Spock was not the only alien aboard the USS Pythagoras, and certainly not the only alien in Starfleet. Every single one of the crew would have served with, or studied beside, non-humans before - and probably weirder species than Vulcans, at least in customs and physiology. Even Commander Matthews, Head of the Interspecies Ethics and Regulations Board, would admit that Vulcans were easier to get used to than, say, Tellerites - or, God forbid, J'Narians.
And yet, Spock was the only Vulcan in Starfleet - meaning that most cadets would not meet any Vulcans until they were on active duty and came across them in the line of duty. Which meant, for Spock, that most new recruits to the ship would have never seen Vulcans before at all.
It was...tiresome...being their first example of the species.
For all that Vulcans were easy for humans to accept and get used to on a professional level, Spock was fully aware that Vulcans carried their own reputations. Humans could co-exist with Vulcans, but they very rarely liked them. They found Vulcan logic to be unnerving, and their lack of overt emotional displays frightening. On a whole, humans were happy to work with Vulcans, but otherwise wanted nothing to do with them.
Spock was used to it.
It didn't mean that he liked getting new recruits. The Pythagoras had just had her latest round of repairs at Starbase One and had, in the process, picked up forty-eight graduates, fresh out of the Academy and with no practical experience whatsoever. Twelve of these graduates were dumped on the labs, and after the first shift with them, Spock's meditation session lasted twice as long to purge himself of the frustration he felt towards them.
Forty-eight new recruits to stare at his ears and whisper their collected rumours on Vulcans and their habits - no, Spock was not impressed by the prospet. The Pythagoras was a patrol ship, performing routine checks throughout Federation space, and only had a crew of three hundred people. Forty-eight was a considerable number.
But of the forty-eight, he had not expected any one of them that was not involved with the labs to approach him.
Clearly, he needed to revise his opinions on human boldness - and the thought crossed his mind the moment that Ensign Kirk walked over to him in the mess hall, with a bright smile and a sloppy salute.
"Kirk," came the swift reply. "Ensign Jim Kirk. I'm in communications."
Spock opened his mouth to tell Kirk to take his queries to Lieutenant Quahar, but Kirk drove on before he could.
"Don't mean to sound rude or anything, but you're Vulcan, aren't you?"
Kirk beamed and sat down, without invitation. "Do you play chess?"
If Spock were human, he would likely have made some incredulous, pointless question in response - but he's not, and his flat response was, "I do."
"Want to play sometime? With me," Kirk added hastily, the smile still affixed to his face. "I've been trying to find someone who'll actually challenge me, and so far, no hope. Bones suggested I try you."
"...I see," he didn't. "Ensign Kirk, as you pointed out, I am Vulcan. Chess is a simplistic game..."
"3D chess?" Kirk prompted. "C'mon, Spock - er, sir. I really want to keep my skills up. I was captain of the Academy chess team; it'll just be embarrassing if I lose those skills!"
Spock didn't understand embarrassment, and refrained from comment.
"Just one game?" Kirk urged, leaning forward over the table slightly. "One time, then you can kick my ass and tell me to fuck off. No problem!"
The ensign's language left rather a lot to be desired, and Spock felt one eyebrow crawling up towards his hairline.
"Very well," he said - and changed his life forever.
Naturally, in their first match, Spock wiped the floor with the ensign. Kirk looked tremendously surprised by the fact - and indeed, it took more effort to destroy his strategy than Spock was used to. Humans were, on the whole, utterly abysmal at chess, no matter their intellect in the rest of the known universe. It was unusual that Spock even had to pay attention to the game.
Kirk seemed to sense his intrigue, and challenged him again.
It became a regular thing - once a week, in the second rec room, after alpha shift. Kirk would arrive first, from the far closer linguistic labs, and set up. Sometimes, there would be Vulcan spiced tea waiting when Spock arrived from the science labs - and it would always be waiting if he'd been on the bridge for the shift. He was unaware of the difference - to Kirk, at least - but refrained once again from comment. His mother had taught him that humans were prone to incredibly illogical habits.
It was not until their fourteenth match that Kirk noticed - or at least voiced his observation.
"You play...kind of human," he said, eyeing the bottom level of the board, where Spock had toppled his king 1.44 minutes earlier. "It's like...completely logical, and then just as I'm getting to grips with it, you'll throw in something random and upset my whole counter-strategy."
Spock stared at him over the cup of tea.
"Did you pick up the random quality at the Academy?" Kirk asked, then shook his head. "No, you only graduated the year before I joined, and I would have remembered anything about a Vulcan in the chess club. We don't get many aliens."
Spock silently praised the logical process of elimination, and said: "My father taught me to play chess, but my mother would often play with me after school on Vulcan. As a child, I...copied her strategies, and many of the same random elements have entered my tactics."
"Wow," Kirk said. "So where did your Mom pick that up?"
Spock's lips quirked. "From her species, I presume. My mother is human."
Kirk gaped - it is a vaguely comical sight. "No way."
Spock raised an eyebrow.
"Whoa, shit, that came out wrong. Sorry. I don't mean anything by that, just...Jesus, how'd I miss that? I thought you were totally Vulcan - hundred percent and everything!"
"No," Spock said flatly.
