He wasn’t paying attention to where he was going. Perhaps he should be, but while there were no actual tears gathered in his eyes quite yet, his vision was blurred just the same by the same emotions that might have called the droplets out. ‘Why the hell am I feeling this? There’s a logical explanation, a reason…there has to be!’
He had been fortunate to return to the ship on his own, early but not rudely so. Perhaps not enough to be noticed? No, they would notice, they always did, observation and rational thought hand in hand frolicking through the field, well, standing in the desert. They didn’t frolic, and they didn’t have fields really. ‘Why? Why? Why would he-? Does he not-?’
Tears caught him in a strangling grip, choking his voice and restricting his air as he clamped a hand over his mouth, hurrying through the corridors. He was lucky he had lasted this long, had been able to pass off his odd expression as tiredness to Scotty, had hidden the emotions behind it. No more. Now they demanded his attention. ‘I just need to think-I just need to figure out why-figure out the reasoning...what reasoning?!”
He couldn’t think, or rather he could, but not clearly. His thoughts were racing, chasing each other round and round in chaos at dizzying speed. There wasn’t an answer. He wasn’t the most intelligent being, not by a long shot, but he wasn’t the fool he played damn it! He could follow the trails of thought, the variables, the reasons, the logic, and the resolutions. But there wasn’t a damn answer that made it hurt less!
By some miracle, he’d stumbled into their - his – quarters without running into a stray officer or yeoman. But now what? Trapped within the walls of his quarters, further trapped on a spaceship in orbit over the last planet he wanted to be on right now, with his temporary privacy fading with every second? What was he supposed to do now? ‘Damn it all! I’m overreacting, I have to be, there isn’t any way that he would- no, no he wouldn’t. Not under any circumstances, not normal circumstances, or even most unusual ones either!... But these weren’t normal circumstances where they? They weren’t even a tiny bit unusual; they were as extreme as you get!’
He came back to himself as his thoughts chased themselves round and round in nauseating panic to find himself pacing in a senseless pattern to match them. He froze in place and held his breath, willed the universe around him to still and give him a place of peace from which to think in the stillness. His chest constricted and his breath flared out threatening to crack his ribs, against the unyielding barrier of his bones it shot up, toward his choking throat, and forced itself from his mouth. He curled into himself, head dropping into his hands as the broken sob fell from his lips, a broken sound to echo the shattering he felt in the core of his being.
He felt all the sudden as if all the weight of the Enterprise closed in on him, pressing on him, breaking him. His body complied and he crumpled but did not fall. Head in hands, eyes buried in his palms and falling locks of blonde parting for grasping fingers, shoulders bowing until they matched the silhouette of the floating sphere of red he’d fled from, and elbows jabbing painfully into his own stomach to rival the pain raging from within his gut. His knees bent and tried to buckle, but he did not fall, standing still as he broke.
Voices filtered through his mind’s theater, too loud, drowning out everything else. Memories, recent ones, the sequence of events that had led him here. It was the climaxing act, the crescendo of Shakespeare’s tragedy, and he was the puppet strung in place to play his part as his heart tore at the seams
Vulcan had been so warm, too warm even for a Kentucky boy, but he’d grown accustomed to a temperature of comfort to both himself and the man who as often shared his quarters as stayed on the other side of the adjoining door. He bore it, and the cloying sweat, with an honest grin, unbothered by the feeling as his eyes relished the dancing lights of New Vulcan’s sunset. Vulcan hadn’t had a moon, but this planet did, and every few years the moon’s full rising, the red giant’s setting, and the polar apex aligned just right to create a display of light. He smiled in joy at the sight, a feeling not unsimilar to that of music filling one’s heart overflowing from his chest as he watched the reds and oranges spark with gold in swirling patterns. It looked like the most beautiful of magic from Earthen legend to him. Laughter and a need for movement more akin to dance than ceremonial motions encompassed him, but he pushed it away. A room full of Vulcans was not the place for that.
He’d been so happy just a short time ago…where’d all that innocent joy gone? A shuddering breathed forced past the rockslide in his throat, gasping as it filled his lungs, losing it too soon in a second sob as uncontainable as the first. He wasn’t crying yet, there were no tears, so why was he sobbing? Could he really be destroyed so simply? So easily with a series of simple, logical words?
He’d known to contain himself, though his happiness was obvious to the Vulcans around him, despite the respectful distance he kept of the touch telepaths, and if the small smiles in their eyes and on a few lips were an indication, they thought so childish a joy to be amusing and endearing. He almost giggled, from happiness and bashfulness both, but he bit that back, along with the urge litter his steps with swaying movements from childhood dances in the fireflies. He’d wanted to be with Spock, even knowing he would have to contain himself, and that perhaps his first officer would make that more challenging than it was already, but he wanted to share this with him. They’d gotten to that point where they could read one another, where Spock could know his emotions and take amusement or his own form of happiness from seeing Jim happy without being overwhelmed by it. He wanted to be at his friend’s side, so consequences be damned, as Bones would say: He’d bite his cheek and hold his wrists behind his back to maintain the façade of calm and seriousness, well at least one of those anyway. Sharing this event with Spock would be worth that.
