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My Golden Sun / Kin-Kur Las’hark T’nash-Veh

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When Jim feels the first gush of slick soaking down the inner seam of his pants, he shuts his eyes and turns his face away from Spock towards the mottled-stone wall of their solitary cell. Spock is staring at him. Spock has no idea what's just happened, what's just begun. Spock has no idea that their situation is about to get so much worse.

Fuck, Jim thinks, curling up into a ball of bruises and ragged gold, his arms quivering and clutching his bent legs. Fuck my life for being a goddamn Omega.

 

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"Jim," Bones says, staring at him with those old, hazel-green eyes sharp like scalpels. "If Starfleet finds out that you're an Omega and not an Alpha, they'll never let you graduate. You're not even supposed to be on command track."

Jim takes another swig of Bones' bourbon. He hisses as it flows down his throat into his roiling belly. He leans against Bones and lays his head on Bones' broad shoulder. Bones doesn't nudge him away but then they're sitting side by side on his bed in their dorm and they're well on their way to being buzzed and feeling good and for a while, just a while, Jim doesn't care that he is what he is.

"Good thing I've got you as my doctor, don't I?" Jim replies, and grins up at his Beta roommate and best friend, already seeing their adventurous future unfurl in the black-velvet star-studded infinity of space.

 

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They call themselves the X'chigari, but Jim prefers calling them you five-eyed hunched-back sadistic shit-eating fuckers. He isn't being metaphorical about the shit-eating either, which just adds a whole other level of grossness to him and Spock being their prisoners and completely cut off from the Enterprise.

"Captain, they are almost two hours late in delivering our daily meal," Spock says from where he's sitting on the sanded-smooth rock floor, long and lean legs crossed, loose hands resting upon knees, spine as straight as ever.

Jim paces the twelve-feet-length of the cell, hands fisted at his sides, frowning. Two days. They've been stuck in this shithole for two days already and Spock is calm and quiet and somehow still able to tell how late those fuckers are in giving them their food (and he isn't proud that he wouldn't touch said food until Spock ate it first and verified that it was not gross alien feces, merely some form of tasteless bread).

"What, no decimal point, Spock?"

Jim says this with not-very-concealed affection, but he's sure that's not why Spock stiffens or why Spock's face goes blank. It's not the normal Vulcan-blank that Jim (and no one else) can see through by now. It's the kind of blank that says, fuck me, I've just realized something very, very bad but I'm not going to say a word about it and I'm going to pretend everything's in working order.

It's the kind of blank that Jim gets on his face, not Spock.

"One point seven hours," Spock says after a minute. Literally.

Jim halts in his tracks and stares down at Spock, his hands loosening, his frown deepening. He knows Spock has a pretty damn accurate internal chronometer thanks to Vulcan childhood training. (Not that Spock told him that; he learned that on his own with his magic fingers and a probably-not-approved-by-anybody-much-less-Vulcans undertaking called 'hacking into information databases about Vulcans and their culture'.) Spock can be blindfolded and locked into a box in a windowless cellar and he'll somehow still be able to tell the time by the hour and minutes and even seconds if Jim asks for them. Spock needing a minute just to tell him time to only one decimal place?

Something isn't right. Something hasn't been right since Spock went nuts in the mess four days ago and frightened everybody around him (and he wasn't there when Spock needed him, he didn't know and he wasn't there).

"Are you okay?"

Spock raises those intense, deep brown eyes until they're gazing back at Jim. Jim thinks that Spock's long, lush eyelashes are ridiculous. He thinks that they're ridiculous and so are the big, brilliant eyes that they frame and those highly angular eyebrows and those green-tinged, luscious lips and he's ridiculous for thinking such things about Spock right now. (For thinking such things for months now, when Spock is with Uhura and not him, not him.)

"Yes, Captain. I am fine."

Spock's hands aren't loose anymore. They grip the knobby knees of long, lean legs that Jim's dreamed about more than once along with the rest of Spock.

Jim wants to say, fine has variable meanings, fine is unacceptable. Jim wants to kneel in front of Spock and touch those ridiculous, long, lush eyelashes with his fingertips, touch the ridiculous pointed tips of those Vulcan ears. Touch their foreheads together. Their lips, together. Ridiculous.

"Okay, fine," Jim mumbles instead, staring at the green flush of Spock's cheeks and thinking, Uhura, remember Uhura and then, Vulcans really suck at lying.

 

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Jim has to figure out how to program the replicators to brew up bourbon. He really does. Sure, it's against the regs. Sure, he's the captain and he's supposed to set a fine and responsible example for his crew. (Bad alcohol, bad, bad, especially that moonshine still Scotty constructed in Engineering that he shouldn't know about but totally does.) Sure, Bones will turn his nose up at it and mock it and probably say something like, I'd rather be an Orion's ass wiper than drink that nasty, fake swill, but what the hell. Bones will probably prefer that Jim drink the replicated stuff if it means the real stuff doesn't go the way of Jim's voracious gullet before the first year of the Enterprise's five-year-mission of space exploration is over.

"Jim. Jim, I think you've had enough, kid."

"Nuh uh. No. Nyet. Nirsh."

"Nirsh?"

Jim drains his glass, then slams it on the polished surface of Bones' office desk.

"Nirsh," Jim proclaims regally with one (wobbly) forefinger in the air. "That means no in Vulcan." He sniffles. Rubs his nose with the back of his hand. "No, wait, the correct word is rai. Ri? Rai, ri, nirsh. I like nirsh. Let's go with nirsh. Nirsh!" A sound akin to a hiccup hops out of his mouth. Then he says, "Did you know, Bonesy, that Vulcans have a dessert called ameelah that tastes like fried bananas? And they got - they got ice cream but they call it le-sum-krim? It took me aaaages to program both into the replicators!"

Bones and his twin are shaking their heads at him.

"Good lord, Jim. You've got it bad."

Jim makes a face and waves one (wobbly) hand in the air, almost smacking himself in the face. His face. His very, very handsome face. He knows lots of people think his face is a very, very handsome face. Why doesn't Spock think his face is a very, very handsome face? (Why doesn't the most important person think that?)

"Doesn't matter. He's with her. End of."

He tips his glass to his mouth and only then remembers that he's drunk all the bourbon and that if he wants more, he has to get more from Bones and his twin brothers. Wow, the synchronized head shaking thing they've got going on is pretty groovy. (See, Bones is wrong, he's so cool when he's drunk, he can make use of 20th century slang and use it right!) He should ask the other two Bones about all the sleazy crap they must know about Bones. The first Bones. The original Bones. The only Bones. Whatever.

"Jim, this can't go on forever. You know that."

Stop sounding so kind, Bones.

"Sooner or later, you're going to have to decide."

Shit, did he say that aloud? Whatever.

Jim gazes at Bones with what he's 99.357% sure is an expression worthy of a respectable, sober captain of the coolest and prettiest starship in the entire universe. See, he can do calculations up to three decimal places too. Who cares if they're not accurate. He's only Human. He's not Vulcan. (And maybe that's the reason that Spock doesn't like him like he likes Spock. Nevermind that Spock is half-Human and Uhura - Spock's girlfriend - is full Human. Like him.)

"Decide what?"

"Don't play dumb. You're not dumb. You know it and I know it."

"Aw, you're so sweet, Bones."

"I mean it, Jim. You need to decide whether to tell that green-blooded hobgoblin how you feel about him or let him go and move on. It's messing you up as it is."

Jim jabs a (very wobbly) finger at Bones. The Bones in the middle of the other two Bones. Same difference.

"Are you acchush - accush - accusing me of being a bad captain?"

"No. I'm accusing you of running away from your problem with your Commander when you should be dealing with it like a grown-up, you brat!"

Suddenly Jim's head feels as heavy as twenty Enterprises stacked on top of each other. He groans and lets his twenty-Enterprises-heavy head fall forward to thunk his forehead on Bones' desk. Bones' desk is smooth and very nice to rest his forehead on. Maybe he'll sleep here tonight instead of in his quarters that's connected to Spock's via their shared bathroom. Spock, so near and yet so far. Spock. Spock, Spock, Spock.

Ki'pak-tor nash-veh kashek ovsoting, he thinks to himself. I've really lost my mind.

Ri tun-tor nash-veh, he also thinks. I don't care.

"I'm fucked if I do. I'm fucked if I don't," Jim mutters, and he has to laugh at the fact that no actual fucking is going to happen to him anytime soon. He hasn't been interested in having sex with anyone apart from Spock since awaking nine months ago from that two-week-long coma and recovering from the radiation poisoning that pretty much killed him. Well, until Bones injected him with Khan's superhuman blood and brought him back to life and no, he is not going to think about that. He's alive. He'll count his blessings about that.

"And what the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"It means, Bonesy," Jim slurs to the desk top, "that if I'm ever stupid enough to tell Spock how I feel, he'll think I'm some disgusting slut who's out to ruin his relationship with Uhura and never speak to me again."

And leave the Enterprise. Leave me. Like everyone else.

Jim doesn't say any of those things. He doesn't want to tempt Fate that much.

He hears Bones sigh heavily. He feels Bones' large hand on the crown of his head, ruffling his hair and fuck it, why is a mere touch like that getting him all choked up?

"What did I tell you about calling yourself that?"

"Nash-veh veling va'asaya t'don," Jim mutters. I'm just an imitation of dignity.

"What's that? Are you speaking hobgoblin to me? Stop speaking hobgoblin and speak English to me, for god's sakes!"

"That I shouldn't 'cause I'm not a disgusting slut."

"That's right. Being an Omega is not synonymous with 'disgusting slut', you hear me? You got this really bad habit of insulting my best friend who's one of the bravest, kindest souls I've ever known. Who's already saved Earth twice!"

Even choked up like he is, Jim has to smile for a moment at that. He just wishes he could have saved Spock's home planet too. (He really wishes he could have saved Spock's mom too. Sometimes - and Spock will certainly consider this illogical in that deadpan, fabulous way of his - he really wishes he could have saved his dad too, nevermind that he was barely minutes old when his dad died.)

"You think about what I've said. This can't go on. You're not eating well, and I'll bet my Southern behind that you aren't sleeping well either. You know I'll do what I have to as CMO of this damn hunk of metal if you don't take care of yourself. Don't make me take out the hypos."

"Yes, Bonesy-wonesy. I'll take care of myself."

Bones scratches his scalp in retaliation.

"That's Doctor McCoy to you, you brat."

Jim doesn't comment on Bones' gentle tone. Bones doesn't comment on Jim letting him pet his head. Neither of them comment on how much Jim sucks at lying when it comes to matters of his goddamn heart.

 

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Spock is staring at him and it is really not helping him to deal with the mounting, slick-wet ache between his legs. Fuck, he hasn't suffered a heat since he was a teenager, since getting his hands on heat suppressants that stopped him from turning into a - a disgusting slut and yeah, Bones hates it when he thinks of himself that way but Bones has never seen him in heat before. (And if he has any say about that, Bones never, ever will.)

Thanks to Bones, he hadn't experienced a heat and any of its symptoms since they began their studies at the Academy. The annual heat suppressant shots – the really effective stuff, the expensive stuff that his teenage self could never have afforded - guaranteed that. Bones remembers for him to get the shot better than he does, so the fact that he'splummeting headlong into a heat now can mean only one thing: Bones didn't give him the shot this year because Bones was too damn busy saving his life from goddamn fatal radiation poisoning to remember it this time. (Bones is definitely off the hook for this.)

Even if Bones were to appear out of nowhere right now, it would still be too late to administer the shot. Once the slick comes gushing out, that's it, the heat is on and it isn't going away until Jim's body is satisfied that it's been knotted good and tight and pumped to bursting seams with Alpha semen.

Oh, and there's also the fact that Omegas' experiences of heat can vary drastically. Some Omegas wake up from their heats with no recollection of what happened to them. Some Omegas go through their heats in a haze, remembering only glimpses and brief jolts of movement and sounds. Some Omegas live every crystal-clear second in real time and in memory, every taste and touch and smell and sensation made hyper-real and magnified.

Guess which group of Omegas lucky, lucky James Tiberius Kirk belongs to, hm?

Fuck his life. Just fuck it with a Klingon bat'leth.

"Jim. You are in pain."

It takes Jim a very long time to realize that Spock didn't call him Captain. It takes him even longer to realize that he's been whimpering, that he's trembling from head to toes and he can't stop it.

"I'm ..."

Huddled against the wall farthest from Spock with his arms wrapped around his lower belly and his legs drawn up to his chest, Jim tries again to speak and fails. His breaths are shallow and swift. His face tingles and feels warm. The crotch of his pants is drenched with slick. His hole is clenching and aching to be filled with something long and hot and thick, something with a big knot that'll plug him up deep while he's glutted fat with Alpha come.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, does a Vulcan cock have a knot?

Jim gasps. His legs jerk with shock. Holy shit, did he actually just think that? No! No, no, no, no, no. Spock is Uhura's boyfriend and Spock is straight, he must be since he's never mentioned being interested in men, much less shown it so there's no way Spock will ever want to have sex with him -

Jim presses himself bodily against the wall with a high-pitched whine when Spock stands up in one elegant motion and starts to approach him.

"No! Don't come near me!"

He swivels his face towards the wall again. He hides his flushed face from Spock, hides his rapidly growing erection behind his folded legs and under his forearms. Spock is a Vulcan and therefore neither Alpha, Beta or Omega, but his scent is just ... it's as potent as an Alpha male's rut pheromones, if not more so. It's spicy and wood-like and makes Jim think of red, sizzling sand and beaten, vibrating gold and it's driving him crazy with lust and desperation to be fucked hard.

"Jim, ri s'frei nash-veh -" I don't understand -

"Please, just, don't. Just ... stay there."

Spock does. Spock sits back down on the floor.

Spock is staring at him again. Jim doesn't have to look at Spock to know that Spock is thinking. To know that Spock is going to put the two and two together, and arrive at the only answer possible.

And when that happens, their friendship will never be the same again.

 

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In retrospect, Jim should have seen all the signs. He should have known when Spock stared at him through that transparent aluminum door and let those precious tears roll down from those big, brilliant, deep brown eyes. He should have known when Spock called him Jim for the first time with that low, resonant voice at his hospital bedside. He should have known when Spock materialized on the transporter pad of the Enterprise in that snug blue uniform and called him Captain without so much as a blink or head tilt. He should have known when Spock said yes to every offer of a game of chess in his quarters although they could have played in the rec room. He should have known when Spock would argue with him every time he insisted on beaming down with the team to explore a new world and protect his people (protect Spock) from whatever harm may come their way.

He should have known when Spock chose to stay with him instead of beaming back on board the Enterprise with the rest of the team, when Spock chose to become the X'chigari's second prisoner in defiance of his direct orders to go to safety, to leave, to leave him behind (because that's what everyone does).

He should have known that, like a certain golden-haired, blue-eyed Human, a Vulcan can say I love thee in many other ways too.

 

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"You think you're gonna go out into space like your dad did, Jimmy-boy? You think you're gonna be a hero like he was? Don't make me laugh, you little Omega slut. Your mom can't stand the sight of you. Sam left because he couldn't stand the sight of you. I can't stand the sight of you either, and yet here I am, stuck here taking care of you for your mom when an Alpha like me could be doing something worthwhile instead. What? What did you say? You're gonna be a captain of a starship like daddy one day? Hah! You're an Omega, you idiot! Only Alphas can become leaders! Alphas rule the world! You, a captain? I'll believe that ... the day you top what your old man did and save this whole planet from total destruction!"

 

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Now, Jim can't stop staring at Spock instead.

"Jim," Spock says, his face even more green, not in the I'm gonna puke my guts out on a X'chigari's fugly face way but the holy crap, only Spock can make green the sexiest color ever way. "I believe I have identified the cause of the ... recent changes in my behavior."

Still huddled against the wall farthest from Spock, Jim turns slightly towards Spock, his legs still drawn up to his chest. Spock's hands are gripping those knobby knees so hard that Spock's knuckles are bone-white. It's at such odds with Spock's blank, marble-cold expression. Spock is staring ahead at mottled stone, away from Jim's face. (And how ridiculous is he that he's missing the weight of those big, brilliant, intense, deep brown eyes honed on him?)

Spock's called him by his first name yet again. That's at least four times today, the same number of times Spock's called him Jim in the last two months, since the Enterprise left Earth and commenced its five-year mission. His first name sounds ... really nice coming from Spock's mouth (from those green-tinged, luscious lips) with that low, resonant voice. Like it means something. Like it means something to Spock.

"It is something Vulcans do not speak of to outworlders." Spock continues to stare ahead at the mottled-stone wall with that blank, marble-cold expression. "Even among my people, it is discussed with tremendous reluctance."

Jim breathes through his mouth. He breathes through another spasm that radiates throughout his curled-up, trembling body from between his compressed thighs. Spock's flagrant scent suffuses every cell in his nostrils, his mouth, his throat, his lungs anyway. It's seeping into his bloodstream. Coursing through every vein and into every organ, every other cell. Coursing into his steel-stiff, throbbing cock that twitches within the almost unbearable confines of his soaked pants.

"What is it?" he manages to rasp. "I know I wasn't there when you flipped over that table in the mess the other day, so you can't blame me this time."

Spock doesn't smile or frown at his lukewarm joke. Spock pins him with those big, brilliant, intense, deep brown eyes again.

"It is pon'farr," Spock replies solemnly, as if he's just uttered a terrible curse or freed some terrible monster from its shadowy dungeon.

Jim blinks sweat trailing down from his damp hairline out of his eyes. He stares back at Spock and he has no idea how to respond other than with mystification. He's read tons of journals and publications on Vulcans and their culture and rituals – in Federation Standard English and modern Golic Vulcan - but Vulcans being the profoundly secretive people that they are, he knows there is so much more they're keeping out of sight of non-Vulcans. He's yet to come across this pon'farr thing even in his more discreet, extensive research on Spock's people.

What the hell is it, that it can scare Spock like this?

"It has to do with ... biology," Spock adds quietly.

"Biology?" Jim's brows furrow. "What kind of biology?"

"Vulcan biology."

Then, Jim gets it. He lets out an audible huff of air. His lips curve up in an amused smile even as another spasm causes his slick, hungry hole to clench almost painfully.

"Sex. You're talking about sex."

The green flush across Spock's cheeks intensifies. Spock averts his eyes and stares down at the floor between them.

"It is more than that, Jim. It is ... a shameful thing for my people. In the throes of pon'farr, neurochemical imbalances cause us to lose our minds, our control over ourselves. It strips our logic away from us, and what is more dreaded to a proudly logical people like mine? We become no better than a feral le'matya, coerced to choose a mate by the ancient, raging fires of the blood fever, the plak'tow." Jim sees Spock's throat work in one long, visible swallow. "A Vulcan in plak'tow, the final stage of pon'farr, will not care for his mate's well-being. He will be selfish and violent, negligent of his mate's condition. Or consent."