"You look it," Kirk said, and winced again at his phraseology. It was fascinating how he was simultaneously very self-aware of how he phrased things, and yet remained seemingly incapable of thinking before he spoke. "Sorry. But you look Vulcan."
Spock almost started, surprised, and glanced up at Kirk's suddenly sombre face.
"Do you get shit about that? About being half-and-half?" Kirk asked quietly.
Spock eyed the chessboard for a moment, before draining his cup and rising. "It is...not unknown. Goodnight, Ensign."
Over the next year of chess matches and tea in the rec room, Spock came to learn much about Ensign Kirk. He learned about his friendship with Dr. McCoy, the ship's physician, that had been developed out of their Academy training. He learned about his runaway brother, Sam, and Jim's childhood bouncing between ships and colonies with his mother, never settling long in one place as she tried to find peace after losing her husband. It was where, he learned, Kirk's love and talent with languages came from - playing with alien children as a small child, and nearly constantly being around non-human people.
He supposed that Kirk learned much about him, too.
He was...comfortable with Kirk, and it was an odd sensation. He rarely felt comfortable with humans - their rampant emotionalism, their illogic, their duplicity and dualistic natures - it all made him feel...out of place. Much how, he imagined, his mother felt on Vulcan.
But it was different with Kirk. He did not feel that he had to keep up with Kirk's turns of phrase, or his emotionalism, or even why he would sometimes stare at Spock and say nothing. He was exactly the same as any other human - hypocritical, explosive, expressive, dualistic, manipulative, overemotional and unstable...and yet, somehow, it did not bother Spock.
When Kirk asked, he began to teach him Vulcan. Over chess games and verb declensions, and hiding a wince at Kirk's persistently bad pronunciation, they grew comfortable, and soon engaged in matches switching with ease between Vulcan and Standard. Despite Kirk's pronunciation, he could speak the language with surprising talent, and was perfectly understandable.
Spock felt an odd sense of...pride, perhaps? - in being responsible for the improvement.
"The guy teaching at the Academy right now is shit," Kirk told him one evening. "He's crap at it. I mean, hey, power to anyone who can speak it, but you'd think they'd actually hire a Vulcan, right? Or someone who's fluent? Like those medics who do internships there - or the scientists in the VSA. They're not all Vulcans, but they're fluent. They'd be better."
Spock got the impression that Kirk was attempting to convey something, but he did not understand it, and Kirk did not speak of it again.
The away mission went wrong.
The locals took one look at the red uniforms of the security and communications officers, and opened fire. In the resultant dive for cover, and frantic calls to the Pythagoras to be beamed up, there was chaos and several personnel were hit - Spock included. He felt the fire brand itself across his back, followed promptly by the buzz of the transporter, and then there was a man with a strange voice and the sting of hyposprays.
The pain was immense. The weapons the natives had used were unknown to them, but they were effective and painful. Spock poured his energy into remaining coherent and not letting the agony swamp his defences - so much so that he barely noticed when that warm hand wrapped around his, and the world had blue eyes.
"Spock, come on, Standard - speak in Standard! McCoy can't speak Vulcan; you need to speak to him in Standard!"
It never occurred to Spock, until long after he achieved the healing trance, and the pain melted away, that he had been calling in Vulcan, and calling for Ensign Kirk. And Kirk had replied in Vulcan.
He came around from the trance by himself - it had been light, and physical violence had been unnecessary - to find the Sickbay lights dimmed and the gentle, quiet hum of Gamma Shift operating around him. His hand was still caught, and there was the gentle, soothing wash of deep words - familiar words.
Someone was reading Vulcan poetry at his bedside, and their thumb rubbing constantly over the back of Spock's hand. And not even someone - there was only one possible candidate...and Spock found himself reluctant to move.
By the time Spock was permitted to leave Sickbay, the Pythagoras had returned to Earth for her refit, and the crew in the process of being scattered to other ships and assignments. Ensign Kirk had been a regular visitor to his bedside as he recovered, and had been full of ambitious plans to get an assignment on an exploration ship and begin working his way up the ranks.
It was quite apparent to Spock that Ensign Kirk had his eyes on a captaincy. It was equally apparent that such designs were...not entirely beyond him. Kirk had a sharp mind and a determination that rivalled the stubborn-minded nature of a Romulan - or even some Vulcans of whom Spock knew. It was quite possible that Kirk could succeed.
It would be a shame to be parted from him, however.
Spock held no illusions - though Kirk seemed to - that they would serve consistently on the same ship. Kirk was an ensign, and Spock a lieutenant-commander. In the time it would take for Kirk to catch up to Spock's rank, never mind overtake him, they would serve several assignments and be rotated almost continually. Despite their differing specialties, they were both trained for command: it was unlikely that they would serve together in the higher ranks at all.
It was the truth...and yet Spock did not much care for it.
Kirk had been adamant, through his visits, that they would discuss it once Spock was 'better' and had talked him into a meeting in San Francisco after the Pythagoras had touched down. Spock would only be in San Francisco briefly before returning to Vulcan to spend his leave visiting his mother; Kirk had more or less commandeered that day to talk with him.