He pulled at his hair, furiously pressing palms into his eyes to keep the tears at bay even as broken cries slipped from his throat like glass tearing through curtains. He didn’t want to remember this. ‘I don’t want to remember dammit! I already know, I don’t want to relive it!! Stop it! Stop it please!!’ Whatever being might have heard his pleas or whatever creature may have forced this recounting of events on his mind’s stage, neither paid him any mind.
He’d been only a few feet from Spock, close enough to hear him, to be seen by him. Spock had acknowledged him, a shift of expression and a tilting of his head that almost had Jim laughing at the thought that came to him. ‘Subtle to humans, but probably a screaming neon sign around these guys.’
Spock’s attention was quickly turned away from him and back towards the conversation the group was having, but Jim didn’t take it personally, he knew it wasn’t meant rudely. At roughly three feet away he heard the topic and a bit of his floating joyful feeling depressed and he bit back a wince. They were talking about the current population of Vulcans, about their numbers and the projected future generations, the number of children that might be needed, how long it would take, and, most pressingly it seemed, how they were going to match up mated pairs, both the widowed and the newly bonded.
He hesitated for a moment, unsure he should interrupt this conversation, even to stand silently at Spock’s side. In that second of indecision on his part one of the Vulcan councilmen asked Spock of his intentions where the restoration of his people was concerned, tacked onto a comment about Kirk’s illogical attachment to him. It was a vague enough question that it didn’t come right out and say it, but if it was obvious to the resident human that this was an extension of the previous discussion, not a new topic, then it would be obvious to someone as clever as Spock. The insult, well, Spock did not usually stand for an insult to any of the crew, especially not the captain.
He pulled at his hair in harsh tugs, not quite pulling it from its roots, as he ground his teeth until they ached from the pressure, nonexistent fangs bared in silent defiance to an empty room as he begged and demanded that his mind obey him and stop this.
“While I believe my presence on the starship Enterprise is the most beneficial service I may provide to my people at this time, rest assured I would not place my own wishes over the needs of my people. Shall my aid be needed; I will lend it wherever possible. My preferences do not place higher on my priorities than the needs of my people.”
He hadn’t heard more as his heart and mind both shut down, fleeing back to fleeting safety and away from…just away. He managed not to begin running until he was in an empty corridor.
Was that all he was? A wish? A preference?! Dammit! He kicked out blindly, body uncoiling like an overworked spring, arms flaring out without plan or path, only the need to move, to do something. He stood there now, straightened up with his hands at his sides, panting as if he’d just been in a fight to the death with a Klingon, a thousand-yard stare fixed into nothingness across the darkened cabin. His muscles jumped and twitched but there was no energy to expel, just pain looking for any escape from his body and his soul.
He walked over to the windows and leaned against them by his forearms, arms up by his head, staring down at the planet and past it to the stars beyond, to the celestial bodies shifting in the dead of space to create the spectacle on the surface below. He wasn’t moving, he wasn’t even sure he was breathing, or even really seeing what was before him.
The chime sounded behind him, a formality that had long since been forgone – An indicator that he was to be joined, not a request to do so. Normally he wouldn’t mind, most days, given they were off duty, it would make him smile. Not today.
The door slid shut, that much he heard, but he did not hear footsteps, neither heading towards him or anywhere else. Was he just going to stand there? He didn’t know, but by now he was pretty sure he hadn’t breathed, or blinked, it seemed his whole body was shutting down, preferring non-existence to pain.
Was that a question or a statement? Both? A question of his state of mind and a statement that they were going to talk? He couldn’t tell, he couldn’t hear the small idiosyncrasies that always told him what Spock meant, how he felt, or what he thought. But he swore he could hear the crack echo through his ribcage as his heart broke and shattered the ribs that housed it. He wanted to cry now, everything in him wanted to cry at the guarded, deep baritone that he loved but that sounded so foreign to his ears right now. Was his translator broken? No….wishful thinking.
“Are you alright Captain? Under formed though it is, I felt the bond shared between our minds…perhaps the best expression is, ‘shutter closed’? earlier, from your side.” Shifting fabric, shifting weight but not movement. “I cannot sense you very well right now, I know it is you there, but it is…murky.”
He didn’t answer, only watched the night’s shadow and the day’s light shift across the surface of New Vulcan, chasing each other in an unhurried dance. Watched apathetically as his chest rose and fell in his peripheral but he did not feel the air reaching his lungs.
“Captain, Jim, I do not know what has happened to upset you, but I would like to talk about this.”
He felt his lips curl, warm air too cold hitting bared canines, without his permission or conscious thought. ‘All done with apathy then?’ His numbness did not flee, the feeling of deadened flesh pushing and pulling around a hollow heart beating in a chasm did not relinquish its holds nor return his sense of feeling. Physical feeling anyway, emotional feeling was fast returning. Anger curling in his chest as he turned towards his first officer, one arm dropping so all the weight of his upper body was pressed against the glass by the forearm above his head as he fixed cold eyes on his friend.
