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Title: Necessity
Author: notboldly50295
Beta: Lenise
Pairing(s): Kirk/Spock
Rating: R
Fandom: Star Trek XI
Disclaimer: I own nothing, and all character rights belong to various people who are not me.
Summary: When Jim is attacked by a telepathic species, Spock bonds with him to save his life.
Word Count: ~14700
Genre: Romance/angst

Necessity

********

It had been over a year since the destruction caused by Nero and his ship; a very long year for any Vulcan—although, logically, they knew that the passage of time had not been altered and the orbit of the new Vulcan planet was actually slightly longer than that of their homeworld, making it approximately .931 years planetside—and what could only be termed the balance of the universe was finally starting to be achieved. Starfleet officials had begun to congratulate themselves on a job well done for the firm foundation they had built for the new Vulcan settlement of Ah’kesi, species who had been on the fence about joining the Federation of Planets were finally making decisions one way or the other, and the somewhat large-scale skirmishes between various planets had nearly ceased, if only in the Alpha Quadrant. All in all, life should have been peaceful and easy, at least for a little while. At least for ships on a peaceful mission.

Captain James T. Kirk reflected on the irony between blasts of phaser fire, and he wondered why he never seemed to get the sweet part of the deal. Bones would probably say it was because he attracted trouble, and dammit, Jim, why didn’t you take security with you on your routine, peaceful mission?

In this mental argument, Jim didn’t bother to point out that, if he was an attractor for trouble, the security officers were more so. He was always baffled by that.

I mean, what are the odds that every single time-

“Two thousand, four hundred and twenty six point four to one, Captain,” came a cool voice from somewhere to his left.

“Wait, what?” Jim glanced over for an instant, just long enough for a phaser blast to chip out a section of rock near his head. Spock moved quickly (because Vulcans certainly didn’t scurry) to his rock, and he pushed his head down without preamble. Another piece of rock fell.

“You were wondering how likely it would be to escape from this particular situation without bringing about our demise. I estimate two thousand, four hundred and twenty six point four.”

“To one.” Jim glanced at him out of the corner of his eyes, expecting to see some sign, any sign, that he was joking. He shouldn’t have been surprised when all he saw was Spock’s normal, all-too-calm and blank face.

“Of course.”

“And that’s estimating?”

“I am sure it is accurate within point one-five, although I do not have conclusive data to make the final judgment at this time. If necessary—”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s fine.” Another phaser blast hit the large boulder they were hiding behind—hiding, dammit, not cowering—and Jim swore he could smell the melting rock. He glanced back at Spock, who was regarding him intently.

“Well, since you’re in a calculating mood, what’re the chances of every primitive society we come across having access to hand phasers? Cause I’d really like to know.”

“Currently, the data would indicate-“

“Spock, that was a joke.”

The comment was followed by silence, both from Spock and their attackers. Jim popped his head up, and he wasn’t surprised when he was yanked back down out of the way of the suddenly continuing phaser fire.

“Okay. So…plan. We need a plan.” Jim clapped his hands and squatted back down as low as he could go, settled firmly in the dark green mud. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he acknowledged that he was going to have to commission another uniform from Starfleet, but he dismissed it quickly when The Plan quite firmly took over his thoughts.

It was about a minute and twenty or so blasts later when Jim snapped his fingers, triumph on his face. Plan Acquired.

“So, Spock, I bet you’re calculating odds based on taking that backway pass to the right, right?”

Spock glanced at him. If it was in his nature to show suspicion on his face, Jim was sure it would have been there.

“Correct, Captain. It is the logical choice for escape, with the least risk of demise.”

“Well, what if we charge’em instead? Go forward instead of back?”

One of Spock’s eyebrows rose minutely as if he hadn’t considered that option, but Jim knew he had.

“That would lead us to the outside of their compound, rather than into its depths. However, “charging” them—”

Jim waved a hand, knowing where the statement was going and the devastating effect it would have on The Plan.

“Bad idea, got it. But assuming we don’t die?”

The other eyebrow rose, which Jim took to mean, “Your sheer idiocy astounds me.”

“That would…significantly increase our odds. However, Captain—”

“What would the odds be?” The question was mainly to distract him; it worked.

“Three-hundred, twenty seven—”

“Alright, good. Let’s do that, then.” Jim stood, having every intention of beginning The Plan, when he was yanked back down again. He wondered, briefly, why he needed security officers when Spock was doing a better job at saving his fool head than they ever had.

“Captain—” Jim could almost imagine concern in his voice—almost—and he felt a twinge in his side.

Dammit.

“Just trust me, alright?”

“Yes, Captain.” There wasn’t any hesitation, and Jim would have known; he was watching for it. Spock only blinked, which Jim assumed was the Vulcan equivalent of a sigh or abbreviation for “what a ridiculous human.”

“Follow my lead.”

And, just like that, Jim ran out from behind the rock, waving his hands like a madman.

“Help! Help! There’s a crazy Vulcan back there, and he keeps trying to logic me to death! HELP ME!”

The natives paused, clearly unsure what to do with the creature that was now running towards them in a panic. Jim didn’t know what they were thinking, and he doubted they understood him since their portable translator had been damaged shortly after landing, but he figured he had guessed right in the universal symbol of “help” and “don’t shoot” when they just eyed him warily as he ran past them.

He hoped Spock had taken the hint and booked it after him, something he assumed was true when the firing continued in his general direction rather than back at their “shelter.” Apparently, they had defaulted back to “shoot it if it runs.”

Jim was both relieved and exasperated when Spock caught up with him. Easily.

Spock didn’t need to say anything, but Jim assumed he was thinking something along the lines of “why the hell did that work?”

In more Vulcan-y terms, anyway. Or more diplomatic terms, as was usually the case.

As they ran and ducked and dodged and occasionally tripped over loose vegetation—okay, fine, Jim did before Spock yanked him back up—they edged ever closer to the boundary of the anti-transportation shield. Then, like a breath of fresh air, they were out, free, running blindly into the hills where they dove behind another boulder at the first opportunity.

Spock wasted no time in contacting the ship, and within moments they felt the tingle of the transporter along their skin and saw their surroundings turn hazy.

********

They landed much the way they had been sitting, of course, Jim covered in mud and Spock looking so clean it was almost obscene after the hell they’d just been through. Jim was gratified to note that Spock seemed to tilt before regaining his balance as a result of leaning against something during transportation, and that the majority of looks from the security officers and medical team standing by were indeed focused on his first officer.

He was less happy about that when he realized it was because Spock was bleeding.

Bones, of course, was at the head of the pack, moving roughly. He gave Jim a cursory one-over with concern in his eyes before pushing him out of the way and pulling out a hypo full of immunity booster. Jim just watched as Bones cleaned the mild cut on Spock’s shoulder; a scrape, a cut, an abrasion, rather than the huge hole a phaser blast would have left behind. The entire procedure took very little time, and Bones gave Spock a cursory pat on the back before turning back to Jim. If he was surprised by Jim’s lack of expression, he didn’t show it.

“Alright, Jim, what the hell happened?”

It was a sign of their friendship that Jim didn’t think twice about telling him about what may have possibly been one of the biggest cock-ups of the Prime Directive he’d ever seen. And even though he’d only been captain for about a year that was still saying a lot.

The Klingons had, apparently, been in this sector less than a month ago. Given the fact that the only inhabitants were humanoids barely past the equivalent of the Iron Age and that they appeared to be peaceful, they had assumed the Klingons hadn’t made contact due to a lack of interest. They had assumed.

Wasn’t there a saying about assuming things? Something about that shit biting you in the ass…

Imagine their surprise when the natives were not only armed with very-Klingon hand phasers, but had a shield generator capable of blocking in-going and out-going transmissions as well as neutralizing very-Federation hand phasers.

One thing Jim did find interesting, he pointed out, was that the phasers were at one of the highest settings, but not the highest. Since he didn’t think they had the mental powers to notice the difference between stun and kill settings, he could only assume that they had gotten the phasers on a particular setting and either hadn’t learned to change it or it couldn’t be changed. He dictated this all to the nearest ensign, hoping that she would remember if he couldn’t.

Bones just gave him a look before jabbing him with a hypo of probably-immunity booster, but given his exhaustion, Jim couldn’t really be sure.

“Time to knock off the Captain act, Jim. You and Spock have been skulking around on that planet for almost forty-eight hours. I’m surprised you haven’t acquired more injuries than usual.”

