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Story Notes:
Every time I hear "five year mission" I get the Bowie song in my head Five Years. I had to write something about it. This is very much a meditation on abstracts themes...particularly want, space, and time. I hope you like it! I don't own them.
Five years seemed like too long. An impossible stretch of time, and the Kirk that existed two and a half years ago could hardly imagine how such a mission would affect him, what new and exciting and careworn and wise version of himself would emerge on the other end of five years. If he’d even survive so much time in space, facing unimaginable dangers and mysteries. Five years. It seemed like too long.

It still does, on some days. The other kind of day comes more frequently, however. The kind of day when Kirk looks at the nearing end of five years with apprehension, fear. He does not know where he will go after the five years in the boundlessness of space end. He does not know where Spock will go. But at this point in time, two and a half years into a five year mission, hurtling towards worlds unknown and stars unmapped, things seem suspended in a unspeakable perfection. Things are easy. Things are like talking, like thinking, like dreaming. They happen without thought or trying, simultaneous and smooth. It’s a feeling. Things with Spock seem perfect, because they exist in space.

Nothing is happening. Nothing will happen. But it doesn’t matter. Kirk has all the time in the world. He has five years.

But that’s seeming like less and less now.

There is a certain end, and they’re coming closer and closer to it. Almost halfway over Kirk keeps coming back to, when he lays away on nights he knows he should be using to sleep, because sleep is a luxury and he should take advantage of such things. Halfway. And then, because he can’t help it anymore, he thinks of Spock, and all of the things he wants from him.

The perfection, the suspension, the cessation of time within the expansive illusion of space, came slowly. It wasn’t until the end of the first year that whatever existed between them became a solid rather than an absence. First there was dislike, disdain, reproach, mistrust. Then there was an uneasy calm, a mild surprise that the formerly strong feelings of unsettled command shifted into something swallowable, even amiable. And then, most miraculously, into effortless rapport.

Kirk never expected to be understood when speaking or not. Kirk never expected to feel his body become a planet in orbit around a clear, magnetizing sun. He never expected to fear the end of five years as an end of the closest thing he’s ever felt to perfect, unmediated connection.

The knowledge that it’s not one sided should make things easier. It should mean that their combined efforts will eliminate the inevitability of an end. Instead it strikes deeper fear into Kirk, because it makes it real. This is not just some creation of his own, safe inside his mind to protect, his heart for safekeeping. It’s a reality that exists outside himself, out of his control, between him and Spock, but not theirs.

It belongs to Space.

~*~

Nothing happens. Nothing has happened. It’s fractional, abysmal, miniscule. Whatever there is between Kirk and Spock, it does not have words, it is not defined by words; it couldn’t be. It’s unspeakable, and unspoken.

Yet, Kirk can count the times he’s known with certainty that it is real, and it is returned.

It exists resting upon looks. Expressions, time. Things that are held too long between them, the smile that Kirk smiles that he knows he smiles for no one else but Spock, the smile that seems to come from inside of him without control, spreading like a disease, rupturing cells and infecting blood. This thing is held under the water like a drowned man during the day in, day out routine of living on a starship, but it explodes, fall to spring, which bursts into a million living blooms whenever one of their lives is threatened. The veneer of control cracks whenever Spock is in pain, and Kirk stops caring about the salve they spread across dry skin to pretend that things are smooth and not broken.

When he thinks Spock might be hurt, it comes to life, takes the helm and drives for him, and his hands rove Spock’s body with the certainty of a lover he would be to him if he was certain of anything. He touches Spock, on his chest, his back, his arms, his neck, there there are tendons like steel and a pulse that shudders like the wake left behind a ship rustling out of stillness. Spock will touch him in the same way, though less frequently, and in greater danger. But it is there, it does happen, the unguarded terror in normally so flawlessly guarded dark eyes, as a palm rakes sure and shaking up his sternum and a voice like iron saying Jim.

Kirk feels like it could carry on like this forever. Somedays, when five years does not seem like a death sentence.

~*~

“Spock. Spock!” Kirk says, and his voice does not sound like his own. His hand, slicked with the sticky warmth of green blood, is vicelike on the wound across Spock’s ribcage, where he’s been struck with a crude arrow on the planet’s surface. The security team is already on the emergency, phasers set to stun and bodies laying in native dust, coming to, while Kirk fishes for his communicator.

