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Author's Chapter Notes:

AN:

This is a sequel to Gotcha. While you can read Gotcha as a somewhat open-ended stand alone, I don’t think this one makes much sense without reading Gotcha first.

Thanks to everyone who commented on Gotcha... YOU brought this on! Hope you enjoy it!

 

 Oh, and it’s even fluffier than Gotcha… plus, nothing’s mine, but you knew that already.

 

 

When Jim arrived on the bridge only 5 minutes late (yes, he knew he was the fucking Captain, but after a night like this, who could blame him?). Spock wasn’t there yet.

 

Jim stopped in his tracks, double-checking. No Spock. That was… unusual. Spock made a point of always being on the bridge before Jim, if they worked the same shift. It was one of their standing jokes, giving Spock the opportunity to subtly tease Jim about the fact that humans needed more sleep than Vulcans. Jim happily complied.

In all the months they’d worked together so far, Spock had never been late. And he certainly wouldn’t be without at least calling in.

 

Jim shrugged it off. If the night had been hard and confusing on him, how bad must it have been for his First? Spock probably just needed a few more minutes to compose himself and trusted Jim to realize that and cover for him.

 

So Jim put a cheery smile on his face, threw his crew a good morning which was tentatively returned and walked over to his chair as if it was a morning like any other. “Report, please, Mr. Sulu.”

 

Sulu and Chekov exchanged a glance before Sulu informed him nothing noteworthy had happened on Gamma shift and shift change had been uneventful. A yeoman handed him the relevant PADD, which he quickly scrolled through.

 

He couldn’t ignore Uhura glaring at him from her station, though. His whole team was radiating confusion. It felt like sitting right in the middle of a power plant. Geez, couldn’t the First Officer be late just once in his life?

 

“Keptin, Sir, Mr. Spock is not here”, Chekov broke the awkward silence before Jim was through thinking about how he could explain his First’s absence (he sure as hell couldn’t tell them the truth now, could he?).

 

“Thank you, Mr. Chekov, for stating the obvious”, he answered, Captain-mode in full gear while privately racking his brain for an explanation. He just couldn’t think of anything remotely plausible. In the end, he settled on the most plausible implausibility: “He probably overslept. I know he worked late yesterday. We’ll give him a few more minutes.”

 

If possible, his crew now looked even more confused than before. Yeah, sure, he knew a Vulcan oversleeping… it was a bit far-fetched and definitely not one of his most brilliant (white) lies.

 

“Sir, asking for permission to leave my station and check on him”, Uhura spoke up, already half standing. Uh, what?? No! Spock would probably never forgive him for letting anyone see him in this state! … Although Uhura… no, especially not his ex-girlfriend!

 

It was definitely time to get the situation back under control. He was the Captain, damnit.

 

“Denied.”

 

They didn’t look confused anymore, they looked shocked. Huh, that went well. Now he was considered the biggest asshole ever. But couldn’t they just leave him alone? It was too early in the morning for that shit and he was confused enough himself as it was.

 

“Look”, he said, placating, “we’ll give him half an hour. If he doesn’t turn up until then, I’ll check on him personally.”

 

They didn’t look convinced. How could they, he was acting completely illogical. Someone late for duty was immediately commed and, if he didn’t answer, sent for. An over punctual Vulcan late for duty actually asked for a search party. But they didn’t have all the facts and Jim was determined to play his Captain card. He just hoped he did the right thing, that Spock would turn up in a few minutes, his usual self, and everyone would soon forget about it.

 

After a few more shared glances, the crew obediently turned back to their stations. All but Uhura. He felt her eyes boring into his back for another minute or so, before she too went back to work.

 

***

 

They were currently in warp between two planetary systems and would be for a while, so there wasn’t much to do. Jim signed off a few requests and read a few reports, only half-focused, keeping an eye and an ear on the turbo lift doors.

 

But, half an hour later, Spock still hadn’t turned up.

 

“Sir!” Uhura said, not half a minute later.

 

“Yes, alright, if it makes you all feel better I’ll go check”, he cut her off. He still tried to act nonchalantly about the situation (Spock did have a good reason, didn’t he?) although he was getting worried himself. It just wasn’t like Spock to not even call his absence in!

 

“Mr. Sulu, you have the conn. If my presence is required, comm me. Else I don’t want to be disturbed.” After all, he didn’t want any of them running after him if he didn’t return with Spock in like five minutes.

