The freezing wind whistled around the endless snowy landscape. The only thing louder than the wind in this vicinity of Delta Vega was the voice of Jim Kirk.
“OF ALL THE PLACES IN THE GALAXY I HAD TO END UP BACK ON THIS SNOWBALL!”
Kirk kicked the small mound of hardened snow near his foot, sending the ice spraying everywhere. “The one day you go near the warp core and punch in the coordinates is the day I end up back here instead of on the actual planet I was supposed to beam down to!”
Spock paused searching for any form of shelter nearby. “You’re not the only one here, Captain.”
Kirk stopped kicking at the snow and stared at him, cheeks and lips bright pink against his cold, pale skin, his blue eyes frantic and wide, small flecks of snow sticking to the dark blond hair peeking out of his fur-lined hood.
Without cause, Kirk burst out laughing. “Of course you are. Can’t end up here against my will without ending up with a Spock. Which Scotty do you think we’ll find this time?”
Spock wondered if the cold was already getting to the captain’s head or if he was engaging Spock in what he referred to as kidding. “I’m not sure.”
Kirk’s laugh was dry and humourless. “Never thought I’d hear you say that.”
Spock followed Kirk, who trudged forward through the snow, fiddling with his communicator. “Kirk to Enterprise. Kirk to Enterprise, you there, Enterprise?”
All he got was a wave of static and a muffled voice that sounded a lot like Chekov’s.
Spock tried with his own communicator but there was no signal whatsoever. They were too far away from the ship. Hopefully Mr. Scott would be able to read the coordinates set into the transporter pod and trace it back to them.
Kirk seemed to have a good idea where they were going. Spock would ask but the way Kirk held himself as he stomped through told Spock that if he tried to talk to him he could be on the other end of Kirk’s fist.
Not that it would hurt that much, seeing as Spock was roughly three times stronger and sturdier, but Spock wouldn’t try to stop him. Kirk’s anger at Spock would forever be justified in his eyes.
It wasn’t until Spock watched Kirk die from the warp core’s radiation did he realise how much he truly cared for Kirk, and judging by how he reacted in his murderous rage towards Khan, he cared too much. After McCoy miraculously brought Kirk back to life Spock had managed to control his emotions once again, but he couldn’t control or smother what he felt for Kirk when he saw him again, alive and still capable of both smiling and sarcasm.
In that moment, Spock replayed every single memory of Kirk’s near-death experiences, all the ‘milk-run’ missions they went on post-Nero and pre-Khan, all the times Kirk bartered himself for his crew’s life and the death sentence Spock gave him by sending him here.
And the time he challenged Spock to give him an excuse to let go of the ship’s command so Kirk could deal with Nero while Spock mourned his planet and his mother.
Spock nearly killed Kirk with his own two hands.
“You still alive back there?” Kirk called, his voice shaking with his chattering teeth, his lips now chapped and turning a bluish-white from the cold, his eyelashes framed with even smaller flecks of snow than the ones frosting his hair.
Spock sped up his pace, falling into step with Kirk, the snow finally starting to stick to his face and the cold biting the tips of his pointed ears.
Without any distance between then, the chattering of Kirk’s teeth was a loud and jarring sound, so were the hurried huffing breaths he took in after he puffed out vapour. “You doing alright there, Spock?”
Spock briefly paused his steady march, surprised. “I believe I should be the one asking you that.”
“I’ll be fine just as long as we get to shelter soon,” shivered Kirk, rubbing his eyes. “You, on the other hand, could get pneumonia or frostbite way before I do. Isn’t your planet supposed to be on giant red desert that’s like a million degrees? How is this complete and total inversion not killing you?”
“I…” Spock looked down at his own hands, noticing for the first time that all his fingers except his thumb were curled inward and glazed with frost, the parts of his skin that weren’t numb to all feeling burned from the stinging cold.
Jim’s dying words of “How do you chose not to feel?” echoed in his slowing mind and Spock gave him the same answer he did then, a confused, gut-twisting “I do not know.”
“Jesus, Spock!” Kirk gasped, taking Spock’s hands and directing them under his arms for warmth. “You better not be getting space dementia because that’s the last thing we need right now.”
Spock kept his hands under his arms, his walk a bit unbalanced. “I assure you my memory is quite functional.”
“That’s what someone with space dementia would say,” said Kirk, a hint of humour in his voice.
“C’mon.” Kirk grabbed Spock by the biceps and pulled him behind him, leading him to a dark formation sticking out of a nearby section of land. A cave.
“Just hold on to your wits until we get to shelter. I just hope that dinosaur from last time isn’t still here.”
Spock frowned. “Dinosaur?”
“It was this – speak of the devil!”
The ground around them shook with the oncoming stomps of a large, roaring creature reminiscent of an Earth dinosaur.
“Go, go, go!” Kirk yelled, hauling Spock after him.
Panic and fear rolled off Kirk in waves, invading Spock’s mind despite Spock’s hands not coming into contact with Kirk’s skin. He had become that in-tune to Kirk’s feelings out of his constant worry about his health and it was affecting his concentration.
The creature landed a few feet away from the cave’s entrance, blocking their way, lowering its head to roar at them.
Kirk fell to the ground and quickly trying crawling away from it but it advanced on him only, completely ignoring Spock.
That was when Spock’s thoughts finally came together in one focused task: Keep Jim alive.
Spock whipped out his phaser, set it to Kill and shot at the creature, a few quick bursts of burning light struck against one corner of its hide, burning through it until he hit a fatal nerve. When it keeled over Spock didn’t waste any time running over to Kirk.
“Captain? Captain! JIM!”
A hand popped out of the snow and waved. Kirk had sunk either by accident or to hide from the creature. Spock pulled him out with one tug, still holding onto his upper-arms as he checked him for injuries. “Are you hurt?”
