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Unbreakable

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Jim Kirk followed his husband, Spock, down the narrow hall toward their shared bedroom, dimly lit by a fading Vulcan sun. His fingers curled around Spock’s, holding on to his husband’s words, complete and unbreakable, as he had described their consummated bond would be. His mind was dizzy with it, still reeling from the kidnapping and enslavement, knowing just how close he had come to losing everything.

They moved together until Spock paused at the foot of the bed and turned, face cast in shadow. “It is my greatest desire to touch you, Jim. I must admit I am … not certain how to proceed.” The Vulcan tilted his head down, avoiding Jim’s gaze. The strength of Spock’s grip betrayed the depth of his anxiety.

“So, we start slow. There’s no rush, right?” Jim smiled. “Unless they’re coming back to get me tonight, I’m all yours. And for many days to come.” Jim meant it as a joke, but it fell flat.

Catching Spock’s slightly pained expression, Jim took a calming breath and brushed his lips over Spock’s again. “Don’t overthink it. Just feel.”

“I am Vulcan,” Spock said, as if he meant to explain everything.

“And human, Spock,” Jim countered, tracing his tongue along Spock’s lower lip. “We’ll figure it out, right? As long as we’re together.” Jim skimmed his fingers along the short hairs at the nape of Spock’s neck.

Spock nodded, lips barely moving in response to Jim’s kiss.

“Hey, relax. Okay?” Jim said, letting his hands drift down to squeeze Spock’s shoulders.

“I find I am unable to do so, Jim.” Spock said and tilted his head away. “I have made many mistakes.”

“Okay. How ‘bout we just lie down? We can talk…or whatever.” Jim stepped back and toed off his shoes. He sat on the bed and nudged himself back over the coverlet and against the pillows. His body sagged in the soft fabric, aching muscles reminding him of his exhaustion. “Come on. Tell me about what happened after the accident,” he said, sensing Spock needed to talk it through.

Spock hesitated, then approached his own side of the bed, sitting gingerly and keeping his feet on the floor. He turned slightly, catching Jim’s gaze for a moment. “The car spun out of control and the passenger window shattered next to my head. I felt your hand slip away even as I tried to hold on.”

As he listened, Jim slid over to curve around Spock’s seated form. He found Spock’s hand and held it.

“I lost consciousness and awoke in the hospital. Sarek sat at my bedside and informed me of the events that had transpired. When he told me you had been taken…” Spock stopped, muscles tensing, and Jim squeezed him around the waist.

“Hey, I’m here now. It’s not logical to keep being upset, right?” Jim offered.

Spock let out a small sigh. “It appears my logic is not sound when faced with injury to the humans I love.”

Jim smiled and pressed his face to the cool fabric of Spock’s robe. “Yeah, I get it. Although, I am rarely logical to begin with. What happened next?”

“I demanded my father do everything in his power to find you. He agreed and departed. And then I was left alone with my grief.” Spock squeezed Jim’s hand. “It was my deepest belief I would never see you again. Hope, however logical, seemed impossible.” Spock’s voice was barely above a whisper. The darkening sky through the windows echoed the sadness in his words.

“I counted each day, reviewing in my mind the efforts you had made to know me. Your human expressions of kindness and generosity to me. I regretted keeping my distance as I had. If we had consummated our bond…”

“It’s okay, Spock. I didn’t mind. I mean, at first I was pretty weirded out. You weren’t the friendliest guy, but that night when we talked about the moon — I knew then it’d be okay. I just had to be patient.” Jim slid his body around to sit up and pulled Spock more onto the bed until they were facing each other half-propped up on pillows.

Jim continued, sliding his hands into Spock’s sleeves and grasping his arms, stroking gently with his thumb. “Your father told me to be patient. He told me things would be okay if I gave you time. I could’ve waited, Spock. I mean, I wasn’t sure how you felt, but you seemed to like me. We did a bang up job on the library, right? Worked like we’d known each other forever.” Jim grinned and thought he saw some of the tension ease out of Spock’s face.

“Indeed, Jim. I could feel you through our bond, your honesty…your affection for me.” Spock held Jim’s eyes steady. “I returned your affection, but years of isolation and fear have driven me to be overly cautious.” Spock looked away again. “Even then I wanted to kiss you.”

Jim’s face brightened. “That makes two of us,” he said with a chuckle, and kissed Spock firmly to accentuate his point. Spock’s wariness remained and Jim withdrew his hand from Spock’s sleeve. “But what say we call it a night? As much as I want to tear off your clothes, I am completely exhausted. I want to be totally awake the first time, you know…” Jim said, face growing hot.

For the first time since he’d returned, Spock’s “amused” eyebrow raised and Jim laughed. “Really, I can’t wait. Feels like fucking Christmas Eve.” Jim kissed him again and pulled himself close to hug his Vulcan husband. “I can’t wait to do all kinds of new things with you, Spock.” Jim felt another declaration of love at the back of his throat but was suddenly shy.

Pulling him tight, Spock echoed Jim’s words. “I share your eagerness, ashayam. I shall prepare for bed.” He eased away and Jim watched him stand and look softly down at him. “Everything is as you left it. I am grateful for your safe return.” Spock turned and walked out of the bedroom.

Jim stretched, intending to close his eyes for a moment to wait for Spock to finish in the washroom. Half-coherent images of his captivity flitted briefly in his mind, but it was Spock’s face that stayed as sleep took him over.

~*~

The Vulcan sun streamed through the windows as Jim blinked awake, startled, then relieved to find himself in his own bed. He stretched out, spreading his arms and legs to feel the sheets beneath him. Gratitude filled him as the events of the previous two days played in his head. So many things could have gone differently.

Testing sore muscles, he sat up and put his feet on the floor. His stomach rumbled loudly and he thought of eating as much breakfast as he could shove in his maw.

“Jim,” Spock said, coming through the doorway with a tray. “My mother used to bring me breakfast in bed when I was recovering from illness. She indicated it was a Terran custom. I assume you are hungry?”

“You know it! Wow. That looks amazing.” Jim surveyed the tray and gasped. “Wait, are those eggs?” He glanced at Spock, startled. “You don’t eat meat.”

“I find eggs tolerable to prepare. My mother had a fondness for omelets. I did not know your preferences, but hope this satisfies.”

“Oh, my god. You are the best, Spock. I’m gonna run to the washroom — hold on a sec.” Jim sped there and back and slid under the covers once more.

“I am gratified by your enthusiasm,” Spock answered and once Jim’s tray was settled on his lap, he turned awkwardly to leave.

“Wait, will you stay?” Jim asked, cup in hand.

“Of course. I would be pleased to stay.” Spock pulled the stool to Jim’s side of the bed and sat on it, arranging the blankets around Jim’s tray.

Sipping tea and digging into his eggs, Jim ate for a minute before he spoke. “So, what are we doing today? Have you heard anything else from your dad?”

“He departed for Terra several hours ago and will relay information after he meets with the Federation. I trust we will know more by evening.”

“So, do you think they’ll want me to go Earth to testify against Marcus?” Jim said, mouth full of kreyla.

“I am uncertain. It can only occur, of course, if you are adequately protected.”

“Will you come with me?” Jim asked, voice hopeful.

Spock hesitated. “It is my duty as your bondmate to support you.”

“But you don’t really want to,” Jim suggested.

Spock frowned minutely. “I admit to some reservations, but they are illogical. I will accompany you if you are asked to return to Terra.”

