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Story Notes:

This sounds like it's about a d/s relationship from the summary, doesn't it? Surprisingly, it's not! Not yet, anyway. This is my first multi chapter K/S...I hope you all enjoy it. Any feedback is much appreciated. It never happened and I own nothing.

1.

Kirk is dreaming about Iowa.

He’s running in his dream, jogging uphill on that dirt road that cuts through the cornfields, a mile until it hits the charred wasteland where they used to test nuclear bombs during the Eugenics wars. It’s a vivid dream, so much so that he can hear the windy clattering of dry husks against one another, and smell the sweet manure and sweat smell of his neighbors’ horses. Kirk knows it’s a dream, though, because he appears as he is now, nearing thirty five instead of the sixteen year old he last was when he went jogging in Iowa.

He can feel ribbons of sweat gathering in the creases of his elbows, cool when the breeze soothes the burn of middle American sun accosting his bare back. There is a sinister ache in his knee, and his lungs are tight and struggling against the wind, but Kirk keeps running, his shoes sending up clouds of black, ashy dust around him. He knows it’s a dream, so he doesn’t have to keep running, but that doesn’t stop him. There are lots of things that Kirk doesn’t have to do, yet he does anyway. The fact that this isn’t real makes no difference.

Some implicit, unexplained dream-knowledge tells him its Easter Sunday. Something about the chirrup of birds and the almost-summer but not quite heat of April. Kirk sucks in a breath, surging into a sprint when he reaches the top of the hill. It’s only a quarter of a mile left. His knee is all but screaming in protest, but he ignores it, reminding himself this pain is not real. This is not real.

A car slows down alongside him, a vintage thing from the 2000s, and a withered old lady leans out and scolds him for running on the day of the resurrection. His suspicions confirmed, Kirk just increases speed, smiling at her but panting too hard to speak. The car disappears, as things in dreams often do, and he’s alone again. He strikes the ground in front of him, lungs searing and a sunburn on his back. He can see the blackened earth ahead of him as he nears the war zone.

When Kirk was fourteen, fifteen, even sixteen, he turned back here. He made a left and jogged through the cow pasture all the way back home, his feet occasionally sinking in wet, amonified earth spongy with bovine urine. This time, however, he keeps going, on through the bomb craters, further and further into an Iowa he’s never explored.

It’s important to push forward. There are many things that James Kirk believes in, but none so surely as forward motion. Forward motion into the unknown, forward motion in spite of pain, in spite of fear. Kirk used to think that strength was fearlessness, painlessness, but now he knows better. He knows that strength is forward motion in spite of fear. In spite of pain.

He leaps over a crevice in the earth, still smoking like the war wasn’t two centuries ago. His stride lengthens, and the wind shifts alignment from against him, to with him, alongside him. And it’s times like this that make Kirk love running, running truly, purely, like a dog or a horse and with no concern or regards to the destination, but instead for the joy and the pain of the act itself. Air runs cool fingers through his hair, and he closes his eyes, trusting his subconscious to take him where he needs to go, deeper into his home state, deeper into the earth and the things that grow on it, die on it, and come back to life after three days on it.

Abruptly, the scent of grass and fire and hay is gone, replaced by the familiar staleness that comes from living in a tin can. Kirk’s eyes are peeled open and fixed on some uncertain point ahead of him, but they see nothing because it is dark. So suddenly, Kirk is no longer in Iowa. He’s not even on the planet, not even on the ground. He is in space.

Sometimes the absurdity of that fact hits him hard in the gut. Kirk is in space. He’s suspended in something so vast it’s endless. Something so full and so empty, so different from earth with her rules and gravity. He has spent the better part of three years somewhere that can kill him if he does something so innate and mindless and necessary as inhale.

He sits up in bed, his eyes adjusting to the darkness of his quarters, the memory of sunlight still slightly blinding him as he goes mechanically through the motions of the morning. Turning on a cold shower. Pouring himself a spoonful of Thelysian vinegar because he hates the way its tastes. He shudders as it slides bitter and acrid down this throat, and rakes a hand through his hair.

As frigid water thunders on his back, and his breath comes quick and shocked, Kirk is not homesick. Maybe he was at the exact moment of waking, when he is not himself and reduced down to an infant thing, but not now, when he has his mind. He’s not homesick because there are no uncharted territories in Iowa. He used to try and get himself lost when he was sixteen and jogging, but it was impossible. There were few roads and he knew all of them, and the nuclear testing area smelled too burnt and sulfurous to approach unless in a dream. Sometimes he longed for the familiarity of home, of Earth, but only in theory.