He was therefore surprised to arrive at the bar and find Kirk deep in conversation with another couple of crewmembers. One, Spock vaguely recognised - Ensign Mitchell, though his first name and department escaped Spock's memory. He did not think he'd ever spoken to him, and his civilian dress hid his purpose. The other was an unknown - a young man with a thick Canadian accent and an irritating habit of clicking his tongue.
Spock would have approaced, but for the line that reached his ears at the door, and that made him pause.
"...promoted because of that Vulcan, and everyone knows it," Mitchell scoffed.
Spock hesitated. From the doorway, he remained unnoticed by the three young men, and their conversation continued seamlessly.
"What, Spock?" the Canadian asked, and shrugged when Kirk and Mitchell both stared at him. "Give over - he's the only Vulcan in the fleet. Everyone knows his name. Anyway. Why would a Vulcan promote you?"
"He didn't," Kirk said.
"Didn't," Mitchell agreed at the same moment. "I didn't say that. I said because of. Kirk's being hanging off Spock for the last year, learning Vulcan off him and showing off his talent at bending any and all species to his will..."
"...and when the Vulcan got shot at by hostiles, Kirk knew enough Vulcan to translate when he went delirious. Bagged him an instant commendation from Captain DeSalle. His promotion went through this morning."
Spock took a step back. He felt oddly cold.
The Canadian laughd, "Wait, that was why you were so damn desperate to get the Pythagoras posting? The Vulcan?"
"Yeah," Kirk shrugged, and Spock took another step back. "Well, it's useful, isn't it? I can speak Vulcan, and I can play nice with them. You guys laugh now, but Vulcans are damn important. And hey - got me a promotion, didn't it?"
Spock turned on his heel, and walked out.
That night, he accepted a posting on the USS Reliant as Captain Pike's science officer, and left for Vulcan.
The next time Spock saw Kirk, he had been promoted to Commander aboard the Reliant, and was the head of all four science departments aboard the ship. Pike was fond of his working style, and his ability to fluently and at length cross swords with his First Officer, and so had kept Spock through the next two rotations.
"You'd be good on a five-year mission," he told Spock once, but Spock had never given much thought to it.
And then Jim Kirk walked into the bar.
Shore leave on Marika was not Spock's idea of a wonderful pasttime, but it was out of the way and so the bars were quiet in the early evening. Coming off-ship to explore the museums during the daylight hours, and have a single drink at a bar, would convince the Captain that he had sufficiently rested, and Marika was not a wholly unpleasant place to do it.
And yet somehow he had missed that the USS Londonderry was docked for her own shore leave rotation - and moreover, that this meant Kirk would be in the vicinity. And yet he had bypassed this information - until a familiar voice cut across his reading.
He glanced up, and those unforgettable blue eyes bore into his own.
"Mind if I sit down?" Kirk asked, infinitely more politely than their first meeting. He shifted on his feet, seeming at once nervous and angry, and Spock wondered how he could still read Kirk's expressions after two years of separation.
"Not at all."
Kirk slid into the seat opposite Spock's, folding his arms as though cold. "Congratulations on your promotion."
Spock quirked an eyebrow, and Kirk said flatly: "I'm Lieutenant-Commander Kirk now. Head of Signal Translation on the Londonderry. I get bridge duty on beta shift sometimes."
"I offer my congratulations."
Kirk shifted and scowled. "You never met me in 'Cisco."
The change of topic is completely unsurprising, and Spock pushes his padd to one side. "No."
"And then," Kirk continued, as if Spock had not replied, "I try and call you, and get some bullshit about there being 'no need to continue our acquaintance.' What the hell, Spock?"
Spock regarded him calmly. "Our acquaintance had served its purpose."
"Its purpose?" Kirk snapped. "What the fuck is that meant to mean?"
"Why don't you tell me, Lieutenant-Commander," Spock said icily - and without quite meaning to, he explained. He told Kirk about the overheard conversation in the San Francisco bar, about the knowledge that he had been used, and about what it was like, to feel that someone had cared, only to subsequently learn that it had been a lie.
And how Spock knew, now, what embarrassment felt like.
He watched, with an odd twinge of unpleasant gratification, as the colour slowly leeched from Kirk's face, and the strangled groan that emerged when he ceased speaking.
"Oh my God," Kirk murmured, dropping his head into his hands.
Spock pocketed his padd, and braced his hands on the table to stand, when Kirk lashed out and seized his wrist in a surprisingly strong grip.
"No," Kirk said. "I need to explain. I need to...apologise, I think, and explain. I'm really not that much of a prick."
Spock quirked an eyebrow.
"No need to look so sceptical."
"Look," Kirk said. "You're the only Vulcan in Starfleet, and more or less nobody spoke Vulcan but you. I...I want the captaincy - you must know that. I want my own ship. Always have, ever since Mom was shuttling us between all these different ships. I always wanted to have one. To be able to say - yeah, this one's my ship. And it's damn hard to get the initial promotions in communications - everyone and their mother is good at languages in there. What edge did I have? And then when we got that shitty teacher in the Academy in the Vulcan and Romulan track - I had it. And...I knew about you.
