believe it.


 

By the time they reached the town, the sun was already high in the sky.

On their way, they'd come across another group of Kodos' men and this time, Jim had dispatched them. Mostly because they'd literally walked right on them.

Xverjabdene was several feet ahead of him by that point. Alone and outnumbered, with weapons pressed against her, she'd had little choice but to wait for Jim to come up with a plan. One wrong move and she'd have been shot to pieces.

Luckily or unluckily, depending on your point of view, the guards weren't exactly disciplined. They'd decided the pretty alien was about what they'd been missing and proceeded to undress her. Jim had taken the opportunity to shoot them down from his vantage point in the tree behind their tents. While they were scrambling to find him, Xverjabdene had shaken free of her bonds, grabbed the guy who'd been touching her and broke his spine.

Jim was officially over feeling guilty.

What happens in a war zone, stays in a war zone. As a 'fleet officer he would get into other situations resulting in the loss of lives. It was time to grow up.

Xverjabdene motioned for him to stop. Crouched in the shadow of a seemingly abandoned house, they waited. Something in the place next door stirred. A woman's voice could be heard, singing to herself. Her silhouette moved from in front of the curtains and Jim could vaguely hear the click of her shoes on hardwood floors. It seemed that Kodos' chosen were living relatively well.

A silent message passed between them before Jim was up and running. Behind him, he could faintly hear Xverjabdene heading under the house rather than exposing herself by running around. Jim reached the steps and, with a quick glance at the street, jumped up them and onto the porch. The door was resting slightly open. A small crack by one of it's hinges. Someone had already forced their way inside.

Cautiously, Jim entered the dark hallway. The small amount of light coming from the doorway highlighted the swirls of dust motes he kicked up. Clearly, this place had been abandoned for more than a week. The air was stale and breathing it in was difficult. Distantly, he wondered who had lived there. Why Kodos seemed to find them more of a threat than the others.

Keeping his footfalls light, Jim walked into the kitchen and quietly searched through the cupboards. Anything wooden, he stashed in the lightweight backpack hanging off his shoulder. He moved to the pantry. Rotten food, insects that looked suspiciously like cockroaches and mouldy bread greeted him. Gingerly, he pushed the insects out of the way, feeling nervous as they walked over his arm.

"Nothing to worry about. They're just insects. They're just insects. Not poisonous ones. Just insects." He muttered to himself. Since the time Stonn had covered him in sandworms, Jim wasn't particularly good with things wiggling around on him. Plus, cockroaches were gross. And he was mildly allergic to them.

Finally, Jim's hand hit something hard and cool. Exactly what he'd been looking for. He picked out each can, checked their seals and placed them carefully in the bag. Once he was finished, he moved into the lounge and swiped the few books scattered around the room. Impulsively, he opened them and read the little messages scribbled across the first page.

Sam Hannings.

He glanced around the room once more and stuffed them into the bag. At the very least, they could use them as fuel. Hopefully he could keep them.

In the hall, Xverjabdene was waiting, full bag slung over her back. Jim slid his other arm through the available strap and gave her two thumbs up. Together, they crossed the room and hefted open one of the large kitchen windows. There was less chance of being spotted if they escaped straight into the forest.

 


 

"Christ, it's been anarchy since you left!" Phil groused as they climbed up to the tunnel entrance. He'd met them in the forest ten minutes ago and hadn't stopped complaining since.

"We bought back two emergency medical kits. And wood for the fires. And food." Jim hedged, knowing the doctor was about to blow a casket.

"Since you've been gone, the Engineers decided they'd rather stay away from everyone else, Medical is going crazy trying to make sure no one's gonna die and don't even get me started on Science. Those little kids and Nidiss have half barricaded themselves into that hole you call home and I've got three men down from Orion pheromones." Phil threw up his hands in exasperation. It had barely been a week before everyone started forming factions.

What clearly concerned Phil most however, was Nidiss' use of her pheromones. She was on powerful suppressants and shouldn't even be able to use them, let alone knock people out.

Jim had read the alien student manual, knew that even extremely stressful situations shouldn't affect the suppressant.