 

***

 

A short time later he stood undecidedly in front of Spock’s quarters. He’d already pressed the call button twice, no reaction so far. Maybe Spock wasn’t in there? But where else would he be?

 

Jim dragged a hand through his hair, an old habit of indecisiveness he’d never quite managed to shake.

 

There was the Captain’s override code, of course. But it was a huge violation of Starfleet regulations, not to mention privacy, to use it in anything less than an emergency situation. And this whole situation didn’t really qualify as an emergency, no matter how he turned it.

 

He pressed the call button a third time, already knowing there wouldn’t be an answer. And there wasn’t.

 

Jim raked his hair again, looked to the left and right, then took a deep breath and punched the override code in. Spock probably wasn’t even there or he would have answered. In which case he’d never need to know Jim had broken into his quarters. Jim was a genius with programming computers; it would be easy for him to remove any evidence of his access.

If Spock was in there… well, the change in their relationship and Spock’s unusual behavior certainly qualified for one or another bold move.

 

Act first, explain later. After all, that concept was nothing new to him.

 

***

 

Soundlessly, the door slid open. Before Jim had even taken one step closer, a wave of dry heat hit him.

 

“Computer, reduce temperature to human standards”, Jim instructed without thinking. Only after he’d stepped inside he realized he was not only violating Spock’s privacy but hadn’t lost any time tampering with the Vulcan’s environmental controls.

 

He shrugged it off. A quick scan of his surroundings had already revealed there was no one in the living area or the bedroom alcove. He’d be out in a second and turn everything back.

 

So why did he linger? He knew he should leave. But, so far, Spock had never invited him into his quarters. And Jim was curious by nature, a fact Spock was well aware of. He couldn’t help it. As if drawn by an invisible string, he took another cautious step towards the middle of the room. And then another. Somber colors. A meditation platform in the middle. Some Vulcan artifacts on the walls. They must be worth a fortune now.

 

Another step. And that was when he heard it. Thump. Silence. Thump. Silence. Thump.

 

Jim took yet another step. The thumping was coming from the bathroom. It continued in a very regular pattern. Thump. Silence. Thump. Silence.

 

Jim quickly crossed over to the bathroom door.

 

“Spock?” he called, knocking. No answer. The thumping continued. Jim rolled his eyes. This really couldn’t be happening, could it? He wouldn’t walk in on Spock while he was in the bathroom doing whatever he was doing that caused this thumping! Just… no way!

 

“Spock!” he called again, louder. No reaction, except now he thought he could hear murmuring, too, but that might always have been there.

 

“Fuck!” Jim cursed, “what the hell are you doing in there?!”

 

Thump. Silence. Thump. Silence.

 

“I’m gonna have to come in if you’re not answering, you know?” he threatened, hoping this would at last get a reaction from someone valuing his privacy as high as Spock did.

 

He listened for a few more seconds, futilely waiting for an answer. Or at least for the thumping to stop. None of the two options occurred. It was getting creepy.

 

“I’m coming in on three!” Jim called finally, at a total loss of what to do. “One, Two… Three! Sorry, Spock!”

 

Bracing himself, Jim pushed the door open (thank God it wasn’t locked, at least he didn’t have to bust it!), took a step inside and stopped short, gasping at the scene presenting itself.

 

Spook stood to the right, in front of the man-high mirror, standard to every Starfleet-bathroom (presumably so one wouldn’t forget to check the perfect fit of one’s uniform before presenting oneself in public). The mirror was broken about head high, a crack leading from left to right, splintered at the right edge. Broken by Spock’s head and right hand connecting painfully with the glass with every Thump.

 

Green blood was running from his forehead into his eyes, led by his upwards-slanting eyebrows. But his right hand was much worse. With every ‘Thump’ it was forcefully driven into the splinters, blood clinging to the glass, running down Spock’s wrist and elbow.

 

“I” Thump “will not” Thump “relinquish” Thump “control” Thump.

 

“Fuck, Spock, stop that!!!” Jim called, when enough air had found its way back into his lungs. With two strides he was at his friend’s side, reaching out, but stopping himself just in time. ‘Think’, he ordered himself. ‘Don’t screw up!’