“Would that be your preference Mister Spock?”
Spock blinked, surprise unhidden as many emotions were in these chambers. “Have I offended you, Captain?”
He scoffed, languidly pushing away from the window with unhurried grace bordering on complete limpness in his body as it bent with the momentum. “Offended me? You could have done a much more direct job of it if that was your intention, less elegant, but far more direct.” He leaned back against the window, hands folded in his pockets in a façade of lazy indifference.
Another blink. God, he wanted to snarl, could feel it building in his throat, but he swallowed it down. Let it rot in his stomach with the acid and the knots in his gut.
Was it possible for a Vulcan to sound small or unsure? First time for everything he supposed. He only wished his normal emotions would return to bloom in his chest rather than stay locked away like a flower closed tight, waiting for the sun to return. Maybe then he would react better and would have more to offer than apathy and anger.
“What’s wrong Spock? Can’t figure it out with that Vulcan memory of yours, or maybe your oh so logical reasoning?” He spat the last words, unable to make his tongue obey his commands.
Spock stared at him in shock, at least that he could still identify, then swallowed a breath and steeled himself, posture and voice gentling to soft pitches never heard beyond these walls or by other ears. “Jim, I do not know what I have done to make you angry,” Kirk pressed his palms back into his eyes, gritting his teeth in frustration. “and I would rather make amends than offer empty apologies for unknown mistakes.”
He gestured jerkily, a single hand cutting through the air, the other still pressed to his face. “No. I’m sorry I-” He sighed heavily and dropped both hands and head. “I’m not angry.”
Spock oh so often imitated a puppy in genuine confusion, head tilted to the side in a jerky motion. “Your behavior and words would seem to indicate otherwise Capt-” Kirk cut him off again with a waving hand, not raising his head from its hung position.
“I’m not angry. I’m….”He sighed tiredly, shoulders slumping further as he pressed his eyes shut, blocking out the purplish-blue carpet at his feet. “in pain. And it’s translating as anger because it doesn’t know how else to come out. I guess it’s a human thing, cause I..I don’t even know how to say…”
Spock took a step towards him. “If you require Dr. McCoy-“
“Wrong type of pain Spock.” Calm, nearly apathetic again. The tears were building again, and this time he did not think they would be content to merely choke off his voice and steal his breath.
The Vulcan stopped, processing a moment, then stepped back again, his shoulders pulling inward self-consciously. “Oh.” A breath inhaled, a step forward again, the same unsure dance they seemed locked in. “Jim, if something happened on the planet-“
He scoffed and muttered “Understatement of the year.” under his breath. Spock heard him, Vulcan hearing and all that, and paused, watching him with eyes both curious and wary.
“If this is regarding the councilman’s question of my helping New Vulcan, I do not intend to leave Star Fleet for some time. It is not something to be concerned with as of yet, I may not be your first officer still by the time such an event occurs.”
Could pain manifest a physical limb with which to choke him? His trachea had been crushed before, by a pissed Orion slaver, this felt a thousand times worse. ‘It means so little to him? He does not even care about their insult of my bond to him? Their suggestions that he find a Vulcan bond mate? Do I mean so little?’
Spock had begun to speak again, listing off facts about the colony and her projected growth and the population’s expected increase over the next decade. He couldn’t take it. He couldn’t. No more of this. His body was dead, a numb thing dragging around a broken katra…soul…what use did he have for Vulcan words like that anymore? Was it tears of acid choking his throat? Pain or anger pressing the droplets from his eyes where they fell to a muddy carpet? He couldn’t. Couldn’t. Couldn’t!
The air itself stilled, frozen in the space where words that could not physically echo would not stop reverberating. He hadn’t meant to open his mouth, hadn’t registered his own voice as it cried out, distress, pain, sorrow, grief, heartbreak, betrayal, all bleeding together until he could not recognize the sound of his own voice anymore.
His seams were tearing, he was breaking apart faster than a comet entering the sun’s gravity. “I –“ His voice was broken now too, audibly fractured. Was any part of him going to be whole again? “I can’t do this. I can’t –“ He shook his head violently from side to side as he pushed away from the window. “Not now, not –“ A final crack, one last break, and his voice shattered before he could finish that sentence.
He pushed past Spock, careful to place more space between them than there had ever been since they met at his trial, he didn’t want to touch, he didn’t want to share his mind, much less his heart, not now….perhaps not ever again…not like that.
He was out the door before he cared to notice, moving through the hall too quickly, just barely shy of running. He didn’t know if Spock would follow him, he prayed he wouldn’t, he didn’t know what he would do, but he couldn’t deal with it now. He needed to get away. Halfway down the hall he dodged into an access port. Perks of being the captain: Nowhere on the ship was off-limits without a very good reason. Perks of being James Kirk, circumstances notwithstanding: He’d made a habit of memorizing every escape path and work around possible at a young age. He knew all the access ports and panels and every service hallway or Jeffries tube they led to. He didn’t want to be found and he knew well enough how not to be.