Jim exchanged a quick glance with Xverjabdene before they split up. She walked with Phil to deposit the supplies while he jogged to where Nidiss and the kids were. If his suspicions were correct, heads were going to roll.

The bag thwacked against his back in time with his footfalls. Sweat, from the long journey, the anxiety, the sneaking and climbing and shuffling around, dropped into his eyes, blurring his vision. It didn't matter. He kept going. By now, Jim knew these caves like the back of his hand. Having a crazy powerful brain had never been so useful.

He skidded to a halt before a large pile of rocks. They almost completely blocked the path. He had to squeeze his way through, contorting his spine into several odd angles before finally popping out the other side. Nidiss and the kids had spread the three blankets on the floor and were currently curled in the centre. At his entrance, a blue eye opened and watched him. A few seconds later the ball of limbs moved, Kevin and Zayra pushing their way out of the huddle and running over to him.

They stopped just short of him. Evening the playing field a little, Jim crouched down and opened his arms. He was immediately knocked off his feet by two small bodies.

Jim just laughed and held them close, cherishing this small happiness.

A hand settled on his head, Xverjabdene evidently made the journey with little trouble.

"He will come, brother." She whispered and carefully picked up both children. They giggled at having her attention, still a little shy. Jim didn't know how she could tell he was worried when he hadn't even known it himself.

Of course Spock would come. He just didn't know if he'd given him enough to get the council to cooperate.

If they weren't rescued soon, he didn't know what would happen. He just knew that the building tension had to go somewhere. And it was already directed towards their motley family.

Sitting against the wall, Jim just took the time to watch Nidiss and Xverjabdene interact with their charges. Nidiss was a natural, she'd pretty much become a mother to everyone, including Jim. She'd said it was something about Orion instincts and he'd left it at that. Xverjabdene was something else though. She was like a sehlat with her cubs. Gentle and fierce at once.

As he watched, silver eyes softened and she threw Kevin in the air. He squealed, grabbing David's attention. Quick as a flash, the toddler was standing at her feet, arms outstretched in a universal 'my turn'. She laughed, more a huff of air than anything, before sending Kevin back to Jim and throwing up the younger child.

"You're beautiful/cherished." Jim sighed, knowing she could hear him over the squabbling children. When she smiled, it lit up the entire room.

Chapter Text

For three days tensions between the divided Starfleet officers rose. Jim watched everything unfold from his place beside Xverjabdene. It was difficult to reconcile the image he'd always had of Starfleet to the truth of their situation. Rogers was intent on spreading what Jim could only describe as a hate campaign. It was ridiculous, more than stupid and so last millennium. What was left of the Engineering department was convinced, or following the xenophobic idiot out of fear and it made his blood boil.

And then they all disappeared.

No one could find hide or hair of them. Two days of searching left everyone confused and worried. There was little doubt in Jim's mind as to where they had gone. He just hoped he was wrong. Surely the universe owed him that.

Except, it totally didn't.

Another two days passed before everything went to shit.

Kodos' guards came pouring out of the forest. They surrounded the entrance, phases charged and made their way inside. Jim and Nidiss separated, running through the tunnels and warning the other 22 inhabitants. As they went, they destroyed anything which emitted light. Blinded, they had the advantage.

Jim found Abbey, Phil and Xverjabdene where he hastily explained his strategy. Basically, he and other volunteers would lead the guards on a wild goose chase through the tunnels to give everyone else time to escape. They would most likely be captured and taken before Kodos, tortured for information and killed. It wasn't the best of plans and Jim was sure Spock would kill him but he had nothing else. He had to get the kids to safety. Had to give them and Nidiss the best chance possible. Their safety was more important than anything. That was his win.

As expected, Abbey, Phil and Xverjabdene all volunteered to be heroes.

They rejoined the chase, each getting the attention of various guards and leading them deeper into their lair. These underground tunnels were less explored, decidedly more deadly for all involved. It wasn't unheard of for caverns to cave in unexpectedly, the limestone around them very old.

Phil was the first person caught. From Jim's position, he could hear the doctor cursing and thrashing around. He'd knocked out three guards, broken two noses and one arm before they'd finally subdued him.