Jim's amused smile flees from his face. His insides shiver and whirl. The screwed-up part is, he can't tell whether it's from fear ... or from excitement. He's already experienced a violent, emotional Spock firsthand, when he goaded Spock into physically assaulting him and strangling him on the bridge of the Enterprise in full view of the crew after the destruction of Vulcan. (And in front of Sarek, Spock's father.) What would it be like to experience a Spock that is violent and emotional from sexual lust instead?

And what the hell is wrong with him that he wants Spock to lose control like that, when Spock just said that it's what Vulcans dread most?

This fucking heat, messing with his mind and body, making him lose control over himself.

They have to get out of this shithole and off this planet fast.

"Okay. So," he says with confidence he doesn't feel, with shame he hopes isn't blaring from his eyes or face. "How long have we got until your pon'farr gets that bad?"

Spock stares on at the floor. His fingers are still digging into his knees.

"Due to my specific biology, I am experiencing pon'farr later than other Vulcans do. As there are no other Vulcans with a biology like mine, I have no reliable data to determine how fast I will enter plak'tow, other than records stating that the pon'farr must be satiated within eight days for all Vulcans."

Jim bites his lower lip.

"Okay. So ... do you know when your pon'farr began?"

Spock raises his eyes until they settle upon Jim's lower face. It's probably the heat messing with him, it has to be, but he can feel Spock's gaze on his lips like a searing brand.

"Five days ago."

"Do you mean exactly five days ago, or at least five days ago?"

Spock averts his eyes once again, aiming them back at mottled stone. Spock flattens his lips into a thin line. Jim has never seen Spock do that before. Displaying nervousness is something no Vulcan in control would ever do. The keyphrase being, in control.

Instead of answering his question, Spock says, "In order to prepare for pon'farr, I was telepathically bonded to another when I was seven years old. Her name was T'Pring."

Jim says nothing although he's tempted to say he's sorry. Was. Past tense. She must have died on Vulcan when it was obliterated by Nero. Spock would just say it's illogical of him to be sorry when he wasn't the cause of T'Pring's death.

"She was to be my mate when I experience my first pon'farr. If she did not invoke the kal-if-fee during the kun-ut-kal-if-fee, we would ..." Spock pauses, long enough that Jim wonders if he's imagining the derision in Spock's level voice when Spock resumes speaking. "We would copulate, and the plak'tow would be purged."

"So you were already, what, married when you were seven?" Jim asks, blinking hard. He doesn't recognize those Vulcan terms either, nor has he come across them yet in any of his research on Vulcan culture.

"Technically, no. The link that was formed between us was tenuous at best. We shielded ourselves from each other as soon as we could. The link simply ensured that I would not be left alone at the mercy of the plak'tow when my Time came."

Jim bites his lower lip a second time. He shudders and ignores yet another spasm radiating through his pulsing groin. Since T'Pring is dead, there's only one logical option for Spock as his mate in pon'farr: Uhura. Spock's girlfriend. The woman he's been with since the destruction of Vulcan. The woman he chose. But does she know what pon'farr entails? Does she know that Spock will become violent and not care whether she consents to the sex or not?

"What if ... what if she didn't want to mate with you?"

"That is when she would invoke the kal-if-fee, the passion fight to the death between another Vulcan male and I for the right to mate with her."

Jim gapes at Spock, his eyes stark and his mouth hanging open. So if a Vulcan woman didn't want Spock but Spock still wanted her, Spock had to fight another Vulcan guy for her? To the death? To the death? What the fuck?

Call him a heartless bastard, but he's glad that T'Pring is dead if it means that Spock doesn't end up fighting another Vulcan guy until one of them is killed. That is some savage shit for a species that values logic and the expunging of emotions from their mind, body and soul, that values life.

"Jim, based on my current knowledge of the Alpha/Beta/Omega gender dynamics of Humans, you would have similar experiences to a Vulcan male in pon'farr when you are in rut."

Yeah, thank fuck he already has an expression of stupefaction on his face. In the eyes of everyone else besides Bones, he's an Alpha, not an Omega. Of course Spock would presume that he's an Alpha since he's the captain of the Enterprise, since Omegas are strictly prohibited from being on command track at the Academy. But the way Spock is looking at him, it's -

"You are an Alpha," Spock says with that low, resonant voice. "Are you not?"

They gaze at each other across the abruptly vast and yet scant distance between them. Spock is as expressionless as ever but his eyes, his eyes are telling Jim that Spock knows. Spock knows now.

Jim lowers his head and presses his hot, sweat-dotted forehead to his knees. He lets out an audible huff of air, one full of self-deprecation. Then he lifts his head and looks Spock in the eye, because Spock deserves that much from his captain, his friend.

"No, Spock," he rasps past dry lips. "I'm an Omega."

Spock's expression doesn't change at all. The sole hint that Spock heard his reply is Spock's right hand twitching once before going motionless again, gripping a knee as if Spock's life depends on it. (Maybe it does. Maybe it really does.)

"Yeah. I lied," Jim adds, still looking Spock in the eye, his Adam's apple bobbing once.

Tehs-tor kanok-veh, he also wants to say. Everybody lies.

"You have been masking your scent. A cologne of Alpha pheromones," Spock says with that low, resonant, sensual voice. With no judgment. "You have been suppressing your heats."

"Yep." Jim knows his voice is anything but casual. "But guess what?"

Spock tilts his head (in that adorable way that Jim will never, ever point out for his own sanity).

"I didn't get my heat suppressant shot this year. I'm in heat. And we're trapped here," Jim says, and then presses his forehead to his knees once more, his shoulders shaking, unable to tell if the shaking is from hysterical laughter or soundless sobs.

 

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Spock is referring to Uhura by her rank and surname again instead of her first name in public. No one else seems to notice the change except Jim. No one else seems to notice that Jim has changed since he and Spock were rescued by Bones, Sulu and a security team from that shithole planet. (Like its shit-eating people, he isn't being metaphorical about that either. Ugh.)

"So it's 'Lieutenant Uhura' again, huh?" he says to Spock with an amused smirk, with a detached flippancy that he doesn't feel as they walk from the turbolift to the mess for breakfast before their shift on the bridge.

Nine days have passed since his heat and Spock's pon'farr were satiated. Nine days, in which he and Spock have returned to being Captain and Commander, to being just two Starfleet officers on board the coolest, prettiest, greatest starship in the entire universe. Just two friends who have an utterly platonic friendship where Jim most certainly does not yearn after Spock in any way, more than ever.

It's a good thing that Bones isn't here with them. Bones would probably say something along the lines of, Jim, you really, really suck at this lying business when it comes to the green-blooded hobgoblin, you know that?

It's a good thing, too, that Spock has ethics and doesn't go around telepathically invading people's minds to read their thoughts without their permission. Spock raises one of those highly angular eyebrows at him.

"That is her rank, is it not?" Spock replies, not missing a stride as they approach the wide, doorless entrance of the mess.

Jim refrains from rolling his eyes and merely says, "Yep." Good thing, too, that he didn't make some wisecrack about role-playing and power-play in Spock's bedroom antics. Would Spock even find any of that fascinating? Or foul?

Spock tilts his head (in that adorable way that now makes Jim question his sanity) and says nothing more. Spock's probably wondering how he ended up with such a peculiar, illogical Human for a captain.

Spock probably doesn't think at all about what happened in that twelve-foot-long solitary cell. About their uniforms ripping under their frenzied, careless, clawing hands. About Jim rolling onto his back on the heap of their tattered uniforms, spreading his quavering thighs and hauling up his legs for Spock. About Spock, Spock and that long, hot, thick, lovely, double-ridged, green-tinged cock between those lean, powerful thighs.

It turns out that Vulcan cocks don't have knots like Alpha Human ones have. It turns out that a Vulcan cock can swell its whole length at its possessor's will. And during pon'farr, a Vulcan can stay hard for days and come and come and come and not falter one bit at fucking a hungry, greedy Omega hole until its mindless possessor is writhing and screaming from the pure pleasure.

And lovesick fool that he is, terrified of losing even Spock's friendship, he'd murmured to Spock when they materialized on the Enterprise's transporter pad with Bones, Sulu and their entire security team accounted for, don't worry, things between us haven't changed, we're still just like we were before.

Spock, shirtless and straight-backed and so damn alluring even in the garish, white light of the transporter room, had lowered his eyes and nodded and replied, yes, Captain.

Then, Uhura had appeared, and Jim silently watched Spock walk away from him, walk to her to receive an embrace from her. (As if he no longer existed.)

No, no, Jim does not yearn after Spock in any way at all, more and more than ever. Jim does not find their return to an utterly platonic friendship - where he can never touch and taste and feel Spock again, where he has to watch Spock go to another Human who Spock loves, not him, not him - to be an absolute hell at all. He doesn't.

At least he has the memories. At least he has those.

"Hey, your girlfriend's calling for you," he says casually, nodding his head at Uhura who's sitting alone several tables away and watching them with an indecipherable expression. He resists the urge to place a hand on Spock's back to give Spock a push in her direction. He has no right to do that. (Even after he's had Spock inside him. Even after Spock made him come and come and come again, clasping the back of his head, plowing into his limp, overwhelmed body that finally felt right, that finally felt complete.)

He sees Spock turning towards him, those green-tinged, luscious lips parting in the beginnings of a response. He gives Spock a tight-lipped smile and he turns as well, away from Spock, walking (running) towards Bones who's observing them from a table in one corner of the mess. He ignores Bones' pointed glance at him. He steals a ribbon of bacon from Bones' bowl of salad and ignores Bones' sputtering to get his own dang food. He ignores the cold, blistering fact that the Vulcan he's stupid-crazy-mad in love with is sitting with a Human who isn't him, a Beta Human who Spock will likely bond with, likely marry in the future despite what happened over nine days ago.

Absolute hell. An absolute hell of his own making.

Later in his quarters, he's curled up on his side in bed in the semi-darkness and he's still feeling the phantom aches of Spock's fingers gripping his hips, of Spock thrusting inside him. He's staring at the door to the bathroom he shares with Spock. Spock is just two doors away in his own quarters, probably sound asleep and not thinking of Jim at all.

Istau nash-veh ta nam-tor du la, he thinks, imagining an alternate reality where Spock would hear those words, where Spock wants the delicate bond that links their minds (that Jim can't feel anymore, not like he did during his heat and Spock's pon'farr, as if it no longer exists). I wish you were here.

Rok-tor nash-veh ta shetau etek os teretuhr, he thinks next, imagining an alternate reality where Spock loves him in return and always. I hope that we grow old together.

And then, he's squeezing his eyes shut and curling into himself and he's thinking, stupid, stupid, stupid. He's thinking, stop it, stop being so ridiculous, stop being such a fucking sleazebag, longing for someone else's beloved. Who does that? What kind of person does that?

A disgusting slut, that's who. Disgusting Omega slut. That's what he is.

That's what Spock knows he is, now. It's no wonder that, for the first time, Spock declined his offer of a game of chess three days ago. No wonder at all.

 

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He's burning up. He's so hot inside and he hurts and he's on fire, he's burning up. He's dying, he's dying.

"Jim."

He's curled up on his side on the floor, facing the wall. He's trembling from head to toes and his breaths are see-sawing out of his flame-filled lungs and his lower body is a molten, slick-seethed mass of need.

"Kal'uh tu nash-veh gol-tor." Let me help.

He feels a hand brushing his shoulder and it scalds him, it scalds him. He cries out and wriggles away until he collides into chilly stone. He wedges himself into a ball in a corner of the cell. He glances up and his vision is stinging and swimming but even with squinted eyes, he sees Spock standing nearby, gazing down at him with wide, worried ones. He … he should be finding it weird that Spock's eyes are showing such obvious emotion. Shouldn't he?

"No, Spock, please – don't touch me. I can't – I can't control myself," Jim whispers harshly.

He can't control himself but he knows Spock can. He knows Spock is so much stronger than he is. Spock may be in pon'farr but he's still so calm and quiet and Spock will make sure they're all right. Spock will make everything all right.

"Jim. Jim." Spock sits down on the floor again, although he's nearer now, smelling so damn tasty. "Tell me what I can do to help you."

Jim presses his hands over his face and groans into his damp palms. Goddamnit, his erect cock is aching so bad now. His empty and slick-gushing hole, even worse, even more painful. He's seriously considering the act of shoving three fingers to the knuckles into his hole, of fucking himself with them and he doesn't give a damn that Spock's right there, that Spock will hear him even if Spock averts his eyes. It wouldn't be the first time he's relieved himself during a heat that way.

What else can he do to alleviate the torment? It's not like Spock will do it for him. Spock is straight. Spock is most likely persevering until they're rescued, until he can be with Uhura with whom he'll want to mate, to bond. Spock said his pon'farr started five days ago, which means Spock still has three days to deal with it. He, on the other hand, is in very deep shit.

"There's nothing you can do," he rasps after lowering his hands, gazing at Spock's green-flushed, familiar, handsome face. "I just … have to wait it out. Let it burn out on its own."

"Will this cause you more pain?"

Spock is staring at him once more. Staring at him with those big, brilliant, intense, beautiful deep brown eyes that harbor such concern for him. Concern that he doesn't deserve.

Jim lowers his head and presses quivering hands over his face. He doesn't reply Spock, but that is an answer in itself.

 

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Jim finds Spock in the mess with a bowl of plomeek soup and a plate of krei'la.

"How's the food?" he asks Spock nonchalantly as he sits opposite Spock with a tray of his own breakfast: a few pieces of buttered toast and parish-yu-murlar. Or as Humans would call it, the Vulcan version of scrambled eggs with the whites and yolks beaten together and cooked firm and soft. It's freaking delicious and he loves it (although not as much as he does the pointy-eared genius in front of him).

Spock's face is expressionless when Spock lifts his head to look at Jim.

"There were no Vulcan meals programmed into the replicators when the Enterprise embarked from Earth seventeen days ago."

Spock's face is expressionless but his deep brown eyes, framed by long, lush lashes, are anything but.

Jim takes his sweet time to munch on a piece of toast before responding. It had taken him hours just to program in the plomeek soup and yarmok, a salad of raw, leafy, green vegetables with a dressing that tastes like balsamic vinaigrette and yet is a lurid purple color. (It's fabulous and he loves it too.) Once he was on a roll, it was easy to program in ameelah and the flat, bread-like krei'la and the squash/mashed potato-like casserole, balk'ra and the cream-of-spinach-like barkaya marak and Hivas milkshake (also a fabulous purple) and of course, le-sum-krim. He avoided any food that included meat. Spock doesn't eat meat.

"I took care of that problem," he says, also nonchalantly. "I managed to program in about ten Vulcan foods so far. I'll add more later."

Spock says nothing with his mouth. Spock says many things with his crinkled, gracious eyes. Spock must surely have missed many of these Vulcan meals since the destruction of his home planet.

"So." Jim spoons some parish-yu-murlar into his mouth. "How's the food?"

"Rom. Th'i-oxalra, Jim."

He understands what Spock said. He feels the soothing warmth of those murmured Vulcan words spread throughout his chest like the rays of dawn, like sunshine through his window. He smiles like an ecstatic dumbass inside.

On the outside, however, he affixes an expression of puzzlement on his face. He glances at Spock and asks, "That's Vulcan, right? What does it mean?"

"It is good," Spock replies, gazing back at him. "Thank you, Jim. I appreciate it."

Jim allows a flash of that ecstatic smile inside him to emerge on the outside.

"You are welcome, Spock."

Spock's eyes linger on him as he resumes eating his scrambled eggs with gusto, and because he's looking down at the appetizingly yellow eggs, he doesn't see the flash of a golden sun in Spock's eyes. He doesn't see Spock's right hand on the table. He doesn't see all its fingers except its index and middle fingers fold in. He doesn't see them twitch once, as if Spock has to hold them back from reaching for Jim's fingers on the table.

Like learning an ancient, alien language from scratch, like programming a Vulcan cookbook's worth of meals into the Enterprise's replicators, like sunlight-warm eyes and a restrained ozh'esta, there are many, many other ways for both Human and Vulcan to say I love thee when the words can't be uttered.

 

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Spock has been kneeling on the floor for what seems like hours. Spock's eyes are shut, but his forehead is creased and his eyebrows are drawn together in a frown.

The fact that Jim can see Spock frowning is enough reason to worry about his friend. Spock is starting to lose more control over his face, over his body despite meditation, and he, well … maybe some of that legendary James Tiberius Kirk-luck has finally kicked into gear, because he can breathe easier, think easier. He knows this is just a fleeting reprieve in his inexorable heat, but still. He hasn't shoved any fingers into his slick-soaked pants and hole so far. He can relax his tense arms and legs (although he isn't going to straighten his legs out, not unless he wants Spock to see his tenacious erection tenting his pants and god, that would be embarrassing) and slump against the wall in a restful stupor. He can hold out. He can. He just has to wait long enough for his crew to pinpoint his and Spock's location and get them the hell out of here. He can do this.

"Jim," Spock says with that low, resonant voice gone even lower, even more sensual.

Spock's eyes are open once more. Spock is still frowning. Spock's hands – those exquisite, adept, long-fingered hands – are balled up into fists on Spock's thighs. Spock's arms are crossed at the wrists, over his groin.

"Jim, it may be … my fault that we are in this predicament."

The fact that Spock has to pause while speaking to control his breathing is just more reason for Jim to worry about Spock.

"What do you mean?"

"Pon'farr can be ... transferred to others through a telepathic bond. It is ... possible that my pon'farr initiated your heat."

Jim blinks. Then blinks again. What? Spock's pon'farr jumpstarted his heat? Is that … is that really possible? Spock isn't an Alpha with the rut pheromones necessary to do that. Spock is only half-Human, and since Vulcan traits are dominant, Alpha/Beta/Omega Human gender dynamics don't affect his physiology. But as Spock said, there is no other Vulcan like him. There's no reliable data, no precedent to determine how his body may affect an Alpha's rut or an Omega's heat. What if Spock in pon'farr is the equivalent of an Alpha in rut? What if Spock's scent during pon'farr is the equivalent of an Alpha's rut pheromones? What if -

"Wait." Jim blinks a third time. He sits straighter against the wall, his quivering hands pressed flat on the cool rock floor. "Wait, you … you said it can be transferred through a bond."

"Yes."

Jim stares at Spock with wide eyes of astonishment. Spock stares back at Jim, his forehead still creased.

"We -" Jim swallows hard. Squirms for an instant, pulling his legs tight to his torso again and ignoring his stubborn erection. "We have a bond? A telepathic bond?"