Jim reached out to squeeze Spock’s knee. “Awesome. I don’t want to go without you. Not after everything. And who knows, it might be a couple of months until that all happens. The Federation will most likely drag its feet.” Jim shrugged and finished his eggs. After eating gruel for weeks and only fruit and bread at the air field, Jim was finally beginning to feel satisfied.

With an exhale, Jim pushed his plate away and drained the rest of his tea. “I could really use a shower and then maybe we can talk more?”

“I am amenable to talking more. I have procured a three-week supply of tri-ox compound, as well, which you will find in the closet.” Spock stood and lifted Jim’s tray. “I will clean the dishes. Please find me in my office when you are ready.” Spock’s gaze was warm and Jim stretched again.

“Sounds awesome.”

~*~

Jim finished his shower and gave himself a hypospray, surprised to find it already well past noon. He’d slept for more than fifteen hours, but still his body felt weighted down by fatigue. The tri-ox and breakfast helped, but Jim knew he needed some time to process everything that had happened.

He dressed in a simple robe and slipped on his house shoes. The temperature was cool and he stepped into the room that was now his office and scanned a PADD for any news of Marcus or the slave trade he had been part of. After several frustrating minutes of searching, he realized his connections to the outside universe were limited.

He tapped lightly on Spock’s office door. “Hey, Spock. Can you give me access to the subnet? I’m getting Vulcan information, what there is of it, but I can’t access anything else.”

“Ah, of course, Jim. I apologize for my oversight.” The Vulcan tapped several keys on his PADD and turned around to look at Jim. “I have given you complete access to the subspace network. When you sync your PADD, you will be prompted for a new passcode. I can offer you an upgraded PADD requiring a DNA match for entry if you prefer stronger security.”

“Nah, that’s fine. I don’t think I’ll need that. Do you think it’s safe to contact Bones and Gaila? I kinda miss them.”

“I am uncertain of the risks at this time. Would you be amenable to waiting until I have communicated with my father? I will send him a message now.” Spock looked down at his PADD then hesitated. “Jim, I believe it would be better for you to communicate with Sarek directly. You do not require an intermediary.”

“Yeah. That’s cool. I’ll message him.” Jim gripped his PADD. “Hey would you mind if I took some time? I’m feeling unsettled and could use some time to get my head on straight.” He gave a wan smile.

“Are you unwell?” Spock asked, concern wrinkling his brow. The Vulcan stood and approached Jim.

“No, I’m good. I guess it’s all starting to hit me. Everything that happened, you know?” Jim took a step forward and met Spock in the middle of the office. He placed a hand on Spock’s chest. “Are you okay?”

“I am adequate. My mind is at ease knowing you are safe.” Spock grasped Jim’s fingers and brought them to his mouth. He grazed Jim’s knuckles with his lips. “I will be here until you are ready to interact. Please let me know if you require anything. I am happy to serve you.”

“I’m good, Spock. Really.” Jim smiled and kissed him on the mouth. “I’ll catch up with you later, okay?”

Spock nodded and Jim moved away, glancing back with a smile. “Dinner later?” he asked.

“Affirmative,” his husband answered, and they parted ways.

~*~

Jim hunched over his makeshift desk, clicking and clicking to find information about Marcus’s arrest and the upcoming trial. There were stories, sure, but the details were scant. Even as he read the popular feeds, the details had been watered down, simply stating Admiral Marcus had been temporarily relieved of duty. There was no mention of Venta IV or the slavers.

He scrubbed a hand over his stubbly jaw, feeling the spots near his ear he’d shaved poorly at the airfield. In the few weeks he’d been gone, he’d managed the beginnings of a beard, more grown out than it had been in as many years as he’d been in Starfleet.

Groaning, he sat back in the chair. Starfleet, he thought. Before the kidnapping, he’d been okay with leaving, letting it all go to focus on his new life with Spock and maybe enrolling in the VSA. Now, though…his anger was a slow burn he couldn’t ignore. It was more than him — he’d seen at least forty species at that slave market and a dozen buyers had strolled past his cage. It was disgusting.

His calm rattled, Jim stood and began to pace the room. Someone had to do more about these slavers. Obviously the Vulcans knew about them, why didn’t they intervene?

Jim sat on the edge of his chair and began furiously typing a message to Sarek. There was so much he needed to say, and while he was certain Sarek would respond, he knew it wouldn’t be pretty to read.

An hour later, Jim had written everything he could remember and attached a file to his message to Sarek. The details were fresh and he needed to let someone know what he had seen. He also included Spock, so he’d know, too.

With a satisfied sigh, Jim clicked send and went to find his husband.

His office was empty, so he headed downstairs to find him. The Vulcan was pulling items out of a cupboard and glanced at Jim when he came down the steps.

“Hey, Spock. Sorry I took so long. I really wanted to write down everything I saw when the slavers had me. I sent you a copy of what I sent to your dad. Sorry, it’s kind of a jumbled mess.” Jim perched on one of the stools next to the center island. Spock was taking cups out of the sonic washer.

“I am certain the details you’ve provided will be helpful,” Spock said, moving to place a bag of rice and two other packages next to some yellow vegetables.

“Helpful to who, though?” Jim asked, face serious. “It seems pretty clear the Vulcans could find their way to the slave market—so why haven’t they intervened?”

Spock regarded him thoughtfully. “I wish I had an answer for you. I assume you have asked my father the same question?”

“Yeah. I mean, I guess I’m thinking this slave stuff might be the real reason behind Marcus’s need for the Romulans. They were all over that fucking place.”

“Indeed. They are a violent and cruel race. In this circumstance, it was fortuitous the Romulans are as despicable as they are. The similarities to Vulcans increased the likelihood of successfully rescuing you.”

Jim shrugged, not really sure it was good. “What can we do, Spock? I can’t just leave it. I know we don’t know each other very well — yet— but I really want to do something. The Federation can't stand by and let his happen anymore.”

“Agreed, Jim. We must await father’s answer and then we will know more. It appears you are more willing to testify than you were prior to your kidnapping.” Spock raised a brow as he started to chop vegetables.

“Damn right. There was always enough evidence to pin Marcus against the wall, if they could just get him to trial. I knew the Vulcans weren’t going to let it go and if I didn’t have to risk my life, I wasn’t going to. But this, Spock, it’s just the kind of messy entanglement I can see the Terran members of the Federation wanting to stay out of. I am sure a lot of pockets have been lined because of it. I can’t just stand by and let it happen.”

Spock slid the pieces of vegetable into a wide metal pan. “I concur. Slavery demeans us all and cannot be tolerated.” Spock held Jim’s gaze. “You have my support, Jim. I will do whatever I can to assist you.”

“Awesome, Spock. Thank you.” Jim grinned, then dramatically slumped his shoulders.

“Now we just have to figure out what in the hell we’re gonna do.”

~*~

Jim and Spock sat side by side at the large table, so different from their first disastrous meal when the pair had sat at opposite ends. Jim watched Spock’s delicate fingers work the chopsticks and smiled. He had dated a lot of men, and he’s not sure he’d have called any of them beautiful, but Spock was all that and more. A cap of dark, shiny hair contrasting against the slight greenish blush of his skin. His ears, possibly Jim’s favorite part after his eyes, were transfixing Jim and he ignored his food.

“Jim?” Spock asked, pausing in mid-bite.

“Yeah?” he answered, still gazing at his husband.

“Are you well?” Spock asked. “You have not moved for nearly a minute. Is your food unpalatable?” Spock laid down his chopsticks.

Jim snapped his focus back to Spock and grinned. “I was just looking at you. I think you’re beautiful.”