Abbey was next, having led his guards the furthest away. He'd found himself at a dead end. Without the option of turning back, he worked the unstable rock to his advantage and engineered a small scale cave in. Before they'd stunned him, seven guards were dead, five were unconscious and another four covered in a malady of bruises and hairline fractures.

Kodos' men captured Jim not long after. Having the most extensive knowledge of their home, Jim led them to their underground water source. The river which eventually ran beside the town also happened to flow through their home. The water was inky black and chilled everyone who'd seen it. Unfortunately for the guards, the majority of them spotted the dangerous waters much too late. Their bodies were ripped from the cavern and pulled down by the ferocious torrent. Their short screams were left echoing through the large space. From the other side, Jim watched as the two remaining men turned and hightailed it. It was a shame he'd managed to run into Xverjabdene and her perusers not long after. Jim sacrificed himself to keep her safe.

Xverjabdene escaped and left a line of broken bodies in her wake. They were the only clue as to where their comrades had escaped. Jim had no doubts that Xverjabdene could keep everyone safe. Help from Vulcan was about due. It wouldn't be much longer.

 


 

Arriving at Kodos' mansion was pretty much exactly what Jim expected it to be. The staff said nothing about the three men, two of which were covered in nasty bruises, being led into the extravagant house. The opulence made Jim sick. People died, were dying, at the whim of a man so self obsessed he couldn't even see a solution to his own problem. That was, if the food shortage really was the reason he was killing off people left, right and centre. Jim had his doubts.

Everyone they passed, all of the guards and staff, were well fed. They didn't seem to be weighed down by anxiety as Jim expected.

Without any form of medical treatment or consideration, they were led down into an underground cellar. Here, chains had been affixed to the walls. Each man was cuffed, kicked and spat on before the guards made themselves scarce. Probably to lick their own wounds and come up with an excuse as to why only 30 of them came back with three prisoners.

Night in the dungeons was cold and doughty. A single barred window set high in the wall between Phil and Jim let in enough air to leave them shivering against the cool stone floor. If the situation wasn't so deadly, Jim would have laughed. The room was like something taken directly from a bad movie. He just wondered if Kodos would put on a really bad Russian accent when he came to interrogate them. That would make their incarceration worth it.

"Yho arrre nohw my prysnors. Teel mhe ahl yho knohw!" Jim rubbed his hand together and sent Phil his most evil smile. He must have looked pathetic because the old guy actually laughed.

"Sorry, evil genius sir, I'm not actually a secret agent. Just a regular old doctor." Phil shrugged in apology, drawing a reluctant laugh from Abbey. They grinned at each other, ready to face anything Kodos threw at them come morning.

Unfortunately, come morning, they felt like shit. The door creaked as it opened and if Jim wasn't dead tired, he'd make a joke about it. Bone weary and exhausted, Jim just watched as three men and a woman walked inside. One of them flicked on a light and it burned. For weeks they'd mostly lived in half light. Electrical lighting wasn't a priority when everyone was slowly starving to death.

"Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy. Who'd have expected to see you here?" Kodos asked as he came closer. The light threw his features into sharp relief. Cold eyes stared down at Jim. A cruel grin stretched his lips when Jim refused to answer. Like he'd already been given everything he was after.

"Come on Jim, it doesn't have to be like this. We're alike, you and I. Better. Smarter." Kodos trailed a hand along Jim's jaw. His touch was feather light. "Just tell me where they are and you're free to go."

From the corner of his eye, Jim watched as Phil and Abbey were held down.

"You're right, Kodos. I am better than you." Jim spat. The hand on his face tightened and his chin was suddenly yanked up.

"I was hoping you'd say that." Kodos sighed and let Jim go, pushing him back against the unforgiving stone. "Inject them."

With a careless flick of his wrist, he patted Jim's cheek and turned to leave. No doubt he'd be back soon enough.

The woman, some sort of medic from the look of her, made her way over to Jim and tucked a loose strand of blonde hair behind her ear. She set her bag on the floor and carefully extracted a hypo. Flicking it twice, she grabbed Jim's hair and pulled his head to the side. Neck exposed, the needle sunk into his flesh and released its contents into his bloodstream. Finished, she backed away.