Spock lowers his eyes for a second, shuttering them from Jim. Then, Spock is looking him in the eye again as he replies, "Yes, Jim. I believe ... the bond may have formed when we were in Engineering after you … when our hands ..."

Jim sees Spock's lips flatten into that nervous, thin line again. Spock is trying, really trying to not break their eye contact and he is trying just as much, gazing at Spock, gazing at this amazing, noble, loyal Vulcan who had stayed with him that fateful day to his last breath, who had tried so much to comfort him with a hand molding to his, separated only by transparent aluminum.

I want you to know why I couldn't let you die, he'd said to Spock across that scant yet impassible distance, why I went back for you.

And Spock, with those precious tears rolling down from those big, brilliant, deep brown eyes, had said, because you are my friend.

Spock had been right. Spock had been right and yet wrong because friend was so infinitesimal a word to encapsulate why he couldn't let Spock die, why he could never let Spock die.

Fai'ei ashau nash-veh du, he'd yearned to say to the most important person in his existence, before it was too late. Ashau nash-veh du.

Because I love you. I love you.

Over ten months since his death and resurrection with Khan's superhuman blood, he still yearns to say those words to Spock. But he can't. He can never say them, not when Spock loves and is in love with someone else, someone who isn't him. It wouldn't be fair to Spock. It wouldn't be fair to Uhura. It wouldn't be fair to himself (no matter how much it hurts, it hurts).

"And you're sure … you're sure that we have this bond?" he says instead, reining in from his voice every scrap of hope, of joy at the knowledge that he and Spock are bonded in some way.

"Yes, I am certain. As Humans are, in general, psi-null, you would very likely not notice its presence even if I am not shielding." A pause, and then Spock murmurs, "I am sorry, Jim."

Jim doesn't know what precisely Spock is apologizing for. Is Spock apologizing for shielding himself from the bond? Is Spock apologizing for the bond itself? Is Spock apologizing for Jim being psi-null and therefore unable to telepathically connect to him like another Vulcan could?

Either way, the cold, blistering fact is, Spock is deliberately blocking the bond on his side, and it can mean only one thing: Spock doesn't want this bond with Jim. Spock is sorry that this bond even exists between them, imposed onto Spock somehow by his death (that wasn't a death, not forever). Spock must surely want the bond with Uhura instead of him. Maybe they already do have a bond, and this bond with him is just some … aberration. Some disgusting thing. Like him.

"What, no decimal point, Spock?" he jokes, even as something fragile in the left side of his chest cracks and bleeds.

Spock shuts his eyes at last. Spock dips his head in concentration, then says, "The chances of you telepathically communicating with me through the bond as a naturally psi-enabled being is capable of is 0.523%."

With Spock's eyes shut like they are, Jim allows his features to contort with misery, just for a few seconds. Wow, he'd expected his chances for a fulfilling telepathic bond to Spock to be low. He hadn't expected them to be next to zero.

What the hell is he thinking, anyway? Even if, somehow, he and Spock turn out to be the most compatible, perfect telepathic couple in the universe (in any universe), he isn't the one Spock wants and loves. End-fucking-of.

"So, pon'farr," he says so very casually, his hands fisted on the floor at his sides. "It's just like my heat, right?"

Once more, Spock opens his eyes and gazes at him. The frown Spock has is now one of perplexity.

"I mean," Jim says as casually, "you gotta mate within eight days, but if you don't, it'll just burn itself out. Right?"

The frown wilts off Spock's face to be replaced with an expression that is even more unexpected to Jim: sorrow.

"No, my friend," Spock says (and just how ridiculous is Jim, that those two words can console him so much?). "I will burn out."

It takes Jim a very long time to comprehend what Spock said in any way. When those four words register for Jim, his insides go ice-cold and churn and churn with a terror he had not felt even when he was dying from radiation poisoning.

"What?" he gasps, frozen and shivering in place, his hands and feet numb. "What do you mean?"

"If I do not mate before the eight days of pon'farr are over, I will die."

How Spock can just say that so calmly and quietly is beyond Jim's understanding.

"What do you mean, you'll die?"

"If I do not mate, the constant surges of adrenaline and cortisol of the plak'tow will eventually kill me," Spock says so patiently and calmly and quietly. "Even medicine and meditation cannot stop it."

Something inside Jim is boiling, going angry red and sizzling, going blinding gold and vibrating, boiling and boiling.

"You're already in plak'tow, aren't you?" he asks with a gravelly voice. "You've been meditating and it's … it's not working. Is it?"

Spock says nothing with his mouth. Spock says many things with his heavy-lidded, resigned eyes.

Tev-tor kanok-veh, they murmur to Jim. Everybody dies.

Kaiidth, they whisper with simple conviction. What is, is.

"No," Jim growls in return, his eyes round and seeing angry red, his bared teeth blinding as gold and vibrating while he grits them. "No. I won't let you die. I won't allow it."

Spock's big, brilliant, intense, beautiful, beautiful deep brown eyes go wide.

"Jim," Spock rasps, as if his name means something to Spock, as if it means the universe to him (and it can't be, it can't).

Jim propels himself away from the wall behind him with both hands. He propels himself towards Spock whose eyes go round, round and round and rounder.

And just like that, the scant yet impassible distance between them is now neither.

 

<<< >>>

 

The observation deck, a long, narrow chamber with massive windows, began its existence as an austere, carpeted space with no furniture whatsoever in it. It was meant to be a public space to idle in for a while, to gaze out at the black-velvet star-studded infinity of space and appreciate its awe-inspiring, spine-tingling sublimity. Sulu, the devoted aficionado of botany that he is, had worked with some engineers to plant in it a verdant, multi-layered garden of flourishing, iridescent flowers from a multitude of planets including Earth. Since its completion, the observation deck has become a popular rendezvous for those needing some relaxation or solitude among the blossoms.

For Jim, it is a place to see the stars streak by, when he wants to be alone with his ship and listen to her purr with ease, with dilithium-powered energy beneath his feet. Most times, he finds the observation deck empty when he goes there in the middle of the ship's night, when he can't sleep, when he's thinking too much about the only Vulcan on his ship. Sometimes, however, the observation deck isn't empty when he goes there.

Sometimes, he catches the very person he's thinking too much about there, staring out of one of those massive windows with one exquisite, adept, long-fingered hand gripping the other against a firm lower back. Sometimes he catches himself almost walking up to that very person, to stand at the Vulcan's side and watch the stars with him.

If he had, he might have asked, what are you thinking about?

If he lived in a reality where Spock shared precious bits and pieces of his mysterious past, Spock might have replied, I am thinking about the meteor that I saw streaking across the darkness of night in Marin County. I am thinking about the meteor becoming a fireball, exceptionally bright and explosive and golden.

If he lived in a reality where Spock loved him in return and always, Spock might have also replied, I am thinking about you, Jim.

But he doesn't live in such a reality. The reality he lives in is one where, sometimes, he catches Spock with someone else. (Someone who isn't him, never him.) Inadvertent as it is, he would get a glimpse of them standing face to face among the blossoms, gazing into each other's eyes as if the rest of the universe doesn't exist. (As if he no longer exists, as if he never has.)

Sometimes he pivots around and runs (and runs). Sometimes he's frozen in place, unable to move as the other person extends a hand with its index and middle fingers straightened, as the Vulcan he's thinking, dreaming about too much extends those exquisite, adept, long fingers the same way and permits them to be stroked from nail to knuckle.

He wants to know what that touch means. He wants to know what that touch feels like. He wants to know what those exquisite, adept, long fingers feel like upon his own.

This time, there is a leafy bush that camouflages Jim from sight. This time, the Vulcan he thinks and dreams about so much, too much is standing in front of one of those massive windows with one exquisite, adept, long-fingered hand gripping the other against a firm lower back. Jim can't see Spock's face. Spock's back is turned towards him. Spock is in shadows, as is the long-haired, dark-skinned, gorgeous woman who stands at Spock's side.

He remains long enough to see her hand reach for Spock's. He remains long enough for his masochistic brain to conjure up all the ways they will be touching each other soon, and then he pivots around and runs and runs and doesn't look back.

But if he had, if he had remained, he would have seen Spock's hands in fists against a firm lower back. He would have seen Uhura's hand hesitate and then drop back to her side. He would have seen the scant yet impassible distance between them, the glistening of Uhura's large, silently imploring eyes aimed at stars that do not see or hear her.

He would have heard Spock say to her, "Nam-tor zherka na'nash-veh u'akanik - nam-tor u'ek'talsu." Emotions are alien to me - I am a scientist.

He would have heard Uhura say in return, "But I know you feel, Spock. I looked into your eyes when you chose to hunt down Khan. I looked into your eyes when you were ready to deliver the killing blow, when you stopped only because it would save Kirk."

Spock's hands are taut fists against his lower back. Spock stares out the window at the stars streaking by. Spock is thinking about a meteor he saw when he was an instructor at the Academy in Marin County, a shooting star that ignited his universe for one eternal second in time. He is thinking about its golden, explosive and exceptional brightness. He is thinking about a golden, explosive and exceptionally bright Human, and he says nothing.

Spock says nothing more, because Vulcans, as that golden, explosive and exceptionally bright Human would say, really do suck at lying.

 

<<< >>>

 

Jim almost dies from the physical contact of his slick-wet, aching crotch upon Spock's sturdy lap.

"Jim!"

Already panting, he drags his frayed gold tunic up his heaving torso and over his head with both hands. He hurls it to the floor behind him and grabs the hem of the black t-shirt still clinging to his perspiring body. He would have yanked it over his head too, if not for Spock's hands suddenly seizing handfuls of his t-shirt, yanking it down and out of his fingers.

"Jim. Jim, what are you doing?"

He's never heard Spock's voice go so low, so husky before. Spock's voice sounds like it's being hauled across molten coals. Spock's spicy, wood-like scent is extraordinary and enveloping him and he is drowning in it. Spock is staring up at him with eyes so round that he can see the whites around those deep brown irises. The green flush of Spock's face is so dark and hot that Jim wants to cup Spock's cheeks with his hands, wants to clash his lips to Spock's luscious, luscious ones and slide his tongue into Spock's volcanic mouth and suck on Spock's versed tongue while he rubs his chest against Spock's broad, hirsute one, while he spreads his thighs and lines Spock's cock up with his hole and rams down -

"Jim, please, you must stop."

Jim blinks sweat out of his eyes. He's panting and he's burning up and he's sitting on Spock's lap with his trembling thighs framing Spock's narrow hips and Spock is still yanking down his t-shirt, keeping his upper body clothed. Spock is still dressed in his blue tunic, black t-shirt, pants and boots, and Jim's hands are clutching Spock's forearms, wrinkling impeccable blue.

Spock's face is so close. Spock is so close. All he has to do to cross the remaining distance between them is to surge forward and crash his mouth into Spock's.

"Look, it's perfect, don't you see?" he gasps, tightening his grip on Spock's forearms. "If you -" - love me - "fuck me, the plak'tow will be purged and the pon'farr will end. My heat, too."

Something in the left side of Jim's chest cracks and bleeds and bleeds when Spock squeezes those intense, deep brown eyes shut and turns his head away from Jim.

"I … I cannot," Spock says with that low, resonant, husky voice. "Not like th– ... no. I cannot."

Jim glares down at Spock, his teeth gritted so hard that his lower jaw throbs. He glares with eyes going blurry and stinging. His hands constrict even more on Spock's forearms but Spock doesn't react to it. Spock merely shakes his head from side to side, an unambiguous no.

Spock would rather wait for Uhura and risk dying than fuck him. Spock would rather die than fuck him. That's how damn disgusting he is to Spock. Spock would rather die.

It's not me you'll ever want, that broken, tortured thing in the left side of Jim's chest says for its broken, tortured possessor. Not me, I know.

"Well, too fucking bad, Spock," Jim snarls, wrenching his t-shirt out of Spock's grip and bunching the black material in his own quivering hands. "I'm not accepting that, not when the price is that you die!"

"Jim, you are – you are not in your right mind and you are incapable of making critical decisions -"

"Wrong. I know exactly what's going on and I know exactly what I want, Spock!" Jim seizes Spock's blue tunic at the collar with both hands and shakes Spock as hard as he can. "I want you to live, and if that means you have to fuck me as hard as you can, even if I get hurt, I want that. I am giving explicit permission. I am giving my consent, Spock. Do you hear me? I am giving my consent!"

Spock is staring at him once more, those big, brilliant, devastated eyes pinning him like a butterfly to a board.

"Jim, I cannot do this to you when you do not -"

"I don't care, Spock! Hate me all you want after this! Report me and kick me off the Enterprise if you want! Charge me with sexual assault if you have to! But I am going to do everything I can to SAVE YOU!"

Jim's ferocious bellow echoes in the confines of their cell. Jim's jagged breaths are strident to his own ears as he staggers up onto wobbly legs and yanks off his t-shirt and hurls it on the floor on his gold tunic. He can hear Spock talking again, frantic protests that fall on Jim's deaf ears. He kicks off his boots and socks. Wrenches his soaked pants and boxer-briefs down his slick-wet legs, and Spock lets out a stuttering gasp as his hard, reddened cock is freed and slaps against his flat belly.

I'm sorry, Uhura, Jim thinks. I'm sorry.

When he glances at Spock, he sees that Spock has swiveled his head away again. Spock's eyes are scrunched shut. Spock is breathing roughly through his nose, those green-tinged, luscious lips compressed so thinly that they can't be seen. Spock's arms are crossed over his groin. Spock's hands are white-knuckled fists. Spock's entire body is rigid as stone, sitting upright with those long, lean, powerful legs straightened out.

I'm sorry, Spock, Jim thinks, never hating himself for being the disgusting Omega slut that he is more than he does right now. I'm so sorry.

Spock gasps another time, louder, and jerks bodily when a naked Jim goes down on his knees and straddles Spock's muscle-bound thighs. He bats away Spock's arms. Lunges his shaking hands at Spock's groin. He gasps as well the instant his hands cup Spock's cock over the straining, black fabric of Spock's pants. Oh fuck, Spock is hard, hard and huge and already seeping pre-come through his pants. Spock's been hiding his erection from Jim all this time.

Spock is reduced to searing, gasping breaths as Jim unzips Spock's pants and draws out Spock's erection into view. Jim is panting all over again, clasping Spock's long, hard, thick, glorious cock with both hands, careful with it as he would a treasure of limitless value. It looks a lot like his own, apart from its green flush and its double-ridged head that's oozing copious amounts of pearl-white pre-come. What does Spock taste like?

Jim scoops up a hefty dollop of Spock's pre-come that's dripping down the side and brings the viscous fluid to his parted lips. He thrusts out his tongue and shuts his eyes and licks the pre-come off his fingers and again, Spock gasps emphatically. His own erect cock twitches hard against his belly. His hungry, aching hole gushes out more slick that trickles down his inner thighs. Mmm, god, Spock tastes really, really good. Hot and zesty and so sweet. Better than that of any Alpha in rut could ever be. He sucks his fingers into his mouth, sucks them dry of all of Spock's delicious pre-come by swirling his tongue around them -

Without warning, he's toppled over onto his back on his discarded clothes on the floor. Spock looms over him between his spread legs, with one hand cupping the back of his head, holding his head off the cool rock floor. Spock's hand is as hot as a furnace. Spock's space-black bangs are in a disarray over Spock's forehead. Spock's chest is heaving with hoarse breaths. Spock is staring down at him with those big, brilliant, intense eyes, staring as Spock grasps the collars of his blue tunic and black t-shirt with his free hand and then rips them apart and off his green-flushed, sinewy, seductive body without a blink or grunt of any effort.

It's one of the sexiest things Jim has ever witnessed.

It's also the moment Jim realizes just how strong Spock is compared to him (or any other Human), how hard that long, thick, lovely, double-ridged cock is going to fill and fuck his Omega hole.

It's the moment Jim realizes that although Spock is only going to fuck him because of pon'farr and not because of any mutual feelings, he doesn't care. He doesn't care what the consequences are, as long as he can see and taste and touch Spock like this and remember every crystal-clear second in real time and in memory, every sensation made hyper-real and magnified of Spock over him, around him and inside him, inside him.

 

<<< >>>

 

Jim knows that things are serious when Bones goes to his office's shut door and switches on the privacy lock.

"It's that bad, huh?" Jim asks nonchalantly as Bones chooses to sit next to him on the plush couch facing Bones' desk instead of returning to the chair behind said desk.

Bones doesn't smile. Bones' burly arms are crossed over his chest, stretching his blue tunic over equally burly pecs. Bones has his most stern scowl on, the one that Bones wears only when Jim has really fucked up somewhere, somehow. The lackadaisical smile that Jim's pasted on his face dims, then vanishes.

Yeah, okay, so maybe he fucked up a little by not informing Bones about the vomiting for the past week or so. But come on, it was just vomiting! Just him throwing up once a day, in the morning or afternoon, and all hunky-dory again afterward. It didn't affect him otherwise, so what's the big deal? It was probably just stress. (Stress from boring, boring, boring star-mapping, stress from sitting in his seat on the bridge for hours on end, stress from signing all those damn PADDs the yeoman keeps handing him, stress from not turning around to stare at Spock while his girlfriend is right there on the bridge with them because he can still feel Spock inside him when he thinks about it. Yes, stress. Lots of stress.)

Stupid Spock, telling Bones about him vomiting in the first place and making Bones give him a thorough examination in sickbay. He should have given Spock a direct order to not do that when Spock barged into their shared bathroom during one of the more, uh, vigorous bouts of puking. He said he was okay! Spock even saw him stand up and wash his mouth out at the sink and then smile just fine!

Stupid Spock.

Stupid, stiff-necked, sneaky, secretive, sincere, sassy, scintillating, stupendous Spock.

Why can't he stop thinking and dreaming about Spock? Why is he so stupid?

Maybe he should get a hypo for that. Bones is sure to have something to make his ruthless, racy wet dreams of Spock making love to him go away. No, wait. No. No. It was fucking. Fucking, not making love. Stupid brain, constantly confusing the two now -

"Jim," Bones says, and ooh boy, Bones sounds as pissed off as he looks.

Yeah, okay, okay, so maybe he should have mentioned the headaches too (and the void in the back of his skull, like something vital has gone missing, like half of him is gone). And the body aches, especially in his lower belly and across his lower back. And the shift in his diet from Human food to just Vulcan food. He doesn't know why, okay, he just likes Vulcan food now while everything else tastes horrible and makes him want to puke even more -

"You didn't tell me everything that happened on that godforsaken planet."

Jim blinks at Bones. Huh? Shit planet and its shit-eating people and their shitty imprisonment of him and Spock happened two months ago! What does that have to do with him puking and having all kinds of aches now?