Spock flushed a deeper green and swallowed. He took a drink of water and avoided Jim’s gaze. “I find that an improbable statement. It is quite possible you continue to experience the detrimental effects of your experience on Venta IV.”

Spock actually looked concerned and Jim shook his head. “I feel good, Spock. Just feel grateful to be back here with you. You kept me grounded…protected almost, Spock. I know it’s crazy, but I just knew you’d find me. Or at least I kept hoping. And you did! I got rescued!”

“Father found you, Jim. I did nothing but wallow in self-pity and ponder breaking our bond. If it were not for our father, you might have actually been sold to a Romulan.”

“Spock—” Jim interrupted, shaking his head and needing to disagree.

“No, Jim. I must speak. Father created a rescue plan without me. I was useless in this situation, Jim. Just as I was with my mother’s psychic illness.” Spock lowered his head and Jim wondered at this morose change in his mood.

“Spock, what happened? I thought we were okay? Let it go. I forgive you.” Jim grasped Spock’s hand and squeezed it.

Spock’s eyes were intense as they regarded Jim. “It is not your forgiveness I require, Jim. You are kind and sweet and I cannot imagine you holding onto your anger at me. The person from whom I require forgiveness cannot provide it.”

“Your mom…” Jim ventured, stroking Spock’s wrist with his thumb.

“Despite my father’s assertion he blocked the bond and damaged mother’s mind, I must admit to failing to notice and act upon her depression.”

“Is that a reasonable thing a child would do? Feel a parent’s emotions?”

“Yes, if fully Vulcan. Given my mother’s humanity, our connection was muted. As I grew toward adulthood, it became weaker and weaker. I sensed her unhappiness at times, but when I questioned her, she always disclosed a reasonable explanation.”

“So, how were you supposed to know? If it didn’t act like your bond with your dad, and she didn’t tell you the whole story, how could you know?”

Spock was silent, stock still and staring at his half-empty plate. “I do not know.” His face was so sad it brought tears to Jim’s eyes.

Jim stood and shoved his chair back. “C’mere.” He tugged on Spock’s hand until he stood.

Spock’s neck was warm as he pulled him close. “You are a good son, Spock. Humans are tough to figure out. You gotta give yourself a break,” Jim spoke as he squeezed his husband tightly.

With strong fingers, Spock clutched the back of Jim’s shirt, pulling it tight against the front of his neck. Spock trembled in his arms and he drew back to look at him. His eyes met Jim’s hesitantly.

Jim spoke softly, stroking Spock’s skin. “The way you talk about your mom makes it so clear you loved her more than anything. She knew that, right?”

“I believe so.”

“Do you think she wanted you to know she wasn’t doing well?”

“It is not logical to hide one’s distress, Jim,” Spock countered.

Jim took a half-step back to better see Spock’s face. “Well, we know humans aren’t logical, Spock.” Jim huffed a laugh. “And if she had some kind of mental illness or broken bond or whatever, maybe she thought she was doing the right thing?”

“It is never right to take one’s own life.” Spock’s body tightened as he spoke.

Jim drew a long breath and sighed. “I guess, Spock, but human brains don’t always see it that way.”

“She could have received help. She needed only to ask.”

“Maybe she couldn’t. Maybe her brain was so twisted up she didn’t know she needed help. Maybe it happened so slowly it seemed normal.”

Spock stared at Jim. “Your words indicate familiarity with this phenomenon.”

“Yeah, a little. My mom was depressed off and on a lot growing up. She drank and wasn’t around very much. I’d ask her what was wrong when I was a little kid and she’d always make up some excuse. So, yeah, I guess that part of it, I understand.” Jim shrugged his shoulder, suddenly self-conscious.

“You have withstood much, Jim. I desire to be as strong as you are.”

“Spock. Stop it. I’m not as strong as you think. I’m messed up, too. I take stupid chances. I don’t think things through. I decided to report the biggest Starfleet scandal in two hundred years and married a man I’d never met. I don’t exactly shy away from trouble.” Jim half-rolled his eyes, trying to make light of the heaviness of their words.

Spock’s lips twitched ever so slightly and Jim smiled. “Come on, Spock. Let’s finish eating and go onto the veranda. I’ve missed that glorious sunset.”

“As you wish, Jim,” Spock said and leaned forward to kiss him quickly. When they separated, Spock seemed less tense and they sat to finish their meal.

~*~

Jim took half a glass of liqueur onto the veranda with Spock. They sat close together, fingers loosely intertwined as they watched the mountains' long shadows spread across the rugged plains below the house. The alcohol seeped into Jim’s bones and he slid down into the comfortable seat.

Talk of his mother had put him in a pensive mood, reminding him of their long years of separation, punctuated by arguments and sometimes violence. His mother, with her long blonde hair in disarray, had disowned him more than once, only to beg him to come back when she decided to get sober again.

“You are thoughtful this evening, Jim,” Spock said, the sun illuminating his face.

“Yeah. Thinking about my mom. Haven’t seen her for about four years.”

“It must be difficult,” Spock said.

“Nah. Easier, actually. Our relationship was so rocky…this is better. Although I am surprised she hasn’t contacted me. She always seemed to know if I was in trouble and I’m sure my name was in the news enough it had to reach her.”

“Where is your mother, Jim?”

“Eh. Not sure. She travels around, but usually ends up in Riverside. Iowa, that is.” Jim glanced at Spock and then gazed back out at the horizon.

“I see. Perhaps she will contact you when you return to Terra?” Spock asked.

Jim shrugged and took another sip of his drink. “Maybe.” He never could predict her.

“I sense your distress. I apologize for my role in it.”

Jim’s mouth turned down in consternation. “Spock. My emotions are a roller coaster. If you take responsibility for every loop-de-loop, you’ll go nuts. I’m fine, Spock. I’ve lived with my mother’s bad parenting my whole life — thinking about it isn’t going to hurt me.”

“I shall strive to be less responsible,” Spock answered, and when Jim was about to protest, he caught the quirk in Spock’s mouth.

“Ha. You’re having fun messing with me.” Jim pulled Spock’s hand to his lips and held it there.

“I like to see you happy, Jim, and it appears my jokes make you laugh. I shall strive to make that occur at more regular intervals.”

Spock’s words were so sincere Jim burst out laughing. “Good start, babe.”

“Babe?” Spock said, raising a brow.

“Yeah. Don’t even try to persuade me. I give everyone nicknames and you’re no exception. Spockums.” Jim chuckled as he watched Spock process the word.

“You are incorrigible.”

“Yes I am,” Jim answered proudly and drained the rest of his drink. He tapped the glass on the arm rest. “Wanna go inside? See how incorrigible I am?”

Spock blushed a brighter shade of green and shifted in his seat. A moment later, he stood and tugged Jim to standing along with him.

“I desire nothing else, Jim. Show me…”

~*~

Spock led them through the double doors, the great room, and down the hall to the bedroom. Jim watched, bemused, as his shy husband seemed to be taking the lead tonight.

Jim paused in the bedroom and put his glass on the dresser. He watched as Spock removed the decorative coverlet from the bed and folded it over a chair.

“Jim, will you sit?” Spock asked, motioning to the bed.

He answered by moving and sitting on the edge of the bed. Spock knelt and pulled off Jim’s house shoes, sliding them toward the dresser. As Jim watched, Spock leaned forward and began to untie the neck of his robe. Spock’s fingers were warm where they brushed his skin and Jim reached out to touch Spock’s cheek.