Whatever he'd been injected with set to work straight away. Jim could feel his eyelids closing against his will. A fast acting sedative.


 

Jim drifted in and out of consciousness for what seemed like days. The first time he woke, his arms had been swollen three times their usual size. A sharp prick to his neck followed by a hiss and he was floating off again. Sometimes, he dreamed of Earth. His friends back at the academy. Sometimes, he dreamt of the Reliant and working with Scotty.

Mostly, he dreamed of Spock. He knew he was dreaming and yet, it felt much too real. He could feel the intoxicating heat, the press of high gravity, Spock's skin against his own. Long fingers pressing into his cheek and temple. A kiss of minds. Love and protection and Spock and neverleaveyou, neverleaveyou, neverleavingyouagain. Mine.

Jim rejoined the living strapped to a table on his stomach. Without a shirt. Somewhere behind him voices were arguing. He tilted his head and glimpsed Phil chained to the wall. His friend looked like he'd taken on a legion of Klingons and called them dishonourable bastards. Or maybe he'd gotten the shit kicked out of him by one of the assholes who'd captured them.

"Looks like sleeping beauty finally woke up." Kodos said from somewhere behind Jim's left shoulder. It was a relief not to see him, not to see the sick joy he got out of this. Jim would rather die than give him any form of satisfaction.

"Now, now pet, don't be shy." Kodos pushed something and the table began to move, lifting Jim's head and lowering his feet. When he was almost vertical, the contraption stopped with a screech. Jim refused to flinch.

"We've got a wild day of fun games lined up for you today. Perhaps it'll get your friends to loosen their tongues." Kodos ran his hands along the skin of Jim's back. The touch revolted him. Up and down, he rubbed at the smooth, tanned skin, every pass making Jim want to vomit. Everything about it was wrong. He didn't want to be touched by anyone other than Spock. A headache formed behind Jim's eyes as he tried to keep in any physical reactions. Tears were welling behind his eyelids. His throat was uncomfortably tight. The muscles in his arms twitched, wanting to pull away.

"Why don't we get started?" Kodos asked, leaning over Jim's back to whisper straight into his right ear. "Acamarian whips should do the job."

There was a rustling behind him and then something whistling through the air. A long length of spiked leather slapped into his skin. His entire back felt like it was set on fire. Jim's mouth filled with blood as he bit his tongue to stifle any noise. He couldn't stop the tears that ran down his face. Clear twins to the rivulets of blood running down his spine. Kodos then yanked the whip from his flesh, tearing off chunks of skin. Someone vomited and he wished he could do the same.

Over and over again, Kodos slashed through Jim's back. The pressure in his head grew worse and worse until he finally, he succumbed to darkness.

A bucket of water was dumped over his head. He spluttered and coughed, trying to ease the burn in his lungs. The sudden movement opened his back and Jim swallowed a scream.

"I'm not nearly done with you." Kodos sneered. A second later something white hot was dripped into the cuts along Jim's back. The pain was unimaginable. Far worse than the whip. Worse than having every bone broken and knitted back together and broken again. There was no comparison. There was nothing but agony resonating through his body, through his mind, down into his katra.

'Spock. Spock. Spock. Spock. Spock. Help Me!' Unable to cry out, Jim screamed deep in his mind. He didn't know where he ended and the pain began. He couldn't remember what it felt like before liquid fire was poured into his veins. Everything which was once Jim, was now unbelievable torment.

From deep inside himself, Jim vaguely noticed as the door was ripped off its hinges. Through tears and waves of debilitating pain, he watched as something hurtled through the air and straight into Kodos' chest. The snap of metal, the hiss of a hypo and alien-warm hands. Everything faded as he was unbound, washed, patched up and carried through the large house. Jim's head lolled on his rescuer's shoulder, afternoon light piercing as he gazed unblinking at the colossal ships darkening the sky. Each one could eat a constitution starship for breakfast.

Jim closed his eyes and let himself fall unconscious. No doubt the next time he woke, Spock would be by his side.

Chapter Text

Jim came around slowly. At first he just lay there, bright lights searing into his skull. The metronome of steady beeps fading in and out of focus. Distantly, he was aware of the solid warmth at his back. The soft touches trailing down his side. The rightness, settled deep in his gut.