Jim would have replied, would have said he had no injuries at all, thank you very much, but he suddenly became weirdly aware of the scrapes on his palms and knees, along with who-knew-how-many scrapes from flying rock.

But as aware as he was of the minor injuries, he was more focused on Spock’s hand, which had come to rest lightly on his shoulder.

“I will make certain you make the journey back to your cabin safely, Captain.”

Jim sighed.

“Thanks, Spock.”

To the sound of Bones muttering under his breath about “damned interfering Klingons” and “stupid, headstrong captains” they left the transporter room and begin to make the journey back to their cabins. The trip, normally a mere five minutes at a brisk walk, seemed to last much longer. Jim just wanted to sleep for days, and he could feel his eyes starting to close as Spock gently steered him through the hallway.

However, all exhaustion was pushed to the back-burner the instant he heard the soft ‘swish’ of the turbolift doors close behind them, and he was flooded—somewhat unwillingly—with memories of what had happened the last time he’d been alone in the turbolift with Spock. He could feel his pulse racing—an overused description to be sure, but nevertheless the best one he could come up with for the way he could suddenly feel the weight of every thread of clothing on his skin, could feel the bright lights of the turbolift sinking into his skin, could feel the heat that Spock was giving off like some sort of miniature sun.

And Jim glanced over at him, watched the light reflect green off his hair, and he knew Spock could feel it too.

The turbolift doors opened and they stepped into the hallway, but the feeling didn’t disappear. Although Spock walked as efficiently as ever, to Jim it was like he could feel every step thrumming through him, increasing his pulse and flooding his mind with images of things so close. One step. Two.

When he made the fifteenth step, he slammed his hand against Spock’s chest and pushed him, hard, into the captain’s quarters. Jim followed, and he was on him before the doors had swished shut, pressing into him as he shoved him against the wall. He could hear his pulse in his ears; he wondered if Spock could hear it, too.

Their kisses were as they always were, hard and fast and biting and competitive for an instant before one or the other relinquished control; Jim wasn’t ashamed to admit that he usually let himself be dominated long before he could ever wring the same reaction from Spock. For some reason, though, lately, Spock had been almost…compliant. Jim would never admit that he was scared about what that meant for their strange—unsatisfying, incomplete, fantastically full of hot sex—relationship.

This time, though, the surrender went almost unnoticed as hands sought out flesh and ripped clothes where they blocked access to hot skin, and pressed closer, so much closer, until Jim felt like they were almost close enough. Fingers dug into hips and slid down legs, and Jim could feel his sweat-soaked skin sliding against Spock’s drier flesh as he buried his face into his neck, panting as he rocked against him.

Spock’s hands were in his hair, and for a while, they were the only thing he could focus on, followed by the way Spock’s heart was drumming against his side.

As far as sex went, it wasn’t complicated, complex, or even particularly interactive. There wasn’t nakedness, really, and there wasn’t any actual fucking going on—something which was somewhat odd for Jim, because it was rare when fucking wasn’t fucking, in his experience—but he knew that when he thought about it later, in his mind it would be labeled “hottest wall sex ever.”

He didn’t know how long it actually lasted, but he knew it was over too quickly.

And, for a while, he wondered if it almost wasn’t worth giving it up just to feel Spock’s hand patting down his hair. It didn’t last; it never did, and all too soon he could feel Spock pulling back, his hands releasing him to straighten his clothing and try ineffectively to cover the one very large rip down the side of his shirt. It looked like Spock would have to order a replacement uniform as well, now, and Jim made a note somewhere in the back of his mind to ask Starfleet why uniforms were little more than tissue paper at times.

Jim amused himself with images of explaining to Starfleet that Vulcans could rip them quite easily while he straightened and waited for Spock to collect himself, since his own uniform was little more than muddy tatters at this point. Funny, but he had forgotten about the mud.

“Captain.”

Jim was pulled out of his thoughts by Spock’s calm voice, and his utterly closed off expression. Jim shrugged.

“Yes, Spock?”

Spock hesitated. It wasn’t obvious; in any other situation, Jim would have thought he was simply gathering his thoughts into the most productive sentence, but this had happened enough for Jim to know what he hesitated over. The first few times, Spock had responded to the spontaneity of their encounters with an almost rehearsed lecture on propriety and protocol, and they had had no obvious effect. After that, he had said various forms of what sounded like the Vulcan version of an apology, although Jim was sure the species found things like apologies useless and illogical, or at least Spock did. Jim knew; he had tried to apologize, once.

However, the last few times—god, how many times had they done this?—Spock had merely been silent or oddly inclined to avoid discussion about it at all.

“Captain, do you play chess?”

And so the let’s-pretend-this-didn’t-happen game begins.

As far as distractions went, it was neither too forward nor particularly effective, but Jim accepted it gratefully. He glanced ruefully at the chess board that had been something of a congratulatory gift from Admiral Pike, and then he shook his head tiredly. Leave it to Spock to be the only one to think it wasn’t his idea to have it in his room.

“Not really. The last time I spoke to Pike—sorry, the Admiral—he said he’d teach me how; thought I’d be good at it, for some reason.”

They were silent for a moment before Spock responded in that same sort of almost-hesitancy that he had had earlier.

“You would be, Captain. Would you like me to teach you the game?”

Jim’s lips twitched, struck by the humor of the situation, and he wondered how Spock would respond if he said what he really wanted to.

No, I want to talk about the fact that we were just up against a wall and too hot to focus and the fact that we never talk outside of duty and that you never look me in the eye for at least a day after this happens. I want to talk about the fact that we can’t stop it, and I don’t want to, and I want to talk about it without you being armed with a million different lines of protocol about why it’s against regulations. I WANT-

“Maybe some other time, Mr. Spock.”

He emphasized the “Mister” as much as possible as a sort of petty revenge for Spock’s tendency towards formality, but it didn’t seem to bother Spock. It was rare that anything bothered Spock.

True to point, Spock simply nodded, inclined his head, and left with a soft “Very well; goodnight, Captain.”

And that was it. End of the discussion, end of the night. If Jim had any sense at all, he probably would have taken the chance to catch up on lost sleep, give his weary body time to recover, but his mind, for all intents and purposes, was wide awake. Sex tended to have that effect on him; he believed it was some sort of conditioning that was supposed to help him avoid morning-after awkwardness, although it didn’t do much good at the moment.

He sighed and decided on a shower, one of the real water ones, a luxury that was rewarded only to officers and one he rarely indulged in due to the strict water constraints of space travel. He felt like he needed one, though; the mud had proven itself to be a rather thick sort of slime, and heaven only knew how it would react to the sonics.

It didn’t react to the water, in any case, something which made Jim eternally grateful. He wasn’t really up to any more surprises, and sentient slime definitely shouldn’t have been on his list of post-mission concerns. Bones, in fact, would probably have declared it a sign of space sickness and promptly jumped into a rant about how men shouldn’t find themselves hurtling through space before administering him a strong sedative. And when Jim gladly accepted the sedative and didn’t complain and said thank you, Bones would have put him on leave in all seriousness, because that would have been a sign of illness.

Jim wondered how he could explain that no, it was Spock-sickness, and he would give anything to stop thinking and just die for a little while. He wondered briefly if Lieutenant Uhura had ever felt like this, but his mind shied away from that chain of thought immediately with something almost akin to panic.

It was a sign of how much he was changing that the idea of two attractive people in bed together was enough to cause him to almost slip in the shower, like the thought was some sort of weapon. He really needed shore leave, he supposed, but more importantly, he really needed that sedative. But he wouldn’t ask; Bones, for all his grumbling, was his best friend, but Jim didn’t need to discuss his relationship problems just then.

It was with a feeling close to resignation that he climbed into bed and willed himself to sleep.

********

It wasn’t often Jim found himself reflecting on the past, since, in his experience, it tended to cause more harm than good and it usually ended up with him feeling like maybe that guy in that bar should have hit him a little harder or he should have stayed more than one night in prison or that maybe he shouldn’t have made his mother cry when he was thirteen. He hadn’t had a happy childhood, teenage-hood, or young-adult-hood, and the end result was that memories worth reminiscing about tended to be about that girl in the bar or when he gave a flower to Ruthie May when he was six. Simple things, easy things, things that people tended to forget but that he couldn’t, because then he wouldn’t have had anything.