"Yeah, okay, I admit it. I went for the Pythagoras posting because that's where you were. I figured nobody would be better at teaching me Vulcan than you. I just didn't think about you - I didn't know you yet! You were a means to an end - at first. Just at first. I...Jesus, Spock, about a month in, I was thinking of you like my friend. I enjoyed spending time with you. Hell, for ages, I completely forgot about learning Vulcan from you. I just...I liked you. Still do," he shrugged, biting on his lip and glancing up at Spock hopefully. Whatever was written in Spock's face, it discouraged him, and he dropped his eyes to the table again. "I swear, I didn't think of you as just a tool. Not for very long. You were...you were my friend; I wanted us to get another posting together. I wanted another year of chess matches and you ripping my theories to shreds. You were my friend."
"And yet," Spock interrupted, and not caring of the impolite manner in which he did it, "I was not enough of a friend for you to cease your bragging in that bar."
Kirk flushed. "No. I'm always a jerk when I'm with Gary and Owen. That's the stupid, egotistical prick I was in the Academy. I've matured since - or I like to think I have," he added, swallowing. "I just...it hurt. You walking away from me like that hurt and...and I'm not going to pretend I wouldn't have done the same, in your place. It's just...I miss you. I'm sorry, and I miss you."
There was a ringing silence. Kirk's hands fumbled with each other on the tabletop, and Spock watched them in a detached fashion.
"I...have not played chess since serving on the Pythagoras."
Kirk went even redder, if possible. "I'm sorry."
Kirk glanced up hopefully. "Does that mean you forgive me?"
In the end, it seemed to. They resumed subspace communications - tentative at first, but growing bolder as Kirk regained his footing and his place in Spock's life, and they did not mention his initial intentions again. Talk of rank and promotions was unusually stilted, and Kirk seemed hesitant to tell Spock when he was finally made a Commander and spent eight weeks as the Acting XO when Commander Forrester was injured in the line of duty. He was equally hesitant to talk about when their respective contracts ended, and what they will do then.
Spock himself gave very little thought to it, until Captain Pike began talking about the new flagship.
"The Enterprise," he said one evening in the mess. "I'm getting her. Number One's going on to command a science ship, and I'm taking the new flagship. You're coming with me."
"Don't give me that," Pike chided, in an exasperated manner that Spock learned means amusement from this man. "You're one of the best damn officers in the fleet, and I'll be damned if I'm not getting you on that flagship. If I can't keep Number One, I'm sure as hell keeping you."
He should, therefore, not have been surprised when Kirk got wind of this development - and Spock would never discover how, as he had not informed him - and suddenly announced his intentions to apply for the Enterprise's communications department.
Pike didn't comment - apart from a vague, "You know Jim Kirk, right? You were on the Pythagoras together, I think." - and Spock managed to thoroughly ignore the possibility.
And then they were grounded again, with a year to go until the Enterprise was due to be launched, and he had to think about it.
Specifically, when Jim Kirk turned up on his doorstep two months later.
Spock had over two years of leave time accrued, and was using it to not return to space before the Enterprise was launched. He did not, therefore, expect to find Kirk on the other side of the door when he answered it, because he knew that the Londonderry was currently orbiting Vulcan.
"Hey," Kirk said, elbowing his way into Spock's apartment without a care. "Sorry about this. I just...well. Hey," he spread his arms and grinned. "We're going to be serving together. Pike accepted my application."
Spock frowned, tilting his head. "Then why do you appear to be nervous?"
Kirk shifted and swallowed. "We're friends, right?"
"Then...sorry," Kirk said - and kissed him.
To say that it was a surprise was something of an understatement. Spock had never been kissed the human way at all, and yet...it was instinctive knowledge, it seemed of how to kiss back. It was a chaste kiss, little more than their lips being pressed together, and yet it was remarkably easy to simply press back - and if his hands founded themselves on Kirk's waist, then who was to know?
The moment his hands did touch Kirk's waist, it was as though Spock had flipped a switch.
The kiss immediately deepened, Kirk's tongue swiping across his lips until he opened his mouth, and it was also instinctive to return Kirk's explorations with his own. The hands that suddenly tangled in his hair were hot and undeniably pleasant, scratching over his scalp and tugging his head forward until the kiss was almost violently intense. He only registered that they were moving when Kirk backed him into the wall with a thump, hips rolling into Spock's in lazy, controlled arcs that pressed Kirk's thorough arousal into Spock's thigh with a solid, unrelenting pressure.
And the fire was pooling low in Spock's abdomen, like liquid heat, and coiling between his legs in a way quite alien to him. He vaguely noted his breathing become erratic as Kirk broke off the intense kissing to bite down on his shoulder and grind into his hip as though he would die if he didn't get any closer.
"Jesus Christ," Kirk groaned, hands tugging at the fastening on Spock's pants. "Would you believe me - fuck - if I said I didn't come over with the intention of doing this?"
Spock wouldn't - but he didn't manage to say it before Kirk had a hand into his underwear and wrapped firmly around him. The shocking heat of his hand, and soft but firm pressure, made a gasp ricochet out of Spock's throat even before Kirk established a rapid rhythm. Kirk hadn't even undone his own pants, choosing instead to grind hard into Spock's hip and bite down hard at the base of his neck - and that did something very odd to Spock's nervous system until...