“Did it hurt?” Jim asked, tracing the new edge of Spock’s scar with his thumb.

“The pain was manageable.” Spock said, sliding the robe off Jim’s shoulders. It pooled around his waist, revealing his bare skin.

“Will you get the rest removed?” Jim asked. He trailed a finger across Spock’s lower lip, mesmerized.

“If you prefer,” Spock answered.

“I have no preference, Spock. I love you no matter what. I loved you with more scars and now with less.” Jim kissed Spock’s cheek. “What do you want?” he murmured into his ear.

“I am satisfied to go no further,” Spock answered and shifted his face to meet Jim’s eyes. “I am gratified by your words, Jim. You are a truly remarkable human.” Spock kissed Jim softly on the lips.

At the brush of his mouth, Jim pressed into Spock, initiating a deeper kiss. Spock opened easily and their tongues explored much as they had the night before — gently, curiously, until Jim pulled Spock with him to lie back on the bed.

As they kissed, Jim arched into Spock’s fingers roaming his chest and stomach, skimming lightly, as if he were afraid to touch. Spock’s erection dug against Jim’s hip, full and hard. “I want you so much,” Jim said, sliding kisses along Spock’s jaw. “Seems like it’s been forever, wanting you.”

Breathlessly, he tugged at Spock’s robe until he could feel bare legs against his own. They intertwined until Spock was nearly on top of Jim, their erections brushing together.

“I desire so much to please you. Will you allow me?” Spock asked, meeting Jim’s gaze.

“God, yes. Anything, Spock. Fuck.” Jim strained his hips against Spock’s, needing more skin. He pushed his hand down to grasp Spock’s penis but the Vulcan slid away.

Spock planted hot kisses down Jim’s chest, pausing to lave each nipple, and Jim gasped. His teeth grazed Jim’s ribs as Spock slowly crawled down the bed. With a racing heart, Jim’s fingers found Spock’s hair as the Vulcan moved Jim’s robe aside and nuzzled his face in the soft fur around Jim’s penis. A moment later, he felt Spock’s hot, rough tongue licking a stripe up his shaft, drawing a please gasp from Jim.

Wrapping a warm hand around him, Spock grasped him and pumped slowly, experimentally, drawing a groan. “God, yes. Harder, Spock.”

The Vulcan answered by stroking him firmly two or three times before enveloping the head of his cock in wet heat. Jim’s eyes rolled back and he pulled at Spock’s hair. “Fuck,” he grated, arousal swift and powerful.

Spock swallowed him down from tip to base, then again as Jim moaned. “Oh, that’s perfect. Spock. Fuck,” Jim twisted the fingers of his free hand into the sheets. “Jesus, Spock. I’m not gonna last.”

At those words, Spock pumped him harder, applying more suction and Jim’s sensations winnowed down to the feel of Spock’s mouth and hand and the pleasure coursing through him, gathering, tightening. He opened his eyes to watch and blinked hard when Spock’s own eyes met his, deep chocolate lit with arousal and a smear of saliva on his cheek.

Unable to keep his head up, Jim flopped back to the sheets, mind blissing out as his orgasm approached. “Spock…fuck. Oh, fuck!” Jim’s voice was rough, a strangled moan announcing his orgasm, and he pulsed hard into Spock’s mouth.

Spock continued to suck, gentling until Jim tugged him off. Spock slid down and onto his knees on the floor. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and kissed Jim’s knee.

Reaching out, Jim splayed his fingers toward his husband until Spock’s fingers wrapped around them. “Come up here,” he ordered, voice breathless.

Spock climbed back up, his cock heavy, grazing Jim’s thigh as he moved. Jim immediately took him in hand and kissed Spock fiercely, greedily tasting himself. “You’re fucking amazing,” he said between kisses. He stroked him hard, riding a wave of bliss and wanting Spock to join.

Quickly, the Vulcan gasped, breath choked and body stiffening as Jim pumped. “Jim,” he barked, spilling his seed all over Jim’s hip and hand.

Jim stroked him through his orgasm and peppered his face with kisses before Spock buried his face in Jim’s neck, breathing rapidly.

Grinning tiredly, Jim pulled Spock closer and kissed his hair. “That was awesome, babe. You’re so amazing.”

“It is you who are so passionate I cannot help but to follow you. It would my greatest pleasure to do that to you again.”

Jim chucked tiredly. “Oh, babe. You can do that as many times as you want.” He stretched languidly.

“I shall endeavor to put those words to the test,” Spock answered, humor in his voice, and Jim laughed once more.

“Challenge accepted, Spock.”

Chapter Text

Jim woke nestled in Spock’s arms, sweating like he was being smothered. Despite the cool morning temperature, his new husband was a furnace, and Jim nudged himself away and slid out of bed. The sky was a dark violet as he padded to the washroom, pulling his damp shirt away from his body. He’d slept long enough to be stiff and worked to stretch out his sore muscles.

His first thought was to check his messages, to see if Sarek had responded. News of any upcoming trial had been slow and Jim wanted to get a lay of the land, to know when he might testify. Just the thought of putting himself in front of Marcus again made him shiver. That bastard had tried to sell him — fuck, had sold him to slavers. Lord knew how many other people had met the same fate without anyone to intervene.

Jim scrubbed a towel across his face and brushed his teeth before going to his office. He pulled up his messages and found one brief message from Sarek.

Dear James, I am writing to inform you of Starfleet’s inaction regarding Admiral Marcus. Starfleet, in agreement with the Federation Executive Council, will not press charges against Admiral Marcus. He has negotiated retirement and the matter has been closed. I regret I was unable to achieve a better result. I shall return to Vulcan in one standard day.

Jim gaped at the screen, eyes wide before turning stormy. He pushed back from the desk and ran into their bedroom. At the commotion, Spock sat upright, hair mussed, and stared at Jim.

“He’s retiring, Spock! They’re not pressing charges! Can you fucking believe this?” Jim paced, wringing his hands. “This is incredible bullshit, Spock. We have to do something.”

“Admiral Marcus has negotiated a retirement instead of facing charges? Is that what you are saying?”

“Yes. Goddamnit! Those bastards. They’re sweeping it all under the rug. How can the Vulcans let this happen?” Jim faced Spock angrily, hands fisted on his hips.

Spock flipped back the sheet and stood. “What did my father say?”

Jim paraphrased the message and Spock nodded. “Just what I told you! This is fucking unbelievable!”

Spock rose naked from the bed. “I am certain Sarek did everything possible. We must wait for his return and speak to him.”

“No, we can’t. We have to go to Earth. Now.” Jim rushed to the dresser and pulled out his duffel. He started shoving clothes in haphazardly.

“Jim, you cannot leave. You are wanted for treason on Terra. You’ll be arrested.”

“At least I’ll have a voice, Spock. I can’t not do something!”

“Jim,” Spock said, grasping Jim’s biceps. “They will kill you this time. Please…I beg of you. Do not leave.” Spock’s eyes were filled with pain.

“Spock…I…” Jim stood with his mouth open, searching for words. Then he took a deep breath and let it out with a slump of his shoulders.

“Fuck me.” Jim shook his head against the dawning realization that Spock was right. He slid out of Spock’s arms and sat heavily on the floor.

“Perhaps my father has another plan, Jim. Will you wait for him?” Spock pulled a robe out of the closet and slid it over his head before joining Jim cross-legged on the floor.

“It’s really hard for me to do nothing. I can’t just sit around while Marcus gets away with everything. Don’t you understand?” Jim’s vocal chords vibrated with urgency.