“Scotty, beam the landing party up from these coordinates at once. And alert sick bay that Spock’s been injured. Kirk out,” he says in this alien, terrified voice. He knows his eyes are wide. He knows that Scotty knows that it is Mr. Spock who is injured whether or not he stated it, because Kirk’s voice sounds different when this is the case.

“I am quite alright, Captain,” Spock says, hoarse and even. His hand, also bloody, rises to cover Kirk’s, and squeezes in a clumsy, wet embrace. They materialize into energy, and become fragments in space until they are whole and upon the enterprise once again.

Kirk believes him, but his heart does not slow until Spock emerges from sick bay hours later, stitched up, his eyebrow raising in the way it always does, the space between their bodies restored again with the commonplace distance of feeling like one has time to do things.
~*~

Kirk gets restless when he has not slept, even though rest is the cure. He shies away from cures because he feels like he learns from his pain, but the pain necessitates thinking, and the thinking prevents sleep. His chest houses a sick feeling, his eyes sticky and heavy like cotton in sockets. He’s in Spock’s quarters and they have just finished co-writing a report to starfleet headquarters about the diplomatic relationship treaty between the two class M planets in the gama system the enterprise just facilitated, and he is not certain as to why he is still here.

He sees Spock, hazy and impermanent in his vision, so he blinks. Spock is still there once he opens his eyes again.

“If we have no further matters to discuss, Captain, perhaps you should attempt to rest. If I recall, you have not slept in close to twenty four hours.” Spock speaks carefully, one eyebrow raised and gaze heavy, swimmable in its darkness.

“Thank you for the suggestion, Mr. Spock. It will be noted,” and in spite of exhaustion and general delirium, Kirk cannot help but smile the smile that is only for Spock.

He is not certain as to why he is still here. There is no other reason aside from wanting to be in Spock’s quarters. He usually tries not to imagine what it would feel like to lay alongside Spock the rust-colored regulation mattress, the space between their bodies disappearing, the wet sear of mouths meeting, but he is tired and not up for the restraint it takes to not imagine these things.

“Spock, do Vulcans experience want?” Kirk asks. He knows the answer, because he sees his own reflection in Spock’s eyes frequently enough to deduct the meaning. He wants to hear the truth, or the lie that Spock has written to mask it, from Spock’s own lips, because he wants all of Spock.

Spock would look startled if he were a human, but instead he looks pensive, with the slightest quirk to his brow, which indicates that this was not a question he expected in this setting or at this hour. “That is a peculiar thing to ask, Jim,” he says softly after a moment, and that is almost enough, because it says so much, covers so much space. The two syllables of captain reduced to the gentle, low, beat of Jim is the loudest Spock’s heart ever beats. Kirk feels like five years is not enough.

“I am aware that it is. I’m sorry if it made you uncomfortable. You are, of course, not required to answer. I only wish to know.” Because I wish to know it all. Kirk’s chest aches, a sickness in his stomach crying out for sleep.

Spock sighs. “The answer is...complex.” His hands, which were formerly gripped behind his back, reach forward to touch the edge of his desk, where Kirk is sitting. Spock joins him, dropping into a chair and pressing the tips of his fingers together thoughtfully. They are the same height now, and Kirk would not usually calculate the distance between their lips, but he is tired. “You see...there is an ideal. Of what Vulcans think, and experience, and feel. Or, do not feel. However, Vulcans, even Vulcans who are not half human, are not infallible.”

The hours feel stacked up against Kirk’s body. Hours like the infinite miles of space, stretching out in every direction, pressing into flesh, compressing skin to bruises and bones. “So, what you are saying, Mr. Spock, is that the Vulcan ideal is to not want. But you, yourself. You do, want.”

Kirk knows the minute it leaves his mouth that he’s gone too far. There are lines between them that have been obscured, subverted, nearly erased. But this is more than toeing those fading lines, this is leaping them, blind, sleep deprived. Spock’s face does not even remain impassive, as it often manages to stay. Instead, his eyes flicker, then drop to the surface of the desk.

“Affirmative,” he says before Kirk can formulate any sort of coherent apology.

The air in the room freezes, as if it were exposed to space. Kirk freezes along with it, blood becoming ice and skin getting hot and prickling in contrast. “I see.”

“So you do,” Spock responds, eyes still lowered.