"G'd!" Kirk grunted, hips stuttering, and everything between Spock's knees and his ribs clenched as he came, gasping, over Kirk's hand and the inside of his pants.
To his vague, orgasm-shocked surprise, Kirk did not pull away; rather, he pressed forward to pin Spock fully between his body and the wall, and pressed his nose to the spot under Spock's ear as they regained their breath.
"Um," Kirk croaked eventually. "Sorry. Sorry, I didn't...mean to do that. Well. Kind of. I meant to warn you that...yeah. I've had this kind of ridiculous...thing...for you, for ages, and if we serve together...yeah, I thought I better warn you, but...yeah. Didn't mean to...just...do that."
He had removed his hand from Spock's pants, but they were resting on Spock's hips, one stained with the evidence of their rather unpredictable session.
"Shower," Spock suggested, his voice off even to his own ears.
That was how it began.
That was also, largely, how it continued. Kirk stayed for a week in Spock's apartment, and in that week managed to initiate sexual activity in every room, and on almost every surface - and, often, as quickly and spontaneously as the first time. In a week, Spock learned more than he could have imagined about human sexual practices, and also learned that he somewhat enjoyed them. They by no means covered everything - or at least, Spock couldn't imagine how human sexual intercourse ever results in procreation if no penetration is involved - but they made a good start.
They didn't talk about it. Kirk talked about having a thing for Spock, in oddly vague terms, and usually any attempt to talk about it degenerated rapidly into passionate sexual games.
And that was the crux of it, for Spock. It was passionate. When Kirk touched him, there was fire and heat and emotion, flickering between their skin and burrowing into Spock's veins like some kind of strange, wonderful disease. He came to both crave and fear Kirk's touch, for the sheer feeling it evoked.
Even when they did not engage in sexual activity, Kirk seemed to take some delight in applying his knowledge of Vulcan biology and culture, constantly pressing kisses to Spock's fingers, or searching for new places on Spock's body to deliver pleasure. He seemed to map them, until he could read Spock like a book written in the plainest Standard, and it was oddly...humiliating, to be so easy to understand.
Simultaneously, Spock could not bring himself to care.
By the time the Enterprise launched, Spock had not seen Kirk for nine days. In a wholly related fashion, he had not engaged in any sexual activity with Kirk for nine days.
It had emerged that they would be on the same bridge shift, as Kirk had been granted the position of alpha shift bridge communications officer, and Spock had been given the equivalent position as science officer. They would not, however, both be on the bridge for the launch: Spock found the fanfare of ceremonial launchings distasteful, and Pike had laughingly allowed him to 'ride it out' in the depths of the science labs.
It was there that...Kirk did not come to find him after their first shift.
In fact, Kirk did not seek out his company at all for the first month of the five-year mission. He was, it seemed, permanently busy - dealing with his new team, engaging them in department meetings and social gatherings to learn who they were; meeting with and talking to Captain Pike about various matters, and likewise the First Officer, Commander Chen. Even when not engaging with his superiors and subordinates, it seemed that Kirk took the time out of his life - and their acquaintance - to develop friendships with the other bridge crew. Spock saw for himself that Jim took to fencing on Thursday evenings with the young helmsman, Lieutenant Sulu.
It hurt, illogically so, with a sharp pain in his side and a certain band around his breathing, that Kirk had once again discarded Spock from his life when he served no further purpose. With new people and a new job to distract him, Spock had no more use. Their shore leave had been just that: a vacation from the norm, and not to be revisited, it seemed.
It was...painful...to imagine, and though Spock dedicated many meditation sessions to readjusting to a life without, it seemed, Kirk's attentions, he could not seem to come to grips with it.
Eventually, he had to surmise that, somehow, he had come to love this human - this brash, loud, relentless blond man, who, it seemed, had no such troubles pushing Spock from his mind.
34.4 days after their launch, and an hour after the end of alpha shift, Spock's door chime rang. When he called his permission for the guest to enter, expecting one of his juniors with a question about the biochemical experiments in lab four and why, exactly, they were hissing again; what he got was Kirk, with that highly attractive smile and, judging by the ruffled hair, recently emerged from the sonic shower.
"Hey," he drawled, perching on the edge of Spock's desk. "Long time no see."
"Duty is over," Kirk sing-songed, pushing Spock's chair back from the desk with his feet, and grinning. The smile was familiar, and an odd shift occurred low in Spock's abdomen.
"I still have considerable work to..."
"It can wait," Kirk said, rising briefly only to settle himself in Spock's lap, straddling him and cupping his face to press lax, wet kisses to Spock's mouth, coaxing his lips apart with that practiced tongue. "It's been ages. Work can wait."
When he slid his hands under the edge of Spock's tunic, tugging it up until he could run his thumbs across Spock's nipples, Spock's resistance crumbled wordlessly.
"Computer, lock doors."
A faint clunk, the female voice reproachfully informing him that she'd done as she was told, and suddenly his shirt was gone.
Some time later, with a lightly dozing Jim Kirk pressed up against his back, lying close together in Spock's narrow bunk, Spock wondered whether it was wise to allow this...arrangement...to continue.
Yet he did nothing.
"Meyer, we need out of here now!"