He didn’t have a destination, nor did he have a plan. All he had were tears falling from his eyes, silent sobs choking in his throat, and a veritable maze to get lost in if he didn’t want to be found. He didn’t think, he didn’t question. He moved. He climbed in deeper and wove in-between tunnels and hallways both, avoiding maintenance when he heard them. No matter his sedate pace, he was running from Spock and he was running from the chaos in his mind.
Spock hadn’t moved. Granted his muscles had seized up in an instinctual wish to intercept or follow his distraught Captain, but he had not acted on them. In part, he could admit, this was due to surprise. He had not seen his Captain so distraught as this since Pike’s temporary death, and even then… He was not a being to believe in spirits in the superstitious human manner, but he feared the other man’s pain may haunt him. The guilt flooding his heart did naught to ease the nausea turning over in his stomach, but guilt for what?
He knew he was the cause of his Captain and friend’s pain, but he did not understand how. Until he knew that, he would be only a further trigger of distress rather than the help he wished to be.
Despite his unease, he knelt, not caring to bother with the usual mat or more traditional elements: He was not seeking a piece of his culture, he was seeking understanding. He folded his hands before him, closed his eyes, and forced himself to breathe.
The world sunk away in a spinning sensation he had long since grown used to as he settled into the nothingness that surrounded his mind: The quite space where neither emotion nor thought intruded, a protective barren that must be bypassed or transversed to reach his mind. Beneath his feet, he felt and saw the dark grains of sand come into being, yet the sky above did not take shape. He watched it curiously and saw the inky blackness pulsing with lances of purples and red. He winced.
This was his bond with Kirk. Torn from his mind by his Captain, hovering just out of reach where he could not hear the other’s thoughts nor sense clear emotions without touch, yet close enough he could still see more than he wanted. Blackened by his partner’s pain and sorrow, lancing through with color that showed emotions so strong he could feel them through the disconnect: Anger and sorrow, and pain, so much pain. A bond bruised as his T’hy’la’s heart. Grief struck through him, his own emotion in response to his friend’s turmoil, and he stumbled under the force of it, gasping for breath not needed in this space.
He watched the sky that wasn’t, the sky eclipsed by Jim Kirk’s pain, and beneath him the sands shifted violently, churning with the weight of the sorrow in his heart. He forced his eyes to close, leaving the sudden tears to dry where they were, and focused on this desert. He needed to see the memories.
The world spun far more violently this time, shifting in stability with his own emotional instability. Fascinating, but for another time. When he dared to open his eyes, he found himself a few feet to the right of himself from approximately 37.3 minutes prior, in the ceremonial hall of New Vulcan. He was aware of the conversation happening between his past self and the councilmen and elders, but that did not interest him now, he needed to know where Jim was.
Most of the room was out of focus, it hadn’t been the subject of his attention at the time, and for a few moments neither had his Captain. He found him just before his past self had acknowledged his presence, and so he blocked out the rest of the room, blurred forms and unintelligible noise as it was, and focused only on Kirk.
He watched the happiness in his Captain and fleetingly mourned how quickly it had fled. ‘Jim, what happened to you in these few moments?’ He watched his hesitation, the single second in which he was unsure, and then the change happened. Gone was the barely suppressed joy, or the awkward shyness, both replaced by crushing pain. His own emotions threatened to send him to his knees as he took a moment to steady himself, everything tilting around him, the fabricated reality distorting as the fake gravity ceased to apply. In a moment’s time, he had corrected it and controlled himself; there would be time for his own emotions later.
He analyzed, compartmentalizing his grief. ‘That’s odd, perhaps...?’ For a brief moment before pain had overtaken his Captain, shock had seemed to be the sole occupant of blue eyes. He returned to that moment and turned his gaze to where his Captain was looking, that should likely be the source of wh- Oh. ‘Me. I did not act out of character. Did I speak out of turn?’ His eyes flicked to those he had been conversing with ‘Did they?’
He reversed the memory to the moments prior and watched them play out again, this time focusing on himself and the Vulcan Councilmen and Councilwomen. Councilor T’Charel had been speaking at the time. He frowned, they had been discussing the projected population growth of Vulcan and the elder had asked about his future plans, it was practically small talk. Perhaps a bit out of character for Vulcans, but nonetheless harmless. But still, something had severely surprised and hurt his Captain, and either he or his companions were the likely cause. He narrowed his eyes and let the scene play without focusing on Kirk, listening intently.
“We may well find ourselves in a position where any unbonded Vulcan will be necessary as one of a pair, and likely to bear more than a few children. However, the current numbers do not project a requirement for multi-individual bonds, those rarely turn out well with our high emotions. But we will likely have to bond all the unbonded, even those who have lost their partners.” This is where Kirk had paused in uncertainty, likely not wanting to interrupt, a glance back confirmed this.
The councilman had continued but had switched gears with an almost open amusement. “Tell me, Spock, why did you bring your Captain to New Vulcan? He seems entirely out of place.”
Spock would have had the same inclination to laugh now as he had then if not for the weight of the situation: Kirk may be a bit shy in small groups, but he was never ‘out of place’.