It didn’t mean he didn’t sometimes think about his life before Starfleet, though, that he didn’t wonder sometimes. If his best friend in high school had kept the baby. If his mother was happy with her third husband. If Sammy had found a good job after he eloped with his high school sweetheart, and if Jim had any nieces or nephews running around. There were many things he wanted to ask, wanted to know, but his tendency to avoid the past usually made him violently repress his curiosity in that arena, determined to let it go.

But like everyone, when he was lying in bed and trying to sleep and trying very hard not to think, that was when his defenses were at their weakest.

This night was better than the rest, for many reasons. The Enterprise helped him a lot in the scheme of things, because it usually aimed his thoughts at Starfleet rather than Before Starfleet. Things like meeting Uhura, and meeting Gaila, and meeting Bone’s little girl right before the Enterprise left for its five year mission were what occupied his memories, happy things. And, although he could admit to a certain level of confliction, more often than not, when Spock cropped up in his thoughts, that was good too.

The first thing Jim noticed when he met Spock was that he was attractive, in an alien sort of way. This might not seem like such a revelation given his sexual history, but Jim had always gone after women in his bar hopping days as a matter of preference, and Iowa wasn’t a spot prone to enough alien visits for him to have met many outside the occasional bar bum. In the great scheme of things, Iowa was still very much a farming community, back then at least, with wide open fields and clear skies, and it lacked much of the development of other parts of the world and—yes—much of the experiences. Jim could admit in reflection that he had been arrogant enough, back then, to think that maybe there wasn’t anything else out there worth knowing. Hell, maybe he had even been arrogant enough to think that it didn’t concern him either way.

This changed with Starfleet, with help from Bones and Gaila and a few Andorians and Tellarites that he couldn’t remember for the life of him even when he knew he should. And if there was one thing that stuck with him through his three years of hurried schooling and cultural sensitivity classes, it was that the ideas that humans had of gender and beauty and sex appeal were just that: human ideas. Anatomy didn’t really mesh across the scope, male and female were terms too explicit to apply to most alien races, and other than a few specific species—Orions and Vulcans in particular—cross breeding was difficult. And past the initial shock, Jim was okay with all of that, because when it came right down to it, he’d always been an adventurous guy.

But Spock. Jim had just enough of a pause at his trial to notice that he had kind of a sleek figure and the dorkiest haircut and these really interesting eyes before the accusations and smug glances started to sink in and he ignored his initial reaction in favor of being pissed off. Jim didn’t know how long his admittedly ridiculous grudge would have lasted before the attraction showed up again in his thoughts or all of it just dissipated entirely, but he was more than a little ashamed at the fact that he wasn’t able to let it go until a future version of Spock himself showed up to save his ass and—consequentially—Earth. It was a shame that was only intensified when he found himself taunting his acting captain about his very dead mother and the death of his homeworld, and it was enough to make him literally ill for a while without the addition of the formal dressing down he’d gotten from Starfleet Command upon their return.

And, yeah, they’d still given him the Enterprise in all of her glory, but Jim wasn’t so distracted that he was unable to count and realize that they didn’t have many other options. The victory and the triumph that he should have felt upon winning and realizing his dreams was absent in the face of all the death and sadness and panic that was very much an aftereffect of the tragedy, and for a while he felt strangely hollow and guilty and just plain ashamed to be alive. Ashamed to be the captain, when he had literally stolen the honor out from under one of the senior officers.

The feeling passed quickly, because Jim would never admit to being insecure enough to think that he wouldn’t make a good captain if he was just given the chance. But on some level, the guilt lingered, and it was for that reason that he initially reached out to Spock, a tentative hand of friendship hinting at apologies he should have said earlier and regrets he felt and understanding for loved ones lost. He wasn’t too surprised when it was rejected quite soundly that time, and many other times as well. He wasn’t surprised and he kept trying, because he figured that Spock must have just missed the memo about their friendship that was supposed to span the distance between universes, since, after all, he couldn’t talk to Elder Spock without the galaxy imploding or something.

And then, on one of the Enterprise’s earlier, more routine checking-on-the-Vulcan-settlement missions, Spock and Elder Spock spoke, and made reference to the fact they had done so before. And the galaxy did not implode. And that was when Jim started to realize that maybe Spock was being difficult on purpose.

After that, their interactions were tinged with an odd sort of annoyance. Jim was being difficult. Spock was being a smart ass. Neither of them was backing down. So it went for months, the extended strain resulting in high stress levels on the bridge and more than one officer making simple mistakes due to tension headaches. For a while, it only seemed to get worse, the situation escalating near the breaking point with no change.

It was when Jim discovered that his officers were literally drawing lots to see who ended up with the shifts where both Jim and Spock were working that he decided enough was enough, one of them had to give, and he decided to confront the problem.

The problem, as it turned out, was something that Jim had been trying not to think about. While Spock did not resent Jim’s ascension to the captaincy, he very much resented many of the things he had done to acquire it—all of this said in a way that carefully avoided any emotionalism whatsoever, of course. Jim assumed this meant The Mother Incident and apologized accordingly, which only seemed to make it worse, and to make Spock angrier—or more blank, to match an expression to the emotion that Spock would pretend he wasn’t feeling. Spock’s response, in turn, had been coolly logical and very insulting, and it had shattered Jim’s determination to be objective and understanding. They had mentally advanced on each other, neither of them seeming to give, and then…well.

Jim had heard make-up sex was the best kind, but he was pretty damn sure that few things could top angry sex with a Vulcan when it came to sheer intensity. The mechanics weren’t exactly what he was used to because, damn, Vulcans were almost hot enough to burn and the anatomy wasn’t quite right, but there was something infinitely thrilling about rough sex on the floor of the Captain’s office with someone who was so much stronger than his usual partners and so violently non-violent that the contrast was mind boggling. Jim knew that if he had resented someone as much as Spock probably resented him, if he had lost control to such a level, he probably wouldn’t have been able to resist taking a swing or two at their smug face—and, yes, he knew his face had been quite smug. But Spock…didn’t. In fact, hot sex aside, he had done little more than bruise him a bit, because Spock wasn’t an intentionally cruel person.

For some reason that revelation had been all that was necessary to change Jim’s perceptions: that Spock wasn’t intentionally cruel. In the aftermath, Jim realized he probably should have reached that conclusion before, should have applied what he was supposed to know about Vulcans and compared it to his perception of his first officer and realized. But he hadn’t.

The important thing was, Spock could be an asshole in his Vulcan-y way. But he was also an exceptionally brilliant asshole, with ideas that were well-thought out and logical and good, and that weren’t intended to just show the world that he was smarter than Jim.

In the end, that was all it took. Suddenly, the tension on the bridge was gone, missions began to go more smoothly, and the crew’s efficiency rating sky-rocketed in the face of so much peace. Jim started to listen when Spock suggested alternatives, and Spock, for his part, seemed more accepting when Jim listened to him before calmly making an alternative decision. It was honestly the first time Jim could ever remember making a compromise with anyone, and after a while, it became less a grudging acquiesces and more a matter of faith—faith in Jim, in Spock, in the crew.

Jim tried to focus on that, on the good, on the warmth of his crew’s loyalty and respect. He knew enough to know it was hard to come by, and he wasn’t really surprised that it pissed off some of the more experienced captains, resulting in the Enterprise and her crew being assigned the equivalent of trash duty of the galaxy for the past seven months or so. It didn’t matter, because they worked well together, and it gave Jim a chance to run training exercises like mad, which prepared his crew for times when the routine missions went badly. Like this one had, in fact.

It was with that thought that Jim resigned himself to a sleepless night, and rolled out of bed. As a general rule, he hated paperwork, but he had already had his Spock-esque scolding for neglecting his more unpleasant duties—it hadn’t been from Spock, interestingly enough, but from one of his yeomen, Yeoman Rand, but Jim felt Spock would have been proud if he had heard it. As it was, Jim wondered why Rand hadn’t made the command cut—because god knew she certainly had the intimidation factor going on—and he tried his hardest to have his paperwork done on time or early just to avoid the inevitable misery she could inflict. Nobody admitted it, but Jim knew that yeomen were the ones who truly ran the ship; coffee control and all that.