Pike's voice sounded...oddly echoing, and far away, but when Spock tried to move to find it, the pain that exploded over his skull was immense and debilitating.
"Easy," a hand came down on his forehead. Pike. "Easy, Spock. Stay still. You're going to be alright; we'll be back on the Enterprise soon enough."
"Jesus Christ," someone spat - he faintly thought it was Yates from botany. "You'd think the sensors would pick that kind of shit up!"
The world was shaking - he thought for a moment that it was his own disorientation, but when a shadow fell over him, and he realised that Pike was shielding him from something, he realised that he was not mistaken. The world was shaking.
"Now, Meyer! And we need a medical team!" Pike again.
"I..." he tried to speak, only to find the pain radiated all the way down his neck and spine. That, he knew, was both a good and a bad sign. At least he could feel them.
"Hold on, Spock," Pike was saying, his voice faint under the roaring in Spock's ears. "You'll be alright. It looks worse than it is; probably feels worse than it is. You'll be fine. If nothing else, I need you to keep Kirk in check; he's a bit of a wild card witho-"
The transporter swallowed his words, and possibly Spock's consciousness, because the next thing he knew, the pain was gone and Kirk's loud voice was somewhere nearby.
"I don't care what your biobed is saying, why the hell isn't he - Spock?"
A warmth ghosted over him, and a hand came to lightly touch his hair. The contact seemed to immediately soothe the headache that lingered there; with how intimate they had been, it was entirely possible that it genuinely did ease the pain.
"Spock? Can you hear me?"
The drawl of the doctor's voice - a man Spock has never actually met face-to-face, even after 56.1 days serving aboard the same ship - joined Kirk's, and Spock forced his eyes open against the glare of the Sickbay lights. His expression must have said something, for Kirk's other hand hastily cupped over his eyes as a shield, and after a pause, the lights were dimmed.
"Hey," Kirk breathed when Spock blinked away the remaining disorientation, and his sense of time and balance returned full-force. Kirk's face was tight and pinched, pale in the harsh light of the medical room, and Spock wondered briefly - very briefly - if Kirk were ill. "How you feeling?"
He did not get the opportunity to reply - the doctor elbowed Kirk unceremoniously out of the way, and began a battery of questions and recordings that left Spock feeling faintly irritated with the entire procedure. It took an unnecessary amount of time, and by the time the doctor - McCoy? - was willing to release him, Kirk was worrying his lower lip with his teeth.
"You're sure he's alright?" he pestered McCoy as Spock slipped on the fresh uniform that a nurse handed to him. He did not hear McCoy's response, and a moment later Kirk was persistently helping him down off the biobed. He assumed the reply must have been along the lines of a yes.
"I am quite capable of walking unaided," Spock assured Kirk, but the pinched look didn't go away.
"Yeah, well, indulge me," Kirk muttered, keeping a firm arm around his waist and defiantly ignoring the stares they got as they made their way to Spock's quarters. "You've been out for two days..."
"One point nine eight..."
"Two days," Kirk insisted, "...and scared the shit out of me."
"...I apologise," Spock said as they reached his quarters. Kirk entered without pause, and very deliberately locked the doors behind them.
"Damn right," he muttered, pressing up close and branding Spock's lips with a deep, intense kiss that had his mind instinctively reaching for Kirk's before he reeled it back. "I was so damn scared. All they would say was that they had an officer down, and your frequency was going mad, and...shit. Shit. I was on duty for another three hours. You could have..."
He shook it off - almost physically, judging by the shiver, and pushed Spock to sit on the side of his bed. He stood behind his parted thighs, leaning down to plunder Spock's mouth with his tongue and run his hands through his hair, as though searching for the head injury that had caused the whole debacle, although both knew that it was long since healed.
"Could have lost you," Kirk mumbled, crouching down to undo Spock's boots and discard them, batting away Spock's hands when he tried to assist. "Stop it. Let me...just let me."
He let him; he allowed Kirk to strip him down to his underwear, caressing and kissing every inch of skin as it was exposed, and drew invisible patterns in Kirk's skin when the human also stripped and spread himself out on top of Spock, kissing him with that fierce intent once more. It felt as though Kirk were trying to press his very soul down into Spock's body, trying to tie them together in a clumsy human fashion that had none of the accuracy or power of Vulcan telepathy. And yet he could feel it, as intently as if Kirk had voiced the need aloud.
So he let Kirk that burning fire between them. He reacted much like the first time when Kirk ground down into him, and shuddered his way through the incoherent murmurs that Kirk aways brought to their activities, and arched into skilled hands when they stroked down his flanks and spread his thighs with certainty.
He started when Kirk reached for his discarded pants, however, and hissed in a sharp breath when the first slick finger presses into him.
"It's alright," Kirk murmured, pupils blown wide with arousal. "It's alright. Just relax. It'll be good, promise."
Between the strange sensation of Kirk's slick fingers preparing him, and the fiery branding of his teeth in Spock's shoulders and neck, he found himself unable to even think about tensing up or protesting, and Kirk's continued reassurances were a soothing wash of noise over his neglected hearing. When Kirk eventually removed his hand and shifted position, it was the hot, demanding kiss he used to bruise Spock's lips that captured his attention, and he barely gasped when Kirk slid home.