When his eyes grew tired, he blinked.

Time passed, people bustled through the room. More than once, he made out his mother's voice. A few times there was a phantom ache in his back. Memories which made him want to retch, scream and struggle. Every time, a large hand would settle across his forehead and the reaction would stop. He'd feel calm and peaceful again. The hand would then trail down his cheek, follow the curve of his jaw and brush ever so lightly against his lips.

It felt like love and care and Jim didn't want it to end. He knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that when it did, he would start to hurt again. His body, mind and soul. So he clung to the soft presence inside his head. Clung to it like a child and wished it never to leave. Surely, he would break under the pressure.

Three days passed, each as unproductive as the last. The only time Jim felt any real awareness was when Spock left. In the brief moments of clarity, Jim remembered. His brain threw every detail at him. Every person who served with him. Every man, woman and child he'd been there to help. Hoshi, Kevin, Zayra, Thomas, David. Sam. Not his Sam but another, clearly a scientist with an appreciation for antiques and a fiancée who supplied his meagre library. He could see his brother in that. Could see Aurelan in the girl who'd penned message after message in the covers. It hurt his head and his heart.

When Spock was gone far longer than his customary 5-10 minutes, Jim's thoughts spiralled. Worries, for the others, for Phil and Abbey, for Xverjabdene and Nidiss, the kids, swirled round and round. His mind was not a comforting place. Not the safe haven he'd once thought of it. He was alone and vulnerable and- Spock was back.

Instead of crawling back into bed and wrapping his body around Jim, he sat at the chair placed flush against its side. A hand encased Jim's and he was no longer alone. The warmth of Spock's mind settled against his own. They were now distant enough for Jim not to be drugged by Spock's mere presence and he could focus on other things. Like the small army who had somehow invaded his room.

Abbey helped David scramble onto the bed and across the covers to Jim's side. Kevin was already tucking himself in, resting his head over Jim's steadily beating heart. Zayra and Thomas followed more cautiously. They sat on opposite sides of the bed, leaning lightly against his knees. By the door, Nidiss sniffled. The sound startled Xverjabdene, who's silver eyes widened when she watched tears tracking down green cheeks. Phil sighed and scrubbed a hand down his face, probably lamenting about his choice of friends. All of whom were marginally crazy. Abbey just laughed; an honestly happy, relieved sound.

Without conscious thought, everyone was soon echoing it. The urge just bubbled over. Even Spock looked vaguely emotional. He wasn't laughing, not by a long shot. But his eyes were dancing in that way they did after Jim had done something stupid yet still came home in one piece. Affectionate. The look was all affection and relief, mixed with the promise of a personal health and safety lecture later. Struggling for breath, Jim held up an empty hand, imaginary champagne flute within his grasp. He could feel Spock sigh in his mind, a curious sensation he'd definitely have to explore later.

"To making it out of that hell hole in only a few pieces." Jim toasted, clinking his imaginary glass with everyone else's. As one, they pretended to throw back their imaginary alcohol like a shot.

Jim took stock of his friends, the faded bruises along Abbey's neck, jaw and cheek. Phil's broken arm. The protective way Xverjabdene watched everyone, ready to step in at the first sign of anyone's distress. The tired lines around Nidiss' eyes that spoke of long nights, little food, cold temperatures and a truck full of anxiety. Zayra's pearly white hair, faintly glowing with the force of her feelings. Thomas' wary eyes, watching everything like he expected it to be taken away. The way Kevin kept reaching out and taking grapes from the fruit bowl someone left by his bedside and stashing them. More pointedly, the way everyone ignored the behaviour. David's unconscious body, head resting on his outstretched arm. The warm grip of Spock's mind. A promise to never let go.

Eventually, Abbey and Xverjabdene came forward and plucked David and Kevin's sleeping forms from Jim's bed. They murmured a quiet goodbye, promising to come back when they'd finished their scheduled meeting with the admiralty. Nidiss and Zayra came forward and kissed him on the cheek, Nidiss throwing rather suggestive looks between Spock and himself. Thomas had glared at Phil, waiting until the older man left the room before launching himself into Jim's arms. They stayed curled in an embrace for a minute or two, before Spock warned them of approaching footsteps. Thomas slipped off the bed and nodded once to Spock before wrenching the door open and striding into the hall.