“My Captain wished to see the light spectacle, and, for emotional reasons he attempted not to burden me with, he wanted to be here to ‘offer support’ as it were.” That had been true, and he had welcomed the compassion and friendly presence, but he could not very well say that to the Vulcan councilmembers, they would have chastised him for emotional frivolity. As it was T’Charel had shaken his head in amusement.
“His affection and attachment to you are quite illogical.” Spock had merely inclined his head and replied "Perhaps, but I find the Captain works best, as most humans do, on illogical and emotional frivolities.”
Spock frowned, Kirk understood Vulcan banter well enough this should not have been the trigger. A look back confirmed unease but not the shock nor pain which he had witnessed earlier. There was not much left to this conversation.
“What are your plans for the future, Spock, for the restoration of Vulcan’s people?”
For some reason, he began to feel uneasy, yet he did not know yet why. He turned to watch the memory of his Captain as his last words sounded behind him.
“While I believe my presence on the starship Enterprise is the most beneficial service I may provide to my people at this time, rest assured I would not place my own wishes over the needs of my people. Shall my aid be needed; I will lend it wherever possible. My preferences do not place higher on my priorities than the needs of my people.”
There. That was when Kirk had been hurt. But why? He closed his eyes and the world of fabrication and memory around him began to swirl, the voices overlapping as he tried to make sense of it. Above it all he heard one thing louder than the rest, a voice apathetic and pained, laced with anger to mask its grief: “Would that be your preference, Mister Spock?”
Preference…”My preferences do not place higher on my priorities than the needs of my people.”
His eyes snapped open in reality, the dim light of the Captain’s quarters assaulting his senses as he fell out of his position, catching himself on his palms and knees. Dimly he was aware that he was panting and that there was wetness on his cheeks, tears he hadn’t allowed himself to feel in his mind brought forth here in reality.
Would Jim think so little of him? Of himself? Know him so little to think his presence a preference? He was still not sure, but he needed to find his Captain. Shakily he picked himself off the floor and made himself regain his footing as he stumbled over to the computer terminal.
“Computer, locate Captain Kirk.” ‘Captain Kirk is in recreation room 32 on deck C’ He nodded to himself, straightening himself up and forcing the knots from his shoulders from kneeling. “Is there anyone else in the room?” ‘Negative.’
Very well. He pulled the keypad towards himself and made quick work of bypassing a few relays, quickly setting up a temporary quarantine of the room to keep it empty without an alarm blaring. Quickly, he made his way there.
Kirk hadn’t had a plan going into this, but after dodging four maintenance crews and an engineering team he’d found himself slightly cornered and had come out to one of the service hallway entrances that wasn’t used very often: A small sliding panel hidden in the corner of a recreation room, nestled behind a few earth plants.
He’d made his way into the room tentatively, more than a little shy of meeting anyone and still fighting with his emotions. To his relief he found it to be empty. He didn’t give it a thought past that, did not consider that someone could walk in, he didn’t have the wherewithal. He held himself together with stiff movements and stuttering, barely-there breaths as he made his way over to the row of floor to ceiling windows and leaned against them.
Here he couldn’t see the planet, but he could see the stars and the distant nebula. He focused on them, trying desperately to get himself under control. His throat was open now, but the pressure was not gone, merely moved from his airway to his eyes, a never-ending prompting to cry. His body was shaking, his lungs heaving even though they weren’t taking in any air. His emotions flew around in his chest, battering his heart and soul both, in agony. His thoughts were no better, a never-ending whirlwind of pain and grief screaming for a comfort that he believed lost to him. No, he didn’t think he and Spock would join their thoughts, much less their hearts, their emotions, their katras, or anything else any time soon.
Mindlessly he banged his head gently against the windowpane, wanting desperately for it all to just stop. But it wouldn’t. With a frustrated sob tearing from his throat he shoved roughly away from the window and across the raised platform that led to them, not caring or thinking where he might end up. Fortunately for him, he landed on a bench, a piano bench to be precise.
Though his eyes were blurred with tears his fingers bushed the keys with tender softness. Pike had taught him this once upon a time when he’d been a child, before his mother had left him with a drunken uncle for months at a time. He didn’t give it much thought as he pressed a few of the keys, preforming the action mindlessly in the same manner in which he was still expanding his lungs to breath.
A melody plucked its way out of the chaos of his mind, or perhaps from his heart, and he followed it, letting it play out without a thought, losing himself in the familiar, if old, motions. He didn’t hear the door open, but then Spock wasn’t going to interrupt the delicate balance being woven around them both.
Under a canopy of stars
Where thought and truth divorce
In that latticework of dreams, we are shameless
Kirk wasn’t thinking about what he was singing, he didn’t give it a thought or pluck out what seemed to fit the situation. He remembered this melody, and right now it swirled around his empty chest cavity, demanding his lungs inflate, urging them to exhale and coaxing his throat to make those breaths into song. It pulled him along, so he went.