“I understand completely. After they took you, I could not tolerate it. I tried several times to leave the hospital, to find you myself.”

“You never told me that,” Jim said, trying to imagine what that must have been like for him.

Spock swallowed. “It was my father who convinced me I would not succeed. It was then I knew I had completely failed to protect you — my mate and my responsibility.” He dropped his eyes and Jim leaned forward to press his forehead against his husband’s.

“No, Spock, no. You didn’t. You know that, right?”

“I accept my limitations, Jim. I am neither Vulcan nor Human, and, as such, I shall never achieve the greatness you and father possess. I can, however, stay by your side and offer everything I am to you. If it will be enough.”

Jim felt tears sting his eyes. “God, Spock. Don’t talk like that. I need you. Don’t you understand? I feel safe and happy with you. You are home to me and I want this more than anything — I just… I just couldn’t live with myself knowing I didn’t do anything else. All those beings, Spock. In cages and tanks and experiencing the most horrendous enslavement. I can’t…”

“I understand,” his mate answered, voice quiet. “Tell me how I can help, but please do not leave until you can be safe.”

“Okay, I promise. I’ll wait for Sarek.”

“You have my gratitude.” Spock kissed him lightly on the lips.

“So, is there someone else we can talk to until your father gets back? Or some way to get more information about what happened?”

“Of course. We can contact Vice-Ambassador Satesh. I will message him immediately.” Spock squeezed Jim’s shoulder, stood and left the bedroom.

Jim lingered, rubbing his face and trying to find the will to stay put.

~*~

The next day passed with mindnumbing slowness as they waited for word from Satesh or Sarek. Jim paced through most of it, declining to even sleep when Spock went to bed. Instead, he’d passed out on the veranda near midnight after two glasses of liquor. He woke in the morning to Spock nudging his shoulder gently.

“Ashayam,” Spock said, looking down at him with a concerned expression.

“Ugh, Spock. Sorry. I fell asleep. What time is it?” Jim struggled to sit up and winced at a painful kink in his neck.

“Oh-nine-fourteen. I have roused you due to the impending heat.”

“Yeah, okay. Thanks. I should have come to bed.” With creaking joints, Jim sat upright.

“Tri-ox?” Spock asked, holding out the hypospray.

“Yeah. Thanks.” He bared his neck and Spock pressed the spray against it.

“I also have breakfast prepared if you’d like to join me. I have received word that my father’s shuttle is expected at sixteen hundred twenty hours.”

“Awesome,” Jim said, feeling the tri-ox lightening his lungs. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

Jim rose shakily from the chair with Spock’s arm under his shoulder. “Man, I really cannot drink on Vulcan.” The veranda seemed to wobble as he took a few steps. If it weren’t for Spock’s support, he’s pretty sure he’d have fallen on his ass. “Sorry, Spock.”

“There is no need to apologize. I understand that humans use alcohol to cope with a multitude of emotional issues.”

“Uh, yeah…” Jim didn’t quite know what to say. He’d never had an easy relationship with alcohol, but Spock’s words rubbed him the wrong way.

With Spock supporting him, he walked slowly across the rough surface of the veranda, and through the double doors into the cooler air of the house. Jim’s shakiness seemed better and he pulled away from Spock.

“I’m gonna use the washroom. I’ll meet you downstairs.” He walked away before Spock could answer, and steadied himself lightly with his fingers on the wall.

Jim felt Spock’s lingering gaze until he closed the washroom door.

His reflection gave him no comfort as he took in the pale skin and sunken eyes. He couldn’t have gotten more than a few hours of sleep. On Earth, it wouldn’t have mattered, but here, he was fragile as a kitten. Another reason for both of them to get off planet and back to Earth. Spock would certainly handle Earth’s atmosphere better than Jim had Vulcan’s.

He splashed water on his face and brushed a thick film off his tongue. The tri-ox had completely eased his breathing, but it was food and water that would really get him back to normal.

After throwing on a clean robe, Jim went downstairs to join Spock.

“Hey, sorry that took so long. I’m feeling better.” Jim gave him a crooked smile.

“I am gratified,” his mate answered and scooped a portion of eggs onto Jim’s plate.

“I can do that, you know,” Jim said. “You don’t have to wait on me.” He felt irritated and didn’t quite know why.

“I enjoy serving you, Jim. It is my duty to see to your comfort and wellbeing.” Spock added a helping of mixed fruit onto his plate and poured a red-colored liquid into his glass.

“I thought you would like to try some savas-masu.”

“Sure,” Jim answered and dug into his eggs. They were a little cold, but he guessed he had only himself to blame.

They ate silently for a while until Jim finally decided to stop his pouting about waiting for Sarek. He only had to wait until the afternoon and he really couldn’t stand the way Spock kept glancing at him with barely contained anxiety. It didn’t seem fair to treat him this way.

“So, um, when was the last time you were on Earth?” Jim asked, mouth full of fruit.

“Six years and nineteen standard days ago. I accompanied my father to a conference in San Francisco. I arranged transport to the Lechuguilla Cave in the state of New Mexico. It was a remarkable experience.”

“Cool. I’ve never heard of that. Tell me about it.” Jim drank down some juice and smiled at Spock as he began to speak.

As his husband described the cave formations, Jim saw his brilliance, the momentary flashes of confidence and ingenuity. In those moments, it was only his scars, rippling along his cheek as he spoke, that reminded Jim of the trauma he’d been through. Sadness and pride welled up in him and for a desperate moment, he longed to just sit and be with Spock. To forget Marcus and the slaves and live quietly and profoundly happily with this Vulcan.

Jim absently pushed a piece of yellow fruit around his plate. Spock’s voice faded as Jim drifted into memory, sharper than he’d like, a painful reminder of why he couldn’t ‘just live’.

“Jim?” Spock asked, and then again until the voice registered.

“What? Oh, sorry,” he said, quirking an apologetic smile. “Got lost in thought.”

“My apologies for the over-detailed nature of my story. It is a Vulcan habit my mother often commented upon.” Spock met his eyes then let his gaze drop.

“No, Spock. That’s not it.” Jim sighed and put down his fork. “It’s this…this wonderful life I could have with you.” He looked around, waving his hand to encompass the entirety of it.

Jim shrugged. “I guess part of me’s just pissed off that the Federation can’t be bothered to police itself. I don’t want to give everything up — again — to fight them.”

“It is regrettable, Jim. But you are brave.”

“Yeah…I know. I just — I get tired of sacrificing all the time. My dad, my mom, my life on Earth. My Starfleet career.” Jim shook his head and raked a hand through his hair. “Pike asked me once if I thought I could do better…fucking dared me to do better. If this is better…I don’t know. I’m kind of sick of it.” He felt a weight on his chest and the unexpected burn of tears.

“Jim,” Spock said, rising from his seat. He reached for Jim and pulled him to standing. He slid his arms around Jim’s waist and kissed him softly. “You are the bravest person I have ever known. I know however, that often bravery requires sacrifice. I am loathe to give you up, but I understand what you must do. It is the right thing to do, Jim. You are an honorable man and…I love you,” Spock said, still seeming hesitant to reveal his feelings.

“I love you, too, Spock,” Jim answered, and draped his arms around Spock’s neck. He squeezed him tightly and pressed his cheek against the hot skin of the Vulcan’s neck. “I wish I didn’t ever have to leave.”

“Let us make the most of our time together, Jim. Father is due to arrive in a few hours and I would like to share something with you.” Spock spoke into Jim’s hair, his fingers stroking his waist lightly.