He let out a raspy chuckle at the thought of his caffeine-deprived crew running into bulkheads, and then he pulled up the proper paperwork on his screen, carefully filling out the barest of details that he could before he would have to truly focus on the mission, and its failure. It galled him a little to admit it, but the failure itself might possibly, maybe, have been his fault. Spock had no doubt already submitted his report with something to that effect, of course, so Jim knew he was just putting off the inevitable Starfleet scolding, but he couldn’t help it; if he had beamed down with anyone other than just Spock, a rarity, some of his men would be dead. And he couldn’t understand it.

It had been a basic mission; avoid contact with the natives, confirm minerals that had been picked up on the scanners, scout the area for possible colonization. It hadn’t been necessary to bring security or geology or physics, because all the minerals in question were easy to identify and right up Spock’s alley. Jim himself had even gone along more for the scenery than anything else, and because he thought Scotty needed some more command experience. It should have been easy, peaceful, quiet, and he should have been able to just quietly note the circular formation of the rudimentary villages before they were on their way.

Jim contemplated that, tapping his unnecessary pen—an Earth souvenir—against the desk. Why hadn’t he been able to do so, anyway? The natives had not seemed particularly hostile when touched with their scans; in fact, they had been quite docile, advanced in comparison to human development with their relative peace so early. And then, suddenly, they had turned violent, barbaric; a child’s scream—or what sounded like one, anyway—had drawn Jim inside the village, Spock having no choice but to follow. Once inside, the firing had began, and a shield to block their communications and phasers had snapped firmly into place. It was like some sort of bizarre trap, although Jim couldn’t understand how the natives knew that the Enterprise existed, much less why it would be in their area. He couldn’t understand why their phasers were set to severely damage but not necessarily kill, and he couldn’t understand how a relatively simple people could fool Federation scanners. The only explanation he had, in fact, was that the Klingons were feeling more open than usual, and included a full briefing of Federation policies and equipment with a people who had just recently made the transition from a hunter-gatherer society to domesticating plants and animals.

And that, more than anything, did not make sense.

Jim pondered it, rolled it around in his head for a while and made serious efforts towards balancing his pen on his nose while quite literally staring out into space. None of it seemed to help, not the quiet peace of the stars in the distance or the purr of the Enterprise beneath his hands or the soft chimes of computers working beyond his walls, and it seemed like only minutes before his alarm went off without him getting so much as a wink of sleep.

Jim simply sighed and dressed himself in a clean uniform, refusing to glance longingly back at his bed as he wanted to do.

********

The problem with doing deep soul-searching on the bridge, Jim had come to realize, was that things had a tendency to go to hell about the time you were about to have your big revelation.

This was Jim’s main thought as the ship shook with the force of photon torpedoes impacting their shields, photon torpedoes that, by all accounts, should not have existed in this area of space. Just like Klingons war ships shouldn’t have existed in this area, in fact.

Jim cursed under his breath, the words mixing oddly with half-shouted orders to keep those shields steady and dammit, Spock, why hadn’t they shown up on the sensors before they started attacking?

“Unknown, Captain.”

While normally his inattention wouldn’t have been a problem—after all, being Captain required far too much interaction with other members of the crew to allow for long periods of distraction—the truth was that nothing much had been happening at that moment, and he had felt his mind drifting inexcusably before he concentrated enough to snap it back to reality. Star mapping tended to be boring like that, or it was in most cases—of course, according to general experience, captains also didn’t solve crew relation problems with floor sex or ascend to the captaincy by mutiny. Likewise, star mapping didn’t usually result in battle, but then, Jim seemed to irritate the Klingons a lot, to the point that they seemed to go out of their way to shoot at him sometimes.

“You’re being difficult, Captain Kirk.”

“Yeah, well, you’re trespassing in Federation space.”

The captain of the other vessel—one Captain Kolof—just stuck out a hand to catch himself as the Enterprise’s phasers struck their ship. Once he had straightened, he took a moment to glare at Jim.

“This is the most direct route to one of our planets, Captain.”

Bullshit. Jim knew there wasn’t a Klingon planet in existence that required them to cross Federation borders, and he wondered how stupid they thought he was. Rather than say that—any of that—he just smiled sweetly.

“If you give me a minute, one of our navigations officers can plot a route for you that doesn’t involve breaking treaties.”

The Captain just continued to glare at him.

“Treaties are for weak-minded individuals with no honor, but I wouldn’t expect you to understand that, Captain.”

“Oh, I understand just fine. Now get the hell back on your side of space.”

Jim watched as he weighed his options openly; after over a year of trying to read his first officer, Klingons were a piece of cake, and Jim liked to take every opportunity he had to rub that in their smug, vicious faces.

Now that he thought about it, it actually wasn’t that surprising that they didn’t like him very much, and Jim saw loathing in every line of Kolof’s face when he reluctantly nodded.

“Fine, Captain; you win this round.”

It was such a clichéd line that Jim laughed, and the last image he saw before the picture disappeared from the viewscreen was Captain Kolof looking offended and angry. He didn’t even need Chekov’s cheerful voice telling him that the Klingon ship had turned back around and engaged warp, but when he heard it, the relief warred with curiosity and the inevitable satisfaction of a puzzle about to be solved.

There was no way having Klingons in this area was a coincidence, not after their obvious presence on another planet nearby, and Jim knew the opportunity was too great to miss.

“Mister Chekov, plot a course back to Aridi VII; let’s see what our Klingon friends are up to.”

Jim could almost hear Spock stiffen against his seat.

“Captain, we have not received orders to that effect.”

“I’m aware. Just being thorough, Mister Spock.”

Spock didn’t say anything else, and when Jim turned around, certain he was about to see Vulcan intensity directed towards him, all he saw was a blue-shirted back. He tried not to feel like he was getting the cold shoulder—really, they’d grown past that, honest—but it was still difficult to force the casual shrug and dismiss the matter.

Certain he was going to hear about it in some way or another later, Jim settled back into his chair to wait the twelve hours for the planet to once again fill the viewscreen.

********

Jim’s shift ended approximately four hours before they were scheduled to reach Aridi VII, and he gladly left as soon as it was, certain that his presence wasn’t needed considering they hadn’t encountered any resistance or even any other ships since their contact with Captain Kolof. Even though that was what he said, Jim knew that being captain meant he was always on duty, and so rather than fall into bed as his tired body urged him to do, he instead settled into his attached office and waited for the inevitable work to find him.

He was not disappointed; Spock chimed for entry not fifteen minutes after Jim had gotten off-shift, and considering that Jim knew for a fact his First Officer still had another two hours scheduled to work, Jim knew it had to be important and work-related.

“Captain, there is an eighty-eight point two percent chance that we are heading into a trap.”

For some reason, Jim almost imagined he could hear concern in his voice, but that was foolish.

“I’m aware of that, Spock.” Jim rubbed his eyes tiredly, and he forced a smile. “Was there anything else?”

Spock nodded and moved forward; Jim held his breath for just a moment, waiting, but when Spock merely stopped in front of his desk and handed him a data padd, he let the air out of his lungs in a sigh of disappointment. His Vulcan First remained a perfectly acceptable four feet away, and Jim wasn’t surprised; the only time Spock came close to him was either when it was unavoidable or when there was about to be sex in the near future.

Jim felt himself overcome with an unexpected wave of sadness and lust at the thought, the combination strange and oddly compelling, and he squashed it down resolutely. Spock was there for an undeniably logical reason, and he didn’t need Jim’s misguided affections to cloud the issue. Still, when Jim accepted the padd, it was with a lingering and unnecessary touch to Spock’s wrist. Spock flinched—he felt it just briefly under his fingers—but when Jim glanced up, certain they were going to have to talk about it sooner or later, Spock simply looked away for an instant.

When his eyes flicked back, they were beautiful, disinterested, and coolly professional.

“If you insist on continuing on this course, I request to be included in the landing party.”

Jim didn’t answer, not in the way Spock must have wanted him to.

“If everything goes well, Spock, a landing party won’t be needed. Just me.”

“Sir, I am still the science officer aboard this vessel, and the one most qualified to make contact if necessary.”

Jim continued to smile, but in his mind he saw the flash of phasers and Spock’s blood on his hands.

“Duly noted, Commander. Our estimated time of arrival?”

“Three point seven hours, Captain.”

“Thank you. Dismissed.”

Spock stared at him for an instant, and Jim almost wished he had it in him to say something designed to irritate, if only to see Spock’s eyes flash. He knew it was weird, but he liked Spock, liked getting under his skin and breaking his cool even if there was nothing hostile about it, and if things had been different, he would have even said that they were true friends.