 

It was painful to watch, almost impossible to stop himself from trying to stop Spock, difficult to think clearly. But he forced himself to close his eyes and do it. Vulcans were different. Obviously, Spock had worked himself into some kind of a trance, no doubt trying to deal with last night’s events. Vulcans could do that, with all their meditating and healing trances and stuff. Even he knew that much. They just hardly ever did it when there was any danger of someone walking in on them. And he was quite certain they usually didn’t hurt themselves in the process.

 

But what he knew for certain (Bones had all but held a lecture about it the last time Spock had been injured and had worked himself into a healing trance) was that pulling a Vulcan out of a trance was dangerous business. They might feel threatened, they weren’t in control of themselves and they might turn on you before they even realized what happened or who you were. It was dangerous to touch a Vulcan at his best. It could be deadly to touch a Vulcan in a trance.

 

But hell, this wasn’t just any Vulcan. This was Spock. And he was also half human. And Jim couldn’t actually watch him busting up his head and, of all things, his right hand. His very sensitive right hand, if what Spock had said was true.

 

“Spock”, he tried again, somewhat desperate now. When there was still no reaction he resolutely grabbed Spock’s right wrist. No emotions transferred. The barriers were firmly in place.

 

He could just as well not have touched him at all, for all the good it did. The hand shot forward again with force as if Jim wasn’t hanging onto it and he almost lost his footing.

 

“Shit”, Jim coursed, and then, when Spock drew back to hit the glass again, prepared himself to use Spock’s own forward momentum to propel him away from the mirror. It actually worked. Spock didn’t even attack him or anything, but he was slammed painfully into the bathroom cabinet anyway, the impact knocking the wind out of him.

 

Spock didn’t make a single move to brace his own fall and Jim’s left elbow connected with a sickening crack with the sink as he tried to shield Spock’s head from taking any more damage by being busted on the sink or the floor.

 

***

 

Tears stung in Jim’s eyes when he finally squatted next to Spock on the floor, cradling his elbow and wheezing, trying to get his breath back. Those spaceship bathrooms were just too fucking small. You couldn’t even move around them without bumping into anything when you were not trying to wrestle your ultra strong First Officer to the ground!

 

Speaking of which… Jim looked down at Spock who was lying flat on his back on the floor. He’d stopped moving, but he was still muttering his mantra, eyes fixed blankly on the ceiling.

 

“Well, be thankful for small mercies”, Jim murmured, getting up with a groan and starting to rummage through Spock’s bathroom cabinet. It was Starfleet regulation that everyone on a ship had his own compatible first aid kit in his room. As if, if all medical staff were suddenly put out of commission, there would be time to worry about self-treatment of any kind. Most likely, in an event like that, they’d all be very much occupied with things like saving the ship or dying or something.

 

But knowing Spock, Jim was sure he’d follow even this ridiculous regulation. And sure enough, there in the back, behind a bunch of towels, there it was.

 

Jim pulled it out, then wet one of the towels before lowering himself back to the ground and starting to clean Spock’s head wound. He didn’t even want to look at the hand. He thought he should probably call Bones, but he didn’t know anything anymore. He’d very much prefer if Spock snapped out of it like now and told him what to do.

 

He shrugged out if his shirt, favoring his elbow, and folded it under Spock’s head. Spock’s murmuring was getting irregular now and after Jim had put some disinfectant and a bandage on the nasty cut on his forehead, it had all but subsided.

 

Jim looked at him expectantly, calling his name a few times, but he still didn’t show any sign of recognition, staring blankly and unblinkingly up at the ceiling.

 

***

 

With a sigh, Jim picked up Spock’s right hand by the uniform sleeve, careful not to touch skin, let alone the palm or the inside of his fingers and examined it. There was a lot of blood, but he could still see glass splinters embedded in the heel. There was probably some damage to muscles and ligaments, too, but, although painful, it would be easy for Bones to fix that.

 

With another sigh and a glance at the still unresponsive Spock, Jim laid the hand on his right thigh, palm up, carefully holding it in place by the uniform-covered wrist. His own left hand felt numb, but he would worry about that later. He cautiously started to pick out fragments of glass with a pair of pincers.

 

He knew Bones could do it faster and more efficiently and he probably even had a tool for it, but there wasn’t anything else to do at the moment. Even though battered up, Spock didn’t look as if he was dying. And Jim probably wouldn’t live it down if he called Bones for anything less. Spock hated sickbay as much as Jim did.