"What? What are you talking about, Bonesy?"

Using his nickname for the good doctor does nothing to lessen Bones' scowl. If anything, Bones' scowl sharpens until Jim can almost feel it jabbing him like one of Bones' very scary hypos.

"Don't play dumb with me. You do not play dumb with me. Not this time."

Jim stares at Bones' face with what he hopes is an aloof expression. (Think like Spock, think like Spock, think and look like Spock.) He keeps his hands loose on his lap. It wouldn't do for Bones to see him agitated now.

He'd managed to escape Bones' medical scrutiny after he and Spock were rescued, letting Bones do a basic scan on him and miraculously passing with nothing more than gruff comments on his high endorphin and oxytocin levels and grumblings about dehydration and him 'having the foolhardy habit of goading aliens into beating him up for no good reason'. Spock was given the same treatment, receiving his own gruff comments from Bones about slightly elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol and even higher levels of endorphins. (Interestingly, Bones didn't make a single comment on the scratches on Spock's shoulders and back. The scratches Jim had made with his clawing fingers as Spock thrust that lovely, lovely double-ridged cock in and out of his insatiable hole.)

Well, hey, considering how many times he and Spock fucked in that cell, Jim's astounded his blood cells hadn't been altogether replaced with endorphins and oxytocin. He was goddamn high as his ship at full warp when Bones and Sulu and the security team found them (with their pants on, thank god, icky as it was for him).

"Come on, Bones. Just tell me what's wrong with me, all right?"

Jim rolls his eyes.

Bones continues to scowl at him. Bones blows a gusty breath of exasperation out his nose.

"Jim," Bones says, somber in a way Jim's never heard before. "You're pregnant."

Jim gapes at Bones whose expression and pose do not change at all. Jim gapes and gapes at him and then, throwing his head back, Jim guffaws, falling back against the couch.

"Oh man," Jim gasps when he gets his breath back, pointing a forefinger at Bones. "That was a good one, Bones. You really had me going there with the face and the crossed arms and all."

Bones doesn't laugh. Bones doesn't smile. Bones' scowl has morphed into an expression that slays Jim's laughter to an apprehensive silence.

"You … you're joking, right?"

"No, Jim," Bones replies wearily, and now Jim has identified Bones' expression: sympathy. "I'm not joking. You're pregnant. Have been for two months."

Jim slowly sits upright. He still has a smile on his face, a parody of one that isn't quite certain whether to still hang around or twist into something else completely.

"But that's," Jim stammers, "that's just – that's -"

"Impossible? Because Spock's a half-breed who's supposed to be infertile?" Bones snorts. "Clearly he isn't."

Jim's face goes slack and his blue eyes widen as his stunned brain processes what Bones just said. Wait … now just wait a minute. He's … he's pregnant? Pregnant with … Spock's baby?

"Oh fuck," he says, frozen in place, his hands and feet numb, his lower jaw sagging.

"Jim," Bones says, uncrossing his arms.

"Oh fuck," Jim says, staring forward with round, sightless eyes.

"Jim, did you and Spock have sex on that planet?"

"Oh fuck," Jim says.

"I'm just assuming here, but please tell me it was Spock and not one of those five-eyed, hunched-back, gross aliens!"

"Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck," Jim says, feeling dizzy, feeling sick, feeling terrified.

"Jim. Jim. Jesus, kid, you're just - here, sit back. Come on now. Sit back before you fall over and hurt yourself."

He feels benevolent hands upon his shoulders, rearranging him so that he's sprawled against the back of the couch with his head resting on the cushioned top. He stares up at the white ceiling. He's hugging himself with his forearms over his midriff, his hands clutching his elbows. He sucks in a ragged breath. Then another.

He feels a hand ruffling his hair. He shuts his eyes and swallows hard.

"What happened on that planet?"

Keeping his eyes closed, Jim rasps, "I went into heat."

Bones' hand on his head goes stationary.

"Goddamnit," Bones mutters to himself, and Jim snaps his eyes open and turns his head to see Bones with another new expression: guilt.

"No, Bones. This is not your fault -"

"I forgot the shot, didn't I? I forgot the shot, Jim." Bones gazes down at the carpeted floor and shakes his head. "I was already treating you for the radiation poisoning. I should have remembered. Just one shot, and it would have ensured no heats for you and contraceptive protection for another year -"

"Bones."

Jim reaches out to clasp his old friend's thigh.

"You saved my life, Leo," Jim says resolutely, gazing at Bones' clean-cut profile. "You brought me back from the dead. I can never repay you enough for that." Jim swallows hard a second time. "And I should have come to you for the shot when I got back on the ship, but I just … I didn't wanna think about it. I just wanted to … forget."

Liar, that dazed, disbelieving thing in the left side of his chest accuses. You remember everything, everything.

Jim ignores it (like he's ignored many things since being rescued from the X'chigari).

"It was that bad, huh?" Bones murmurs.

No, that still dazed, disbelieving thing in the left side of Jim's chest whispers. It was so good, so good.

"Depends on your definition of bad, I guess."

Bones smiles wryly at him, laying a large hand on top of his.

"So. It is the green-blooded hobgoblin's, then?"

His throat abruptly the size of a pin-hole, Jim can only nod and shut his eyes again. Bones' hand gives his a supportive squeeze.

"Do I give my congratulations? Or condolences?"

Jim lets out an audible huff of air, one of uncertainty and yet also of … anticipation. He's … pregnant. Holy shit on a Ferengi's jellied gree-worm, he's pregnant. With Spock's baby. What were the chances of that happening to him? And what is he, the captain of the Enterprise, going to do about it?

"I'll let you know when I figure it out myself," he murmurs, squeezing Bones' hand back.

 

<<< >>>

 

Jim's breaths are see-sawing out of his flame-filled lungs. He's sweating and he's on fire and his vision is hazy and luminous as the slippery, rounded head of Spock's massive erection prods at his slick-gushing, hungry hole.

Spock is about to fuck him.

He's on his back on the heap of their tattered uniforms and he's gripping his quavering legs up and apart behind his knees and an also naked Spock is kneeling between his thighs and god, oh god, Spock is about to fuck him. How has his life come to this, that the very first time he has sex with Spock is in a stone-and-rock prison cell of an alien species that consumes its own feces? That he would be in the ultimate throes of his heat, and Spock in the ultimate throes of his pon'farr?

He would ask Spock those questions, except Spock's eyes are squeezed shut. Spock looks like he can't stand the sight of a naked, heat-mad Jim, like he'd rather be anywhere but here, about to stick his dick into a disgusting Omega slut like Jim.

"Jim," Spock says with that low, low, resonant and husky voice, opening his eyes to a squint. "I do not want to hurt you."

This is the part where, if it were any other situation, if it was a reality where Spock shared precious parts of himself with Jim, where Spock loved Jim in return and always, Jim would say, you won't, you can't, don't worry, I love you.

But see, now he knows, he knows that Spock doesn't love him in return, much less always. He knows that Spock has been aware of the telepathic bond between them and doesn't want it. He knows that Spock would rather die than fuck him, that Spock is only fucking him now because he's coercing Spock to do it, even if it's going to save Spock's life. He knows that it's Uhura that Spock wants and loves, not him, never him.

And so, with stinging, glistening eyes, his lips moving on their own volition, he whispers instead, "You already did."

He might as well have slammed a fist into Spock's green-flushed face with those three words, judging from the shock that makes Spock's deep brown eyes go so round and stark. Jim decides to squeeze his own stinging, glistening eyes shut, not wanting to see what else flits across Spock's familiar, handsome features. (Not wanting to see the disgust that must be there.)

He feels Spock's hands on the back of his shaking thighs. He feels the weight of Spock's eyes honed on him, on his face. He feels Spock's right hand caress his outer thigh (and he must be imagining it, he must be).

"Ni'droi'ik nar-tor, Jim," Spock rasps. I am sorry.

Spock sounds like he's still reeling from a blow to the face, to the chest. Spock doesn't know that he's fluent in modern Golic Vulcan. Spock doesn't know that he knows what Spock just said to him. Spock doesn't know just how much Jim hates himself in this very moment, distraught by the knowledge that Spock feels awful about them having sex at all, that Spock feels the need to keep apologizing for it.

He peels open his eyes anyway when the head of Spock's cock catches on the rim of his hole and then begins to push in. He stares up at Spock anyway with parted lips and hoarse gasps as that slippery, rounded, double-ridged head pushes past the ring of muscles and expands his hole till it is burning, burning with mild pain and escalating need. He embraces the pain, pushing down on the enormous, thick cock to help quicken its entry, its conquest. He can feel each and every inch of it sliding into him, slowly, relentlessly. He can feel the double ridges stroke him inside, shattering his hastening breaths as they graze his prostate so much more sensitive in his heat.

Whatever happens afterward, he will have this. He will always have this.

His first orgasm strikes him seconds after Spock is deep inside him to the hilt. He can feel the brush of Spock's dark, velvety pubic hair against his perineum, his drawn up balls. He can feel the double ridges of Spock's cock pressing hard against his prostate, hard and merciless and oh fuck, oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck, Spock feels so damn perfect in him, filling all the emptiness in him, stretching him open so wide and so fucking good, like he was made for Spock. His back arches off the floor, off their tattered uniforms. He convulses and clenches around Spock. He hears himself screaming low and long as he comes in zealous spurts all over his rippled belly and flushed chest. Golden stars explode with exceptional brightness behind his eyelids.

After he's collapsed back onto their uniforms, onto the floor, panting, his eyelids fluttering, Spock starts to fuck him.

Spock pulls out until only the head of his cock remains inside, then thrusts back in to the hilt in one go, narrow hips ramming into Jim's bared and spread buttocks, again and again and again. Jim moans with every thrust. Every thrust, mighty as they are, jolts him up the floor and back. He scrabbles for something, anything to cling to, to sink his nails into. He feels Spock's hands skate up to the back of his knees from the back of his thighs. He blindly wraps his trembling hands over Spock's. He lets out a high-pitched groan and throws his head back when Spock spreads his thighs even wider, making Spock move even deeper inside him.

Yes, take me, he yearns to say, to moan, to scream aloud. Take me, claim me, make me yours forever.

Spock is saying something to him with that low, husky, sensual, encompassing voice. He can't comprehend what Spock is saying. He tosses his head, gulping in smoldering breaths, letting go of Spock's hands to latch his own around Spock's thrusting hips and buttocks, feeling their robust muscles bunch and tense beneath his palms. The heat is building up in him again, up and up and up each time that long, thick, massive cock impales him and plows into his tingling prostate.

Still, still he forces his brimming, sore eyes open. He wants to see Spock come. He wants to see Spock come inside him.

He shivers when he realizes that Spock is now leaning over him, propped up on a sturdy right elbow while Spock's left hand is grasping his right ankle and bending his right leg even higher up and farther away from his bowed body. Spock's thrusts are determined and deep and fast. Spock still hasn't come yet.

Spock's fingertips are – they're pressing on the side of his face, on his temple, what -

Jim's feverish breath snags in his throat. Spock wants to mindmeld with him. Spock wants to connect with his mind -

Spock's fingers skitter away from his face. Spock dips that head of disheveled, dark hair and pointed Vulcan ears and presses a warm, damp face to the side of his neck. Spock continues to thrust into him, harder, harder. He clutches at the back of Spock's dry head and neck. He stares up blindly at the mottled-stone ceiling and he feels something scalding and wet roll down his temples from his eyes.

Spock obscures his face in the side of his neck, and Jim stares and stares up blindly with weeping eyes. He lets out a tiny, anguished sound he won't acknowledge as Spock thrusts one more time and then achieves orgasm too, glutting Jim inside with a torrent of hot, fertile come and groaning into Jim's scorching skin.

It doesn't matter that Spock doesn't want to mindmeld with him. It doesn't matter that Spock is only fucking him to stay alive. It doesn't matter that Spock won't let him see his face when he comes. It doesn't matter.

His heat and Spock's pon'farr endure for almost two days.

Spock takes him on his back on their tattered uniforms two more times before flipping him over onto his belly, spreading his thighs wide and lifting his hips to take him once more. He blacks out while Spock fucks him against a wall and uses his weight to seat him as fully as possible on Spock's unyielding, unequaled cock. He comes to on his side on the floor with his leg bent up against his enervated body, with Spock's hand under his head, feeling those marvelous ridges graze his tender prostate over and over and over. He comes with his back arching against Spock's fiery torso, his eyes scrunched shut, his mouth open wide in a soundless shriek, his hands mauling any part of Spock he can touch and grapple. He comes and comes and comes and he's dying, he's in hell, he's in heaven.

If he wasn't in heat like he is now, he'd be in physical pain from the rigorous, ceaseless pounding of his raw hole. The plenteous slick his hole's steadily producing is ensuring otherwise. He's incapable of doing anything except writhe and whine and moan and scream from the pleasure wracking him from head to toes. He's never had sex this fantastic in his life (and of course, of course it has to be with Spock, with this Vulcan he's stupid-crazy-mad-fated in love with).

Jim is on his elbows and knees with Spock fucking him from behind when he experiences Spock's whole cock swelling its length for the first time. By this point, Spock has already fucked him countless times and his hole is looser and so wet with slick that Spock's seemingly perpetual erection slides in and out smoothly. The swelling, from hilt to tip, takes Jim totally by surprise. He lets out a soft, inquisitive noise when Spock suddenly goes immobile inside him and grips his hips to keep him pressed tightly against Spock's groin. By this point, Spock also hasn't said a coherent word in hours. Jim knows he isn't going to get an explanation from Spock any time soon (if ever).

The swelling starts off like an Alpha's knot would, a round bulge at the root of the cock that would expand until it plugs the Omega's hole to ensure the come won't leak out. Jim lets out another noise, louder, thrilled, then yet another noise, even louder, bewildered as the rest of Spock's erection expands too inside him. Soon, he feels so full and taut to bursting point that he almost wants to weep again, this time with pure, pure pleasure.

An Alpha's knot is nothing compared to this. No one else can fill him like this. No one.

Jim blacks out yet again when Spock comes inside him while swelled up like this, pumping him with more loads of pearl-white semen. He regains consciousness minutes (hours?) later to Spock fucking him from behind for who knows how many times now, weighing him down onto their tattered uniforms on the floor, licking and nipping at the rim of his right ear, at the nape of his clammy neck. He allows himself one smile into his frayed golden tunic, closing his eyes and reveling in the intimate sensations of Spock's velvety chest hair brushing his back, of Spock thrusting unfalteringly in and out of him, of Spock biting his nape as if Spock wants to leave his mark there.

Yes, yes, Jim yearns to murmur, to groan aloud. Mark me, I want to show the universe that I'm yours.

He's too sated right now to think about how revolting he is to be enjoying any of this when Spock is being coerced into fucking him like this, be it by pon'farr or by Jim himself. He's dirty and disgusting and disgraceful, he really is and he's certain he will be feeling the brunt of all this, of everything when his heat is over and he isn't behaving like the wild, vile Omega he is.

But Spock is rasping indiscernible words into the skin of his nape. Spock is caressing the length of his limp arms, the breath of his limp hands, the flanks of his limp, gratified body. Spock is still deep inside him, filling him up, making him whole. Spock is still bonded to him, if only in body and not in mind and soul (not with Spock shielding himself from him).

Yes, whatever happens afterward, he will have this. He will always have this. He will always have this to remember, when he can't touch and taste and feel Spock anymore.

 

<<< >>>

 

Bones is giving Jim more and more of those sympathetic looks lately. He hates them. He wants Bones to frown, to scowl at him. He wants Bones to snap him out of his funk with a smack to the head. He wants Bones to berate him for being so stupid, for being such a lovesick fool. He wants Bones to make him forget that things will never, ever be the same again between him and Spock. That he and Spock will never, ever be like they were before.

How can they, when he's carrying Spock's baby in him? When he's carrying Spock's baby in him and Spock is with someone else, someone Spock chose to be with?

How can they, when he's never going to tell Spock about the baby?

"At least something positive came out of your experience with the X'chigari," Bones says to him while they hang out in the solitude of Bones' office in sickbay after another long, dull, star-mapping day on the bridge. "Congratulations, kid. You are officially the first Human to cause an alien plague with your puke and thus save a neighboring planet of five billion peaceful inhabitants from global invasion by the X'chigari."

It turns out that the reason the X'chigari had been late with his and Spock's meals is that most of them at the prison camp were already dead by then from an extremely contagious bacterial infection they were defenseless against. From a bacteria in Jim's vomit. After Jim retched his breakfast and lunch smack dab onto the fugly, five-eyed face of the shit-eating chief who'd punched him hard in the belly with a three-fingered, club-like hand. And that was when the shit-eating chief's asshole cronies whaled on him with their own three-fingered, club-like fists and feet, despite how fervently Spock fought against his own captors to come to his aid.

Yeah, well, okay, he'd be pretty upset too if somebody puked on his face. But still, the X'chigari were fugly. Fugly and ghastly and so hell-bent on conquering their neighbors who were so nice and clean in comparison. In his books, they totally deserved to have their fugly asses kicked by a fabulous bacteria from his gut.

And Spock had been so damn hot while battling at least fourteen of those X'chigari fuckers on his own, using his three-times-greater-than-a-Human's strength and his five-fingered fists and feet to take them down one by one. What stopped Spock from going after every other X'chigari around was a red-colored blast from what appeared to be more crude version of a phaser. The blast being red in color, it'd freaked Jim out so much when Spock succumbed to it and was so still and silent on the ground. Jim thought the fuckers had killed Spock. Jim had roared and punched and kicked at every X'chigari fucker who dared come near him, until he himself was shot with the same red blast.

It turns out the blast was a much milder version of a phaser's stun blast. The only aftereffect of it was a faint bruise where the blast struck. By the time he and Spock were rescued from their solitary cell, they had many more darker bruises upon their bodies.

Sometimes, Jim really misses the finger-shaped ones on his hips.

Sometimes - all the time, especially when he and Spock are on the bridge and Spock's face is Vulcan-blank and Spock calls him Captain with a Vulcan-blank voice - Jim really misses the Vulcan who'd left those prints upon his body.

"Do you think Starfleet will give me an award for my plague-puke?" Jim says with a wide-eyed, innocent expression. "Maybe one of those shiny, gold ones that look like a bald, dickless man holding a globe?"

Bones aims narrowed eyes at him and snorts.

"You'll be lucky if they don't demand a hundred-page report on why your vomit should be classified as severely hazardous material."

Bones' narrowed eyes are saying something very different from his mouth. They're saying, get the hell out of my office and stop hiding from that green-blooded hobgoblin.

Jim gives Bones a cheeky, tight-lipped smile that says, nope, I'm staying right here with my favorite doctor in the universe and there's nothing you can do to make me leave.