But this was a different universe, and as much as Jim wanted affection back for the strange affection given, he knew he wasn’t going to get it.

The doors closed behind Spock, the sound uncomfortably loud but not nearly as loud as the groan Jim let loose once he was alone again.

********

Once they had reached Aridi VII, Jim was back to wearing a mask of professionalism. He was so damn professional, in fact, that he even ignored the momentary scuffle in the transporter room where Spock had insisted—in his own way—that Jim was not beaming down without at least a small team of security members.

Jim let him win, because he knew the alternative was Spock in their place, and Jim had never willingly put Spock in danger (or anyone, ideally, but Spock deserved a special mention.) He regretted giving in, however, as soon as they beamed down; Enterprise had once again detected no Klingons in the area and no overt hostile activities, but not five seconds after they re-materialized, two of the security officers fell. Jim and the last—Lieutenant Barrows—were quickly taken away by the natives who had been lying in wait for their return, and the translator spit out some gibberish about trespassers, aliens, and unclean minds.

When they started asking where the pointed-eared one had gone—obviously not aware that there was a ship orbiting their world—Jim just smiled sweetly and shook his head.

Someone who must have been their leader looked at him for a long while, and then Lieutenant Barrows fell, convulsing. No one had moved, but then Jim saw it as clear as day, the oily, intrusive presence behind his eyes, and he was swallowed in darkness even while his mouth opened to scream.

********

Jim woke up in sickbay, something he could only be grateful for, but it was with a swath of wires surrounding his head and the worried gaze of McCoy directly overhead. Jim blinked at him, groggy and uncertain, and when he tried to speak, the words came out as a cough from a throat that felt rubbed raw.

McCoy patted his arm and spooned ice chips into his mouth—something that a nurse should have been doing, how badly had he been hurt?—and when Jim spoke a second time, it was a croak.

“…Bones, wha’ happn’d?”

“Easy, Jim—we’ve got it under control, don’t you worry.”

Jim groaned; he knew that it wasn’t an answer, and he tried to reach his hand up, intent on removing the wires, and he found them strapped down.

He blinked at McCoy, confused, and McCoy just slipped another sliver of ice between his lips. Jim accepted it gratefully, but he knew it was a stall tactic, and when McCoy attempted to do the same thing a second time, Jim just bit the spoon.

McCoy sighed and set it aside, adjusting something just over his head for a moment before looking at him seriously.

“Okay, Jim. The short story is that Starfleet didn’t tell us the natives operate as a hive mind, and that they’re telepathic. They must have sensed aliens both times our people were on their planet, and they reacted violently. Spock says that it’s probably how they got Klingon weapons; sensing they were different and then launching an attack. The problem is that Klingons are hostile, but the natives likely couldn’t tell that our people were different from theirs initially.”

Jim’s response was a whisper, one that was almost amused.

“Just aliens, huh?”

“Apparently.”

“Where’s Lieutenant Barrows?”

“He’s dead, Jim. Spock traced your location and beamed you up as soon as the phaser banks were able to knock out the shield, but it wasn’t in time to save him. Just you.”

Jim swallowed, and he wanted to ask what happened, but he knew. He knew.

“They tried to dig in my mind, huh?”

“They did. They must have seen that you weren’t there to conquer them because they stopped just short of turning your mind to mush, but they still did a lot of damage, Jim. A lot of damage.”

Which explained the wires, but not how he was conscious and apparently not brain-dead. Thankfully, McCoy continued.

“When we got you in here, you were trying to strangle yourself—I’m not sure why. We called Spock down here to hold you down, but as soon as he touched you, he panicked. I swear to God, Jim, the damned computer panicked, and then he touched his hands to your face and everything stabilized. That was two days ago.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Well, Vulcans are touch telepaths; I guess he fixed something.”

Jim tried to shake his head, and an alarm went off.

“No, I mean that he panicked. You must have interpreted it wrong.”

McCoy looked at him in all seriousness, and then he pressed a hypo to his shoulder.

“I didn’t, Jim. Honest, I didn’t.”

It still didn’t make any sense—Spock didn’t like him, and if he actually did care what the hell happened to him, why wasn’t he there?—but Jim was suddenly too tired to think straight.

“Huh. I’m tired, Bones.”

McCoy patted him on the shoulder, whispered “I know, kid” and Jim closed his eyes.

********

Jim wasn’t sure how long he slept, but when he woke up, the sickbay was dark and he was alone save for the presence of the stand-by nurse on duty. He shifted and found his arms still bound, but he was less alarmed by it than the fact that he felt a presence, strong and pulsing, for just an instant before it disappeared.

Jim began to cough, and when he did, the nurse—Nurse Hall, Jim believed—rushed over.

“Captain! Do you wish me to call Doctor McCoy?”

“No, just…unstrap me, okay?”

For a moment Jim thought he wouldn’t comply, but then he felt the straps loosen and he sat up very slowly, taking only a moment to run fingers through his hair where the wires and probes were thankfully gone.

Nurse Hall watched him with worried eyes until Jim smiled weakly at him, and he relaxed.

“Why was I still held down?”

Nurse Hall busied himself by preparing a hypo that Jim thankfully recognized as one to stimulate nerves and promote better muscle control.

“The brain is a complicated organ, sir—psychosis has a tendency to reoccur, and you were not yourself when you were beamed aboard.”

Jim swallowed, and he didn’t want to think about what that meant for his psychiatric report.

“So I heard. Did Doctor McCoy say anything to that effect?”

“No, sir, but Commander Spock requested that we keep you sedated for “seven point two hours” after your mind stabilized, if possible.”

Jim frowned at the oddly specific amount of time; Spock was always exact, but considering the situation, this level of exact seemed…wrong, somehow.

“He say why?”

“No, sir.”

Jim had expected as much, and he pushed himself off the sickbed, pausing only to wait for the hiss of a hypo into his neck.

“Okay, Nurse Hall, I’m leaving. Tell McCoy that I’ll be in my quarters if he needs me.”

“Yes, sir.”

Nurse Hall watched him go, clearly confused and halfway to flattered that Jim remembered his name, but he didn’t try to stop him, something that Jim was grateful for. Even though he still wore the flimsy blue sickbay clothes, he didn’t want to stay there another moment, not even long enough to get dressed.

Jim hobbled down the hallway on bare feet, legs stiff from lack of use, but the hypo made it easier to adjust than normal. Even so, he felt tired and worn and his head was pounding; his body ached to fall asleep again, but he didn’t go to his own quarters.

Instead, he went to Spock’s, pausing only a moment to chime and receive no answer before he gave his captain’s code and entered anyway.

Spock sat in the center of the floor wearing something black and Vulcan, and he stared at him coolly.

“I did not give you permission to enter.”

“No, but this couldn’t wait.”

Spock waited, and Jim sat heavily in his office chair, the one piece of furniture in the set of rooms besides the bed; no luxury for Commander Spock, it seemed.

“Spock, explain.”

“You are aware that Vulcans are touch telepaths.”

Jim nodded slowly, remembering the sight of Spock’s fingers pressed against the face of a dying Romulan; it hadn’t happened since.

“I remember.”

Spock looked away.

“Your mind was damaged, and I initiated a telepathic connection of sorts to save your life.”

“A connection?” Jim pondered the presence he had felt for just a moment in sickbay. “Is it still there?”

Spock arranged his robes in a motion that Jim would have called nervous if the concept wasn’t so foreign when combined with his unflappable First.

“It is necessary—I am not sure you would be able to function without it.”

Jim swallowed, and he felt his body flood with gratitude, realizing just how far gone he had been. Spock, despite the fact he was several feet away, flinched, and Jim addressed something that he knew was important.

“Can you read my mind?”

“Yes, with effort.”

Jim wondered why he was making the effort now, but he didn’t say anything. Maybe emotions were easier to pick up.

Spock looked at him, then.

“I will teach you how to shield if you wish it.”

Jim waved a hand, the gesture clumsy.

“No, that’s fine—you won’t go in my mind without permission, will you?”

Spock shook his head, expression closed.

“No, Captain.”

Jim slumped, relieved and tired to his bones.

“Okay, fine. Fine, Spock—I’m going to sleep.”

“You do not have other questions?”

Spock didn’t just sound surprised; he was surprised, and Jim knew it with certainty for an instant before something slapped his mental hand away. This was going to be a problem, of that he had no doubt, but Jim had encountered problems before with Spock; they would manage.