 

Besides, they still had to get their stories straight. Spock sure wouldn’t want Jim to tell anyone he’d gone practically nuts over… yeah, over what, exactly? Over Jim telling him he could read his emotions? Over that chaste kiss which still confused the hell out of Jim too, by the way? Or over anything else that had happened later? It couldn’t have been the breakdown itself, could it? Spock had seemed quite himself in the morning just after Jim had woken up.

 

Either way, it wasn’t as if Bones wouldn’t kill Jim when he found out he’d tried to break a Vulcan out of a trance. Never mind that he’d succeeded. And no matter what certain Starfleet officials thought about Jim, he didn’t have a death wish. So he was just fine with leaving Bones out of it a while longer.

 

Jim almost smiled when he thought of Bones ranting about how he should know better. He did, actually. But this was about Spock. And now, more than ever, Spock was important. He’d seen behind that carefully built façade and he would be forever grateful for that chance, but he would also do everything to help Spock keep it up in front of everyone else if that was what he wanted. So they’d better find a good story to preserve both their dignities before facing anyone of the crew, Bones included.

 

The hand on Jim’s thigh suddenly stiffened. Putting an easy smile on his face, Jim turned to look down into his friend’s eyes. Spock blinked (he’d finally blinked again, thank goodness, it had been getting uber-creepy!).

 

“Hey, welcome back”, Jim said softly.

 

Spock stared at him with a steady, expressionless gaze.

 

Jim waited.

 

Finally, in a very low voice: “You shouldn’t do that.”

 

“What…?” Jim asked, confused.

 

“Touching my hand.”

 

Jim looked down. In the last ten seconds, he’d all but forgotten about it. Despite his words, Spock didn’t move a muscle.

 

“Well then, maybe you shouldn’t bust it up on a mirror.” Jim tried for cheerful.

 

Spock continued to stare at him. Empty eyes. It freaked Jim out. He told himself that despite being Spock, his friend was still first and foremost a Vulcan. And this was normal Vulcan behavior. He just thought it was eerie because Spock had so opened up to him lately. And because Jim knew it must have taken him an enormous effort, going from very expressive and emotional to completely closed up and controlled in such a short time. Apparently his mind hadn’t been able to keep up and had simply overloaded.

 

Jim knew there was a lot he could do right now… and even more he could do wrong.

 

He moved his hands away and spread them out, Spock’s right still resting on his thigh.

 

“Shall I call Bones?” he offered, even though he thought he knew the answer. But the decision had to be Spock’s and he wanted him to say it out loud.

 

Spock’s gaze didn’t shift, his blank expression didn’t change.

 

Again, Jim waited.

 

“Please continue”, Spock said after an eternity.

 

Jim resumed working, even more careful now not to touch Spock any more than strictly necessary, keeping just a very light hold on the uniform-covered wrist, other than that only touching him with the pincers.

 

***

 

He finished quickly after that, squeezed some disinfectant onto Spock’s palm and spread it with some gauze. He bandaged the hand as well as he could without excessive touching (he should have become a surgeon, he detected he was very skilled in putting a sticky bandage on with just one hand and pincers), then picked the arm up by the shirtsleeve and finally laid it back down at Spock’s side.

 

Jim exhaled with relief. Then, for lack of a better idea, he slumped on his back next to Spock, bracing his foot on the toilet seat and cradling his elbow to his chest. He turned his head so he could look at Spock, who’d gone back to staring blankly up at the ceiling.

 

Jim gave a dry snort. “You know what’s funny?

First I hate your guts.

Then I start to like you but I’m… kinda freaked out because… you’re so different.

Then I get to know you and I find out we’re not all that different, you and I.

Then I start to like you like whoa.

And now? Now we’re right back to stage… what stage was ‘freaked out’ again?”

 

He waited for a few beats but, as expected, no answer was forthcoming. Jim snorted again. “And you know what’s funniest? I might be freaked out, but I still like you.”

 

They lay in silence for a while, but Jim wasn’t the kind of guy who could keep still for any extended period of time. He lifted his left arm und experimentally flexed the elbow, hissing through his teeth at the sharp pain the movement caused.

 

And this, even though he hadn’t tried for it, finally got him a reaction.

 

Spock’s eyes snapped to Jim’s arm, still carefully guarded but at least (thanks to all the deities Jim had ever heard of) they lost that scary dead stare even as Jim watched.

 

“I hurt you.”

 

“What?? No!!” Jim hurried to say. “I hurt myself. Not your fault!”