Bones kicks him out five minutes later with the threat of injecting a dozen hypos into his neck. When Bones pulls out the hypos, it's time to go.

Apparently, today is not James Tiberius Kirk's lucky day, because just four minutes after departing (running) from Bones' office, he comes across Spock and Uhura in one of the ship's many corridors. He ducks behind a wall just in time to not be noticed by them. He's such a creep for sticking around, for peering over the edge of the wall at them but that's what he does.

Spock is facing him while Uhura is facing Spock. Spock is gazing down at her face, his arms at his sides. Spock's face is Vulcan-blank but strangely, Spock's eyes are even more blank. Maybe to other people they'd look Vulcan-normal … but Jim isn't other people. Jim has known Spock for a few years now. Jim has worked day after day with Spock on this magnificent ship and eaten many breakfasts (and sometimes lunches, sometimes dinners, even suppers) with Spock in the mess. Jim has played chess with Spock for numerous nights now, studying Spock while Spock studies the chess board. Memorizing the way Spock's long, lush eyelashes cast fans of shadows on those high cheekbones, the way that highly angular eyebrow rose up to touch the immaculately trimmed edge of space-black, velvety hair, the way those pointed Vulcan ears curved so charmingly into the air. The way those luscious, green-tinged lips curled and straightened and bowed whenever Spock spoke with such precision and erudition. Lips that Jim had desired so much to kiss, even then. Lips that Jim desires to kiss even now, more and more and more than ever.

Jim has been fucked hard by Spock during pon'farr. Jim has seen Spock naked. Jim has seen Spock as a filthy, come-covered mess, with that immaculately combed hair tousled by his fingers and that deceptively impassive face green-flushed and just so flawless with its mask gone.

Jim has known Spock, in ways that no one else – not even Uhura – has known.

And yet, it is Uhura who Spock stands with right now. It is Uhura who Spock has chosen as his lover, his mate. Uhura, who has no idea that Jim had forced her boyfriend to fuck him through his heat, no idea that Jim is carrying her boyfriend's baby in him.

So he pivots and runs in the opposite direction. He runs, even after Spock lifts his head and those big, brilliant, intense, beautiful (still so beautiful) deep brown eyes lock onto his blue, wide ones in the split second before he turns around. He imagines running into Spock again soon, in a similar corridor. He imagines Spock gazing at him with those blank eyes that he's never seen on Spock before until today.

He imagines Spock saying to him with a blank voice, i'nam-tor du veling ein-veh ik vesht fai-tor nash-veh.

He imagines Spock turning around, turning away from him, leaving those Vulcan words to echo in his wake.

Now you are simply someone I once knew.

He runs back to his quarters. Locks the door behind him. Locks the door to the shared bathroom too, just for good measure. He sits down heavily on the side of his cold, empty bed in the semi-darkness. He wants to tell his own brain to fuck off, to stop being so dramatic, except … it's been weeks since he and Spock last ate together in the mess. Months since they last played chess here in his quarters (and he hasn't made another offer of a game since Spock declined). He keeps seeing Spock with Uhura around the Enterprise, like he's been cursed to have their relationship rubbed in his face since his and Spock's return to the ship from the X'chigaris' planet.

Maybe it's the universe trying to tell him something. Maybe the other Spock – Selek, he calls himself Selek now but he's Spock to Jim too – was wrong about him and his Spock becoming the very best of friends, despite the venerable Vulcan insisting on it being undeniable truth every time Jim chats with him through a secured comm channel. (And god, how is he ever going to face the engaging, tender-hearted old Vulcan again, be it via a viewscreen or in person? How will he have the heart to tell Selek that, no, in this reality, James Tiberius Kirk and S'chn T'gai Spock can't be friends after all?)

Maybe Mom was right about him. Maybe Mom and Sam and even Frank, that abusive piece of shit, were right about him. Maybe he's meant to be alone in life. To do everything, to survive on his own in the end. Although he's pregnant, there's no telling what will happen in the months ahead. He … he can't even bear the thought of an abortion. (He can admit that much to himself now.) But Omega men have it the toughest in regards to pregnancy. He's already read numerous studies and periodicals about Omega male pregnancy, and every time he encountered an article on mortality rates for pregnant Omega males and their babies, he'd be queasy after reading it. He could still lose this baby as late as eight months into the pregnancy from a whole host of potential complications. He could lose the baby even after giving birth to it. (Never have the words 'congenital anomalies' petrified him so much as they do now, and his baby is part-Vulcan with no precedent in history for an Omega male to carry it to term.)

He could lose the baby anyway. The baby. The only thing he'll have left of Spock in his life when he leaves the Enterprise and Starfleet.

Jesus.

He lets out a shaky, wet sigh. He hunches forward and enfolds his forearms over his still somewhat flat belly. In mere weeks, his belly will begin to visibly expand. In another month after that, it'll be impossible for him to cover up his belly or wear any of his uniforms. Yeah … he really will have to leave the Enterprise (leave Spock) before that. He'll have to leave Starfleet (unless they boot him out first, which is far more likely). And then he'll … he'll -

Jim shuts his eyes.

He bows his head.

He sucks in a breath, a deep and stable one, into his jittery chest.

He feels the oncoming flood of panic recede with another deep and stable breath. Another, then another. After a while, he sits upright and squares his shoulders. He firms his jaw. Opens his eyes to half-mast. Presses his right palm over his lower belly, over where a new life is growing in him. A new life that will depend on him. Need him.

His baby. His baby.

He'll figure something out. He will. He always does. He doesn't believe in no-win situations, and he isn't about to now. He'll do everything he can to take care of his baby, to bring them up with all the love he's got in him, all the love he never got himself. He will. As for his baby's father, as for Spock -

Jim shuts his eyes once more. He presses his left hand over his right on his lower belly. He breathes.

As for Spock, his memories of the amazing, noble, loyal, incomparable Vulcan will have to be enough. They have to be enough. They have to be.

 

<<< >>>

 

Spock is finally asleep. Spock's pon'farr is finally over.

Jim lies on his side facing Spock who's also lying on his side on the sanded-smooth rock floor of their solitary cell. Jim had bunched the tattered remains of Spock's tunic and t-shirt into a makeshift pillow under Spock's head, and Spock slumbers soundly on it, that familiar, handsome face relaxed and no longer green-flushed. Jim lays his head on his own folded arm on the floor, too lethargic to move and retrieve his own tunic and t-shirt. Their pants and underwear are somewhere in the cell but he isn't about to get up to search for them either.

His heat ended hours earlier. He could feel the frenetic, broiling fever of it ebb as Spock took him for the last time, clasping them chest to chest with one sinewy arm around his waist and one long-fingered hand cupping the back of his head, his pliant legs enclosed around Spock's hips while Spock nuzzled the underside of his jaw and neck. It'd still felt so good, so right. There was so much slick and come streaming out of his now puffy, raw hole that there wasn't much of a difference after he stopped producing any more fresh slick. Spock slid in and out of him with a dreamy, pleasant pace. Spock mouthed at his throat, at the mound of his Adam's apple. Spock was whispering something into his skin but he didn't know what. Spock was caressing the back of his head, carding those exquisite, adept, long fingers through his mussed-up hair, and inside his head, his mind like a tingling presence was … Spock, too.

It almost felt like Spock was making love to him, inside and out.

And now, now that Spock is sound asleep, Jim is feeling bold enough to card his own fingers through Spock's unkempt hair. To touch those long, lush eyelashes and the ridiculous, delightful point of Spock's visible ear with his fingertips. To touch that prominent, stately nose and those luscious, green-tinged, supple lips with the pads of his fingers.

Jim is feeling bold enough to finally say to Spock what he'd yearned to that fateful day in Engineering so long ago.

"Ashau nash-veh du, k'diwa," he rasps against those luscious, green-tinged, supple lips in their very first kiss, his eyes shut. "Nam-tor du goh ashayam t'nash-veh."

I love you, half of my heart and soul. You are my only beloved.

Spock's eyes do not open. Spock's lips do not move. Spock's breaths remain stable and unhurried, and Jim sighs noiselessly, allowing himself to nuzzle Spock's face, to rub the length of their noses together.

It doesn't matter that Spock is sleeping. It doesn't matter that Spock didn't hear him. It doesn't matter.

(But Spock isn't asleep, he isn't.)

 

<<< >>>

 

"I'm keeping the baby."

The wide-eyed expression of stupefaction on Bones' face when Jim says that is priceless. Bones is still gaping at him across his office's desk as Jim adds with a wry smile, "Didn't expect that, huh?"

Bones closes his mouth. Bones' hazel-green eyes are still wide, but they are also beginning to saturate with an emotion that Jim can most accurately describe as an amalgam of surprise, gladness and admiration. It makes Jim's skin itch. It makes Jim want to avert his face and crawl under a rock and hide there.

He doesn't know why Bones is looking at him like that now. He's guessing it has something to do with Bones being a father himself, the proud father of an angelic, delightful little girl who's still in Georgia, Atlanta, who Jim calls Jo-Jo instead of Joanna and turns Bones into a giant marshmallow on two legs. He doesn't deserve happiness, much less admiration for his decision. He's pregnant in the first place because he pressured Spock into fucking him (to save Spock's life, to save Spock's life). Bones may know about him going into heat, but Bones doesn't know about Spock's pon'farr. Spock never gave him permission to tell anyone else about it. It's staying a secret between him and Spock. Just like his pregnancy is staying a secret between him and Bones.

Jim jumps to his feet from the chair in front of Bones' desk and paces the open, carpeted area between Bones' desk and couch. He crosses his arms over his chest. He glances up at the ceiling. He exhales heavily. He doesn't look at Bones although he can feel Bones' earnest gaze on him.

"Jim. You love this ship," Bones says gently.

Jim halts in his tracks. He glances up at the ceiling again. He blinks as his vision suddenly becomes blurry and hot.

"Yeah. I do," he replies casually, still looking at the white, sterile ceiling.

But not as much as the father of this baby, he thinks, his throat working past a lump in it. Not as much as this baby.

Bones doesn't comment on how not casual he'd sounded. He hears Bones sigh low. He hears Bones tapping the tip of a PADD stylus on the polished surface of his desk.

"You've been getting away with the Alpha pheromone cologne so far, but … you're in your third month of pregnancy." Bones pauses, then says, "Once you start showing, people are going to talk. People are going to guess."

Jim resumes pacing the length of the office. He doesn't look at Bones.

"I know. I know, Bones. I -" He uncrosses then crosses his arms over his chest again. "I'll be informing Starfleet of my – of my resignation soon. A couple of days. A week, maybe."

After I tell Spock that he's going to be the next captain of the Enterprise, he doesn't say. The captain the Enterprise should have had all along.

"You going back to Earth?"

He's tempted to tell Bones that, for one mad hour last night, he'd seriously considered going to New Vulcan to see Selek, to be with Selek. After all, Selek is Spock, just from another reality. Selek is a Spock who'd become the best of friends with his Jim. Selek is a Spock who'd clearly loved his Jim.

But Selek … isn't his Spock. Selek will never love him as much as his own Jim, he knows that. And talk about being unfair towards Selek, having to deal with a Jim who isn't his Jim, a Jim who's pregnant with the baby of this reality's Spock. (Does Selek even know about the Alpha/Beta/Omega gender dynamics of Humans in this reality?)

"Yeah. Yeah. But not Iowa," Jim replies instead. He halts in front of a tall cabinet with shut drawers. If he stares at them intently enough, he can see a fuzzy reflection of himself on their white, glossy surfaces, so he doesn't. "I think I'll stay in San Francisco."

Maybe someplace near the Academy, he doesn't say either. Maybe one day, after the Enterprise's mission is over, Spock will go back there and become an instructor there again.

"It's much better than Riverside, that's for sure. Especially for Omegas."

Jim nods. He doesn't say anything. Bones is right about that, about San Francisco being a better location to live in for Omega males like him. Cities like San Francisco have designated safe areas for Omegas and organizations dedicated to fighting for the rights of Omegas and the betterment of their lives. For a single, pregnant Omega male like him, it's as good as it gets. Starfleet sure as fuck isn't going to be lenient on him for lying about being an Omega to be on command track, nevermind that he became captain because of Nero being a Romulan fuckwad who massacred so many Starfleet officers and cadets on top of Vulcan and its people. He'll be lucky if they don't arrest him for fraud and slap jail time on him (and then what will happen to his baby?), if he just gets kicked out and banned from Starfleet.

He'll need all the help he can get to bring up a child on his own in that case, to find employment outside of Starfleet that isn't discriminatory towards Omegas. As the (soon-to-be former) captain of the Enterprise, who's saved Earth twice already, he may be able to pull strings to get a decent job. Maybe. It's a fucking big maybe. There's also the issue of his baby very likely exhibiting Vulcan traits, like the pointed ears and highly angular eyebrows. How long will it take before word goes around about the former captain of the Enterprise with a kid who looks Vulcan? How long, before such word reaches Spock? Even an imbecile will wonder about the odds of his kid being Spock's, considering how famous he and Spock are nowadays on Earth thanks to the global news media. (For god's sakes, there were even news articles and holovideos that pondered on his relationship with his Commander, that speculated that they were more than just friends.)

For all he knows, the Vulcan High Council may decide to take his baby away from him as some recourse to facilitate the colonization of New Vulcan. (Just, fuck no.)

For all he knows, Spock may decide to take their baby away from him, insisting on the baby being brought up the Vulcan way under his primary care. (With Uhura as his wife and the mother of their baby instead, fuck no.) It's paralyzing that he can't dismiss the idea, that he can see Spock doing that while spelling out the logic of his actions, nevermind what disgusting-Omega-slut Jim feels. (No, no, no, no, no, just … no.)

But the most urgent issue for now is Bones helping him all these years to conceal his Omega status. He's already figured out one potential avenue to save Bones from being dragged down with him: he'll testify that Bones has always been unaware of his Omega status, that he'd stolen all those heat suppressant shots. Worse comes to worse, if Bones tries to assert that he does know about Jim being an Omega, he'll testify that he threatened Bones unless Bones gave the shots to him. Bones will hate him for it, definitely, but he'll do everything he can to protect his best friend.

He'll figure something out. He will. He always does. He doesn't believe in no-win situations, and he isn't about to now, no way.

"Are you going to tell Spock about the baby? You know he'll want an explanation for your resignation." Bones raises both eyebrows and widens his eyes dramatically. "A logical one!"

Jim tries to laugh. He really does. But his vision goes blurry and hot again, and he keeps his back towards Bones when he shakes his head in response. He's such an asshole. He's been avoiding Spock and he knows that Spock knows it. He knows Spock must be curious as hell by now about why he'd been vomiting.

Oh, it was nothing, Spock, he imagines himself saying to the blank-faced Vulcan. Just morning sickness, that's all!

For fuck's sakes -

"For what it's worth, Jim, I'm proud of you. I'm proud to be your friend," Bones says, distinctly and genuinely. "I will always be proud to be your friend, no matter where you are."

For fuck's sakes, Bones just had to go and say all that and get him all choked up like some hormonal, pregnant Omega, hadn't he?

Well, that's exactly what he is now. It's time to buck up and accept that. In six months, it'll be an irrefutable fact about him to everyone who meets him and his baby (if everything goes well with the pregnancy, please, god).

"You giant marshmallow," he retorts, turning around to face Bones with a smirk.

Jim doesn't comment on the softness of Bones' expression. Bones doesn't comment on Jim blinking glistening eyes multiple times. Neither of them comment on Jim's numbered days as the captain of the Enterprise, or on the inevitable fallout when Spock learns about Jim resigning and leaving the ship (and very likely Starfleet).

Spock.

Jim still thinks and dreams so much, too much about the Vulcan.

Back in his quarters later, Jim is curled up on his side in bed in the semi-darkness and he's reliving the sensations of Spock nipping at his ear, the nape of his neck, of Spock mouthing at his throat, his Adam's apple. He's staring at the door to the bathroom he shares with Spock. Spock isn't in his own quarters tonight. Jim knows that because Spock is in the laboratories with his team of scientists, going gaga over the latest stars and planets mapped out.

Bolau nash-veh var-tor du ta ashau tu nash-veh, he thinks, imagining an alternate reality where Spock says those words to him, where Spock loves him in return and always and is here with him. I need you to tell me that you love me.

And Jim will say, I love you, I think I've loved you from the moment I saw you standing before me at that disciplinary hearing over your damn Kobayashi Maru simulation.

And Spock will say, I think I have loved you from the moment you were born and your katra was destined to entwine with mine for all time.

But he doesn't live in such a reality. He doesn't. It's time to buck up and accept that. Time to let go of his ship. Time to plant his feet on land and be content with gazing up at the stars now and then, remembering the good times when he'd soared among them with his incredible, tried-and-true crew (with Spock, with Spock). Time to set aside his old dreams and make new ones, for himself and his baby.

Time to let Spock go.

 

<<< >>>

 

The last person Jim expects to ever show up at the door of his quarters is, well, not only there but demanding to be permitted entry. He is almost, almost tempted to say to Uhura, hey, you're knocking on the wrong door, your boyfriend is next door.

"Computer," he says with a low sigh. "Let her in."

He stands up with his arms at his sides behind his desk as Uhura strides in like a billowing ion storm. He maintains a placid expression when she halts in front of his desk. He gazes at her while she just … glowers at him.

What the hell?

"Lieutenant?" he says, permitting only the slightest furrowing of his brow.

He gazes on at her when she crosses her arms over her chest and continues to glower at him with what seems to be … affront? Indignation? Outrage?

What the hell?

"Lieutenant?" he reiterates, frowning openly now. "Uhura?"

He starts to walk around his desk, only to be blocked by Uhura raising one hand palm-out with her arm aggressively straight.

"Stand still," she grinds out, her large, brown eyes blazing like a solar blast with a fury that he doesn't understand.

Jim is this close to telling her off for talking to her captain like that, and in his quarters too. He has no freaking clue why she's behaving like this towards him. Everything has been running smoothly on the bridge so far. The most exciting thing to happen to the ship in the past few weeks has been the detection and analysis of dozens of new red dwarf stars and a few Class-J and Class-L planets. Outside of their shifts on the bridge, he and Uhura don't even talk to each other despite the fact that Spock is her boyfriend and one of his best friends … well, these days, maybe.

Can you still be best friends with somebody who no longer eats meals with you or plays chess with you or talks with you?

"Is there a problem, Lieutenant Uhura?" he asks with a patience he doesn't have.

And before he even realizes it, he raises one eyebrow high up his forehead, like a particular Vulcan they've both been … intimate with would. It seems to do the trick of snapping Uhura out of her bizarre behavior and prompting her to say something in clarification.

"I'm trying to see what he sees," she says, still glowering at Jim. Yet, there is also something like … despair in her dimming eyes.