“I do, but I’m tired, Spock.”

Jim slumped down further in the silence, and he felt just the barest trickle of amusement that he wasn’t sure was his or not.

“Captain, you appear to be falling asleep in my desk chair.”

Jim smiled tiredly.

“So I am. Help me up?”

Spock stood easily, his body flowing in one smooth line, and Jim reached out his hand. Spock wrapped an arm around his waist instead, and Jim would have reflected on the weirdness of Spock initiating body contact if he hadn’t had to focus impossibly hard on making his legs work.

Spock looked at him briefly before all but dragging him to the doorway of their shared bathroom and then pausing, one eyebrow being raised when Jim did nothing but lean into Spock’s familiar warmth.

“Captain? Your code?”

Jim smiled, and he thought Spock smelled like the desert—warm stone and clean air.

“I can’t remember.”

Spock made a humming noise and shifted to get a better hold, but he didn’t enter an override code or prod Jim’s mind for the answer as he thought he would. Instead, he dragged him back to the bedroom and set him gently on the cool bedding, calmly covering him with a thin sheet that Jim suspected was more for his modesty than any real need since Spock’s quarters were always like a furnace.

Jim wanted to laugh and say that Spock was certainly familiar enough with his goods to not need it, but he didn’t. To do so would ruin the whole “not talking about it” thing that they had going on, and Jim wasn’t stupid enough to risk their understanding just then, not when it made the Enterprise as efficient as it was.

He wondered how having Spock in his head would change that, but before the worry could surface he felt warm fingers card through his hair.

“Rest, Captain—we will discuss this in the morning, if you wish.”

Jim nodded and pressed a sleepy kiss to the long-fingered hand that disappeared immediately afterward, and he tried not to think of where Spock would be sleeping.

********

They did discuss it in the morning—or at least Spock discussed it, clearly omitting many of the finer details and giving off panic in waves too strong to be blocked by either side. Jim wondered for an instant if he was really that terrifying—if he had always been that way—but then Spock slammed down something that seemed more impenetrable than the shields of the Enterprise and Jim felt nothing at all.

“Captain, have you been listening to me?”

“The link is permanent for my mental stability, you’ll try not to read my thoughts and teach me how to not read yours, it won’t affect either of our lives in any way, and so on.”

There was a sudden tingling sensation like static against his skin, and Jim didn’t need Spock’s twenty minute lecture on recognizing the emotions of others in his mind to tell that it was annoyance.

“Captain, this is serious.”

Jim just sighed, purposefully lounging on Spock’s bed even though he knew it bothered him. Now that he was more awake—who knew he would be so well-rested after sleeping in an oven?—he had dozens of questions, hundreds, but Spock was being very tight-lipped about the whole thing.

“I’m aware of that, but you haven’t really answered my number one question. Specifically, how the hell were you able to make this link in the first place? And don’t just say that you’re a touch telepath, because you damn well know what I mean.”

Spock hesitated; it was minute, but Jim was certain of it when the shield flickered to life once more. Jim would have said it was odd, the constant raising and lowering of something he felt but couldn’t define, but he supposed Spock had his reasons.

“The formation was eased by the addition of…past intimacy.”

Jim snorted; apparently Spock’s reason in this case had been to block embarrassment.

“You mean because we’ve had sex, our minds were okay with this?”

“Essentially.”

Jim flicked a piece of lint off his shoulder, anything to avoid looking at Spock.

“Well, that must suck for you, considering you like to pretend we’ve never had sex.”

“It would be inappropriate.”

Jim laughed, the sound bitter.

“There it is; my favorite lecture.”

The shield fell again, and annoyance trickled through. Jim wondered, momentarily, if Spock was doing it on purpose; letting him feel only the negative emotions, the ones that kept them from reaching an understanding without sex.

“Captain, it is inappropriate for the two highest ranking officers on the ship to engage in sexual congress, and it is illogical for such actions to enter our conversations.”

“It wouldn’t be illogical if you ever called me by my name instead of my rank, you know. Then we could talk about it like normal people.”

Spock stiffened impossibly in his uniform, and his words were sharp and biting, intensified by a mental push that made Jim’s eyes widen.

“Such a conversation would be improper and unethical. We are not friends, Captain, and as such discussions of a sexual nature may be construed as sexual harassment.”

Jim felt cold, impossibly so, but rather than dwell on it—despair, disappointment, rejection—he cleared his throat.

“Not friends. Right. Wanna have sex?”

Jim, almost instinctively, pushed “lust” at Spock, and he felt a momentary flash of accomplishment when Spock’s eyes narrowed.

“That would not be appropriate.”

Jim was starting to hate that word.

“Yeah, I know, but you’re breaking pattern.”

Spock raised one eyebrow coolly, and Jim smirked at him.

“Pattern, sir?”

“Normally I jump on you, but when you get in a lecturing mood, you jump on me. It’s your turn.”

Spock’s nostrils flared momentarily, but Jim wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing or not.

“I refuse to discuss this.”

Jim shrugged.

“Too bad. Computer, lights off.”

In the sudden darkness, Jim closed his eyes and let his mind flood with images. Biting kisses. Marking skin. Digging his fingers into broad shoulders while strong hips pressed him into a mattress—a bed, finally—and spreading his legs wide. Jim didn’t have much to work with—they’d only ever done the equivalent of naked humping—but his imagination was nothing if not creative, and it wasn’t very long before he felt the bed dip and a tight grip close around his ankle.

Jim felt his heart pump hard in his chest, and then the grip was gone, and so was Spock. The shield was back, and Jim had only the barest of moments to wonder what the hell happened before he saw the silhouette of his First Officer exit into the well-lit corridor.

********

Jim suspected that Spock was mad at him; the shield didn’t waver at all that first day, and he would have known, as he checked constantly. Jim knew he’d probably gone too far—he’d never actually tried to seduce Spock into sex before since it usually just happened—but he couldn’t bring himself to regret it entirely. Spock was so collected, and even this newfound inlet into his mind didn’t help, since Jim only seemed to see what he had already known was there. Annoyance. The occasional flicker of surprise. More annoyance. Jim had just wanted, just once, to know Spock felt something positive about him at all, and true to his character, he’d tried to drag that out with sex.

If Spock had wanted justification for sexual harassment charges, he certainly had it, but Jim rather thought he wanted to just go back to not discussing it, and Jim let him. Consciously, however, Jim pushed remorse at Spock through most of the day, hoping that—if he listened at all—Spock would understand how sorry he was without words.

Spock never looked at him, and the bridge was cold. Jim didn’t miss the uneasy looks the crew shot his way, and the occasional way Uhura glared at Spock, of all people. Jim knew they’d broken up badly sometime before he and Spock started whatever weird relationship they had, but Jim had thought it would be a cold day in hell when Uhura actually took his side. Spock probably agreed, but then, Jim wasn’t sure; the bastard was shielding.

Jim was sure he gave off unintentional waves of annoyance all day.

********

They adjusted better than Jim thought they would, but a large part of that was because the link—or connection, or whatever—was damn handy when they were separated planet-side. At first, Jim had been startled by the briefest flicker of another person across his consciousness when he’d been ducked down low behind a curiously scraggly tree, all alone, but the flicker was followed by the impression of his image and a moment of professional concern, and he knew it was Spock, couldn’t be anyone else but Spock. Jim responded by eagerly opening his mind and attempting to pull the presence in, hoping it would act like a locator of sorts. Spock resisted, strongly, but he found Jim anyway without getting shot or anything; Jim took the fact that Spock didn’t so much as glance at him again as a lesson to never react that way again, but as it had been that first day, Spock didn’t allow his mental waves of “I’m sorry” to penetrate.

After some time—weeks—of Jim encountering Spock’s mental shields, he finally starting developing his own, using the fact that they reminded him of Enterprise and the Great Wall of China to hold an image in his mind that meant “impervious” to him. He didn’t have much of an opportunity to test it, of course, so the next time they were separated and Spock sent that little tendril of thought curling in his direction, he slammed his shields down, just for an instant. When they rose again, he felt Spock giving off the sharp, sick feeling of panic, and he regretted it.

When Spock didn’t talk to him for a couple days after that, he rather thought he deserved it this time, but he knew his continually pushed apology was accepted when Spock complimented him rather stiffly one day on his impressive shielding techniques. Jim, for his part, hadn’t expected it to bother Spock so much when he closed whatever link they had, but it did, obviously; Jim didn’t care enough about his privacy to ever do it again.