"That kid has way too much attitude for a ten year old." Phil said as he slipped through the door. He held a medical bag in his free hand, walking around Jim's bed and grabbing the PADD on the table.

"I'm pretty sure he's twelve, Phil." Jim replied, keeping an eye on the doctor. Phil was probably the most gentle doctor Jim had ever met. One of the nicest too. Not at all condescending, totally patient, pretty much the exact opposite of his usual demeanour. It was almost like he slipped into a totally different person. Jim had even made the mistake of telling him that once. His neck throbbed for three days.

"So, you're stay earned you multiple lacerations, two broken ribs, blood poisoning, hypothermia, dangerous weight loss, a nice dose of mental instability and a husband. Good job Jimmy." Phil put down the PADD and turned to face him. A penlight was suddenly pulled from the bag, light shining straight into Jim's eyes.

"Your responses are good." Phil muttered, waving the light from side to side. "Okay, roll over so I can take a peek at your back."

Jim did as he was told, knowing instinctively that their would be consequences if he didn't. Last time he had been stubborn, Phil refused to give him a lollipop. As a patient, it was his right to a free sweet with every painful consultation. It just went to show that Phil was a sick and twisted individual.

"Well, you're looking pretty good. Little to no scarring. Skin a little tender?" Phil asked, brushing it lightly with the base of his palm as he swept a tricorder over it. Jim flinched, memories of different hands on his skin burning bright in his mind. Spock flowed forward, mind embracing and protective, soothing the panic and hurt.

"Physically, you're gonna be fine kiddo. Just take it easy and lean on Spock when you need it." Phil sighed and ruffled Jim's hair. "Call me if you need anything Jimmy. I'm glad you're okay." With that, Phil left the room, door clicking shut behind him.

Jim closed his eyes. The bed hissed as Spock joined him, arms instantly drawing him into a hard chest. For the first time in what felt like forever, Jim felt safe. Safe and tired enough to sleep for another few days, this time without sedatives. And yet, he was confused, a little hurt and anxious to get answers from his Vulcan. Especially while they had time to themselves. Who knew how much longer Sarek could hold Winona and Amanda at bay. Maybe he should get him a thank you hamper. He was about 95% sure the Vulcan who rescued him was Sarek. Which meant that Spock inherited his badassery from his father. Totally awesome.

"You wish for me to explain." Spock stated, drawing Jim from thoughts of Sarek in spandex. Maybe it was Spock who deserved a hamper. But then, that just led to the thought of Spock in very tight synthetic material. Which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it was sort of hot.

"Jim, please focus." Spock sighed -actually sighed- as Jim began to squirm a little. It wasn't his fault! He just felt a little hot, like he had an itch just under his skin. Something Spock could scratch with his-

"James. Stop." Spock commanded, pulling Jim flush against his chest and holding him there. "Do you want answers or not?"

Jim pouted but stilled. Being this close to Spock was good enough. And, he did want answers. He was just a little afraid of what they might be.

"After receiving your message, I sent it to T'Pau who took it before the High Council. As it would have been illogical for me to remain with my posting when I could no longer perform to the best of my abilities, Admiral Archer gave me leave and I travelled to Vulcan. I got there in time to argue for your proposal. Once it was accepted, our fleet was mobilised and crews gathered. We shipped out, arrived in time to receive a weak signal from a group of Starfleet survivors. I'm told my father led a group into the city." Spock relayed.

It sounded heavily edited and answered none of Jim's questions. Actually, it only added more.

"Wait, start from the beginning. Why couldn't you stay with Archer's Super Secret Club? Why didn't you come down to find me?" Jim asked, cursing the way his voice broke on his last question. He'd been so sure Spock would come for him and then he didn't. Not really. Not the way Jim needed him to.

"Ashayam, this began long before Tarsus." Spock began, voice soft. "You recall the meld from when we were younger? It spontaneously linked our minds. We are t'hy'la."