He coughed dryly, his bottom lip split open from becoming so chapped. “I’m fine.”
Kirk turned up his hands and held onto Spock’s forearms, his eyes searching Spock’s face. “You look half-dead. Quick, inside the cave.”
They went into the centre of the cave, its inside made of glassy ice that had soft pale blue light going through it. Kirk set Spock down by one of the walls and went around collecting stones and muttering to himself about his luck and how much the universe hated him, which made no sense to Spock.
The universe is not sentient therefore it could not hate or form any other emotions towards any of its inhabitants, was Spock’s only focused thought.
A sudden spasm shook Spock’s entire body, his body was struggling to create enough heat. It has never experienced this kind of cold.
Kirk returned, dropping the stones in front of Spock and shooting them with his phaser, the heat from the laser turned the stones bright red and Kirk took Spock’s hands. “Damn, any longer out there and you would have gotten frostbite.”
Spock’s words died in his mouth when Kirk brought Spock’s fingers close to his mouth, blowing his warm breath on them as he carefully uncurled his fingers one by one. “Try moving them.”
Spock wiggled his fingers, feeling the blood rush back into them. “Thank you.”
“Least I could do, you saved me from that thing,” said Kirk, adding a small, barely audible again as he looked away.
“It is my fault that you had to face it twice, and it is the least I could do seeing I nearly killed you more than once already.”
Kirk gazed at him, confused. “What are you talking about?”
Sliding his back up the wall and unclenching and clenching his stiff hands, Spock tried hard to avoid eye contact. “When I marooned you here without a thought to how you would survive, when I attacked you on the bridge and choked you –”
“Hey, I don’t hold any of that against you, besides I provoked you that second time!”
“That is no excuse for what I did,” he practically shouted, his voice shaky not from the temperature but from his own bottled up rage, not at Nero, not at Khan, but at himself. “I put you at risk so many times and all you have done is risk yourself to save me and others.”
“That’s my job, Spock.”
“You died, Jim!” Spock bellowed, his voice echoing over and over through the cave. “You died while I watched. You died and my inability to truly control my emotions almost lost us Khan, the only thing that could revive you. I am at fault!”
Kirk grabbed Spock by the shoulders and shook him. “Get a grip!”
Kirk tightened his grip on his shoulders, thumbs brushing the pulse-points on Spock’s throat. “None of that matters anymore, what matters is that we’re here now and that you don’t actively want to kill me.”
“How can it not matter?”
Kirk’s eyes softened, his lips spread in a small, fond smile. “For someone who thinks he’s so smart, you’re quite dumb.”
Before he could object, Kirk pulled Spock into a hug, Spock immediately reciprocated, stoicism and composure be damned. He gripped a handful of Kirk’s snowjacket, feeling his warm, breathing body in his arms and his hot breath on his neck, his mind chanting the unending litany of “Jim. Jim. Jim.”
“Do you understand now?” Kirk asked softly, his mouth close to Spock’s ear. “Do you understand why I don’t hold any of that against you?”
“Because you’re my friend.”
Kirk pulled back and sat next to Spock, raising an arm. “C’mere, best way to beat the cold is to share body heat.”
Spock quietly complied, leaning into Kirk and wrapping an arm around his waist as Kirk wrapped both his around Spock. He rested his head against Kirk’s chest, feeling the steady thumping of his heart against his cheek. “If the reason isn’t because I am your friend, then what is it?”
The fingers drumming on his arm paused. “It’s more than that. You’re more than a friend to me, more than a best friend.”
“I doubt Doctor McCoy would appreciate hearing that.”
He laughed, giving Spock’s arm a brief squeeze. “No, he wouldn’t, but he wouldn’t appreciate me telling him that I wanted more than friendship with him.”
Spock raised his head and met Kirk’s eyes. “Jim?”
He didn’t say anything, he just took Spock’s newly-defrosted hand and position his fingers on the side of his head, right on his psi-points, ready to initiate a meld. Spock didn’t bother asking how Jim knew this, he closer his eyes and lost himself in Kirk’s memories, thoughts and feelings.
Their first meeting in Kirk’s hearing. Their clashing aboard the ship. Kirk’s first venture into Delta Vega, his escape from the creature and meeting with the elder Spock, the elder Spock initiating a mind-meld, the memories from that meld blending with the one in this meld. Memories from their alternate life and their current one, all different except for one clear fact, that in both realities each Spock loved his Kirk openly and unashamedly.
And Kirk loved him back.
Kirk pulled away from Spock’s hand, cutting off the link. “Now do you get it?”
“Yes, yes, I do,” breathed Spock, still taking it all in. “Do you think that we are like our alternate counterparts?”
Jim’s warm hands held Spock’s head, fingers threading through his hair, thumbs brushing his cheekbones. “We can be.”
Spock didn’t remember who kissed first, but it didn’t matter. Nothing before this moment mattered at all.
A beep from Kirk’s communicator broke them apart.
“Finally found us, Scotty?” Jim asked, his face flushed, his hair mussed, his chapped lips full of several more cracks from their kiss, but he still smiled.
“Cap’n, you both still alive down there?”
“For now. You got our location?”
“Beam us aboard within the minute.”
Kirk closed the call and stood, pulling Spock up as he did. “You ready to get out of here?”
Spock didn’t return Kirk’s bright, wide smile but he took Kirk’s hand in his and gripped it tightly. “Very much so, Captain.”
The transporter beams took effect, phasing them up to the ship, but the only thing that didn’t scatter was Kirk’s voice singing Baby, It’s Cold Outside the entire way up to the transporter room.
Spock had never heard a lovelier sound.