He blinks at her in bewilderment. What the hell? Okay. This has officially gone from 'weird' to 'where is the Uhura-speak translation dictionary when he badly needs one?'. He doesn't understand. He doesn't understand what she's talking about. See what? What is she looking for? And who the heck is this he she's referring to -

Oh.

Jim blinks again. He stares back at her as she scrutinizes his face, as her expression segues into something akin to … resignation? Mourning? What? Whatever it is she's thinking and feeling, he's pretty sure now that she isn't here as a lieutenant meeting her captain. She isn't seeing a captain as her eyes pore over him from head to waist and back again.

What is she seeing? What does she think she's seeing?

And what is it that he, that Spock – and it has to be Spock she's talking about, he can't think of anyone else they have in common – apparently sees of him? What?

He doesn't get the opportunity to demand Uhura for answers. Without another word, she turns around and darts to the door of his quarters. The door is already opening when Jim's brain fires up again and he exclaims the first thing that comes to his dumbfounded mind.

"Du halyan wilat?!" Where are you going?!

Okay, honestly, he had not intentionally chosen to speak Vulcan. He really hadn't. It just happened. (Like Spock just happens to him. Like Spock's girlfriend just happens to him, barging into his quarters and treating him like he just smothered a box of fluffy kittens or something.)

It doesn't stall Uhura anyway. She doesn't even glance back as she stomps out into the corridor and disappears from sight after the door closes behind her, and in her wake is a Jim who rolls his eyes and throws his hands up in the air in frustration over frustrating, furtive communications officers and their frustrating, furtive Vulcan boyfriends.

It is weeks from now, as he is curled up on his side in bed in the semi-darkness, basking in the stable, unhurried, volcanic exhalations against his nape, in the brush of velvety chest hair against his bare back, that Jim sees what Uhura has seen of him tonight. He sees what Spock has seen of him for months, for years, long before he himself does.

He sees a friend, a brother in arms. A life-long companion. A lover. A soulmate.

He sees someone that Uhura was not able to be for Spock.

He sees Uhura pivoting and running and running, knowing her anguish and the agony of love lost to another.

 

<<< >>>

 

For the first time, Spock offers a game of chess later in the evening. It's not to be in Jim's quarters or Spock's but in the rec room.

For the first time, Jim declines the offer from Spock.

Seeing as they are on the bridge, with Spock standing beside the captain's seat while he's sitting in it with his legs crossed at the ankles, it's awkward as hell when he has to glance up at Spock to say nonchalantly, "I'm sorry, Mister Spock, I'm not available. Some other time, maybe?"

He's pretty sure his tone was just the right side of professional and friendly as well as candid. He's pretty sure he pulled it off. Maybe about 98.518% sure. (Hey, he's Human, not Vulcan. It's not his fault if the calculation isn't 100% accurate.)

Spock's face is utterly expressionless. Jim doesn't look at Spock's eyes. (Those big, brilliant, intense, still so damn beautiful deep brown eyes.) He has his eyes flickering away from the lower half of Spock's face and honed on the viewscreen in front of them before the last word tumbles off his dry tongue. He can feel Spock's gaze honed on him.

He doesn't look at Spock. He sure as fuck doesn't look at Spock's girlfriend who's sitting at the communications station. He doesn't miss the meaningful glance that Sulu and Chekov give each other at their stations, either. Shit, has he been so obvious about avoiding Spock? So obvious that other members of the crew have noticed? That Spock had to resort to extending an offer of a game of chess while on the bridge?

The only place they ever see each other nowadays?

Shit, shit.

If Bones was here and not in sickbay dealing with a merry-go-round of Aaamazzarite flu right now, Jim is definitely 100% sure that Bones would say, Jim, this can't go on forever, you know that.

Bones would say, you've already decided not to tell the green-blooded hobgoblin about the baby, haven't you?

And Bones would say, time to let him go and move on, kid, and take care of yourself now.

So Jim doesn't look. He doesn't look when Spock silently returns to his station behind him. He doesn't look at Uhura who is looking at him now with eyes that are definitely not friendly. (And what the hell is up with that? You'd think she would be pleased that he turned Spock down, that she's getting her boyfriend all to herself these days.)

He doesn't look even when their shift ends. He glances in Spock's direction (but not Spock's face, not his familiar, handsome face) and nods before striding to the turbolift. Spock is still at his station as the turbolift's doors shut in front of Jim's face.

Alone, Jim lets his eyes fall shut and his shoulders slump. Alone, it's so easy to hear Frank's nasally, nasty voice in his head once more, as if Frank is right there next to him, not dead and gone.

Time to let Spock go, Jimmy-boy. Time to crash down on land and stay there with the rest of us, and it's all your own fault. You should be grateful that you even got into Starfleet, much less became the captain of the Enterprise for as long as you did. Stupid, disgusting Omega slut. Only Alphas can become leaders. Alphas rule the world.

When the turbolift doors open on the floor of his quarters, Jim's eyes are open and his shoulders are squared again. But Frank is still cackling in his ears. Frank is still stating the cold, blistering truth that he has to buck up and accept now.

That evening, in his black t-shirt and pants, Jim is kneeling on the floor and resuming the packing of his treasured collection of Earth-printed books. They are some of his most prized possessions, second only to the slightly faded color photograph of his dad that he safeguards between the pages of one of those hardcover books. Mom never had any holopics of his dad in the house. There were no pictures of his dad in the house for as long as he can remember (although Sam once mentioned that there were, until he was born and Dad died). After Sam left (without a goodbye, without a single word), Jim had discovered the photo of their father slipped between the mattress and bed frame in Sam's room. He's kept it ever since, concealing it from Frank and Mom so they couldn't (can't) take it away from him.

Sometimes, when he suddenly feels an unfathomable pang in his chest, one that doesn't go away with Bones' bourbon, he takes out that photo to look at it. To trace his dad's features with a finger. Dad, who had golden hair and blue eyes just like him. Golden hair and blue eyes that made his mom's gaze evade him, that made her a million miles away from him even when he was near enough for her to touch his face (that looks just like his dad's, just like it).

He doesn't take out the photo. He's murmuring down at his belly instead as he arranges the books already in a cargo box into neat rows.

"You're gonna love San Francisco. I know you will. It's a city on the West Coast of the United States – that's my home country on Earth, by the way, and where you'll be born – and its winters are mild and just nice, and its summers are dry, maybe like the weather on Vulcan was and oh, you're gonna love the fog. I can already imagine your tiny, pointed ears twitching from all that ocean moisture."

He's begun to pack his stuff but he has yet to contact Starfleet about his resignation as captain. Yeah, he told Bones a week ago that he was going to do it in a couple of days, a week tops but … he still has time. His belly has barely started to show, just that there is this particular roundness to it. Hell, he still has his six-pack abs. He still has time. He does.

"Well, okay, there are earthquakes, yeah, but they don't happen often. The last time a really, really bad one happened was in 1906. Hundreds of years ago! The city has great earthquake detectors and trackers now. We'll be just fine."

Suddenly, he finds himself with an open hardcover book and the photo of his dad in hand anyway. He finds himself tracing his dad's features with a fingertip. Dad is smiling broadly at the camera, his twinkling and kind eyes crinkled, his hair cut shorter than Jim's. Dad looks so happy. Dad looks so alive, like he never died and he's just waiting for Jim to find him and be with him so they can explore the black-velvet star-studded infinity of space together.

"It's gonna be okay, baby. Everything's gonna be okay," Jim whispers, staring at his father who is smiling broadly at him. "I love you. I will never leave you."

Alone, Jim doesn't worry about swiping his eyes dry with the back of his hand, or about his one sniffle.

"Stupid hormones," he mutters down at where a second heart is beating inside him, smiling wryly and rubbing his lower belly with his right hand. "Looks like Daddy's gonna have to deal with them until you come out, huh?"

The comforting wave of warmth emanating from his belly is probably just his desperate imagination. It's gratifying, nonetheless.

He's put the photograph of his dad and the hardcover book back on the tall bookshelf he's kneeling next to when the Computer informs him that Spock is at the locked bathroom door leading into his quarters. Spock is requesting entry.

Unlike Spock's girlfriend, Jim is certain that Spock will respect his decision if he denies the request. Jim is also certain, however, that this will be far from the last time Spock attempts to reach out to him. He'd told Spock earlier on the bridge that he won't be available and yet, here's Spock at the bathroom door, asking for permission to see him.

Asking for permission, when almost four months ago, Jim would have opened the door himself before the Computer finished stating Spock's name.

"Computer," Jim rasps, lowering the lid of the cargo box to shut it. "Let him in."

Jim has to suck in a long breath before languidly standing up to face Spock. When he does turn around, he sees that Spock is standing in front of the shut-again bathroom door with those exquisite, adept, long-fingered hands held behind his back. Spock isn't wearing his uniform. Spock is wearing a black outfit that appears to be comprised of silk. Its long pants are loose and reach Spock's ankles. Its long-sleeved tunic, belted at the waist, has a very low and wide v-collar that exposes Spock's broad, hirsute chest.

Jim has never seen Spock in this outfit before. Jim has never seen Spock attired in anything else except his uniform and formal grays (and that damn insulating suit that Spock wore to go into that goddamn Nibiru volcano and then stay in there to die just because of the goddamn Prime Directive).

This black, silken outfit is … sexy as hell on Spock.

Whoa, is this what Spock wears to sleep? Is Spock meeting him in his pajamas?

Jim hastily averts his eyes from the velvety, space-black hair curling on Spock's chest. He can still recall exactly how that hair had felt brushing against his skin while Spock thrust in and out of him. He can still recall exactly how Spock had felt moving deep inside him. Like he was made for Spock. Like Spock was made for him.

He swivels around to face the tall bookshelf against the wall. He makes a show of selecting a few books and stacking them on a lower, empty tier, his face scorching. He realizes his mistake of doing this when it's too late. He's targeted Spock's attention at his partially cleared bookshelf. Spock will be scrutinizing the changes to his quarters any minute now: the cargo boxes, be they folded up or already in use; the books missing from his bookshelf; the open drawer of his wardrobe, revealing it to be half-full with his t-shirts and a pair of jeans.

Yeah, Spock is going to put the two and two together soon, and arrive at the only answer possible.

And when that happens, their friendship – whatever's left of it - will never be the same again.

"Jim," Spock says with that low, resonant, encompassing voice, that voice that Jim still dreams of with frightening frequency.

"Spock," he says, still facing the bookshelf.

"Nam-tor du muhl ha?"

Jim freezes in place, his breath hitching in his throat. Spock's just asked him how he is in Vulcan. Spock wouldn't have done that if he believed that Jim doesn't understand Vulcan. Spock must have found out the truth about that. Uhura probably told him, after his peculiar meeting with her right here in his quarters weeks ago.

Jim turns around and looks Spock in the eye, because Spock deserves that from his (soon-to-be former) captain, from his … friend.

Friend: still so infinitesimal a word to encapsulate everything that he feels, everything that he would do for this beloved Vulcan.

"I'd tell you I'm fine, but something tells me your reply to that would be along the lines of, 'Fine has many variables. Fine is unacceptable.'"

He thinks he pulled off a rather good impression of Spock.

As expected, Spock doesn't smile. Spock doesn't even raise an eyebrow. Spock has walked nearer towards him, halting about seven feet away and facing him. Spock's face is utterly expressionless, but those eyes, those eyes are anything but, gleaming like they do. Spock appears thinner. Tired. Paler, with shadows under those intense, deep brown eyes. Spock looks like he hasn't been sleeping or eating well for a while.

"Do you mean to say, then, that you are not fine?"

It takes Jim prolonged seconds to reply. He licks his lips. Presses them together into a thin line.

"Sos'eh," he says, still looking Spock in the eye. Maybe.

If Jim had been standing behind Spock then, he would have seen Spock's hands in taut fists against the Vulcan's lower back. He would have seen Spock's right hand twitching once before going motionless again, going white-knuckled as if Spock's life, Spock's universe depends on it.

As it is, Jim sees no reaction from Spock. Spock stares at him with eyes that pin Jim like a butterfly to a board, like luscious, green-tinged lips to the bared skin of his throat. Spock stands with his spine ramrod straight and his shoulders squared and his head held high. Spock doesn't bother with small talk.

"You have been avoiding me," Spock says, cutting to the quick. "Since our ordeal with the X'chigari 3.6 months ago, the routine of our meals together has gradually decreased from daily to … never, as have our games of chess in your quarters. Our meetings and interactions are now limited to the bridge during our shifts. In contrast, I have observed a remarkable increase in your meetings and interactions with Doctor McCoy. You dine only with him in the mess, or not at all. In the last two months, your visits to sickbay have increased by 600%." Spock tilts his head (and it's still so damn adorable that it hurts Jim's sanity to see it). "Curious, knowing that you typically despise going to sickbay. Unless it is as a … social visit to Doctor McCoy."

Jim is tongue-tied, which he himself knows is a rare occurrence. He must be imagining the pauses. He must be imagining Spock grinding his teeth while saying that last sentence because Vulcans in control don't grind their teeth, much less sound jealous. He doesn't know what to say to Spock. He doesn't know what to say in denial of everything Spock's pointed out so far that won't be bullcrap even a baby can see through -

"I have ascertained that Doctor McCoy did indeed examine you in regards to your bouts of nausea 1.6 months ago. What was the cause?"

Jim swallows hard. He feels like such a coward when he swivels around again instead of answering Spock, grabbing a random book because he doesn't know what the fuck else to do with his hands. Of course Spock wouldn't have forgotten that. Of course Spock still wants to know what happened to him, what is still happening to him -

"You turn away from me. You cannot bear to look at me."

Jim swivels back to face Spock once more, his eyes wide, the book still in hand. Okay, he must have imagined the emotion in Spock's voice. He must have. Spock isn't in pon'farr – what with it only transpiring once every seven years, according to Spock - so there's no reason whatsoever for Spock to not be in control. There's no reason for Spock to be emotional. (Not yet.) Jim sucks in another long breath that fills his lungs with Spock's still so extraordinary, spicy and wood-like scent. He stares at Spock standing there so regally and humbling and sublime, like a towering, evergreen oak. How Spock can be so goddamn stunning is beyond Jim's understanding.

Spock's discerning gaze is now flitting here and there around his quarters, cataloging the cargo boxes and the disorganization of his books and oh, the stack of folded clothing he'd placed at the foot of his bed.

"You are stowing away your personal items," Spock says, calmly and quietly. "You are leaving."

Jim's fingers clench around the paperback in his hands. He doesn't say a thing to deny that either. It's the truth, and his throat is being dammed up by a colossal boulder anyway.

Spock takes another step forward nearer to him.

"You have been avoiding me since my pon'farr, since my … actions towards you. You have distanced yourself from me. And now, you are … leaving."

He's just imagining the emotion, the ache in Spock's voice. He has to be. He has to be.

It's now or never, Kirk, he thinks. Tell him what you already have once before, what you should have accepted from the beginning.

He swallows past that colossal boulder in his throat.

"I'm giving up command of the Enterprise. I'm handing her over to you, Spock. I'm handing her to the captain she's always truly deserved," Jim says as calmly and quietly, his own shoulders squared, his own head held high. "I'm going back to Earth."

Jim's hands are white-knuckled around the book they grip. Jim might as well have slammed both fists into Spock's face with those four sentences, judging from the shock that makes Spock's entire face go ghastly pale, that makes Spock's eyes go so round that Jim can see the whites around the deep brown irises even from where he stands.

If Jim had been standing behind Spock then, he would have seen Spock's fists trembling against the Vulcan's lower back. He would have realized just how tenuous Spock's self-control has become from mere words.

"State your reason for these radical decisions."

Jim swallows yet again, his Adam's apple bobbing in his constricted throat. No … no, he isn't imagining the emotion in Spock's gravelly albeit clear voice. Certainly not on Spock's excruciatingly pale face, still so flawless with its mask gone.

"I can't. I can't, Spock, I -" Jim sets down the book in his hand on one of the tiers of the bookshelf behind him. The noise it makes upon its heavy impact is loud but does nothing to lessen the amplifying tension between him and Spock. "I'm sorry. It's just how it has to be! Please, just accept this."

Although Spock's eyes are still wide, Spock's face has become blank and marble-cold again.

"Vesht dungi nam-tor ish maut riolozhikaik." That would be highly illogical.

"Illogical why?"

"You have given me no reason, no explanation for leaving, and yet you expect me to approve of it," Spock retorts and oh, it is a retort and not just an impassive reply, ground out through gritted teeth. "Then allow me to hypothesize the reason given the evidence thus far collated from our experiences with my pon'farr and your heat, and from your behavior towards me since."

Oh shit, Spock's bringing out the long, formal sentences and the big words. Along with the pallid, blank face and fiery eyes, Spock is getting ... angry.

"In that cell, you were overcome by your heat while I was overcome by my pon'farr. However, my mental faculties were still fully intact and I was still capable of restraining myself from touching from you when you divested yourself of your clothing. I should have stopped you. I should have stopped you from touching me but I did not. I should have done whatever I could to stop you from sacrificing yourself for me, knowing that you are a heterosexual man and you would have had to coerce yourself into having sexual congress with me, knowing that you were doing it solely to purge me of my pon'farr."

Jim's brow creases with confusion even as he stares wide-eyed at Spock's face. Whoa, whoa, wait a goddamn minute here, what is Spock saying -

"Instead, I took advantage of your compromised condition. I allowed myself to be controlled by my pon'farr, my lust that must have disgusted you from the way you shut your eyes and turned your face from me then. You even admitted, Jim, that I hurt you -" - and oh god, Spock's face is visibly twisting with self-loathing - "and still, I allowed myself to – no, I chose to violate you, when I should have controlled myself. I should have let myself be burned out by the plak'tow. I should have had the mental bond between us removed as soon as possible instead of letting it thrive to my elation and become another violation of your person, your mind -"

"Spock -"

"I harmed my t'hai'la, Jim. You do not understand the severity of such a transgression for my people, we who cherish this most honored and rarest of bonds."

Jim's brow creases even more. T'hai'la? That's another Vulcan word with which he's unfamiliar, that he's yet to see in his research of Vulcan and its culture and rituals. The way Spock says the word, this word that represents the most honored and rarest of bonds for Vulcans -

"Spock, if you're referring to me, this - this t'hai'la, you did not harm me -"

"You are wrong, Jim. You said to me that I did, and your behavior proves it so. It proves that you know I have done you wrong. You said to me, on the transporter pad, that things between us have not changed, that we were still just like we were before. Yet, everything has changed. You avoid me. You become withdrawn in my presence, a dim shadow of yourself. You retreat from me whenever the opportunity arises, preferring the company of others. You constantly avert your eyes, your body from me. Clearly, you are disgusted with me. Therefore, I must conclude that the reason you are resigning as captain and leaving the Enterprise ... is me," Spock says with a voice gone even more gravelly, with eyes heavy-lidded and so very weary and resigned. "Even so, you inadvisedly protect me by not reporting my crime. You are even handing over command of the ship to me when I do not want it, when I do not deserve it."