“Okay. Whatcha got?” As they broke apart, Spock took Jim’s hand and led him upstairs into his office.

Spock seemed nervous as he pulled a maroon box from high atop the bookcase. He motioned Jim to sit and placed it on his desk and stepped back. He seemed to eye it warily and Jim gave him a questioning expression.

“After my mother’s death, I found this box in her desk. In my grief, I was only able to open it briefly. I became overwhelmed and vowed to never look at it again. I believe that was a mistake.” Spock did not meet Jim’s eyes, simply stared down at the faint pattern etched into the maroon cardboard, his expression sad.

“Oh, man,” Jim said, and rubbed his face. “You sure you want me here? It’s kind of a big deal.”

“I wish to share it with you…if you are willing. I have come to understand that refusing to feel is also refusing to remember. I loved my mother and I wish to honor her. And as my bondmate, it is you who should know her…and me by extension.”

“Yeah, Spock. Of course. I mean…thank you. I know this must be hard for you.” Jim gripped his fingers tightly. “Whatever you need.”

“I thought it best to do it now before father returns. I do not know what our lives will become, but I want to know what was precious to her and for you to know that part of her, as well.” Spock finally looked at Jim, eyes shining. “And one day, I will meld with you and you shall see her as I saw her.”

“Okay, Spock, but nothing’s going to happen. In a few weeks, maybe months, we’ll be back here, together, getting on with our lives.” Jim squeezed Spock’s hand and tried not to feel the doubt blossoming in his heart. He stared at Spock, pressing his deepest wish into the universe.

It had to happen, right? He deserved some happiness — after everything in his life, he deserved it. Right?

~*~

Ten Years Prior

Smoke from her cigarette curled around Winona’s fingers as she spoke, voice just starting to slur from the booze. In front of her, Jim sat, stone-faced, with his arms defiantly crossed.

“I’m not going,” the boy said. His stubborn expression reminded her too much of George and she looked away.

“You’re going. Can’t have you running around destroying shit all the time. That car was expensive and now Frank’s gone. How the hell do you expect me to pay the bills? He had a job. I’ve got shit.” She inhaled deeply from the cigarette and blew the smoke above his head.

“Your uncles have the room and they said they can feed you. I’ve got a job offer over in Sheridan, but I’ll have to live in company housing. No kids.”

“Why can’t Sam take me? He said he would.” Jim whined in a way that set Winnie’s teeth on edge.

“Jesus, Jim. We’ve been over this. It's not Sam's decision. Margaret can't take you, too, not when she’s got four of her own. Syd and Carl are our best shot.”

“Then just leave me here by myself,” Jim pouted.

“And have the cops throw my ass in jail for endangerment? Look, Jim, you did this to yourself.” She took a long draught of beer.

In response, Jim glared at her, his small shoulders hunched together. It wasn’t quite the whole truth — he’d never gotten along with Frank, and well, Frank didn’t really get along with anyone.

“There’s a new school on Tarsus Four and plenty of kids. It’ll be better than Riverside. You gotta trust me on this. You and I got nothing here anymore.”

The farmhouse had been in her family for eight generations, cycling through feast and famine as the Iowa farm economy expanded and contracted. The promise of ethanol at the turn of the millennium had lured a long-dead grandfather into mortgaging the property to the hilt for more land, only to have the market collapse upon the discovery of dilithium less than a half-century later. That turn of events marked the eventual decline of both the farm and the McIntyre clan. Alcoholism and gambling became the currency of the McIntyres, and so,it was no surprise to Winnie that she’d carried on the tradition. Jim, though, he could still be saved.

“Now, get your chores done and wash up for bed. Your uncles are gonna comm tomorrow to set up travel arrangements.”

Her son stared at the floor, the only betrayal of emotion the silent tapping of his thumb on the seam of his worn-out jeans.

“Now, Jimmy,” she said sharply. “Go close up the barn. I’ll have dinner on in a minute.”

With a muttered curse Winona ignored, Jim turned out of his chair and left the kitchen. She watched his small frame and took another drag of her cigarette. He didn’t know what was best for him, but Winnie did. Getting out of Riverside would be good for both of them.

Chapter Text

Jim sat on the floor with Amanda’s box between them as Spock pulled items out and turned them over in his fingers. Jim glimpsed several small trinkets which were quickly deposited back into the box alongside a stack of journals, maybe fifteen in total, each obviously well-used. Spock lifted the volumes one by one and touched the covers reverently, fingering the edges of the pages, and then setting them aside.

“Don’t you want to see what they say?” Jim asked, lifting one from the growing stack but holding it tightly closed. He didn’t feel he had the right to look inside.

Spock visibly swallowed and gripped another of the books. “I am suddenly afraid, Jim. It is illogical, yet nonetheless true.”

Reaching over, Jim squeezed his husband’s arm. “It’s okay. I’m here. And we don’t have to read all of them, but maybe we can just figure out the dates. Put them in order or something? We can read them when you’re ready…or just a couple of pages to see what they’re like?” Jim rushed through the words, trying hard to provide comfort, but feeling equally unsure. Family relations haven’t exactly been his thing.

With his thumb, Spock stroked Jim’s wrist silently. After a long moment, he sighed and turned his brown eyes to Jim. “Your idea has merit. Will you help me order the volumes?”

Jim gave an encouraging smile. “Sure.” His mind felt clearer since he’d eaten. Whatever mood had settled over him had finally passed.

With Spock seeming frozen, Jim nudged a green volume out of his hands and placed it on the pile. He flipped open the first and last pages of each and put the books in order. Each journal was a different color, but similarly bound in what felt like leather. One after the other, Jim stacked them chronologically until all sixteen were out of the box.

“So, how long was your mom on Vulcan?” Jim asked, neatening the stack and staring at the violet volume on the top, the earliest one.

“She arrived here with my father approximately nineteen months before my birth. The year would have been 2228.”

Jim flipped open the violet cover. “This is dated 2230.126.”

“120 days after my birth,” Spock said, glancing at Jim before reaching for the top book.

“Oh, my god, Spock! You were just a baby when she started these. This is like your whole life! Wow.” Jim grinned, eager to discover who his husband had been before he met him.

“Indeed,” Spock answered, turning the book over in his hands. “I was unaware of her efforts to document her life. I am somewhat surprised she chose to use paper instead of a standard recording device.”

Jim shrugged. “I guess she was old fashioned. I know a couple of people who still use paper journals. There’s something about it, you know? I mean, not real paper, but pen on paper feels more permanent or something. Like old books. There’s just something so powerful about them…” Jim felt himself blushing. He didn’t talk much about his love of the classics.

“Some of Vulcan’s oldest texts are still recited from the original preserved documents. They are remarkable,” Spock said.

“I bet. They’re so much older than anything we have on Earth. I think Vulcan’s pretty fascinating.”

Spock’s eyes softened as he looked at Jim. “Agreed.”

“So, you gonna open it?” Jim nudged Spock with his knee, face lit with encouragement.

Spock took a breath and opened the first volume. He read quickly, turning page after page for a few quiet minutes. Jim watched his impassive face for a sign of emotion, but he saw nothing.

“Well?” Jim asked, unable to contain his curiosity.

Spock paused and looked at Jim. “Apparently, I was a noisy baby with a preference for a yellow blanket and the word kan-bu.

“Kan-bu? What does that mean?” Jim’s eyes crinkled in amusement.

“Baby,” Spock answered and closed the book with his finger stuck in the page where he’d stopped.