The other thing the link helped with, as it turned out, was communication. Jim had expected something like conversations to be had through the touching of their thoughts, but there was something to be said about the “picture is worth a thousand words” saying; Jim usually directed sentences and words at Spock when his shields were down, but Spock almost always replied with images, and he was much faster at it. Jim tried to do the same, but he didn’t imagine Spock’s confusion, and he guessed that the images he sent were enormously inept for communication; he just figured that Vulcan brains worked differently at that point, and he thought, what the hell, he’d never been good at charades, either.

However, not everything about their link was good. Most of it was, of course, but there was something unbelievably awkward about knowing his fantasies about his First Officer—he had them, sometimes—were instantly sent to that very same First Officer, courtesy of his subconscious, and Jim always knew when they were. Even without the link, Jim could have read it in the firm set of his shoulders, the coolness of his eyes, the thin line of his mouth, and that actually brought Jim to the second bad part of the link.

He was beginning to understand Spock. Not just facial expressions or body language, either; as more time passed and a month became a year, Jim started to have thoughts associated with Spock’s thoughts. Things like “I bet he’d be interested in that” or, occasionally, “I bet Spock would think this is funny.” Yes, the bastard had a sense of humor; he just didn’t like to express it, and the knowledge that there was a decent, funny guy wrapped inside a body that Jim liked didn’t help him at all.

The fantasies began to increase ten-fold, and Spock started glaring at him during the day, as if he was doing it on purpose. Jim didn’t try to apologize for it, though; for all intents and purposes, Spock had cut him off sexually since the link formed, not once giving into the urges that Jim knew they both had. It was giving him a serious case of blue balls, to be honest, but the one time he had tried to express that through their silent communication, Spock had responded with a sense of horror and an interpretation of the saying that was simply laughable.

And then, thirteen months after the link had been formed, it got infinitely worse.

Jim had accepted Spock’s invitation to learn chess not long after they had reached an understanding of don’t-look-don’t-touch when it came to the other’s personal thoughts, and he was—to his own surprise—very good at it. Spock won most of the time, of course, but it was cemented with the knowledge that Spock had been playing chess for most of his life, whereas Jim had only had a few months. The first time Jim won, he unabashedly danced around his quarters until Spock sent him an image of maracas and a fruit-bowl hat, and then he laughed until he couldn’t breathe. They started to play weekly, then, and then simply whenever they had time.

This time was no different, and Jim was admittedly more relaxed than he’d ever been while at the same time losing quite shamelessly to his First Officer who was trying not to seem smug.

Jim smiled at him, long and slow, and he was rewarded by Spock taking his second rook.

“You know, one day I’ll have it down.”

Spock raised an eyebrow, and his eyes flickered. Jim double-checked; amusement.

“Down, sir?”

“The fact that you use the same strategy every time.”

And then Jim slid his bishop through an opening, safely checkmating Spock for perhaps the twentieth time out of hundreds of games. Of course, to give his pride its fair share, they reached a stalemate often, but there was still something special about beating Spock.

Spock never seemed bothered by it, and he wasn’t then.

“Very astute, Captain.”

Jim smiled even more widely.

“Why, thank you, Mister Spock.”

Then, for the first time, Spock smiled at him. His lips barely moved, but Jim suddenly saw an image in his mind of a laughing, Vulcan child with his First Officer’s nose desperately trying to hide the fact that he was giggling as he hid behind his mother’s legs. In response, Jim felt his lungs constrict and his heart thud erratically, and he had just enough time to snap his shields closed before it hit him, right then and there.

He was in love with Spock.

********

Jim panicked. It was more complicated than that, but in the end, this was the only way he could describe it when he all but bolted from his own quarters, shields up but his expression open and wide-eyed. He ran to McCoy because he was his oldest friend, but when he got there, the words wouldn’t come.

It took a while, but Jim realized that he hadn’t spoken to McCoy at length since he had begun to play chess with Spock, and the look McCoy gave him—clearly saying “why did you take so long to get here?”—burned.

Jim closed his eyes, briefly, and then looked at McCoy with something like pleading.

“Bones, I need you to prescribe me a sedative. One that stops dreams.”

McCoy looked up at him from where he was adjusting his many instruments.

“Nothing stops dreams, Jim.”

“Then I need you to prescribe me something that makes them not make sense.”

McCoy frowned at him, and—like the father he was—he pressed a hand to Jim’s forehead.

“You’re asking for a psychotic drug, Jim. What’s wrong? Nightmares?”

Jim just sighed.

“No—yes. I don’t want Spock to know what I’ve been dreaming about.”

McCoy stared at him for a moment, and when understanding hit, there was pity on his face.

“Oh. Oh. You’ve finally realized it, then.”

Jim wondered how long McCoy had known, and then he decided it didn’t matter, so long as Spock didn’t know.

“Yes.”

“Well, all I can give you is the normal Starfleet sedative with a dose of worrow root; it promotes lucid dreaming, so you’ll be able to stop yourself from having long, condemning dreams, but it won’t prevent you from dreaming and it isn’t restful at all.”

“That’ll do, Bones. I just…just for a little while?” Just until he learned to shield in his sleep.

McCoy looked at him doubtfully, but he moved towards the cabinets of the medical lab, carefully assembling each hypo.

“Three weeks, Jim, and no longer; otherwise it will start warping reality for you, and I’ll have to submit a report citing you for drug abuse.”

Jim heard the reproach in McCoy’s voice, and he winced. Still, McCoy handed him the box readily enough, and Jim hugged him, arms wide and tight around his shoulders.

McCoy—never the hugging type—just patted him on the back awkwardly before shooing him out of sickbay with his package, and Jim went eagerly.

As soon as he got back to his quarters, Jim relaxed enough to feel Spock knocking in concern on the shield around his thoughts, uncertain what he had done wrong.

Jim ignored him, and pressed the first of many hypos against his skin, falling into a foggy sleep.

********

The loneliness was indescribable, but Jim didn’t know what he was expecting once he started keeping Spock from his mind at all times, lest he let loose a spare thought that would condemn him forever. Lust was one thing, affection was another, but love? Jim knew Spock wouldn’t appreciate it, not at all, not when he was constantly rejecting the crushes of others, and Jim didn’t think he could bear to have Spock lock him out of his mind forever.

In retrospect, Jim wasn’t so sure it was a great idea to do the reverse, but at least Spock still talked to him this way. Sure, every conversation was tinged with worry and every expression asked what he had done wrong, but if Jim ignored that, it was just like they were friends.

Friends—it had taken two years for them to get to that point, and only a few weeks more for Jim to realize that it wasn’t enough. If the thought caused him pain, he rather thought that he deserved it; after all, Spock had never asked for this, neither the unwanted feelings nor the link itself, and Jim felt like a horrible person, just a little bit, for pushing them on him. Then again, there was a part of Jim that suspected anyone who truly knew Spock couldn’t help but love him; in that respect, Jim was able to manage the guilt and the longing, convinced that at least a dozen people must feel the same.

Still, it was lonely, and every once in a while Jim felt the presence of Spock touching his shields, waiting, even though Jim never let him, not even once.

When Spock started to show signs of illness, Jim didn’t make the connection. Vulcans were susceptible to different things than humans, and they had just recently been the cargo ship for a whole host of new bacteria—the problem with transporting wild animals, no matter how endangered they might be. When Spock started to become pale and shaky and less precise, Jim assumed it was a bug, a virus, and he sent him to sickbay despite his complaints.

Then, that evening when he felt Spock’s shields rise as well for the first time in many months, Jim thought he was going to be sick.

********

McCoy didn’t know what was wrong with them, either of them, and he recommended, of all things, shore leave. Jim just scowled at him over the instrument happily humming away on his chest, and he tried to repress the answer that McCoy couldn’t know, not when Spock was in the room. The only reason Jim had even gone to see the good doctor was because he had been concerned about Spock, after all, lying so pale and still on a sickbed almost too short for his body, but once there, he knew he couldn’t leave.

McCoy said that Spock probably just had the Vulcan equivalent of the common cold, and Spock accepted the sick leave, promising to meditate rather than running up and down fields of green grass on shore leave. Jim accepted his sick leave too, but only because he was close to running out of hypos and he knew he needed an answer, fast.