With infinitely careful movements, Spock's hands cradled Jim's body. He felt himself be lifted and turned over. Face to face, blue bored into brown. Spock's eyes seemed so old and tired. Like he was buckling under the weight of entire worlds.

"Your mind is the most beautiful thing I have ever felt, even filled as it was, with disgust and contempt. It has been the perfect bitter sweet agony, joined to you." Spock paused, letting the information sink in. Never had Jim felt like more of a fuck up.

"Although we do not share a full bond, our link is strong. I have been feeling echoes of your emotional and physical state. When he touched you, when they hurt you, I too suffered." Spock growled, radiating a thinly veiled destructive rage. "A number of medical personnel were required to sedate me and kept me confined to this room."

Jim lifted his hand and traced his fingers over the seam of Spock's lips. He smiled at the soft look in Spock's eyes. It made his heart beat double time. The monitor beside the bed followed the pace, each hurried beep drawing them closer together. Jim's lips met Spock's gently. Nothing more than the slightest pressure pushing against him. One of Spock's hands found its way to his shoulder and pushed him back against the bed.

Spock hovered over him, arms keeping him just centimetres from where Jim wanted him. Brown eyes were almost pitch black with the same desire Jim could feel curling in his gut. The last space between them disappeared as Spock's weight finally settled on Jim. The crush felt heavenly. As did the little sparks of electricity shooting up his arms when Spock interwove their fingers.

Jim arched up as much as he could, rubbing himself shamelessly up and down Spock's body. The hint was clear and heeded. Not a moment later warm lips were back against his own. Spock moved against him, sucking his bottom lip before nipping at it. He swallowed Jim's moans, taking advantage of the opening and sliding his tongue inside his mouth. Spock's tongue was rough and warm and oh so very nice when it trailed along the roof of his mouth. Jim sucked on it. Liking the involuntary thrust which accompanied the action.

"Maybe now's not the best time." Amanda's voice filtered through the lust clouding Jim's mind. As did the slight growl which rumbled from Spock's throat.

"Looks like we're finally getting those grandchildren! Jimmy's just going to be a beautiful mother." Winona added and from his place beneath Spock, Jim watched as they exchanged high fives.

Well, that killed the mood.

Chapter Text

Jim crawled back into consciousness to find himself sprawled over his childhood bed. It was the first time in just over two weeks he had woken alone.

It took a moment for him to adjust. Pupils expanded and contracted in the dark as he tried to spot all the familiar silhouettes. The coat rack by the door with his hideous coat, hat, face scarf and goggles. The edge of his chest of drawers, a place he'd broken three of his toes over the years. Stumbling around in the dark was never a good idea, especially when you weren't exactly the most graceful of beings. The tall line of his wardrobe by the eastern window, light only just managing to stream through the spot he'd personally slashed in the blinds.

Once he'd found each point, Jim threw his legs over the edge of the bed and slowly inched his way onto the floor. It wasn't that high but some extra care had to be taken with his back. The new skin had the annoying tendency to pull a little, like a jacket that was just a half size too tight. It might have been uncomfortable but the salve Phil had prescribed worked wonders. Especially at the hands of a dedicated Vulcan.

Jim rested most of his weight on his left leg. The right one was recovering at a slower rate. The liquid silver Kodos poured in his wounds had poisoned him. Specifically, the silver which sunk into his bloodstream from the particularly nasty gash in his right leg. A nasty gash, he'd been told, which exposed bone and wrapped around 67.93% of his leg. Two surgeries and six follow up treatments had to be performed whilst Spock kept him sedated.

Spock.

Jim sighed and ran a hand threw his hair, absently noting that he needed a shower. He felt conflicted. On one hand, the side which was hopelessly in love with the Vulcan was thrilled. Another part was confused. A little devastated. Kind of angry. He was married? Engaged? A little in between? Why hadn't he been informed? It was more than clear that their families knew. All the teasing they'd endured had gained a new meaning. One which Jim wasn't too sure about. Had no one thought it important to tell him? If he'd been told when they were younger, maybe this wouldn't have happened. He'd have acclimatised to Spock whilst they were just kids. He'd certainly never have gone out and slept with half the species in the Federation.