Jim is shaking his head frantically, lurching towards Spock but Spock doesn't seem to even see him there anymore. Spock draws himself up, straightening his spine to near breaking point, jutting out his chin. Oh shit, oh shit, Jim knows where this is going, he knows Spock is going to say that he will leave instead, leave the Enterprise, leave him forever -

"Spock -"

"I will make amends. I will turn myself in to Starfleet for the sexual assault I have committed against you, Captain. I should have done so as soon as we were back on board after being rescued, but I did not want to leave y-"

"SPOCK!"

Spock's upper arms are rigid as steel in Jim's panicked grasp.

"You listen to me, Spock!" Jim yells, glaring Spock in the eye and daring Spock to glance away. "You didn't harm or violate me. You didn't rape me! You did not rape me. I gave my consent. Multiple times -"

"You were in heat, you were not in your right mind -"

Jim shakes Spock as hard as he can with both hands, scarcely shifting the obstinate, obviously mistaken Vulcan.

"I remember every moment! Every. Single. Moment. I knew exactly what was happening the whole time and I gave my consent. You heard me, Spock. If you meant what you said earlier, that your mental faculties were fully intact at the time? You heard me." Jim squeezes his hands around the firm muscles of Spock's biceps over black silk. He inhales shakily, then sighs aloud. "If anything, I'm the one who violated you. You said it yourself: pon'farr strips you of your mind, your logic. It strips you of your control over yourself. Neurochemical imbalances, Spock. Neurochemical imbalances that were messing with your body and mind for days before we were in that cell. I remember."

They stare into each other's eyes for seconds, for an infinity. Jim's breaths are tremorous and audible while the only hint that Spock's self-control is unstable in any way is the flaring of Spock's nostrils in a deep inhalation.

Haltingly, heedfully, Jim lifts his right hand to Spock's face. He's astonished that Spock is permitting him to touch that familiar, handsome, still heart-wrenchingly pale face, much less cup its left cheek in his palm. Spock's skin is as hot and smooth as he remembers it. Spock is simmering like a sun, like a meteor. Spock is staring unflinchingly into his eyes like he is staring into Spock's. Spock is … shivering.

"Then if I am wrong, tell me why you are leaving," Spock rasps, his luscious, green-tinged, supple lips moving a mere inch away from Jim's hand. "I am owed that much, Jim."

Jim's inhalation this time is even more shaky, one that sears his lungs like ice. He finds himself daring enough to stroke Spock's cheek with his thumb, and his anxious heart leaps in his chest when Spock doesn't tug his hand away even then, when Spock leans into the touch.

There are so many things that Spock has gotten wrong about him. Okay, he can't blame Spock for assuming he's a heterosexual guy, seeing as he's always been unreserved about vaunting his sexual exploits with Human females as well as extraterrestrial ones. He's used it to his advantage before in diplomatic conferences that required him to ply the charm on female emissaries and even princesses and queens, when new memberships into the Federation and new dilithium sources were at stake. He's been extremely covert about his sexual experiences with males, however. Never someone in Starfleet. Always a one night stand with a really low chance of meeting again. Always a Beta, not an Alpha with their goddamn rut pheromones.

So of course Spock wouldn't know. Of course Spock would assume he's straight instead of the pansexual man he is, even knowing now that he's an Omega and not an Alpha. Gender and sexuality are not the same thing.

But what the hell was that about him being coerced into having sex with Spock? About sacrificing himself solely to purge Spock of the pon'farr (to save Spock's life, to save Spock's life)? If Jim had not wanted to have sex with Spock, if Jim had been disgusted like Spock wrongly thought, Jim wouldn't have hurled himself at Spock. He wouldn't have pounced on Spock like Spock was the most superb feast in existence (and Spock really is that, and so much more). He would have fought off even a pon'farr-mad Spock, at least until they were rescued and Spock could have sex with Uhura instead -

Uhura.

Oh god.

Jim drops his hand from Spock's face and takes a big step back, then another. Jim clasps his cold left hand with his trembling right hand in front of him in lieu of touching Spock elsewhere, anywhere. He bites his lower lip hard. He takes another step back.

He's thinking about lying. Lying so that Spock won't be burdened by him, so that Spock's life won't be damned like his to be one of loneliness and regrets. He's thinking about going berserk, about chucking Spock out of his quarters and roaring at Spock to never come near him again, nevermind how outwardly irrational and blatantly calculating that would be.

But if there's one thing Bones is right about him – and Bones is right about many things about him – it's that Jim totally sucks at lying when it comes to matters of his goddamn heart.

"I'm pregnant, Spock."

Jim had expected everything around him to abruptly implode into a black hole and engulf him in timeless, starless darkness upon saying those words to Spock. If he'd made Spock appear and feel shocked before, he's achieved a whole other level this time: on top of Spock's eyes going round and those highly angular eyebrows curving up to the hairline, Spock's lower jaw is sagging. Spock is speechless.

"I'm a pregnant Omega man who lied about being an Alpha to Starfleet. There's only so long I can pretend to be one before my belly starts to bulge."

Spock closes his mouth and purses his lips. Spock stares at Jim. Stares and stares, then says hoarsely, "And the child is mine."

Jim's fingers tighten around each other, but he maintains eye contact with Spock.

"Yes," he whispers, as his arms begin to quiver, as his lower jaw, his whole body begins to quiver -

"You would hide this from me." Spock's arms are now at his sides. Spock's hands are in fists and they're quivering too. "You would flee from me and take our child from me without telling me -"

"You're with Uhura, Spock!" Jim bellows, erupting into a furious flurry of flailing arms and pacing in front of Spock. "You're in love with someone else, not me, not me! I know that, okay?! You're in love with Uhura and she's the one you wanna mate with, to bond with so I'm not going to ruin that happiness for you, don't you understand that?! Don't you understand that I don't wanna be a fucking burden for you?! That I'm giving you a CHOICE?!"

He lets loose a vicious kick at the nearest cargo box, causing it to glide across the floor and collide with the bed despite its book-laden weight. He instantly feels like a brat – the overgrown brat Bones always teases him to be – but his eyes are also stinging and brimming and he's finding it more and more difficult to just breathe and -

"Rai," he hears Spock say distinctly, so calmly and goddamn quietly.

Jim scrunches his eyes shut and continues to pace, crossing his arms over his heaving chest. Great, just great, so Spock doesn't understand, Spock doesn't understand that he's doing this for Spock's own good, that Spock has his entire Starfleet career ahead of him and someone else he can have a family with without being chained to some – some deceitful, disgusting Omega slut like him -

"Jim," Spock says distinctly, as if his name means something to Spock, as if it means the universe to Spock, any and all universes (and it just can't be, it can't because James Tiberius Kirk isn't that lucky). "You have been laboring under many misapprehensions. Lieutenant Uhura and I terminated our romantic relationship 19.3 days ago. I am not in love with her. She is not the one I yearn to mate with, to bond with. And you, Jim, my t'hai'la, are not a burden. Never to me."

It takes a long time, a very long time for Spock's declaration to register on Jim's overwhelmed mind. When it does, Jim totters to a halt on weak legs and almost keels over on his face. He clutches at the side panel of the bookshelf. He blinks his eyes numerous times and gapes at Spock whose face is no longer blank or marble-cold or pale, whose face is turning green (in that sexiest of greens). Turning … radiant. Like a towering, evergreen oak welcoming the revered rays of dawn.

"You – you and Uhura … you're not lovers anymore?"

"No, Jim. She and I have, in fact, not been sexually intimate for 6.8 months."

Jim has no idea what to say to that. He stays where he is as Spock takes one step towards him, gazing at him with eyes that seem to shine with a newfound, sun-lit brilliance from within.

"Truly, I have erred in not terminating my romantic relationship with her at least a year ago."

Jim blinks in bafflement.

"A year ago? But that was when ..." Without taking his eyes off Spock's for a moment, Jim takes one step forward himself. "That was when I was recovering from the radiation poisoning."

"Yes."

Jim is tongue-tied once more, his mouth opening, then closing, then opening again when he finds the words he'd never believed he would ever say to Spock, certainly not in this reality.

"Even then?" he rasps, his hands loosening, his arms falling to his sides as the tension drains away from his body, his being. "You … you'd thought about me as a friend too, even then? As more than a friend, even then?"

"Jim, ki'nam-tor nash-veh heh kwon-sum dungau nam-tor t'hai'la t'du."

Jim understands what Spock says. He understands, but his mind is still reeling, reeling from the multiple revelations that Spock has meted out and it's too much, it's too much. It's too good to be true.

"What does t'hai'la mean?" Jim takes another step, a wobbly one, nearer to Spock. "Tell me what it means."

"Jim, I have been and shall always be your friend," Spock replies, those big, brilliant, deep brown eyes so beautiful and bright. "Your life-long companion. And if you grant me the privilege, your lover, also."

Jim feels like the floor beneath his feet has completely vanished. He feels like he's flying. He feels like he's flying, soaring and soaring among the stars and the planets and nebulae, never to crash on land again, never to be trapped again.

It's too good to be true. It has to be too good to be true, that Spock wants to be his companion for life. That Spock wants to be his lover. That Spock … loves him in return. That Spock loves him in return, and wants to do so always -

"In that cell, you called me ashayam. You called me k'diwa. You called me the other half of your heart and soul." Jim stays where he is as Spock saunters towards him, gazing at him as if he means the universe to Spock, as if he is the universe to Spock. "I had believed your words to be nothing more than a hallucination. I had believed my pon'farr to be so cruel as to torment me with hearing you speak so fluently in the language of my people, hearing your vows, and knowing it was merely a dream. But, it was not a dream." Spock pauses, his eyes crinkling at the edges (as they will many times in the many years, decades to come). "It is not a dream."

This time, it is Spock who reaches out with one hand, who touches and cups Jim's cheek in his palm. Jim gasps at the spark of sensation upon contact, a spark that hadn't been there when he'd touched Spock's face. It's almost as if something - like lightning, like the golden beams of the sun - within Spock is trying to merge with something within Jim, to grow stronger and lasting. Is it the telepathic bond between them? This t'hai'la bond between them?

"Kal-tor nem-tor nash-veh wak afsakau kun-ut-so'lik," Spock murmurs. Let me take this opportunity to declare kun-ut-so'lik.

"Kun-ut-so'lik? What is that?" Jim asks with a hushed voice, gazing up at Spock.

"Aitlun t'nash-veh shetau katelausu t'du." My desire to become your mate.

Jim's mind is still reeling, reeling. Spock said that they're t'hai'la. Spock said that he wants to become his life-long companion, his lover. But to ask to be his mate means -

"You're …" Jim sinks his teeth into his lower lip, and he sees Spock's eyes settle on his lips. He feels Spock's gaze on his lips like a searing brand. "You're talking about me becoming your bondmate. You're talking about ... marrying me."

In response, Spock steps back, just enough that Spock can lift one arm between them. Spock is extending the index and middle fingers of his hand towards Jim and … yes, Jim remembers seeing this. He remembers Uhura offering her fingers the same way to Spock among the iridescent blossoms of the observation deck. Uhura first, every time. Never Spock. (Why didn't he notice that before?)

Jim lifts one hand with his index and middle fingers extended too. Spock doesn't comment on the way they're trembling as they brush against Spock's fingers. He gasps again at that spark that passes between them, that kindles their skin, their flesh, their very atoms. He can see how affected Spock is by the mere contact: Spock's green flush has deepened, and so has the green tinge of Spock's still so very luscious lips. Spock's eyes are heavy-lidded, although now it is from indulgence. From gratification.

"What does this mean, Spock?" Jim murmurs, stroking Spock's fingers from tip to knuckle and back. "What is it?"

"It is the way Vulcans kiss," Spock replies as softly.

"So … every time when you've touched me with your fingers, does that mean you were actually kissing me?"

The crinkling around Spock's eyes becomes even more apparent (and Jim will learn, in the sun-warm days to come, that this is what a happy Vulcan looks like, short of actually bowing up their lips). Jim shuts his eyes as Spock lifts the hand touching his fingers to his face instead, to caress his cheek with the back of those exquisite, adept, long fingers. Jim smiles with his lips, his teeth, his own crinkled eyes for both of them.

He opens his eyes to half-mast when Spock says his name once more.

Spock is so close. Spock is so close. All he has to do to cross the remaining distance between them is to surge forward and crash his mouth into Spock's, and now … he can. He can.

"Taluhk nash-veh k'dular, k'hat'n'dlawa," Spock says, caressing his face with those exquisite fingers, kissing him the Vulcan way. "Tev-tor khaf-spol t'nash-veh tu-fam."

I cherish thee, half of my heart and soul. Without you, my heart languishes.

This is the part where Jim should be grinning, maybe even smirking, puffing out his chest and shouting his bliss for the whole damn universe to hear. This is the part where Jim should be seizing Spock's face to kiss Spock with his lips. This is the part where Jim should be dancing around like a nutball. Maybe even bounce off the walls for real like a rubber ball until Spock catches him and holds him safe from crashing on land.

But no, no, his stupid hormones are making his eyes sting and brim and he can feel his face contort and his lower jaw quaver and for fuck's sakes, Spock just has to go and cup the back of his head with one hand and draw him closer with the other and touch their foreheads together. He scrunches his searing eyes shut. Spock doesn't comment on the wetness forging glistening trails down his cheeks.

"Just – just … stand still, okay?" he whispers, pressing his forehead harder to Spock's, tangling the fingers of his right hand with Spock's left hand at their sides (and oh god, he must be full-on making out with Spock the Vulcan way, squeezing Spock's hand so tight like he is). "I just want … I just want to remember. I want to remember every crystal-clear second of this. Right now. In memory."

Spock doesn't laugh. Spock doesn't ridicule him. Spock calmly and quietly and patiently stands with him. Spock has caught him, and Spock is holding him safe, making sure that he won't crash, making sure that everything will be all right.

Everything will be all right. Everything's all right. Everything.

Jim's eyes are dry and sore when they reluctantly part, just enough that they can gaze at each other.

"And they say Vulcans can't be romantic and feel nothing," Jim says, smiling, grinning, reining himself in from dancing, dancing around the room and never stopping.

Spock gazes at him silently for a long while, scrutinizing his face from forehead to chin then back up to his eyes. Jim's smile softens but is no less luminous as he returns Spock's regard.

"Jim," Spock murmurs, "is it not a Western tradition on Earth that newly wedded Humans kiss each other with their lips?"

Jim swallows hard, but it is with damn near uncontrollable euphoria. There's nothing ridiculous about that, just like there's nothing ridiculous about Spock's long, lush eyelashes or the pointed tips of Spock's ears or Spock's prominent, stately nose and there really, really is nothing ridiculous about Jim touching his forehead to Spock's once more, touching his lips to Spock's green-tinged, luscious, welcoming lips for the second time. The second of many, many more kisses to come.

It's too good to be true. It's all too good to be true. But somehow, it is true. Somehow, against all the odds in this reality, James Tiberius Kirk truly is the luckiest sonofabitch of all time.

"Nuh'mau-wak," Jim whispers into Spock's lips after many, many more kisses. It has been too long since I last saw you.

"I have always been here, Jim," Spock whispers back.

"I know," Jim replies, shutting his eyes, somehow smiling wryly and yet joyfully, "I know," and it's Jim saying sorry too, and Spock knowing it.

He hears Spock say, "Since that day in Engineering, since your death and your resurrection, you have lingered in all the corners of my mind. You became the light that dispelled the shadows in those corners. You became the light that helped me to see paths that I could not before, to tread them when I dared not to before."

He hears Spock murmur, "Since that day in that cell, since we mated and bonded and made love, I cannot pass a day without thinking about you. I cannot forget how you had appeared, how you had sounded as you sprawled upon the tattered remains of our uniforms, our armor of clothes. I cannot forget how you had accepted me into your body, again and again. I cannot forget how you had slipped that bundle of clothing under my head, how you arranged me on the rock floor so I rested well. I cannot forget how kindly you had treated me when I awakened, helping me to dress, even after how I had treated you for days."

He hears Spock whisper, "And then, on the transporter pad, you smiled at me and you said not to worry, that things between us have not changed, that we were still just like we were before. I believed you had meant that you wanted neither of us to speak of or even acknowledge what had transpired between us. I believed you were ashamed of what we had done, that it must have been … humiliating for you to have been penetrated when you had gone to such lengths to hide your Omega status and so, I said nothing, when I should have said everything."

Jim rubs his forehead against Spock's, his eyes still shut. He cradles Spock's face with both hands. He feels Spock's arms around his shoulders, his waist, but in his mind, he's back in that cell, panting and burning up and straddling Spock's thighs with shaking legs. He's hearing Spock say those unfinished, fraught statements and now, now he knows what Spock had been trying so damn hard to tell him then, with actions if not with lost words.

I … I cannot, Spock had yearned to say. Not like this … no. I cannot.

Jim, Spock had yearned to say, I cannot do this to you when you do not love me.

What must it have been like for Spock, who believed that Jim didn't love him as more than a friend? What must it have been like for Spock, whose only choices were to have sex with Jim or die, believing that Jim was only sacrificing his body to save a friend yet again and nothing more?

What must it have been like for Spock ever since, believing that Jim found him disgusting and disgraceful as a Vulcan? That Jim found him so offensive now that Jim was willing to keep his baby a secret from him, that Jim would leave him?

It must have been hell. Absolute hell. An absolute hell of their own making.

"We are such idiots. Such idiots," Jim says, but he is also smiling softly because a hell that is made, as absolute as it can feel, can also be unmade.

"I did not want our first time to be violent and heartless. I wanted it to be an occasion of tenderness, a celebration of our fidelity to each other. I wanted your participation in it to be of your own full choice."

"But it was, Spock. It was."

"I saw the marks I'd left upon you as we dressed in that cell. I left even more bruises on you than the X'chigari did. I bit you and scratched you until you bled -"

"And I loved every moment of it." Jim rears back, gripping Spock's head more firmly so that Spock has to look him in the eye. "I loved it. I loved that you were the one doing all that to me. You were … taking me." Jim licks his lower lip, delighted at the flaring heat in Spock's eyes. "Claiming me. You were claiming me, Spock. You have no idea how much I'd hungered for that." His voice softens to a whisper. "How much I still do."

Jim slides his hands down from Spock's head to Spock's broad shoulders. Spock's hands, in turn, shift to his flanks and settle above the jut of his hips (that will be lost to his ballooning belly in the months ahead).