Nothing has happened. These are only words, Kirk thinks, words in air in space in cold, not the heat of skin against skin, not a confession, not even an acknowledgment that when one of them bleeds, the other one stops acting contained. These are only words, but Kirk feels like he is flying apart into pieces. He’s thinking of two and a half years ahead of him, where perfection could stayed suspended with the stars, but could be crashing down. Crashing down, or elevating to perfection that is unsuspended, but instead, is realized.

“I notice” Kirk breathes, wringing his suddenly sweating hands together. He means I notice your want. I notice you watch me just as much as I watch you, which is more than I’ve ever thought I could watch any one person. I notice that you touch me when you touch no one else, in moments when you’re not thinking even though Vulcans always think. I notice you want me.

“I assumed you must have. I have not been adequate in concealing it,” Spock admits in a stilted voice. It’s that moment that his eyes flicker up, dark, wounded. Kirk feels anchored to this wound.

“You should not conceal it, Spock. If I have noticed you, you have, most certainly, noticed me,” Kirk says inelegantly. His mouth is dry, and he licks his lips frantically, fleetingly, and that makes Spock look away again.

“There is nothing to be done about any of it,” Spock breathes eventually.

It. They keep saying it, this word without meaning, loaded with possibility for consummation and interpretation and the absence of both. “Why do you say that?”

“Jim,” Spock says, and though he is not supposed to feel, Kirk can hear all the ways in which is is not meeting the vulcan ideal as bright as blood stains in his voice. “Please don’t.”

“But we, must, Mr. Spock. You realize that once this five year mission is over, it will be over? You and I, will not be captain and first officer any longer. I’ll be expecting promotion, you’ll be doing research. We will be planetside. Perhaps in different planets. You must know--”

“I do know,” Spock says plainly, and then, there are his eyes again.

Without heeding to the knowledge that he should not because things are too impermanent, things are too fragile, Kirk reaches across the space between their two chairs on the same side of a lonely desk and closes a fist around the bones in Spock’s wrist. Blue fabric shifts beneath his fingers, but even through that he feels a pulse quicken.

“Yes, but that changes nothing,” he says fiercely. “And you and I will have ignored this, for five years.” This, it. Kirk must put words to it because he knows Spock will not. “I want you,” he murmurs, and is surprised to find how easily he says it.

Spock’s wrist is twisting, so that his hand can rise to grip the outside of Kirk’s forearm. Their eyes meet in an electric snap of things converging, and something inside of Kirk he did not know was broken sighs with being filled.

“And I, you” Spock’s voice is a low whisper, uncertain of many things but certain of one, certain of the fight that has drained, and Kirk knows elatedly in this moment that Vulcans do want. Hands grasp uniform fronts, a nose bumps into a cheek, lips brush a chin but not another pair of lips. Breath is everywhere, in a way that cannot be controlled. Spock’s eyes slide shut because he can’t keep them open.

“Yes. Yes, but can you say it? Please--” Kirk says, lungs heaving inside a tight chest, thumb fumbling alongside Spock’s parted mouth. “Please tell me I’m not alone. ”

“I want you, too, Jim,” Spock says in tones so even it Shock’s Kirk, sends electricity through his bones like he forced aluminum into a light socket, and he can’t hold back for another second. He takes Spock’s chin, grips it loosely in with terrified fingers, and brings their mouths together. Spock may not know, but Kirk cannot tell; it is not the kiss of someone who is unsure, it is the kiss of someone who has been waiting three years, who would wait two more, who would wait a lifetime. Kirk groans into it, holds himself back from drawing blood with teeth, tries to keep himself content with licking lips, the roof of a mouth, the smoothness of teeth.

“Jim,” Spock murmurs meaninglessly as they part, as Kirk adheres his mouth to the cool, smooth skin of Spock’s throat. “Jim. Jim. I have wanted this,” he prays. “So long.”

They kiss, and Kirk things that he has wanted this too, but just because it is happening does not mean the want has stopped. Five years. A lifetime. I want you the words fill him, sorrow in his chest and hunger in his spit. It does not belong to me. They are flush, but space remains between their body, and Kirk realizes that it will always be there, and that is the condition of loving someone.

I am here Spock says, fingers digging and molten into his meld points, their minds touching like the feet of partners dancers, sure and unsure.

Not close enough Kirk things and then, there will always be space.
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