At one point in his life, he'd assumed that he'd never want to touch minds with someone ever again. The last experience had been sudden and while not painful, left him dazed and vulnerable in a way he'd never been. Jim Kirk had a shell. Armour, if you please. A cocky, self absorbed façade to keep everyone else at bay. He'd grown up on two worlds, both cruel and without a single friend. The only cliques formed solely to insult anyone bearing Human heritage. Though they later focused on Spock, Jim had learnt to use a bone mender in the few hours before his mother came home within a month of moving. He might now love the planet but Vulcan was not the best place for a child to grow up.

Now he could admit to himself that he wanted to meld with Spock. He was soothed by the warm presence in the back of his mind. He needed answers. And he could only get them from Spock. Was he brave enough to ask? Would Spock see his feelings as a rejection?

Jim bit his lip and concentrated on moving. If he could get to the door, he could walk down the hall. If he could walk down the hall, he could get down the stairs. If he could get downstairs, he could walk to the kitchen. It might not be the best place for a confrontation, but Spock was there. It was all Jim needed.

He stumbled forward, one hand outstretched as he came within range of the drawers. He leaned against the solid piece of furniture, panting lightly. Although the house's computer regulated the heat, the system only lowered it by a few degrees. Already, Jim could feel the tell tale stickiness on his arms and legs. A single droplet of sweat trailed down the line of his spine. Now he definitely needed that shower.

Taking a deep breath, he pushed himself towards the door. His back was already aching and his leg burned with every beat of his heart. Walking unassisted wasn't the best idea he'd ever had but it beat being babied or carried around. While he'd liked the attention at first -he really did love to be the centre of everyone's personal universes- it had gotten old quite a few days ago. Jim liked to do things himself. He liked to surpass people's expectations, to see the shock on their faces when he managed something they thought was impossible. He lived for the moment when he proved everyone wrong. That exact second when reality hit and their faces pale as every cruel word came back to haunt them. The same second he could spot the faintest traces of humour and pride in Spock's eyes.

Getting better and learning how to use their bond, these are things he knows he needs to work on. They are weaknesses in his collection of perfect abilities. New weapons he has yet to practise with. Surpassing the Vulcan doctor's predictions would be easy. They over patronised Humans too often. It left them open to his particular form of attack. In this game of war, James T. Kirk versus the universe, he would win.

The door swished open as his palm fell over the control. Jim poked his head out and checked for lurking overprotective bondmates. Either Spock wasn't listening in on his movements or he trusted Jim to make it downstairs by himself. Jim felt his heart swell. Affection tumbled through him. He sent it in the rough direction of Spock's presence.

Perhaps their conversation would be easier if Spock was reassured. Jim didn't want to hurt him. His entire being shied away from the thought of it. At a base level, he was Spock's and Spock was his and that would never change. He would do anything to protect his crazy smart, sweet, adorable Vulcan.

An answering wave of calm flooded Jim's mind, stilling him momentarily. He relaxed into it. Jim imagined Spock's mind embracing and shielding his own, powerful Vulcan emotions soothing any wounds as they filtered down to Jim's core. Growing up on Vulcan, one learned to appreciate meditation. It wasn't a pastime he could successfully do for more than 7.63 minutes but he'd tried enough to be able to imagine an inner sanctum. It wasn't quite a garden or a glade or a forest or the ocean or a mountain top or anything else commonly attributed.

Jim saw the far reaches of space. The swirling inky blackness which called his soul. His mind was the supernova which the dark swallowed greedily. His light briefly showering the expanse and giving life to the stretch of space which led away from himself. For years only the faintest hint of something extended into Jim's mind. Now that their bond was wide open, Jim could feel the caged emotions banging on their protective walls.

Jim limped towards the stairwell. He let Spock lead him forward. It felt like this was how it always ended up. Spock so far ahead, always waiting for Jim to catch up to him. Jim forever running along behind, getting caught up in the web of life which was too wary to touch the Vulcan. How could anyone be so patient? Was he worth it? Could he live up to everything Spock believed he could be? Could he eventually surpass his Vulcan?