Jim chuckled. “That’s freakin’ adorable, Spock.” Jim laughed a bit harder until he was doubled over. He had no idea why it was so funny, but the notion of Spock shouting his own name was too sweet.

“Sorry,” Jim said, wiping his eyes. “It’s really cute.” He leaned toward Spock and kissed him on the temple. “I bet you were an adorable baby.”

“So I have been told,” Spock answered, leaning toward Jim.

“Prove it,” Jim challenged, leaning back with a cocked eyebrow.

“Clarify.”

“Holos. You must have some, right?” Jim glanced around the room and stood. He reached out a hand to pull Spock up. The Vulcan stared at him for a second then took his hand and stood.

Spock gave a curt nod and moved past Jim to reach up to a high shelf near the door. “As you wish.”

~*~

The holos captured more of Spock’s life than Jim had expected, from the infant with the yellow blanket through later years as he grew into an adult. He saw his mother Amanda, beautiful and attentive. As the holos progressed, Jim started to see the strain on her face, a sadness that he guessed that a Vulcan might not see. Jim kept his observations to himself, thinking Spock might be a little overwhelmed already from reading Amanda's journals. After forty or so brightly color holos, an unusual one caught his eye, nestled between two others at what appeared to be an awards ceremony. Spock was flanked by his parents, his small dark robe hanging too large on his six- or seven- year-old frame. Next to Sarek stood an adult Vulcan male, slightly taller than his father-in-law, but with an intense gaze — an emotional gaze, Jim realized.

“Spock,” Jim called, half-turning to face Spock who had become disinterested in the holos and was now typing on his PADD.

“Yes, Jim?”

“Who’s this? He looks Vulcan, but…there’s something different about him.”

Spock glanced at the holo and froze, glancing back at Jim, then to the holo. A moment later, he resumed typing on his PADD and answered blandly, “That is Sybok.”

“And who’s Sybok?” Spock’s reaction made Jim even more curious.

“He was my brother. He was banished from Vulcan more than eighteen years ago.” Spock laid his PADD on the desk and moved his chair closer to his workstation. As Jim watched, he began typing.

“Wow. I didn’t know you had a brother.” Jim crawled up from the floor and walked over to sit beside Spock. “Why was he banished? What’d he do?”

“That information is not relevant. Please desist in asking.” Spock’s typing intensified as Jim looked on. Clearly relevant!

“Um, okay.” Jim rubbed his face. “I guess I’m just surprised you never mentioned him.”

“He is no longer a member of the House of Surak. It did not seem relevant.” Spock hunched closer to his keyboard.

“Well, no, I guess it’s not really. I dunno, I just want to know about you.” Despite Jim’s efforts to conceal his hurt feelings, Spock sensed them and stopped typing.

“His actions caused my family great dishonor. My father refuses speak nor hear his name. I have honored his request, and thus I find it unpleasant to speak of him.” Spock turned to Jim and met his eyes. “I ask you to please respect my wishes.”

Jim’s eyes widened at the request, said with an edge he hadn’t heard since Spock had tried to end their marriage. Without answering, Jim picked at a seam on his robe. His mind was flooded trying to imagine what terrible thing could have caused Sarek to exile family.

“Jim.” Spock said, and he looked up at him, slightly embarrassed to be so sensitive.

“I apologize for my sharp tone. As I stated, it is unpleasant to discuss this issue. One day, when we meld, you will know what I know. Until that day, I am unable to tell you more.”

“Yeah, okay.” Jim shrugged, feeling oddly rejected. It’s not like he’d told Spock everything either. Jim stood, wiping his damp palms on the sides of his robe. “I’m gonna get a snack and read for a while. You want anything?”

“No, Jim. I do not require anything at this time.”

~*~

Winona was an hour outside Sheridan when her comm chirped with a call.

“Hello?” she answered, shifting her cigarette into her other hand on the steering wheel. The light of an oncoming car glowed in the distance. It was the first one she’d seen in while.

“Winona?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s Officer Paul Bell from Riverside police department. I’ve got your boy Jimmy here in front of me. Found him sleeping on a bench in the park off Fourth Street. You wanna come and claim him?”

“What?” Winona gasped. “That little sonofabitch.” She slapped the steering wheel and pulled over onto the side of the road. It was well past midnight.

“Winnie?” the officer asked. Paul Bell had gone to high school with her.

“Sorry, Paul. I’m just surprised. He was supposed to be on a shuttle to Tarsus Four. What the hell is he doing sleeping on a bench?”

“He’s not saying much. You want me to keep him or you wanna come over to the station to pick him up?”

“Damnit, I’m on the road, almost to Sheridan. It’ll be at least two hours until I can get back there. Can you keep him?”

“No problem, Winnie. I was about to order a pizza, so I’ll make sure he eats.”

Winona blew out a frustrated breath. Her shift at the new job started at 7am sharp and there was no way she could get back to Riverside, pick up Jim, get back to Sheridan, and be ready to work. She didn't even have a place to stay. Shit.

“Listen, Paul. I hate to ask, but is there any way you could keep him overnight? I‘ve got a new job starting in six hours and if I don’t show, they won’t give me another chance. And I really need this job. I’ll leave right after my shift and get there by suppertime tomorrow. I know it's a lot to ask, but I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Winona held her breath, watching the oncoming headlights slow as they rolled by. A blue truck stopped and she rolled down her window.

“You okay, ma’am?” the balding driver asked.

Winona waved him off. “Yeah, just fine. Got a call. Have a good night.”

She rolled up her window as Paul answered, “I suppose I could keep him. That the new Fraser Plant you’re talking about? Down in Sheridan?”

“Yep. An old friend told me they were hiring and apparently half an engineering degree from Starfleet counts for something down there. Don’t want to lose this chance. I’d appreciate it if you could help me out.” She took a draw on her cigarette and watched the red lights of the truck as they grew smaller behind her and disappeared around a curve in the road.

“I understand. Got a cousin who started there a few months ago. Says it’s not bad.”

“Well, that’s good to hear. Haven’t heard much about it. I’d be grateful for a paycheck, you know? Good honest work.” She tapped her cigarette against the metal edge of the overstuffed ashtray.

“Shouldn’t be a problem, Winnie. Ariel's got desk duty tonight and she'd probably appreciate the company. I’ll make sure he stays out of trouble. I’ll see you 'round dinnertime tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Paul. It’s a real help. I don’t know what in the hell I’m gonna do with him now, but I’ll figure it out.”

“Well, good luck to ya. Drive safe.”

“Yeah, thanks. I will. See you tomorrow.”

“’Night, Win.”

Winona said her goodbye and clicked the connection closed. She threw the comm onto the passenger seat and let out a groan.

“That goddamn kid. He’s gonna be the death of me.”

She took a few short puffs and stubbed out her cigarette before pulling the car back onto the road. She’d figure it out tomorrow.

~*~

It was nearly midnight when the doorbell finally chimed to announce Sarek’s arrival. Jim tossed his PADD on the bed and raced down the hall to swing the front door open.

“Sarek!” Jim cried, grinning. He stepped aside and waved his father-in-law inside. “Come on in.”

“Jim,” Sarek answered with a nod and stepped through the door, his dark gray robe swirling around his feet. He paused in the entryway as Spock came up the steps from the kitchen.

“Greetings, Father,” Spock said with a small nod.

“Greetings, my son,” Sarek answered and looked at Jim. “I trust you received my communication regarding Admiral Marcus?”

“Yeah, I kind of can’t believe it.” Jim swiped a hand through his hair. “But I totally can believe it, too. You know what I mean?” Jim’s heart pounded.