I wanna run away with you
Somewhere they cannot undo
Perhaps songs were not written by those who experienced life and wrote poetry about it, perhaps songs simply were and they came when they were beckoned. Perhaps, Kirk thought, that might explain why the last remnants of his heart were currently busy falling from his lips and weaving themselves into melodic words in the air. If only songs were not wishes, not just stories…if only they had some power over the universe…
And this is why I love you
Why you’re the only one
You’re the only one
Who has seen me come undone
And then seen beyond
Spock had not moved, had barely dared to breathe since stepping foot inside this room, and even now as his world tilted on its axis, not Vulcan, not New Vulcan, but the man sat before him coaxing the universe to dance to his song, he dared not do anything. All the same, he felt the same sickening feeling he had before, and now he tried to stop thinking, to feel rather than rely on logic alone.
‘Cause you’re fearless in you love
Devoted to compassion
The highest state of art
‘I am a fool.’ This was the only thing Spock could think of himself right now, with pain lancing in his heart. He had known this man’s mind, his heart, his emotions. He had known him at his worst and at what, for now, was his best. He had joined his mind and seen every space of him normally kept hidden away. He had held his heart in his hands and he had known every emotion it kept. They had joined their katras, briefly, reversibly, in their bonding. They had known each other in every way possible, in every way sacred to a Vulcan, in ways even the elders had forgotten. And with careless words and fleeting attention to those around him, he had made his partner doubt that bond.
Piercing in your truth
Sincere in all intention
The way you wear your heart
The way you hold my heart
The way you hold my heart
The way you hold my heart
My fierce friend.
As the last notes echoed in the room, James Kirk slipped his eyes shut and released the last of his emotion, understanding now that he would have apathy, and that apathy would be followed by sorrow in due time. As the last notes faded, Spock knelt beside him, close but not touching, not taking his hand as he would have liked.
Soft; Broken; Pleading; Mournful. These all could be used to describe the word that left Spock’s lips. The Vulcan stared down at the bench and Kirk stared unseeingly at the cords in the piano no longer vibrating with song.
“I am a fool, Ashayam, and I am sorry.” He looked up towards Kirk, gaze resting at his collarbone and not straying farther to his face, to the eyes he feared to see looking so broken or empty because of him. “I should have realized the insinuation of T’Charel’s queries, but I did not. I should have directly contradicted his insult, not passive-aggressively returned it.” He swallowed the block in his throat and let his gaze wander further to Kirk’s face. “I should have recognized the discussion for what it was, and more than anything I should have known your pain without having to question.”
Kirk didn’t say anything and Spock took a shaky breath. “All I can do is apologize for the distress I have caused you, but please, Ashayam, listen to me.” Pleading wasn’t a tone he’d heard from Spock often. He wasn’t trying to be difficult and cold, he just…couldn’t make himself move, couldn’t make himself look somewhere else. “Please.”
Spock leaned forward into his line of sight, even though Kirk’s eyes did not meet his. “There is nothing and no one I would leave you for T’hy’la. Not for my people, nor their plight, nor their wishes. This is not temporary amusement until I find a bondmate. I am not going anywhere Ashayam, I swear to you.”
Kirk blinked and hung his head, a handful of tears tracking silently from his eyes down over his nose to fall into his lap. Slowly, carefully, he turned his face towards Spock, sapphire blue eyes meeting warm brown, shining with tears not yet shed. There was no anger this time, only pain and the sorrow that followed, but there was hope as well.
“I don-“ His throat caught, and he shook his head, eyes pressing closed again as if it were too much to ask this of him to keep them open. “I don’t want to touch you.”
Spock winced and back away a small bit. “You…do not have to.”
Kirk’s eyes snapped open immediately, filled with tears and panic both. “No!” His body spasmed lightly, a complaint for the emotional upheaval, and he shook his head with a watery exhale. “I didn- Not like that…I don’t-“ He laughed but it sounded as sorrowful as his cries, and met Spock’s eyes again, a bit calmer this time. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
Spock slowly blinked as he processed, then his body relaxed. “You do not have to worry about that Jim.”
Kirk shook his head. “I know e-emotions aren’t the easiest thing for you, and mine are really, really, screwed up right now.”
Spock smiled gently, “As I said, do not worry about that T’hy’la.”
A wry smile twisted on Kirk’s lips as he hung his head, eyes downcast one more in sorrow. His voice was a whispered trail of threads that wove into the space around them a tapestry of pain and guilt. Spock heard him all the same. “I’m sorry, Spock.”
Spock rose silently but did not stand straight, rather he set himself next to Kirk on the bench and though the Captain faced the instrument and himself the room, he did not fail to keep himself turned towards his companion, pained brown eyes never straying from the golden man’s bent form. Though he sat beside him he did not touch him, respected that wish even despite his own to reach out, to share their hearts and soothe the other’s pain with his own calm. As it was, he leaned close and ducked his head to meet the man’s eyes. The other did not raise his head to meet his gaze, but that was alright.