 

“I told you.” Spock continued, as if Jim hadn’t spoken at all. “I told you this would happen. And still you insist to touch me. I explained to you how difficult controlling my emotions is for me at any time. You are not making it any easier. I am a danger to you. You must stay away. Especially if I am unstable it is essential you stay away. I request you to leave.”

 

Jim gaped at him, heart beating painfully in his chest. Dismissed. His ears were ringing. It hurt.

 

He made to get up but stopped halfway through the motion, propping himself up on his good elbow instead and looking down at Spock, who was again staring up at the ceiling. He wasn’t giving up that easy. Not this time.

 

“You know”, he mused, “people tell me I’m always taking the easy way out. But you… you’re so much worse. Emotions are complicated. Sure, for you probably more so than for most of us, but hell, sometimes I want nothing more than to run from them, too.

But if you just… If you shut them out completely, you’ll certainly miss out on a few bad things, but on so much good, too.

I want to be your friend. Don’t push me away just because you’re afraid of yourself. ‘Cause I’m not afraid of you. Or your emotions.”

 

Jim wasn’t completely sure he wouldn’t get strangled again. And this time, Ambassador Sarek wouldn’t be anywhere near to stop his son.

 

Instead, Spock pushed himself up to a sitting position. “You must leave now”, he said, voice cold as ice. “I require meditation.”

 

Jim got up, shrugging. “Sure, go ahead. I’ll clean up some around here, then I’m sending Bones to take a look at you. I’ll just tell him you’ve been meditating when I barged in and disturbed you. I startled you, you fought me of course and smashed the mirror in the process. He won’t believe it for a second, of course, but as long as we both stick to it, it’s gonna be good enough for his medical log.”

 

Spock slowly got to his feet, too, looking anywhere but at Jim. “Vulcans do not lie.”

 

Jim threw up his hands in frustration. “Oh, for all I care, let’s just go and tell everyone you suffered from emotional overload, leading to an epic Vulcan breakdown, then couldn’t deal with it and went crazy, working yourself into some weird suicidal trance where you tried to smash your head in so you’d never have to think about emotional control ever again!”

 

Spock looked at the tips of his toes. “You are exaggerating. But I prefer the first version.”

 

With that, he walked out of the bathroom, firmly closing the door behind himself.

 

***

 

Jim exhaled, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers. Couldn’t anyone help him out here? He felt like a fish out of water. He wasn’t very good at dealing with emotions at the best of times… but suppressed emotions…?!

 

With another sigh he started to clean up the worst of the mess, making slow progress with the use of only one arm. He didn’t want Bones seeing more than absolutely necessary, as the doctor would be compelled to include everything he saw into his medical log, possibly leading to questions from Starfleet Command Spock could very well go without.

 

When Jim left, Spock was sitting on his platform, deep in meditation and not reacting to Jim tiptoeing through the room and out of the door.

 

***

 

Jim called for his yeoman and sent her with a message down to sickbay. Then he headed for the bridge. Bones would find him soon enough, he could take care of his elbow then.

 

All heads whipped in his direction when the turbo lift doors opened. Uh yeah… well… he hadn’t really thought about that…

 

Murmuring something about Spock having to take care of private matters, he made a beeline for the Captain’s chair where he spent a very awkward few hours ignoring the tension on the bridge. He was almost relieved when Bones all but ordered him down to sickbay.

 

“All right, Jim, level with me, what’s going on?” Bones never wasted any time. Jim shrugged. Then flinched at the stab of pain the movement sent through his arm from his elbow right up to his shoulder.

 

Bones noticed immediately, grabbed a tricoder off his desk and pointed it at Jim.

 

“Well?” he prompted, contemplating the readings.

 

Jim put on an innocent face. “Didn’t Spock tell you?” he asked.

 

Bones snorted. “Not even you are crazy enough to walk in on a Vulcan who’s meditating and then go ahead and startle him!”

 

Jim smiled somewhat sheepishly. “Are you sure?”

 

Bones looked sharply at him. He was sure, Jim knew, but Bones chose to give him the easy way out (because he was just awesome like that), muttering and cursing about his irresponsibility before suddenly doing something fast and very painful to Jim’s elbow.

 

“Ow!” Jim protested, rubbing his arm. It already started to feel better, though.

 

Bones huffed and bristled some more, cursing Vulcans in general and Jim’s obsession with playing with fire specifically. But he kept it deliberately general, not asking any questions that would have resulted in vague answers which in turn might have raised the suspicions of Starfleet Command.