"And you, my Jim, have no idea how much I have hungered for you." Spock lowers his eyes in an almost demure fashion. "I … I confess, although I accused you of avoiding me by no longer playing chess with me, I am also guilty of this. I wished so much to accept your offer, to be in your quarters and spend time with you like we did before, but I could not trust myself to not … ambush you."

Jim tries very hard to not grin.

"Ambush me, huh?" he asks, his lips tremoring with the effort.

Spock locks warms eyes with him again (and they really are warm, like sunshine through his window).

"You are an exceedingly attractive Human, in body and mind and soul. Surely you are aware of your pulchritudinous face."

Okay, for that, knowing that the most important person of all does find his face to be a very, very handsome face, he'll grin. He can grin all he wants, damnit. Especially now -

"Jim. I must also confess, I am still … disconcerted that you had decided to conceal our child from me."

Jim's grin diminishes to a melancholic smile, but it is no less loving. He drags his fingers through Spock's immaculate, space-black hair and strokes the curved, pointed rim of Spock's left ear. (Hey, does this mean he's making out with Spock's hair and ear right now?)

"It … it seemed like the best decision, at the time. I didn't know what I know now about you. About us. I thought, if I told you about the baby, you would have felt obligated to provide for the baby. You would have been trapped with me just because of the baby, and you would have … resented me." He presses the pads of his fingers to Spock's parting lips, quietening Spock's protests. "I wanted you to have a choice, Spock. To not be … dragged down by me in life."

Spock reaches up to gently pull his hand down and away from those luscious, green-tinged, so very supple lips.

"If you did wish to give me a choice, it would have been logical to tell me as soon as you learned of your pregnancy. Would it not?" Spock says, without judgment, with his hand grasped in both of Spock's. "Instead, I was given none at all, as I did not have the pertinent and essential knowledge necessary to make one."

Now it is Jim who lowers his eyes.

"I'm a selfish asshole," he says offhandedly, but Spock isn't fooled (and he never will be, not after tonight).

"No." Spock releases his hand and tips his head up with a forefinger under his chin. "Just a golden, explosive and exceptionally bright Human who illogically and unreasonably believes he does not deserve to be loved or to be blessed, when the opposite is true."

Well, there goes Spock again, cutting to the quick, catching him when he falls, even when it is at his own hand. He finds himself tongue-tied for the third time. He finds himself choked up even as he's trying hard to not smile with his lips as well as his eyes. He feels the warmth of Spock's hand hovering over his belly. After Jim nods, Spock rests his palm on the slight swell of his belly over his black t-shirt, spreading those long fingers across it. Jim is acutely aware of the contact, even through his shirt. He places his own hand over Spock's and oh, oh, there's that wave of warmth emanating from his belly again and it's -

Jim gazes at Spock's green-flushed, composed face, at Spock's crinkled, awestruck eyes. It's … the wave of warmth that's making Spock look like that. The wave of warmth is real.

"Spock, I'm not imagining the warmth inside my abdomen. Am I?"

"No, Jim. It is our baby projecting emotion telepathically. At this stage of pregnancy, their vital organs such as the brain are already functioning, but our baby can only communicate the most rudimentary of emotions, like comfort and contentment. With time, as they become more aware of their environment and the world beyond the womb, they will be able to project more emotions, even urges like hunger."

Well, fuck. Talk about his stupid, stupid hormones shooting up and making his eyes and his heart burn again.

"Wow," Jim rasps, blinking, pressing his hand on Spock's over where their baby (their baby, their baby!) is. "I didn't expect that."

"Understandable. My people can be cryptic regarding numerous issues about our physiology and biology to outworlders."

Jim is tempted to say, that's one hell of an understatement. Instead, after several tranquil minutes of just grasping Spock's hand to his belly and basking in more waves of warmth from their baby, he says, "You were wrong about the bond, you know."

Spock glances sharply at him, hand still pressed to his belly, but says quietly, "Explain."

Jim caresses the ridges of the top of Spock's hand as he replies, "I dunno where you got the idea that I don't want it, that I wouldn't want it." Jim rolls his eyes, mostly at himself. "Well, okay, I kinda get why you'd think that, seeing as you thought I was straight -which I'm not, I'm pansexual – and that I would never be attracted to you, which is ridiculous, but, still ..."

"Still?" Spock prompts (and Jim can see Spock already noting down that tidbit of information about him into his vast, eidetic memory banks).

"I was so … happy, Spock. When you told me the telepathic bond between us exists." Jim aims wide eyes at Spock. "It still does, right? It still exists? This t'hai'la bond? I mean, I could feel it when we were in that cell, when my heat was going away. It was like this ... tingling in the back of my head. Like this presence shaped like you. But after we got back on the ship, I felt … alone again. Was I just imagining it, or what?"

Spock is now staring at him with those crinkled, awestruck eyes, as if Jim has just told him something unbelievable.

"What?" Jim asks, smiling softly at Spock.

"Whenever my father mindmelded with my mother, it would cause her physical pain in the form of headaches if the meld lasted for more than six minutes. She was also psi-null, and could not detect my father's mental presence in her mind when they were not in a mindmeld." Spock studies Jim's face, then asks, "Have you experienced any headaches in the past 3.6 months that cannot be explained? Or earlier?"

"Yeah. I have, actually." Jim lifts his right hand to his own right temple and taps it twice with a forefinger. "They're not painful. Just … I dunno how to explain it. It's like, I can feel an emptiness where there should be something really ... important in the back of my head, I guess. So the headaches I get are like some echo from that empty space when I … poke it. With a mental finger. Or something. Does that even make sense?"

Oh, Spock's eyes are crinkling even more.

"Jim, the mental bond between us still exists. Only a Vulcan healer can safely break a bond," Spock says. "And yes, you did make sense. You have just described the experience of feeling a strong bond being shielded from you. You can sense our baby's telepathic projections as well. Spock tilts his head (and oh god, now that action is even more adorable to Jim). "You are not psi-null."

That indomitable, ecstatic thing in the left side of Jim's chest leaps. All humans, whether they're Alpha, Beta or Omega, are psi-null by default. Until Spock's mother, a Beta Human, married Sarek, a Vulcan with telepathic abilities, there were no recorded instances of a Human experiencing or using telepathy. She was the first person in both Human and Vulcan history to bond and mindmeld with a Vulcan, and also give birth to a half-Human half-Vulcan being with telepathic abilities. Powerful telepathic abilities. More powerful than those of most of the six billion other Vulcans who'd lived before Nero came along. (As chagrined as Jim would be to admit this to Spock, he'd learned about that after hacking into Spock's Starfleet records and also whatever records he could crack in New Vulcan's databases.)

What would a mental bond – a t'hai'la bond that spontaneously formed and is the rarest and most honored by Vulcans, no less – with a telepathic being as powerful as that be like in the long run? What would a bond like that do to a Human's brain? And is it possible that his Starfleet ESP tests were wrong all along, then, that this bond between him and Spock could have formed in the first place? Can he and Spock have a fulfilling telepathic bond after all? One without pain like that suffered by Spock's mother?

The only way for them to know is to try. (To make history while they're at it.)

"In the throes of my pon'farr, when we were -"

"Fucking? Mating?" Jim says, displaying a wide-eyed, innocent expression, his heart still beating excitedly. "Doing the horizontal tango? Being the beast with two backs?"

Spock raises an eyebrow at him, but those deep brown eyes are still crinkled.

"When we were in sexual congress, I had wished to mindmeld with you. The only reason I resisted was because I … could not bear knowing for a certainty that you did not and could not love me as more than a friend."

"Aw, babe," Jim murmurs without thinking. "You are sweet."

Again, Spock raises his eyebrow, even higher.

"Jim, I am an adult, not a kan-bu. And Vulcans are not … sweet."

Jim smiles widely. Then, he drags his tongue across his lower lip, gazing at Spock from under his eyelashes.

"Mmm, no, I'm gonna have to disagree there, Spock," he says huskily. "I got to taste you, remember?" He licks his lips again, slowly, purposefully. "That must have been some hardcore porn for you, huh, when I licked your pre-come off my fingers?"

For that, Spock yanks him to those green-tinged, luscious, oh so luscious lips and kisses the living daylights out of him with them, pushing that flexible, hot tongue into his open mouth, licking his teeth and his lips and robbing him of his breath and balance. For that, Jim seizes one of Spock's hands and strokes those fucking exquisite, adept, long fingers with his own, slipping and skimming his fingers between Spock's while Spock continues to blow his mind with Human kisses. He runs the fingers of his free hand through Spock's chest hair (finally!) exposed by the low v-collar of Spock's tunic, luxuriating in its velvety lushness. He feels more of those sparks dancing across his skin, inside his skin wherever they touch and grind. He probably makes some embarrassing noises now and then into Spock's volcanic mouth, but from the way Spock is clutching at the nape of his neck, at his roving fingers, Spock probably doesn't give a damn.

Jim is unsurprised, however, when Spock eventually and reluctantly separates their mouths but not their hands, letting the fire subside to a simmer once more. Crazy as it must be for a man of his sexual reputation to think, to want, he'd rather not rush things either. He doesn't want to just jump into bed with Spock when there's so much they still need to discuss, to resolve. This isn't just another one night stand to him. This is the Real Deal. This is a Forever Deal. And he's … he's really fine with that. God, he really is. (How the hell did he get this lucky? How?)

He swoops in and steals one last Human kiss from Spock before stepping back so he can give Spock a once-over, still clasping Spock's hand in his. Although Spock's face is appealingly flushed now, it still looks gaunt. The half-circle shadows are still there under Spock's eyes. Jim knows that Vulcans can go for weeks without sleeping before it starts to become detrimental to their physical and mental health, so for Spock to appear visibly exhausted is … not a good thing.

"So, you're still shielding yourself from me," Jim says, pointing out the sehlat in the room. (Hey, he's pretty much married to a Vulcan now, nothing wrong with him mixing up Human and Vulcan idioms and things now and then.)

Once again, Spock is lowering his eyes, shuttering them from Jim.

"Yes."

"Why?"

Spock looks him in the eye again, because he deserves that as Spock's friend. And life-long companion. And lover. (Holy shit, he doubts that revelation will ever get old.)

"Jim, despite tonight's unexpected but very welcomed developments in our relationship, I understand that Humans may find the mental presence of someone else in their mind to be … perturbing. I know that you value your privacy and that, as a Human, your thoughts and emotions have always been yours alone to experience unless you share them through speech, the written word or physical motion. I am shielding in respect of that Human solitude."

Jim lets go of Spock's hand to cradle the side of Spock's jaw in his palm. He strokes his thumb across Spock's warm lower cheek. He now sees the fine lines of fatigue at the corners of Spock's eyes and around Spock's lips. He sees how much sharper Spock's cheekbone is. He sees the green tint of the whites of Spock's eyes.

"You look so tired," Jim murmurs. "You look like you haven't slept in days."

Spock remains silent. Spock does not deny this.

Jim stares at Spock, and his expression hardens into a chastening one, the face of a stern captain.

"You're like this because of the shielding. Aren't you?"

Spock remains silent. Spock does not deny this either.

"Spock, you're hurting yourself -"

"Jim. Ashayam." When Jim quietens and his expression softens, Spock says, "I believed that if I informed you about the bond, you would feel … obligated to me and to the bond simply for the sake of my wellbeing." When Jim smiles wryly at the deliberate pause, at the irony of his own words said back to him, Spock adds, "While it is true that the shielding has been affecting me negatively for the past 2.7 weeks, I will not drop the shield unless it is with your direct permission."

"Then … what's this electric sensation between us I've been feeling? Whenever you touch me?"

Oh, there's that lovely green flush spreading across Spock's familiar, handsome face once more.

"After realizing that you love me in return and are in love with me, I have found it increasingly challenging to maintain the shield at optimum levels. I am sorry, Jim -"

"Don't. Don't apologize, definitely not for this." Jim enfolds his arms tightly around Spock and presses his face to the side of Spock's long neck, against Spock's pulse hammering there. Then he raises his head to look Spock in the eye as he says, "I want you to completely drop the shield and open up the bond. I want a taroon-ifla with you, Spock. I want a mindmeld with you. I want to feel you in my mind."

He sees Spock shut those big, brilliant, deep brown eyes for a moment, as if Spock has to regain his composure upon hearing his statements. When Spock opens his eyes again, Spock is already reaching for Jim's face with his hand. Jim's lips curl at the ends in a restrained smile as Spock's fingertips settle on key locations down the left side of his face.

He gazes into Spock's crinkled, warm eyes. He reaches up to touch Spock's face too, stroking Spock's cheek with the pads of his fingers while Spock's other hand grasps his wrist.

"Open it. Let me in," Jim whispers with zeal. "Gluva'voh n'nash-veh!" Show me!

And Spock does.

The transition into what Jim will come to recognize as their shared mindspace is so smooth and effortless that for a microsecond, he thinks that something has gone wrong. He finds himself looking down at an endless desert of red, sizzling sand from high in a pellucid sky at noon. He finds himself staring with awe and fascination as fountains of clear, fresh water jet from the sand and splash and coil into deluging rivers that then call forth green-leafed, purple-stemmed sprouts from the sand. Dozens then hundreds then thousands of them, springing up as far as Jim can see, growing and growing and growing and transforming into gigantic, lofty trees whose gnarled branches stretch towards him as if in supplication, in worship.

He gasps at the ethereal, alien beauty of it all.

He gasps again when he realizes what he's actually looking at, what he's seeing.

{Spock,} he says, and it's both shocking and exhilarating to hear his own mental voice so distinctly for the first time. It sounds very much like his speaking voice, but in here, there's a resonance to it that deepens it.

{Jim.}

Oh, wow. Spock's mental voice is even lower and more resonant than his speaking voice. Even more sensual (if that's possible). And he can … he can hear the love in Spock's voice so palpably. He can feel Spock's love for him, utterly unadulterated and true.

{This is us,} Jim murmurs, watching more green-leafed, purple-trunked trees taller and larger than the Redwoods of California shoot up from the sand, watching their branches unfurl in the air and wave with the breeze, wave at him.

Jim senses an enormous blanket of warmth wrap around him, like being swathed in summer sunshine, and he realizes that this is Spock literally bundling him up in Spock's love for him. It's unbelievable. It's spectacular, and humbling, so very humbling for an Omega Human man who thought he would have been dead and buried and forgotten by all before turning twenty-one.

He tugs close the warm blanket of Spock's love and affection for him. He spins and soars and laughs to his heart's content, and shafts of sunlight scatter across the canopy of the boundless forest below him.

{This is home,} Jim thinks, knowing that Spock can read his thoughts and rejoicing in that fact. {This is home that I'll always have.}

The blanket of warmth around him grows hotter, like a soothing hot water bottle against an old ache.

{So, 0.523%, huh?}

{I had erroneously made my previous calculations on the assumption that you did not and could not possibly love me as a bondmate.}

Jim smiles tenderly, and another shaft of sunlight cascades down on the dense forest below.

{So what did the 0.523% represent?}

{It was … the minuscule spark of hope that the universe would prove me wrong.}

Jim tries a hand at projecting emotion. He feels it radiating from him as a rolling wave of warmth similar to the one swaddling him, to the one he feels from their baby. Somehow, he knows that their baby is asleep right now, that their baby won't be able to join them in a mindmeld for years yet.

{Spock, you feel so much. You just never show it on your face.}

Somehow, Jim also knows now that neither he or Spock can lie in a mindmeld.

{My people have always harbored intense emotions, Jim. We were enslaved to them, until Surak and his teachings provided a new way of living and advancing.}

{Well, I'm glad his teachings have endured, Spock. I'm glad you endure. I wouldn't want you to be any other way than the way you are.}

The warm blanket of Spock's love around him should have felt stifling. Instead, he can't get enough of it, no matter how deeply he burrows himself in it. He thinks that it'll probably take him a lifetime to burrow to the very core of Spock's emotions. He thinks he'll be happy to stay there when he gets there, surrounded by everything Spock, everything beautiful and real and necessary.

{So, Mister Spock, now how good do you think our chances are of having the most awesome, fearsome, cuddlesome, lissome bond in the entire universe?}

{Jim, I do not think Vulcan mental bonds can be cuddlesome -}

{Well, I think they can be and I think you're cuddlesome so there.}

{That is not a logical argument.}

{You know I can feel you smiling in here, right?}

Jim is smiling himself, soaring across the never-ending, evergreen canopy of the flourishing forest that is Spock.

{Vulcans do not smile.}

{And let me guess, Vulcans don't feel anything either, much less love someone with all their heart, right?}

{Correction, my Jim: to love you with all though only my heart is illogical, as it would be a waste of the rest of my body as well as my soul that also love you. And to answer your question, I calculate a 100% chance of us having the most awesome, fearsome, cuddlesome, lissome bond in the entire universe.}

And great, just great, since he can't lie or hide in here, Spock knows just how touched he is by the sincere, sweet declaration.

{What, no decimal point, Spock?}

{Unnecessary. To have a decimal point suggests that our chances are less than 100%, which then suggests that there is any possibility at all that I will not love you for the rest of my life and beyond.}

Jim finds himself unable to even respond with words. He projects more rolling waves of warmth, of love, and he sees the waves flood their shared mindspace as more sunshine upon the forest, calling forth more trees and rivers, calling forth more life and hope.

Whatever happens from now on, he and Spock will have this. They will always have this.

When he opens his eyes an eon later, Jim finds himself on his side on his bed, facing Spock. Spock still has those exquisite, adept, long fingers pressed to the side of his face. Spock's eyes are partially open, but that's all Jim can tell because his own eyes are brimming and spilling and he is smiling, smiling anyway. He clasps Spock's hand with his own. He slips his fingers between Spock's in a Vulcan kiss. He presses his lips to the center of Spock's palm.

Yeah, he can think up a million alternate realities, he knows that. But he doesn't need any of them. He never did. This reality is the only one he wants, the only one he needs.

"Dungi-hafau tu k'nash-veh ha?" Jim whispers, holding Spock's hand to his damp, beaming face. You'll stay with me?

And Spock, whose own eyes are glistening and crinkled too, whispers back, "Abi'maut-shaht, t'hai'la." Until the very end, my soulmate, my everything.

 

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"Jim t'nash-veh, ashal-veh," Jim now knows Spock had whispered into the skin of his throat, as Spock mouthed at the mound of his Adam's apple, as Spock caressed the back of his head and carded those exquisite, adept long fingers through his mussed-up hair, as Spock slid in and out of him with a dreamy, pleasant pace, slid in and in and in, never to leave again. "Ri dungi fai-tor du uf mau ashau n'du."

My Jim, my darling, you will never know how much I love you.