With tones as soft as the winds that swirled around New Vulcan’s peaks on a lazy day he tried to put the emotions he could not share by touch into his voice. “Jim, Ashaya: Do not be sorry.” He saw the man begin to raise his head, lips parting, and knew he was preparing to object, to reaffirm that he should be sorry. Spock swayed closer a moment, still not touching, and continued, voice soft and gentle but firm, telling the other to let him finish. “It has been a cruelty of life that you have been left behind, that you have become accustomed to temporary bonds carelessly thrown away.” Kirk’s head hung lower and sadness deepened the lines around Spock’s eyes. “I had given you reason once before, when New Vulcan was newly founded and yourself and I barely yet friends, that I would leave the Enterprise and Starfleet despite my own desires and place the needs of my people above all else.”
Azure eyes gazing sightlessly at black and white keys pressed shut in pain at the past mixing with dread to the future and pain to come. Spock took a breath and for the second time that night allowed his humanness to come through, unchained by Vulcan custom as emotion colored his voice into the desperate plea to his Captain’s mind and heart both that it was. “Jim – Listen to me, please. You are not a temporary amusement until I find a suitable bondmate, that I have already found. You are my mate Ashayam. I will not give up my bond with you, you are my T’hy’la and there is no conceivable being of any people or place whom I would ever find suitable having known your heart and mind. The needs of my people weigh on me, but whatever assistance I may lend to them will be of another sort, this I promise you Ashaya.”
Azure eyes of swirling nebulas met his own of shifting sands drenched in crimson light, and Spock began to see hope scattered like starlight among clinging pain. Slowly he raised a hand, fingers curled, and hovered in the space between them, inches creating a chasm between his beloved and his touch. Kirk’s eyes searched his own in hesitancy but no longer in dread as the poison of fear slipped from them, he raised his chin but did not move closer, the pause a question. He was unwilling to harm his partner, but Spock knew what pain he may feel in their joining and he did not fear the weight of his T’hy’la’s heart, so he gazed back with clear eyes of understanding and did not move, allowed Kirk to make the choice.
Kirk held his gaze, an apology written across his features as he tilted his head to the side, letting Spock’s knuckles brush across his cheek and rest there, prying open a bond previously shuttered and flooding it with a cosmos weight of emotion. Spock was forced to close his eyes under the onslaught, but he did not let it overwhelm him. Gently he opened his hand and cupped his companion’s cheek in his palm. He did not seek out the meld points, they had long since moved beyond needing such a thing so long as his Captain’s mind was willingly open to him, and though he could feel the other man’s hesitancy and worry for his wellbeing it soon gave way and left their bond open to him.
Tentative emotions reached toward him and he welcomed them openly, a first few brushed against his mind and were gathered into a secure embrace, the rest following swiftly after as Kirk stopped fighting to keep them contained, releasing a typhoon.
Sorrow hits him like a wave as rapidly as desperate, panicked love does and he withstands them, meets them with love held unwavering. Guilt like shattered glass shreds his T’hy’la’s heart and he reaches to it, wraps it tightly with reassurance and understanding, making the barren place of anger and offense in his soul known until guilt allowed itself to faded and become small.
Doubt twisted sickly as if trying to hide in the open, shame at its existence mixed into the pain it caused, and he cradled it close, admonishes the shame with the certainty in his own mind that there was no reason to feel ashamed for having this doubt, and no reason to feel guilt. He cradled the doubt to his soul, let it feel the weight of his love, of his devotion to the man who matched him, the shards of his own desperation and pain at the thought to lose his T’hy’la. It clung illogically unsure even of this truth it could not deny, and it clung even as it shrunk enough not to feel so painful, so eminent. His heart hurt that he could not diminish it to nothing more than a blip but he knew this thing was born and nurtured of oceans worth of pain and betrayal that had wreaked havoc long before their first meeting, so he accepted it as he had everything else, meeting it with peace and love rather than despise it – it was part of his T’hy’la, he would not reject it.
Nothing faded quickly, all of it would take time to fully heal, and so he gazed upon the pain still lancing his bondmate’s heart and accepted that too, covering the wound with unflinching care. The storm lessened to manageable rains, leaving weariness in its wake.
They basked in the resulting calm for a breath and then another, taking solace in the still after the chaos. Spock opened his eyes and watched his Captain for a moment as they breathed slowly in the silence. Blue eyes blinked open to meet his own, weary but warm with their affections. For a moment they stayed there, unbothered to end the silence, not needing and lacking the energy to say more at the moment. Spock tilted forward slowly, pausing as he sent a gentle pulse of questioning across the bond, he was met with calm and acceptance that he knew was consent. He pressed their lips together chastely but not unpassionately, a human kiss given for comfort. Spock felt a tentative hand find his own, turning them both around until two fingers could press against his own, a Vulcan kiss given in reassurance.
Their lips parted but their fingers did not and the rested there for a few breaths, foreheads pressed together until Spock pulled back enough to look at his companion properly and address him softly.
“It is late Jim, and you are exhausted from what has happened. May we return to our quarters and rest?”
The man nodded tiredly, absentmindedly rubbing his fingers against Spock’s palm in the process, eliciting a small smile from the Vulcan. “Very well, come then.” He stood softly and held a hand out to the other man, helping him to stand when it was taken. Kirk stepped around the bench and swayed into him, resting against him for a moment that Spock did not dare disrupt, he merely held the man and let him gather his strength. A heartbeat, then another, a handful more and the blond stood straight with a tiredly mumbled “C’me on.”