“Indeed. Despite my arguments, the Federation Executive Council determined the best course to be one preventing the opening of secure Federation records.”

“You mean, they didn’t want the truth coming out?” Jim huffed.

“That is my impression,” Sarek answered.

Spock interrupted with movement out of the entryway where they were all standing. “Let us sit. Father, would you like a beverage?”

“Oh, right. Sorry. Yeah, have a seat Sarek.” Jim’s face heated in embarrassment. Way to treat the father-in-law.

“No. I am adequate,” Sarek answered and the three of them sat in the corner of the great room near the windows. The stars glittered in the dark sky behind Spock’s head.

“Sarek, what can we do? Do we have options on the other stuff? Sending prisoners to slave markets? Hell, what about dealing with slave markets in the first place?”

“It is unclear, Jim. The Federation Executive Council did not answer questions about the Admiral’s dealings with anyone outside the Vulcan isolationists. Their position asserts the charges of slavery have no proof, despite my own willingness to testify to the veracity of the claims.”

“But Vulcans cannot lie. The Federation must be aware of this fact,” Spock interjected, his face confused.

Sarek paused, and if he were human, Jim is sure he’d have sighed. “Our abilities are well known, but the Council deemed it irrelevant since Marcus is retiring. Once he retires, the Federation cannot bring charges against him.”

“Since when?” Jim barked, then understood and slumped in his chair. “He got immunity, too, didn’t he? Not just saving his ass right now, but nothing will stick after this, either? Even if we find definitive proof…”

“Nothing he did while serving the Federation, Jim.” Sarek said, shifting position slightly in his seat.

“Goddamnit. That’s bullshit.” Jim hit the chair’s arm with his fist.

“Father, if I may. You indicated that he has immunity for all actions prior to his retirement. Am I correct to assume that any illegal actions he takes as a civilian would be punishable in a court of law?”

“Yes, Spock. I believe that to be true.” Sarek glanced between the two of them.

After a pause, Jim had a thought and yelped excitedly. “I’ve got it! That’s how we’ll get him. He’s lived a life of power for thirty five years — how much you wanna bet he’s not gonna stop just because he’s out of the Starfleet?”

“Jim?” Spock asked, raising a brow.

“So, let’s go after him. I know that bastard’s up to something. I can feel it.” Jim rubbed his thighs.

“What do you propose, Jim?” Sarek asked.

Jim paused to think then let a wide grin spread across his face. “Let’s hack his accounts. He’s got to leave some trace now that he doesn’t have Starfleet encryption, right?”

Jim stood and rushed toward his office.

“Jim?” Spock called behind him, but Jim kept walking. He was going after that bastard if it was the last thing he ever did.

A few moments later, Spock arrived at his door. “Jim, what do you have in mind?”

“Not sure yet, Spock. But we have to start somewhere. Hey, um, I need to know if it’s okay to contact Bones and Gaila. You remember, my Starfleet friends. Gaila is an amazing hacker, and well, Bones, I just miss him.” Jim flashed Spock another grin.

As Jim logged into his account, Sarek joined them and discussed the security of potential communications with Terra and Starfleet.

Sarek spoke. “I believe it is safe to send communications to your friends. I believe Starfleet and the Federation consider the matter settled. And, if I may, Jim, there is one more item I wish to mention.”

Jim finished his typing and turned. “Yeah?”

“You are no longer facing charges of treason nor any other criminal complaints. You are free to return to Terra.”

Jim gaped. “What? No way? That’s awesome.” Then his face sobered. “Wait, why?” He hated to think he’d be part of a deal to let Marcus retire.

“I am not aware of the details, but I received a communication from the President’s aide, indicating that they have no interest in pursuing criminal prosecution.”

“And what about Starfleet? Am I out? I mean, they levied some pretty heavy charges against me.” Jim bit down on his bottom lip.

“I am uncertain, Jim. Shall I make an inquiry?”

“Uh, yeah. I guess. I mean they probably can’t reach me to let me know. Although…”

Jim swiveled in his chair and brought up his Starfleet account and logged in. 956 unread messages showed next to his inbox and he clicked. He had two messages in the last day and a long gap of more than a month since the previous ones — just two days after he fled Earth for Vulcan.

“I’m getting emails again. That’s a good sign,” Jim said cheerfully.

Spock stood at his side. “Do you mind if I observe?”

Glancing at Spock, he smiled. “Of course not. Pull over the chair.”

Behind them, Sarek cleared his throat. “Spock, Jim. I will depart now. I wish to return home.”

Jim glanced over his shoulder and Spock turned toward his father. “Long life,” Spock intoned and raised the ta’al.

“Peace, my sons.” Sarek returned the ta’al before turning away. Jim heard the door snick closed as he scanned the two new messages.

“Nothing important. Chess club announcement and a revised exam schedule for my tactics course, not that I’ll be there anyway.”

“Jim…” Spock said, hesitating until Jim looked at him. “Do you intend to return to the Academy?”

Jim blinked. “Um, I don’t know, actually. I didn’t really think about it.” He sat back and rubbed his face. “I kind of thought that option was off the table. Seems kind of like it’s not now.”

“I see,” Spock said, face impassive.

“Hey, nothing’s decided, right? I’m just surprised.” Jim turned and bumped his knees against Spock’s. “I’m not making any decisions without you. I promise.” He clasped Spock’s hands tightly and smiled. He saw Spock visibly relax.

“Yes. I understand.”

“Hey, I know this has been a roller coaster. I came and interrupted your nice neat life. I can’t say it’s gonna be much better as long as we’re together…you know? I mean, I guess I’m a fly-by-my-seat kind of guy.” Jim paused, not quite sure what he should say.

“I understand your nature, Jim. While I have not seen you in action, I know that you are quick to make decisions and act upon them.”

Jim laughed. “You mean I’m impulsive?”

Spock had the decency to blush a little green and Jim planted a kiss on his lips. “I’m not going anywhere without you, Spock. Okay?”

“It seems that might not be the case. If you desire to return to Terra, I am not sure I can follow.”

Jim’s smile faded. “What do you mean? You wouldn’t come with me?”

Spock squeezed his fingers almost painfully. “I strongly desire to go, but I...” The Vulcan snapped his mouth closed.

When Spock didn’t meet his eyes, Jim reached out to pull him close. “We’ll figure it out, Spock. I don’t want us to be apart. Just…let’s figure out what our options are, okay?”

When Spock didn’t answer, Jim leaned back and looked at him. “Man, this has really got you riled up, hasn’t it?”

“I have not left Vulcan in many years. And while it is highly illogical, I have been unable to achieve a sense of peace about the prospect of returning to Terra.”

“We’re not going yet. Can we cross that bridge when we get there?”

Spock’s face softened slightly. “My mother used to use that phrase. I always found it to be irritating.”

Jim laughed and kissed Spock again. “I wish I had more answers, babe. But I don’t, at least not yet. Why don’t you give me a little while to email Bones and Gaila then we can go to bed. It’s been a very long day.”

“As you wish, Jim. I have two items to complete before retiring for the evening. I shall see you later.”

Spock stood and walked toward the door.

“Spock. Trust me, okay?” Jim said, turning to give his husband his most earnest expression.

Spock simply stared at him without responding and left.

With a sigh, Jim turned back to his terminal and began to type furiously.

More than an hour later, Jim had finished, and he found Spock meditating in the corner of their room facing the darkened windows. Not wanting to disturb him, he washed up for bed and slid under the covers to read.

Without intending to, his eyes drifted closed and he slept.