"Okay?" Kirk breathed into his mouth, hands kneading into his hips and belly determinedly. His own arousal was by no means flagging, but Kirk seemed to deliberately avoid it. "Alright?"
"Move," Spock whispered, and when Kirk rolled his hips experimentally, the electric shock of pleasure was almost painful in its intensity. His back arched, and Kirk groaned, ducking his head to lick at Spock's exposed collarbone.
"Oh God, you're so fucking hot like this..." Kirk moaned, and began to thrust in earnest, setting up a bruising rhythm, hands biting into Spock's sides, the nails outlining small crescents in the flesh. Even without a meld, the positive pleasure feedback was so intense, Spock felt his own sense of self dissipating, lost in a tidal wave of pleasure and bliss and agony and Kirk and desire and lust and Jimjimjimjim...
He came, with an intensity that shook him to the core of his bones and his psyche, with Kirk's hand wrapped around his length, and those blue eyes burned into his soul.
He heard no more.
He came to curled around Kirk, head cradled on his warm chest, the unnaturally slow thump of a human heartbeat echoing beneath his ear. He was sore - unbelievably sore - but the aftershocks of pleasure were still sparking in his extremities, and his psyche yearned to connect to the man beside him with an intensity that prompted a vague headache.
"Hey," Kirk murmured, fingers carding through his hair idly, scratching at the scalp. "You back?"
"Mm." It is not even a word, and Spock did not even care.
Kirk laughed quietly, his chest heaving briefly in a single motion. "Yeah, me too. Was that...your first time?"
"Wow," Kirk murmured. Then: "Thank you."
"For letting it be me."
Over the next 14.3 days, the headache slowly grew in his temples, intensified every time that they so much as kissed. With Kirk still reeling from the fear he had experienced during the away mission, this was a frequent occurrence, and so the headache rapidly developed into something more accurately described as a migraine.
It quieted in the night if they slept in the same bunk, apparently contented with Kirk's prolonged proximity, and the tendency of the sleeping mind - both human and Vulcan - to reach out to any other mind nearby. Then, the headache dulled and the vague nausea subsided until Spock almost felt healthy.
The headache was not the only problem. Pain was easily controlled; nausea and exhaustion were less easy to manipulate. The doctor noticed instantly, of course, that Spock was not eating as much as he had been, and apparently had complained to both Kirk and Pike about it. And while Spock's work did not suffer in the slightest, it was quickly obvious to Kirk how tired he was becoming.
"I want you to go to Dr. McCoy," Kirk said quietly one evening, 15.4 days after Spock was released from Sickbay. He had appeared in Spock's quarters just after his meditation session, and had sat on the end of his bunk, watching with that pinched facial expression again as Spock had stumbled through his nightly routine.
"I am not ill, Jim."
"You're not well, either," Kirk said stubbornly.
"Regardless, it is nothing that requires medical attention," Spock insisted, and started when Kirk reached out to clasp his hand, drawing him closer to the bed. "Jim...I am too tired to..."
"I know," Kirk murmured, pulling him down into the bunk and arranging them in their now familiar sleeping position, drawing up the blankets carefully. "I can still hold you, though."
Spock shivered at the affection and anxiety seeping through their skin-to-skin contact, and Kirk exhaled heavily into his hair.
"What do you need?" he whispered.
Spock said nothing.
Two days later, Kirk followed Spock back to his quarters after shift, practically radiating tension and anger. Even Lieutenant Uhura, his beta shift replacement, had shot him a wary look when she'd arrived to take over the communications station, and she looked like she didn't envy Spock his prolonged company one bit.
The moment the doors closed behind them, Kirk exploded.
"Why the hell didn't you tell me?" he snapped, throwing up his hands in an obviously dramatic fashion.
"Tell you what?"
"I am a goddamn communications officer - I know as much about Vulcan culture as a non-Vulcan can know, and you didn't think I could be trusted with that?"
"This!" Kirk rubbed a thumb over the dark circles under Spock's eyes, surprisingly gently for his anger. "This! You're in a relationship and you're not melding! That's what this whole damn sickness is!"
"As I said before, I am not..."
"Not ill, yeah, I got it - but you are," Kirk snapped. "You're not melding with me when you need to, when it's part of relationships for Vulcans, and it's making you ill! Why in the hell didn't you say anything? Or just do it!"
"It is a Vul-"
"And Frenching is a human thing, but I did it anyway!" Kirk interrupted sharply. "You need to meld, and you're going to goddamn do it if I have to glue your fingers to my face!"
He stepped forward - and was brought up short when Spock stepped back.
"I do not think you fully understand the significance of melding at this point."
"So fill me in."
"To...to meld with you now would result in a mental bond - potentially, a permanent bond that could lead to a full mating bond if we were to continue our..."
Kirk was too perceptive for his own good, and his tone suddenly softened. "Our what?"
"Arrangement?" the anger seemed to be draining out of him. "That's what you think this is? An arrangement."
The exhaustion was moving in, and Spock was barely aware that he was swaying on his feet before Kirk had him by the shoulders, and had them both sitting on the bunk.
"What else was I to think?" he asked softly.
"What?" Kirk prodded. "Why would you think that?"