They separated to walk back towards their quarters, intending to take the regular corridors rather than returning through the maze of Jeffries tubes the captain had earlier transverse. “A moment, Captain.” They paused outside the doors and the man watched on curiously as Spock turned to the wall panel and disabled the temporary quarantine, when he turned back he was met with his Captain’s amused, if tired smirk.
“Quarantine Spock? Isn’t that a little excessive?” The Vulcan raised a brow – long since understood to be the equivalent of a human’s eyeroll – at his captain and walked past him, slowing only to let the man fall into step beside him. “Not at all Captain, quite necessary.” A quiet, short chuckle was his answer and it pulled his lips into a small smile.
He hovered as close as he could while they walked without taking the Captain’s hand. There were things they could not open about, while they would be accepted by all but the farthest vestiges of old beliefs it was not seen as proper for a captain and a first officer to share such intimacy, at least publicly. Aside from which, they were private individuals, despite the Captain's emotional openness, even he preferred that this be left between them. That changed as they reached and entered the Captain’s quarters, the human man leaning into Spock’s side.
The Vulcan caught him gently with a smile unhidden within these walls. Gently he led the Captain to his bed, helping him out of his clothes to his innermost layer and guiding him to sit on his bed. He took a moment to bask in the beauty of his bondmate outlined in stars blinking through the cabin windows at the bed’s headrest, eyes glinting like shattered sea glass held to the sun’s light in the orange-red light reflecting off of New Vulcan. Jim blinked up at him sleepily, starlit azure shining from half-closed lids, and Spock marveled once again at how humans could stand to become exhausted and physically weary after high emotions, having never suppressed their wild emotions as Vulcans had. Soft hands found a firm grip on shoulders clothed in black, avoiding skin so as not to shock the human with a suddenly open bond and the mind and heart behind its shutters, and they lowered him carefully to his side so he could lay down.
Kirk lay down without complaint, watching his first officer calmly from lidded eyes. Spock raised the thin but warm blanket of a cotton-like material over the man’s form to his chest, then stood. He did not stand fully but remained curled forward over his captain the way a mother bird might stand above her young with wings outstretched to cradle them, attentive gaze watching them with care. “Jim?” Whispered in the darkness, but the space between them was small, “Do you wish me to return to my own quarters or remain with you?”
He watched almost nervously but with calm eyes, at peace no matter the decision but concerned at what pain remained that might send him away. Shifting blue seas turned glittering blackened purple by the orange light casting him in soft tones looked up at him without hesitation, only calm and tiredness. Slowly the man raised a hand towards him, an open palm invitation to take his hand. Spock took it, sliding his hand gently into Kirks, accepting the gentle grip that pulled him closer softly. Their bond lit with life as their hands met and golden trails of peace, contentment, love, and innocent desire to rest together swirled up to meet him.
He smiled softly as they reached him, his own emotions of happiness and affection and the smallest tinges of relief reaching back. He shed his outer clothing easily and laid down beside his captain to the side of the wall, leaving his captain framed by the planet outside, laying the blanket across them both as he accepted the man into his arms. Kirk’s arms encircled his torso, one at his stomach the other at his ribs, his head nuzzling under his chin to rest over the side of his chest. Spock’s own arm held the other close, other hand grasping gently to the arm across his stomach. Joined now as they were the last bars of their bond fell and Spock accepted in their entirety his captain’s mind of cleverness and knowledge and dreams and imagination, side by side with the whole of his heart in every varying shade of emotion present and residual. He accepted, too, his dreams as the blond fell into tired slumber almost immediately after a pulse of warmth woven with contentment and love reached up to the Vulcan.
Spock settled against the bed and held the man close with gentle arms, turning his head to gaze out at the shimmering orb of white sands and red rock that made his people’s new home. Calmly he allowed himself to slip into a meditative state, remaining ever attuned to his Captain as his eyes slide shut.
On the field of purple-black sands, his mind’s self stood gazing once again to the blackened heavens to find the bond linking him to his T’hy’la once again. An array of colors swirling in endless nebulas like the northern lights of his beloved’s home planet danced where pulsing bruises of blacked reds had before been displayed. His Captain’s heart was strong even among humans, a never-ending storm of emotions that could as easily stir his world to beauty as lay waste to all around them, and though the human often kept them shielded from his partner for fear of overwhelming him, Spock reveled in the brightness and strength of the soul that could bear such feelings. He basked now in the dancing cosmos of intertwining peace and contentment sparked into joy borne entirely of love given and returned. It was Spock’s folly that he lacked the words to describe the life in Kirk’s heart, but he could feel it. He knew residual pain and guilt hung in these stars, knew doubts sown from the seeds of old pains reaching back to his youngest years hid among the galaxies whispering that he wasn’t enough, that Spock would leave him eventually. That was, undesirable, but it was alright. He could not and would not demand that these traumas and fears disappear, but he could and gladly would spend their lives lessening them.