 

Jim gave him a quick, one-armed hug for being the incredible friend he was, which resulted in even more cursing and bristling. Jim didn’t mind. He knew it was half-hearted at best.

 

***

 

Spock didn’t turn up for Alpha Shift the next day. Nor the day after. Rumors flared but they were close enough to the story Jim had made up for them, so he didn’t mind too much.

 

He got Spock’s resignation request while in his quarters on the third day. He read it twice before the PADD slipped out of his trembling fingers. He stared at where it was lying on the floor for several minutes, but didn’t pick it up again.

 

***

 

On the fourth day, Jim had just settled in his Captain’s chair, Spock arrived for his shift. He stopped just out of the turbo lift, inclining his head in a ‘good-morning’-gesture as he usually did, before making his way over to his station.

 

Lieutenant Deckers, who’d been filling in for him those past few days, scrambled out of the way. Tension on the bridge was tangible.

 

Spock seated himself at his station and calmly asked Lieutenant Deckers for a status report.

 

Jim closed his mouth. He was busy for a while with his own reports and deciding on a course to Nimus IV were important mining rights negotiations were scheduled.

 

When everything was settled and they were quietly shooting though space again, Jim decided to do something about the strained situation. He got up and walked over to his First Officer.

 

“Glad to have you back, Mr. Spock!” he declared, loud enough for everyone to hear. “I trust you are sufficiently recovered to join me for a game of chess? Tonight? 0800? My quarters?”

 

Spock turned and hesitated. The crew held its breath. Jim forced himself not to hold his own in solidarity. He deliberately exhaled and looked right into his First’s carefully guarded eyes, willing him to give the right answer.

 

“That would be agreeable, Captain.”

 

The breath of relief must have been heard right down in engineering. Had Chekov actually just crossed himself??

Jim blinked, and just like that, the atmosphere on the bridge was back to normal. Uhura smiled softly at her station while she scanned for sub-space transmissions, Chekov and Sulu grinned and put their heads together, yeoman Rand brought Jim a PADD to sign and a cup of coffee, security officer Gardner leaned casually against a console.

The command team seemed to be back on track and the world was right again.

 

Except that it wasn’t. The PADD with Spock’s resignation request still lay on the floor in Jim’s quarters. And Jim also hadn’t missed the fact that Spock’s face was blanker than usual. He’d schooled it into a mask. Just a few days ago, Jim would have known what the answer to his question would be long before Spock would have voiced it. Today he’d had no idea. For a horrible moment he’d been sure Spock would decline. Not even his eyes had given anything away.

They were far from back on track. But at least the crew was reassured and Spock had, indirectly, agreed to talk.

 

***

 

The door bell chimed promptly at 8.00, but Spock didn’t come in at Jim’s call, as he’d gotten used to over the past months of regular chess games. Instead, Jim had to get up and open the door himself.

 

Spock held himself stiffly, face still an unreadable mask.

 

“It would not be advisable for the game to take place in the privacy of your quarters”, Spock remarked. “I recommend we relocate to one of the recreation rooms.”

 

Jim gave him a slight smile. “Stop the bullshit and come on in already”, he said gently, not waiting for an answer before walking over to the bar and retrieving their usual drinks.

 

He was detecting a pattern, he thought. Whenever Spock closed off, he seemed to be afraid of hurting Jim one way or another.

Jim was sure he was onto something there. He just had to verify his thesis and find out what exactly it was Spock was so afraid of.

 

He was sure Spock wouldn’t hurt him. He was in far better control of his emotions than he gave himself credit for. Even in his complete breakdown he’d had enough presence of mind to keep Jim off his hands. And during the bridge incident, where he was so far gone he might have killed Jim without actually noticing, he’d been able to pull himself out of it at a single word of his father.

 

He heard the rustle of Spock sitting down at the chess table and allowed himself a quick grin. Step one. Small victories. He poured Spock’s water, set his beer down and sat opposite him.

 

For several minutes, they played in silence.

 

Then Jim said, conversationally: “You realize, of course, I won’t sign your resignation.”

 

Spock looked up, eyes narrowing. “And you realize, I am sure, that I will be able to resign with or without your approval. Although I would have preferred it with.”

 

Jim moved a pawn. “As well as you realize that I will do anything to prevent it.”