"You appeared at my apartment and proceeded to initiate sexual contact with little to no prior thought," Spock said flatly. "You then seemingly terminated this...arrangement...in favour of your new duties and friendships aboard the Enterprise for the next 34.4 days. At which point, you restarted this...without indication that it was anything more than..."
"Oh no," Kirk breathed. The look on his face caused something to twist in Spock's abdomen. He looked...stricken. "Oh no, no, no. That's what you thought? You thought I...shit, Spock, no!"
He promptly pushed Spock flat onto the bed, crawling up over him until he planted his elbows either side of Spock's neck, hands curling over the top of his head to play with his hair, and their eyes locked.
"Look at me," he said. "I love you. Okay? I'm shit with words and talking about things and I'm never going to say it enough, but I do. And if that's what you've been thinking, then I clearly went wrong somewhere, but...Jesus, Spock, I love you. I've loved you ever since the first time I kissed you, and I liked you long before that."
Kirk cut him off with a sharp kiss, and drew back again. "I love you. I'm sorry I'm not so hot at this relationship stuff, but I do want that. It was never just sex! I want this relationship with you; I want you, any way I can have you. If your biggest issue with melding with me is that we might get stuck together with a Vulcan bond, then I'm gluing both your hands to my face."
Spock stared at him, lost in the wide blue eyes that radiated sincerity, that...
"Come on," Kirk urged, reaching for Spock's hand and pressing it clumsily to his face. "Look. That'll prove it. Look."
"Just go on," Kirk coaxed. "I already love you and want to keep you forever anyway. If this means I get to do that, then I'm all for it."
Spock's fingers found their places.
"You are sure?"
-ent - light, light, light, brilliant light - like you, brilliant like you - and lovelovelovelove, want-want-want, just want you, love you, love you so much, hold you, love you, want you, allthetime, wrap-you-up-and-keep-you, forevereverever, love, always love, mineminemine, keep you forever, keep you mine, mine forever, nobody else, lovelove...
It was a litany, blurred with the human inconsistency of thoughts, running crackled and flickering like an old cinematic reel on loop, and Spock could faintly feel Jim's lips on his cheek, and the warmth and weight of the body in his arms, and the balm, the soothing waves of love and affection and gold, gold want, smoothing out the rough edges and wrapping up his wounds, wrapping up his whole mind and soul, bathing him in a light so brilliant it almost hurt...
-no hurt, never hurt, safesafesafe, keep you safe, safe and perfect, perfect, always been perfect always will be, lovelovelove, safe, safe, don't hurt, don't cry, herehereherehere, safehere, always-with-me-stay-safe-here, mineloveminelove, love what's mine, mineminemine...
He broke the meld, the headache gone and his psyche soothed and stroked into an exhausted mess, purring along the edges of his skull and reeling in the middle, shocked by the sheer intensity of the love he'd seen - Vulcan in its strength, so strong...
"Ssh, ssh, it's okay, it's okay," Jim was whispering urgently, slipping to the sight to turn Spock into his embrace, wrapping him tightly in the blanket and his arms. He seemed alarmed, and Spock vaguely realised that there were tears on his face. "Ssh, it's okay, I'm here, I'm here, ssh..."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm here," he didn't loosen his grip for a moment, tucking Spock's head under his chin as though protecting him from something. Perhaps he was. "Oh, ssh, please, ssh. What's wrong? Why are you - it's okay, it's alright..."
"...I did not anticipate..."
"Are you alright?"
"Then the rest can wait," Kirk murmured, scratching lightly at the base of Spock's scalp. "You believe me now?"
"Good," he whispered, pressing a lingering kiss into Spock's hair. "Go to sleep. We can talk about it in the morning."
Spock rose through the layers of conciousness and out of the trance slowly, eventually blinking his eyes open to find Kirk sitting cross-legged on the mat opposite him, wearing a soft smile that only existed here, in the privacy of their quarters.
"Hey," he said, brushing a kiss over Spock's fingers, and leaning over to press another to the corner of his mouth. "Good session? Everything okay?"
"Affirmative," Spock replied, and did not suppress the swell of satisfaction when his reply earned himself a smile and another kiss.
"Good," Kirk said. "I talked to Pike. He was...surprised, but I think he's okay with it. Bones just about had a fit, but yeah, that's just Bones."
Spock bowed his head. The doctor's reaction is quite as expected.
"I sent off the change of status notifications to Starfleet as well," Kirk continued. "Nogura'll have a fit, you know. I'm effectively married. He'll go batshit. I'll probably not see a captaincy inside of ten years for this, but..."
Kirk stopped and frowned, squeezing Spock's hand. Hard. "Don't you dare finish that thought. No way do I regret it. Even if I never get a captaincy because of this, it's worth it. I have you. That's worth anything."
"...I am...gratified...that you think so."
Kirk smiled, leaning forward to kiss him again, sweet and deft and small - a display of pure affection that Spock was still getting used to. This time, he kept coming, crawling into Spock's lap until his body weight and Spock's position caused them to fall almost gracefully to the floor, Kirk deftly pinning Spock's wrists above his head.
"So," Kirk said, grinning widely. "What's sex like in a mind meld?"
"I do not know."
"Wanna find out?"