The one he chose—the only one he could think of—was to visit one of the many pleasure houses on the planet below, wrapped tight in a cloak that he hoped would disguise his command shirt and leave him just another face among the masses. He didn’t think he succeeded—his name had been big news for years, after all—but he didn’t care, not when he wasn’t feeling particularly picky about who he went home with that night.

The woman he chose was Andorian; lovely, no doubt, but Jim had a difficult time seeing it, and in the end, he felt no lust for her or her shapely figure, not even after the nausea in his stomach began to fade. Desperate, Jim did the one thing he swore he would never do to a bed partner, and—rather than dismiss it as a lost cause—Jim forced himself to see Spock’s face, Spock’s mind, Spock’s heart. Lust surged through him in an unexpected rush, and for just one instant, Jim’s shields faltered.

That instant was enough for the lust to trickle through, lust and an image of someone else hitting Spock’s briefly unshielded mind, and for the reaction to come flooding back before his Vulcan friend had a chance to stop it.

Pain. Anguish. Heartbreak.

Jim flung his shields open wide, but Spock’s had already closed, and Jim felt the same sickness from before.

He understood.

********

Jim hadn’t had to use his override code for well over a year, but when he entered it and stormed into Spock’s room, it was just like it had been before, except this time Spock was openly glaring at him.

“I did not give you permission to enter, Captain.”

“No, but this couldn’t wait.”

Spock looked away, looked tired and pale.

“I did not mean to intrude.”

It was something they had never apologized for, even though Jim knew he’d done a fair bit of intruding himself in the beginning, and he sighed, feeling the gap between them grow.

“It wasn’t an intrusion, Spock—it wasn’t working for me anyway.”

Spock blinked, and the glare was gone.

“My apologies. You may of course find another companion for the night.”

“Why would I, when my favorite one is sitting right here?”

Spock looked so impossibly cold, and Jim didn’t need to check to know that his shields were up; he was all but vibrating with anger.

“I see. That would be inappropriate.”

Jim snorted and felt anger of his own rise up.

“Don’t give me that bullshit. I get it, Spock, and I want to know how long you’ve been in love with me.”

Spock looked at him almost challengingly.

“Two years, seven months.”

So many things clicked: a touch telepath engaging in casual sex, the reason Jim and Spock were able to link so easily, the reason the sex had stopped afterwards.

“You always wanted a link, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

Jim tapped his foot on the floor, impatient.

“So…what? You just settled for sex, and when you saved my life with this thing, you didn’t want it anymore?”

Spock looked at him calmly, but Jim wasn’t fooled; that anguish had not been a lie, and it had run deep.

“Wants do not enter into the equation, Captain. However, were we to engage in sex while linked, it would have become a mating bond.”

There was something Spock wasn’t saying, and Jim heard it.

“It happened anyway, didn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It would have been stifling to you.”

Jim wondered about that for a moment; he wasn’t so sure it was the truth, and he held out his arms imploringly.

“Well, I’m here now.”

Spock didn’t move.

“That’s not the way it works, Captain. Once one half desires a mating bond, the other has no choice but to follow.”

There was despair, then, and Jim knew the cause; Spock blamed himself for the way things were, even if he blamed Jim for making him feel this way.

Jim crouched on the floor next to him and looked into his eyes. They were sad, guilty, in pain, endless and welcoming, and Jim felt them call out to his very soul.

He made his choice.

“If you think that this link is the reason I feel this way, remove it.”

Spock looked horrified.

“I cannot, Captain. Your mind—”

Jim waved the concern away, and he tucked his fear—small as it was—deep inside himself.

“My mind is fine. After years of being stabilized by you, Spock, it shouldn’t matter.”

Spock’s hands were clenched in his robe.

“I cannot risk it.”

“Not even for a chance to know, to have happiness?”

Spock looked at him, and there was something unbearably strong and beautiful about the way his jaw clenched, about how he stood firm.

“Not even for that.”

Jim sighed, and he felt his heart break just a little bit.

“Oh, Spock. Why wouldn’t I love you?”

Spock didn’t say anything and Jim didn’t expect him to; there was nothing else to be said, not from him, and so Jim just reached out, wrapping cool arms around stiff shoulders.

“Spock, you great idiot.”

And Jim opened his mind, reached out to the barest edge of Spock’s, and he pulled. Like he had so long ago, Spock resisted, but Jim was relentless, certain, and without fear; he felt the instant the mating bond formed, and the instant Spock realized that it hadn’t been there all along. Jim was surprised himself, but not really.

He had known that the love he felt for Spock had come from deep within his own mind; he couldn’t explain it, but he had known.

Jim.” It was the first time Spock had ever said it, and Jim didn’t know if he heard it with his ears or his mind. It didn’t matter, in any case, because the next moment Spock pulled out of his embrace and leaned forward.

Their lips met, and Jim couldn’t help but think it was how first kisses should have been; soft, tentative, warm. He had felt lust for Spock before, for a long time even, but without allowing himself to dream about the possibilities, this sweet, gentle affection was new to him, a complete surprise. Jim moaned, and even though he was holding himself in an uncomfortable half-crouch, he never wanted to move.

Spock cupped his face and deepened the kiss, and Jim felt the world around him explode with emotion. The last tinges of fear and despair. A veritable super nova of lust. A cloud of affection that somehow drowned it all. Jim knew that he was only human, that the images that were also in his mind were moving too fast for him to possibly comprehend, but the ones he caught made his chest ache.

Spock was happy, and Spock wanted him. He was creative about wanting him, even, and some of the flashes Jim caught were almost enough to make him blush when combined with what he could only guess was well-hidden jealousy followed by a rush of possessiveness.

Jim had always known Spock would be an animal if he ever let go and, despite all their encounters, he had never really done so. However, now he did.

Jim didn’t even notice that Spock was dragging them to their feet until he found himself in the air, legs wrapped around Spock’s waist while they staggered to the bedroom. When Jim felt the stiff, thin bed against his back, he arched, curving into Spock’s weight with undisguised eagerness and rocking against the familiar hardness pressed against his backside.

Spock hissed, the noise like a release of steam, and then he tore at Jim’s clothes, rending material with ease. Jim reflected with some amusement that apparently it wasn’t just Starfleet uniforms that tore easily when a Vulcan set their mind to removing them, and then he was distracted by Spock palming him through his briefs.

They had never touched each other, not really; mostly they had just used the friction of another body to get off, and Jim whimpered, wondering why the hell he’d never tried to get those hands on him, those hands with their perfect warmth and that long-fingered grip. When he felt his briefs slide down his legs and bare skin touched even more of him, Jim didn’t even notice that a soft fingertip tapped against his opening before slipping inside.

When he did notice, he didn’t care, and he spread his legs wide, curling up into Spock’s touch. Spock pulled back and shucked his clothes without a sound, but Jim didn’t need to hear anything—his mind was overflowing with noise and knowledge, and Spock gave little shivers of pleasure every time Jim wiggled his hips. After a moment, Jim was aware of the finger being removed, of a cold slickness filling him and sliding inside of him until it became warm, and then he felt something thicker, harder, press against his entrance.

Jim opened his eyes—unaware that he had closed them—and he met Spock’s just as he moved his hips forward, filling him with heat. Jim grunted at the pressure, even though it increased so slowly, but he only had to look at Spock’s eyes, pupils blown wide with desire too strong to be hidden, and then he relaxed. Even the ache of being filled felt good, and when Spock began to move, brushing against his prostate after only a few tries, Jim growled.

“So good, Spock. So good.”

Spock breathed against his chest, and Jim wanted to kiss him but knew his body didn’t exactly bend that way; it didn’t matter, because Jim felt hundreds of images of kisses, long and slow, fill his mind until he almost felt them against his lips. Jim responded with lust, even more lust, and Spock began to move erratically, without control, and faster. When Jim came, it was with his hands twisted in sheets and his eyes seeing colors that shouldn’t have existed, things that made sense when Spock stilled above him and the colors increased to a flood.

Jim felt like he was coming down from a high, his mind and body buzzing, and even the stickiness he felt against his thighs and on his stomach couldn’t distract him from the fact that Spock was looking at him almost in wonder.

Jim smiled.

“Colors.”

“Yes. I did not expect…”

Jim took that to mean Spock hadn’t anticipated what sex with a mating bond would be like, and Jim felt triumphant, smug, and satisfied.

Spock just sent him back an image of Jim being spanked, and then he used the momentary distraction to drag them both off to the shower.

********

End
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