 

Spock’s eyes narrowed even further, chess board momentarily forgotten. “Anything?” he asked.

 

“Anything”, Jim confirmed. “Unless you have a very, very good reason. ‘Cause you know too, of course, that I’ll support any decision of yours if it makes you happy. If it’s good for you. Or if it’s something you really, really want.

If it’s something you’re doing for someone else or out of your crazy sense of duty, though, I’ll fight you every step of the way. And I just can’t come up with any reason why you’d want to resign. But maybe if you just told me…”

 

Spock looked down, but Jim could tell he wasn’t seeing the board. When he looked up again, his features had softened. The mask was gone. Jim imagined he saw a certain despair in his eyes. He couldn’t be sure.

 

“It is… to perform a ritual. A Vulcan tradition. It is not something we talk about. But I need to do it. If I master it, I may be able to serve with Starfleet again, one day. Maybe even on the Enterprise.”

 

Jim considered this. He didn’t want to push, but he needed to know more.

 

“Not good enough”, he said softly.

 

Spock stared into the middle distance, unseeing, warring with himself. Jim gently nudged his friend’s shin with his foot. “Your turn.”

 

With a slight start, Spock came back from wherever he’d been, gathering himself before making his move.

 

They were silent for a while.

 

“What does it contain?” Jim finally asked.

 

“Meditation”, was the short reply.

 

“What is it called?”

 

Spock hesitated, then moved his rook to a particularly disastrous position before answering: “Kolinahr.”

 

Without a word, Jim reached over and put the rook back to where it had been on the second level, waiting for Spock to gather himself again and move it to a more sensible position.

 

Again, Jim let a few moves pass before asking the next question: “What does it do?”

 

Spock’s hand actually trembled when he made his next move. He didn’t answer.

 

“Ok”, Jim rephrased. “Why do you think you need it? Why do you think you can’t stay in Starfleet without it?”

 

Spock answered so softly Jim had to strain to hear. “You yourself have witnessed on several occasions my poor control over my emotions. I cannot… it is dangerous. I need to work on it.”

 

“Do you think you need to work on it or does anyone else think so?”

 

“I know I need to work on it”, Spock almost snapped, vehemently now. “I cannot trust myself! I need to do something about it!”

 

“That’s ok”, Jim soothed and he almost reached over to touch. “If it’s something you really want, you really need, I’ll back you up. I will help you. But I need to know what it does, what it’s for. I’m not supporting anything if I don’t have the slightest idea what it leads to.”

 

Spock swallowed hard and looked down again. Jim could see how torn he was. This was the ultimate demonstration of trust. Secret Vulcan tradition against support from a friend.

 

“It is to purge all emotions”, Spock all but whispered.

 

Jim stared. And stared. And blinked. And stared.

 

A gentle finger against his chin, barely a touch, made him close his mouth. Again. This Vulcan had a talent for leaving him gaping.

 

He tried to say something, but all he managed was a hoarse sound which could or couldn’t have been “What??”

 

“It is the ultimate goal for any Vulcan.” Spock explained. “The purging of all emotions, mastering logic to its fullest extent. The training might take two to six years. Not all of us are able to master Kolinahr and it is considered impossible for me as a hybrid. But I have proved them wrong before. I will have to do so one more time.”

 

At Jim’s shocked expression he added: “It is the greatest honor. Our most accomplished…”

 

“Nonono!” Jim interrupted. “No, I don’t want to hear it!”

 

The multi-leveled chess-board restricted his view on Spock and he swept it out of the way with an impatient move, sending the treasured pieces scattering to the floor. He leaned forward, invading Spock’s personal space.

 

“I don’t want to hear about Elders. Or traditions. Or any such thing! I want to hear about you! Whatever gave you that idea? I mean, you??”

 

“I am Vulcan”, Spock said defensively, looking somewhat startled at Jim’s rough handling of his cherished chessboard.

 

“You are”, Jim said, desperately, “You are, and you don’t need to prove it.”

 

“I am not doing it to prove anything to anyone…”, Spock defended himself.

 

“…but yourself?” Jim added.

 

Spock didn’t answer.

 

“Look, Spock, I don’t want to change you. You’re Vulcan and that’s a good thing. I like it. But you’re also half human. And I like that, too. It’s what makes you you. And that’s just about perfect. And I just don’t think… I can’t believe being a fully emotionless Vulcan would be you. I don’t think you’d be happy.”