Familiarity was tiresome for Kirk. It made him feel restless and caged, and worse, weak. The comfort of it making him soft and unresiliant to the unpredictability of things unknown. So naturally, he joined the academy.

Space is lonely, and at times, terrifying in its immenseness. Sometimes Kirk wants to scream with how lost he is, how far from the corn and the cows he grew up around, how many stars separate him from solid ground. Sometimes the artificiality of the air he breathes startles him, reminds him that he is not supposed to be here, he was not designed for it.

But Kirk, like the Federation, is great at constructing fictions to pacify himself. When he chokes in his tin can, he reminds himself that the Enterprise is everything, she is the vehicle than enables forward motion. Forward motion into the unknown. It’s not that different from running in a dream of Iowa, being the captain of a starship. The wind is still in his face, and there are remnants of war ahead of him, shattered pieces ready to be picked up and slapped together with crazy glue and Federation promises of peace and progress.

Kirk dries off with his shabby towel, his skin prickled with gooseflesh and grey in the unlighted bathroom. His knuckles sting from where they were bruised and skinned from breaking up a fight yesterday, but aside from that Kirk feels invincible. Or at least he tells himself he does.

He pulls his uniform over his head. He brushes his teeth. He laces his boots. He pours a capful of rubbing alcohol over his bruised knuckles, even though Bones says the stuff isn’t just dated, it’s practically barbaric. Kirk doesn’t care, he likes the way it burns. When he can burn and freeze and withstand the terror of time never being measured in days and nights because days and nights don’t exist in space, the fact he is not actually invincible fades into something he can swallow.

Regardless, there is always the slightest imperfection in Kirk’s invincibility. But it’s not the kind of imperfection that ruins things around it. It’s not the wine stain on his mother’s white linens, it’s not the run in her stockings. It’s not broken or sullied by anything external. No, the breach in Kirk’s perfectly conceived of invincibility is more like a scar: ugly but hard earned. Still painful to the touch. White-purple and whorled, a different texture, but still a part of him.

This is why it doesn’t change anything, why he can still lie and feel like there’s not a breakable bone in his body. Because Kirk’s weakness is so intrinsic and unchanging and woven into his selfhood, he’s twisted it into something other than weakness. Instead, it is a pain he endures, like jogging, like burning, like captaining a starship.

It hurts worse, but it is somehow easier. Because loving Spock is a beautiful thing to endure, much more so than the discomfort of rubbing alcohol or Theleysian vinegar. Those are mere discomforts. Loving Spock is full blown agony, and agony requires more strength to withstand.

Kirk gels and combs his hair into place, too focused on the task to notice much else about his reflection. After all, he knows what he would see. More lines in the face, through his brow and on either side of his mouth. Some under his eyes, making them heavy and thoughtful. Kirk knows he looks old and tired, but he tries to not let that matter. If he believes he is desirable, than women find him so. It’s a trick he’s been using as long as he figured out that there was nothing special about a farm boy at the Academy, racing hundreds of other farm boys as far away as possible from cows and corn, so desperate for the endlessness of space. He was nothing special, no stronger and no smarter, so he had to find something else he had above them. And that thing was charm.

Charm is just a lie. Kirk supposes he is a good liar.

Sometimes he wonders if this is why he loves Spock. Because his lies do not work on Spock. Because Spock cannot lie. All of his power, everything that makes the fact he is not special meaningless, is useless when is comes to Spock. Spock is not a victim of his charm, so he strips Kirk down naked, down to the farm boy who is not special. It hurts, and sometimes Kirk thinks that is why he craves it.

Everything in order, Kirk takes a few moments to stand at his bathroom counter, head in his hands. He pauses there, takes a deep breath and lets it out, followed by another. He’s preparing himself for another day at the bridge, another day resting at the top of something he constructed out of charm, in love with someone who is impervious to such things. In this moment of stillness he wonders, as he often does, if the reason he loves Spock is because Spock cannot love him back, and Kirk is obsessed with the impossible. If loving Spock is just another Thelysian vinegar spoonful, more dated and barbaric medical techniques. Anything to make his existence a more difficult thing to conquer, and therefore a greater feat of forward motion.

And as he stands upright and strides out of his quarters with the mask of determination upon his face Kirk knows, as he always does, that the real reason he loves Spock is because he simply cannot help it.
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