 

“Vulcans don’t feel…”

 

“Oh, cut the crap!”

 

Spock took a shuddering breath. “Because of my hybrid nature I need to take certain precautions. I cannot control myself as well as I should and I do not want to endanger those I call… friends.” It took him a moment to say the last word.

 

Jim leaned in even more. “Danger, dangerous… You keep talking about being dangerous. I just can’t see how that’s the case, Spock. I don’t understand it. Talk to me, so maybe I can.”

 

Spock leaned back as far as he could and Jim took the cue, leaning back too, giving him the space he needed. Spock looked utterly miserable, glancing every which way but at Jim.

 

Jim almost wanted to say something, let him off the hook, but he bit his tongue. Truth time. Again.

 

“It is you”, Spock finally said and it sounded as if he had to force out every word. He looked somewhere over Jim’s left shoulder, clasping his hands together in a bruising grip.

 

Jim’s heart clenched. “Me??”

 

Spock seemed to sense his distress. “Not something you do or might have done”, he clarified.

 

Which didn’t really help all that much, Jim thought.

 

Spock bit his lower lip, looked at Jim and away again.

 

“You do not know much about Vulcans…”

 

“Well, you keep kind of private”, Jim huffed nervously.

 

Spock stopped him with a raised eyebrow. Familiar territory. At last.

 

“We are a solitary species. We probably would have become extinct long ago if not for the… if not for…”

 

He stopped himself and took a different approach.

 

“We are bonded as children to make sure we take a mate in adulthood. We probably would scarcely reproduce otherwise. But there are… occurrences… where two people find each other and… fit. Before the time of Surak often… these days it is rarely heard of.” Spock almost choked on his words. “It is called…”

 

Jim knew it. He just knew. “T’hy’la”, he finished when it became clear that Spock couldn’t say it.

 

This made Spock look at him, eyes deep, dark and intense, a want in them, a hunger, almost.

 

He had to clear his throat before he could go on. “To this day, it is still considered the greatest accomplishment, the greatest fortune, to find one’s match. One’s…T’hy’la.”

 

Jim could hardly breathe. This was… whatever he’d gotten himself into now, it was way over his head.

 

“Our minds are… exceptionally compatible”, Spock went on, hoarse now with emotion. “Of course I could not miss it. I felt it very clearly… that night. And even before. But when you said… as a human, you should not be able to read my emotions. It proves…” he trailed off, at a loss.

 

Jim was, too. He certainly hadn’t been expecting this. Oh. My. God. “Are you telling me you want to marry me??” he blurted.

 

Spock looked startled. Then amused. The spell was broken, words came easier, at least for the moment. “Of course not. You are my Captain. You are my friend.

But I am a telepath. For us, compatibility of the mind is the all important thing. I will always be drawn to you. Under normal circumstances, that is no problem. But… if I ever lost control again… I might do something… neither of us wants… unforgivable… I could not… I cannot let it happen. Even the smallest risk is far too big.”

 

Jim buried his face in his hands. Fucking hell. This was Spock. His friend Spock. Whom he loved because he was who he was. Who wanted to change his entire being because he felt… attracted to Jim?? Not going to happen. No way.

 

He stayed in the sanctuary of his own hands for a few more moments before facing reality and Spock gain.

 

“Let’s take the chance”, he said, voice steady. Spock’s eyes widened. “At least now I know what I’m in for. I’m ready to take the chance. Let’s go back to where we were before all hell broke lose and we’ll take it from there. See where it leads to. That is…” he gestured with his hand, “if you can live with that. No more weirdness. We are friends. If you sometimes lose control a little, that’s fine. I’m sure I can stop you before it get’s violent.” He snorted. “That’s not true, I’m sure you can stop yourself. And if not… I’ll never blame you. My responsibility. I’m going in with my eyes wide open.”

 

Spock was shaking his head but Jim just reached over and grabbed his wrist over his uniform shirt. “I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want to lose who you are. I love you the way you are. I don’t want you to change, not ever. You are worth the risk.”

 

A tremor worked its way through Spock, all the way through his tense frame and he slowly turned his hand until it was level with Jim’s, fitting it palm to palm, slightly touching. The sparks of confusionaffectionprotectivenesstrust transferring through the contact were both disconcerting and pleasantly exciting.

 

“T’hy’la, thank you”, he heard, and he couldn’t be sure if it was with his ears, his mind or his heart.

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